Pakistan – Security forces allowing extremists to attack minorities: HRW

ISLAMABAD, Feb 1: The Human Rights Watch has accused the government of having failed to act against abuses committed by security and intelligence agencies which are letting extremist groups to attack religious minorities.

“The authorities did little to address attacks against journalists and human rights defenders, and committed serious abuses in counter-terrorism operations,” the HRW said in a report.

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Canada falling behind on poverty, inequality, says report

Conference Board report card gives Canada a B, ranked 7th out of 17 developed countries

Canada isn’t living up to its potential or its reputation when it comes to societal issues like poverty, government and inequality, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

The group gave Canada a ‘B’, good for a 7th place ranking out of 17 developed countries, but it said the “middle-of-the-pack” ranking leaves room for improvement.

Getting an ‘A’ at the top of the rankings were the Scandinavian nations (Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland) as well as the Netherlands and Austria. …

Read more » CBC
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2013/02/01/business-canada-society-report-card.html

Noam Chomsky- Is America Over?

Noam Chomsky: The Paranoia of the Superrich and Superpowerful

“Is America over?” It’s a standard complaint of those who believe they should have everything.

By Noam Chomsky

[This piece is adapted from “Uprisings,” a chapter in Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire, Noam Chomsky’s new interview book with David Barsamian (with thanks to the publisher, Metropolitan Books).  The questions are Barsamian’s, the answers Chomsky’s.]

Does the United States still have the same level of control over the energy resources of the Middle East as it once had?

The major energy-producing countries are still firmly under the control of the Western-backed dictatorships. So, actually, the progress made by the Arab Spring is limited, but it’s not insignificant. The Western-controlled dictatorial system is eroding. In fact, it’s been eroding for some time. So, for example, if you go back 50 years, the energy resources — the main concern of U.S. planners — have been mostly nationalized. There are constantly attempts to reverse that, but they have not succeeded.

Take the U.S. invasion of Iraq, for example. To everyone except a dedicated ideologue, it was pretty obvious that we invaded Iraq not because of our love of democracy but because it’s maybe the second- or third-largest source of oil in the world, and is right in the middle of the major energy-producing region. You’re not supposed to say this. It’s considered a conspiracy theory.

The United States was seriously defeated in Iraq by Iraqi nationalism — mostly by nonviolent resistance. The United States could kill the insurgents, but they couldn’t deal with half a million people demonstrating in the streets. Step by step, Iraq was able to dismantle the controls put in place by the occupying forces. By November 2007, it was becoming pretty clear that it was going to be very hard to reach U.S. goals. And at that point, interestingly, those goals were explicitly stated. So in November 2007 the Bush II administration came out with an official declaration about what any future arrangement with Iraq would have to be. It had two major requirements: one, that the United States must be free to carry out combat operations from its military bases, which it will retain; and two, “encouraging the flow of foreign investments to Iraq, especially American investments.” In January 2008, Bush made this clear in one of his signing statements. A couple of months later, in the face of Iraqi resistance, the United States had to give that up. Control of Iraq is now disappearing before their eyes.

Iraq was an attempt to reinstitute by force something like the old system of control, but it was beaten back. In general, I think, U.S. policies remain constant, going back to the Second World War. But the capacity to implement them is declining.

Declining because of economic weakness?

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Democracy!

By Farooq Sulehria

That Pakistan’s fragile democratic process has withstood yet another deluge unleashed in the form of Tahirul Qadri testifies to the maturity our political leadership has mercifully attained. More importantly, such was the mass pressure that even Imran Khan felt isolated and avoided joining hands with Qadri.

One hopes the people of Pakistan, for the first time in the country’s history, get the chance to vote out a government. Let all the messiahs, promising ‘change’ test their popularity in the forthcoming elections.

It is highly likely that the present setup will continue with some adjustments and the next government will fail to deliver anything tangible. But still I would not join middle-class fascists yearning for ‘change’ by ‘all means necessary.’ Democracy, even in its distorted bourgeois form, is a working-class gain.

It is true that the political parties have become family fiefdoms and the ruling politicians want to reduce democracy to polling booths. However, either to win reforms within the system or overturn the system altogether, the working classes stand a better chance in a democracy than under tyranny. A change takes place when workers, peasants, women, students, and marginalised communities organise themselves. It is not introduced by any well-intentioned messiah.

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