Thursday, October 25, 2012

Barack Obama warns Middle America Mitt Romney would betray them
A newly combative Barack Obama on Wednesday warned the struggling voters of the American Midwest, whose ballots could decide the presidential race, that Mitt Romney would betray them if elected and must not be trusted.
Opening a "48-hour, fly-around marathon extravaganza" of crucial states with his most aggressive speech of the campaign so far, the president urged Iowa not to catch "Romnesia" and forget the radical plans his Republican challenger now plays down. "We joke," he told 3,500 supporters at a soggy fairground, with the same spikiness he displayed in this week's final televised debate. "But all of this speaks to something important: trust. There's no more serious issue on a presidential campaign than trust. Trust matters." "You know me, Iowa," he told the state that propelled him to the White House with a shock party caucus win in 2008. He added that while Mr Romney flip-flopped, Mr Obama was "the same guy". Onstage the president, who leads Iowa polls by two percentage points, brandished the 20-page manifesto he has published late in the campaign to counter charges that he has no second term agenda.He was followed into the state – a vast expanse of corn fields bigger than England, with a population of just three million – by Mr Romney, who said the glossy pamphlet disclosed "no new plans". Accusing Mr Obama of ditching "change" to become the "president of status quo", he said in Cedar Rapids: "The policies of the president are a continuation of what we've seen over the last four years." Volunteers for both candidates are frantically knocking doors and treading pavements across Iowa in an effort to clinch the critical six votes it will contribute to the national electoral college of 538. While the national vote is tied, Mr Obama will win re-election if he can take Iowa, neighbouring Wisconsin and nearby Ohio, while holding states already pencilled into his column. If Mr Romney loses in Ohio, where he has consistently trailed, he must construct a patchwork of smaller states – starting with Iowa. Local residents said their televisions and radios were blaring attack advertisements around the clock, while their postboxes were stuffed full with mail-outs, such as Mr Obama's new pamphlet. Yet in a setback to the president, The Des Moines Register, a powerful regional newspaper, complained yesterday that he had insisted on being interviewed "off the record", keeping his remarks secret. "The answer to one of the most important questions the Register ever can ask a politician – "Why should you be our president?" – deserves to be shared with voters," its editors wrote. Facing claims from aides to Mr Romney, who gave a full interview, that the decision "betrayed the president's lack of confidence about his failed record and lack of a vision", Mr Obama relented. The transcript showed he pledged to overhaul US immigration laws, having failed to do so in his first term as promised. He predicted Republican leaders would co-operate having "alienated the fastest-growing demographic group", Latinos, with extreme statements during the campaign. Mr Obama also reiterated his goal to strike a "grand bargain" to reduce the $1.2 trillion budget deficit via $2.50 in spending cuts for every extra dollar in tax revenue. Republicans say taxes must not rise. Supporters in Davenport said middle America backed Mr Obama's plan. "People here are worried about how to make it to the next day, how to fill their cars," said Rodney Maiden, a 40-year-old mature student. "Obama has walked in those shoes – and he hasn't forgotten. Romney has never struggled". In a feisty speech, Mr Obama claimed Mr Romney would "turn back the clock 50 years for immigrants, gays and women" and repeatedly said the Republican had shown himself to be untrustworthy. He attacked Mr Romney for claiming to be a "car guy" after opposing the government bail-out of the US auto industry – central to the Midwestern economy – and for now saying his plan to cut income taxes by 20 per cent would not benefit top earners, after privately assuring donors that it would. Listing such symptoms of "Romnesia", he joked that the prescription was ObamaCare, his health system reform. "We can cure you, Iowa!", he said. "We can cure folks of this malady, this disease." In the crowd, Mercedes Rosing, who cares for her disabled husband full-time, said she feared Mr Romney's plan to scrap ObamaCare. "We struggle with insurance costs," she said. "We need help". Mrs Rosing, 55, said times were so hard that Mr Obama's support was not guaranteed. "I thought Romney might not be so bad, that he was a moderate," she said. "But he's shifted. I'm worried what he would do".

President Obama on Donald Trump - The Tonight Show with Jay Leno

Human trafficking, prostitution thrive in Afghanistan

Thousands of Afghan girls
and boys are trafficked into neighboring countries and sold into slavery each year. Though it is taboo, prostitution is alive and thriving - at the cost of those forced to work in it. It is the oldest trade in the world and exists in probably every country in the world. Yet prostitution is not a dream job. Most female sex workers are forced to make a living through prostitution. In conservative Afghanistan, prostitution is illegal. But that doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. Human trafficking is booming - young women are being sold and sent over to neighboring countries, mostly to Pakistan.Many people are unaware of just how many women are forced to work as prostitutes, according to Heather Barr of Human Rights Watch's Asia Division. "HRW did a report that was released in March this year about women in prison for moral crimes. And one of the things that I found really surprising by doing those interviews, was how many women I met, had been forced in prostitution often by their husbands and in-laws." Women sold as commodities The reason, she explained, that women were forced into the sex trade by their families was due to poverty and drug addiction - usually of a husband or brother or both. The families often saw women as a source of money and take advantage of it. Women from Pakistan are also been bought and sold to Afghanistan. Poor or practically non-existing security at the border means criminals smuggling and trafficking goods and people can easily get away with it. When the trafficked people arrive on the other side of the border, they are fully at the mercy of their pimps. One woman from Pakistan who wished not to be named is now in Jalalabad - far away from her home in Karachi. "We are poor and helpless. What are we supposed to do? We don't have anything to eat. That's why the "big man" brought us here from Karachi. No one likes doing this work, but I don't have any other choice," she told DW. The young woman speaks neither of Afghanistan's official languages - Dari and Pashtu. She said she didn't know who to turn to and was afraid of the consequences she would face should she run away and the authority of her pimp, the "big man," as she called him. But he himself also cited poverty as a reason to force women into prostitution."I do this because I am poor and I want to be able to feed my children. I am aware that there are dangerous consequences, harsh punishments for this kind of work - for instance death or being ostracized and other things." But he insisted he did not force anyone to work - that the women who work for him prostituted themselves because they wanted to. Prostitution, whether out of one's own will or not, is illegal according to Islamic law. The cleric Nek Mohammad works for the court in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar and offers consultations on Islamic law. All forms of position are illegal, he told DW. "At least four people have to bear witness to the crime. And should the prostitute or the person who buys her be married, his or her spouse will have to be stoned. If there are no married people involved, then they receive lashings." Disease But punishment is not the only thing to worry about. Most of the prostitutes are unaware of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as HIV and do not use condoms. The number of cases of STDs had sharply risen in the past few months, according to Dr. Baz Mohammad Sherzad, head of Nangarhar province's health ministry. "Our doctors confirm that many young men who have come to us recently have had urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted diseases. If prostitution is allowed then it is no wonder there is an increase in such problems in Nangarhar." Nonetheless, doctors should promote educational campaigns, said Sherzad. The government should tackle the problem. Yet the government had a whole set of other problems: "Think about child marriage, forced marriage, domestic violence, the sale of women for marriage and other purposes, forced prostitution, self immolation - honestly the government hasn't been dealing very effectively with any of those issues," said Heather Barr. She said it was unfortunate that there was a lack of political will to solve these issues. Progress was only made very slow. As of recently, it is now illegal to lock up women for running away from home, which is just a further symptom of the violence and forced prostitution women continue to face in Afghanistan.

Durand Line: Border Talk Crosses The Line In Afghanistan

Foreign diplomats visiting Kabul tread carefully when it comes to the Durand Line, knowing full well that the colonial-era border separating British India and Afghanistan is a touchy subject. Merely affirming a long-standing policy when it comes to the contentious demarcation can be viewed by Afghans as a step too far, as the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman, discovered following an interview with a private Afghan television channel this week.
"Our policy is that border is the international border," Grossman said on October 21. "I think it is time to lift everybody's vision here to a regional conception of what the region could be." It was no secret that Washington considers the Durand Line -- established by British India and the Kingdom of Afghanistan in 1893 -- the modern-day border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland offered reminders of that fact during an October 23 press briefing in which she was questioned about Grossman's comment. "Our policy on this has not changed," she said. "It was correctly stated by Ambassador Grossman that we see this as the internationally recognized boundary." But the comments have nevertheless raised hackles in Afghanistan, which has not recognized the Durand Line as its eastern border since Pakistan's partition from the British Raj in 1947.The Afghan daily "Weesa" this week quoted several Afghan lawmakers describing Grossman's statement as interference in domestic Afghan affairs. And the official reaction was curt, with the Afghan Foreign Ministry issuing a statement on October 23 saying that Kabul "rejects and considers irrelevant any statement by anyone about the legal status of this line." The status of the Durand Line, the statement added, was a matter of "historic importance for the people of Afghanistan." 'An Issue For Pashtuns, And Pashtuns Only' The Durand Line is indeed divisive. It runs directly through traditional Pashtun lands, splitting one of the world's largest tribal societies in two. Those to the west of the line are Afghan; to the east Pakistani. Abdul Ghafoor Liwal, the head of Kabul's Center for Regional Studies of Afghanistan, says the Durand Line is considered a top national issue in the country, but one that is up to the Pashtuns themselves to decide. "Recognizing the legitimacy of this line is in the hands of the masses that live on either side of the border. This is also the formal position of the Afghan government," Liwal says. "This is why the Afghan government has protested against this [Grossman's] statement." The United States is not alone on this issue, as new U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham noted. "The United States, as many other countries, have long recognized the Durand Line as the boundary between Afghanistan and Pakistan," he told journalists in Kandahar on October 23. But there are those in Afghanistan who would rather not be reminded of that fact. "I think talking about such [controversial] issues will have negative consequences for relations between America and the people of Afghanistan," Aryan Yoon, a member of the foreign-relations committee of the Afghan parliament, said this week. "I think it will benefit both countries if we desist from talking about such issues." Liwal, whose government-funded think tank researches strategic and foreign-policy issues, says most Afghans still dream of a return of the much bigger and united Afghanistan that existed before the advent of European colonialism in South Asia. Modern Afghanistan emerged from the fragmentation of the Durrani dynasty, an 18th-century Pashtun empire based in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. Internal rivalries and wars eventually weakened the dynasty's hold on regions that today constitute Pakistan and northern India. The arrival of the British in northern India in the 19th century posed a major challenge to the Afghan and Turkic powers that had dominated the subcontinent for centuries. After losing a major war to the Afghans in 1842, the British eventually captured parts of Afghanistan and formally annexed them through an arbitrary treaty in 1879. Their forces occupied Kabul at the time. The contentious 1893 treaty between Afghan King Amir Abdur Rahman and Mortimer Durand, the foreign secretary of British India, formalized the areas under the control of the two governments.

Pakistani Girls Under threat

The Taliban may be seeking to hunt down other young girls in the country who, like Malala Yousafzai, have dared to oppose the Taliban’s edicts against education for women. According to a report in this newspaper, another young woman has received threats. Hina Khan, daughter of an ANP leader – Reyatullah Khan – fled Swat with her parents and four younger siblings some years ago so that she could continue her studies and pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. But even in Islamabad, where her parents work with an NGO, it appears Hina has not been left alone. Her father reports to have received death threats against her from a Peshawar number; ominously a red mark has also appeared on the gate of her residence in Islamabad. As per her father’s account, the police have failed to offer any protection even though the matter was reported to them. Like Malala, Hina has also spoken out against the Taliban for opposing women’s right to be educated. It seems then that young, outspoken girls may be becoming the latest target of the Taliban. Pumping a bullet or two into a girl on her way to school or college is an easy task. Quite evidently it is intended to brutally underscore Maulana Fazalullah’s message against educating girls. The question for the state is how it can protect these girls against assailants who know no humanity and have learnt nothing of what their religion teaches. What happened to Malala should act as a warning, and we must prevent others from being attacked in a similar fashion. It would be foolhardy to treat the threats directed Hina’s way lightly, given that the Taliban are apparently determined to drive home their obscurantist message.

Pakistan: Farm wealth on the rise

Farm incomes have risen in recent years due to what is generally accepted as the PPP government's support price policy that makes major crops more attractive for farmers to grow relative to other crops. The major crops that have benefited from high support price are wheat, rice, sugarcane and cotton. In 2007-08, the acreage under cultivation of the four major crops was 8.5 million hectares, 2.5 million hectares, 1.24 million hectares and 3 million hectares, respectively, which by 2011-12 registered 8.9 million hectares, 2.36 million hectares (decline), 988,000 hectares (decline) and 2.68 million hectares (decline). However, barring total wheat output which rose by 4.2 million tonnes between the two years reflecting the rise in acreage under cultivation the remaining three major crops suffered a decline in output: rice by minus 740,000 tonnes, sugarcane by negative 8.6 million tonnes and cotton by negative 33,000 tonnes of cotton no doubt indicative of a decline in area under cultivation of these crops. However what should be a source of satisfaction to the government was a marked increase in the yield per hectare of wheat, sugarcane and cotton: between 2007-08 and 2011-12 wheat yield rose from 2,451 kg per hectare to 2,833 kg per hectare, sugarcane from 51,507 kg to 55,981 kg and cotton from 649 to 724 kg per hectare. Rice witnessed a decline in yield from 2,212 kg per hectare in 2007-08 to 2,039 kg per hectare in 2011-12. Farmers have complained vociferously of a rise in their input costs that surpassed the benefits accruing from a high support price. It is relevant to note that fertiliser consumption declined as price of fertilisers rose last year: urea by 81.4 percent, DAP by 38.8 percent, CAN by 75.5 percent and NP by 45.7 percent. However, in the current fiscal year, the budgeted subsidy for Fauji Fertiliser Bin Qasim Ltd is 3.4 billion rupees as opposed to 162 million rupees in the revised estimates of last year. The fact that the gas supply crisis is acute at this stage with concerns that the shortage in the coming winter is likely to be much higher than last year, it is unlikely that the federal government would be able to provide the gas required for operating the public sector fertiliser company. And in that event the subsidy may be redirected to other sectors. A subsidy of 26 billion rupees is earmarked for TCP's import of urea fertiliser. Additionally, all other major crop inputs witnessed a dramatic increase in price over the past four years particularly electricity and transport. And coupled with the floods last year, output was negatively impacted. These factors had an impact on consumer pricing and necessitated commodity operations to ensure that the price of food items remained affordable. The government has budgeted a major reduction in subsidy to Passco for wheat and paddy operations: from 14.626 billion rupees in last fiscal year to 1.1 billion rupees in the current fiscal year. However, the government cannot allow food prices to escalate at the levels that would reflect the existence of free market conditions, conditions that incidentally are allowed to control the price of farm produce in the developed countries. Thus the government would continue to provide subsidy to the end consumer through manipulating the consumer market. The actual focus of the government however must be on increasing the yield per hectare. At present, the Punjab has lower average yield than the Indian Punjab. The major difference between the two regions is that the Indian Punjab is taking full advantage of genetically-modified foods that are said to have the capacity to increase yield, discourage growth of weeds, and what should be of considerable interest to our farmers seeds have been developed which are said to be drought-resistant, requiring much smaller quantities of water to grow. The situation, therefore, underscores the need for efforts towards promoting agri research. And to achieve this objective, the government must strengthen and speed up the approval process of the National Bio-safety Committee to enable it to promptly deal with policy matters relating to agriculture.

Henry Kissinger had a role in Bhutto's execution

Former Army Chief General ® Aslam Beg expresses reservations over the SC verdict in Asghar Khan case but said he has confidence in the judiciary
Beg added that the then US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had played a role in the hanging of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.