Monthly Archives: January 2012
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 you can copy it, paste it, and then send it to her.Now there are many many aspects of a conversation.Okay, so WHAT exactly do you talk about?
With 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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?”
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.
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.
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.
Donate online to The Roya Fund
Even the Afghan police — they’re supposed to be on our side — tried to stop us leaving at the
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.
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.”