Tuesday, July 17, 2012

US set to lose 2 million jobs

http://rt.com//blockquote> The Pentagon will see massive cuts over the next decade to adjust the ever-expanding US deficit. A new study reveals, however, that the immediate impact of those adjustments could cost 2 million Americans their jobs in the next year alone. The Aerospace Industries Association released the findings of a report on Tuesday that suggest that the automatic cuts in federal spending slated to kick in on January 2 have the potential of being far more damaging than imagined. The author of the report, Dr. Stephen Fuller of George Mason University and Chmura Economics and Analytics, suggests that while the Obama administration-endorsed sequestration goes about as scheduled, more than 2 million Americans will see their jobs eradicated in just 2013. "If they are allowed to occur as currently scheduled, the long-term consequences will permanently alter the course of the U.S. economy's performance, changing its competitive position in the global economy," the report warns. The expected cuts are touted as a necessary means to adjust the country’s growing deficit by way of decreasing Defense Department spending. This latest analysis reveals, however, that it isn’t just those with direct ties to the Pentagon who will be jobless. While the future of the Aerospace Industries Association — a trade group with close ties with the Pentagon — is obviously at stake, Dr. Fuller’s report says that it will be more than just military men and women made jobless by the cuts. In addition to lay offs coming to defense contractors and others with close DoD ties, the study suggests that as many as 600,000 federal workers will lose their jobs. Dr. Fuller adds that the automatic cuts, if triggered next year, could cause the US to see it’s gross domestic product drop by $215 billion in 2013, in turn plummeting consumer confidence and perhaps paving the way for years of irreversible damage. As the Associated Press reports, however, the federal government has not outlined specifics of the sequestration plan, suggesting that there is indeed some degree of uncertainty in the AIA released report. Later this week, the US House of Representatives is expected to vote on a measure that, if passed, could force President Barack Obama to put forth specific details about where the cuts will occur. "The federal agencies haven't said what they would cut back," Dr. Fuller tells the AP. "They don't have too many choices because most of their budget is payroll, where the Defense Department has more choices because most of its budget isn't payroll."

60% of Saudi citizens live below poverty line

Despite being world’s biggest crude exporter, sixty percent of the people in Saudi Arabia live below the country’s poverty line, a Saudi newspaper reported.
In an article published by the Okaz daily, Saudi journalist, Khaled al-Harbi wrote that while Saudi Arabia earns 1,500 billion riyals (around 400 billion dollars) a year, the average salary of an ordinary Saudi citizen should not be 1,500 riyals (around 400 dollars). According to official figures released by Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia (Shura), about 22 percent of Saudi citizens - at least 3 million citizens - live below the poverty line. Activists in Saudi Arabia have repeatedly criticized Riyadh for spending vast sums on buying arms from the West and not helping the millions living in poverty. In 2010, Riyadh purchased over 60 billion dollars worth of weapons from the United States, which Washington lauded as the largest arms deal in history. Saudi Arabia is the world's biggest oil exporter, with the black gold accounting for 90 percent of the country's exports.

Canada’s Afghan aid legacy under fire

Is Canada’s aid legacy in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province living up to the high hopes it raised? Not to hear some longsuffering residents tell it. They complain that key projects in the Taliban insurgency’s heartland haven’t made the material difference in their lives that they had been led to expect. People worry that the flow of water from the partly restored Dahla Dam and its irrigation canals may dry up over the summer, and they point to decrepit school buildings, the Star’s Paul Watson found on a recent tour. His series of reports in the Saturday and Sunday papers raise questions about the long-term sustainability of high-profile “signature” Canadian aid projects into which Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has sunk $70 million or more. And chillingly, Watson writes in today’s paper that despite Canadian efforts to help shore up the justice system, some Afghans are so disillusioned with official corruption that they are turning back to tribal courts and even to the Taliban for redress. Granted, the Kandahar projects are merely part of Canada’s broader $2 billion aid program in Afghanistan over the past decade. That aid is credited with helping to reduce water losses in the Dahla system and with boosting key crop yields, with sending 8 million children including millions of girls to school and with vaccinating more than a million against polio, among other major gains. Looking ahead, Ottawa intends to provide $227 million more through 2017 for mother and child health care, schooling and human rights. But as Watson discovered, the silt-choked Dahla Dam reservoir and its irrigation system still need major work. Some of the 52 schools we built or renovated show signs of shoddy construction. And the legal system remains weak despite our push to train judges and lawyers. It’s too early to take the view that we have “moved on.” Nothing is easy in Afghanistan. The insurgency plus corruption and waste have dogged projects, limiting the hoped-for benefits in terms of local development, security and stability. Afghanistan is a harsh aid environment, and gains can soon be reversed. But even so, Canada ought to acknowledge residual ownership for “signature” projects that have yet to fully deliver. Rather than declare mission accomplished, Ottawa should face up to the problems and pool funds with our American and other allies to help the Afghans finish what we have begun. There’s still plenty to do.

From Kabul to Istanbul: The rickshaw circus

A Canadian man and his German girlfriend are braving the Taliban to take a rickshaw on one of the world’s most dangerous road trips to bring the circus to children in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. Adnan Khan, 41, and his anthropologist sweetheart have embarked on the punishing 8,000-kilometre trip to Istanbul that demands a police escort and hoisting the rickshaw onto trucks to navigate the trickiest stages. Their purpose is twofold: raise money for a charity that uses circus training to lift the spirits of children in war-torn Afghanistan and to spread those circus skills along the way, to brighten the lives of refugees and orphans. Adnan left Kabul by road on July 11 as 25-year-old Annika Schmeding flew to Islamabad, after eight months in the Afghan capital, to prepare the way. Accompanied by Afghan police, Adnan drove to the eastern town of Jalalabad, then onto the border with Pakistan’s tribal belt. Washington considers the tribal belt the global headquarters of al Qaeda, and a den of Taliban and other militants plotting attacks in Afghanistan and against the West. It has not seen Western tourists in years. Nor does the three-wheel rickshaw, painted yellow, green and white with a jazzy “Rickshaw Circus” on the side, and sporting a brass clown horn, go unnoticed in terrain synonymous with kidnapping, suicide bombings and ambushes. “I finally got the rickshaw to the Pakistani side. It took hours. It was quite funny. A policeman told me ‘I haven’t seen a carnet de passage (the document needed for tourists to cross the border) in years,’” Adnan told AFP by telephone on Monday. His next task was speeding the rickshaw to Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar, where Osama bin Laden kept a house during the 1980s war against Soviet troops in Afghanistan, and onto the capital Islamabad. “The local tribal police force is going to have a guard travel with me,” he said, adding that he would be rushing to make Tuesday’s first show. The trip has been months in the planning. Khan and Schmeding expect to spend two months winding their way through Pakistan, Iran and Turkey — averaging 300 kilometres a day in six hours — in temperatures that can reach 50 degrees Celsius. The couple are determined to raise as much money as possible for the Afghan Mobile Mini Circus for Children (MMCC), which was recently forced to close a school in the western city of Herat and sack staff because of a shortage of funds. “We realised that MMCC is very good at running their programmes, but not really good in terms of publicity. So we wanted people to know that there’s been an actual social circus running in Afghanistan for about 10 years,” said Khan. The journalist, who lives in Istanbul but has been coming to Afghanistan regularly for the past 10 years, spoke as girls sang, juggled tennis balls and skittles, and boys danced around the rickshaw and jumped high into the sky. Organisers say the circus encourages concentration, discipline and stimulates intellectual development. “When they learn how to juggle and they go on stage, they get so much more self-confidence. They learn to express themselves. They learn how to trust, to share,” said Schmeding. Since 2002, the charity says it has reached more than two million children in a country where singing, dancing and cultural shows were banned by the Taliban regime, which was brought down in the 2001 US-led invasion. Besides children, the MMCC also puts on shows for grown ups designed to raise public awareness of basic hygiene, malaria and anti-personnel mines. “One thing is the educational message in it. Another one is to have the children being entertained,” said David Mason, the founder and co-director of MMCC. “In Afghanistan, entertainment has another mission. It’s therapy, collective therapy,” he added. Since 1979, Afghanistan has been largely at war. The 1980s saw the mujahideen fight to evict Soviet troops, then came civil war between 1992 and 1996, until the Taliban took power and the 9/11 attacks prompted the American invasion in 2001. Since then, a deadly Taliban insurgency has grown with each passing year, killing more than 3,000 civilians in 2011, according to the United Nations, which is a record. In Pakistan and in Iran, the rickshaw circus will stop every three days in a large town, where they will work with children in orphanages, hospitals and refugee camps. “It will be nice to raise some money for MMCC as they desperately need it. But the awareness is more important,” said Khan.

Benazir Bhutto: SC constitutes larger bench

The Supreme Court has constituted five members larger bench to look into the matter. The Supreme Court on Tuesday heard a case regarding registration of second FIR in Benazir Bhutto murder case.The apex court has decided to constitute a five member larger bench to look into the matter.Hearing of the case has been adjourned for indefinite period of time.

Karachi: UN polio vaccination doctor attacked near Sorabh Goth

Gunmen opened fire on a UN vehicle in Karachi Tuesday, wounding a driver and a foreign doctor working on a polio immunization campaign, officials said. Local police said two young Afghan men opened fire on the vehicle in the Soharb Goth neighborhood of eastern Karachi. “A foreigner was wounded critically while his driver sustained superficial wounds,” senior police official Shahid Hayat told AFP. Police said the foreign doctor had been traveling to a polio vaccination camp, when the vehicle was attacked. “One of our drivers and one of our staff were hurt, but currently they are both stable,” an official from the United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO) told AFP from Islamabad. Pakistan kicked off a three-day polio vaccination campaign on Monday.

Polio campaign troubles imperil 350,000 Pakistan children

Pakistan on Monday postponed a polio immunisation campaign in parts of its tribal belt, jeopardising the health of more than 350,000 children after the Taliban banned inoculations. Local Taliban and Pakistani warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur, whose followers are fighting Western troops in Afghanistan, banned the vaccinations in the northwestern region of Waziristan to protest against US drone attacks. They have condemned the immunisation campaign, which began nationwide on Monday, as a cover for espionage. Pakistani doctor Shakeel Afridi was jailed for 33 years in May after helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden using a hepatitis vaccination programme as cover. Fighting between government troops and local warlord Mangal Bagh also made it difficult to innoculate all children in Khyber district, officials said. "The campaign has been postponed in North and South Waziristan and Bara (district) of Khyber," Mazhar Nisar, in charge of the polio monitoring cell at the prime minister's secretariat, told AFP. Officials in Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan, said a meeting of tribal elders to discuss immunisation had been postponed due to a military curfew. In Khyber, administration official Irfanullah Wazir told AFP that the target was to vaccinate 200,163 children, but conceded the campaign would be affected in parts of Bara and the Tirah valley, where 111,556 children need the drops. "We will make every effort to reach the maximum children in those areas, with the help of security forces and lashkars (pro-government tribal militias)," Wazir said. Fawad Khan, director of health services in the tribal belt, told AFP last week that at least 160,000 children in North Waziristan and 80,000 in South Waziristan would be affected if polio drops are not administered. Pakistan says 34 million children under five will be targeted in the three-day polio immunisation campaign from Monday to Wednesday. The prime minister's office said 22 vaccination points had been established on the Afghan-Pakistani border, but expected that a "substantial proportion" of children in Bara, South and North Waziristan would not be accessed. The Lancet medical journal has said vaccination problems led last year to Pakistan's highest number of polio cases in a decade, 198, compared to 144 in 2010. Polio remains endemic only in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. The highly infectious disease affects mainly the under-fives and can cause paralysis in a matter of hours. Some cases can be fatal.


Some political leaders had been raising the controversy of annexed territories of Afghanistan by the British colonial rulers for which Baloch should not be blamed as they had no hand in keeping the territories of Afghanistan with Balochistan. Rather General Yahya Khan should be blamed for not merging the annexed territories of Afghanistan with nearby FATA or Waziristan. Neither Baloch had claimed on the annexed territories of Afghanistan, nor they are interested in the resources of that territory for any reason. It is a fact that Baloch nationalists never fought for Parliamentary seats in northern Balochistan, mainly in former Afghan territories, allowing the Pakthuns to retain their seats in the assemblies. On the contrary, the Pakhtuns are a serious economic burden on Balochistan as they are exploiting our resources and taking tens of billions of rupees every month on the pretext of development funds and administrative expenditure. For the past half a century, the Mulla had monopolized the development spending and keeping the portfolio of Planning and Development for the disadvantage of Baloch areas, to be precisely specific. Billions and billions are being spent on constituencies of Mullas and at the cost of the Baloch people and their rich resources. It must be stopped by merging the annexed territories of Afghanistan with FATA till such time both Pakistan and Afghanistan settle all their outstanding issues and disputes, including territorial disputes. All the Government servants, including doctors, engineers, judges of the superior courts and others should be asked to report to the FATA Secretariat to serve their Pakhtuns sparing Balochs. It is a good decision that the National Assembly is forming a commission demarcating the boundaries of the new provinces, including Seraiki Province, and the same commission should be asked to re-demarcate the former Afghan territories and merge it with FATA if the local residents were reluctant to remain with KPK for economic and social reasons. The same commission should re-demarcate the boundaries of existing provinces merging Dera Ghazi Khan, Dera Ismail Khan, whole of Jacobabad District and its surrounding historical Baloch territories with Balochistan and merging the Annexed Afghan territories with FATA. The Commission should be asked to create natural and national provinces by re-demarcating the provincial boundaries on ethnic, cultural and linguistic basis and to the satisfaction of Baloch and Seraiki people. It is regrettable that some vested interests in the pay of the security establishment are trying to create differences between the Balochs and Pakhtuns in Balochistan. Off and on they raise non-issues at the behest of their masters as they had no scope in politics as Mullas had been recruited permanently to serve the establishment in Balochistan, if not in KPK. The JUI is well entrenched in Balochistan politics as it is getting billions of funds to invest in their respective constituencies ousting PMAP and others. PMAP and ANP is no match to power and influence of the JUI in the present context. Generally, people are not taking the politics of PMAP seriously as it never addressed the serious issues and resorted to slogan mongering using catchy slogans for the lumpen elements in some cities. Long ago, it deviated from serious politics and failed to address serious political and constitutional issues. Second rank PMAP leadership is totally blank unable to understand the political, social, economic and other issues of the masses. It was due to the brain drain as most seasoned political workers preferred to go on sideline if they had not changed their loyalties. They created a vacuum in the ranks of party workers and depending on people who lack basic knowledge about the area, politics, economics and social issues. That is why, no individual is authorized to issue a statement and their views are dispatched to the newspaper offices through a centralized Press release issued from the Central Party office. Even journalists are barred from covering their meetings asking them to print what the Party office provide them material through a Press release. It is the level of confidence on the provincial leadership, not to speak of the district leadership.

Pakistan: Moody's downgrade: big surprise?

Downgrading of Pakistan's foreign and local currency bond ratings by one notch to Caa1 from B3 by Moody's Investors Service last week may not be surprising for those who have been watching the recent developments in country's economy closely. As is usually the case, the fresh assessment was claimed to be made on the basis of deterioration of certain key macroeconomic variables including worsening of country's balance of payments (BoP) position over the past year, the looming large repayments due to the International Monetary Fund, dwindling foreign exchange reserves and the institutional weaknesses stemming from political instability and constrained government finances. The main driver of Moody's one notch downgrade of the country's bond rating was the increasing strain on its external sector position as a result of a rising trade deficit and a decline in capital inflows. Weak government finances, structural inflationary pressures and domestic political uncertainties were also adding to Pakistan's vulnerabilities and other risks, thereby compounding the downward pressures on sovereign creditworthiness. In order to justify its action to downgrade Pakistan's credit rating, Moody's Service depended largely on the previous year's (2011-12) data which indicated several deteriorating trends in all the key areas of the economy. As part of the new rating action, Moody's has also revised Pakistan's foreign currency country ceiling to B3 from B1, foreign currency deposit ceiling to Caa2 from B3, and local currency bond and deposit ceilings to B1 from Baa2 and Ba2 respectively. The considerable change in the local currency ceilings reflect a downward assessment of Institutional Strength to "Very Low" from 'Low' in the assessment of sovereign risk. It needs to be remembered that Moody's is one of the three largest credit rating agencies in the world and the downgrade of Pakistan's foreign and local currency bond ratings from B3 to Caa1 - equal to the lowest rating Pakistan had ever gotten, cannot be easily dismissed and would have a considerable negative impact on the economy. Although, Pakistan's debt had generally been classified as "junk" but the position, in terms of ratings, was never as bad as declared in its latest report. Moody's highest-ever rating for Pakistan was B1 from November 2006 to May 2008 which was downgraded to B3, shortly before IMF rescue package for Pakistan came into effect. The rating agency had also downgraded Pakistan from B2 to B3 on the very day that Pakistan had conducted five nuclear weapon tests on May 28, 1998. Pakistan's downgrading to the new level of Caa1 shows that Moody's is now highly pessimistic about the prospects of the country's economy, particularly about its external sector. The present rating, in fact, is so poor that the country's debt rating has to go up seven notches in order to reach the lowest level of investment grade. Needless to say, that such an inferior rating by a highly reputed agency could be very harmful for the economy. In particular, foreign investors would avoid the country, external borrowings would be highly expensive and it would be more difficult for domestic banks to open LCs for imports. If the situation worsens further, foreign banks could demand cash for trade transactions which would be costly in financial terms and, in a way, humiliating for the country. All of this could have a negative impact on exchange rate, inflation, growth rate, employment and poverty level, etc. While Moody's has declared its new assessment, it could be plausibly argued that its action to downgrade our rating was rather hasty and ill-conceived. It is certainly a bit of a surprise that rating downgrade has been announced at a time when oil prices in the international market have dropped significantly, relations with the US have improved somewhat, exports to the EU countries could increase under the new policy regime, and home remittances are rising consistently. All these factors would have a positive impact on the external sector and reduce the risk of insolvency in the near future. Although, political tensions in the country are still high but unanimous agreement on the new Chief Election Commissioner suggests that the key players would prefer the system's continuity and shun direct confrontation. It also needs to be mentioned that Standard & Poor's has not changed Pakistan's credit rating so far and maintained its stable outlook. However, all of this does not mean that the country's economy is out of the woods. The government has already defaulted in its domestic sovereign obligations to the IPPs and could face problems in the foreign debt repayments in the next couple of years due mainly to the huge amount of principal and interest due for payment to the IMF. Whatever the future of the economy, authorities of the country, in our view, instead of disputing or worrying too much about the justification of Moody's latest move, need to concentrate wholeheartedly on reducing the vulnerabilities of economy through a bold reform process. If such a route is adopted, not only would our economy improve, the Moody's and others would also be forced to reassess Pakistan ratings.

PML-N turned into petition league

Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister on Interior Rehman Malik on Monday said that PML-N had turned into ‘Petition League’ and fulfilled all its desires through petitions. Addressing the public meeting after inaugurating passport office, he said that the government of Shahbaz Sharif was running on stay orders for the last four and a half years. He said that Pakistan People’s Party believed in the ballot and not the bullet. He hoped that general election would be held on time. Quoting the statement of Nawaz Sharif, he said that the PML-N chief had said that it would be rebellion to contest elections under the patronage of Pervez Musharraf, but still contested the elections under his (Musharraf’s) patronage. “It is a matter of astonishment that no FIR had so far been registered against Pervez Musharraf in Punjab,” he observed. “I salute to Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani who served the poor people and rendered valuable services in his respective area,” he added.

Nawaz should stop politicising judiciary

All Pakistan Muslim League Central Information Secretary Aasia Ishaq has said that Nawaz Sharif should stop politicising the judiciary as it will harm the country.According to the APML statement issued here on Monday, she said Nawaz Sharif and his party was spreading an impression that the country’s judiciary was functioning on his directions.“It is a time for an independent judiciary to take notice of the situation so that any political actor and producer cannot damage the image of the court,” she added.Aasia further said that Nawaz Sharif always preferred his family and personal interests and never worked for the betterment and development of the country.Moreover, All Pakistan Muslim League Central Vice President Sardar Ghulam Mustafa Khaskheli has said that everybody knows that foreign elements are behind the incidents of target killing in Quetta and Karachi but the question is that what the government is doing to root them out. According to an APML press release issued here on Monday, Sardar Ghulam Mustafa Khaskheli said frequent incidents of terrorism in Quetta and Karachi show the grim picture that state machinery and rulers were not serious to save the country from the clutches of terrorism. The writ of the government and rule of law has become a dream long lost. Target killers have plagued the society and the masses have been left at the mercy of criminals, he added.Target killing can be eliminated by taking indiscriminate action and shedding religio-political compromises, he added that elements involve in the killing of people should be taken to the task.Sardar Ghulam Mustafa Khaskheli said there was a rule of law prevailed during the Pervez Musharraf era, business community had no sense of insecurity which resulted in flourishing of industrialisation and investment, booming of economy and provision of employment to large number of people and strengthening of the country.Security forces took stringent action wherever the extremists and terrorists tried to challenge the writ of the government during Gen Pervez Musharraf’s rule and eliminated them but the present government is not utilising its full force, he added.

Swat summer festival comes to an end

The Express Tribune
Amid fireworks and cheers, the five-day Swat Summer Festival concluded in Kalam on Monday.
After another round of festivities and sports activities including tent-pegging, horse dances, gymnastics, acrobatics, karate display and horse, motorbike, boat and jeep races, Peshawar Corps Commander Lieutenant General Khalid Rabbani distributed prizes and souvenirs amongst the participants who secured top positions. “The success of the festival is proven by the huge number of tourists it attracted from across the country,” said Gen Rabbani, adding that it also a reminder that peace has been restored in Swat valley. “I invite tourists from the entire world to visit Swat without any hesitation and enjoy the spectacular and serene environment of the valley,” he said. He promised that another festival on the same pattern will also be organised next year. “At first, we were hesitant to come to Swat as we had heard many horror stories, but after we arrived, we realised that those were just stories. The valley is peaceful and the people are very hospitable,” Zubair Zahid, a tourist from Islamabad told The Express Tribune. He said that police officials can be seen deputed at every tourist spot, which provides a sense of security. Though the festival had officially ended, thousands of people could still be seen thronging the various tourist resorts in Swat. “The cool breeze on our cheeks and the spectacular sceneries you only see in pictures, everything is perfect here,” said Ayesha Anam, an eighth-grader from Karachi, as she sat on a charpoi along Swat River. With the staggering influx of tourists, local hoteliers and salespersons are having a field day. Seven-year-old Javed, who sells boiled eggs after school hours, said he has been earning around Rs200 to 300 every day since the festival started. “I hope the people keep coming,” he said.