Archive for November, 2018

Wednesday, November 30, 2005File:Turing1.jpg

More than 50 programmers, scientists, students, hobbyists and fans of the A.L.I.C.E. chat robot gathered in Guildford, U.K. on Friday to celebrate the tenth birthday of the award winning A.I. On hand was the founder the Loebner Prize, an annual Turing Test, designed to pick out the world’s most human computer according to an experiment laid out by the famous British mathematician Alan Turing more then 50 years ago. Along with A.L.I.C.E.’s chief programmer Dr. Richard S. Wallace, two other Loebner prize winners, Robby Garner and this year’s winner, Rollo Carpenter, also gave presentations, as did other finalists.

The University of Surrey venue was chosen, according to Dr. Wallace, not only because it was outside the U.S. (A.L.I.C.E.’s birthday fell on the Thanksgiving Day weekend holiday there, so he expected few people would attend a conference in America), but also because of its recently erected statue of Alan Turing, who posed the famous A. I. experiment which inspired much of the work on bots like A.L.I.C.E. University of Surrey Digital World Research Centre organizers Lynn and David Hamill were pleased to host the event because it encourages multi-disciplinary interaction, and because of the Centre’s interest in interaction between humans and computers.File:ALICE Birthday Cake.jpg

Dr. Wallace gave a keynote address outlining the history of A.L.I.C.E. and AIML. Many people commented on the fact the he seemed to have moved around a lot in the last ten years, having lived in New York, Pennsylvania, San Francisco, Maine, Amsterdam and Philadelphia, while working on the Alicebot project. The A.L.I.C.E. and AIML software is popular among chat robot enthusiats primarily because of its distribution under the GNU free software license. One of Dr. Wallace’s PowerPoint slides asked the question, “How do you make money from free software?” His answer: memberships, subscriptions, books, directories, syndicated ads, consulting, teaching, and something called the Superbot.

Rollo Carpenter gave a fascinating presentation on his learning bot Jabberwacky, reading from several sample conversations wherein the bot seemed amazingly humanlike. Unlike the free A.L.I.C.E. software, Carpenter uses a proprietary learning approach so that the bot actually mimics the personality of each individual chatter. The more people who chat with Jabberwacky, the better it becomes at this kind of mimicry.

In another interesting presentation, Dr. Hamill related present-day research on chat robots to earlier work on dialog analysis in telephone conversations. Phone calls have many similarities to the one-on-one chats that bots encounter on the web and in IM. Dr. Hamill also related our social expectations of bots to social class structure and how servants were expected to behave in Victorian England. He cited the famous Microsoft paperclip as the most egregius example of a bot that violated all the rules of a good servant’s behavior.

Bots have advanced a long way since philanthropist Hugh Loebner launched his controversial contest 15 years ago. His Turing Test contest, which offers an award of $100,000 for the first program to pass an “audio-visual” version of the game, also awards a bronze medal and $2000 every year for the “most human computer” according to a panel of judges. Huma Shah of the University of Westminster presented examples of bots used by large corporations to help sell furniture, provide the latest information about automotive products, and help customers open bank accounts. Several companies in the U.S. and Europe offer customized bot personalities for corporate web sites.

Even though Turing’s Test remains controversial, this group of enthusiastic developers seems determined to carry on the tradition and try to develop more and more human like chat bots.Hugh Loebner is dedicated to carry on his contest for the rest of his life, in spite of his critics. He hopes that a large enough constituency of winners will exist to keep the competition going well beyond his own lifetime. Dr. Wallace says, “Nobody has gotten rich from chat robots yet, but that doesn’t stop people from trying. There is such a thing as ‘bot fever’. For some people who meet a bot for the first time, it can pass the Turing Test for them, and they get very excited.”

Rail network in Kashmir comes under attack

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29
Nov

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Nearly two feet of the rail route in Kashmir, India was blown up by militants near the Pulwama district, affecting train services from north to south Kashmir. The blast came a few days after militants fought with the Indian army in the area, thereby killing fourteen people.

“There were no casualties, as no trains were running when the militants set off a powerful bomb on the railway track,” said Aijaz Ahmad, a local police official. He added that train services have been temporarily suspended.

According to police, the attackers detonated an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) near Galbug at about 10 PM local time (4:30 PM UTC), Thursday night. Two feet of the rail track on the Qazigund-Baramulla area was damaged. This track was developed two years ago, police sources stated. The attack came just before senior officers were supposed to inspect ongoing works in the Kashmiri railways.

The track was repaired on Friday morning and train services resumed in the region. Kamal Saine, Deputy Inspector General of Police, south Kashmir, told the Press Trust of India agency that the damage to the track was not significant and it took a short time to mend it.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Australian troops in southern Iraq will shift to an “overwatch” role, says Defence Minister Brendan Nelson. Australia has around 460 troops in southern Iraq engaged in training the Iraq military and guarding Japanese military engineers. Dr Nelson says the soldiers currently on rotation in Iraq as part of Operation Catalyst will soon provide “front-line combat support” for coalition troops.

“We will move some time over the next three to four months pending the movement of the Japanese to supporting the overwatch program,” he told ABC radio. “So what we will be doing is we will be supporting the Iraqi security forces, Iraqi police and Iraqi local government in administering and managing their own affairs. And we will respond to requests from the Iraqi government.”

Overwatch was “a support program” that involved “providing covering fire to coalition allies in Iraq.” The Australian deployment was expected to end around July this year, but Dr Nelson has said the mission would now continue into next year. His statement followed the British announcement that it would withdraw 800 troops from Iraq in the next few months.

“The British and the Americans are looking at significant draw downs in two to three years. We haven’t set any such timeline… I think we will be there into 2007… We haven’t committed to another two to three years unlike the Americans. We take it on a day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month basis,” said the Minister.

Dr Nelson ruled out Australian troops being deployed to more dangerous areas, such as Basra, where the British troops have been based. But he declined to say whether the new mission will be more risky. He says “everything the troops do in Iraq is associated with danger.”

On March 7th, Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown slammed the Howard government’s determination to keep troops in Iraq, as American and British troops are withdrawn. “Australian troops are being subject to thoughtless bravado by John Howard and Brendan Nelson and they need to be brought home immediately,” Senator Brown said.

Operation Catalyst is the Australian Defence Force (ADF) contribution to the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Iraq. Operation Catalyst currently comprises approximately 1320 Australian Defence Force personnel.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve has suggested that there will be more of the same in coming months from the Fed. In his speech during testimony before the U.S. Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday, Mr. Greenspan noted that the economic fundamentals of the U.S. appeared to be stable. On Thursday, Greenspan spoke before the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services and when faced with questions regarding Social Security reform issues, he hinted that he was in favour of partial privatization of Social Security – but the general consensus on Wall Street is to expect more of the same.

However, economic advisors were somewhat disappointed that most of the testimony in both speechs was focused on the upcoming Social Security reform and did not address monetary policy as broadly as they’d hoped. Mike Moran, chief economist at Daiwa Securities America Inc, is quoted in the Investors Business Daily as saying “Chairman Greenspan provided few explicit insights into his plans for monetary policy.”

Greenspan reiterated his concerns about market reactions to the burgeoning federal deficit. “We are not sure to what extent and how much the market will respond,” he said.

Parsing Greenspan’s reports to Congress is a Wall Street obsession, but the general consensus from his recent testimony is to expect little change in the current Fed policy. Economists expect “measured” hikes to the central bank’s short-term interest rates from the next few meetings of Fed policy-makers.

“In my view the bottom line is that we are in for more of the same,” said Steve Stanley, chief economist at RBS Greenwich Capital to the Associated Press.

News briefs:July 30, 2010

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What is the current situation in the NWFP?

The Pashtun people are or were renowned for their hospitality. Many westerners commented on it. Some with suspicion NOT willing to believe some people so poor could be so generous. It was almost a character flaw. One could travel with out fear of personal danger as long as you followed local protocols. (I would urge you to read Kiplings “East is East & West is West.” one more time, know this time that it is written about the Pashtun people.)

That was the sort of mind set among the people. An ageless paradigm of self satisfaction: This is enshrined in the code of the Pashtuns way of life (see James Spain “The Way of the Pathans”) – called Pashtunwali- in Pashto hospitality is referred to as “maelmastiya”.

The Islamic radicalism is in reality nothing but the Taliban movement. As I said earlier not all Pashtuns are Taliban (obviously) but most Taliban are Pashtun. Of these most belong to the FATA. Of these, most were affected by their cousins from Afghanistan coming over. Mingled with them were Arab-Afghans. Uzbeks and some Tajiks and even Chechens. Some of these married within the tribes and formed a bond with the locals. Marriage bonds go back in history. Again remember the mindset of the people here. Always keep that in mind. To them the scripture in the written word of God, and that includes the Old Testament (called Torat (Torah) and (Injeel = Bible less St. Pauls contributions).

This Talibanization shows itself in the content of the Friday sermons at the mosque. Now it shows in the popularity of growing beards, especially since the MMA – the coalition of religious political party’s – won power. More recently in their showdown with the Pakistan army in N and S Waziristan – where according to my sources, people prefer going to the Taliban for justice rather than the older system of Maliks and Political Agents. The latter are known as corrupt. In Pakistan in general people are sick of the amount of corruption.

And now in Bannu, from where hails the Chief Minister of the NWFP, Mr Durrani, is in Taliban control in the sense that there is a parallel government that they have established and which is functioning quite well and is popular among the people.

Justice in tribal areas of Pakistan has been handled by elders, following a mixture of tribal tradition and Islamic law. Would you say that Taliban influence has caused a stricter intrepretation of Islamic law in the NWFP?

Yes. The Maliks, or tribal elders who consider themselves quite conservatively religious, even so had a laid back attitude towards enforcement of religious doctrine. That is where the difference comes. My opinion is that this is the reason that the Maliks supported the government of Pakistan in South Waziristan, which has recently been in the news having kicked out the militant Uzbek who came as guests in the post-soviet era and started mischief of their own but am not sure what their agenda was to begin with, and I myself have questions about their presence as to why they were not reported earlier, since reporting the presence of any foreigner(s) in the FATA is job one of the Pakistani Political Agents (PA). Why is the presence of the Uzbeks and the Chechen in the area just coming to light? Remember there are seven of these PA’s – one for each FATA. The Taliban emulated the Saudi system of having a department concerned with citizens’ morals, even the name is the same, the department for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, and this department has – as in Saudi Arabia, an enforcement police, called mutawwa’in, a morals law-enforcement agency.

Has there been a shift from tribal elders to clerics, as the main interpreters of law?

Yes there has been a movement in that direction but it has started a power struggle between the clerics who traditionally have been at the lowest strata of the social structure, to now when they have seen a bigger role for themselves first from the Taliban in Afghanistan – but also the government of the MMA in the NWFP who are nothing more than glorified clerics themselves, only a little smarter in exploiting religion politically, and the MMA is largely non-Pashtun which is a source of discontent in that they stand in the way of Pashtun nationalism, such as it is, because it only rears its head when non-Pashtuns start to usurp power over what the Pashtun consider their turf.

The deal made between Pakistani central government and the North and South Waziristan provinces, where tribal leadership was given the pivotal role in dealing with militants and the Taliban, has been criticized as a failure. What caused an initiative by tribal authority to fail?

First off, I don’t agree with the premise of the question, that the “deal” is a “failure” – for the following reasons:

  1. In the first place the Pakistan army (govt – same difference) did not have many options. This was the least worst option they had.
  2. And most importantly, I have said this before, this area is literally in a time warp – which means they proceed at (what seems to us in the west) a glacial pace. I will give an example from the folklore:

    The story goes that a Pashtun had to repay (badal) an enemy for a crime against his family and he waited patiently for 20 years (some say 50 years), after this time, he exacted his revenge – but soon after was depressed because he wondered “Did I act too hastily?”

    So one part of Pashtunwali is to “pay back” – (Badal: literally to exchange) which most people translate as revenge. Yes that is the form that is most visible, but badal is also played out in the exchange of gifts at wedding and other celebrations, and in the exchange of favors like in politics. The rules can be arcane, unwritten and hard to follow — who did what to whom, when, and so on, and what is the proper recompense — this same give and take would occur in a peace process pursued by the Tribal Maliks, who rule by consensus (see Olaf Caroe) and there is no actual leader in the western sense, because all the Maliks, in fact all the others are de facto, so many co-equals (The Way of the Pathans/ People of the Khyber – James Spain pp 129 on.) – it is a mind set, a paradigm foreign to the uninitiated, as is the concept of consensual gay sex to the Wazir in Waziristan.

  3. I wish someone would read the history of this area, it would help in dealing with our expectations and possibly much more. For instance there are two major tribe in N and S Waziristan, the Wazir, and the Mahsud – in the news you hear about the sub tribes; The most famour character of North Waziristan, the equivalent of a Jesse James, was leader called the “Faqir of Ippi” – he died in 1960, the Pakistan govt never was able to capture him, even though he set up a govt of Independent Pashtunistan in cahoots with Kabul. The great uprising of India of 1897 had its roots in Waziristan, as did the Treaty of Razmak. Of all the Pashtun, the Wazir are the most independent minded and the least to be cowed by military action.
  4. So what options did Pakistan have, more military action? It had already lost hundred of their “privates” in action. Allow the US forces to come in, as a matter of fact the ISAF do cross into the Pakistani territory, we just don’t know how deep they go — the rules of engagement, as I understand them are, that if they (the US Army of Marines) are in “hot pursuit” then they cross into Pakistan. In reality they do it more often then that, just that there is no proof of it, who will report it, the Wazir? Or the Pakistan army?
  5. The last part of your question, there are many assumptions, all wrong. The initiative was not from the tribals. There is no single authority amongst the tribal, they would convene a Jirga and decide on a course of action, such as this, to my knowledge no such jirga was called. To save face the Pakistan government might claim it was a tribal initiative, but it seems highly unlikely. The Pak troop’s casualties were so high, and there was talk of hostages being held as well — I tend to believe, that the Governor of the NWFP initiated the talks and the agreement, because he sure as hell is taking all the heat for its “failure”.
  6. That brings me to the last issue, the agreement has not failed, because it has not been given enough time, in Wazir time reference, not American time presidential election cycle controlled. I do not have a crystal ball, but if I did, I would see NATO troops in Afghanistan long after Iraq is over. Afghanistan can be a success ONLY if we accept one thing, the time warp these people live in — by my reckoning its still 1700 CE over there.

If the Talibanization of Pakistan is partly due to a perception of corruption among the older system of Maliks and Political Agents, and Musharraf has critics lining up, who can the U.S. turn to in dispensing with $10 billion in aid monies?

Talibanization has nothing to do with your premise there. Zilch. Nada. The corruption is in the ISI, the Pak army and the Pak system of Political Agents (PA) assigned to these tribal zones (FATA & PATA). These PA have budgets that are much like the CIA in that they are a single line item in the national budget, there is no accountability of where or how the PA spends the money. If one followed the IRS rules and looked at the lifestyles of the PA and compared them with their income, you would soon understand what was going on. Musharraf critics are a larger issue. For eons, Republicans have coddled Pakistan with the belief that “as long as they are pro America” – democracy in Pakistan will come in due course. Democrats have, I think, insisted Democracy first, and then we can discuss the other issues later. For example, pre 9/11, compare how Carter’s administration treated Gen Zia and how Reagan’s administration treated him.

The Talibanization of Pakistan has more to do with graduates of “Raiwind” a place near Lahore where the “Tablighi Jamaat” conducts brainwashing camps. It was graduates of this place, in my opinion, that are responsible for Britain’s 7/7 attacks as an example. For the Talibanization of the FATA, see Ahmed Rashid’s classic study on the subject wrt to Afghanistan but applicable to Pashtuns in the NWFP equally, in a sense.

Corruption amongst the Maliks is self limiting because of the egalitarian society they live & because of Pashtunwali (see Charles Lindholm, Oxford press).

Who can the US turn to? This is a tough one. The Pakistani national psyche has not progressed the way the Indians have. There are still very much remnants of the Raj visible and present and invisible but Pakistani behavior gives it away – in the way they treat household help, in the way company bosses treat their employees, in the way the government officers often act above the law. For example the NWFP is supposed to be dry – yet the governemt employees consume copious amounts of liquor. There are some that even moonshine at home. (I have pictures I could share taken at “dance” party, more like a stag party.)

I think this last question is best answered in who has been reliable in the past, and assume the past to be an indicator of future behavior.

We know the Pak army will siphon large amounts towards its Nuclear program and the upkeep of its generals.

We know that Nawaz Sharif left the national treasury almost bankrupt when Musharraf took over.

We know that Benazir husband took 10% of all government deals. I believe he has an Interpol warrant for his arrest, although I can’t vouch for it, it does come out in the news, even though it’s puzzling why Interpol has trouble executing the warrant. Now I hear they are withdrawn.

So who does that leave?

The next generation of Politicians who are not beholden to anyone.

In my opinion, the US should insist on the scheduled elections but accede to some genuine Pakistani concerns:

Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto ought to be ineligible to run, BUT other members of the respective party PML (N) and PPP (B) can do so.

Prohibit allocation of emblems to the religious party which they can & have misused.

For example in the last election they asked for and got the symbol of a book, they then went on to advertise the symbol represented the Qur’an and a vote for the book was a vote for the Qur’an – not the candidate but the Qur’an. Well the ploy worked only too well. Imagine a similar vote here where a vote is asked for as a vote for the Bible! You can imagine the results.

What is your take on the Musharraf suspending the judge Iftikhar Chaudhry?

My take:

I believe, and this is widely held belief, that Musharraf has no constituency of his own for his power base. He wanted legitimization from the Supreme Court, and from Mr Choudhry as Chief Justice (their system is not like ours) would not give it.

So Musharraf has had to hang on to his Army Chief of Staff position to get his power from the Army. If some one else were Chief of Staff, that person could refuse to support Musharraf.

The Justice favorable to the general is Justice Iqbal, who was not the next in line for Chief Justice. The next in line is a Hindu. That presented problems of its own for Musharraf. So when the Hindu judge went for a trip to India, Iqbal became the “available” senior most Supreme Court judge, and hence the haste and lack of decorum with which Justice Chaudhry was removed.

Now we have to wait for the other shoe to fall — will Iqbal issue a Judicial ruling which would make it easy for Musharraf to stay on as Chief of Staff – in the meantime, the US has asked him to relinquish this army position.

Needless to say, it was very badly handled, high handed, and the TV was present — the country saw what was being done to the highest member of the court of law, and in their mind, as in mine, the law in Pakistan was being manhandled, handcuffed and sent off packing to jail, so to speak. Something we long suspected, but was confirmed on TV and in the Newspapers. Overseas organizations taking up Chaudhry’s cause, might lead one to belive that Musharraf’s days are numbered, and they would be wrong, because America needs Musharraf – for the time being, anyway – because Iraq has scared America, just as in the post Vietnam era, there is now a fear regarding Muslim countries – the fear of the alternative, will democracy in Muslim country give us more of Ahmedinejad or Al-Maliki, or can we find some Hamid Karzais’? We just don’t know.

Can you tell us what the prevailing sentiment in the region regarding the Pakistani government effort in the provinces and the international effort in Afghanistan to combat Taliban and affiliated militants?

In my dealings and inquires, one thing stood out like a sore thumb – the conspiracy theories vis-à-vis anything having to do with America. I mentioned to one of my close friends that events that were previously ascribed as acts of God were now considered acts of the CIA. Some even believed that the Earthquake in the northern areas was because of some sort of underground secret “bomb” used by the CIA. Lack of evidence is further proof that the CIA did it. I was flabbergasted, and started to give this kind of thinking as an example in speaking to “educated” Pakistani’s – and among these, those that did agree that the earthquake was NOT the work of the CIA, they would start giving other examples, notably the Blow up of the plane carrying Zia ul Haq an ex President of Pakistan, in which the US Ambassador also perished. When I would point this out, the response would be that that is the sort of thing they do to take away suspicion from themselves.

In a nutshell, the impression I came away with is, there is NO war of civilizations going on, what is going on is a war between literacy and illiteracy. I use the latter term in the widest connotation.

Pakistan government efforts: While on the one hand people would decry that the government is not doing enough, in the same breath they would state the government is a puppet of the US and only does what the US tells it to do. In this sense there is very little awareness among the people about what the Pakistani army is doing in the FATA or for that matter in Balochistan. The local newspapers are censored, and if not censored they do not allocate much space to the topics. “Dawn,” which is the highest circulation English language paper, carries more stories about the US than about the local stories, that might appear say in “Newsweek.”

The international effort in Afghanistan is not considered international at all, only American. You could speak till you are blue in the face, and you would not change anyone’s mind. In my case they would simply turn quiet, not wishing to offend a “guest” (see Pashtunwali).

It is commonly agreed that some thing has to be done to curb the religious extremism that has taken root here, while historically these people (Pashtun) are a moderate people (see Olaf Caroe “The Pathans”). In fact some of the reasons the extremism has crept in is that many of the cultural practices were not in accordance with Saudi based “Salafiism” more popularly known as Wahabism. But Mr Wahab dates to the period of Lawrence of Arabia – Salafism dates further back, and is one of the six or seven schools of “Fiqh” or jurisprudence, but the latter fiqh has morphed into a cult like sect.

Taliban are not visible in the areas I visited, but the militants handiwork clearly is – as elsewhere, the common criminals are taking advantage of this situation, and crime is up significantly. One new crime is Cell phone “snatching” – it’s easy and nobody wants to pursue it. If some one is using a Razr phone, he can expect to be hit soon, if he uses it in public. So people have two cell phone (Called mobiles here) one fancy to show off, one for use in public places.

In so far as “foreign” militants are captured and identified, that is to say non-Pashtun (including non Afghan Pashtun or Pak Pashtun) – then the people are obviously in agreement with the government that these people don’t belong here and need to go.

The problem is this:

The foreigners are usually in the FATA and have been there since the Soviet war times. Many of them have taken local wives and now have a family. The local have accepted them into their family. Now for the Pak govt to ask them to kick them out, the locals are thinking what am I doing to my grandchildren’s father, etc. Again the edicts of Pashtunwali also play a role.

What kind of support is there in the area for the positions advocated by the Taliban on matters such as Sharia law, women’s education, role in public affairs, its proscriptions on entertainment such as movies, music ..etc?

In the areas that I visited and the people that I spoke to, which by definition is a very non-random sample, the people are TOTALLY opposed to the Taliban. I do have one nephew who seems to have come under the influence of the Salafi’s but that is a different story. I can address that separately and you can decide if it belongs with this story – not my nephew’s story but the way the Salafi’s have woven themselves into this area — which is historically a “Hanafi” fiqh area, which is much more moderate. Like I said this may be tangential to the main story.

In general, people will say Yes we are Muslim and we are for the Sharia, but in general most people do not know what that entails.

In their mind it entails a more just system, a less corrupt government.

But if you ask them if they want a system like the Taliban the answer is an unequivocal NO.

Women’s education is quite the norm in the non FATA parts of the NWFP. When I visited the earthquake area which is also mostly in the NWFP, (I have photo’s and video) the girl schools were some of the first to spring up. I remember being pleasantly surprised by this at the time.

As far as a role in Public, it gets complicated. Women are in general expected to be docile and compliant, and the same expectation foloows through into Public affairs. But this point of view is not limited to the NWFP – it is the same all over Pakistan, excluding the large cities of Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad etc. yet still applicable to Peshawar.

In Peshawar you do get to see more girls getting jobs as tellers in a bank and some other non traditional jobs, whereas previously the only jobs were either teachers to young kids, teachers to older girls, nurses and doctors – for the most part.

Movies in the NWFP in the Theaters are for the lower socio economic men only. The reason is other than Talibanization. The easy availability of pirated, good quality DVD’s of Indian and Hollywood movies (From China thru the land route over the Karakorum Highway) – it cost Rs120 ($2/-) for the whole family to watch a movie in the comfort of their home. Travelling to a theater might cost that much in gas. The inconvience. The crowds. The men gawking at the women and last but definitely not least, some bombs exploding in the theater some years back, put a comllete stop to the middle class from going out to see movies.

Paashtuns love music. So even though I hear that some bus drivers have been fined for playing their cassettes, I doubt this is going to stop them from playing their music. Some thing far worse has to happen – I think the drivers may start carrying guns and having it out with who ever is tring to stop them from their favorite music.

What is not being reported and what the Taliban could do effectively is to cut up cable tv cables. Most cable companies string their cable ABOVE ground to save cost and take it along the electric poles, below the electricity wires. Since these are exposed there have been many (several) instances of the cables being cut up. Luckiliy there is no market for coaxial cable, or more cable would be lost to druggies doing the cutting. The latter is a serious problem that you don’t hear about. One person that I knew told me that he was building his house and had poured conrete and reinforcements for the pillars. The next day he found the reinforcement bars to have been cut up flush with the ground slab leaving him to figure out how to do the rebar of the rest of the pillar.

To what degree does this support stem from fear and intimidation?

The Taliban are Pashtun, and the populace is Pashtun. The Pashtun do not scare easy. They are not intimidated easily. They might comply for the moment and then come back with a vengeance, so to speak. The women folk are more susceptible to intimidation, as was evidenced by the closure of the schools, because the mothers decided that they were not going to take a chance that their kids might get injured.

How about the “political positions” of the insurgent movement – resistance to foreign troops, and the Karzai government? Is there a separatist or nationalist component to the movement?

Karzai is not popular among the Pashtun’s who are loyal to Pakistan in the NWFP, those are the one I met mostly. They think that Karzai is opportunistic in that he is fleecing the government of the US whereas he himself is little more than the mayor of Kabul. They point to his American bodyguards as proof that he is disliked by his own people, that the moment the American leave Karzai is a dead man.

I can not speak to the separatist movement. I have seen no evidence of it. There is widespread resentment that the Federal government refuses to give a name to the province, a name of the people’s liking – there have been recently articles in Dawn about this, I will try and find them for you.

Nationalism is alive and well on the other hand, all over Pakistan – in all its four provinces. Everybody hates the Punjabi’s – almost to the man.

It is my opinion that were it not for US aid, Pakistan will go the route of Yugoslavia. With lots of bloodshed.

Resistance to foreign troops is like the national pastime among the Pashtun. Even today they collect in the evenings and will tell tales, vastly glorified of the way their grandfather fought against the British.

In other parts of the NWFP, like Charsadda and Mardan where Abdul Ghaffar Khan (the frontier Gandhi) was popular you have old “khudai khidmatgars” telling their stories of how they kicked out the British.

The only thing that Unites the Pashtun, are foreign troops on their soil. Other than that “Pashtun Unity” is almost an oxymoron.

What do you think the U.S., the international community and Pakistan should do to ease the problems in the region?

In my opinion, based on my conversations with individuals in positions to know these things, plus a little bit of plain common sense, plus knowing the history of the people and of the area: The ONE thing that will NOT work is direct military action. We know this from history. We know that the Pashtuns love to fight. We know that the Talibanization has brought the Jihadi’s into the picture, who like nothing better than to be martyred. So we need to keep this in mind, of what NOT to do. Having said that, what I am going to say next may appear like a paradox.

Because the Pashtun do not like to deal with what they believe are wus or weak people, we do need to have a strong PRESENCE there, and a strong “show of force” – invite a “Jirga” to like a demonstration of what the US air force is capable of doing – just to show them, – the reason is that their paradigm is the 14th century, if you simply told them that we can do this to you, they will simply think you are lying, because that is what they do, they lie to show off.

But if you drop a daisy cutter and tell them before hand what it is capable of, or a stealth bomber, these technologies are outsides their mind-set; we have to get them to believe that we have these capabilities, like the Drone. Or spy satellites.

From this position of strength, and always reminding them that we are raring to use our forces in that like them we also love to shoot our guns at every opportunity, but then not actually do it ( in this sense we had achieved all out objectives with Saddam prior to invading Iraq IMHO invading Iraq was redundant) – so the next step would be:

  1. Education
  2. Development meaning providing a means of livelihood so they do not have to become military mercenaries to make a living.
  3. Gradually replacing their madrassas with our own madrassas, except in the latter, the Mullah is an educated individual who knows comparative religion, and they teach other subjects including Biology, anthropology, measuring the age of the earth by carbon dating etc. and astronomy to learn the age of the Universe, black holes, quasars Relativity concepts, quantum mechanic concepts (not the mathematics, the simple concepts behind them, and how these ideas are behind some of today’s everyday electronic devices)
  4. Leisure activity, starting with traditional leisure activity, i.e. not TV and cable and Internet, but ultimately making these available
  5. Introduce these “NEW” technologies through a religious mode. Transmit a Qur’anic recital competition to begin with, as an example instead of beginning with MTV.
  6. Making water available. Drinking water is an everyday necessity, for cooking etc, and not available in most of the FATA.
  7. Food grain. Wheat flour etc, keep the prices the same as in Peshawar – these people are not traders, they are easily exploited, and like porn they couldn’t tell you what exploitation is, but they can tell you when they see it.

What makes the North-West Frontier Province competent to administer any monies?

This is the central question. Much like California has taken a separate initiative on stem cell research – as an analogy – the NWFP is central to the war on terror, not Pakistan.

The NWFP was central to the fight and aid to the Afghans during the Soviet occupation, not Pakistan.

This small distinction is lost on Washington, and it is the main reason, in my opinion, why so much of the Aid was “lost in transit was because the Punjabi army officers could not bring themselves to dispense such large sums to an ethnic group which it considers anti-Pakistani (You would have to read the history of the Indian partition, in particular that the NWFP was a “Indian Congress Party” controlled province where as the “Muslim League” of Jinnah was trying to show the Brits that all the area was FOR the creation of Pakistan).

All the FATA is contiguous to the NWFP. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda are holed up somewhere either in the FATA, or across the Durand Line in Afghanistan, the Durand Line has never been recognized by the locals as an international boundary. Even today, the Pashtun travel from Peshawar to Kabul by road with out a passport or visa, and it has been like that for eons.

(Especially for the nomadic Pashtun tribe of Ghilzai’s who travel by caravan and conduct trade.)

The present governor of the NWFP belongs to the Orakzai tribe (he spells his name Aorakzai) and it is my opinion that that he was picked partly because he belongs to one of the FATA as well as he is a retired General of the Pak Army.

The Frontier Constabulary (FC) is a force which primarily recruits from the FATA. All or most of its forces are from the various tribes. In the eyes of the tribes this is a bona fide force and service with the FC is considered an honorable thing. The US has already allocated some funds for increasing recruitment, but far less than what it would take to counter the Taliban and far less than what the economic need is. [The US] spends a thousand times more on a battalions sent to monitor activity over there. Plus why endanger the lives of our troops and spread our forces thin when a more effective job can be done by the FC. The FC has over history shown that they will attack and use force against the tribes that create trouble. There have been no instances of insubordination or mutiny.

Even the US Embassy is protected by a contingent of the FC! That goes to show their trustworthiness & discipline.

My second proposal is that there is a common phenomenon for Pashtun men to go to the Gulf States for jobs.

The “tribal” Pashtuns ( All Pashtuns are tribal, in that Pashtun form the largest tribal society in the world in terms of numbers) wrt the FATA are not educated or trained and hence not employable right now. I propose that we fund directly the Director of Emigrants (Mr Azhar Arbab) in Islamabad to set up training facilities in Concrete laying, iron work, pipe work, welding etc, which would then qualify these tribesmen to obtain jobs in the Gulf. As such we would remove them from the scene altogether. They would not be available in the labor pool to the Taliban or anyone else. I might add here, that a number of these individuals have very high innate intelligence, which is one reason they make formidable foes.

Now the central reason why the NWFP ought to do this is because they are themselves most affected by the scourge of Talibanization. They are highly motivated in carrying out these policies because it is to their own benefit.

One has to be convinced on this last point, and for that I urge you research the sentiments amongst the people of the province, such as I am willing to provide, and which you can corroborate from other sources as well.

For instance, after Malik Saad was murdered, there were people, whom I heard myself, that expressed the feeling (admittedly stunned with grief) “If this is Islam then fuck such Islam” (I paraphrase, obviously, the Pashto is not directly translatable) – moreover, Mr Saad’s posters are competing with Osama’s in the Bazaar’s as a spontaneous gesture from the public. We can’t afford to let this good-will to be lost.

An Associated Press report on MSNBC dated March 15, 2007 and headlined “Arrest of al-Qaida’s ‘best’ reflects changing role” stated, “A senior Western diplomat in Islamabad, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the Taliban resurgence had not necessarily led to the re-emergence of al-Qaida training camps in Pakistan – a key U.S. ally in the war on terror – but had “created the environment for whatever is left of al-Qaida to feel more comfortable.” What does that mean?

A senior western diplomat usually means a Political Officer in the US Embassy, which most people know is a CIA agent, OR it could be some other Embassy official –

First there is a big difference between Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Al Qaeda is mostly composed of Arabs, they do not trust any one else. While they might use others as couriers or in lowly position as servants, for second rate Al Qaeda officials, the Top guys ONLY deal with Arabs and are served by Arabs.

The Taliban are mostly Pashtun tribesmen. Mostly they are graduates of madrassa’s.

Mostly illiterate by any world standards. The better educated among them will know how to speak a few words of English, such as their Information minister. There might be one or two notable exception of which I am not aware, I had heard Yale had admitted a Taliban, but never followed up on the story.

However while Al Qaeda does not trust the Taliban, the Taliban look up to Al Qaeda top leadership. We saw this situation in Iraq where initially Al Zarqawi had no direct link with Qaeda but was keen to form one. It would be conjecture on my part to state that in the end he did indeed succeed in forming that connection. In the press at least that impression was prevalent.

So the lines of interest proceed ONE way, like one way traffic. Extremist want to be affiliated with Qaeda, IMHO, while the latter does not, again, in my opinion want to – so as to maintain its hideout.

Now we come to the statement below:

The Taliban resurgence is not connected directly to the Qaeda.


(al in Arabic = the; Qaeda means the base, or the foundation e.g. in kg school here you are asked “did you learn your “abc’s” – in the Muslim world one is asked in an equivalent kg “did you learn your qaeda”?)


The Qaeda supply lines are hampered, new recruits would have to be Arabs, and they would have to travel a long way through tight Pakistani security to reach here, or suffer hardship over a long and arduous land route through Balochistan and the Tribal area’s – NOT all of which are accommodating.

So as is becoming clear, Qaeda is having trouble replacing people they loose meaning those that were captured or died. They only trust Arabs, and that also a certain type of Arabs, (not all Arabs are the same, not all Arabic is the same – for example they would never trust a Syrian, in fact Qaeda folks consider Syrian brand of Islam an apostasy – but that is another story).

Okay so now we can understand the statement, that whatever remains of the Qaeda, are not in a position to set up training camps, since they are in a survival mode. The Taliban resurgence helps them get a little warm and fuzzy in this survival mode, since they feel a little bit more secure with their partners-in-arms doing some evil stuff, blowing up people and causing mayhem.

How many men does the FC field currently?

The FC currently has about 23000 men in total.

How much do they get paid?

They are paid the equivalent of $60 per month per person -Pak Rupees 3665, where Rs61= $1. They do have some fringe benefits but life is very spartan for these soldiers.

What the US could get in return is a huge bang for a buck, no pun intended.

I think we ought to double the number of these soldiers with one proviso that the FC maintains its high standards of recruits.

Compare this with our costs in the War against Terror; just Halliburton’s bills will have you reeling. I think that it would be foolish, NOT to do this.

Again to reinforce the reasons:

The Frontier Constabulary is an Institution with a long and glorious history within the Frontier Province.

The recruits come strictly from the tribes of the various FATA and so they are very familiar with the people, the bad guys the terrain etc.

They speak the Pashto dialect of the locals. The Pashto language has many dialects, and you can tell where someone is from based on which dialect he speaks. So if you do not speak the correct dialect, you are immediately identified as an outsider. This is one reason why these tribes are impossible to penetrate, there are other reasons as well, that are beyond the scope of the current discussion.

How can the FC help prevent attacks like the suicide bombing attempt on Sherpao in Charsadda last weekend?

In essence your question is how can anyone prevent a suicide attack? And frankly if I knew the answer to that I think the US military – and several other groups – would be knocking on my door. I think the Israeli Army has had the most experience with this sort of thing. The suicide bombing as a tactical weapon was invented by the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, and even today in terms of statistics they use it in far greater numbers.

So to summarize neither the FC nor anyone else can prevent a suicide bombing. We could attempt to improve our intelligence to find out about an imminent attack, but so far these have not been very successful in Pakistan. In the Lal Masjid Case the government avoided a suicide killing by negotiating with those two Mullah brothers – but I don’t know if that counts. But it does make for an interesting story. Both Washington, DC and Islamabad now have Madams threatening to publish the list of their clients unless they are given protection. Who would have thunk?Going back to your question:In my opinion what ought to be done is to make a Policy change, and address the issues that are producing these suicide bombers, that is the only way to stop this phenomenon.In this part of the world this is relatively new because prior to 9/11, suicide bombing was unheard of. Moreover it is not the FC’s job to provide security to the Minister of the Interior, that is the job of the Police force, because this Ministry is equivalent to the Department of Homeland Security.You don’t expect Border patrol to provide body guard duty to the Secretary of the department of Homeland Security. I am making these analogies so the American readers would relate to what is happening, and understand the difference in nomenclature.–RHakeem 20:13, 3 May 2007 (UTC)

Wikinews Shorts: August 13, 2009

Posted by: in Uncategorized
27
Nov

A compilation of brief news reports for Thursday, August 13, 2009.

Contents

  • 1 Paris suffers second night of violence
  • 2 No concrete progress but North American leaders express solidarity
  • 3 Mexican federal police foil plot to assassinate President Calderón
  • 4 Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to another three years of house arrest
  • 5 Four Rio Tinto employees formally arrested for bribery
  • 6 Michael Jackson to be the star one last time

The French capital Paris has seen a second night of violence by demonstrators, who have blamed police for the death of a motorcyclist on Sunday.

On Sunday night youths in the eastern suburb of Bagnolet, set 29 vehicles alight and threw stones and petrol bombs at police. Monday night was “relatively calm” according to Samira Amrouche, spokeswoman for the regional administration, the authorities having depolyed 40 vans of riot police only 8 vehicles were burnt.

The motorcyclist, a pizza deliveryman, was killed when he fled police attempting to examine his documents, dying when he was struck by a pursuing police vehicle according to the youths,however in the police version his death was a result of him crashing into barriers.

The current violence has echoes of the unrest in 2005, with again dissaffected youths of Arab and black descent venting their anger and frustration.

Sources

The leaders of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) met in Guadalajara, Mexico on Sunday and Monday. The leaders of the three countries (Barack Obama of the United States, Felipe Calderón of Mexico, and Stephen Harper of Canada) promised to work together on swine flu, organised crime and green issues.

Despite disputes in a number of areas remaining unresolved, the three leaders succeeded in presenting an amiable Three Amigos image. The three leaders expressed solidarity, and an understanding of each others position.

The unresolved issues include the buy American clauses in the US stimulus package, tit for tat reprisals by the Mexican authorities over Canadian visa restrictions on Mexican travellers, and the US ban on Mexican trucks from crossing the border.

Risking the ire of human rights activists back home President Obama expressed support for President Calderón’s war against drugs saying he had “great confidence” in the Mexican authorities.

Sources

Mexican Federal Police (Policía Federal) have foiled an alleged plot to assasinate the President of Mexico Felipe Calderón. Acting on intelligence gathered over a year the Federal Police arrested five drug cartel members on Sunday and publicly paraded their captives and a number of weapons ,including automatic rifles, on Monday. Speaking during a summit of North American leaders Calderón played down the threats on his life, saying that the cartels are being destroyed by his policies.

Some 11000 have died since President Calderón’s took office in 2006 and made the war on drugs a cornerstone of his administration.

Sources

Aung San Suu Kyi has been sentenced by a court in Burma to a further three years of house arrest for violating the terms of her previous sentence. However her sentence was immediately commuted to 18 months on the orders of Burmese head of state Senior-General Than Shwe out of respect for her father General Aung San and out of a desire for “national reconciliation”.

The period of her arrest will prevent Aung San Suu Kyi from participating in the general elections scheduled for 2010. The sentence was immediately condemned by Western leaders, and breaking from their usual silence, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) through its current chair Thailand issued a statement expressing disappointment. The ASEAN statement and talk of further European Union and United States sanctions are unlikely to have any impact on Southeast Asian country given the support of India and China.

The Chinese issued a statement calling for the world to respect Burmese sovereignty and laws, and is seen as an indication that China, a veto power will not support any United Nations actions.

John Yettaw whose unauthorised visit led to Aung San Suu Kyi’s prosecution has himself been sentenced to seven years imprisonment, four of which will be for hard labour.

Sources

Four employees of the Rio Tinto Group have been formally arrested in China on charges of bribery and using improper practises in its negotiations with Chinese companies. The Chinese accuse the men of improperly learning the negotiating position of Chinese companies wishing to buy iron ore, and through this charging 700 billion yuan (US$102.46 billion) more then they would otherwise have been able to

The four were initially held on espionage charges and have been held since early July. The formal charges allows the Chinese authorities to hold the four a further seven months as it prepares its case against them. Their arrests followed the collapse of an attempted by Chinese owned Chinalco to raise its stake in the Anglo-Australian Rio Tinto Group to 18%.

Sources

Michael Jackson will be the star of a film to be released on October 28, some four months after his death. The film will be primarily cut from footage of Jackson rehearsing for the series of concerts that would have taken place at the O2 in London, but will also feature interviews with Jackson’s family and friends.

The film becomes possible after AEG Live, the promoter of the O2 concerts, reached an US$60 million agreement with Columbia Pictures for over 100 hours of footage of Jackson preparing for his swan song.

“He was the architect of ‘This is it‘, and we were his builders…” said Kenny Ortega, Jackson’s collaborator on the project “…it was clear that he was on his way to another theatrical triumph.”

Sources

Friday, December 1, 2006

The U.S. government warned private financial services that al Qaeda is planning a cyber attack on the U.S. stock and bank accounts, officials said on Thursday.

Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke says: “There is no information to corroborate this aspirational threat. As a routine matter and out of an abundance of caution, US-CERT issued the situational awareness report to industry stakeholders.”

The officials said that the attacks are aimed at destroying the databases of U.S. banking and stock market web sites. The Homeland Security group claims that the threat was for all of December.

A U.S. official said that the threat was posted on an website and called for the attack to avenge the imprisonment of Muslims in the Guantanamo detention camp.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

A survey, conducted by the Patients’ Association, an independent charity devoted to defending the interests of patients, has revealed “unease and concern among health professionals” that infection control practices in the United Kingdom’s National Health Service are “endangering patients’ lives”. The survey published today, revealed that NHS infection control staff felt that infection control was inadequately financed, that training was inadequate and that much time has to be spent reassuring patients.

The Association is concerned that the financial deficits of many NHS trusts may prejudice good infection control practice because the resources allocated for this are not effectively ring-fenced. There was evidence of inadequate training and execution of good practice. The report also listed shortcomings in way supplies were acquired and delays in getting supplies of the preferred disinfectant: 2% Chlorhexidine-based solution.

BBC reported that a recent paper to a Society for General Microbiology conference by a University of Leeds team has shown that two chemical cleaners commonly used in hospitals, far from reducing the prevalence of Clostridium difficile (C. difficile) bacterium, actually increased its ability to survive. Only cleaners containing bleach had been proved effective in disposing of this bacterium. Authors of the paper refused to disclose what those two cleaners were.

There is particular concern in the Patients’ Association about the absence of adequate data on the spread of C. difficile. The Telegraph quotes Katharine Murphy, of the Patients’ Association, as saying: “Collection of data about this very dangerous infection is haphazard to say the least, and we are not getting the true picture. How can patients have confidence in their hospitals if the real threat posed by C. difficile is being played down?”

The Report found that only a fifth of respondents confirmed the collection of surgical-site infection data and that only 27% reported infection data about C. difficile; despite the requirement that Trusts collect and report these data.

Trusts are also required to report the incidence of surgical-site infection, but the Patients’ Association survey found that only a fifth of respondents confirmed the collection of these data.

The Patients Association called this a “worrying and haphazard situation”.

The Telegraph reports that experts consider that C. difficile is an even greater threat to patient’s health than MRSA.

Leicester NHS Trust has reported 49 deaths associated with C. difficile. in three of its hospitals. Six deaths have been reported at Maidstone Hospital and the Healthcare Commission has been asked to investigate. C. difficile was associated with the deaths of nearly 1000 patient in 2003.

A new Code of Practice “for the prevention and control of healthcare associated infections” was issued by the Department of Health in October 2006 under the Health Act 2006. This refers to the NHS in England and Wales only.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Glenn Crowe is running for the NDP in the Ontario provincial election, in the Bramalea-Gore-Malton riding. Wikinews’ Nick Moreau interviewed him regarding his values, his experience, and his campaign.

Crowe did not reply to various questions asked.

Stay tuned for further interviews; every candidate from every party is eligible, and will be contacted. Expect interviews from Liberals, Progressive Conservatives, New Democratic Party members, Ontario Greens, as well as members from the Family Coalition, Freedom, Communist, Libertarian, and Confederation of Regions parties, as well as independents.