Sunday, August 31, 2014

Germany: Steinmeier reveals plans for military aid in Iraq

Obama to Reassure NATO Baltic States
President Barack Obama leaves Tuesday for a trip to Estonia and later Wales, in Britain, for a gathering of leaders of NATO countries. Russia's latest actions in Ukraine are making the trip an especially important one.
The arrival of U.S. troops in Estonia last April was a concrete sign of American support for Baltic nations feeling threatened by Russia's aggression in Ukraine.
Obama's stop in Estonia -- a NATO member -- is meant to reaffirm America's defense commitments.
“Part of the reason I’ll be going to Estonia is to let the Estonians know that we mean what we say with respect to our treaty obligations,” said the president.
Fresh violence and evidence that Russia is sending hundreds of troops into Ukraine means Obama's visit comes at a critical time.
Estonia, like Ukraine, is a former Soviet Republic, and also like Ukraine, has a large Russian minority. These factors make Estonians feel vulnerable.
Heather Conley, a former Deputy Assistant U.S. Secretary of State, said, “There has always been a great fear in the Baltic states that if push came to shove, they question whether NATO would really have their back. And I think it’s very clear, not only with words and our solidarity, but we’ve actually put U.S. soldiers, hardware, in the Baltic states.”
But NATO's capacity to fulfill its commitments is another question. With European members cutting their defense budgets, much of the burden of providing equipment and personnel for alliance missions is falling on the U.S.
The president plans to call on member nations to do more.
“Part of the reason I think this NATO meeting is going to be so important is to refocus attention on the critical function that NATO plays to make sure that every country is contributing in order to deliver on the promise of our Article 5 assurances,” said Obama.
U.S. officials hope the crisis in Ukraine will be enough of a wake-up call for NATO members to realize they should boost their contributions.

Bahrain detains Shi'ite rights activist on arrival at airport

Bahraini authorities detained prominent human rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja on Saturday on her arrival at the Gulf state's airport, her mother told Reuters.
Maryam is the daughter of Shi'ite Muslim activist Abdulhadi Abdulla Hubail al-Khawaja, who has been detained in the Sunni monarchy since 2011 and is on hunger strike.
"Maryam told me that she will be transferred to the court tomorrow," her mother, Khadija al-Musawi, told Reuters, adding that her daughter, who holds dual Bahraini and Danish citizenship, was coming back from Denmark.
Charges against al-Khawaja include insulting Bahrain's king, and assaulting a policewoman at the airport, her mother said.
Bahraini authorities were not immediately available to comment but state news agency BNA cited chief prosecutor of al-Muharraq province, Abdullah al-Dossary, as saying that the public prosecution had begun an investigation into a complaint by Bahrain airport's police.
The complaint said that an "accused woman" had been detained at the airport based on a previously issued arrest warrant. It said that the accused had assaulted a lieutenant and a policewoman after she refused to hand over her phone during a search. The report did not name Khawaja.
Dossary was cited as saying that the accused was charged with assaulting a public employee while carrying out his official duty and would be detained for seven days pending an investigation.
Bahrain, a base for the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, has been in turmoil since protests led by Shi'ite Muslims erupted in 2011 after similar unrest in Egypt and Tunisia.
Shi'ites, who make up the majority of Bahrain's population, complain of political and economic materialization, an accusation the government denies. Talks between the government and opposition have failed defuse the political tensions.
In July, Bahrain declared U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski, persona non grata after he met opposition figures in the kingdom.
Under criticism from human rights groups, the government invited an independent inquiry to examine its handling of the trouble in 2011. Its report said the authorities had used widespread and excessive force, including torture to extract confessions.
The Bahraini government says it has taken steps to address the problems by dismissing those responsible and introducing cameras at police stations.

Putin Calls for Talks Inside Ukraine, Not Giving Statehood to Novorossiya - Spokesman

Russian President Vladimir Putin in his Sunday’s interview called for inclusive negotiations inside Ukraine, not granting statehood to Novorossiya, the union of Donetsk and Luhansk republics in the east of the country, the Russian leader’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
"The inclusive negotiations, which should determine the relationships [of Kiev] with eastern regions, that is, negotiations inside Ukraine on the internal Ukrainian order with respect for the interests of the country’s eastern regions, the interests of Novorossiya - the way, extent and mechanisms of this process. That’s what the president meant," Peskov said. The Kremlin spokesperson added that giving some status to Novorossia was totally out of the question, which “becomes clear after reading the president’s statement.”
“The president, as a matter of fact, was referring to the need of the inclusive talks, the earliest beginning of which had been emphasized way back in documents and signed in various formats, including the document signed by foreign ministers in Berlin,” Peskov added.
Earlier in the day, Putin talked about Ukraine in an interview with Russia’s Channel One television channel. The president called on Kiev to start substantial talks on deescalating the crisis in Ukraine, cease hostilities and start infrastructure rehabilitation works in southeastern regions to prevent winter deaths.

More chance of dying from work than going to war - Intl Labor Organization

Going to war may seem one of the most hazardous ordeals on the planet, but perhaps not. The International Labor Organization (ILO) says there is more chance of dying from work than fighting for your country on the battlefield.
The admission was made by Guy Ryder, the ILO’s director-general, who was speaking at the 20th World Congress in Frankfurt to participants from 141 countries in what is the world’s largest occupational safety event.
“The challenge we face is a daunting one. Work claims more victims around the globe than does war: an estimated 2.3 million workers die every year from occupational accidents and diseases,” said Ryder, in an article published on the organizations website.
Ryder believes that work related deaths should get more attention than they currently do in the mass media.
“Ebola and the tragedies it is causing are in the daily headlines – which is right. But work-related deaths are not. So, the task ahead is to establish a permanent culture of consciousness,” he said.
While health and safety around the work place is improving, this is certainly not the case around the globe. In 2013, over 1,100 laborers died in a Bangladeshi factory after the building where they were working collapsed. Ryder believes it is unacceptable that people are forced to work in such conditions, where their lives are unnecessarily put at risk.
This puts safety and health alongside forced labor, child labor, freedom of association and discrimination, which were recognized in the ILO Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.”
Ryder mentioned that total of cost of work related illnesses and accidents are a staggering $2.8 trillion around the globe. He also stressed the importance of investing in safety procedures and insurance, saying, “every dollar that is invested pays in.”
The head of the ILO said that it is imperative that better data is logged to record accidents at the work place, to help prevention and also give target figures to help reduce the number of mishaps: “We live in the Information Age where policy-makers have access to data on most issues. But in relation to occupational safety and health we lack data to design and implement evidence-based policies and programs. That’s a failure – also of political will.”
The ILO is a body of the United Nations and is based in Switzerland. It was founded in 1919 in response to the horrors of the First World War, as part of the Treaty of Versailles with the belief that lasting peace can only be achieved through social equality. Its purpose is to try and achieve better working, social and economic conditions for workers around the globe and to ensure that safety is paramount.

Video Report: U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State in Iraq

As Iraqi troops help liberate the besieged town of Amerli, Australia joins the U.S. and other Western nations in carrying out airdrops of humanitarian aid and military equipment to Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq.

U.S., foreign fighters in Syria pose 'very serious threat' to U.S.: lawmaker

Hundreds of U.S., British and Canadian citizens who have trained with Islamic State fighters trying to carve out their own state in Iraq and Syria pose a "very serious threat" to the United States, a top Republican lawmaker said Sunday.
Representative Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, urged the Obama administration to aggressively prosecute U.S. citizens who had trained overseas as it weighed options for how to respond to escalating violence by Islamic State militants in Iraq.
He said an attack on the Jewish museum in Brussels in May had shown a new push by extremist groups to carry out attacks on Western targets, and growing efforts to recruit backers on social media.
"I'm very concerned because we don't know every single person who has gone and trained and learned how to fight," Rogers told "Fox News Sunday."
The United States carried out three air strikes on Saturday against Islamic State fighters near the besieged Shi'ite town of Amerli in northern Iraq and airdropped more than hundred additional bundles of humanitarian aid to civilians trapped there, the Pentagon said.
President Barack Obama last week authorized the new military action, broadening U.S. operations in Iraq amid an international outcry over the threat to Amerli's mostly ethnic Turkmen population. Washington is seeking to build an international coalition to fight against Islamic State forces.
Rogers said he believed hundreds of U.S. citizens had trained with Islamic State at least once, in addition to an estimated 500 British citizens and hundreds more from Canada, with their passports essentially allowing them "free travel" to the United States to carry out extremist attacks.
"The chances of error are greater than our ability to track every single area. It's a very serious threat," he said, noting that U.S. intelligence agencies were also tracking "pretty serious" threats of planned attacks in the West by al Qaeda.
Concerns about Americans associating with Islamic State militant fighters have grown in recent weeks after the deaths of two U.S. citizens in Syria.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in July dozens of Americans were among roughly 7,000 foreign fighters that U.S. intelligence agencies estimate to be operating in Syria, out of roughly 23,000 violent extremists.
Rogers said the number of Americans who had traveled and trained overseas at least once was considerably higher.
He said U.S. efforts to tamp down on such travel by U.S. citizens needed to be handled carefully to avoid restricting the ability of other Americans to travel overseas.
But aggressive prosecution of those who trained with extremist groups could have a deterrent effect, he said.
Representative Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, echoed Rogers' concerns.
"The biggest threat that I see to the United States right now are Americans and Brits who have passports that have the ability to come into our country without getting a visa," Ruppersberger told CNN's "State of the Union" program.
"We had the suicide American bomber who was radicalized, came home to visit his parents, went back and then killed himself. Now, that could have happened in the United States," Ruppersberger said.
A 22-year-old man from Florida carried out a suicide bombing in Syria's Idlib province in May. A Denver woman was arrested in July on suspicion of trying to fly to Syria to help insurgents, and two men in Texas were arrested on similar charges in June.

Elusive Deal With Iran Could Yield Foreign Policy Legacy for Obama

Catherine Maddux
A 15-minute phone call made just under a year ago may be what historians say set the stage for a landmark nuclear agreement with Iran – if one is achieved by a November 24 deadline.
The call between Presidents Barack Obama and Hassan Rouhani marked the first direct contact between the United States and Iran since 1979.
The subject was Tehran’s disputed nuclear program, and it opened up the door to renewed talks between Iran and the so-called P5 + 1 countries — the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France, all members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany.
The resumption of talks last October led to an interim deal reached in January. The Joint Plan of Action (JPA) froze Iran's enrichment, in return granting Tehran some relief from Western-imposed economic sanctions.
The entire process is delicate as illustrated by the latest round of U.S. sanctions and Tehran's sharp response. The penalties — which, according to media reports, are not new, but meant to enforce existing sanctions —target businesses and inviduals the Obama administration says are involved in expanding in Iran's nuclear program. Rouhani described them as a "crime against humanity," reflecting a comparatively tougher stance towards the United States.
Still, the negotiations have raised the possibility of a historic agreement with Iran. Observers say that would provide a legacy moment for the president, whose approval ratings on foreign policy are dismally low.
From ‘rogue states’ to ‘outliers’
While the opening with Iran didn’t come until Obama’s second term in office, a shift in strategy toward Tehran began shortly after he was sworn in, said Robert Litwak, author of "Iran's Nuclear Chess: Calculating America's Moves.”
The president’s first administration “jettisoned the term 'rogue state,'” instead referring to countries such as Iran and North Korea as “outliers,” said Litwak, who directs security studies at Washington’s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. "And that really was the heart of the reset: reframing the challenge posed, in this case, particularly by Iran, not in terms of some unilateral American concept of rogue state, but rather in terms of conduct that violates established international norms."
The Obama reset was informed in part by a serious misstep by former President George W. Bush, said Peter Galbraith, a former ambassador to Croatia who also held several senior positions at the United Nations.
"Let's be clear with what happened with the Bush administration in Iran," said Galbraith, a senior diplomatic fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington. "In April of 2003, the Iranians made an offer to give up on their nuclear program in its entirety. And the Bush administration's response was 'we don't negotiate with evil.' "
Galbraith said that refusal gave the Iranian government eight years to perfect its uranium enrichment, allowing it to make what he described as "great strides" toward nuclear weapons capability.
But by the time the president began his first term, the option of diplomacy was already on the table, said Robert Einhorn, who participated in the P5 + 1 talks and served as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s special adviser for non-proliferation and arms control.
"The Bush administration approach had evolved considerably," with representatives "prepared to take part in discussions with the Iranians in the P5 + 1 process," said Einhorn, now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
A key part of the shift was allowing Iran to enrich uranium, a decision that critics say is a grave mistake.
"Obama was prepared to participate in the P5 + 1 talks without making enrichment an issue,” Einhorn said. “He was willing to approach diplomacy in a more creative way.”
With Rouhani’s June 2013 election, Obama could reach out to a decidedly less hostile and more moderate leader than former Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Enrichment saga
Iran is a signatory of the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. As such, it argues it retains the right to enrich low-level uranium for nuclear power plants.
But the United States and a long list of other countries suspect Tehran’s civil nuclear program is a cover for its real endgame: to acquire the capability to build a nuclear weapon. Iran’s leaders have repeatedly denied the charge.
"The Iranians have mastered the nuclear fuel cycle," putting the United States in a negotiating bind, Litwak said. "Those centrifuges that spin to create low-enriched uranium for reactors can keep spinning to generate highly rich uranium that could be used in a weapon."
So the focus for the Obama administration has been on bounding, or limiting, Iran’s nuclear program and allowing some enrichment.
That negotiating position has critics – including Hillary Clinton, Obama’s former secretary of state.
During an interview with The Atlantic, widely scrutinized after publication, Clinton made it clear she supported a far harder line with Iranians in the current negotiations.
"I’ve always been in the camp that held that they did not have a right to enrichment," she was quoted as saying. "Contrary to their claim, there is no such thing as a right to enrich. This is absolutely unfounded. There is no such right."
Clinton went on to tell The Atlantic that no enrichment is "not an unrealistic position. I think it’s important that [the P5 + 1 negotiators] stake out that position."
Others, like Galbraith, argue that approach is a nonstarter. "Of course, there should be no enrichment," he said. "But the question is, how do you get there?" Galbraith points out that though sanctions have imposed real economic hardships on Iranians, they haven’t led Iran’s government or its ultimate power holder, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to abandon enrichment. A military option is not realistic, in Galbraith’s view. "If you produce a deal that allows for some enrichment, that also allows for clear inspection to demonstrate that Iran is not breaking out and going ahead and making a nuclear weapon, I think that is a significant achievement," he said. "Is it perfect? Absolutely not." Breaking out There remains a major roadblock that could easily derail reaching an agreement by the November deadline, which was extended from July. The Obama administration is acutely aware that Iran may try to stall for time to build a bomb while appearing to scale back its enrichment capacity, according to Einhorn. He and other non-proliferation experts say the amount of time Iran would need to "break out" a nuclear weapon – that is, to switch gears from energy production – is a crucial concern. "Iran says it wants a fairly large enrichment capacity to supply its Russian-built reactor at Bushehr" nuclear power plant by 2021, Einhorn said. "The United States worries that that level of capacity would give Iran a rapid breakout." So, negotiators are making the case that Iran's enrichment capacity must be limited for a long time. The ideal would be making sure the window for a possible breakout for Iran doesn’t exist, Litwak said. Or, failing that, making sure there is enough time to do something about it. "You want to have confidence that the amount of time Iran would need to generate highly enriched uranium for a bomb would [also] … provide ample time for the U.S. to generate a collective response," he said. "The rule of thumb is that we need at least one year."
Identity crisis
The very tough and challenging details aside, experts say the talks reveal an existential struggle inside Iran – a kind of identity crisis.
"The real question is whether Iran wants to be counted as a non-nuclear power," said Daniel Serwer, a senior professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington.
"Why would it want to do that? Well, because a nuclear Iran is a very dangerous place where there is a lot risk to Iranians. A non-nuclear Iran is a much safer place for Iran," Serwer said. "… But ultimately, that [comes] down to what the Iranians think."
From Litwak's point of view, the talks represent a proxy for Iran’s continued and, up to now, unresolved debate over whether it wants to be a revolutionary state or merely an ordinary country.
"It is an identity crisis and it's not one that they have been able to resolve now 35 years after the revolution," Litwak said.
Furthermore, Litwak points out, it’s unclear whether supreme leader Khamenei – pressured by sanctions on Iranian society and the resulting economic dislocations – will agree to nuclear limitations that ensure it’s "not a military program masquerading as a civil program."
Most policy experts said the odds for reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran are 50-50. Einhorn, who recently wrote an open letter to Iranian negotiators, said the fast-approaching deadline simply does not allow enough time to sort out all the remaining disputes.
"I think a deal is going to be hard to reach because the gaps are so large," he said. "It will be an uphill effort."

Pakistan: Changing Prime Minister is logical given current circumstances

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Farooq Sattar said on Sunday that changing Prime Minister is a logical option considering the ongoing political crisis, Dunya News reported.
Addressing the media, Sattar said that all four pillars of the state are under attack, alleging that the government has failed to prevent the worst.
MQM leader said that it is vital to save the system and constitution at the moment by changing the Prime Minister, adding that this is a constitutional and legal option.
Condemning the police brutality, Farooq Sattar said that the government has raised serious question over its mandate by launching the operation against civilians.

Afghanistan: Karzai planning to leave presidential palace on Tuesday, IECC says

The Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC) officials have said that President Hamid Karzai is planning to leave the presidential palace on coming Tuesday.
IECC chief, Abdul Satar Saadat, told reporters that Presidnet Hamid Karzai has insisted that the next presidential inauguration should taken place on coming Tuesday.
Saadat further added that President Karzai is planning to leave the palace if the presidential inauguration did not take place on Tuesday.
He urged President Karzai not leave the palace and wait until his successor has been elected and the presidential inauguration takes place.
According to Saadat, the president is considering to transfer the power to the vice-presidents. However, he said there are no guarantees that the vice-presidents would transfer the power to the elected president.
However, the presidential palace officials have rejected the remarks by IECC officials and said the president will not abandon the palace until the next president is not sworn in.

Afghanistan: Increase in the Number of Girls in Khost Schools

Local officials have reported that the number of girls attending school in eastern Khost province has increased to 115,000 as education awareness rises within families since the fall of the Taliban regime.
Local officials have reported that the number of girls attending school in eastern Khost province has increased to 115,000 as education awareness rises within families since the fall of the Taliban regime.
In the past years, the girls in Khost were not allowed to go to school beyond the sixth grade because families believed it would taint the honor of the family. However, in recent reports many girls have surpassed the sixth grade and some have even graduated from high school.
"I am currently in the eighth grade," Mujhghan, one of the many girls attending school, said. "My family encourages me to go to school."
Gul Pekai, another student, said that attitudes toward education have changed in society, showing appreciation toward her family and friends who have encouraged her to further her education.
Deputy Head of the Education Department of Khost, Bakht Noor Bakhtyar, said that the number of girls attending school increases every day.
Khost Governor Abdul Jabar Naeemi has expressed optimism over the recent developments in the education sector, especially for girls.
"Families are encouraged to let their daughter graduate from high school," Naeemi said. "We encourage families to allow their daughters to continue after the sixth grade."
The province of Khost has witnessed a positive change in the education sector and attendance of aspiring young girls, but the rest of the country has recently seen a decrease in the attendance of girls because of the deteriorating security issues.

Nawaz Sharif has killed innocent people

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan on Sunday demanded immediate resignation of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and blamed him for the killing of innocent people.
"Police action against innocent people should be condemned. We will fire an FIR against Nawaz Sharif," said Imran Khan.
"Nawaz has killed innocent people. We will won't budge till Sharif resigns," said Imran.
Earlier, demanding immediate resignation of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, thousands of protesters led by Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri had running battles with police and paramilitary forces in Islamabad in the wee hours, resulting in injuries to more than 300 people.
The clashes started after orders by Khan and Qadri on Saturday to shift their protest venue to the official residence of Sharif to force him resign immediately.
At least 308 injured were brought to Polyclinic and Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, the two premier state-run hospitals, a Pakistani channel Duniya TV reported.
Hundreds of protesters entered the lawn of Parliament but they were stopped at the main entrance of the building where army soldiers were deployed.
Khan and Qadri are with protesters and exhorting their supporters to force their way towards the PM House.
Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said that protesters had committed a crime by attacking parliament which is a "symbol of democracy".
The clashes were continuing as police pushed them back with intense shelling of tear gas and rubber bullets.
The situation was very tense in the capital as a number of demonstrators refused to budge from the protest site.
Both the leaders are agitating since August 14 against alleged rigging during the last year general elections.
"I will lead the march to the PM House. All my supporters should follow me," Khan said asking women and children to stay behind until asked by him to join the march towards the PM House.
Khan's announcement came soon after a similar decision by Qadri.
Thousands of police and paramilitary personnel were deployed blocking all the roads leading to the PM residence.
Khan asked his supporters to remain peaceful and asked law enforcement agencies not to stop the agitators.
As tension mounted, Sharif left for Lahore. A late night government announcement categorically ruled out Sharif's resignation and there is no threat to his life.
Read more at:

Javed Hashmi: Imran to be held responsible if democracy derailed

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) President Javed Hashmi has said that Imran Khan’s decision of marching towards PM house was against the party discipline.
Talking to media, Hashmi said the party leadership unanimously decided that they will not go further but Imran Khan imposed his decision. He said he asked Imran Khan to wait till the end of talks but Imran emphasized that he had to move forward. Hashmi said Imran Khan has become the follower of Tahirul Qadri, adding that Khan will be held responsible if democracy was derailed.
He said that Imran Khan told him to leave if he had reservations against his decisions. PTI president said Imran Khan promised him that he will not go further from a certain point, adding that children and women were our responsibility. He urged the government to immediately stop barbarism. He said he was very tensed over the current situation. Fearing martial law, he said it wasn't very far from us now.
He asked Imran Khan to take his party out of this embarrassment, adding that such protests are not even allowed in Washington and London.

Pakistan: Politicians should have not asked army to mediate - HRCP

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Saturday said that the politicians should have not asked the army to mediate between the government and the protesting parties.
In a statement, HRCP Chairwoman Zohra Yusuf said that there should be no two views about the fact that the day when political discord needed adjudication from the army was an exceeding gloomy day for Pakistan.
“It is unfortunate that the day is upon us now. This is exactly what the civil and all pro-democracy forces had feared and cautioned against.”
According to the statement, “Developments in the last few days prove that the democratic transition that had been prematurely celebrated is a long way off yet. We had hoped against hope that the politicians would live up to their commitments and avert being pushed towards the precipice.”
The statement also read, “The closing of ranks among the politicians to protect democracy and the constitution from this latest ambush has been the most pleasant outcome of the circus going on in Islamabad. It has also done the country a service by bringing together under one umbrella all the actors who will stop at nothing to give the so-called umpire yet another chance to intervene.”
“There is no doubt any longer about who played the dirty part in this sordid affair. Notwithstanding all the mistakes that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif might have committed and his inept handling of the situation, it seems more clear than ever that Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri — who rejected efforts and observations from the executive, judiciary and parliament, including PTI’s own coalition partners in a provincial government — had come to Islamabad with the solitary objective to do all they could to invite a role from the military. Nawaz Sharif is now being painted as having given them that pleasure.”
“HRCP joins civil society and all pro-democracy elements in mourning this sad development.
It must at the same time make it clear that the army’s role must end with the closure of this most unsavoury chapter in Pakistan’s history and normal functioning of the elected government resumed.
The government must continue to strive to end the standoff while avoiding the use of force against participants of the sit-ins as long as they remain peaceful,” the statement read.

Pakistan: Zardari condemns police torture in Islamabad

Former President Asif Ali Zardari has condemned police torture and tear gas shelling on protesters in Islamabad.
In a statement he said that torture on women and children was intolerable.
He urged the government and the protesters to resolve their issues through talks.
He also condemned shelling on Shujaat Hussain and telephoned Pervez Elahi to inquire about the health of the PML-Q

Video Report: Chaos, clashes in Pakistan: Protesters storm PM’s office, hundreds injured

Pakistani protests turn deadly as prime minister refuses to resign

By Sophia Saifi
Pakistani protesters took to the streets for another day Sunday demanding a solution to a political crisis that has gripped the nation.
At least two people died overnight, according to Dr. Ayesha Isani, a spokeswoman for the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences in Islamabad.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has vowed to stay put despite protests against his government. Police fired tear gas on protesters Saturday after thousands threatened to march on the Prime Minister's house in Islamabad. At least 158 people were hospitalized, including one critically.
Sharif has failed to negotiate a solution with the protesters, and last week asked the military for help brokering an end to the crisis.
"Tear gas is a normal practice undertaken all over the world to disperse a crowd. It is something that is an alternative to using force," Pakistan Defense Minister Khwaja Asif said. "The situation had precipitated to a point that if action had not been taken then it would have been a free fall for the government."
At least 8,000 people have rallied in the city's center after allegations of vote-rigging during last year's election. Negotiations between Sharif's government and his opponents, some of whom are calling for his resignation, have reached an impasse. Sharif has said he will not resign -- a demand he has called "unconstitutional."
Imran Khan -- an enigmatic former cricket star who leads one of Pakistan's largest political parties -- has led the two-week protests. Khan is demanding new elections.
As the protests have grown in size and scope, the army has stationed personnel at government buildings in case protesters try to occupy them.

Pakistani Protester Dies in Clashes With Police

Pakistani police on Sunday clashed with scattered pockets of anti-government protesters trying to advance on the prime minister's residence after a night of violence that saw hundreds wounded and the first death in more than two weeks of demonstrations.
The violence has raised the stakes in a political standoff, in which cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri have led twin protests demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, alleging massive voting fraud in the election that brought him into office last year in the country's first democratic transfer of power.
Backed by parliament and many political parties, Sharif has refused to step down. Government negotiators have tried to convince Qadri and Khan to end their protests.
Senior hospital official Dr. Wasim Khawaja said Qadri supporter Naveed Razzaq drowned in a ditch after he was in a crowd that was bombarded with tear gas. Hundreds of people were wounded overnight as police battled protesters with tear gas, batons and rubber bullets near the premier's official residence and the adjacent parliament building.
The protesters started regrouping at daybreak Sunday and made repeated attempts to make their way through heavy deployment of police and barricades to reach the premier's residence. Police strengthened their lines and responded by lobbing tear gas canisters.
Scores of protesters, including women, carrying hammers and iron rods broke down a fence outside the parliament building late Saturday, enabling hundreds of people to enter the lawns and parking area, according to an Associated Press photographer at the scene.
Islamabad police chief Khalid Khattak said the protesters were armed with large hammers, wire cutters, axes and even a crane.
More than 300 people — including women, children and police officers — were admitted to two government hospitals in the Pakistani capital, medics and police said. The injured had wounds from tear gas shells, batons and rubber bullets, said Dr. Javed Akram, who heads the capital's main hospital.
Akram said 182 people, including 37 police officers, were treated at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences. Another 152 people were brought to a government hospital near the scene of the clashes, said another physician, Dr. Tanvir Malik.
The protests began with a march from the eastern city of Lahore on Independence Day, Aug. 14, that eventually reached Islamabad. Khan and Qadri had called for millions of protesters to join, but crowds have not been more than tens of thousands.
The protesters' presence and heightened security measures have ground much of the capital to a halt. On Saturday similar marches were held in Lahore and Karachi, and on Sunday small demonstrations were held in other towns.
Riot police initially showed restraint during Saturday's march, but when the crowd started removing shipping containers used as barricades, they fired salvos of tear gas canisters that forced the crowds back.
Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan visited the scene of the protests late Saturday to boost police morale.
"A group wanted to capture the prime minister's house and other buildings. We are under oath, and the police as well, to protect the state assets," he told reporters.

Pakistan: Bilawal Bhutto condemns attacks on media persons in Islamabad
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Patron-In-Chief, Pakistan Peoples Party has strongly condemned attacks on Reporters of different news channels by the protesters and police during Islamabad riots since last night.
In a press statement issued here, PPP Patron-In-Chief said that brutal manhandling and torture of Reporters from Dawn, Samaa, ARY, Dunya, Din, Geo TV and other news channels at the hands of rioters and the police were highly condemnable acts and democratic forces won’t tolerate such incidents.

Video Report: Pakistan: Imran Khan calls for people's "war" against government

Video Report: Pressure mounts on Pakistan's premier to quit

Pakistan: Clashes between police, protesters continue, 498 injured

Around 498 people have been wounded in clashes between police and protesters in Pakistan's capital Islamabad, hospital officials said Sunday, as a fortnight-long political impasse took a violent turn.
The violence, which began late Saturday and continued early Sunday, erupted after around 25,000 people marched from parliament to the prime minister's house, where some attempted to remove barricades around it with cranes, an AFP reporter at the scene said.
Police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Islamabad police chief Khalid Khattak told AFP that police exercised restraint but the protesters were armed with axes, wire cutters and hammers.
"They had a crane and drove it until the entrance of the presidency. We are using only tear gas and firing rubber bullets where needed," Khattak said.
Railways minister Khawaja Saad Rafique said protesters tried to uproot the entry gate of the prime minister's house.
The protesters, led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and populist cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, had been camped outside parliament house since August 15 demanding Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif quit amid allegations of vote rigging. The injured were rushed to Islamabad's two main hospitals, and the number of casualties is expected to rise as clashes continue.
Demonstrations have also erupted in the eastern city of Lahore and the port city of Karachi. Khan and Qadri claim the 2013 elections which saw Sharif sweep to power were massively rigged.

Lahore: PTI workers protest against Islamabad crackdown

Clashes between police and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf workers erupted here after Imran Khan and Tahiurl Qadri announced to shift their sit-ins in front of the prime minister house, prompting police to use tear gas and rubber bullets to keep the protesters at bay, Abbtakk reported.
Enraged political workers took to the streets in Lahore against use of force in Islamabad.Police try to stop dispres the protesters by doing baton charge and use tear gas which for the time being disperse the protesters but they returned and start protesting again once the police took back step.
The workers vandalized shops and burned tires on the road near Liberty Chowk.

Pakistan: Mystery phone call to Khan led to PTI marching orders: report

An anchorperson of a private news channel, has claimed that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan’s decision to march toward Prime Minister’s House had shocked even the top PTI leadership as a breakthrough had been made in the talks with the government.
The TV journalist claimed that a senior PTI leader had told him that members of the PTI Core Committee including Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Jehangir Tareen and Asad Umar had briefed Khan about the progress in talks in which the government had agreed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would proceed on a month’s leave to pave the way for a fair probe into alleged election rigging.
The TV anchor claimed that the PTI members told their chairman that the government had in return demanded that Khan should make public the deal to his supporters from atop the luxury container but at that very moment the PTI chairman received a call on his phone and within a spur of a moment the cricketer-politician announced to his supporters that they would march toward PM’s House, stunning even his close aides.
As soon as he made the announcement, a visibly upset PTI President Javed Hashmi had an exchange of words with Khan ostensibly over his sudden decision to march toward PM House, after which he stepped down from the container.
The journalist’s claim can be substantiated from the TV footage of Khan’s address in which he apologised to Hashmi saying, “I could not keep my promise to you.”
Khan also changed his earlier stance by announcing that this time the men amongst PTI protesters would march forward while the women and children should follow or go home, all the while reiterating that the protesters would remain peaceful.
No PTI leader was available to confirm the TV journalist’s claim regarding the unilateral decision of Khan.

Pakistan: Protests turn ugly

Hundreds got injured on Saturday night as thousands of charged protesters of Pakistani Awami Tehreek (PAT) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) clashed with police on their way to the Prime Minister’s House.
Protesters entered the Parliament House by hitting the outer fence with a mini truck. However, they did not enter the building of the Parliament House until the filing of this report.
PTI Chairman Imran Khan remained inside his container along with party leaders late in the night hours, and he rallied the workers around and vowed to reach the next destination of the sit-in outside the PM’s House. Several feet away, Dr Qadri also remained inside his vehicle as scores of women and male workers surrounded his vehicle. The Interior Ministry sources said police would finally arrest both Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri if they continued to march towards the PM’s House.
Meanwhile, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told media that the protesters would not be allowed to regroup at the respective sit-in venues at Constitution Avenue. A spokesman of Pakistan Institute for Medical Sciences (PIMS) said the hospital had received around 50 injured, including women and children.
Dr Khurram, a spokesman of Polyclinic Hospital, said they have received 70 injured, including 20 women and most of them have received rubber bullet injuries. The PAT leadership claimed that one of its woman workers got killed in clashes with police, a development not confirmed by hospital sources and administration.
The Interior Ministry sources said the new strategy of police and administration was to get the sit-in venues vacated at Constitution Avenue and not to let PAT and PTI workers regroup. As the protesters continued to clash with the police, most of the families sitting along the PTI sit-in camp at the parade ground near D-Chowk left the place in a panic.
Kaptaan tried to address his dispersed workers from atop his container several times, but failed due to heavy clouds of tear gas. Police continued to fire tear gas shells after small intervals as security officials continued air surveillance through two helicopters that continued to hover over Constitution Avenue for several hours.
The action started as Qadri and Imran Khan asked the twin sit-in marchers to join hands and camp outside the PM’s House late on Saturday night. Both the leaders, however, asked workers time and again to remain peaceful and march towards the PM’s House by aligning themselves in disciplined lanes. Imran Khan, however, restricted the women and children to proceed towards their destination, and instead join the male marchers once they establish a sit-in camp outside the PM’s House. But this was not the scene in the PAT camp as hundreds of women, girls, and even small children, were part of the contingent that marched on the road as Dr Qadri was tucked in between his procession riding his car.
A government spokesman said the shelling was ordered as some baton wielding protestors tried to break the main gate of the Presidency after crossing the first layer of barriers. He said the protesters would not be allowed to enter PM’s House or any other government building.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan visited Constitution Avenue as soon as the police action started. He told media that the protesters wanted to enter government buildings.
Islamabad DIG Dr Sultan Azam Taimuri said it had also been decided that PAT and PTI protesters would not be allowed to enter offices in Red Zone.
Separately, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) announced to observe day of mourning on Sunday (today). MQM leader Haider Abbas Rizvi said, “The situation at the moment is extremely painful. There is no Pakistani right now whose hand is not on his heart.”
Later, MQM chief Altaf Hussain demanded Nawaz to voluntarily resign from his position, according to reports.
Protests erupted across the country in the wake of police crackdown in Islamabad.

Hashmi leaves sit-in to protest PTI’s joining forces with PAT

Minutes before PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s announcement to move the sit-in from D-Chowk to the Prime Minister’s House, an unhappy Javed Hashmi left the venue as a mark of protest over the party’s decision to join forces with Dr Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek.
When contacted soon after the supporters of PTI and PAT started moving towards the PM House, Mr Hashmi said: “Right now, I am at my residence at Parliament Lodges.”
When asked why he had left his colleagues at a crucial time, the PTI president said he would speak on this matter later.
Sources close to Mr Hashmi told Dawn that the veteran leader was unhappy over his party’s decision to join hands with the PAT because he feared it could lead to a violent situation.
During a meeting of the PTI’s core committee held in Imran Khan’s container after the talks with the government representatives on Saturday, Mr Hashmi registered his protest over the party chief’s rushing to the Army House after receiving a call from Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif on Thursday.
Mr Hashmi was of the view that the army should not be dragged in politics no matter who had asked it to become a facilitator.
Mr Khan’s speech earlier in the day confirmed that there were differences between him and Mr Hashmi, when he said: “Hashmi Sahib, I am sorry. But I assure you that Imran Khan will not let democracy down.”
Mr Hashmi, who is known as an “angry man” in the party, had left Lahore for his hometown Multan a day before the start of the party’s long march on Aug 13 to protest against Mr Khan’s statement in which he had demanded installation of a government of technocrats. He was brought back by senior PTI leaders who assured him that it was just a personal view of Mr Khan and that the party would not include this in its charter of demands.
Mr Hashmi, who joined the PTI about six months before the 2013 general elections, was the acting president of the PML-N when Nawaz Sharif was living in exile during the Musharraf regime. He had left the PML-N due to some differences within the party.

Pakistan: A disastrous turn of events

LAST evening the political crisis that has captivated this country for three weeks boiled over.
First, there were indications that somehow the government had acceded to the most extraordinary and wretched of capitulations: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was, according to feverish rumour, to go on a month-long enforced vacation while a senior minister ran the government and the Supreme Court-led judicial commission investigated the allegations of so-called widespread fraud in last year’s election.
If the allegations were found to be true, again according to the mooted deal, the National Assembly would be dissolved and fresh elections would be held. That the deal was rumoured to have been reached just hours after Mr Sharif had spoken scornfully of the protesters and their number and impact in Islamabad suggests that the government had already lost all control of the situation.
Then, late into the evening, came another spectacular, shocking turn of events. Imran Khan, Tahirul Qadri and their respective protesting camps decided to move from their venue outside parliament towards Prime Minister House.
Know more: PTI, PAT protesters clash with security forces
That suggested a deal – any kind of deal – was off and that the government’s foes were going for the political kill. In retaliation, the government bared its teeth against the protesters and mayhem ensued as tear gas shells were fired and the civilian-run police – not the military – were used to repulse the protesters onwards movement. Never – never – has the capital witnessed such scenes in its history and events, at the time of writing these lines, could well end up as a disaster.
Surely though the events of Saturday evening were highly choreographed and scripted by some power other than Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri.
The very idea that a few thousand baton-wielding protesters can march towards Prime Minister House without some explicit assurances behind the scenes is absurd. Quite what those assurances are and what the endgame ultimately is will be known soon, perhaps overnight or in a day or two.
The biggest question: can Nawaz Sharif survive? The answer, in these frantic hours, must surely be a miserable, despondent no.
If that is in fact the case – if Mr Sharif’s third term as prime minister is at or near an end – what does that say about the PML-N supremo? Is he a failed leader or a political martyr? Piecing together the events over the last year and especially over the past few months, the answer seems to be Mr Sharif is a failed leader.
This was a political crisis that was mishandled from the outset. Too much confidence, too much scorn, too much arrogance – and very little nous. For five years, from 2008 to 2013, Mr Sharif mostly said and did the right things.
The democratic project had apparently – and thankfully – become larger than Mr Sharif’s whims. But one year into his term, in his handling of the forces determined to undo the project, Mr Sharif has proved himself a leader very much out of his depth.

Pakistan: Bilawal Bhutto Zardari visits Shanghai Metro and Power Plant
Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari visited Shanghai Metro today. He visited the monitoring room of entire Shanghai city and appreciated the Metro System. He also visited the Shanghai train station. He was briefed about the project that Shanghai Metro is a rapid transit system in Shanghai, China. The first line opened in 1993, making Shanghai the third city in mainland China, after Beijing and Tianjin, to have a rapid transit system. Since then, the Shanghai Metro has become one of the fastest-growing rapid transit systems in the world, with several lines still under construction.
Overall, there are 14 metro lines and 329 stations with an operating route length of 538 kilometres (334 mi), making it the longest in the world. The Shanghai Metro ranks third in the world in annual ridership, with 2.5 billion rides delivered in 2013. It set a daily ridership record of 9.381 million on April 30, 2014. On a normal weekday over 8 million people use the Shanghai Metro.
On 16 October 2013, with the extension of Line 11 into Kunshan, Jiangsu province, Shanghai Metro became the first rapid transit system in China to connect two provincial-level administrative divisions. There are plans to further connect the Shanghai Metro with the metro systems of Suzhou and Wuxi.
Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari also visited Pucheng Power Shanghai. This power station generates 12 MW electricity from the municipal garbage. He was told that the garbage of entire Shanghai is used in this power station as fuel which not only solves the problem of waste but also generates electricity. Chairman PPP hoped to get the benefits from Chinese technology in Karachi city. Chief Minister Sind Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Sherry Rehman, Sindh Minister for Finance Syed Murad Ali Shah, Chairman Board of Investment Ali Arshad Hakeem was also present with the Chairman PPP.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

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Held by IS for 40 days, a Turkish photographer tells his story

Bunyamin Aygun, an award-winning Turkish photojournalist who was captured by Islamic State (IS) militants last November and held for 40 days, is the first and only journalist held by IS to go public with his ordeal. Aygun’s account, which ran for five days in his newspaper, Milliyet, offers a rare and nuanced glimpse into the murky world of IS. Published in January, the series revealed the heavy presence of Turks in the group and the glaring threat that they pose to their own country. “Turkey is next,” IS fighters, repeatedly told the veteran journalist. But the story received scant attention.
In Turkey, a massive corruption scandal implicating Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his close circle held the nation in thrall. The few stories that appeared in Western outlets were short and dry. Aygun had not revealed that his captors were IS at the time. But would it have made much of a difference? Probably not, because Aygun is not a Westerner. He is a Muslim and a Turk. Besides, Mosul had not yet been overrun, nor had all 49 members of the Turkish consulate there been taken hostage by ISIS. And James Foley’s brutal execution had not yet taken place.
The public's thirst for information about IS in the aftermath of this barbaric act is seemingly unquenchable. And Aygun’s story is a gold mine. I decided to contact Aygun to hear it firsthand. (I was unable to do so at the time of his release because I was in hospital.) We met on a recent evening in a café facing Gezi Park, where Aygun had shot powerful images of the mass demonstrations that rocked Istanbul the summer before. Aygun is square-jawed and wiry with dark, soulful eyes. “I’ll only be drinking coffee, lots of it,” he announced.
Aygun was among the first Turkish journalists to start covering the Syrian conflict when it erupted in mid-2011. “Being Turkish was a real advantage,” he recalls. “The people loved us, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) loved us.” Syria became his regular beat and Aygun would doggedly record the violence and suffering that unfolded before his eyes. Like many journalists, Aygun romanticized the rebels in the early days of the war. “Ordinary people sold everything they owned to keep the revolution going, I believed in it too,” he says.
Undaunted by news of journalist kidnappings, Aygun kept going in. On Nov 25. Aygun slipped across the border to report on IS massacres in a string of Turkomen villages. He was seized together with an FSA commander he was planning to interview IS militants near Salkin, a small town facing the Turkish province of Hatay. The early days of Aygun’s captivity were similar to those described by Peter Schrier, an American photojournalist who swapped hands between Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham (a jihadist group mentored by Turkey).
Aygun was hooded and blindfolded, his hands and legs bound nearly the entire time. Like Schrier, he was moved from one dank cell to the other. Fighters in black tunics, baggy trousers and matching balaclavas would interrogate him day after day. “Are you Muslim, Sunni, Alevi? Recite a prayer. Give us all your passwords. Who are those women on your Facebook? Do you drink? Who are you working for? Give us some names. What is your real name?” his tormentors would bark. “It went on for so long I could no longer keep track, those 40 days felt like 40 years,” Aygun says. Was he tortured and beaten like the American was? Aygun stiffens and refuses to comment. By Aygun’s own telling, IS has a strong network in Turkey. Perhaps, he fears that they might come after him again. I decide not to ask.
His narrative (lasting six hours) resumes. “They forced to take ablutions and pray five times a day. I didn’t really know how, but Heysem Topalca [his fellow hostage and FSA commander] taught me what to do,” he says. It was the only time they would unbind my eyes and hands.”
“If you are a Muslim you have nothing to fear, but if you are lying we will kill you,” the militants would warn.
On the 17th day of their captivity Aygun and Topalca were separated. Aygun was moved to another safe house, this time full of Turks. “'This is it. They are going to kill me,' I thought.” His depiction of his 12 days there is morbid yet fascinating. It sheds light on the mindset of the IS fighters. It also reflects the complexity of Aygun’s relations with them. Aygun gives his captors a human face: He is aware that this may be upsetting especially for families whose loved ones are still being held by IS. But he has “no agenda” he insists. What of IS atrocities, I ask. “What of American atrocities in Guantanamo, in Iraq?” he responds. “We need to understand the circumstances that led these people to choose this path.”
The following is a summary of Aygun’s days with the Turkish brigade.
“The fighters were mostly Turks from Turkey and from Germany. Their faces were covered. You could only see their eyes. It was clear from their voices that they were young. Some were university educated. All they did was fight and pray. They said they went into battle praying to be martyred. This is what they lived for, to die as martyrs and to establish an Islamic state in which all citizens would live as the Prophet Muhammad did, to live by the rules of the Book. They asked me if I wanted to become a suicide bomber or go to battle with them. They gave me a Turkish language Quran to read and a book about the jihad. There was no singing, no whistling, no women, no cigarettes. They rained curses on Erdogan, and Davutoglu, saying they were ‘infidels.’ They claimed that if Turkey sealed the border gates that were under IS control they would hit one Turkish village after the other and trigger a civil war inside Turkey. I was told that a qadi [an Islamic jurist] was reviewing my case. One of them said that my slaughter would avenge their brothers who were rotting in Turkish prisons. I was mentally and physically drained.”
These scenes were repeated until, as Aygun put it, his “guardian angel” appeared.
“It was a cold, dark night. A pair of men entered my cell. One of them sat next to me and began to talk. He said he knew what I was going through. He had fought with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan for 10 years where he had been held and tortured in an American detention facility for six months. I could tell he was older than the others. He told me to call him ‘Dayi’ (the Turkish word for maternal uncle). He said Turkey had strayed from Islam. He would loosen my handcuffs and bring me tea. We chatted normally, he was very kind. He said he was very saddened by my plight because he knew I was a good person and that he had told the others to treat me well. Sure enough they did. One of the fighters brought me honey and bananas. He asked me if I wanted him to erase my Facebook conversations with women. He brought me extra socks so I could keep warm. He even stroked my cheek.”
But Aygun’s “good” days were short-lived. “It was around my third day there. Dayi told me that the qadi had ruled in favor of my execution because I was working for a newspaper that was working against the interests of Muslims. He was very upset. Had the decision been left to him he would have pardoned me, he said. To spare me the dishonor of being killed by a firing squad he would cut my throat himself. I was a good Muslim, he said. I was paralyzed with fear. I needed to find a way to be shot dead rather than be beheaded. I would feign to escape; this would do it I thought. ”
On the day Aygun was meant to be executed none of his captors showed up, not even to take him for his ablutions for prayers.
“Had they left me to starve to death? Had they all died in battle? The silence was unbearable.”
The silence was finally broken by a cat.
“It was meowing at the door. I wanted nothing more than to be able to touch that cat, to have it at my side. ”
Some three days later, the fighters returned. They had been battling a rival militia. “One of the fighters asked me whether I wanted to see Dayi. I said I did. They [took] me to a room where they made their explosives. Dayi was lying on the floor in a pool of blood. I saw his face for the first time. He had a bullet mark on his forehead. He was dead. They asked me if I wanted to smell his blood. The blood of martyrs smells good, they said. I knelt by his side. I smelled his blood and stroked his beard. I was devastated. My only friend was gone. They moved to a new place. Now I would be killed for sure.”
Aygun says he owes his survival to the Turkish government. The national spy agency MIT had been working quietly behind the scenes to secure his release. It remains unclear whether IS had been demanding ransom money. In the end Ahrar ash-Sham fighters rescued him from IS and handed him over to the Turkish authorities. But not before staging a trial of their own. Their qadi deemed Aygun to be “innocent.” “When I heard Davutoglu’s voice on the telephone [telling] me that is when I knew I was finally free.”
Aygun is back at Milliyet. He has stopped drinking and continues to pray. Three months ago he adopted a cat. “It’s a Siamese,” he says, smiling for the first time.
Read more:

40 UN peacekeepers escape from IS besiegement in Golan Heights

The United Nations said here Saturday night that its 40 Philippine peacekeepers trapped by Islamic militants in the Golan Heights had managed to escape. The peacekeepers arrived in a safe location shortly after midnight local time on Sunday, the UN said.

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Hundreds march in Ferguson to protest police shooting: local media

Hundreds of marchers took to the streets in Ferguson, Missouri, on Saturday, local media reported, with protesters calling for justice three weeks after a white police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager.
Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson shot the 18-year-old Brown on Aug. 9. The shooting sparked violent protests in the St. Louis suburb and drew global attention to race relations in the United States.
For days after the shooting, police and demonstrators in Ferguson clashed nightly, with authorities criticized for mass arrests and the use of military gear, which some observers described as heavy-handed tactics.
Organizers on their Facebook page said the march on Saturday was held to protest police killings, brutality, profiling and cover-ups.
Marchers began gathering in a restaurant parking lot before walking to the spot where Brown was shot, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
"I came here because I want to be a part of the spirit of the movement," Memphis resident Ian Buchanan, 44, told the newspaper.
Authorities have released few details about the shooting. A St. Louis County grand jury has begun hearing evidence and the U.S. Justice Department has opened its own investigation.
In differing accounts, police have said Brown struggled with Wilson, who shot and killed him. But some witnesses say Brown held up his hands and was surrendering when he was shot multiple times in the head and chest.
The Post-Dispatch also reported on Saturday that a St. Louis County police officer who took part in policing the protests, Dan Page, has retired after 35 years on the force, several days after he was suspended when his department said it would launch a review of a 2012 speech that Page made to the group Oath Keepers in which he made pointed remarks about President Barack Obama, the U.S. Supreme Court and Muslims, among others.
In a video of the speech posted online, Page, an Army veteran, said that he had killed in the past and would kill again if necessary.
Oath Keepers describes itself as a non-partisan group devoted to defending the Constitution and says its members pledge to not obey unconstitutional orders.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group, tracks the group on its Hatewatch blog.
A spokesman for St. Louis County Police did not immediately return a call and email for comment on Saturday.
Meanwhile, The Dayton Daily News reported several hundred people showed up in a rally outside of a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio, on Saturday to urge release of a surveillance video from early this month of police shooting John Crawford III, who was holding a BB gun inside the store.

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In Defense of Barack Obama’s Tan Suit

Eric Dodds
Just because the President wore a suit that wasn't a shade of gray or blue doesn't mean you should have a problem with it.
Let’s make this much clear: there is nothing wrong, wild or crazy about a tan suit. This may come as a shock to those who expressed outrage at President Obama’s choice of attire yesterday, but not all suits come in a shade of gray or navy. In fact, as colors outside of those two go, tan is rather plain and simple. As for the suit itself, the lapels are in their typical three-inch range, it’s not tailored any better than his other suits (at least from the navel up) and the American flag pin is in its usual location. The tan suit is just another suit that happens to be a slightly different color than the ones he normally wears. It was, in no way, a fashion statement.
Here is a brief list of fashion choices that would have been “bold” or “wack-ass” that the President could have made yesterday:
T-shirt with suit and sleeves rolled up (aka the “Miami Vice“).
Whatever Austin Mahone was wearing at the VMAs.
But the President did not wear any of those things. Nor did he wear a three-piece suit, a seersucker suit or a white suit. Hell, he didn’t even opt for the Reagan mullet suit (business on the top, lounging on the bottom).
Perhaps the only curious thing about Obama’s suit selection was its timing. Not the fact that he wore it during the summer time (that’s when you should be wearing a tan suit, if at any time), but that he wore it while discussing crucial issues of foreign policy with the press. It was a somber occasion, and there’s apparently a certain expectation of precisely how the President’s attire should match the mood.
It’s tough to argue with that point. When discussing serious matters, there’s no reason not to be dressed accordingly. (Though one could hardly be forgiven for wondering why those criticizing Obama for discussing serious matters in improper attire are focused on that attire rather than the issues they’ve deemed so serious.) The larger problem lies in the expectations that Obama had previously created. In this 2012 Vanity Fair profile, Michael Lewis quotes Obama saying the following: “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits… I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”
So for the last six years, that’s pretty much all we’ve seen him in. Gray or blue, charcoal or navy, day after day after day until seeing him out of that particular uniform (other than athletic attire) became tantamount to seeing a performer out of costume.
The irony is that the President is often criticized for being bland, even in his fashion choices. To be frank, after yesterday’s outcry, who can blame him? Next time you or anyone asks the Commander-in-Chief for a little personality or originality, don’t be surprised if this is cited as a reason for declining that request.
The choice in tie, on the other hand, that’s a little more difficult to defend…

Seeking to Ease Worries, Obama Says the World Has Always Been ‘Messy’

If the world seems troubled by all manner of calamities these days, President Obama does not want Americans to worry too much. After all, he said Friday, “The world has always been messy”; it is just more apparent because of social media. And, he added, today’s geopolitical threats are far less perilous than those of the Cold War.
Governing at a time of war, terrorism and disease, and frustrated on multiple fronts at once, Mr. Obama finds himself trying to buck up supporters heading into a crucial midterm election season. The succession of international crises has taken a toll on the public mood, not to mention his own poll ratings, and he seems intent on reassuring Americans that the challenges are manageable.
Michelle Obama and the family’s personal chef, Sam Kass, in the White House kitchen garden in 2010. On Saturday, the Obamas will attend Mr. Kass’s wedding to Alex Wagner of MSNBC.Sam Kass, the Obamas’ Foodmaster GeneralAUG. 28, 2014 As he spent Friday sweeping through New York and Rhode Island to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for vulnerable Democrats, Mr. Obama addressed that public apprehension directly, acknowledging that many Americans “are feeling anxious” about their country and its place in the world. The showdown with Russia over Ukraine, the emergence of a radical new Islamic caliphate in Syria and Iraq, and the rise of China have stirred unease about the future of the United States, he said.
“If you watch the nightly news, it feels like the world is falling apart,” he said at a Democratic fund-raiser in Purchase, N.Y., just north of New York City. Expanding on a theme he has touched on at recent fund-raisers, Mr. Obama agreed that “we are living through some extraordinarily challenging times” and “I can see why a lot of folks are troubled.”
But Mr. Obama said Americans should remain calm and confident. “We will get through these challenging times just like we have in the past,” he said. “This is not something that is comparable to the challenges we faced during the Cold War.”
Mr. Obama attributed much of the turmoil to a rupture of the old order in the Middle East that is playing out across that region in often bloody and unpredictable ways, all of which “makes things pretty frightening.” But he said that the Middle East has “been challenging for quite a while” and that in some ways the main difference was that Americans were paying more attention because of the advent of new technologies bringing home faraway events in visceral ways.
“The truth of the matter is that the world has always been messy,” he said. “In part, we’re just noticing now because of social media and our capacity to see in intimate detail the hardships that people are going through.”
But on a day that Britain raised its terrorist threat level because of concerns about extremists in Syria and Iraq, Mr. Obama said his “main message” was that “America’s military superiority has never been greater” and that its defenses are stronger than they were before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. A day after saying “we don’t have a strategy yet” to take on Islamic radicals in Syria, Mr. Obama made little effort to explain his approach to tackling myriad problems in the world, nor did he respond to critics who blame him in part for making those problems worse through what they say are ineffective policies. But he said that Russia and China were not countries to envy or fear and that America was still best-positioned for the future.
Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story Mr. Obama flew to Westchester County, N.Y., for two events benefiting the Democratic National Committee. The first was a closed-door round table with about 25 supporters paying as much as $32,400 apiece. The event was hosted by George Logothetis, a shipping heir and chairman of the Libra Group, and his wife, Nitzia Logothetis, founder of Seleni, a nonprofit organization promoting mental health for women around the world. It was held at the home of Camilo Patrignani, the chief executive of Greenwood Energy, a subsidiary of Libra, and his wife, Lucia.
Evidently, during the event, Mr. Obama encountered some of the anxiety he later referred to, because at his next stop, which was open to reporters, he said someone had just suggested that he declare a national state of emergency, a notion he quickly discounted as not the way the United States worked.
That second event was a barbecue at the estate of two longtime benefactors, Robert Wolf, the former chairman of UBS Americas, and his wife, Carol Wolf, the coordinator of special projects for the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.
About 250 supporters paid $15,000 or more per couple, according to the Democratic committee.
Mr. Obama then flew to Rhode Island to attend a fund-raiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Newport. About 60 people paying as much as $32,400 apiece attended the event at Seafair, the home of Richard Bready, the former chief executive of Nortek, and his longtime partner, Betty Easton.
The president originally intended to fly back to Westchester County to spend the night and relax on Saturday but changed his mind and decided to fly back to Washington instead. He still planned to return to Westchester County on Saturday evening to attend the wedding of Sam Kass, his family’s personal chef, and Alex Wagner of MSNBC.

President Obama's Weekly Address: This Labor Day, Let’s Talk About the Minimum Wage

Report: ISIS selling Yazidi women in Syria

By Raja Razek and Jason Hanna
It took U.S. airstrikes against ISIS positions, airlifts of U.S. and international aid, and rescue efforts by Kurdish Peshmerga forces to help thousands of Yazidis escape imminent danger from ISIS forces in northern Iraq.
But the nightmare continues for hundreds of Yazidi girls and women, unable to get out of harm's way, who are being being sold by ISIS to its fighters in Syria, according to a human rights group.
In the past few weeks, ISIS has distributed or sold about 300 Yazidi girls and women it abducted in Iraq, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group aligned with the opposition in Syria.
In ISIS' eyes, the girls and women are "slaves of the spoils of war with the infidels," the Syria monitors said. The human rights group documented at least 27 cases of women who were sold and married to ISIS militants in the Aleppo suburbs, Raqqa suburbs and Al-Hassakah.
ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State, was previously referred to as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
At least three Iraqi soldiers were killed Saturday in a suicide car bombing south of Iraq's capital, police said, dealing a blow to the military in that area for a second straight day as government forces fight ISIS militants across the country. Seven other soldiers were injured in the attack, which happened at an army checkpoint in Yousifiya, a predominantly Sunni Muslim area about 35 kilometers (22 miles) south of Baghdad, police in Baghdad said.
It wasn't immediately clear who conducted the bombing.
The blast came a day after nine Iraqi soldiers and Shiite Muslim militiamen were killed in clashes with suspected ISIS militants in nearby Mahmoudiya, a Sunni Muslim community about 29 kilometers south of Baghdad.
During the height of Iraq's insurgency last decade following a U.S.-led invasion, Yousifiya and Mahmoudiya, along with the town of Latifiya, made up the Sunni area known as the "Triangle of Death" because it was an al Qaeda stronghold and a lair for criminals.
Iraqi forces under a Shiite-led regime, as well as ethnic Kurdish forces, have been battling ISIS, a Sunni Muslim extremist and terrorist group that this year took over large portions of northern and western Iraq and eastern Syria for what it calls its new caliphate.
Well before ISIS made gains, Iraq was beset for years by sectarian violence, with Sunnis feeling politically marginalized under a Shiite-led government since the U.S.-led ouster of longtime leader Saddam Hussein in 2003.

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Mehdi Hassan - Tere Bheege Badan ki

Pakistan: Imran Khan's submission to ex-CJ led to current crisis

Ex-President and Co-chairman Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Asif Ali Zardari had issued a statement from Beijing today that the issue would have been resolved if Imran Khan had not submitted to Iftikhar Chaudhry in the Supreme Court on August 28, 2013. Asif Zardari once again advised all the political parties to resolve the matter through dialogue.

The theatre of the absurd continues -- only in Pakistan

Amir Mateen
Only in Pakistan can this circus of the absurd unfold like this. Everybody knew that the elephant in the room was the so-called ‘Umpire’. The government called it in for its protection; Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri kept mentioning it openly; the media and political gurus wondered what role it was playing and how it would ultimately settle the issue.
Yet when the Umpire finally intervened everybody seems confused asking who the hell invited them for help. Interestingly, politicians got busy blaming each other for inviting the khakis but did not tell us what they might do now; will it resolve the ongoing political crisis? What did they exactly tell Imran and Qadri? And what if they refuse to heed their advice? It was like discussing the tail, not the elephant.
It made sense for the PML (N) to explain to Parliament what exactly transpired between the army and the government. After all, the biggest factor that saved the PML (N) government was the support of almost all political parties against the PAT/PTI combo.
The National Assembly fumed over the media commentary that gave the impression that the PML (N) had bypassed Parliament and asked the army for an extra-constitutional mediation role.
It seemed like submission and failure of Parliament before a few thousand dharna-wallas. Nisar made his usual 60-minute ‘brief’ speech, which actually caused lots of confusion. Nawaz Sharif had to pass on a chit that, we assumed, was a request to cut it out.
The crux of Nisar’s speech was that the government (PM) in his meeting with army (chief) found it legally correct to request their role as facilitator for a possible resolution of the problem. This was after repeated calls by the PTI and PAT for the army intervention. Later, he got a call from an army officer asking for government permission while he was with the Prime Minister who approved the idea of the army facilitation. Now semantics was important as facilitation is within the purview of the law while army’s role as mediator or guarantor was not.
PPP’s Khursheed Shah perhaps made the speech of his life defending democracy and Parliament. His punch line was: let them burn the Secretariat, the PM House, the Parliament House and the whole Islamabad but we shall not let them burn the Constitution. Mahmood Khan Achakzai would not let he government go scot-free by protesting why the government didn’t clarify its role for 12 hours: You kept us in pain for so long for which you might need to fire a minister. This prompted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to reiterate Nisar’s version, saying,” I can sacrifice a government ten times but not the principle”. The PM endorsed Nisar’s version.
Perhaps Nawaz Sharif should have explained the details of how and when he asked the army to be a facilitator, particularly when Nisar has a bad habit of losing meaning in translation. One can’t blame the ISPR for clarifying the exact situation. Now, we are not sure whether the ISPR wanted to emphasise the Army’s role as facilitator, as opposed to guarantor or mediator, or it wanted to explain that the request came from the prime minister. Nisar further blundered by claiming that the ISPR had issued its Press release on his advice, which a channel denied quoting sources. Nisar’s second version had not arrived till the filing of the report.
The absurdity continued as Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri did not take the hint to pack up, if at all they were given. Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri kept telling us what they had told the General. I am more interested in knowing what the General told them. We got a hint of that from Imran’s speech delivered on Thursday night that he had asked politicians to resolve their issue. My guess is that they must have also informed the PAT/PTI duo not to cross a limit where the soldiers had to stop them physically. If the assumption is true this means the agitators may have lost their claws. No more threat from the kaffan-clad grave-diggers to storm Parliament or the secretariat. We don’t know how it will conclude but we know that the option of orchestrated violence has lessened. And if the agitators still resorted to that we know who would be blamed.
This also showed that the Umpire was not siding with the agitators as many of us suspected. Either somebody bluffed Imran Khan into believing that he had the support of the khakis or he bluffed with all of us. We got a hint of it when Sheikh Rasheed retired to his Lal Haveli and found Jahangir Tareen making extra effort to fake a smile - not to forget Javed Hashmi’s departure to Multan. Anyway, the cards are open but we have to see how this game of nerves unfolds further.
All we can say is that Imran Khan and company, particularly Sheikh Rasheed, might need helmets next time they come to Parliament. The old guard at the Parliament was furious how the institutions were being undermined by inviting the army openly. They had no issue with Imran Khan criticising Nawaz Sharif who may have left a trail of lapses in one year. But to call the whole Parliament corrupt and rigged was an offence that left many old-timers fuming. But then it is not just Parliament that has been called corrupt. He has used similar words for the Supreme Court, the Election Commission, the media and whatever and whoever came in between. Being pro-Parliament and pro-democracy does not make you anti-PTI. But then King Khan has developed a habit of pronouncing everybody corrupt without presenting evidence. And then Imran had the audacity to claim that he knows how Westminster democracy functions. For all we know he would better fit in a monarchy where Khan is the King.