Saturday, February 13, 2016

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Video - Protest Against Munich Security Conference

EU criticises British arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Daniel Boffey

Britain faces severe criticism from the European parliament over its continued arms trade with Saudi Arabia amid growing evidence of the Arab state’s indiscriminate bombing of Yemen.
A vote is scheduled for later this month on a resolution calling for an EU-wide arms embargo on sales to Saudi Arabia but that also specifically criticises the UK.
The UK government has supplied export licences for close to £3bn worth of arms to Saudi Arabia in the past year and has even been accused of being involved in the conduct of the Saudi military campaign in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia began bombing Yemen last March in an attempt to push back rebels loosely backed by Iran who have managed to take control of the capital, Sana’a, and force the country’s Saudi-supported president to flee.
Earlier this month the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, made an unexpected intervention, suggesting countries including the UK had a duty to stop the flow of weapons to Riyadh-led forces.
Britain has denied allegations that it has influence over the Saudi targeting of bombs in Yemen but admits to being involved in training some of the pilots involved in the airstrikes.
The European parliament’s resolution condemning Britain’s involvement, on which a vote is due to be held on 25 February, states that the parliament “strongly criticises the intensive arms trade of EU member states with various countries in the region, as in the case of the UK, Spain, France and Germany; calls for an immediate suspension of arms transfers and military support to Saudi Arabia and to its coalition partners.”
It adds: “Saudi Arabia is the UK’s largest customer for weapons and the UK is the biggest supplier of weapons to Gulf Cooperation Council countries.”
An amendment to the resolution, tabled by Labour MEP Richard Howitt, also calls for the imposition of an EU-wide arms embargo against Saudi Arabia.
MEPs in support of the move believe that passing such motions would be an important step in bringing the bloodshed in Yemen to an end.
Alyn Smith, an SNP MEP supporting the resolution and amendment, said that there was still a chance that the scheduled vote would not go ahead and it required support from both the socialist and democratic groups of MEPs in the parliament, who are meeting this week to discuss the issue.
However he added that he believed that if the vote were to be held, it would “certainly” be passed. “We are determined to drag this issue kicking and screaming into the daylight,” he said.
A petition in support of the resolution has been set up by the campaign group Avaaz. Danny Auron, Avaaz’s campaign director said “British weapons are being used by Saudi Arabia to bomb children in schools and patients in hospitals.
“The government has so far ignored calls to end this lethal trade but today hundreds of thousands of people across the world are calling on the EU to bring in an arms embargo across the continent and stop countries like Britain making a killing off these killings.”
Earlier this month an all-party international development select committee in the Commons called for an immediate suspension of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and an international independent inquiry into the kingdom’s military campaign in Yemen.
A UN report has claimed Saudi Arabia is involved in breaches of humanitarian law in Yemen and the committee said it had heard reliable evidence from humanitarian organisations including the head of Unicef Yemen that the Saudi-led coalition was involved in actions that risked civilian deaths and breached humanitarian law.

The Planned Invasion of Syria: Are We on the Eve of War. Is the US Leading Saudi Arabia Down “the Kuwaiti Invasion Road”?

For the first time in a long time I feel concerned and worried about the prospect of war.  The reaction of Saudi Arabia to the Russian intervention in Syria has always been the wild card in the shifting geopolitical power base in the Middle East.  Turkey and Israel, along with Saudi Arabia are the three countries with the most to lose because of a strong alliance between Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia.
These three traditional American allies have been accustomed to Western support in regards to their own specific regional goals and ambitions.  This support has been so staunch and counterproductive to regional stability that “the growing comfort” between Iran and the US should be both confusing and worrisome to Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
On the one hand the US is making agreements with Iran and lifting sanction while on the other hand it is indirectly supporting Saudi Arabia’s and Turkey’s proxy war against Syria. A war which Iran, along with the support of Russia and Hezbollah, are resisting and countering with massive aerial and ground support.
This contradiction is suggestive of another and more complex strategy which may be unfolding in the Middle East.  A strategy which is beginning to look familiar.
Back in 1990 when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait the state of the Iraqi dictator’s mind was both paranoid and desperate.  The once American supported leader at some point felt he would have the blessings of the US administration in his regional adventures.  The controversy surrounding US Ambassador April Glaspie’s comments to Saddam regarding having no interest in Iraq’s border dispute with Kuwait, and her later vindication by the release of a memo, is somewhat irrelevant as Saddam obviously felt the support was there.  Whether through direct and straightforward communication or through trickery.
Once Iraq invaded Kuwait the Western press mobilized and a massive propaganda campaign against Saddam Hussein commenced.  The once American ally was isolated on the world stage and suffered one of the worst military defeats in the history of warfare.
The interesting parallels between 1990 Iraq and 2016 Saudi Arabia are unlikely to be coincidental.  Both have militaries which were built with American equipment and support.  Both were used by American interests to counter Iranian regional ambitions.  Both supported the sale of their domestically produced crude exports in US dollars.
In support of this conclusion we find the recent statement of Iranian Armed Forces’ Chief of Staff Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, who stated:
“US Defense Secretary [Ashton Carter] is supporting and provoking the House of Saud to march to the war [in Syria]. This is an indication that he is at a loss.  It also proves beyond any doubt that they have failed.”
Are we to assume that the US strategy in the Middle East is at a standstill?  I seriously doubt that and America’s agreements with Iran would support something else being afoot.  America may be misleading Saudi Arabia down the same road as it led Saddam Hussein in the buildup to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Except this time the aerial bombardment will come from Russian forces and the mop up crew will consist of Iranian and Hezbollah forces.
Further support for this conclusion comes from the recent comments of John Kerry where he said “what do you want me to do, go to war with the Russians?
Why is there this disconnect and contradictory approach within the American government?  I seriously doubt that it is caused by opposing factions within the US establishment.  A potential war of this magnitude will not be left to the whims of domestic bantering and browbeating.
Saudi Arabia and Turkey are both pushed into a corner over the shifting power base in the Middle East.  The paranoia and desperation, like Saddam in 1990, could very well cause both countries to commit to the very act of aggression which will lead to their ultimate demise and removal from a position of influence within the region.
Are we on the verge of another war?
Perhaps.  But I still content that it will be a regional war only and that the objective of that war will be the removal of once American allies who have been funded and provided with the equipment which will now have to be destroyed and removed from the region.
In the post The Coming Islamic Revolution in Saudi Arabia I wrote the following:
“There is a growing consensus that there may be a division within the Saud family itself.  This is the one thing that could very well finally topple the monarchy.  The House of Saud could be tearing itself apart with opposing strategies.”
“One strategy is based on maintaining socioeconomic and military control over the country, and working with other nations, such as China, on developing business contracts which are not based on crude, but on other sources of revenue which can be gained from alternative energy sources, such as nuclear.”
“The other strategy involves a conclusion where the Shiite majority which is building up around Saudi Arabia will eventually incite revolution within the country as the conflict in Yemen spreads further across the border, and deeper regional integration between the Shiite players takes place.”
It is plausible that an overthrow of the House of Saud would benefit the American strategy against China.  The divisions within Saudi Arabia make it ripe for such a strategy explained above.  Especially if there is a faction of the House of Saud which would be willing to take control of what remains and fit within a larger Middle Eastern regional alliance.
A negotiation with China regarding crude sales in renminbi as discussed in the post The Petro-Renminbi Emerges, could very well be the macro-geopolitical and macro-socioeconomic strategy which is unfolding here.  Such an outcome would benefit both China and Russia, while also maintaining a check on Iranian regional ambitions.
To think that the US would enter into a major war against Russia over Saudi Arabia is fraught with mindlessness and madness.  The more probable strategy is the overthrow of the House of Saud, or at least a complete restructuring of the countries place within the Middle East.
Will Saudi Arabia take the bait and invade Syria?  I think we may know that answer sooner rather than later.  – JC

China - UK report won’t increase leverage of HK opposition

By Liu Zhun 

The case of Lee Bo, a Hong Kong book publisher who was asked to cooperate with an investigation in the Chinese mainland, rumbles on. Deeming Lee "was involuntarily removed to the mainland without any due process," UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, in his twice-yearly regular report on Hong Kong affairs, accused the Chinese central government of making "a serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong and undermines the principle of 'One Country, Two Systems...'"

Hammond's statement was rebuked by both Hong Kong and mainland authorities. A Hong Kong government spokesperson said the involuntary removal is speculative, and the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson criticized the UK for interfering and making groundless accusations.

This is the first time that the UK government has made a fuss against China using the Joint Declaration. Even though the UK government has been promoting a golden era for Sino-British relations, it seems that Westminster is willing to ramp up its confrontation with Beijing over Hong Kong-related issues.

The UK seems to have more interest in Hong Kong's democracy and development after the city's return to China than before. Appointing governors to Hong Kong for more than a century, it was not until the last two years that it started to care about how the Hong Kong people should elect a government.

As an established Western power, the UK has been sticking to a perennial mission, both for realistic benefits and as a political tradition, that it must spread Western values and ideologies.

The trajectory will keep dividing Hong Kong from China, and the fundamental policy of "One Country, Two Systems" and "Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong" will face serious problems in implementation.

London must admit the fact that, after the return, Hong Kong stopped being a bridgehead for the West in completing their Western-values brainwashing program. Hong Kong is a gateway for cooperation and prosperity, not a testing ground for an ideological war.

It is also hoped that a few radical Hongkongers do not absurdly take the UK report seriously. Some people in Hong Kong still harbor illusions about Western intervention and hope it can increase the leverage of the opposition in Hong Kong to make extreme political confrontations.

Radicals in Hong Kong accuse the mainland of overstepping the boundaries, but they become reticent when the US and UK step in to Hong Kong-related issues. This indicates that these people build their arguments on values rather than rationality. They are tearing apart the diverse society that Hong Kong has grown after its return to China.  

Video - Russian PM says cooperation with US on Syria is vital

Solid & Active: How Russian Policy Has Changed Since Putin’s Munich Speech

Since President Putin’s famous speech at the Munich Security Conference in 2007, Russia has become far more assertive with regards to its foreign policy, forcing Washington to take heed of Russia’s opinion much more often, several political analysts told RIA Novosti.

The 52d Munich Security Conference is currently underway in the capital of the German state of Bavaria. Let’s have a look at the major developments that have been made in Russian foreign policy since President Putin's famous speech nine years ago.

Putin’s 2007 address not only outlined the basic concepts that underpin Russia’s foreign policy, but its security policy as well, Russian political analysts told RIA Novosti.

The major difference between its current policy and its previous course of action is that it has become a lot more assertive in the international arena, according to Dr. Dmitri Trenin, Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.
“For seven years, let’s say, from 2007 to 2014, Russia clearly moved from words to deeds,” he told RIA Novost,
“We are currently at an absolutely new stage, which is a very interesting but at same time a very dangerous phase,” he added.

Away From Uni polar World

Back in 2007, the Russian President stated that the United States sought to construct a unipolar world, in which the US intended to become a superpower standing above everyone else, i.e. to become a single center of authority and power.

“The unipolar world that had been proposed after the Cold War did not take place,” the Russian leader said in 2007. “However, one might embellish this term, in the end it refers to one type of situation, namely one center of authority, one center of force, one center of decision-making. It is a world in which there is one master, one sovereign. And in the end this is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within. Moreover, this certainly has nothing in common with democracy. Because, as you know, democracy is the power of the majority in light of the interests and opinions of the minority.”

For the past years, the analysts say, it has become only too clear that the unipolar world, if it ever existed, has ceased to exist.

“It is a problem of the past. I think that the unipolar world did exist but it became obsolete due to some objective reasons,” says another expert, Sergei Oznobishchev, Director of the Institute for Strategic Assessments.
The expert added that the first evidence of the above emerged far before Putin’s Munich speech, in 2003, when the US operation in Iraq demonstrated the country's inability to solve global problems on its own.
“The phenomenon of a unipolar world had surely existed but it has vanished due to certain existing restrictions. These restrictions are forcing Washington into cooperation with Moscow, as well as Moscow – into cooperation with Washington.  No matter how hard we try, we are unable to deal with the global challenges and existing threats on our own,” he added.

Taking Heed of Russia’s Opinion

Regardless of his criticism of the US back in 2007, President Putin had no intention of breaking up with Washington.

“In fact, he opened a serious conversation with the US back then, and suggested a serious reconstruction of the relations between Russia and the West,” noted Dr. Trenin.

“However, no reconstruction followed, even though there was a well-known attempt to “reset” Russia-US relations and there was a partnership in the sphere of modernization. However, each of the two failed to achieve any serious strategic purposes,” he added.

As a result, the expert added, Russia has recently moved from criticizing the unipolar world to acting in the context of a multi-polar one.

“It's a fight, in a full sense, against the global dominance of the US. It will go on for a while. We have entered an epoch of confrontation between Moscow and Washington, an epoch of estrangement.”

However, Russia is not confronting Washington for ideological reasons, thinks Vladimir Batyuk, the head of the Military-Political Research Center at the Institute of USA and Canada Studies.

“The world where the US unilaterally dominate does not comply with Russia’s national interests, that is why Russia is confronting such a mode. Apparently, it is serious and longstanding,” he said.

The expert is convinced that such a stance has already produced certain results: Washington has been forced to take heed of Russia’s opinion much more often.

Russia-NATO relations have fallen to new Cold War level – Russian PM

The relationships between NATO and Russia have slid down toward a new Cold War, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said at a panel discussion during the Munich Security Conference, describing NATO's policy as "unfriendly and not transparent."
"Almost every day we are referred to as the most terrible threat to NATO as a whole or to Europe, America and other countries specifically," Medvedev said. "Although actual threats that exist in our small world - and I hope, you understand that - are absolutely different."
Earlier in the day, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reiterated plans for massive military build-up on its eastern flank – the largest since the Cold War – to counter "Russia's actions." He added that relations with Russia would be based upon "defense and dialogue."
Terrorists are gaining influence and benefiting from Russian-Western discord, Medvedev told the gathering. "Terrorism is a challenge to the whole of civilization: we must not divide terrorists into friends, enemies, extremists or 'moderates,’" he said.
"I think Daesh [Arabic acronym for IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] has to be grateful to my colleagues, some Western leaders who disabled such cooperation [between intelligence services]," Medvedev said. The PM cited cases such as the bombing of the Russian airliner over Sinai, the terror attacks in Paris, London, Israel, Pakistan, Iraq and many other countries, as well as public beheadings and brutal acts of violence, as clear evidence that international terrorism respects no borders.
Addressing Russia’s anti-IS deployment, Medvedev said the air operation is not targeting civilians. "No one has yet presented any evidence of our air strikes hitting the civilian population."
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who took the floor before Medvedev's address, urged Moscow to cease its anti-IS operation, claiming it was crucial to achieve peace in Syria. "France respects Russia and its interests ... But we know that to find the path to peace again, the Russian bombing of civilians has to stop."
The Russian PM called on his Western counterparts "not to threaten a ground operation" in Syria, stressing that Moscow is doing its utmost to pave the way for a lasting peace in the war-torn country.
"It is important to save a united Syrian state, preventing it from falling apart into religion-based [fragments]. The world can't afford another Libya, Yemen or Afghanistan. The outcomes of such a scenario would be disastrous for the entire Middle East," Medvedev said.
Only viable cooperation between Russia and the US can resolve the situation in Syria, Medvedev said. "I want to emphasize that regular cooperation between Russia and the United States will be crucial. And I mean regular – every day."
Threat of Schengen zone collapse
The ongoing Syrian conflict has resulted in the refugee crisis that is threatening border-free travel within the European Union and is near a "humanitarian disaster" in scale in some European countries, the Russian PM warned. The unprecedented crisis unfolded because of the West's "unsuccessful attempts to implant 'Western-style’ models of democracy into an unprepared social environment," Medvedev said, adding that it had had a blowback effect on Europe itself. "Regrettably, we are witnessing the weakening of certain mechanisms that Russia needs as well,” Medvedev said.
“I mean a threat that the Schengen zone might collapse. On our side, we are ready to help ease the migration challenges, including taking part in the normalization of the situation in the conflict zones where most refugees come from."
The Russian PM said that the influx of refugees and migrants is causing societal problems, leading to mutual intolerance as well as xenophobia, which sometimes turns into violence, while "thousands of extremists" are pouring into European countries as refugees. The migration challenge evolving from terror threats and regional conflicts has also had an impact on Russia, not just Europe, Medvedev said.
"Taking refugees from Ukraine was a striking challenge for us, as compared to a relatively small migration flow from Syria. We have taken in more than 1 million [Ukrainian] refugees in one and a half years."

Turkish military ‘shell’ Assad forces; Kurds confirm to RT being hit by massive attack

The Turkish army has shelled Syrian government forces and Kurdish targets near the city of Azaz in northwestern Syria, including an air base recently retaken from Islamist rebels.
Anatolia news agency reports that the Turkish military hit Syrian government forces on Saturday, adding that the shelling had been in response to fire inflicted on a Turkish military guard post in Turkey’s southern Hatay region.

The Turkish shelling of Kurdish positions has continued for more than three hours almost uninterruptedly, a Kurdish source told RT, adding that the Turkish forces are using mortars and missiles and firing from the Turkish border not far from the city of Azaz in the Aleppo Governorate.

The shelling targeted the Menagh military air base and the nearby village of Maranaz, where “many civilians were wounded,” local journalist Barzan Iso told RT. He added that Kurdish forces and their allies among “the Syrian democratic forces” had taken control of the air base on Thursday.

According to Iso, the Menagh base had previously been controlled by the Ahrar ash-Sham Islamist rebel group, which seized it in August of 2013. The journalist also added that Ahrar ash-Sham militants at the base had been supported by Al-Nusra terrorists and some extremist groups coming from Turkey.

Ahrar ash-Sham is a militant group that has trained teenagers to commit acts of terror in Damascus, Homs, and Latakia provinces, according to data provided to the Russian Defense Ministry by Syrian opposition forces.

The group, which has intensified its attacks on the Syrian government forces since January, was getting “serious reinforcements from Turkey,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said during a briefing in Moscow on January 21.

A source in the Turkish government confirmed to Reuters that the Turkish military had shelled Kurdish militia targets near Azaz on Saturday.
The Turkish Armed Forces fired shells at PYD positions in the Azaz area,” the source said, referring to the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Ankara views as a terrorist group.
A Turkish security official told Reuters that the shelling of the Kurds had been a response to a shelling of Turkish border military outposts by the PYD and forces loyal to Damascus, as required under Turkish military rules of engagement.
Turkey’s PM Davutoglu also confirmed that the country’s forces had struck Syrian Kurdish fighters and demanded that the Kurds retreat from all of the areas that they had recently seized.
“The YPG will immediately withdraw from Azaz and the surrounding area and will not go close to it again,” he told reporters, adding that Turkey “will retaliate against every step [by the YPG],” Reuters reports.
A Kurdish official confirmed to Reuters that the shelling had targeted the Menagh air base located south of Azaz.
According to the official, the base had been captured by the Jaysh al-Thuwwar rebel group, which is an ally of PYD and a member of the Syria Democratic Forces alliance.
Syrian Kurds are actively engaged in the fight against the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group and have been recently described as “some of the most successful” forces fighting IS jihadists in Syria by US State Department spokesman John Kirby, AFP reports.
Earlier, the US also called the PYD an “important partner” in the fight against Islamic State, adding that US support of the Kurdish fighters “will continue.”

‘We will strike PYD’ – Turkish PM
Turkey’s shelling of the Syrian Kurds comes just days after a plan to end hostilities in Syria was presented in Munich after a meeting of the so-called International Syria Support Group (ISSG), in which Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and UN Special Envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura participated.
Earlier on Saturday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu threatened Syrian Kurds with military action, saying that Turkey will resort to force against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) if it considers the step “necessary.”
As I have said, the link between the YPG and the [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK is obvious. If the YPG threatens our security, then we will do what is necessary,” Davutoglu said on February 10, as quoted by the Hurriyet Daily.
“The leadership cadre and ideology of the PKK and PYD is the same,” he argued in a televised speech in the eastern city of Erzincan on Saturday, AFP reports.
Davutoglu also said that if there is a threat to Turkey, “we will strike PYD like we did Qandil,” referring to a bombing campaign waged by Turkey against the PKK in its Qandil mountain stronghold in northern Iraq, Daily Sabah reports.
Turkey regards the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing, the YPG, as affiliates of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a decade-long insurgency against Turkish authorities, demanding autonomy for Turkish Kurds.
The latest developments come as Turkey continues a relentless crackdown on Kurds in its southeastern region. Ankara launched a military operation against Kurdish insurgents from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in July of 2015, breaking a ceasefire signed in 2013.
Turkey’s General Staff claim that Turkish forces killed more than 700 PKK rebels during the offensive in the southeastern districts of Cizre and Sur. Meanwhile, Amnesty International has reported that at least 150 civilians, including women in children, were killed in the Turkish military operation, adding that over 200,000 lives have been put at risk.
According to the Turkish Human Rights Foundation, at least 198 civilians, including 39 children, have been murdered in the area since August of 2015.

Video - FULL INTERVIEW FEB12_16 President OBAMA On ELLEN Show

What a divided America actually hears when Obama speaks

By Greg Jaffe

February 13 at 2:55 PM As President Obama spoke of the country’s deepening sense of alienation and anger last month, a teacher in Michigan listened, her eyes fixed on the stone­faced Republicans in the House chamber who in her view represented the problem. “Let’s get over the party lines and work together!” she tweeted during the president’s State of the Union address. In Maryland, a retired lawyer was listening to the exact same words. He, too, was worried about the anger and division gripping the country, but as Obama spoke, his resentment toward the president only swelled. “Hearing him complain about political rancor is frankly nauseating,” he wrote. The two tweets flashed across the Internet within seconds of each other, each in their own way capturing the country’s mood and the challenge facing the president in his final months in office — not simply a partisan divide, but a deep mistrust that has become so entrenched that it seems to affect the very way Americans hear the president’s words and see each other. Obama rose to national prominence on the promise that he could deliver a less fractious and more rational politics to the nation’s capital. “Even as we speak, there are those preparing to divide us,” he had warned in his 2004 speech to the Democratic National Convention. “Well, I say to them tonight there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America.

There’s the United States of America.” And yet 12 years later, Obama is confronting a far more vexing political problem than the one he first described as a product of cynical Washington “spin masters” and “negative­ad peddlers” who would “slice and dice our country” along party lines. According to experts who study polarization, Americans don’t necessarily disagree more on policy. What has changed is the level of mistrust, and even vitriol, Americans have for politicians and even their fellow citizens on the other side of the political divide. It is a suspicion that makes people question their neighbors’ motives, their sincerity Campaign 2016 Email Updates Get the best analysis of the presidential race. Sign up and even their intelligence. “What’s changed is people’s perception of other ordinary citizens,” said Doug Ahler, who studied polarization at the University of California at Berkeley. “We’ve become so entrenched in our partisan identities. . . . It’s like a really intense sports rivalry. It’s not about policy but an emotional distrust of the other side.”

 A senior White House official put it event more bluntly: “We’re literally growing apart from each other.” A major focus for Obama during his final year in office is to blunt those divisions by trying to remind Americans of the values that they share. “It will be core to what you hear from us this year,” said David Simas, the White House director of political strategy. “You can expect to hear it in every setting, in every place, around any topic and speech, because it is that important to the president.”

Obama’s opening shot on the subject was the State of the Union address — a speech he labored over, writing and rewriting its final section on the country’s corrosive and divided politics, according to aides. “I’m addressing the American people now . . . ” Obama said as he began his pitch that night.  In Boyne City, Mich., Erin Mast in, 36, the second ­grade teacher, was listening. “Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get all the attention,” Obama warned. “Democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter.” This was how Mast in felt, and she was sure Obama felt it too. When George W. Bush was president, she had picked apart his speeches, like a teacher scouring a paper for plagiarism or a parent’s hand, to figure out which parts he truly believed and which parts had been written for him. “He would have never used that word on his own,” she often recalled thinking as the former president spoke. She never felt that way about Obama. “Just the way he speaks is genuine,” she said. “I know he has speechwriters, but those are his words and his feelings.” For her,

 Obama’s final State of the Union and his call for a “better politics” was an attempt to sort through the country’s unfinished business, to face up to his failures in office and prepare Americans for the dangers that lay ahead. “It was almost like a will,” she said. “This is what you need to do when I’m gone. This is what’s going to happen, and you need to stay strong.” Obama pressed forward in his address, speaking of a political system that often seemed “rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some special interest.” “Too many Americans feel that way right now,” he said. “I think everybody feels that way,” Mas in agreed. She could feel the influence of money in politics in her own classroom, she said. In recent months, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a conservative Michigan­ based think tank funded in part by billionaires Charles and David Koch, had begun posting teachers’ salaries online. Their goal was to highlight the need for teacher pay based on performance rather than seniority or degrees. Mast in saw a darker purpose. “I believe their agenda is to destroy public education,” she said. She shared the president’s sense of frustration most acutely on the issue of gun control. After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in New town, Conn., in 2012, her school instituted active­ shooter drills.

“You have to shove all 24 kids into a little tiny area, and we all have to sit there and be quiet until the police come around,” she said. For the first few years, it was scary for her students. “Is this for real or just practice?” she said they would ask. Then it became a routine part of the school year. “To have it be a normal thing is just really sad,” she said. She thought of the times that Obama had teared up when talking about the Sandy Hook shooting and said that she knew exactly how he felt, because she had felt the same emotions. “Why can’t we do something?” she imagined him asking in the Oval Office. On her television screen, Obama was confessing his regrets over the growing rancor and suspicion in the country that had grown on his watch. “I have no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide,” he said. It was the only line in his speech that didn’t ring true to her. “Ifelt like he was set up to fail from the beginning with that,” Mastin said. “The Republicans weren’t going to let him have that victory at all.”  John Pettit, an 81 ­year old retired lawyer, listened to the same speech in his living room in Easton, Md., his anger building as the president spoke of the dangers that lay ahead if the country did not fix its politics and change its course. “Those with money and power will gain control over the decisions that could send a young soldier to war, or allow another economic disaster, or roll back the equal rights and voting rights that generations of Americans have fought, even died, to secure,” Obama said. To Pettit, the single sentence encapsulated all that Obama had done to divide the country over the past seven years. “Hard at work preaching to his parallel universe,” he tweeted. Pettit had a ready list of Obama’s failings: He had pushed through the Affordable Care Act without a single Republican vote. He had expanded government assistance to the point that 49 percent of the population — including Social Security recipients — depended on some form of federal help. Instead of working with mainstream Republicans,

Obama had demonized, ostracized and ignored them. “Democracy can work, and you can make people feel heard if you really work at it,” he said. “But he never really worked at it. He never worked with Congress.” Deep into Obama’s second term, Pettit could feel the country’s mood shifting and turning darker. His dentist insisted to him that Obama was a closeted Muslim — a conviction that Pettit said was absurd. “It really offends me to hear people talking about a politician’s religion as a problem,” he said, even as he suggested that his dentist’s critique was probably grounded in Obama’s foreign­ policy failings. “I think it’s shorthand for saying Obama is more sympathetic to radical Muslim extremists than he should be,” Pettit said. Pettit had always considered himself a center­ right Republican and not especially ideological. Before retiring, he had run the Washington office of a big, national law firm, where he worked closely with Democrats and Republicans. He was not passionate when it came to gun rights and broke with the Republican Party on most social issues, such as gay marriage and abortion. He sometimes struggled to explain why the president’s two terms in office so infuriated him.

 “I’m sure Obama is more complicated than I think,” he said before quickly pivoting back to the president’s many flaws. He was “arrogant,” “naive” and “inexperienced.” On the night of his State of the Union speech, Obama was warning of the dangers of giving into the creeping cynicism and mistrust that he could sense was spreading through the country. “There will be voices urging us to fall back into our respective tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, pray like us or vote like we do,” the president said. Pettit listened and summed up his feelings in a tweet. “Obama, the most partisan and divisive POTUS in history, still can’t resist preaching and vilifying those who disagree,” he wrote. *** The challenge for Obama — and virtually every politician today — is breaking through in a climate defined more by alienation, frustration and anger than differences on policy. Policies can be modified or changed. But how does a president persuade an angry and mistrustful nation to actually listen to each other? “It’s an amazing puzzle,” said Simas, the White House political director. “Once we lose the ability to talk to each other, we lose the ability to reach consensus, which is at the core of politics in Washington and every town hall around the nation.” Obama has promised to make a greater effort in the coming year to engage with Americans who disagree with him, as he did at a recent CNN town hall meeting on guns. As attention shifts to the candidates vying to replace him, senior White House officials said that Obama’s role as a sitting president will allow him to rise above the fray.

 That was Obama’s goal in the State of the Union. In Michigan, Mastin listened as Obama spoke of an immigrant child working late on her science project and a teacher who bought extra supplies to help her. “That’s my voice,” she recalled thinking. In Maryland, Pettit listened as Obama described a worker who clocked extra shifts to keep his struggling company open and the boss who paid him higher wages “instead of laying him off.” “Saintly worker, evil employer,” Pettit recalled thinking. “I don’t know why he does that. Suggesting that the boss Campaign 2016 ✕ Where the race stands  appreciated him by not laying him off diminishes the point.” Obama finished his speech. In the House chamber, Democrats rose to their feet to applaud while Republicans sat silently. “Well said, Mr. President!” Mastin tweeted . “Profiles in pathetic delusion,” Pettit countered.

Henry Kissinger: Sage or Pariah?

By Niall Ferguson
An intense confrontation between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders during Thursday’s debate centered on Henry Kissinger, a man who hasn’t held public office for 39 years. Kissinger, national security adviser and secretary of state for Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, won the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating the end of the Vietnam War and helped open relations between the United States and China. His advice has been sought by leaders of both political parties. But he has also been condemned for helping extend the war, spreading hostilities to Cambodia, supporting ruthless governments in Pakistan, Indonesia and Chile. Does he deserve to be highly regarded or is he still a potent symbol of the abuse of American power?
For Bernie Sanders to call Henry Kissinger “one of the most destructive secretaries of state in the modern history of this country,” is a reminder that, for all his appeal to younger Democrats, Sanders is a throwback to a bygone era.

No secretary of state leaves office as a saint and nearly all strategic choices in the cold war were likely to be between evils. Sanders’s gratuitous broadside against the 92-year-old statesman was calculated to hurt his rival Hillary Clinton, who has made no secret of her respect for Kissinger (not least in her recent review of his book "World Order").
But its historical content suggests that Sanders has not read anything published on the subject since the late Christopher Hitchens’s polemic, "The Trial of Henry Kissinger," which appeared 15 years ago — or perhaps since William Shawcross’s "Sideshow" (1979), the first book to blame Kissinger for the descent of Cambodia into the catastrophe of Pol Pot’s murderous tyranny.
Such works had a striking tendency to play down the roles of North Vietnam, the Soviet Union and China in the maelstrom of violence that engulfed Southeast Asia in the 1970s. Anyone who wants to pass judgment on the foreign secretaries of the cold war needs to bear in mind that the Communist states were ruthless aggressors on multiple occasions. Indeed, at the time Kissinger was appointed national security adviser at the end of 1968, the Soviets had reason to believe the Third World was going their way.
Hillary Clinton’s rejoinder to Sanders was that Kissinger’s “opening up China” and his “ongoing relationships with the leaders of China” had been and are “incredibly useful.” Certainly, any modern history of the Cold War today devotes significant space to the Nixon administration’s engagement with Mao’s regime, beginning with Kissinger’s secret visit to Beijing in 1971. Though fiercely criticized — by conservatives — at the time, it was one of the pivotal moments not just of the Cold War but of modern world history, exploiting the Sino-Soviet split, and laying the foundation for what I have called “Chimerica,” the key economic partnership of modern times.
Clinton could have countered with a longer list of Kissinger’s major achievements: the first strategic arms limitation treaty with the Soviet Union; the exclusion of the Soviets from the Middle East in 1973; the first steps toward peace between Israel and Egypt; not to mention the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, ignominious though it ultimately was. Above all, she might have reminded Sanders of the ultimate success of Kissinger’s policy of détente with Moscow, repudiated by Ronald Reagan only to be adopted by him at Reykjavík in 1986. Was Sanders against détente?
In another sally, Sanders sought to associate Kissinger with the “domino theory” during the Vietnam era. “Not everybody remembers that,” he declared. “The domino theory, you know, if Vietnam goes, China, da, da, da, da, da, da, da [sic].” However, the reason not everybody remembers this is because it is fiction. As I have shown, Kissinger had doubts about the Kennedy administration’s policy in Vietnam as early as 1963. He grasped the disastrous nature of the U.S. military effort in the course of a visit there in 1965. He spent much of 1967 trying vainly to initiate peace talks with Hanoi, despite his lack of sympathy with the Johnson administration, some members of which had indeed invoked the domino theory to justify their escalation of U.S. involvement.
No secretary of state leaves office with the record of a saint. As Kissinger himself observed before entering government, nearly all strategic choices in the Cold War were likely to be between evils. The moral challenge was to try to choose the lesser evil. That remains true in our time, which is presumably why Bernie Sanders would not discontinue the use of drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere. Nor would he terminate military aid to the Egyptian dictatorship of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Writing in 1968, Kissinger warned Americans against voting for leaders with “a high capacity to get … elected but no very great conception” of what to do in office. There is more than one of those around this year, unfortunately. They are not my kind of guys.

Senator Sanders, Why Do You Hate President Obama?

Most of last night's debate was pretty familiar territory. But toward the end, Hillary Clinton unleashed a brand new attack:
Today Senator Sanders said that President Obama failed the presidential leadership test....In the past he has called him weak. He has called 
him a disappointment. He wrote a forward for a book that basically argued voters should have buyers' remorse when it comes to President Obama's leadership and legacy.
....The kind of criticism that we've heard from Senator Sanders about our president I expect from Republicans....What I am concerned about is not disagreement on issues, saying that this is what I would rather do, I don't agree with the president on that. Calling the president weak, calling him a disappointment, calling several times that he should have a primary opponent when he ran for re-election in 2012, you know, I think that goes further than saying we have our disagreements.
....I understand we can disagree on the path forward. But those kinds of personal assessments and charges are ones that I find particularly troubling.
The problem Sanders has here is that this is a pretty righteous attack. Back in 2011he really did say, "I think there are millions of Americans who are deeply disappointed in the president...who cannot believe how weak he has been, for whatever reason, in negotiating with Republicans and there’s deep disappointment." And he really did push the idea of a primary challenger to Obama. And he really didwrite a blurb for Buyer's Remorse: How Obama let Progressives Down. So there's not much he can do about this attack except sound offended and insist that everyone has a right to criticize the president.
But will it work? It was actually the only hit last night that struck me as genuinely effective. Obama still has a lot of fans who are probably surprised to hear that Sanders has been so tough on their guy. If Hillary Clinton keeps up this line, it might be pretty damaging.

President Obama's Weekly Address: The State of American Politics

Pashto Music Video - Sardar Ali Takkar څه خو دي بشیر احمد ریدي مټه

#Valentinesweekend - Yehi Pyar Hai

#Valentinesweekend - Alireza Ghaderi - Gul Pari Jan

#Valentinesweekend - kuriyan lahore diyan - Abrar ul Haq

#Valentinesweekend - Billo de Ghar- Abrar ul Haq

#Valentinesweekend - Afshan Zebi - Lokan Do Do Yaar Banaye

Banned in Pakistan: A Muslim Porn Star’s Sexual Crusade

By  Aurora Snow
Pakistani-American adult film star Nadia Ali is famous for wearing a hijab in her porn films. She says she’s challenging how the veil suppresses women’s sexuality.
A woman enters. Donning a hijab, she prepares and serves dinner for her turbaned husband. She appears subservient, but when the man isn’t looking, swipes his car keys, slips on a pair of high heels, sneaks out the door of their posh mansion, and speeds off. When she returns, the enraged man grabs her by the neck and drags her into the house. She pleads with him not to use “the stones” to torture her, so he opts for beating her with a switch. The woman screams, “I’m sorry! I did something for you,” but he doesn’t relent. He begins to get aroused by the pain he’s inflicting, and before you know it, the veil is lifted and we’re in the midst of a full-fledged porn scene.
Welcome to Women of the Middle East, a controversial adult film that comes with the tagline, “They may look suppressed, but given an opportunity to express themselves freely, their wild, untamable natural sexuality is released. This may just be what was in bin Laden’s porn collection, experience it for yourself.”
The veiled woman is played by Nadia Ali, a 24-year-old porn star and first-generation American from Pakistan. She’s been in the adult industry for just a year, but doesn’t mind pushing religious boundaries in the name of XXX entertainment. Oh, and she’s also a practicing Muslim.Ali is often filmed wearing her hijab—and little else—while engaged in various hardcore sexual activities. Hijabs, or veils worn by many Muslim women to cover their bodies in the presence of males outside of their immediate family, are deeply rooted in Islamic culture and religion. Tied to the Quranic concept of female modesty, they’re also viewed by detractors as a way to subjugate and silence women. For Ali, donning a hijab in porn is empowerment. Determined to break down the barriers of this age-old taboo, she doesn’t think of her work as anti-hijab porn, but in a culture where it is conceivable for a cleric to ban women from touching bananas and cucumbers due to their phallic resemblance, she hopes to inspire change.
“I’ve been told, ‘you’re not a Muslim, you’re a disgrace to Pakistan, Pakistan won’t accept you,’ but I do come from a Middle Eastern background and I am Muslim, not the way my parents are, but by practice,” Ali tells the Daily Beast. “My sister covers her head, she’s modest, married, and has kids. My mom covers her head and prays five times a day, I pray two times a day but I’m still a practicing Muslim.” According to Ali, one can be a practicing Muslim and a porn star. Aware of the potential conflict, she felt any consequences she might face over her choices would be worth it in the long-term. And since homosexuality is technically illegal in Pakistan, which is trying its damnedest to ban online porn altogether, she intends to film plenty of girl-on-girl action this year, too. How does your family feel about your career in porn?
All my family members know I do porn since it’s gone viral. I’ve hit a lot of numbers and it’s become a huge thing in Pakistan.
Do you still have family in Pakistan? And does this affect them?
I’m definitely not welcome back into the society of Pakistan, but when it comes to my cousins and blood cousins, they are still cool with me. They aren’t okay with what I’m doing but they’re still cool with me. They have no complaints but might wish I’d never done it. Some of my family from Pakistan came to America on scholarships for their expertise and genius minds and I’m over here being an American choosing a different route, and that disappoints them.
Why do you wear the hijab in your scenes?
Growing up I’d hear rumors like, “That girl’s a slut, don’t let the scarf fool you.” I kept those scenarios in mind. If a Hijabi were to be horny and wanting to fuck how would she fuck? I bring that to life on camera and people get mad about it because they want to keep it modest.
Do you wear the hijab to increase publicity?
I have brown eyes and brunette hair. If I didn’t wear my cultural stuff and picked a name like “Sally” then I might get famous, but it wouldn’t be interesting. But I do come from a Middle Eastern background, I have the gowns, I celebrate the culture, and speak the language. Coming from an Islamic background and doing this, that’s a taboo. The people are forbidden to see those things.
Is there another aspect to it, a bigger message you want to get across?
I am doing porn as a Pakistani woman for the liberal movement, bringing women in a scarf or a head wrap to the camera. Now it’s no longer behind closed doors. I don’t bring religion into porn. I’ve asked directors to take the word "Muslim" out of porn titles before. For me it’s about the Pakistani culture, not the religion. This year I plan to do a lot of girl-on-girl and solo scenes to show the world that Middle Eastern girls of Pakistani descent really do get horny. Since they are so forbidden to fuck, I want to show how they fuck girls and masturbate. I’m going to bring that to life.
Has your Pakistani heritage or culture influenced your sexuality?
It has influenced my sexuality. Growing up, my dad disciplined me to be the smartest, brightest kid, but I was told guys can get away with things and girls can’t. Then it was seeing my sister’s first marriage—how she had to play the submissive even after he broke her heart so many times, and she still had to be a good wife and good daughter.
So your sister’s lifestyle wasn’t for you?
Me, I’ve never been married and have dated out of my race. I wanted to break barriers. I can be submissive depending on the situation but I am very dominant and powerful. I don’t like to let guys get away with shit. I’m not your typical Middle Eastern girl. Last year, Lebanese-American porn star Mia Khalifa received death threats for wearing a hijab in some of her movies. Are you worried about that? I have received death threats too and I either ignore it or I give a positive kind of response to it. We need to calm it down and be nice to these people. We shouldn’t trigger them, but also don’t be afraid to be bold in your opinions, but also be kind. Don’t react to negative things and life will be more peaceful.
I’d heard somewhere that you were banned from Pakistan for doing porn, is that true?
If I were to set foot in Pakistan and people were to recognize me there’d be consequences and I’d rather not take my chances. Being banned won’t stop me from talking.
Now that you are rapidly gaining media attention, what are your goals?
It’s more than porn, it’s more than sexuality. Doing porn was a breakthrough in how women should be able to masturbate; women should be able to do these things. I want to be a voice for women in the world. I am all about the women’s movement and want to help other women take a stand. I also support my fellow men that are part of the positive movement, but I’m against sexual double standards. Being in America, I can be a voice for Islamic women—someone has to be. Even if I have to hit the headline news over and over again in a negative way, then let it be. It needs to be heard, and I am glad I have done these things. Women, you need to be strong and build your own empire, no matter how long it takes. Pass that strength onto your next generation; stick up for your sons and daughters. You don’t need a man to start a revolution.