Benazir, Last Month
I have long claimed that the rise of extremism and militancy in Pakistan could not happen without support from elements within the current administration. My return to my country poses a threat to the forces of extremism that have thrived under a dictatorship. They want to stop the restoration of democracy at any price. They have exploited a poor, desperate, and powerless people and allowed extremists the right environment in which to flourish.
The ruling party is an artificial, political party created in the headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence (Pakistan's equivalent of the CIA) during the General Elections of 2002. Its core support comes from the political partners of the military dictator of the '80s, General Zia al-Haq, who empowered the most radical elements within the Afghan Mujahedeen who went on to morph into al-Qaeda, Taliban and the Pakistani militants of today.
This party has called for a banning of outdoor rallies, demonstrations and caravans. They would thus suspend all activity that demonstrates to the people of Pakistan and to the people of the world which parties enjoy mass support amongst the people.On my return to Pakistan last month, throngs of people turned out to welcome me back home. The demand to ban grassroots political activity is a suspicious prelude to what could be an overt attempt to rig the upcoming elections. All people who believe in the process of democracy should reject this attempt to undermine public participation in the campaign and set the table for what I believe would simply be a fraudulent election.
It has now been more than two weeks since the horrific assassination attempt against me and the police have still not filed my complaint. They filed their own report without taking statements from eyewitnesses on the truck targeted for the terrorist attack which resulted in the death of more than 158 of my supporters and security guards.
Soon thereafter, I was asked by authorities not to travel in cars with tinted windows -- which protected me from identification by terrorists -- or travel with privately armed guards.
I began to feel the net was being tightened around me when police security outside my home in Karachi was reduced, even as I was told that other assassination plots were in the offing.
While the authorities speculated on whether a suicide bomber had been involved or two suicide bombers or perhaps a hand grenade or perhaps a car bomb, I reflected on my plight.
I decided not to be holed up in my home, a virtual prisoner. I went to my ancestral village of Larkana to pray at my father's grave. Everywhere, the people rallied around me in a frenzy of joy. I feel humbled by their love and trust.
Although it remains difficult to know for certain, I doubt that a suicide bomber was involved in the attack on me. I suspect, after talking to some of the injured, that the terrorists used a small child as a ploy to get to me. They were trying to hoist the child -- dressed in the colors of my party's flag -- onto my truck.
Failing to do so, they dropped the child near my vehicle. Some witnesses said the child had been rigged as a human bomb. I can't be sure. What followed was a massive explosion, killing scores immediately, tearing many bodies in half and sending blood, gore and flames up into the vehicle.
In less than a minute a second bomb -- reports later suggested a car bomb -- went off.
As I have reflected on the past two weeks, there are some things I wonder about:
• What was the car doing there?
• Why had the street lights been turned off?
• Was that intended to prevent my security from clearly seeing any approaching dangers?
• Is there any truth to the report that a high government official ordered the lights turned off "to prevent her getting so much television coverage"?
• Why would the leadership of the ruling party of Pakistan make a claim that my own party had committed the attack to gain sympathy?
• Why would the investigation be initially given to a police officer who was present when my husband was nearly tortured to death in 1999?
And, then, there is to me the most worrying: the adamant rejection by Islamabad of any assistance from the state-of-the art forensic teams of the FBI and Scotland Yard. There are precedents in Pakistan for such international assistance. Such teams were called in to investigate the mysterious and sudden death of Army Chief General Asif Nawaz and the Egyptian Embassy bombing in the '90s.
I had called in international experts when my brother Murtaza was killed in what I believed was a conspiracy to destabilize my government in 1996.
We can only wonder -- if there is nothing to hide -- why international investigators from the FBI and Scotland Yard are being prevented from assisting a Pakistan-led investigation?
The sham investigation of the October 19 massacre and the attempt by the ruling party to politically capitalize on this catastrophe are discomforting, but do not suggest any direct involvement by General Pervez Musharraf.
Until recently, he had made both public and private commitments to confidence building gestures that would move Pakistan forward in the transition to democracy. But at a time when he should be demonstrating to our country and the world his seriousness in allowing free, fair and transparent elections, he has declared martial law. This can only be seen as a step to entrench his dictatorship.
We must have elections under an independent caretaker government, and neutral administrative officials who have the confidence of all major political parties in the country. And these elections should be under the supervision of an autonomous and competent Election Commission.
It is time that Islamabad facilitates the operation of a rigorous election monitoring mechanism -- both domestic and international -- that can guarantee the sanctity of the ballot and allows election experts to conduct exit polls to insure that the counting reflects the voting.
It is time, in other words, for reconciliation to truly begin that will allow for the mobilization of the moderate majority of my nation and the marginalization of militants, fanatics and extremists.But for that to happen, General Musharraf will need to revive the constitution by lifting martial law.
This Year Putin, Next Year Barack
Barack is going to be Time's Person Of The Year next year.
Diego Maradona And Barack
You can't be American and still appreciate Diego. When I was at high school, there were two gods, one was Pele, another Maradona.
Maradona is in news saying he has met Fidel and Chavez, now he would like to meet Ahmedinejad. I see a Barack fan there.
Good things happen to you when you support Barack. Suddenly I find myself in the same leagues as Diego. Lucky star.
Come to think of it, I was thinking of Diego recently. If Barack were to win all four January states, as looks likely, that will be like this score by Diego. He took the ball from the midfield all the way to scoring.
In The News
Bhutto photographer: 'She was clearly in her element' CNN International John Moore took last known images of Benazir Bhutto before death ..... Moore "surprised" to see Bhutto rise through sunroof to wave to crowd .... Moore was also at Karachi rally where Bhutto motorcade attacked in October ...... "And then suddenly, there were a few gun shots that rang out, and she went down, she went down through the sunroof. And just at that moment I raised my camera up and the blast happened. ... And then, of course, there was chaos." ........ However, the Rawalpindi rally was announced beforehand, he observed. ...... "Whoever planned this attack -- they had time on their hands to plan everything properly, and you saw the results today" ...... Moore said he himself expected there could be another attack following the Karachi massacre. He said he stayed away from gates at the Rawalpindi parkground, where police were searching people, because he suspected that's where a bomb would go off. Moore said it was obvious that Bhutto enjoyed being with her supporters. "She was clearly in her element," he said. "She just wanted to get close to the people, and obviously whoever was after her -- they saw that coming."
Bhutto's death rocks Pakistan
A Christian-Hindu Clash in India
Where Bhutto's Death Leaves the U.S. Hussain Haqqani, a former top aide to Bhutto and now a professor at Boston University .... "People like me have been making specific requests to American officials to intervene and ask for particular security arrangements be made for her, and they have been constantly just trusting the Musharraf Administration." ....... He blames Musharraf himself, above all, for Bhutto's death. ...... "Since 1954 almost $21 billion had been given to Pakistan in aid," he told the House Armed Services Committee. "Of this, $17.7 billion were given under military rule, and only $3.4 billion was given to Pakistan and the civilian government." ........ U.S. policy in Pakistan has favored personalities over principles. ...... Some will say Bhutto had a death wish ..... She returned to Pakistan and faced a range of powerful anti-democratic enemies, including both religious extremists like al-Qaeda and corrupt branches of the Pakistani military and intelligence services ....... "In a sense Benazir knew she was on a martyrdom mission. She was willing to give up her life for democracy." ....... didn't provide Bhutto with adequate security. In fact, he twice urged the Pakistani President to bolster Bhutto's protection. ...... "The failure to protect Ms. Bhutto raises a lot of hard questions for the government and security services that must be answered," said Biden, who is also chairman of the foreign relations committee. "The U.S. should offer any assistance necessary, including investigative teams, to get to the bottom of this horror." ......... al-Qaeda — making marginal progress in Afghanistan, backsliding in Iraq, and rebuffed in Somalia — is looking for a new battlefield. "I really think they're trying to ignite Pakistan into the kind of chaos they need to survive," Zinni says, "and create a fundamentalist, even radical, Islamic government." ......... "The losing of Pakistan — to whatever degree we've lost it, and I wouldn't write it off yet — goes back to after the first Afghan war," Zinni says, when Washington neglected the Afghan-Pakistan border roiling with insurgents.
Black Candidates Continue Steep Climb in Politics In 2000, President Clinton's former chief adviser on race, Christopher Edley Jr., was asked to speculate about the prospects of a black president by 2020. "I'm pessimistic about that," said Edley, who by then had returned to his Harvard Law School professorship. "I think we will see a woman or Latino before we see an African American." ....... Obama is a former student of Edley's at Harvard Law ..... But I'm almost afraid to believe. ...... I think there is something really magical about this brother. ...... Breakthroughs in the popular culture, where many Americans form their impressions of each other, have been among the hardest to achieve. ..... 1967 hit movie "In the Heat of the Night ....... "I think [the film] woke up a lot of people in the Deep South," Jewison says. "I don't think they'd ever seen a black character on the screen as smart and talented as Sidney." ......... Less than 4 percent of the nation's elected officials are black, and 90 percent of them represent predominantly black or predominantly black-and-Hispanic constituencies. ....... Only three black U.S. senators and two black governors have been elected since Reconstruction. ........ the heavy hanging cloud has been that a black can't win ...... Republican Party, Sen. Edward Brooke of Massachusetts ..... As the first African American to be popularly elected to the Senate, in 1966, he had quickly become a national star, called on to give speeches and appear at fundraisers across the country. ....... a pivotal meeting in 1983 at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. ...... others were worried about their groups' nonprofit status. ..... "Jesse said, 'Well, if no one else is willing to run, I'll run.' ...... he had this network, these relationships with black preachers all over the country. ..... On his second attempt, Jackson won 13 primaries and caucuses, doubled his total votes to 7 million and took 29 percent of the total primary vote. He finished a strong runner-up to Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis ....... Obama was a recent graduate of Columbia University when Jackson launched his first campaign, and once told Jackson that he was inspired watching him on television debating Walter Mondale and Gary Hart. ...... September 2004 ... an 84-year-old white woman approached Jones. "I hope I live long enough," she said, according to Jones, who is black. "This man is going to be president, and I want to vote for him." ...... Jones's first glimpse of Obama's broad appeal ....... "What happens is folks try to pigeonhole you, and he would never let folks pigeonhole him."
Obama's plea to voters as Clinton gains ground Times Online signs that Hillary Clinton has stabilised her presidential campaign and is gaining ground. ....... a new poll claiming to show that after months of deadlock in the state Mrs Clinton has suddenly opened up a wide lead. ......... The American Research Group poll put Mrs Clinton 15 points ahead of Mr Obama, just a week after it had the two in a statistical tie. ....... increased fears in the Obama camp that Mrs Clinton's relentless message of experience versus Mr Obama's theme of change might be having more resonance in the final, frantic stretch of campaigning. ....... played on voters' fears. ........ In his final pitch to voters, he will attack the Clintons for their secrecy and try and focus minds on "how close we are to making change". On Wednesday, he implied that a vote for Mrs Clinton was "madness". .... There is a growing belief inside Mr Edwards's camp that the former senator, and John Kerry's 2004 running mate, can win Iowa. Anything less than victory for him would deal a severe blow to his campaign, as he has been campaigning in the Hawkeye State for nearly four years. The Democratic race is still extremely volatile. Any of the three leading candidates could win in Iowa — and any of them could come third.
Urgent and personal: Clinton's final case to voters
McCain Campaigns in Iowa, Energized by New Hampshire New York Times
Vote-Counting Under Way in Kenyan Elections Voice of America
Kibaki leads Kenya election: early exit poll
Candidates go into overdrive, one week before Iowa caucuses CNN Obama launches "Stand for Change" tour across Iowa ...... "If Clinton wins Iowa, she could be unstoppable. If she loses Iowa, she may also lose New Hampshire and South Carolina. Then we've got a real race on our hands." ....... Clinton said on Wednesday. "Who, if something happened that none of us can predict now, would be there able to respond and act on behalf of our country immediately?" ...... "A nation at war... Troubles at home...America at a crossroads...Demands a leader...With a Steady Hand." ......"If Huckabee wins, we're likely to see economic and foreign policy conservatives coalesce around an alternative," CNN's Schneider said. "But who? That could be decided five days later in New Hampshire." ....... The Sunshine State could be critical to Giuliani since he is trailing in Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan and South Carolina. ....... The assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minster Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on Thursday could add uncertainty to the already uncertain political situation in the Iowa
Bhutto death severe blow to U.S.
Amitabh performs last rites for his mother Rediff The Bachchans were taken to the banks of the Ganga in a chartered bus from the airport, where a huge crowd was waiting to catch a glimpse of the superstar. ..... There was tight police security at the river's banks as a sombre Bachchan, in a white kurta-pyjama, carrying his mother's ashes, proceeded towards a motorboat booked to take them to the sangam, the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati rivers. ..... The Bachchans and their friends were brought to the sangam by the motorboat and an hour-long ritual was conducted by Prayagwal mahasabha, a famous group of Allahabad priests. .... The prayagwals had refused to perform the last rites of Bachchan's poet father Harivansh Rai Bachchan in 2003 to protest the fact that priests from Varanasi having been flown in for the occasion. However, this time, the prayagwals were persuaded to take charge of the rituals by Gupta.
Bachchans reach Allahabad to immerse Teji's Sahara Samay Abhishek was seen holding on to his father's shoulders at regular intervals in an attempt to console him. ...... Shweta was seen crying inconsolably. Both Aishwarya and Abhishek took turns to console her. ..... Amitabh, Ajitabh, Abhishek, Anil Ambani and Amar Singh carried the body on their shoulders.
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Obama backs Israel as Jewish state Ha'aretz
Clinton, Obama trade 'switches'
Candidates get serious after holiday rest NEWS.com.au top contenders could afford no more than a two-day holiday before resuming their fervent courtship of voters.
Play of the Day: Obama's Grocery Trip
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Clinton launches final push
Person of the Year: Vladimir Putin Time that power might be achieved by the suppression of ordinary needs, like blinking ....... so little visible security at Putin's dacha ...... spacious but spartan office ...... Russia's most powerful men: Putin's chief of staff, his ideologist, the speaker of parliament ....... contained power: he is compact and moves stiffly but efficiently ...... He is fit .... early-morning swims of an hour or more ...... he makes no effort to be ingratiating ..... He relaxes, he says, by listening to classical composers like Brahms, Mozart, Tchaikovsky. ...... His favorite Beatles song is Yesterday. He has never sent an e-mail in his life. ....... impatient to the point of rudeness with small talk ...... He is passionate in his belief that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was a tragedy, particularly since overnight it stranded 25 million ethnic Russians in "foreign" lands. ........ a pragmatist, and has cobbled together a system—not unlike China's—that embraces the free market (albeit with a heavy dose of corruption) but relies on a strong state hand to keep order. ......... everybody is made to believe...[Russians] are a little bit savage still or they just climbed down from the trees, you know, and probably need to have...the dirt washed out of their beards and hair. ............ will assume the nominally lesser role of Prime Minister. ..... Putin will surely remain the supreme leader, master of Russia's destiny ....... Russia's economy has grown an average of 7% a year for the past five years ....... On global issues, it offers alternatives to America's waning influence, helping broker deals in North Korea, the Middle East, Iran. Russia just made its first shipment of nuclear fuel to Iran ...... Putin's popularity ratings are routinely around 70%. "He is emerging as an elected emperor, whom many people compare to Peter the Great ........ Leonid Brezhnev was always the dolt, Gorbachev the bumbling reformer, Yeltsin the drunk. Putin, in current punch lines, is the despot. ........ Stalin's ghost appears to Putin in a dream, and Putin asks for his help running the country. Stalin says, "Round up and shoot all the democrats, and then paint the inside of the Kremlin blue." "Why blue?" Putin asks. "Ha!" says Stalin. "I knew you wouldn't ask me about the first part." ....... "He does not rely on personal charm. It is a combination of aloofness, considerable intelligence, strategic grasp and Russian nationalism" ....... He was born into humble circumstances in St. Petersburg in 1952. ...... his paternal grandfather, who had served as a cook for both Lenin and Stalin ........ So Putin headed to Moscow. ...... he had no connections when he arrived in the capital in mid-1996 ...... in August 1999, Putin was named Prime Minister ..... "It never occurred to me," he says. "It still surprises me." ....... Putin goes to a restaurant with Medvedev and orders a steak. The waiter asks, "And what about the vegetable?" Putin answers, "The vegetable will have steak too." ......... Grozny, Chechnya's capital, was all but obliterated ...... Putin tells us how, at an APEC dinner at which he was feeling somewhat lost, Clinton crossed the room past other world leaders and leaned down to talk to him. "Volodya," Clinton said, using the familiar form of the name Vladimir, "I suggest we walk out together from this room." Putin rose to his feet, and the two men strolled out together. "Everyone applauded," Putin recalls. "I will remember that forever." ......... Putin strongly opposed America's invasion of Iraq ........ Putin and Bush are fishing on the Volga River. After half an hour Bush complains, "Vladimir, I'm getting bitten like crazy by mosquitoes, but I haven't seen a single one bothering you." Putin: "They know better than that." ......... routinely suggests that Kasparov is a stooge of the West because he spoke to the foreign press in English after his arrest ........... Nashi (Ours, in Russian), the cultish pro-Putin youth movement ........ children's division of Nashi ..... "Tomorrow there will be war in Iran. The day after tomorrow Russia will be governed externally!" ....... Russia will become a political competitor to the U.S. and to rising nations like China and India. ....... Putin has been irritable throughout, a grudging host.
TIME's Interview with Vladimir Putin
Hu Jintao China, the most populous, economically dynamic and politically intriguing nation in the world ....... industrial park to the world ...... infinitely complex nation ....... has never granted a free-ranging interview ..... Hu has had to lead by consensus ...... Tall trees attract wind ....... peaceful rise, a phrase designed to soothe foreigners worried about the double threat of China's fireball economy and rapidly modernizing military. ....... the datong, the great harmony
Al Gore examples of civilizations changing course ..... a whole new economic boom, one that is low-carbon and high-productivity ....... the fight against extreme poverty in the developing world and the struggle against climate change can reinforce each other. ...... the eco-warrior with whom I share a bed ..... he is an America the world needs to meet.
J.K. Rowling Rowling calls her time with Harry "one of the longest relationships of my adult life," her rock through bereavement, a turbulent marriage and divorce, single motherhood, changes of country, fear of failure — and transcendent joy, on the day a wise man at Bloomsbury offered her $2,250 and agreed to print 1,000 books. ........ Forbes magazine put Rowling second only to Oprah as the richest woman in entertainment, ahead of Martha Stewart and Madonna — and as the first person to become a billionaire by writing books. ........ I don't think anyone has mourned more than I have. It's left the most enormous gaping hole in my life." ...... funny and self-mocking and earnest by turns but always unguarded and unrehearsed ...... her fans know where to find her: her website ........ One day when Rowling was shopping for toys in New York City ........ After six books with no mention of God or Scripture ...... "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." ........ inviting people to explore and struggle with the hard questions. ...... 4,100-page treatise on tolerance ....... "The weapon we have is love." ....... the frenzy that surrounded Uncle Tom's Cabin before the Civil War ........ "Rowling may do more for libertarianism than anyone since John Stuart Mill." ..... a generation of obsessive readers unafraid of fat books and complex plots.