Wednesday, October 21, 2015

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Polls Show Hillary Clinton's Lead Expanding After CNN Debate

Hillary Clinton takes aim at Aetna-Humana merger

Hillary Clinton is taking aim at the proposed merger of health insurance giants Aetna andHumana as she ratchets up her scrutiny of U.S. corporate consolidation and its effect on consumers.
In her first remarks about the deal, she expressed "serious concern" about the proposed union, as well as one between Cigna and Anthem. Clinton is urging regulators to closely scrutinize the mergers.
"I’m worried that the balance of power is moving too far away from consumers,’’ Clinton said in a statement provided by a campaign official.
"Companies proposing to merge bear the heavy burden of demonstrating that consumers will benefit,’’ said Clinton, noting that "too often the companies end up pocketing profits rather than passing savings to consumers.’’
Aetna and Humana shareholders voted Monday to approve the two companies’ merger, but like the Cigna-Anthem deal still must be approved by antitrust enforcers.
n her statement, Clinton said the companies should "commit to passing on savings and efficiencies to consumers as lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs.’’
Her comments are part of a broader health care agenda focused on the need to lower prescription drug and other out-of-pocket health care costs.
As she attempts to strengthen her position in the Democratic presidential field, Clinton is appealing to her party’s progressive base that has made reining in corporate excess, particularly on Wall Street, a top priority.
n the first Democratic debate last week in Las Vegas, Clinton mentioned health insurers among the top enemies she’s made during her political career, listing them before the Iranians and Republicans.
Clinton’s strongest competitor, independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, is a self-described democratic socialist who blames growing income inequality and corporate greed, or what he’s called "casino-type capitalism’’ — including tax policies favoring the wealthy — for the nation’s economic struggles.
While Clinton is less adversarial in her approach to corporate America, she is trying to strike a similarly populist tone. On Tuesday, Clinton wrote an opinion editorial titled "Being pro-business doesn’t mean hanging consumers out to dry’’ that outlines problems she thinks are needed to "fix’’ the capitalist system in America.
According to Clinton, this includes: pharmaceutical companies gouging patients on drugs they provide for cheaper in other countries; airlines overcharging passengers even as oil prices fall; and local monopolies’’ that cause higher prices for high-speed broadband.
"Rather than offering better products for lower prices, they are using their power to raise prices, limit choices for consumers, lower wages for workers and hold back competition from startups and small businesses,’’ Clinton wrote in Quartz.
Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Short said Clinton is complaining "about the side effects of Obamacare while she continues to stand by this failed and unpopular law.''
"One really has to wonder whether Hillary Clinton is simply trying to have it both ways on health care or if this is a back-door strategy to bring about single payer,''  Short said in a statement.
In wading into the debate over the insurance company mega mergers, Clinton joins a number of consumer groups, lawmakers and groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association, who’ve expressed concern that the deals would limit consumer choice and lead to an unhealthy concentration in a number of local markets.
Massive consolidation among hospitals and physician groups is one of the driving factors behind the insurer mergers. Yet with less competition, consumer groups say it will be easier for companies to offer inferior plans with higher premiums.
USA TODAY has found that areas with this little insurer competition tended to have the highest deductibles in states that use the federal exchange.
Neither deal is expected to close until at least mid-2016. That means they won't affect insurance premiums or plan choices until 2017 at the earliest.
After the shareholder vote Monday, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini said the merger would offer consumers a “a broader choice of products, access to higher quality and more affordable care, and a better overall experience in more geographic locations across the country.”

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Are We Losing Afghanistan Again?

“ALLAH has promised us victory and America has promised us defeat,” Mullah Muhammad Omar, the first head of the Taliban, once said, “so we shall see which of the two promises will be fulfilled.” When his colleagues admitted this summer that Mullah Omar had died, Al Qaeda and affiliated groups around the globe remembered those words — victory is a divine certainty — in their eulogies. And in Afghanistan today, though the majority of Afghans still do not identify with the Taliban or Al Qaeda, Mullah Omar’s bold defiance in the face of a superpower is beginning to look prescient.
Since early September, the Taliban have swept through Afghanistan’s north, seizing numerous districts and even, briefly, the provincial capital Kunduz. The United Nations has determined that the Taliban threat to approximately half of the country’s 398 districts is either “high” or “extreme.” Indeed, by our count, more than 30 districts are already under Taliban control. And the insurgents are currently threatening provincial capitals in both northern and southern Afghanistan.
Confronted with this grim reality, President Obama has decided to keep 9,800 American troops in the country through much of 2016 and 5,500 thereafter. The president was right to change course, but it is difficult to see how much of a difference this small force can make. The United States troops currently in Afghanistan have not been able to thwart the Taliban’s advance. They were able to help push them out of Kunduz, but only after the Taliban’s two-week reign of terror. This suggests that additional troops are needed, not fewer.
When justifying his decision last week, the president explained that American troops would “remain engaged in two narrow but critical missions — training Afghan forces, and supporting counterterrorism operations against the remnants of Al Qaeda.” He added, “We’ve always known that we had to maintain a counterterrorism operation in that region in order to tamp down any re-emergence of active Al Qaeda networks.”
But the president has not explained the full scope of what is at stake. Al Qaeda has already re-emerged. Just two days before the president’s statement, the military announced that it led raids against two Qaeda training camps in the south, one of which was an astonishing 30 square miles in size. The operation lasted several days, and involved 63 airstrikes and more than 200 ground troops, including both Americans and Afghan commandos.
“We struck a major Al Qaeda sanctuary in the center of the Taliban’s historic heartland,” Brig. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner, a military spokesman, said. General Shoffner described it as “one of the largest joint ground-assault operations we have ever conducted in Afghanistan.” Other significant Qaeda facilities are already being identified in local press reporting.
Recently, Hossam Abdul Raouf, a chief lieutenant of the Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, confirmed in an audio message that Qaeda’s senior leadership has relocated out of northern Pakistan — no secret to the military and the C.I.A., which have been hunting senior Qaeda figures in Afghanistan and elsewhere throughout the year.
The Taliban are not hiding their continuing alliance with Al Qaeda. In August, Mr. Zawahri pledged his allegiance to Mullah Omar’s successor, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour. Within hours, Mullah Mansour publicly accepted the “esteemed” Mr. Zawahri’s oath of fealty. And Qaeda members are integrated into the Taliban’s chain of command. In fact, foreign fighters affiliated with Al Qaeda played a significant role in the Taliban-led assault on Kunduz.
The United States made many mistakes in the 9/11 wars. After routing the Taliban and Al Qaeda in late 2001, President George W. Bush did not dedicate the resources necessary to finish the fight. President Obama was right in December 2009 to announce a surge of forces in Afghanistan, but it was short-lived. Al Qaeda is not nearly as “decimated” in South Asia as Mr. Obama has claimed.
We don’t think 5,500 troops is enough. No one is calling for a full-scale occupation of the country. But a force of as many as 20,000 to 25,000 would far better support our local Afghan allies, helping them defend multiple provincial capitals at the same time and fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban in their strongholds.
While many believe that Al Qaeda is solely focused on attacking the West, it has devoted most of its efforts to waging insurgencies. This is the key to understanding how it has been able to regenerate repeatedly over the past 14 years. Al Qaeda draws would-be terrorists from the larger pool of paramilitary forces fighting to restore the Taliban to power in Afghanistan or to build radical nation-states elsewhere. Therefore, the mission of the United States is bigger than the one Mr. Obama envisions. Drones and select counterterrorism raids are not enough to end the threat.
Al Qaeda and like-minded groups were founded on the myth that the Soviet Union was defeated in Afghanistan because of the mujahedeen’s faith in Allah alone. This helped spawn a generation of new wars and terrorist attacks, most of which have targeted Muslims. Should the Afghans suffer additional territorial losses, Mullah Omar’s words will appear prophetic. And a new myth, one that will feed the Taliban’s and Al Qaeda’s violence for years to come, will be born.

"فاټا له خېبر پښتونخوا سره د یوځای کولو ملاتړ کوو'' - اسفندیار ولي

د عوامي نېشنل پارټۍ مشر اسفندیار ولي خان وايي، ګوند یې د فاټا «د پاکستان مرکزي حکومت تر واک لاندې قبایلي سمې» له خېبر پښتونخوا سره د ځای کېدل غواړي. د ده په خبره قامي اسمبلۍ ته د فاټا پارلماني غړیو له لوري د وړاندې کړل شوي بل د مسودې ملاتړ کوي. د مشال راډيو خبریال خالد خان ورسره خبرې کړې.

Pakistan - Surge in terror

A new spate of terrorist violence is emerging in the country. Evil mongers let loose all hell on the passengers of a bus in Quetta only a week after the Taunsa attack. Innocent citizens, mostly daily-wage labourers, became the victims of merciless terrorists. Eleven people were killed and more than 22 sustained critical injuries when a 4-5 kilogramme planted bomb ripped through the bus in Saryab Town area of the provincial capital. Quetta has long been a victim of terrorism and the incidents of target killing of the Hazara community are still fresh in memory. Militant groups have long targeted Shia pilgrims in Balochistan travelling to and from Iran. So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the latest blast. However, certain facts help narrow down the identification of the possible perpetrators of this heinous crime. As the victims were mostly ordinary citizens, there are few chances of the involvement of Baloch nationalist insurgents in the attack. Neither does the attack bear any resemblance to the acts of sectarian killings. This perhaps means elements are involved in the attack whose sole aim is to spread terror and create anarchy.

Though Operation Zarb-e-Azb has caused a considerable reduction in terrorist activities and controlled militancy to some extent, yet it does not mean that all terrorists have been wiped out and militancy has been completely eliminated. Rather, they have started carrying out scattered attacks in small towns instead of targeting big cities where the deployment of security forces has increased. It is a pattern of militancy all over the world that militants remain hidden and strike whenever they find an opportunity. This new developing trend of terror has put a question mark on the working of the security agencies. The government need not be complacent as we are still facing a war-like situation because of terrorism. The only methodology to nip terror in the bud is pre-emptive strikes. The security agencies need to make coordinated efforts at all levels to eliminate this latest scourge of terrorism. Although it is not possible to guard every place, yet our forces need to be extra vigilant to thwart any act of terror. In order to pre-empt terrorist activities, coordinated efforts are needed among all concerned departments and ministries. There is a need for a centralised system to coordinate and implement plans to curb militancy all over the country. The federal and provincial governments are working autonomously to deter terrorist activities. But a forum must be established at the Centre to supervise and monitor all operations against terrorists. Unless there are coordinated efforts and data sharing, the war against terrorism cannot succeed. An organistion at the federal level must be activated with all necessary resources to coordinate all efforts against terrorism.

Terrorist attacks on the margins can derail and weaken the fabric of society. How can a terrorist or evil monger orchestrate violence in society if vigilant eyes are there and every authority is efficiently disposing of its respective duty? Unless we unite against the menace of terror, there will be no end to such activities and the country will continue to mourn the deaths of its innocent citizens. It is high time that the federal government should intervene and bring the concerned departments and security agencies together against all terrorist groups. A more vibrant centralised force is needed to clamp down on the safe havens of the terrorists. Where is the National Action Plan? It should be implemented in letter and spirit. The prime minister has reiterated his resolve to wipe out terrorism at all costs. But only passing resolutions and condemnation will not work unless some critical practical steps are taken. In order to root out terrorism, coordination amongst the provincial and federal levels is necessary. We are fighting against terrorism and we need to keep fighting until the last terrorist is eliminated. 

Pakistan - Aseefa Bhutto visits the families of Karsaz martyrs in their homes

Aseefa Bhutto Zardari visited the families of three martyrs of Karsaz bomb blasts of October 18, 2007 at their respective houses in Karachi to personally meet their loved ones and reassure them that PPP, its leadership and workers will never forget them. 

“Families of martyrs have high regards in PPP as we are ourselves are also members of the family of martyrs,” she told the members of martyrs’ families and inquired about their day to day life, including education of the martyrs children and other problems.

Aseefa Bhutto Zardari today drove to the residences of Shaheed Tahir Narejo in Gizri, Shaheed Ayaz in Manzoor Colony and Shaheed Mohammad Rafi in Mehmoodabad.

Families of martyrs received the daughter of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto affectionately and appreciated her for remembering them. She spent some time with each family and told them that the martyrs sacrificed their lives for democracy, rights of common people and they will live forever in our hearts.

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Assad thanks Russia for helping to avert tragic scenario in Syria

The political steps taken by Russia since the beginning of the Syrian crisis did not allow the situation to evolve in accordance with a more tragic scenario, the Syrian leader says.
President Bashar Assad at the meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Tuesday extended thanks to the Russian authorities and people for helping to preserve the unity and independence of Syria.
"First of all, I would like to express huge gratitude to the whole leadership of the Russian Federation and the Russian people for the assistance they are rendering to Syria. Thanks to them for standing for Syria’s unity and independence," the Kremlin’s website quoted Assad as saying.
"The most important thing is that all this is being done in the framework of the international legislation," Assad said according to the transcript.
The political steps taken by Russia since the beginning of the Syrian crisis did not allow the situation to evolve in accordance with a more tragic scenario, Assad said.
"The political steps taken by Russia since the beginning of the crisis have prevented the situation in Syria from evolving in accordance with a more tragic scenario," he said during the meeting. "But for your actions and your decisions, terrorism that has spread in the region would have taken a larger area and spread to an even larger territory." "These steps were confirmed by the fact that you took part in the fighting in a united front to combat terrorism," the Kremlin website quoted Assad as saying.

Assad arrived in Moscow on Tuesday on a working visit, the first trip abroad since the civil war hit the country in 2011. The Kremlin hosted the Russian-Syrian talks in the narrow and extended format with the participation of the representatives of the Russian leadership.

Russia’s warplanes have been pounding Islamic State (IS) terrorist targets in Syria since September 30 at the request of Syria’s President Bashar Assad. The Russian aerospace group in Syria consists of more than 50 planes and helicopters.

Any military action suggests further political steps

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has spoken in favor of a political solution to the crisis in his country, saying that military operations should be followed by political actions.

"Any military action suggests that it will be followed by political steps," Bashar al-Assad said. The Syrian president noted, "It is necessary to stop any kind of support to terrorist groups and let the Syrian people determine the future of their country." According to him, "the goal of the combat operations [of the government forces in Syria] is the destruction of terrorism, which hinders the political solution [to the crisis in the country]."

Assad Shuns Anti-ISIL Coalition, Turns to Moscow for Cooperation

President Assad's personal meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin signals that the realities of postwar Syria are already being considered.

Syrian President Bashar Assad visited Moscow and held talks with Vladimir Putin, according to a statement made by the press spokesman for the President of Russia, Dmitry Peskov.

The growing rapport between the two countries hardly comes as a surprise, considering how during the last few years Russia has been upholding Bashar Assad’s legal right to rule in Syria, Shoeib Bahman, a political observer at analytical web portal, told Sputnik. But it seems that for the first time in the five years of Syrian civil war, Assad and Putin needed to meet face to face to reiterate their willingness for direct cooperation.
"It’s obvious that Putin declared his support for Assad’s government and assured him that the anti-terrorist operation conducted by the Russian Air Force in Syria will lead to dramatic changes in the internal crisis in the country," Bahman said.
"It is clear that by visiting Moscow Assad shows his willingness to expand cooperation with Russia – the most influential force in the Syrian crisis today and the force that could help rebuild Syria tomorrow. The Syrian leader seeks help from Moscow and not from the members of the anti-ISIL coalition. Russia and Syria already consider the postwar future of the Arab republic," Bahman added.
He also pointed out that it is unlikely that the two leaders considered some sort of Russian ground forces operation in Syria, considering how Russian military leadership always insisted on a strictly airborne campaign.
"Russian Air Force actions are effective. It also provides air support for the Syrian army which has already launched an offensive against the terrorists and possesses the necessary potential to destroy the enemy,” Bahman observed. "This arrangement works, and the operation is very likely to succeed. So I believe that there were no obvious reasons for Assad to ask Putin to deploy Russian ground troops to Syria."
Bahman also remarked that while the Russian warplanes in Syria continue to destroy the designated targets, the enemy is highly mobile and dangerous and it is clear that the bombing campaign will continue for some time.
"However, there is no doubt that the Russian military operation will ultimately succeed, especially considering Russia’s cooperation with the information center in Baghdad,” Bahman said.

Read more:

Video Report - Putin & Assad hold surprise meeting in Moscow: Key points

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar Assad held talks in Moscow on Tuesday. The Syrian leader said Russia’s actions have prevented the terrorists from seizing larger areas in his country.
“Yesterday evening Syrian President Bashar Assad arrived in Moscow for a working visit,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday. President [Putin] was informed in detail by his Syrian counterpart about the current state of affairs in Syria and the long-range plan.” 
The two leaders conducted lengthy negotiations, which then continued in the presence of Russia’s top policymakers.
Vladimir Putin said that the Syrian people have been confronting terrorists “practically single-handedly” for years, withstanding considerable casualties. Lately, they have achieved serious and positive results in this fight, he added.
The terrorists’ attempts to destabilize the situation in the Middle East arouse deep concern in Russia because“unfortunately, people from the former Soviet republics, at least 4,000 of them, are fighting against the Syrian army,” the Russian leader said. “Naturally, we cannot allow them to appear on Russian territory with all the combat experience and ideological brainwashing they have gone through.”
Syria is a country friendly to Russia, and Moscow is ready not only to assist with fighting terrorism, but also in reaching a peaceful political settlement to the Syrian conflict in cooperation with other global and regional powers, Putin said.
“The decisive word, without any doubt, must belong solely to the Syrian people,” Vladimir Putin stressed.
Bashar Assad thanked Russia for the support provided to Syria in fighting for its sovereignty and unity.
“Terrorists would have occupied far greater territories if it were not for Russia’s military assistance,” President Assad said, adding that political steps are due to follow military action. “The only aim for all of us should be what the Syrian people want as a future for their country.”
Once the terrorists are defeated, it will take a united effort to rebuild the country economically and politically and to ensure peaceful coexistence for all, Assad concluded.
“We are seeing Russia take the role of leadership on the international stage,” geopolitical analyst Patrick Henningsen told RT, stressing that western efforts to defeat Islamic State have been “dragging on with no conclusive results.”
Russia has “basically gatecrashed an underground party that has been going on for four years,” Henningsen said. “Countries like the US, Turkey, Jordan and NATO allies like the UK and France have been able to operate in the shadows. Russia has basically barged in, switched on the lights and said the party’s over.
“They are very upset in Washington and are still throwing temper tantrums, saying Russia has made a horrible move,” Henningsen said, adding that the US would like very much to see Russia in another Afghanistan.

Yet the Russian military operation in Syria is “very different from Afghanistan” because Russia has been “invited in by the legal democratically elected government in Damascus.”
Henningsen said that if the West was really serious about dealing with the terrorist threat, they would have worked with the Assad government because that is the ground force and they have the most ground intelligence.
“This is what Russia is doing. It has just gone in and has worked with the key player they needed to work with.”
Henningsen added that with the 22,000 bombs that were dropped on Islamic State by the western anti-ISIS alliance in the last 13 months, Islamic State should have disappeared already.
Middle East expert Willy Van Damme said the US is “in a quagmire and their friends, the whole Western-Turkey-Saudi alliance is in a complete mess and they are arguing amongst themselves, they don’t trust each other and everyone has their own idea.”
He added: “Some want to divide up Syria, others want to conquer it like the French, Turkey wants part of the north of Syria to incorporated in a sort of Ottoman Empire with “Sultan” [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan.”
Daniele Ganser, a peace researcher and expert on NATO, said the Pentagon's strategy of fighting against ISIS and simultaneously supporting militants fighting against Assad isn’t working.
“The Pentagon always says, ‘We did not want to drop any weapons to ISIS,’ and they always say they do not support the radical enemies of Assad – ‘We support the moderate enemies of Assad,’” Genser said. “This has always been a very difficult distinction to, make and we have people in Iraq who came forward many years ago and said, ‘There are weapons being dropped by the British and the US’ and these went into the hands of ISIS.”
The US “always made this very strange mix of communications by saying, ‘Yes, we want to topple Assad,’ and, ‘We also want to fight IS,’” he said. “This was always bewildering to any peace researcher or historian who looked into the situation, and I do not think they had a clear strategy in Syria."