Pakistani Village Girl Launches VC-Funded Tech Startup in America
Vida, a San Francisco technology startup co-founded by Umaimah Mendhro from Akri village in Sindh, Pakistan, has received $1.3 million funding from Google Ventures, Universal Music Group and others, according to Tech Crunch.
The startup bills itself as “socially responsible” with the objective of using technology to provide a way for designers, artists and other creatives anywhere in the world to make a viable living through their work.
Vida CEO Umaima Mendhro joins a growing list ofsuccessful Pakistani-American women that includes Shama Zehra in finance, Shaan Kandawalla in technology, Shazia Sikandar in the Arts and Fatima Ali in fine cuisine.
“I am from a very small town in Pakistan and was home-schooled much of my life because we didn’t have proper schools around. I taught myself how to cut, sketch, sew, stitch, block print, screen print, oil paint, and more,” she told Tech Crunch. “Yet I couldn’t get myself to pursue art as a profession because I feared I wouldn’t be able to make a living with it,” Mendhro said. “With a love for fashion and design, I was also acutely aware of the hundreds of millions of people employed in textile and garment production, who could never get out of a cycle of poverty.”
TO cross the Atlantic to America, as I did recently from London, is to move from one moral universe to its opposite in relation to Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza. Fury over Palestinian civilian casualties has risen to a fever pitch in Europe, moving beyond anti-Zionism into anti-Semitism (often a flimsy distinction). Attacks on Jews and synagogues are the work of a rabid fringe, but anger toward an Israel portrayed as indiscriminate in its brutality is widespread. For a growing number of Europeans, not having a negative opinion of Israel is tantamount to not having a conscience. The deaths of hundreds of children in any war, as one editorial in The Guardian put it, is “a special kind of obscenity.”
BY ISHAAN THAROOR
China is planning to build a train line that would, in theory, connect Beijing to the United States. According to a report in the Beijing Times, citing an expert at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, Chinese officials are considering a route that would start in the country’s northeast, thread through eastern Siberia and cross the Bering Strait via a 125-mile long underwater tunnel into Alaska.
“Right now we’re already in discussions. Russia has already been thinking about this for many years,” says Wang Mengshu, the engineer cited in the article. The proposed“China-Russia-Canada-America” line would be some 8,000 miles long, 1,800 miles longer than the Trans-Siberian railroad. The tunnel that the Chinese would help bore beneath the icy seas would be four times the length of what traverses the English Channel.
That’s reason enough to be skeptical of the project, of which there are few details beyond what was attributed to the one official cited by the state-run Beijing Times. Meanwhile, a report in the state-run China Daily insists the country does have the technology and means to complete a construction project of this scale, including another tunnel that would link the Chinese province of Fujian with nearby Taiwan.
In the past half decade or so, China has embarked on an astonishing rail construction spree, laying down tens of thousands of miles tracks and launching myriad high-speed lines. It has signaled its intent to build a “New Silk Road” – a heavy-duty freight network through Central Asia that would connect with Europe via rail rather than the old caravans that once bridged West and East. A map that appeared on Xinhua’s news site outlines the route below, alongside a parallel vision for a “maritime Silk Road.”
See the grace of America that how it let its citizens to criticize it openly without any censorship. To criticize the policies of the government is not weakening the America, it is making U.S. more strong. The people, who are the citizens of America are at least grateful to the USA for two things; for having such a good life, and for being in the USA. These are the reasons, why the people love United States Of America!
It is an argument for working with Kabul to keep a robust U.S. counter-terrorist capability in Afghanistan after 2014 to deal with threats both on Afghan territory and from safe havens like Abbottabad across the border for the foreseeable future. Over the longer term America will need a more realistic and tough policy toward Pakistan. We should continue to engage the government and the army seriously but with much reduced expectations. We should help those Pakistanis who are ready to fight extremism but not expect miracles. As former Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. Hussain Haqqani has written, it is time to put aside our “magnificent delusions” about Pakistani-American partnership for good. We will need to protect our own interests there with or without their help. Only that will prevent another al-Qaeda renaissance in the most dangerous country in the world, Pakistan.
By: Bruce Riedel
Al-Qaeda has staged a remarkable comeback in Iraq in the last year. Former National Security Advisor Jim Jones has called it “al-Qaeda’s renaissance.” This year, most if not all American forces and those of our allies in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) will finally come home from Afghanistan. Will al-Qaeda have another renaissance in South Asia?
There was no al-Qaeda in Iraq before 9/11—the terror organization moved into Iraq only when Osama bin Laden saw George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were getting ready to invade Iraq in 2003. He set a trap. By 2006 Al-Qaeda in Iraq had plunged the country into civil war, pitting Shia against Sunni. Only the brave efforts of American Marines and GIs prevented the complete collapse of the state. Now al-Qaeda has come back in Iraq, raising its black flag over territory once fought over so hard by Americans.
Can the same tragedy be repeated in Afghanistan and Pakistan? The longest war in American history will largely end for Americans this year. It will not end for Afghans or Pakistanis. Pakistan will continue to be the principal supporter and patron of the Afghan Taliban, the enemy that we have been fighting for so long. Pakistan provides the Taliban with safe haven and sanctuary to train and recruit its fighters and protects its leaders, including Mullah Omar. The Pakistani intelligence service, ISI, helps train and fund the Taliban.
For the last few years America has also fought a second war from Afghanistan, the counter-terrorist war inside Pakistan. Al-Qaeda found a new base in Pakistan after we toppled Mullah Omar’s Afghan emirate in 2001. The highlight of this second covert war was the SEAL raid to kill Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. More frequent have been drone missions to disrupt al-Qaeda operations in Pakistan: By one count, 340 lethal missions since President Obama took office, and more than two dozen just last year.
The world faces two potentially existential threats, according to the linguist and political philosopher Noam Chomsky.
“There are two major dark shadows that hover over everything, and they’re getting more and more serious,” Chomsky said. “The one is the continuing threat of nuclear war that has not ended. It’s very serious, and another is the crisis of ecological, environmental catastrophe, which is getting more and more serious.”
Chomsky appeared Friday on the last episode of NPR’s “Smiley and West” program to discuss his education, his views on current affairs and how he manages to spread his message without much help from the mainstream media.
He told the hosts that the world was racing toward an environmental disaster with potentially lethal consequence, which the world’s most developed nations were doing nothing to prevent – and in fact were speeding up the process.
“If there ever is future historians, they’re going to look back at this period of history with some astonishment,” Chomsky said. “The danger, the threat, is evident to anyone who has eyes open and pays attention at all to the scientific literature, and there are attempts to retard it, there are also at the other end attempts to accelerate the disaster, and if you look who’s involved it’s pretty shocking.”
Chomsky noted efforts to halt environmental damage by indigenous people in countries all over the world – from Canada’s First Nations to tribal people in Latin America and India to aboriginal people in Australia—but the nation’s richest, most advanced and most powerful countries, such as the United States, were doing nothing to forestall disaster.
“When people here talk enthusiastically about a hundred years of energy independence, what they’re saying is, ‘Let’s try to get every drop of fossil fuel out of the ground so as to accelerate the disaster that we’re racing towards,’” Chomsky said. “These are problems that overlie all of the domestic problems of oppression, of poverty, of attacks on the education system (and) massive inequality, huge unemployment.”
He blamed the “financialization” of the U.S. economy for income inequality and unemployment, saying that banks that were “too big to fail” skimmed enormous wealth from the market.
“In fact, there was a recent (International Monetary Fund) study that estimated that virtually all the profits of the big banks can be traced back to this government insurance policy, and in general they’re quite harmful, I think, quite harmful to the economy,” Chomsky said.
Those harmful effects can be easily observed by looking at unemployment numbers and stock market gains, he said.
“There are tens of millions of people unemployed, looking for work, wanting to work (and) there are huge resources available,” Chomsky said. “Corporate profits are going through the roof, there’s endless amounts of work to be done – just drive through a city and see all sorts of things that have to be done – infrastructure is collapsing, the schools have to be revived. We have a situation in which huge numbers of people want to work, there are plenty, huge resources available, an enormous amount to be done, and the system is so rotten they can’t put them together.”
The reason for this is simple, Chomsky said.
“There is plenty of profit being made by those who pretty much dominate and control the system,” he said. “We’ve moved from the days where there was some kind of functioning democracy. It’s by now really a plutocracy.”
Chomsky strongly disagreed with Smiley and West that he had been marginalized for his views, saying that he regretfully turned down dozens of invitations to speak on a daily basis because he was otherwise engaged.
He also disagreed that a platform in the mainstream media was necessary to influence the debate.
“If you take a look at the progressive changes that have taken place in the country, say, just in the last 50 years – the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement, opposition to aggression, the women’s movement, the environmental movement and so on – they’re not led by any debate in the media,” Chomsky said. “No, they were led by popular organizations, by activists on the ground.”
He recalled the earliest days of the antiwar movement, in the early 1960s, when he spoke in living rooms and church basements to just a handful of other activists and they were harassed – even in liberal Boston – by the authorities and media.
But that movement eventually grew and helped hasten the end of the Vietnam War, and Chomsky said it’s grown and become so mainstream that antiwar activists can limit wars before they even begin.
He said President Ronald Reagan was unable to launch a full-scale war in Central America during the 1980s because of the antiwar movement, and he bitterly disputed the idea that antiwar activists had no impact on the Iraq War.
“I don’t agree; it had a big effect,” Chomsky said. “It sharply limited the means that were available to the government to try to carry out the invasion and subdue the population. In fact, it’s one reason why the U.S. ended up really defeated in Iraq, seriously had to give up all of its war aims. The major victor in Iraq turns out to be Iran.”
Despite these limitations, he said the Iraq War had been one of the new millennium’s worst atrocities and had provoked a violent schism between Sunni and Shiite Muslims that had sparked regional conflicts throughout the Middle East.
“The United States is now involved in a global terror campaign largely against the tribal people of the world, mostly Muslim tribes, and it’s all over. The intention is to go on and on,” Chomsky said. “These are all terrible consequences, but nevertheless they’re not as bad as they would be if there weren’t public opposition.”
Info graphics on the distribution of wealth in America, highlighting both the inequality and the difference between our perception of inequality and the actual numbers. The reality is often not what we think it is.
By Angus McDowall
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia seems to have few viable options for pursuing a more independent and forthright foreign policy, despite its deep unease about the West’s tentative rapprochement with Iran.
Upset with the United States, senior Saudis have hinted at a range of possibilities, from building strategic relations with other world powers to pushing a tougher line against Iranian allies in the Arab world and, if world powers fail to foil Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, even seeking its own atomic bomb.
But alternative powers are hard even to contemplate for a nation that has been a staunch US ally for decades. Russia is on the opposite side to Riyadh over the Syrian war and China’s military clout remains modest compared with the United States.
Robert Jordan, US ambassador to Riyadh from 2001-03, said there would be limits to any Saudi alliances with other powers.
“There is no country in the world more capable of providing the protection of their oil fields, and their economy, than the US, and the Saudis are aware of that. We’re not going to see them jump out of that orbit,” he said in an interview.
Some Alarming Facts About Mental Illness In America
By Pamela Engel
Mental illness is a increasingly widespread in the U.S., affecting around one in five American adults every year, according to survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Of the 45.6 million adults who had diagnosable mental illness in 2011, 11.5 million had serious mental illness. Other surveys put those numbers even higher.
Many Americans, especially in the South, can look forward to dying far younger than their counterparts in Japan, Australia, New Zealand and much of Europe.
The Affordable Care Act is merely a small step in the direction of universal healthcare. One need only look at the data on life expectancy among Americans to realize how badly health care reform is needed in the United States. People in much of Europe are, on the whole, outliving residents of the U.S., which in some places, is looking more and more like a Third World country when it comes to life expectancy.
NASA’s unmanned Voyager 2 spacecraft may have put it best when it “tweeted” from beyond the solar system: “Farewell, humans. Sort it out yourselves.”
Most employees at NASA are now among the million U.S. government employees on forced leave because congress has failed to pass a spending bill, forcing a shutdown.
The world is watching in seeming disbelief. So, is America a failed state?
Not quite, but the apparent failure of the American congress to govern certainly raises the question. If we were covering some of the far-flung failing states we often do, we’d know just how to put it.
After sabre-rattling and invoking his imaginary ‘red line,’ Obama took an eraser and wiped the line clean
The United States is about to trample all over international law and very soon we can expect cruise missiles to rain on Syria, a country that has done America no harm.
It’s true, the barbaric dictator of Damascus has massacred his own people, but which Arab king or dictator has not?
If Syria is in America’s crosshairs, then why isn’t Saudi Arabia? After all, isn’t Riyadh the international sponsor of jihadi terror and home to the men who attacked America on 9/11?
But it’s Damascus that will be hit. Damascus, the city of jasmine that has survived many a slaughter in its history, has sunk to level of barbarity few of us can reconcile.
A few years before he died in 1998, Syria’s greatest poet of modern times, Nizar Qabbani penned a provocative poem titled, “When will they announce the death of the Arabs?”
He wailed: If someday they announced the death of the Arabs … Then where would they be buried?
And who would cry over them?
They have no daughters … They have no sons … And there is no grief, And there is no one to grieve!!
On Aug. 21, very close to where Qabbani is buried in the ancient cemetery of Bab al-Saghir in Damascus, hundreds of boys and girls gave testimony to the truth of Qabbani who wrote in his epic poem, “The nations who call themselves Arabs are all dead, but no one has yet dared to sign the death certificate.”
(Reuters) – An attack on Syria would be dangerous and irresponsible, and the world should remember the Iraq war was started by U.S. allegations of weapons of mass destruction which turned out to be false, China’s official Xinhua news agency said on Tuesday.
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Via – Above news adopted from facebook
I spent the summer of 1961 behind the Iron Curtain. I was part of the US-USSR student exchange program. It was the second year of the program that operated under auspices of the US Department of State. Our return to the West via train through East Germany was interrupted by the construction of the Berlin Wall. We were sent back to Poland. The East German rail tracks were occupied with Soviet troop and tank trains as the Red Army concentrated in East Germany to face down any Western interference.
Fortunately, in those days there were no neoconservatives. Washington had not grown the hubris it so well displays in the 21st century. The wall was built and war was avoided. The wall backfired on the Soviets. Both JFK and Ronald Reagan used it to good propaganda effect.
In those days America stood for freedom, and the Soviet Union for oppression. Much of this impression was created by Western propaganda, but there was some semblance to the truth in the image. The communists had a Julian Assange and an Edward Snowden of their own. His name was Cardinal Jozef Mindszenty, the leader of the Hungarian Catholic Church.
Mindszenty opposed tyranny. For his efforts he was imprisoned by the Nazis. Communists also regarded him as an undesirable, and he was tortured and given a life sentence in 1949.
Freed by the short-lived Hungarian Revolution in 1956, Mindszenty reached the American Embassy in Budapest and was granted political asylum by Washington. However, the communists would not give him the free passage that asylum presumes, and Mindszenty lived in the US Embassy for 15 years, 79% of his remaining life.
In the 21st century roles have reversed. Today it is Washington that is enamored of tyranny. On Washington’s orders, the UK will not permit Julian Assange free passage to Ecuador, where he has been granted asylum. Like Cardinal Mindszenty, Assange is stuck in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London.
Washington will not permit its European vassal states to allow overflights of airliners carrying Edward Snowden to any of the countries that have offered Snowden asylum. Snowden is stuck in the Moscow airport.
In Washington politicians of both parties demand that Snowden be captured and executed. Politicians demand that Russia be punished for not violating international law, seizing Snowden, and turning him over to Washington to be tortured and executed, despite the fact that Washington has no extradition treaty with Russia.
Snowden did United States citizens a great service. He told us that despite constitutional prohibition, Washington had implemented a universal spy system intercepting every communication of every American and much of the rest of the world. Special facilities are built in which to store these communications.
In other words, Snowden did what Americans are supposed to do–disclose government crimes against the Constitution and against citizens. Without a free press there is nothing but the government’s lies. In order to protect its lies from exposure, Washington intends to exterminate all truth tellers.
Detroit files for bankruptcy protection
City losing residents as tax base shrinks
Once the very symbol of American industrial might, Detroit became the biggest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy Thursday, its finances ravaged and its neighbourhoods hollowed out by a long, slow decline in population and auto manufacturing.
The filing, which had been feared for months, put the city on an uncertain course that could mean laying off municipal employees, selling off assets, raising fees and scaling back basic services such as trash collection and snow plowing, which have already been slashed.
“Only one feasible path offers a way out,” Gov. Rick Snyder said in a letter approving the move.
By Ayaz Amir
….. America is still an empire but after Iraq and Afghanistan, a more sober empire. America’s determination to pull out of Afghanistan – they are now even talking of the zero option, no troops at all after 2014 – is a reflection of this sobriety.
The ghost of Bin Laden perhaps laughing soundlessly in the kingdom of the shades, and we scarcely aware of what awaits us… as, to the roll of muffled drums in the distance, another chapter in our colourful history begins to unfold.
HYDERABAD, July 7: The chairman of the banned Jeay Sindh Muttahida Mahaz, Shafi Burfat, has urged the United Nations, European Union, America, France and other foreign countries to help the JSMM get ‘freedom for Sindh’.
He said in a recorded message played at a JSMM rally held on the Fatima Jinnah road outside the State Bank of Pakistan building late on Saturday night.
“The JSMM wants to reconstitute Sindhi nation on the pattern of civilised nations of the world…After the Abbottabad operation, the state has become a nursery for jihadists and world powers should break chains of slavery that have enslaved oppressed nations,” he added.
He said that free markets could not be established until all forms of slavery in the third world were abolished. The world should avoid wishful thinking that there was democracy in Pakistan, he added.
Sindh’s mineral and other natural resources were being usurped by Punjab which had become a strategic partner with China against America and India, he said.
JSMM senior vice chairman Lala Aslam Pathan urged the Urdu-speaking people to unite under the JSMM’s flag for ‘freedom of Sindh’. “Extremists and other organisations hold Urdu-speaking community hostage but if they follow G.M. Syed’s philosophy no power on earth can dare touch them,” he said. …… A message from Nawab Khair Bakhsh Mari was also read at the gathering.
via » Facebook
By Alan Dunn, Contributor
If the Occupy movement does nothing else, it has at least introduced a new set of terms into the American vocabulary to talk about the distribution of wealth in America. Until recently, most average people had no idea how wealth was distributed in the country; most people had a vague idea of a wealthy minority, but they rarely grasped the full extent of income disparity between classes. Now, most people are aware of the notion of the 1 percent, although they still may not know exactly what it means or how that unequal distribution of wealth applies to the rest of the country.
Unequal wealth distribution is hardly a new or uniquely American problem. In fact, it’s been prevalent throughout society since humans first built civilizations: A small minority of aristocrats has always wielded the most power throughout history. In modern times, America lags behind nearly every other first-world nation in closing the gap between the classes. In fact, we’re making it worse.
The Distribution of Wealth Between Americans
Before you can talk about the 1 percent, it’s important to put the figures into perspective by understanding exactly what that figure means. The average annual income of the top 1 percent of the population is $717,000, compared to the average income of the rest of the population, which is around $51,000. The real disparity between the classes isn’t in income, however, but in net value: The 1 percent are worth about $8.4 million, or 70 times the worth of the lower classes.
The 1 percent are executives, doctors, lawyers and politicians, among other things. Within this group of people is an even smaller and wealthier subset of people, 1 percent of the top, or .01 percent of the entire nation. Those people have incomes of over $27 million, or roughly 540 times the national average income. Altogether, the top 1 percent control 43 percent of the wealth in the nation; the next 4 percent control an additional 29 percent.
It’s historically common for a powerful minority to control a majority of finances, but Americans haven’t seen a disparity this wide since before the Great Depression — and it keeps growing.
The Fallacy of Hard Work
It’s a common belief in America that all people have the same opportunity for success as the top 1 percent. Most people consider success to be a by-product of hard work, and hard work is something that Americans are extremely familiar with. In fact, Americans have increased productivity by 80 percent since 1979; unfortunately, their income hasn’t risen accordingly, if at all.
The average worker in an American company makes substantially less than supervisors and executives. In fact, corporate executives make 62 times more money than an average worker in bonuses alone, not counting the executive’s actual salary. For every corporate bonus, the company could have paid 62 employees. In fact, incentive pay actually rose 30 percent from years before the recession.
A Difference in Lifestyle: Americans and the 1 Percent
It’s no surprise that people in different classes spend their money differently. A person’s priorities change when he becomes wealthy, and certain expenses don’t vary much from one class to the next. The cost of food, healthcare and other expenses remains constant between classes, while the relative income may vary substantially.
For example, all Americans pay an average of a third of their incomes for housing. The second highest expense of top earners in America is transportation; the rich spend about 17 percent of their income traveling for business and pleasure. On the other hand, the lower classes spend about 17 percent of their income on feeding their families.
Big Lie: America Doesn’t Have #1 Richest Middle-Class in the World…We’re Ranked 27th!
America is the richest country on Earth. We have the most millionaires, the most billionaires—and a increasingly poor “middle class.”
This opulence is supposed to trickle down to the rest of us, improving the lives of everyday Americans. At least that’s what free-market cheerleaders repeatedly promise us.
Unfortunately, it’s a lie, one of the biggest ever perpetrated on the American people.
Our middle class is falling further and further behind in comparison to the rest of the world. We keep hearing that America is number one. Well, when it comes to middle-class wealth, we’re number 27.
The most telling comparative measurement is median wealth (per adult). It describes the amount of wealth accumulated by the person precisely in the middle of the wealth distribution—50 percent of the adult population has more wealth, while 50 percent has less. You can’t get more middle than that.
Wealth is measured by the total sum of all our assets (homes, bank accounts, stocks, bonds etc.) minus our liabilities (outstanding loans and other debts). It the best indicator we have for individual and family prosperity. While the never-ending accumulation of wealth may be wrecking the planet, wealth also provides basic security, especially in a country like ours with such skimpy social programs. Wealth allows us to survive periods of economic turmoil. Wealth allows our children to go to college without incurring crippling debts, or to get help for the down payment on their first homes. As Billie Holiday sings, “God bless the child that’s got his own.”
Well, it’s a sad song. As the chart below shows, there are 26 other countries with a median wealth higher than ours (and the relative reduction of U.S. median wealth has done nothing to make our economy more sustainable).
Jeremy Scahill’s new documentary reveals how dirty wars take innocent lives and make us less safe.
The United States deems Kabul, Afghanistan the center of the “war on terror.” The press corps and other embedded reporters, then, are limited to these borders.
But beyond these green (meaning safe, according to the U.S. govt.) streets of Afghanistan, lies a sea of red (dangerous) and black (Taliban-heavy) streets that go largely unexplored by journalists.
Yet, that’s exactly where investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill begins to delve in his new documentary Dirty Wars, directed by Rick Rowley.
The US has shown itself so paranoid in the face of possible ‘al-Qaida-linked terror’ that it has played right into jihadist hands
Washington has handed Osama bin Laden his last and greatest triumph. The Prism files revealed in the Guardian indicate how far his bid to undermine western values has succeeded in the 12 years since 9/11. He has achieved state intrusion into the private lives and communications of every American citizen. He has shown the self-proclaimed home of individual freedom as so paranoid in the face of his “terror” as to infiltrate the entire internet, sucking up mobile phone calls, emails, texts and, we may assume, GPS movements.
The vast databases of Microsoft, Google, YouTube and Facebook are open to government. They may cry “your privacy is our priority”, but they lie. Obedience to regulatory authority is their priority. And what does authority say? It says what authority always says: “We collect significant information on bad guys, but only bad guys.” As police states have said down the ages, the innocent have nothing to fear. For innocent, eventually read obedient.
This is the same trawling power that the British security services want parliament to approve in its snooper’s charter. It is defended on the same basis, that it is only exchanges, not content, that they seek. They do not really mean to snoop. And they do it only where “national security” is involved. Pull the other one. That is what the Stasi said. You can almost sense the smirk as they say it. And they have even persuaded half of parliament that they are right.
Inducing such paranoia about terror – always called “al-Qaida-linked terror” – is precisely what Islam’s jihadist regard as the crucial first step in undermining the west’s pseudo-liberalism. It requires democracy to lose faith in oversight, to let securocrats off the leash, to capitulate to “better safe than free”. It requires the regular click up the ratchet of control sought by each successive British home secretary. They are Bin Laden’s useful idiots.
The western democracies, and especially America and Britain, are the most invulnerable states on earth. They are rich and secure. They may suffer occasional explosions and killings, but they face not the remotest risk of “existential defeat”. Yet 9/11 brought into being an edifice of creeping surveillance and repression which democracy is clearly unable to curb. It has never been so at risk as now, from its own loss of faith in liberty. Osama bin Laden would be clapping his hands with glee.
The Census Bureau has reported that one out of six Americans lives in poverty. A shocking figure. But it’s actually much, much worse.
The Census Bureau has reported that one out of six Americans lives in poverty. A shocking figure. But it’s actually much worse. Inequality is spreading like a shadowy disease through our country, infecting more and more households, and leaving a shrinking number of financially secure families to maintain the charade of prosperity.
1. Almost half of Americans had NO assets in 2009
The terror attacks in Boston, perpetrated by the Tsarnaev brothers, have finally come to an end with the capture of the younger brother Dzhoakhar in Watertown on Friday evening. One hopes that Dzhoakhar survives just long enough to tell us whether he was working with any foreign or domestic Islamist groups before he hopefully meets the same fate of his victims. Our nation will certainly be resilient, and we cannot let terrorists achieve their goals of unraveling our society.
Perhaps Boston’s terror may finally be the impetus to begin the long overdue process of retooling America’s current counterterrorism strategies. Since 9-11, except for the Fort Hood massacre, we have been fortunate enough to avoid the kind of devastation and loss of life that we saw this week in Boston. That was certainly not for a lack of trying by our enemies, with over 300 arrests on terrorism charges since 9-11. Of these, over 80 percent were Islamists. I’ve said it before — after 9-11, after Fort Hood, and after Times Square, this is a Muslim problem that needs a Muslim solution.
The Tsarnaev brothers prove that the current Homeland Security “whack-a-mole” strategy is severely limited and rather flawed. The United States must address head-on the ideology of political Islam, which is the root cause of Islamist terrorism.
As details emerge about the identity and ideologies of the Tsarnaev brothers, it should quickly become clear that these individuals did not go to sleep one night normal American Muslims and wake up the next day al-Qaeda jihadists putting together pressure-cooker bombs. Their pathway towards radicalization will now be obvious to those who honestly connect the dots in retrospect. Far more important now is that leading reform-minded American Muslims, along with the U.S. government, the media, and academe, begin to confront and dissect the early stages of radicalization (Islamism), not just the last one (violent extremism).
Despite our devotion to our faith, I and other leading anti-Islamist Muslims were vilified by Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups in America, along with their choir on the left, for participating in Representative Peter King’s (R., N.Y.) hearing in Congress on American Muslim radicalization and the central role of Islamism. I believe history will show Chairman King’s hearings to be prescient. I was also vilified by those same groups for my role in narrating the documentary The Third Jihad, which happened to open with an illustrative scene from the terror in Beslan, Russia, in September 2004, when militant Chechnyan Islamists killed 334 civilians, 186 of them children, after a two-week standoff. The 2008 documentary was about the threat of militant Islamism to the West and the need for anti-Islamist Muslims to counter that threat. How many attacks like that suffered by the people of Boston this week must we see before we recognize the need to drill down against the separatism of the global movement of political Islam and their dreams of an Islamic state?
Washington: Hon. Congressman Brad Sherman continues to advocate on behalf of Sindhis across the world. At House Committee on Foreign Affairs Hearing, Congressman Sherman spoke with Secretary John Kerry about the need for a Sindhi Voice of America program. You can hear his remarks here starting at the 0:26 mark. SAPAC is immensely grateful for Congressman Sherman’s dedication to the Sindhi people.
Courtesy: Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups, April 18, 2013.
Thought debtor prison ended in the 18th century? Think again.
Editor’s note: America has a long history of treating the poor like criminals, from legislation banning the transportation of poor people across state lines to anti-vagrancy laws that could land you in jail if you didn’t have a job or a home. We’ve come to rely on the criminal justice system to deal with the poor, even as more and more Americans fall into poverty. The following is part of a series that looks at the diverse ways poverty is criminalized in America, such as laws targeting the homeless, the surveillance of welfare recipients, the re-emergence of debtor’s prisons, and extreme policing tactics like stop-and-frisk.
Kawana Young, a single mother of two kids, was arrested in Michigan after failing to pay money she owed as a result of minor traffic offenses. She was recently laid off from her job, and could not pay the fees she owed because she couldn’t find another source of employment. So a judge sentenced her to three days in jail. In addition, Young was charged additional fees for being booked and for room and board for a place she did not want to be. In total, she has been jailed five times for being unable to pay her debts.
“It doesn’t make sense to jail people when they can’t pay because they definitely can’t pay while they’re in jail,” said Young.
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?
As The Israeli War Drums Beat
by Merlin Miller
I contemplate my recent trip to the Islamic Republic of Iran and ask myself who wants war between America and Iran. I quickly surmise that it is not the American people, nor the Iranian people, but globalists (international bankers and their multinational beneficiaries). They control Israel, the American media and most of our politicians…and by extension our foreign policy.
My journey to this exotic and little understood land began with an invitation to “New Horizon – The First International Independent Filmmakers Festival”. It was a conference and festival held in Tehran from September 2nd through September 7th. Filmmakers and intellectuals from around the world attended. It was one of the most stimulating experiences that I have ever had and an effective bridge between diverse cultures and perspectives – with the purpose of promoting truth, justice, liberty, and peace.
This initiative was undertaken, not by America or other world leaders, but by a country unfairly besieged with sanctions and threats of war. My observations were in stark contrast to the perceptions of most Americans. What I experienced was a devout country with a love of God, family, and nation – and an uncompromising respect for the noblest of human endeavors.
As I write this, a giant, beautiful book, Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, lies next to me. Khayyam’s wonderful poems have survived the test of time and are a testament to the normally peaceful spirit of the Persian people. This treasure was given to me by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Inside its back cover, he inscribed the following for me (transcribed from Farsi) …
By: Bruce Riedel
2013 will be a pivotal year in Pakistani history. National elections, turnover at the top military position and the denouement in the war in Afghanistan; all promise to make it a critical year for a country that is both, under siege by terrorism and the center of the global jihadist movement. The changes in Pakistan are unlikely to come peacefully and will have major implications for India and America. The stakes are huge in the most dangerous country in the world.
Pakistan is a country in the midst of a long and painful crisis. According to the government, since 2001 45,000 Pakistanis have died in terrorism related violence, including 7,000 security personnel. Suicide bombings were unheard of before 9/11; there have been 300 since then. The country’s biggest city, Karachi, is a battlefield.
One measure of Pakistan’s instability is that the country now has between 300 and 500 private security firms, employing 3,00,000 armed guards, most run by ex-generals. The American intelligence community’s new global estimate rates Pakistan among the most likely states in the world to fail by 2030.
Pakistan also remains a state sponsor of terror. Three of the five most-wanted on America’s counter-terrorism list live in Pakistan. The mastermind of the Mumbai massacre and head of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hafeez Saeed, makes no effort to hide. He is feted by the army and the political elite, appears on television and calls for the destruction of India frequently and jihad against America and Israel.
The head of the Afghan Taliban Mullah Omar, shuttles between ISI safe houses in Quetta and Karachi. The Amir of Al Qaeda, Ayman Zawahiri, is probably hiding in a villa not much different than the one his predecessor was living in, with his wives and children, in Abbottabad until May 2011.
Pakistan also has the fastest growing nuclear arsenal in the world, bigger than Great Britain’s. The nukes are in the hands of the generals, the civilian government only has nominal control. President Asif Ali Zardari has only nominal influence over the ISI as well; indeed it has conspired for five years to get rid of him.
Against the odds, Zardari has survived.
By next fall, he will have served five years, becoming the first elected civilian leader to complete a full term in office and pass power to another elected government. It will be a major milestone for Pakistani democracy. He has served years in prison and lost his wife to the terrorists who besiege the nation. He has often been called a criminal by many, including his own family, and the national symbol of corruption.
Yet, as president, he presided over a major transfer of power from the Presidency to the Prime Minister’s Office, even the titular national command authority over the nukes, to ensure the country is more democratic and stable.
The parliamentary election in the spring will be a replay of every Pakistani election since 1988, pitting Nawaz Sharif’s PML against the late Benazir Bhutto’s PPP. Needless to say, many Pakistanis are sick of the same stale choices. But the odds favour the old parties. Both Sharif and Zardari are committed to cautiously improving relations with India, keeping open ties with America and trying to reform the Pakistani economy. Both will have troubled relations with the Army.
The Economist has tagged Sharif as likely to do best. If he returns to the Prime Minister’s job for a third time, it will be a remarkable turn in his own odyssey.
Sharif was removed from the office in 1999 in an illegal coup and barely escaped alive, to go into exile in Saudi Arabia. His decision to withdraw Pakistan’s troops behind the LOC, during the Kargil war, prompted his fall from power; it also may have saved the world from nuclear destruction. It was a brave move. I remember talking to him and his family in the White House the day after he made the decision to pull back, you could see in his eyes that he knew Musharraf would defame him; but he knew he was in the right.
But many Pakistanis want a new face to lead their country. Out of desperation some are turning to Imran Khan to save Pakistan. The ISI is probably helping his campaign behind the scenes to stir up trouble for the others. He is a long shot at best. He is much more anti-American, anti-drone and ready to make deals with the Taliban, to stop the terror at home. Yet, he understands well that Pakistan is a country urgently in need of new thinking.
Whoever wins will inherit an economy and government that is in deep trouble. Two-thirds of 185 million Pakistanis are under 30, and 40 million of the 70 million 5 to 19 years old are not in school. The youth bulge has yet to spike. Less than one million Pakistanis paid taxes last year. Most politicians don’t pay any taxes. Power blackouts are endemic. Clean water is increasingly scarce even as catastrophic floods are more common. Growth is 3%, too little to keep up with population demand.
So, it is no wonder that the generals prefer to have the civilians responsible for managing the unmanageable, while they guard their prerogatives and decide national security issues. As important as the coming elections will be, the far more important issue is who will be the next Chief of Army Staff.
The incumbent General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was given an unprecedented three-year extension in 2010. He is the epitome of the Pakistani officer corps and the so-called ‘deep state’. Pervez Musharraf made him Director General of the ISI in 2004. It was on his watch that the Afghan Taliban recovered and regrouped in Quetta, Osama bin Laden built his hideout 800 yards outside Kayani’s alma mater the Kakul Military Academy in Abbottabad in 2005, and planning began for the Lashkar-e-Taiba attack on Mumbai. He was DG/ISI when David Headley, the American serving life for his role in the 2008 attack, began his reconnaissance trips to Mumbai to prepare the way for 26/11. Kayani probably authorized the funds for Headley’s cover and travel. He is the first DG/ISI to become COAS. His term expires in September, 2013.
The history of civilians choosing Chiefs of Army Staff in Pakistan is not encouraging.
Chomsky explains how elites’ obsession with short-term personal gain threatens humanity.
In an interview broadcast on Al Jazeera English, Noam Chomsky argues that people who have the most privilege owe the most to society. “The more privilege you have the more responsibility you have,” says Chomsky, “It’s elementary.”
Asked why the opposite seems to be true in America, where many wealthy people refuse to give up their time or money to help those in need, Chomsky replies that the lack of public responsibility among many elites makes sense; after all, if you’ve devoted your life to enriching yourself and wealth is what you value the most, you don’t care as much about other people. But it goes beyond that, argues Chomsky. “It’s also institutional. In its more pathological form, it’s Ayn Rand ideology: ‘I just don’t care about anyone else. I’m only interested in benefiting myself. That’s good and noble.”
* Defence secretary says Islamabad has ‘complete’ list of CIA agents in Pakistan
* US, UK against Pakistan’s nuclear programme
ISLAMABAD: Defence Secretary Lt General (r) Asif Yaseen Malik on Friday said that the US is using the spy agencies of other countries against Pakistan.
Speaking to a select group of journalists at the Defence Ministry, the defence secretary said Pakistan had complete information about the CIA agents working in the country. He said Pakistan has been informed by the US regarding presence of the CIA agents.
He added that no country was allowed to work undercover in the country. “The CIA also uses the agencies of other countries.” He said the US and Britain are against the nuclear assets of Pakistan, adding that America is using agencies of other countries against the country.
General Asif said there is no formal agreement between CIA and the ISI for secret operation. He said 95 percent of the defence policy is made by the three defence services on the basis of mutual consultation. He added that negotiations were going on for the replacement of spy aircraft that were damaged in attacks on Mehran and Kamra bases.
Read more » Daily Times
It’s been about a week since the Connecticut school massacre, and Americans are still grieving.
Yet we’re comforted by the thought that, with time, the bereaved community of Newtown will bounce back. Students will return to school, and victims’ families will somehow get on with their lives. This is because America, as politicians and the US media have intoned repeatedly in recent days, is a strong and resilient society.
For me, such words bring to mind another strong and resilient society — one that endures constant afflictions, tragedies, and privation. I can think of few nations that suffer more misery than Pakistan.