Monday, November 11, 2013
President Obama highlighted the near end to "America's longest war" in Afghanistan but warned the country to never forget its "sacred obligations" to those returning home in uniform, in his Veterans Day address at Arlington National Cemetery. Thanking those in the 9/11 generation for serving "tour after tour after tour" abroad, the President praised the newest group veterans for bringing "the core of al Qaeda ... on the path to defeat" but reminded the nation that the duty to veterans should remain a top priority - just weeks after lawmakers were slammed for allowing military death benefits to lag during the government shutdown.With the blazing sun shining on the gathered guests Monday in Virginia, the President celebrated the near conclusion of the 12-year-old Operation Enduring Freedom - though a small band of U.S. troops, estimates suggest fewer than 10,000, will remain in Afghanistan after the end of the year. "Even though this time of war is coming to a close, our time of service to our newest veterans has only just begun," the President said.At Monday's ceremony, Obama also marked the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War and paid tribute to 107-year-old Richard Overton, among the oldest living veterans who served in World War II. "This is the life of one American veteran, living proud and strong in the land he helped keep free," Obama said of Overton, who received a standing ovation. First Lady Michelle Obama, dressed in a long black coat, joined her husband for the remembrance ceremony as did the Bidens and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Before the event at Arlington, the Obamas hosted a group of veterans, including Overton, for a White House breakfast. Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/obama-honors-veterans-america-longest-war-article-1.1513200#ixzz2kOxNB6hK
Arab women played a central role in the Arab Spring, but their hopes the revolts would bring greater freedom and expanded rights for women have been thwarted by entrenched patriarchal structures and the rise of Islamists, gender experts in the countries say. Almost three years after popular uprisings toppled autocratic leaders in one of the most conservative corners of the world, a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll on 22 Arab states showed three out of five Arab Spring countries in the bottom five states for women's rights (for the methodology behind the poll, please see poll2013.trust.org). Egypt emerged as the worst country to be a woman in the Arab world today, followed closely by Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Egypt scored badly in almost every category, including gender violence, reproductive rights, treatment of women in the family and their inclusion in politics and the economy. Arab Spring countries Syria and Yemen ranked 18th and 19th, respectively - worse than Sudan, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and insurgency-hit Somalia, which scored better on factors such as political and economic inclusion, women's position in the family, reproductive rights and sexual violence. Libya and Tunisia came in 9th and 6th. But while the situation is dire, some activists saw reasons for optimism. For one thing, the revolts led more poor women and those on the margins to be aware of their rights. Women's rights have traditionally been a concern of the "intellectual elite" in Egypt, where many are illiterate and live below the poverty line, said Nihad Abul Komsan, head of the Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights. "We used to suffer from the fact that talk of women's rights came across as talk ... limited to the creme-de-la-creme ladies of society," she told Reuters. "But the big challenge women faced led to women's issues being discussed on the street by ordinary women and illiterate women." SURPRISE RESULT The questions to 336 gender experts invited to take part in the poll were based on key provisions of the U.N. Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which all Arab Spring states have signed or ratified. The polling took place in August and September. Egypt's ranking below Saudi Arabia, where women are banned from driving and need permission from a male guardian to work or travel, reflects widespread concerns about harassment, which was mentioned by almost every respondent as a major issue. A U.N report on women in April said up to 99.3 percent of women and girls in Egypt are subjected to sexual harassment. Samira Ibrahim, a pro-democracy protester who was subjected to an invasive virginity test while in detention when the military council was in power after Hosni Mubarak's ouster, said "harassment is the biggest problem facing us now". But the ranking also indicates a surge in violence and a rollback of freedoms since the 2011 uprising, experts said. The Muslim Brotherhood's rise to power in Egypt, culminating with the election of President Mohamed Mursi, angered many prominent activists who say the Islamist group infringed on women's rights. A year into office, Mursi was toppled in a military takeover after mass protests against his rule. While there is a slight improvement in political participation for women under the army-backed interim government, there is still a long way to go, some analysts said. "The whole image of women during Mursi's rule was that a woman is a mother who should be bearing children and that is the most important thing," Fatma Khafagy, who heads the Ombudsman office for gender equality in Egypt, told Reuters. "The whole discourse was against women's rights and gender equality." The Brotherhood warned that a U.N. declaration on women's rights could destroy society by allowing a woman to travel, work and use contraception without her husband's approval and letting her control family planning. "Things changed after Mursi was removed - for the better. At least these threats were not there. However, I do not see much increase in women in decision-making," Khafagy said. COST OF CONFLICT In Syria, ranked fourth-worst in the poll, women's rights have been hit badly in a country torn apart by 2-1/2 years of civil war that has killed more than 100,000. "Women are suffering the most," said Susan Ahmad, an opposition activist who works in Damascus. "Many men died and women are playing the role of men to take care of their children." Many Syrian women worry about the influence of militant Islamists who have taken control of some rebel-held areas. "The only thing women want now is to be safe," said a woman who was a student in Damascus University when the revolt first broke out in March 2011 and who had joined some of the first protests that took place in the capital. "I feel like I have to wear a headscarf," she said. "We are scared of what Islamists will do ... The Islamists want women to cover their lives, not just their bodies." Women in Yemen are pushing for a minimum quota for representation in parliament in discussions at national reconciliation talks in a country still longing for stability nearly two years after a revolt ousted the president. Yemeni women in particular face an uphill battle for rights in the largely conservative country where child marriage is still common in rural areas. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which espouses an extremist view of Islam, is also a threat. "There are voices that are trying to suppress women as in other Arab countries," said 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkul Karman from Yemen, which ranked 18th out of 22 in the Thomson Reuters survey. "They are trying to obliterate ... her participation in the revolution and in building a mature civil society," she told Reuters by telephone from Sanaa. But she added conservative voices were "decreasing day by day". ROLLBACK OF RIGHTS Tunisian activist and blogger Lina Ben Mhenni, who has been nominated for the Nobel peace prize, said she was worried about women's status under the Islamist-led government. "The status of Tunisian women is worse under the Islamist-led government," she said. "Islamist extremists are playing the role of religious police and exerting pressure on girls." Last April, hardline Islamists threw stones and bottles at young women in a student hostel in Tunis to stop them staging a performance of dance and music. In Libya, two years since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, tribal and Islamist leaders are embroiled in a struggle over the post-revolution spoils. "I am worried that those who exploit Islam will come to power and want Libya to be like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Somalia," said Dina Razzouk, a Libyan rights activist. "It's a very fanatic and traditional society." The Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights's Komsan said momentum continued to build for improvements, however. "Advocacy for women's rights is much more active than before," she said. Amal Abdel Hadi, head of the board of trustees of the New Woman Foundation in Egypt, said it was important not to feel defeated. "These days it's very depressing, so if you don't push yourself to see the positive aspects that we are working for in the longer term, you die," she said. "The revolutions have not failed women because they gave women the chance to be there and to see that if they don't force themselves into the space, they won't achieve. We have to force it."
Miley Cyrus has caused a storm by appearing to light up a joint on stage at the MTV Europe Music Awards. The singer lit a hand-rolled cigarette as she accepted her best video award for Wrecking Ball at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam - where smoking marijuana is tolerated. The drug is not legal in the Netherlands, but smokers are not prosecuted for possession of small amounts and it is sold openly in cafes known as "coffee shops".Cyrus opened the space-themed show singing the song We Can't Stop while wearing a silver spandex suit and demonstrating her signature "twerking" dance move in a routine with a dwarf. He collected the global icon prize for lifetime achievement along with best hip-hop act, just a week after being declared artist of the year at the inaugural YouTube Music Awards. The 41-year-old had more cause to celebrate after scoring his seventh consecutive number one UK album with The Marshall Mathers LP 2 and took to the stage to perform Berzerk and Rap God - two tracks from his new works. "This is crazy. I want to say thank you to everybody over the years," he said. Rapper Eminem - real name is Marshall Bruce Mathers - emerged the biggest winner at the awards.Katy Perry won the award for best female singer, pipping Lady Gaga and Cyrus and collecting her third EMA prize in the process.
The chief financier of the Taliban-linked Haqqani network militant group has been shot dead in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, militant sources told Reuters on Monday. "Nasiruddin Haqqani was killed in Islamabad while travelling in a car with a few other unidentified people," one Taliban source said, adding that the attack took place on Sunday. "His body has been moved to North Waziristan." In June 2010, the United States sanctioned Nasiruddin and two other Afghans as "specifically designated global terrorists" for their activities.
Health care providers at the province’s major hospitals have been suffering from psychological problems because they frequently treat the victims of bomb and suicide attacks at the state-run hospitals, doctors and health workers say. The worst-affected of them are the paramedics, nurses and doctors at the Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar, which is home to a bulk of the victims of militants’ violence. “Yes, of course, the medical staff suffer from psychological problems such as stress and trauma because they have been involved in provision of first-aid to the injured from terror attacks,” chief executive officer of the LRH Prof Arshad Javaid told Dawn when asked by this reporter. He said that he had been receiving complaints that some nurses had psychological problems when they saw people with complex injuries. “It is very natural for the staff to develop problems when they see blood stained bodies of women and children,” he said. “Despite suffering from psychological problems, our staff have become so used to coping with casualties from the bomb and suicide attacks that they don’t feel any difficulty. It is the duty of the staff to provide prompt treatment to the critically wounded persons,” said Prof Javaid. Roidar Shah, president of the LRH Paramedical Association, told Dawn that they had been facing many problems while coping with mass emergencies in the hospital’s accident and emergency department (AED). “I often burst into tears when I see charred bodies of children. Being regular members of the health care providers attending the victims of terror attacks, many other colleagues have also made similar complaints,” he said. Mr Shah said that the staff involved in life-saving procedures in the aftermath of terror strikes ran a risk of developing psychological problems when they saw mutilated bodies of children and women. “However, we are professional people and focus on patient care, but the stress we suffer is also a reality,” he said. About 150 of 563 paramedics of the LRH rush to the AED when blasts occur, he said. “It is not possible for the routine staff to handle a mass emergency, therefore, we have developed a culture to reach the department soon after a blast or other such emergency to deal with load of patients through collective efforts,” he said. He said that the paramedics not only bandaged and conducted X-rays on patients, but also shuttled between the blood bank and CT scan room to ensure their best possible care. “I have several times seen in dream the charred bodies of children from bomb attacks,” said senior nurse Ms Gulfam. She said that prolonged violence had reshaped lives of the health professionals, many of whom treated them like their own people. “We have been witnessing the bloodiest scenes due to which sometimes it becomes difficult to have a sound sleep without taking pills,” she said. Dr Javed Khan, who is working at the district headquarters hospital, Mardan, said that one in 10 medical staffers had developed symptoms of some kind of psychological illness during the past five years. He said that he had examined dozens of staff members who required anti-depressants to recover from strain. “The staff receives a share of grief and trauma when they attend the people from terror attacks, but this does not affect their professional work,” he said.
Of late Punjab has witnessed some gruesome sectarian violence that provides the much needed reminder that Punjab is sitting on a sectarian powder keg. The killing of three Shias including an office bearer of the Shia Ulema Council and a prayer leader in two different Imambargahs at Gujranwala on November 8 before daybreak reveals once again the inability of the government to protect its citizens, especially in the month of Muharram. In the aftermath of Hakeemullah Mehsud’s death, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has pledged to carry out attacks across the country. What could have been better timing than to start their revenge orgy in Muharram. Taking the TTP lightly after what they have done to the country through their consistent and predictable behaviour can only be termed irresponsible. And if the government had considered small cities such as Gujranwala immune to terrorism because of their size or relevance, it has committed a double sin: one of ignoring the recent history of sectarian violence in relatively smaller cities of Punjab such as Bhakkar and Gujrat, and another of forgetting the arrest of a number of extremists from Gujranwala madrassas last month following the arrest of an al Qaeda operative from Punjab University. On the flip side, security in the bigger cites, since it has been stepped up, gives more reasons to the terrorists to aim for the smaller cities. This is no rocket science. For how long will this situation persist? We hear that new laws have been prepared to take on the culprits involved in terrorism. The reality however speaks a different language. We are as unprepared as we have been five years or ten years down the road from when terrorism began shaping up in this part of the world. The police have so far arrested nine suspects of the attack in Gujranwala, all belonging to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a group that has strong links to the TTP. A similar number of suspects have been arrested in Islamabad on a tip-off about an imminent attack in the capital city. This reactive mode of policing and intelligence has to be changed since it serves little or no purpose in preventing terrorism. This again is a reminder of our lackadaisical approach towards establishing a coordinated and all encompassing intelligence system. The miscreants at both the Imambargahs had conveniently sprayed bullets as there was no police in sight to protect the vulnerable victims. It is hard enough to find law enforcers during daytime on security duties, and hoping for them to be present before daybreak is perhaps wishful thinking. The prime minister and the president, down to various ministers, have as usual condemned the incident. There will, again as usual, be new statements of resolve on the part of the government to take the culprits to task, until a fresh wave of violence extracts another note of condemnation and a renewed promise to fight terrorism. This maddening circle is repeating itself without end. It is a simple equation, requiring perhaps repeated action to solve it, that the initial ten days of Muharram are inherently sensitive and a soft target for sectarian attacks. On top of this, considering one time of the day less dangerous than others is again reflective of the inefficient and ineffective anti-terrorism strategy. In fact Fajr prayers have often been used as the best time by the killers to target their prey easily; then why were these two Imambargahs not protected at that time? One is keen to know what the Punjab counter -terrorism setup is up to these days. One would also like to know about the follow up, if any, to the madrassas recently singled out by the Punjab government as most sensitive in regard to spreading sectarian hatred. And obviously the national security policy is still waiting to see the light of day. These are not trivial matters to be slept on as the government is doing so far. The sooner we get our act together on these. the better for the safety of the country.
The members of Sindh Assembly in one voice demanded from Jamaat-e-Islami chief Munawwar Hassan to apologise over his irresponsible and misleading statement, Geo News reported. Commenting on Munawwar Hassan’s statement, Sindh Assembly Speaker, Agha Siraj Durrani Monday said, “Our army is the one, which always defended Pakistan and the nation cannot tolerate anything against the national army”. Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)’s leader addressing the assembly session here said that remaining silent over Munawwar Hassan’s statement would be a criminal act, which the nation would never forgive.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said that Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Amir Munawar Hasan supports enemies of the state and are against the armed forces.