Sunday, November 23, 2014

Hillary Clinton calls President Obama’s immigration action necessary, ‘historic’

Hillary Clinton made her first public comments on President Obama’s immigration order Friday night at a ritzy event at a hotel in New York City, saying it was necessary in the face of House inaction and that “this is about people’s lives.” “This is about people, I would venture to guess, who served us tonight, who prepared the food tonight” and those who end up in jobs like day-laboring, Clinton said during a question-and-answer session with writer Walter Isaacson at a New York Historical Society event at the Mandarin Oriental hotel at the Time Warner Center.
“It’s really the lives of people who are in many instances longtime residents and workers who have not only raised children, but made contributions [to society] and in many, many instances, because of the way our system operates, paid taxes already,” Clinton said. She added that Obama’s action is “historic.”
“It was in the face of not only past inaction but, I think it’s fair to say for those of us who have observed the Congress’s attitude toward immigration in the House of Representatives, likely to be the future as well,” she said, adding the focus now needs to be bipartisan legislation for comprehensive immigration reform.
The sentiments were in line with a statement Clinton issued the night earlier, shortly after Obama issued the order sparing roughly 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation.
But her focus on the human toll went further. It’s an emphasis that Democrats have stressed as Republicans have taken issue with the president acting unilaterally.
Aides to Clinton and Obama, who are frequently in touch, spoke in advance about what the president planned to do. Meanwhile, Clinton also went into a lengthy recollection about her time before she ran for New York Senate, during a discussion about empowering people to have faith in institutions.
“You’ve got to reconnect people into common purpose,” she said. “People right now distrust every institution.” She recalled that when she ran for Senate in New York, “as some of you may remember, I had not lived in New York.”
“I had no idea really what was going to happen but I knew that I couldn’t just parachute into New York and say, oh, I’m running for the Senate, and…succeed.”
She talked about her “listening tour,” saying, “I spent months and they were lots of very small events really listening to people and trying to understand what their aspirations were.”
They were upstate, in the city and in the suburbs, she noted, adding, “Over time, I got a better understanding of what I could do and people got a better feeling for what I would do … I think that there is a way to rebuild that sense of possibility.” Later, she was asked about how she views the future through the new prism of being a grandmother. She invoked a phrase she’s used often, although not in that context, that “talent is universal, but opportunity is not.”
Her granddaughter Charlotte has had opportunities, Clinton said, that the baby’s great-grandmother never had.
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Obama: Hillary would be 'a great president'

By Rebecca Shabad
President Obama in an interview Sunday said Hillary Clinton would be “a great president.”
“If she decides to run, I think she will be a formidable candidate and I think she’d be a great president,” Obama said on ABC’s “This Week.”
Clinton was “an outstanding secretary of State” and she’s “a friend,” Obama added.
Host George Stephanopoulos mentioned Clinton’s decision to publicly endorse Obama’s latest executive actions on immigration last week. He then asked the president whether he will coordinate with Clinton on certain issues in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.
“Well, she hasn’t announced so I don’t wanna jump the gun,” said Obama, who indicated he still talks regularly with Clinton.
Obama said there are a number of other possible Democratic candidates who would make “terrific presidents,” he said, but declined to identify others.
Vice President Joe Biden has repeatedly hinted he might run again for the White House in 2016.
“I am very interested in making sure that I’ve got a Democratic successor. So I’m gonna do everything I can, obviously, to make sure that whoever the nominee is is successful,” Obama said.
Obama said the American people will want “a new car smell” and don’t “wanna drive something off the lot that doesn’t have as much mileage as me.”
He added: “You know, they’re probably not gonna be looking at me to campaign too much.”

Islamic State group recruits, exploits children

Teenagers carrying weapons stand at checkpoints and busy intersections in Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul. Patched onto the left arms of their black uniforms are the logos of the Islamic Police.
In Raqqa, the Islamic State group's de facto capital in Syria, boys attend training camp and religious courses before heading off to fight. Others serve as cooks or guards at the extremists' headquarters or as spies, informing on people in their neighborhoods.
Across the vast region under IS control, the group is actively conscripting children for battle and committing abuses against the most vulnerable at a young age, according to a growing body of evidence assembled from residents, activists, independent experts and human rights groups.
In the northern Syrian town of Kobani, where ethnic Kurds have been resisting an IS onslaught for weeks, several activists told The Associated Press they observed children fighting alongside the militants. Mustafa Bali, a Kobani-based activist, said he saw the bodies of four boys, two of them younger than 14. And at least one 18 year old is said to have carried out a suicide attack.
In Syria's Aleppo province, an activist affiliated with the rebel Free Syrian Army said its fighters encountered children in their late teens "fairly often" in battles against the rival Islamic State group.
It is difficult to determine just how widespread the exploitation of children is in the closed world of IS-controlled territory. There are no reliable figures on the number of minors the group employs.
But a United Nations panel investigating war crimes in the Syrian conflict concluded that in its enlistment of children for active combat roles, the Islamic State group is perpetrating abuses and war crimes on a massive scale "in a systematic and organized manner."
The group "prioritizes children as a vehicle for ensuring long-term loyalty, adherence to their ideology and a cadre of devoted fighters that will see violence as a way of life," it said in a recent report. The panel of experts, known as the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, conducted more than 300 interviews with people who fled or are living in IS-controlled areas, and examined video and photographic evidence.
The use of children by armed groups in conflict is, of course, nothing new. In the Syrian civil war, the Free Syrian Army and Nusra Front rebel groups also recruit children for combat, said Leila Zerrougui, the U.N. secretary-general's special representative for children and armed conflict.
But no other group comes close to IS in using children in such a systematic and organized way. And the effect is that much greater because IS commands large areas in which the militants inculcate the children with their radical and violent interpretation of Shariah law.
"What is new is that ISIS seems to be quite transparent and vocal about their intention and their practice of recruiting children," said Laurent Chapuis, UNICEF regional child protection adviser for the Middle East and North Africa, using an alternate acronym for the group. "Children as young as 10, 12 years old are being used in a variety of roles, as combatants as messengers, spies, guards, manning checkpoints but also for domestic purposes like cooking, cleaning, sometimes providing medical care to the wounded."
"This is not a marginal phenomenon. This is something that is being observed and seems to be part of the strategy of the group," Zerrougui said in a phone interview from New York.
She said some children join voluntarily for various reasons but others are targeted.
"They are abducting children and forcing them to join, they are brainwashing children and indoctrinating them to join their group. All the tools used to attract and recruit children are used by this group," she said, adding that children as young as 9 or 10 are used for "various roles."
In areas of Syria and Iraq under their control, the Sunni extremists have closed schools or changed the curriculum to fit with their ideology. Their goal, according to the U.N., is to use education as a tool of indoctrination to foster a new generation of supporters.
A video recently published by an IS media arm shows what it says is a graduation ceremony for boys, who appear to be in their teens. Dressed in military uniforms, they are lined up to shake hands with a sheikh. Another scene shows the boys posing with AK-47s, their faces hidden under black masks. The video touts the children as a "generation of lions, protectors of religion, dignity and land."
Residents of IS-controlled areas said the militants are teaching children at school to become fighters.
One resident in the Iraqi city of Fallujah described seeing his 6-year-old son playing with a water pistol in front of the house and screaming: "I am a fighter for the Islamic State!"
"I waved him to come to me and I broke the gun in two pieces," said the man, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of his life.
He also said he and his son recently stopped at an IS checkpoint. His son shouted, "We love the State!" and one of the fighters asked, "Which state?" When the son replied, "the Islamic State," the fighter "told him, 'Good boy,' and let us through," the resident said. The incident persuaded the man to move his family to the northern city of Kirkuk, now in Kurdish hands.
"The boys are studying, not to learn, but to become mujahedeen," he said.
Earlier this year in Syria, the Islamic State group abducted more than 150 Kurdish boys, held them in a school in Aleppo province and showed them videos of beheadings and attacks, while subjecting them to daily instruction on militant ideology for five months, the U.N. and Kurdish officials said. The boys were later released.
In Raqqa province, an anti-IS activist collective has documented the presence of at least five known youth training camps, one specifically for children under 16 in the town of Tabqa. The collective, named Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, has released a video showing children crawling under barbed wire as part of their military training. The video could not be independently confirmed but is consistent with AP reporting on the subject.
Residents in IS-controlled areas in Iraq, such as Mosul and Fallujah, say it is not uncommon to see gun-toting boys in their late teens standing at checkpoints and even younger ones riding in militant convoys, usually accompanying their fathers in parades.
Another resident of Fallujah said many boys as young as 11 volunteer to join the group, but that IS often seeks the parents' consent for those under 16. He said others join under pressure or in exchange for money.
"Once they're done training, their skills and abilities are tested before they decide where to send them off. Many want to be on the front lines," said the man, who identified himself as Abu Abdullah al-Falluji.
In a report released earlier this year, Human Rights Watch interviewed four former IS child fighters in Syria who described military training with the group. One, Bassem, who joined the group at 16, said he left after being seriously wounded by shrapnel in battle. A 17 year old, Amr, told the group that children in his unit signed up for suicide missions — and that he reluctantly did so as well under pressure.
Thousands of foreign fighters have flocked to IS areas from all over the world, many of them with their families.
A video emerged this month showing two boys, both speaking perfect French, holding guns aloft and claiming to be in Raqqa. They stand on a dusty street; a man walks by and takes no notice of their weapons. The boys, who look much younger than 10, say they're from Strasbourg and Toulouse. French prosecutors have opened a formal investigation to identify the children.
"Over there, you're in a country of infidels. Here, we're mujahedeen. We're in Syria, we're in Raqqa here," one of the boys says in the video. "It's war here."

Afghanistan: Wolesi Jirga Approves BSA and SOFA Agreements

The Lower House of Parliament, known as the Wolesi Jirga, with majority vote, approved the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States and the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with NATO on Sunday.
After debates on the agreements during the session, House Speaker Abdul Raouf Ibrahimi asked the MPs to raise their cards, green in favor of the pacts and red in opposition.
As a result, 149 representatives favored the accords, five others raised red cards opposing the agreements and two other lawmakers raised white cards.
"With majority vote, both agreements are approved," announced Ibrahimi.
The five lawmakers contesting the agreements include: Sadiqi Zada Neili, MP from Daikundi; MPs Abdul Raouf Enami and Amanullah Payman from Badakhshan; Ashuqullah Wafa from Baghlan and Mawlavi Abdul Rahman Rahmani from Balkh province.
After the approval of the agreements, President Ashraf Ghani in a statement welcomed the Wolesi Jirga's decision and asked the Senate to ratify both the agreements as soon as possible.
On Saturday, Ibrahimi announced to the MPs that the government, in a letter, requested the Parliament to prioritize tackling the agreements and urged the MPs to ratify the treaties as soon as possible, preferably before the London Conference on Afghanistan on December 4.
Both security accords were signed by the National Security Advisor, Hanif Atmar, within 24 hours of President Ashraf Ghani taking office on September 30, 2014.
The agreements will not only allow the presence of U.S. and foreign forces in Afghanistan post-2014, but is said to secure Washington's continued support to Afghanistan.

Suicide bomber kills 40 at volleyball match in Afghanistan

A suicide bomber killed at least 40 people at a crowded volleyball match in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, a provincial official said.
Mukhles Afghan, spokesman for the governor of Paktika province, said at least 50 more were wounded in the attack in Yahya Khel district, where residents had gathered to watch a tournament final.
He said most of the casualties were civilians.
The Taliban insurgency and other jihadist militants have unleashed waves of suicide attacks and assassinations in Afghanistan this year, as foreign forces continue to withdraw after 13 years of war.
No one immediately claimed responsibility.
About 12,000 international troops will remain in Afghanistan next year to train and support Afghanistan's security forces.
Paktika was the site of one of this year's deadliest attacks on civilians in July, when 89 people died when a bomb exploded in a crowded market.
The province lies along the border with Pakistan's lawless North Waziristan region.
As foreign troops withdraw, 2014 has been one of the bloodiest years of the war for Afghan civilians, according to the United Nations, which recorded nearly 5,000 deaths and injuries of civilians in the first half of the year.
About three-quarters of those were blamed on the Taliban and its allies.

Wealthy Arabs Flock To Pakistan To Kill The Bustards

Winter is creeping down on northern Pakistan from the Himalayan Mountains. The skies are cloudless and bright blue. The air is as cool and refreshing as champagne.
This is the season for swaddling yourself in a big woolen shawl. And it's also the season when Pakistanis try not to ... let the bustards get them down.
I'm talking about the Houbara bustard. It's a bird, about half the size of a turkey, and with the same rotten luck this time of year.
Look up the bustard on the Internet and you'll find it a very likeable bird.
Male bustards attract their partners as men do, by strutting around, puffing themselves up, and aimlessly darting about at high speed.
But every winter, the Houbara bustard makes the same mistake: They fly from Central Asia to Pakistan by the thousands.
As icy temperatures set in there, the bustards head south to warm themselves up on the Pakistani deserts and plains that roll down to the Arabian Sea.
But others also fly here at the same time. They come by private jet and are very rich and often royal. They hail from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain.
The Arabs began hunting bustards thousands of years ago and never stopped. Bustard meat is apparently thought to do wonders for the sex drive.
The feathers of the bustard are dull brown, which would seem to be good camouflage if you're trying to hide in Pakistan's deserts and plains. But the Arab hunters use falcons with very sharp eyes and even sharper talons.
To hunt the Houbara bustard in Pakistan, you need a government permit. The speices is listed as vulnerable and declining by international conservation organizations. But Pakistan is eager to get along with its rich Gulf neighbors.
So every winter the government doles out hunting permits to Arab sheiks. And every winter there's an outcry from Pakistanis who want to save the likable bustard.
This year, the outcry is louder than usual, thanks to a scandal last winter.
It emerged that in January that a Saudi prince and his friends killed 2,100 bustards in three weeks. That's 2,000 more than the limit allowed by the government permit.
"Nothing can stop their Highnesses and their Majesties once they are out on their hunting sprees," one leading newspaper acidly remarked.
Some Pakistani opposition politicians are now trying to stop their majesties. They've filed a motion in parliament saying bustard hunting by Arab princes is "compromising Pakistan's sovereignty."
But this is a very long shot. Money from the Persian Gulf talks. Bustards don't.

Pakistan - The Da’ish(ISIS) footprint

Take it seriously
It is a matter of great concern that reports of Da’ish, or Islamic State, making inroads inside Pakistan are increasing by the day. Going by the press, there might already have been meetings between IS representatives and some of our home-grown militants somewhere in Balochistan. And, following the initial success of the NW operation, sections of the TTP have openly allied themselves with the caliphate now spreading across Iraq and Syria. Such issues must not be taken lightly. It took more than fifty thousand lives before Zarb-e-Azb was launched and Pakistan must not allow such elements anywhere near its frontiers.
The sudden rise of the Islamic State is important to understand. Its leader, Abu Bakkar al Baghdadi, was the former Iraq commander of al Qaeda. But since the Syrian civil war made way for extremists from across the world, Baghdadi led a breakaway faction that later drew condemnation even from AQ chief al Zawahiri for its brutalities. However, the shifting of the international jihadi centre from AQ to IS has more complicated reasons. It means, for one thing, that governments and agencies that fund and arm such movements find IS more useful now than AQ. In Pakistan, too, where the TTP conglomerate was initially bankrolled by AQ Arabs, it seems the old arrangement is not as lucrative as the IS connection. Clearly elements announcing support for IS have logistical, financial and ideological (if any) reasons for the shift. Now that the NW operation has degraded TTP’s sanctuary, militants must not be allowed another lifeline. Already their slipping into Afghanistan has compromised the effectiveness of the operation to an extent.
Recently in the US, Gen Raheel Sharif played down the IS threat in Pakistan. While there is merit in his calculation – the operation is going too strongly for militants to be able to reorganise anytime soon – the long term implications of the threat must still be addressed. In the immediate concerns of battle, the military must not lose sight of the fact that society as a whole has shifted considerably to the right over the last decade and a half. And there are considerable sections that are still easy prey to jihadist indoctrination. All these factors will have to be considered for Zarb-e-Azb to come full circle.


Pakistan: Imran using public money for political campaign

Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid has accused Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan of using public money to pursue his political campaigning.
Rashid, while addressing a press conference in Islamabad on Sunday, said the airplane used by Imran for his ongoing political campaign across the country belongs to JWD Sugar Mills.
“JDW is a public limited company and the PTI secretary general Jahangir Tareen only has 29.76% shares in the company,” he said. “The other 70.24% shares are owned by other financial institutions and shareholders.”
He added that using the aircraft for political motives is an illegal act as per company laws.
“Company laws say any public company limited company cannot give donations to a political party and cannot contribute in monetary terms.”
Rashid further said the airplane was bought for company interests but was being used for politics.
“I haven’t heard if the majority of shareholders decided to use their airplane for PTI’s political campaign,” he said. “[JWD Sugar Mills] is supposed to crush sugar, not the economy of Pakistan.”
The information minister said such misuse of funds was being carried out by a person who gives lectures the public on integrity and uprightness on a daily basis.
Rashid further said that the PTI chairman paid Rs0.1 million in income tax last year, asking him to justify his ‘lavish’ lifestyle and traveling expenses in his upcoming speech in Gujranwala.
“What other sources of income do you have?” he asked the PTI chief. “You’re traveling on stolen money.”

Pakistan: Fake medicines pose a growing threat: PEW

The Pakistan Economy Watch (PEW) said today that unsuspecting masses are facing growing threat from fake medicines which must be tackled immediately. Weak laws, lax supervision, minor punishments and nominal fines are enough to attract criminals to this low-risk and high-return business while the same in sufficient to discourage investment in the pharmaceutical sector, it said.
Government should take immediate action to dislodge the criminal networks earning billions from this cynical trade, said Dr. Murtaza Mughal, President PEW.
WHO report suggests that ratio of fake medicines in developed countries is one percent; it is 30 percent or more in developing markets while 30 to 40 percent medicine sold in Pakistanare fake.
Dr. Murtaza Mughal said that a common Pakistani spends 77 percent of his or her health budget on medicines which is around Rs 200 billion annually of which a sizable number are fake drugs prepared in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi or Multan. Pakistan has four thousand registered pharmacists and over one hundred thousand unregistered practitioners who continue to play with the lives of masses.
According to WHO Pakistan stands 13th in dollar 431 billion fake medicines market with neighbouring India and China on the top. Pakistan stands on 10th position among countries trying to send counterfeit medicines in the highly regulated US market, said Dr. Murtaza Mughal. Globally fake medicines are responsible for seven hundred thousand deaths annually, he said.

Pakistan - Punjab - Three more newborns die in Sargodha DHQ hospital

At least three more infants died in Sargodha's District Headquarters (DHQ) Teaching Hospital, taking the death toll to 19 on Sunday, DawnNews reported.
The nursery of the DHQ hospital has 25 beds and five incubators but it had 50 newborns admitted by Friday, with 20 of them in critical condition. Incubators could only be provided to five babies.
"It is a tragic incident," said Dr Nadia Aziz, member of Punjab Hospitals Health Committee. She added that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had taken notice of the newborn deaths at the DHQ Sargodha facility and had ordered suspension of the medical superintendent.
Dr Aziz said that out of the 19 deaths, the delivery of five infants were carried out by unskilled attendants and "eight of the newborns had very low birth weight".
"The government is committed to provide better health facilities to the people in public hospitals in Punjab," she added.
It has been alleged that the reason for the deaths was due to absence of facilities, including unavailability of oxygen and incubators shortage, and negligence of the doctors.
The Punjab government had reportedly issued directions to the authorities to provide 20 incubators to the hospital at the earliest.
It is reliably learnt the first infant died at 9pm on Wednesday after which the parents of the other newborns kept on asking the administration to call senior doctors but in vein. Some students of the Sargodha Medical College were present in the hospital for treatment of babies but they failed to save their lives due to lack of knowledge and experience.
Dr Iqbal Sami , Medical Superintendent of the DHQ Teaching Hospital, said the babies could not survive due to immature birth while some of them had been brought from private hospitals in a critical condition. He denied the allegations that the infants had lost their life due to negligence of the staff, insufficient arrangements or lack of oxygen.
He said a fact-finding committee, comprising Dr Arshad Rauf, Dr Shahid Manzoor and Rabiya Hashim, had been constituted and stern action would be taken against those found negligent.
Pakistan Medical Association Sargodha President Dr Sikander Warraich had also refuted the charges of negligence of doctors or staff, saying four doctors were on duty in the nursery during the night shift and catered to the needs of all the babies.