Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Video: Obama hopes Putin will change his position on Syria

'Secretary of explaining stuff' Clinton stumps for Obamacare

Former President Bill Clinton attempted on Wednesday to cut through confusion and worries about the new U.S. healthcare law, telling Americans they will be better off with Obamacare and urging opponents to make the best of it. Clinton said the health of the nation depends on a successful rollout of President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law. The program has been hampered by technical delays, fears about costs, and relentless pressure from Republicans who want to repeal it. Obama dubbed Clinton the "secretary of explaining stuff" a year ago after the former Democratic president gave a rousing prime time defense of Obama's economic policies at the Democratic National Convention. Debate over Obamacare is still raging a month before new health insurance exchanges go live. The White House enlisted Clinton to try to turn the page on the rancor over Obama's signature law, and kick off the push to get uninsured Americans to sign up for coverage. It is part of a broad outreach strategy by the White House to encourage community groups, businesses and celebrities to raise awareness about exchanges, which open October 1. Clinton acknowledged problems with the law, which requires Americans to have insurance or pay a penalty. He said Americans will be better off when more people have coverage under a program he argued will begin to reduce the staggeringly high cost of health insurance. "There are always drafting errors, unintended consequences, unanticipated issues," Clinton said in a speech from his presidential library in Little Rock, Arkansas. "We're going to do better working together and learning together than we will trying over and over again to repeal the law, or rooting for reform to fail, and refusing to fix relatively simple matters," he said. Clinton is well versed in the politics of healthcare after he tried but failed to overhaul the system in the 1990s. Polls show there is little hope for an end to the entrenched political debate over the healthcare law, said Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which provides research and information about U.S. healthcare policy. Clinton's speech signals a new stage in the administration's efforts to press Americans to sign up for Obamacare, Altman said in an interview, noting that more than 40 percent of Americans are confused about the law. "I think it is part of the effort to just get people to sit up and pay attention and say to them, 'Look: this is real now, a lot of you can benefit from this law,'" Altman said. 'COMPLEX ECOSTRUCTURE' Clinton's speech does nothing to fix the underlying problems with Obamacare, said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who has long opposed the program and wants to see the law repealed and replaced. "The problem is that Obamacare costs too much and it isn't working the way they promised," Stewart said. "No amount of speeches can change the fact that employers are cutting hours, families are losing the plans they have and like, and that premiums for many people are going up." Clinton said the worst predictions about the impact on jobs and insurance costs have not materialized. He assured Americans that it is normal to see some bugs in an overhaul of "a complex ecostructure like American healthcare." He said Congress should amend the law to make sure low-wage earners who have insurance at work can receive tax credits for insurance they buy for family members on exchanges, and should expand tax credits for small businesses that provide employees with plans. There are legitimate fears that not enough young, healthy people will sign up for plans to balance higher-risk older people in insurance pools, he said. "I think if young people can afford the coverage, they should buy it, and contribute to a well-funded system with lower rates if for no other reason than they will not always be young," Clinton said. "It's both the right and the smart thing to do." And he acknowledged "the computer problem" involved in making sure the data hub for electronic exchanges works as the deadline rapidly approaches. "There may be glitches, but so far there's no evidence to suggest that they won't be able to be fixed quickly," he said.

Russia releases key findings on chemical attack near Aleppo indicating similarity with rebel-made weapons

Probes from Khan al-Assal show chemicals used in the March 19 attack did not belong to standard Syrian army ammunition, and that the shell carrying the substance was similar to those made by a rebel fighter group, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated.A statement released by the ministry on Wednesday particularly drew attention to the “massive stove-piping of various information aimed at placing the responsibility for the alleged chemical weapons use in Syria on Damascus, even though the results of the UN investigation have not yet been revealed.” By such means “the way is being paved for military action” against Damascus, the ministry pointed out. But the samples taken at the site of the March 19 attack and analyzed by Russian experts indicate that a projectile carrying the deadly nerve agent sarin was most likely fired at Khan al-Assal by the rebels, the ministry statement suggests, outlining the 100-page report handed over to the UN by Russia. The key points of the report have been given as follows: • the shell used in the incident “does not belong to the standard ammunition of the Syrian army and was crudely according to type and parameters of the rocket-propelled unguided missiles manufactured in the north of Syria by the so-called Bashair al-Nasr brigade”; • RDX, which is also known as hexogen or cyclonite, was used as the bursting charge for the shell, and it is “not used in standard chemical munitions”; • soil and shell samples contain “the non-industrially synthesized nerve agent sarin and diisopropylfluorophosphate,” which was “used by Western states for producing chemical weapons during World War II.” The findings of the report are “extremely specific,” as they mostly consist of scientific and technical data from probes’ analysis, the ministry stressed, adding that this data can “substantially aid” the UN investigation of the incident. While focusing on the Khan al-Assal attack on March 19, in which at least 26 civilians and Syrian army soldiers were killed, and 86 more were injured, the Russian Foreign Ministry also criticized the “flawed selective approach” of certain states in reporting the recent incidents of alleged chemical weapons use in August. The hype around the alleged attack on the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta showed “apparent attempts to cast a veil over the incidents of gas poisoning of Syrian army soldiers on August 22, 24 and 25,” the ministry said, adding that all the respective evidence was handed to the UN by Syria. The condition of the soldiers who, according to Damascus, suffered poisoning after discovering tanks with traces of sarin, has been examined and documented by the UN inspectors, the ministry pointed out, adding that “any objective investigation of the August 21 incident in eastern Ghouta is impossible without the consideration of all these facts.” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday said the UN investigators are set to return to Syria to investigate several other cases of alleged chemical weapons use, including the March 19 incident in Khan al-Assal.

PPP braces for comeback in Punjab as Zardari quits Presidency on Sept 9

President Asif Ali Zardari will reach Lahore on September 8 which will be his last day in Presidency. Per details, he will proceed to Islamabad on September 9 where he will be given a guard of honour before his formal departure from the Presidency after which he will return to Bilawal House. In Lahore, Zardari will meet the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) local and provincial leadership besides holding a press conference. The PPP leadership in Lahore expects Zardari to work for the revival of the PPP in Punjab after he quits Presidency and settles in Lahore. After quitting the Presidency, Zardari will meet the PPP officials, parliamentarians and office-bearers from every district of Punjab. He will also tour important district headquarters of the province to find the problems in the way of the PPP’s revival in Punjab. Sources in the PPP also expect organisational changes in the party on national and provincial levels. PPP Punjab General Secretary Tanvir Ashraf Kaira and party leader Shaukat Basra said the party would resume political activity after Zardari leaves the Presidency.
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Pakistan: Taliban make space in Karachi: report

Intelligence departments in a special meeting of federal cabinet revealed that proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) al-Qaeda and Jundullah were involved in crimes including kidnapping for ransom in Karachi, Geo News reported.In a special meeting on Karachi law and order situation,intelligence departments disclosed that the TPP has established itself in Karachi. According to Intelligence officials, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and criminals of Lyari had joined hands together, while TTP along with al-Qaeda were involved in kidnapping for ransom.

Obama opens overseas trip in Stockholm; first U.S. president to make bilateral visit to Sweden

President Barack Obama is opening a three-day overseas trip with a stop in the Swedish capital of Stockholm.
Air Force One touched down Wednesday morning after an overnight flight from Washington. During his stay in Stockholm, Obama will meet with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and King Carl XVI Gustaf. He will also meet with other Nordic leaders from Finland, Denmark, Iceland and Norway. Obama’s visit marks the first bilateral meeting of a U.S. president to Sweden. The northern European country was added to Obama’s itinerary after he canceled plans to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow ahead of the Group of 20 summit. Obama will still travel to St. Petersburg, Russia, for the G-20 meetings after leaving Stockholm.

Pakistan:Unfulfilled promises: PTI in the crosshairs of opposition

The Express Tribune
With the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) 90-day deadline to bring change now over, the party is in the crosshairs of political opposition. The PTI-led coalition completed its first three months on August 31 and the very next day Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Chief Minister Pervez Khattak claimed at a news conference that change was visible in the province. Opposition parties, on the other hand, are mocking PTI for making empty promises and launching into a rhetoric they say was bound to lead nowhere. “PTI lacked serious thinking and planning. What it was promising before the elections or even after taking charge was mere rhetoric,” Awami National Party’s parliamentary leader in the K-P Assembly Sardar Hussain Babak told The Express Tribune. Babak said PTI in its pre-election rallies had claimed it has a plan for the province, but appointed working groups after assuming charge – indicating it in fact did not have any concrete plans. He maintained no one asked the PTI to give a 90-day deadline to bring change but the party made tall claims. “Extortion has increased to a great extent and has demoralized the public,” said Babak, adding the government had controlled neither inflation nor law and order. The ANP leader also accused PTI of acting vindictively towards the bureaucracy and showing lack of trust in government officials. Babak claimed the ruling party was taking revenge against officials, threatening and transferring them needlessly. He accused the provincial government of violating provincial autonomy by taking government officials to meetings with the PTI chief in Islamabad. “PTI has revived the ‘one-unit’ during its first three months,” he added. Babak said the public has shown its lack of trust in PTI’s promises as is evident from its loss in NA-1. “We were crying from day one. The PTI’s mandate was bogus and this loss validates our assertion,” he said, questioning where the 90,000 votes that Imran Khan secured in the general elections went in the by-polls. Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) provincial information secretary Jalil Jan also said he has not seen any change in K-P. “People need bread, sugar and peace, which PTI has failed to provide,” he added. Jan alleged PTI’s government was “hell bent on destruction of state institutions through its reckless policies” in the name of change. He said the only change visible to him was meetings at Marriott Hotel, Islamabad and helicopter flights. Jan said Peshawar was without a police chief and his second in command for the past three weeks. While the latter was appointed some days back, he is yet to take charge, he added. In an apparent reference to the chief minister’s criticism of bureaucracy, he cautioned the government to avoid any clash with institutions. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) provincial general secretary Rehmat Salam Khattak said PTI now wanted to extend its deadline by another month, which indicated its slogan of change was hollow. “They have done nothing, and I do not see any change in K-P.”

Delhi gang rape verdict: Is it a crime to be born a girl in India?

by Maheen Usmani
She came from a small town in Uttar Pradesh, but she had big dreams.
Her father may have been just an airport baggage handler at Delhi’s international airport who earned $200 a month, but he supported his daughter’s ambition and sold his ancestral land to finance her studies. Having enrolled in a four year Physiotherapy course in Dehradun, she came to Delhi for an internship after finishing her final exams. To supplement her income, she worked nights at a firm and gave tuition to school children. She slept for only three hours because she was in such a hurry to reach for the stars. Her two younger brothers looked up to their brilliant sister who encouraged them to study and promised them a life beyond the downtrodden area where they lived. “Life of Pi” was playing at a shopping mall on that fateful afternoon when she decided to go see it with a male friend. Afterwards, they stopped to admire a sparkling fountain and she called her brother to say she would be home a bit late. When her brother called her cell phone much later, there was no response. Hours ticked by before all hell broke loose. After watching the movie, the couple boarded a private bus which was idling nearby. “Didi, didi come, we are going towards that side”, called a young man from the bus door. As soon as they settled in their seats, the bus driver and five other men started making lewd remarks. “What’s going to happen tonight when you reach home?” Snickering and much elbowing ensued. The taunts continued, so her friend told them off but it did not deter the lascivious men who started locking the bus doors and drawing the curtains at the windows. Frightened but not deterred, she threatened to complain but as she reached for the phone, it was knocked out of her hand. When the friend tried to protect her from the men, they hit him so hard with a stick that they broke his leg. Then they dragged her to a seat near the driver’s cabin and started raping her. One after another like an assembly line of perverts. The rape continued for over an hour as the bus was driven throughout the city, the curtained windows and closed doors masking the ferocity of the assault. When she fought back they hit her with an iron rod. The young man, who had called out to her from the bus door, rammed the iron rod inside her so hard that he ripped open her intestines. Her brother’s calls went unheeded as she was savaged by the men who ignored her desperate friend’s plea to spare her as he lay battered and bruised. When they reached near an overpass, the couple’s clothes were torn off and they were thrown out of the moving bus into the chill of a December night. Naked and covered in blood, they lay on the busy road as three-wheeler taxis, motorcycles and cars slowed down to gape and then move on. When police vehicles showed up, they couldn’t decide among themselves which police precinct had jurisdiction. She lay there bleeding with her intestines exposed as they argued. When she was finally taken to a hospital, the doctors were horrified at the extent of her injuries. They had never come across such a vicious gang rape. Apart from the trauma and wounds, she only had three inches of a six meter long intestine left inside her body. Her family rushed to her bedside, in intensive care as she battled to stay alive. She managed to smile for her traumatised friend who had helped in identifying the off duty bus as well as the attackers, thanking him for standing by her. The country came to a standstill as protests were held against the violation of the girl christened India’s Braveheart even as she was airlifted to Singapore for treatment of her horrendous internal injuries. She clung to her mother’s hand, sobbing “I’m sorry, sorry…” as her mother wept. For thirteen days she hovered between life and death, but her body had been ravaged too much for the best of medical care. She slipped away, leaving behind her unrealised dreams and ambitions. She was only 23. Her mother said, “My daughter is dead but she fought till the very end. She is an inspiration for millions of other women who are fighting against sex crimes.” After her death, her results in the final examination were published; she had achieved first-class exam results. And what of the beasts who had crushed her body and soul underfoot like dry autumn leaves? All six were arrested and, under pressure from an outraged country, put on trial in fast track courts. The driver committed suicide while in jail while four others still await verdicts. The fifth and most brutal attacker, who was six months shy of his 18th birthday at the time of the rape in December 2012, was found guilty and sentenced. The family of the girl had the support of many people when they demanded that considering the atrocity he committed he should be treated as an adult and should face the death penalty. Just three years For a crime which savaged a woman and left her fighting for life for 13 days only to die a lingering and painful death, this man was awarded just three years imprisonment in a juvenile home where he will have access to games and television. The icing on the cake for this “juvenile” is that the judge knocked off eight months for the time he has already spent in a juvenile centre since being arrested. As per his defence lawyer, his conduct will be observed and the sentence could be reduced for “good behaviour”. According to the Minister of State for Home Affairs, the juvenile accused in the Delhi gang-rape case was given the maximum punishment under the juvenile law. He added that the government functions in accordance with the law and not out of vengeance. “I understand that a lot of people are disappointed with the verdict of the Juvenile Justice Board. People are demanding a stringent punishment but that can only happen if the laws are changed. Government cannot function with anger; it can only function according to the law.” That may be according to the government, but surely this verdict sends a message to juvenile delinquents that they can rape and murder and only get three years in a remand home? As it is, misogyny and a rigid patriarchal mindset is deeply ingrained in Indian society which considers rape in such a lackadaisical manner that Chetan Bhagat, one of India’s best-selling authors, had the gall to tweet on the devaluing of currency,
“The Rupee is asking, is there no punishment for my rapists?”
Experts on Child Rights Act say that changing the law or reducing juvenile age from 18 to 16 on the basis of one incident is not correct. Be that as it may, in three years or less, this juvenile will be a part of Indian society, with no one knowing his identity since his name and face have been hidden from the public eye due to his age. After the verdict, the family could not contain their grief with the mother saying the court might just as well acquit the rapist. The brother, who had hero-worshipped his beloved sister, tried to attack the rapist and had to be held back by the prosecution. “He should be hanged for the crime he committed,” he said in tears. Living in a nation where female foetuses are aborted, newborn girls killed after birth leading to a lopsided sex ratio and rapists can roam freely, the father said simply,
“It is a crime to be born a girl in this country.”
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Aseefa Bhutto Zardari enlists herself in voters’ list

Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, the younger daughter of President Asif Ali Zardari got herself registered as a voter here on Wednesday.
Deputy Election Commissioner, Tando Allahyar Imtiaz Ali Kalhoro registered her as a voter from Union Council Jando Maree. Earlier Aseefa Bhutto Zardari accompanied by the Ms. Faryal Talpur MNA, arrived here to get herself registered as a voter.

The Karachi operation

Editorial:Daily Times
The persistently deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi has become intolerable. The economic hub of the country responsible for generating 70 percent of GDP, the city has far more potential than it had been allowed to exhibit owing to criminal gangs, armed militias and political thugs whose turf wars have deprived the city of peace and its economic dividends. Governance in Karachi had been sloppy and inadequate for years now, at times giving the impression of a city without any government. Since long Karachi has not had a peaceful day. It seems ages since any government has felt the responsibility to restore and sustain order in the city. The former coalition between the PPP and MQM benefited each other more than the people they had come to represent. The measures the parties at times took to mend the situation ended up being an eyewash, while the mayhem continued. Now the new government has shown the resolve to put an end to the cycle of misery, but through a consensus. It is indeed important that a broad based agreement is achieved among the political parties and other stakeholders over issues of national importance, such as a cleanup operation against the militants and thugs in Karachi, especially when the political parties are part of the problem inflicting the city. However, if the government is considering getting a clean chit on every step it intends to take during the operation, then it might not be too early to predict the operation already a failure. It is impossible that there would not be any clamour once the operation begins either from the MQM or ANP. The PPP might also groan at some point. So, will the job be left unfinished? In case this happens it would be the beginning of a long, unending crisis in Karachi, further emboldening the criminals about their dominance and overbearing influence over the indecisive government. The temptation to have a political cover needs to be resisted. Governments are formed to govern and unless they do that, their relevance becomes questionable. Already there had been talk of Pakistan becoming dysfunctional. This impression needs to be cleared up and the only solution to it is coming down hard on the criminal elements infecting the entire country. Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif is already in Karachi to chair the federal cabinet session taking place today in the Governor’s House. Yesterday on his arrival he met the representatives of all the major political parties in Sindh. Concerned about the lawlessness of the port city, which has deprived its people of decent living because of shrinking economic activities brought about by terrorism and lawlessness, the premier has asked all the parties to strive to bring peace back to Karachi. He has assured that the mandate of all the parties in Karachi would not be violated and that he is visiting Karachi as the prime minister of the entire country and not as a representative of PML-N. The purpose of arranging the federal cabinet meeting in Karachi has been to give final shape to the plan of the targeted operation. The PM has struck the right chord by creating agreement among his colleagues. But it is now time to act. We cannot waste any more time to reach a broader consensus that would not change anyone or anything. Now that the cabinet has agreed, the operation against the militants in Karachi should be launched forthwith. These are testing times for everyone, even for the judiciary. There is an apprehension lurking in everyone’s mind: what if the terrorists and criminals caught are freed by the judiciary on the pretext of lack of evidence? The judiciary has to show restraint in granting bail and acquittals to the criminals, giving more time to the prosecution to build its case. The same prudence applies to the intelligence agencies, because without their timely, precise and synchronized input, the entire exercise might prove futile. Karachi is perhaps the most challenging job for the new government, which will set the tone for its future measures and actions against terrorism in the rest of Pakistan.