Monday, April 16, 2012

The war on drugs has failed

It’s sign of just how disastrous the global war on drugs has become that sitting politicians, including Canada’s prime minister, are starting to acknowledge its failure.

At a news conference wrapping up the Summit of the Americas on the weekend, Stephen Harper said, “I think what everyone believes and agrees with, and to be frank myself, is that the current approach is not working, but it is not clear what we should do.”

This tentative recognition of an obvious fact might not seem like much, but this is big news coming from a cheerleader for criminalization and enforcement. The “approach” to drugs in Central and South America stems from the same philosophy the Conservatives have defended for years. There is a direct connection between prohibition in places in Canada and the activities of drug cartels in places like Mexico. We create the demand; they furnish the supply.

Felipe Calderòn became president of Mexico in 2006 and declared a war on drug-related organized crime in his country. The result was a sharp increase in the homicide rate. In some areas, citizens are caught between unspeakably evil drug gangs on one side, and abusive or corrupt soldiers and police on the other. A recent Human Rights Watch report “found evidence of a significant increase in human rights violations since Calderòn launched his ‘war on organized crime’.” Those abuses include torture, extra-judicial killings and disappearances.

For a few years now, respected leaders in Central and South America have been saying “enough.” The Global Commission on Drug Policy, a group of eminent people that includes many former heads of state, has called for “fundamental reforms” of drug policies.

That Commission published a statement this month called “Drugs: The debate goes mainstream,” signed by Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Ernesto Zedillo and César Gaviria — former presidents of Brazil, Mexico and Colombia respectively.

“Latin America is talking about drugs like never before,” they write. “The taboo that has long prevented open debate about drug policies has been broken — thanks to a steadily deteriorating situation on the ground and the courageous stand taken by presidents Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala and Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica.”

The former presidents don’t mince words, blaming prohibition for decades of violence and public health disasters. They say what’s needed is a shift in how every country in the Americas thinks about the public health problem that is drug addiction. “The criminalization of drug use is the primary obstacle to treatment and rehabilitation.”

We’ve seen proof of that in Ottawa, lately, as politicians line up to oppose a safe-injection site, despite evidence that suggests such sites can help addicts access treatment. Similar programs for alcohol don’t meet with the same knee-jerk opposition, because alcohol is legal. A combination of regulation and access to treatment has helped smokers get off tobacco.

Harper has long wanted Canada to exert more influence in the Americas, and it’s an important region for Canada’s mining sector. But on the most important security question in the region, Canada is still several steps behind.

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Beer makes men smarter

Beer makes men smarter.
So say researchers at the University of Illinois in Chicago.
They found that men with a couple of beers under their belts were actually better at solving brain-teasers than their sobre counterparts.

To reach that surprising conclusion, the researchers devised a bar game in which 40 men were given three words and told to come up with a fourth that fits the pattern.
For example, the word "cheese" could fit with words like "blue" or "cottage" or "Swiss."
Half the players were given two pints. The other half got nothing.
The result? Those who imbibed solved 40 pre cent more of the problems that their sobre counterparts.
Also, the drinkers finished their problems in 12 seconds while it took the non-drinkers 15.5 seconds.
"We found at 0.07 blood alcohol, people were worse at working memory tasks, but they were better at creative problem-solving tasks," psychologist Jennifer Wiley reported on the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences (FABBS) site.
Wiley conceded that her findings run counter to popular belief that alcohol hinders analytical thinking and muddies the mind.
"We have this assumption, that being able to focus on one part of a problem or having a lot of expertise is better for problem solving," says Wiley. "But that's not necessarily true. Innovation may happen when people are not so focused. Sometimes it's good to be distracted."
It may also help explain why raving drunks like Ernest Hemingway, John Cheever or Charles Bukowski were able to write their books.
"Sometimes the really creative stuff comes out when you're having a glass of wine over dinner, or when you're taking a shower," Wiley said.

Obama’s re-election hopes rise


BY:Andrew Hammond

In the past 40 years, those presidents who have gone on to secure re-election have generally enjoyed job approval ratings in advance of 50 percent in March of their re-election years

As the Republican nomination contest ends, Mr Obama emerges as a moderate favourite for re-election. Following the departure of Rick Santorum from the presidential field, Mitt Romney has now effectively won the Republican nomination to challenge Barack Obama in November. The presidential election season thus now moves to the next phase between now and the party conventions in August, whereby Romney and the Republicans must decisively turn their focus of attention onto Obama and winning the White House.

The bruising Republican nomination contest in recent months has done little to endear Romney to the electorate, especially independents. He has been caricatured by his Republican opponents as inconsistent in his political positions (a ‘flip-flopper’), and out-of-touch with most voters, partly because of his extremely high wealth.

This is reflected in the potentially significant lead that Obama currently has in head-to-head match-up polls against Romney. Of the approximately 50 national head-to-head opinion surveys taken since the New Year, the president has prevailed in all but five (and three of these apparent outliers were weeks ago in the first half of January). Since late March, Obama’s average polling lead in such surveys has been some 5.2 percent.

Perhaps more distressingly for Romney are his poor favourability ratings. Whereas national polls in March gave Obama an average favourability rating of 51.1 percent, and an average unfavourable rating of 43.6 percent (a positive spread of plus 7.5), Romney’s corresponding average figures were 36.5 percent and 47 percent (a negative spread of negative10.4 percent). As a result, Romney entered this month with one of the highest ever negative ratings recorded by a major party candidate in US history.

In this context, some have already declared Obama an overwhelming favourite for re-election. However, this assessment is overdone and the fact remains that Romney could yet win the White House in November.

It is sometimes forgotten that Obama’s job approval ratings as president have been poor (sometimes far below 50 percent) during the last 12 months. This largely remains the case, with a majority of national polls in March showing a range of 41-48 percent approval.

In the past 40 years, those presidents who have gone on to secure re-election have generally enjoyed job approval ratings in advance of 50 percent in March of their re-election years as was true of Bill Clinton (1996), Ronald Reagan (1984), and Richard Nixon (1972). Conversely, the ratings of Gerald Ford (1976), Jimmy Carter (1980), and George H W Bush (1992) were all well below 50 percent at the same point in the electoral cycle and all went on to defeats later the same year.

The only (partial) exception to this trend is George W Bush in 2004 who went on from average approval ratings of just below or around 50 percent in March to win a close re-election contest in November. Obama will thus be repeating a not dissimilar feat as his immediate predecessor in the White House should he go on to win against Romney.

Aside from the salience of the ‘war on terror’, perhaps the key difference in the US political climates between George W Bush’s re-election year in 2004 and Obama’s in 2012 is the weaker economy this time around. This is underlined in the differences between the unemployment rates in March of both years (5.8 percent and 8.5 percent respectively). Without question, one of the key remaining drags on Obama’s prospects is the high unemployment rate, which cursed Ford, Carter and George H W Bush in their re-election years. Indeed, the only president to win re-election in the last 40 years with an unemployment rate above seven percent (let alone eight percent) was Reagan in 1984.

One of the keys to Reagan’s re-election success was the perception by voters in 1984 of robust economic recovery after the recession of the early 1980s. Throughout 1984, GDP growth was strong and the unemployment rate declined consistently. For Obama to win, it would be enormously useful for him to have a similar positive economic headwind going into November. Here, the still weak unemployment picture has improved in recent months and, if this continues, will undercut Romney’s attacks on what he perceives to be Obama’s economic mismanagement since 2009.

Of course, even the relative resilience of Obama’s popularity with the electorate, despite the worst downturn since at least the 1930s, does not guarantee him re-election even if the US recovery picks up significantly in coming months. For instance, numerous political hazards could yet surface, including a potential Israeli attack on Iran, with the potential to reframe the presidential election in an uncertain direction.

Nevertheless, for now at least, the fragile and uneven economic and political environment, including the improving unemployment picture and the legacy of the bruising Republican nomination contest, is underpinning Obama’s re-election hopes. While he is not an overwhelming favourite, he currently stands a slightly better than evens prospect of securing a second term.

The writer is an Associate Partner at Reputation Inc. He is a former US editor at Oxford Analytica and a former special adviser in the Government of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair

Cheating on exam a ‘root of corruption'

Cheating in this week’s National Examination is “one of the roots of corruption practice in the country” and school students should avoid doing so, a senior official of the anti-graft agency has warned.
Deputy Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) chief Bambang Widjojanto said Monday that students must be “brave enough” to take the exams “without any devious tricks.”
“Who we are today reflects who we are in the future. Cheating during an exam is an atrocious thing to do. It will sabotage your future,” Bambang said in a text message to The Jakarta Post.
Education expert Arief Rahman echoed Bambang’s statement, adding that any form of dishonesty, including cheating, might trigger fraudulent practices when they become older.
“Basically, any dishonest act is part of one group, let it be cheating, adultery or corruption,” he said in a telephone interview.
Arief acknowledged that the battle against cheating in exams was difficult. He recalled the case of a whistle-blower who revealed cheating in East Java in last year. Siami was shunned by her neighbors after disclosing cheating during national exams at her son’s school in Gadel, Surabaya.
“Fighting against fraudulent practices has never been easy, even since the colonial era. The thing is, we must accustom our society to shrug off the practice because cheating has become systemic and cultural,” he added.
A total of 2,580,446 high school students are sitting the National Examination from Monday to Thursday.
In order to pass the exam, students have to score a minimum of 4 in each subject and their average score in the test, their school exams and reports should be above 5.5.
Education and Culture Minister Mohammad Nuh said his team believes that this year’s exam would be “clean” and “reliable”.

India goes for fresh security review of Kabul embassy area

The well-coordinated, 18-hour terror attacks in Kabul that targeted the Afghan Parliament, Western embassies
and Nato forces, has once again forced a security review of Indian assets in Afghanistan. Afghan interior
minister Bismillah Mohammadi told reporters in Kabul on Monday that one of the arrested militants revealed to
authorities that the al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network was behind the fierce attacks. The Haqqanis — referred
to as a ‘veritable arm’ of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) by former top US officialMike Mullen—
have repeatedly targeted the Indian embassy in Kabul and kept its four consulates in Afghanistan on their radar.
The Haqqanis are the prime suspects of the July 2008 attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul that killed 58
people, including the defence attaché, a senior diplomat and security guards, and another attack in 2009 that
killed 17 people.
Senior Kabul-based officials told HT on the telephone that while the Indian embassy— located 3 km from one
of the places attacked on Sunday— was not the target, “it was only a question of luck”.
Several crucialsteps have been taken to secure India’s assets. These include specialsurveillance by the Afghan
interior ministry in the area surrounding the Indian embassy in Kabul.
Though the Afghans, Indians and Americans share intelligence, Sunday’s attacks point to the stark fact that
rockets blasted the fortified diplomatic zone with impunity and no prior intelligence.
As an official of the external affairs ministry put it, “We are now mulling over the prowess shown by the Taliban
10 years into the global war against terror and the simple question is – how do you guard against men willing to
turn their bodies into missiles?”
After a Lashkar-e-Taiba-sponsored 26/11-type attack in 2010 on two guesthouses where Indians were staying,
a fortified complex to house Indian staff was commissioned. It is near completion and will be protected by the
Indo-Tibetan Border Police, which is already present at the Kabul embassy and four consulates.
India – much to the ISI’s dislike – plays a major role in reconstruction of the war-ravaged country and Sunday’s
attacks have only served as a reminder of the high risk faced by the 3,000 Indians there. “Each day is like a fresh
lease of life,’’ said an official.

US choice Jim Yong Kim is new World Bank chief

US nominee Jim Yong Kim

has been chosen as the new president of the World Bank.

The Korean-American health expert is president of Dartmouth College in the US state of New Hampshire.

He faced a strong challenge for the post, which has traditionally gone to an American, from Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Dr Kim will succeed Robert Zoellick, serving a five-year term beginning on 1 July, the World Bank said in a statement.

Aged 52, Jim Yong Kim

is a doctor lauded for his pioneering role in treating HIV/Aids and reducing the impact of tuberculosis in the developing world.

US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the new president's background would be valuable in the role."His deep development background coupled with his dedication to forging consensus will help breathe new life into the World Bank's efforts to secure fast economic growth that is widely shared," Mr Geithner said in a statement.

And outgoing president Mr Zoellick added: "Jim has seen poverty and vulnerability first-hand, through his impressive work in developing countries."His rigorous, science-based drive for results will be invaluable for the World Bank Group as it modernises to better serve client countries in overcoming poverty."

Andrew Mitchell, UK international development secretary and a governor of the World Bank Group, said that "as the first development professional to head the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim's considerable experience will be vital as he leads it through its ambitious reform and modernisation programme".

Meanwhile, the bank hailed the selection process as competitive, saying that the challenge posed by Mrs Okonjo-Iweala, as well as by Colombian candidate Jose Antonio Ocampo, would benefit the institution in the long run.

The three candidacies had "enriched the discussion of the role of the president and of the World Bank Group's future direction", the World Bank said.
'New kind of leader'
By convention, the US has always held the top job at the World Bank since it was founded in 1944.
The top job of its sister organisation, the International Monetary Fund, has also always gone to a European but there has been much pressure from emerging economies to open the processes of both organisations to competition.

This year's vote was the first time the World Bank had to choose between candidates since its creation more than 60 years ago.

Mr Ocampo announced on Friday that he was withdrawing from the race and supporting Ms Okonjo-Iweala.

The World Bank did not provide details of the final vote or which country had backed which candidate.

Dr Kim will oversee a staff of 9,000 economists and development experts, and a loan portfolio that hit $258bn (£163bn) last year.

Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington suggested Dr Kim would make a very different kind of leader.

"There's just no comparison between him and any of the prior World Bank presidents," he said.

"The others were political insiders. They spent most of their lives getting rich or becoming politically powerful, or worse. Kim, by contrast, has spent most of his life trying to improve the lives of poor people."

Russian envoys: Assad acts like Israel in Gaza

Staffers present at Washington diplomatic meeting say Russians justified support for Assad by citing US support for Israel.

Russian diplomats in Washington, trying to justify Moscow's support of Syrian President Bashar Assad to Senate staffers earlier this month, compared what Assad is doing in Syria to Israel's policies in Gaza.

According to information based on staffers in the meeting, the central theme of the briefing -- aimed at giving an overview of Russia's Syrian policy -- was that there was no reason for Moscow to stop supporting Assad because both the government and the opposition committed "crimes."The Russian diplomats, dispatched to the Hill for the meeting by the Russian embassy in Washington, said that it was preferential to keep Assad in power – with the "necessary adjustments" – because that would be better for regional stability.

When the US staffers pushed back against the Russian argument, the Russian diplomats – according to participants in the meeting -- replied that the US had no right complaining against Moscow's support for Assad. Washington supported Israel, they said, which takes similar actions against the Palestinians in Gaza.

Israeli Foreign Ministry officials declined comment on the matter Monday.

Bahrain F1 Grand Prix a calculated risk, says race chairman

The Bahrain International Circuit chairman Zayed R Alzayani has admitted to taking "a calculated decision" with regard to staging this year's grand prix. The eyes of the world are on Bahrain this week as the countdown continues in earnest to its return on the Formula One calendar this weekend.

Alzayani has long been confident that the race will pass without a hitch, however, there are several demonstrations and protests planned this week ahead of the event. One in particular has been described by a risk assessment group as "a vehicular rally" due to take place along two of the main highways that lead up to the airport on Wednesday, when most F1 personnel are due to arrive.

Monday's arrival into Bahrain was peaceful enough with GP staff on hand at the airport, including a cameraman and photographer to catch the arrival of their first F1 guests. That included the drivers Bruno Senna of Williams and Sergio Pérez from Sauber, along with two reserves in Toro Rosso's Sébastien Buemi and Jérôme D'Ambrosio from Lotus.

Appreciably there are plenty of posters and banners promoting the race, most notably on lamp-posts leading away from the airport, one especially counting down the days to Friday's first practice. But given the potential for disruption, Alzayani does not believe the future of the race is at stake.

"We've been in Formula One for seven years and we will be in it for much longer than that," Alzayani said. "We wouldn't take a decision on a gamble. But it's a calculated decision, we've weighed up our options and we are committed to the grand prix and to its success.

"I don't think anything drastic will happen. It's not Syria or Afghanistan. I don't see why anything should happen this year that hasn't happened in the previous years. I don't see any benefit for anyone personally attacking the media or the teams or anything.

"Even those who are protesting weaken their message if they do so. Why would you go and attack the media? I think they will probably look out for the media to try and get their message abroad, which is fine. Let them express their opinion."

A week ago seven policeman were injured, three seriously, by a petrol bomb. A funeral march on Friday resulted in three teenagers being shot as police attempted to disperse the more volatile demonstrators.

However, Alzayani said: "It could happen in any country in the world. Why is it any different here? Look at what happened in London when we had a guy jump into the Thames and stop the Boat Race. Do you want to tell me there is no threat on the Olympics in London? Should we should stop the Olympics?

"What's the difference? There are idiots everywhere in the world. Does that mean we just sit at home and lock ourselves up? So let's have the event. I'm sure it will be a good event, a safe event. I can assure you most of the people who are hesitant or reluctant about Bahrain will change their perception within the first day of being here. We've seen it, and people who have already been to Bahrain and were worried and everything like that, they left with a different perception."

Alzayani says F1's visit will allay some of the myths that have been perpetrated in the run-up to the race, although he appreciates that problems do exist that cast a shadow over the race and Bahrain. "Will this year be exactly like it was in the past years? No," said Alzayani. "We know that for a fact and I'd be lying if I sat down and told you it would be the same and everything's normal.

"The country has gone through a tough year, we are still wounded in some aspects or another, and we are on the way to regaining our health. But the race will be positive to the country, positive to the economy which has suffered a lot in the last year and a half, and it will put things in perspective.

"A lot of the damage that has happened to Bahrain post the events of last year [has] been driven by perception, by people not necessarily writing what they see or hear. For us, we will be happy for the teams and the journalists and the media to come to Bahrain and see it and then write about it. Things are not 100%, but they are not as bad as people make them out to be."

American human rights activists arrested in Bahrain

The Bahraini police briefly detained two American human rights activists Sunday along with about 20 Bahraini citizens who were protesting ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix Formula One race scheduled for next weekend.

Human Rights Watch Washington Director Tom Malinowski and Nadim Houry, the deputy director of HRW's Middle East and North Africa division, were picked up along with the Bahrainis when police raided a demonstration, HRW's Joe Stork confirmed to The Cable Sunday evening. They were treated fine and were all released, including the Bahrainis, Stork said. The Americans arrived in Bahrain Saturday night to observe the protests surrounding the Grand Prix and to document the government's response.

"Out of our very short detention in #Bahrain. Treated well," Houry wrote on his Twitter feed Sunday evening Washington time. "Thank you to all those concerned. We came to monitor events, not to be the story."

According to an e-mail update distributed by the Al Wefaq political party, Bahrain's largest opposition group, Malinowsky and Houry were observing protests when they were detained.

"When some of the mothers and wives of those detained gathered around the police station to see their loves ones, they were attacked by riot police who shot up to 15 stun grenades at them," the e-mail said.

After being released, Malinowski told The Cable in an e-mail that the demonstration he was observing before being detained was non-violent but was dispersed with tear gas, noise grenades, and pepper spray.

"This is a nightly happening all over Bahrain now. The unresolved political tensions are being manifested on the streets, with increasing anger on both sides. The only solution is to give people a peaceful outlet for expressing their opposition to the government and, more important, a process that will address their legitimate political grievances," he said.

"Most of the young Bahraini protesters were beaten a bit upon arrest. We have heard from many others with recent accounts of torture in the hours after their arrest. These are brutal tactics which make the situation worse for everyone, including the government."

The Bahraini embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The 2011 Grand Prix was cancelled in March, 2011 due to the protests on the streets of Bahrain's capital Manama and the objections of several Formula One drivers. In the lead up to the 2012 event, scheduled for April 22, the government has been cracking down on protests. On April 13, thousands of protesters defied the government and attended the funeral of activist Ahmed Ismaeel, who was killed in a protest last week.

Last week, Stork explained that Human Rights Watch was not officially urging Formula One to cancel the event, but he said the racing organization was choosing sides by going forward with the event and signaling its support for the Bahrain government and its actions.

"I think that they [F1] will have some explaining to do. I can easily imagine that the security will be such that you won't have the race disrupted on the track and I imagine that they can keep that under control," Stork told "But if you have a situation where there are demonstrations on a nightly, if not daily basis, clashes with security forces who aren't known for the most sophisticated crowd control techniques is not going to be good."

"It's not going to be good for Bahrain, it's not going to be good for F1 either if it happens either during the race or when it's clear that the demonstrations are primarily aimed at stopping the race. That's what the story will be," Stork said.

The Grand Prix also comes as tensions heighten over the fate of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, the jailed Bahraini human rights activist who human rights groups say may die soon due to an ongoing hunger strike.

Nabeel Rajab, president of Bahrain Center for Human Rights, said last week that the Bahrain government was ramping up arrests and detentions ahead of the race to try to ensure that protests would not disrupt the festivities.

"They have put profits and their interests before human rights. The situation [in Bahrain] has worsened. The number of people who were killed from the beginning of the year till now is more than people killed last year," Rajab told The Media Line.

Last week, the Guardian quoted an unnamed F1 team member who said there was widespread discomfort among race participants about the tensions surrounding the race.

"I feel very uncomfortable about going to Bahrain," the team member said. "If I'm brutally frank, the only way they can pull this race off without incident is to have a complete military lockdown there. And I think that would be unacceptable, both for F1 and for Bahrain. But I don't see any other way they can do it."

Hazara killings

YET another series of attacks against the Shia Hazara community in Balochistan over the weekend has raised fresh questions about the state’s inability or, as some quarters darkly suggest, unwillingness to take on the sectarian killers in the province headlined by the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi Balochistan. To be sure, with only a small number of hardcore militants believed to be involved, stopping them will not be easy. But there are disturbing signs that the killings are yet to shake the political and security apparatus in Balochistan out of its stupor. Even more problematically, members of the provincial government are being accused by the Hazara community of either providing sanctuary to the killers or of turning a blind eye to their presence in certain areas.

What is clear is that Balochistan has a growing problem of radicalisation. A network of madressahs and mosques has mushroomed in Baloch areas like the districts of Mastung, Khuzdar, Noshki and Kalat. With little to no oversight of their operations, the network has injected into parts of the Baloch population a growing intolerance along sectarian, i.e. Sunni-Shia, lines. Add to that mixture the recruiting of LJ type militant outfits and a relatively small problem can snowball. In Balochistan, the surge in targeting the Hazara community this year and particularly in the last few weeks is not well understood. It could be that a ‘deadline’ for the Hazaras to leave Quetta, for example, set by the militants has expired. Or with the space for sectarian attacks in other parts of the country somewhat reduced, the Hazaras in lawless Balochistan are an easier target.

Whatever the reasons for the surge in killings and attacks, the matter seems to be beyond the control of regular law-enforcement agencies. Police in Quetta are themselves targets of sectarian killers and do not have the resources to fight back or defend themselves. And if the police’s political bosses in the provincial government are disinclined to take on the sectarian militants, there’s little the police can do anyway. Which leaves the intelligence apparatus. The LJ in Balochistan is precisely the kind of entity that intelligence agencies are meant to track and help dismantle. The damaging war against Baloch separatists being led by the intelligence agencies is real enough but it’s not reason enough to preclude other actions by those agencies. But what if the agencies see strategic reasons to leave some groups untouched? The Hazaras of Balochistan are truly caught between a rock and a hard place.

Sectarian violence: Another Hazara shot dead, six escape separate attack

The Express Tribune

The security plan devised by the Government of Balochistan to target terrorists fanning sectarian violence in Quetta appears to have failed as yet another man belonging to the Hazara community was gunned down in broad daylight on Quarry Road, while six others escaped unhurt in a separate attack on Spinny Road.
Salman Ali, an elderly man, was sitting at a tyre shop when two assailants on a motorbike appeared and shot him in the head and chest. The attackers fled from the scene after the incident. The police reached the site and took the body to Provincial Sandeman Hospital.
Police termed the killing a case of sectarian targeted killing saying the victim was Hazara and a resident of Marriabad, a neighbourhood of the Shia community.
The incident triggered panic and most of the shops and markets on Quarry Road, Prince Road, Mezan Chowk and Liaquat Bazaar were closed.
The police and traffic police deputed in these areas were seen advising the people to go home by saying the situation had gone worse again.
The killing was reported in the heart of the city where a heavy contingent of police, Frontier Corps (FC) and other law enforcement agencies were deployed a few days ago following the targeted killings of six people on Monday.
A few hours earlier, members of the Hazara community in a yellow cab escaped unhurt when a group of armed men opened fire at them on Spinny Road.
“The people were on their way to Marriabad from the Hazara town when they were attacked by armed men. However, the people escaped unhurt in the attack,” Shia Conference stated in its statement to condemn the killings.
“It is ironic that the chief minister chaired a high-level meeting with the participation of high officials of law enforcement agencies and very next day, killing of innocent people resumed,” the Shia leaders said.
A number of Hazara people blocked the highway on Western Bypass to condemn the previous targeted killings. They raised slogans against the government and law enforcement agencies for their failure to break up the chain of target killers.
“The inaction on the part of law enforcement agencies is raising questions on their sincerity to protect the Hazara community,” Muhammad Ali, a young protestor said, adding that the Hazara community is peaceful in Quetta but they are being pushed against the wall.
Angry protestors also burnt tyres at Mezan Chowk and on Alamdar Road to register their protest.

Chief Minister Balochistan Nawab Aslam Raisani returned to Islamabad after chairing a high-level meeting pertaining to the law and order situation in Quetta.
Banned outfit Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ) claimed responsibility for the targeted killings of Hazara community.
The spokesperson of LJ who introduced himself as Ali Shair Haideri told local media in Quetta that his organisation carried out targeted attacks on Quarry Road and Spinny Road. Talking from specified location, he said his organisation will continue its attacks in the future.

New Pashto Songs

Veena Malik all set to join PTI

After announcing her desire to enter into politics Veena Malik

seems all set to join the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). The buzz has it that the PTI has already started planning her formal appearances at its upcoming rallies to attract the youth. PTI led by Imran Khan is known for arranging musical bands for its massive public gatherings, which attract more youth.

Pakistani Prison Attack Raises Unsettling Questions

Radio Free Europe/Radio

"Intelligence failure" is the most easily available excuse for the government in Pakistan following the daring Taliban jailbreak in the northern city of Bannu early on April 15.

According to Akbar Hoti, the police chief of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, where the jailbreak was carried out, between 150 and 200 attackers fired rockets on the main gate of the jail and released around 20 convicts described as "very dangerous," including Adnan Rashid, who was convicted of participating in an attack on former President Pervez Musharraf.

The information minister of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, told journalists on April 16 that the Taliban attackers had freed 384 prisoners.

Bannu borders the restive North Waziristan tribal agency and has been the scene of attacks on security officials in the past. However, the April 15 jailbreak was particularly shocking and raises many questions.

How did hundreds of Taliban militants manage to cross scores of police and army checkpoints inside the city, as well as entry and exit points to and from adjacent tribal areas?

Why did no police or army reinforcements reach the site, even though the attack continued for more than two hours?

And if an "intelligence failure" is really to blame, how can the security of other cities -- like Dera Ismail Khan, Kohat, and Peshawar, which are located on the periphery of the tribal districts -- be guaranteed in the days ahead?

The little or no resistance shown by prison guards points to the demoralization of the security force, making them sitting ducks for the Taliban and its supporters all over the country.

Many security experts and top officials in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government believe that the involvement of senior officials in the police and intelligence agencies cannot be ruled out.

Malak Naveed Khan, former chief of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa police, says it is unbelievable to think that 150 to 200 heavily armed men could have entered the city, broken into the prison, and taken away nearly 400 prisoners without anyone moving to intercept them at any one of numerous checkpoints.

Equally important are the statements of the prison's telephone operator, Shahab Khan, and Rahmatullah, one of the escaped prisoners who, with others, returned to the jail the next morning to surrender.

Shahab Khan said he was sending requests for reinforcements for more than two hours and that each time he was assured that help was on the way.

Rahmatullah said he saw 50 to 60 pickup trucks parked around the jail on the main highway, ostensibly used to transport the attackers, and heard the attackers shouting at the prisoners in Urdu to leave the vicinity.

So what really happened?

We'll have to wait at least 15 days for the conclusions of an inquiry report into the attack by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government. That may provide some answers. But of course the world is still waiting for the results of an official inquiry into the events of May 2, 2011, in Abbottabad, when Osama bin Laden was killed.

Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Bahrain activists set off Grand Prix protests

Hundreds of Bahraini protesters have taken to the streets of Manama, the country's capital, after an opposition call for a week of anti-government demonstrations to coincide with the Formula One Grand Prix set to be hosted by the Gulf state.

Sunday's protest was the first in a week of planned daily demonstrations and sit-ins called by al-Wefaq, Bahrain's largest Shia opposition political party, to last through the end of the international racing event scheduled for April 22.

Al-Wefaq said the pro-democracy protests under the banner of "steadfastness and challenge" would take place in Shia villages on the outskirts of Manama, including one on Tuesday near Bahrain's international airport.

The party said there are no plans for protests near the Sakhir circuit where the F1 race will be held.

Grand Prix controversy

Al-Wefaq leader Abdel Jalil Khalil told AFP that the bloc would not try to prevent the event but was organising protests to "take advantage of this week's race to highlight our political and democratic demands".

Foreign journalists have been routinely blocked from entering the country since the government cracked down on an uprising in February and March 2011, killing at least 35 people.The Grand Prix controversy has for the second time shed the international media spotlight on the troubled kingdom, an opportunity the opposition says will use to publicise demands for greater equality and democracy.

Bahrain's cabinet insisted in a statement on Sunday that the decision by Formula One's governing body to go ahead with the race reflected "confidence in the country's security and stability".

The shooting and wounding of a 15-year-old boy by riot police last week had increased pressure on race organisers and participating teams to boycott the event.

On Friday, both the sport's governing body, the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile), and commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone announced the race will take place as scheduled.

Human Rights Watch, a US-based rights watchdog, condemned the decision, arguing the sporting event would be exploited "to obscure the seriousness of the country's human rights situation".

Bahraini forces raid protester homes in Sitra, arrest dozens

Saudi-backed Bahraini security forces have raided the houses of anti-regime protesters in the northeastern town of Sitra, making dozens of arrests, Press TV reports.

On Monday, Bahrain riot police raided several houses in the besieged island of Sitra, taking away dozens of protesters, who have been taking part in anti-government rallies.

Sitra has long been the center of protests against the Al Khalifa regime and the opposition calls it the “Capital of Revolution.”

Since February 2011, when anti-government protests began in the Persian Gulf kingdom many deaths have occurred in Sitra which is predominantly Shia town.

Anti-regime demonstrators hold King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa responsible for the death of protesters during the popular uprising.

Bahraini activists say six people have been killed during nationwide anti-regime demonstrations since March 17, 2012.

Bahraini forces attack anti-government protesters in Salmabad

Saudi-backed Bahraini forces have attacked anti-government protesters in Salmabad village, south of the capital, Manama, Press TV reports.

Witnesses say regime forces fired tear gas on demonstrators in Salmabad on Monday as they were mourning the death of an activist who was killed in Manama crackdown several days ago.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The attack came hours after Bahraini troops raided several homes in the northeastern town of Sitra, arresting dozens of activists, who have been taking part in anti-government rallies.

Sitra has long been the center of protests against the Al Khalifa regime and the opposition calls it the ''Capital of Revolution.''

Bahrainis have been staging demonstrations since mid-February 2011, demanding political reform and a constitutional monarchy, a demand that later changed to an outright call for the ouster of the ruling Al Khalifa family following its brutal crackdown on popular protests.

Scores of people have also been killed and many others have been injured in the Saudi-backed crackdown on peaceful protesters in Bahrain.

Bahraini demonstrators hold King Hamad Al Khalifa responsible for the killings during the popular uprising in the country.

Bahraini Embassy roof protester threatens to jump

A protester who has climbed on to the roof of the Bahraini Embassy in central London has threatened to jump.
Moosa Satrawi is highlighting the imprisonment and treatment of prominent human rights activist, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and Hasan Mushaima, the leader of a banned political party in Bahrain.
Mr Mushaima's son, Ali Mushaima, is also on the roof.
The Metropolitan police said officers were at the embassy in Belgrave Square, which has been closed.
Mr Satrawi, 30, told the BBC: "I'm not going down until I hear Mr al-Khawaja call me or Mr Mushaima.
"Otherwise I will jump myself from the roof."
He added that protesters have no food or water with them.
Mr al-Khawaja is in the third month of a hunger strike and was moved to a military hospital amid concerns that he was close to death.
Mr Mushaima suffers from cancer and his supporters say that authorities are withholding treatment.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "We were called at 13:35 BST with reports of two protesters on the roof of the Bahrain embassy in Belgrave Square.
"Officers are in attendance and road closures are in place."
The embassy said the situation was being handled by the police.
The protest comes days before Bahrain is due to host its most high-profile international event, the Formula One Grand Prix.

As Afghan Smoke Clears, Suspicion Falls On Haqqani Network

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

As the guns fell silent and Afghans returned to the streets in the capital and other cities targeted in daring weekend attacks by militants, Afghan officials were pointing a finger of suspicion at the Pakistan-based Haqqani network.

The seemingly coordinated incidents, in Kabul and three eastern provinces, killed at least 11 Afghan government troops and four civilians and resulted in the death of 36 attackers, the government said.

Targets in the capital included the British and German embassies, prominent hotels frequented by Westerners, NATO's headquarters, and the Afghan parliament.

In the incidents in the provinces, the attacks appeared aimed at Afghan security forces and infrastructure.

The day after the attacks were launched, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said they represented an intelligence failure on the part of both Afghan and "especially NATO forces."

Tracking Down The Culprits

Interior Minister Besmillah Mohammadi said a militant arrested by Afghan police has confessed that the Haqqani network -- which has reported links to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban and is thought to have been involved in the assassination in September of High Peace Council head and former Afghan President Burnahuddin Rabbani -- launched the attacks.

The Haqqani network is also thought to have been complicit in a June attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul in which 12 people were killed.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for “robust action” by Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the United States to put an end to such terror attacks.

Clinton called Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to underscore that the three governments have a shared responsibility “to confront and defeat terrorists and violent extremists.

In October, Clinton told Congress that she and other U.S. officials had urged Pakistan's civilian and military leadership to "join us in squeezing the Haqqani network from both sides of the border and in closing safe havens."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on April 16 that he "condemn[s] these attacks in the strongest possibility terms," adding that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) was "monitoring the situation."

"We need to strengthen the capacity of counterterrorism efforts and of Afghan national security," Ban said. "These issues will be discussed in detail at the forthcoming NATO summit in Chicago in May. The UN remains committed in supporting the efforts of the government to consolidate peace and democracy."

Cities Under Siege

In Kabul, a battle lasting around 17 hours came to an end in the early hours of April 16 after raids on militant positions in the Afghan capital involving NATO helicopters.

The militants' assaults in the capital included the use of rockets and mortars as well as suicide bombers.

Afghan government forces say they took control of Kabul's Shirpoor and Darulaman districts early on April 16 -- the last areas of fighting.

The Afghan Interior Ministry says that, in all, 36 militants were killed, along with eight members of the government's security forces and three civilians.

Afghan General Mohammad Ayub Salangi, the Kabul security commander, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that the raid early on April 16 saved dozens of civilians who were trapped in a building seized by militants.

"The situation has returned to normal in this area," Salangi said of the area of Darulaman. "The last remnants of the insurgents resisting in a building were killed. The good news for us is that about 35 people -- including workers and a woman who were stuck inside the building -- were saved unharmed. Only the woman was injured, and she was taken to the hospital. About five attackers were killed [there]."

The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attacks, calling it the start of their spring offensive and saying they had help from allied militant groups.

PHOTO GALLERY: Images of the attacks:
Kabul residents have expressed shock at how dozens of armed insurgents managed to infiltrate the heavily fortified capital.

Officials of NATO's International Security Assistance Force were quoted late on April 15 as saying Afghan forces had handled the response to the Kabul attacks on their own.

But some Western observers say the use of NATO helicopters in the final assault raises questions about whether Afghan security forces will be able to handle a similar battle without NATO support after the scheduled withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

Pakistan, Russia Make Nice

Lingering Cold War animosities between Russia and Pakistan seem to be residing, with both regional heavyweights looking to improve bilateral relations.

A sign of the warming ties came in the form of a landmark announcement this week by Pakistan's National Security Committee, which, for the first time, named the strengthening of the country's relations with Russia as one of its top foreign policy recommendations.

The recommendation, which was swiftly approved by the Pakistani parliament, signified growing support for closer ties between Moscow and Islamabad.

But it did not stop there. Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit confirmed that Vladimir Putin, early in his third term as president, plans to travel to Islamabad for high-level talks in September -- a first for a Russian head of state.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari paved the road for Putin's visit, which has not been confirmed by Russian officials, last year when he made the first official visit of a Pakistani head of state to Moscow in almost 40 years.

Not long ago, such occasions would have been unthinkable. Russia's staunch support for Pakistan's arch-rival, India, was a thorn in relations. So, too, was Pakistan's support for Afghan mujahedin rebel groups who fought the Soviet Union during its 10-year occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

But much has changed since then in South Asian politics.

Relations between long-term allies Pakistan and the United States have hit a low. The U.S.'s decision in May 2010 to enter Pakistan to conduct a raid on Osama bin Laden's compound without informing that country's authorities caused outrage, as did the deaths of over 28 soldiers in a U.S. drone attack in November that led Pakistan to close all its Afghan supply routes to NATO.

Some observers have been quick to point out a strategic shift in Pakistan's foreign policy toward the United States, while others insist that ties between Moscow and Islamabad have deepened as a result of Pakistan's widening rifts with Washington.

Rustam Shah Mohmand, Pakistan's former ambassador to Afghanistan, however, does not read too much into the situation.

"Possibly relations with Russia will strengthen a [little bit] after Putin's visit. [Pakistan] should have strengthened its relations with Russia long ago," Mohmand says. "This visit will likely increase trade, political contacts, but it does not mean that it can bring about change to Pakistan's foreign policy vis-a-vis the United States."

One particular source of concern for Pakistan has been the burgeoning relationship between India, Pakistan's neighbor and main rival, and the United States.

In recent years, India and the United States have held joint military exercises in the Indian Ocean, while a multibillion-dollar defense deal is on the cards as part of the new booming strategic relationship.

Sartaj Aziz, Pakistan's former foreign minister, says Russia may be forging stronger ties with Pakistan in order to capitalize on the rift in U.S.-Pakistan ties.

"As you know, India's relations had expanded with the United States, although it [India] had good ties with Russia," Aziz says. "It is no longer like the Cold War, obviously Russia is watching the Pakistan-U.S. tension and [might be thinking of restoring] some balance."

Whether or not Russia and Pakistan might become strategic partners is open to debate. But what is certain is that the two countries are aiming to forge greater economic ties, especially in the field of energy.

Russia has indicated its willingness to get involved in the proposed TAPI pipeline project that is envisioned to transport gas from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan and on to Pakistan and India.

The pipeline, if built, could bring much needed gas to energy-starved India and Pakistan.

Russian investors are also interested in the Thar coal project in Sindh Province, which would involve developing a large energy complex with a capacity of producing 6,000 megawatts of coal-based electricity.

Hillary Clinton parties in Colombia nightclub

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

, known for her hard work and gruelling schedule, took a rare moment off at the weekend and let her hair down to enjoy a dance and a beer with some friends.
Just hours after attending Saturday's official dinner for the heads of state and government attending a 34-nation Latin American summit in the Colombian tourist resort of Cartagena, Clinton was seen partying in a nearby nightclub.
Still attired in the smart black evening pant suit set off by an impressive sparkly necklace that she wore to the dinner, Clinton was seen enjoying herself at a late-night gathering of her staff in the Cafe Havana.
A State Department official told AFP the US top diplomat had heard that staffers were celebrating the birthday of Roberta Jacobson, assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs.

"When she heard some of staff had gone dancing to celebrate A/S Jacobson's birthday, and party was still going on when summit dinner ended, she wanted to stop by. So yes, she joined party in progress," the official said, asking to remain anonymous.
Casting off her usually stuffy world of diplomatic niceties and thorny global issues, Clinton was seen smiling and dancing, surrounded by a crowd of women, as well as sitting at a table sharing a joke and drinking a beer.
Pictures of Clinton's happy moment went viral, the second time in a week that her fun side has become an instant hit on the Internet.
On Tuesday, the creators of "Texts from Hillary," a spoof blog featuring photos of a sunglasses-sporting Clinton reading her Blackberry inside a C-17 military cargo plane were invited to the State Department to meet her.

She then posted her own texts onto the blog on the popular Tumblr platform.

Clinton spoke to Pakistan minister about Afghan attacks

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to Pakistan's foreign minister about their shared responsibility to confront militants following Sunday's attacks in Afghanistan, the State Department said in a statement on Monday.

Afghanistan's Taliban attacked Kabul on Sunday with heavy explosions, rockets and gunfire in one of the most serious assaults on the capital in the past decade.

Clinton and Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar "discussed the cowardly attacks in Afghanistan," the statement said. "(Clinton) underscored our shared responsibility for robust action ... to confront and defeat terrorists and violent extremists."

Clinton, who was visiting Brazil's capital, also discussed the "next steps in the US-Pakistani dialogue" following the conclusion of a Pakistani parliamentary review, State Department Victoria Nuland said.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's engagement : Hollywood's royalty engaged

Obama's Buffett rule impact on taxes, jobs

President Barack Obama's

proposal to impose a "Buffett rule" tax on the rich is generating enormous political wattage, but the plan itself would directly affect only a tiny fraction of Americans.
Only around 210,000 taxpayers — a bit over 1 of every 1,000 — would face higher federal taxes if the measure were enacted, according to an estimate by one respected bipartisan research group.
In addition, while Republicans say the plan would be a job killer, only a small proportion of businesses would potentially be subject to the tax, according to data from a 2011 Treasury Department study. These firms make disproportionately large amounts of money, but many of them don't employ any workers.
Republicans, calling the Buffett rule a political sideshow designed to distract voters from the economy's problems, seem certain to round up enough votes to block the bill when the Democratic-run Senate votes on it Monday. But Democrats are eager to hold repeated votes on it this election year to demonstrate that they favor economic equality while Republicans prefer coddling the wealthy, so it's unlikely to disappear soon.
Following are some questions and answers about the proposal and its potential impact:
Q: What would the Buffett rule do?
A: Citing complaints from billionaire Warren Buffett that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary, Obama says everyone earning at $1 million a year or more should pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes. He has been vague on details.
Monday's Senate vote will be on legislation by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., who would impose the 30 percent tax on people making at least $2 million annually and phase it in gradually for those earning at least $1 million.
Q: Isn't the top income tax rate already 35 percent?
A: Yes, that is the rate owed this year on salaries over $388,350. Yet very few people pay that rate because they get to subtract credits and deductions. In addition, some sources of income like certain dividends and capital gains — more common among upscale earners — are taxed at a lower, 15 percent rate.
As a result, households making more than $1 million in 2011 owed an average of around 25 percent of their earnings in federal income taxes and payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, according to the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan group in Washington that studies federal taxes.
Q: How does that compare to lower earners?
A: On average — and that is the key — the rich pay higher rates. The center computes that families earning $30,000 to $40,000 owed an average 6 percent of it in income and payroll taxes last year. People making $50,000 to $75,000 owed an average 12 percent, while those making $75,000 to $100,000 paid an average 13 percent.
Q: Then what's the problem?
A: The White House says it's not the averages that bother them. It's that thousands of individual million-dollar earners pay lower rates than millions of middle-income workers.
Citing Internal Revenue Service data, the White House says 22,000 households making more than $1 million paid less than 15 percent of their earnings in federal income and payroll taxes. That includes 1,470 such families who paid nothing in federal income taxes.
Q: So where does Obama's 30 percent figure come from?
A: White House officials said last week that they want no household earning more than $1 million a year paying a smaller portion of its income in taxes than the middle class. While the term "middle class" is imprecise, IRS data show that the administration would come very close to that target by imposing a 30 percent tax on the highest earners. Out of around 27 million taxpayers who earned $50,000 to $100,000 in 2009, only around 2,000 ended up paying income tax rates of 30 percent or more.
Q: Overall, how many taxpayers would have to pay more if the Buffett rule becomes law?
A: The Tax Policy Center projects that there will be 438,000 households earning $1 million or more annually in 2015, the year they examined to give presidential candidates' tax plans time to be enacted and take effect. Of those taxpayers, the center expects around 210,000 to face higher taxes if legislation like the Senate Democratic bill becomes law. That is just over one-tenth of one percent of all 169 million taxpayers.
Q: What impact would the Buffett rule have on businesses?
A: The Buffett rule would apply to individual income tax rates. It would not apply to the taxes that corporations pay, although Obama has separately proposed to increase taxes on some corporations including some that do work abroad.
Yet the proposal would still affect thousands of companies, from the local bakery to hugely profitable law firms, whose owners pay individual income taxes on the earnings, not corporate taxes. Republicans say taxing these companies would snatch away money they could otherwise use to create jobs — a damaging move with the economy still laboring to recover from the recession.
Q: Are there many of these companies?
A: In a paper last August, Treasury researchers analyzing tax data found that around 35 million individual tax returns reported some business income but just 331,000 of them — about 1 percent — were for earners making $1 million and up.
Out of those 331,000 business taxpayers earning at least $1 million, just 200,000 were employers, the study found.
Those 200,000 high-income employers accounted for just 5 percent of all employers filing business earnings on their individual returns. But they reported $189 billion in business income — a disproportionately huge 50 percent of all business earnings reported by such employers.
Republicans say it would inhibit job creation to tax away those large firms' earnings. Democrats argue the figures show how few high-earning taxpayers actually hire people.
The Treasury figures were for the 2007 tax year, the most recent available.

Obama Camp, Seeing Shift, Bets on Long Shot in Arizona

President Obama’s re-election campaign is dispatching workers across Arizona’s college campuses and Latino neighborhoods this spring, registering as many new voters as they can in an organized, three-month effort to determine whether they can put this unlikely state into play for Democrats this November.

By any measure the obstacles are considerable: Arizona has voted for precisely one Democratic president since Truman was in the White House. Yet Mr. Obama’s aides said in interviews that they thought it was possible they could move the needle of history by winning in 2012 a state that analysts believe is heading Democratic in national elections, but may not be there yet.

Obama strategists are simply following the same techniques they used in 2008 when putting states like North Carolina and Indiana into play. Then, too, there was much initial skepticism, though both states ended up going for Mr. Obama.

Yet for all those signs of organizing activity — and the fact that demographic and political changes across the West have made this region increasingly tempting ground for Democrats —Mr. Obama’s campaign strategists are not yet convinced he can win the state this November. Mr. Obama’s aides said they closely monitored the organizing here and would assess the result of their work over the next few months to see whether it made sense to pour money and resources into Arizona this fall.

Should they succeed, they may well expand the playing map, no minor accomplishment, as some states that Mr. Obama won last time now seem at risk, including North Carolina and Indiana. Perhaps more significant, it would be powerful evidence of the political and demographic changes that seem to be moving slowly across Arizona, as it catches up with the rest of the West, where several states have been trending Democratic.

This is in no small part because of the increase in Latino populations and a series of legislative efforts aimed at immigration — with the Republican governor and state Legislature of Arizona leading the way — that polls suggest have created a backlash among many Latino voters.

“It is going to be a swing state,” said Jim Messina, the president’s campaign manager. “The question is, whether we can get enough people registered to put it in play this year.”

“If you just close your eyes and look at the census numbers, look at the number of unregistered voters, look at how this is the only state in the country that didn’t have a primary or a contested general in 2008, so there was no organizing,” Mr. Messina said as he ticked off the factors that work in their favor. “And look next door. Look at New Mexico, look at Colorado, look at California. All that stuff is going to come to Arizona. The question is, can we get it there in time? How expensive is it do it?”

It certainly will not be easy, as even Democrats here are quick to say. Bill Clinton is the only Democratic presidential candidate who has won Arizona state since Truman. Republicans enjoy an edge in party registration here; Democrats have lost some ground since 2008 and now trail, if slightly, Republican and independent voters.

Arizona is the home of Barry Goldwater, the godfather of the modern conservative movement. The Tea Party here is strong, and it helped to elect an overwhelmingly conservative state Legislature. It has a Republican governor and two Republican senators. The state has a significant population of Mormon voters, which could prove to the benefit to the likely Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, who is a Mormon.

“The Obama campaign thinks they are going to turn Arizona blue, but that’s simply not going to happen,” said Shane Wikfors, the communications director of the Arizona Republican Party. “If they want to spend money here in Arizona, good, let them. It will take money away from other places where they could spend money.”

Of course, whatever political or demographic shifts may be going on over the long term, the Obama campaign right now could be trying to do little more than fake Republicans into wasting time and money here, though members of both parties here said that did not appear to be the case.

Evidence of this effort can be seen in communities across the state. A clipboard in her hand and an Obama 2012 button on her shirt, Jessica Ehinger walked along the commons at Phoenix College on a hot Thursday morning, calling out to students heading for class. “Are you registered to vote?” she asked. She is one of a handful of volunteers who are making trips to this campus every Thursday — morning and afternoon.

Obama volunteers are making weekly registration trips to campuses across the state, as well as to supermarkets, libraries and community centers in Latino neighborhoods in Phoenix, Glendale, Guadalupe, Yuma, Mesa and Tucson. There are now four campaign offices in the state and a fifth is about to open in Glendale. Paid Obama staff members moved here nearly a year ago.

It is not hard to understand why the Obama campaign, which has a history of challenging established political wisdom, might be tempted to throw some resources here.

College students in Arizona are legally entitled to residency, and thus are able to vote, after living here for 30 days. The Latino population has nearly doubled over the past 10 years — it now makes up 30 percent of the overall population, and about 19 percent of the voting age population — though Democrats have long been frustrated over their lack of success at registering Latino voters and getting them to the polls. The announcement by Richard Carmona, a former United States surgeon general, who is Latino, that he would run as a Democrat for an open Senate seat here has stirred hopes that his presence could pump up Latino participation this fall.

“The Latino community is not going to come on its own,” said Ruben Gallego, a Democratic state representative from Phoenix. He praised what he described as the far-reaching efforts of the Obama campaign with Latino voters, saying, “You have got to get the right people to run the campaigns to get them to turn out.”

Mr. Obama lost to John McCain in 2008 by nine points, a not particularly large number, considering that Mr. McCain is from Arizona. Mr. McCain drew 41 percent of the Latino vote, a number that even Republicans here say the party’s presidential candidate is unlikely to match.

“Obama might have won Arizona in ’08, if it wasn’t for the favorite son, McCain,” said Patrick J. Kenney, director of the School of Politics and Global Studies at Arizona State University. “I’m just saying that it could be in play. Obama didn’t compete here in ’08 and John Kerry didn’t compete here in ’04. So we don’t really have a good model of anything really competitive.”

Bruce Merrill, an Arizona pollster and political analyst, said he continued to think this was an uphill fight for the Obama campaign, but far from impossible.

“The Obama people think it’s in play: I still think it’s a long shot,” he said. “But the emerging Carmona candidacy has some potential to mobilize Hispanics more than they have been in the past. The higher the turnout, the more it helps Democrats, particularly in Arizona.

“The Democratic Party is better organized this year,” he said. “The party organization and structure here appears to have been significantly upgraded.”

A critical obstacle for Mr. Obama is the economy, which continues to struggle here, and which Republicans argue will hurt him with all groups of voters. “The fact that Arizona is suffering through with a tough economy, that’s not boding well with independent voters,” Mr. Wikfors said.

The unemployment rate in February was 8.7 percent. That is higher than the 7.6 percent rate in November 2008, but 2 percentage points down from when it broke double-digits in 2010.

The volunteers already turning out for Mr. Obama seem serious. They gathered the other morning in a mostly empty office in central Phoenix for an organizing session and watched a video feature on the woman who provided Mr. Obama the “fired up, ready to go chant” on the Obama for President Web Site.

“So are you fired up?” Ms. Ehinger inquired as the group headed out to Phoenix College.

Mr. Messina said he would make a final decision about Arizona by summer. “I have no rose-colored glasses on,” he said. “I understand how difficult this is. The last time, people said there was no way we could do North Carolina and Virginia. And here we are.”

Many U.S. Immigrants’ Children Seek American Dream Abroad


Samir N. Kapadia seemed to be on the rise in Washington, moving from an internship on Capitol Hill to jobs at a major foundation and a consulting firm. Yet his days, he felt, had become routine.

By contrast, friends and relatives in India, his native country, were telling him about their lives in that newly surging nation. One was creating an e-commerce business, another a public relations company, still others a magazine, a business incubator and a gossip and events Web site.

“I’d sit there on Facebook and on the phone and hear about them starting all these companies and doing all these dynamic things,” recalled Mr. Kapadia, 25, who was born in India but grew up in the United States. “And I started feeling that my 9-to-5 wasn’t good enough anymore.”

Last year, he quit his job and moved to Mumbai.

In growing numbers, experts say, highly educated children of immigrants to the United States are uprooting themselves and moving to their ancestral countries. They are embracing homelands that their parents once spurned but that are now economic powers.

Some, like Mr. Kapadia, had arrived in the United States as young children, becoming citizens, while others were born in the United States to immigrant parents.

Enterprising Americans have always sought opportunities abroad. But this new wave underscores the evolving nature of global migration, and the challenges to American economic supremacy and competitiveness.

In interviews, many of these Americans said they did not know how long they would live abroad; some said it was possible that they would remain expatriates for many years, if not for the rest of their lives.

Their decisions to leave have, in many cases, troubled their immigrant parents. Yet most said they had been pushed by the dismal hiring climate in the United States or pulled by prospects abroad.

“Markets are opening; people are coming up with ideas every day; there’s so much opportunity to mold and create,” said Mr. Kapadia, now a researcher at Gateway House, a new foreign-policy research organization in Mumbai. “People here are running much faster than the people in Washington.”

For generations, the world’s less-developed countries have suffered so-called brain drain — the flight of many of their best and brightest to the West. That has not stopped, but now a reverse flow has begun, particularly to countries like China and India and, to a lesser extent, Brazil and Russia.

Some scholars and business leaders contend that this emigration does not necessarily bode ill for the United States. They say young entrepreneurs and highly educated professionals sow American knowledge and skills abroad. At the same time, these workers acquire experience overseas and build networks that they can carry back to the United States or elsewhere — a pattern known as “brain circulation.”

But the experts caution that in the global race for talent, the return of these expatriates to the United States and American companies is no longer a sure bet.

“These are the fleet-footed; they’re the ones who in a sense will follow opportunity,” said Demetrios G. Papademetriou, president of the Migration Policy Institute, a nonprofit group in Washington that studies population movements.

“I know there will be people who will argue all about loyalty, et cetera, et cetera,” he said. “I know when you go to war, loyalty matters. But this is a different kind of war that affects all of us.”

The United States government does not collect data specifically on the emigration of the American-born children of immigrants — or on those who were born abroad but moved to the United States as young children.

But several migration experts said the phenomenon was significant and increasing.

“We’ve gone way beyond anecdotal evidence,” said Edward J. W. Park, director of the Asian Pacific American Studies Program at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

Mr. Park said this migration was spurred by the efforts of some overseas governments to attract more foreign talent by offering employment, investment, tax and visa incentives.

“So it’s not just the individuals who are making these decisions,” he said. “It’s governments who enact strategic policies to facilitate this.”

Officials in India said they had seen a sharp increase in the arrival of people of Indian descent in recent years — including at least 100,000 in 2010 alone, said Alwyn Didar Singh, a former senior official at the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs.

Many of these Americans have been able to leverage family networks, language skills and cultural knowledge gleaned from growing up in immigrant households.

Jonathan Assayag, 29, a Brazilian-American born in Rio de Janeiro and raised in South Florida, returned to Brazil last year. A Harvard Business School graduate, he had been working at an Internet company in Silicon Valley and unsuccessfully trying to develop a business.

“I spent five months spending my weekends at Starbucks, trying to figure out a start-up in America,” he recalled.

All the while, Harvard friends urged him to make a change. “They were saying: ‘Jon, what are you doing? Go to Brazil and start a business there!’ ” he said.

Relocating to São Paulo, he became an “entrepreneur in residence” at a venture capital firm. He is starting an online eyewear business. “I speak the language, I get the culture, I understand how people do business,” he said.

Calvin Chin was born in Michigan and used to live in San Francisco, where he worked at technology start-ups and his wife was an interior decorator. Mr. Chin’s mother was from China, as were his paternal grandparents. His wife’s parents were from Taiwan.

They are now in Shanghai, where Mr. Chin has started two companies — an online loan service for students and an incubator for technology start-ups. His wife, Angie Wu, has worked as a columnist and television anchor.

“The energy here is phenomenal,” Mr. Chin said.

The couple have two children, who were born in China.

Reetu Jain, 36, an Indian-American raised in Texas, was inspired to move to India while taking time off from her auditing job to travel abroad. Everywhere she went, she said, she met people returning to their countries of origin and feeling the “creative energy” in the developing world.

She and her husband, Nehal Sanghavi, who had been working as a lawyer in the United States, moved to Mumbai in January 2011. Embracing a long-held passion, she now works as a dance instructor and choreographer and has acted in television commercials and a Bollywood film.

“We’re surrounded by people who just want to try something new,” Ms. Jain said.

For many of these émigrés, the decision to relocate has confounded — and even angered — their immigrant parents.

When Jason Y. Lee, who was born in Taiwan and raised in the United States, told his parents during college that he wanted to visit Hong Kong, his father refused to pay for the plane ticket.

“His mind-set was, ‘I worked so hard to bring you to America and now you want to go back to China?’ ” recalled Mr. Lee, 29.

Since then, Mr. Lee has started an import-export business between the United States and China; studied in Shanghai; worked for investment banks in New York and Singapore; and created an international job-search Web site in India. He works for an investment firm in Singapore. His father’s opposition has softened.

Margareth Tran — whose family followed a path over two generations from China to the United States by way of Cambodia, Thailand, Hong Kong and France — said her father was displeased by her decision in 2009 to relocate.

“It’s kind of crazy for him that I wanted to move to China,” said Ms. Tran, 26, who was born in France and moved to the United States at age 11. “He wants me to have all the benefits that come from a first-world country.”

But after graduating from Cornell University in 2009 at the height of the recession, she could not find work on Wall Street, a long-held ambition. She moved to Shanghai and found a job at a management consulting firm.

“I had never stepped foot in Asia, so part of the reason was to go back to my roots,” she said.

Ms. Tran said she did not know how long she would remain abroad. She said she was open to various possibilities, including moving to another foreign country, living a life straddling China and the United States or remaining permanently in China.

Her father has reluctantly accepted her approach.

“I told him, ‘I’m going to try to make it in China, and if things work out for me in China, then I can have a really great career,’ ” she said. “He didn’t hold me back.”

Intelligence is Never a Guarantee: Nato Responds to Karzai

Nato's chief responded to Afghan President Hamid Karzai blaming Sunday's insurgent attacks on the intelligence agencies of Afghanistan "and especially Nato", saying intelligence was never a 100 percent guarantee.

"We do all we can to prevent such attacks in co-ordination with the Afghan security forces and the Afghan intelligence services, but of course you can never give a 100 percent guarantee," Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in an interview with TOLOnews Monday.

Karzai called for a "full investigation" into Sunday's events, describing the terrorists' "infiltration" as an "intelligence failure for us and especially Nato" in his first statement since insurgents attacked main areas of the country's capital and three other provinces on Sunday afternoon.

Rasmussen said the "blame game" did not help the situation when asked by TOLOnews about Karzai's comments.

"I think we are in this together. We should help each other," he said.

Karzai condemned the attack "in the strongest possible terms" during his regular Cabinet meeting on Monday, according to his press office, and praised the Afghan security forces for their valour in repelling the attack.

"Afghan security forces proudly displayed their ability which was itself an assurance to the people that they are capable of protecting their country," he said.

He also praised the security forces for "the caution and the care they exercised" in preventing any further harm to civilians and for a "relatively quick control of the situation".

Rasmussen also praised the Afghan forces for how they dealt with the situation.

"When such attacks actually happen, it's good to see that the Afghan security forces can take action in such an excellent manner," he said.

The Presidential office said that across the four provinces - Kabul, Nangarhar, Logar and Paktia - 4 civilians and 11 members of the Afghans security forces were killed, while 32 civilians and nearly 40 security personnel were injured.

Sunday's battle saw three main areas of Afghanistan's capital Kabul targeted by insurgents who were heavily armed and organised.

It took 18 hours for security forces to end the clashes in the capital, eventually requiring Isaf helicopter gunships to flush the insurgents out from their "bases" - three half-constructed buildings close to Western embassies, and government and security facilities.

As many as 36 terrorists were killed in all four provinces, and one insurgent was captured alive, Karzai's office said.

Karzai said he was deeply saddened by the events and offered his condolences to the families of the victims, and prayed for a quick recovery of the wounded.

Pakistan condemns Kabul attacks: Hina Rabbani Khar

Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Sunday condemned the series of Taliban attacks in Afghanistan and said Islamabad supports stability in the war-shattered neighbouring country.

“Pakistan strongly condemns terrorism in all forms and has consistently encouraged dialogue to resolve issues in Afghanistan,” she told reporters in Lahore.
Taliban fighters launched coordinated attacks in several parts of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul and several other cities.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attacks and said that Taliban suicide bombers launched attacks on the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) forces’ command in Kabul, parliament and across the diplomatic area, Xinhua reported.

Khar said that Pakistan stood in solidarity with all Afghan brothers and sisters suffering the continuous violence and instability in the country. She said soon after the Kabul attacks she contacted Pakistan’s ambassador in Kabul and sought information about the developments.

The minister said a delegation of Pakistani lawmakers was currently in Kabul. All team members had now shifted to the Pakistani embassy and were safe.

Haqqani militants behind Afghan attack

The Pentagon said Monday a major attack on Afghan government buildings, military bases and foreign embassies was likely carried out by Haqqani militants who operate from sanctuaries in neighboring Pakistan.
"Initial indications are that the Haqqani network was involved in this set of attacks that occured yesterday in Kabul," press secretary George Little said of Sunday's assault.
The 18-hour attack was "well-coordinated," but Afghan security forces "did a very effective job" in quelling the onslaught, Little told reporters.
It was not surprising that insurgents had launched an attack with the advent of spring, when fighting usually escalates in Afghanistan, he said.
"We thought something like this may very well happen and it did," he said.
Although Afghan President Hamid Karzai had complained about an intelligence failure by Afghan and especially NATO-led troops, the Pentagon spokesman said it was not realistic to expect coalition forces to know in advance about every insurgent operation.
"I don't believe this was an intelligence failure. We did sense that something like this might happen," Little said.
For 18 hours, squads of Taliban militants who had infiltrated the capital and taken up strategic positions in three locations fired on government buildings, embassies and foreign military bases before all 15 were killed.
A total of 51 people died, including 36 militants, and some 74 were wounded in Kabul and three neighboring provinces where government and military targets also came under synchronized attack, Afghan officials said.

Karzai accuses NATO of failure over attacks

Afghan President Hamid Karzai Monday blamed intelligence failures, particularly on the part of NATO forces supporting his government, for the worst coordinated insurgent attacks in 10 years of war.
Karzai's accusation came after an unprecedented 18-hour assault by squads of Taliban militants, some disguised as women in burqas, on government offices, embassies and foreign bases in Kabul and neighbouring provinces.
"The terrorists' infiltration in Kabul and other provinces is an intelligence failure for us and especially for NATO and should be seriously investigated," Karzai said in a statement.
Explosions and gunfire rocked the capital Sunday and overnight before Afghan forces regained control, heightening fears for the future of the vulnerable nation as NATO prepares to withdraw its 130,000 troops.
The Western alliance, which is committed to pulling out by the end of 2014 whatever happens militarily, put a positive spin on the attacks, hailing the performance of Afghan security forces.
Karzai also praised the rapid response by Afghan security forces, saying it "proved to the people that they can defend their country successfully".
But his laying of the major share of the blame on troops whose home countries are already tired of the long war and its enormous cost is unlikely to go down well with his allies.
The attacks in Kabul and neighbouring provinces killed 11 members of the security forces and four civilians and wounded 32 civilians and around 42 security personnel, Karzai said.
Thirty-six insurgents were also killed, the interior ministry said.
The United States said the attacks were likely carried out by Haqqani militants who operate from sanctuaries in neighbouring Pakistan and dismissed Karzai's claim of an intelligence failure.
"Initial indications are that the Haqqani network was involved in this set of attacks that occurred yesterday in Kabul," Pentagon press secretary George Little said Monday.
"I don't believe this was an intelligence failure. We did sense that something like this might happen," he added.
Martine van Bijlert of the Afghanistan Analysts' Network said: "That they did manage to pull off simultaneous complex attacks shows quite a level of sophistication in preventing detection... so that would be a failure in intelligence.
"But having said that, in a big bustling city like Kabul it is incredibly difficult to stop this type of attack."
Afghan security forces took the lead in countering the insurgents, who were finally routed early Monday, but a spokesman for NATO forces said they had provided air support in response to requests from the Afghans.
"I am enormously proud of how quickly Afghan security forces responded to (the) attacks in Kabul," said General John Allen, commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force.
ISAF labelled the attacks "largely ineffective". However, the fact that so many militants managed to make it through Kabul's so-called "Ring of Steel" checkpoints and attack high-value targets was a propaganda coup for the Taliban.
A Western diplomat with security expertise told AFP: "I don't share at all the optimism of NATO or the Americans.
"It's true that they did it better than in the past -- there is progress but still, to build up so many attacks and being able to launch them simultaneously demonstrates clearly (the Taliban's) ability to strike where and when they want," he said on condition of anonymity.
NATO insisted that the attacks would not influence its plans to withdraw.
"Clearly we still face security challenges," NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu told a news briefing in Brussels.
"But such attacks don't change the transition strategy, they don't change the goal and they don't change the timeline that we all agreed to at the Lisbon summit in November 2010," she said.
The US, British, German and Japanese embassy compounds came under fire as militants attacked the city's diplomatic enclave and tried to storm parliament, sparking a gun battle as lawmakers and bodyguards fired back from the rooftop.
Outside the capital, militants attacked government buildings in Logar province, the airport in Jalalabad, and a police facility in the town of Gardez in Paktya province.
The attacks marked the biggest assault on the capital in 10 years of war in terms of their spread and coordination, observers say.
In September last year Taliban attacks targeting locations including the US embassy and headquarters of foreign troops in Kabul killed at least 14 during a 19-hour siege.