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Morning Bell: Get to Work

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The Heritage Foundation

The people have spoken. Reckless spending, stifling regulations, ever-rising taxes, endless debt and the looming government takeover of health care have brought this nation to a tipping point. Not surprisingly, the American people have now taken matters into their own hands.

How we got to that tipping point is clear. For too long, Washington’s preening elites have assumed that they knew best and that government was in itself the all-purpose solution to every perceived problem.

But the American people have a collective wisdom, and they expressed it yesterday. They took a stand and decided on a new direction because continuing down the path we’re currently on would mean the end of the American Dream.

They repudiated “change” that denies our character and tradition, and called instead for an American Renewal that taps our values. The message that came out of this election, I can assure you, was heard around the world. Everyone now knows that Americans remain a strong and free people, unbowed by adversity and unwilling to exchange their birthright of liberty for a perpetual stew of bureaucratic rule and government dependency.

But let’s be clear, now we must all get to work. The new Congress has a choice: answer the call of renewal or betray the hopes of the American people. It is time for conservatives to be conservative, and not backslide.

We here at The Heritage Foundation are inspired by your commitment to America’s principles, and bolstered by your demand for practical, conservative solutions to our common problems. We and our 700,000 members will work day and night to make sure Washington has heard you, too, for now the real work begins.

There is much work to be done by the new Congress. Heritage is issuing a set of five simple actions Congress must take in order to meet this mandate of the American people. These five priorities represent the bare minimum of what is expected of our new representatives. More will need to be done to get our nation back on the right track, but taking these actions represent a good start.

I recommend that you print out this document, share it with friends and family.

This list, which we call “Solutions for America: Get to Work”, is comprised of the following calls to action:

FREEZE AND CUT SPENDING: Congress should immediately freeze discretionary budget authority at 2010 levels; and cut at least $170 billion from the federal budget for fiscal year 2012. This is only a first step. In the past four years, Congress has approved more spending that even the bureaucrats can handle. Congress must immediately survey the unobligated balances of all appropriations made in the past four years and should reclaim these unspent taxpayer funds and use them to reduce the deficit.

REPEAL OBAMACARE: Congress must immediately pass a bill that repeals Obamacare. Until Congress is able to get the President to sign a law repealing Obamacare, it must withhold funding, block key provisions and override regulations carrying out Obamacare. Only after Obamacare is rejected, can Congress undertake a careful, thoughtful legislative process to make practical adjustments that allow the free market to provide affordable, effective health care insurance choices.

STOP THE OBAMA TAX HIKES: Congress must reject the Obama tax hikes, and make permanent the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, thereby helping the economy grow and create more jobs.

PROTECT AMERICA: Congress must pass a budget resolution that won’t put our troops at risk or leave Americans vulnerable. It can do this by providing for defense an average of $720 billion per year (to be adjusted for inflation) for each of the next five fiscal years, in addition to the funding needed for ongoing contingency operations. Congress must make the defense budget as efficient as possible and reinvest dollars achieved from reforms in the military to offset the cost of modernizing and developing next-generation equipment.

GET CONTROL OF GOVERNMENT: Congress must immediately reestablish legislative accountability by posting complete legislation, ending earmarks, reviewing all unauthorized programs and respecting constitutional limits on government. Congress must check executive branch overreach with aggressive oversight, roll back recent government interventions, stop unnecessary administrative regulations and sunset new ones, restrict bureaucrats’ rulemaking authority and override executive orders.

Please see the full document here. Each of these things must be done if Washington is to fulfill its electoral mandate and meet its constitutional responsibilities.

We must not underestimate the difficulty of this task. This is but the beginning of a long recovery and renewal. There’s much to be done. We need to put an end to the crony capitalism that permeates so many of the outrages of these past two years. Government elites should not be picking winners and losers, giving bailouts to GM and waivers of the health care law to McDonald’s.

We must return to the states the authority and flexibility to solve problems best resolved at that level of government. Replace federal failure and incompetence with state ingenuity custom-tailored to solve local problems.

Many will say it cannot be done, and some will demean the people and trivialize their objectives. They will do so at their peril. That attitude ignores what has just taken place. Let us never overlook our noble purpose: to restore America, rebuild its limited government and revive a nation of unlimited possibilities-where freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and civil society flourish.

This is a pivotal time. The public mind is engaged, and the eyes of the people are on Washington to see if their government will listen to them once again. We must seize the moment, or the moment will be lost, and so might our country.

Americans have reached back to their roots and history to rediscover their traditions and values. There’s a reason the Tea Party took a name from one of our earliest revolutionary events. One of the worst things our President has done in his two years in office-on top of the spending, the overreach of health care and the inability to allow the private sector to create jobs-has been in comment after comment to disparage the people, their wisdom and their intelligence.

Tony Blair: Gordon Brown tried to blackmail me

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Tony Blair uses his new book to expose Gordon Brown as a manipulative figure who lost a winnable election by abandoning the principles of New Labour.

Gordon Brown and Tony Blair at a Labour Party rally in the Old Vic theatre,

The former prime minister’s memoir discloses that a “maddening” Mr Brown effectively blackmailed him while he was in No 10. He suspects the then chancellor of orchestrating the investigation into the cash-for-honours scandal.

The pressure on Mr Blair to step aside became so great that he admits he may have become reliant on alcohol as he faced coup attempts from Mr Brown’s supporters. He discloses that he began drinking every day and needed the “support” that alcohol provided.

The Daily Telegraph is the first newspaper to see a full, foreign language, copy of Mr Blair’s memoir, entitled A Journey, before Wednesday’s official publication.

It provides the first definitive account of the relationship between the two men which dogged the Labour government from 1997.

The former prime minister discloses that some of his biggest mistakes in office were his failure to predict and tackle the boom in asylum seekers and to address the emerging “underclass”.

He discloses his “anguish” over the Iraq war and admits that he failed to predict the “nightmare” in the aftermath of the conflict. But he insists going to war was correct and says he will devote the rest of his life to making amends.

In the postscript, Mr Blair squarely lays the blame for Labour’s landslide general election defeat earlier this year on his successor’s change in strategy.

He asks himself why Labour lost, and replies: “The response, I fear, is obvious. It won as New Labour. It lost by ceasing to be that.”

Mr Blair adds that Mr Brown was not a politician able to handle modern politics, which dissects personality and was uncomfortable in the role of average citizen.

In an interview with Andrew Marr to be broadcast later today he said that towards the end of his premiership the relationship between the two was “hard going on impossible”.

“The difficulty is when he was my number two, in sense, the chancellor to my prime minister, people maybe overestimated his capacity to be prime minister,” Mr Blair said.

In his book, he observes that, had Mr Brown continued New Labour politics, victory would have been possible.

Mr Blair says that his successor failed to make political capital out of the economic crisis. He describes the initial bank bail-out plan as “excellent”.

However, later decisions to increase taxes and abandon Labour reforms proved fatal at the ballot box. He says that “competitive” taxes on income should have been maintained and other levies, such as VAT, raised instead.

Mr Blair finishes the book by urging Labour members not to “slide” or “veer” to the Left now. Ed Miliband and other leadership candidates have been accused of plotting such a move if they win the contest in which voting starts on Wednesday.

“If we take this path, the next defeat will be even more stinging,” Mr Blair warns.

The book also reveals:

* How within days of the cash-for-honours scandal erupting in 2006 he had a private meeting with Mr Brown to discuss radical reforms to pensions drawn up by Lord Turner.

Mr Brown threatened to ensure there was an official Labour investigation in to the scandal unless Mr Blair shelved the plans. The prime minister refused and within two hours, the then Labour Party treasurer gave a television interview which led to the threatened investigation.

Mr Blair says the damage to the party’s popularity and his own was immense.

* Mr Blair’s growing concerns over his relationship with alcohol. He describes how he used to drink a whisky or gin and tonic before his evening meal, then have several glasses of wine. He said he became aware it was “becoming a support”.

Mr Blair writes that while the young drink but go without for days at a time, “as time goes on, it easily becomes a daily habit that our body needs to relax. To compensate for pressure. To stimulate. To make a boring evening bearable.”

* That Mr Brown put “relentless personal pressure” on him. Mr Blair repeatedly considered sacking his chancellor but failed to find anyone to replace Mr Brown.

He eventually concluded that Mr Brown was better “inside and constrained” than “outside and let loose”.

* He still feels “anguish” about the Iraq war and says that he had never guessed “the nightmare” that would unfold after he took the decision to commit British troops to the American-led invasion.

Mr Blair also indicates that he is still haunted by his actions, and vows to try to “redeem” something from the tragedy. He says he will dedicate “a large part of the life left to me,” to working for peace in the region.

He also discloses how American hawks, particularly Dick Cheney, the then US vice-president, were apparently keen to invade other countries in the Middle East, including Syria.

* The former prime minister’s regrets. He says that he and Jack Straw, the then home secretary, were not prepared for the explosion in asylum claims, “which tripled, almost quadrupled” within three years of Labour gaining power. He describes the system as being “broken, incompetent” and not equipped for the modern world.

When leaving office, he also expresses regret over not doing more to tackle the emerging underclass.

* In May 2007, just before Mr Blair stood down, he was approached by David Miliband, the then foreign secretary, who asked whether he should challenge Mr Brown for the Labour leadership.

“What would happen if I went for it?” Mr Miliband asked. “You could win, I think,” Mr Blair replied.

The former prime minister says he thought ambiguities in Mr Brown’s views would emerge during a leadership contest. But Mr Miliband decided not to run.

The memoir also discloses Mr Blair’s private thoughts about some of the figures closest to him in his administration and bizarre encounters with members of the Royal family and foreign leaders.

He describes Alastair Campbell, his spin doctor, as a type of “mad man”. He says Mr Campbell was indispensable in the first few months of government but was soon out of control.

He was “on the edge of a cliff” by the time he resigned in 2003. However, Mr Blair describes the spin doctor as an “almost an alter ego”.

He also muses over the affairs that Bill Clinton and John Prescott were exposed as having during his time in office. Mr Prescott’s major mistake was to cheat with someone he worked with, Mr Blair says.

George W Bush is praised for his intelligence.

An entire chapter is devoted to the death of Princess Diana within months of his election. He says that both he and the princess were “manipulators”.

He describes being ill-at-ease with the Queen in the days immediately afterwards and finding her somewhat “haughty”.

Legal action must be taken against Hamid Mir: Rashed Rahman

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LAHORE: Legal action must be initiated against Hamid Mir after the Inter-Services Intelligence and government quarters confirmed the authenticity of the taped conversation between Mir and a Taliban militant, Daily Times Editor Rashed Rahman said on Wednesday. Talking to Business Plus, he said Hamid Mir is answerable in this regard. “The Daily Times initiated self-accountability in the media by publishing a transcript of the taped conversation between Mir and an unidentified Taliban militant,” he said, adding that several people had contacted the Media Times Group with evidence against Mir. He also defended his decision to publish the taped conversation in the Daily Times. “It was a tough decision to publish such news, but we went ahead and published it,” he said, adding that the freedom of the media could be marred with restrictions in case of irresponsible behaviour. Describing the taped conversation as “doctored” and “concocted”, Hamid Mir has served the Daily Times with a legal notice and has claimed Rs 250 million in damages. According to BBC Urdu, the Jang Group has set up an investigation committee and has announced the conducting of an impartial investigation in this regard. A large number of websites carry the contents of the audiotape, describing it a candid conversation on the telephone between Hamid Mir and a militant. Mir, who finds himself in the midst of a raging debate on the issue of journalistic ethics, has described the taped conversation “doctored” and “concocted”. Separately, Senator Faisal Raza Abidi said the government had verified the authenticity of the voices on the audio tape from intelligence agencies. He said the audio clipping proved Hamid Mir’s links with the Taliban.

Mulla Omar arrested in Pakistan?

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WASHINGTON: Reports of Taliban supreme leader Mulla Omar being captured in Pakistan raged through Washington on Tuesday, a day after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused some Pakistani officials of sheltering Osama bin Laden and the Taliban leadership, the Times of India reported.

The Obama administration did not respond to the reports, and independent sources said they had not been able to confirm the information. Reports of Mulla Omar’s capture or custody first surfaced on the popular blog Brietbart, where an analyst, who formerly worked with the Department of Homeland Security, claimed that through “key intelligence sources in Afghanistan and Pakistan he had just learned that Mulla Omar has been taken into custody.

At the end of March, US Military Intelligence was informed by US operatives working in the Af/Pak theater on behalf of the D.O.D. that Omar had been detained by Pakistani authorities. One would assume that this would be passed up the chain and that the US Secretary of Defence would have been alerted immediately. From what I am hearing, that may not have been the case,î the analyst, Brad Thor, said.

When this explosive information was quietly confirmed to United States intelligence ten days ago by Pakistani authorities, it appeared to take the Defence Department by surprise. No one, though, is going to be surprised more than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It seems even with confirmation from the Pakistanis themselves, she was never brought up to speed,î he added, referring to Clintonís remark on CBS 60 minutes on Sunday that some officials in Pakistan were sheltering Osama bin Laden and Mulla Omar.

Indian Maoists kill 75 in police massacre

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By Iftikhar Gilani

* Central Reserve Police Force patrol attacked at dawn in Chhattisgarh

NEW DELHI: Maoist rebels ambushed and killed 75 paramilitary personnel in the jungles of Dantewada district of central Indian province of Chhattisgarh on Tuesday.

Sources in the Home Ministry said a patrol from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) was attacked at dawn and when reinforcements rushed to the scene, they were surrounded by hundreds of heavily-armed Maoists, locally known as Naxals.

The attack has sent shock waves in the Indian security establishment. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh telephoned Home Minister P Chidambaram to make an assessment of the situation.

The National Security Council met under the chairmanship of the prime minister and is understood to have discussed the deadliest Maoist strike yet.

While Prime Minister Singh called it a “horrific” incident, Chidambaram said it showed the brutality and savagery of the Maoists.

The home minister admitted something must have gone “drastically wrong” in the joint operation, as the personnel seemed to have “walked into a trap”.

Home Ministry sources said it was likely that the CRPF contingent, which is a well-trained force, was tricked into an ambush.

“There was no intelligence input. But the troops were made to believe that they were going in for a raid in a non-descript area which was a Naxal training camp,” the sources said, adding the forces would need to improvise as lessons have been learnt.

Iranian agents rescue diplomat kidnapped in Pakistan

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TEHRAN: Iran’s intelligence agents mounted a “complicated” cross-border mission and freed an Iranian diplomat kidnapped in 2008 by gunmen in northwestern Pakistan, state television reported Tuesday.

The agents rescued Heshmatollah Attarzadeh of Iran’s Peshawar consulate “in a complicated intelligence operation” and took him back to Iran the report said.

Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi said that Iran had asked Pakistan to free the diplomat, but after it failed to do the job, Tehran had handled the problem itself.

“We have a high intelligence capability in the region,” he said. “We have a good intelligence dominance over all other secret agencies active in the region,” he added, accusing US and Israeli intelligence agencies of supporting the kidnappers.

A senior Pakistani security official, however, maintained that Pakistani intelligence did help in the rescue operation.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue, did not provide any further details.

Attarzadeh and his Pakistani bodyguard were driving over a narrow bridge in Peshawar on Nov. 13, 2008 when two gunmen blocked their way with a car and opened fire. The attackers fled with the diplomat after killing the guard.

Peshawar is the capital of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province and borders the largely autonomous tribal regions, parts of which have become strongholds for Taleban and Al-Qaeda militants who have staged repeated attacks against the city.

In the 1980s, Peshawar was an intrigue-filled hub for US-backed guerrillas fighting Soviet troops in neighboring Afghanistan, some of whom went on to form the Taleban or Al-Qaeda. Osama Bin Laden, now perhaps hiding in the adjacent tribal regions, was among them.

Despite that legacy, the city of some 2 million people was once considered relatively safe for foreigners. But organized crime and militancy are on the rise – and increasingly hard to distinguish – and it was possible that the Iranian was kidnapped for ransom.

A year after Attarzadeh was kidnapped, a Pakistani employee of the same Iranian consulate was gunned down near his home.

Iran is mostly Shiite and is regularly denounced by the fiercely Sunni Al-Qaeda and Taleban that operates along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Hard-line Sunnis consider Shiites to be heretics and often call for attacks against them.

The operation marks the latest success by Iran’s intelligence services broadcast to be announced on television. Last month, Iran captured Abdulmalik Rigi, leader of an armed Sunni opposition group whose insurgency in southeast Iran had destabilized the border region with Pakistan.

Rigi was captured on a flight from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan last month after he had left Pakistan. The Pakistani government claimed that Rigi’s capture would have not been possible without Islamabad’s cooperation but Iran insisted that its intelligence agents alone captured the terrorist leader.

Explosive situation

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Salman Taseer

Lahore has been saved from an explosive situation, literally. On Monday, 1,500 kilogrammes of explosives and suicide vests were confiscated from Allama Iqbal Town. Then on Tuesday, over 3,000 kilogrammes of explosives and other lethal ammunition was recovered from Allama Iqbal Town again. The recovery of such a large amount of explosives, arms and ammunition within two days is laudable on the one hand but on the other hand it highlights a terrorising aspect. Lahore has just barely recovered from the attacks on Model Town, RA Bazaar and Allama Iqbal Town. Had this stockpiled explosive material, suicide vests and ammunition actually been used, the city would have been up in flames. One cannot even imagine the extent of damage it would have brought about. Fortunately, pre-emptive action by the police and the intelligence agencies averted this disaster, which points to the importance of good intelligence and police work.

One of the most dangerous aspects of the confiscated material is the recovery of thousands of kilogrammes of ammonium nitrate and potassium. Ammonium nitrate is seemingly a harmless object but it has dual use. One, it is used for agricultural purposes, which is why it is very easy to buy it from the market. But ammonium nitrate can be also used as a bulk explosive. It is indeed very difficult to control its sale without interrupting its normal trade in the market. Many countries that have faced or are facing terrorism have had to deal with the same problem. Even with the best intelligence network in the world, objects with dual use such as mobile phones cannot be completely controlled. Pakistani officials would have to come up with a possible strategy sooner or later to control the sale of such things without affecting the market trade.

This leads to another, even more important matter. Can we be sanguine after the recovery of the explosives, arms and ammunition? Have we covered all of Lahore or the country as a whole? This is just the tip of a very large iceberg. From Allama Iqbal Town alone, such a large quantity of explosives has been recovered; now it is time to spread the dragnet to cover each and every nook and corner of the city, the province and the country to make more such ‘recoveries’. Whereas military means have succeeded relatively in FATA and the tribal areas, the fallout of these operations has overtaken the entire country. The militants are now trying to inflict not only actual damage but more than that, psychological damage. It actually brings almost everything to a halt whenever an attack takes place. Many of the militants under pressure in the tribal areas are fleeing to Afghanistan due to the porous Pak-Afghan border. This further highlights the nexus between the local Taliban and the Afghan Taliban. Many others have fled to cities like Karachi, Lahore and Faisalabad. In order to pre-empt their actions, the security forces have to gear up even further. Once a suicide bomber is launched, it is almost impossible to stop him. The Punjab government also needs to wake up from its slumber and take solid action to counter militancy, especially in South Punjab.

Due to the grim security situation in the country, our Davis Cup tie against New Zealand has been shifted from Pakistan. Not only that, the National Games have been postponed too. It shows how precarious the security situation is in the country. The authorities need to tackle militancy with better planning, intelligence, police work, military means and, above all, an alert citizenry. *

The IJT militia

Once again, the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) is in the news for all the wrong reasons. Their list of offences is long and exhaustive, and their thug-like hold over the Punjab University (PU) has devastated this once premier institution. Their latest foray into the eradication of ‘vice’ has prompted these goons to barge into the canteen of the university’s Institute of Communication Studies (ICT) and audaciously demand that male and female students refrain from sitting together. Taking it a step further, they are badgering for a wall to be constructed to ensure complete segregation. Students from the ICT are vehemently defying this outright attack on social norms and rightly so. However, the PU administration has yet to do anything substantial about this state-within-a-state situation.

In increasingly intolerant societies such as ours, educational institutes hold the only remaining vestiges of liberal culture and reform. With a mafia like the IJT virtually reigning over the campus, all efforts at producing an enlightened, contemporary generation of professionals bite the dust. Such has been the case since the time of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto when then Governor Ghulam Mustafa Khar decided that the strong leftist tradition of the university did not fit into his increasingly right wing policies. Khar was assigned the task of countering the left by aiding and bolstering this religious group, the IJT. Many liberals left the university and the rule of the IJT was consolidated.

However, we must now acknowledge that as a nation reaping the misery of fundamentalism, it is now unacceptable to endorse or even overlook the IJT and their mafia rule. From beating up students whose only crime is talking to the opposite gender, opposing recreational activities and maliciously countering every attempt at progress and modernisation, the IJT is a medeival throwback. It is time the PU authorities and the government cracked down on an organisation that is as radically motivated as the very Taliban who are bombing us to kingdom come.

A recent “Shining Star Competition” organised by the IJT for the university’s deserving students has been disallowed by the PU administration. A welcome move, but we urge a more direct ‘hit’ to this militia; we cannot endorse Taliban ideologies in Pakistan anymore, no matter where they flourish. *

Written by rohitkumarsviews

March 18, 2010 at 8:39 am