Monday, January 22, 2018

Music Video - The Goddesses of Bellydance

Video Report - #Syria: Update on #Turkish offensive on #Kurdish-controlled Afrin region

Video Report - Russian & Yemeni FMs speak to press in Moscow

US - Compromise or cave-in? Democrats' deal to end shutdown sows division

Lauren Gambino and Ben Jacobs
After Senate Democrats agree to measure promising to address Dreamers, progressives fear party has been too quick to concede. Senate Democrats on Monday compromised on a short-term spending measure to re-open the the federal government after forcing a shutdown over an impasse on immigration.
But some progressives and immigration activists preferred another word: caved.
Three days after Democrats rejected a stop-gap bill because it did not include protections for Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants shielded by an Obama-era program known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or Daca, they yielded, ending the first government shutdown in a half decade.
In a 81-18 vote on Monday, Democrats approved a three-week spending measure in exchange for a commitment from Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, who pledged to bring up legislation that would extend protections to Dreamers, whose status was thrown into chaos when Trump cancelled Daca in September.
The House passed the bill later on Monday, in a vote largely along party lines.
Dick Durbin, the No 2 Democrat in the Senate and one of the leading congressional advocates for Dreamers, saw the silver linings of the deal.
“Parts of this were a victory in terms of moving to immigration for the first time in five years, with a deadline, with an understood procedure with the other side acknowledging this is about Daca,” Durbin said. “They started using that word. Leader McConnell started using it today. It isn’t where I wanted to be today but I think we are closer to our goal than we’ve ever been.”
Tim Kaine, the 2016 Democratic nominee for vice-president, echoed this. “The commitment we made today is we’re going forward [on immigration] whether or not the president wants us to.”
Yet other Democrats were skeptical of leaving the fate of Dreamers in the hands of the Senate majority leader, who they do not trust, and the president, who has proved to be an unpredictable negotiator.
“I don’t believe he made any commitment whatsoever,” Kamala Harris, a senator from California who opposed the bill, said after the Senate advanced the measure. “And I think it would be foolhardy to believe that he made a commitment.”
Harris was among several progressive lawmakers and potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidates who rejected the bill, including senators Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
Democrats went into the weekend confident that voters were on their side. Public polling indicated that Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress and the White House, would be held responsible.
But Trump and Republicans spent the days since the shut down attacking Democrats for prioritizing undocumented immigrants over members of the military.
“I think if we’ve learned anything during this process, it’s that a strategy to shut down the government over the issue of illegal immigration is something the American people didn’t understand and would not have understood in the future,” McConnell said in remarks on the floor on Monday.
In contrast to the 2013 government shutdown, when conservative Republicans threatened to close the government over Obamacare, Democrats did achieve some successes. They had long pushed for re-authorization of the children’s health insurance program (Chip) and the concession by McConnell for a floor vote on immigration could spur action on immigration while shifting the onus back on to Republicans.
This, however, didn’t not satisfy many in the party’s activist base, who accused lawmakers of betrayal.
“Last week, I was moved to tears of joy when Democrats stood up and fought for progressive values and for Dreamers,” said Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice, a national immigration advocacy group. “Today, I am moved to tears of disappointment and anger that Democrats blinked.”

#ShutdownSchumer - The Case For The Democratic ‘Cave’

By Matt Fuller
It’s not really a cave if you’re just continuing the fight.
After Senate Democrats voted for a three-week government funding extension Monday, Republicans and liberal progressives seemed to agree about one thing: Democrats had caved.
Senate Democrats had, after all, voted to reopen the government without a legislative fix on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program, and they had essentially accepted a deal that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was willing to give Democrats on Friday ― the soft promise of a vote on a DACA bill and a three-week government funding extension, not four.
But the truth is more complex than a winners and losers post. Yes, the liberal base may be upset that Democrats took less than a DACA fix in exchange for ending a shutdown, but that’s only relevant if you actually think Democrats could have gotten a DACA bill as a result of this shutdown ― and that the shutdown wasn’t hurting Democrats at all.
Republicans were happy to claim throughout this three-day government funding lapse that Democrats had made a strategic error in blocking a government funding bill, so it’s odd that, in GOP eyes, Democrats had also made an error in ending the shutdown. How is it that a shutdown was bad for moderate Democratic senators up for reelection and that ending a shutdown is also bad for those lawmakers?
It’s also inaccurate to say Democrats didn’t get anything over the last couple of days. McConnell made stronger statements in support of an open debate on a DACA bill on both Sunday night and Monday morning, making it more difficult for him to wriggle out of not putting forward an immigration bill that has Democratic support or controlling the amendment process so that Democrats don’t have a chance to change the bill.
If ― as progressives were happy to tweet Monday ― Democrats shouldn’t trust McConnell, forcing him to make more explicit promises on the Senate floor, promises that will surely be thrown back in his face should he fail to live up to them and there is another shutdown, that isn’t to be taken for granted. And if the Senate were able to pass a bipartisan DACA bill, while also demonstrating that a more conservative DACA bill currently making its way through the House doesn’t have the votes in the Senate, they make it much easier to argue that it’s Republicans like Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) who are shutting down the government by not giving Democrats a vote in the House.
The Democratic position of not voting for a government funding bill until there’s a DACA deal seems much more reasonable if there’s actual legislation that’s passed the Senate and is being ignored in the House. You’d be certain to hear the words, “Give us a vote, Mr. Speaker!”
The reality of this shutdown standoff is that it’s hardly over. Democrats agreed to a continuing resolution that will keep the government open for 17 days. They took the Children’s Health Insurance Program off the negotiating table with a six-year extension of the program. And they gave up hardly any leverage to do so.
Republicans and Democrats still don’t have a spending agreement to raise caps lawmakers set in 2011. Without that agreement, the Pentagon would be forced to live with a sequestration spending number that Republicans hate. And the threat that Democrats will shut down the government without an agreement seems more serious now that they’ve actually done that. Democrats don’t like to admit they had any part in shutting down the government. But their position was that they wouldn’t accept a government funding bill because of what wasn’t included, not what was actually in the bill, though Democrats have pointed out there are some provisions they don’t support and that funding the government through stopgap measure after stopgap measure is not a responsible way to govern.
Some of the most disappointed groups after this shutdown, understandably, are Dreamers, the undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. But a prolonged shutdown could have seriously damaged public opinion on the Dreamers. Currently, Dreamers enjoy massive support. A Washington Post-ABC poll in September revealed that 86 percent of the public supported Dreamers staying in the U.S. A long shutdown over immigration could have poisoned public opinion on the issue and driven people into their familiar partisan foxholes, as well as made it difficult for more moderate Republicans to actually negotiate a DACA bill. “It [an unresolved shutdown] can only hurt the Dreamers and only piss off potential Republican allies,” a senior Democratic aide told HuffPost Monday, adding that protecting public opinion on Dreamers ― particularly when government shutdowns are so unpopular ― was a consideration for Democrats.
So Democrats staved off the worst effects of a government shutdown. They prevented a turn in public opinion against their party for this shutdown, as well as Dreamers. They got CHIP. They got a commitment from McConnell to bring up immigration legislation. And they gave up none of their leverage.
It may be tempting to insist that Democrats should have pressed on with the shutdown strategy until they got everything they wanted. But Congress works slowly ― barely ― until the moment that it all comes together in an instant.
Democrats took a step toward that moment.

Video Report - Dreamer to Schumer: Why did Democrats blink?

Video Report -Tapper to panel: Did the Democrats cave?

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Video Report - 'Social media influencing' under the spotlight

Pakistan should arrest or expel Taliban leaders: White House

The United States urged Pakistan to expel Taliban leaders following the deadly attack on a luxury hotel in Afghanistan's capital city that left five dead and six others injured, the White House said in a statement Monday night.
The leaders of the terrorist outfit need to be banned from operating on Pakistani soil, it said in a statement disclosed by press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
At least five people were killed and six injured after gunmen attacked Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel Saturday night, seizing hostages and exchanging gunfire with security forces as the building in the Afghan capital caught fire and residents and staff fled.
The Afghan Interior Ministry said Sunday morning the operation to rescue the hostages has completed, with 126 hostages — of which 41 were foreigners — rescued.
Najib Danish — the ministry's spokesperson — said all five attackers were killed in the operation.
On Sunday, Pakistan's foreign office had rejected “knee-jerk allegations” by some Afghan circles of the Kabul attack.
In a tweet, Dr. Mohammad Faisal — the spokesperson for the Foreign Office — stated that there was a need for a credible investigation into the attack, including one on the security lapses.
In a press statement issued earlier, the foreign office had strongly condemned the brutal attack, saying, “We express deep grief and sorrow at the loss of precious human lives and the injuring of many others in this terrorist act.”
The statement further read that cooperation among the states is important for effectively combating and eliminating the scourge of terrorism.

Islamist threat to #Pakistan - Editorial - ''Holding Democracy Hostage''

Give a man an inch and he will take a yard. We thought the Faizabad fiasco, as mishandled as it was, was finally over, with the protesters leaving satisfied, with their gifted thousand-rupee notes. Yet, we underestimated the scope of it; aside from creating a culture of unlawful protests, the Faizabad crowd is now using their victory to ask for impossible over-the-top demands.

Pir Hameeduddin Sialvi, at the Khatm-i-Nabuwat Conference on Saturday, set yet another deadline for the government, this time for enforcing “Shariah” within seven days or risk protests in every nook and corner of the country. The protest had originally started with a single demand of resignation by Law Minister Rana Sanaullah for his allegedly controversial remarks in a TV programme, but the Pir from Sial Sharif has upgraded to asking for a nation-wide imposition of “Shariah”.
This has gone too far; there is a fine line between protests demanding immediate action within the framework of democracy and terrorism – the act of using force to enforce ideologies. This demand by Pir Sialvi is straying firmly into the latter category. The actions of Sialvi are formidably reminiscent of those of the Taliban in 2007 in Swat - this is exactly what they wanted and how they demanded it. The government needs to pick up on these warning signs - Sialvi has made it clear that his supporters are not above touting the law to get what they want-making this action increasingly closer to incentivising breaking the law.
Secondly, it is unclear what Sialvi means by “Shariah”, Pakistan is already an Islamic Republic, with Shariah compliant laws and courts. History has taught us that whenever extremist and militant-type groups call for Shariah, they always mean stricter laws for women and minorities. The example of Afghanistan – ruled under strict Shariah law for decades – is clear to see.
Lastly, a protest to secure the resignation of a minister over a perceived legal mistake - as contrived and inflammatory as that cause was –still makes some democratic sense. Those protests were still understandable; this is just plain old arm-twisting and destabilization. The demand is completely unreasonable, and no group will be allowed to enforce its views on the nation. This is akin to holding democracy hostage through use of unlawful protests-a precedent that would be debilitating if allowed.
Sialvi just graduated from a political dissident to a potential instigator and criminal - he must refrain from mass “protests” if he wishes to remain the former.

Pakistan - Malala and Apple

Apple has joined hands with Malala. We hope this will not be a tale of forbidden fruit.

The objective, according to the company, is to donate an as yet undisclosed sum to the Malala Fund with a view to doubling the number of grants to finance secondary education for girls in India and Latin America. According to the company website, the initial target is to help more than 100,000 girls. This is said to come in the way of assisting with technology, curriculum and research into policy changes needed to ensure that girls will have the right to 12 years of free, safe, quality education; as provided by the Malala Fund.
That one of the world’s best known brands and an established market leader wants to work with the girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for daring to exercise her fundamental right to education serves to underscore the outreach of Malala’s sincere activism on this front.
We just hope that Apple is as honest in its intentions and not out to get a free ride on someone else’s coattails. After all, here in Pakistan we have seen how certain mobile phone networks have partnered with the local NGO sector to work on, say, literacy retention for the girl child at a time when the telecom industry had reached saturation point.
Naturally, a company like Apple doesn’t need to focus on its global market share. But it may have to work on its appeal. Especially considering that last year the EU Commission had ordered it to pay 13 million euros in back taxes to Ireland, where until very recently its European base was headquartered. Indeed, Dublin was singled out over offering it “fiscal optimisation”; which is essentially illegal tax breaks by another name. This was followed swiftly by the news that Apple was trying its best to skirt the issue by setting up shop in the Channel Island of Jersey, a well known tax haven.
We say this not to malign Malala. But to warn Apple not to take ‘our girl’ down with it.  For this incredibly courageous young woman continues to be a source of pride for Pakistan. She has already taken on those hurly burly armed macho men of the Taliban and won. What she doesn’t now need is the extra hassle of being painted as a capitalist stooge. Not when nothing could be further from the truth.

Pakistan - End extrajudicial killings in Pak: Bilawal Bhutto

Pakistan People's Party (PPPCo-chairman Bilawal Bhutto has called for an end to extra-judicial killings in Pakistan.
Answering a question asked by media, Bilawal said he is against police encounters taking place anywhere in Pakistan. Such practices must end, he added.
He was addressing the inauguration ceremony of a country-wide membership drive of the party here on Sunday, a day after authorities suspended a senior police officer for the killing of a man in an alleged encounter that sparked anger and protests across the nation.
Senior Superintendent of Police Rao Anwar and other officers are in the dock for killing at least four men during what they claimed was a raid on a suspected Taliban hideout in Karachi.
Relatives of one of the dead men, who was identified as Naqeebullah Mehsud, 27, from South Waziristan tribal district, rejected claims of him having militant links, and maintained that he was an aspiring model who had been a resident of Karachi since 2008. They added that Naqeebullah was looking for a job and had been running a shop in the city.
His killing evoked a national outcry and triggered protest rallies in several cities.
Bilawal's appeal also assumes significance in connection to the killing of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) London's deputy convenor Dr. Hasan Zafar Arif, who was found dead in his car in Karachi's Ilyas Goth area on January 14, a day after his abduction.
The MQM has asked Pakistan's Chief Justice Saquib Nisar to take suo motu notice of what it described as the custodial assassination of Dr. Arif.
"The death of Professor Hassan Arif will not go in vain, he was a fearless and true ideological worker of the MQM, despite being detained arbitrary for several months in 2016, at a time when enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings were a daily occurrence, Professor Arif remained steadfast to his cause," MQM Founder Altaf Hussain had said earlier this month.
An editorial in one of Pakistan's leading dailies has said that the reduction in extra-judicial killings can only be realised through the overhauling of the criminal justice system, which is long overdue.
"A security policy without checks on the excesses of police and Rangers is designed to fail," the editorial in the Daily Times said.

Resignations should have come following Imran’s announcement: Khursheed Shah

Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah said on Monday that after Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan’s statements denouncing the parliament, the resignations of the party’s lawmakers should have come immediately.
The opposition leader, while in his chambers, said that after the announcement, the PTI leaders should not have waited or held consultations.
It is equivalent to disrupting the system, said Shah, adding that the Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Co-chair Asif Ali Zardari have always vowed not to let the system get derailed.
While slamming PTI leaders for using abusive language against the parliament, Shah was of the opinion that the law should be the same for everyone, even when it comes to perks associated with it.
Shah claimed that the PTI has received more than Rs100 million from the parliament, apart from other facilities.
While referring to the ongoing issue of suspended SSP Malir Rao Anwar, who is facing an investigation in relation to the extrajudicial killing of Naqeebullah, Khursheed Shah dismissed news of supporting the controversial cop.
He added that Zardari is not backing the police officer.
“If Rao Anwar fails to present himself before the court, then he will face a judicial inquiry,” said the opposition leader.
Earlier on Monday, the Sindh Assembly passed a resolution condemning Imran Khan and Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rasheed’s remarks against the parliament.
The resolution states that Imran insulted the parliament by hurling abuses at it, adding that Imran should apologise to the nation.
At the joint opposition rally on January 17 in Lahore, Imran had cursed the parliament for allowing Nawaz Sharif’s re-election as the party head after his disqualification.
“I give laanat (curse) the parliament that made a criminal the president of a party,” he said, in an apparent reference to ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif being elected the PML-N president.
Imran’s remarks followed the repeated cursing of the Parliament from Rasheed, who also announced his resignation from the assembly.