Is Ashraf Ghani speeding ahead on a bumpy road?

(By ) KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, is a man in a hurry to break from his predecessor’s governing style. Best not make him late.

He drove the point home this month when he started a meeting without the prominent and widely respected interior minister, Umar Daudzai. Mr. Daudzai showed up a few minutes later and was promptly barred from entry, according to three officials who were familiar with the incident. (Through a spokesman, Mr. Daudzai denied the account.)

Mr. Ghani will also be running a leaner palace. The lavish dinners that were a hallmark of President Hamid Karzai’s meetings — and are a cherished tradition among many Afghan officials, for that matter — have been slashed. Mr. Ghani wants to impart the message that palace meetings are for business, not pleasure. Continue reading Is Ashraf Ghani speeding ahead on a bumpy road?

You can vote but you can’t elect

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THE VOTERS WHO put Barack Obama in office expected some big changes. From the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping to Guantanamo Bay to the Patriot Act, candidate Obama was a defender of civil liberties and privacy, promising a dramatically different approach from his predecessor.

But six years into his administration, the Obama version of national security looks almost indistinguishable from the one he inherited. Guantanamo Bay remains open. The NSA has, if anything, become more aggressive in monitoring Americans. Drone strikes have escalated. Most recently it was reported that the same president who won a Nobel Prize in part for promoting nuclear disarmament is spending up to $1 trillion modernizing and revitalizing America’s nuclear weapons. Continue reading You can vote but you can’t elect

Ebola hit new York city doctor

A physician with Doctors Without Borders who returned from West Africa recently has tested positive for Ebola at a New York City hospital, the city’s mayor confirmed.

The doctor developed a fever and gastrointestinal symptoms, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said in a statement on Thursday.

The doctor has been identified as Craig Spencer, who lives in Manhattan’s Harlem neighbourhood, according to New York City Councilman Mark Levine. Continue reading Ebola hit new York city doctor

Ebola research was low priority for economic reasons

Capitalism, we are repeatedly told, is a highly efficient system that relies on the fundamental free-market principle that if there is a need, someone will step up to meet it. Every now and then, however, something happens that belies capitalism’s supposed efficiency – and makes you question the whole shebang.

This week it’s Ebola.

As Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization pointed out October 13th, Ebola is a 40-year-old disease. The reason pharmaceutical companies have failed to find a cure, she said, is simple: under the current economic system, in which healthcare is a privilege not a right, they have no motivation to try.

Continue reading Ebola research was low priority for economic reasons

USA the biggest threat to world peace

By Noam Chomsky
Philosopher Noam Chomsky is professor of the  MIT Institute of Linguistics (Emeritus). (Photo: teleSUR/file)An international poll found that the United States is ranked far in the lead as “the biggest threat to world peace today,” far ahead of second-place Pakistan, with no one else even close.

Imagine that the lead article in Pravda reported a study by the KGB that reviews major terrorist operations run by the Kremlin around the world, in an effort to determine the factors that led to their success or failure, finally concluding that unfortunately successes were rare so that some rethinking of policy is in order.  Suppose that the article went on to quote Putin as saying that he had asked the KGB to carry out such inquiries in order to find cases of “financing and supplying arms to an insurgency in a country that actually worked out well.  And they couldn’t come up with much.” So he has some reluctance about continuing such efforts.

Continue reading USA the biggest threat to world peace

Tourists staying away from smog engulfed China

The outlook for tour operators in the Middle Kingdom is dim – thanks in part to the blanket of smog obscuring much of the country, notably its capital city.

According to a report released Monday by the China Tourism Academy, 129 million tourists visited the country in 2013, down 2.5% from the previous year. Meanwhile, the degree of satisfaction reported by tourists dropped by 11% in 2013 from the year prior, to “basically satisfied,” the report said.

Among the reasons the academy cited to explain the drop in tourist happiness was the “natural environment,” as well as levels of access for the disabled and water quality. Continue reading Tourists staying away from smog engulfed China

Pakistan needs to redesign its budgeting process

MarcAndr-Franche(By Marc-André Franche) The budget is one of the most powerful fiscal instruments at the disposal of incumbent governments to implement their political commitments and development agenda. Unfortunately, the debate, when it happens, is overly focused on allocations and expenditures, and rarely on the critical issues of transparency and accountability of the budget-making process. Only a transparent and accountable budget-making regime can ensure budgets achieve their results.

In Pakistan and elsewhere, there are at least three obstacles in improving the transparency of budget processes: weak citizens’ involvement, limited parliamentary debates and unavailable or opaque information on budgets. Continue reading Pakistan needs to redesign its budgeting process

Hazara killings continue in Balochistan, 8 more dead

Unidentified men opened fire on a bus in the outskirts of Quetta on Thursday, killing eight people — said to belong to the Hazara community — and injuring one, in what is believed to be a sectarian attack.

Ten men were on the bus and were about to leave a vegetable market in the Hazar Ganji area when five men, who arived on two motorbikes, boarded the bus and opened fire.

“They killed a man outside the bus and others inside the bus. They were killed after they bought vegetables,” informed SSP Imran Qureshi.

Continue reading Hazara killings continue in Balochistan, 8 more dead

Will Great Barrier Reef suffer due to coal exports?

“An icon under pressure.” That was how Australia’s Great Barrier Reef was described recently by the body that manages it.

Stretching along the Queensland coast, the reef is an underwater wonderland home to thousands of different fish and coral species. But it is facing multiple threats.

Swathes of coral have been killed by the crown-of-thorns, a starfish which has flourished partly because of fertilisers seeping into the sea from farm run-off.

Extreme weather has also damaged the reef, while increased carbon in the atmosphere has made the water too acidic, leading to coral bleaching.

Reef that was once blooming is now grey, crumbling and barren.

Continue reading Will Great Barrier Reef suffer due to coal exports?

Almost half of Pakistan’s population underfed

(By Maha Mussadaq) The condition of food security is still inadequate in 54 districts of Pakistan, with 48.6% of the total population deprived of sufficient food, said experts who had come to launch the “Right to Food Assessment” —  a 10-year review (2004-2014) earlier this week.

The research conducted by ActionAid Pakistan in collaboration with Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi and Sustainable Agriculture Group demonstrated key policy demands that need to be met in order to achieve targets to meet the millennium development goals.

According to the findings, Pakistan, being the second largest nation in South Asia, has almost one-half of its population encountering hunger and dealing with food insecurity. Some statistics reveal that 23.3% of the population in 2004 was unable to meet the minimum level of food intake, which gradually declined to 17.2% in 2012. Continue reading Almost half of Pakistan’s population underfed