Monday, January 19, 2015

Video Report - Artificial heart transplant: patient returns home five months after transplant

Why Saudi Arabia is so afraid of Raif Badawi

By Sara Yasin

1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison.
That’s the punishment Saudi Arabia handed to Raif Badawi, 31, a blogger and writer, for creating an online space promoting secularism, and questioning the country’s religious establishment.
The Saudi government ordered that Badawi receive 50 lashes every Friday for 20 weeks, and video of the first round of lashes on Jan. 9 sparked outrage around the world.
This past Friday, Badawi’s next round of flogging was postponed on medical grounds, according to Amnesty International. The group has pointed out that flogging — a punishment for a number of crimes in Saudi Arabia — is “prohibited under international law, along with other forms of corporal punishment.”
The UN has called upon Saudi Arabia to end Badawi’s flogging, and to review the “harsh” form of punishment.
First arrested in 2012 for insulting Islam as well as disobedience, Badawi founded a site called Free Saudi Liberals in 2008. Originally, prosecutors wanted to place the blogger on trial for apostasy — which carries the death penalty — but a high court tossed out the charge in 2013.
Authorities shut down Badawi’s website in 2012, shortly after his arrest.
Apart from casting an international eye on Saudi Arabia’s brutal brand of punishment, some believe that this case ultimately highlights the government’s fear of dissent.
Hala al-Dosari, a US-based Saudi activist, told the Independent that the country silences dissident voices because “they don’t want people to start questioning religion, the legitimacy of the Saudi ruling family, or the distribution of wealth.”
Silent kingdom
Badawi’s story comes at a time when free speech is in the international spotlight, following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris. As millions marched in Paris last week in support of freedom of expression, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Lebanon attended a solidarity rally in Beirut.
But Saudi Arabia, like many of the countries represented, has a bad habit of violating free speech.
The same year of Badawi’s arrest, a blogger named Hamza Kashgari faced the death penalty for tweets allegedly insulting Prophet Muhammad. While he was not executed in the end, he was still jailed for two years.
There’s also Suad al-Shammari, a lawyer and co-founder of Badawi’s online forum, jailed in October last year for tweets allegedly insulting Islam.
While online censorship is nothing new for Saudi Arabia, the country has become more rigorous in policing speech online in recent years, particularly after the so-called Arab Spring in 2011.
Last year, the government broadened anti-terror laws, criminalizing criticism of both the government and its interpretation of Islam.
The law, passed last April, says that terrorism is anything which “disturbs public order, shakes the security of society, or subjects its national unity to danger, or obstructs the primary system of rule or harms the reputation of the state.”
The country also announced closer monitoring of video sharing websites like YouTube. According to Jason Stern at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the kingdom’s new opaque rules threaten “journalists, human rights defenders and average citizens.”
So what’s the reason behind the heightened crackdown on dissent? Stability. The government has been fearful of being touched by wider turmoil in the region.
But Saudi Arabia’s east, home to the country’s marginalized Shia minority, has seen unrest since 2011. Their demands are not far off from those heard across the region: “government reform, a constitution, and greater power for elected bodies.”
Back in 2011, Saudi Arabia even sent in troops to neighboring Bahrain, in order to help clear out popular protests at Manama’s Pearl Roundabout.
All eyes on Saudi Arabia
While it looks like Saudi Arabia’s war on dissent is here to stay, international pressure might be the key to securing Badawi’s release.
Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, who now lives in Canada with the couples’ three children, told the Guardian that if “all the governments in the world” placed pressure on Saudi authorities, it could secure her husband’s release.
While the US, as well as other governments have raised concern over the blogger’s case, some believe that the only way to send a clear message is through economic pressure. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, who enjoy cozy relationships with both the US and UK, have been accused of prioritizing their strategic relationships over human rights.
Still, Haidar has refused to give up:
“I won’t stop [fighting] until Raif is free,” she told CBC.

Editorial: Saudi Arabia should free Raif Badawi

Imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was spared a second round of 50 lashes last Friday after a doctor declared the diabetic prisoner too ill for his next weekly flogging to proceed. Meanwhile his country’s highest court stepped in to review his fate.
These are positive developments in a case that has sparked international outrage, with protesters taking to the streets to denounce the floggings and foreign officials, including Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and the Obama administration, speaking out against his harsh treatment.
While it is difficult to conclude definitively this campaign has resulted in the re-evaluation of Badawi’s conviction and sentence, it is reasonable to suspect the international condemnation played a role. Saudi Arabia’s justice system is far from open and independent. The kingdom spends millions trying to burnish its international image. The first instance of flogging only amplified the criticism of the Saudi regime.
The spotlight must be kept on the retrograde practices that pass for justice in Saudi Arabia.
Badawi, who ran a website called Saudi Free Liberals Forum, was found guilty of insulting Islam and sentenced to a 10-year prison term plus 1,000 lashes to be meted out 50 at a time every Friday (health permitting). Badawi was initially charged with apostasy, which carries a death sentence. But his only crime seems to have been championing free speech in the notoriously repressive kingdom. According to an analysis in The Guardian, Badawi’s writings called for a debate about strict interpretations of Islamic teachings, modest democratic reforms and openness.
His case attracted attention when the first round of lashes were delivered barely a week after millions marched in Paris to decry the terror strike against Charlie Hebdo. Badawi’s supporters pointed out that at the same time as people were rallying to defend liberty of expression in France, Saudi Arabia was punishing it brutally.
There are many reasons to care about Badawi’s plight. The corporal punishment he has received as part of his sentence is barbaric. His wife, who has sought refuge in Sherbrooke with their three young children, doubts he will survive the full 1,000 lashes because he suffers from diabetes. But this archaic punishment is not being dealt by an extremist group that progressive nations are trying to contain — like Islamic State or Boko Haram — but rather a country that sees itself as a respected member of the family of nations.
The West’s relationship with Saudi Arabia is a complicated matter. The kingdom is autocratic, represses women and has a history of support for some of those propagating the radical Islamist views espoused by terror groups. It has one of the world’s worst human rights records.
Meanwhile, its oil and military cooperation in the region make it an indispensable strategic ally. It is noteworthy that Canada and other countries have attempted to leverage their relationship with Saudi Arabia in this situation to admonish the flagrant violation of Badawi’s rights. They should keep it up.
Badawi’s supporters must be aware that the reprieve he was granted could be an attempt to buy time until world attention refocuses on a new outrage elsewhere. But the campaign to pressure Saudi Arabia into liberating Badawi must continue.

For every Raif Badawi flogged in Saudi dozens are silenced

By Samira Shackle

Raif Badawi is a liberal from Saudi Arabia. In 2006, he started a website, Free Saudi Liberals. Intended as a platform for serious political and social debate, it published articles critical of senior religious figures, and the kingdom's Wahabbi Islam and religious authorities. Badawi endorsed a separation of religion and state and argued that Muslims should be more tolerant. "You have the right to express and think whatever you want as you have the right to declare what you think about it," he wrote in one post. "It is your right to believe or think, have the right to love and to hate, from your right to be a liberal or Islamist." 
Last year, he was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison, as well as a 1 million riyal (£175,000) fine. In 2013, he was cleared of an apostasy charge, which would have carried the death sentence. When Badawi was first arrested in 2012 for insulting Islam and showing disobedience, Amnesty International said that he was a prisoner of conscience, "detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression".
The first flogging took place last week, with 50 lashes administered outside a mosque in Jeddah. A YouTube video showed Badawi being beaten as a crowd of several hundred watched and clapped. The flogging took place as the world watched the violent conclusion of the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, and the siege of a Jewish supermarket. This timing meant that Badawi's punishment prompted outrage all over the world; in the wake of the murder of 12 cartoonists in Paris, it was seen as another example of Islamic intolerance, as an international debate about the right to and limits of freedom expression raged.The full 1,000 lashes will take 19 weeks to administer.
The US, EU, and others have urged Riyadh to call off the flogging. "The UK condemns the use of cruel and degrading punishment in all circumstances," said the British Foreign Office in a statement. Spokeswoman for the US state department Jen Psaki expressed a similar sentiment: "The United States government calls on Saudi authorities to cancel this brutal punishment and to review Badawi's case and sentence." Despite public condemnations by western governments, however, there has been no indication of any diplomatic action. Amnesty had called on the UK government to challenge Saudi Arabia. Kate Allen, Amnesty's UK director, has criticised British ministers, saying that they "rightly celebrate free speech in Paris or in London but suddenly seem to lose their own power of utterance when it comes to forthrightly and publicly condemning the authorities in Riyadh."
The harsh punishment meted out to Badawi is shocking, but not surprising. Saudi Arabia has a long history of brutally repressing dissent. The think-tank Freedom House has described the media environment in Saudi Arabia as one of the "most repressive in the world". This is particularly acute at the moment, with the government jumpy about contagion from unrest elsewhere in the region. Badawi's website was on the radar of the authorities from 2008, but it was not until 2012, after the Arab Spring, that it was taken down and he was sentenced. There has simultaneously been a crackdown on Islamist extremists and returnees from the conflict in Syria, as well as a broad-ranging anti-terror law that equates atheism with terrorism.
Badawi's case is high profile, but he is not the only person facing harsh punishment for exercising free speech. His lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair was sentenced to 15 years in prison last July because he criticised human rights abuses. His case will resume next week, with the government seeking a harsher sentence. The month before Badawi was sentenced in 2013, human rights blogger Fadhel al-Manafis was sentenced to 15 years in jail, followed by a 15 year travel ban. The charges leveled against him included "undermining national security and stability", "disloyalty to the king", and "publishing articles and communicating with foreign journalists with the aim of harming the state's image". The last charge related to his assistance to journalists covering protests over the treatment of Shia Muslims in the country. In 2012, a 23 year old Saudi journalist and blogger resident in Malaysia, Hamza Kashgari, was actually extradited back to his home country, due to tweets that allegedly insulted the Prophet Muhammad. Charged with apostasy, he faced the death sentence, but in the end was jailed for two years instead. This particularly heavy response to online "crimes" reflects the fact that, as in many other repressive states, dissenting Saudis have turned to the internet to express their political views.
Many commentators in the west have commented on the public relations disaster for Saudi Arabia of going ahead with such a violent punishment for Badawi at a time when freedom of expression is so high on the international agenda. But, of course, the kingdom has a reason for carrying out excessively harsh punishments. As Reporters Without Borders has noted, self-censorship is encouraged by the "systematic recourse to prison terms and the harshness of the sentences imposed". Campaigners for freedom with speech often say that every time a journalist or blogger is jailed, dozens more are silenced. That certainly seems to be the case in Saudi Arabia, where anyone who even attempts to open a political dialogue is risking their life, liberty, and personal dignity.

Bahraini human rights leader defiant ahead of sentencing

Nabeel Rajab faces a potential six years in jail allegedly over a tweet critical of security institutions in Bahrain.
Nabeel Rajab has spent much of the last decade in prison, under house arrest, or banned from travelling.
As one of Bahrain’s most well-known human rights activists he has been a thorn in the side of the ruling al-Khalifa family, setting up the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights in 2002 along with other pro-democracy activists, including the currently imprisoned Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, and becoming a leading figure in the protests which have rocked the small Gulf nation since 2011.
“I have seen my children grow-up while I was in jail,” he told Middle East Eye. “I got used to it, although it is very ugly and bad to see your children growing up while in jail.”
On 1 October 2014, Rajab was again arrested, shortly after returning to Bahrain from a speaking tour of Europe, this time charged with “insulting a public institution and the army” allegedly over a tweet in which he suggested that security institutions could act as an “incubator” for the kind of sectarian ideology that generated the Islamic State (IS) organisation.
many men who joined & came from security institutions and those institutions were the first ideological incubator
With the verdict in his trial due on 20 January, he could face 6 years in prison. Though far from relaxed by the prospect, he noted a certain irony in the amount of coverage his arrest had generated internationally.
“Every time they supress me and put me in jail, at the same time they make me more popular,” he told MEE via Skype.
“That’s the reality they are facing now!”
MEE had previously interviewed Rajab in August 2014, shortly after being released from jail having served 2 years for holding an “illegal gathering.” With such a short break between spells in jail, he doesn't relish the thought of returning again, nor the effect it would have on his family.
“Yes my kids are tense that again their father could spend time in jail,” he said. “But they are proud of me, of the work I do, of the struggle and of the support I have locally, regionally, internationally.”
His latest arrest provoked global outrage with numerous campaign organisations and charities calling for his release.
Sixteen NGOS, including Index on Censorship, Amnesty International, Freedom House and Human Rights Watch, signed a letter on Friday addressed to 47 states in the international community calling for pressure to be applied to drop the charges against Rajab.
“The charges levelled against Rajab are illegal under Bahrain’s commitments to the international community and international human rights law,” read the statement.
“Bahrain is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), having acceded to the covenant in 2006. Article 19 of the ICCPR provides everyone with the fundamental rights to opinion and expression…by prosecuting Rajab for statements that he made over Twitter, the Bahraini government violates its own commitments to the international community.”
But the strong relationship between the small Gulf country and many more powerful Western countries has been pointed to as a block on any genuine reform. Bahrain is one of numerous regional countries to join the coalition against IS in Syria and Iraq (scores of Bahrainis have travelled to join the militant group) and a deal between Bahrain and the UK government to construct a new base naval base in the country has left some campaigners despondent.
"The charges against Nabeel are baseless and the Foreign Office should call for his release,” said Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, in a statement on Friday.
“But it seems Bahrain has bought Britain's silence by building them a naval base in the Gulf."  
Nabeel Rajab acknowledged that these new arrangements had bought the Bahraini government a windfall and guarded them against further pressure.
“Now they can receive less criticism from the international community, because they need them in the war against IS,” he said.
“They think this is the right time to continue the crackdown, without any criticism from the international community or Western governments, which is absolutely right and it’s happening.”
The arrest of Sheikh Ali Salman, secretary-general of al-Wefaq – Bahrain’s largest opposition party – sparked off a new wave of protests and has led to continuing worries about the shrinking possibility of any reform in the kingdom.
“Almost each and every Shiite family have one or two prisoners or someone who has been shot, injured or killed,” says Rajab. “So the gap is deeper, the wound is deeper than two or three years ago. And Bahrain is going towards more repression.”
“For the first time since the independence of the country [in 1971], we have a law in Manama saying that no peaceful protests are allowed altogether,” he added, also pointing out that protests outside the capital - while still legal - where also becoming intensely difficult to organise due to state repression.
Major fears have also arisen over the potential for a rise in sectarian militancy among the Sunni population amid growing sympathies for IS.
The government’s decision to import and naturalise thousands of people from countries such as Pakistan and Yemen – often alleged as a scheme to engineer a demographic change in the Shiite-majority nation – has further increased tensions.
“Bahrain's policy of recruiting Sunni police officers from Jordan, Pakistan, Syria, and Yemen, and granting them citizenship, has potential to lead to further penetration of Daesh [IS] influence within the state security apparatus,” wrote Giorgio Cafiero, research analyst with Country Risk Solutions, in the Huffington Post on Thursday.
“These ‘New Bahrainis,’ who were lured into joining the island Kingdom's security organizations by higher pay compared with what they made in their native countries, were hired by the government to protect the royal family's firm grip on power as Shiite unrest grew.
“Given that these ‘New Bahrainis’ are not native to Bahrain, there is a risk of their loyalty shifting from the monarchy to al-Baghdadi's ‘caliphate,’ which could create serious security implications for the country,” he warned.
Rajab told MEE that he agreed there was cause for concern over the rise of extreme sectarian groups in Bahrain who would view the country's Shiite population as "infidels" worthy of death.
“I still think extremism, fundamentalism, Islamist terrorist groups are becoming deep-rooted here and need to be discussed. It is a future threat in our country,” he said.
“We could face attacks – it’s a threat for the government and for the Shiites. And that should lead the government to think twice, to listen to their own people and compromise and have a political solution to the political crisis, before this terrorism becomes a real threat.”
Despite a potentially bleak future for Bahrain, along with concerns about the prospects for a wider conflagration in the Gulf as a result of the unrest in the small country, Rajab remained defiant that he could shoulder the consequences of  Tuesday’s decision, whatever it may be.
“I am ready for all circumstances and my family also are ready for all circumstances. When I came to Bahrain, I knew I would be arrested, though the government denied they had a plan to do so,” he said.
“I’m willing to pay the price for the struggle – I hope nothing happens, but if anything happens it will not change my position and I will continue fighting for freedom, equality and democracy in country.”
- See more at:

Music Video - Khwabon Kay Ghar - M.M.Ali

Music Video - Rahim Shah - Janay Kia Mila Yeh Naseeb

Music Video - Runa Laila - Mera Babu Chail Chabila

Music Video - Farida Khanum - Wo ishq jo hamse rooth -

Music Video - Noor Jahan - Raat Phaili Hai Tere Surmayi Aanchal Ki Tarha -

Video - Obama Honors King by Helping Next Generation

Video - Behind The Scenes: A State of the Union Sit-Down with President Obama

Video - 'Relaxed' Obama undaunted by Republicans' upper hand

U.S - Malia Obama’s path to summer college fun


Washington-area high school junior Malia Obama, 16, probably will be visiting college campuses this summer, like thousands of other teens in this education-obsessed region. I suspect, like many such students, she will be getting more advice about this than she thinks she needs, but let me add one more friendly suggestion. 
Living in the White House with two hard-working parents, she is accustomed to schedules, to-do lists and serious conversations, particularly about college. In that respect, she is not very different from ambitious 11th-graders all over the country. They and their families often see campus visits as unique opportunities to get to the core of what distinguishes each school. Guidebooks suggest going far beyond the standard tour and information session. The experts recommend that potential applicants audit a class, interview faculty, eat at the cafeteria, attend a concert, investigate allocation of student funds, check the certification level of campus doctors and anything else they can think of.
Most of that is not only boring but a waste of a lovely summer day. Thirty years of interviews with teenagers, their parents and admissions officers about this process — plus my experience with my own three children — lead me to conclude that campus visits are taken too seriously and generate too much stress. Many families, maybe even the Obamas, will be making these trips while on vacation. Should family fun time be treated like you’re studying for a big exam?
When we were vacationing, my children liked ballfields, ice cream shops, hamburger joints and even the occasional museum. Colleges and their surrounding neighborhoods have many of those pleasant distractions, so why not think of the campus visit as a stroll through a theme park? Soak up the ambiance without thinking you have to have your clipboard out and your pencils sharpened.
Malia Obama appears to share her parents’ sense of the ridiculous. That was what I read in the bemused expressions of her and her sister as they watched their father pardon two Thanksgiving turkeys. She will appreciate the low comedy inherent in any college visit. A mortified applicant will hear his father ask at the public information session if someone with his child’s exact scores and grades has a chance. Undergraduate tour guides will tell stories of midnight dorm life too raunchy even for Comedy Central’s “Tosh.0” (which I see only accidentally when looking for Jon Stewart.)
College tours work best if the potential applicant has her own agenda, the less serious the better.Reportedly, Malia is a tennis player and is interested in filmmaking. She could use that to drag the first lady out on a few campus courts. She could slip into showings at the local indie theater, often wildly inappropriate in college towns.
My son Peter turned his college visits into excuses to try out new golf courses. My daughter Katie announced at the beginning of her search that she would be checking for fresh beefcake that rose to the level of her favorite star on the TV show “Dawson’s Creek.” “If I don’t see anyone on campus who looks like James Van Der Beek,” she said, “I’m not going there.” Such offbeat criteria help teenagers banish worries about SAT averages and application essays.
Why spend time compiling minuscule data at every college visit when in the end you are only going to attend one of those schools? You can find online most of the relevant background information, without making yourself look lame beyond belief with questions at the information session about average dorm room temperatures.
The college you love most is the most likely to reject you anyway, so why not save your energy for April of your senior year, when you can do serious research on the ones that accepted you? For those first visits this summer, just sniff the air and enjoy the scenery. Maybe you will even spot some celebrities. Hey, isn’t that Malia Obama?

What a Rise in Obama’s Approval Rating Means for 2016

By Nate Cohn

After a difficult year, President Obama is enjoying a modest rebound ahead of State of the Union address Tuesday. His approval rating has increased to around 46 percent over the last month, according to an average of polls taken over the last month, up from 42 percent in the weeks after the decisive Republican victory in the midterm elections.

It is a relatively small increase, but it is more impressive in the context of the unusual stability of Mr. Obama’s approval rating, which hovered between 42 and 44 percent for 15 consecutive months. In 2016, the president’s approval ratings should be a telling indicator of whether the country is likely to support another Democratic administration.

There is a well-established relationship between the pace of economic growth and a president’s approval ratings, and Mr. Obama is clearly benefiting from signs of accelerating economic growth. For the first time since the start of the recession, more Americans believe the economic conditions are good or excellent than poor. Consumer confidence rose to an 11-year high last week, according to the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index.


Brianna Montalvo, 5, with her parents and other people at a rally in front of the White House in November after President Obama's decision to defer deportation and offer work authorization for up to five million immigrants who lack it. Credit Jabin Botsford/The New York Times
The increase in Mr. Obama’s ratings also comes amid a flurry of executive actions or promised ones on immigration, climate change, Cuba and Internet policy. Mr. Obama’s immigration initiative may be at least partly responsible for his rebound. His rating among Hispanic adults jumped decisively, perhaps by as much as 15 percentage points, in the weeks after his decision to defer deportation and offer work authorization for up to five million immigrants who lack it. Still, there is not much evidence that liberal voters over all have become notably more supportive or energized as a result of a more active and progressive administration. Mr. Obama’s approval ratings did not increase by a disproportionate — or even notable — amount among Democratic or self-identified liberal voters, according to Gallup data.

Only a handful of modern elections have not had an incumbent president on the ballot. In these contests, the president’s approval ratings are unsurprisingly less important than when a president is running for re-election. So Mr. Obama’s approval ratings will matter in 2016, but it is hard to say exactly how much.

The balance of evidence suggests that the break-even point for the presidential party’s odds of victory is at or nearly 50 percent approval. If the only thing you knew about the 2016 election was Mr. Obama’s approval rating on Election Day, you might guess that the Democrats had a 37 percent chance of holding the White House with a 46 percent rating — rather than a 23 percent chance with a 41 percent rating. The difference between 41 and 46 might be worth between one and two percentage points to the Democratic candidate in 2016 — the difference between a close race and a modest but clear Republican victory.
Mr. Obama’s surge among Hispanic voters might be particularly telling. It is a sign that Democratic-leaning voters dissatisfied with Mr. Obama’s performance might not be so disillusioned that they can’t be lured back to the Democrats by the issues and messages that brought them to the party in the first place. The president’s ratings among liberals and Democrats remain mediocre — perhaps only in the low 70s and low 80s, respectively — suggesting that there are additional, low-hanging opportunities for Mr. Obama and his party’s next nominee.
Of course, there’s a long time between now and 2016. Mr. Obama’s ratings could continue to climb with sustained economic growth; they might relapse with another round of bad news. But the modest improvement in Mr. Obama’s standing suggests that the Republicans cannot count on an easy midterm-like victory if the economy continues to grow at a healthy pace.

Obama hits 50% approval rating in poll

David Jackson

Another poll, more evidence that President Obama's stock is rising among the American public.
new Washington Post-ABC News poll put Obama's approval rating at 50%, his highest since the spring of 2013 in this particular survey.
That's also nine points higher than it was in December, a month after voters gave Republicans control of the Senate and increased the GOP majority in the U.S. House.
Good economic news appears to be fueling Obama's improved ratings in a string of recent polls.
The Post/ABC survey also shows an American public sharply divided along Democratic and Republican lines, at odds as to whether the view of Obama or the GOP should prevail.
"Despite the partisan divisions on most issues, a substantial majority of Americans continue to see political dysfunction in Washington as a big problem. After years of political standoffs, there is considerable skepticism about whether the two sides can overcome their political differences to ease what has become a chronic problem ...
"The Post-ABC survey puts the president's approval rating slightly higher than some other recent public polls. But most have shown improvement since the November elections as the president has moved aggressively and unilaterally on issues such as immigration and climate change."

Richest 1% Likely to Control Half of Global Wealth by 2016, Study Finds


The richest 1 percent are likely to control more than half of the globe’s total wealth by next year, the charity Oxfam reported in a study released on Monday. The warning about deepening global inequality comes just as the world’s business elite prepare to meet this week at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The 80 wealthiest people in the world altogether own $1.9 trillion, the report found, nearly the same amount shared by the 3.5 billion people who occupy the bottom half of the world’s income scale. (Last year, it took 85 billionaires to equal that figure.) And the richest 1 percent of the population, who number in the millions, control nearly half of the world’s total wealth, a share that is also increasing.
The type of inequality that currently characterizes the world’s economies is unlike anything seen in recent years, the report explained. “Between 2002 and 2010 the total wealth of the poorest half of the world in current U.S. dollars had been increasing more or less at the same rate as that of billionaires,” it said. “However since 2010, it has been decreasing over that time.”
Winnie Byanyima, the charity’s executive director, noted in a statement that more than a billion people lived on less than $1.25 a day.
“Do we really want to live in a world where the 1 percent own more than the rest of us combined?” Ms. Byanyima said. “The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering.”
Investors with interests in finance, insurance and health saw the biggest windfalls, Oxfam said. Using data from Forbes magazine’s list of billionaires, it said those listed as having interests in the pharmaceutical and health care industries saw their net worth jump by 47 percent. The charity credited those individuals’ rapidly growing fortunes in part to multimillion-dollar lobbying campaigns to protect and enhance their interests.

Video message from President Obama on the Martin Luther King

Video - Martin Luther King - I Have A Dream Speech - August 28, 1963

US Observes Martin Luther King Jr. Day

U.S. President Barack Obama and Americans across the country are engaging in community service projects Monday on the national holiday marking the birthday of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
The president and first lady Michelle Obama are volunteering at a Boys & Girls Club in Washington.  Other Obama administration officials are fanning out across the country to take part in educational, anti-poverty, environmental and arts programs.

King first rose to prominence in 1955 when he led a successful boycott of the public buses in the southern city of Montgomery, Alabama, forcing the city to end its practice of segregating black passengers.

He became the central figure of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and '60s, inspiring millions with his famous "I Have a Dream" speech during the 1963 March on Washington. 
Oprah Winfrey locks i
Selma protest 

Television star Oprah Winfrey marked the holiday a day early.  She led a march in Selma, Alabama, to commemorate where police clubbed and bloodied civil rights protesters in 1965 as King led demonstrators in their effort to win full voting rights.
"This is what I know for sure: everybody who crossed that bridge on Bloody Sunday and then had the courage to get up and go again on Tuesday and then do the final march - every single person who was on that bridge is a hero," Winfrey said.
Civil rights bill 

King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, the same year a landmark civil rights bill was signed by President Lyndon Johnson.
He was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had traveled to assist striking black garbage workers who were seeking equal pay.
The holiday was created in 1983 when President Ronald Reagan signed a bill designating the third Monday in January to honor King, who was born on January 15, 1929. Congress designated the King holiday as a national day of service in 1994, a move aimed at encouraging Americans to take part in community projects.
MTV special 

In honor of King, cable television's MTV is airing its programming Monday in black and white for twelve hours to encourage viewers to have conversations with their friends and family about race. The monochrome broadcast is a first in the youth-oriented channel's 34-year history.
MTV programming on Monday will include reflections on race from entertainers and public officials.

Pakistan: ATC's Death Sentences For Ahmadis' Attackers

The death penalty has been awarded to two TTP operatives, Moavia and Abdullah, responsible for brutal attacks on Ahmadis in 2010. The two men awarded death sentences by an Anti Terrorism Court (ATC), carried out attacks on Ahmadi mosques that led to the deaths of 94 people and left 120 injured. The sentencing, though generally problematic when the debate on capital punishment is considered, is a significant and welcome confusion to the legal and ideological fold of the country.

The Second Amendment to Pakistan’s Constitution in 1974 declared Ahmadis non-Muslims, preceding and following which there have been countless attacks on the community, with the most significant being the 1974 Anti Ahmaddiya riots and the May 2010 mosque attacks. 
Over time, an entire community has been discriminated against repeatedly, targeted violently and isolated socially. Ahmadis have been popularly deemed “Wajib-ul-Qatl” or deserving of death by various right-wing clerics, with even relatively mainstream clerics choosing to avoid the issue rather than condemn instances of violence against them. A recent example of this view being reinforced on a popular television show by a cleric, resulted in the murder of an Ahmadi man in Gujranwala. And so, before this brutal landscape, when an ATC sentences two men to death for killing people deemed “deserving of death,” it can only be seen as an ideological victory.

Much backlash from religious right wingers can be expected in the coming days, and the resolve of the government and the Court will be tested. The lifting of the moratorium on the death penalty following the APS Peshawar school attack has received widespread criticism from human rights groups around the world, and within the country with most seeing it as a knee-jerk reaction and a regressive legal step. The irony must therefore, not be lost on those hailing the ruling of the ATC in this particular case. It is an intellectual dilemma; the barbaric killers of Ahmadi children are receiving the same punishment as those responsible for murdering Shia and Sunni children. Ideological victories and failures aside, it is, if nothing else, a moment for reflection. Does this mean the state is finally putting sectarian violence at par with other kinds of militant violence?

Int’l oil prices at lowest, yet no petrol in Pakistan
Opposition leader in National Assembly, Syed Khursheed Shah Monday said the commodity of petrol has become cheapest internationally and yet it is unavailable to the people of Pakistan. Talking to media persons here, Khursheed Shah said those who once claimed to eliminate the energy crisis have instead made the petrol disappear from the country. He said the country was suffering losses of billions due to the shortage of petrol.

Arrested IS suspects in Bangladesh claim training in Pakistan

 Bangladeshi police arrested four suspected members of Islamic State in the capital, Dhaka, on Monday, including a regional coordinator for the militant group who told police they had been trained in Pakistan.
Reports of the growing influence of Islamic State, which controls territory in Syria and Iraq, have raised alarm bells across South Asia, though it remains unclear whether militants organising under the Islamic State name in the region are acting on their own or as part of a centralised initiative coming out of the Middle East.
“We arrested them in the city early on Monday, carrying a huge number of leaflets related to militancy for training, a laptop and other materials,” Shaikh Nazmul Alam, deputy police commissioner with Dhaka's detective and criminal intelligence division, told reporters.
The suspected coordinator, whom police identified as Mohammad Sakhawatul Kabir, told police that he and the other three men had received training in Pakistan, Alam said.
The Pakistani authorities were not immediately available for comment.
Alam said Kabir told police while under interrogation that the cell he ran from Dhaka was planning to collect funds and weapons for attacks on Bangladesh government targets.
“The aim of the attacks was to establish a caliphate state in Bangladesh,” Alam said.
Police in Bangladesh, which has been in the throes of a political crisis since controversial elections last January, have arrested eight people for suspected involvement with Islamic State in the past year.
“Of course this is a growing concern, particularly at a time when the country has been experiencing a politically unstable situation,” said Sakhawat Hussain, a retired army brigadier and a security analyst in Dhaka.
Bangladesh's leading daily newspaper The Daily Star released a photo of the arrested militants, stating that the group leaders have been put on a five-day remand after being arrested last night.
The report further mentioned that the suspects were identified before the media as Sakhawatul Kabir, regional commander of IS Bangladesh chapter, Nazrul Alam, a financier, Anwar Hossain, a convict of an explosions case, and Rabiul Islam.

Threats to Pakistan’s nuclear future

George W Bush lifted sanctions imposed through the Symington, Pressler and Glenn Amendments to make Pakistan (and India) cooperate in the war on terror
It is not known when the ongoing war on terror will be over. However, it is known that whenever it is finished, Pakistan may be subjected to certain sanctions related to its nuclear programme. Furthermore, as the delivery system is part of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence strategy, sanctions can also be imposed on Pakistan’s missile testing spree.

After nuclear tests in May 1998, the US (under then President Bill Clinton) invoked, for the first time, Section 102 of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) of 1994 famously known as the Glenn Amendment (after the name of former US Senator John Glenn) adopted in 1977 to impose a set of seven sanctions on both Pakistan and India when they, as non-nuclear weapon states, tested their nuclear devices. Amongst them, the main sanctions hitting Pakistan were the suspension of foreign aid (except for humanitarian assistance or food and other agricultural commodities), the termination of sales of any military items and other military assistance, voting against credits or assistance by international financial institutions such as the World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the prohibition of exports of certain dual use goods and technology with civilian and military nuclear applications. The main aims were to compel both the governments of Pakistan and India to do certain things: sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT) immediately as non-nuclear states, cooperate in the proposed Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT), refrain from deploying and testing missiles and reduce bilateral tensions on various issues including the issue of Kashmir. Besides the G-8 countries (G-7 plus Russia), 14 other countries including Australia, Canada, Japan, Sweden, Denmark and Germany also joined hands in imposing bilateral and institutional economic sanctions (especially in non-humanitarian sectors), including the flow of money from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Islamic Development Bank (IDB), on both Pakistan and India.

For Pakistan, the Glenn Amendment was an improvement over two former amendments considered Pakistan specific. The first was, in 1976, the Symington Amendment (after the name of former US Senator Stuart Symington) to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which called for prohibitions on US economic assistance and military aid to Pakistan if the latter was involved in any kind of nuclear proliferation not governed by international safeguards set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Now, Section 101 of the US AECA reflects that amendment. The second was the Pressler Amendment (after the name of former US Senator Lerry Pressler), which called for stopping US economic aid and the sale of military equipment to Pakistan in 1985 if Pakistan possessed a nuclear explosives device. The major effect of this was felt when the delivery of 28 F-16s was denied to Pakistan despite the fact that Pakistan had paid $ 658 million for them. Pakistan has also been denied improvement in F-16s so that it would not carry nuclear weapons. Sanctions that remained lifted during the Afghan war (1979-1989) were imposed on Pakistan under this amendment in 1990.

Within three months (from May to July 1998) certain adverse developments took place. For instance, in the open market, against one US dollar, the Pakistani rupee devalued by 28 percent (from Rs 45 to Rs 63), foreign exchange reserves fell from $ 1,300 million to about $ 500 million, the Karachi Stock Exchange crashed by 34 percent and GDP growth was revised from the expected six percent to three percent for the financial year (1998-99). On the other hand, the effects were less pinching for India because it was not dependent on the US for military and economic help nor was it dependent on international financial institutions. India coped with the crisis better than Pakistan did.

Against this background, Pakistan entered the war on terror, though a little humanitarian relief was provided to it through the Brownback Amendments (after the name of former US Senator Sam Brownback) called the India-Pakistan Relief Act of 1998 and 1999. Furthermore, in September 2001, US President George W Bush lifted sanctions imposed through the Symington, Pressler and Glenn Amendments to make Pakistan (and India) cooperate in the war on terror.

In the post-2001 phase, there have taken place seven major developments: the network of Dr Abdul Qadir Khan is alleged in October 2003 to have been involved in nuclear proliferation, North Korea, which came out of the NPT in 2003, sought the auspices of China and tested a nuclear device in October 2006, the US entered into a nuclear energy deal with India in 2008 approved by the IAEA and seconded by the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) in the same year to allow India access to civilian nuclear technology and fuel from other countries, Pakistan drifted towards China to make a competitive nuclear energy deal outside the ambit of the IAEA and not seconded by the NSG, Pakistan and India entered into a de facto missile testing competition in South Asia, extremism worsened in Pakistan, non-state actors became active and the world perceived the threat of nuclear terrorism, and, on Pakistan, debt liabilities that were $ 36 billion in 2001 rose to $ 65 billion in September 2014.

On the one hand, the ongoing war on terror offers Pakistan the central focus of attention. Conversely, the issues of Pakistan not signing the CTBT and NPT, and not respecting the safeguard protocols given by the IAEA are still there. Secondly, both the Symington Amendment (Section 101 of the AECA) and the Glenn Amendment (Section 102 of the AECA) are still there. Thirdly, Pakistan has been bracketed with North Korea for their defiance and taking refuge under the Chinese umbrella together. Fourth, Pakistan has rebuffed the international consensus expressed through the NSG, though China is a part of the NSG. In short, Pakistan is running out of time and needs to tread carefully.