Thursday, May 20, 2010

Michelle Obama Caught in Immigration Debate

First lady Michelle Obama faced a tough, personal immigration question from a Maryland second-grader Wednesday when she visited an elementary school with her Mexican counterpart, Margarita Zavala.
The girl told Obama that her mother said President Barack Obama was "taking everybody away that doesn't have papers."

Mrs. Obama responded: "Yeah, well, that's something that we have to work on, right? To make sure that people can be here with the right kind of papers, right? That's exactly right."

The girl then said, "But my mom doesn't have papers."

"Well," Mrs. Obama said, "we have to work on that. We have to fix that. And everybody's got to work together in Congress to make sure that that happens."

New Hampshire Estates Elementary School principal Jane Litchko wouldn't identify the student but said a parent signed a release allowing the child to participate and be filmed. Litchko said the school doesn't inquire about the immigration status of families.

"We serve every child who comes through the door," Litchko said. "We don't ask that kind of question. If they want to share with us, fine. If they don't, we don't ask."

Litchko said roughly 65 percent of her students speak a language other than English, and she employs seven English teachers to help them get up to speed.

The school recently won the Agriculture Department's Healthier US School Challenge Silver Award, which rewards schools that promote nutrition and physical activity.

The first ladies' school visit came shortly after the Obamas welcomed Mexican President Felipe Calderon and his wife to the White House, where immigration also was a hot topic.

Obama condemned Arizona's crackdown on illegal immigration and called again for the nation to overhaul immigration. Calderon called Arizona's new law discriminatory and warned that Mexico would reject any effort to "criminalize migration."

Mrs. Obama is leading a public awareness campaign against childhood obesity and has said she wants to help solve the problem in a generation so that babies born today will come of age at a healthy weight.

The first ladies ran, jumped, skipped and even played with a parachute in a physical education class. They also sat down with students in a free lunch program and passed bowls of broccoli around the cafeteria tables.

British Afghan mission to come under US control
British troops in Helmand province will move under American control as part of a radical restructuring plan being drawn up in preparation for what is being described as a defining time in the war against the Taliban.
The Independent has learnt that command in southern Afghanistan will be split in half, with the UK troops answering to a US general.
The transfer will include key towns like Sangin, which has seen the highest number of British deaths in the conflict, mostly due to lethal roadside bombs, and Kajaki, where UK forces installed a turbine engine in an operation in 2008.
The new strategy is expected to be publicly announced by Nato later this week after prolonged negotiations between the US, Britain and the other main contributors to Isaf (International Security Assistance Force) in Afghanistan.
It comes as the traditional Afghan fighting season gets under way with General Stanley McChrystal, the US commander of Nato forces in the country, warning that "nobody was winning" a conflict that has reached a "stalemate", although the Taliban has "lost momentum".
Yesterday saw another suicide bombing in the Afghan capital with 18 people, including five American soldiers, killed. More than a thousand members of the US forces have died so far in the Afghan war.
According to senior American sources, the switch will officially take place on 1 June, when the UK's Task Force Helmand will start reporting to Maj-Gen Richard Mills of the US Marine Corps, who will command the newly formed Regional Command South-West. Until now, the UK troops answered to the British Maj-Gen Nick Carter who was in charge of the whole of southern Afghanistan. He will head another newly created command, Regional Command South, comprising the provinces of Kandahar, Oruzgan and Zabul.General Carter's immediate focus, in the next few months, would be the forthcoming operation in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, and its hinterland. The move is expected to lead to criticism that "blood and treasure" (meaning lives and finance) expended by the British in Helmand is being given away to American control.Critics of the plan have drawn analogies with Basra, from which British forces pulled out, ending involvement in the Iraq conflict, forcing the US Marines to take over. But UK military commanders and diplomats hold that the situation in Afghanistan is very different and that the new chain of command reflects the reality on the ground, with more than twice as many American troops than British already in Helmand.
The course of action in the near future, the "final drive" against the insurgents, will be helped, they say, by the command being split, as it will allow the generals to concentrate on their respective areas.
There is also the possibility that in the future that Maj-Gen Mills will be replaced by a British officer, although no plans have been drawn up for that, as yet. A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence told The Independent last night "We have always said that given the significant and welcome increase of ISAF forces in Helmand and across southern Afghanistan, from 35,000 in October 2009 to over 50,000 by this summer, it is absolutely right that ISAF commanders should be considering changes to command and control structures.
"To do so makes complete military sense and will ensure that ISAF and Afghan forces are put to best use in the interest of the wider mission. The UK has been fully involved in the decision-making process," he said.
The new command structure will mean that British troops will concentrate on guarding population centres, while US forces, who took the lead in the recent Marjah offensive, will take over some of the outlying bases.
British troops, who have lost almost half of their members killed this year in Sangin, will remain in that town, under overall US command, and may see the arrival of some reinforcements. At Kajaki, where a hydroelectric project was supposed to provide power for a huge swathe of southern Afghanistan, the UK forces are expected to be replaced by Americans.

Obama strategy: tout rising economy, hit Republicans

President Barack Obama's strategy for helping Democrats limit losses in November congressional elections boils down to this: tout the improving U.S. economy and pound Republicans for opposing his policies.
Administration officials recognize a difficult political environment for Democrats with a U.S. jobless rate of 9.9 percent and Americans in an anti-incumbent mood. And Democrats, who hold large majorities in the Senate and the House of Representatives, are braced for some losses in November.The party in power typically loses seats in Congress in the first election after a new president takes office. This year is expected to follow the historic trend.
Democrats believe they can stave off some of the nightmare scenarios being spelled out by political prognosticators. Some analysts believe they could lose control of Congress to the Republicans.
Jobs are being created again and key indicators point to an economy on the mend.
"Things are getting better. Our policies are working," said a senior White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "There's a little more optimism out there, and that will help mitigate our losses and make this a traditional mid-term environment for the party in power."
Mindful that the elections are to some extent a referendum on his presidency, Obama is defending his actions.
On the road, Obama is telling crowds that policies he promoted that have proven unpopular with some Americans, such as a $787 billion economic stimulus measure and bailouts for banks and auto companies, are starting to pay off.
"Despite all the naysayers in Washington, who are always looking for the cloud in every silver lining, the fact is our economy is growing again," Obama said on Tuesday in Youngstown, Ohio.
He points to the creation in April of 290,000 jobs and the expectation that more are on the way.
And Obama is launching frequent attacks on Republicans. To vote for them, he says, would risk more political gridlock in Washington and make it harder to advance his agenda.
The idea is to make independent voters who voted for Obama in the 2008 presidential election but are now straying think twice about bringing Republicans back to power.
"They've done their best to gum up the works, to make things look broken, to say 'no' to every single thing," Obama told a Democratic fund-raising event in New York last week.
Democrats face a political headwind this year not just over the economy.
Some voters are upset by many aspects of the Obama agenda, such as a U.S. healthcare overhaul that they worry will increase costs but not care, higher government spending, rising deficits and the prospect of higher taxes.
Republicans see an opportunity to make big gains in Congress. They believe the Democrats were diverted from the main American concern -- jobs -- in favor of healthcare and other issues.
"The common thread in all of this is that the Democratic Party has lost the confidence of the American people who will, in turn, hold them accountable for their reckless spending and government takeovers in November," said Katie Wright, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are expected to travel steadily in the months leading up to the election, appearing at rallies and raising money.
The White House will have to look carefully at the political map to determine where Obama's message will resonate best.
For instance, Democrat Mark Critz won a House seat in a special election in Pennsylvania on Tuesday over Republican Tim Burns in part by voicing opposition to the Democrats' healthcare overhaul and energy legislation.
"There's no question that they're going to use the president where he's more popular," said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic strategist.

Illiteracy, corruption hamper Afghan police: NATO
An 80 percent illiteracy rate, corruption and a lack of trained personnel are hampering Afghan police, the NATO commander overseeing the training of Afghan security forces said on Wednesday.
NATO has stepped up training of Afghan police in an effort to reform a force that inspires little confidence among locals, struggles with high dropout rates and is frequently accused of incompetence and drug use.
But only 45 percent of Afghan police have had any formal preparation, said U.S. Lieutenant-General William Caldwell, who heads the training mission as the alliance prepares to boost the size of the Afghan army and police to over 300,000 by 2011.
The training is also central to NATO's strategy to eventually transfer control of security to Afghan forces so that Western troops can start withdrawing next year.
Professionalizing the police force will not happen overnight, Caldwell said.
"That is a real challenge, you've got a lot of policemen out there who're trying to do their job that have never had any kind of professional training," Caldwell told reporters in Rome.
"They've haven't been taught human rights, they haven't been instilled with this idea that they serve the people."
Taking on a literacy rate of 20 percent among police recruits, NATO has introduced mandatory reading and writing courses for the army and police, Caldwell said.
NATO's ambitions are modest on the literacy front -- with the focus on giving cadets third-grade level reading and writing skills rather than a high school education, Caldwell said.
"We saw that very early on as a problem," he said.
"If you're a policeman you need to be able to take some notes, write down the license plate number, take a statement from a person or something like that, and if they can't read or write they're going to be very challenged in performing their duties as a police officer or patrolman."
He also acknowledged that corruption remained a significant problem within the police force, something NATO hopes to counter through higher pay and improving transparency.
"Corruption is a challenge, there's no question. And I think everybody recognizes that. So we need to help set conditions that don't lead them to corrupt practices."

Obama, Calderon push for immigration law changes
President Barack Obama pushed for sweeping changes in U.S. immigration policy on Wednesday, as Mexican President Felipe Calderon complained that a harsh new Arizona law discriminates against foreign-born workers.

Immigration, a traditional sticking point in the neighboring countries' relationship, became the focus of Calderon's Washington visit when the border state passed the law requiring police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect is in the United States illegally.
The Arizona law has been criticized as discriminatory and Calderon, who had promised to bring it up in Washington, jumped into the controversy in his first formal remarks of the two-day state visit.
Despite their "significant contribution to the economy and society of the United States," Calderon said, many immigrant workers "live in the shadows, and at times, as in Arizona, confront patterns of discrimination."
Obama said the Arizona law underscored the need for comprehensive immigration reform and reflects U.S. frustrations, which he shares, with current law.
"In the United States of America, no law-abiding person -- be they an American citizen, a legal immigrant, or a visitor or tourist from Mexico -- should ever be subject to suspicion simply because of what they look like," Obama told reporters with Calderon at his side.
There are millions of Mexican-Americans and Mexicans living in the United States, and many Americans travel to and live in Mexico.
The United States needs a new law that secures the border, targets businesses that hire illegal workers and punishes illegals, but gives them a path to citizenship, Obama said. He asked for support from opposition Republicans to pass one.
Obama and first lady Michelle Obama hosted Calderon and his wife, Margarita Zavala, at a state dinner later on Wednesday, with a menu blending U.S. and Mexican cuisine and performances by U.S. pop star Beyonce Knowles and Mexican guitar duo Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero. Calderon will address a joint session of the U.S. Congress on Thursday.
The two countries broadly agree on issues like the global economy and climate change, despite tensions over immigration, border security, drug violence and trade. Their trade surpasses $1 billion a day, and Mexico sends 80 percent of its exports to the United States.
The presidents affirmed their commitment to mutual economic growth, securing the border, protecting the environment, and fighting crime, and ordered their cabinets to create a joint steering committee to come up with an action plan for creating a "21st century border." But they otherwise offered no major new initiatives.
Analysts said the main outcome of the visit for Calderon would be strong expressions of support for his policies, particularly in fighting the international drug trade, from Obama, who is hugely popular in Mexico.
Calderon is "a leader who is guiding his country through very difficult times with vision and with courage, and he has been an outstanding partner to me and an outstanding partner to the United States," Obama said.
The two presidents said they would cooperate to crush drug gangs. The joint statement said the United States would speed delivery of helicopters and other aircraft for the drug fight. The traffickers' turf wars and battles with federal forces in Mexico have killed 23,000 people since Calderon took office in December 2006 and launched an army-backed offensive.
The spiraling violence worries foreign investors and makes some tourists nervous about visiting Mexico. Drug-related abductions have spilled across the U.S. border.

The countries are more closely aligned on the issue than they have been in years, and Mexico is pleased Washington acknowledges that U.S.-made weapons and U.S. demand for drugs are big parts of the problem.

Miss USA Rima Fakih: My victory means anyone can make it in America

Praising America as a land of opportunity, the new Miss USA, Rima Fakih of Dearborn, told the Free Press today her victory shows that anyone can make it in the U.S. — regardless of background. And she hopes it will inspire Michiganders to rebuild the struggling state.
Touching upon the fact that she is the first open Arab American to win Miss USA, Fakih said she hopes her win will dispel anxieties.
“The fear that people had implanted since 9/11, maybe what I did can show people that, you know what, who cares what ethnicity you are,” Fakih said from an SUV driving her through Manhattan. “This is America. Everyone has been through hardships. Everyone has been through something. And that does not mean you should be afraid or should be shy to say who you really are, what your ethnicity is, and what your background is. Because America is the land of opportunity and the land of the free.”
Fakih said she broke down in tears when she heard that Arab Americans in Dearborn were cheering at parties and on the streets after her victory Sunday in Las Vegas.
“That right there made me cry when I heard such great news, that they were all so proud of me,” Fakih said. “Everyone should be proud of who they are and where they come from because America is a big melting pot of diverse ethnicities. It’s great to be part of this wonderful country.”
Born in Lebanon, Fakih grew up in New York City and moved to Dearborn, which has the highest concentration of Arab Americans in the U.S.
Since her victory, some have complained about the fact she is Arab-American and from Dearborn.
But Fakih said, “Dearborn and my community is part of me.”
Fakih also hoped her triumph can help “give Michigan hope that it is on the way up.”
“When you hit rock bottom, the only way is up,” she said. “And I want Michigan to know that my title should be a significant symbol that Michigan is going to go right back to where it was.”
Fakih said she was inspired by her parents and older brother to go for her dreams.
“There is nothing … worse than saying, I never tried,” Fakih said. “When you want something done, you got to do it yourself. … Nothing is impossible.”
Fakih said she is now on a media tour and will have an upcoming photo shoot. She also has plans to travel across the U.S., and to Africa and China. The president of Lebanon said this week he wanted to meet with her, which she hopes to do.
Fakih said she also would like to meet President Barack Obama. Since her victory, some have compared Fakih with Obama in that they are seen as historic firsts.

Residents express concerns over sugar shortage in Peshawar

PESHAWAR: Sugar has disappeared from utility stores of Peshawar since last ten days while, the residents have expressed concern over the situation.
According to details, sugar has become rare in Hayat Abad since last ten days and the situation is creating agitation amongst the residents. Talking to Online in this regard Director General Utility Stores Association Peshawar region Malik Javed said that Peshawar is being supplied sugar from Karachi and he has ordered for 1 thousand tons of sugar, which would be soon in Peshawar.
He said that 225-ton sugar has been supplied on 15 and 294 ton on 19 the sugar would soon available at the Peshawar utility stores.