Monday, October 3, 2011

Anti-Wall Street Protests Spreading to Cities Large and Small

A loose-knit populist campaign that started on Wall Street three weeks ago has spread to dozens of cities across the country, with protesters camped out in Los Angeles near City Hall, assembled before the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago and marching through downtown Boston to rally against corporate greed, unemployment and the role of financial institutions in the economic crisis.

With little organization and a reliance on Facebook, Twitter and Google groups to share methods, the Occupy Wall Street campaign, as the prototype in New York is called, has clearly tapped into a deep vein of anger, experts in social movements said, bringing longtime crusaders against globalization and professional anarchists together with younger people frustrated by poor job prospects.

“Rants based on discontents are the first stage of any movement,” said Michael Kazin, a professor of history at Georgetown University. But he said it was unclear if the current protests would lead to a lasting movement, which would require the newly unleashed passions to be channeled into institutions and shaped into political goals.

Publicity surrounding the recent arrests of hundreds in New York, near Wall Street and on the Brooklyn Bridge, has only energized the campaign. This week, new rallies and in some cases urban encampments are planned for cities as disparate as Memphis, Tenn.; Hilo, Hawaii; Minneapolis; Baltimore; and McAllen, Tex., according to Occupy Together, an unofficial hub for the protests that lists dozens of coming demonstrations, including some in Europe and Japan.

In the nation’s capital, an Occupy D.C. movement began on Saturday, with plans to join forces on Thursday with a similar anticorporate and antiwar group, October 2011, for an encampment in a park near the White House.

About 100 mostly younger people, down from 400 over the weekend, were camped outside Los Angeles City Hall on Monday morning. Several dozen tents occupied the lawn along with a free-food station and a media center. People sat on blankets playing the guitar or bongo drums or meditating. Next to a “Food Not Bombs” sign, was another that read “Food Not Banks.”

At the donations table, Elise Whitaker, 21, a freelance script editor and film director, said the protesters were united in their desire for “a more equal economy.”

“I believe that I am not represented by the big interest groups and the big money corporations, which have increasing control of our money and our politics,” she said, adding that she was not against capitalism per se.

Javier Rodriguez, 24, a former student at Pasadena City College, held a sign that read “Down with the World Bank” in Spanish, and said he was anti-capitalist.

“The monetary system is not working,” he said. “The banks are here to steal from us. Everybody is in debt whether it’s medical bills or school or loans. People are getting fed up with it.”

In Chicago on Monday morning, about a dozen people outside the Federal Reserve Bank sat on the ground or lay in sleeping bags, surrounded by protest signs and hampers filled with donated food and blankets. The demonstrators, who have been in Chicago since Sept. 24, said they had collected so much food that they started giving the surplus to homeless people.

Each evening, the number of protesters swells as people come from school or work, and the group marches to Michigan Avenue.

“We all have different ideas about what this means, stopping corporate greed,” said Paul Bucklaw, 45. “For me, it’s about the banks.”

Sean Richards, 21, a junior studying environmental health at Illinois State University in Normal, said he dropped out of college on Friday and took a train to Chicago to demonstrate against oil companies.

He said he would continue sleeping on the street for “as long as it takes.”

Strategists on the left said they were buoyed by the outpouring of energy and hoped it would contribute to a newly powerful progressive movement. Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future, in Washington, noted that the Wall Street demonstrations followed protests in Wisconsin this year over efforts to suppress public employee unions and numerous rallies on economic and employment issues.

The new protesters have shown a remarkable commitment and have stayed nonviolent in the face of aggressive actions by the New York police, he said. “I think that as a result they really touched a chord among activists across the country.”

But if the movement is to have lasting impact, it will have to develop leaders and clear demands, said Nina Eliasoph, a professor of sociology at the University of Southern California.

With the country in such deep economic distress, almost everyone is forced to think about economics and politics, giving the new protests a “major emotional resonance,” she said.

“So there is a tension between this emotionally powerful movement,” she said, “and the emptiness of the message itself so far.”

Nawaz remarks to harm democracy: Firdous Awan

A spokesperson for the government came down hard on PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif on Monday, describing his statements as harmful to democracy and the country.

Federal Information Minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said that at a time when the country was facing multiple challenges, Mr Sharif was playing up non-issues to divert the nation’s attention from “real issues”.

“It is regrettable that Mian Sahib just after the APC held a press conference and shattered the sense of unity created by APC,” the minister said, recalling this was the second time that he had done so. “Following the last APC held after the (Nov 2008) Mumbai attacks, Mian Sahib issued irresponsible statements related to Ajmal Kasab. This time, too, he has come up with non-issues to divert the attention of the masses.”

Dr Awan, talking to media here at the National Press Club, said it was a “beauty of the democratic system” that political leaders were criticising an elected president.

The minister said the nation had sent out a message of unity to the international community through the APC, but unfortunately a political party was trying to get political advantage from the situation.

“It is not fair for a leader of a major political party like PML-N to criticise the President as he is an elected head of state,” the minister said. “Only in a democracy is it possible that the president surrenders his powers to the Parliament and the federation transfers its powers to the provinces,” Ms Awan observed.

In reply to a question, she said Nawaz Sharif had been making tall claims about achievements of PML-N governments in the past, but media should also highlight the chargesheet against his government after its overthrow in 1999.

“Damaging public property was very unfortunate,” the federal minister said, referring to attacks on government property during the protests against loadshedding on Monday.

Shahbaz Sharif-made dengue epidemic in Punjab

By:Mian Hakeemuddin

Until latest reports Dengue epidemic in Punjab has claimed 178 lives, of which 168 deaths occurred in Lahore alone. Total number of dengue patients in Punjab reached 12,946 out of which 11,343 belonged to provincial capital Lahore. Number of casualties are feared to raise due to lack of governance in Punjab. I would like to assert that Punjab ‘s dengue epidemic is purely man -made and epidemic maker is nobody else other than Punjab’s chief minister Shahbaz Sharif

. Because he is not only too late to respond dengue outbreak this time but no precautions had been adopted as Punjab had suffered from dengue epidemic last year. he was heedless to set up experts’ team to tackle this issue. And this time he is bluffing again. Because dengue mosquito is not like malaria mosquito. Aedes aegypti mosquito that carries dengue does not travel far from its breeding place , unlike other species of mosquito, which explains why dengue outbreaks tend to occur in localized areas of a few hundred meters radius. It is established fact that dengue spread by infected human migrant workers more than migrant mosquitoes. Therefore, when an outbreak is determined in a particular location, the authorities are liable to move forward and spray. If someone living near you gets dengue , and especially if another person living near you also gets dengue. Shahbaz responded very late and sprays which he provided to authorities were out-dated and eventually dengue wreaked havoc. There were reports of definite flaws in fumigation and sprays. Meanwhile federal government made arrangements for sophisticated machines and sprays to combat Mr. Sharif-made dengue epidemic and federal government also called on Sri Lankan and WHO expert teams to help Pakistan to eradicate dengue epidemic. Federal government released hundreds of millions rupees to Punjab government to fight against dengue epidemic but again as usual Mr. Sharif misused all those funds. I would like to suggest Mr. Sharif that this is not the time of photo sessions, this is the national emergency so he should learn a lesson from the work of his counterpart in Sri Lanka and eradicate dengue with sincere efforts like his counterpart did in Sri Lanka.According to epidemiologists flaws in fumigation and sprays, careless management in hospitals and lack of community involvement in the drive against the dengue mosquito are the main reasons for continuous spread of dengue virus across the Punjab and country as well. In Lahore Sheikh Zaid hospital is the only hospital where patient care is good while all other hospitals there has been careless management since dengue’s outbreak. Shiekh Zaid hospital is to be managed by cabinet division under federal government, while rest of the hospitals are to be managed by Punjab government. These facts and figures again validate health experts’ narrative that there is careless management in hospitals on the part of Punjab government. This is gross negligence and total failure of Shahbaz Sharif. Dengue is not as such epidemic like plague and others. But Shahbaz has made it epidemic. So it is not wrong to say that this is Shahbaz-made dengue epidemic in Punjab. People of Punjab don’t like PML-N and Nawaz Shahbaz, so perhaps both brothers have devised this strategy to punish and to kill innocent people of Punjab. It is a dangerous bloody game. It is more dangerous than targeted killing in Karachi. Biological lethal weapon of dengue has been used by Punjab government against the people of Punjab. ….UNCHECKED MASS KILLING IS ON…..

Wall Street protesters: We're in for the long haul

The protesters who have been camping out in Manhattan's Financial District for more than two weeks eat donated food and keep their laptops running with a portable gas-powered generator. They have a newspaper — the Occupied Wall Street Journal — and a makeshift hospital.
They lack a clear objective, though they speak against corporate greed, social inequality, global climate change and other concerns. But they're growing in numbers, getting more organized and showing no sign of quitting.
City officials "thought we were going to leave and we haven't left," 19-year-old protester Kira Moyer-Sims said. "We're going to stay as long as we can."
The arrests of more than

700 people on Saturday as thousands tried to cross the Brooklyn Bridge seemed to pour oil on the rage of those who camped out overnight in Zuccotti Park, a private plaza off Broadway near Wall Street.

The growing, cross-country movement "signals a shift in consciousness," said Jared Schy, a young man sitting squeezed between three others who participated in Saturday's march from Manhattan's Financial District to the bridge.
"We don't care whether mainstream media covers this or people see us on television. What counts are the more than 30,000 viewers following our online live stream," he said. "We heard from a lot of them, and they're joining us now!"
The Occupy Wall Street demonstration started out last month with fewer than a dozen college students spending days and nights in Zuccotti Park. It has grown significantly, both in New York City and elsewhere as people across the country, from Boston to Los Angeles, display their solidarity in similar protests.

Moyer-Sims, of Portland, Ore., said the group has grown much more organized. "We have a protocol for most things," she said, including getting legal help for people who are arrested.
The protest has drawn activists of diverse ages and occupations, including Jackie Fellner, a marketing manager from Westchester County.
"We're not here to take down Wall Street. It's not poor against rich. It's about big money dictating which politicians get elected and what programs get funded," she said.
On Sunday, a group of New York public school teachers sat in the plaza, including Denise Martinez of Brooklyn. Most students at her school live at or below the poverty level, and her classes are jammed with up to about 50 students.

"These are America's future workers, and what's trickling down to them are the problems — the unemployment, the crime," she said. She blamed Wall Street for causing the country's financial problems and said it needed to do more to solve them.
Police officers have been a regular sight at the plaza, but NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said the protest has not led the department to assign additional officers to the area. The department won't change its approach to handling the protest and will continue regular patrols and monitoring, he said.
"As always, if it is a lawful demonstration, we help facilitate and if they break the law we arrest them," Browne said.
The Fire Department said it had gone to the site several times over the past week to check for any fire safety hazards arising from people living in the plaza, but there have been no major issues.
The protesters have spent most of their time in the plaza, sleeping on air mattresses, holding assemblies to discuss their goals and listening to speakers including filmmaker Michael Moore and Princeton University professor Cornel West.
On the past two Saturdays, though, they marched to other parts of the city, which led to tense standoffs with police. On Sept. 24, about 100 people were arrested and the group put out video which showed some women being hit with pepper spray by a police official. On Oct. 1, more than 700 people were arrested as the group attempted to cross the Brooklyn Bridge.
Some of the protesters said they were lured onto the roadway by police, or they didn't hear the calls from authorities to head to the pedestrian walkway. Police said no one was tricked into being arrested, and that those in the back of the group who couldn't hear were allowed to leave.
The NYPD on Sunday released video footage to back up its stance. In one of the videos, an official uses a bullhorn to warn the crowd. Marchers can be seen chanting, "Take the bridge."
Browne said that of the most recent arrests, the vast majority had been released. Eight people were still being held Sunday, three because of outstanding warrants and five others who refused to show any identification.
Gatherings elsewhere included one in Providence, R.I., that attracted about 60 people to a public park. The participants called it a "planning meeting" and initially debated whether to allow reporters to cover it.
In Boston, protesters set up an encampment across the street from the Federal Reserve Building.

Death anniversary of Dr Najeeb observed Afrasiab suggests 3-phase plan for peace in Afghanistan

Awami National Party of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Afrasiab Khattak on Sunday suggested three-phase plan for peace in Afghanistan.Addressing a function in connection with death anniversary of former Afghan President Dr Najeeb Ullah here at Bacha Khan Markaz, Senator Afrasia Khattak said that in the first phase the dialogue should be held between the Afghan people, in the second phase dialogue should be planned between countries in the region and in the third phase dialogues should be held among the international community in order to regain peace in the war torn country.The ceremony was also attended by Central Additional Secretary General of ANP Hashim Babar, MNA Jameela Gilani, Shagufta Malik and members of Malgaray Doctron.Afrasiab Khattak paid rich tributes to Dr Najeeb Ullah and said that he had sacrificed his own life to achieve peace in Afghanistan. “Peace in Afghanistan is not possible without following the footsteps of Dr Najeeb Ullah,” ANP Provincial President said.He said former Afghan president also sacrificed his rule against foreign involvement in his country.Afrasiab said world will always remeber the efforts and sacrifices of Dr Najeeb Ullah to achieve peace and his name would always be written in golden words.Speaking on the occasion Central Additional Secretary General of Awami National Party Hashim Babar always threw light on the life of Dr Najeeb Ullah.He said the enemies of Pakistan see Awami National Party as the biggest hurdle in completion of their nefarious designs.Untill the single worker of Awami National Party is alive, the enemies of Pakistan will not be allowed to fulfil their designs, Hashim Babar added.

Salmaan Taseer case verdict

Abolish the Blasphemy law


An anti-terrorism court (ATC) sentenced slain Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer’s

self-confessed murderer Mumtaz Qadri to death on two counts for murder and terrorism and fined him Rs 200,000. On January 4 this year, Mr Taseer was shot dead in broad daylight by Qadri, one of the Punjab governor’s bodyguards, while the rest of his security detail silently looked on and did not budge to stop this hideous murder from taking place. ATC’s Judge Syed Pervaiz Ali Shah dismissed Qadri’s defence in which he took the plea that he had killed Mr Taseer for his alleged ‘blasphemous’ statements. Judge Shah said there is no room for such defence under the law. Qadri’s counsel have announced that they will file an appeal against the verdict in the High Court in seven days. It remains to be seen what the outcome of such an appeal would be.

Meanwhile, Mumtaz Qadri’s supporters came out on the streets to protest against the verdict. While defending a cold-blooded murderer, his supporters went one step ahead and put head money on Judge Shah for awarding a double death penalty to Qadri. It is extremely important for the government to ensure that such blood-curdling threats do not pass unnoticed. The government should provide foolproof security to Judge Shah whose life is now under grave threat from Qadri’s supporters. The protestors also condemned the government for its ‘biased policy’. Police in Lahore was unable to disperse Qadri’s supporters who were in clear violation of the government and Lahore High Court’s (LHC’s) orders not to hold protest demonstrations on The Mall, Lahore. The Sunni Tehreek even offered to pay Rs 200 million to the heirs of Salmaan Taseer as diyat (blood money) in lieu of Qadri’s release. The ‘take it or leave it’ tone of this ‘offer’ is quite worrying. Nobody has the right to coerce anyone to accept diyat but it seems that Qadri’s fanatical supporters think otherwise. The Taseer family has been under great pressure for the last nine months since Mr Taseer was assassinated. It has now been over a month since Shahbaz Taseer, son of late Salmaan Taseer, was kidnapped by unknown men in Lahore. To put further pressure on them under such circumstances is part of tested tactics of the religious right to function on the basis of intimidation and pressure. A spurious campaign against the slain governor was initiated by religious clerics and right wing fanatics all over the country, which ultimately led to his assassination.

The Punjab government should prevent such hate-mongering rallies in the province. Though the Punjab government is known to be soft on the religious right either because of being their sympathisers or fear, it is their duty to stop these fanatical elements. Members of the Tahafuz-e-Namoos-e-Risalat Mahaz and other such organisations that gave open threats to Judge Shah and other government functionaries should be hauled up immediately. The federal government has not done much either in curbing extremist ideology, thereby emboldening and encouraging the right wing to a great extent. Pakistan today needs forces of rationality, humanity and good sense to come together throughout the country to roll back this tide that is threatening the nation as a whole. Governor Taseer may not be amongst us today physically but his bold and rational stance for human rights, women’s rights, minorities’ rights and justice remains with us in spirit. Let us pay our tribute to Mr Taseer by realising his dream of a democratic, secular and pluralistic Pakistan.

In Pakistan, a pattern of disappearances

In between hearings on an employment dispute and a property crime, a lawyer stood in Courtroom 3 on a recent morning to recount what seemed a terrifying offense. Fourteen months ago, he said, civil servant Adil Shah was buying vegetables when he was detained by about 10 men in military and police uniforms, and his family had not seen or heard from him since.

The judge barely blinked. There was no gasp from the wooden benches of the gallery. So routine are the grim cases of enforced disappearances in Pakistan — referred to here as missing persons — that they are now discussed like other chronic woes, such as power cuts and inflation. This northwestern city’s High Court hears five cases a day.

The disappearances are growing, according to international and Pakistani human rights organizations, which estimate that thousands of people have been kidnapped and detained incommunicado in secret prisons in the past decade. Some have been killed, they say. Exact numbers are unknown, in part because many people are afraid to report the abductions, according to Human Rights Watch.

Most of the disappeared are believed to be suspected of ties to Islamist militants or separatist movements viewed as threats by Pakistan’s potent security establishment, in particular the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency, rights advocates and Pakistani officials said.

The open secret of disappearances illustrates the grip the military establishment retains over Pakistani society, including its dysfunctional justice system and feeble civilian government, which has repeatedly vowed to stop the problem. A government commission has traced several dozen missing people and publicly said Pakistani intelligence agencies are involved, but it has held no one accountable. President Asif Ali Zardari recently approved regulations that lawyers say gave the military expanded latitude to detain and try suspected militants.

Military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas strongly denied a military role in disappearances. Many missing people are hiding in Karachi, Dubai or Afghanistan, he said, or are victims of militant infighting.

Privately, however, Pakistani officials say security forces hold many suspects because they believe the nation’s substandard police and courts would otherwise release them.

In its 2010 human rights report, the U.S. State Department referred to disappearances, extrajudicial killings and torture as Pakistan’s major human rights problems but said a “culture of impunity” surrounded crimes involving security forces.

“We urge appropriate Pakistani civilian and military authorities to investigate all credible allegations of human rights abuses and hold accountable those proven to be responsible for such violations,” said Mark Stroh, the U.S. embassy spokesman. “We have discussed allegations of human rights abuses with Pakistani officials frequently and continue to monitor the situation closely.”

But the issue is awkward for the United States, which over the past decade has provided billions of dollars in aid to support Pakistan’s counterterrorism efforts and has frequently urged Pakistani officials to be aggressive in rounding up al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters. Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf wrote in his memoirs of earning millions of reward dollars by handing terrorism suspects over to U.S. custody.

Reported disappearances have swelled as Pakistan has battled a persistent Taliban insurgency in the northwest. But many reports of missing people, which run regularly in the Pakistani media, originate far from the battlefield. Human rights organizations say Pakistan has swept up an array of suspected opponents, particularly in Baluchistan province, where there is a simmering nationalist insurgency waged by the Baluch ethnic minority.

Futile questions

On the docket in Peshawar recently was the case of a man who, two years ago, was blindfolded by security officials in a Peshawar bank and taken away. A court clerk’s father-in-law — a cleric — has also disappeared, said Iqbal Khan Mohmand, the deputy attorney general, who represents the government but said he has little power beyond asking military authorities where a missing person is and reporting their answer to the court.

According to his relatives, Shah, 28, was a newly married junior clerk at the University of Peshawar law school, a job that required a criminal background check. Days after he disappeared, a team of uniformed officers led by an ISI agent searched the family home and said only that Shah was being held in an investigation. The family believes he is being held by the military in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, said their lawyer, whose court filing described Shah’s wife as “deprived from the happiness and joy of marriage.”

“Why are you not transferring him into police custody?” the judge asked Mohmand, noting that Pakistan’s constitution requires police to conduct criminal investigations. “This person may be an enemy, but the police know how to deal with criminals.”

Outside the courtroom, Shah’s sister, Ismat Ara, 30, said the family had no idea why he was taken.

“One year, and we are still waiting for him,” she said from behind an embroidered white veil that revealed only worried eyes.

Mohmand, a jolly man who chats up missing people’s relatives and intelligence agents lurking in the court lobby, said he did not know why Shah — or any other disappeared person — was rounded up. He handles 1,000 disappearance cases each year, he said, about one-fifth of which result in a detainee’s quiet release. But that follows months of futilely asking intelligence and military units where the person is, Mohmand said with frustration.

“As legal men, we conclude that the fundamental right has been violated,” Mohmand said. But, he added: “Most of the people, they are guilty. They are involved in some way or another.”

Two government prosecutors, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said they believe they are lying when they tell judges that the military has no knowledge of a detainee’s location. One of the prosecutors said intelligence agencies keep detainees in houses in residential neighborhoods as well as in military camps, accounts human rights organizations say are corroborated by released detainees.

Denial followed by delay

Some people are never found, or only their corpses are. Those released are usually terrified to speak about their ordeal, said lawyer Arif Jan, a fixture at the Peshawar High Court who said he has taken on about 100 disappearance cases.

“The modus operandi is, they release the detainee at night, with many threats,” Jan said.

Disappearances first gained attention in 2005, after Rawalpindi housewife Amina Janjua’s businessman husband vanished as he traveled to Peshawar. Janjua, stunned, said she quickly learned such cases were not unusual, and she said she now believes they are fueled by the Pakistani army’s thirst for U.S. military aid.

She has since led protests in front of Parliament, camped outside the Supreme Court and traveled the world to bring attention to disappearances. She has been to more than 30 court hearings, but her husband is still missing. The government has said he was probably killed by al-Qaeda.

If he is released, Janjua said, she will forgive. But she said she would keep pressing to stop disappearances — or, as she put it, to “try to break rocks with eggs.”

In Peshawar, families file into the courthouse quietly. On a recent morning, brothers of Barakat Ali, a court employee who was rounded up in August by men dressed in black uniforms, stood meekly as their lawyer thrust his finger in the air, calling it a “bitter fact” that Ali was in military intelligence custody.

As has become standard, Mohmand presented a denial from the ISI. The judge delayed the case. Ali’s brothers said they would be back.