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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Amir ul Momineen or Closet Taliban? Mynamar U turn, Roy, Iran, Uzbekistan,

Let me declare at the outset that I am befuddled at what might be Kamran Shafi's goat or grouse at Musharraf calling Nawaz of Zia League a 'closet' taliban. Unless it is another Nawaz, may I google Kamran's memory? Nawaz did put through machinations in motion to be declared the Amir ul Momineen. Thank Allah for small mercies. Sharif's ouster saved us from that.

It is to be noted too, that Musharraf’s present foray into Pakistani politics in which he has also gone to the extent of calling Nawaz Sharif a ‘closet Taliban’, is aimed at turning the West away from a popular political leader. Kamran Shafi

US takes a radical turn on Myanmar -The announcement that the United States intends to engage with Myanmar's generals is a stunning change of tack towards the "outpost of tyranny". Critics question the sense of dialogue with a reportedly rights-abusing narco-state, but the US State Department says it was the generals who sought the contact. - Brian McCartan

Obama looks escalation in the eye
President Barack Obama faces a fateful choice over a Pentagon request for an additional 40,000 American troops for the war in Afghanistan - an increase of nearly 60%. Much like a turning point in the Vietnam War in 1965, the decision will be shaped by fears in the military and the White House of being blamed for defeat. - Gareth Porter

A MANUFACTURED CRISIS, Part 1 : The facts of the matter -Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has shrugged off the fuss over Iran's construction of a second uranium-enrichment plant, saying the United States and other countries are acting in bad faith just before talks on Tehran's nuclear program. "We have done nothing wrong," Ahmadinejad said. - Jack A Smith (Sep 29, '09) This is the first article in a three-part report.

A new cold war in Kashmir - The Kashmir dispute ranks with Palestine as one of the oldest, most intractable disputes in the world. That does not mean that it cannot be resolved. Only that the solution will not be completely to the satisfaction of any one party, one country, or one ideology. Negotiators will have to be prepared to deviate from the "party line". - Arundhati Roy

Uzbek traders face demolition blitz - Shopkeepers across Uzbekistan are coming to dread a visit to their cities, such as Samarkand and Namangan, by President Islam Karimov, as his concern for appearances is leaving in his wake widespread demolition of their stores.

Beena Sarwar - more on Jagan Naath Azad, Caste, Racism and the UN Resolution,

Since my article Bring Back Jagannath Azad’s Pakistan Anthem published in The Hindu on Sept 22 (slightly shorter version first published by Dawn on Sept 19) I have learnt that my ignorance on the matter was all the more deplorable given the previously published material that I have since come across. Besides Zaheer Kidvai’s recollections in his blog, that I mentioned in my blog post later, there is Adil Najam’s June 2009 post Prof. Jagan Nath Azad: Creator of Pakistan’s First National Anthem. Najam refers to Zaheer’s post as well as an article by Ashfaque Naqvi in A word about Jagan Nath Azad , which contains a passing mention of this little known fact about Azad’s authoring of the first national anthem. Beena Sarwar

Caste, Racism and the UN Resolution By rw on Dalit - Hats off to the Maoists in Nepal for taking the caste question to the UN level. This is in sharp contrast to the stance taken by the Indian government all through. During the World Conference Against Racism in Durban (2001) India had opposed equating the caste system with racism and the then Attorney General Soli [...]

Tomgram: John Feffer, Will NATO's 60th Anniversary Be Its Last? - By Tom Engelhardt
If you think the Afghan War is increasingly unpopular in the United States, try Europe. A recent German Marshall Fund poll offered these figures on the question of the "share of population who want to reduce or withdraw troops" from that country: Romania, 71%; Poland, 68%; United Kingdom, 60%; Germany, 57%; Italy, 55%; Spain, 54%; France, 51%; Netherlands, 50%. When NATO took on its initial reconstruction role in Afghanistan -- a show of support for the U.S. and a pledge to help clean up its post-invasion mess -- it seemed a major step in the expansion of an alliance with the word "Atlantic" prominently in its name. It also represented something else seldom commented on: the long-term inability of junior partner Europe -- former French President Charles de Gaulle excepted -- to say "no" to whatever Washington desired.

Israel's Ofra Settlement on Unauthorized Palestinian Land By Stephen Lendman - Chicago
Israel's 130 West Bank settlements are illegal under international law, including Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that states:
"Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive." In addition, various UN resolutions (including 446, 452 and 465) condemned Israel's settlement building by declaring they have "no legal validity" to exist. Yet they do and continue expanding in reckless disregard of the law. Even so, after its forces occupied the West Bank in 1967, Israel in principle agreed to respect binding local Jordanian law and its own subsequent military order. It didn't then and doesn't now.

Syed Saleem Shahzad, Shaheen Sehbai, Mosharraf Zaidi, Haqqani,

The initial model for reconciliation between India and Pakistan has been drawn from that of post-World War II United States and Soviet relations, in which those two countries agreed not to meddle in Finland and Yugoslavia. Under a similar model, India would reduce its presence in the southern Afghan provinces bordering Pakistan. In return, India could consolidate its activities around Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of the northern province of Balkh, where Pakistan would not interfere. However, in this process, which is expected to begin after Afghan President Hamid Karzai is confirmed for a second term in the coming months, the problem remains the Taliban. Players involved in the backchannel process told Asia Times Online that if the US withdrew from Afghanistan and handed over power to the Taliban, regional politics would return to square one. The old alliance of Russia, Tajikistan, Iran and India would form against Pakistan and its Taliban allies, and the elimination of militancy in areas like Kashmir would remain a dream. Syed Saleem Shahzad

The new company hired is Cassidy & Associates, one of the biggest lobbying firms in Washington in which Robin Raphael, the newly appointed coordinator of all aid to Pakistan, was a key partner until she got her new job recently. New lobbyist hired in DC as Kerry-Lugar row rages

Section 3 of the bill is titled Findings, and is a list of the issues that motivate the bill. There are a total of 12 findings. Findings 1 and 2 are platitudinous expressions of the US-Pakistan friendship, and the $15 billion that the US government invested in the Gen Musharraf regime. Finding 3 recognises the importance of the February 18, 2008, election. Findings 4 through 9 focus on Al Qaeda, the Taliban and FATA. Findings 10 and 11 contain statistics about poverty and the economy in Pakistan. Finally, Finding 12 recognises the IDPs crisis caused by the May 8 Swat offensive. Nine of the twelve findings specifically refer to the Taliban, Al Qaeda, security, terrorism and/or FATA. Only one finding mentions the word poverty. This is not an accident. The Kerry-Lugar Bill is an American legislative measure designed to pursue American interests. Mosharraf Zaidi

Talking to a private TV channel, the ambassador said that Kerry-Lugar bill was made by US congress and not by the Pakistani government. He said hundred American senators constituted this law to provide aid to Pakistan .He said that there were no conditions over Pakistan regarding this bill however congress imposed certain conditions over US government. Haqqani's spin.

Adriaen Coorte

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

love for sale - discount 100%

I apologise for not giving the credit where it is due. This came as a forward from RJ.

Mahmud Khan Achakzai, Is Democracy Melting? India's Waziristan, Russia will backtrack,

(In Urdu) Mahmud Khan Achakzai is not only an astute observer of politics but it is a pleasure to listen to his no-holds-barred and fearless articluation.

Is Democracy Melting? - By Arundhati Roy - While we're still arguing about whether theres life after death, can we add another question to the cart? Is there life after democracy? What sort of life will it be? By democracy I dont mean democracy as an ideal or an aspiration. I mean the working model: Western liberal democracy, and its variants, such as they are. So, is there life after democracy?

India plans all-out attack on Maoists - New Delhi is putting the finishing touches on a huge offensive aimed at the long-running Naxalite insurgency in India's east, with tens of thousands of troops preparing for a coordinated assault with the air force and elite ground units. The Naxalites, with their stranglehold on the country's critical coal industry, are often described as India's gravest internal threat. - Siddharth Srivastava

Medvedev jumps the gun on Iran - Amid the fuss over revelations of a "secret" Iranian nuclear enrichment facility, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has veered sharply to the side of those seeking tougher action against Tehran. He may well have been premature, and Moscow will now have some dexterous backtracking to do. - M K Bhadrakumar

Muslim craftsmen transcend religious barriers - Sharafat Ali from Mathura said they have been making the statues for the past many years as it is a source of livelihood.

..Netanyahu has won, and in a big way. Not only did he survive, not only has he shown that he is no “sucker” (a word he uses all the time), he has proven to his people — and to the public at large — that there is nothing to fear: Obama is nothing but a paper tiger. The settlements can go on expanding without hindrance. Any negotiations that start, if they start at all, can go on until the coming of the Messiah. Nothing will come out of them. Uri Avnery

Islam in China, Kamla with Asif Mandvi, Bill Clinton, Islamophobia

Since my three years in China, I have had the opportunity to travel to and stay in other countries with large Muslim populations: Morocco and Turkey. I’ve also befriended and gotten to know Muslims here in Madison. Now when I think of Islam in general, I have to think of all of those experiences and remember all of the extremely tolerant and hospitable people I’ve met. The lesson that I’ve taken away from this is that the world’s Muslim population is incredibly diverse, and it is very difficult if not totally inappropriate, to generalize about them in any negative way. Islam in China

Actor and comedian Aasif Mandvi has done it all: one-act plays, Hollywood films and Emmy award winning TV shows. In this interview we cover a wide range of topics including how Aasif got his break in Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, his new movie project, the 2008 Mumbai blasts and Bollywood. Aasif was born in Mumbai, grew up in the UK and USA. His family relocated from Bedford, UK to Florida, US when Aasif was a teenager. He studied theater and acting and moved to New York, which is where he is based. This interview was recorded in early 2009.
In Conversation With Aasif Mandvi

Bill Clinton Affirms To NBC That "Vast Right Wing Conspiracy" Is Attacking Obama By Array -
90's Movement Still Around, "Virulent as Ever" Says Former President

Islamophobia: A new phase of conflict in the UK - It’s been more than ten years since the most substantial definition of Islamophobia was formed in the UK by the Runnymede Trust (PDF), an independent policy research organisation, though there still remains a lack of clear meaning, interpretation and ownership of the term from both the British authorities and British Muslim bodies. There are even those who are skeptical of its mere existence and perpetuate the Islamophobia myth. But whatever term is used, the anecdotal evidence for an irrational fear of Islam and Muslims as a group is still evident. The UK is now in the midst of an increasingly common and confrontational set of protests that are anti-Muslim. The newly formed English Defence League (EDL), though small, is the group instigating many of these growing protests.

Najam Sethi talks with Hussain Haqqani

Homare Ikeda

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mullah Omar in Sind Club, A mouthful, Krugman, Palestine, Ispahani Spin, and "Fovernor"?

On January 17, 2007, the Afghan intelligence authority released a video in which a captured Taliban spokesman confessed that Omar was hiding in Quetta under the ISI protection. The Afghan intelligence agents had arrested Abul Haq Haqi, known to the media as Doctor Mohammad Hanif, in the eastern province of Nangarhar. The 26-year-old confirmed he was picked up after he had entered Afghanistan from Pakistan and that he had come to the country on a mission after seeing his Amir. He was quoted as having told his interrogators that the Taliban Amir was running a shadow government from Quetta, complete with military, religious and cultural councils.However, a recent news report by The Sunday Times has claimed that groaning under allegations about the presence of the Taliban leaders in Quetta, they are being moved to the volatile city of Karachi, where it would be impossible for the Americans to target them. Amir Mir

Over the years our national resources and assets have been subjected to a merciless loot and plunder. There have been serious scams, scandals and cartels causing tremendous setbacks to our economic health. Flight of capital, money laundering, forex frauds, huge loans written off have crippled our economy and emptied the exchequer. Those in power have filled their coffers and kitties with ill gotten wealth to their full satisfaction. To name a few there were, seizure of foreign exchange accounts, Qarz Utaro Mulk Sanwaro, earthquake rehabilitation funds, cement and sugar cartels, atta crisis the co-operatives scandal, finance companies, Khanani and Kalia (the list of the culprits is still awaited), Mehran Bank and Punjab Bank scandals and huge illegal foreign exchange remittances from the country. The mighty people have made billions and purchased properties abroad. Has this income been declared or they have evaded taxes and duties? The losses suffered by the exchequer are in high proportion. Every government has been waiving/writing off big loans causing loss of billions to the state treasury. Reportedly the present government has written off loans worth Rs52 billion. These written off loans must be recovered. The government should constitute a judicial commission to investigate and take steps for recovery of all these irregularities. Mouthful from Ijaz s/o Zina u l Haq

Krugman: The Climate Cassandras By The Huffington Post News Editors - Every once in a while I feel despair over the fate of the planet. If you've been following climate science, you know what I mean: the sense that we're hurtling toward catastrophe but nobody wants to hear about it or do anything to avert it. And here's the thing: I'm not engaging in hyperbole. These days, dire warnings aren't the delusional raving of cranks. They're what come out of the most widely respected climate models, devised by the leading researchers. The prognosis for the planet has gotten much, much worse in just the last few years.

Book casts new light on Palestine's ethnic cleansing -In recent years, a growing number of accounts of the 1948 war have corrected and exposed the founding myths of Israel, including claims by its leaders that the Palestinian people did not exist or were invented. The latest addition is Rosemarie M. Esber's meticulously documented history Under the Cover of War: The Zionist Expulsion of the Palestinians. Esber uses British archives and oral testimonies from Palestinian survivors to demonstrate that there was a purposeful, systematic pattern by which Zionist forces depopulated Palestinian cities and villages before the end of the British mandate on 15 May 1948.

Farahnaz Ispahani: Obama joins world leaders in backing Pakistani Democracy - Kerry Lugar Bill & FoDP Much to the dismay of the government's detractors and contrary to the vilification campaign going on in the country against...

And this beauty from a leading English daily ~t

Farahnaz Ispahani asserted that Former US fovernor David Walters of Oklahoma is a respected individual who has never been convicted of any crime in his own country. Stories of this kind will only weaken Pakistan’s economy and drive away potential investors in our power sector and many other crucial areas that are essential to bring Pakistan’s economy back on track, she added. Farahnaz Ispahani

Brahmdagh Bugti - Qurratul ain Siddiqui

When the GoP, the mainstream media and the talking heads switch from discussing the Taliban threat, the warring politicians and the state of economy and law order the topic trickles down to Balochistan.

This large state is consigned to the bottom of the list, even when they all agree this is a festering and burning issue.

Read what Brahmdagh has to say in this little noticed interview by Qurat ul ain Siddiqui

Recently, government sources have spoken of granting a general amnesty to
all Baloch political prisoners as well as those in exile or allegedly involved
in anti-state activities. Earlier this month, the government also decided to
halt work on setting up cantonments in Balochistan’s Dera Bugti and Kohlu areas.
However, these moves have been received with much scepticism from the Baloch
nationalist and separatist circles. In this context, talks to the chief
of the Baloch Republican Party (BRP), Brahmdagh Bugti, who has denied having any
reconciliatory talks with Islamabad and rejects ‘such statements as eyewash.’

* Firstly, I’d like to emphasise that we were a free people. In 1948, we were forced to become a part of Pakistan, literally on gunpoint. On top of that, Balochistan as a province and the Baloch as a people have not been treated fairly by successive governments. Still, we have tried to fight for our rights within the Pakistani parliamentary system, but every time we have been suppressed through military operations and other means. At this point, things have come to such a head that people are left with no choice but to seek complete independence from Pakistan.

*... I see some people of Balochistan supporting the sardari system while others go for direct democracy. They should be allowed to decide their own future.

* Target killings are obviously wrong and I am not in favour of them in principle. However, when criticising target killings, people are pointing toward a symptom which obviously has a cause. Target killings are reactions to the ongoing military operation in Balochistan. People should also criticise the army when its gunship helicopters fire on innocent civilians and attack their livestock.

* It’s amusing how in 2006 Islamabad created a fanfare about abolishing the sardari system in Dera Bugti and now Aali Bugti has been brought to power there with the blessings of the Pakistani establishment. Aali has not been able to step out of his house. As for Shahzain, I am not in touch with him, but I feel that he too is being used by the establishment.

Indicted governor, plea-bargained tycoon land juicy power contracts

Background investigation revealed that Iqbal Z Ahmed has a knack for ending up in power corridors of every hue, political or otherwise. Not shaken by his arrest and confinement at Sarwar Road, Police Station, Lahore, by General Pervez Musharraf’s NAB, Iqbal got so close to Pervez Musharraf later that he was a regular visitor to Presidency. He would also be invited to attend meetings in the Camp Office of the Musharraf. It was, according to a source, in one of those meetings on March 22, 2006 attended by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and President Musharraf that official minutes of the meeting (available with The News) stated the order of the President/Prime Minister for “WAPDA” to finalize terms and conditions for leasing Lakhra Power Plant to Associated Group within one week. The same minutes also ordered that “An appropriate block in Thar Coal Field to be allocated to Associated Group”. Iqbal’s interest and dealings with the NAB led Iqbal to give lucrative LPG quotas not only to several army generals but also handed LPG quota to Ex-NAB Chairman General Khalid Maqbool’s son in law company M/s Synergy Resources, Ex-NAB Chairman General Munir Hafeez’s wife Mrs Humaira Hafeez owned company M/s Wyne Gas also got LPG quota and so did Super Star Gas a company owned by Ex-NAB Senior Official Capt Basharat Ahmed as well as to Sagi Gas a company owned by the son of Col Sadiq, another Senior NAB Official. Iqbal Z Ahmed also had close relative of Musharraf’s Principal Secretary Mohsin Hafeez covered in this quota scheme besides the former Interior Minister General Moeen uddin Haider’s son as well as General Tariq Hameed and General Rehmat Khan. Jehangir Badar’s brother works for the Associated Group. Indicted governor, plea-bargained tycoon land juicy power contracts

New Anti-Islam Group, Same Old Faces

New Anti-Islam Group, Same Old Faces - Richard Bartholomew - Apparently there are not enough organisations of right-wing pundits dedicated to revealing the awful truth about Islam and Muslims in America; step forward “Stop Islamization of America”:

Disturbing: 375 Palestinian Children Jailed By Israeli Military Every Month - By Mel Frykberg, IPS News - Most Palestinian children are held for stone-throwing, which can bring a maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment, five years less than the average murder sentence in Israel.

How Top Generals May Trap Obama in a Losing War - By Tom Engelhardt,
As Obama is facing a lose-lose proposition in Afghanistan, we have to look hard at the role of Gen. McChrystal and the political motivation of Gen. Petraeus.

Obama at the Precipice , The New Sputnik

As Goldstein said to me last week, it’s “eerie” how closely even these political maneuvers track those of a half-century ago, when J.F.K. was weighing whether to send combat troops to Vietnam. Military leaders lobbied for their new mission by planting leaks in the press. Kennedy fired back by authorizing his own leaks, which, like Obama’s, indicated his reservations about whether American combat forces could turn a counterinsurgency strategy into a winnable war.
Within Kennedy’s administration, most supported the Joint Chiefs’ repeated call for combat troops, including the secretaries of defense (McNamara) and state (Dean Rusk) and Gen. Maxwell Taylor, the president’s special military adviser. The highest-ranking dissenter was George Ball, the undersecretary of state. Mindful of the French folly in Vietnam, he predicted that “within five years we’ll have 300,000 men in the paddies and jungles and never find them again.” In the current administration’s internal Afghanistan debate, Goldstein observes, Joe Biden uncannily echoes Ball’s dissenting role. Obama at the Precipice Frank Rich

Most people would assume that 20 years from now when historians look back at 2008-09, they will conclude that the most important thing to happen in this period was the Great Recession. I’d hold off on that. If we can continue stumbling out of this economic crisis, I believe future historians may well conclude that the most important thing to happen in the last 18 months was that Red China decided to become Green China. The New Sputnik - Thomas Friedman

Ask Aakar, Enemy Talk

Someone should Aakar why with 490 channels, the Indians do not have access to any Pakistani channels on cable? (And please, the two or three in Jammu and Kashmir that are surreptitiously available do not count) ``T

Today there are 490 channels in India including a staggering 100 news channels, the most in the world. The ministry of information and broadcasting is sitting on another 100 licenses to be given out this year. Perhaps five per cent of these are profitable. The others exist in the hope that a booming economy will pull them up with it. Aaker Patel

Obama can continue either the ‘war on terror’ or take on the resurging Russian bear; can’t fight them both. In effect, the insurgent timeline is much, much longer than Obama’s political timeline. For America, 2010 is election year while the insurgents have all the time in the world. For America, 2010 means 440 new members of the House. For America, 2010 means 34 new members of the Senate. For America, 2010 means 37 new governors. For Obama, 2011 will be campaign year. For Obama, 2012 will be election year. The insurgents have all the time in the world. Pakistan-Afghanistan is the Taliban homeland. American BCTs are mere visitors here. Russia has the potential to challenge American hegemony; the Taliban don’t. America will have to decide: who is America’s enemy number 1? Russians or the Taliban? Enemy Talk

Franz Marc

Sunday, September 27, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: The genius of Ghulam Rasul Mehr —by Khaled Ahmed

Ghulam Rasul Mehr dominated Lahore’s journalism in the years preceding Partition as the editorial writer of Zafar Ali Khan’s Zamindar and later Inqilab to which he fled together with Abdul Majid Salik. He is counted among journalists who wrote a literary style of great distinction and spoke from their expertise in politics and culture both. His output was astounding and, had his grasp of the two not been extraordinary, he would have been rejected for prolixity.Apart from his daily editorials and columns, he wrote and researched Ghalib and Iqbal, producing heavy tomes on the meaning and interpretation of their great works. He wrote a biography of Ibn Taymiya, and produced a book on Syed Ahmad Shaheed which was to become an important source for Ayesha Jalal’s book on Jihad in 2008. In addition to his own books, he translated around 40 books, some of them heavy tomes again, significantly related to the march of reason in Europe. He was companion to Allama Iqbal as he travelled to Europe in the 1930s.

Hitting that pause button, Perks at the top, militray and secularism, In New York and Skipping

Well whatever… Down with pop psychology, I say. Bring back the spirituality that fasting brought. Better still drink deep at the ‘Meditations of Marcus Aurelius’ who said that men seek retreat for themselves, houses in the country, seashores, and mountains. ‘But this is altogether the mark of the common man, for it is in your power, whenever you shall choose, to retire into yourself. For nowhere with more freedom from trouble does a man retire than into his own soul, particularly when he has within him such thoughts that by looking into them he is at once perfectly tranquil… Constantly then grant yourself this retreat and refreshment; let your principles be brief and fundamental, which, as soon as you shall call them to mind, will be sufficient to cleanse the soul completely, and send you back free from all discontent with the stale things to which you return.’The ancient Greek ends with a question: ‘For with what are you discontented ? With the wickedness of mankind?’ Anjum Niaz

the above reminded me of the pause button i and the pause button ii ~~t

‘(HE) continues to receive a special pension of Rs2.07 lacs (Rs207,000) per month, has been given a one time grant of Rs2.5 million, he has been provided with 8 servants of his choice, a nurse and a physiotherapist visit him daily, a Chinese doctor is on call for him, a team of specialist doctors visits him every week, he is flown on special plane to visit his relatives, next door he retains a house as a guest house with rent and all bills paid by Government, four vehicles are provided to him for his personal use besides security vehicles along with other facilities, etc’ [sic]. The perks of life at the top? Not quite. This list of goodies forms part of Intra Court Appeal No 797 of 2009 filed by the Government of Pakistan. The respondent? Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan. Cyril Almeida

The country’s ruling elite and the military have traditionally used a particular aspect of religion to gain strategic dividends. While they can conveniently claim to have retained their secularism and saved one organisation from turning ideological, a similar claim might not be made for society at large. The proliferation of ‘jihad’ in mainland Pakistan is but the opportunity cost of strategy. Ayesha Siddiqua

Shehri, the environmental advocacy group, last week wrote a letter to Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani requesting him to issue a directive banning the use of suits, ties and jackets in the air-conditioned summer months in all government offices and ministries, as recently done in Bangladesh. The directive must ensure that air-conditioning temperatures are kept above 26 centigrade and heating temperatures below 18 centigrade. In the next phase, this campaign to combat climate change (plus electricity and gas loadshedding) can be extended to the private sector. Is anyone in Pakistan really listening? Certainly not its President, who due to a ‘more important engagement of his own’ opted out of the UN Climate Change summit in New York, which was also addressed by US President Barack Obama. Ardeshir Cowasjee

Paul Krugman, A Third Bit of Burton, Nirmula Deshpande

I was startled last week when Mr. Obama, in an interview with Bloomberg News, questioned the case for limiting financial-sector pay: “Why is it,” he asked, “that we’re going to cap executive compensation for Wall Street bankers but not Silicon Valley entrepreneurs or N.F.L. football players?” That’s an astonishing remark — and not just because the National Football League does, in fact, have pay caps. Tech firms don’t crash the whole world’s operating system when they go bankrupt; quarterbacks who make too many risky passes don’t have to be rescued with hundred-billion-dollar bailouts. Banking is a special case — and the president is surely smart enough to know that. -Paul Krugman

A Third Bit of Burton - Let us all rejoice that Richard Burton is back. I should not have accepted a paycheck for getting to sit next to, and be entertained by, Richard Burton at his best.
This third episode, from September 1980, seems even better than the first two, with the stuff about “Bogey,” and Garbo, and John Huston — and, yes, even Miss Taylor — et al.

Lights of remembrance for Didi - In the memory of Dr Nirmala Deshpande, civil society organisations arranged a candlelit vigil in Gulberg, Lahore.

Jon Stuart, Bill Maher, Bruce Springsteen, Obama Ultimatum, Krugman, Osama,

The Daily Show‘s influence over voter perceptions has been well documented—a 2006 study by East Carolina State found that Daily Show viewers, while considerably cynical of the electoral system, demonstrated a higher degree of interest in politics as a whole. Of course, Stewart, who now serves as managing editor of the program, dismisses such stats as irrelevant, arguing that the sole purpose of the program is entertainment, and as such, it has no obligation to be “fair” in the same way that real news programs do. By its own logic, The Daily Show has insulated itself from attacks of journalistic bias by virtue of the fact that it is a comedy show, and therefore free of the rhetorical constraints that underpin “serious” journalism—an entity it regards with a healthy degree of skepticism. “And Now Your Moment of Zen”: The Cultural Significance of ‘The Daily Show’

Bill Maher: New Rule: If America Can't Get it Together, We Lose the Bald Eagle By Bill Maher
Why has America become a nation that can't make anything bad end, like wars, farm subsidies, our oil addiction, the drug war, useless weapons programs, and can't make anything good start?

Bruce Springsteen Symposium: Hundreds Of Academics Meet In New Jersey For Lectures On The Boss By The Huffington Post News Editors - WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. — About 300 professors from as far away as Australia have come to Bruce Springsteen's native New Jersey to fill their brains with the Boss. The no-holds-barred intellectual romp "Glory Days: A Bruce Springsteen Symposium" began Thursday with a walking tour the rocker's old stomping grounds, including his boyhood home in Freehold.

Obama Issues Ultimatum To Iran On Nukes By The Huffington Post News Editors - WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is offering Iran "a serious, meaningful dialogue" over its disputed nuclear program, while warning Tehran of grave consequences from a united global front. "Iran's leaders must now choose – they can live up to their responsibilities and achieve integration with the community of nations. Or they will face increased pressure and isolation, and deny opportunity to their own people," Obama said in his radio and Internet address Saturday.

Krugman: "I Was Kind Of Hoping Obama Might Be FDR, But Maybe Not" (VIDEO) By The Huffington Post News Editors - On "Real Time with Bill Maher" Friday night, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said that while the American dream is not totally dead, it is "dying pretty fast," particularly when it comes to social mobility. Krugman made this statement during a lengthy discussion with former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and host Bill Maher about the troubled state of the American economy and where we are in terms of reforming the system.

Bin Laden Tape: Europe Must Pull Out Of Afghanistan Or Risk "Retaliation" By The Huffington Post News Editors - CAIRO — Osama bin Laden demanded that European countries pull their troops out of Afganistan in a new audiotape Friday, warning of "retaliation" against them for their alliance with the United States in the war. The al-Qaida leader denounced NATO airstrikes in Afghanistan that have killed civilians and warned that European countries would be held accountable alongside the Americans unless they pull out. "A wise person would not waste his sons and money for a gang of criminals in Washington ... In summary, we are not asking too much or an invalid demand, but it would be be fair that you lift your opression and withdraw your troops," bin Laden said, addressing the Europeans.

Peter Doig

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Gabriel García Márquez, Weird and wonderful words

Weird and wonderful words - Think you know your princocks from your jobbernowls? Test your knowledge of English exoticisms

Gabriel García Márquez masterpiece tops poll of world literature By Alison Flood on Books
One Hundred Years of Solitude has most shaped world literature over the past 25 years, says survey. Gabriel García Márquez's seminal novel One Hundred Years of Solitude is the piece of writing that has most shaped world literature over the past 25 years, according to a survey of international writers. Barack Obama's memoir, Dreams from My Father, also makes an appearance on the list of favourite works chosen by fellow writers. Indra Sinha, Blake Morrison, Amit Chaudhuri and 22 other authors were asked to pick the title that they felt had most influenced world writing over the past quarter-century. The survey was conducted by the international literary magazine Wasafiri – meaning "cultural traveller" in Swahili – which celebrates its 25th anniversary today.

Remembering David Hawkes - The Oxford academic carried a Chinese masterpiece across cultural boundaries and presented it to British eyes and minds in its original flavour
Returning to London after summer break, I was shocked to learn of the passing of David Hawkes. An Oxford scholar of classical Chinese literature, he was renowned for his translation of a much-loved Chinese literary classic, A Dream of Red Mansions - or The Story of the Stone, as he translated it.

Daniyal Mueenddin reads A Spoiled Man - An old man arrives at the gates of the Harouni's holiday home in A Spoiled Man. Daniyal Mueenuddin reads the final story from his collection In Other Rooms, Other Wonders

MIDEAST: Jerusalem Palestinians Defining Their Own Future By Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler - EAST JERUSALEM, Sep 25 (IPS) - Almost a year ago a barely noticed event took place in Sawarha, a Palestinian neighbourhood in the Israeli-occupied part of the city.

Brodner's Cartoon du Jour: Migraine Liberals - By By Steve Brodner on Steve Brodner
The recently departed Irving Kristol claimed that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. The implication of this is that liberals, so concerned with the problems of others, enter a whole new world when they suddenly experience fear and pain themselves. And there is an ugly racial tinge to this which we can talk about another time. Anyway, this comes up now because of a recent Talk piece in The New Yorker on Cindy McCain. She, apparently, has been suffering from migraines for many years. As described in the article, this is a very debilitating condition. It gets so bad that she finds it at times completely immobilizing. This is an awful thing to come to anyone. Anybody who reads this piece has to admire her courage to go public and reveal the truth about this condition, long kept too quiet. Toward the end of the piece it mentions her crusading for congressional action for research. She says, "For the first time in my life, I'm going to go to Congress, and I'm going to be tenacious and be forceful and be honest and tell them that it's time. If you can give five million dollars to study flatulence in cows and its effects on the ozone layer, you can give me some money for migraine research." This is a good thing. But it got me wondering: "You want help from the GOVERNMENT now?" I started thinking about Nancy Reagan and her battle for funding for Alzheimer's, Bob Dole and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The minute a personal problem becomes too big for the folks on top, they become like the rest of us: looking for collective action. It seems that a variation of the Kristol statement can be true. A liberal is a conservative with a migraine.

An Idiot's Guide to Tom Friedman's Idiocy, Naomi Klein and Michael Moore,

Naomi Klein Interviews Michael Moore on the Perils of Capitalism - Moore discusses his new documentary film, widely praised as a call for a revolt against capitalist madness.

10 Ways the U.S. Military Has Shoved Christianity Down Muslims' Throats By Chris Rodda, Talk To Action - It's not just private religious organizations that act like Christian crusaders.

An Idiot's Guide to Tom Friedman's Idiocy - By Array - Tom Friedman may be the single stupidest figure in American public life, and certainly is the supidest writer with such a large platform.

The Next Innovation Al Gore Most Wants to See -- You May Be Surprised By Array - Al Gore was on hand to issue another call to action on climate, and he revealed the surprising innovation he'd most like to see develop next.

Lou Dobbs Goes Ballistic After Reading Presenté.org Co-Founder Roberto Lovato on AlterNet - By Array, AlterNet - He can dish it, taking it is apparently another matter.
Moscow holds the line on Iran sanctions - There was just enough in Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's words on Wednesday about a harder line on Iran for the White House to claim that Russia had bent, finally, in Washington's direction. Even as the President Barack Obama administration was savoring its success, however, China was there to spoil the moment.

Pakistan pushed to its limits An annual US$1.5 billion assistance program for Pakistan is expected to soon pass into law in the United States. At the same time, a meeting in New York of high- powered donors has pledged aid to the country. In return, Pakistan appears ready to go where it has so far feared to tread - into the South and North Waziristan tribal areas, home of the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda. - Syed Saleem Shahzad

THE ROVING EYE : The president is in the trunk The June 28 oligarch-directed military coup in Honduras has exposed the fallacy of the Barack Obama administration's pledge to uphold democratic values around the world. It unveils how helpless he is facing his subordinates at the Pentagon and the State Department. If Obama can't even control his own militarist backyard in Washington, not to mention Latin America, how will he face up to Russia and China? - Pepe Escobar

Vincent von Gogh

Friday, September 25, 2009

Rafia Zakaria, Zafar Hilaly, Babar Sattar, Shaukat Qadir, Shaheen Sehbai

In our sixty-second year, perhaps it’s time we came to terms with the reality that we are and have always been a nation of beggars. Ironically, it is only in embracing this grim reality that we can find the opportunity to change our future. Rafia Zakaria

Barack Obama has reached his "Lyndon moment" sooner than many expected. This moment occurs when a US president has to decide whether to commit his country and his own political future to a war that America must win but which she manifestly cannot, or to safeguard his political career, and American lives, by withdrawing behind the walls of fortress America. Lyndon Johnson opted to stay and fight in Vietnam. He became unelectable and hence forfeited a second term. Nixon, who inherited the Vietnam war, like Obama did Afghanistan, at first tried to win the war but then realised that he could not, sued for peace nay surrendered, and left. He was rewarded by a grateful electorate with a second term in office. While Obama was trying to make up his mind whether to be a Johnson or a Nixon, General McCrystal's report on America's predicament in Afghanistan landed on his desk, making his decision all the more urgent and vastly more difficult. Zafar Hilaly

While the NRO continues to outrage citizens for perverting the very concept of rule of law, the Holders of Public Offices (Accountability) Bill, 2009 – meant to replace the NAB Ordinance – is coming to be seen by concerned citizens as a permanent NRO. But our problem of corruption is not limited to the NRO or the new (un)-Accountability Bill, but is much more deep-seated. While we continue to focus on financial corruption that the elites indulge in, we tend to ignore various forms of social and intellectual corruption being practiced in our midst with vigour, which allow financial corruption to exist in the first place. The bane of our existence is a deeply entrenched logic of necessity and the unscrupulous ethic of success it produces wherein the end justifies all means however rotten. Babar Sattar

No army in the world is trained to operate against guerrilla warriors. In fact, guerrilla warfare is the antithesis of military operations. The military trains to operate against recognisable opponents who are trained like all armies and, therefore are predictable. Those in the military who are wise enough not to be ‘fighting the last war’ and resort to the unexpected are also predictably unpredictable. They all operate along recognisable lines of communication, because they are bound to their logistic support system. Shaukat Qadir

The list of conditions and monitoring subjects (pl refer to the text of the bill) makes stunning reading but the key para which is likely to create a lot of trouble, although it is desperately needed in Pakistan's context, is about keeping the armed forces under control of the civilians.This para is about US monitoring and every six months Secretary of State has to give the Congress "an assessment of the extent to which the Government of Pakistan exercises effective civilian control of the military, including a description of the extent to which civilian executive leaders and parliament exercise oversight and approval of military budgets, the chain of command, the process of promotion for senior military leaders, civilian involvement in strategic guidance and planning, and military involvement in civil administration." Shaheen Sehbai

Edward Said (1935 - 2003)

Two excellent posts on Edward Said from 3quarksdaily -An Eclectic Digest of Science, Art and Literature ~~t

There are a very few intellectuals --–Bertrand Russell, E.P. Thompson, and Noam Chomsky come to mind in the English-speaking world--- whose writings and whose lives provide a kind of pole that thousands of people look toward so as to feel that they are not wholly lost or marginal for possessing instincts for justice and humanity, and for thinking that some small steps might be taken towards their achievement. Edward Said was, without a doubt, such a man. The daze and despair so many of us here at Columbia feel, now that we have taken in that he has gone, is only a very local sign of what is a global loss without measure. And to think of what it must be like for his own brutalized people to lose him, is unbearable. Edward was, as they say, ‘many things to many people’, and though he was too vast to be contained by a mere university, even one as uncloistered as Columbia, he was a teacher and took great pride in being one. So let me say something about that first. Akeel Bilgrami remembers Edward W. Said

The first time I saw Edward Said, in 1993, I was an undergraduate studying literature at Johns Hopkins, where he had come to give a lecture. An extremely pretentious young person, I arrived in the large hall (much larger than the halls in which other visiting literature professors spoke) with a mixture of awe and, I'm afraid to say, condescension. This was born of the immature idea that the author of Orientalism had ceased to occupy the leading edge of the field, postcolonial studies, which his work had called into being. At that time, the deconstructionist Homi Bhabha and the Marxist Aijaz Ahmad were publishing revisions of (and, in the case of Ahmad, ad hominem attacks on) Said's work, and Said himself seemed to be retreating from "theory" back to some vaguely unfashionable (so it seemed to me) version of humanism.
Edward Said (1935 - 2003) By Asad Raza

toad talk

another one bites the dust

in reference to: Fiction: Toad Talk (view on Google Sidewiki)

India and Pakistan: the changing nature of conflict

Early last year a group of Indian and Pakistan retired generals and strategic experts sat down for a war-gaming exercise in Washington. The question, predictably enough, was at what point during a conventional war, would the generals in Rawalpindi GDQ reach for the nuclear trigger.....The exercise begins with an Indian military strike on militant camps in Pakistani Kashmir, the most commonly envisaged scenario for the next India-Pakistan war. But the Pakistan response defies conventional logic . They don’t order a military push into Indian Punjab and Rajasthan, they don’t even attack Bombay High, the most valuable Indian oil asset in the Arabian Sea, and well within striking distance of the Pakistani Air Force. Instead PAF planes fly all way to Bangalore, deep in the Indian south, to attack the campus of Infosys, the much celebrated Indian IT company.

Nawwab and I: Going Green.....

on going green

in reference to:

"Nawwab and I: Going Green or Black and Red"
- Nawwab and I: Going Green or Black and Red (view on Google Sidewiki)

Haroon Siddiqui, Tomgram, Uri Avnery, Stephen Lindman, Sidewiki,

You are Barack Obama. The year is 2008. You are running to be president of the United States. You are not part of the establishment. You are not even seen as part of the mainstream. You are a liberal, and seen as such. You opposed the Iraq war and are calling for a troop withdrawal. Your support for Israel is suspect. There are doubts whether you'd whack Israel's perceived enemies, hard. You are even talking about talking to Iran, indeed the Muslim world, from hence come the terrorists. Worse, too many voters think you are a closet Muslim. You have a problem.
You just cannot let your opponents – Hillary Clinton and then John McCain – paint you as soft on terror, the way George W. Bush did with John Kerry in 2004. You must burnish your national security credentials as a potentially strong commander-in-chief. Afghanistan is your answer. It would be your battlefield, both political and military. Haroon Siddiqui

Obama and Netanyahu: The Drama and the Farce By Uri Avnery - No point denying it: in the first round of the match between Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu, Obama was beaten.
Obama demanded a freeze of all settlement activity, including East Jerusalem, as a condition for convening a tripartite summit meeting, in the wake of which accelerated peace negotiations were to start, leading to peace between two states – Israel and Palestine. In the words of the ancient proverb, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Netanyahu has tripped Obama on his first step. The President of the United States has stumbled.

Tomgram: A Military That Wants Its Way - How to Trap a President in a Losing WarPetraeus, McChrystal, and the SurgettesBy Tom Engelhardt - Front and center in the debate over the Afghan War these days are General Stanley "Stan" McChrystal, Afghan war commander, whose "classified, pre-decisional" and devastating report -- almost eight years and at least $220 billion later, the war is a complete disaster -- was conveniently, not to say suspiciously, leaked to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post by we-know-not-who at a particularly embarrassing moment for Barack Obama; Admiral Michael "Mike" Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has been increasingly vocal about a "deteriorating" war and the need for more American boots on the ground; and the president himself, who blitzed every TV show in sight last Sunday and Monday for his health reform program, but spent significant time expressing doubts about sending more American troops to Afghanistan. ("I'm not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan... or sending a message that America is here for the duration.")

How Israel Targets and Suppresses Opposition to Its Annexation Wall - By Stephen Lendman
Established in 1992, the Addameer (Arabic for conscience) Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association helps Palestinian prisoners, and works to end torture, arbitrary arrests and detentions, other forms of abuse, and unjust, unequal treatment in Israel's criminal justice system that handles Jews one way and Palestinians another. In July 2009, in cooperation with the Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (Stop the Wall) and the Palestinian Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association, Addameer published a report titled "Repression allowed, Resistance denied" that documents resistance to Israel's apartheid wall and the "staggering level of repression, arrests and violence" by Israeli authorities.

Aryan-Dravidian divide a myth: Study - A pathbreaking study by Harvard and indigenous researchers says there is a genetic relationship between all Indians and the hitherto believed ``fact'' that Aryans and Dravidians signify the ancestry of north and south Indians might after all, be a myth.

Max Boot: Vulgar Propagandist and Apologist for War Crimes By Max Kantar
The recent publication of the UNHRC's report on Israel's December-January assault on the Gaza Strip, also known as the Goldstone Report, has elicited some rather hysterical reactions from Israel's leading apologists. Perhaps among the most desperate of the attempts to deflect legitimate criticism of Israeli war crimes is an article entitled, "The Goldstone Report," [1] written by Max Boot. Boot is an award winning author, distinguished journalist, and served as an editor for the Christian Science Monitor and The Wall Street Journal during the 1990s. He is currently a senior fellow for National Security Studies at the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations.

Google Sidewiki: the idea that won't die, but never lives By Charles Arthur on Technology
Google's latest idea to "help" people comment is just the latest in a long line of failed attempts by companies trying to get into the middle of online conversations If you want to control the web, control how people get content onto it: be the filter through which that content both arrives and is passed to people. It's an ambitious target. But if you're Google, and your aim is "to organise and make useful the world's information", then it's quite obvious (once you think about it) that what you need to do is be at the centre of all the discussions going on.

Google's ingenious plan to spruce up outdated versions of Internet Explorer. By Farhad Manjoo on technology - In a little more than a year, Google Chrome, the search company's speedy and innovative Web browser, has managed to win over about 3 percent of Internet surfers. Is that good or bad? It's certainly not a blockbuster, but consider the hurdles Google faces. Unlike Internet Explorer or Safari, Chrome doesn't come pre-installed on any computers. True, Mozilla Firefox faces the same problem—but Firefox, which now has about 23 percent of the market, has been around since 2004. You might also argue that Firefox captured an easy market—people who were sick of IE and wanted something better. Chrome can't do the same; everyone who wanted to leave IE has done so already, and the only folks left to convert are those who don't know any better.

Unpopular Americans?, Musharraf making amends? - Manghopir Resort?

Other than the obvious reason/s for anti american sentiments ... the underlying tussle betweeen wannabee amir ul momineen and the lap-dog cannot be overlooked in th efollowing report filed by Karen DeYoung and Pamela Constable

A new wave of anti-American sentiment in Pakistan has slowed the arrival of hundreds of U.S. civilian and military officials charged with implementing assistance programs, undermined cooperation in the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban and put American lives at risk, according to officials from both countries. In recent weeks, Pakistan has rejected as "incomplete" at least 180 U.S. government visa requests. Its own ambassador in Washington has criticized what he called a "blacklist" used by the Pakistani intelligence service to deny visas or to conduct "rigorous, intrusive and obviously crude surveillance" of journalists and non-governmental aid organizations it dislikes, including the Congress-funded International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute.

And in this report from Daily Times quoting ABC it appears Musharraf is earning his keep or making amends for his earlier remarks vis diverting US military aid ~~t

Pakistan and India will face great danger from Al Qaeda if the United States pulls out of Afghanistan, former president Pervez Musharraf said on Thursday.In an exclusive interview with ABC News, Musharraf said a US pullout would result in an unstable Afghanistan.“The country [Afghanistan] will become the centre of all Al Qaeda sanctuaries and consequently could extend its influence into Pakistan and possibly even India,” Musharraf said.

With its proposed facilities, Manghopir Resort, if constructed within stipulated time and without any hurdles in terms of funding, is all set to become a model recreational zone in the country. However, there are some fears regarding the eviction of the locals, who have been inhabited the area for generations, including those associated with the famous shrine of Manghopir and its adjoining pond of crocodiles. The scheme is extremely ambitious. It includes a lake for fishing to cater to angling enthusiasts as well as facilities for cooking by the lake’s shores. Besides this, cottages will also be constructed there.There is also a plan to set up a golf course with international facilities and a water amusement park. A proposal has also been floated to set up a “city forest” while wooden huts on the hilltop for temporary stay of visitors along with a hilltop view park have also been proposed. Plants and trees will be grown using the drip irrigation system to provide a green cover while dew jet poles are also included in the scheme to make the atmosphere pleasant by decreasing the warm temperature. Roads leading to the Manghopir Resort will be constructed and repaired while space for car parking for visitors will also be provided. Manghopir Resort

Albert Bierstadt

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sidewiki launched

simultaneous comments on the post and on your blog

in reference to:

"Google Launches Sidewiki - Changing The Perspective"
- (view on Google Sidewiki)

trouble ahead?

more trouble (read fatwas and protests) ahead?


jumairaat ka roz hay baba

The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved compromise legislation to triple non-military aid to Pakistan to about $1.5 billion a year for each of the next five years as part of a plan to fight extremism with economic development. jumairaat ka roz hay baba

He could have been the last Caliph

Ertugrul Osman, who might have ruled the Ottoman empire from a palace in Istanbul, but instead spent most of his life in a walk-up apartment in Manhattan, died Wednesday night in Istanbul. He was 97.

Mr. Osman was a descendant of Osman I, the Anatolian ruler who in 1299 established the kingdom that eventually controlled parts of Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Mr. Osman would have eventually become the Sultan but for the establishment of the Turkish Republic, proclaimed in 1923.

For the last 64 years, Mr. Osman — formally His Imperial Highness Prince Ertugrul Osman — and his wife, a niece of a former Afghan king, lived in a rent-controlled apartment in a four-story building on Lexington Avenue in the East 70s. At one time they kept 12 dogs in their home, a two-bedroom unit up a narrow, dim stairway, and enlisted neighborhood children to walk them.

Stiglitz, Amartya Sen: GDP A Poor Measure Of Growth, Clinton on Gore, Johann Hari on Environment, Picasa Update, Lost in Afghanistan?

Stiglitz, Amartya Sen: GDP A Poor Measure Of Growth By The Huffington Post News Editors
In a provocative new study, a pair of Nobel prize-winning economists, Joseph E. Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, urge the adoption of new assessment tools that incorporate a broader concern for human welfare than just economic growth. By their reckoning, much of the contemporary economic disaster owes to the misbegotten assumption that policy makers simply had to focus on nurturing growth, trusting that this would maximize prosperity for all.

Clinton on Gore: "I Thought He Was in Neverland" By David Corn on Politics - On Monday, USA Today ran a front-page article on the soon-to-be-released book chronicling a series of secret interviews Pulitzer Prize-winning author Taylor Branch held with President Bill Clinton throughout the Clinton presidency. The piece focused on a bizarre episode in which Russian President Boris Yeltsin during a visit to Washington in 1995 ended up in his underwear and drunk on Pennsylvania Avenue, trying to hail a cab. As for the Lewinsky affair, Clinton told Branch, he "just cracked" under political and personal pressures. USA Today also noted that Clinton and Al Gore had an explosive conversation following the 2000 election. But the newspaper provided only a few details on this meeting.

Johann Hari: It Is Five Minutes To Environmental Midnight. We Need To Act - Urgently -Barack Obama is a highly intelligent man who has appointed some of the best scientists in the world to explain to him what needs to happen now. But he is trapped in a political system soaked in petrol.

Picasa Update Can Tag Faces With New Photo Recognition Feature (VIDEO) - By The Huffington Post News Editors - **Scroll down for video**Picasa 3.5's latest update is more Big Brother than handy. The photo sharing site has just launched a new facial-recognition feature that will automatically scan your photos and then tag faces it recognizes using names from your Google contacts. Each time you add new photos, Picasa will attempt to tag the faces it has seen before. As Google engineer Todd Bogdan explains in a blog post,

Genius Grants 2009: Read The Full List Of Winners By The Huffington Post News Editors
CHICAGO — A newspaper reporter who refuses to forget decades-old murders and a law professor trying to get people to forget the way they think about severe mental illness are among 24 recipients of this year's MacArthur Foundation "genius grants." The $500,000 fellowships were announced Tuesday by the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. While recipients can spend the money however they like, the foundation said the selections were made as much for what the scientists, artists and others might achieve as much as for what they've already done.

Lost in Afghanistan? By David Corn on Afghanistan - The United States has been prosecuting the war in Afghanistan for nearly eight years—and still doesn't know what it's doing. That's the basic message of the assessment submitted to the Pentagon and the White House by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan. The Washington Post got hold of and posted a copy of the 66-page report—which President Barack Obama has already reviewed—and the newspaper focused on McChrystal's conclusion that he soon needs additional military and civilian forces in support of a revived strategy or "risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible." McChrystal doesn't sugercoat. He notes the "overall situation is deteriorating"—thanks to the resilience of a growing insurgency and a loss of confidence among Afghans in their own government and the international community—but he does state that some form of victory is possible, with those extra resources and a profound shift in strategy toward counterinsurgency operations that emphasize building connections between the Afghan populace and US, NATO, and Afghan security forces. "The key takeaway," he writes, is an "urgent need for a significant change to our strategy and the way that we think and operate."

Syed Saleem Shazad - Pakistan works the crowd

In Pakistan, problems loom. Last Friday, while addressing the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, President Asif Ali Zardari surprised the world audience with a new proposal that marks a meaningful step in the ongoing fight against terrorism and a possible breakthrough with India if Delhi accepts his proposal to join the Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FoDP).

Zardari, though, faces difficulties with the military. The bad blood goes back to Zardari's nomination as president after General Pervez Musharraf stepped down in August 2008. The powerful Corps Commanders unanimously urged Kiani to intervene, but he refused, saying he wanted democracy to take root in the country and whomever was picked by the political parties should be elected.

On March 17, when Zardari's government was under siege from opposition rallies over a judicial crisis, the Pakistani intelligence sharpened differences between Zardari's government and opposition leader Nawaz Sharif. This allowed Kiani to intervene and force Zardari to restore judges dismissed last year by Musharraf.

Zardari and the security apparatus clashed again when the director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence, Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, challenged Zardari's close friend and advisor Dr Asim Hussain over alleged corruption. Zardari promptly told Shuja Pasha to "mind your own business". This brought tremendous applause from Washington and Kiani emerged as a hero, and the military's star was on the rise again. Pundits in Islamabad agree that whether or not Kiani stages a coup, he will definitely stay on as army chief. And recently, Kiani did manage to get rid of Asim Hussain, and Zardari could do nothing about it. The speculation now is that the military might decide around December this year or early next year that Zardari's time as head of state is over. Pakistan works the crowdBy Syed Saleem Shahzad

Henry Moore

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

MQM in the US, Ikram Sehgal,Syed Saleem Shazad, Glen Beck, McChrystal Blackmailing Obama?<

The sudden emergence of a top MQM delegation in Washington for talks with the policy makers, officials and think tanks of Washington has also raised many questions as the official Pakistani diplomatic channels were totally cut off and I gather that this was done at the insistence of the US side more than the MQM leadership.Not even a courtesy meeting between Governor Ishratul Ebad and Ambassador Husain Haqqani was held until four days after the arrival of the MQM delegation and meetings with top strategists, including Bruce Riedel, John Negroponte, Richard Boucher, and current State Department officials, including Richard Holbrooke.A similar exercise has now been planned with the ANP chief while he will be here in the presidential entourage.What happened in these meetings is known only to the MQM leaders and the US side but the tone and tenor of MQM in the coming weeks and days will give the first hints of whether the course of the PPP-MQM alliance is changing in stormy waters in the middle of the sea. How the ANP reacts is also to be seen but already Asfandyar Wali is said to be very happy with the praise for his party’s governance in the NWFP by US officials as well as the promises to give them direct financial aid. With the MQM and the ANP almost on board, I will be eagerly waiting for the first signs of the new US strategy unfolding in the days and weeks to come. Shahid Masood

The present system is an inheritance of two centuries ago, it is not only illogical and incorrect, why subscribe to something that militates against human nature? Unless we abandon the practices of the 19th century, choosing pragmatism over tradition, how does one hope to create the military mindset necessary for the coming battles of the 21st century? Ikram Sehgal

The US on a new mission in Pakistan - General Stanley McChrystal, the top United States commander in the Afghan war, has given a blunt warning of possible mission failure. Now the Barack Obama administration has adopted a two-prong approach towards Pakistan, which it sees as inseparable from Afghanistan, to prevent any such failure there. Aid will continue to flow into Pakistan, and expect some unusual guests in Washington. - Syed Saleem Shahzad

[VIDEO] Glenn Beck Compares Liberalism to His Own Alcoholism By Array - In a devastating interview by CBS News anchor Katie Couric, Glenn Beck says only his alcoholism allowed him to be a liberal. Then he sobered up.

The general and his Afghan labyrinth - The leaked assessment of the war in Afghanistan by top United States commander General Stanley McChrystal, obviously an effort to force President Barack Obama to agree to a significant increase in US troops, presents a highly discouraging picture. Even more pessimistic are McChrystal's views on the Integrated Civilian-Military Campaign Plan, which he agreed to just weeks ago. - Gareth Porter (Sep 23, '09)

5 Things the Corporate Media Don't Want You to Know About Cannabis By Paul Armentano - Recent scientific reports suggest that pot doesn't destroy your brain, that it doesn't cause lung damage like tobacco -- but you won't hear it in the corporate media.

Junko Mori

Goldstone Commission Gaza Conflict Findings and Reactions, Beck Repeats, Hannity's Hypocrisy,

Goldstone Commission Gaza Conflict Findings and Reactions By Stephen Lendman - On April 3, 2009, a UN press release stated:
"The Human Rights Council (HRC) today announced the appointment of Richard J. lead an independent (four-person) fact-finding mission to investigate international human rights and humanitarian law violations related to the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip....The team will be supported by staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights....Today's appointment comes following the adoption of a resolution by the Human Rights address 'the grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly due to the recent Israeli military attacks against the occupied Gaza Strip."

Beck Tells Couric He’s Sorry The Way He “Phrased” Accusation That Obama Is A Racist, Goes On To Paint Obama As A Racist Again By Ellen on Glenn Beck - In his lengthy interview with Katie Couric last night (9/22/09), Glenn Beck claimed he didn’t give much thought to the advertising boycott organized by which to date has resulted in a loss of 62 advertisers. But it’s clear he has at least some regrets for having called President Obama a “racist” with “a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.” Beck told Couric he was “sorry the way it was phrased.” Then he went on to paint Obama as a racist again. With video....

Will Obama's Top General in Afghanistan Quit?- Robert Dreyfuss, The Nation - Sources say Stanley McChrystal may consider quitting if Obama fails to give him 15,000 additional troops in Afghanistan.

Bob Beckel Exposes Hannity Panel's Hypocrisy On ACORN By Ellen on Hannity - On last night’s Hannity, Bob Beckel repeatedly threw the imbalanced panel, stacked against him with two conservatives plus Sean Hannity, off their anti-ACORN talking points. First, nobody could explain what the supposedly billions of dollars going to ACORN was for. Then nobody, including the former Bush administration official, could explain why they had not made an issue of the greater waste and abuse from Halliburton. Beckel polished it off by throwing Hannity on the defensive by asking whether he had ever hired anyone who turned out to be a “fruitcake.” Go Bob! Video after the jump....

Making Internet Publishing Pay: German Media Mogul Takes On Google News - Herbert Burda doesn't like the way Google News works. Now the head of one of the world's biggest publishing companies is putting his money where his mouth is. Burda has launched a new Web site to compete with Google News that, unlike its American competitor, will pay its sources.

A German Jihad Colony: Islamists in Pakistan Recruit Entire Families from Europe - The German government is trying to secure the release of a group of suspected German Islamists who were arrested by Pakistani authorities while making their way to a jihadist colony in the Waziristan region along the Afghan-Pakistani border. Entire families from Germany are moving to the region to join the jihad.

The Forgotten Guantanamo: Prisoner Abuse Continues at Bagram Prison in Afghanistan - US President Barack Obama has spoken out against CIA prisoner abuse and wants to close Guantanamo. But he tolerates the existence of Bagram military prison in Afghanistan, where more than 600 people are being held without charge. The facility makes Guantanamo look like a "nice hotel," in the words of one military prosecutor.

Cry anti-semitism and win, Media watch,

PARIS — In a fifth and final round of voting, a Bulgarian diplomat narrowly defeated Egypt’s culture minister for the leadership post at Unesco on Tuesday night, ending a bitterly fought contest during which critics of the Egyptian candidate accused him of anti-Semitism and censorship. Cry anti-semitism and win

Newt Gingrich, Staunch Opponent of Biligualism, Launches Bilingual Web Site By Array - After a career of bashing all things bilingual, the former speaker of the house has launched a news web site for Hispanic people.

COMMENT : Obamacare and the $13 rule - In the capitalist haven of Hong Kong, anybody who can scrape together the equivalent of US$13 receives timely and usually first-rate health care in an emergency ward. By contrast, hospitals in the United States are turning away the sick, the injured and the dying. - Kent Ewing

New Pew Poll on Afghanistan Shows Dwindling Support for the War By Array - Even though more than three-quarters of Americans consider the Taliban a threat, an increasing number want Obama to start withdrawing troops.

INTERVIEW : 'Now, we don't cry anymore' - During his time as Afghanistan's deputy security chief from 2006 to 2008, Lieutenant General Abdul Hadi Khalid specialized in border policing and internal security, and oversaw the largest drug seizure in history. Still a leading thinker on ethno-politics and crime, he explains why the United States must "Afghanize" the war, and why Uzbekistan is the most important nation in Central Asia. - Derek Henry Flood (Sep 22, '09)

Media Watch

Editor abducted by Yemen forces over reports on airstrikes against civilians
Turkish investigators wiretapped prominent daily without court consent
Iran still persecuting journalists employed by foreign media
Four journalists released under Myanmar junta’s amnesty
Peru maintains ban on Amazonian radio station silenced since June
Eritrea: World’s biggest prison for journalists since September 2001 round-ups
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Trial Balloon for attack into Pakistan/Iran Border Areas? Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan defends his views, Apostasy II: reasonable doubt

I'm getting a lot of feedback about my first article on Apostasy, and my second article on Rifqa Bary, and I feel compelled to respond. Unfortunately the comment length limitations make it very difficult to elaborate in full detail, which is why I'm writing this follow up.

Next, the evidence. I have been unable to verify any of these Hadith. I looked them up by number (Except the Sunan al-Nasaa’iy) but didn't find them. Then I Googled them and all I found was this exact same fatwa pasted on half a dozen other message boards word for word. Then I went to the Compendium of Muslim Texts which has word searchable Hadith Database which contains the complete collection of Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Malik's Muwatta, and a partial collection of the Sunan Abu-Dawud. I searched and read every Hadith which contained the word "renegade" or "apostate" and was only able to confirm one of the Hadtih used by Ebrahim Desai, which incidentally is also the Hadith that people quote from the Tafsir of Ibn Kathir....[read on] Apostasy II: reasonable doubt

Trial balloon for attack into Pakistan/Iran Border Areas? ~~t
U.S. says Pakistan, Iran helping Taliban - Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, in particular cites the ISI and the Quds Force. "Afghanistan's insurgency is clearly supported from Pakistan," McChrystal wrote, adding that senior leaders of the major Taliban groups are "reportedly aided by some elements of Pakistan's ISI." The ISI has long-standing ties to the Taliban, but Pakistani officials have repeatedly claimed to have severed those relationships in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan defends his views - The Swiss-born thinker, who was denied a visa to teach in the U.S., says he is a reformist interested in a 'post-integration discourse' to explore the ways Muslims in the West can contribute. Reporting from London - Liberal Muslim or closet fundamentalist? Peaceful intellectual or militant in sheep's clothing?Tariq Ramadan has been called all these things -- and more -- by his friends and foes. Whatever the truth, the Swiss-born Oxford University professor ranks among the most influential thinkers in the Muslim world.