Sunday, September 25, 2011

'Abbas: Netanyahu most difficult Israeli leader'

PA president says PM Netanyahu not easy to negotiate with, will review Quartet proposals with Palestinian leadership, according to report.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is the most difficult Israeli leader to negotiate with, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview with Asharq Alawsat on Saturday.
Abbas named Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni, saying that they were easier to work with. Abbas also said that he would not give his opinion of the Quartet's proposals until he returns to Ramallah and discusses its provisions with Palestinian leadership there. He reiterated the return to 1967 borders and halting of settlement construction as pre-conditions to negotiations.
Israel responded positively Saturday, and the Palestinians negatively, to a formula for restarting negotiations issued by the Quartet that would place a December 2012 deadline on reaching an agreement.
“We are studying the statement, and view favorably the call for a return to direct talks,” a senior Israeli official said.

He added that the government would not respond to the proposal, which made no mention of the pre-1967 lines or Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, until Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu discussed the matter with senior cabinet ministers after returning to Israel on Monday.

The Middle East Quartet – the US, EU, Russia and the UN – has been trying for months to come up with a formula that would enable direct talks. Its formula was released on Friday afternoon, after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas formally submitted a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon seeking full UN membership.The Quartet statement urged the parties “to overcome the current obstacles and resume direct bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations without delay or preconditions.”

Acknowledging that talks by themselves will not reestablish trust, the Quartet proposed the following: a “preparatory meeting” between the parties within a month to agree to an agenda and a “method of proceeding in the negotiation.” The two sides will commit that the objective is to “reach an agreement within a time frame agreed to by the parties but not longer than the end of 2012.”

Obama tells blacks to 'stop complainin' and fight

In a fiery summons to an important voting bloc, President Barack Obama

told blacks on Saturday to quit crying and complaining and "put on your marching shoes" to follow him into battle for jobs and opportunity.
And though he didn't say it directly, for a second term, too.
Obama's speech to the annual awards dinner of the Congressional Black Caucus was his answer to increasingly vocal griping from black leaders that he's been giving away too much in talks with Republicans -- and not doing enough to fight black unemployment, which is nearly double the national average at 16.7 percent.
"It gets folks discouraged. I know. I listen to some of y'all," Obama told an audience of some 3,000 in a darkened Washington convention center.
But he said blacks need to have faith in the future -- and understand that the fight won't be won if they don't rally to his side.
"I need your help," Obama said.
The president will need black turnout to match its historic 2008 levels if he's to have a shot at winning a second term, and Saturday's speech was a chance to speak directly to inner-city concerns.
He acknowledged blacks have suffered mightily because of the recession, and are frustrated that the downturn is taking so long to reverse. "So many people are still hurting. So many people are barely hanging on," he said, then added: "And so many people in this city are fighting us every step of the way."
But Obama said blacks know all too well from the civil rights struggle that the fight for what is right is never easy.
"Take off your bedroom slippers. Put on your marching shoes," he said, his voice rising as applause and cheers mounted. "Shake it off. Stop complainin'. Stop grumblin'. Stop cryin'. We are going to press on. We have work to do."
Topping the to-do list, he said, is getting Congress to the pass jobs bill he sent to Capitol Hill two weeks ago.
Obama said the package of payroll tax cuts, business tax breaks and infrastructure spending will benefit 100,000 black-owned businesses and 20 million African-American workers. Republicans have indicated they're open to some of the tax measures -- but oppose his means of paying for it: hiking taxes on top income-earners and big business.
But at times, Obama also sounded like he was discussing his own embattled tenure.
"The future rewards those who press on," He said. "I don't have time to feel sorry for myself. I don't have time to complain. I'm going to press on."
Caucus leaders remain fiercely protective of the nation's first African-American president, but in recent weeks they've been increasingly vocal in their discontent -- especially over black joblessness.
"If Bill Clinton had been in the White House and had failed to address this problem, we probably would be marching on the White House," the caucus chairman, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, recently told McClatchy Newspapers.
Like many Democratic lawmakers, caucus members were dismayed by Obama's concessions to the GOP during the summer's talks on raising the government's borrowing limit.
Cleaver famously called the compromise deal a "sugar-coated Satan sandwich."
But Cleaver said his members also are keeping their gripes in check because "nobody wants to do anything that would empower the people who hate the president."
Still, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., caused a stir last month by complaining that Obama's Midwest bus tour had bypassed black districts. She told a largely black audience in Detroit that the caucus is "supportive of the president, but we're getting tired."
Last year, Obama addressed the same dinner and implored blacks to get out the vote in the midterm elections because Republicans were preparing to "turn back the clock."
What followed was a Democratic rout that Obama acknowledged as a "shellacking."
Where blacks had turned out in droves to help elect him in 2008, there was a sharp drop-off two years later.
Some 65 percent of eligible blacks voted in 2008, compared with a 2010 level that polls estimate at between 37 percent and 40 percent. Final census figures for 2010 are not yet available, and it's worth noting off-year elections typically draw far fewer voters.
This year's caucus speech came as Obama began cranking up grass-roots efforts across the Democratic spectrum.
It also fell on the eve of a trip to the West Coast that will combine salesmanship for the jobs plan he sent to Congress this month and re-election fundraising.
Obama was leaving Sunday morning for Seattle, where two money receptions were planned, with two more to follow in the San Francisco area.
On Monday, Obama is holding a town meeting at the California headquarters of LinkedIn, the business networking website, before going on to fundraisers in San Diego and Los Angeles and a visit Tuesday to a Denver-area high school to highlight the school renovation component of the jobs package.

Chinese scientist presented "America' s Nobel" for anti-malaria drug

A Chinese scientist was presented a prestigious U.S. award on Friday for the discovery of artemisinin, a drug therapy for malaria that has saved millions of lives across the globe, especially in the developing world.
Pharmacologist Tu Youyou, 81

, became the first scientist on the Chinese mainland to win Lasker Award, known as "America's Nobels" for their knack of gaining future recognition by the Nobel committee.

Tu, a scientist at the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences in Beijing, pioneered a new approach to malaria treatment that has benefited hundreds of millions of people and promises to benefit many times more. By applying modern techniques and rigor to a heritage provided by 5000 years of Chinese traditional practitioners, she has delivered its riches into the 21st century.

"Not often in the history of clinical medicine can we celebrate a discovery that has eased the pain and distress of hundreds of millions of people and saved the lives of countless numbers of people, particularly children, in over 100 countries," Lucy Shapiro, a member of the award jury and professor of Stanford University, said while describing Tu' s discovery.

Shapiro said the discovery, chemical identification, and validation of artemisinin, a highly effective anti-malarial drug, is largely due to the "scientific insight, vision and dogged determination" of Professor Tu and her team. She thought Professor Tu's work has provided the world with arguably the most important pharmaceutical intervention in the last half century.

"The discovery of artemisinin is a gift to mankind from traditional Chinese medicine," Tu said while receiving the award. "Continuous exploration and development of traditional medicine will, without doubt, bring more medicines to the world."She advocated a global collaboration in the research of Chinese and other traditional medicines in order to maximize their benefits to the healthcare of the human beings.

In early 1969, Tu was appointed head of a government project that aimed to eradicate malaria, and it was then she began applying modern techniques with Chinese traditional medicine to find drug therapy for malaria.

After detecting 380 extracts made from 2,000 candidate recipes, Tu and her colleagues obtained a pure substance called "Qinghaosu," which became known as artemisinin in 1972.

An artemisinin-based drug combination is now the standard regimen for malaria, and the World Health Organization lists artemisinin and related agents in its catalog of "Essential Medicines."

"Professor Tu's achievement was one of the most important achievements in infectious diseases of all areas," Anthony Fauci, director of U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Xinhua. "It is a good example that Chinese traditional medicine sometimes leads to global usable compound like artemisinin."

The Lasker Awards are among the most respected science prizes in the world. Since 1945, the Awards Program has recognized the contributions of scientists, physicians, and public servants who have made major advances in the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, cure, and prevention of human disease.

In the last two decades, 28 Lasker laureates have gone on to receive the Nobel Prize, and 80 since 1945.

Yemeni women hold demo in Taizz

Yemeni women have staged a demonstration in the southern city of Taizz to protest against foreign interference in the country's internal affairs.
Thousands of women took to the streets in the flashpoint city on Saturday, shouting slogans against the United States and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah.
They also called for support of Yemen's popular revolution and condemned the return of Ali Abdullah Saleh to the country from Saudi Arabia, where he had been receiving treatment for injuries he sustained in an attack on his palace in June.
Yemen has been the scene of deadly violence in recent days, with about 70 anti-government protesters killed and many more injured since Saleh's return on Friday.
Reports say over 50 people have been killed in Sana'a over the past 24 hours.
Earlier in the day, a military commander for the revolutionary forces said Saleh had returned to start a civil war.

Late on Saturday, US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland expressed "deep concern" about the deepening crisis in Yemen, asked all parties in the country to end the clashes, and called on Sana'a to respond to the people's demands.

"We urge all parties to cease violence and exercise maximum restraint," Nuland said. "The Yemeni government must immediately address the democratic aspirations of its people," she added.

All options open if attacked: Hina

Foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Saturday warned the United States against sending ground troops to her country to fight Haqqani network.

Khar said in an interview Saturday that there are red lines and rules of engagement with America, which should not be broken.

"It opens all kinds of doors and all kinds of options," she said. The comment was in response to a question about the possibility of US troops coming to Pakistan.

Khar, however, insisted that Pakistan's policy was to seek a more intensive engagement with the US and that she would like to discourage any blame game.

"If many of your goals are not achieved, you do not make someone a scapegoat," she said, addressing the US.

Khar warned the United States is risking losing an ally in the war on terror.

Several countries have contact with Haqqanis: ISPR

The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has contacts with Haqqani network but it does not mean that Pakistan Army supports the network, said ISPR spokesman on Saturday night.

Major General Athar Abbas in a statement said that ISI has contacts with the Haqqani group but it does not mean that it supports the network.

Major Abbas said having contacts with any group just for the sake of peace was entirely different from supporting anyone. He added that maintaining ties with rival groups was necessary for intelligence agencies.

Pakistan is not the only country, which has contacts with Haqqani network, he said, adding; "We have solid information that several countries have contacts with the group."

He said dens of Haqqani network were in Nooristan and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan.

He added that any unilateral US operation inside Pakistan would provoke severe anti-America sentiments.

Sleeping with the enemy


The spate of mutually irritating exchanges between Pakistan and the US in recent days is reaching fever pitch. Stung by forthright accusations of harbouring the Afghan Taliban and especially the Haqqani network in safe havens on Pakistani soil and supporting their attacks on US/Nato/Afghan forces across the border, the government and the military have hit back with equally provocative rejoinders. Prime Minister Gilani advises the US not to send ‘wrong messages’, Foreign Minister Khar warns of the loss of an ally, COAS General Kayani rejects Mullen’s charges. All three nevertheless end on a ‘constructive engagement’ note.
In Pakistan, there has been a lot of noise and fury, full of hollow slogans and chest thumping about our ‘sovereignty’ and how the 180 million people of Pakistan are prepared to defend it against any US-led ‘boots on the ground’ inside Pakistani territory. Sceptics view this chorus as delusionary, misplaced nationalism. Soberer minds recognise that the game is one of brinkmanship, not taking on the world’s sole superpower which, despite its economic troubles, packs the most powerful and overwhelming military punch in the world. Both sides are pushing the envelope to the maximum. The risk is that given the polarisation between public opinion in the two countries, this brinkmanship can spill over into actual confrontation if care is not exercised. There are those amongst us who think we have the US over a barrel and therefore whatever the bluster out of Washington, as the prime minister put it, the US “cannot live with us and cannot live without us”. There may be truth in that assertion, although how far this can be pushed must be a cause for concern. Two points need noting here. Arguably, if we continue to nettle the Americans through our support to extremists who are giving them a bloody nose every so often, the US will, if it is not already, explore options that reduce its logistical dependence on Pakistan. A by-product of this will be immediate and perhaps long term strictures on the political, economic and diplomatic front, which will hurt Pakistan gravely. When and if the US’s hands are freed from the Afghan quagmire, it will not look kindly on our shenanigans. Retribution is the leitmotif of empires. Two, even if the US finds ways to live without us, the question remains, can we live without the US (goodwill)? This is not a time for emotional froth, it is a time for sober reflection where Pakistan’s interests lie and whether these are compatible any longer with the dual policy adopted after 9/11, in which the blood lust in American eyes was sought to be assuaged by cracking down on and delivering al Qaeda, while preserving the Afghan Taliban for a protracted campaign of guerrilla and asymmetrical warfare that has been the hallmark of all resistance movements to foreign occupiers in Afghan history.
As the withdrawal date looms, domestic politics and the exigencies of seeking re-election could tie Obama’s hands to adhere to the declared course. However, a question mark has arisen over the feasibility of the withdrawal plan as announced. In some ways it is natural that in the phase of withdrawal, the Taliban and Haqqani network are stepping up their attacks to strengthen their position in post-withdrawal Afghanistan. The bypassing of the ISI by the US and the Afghan government in negotiations with the insurgents may also be a contributory factor in the escalating seriousness of the ‘state of siege’, particularly in Kabul, which the Afghan government and its allies would like to portray as their secure base. The more that myth is shattered by bold attacks on the US embassy, Nato headquarters and other ostensibly secure establishments, the more the withdrawal plan begins to look unrealistic. The coming vacuum of power has not, and does not seem likely to in the foreseeable future, been filled by the Afghan security forces. Withdrawal of foreign forces may be the harbinger therefore of either a long civil war or the quick running over of the anti-Taliban alliance. Potentially, a Taliban government in Kabul this time will spell trouble for Pakistan in the shape of the Pakistani Taliban. We are crafting the tools of our own destruction unthinkingly.