Saturday, March 25, 2017

Video - Beyoncé - If I Were A Boy (GRAMMYs on CBS)

Video - #Republicans Can't Get Their S**t Together on Health Care: The Daily Show

Hillary Clinton: 'Today Was a Victory for All Americans'

As President Donald Trump cast blame on Democrats for not supporting the GOP-crafted effort to repeal and replace President Barack Obama's signature health care law, his former opponent, Hillary Clinton, took to Twitter to hail the bill's defeat as America's victory.
"Today was a victory for the 24,000,000 people at risk of losing their health insurance, for seniors, for families battling the quiet epidemic of addiction, for new moms and women everywhere," she tweeted. "Most of all, it's a victory for anyone who believes affordable health care is a human right."

"The fight isn't over yet," her statement continued. "But we are reminded today that there is no substitute for standing up and defending our values."
She followed her statement with a series of Tweets highlighting stories of people who had been helped by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Missing black girls in DC spark outrage, prompt calls for federal help

By Laura Jarrett, Samantha Reyes and David Shortell

Two months ago, the Washington Metropolitan Police Department's new commander, Chanel Dickerson, made a pledge: Let's find our missing girls.
Now, as the department posts profiles of missing black and Latina girls in the nation's capital on its Twitter feed almost daily, members of the Congressional Black Caucus are calling for a federal investigation.
In a letter Tuesday, the lawmakers asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey to "devote the resources necessary to determine whether these developments are an anomaly, or whether they are indicative of an underlying trend that must be addressed."
    "(W)hen children of color go missing, authorities often assume they are runaways rather than victims of abduction," they added.
    Sessions was briefed on the issue Friday, Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores said.
    "The Attorney General is aware of the reports and is looking into the issue," she said.
    The FBI declined to comment on the matter.
    Although Dickerson, who heads the department's Youth and Family Division, said Friday that the number of missing girls is decreasing, an outcry on social media has drawn increased attention to the issue this month and triggered the calls for federal law enforcement officials to investigate.
    The Metropolitan Police Department recorded 501 cases of missing children so far in 2017, and said 22 cases were open as of Wednesday.
    "We have received a lot of media attention and a lot of concern from the public because of the number of releases," Dickerson said at a news conference on Friday. "There have been concerns that young girls in the District of Columbia are victims of human trafficking or have been kidnapped, or that there's an increase in the number" who have gone missing.
    "And I say this without minimizing the number of missing persons in DC -- because one missing person is one person too many -- but there's actually been a decrease," she added. "There is always a concern of human trafficking, but we have no evidence for this."
    Annual statistics show cases of missing children have remained relatively steady in Washington over the past several years -- with 2,222 cases in 2014, 2,433 in 2015 and 2,242 in 2016.
    CNN has requested a monthly breakdown of these figures to see how the 2017 numbers compare, but the Metropolitan Police Department did not immediately return requests for comment on those specific figures.
    Still, numbers alone do not tell the entire story, DC City Councilmember Trayon White told HLN's Michaela Pereira in an interview Friday.
    "What the community is alarmed about -- we had a 10-year-old girl missing the other day, but there was no amber alert," White said. "We just feel like, you know, if this was a white person or from another neighborhood, there would be more alarm about it."
    "(A)ny time you have a 10-year-old missing for any amount of hours and no one knows where he or she is, that is rules for immediate attention, that's an alert that needs to be sent out," White added. "Because the more time that goes past, the less likely we are to find him or her."
    Numbers and Amber Alerts aside, Robert Lowery, a vice president at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said he is grateful an important conversation about missing children is happening.
    "I think the narrative is good," Lowery said. "The more the public becomes aware of this issue of missing children, the more lives that can be protected and potentially even saved."
    While Lowery said the number of child abductions is down across the country, the level of runaway cases seen in DC and other major cities is particularly disturbing.
    "Our frustration is, we deal with a very desensitized public," Lowery said. "The natural inclination (about a runaway) is the child's behavioral problem is why they've left. We also see significant numbers of runway children who are running away from a situation, whether it's abuse or neglect or sexual abuse in the home. These children face unique risks when they're gone so we applaud the conversation and we applaud the attention that this issue is being given."

    Video Report - Missing black teens in DC spark outrage

    Pashto Music Video - Nan Pah De Hujra Ke Khushali

    Pakistan - Some stocktaking

    Afrasiab Khattak
    The main feature of Pakistan’s 70th National Day was the impressive and colourful military parade that remained the focus of media coverage on 23rd of March this year. The march past was supposed to represent the country’s determination for defeating terrorism, which is a noble and desirable goal. So far so good. But for the last many years the country has been moving in circles on this front and despite the rhetorical claims regarding breaking the back of extremist terror we find it as entrenched and potent as it was years ago. Even after getting out of the mode of denial of the terror problem and making a public commitment to defeat it, Pakistan’s performance has been less than impressive. National Action Plan (NAP) has for all practical purposes fizzled out. The biggest achievement of operation Zarb-e-Azb has been pushing most of the terrorists into Afghanistan and creating conducive conditions for Taliban to step up their war against the Afghan state and society. The new military leadership has deemed it fit to declare a new operation against terrorism called Radd al Fasad. How will be it be different from the previous operations we don’t know. Apart from some noble individual exceptions the parliamentarians as a whole seems to be resigned to their powerlessness and marginalisation. Hence there is no serious debate on this issue. So what is basically wrong with the country’s strategy and tactics in the war against terror? Unfortunately we Pakistanis aren’t used to stocktaking even on a national day best suited for such an exercise.
    The weakest link in Pakistani strategy against terrorism is the civil military divide, the tall claims of being on one page from both sides not withstanding. This serious duality of thought and action is spread over from governance to national security and foreign policy and is an open secret by now. Internally the said split reveals itself in the struggle for controlling the commanding heights of the state system in terms of making and executing policies. The military’s policy of fighting a war of attrition in neighboring countries through “non state actors” for achieving regional domination directly collides with the political government’s policy of regional economic cooperation for turning the country into an economic tiger.
    The timing of recent border closure with Afghanistan was rather embarrassing for the government of PM Nawaz Sharif when the country was hosting a regional summit for promoting regional connectivity. We heard about the decision of the Prime Minister to open borders with Afghanistan as a good will gesture but apparently he or the foreign ministry didn’t play any role in closing it. It is also quite obvious that CPEC could become a game changer only when Central Asian states will be able to link up with it through the shortest rout that’s Afghanistan.
    The most serious stumbling block on the path of achieving this objective is project Taliban of the Pakistani security establishment. Pakistani government leaders have been repeatedly saying that they don’t want a Talibanised Afghanistan as that will turn our western neighboring country into a launching pad for Pakistani terrorists. That has already partially happened as TTP is launching terrorist attacks against Pakistan from the Taliban controlled areas. But despite that Pakistan based Taliban leadership is in the third year of their latest war in Afghanistan like so many previous ones. The present civilian government has its own limitations in fighting terror. It has been soft on a number of terror outfits on the basis of a misguided notion that such a policy can keep Punjab, its main political base, safe. Historical experience has proved it time and again that policy of appeasement towards extremism and terrorism is an unmitigated disaster. Even now the Punjab government is reluctant to go after some of the proscribed organisations.
    The time, energy and resources that the civilian and military factions of the ruling elites use to ward of each other’s domination weakens the state and provides space to the activities of anti-state extremists. Intelligence agencies, both civilian and military are the eyes and ears of the state. Unless they pool together their professional capabilities to defeat the forces who are not only fighting against the state but also want to impose their so called ideology on the people of Pakistan, there can’t be hope for winning the war. NACTA was to be strengthened and made effective for achieving the aforementioned goal. But again this project hasn’t taken off. Unfortunately failure is not an option in this area and the country’s leadership, both civilian and military will have to accept this challenge.
    Pakistan is at a crucial stage of socio-economic development where adhocracy won’t work anymore. The country has to make a strategic choice of focusing on geo-economic benefits. This would require a clear break from the policies rooted in the Cold War geo-strategy. It has to be a complete paradigm shift. It obviously can’t happen overnight but clarity in thinking through the policy shift is indispensable. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif can provide leadership by convening extraordinary meetings of security related state institutions to bridge the gap between de facto and de jure. He also needs to take all political forces in confidence. Partisan biases should be set-aside in working on this project. Parliament is the forum for discussion on national policy in a parliamentary system of government. In camera sessions can be held to discuss sensitive issues. Here the present government also needs a break with its past practice of sidelining the Parliament. Remaining passive and pushing this issue under the carpet can be disastrous for everyone.

    Pakistan - Where is the voice of the working class?

    Amir Hussain

    “This is none of your business. It’s our money and we are the ones to call the shots here”. This was the condescending response by a senior representative of a well-known name in the hospitality industry upon my curiosity regarding the reasons behind the forced resignation of one of the workers.
    Such resignations are not an exception; the corporate sector in Pakistan has been embroiled in controversial and coercive practices vis-à-vis compliance of labour laws. So the gentleman clearly spoke the mind of the corporate world. Barring a few, who have a history of investing in human welfare, in general the corporate sector in Pakistan exercises unrestrained power over its workers. The worker – whose surplus labour is the only means of corporate profit – becomes an alien in the process of production of goods and services. This disengaged, overworked man/woman has recourse to no one in a world made up of an exploitative nexus between profit, politics and probity.
    The tragedy does not stop here, Barely five minutes after my conversation with the industry man, I got a couple of threatening calls from anonymous reporters. The calls pretty much implied that I should mend my ways and stay away from the business of writing against these business giants. These anonymous reporters, apparently on the payroll of this corporate giant, tried to impress upon me that they were well-connected and embedded in the world of opulence and affluence. They must have used similar gimmicks with their benefactors in this corporate entity by showing their connections in the media and their ability to quash news items and reports of corporate misdeeds.
    All they wanted to do was to show their benefactors how efficient they were. Perhaps, they saw this to be an opportune moment to do this. To them, I was a novice in the field of journalism and, thus, could be tamed easily. But I am neither a novice nor an ordinary reporter who would heed their calls. All I was interested in doing was to highlight the issue of workplace exploitation and violation of labour rights in Pakistan.
    I had wanted to write about this issue to highlight the plight of the workers of Pakistan. A column on this would be different from an ordinary news report which narrates an event as it unfolds at a certain moment. In my case, reference to this specific incidence, though provocative, is significant only because it provides some insight into the working of the corporate sector in this country. This is obviously not an isolated incident; there are a number of such incidents on a daily basis but they remain unnoticed, unreported, and even if they make it to a news story they are understated. They are not scintillating enough for our mass media which finds such stories too boring and too insipid for commercial viability.
    A news item, debate or a report featuring labour rights is not fancy enough to help improve programme ranking so no one would dare venture into such live debates on our TV shows. Thus, the daily challenges faced by our poor workers will never make it to the mainstream discourse of politics and economy.
    Today, Pakistan’s working class figures nowhere in our political calculus of democracy, freedom and enlightenment. Even worse is the fact that voices of the working class have gradually been vanished from our popular discourse. Just to recap, in the 1960s and 1970s Pakistan’s working class used to assert its presence through vibrant movements, complemented by a dynamic left-leaning intelligentsia and through a critical policy discourse on politics and the economy. These alternative critical discourses were also reflected in social policy formulation and practice, including attempts at nationalisation and land reforms. Today, our virtual world of seminars, webinars and workshops on economy, politics and culture or any other domain of public interest is punctuated by informed and sophisticated discussions. But such discussions hardly mention labour rights, working class priorities and downward accountability of the private and public sectors.
    A clear majority of Pakistan’ population – 70 percent – constitutes the working class, whose only hope to progress and out of poverty is availability of decent working conditions governed by a universal framework of labour rights. The adoption and implementation of universal labour laws in both letter and spirit is the precondition to ameliorate the current exploitative nature of the worker-employer relationship. There is a growing informal sector in Pakistan which accommodates a sizeable number of the working population out of its 95 million of potential workers.
    This informal sector is not documented in the national statistics of economic growth and planning but it indirectly complements the poor economy by creating employment and reducing dependence on the state to feed a growing population. However, this is the most exploitive form of work and, in case of domestic labour, remains unaccounted for. Women and children are the most adversely affected segment of the working class since they do not have access to political means nor do they have the wherewithal to make their voices heard at policymaking level. Even the formal sector, which provides employment to only 20 percent of workers, is not well developed and the condition of the working class there is not much better off than in the informal sector.
    In the corporate sector alone, workers are laid off in violation of labour laws and there is no way of speedy justice for the poor worker to safeguard his/her rights against termination. There have been working class movements in this country but they did not get much media attention. This is so perhaps because our media is too obsessed with sensationalism and is in a cut-throat competition to attain high rankings to attract business.
    Pakistan is a signatory to 38 International Labour Organization’s conventions. This means the state is obligated to undertake punitive actions against those who violate labour laws in their conduct of business. These rules, though, are not being enforced. At times, the problem lies in the lack of awareness of labour rights as enshrined in these conventions, as well as the lack of affordable infrastructure to dispense justice against the exploitative nexus of political power and the corporate sector.
    Article 11 of the constitution prohibits all forms of slavery and forced labour while Article 37 (e) makes provisions for securing just and humane conditions of work. A clear majority of workers even in the formal sector are excluded from legal and social protection – in complete violation of labour laws and constitutional provisions.
    On the one hand, the country’s existing labour rights framework –comprising well over a hundred ordinances, acts, rules, regulations and statutes – is fraught with several problems, incoherencies and incompatibilities with the fast-evolving economic and political realities of the country. On the other hand, the state has failed to develop a comprehensive social protection programme while the traditional systems of social protection are being dislodged with the transition from agri-based to service-based economic structures.
    National legislation vis-à-vis labour rights must be harmonised with international labour laws, with a strict compliance system to ensure that workers’ rights are protected against exploitation, harassment and discrimination on the basis of colour, creed, class and religion.

    Pakistan: More bloggers charged....


    Three more bloggers were accused of blasphemy Friday in an Islamabad anti-terrorism court, while elsewhere in the city hundreds of security forces prevented a radical cleric from holding a protest to condemn another five bloggers, who were earlier charged with insulting Islam — an offense punishable by death in this Islamic country.
    Police and government officials said the newest charges were laid against two bloggers from Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi and one from the federal capital. They were arrested earlier this week. One of the three used the alias, Allama Ayaz Nizami, and had over 12,000 followers on line, said a police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to give details of the cases against the three men.
    All three were remanded into custody of Pakistan's anti-terrorism cell for seven days while their online activity is investigated, he said.
    Meanwhile Pakistani police in full riot gear sealed off and surrounded Islamabad's Red Mosque, long seen as a refuge for Islamic militants in the Pakistani capital, and the home of a religious leader, Maulana Abdul Aziz, preventing his followers from staging their gathering to demand the death penalty for another five bloggers, who were charged earlier with blasphemy.
    The Committee to Protect Journalists as well as Amnesty International has decried the use of Pakistan's controversial blasphemy law against the media in Pakistan. Critics say the blasphemy law is being used to silence Pakistan's media because even the allegation can be enough to incite hardliners to kill.
    Previously, a provincial governor was shot and killed by his police guard who accused him of blasphemy after he criticized the law and defended a Christian woman sentenced to death under the law.
    Meanwhile, the clerics vowed to try again next week. Their demonstration was directed at five bloggers, who were held for nearly three weeks in January.
    The bloggers — who went missing but were later returned unhurt to their families — have accused Pakistan's intelligence agency of orchestrating their disappearance because of their criticism of the military and intelligence agencies.
    Before their release, hard-liners raised accusations of blasphemy. Abdul Aziz' son-in-law and follower, Salman Shahid, went to court earlier to charge all five bloggers with blasphemy. The five have since fled the country after also receiving death threats.
    Alongside the court cases, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government launched a campaign to rid social media of any content considered insulting to Islam — at least any posted by Pakistanis.
    The government petitioned Facebook and Twitter to identify Pakistanis worldwide who are found posting material considered offensive to Islam so that Pakistani authorities can prosecute them or pursue their extradition on charges of blasphemy — tantamount to a death sentence.
    Earlier, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Khan said a Facebook delegation was expected in Pakistan within weeks.
    Meanwhile, the Center for Inquiry, a U.S.-based advocacy group, appealed to Facebook not to consider the censorship demands by Pakistani authorities.
    As well as writing a letter to Facebook, Michael De Dora, of the advocacy group, said members of his organization are also taking their concerns about Pakistan's online crackdown to the United Nations and Washington.
    "We have taken to the floor of the U.N. Human Rights Council to raise Pakistan's crackdowns on online expression, and communicated our concerns directly with the State Department and Facebook," De Dora said in an email exchange this week. "But it is difficult to tell if our efforts have achieved anything. "
    Haroon Baloch, of the Islamabad-based think tank Bytes For All said social media is also widely used by those espousing harsh and exclusive interpretations of Islam. Platforms like Facebook are used to attack Shiite Muslims as well as adherents of minority religions in Pakistan such as Christians and Hindus.
    While Pakistan has ordered shut more than 900 web addresses linked to banned religious groups, Baloch said many still maintain social media platforms like Facebook, where they spew hate and even raise funds