Sunday, December 6, 2015

Karachi Local Elections; San Bernardino Shooting; India Climate Change

What does MQM's Karachi sweep mean for Sindh's future? Will Karachi return to the situation prior to Rangers' operation? Or will MQM change by cutting its ties to militants and criminals? Will local elections help produce new and better national leadership of the future?

Was San Bernardino shooting an act of terror? Or was it just another mass shooting like the prior 354 mass shootings of the year 2015 in America? Will it result in improved gun regulations? Or will it be used to focus on more anti-terror actions without keeping guns out of the hands of terrorists? Will Islamophobes exploit this incident to push their hate agenda?

Does India's position at climate change summit in Paris represent the views of the entire developing world? Will the rich nations financially help the developing nations switch to clean development without the use of fossil fuels like coal?

Viewpoint From Overseas host Faraz Darvesh discusses these questions with well-known Pakistani activist Jibran Nasir and regular panelists Misbah Azam and Riaz Haq (

Karachi Local Elections; San Bernadino Shooting; India Climate Change from WBT Productions on Vimeo.

Karachi Local Elections; San Bernadino Shooting... by ViewpointFromOverseas

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

India, Bangladesh Most Vulnerable to Climate Change; China, Pakistan Close Behind

Majority of World's Dirtiest Cities Are In India

MQM-RAW Connection

Gangs of Karachi

US Gun Violence, Islamophobia and Terrorism

Talk4Pak Think Tank

VPOS Youtube Channel

VPOS Vimeo Channel


Ravi Krishna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Riaz Haq said...

RK: "So now designated terrorist organization has won 9 seats."

Yes, that's a problem. But it's only 9 seats among thousands. Indians have elected the BJP, a fascist Nazi political party, with a landslide.

Modi was a young man when he joined Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the extremist Hindu nationalists organization in India, which has a long history of admiration for Adolf Hitler, the Nazi leader, and his "Final Solution".

In his book "We" (1939), Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the leader of the Hindu Nationalist RSS wrote, "To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races -- the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by."

2002 Gujarat Riots:

Apparently taking a cue from his Guruji Golwalkar, Modi presided over the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat state where he was first elected chief minister in 2001. During the riot, at least 2,000 Muslims were killed by Hindu mobs and several hundred girls and women were stripped naked, raped or gang-raped, had their wombs slashed and were thrown into fires, some while still alive.

In spite of the riots (or may be because of the riots), Modi continued to win elections and run Gujarat state as its chief minister since he was first elected 13 years ago. Gujarat saw significant investment and rapid economic growth during this period which is often attributed to Modi's pro-business policies.

Anonymous said...

ISIS finds recruitment in Pakistan difficult

Despite the Pakistani roots of Tashfeen Malik, one of the shooters in the ISIS-inspired attack that killed fourteen people in San Bernardino, California, ISIS faces a difficult recruiting environment in Pakistan, according to a report in the Washington Post on Saturday (Post). According to the report, the Pakistani public has turned against extremism particularly after the attack on a school in Peshawar that killed more than a hundred school children. According to Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, Pakistan “simply doesn’t present many opportunities” for ISIS. Despite its difficulties, ISIS has made some inroads in Pakistan. Recently Turkey handed two men from Karachi who were arrested at the Turkish-Syrian border back to Pakistan. The men were reportedly part of a 53-member ISIS linked militant group. The Institute for Economics and Peace estimates that 500 Pakistanis have joined ISIS – a large number – but only a third of the number who have gone to Syria from France.

Riaz Haq said...

#Trump has business interests in #Azerbaijan, #Turkey, #UAE. #Muslim businessmen see his remarks as "big mistake"

A string of hostile comments towards Muslims by US Republican hopeful Donald Trump have done little to dent his runaway popularity among his American supporters — but they may yet damage the billionaire’s business interests around the world, particularly in Muslim countries.
“It is unacceptable in my country, the UAE. Our system cannot accept an insult to our religion like this,” said Dubai businessman and columnist Khalaf al-Habtoor, who heads a conglomerate in the emirate.

Mr Trump has two significant partnerships in countries with large Muslim populations. He earns between $1m and $5m a year from licensing his brand to the Trump Towers Istanbul development in Turkey, which is owned by the Ortadogu conglomerate, according to a public filing of his interests that he made to the US Federal Election Commission as part of his presidential campaign.
He also earned $2.5m last year from licensing his brand to the Trump Hotel and Tower in Baku, Azerbaijan, a development owned by the oligarch Anar Mammadov.
Trump Organisation is developing in two golf and property developments in Dubai with Damac, whose chief executive Hussain Sajwani he has described as a “good friend”.
Trump’s daughter Ivanka, now executive vice-president of development and acquisitions at his holding company Trump Organization, said the company was looking at “multiple opportunities in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Saudi Arabia: the four areas where we are seeing the most interest.”
But whether these will now go ahead is unclear. Mr Trump’s remarks, in which he called for a “total shutdown” on Muslims entering the US, have sparked outrage in Dubai, the Gulf’s commercial hub, where he is a frequent visitor.
Mr Habtoor on Tuesday described the comments as “a huge mistake” and urged others to distance themselves from Mr Trump and his business interests. It would be a “huge mistake to associate themselves with Donald Trump”, he said. “His brand is a liability, not an asset.”
Derogatory remarks about Mexicans last summer cost Mr Trump a lucrative deal with Univision, the US’s largest Hispanic television network. A number of other companies also ended their relationships with him.

Anonymous said...

Tread lightly Haq! If he gets elected you will be put on the terrorist watchlist.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "Tread lightly Haq! If he gets elected you will be put on the terrorist watchlist."

Fortunately, America is not India. Many of Trump's own top party leaders are denouncing him.

He doesn't stand a chance of winning general elections as Modi did in India.

Republican Primary Polls show 25% support for Trump among the Republican base which itself is small compared to Dems and Independents base. Polls show 60% of Americans are unfavorable to Trump. Polls also show 48% support for Hillary Clinton to 43% for Trump among likely voters in head to head general election contest.

Riaz Haq said...

#Americans Attracted to #ISIS Find an ‘Echo Chamber’ on Social Media

When a lonely Virginia teenager named Ali Amin got curious about the Islamic State last year and went online to learn more, he found a virtual community awaiting. It had its own peculiar language, stirring imagery and just the warm camaraderie, sense of adventure and devotion to a cause that were missing from his dull suburban life.

At 17, the precocious son of a Yemeni immigrant family, he quickly developed online relationships with older Islamic State supporters around the globe. There was Zubair in Britain, Uthman in South Africa and Abdullah in Finland, who urged him to start a Twitter account under the name AmreekiWitness, or American witness. Mr. Amin drew several thousand followers, sparred online with the State Department, engaged with prominent Islamic State propagandists and developed quite a name among English-speaking fans of the militants — until his arrest in March.

“For the first time, I felt I was not only being taken seriously about very important and weighty topics, but was actually being asked for guidance,” Mr. Amin wrote in August to the judge overseeing his case, expressing regret for what he portrayed as a disastrous youthful mistake. “By assimilating into the Internet world instead of the real world, I became absorbed in a ‘virtual’ struggle while disconnecting from what was real: my family, my life and my future.”

As the Obama administration takes on the multidimensional challenge posed by the Islamic State after the killings in San Bernardino, Calif., the online community of sympathizers in the United States is a critical focus. They number in the hundreds, experts say, and fit no single profile. Among those whose flirtations took a serious turn and led to criminal charges are a trio of teenage siblings from Chicago, a former Air Force mechanic in his late 40s from New Jersey, and a mother of two from Philadelphia.

In fact, they have little in common except one thing: the weeks or months spent marinating in the rhetoric and symbolism of the Islamic State, courtesy of Twitter and other Internet platforms.

It is in this electronic hothouse of mutual support, a sort of round-the-clock pep rally for a cause most Muslims shun, that Americans join other English speakers to try out defiant screen names, throw around Arabic words they have often just learned, and seek to outdo one another in pious zeal. Some merely express anger at American foreign policy or at what they see as mistreatment of Muslims overseas. Others go further, trying to reach Islamic State territory or plotting violence at home.

Like most heady American romances with the Islamic State, Mr. Amin’s came to a crashing halt. In late August, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison after pleading guilty to material support for a terrorist group. Americans who managed to reach Syria have suffered a still grimmer fate, dying on distant battlefields. And last week, in California, two admirers of the extremist group were shot dead by the police after attacking an office holiday gathering and killing 14 people.

Riaz Haq said...

#Iran recruits #Pakistan #Shia for combat in #Syria. via @Reuters

Iran's recruitment of the Pakistani fighters adds yet another international dimension to Syria's 4-year-old civil war, which has deepened sectarian divisions across the Muslim world and drawn in most regional and global powers.

The Pakistani Shi'ites are helping to defend the government of Tehran's ally, President Bashar al-Assad, who is also supported by Russian air strikes and fighters from Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, against an array of Sunni rebels backed by Turkey and Arab states. The United States, Turkey, Arab and European powers are also participating in a coalition bombing Islamic State, a Sunni Muslim militant group.

A Facebook page bearing the name of the Zeinabiyoun showed pictures of what was described as a funeral in Iran in late November, with members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard standing next to men in shalwar kameez, the traditional long tunic and trousers worn in Pakistan.

"The Zeinabiyoun are a Pakistani Shi’ite outfit that’s run by the IRGC,” said Phillip Smyth, a researcher at the University of Maryland and adjunct fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who has done extensive research on Shi’ite groups fighting in Syria, using an acronym to refer to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“They’ve put together their own imagery, their own recruitment type material. They really became more of a marketable element toward the end of the summer of 2015. That’s when they became more of a centered group.”

Anonymous said...

"Polls also show 48% support for Hillary Clinton to 43% for Trump among likely voters in head to head general election contest." a 43 % is not a small minority. You never know by the time of polling if another such terror event happens and this 43 becomes 65. America is getting fed up of the death cult of Islam and it is high time the Muslims either choose America or their heinous pedophilic death-cult of Islam.

Jagmohan said...

A Pakistani and a Pakistani American helps Trump get elected! Now that's what I call a headline.

Iqbal Singh said...

It is interesting to note that the PUBLICIZED LAWS AND GOVERNMENT DATA RELIABILITY is in the bottom(30%) tier for Pakistan while that of India is in the top(30%) tier of all countries analyzed by WJP 2015.

In the World Justice Project(WJP) Index 2015 ranking , Pakistan(83) is at the bottom just above Afghanistan(89) in the South Asia region. Bangladesh(73), Sri Lanka(52), Nepal(40) and India(37) are all substantially ahead of Pakistan. Index constitutes 102 countries.

The World Justice Project (WJP) is an independent, multidisciplinary organization working to advance the rule of law around the world. The rule of law provides the foundation for communities of opportunity and equity – communities that offer sustainable economic development, accountable government, and respect for fundamental rights.

Riaz Haq said...

Iqbal Singh: " In the World Justice Project(WJP) Index 2015 ranking , Pakistan(83) is at the bottom just above Afghanistan(89) in the South Asia region. Bangladesh(73), Sri Lanka(52), Nepal(40) and India(37) are all substantially ahead of Pakistan. Index constitutes 102 countries."

This raises serious questions about the credibility of this org.

It ignores India's well-known caste apartheid, female genocide and widespread and systemic deadly discrimination against Adivasis, Muslims, Christians and other minorities.

The land of former Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi is killing its daughters by the millions. Economically resurgent India is witnessing a rapid unfolding of a female genocide in the making across all castes and classes, including the upper caste rich and the educated. The situation is particularly alarming among upper-caste Hindus in some of the urban areas of Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, specially in parts of Punjab, where there are only 300 girls for every 1,000 boys, according to Laura Turquet, ActionAid's women's rights policy official.

Over 250 million people are victims of caste-based discrimination and segregation in India. They live miserable lives, shunned by much of society because of their ranks as untouchables or Dalits at the bottom of a rigid caste system in Hindu India. Dalits are discriminated against, denied access to land, forced to work in slave-like conditions, and routinely abused, even killed, at the hands of the police and of higher-caste groups that enjoy the state's protection, according to Human Rights Watch.

IN addition, this report raises the following questions:

Are the authors aware of the widespread discrimination against Muslims in education, employment and housing?

Is India's criminal justice system fair to Muslims and other minorities?

Do they know that Muslims make up 13% of India's population but 28% of Indian prisoners? Similarly, Christians make up 2.8% of India's population but 6% of India's prison population? Meanwhile, the newly elected parliament has just 4% Muslim representation?

Have they seen the ghettoization of Muslims in Indian cities? Have any of the Muslims told them that they are excluded from living in nice urban neighborhoods?

Do they know that Indian Muslims are now worse off than the lowest-caste Hindus, or Dalits, in terms of education and employment? Have they seen the 2013 update of the Sachar Commission report which shows little improvement for Muslims since the original report published 2006?

Mishra said...

Disagree with the comments above. India is not without problems - no country is. The US Blacks have a much higher rate of prison population, recidivism and unemployment.
The important thing is that steps are taken to try and alleviate many of those ills.

Riaz Haq said...

3 Eyewitnesses To #SanBernardino Shooting Now Say 3 Big White Men Did It, Not Accused #Muslim Couple. #Terrorism …

“It’s not him,” a third San Bernardino shooting witness proclaimed about Sayd Farook and his wife.

The so-called “terror couple” have been accused of masterminding an ISIS terror attack on a Christmas office party where Sayd worked.

Earlier this month, the attorneys for the Farook family maintained that they do not believe the suspects are the ones who carried out the attacks in question.

Several eyewitnesses and family of witnesses and victims initially said that three athletic Caucasian men had been responsible for carrying out the attacks. Police immediately banned them from speaking with the media.

Just days ago, another eye-witness in the office came forward and said that in spite of what the law enforcement and mainstream media narrative is saying, the people who carried out the attack where very athletic, large, Caucasian men, who were three – not two – in number. Farook’s wife, it should be remembered weighed approximately 90lbs.

Now, a third prominent eye-witness, Chirs Nwadike, has stepped up to challenge the mainstream narrative. He recently told reporters he received a phone call from an unknown person around 7 p.m., on the evening of the shooting, who told him that he must say that Sayd Farook was the shooter.

You read that right, he says that he was called and told to change his story and say that Farook carried out the attacks with his wife, even though that is very different than what he witnessed.

Nwadike told reporters:

“No it’s not him [Sayd]. I told them about it. He’s quiet. He doesn’t make any trouble.”

“He was just spraying bullets everywhere,” Nwadike said. But the gunman was not Sayd, or his wife.

Carlos said...

(Now, a third prominent eye-witness, Chirs Nwadike, has stepped up to challenge the mainstream narrative. He recently told reporters he received a phone call from an unknown person around 7 p.m., on the evening of the shooting, who told him that he must say that Sayd Farook was the shooter.) - HAQ

By putting this type of conspiracy nonsense in your blog, it highlights your close mindedness and you have also undermined yourself as a blog author.

Riaz Haq said...

Carlos: "By putting this type of conspiracy nonsense in your blog, it highlights your close mindedness and you have also undermined yourself as a blog author. "

Have you ever heard the oft-repeated phrase "innocent until proven guilty"?

The burden of proof lies with the prosecution, not the dead suspects. Prosecutors have to pursue all leads and eyewitness accounts, including the exculpatory ones.

So who's being close minded here? Is it not you?

Riaz Haq said...

Is cartoon showing #Indians eating solar panels with mango chutney racist? #climatechange …

A cartoon in a national newspaper has been branded racist against Indians.
Captioned ‘Aid à la mode’, Bill Leak’s cartoon in the Australian shows a caricatured, underweight Indian family trying to chew the glass from a box of solar panels.
People have claimed that, aside from the crude stereotyping of their image, it suggests that India isn’t developed enough to understand solar power.

Read more:

Riaz Haq said...

#ColoradoSprings Deals With Mass Killing as Nation. #media Move On To #SanBernardino 24X7 #NRA #guncontrol

It had been just five days since a visit to a Planned Parenthood clinic put Kentanya Craion in the middle of a massacre that left her cowering in a back room and her boyfriend among the three dead.

And then she watched in horror on her mother’s television as the shooting here was eclipsed by another, deadlier, more spectacular mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. “Disgusting,” Ms. Craion said. “I can’t imagine how the families are feeling.”

She paused and corrected herself: “I know how they’re feeling. I know exactly how they’re feeling.”

This was the distinctly and distressingly American nightmare in which the people of Colorado Springs found themselves this month: grieving, confused and emotionally raw — but with all of those emotions amplified and distorted by a new mass shooting in a country where, by one measure, such attacks occur on average more than once a day.

And the shooting in California, which claimed 14 lives, siphoned much of the national focus from Colorado Springs, replacing a high-intensity conversation about violence against abortion clinics with perhaps an even more intense one about violence committed by Islamic terrorists.

“I knew it would be overtaken at some point,” Mayor John Suthers said.

Unlike Mr. Suthers, a first-term mayor who has served as Colorado’s attorney general and as a United States attorney, Jane Delaney seems unsurprised that another mass shooting occurred so soon. Dr. Delaney, 65, a retired physician, was trapped inside the King Soopers grocery store for hours during the melee, in which a self-professed anti-abortion crusader, Robert L. Dear Jr., is accused of attacking the clinic and engaging the police in a tense five-and-a-half-hour standoff before his capture.

Dr. Delaney said that the rampage at the clinic, which also left nine wounded, had itself eclipsed an episode here on Halloween morning when a man named Noah Harpham, 33, fatally shot three people before dying in a gun battle with the police. He left an angry blog post behind.

“It seems like it’s happening every day,” she said.

Last week, a disheveled Mr. Dear, 57, appeared for the first time in a crowded downtown courtroom here. He was formally charged with 179 felonies, including counts of first-degree murder. As the victims’ friends and family looked on, Mr. Dear, in manacles and a county jail jumpsuit, blurted out that he was guilty, a “warrior for the babies.”

About five miles north, the Planned Parenthood building, still a crime scene, was empty, its parking lot surrounded by fencing and no-trespassing signs. A police officer kept watch, and a blue tarp covered the entrance. And yet life bustled all around, with patients heading in and out of appointments at a nearby medical building, and Salvation Army volunteers ringing bells for shoppers at the King Soopers, a few yards away, where Dr. Delaney and dozens of others had been trapped less than two weeks before.

Quan Hoang, 25, who had also been trapped on the day of the shootings in his workplace, Fusion Nails, a salon near Planned Parenthood, tried to square the seeming normality the day after the shooting with the routine mayhem everyone sees on their Facebook feed and in the news daily. It was hard to do.

“America’s becoming a crazy place,” he said.


Here, as elsewhere, the attack in San Bernardino has changed the nature of the conversation about mass shootings, which now entails questions about homegrown radicalized Muslims and the influence of the Islamic State. Last Wednesday, a few hours before Mr. Dear’s court appearance, Mayor Suthers went to the studios of KVOR, an AM radio station, where he was the guest on a call-in show.

He spoke about how both shootings showed how difficult it was to identify the perpetrators of mass murders before they occurred. He told people to call the police if they suspected their neighbors of acting strangely.

Anonymous said...

A new study done by the NASA clearly shows which is the most polluted place on the earth using globally available high resolution satellite Data. Hint it is not India.

The most severe air quality issue is in North eastern China. All the the claims done by Haq and other "intelligentsia" fall flat based on this study. The data is of much better quality, collected using direct visualization and cannot be manipulated by individual governments. China is indeed the most polluted place on the earth.

Also noteworthy is the fact that data coming from China should be taken with a metric ton of salt. This slant eyes cannot be trusted with anything. I now highly doubt all the chinese economic miracle and their poverty and IQ data.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: " All the the claims done by Haq and other "intelligentsia" fall flat based on this study. "

Read the NASA report carefully. It's not about particulate matter; it's about NO2 emission.

On major Chinese cities, it says as follows:

"Three major Chinese metropolitan areas—Beijing, Shanghai, and the Pearl River Delta—saw nitrogen dioxide reductions of as much as 40 percent."

Read more at:

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan elections seen through the eyes of a #Pakistani #Syrian #Arab dual national …

"What my fellow Arabs might find surprising is that it was the police that guided me to the polling station that I was supposed to vote in. The kindness they showed is worth mentioning. It is difficult to absorb the idea of a helpful police as an Arab. This is not to say that all Arab or Middle Eastern countries suffer from a lack of a public-friendly police. There are some countries, like Jordan, Tunisia and majority of the Gulf countries where the police do serve their people.

I consider myself lucky to be a Pakistani of Arab origin and that I had the right to vote in the LG polls and therefore had a say in the political process. The fact that my opinion, my vote and my choice mattered in my country gives me confidence and boosts my patriotism. I mourn the situation in the Arab world today, where at least 10 countries are in turmoil. The situation in Pakistan may not be ideal, but the country definitely has the makings of a pluralistic political system."

Riaz Haq said...

Why #ISIS has potential to be a world-altering revolution — How can it be stopped? #terrorism #Syria … via @aeonmag

‘Virtue, without which terror is destructive; terror, without which virtue is impotent. Terror is only justice prompt, severe and inflexible; it is then an emanation of virtue…’

Maximilien Robespierre, On the Principles of Political Morality (1794)

As pundits and politicians stoked the recent shootings in California into an existential threat; as French troops were deployed in Paris; as Belgian police locked down Brussels, and US and Russian planes intensified air attacks in Syria following yet another slaughter perpetrated in the name of the so-called Islamic State, it was easy to lose sight of a central fact. Amid the bullets, bombs and bluster, we are not only failing to stop the spread of radical Islam, but our efforts often appear to contribute to it.

What accounts for the failure of ‘The War on Terror’ and associated efforts to counter the spread of violent extremism? The failure starts with reacting in anger and revenge, engendering more savagery without stopping to grasp the revolutionary character of radical Arab Sunni revivalism. This revival is a dynamic, countercultural movement of world-historic proportions spearheaded by ISIS, (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). In less than two years, it has created a dominion over hundreds of thousands of square kilometres and millions of people. And it possesses the largest and most diverse volunteer fighting force since the Second World War.

What the United Nations community regards as senseless acts of horrific violence are to ISIS’s acolytes part of an exalted campaign of purification through sacrificial killing and self-immolation: Know that Paradise lies under the shade of swords, says a hadith, or saying of the Prophet; this one comes from the Sahih al-Bukhari, a collection of the Prophet’s sayings considered second only to the Qu’ran in authenticity and is now a motto of ISIS fighters.

This is the purposeful plan of violence that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State’s self-anointed Caliph, outlined in his call for ‘volcanoes of jihad’: to create a globe-spanning jihadi archipelago that will eventually unite to destroy the present world and create a new-old world of universal justice and peace under the Prophet’s banner. A key tactic in this strategy is to inspire sympathisers abroad to violence: do what you can, with whatever you have, wherever you are, whenever possible.

To understand the revolution, my research team has conducted dozens of structured interviews and behavioural experiments with youth in Paris, London and Barcelona, as well as with captured ISIS fighters in Iraq and members of Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria). We also focused on youth from distressed neighbourhoods previously associated with violence or jihadi support – for example, the Paris suburbs of Clichy-sous-Bois and Épinay-sur-Seine, the Moroccan neighbourhoods of Sidi Moumen in Casablanca and Jamaa Mezuak in Tetuán.

While many in the West dismiss radical Islam as simply nihilistic, our work suggests something far more menacing: a profoundly alluring mission to change and save the world.

In the West, the seriousness of this mission is denied. Olivier Roy, usually a deep and subtle thinker, wrote last month in Le Monde that the Paris plotters represent most who flock to ISIS; they are marginal misfits largely ignorant of religion and geopolitics, and bereft of real historical grievances. They ride the wave of radical Islam as an outlet for their nihilism because it’s the biggest and baddest countercultural movement around. And how else could one explain a mother who abandons her baby to die butchering innocents in San Bernadino who never did her harm?

Riaz Haq said...

Why #ISIS has potential to be a world-altering revolution — How can it be stopped? #terrorism #Syria … via @aeonmag

Treating the Islamic State as merely a form of terrorism or violent extremism masks the menace. All novel developments are ‘extremist’ compared with what was the norm before. What matters for history is whether these movements survive and thrive against the competition. For our singularly self-predatory species, success has depended on willingness to shed blood, including the sacrifice of one’s own, not merely for family and tribe, wealth or status, but for some greater cause. This has been especially true since the start of the Axial Age more than two millennia ago. At that time, large-scale civilisations arose under the watchful gaze of powerful divinities, who mercilessly punished moral transgressors – thus ensuring that even strangers in multiethnic empires would work and fight as one.

Call it ‘god’ or whatever secular ideology one prefers, including any of the great modern salvational -isms: colonialism, socialism, anarchism, communism, fascism and liberalism. In Leviathan (1651), Thomas Hobbes deemed sacrifice for a transcendent ideal ‘the privilege of absurdity to which no creature but man is subject’. Humans make their greatest commitments and exertions, for ill or good, for the sake of ideas that give a sense of significance. In an inherently chaotic universe, where humans alone recognise that death is unavoidable, there is an overwhelming psychological impetus to overcome this tragedy of cognition: to realise ‘why I am’ and ‘who we are’.

In The Descent of Man (1871), Charles Darwin cast this devotion as the virtue of ‘morality… the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, and sympathy’ with which winning groups are better endowed in history’s spiralling competition for survival and dominance. It is the sacred values, immune to material tradeoffs, that bind us most. In any culture, an unwillingness to sell out one’s kin or religious and political brotherhoods and motherlands is the line we usually will not cross. Devotion to these values can drive successes which are out of all proportion to expected outcomes.

Asymmetric operations involving spectacular killings to destabilise the social order is a tactic that has been around as long as recorded history

Often these values, tethered to beliefs such as our ‘God is great, bodiless but omnipotent’ or our ‘free markets are always wise’, are attributed to Providence or Nature. They can never be verified by empirical evidence, and their meaning is impossible to pin down. The term ‘sacred values’ intuitively denotes religious belief, as when land is holy, but can also include the ‘secularised sacred’ such as the ‘hallowed ground’ of Gettysburg or the site of the attacks on New York City of 11 September 2001 (9/11). The foundational beliefs of the great ideological -isms and the quasi-religious notion of the Nation itself have been ritualised in song and ceremony and sacrifice.

Riaz Haq said...

#ISIS New Year #terror plot story totally bogus. …

Another major holiday, another sensational ISIS terror plot the FBI takes credit for preventing. This time, the case splashed across the news is that of Emanuel Lutchman, a 25-year-old panhandler in Rochester, New York who allegedly plotted to attack a restaurant on New Years Eve. All major network broadcasts lead with the story and it was breathlessly featured everywhere from The New York Times to CNN. There’s only one problem: the way the story is being presented is wildly inaccurate and in many ways factually false.

Like almost all 11th hour FBI terror busts, the only thing the media has to go off is a DOJ criminal complaint that’s released to the press. Statements from the accused or their lawyer very rarely reach the public. And the criminal complaint and FBI press release are framed to deliberately deceive the media.

Let’s run down some of the key claims made by the media and why they’re either factually incorrect or misleading.

Claim: The plot was directed by ISIS

While the FBI's public statements to the media imply Lutchman was having discussions with real ISIS recruiters, the actual court documents are careful to never make this specific claim, only saying “Mr. Lutchman claims to have received direction from an overseas ISIL member.” For the purposes of proving “attempt to material support of ISIS” prosecutors do not need to actually show a material connection to ISIS, only an attempt to do so. It remains unclear if Lutchman’s contact (“Overseas individual” as the affidavit calls him) was, in fact, a member of ISIS but this hasn’t stopped the media from asserting it as fact.

Claim: Lutchman bought weapons for the attack at Walmart

Several media outlets, from to CBS to local reporters claimed Lutchman bought his weapons but this is inaccurate. He actually went along while a paid informant, at the direction of the FBI, purchased the equipment. Nominally this was because Lutchman could not afford the $40 worth of supplies. This means one of two things: Either A) Lutchman was looking for an out and used his inability to pay for the items as an excuse, only to be further pressured by the FBI or B) Lutchman did indeed not have the wherewithal to muster $40 to go on his own suicide attack which, on its face, should give any critical thinker pause.

This was a man who, according to his grandmother, “can’t buy Pampers for his son" who was being sponsored not by ISIS (evidently, his contact in Syria couldn’t send him $40 or fill out an Amazon purchase) but quite literally by the FBI. The fact that FBI knowingly bought the weapons for the attack is a clear sign the FBI wasn’t interested in thwarting a plot, but building a case. Notice how the New York Times cleverly gets around the awkward fact by reporting Lutchman “gathered” the materials since they can’t say he bought them. Because he didn’t, the FBI did.

Riaz Haq said...

Armed #Oregon #Militia Led By Bundy Family Takes Over #US #Federal Building In Support Of Hammond Ranchers …

An armed militia group has taken control of the headquarters building at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Oregon and intends to stay there for a year, the Oregonian newspaper of Portland reported Saturday. The takeover followed a peaceful protest Saturday in which hundreds of demonstrators gathered in support of two local ranchers who are due to begin a prison sentence Monday.

No one was hurt in the takeover, according to initial reports, and the wildlife refuge center was unoccupied at the time. Militia leaders included Ammon Bundy, son of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher and anti-government activist, as well as two of Ammon Bundy's brothers. The exact number of militia members inside the building wasn't immediately clear, though media reports have estimated that at least 150 protesters are inside in support of Steve Hammond and Dwight Hammond Jr.

“The facility has been the tool to do all the tyranny that has been placed upon the Hammonds,” Ammon Bundy told the Oregonian, adding that he would not rule out violence. “We're planning on staying here for years, absolutely. This is not a decision we've made at the last minute.”

Dwight Hammond, 73, and his son Steven, 46, were sentenced to five years in prison in October for illegally setting fires on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property near Diamond, Oregon. Both men already served time for the offense, which involved setting fires that spread to government lands they leased to graze cattle, but another judge ruled that both must go back to prison because their initial sentence was too short.

“Neither Ammon Bundy nor anyone within his group/organization speak for the Hammond family,” the Hammonds' lawyer, W. Alan Schroeder, wrote to Harney County Sheriff David Ward, as quoted by U.S. News and World Report.

Residents in the nearby town of Burns have spent days meeting with out-of-state militia leaders, who have also come from Idaho, Montana and elsewhere, in an attempt to prevent the scene from ending in violence.

“We are not coming into your town to shoot it up,” Brandon Curtiss, the self-proclaimed leader of an Idaho militia group, told nervous residents, as quoted by the Oregonian. “We won't fire anything unless we're fired upon.”

Riaz Haq said...

Why aren’t we calling the #Oregon militia ‘#terrorists?’ #OregonMilitiaDemands #Islamophobia

As of Sunday afternoon, The Washington Post called them "occupiers" — and more precisely, "an armed militia." The New York Times opted for "armed activists" and "militia men." And the Associated Press put the situation this way: "A family previously involved in a showdown with the federal government has occupied a building at a national wildlife refuge in Oregon and is asking militia members to join them."

Not one seemed to lean toward terms such as "insurrection," "revolt," anti-government "insurgents" or, as some on social media were calling them, "terrorists." When a group of unknown size and unknown firepower has taken over any federal building with plans and possibly some equipment to aid a years-long occupation — and when its representatives tells reporters that they would prefer to avoid violence but are prepared to die — the kind of almost-uniform delicacy and the limits on the language to describe the people involved and the group is noteworthy itself.

It is hard to imagine that none of the words mentioned above — particularly "insurrection" or "revolt" — would be avoided if, for instance, a group of armed black Americans took possession of a federal or state courthouse to protest the police. Black Americans outraged about the death of a 12-year-old boy at the hands of police or concerned about the absence of jail time or a conviction in the George Zimmerman case have been frequently and inaccurately lumped in with criminals and looters or depicted and described as marauding wolf packs where drugs are, according to CNN's Don Lemon, "obviously" in use.

If a group of armed Muslims took possession of a federal building or even its lobby to, for instance, protest calls to surveil the entire group, they could avoid any of those harsher, more-alarming labels.

In fairness to those assembled in Oregon, it is true that there have been no reports of actual violence, injury or anyone being held inside the Oregon building against their will.

And in the interim, some may feel particularly inclined to take real care with the language used to describe the situation so as not to inflame it or offend people who, in some cases, have already been troubled by the decision to charge a father and son pair of ranchers with arson under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. The charge not only carries what many of the rancher's supporters believe to be an unjust five-year jail term but; it brings the very same t-word into the mix.

For those who know the father and son — Dwight Hammond Jr. and his son, Steven Hammond — personally, it is understandable that they would disagree vehemently with any government action that implies that the men they know as engaged members of the community are terrorists. But one really cannot help but wonder where similar outrage lives when, in the face of clear data indicating that black Americans are far more likely than white ones to face serious charges and jail time rather than misdemeanor penalties for resisting arrest. Where has the lock-step adherence to careful and delicate language been in all of 2015 when unarmed black Americans were disproportionately more likely to be killed by police than others?

Beyond that seeming incongruity, the Hammonds are not among the occupiers. The man who has helped to organize the building occupation in Oregon is Ammon Bundy. Bundy is the son of Cliven Bundy, a Nevada rancher who engaged in a standoff in 2014 with the government over grazing rights. And the younger Bundy has, again, described the occupiers as "armed" and prepared to die.

Riaz Haq said...

Women nurture saplings, earn income reforesting #Pakistan with billion trees in #KP. #PTI #ImranKhan #climatechange

Robina Gul has swapped her needle for a trowel. Until recently, the villager from northern Pakistan got by making clothes for family weddings and religious festivals, but now she is encouraging other women to set up tree nurseries like hers that can earn them a handsome monthly income.

Gul is growing some 25,000 saplings of 13 different species crammed into the small courtyard of her two-room house in Najaf Pur, a village of around 8,000 people in the Haripur district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

"It gives me immense pleasure to look after the saplings as this has changed my whole life," said Gul, 35. "It has become a hobby for me and a source of income too."...

She set up the nursery at her home in March last year under an agreement with the provincial forest department. The government provides around a quarter of the start-up cost for poor households to set up a tree nursery, with a subsidy amounting to 150,000 rupees ($1,429.93) each over a year.

They first get black polythene bags from the forest department to fill with mud and manure, followed by seeds and training on how to sow them and tend to the trees.

"I am now getting over 12,000 rupees per month [from the subsidy], just by looking after the saplings in my home," Gul said. "I have also acquired the skills I need to grow different seedlings, and this will help me earn enough even after the project is wound up."

The provincial government is planning to spend 21 billion rupees from its budget through to May 2018, when its term ends, on a project called the "Billion Tree Tsunami." The goal is to plant 1 billion trees in degraded forest areas and on private land.

The project is part of the Green Growth Initiative launched in February 2014 in Peshawar by former international cricket star Imran Khan, who is chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party, which governs the province.

The initiative aims to boost local economic development in a way that uses natural resources sustainably, with a focus on increasing clean energy uptake and forest cover.

The government has turned forest restoration into a business model by outsourcing nurseries to the private sector, including widows, poor women, and young people. This provides the government with saplings to plant, as well as green jobs for the community.

At the same time, illegal logging has been almost eliminated in the province following strict disciplinary action against some officials who were involved. Other measures include hiring local people to guard forests and banning wood transportation.

According to government data, Pakistan has forest cover on 4.4 million hectares (10.87 million acres) or 5 percent of its land area, while the current rate of deforestation is 27,000 hectares per year, one of the highest in the world.

The forestry sector contributed $1.3 billion to Pakistan's economy in 2011, or around 0.6 percent of GDP, while employing some 53,000 people directly, according to Global Forest Watch.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, individuals interested in setting up a small-scale nursery of 25,000 plants are selected by Village Development Committees.

The provincial government guarantees to buy the saplings they grow, according to Malik Amin Aslam, adviser to Khan and global vice president of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

"The government provides seeds and all relevant technical assistance to the beneficiaries, and then buys back one-year-old saplings at a fixed price of six rupees per seedling," he said.

So far, there are 1,747 private and 280 government-run nurseries in the province, with a planting stock of 45 million and 165 million saplings respectively, he said.

Aslam said the government had planted 115 million saplings so far and sown seeds for 300 million more at a cost of 1.5 billion rupees, with a survival rate of over 80 percent ...

Riaz Haq said...

Peter Bergen: " since 9/11, 45 #Americans killed in US by Jihadi #terror, 48 killed by anti-abortion, neo-Nazi, etc" …

BERGEN: Well, since 9/11, the foundation that I work at, New America, we've been compiling deaths caused by jihadi terrorists. And at a certain point, we started thinking, hey, why don't we also - there are anti-government fanatics who've also killed people and violent neo-Nazis. And so since 9/11, 45 people have been killed in the United States by jihadi terrorists while 48 have been killed by people animated by, you know, anti-abortion, neo-Nazi, anti-government fanaticism.

GROSS: And compare the amount of investigative power that we have on each of those.

BERGEN: Well, I will say I think that the FBI is fairly concerned about the issue of anti-government violence. It's hard to make a direct comparison, but I know that the Department of Justice, for instance, has recently appointed a sort of additional senior official to really examine this problem because, you know, whether it's the attack in Charleston where the perpetrator wanted to start a race war or whether it's the standoff that we saw in Oregon, there are other forms of political violence than jihadi terrorism in the United States.

GROSS: But on the whole, Americans are much more preoccupied with jihadi terrorism on American soil, even though the number of deaths since 9/11 - there is more of them caused by right-wing and anti-government extremists.

BERGEN: Yeah, I mean - and some of that isn't surprising. I mean, 9/11 was a sort of hinge event in American history, and all jihadi terrorist plots or attacks are kind of filtered through that lens. But the fact is is that, you know, we had a neo-Nazi shout hail Hitler after he killed three people in Kansas City at a community center in 2014. If he shouted, Allah akbar, what was already a pretty big news story would've become an even bigger news story, I'm sure. So, you know, that's just kind of just the environment we live in.

GROSS: Let's look at another comparison, the number of Islamic extremists who have attacked Americans on American soil, the number who come from other countries and have come here for the attacks versus the number of attackers who are American-born or are American citizens and grew up here.

BERGEN: You know what's interesting, since 9/11, we tend to think that terrorist attacks against the United States must be conducted by foreigners because on 9/11, it was 19 foreign-born Arab hijackers recruited by al-Qaida. In fact, every lethal terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11, whether in Fort Hood or Boston or San Bernardino, has been conducted by American citizens or legal permanent residents. And so some of the hysteria about refugees coming into the country and performing acts of terrorism is very overblown. Certainly about 10 refugees have been involved in relatively minor jihadi terrorism crimes, like material support for a terrorist organization. And - but really, if you were concerned about lethal attacks, it's been American citizens or American residents.

Riaz Haq said...

The violence is also celebrated in popular culture, for example, in Bollywood and Hollywood, as a mechanism for legitimate justice in the wake of a failure of the law. Routinised to the point of being banal, such violence is masked by the rhetoric of Indian and American exceptionalism, in which violence is defined simply as an unfortunate aspect of an otherwise gloriously multifaceted society.
The obscenely easy access to guns in America and the weak-kneed position taken by most politicians across the spectrum on the matter are central to the barely-masked celebration of violence in American culture. The only issue that is arguably more of a minefield for an American politician, including so-called progressives like Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, is questioning American policy toward Israel. In the wake of every such shooting, the National Rifle Association, as well as their lobbyists and political mouthpieces, shamefully trot out the usual excuse of mental illness as the cause of gun violence.
In another shooting tragedy on a #US campus, lessons for #India. #UCLAShooting … via @scroll_in