Sunday, April 15, 2012

Netanyahu condemns beating of pro-Palestinian activist by IDF officer

IDF Chief of Staff also comments on incident in which a senior officer was filmed hitting a leftist activist in the face with an M-16 rifle, saying he sees the incident as very grave.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday condemned the beating of a pro-Palestinian activist by a senior IDF officer, which was seen in a film posted on YouTube earlier Sunday.

"Such behavior does not characterize IDF soldiers and officers and has no place in the Israel Defense Forces and in the State of Israel," Netanyahu said.

IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz also commented on the incident in which a senior officer was filmed hitting a leftist activist in the face with an M-16 rifle, saying he sees the incident as very grave."The incident does not reflect IDF principles and will be thoroughly investigated," Gantz said.

On Saturday, a group of some 250 activists, mostly Palestinian youths from the West Bank, went on a bike ride in the Jordan Valley in a silent protest. At a certain point, several dozens of IDF soldiers stopped the activists, and events quickly escalated into a confrontation. IDF soldiers hit the activists and threw their bikes over a tunnel across the road.

In the video, which was posted by the International Solidarity Movement on YouTube on Sunday, Lt.-Col. Shalom Eisner is seen beating youths who took part in a pro-Palestinian bike ride in the Jordan Valley.

One of the volunteers who organized the bike ride said that the soldiers were waiting for the activists and began clashing with them.

Lt.-Col. Eisner was filmed hitting one of the activists in the face with his M-16.
"We did not expect any harassment on the part of the Israeli soldiers, we just came for fun," one of activists told Haaretz. "I tried to talk to them, to say that we only want to enjoy the beautiful road and the Jordan Valley in the springtime, but we were unsuccessful. The activists were beaten badly, and the officers just told us we couldn't be in that area."Four activists who sustained wounds on their faces and backs were evacuated to a hospital in Jericho, while three more youths who were beaten refused to receive medical care.

Eisner recounted his version of events, and said that the youth that he beat had hit him beforehand, and even broke two of his fingers. He said that the incident lasted two hours, and that the activists were trying to block a road in the Jordan Valley.

Eisner claimed that he carried out his job after two hours of trying to stop lawbreakers.

Palestinian media reported on Saturday on the events that took place during the bike ride. After the video was posted Sunday and showed testimony of what transpired, GOC Central Command Nitzan Alon ordered the IDF to investigate the matter.Following the incident, the IDF decided to suspend Eisner indefinitely until the matter is thoroughly investigated.

The IDF Spokesperson said in a statement that, "This is a grave incident. GOC Central Command Nitzan Alon ordered a thorough investigation in which the circumstances of the incident will be examined. Lessons will be derived and the appropriate steps will be taken."

National Union MK Michael Ben Ari issued a response to the incident and congratulated the IDF officer who hit the leftist activists.
"Well done to the IDF officer who did what Bibi and Aharonovich have no brain or courage to do," Ben Ari said. "Radical leftists must be handled with a heavy hand. There was a tangible threat to the lives of the soldiers and the officer had no other choice. If it was a settler who was beaten we would not have heard the cries of the hypocrites on the left. Turns out they are not interested in human rights but the rights of terrorists and pro-Arabs."

'Hunger Games' Holds Off 'Stooges' at Box Office

Movie fans have chosen real violence over the slapstick variety.

"The Hunger Games," the blockbuster about teens competing in a televised fight to the death, remained the No. 1 movie for a fourth-straight weekend with $21.5 million. That raises the film's domestic total to $337.1 million.

Peter and Bobby Farrelly's slapstick update "The Three Stooges" opened in second-place with $17.1 million.

Studio estimates Sunday put the acclaimed horror tale "The Cabin in the Woods" in third-place with a $14.9 million debut.

On the 100th anniversary of the ship's sinking on April 15, 1912, the 3-D version of James Cameron's "Titanic" held the No. 4 spot with $11.6 million. The 3-D re-release has taken in $44.4 million domestically to lift the lifetime total for "Titanic" to $645.2 million.

Drink less and multiply more: Putin to Russians

Speaking to the State Duma in one of his last major speeches as Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin calls on Russians to have more children while warning them against rampant alcohol, drug and tobacco use

President-elect Vladimir Putin yesterday called on Russians to have more children and warned against rampant smoking, drugs and alcohol, as he seeks to battle the country’s acute demographic crisis during his third term in the Kremlin.

“For Russia every person counts today,” Putin said. “A strong, happy family with several children is what the state, society, religious, educational and cultural organizations should unite their efforts around.”

Speaking to the State Duma, the lower house of Parliament, in one of his last major speeches as Prime Minister before his return to the Kremlin on May 7, he also said rampant smoking and drug and alcohol abuse claimed 500,000 lives a year. “Smoking, alcohol and drug abuse without any wars or calamities claim 500,000 lives of our countrymen every year,” Putin told the Duma. “This is simply a horrific figure.”
“We should realize that we will come face to face with a serious challenge, the demographic echo of the 1990s when Russia experienced its severest drop in birth rates. We need new decisive steps when it comes to saving and caring for people.”

During his presidential campaign earlier this year, Putin vowed to reverse Russia’s demographic crisis exacerbated by unhealthy lifestyles, blatant disregard for safety protocols and traffic accidents, in order to boost its population to 154 million. The country’s latest census showed that the country’s population had shrunk by 2.2 million people since 2002 and now stands at 142.9 million. Putin said he had already made progress on this as Prime Minister, with the number of second-time mothers having grown by 45 percent over the past five years, and the number of women choosing to have three or more children having increased by 62 percent. “It was quite unexpected for me,” he said. “More and more Russian families are deciding to have two or even three children.”

‘NATO: Cold War relic’

Putin also called NATO a “relic of the Cold War era.” However, while Russia sees the alliance as a Cold War relic and has been critical of some of its actions, it views NATO’s efforts in Afghanistan as crucial for its own security interests, helping prevent instability from spreading into ex-Soviet Central Asia. “We are interested in the situation there remaining under control, and we don’t want our troops to fight on Afghanistan’s border with Tajikistan,” Putin said. “We need to help them stabilize the situation in Afghanistan, or we will have to do it ourselves.” He said a new logistics facility would not be a military base, simply offering NATO a stopover for air transit.

Relations between Russia, the United States and NATO have soured over U.S.-led NATO missile defense plan that Washington says is aimed at deflecting a potential Iranian threat. Moscow fears it will eventually become powerful enough to undermine Russia’s nuclear deterrent.

Afghan capital awakes to more explosions

The Afghan capital awoke to more explosions and heavy gunfire as insurgent attacks on Kabul entered a second day.

As darkness turned to dawn, Afghan-led forces fired one rocket-propelled grenade after another into a building where insurgents began their attack on Sunday in the capital and three eastern cities.
The Taliban attacked embassies, government buildings and NATO bases — saying it was their response to NATO officials' recent claims that the insurgency was weak.
Authorities say one police officer and 17 militants were killed in the attacks.
Reporters for The Associated Press witnessed the Monday morning assault.
It is unclear whether insurgents are still holed up there, or whether the gunfire and explosions were part of a clearing operation.

Karakoram glaciers have grown over last decade, new research shows

3D altitude maps captured by satellites show glaciers in part of the greater Himalaya range are bucking the global trend of continued ice loss

The glaciers flowing between the towering peaks of the Karakoram range on the Pakistan-China border have grown in size in the last decade, according to new research.

The impact of climate change on the ice in the greater Himalaya range has been controversial because of an unfounded claim by the United Nations' climate science panel over the rate of melting in the region. However the melting of vast volumes of ice into the sea in most other parts of the world has been clearly demonstrated. In March, scientists showed that far less ice was being lost across the Himalayas than had been estimated from sparse ground surveys on the remote slopes.

The new study shows that glaciers in one important part of the mountain range are growing. "We provide a detailed glacier-scale evaluation of mass changes in the central Karakoram," said Julie Gardelle, at CNRS-Université Grenoble, who led the research published in Nature Geoscience on Sunday. "In our warming world, there are regions of the Earth where, for a few years or decades, the atmosphere is not warming or is even cooling. So it is not really a big surprise that there are some regions where the temperature is not rising and the Karakoram may be one of those."

The scientists used 3D altitude maps obtained from satellites in 2000 and 2008 to track the changes in the glaciers. Prof Graham Cogley, of Trent University in Canada, who was not part of the research team, called the approach a "ground-breaking" advance.

"On most of the glaciers in the Karakoram it is simply not possible to be there," he said. "The roads end well short of the glaciers, and it can take days to trek to them. If you reach that point in spite of reluctant soldiers and eager terrorists, it might be physically impossible to get on to the glacier, which will be extremely crevassed and dangerous. Granting agencies do not fork out for helicopter time for this kind of activity. Yet."

Global warming is causing the loss of more than 500bn tonnes a year of ice from the world's ice caps and glaciers, but it is not yet understood why the Karakoram bucks that trend. "It seems that, by a quirk of the atmospheric general circulation that is not understood, more snow is being delivered to the mountain range at present, and less heat," said Cogley. He added that the valleys of the Karakoram are unusually steep sided, meaning that unpredictable snow avalanches add more ice to the glaciers than elsewhere. On 7 April, scores of Pakistani soldiers were killed by an avalanche on the nearby Siachen glacier.

The global study published in March used gravity measurements by satellites which directly measures changes in the mass of ice, but has a resolution of about 350km, whereas Gardelle's work focused on one region with a resolution of 100m. Continuing controversy about melting rates means "new independent assessments are eagerly needed," said Gardelle, who will now apply her method to other parts of the Himalayas.

Prof Jonathan Bamber, at the University of Bristol, said Gardelle's research was consistent with global gravity work. But he cautioned: "Nine years is a very short period to draw strong conclusions about trends in glaciers. If you are looking for a climate effect - as opposed to a weather effect - you usually take a 30-year period as a minimum, on the assumption that this averages out the interannual variability."

Cogley emphasised that, despite the relatively ice small growth seen the Karakoram, global glacier and ice cap melting is continuing and contributing to rising sea levels. "The world exhibits enormous variety, but that doesn't mean we cannot make valuable generalisations about how it is changing," he said.

Obama expects Secret Service to act with 'utmost in dignity'

Los Angeles Times

President Obama said Sunday he would be angry if an internal investigation showed that Secret Service personnel were involved in misconduct while in Colombia because he expected his delegation to act with the "utmost in dignity and probity."

But as he closed a weekend meeting here with world leaders, Obama said he would wait until the investigation was done before passing judgment on the agents and officers, part of a team that he said performed "extraordinary work on a day-to-day basis protecting me, my family and U.S. officials."

The Summit of the Americas touched on topics such as drug policy and the exclusion of Cuba from the event, but informal conversation focused on the Secret Service scandal, details of which have leaked out over the last three days.

The Secret Service and the Defense Department are looking into allegations that personnel in Colombia last week to prepare for Obama's visit had interaction with prostitutes. The Secret Service members sent home from the summit were not part of the Presidential Protection Division, the elite unit detailed specifically to the president, but they did provide security to U.S. government functions, buildings and officials.

"We're representing the United States ... when we travel to other countries," Obama said. He expects members of the U.S. delegation to reflect "the highest standards," he said, because "we're here on behalf of our people."

Bill Cosby weighs in on Obama presidency

Austrian scientists announce major discovery in liver cancer

Austrian scientists at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Cancer Research have found that overproduction of a growth hormone can cause liver cancer, it was announced on Friday.

Liver cancer is the fifth most common cancer in the world and the third most common cause of tumor-associated deaths. So far, viral infections such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and excessive alcohol consumption are considered the main culprits for liver cancer.

The scientists showed that the overproduction of growth hormone, led by hormonal or metabolic disorders, greatly accelerated the development of tumor diseases and caused liver cancer. However, they added the growth hormone is very difficult to detect.

The aim of their studies was to understand the mechanism of a signaling molecule, known as STAT 5, in the development of liver cancer due to the overproduction of growth hormone.

Experiments on mice were able to show that this signaling pathway protects the liver in a healthy condition and can regulate metabolic processes essentially.

The overproduction of the growth hormone can also lead to kidney diseases and organ failure, said the report.

Why one in five U.S. adults don't use the Internet

Even though the Internet has become a key tool for accessing services, getting an education, finding jobs, getting the news, keeping up with people you know and much more, one in five U.S. adults still does not use the Internet at all, according to a new Pew report.
Why? Mostly they're just not interested -- not in the Web, e-mail, YouTube, Facebook or anything else that happens online.
"Among current non-internet users, almost half (48%) say the main reason they don't go online now is because they don't think the internet is relevant to them -- often saying they don't want to use the internet and don't need to use it to get the information they want or conduct the communication they want," said the report.
The respondents' next-most common reasons were that they don't have a computer or that it's too expensive, too difficult, or a waste of time.
Most Americans who don't currently go online have never gone online before -- and no one else in their household uses the Internet. Just over 20% of non-users say they know enough about technology to start going online if they wanted to, and only 10% said they're interested in using the internet or e-mail in the future.
Who are these neo-Luddites?

Mostly they're older -- 59% of U.S. seniors don't go online. Also, nearly 60% of U.S. adults who never completed high school don't use the Internet. And they're mostly poor -- nearly 40% of people with an annual household income under $30,000 don't go online. (Pew notes that people with an annual household income under $20,000 are especially unlikely to use the Internet.)
People with disabilities also are more likely to not use the Internet. One- quarter of U.S. adults live with a disability that interferes with activities of daily life -- and only 54% of these people are Internet users, Pew found.
But in terms of ethnicity, the U.S. digital divide has narrowed. According to Pew: "The internet access gap closest to disappearing is that between whites and minorities. Differences in access persist, especially in terms of adults who have high-speed broadband at home, but they have become significantly less prominent over the years -- and have disappeared entirely when other demographic factors (including language proficiency) are controlled for."
Having broadband access at home is one of the best ways to get the most benefits (or at least the most use) from the web -- and Pew found that right now 40% of U.S. adults don't have broadband at home.
In fact, after U.S. home broadband penetration peaked in May 2010 to cover 66% of U.S. adults, in the past year there's been a slight decline. As of August 2011, only 62% of U.S. adults had broadband at home -- a 4% drop.
The people who lack home broadband access are -- not surprisingly -- from the same demographics as people who don't go online at all: mostly older, with lower educational attainment and income, or living with a disability.
The racial aspect of the home broadband gap has narrowed, but not vanished. According to Pew: "By 2010, while national home broadband adoption had slowed, growth in broadband adoption among African Americans jumped well above the national average, with 22% broadband adoption growth since the previous year.
Even with these gains, however, minorities are still less likely than whites to have home broadband overall. And foreign-born and Spanish-dominant Latinos trail not only whites but also native and English-speaking Latinos."
Mobile devices are making a dent in the U.S. digital divide.
"Groups that have traditionally been on the other side of the digital divide in basic internet access are now using wireless connections to go online," said the report. "Among smartphone owners, young adults, minorities, those with no college experience, and those with lower household income levels are more likely than other groups to say that their phone is their main source of Internet access."
Many of these "cell mostly" users have other ways to get online, such as a desktop or laptop computer. However, a third of these people don't have home broadband -- and their smartphone is the main way they access the internet.
Mobile devices also tend to make people more avid Internet users.
"Once someone has a wireless device, she becomes much more active in how she uses the internet -- not just with wireless connectivity, but also with wired devices," said Pew. "The same holds true for the impact of wireless connections and people's interest in using the internet to connect with others.
These mobile users go online not just to find information but to share what they find and even create new content much more than they did before."

Latin America rebels against Obama over Cuba

Unprecedented Latin American opposition to U.S. sanctions on Cuba left President Barack Obama isolated at a summit on Sunday and illustrated Washington's declining influence in a region being aggressively courted by China.

Unlike the rock-star status he enjoyed at the 2009 Summit of the Americas after taking office, Obama has had a bruising time at the two-day meeting in Colombia of some 30 heads of state.
Sixteen U.S. security personnel were caught in an embarrassing prostitution scandal before Obama arrived, Brazil and others have bashed him over U.S. monetary policy, and he has been on the defensive over Cuba and calls to legalize drugs.
Due to the hostile U.S. and Canadian line on communist-run Cuba, the heads of state failed to produce a final declaration as the summit fizzled out on Sunday afternoon.
"There was no declaration because there was no consensus," said Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. He bristled at suggestions the summit had been a failure, however, saying the exchange of different views was a sign of democratic health.
For the first time, conservative-led U.S. allies like Mexico and Colombia are throwing their weight behind the traditional demand of leftist governments that Cuba be invited to the next Summit of the Americas.

Cuba was kicked out of the Organization of American States (OAS) a few years after Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution, and has been excluded from its summits due mainly to U.S. opposition.
But Latin American leaders are increasingly militant in opposing to the 50-year-old U.S. trade embargo on the island.
"The isolation, the embargo, the indifference, looking the other way, have been ineffective," Santos said. "I hope Cuba is at the next summit in three years."
A major U.S. ally in the region who has relied on Washington for financial and military help to fight guerrillas and drug traffickers, Santos has become vocal over Cuba's inclusion even though he also advocates for democratic reform by Havana.
In an ironic twist to the debate, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went dancing in the early hours of Sunday at a Cartagena bar called "Cafe Havana" where Cuban music is played.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, who has insisted without success that Washington recognize its claim to the Falkland Islands controlled by Britain, was one of several presidents who left the summit well before its official closure.
The leftist ALBA bloc of nations - including Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua and some Caribbean nations - said they will not attend future summits without Cuba's presence.
"It's not a favour anyone would be doing to Cuba. It's a right they've had taken away from them," Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said from Managua.
Though there were widespread hopes for a rapprochement with Cuba under Obama when he took office, Washington has done little beyond ease some travel restrictions. It insists Cuba must first make changes, including the release of political prisoners.
Obama has not spoken publicly of Cuba at the summit, though he did complain that Cold War-era issues, some dating from before his birth, were hindering regional integration.
"Sometimes I feel as if in some of these discussions, or at least the press reports, we're caught in a time warp, going back to the 1950s and gunboat diplomacy and Yankees and the Cold War, and this and that and the other," the 50-year-old Obama said.
"That's not the world we live in today."
The prostitution saga was a big embarrassment for Obama and blow to the prestige of his Secret Service. It was the talk of the town in the historic Caribbean coastal city of Cartagena.
Eleven Secret Service agents were sent home and five military servicemen grounded after trying to take prostitutes back to their hotel the day before Obama arrived.
A local policeman told Reuters the affair came to a head when hotel staff tried to register a prostitute at the front desk, but agents refused and waved their ID cards. An investigation is underway in the United States.
"Someone who's charged with looking after the security of the most important president in the world cannot commit the mistake of getting mixed up with a prostitute," said Cartagena tourist guide Rodolfo Galvis, 60.
"This has damaged the image of the Secret Service, not Colombia."
The divisive end to the summit added to strain on the U.S.-dominated system of hemispheric diplomacy that was built around the OAS but is struggling to adapt to changes in the region.
"I'm not sure the next summit will even be possible," said Carlos Gaviria, a Colombian politician and former presidential candidate.
Perceived U.S. neglect of Latin America has allowed China to move strongly into the region and become the leading trade partner of Brazil and various other nations.
Regional economic powerhouse Brazil has led criticism at the summit of U.S. and other rich nations' expansionist monetary policy that is sending a flood of funds into developing nations, forcing up local currencies and hurting competitiveness.
She called it a "monetary tsunami" that Latin American nations had the right to defend themselves from.
Cheering the mood a bit, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced that a U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement will come into force in the middle of May.
With a presidential election looming, Obama had portrayed his visit to the summit as a way to generate jobs at home by boosting trade with Latin America.

Obama's 2011 Federal Tax Bill: $162000


Bahraini opposition group calls for week of demonstrations

The main Bahraini opposition group, al-Wefaq, has announced a week of daily demonstrations for democratic reform ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix auto race scheduled to be held on April 22.

Al-Wefaq announced on its website plans for sit-ins and demonstrations under the banner of “steadfastness and challenge,” AFP reported.

The demonstrations will begin on Sunday with a protest in the village of Bilad al-Qadim, east of the capital Manama.

Protests will also be held in several other villages near Manama within the next seven days.

Al-Wefaq also announced plans for a demonstration near Bahrain’s International Airport on Tuesday.

There will be no demonstrations near the Sakhir circuit, where the Formula One race will be held, the Bahraini opposition group said.

Meanwhile, the “Revolution of February 14” youth group has called for “three days of rage” from April 20 to 22 to protest against a decision to hold the auto race despite ongoing demonstrations against the ruling Al Khalifa family and the regime’s violent crackdown on peaceful protests.

Human Rights Watch has condemned the decision, saying it would be exploited by the Al Khalifa regime to “obscure the seriousness of the country’s human rights situation.”

The latest announcement by al-Wefaq comes one day after Bahraini activists said on Saturday Mohammed Radhi died in hospital a few days after Saudi-backed security forces ran him over outside Manama.

Radhi was the eighth victim of brutality exercised by Bahraini police since March 17, 2012. Seven other Bahrainis have also been killed due to inhalation of poisonous tear gas ever since.

Anti-regime demonstrators hold King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa responsible for the death of protesters during the popular uprising that began in the Persian Gulf state in February 2011.

Rockets over North Korea: Stunning video of Pyongyang's festive

Rahman Baba spent early part of life in Kohat: researcher


Going against the widely held belief, a research scholar on Saturday said the Pashto mystic poet Abdur Rahman Baba lived early part of his life in Kohat.

Reading out his research paper at a seminar organised by the Rahman Adabi Jirga at the Iranian Cultural Centre to mark the death anniversary of the great saint, Persian scholar Prof Syed Ghayyur Hussain quoted a number of authentic sources to prove that Rahman Baba lived for 23 years in Kohat and its suburban areas.

According to him, Rahman Baba stayed for almost nine years in Jangalkhel area and less than 15 years in Sherkot village. He said that during the period, he came into contact with another great saint Haji Bahadur Sahib whose shrine is situated in Kohat city.

Ghayyur Hussain, who is the author of several Persian books and publications, quoted from the writings of eminent researcher and historian Abdul Haleem Asar, and other sources in support of his claim.

He said that during his stay in Kohat, Rahman Baba interacted with Mohammad Siddique, another great Pashto poet of the time.

The literatus said that according to the findings of known Pashto writer Abdul Hakeem Asar, Muhammad Yousaf went to Sherkot village of Kohat in 1061 AH and Rahman Baba studied under him the next year and lived there for several years afterwards.

He said Rehman Baba later moved to Bahadur Killay along with his tribe and subsequently Hazarkhwani village where he lived the rest of his life.

Ghayyur Hussain said Rahman Baba might have been influenced by the Hindko-speaking people of Kohat and wrote his sole Urdu gahzal during his stay there.

He said most of the researchers, including Maulana Abdul Qadir, had established Rahman Baba’s relationship with Kohat and said that Haji Bahadur sahib and Mohammad Yousaf were his guides. He called for further research on the early life of the great Pashto mystic.

Prof Dawar Khan Daud in his speech agreed with Ghayyur Hussain and said he had made a good effort through his research paper to highlight the early life of the great saint.

He said that hopefully his paper would prove beneficial to all those who have devotion and respect for Rahman Baba. He called for translation of the research works on Rahman Baba from Pashto into Urdu to take it to a wider audience.

Others who read papers at the seminar included Saadullah Jan Barq, Akhtar Hussain Khalil and Prof Abdul Qadir Logari. The patron of Rehman Adabi Jirga, Yusaf Ali Dilsoz and Secretary Malik Mohammad Noshad Khan also spoke on the occasion.

A grand mushaira was held in the second part of the programme and was attended by over 100 Pashto poets.

According to organisers, Minister for Information and Culture Mian Iftikhar Hussain had earlier consented to be the chief guest while Secretary Culture Azmat Hanif Orakzai was supposed to preside one session of the seminar but both failed to turn up due to unspecified reasons.

An elderly pioneer of the Jirga, Sultan Mohammad Dardmand, presided over the sessions along with Misal Khan Naqeebi and Saadullah Jan Barq.

Wheel jam, shutter down strike observed in Quetta

Shutter down strike was observed in the metropolis here on Sunday to protest against target killing of Hazara community.

The call for wheel jam and shutter down strike was given by Anjuman Tajran Balochistan, Tahafaz Azadari Council, Hazara Democratic Party, Shia Conference and other parties.

All commercial centers and markets remained closed while traffic was thin on roads. Heavy contingent of law enforcement agencies including Frontier Corps, Anti-Terrorist Force and Police were deployed on entry and exit routes and sensitive points of the city to meet any untoward incident.

It is recalled here that unknown armed men had gunned about nine people of Hazara community and a policeman in Brewery, Sabzal and Shalkot areas on Saturday.

Hazara killings: Condemnation, mourning and anger

The Balochistan quagmire

The Frontier Post

Balochistan Governor Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi too has now spoken up. He has warned if targeted killings and worsening law and order situation in the province are not stopped, it may well erupt into a civil war and the situation may come to a point where army may have to be called in to the great ill-ease of the civilian government and administration. At least now, the alarm that the governor has raised so chillily should shake out both Quetta and Islamabad from the hibernation they have gone into over the disconcerting turn the conditions have taken in Balochistan. By every consideration, the province has become a vast muddy marsh of lawlessness and criminality of every sort over these past four years on chief minister Nawab Aslam Riasani's watch. And if Quetta is a frightened witness to incessant targeted killings, parts of the province are being rocked by the tsunami of kidnappings for ransom. Its special targets are though Hindu jewellers and businessmen, who in desperation are migrating to India, and the Parsi entrepreneurs, who too in fright are fleeing to the safety of pastures outside. Others too are not safe from this kidnapping incidence that indeed has become the province's most flourishing trade.And while a systematic slaughter of the Hazara community is raging in full fury in Quetta and other areas, a methodical ethnic cleansing of Punjabi settlers and hounding out of Pakhtuns from the province's Baloch belt is going on in full spree unrelentingly. Scared teachers, professors, doctors, engineers, lawyers and other professionals are fleeing the province in droves. And though rights activists and Baloch nationalists and politicos are speaking out volubly about missing persons and tortured killings, they too are mum about a far grimmer human tragedy happening in the province, probably because it doesn't fit into their narrow motivated agendas.Scores of innocent civilians, mostly children and women, have already lost their lives and limbs in booby-traps laid down by insurgents, particularly in the remoter parts away from the camera limelight. And many more are becoming the unsuspecting casualties of these landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted by insurgents on rural roads and pathways. Their woeful tragedy is going wholly unnoticed and unmourned, with no tear welling up even in any eyes of rights workers, nationalists and politicos. And not a feeble call has been heard from their quarters for compensation to mitigate somewhat the grief of the bereaved.Magsi has rightly debunked the jumbo-sized ministry that Riasani has assembled under his wings. Of what avail could be this mammoth leviathan if it has turned out such an utter failure in coming to grips with the Province's ever-deteriorating law and order situation, what to talk of bigger things like development and progress and combating out the low-intensity insurgency plaguing Balochistan for sometime? But horror of horrors, some of his own ministers are statedly involved in kidnappings for ransom. And there are widespread rumours that many provincial legislators too are having a finger in this fat pie, with no dread at all of the law.But Riasani has demonstrated conclusively that he is not cut out for the job he is holding - right from the outset. As he took over, instead of settling down to take charge of his province's affairs, he took to troubleshooting errands on his PPP high command's behalf. Most of the time, he spent in toeing and froing between Islamabad and Lahore to massage the longer-than-life ego of Mian Nawaz Sharif, in-between taking time out for sojourn in Karachi. So conspicuous was his prolonged absence from his seat of office, Quetta, that a disgusted citizenry of Balochistan in chagrin slapped on him the demeaning sobriquet of "the non-resident chief minister of Balochistan". After exhaustion from his futile troubleshooting missions, he went into a long swoon of languidly, waking up off and on to castigate one state arm or the other for his own failings. At times, he would accuse the Frontier Corps of running a parallel administration; at times, he would point a finger at the police and Frontier Constabulary for kidnappings. Never ever has it occurred to him that he was in office not to warm the chair but to administer and to deliver. On his watch, Balochistan has got mounds of cash from the centre on various accounts, with which he could have not only given multiple development projects but also a highly-toned-up law-enforcement projects to his citizens. But that huge pile shows up neither in development nor in law-enforcement, leaving one wondering where has disappeared that fabulous moolah. Laughably, so deep has been his disinterest in administering his domain that it took him years in knowing that his party high command may have given a Balochistan package ostentatiously but has no heart in it. But this was very much in the domain of public knowledge soon after that high command announced the package, as the people sensed no zest in this hierarchy to dress it up with the apparels of execution. But the time has come when Islamabad must get its own act together and also put Riasani on notice either to deliver or make an exit. Balochistan cannot afford to slip any deeper in turmoil. That would end up the province in anarchy beyond anybody's control.

Multiple attacks on Kabul, Taliban claims "spring offensive"

Afghanistan's Taliban said they launched a spring offensive on Sunday with multiple attacks against Western embassies in the central diplomatic area and at parliament in Kabul, with heavy explosions, rockets and gunfire rattling the city.

The assault, one of the most serious on the capital since U.S.-backed Afghan forces removed the Taliban from power in 2001, highlighted the ability of militants to strike the heavily guarded diplomatic zone even after more than 10 years of war.

"These attacks are the beginning of the spring offensive and we had planned them for months," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters.

Heavy fighting erupted again more than five hours after the Taliban first struck, as dusk was falling over the capital and as mosques were issuing calls to prayer.

The Taliban said the main targets were the German and British embassies and the headquarters of Afghanistan's NATO-led force. Several Afghan members of parliament joined security forces repelling attackers from a roof near the parliament.

The coordinated attack is bound to intensify worry in the run-up to the planned withdrawal of foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.

Large explosions rattled the diplomatic sector of Kabul. Billows of black smoke rose from embassies while rocket-propelled grenades whizzed overhead.

Heavy gunfire could be heard from many directions as Afghan security forces tried to repel Taliban fighters.

The Taliban said their fighters were positioned on the rooftop of a tall building in the heart of the capital.

Taliban fighters also launched assaults in at least two provinces, a spokesman for the insurgents said.

The Interior Ministry said that initial intelligence on the wave of attacks across the country pointed to involvement of the Haqqani network, which is allied with the Taliban and one the most deadly groups fighting U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan.

If the Haqqanis were involved, that is likely to hurt already strained ties between strategic allies the United States and Pakistan.

The United States has repeatedly urged the Pakistani military to go after the Haqqani network, which is believed to be based in Pakistan's North Waziristan region on the Afghan border.

"It's too early to say, but the initial findings show the Haqqanis were involved," Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told Reuters.

The Taliban said in a statement that "tens of fighters", armed with heavy and light weapons, and some wearing suicide-bomb vests, were involved.

Kabul police said that three suicide bombers were killed and two were still resisting on the outskirts of the capital.

In Paktia province in the east, blasts and machinegun rounds obliterated the front of a three-story pink building occupied by insurgents who used it to attack a provincial police headquarters.

The assault in Kabul appeared to repeat the tactics of an attack last September when insurgents entered construction sites to use them as positions for rocket and gun attacks.

Sunday's attack took place hours after dozens of Islamist militants stormed a prison in neighboring Pakistan in the dead of night and freed nearly 400 inmates, including one on death row for trying to assassinate former President Pervez Musharraf.

Pakistan's Taliban movement, which is close to al Qaeda, said it was behind the brazen assault by militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47 assault rifles.

Pakistan's Taliban are closely linked with their Afghan counterparts. They move back and forth across the unmarked border, exchange intelligence, and provide shelter for each other in a region U.S. President Barack Obama has described as "the most dangerous place in the world".

Pakistan's Taliban have said in recent months they would boost cooperation with the Afghan Taliban in their fight against U.S.-led NATO forces.

Both the attacks in Afghanistan and the jailbreak in Pakistan underscore Pakistan's failure to tackle militancy on both sides of the border eleven years after joining the U.S.-led campaign against Islamist militancy.

Taliban spokesman Mujahid said it had been easy to bring fighters into the capital, and they had had inside help to move heavy weapons into place. He did not elaborate.


Afghan security forces, who are responsible for the safety of the capital, scrambled to reinforce areas around the so-called green diplomatic quarter.

Attackers fired a rocket-propelled grenade that landed just outside the front gate of a house used by British diplomats in the city centre, a Reuters witness said.

British embassy sources said staff were in a lockdown.

Two rockets hit a British Embassy guard tower near the Reuters office in the city.

Fighting was going on at some facilities of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and near the U.S., Russian and German embassies, ISAF said via Twitter.

An ISAF spokesman said there were no reports of casualties in the attacks on possibly seven locations in Kabul, and the U.S. embassy said in a statement all its staff were safe.

A U.S. defense official who declined to be identified said the attackers were using mostly small arms and rocket-propelled grenades, and "perhaps even suicide bombers".

Three rockets hit a supermarket that is popular with foreigners near the German Embassy, Reuters witnesses said.

Smoke rose from the vicinity of the embassy while women scurried for cover as gunfire crackled.

As the shooting went on, U.S. army convoys could be seen coming to the area accompanied by Afghan police in flak jackets.

Embassy alarms were sounding. Staff at the embassies were not available for comment.


Attackers also fired rockets at the parliament building in the west of the city, and at the Russian embassy, a spokesman for the parliament said.

Most MPs had left the building before it came under attack, said a lawmaker. However, one of several who fought back from a roof, Naeem Hameedzai, told Reuters: "I'm the representative of my people and I have to defend them."

Afghan media said insurgents had stormed the Star Hotel complex near the presidential palace and the Iranian embassy. Windows of the hotel were blown out and smoke billowed from the building.

In the eastern city of Jalalabad, a Reuters witness said that Taliban attacked a foreign force base near a school.

One Taliban insurgent was killed, another blew himself up and a third was captured. A blast also went off near the airport in Jalalabad, a Reuters witness said.

In hamlet with zero literacy, the only form of education is offered by the school of life

The Express Tribune

“Why would I want an education? What is the benefit of being literate? Life is what we spend here,” said Bakht Zada, 14, a shepherd, while grazing his sheep in Balokaley Kandak valley.
Unaware of the importance of education, Bakht Zada who lives in Nariband hamlet, has been grazing his sheep and goats since the age of six.
The majority of residents in Nariband are herdsmen who fatten their animals for the month of Eidul Azha.
“I have been to Mingora thrice in my life, with my father to a cattle fair to sell sheep but there is too much hustle and bustle which tires me,” he said.
If he does not appreciate the importance of an education, it is because there is zero per cent literacy in his hamlet.
“I go to the mosque for religious education along with other children. But I don’t want an English education because people say it misleads children,” Bakht Zada added.
Children in Nariband are strangers to computers, internet and mobile phones and are effectively cut off from the rest of the world. They play indigenous games while their animals graze in the meadows.
Bakht Zada, escorts his sheep and goats along with his friends for grazing early in the morning and gathers them to take back home in the evening.
Khan Zeb, 16, who is married and has two children, also takes his sheep to the meadows early morning. He sits on a huge rock eyeing his herd as the goats munch on the grass.
“I work with my father in the fields and go to Punjab in the harvest season for 20 days every year, where we earn up to Rs800,” he told The Express Tribune.
There is no electricity in their valley, no road network or water supply. There are no schools, nor even a single dispensary, but the children look happy as they run after their herds in the lush green valley.
“Our yearly yield is sufficient to cater to the needs of our seven-member family,” Zeb said.
The valley is located some 20 kilometres from Mingora, seat of the Gandhara Civilization.