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Archive for April 2011

For Unemployed African-Americans, Even Education and Effort Does Not Matter

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In the decade leading up to the Great Recession, Wanda Nolan grew accustomed to steady progress.

From an entry-level job as a fill-in bank teller, she forged a career as a commercial banking assistant, earning enough to become a homeowner. She finished college and then got an MBA. Even after the recession unfolded in late 2007, her degrees and her familiarity with the business world lent her a sense of immunity to the forces ravaging much of the American economy. Nolan was an exemplar of the African American middle class and the increasingly professional ranks of the so-called New South.

But in September 2008, everything changed.

A bank human resources officer called her into a private conference room. “All I heard was, ‘Your position has been eliminated,'” says Nolan, 37, who, despite being one of the more than 13 million officially unemployed Americans, still spends most days in her self-styled banker’s uniform of pearls and pants and practical flats. “My mind started racing.”

More than two years later, Nolan is still looking for a job and feeling increasingly anxious about a future that once felt assured. Her life has devolved from a model of middle class African American upward mobility into an example of a disturbing trend: She is among the 15.5 percent of African Americans out of work and still looking for a job.

For economists, that number may sound awful, but it’s not surprising. The nation’s overall unemployment rate sits at 8.8 percent and the rate among white Americans is at 7.9 percent. For a variety of reasons — ranging from levels of education and continuing discrimination to the relatively young age of black workers — black unemployment tends to run twice the rate for whites. Yet since the Great Recession, joblessness has remained so critically elevated among African Americans that it is challenging longstanding ideas about what it takes to find work in the modern-day economy.

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India destabilizing Pakistan using Afghan soil

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PM Gilani accompanied by Gen Kayani visited Kabul at a time when a visible thaw has occurred in Pak-Afghan relations. Karzai has repeatedly expressed his keenness to remove misgivings and to establish friendly ties with Pakistan since dawn of 2010. He wants Pakistan to play its role in finding an amicable solution to Afghan problem. While agreeing to establish tension-free cordial ties, the visitors gave proofs of Afghan and Indian subversive activities in Balochistan. The hosts were pressed to give an undertaking that in future the Afghan government would not allow Indian interference in Balochistan or any other part of Pakistan. Presence of certain undesirable elements in Afghanistan since the establishment of Northern Alliance heavy regime of Hamid Karzai has been the cause of sour relations between the two neighbors. Afghanistan-Pakistan constructive dialogue is possible only after Afghan rulers make a solemn pledge that it would not allow Afghan soil to be used by India for launching covert operations against Pakistan.

While Pakistan has always vied to maintain cordial and tension free relations with Afghanistan and has never tried to exploit its land lock handicap, successive regimes in Kabul have traditionally treaded hostile path towards Pakistan and have remained inclined towards India. Pakistan’s softness towards Afghanistan has stemmed from commonality of religion and centuries old cultural ties. It was only during the Taliban rule that Pak-Afghan relations were friendly and Indian influence had waned.

Afghanistan is currently in deep trouble since it is an occupied country and ruled by a puppet regime installed by USA. Resistance forces are engaged in Jihad against occupation forces duly supplemented by US trained Afghan National Army which is non-Pashtun heavy. Unlike in 1980s when Pakistan was supporting Afghan Mujahideen to push out occupying Soviet forces, this time Pakistan stands on the side of occupiers and is acting as the conduit to provide logistic support to 152,000 strong ISAF in Afghanistan.

Pakistan position is very dicey since non-Pashtun Afghans have a grudge against Pakistan for having helped Taliban in capturing power in 1996. The Taliban are resentful that Pakistan had ditched them in their hour of crisis and sided with their enemies. The current regime friendly to India strongly suspect that Pakistan is assisting Taliban and hence is hostile to Pakistan. The US-NATO have its own set of grievances against Pakistan because of which it treats Pakistan less as an ally and more as an enemy country. Pakistan is up against massive covert war launched by its adversaries having common objectives against Pakistan. India having no role in war on terror is having the best of everything at the cost of Pakistan.

Faced with multiple challenges, Pakistan is still trying to maintain friendly ties with USA, Afghanistan and India. Since Afghanistan is faced with multiple challenges, Pakistan doesn’t want to add to its woes and is keen to help solve Afghan imbroglio. Stable, friendly and peaceful Afghanistan is in the overall interest of Pakistan. Despite its friendly overtures, Afghan government in the tight grip of USA and India is creating extreme problems for the national security and internal stability of Pakistan. The Indian Embassy in Kabul and string of Pakistan specific Indian consulates are involved in training and launching of terrorists and saboteurs into Pakistan.

India desires that Pakistan should open its land route through Wagah border to Afghanistan for two-way trade so that it could flood Afghanistan’s markets with Indian goods and thus in the name of reconstruction grab Afghan market and resources. The Indians know that they can reach the coveted riches of Central Asia only through the land route passing through Pakistan and Afghanistan since air business is unfeasible. India has been making strenuous efforts to expand its influence in Afghanistan since 2002. Governed by this strategy, it has been siding with Karzai and now when India has established itself firmly in Afghanistan, it has become that much easy for it to carryout subversive activities against Pakistan, particularly when it enjoys complete blessing of USA. The latter has helped India in gaining a foothold in Afghanistan and gradually expanding it.

It is unfortunate that today very few recall the huge sacrifices made by Pakistan in the 1980s when Afghanistan had been forcibly occupied by Soviet forces and none had come forward to contest Soviet aggression. Had Pakistan under Gen Ziaul Haq not put Pakistan’s security at stake and not stood up to Soviet challenge and not given full support to the Mujahideen, Afghanistan would have become a satellite of Soviet Union dancing to the tunes of Moscow. The latter had embarked upon massive Sovietization program to shatter Afghan’s Islamic identity, culture, customs, traditions and historical heritage.

Who doesn’t know the pathetic fate of Muslim Central Asian states which were brutally traumatized and their rich culture and identity demolished by Russia? But for Pakistan’s role, history of the globe would have been different since Soviet Union would not have fragmented. It was because of Pakistan’s principled stand that it had to inherit innumerable problems from which it is suffering to this day.In 1980s, Pakistan faced the brunt of KGB-KHAD-RAW-AlZulfiqar sabotage and subversion for over a decade. Now it is facing CIA-RAW-RAAM-Mossad-MI6 covert war as well as drone war since 2004.

It is an undeniable fact that Karzai regime has offered Afghan soil to anti-Pakistan intelligence agencies to indulge in cross border terrorism against Pakistan. The saboteurs, arms, ammunition, explosives and funds are all being funneled into Pakistan from Afghanistan to aid anti-Pakistan forces in Balochistan and FATA, which are fighting security forces and indulging in acts of terrorism. This inflow is not possible without the active collusion of Afghan government. How is it possible to barge into someone else’s house through your house without your permission?

The security situation of Pakistan has aggravated to such an alarming extent that it is no more possible to tolerate Afghanistan’s collusion in subversive activities in Pakistan. The people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan who have suffered the most on account of cross border terrorism from Afghanistan are writhing in agony. They are blaming provincial governments for failing to provide them security and for their docility towards adversaries of Pakistan. Their pent up anger has reached a boiling point which may spin out of control anytime.

It has been seen that despite all our goodwill and cooperative gestures, Karzai regime has continued to maintain a hypocritical attitude because of which our efforts have proved fruitless. It is high time that our rulers should come out of their mode of one-sided appeasement and convey firmly to Karzai regime to stop allowing Afghan soil as a launching pad for India to harm Pakistan. We should also review our Afghan policy without further loss of time. If we continue with our policy of ignoring unconcealed foreign interference particularly in Balochistan, it would embolden Indians to continue with their dual policy of extending a hand of friendship as well as stabbing us in the back.

Suresh Kalmadi to be produced in special CBI court today

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NEW DELHI: Sacked Commonwealth Games (CWG) Organizing Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi will be produced in a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court at Patiala House today.

Kalmadi was on Monday arrested by CBI on charges of cheating, conspiracy and corruption for his alleged role in the AM Films and Swiss Time scams.

CBI officials questioned Kalmadi for the fourth time on Monday about several contracts that saw the most expensive firms being hired for equipment and services.

The arrest order was carried out after the CBI had questioned Kalmadi extensively on the two incidents, particularly on the documents relating to the two deals.

The CBI had earlier asked Kalmadi to appear before it on Monday to clarify some new issues, which surfaced during the visit of the agency’s officials to London in connection with Queen’s Baton Relay scam.

Kalmadi had earlier expressed his inability to appear before the CBI citing his foreign visit, saying he would return home only after April 19. But even after returning from his visit abroad, he did not turn up before the sleuths saying he was still not in Delhi, sources said.

Kalmadi has been accused of sanctioning payments to AM Films and AM Car at rates that were hugely inflated.

The AM Car and Van Hire Company in London was engaged during Queen’s Baton Relay in 2009 to provide services like taxis for the guests and OC members. The AM films was hired to provide display monitors during the event.

Kalmadi’s aides had earlier justified hiring AM Films and AM Car by saying other bids were not competitive, but now the CBI has found that the names of other bidders given by Kalmadi, were all forged and fake.

Book Review: Untouchables (Escape From Indian Caste System)

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Blackcobra’s Posterous

This review is from: Untouchables: My Family’s Triumphant Escape from India’s Caste System, An International Best Seller (Paperback) I’m Indian but I grew up here in the US and I wanted to learn about the caste system as I was raised Christian and my family does not believe in this backwards tradition. I’ve heard stories about the caste system but I thought this book would give me a better understanding of it’s origins and ideology.

The book is actually very easy to read and you could finish it off in a day or two. The language is easy to understand and it flows very well. The story being told is the author’s translation of his parents recollections during the early 1900’s under the caste system in India. The book starts out well and hooks you immediately. The beginning story of how the author’s father was beaten and treated as less-than-human really helps you to see how cruel the system is. Unfortunately that is really the only part in the book when you are able to see the cruelness of this system. The rest of the book reads more like a narrative. Somewhere in the middle, I started to lose my interest because I was expecting to see more of this cruel injustice but the author started discussing how his parents were walking on the beach, having kids, and traveling back and forth to Mumbai. That didn’t sound like oppression to me. As an Indian, I’ve visited India and I have seen low caste people get treated like garbage and it breaks my heart because, as Americans, we just can’t understand that in this society. I was expecting to understand why they do this in India but I didn’t get that in this book. Actually, the first thing that came to my mind was that the way the author portrayed the caste system wasn’t nearly as bad as what African-American’s had to go through here in the US not so long ago. In reality, I know the caste system in India is far worse and inhuman but the author simply did not portray it as such.

Sure, the author’s parents fought to stand up for what is right and vowed to give their kids a better life but there are countless other people in India who’s story is very different. I was thinking I was going to get some insight into that. It’s great that the author wrote a book about an untouchable who succeeded and rose above the oppression but I think the story would have been so much more effective if we understood more about what the caste system is all about, why people still believe in it, and why India just can’t get rid of it.

Overall, it was a decent read but I didn’t come away with a good understanding of the caste system after reading it. Maybe if you are not Indian, this might be a good starting point but if you are buying this book to understand the Indian caste system, you will be disappointed.

Also, the epilogue which is written by Jadhav’s daughter really didn’t add to the book as it seemed more like she was gloating about her accomplishments. I know she was trying to portray that she, living in America, does not have to deal with the injustices that her grandparents had to but it just didn’t come across as such.

Protests mount against Indian nuclear plant

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SAKHRI NATE, INDIA: In the busy Indian fishing village of Sakhri Nate, it’s obvious what the locals think of the plan to build the world’s biggest nuclear power plant just across the creek.


A worker wearing a protective suit points at a cracked concrete pit near its No. 2 reactor of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, April 2, 2011.

“Say No To Nuclear Power. We Don’t Want To Get Sick,” reads one slogan in Hindi on the side of a tarpaulin-covered shack selling sweet tea and sugary snacks.

Chalked on a wall around the corner is a message for the French company that has signed a $9.3-billion deal to supply the plant’s first state-of-the-art pressurised water reactors.

“Areva Go Back,” it says simply in English.

Opposition to the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project runs deep in this part of the Konkan region of western India, whose people have earned a living from fishing and farming for generations.

As with many in the hard-to-reach coastal area 400 kilometres from Mumbai, 45-year-old fisherman Abdul Majid Goalkar’s argument is well-rehearsed.

At least 5,000 people work on about 600 boats, bringing in 50 tons of fresh fish, prawns and squid every day, he says. If the plant is built, he warns, all those jobs are under threat.

Others want to protect the village’s most famous export – the creamy, Alphonso variety of mango – grown on rocky, clifftop land earmarked for the 2,318-acre plant.

Over the last four years, the grassroots campaign against Jaitapur has built up a steady momentum and become increasingly vocal.

But resistance has hardened since the Japanese earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima plant, forcing a rethink on nuclear safety around the world and calls in India for a halt to atomic expansion.

Pravin Gaonkar, a fisherman and mango farmer spearheading the anti-nuclear campaign, said the Japanese nuclear crisis was all the more relevant, as the Konkan coast is prone to regular seismic activity.

Another development is that the so-far largely peaceful anti-nuclear campaign has turned violent.

On Monday, the police opened fire on a crowd of protesters, killing one and injuring several others.

The victim, Tavrez Sejkar, was buried in the red earth of the steep hillside cemetery in mainly Muslim Sakhri Nate on Wednesday.

Comparisons have been drawn with Singur in West Bengal state, where Tata Motors abandoned its plans for a new factory to build its Nano car after violent protests from farmers backed by local political parties.

Fast-growing, energy-hungry India, which wants to increase the share of nuclear in its energy mix from three percent to 13 per cent by 2030, could pay a high price if Areva followed Tata’s example.

At full capacity, the six-reactor Jaitapur plant would provide 9,900 megawatts of electricity – more than double the current energy deficit in all of Maharashtra, home to commercial capital Mumbai.

Supporters say it could provide power to a chunk of the 500 million homes across the country that are currently off the grid and is vital to India’s economic progress.

India’s environment minister Jairam Ramesh has angered opponents by insisting that the project will go ahead, even as he conceded that additional safety measures may be required because of Fukushima.

“India cannot afford to abandon the route of nuclear power,” he said on April 18. “From a greenhouse gas point of view, nuclear power is the best option.”

Professor Surendra Jondhale, head of political science at the University of Mumbai, doesn’t think the project will be be abandoned, although a delay is likely while the government reviews safety.

“We are now seeing the real issue being very much politicised. It’s overshadowed the real, genuine protests.”

Back in Jaitapur, where a giant poster of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray and local leaders has been put up on the main street, locals Mahesh Karankar and Chetan Narkar say the impact of the violence has already been felt.

Police have locked down the area, fearful of further unrest. As a result, three days’ worth of fish is rotting in warehouses.

“Whether the Shiv Sena is with us or against us we don’t care,” said 23-year-old Narkar. “We don’t need anyone to help us carry on our protest.”

Another demonstration is planned for Sunday. Pravin Gaonkar says there will be no let up after that.

“If the government does nothing, at least 5,000 fishermen and farmers will go to Delhi and protest,” he added.

Interlocutors meet Abbas Ansari

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JammuKashmir watch

Srinagar, New Delhi’s interlocutors on Kashmir disclosed that in their first ‘formal’ meeting with separatist leadership, senior Hurriyat (M) leader and chairman of Itihad-ul-Muslimeen, Maulana Abbas Ansari on Wednesday showed the willingness to engage with Government of India if New Delhi took steps for creating a “conducive atmosphere”.

“This morning the interlocutors met Maulana Abbas Ansari , the chairman of Itihadul Muslimeen, at his residence to discuss ways and means to carry forward the dialogue process which will lead to a peaceful settlement of Jammu and Kashmir issue. The discussion lasting little over an hour was conducted in a cordial and constructive spirit. Maualana Ansari informed us that he favoured talks with the GOI to arrive at such a settlement. It had to be held at an appropriate level with the representatives of separatist groups and in the presence of interlocutors,” veteran journalist, Dileep Padgaonkar, flanked by the other two interlocutors- told reporters during a press conference here.

He said the meeting was arranged by an “intermediary”, terming it as a success for “the dialogue process, for all those in state and beyond who want peaceful settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir issue.”

“This is our first formal interaction with a top separatist leader, and Maulana Abbas has shown commitment to peace in the past,” he said.

According to Padgaonkar, Maualana Ansari stressed that perceptible changes on the ground were required to inculcate trust in people of Jammu and Kashmir. “Maulana Abbas said that the initial talks should focus on the four point agenda of Hurriyat(M) and on steps for conducive atmospheres,” Padgaonkar said .

“Abbas Ansari said that the New Delhi should allow Hurriyat(M) leaders to visit Pakistan to persuade the leaders there as well as Pakistan Administered Kashmir to get all the stake holders agree on a settlement that would satisfy all,” he added.

Padgaonkar said that Ansari and the interlocutors agreed to meet again to ensure “that dialogue process would be sustained.”

“This alone would guarantee that incremental progress is made to reach a political settlement in the state within a specified time frame. Maulana Abbas reiterated that people of Jammu and Kashmir were the real stake holders,” he said.

In response to a query, Padgaonkar said the interlocutors had no “ego problem in meeting separatists, and the moment they get “any sort of signal we would be willing to meet them.”
Commenting on the two-day round table conference, Padgaonkar said a wide range of opinions came up and the focus of the meet was on getting insight about a possible political solution of Jammu and Kashmir

“Close to 50 academics, media commentators, civil society activists, and representatives of political parties from all the regions of Jammu and Kashmir have reached a broad consensus on the key principles and ideas that should form the basis of a political settlement of the state. Participants at the two day round table conference strongly emphasized their commitment to democracy, pluralism and rule of law and by that same token they rejected the use of violence, religious extremism, regional chauvinism to achieve political ends,” he said.

“They were of the view that the whole focus of political settlement should be restoration of political rights of the people. And for the primary stake holders , their physical, psychological, economic , political, cultural insecurities have to be addressed to enable them to lead a peaceful life with honour and dignity,” Padgaonkar said.

“To attain this objective, the participants stressed that it would be of utmost importance to maintain the unity and territorial integrity of the state and to uphold its special status in the Indian union in letter and spirit. Attempts to bifurcate and trifurcate the state would create more problems, division among communal lines pressure on minorities,” he said.

He said the participants were for the State to be vested with powers in lieu of Article 370, roads between two parts without bureaucratic hassles, compensation for water resources, improving governance.

On a query about their statement on security forces having a stake in the state, Padgoankar said, “Security forces do have a stake in the state in the sense that they are deployed in Kashmir to take care of India’s internal and external security interest.”

He said the interlocutors had only discussed educational matters with slain Jamiat chief Moulana Showkat Ahmad Shah.

Obama, Zuckerberg meet – Silicon Valley Getting Hot Again!!

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By Cecilia Kang

PALO ALTO, Calif. – President Obama and 26-year-old Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg, a billionaire college dropout, may seem like an unlikely duo.

But when the two took the stage together Wednesday to talk about the nation’s poor fiscal health and plans to cure it, the pairing highlighted the increasing interdependence between the president and Silicon Valley.

Obama was introduced to much of the nation through Facebook and Google’s YouTube, companies he says are bright spots in the economy. They produce the kinds of jobs that he believes will maintain the nation’s economic edge in the future.

“The administration recognizes that companies like Facebook and so many other tech companies are at the forefront of job creation and hold the key to economic recovery,” said Ray Ramsey, president of Silicon Valley trade group TechNet. “The administration also understands they can’t take the Valley’s support for granted and their actions are showing this.”

To understand the importance of high-tech firms and Obama’s association with them, it’s only necessary to look at the tech-heavy Nasdaq stock index, which on Wednesday hit its highest level since last October.

Meanwhile, Facebook needs to have good relations with Washington regulators and lawmakers. It is under increased scrutiny by federal officials over how its social networking business – where information is the currency for business online – could curtail the privacy of consumers.

As it tries to expand globally – particularly in China – Facebook’s ambitions may also rub against a U.S. diplomatic agenda that aims to bring to the rest of the world an ethos that opposes censorship and endorses online activism.

(Washington Post Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Donald E. Graham sits on Facebook’s board of directors, and the newspaper and many Post staffers use Facebook for marketing purposes.)

Facebook has promoted Obama’s visit as a major honor, a validation of the firm’s influence as a communications platform. The White House has boasted that the audience it will reach through Facebook’s live video broadcast is comprised largely of middle class, typically younger Americans who would be harder to approach through traditional media.

Even increased government scrutiny of Facebook and other Bay Area firms such as Twitter and Google is unlikely to dampen the mood surrounding Obama’s visit here. He’ll attend three San Francisco fundraisers to tap into deep pockets of Democratic donors in the Bay Area.

They like his promise to bring mobile high-speed Internet connections to all Americans, and they tend to support him because of their individual political leanings, tech lobbyists and political strategists say. And they want to have more exposure to the president whose administration says Internet privacy rules are needed.

“There has been tremendous support for Obama and in part that’s because he understands the Internet and appointed people who have technology expertise. But policy-wise, business leaders approach those policies like libertarians,” said Markham Erickson, a tech lobbyist and partner at Holch & Erickson in Washington. “There has been a view among tech companies that you can invent or design around what Washington does.”

Some tech lobbyists say privately that they are disappointed that Silicon Valley firms find themselves on the defensive with the Federal Trade Commission on the privacy question. Meanwhile, they believe the bottom-line issues where they want government help, such as patent reform and tax repatriation, aren’t being addressed fast enough.

“There is some disappointment on bottom-line tech policies,” said one tech lobbyist who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to do so by his tech clients. “The stuff he’s accomplished on tech policy so far won’t directly impact these Internet firms today and maybe not for years.”

Facebook, just seven years old, is responding to the increased government focus on its company by expanding its lobbying operations. Still small by K Street standards, the company’s Dupont Circle office grew from one person three years ago to 10 today, and it has hired outside lawyers as consultants. A source familiar with the company’s thinking said it has plans to grow even more.

There are a number of former high-level White House officials on Facebook’s staff: former Obama White House economic adviser Marne Levine heads its policy shop and former Bush administration aide Cathie Martin is also on its policy team.

Facebook wants to enter China and it is facing criticism for its approach to Internet policy abroad. Google and Twitter have actively protested government regimes that require censorship and worked with State Department officials to help dissidents protest and organize against repressive regimes such as in Iran and Egypt. But Facebook has a more nuanced approach, saying it abides by the policies of local governments.

Zuckerberg, who wasn’t personally engaged in Obama’s 2008 campaign like Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, joins his business contemporaries relatively late. He and Apple CEO Steve Jobs only began to interact more closely with Obama in the past year. In February, both were part of an exclusive presidential dinner with a handful of CEOs, hosted by Kleiner Perkins partner John Doerr.

Obama, meanwhile, has nurtured strong high-tech relationships throughout his tenure. Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, joined Zuckerberg and the president at the town hall. She sits on Obama’s council of economic advisors. AOL founder Steve Case heads his Startup America initiative to help small business growth. Eric Schmidt of Google, Cisco CEO John Chambers, and Intel CEO Paul Otellini regularly attend meetings at the White House as economic advisers.

Those leaders bring expertise and money to economic initiatives. Intel, Microsoft and IBM have donated hundreds of millions of dollars to science education programs. They also widen Obama’s campaign network with big donations and lucrative events.

He will attend an exclusive fundraising dinner at the home of Marc Benioff, chief executive of Salesforce.com, a cloud computing company that provides business software applications on-demand. That firm on Wednesday saw its stock rise 8 percent.