Thursday, February 9, 2017

Trump travel ban hits major setback after judges uphold temporary restraining order

Ben Jacobs

Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban suffered a major setback on Thursday after a panel of three judges upheld an injunction against the president’s order banning arrivals from seven Muslim-majority countries.
In its unanimous ruling, the three judges on the ninth circuit court of appeals upheld the temporary restraining order, which was issued by Judge James Robart, a federal district court judge in Washington state, and has blocked the enforcement of many key parts of the executive order.
The court found that “the government has not shown a stay is necessary to avoid irreparable injury.” In particular, its ruling noted “the government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States. Rather than present evidence to explain the need for the executive order, the government has taken the position that we must not review its decision at all.”
Almost immediately, Trump tweeted his response: “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”
Speaking to reporters in the West Wing shortly after that the ruling, he characterized it as “a political decision” and said that “the safety of the nation is at stake”. Trump added that he “looks forward to seeing them in court”.
Thursday’s ruling does not end all litigation over the executive order, which sparked international outcry when it was first issued. Instead, it simply means that its provisions – which include a 90-day travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries, a 120-day freeze on admission of any refugees into the United States, as well as indefinite halt to admitting any refugees from Syria – cannot be enforced again as the legal battle moves forward. There are roughly 20 lawsuits against the travel ban currently making their way through courts in various states.
On Robart’s injunction, the federal government can now ask the supreme court to review the ninth circuit’s ruling. But the unanimous ruling suggests that the Trump administration will face an uphill battle.
The supreme court could also sidestep controversy and defer an appeal, leaving the ruling in place as the case works its way through other courts.
The appeals court decision follows a hearing Tuesday night, where lawyers for the state of Washington, which was challenging the ban, argued with attorneys for the justice department.
August Flentje, the lawyer for the federal government, argued that the ban was “plainly constitutional,” noting that Congress has granted the president the authority to suspend certain classes of immigrants. However, he additionally argued that the decision should not be subject to judicial review, noting that “judicial second-guessing of the president’s national security determination in itself imposes substantial harm on the federal government and the nation at large”.
The court rejected much of this argument in its ruling. The panel wrote “although courts owe considerable deference to the president’s policy determinations with respect to immigration and national security, it is beyond question that the federal judiciary retains the authority to adjudicate constitutional challenges to executive action”.

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IS Pamphlets in Pakistan Border Areas Try to Create Panic

Militant group Islamic State has threatened to target Shi’ites living in certain northern areas of Pakistan.
Hundreds of pamphlets containing threats have allegedly been distributed by IS in the Kurram agency on the Pakistani side of the Durand Line with Afghanistan, threatening attacks in specific tribal areas.
"We have achieved our goals in Afghanistan and are now ready to confront Shia renouncers in Pakistani's tribal areas," the IS pamphlet said in the local language, Pashto.
Although distributed in Sunni majority areas too, the pamphlet threatens to target Shi’ites in the semi-autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), as well as in Dera Ismail Khan and Hangu cities in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The areas mentioned in the pamphlet are home to a considerable Shi’ite population.
VOA could not independently confirm the authenticity of the pamphlet.
A local government official acknowledged, on the condition of anonymity, that pamphlets were distributed, but said the government is investigating whether these came from IS or others. He said the areas mentioned in the pamphlets are under government control.
"We are on the front line of the war against militancy and, therefore, our security is tight," the official added.
Pakistan's military has been carrying out an operation to clear out militants in the region since 2014. The government is demanding local tribes in the region surrender their weapons to decrease militancy. The weapons surrender is part of Operation Zarb-e-Azb.
Faqir Hussain, an elder of a Shi’ite tribe called Tori, expressed concern that the government is demanding Shi’ites in the region surrender their weapons while facing such threats.
"We would not have bought these weapons if we had no threat," Hussain told VOA's Deewa service. "I have told my tribe living on the border that they have to defend themselves."
The Tori tribe recently faced a suicide attack claimed by a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, which reportedly is supporting IS. Islamic State reportedly is attempting to establish a footprint in the Kurram agency and has been recruiting local men into its ranks.
Government action
The Pakistani government says it will take action against those involved in distributing the pamphlets.
"The government is going to take strict measures if IS has distributed pamphlets in Kurram agency and other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa," lawmaker Tahir Iqbal, who is a member of the ruling Muslim League party, told VOA. "The government will not spare anyone involved in printing or spreading hate material or pamphlets."
The terror group has also been active in parts of neighboring Afghanistan for the past two years. Kabul has said many of the IS fighters in Afghanistan belong to the Orokzai tribe in Pakistan.
Analysts say the military operation in the tribal areas of Pakistan has cleared out the top layer of militancy, but the sleeper cells and sympathizers still exist and have the capacity to plan and attack.
"It is almost impossible to fully prevent the spread of the group in the current circumstances," security analyst Said Nazir Mohmand, who is associated with the Islamabad-based Institute of Policy Studies, told VOA. "Such groups can easily be eliminated if there is peace in Afghanistan."
Top foreign ministry officials from Russia, China and Pakistan met in Moscow in December to discuss what they said was a "gradually growing" threat to their frontiers posed by Islamic State extremists in Afghanistan.

Pakistan - Delayed reforms

It was the government that formed the Fata reforms committee and touted its proposed merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and now it is the government which seems to be backing away from it. The last meeting of the federal cabinet had approval of the reforms package on its agenda but it was suddenly dropped without explanation. This led to a protest in the National Assembly from Fata MNAs from all parties, with Shahabuddin Khan of the PML-N tying a black gag around his mouth.
This is a powerful symbol of the way the people of Fata have been treated not just through this process but throughout Pakistan’s history. The only people who were not represented in the reforms committee were the residents of Fata itself and it is they who should be allowed to decide on their future. Even though the reforms package was not devised by the people of Fata, it did at least propose merging the tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, bringing them under the protection of the constitution and gradually repealing the Frontier Crimes Regulation. The original plan called for the process to be carried out over a period of 10 years but opposition parties wanted it implemented before the 2018 elections. Now, with the cabinet slow-walking approval, its future is left in doubt.
Part of the reason the government now seems hesitant to implement its own ideas is that it has met more opposition than expected, with the government’s own allies turning against it. Both the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party and the JUI-F have come out against the proposals, likely because they feel their power in KP might decline if Fata has its own influential political forces. But the representatives of Fata itself are determined that the merger go through. Fata parliamentarians held a convention in Islamabad earlier this week demanding both the merger of Fat and KP and the repeal of the FCR.
Equally importantly, the convention called for compensation to be paid to those who have been affected by military operations in the area and for Fata to be made part of the National Finance Commission Award. Certainly, any merger will come with a new set of problems since Fata is less developed and will need special attention to be brought to par with the rest of the country. But the reason this disparity exists is because Fata has been ignored and treated as separate from the rest of the country since Independence. The government has promised Fata’s people that it would rectify that and failing to follow through would be a grave betrayal.

The future of education in Pakistan

Hannan Rifaat Hussain
Equal access to quality education, has been a long-standing challenge for Pakistan. Out of an estimated population of 191 million, nearly 25 million children between years 5-16, are deprived of schooling. Moreover, increasing urban-rural population divides have given strength to massive income disparities, which have made education a privilege for the wealthy, and a distant dream for the nation’s rural populace. To meet these challenges, it is essential to integrate educational equity, scalable technology and progressive lesson planning, into one far-reaching strategy. UnitedWeREACH promises just that.
UnitedWeREACH, founded in 2008, is a US-based, non-profit organisation which provides scholarships and financial aid to underprivileged children. One of its programs geared towards educational equity in Pakistan, is a need-based scholarship initiative, for undergraduate engineering students at NUST. Annual financial aid worth $2200 per student – to nearly 100 students – guarantees a place for meritorious candidates in the academic system, regardless of their financial backgrounds. Additionally, its vocational training initiative with the institute accommodates over 200 engineers from various mechanical and electrical disciplines, in an effort to enrich their technical skill sets for better market accommodation. In view of an academic system loaded with engineering majors, these programs couldn’t have arrived at a better time.
Moreover, scalable technology – in the form of e-tablets – attempts to revolutionise the teaching experience in Pakistani schools. Each teacher is handed an electronic tablet, and is able to access detailed “lesson plans” for every subject, at a single touch. These lesson scripts are the electronic equivalent of text books, tailored by a team of US experts, to meet the difficulty levels of each student in the domain of mathematics, science, English, and so on. Technology-based learning eliminates the need for teachers, especially under qualified instructors in remote villages, to undergo rigorous training. Instead, readily prepared lesson plans leverage a teacher’s basic ability to read and write, in order to effectively communicate tasks to students; an astonishing formula.
Furthermore, UnitedWeREACH’s partnerships with a series of schools under the Punjab Education Foundation help deconstruct an important misconception in the country. The belief that development of infrastructure is the key to resolving educational inequalities in Pakistan is not necessarily true. Partner schools such as the Amal School in Tulspura, and the Light of Hope School in Forman Christian College, employ progressive teaching methodologies in existing infrastructure, to obtain optimum impact. Teachers also enjoy full access to a digital library, equipped with books and resource material used by leading schools and universities, world-over.
Interestingly, each of these teacher tablets is connected to a central server, which uses the latest analytics systems to maintain full accountability of teacher/student attendance, measure the level of progress on lesson plans, etc. Acquired feedback is used to improve teaching practices, foster student learning outcomes, and discover new, dynamic ways of presenting information to pupils.
Considerable long-term returns constitute a remarkable aspect of scalable technology. For starters, schools enjoy striking relief from manual checks and balance mechanisms, sizeable administration and management personnel, high text book prices, and static academic curriculums. But more importantly, a fully equipped teacher tablet – which caters to the entire strength of a class – costs only $35. Likewise, lab tablets cost $80 each. Since the tuition expenses of each student is included within the fixed cost of the tablets, an “increase” in student enrolment, would result in “decreasing” per-head costs. With nearly 74.5 million people living below the national poverty line, more than one-third of the population can gain access to affordable, quality education. Imagine the possibilities for the people.
As Pakistanis, we must also realise that some of the most successful education systems in the world, have adopted similar measures. Finland and Hong Kong, for instance, reduced the “cost” aspects of education to render it a social welfare commodity, meant for all individuals. The local standards of education in these nations continue to take their cues from the national curriculum, which is composed of theoretical core subjects (such as English, numeracy, science, arts), as well as practical activities, such as critical thinking problems and interactive team-play. Much like UnitedWeREACH, both Hong Kong and Finland, revise their curriculums on an annual basis, to meet the changing demands of pupils’, and broaden their framework of understanding.
To conclude, the use of proven technology and progressive lesson planning would certainly brighten the future of education in Pakistan. As the nation spends $5.2 billion in real estate construction, and UNESCO identifying 25 million children out of school, it will take less than 0.4% to educate the whole of Pakistan. Hence, a shift in perspective could unveil a bright, new future for education in the country.

Deported Pakistanis

According to the latest report published in a Saudi Gazette, Saudi Arabia has deported 39,000 Pakistanis in the past four months. Referring to the security sources, the Saudi newspaper in its report said that the deportations were made for “violating the rules of residence and work”.The report also said that the involvement of several Pakistani nationals in “some terrorist actions” orchestrated by the militant Islamic State (IS) group as well as crimes of drug trafficking, thefts, forgery and physical assault prompted calls for thorough scrutiny of Pakistanis aspiring to work in Saudi Arabia.” Abdullah Al-Sadoun, chairman of the security committee of the Shoura Council, called for thoroughly scrutinising the Pakistanis before they are recruited for work in the Kingdom,” the report said. Furthermore, the Shoura Council chairman also asked for closer coordination with the concerned authorities in Pakistan to thoroughly check those coming to work in the Kingdom due to the involvement of a number of Pakistanis in security issues.
The official further stated apprehensions about Pakistani citizens’ links with terrorist organisations by stating, “Pakistan itself is plagued with terrorism due to its proximityto Afghanistan. The Taliban extremist movement was itself born in Pakistan.”
Citing the statistics provided by Saudi interior ministry, the report went on to say that 82 Pakistani suspects are currently held in intelligence prisons over charges of terror and other security related issues. “As many as 15 Pakistanis, including a woman, were nabbed following the recent terrorist operations in Al-Harazat and Al-Naseem districts in Jeddah.”
A few months ago, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had released a report, “Labour Migration from Pakistan: 2015 Status Report” showing that 131,643 Pakistani migrants were deported from Saudi Arabia between 2012-15.According to the report, most of the individuals deported from Saudi Arabia were job seekers and businessmen. The report had also claimed that a large number of migrant workers were stranded abroad due to “lack of proper documentation and thus deported”.
There is no arguing against the internal matters of a country, but the vague processes followed by the hasty judicial system of the Kingdom makes it difficult for transparency. As mentioned in reports, most of the people deported included those who held wrong visas, had over-stayed following the expiry of their visas or didn’t have proper documentation to work in Saudi Arabia. Most of Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia are doing blue-collared jobs that do not require muck skillset. Moreover, the Kingdom is also the largest source of foreign remittances for Pakistan. Due to the lack of economic opportunities back home, a lot of cases have been witnessed where people had over-stayed following their visit to the Kingdom for religious duties of visiting the Holy Cities.
Considering the fact that approximately twomillion Pakistanis are working in the Kingdom, it is the responsibility of Pakistan’s foreign mission in the Kingdom to make necessary arrangements to check if anyone needs any legal help or if the employers are mistreating anyone. Thousands of Pakistanis had complained embassy’s inaction following massive layoffs last years. The attitudes of the embassy staffers should change and all possible help should be provided to the people affected.

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#LetLizSpeak - Elizabeth Warren won't be silenced – and neither will American women

By Jessica Valenti
Senate Republicans seem to be under the mistaken impression that having elected a notorious misogynist as president means that they can stifle women’s voices without anyone noticing or caring.
That’s the only explanation I can muster for why they thought that it was acceptable – or strategically sound – to silence Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday night during a debate over Jeff Sessions’ nomination as attorney general. Republicans really must have thought it was in their best interest. They really must not be paying attention.
After claiming that Warren broke Senate rules by reading from a 30-year-old letter from Coretta Scott King opposing Sessions for a federal judgeship, majority leader Mitch McConnell said: “She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”
It’s a familiar refrain for most women – we’ve all had men try to shut us down and get frustrated when we dared to “persist”. So it should come as no surprise that Wednesday morning, #LetLizSpeak, #ShePersists and Silencing Elizabeth Warren were all trending on Twitter.
In the wake of Hillary Clinton’s loss and the massive Women’s Marches across the country, American women simply won’t stand for Republicans trying to shut us up.
What was especially loathsome about the Republican’s move was that they didn’t just silence Warren – they silenced Coretta Scott King, activist and widow of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. During Black History Month, no less.
As writer Broderick Greer tweeted out: “Tonight we saw that folk will go to great lengths to silence black women, even after they’ve died.” Donna Brazile, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said: “It’s a sad day in America when the words of Martin Luther King Jr’s widow are not allowed on the floor of the United States Senate.”
Especially when those words are so pertinent to the issue at hand: Sessions’ suitability for the position of US attorney general. This is a man who was denied a federal judgeship amid accusations of racism; a man who, according to a former colleague, called organizations like the ACLU and NAACP “un-American”; a man who also reportedly referred to a black man as “boy”, an allegation he denies.
In a recent letter signed by more than 400 human rights organizations opposing Sessions’ nomination, the Leadership Conference on Human Rights wrote: “Senator Sessions has a 30-year record of racial insensitivity, bias against immigrants, disregard for the rule of law and hostility to the protection of civil rights.”
While these may be uncomfortable truths for Republicans to hear, they don’t get to stick their fingers in their ears or drown out the words of women who have real and substantive criticisms of Sessions. (And if you think this isn’t about women, consider that Senator Jeff Merkley read from the same letter later Tuesday night and was allowed to finish without interruption.)
After being silenced, Warren took to Facebook Live to read the letter instead; at last check it’s been watched more than 6m times. The censure by Republicans only served to shine a spotlight on Warren, and Scott King’s, message. It was a reminder that no matter what Trump does, no matter what measures Republicans make take – women will persist.

#LetLizSpeak - Coretta Scott King's daughter hits back over Elizabeth Warren silencing

By Ed Pilkington
Dr Bernice King issued a blistering critique of Republicans after Elizabeth Warren was silenced while reading a letter by Coretta Scott opposing Jeff Sessions.
Civil rights leaders reacted with fury to the move by Republicans to silence Elizabeth Warren as she was in mid-flow on the floor of the US Senate, reading out a 1986 letter from one of the titans of the struggle for race equality, the late Coretta Scott King.
King’s friends and fellow members of the movement for equal rights, in which she had played a prominent role alongside her husband Martin Luther King, responded with anger to the action of the Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell. He cut Warren off mid-sentence, claiming that by quoting King’s words the Democratic senator had broken a Senate prohibition on members impugning the conduct of their peers.
The instant backlash from civil rights figures was spearheaded by the daughter of Coretta and Martin Luther King, Dr Bernice King, who within hours of the Senate drama unleashed blistering criticism of the direction taken by the Republican party. Setting out on Facebook a 10-point program for how to resist the new Republican stranglehold on White House, Senate and House of Representatives, she reserved her most pointed words for Donald Trump, though without naming him, since point one of her manifesto was: “Don’t use his name; EVER.”
She added, “45 will do” – a reference to Trump’s status as 45th president of the United States.
Rev Jesse Jackson, who was present at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on 4 April 1968 when Martin Luther King was assassinated, called the abrupt termination of the reading of Coretta Scott King’s letter a “moral disgrace”. Jackson told the Guardian that the move was “beneath the dignity of the American dream”.
The silencing of Warren happened at a confirmation hearing for Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for US attorney general and one of the most contentious of his cabinet nominees. She was reading from a letter that Coretta Scott King had written in 1986 in which the late civil rights leader opposed in very strong terms the earlier nomination of Sessions for a federal judgeship for the southern district of his home state, Alabama.
King wrote in the letter that Sessions was unsuitable for elevation to the courts because he had “used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters”.
Jackson said that by halting Warren’s reading, McConnell had exposed the kinship between Trump and the Republican party. “Just as Sessions sought to silence Dr King’s movement for the protected right to vote, McConnell last night sought to silence Coretta Scott King’s letter – it’s a consistent pattern.”
Rev Dr Barbara Reynolds, a close friend of Coretta Scott King who co-authored her memoir, My Life, My Love, My Legacy, said she was “appalled and upset” by what had happened. It was all the more disturbing, Reynolds said, given King’s specific and personal criticism of Sessions in the letter.
“At the time she wrote the letter, Sessions was working as a prosecutor and the people he was fighting were people she had grown up with outside Marion, in Alabama. He was prosecuting black people trying to help other blacks register to vote – and that’s what the civil rights movement was all about.”
Reynolds said that King had been so opposed to the idea of Sessions sitting in judgment in a federal court because “she didn’t want to go back to the life they led before they won the right to vote. Her family’s lumber mill was burnt down by white terrorists and there was nothing they could do about it precisely because they didn’t have the right to vote.”
She added: “Even now, in 2017, they are silencing Coretta Scott King. They won’t let her speak now, but her words still matter.” In the book they wrote together, King says: “I am counting on the next generation to pick up the still broken pieces of society and continue the struggle against poverty, greed and power that Martin and I gave our lives to. Freedom is never really won; you have to earn it and fight for it in every generation.”
Sessions was rejected for the judge’s position in 1986. The judiciary committee of the US Senate voted his nomination down after the hearing was told that he had been accused of using the N-word to describe a black official in Alabama.
He is expected to be confirmed as attorney general by the Senate on Wednesday evening.