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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pakistan Court Lifts Ban on Politician -Jane Perlez

A five-member bench of the court appointed by the newly restored chief justice, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, suspended a ruling last month that was widely interpreted as a political decision by President Asif Ali Zardari to bar his political opponents, Mr. Sharif and his brother, Nawaz, from challenging him.

Although the Supreme Court did not rule on the future of Nawaz Sharif, who twice served as prime minister, political commentators said they expected the court to do so and clear the way for him to stand for election in the future.

In the February ruling, the Supreme Court said the Sharif brothers were ineligible to seek or hold office because of criminal convictions. Nawaz Sharif was convicted of hijacking a Pakistani airliner in October 1999 when he denied landing rights to an aircraft returning Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the army chief at the time, from a trip abroad. The aircraft landed anyway and Mr. Musharraf ousted Mr. Sharif in a coup.

Say "wholeheartedly" Allah u Akhbar!

So he cannot hit back at the US - specifically their drone attacks.

So, he does what? Kills fellow Muslims. ~~t
“We wholeheartedly take responsibility for this attack and will carry out more such attacks in future,” a main leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, told Reuters, saying that it was prompted by the missile strikes on his forces the United States has been carrying out by unmanned aerial vehicles in the border region near Afghanistan. “It’s revenge for the drone attacks in Pakistan,” Mr. Mehsud said.

The Worm That Ate the Web - The latest version of Conficker isn't the first bot to plague the Internet, but it may be the smartest and most sophistica

Last week, I pulled out my Internet cable, unplugged my USB drives, and searched my Windows machine for Conficker, the astounding computer worm that threatens to wreak global havoc once its latest version begins to phone home for further instructions on April 1. Well, maybe: While security researchers warn that the worm's creators may be planning on conducting fraud or even "information warfare" aimed at disrupting the Internet, nobody knows what terrible deed Conficker will ultimately pull off. What we do know is that Conficker is devilishly smart, terrifically contagious, and evolving. Each time experts discover a way to constrain its spread, its creators release new, more sophisticated versions that can push even further. The latest version, Conficker C, hit the Internet early in March. Estimates aren't precise, but researchers say the worm—in all its variants—has so far infected more than 10 million machines around the world.
Conficker gets into Windows through a security hole that Microsoft fixed last fall. As a result, the worm tends to run rampant on networks where IT guys have been slow to patch people's machines (like at the British Parliament, for instance, which reported a Conficker infection last week). Countries with lots of pirated versions of Windows are also vulnerable, with China, Brazil, Russia, and India among the most Confickered nations. On the other hand, I was lucky—my computer was worm-free. If your machine has been properly patched and protected, there's a good chance it's safe, too. (See Symantec's page on how to detect and remove it.)

The Real Afghan Issue Is Pakistan

But this is inverted. We suggest renaming the policy "PakAf," to emphasize that, from the perspective of U.S. interests and regional stability, the heart of the problem lies in Pakistan.

Consider a hypothetical. Had the terrorist attacks of 9/11 been planned by al Qaeda from its current headquarters in ungoverned areas of Pakistan, is it conceivable that today the U.S. would find itself with 54,000 troops and $180 billion committed to transforming medieval Afghanistan into a stable, modern nation?

For Afghanistan to become a unitary state ruled from Kabul, and to develop into a modern, prosperous, poppy-free and democratic country would be a worthy and desirable outcome. But it is not vital for American interests.

Galloway roars, live from N.Y.

"Come out and debate with me like a man," British MP George Galloway told Canada's Immigration Minister Jason Kenney last night via video link from New York, ridiculing the government for barring him from the country.

In a speech delivered live to more than 600 supporters in a Toronto church, the outspoken Galloway called the ban over his support of Gaza's Hamas government – a decision upheld hours earlier by a Canadian judge – as "foolish and counterproductive."

Loud applause greeted his challenge to Kenney for a one-on-one debate: "Let's book the biggest hall in Canada," said Galloway, "and you and I will debate these issues of war and peace and freedom of speech and censorship.

"You won't be able to hide behind your spokesman. You won't be able to hide behind your immigration officials that can't speak up for themselves (or) behind the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It will just be you and me and the Canadian public ..."

State of Emergency A personal history of Pakistan on the brink Moni Mohsin

Moni is Jugnu's sister, Najam's sis-in-law. The more interesting thing in this essay by Monis in the Boston Review is the comment by Prof C M Naim ~~t

Professor Emeritus, Univ. of Chicago
The essay says nothing new about the present state of affairs in Pakistan -- much better analyses have appeared here by Ahmed Rashid and William Dalrymple. As a personal statement too it leaves much unsaid, putting into doubt its purpose. Mohsin twice mentions her brother-in-law, Najam Sethi, and his two arrests, but does not mention that Sethi’s paper, The Daily Times, is owned by Salman Taseer, the present governor of Punjab and Zardari's hatchet man. To give the paper some credit, it has a few columnists critical of what the government—or Zardari's dictat—has wrought in the country. Moni Mohsin, however, takes the Peoples Party of Pakistan, its found Z. A. Bhutto, and the latter''s daughter and son-in-law completely off the hook.

Note how in the essay one paragraph ends with the breakup of Pakistan and the next begins with a denunciation of Ziaul Haq. As if the interim seven years didn't matter, or Papa Bhutto's role in forcing a breakup of Pakistan required no comment. Much worse, Mohsin hides the fact that the Islamization of Pakistani polity was started by the same Bhutto—a self-declared Socialist, no less—when he, to save his own skin, had the Pakistani parliament declare Ahmadi Muslims to be out of Islam.

In the same manner there is no mention of the fact that Both Benazir and then Zardari returned to Pakistan recently only after making sure that the pending criminal cases against them were withdrawn. In Zardari’s case that was urgently done, for the Swiss authorities were about to re-open their case against him. Now they legally can’t, because the originating Pakistani case is no more. That Zardari then went on to produce a ‘last testament’ in his own favor, and ruthlessly manipulated his way to the Presidential mansion also find no mention here. Putting the blame on others requires that one also give a full and honest account of one’s own failures and shortcomings. That, alas, is not common among the new chatteratis in Pakistan.

The great Afghan bailout - Tom Englehardt

What this all adds up to is an ambitious doubling down on just about every bet already made by Washington in these past years - from the counter-insurgency war against the Taliban and the counter-terrorism war against al-Qaeda to the financial love/hate relationship with the Pakistani military and its intelligence services underway since at least the president Richard Nixon years of the early 1970s. (Many of the flattering things now being said by US officials about Pakistani chief of the army staff General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani, for instance, were also said about the now fallen autocrat General Pervez Musharraf when he held the same position.)

Canada’s Boom in Smuggled Cigarettes

More than 150 Indian smoke shops crowd the nine-kilometer strip of Highway 138 that runs through the heart of the Kahnawake reserve. With names like Mega Butts, Get ’n’ Go, and Another Dam Cigarette Store, they serve the relentless flow of commuters between Montreal and its southern suburbs. They sell predominantly re-sealable bags of no-name cigarettes and Indian brands such as Native, Montcalm, Broncos, and DK’s, most of which, Splicer said, are made on the reserve.

The price of a carton of legal cigarettes in Canada varies between C$60 and C$80, depending on the province. Indian-made brands cost from C$12 to C$35, and no-name brands, which come in re-sealable bags, sell for as low as C$8 for 200 cigarettes. (Competition in Kahnawake grew so intense last year that baggy prices sank to C$6 before the Kahnawake Tobacco Association imposed price controls with a C$10 minimum. Still, the Center found some retailers selling for C$8.)

In addition to Kahnawake, police claim about 11 Indian manufacturers are operating on the Canadian and U.S. side of the border at Akwesasne. The Center tried to track down these operations but could locate only two that were still in operation. Officials say there are also manufacturers on the Six Nations Reserve near Brantford in southwestern Ontario and the Tyendinaga reserve near Belleville, Ontario.

Will the Persecution of Political Prisoner Sami Al-Arian Finally Come to an End? Chris Hedges

U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema is scheduled to issue a ruling in the Eastern District of Virginia at the end of April in a case that will send a signal to the Muslim world and beyond whether the American judicial system has regained its independence after eight years of flagrant manipulation and intimidation by the Bush administration. Brinkema will decide whether the Palestinian activist Dr. Sami Amin Al-Arian, held for over six years in prison and under house arrest in Virginia since Sept 2, is guilty or innocent of two counts of criminal contempt.

Brinkema’s ruling will have ramifications that will extend far beyond Virginia and the United States. The trial of Al-Arian is a cause célèbre in the Muslim world. A documentary film was made about the case in Europe. He has become the poster child for judicial abuse and persecution of Muslims in the United States by the Bush administration. The facts surrounding the trial and imprisonment of the former university professor have severely tarnished the integrity of the American judicial system and made the government’s vaunted campaign against terrorism look capricious, inept and overtly racist.

Skype, the Web Phone Giant, Brings Cheap Calls to Cellular

Skype, the Internet calling service that has more than 400 million users around the world, is aggressively moving onto mobile phones.

The Luxembourg-based company, a division of eBay, plans to announce on Tuesday that it will make its free software available immediately for Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch and, beginning in May, for various BlackBerry phones, made by Research in Motion.

Other companies have already made software for those phones that works with Skype, but it does not offer all of the service’s features.

As with Skype on the computer, users of Skype on mobile phones can make calls and send instant messages to other Skype users free, and they pay lower rates than the phone companies would charge when they use Skype to call landlines or other mobile phones.

Obama disappoints - Diane Francis

The mood is turning decidedly ugly in the United States as the public becomes more and more horrified at bailout efforts by President Barack Obama and his team. The latest outrage involves the unceremonious axing of the head of General Motors, without handing out pink slips to the Wall Street and other financial sector incompetents who ruined the global economy.

Wagoner's departure is a cynical exercise in optics. It's reminiscent to the ancient practice of primitives who decapitated vanquished generals in front of their defeated troops. The idea was to scare the wits out of everyone and to appear to be willing to punish the privileged while saving the underprivileged.

10 terms not to use with Muslims

In the course of my travels – from the Middle East to Central Asia to Southeast Asia – it has been my great privilege to meet and become friends with many devout Muslims. These friendships are defined by frank respect as we listen to each other; understand and agree on the what, why, and how of our disagreements, political and theological; and, most of all, deepen our points of commonality as a result.

I have learned much from my Muslim friends, foremost this: Political disagreements come and go, but genuine respect for each other, rooted in our respective faith traditions, does not. If there is no respect, there is no relationship, merely a transactional encounter that serves no one in the long term.

As President Obama considers his first speech in a Muslim majority country (he visits Turkey April 6-7), and as the US national security establishment reviews its foreign policy and public diplomacy, I want to share the advice given to me from dear Muslim friends worldwide regarding words and concepts that are not useful in building relationships with them. Obviously, we are not going to throw out all of these terms, nor should we. But we do need to be very careful about how we use them, and in what context.

[Thanks YA]

Syed Saleem Shahzad: Militants give bloody show of strength

I marvel! If SSS knows this, why is this not obvious to the intelligence appartchik in Pakistan and their bosses? ~~~t

Militants sources confirmed to Asia Times Online that the raid was the first major operation of the new nexus comprising al-Qaeda, Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud and Punjabi militants. They are angered by the agreement between Pakistan and the United States to hunt for top al-Qaeda and Taliban figures, as well as Pakistani militants, inside Pakistan. The attack perfectly underscores the words of United States


However, the biggest American complaint was about the base of legendary Afghan mujahideen leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, in Dande Darpa Khail in the North Waziristan tribal area on the border with Afghanistan. The Americans rightly felt that one day his camp would play a decisive role in the Taliban-led insurgency. They were dead right. In 2006, Mullah Omar appointed Haqqani his deputy and central military commander and the wily fighter was pivotal in helping the Taliban regroup, culminating in their successful spring offensive in 2006.

Last week, a CIA Predator drone attacked Makeen, the native town and headquarters of Mehsud in North Waziristan. Subsequently, the US placed a US$5 million ransom on his head - the first time it has done this for a Pakistani national. This happened even though Mehsud renounced violence against the Pakistani security forces after the Swat peace agreement this month. He instead will focus on foreign forces in Afghanistan. The attack on Mehsud's headquarters broke the ceasefire and a new wave of suicide attacks on the security forces has played havoc in North-West Frontier Province in the past few days. Monday's assault on the police training camp extends the battlefield into urban areas.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Military-Industrial- And Congressional Complex

In a conversation with a friend I mentioned military-industrial complex, made famous by Ike - President Eisenhower in his farewell speech to the nation on January 16, 1961.

Friend FK mentioned that in the original speech Ike had linked the US Congress to the Complex too.

Here is the original speech and an audio link Off-site Streaming Google Video of Address and Audio mp3 of Address. It was a thoughtful farewell address full of insights and even intuition.

And here is the relevant passage from that speech (bolds are mine):
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Mentioning this speech, Michael Hornblow writes:
In an earlier draft of the address, Eisenhower used the term “military-industrial-congressional complex” but the president reportedly struck out the word “congressional”to avoid offending members of the legislative branch. The actual authors of the term were speechwriters Ralph Williams and Malcom Moos.
That was 1961. With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to trace the reasons for this erosion of trust in the legislative arm.

Until effective and more meaningful elections reforms are undertaken, the candidates will continue to need a war chest of millions to win an election. This means a crack in the system that is exploited by by the Complex for their mutual benefit.

In the same speech Ike warned about plundering the present to rob the future. His environmental warning came way before conservation became a fad and a necessity.
Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society's future, we -- you and I, and our government -- must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.
The old soldier-politician had the foresight to warn against profligacy. If timely action was taken then, with the dominant US leadership role a given, the action to roll back global warming would have been underway sooner.

In the same farewell address Ike took time to speak about "mutual trust and respect." We heard it echoed recently in President Obama's video address to Iran on the eve of Nauroze. Trust and respect between the rich and the poor is what is needed most. Instead the third world ceaselessly is on the receiving end of MIC driven Haliburtonesque dichotomies:
During the long lane of the history yet to be written, America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect. Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many fast frustrations -- past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of disarmament -- of the battlefield.
With George W. Bush's neoconzix out to pasture, one hopes that Obamites would instill the world with the values Ike spoke about. Pursuit of life, liberty and happiness is in short supply. Instead the neconzix zealots saw profit in sowing seeds of distrust and suspicion all over the world.

A suspicious world distrustful of others is the right environment to sell big ticket armaments to both sides. It is time MIC Complex veers of that thinking. If the world, not the limited 'world' of US conglomerates, but the world inhabited by six billion self destructs, then Einstein's prediction about the fourth world war would come true. "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."

In worldwide misery and mayhem is profit for Big Business. It is time to rob them and spread mutual trust and respect between individuals, groups and nations.

Whose God is Great? Another Carnage in Lahore

Finally, at about 4 p.m., police and army commandos stormed the compound. Soon
after that, a group of surviving attackers surrendered on the rooftop of the main building. Dozens of police celebrated their triumph by firing into the air and shouting, "God is great." [link]

The ides of March have been unsettling for Lahorites in Pakistan.

For the second time in March, gunmen attacked in broad daylight and by last count between 30 (UPI) and 50 (Al Jazeera) people were dead. The first time their target was the visiting Sri Lankan Cricket team. That attack raised security concerns and may have contributed to the IPL venue shift to South Africa.

This time the heavily armed gunmen attacked a Police Training school. There is no building safe in Pakistan anymore.

In the aftermath of Red Mosque (Lal Musjid) fiasco, the gunmen had attacked a commando training centre.

These terrorists are well trained, financed and organised and they pick their targets carefully. Some months back they killed a retired SAS general who headed action against them in FATA and Swat.

The attack began around 7:30 a.m., when several hundred trainees were doing exercises on a parade field. Witnesses said they heard a series of loud explosions and then panic erupted, with recruits running in all directions and trying to escape. "It was beyond terrible. They had so much ammunition with them and the explosions came so fast. Everyone was running for their lives," said Mohammed Irfan, 22, who joined the police six months ago. He escaped from the compound shortly after noon, but more than 30 other hostages remained trapped inside for several more hours. [link]
Rehman Malik, who heads the Interior Ministry and is responsible for security says, "It is a planned, organised, terrorist attack. This shows the extent to which the enemies of our country can go," Rehman Malik, the interior ministry chief, said. "The question is - from where they are getting grenades, guns and rocket launchers in such a large number?" he said. [link]

He has been making such statements after every act from Karachi to Gilgit, promising media the culprits or suspects caught are being interrogated and after the melee has died down, nothing comes out of the security agencies investigations.

Questions can be raised. Is there a big cover up going on? Has the ISI grown too large and cannot be curbed? Why are names of sponsors and patrons of these terrorists not coming forward?

Do these "enemies" of Pakistan include only India's RAW, or would he spread the net and include agent-provocateurs from Afghanistan, the US and Saudi Arabia too. The latter sponsors and supports religious institutions and political parties in Pakistan. but is barely mentioned as a possibility.

Rehman Malik wonders about from where these terrorists get their "grenades, guns and rocket launchers." Has he perhaps forgotten the abject surrender of thousands of army jawans, fully armed, in the FATA in the past years? The jawans are released after huge ransoms are paid, but the equipment stays back. Then there is the porous Pak Afghan border, and the hundreds of kilometers of coastal area in Balichistan.

Allah u Akbar (God is Great) shout the gunmen, the suicide bombers and the terrorists. Allah u Akbar shout the police and the Army. Kilings go on invoking His name. Somewhere out there, Allah is ostensibly not listening.

Syria Calling :The Obama Administration’s chance to engage in a Middle East peaceby Seymour M. Hersh .

Nonetheless, a few days after the Israeli ceasefire in Gaza, Assad said in an e-mail to me that although Israel was “doing everything possible to undermine the prospects for peace,” he was still very interested in closing the deal. “We have to wait a little while to see how things will evolve and how the situation will change,” Assad said. “We still believe that we need to conclude a serious dialogue to lead us to peace.”

A major change in American policy toward Syria is clearly under way. “The return of the Golan Heights is part of a broader strategy for peace in the Middle East that includes countering Iran’s influence,” Martin Indyk, a former American Ambassador to Israel, who is now the director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, at the Brookings Institution, said. “Syria is a strategic linchpin for dealing with Iran and the Palestinian issue. Don’t forget, everything in the Middle East is connected, as Obama once said.”

Robert Fisk’s World: A brave man who stood alone. If only the world had listened to him

You can see him smiling selflessly in several snapshots. He went to cover the refugee complex at Al-Rowaishid and moved inexorably towards Gaza where he was confronted by the massive tragedy of the Palestinians. "I woke up at about eight in my bed in Jerusalem and lay in until 9.30," he wrote. "We left at 10.00... Since then, I have been shot at, gassed, chased by soldiers, had sound grenades thrown within metres of me, been hit by falling debris..."
Hurndall was trying to save Palestinian homes and infrastructure but frequently came under Israeli fire and seemed to have lost his fear of death. "While approaching the area, they (the Israelis) continually fired one- to two-second bursts from what I could see was a Bradley fighting vehicle... It was strange that as we approached and the guns were firing, it sent shivers down my spine, but nothing more than that. We walked down the middle of the street, wearing bright orange, and one of us shouted through a loudspeaker, 'We are International volunteers. Don't shoot!' That was followed by another volley of fire, though I can't be sure where from..."
Tom Hurndall had stayed in Rafah. He was only 21 where – in his mother's words – he lost his life through a single, selfless, human act. "Tom was shot in the head as he carried a single Palestinian child out of the range of an Israeli army sniper." Mrs Hurndall asked me to write a preface to Tom's book and this article is his preface, for a brave man who stood alone and showed more courage than most if us dreamed of. Forget tree huggers. Hurndall was one good man and true.

The Darfur the West Isn’t Recognizing as It Moralizes About the Region - Howard W French

Mahmood Mamdani, a Ugandan-born scholar at Columbia University and the author of “When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and Genocide in Rwanda,” is one of the most penetrating analysts of African affairs. In “Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror,” he has written a learned book that reintroduces history into the discussion of the Darfur crisis and questions the logic and even the good faith of those who seek to place it at the pinnacle of Africa’s recent troubles. It is a brief, he writes, “against those who substitute moral certainty for knowledge, and who feel virtuous even when acting on the basis of total ignorance.”

Mr. Mamdani does not dismiss a record of atrocities in Darfur, where 300,000 have been killed and 2.5 million been made refugees, yet he opposes the label of genocide as a subjective judgment wielded for political reasons against a Sudanese government that is out of favor because of its history of Islamism and its suspected involvement in terror.

Guantánamo, Bagram and the “Dark Prison”: Binyam Mohamed talks to Moazzam Begg ALSO Abut Afia Siddiqui

Moazzam also questions him about Afia Siddiqui late on in this interview - note the timing of his stay at Bagram and his comments on her mental state at that time ~ t

The British human rights group Cageprisoners has just published a fascinating interview with Binyam Mohamed, the British resident, subjected to “extraordinary rendition” and torture, who was freed from Guantánamo on February 23. I have covered Binyam’s story in great depth over the last few years (see the list of articles at the end of this interview), including a detailed analysis of an interview he did with the journalist David Rose for the Mail on Sunday, following his release, but this interview, in which Moazzam Begg, former prisoner and spokesman for Cageprisoners, generally refrains from asking questions about Binyam’s torture, is particularly noteworthy for its insights into the psychological effects of incarceration in the CIA’s “Dark Prison” in Afghanistan, life as a prisoner in Bagram and Guantánamo, tales of other prisoners, and reflections on the importance of the prisoners’ faith, and the authorities’ response to it.

Vast Spy System Loots Computers in 103 Countries -JohnMarkoff

A vast electronic spying operation has infiltrated computers and has stolen documents from hundreds of government and private offices around the world, including those of the Dalai Lama, Canadian researchers have concluded.

In a report to be issued this weekend, the researchers said that the system was being controlled from computers based almost exclusively in China, but that they could not say conclusively that the Chinese government was involved.

The researchers, who are based at the Munk Center for International Studies at the University of Toronto, had been asked by the office of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader whom China regularly denounces, to examine its computers for signs of malicious software, or malware.

Spanish Court Weighs Inquiry on Torture for 6 Bush-Era Officials

A Spanish court has taken the first steps toward opening a criminal investigation into allegations that six former high-level Bush administration officials violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the torture of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, an official close to the case said.

The case, against former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and others, was sent to the prosecutor’s office for review by Baltasar Garzón, the crusading investigative judge who ordered the arrest of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The official said that it was “highly probable” that the case would go forward and that it could lead to arrest warrants.

The move represents a step toward ascertaining the legal accountability of top Bush administration officials for allegations of torture and mistreatment of prisoners in the campaign against terrorism. But some American experts said that even if warrants were issued their significance could be more symbolic than practical, and that it was a near certainty that the warrants would not lead to arrests if the officials did not leave the United States.

Noam Chomsky on the economy and democracy Pt2

Noam Chomsky on the economy and democracy Pt2
Noam Chomsky: The best way to move forward is support unionization

USA, ISI, Pakistran - Musharraf and Hussain Haqqani

Re: the linked news reports, former President Musharraf said in front of TV cameras, "we must resist maligning national institutions." He also likened ISI with similar agencies and departments of other countries. It is easy to overlook Musharraf's remarks, citing his strong life-long affiliation with the Army. But in jumps our neo-conzix ambassador in DC with his remarks defending ISI, as reported by Geo TV's reporter from DC. Mr. Haqqani's defense of ISI is perplexing indeed.

In recent days three top American generals have turned their guns on Pakistan, accusing elements of its main intelligence agency, the ISI, of supporting Taliban and al-Qaeda militants. American leverage in South Asia

The Encroaching Talibanisation of Karachi - Kamal Siddiqi

Is the allegedly "secular" MQM slipping in Karachi? This rise of Talibanisation does not bode well for the city - nor the country. This gun toting Talibanisation reminds of incidents we used to hear some years back when drug addicts carrying needles in their hands would blackmail others into paying them money or they will "inject" HIV-Aids into them ~~t

Earlier this week, a family friend got off from her car and walked to a chemist’s shop in a busy shopping area of Karachi. She was wearing a normal shalwar- kameez suit that most Karachi women wear in public areas. Nothing out of the ordinary. As she walked to the shop, a man approached her and showed her a pistol. But instead of robbing her, he gave her a chilling message: “Next time you come in public, cover yourself from head to toe.” This happened in full public view on a busy Karachi street. But no one seemed to notice and the man did not in any way seem in any hurry or worry.

A family in Clifton last month received a notice which was addressed to the father. In it, he was told to ensure that his daughters — who were described in the letter in very negative terms — should be told to stay home since they were seen to be of loose character. The letter warned the father to take action, otherwise the mosque will have to “do something.” The crime of these girls apparently was that they were seen too frequently moving around and that too in Western clothes. The writers of this threatening letter even disclosed their identity. The claimed to be from a prominent mosque, situated in the market area of Clifton. The shaken family did as they were told. Many families have received such letters and in most instances they have complied. No action or questions have been asked of the people at this mosque. The police shrugs this off as nothing important.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Munawwar Hasan’s election surprises JI stalwarts

The election of Syed Munawwar Hasan, the Karachi-based Secretary General of the Jamaat-e-Islami, as the JI Ameer came as a shock to many stalwarts of the party. He was declared the new Ameer out of schedule by the party’s Nazim-e-election Abdul Hafeez.

According to the schedule, the poll result of the new JI Ameer was to be announced in the first week of April, i.e. after the expiry of the term of outgoing Ameer, Qazi Hussain, who will retire on March 31.

When The News contacted JI Sindh Naib Ameer Dr Meraj-ul-Huda Siddiqi, he said that the announcement of election result was not made in haste since the Nazim-e-election was bound to declare the result after the counting of votes was complete.

Hasan’s election, however, came as a disappointment for many party stalwarts who thought that the seat must not go to a resident of Karachi.

Bubblespeak: The Orwellian language of Wall Street finds its way to the Treasury Department.Daniel Gross

In his timeless 1946 essay "Politics and the English Language," George Orwell condemned political rhetoric as a tool used "to make lies sound truthful" and "to give an appear­ance of solidity to pure wind." Were he alive today, Orwell might well be moved to pen a com­panion piece on the use of financial lingo. Remember those toxic assets? The poorly performing mortgages and collateralized debt obligations festering on the books of banks that made truly exe­crable lending decisions? In the latest federal bank rescue plan, they've been transformed into "legacy loans" and "lega­cy securities"—safe for professional in­vestors to purchase, provided, of course, they get lots of cheap government credit.

The problem isn't that words intended to change the conversation aren't accu­rate. Rather, the accepted terms turned out not to mean what people think they mean. Instead of helping to reduce risk, securitization—chopping up debt and distributing it—spread risk. Nonprime mortgages frequently turned out to be subprime. A lot of high-yield debt turned out to be junk. This confusion over the meaning of financial terms, and the skep­ticism it engenders, may be the real legacy of the Dumb Money Era.

What's So Great About White Phosphorus? By Juliet Lapidos

Human Rights Watch accused the Israeli military of "deliberately or recklessly" using white phosphorus shells over densely populated civilian areas, in a report released Wednesday. The Israel Defense Forces are not alone in their use of white phosphorus—during the 2004 battle of Fallujah, for example, U.S. troops used the incendiary weapon. If white phosphorus gets human rights organizations so upset, why do militaries keep using it?

Because it's versatile. White phosphorus, known in martial circles as "Willy Pete," may cause horrific burns when used as a weapon (click here for a gruesome visual and here [PDF] for a report on its health effects), but it's primarily deployed as a smoke screen. When packed into munitions, the chemical serves as a particularly efficient masking agent because it works so quickly—bursting into thick, white, billowing clouds in just a fraction of a second. The M116 shell, by contrast, which is also used in military campaigns, takes approximately two minutes to produce smoke. White phosphorus also impedes the use of infrared tracking systems, like those used to guide some anti-tank missiles. Finally, it's light in weight, which makes it suitable as a filling for hand grenades.

Return of the Benchmarks - By Barron YoungSmith

The NYT's lead details the genesis of Obama's new Afghanistan policy, which is an Obama-esque compromise of the views of numerous strong-willed advisers. Ground commanders (read, "David Petraeus") requested a large, long-term commitment of troops and resources, but Robert Gates and Mike Mullen pared back their requests. Richard Holbrooke and Hillary Clinton insisted on more anti-corruption and anti-drug-trafficking efforts, while Vice President Joe Biden warned stridently against overcommitment that would get us into to an open-ended quagmire. Obama chose a synthesis of these approaches at Camp David last weekend. While the WP thinks Congress liked Obama's Afghanistan speech, the NYT says Congress was "skeptical." The LAT focuses on the reaction from conservatives, who are unambiguously ecstatic over what they consider to be Obama's "maximalist" approach. (Indeed, Bill Kristol was overheard praising Obama to the heavens yesterday.) Some of the papers also note complaints that Obama's plan lacks specifics.

Brother, Can You Spare a Room?

In fact, once upon a time, the boardinghouse thrived in America, especially in New York. In 1856, Walt Whitman claimed that almost three-quarters of Manhattanites lived in one. He may have been exaggerating slightly, but the historian Wendy Gamber has estimated that “up to 30 percent of all 19th-century households took in boarders,” and the 1860 census counted 2,651 boardinghouse keepers in New York State alone. In 1857, foreseeing that the phenomenon might not last forever, Thomas Butler Gunn undertook to record it for posterity in The Physiology of New York Boarding-Houses, which is available in an opportunely reprinted edition from Rutgers University Press ($23.95) as well as a facsimile edition from Cornell University Library ($23.99). “I wonder what they were!” Gunn imagines a future researcher asking, and for an answer, he provides chapters on the Hand-to-Mouth Boardinghouse, the Fashionable Boardinghouse Where You Don’t Get Enough to Eat and the Boardinghouse Where the Landlady Drinks, among other representative types. New Yorkers of the 21st century will probably recognize the 8-by-6-foot rooms and the walls soiled where mosquitoes “have encountered Destiny in the shape of the slippers or boot-soles of former occupants.” But the unceasing drama of boardinghouse life — the flirtations, drunkenness, mutual irritation, backbiting, whining, eccentricity, conspiracy, chiseling and deceit — may come as a surprise. The closest modern parallel may be the comments section of a blog.

White House Debate Led to Plan to Widen Afghan Effort

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s plan to widen United States involvement in Afghanistan came after an internal debate in which Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. warned against getting into a political and military quagmire, while military advisers argued that the Afghanistan war effort could be imperiled without even more troops.

All of the president’s advisers agreed that the primary goal in the region should be narrow — taking aim at Al Qaeda, as opposed to the vast attempt at nation-building the Bush administration had sought in Iraq. The question was how to get there.

The commanders in the field wanted a firmer and long-term commitment of more combat troops beyond the 17,000 that Mr. Obama had already promised to send, and a pledge that billions of dollars would be found to significantly expand the number of Afghan security forces.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pressed for an additional 4,000 troops to be sent to Afghanistan — but only to serve as trainers. They tempered the commanders’ request and agreed to put off any decision to order more combat troops to Afghanistan until the end of this year, when the strategy’s progress could be assessed

M J Akbar - Banking on Bankruptcy

We tend to forget that “bank” is the first part of “bankruptcy”. Barack Obama’s problem however seems to be a bankruptcy of ideas. No one I spoke to — and among them were high officials of finance — is yet certain how the most powerful economy in the world turned into a cashless casino. Obama’s solution is to flood the casino with money so that the game does not suddenly stop. How much money? A trillion dollars, and more to come. What happens when the dollar starts to slip to the value of printing ink? China, which has invested heavily in dollars, is getting edgy. Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman is not impressed by Barackonomics. He writes that Obama is squandering his political capital by replicating a solution even Bush abandoned: cash for trash. The Titanic might leave the dollar on thin ice.

15 tools for the Gmail addict - Don Reisinger

Gmail is becoming more popular by the day, but it's far from perfect. Let's take a look at some tools that will extend its functionality and makes it an even more worthwhile service. Don Reisinger
[thanks AL]

Pepe Escobar: Obama held hostage by PPPIP

Obama held hostage by PPPIP
Pepe Escobar: If Geithner's plan does not work, the President sinks

With Obama at the World's "Most Dangerous Place"

Akbar S Ahmed gives his take on what Obama should do. He has been a former mid level CSP officer, ambassador, turned academic. He also shares credit for the film Jinnah. ~~~t

As a Pakistani, it was a pleasure to hear an American president speak with such respect of the people of Pakistan. Obama talked of the suffering of the Pakistanis at the hand of the terrorists after 9/11. He even mentioned the large numbers of Pakistani soldiers killed in action along Pakistan's international border while attempting to bring law and order.

End of the Line for the Sudairi Seven?

A dispute over Saudi Arabia's royal succession burst into the open yesterday, revealing a power struggle in which one of the most senior princes in the oil-rich kingdom is reported to have disappeared. The prospect of instability in a country that is not only the world's largest oil exporter but also a key Western ally at the heart of the Middle East will cause serious concern in Washington, London and beyond.

Rumours are rife over the position of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, 60, son of the heir to the Saudi throne, who has not been seen in public for weeks. Prince Bandar is better known abroad than almost any other member of the Saudi royal family, not only for his extravagant lifestyle, but because of his daring foreign policy initiatives during 22 years as the Saudi ambassador in Washington, where he played an important role after 9/11 and during two Gulf wars. His absence from public life comes at a sensitive time in Saudi Arabia: his father, Crown Prince Sultan, is gravely ill with cancer, throwing the succession to King Abdullah into question.

On Friday night King Abdullah unexpectedly announced the appointment of one of his half-brothers, Prince Nayef, the 76-year-old interior minister, to the post of second deputy prime minister, which had been left vacant. This was immediately taken as an indication that he would become crown prince when Prince Sultan dies or becomes king. But yesterday Prince Talal, another senior figure, publicly demanded that the king confirm that the appointment did not mean Prince Nayef would automatically become the next crown prince. Such public disagreement among senior Saudi royals is highly unusual.

Rauf Klasra: Late night calls to Zardari made the difference

lThis is one aspect of Saudi interference in Pakistan's affairs. The other one that is even less discussed is their support - moral and financial - for the religious clergy masterminds of different stripes who unleash the suicide bombers all over Pakistan ~~~t

Other than the US and UK, Saudi Arabian leaders will be relaxed after President Zardari agreed to revive the old arrangement of power-sharing at the Centre and the Punjab. A genuinely worried Saudi King had even sent his intelligence chief, Sheikh Mukrin, with a long letter in the name of President Asif Zardari. In this letter he told the president not to disturb the existing political power-sharing system at least for one and a half years as the friends of Pakistan were seriously concerned about the deepening instability in the country.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Syeds of the Army Are the Untouchables

Babar Sattar writes: To restate the obvious, the rule of law must equally apply to all citizens without exception, including judges and generals.

This is the crux in a society that is brought up to revere Syeds. Please understand, I have nothing against Syeds...or for that matter against Mughals, Siddiquis, Rajputs, Mughals, Qureshis etc.

The 'generals' are the Syeds in Pakistan.

The reason why Hamoodur Rehman Commission's recommendations not followed through is because nobody, repeat nobody had the strength of their conviction, not to mention the spine, to haul the named generals before the courts.

The 'courts' can hang a politician. And they did.

Can you name one instance, in Pakistan's history where a general was punished by the courts?

So, despite Hamid Mir's whining on every single broadcast about charging Musharraf under article 6, despite the noble intentions of Babar Sattar and other well meaning individuals, Musharraf is one of the Army.

And the Army protects its own.

Chomsky on Geithner

Noam Chomsky: Plan is recycled Bush/Paulson. We need nationalization and steps towards democratization

neo-conzix's reincarnation

A newly-formed and still obscure neo-conservative foreign policy organization is giving some observers flashbacks to the 1990s, when its predecessor staked out the aggressively unilateralist foreign policy that came to fruition under the George W Bush administration. The blandly-named Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) - the brainchild of Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, neo-conservative foreign policy guru Robert Kagan, and former Bush administration official Dan Senor - has thus far kept a low profile; its only activity to this point has been to sponsor a conference pushing for a US "surge" in Afghanistan. But some see FPI as a likely successor to Kristol and Kagan's previous organization, the now-defunct Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which they launched in 1997 and became best known for leading the public campaign to oust former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein both before and after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Pepe Escobar: Obama's Afghan Spaghetti Western

It's painfully, obviously impossible to win local hearts and minds, curb drug smuggling, invest in nation-building and fight a CAEWWTDUH or OCO under these circumstances with such a set up. NATO is on a losing war - and the best political minds in Brussels know it.

But the crucial problem remains; the Obama administration is just remixing the Pentagon's operational priorities - same as with the acronym fiasco. For all practical purposes, strategically reviewed or not, GWOT, TLW, CAEWWTDUH or OCO goes on, with no end in sight, with the Persian Gulf as a secondary theater, Afghanistan-Pakistan and Central Asia as the primary theater, and ideology poisoning strategic vision.

This framework, inherited from Bush and his former vice president Dick Cheney, is incompatible with what can be glimpsed from some of Obama's speeches and actions, the lineaments of maybe a new, more equitable, American project. Yes we can? Not yet. There will be blood - a lot more blood - in this Afghan Spaghetti Western.

Let's Talk About Empire

Foreign Policy In Focus asked its senior analysts to weigh in on the future course of American foreign policy. This is the question they responded to: "The enormous challenges facing us — economic crisis, climate crisis, nuclear proliferation — require unprecedented global cooperation. Will President Barack Obama draw down the American empire in order to meet these challenges? Or will he do what he can to maintain empire in a different form?"

Sarah Anderson
E. Ethelbert Miller
Mark Engler
Stephen Zunes
Adil EShamoo
Ian Williams
Christine Ahn
Dan Smith

Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington and is the co-author of Field Guide to the Global Economy (New Press, 2005).
E. Ethelbert Miller is an award-winning poet, the director of the African American Resource Center at Howard University, and the board chairperson of the Institute for Policy Studies.
Mark Engler is the author of How to Rule the World: The Coming Battle Over the Global Economy (Nation Books, 2008).Stephen Zunes is a a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco.
Adil E. Shamoo is an Iraqi American and a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Ian Williams's work is available on Ahn works with the Global Fund for Women.
Colonel. Daniel Smith, U.S. Army (Ret.) is a retired U.S. Army colonel, and a senior fellow on military affairs at the Friends Committee on National Legislation.
They are all senior analysts at Foreign Policy In Focus.

Cell Phone Scare: What Do We Really Know About the Health Risks? - Elisa Batista

Last July, renowned cancer expert Dr. Ronald Herberman sent off a rather alarming note to the 3,000 faculty and staff members at the University of Pittsburgh warning that children should limit their use of cell phones to decrease their risk of cancer. "Although the evidence is still controversial, I am convinced that there are sufficient data to warrant issuing an advisory to share some precautionary advice on cell phone use," wrote Herberman, who heads the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. He also advised adults to choose texting, Bluetooth headsets, or speakerphone options instead of holding a cell phone to the ear.

For those looking to reduce their electromagnetic radiation risk, Herberman recommends not carrying the cell phone on the body, unless its keypad is positioned towards you so the phone’s electromagnetic fields "move away from you rather than through you." He also recommends using speakerphone or a wireless headset to avoid placing the phone on your ear. If you must put the phone to your head, make sure to switch ears regularly and keep the conversation as short as possible. And try to avoid using the phone when there is bad reception such as in a moving train or car, Herberman urges. While it’s still too early to know for sure how cell phones might impact human health, anyone who’s worried may want to consider this a bug in their ear.

Rauf Klasra: Gilani Bails Out Zardari

The meeting was attended by Ahmed Mukhtar, Raza Rabbani, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Qamar Zaman Kaira, Dr Babar Awan, Nazar Mohammad Gondal, Qazi Sultan, Farhatullah Babar, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Nawab Yousuf Talpur, Khursheed Shah, Qaim Ali Shah, Ali Nawaz Shah, Zulifkar Mirza, Qasim Zia and others.

These leaders feared in their private conversations with this correspondent that this attitude might again land the PPP government in trouble in the days to come, if the six-point formula handed over to him was not executed. Top sources revealed that some of the party elders were equally disappointed with the role of PM Gilani during the meeting. They revealed when they were expecting President Zardari to finally take decisions on the six useful pieces of advice, after hours of discussions, it was PM Yusuf Raza Gilani who frustrated their efforts and stopped the president from accepting or rejecting the recommendations.

Rafia Zakaria: Pushing Baby Back into the Womb

The purpose behind this historical overview is to reveal the fallacy of assertions that suggest that going back to formulations of justice that appear medieval somehow denotes a return to an era of Islamic authenticity; proximity in this sense does not automatically produce purity in terms of legal tradition.

Assertions that Qazi courts are representative of the Medinite caliphate are not only historically inaccurate, but mischaracterise the reality that Qazis fulfilled an administrative function that had more to do with managing an empire than any textual allegiance to the Quran.


True Words - Irfan Hussain

Irfan is one of us with a difference...he does not live in Pakistan. Hence he can see things more clearly. Kudos Irfan ~~t

When private channels first began operating in Pakistan’s stultified environment, I had hoped it would be a liberating force, opening a window to the world for millions of Pakistanis. In reality, it has worked to serve the opposite end by reinforcing existing prejudices, rather than challenging them. Owners of channels have their own concealed agendas, and poorly educated producers and hosts do little to separate opinions from facts.

Friday, March 27, 2009

To The Suicide Bomber

Khuda karay
tu jahannum
ki sulagti
aag maiN jalta
rahay sada

aur m'ray Khuda
ka naam bhee t'ree
pohanch say do'or
rahay sada


yeh aah, na srif in haraamzaday khudkush bombers kay liyay dil se nikalti hay


is aah ka rukh oon tamaam jahil mazhabi theykaydarouN kay liyay bhee hay jo in la'anatiouN ki brainswashing kay zimmadar haiN!

may they burn in hell for eternity

When a withdrawal is not a withdrawal -Garth Porter

When Bhutto Sr. brought in a bill protecting factory workers, granting them minimum wages, right to strike etc. a smart mill owner called in his night watchman and "promoted" him to a "night manager" (with the same wages) ...:) I have been reminded of that story when I read the floowing one ~~~t

Despite United States President Barack Obama's statement at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, on February 27 that he had "chosen a timeline that will remove our combat brigades over the next 18 months", a number of Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs), which have been the basic US Army combat unit in Iraq for six years, will remain in Iraq after that date under a new non-combat label. A spokesman for Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Lieutenant Colonel Patrick S Ryder, told Inter Press Service on Tuesday that "several advisory and assistance brigades" would be part of a US command in Iraq that would be "re-designated" as a "transition force headquarters" after August 2010. But the "advisory and assistance brigades" to remain in Iraq after that date will in fact be the same as BCTs, except for the addition of a few dozen officers who would carry out the advice and assistance missions, according to military officials involved in the planning process. Gates has hinted that the withdrawal of combat brigades would be accomplished through an administrative sleight of hand rather than by actually withdrawing all the combat brigade teams. Appearing on Meet the Press on March 1, Gates said the "transition force" would have "a very different kind of mission", and that the units remaining in Iraq "will be characterized differently". "They will be called advisory and assistance brigades," said Gates. "They won't be called combat brigades."

FBI Director Pushes to Renew PATRIOT Act Surveillance Powers by Liliana Segura

The ACLU report highlights three specific provisions of the PATRIOT Act that have led to unprecedented surveillance against Americans:

Section 215 -- which drastically broadens the kinds of information the government can demand under FISA to "any tangible thing" (while lowering the burden of proof to obtain an order). As the Washington Post explains, this measure "allows investigators probing terrorism to seek a suspect's records from third parties such as financial services and travel and telephone companies without notifying the suspect. The American Civil Liberties Union has criticized the provision, saying it violates the First Amendment rights of U.S. citizens."

Section 206 -- which grants the authority to use secret "roving wiretaps." "In the past, authorities had to seek court approval for each electronic device carried by a suspect, from a cellphone and a BlackBerry to a home computer," writes the Post, "But under the provision, one warrant can cover all of those machines." "Unlike roving wiretaps authorized for criminal investigations," the ACLU explains, "section 206 does not require the order to identify either the communications device to be tapped nor the individual against whom the surveillance is directed, which is what gives section 206 the Kafkaesque moniker, the "John Doe roving wiretap provision."

Section 6001 -- or the "lone wolf" provision, which allows for secret FISA surveillance orders against people who have no connections to a terror group or foreign nation. "The government justified this provision by imagining a hypothetical "lone wolf," an international terrorist operating independently of any terrorist organization," explains the ACLU, "but there is little evidence to suggest this imaginary construct had any basis in reality."

All three provisions are set to expire on December 31st.Yesterday, however, during an appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller made it clear that he considers these PATRIOT Act provisions valuable tools in intelligence gathering and will pressure Congress to keep them past their expiration date.

Krugman: The Market Wizards Were Exposed as Frauds -- Too Bad Obama's Team Still Believes in Their Magic

Underlying the glamorous new world of finance was the process of securitization. Loans no longer stayed with the lender. Instead, they were sold on to others, who sliced, diced and puréed individual debts to synthesize new assets. Subprime mortgages, credit card debts, car loans — all went into the financial system’s juicer. Out the other end, supposedly, came sweet-tasting AAA investments. And financial wizards were lavishly rewarded for overseeing the process. But the wizards were frauds, whether they knew it or not, and their magic turned out to be no more than a collection of cheap stage tricks. Above all, the key promise of securitization — that it would make the financial system more robust by spreading risk more widely — turned out to be a lie. Banks used securitization to increase their risk, not reduce it, and in the process they made the economy more, not less, vulnerable to financial disruption. Sooner or later, things were bound to go wrong, and eventually they did. Bear Stearns failed; Lehman failed; but most of all, securitization failed....

But the underlying vision remains that of a financial system more or less the same as it was two years ago, albeit somewhat tamed by new rules.

As you can guess, I don’t share that vision. I don’t think this is just a financial panic; I believe that it represents the failure of a whole model of banking, of an overgrown financial sector that did more harm than good. I don’t think the Obama administration can bring securitization back to life, and I don’t believe it should try.

Eric Holder Must End FBI's Abuses Against American Muslims - Parvez Ahmed

A recent headline on CNN read, "FBI planting spies in U.S. mosques," Muslim groups allege. This outrage was sparked by revelations that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had sent an agent provocateur into a mosque in southern California who was coercing worshippers in becoming informants and inciting them to make violent statements. The planting of spies in mosques is just the latest in the FBI's long list of actions that have angered both civil libertarians and members of the American Muslim community.

The FBI's hasty pronouncements and ensuing misguided responses by some American Muslim organizations have placed undue burdens on the American Muslim community. It is incumbent that both the FBI and American Muslim groups meet to work out their differences before their respective intransigence undermines security and civic harmony. The new Attorney General Eric Holder, who has called for, "adherence to the rule of law," and a cessation of "the needlessly abusive and unlawful practices" must step forward to assure the American Muslim community that the Obama administration will break away from the bad policies that plagued the Ashcroft-Gonzalez Justice department.

Youssef Ziedan's controversial novel Azazeel is the worthy winner of a literary award that is widening access to Arabic fiction around the world

I was in Abu Dhabi last week to see the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, won by Youssef Ziedan of Egypt for his novel Azazeel. The book, whose English title is given as Beelzebub, has disturbing echoes for today with its tale of religious fanaticism and mob violence -­ in this case among early Christians in Roman Egypt. Ziedan, a genial scholar aged 50, told me it sparked an outcry among some of Egypt's 10 million Coptic Christians, who wanted it banned. Yet beyond dispute is that the IPAF, dubbed the "Arabic Booker", has made its mark as an influential literary award in only its second year.

The fictional monk stumbles on another historical conflict, between the Coptic Bishop Cyril of Alexandria, and Nestorius, the Syrian-born patriarch of Constantinople whom Cyril deposed as a heretic in a schism of AD 431. The novel by Muslim-born Ziedan was controversial partly for portraying Saint Cyril as a fanatic who kills Jews and pagans, and partly for wading into theological disputes over whether the Virgin Mary was the mother of God. Ziedan traces this notion of heresy to underlying differences between Greco-Egyptian and desert Arab cultures and their view of divinities. But in an urgent parallel with the extremists of today, he sees the novel as "not against Christianity but against violence, especially violence in the name of the sacred". That such humane, questioning -­ if provocative - voices should be more widely heard is an auspicious beginning for the prize.

Total fraud By The Mogambo Guru

Fortunately, the news media is overlooking this Mogambo Writers Rating Service (MWRS) scandal, and so I get back to the point, which is that $164 billion in new credit was created by the Federal Reserve last week, and to make matters worse, of that $164 billion in credit that appeared, literally, out of thin air, a full $163 billion of it was used by the Federal Reserve (a private bank owned by private parties and run by private citizens of various nations, all without any real oversight by anybody) to buy Treasury and agency debt for itself!

Now do you want to talk about fraud, or about how you should be buying gold, silver and oil to protect yourself against the predations of a corrupt government and their unholy henchmen, the corrupt banks who will bankrupt everybody under an onslaught of inflation in prices except those who own gold, silver and oil.

The Real AIG Scandal: How the Game Is Rigged at Wall Street's Casino

There's nothing like a grandstanding member of Congress to deflect attention from the real issues at hand by throwing a few juicy bones to the masses.

Most legislators at a House Finance subcommittee hearing last week deftly avoided the real story of AIG's collapse. Instead, they homed in on the public relations disaster of hundreds of top AIG officials and staff getting $165 million (later revealed as over $218 million) in bonuses.

The key issue ignored by the congressmen and women was the potential catastrophe represented by as much as $2.7 trillion in AIG derivative contracts and how AIG and the U.S. government are dealing with them. To put that number in context, we've so far provided the company only about $170 billion.

An exception at the hearing was Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., who declared that "naked credit default swaps" were little more than "gambling ... dreamed up" by Wall Street to create additional profits, and he suggested that instead of being bailed out, "when the casino goes bust, the guys who are gambling close shop."

Varun Gandhi: A pox on both his houses

A gem from Santwana Bhattacharya ~~t

If Gandhi had adopted Varun's Parsi grandfather Feroze Shah to help him marry Nehru's young and beautiful daughter Indira, Nehru had adopted secularism with a near-religious fervor so as to refute arch-rival Mohammed Ali Jinnah's two-nation theory. Nearly 75 years later, Varun seems to have made a mockery of both.

Richard Burton's Kama Sutra Quest

Richard Burton was a fascinating figure. He came to Sind (Sinde) when he was barely out of teens and scouted the countryside (read spied) for Charles Napier of the peccavi fame. Linguist, translator, traveller, discoverer, author - there were many sides to his personlaity. Too bad, after his death his then wife burned all his papers ~~~t

Progressive sexuality or pornography?
In the final decade of his life, Burton launched a direct assault on the forces of Mrs. Grundy, declaring his intention to cause her to “howl on her big bum.” He began by collaborating with the Indian civil servant F. F. Arbuthnot to privately publish English translations of the Kama Sutra and Ananga-Ranga. The actual translation of these works, which were originally written in Sanskrit, was carried out by several Indian scholars hired by Arbuthnot, while Burton polished the English prose, supplied introductions and footnotes, and oversaw their printing and marketing. In order to avoid prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act, he sold the books by subscription and distributed them by mail, using a fictive organization, the Kama Shastra Society, and fictive place of publication, Cosmopoli, while keeping his and Arbuthnot’s names off the title pages.Burton employed the same stratagem with his subsequent translations of the Perfumed Garden, a medieval Arabic sex manual.

His magnum opus, the ten-volume Book of a Thousand Nights (followed by the six-volume Supplemental Nights), was printed, marketed, and distributed in similar fashion, but in this instance Burton proudly placed his name on the title pages and appended to the final volume a “Terminal Essay” that openly expressed his views on sexuality. In so doing, he sparked a vigorous public debate about purity and pornography, desire and deviance, state regulation and personal freedom.

In Our Larger Interest? Or a Pact With the Devil? By Cyril Almeida

The second reason is tactical. The country is slipping towards a generation or more of a deeply fragmented electorate. Give the devil his due, Zardari has managed to cobble together a relatively strong majority in the National Assembly and the Senate. It falls short of a two-thirds majority, but with the support of the PMLs, both the N-League and the Q-League, constitutional change is within grasp.

The next configuration in parliament may not be so amenable to a two-thirds majority on any issue. More likely will be coalition governments with smaller majorities and bickering partners and with oppositions going for the kill from day one. In that environment, the presently much-reviled powers of the president will be highly prized for they will circumvent a rabid, noisome parliament.

So we should wish Sharif well in getting Zardari to cave. But not because he is a hero. Far from it. Simply that Sharif’s self-interest today may be good for the interests of the rest of us tomorrow.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

drop's whirl

untitled by moin
credit moin

queries go abegging
folded away
in the timeless embrace
of slapping waves

emerging from the icicle
on the blade's edge
to the hungry vortex
of parched throats
dry eyes

is the drop aware
it is neither a way-post
nor a destination
yeh qatra hO ya woh qatra
qatrON ki gardish maiN
qatra qatra ker daita hay
undeterred, journeying
from lip to eye to
ocean, cloud, snow, rain
spring, river, sea
endless circumambulation
the drop - a querysperm
in the enduring waltz
of fermenting queries
doing rumiesque whirls

3 D Pictures of Holy Sites

‘As if I'm there!..’

You too can visit these unique places: Just download and run the programs below. Once inside the program, move the mouse to the direction you want to look at. You can use the scroll wheel to zoom in and out. If there is no intervention for five seconds, the program will start showing you around automatically. To use the program as your screensaver press the F5 key. Press F9 to get a list of the 3D sites you downloaded (residing in the same directory) and load the one you like by moving the selection with the direction keys and pressing Enter. Click the left mouse button to jump to the closest (visible) site. Press F1 for help.

MAKKAH — Masjid al-HaramBirthplace of Prophet Muhammad (saw)Hira CaveThowr Cave ArafatMuzdalifahMinaMasjid Al-JinnMasjid al-Bay'ahJannat al-MuallaMasjid al-Aisha (Tan'eem) AL-MADINAH — Prophet's MosqueMasjid al-QubaMasjid al-JumahMasjid al-QiblatainSeven Masjids UhudJannat al-BaqiDhul Hulayfah MasjidMasjid al-AnbariyyahHistoric Train StationHistoric Gate BADR — Martyrdom at Badr — KHAYBAR — Castles of KhaybarHistoric Dam — AL-ULA — Elephant Rock etc.

[thanks MMS for this link]
[click on the heading]

Ottoman Archives Show Land Deeds Forged By Jonathan Cook

A legal battle being waged by Palestinian families to stop the takeover of their neighbourhood in East Jerusalem by Jewish settlers has received a major fillip from the recent souring of relations between Israel and Turkey.

After the Israeli army’s assault on the Gaza Strip in January, lawyers for the families were given access to Ottoman land registry archives in Ankara for the first time, providing what they say is proof that title deeds produced by the settlers are forged.

On Monday, Palestinian lawyers presented the Ottoman documents to an Israeli court, which is expected to assess their validity over the next few weeks. The lawyers hope that proceedings to evict about 500 residents from Sheikh Jarrah will be halted.

The families’ unprecedented access to the Turkish archives may mark a watershed, paving the way for successful appeals by other Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank caught in legal disputes with settlers and the Israeli government over land ownership.

Ben Okri releases new poem on Twitter

Short, lucid writing is needed in these uncertain times, according to the Booker prize-winning Nigerian author Ben Okri, who is releasing a new poem line by line on Twitter.

"Forms follows adversity – we live in uncertain times. I think we need a new kind of writing that responds to the anxiety of our age and yet has brevity," he said. "My feeling is that these times are perfect for short, lucid forms. We need to get more across in fewer words. The Twitter poem tries to respond to this and the feeling of freedom."

"I sing a new freedom," Okri Twittered yesterday, following it up today with the second line of the poem, "Freedom with discipline", today. The poem was written to mark the release of Okri's new book, Tales of Freedom, in April. The book brings together short stories and poetry in what Okri's publisher described as "a fascinating new form, using writing and image pared down to their essentials, where haiku and story meet". The entire poem will be posted on Okri's Facebook and MySpace pages once it is completed.

One hundred years ago today, a group of poets rebelled against Romanticism in a London cafe and changed the course of poetry

Their names have largely been forgotten over time — TE Hulme, FS Flint, Edward Storer — but 100 years ago today, a young and edgy group of bohemians met together for the first time and changed the face of poetry for good.

Enthusiasts are celebrating 25 March as one of our most significant literary anniversaries, though one that most people know nothing about. It marked, they claim, the birth of modern poetry. And it all happened in a central London cafe, just off Tottenham Court Road.

"What went on in there changed the course of poetry in the 20th century," said lecturer Robert Richardson, pointing to a French-Vietnamese restaurant called Bam-Bou, now owned by the group behind The Ivy. On 25 March 1909 it was called Cafe Tour d'Eiffel, and it was here that the group of poets who would later become known as the "School of Images" gathered.

Tory peer is UK’s most powerful Muslim lady

Tory peer Baroness Sayeeda Warsi has been named as Britain’s most powerful Muslim woman in an inaugural power list started by the by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.

Thirty-seven-year-old Baroness Warsi, who is of Pakistani origin, is the Conservative party’s shadow minister for community cohesion and social action

The inaugural Muslim Women Power List 2009 includes Farmida Bi, a banking partner for Norton Rose LLP; Prof. Farida Fortune CBE, dean of dentistry and oral health at Queen Mary’s School of Medicine; Wasfi Kani, chief executive, Grange Park Opera; and Mishal Hussain, a leading journalist and news presenter at the top five. "I personally come from a family of all girls and was brought up to believe that anything was possible and being a Muslim woman should in no way be seen as a barrier but as an asset," Baroness Warsi said after the power list was revealed on Tuesday evening."I’m extremely proud to be named as the most powerful British Muslim woman and I’m sure my Pakistani origins, my strong faith, and my Yorkshire upbringing has played a huge part."

POLITICS-US: Neo-Con Ideologues Launch New Foreign Policy Group By Daniel Luban and Jim Lobe*

A newly-formed and still obscure neo-conservative foreign policy organisation is giving some observers flashbacks to the 1990s, when its predecessor staked out the aggressively unilateralist foreign policy that came to fruition under the George W. Bush administration.

The blandly-named Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) - the brainchild of Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, neo-conservative foreign policy guru Robert Kagan, and former Bush administration official Dan Senor - has thus far kept a low profile; its only activity to this point has been to sponsor a conference pushing for a U.S. "surge" in Afghanistan.

But some see FPI as a likely successor to Kristol’s and Kagan’s previous organisation, the now-defunct Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which they launched in 1997 and which became best known for leading the public campaign to oust former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein both before and after the Sep. 11 attacks.

PNAC’s charter members included many figures who later held top positions under Bush, including Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, and his top deputy, Paul Wolfowitz.

FPI was founded earlier this year, but few details are available about the group, which has so far attracted no media attention. The organisation’s website lists Kagan, Kristol, and Senor, who came to prominence as a spokesman for the occupation authorities in Iraq, as the three members of its board of directors.

Two of FPI’s three staffers, policy director Jamie Fly and Christian Whiton, have come directly from foreign policy posts in the Bush administration, while the third, Rachel Hoff, last worked for the National Republican Congressional Committee. Contacted by IPS at the group's office, Fly referred all questions to Senor, who did not return the call.

Do the Secret Bush Memos Amount to Treason? Top Constitutional Scholar Says Yes

In early March, more shocking details emerged about George W. Bush legal counsel John Yoo's memos outlining the destruction of the republic.

The memos lay the legal groundwork for the president to send the military to wage war against U.S. citizens; take them from their homes to Navy brigs without trial and keep them forever; close down the First Amendment; and invade whatever country he chooses without regard to any treaty or objection by Congress.

It was as if Milton's Satan had a law degree and was establishing within the borders of the United States the architecture of hell.

I thought this was -- and is -- certainly one of the biggest stories of our lifetime, making the petty burglary of Watergate -- which scandalized the nation -- seem like playground antics. It is newsworthy too with the groundswell of support for prosecutions of Bush/Cheney crimes and recent actions such as Canadian attorneys mobilizing to arrest Bush if he visits their country.

The memos are a confession. The memos could not be clearer: This was the legal groundwork of an attempted coup. I expected massive front page headlines from the revelation that these memos exited. Almost nothing. I was shocked.

Geithner to Propose Vast Expansion Of U.S. Oversight of Financial System

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner plans to propose today a sweeping expansion of federal authority over the financial system, breaking from an era in which the government stood back from financial markets and allowed participants to decide how much risk to take in the pursuit of profit.

The Obama administration's plan, described by several sources, would extend federal regulation for the first time to all trading in financial derivatives and to companies including large hedge funds and major insurers such as American International Group. The administration also will seek to impose uniform standards on all large financial firms, including banks, an unprecedented step that would place significant limits on the scope and risk of their activities.

Most of these initiatives would require legislation.

Is he the Moderate Taliban Obama talks about?

Now, as the Obama administration completes its review of strategy toward the region this week, his sudden ascent has raised an urgent question: Can Mr. Sharif, 59, a populist politician close to Islamic parties, be a reliable partner? Or will he use his popular support to blunt the military’s already fitful campaign against the insurgency of the Taliban and Al Qaeda?

HEALTH-PAKISTAN: Spacing Births for Mother and Child By Zofeen Ebrahim

''Birth spacing gives the woman time and opportunity to recover from the nutritional deficiency caused by repeated pregnancies. Studies show that short birth intervals of less than 24 months increase the risk of neonatal mortality,’’ says Dr. Sadiqua Jafarey, president of the National Committee for Maternal and Neonatal Health.

New research points to the benefits of having the first child late and spacing the next child until after three to five years. Curiously, it is women from the less affluent sections who are keen to follow these prescriptions.

One reason is that family planning (FP) programmes have, for years, been active among the lower-income communities, completely ignoring the educated and affluent who may be aware of hypertension, diabetes, heart problems and lifestyle ailments, but are often ignorant of the risks of poorly timed pregnancies.

Afghan Strikes by Taliban Get Pakistan Help, U.S. Aides Say

Little is publicly known about the ISI’s S Wing, which officials say directs intelligence operations outside of Pakistan. American officials said that the S Wing provided direct support to three major groups carrying out attacks in Afghanistan: the Taliban based in Quetta, Pakistan, commanded by Mullah Muhammad Omar; the militant network run by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar; and a different group run by the guerrilla leader Jalaluddin Haqqani.

Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, recently told senators that the Pakistanis “draw distinctions” among different militant groups.

“There are some they believe have to be hit and that we should cooperate on hitting, and there are others they think don’t constitute as much of a threat to them and that they think are best left alone,” Mr. Blair said.

The Haqqani network, which focuses its attacks on Afghanistan, is considered a strategic asset to Pakistan, according to American and Pakistani officials, in contrast to the militant network run by Baitullah Mehsud, which has the goal of overthrowing Pakistan’s government.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Israel phosphorus use criticised

Israel's use of white phosphorus shells over densely populated areas during the recent Gaza conflict may constitute war crimes, a rights group has said.

Human Rights Watch accuses Israel of "deliberately or recklessly" using the shells in violation of the laws of war, causing "needless civilian deaths".

The New York-based group's report is based on research conducted immediately after the conflict ended in January.

Welcome to Pipelineistan

At one point last week, the price of a barrel of crude oil—which had risen as high as $147 last July and, with the global economic meltdown, hit a low of $32 in 2009—rebounded above $51. Prices at the local gas pump are expected to rise as well in the coming weeks. However, given a worldwide falloff in oil use, these price jumps may not hold for long. Still, cheap or not, oil and natural gas (as well as coal) are what drives global civilization, and that's clearly not going to change any time soon.

That, in turn, means the major powers are going to be no less eager to secure key energy reserves and control the flow of energy in bust times as they were in boom times, which is where Pepe Escobar comes in. In a long, typically vigorous essay just published in book form, "Obama Does Globalistan," he refers to his earlier book Globalistan as a "warped geopolitical travel book." That makes him a wonderfully "warped geopolitical traveler." In fact, he regularly circumnavigates the globe from Central Asia and the Middle East to Latin America, even sometimes landing in Washington, writing pyrotechnically for an online publication on which I have long been completely hooked, Asia Times. ...

Eliot Spitzer, Media Darling? Ex-Governor Back Making The Rounds

Welcome back, Mr. ex-Governor.

This week the Steamroller has been on a roll, writing columns about the financial mess on Slate, appearing to talk about it on national TV and on the radio at WNYC, giving an interview to the Times and floated across a magazine cover as the best next Treasury secretary. That's all in a week.

We had an inkling of this back to December, when we first learned he'd be writing a biweekly column for Slate about finance and politics, something that seemed to position him on the slow road to a comeback.

And then this last week, with AIG and American populist rage in the news, we saw a Spitzer boomlet. The crackdown artist has increased his metabolism on Slate, with not one, not two, but three columns published there in the last week....