Saturday, February 28, 2015

Music Video - Chris Brown - "Episode"

Music Video - Jennifer Lopez - Dance Again ft. Pitbull

Music Video - Jennifer Lopez - On The Floor ft. Pitbull

Music Video - Lady Gaga - G.U.Y.

Music Video - Britney Spears - Overprotected

Video - Anti-Islam Group Rallies in England

Frayed edges showing in U.S.- Israel relationship

Video Report - Syrian Army says it has regained control of villages in south of country

Many girls in Africa and the Middle East are under pressure to leave school

More girls in Africa and the MiIn many ways it is the best of times – and yet also the worst of times – for the world’s schoolgirls.In numerous developing countries, more girls are in school and staying longer than ever before, as families and governments grasp the economic and social benefits of girls getting an education.
Afghanistan is one example of a country spurring global gains in girls’ education, with the proportion of girls in school rising over the past 15 years from 3 percent to just shy of 40 percent. More developing countries than ever are nearing parity for boys and girls in primary education – although secondary schooling remains a challenge.  
And Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai in December became the youngest recipient ever of the Nobel Peace Prize for her advocacy of girls’ right to an education.ddle East are going to school and staying there longer. But advances in girls’ education are being undercut by threats from radical Islamists and others.
But along with the progress in girls’ access to education has come a backlash – leaving schoolgirls from Africa to the Middle East and parts of Asia exposed to mounting pressures to forgo the schoolhouse and, as in days gone by, stay home until marriage.
The reaction to growing numbers of girls getting an education comes increasingly but not exclusively from radical Islamists who oppose – increasingly with violence – advances by women.
“The international community has made a priority of getting girls in school and keeping them there longer, and there has been success,” says Gaynel Curry, gender adviser to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in New York. “But this issue of rising extremism threatens the gains we’ve made.”   
Underscoring this increasingly hostile environment is a report from the UN’s human rights agency that finds attacks on schoolgirls “occurring with increased regularity” over the past five years.
“What we found in studying the period from 2009 to 2014 is an increased frequency of attacks by groups whose perception of women’s role in society is such that they shouldn’t be educated,” says Veronica Birga, a human rights officer with OHCHR in Geneva who helped compile the study.
“But just as important, the study found that these attacks are not just on the girls going to school, but are also aimed at society’s support for girls in education,” she says. “The objective is to reverse a growing acceptance of the value of expanding girls’ and women’s human rights.”
The report was prompted by the kidnapping last April of more than 270 schoolgirls in northern Nigeria by the terrorist group Boko Haram. But what UN human rights officials soon realized is that attacks on girls exercising the supposedly universal right to education are widespread and growing.
“What we realized is that attacks on schoolgirls are more frequent and happening in more societies than what one might have in mind,” Ms. Birga says.
According to the report, more than 3,600 attacks on schools, teachers, and students occurred in 2012 alone, and occurred in more than 70 countries over the five years addressed by the study. While no definitive numbers are given, the report concludes that many of the attacks were “specifically directed at girls [and] parents and teachers for gender equality in education.”
Many of the attacks came at the hands of Islamist extremists bent on frightening girls and families away from schools.
“It’s no surprise that the rise in the kind of violent extremism we’re seeing would be accompanied by increasing attacks on schoolgirls,” says Ms. Curry. “The first target is often girls because of the view of the role of women.”  
In addition to the Boko Haram kidnappings (Birga points out at the group’s name means “Western education is forbidden”) were cases of schoolgirls being poisoned and attacked with acid in Afghanistan, and the 2012 shooting of Malala Yousafzai.
But the report also notes that girls daring to go to school in parts of India brave rising threats of sexual assault, while girls have been subjected to gang violence in Central America. Schoolgirls have been kidnapped by guerrilla armies in Colombia and Central Africa – in some cases to become sex slaves or perform menial tasks such as cooking and cleaning, but in other cases because of skills they learned in school.
One of the most troubling findings of the study is that in many communities where girls have only recently made gains in access to education, that progress can be reversed by violence.
“In many cases when there are these kinds of attacks, the community support can quickly withdraw,” says Birga. She points to one example in Pakistan in 2009, when a rash of attacks on schoolgirls and women teachers resulted in more than 120,000 girls and 8,000 teachers dropping out of schools in just one district of the country.
“Obviously this works,” Birga says. “It sends a very clear message that schools are not safe, and that girls who continue to go to school face very serious consequences.”
Yet despite the evidence that targeted violence can have the desired effect of discouraging families from sending their daughters to school, officials say there are actions that governments and communities can take to blunt and reverse the extremists’ success.
At the top of the list is ensuring girls’ safety getting to and from school, they say, and making school itself a safe environment (That the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have not been freed nearly a year later does nothing to instill confidence in parents).
Community demonstrations of support also send a strong message, and rallies of girls and families from Pakistan to India and Africa have confronted extremists with a refusal to bow to the fear they’ve sown.
For some officials, all the focus on girls’ education from governments and international agencies will mean little if local communities don’t alter their practices and customs to value girls and women.
Robert Piper, the UN’s regional humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel region of Africa, says his agency goes to great lengths to provide “emergency education” to the 700,000 school-age children in the refugee camps they oversee. But he says that may mean little in the long run if schoolgirls eventually return to communities where they are undervalued.   
“We have become much more aggressive about pressing governments on these longer-term issues like girls’ education and women’s rights,” Mr. Piper says. “But most often we send these girls back to the same homes where they may be discouraged from staying in school, there may not be clean water and sanitation, and where there will be the same pressure to marry at 15.”Human rights adviser Birga says “nothing is more frightening” to opponents of girls getting an education than communities that stand up and support their girls and women.“Courageous young girls and women are very important,” she says, citing the example of Malala. “They are role models who give courage to other girls, and together they can change attitudes,” she says. “That’s why they are so dangerous.”

US spy chief: Turkey more concerned with Kurds than fighting ISIS

The Turkish government is more concerned with its Kurdish opposition than in fighting the war against the Islamic State (ISIS), US intelligence chief James Clapper said.
"I think Turkey has other priorities and other interests," Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, answering questions about whether Ankara was expected to take a more active role against ISIS, the extremist group also known as ISIL.
Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, said Turkey was more concerned with its Kurdish opposition and the economy than fighting ISIS, the terrorist group that controls a third of Iraq and as much of Syria.
“They are more focused on what they consider to be a threat with the Kurdish resistance in Turkey,” he explained.
Turkey is an important NATO member and recently signed an agreement with the United States to train and arm “moderate” rebel forces in Syria. But it has been internationally criticized for turning a blind eye to ISIS, letting militants use its territory to get fighters into Syria and smuggle goods and oil out.
"Public opinion polls show in Turkey they don't see ISIL as a primary threat," Clapper said, adding that meant a “permissive” climate that allowed foreign ISIS recruits to get to jihads in Syria and Iraq through Turkey.
“And of course, the consequence of that is a permissive environment... because of their laws and the ability of people to travel through Turkey en route to Syria,” he said.  “So somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 percent of those foreign fighters find their way to Syria through Turkey,” he added.
Clapper added that ISIS had suffered heavy losses in the battlefield, especially in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, where Kurdish fighters and US air strikes drove out the militants last month.
Clapper testified that in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul ISIS was struggling with supplying electricity and other services.
“They do not have enough financial wherewithal to provide the services, municipal services that are required to run a city of a million people," he said. "We're seeing signs of electricity outages, shortages of food and commodities."

ISIS flag at Bosnian homes

How satanic human forces of bloodshed and destruction gain ground faster than peaceful and mindful ones has been shown in only one year, on this very page, starting at the end of January 2014. I wrote about security concerns for European and especially balkan countries regarding young adventurers joining the “holy war” against the infidel Bashar al-Assad, and even greater concerns about those who survive and return home from Syria.

Now I have to admit that I was wrong in my appraisal of the extremist Islamist movement's strength and capability to establish its own state and extend its presence and influence while carrying out bloodthirsty atrocities in several Arab and Muslim countries. I can console myself that I was not alone in my astonishment at the announcement of an Islamic caliphate, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and its ability to conquer and plunder a city as big as Mosul.
It is, however, not important that we, the public, have not assessed well the final product of a violent movement that derives its ideological roots from Wahhabism or Salafism and has strong roots in al-Qaeda, which actually means "foundation" in Arabic. Major Middle Eastern countries and the US have not only underestimated al-Qaeda-affiliated forces but have also contributed to their growing power.

Iraq's Islamic caliphate of 2006

Americans have been fiercely fighting al-Qaeda cells in Iraq while at the same time opening up space for them by disbanding Saddam Hussein's army and putting the country's state structure into disorder. Osama bin Laden's followers had already proclaimed an Islamic caliphate in Iraq in 2006. Once the war in Syria worsened, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, together with the US, supplied radical Islamist rebel groups with weapons and other means -- more support than that given to secular opposition forces. Instead of throwing their full weight behind the Free Syrian Army (FSA), those countries supported Jabhat al-Nusra (the al-Nusra Front), ISIS and other militant groups that were linked to al-Qaeda.
It was in line with their common sectarian sympathies and with a wider regional geopolitical disposition in which Shiite Iran, as a common Sunni adversary, was the prime ally of Damascus' Alawite regime. Whoever was against Assad was welcomed by the US as well. Besides, even Israel joined the anti-Assad ultra-radical front out of its own interests. UN reports (see Al-Monitor, Jan. 14) detected contacts between Jabhat al-Nusra and the Israeli army across the Golan cease-fire line during severe clashes between the Syrian army and rebels in 2014.
The result of all that was that the Middle East, the Islamic world, the Christian world and everyone else last summer found themselves faced with a new, challenging menace with the frightening acronym of ISIS. In spite of internal divisions that produced the Taliban, Jabhat al-Nusra and other factions, al-Qaeda finally found a broad “base” to enforce its destructive philosophy.
The consequences of the creation of ISIS have been evaluated from different sides, but my main interest is in whether its influence and security threat might reach the Balkan region and my own country, whose population is primarily Muslim. A primitive map disseminated on some ISIS blogs indicates black areas designated as areas of future expansion. These black areas include -- in addition to the likes of Khorasan, Anatolia and the Maghreb -- the southeastern part of Europe, written in Arabic as Uruba.
It is true: The flags and symbols of ISIS were on display earlier this month at a few homes in the village of Gornja Maoca, northern Bosnia. At the same time, suspected ISIS recruiter Husein Bilal Bosnic's trial started in Sarajevo. He is believed to be the leader of the Islamic Wahhabi or Salafi movement in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Prosecutors have charged him with receiving "vast sums" of money from Arab countries to help fund ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria and organizing terrorist groups preparing to go to those countries. In December 2014, Islamist extremists attacked the cleric Selvedin Beganovic in the small village of Trnovi in northwest Bosnia. In an open letter the imam expressed his opposition to the recruitment of young Muslims to fight in Syria and Iraq. While stabbing him in the chest, one of the attackers shouted, "Now I will slaughter you."
Since September, security agencies and police in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina have arrested around 50 alleged Islamist extremists, including several imams, suspected of being involved in terrorist activities. Some people from the Balkans have become part of the international web of support and recruitment on the Internet for ISIS.
The US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri charged six Bosnians, including a woman, who immigrated to the US and conspired to provide material aid and resources to ISIS. A group called the “Balkan spinners," mainly consisting of Albanians from Albania and Kosovo operating in Italy, recruit young jihadists and send them to Syria. An Albanian woman who recently migrated to Italy with her family abandoned her husband and two girls and joined ISIS with her young son. In the meantime, news on new shahids (Muslim martyrs) killed in Syria and Iraq reaches Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia and the Serbian province of Sandzak.

Signs before ISIS

There were certain worrying signs of religious radicalism among Balkan Muslims even before the appearance of ISIS. Several hundred young people going to fight for ISIS also pose a certain security threat to their own countries, particularly when they return home. Trained terrorists can encourage and recruit new jihadists and target individual politicians, critical journalists or brave anti-terrorist imams. In that regard, several regional countries have adopted or are going to adopt legal measures declaring terrorist activities and involvement in foreign wars a criminal offense. Bilal Bosnic's trial is the first launched in Bosnia under such a law, which was adopted last year and sets jail terms at up to 10 years.
There is, however, a good deal of exaggeration in various alarms warning of significant threats stemming from radical and “jihadist” Islam in the Balkans, especially in Bosnia. The International CrISIS Group (ICG) has called Islamism and nationalism in Bosnia "a dangerous tango," and a Serbian blog stressed, “This is what the US created here, a terrorist state in progress."
The returnees from ISIS fronts are a bigger problem for Western Europe than for the southeast. The Balkans has remained relatively free of religiously motivated terrorism, except for the attempt of a lone Sandzak-born Mevlid Jasarevic to shoot up the US Embassy in Sarajevo in 2011. According to Balkan Inside Editor Marcus Tanner, “[This] crazy attack certainly put the wind up Bosnia's complacent political and religious establishment, but it was a ludicrously amateur episode compared to the slickly conducted (January) mass murder in Paris."
We Bosnians remember particularly well how Serbian nationalist leader Slobodan Milosevic, later followed by the Croatian Franjo Tudjman, at the beginning of the 1990s vindicated their decision to carve up Bosnia by convincing the West that Bosnian Muslims intended to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state on European soil. And what happened? The war against Bosnia ended, the division was thwarted, Bosnians -- mostly Muslims -- defended the country, but there was no Islamic state. Although in different circumstances and terms, a similar thing happened in Kosovo.
The same scenario of warning the world of the Balkan “jihadist ghosts” has continued for a quarter of a century. It is not that there were no efforts during that whole period to introduce into Balkan Muslim communities the strict Wahhabi or Salafi doctrine. Except in a few cases, preachers of that doctrine have not resorted to violence toward other communities. Their main targets were “moderate Muslims," as they were labeled by other Europeans. They tried to capture some mosques by force.
The Balkan Muslims -- a majority of whom call themselves Bosniaks (one exception being the Albanians) -- reject conservative and retrograde interpretations of the Quran. The Islam they believe in and practice is a combination of the Ottoman Hanafi heritage and tradition of living together for five centuries with Orthodox and Catholic Christians, as well as with Jews, as one nation. Besides, except Jews, they are all of Slavic origin, speak the same language and follow similar traditions and customs.
Whether we call it secularism or a European Islam, most Balkan Muslims don't accept the preaching of Nusret Imamovic, who, according to Radio Free Liberty / Radio Europe, told a crowd of his followers last year in the Bosnian town of Tuzla, "Unlike secularism and democracy, we say there is only one truth: the law of Allah and Shariah." He was joined by Bilal Bosnic, who also criticized democracy with harsh words. Later, Imamovic went to Syria and Bosnic succeeded him as the unofficial leader of the Bosnian Wahhabi or Salafi community.
Yes, the ISIS flag was on display at some houses in Gornja Maoca. Alerted by TV news, the police went there, but none were found. They had most probably been removed by the Wahhabi inhabitants of the village, wary of imprisonment. However, it is easier to recruit a few hundred fighters for ISIS than to strike at the roots of the Bosnian and Balkan way of being a Muslim.

A Note of Salute to Avijit Roy

By: Sukhamaya Bain
Yesterday, when my wife was reading news from Bangladesh on the internet, she told me that she was reading about the murder of Avijit Roy in Dhaka. I exclaimed to her, “our Avijit?”, got on to internet immediately, and started reading the news myself. I felt like I was having a nightmare, did not want to believe the news to be true.
There he cited examples and argued with logic that the virus of faith was real. Obviously, he did not have any word of hatred against the Islamic fanatic forces of the world that he was talking about. He did, however, point out how those fanatic forces have been committing heinous crimes against innocent humanity. I called the article “very scholarly” and him “brave”; but asked him not to visit his (and my) “beloved birthplace, Bangladesh, anytime soon.” For, I knew that his life could be at serious risk in that land, where the major ‘secular’ political party keeps Islam as the ‘state religion’ and proposes to build a mosque in every sub-district with government money.
While there are some visible activism among the youth for secularism in the country, Bangladesh has seen an exponential growth of mosques and madrassas (Islamic religious schools) over the last few decades. These religious institutions are for promoting submission to ‘almighty Allah’, and for defending Islam. Thus, even the ‘secular government’ bows down to the Islamist forces. With so many people willing to kill and die for Islam, and with so many hopeless people who can be hired for committing any kind of crime, Bangladesh remains a very hostile place for anyone who criticizes Islam in any way. Thus, the threat on people like Avijit Roy was very real in Bangladesh.
Now, the promoters and defenders of Islam have done their religious duty of killing Avijit Roy, a remarkable non-believer. But here is what Avijit had in his mind for the Muslims, the followers of Islam:
“আমি নাস্তিক। কিন্তু আমার আশে পাশের বহু কাছের মানুষজন বন্ধু বান্ধবই মুসলিম। তাদের উপর আমার কোন রাগ নেই, নেই কোন ঘৃণা। তাদের আনন্দের দিনে আমিও আনন্দিত হই। তাদের উপর নিপীড়ন হলে আমিও বেদনার্ত হই। প্যালেস্টাইনে বা কাশ্মীরে মুসলিম জনগোষ্ঠীর উপর অত্যাচার হলে তাদের পাশে দাঁড়াতে কার্পণ্য বোধ করি না। অতীতেও দাঁড়িয়েছি, ভবিষ্যতেও দাঁড়াবো। এটাই আমার মানবতার শিক্ষা।”
“I am an atheist. But a lot of my near and dear people, my friends, are Muslims. I am not angry at them; I have no hatred against them. I feel happy on the day when they are happy. I feel pain when they are oppressed. When the Muslim people of Palestine or Kashmir are repressed, I do not hesitate to be beside them. I have done that in the past; will do that in the future. This is the lesson from my humanity.”
The above is from a Facebook post by Avijit Roy while talking about his books, ‘বিশ্বাসের ভাইরাস ‘ (The Virus of Belief) and ‘অবিশ্বাসের দর্শন’ (The Philosophy of Nonbelief).
Indeed, atheists are humanists and no hate-mongers, because they are free to think. They do not have the compulsions of defending illogical religious beliefs, which often breed and sustain hatred between differing religious groups, such as what have been going on in the Middle East with no real hope for peace anytime soon. Religious groups have also been committing heinous crimes against absolutely innocent non-believers of religions. In the history of mankind there is no example of atheists committing hate-crimes against people of religious faith or of lack thereof.
Through the murder of Avijit Roy, the part of humanity that does not hate has lost a great soul. Avijit was a young man in his early forties. He was an extraordinary human rights activist. He excelled in science and technology at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and at the highly prestigious National University of Singapore, earning a Ph.D. degree. He was a genuine scholar in science, technology and humanities. He wrote ten books that promote freedom of human minds, and human rights and dignity. He had all the potential for contributing greatly to humanity. Due to his untimely death, I cry a lot more for the loss that I feel for humanity than for my personal loss as a friend.
In the Mukto-Mona article that I cited above, Avijit criticized the US President for attempting to separate Islamic State from Islam. I agreed with him, and wrote, “It is indeed a shame that the US President and the British Prime Minister try to dissociate ISIS (also known as ISIL/Islamic state) from Islam. It is dangerously dishonest. They could have limited their political correctness to suggest that most Muslims do not subscribe ISIS’s idea of the state/world, which can be argued to be the fact.”
I really feel very strongly that the intellectuals and the socio-political leaders of the civilized and humane world need to stop playing games and political correctness with the fire of religion-based hatred. It is overdue for the world to look at religions with common sense and honesty, which would inevitably discard hatred due to religious faiths and clanships.

American writer hacked to death in Bangladesh spoke out against extremists

By Ben Brumfield

In his writings, author Avijit Roy yearned for reason and humanism guided by science.
He had no place for religious dogma, including from Islam, the main religion of his native Bangladesh.
Extremists resented him for openly and regularly criticizing religion in his blog. They threatened to kill him if he came home from the United States to visit.
On Thursday, someone did.
As usual, Roy defied the threats and departed his home in suburban Atlanta for Dhaka, where he appeared at a speaking engagement about his latest books -- one of them titled "The Virus of Faith." He has written seven books in all.
As he walked back from the book fair, assailants plunged machetes and knives into Roy and his wife, killing him and leaving her bloodied and missing a finger.
    Afterward, an Islamist group "Ansar Bangla-7" reportedly tweeted, "Target Down here in Bangladesh."
    Investigators are proceeding on the notion that Roy's murder was an extremist attack. His father, Ajay Roy, filed a case of murder with the Shahbagh police Friday without naming suspects.
    No one came to their aid as they were hacked down, a witness said. "I shouted for help from the people but nobody came to save him."
    But at night, secularist sympathizers marched through a street holding torches; by day, others held a sit-in to protest Roy's killing. The government condemned the attack.
    Who was the software engineer, a U.S. citizen from Alpharetta, Georgia, who drew such rage from some and adoration from others?

    Who was Avijit Roy?

    Software was his career, but writing and blogging were his calling. And he did not speak alone. Roy founded the religion critical blog Mukto Mona, which served multiple writers.
    He called it "an Internet congregation of freethinkers, rationalists, skeptics, atheists and humanists mainly of Bengali and South Asian descent who are scattered across the globe."
    Its mission was to promote science, secular philosophy, democracy and religious tolerance in articles by academics and activists.
    Its headers contain quotes by famous scientists, including one attributed to Albert Einstein condemning the doctrine of heaven and hell as a means of enforcing ethics:
    "A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary."
    To the most devout and to extremists, Roy's criticisms amounted to blasphemy. He took aim at the sentiment in a blog post headlined, "Happy Blasphemy Day, Happy Birthday 'Mukto Mona.'"
    Some who felt oppressed by religion said he spoke for them.
    "Avijit Roy, your voice of reason and your passion for free thinking will never die. You were a voice to so many voiceless," a fan wrote after his death.

    How stark was his criticism?

    Very. Roy and the blog's other critics took off the gloves when it came to religion, particularly Islam.
    Roy was a fan of Bill Maher's harsh reproach of Islam and a critic of Reza Aslan, who has countered Maher's standpoint.
    His blog called Aslan "an Islamic apologist, who obviously feels threatened by the growing Atheist movement in the U.S. and worldwide."
    Roy likened women in burkas to "living zombies," tweeting out a cartoon of one standing next to a child dressed as a ghost for Halloween.

    Did he blame religion for violence?

    Yes. He began one of his final articles by writing that January's Charlie Hebdo massacre in France was "a tragic atrocity committed by soldiers of the so-called religion of peace."
    He doled out scathing criticism after another Bangladeshi blogger was hacked to death outside his home in 2013 by assailants with machetes.
    "The virus of faith was the weapon that made these atrocities possible," Roy wrote.
    But he also criticized Christianity. "So, Pope Francis thinks 'evolution is real'! And it is still a major headline news in this century," he recently tweeted.
    To Roy, God was an outdated notion.

    Did he only criticize religion?

    Roy sought enlightenment in doubt, criticism and reason. Question everything, was a theme in his online posts. Never think you've found the truth.
    He was a science geek who admired Charles Darwin, evolutionary psychology and astrophysics, according to a Facebook account in his name. CNN could not independently verify it belongs to him.
    Roy was a fan of "Cosmos," the TV series explaining the science behind the origin of the universe, and of the geek sitcom "The Big Bang Theory."
    Mukto Mona contains sections titled "Science" and "Rationalism," but most of the articles hold science up to religion as a litmus test, which it invariably fails.
    "To me, it is a rational concept to oppose any unscientific and irrational belief," Roy said.

    Could he have known he would be killed?

    That's likely. He regularly attended a February book fair in the Bangladeshi capital, and last year, after he launched "The Virus of Faith," the death threats began streaming in.
    They landed in his email inbox and cropped up on social media.
    "A well-known extremist ... openly issued death threats to me through his numerous Facebook statuses," Roy wrote.
    His book "hit the cranial nerve of Islamic fundamentalists," Roy wrote. After the Charlie Hebdo attacks, an online Bangladeshi bookstore pulled it after extremists put pressure on it.
    But is seemed the author was safe in Alpharetta.
    "Avijit Roy lives in America and so, it is not possible to kill him right now. But he will be murdered when he comes back," the Islamist wrote, according to Roy.
    He couldn't let that stop him, Roy's friend Michael De Dora said.
    "Avijit was very idealistic," he said. "His understanding was that he wouldn't be killed, that if anyone ever tried to attack him or hated him, that they could just kind of have a chat and he would convince them ... that they could at least have a dialogue."
    He never had a chance to. They attacked from behind.

    Will the U.S. change its Afghanistan policy?

    The new U.Ssecretary of defenseAshton Cartervisited Afghanistan on February 21 tomeet Afghan President Ashraf GhaniCarter announced that the U.Sis likely to slow troopwithdrawalJust 3 months earlierthe former U.Ssecretary of defense Chuck Hagel hadsaid that the U.Swould not change its troop withdrawal plan.  
    Carter's visit showed that the US continues to lay emphasis on AfghanistanHe said thatthe US is considering beefing up its support to Afghanistan securityincluding adjustingthe timing of the withdrawalCurrent US military planning would see the number ofAmerican troops in Afghanistan cut to 5,500 by the end of 2016.
    Carter had already trailed his surprise declarationHe said that he would actively deal withAfghanistans struggle with the TalibanThere is no doubt that the declaration is directlyrelated to the Talibans attacksThe U.S does not want to see any further escalation.
    Experts believe that the Taliban will continue its attacks in Afghanistan to impose pressureon the governmentKeeping U.Stroops in Afghanistan contributes to the stability of theregionIf the talks between the Taliban and the government are restartedthe troops in theregion will provide a form of invisible support to the government.
    The U.Sis likely to consider adjusting the timing of its troop withdrawal plansBut giventhe current situationthe troop withdrawal plan will not be abortedThe U.Sputs itsstrategic center of gravity in the Asia-Pacific regionso it is natural that the U.Sisreluctant to be fettered by problems in AfghanistanHoweverthe U.Swill not turn ablind eye to problems theregiven the country's important geopolitical valueIt can beforeseen that the U.Swill maintain its presence in the region for a long time.

    Music Video - Taylor Swift - You Belong With Me

    John Boehner allies fret coup attempt

    Close allies of Speaker John Boehner are worried that his conservative rivals could move to oust him as soon as next week.

    Removing a sitting speaker is exceedingly difficult, and such an effort would almost certainly fall short. Yet growing speculation about the possibility of it – coming after Friday’s embarrassing defeat at the hands of conservatives and House Democrats on the homeland security battle — shows how vulnerable the speaker has become.

    Five years into the job, he’s a leader consistently buffeted by forces beyond his control. The legislative calendar guarantees it won’t get any easier: in the coming weeks and months there will be battles over the debt ceiling, budget, taxes, and spending cuts.

    The question is how many more of these episodes Boehner can withstand.

    Frustration with the Ohio Republican is mounting after dozens of hardliners voted Friday against his three-week funding package for the Department of Homeland Security. Hours of frantic leadership meeting ensued. After some backroom maneuvering with Democrats, Boehner was able to push through a one-week bill to keep DHS open.
    President Barack Obama signed the bill into law just 10 minutes before a shutdown of the massive federal agency.

    The stinging rebuke of Boehner on the House floor infuriated his supporters, who accused opponents of handing Democrats a huge PR victory.

    Yet is also left even Boehner backers wondering how viable he remains. They admit these repeated confrontations, in which Boehner can’t muster 218 Republican votes for his proposals and has to turn to Democrats for help, leave him looking weak and ineffective — and thus vulnerable to a conservative challenge.

    “Some of these 52 [Republican who voted no] are more worried about protecting their own careers than protecting their constituents from ISIL. They are more worried about primaries than they are about the country,” said a GOP lawmaker close to Boehner, using an acronym for the Islamic State. “This is all aimed at Boehner. They want to take Boehner out.”
    While there’s no open movement afoot to replace Boehner, his allies are plainly nervous that GOP hardliners might try.
    Members of the recently formed “House Freedom Caucus” offered multiple proposals to leadership that they believe would have drawn enough Republican votes to keep DHS funded and not left Boehner dependent on Democrats. Boehner, though, chose not to support the plans.

    One conservative member, who asked for anonymity to speak frankly, said the mood of his colleagues will depend on how Boehner handles himself over the next week. If he tries to put a “clean” DHS funding bill on the floor for a vote, or doesn’t make overtures to conservatives, anger could boil over, the Republican said.

    The lawmaker said he will be watching closely the three dozen or so members who voted for Boehner during the speaker election in January but who have been critical of the GOP leadership team’s tactics.

    A handful of Boehner loyalists met with him Friday night and voiced concern about behind-the-scenes agitation among the most conservative faction of the conference.

    The chances that an attempt to remove him would succeed are virtually nil. But it would show that his critics are willing to risk a split within the GOP Conference to force him out.
    How Boehner would respond to such an effort is anyone’s guess. It’s seen as highly unlikely he would step down. Yet he’s also shown no inclination to seek a showdown with his GOP critics or move against them by taking away committee assignments, cutting off campaign money, or endorsing primary challengers. Such tactics might actually help the rebellious lawmakers by boosting their profile with conservative groups, which despise Boehner.
    All of which leaves the House GOP stuck in its current rut: run by a weak speaker, lurching from crisis to crisis, and burdened with an internal opposition that has a strong ideological position but no actual plan to govern.

    Unhappiness with Boehner has been growing since the end of last year. He decided then to move forward with the so-called “cromnibus” that funded the government through September, except for DHS, which received money only through Friday. The idea at the time was to avoid another damaging government shutdown — and then use homeland security financing as leverage to force President Barack Obama to back away from his actions to shield millions of illegal immigrants from deportation.
    Instead, conservatives believe Boehner left them with less leverage to scuttle the president’s immigration policies.

    But it’s one thing to disapprove of Boehner’s leadership. Booting him is another matter.
    For one, the vast majority of House Republicans like and support him. And there’s no obvious replacement to rally around.

    Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is seen as a potential speaker, but he’s fiercely loyal to Boehner. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has close ties to many rank-and-file members, but he’s also a Boehner loyalist.
    After those two, other potential replacements — Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), or Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — lack widespread support among GOP lawmakers or back Boehner.
    Names aside, any new speaker would have to contend with the same political forces that have hemmed in Boehner. There’s no evidence someone else could do any better.
    So far, the 65-year-old Boehner, who was first elected to the House in 1990, is not taking the possibility of a coup attempt seriously, GOP sources said.

    “It would take a big uprising to do something and right now, I mean, I think really, truly Boehner is a stabilizing force,” said Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.), who is close to Boehner. “We’ll see what happens. Next Friday will be a big day. Next week will be a big week. We’ll see what he can do.”

    Boehner was asked at a Thursday news conference whether his speakership is on the line. “No! Heaven’s sake, no,” he said. “Not at all.”
    Some lawmakers are hopeful the homeland security debacle will provide a much-needed moment of clarity.
    Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) said the question is “who is going to run the House. Is it going to be the Democratic minority? Is it going to be a very focused minority within the House Republican Conference? Maybe this is one of those points in time where we have to sit down and figure out which way we want to go. But you can’t have the tail on both ends wagging the dog in the middle.”

    Though Lucas remains supportive of Boehner, he was cautious about evaluating the speaker’s future.

    “He is the speaker of the United States House until he’s not,” Lucas said.
    To remove Boehner from the speaker’s chair, a lawmaker would introduce a “motion to vacate,” which an overwhelming majority of GOP lawmakers would have to back. Republicans say that would never happen in the conference right now.

    Conservatives said immediately after the vote late Friday that they have no plans to challenge Boehner despite all the behind-the-scenes talk of forcing him out.

    “I’ve had my differences with the speaker at times both on tactics and policy,” said Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana. “But we elect each speaker for two years. There is no discussion or talk among conservatives to get him out.”

    Conservative South Carolina Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy was also measured in his criticism of Boehner.

    “Being in leadership is a tough job, which is why so few people raise their hands and volunteer to do it. It’s easy where I sit just to kind of second guess,” said Gowdy, who voted against the one-week funding bill after earlier supporting the three-week plan. “I believe in self-reflection, and then after that self-reflection, if you have something to say, you say it to them personally.”

    But impatience is rising among conservatives.

    “I think we are frustrated that they continue to reach out to the Democrats of the Senate instead of working with conservatives,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney.

    When pressed by reporters whether conservatives would move to expel Boehner, however, the South Carolina Republican said he hasn’t heard “any discussions like that with anybody.”

    Hardliners may have missed their best chance to remove Boehner: the vote for speaker on Jan. 6. Twenty-five Republicans voted against Boehner that day, an extraordinary show of opposition to a sitting speaker, especially one who a few months earlier had led his party to their biggest majority in decades.

    In fact, Boehner was fortunate that several New York Democrats were missing that day for the funeral of the late Gov. Mario Cuomo. That allowed him to win reelection as speaker with only 216 votes.

    Since then, some of Boehner’s allies have been clamoring for retribution against the rebels. But Boehner won’t do it.

    Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), one of Boehner’s closest allies, dismissed all the speculation about ousting Boehner as meaningless.

    “It’s more talk,” Simpson insisted, “than anything else.”

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