Friday, December 28, 2012
Five Christian churches, three Hindu temples, and one mosque of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community were attacked in Pakistan in 2012, according to a report prepared by the Pakistani Bishops Conference’s Justice and Peace Commission. 95% of Pakistan’s 190 million people are Sunni or Shia Muslims. The report also cited “cases of forced occupation of land destined as places of worship” and “the murders of those engaged in the construction of places of worship.”
http://www.presstv.irJordanian protesters have taken to the streets across the country to call for political reforms and price cuts. During demonstrations on Friday, protesters called on the government to prevent the prices of everyday goods, and especially fuel, from rising, Jordan’s Petra news agency reported. Prices of everyday items have soared in Jordan in recent months. The prices of natural gas cylinders, diesel fuel, and gasoline increased by 54, 33, and 15 percent respectively on November 13, when government subsidies were withdrawn to tackle a budget deficit of 3.5 billion dinars ($5 billion). The demonstrators also chanted slogans against the country’s intelligence agency, demanded the release of prisoners arrested during previous anti-government demonstrations, and called for a boycott of parliamentary elections scheduled for January 23. Jordanians have been holding demonstrations since January 2011, demanding political reforms, including the election of the prime minister by popular vote and an end to corruption. Since the demonstrations began, Jordanian ruler King Abdullah II has sacked three prime ministers to appease the protesters.
A political summit Friday at the White House left it to the Senate's top Democrat and Republican to work out a compromise to avoid the country going over the fiscal cliff, participants said. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, told reporters that the next 24 hours would be "very important" toward efforts to reach a deal to lessen the harshest impacts of the fiscal cliff, a combination of broad tax hikes and deep spending cuts due to take effect at the start of the new year. "Whatever we come up with is going to be imperfect. Some people aren't going to like it, some people are going to like it less," Reid said on the Senate floor after the high-stakes meeting with President Barack Obama, other congressional leaders and top administration officials. Reid's Republican counterpart, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, expressed hope that he and Reid could agree on a plan to present to their respective caucuses "as early as Sunday." Obama said he was "modestly optimistic" that the Senate leaders would be able to forge an agreement, even as he warned "nobody's going to get 100% of what they want." Absent such a deal, Obama said his latest proposal should be put to a vote. He predicted it would pass the House and Senate with bipartisan support. Economists warn that continued stalemate could trigger a recession as government spending is slashed, including for the military, and taxes go up on everyone, due to the expiration of lower rates dating to the administration of President George W. Bush. Diminished hope for a substantial agreement in Washington depressed stock indexes on Wall Street this week despite other encouraging economic news. Consumer confidence has also softened. Prior to Friday's late afternoon meeting, which lasted just over an hour, a source familiar with the matter said Obama would propose the framework for a scaled-back agreement that he described last week. In his later remarks, Obama described his plan as holding down tax rates on middle-class Americans -- which he described as family income up to $250,000 -- while letting rates increase for top income brackets. It also would extend unemployment benefits and "lay the groundwork" for economic growth and deficit reduction. At the very least, Reid said he was preparing legislation for a vote by Monday that would include elements favored by Obama. "I look forward to hearing any good-faith proposals Senator McConnell has for altering this bill," Reid said in a statement that followed his floor remarks. The White House meeting came with the Senate back in town for a rare end-of-year appearance before a new Congress convenes January 3. Boehner plans to bring the House back on Sunday. Senators from both parties earlier expressed opinions on the negotiations that ranged from optimism to frustration. "When the dust settles and everything is said and done, federal individual income taxes are not going to go up on almost all Americans next year," GOP Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said. Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York told NBC's "Today" show he was "a little more optimistic today" about a deal being reached. "Sometimes it's darkest before the dawn," Schumer said, noting the renewed engagement by McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner, the top congressional Republicans. Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee downplayed Friday's meeting on CBS "This Morning" as a seeming political ploy "to make it look like we're doing something." "This is a total dereliction of duty at every level," added Corker, who has urged Republicans to compromise on the central issue of letting tax rates increase on top income brackets. "I've been very surprised that the president has not laid out a very specific plan to deal with this, but candidly Congress could have done the same. And I think the American people should be disgusted," he said. On Thursday, McConnell vowed his side would not "write a blank check for anything Senate Democrats put forward just because we find ourselves at the edge of the cliff." Reid, however, argued Republicans undermined a potentially major agreement over the past two years by refusing to compromise on their opposition to higher tax rates for the wealthy.The principal dispute continues to be over taxes, specifically Democrats' demand to extend most of the tax cuts passed under Bush while allowing higher rates of the 1990s to return on top income brackets. During his re-election campaign, Obama said this would protect 98% of Americans and 97% of small businesses from tax hikes. Republicans have opposed any kind of increase in tax rates, and Boehner suffered the political indignity last week of offering a compromise -- a $1 million threshold for the higher rates to kick in -- that his GOP colleagues refused to support because it raised taxes and had no chance of passing the Senate. Democrats have rejected the GOP proposals, which would extend all Bush-era tax cuts and revise prescribed spending cuts, calling them insufficient and saying they would shift too much deficit reduction burden on the middle class. One possibility is the fiscal cliff takes effect and taxes go up in January, then Congress steps in to bring tax rates back down for at least some people -- allowing them to say they're lowering taxes, even if rates for top income brackets are higher in 2013 than they were in 2012. Obama and Democrats have leverage, based on the president's re-election last month and Democrats' gains in the House and Senate in the new Congress. In addition, polls consistently show majority support for Obama's position on taxes, and Democrats insist the House would pass the president's plan with Democrats joined by some Republicans if Boehner allowed a vote on it. However, anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist has vowed to back primary challenges against Republicans who violate his widely signed pledge not to raise taxes. Even if a deal is reached, Norquist predicts more budget showdowns every time the government needs additional money to operate. The two sides seemingly had made progress early last week on forging a $2 trillion deficit reduction deal that included new revenue sought by Obama and spending cuts and entitlement changes desired by Boehner. Boehner appeared to move on increased tax revenue, including higher rates on top income brackets and eliminating deductions and loopholes. But his inability to rally all House Republicans behind his plan raised questions about his role and what comes next. All this has fueled disdain for politicians by many Americans. Such contempt is deserved, said Rep. Steven LaTourette, an Ohio Republican, who is retiring from Congress. "I think America should be embarrassed by its leadership in D.C.," he told CNN on Friday. "The fact that we have been unable to do things, and instead worried about our next elections. ... I think it's sinful."
ahram.org.Diplomats and journalists say they are being pressured to abandon their opposition of the president. Some Egyptian diplomats and media personnel have complained that they are being pressured by their bosses into refraining from criticising Egypt president Mohamed Morsi. Opposition forces have frequently accused Morsi of attempting to curb freedoms since the influential Muslim Brotherhood group propelled him into office in Egypt's first freely contested elections earlier this year. “I was summoned into the office of the assistant (foreign) minister; he said we were all partners in making the (January) Revolution a success and now we should be sensible to help the president deliver the hopes and dreams of the Revolution," said a young diplomat about what he considered as an explicit warning by his boss. "He added a few incoherent words about the national role of the foreign service, its independence and so on; then he asked me to be ‘careful’ and not to confuse my role as a diplomat with that of an activist." According to this diplomat, who asked for his name to be withheld to spare the disclosure of the identity of his boss, other young diplomats were given the same warnings. “One of them was told that his overt opposition to the president would undermine his chances to go a good post and another was told that the minister (of foreign affairs) is so angry with his ministry being looked at as disloyal by the president,” the same diplomat added. During the past few weeks, some diplomats have declined to bow to orders issued by Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr to promote the president’s political choices, Ahram Online has learnt. Others have declined to observe the referendum over a controversial draft of the constitution. In the two cases the minister received written and open letters from the concerned diplomats. Meanwhile, on their internal diplomats' Facebook group, the Lotus, Egyptian diplomats have openly criticised the president’s decisions and what they perceived as the "unsatisfactory state of foreign relations due to the choices of the president". To prompt an end to this, the minister had re-issued a decree, which was in place during the transitional rule of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), to prohibit discussion over state affairs through the Lotus under the pretext that this attitude "poses a threat to state secrets”. Restrictions on media?
A 23-year-old Indian woman who was raped by six men on a bus, has died of her injuries in a Singapore hospital. The hospital said in a statement she "died peacefully," after almost two weeks fighting for survival. Mount Elizabeth Hospital said in a statement that the young Indian woman died of her injuries early on Saturday morning. She was gang-raped, beaten and then thrown from a bus by six men on December 16.
"We are very sad to report that the patient passed away peacefully at 4.45 a.m. [local time, 2045 UCT on the previous day] on 29 December, 2012," Kelvin Loh, the chief executive of Mount Elizabeth Hospital, said in a statement. "Her family and officials from the High Commission of India were by her side. The Mount Elizabeth Hospital team of doctors, nurses and staff join her family in mourning her loss." The 23-year-old was traveling with a friend, who was also set upon by the men, on a bus in New Delhi when the attack occurred. The attackers apparently hailed from rural, conservative areas of the country but had moved to New Delhi. Her ordeal has prompted public protests demanding greater protection from sexual violence for women. The chief minister of West Bengal state, Mamata Banerjee, on Friday pledged 65 all-female police stations dealing with crimes against women. She said that ten of them were already up and running.
Federal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira claimed on Friday that Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari did not say anything against the judiciary in his December 27 speech in Garhi Khuda Bukhsh, reported Express News. Speaking to the media at Sukkur airport, Kaira said that the PPP respects the judiciary, and a free judiciary is a sign of a strong nation. The minister also clarified that Bilawal had not called for the arrest for his mother Benazir Bhutto’s killers, but had appealed for punishment to be given to the arrested accused.