Wednesday, May 6, 2015
By Charles M. Blow
He was the next wave of Republican. He was young and smart — a Rhodes scholar. He was the son of immigrants and the first Indian-American governor in this country’s history.
He had even bounced back from his disastrous rebuttal to President Obama’s first State of the Union address. (Personally, I thought that his claim of having participated in an exorcism performed on his friend in college would have been more of an issue than it was, but that was just me.)
Jindal had all the right rhetoric.
He told the syndicated columnist Cal Thomas: “As Republicans we don’t need to obsess about our opponents, we don’t need to define ourselves in opposition to our opponents. Let [Democrats] look backward; we need to look forward.”
In 2013, he demanded that the G.O.P. “stop being the stupid party.”
Jindal was the brainy Moses coming to deliver his people from the bondage of inanity. But that was then.
Now, Jindal has gone from being one of the most popular governors in the country to one of the least popular.In the latest CNN/ORC poll of Republicans and independents who lean Republican, only 1 percent said that he was the candidate they would most likely support for the Republican nomination. Even “none/no one” got 6 percent.
And in a desperate attempt at relevancy — and press — he has lately been sliding further into Islamic hysteria.
In January, he doubled down on a controversial claim that parts of Europe were “no-go” zones because of Muslim extremists. A Fox News guest had said days earlier that there were cities “where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in.” Prime Minister David Cameron had replied to that assertion: “When I heard this, frankly, I choked on my porridge and I thought it must be April Fools’ Day. This guy is clearly a complete idiot.”
That hasn’t stopped Jindal. Last week on Fox News, he set about defending his statement that America “shouldn’t tolerate those who want to come and try to impose some variant, or some version, of Shariah law.” But he went so far as to say of prospective immigrants:
“In America we want people who want to be Americans. We want people who want to come here. We don’t say, ‘You have to adopt our creed, or any particular creed,’ but we do say, ‘If you come here, you need to believe in American exceptionalism.’ ”
What? Where is that written? I can’t find this “need to believe in American exceptionalism” anywhere in the Immigration and Nationality Act. Isn’t American exceptionalism itself a creed?
The smart-on-paper Jindal increasingly comes across as nuttier than a piece of praline.
On Friday, Robert Mann, a columnist at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, called for Jindal’s resignation, citing all of the problems in the state that the governor isn’t focusing on as he tries to gin up a greater national profile:
“We have some of the nation’s highest poverty and worst health outcomes and you’ve done little to address them. Baton Rouge, your hometown, has the nation’s second-highest H.I.V. rate (New Orleans is fourth), but you’ve done nothing to address that crisis. What you have done is hollow out higher education and inject needless confusion and rancor into the state’s elementary and secondary education system. Meanwhile, the state’s health care system is a fractured, dysfunctional mess under your privatization schemes. Now, you’ve outsourced the state’s tax policy to Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform.” Louisiana’s fiscal picture is dire. As Politico reported in February:
“Jindal is preparing a budget to close a $1.6 billion shortfall in Louisiana, a particularly daunting task after the $400 million in additional money he had to scare up to fill a budget gap for the current year. The president of Louisiana State University said earlier this month that the state’s flagship school is preparing for a 40 percent cut in its operating budget next year.”
In fact, The Times-Picayune reported in January that “Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration said Louisiana’s colleges and universities should be prepared to sustain anywhere from $200 million to $300 million in cuts during the 2015-16 school year.”
(Jindal’s budget for higher education ended up cutting less — $141 million.)
In February, Jindal strained credulity, claiming, “The total higher education budget, including means of total finance — is actually a little bit, just slightly, higher than when I took office.” The Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog quickly smacked that down, awarding Jindal three Pinocchios. Jindal has made a mess of Louisiana and wrecked his reputation in the process. His odds of becoming president of the United States have shrunk to nil.
Sometimes what looks good on paper is a disaster in practice.
A group of 187 internationally renowned history scholars has urged Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to acknowledge and apologize for WWII atrocities. The joint statement came a week after Abe failed to offer a clear apology for the enslavement of so called comfort women and other wartime crimes, when he delivered an address to the U.S. Congress.
BY DAVID ALEXANDER AND PHIL STEWART
Calling Republican defense spending plans a "road to nowhere," Defense Secretary Ash Carter appealed on Wednesday for lawmakers to work with him toward a new bipartisan budget deal to provide stable funding for a U.S. military hurt by years of steep cuts.
Carter told a Senate appropriations panel that Republican efforts to try to meet President Barack Obama's defense funding request were well-intentioned but would not give the Pentagon the flexibility it needed and ultimately would lock in budget cuts Obama has threatened to veto.
The president proposed a $534 billion Pentagon base budget for the 2016 fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 that exceeds federal spending caps by $35 billion and could trigger mandatory cuts. Obama also sought $51 billion in funding for conflicts overseas in an account not covered by the spending caps.
The Republican-controlled Congress, which opposes many of Obama's spending priorities, is considering a $499 billion Pentagon base budget that would not exceed spending caps. But it is studying $90 billion in war funding, $39 billion more than requested, to make up for cuts in the base budget.
"While this approach clearly recognizes that the budget total we’ve requested is needed, the avenue it takes is just as clearly a road to nowhere," Carter told the appropriations panel, noting that Obama has threatened to veto a budget that locks in current spending caps.
If that happens, Carter said, the Pentagon would be facing another autumn of budget uncertainty when it is unable to plan effectively and has to make the kind of "hasty and drastic" decisions it has had to make over the past few years.
Those decisions have forced the military to make quick, short-term cuts from accounts for readiness, training and modernization, leaving the force increasingly unbalanced.
Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the panel the cuts have put the United States in a position where "our global aspirations are exceeding our available resources."
Carter said if Congress continued to push ahead with the Republican plans rather than exploring other alternatives he feared "we'll all be left holding the bag."
Congress and the president have directed the Pentagon to cut about a trillion dollars in planned defense spending over a decade.
The reductions come as the U.S. military is trying to modernize aging weapons while coping with threats unforeseen just three years ago, including the rise of Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria and Russia's involvement in Ukraine.
Poor children in Indian cities are three times more likely to die before their fifth birthday than their affluent peers, says a recent report, which ranks India among the worst in the world in terms of health inequity.
India is one of the ten countries worldwide with the greatest survival divide between wealthy and poor urban children, according to the report "The Urban Disadvantage" released by the NGO Save the Children on May 5. It also stated that the quality of life of mothers and children in the urban slums of India's capital New Delhi is one of the poorest in the world.
The ten countries showing the greatest survival divide between affluent and poor urban children are: Rwanda, Cambodia, Kenya, Vietnam, Peru, India, Madagascar, Ghana, Bangladesh and Nigeria. Of the 189 countries surveyed for the report, India is ranked 140, behind countries like Rwanda, Iraq and Bangladesh.
The report - which, among other sources, uses data from UN agencies - ranks countries on five key factors: risk of maternal death, under-five mortality rate, educational status, economic achievement and political status.
"It is actually a tale of two cities. There is a wide difference of access between the urban rich and poor. The richest are the fittest and so it is the survival of the fittest in urban scenarios," Sudeep Gadok, director of programs of Save the Children, told DW.
Infant and maternal mortality rates in cities are on the rise and the situation would deteriorate further unless concerted efforts are made, said India's Minister for Minority Affairs Najma Heptulla. "Even today, over 760,000 children die in India every year and many of these deaths are due to preventable causes. We obviously need to do a lot more," Heptulla told DW.
It was found that 50,000 mothers die each year in India as a result of birth complications, as against 1,200 in the United States. But the poor bear the greatest burden everywhere irrespective of a nation's current state of economic development.
The other key finding of the report is that while great progress has been made in reducing urban under-five mortality around the world, health inequality is worsening. It emphasizes the issue of poor children and mothers in urban settings being deprived of lifesaving healthcare services.
The report found that public sector health systems are typically under-funded, and often fail to reach those most in need of basic health services. In many instances, the poor resort to seeking care from unqualified health practitioners, often paying for health services that are of poor quality, or in some cases, harmful.
"Overcrowding, poor sanitation and food insecurity make the poor mothers and children even more vulnerable to disease and ill health. And fear of attack, sexual assault or robbery limit their options when a health crisis strikes," said Devendra Tak, Save the Children's communications manager.
Given the rapid growth of urban populations and the increasing level of under-five mortality rates occurring among the urban poor, it was recommended that investments were needed for basic health services, water and sanitation, and improved nutrition for this under-served, and often neglected, population.
Globally every fifth child is born in India, and any improvement in infant mortality rate of even a single Indian state can positively impact the national situation.
A strong case has been made for investing in strengthened and expanded urban health systems designed to reach the poor, ensuring access to health workers able to provide quality care in slums and informal settlements, and removing financial barriers to accessing quality health services.
Employment generation, livelihood, housing and services should be the basis for urban renewal schemes, underlined Dunu Roy, an urban planner and director of the New Delhi-based Hazards Center. "Urbanization won't stop, it is only going to increase and that is why planners and city developers should focus on this issue on a war footing."
A Pakistan court on Tuesday sentenced a man to 25 years in prison after holding him guilty of desecrating sacred scriptures.
The case was heard at a sessions court in Lahore, Dawn online reported.
The court heard statements from witnesses and lawyers' claims and found Zulfiqar guilty of desecrating sacred scriptures. The court charged Zulfiqar with blasphemy.The court also ordered the seizure of all of his movable and immovable assets.
A case was registered against him by Race Course police station in 2006.
Pakistan People Party (PPP) Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, along with a delegation, will visit Afghanistan for one day on Thursday and will meet Afghan leadership. According to media reports, Zardari will meet Afghani President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah whereas the delegation will comprise on former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gallan, Shireen Mazari and Faisal Karim Kundi. Pak-Afghan relations, regional security situation and some other important issues will be discussed during meeting.
The Federation of International Cricketers' Association (FICA) has warned against international teams touring Pakistan, stating its security experts had said the "risk is unmanageable." FICA's statement came a day before Alistair Campbell, the Zimbabwe Cricket managing director, and security experts arrived in Pakistan to assess the security situation ahead of Zimbabwe's limited-overs tour of the country later this month. They are due to play three ODIs and two T20 internationals in Lahore from May 19 to 31, a tour that was announced last week. In return, Pakistan will tour Zimbabwe in August. "We are very concerned about the safety of players and any match officials who may be sent to Pakistan, should this tour go ahead," Tony Irish, the FICA executive chairman, said. "The risk assessment that we have received from FICA's security consultants is that an international tour to Pakistan remains an unacceptable risk and teams are advised against travelling there at present. Although we are sure that the Pakistan Cricket Board will do what they can regarding a security plan, our experts advise that the risk is unmanageable." On March 3, 2009, gunmen had ambushed the vehicles transporting the Sri Lankan players and match officials to the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore for the third day of the Test. Several players suffered injuries, while security personnel and civilians were killed, and as a result the match was abandoned and the tour called off. Ever since, Pakistan have had to play their home matches at offshore venues, primarily the UAE, as the ICC and other Full Members considered the country too much of a security risk.
By Bina Shah
In Pakistan, Karachi is known as the City of Lights. Whenever I fly back here and see those lights, my heart jumps happily because I know I’m home. But at the end of April, as I returned from abroad over the ribboning streets, my heart throbbed with infinite loss. Days before, the brightest light in Karachi had been extinguished forever.That light, to me, was Sabeen Mahmud, whom I met in the 1990s, after I returned from studies in the United States. I became the editor of a computer magazine, and was interviewing Sabeen at a multimedia company she had helped start. The Internet had come to Pakistan in 1996, and suddenly everyone I knew was talking about websites and Internet service providers and dial-up access to an information superhighway. That highway would soon connect Pakistan, then hesitantly emerging from a dictatorship’s information control, to the rest of the world. But few people recognized its potential, and many dismissed the Internet with suspicion or scorn. Not Sabeen, though; she was too intelligent.
In a little office festooned with posters of John Lennon and Albert Einstein, Sabeen waxed lyrical about CD-ROMs, graphic design and Apple Macs. As she rhapsodized about user-friendliness (a huge accomplishment back then), I knew I’d stumbled on a very unusual person. She was a tomboy dressed in jeans, a knee-length shirt known as a kurta, and kolhapuri sandals. Totally comfortable in her skin, she wasn’t concerned about the usual obsessions of young women in Pakistan: finding a good match and settling down, or the latest fashions and parties. Here was someone passionate about bigger concepts and imbued with purpose; she was an oasis of individuality in a city where social conventions limit the roles of young women to serving husband, children and family.Fast-forward 10 years. Sabeen had left the tech company to start something new: a cultural community space where people could gather, talk, listen to music and poetry, discuss politics and drink coffee. She was inspired by the Pakistani teahouses of the 1950s and ’60s, when students and poets, revolutionaries and socialists would discuss life and politics over cigarettes and endless cups of tea. But she wanted a modern iteration, imbued with technology: There would be a Wi-Fi connection, an Apple laptop for public use, a music system fed by iTunes. Also an espresso machine, but no smoking.
The cafe was being constructed, on the second floor of a new office building, when I visited. The walls were bare, the kitchen unbuilt. The task seemed impossible, but Sabeen’s creative impulse nevertheless turned that blank space above a dusty street into a beautiful cafe with pine furniture and colorful murals and the ever-present posters — Lennon and Einstein and Steve Jobs alongside the revolutionary Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz and the Nobel laureate in physics Abdus Salam.
Within months, the cafe — The Second Floor, commonly called T2F — was up and running. People came, in trickles at first, mostly students drawn to an air-conditioned spot to study and hang out with girlfriends and boyfriends, away from the prying eyes of others. A comedian, Saad Haroon, hosted T2F’s first open-mike night on May 31, 2007; from then on, dozens of musicians came to perform, along with young people who had never dreamed they would stand on a stage and strum a guitar or sing a song. She invited any writers traveling through town to do readings; she organized talks on science and philosophy and poetry. Whenever I came, I felt able to breathe deeply in a city that can suffocate the spirit.
Word of T2F spread through Sabeen’s use of email and a website. Soon, people began asking to stage lectures or group meetings; Sabeen said yes to all who shared her vision of social change through open dialogue, cultural activities or public discourse and advocacy. In her emails and blog posts — for example, a tribute to the artist Asim Butt, who painted T2F’s murals and committed suicide in 2010 — she felt compelled to speak out and always end with the words “in complete solidarity” and “Peace/Sabeen.”
Karachi had been starving for a cultural space like this, where nobody was made to feel they didn’t belong. In 2008, I wrote a novel there; in 2011, I wrote another in a room I rented on T2F’s new premises. Meanwhile, Sabeen pursued her unique brand of activism: encouraging pluralism by urging multiple voices to express themselves not just in the cafe, but in action. They took to the streets, protesting against violence directed at minorities, or for deweaponizing Karachi. Online, she conducted clever viral campaigns against the fundamentalists who wanted to outlaw Valentine’s Day and the government that had banned YouTube. A photograph of her standing on the back of a police van and flashing a V-sign at a political protest became an iconic image.
And she won converts, schooling a new generation in protest and in solidarity with others: religious minorities, secularists and humanists, the L.G.B.T. community, anyone being persecuted for their otherness. By 2015, T2F was attracting 100 visitors each day, and had spawned other cafes like it. At the age of 40, Sabeen was among the most respected of Pakistan’s intellectuals, and a hero to many.
Her grace and dignity, her generous heart and fine mind won her thousands of friends, even as her counterculture stance earned her unseen enemies. Two weeks ago, two of those enemies took her life, gunning her down as she drove home with her mother from a talk by Baloch activists. T2F had hosted the event after the Lahore University of Management Sciences had heeded a warning by security agencies not to let the activists speak. Sabeen chose to ignore such intimidation; fear could not break her spirit. S
he died as she lived: in peaceful resistance, her ideals and principles intact, and in complete solidarity with the people she loved.