Tuesday, November 27, 2012
http://rt.comA study by Ofsted, England’s education watchdog, has found 30% of English schools are under-performing. With over 2 million children affected, a league table system will be set up to “name and shame” underachieving schools. Oftsed found severe inequalities in England’s education system, with pupils in some areas of the country having less than a 50% chance of being taught at a school deemed good or better. In practice this means that 2.3 million children are attending below par schools. Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Ofsted chief inspector, said huge differences in school standards across Britain are "completely unacceptable". The annual report was based on an analysis of all schools in England during the 2011/12 academic year. Ofsted also found the “dramatic differences” in schools were exasperated by a postcode lottery and that a parent’s chances of sending their children to a good local school depend on where they live. The inspectorate discovered that the worst schools at the bottom of the table were in Coventry, where only 42% of children were attending a good or outstanding primary school and Derby with 43%. Both are industrial cities which have seen contraction and closure of key industries. But there are also differences between local authorities with similar demographics. Wigan and Darlington, traditional working class industrial areas, have good or outstanding schools. In schools deemed to be underperforming, lessons were found to be formulaic, with kids not interested in lessons or being stretched to their full potential by their teachers. The best schools were in London, with Camden boasting 92% of kids going to a good school and Barnet with 91%. Both areas have large numbers of middle class professionals, although Camden also has more poor households than almost any other part of the country. Sir Michael told BBC Radio 4’s Today program, “We’ll be looking very carefully at what’s happening in those local authorities with the same sort of population, with similar levels of deprivation, similar numbers of children on free school meals, where one particular local authority does extremely well and another doesn’t.” “That’s the whole purpose of this [report] – to shine a spotlight on parts of the country which are underperforming,” he continued. As a result of the inspector’s ratings Ofsted is launching a league table ranking local authorities on the quality of their schools. The league table will increase pressures on local authorities at the bottom of the pile. Teachers’ unions believe that this will lead to a further push for schools to leave local authority and government control and become independent academies. Academies are self-governing and although they receive money from the state they manage their own affairs and finances. “Naming and shaming would certainly suit the education department to push all local authorities into the position of converting schools into academies,” said Christine Blower, leader of the National Union of Teachers. While David Simmonds, a spokesman for the Local Government Association, warned that, because of an increasing number of directives from central government and the move towards academies, local authorities had diminishing control of schools anyway. The government admitted that the report underlined some serious failings. “Standards in some local authorities are simply not good enough. There are still too many schools that do not provide a good enough education. The report recognizes that sponsored academies – with strong leadership and real expertise – are the best way to turn around struggling schools,” a Department of Education spokesman said. But it’s not all doom and gloom for England’s schools. There have been improvements in the last few years with 70% of schools now ranked as good or outstanding, compared to 64% five years ago. Indeed, the very existence of the table is due to increased inspections.
Written by Lal Khan
The Pakistani Left has a history to be proud of and is regrouping to fight in new battles, as Qualandar Bux Memon and Ali Mohsni report.The Pakistani Left has a history to be proud of and is regrouping to fight in new battles, as Qualandar Bux Memon and Ali Mohsni report. A consistent and contested debate reappears like weeds in a garden. Does the Pakistani Left actually exist? Some say no. These folks tend to belong to the Pakistani diaspora, disillusioned by the decline of the Left globally. Others say that it exists, but is fragmented and disunited. If the factions could unite, a socialist revolution would be around the corner. Still others suggest, with pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will, that the Left is there, struggling and often effective but not yet a national force. We can report that the Left in Pakistan is alive and active. True, as a national force, it is weak. Unity, which would help achieve a national presence, is still elusive, although some mergers have occurred. But the Left in Pakistan has been remarkably successful in the cultural sphere. It has documented and presented the life of the workers and peasants and brought them to centre stage in national affairs. More recently, it has been working with significant movements of workers and peasants in what are locally known as ‘livelihood struggles’ to bring concrete changes to the lives of the working class. The Pakistani Left has a long and distinguished history. It begins in a Chinese restaurant in London. In 1930, Sajjad Zaheer, a leftwing writer, invited a number of Indian intellectuals to discuss a short document over dinner. The meeting ended with the establishment of the Progressive Writers Association (PWA). As Zaheer later wrote in his biography, ‘we wished to end the poisonous effects of superstition and religious hatred in our homelands’. PWA’s manifesto aimed to change ‘the standard of beauty’ from ‘poetic ecstasy and sighing over the coyness’ of the fair sex, to the beauty in a perspiring poor woman, whose ‘withered cheeks’ glow with ‘sacrifice, devotion and endurance’. It set the tone for generations of leftwing writers and is a source of inspiration for leftwing politics in Pakistan today. After Partition in 1947, PWA became the All Pakistan Progressive Writers Association (APPWA). Its members included many noted Urdu poets and writers, including the celebrated poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz. The association propagated progressive ideas at the national level, both in Urdu and English. Progressive Papers Limited was formed to publish two widely read dailies – Pakistan Times and Imroze, and a weekly literary paper called Lail o Nahaar. Dictators’ wrath But the Left faced persecution from the very inception of Pakistan. The government used colonial laws to ban progressive publications and gatherings and jailed many members of the APPWA. Zaheer was accused of conspiracy; Faiz was imprisoned. The Communist Party was banned in 1954 and Progressive Papers Limited was appropriated by the state in 1959. From then on, the Left had to face the wrath of one dictator after another. When General Ayyub Khan came to power in 1958, he immediately arrested a string of writers and young leaders. Student leader Hassan Nasir was tortured to death to intimidate students. The democratically elected Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who initially supported the Left, also turned against them. To impress a visiting team from the World Bank in 1972, striking workers were beaten, arrested and 30 workers were shot dead in Karachi. This marked the beginning of the regime’s crackdown, resulting in mass arrests, torture and assassination. Bhutto’s successor, General Zia, continued the policies. Brutalized, banned, with most of their elder leaders in jail and younger ones tortured and murdered as state policy, what remained of the Left was forced to leave the country.Many of the exiled leftwing activists returned in 1988, after the restoration of democracy. By now, Pakistan had changed. There were no leftwing organizations, student unions were banned, and worker unions had either been Islamized or barred. Progressive writers were marginalized and their ideas no longer had the reach they once enjoyed. The state had privileged rightwing groups, showering them with funds, and had promoted the idea that the Left was anti-Islam and, therefore, anti-Pakistan. Reorganizing under these circumstances was no easy task. The Left articulated two answers: it organized on traditional lines, establishing political parties and unionizing the workers; and focused sharply on the struggles of workers and peasants for better pay and conditions. As a result, a number of notable Left organizations and groupings have emerged in Pakistan over the last few years, including the Workers Party, Labour Party of Pakistan, International Socialists, Communist Mazdoor Kisan Party and The Struggle group. Culture of democracy Politically, the energies of these parties and groups are focused on establishing a culture of democracy in Pakistan. For example, when the liberal élite and the Right supported the 1999 coup by General Musharraf, the Left was the single voice in opposition. It recognized the historical drive of the military to expand itself further into the economic and social life of the country and its commitment to secrecy and the expansion of the security state. During the struggle to restore democracy, the Left openly supported the lawyers’ movement (2007-09) that led to Musharraf’s exile. Moreover, these organizations are intrinsically opposed to the ‘personalization of politics’ of the traditional parties. For example, the Pakistan People’s Party can only be led by a member of the Bhutto family – the party’s recent leadership succession was decided by the will of the late Benazir Bhutto, with members having no say. Similarly, the Pakistan Muslim League, the main opposition party, who are currently in power in the Punjab province, is headed by one industrial family. Its current leader is Nawaz Sharif and the party belongs to his family. Such hierarchical, feudal structures contrast sharply with the political parties of the Left, which hold annual or bi-annual conventions to elect office bearers. Gender and caste are also seen as important and members of minorities or groups that face discrimination are encouraged to take leadership positions. But it is the Left’s work with livelihood struggles that is most significant. ‘We decided that it was important to intervene in worker and peasant movements,’ says Farooq Tariq of the Labour Party of Pakistan. Livelihood struggles organize workers and peasants to fight for their rights and save their land and environment, and provide them with political clout. Sindho Bachao Taralla (Save the Indus), for example, brings together various groups to resist the internationally funded mega-irrigation projects along the Indus River. It has fought for locals’ water rights and resisted a number of state interventions, while using ecological methods of political resistance. The movement emphasizes indigenous modes of activity and decision-making within traditional Sath, or people’s tribunals. It is effectively working outside the state and resisting the state’s drive to marginalize further the peasants. The Anjuman Mazarain Punjab (Tenants’ Association of the Punjab) emerged after the military’s attempt to turn peasants from tenanted share-croppers to contracted workers on its farms in South Punjab. As it turned out, the farms were illegally held by the military, having been established by the British Indian Army and then passed to the Pakistan Army after Partition. A million-strong movement emerged to resist the army’s attempts. They took possession of the land and even refused the previous serf-like share-cropping arrangement the army had made with the tenants. The military reacted with extreme violence, but the movement has managed to maintain its control over the land. The association’s success represents a significant departure from the norm. It challenged the military in its stronghold of the Punjab and won, and women were in the forefront of the (often violent) resistance. In addition, around 40 per cent of tenanted farmers in the association are Christian: the movement abandoned the religious divide which is often used by the state to isolate and marginalize religious minorities. A more traditional, but equally significant, movement supported by the Left is that of power-loom workers in the industrial city of Faisalabad. Led by the charismatic leader of the Labour Qaumi Movement (LQM), Mian Qayyum, it emerged in the summer of 2010. LQM organized a city-wide strike of 250,000 workers demanding a pay increase and registration for social security cards which would entitle them to healthcare and pensions. The strike was violently resisted. Two LQM leaders were shot dead, others beaten and arrested. Four are still in prison. However, after shutting down the city for 19 days, the strikers won and gained a 13 per-cent raise. Since then, LQM has continued to grow. It now has 19 offices in Faisalabad, with two full-time workers in each, and is spreading to other cities. From these foundations, the Left desires to push on to economic and social transformation. It’s a difficult, perilous task. But the Pakistani Left has never been more prepared.
timesofindiaIndia, Indonesia and Australia will form the first "troika" to confer on the Indian Ocean, a first step towards a trilateral grouping in Asia. This new engagement is believed to be significant as all three countries seek to hedge against possible Chinese expansionism. Peter Varghese, Australian high commissioner and new foreign secretary, said Canberra would be taking charge of the Indian Ocean regional grouping next year, and an India-Australia-Indonesia trilateral would be one of the early deliverables. Talking to TOI on the eve of his departure, Varghese said, "We will have a troika with Indonesia, the incoming vice-chair. This will be a good window to do things, to push practical agenda for IORARC." The Indian Ocean is proving to be an important strategic outreach for India, as well as Australia, which now focuses more on what it calls the "Indo-Pacific" rather than East Asia. It has created convergences between India and countries like Australia in ways that would not have happened earlier. Varghese said, "I think we are in a qualitative new space in the (bilateral) relationship. We have now cleared the obstacles that were holding the relationship back. The students' safety issue, while we don't want to be complacent about it, I think is behind us. The uranium issue is now resolved. We've now got some clear air in the relationship." India is looming higher in the Australian mindset. India, as Varghese points out, is not only the source for the largest number of legal migrants into Australia, it's also one of the greatest sources for skilled labour. The Australian government's recent white paper places a big emphasis on the India relationship. For the first time, both countries are working on geo-political and security issues — the two nations have quietly launched a bilateral dialogue on East Asia. The big thing, Varghese says, will be an India-Australia approach towards building up the East Asia Summit into an important element of a regional security architecture. "This is a time of some fluidity strategically in Asia, and it's very instant. We are trying to create institutions that help us manage what is going to be a historic transition in the region. The history of Asia is not strong on institutions. It offers a good prospect to get a single institution that can deal with big economic and strategic issues in an integrated way. Australia and India have common objectives." Last week's East Asia summit showed how the forum can be easily hijacked by territorial disputes. Varghese observes, "The next EAS will be held in the background of a number of concerns about what is happening in relation with territorial disputes in the region. It would be a natural thing for the EAS to discuss that. We all want to see those issues resolved in a way that uphold certain core principles, the most important of which is the peaceful resolution of disputes and also a resolution which respects international law, freedom of navigation and freedom of the high seas."
The Express TribunePakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman
By Olivier Knox, Yahoo! NewsThe White House sharply escalated its attacks Tuesday on Republicans trying to stop Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice from succeeding Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state. Press secretary Jay Carney described GOP lawmakers as being gripped by a politically fueled "obsession" with a series of television appearances Rice made shortly after the deadly Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in which she wrongly suggested the attack had stemmed from a demonstration over an anti-Muslim video rather than a terrorist assault. Carney's comments came after Rice met privately on Capitol Hill with Republican senators who have said they intend to block her nomination if President Barack Obama chooses her to replace Clinton as the nation's top diplomat. Rice also acknowledged for the first time, in a written statement issued by her office, that her initial public comments on the Benghazi assault were wrong because there had been no protest outside the compound. Carney said the U.S. still does not know who carried out the assault, which claimed the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. But he said GOP focus on Rice's early statements was a politically motivated distraction from efforts to identify those responsible for the killings. "The questions that remain to be answered have to do with what happened in Benghazi, who was responsible for the deaths of four Americans, including our ambassador, and what steps we need to take to ensure that something like that doesn't happen again." Carney said. In appearance after appearance, Rice said that American intelligence had pinned the blame on the assault on extremists who took advantage of a demonstration outside the facility. Tuesday, Rice acknowledged the information initially provided by the intelligence community was wrong. "Neither I nor anyone else in the administration intended to mislead the American people at any stage in this process, and the administration updated Congress and the American people as our assessments evolved," Rice said. Rice, accompanied by Acting CIA Director Michael Morell, met with Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who have accused Rice (and the Obama administration in general) of misleading the public by tying the assault to the video. Republicans have suggested the administration hoped to blunt the potential political impact of the attack—the first to claim the life of an American ambassador in 30 years—shortly before the presidential election. "Bottom line: I'm more disturbed now than I was before," Graham told reporters after the meeting. "We are significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got and some that we didn't get," McCain said. Carney shot back, saying there were "no unanswered questions" about Rice's early televised statements. "The focus on—some might say obsession on—comments made on Sunday shows seems to me and to many to be misplaced," Carney said. "I know that Sunday shows have vaunted status in Washington, but they have almost nothing to do—in fact zero to do—with what happened in Benghazi." And neither, to hear Carney tell it, did Rice. "Ambassador Rice has no responsibility for collecting, analyzing and providing intelligence, nor does she have responsibility as the United States ambassador to the United Nations for diplomatic security around the globe," he said. So why, then, did the White House anoint Rice the administration point person to answer questions about a possible intelligence failure and consular security? Why not Secretary of State Clinton? Director of National Intelligence James Clapper? Defense Secretary Leon Panetta? National Security Adviser Tom Donilon? "She is a principal on the president's foreign policy team," Carney said. He added, "To this day it is the assessment of this administration and of our intelligence community … that they acted at least in part in response to what they saw happening in Cairo and took advantage of that situation." In other words, according to one well-placed source, the perpetrators of the attack may have concluded that anger at the video gave them the maximum opportunity to get sympathy or support across the Muslim world, and might even inspire copycat attacks. Rice's much-dissected Sept. 16 comments broadly follow those lines. Obama has fiercely defended Rice, while carefully declining to say whether he has chosen her to succeed Clinton. Another leading contender is the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry. McCain and Graham have pledged to try to filibuster her confirmation, but they are well short of the votes needed to do so.
By Michael SivyWhen asked what it was like living through the German bombing of Crete during World War II, British novelist Evelyn Waugh replied that it began impressively enough but went on far too long. The same might be said for the current debate over the Fiscal Cliff. This issue loomed large during the Presidential campaign, but now promises to become an endless and tedious dispute. In the end there will probably be an unsatisfying compromise that avoids disaster but solves nothing important, while little attention is paid to America’s fundamental economic problems. The essence of the debate is that the Federal government has been running an ultimately unsustainable deficit of more than $1 trillion a year. A variety of changes in taxes and government spending are scheduled to go into effect in 2013 that would reduce this deficit by as much as $645 billion. That would bring the deficit down to a tolerable level, but poses two problems. First, more than two-thirds of the financial burden of this reduction would fall on the middle class – something both political parties have promised they would avoid. Second, there is genuine disagreement as to whether such a sudden drop in the deficit would be a drag on a still-weak economy. One school of thought is that there is plenty of money around, thanks to the Federal Reserve’s policy of quantitative easing. In addition, U.S. corporations have accumulated a cash hoard of more than $1.7 trillion, according to the Fed, and may have trillions more stashed in overseas subsidiaries. The reason for today’s slow growth, therefore, is not a lack of money but rather the fact that everyone is hesitant to spend because of uncertainty about the deficit, taxes and government policy generally. From this perspective, any consensus solution that starts bringing down the deficit would unleash loads of consumer spending and business investment. The alternative viewpoint, advocated by economists such as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, is that reducing the deficit makes no sense at all in present circumstances. As long as the economy is limping, inflation is not a risk. And spending that revs up growth will do more to improve the long-term financial health of the U.S. than reducing the current deficit will. The specific details of a solution to the Fiscal Cliff may be uncertain, but the basic outlines seem fairly clear. First, the government will not allow a default or some other financial catastrophe to occur. Second, the cliff isn’t really a cliff but a slope. The problems will slowly intensify over the coming year and can be fixed at any point – or even in stages. No one wants the full spectrum of tax increases. Spending cuts that are truly intolerable will be reversed. Some progress on deficit reduction needs to be visible. What will be the overall effect on the economy of all these compromises? Probably not much. There is, however, a real debate that is not occurring but should be. While it is true that a large deficit in any particular year is not a problem, longer term trends do matter. If national debt is relatively low – less than 50% of annual GDP, say – there’s plenty of room to spend in the short run and then balance the budget later. This is basically what happened over the course of the combined Reagan and Clinton administrations. The result was an economic boom that lasted more than 20 years. But as debt rises beyond that level, a country’s core growth rate begins to slow. Indeed, the National Bureau of Economic Research calculates that when debt passes 90% of GDP, average annual growth slows by one percentage point. Basically government borrowing competes with businesses that want to borrow to invest and raises their interest costs, while interest payments on government debt eat up money that could either go for infrastructure investments or tax cuts. It’s a bit difficult to gauge exactly how close the U.S. is to the danger zone, because debt held by the Social Security Trust Fund doesn’t really count (it’s money the government owes to itself). However, at the current rate, the U.S. will probably start feeling ill effects within four years or so. Any reduction in the deficit that comes about because of fiscal cliff negotiations will only be large enough to push the deadline back by another two or three years. A one-percentage point reduction in the annual growth rate of the U.S. economy may not sound like a big deal. But after 15 years it would mean that the standard of living would be almost 15% lower than it would otherwise be. Unemployment would be higher and incomes would probably be more unequal. And finally, the ability of the U.S. to run future deficits would be greatly reduced. For debt to remain constant as a percent of GDP it can only grow as fast as the economy. Today’s $1.6 trillion economy can support a $520 billion deficit if growth is 3.25% (the historical average for the U.S.), but only $360 billion if growth is 2.25%. What that means is that if debt continues to climb, the U.S. will need additional tax increases or spending cuts equivalent to $160 billion today – or roughly twice the amount of money that would come from raising income tax rates for the rich. Whatever resolution is achieved for the Fiscal Cliff will probably make very little difference to the long-term trajectory of the U.S. economy. What does matter desperately is entitlement reform, controlling the growth of health-care costs and, ideally, some sort of comprehensive tax reform that could raise a bit more money while being less of a burden on economic growth. Unless these issues are addressed, the Fiscal Cliff debate may monopolize the attention of legislators and commentators, but it will all be a lot of sound and fury signifying very little indeed.
http://abcnews.go.comAs President Obama prepares for his second term, preparations have begun for the traditional shuffling of the Cabinet. Top priority for the president: filling slots for those top officials heading — if not running — for the door: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner.
Russia's Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, reiterated his country's stance which calls for solving the crisis in Syrian by the Syrians themselves. Russia Today website quoted Medvedev as saying in a press conference with his French counterpart, Jean-Marc Ayrault, in Paris that Russia, unlike its foreign partners including France, believes that settling the conflict in Syria should be done by the Syrians themselves. "We don't consider that interference in the internal affairs of sovereign countries is a correct step even if we had questions about the observance of human rights," added Medvedev, indicating that these questions should be directed to both the Syrian government and opposition. He said that both sides are responsible for violence, noting that "Our mission is to persuade them to sit down around the dialogue table and reach agreement on the future of the Syrian people and not only the future of President Bashar al-Assad." The Special Envoy to the Russian President, Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Bogdanov discussed with the Syrian Ambassador in Moscow Riyad Haddad the latest developments and situation in Syria. A statement for the Russian Foreign Ministry, quoted by Russia Today TV on Tuesday said that the two sides underlined the mutual understanding of the necessity for an immediate halt to the bloodshed in Syria and move the situation into the political settlement stream through peaceful negotiations and an internal comprehensive Syrian dialogue. Bogdanov announced on Monday that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to meet representatives of the Syrian opposition at the National Coordination Committee next Thursday.
Male 'guardians' receive text message whenever women leave country under new system