Sunday, December 16, 2012
By:CNN contributor Bob Greene
The Newtown shooting has inspired a rare moment of national self-reflection about the second amendmentIn Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness the character of Kurtz, at his life's end, has a moment of profound lucidity, which prompts his last words: "The horror." This weekend in the wake of the latest terrible mass shooting in the US, at a primary school in Connecticut, which claimed the lives of 27 innocent people including 20 children, a similar public mood appears to have taken hold, given its most powerful expression in the moving speech by a President Barack Obama on the edge of tears. It is early days yet but the first indications are that the Newtown massacre has inspired a rare moment of national self-reflection over what is obvious to outside observers: that gun control in the US has failed with horrific consequences. In a single year – as Obama articulated – the US has also seen mass killings at a Sikh temple, a shopping mall and a cinema. In America in the past 40 years, a right-driven agenda has argued for the privatisation of the individual's right to own the means of the use of lethal force and driven an extraordinary proliferation of small arms. While it is clear that the US cannot be described as a failed state, in this one crucial aspect, however, it does demonstrate the traits of one. Indeed, Americans own twice as many guns per head as unstable Yemen, the country that has the second highest rate of firearm ownership on the planet. At the heart of the issue has been a deliberate effort by the gun lobby and the US right, beginning in earnest in the mid-1970s, to redefine the second amendment of the US constitution and recast a provision designed to provide collective defence in the shape of "well-regulated" militias as a modern and absolute individual right. That process reached its conclusion when a conservative-dominated supreme court passed two recent rulings affirming this meaning. What is paradoxical about all this, as the historian Jill Lepore made clear in her excellent examination of gun control for the New Yorker earlier this year, is that the proportion of Americans owning guns has been in a steady and significant decline. Indeed, between 1985 and 2010 the prevalence of gun ownership has declined from roughly a third of Americans owning a gun to barely 20%. Yet despite that, the US, by number of guns, remains the most heavily armed in the world with one weapon for almost every citizen, not least because those who do own guns now tend to have multiple weapons. In other words, gun ownership, in political terms, has for long been a minority issue in the US, with those who do own firearms – by and large being white, older and male – monopolising a national debate. All of which suggests that Obama has been presented with a historic opportunity, should he choose to grasp it. In the outpouring of anguish and horror over the Newtown shooting one is reminded of the public reaction in the UK to Hungerford and Dunblane, which saw two significant and incremental changes to gun laws in the UK, the first banning semi-automatic weapons and the second widespread ownership of handguns. For most outside observers the answer to America's gun problem appears self-evident. It needs to begin with a reinstatement of the ban on ownership of military assault weapons that have no business being in private hands. A proper federal system of regulation, including background checks registration, and limits on the type and number of weapons an individual can own, would bring the US belatedly into line with other civilised countries, as would a determined push back against state legislation allowing the carrying of concealed weapons in public. The rate of death from firearm injuries in the US, put very crudely, at more than 30,000 a year exceeds the annual death rate in the present war in Syria. Until the US confronts the reality of its failed policies regarding ownership of firearms it will live in a recurrent nightmare where it is condemned to confront the same horror as it did on Friday at Sandy Hook elementary school.
Bushmaster .223 rifle Identified as the semi-automatic weapon used by the Newtown gunman Allows rapid repetitive fire without the frequent need to reload Lightweight bullets fired from it reportedly travel at 3,000ft (914m) per second Rounds fired "in such a fashion that the energy is deposited in the tissue, so the bullet stays in" - Connecticut chief medical examiner H Wayne Carver Suitable "for those who want the general feel of a military weapon" - retired US Army sergeant major Eric HaneyPresident Barack Obama - who shortly after the school attack urged "meaningful action" against gun crime in the US - is to visit Newtown on Sunday.He will meet families and emergency service workers, and speak at an interfaith vigil at the town's high school. Ahead of his visit, a service for the victims at St Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church was abandoned and the church evacuated because of an unspecified threat. Reports from Newtown now say police have given the all-clear. The gunman behind Friday's shootings has been named in media reports as Adam Lanza, who is said to have killed his mother before driving to the school, opening fire and then killing himself. The state's chief medical examiner said the gunman used a semi-automatic rifle as his main weapon, and all the victims appeared to have been shot several times, some of them at close range. Speaking on Sunday, Governor Malloy said Connecticut had an existing ban on assault weapons, but the lack of a similar law at federal level made it difficult to keep them out of the state. "These are assault weapons. You don't hunt deer with these things," he told CNN. "One can only hope that we'll find a way to limit these weapons that really only have one purpose." Governor Malloy had to break the news to most of the victim's families on Friday."You can never be prepared for that - to tell 18 to 20 families that their loved one would not be returning to them that day or in the future," he said. Senator Feinstein, who represents California in the upper house of Congress and is a long-term supporter of stricter gun control, told US TV network NBC: "I'm going to introduce in the Senate, and the same bill will be introduced in the House (of Representatives), a bill to ban assault weapons." Asked if President Obama would support her measure, she said: "I believe he will." New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, another strong gun control advocate, has urged President Obama to act. "We have heard all the rhetoric before," he said. "What we have not seen is leadership - not from the White House and not from Congress. That must end today." All 20 children who died in the shootings - eight boys and 12 girls - were aged between six and seven, according to an official list of the dead. were killed. The youngest, Noah Pozner, had celebrated his birthday only last month. The head teacher at Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Dawn Hochsprung, was among the dead, along with adults Rachel DaVino, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Russo, Mary Sherlach and Victoria Soto. A woman who worked at the school was the only person to be shot and survive. Scores of people have left tributes at a memorial outside the school, while a minute's silence is being held before National Football League games across the US on Sunday. Connecticut State Police say the process of releasing the victims' bodies to their families is under way, and have condemned what they term "misinformation" being published on social media about the tragedy - including people wrongly claiming to be the gunman. Hid in cupboards The authorities now say the gunman forced his way into the school, contradicting first reports that he was been let in voluntarily.Investigators say they have gathered "good evidence" in the search for a motive, but have not given any details. The gunman is said to have shot dead his mother at their home before driving to the school in her car and opening fire on the victims. Reports say the guns found at the scene were registered to her. Education officials say they have found no link between the gunman's mother and the school, contrary to earlier reports that said she was a teacher there, the Associated Press news agency reports. Investigators said they believe Adam Lanza attended Sandy Hook many years ago. The killings took place in two rooms and a hallway within a single section of the school, police have said. The shooting lasted just a few minutes. As they heard the shots, teachers in other parts of the building tried to protect children by locking doors and ushering them into closets. Police say that children are unlikely to return to the classrooms where the shootings took place. Surviving pupils will be taught at other schools in the area while a final decision about the Sandy Hook's future is made, though one official said it was unlikely to re-open. The suspected gunman's father, Peter Lanza, said his family was "struggling to make sense of what has transpired". "Our family is grieving along with all those who have been affected by this enormous tragedy," he said in a statement. Pope Benedict XVI paid tribute to the victims and their families in his weekly address at the Vatican, saying he was "deeply saddened by Friday's senseless violence". The attack at Newtown is the second deadliest shooting attack at a US school or university, after the Virginia Tech killings of 2007, which left 32 people dead and many injured.
THE TIMES OF INDIAPakistan's interior minister Rehman Malik, who flown back on Sunday, thinks both the countries have moved much beyond merely sharing 'dossiers' on fugitives and key 26\11 accused. He says a lot of investigation has been done at Islamabad's end which could soon see conviction of the conspirators. During his short visit of less than 48 hours, he had not only ruffled many feathers by touching usual 'irritants' but also extended his wish-lists which he considers important for carrying forward friendly relationship. He wants India to do away with 'police reporting' clause in visa system. In an interview to TOI, he expressed his desire for a kind of relationship where citizens from both sides can even travel across the border (Wagah\Attari) in their private cars having smart cards and GPRS system to certain restricted areas. Excerpts: Q. Both the countries had signed the new visa agreement over three months ago. India was ready to implement it in October. What is the reason for this delay in implementing it from Pakistan's side? How will the liberalized visa system be beneficial? A. Even we were eager to implement it quickly. I had to come (for the launch of the agreement) but I could not come earlier. Secondly, if you are going to implement certain agreement, you have to set up a mechanism for this. I wanted to approve registered travel agents under ITTA (International Travel and Tourist Agency) guidelines as I did not want to face the charge of favouring certain operators. All these took time. The new visa regime will increase people-to-people contact which is a prerequisite to remove misunderstandings. Q. What other steps you think are important to facilitate more people-to-people contract and travel to each other's country? A. As a next step, I have even suggested during meetings that we should even do away with the system of 'police reporting' clause in visa. I don't think it is important to carry on with such a system in this electronic age where tracking of each-other nationals through computerized immigration checking system has become much easier. There is a suggestion from my side that we should reach a point where citizens from both sides can even travel across the border (Wagah\Attari) in their private cars having smart (security) cards and GPRS system to certain restricted areas. Q. Your remark that both the countries should forget the past and move on to bring an era of peace and friendship for future generations is appreciated but at the same time it also raises a question whether Pakistan only wants to forget 26\11 and Kargil. Why can't it move further back in the past and forget Kashmir and UN resolution on it? A. We have to forget that India and Pakistan are enemies. We are converging on Kashmir. It is a part of composite dialogue between the two countries. We are not forgetting 26/11. I never said forget the incidents. I said forget feeling of animosity. Let's create an era of brightness. I have found great hope between people of both the countries. Incidents are happening because we were not every close. Q. There doesn't appear to be any progress on the ground despite promises made by Pakistan on anti-terror measures. How can you expect progress in other fields? A. How many things have happened after Bombay blasts (Mumbai terror attack)? Whenever India has said it suspected some area we have searched and even shared information. Intelligence to intelligence, ministry to ministry, government to government...everybody is interacting. With interaction comes friendship. All incidents that are happening can be averted with friendship. You are spending millions we are spending millions (on security). We have to fight poverty and extremism. At government level, we have done many things. Now people-to people contact will clear misunderstandings. We have created a situation for this now. Q. People keep hearing about dossier on Hafiz Saeed (LeT chief and one of the key 26\11 conspirators). Pakistan appears to be reluctant to get to the bottom of the conspiracy behind the terror attack specifically when all evidence are there on Pakistani soil. Why there is no progress? A. We have move quite a far from dossier. We have done investigation which even your agencies have appreciated. We have done the investigation and submitted it to our Court where the trial is going on. The Court had formed the Judicial Commission. I have to follow my Court. My Court says until and unless and I repeat until and unless the witnesses are cross-examined they cannot proceed further. I can say with certainty that the trial would have been completed by now if the Judicial Commission from Pakistan had been allowed to cross-examine the four crucial Indian witnesses in the Mumbai attack case when it had visited India (in March, 2012). With the Indian government agreeing to let in the Commission visit Mumbai and cross-examine the witnesses "very soon", the trial in Pakistan (of Lashkar commander Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi and six other accused) would be concluded swiftly. Q. You must have discussed these issues when you met Indian delegation here. Would you please spell out those details? A. I have discussed many things and raised certain issues. I told them that India should share all the details of investigation done at its end...Abu Jundal (who had coordinated the Mumbai terror strikes of Ajmal Kasab and nine other Laskhar terrorists from the Karachi control room) is an Indian. We are also curious as to how he and others landed in Pakistan. He was a known criminal. He worked as a source of an Indian intelligence agency. I am not saying this. He himself has said so. I have seen records...We have to figure out all these...whether non-state actors from the two sides are acting at the instance of a third power. You are aware that things had taken an alarming turn, with both countries massing their troops on the border. Things would have been worse if the leadership on both sides had not shown maturity. Q. You remarks on Babri Masjid drew lot of attention. A cross-section of people thinks you shouldn't have raised India's internal matter. Your remarks mentioning 9\11, 26\11, Samjhauta Express blasts and Babri Masjid demolition issue in the same breath created unease even among those who are strongly advocating for peace between the two countries. What you have to say about this? A. There is no comparison, whatsoever, between Babri mosque demolition and 26/11 attacks. Babri mosque was actually ethnic. It was a sectarian strife... It should not be taken in a negative way. I have no intention to interfere in the inter-faith matter. Pakistan itself is a victim of inter-faith clashes, sectarian strife. There have been Shia-Sunni clashes in Pakistan. My intention was not to create confusion but sound caution to the both countries. I am not a kind of person who would interfere in somebody's religion or inter-faith matters but a person who goes out and leads on issues of communal harmony. So, I said like the incidents of 9/11, people dying in Quetta, our Shia and Sunni people are being killed in Karachi. I (had) also said incidents like Mumbai blasts, Babri Masjid case, I am repeating it here and please do not take it in a negative way, we do not want that these things should happen in any region of India and Pakistan. Religious violence often leads to extremism and every efforts should be made to check it.
Associated PressKey Egyptian rights groups are calling for a repeat of the first round of a constitutional referendum on grounds that the vote was marred by widespread violations. Representatives of the seven groups told a news conference that Saturday's vote in 10 of Egypt's 27 provinces lacked sufficient supervision by judges. They alleged Sunday that some individuals falsely identified themselves as judges, that vote counting was not witnessed by monitors and some women were prevented from voting. The claim of widespread violations came only hours after President Mohammed Morsi's Muslim Brother group claimed that a majority of Egyptians who voted on a proposed Islamist-backed constitution have approved the document. Turnout was unofficially estimated at around 32 percent. The second round of voting on the charter is planned for Saturday Dec. 22.
Following the first phase of the constitutional referendum political groups are looking ahead to the second stage. Campaigns for and against the constitution continue, with political groups doing their best to raise awareness in the 17 governorates yet to vote. Some groups have picked up the pace of their campaigns, while others are sticking to their initial plans. “We have so far distributed 60,000 flyers in Beheira, 35,00 in Kafr Al-Sheikh, 60,000 in Fayoum and 30,00 in Minya,” Mohamed Adel, spokesperson of the 6 April Youth Movement (Ahmed Maher Front) said. Adel added that the movement’s target is to distribute around 45,000 flyers per governorate. The flyers list reasons why voters should reject the draft constitution. Apart from the flyers, 6 April also arranges popular conferences where projectors are used to display videos about the constitution. Strong Egypt Party (SEP) is also strongly involved in anti-constitution campaigns. The party’s spokesperson, Mohamed Al-Mohandess, stated that the SEP is present among the people in the same manner they adopted before the first round of the referendum. “It will be difficult to shift the results of the referendum towards ‘No’ during the second phase,” Al-Mohandess said, “but the difference in percentage between both votes is not that big; we shall do our best.” According to the Freedom and Justice party’s count, preliminary results of the first stage suggest that “Yes” votes made up 56.5 per cent of the vote. The National Salvation Front (NSF) states that “No” votes made up 66.5 percent. Al-Dostour Party, one of the NSF members, is resuming a nation-wide campaign. “We believe that the first phase of the referendum witnessed large-scale rigging,” said Ahmed Al-Hawary, member of Al-Dostour Party’s steering committee. He added that the announced turn-out, almost 30 per cent, is disappointing. “While campaigning, we will call for repeating the first stage of the referendum.” Al-Dostour Party’s campaign includes door to door visits and TV commercials. Al-Hawary stated that due to a tight budget, party members are usually forced to campaign at their own expense. Pro-constitution campaigns are also moving forward. The FJP is still counting on their initial campaign entitled “With the Constitution, the Wheel of Production Will Spin.” The campaign mainly revolves around distributing copies of the draft constitution among the remaining 17 governorates (to counteract the alleged distribution of misleading counterfeit copies), as well as holding symposiums and popular meetings. “Usually, Constituent Assembly members, who drafted the constitution, attend our events,” said Ahmed Sobei, FJP spokesperson. Al-Nour party is also holding similar events to “enlighten” voters about the advantages of the constitution and answer to the “alleged shortcomings,” stated party high board member Sha’ban Abdel Alim. He added that the party is now working at the same pace it has been throughout the campaigning process. Al-Wasat Party is also campaigning in favour of the constitution, chiefly by holding workshops to educate its members and travelling the country. “The members’ morale has definitely improved now that we’ve won the first phase,” Amr Farouk, the Al-Wasat Party’s spokesperson, said, “it’s like we’ve won the first half of the match.” The referendum on the constitution began 15 days after the draft was finalised, upon President Mohamed Morsy’s decree. Several political groups, especially those in the NSF, reject the draft constitution and the swift referendum held on it.
http://www.washingtonpost.comPresident Obama will arrive NEWTOWN, Conn. Sunday to meet family members of those killed in Friday’s shooting rampage, carrying out the awful rituals of mass death and national grief for his fourth time in just four years as president. The president will meet with the families of the 27 victims of Friday’s shooting, including the 20 small children slain inside their elementary school. Obama will then speak at an interfaith vigil in the evening in Newtown.
http://www.thenewstribe.comBacha Khan Airport located in the provincial capital Peshawar has successfully resumed its operation after closure over damage done in an orchestrated terrorist attack on Saturday night.
By: Faiza MirzaWhen one is sitting thousands of miles away from Pakistan, every horrifying story and news event come across as more malicious than ever. Perhaps, living in safer countries, where rights are mutually respected and accepted, puts things into clearer perspective. There are times when I want to question God about why I opened my eyes into a society where religion is taken as a point of differentiation? Why was I born in a country where religious places are bombed? Why was I made to be a part of a society in which people continue to disrespect and kill others who are diverse and different? It is unfortunate that many amongst us continue to kill for religion, money and power, however, what is most unfortunate is that we have stopped paying respects to the dead as well. The desecration of an Ahmadi graveyard in Lahore is a prime example of the brutal death of Pakistan’s conscience. Religious bigots who continue to consider themselves as saviors of the Muslim brotherhood fail to realise that desecrating graves is not exactly aligned with the teachings of Islam. What purpose does this grotesque act serve rather than further disrespecting the dead, lying six feet under the ground seeking the peace that they could not get in the sanctuary of their own country? Is it not enough that fanatics disallow the Ahmadi community to live peacefully in Pakistan, that now they must destroy their final resting places? It is admonishable that the culprits were not even arrested for the repulsive acts that they have committed. Where were the law enforcing agencies and what happened to the caretakers of the graveyard? No matter what faith you belong to, it is impossible to not wonder about the families of the people whose graves were disrespected in the most obscene of ways. Most of us are nothing more than living corpses who neither feel nor understand the pain of hundreds of suffering non-Muslims and Muslim minorities living in Pakistan. More tragic is the fact that our respected Chief Justice, the custodian of human rights, fails to take any action against the mistreatment of living — and now also dead — minorities. If there ever was a suo moto action to take against anything, it would be this. Discouraged by the law and order situation and the ubiquity of religious fundamentalism in Pakistan, many Ahmadis have been forced to migrate to other countries in the hope of being treated on equal footings with other people in the society. An Ahmadi who now lives in Toronto shared his views on the incident, on condition of anonymity, “I am not at all surprised to hear that the intolerance has penetrated so deeply into the roots of our society. How can you expect militants and fundamentalist to respect the people who have left this world for good when they do not feel any pain for people who are alive? My family left Pakistan in the early 1990s because we were literally hounded by clerics and people who supported them. We would receive threatening letters about how if we do not accept the ‘one and only true form of Islam’ we would be killed or worse, our daughters would be raped because according to them sexually assaulting an Ahmadi woman was not considered a crime.” “Fundamentalists believe that we use excuses such as the one I just mentioned to seek asylum in foreign countries. That is certainly not the case. Nobody wants to leave their country and everything that they possess and start from scratch. But most of us are not left with any option,” he said, tears glistening in his eyes. Neither any social class nor any age is taken into consideration when it comes to the persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan. Adults and children alike are mistreated for their differing religious beliefs. Workplaces, playgrounds and even schools are used as platforms to spread hatred about them. Educational institutes primarily top the list of miscreants who aim to indoctrinate young minds by filling them with hatred for anyone who does not conform to their religious standards. Many Ahmadi students have been expelled from colleges and universities without any rhyme or reason whereas, others are abused with degrading and hurtful words. It is most ironic but when the entire world was filled with violence and disharmony over the Innocence of Muslims, a group of Ahmadi students was busy organising symposiums in Canadian universities to discourage violence by highlighting the aspects of the holy prophet and how the video was nothing but a way to instigate hatred and aggression. The symposium I attended was held at one of the local universities in the city of Windsor in Ontario. A lot of students showed up for it, some were Christians, many were Muslims and others were agnostic. Most of them came to hear about the life of one of the most revered personalities in Islam and left the auditorium with positive feelings about the religion and its followers. For me, these students are the true saviors. They’re trying to abridge the communication gap between different communities by answering hundreds of questions which are important to address in order to build an inclusive society. Societies which thrive on religious disharmony and bigotry perish sooner than later. It is time for us to wake up and safeguard the rights of religious minorities. It is time for us to hold their hands and stand in defiance to the fundamentalist elements who take advantage of our silence. It is indeed time to acknowledge their sacrifices and treat them with the respect that they truly deserve because their graves now seek answers.