Friday, May 23, 2014
A timeline of recent violent incidents linked to tensions in China's far northwestern region of Xinjiang between its native Turkic Muslim Uighur ethnic group and China's majority Han.
Last month, Washington's top environment advocate went to the Cleveland Clinic to talk about how President Barack Obama's landmark efforts to crack down on power-plant carbon emissions would ease a range of respiratory illnesses. Speaking separately to historically black Morehouse College in Atlanta in April, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy also framed proposed new rules in terms of social justice, as poor black communities are disproportionately affected by air pollution. The meetings, and hundreds more like them over the past year, mark an unprecedented campaign by the White House and the EPA to win broad public and state backing for rules expected to come June 2 to limit for the first time carbon emissions from power plants, which are the biggest source of greenhouse gases. Both the message and the method reflect a conscious effort to avoid the problems that two years ago nearly sank Obama's health care reform, another contentious policy milestone that will become an indelible part of his legacy, according to officials and sources familiar with the process. The proposed curbs will form the cornerstone of Obama's climate action plan, a multi-layered blueprint for fighting global warming unveiled a year ago. The plan is critical to fulfilling U.S. commitments to reduce emissions agreed to at an international forum in Copenhagen in 2009. It is also key to carving out a legacy for Obama's second term, after the administration was frustrated in its efforts to make progress on other goals such as immigration reform and gun control. Taking strong steps to fight climate change could be the biggest achievement of the last two years of his presidency, administration officials say. Agency officials have met with over 3,300 people and 300 groups, listening to concerns and complaints from teamsters, utility executives, tribal leaders and several governors about the proposal. For example, she sought in February to reassure state officials in North Dakota that the change won't impede the state's recent surge in energy production. In Orlando last week, the message for small business owners was that environmental stewardship doesn't diminish economic growth. "This is such an important part of the president's plan, that we just thought it was appropriate to have an extraordinary level of engagement even before the proposed rule stage," Dan Utech, special assistant to the president for energy and climate change, told Reuters in an interview. By engaging early and often with detractors and supporters alike, with messages tailored to each, the team led by McCarthy and senior White House adviser John Podesta is seeking to spin more effectively than it did with the troubled Affordable Care Act rollout. They hope to stay a step ahead of critics by getting feedback up front, rather than waiting until provisional new rules are published, as the EPA normally does. They aim to make the need for the new rules tangible to Americans by linking them to public health and safety. The broader goal of tempering climate change is seen as a lower priority for many voters. Ahead of November elections in which Democrats fear losing control of the Senate, Obama hopes to stave off inevitable accusations that he has launched a war on coal that would force the closure of plants and a loss of American jobs. "I think the goal for the administration is to preserve the ability to have a conversation and don't have everyone coming out of the back screaming. That will check an important political box," says Heather Zichal, who was Obama's special adviser on energy and climate until last November. SWEEPING REFORMS The regulations, drafted under the rarely-used section 111d of the Clean Air Act, will curb the amount of carbon dioxide the country's power plants spew out and give each state a year to devise a tailored plan for how it will meet the new standards. The White House has been preparing Americans for the sweeping new rules with an increasingly urgent messaging campaign about the seriousness of climate change. Earlier this month the White House released a report, the National Climate Assessment, that said effects of global warming had "moved firmly into the present" and had touched every corner of the country. It offered a backdrop of climate catastrophe to justify the need for urgent limits on the power sector. "Climate change is not just about polar bears, although we all love polar bears...It's about all of us," McCarthy said on a visit to Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Florida last week, reported by local media. She explained to students how Florida and other state governments will play a major role in carrying out the rules and had them perform an experiment in which clean white tube socks were barely soiled when placed on tailpipes of cars and busses built after EPA efficiency standards became effective in 2010. The mood was more combative a month earlier at Bismarck State College in North Dakota, when EPA's Chief Counsel Joe Goffman spoke to industry and state officials, including the state's Republican Governor Jack Dalrymple. "We cannot jump to a much higher standard for (carbon dioxide) overnight. It simply is not possible, it's not attainable, and we will fight that with every tool that we have available," said Dalrymple said, according to local WDAZ television. Goffman tried to assure the crowd that the EPA would ensure its rules offered enough "flexibility" for states to achieve their targets. OPPOSITION LOOMING The outreach may do little to prevent corporate groups and energy companies from launching legal and lobbying efforts to fight back at rules they fear may heap more costs on to the coal industry and remove 20 percent of the country's coal-fired electricity from the grid, leaving it vulnerable to shortages. Some of that resistance is taking a form similar to efforts that nearly derailed Obamacare, with state legislatures and some governors aiming to prevent implementation of the regulation. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group of state lawmakers that promotes limited government and gets funding from companies such as Koch Industries and Peabody Energy, has targeted a dozen state legislatures, including Kentucky and Ohio, to prevent certain states from implementing EPA carbon rules. "In trying to block federal policy, ALEC has a history - on behalf of its corporate funders - of deliberately establishing legal conflicts to force the issue into federal courts. That is precisely what they did with the ACA," Nick Surgey, research director of Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), a group that monitors ALEC's activities. ALEC did not respond to several requests for an interview. Obama's team said it will counter inevitable attacks. "We're going to be out there aggressively with our positive vision on this, as well as pushing back hard and setting the record straight with respect to some of the attacks that we expect to get from the other side," said Utech.
Afghanistan has the potential to become one of the most important mining centres in the world.
Emerald citiesOne of the most intriguing examples of this huge unexploited wealth is Afghanistan's emerald industry. There are extraordinarily rich veins of this precious green gemstone running through the Panjshir Valley and the mountains of the Hindu Kush that lie around 150 miles northeast of the capital - stones of a quality to rival the very best available from Colombia and Zambia from where most of the world’s supply currently emanates. But though there is emerald mining in Panjshir, it is on a very small scale and almost tragically inefficient and archaic; a few thousand miners desperate to make a fortune, burrowing into peaks that are 3,000 metres high, with picks, shovels and hand-made explosives. It is slow, back breaking and dangerous work - dozens are killed every year by collapsing tunnels, rockfalls and blasting accidents - and so far it has barely made scratched at the surface. Hamid Nazari, one of the miners who works out of a small tented encampment halfway up the mountainside, explained why they do it: "I work 18 hours a day. I go home once a week. We have to work in very harsh conditions for a pitiful wage. But if we find emeralds, that could change our lives completely. These stones are so valuable that we accept the work. Once we earn some money, we will finally be able to send our children to school in order to educate them. And if we earn lots of money, we can start up a business. For this reason, it's very difficult to give up." The mines, which are unlicensed by the central government in Kabul, are operated under the protection of the Massoud clan, which has long held sway over the area. It’s most famous leader, Ahmad Shah Massooud (or the Lion of Panjshir, as he’s remembered here) achieved fame across Afghanistan for his resistance to the Soviet invasion of the 1980s and then subsequently for taking the fight to the Taliban. Assassinated by al-Qaeda in 2001, Ahmed Shah began developing the precious stones trade to finance his war effort and to buy a few million dollars' worth of arms every year. Since then things have moved on a little; emeralds from Panjshir are now sold for about $150 million a year. But almost all of the stones are smuggled out of the country uncut to Pakistan and India, yielding virtually nothing in terms of tax revenue or extra jobs if they were cut and marketed in Afghanistan before export. International gem industry experts believe that if they were managed properly, the emeralds could be worth five times as much - up to $1bn - and that is before the introduction of new mining methods and technology that could boost production drastically. One of those most keen to see that happen is Raphael Chahboub, a former French soldier. He’s lived in Kabul since 2008. When he first arrived, Raphael was involved in training Afghan security forces, but then he stayed to venture into the emerald trade on behalf of European jewellers and dealers. "The Afghan emerald is renowned as the best in terms of quality…one of the most crystalline, one of the purest," he explained while meeting a Panjshiri trader who had come down to Kabul to show the Frenchman a few samples. But there was a problem - the way the gems were extracted. "It leads to this," he said, holding up a glittering green splinter. "Stones that are completely smashed up." Frustrated by the wasted potential and determined to get his hands on more exceptional stones, Raphael decided to go to Panjshir along with filmmakers Eric De Lavarène and Véronique Mauduy who went with him. After gaining a blessing from the Massoud clan’s representatives in Kabul and dressed in local clothes to keep a low profile, he set off in a car through territory that often sees heavy Taliban activity. "The objective of the trip is to go to the mines, meet the people who work there, forge some links, develop a network... . So you have to travel, to see what's available, and possibly find some truly magnificent samples."
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Gunmen armed with heavy weapons including rocket propelled grenades on Friday attacked the Indian Consulate in Afghanistan's Herat province during which three attackers were killed, top Indian officials said. However, TV reports further claimed that the fourth gunman has also been killed by the security forces. All the diplomatic staff were safe. Three gunmen were killed, one by ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) and two by Afghan police, out of four attackers who struck the Consulate which houses two buildings, Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan Amar Sinha said. PM-designate Narendra Modi spoke to Amar Sinha and assured all help. Modi also spoke to Afghan President Hamid Karzai and thanked him for the efforts of Afghan forces in thwarting the attack. In a pre-dawn assault, the gunmen attacked the building which houses the residence of Consulate General, Sinha said, adding that there were nine Indians in the mission apart from local Afghans. One attacker was killed while climbing the wall to enter the premises of the consulate, Sinha said. Meanwhile, a spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi said, "India's Consulate in Herat, Afghanistan attacked. Brave ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) personnel and Afghan soldiers rebut attackers. All are safe." The spokesperson said that operation is underway. "India-Afghanistan officials (were) in touch on attack on India's Consulate in Herat. Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh (was) monitoring (the) situation," the official said. Afghan police officials earlier said gunmen armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades opened fire on the consulate early this morning from a nearby home.'
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Afghanistan has experienced a rise in the Taliban attacks as foreign troops plan to withdraw from the war-torn country by the end of the year. In August last year, a failed bombing against the Indian Consulate in Jalalabad city near the border with Pakistan killed nine people, including six children. No Indian officials were hurt. The Indian Embassy in Kabul was attacked twice in 2008 and 2009 that left 75 people dead.
India has invested in some major infrastructure projects in Afghanistan like Salma hydroelectric dam in Herat province and the Afghan parliament building in Kabul. India's development assistance programme for Afghanistan currently stands at USD two billion, making it the leading donor nation among all regional countries.
Not just for the Jang Group and Geo but for the country as a whole this should be a terrifying situation reflecting how our affairs are actually run by persons who pull invisible strings. Ninety percent of the country is being denied access to the most popular television station without any legal authority. The Pemra ‘meeting’ that supposedly led cable operators to take Geo off the air was a complete farce, with only three members attending and that too not at the Pemra office. Geo’s persecution began the very day Hamid Mir was shot. Apparently airing the views of a man on who he thinks is most likely to target him is not newsworthy and tantamount to treason. The pressure started with cable operators being forced to move the position of Geo on cable networks. Soon Geo wasn’t being shown nor were Jang Group newspapers allowed into cantonments. The defence ministry was browbeaten into sending a complaint against Geo to Pemra. Then the threats and intimidation began. Employees of the group no longer feel safe identifying themselves as such and are being harassed on their way to and from work. The most powerful institution in the country has decided to put all its force, whether legal or extra-legal, behind this assault on a media organisation. Our troops put their lives at risk daily to protect this country and the liberty we enjoy; yet the leadership seems more concerned with fighting a petty vendetta. Journalists around the country have been protesting what is an illegal act against a channel in any way they can. Punjab Assembly proceedings have been boycotted, statements issued and protests staged. But there is every indication the forces we see unleashed will continue to do what they can. Some media organisations, perhaps sensing an opportunity to supplant the most popular news station in the country, have offered themselves up to act as a conduit for the moves against the Jang Group. Given the precarious situation in which journalists in the country find themselves, airing false accusations against those in the media is essentially putting a bounty on their heads. The civilian government, already embroiled in tussles with the military over issues like the Pervez Musharraf trial, has been circumspect but is understood by some to be quietly supportive. It now may be time for Nawaz Sharif to take a stand. He could begin by firing members of Pemra who appear to be taking marching orders from non-professional sources and are illegally trying to shut Geo down. A stirring defence of media freedom may also be in order. In a democracy, for a channel to be strangulated in this manner – through cable operators who are themselves of course vulnerable to coercive power – is a very serious matter. It removes the right to access information enshrined in our constitution and snatches away from people their basic right to choose. All the gains from the battle against Musharraf’s repression in 2007 could be lost if Geo is cast aside and allowed to drown. This fight is about more than one news channel. The right of the media to operate freely is at stake.
http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/A sum of Rs259 million was spent on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s 14 foreign visits undertaken in the last 12 months, a private news channel reported. Sources in the Foreign Office said that a staggering amount of Rs259 million spent on foreign tours in just a year is kind of a record itself. On an average each tour cost the national exchequer around Rs20 million. Official documents revealed that PM’s most expensive tour was to the United Nations last year during which Rs87 million were spent while the cheapest tour costing Rs1.2 million was to the neighboring Afghanistan. As per other details available two visits each to China, UK and Turkey cost the nation Rs41.9 million, Rs50.4 million and Rs9.6 million respectively while single tour to Iran, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Netherlands put burden of Rs4.8 million, Rs9.7 million, Rs10.2 million and Rs10.46 million respectively.
A new case of polio emerged from (FR) Bannu on Friday bringing the total number of countrywide affected children to 67, Express News reported. The seven-year-old victim hadn’t been immunised against the disease. Of all the cases reported from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas this year, none of the children were administered the oral polio vaccine. Pakistan is one of the three countries where polio is still endemic. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently slapped Pakistan with an embarrassing penalty, forcing would-be travellers from the country to obtain proof of inoculation against the disease. The lawmakers – reacting to the global fallout of this domestic threat – had also passed a resolution calling for the implementation of polio immunisation programme (EPI).
Punjab PPP President Mian Manzoor Ahmed Wattoo said purchase of two new bullet proof BMW vehicles for the VVIP is a clear justification of government’s insincerity with the public. He pointed out that the purchase of the vehicles was at public expense. In a country where 54 percent people are leading their lives below the poverty line and about 30 percent are acutely food insecure, such expenditures are out of question, he added. He mentioned that the despicable aspect of this purchase was that the cabinet pool had sufficient number of bullet proof vehicles for the VVIP duties.
Members of Pakistan's Council of Islamic Ideology r ignorant,illiterate mullahs,will be better to dissolve this council of ignorant mullahs.The lengths to which Pakistan will go to tolerate the likes of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) are mindboggling indeed. After the initial verdict passed by the CII in late March this year on how setting the minimum age for marriage is un-Islamic and how men need not take the permission of their existing wife to remarry, as stated in the Family Law Ordinance of 1961, the advisory body is back to endorse these two positions in fresh statements, reiterating that it has not forgotten about these matters. Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani, chairing the latest meeting of the CII has once again stated that Islam does not prohibit child marriages and that polygamy does not require the permission of one’s first wife. He has asked for a repeal of the country’s marriage laws, bringing into the spotlight once again just how ridiculous the CII’s obsession has become with issues of little worth in today’s world. The CII has always worked in an advisory capacity and does not have any legislative powers — thank the Lord for small mercies. However, by repeating these issues time and again, it seems the CII is hell bent on amassing more power for itself. That is why it is so very important to disband this body, which has now become a council deliberating on matters that hold little relevance in this day and age. We are a country mired in terrorism, sectarian warfare and, now, a polio emergency. Instead of talking about such fundamental issues, the CII has found it indispensible to talk about marrying off young children and making life easier for those men who choose to indulge in more than one marriage at a time. Child marriages have been proved as being detrimental to female reproductive health as well as being one of the main reasons behind extreme psychological harm. What are the maulana and his band of merry brothers trying to do? Send us back to the Stone Age? The world has come so far now in moving beyond these issues that to hear of our religious advisory council speak of them only serves to remind us that this antediluvian body must be done away with. We have too much intolerance and ideology-based hate in our society already. We hardly need to add to the plethora of religion-based ‘edicts’. The government must not allow the CII to carry on with its campaign against the country’s laws, laws that protect the family structure and keep us from becoming a laughing stock the world over.
Sikh community demands protection in all over Pakistan *Minority representatives record protest against alleged desecration of their holy book in Sindh Dozens of people belonging to Sikh community entered the Parliament House premises in protest against what they called desecration of their holy book in Sindh. Leaders of the Sikh community stated that multiple incidents of desecration of their holy book have taken place in Sindh over the past few weeks but the federal or the provincial governments were not taking any notice to arrest the culprits. The protestors, carrying placards and banners and chanting slogans against the incident, made a surprise entry into the Parliament House premises, leaving police guessing about why and from where the protestors barged in. Crossing all barricades, the protestors first entered the Parliament House parking and later the building premises, prompting police to fire tear-gas shells, but to no avail. The Sikh community men got hold of a small stage set up for the parliamentarian to talk to media persons. Few of them spoke from the rostrum and hurriedly narrated the incident. They vowed not to evacuate the Parliament House premises unless higher authorities come to hear them and fulfill their demands. Representatives of the Sikh community also called for the protection in Sindh and other town of Pakistan.
Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Syed Khurshid Shah has said that the Pakistan People’s Party is not in favour of any restriction on freedom of expression. Speaking to media after meeting senior Geo News anchor Hamid Mir, the PPP stalwart said that all the institutions should work within their limits. He said that media infighting was harmful for the democracy and journalism. Shah visited Hamid Mir’s residence to inquire about his health.
IT would be regrettable under any circumstances but in the case of Pakistan, a deeply religious society, it is especially so: behind many of the most serious fissures and conflicts threatening the country lies either religion or contested versions of it. From the violence visited on members of minority beliefs to the scourge of sectarianism that relentlessly draws more and more lives into its gaping maw, to the outlawed TTP whose fight with the state is bound up inextricably with the militant group’s own version of Sharia, matters of faith have led Pakistan into dangerous waters. Areas as basic and as essential to a society’s health as the vaccination of children against polio and the need for girls’ education have become contested issues. The mere allegation of blasphemy has become enough to provoke a lynch mob; even providing legal assistance in such a case has proved a death sentence. No target has been considered too sacred: mosques, churches, shrines and other places of worship, funeral and mourning processions, emergency wards and school assemblies. Never has it been clearer that if the country is ever to lead itself into the light, urgent efforts need to be made to counter the hate spread in the name of religion. The Council of Islamic Ideology is meant to advise on matters of religion. The natural expectation would be that these would be the issues — of life and death — that would be exercising the minds of the forum’s members. Yet, sweeping aside all these and more, the CII in its wisdom gave on Wednesday its opinion on an issue it clearly considers much more pressing: that underage marriage is permissible for young girls, and that most of the clauses of the Muslim Marriage Law, 1961, are un-Islamic. Leave aside for the moment the awful repercussions this has for children’s rights, women’s rights and indeed for the basic norms of civilisation in a country where child marriages and forced unions have proved to be an indelible stain. Leave aside the signals such a pronouncement gives of being determined to drag the country towards obscurantism. Consider, instead, how it reflects on the relevance of the CII itself, which exposes itself — yet again — as a hopelessly out-of-touch forum, either unaware or uncaring of the horrifying realities that the people of this country face. Given that this is apparently the best it can do, is it not better to save the government’s resources and divert them to other, more fruitful avenues? Why is there even the need for such a council when an elected parliament is in place, which is in itself perfectly capable of deciding what the law should be? In March, the Sindh Assembly passed a resolution demanding the dissolution of the CII. It was not off the mark.
HIDEOUTS attacked, militants killed, damage inflicted — at least that is the official military version of events in North Waziristan Agency. As with any conflict zone, independent reporting is difficult and immediately ascertaining the facts nearly impossible. But a disturbing pattern is emerging in the latest phase of the struggle to try and tamp down militancy in Fata. When retaliation for attacks against the security forces occurs, the claims of success are not just unverifiable in the immediate aftermath, they are not verified even later. As with earlier retaliations, the military seems to be focusing on the overlap between foreign militants and hardline local militants. But while the number of dead militants is always announced with a degree of satisfaction, there is never any visual or factual evidence of the claims made. If this time it was the East Turkestan Independence Movement that reportedly bore the brunt of the attacks, previously it was alleged to be Uzbek militants. But neither then, nor this time is there any evidence to back up the claims. Often, there are not even names. Meanwhile, the human ‘collateral damage’ does come into view quickly enough with civilian casualties appearing in local clinics or before the cameras. More problematically, what do these retaliations achieve? As has happened over the past couple of days in North Waziristan, even when the military conducts search-and-clear operations, an opportunity is given beforehand for the local population to leave. Surely, most of the militants melt away in the crowd or through other routes. Thereafter, the army tends to blow up homes and buildings associated with militants — leaving physical scars when the population does return. And what of the militants themselves, the bulk of whom leave for other areas? That simply means another retaliation somewhere else is effectively already on the table. If the military’s latest ad hocism in Fata is partly because of the government’s insistence on dialogue being the preferred path, what is happening on the talks front? Surely, this dual policy of allowing the military to retaliate when directly attacked while the civilians try to pursue dialogue with the outlawed TTP is good for neither the military option nor the dialogue one. But can the army and civilians arrive at a more coherent policy?
http://tribune.com.pk/Gunship helicopter and jet planes bombed hideouts of suspected militants in North Waziristan on Friday, killing four and injuring three others, Express News reported. The strikes targeted hideouts in Miranshah, Machis Camp and Mir Ali Bazaar areas of the tribal agency. “Security forces fired mortar shells from Miranshah fort on the adjacent areas of Machis camp, Kharwani and Sukhail Wazir Friday morning, followed by pounding suspected militant hideouts with gunship helicopters,” an intelligence official based in Miranshah told AFP. The official said four suspected militants were killed and later security forces carried out a door to door search, arresting five others. In the latest offensive, which started on May 21, at least 74 suspected militants have been killed in the air strikes and ground fighting in North Waziristan. A curfew has been imposed in these areas for the past three days. On Wednesday, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) issued a statement saying, over the past few weeks, a “large number of civilians and security personnel have embraced shahadat due to various terrorist acts, including IED blasts and suicide attacks in Fata, K-P and Karachi.” The ISPR stated that intelligence reports and other investigations confirmed links of these terrorist acts with the terrorists targeted.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today upbraided Twitter for censoring itself in Russia and Pakistan, stating that the company has stepped “down from the free speech party.” The EFF’s argument is simple: Twitter’s decision to censor content on a country-by-country basis was the “least terrible option” available to it, provided that it only did so when the company was “compelled” by a court order in a country where the company has “significant assets or employees.” In the case of Russia and Pakistan, where local censorship is now instituted by the company, Twitter does not have sufficient local presence to make presented court orders meaningful in the eyes of the EFF. This makes the censorship in Russia (of a Ukrainian political account) and Pakistan (where takedown requests have ranged from porn to blasphemy) unreasonable according to the EFF, because Twitter’s lack of a local presence precludes it from the behest of the requests. The EFF is blunt in its assessment of the company’s actions. Regarding the case of censorship in Russia: “If Twitter won’t stand up for political speech in a country where independent media is increasingly under attack, what will it stand for?” And Pakistan: “As disappointing as it is to see Twitter cave in response to pressure from the Russian government, it is even more alarming to see Twitter comply with Pakistani requests based on what ["Pakistani advocacy group"] Bolo Bhi describes ‘little in the way of due process.’” For Twitter, a service that has done much good around the world by helping to unite protestors and allowing for rapid dissemination of information including dissent, to crack down on its regular users at the non-binding behest of repressive governments is disappointing. There is a bitter irony of Russia censoring a Ukrainian political account, given that recent Ukrainian protests that drew Russian ire and later incursion used Twitter to organize. TechCrunch has reached out to Twitter for comment on the presented criticisms.