Monthly Archives: January 2012

Inforgraphic: The Coming water wars

Mazhar:

inform to all it’s main global problem

Originally posted on Didactic Discourse:

[Click to enlarge]

Source: princeton.edu

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life for

life for

If you are …………

Mazhar:

it depend on your good mood don’t tray always

Originally posted on datingplus:

Well, the first thing to remember is that men frequently err by talking TOO MUCH.Those topics which will almost GUARANTEE increased interpersonal attraction.Just because a woman listens to you and acts interested in what you’re saying doesn’t necessarily mean she really is.Are you getting excited?

You want to be charming and in control.You want to be charming and in control Now there are many many aspects of a conversation.You need to have a plan.Try to visualize or “feel” what she’s saying.You want to be charming and in control.Now imagine on one weekend if you spent the whole day just accumulating e-mail addresses.Seeds refer to subtle hints that women give that point to conversational topics that they would like to or be willing to discuss.You can go to any news website or entertainment website and find at least one or two interesting stories in the news.You can highlight it and then…

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Mazhar:

nice for me

Originally posted on VentureBeat:

Netflix competitionWith increases in revenue and higher than expected subscriber growth, video rental service Netflix is once again the darling investment among Wall Street analysts (for the most part). However, not all the comments from Wednesday’s fourth quarter earnings results were positive.

Netflix warned of increasing competition against its domestic streaming service, while celebrating its shrinking DVD-by-mail business — two subjects analysts spend far too much time obsessing over. The biggest threat Netflix faces overall has nothing to do with business in the U.S. and everything to do with the success of the company’s expansion into the U.K., Ireland, Canada, and Latin America.

Failure in these new markets would easily drain Netflix’s resources and hinder its ability to renew costly content agreements, which are expected to get even more expensive. Part of what gives Netflix an edge over domestic competitors like Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime is its vast library of…

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Mazhar:

this movie inspire me

Originally posted on Dancing With Jellyfish:

So here we are. Day 3. Get yourselves comfortable. Coz I sure as hell am not.

 Rise of the Planet of the Apes. A remake of the old series, showing how in the search to cure Alzheimer’s, one genetically enhanced  chimpanzee can lead monkeys to freedom.

Now. I must admit before I go any further that I am not a fan of monkeys. I never have been. Chimps in particular are one of my least favourite animals. No particular reason. I just don’t like them.

Now though? I. Am. Petrified.

Andy Serkis’ performance of Caesar, the genetically enhanced chimpanzee, was just unbelievable. At first, I was alright with the whole ‘film about monkeys’ thing. I really kind of started to like him. And then he turned evil. Evil may not be the right word. He revolted. He became a leader. He freaking spoke.

The second that chimp yelled the word ‘No’, I…

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Mazhar:

how they dis agree Islamic Law against human nature

Originally posted on Ideas:

Do the people of Oklahoma need to be protected from Sharia law? Clearly: no. There is no evidence that religious Islamic law — whose rules on matters like inheritance and divorce — is sweeping across the Sooner State. But in 2010, Oklahoma voters seemed to feel otherwise. They passed a referendum banning the state’s courts from imposing Sharia on them, despite the fact that Muslims are less than 1% of the state’s population and have not exactly taken over the state court system. Last week, a federal appeals court affirmed a court order that blocked the law from taking effect. The driving force behind the referendum, the court said, was not solving an actual problem — it was religious bigotry.

Oklahoma is hardly the first state to use a referendum to try to oppress a minority group. There have been other ballot initiatives that have targeted blacks and gay people. When…

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What Your Eyes Say About Who You Are(What Your Eyes Say About Who You Are Using eye-tracking technology, scientists are discovering clues to how we think and learn


As you read these words, try paying attention to something you usually never notice: the movements of your eyes. While you scan these lines of text, or glance at that ad over there or look up from the screen at the room beyond, your eyes are making tiny movements, called saccades, and brief pauses, called fixations. Scientists are discovering that eye movement patterns — where we look, and for how long — reveals important information about how we read, how we learn and even what kind of people we are.
Researchers are able to identify these patterns thanks to the development of eye-tracking technology: video cameras that record every minuscule movement of the eyes. Such equipment, originally developed to study the changes in vision experienced by astronauts in zero-gravity conditions, allows scientists to capture and analyze that always-elusive entity, attention. The way we move our eyes, it turns out, is a reliable indicator of what seizes our interest and of what distracts us. Scientists are now using eye-tracking technology to explore how we learn from text and images, including those viewed onscreen.

In a study published last year in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, for example, Finnish researchers examined how the type and placement of advertisements affects online reading. Not surprisingly, data from their eye-tracking equipment showed that the sudden appearance of an ad or motion within an ad (think of all those advertisements with frenetically dancing figures,) distracted readers in a way that interfered with their comprehension of the text. But study author Jaana Simola, a cognitive scientist, and her colleagues were able to refine these observations further: ads placed low and to the right of the text were more distracting than those located above the text, and multiple ads containing both animated and static elements were harder to ignore than groups of ads that were either all still or all moving.

Of course, disrupting our attention is what advertising is all about. Scientists are also using eye-tracking technology to discover how to eliminate distraction and improve focus. In a study published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers Elizabeth Grant and Michael Spivey tracked the eye movements of experimental subjects as they viewed a diagram and tried to solve a hypothetical problem: If you were a doctor, how would you use a laser to destroy this patient’s stomach tumor without harming the healthy tissue around it? People who successfully solved the problem, Grant and Spivey found, looked more often at a certain part of the diagram. In round two of their experiment, they visually highlighted this feature — and doubled the number of participants who got the problem right. Showing people’s eyes where to go can actually promote insight and improve reasoning, the authors concluded; in their words, “guiding attention guides thought.”
The ability to focus on the relevant features of a visual scene is one of the most important differences between experts and novices in any field — an ability that is developed over years of looking at countless similar scenarios. But what if the characteristic eye movements of experts could be recorded and then replayed for beginners, giving them a model for how and where to look? That’s what scientists at the University of Exeter in Britain did in a study published last year. The eye movements of an experienced surgeon were captured by eye-tracking equipment and then mapped onto a video of a simulated surgical task, showing where the expert’s gaze would be directed as he performed the operation. Trainee surgeons who watched the video learned much more quickly than students who were taught in more traditional ways, like showing them how to move the surgical instruments with their hands.

Eye movements are so closely tied to the way we think and act that they can even reveal information about our personalities. In a study published this month in the journal Cognition, researcher Evan Risko and his coauthors asked experimental subjects to complete a questionnaire gauging their levels of curiosity, defined as a desire for new knowledge and new experiences. The scientists then used eye-tracking equipment to record the eye movements of participants as they viewed a series of scenes. People who tested as highly curious, Risko reported, looked at many more elements of the pictures, restlessly moving their eyes around the scenes. “Who a person is,” he concluded, “relates to how they move their eyes.”

Arab bloc urges power transfer in Syria Plan for Assad to step aside signals frustration in region By Liz Sly, Sunday, January 22,10:09 PM

DAMASCUS — The Arab League on Sunday called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to hand over power to his vice president under the terms of a transition plan similar to that which paved the way for the departure, hours earlier, of Yemen’s president for the United States.

The announcement of the plan at a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo signaled growing Arab frustration with Assad’s failure to implement the terms of a peace plan to which he agreed in November, and it offered the clearest indication yet that Arab states want him to step down.

The plan laid down a timetable under which negotiations with the opposition would begin in two weeks and a national unity government would be formed within two months. Assad would then leave office ahead of elections to be held within three months. It was not immediately clear which of two Syrian vice presidents, Farouk al-Shara or Najah al-Attar, would be expected to take over.

The Syrian National Council, the main Syrian opposition coalition, welcomed the initiative as a step toward Assad’s departure, the group’s leader, Burhan Ghalioun, told reporters in Cairo. Activists in Syria have repeatedly said, however, that they will not negotiate with Assad.

There was no immediate response from the Syrian government, and a spokesman did not respond to calls seeking comment.

But Assad vowed in a defiant speech this month that he would not step down unless the Syrian people asked him to, and the Arab League’s secretary general, Nabil Elaraby told reporters that the bloodshed would have to stop before the negotiations could start, a condition that cast into doubt the likelihood the plan would succeed at a time of rapidly escalating violence.

“The chances of that happening are next to zero, and I also can’t imagine Assad will accept this,” said Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. “At best, this is throwing down something that is certainly new but has little chance of success.”

The league said it would refer the plan for endorsement to the U.N. Security Council, indicating that Arab states are prepared to seek wider international involvement in the Syria crisis.

Monitoring expanded

Qatari Prime Minister Hamad Bin Jasim al-Thani told reporters in Cairo that the plan is much like the one brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council under which Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to transfer power to his vice president. Saleh left Yemen on Sunday and is expected to travel to the United States for medical care.

The Syria plan appeared to have overwhelming Arab endorsement. Only Lebanon, whose government is closely aligned with Syria’s, objected. Algeria expressed “reservations.” Iraq, which had previously abstained from sanctioning Syria, seemed to have signed on to the initiative.

But there were no indications as to what steps would be taken if Assad failed to comply. Hours earlier, Saudi Arabia said it was withdrawing its observers from a mission to monitor the violence in Syria, in a hint of underlying divisions within the league over how to proceed should the violence continue to escalate. At the Sunday meeting, league officials agreed to extend the monitoring mission for another month and expand it to include extra observers.

“The goal is to stop the bloodshed,” Hamad said, citing Assad’s failure to comply with league demands to withdraw troops from residential areas, stop killing protesters and release political prisoners. “We do not wish to prolong this.”

22 reported killed Sunday

Activist groups reported that 22 people were killed by security forces Sunday in incidents around the country, nine of them in Douma, a suburb on the northeastern edge of Damascus where fierce clashes have been reported between troops and rebels fighting in the name of the Free Syrian Army.

There were unconfirmed reports that security forces had withdrawn from parts of the town, less than a week after the army was forced to pull out from the town of Zabadani, 20 miles to the west.

In a video posted on YouTube, a masked, uniformed soldier holding a rifle and flanked by other armed men read a statement claiming that the Free Syrian Army had driven the army from Douma. If government forces attempt to retake the town, the man warned, “We will fire rockets at the presidential palace and execute the five senior officers who are our prisoners.”

The official news agency, SANA, on Sunday reported that seven members of the security forces had been killed in attacks, including a brigadier general in charge of “e-warfare” who was assassinated in the town of Rankous, outside Damascus.

Security forces, dissidents clash in Damascus suburb

Syrian security forces and members of a resistance movement comprised of military defectors clashed in the Damascus suburb of Douma, activists groups said Saturday.

But activists disagreed on whether dissidents, including the Free Syrian Army, were in firm control.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the opposition held all districts of Douma.

Local Coordination Committees in Syria, another opposition activist group, said “rumors” the FSA held the city were not true.

An activist who CNN is not identifying for safety reasons said security forces departed — but may return.

“This doesn’t mean a wholly liberated situation,” the activist said. “They expect them to come back.”

Security forces opened fire and launched nail bombs on mourners near a mosque in the city, said the LCC. The Free Syrian Army responded and clashed with the regime’s army and other forces, the LCC said.

A Douma resident said the FSA had retreated to a base and no one was in control of the city. “They retreat(ed) because they don’t want to bring us a disaster,” the resident told CNN.

Government security forces were surrounding the area, said the resident, whom CNN did not identify for safety reasons. The resident feared a massacre, perhaps by either side, if the FSA stayed in position.

The Douma Coordination Committee, another dissident group, said reports of liberation of Douma are “only an exaggeration from different parties to justify the attack and storming of the city. This is a strategy used by Syrian authorities through washing her shame of defeat in the area of Zabdani.”

Syrian activists said Wednesday that opposition forces had wrested control of Zabadani from government troops.

The coordination committee said five civilians died Saturday when mourners in Douma were attacked by regime “thugs.”

CNN cannot confirm the claims by opposition groups of violence and deaths as Syria’s government has limited access by foreign journalists.

Deaths mounted and violence raged across Syria on Saturday as Arab League diplomats prepared to discuss extending its monitoring mission.

The number of people found dead in Syria has risen to at least 59 on Saturday, said the LLC.

They include 30 unidentified corpses found at the National Hospital in Idlib and at least 16 victims of a bus explosion. Deaths occurred in other locations, including Douma, Raqqa in the north, Deir Ezzor in the east and Homs in the west, the LCC said.

For more than 10 months, Syria has been engulfed by an anti-government public uprising and a brutal security crackdown against protesters. The United Nations last month estimated well over 5,000 deaths since mid-March. Opposition groups estimate more than 6,000 people have died.

While activists blame the violence on the President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the government says terrorists have been responsible for the bloodshed.

Both sides reported the deadly bus bombing transporting prisoners in Idlib province, in northwestern Syria.

The LCC said the bus went over a mine, killing at least 16 people and wounding many more. The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported that “an armed terrorist group” was responsible for the attack, killing 14 people and wounding 26 others.

Besides gunfire in Homs, security forces also fired at activists and residents near the National Hospital in Idlib and made arrests, the LCC said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said loyalist forces using heavy automatic weapons and army defectors battled in the Idlib town of Karf Nabl in the Zawiya Mountains.

Mohamed Hamado, a Free Syrian Army lieutenant colonel, said civilians moving toward the Turkish-Syrian border were ambushed by Syrian security forces using tanks and armed personal carriers near the town of Kherbeit Al Joz.

The FSA fought with the Syrian army and injured and killed about 24 soldiers, Hamado said. “We then retreated to safer positions.”

The purpose of the Arab League’s month-long mission was to determine whether the government was adhering to an agreement to end the violence. The mission was scheduled to end lasdt Thursday but the group was negotiating an extension.

The Arab League has called on the al-Assad regime to stop violence against civilians, free political detainees, remove tanks and weapons from cities and allow outsiders, including the international news media, to travel freely around Syria.

The head of the Arab League mission, Sudanese Lt. Gen. Mohammad Ahmad al-Dabi, will submit a report from the field and the monitors’ recommendations to the full body Sunday in Cairo.

Members of the opposition Syrian National Council met Saturday with Arab League Secretary-General Nabil el-Araby.

The council has weighed in over the report about the mission. It is demanding that the report document “the atrocities committed by the Syrian regime against civilians in all cities and towns,” the group said in a statement.

“We requested (Araby) to raise the Syria file to the U.N. Security Council as soon as possible to protect the lives and dignity of the Syrian people,” national council senior official Walid Buni said Saturday. “We will have to wait until the final Arab Monitor’s report is discussed tomorrow but we already know what it contains and do not think it reflects the situation on the ground.”

Arab League official Ali Jaroush said the mission has gained momentum and that there is “a general inclination” to extend it for another month, Syria’s official SANA news agency reported.

Meanwhile, Syria and Lebanon gave different accounts of the Syrian detention of three north Lebanese men on a vessel.

Port authorities seized a “smuggling” boat sneaking into Syrian territorial waters, SANA reported. The three individuals threw boxes into the sea while fleeing to Lebanon, it said. People on five Lebanese boats opened fire, injuring two of the occupants of the “sneaking” vessel, the news agency said.

Lebanon’s National News Agency said the three men were fishing when their boat came under Syrian gunfire. It said the men were “kidnapped” and forced into Syrian territories.

Chinese writer gets 10-year prison term for Internet essays third high-profile activist sentenced Crackdown linked to concerns over social stability

 — Chinese writer and activist Li Tie was sentenced to 10 years in prison for “inciting subversion,” his family members said Thursday. Li is the third high-

profile dissident handed a lengthy term in the past few weeks, part of a Communist Party crackdown ahead of a scheduled leadership change this year.

Like two activists sentenced last month, Li was prosecuted for essays he posted on the Internet demanding greater democracy. The convictions indicate that the government in Beijing sees online treatises — and the followers they might garner — as a serious threat to China’s political and social stability.

Li, from Wuhan city in Hubei province, was sentenced Wednesday, his family members said. He was not allowed to hire a lawyer.

Human rights groups outside China say the three recent sentences far exceed those normally given in such cases and perhaps reflect official nervousness about the first anniversary of the Middle East uprisings known as the Arab Spring, which prompted shadowy Internet calls for similar protests in China.

On Dec. 26, a court in Guizhou province sentenced a veteran human rights campaigner, Chen Xi, to 10 years in prison. Three days earlier in Sichuan province, activist Chen Wei was sentenced to nine years. Both were convicted of “inciting subversion of state power.”

Another activist, Zhu Yufu, was charged this week with the same crime after he posted a poem online titled “It’s Time,” which urges the Chinese people to stand up for their freedoms.

This is a crucial year for China’s ruling Communist Party, which is preparing for the first top-level leadership changes in a decade. Analysts say authorities are worried about anything that could disrupt the carefully choreographed shuffle in which Vice President Xi Jinping is slated to take over as general secretary of the party and, later, as the country’s president.

Leadership changes are typically closed-door affairs in China, with the new general secretary and the powerful nine-member ruling Politburo Standing Committee introduced onstage at an autumn Party Congress in Beijing once all the backroom dealmaking is complete. Ordinary Chinese citizens play no part, other than as spectators.

But this will also be the first leadership change to take place in an age when tens of millions of Chinese feel empowered to speak out through the hugely popular Twitter-like microblogging sites collectively known here as “weibo.” The weibo sites have given many Chinese a source of once-censored information and a new outlet for voicing opinions once deemed too sensitive even to whisper in public.

Recent official statistics from the China Internet Network Information Center showed there are now 513 million Internet users in the country of 1.3 billion people. The number of microbloggers quadrupled in 2011, to 250 million.

This week, authorities signaled that they are trying to bring that relatively freewheeling microblogging world under tighter control. A handful of eastern cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, have been experimenting with a pilot program that requires people signing up for weibo accounts to register with their real names and identity card numbers, making it easier to trace them if they post something the government doesn’t like.

Wang Chen, the State Council information minister, said Wednesday that the pilot program will be extended nationwide and made retroactive to people already microblogging under nicknames and pseudonyms.

An official with a company that hosts a popular microblogging site predicted that real-name registration, when fully implemented, will have a “chilling effect” on what people are willing to post online. He also said the government probably would not try to shut down the popular microblogging sites altogether, for fear of sparking a backlash.

Another prominent Chinese writer and dissident held a news conference in Washington on Wednesday and described how he was allegedly harassed, abducted and tortured by Chinese security forces, and later forced to flee with his family to the United States. The writer, Yu Jie, is the author of a critical book on China’s prime minister, “China’s Best Actor: Wen Jiabao,” which was banned in China. He said he is completing another book, on China’s president, called “Hu Jintao:Cold-Blooded Tyrant.”

China has also been dealing with continuing unrest among ethnic Tibetans, and there are signs that a protest movement is spreading. There have been 17 reported cases of Tibetans — monks, nuns and ordinary people — setting themselves on fire, including at least three cases this year.

The U.S. ambassador to China, Gary Locke, said Monday on PBS’s “Charlie Rose” show that the human rights climate in China is “in a down period, and it’s getting worse.” Locke mentioned the Arab Spring uprisings, including the revolutions in Egypt and Libya, and said: “The Chinese leaders are very fearful of something similar happening within China, so there’s been a significant crackdown on dissension and political discussion, even the rights and the activities of lawyers. . . . There’s a significant crackdown and repression going on within China .”

A foreign ministry spokesman, Liu Weimin, sharply criticized Locke’s comments as “not the truth.”

“China’s progress in human rights is obvious to all,” Liu said. “We are willing to work with the international community on human rights issues. But we object to interference in China’s internal affairs and the violation of China’s judicial sovereignty by making an issue of human rights.”

Arabs running out of options on Syria violence

Arab states are worlds apart on Syria as they haggle over whether to keep peace monitors in the country as their month-long mandate expires without a halt to President Bashar Assad’s bloody crackdown on popular unrest. Efforts by Syria’s Gulf Arab critics to force an end to the conflict are being blocked by other Arab states closer to Assad, leaving the country facing the risk of protracted fighting whose sectarian dimensions could threaten regional stability. “There is no serious coherent decision likely, not just at the Arab League but in the UN Security Council,” Laleh Khalili, senior lecturer in Mideast Politics at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, said. “There is now more of a sense that Syria is rushing headlong into a form of civil war.”

The monitors’ mission was due to expire on Thursday night.

Qatar has proposed sending in soldiers from Arab countries to restore calm but others reject the idea, saying Syria’s government would never agree and they cannot spare any troops anyway, sources at the Arab League said.

Foreign ministers will meet at League headquarters in Cairo on Sunday to decide whether to extend, enlarge or scrap the work of the 165 monitors, or pursue more drastic measures.

Diplomats speak of deadlock at the League, however, with Gulf states that are hostile to Assad impatient to turn up the pressure on him but his sympathisers still believing he can be persuaded to end the violence and enact reforms.

“They are in a big mess,” a source close to the Arab League said. “They are running out of options.”

There is no Western inclination for military intervention in Syria either due to its position straddling fault lines of Middle East conflict and internal strife between Sunni and Shiite Muslims that echo beyond its borders.

Assad’s alliance with Iran also deters foreign involvement.

The use of force in Syria would require the backing of all the League’s members, something seen as a near-impossibility given that at least Iraq and Lebanon, Damascus’ neighbours to the east and west, would oppose such a move.

Diplomats say Syria has also made it clear it would break off contacts with neighbours if foreign troops were dispatched, which would scupper attempts by the Arab League’s secretary general, Nabil Al Arabi, to bring together Assad and his opponents and engineer a political solution.

Syria’s government said on Tuesday it was “astonished” at Qatar’s suggestion to send in troops, which it “absolutely rejected”.

Many Arab leaders, including some of Assad’s traditional rivals, may also fear the reaction of their own populations if he were toppled and became another victim of the tide of Arab street uprisings that have unseated the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya over the past year.

“This issue is until now only an idea mooted by the Qatari prince,” a top official in the Arab League told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

“The important questions here are: Who would send those troops and who will arm them? And would the Arab League agree to act as the initiator of bloodshed between Arab states?”

Dwindling options

The first Arab League source said diplomats mulling over the idea had voiced fear that military action could tip the entire region into war if Syria’s ally Iran decided to get involved.

Many are also loath to abandon attempts at a diplomatic solution over concern that it could signal tacit approval for intervention by foreign powers, although the United Nations Security Council is also divided on what to do about Syria.

“Such an idea [military force] is not realistic given that it was rejected by Syria and other big countries and also with Arab states being busy with their internal affairs,” said the second Arab League official.

Syrian tanks and troops pulled back late on Wednesday from a rebel-held town near Lebanon under a local truce deal and a third Arab League source said this could serve as a basis for deploying Arab peacekeepers to Syria.

“The Qatari suggestion is a test balloon to assess the limits of the League’s efforts and the extent to which the Syrian government is ready for complete cooperation with the League to end civilian bloodshed,” he said.

Assad’s most critical rivals, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, want tougher action because the monitoring effort has failed to slow the killing. At least three monitors have reported humanitarian suffering taking place in Syria but the mission has been unable to do anything to stop it.

“It is still unclear what the decision of the ministers will be on whether to extend the monitoring mission or scrap it,” said a fourth Arab League source. “All depends on the monitors’ report and the discussions of the Arab ministers.”

The report will be presented by the head of the mission, Sudanese General Mohammed Al Dabi, who was due to arrive in Cairo from Damascus later on Thursday.

In a statement via the Arab League, Dabi said: “The 15 teams of monitors who worked in different places have covered all cities and villages and performed the mission with the utmost level of integrity, objectivity and transparency.”

The ministers are still likely to discuss military action on Sunday, but analysts say it merely shows how they are running out of options.

“The idea is on the table at the Arab League, especially as it is now clear to everyone that the monitor mission is not succeeding in ending the violence,” said Egyptian military expert Safwat Al Zayaat.

But he added: “The Arab states have neither the will nor the ability for such a thing at this time.”

For the Arab League to approve sending troops to Syria, he said, Arabi’s efforts to foster a dialogue between the Syrian government and opposition must succeed and both must then agree to a peacekeeping force.

But the chance of a political compromise looks ever more distant, given that more than 400 people have been killed since the monitors arrived in late December and rebel army units are posing a mounting challenge to government forces.

Even the anti-Assad camp is divided over the wisdom of armed rebellion to oust him.

Some fear it could strengthen the hand of Arab states that favour a neutral approach, a stance that looked less credible when the government was fighting only unarmed civilians.

Global Deman

Global Deman

President Obama: Romney Foreign Policy Attacks Will Wither in ‘Serious Debate Read more: http://swamplpresident-obama-romney-foreign-policy-attacks-will-wither-in-serious-debate


President Obama dismissed Republican rival Mitt Romney’s critiques of his foreign policy credentials Wednesday in an exclusive TIME interview, saying the GOP frontrunner’s attacks are little more than primary posturing that will wither under the glare of “a serious debate.”

“I think Mr. Romney and the rest of the Republican field are going to be playing to their base until the primary season is over,” Obama told TIME’s Fareed Zakaria during a White House interview that will appear in the next issue of TIME magazine. “Overall, I think it’s going to be pretty hard to argue that we have not executed a strategy over the last three years that has put America in a stronger position than it was than when I came into office.”
In what sometimes sounded like a dry run of the Obama reelection campaign’s foreign policy themes, the president drew sharp contrasts between himself and GOP leaders, past and present. He spoke with pride of accomplishing what he called a “pivot” from the policies of George W. Bush. This included ending the Iraq War, increasing pressure on Al Qaeda, rebuilding international alliances, and refocusing America’s foreign policy goals.

“It’s an American leadership that recognizes the rise of countries like China, India and Brazil,” Obama said of his own policies. “It’s a U.S. leadership that recognizes our limits in terms of resources and capacity. And yet, what I think we’ve been able to establish is a clear belief among other nations that the United States continues to be the one indispensible nation in tackling major international problems.”

Obama also blamed Republicans in Congress for threatening to weaken America’s international position by failing to agree to domestic policies that the White House has been advocating over the last year. “Our whole foreign policy has to be anchored in economic strength here at home,” Obama said. “And if we are not strong, stable, growing, making stuff, training our work force so that it’s the most skilled in the world, maintaining our lead in innovation, in basic research, in basic science, in the quality of our universities, in the transparency of our financial sector, if we don’t maintain the upward mobility and equality of opportunity that underwrites our politically stability and makes us a beacon for the world, then our foreignpolicy leadership will diminish as well.”

(PHOTOS: Political Pictures of the Week)

In particular, Obama praised the bipartisan fiscal commission, also known as Simpson-Bowles, for providing a clear and workable model for compromise, even if he disagreed on some of the specifics. He dismissed charges that he had abandoned the framework for his own agenda, and blamed Republicans for standing in the way. “The only reason it hasn’t happened is because the Republicans were unwilling to do anything on revenue,” Obama said. “Zero. Zip. Nada. The revenues that we were seeking were far less that what was in Simpson-Bowles. We’ve done more discretionary cuts than was called for in Simpson-Bowles.”

“There’s no equivalence between Democratic and Republican positions when it comes to deficit reduction,” Obama continued. “If we can get any Republicans to show any serious commitment, not vague commitments—not ‘we’ll get revenues because of tax reform somewhere in the future, but we don’t know exactly what that looks like, and we can’t identify a single tax that we would allow to go up’—but if we can get any of them, who are still in office as opposed to retired, to commit to that, we’ll be able to reduce our deficit.”

(MORE: The Obama Campaign’s Romney Glossary)

On the campaign trail, Romney has pointedly attacked Obama for carrying out “an appeasement strategy” that “apologizes for America.” “He believes America’s role as leader in the world is a thing of the past. I believe a strong America must – and will – lead the future,” Romney said after winning the New Hampshire primary. SeveralRepublican candidates have argued that Obama does not embrace the notion ofAmerican exceptionalism.

In the interview, Obama pointedly dismissed that critique. “I think there is a strong belief that we continue to be a superpower unique perhaps in the annals of history that is not only self-interested but is also thinking about how to create a set of international rules and norms that everyone can follow, everyone can benefit from,” Obama said.

The president did acknowledge that despite his foreign policy successes, not everything had gone according to plan. “We still have huge challenges ahead and one thing I’ve learned over the last three years is that as much as you’d like to guide events, stuff happens,” Obama said. “And you have to respond, and those responses, no matter how effective your diplomacy or your foreign policy, are sometimes going to produce less than optimal results. But our overall trajectory, our overall strategy, has been very successful.”

(MORE: Iraq’s Government, Not Obama, Called Time on the U.S. Troop Presence.)

When asked about Romney’s assertion that Iran would get a nuclear weapon if Obama won reelection, Obama responded directly. “I have made myself clear since I began running for the presidency that we will take every step available to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he said. “Can we guarantee that Iran takes the smarter path? No, which is why I’ve repeatedly said we don’t take any options off the table in preventing them from getting a nuclear weapon.”

The interview will appear in the January 30 issue of TIME, which will be released online Thursday for all access subscribers.

The Star brings Afghan schoolgirl to Canada

The Star brings Afghan schoolgirl to Canada

As the wheels of the ancient Afghan Airlines flight left the ground, I sent a text back to the Star news desk: She’s out.

We couldn’t be sure until the plane, packed with Muslim pilgrims on their way to Iraq, lifted us up and away from Afghanistan.

There was so much that could have gone wrong in Kandahar. It is the heartland of the Taliban, after all.

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Even the Afghan police — they’re supposed to be on our side — tried to stop us leaving at the

civilian airport.

But today Roya Shams, the 17-year-old Afghan girl, is in Toronto and on her way to Ottawa’s prestigious Ashbury College, thanks in part to the generosity of Star readers.

***

The Star’s Paul Watson has been in a lot of terrible places.

He’s Canada’s only Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

He won for his work covering the Black Hawk Down disaster that forced the United States to retreat from its war against Somali warlords in 1993. You might have seen the movie.

Since then, Watson has reported on suffering and war across Africa, Asia and the Balkans.

Watson is war-weary and brutally honest. He knows why he’s on the spot. To report.

He has had, many times, to tell folks who were in bad trouble that he would not help them.

“With me, everywhere in the world where there’s trouble, I’ve always said ‘I can’t help you,’” he says. “Or if I feel terrible about their situation, I say ‘I’m so, so sorry, I can’t help you.’ Journalists don’t help directly, we report. It’s a principle — we observe, we don’t act.”

That principle was turned upside-down a year ago when Watson, the grizzled and scarred reporter, met Roya Shams.

***

Roya is a Taliban target.

Her father, Haji Sayed Gulab Shah, was a police colonel in charge of Kandahar’s District One.

Her dad was on our side and he was shot dead during a hunt for a notorious Taliban commander, Mullah Qahar.

At the time, a year ago, Roya was defying the Taliban by attending a school, supported in part by money from Star readers.

To fulfill her father’s ambitions for her, Roya is determined to become a politician.

“My father believed in girls. He taught me to read. I have four brothers and four sisters, but my father always said he had nine sons because, in his view, girls were as good as boys,” Roya said.

When the death threats increased after her father was killed, Roya was forced to quit school and stay out of sight at home.

“There will be no mercy for me,” she told Watson at the time.

Watson wrote several stories and came to admire Roya’s spirit and ambition. He decided his principle of “I’m so, so sorry, I can’t help” just didn’t cut it this time.

“I’ve never felt compelled to step out of the reporter’s role to help someone this way. This time, with this person, I did,” Watson says. “Roya is an extraordinary young woman, the daughter of a father who fought the same fight Canadians were fighting and dying for. Knowing Roya made me think helping one is better than helping none.”

If she made it to a Canadian school, Roya promised Watson, “I will show to the Canadian nation that Canadians did not die for nothing in Afghanistan.”

That’s quite a promise: 158 brave young Canadian soldiers came home in coffins.

Hundreds of others returned home injured in body and mind.

With the backing of the Star, Watson began to try to find a place for Roya in a Canadian school. After interviewing her on Skype, the headmaster and the admissions director of Ashbury College said they would help. Free tuition.

“There were many obstacles and each time the person could have said no,” Watson said. “But each time the person said yes when it was easier to say no, Roya was a step closer to freedom.”

Watson went to the Canadian embassy in Islamabad, capital of Pakistan, to personally pick up Roya’s student visa for Canada.

Once he had that, the only thing left was to deliver the visa to Roya and then get her safely out of Kandahar.

***

I sat with Watson for two days in a small, chilly guesthouse in Kandahar city. There were three or four other guests. We were the only Westerners.

Watson, who knows a thing or two about bad guys with guns, thought we would be safe without U.S. military protection if we stayed mostly inside and wore Afghan head shawls when we went out in a car.

So this was a good opportunity to sit tight and get better at Sudoku.

There is nothing but danger in Kandahar. The day before we arrived, a suicide bomber reached the door of the police chief before he botched his assignment and blew up only himself.

The next day, a suicide car bomber rammed an armoured vehicle carrying a district governor, killing him and two of his sons.

Then that video of those American marines urinating on dead Taliban hit the headlines on Al Jazeera, setting the town on edge.

And Tuesday, the Taliban assassinated a tribal elder just around the corner from our guesthouse.

We went outside that guesthouse just three times.

First, to visit Roya’s house, where we were greeted by her brother, Sayed Gulale Shams. As the eldest son, he’s now in charge of the family. We sat on the floor for the traditional Afghan hospitality — a fabulous, colourful feast prepared by Roya, which she was not allowed to attend. Men only.

Roya’s brother thanked Star readers for helping his little sister.

Second, a dash to the cemetery as Roya, dressed in a lavender burqa, knelt and wept a farewell at her father’s grave. The cemetery is smack-up against an area under Taliban control — something Watson “forgot” to tell me until we were safely sipping tea later.

Third, the risky ride to the airport. Once we left the city, we tucked ourselves in behind a U.S. military convoy — each wheeled fighting machine the size of a small bungalow.

We peeled away at the civilian airport to check in. There was a tense hour with Afghan cops. A young woman travelling without a burqa and with two Western men? That’s an outrage! Show me your papers! Leaving Afghanistan? No, you must stay!

***

For seven years, Canada has spilled blood in Kandahar.

Our goal was to help Afghanistan build a stable democracy from the failed stone-age state it had become after decades of war.

The Star wanted to continue our country’s investment in building a better future for Afghans.

That is why, for the first time in its 120-year history, the Star took this extraordinary step of leading an effort to rescue a student from a war zone: to bring one of Afghanistan’s bright young people to Canada to further her education, away from the fear and bombs and bullets so she can return one day to help make her country a better place.

With the continued generosity of our readers, we hope this gesture will help ensure our soldiers did not die in vain.

The Star is committed to helping Roya finish her high school education and graduate from university.

***

Breathing again at 30,000 feet, I began to read Roya’s application to Ashbury.

“Kandahar is a challenging piece of earth for women and girls to have access to education …

“I wish to be a politician … I believe every Afghan citizen, man or woman, should have the right to speak freely and live in peace.

“God bless my late father and his soul. He prepared for family members to have education despite this unbelievable and most insecure province. A girl going to school in Kandahar is somehow like a hell.”

Later, in Dubai, there was nothing I could do to get Roya to walk alongside Watson and me. She stayed several paces behind.

“I cannot,” Roya said. “That would be disrespectful.”

***

Roya got her first dose of Canadian reality on Tuesday — she went to what she called “the skating game” — and saw the Leafs lose to the Senators 2-3.

Her report: “The Leafs played very well in the beginning and then not so well in the end.”

Told you she was smart.

China’s ‘Netizens’ React to Stricter Rules on Microblogging

China’s 'Netizens' React to Stricter Rules on Microblogging

Internet users in China are speaking out about a plan to eliminate anonymity on the country’s popular microblogs, saying that the move will limit their freedoms online.
The plan, roughly outlined by senior propaganda officials in Beijing Wednesday, mandates that Chinese-based microblog operators obtain certified real names from their users upon registering new accounts. In a second phase, existing accounts will also be required to provide real information about their identity.
Wang Chen, minister of the State Council Information Office, justified the government’s policy to counter “false, illegal and obscene information that might harm the healthy development of the Internet in China.”
Wang added that such orderly development is a wish of the Chinese Internet users known as “netizens.”
On Weibo, China’s most popular Twitter-like website, bloggers challenged Wang’s claim.
Internet user Mengfei asked for “convincing proofs” that Chinese netizens actually want a name registration system. “When I heard this, it made me want to curse,” he wrote in a post on Thursday.
A netizen nicknamed Mister Langfeng said that the real name registration system would further limit opportunities for free expression for Chinese Internet users.
China, with an online population of more than 505 million people, is the world’s largest Internet market. The Chinese government blocks Internet access to some U.S.-based social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, but there are many domestic microblogging sites.
Half of Internet users in China regularly use microblogging services and commentators have dubbed 2011 “the year of Weibo,” with a nearly 300 percent increase in usage from the year before.
Major news events are widely debated on these online services, where anonymity often allows netizens to be more frank.
Traditionally sensitive topics like government corruption, food safety scandals and human rights spark lively discussions on the Internet, despite government efforts to scale down the discussions when they strongly challenge the Communist party’s agenda.
Weibo has also proved to be an effective tool in breaking news coverage.
On July 2011, it was a post on Weibo that alerted Chinese mainstream media to a deadly train crash. Microblogs kept the conversation going afterwards, asking the government to explain its late and sloppy rescue management.
The Chinese blogger and journalist who calls himself Michael Anti says that Weibo’s simple design, which only requires a phone connected to the Internet to post messages, is key to its success.
From the isolated Chinese countryside people can send messages that reach people with influence in Beijing. And, they can dialogue with them. He says if you have encountered cases of corruption and you want to petition them, then it is likely that some mainstream media will pick them up through Weibo.
Anti became an outspoken opponent of real-name registration in early 2011, when Facebook deleted his account because he did not register using his real name.
He complained against Facebook’s decision then and continues to oppose online real-name policies in every country. He says, “If we link online accounts to real identification, then it decreases the level of freedom one enjoys when using the Internet.”
Last December, Chinese authorities announced initial testing of the real-name policy. Municipal governments of Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou ordered microblog operators to register users under their real names.
But there has been high-profile opposition to the plan.
Tencent Holdings Ltd, China’s biggest Internet company, announced earlier this month that it would not implement the real-name system for its popular instant message program, QQ. The company is based in Shenzhen, one of the four pilot cities.
Jeremy Goldkorn, the founder of the China media monitoring website Danwei.org says although authorities said the new system would start in December, not much has changed. “I don’t think it has actually been implemented anywhere, at least not thoroughly. Because it’s still possible to do a lot in the Internet without using your real name, including Weibo services.”
If authorities do follow through on the plan, Goldkorn agrees with other critics who say that the loss of anonymity will have a big impact on microblogs.
“It will certainly have a chilling effect on discussion on Weibo, because a lot of people will be wary of speaking their mind if there is going to be a real name attached to their account. But I don’t think it’s going to kill off Weibo,” Goldhorn said.
The government’s announcement this week comes as it is struggling with finding the best way to manage public discourse.
In his speech, Wang Chen also insisted on the need for better-trained government’s spokespersons who could positively carry out Beijing’s message to domestic and foreign audiences. “The most important thing,” he says, is for the spokespersons to provide “accurate information based on the facts.”

Tom Toles

Tom Toles

WISCONSIN Walker opponents to submit recall petition

Walker opponents to submit recall petition

Opponents of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday will submit a mountain of petition signatures demanding his recall, and in anticipation the embattled Republican has flooded airwaves with ads highlighting his stewardship in creating “thousands of new jobs.”

It is a claim at once correct and misleading, federal jobs data suggest, underscoring how the drive to dislodge Walker is shaping up as a fact-challenged slugfest and a pre-presidential election proxy for competing economic visions in a sharply divided land.

Democrats have been as quick to inflate the magnitude of job stagnation as Walker has been to paint an unduly rosy portrait.

In little more than a year in office, Walker has become one of the nation’s most polarizing figures. He is adored by the tea party but reviled by Democrats and unions for austere policies that he said would restore prosperity: the gutting of collective-bargaining rights for public workers and spending cuts for schools and other programs, but tax breaks for businesses.

Walker pledged that his policies would lead to the creation of 250,000 jobs by the end of his four-year term. So far, however, job growth has been anemic, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

— Associated Press

WASHINGTON

Missing Mt. Rainier snowshoer is safe

A 66-year-old snowshoer who have been missing on Mount Rainier since Saturday was found alive Monday afternoon by a team of three rescuers, a national park spokeswoman said.

Yong Chun Kim of Tacoma, Wash., was alert and conscious, cold but otherwise in stable condition, park spokeswoman Lee Taylor said. Rescuers were working to bring him out.

Kim was leading a group on a snowshoe hike on the mountain when he slid down a slope and became separated from his party. He radioed to the group twice to say he was okay. But when he failed to meet up with them in the parking lot, a search was launched.

Teams of park rangers, search dogs and volunteers had been combing a snowy area of Mount Rainier for the third straight day on Monday.

— Associated Press

FLORIDA

O.J. Simpson

facing foreclosure

Like tens of thousands of other Florida homeowners, imprisoned former football star O.J. Simpson is in danger of losing his house to foreclosure.

Miami-Dade Circuit Court records show that J.P. Morgan Chase filed for foreclosure in September on the four-bedroom, four-bathroom house south of downtown Miami. Simpson’s attorney has since filed a motion to dismiss the case, but there has been no further action since November.

Simpson bought the 4,233-square-foot house in 2000 for $575,000, property records show. Its current assessed value is $478,401, with property taxes of about $9,000. The 2011 taxes were paid in December.

— Associated Press

3,500-year-old cypress burns: Firefighters say one of the world’s oldest cypress trees caught fire and collapsed in central Florida. The 118-foot-tall bald cypress burned early Monday, and officials say arson could be to blame. According to the county parks department, ring samples showed the tree was roughly 3,500 years old.

N.Y. hospital patients overbilled tens of millions: Patients at a New York City hospital are getting billed for tens of millions of dollars because of a computer error. Unemployed doorman Alexis Rod­riguez says he almost became ill when he received a $44.8 million bill from the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center for hospitalization for pneumonia. The company that prepares the bills had mistakenly put the invoice number in the space where the invoice amount should go.

Telling kids they’re great isn’t so good, schools find Teachers tempering praise to push students

Telling kids they’re great isn’t so good, schools find
Teachers tempering praise to push students
By Michael Alison Chandler, Sunday, January 15,10:35 PM

For decades, the prevailing wisdom in education was that high self-esteem would lead to high achievement. The theory led to an avalanche of daily affirmations, awards ceremonies and attendance certificates — but few, if any, academic gains.

Now, an increasing number of teachers are weaning themselves from what some call empty praise. Drawing on psychology and brain research, these educators aim to articulate a more precise, and scientific, vocabulary for praise that will push children to work through mistakes and take on more challenging assignments. Consider teacher Shar Hellie’s new approach in Montgomery County.

To get students through the shaky first steps of Spanish grammar, Hellie spent many years trying to boost their confidence. If someone couldn’t answer a question easily, she would coach him, whisper the first few words, then follow up with a booming “¡Muy bien!”

But on a January morning at Rocky Hill Middle School in Clarksburg, the smiling grandmother gave nothing away. One seventh-grade boy returned to the overhead projector three times to rewrite a sentence, hesitating each time, while his classmates squirmed in silence.

“You like that?” Hellie asked when he settled on an answer. He nodded. Finally, she beamed and praised the progress he was making — in his cerebral cortex.

“You have a whole different set of neurons popping up there!” she told him.

A growing body of research over three decades shows that easy, unearned praise does not help students but instead interferes with significant learning opportunities. As schools ratchet up academic standards for all students, new buzzwords are “persistence,” “risk-taking” and “resilience” — each implying more sweat and strain than fuzzy, warm feelings.

“We used to think we could hand children self-esteem on a platter,” Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck said. “That has backfired.”

Dweck’s studies, embraced in Montgomery schools and elsewhere, have found that praising children for intelligence — “You’re so clever!” — also backfires. In study after study, children rewarded for being smart become more likely to shy away from hard assignments that might tarnish their star reputations.

But children praised for trying hard or taking risks tend to enjoy challenges and find greater success. Children also perform better in the long term when they believe that their intellect is not a birthright but something that grows and develops as they learn new things.

Brain imaging shows how this is true, how connections between nerve cells in the cortex multiply and grow stronger as people learn and practice new skills. This bit of science has proved to be motivating to struggling students because it gives them a sense of control over their success.

It’s also helpful for students on an accelerated track, the ones often told how “smart” they are, who are vulnerable to coasting or easily frustrated when they don’t succeed.

That’s how teachers at Rocky Hill Middle started talking about “neuroplasticity” and “dendritic branching” during training sessions. They also started the school year by giving all 1,100 students a mini-course in brain development.

“This is the most important thing you are going to learn this year,” Hellie said she told her students before playing a YouTube video that explains how brains grow. “It has to do with the way you are going to live the rest of your life — whether you will continue to learn, be curious, have an active, growing brain or whether you are going to sit and let things happen to you.”

An online curriculum called Brainology developed by Dweck and another researcher in 2009 has been used in 300 schools. Joshua P. Starr, the new Montgomery schools superintendent, selected Dweck’s book, “Mindset,” for the inaugural session of a book club he created to introduce his education philosophy.

Dweck’s work builds on other research about motivation and the malleability of intelligence that has stirred significant changes in curriculum, teacher training and gifted instruction in many school districts.

In Fairfax County, for example, students are no longer labeled “gifted” but considered on a spectrum of “novice” to “expert” in each subject — the kind of language that is seeping into teacher praise, said Carol Horn, coordinator of advanced academic programs for Fairfax schools.

Education experts have long warned about the dark side of praise.

Alfie Kohn, author of the book “Punished by Rewards,” has said most praise, even for effort, encourages children to be “praise junkies” dependent on outside feedback rather than cultivating their own judgment and motivation to learn.

Michelle A. Rhee, the former D.C. schools chancellor, often recounts a story about how her daughters’ many soccer trophies are warping their sense of their athletic abilities. Her daughters “suck at soccer,” she said in a radio interview for Marketplace last January.

“We’ve become so obsessed with making kids feel good about themselves that we’ve lost sight of building the skills they need to actually be good at things,” Rhee said.

Underlying the praise backlash is a hard seed of anxiety — a sense that American students are not working hard enough to compete with students from overseas for future jobs.

In an oft-cited 2006 study by the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution, U.S. eighth-graders had only a middling performance on an international math exam, but they registered high levels of confidence. They were more likely than higher performing students from other countries, such as Singapore and South Korea, to report that they “usually do well in mathematics.”

Praise should be relevant to objective standards, said Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education think tank. Whether it’s given to make children feel good or because “at least they tried,” it’s not helpful if students are still “50 yards from proficient,” he said.

“Winning or losing also matters in the real world,” Finn said. “You either beat the enemy or you don’t. You either get the gold medal or you get the silver.”

Dweck said it is important to be clear with children about what proficient or gold-medal performance looks like so they know what to strive for. (Unhelpful: “You were robbed! Those judges must be blind!”)

But she stresses the importance of using praise to encourage risk-taking and learning from failure in the classroom, experiences that make way for invention, creativity and resilience.

“Does the teacher say: ‘Who’s having a fantastic struggle? Show me your struggle.’ That is something that should be rewarded,” she said. “Does the teacher make it clear that the fastest answer isn’t always the best answer? [That] a mistake-free paper isn’t always the best paper?”

Changing the language of praise can be difficult for adults who grew up thinking that an “A for effort” was a consolation prize.

During his book club, Starr recounted how his 3-year-old son recently discovered that the word “brown” starts with B.

“My wife says, ‘You are so smart,’ ” he recalled. When he discouraged her from praising his intelligence, Starr said, “she looked at me like I was crazy.”

Typically, young children don’t second-guess praise. But teenagers understand when feedback is useful and authentic. “Great job!” doesn’t tell them what was great about what they did, experts say.

“They know that everything they do isn’t ‘Magnificent!’ ” Hellie said.

And so her class is becoming accustomed to awkward silence.

The same January morning, another seventh-grade boy struggled to figure out what was wrong with this sentence: Un chico soy inteligente.

One classmate started to answer, but Hellie stopped her. Another classmate volunteered, in newly acquired vocabulary, why the boy needed to persist on his own. “He’s trying to connect pathways in his brain or whatever,” she said.

Finally, the boy understood.

“Soy un chico inteligente,” he said.

“What does it mean?” the teacher asked.

“I am an intelligent boy?”

The class broke into applause.

Turkish Cypriot leader Denktas dies


Rauf Denktas, the first president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, died Friday in Nicosia after a long illness, the self-declared republic’s current leader announced.

Denktas, 87, was instrumental in the independence of Turkish Cyprus, which, outside of Turkey, is not recognized internationally.

He became its first president in 1983 and was re-elected in 1985, 1990, 1995 and 2000.

“Our sorrow is huge … and it will be very hard for us,” said his son, Serdar Denktas. “We will try to overcome this sorrow with respect to his memory and with patience. … He left us, Turkish Cypriots, and people of Anatolia as orphans, but he met with heroes who made this land a nation.”

Turkish troops invaded Cyprus in 1974 in response to a coup, engineered by Greece.

The island remains divided despite years of efforts to resolve the deadlock. The southern part of the island joined the European Union on its own after unity efforts failed.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his condolences to the family and his supporters.

“Mr. Denktas was a long-serving and historic Turkish Cypriot leader with whom the United Nations had a long relationship in the framework of U.N.-facilitated talks for the reunification of Cyprus and related to its peacekeeping responsibilities on the island,” a statement from Ban’s spokesperson said.

Denktas was born in Baf, Cyprus, in 1924 and was educated in London. The lawyer eventually became active in political affairs.

Outside of politics, Denktas was known for his photography, mostly of nature, and for his writings.

Islamic Democratic Turkey

Turkey’s politically stability after Tayyab Erdogan from his rabble-rousing Islamist past to the global state-man,and three time election winner he is today.

After dissolved Sulatant Ottoman,Turkey possession was like “sick man” no chance for further survive in world.Challenge of West and Middle East and crisis of Politically,economically and religiously rousing day to day,but authority of people and government institutional realizing it.

In the history of Turkey sate,when she unstable during the century of 1920-40,became new change in state when the leader and founder of modern Turkey M Kamal .In this time world face changing in West and East region due to second world war and new security introduce in the world.

One were suggest that some day’s Turkey’s a staunchly secularist country, could have an Islamic head of government it would have seemed a joke.Turkey is one of the few countries in the world that feed their own people without outside help.

Political popularity in recent Turkey,without doubt,the resounding victory by ruling party AKD(justice and Development party lead by prime Minster Tayyab Erdogan,with a mandate of 50 percent of popular support is a land mark event.

Heart of the matter is that Turkey is reaching unprecedented height of economically and land of peace after antiant decades of strife.As well as Turkey’s electorate is grateful to Erdogan government for successfully administration.Turkey which Erdogan inherited is 2003 was a practicing democracy in appearance but still had common characteristic with the authoritative regimes of the Middle East.
Turkey Prime Minster push forward his reform program.This approach helped him form a rambow coalition of large industrialist Islamist conservatives and liberals.

In sum, Erdogan party very establish,and well organized political party on the other.Erdogan will bring ISLAM and DEMOCRACY together, since overarching all personal traits and political compulsion,he also conscious by how that he is destined to be a man of history.He speech and said”he vowed to embrace the whole nation in this first victory.

Further gave message to build the new constitutional through conscious and negotiation,include opposition parties,civil society groups and academic,we will seek broadest conscious .

Is it you…


Posted on Jan 11, 2012 under General

i am witnessing unusual smiles on my face,
just wondering if it is due to someone’s grace…

Habitual of listening the same voice again and again,
habitual of listening the same romantic song.

I am just thinking…

Is it someone coming closer to me?
Or is it me getting drifted..

Nights are colder but the goosebumps are not the gifts,
i am getting some vibes of a tryst.

By now i have started recognising you
..The reason behind my stolen sleeps is for sure you.

Searching for words for making a rhyme but not getting it,
because the thoughts of mine are captured by you…

The year will tear tonight
,and we will be witnessing the plight

I want to seize the moment but need your help,
sensing you coming closer by every step..

Presence of whom makes my day bright,
touch of whom makes my pain light,
smell of whom makes my emotions wild,
thoughts of whom makes my senses quite…

Wait a minute!!!

Is the space of my Valentine filled by someone?
Is it so that you are the only one..Is it you??
Is at really you??

Syria crisis: Qatar calls for Arabs to send in troops


The ruler of the Gulf state of Qatar has said Arab countries should send troops into Syria to stop government forces killing civilians there.

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani told US news channel CBS “some troops should go to stop the killing”.

It is the first time an Arab leader has publicly called for military intervention in Syria.

More than 5,000 civilians have been killed since anti-government protests erupted in Syria in March, the UN says.

Qatar was the first Arab country to join the Nato-led operation in Libya, which led to the downfall of Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi.

It has also led regional criticism of the crackdowns on protesters by President Bashar al-Assad in Syria and in Yemen by President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Israel upholds citizenship bar for Palestinian spouses


Israel’s Supreme Court has upheld a law banning Palestinians who marry Israelis from gaining Israeli citizenship.

Civil rights groups had petitioned the court to overturn the law, saying it was unconstitutional.

“Human rights do not prescribe national suicide,” Judge Asher Grunis wrote in the judgement.

The law was introduced in 2003, with its backers citing security concerns and the need to ensure Israel remains a Jewish-majority state.

Human rights activists and Arab politicians condemned the court’s decision.

The court “had failed the test of justice”, said Arab-Israeli MP Jamal Zahalka of the Balad party.

“It is a dark day for the protection of human rights and for the Israeli High Court,” lawyers from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel told AFP.

“The ruling proves how much the situation regarding the civil rights of the Arab minority in Israel is declining into a highly dangerous and unprecedented situation”, Arab-Israeli civil rights group Adalah, one of those that brought the petition, said in a statement.

The Citizenship and Entry Law was passed in 2003, during the second Palestinian intifada (uprising), as waves of suicide bombings targeted Israel.

Many were launched from the West Bank, some with the help of Israeli Arabs.

Initially, the law was emergency legislation which has since been extended periodically.

It was amended in 2005, allowing women over 25 and men over 35 to apply for temporary permits to live in Israel, but still ruling out citizenship for all but a handful of cases.

In 2007, it was expanded to apply to citizens of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Bahrain protests: Police use tear gas to break up march


Security police have used tear gas and stun grenades to break up an anti-government march in Bahrain’s capital, Manama.

The organisers say more than 3,000 people took part, in spite of a heavy security presence.

The government says the protest was illegal.

Activists from Bahrain’s Shia Muslim majority have been demonstrating against the kingdom’s ruling Sunni monarchy since last February.

Thursday’s march in the centre of Manama was led by a prominent human rights activist, Nabeel Rajab.

“We are using the streets peacefully. We are marching for our rights,” he told the reporter.

One activist tweeted: “Manama is filled with tear gas, protesters running in all directions, followed by shooting and riot police.”

A government official confirmed to the reporter that the authorities had acted to disperse the march.

“Security forces warned those involved and requested them to disperse, but after they disobeyed orders the security forces took the necessary legal measures,” the official said.

Excessive force

Bahrain’s Shia Muslim majority has long complained of discrimination and human rights abuses at the hands of security police.

The Interior Ministry was heavily criticised in a report by an independent committee of experts released in November.

It found that the security police had used excessive force and had systematically tortured detainees while suppressing pro-democracy protests that began in February 2011.

More than 40 people were killed during the violence.

The report, commissioned by the king, was seen as an attempt to defuse tensions between the government and the predominantly Shia protesters.

Ahead of the latest march, the government said it would rebuild 12 Shia mosques that were demolished during last year’s unrest.

Shia protester ‘shot dead’ in Saudi Arabia


At least one person has been killed and three others injured in clashes between security forces and Shia protesters in eastern Saudi Arabia, activists say.

Issam Mohammed, 22, reportedly died when troops fired live ammunition after demonstrators threw stones at them in al-Awamiya, a town in the Qatif region.

Officials said a security vehicle was shot at and attacked with petrol bombs.

The violence came as UK Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in Saudi Arabia for his first official visit.

Mr Cameron will meet King Abdullah and Crown Prince Nayef, the interior minister, to discuss the strengthening of security, trade and energy ties with the UK, growing tensions with Iran and the civil unrest in Syria.

Saudi investment in the UK is worth more than £62bn ($95bn) and the Gulf kingdom is the UK’s biggest trading partner in the Middle East.
The Saudi Shia news website Rasid.com said Mr Mohammed had suffered gunshot wounds when security forces opened fire to disperse protesters in al-Awamiya at dawn on Friday, in retaliation for stones being thrown at a security vehicle.
One of the three injured was shot while trying to drive through a checkpoint at the entrance to the town, the website added. Security forces reportedly sealed off the town after the clashes.

The interior ministry said security forces patrolling al-Awamiya in a vehicle had been attacked with petrol bombs and had caught fire.

“While the security forces were trying to control the fire, they were exposed to shooting and were dealing with the situation as necessary,” a statement quoted by state news agency SPA said.

“The exchange of fire led to two people being injured among those involved in the shooting, and they were taken to hospital where one of them died later,” it added.

The clashes came after demonstrations were held in four villages in the Qatif region to call for the “release of political detainees, reform and an end to sectarian discrimination”, one activist told the AFP news agency
Qatif, in the oil-rich Eastern Province, is home to a Shia majority that has long complained of marginalisation at the hands of the Sunni ruling family, the Al Saud.

Protests erupted in Eastern Province in March when the popular uprising in neighbouring Bahrain, which has a Shia majority and a Sunni royal family, was crushed with the assistance of Saudi and other Gulf troops.

In November, four Shia men were shot dead by security forces over four days in the city of Qatif. The interior ministry said they had been armed and operating on “foreign orders” – code for Iran.

Earlier this month, the authorities named 23 suspects in connection with the disturbances in Eastern province, accusing them of possessing illegal weapons and opening fire on the public and police.

About 400 people have been arrested since March, of whom 70 remain in custody, according to activists, including the author Nazir al-Majid and the human rights activist Fadil al-Munasif

Syrian opposition group, rebel army join forces


Damascus, Syria (CNN) — A Syrian opposition group demanding the end of President Bashar al-Assad’s reign announced Friday that it has begun coordinating with the rebel Free Syria Army, while thousands of anti-government protesters were set to take to the streets to support the breakaway army.

The announcement by the Syrian National Council and the planned protests across the country in support of the rebel army appear to signal a shift in the anti-government movement, an effort to solidify coordination between the groups who say have been the target of a brutal crackdown by al-Assad’s forces.

The move coincides with reports of increased violence against demonstrators by security forces despite the ongoing efforts of an Arab League fact-finding mission to determine whether the Syrian government is abiding by an agreement to end the crackdown.

Al-Assad, who has characterized the anti-government protesters as “armed gangs,” has insisted his security forces are battling terrorists intent on targeting civilians and fomenting unrest.

State media reported that “terrorists” killed three soldiers and injured three others in an attack on a military Signals Directorate Center in Damascus on Friday.
The Local Coordination Committees of Syria — an opposition group that organizes and documents anti-government demonstrations — said a 13-year-old girl from a village in Aleppo was shot and killed by government security forces Friday. The girl was traveling with her family when their vehicle was fired on at a checkpoint, and she was hit three times, the LCC said.

Security forces forbade the family from taking the girl to a nearby hospital, and she died at the scene, the group said.

The group said 25 people had died Thursday.

The head of the Arab League monitoring team inside Syria, Sudanese Lt. Gen. Mohamed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, said clashes and violence are occurring there. But he said the conflict does not qualify as an outright civil war.

“I don’t think there is a civil war now, but there is a lot of interruption and misunderstanding news and there is hit and run here and there, but it is not really war … as they are saying,” he said.

As protests show no signs of abating, the United States, the European Union and a number of Arab countries have called on al-Assad to end the violence and step down.

The Syrian National Council — an umbrella organization for a number of opposition groups — plans to establish a liaison office with the Free Syria Army “to maintain direct communications around the clock,” the group said in a statement.

The council also is opening a direct channel of communication with the rebel force to ensure effective communication between the two groups “in order to achieve optimal service to the Syrian revolution,” the statement said.

Additionally, the Syrian National Council and the Free Syria Army — composed of military defectors — agreed to reorganize the rebel military units and create a plan to accommodate additional soldiers, according to the statement.

The plan was hammered out Thursday during a meeting between members of the council and the rebel army, the statement said.

It was unclear where the liaison office would be situated.

Meanwhile, Syrian activists and opposition groups used Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to urge thousands to take to the streets Friday in support of the rebel army.

More than 5,000 people have died since mid-March, when al-Assad began the crackdown on anti-government protesters calling for his ouster, the United Nations has said. But opposition groups put the toll at more than 6,000.

CNN can not confirm the claims by opposition groups of violence and deaths as Syria’s government has limited access by foreign journalists. A number of journalists have been allowed in to the country in recent days, including a CNN correspondent, to travel with Arab League monitors.

Al-Dabi said monitors have been allowed to do their job “without interference from any side.” He said the team still needs more time to produce an accurate report about the situation inside Syria and has no plans to leave before the scheduled January 19 end of the fact-finding mission. Monitors arrived in Syria on December 26.

The Arab League has monitors in 16 towns and villages, al-Dabi said.

The team consists of 163 monitors working in 16 teams, according to Arab League Ambassador Adnan Al Khudeir, head of the operations room to which the Arab monitors report.

Also on Friday, the body of France 2 TV journalist Gilles Jacquier was returned to Paris, just days after he was killed when a mortar shell struck the pro-government rally he was attending as part of a government-authorized tour of the flashpoint city of Homs, according to his network. Eight Syrians also died in the attack.

A plane carrying Jacquier’s body landed at Le Bourget airport near Paris where it was met by French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterand, according to a France 2 report.

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said Jacquier was among a delegation of international journalists visiting the city to document the damage by “terrorists.”

But the Syrian Revolution General Commission, an opposition force, disputed that description of events. It said security forces fired two shells at journalists from an infantry vehicle.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has demanded Syrian authorities divulge details surrounding the killing of Jacquier, saying the government should have ensured the safety of journalists invited to carry out the visit.

The Arab League has called on Damascus to stop violence against civilians, free political detainees, remove tanks and weapons from cities and allow outsiders, including members of the international news media, to travel freely around Syria.

ISPR terms Gilani’s allegations serious

Syria’s Assad blames ‘foreign conspiracy


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: “Nobody can deny the seriousness of these plots”

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has blamed a foreign conspiracy for trying to destabilise Syria.

The “external conspiracy is clear to everybody”, he said in his first public remarks in months.

Syria’s violent crackdown on 10 months of protests against his rule has drawn international condemnation.

He said elections could be held later this year but “terrorism”, which he blames for the unrest, would be met with an “iron fist”.

“Regional and international sides have tried to destabilise the country,” President Assad said in a speech broadcast live nationally from Damascus University.

“Our priority now is to regain [the] security [in] which we basked in for decades, and this can only be achieved by hitting the terrorists with an iron fist,” he said.

“We will not be lenient with those who work with outsiders against the country.”

BBC world affairs correspondent Nick Childs says the speech was a riposte to those who are asking questions about the pressure under which Mr Assad is operating.

It was a message that there will be no concessions and its main theme was that nothing is going to change as far as the Syrian response is concerned, our correspondent says.
‘No order to fire’

The UN said last month that more than 5,000 civilians had been killed since protests began in March last year.
Syrian authorities say they are fighting armed groups, and that about 2,000 members of the security forces have been killed so far.

In recent months army deserters have joined the opposition and targeted government forces.

A team of 165 monitors from the Arab League has been in Syria since December to monitor implementation of a peace plan that calls for an end to all violence, the removal of heavy weapons from cities and the release of all political prisoners.

Opposition groups have accused the Arab League mission of serving to cover up the crackdown on the protests, which has continued despite the presence of the observers.

Mr Assad said that there were no orders for security forces to fire on protesters.

“There is no order from any level about opening fire on any citizen. According to the law, nobody should open fire – only in self-defence or during a clash with an armed person.”
‘No snap reforms’

Mr Assad lashed out at the Arab League, which suspended Syria in November and imposed sanctions, saying: “We were surprised Arabs did not stand with Syria”.

He said Arab countries that opposed Syria were under outside pressure ,which was undermining their sovereignty.

But, he added, Syria would not “close its doors” to an Arab solution as long as “it respects Syria’s sovereignty”.

Mr Assad described the events of the past 10 months as “regretful” and said they had been a serious test for Syria.

However he ruled out snap reform in response to the unrest.

“We should link what happened before the crisis and post crisis and then embark on reform… We shouldn’t build our reforms on this crisis,” he said.

There were no obstacles to a multi-party system, he said, adding that it was a question of time.

Mr Assad said he welcomed the idea of expanding the government to include “all political forces”.

A referendum on a new constitution could be held in March, he said, paving the way for elections in May or June.

Syria is ruled by the Baath party, dominated by President Assad’s family and the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shia Islam.

Are you in Syria or do you have family in Syria? What is your reaction to President Bashar al-Assad’s speech? Send us your comments and experiences using the form below.

Success

Defining what success means to YOU: success will mean different things to different people. In these modern times, traditional ideas of success involving impressive job titles and high salaries are being challenged by such ideas as “time affluence”. Decide what is important to you, and don’t waste time chasing someone else’s idea of success.

Strong work ethic: expecting great success without being willing to work hard for it is a recipe for mediocrity. If it seems that others just get lucky, remember the following quote from the famous golfer Gary Player:

“The harder I work, the luckier I get.” – Gary Player

Focus on adding value: stop focusing on what you want, and start thinking of how you can add value to other people. When you help other people get what they want, they will be more willing to help you.

Abundance mentality: this is the understanding that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. With this mentality, you are willing to share prestige, recognition, and profits.

Motivation: what drives you to succeed? When you understand the reasons behind what you do (eg to provide for your family), you will gain purpose and clarity.

Goals: there have been numerous studies that have shown people who set goals are more likely to succeed than people who do not. By setting goals, you focus your attention on a target which, in turn, focuses your mind on finding ways to get there.

Iran’s president looks to Latin America as global sanctions grow


CNN) — Beef from Brazil is on Iranian dinner tables. An Iranian-built hospital treats patients near Bolivia’s capital. Iranian-funded factories dot the Venezuelan countryside.

Iran has forged hundreds of agreements with Latin American nations and pledged billions of dollars to fund them.

More deals could be in store this week as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad embarks on a trip that starts in Venezuela on Sunday and includes stops in Nicaragua, Ecuador and Cuba.

Well before the Iranian leader’s arrival in Caracas, his plans for a Latin America tour grabbed global attention as tensions grow between many Western powers and Iran over the nation’s nuclear program.

“As the regime feels increasing pressure, it is desperate for friends and flailing around in interesting places to find new friends,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters Friday.

But analysts say Ahmadinejad’s visit is the latest step in a longstanding, calculated effort to shore up support in the region.

As Iran strives to improve its image, get around stiffening sanctions, dampen America’s global influence and secure a stronger foothold in the United States’ backyard, relationships with Latin American countries have become increasingly important.

Iran’s state-run Press TV described cooperation with Latin American nations as one of the “top priorities of the Islamic Republic’s foreign policy” in a recent article about this week’s trip.

“Iran has an extremely active diplomatic move afoot,” said Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington.

‘Cultural ties’

Last month, a film portraying the life of Mary and the birth of Jesus from an Islamic point of view beamed out over international airwaves — in Spanish.

The movie was the first program aired on HispanTV, according to a report in the Tehran Times.

And the target audience was thousands of miles away from the government-sponsored broadcasting hub in Iran’s capital.

At a ceremony marking the station’s official launch last month, HispanTV’s managers said the new Spanish network aims to paint a true picture of Iran and link the Islamic republic with Latin America.

Other Spanish-language channels are “not independent and only serve the interest of the United States and certain allies,” said Mohammed Sarafraz, director of Iranian broadcasting’s world service, according to Press TV.
“It’s all about cultural ties between Iran and the Spanish-speaking community,” network manager Ali Ejaredar told a Press TV reporter.

Online previews of upcoming programming include videos showing scenic stretches of the Iranian countryside, bustling marketplaces and Persian calligraphy. An analyst on one program criticizes Western imperialism, saying “five countries cannot decide the destiny of the world.” A guest on another show slams U.S. immigration laws.

Spanish-language headlines on the network’s website last week described Israeli spies, foreign intervention in Syria, a report that Japan plans to “disobey” U.S. sanctions against Iran and an allegation that airport security screening machines in the United States cause death.

Stephen Johnson, who directs the Americas program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, compared Iran’s efforts to use the media to improve its image abroad to the U.S.-government-funded Voice of America radio network.

“They’re taking a page out of our playbook,” he said.

Despite Iran’s overtures, there are still rifts to overcome, Johnson said.

Some high-profile missteps have accompanied Iran’s increasing forays into Latin America, he said. A requirement that female employees wear the hijab at an Iran-funded hospital in El Alto, Bolivia, drew criticism from local officials. Uruguay’s foreign minister condemned statements by an Iranian ambassador who told reporters in the South American country that figures saying that millions died in the Holocaust were false.

Last year, Iran received the lowest ranking out of nine countries in the Latinobarometro public opinion survey, based on interviews of more than 20,000 residents in 18 Latin American countries (not including Cuba). Only 25% of those surveyed said they viewed Iran as “good” or “very good,” while 72% said they viewed the United States positively.

“I think with Iran, it’s a question of trust as to what are they up to, and what are their nuclear objectives,” Johnson said.

Ahmadinejad’s ‘direct, personal role’

Experts say Iran has been building relations in Latin America for decades.

Cuba was one of the first countries to recognize Iran’s government after the 1979 revolution. Fidel Castro made his first official visit to Iran in 2001.

But efforts to forge new business deals and bolster diplomatic efforts have intensified since Ahmadinejad’s tenure as president began in 2005.

“He’s presided over a really significant expansion of Iranian ties across Latin America. … Ahmadinejad himself has played a very direct, personal role in that process,” said Steven Heydemann, who researched Iran’s alliances as part of his work as senior adviser for Middle East initiatives at the United States Institute of Peace.

And it’s no coincidence that Venezuela will be Ahmadinejad’s first stop on his trip to the region — his sixth as president.

Despite their cultural differences, the two nations have found significant common ground: both are among the world’s top crude oil exporters, and their leaders have become strong allies united by a fierce opposition to what they view as U.S. imperialism.

Even as he announced last week that Ahmadinejad’s visit would go ahead as scheduled, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez slammed the United States, saying that “tensions in the Persian Gulf have been growing in recent hours because of Yankee pressures,” state-run VTV reported.

British warship to deploy to Persian Gulf

Venezuela and Iran already have signed more than 270 accords, including trade deals, construction projects, car and tractor factories, energy initiatives and banking programs. Flights began traveling between Caracas and Tehran as the relationship blossomed.

In addition to the numerous deals with Iran under his government, the Venezuelan president has helped the Islamic republic forge relationships with other members of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas, an eight-nation regional bloc Chavez founded.

Ahmadinejad’s visit comes as those countries continue efforts to craft regional trade and political deals without Washington’s influence.

“The countries of Latin America are saying to the world that they have sovereignty and independence. They are not subordinate to the dictates of the international polices of the United States,” said Nicmer Evans, a political science professor at the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas.

And now, with the specter of increased U.S. and European sanctions looming, Iran has an even deeper need to reach out, he said.

“The visit by Ahmadinejad to Venezuela and the rest of the countries reinforces on Iran’s part that they are not isolated. They are demonstrating it publicly,” Evans said.

On a practical level, analysts say Iran is likely looking for financial options.

“It’s clear that Iran is being really hammered by the sanctions, and I think that what they’re really looking for in Latin America is to develop ways to blunt the effects of the sanctions, particularly with the establishment of financial institutions that will allow them to move their money,” said Doug Farah, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center.

Washington’s worries

But when it comes to Iran, the U.S. State Department says there is no room for new deals.

“We are making absolutely clear to countries around the world that now is not the time to be deepening ties — not security ties, not economic ties — with Iran,” Nuland, the department’s spokeswoman, told reporters Friday.

Officials in the United States and other Western nations have ratcheted up sanctions against Iran several times since a November report by the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said the Iranian government was developing the technology needed to build a nuclear weapon. Last month, U.S. President Barack Obama announced sanctions against Iran’s central bank.

Iran: Nuclear reactor is weeks from operating at full capacity

Several Venezuelan institutions have also faced U.S. sanctions for dealings with Iran. Venezuela’s state oil company, PdVSA, faced U.S. sanctions last year over fuel shipments to Iran. And the U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned an Iranian-owned bank in Caracas in 2008.

Some U.S. government officials and Washington analysts allege that Iran could be using new business relationships and energy deals with Latin American countries as a cover for more illicit projects, such as training Hezbollah militants and developing nuclear weapons.

“Iran and its Bolivarian allies (Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador) in Latin America are systematically engaged in a pattern of financial behavior, recruitment exercises and business activities that are not economically rational and could be sued for the movement and/or production of (weapons of mass destruction) and the furthering of Iran’s stated aim of avoiding international sanctions on its nuclear program,” Farah wrote in a May 2011 report for the U.S. Defense Department.

Latin American leaders have repeatedly stressed that any partnerships with Iran have peaceful purposes.

Venezuelan officials made light of U.S. worries in a government statement describing one new Venezuela-Iran partnership in 2008: “atomic” bicycles made at a new national factory.

“The bicycles are known as ‘atomic,’ in an ironic sense, as a response to the United States’ constant attacks of Venezuela for its exchanges with Iran and the supposed transfer of uranium from our country to the Islamic nation,” Venezuela’s information ministry said in a statement accompanied by photos of Chavez riding one of the bikes outside the factory.

Smoke and mirrors?

The realities of the relationships between Iran and its Latin American allies are difficult to decipher, analysts say, because despite the large number of agreements trumpeted, information about the projects is often hard to come by.

“Half of them evaporate. They simply are forgotten. They don’t become operational,” said Birns of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

Heydemann, of the United States Institute of Peace, said some of the deals may be “smoke and mirrors.”

“There’s often a lot less happening than the volume of activity would lead you to believe. But it is the case that we have seen these substantial increases in trade relations. … That’s not an illusion,” he said.

With so many unanswered questions, U.S. officials will be keeping a close eye on this week’s trip, said Johnson, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“It’s not an existential threat to the United States,” he said, “but Iran’s activities (in Latin America) are something that they’re watching because of what they could develop into, not because of what they necessarily are today. There’s a lot we don’t know about them.”

Task force to ensure safety of CNG vehicles

ISLAMABAD: The government decided on Thursday to formulate mechanism and rules for safety of CNG-fitted public and private vehicles.

The petroleum secretary has set up a ministerial task force to evolve an inspection and enforcement regime to ensure safety of CNG kits and cylinders installed in public transport and private vehicles.

The task force is headed by the joint secretary (admin), ministry of petroleum and natural resources with the director general of the Hydrocarbon Development Institute of Pakistan (HDIP) as its secretary. Representatives of the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra), department of explosives, ministry of industries, Motorway Police, regional transport authorities and UN Disaster Risk Consultant are members of the task force.

Although no authority has the mandate and responsibility to monitor and regulate the safety of CNG system in vehicles, the government on Dec 30 last year banned the CNG fittings in public transport vehicles after about 50 people were killed in CNG-related accidents in public transport vehicles across the country.

“We have always maintained that violators of law should be punished, but there is no law about CNG fittings in vehicles,” said Ghiyas Paracha, Chairman of the All Pakistan CNG Association.

He said that no driver would knowingly install substandard CNG fittings in his vehicle because it would put his own life in danger.

“We ourselves have been demanding of the government to regulate the CNG fittings and kits,” he added.

He accused government departments of giving clearance to unfit vehicles.

The petroleum secretary said damaged, expired and non-approved cylinders would be seized by police. He said that correct placement/location of cylinders in public transport would be decided by Ogra, while use of multiple cylinders in one vehicle would be banned.

Soon after its formation, the task force held its meeting and proposed that private vehicles will be inspected annually and public service vehicles will be tested every four months.It recommended that re-fueling procedure and site safety at CNG pumps would be ensured by the chief inspector explosives and Ogra.

After the cut-off date Motor Vehicle Examination (MVE) will not certify vehicle having untested cylinders and the regional transport authority will not grant route permits to vehicles having untested cylinders.

The task force has already conducted detailed interactions with the interior ministry, district administrations, provincial governments, traffic police and various other stakeholders, including Ogra, CNG and transport associations.

The petroleum secretary has requested provincial chief secretaries to indicate locations/premises in all districts for establishment of CNG testing stations by the HDIP.

The ministry of professional and vocational training has been asked to arrange for diploma courses through collaboration with Navtec and provincial technical education and vocational training authorities to provide technical trainings in order to
produce skilled personnel who would be deployed at all CNG stations and testing centres.

Iran must prove nuclear drive peaceful: UN chief

UNITED NATIONS: UN leader Ban Ki-moon called on Friday for “peaceful” efforts to ease tensions between Iran and Western nations but stressed that Iran must prove that its nuclear program is not aimed at producing weapons.

The West’s showdown with Iran has heightened in recent days with Tehran issuing threats and warning the United States not to send one of its aircraft carriers through the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

Both sides must “do their best to first of all defuse the tension in the region, and try to resolve all issues, differences of opinion, through dialogue, in peaceful means,” Ban told reporters at a New Year meeting.

“At the same time Iran should fully comply with the relevant resolutions of the Security Council,” he added.

The UN Security Council has passed four rounds of sanctions against Iran calling on it to end uranium enrichment.

The UN secretary general said he remained concerned by a report released by the International Atomic Energy Authority in December which highlighted a probable military dimension to the nuclear drive.

The United States and European powers say that Iran is seeking a nuclear bomb capability. Iran insists it wants nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Ban said he was “very much concerned” by the IAEA report released in November.

“It is the responsibility of the Iranian authorities to prove that their nuclear program is for genuinely peaceful purposes. But the international community seems to be not convinced,” Ban said.

“I urge the Iranian government to try to prove the nature of their nuclear program,” he added.

Obama unveils plans for pared-down military

Washington (CNN) — President Barack Obama unveiled his administration’s plan Thursday for a leaner, cheaper military, a reflection of Washington’s fiscal belt-tightening and slower national economic growth.

The president insisted the new strategy — which eliminates the military’s ability to actively fight two major wars at once — will allow U.S. armed forces to effectively combat terrorism while confronting any new threats from countries like China and Iran.

“Over the next 10 years, the growth in the defense budget will slow, but the fact of the matter is this: It will still grow, because we have global responsibilities that demand our leadership,” Obama announced during a rare presidential visit to the Pentagon. “I firmly believe, and I think the American people understand, that we can keep our military strong — and our nation secure — with a defense budget that continues to be larger than roughly the next 10 countries combined.”

Security Clearance: Does a smaller military make sense?

Alluding to the end of the U.S. military role in Iraq and plans to eventually withdraw from Afghanistan, Obama declared that “the tide of war is receding.”

“The question that this strategy answers is what kind of military will we need after the long wars of the last decade are over,” the president told reporters. “Yes, our military will be leaner, but the world must know: The United States is going to maintain our military superiority with armed forces that are agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats.”

The president was flanked by an array of top Pentagon brass during his remarks, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey.
Republicans immediately blasted the plan, characterizing it as a retreat from the reality of America’s global responsibilities.

The blueprint is “a lead-from-behind strategy for a left-behind America,” said Rep. Buck McKeon of California, GOP chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “The president has packaged our retreat from the world in the guise of a new strategy to mask his divestment of our military and national defense. This strategy ensures American decline in exchange for more failed domestic programs.”

McKeon said that “in order to justify massive cuts to our military, (Obama) has revoked the guarantee that America will support our allies, defend our interests and defy our opponents. The president must understand that the world has always had, and will always have, a leader. As America steps back, someone else will step forward.”

Among other things, Obama’s strategy singles out China and Iran, pledging to keep strategically critical sea lanes open and successfully combat missile, electronic, cyber and other threats.

“States such as China and Iran will continue to pursue asymmetric means to counter our power projections capabilities, while the proliferation of sophisticated weapons and technology will extend to non-state actors as well,” an administration document outlining the changes said.

Thursday’s announcement follows multiple missile tests by Iran in recent days and comments by Iranian leaders that they could choke off the Strait of Homuz, a major transit point for world oil supplies.

The new strategy is the result of months of study at the Pentagon. It reflects a high-stakes, high-wire balancing act by the president as he faces a more austere budget climate combined with continued high U.S. responsibilities at home and overseas.

“The balance between available resources and our security needs has never been more delicate,” the administration document said.

In a signed introduction to the document, Obama called this a time of transition, noting the successful raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound and the death of the al Qaeda leader, as well as the end to the war in Iraq and progress in Afghanistan.

“The fiscal choices we face are difficult ones, but there should be no doubt, here in the United States or around the world — we will keep our Armed Forces the best-trained, best-led, best equipped fighting force in history,” Obama wrote.

Titled “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” the document provides the bare bones of a defense strategy that will become more detailed as the White House and Congress prepare the 2013 budget.

In a signal of how carefully the administration had orchestrated this announcement, amid fiscal austerity and during a presidential campaign year, the nation’s highest-ranking military man also threw his weight behind the reforms.

“It is a sound strategy,” Dempsey said in prepared remarks. “It ensures we remain the pre-eminent military in the world. It preserves the talent of the all-volunteer force. It takes into account the lessons of the last 10 years of war.”

Dempsey referred to the political uproar over the change from a two-war policy.

CNN.com users debate the strategy shift

“Our strategy has always been about our ability to respond to global contingencies wherever and whenever they happen. This does not change,” Dempsey said. “We can and will always be able to do more than one thing at a time. More importantly, wherever we are confronted and in whatever sequence, we will win.”

Dempsey also said that “the two-war paradigm has been a bit of an anchor, frankly, in trying to help us figure out the future.”

“It’s not about whether we will fight adversaries as they confront us. It’s how,” he said.

He stressed that he was pleased with the outcome of the strategy review. “It’s not perfect,” Dempsey said, but added, “It gives us what we need, in this world and within this budget.”

Panetta also weighed in, noting in prepared remarks “the continuing threat of violent extremism, proliferation of lethal weapons and materials, the destabilizing behavior of Iran and North Korea, the rise of new powers across Asia and the dramatic changes in the Middle East.”

“The U.S. joint force will be smaller and leaner, but its great strength will be that it is more agile, flexible, ready to deploy, innovative and technologically advanced,” Panetta said. The secretary said that while the United States will maintain its obligations in Europe, the U.S. military force posture there will continue “to adapt and evolve.”

Security Clearance: Parts of defense budget would actually rise

Panetta joined Dempsey in taking on conservative critics who have blasted the administration’s apparent step back from an active two-war strategy.

“Make no mistake — we will have the capability to confront and defeat more than one adversary at a time,” he said.

Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter later told reporters that one way the new strategy could accommodate looming manpower cuts would be through an avoidance of long and large stability operations, an apparent reference to what happened after the initial invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Carter refused to offer specifics about the defense cuts, promising new details after Obama’s State of the Union address this month and the release of additional budget documents.

Asked about the future of one of the country’s most expensive weapons systems — the F-35 Joint Fighter — Carter said, “It is our fifth generation fighter. We need it and we want it to succeed.”

The document released Thursday noted the high cost of a decade of wars, with more than 46,000 men and women wounded and more than 6,200 members of the armed forces killed.

In another recognition of hard economic times, the strategy includes a promise to help veterans find work in the civilian economy.

As the Defense Department “reduces the size of the force, we will do so in a way that respects these sacrifices,” the administration document noted. “This means, among other things, taking concrete steps to facilitate the transition to those who will leave the service. These include supporting programs to help veterans translate their military skills for the civilian workforce and aid their search for jobs.”

Defense contractors and civilian workers also will feel the impact of Thursday’s announcement and how it ripples through the system of defense contracts in coming years. Boeing has announced it will close a plant that produces B-52s and 767 tankers and employs more than 2,160 workers in Wichita, Kansas.

“The decision to close our Wichita facility was difficult but ultimately was based on a thorough study of the current and future market environment and our ability to remain competitive while meeting our customers’ needs with the best and most affordable solutions,” Mark Bass, Boeing vice president, said in a news release.

Panetta, meanwhile, met with British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond in the latter’s first official visit to Washington.

“They spent a good part of their meeting discussing innovative approaches to defense in an era of fiscal austerity, and agreed that NATO must continue to invest in military capabilities despite the imperative to achieve fiscal discipline,” Pentagon press secretary George Little said.

The two also discussed Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. Finally, they signed a statement that will provide the basis for the United States assisting the Royal Navy in the development of its next generation of aircraft carriers, Little said.

Romney says would seek to ‘influence’ Pakistan

PETERBOROUGH: Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney said Wednesday that diplomacy was like dealing with a child and vowed to find ways to “influence” Pakistan to advance US interests.

“I don’t want to suggest that a country is like a child, but in the way that when you deal with another person we think of all these dimensions on which we try to influence them, we have to influence Pakistan,” he told voters here.

The former Massachusetts governor said he would “find how we can get those (Pakistani) institutions that are with us and will work towards modernity and peace and prosperity” to counter those that will not.

“In a place like Pakistan, you have the elected government, but then you also have the military — and the military in some respects has more power than the elected government,” said Romney, the frontrunner for his party’s nomination.

Romney, who had been asked how he would tackle often strained relations with Pakistan, prefaced his answer by saying “it would be nice if in dealing with another nation it was as simple as turning on and off a faucet — a very simple, rudimentary experience.”

“But instead it’s more like dealing with an adolescent — I don’t mean to compare any nation to an adolescent, but just the fact that there’s no easy answer for how you bring a child to adolescence,” he said.

“You have to push and pull and find ways of influence and to change behavior. Each nation will typically act in their best interests. Sometimes we
forget that, we think that every nation should act in our best interest,” he
said.

“That’s not the way they think. And so we have to understand what their concerns are and what their interests are,” he said. (AFP)

Taliban office in Qatar a positive development, says US


WASHINGTON: The White House and the State Department welcomed on Tuesday a decision to open a Taliban political office in Qatar, saying that it would provide an address for negotiations with the insurgents Washington has been fighting for more than a decade.

“We welcome any step along the road of the Afghan-led process towards reconciliation, mindful of the fact that the standards for reconciliation have not changed, and the conditions, rather, that insurgents who are willing to lay down their arms and reconcile, must meet in order to be accepted by the Afghan government and by us,” said Press Secretary Jay Carney when asked if the White House saw this as a positive development.

When a journalist reminded him that the Taliban were not only opening up an office in Qatar but were also demanding the release of Taliban prisoners held in Guantanamo, Mr Carney noted that President Barack Obama said in June that peace could not come to Afghanistan without a political settlement and in his famous West Point speech, Mr Obama also made clear that the US would support and participate in any Afghan-led reconciliation efforts.

“And we’ve always said that Taliban reconciliation would only come on the condition of breaking from Al Qaeda, abandoning violence, and abiding by the Afghan constitution, and that remains the case. And this is about US support for an Afghan-lead process,” he said.

“As far as releasing Afghan prisoners, we’re not in a position to discuss ongoing deliberations or individual detainees, but our goal of closing Guantanamo is well established and widely understood.”

Earlier Tuesday, the Taliban made their first public reaction to media reports that they were opening a political office in Qatar.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, confirmed that they had struck a deal to open a political office in Qatar for peace negotiations.

The step was a sharp reversal of the Taliban’s longstanding public denials that it was involved or interested in any talks to end its insurgency in Afghanistan, and a major step to revive a reconciliation effort that stalled in September, with the assassination of the head of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council.

Mr Mujahid, also demanded that Taliban detainees held at the US prison in Guantanamo Bay be released. Early last month, the Afghan government recalled its ambassador to Qatar for consultations over reports that the Taliban was planning to open an office there.

President Hamid Karzai, however, backed down last week, saying his government would accept the Qatar office to hold peace talks, although Saudi Arabia or Turkey would be preferable venues.

The issue was discussed at some length at the US State Department where spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters that the United States supported negotiations with the Taliban because it believed that “you don’t negotiate with your friends”.

“If this is part of an Afghan-led, Afghan-supported process, and the Afghan government itself believes it can play a constructive role and it is also supported by the host country, then we will play a role in that, as well,” she said.

Pakistan to draw lines in US cooperation

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan is reviewing future cooperation with the US as relations flounder between the shaky allies in the wake of a deadly NATO strike, senior military and government officials told AFP Tuesday.
Showing the deep mistrust between the two countries whose cooperation focuses on the US-led war in Afghanistan, a senior security official speaking anonymously said “lines should be drawn” in all future ties.
“This is what experience from the recent turn of events suggests,” he said.
“From now on, every understanding will be in black and white. We will ensure that everything is well documented.”
US-Pakistani relations have nosedived since the secret raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May and US air strikes on November 26 that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers near the border with Afghanistan.
Pakistan has rejected the findings of a joint US-NATO investigation that concluded that errors on both sides led to the soldiers’ deaths.
“The parliamentary committee is reviewing the state of the relationship with the US and the kind of relationship that we should have with Washington in future,” said a senior government official privy to developments.
“One thing that I can say is that the relationship in future will be transparent and there will be new terms of engagement with the US in counter-terrorism.”
According to a report in the New York Times, US officials believe the counter-terrorism alliance can survive only in a limited form, complicating the ability to launch attacks against Islamic extremists based in Pakistan and move supplies into Afghanistan.

Iran tests missiles in navy war games near oil strait


TEHRAN: Iran on Monday test-fired two missiles on the last day of navy war games near the Strait of Hormuz, official media quoted a navy spokesman as saying.

A Qader ground-to-ship cruise missile and a short-range Nasr anti-ship missile were launched in the tests, which came after the test-firing on Sunday of a medium-range ground-to-air missile in the area, according to Commodore Mahmoud Mousavi.

Another missile, named Nour, was to be fired later Monday, he said, correcting a report by the IRIB state broadcaster that said that missile had already been tested.

The Qader cruise missile “built by Iranian experts successfully hit its target and destroyed it,” Mousavi was quoted as saying by the IRNA news agency.

He said it was “the first time” a Qader missile had been tested.

A shorter-range Nasr missile able to hit targets up to 35 kilometres (22 miles) also successfully hit its target, he told state television.

The Qader missile, also known as Ghader, is said to have a range of 200 kilometres, which is generally considered medium-range or even short-range for a cruise missile, even though IRNA described it as “long-range.”

The Nour, which is based on a Chinese missile, the C-802, has a similar range. The short-range Nasr missile is also based on a Chinese design.

Pakistan to challenge UN decision in world court

Pakistan to challenge UN decision in world court

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has decided to challenge in the international court of arbitration a decision of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to grant carbon credits to India on a controversial hydropower project without mandatory clearance of its trans-boundary environmental impact assessment.

Simultaneously, the water and power ministry has sought the opinion from the establishment division if Pakistan’s former commissioner for Indus Waters (PCIW) could be proceeded against after his retirement for not vigorously pursuing cases to stop India from construction of the controversial project and getting carbon credits from the UN forum, a senior official told Dawn on Sunday.

Earlier, the law ministry had informed the establishment division and the water and power ministry that a former retired government official could only be proceeded against if his actions were found to be of criminal nature. The water and power ministry has now asked the establishment division to determine the nature of the case so that proceedings could be initiated if these were of criminal nature.

The government has stopped the payment of retirement benefits to Syed Jamaat Ali Shah, the former PCIW, pending an inquiry. An official said the pension and retirement benefits were now being released to the former official who had served as the PCIW for 18 years.

Officials said an inquiry conducted by Mohammad Imtiaz Tajwar, secretary of Wapda, as inquiry officer appointed by the ministry of water and power, confirmed a Dawn report of July 2010 that India had secured carbon credits for the controversial 45-MW Nimoo-Bazgo hydropower project from the UN agency without mandatory clearance from Pakistan. It was, however, strange how India could secure carbon credits when Pakistan had not seen, let alone clear, the cross-boundary environmental impact assessment report.

Therefore, Pakistan has now decided to challenge the UNFCC’s decision in the international court of arbitration because legal requirements were allegedly not fulfilled by the UN agency. These officials said either the Indian government misled the UN agency through fake and fictitious documents that might have shown Pakistan’s consent to the project because there was no such record available in Pakistan.

India applied for carbon credits for the project which was a “long-term process and must have spread over 4-5 years”, the inquiry officer wrote.

“It is still not established how India was able to get carbon credit benefits for the Nimoo-Bazgo project which is located on trans-boundary water and for which ratification of the parties concerned should have been procured before hand by it under clause 37(b) of UNFCC. Although it is too difficult to get carbon credits on a trans-boundary project such as Nimoo-Bazgo, due to lack of contest by PCIW, India was able to get carbon credits on this project,” he said.

The inquiry report available with Dawn suggests the former PCIW insisted that the matter relating to the carbon credits or environmental impact “was not covered under the Indus Waters Treaty 1960, therefore, the issue can be taken up with India by the ministry of environment”.

He is reported to have told the enquiry officer that he had been vigorously pursuing with his Indian counterpart Pakistan’s technical and engineering related objections and reporting its feedback to the government of Pakistan. The issue was discussed several times at various forums of the government without a major decision being taken to take the matter to the international court of arbitration.

The inquiry officer held that information about the project was received in Pakistan in 2002 and Pakistan’s PCIW had repeatedly sought information from his Indian counterpart and its inclusion in the agenda items, but it took several years till 2009 when the project was finally taken up by the Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) because India kept on dodging Islamabad through stereotype responses and delaying tactics. “These letters indicate that PCIW was in the knowledge of the issue and could have approached authorities to approach the court of arbitration/neutral expert at that stage, however, that initiative was not availed and opportunity was missed (sic).”

In December 2010, the ministry of foreign affairs said there were enough credible ground to refer the project to a neutral expert or court of arbitration, but it was obvious that the project was at the stage of fait-accompli, not due to the India’s design but careless attitude from Pakistan side and it was difficult to get a favourable outcome from the arbitration. It remained, however, unclear why ministries of law, foreign affairs and other related institutions failed to know about the Indian success at the UNFCC during 4-5 years of carbon credit approval process.

The inquiry officer, while suggesting strengthening of the PCIW office, concluded that it was astonishing that “disputes/differences on design/carbon credit benefits were handled in a casual manner” when the media and intelligence reports were carrying sufficient information to raise objection with India.

Attempts to contact Mr Jamaat Ali Shah, the former PCIW, could not materialise as informed sources said he had already travelled abroad to spend time with his family in Canada.

Officials said the issue was of an institutional lapse in raising objections over India’s aggression on the country’s water rights and securing international carbon credits on hydropower projects disputed by Pakistan and could not be shelved after completion of an inquiry against an individual.

They said the ministry of water and power had said it was not responsible for the lapse because it was the job of the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency to conduct an environmental impact assessment. The ministry said it had no role in ratification of trans-boundary impact assessments, whose documents had not been shared with it.

On the other hand, the environment ministry washed its hand of the matter, too. It said that since the Indian projects were of a strategic nature, it could not have intervened unless its attention had been drawn to the issue and professional advice sought.

The project was approved by the UNFCCC in August 2008 and India had applied for it in March 2006.

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