Gorbachev: Victory is impossible in Afghanistan

Speaking in a BBC interview from Moscow, Gorbachev praised the decision by US President Barack Obama to begin withdrawing troops next year.

“Victory is impossible in Afghanistan. Obama is right to pull the troops out. No matter how difficult it will be,” said Gorbachev.

The former leader, who was in power when the ex-Soviet Union pulled its troops out of Afghanistan in the late 1980s, said there had been an agreement at the time that Afghanistan would remain a neutral country.

“We had hoped America would abide by the agreement that we reached that Afghanistan should be a neutral, democratic country, that would have good relations with its neighbours and with both the US and the USSR,” said Gorbachev.

“The Americans always said they supported this, but at the same time they were training militants – the same ones who today are terrorising Afghanistan and more and more of Pakistan,” he added.

Because of that history, it would be difficult for the US to get out of the situation.

“But what’s the alternative – another Vietnam? Sending in half-a-million troops? That wouldn’t work,” said Gorbachev. – Sapa-dpa

Times live

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Last year’s most popular name for baby boys in England has been knocked off — by Mohammed.

That’s not immediately obvious from data put out this week by the Office of National Statistics, which declared Wednesday that Oliver was the single most popular name for boys born in 2009.

But a CNN analysis of the top 4,500 boys names shows that, when different spellings of the name are lumped together, Mohammed is No. 1.

Oliver and variations come second, followed by Jack, Thomas, Charles, Harry, William and Daniel.

The United Kingdom is about 4.6 percent Muslim, with just under 2.9 million Muslims according to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

And Muslims have a strong tendency to name their sons Mohammed.

“The first reason why people keep the children’s name Mohammed is because of their love of the prophet Mohammed, because they want to emulate him,” said Imam Abdullah al-Hasan of the East London Mosque.

“They want to copy him not just through his behavior and conduct, but also his name,” said the imam, who is thinking about naming his own newborn son after the founder of Islam.

The Muslim population has risen rapidly in Western Europe in the past 20 years, according to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

From under 10 million in 1990, it’s gone up to about 17 million today, the think tank said in a report last month.

That has be accompanied by tensions ranging from racial violence in parts of England to legal restrictions like banning the burqa in France and banning minarets in Switzerland.

But al-Hasan says Britain has nothing to fear.

“One message I would give to them is that you shouldn’t be surprised. You shouldn’t be scared. You shouldn’t be frightened or anything like that,” he said.

“It shows that Islam is here to stay in Britain. Islam is here to stay in Europe,” he said. “It’s not alien from the Western society. It’s not alien to the British context.”

CNN

Shaykh Ibn Uthaymeen – Who is the Just Leader?

A former head of MI5 has accused the government of exploiting the fear of terrorism and trying to bring in laws that restrict civil liberties.

Ministers ‘using fear of terror’

In an interview in a Spanish newspaper, published in the Daily Telegraph, Dame Stella Rimington, 73, also accuses the US of “tortures”.

The Home Office said it was vital to strike a right balance between privacy, protection and sharing personal data.

It said any policies which impact on privacy must be “proportionate”.

Dame Stella, who stood down as the director general of the security service in 1996, has previously been critical of the government’s policies, including its attempts to extend pre-charge detention for terror suspects to 42 days and the controversial plan to introduce ID cards.

“It would be better that the government recognised that there are risks, rather than frightening people in order to be able to pass laws which restrict civil liberties, precisely one of the objects of terrorism – that we live in fear and under a police state,” she told the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia.

Seven years after 9/11 it is time to take stock and to repeal abusive laws and policies enacted in recent years.
Former Irish president Mary Robinson

She said the British security services were “no angels,” but they did not kill people.

“The US has gone too far with Guantanamo and the tortures,” she said.

“MI5 does not do that. Furthermore it has achieved the opposite effect – there are more and more suicide terrorists finding a greater justification.”

‘Take stock’

Dame Stella’s comments come as a study is published by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) that accuses the US and the UK of undermining the framework of international law.

Former Irish president Mary Robinson, the president of the ICJ said: “Seven years after 9/11 it is time to take stock and to repeal abusive laws and policies enacted in recent years.

“Human rights and international humanitarian law provide a strong and flexible framework to address terrorist threats.”

The BBC’s security correspondent Frank Gardner said the ICJ report would probably have more of an impact than Dame Stella’s remarks because it was a wide-ranging, three-year study carried out by an eminent group of practising legal experts.

Dame Stella appeared to be more restrained in her comments than the ICJ, he added.

She was keen to stress the risk of civil liberties being curtailed, while the jurists insisted that international law had already been “actively undermined”.

Shadow security minister Baroness Neville-Jones said the Conservatives were “committed to ensuring that security measures are proportionate and adhere to the rule of law”.

The Tories said the government’s push to extend the detention time limit for terror suspects was the kind of measure condemned by the report.

Human rights campaign group Liberty pointed to a number of other recent developments it said represented “a creeping encroachment on our fundamental rights”:

  • Government plans for a giant database to record the times, dates and recipients of all emails and text messages sent and phone calls made in the UK
  • The growth of Britain’s DNA database – it is now the world’s largest, per head of population, with samples from some 4m people
  • The use by councils of laws designed to track criminals and terrorists to spy on ordinary citizens. In one case a family was watched to see if they were really living in a school catchment area
  • The spread of CCTV cameras. Britain now reportedly has some 4m, the highest density in western Europe
  • Proposals for “secret inquests,” excluding relatives, juries and the media, which the government says would prevent intelligence details leaking out

Isabella Sankey, director of policy at Liberty, said she was “enormously heartened” by what Dame Stella had said.

“Over the last seven years, we’ve seen a number of measures passed, some of which affect very few of us in a horrible and terrible way, whether that’s house arrest under control orders or rendition and torture in foreign states,” she said.

We have very broad police powers which sweep the innocent up with the guilty
Isabella Sankey, Liberty

“We’ve also seen many, many measures that affect all of us just a little bit and, most of all, which seriously impact our rights to privacy.

“We have very broad police powers which sweep the innocent up with the guilty.”

‘Effective safeguards’

A Home Office spokesman said: “The government has been clear that where surveillance or data collection will impact on privacy they should only be used where it is necessary and proportionate.”

“This provides law enforcement agencies with the tools to protect the public as well as ensuring government has the ability to provide effective public services while ensuring there are effective safeguards and a solid legal framework that protects civil liberties.”

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey said: “This is damning testament to just how much liberty has been ineffectually sacrificed in the ‘war on terror’.”

Dame Stella became the first female head of MI5 in 1992.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/uk/7893890.stm

Have you ever wondered why foreigners have trouble with the English Language?

Let’s face it
English is a stupid language.
There is no egg in the eggplant
No ham in the hamburger
And neither pine nor apple in the pineapple.
English muffins were not invented in England
French fries were not invented in France.

We sometimes take English for granted
But if we examine its paradoxes we find that
Quicksand takes you down slowly
Boxing rings are square
And a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

If writers write, how come fingers don’t fing.
If the plural of tooth is teeth
Shouldn’t the plural of phone booth be phone beeth
If the teacher taught,
Why didn’t the preacher praught.

If a vegetarian eats vegetables
What the heck does a humanitarian eat!?
Why do people recite at a play
Yet play at a recital?
Park on driveways and
Drive on parkways

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy
Of a language where a house can burn up as
It burns down
And in which you fill in a form
By filling it out
And a bell is only heard once it goes!

English was invented by people, not computers
And it reflects the creativity of the human race
(Which of course isn’t a race at all)

That is why:
When the stars are out they are visible,
But when the lights are out they are invisible.
And why it is that when I wind up my watch
It starts,
But when I wind up this poem
It ends.

Allegations that US soldiers posted photographs of dead Iraqis on a website in exchange for access to pornography

Allegations that US soldiers posted photographs of dead Iraqis on a website in exchange for access to pornography are being investigated by the Pentagon.

An army spokesman said the posting of such pictures by soldiers could be a violation of the military code.The authenticity of the pictures – some of which are also said to come from Afghanistan – has not been determined.The US military was hit by scandal in 2004 when photographs of US guards abusing Iraqi prisoners emerged.

‘Trade in misery’ The Council on American-Islamic Relations called for an investigation after reports of the pornographic website showing pictures of corpses emerged last week. 

Obviously it is an unacceptable practice
Bryan Whitman
Pentagon spokesman
“This disgusting trade in human misery is an insult to all those who have served in our nation’s military,” Arsalan Iftikhar, the group’s legal director wrote in a letter to Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.A spokesman for Mr Rumsfeld said on Tuesday that the Pentagon had recently become aware of the allegations and was looking into them.”Obviously it is an unacceptable practice,” Bryan Whitman said.Pentagon officials have said the allegations also raise questions about whether the postings could be viewed as violations of the Geneva Conventions, the New York Times reports.Protocol I of the international conventions says: “The remains of persons who have died for reasons related to occupation or in detention resulting from occupation or hostilities… shall be respected.”The US, however, is not party to this protocol, which was added to the conventions in 1977.‘Newsworthy’ The website on which the controversial images appear was originally set up for users to trade pornographic pictures of their wives and girlfriends. 

[The soldiers] can take the digital cameras and take a picture and send it to me, and that’s the most raw you can get it
Chris Wilson
website owner
Interviewed by the Online Journalism Review of the Annenberg School for Communications last week, the owner of the site said he had offered soldiers free access if they could prove they were members of the military.Chris Wilson said some sent in pictures of Baghdad traffic signs or of aspects of their life abroad, others sent in pictures of corpses and dismembered bodies.The pictures are often accompanied by commentaries celebrating the killings but the forum also includes a space for discussion about the war and its purpose.”This is directly from them [the soldiers]. They can take the digital cameras and take a picture and send it to me, and that’s the most raw you can get it. I like to see it from their point of view, and I think it’s newsworthy,” Mr Wilson told the Online Journalism Review. 

Sufyaan at-Thauri, was asked which was prefered; jihad or reading the Quran…

Sufyaan at-Thauri, was asked which was prefered; jihad or reading the Quran. He replied that reading the Quran is preferred and as part of his evidence, he quoted the hadith:

“The best of you is he who learns the Quran and teaches it to others.”

Bukhari

*The statement of Sufyaan can be found in Fathul Bari.

Abdul Ghani the author of; Haqeeqah al-walaa wa al-Baraa fi mutaqad ahl al-sunnah wa al-jammah, said in support of sufyaan’s view:

“There is nothing strange in Sufyaan al-Thauri (May Allah have mercy on him) giving preference to reciting the Quran over jihad. This is because jihad can be attended to by many, many people. The qualities and prerequisites for jihad are found in many among the Muslim nation. However, those who excel in reciting the Quran, being knowledgeable of its laws and being able to teach it to the Muslims are few in number. Therefore, their remaining behind and spending their time in teaching the Muslims the Book of Allah is better in their case than their going out for jihad, especially if the jihad is one which is a communal obligation and there people attending to it. In that case, the learning of the Quran and teaching it to the Muslims is in itself a type of jihad.”

The above was extracted from: “How to approach and understand the Quran.” By Jamaal al-Din M. Zarabozo

Report slams Pakistan drone strikes

New information on the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) campaign of drone strikes in northwest Pakistan directly contradicts the image the Barack Obama administration and the CIA have sought to establish in the news media of a programme based on highly accurate targeting that is effective in disrupting al-Qaeda’s terrorist plots against the United States.

A new report on civilian casualties in the war in Pakistan has revealed direct evidence that a house was targeted for a drone attack merely because it had been visited by a group of Taliban fighters.

The report came shortly after publication of the results of a survey of opinion within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan showing overwhelming popular opposition to the drone strikes and majority support for suicide attacks on US forces under somfe circumstances.

Meanwhile, data on targeting of the drone strikes in Pakistan indicate that they have now become primarily an adjunct of the US war in Afghanistan, targeting almost entirely militant groups involved in the Afghan insurgency rather than al Qaeda officials involved in plotting global terrorism.

The new report published by the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) last week offers the first glimpse of the drone strikes based on actual interviews with civilian victims of the strikes.

In an interview with a researcher for CIVIC, a civilian victim of a drone strike in North Waziristan carried out during the Obama administration recounted how his home had been visited by Taliban fighters asking for lunch. He said he had agreed out of fear of refusing them.

The very next day, he recalled, the house was destroyed by a missile from a drone, killing his only son.

The CIVIC researcher, Christopher Rogers, investigated nine of the 139 drone strikes carried out since the beginning of 2009 and found that a total of 30 civilians had been killed in those strikes, including 14 women and children.

Hundreds of civilians killed

If that average rate of 3.33 civilian casualties for each drone bombing is typical of all the strikes since the rules for the strikes were loosened in early 2008, it would suggest that roughly 460 civilians have been killed in the drone campaign during that period.

The total number of deaths from the drone war in Pakistan since early 2008 is unknown, but has been estimated by Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann of the New America Foundation at between 1,109 and 1,734.

Only 66 leading officials in al-Qaeda or other anti-US groups have been killed in the bombings. Reports on the bombings have listed the vast majority of the victims as “militants”, without further explanation.

The victim’s account of a drone attack based on the flimsiest rationale is consistent with the revelation in New York Times reporter David Sanger’s book “The Inheritance” that the CIA was given much greater freedom in early 2008 to hit targets that might well involve killing innocent civilians.

The original rationale of the drone campaign was to “decapitate” al-Qaeda by targeting a list of high-ranking al-Qaeda officials. The rules of engagement required firm evidence that there were no civilians at the location who would be killed by the strike.

But in January 2008 the CIA persuaded President George W. Bush to approve a set of “permissions” proposed by the CIA that same month which allowed the agency to target locations rather than identified al Qaeda leaders if those locations were linked to a “signature” – a pattern of behaviour on the part of al Qaeda officials that had been observed over time.

That meant the CIA could now bomb a motorcade or a house if it was believed to be linked to al-Qaeda, without identifying any particular individual target.

A high-ranking Bush administration national security official told Sanger that Bush later authorised even further widening of the power of the CIA’s operations directorate to make life or death decisions based on inferences rather than hard evidence. The official acknowledged that giving the CIA so much latitude was “risky”, because “you can make more mistakes – you can hit the wrong house, or misidentify the motorcade.”

CIA ‘intelligence’

The extraordinary power ceded to the CIA operations directorate under the programme provoked serious concerns in the intelligence community, according to one former intelligence official. It allowed that directorate to collect the intelligence on potential targets in the FATA, interpret its own intelligence and then make lethal decisions based on that interpretation – all without any outside check on the judgments it was making, even from CIA’s own directorate of intelligence.

Officials from other intelligence agencies have sought repeatedly to learn more about how the operations directorate was making targeting decisions but were rebuffed, according to the source.

Some national security officials, including mid-level officials involved in the drone programme itself, have warned in the past that the drone strikes have increased anti-Americanism and boosted recruitment for the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda. New support for that conclusion has now come from the results of a survey of opinion on the strikes in FATA published by the New America Foundation and Terror Free Tomorrow.

The survey shows that 76 percent of the 1,000 FATA residents surveyed oppose drone strikes and that nearly half of those surveyed believe they kill mostly civilians.

Sixty percent of those surveyed believed that suicide bombings against the US military are “often or sometimes justified”.

Meanwhile, data on the targeting of drone strikes make it clear that the programme, which the Obama administration and the CIA have justified as effective in disrupting al-Qaeda terrorism, is now focused on areas where Afghan and Pakistani militants are engaged in the war in Afghanistan.

Most al Qaeda leaders and the Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, who has been closely allied with al Qaeda against the Pakistani government, have operated in South Waziristan.

North Waziristan is where the Haqqani network provides safe havens to Pashtun insurgents fighting U.S.-NATO troops in Afghanistan. It is also where Hafiz Gul Bahadur, leader of a Pakistani Taliban faction who has called for supporting the Afghan insurgency rather than jihad against the Pakistani government, operates.

In 2009, just over half the drone strikes were still carried out in South Waziristan. But in 2010, 90 per cent of the 86 drone strikes carried out thus far have been in North Waziristan, according to data collected by Bill Roggio and Alexander Mayer and published on the website of the Long War Journal, which supports the drone campaign.

The dramatic shift in targeting came after al Qaeda officials were reported to have fled from South Waziristan to Karachi and other major cities.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration was privately acknowledging that the war would be a failure unless the Pakistani military changed its policy of giving the Haqqani network a safe haven in North Waziristan.

When asked whether the drone campaign was now primarily about the war in Afghanistan rather than al-Qaeda terrorism, Peter Bergen of the New America Foundation’s Counterterrorism Strategy Initiative said, “I think that’s a reasonable conclusion.”

Bergen has defended the drone campaign in the past as “the only game in town” in combating terrorism by al Qaeda.

Another Useful Link

The link:

http://ethos.bl.uk/Home.do

 

About EThOS

The aim of EThOS is:

  • To offer a ‘single point of access’ where researchers the world over can access ALL theses produced by UK Higher Education
  • To support Higher Education Institutions through the transition from print to e-theses
  • To help UK Higher Education Institutions expand available content by digitising paper theses
  • To demonstrate the quality of UK research and help attract students and research investment into UK HE

To achieve this, EThOS offers a coherent and consistent interface by implementing a central ‘hub’ comprising an e-store and a digitisation suite at The British Library site in Boston Spa, Yorkshire. The hub automatically harvests e-theses from Institutional Repositories and digitises paper theses from participating institutions to offer the single point of access..

Many UK institutions support Open Access to their theses, so download of their digital and digitised theses is free to the researcher. A small number of participating institutions may not be able to offer Open Access and in this case the researcher may have to pay for the digitisation.

Where a thesis must be digitised before supply, you can expect a short delay. However, you will be informed when the thesis is ready for collection and you can then log on to the system and download it.

EThOS can only offer the theses of participating institutions. While we expect a large number of institutions to take part, we cannot supply from an institutions which chooses not to. In this case, you should approach the institution’s library directly to gain access to a thesis.

Shaytan’s old trick…

 

Mystic crocodiles draw thousands of devotees in southern Pakistan

Fri Nov 26, 4:04 PM ET

 

KARACHI (AFP) – Crocodiles with huge teeth-filled mouths lie in the sand and slap their snouts on the edge of sulfur springs, greeting worshippers who journey to the Mango Pir shrine on the outskirts of Pakistan’s volatile port city Karachi.

 

A cat watching a gathering of crocodiles at the 700-year old Mango Pir Shrine, some 25 kms (15.5 miles) southwest of Karachi. Crocodiles with huge teeth-filled mouths lie in the sand and slap their snouts on the edge of sulfur springs, greeting worshippers who journey to the Mango Pir shrine on the outskirts of the southern city.(AFP/File/Aamir Qureshi)
 

It is one of thousands of Sufi shrines in this Islamic republic, where millions of devotees set out on pilgrimages, from all corners of the country, to pray, chant, dance, sing, occasionally smoke hashish, and seek healing.

 

Sufism is the most artistic, liberal strand of Islam, embracing song and dance as expressions of love for God.

 

The 700-year old Mango Pir shrine, 25 kilometers (15 miles) southwest of the city centre, is believed to be the resting place of a Hindu bandit who tried to rob the caravan of Baba Farid Shakar Ganj, a 13th century Sufi saint.

 

According to local legend, Mango Pir converted from Hinduism to Islam when he realised his sin, and in reward Ganj gave him lice which grew into crocodiles.

 

The compound surrounding his shrine swarms with some 150 crocodiles. Devotees regard the deadly reptiles as sacred, and potential fulfillers of their most fervent wishes.

 

Pilgrims journeying to Mango Pir make offerings not to the buried there, but to the scaly creatures.

 

“We have been serving these crocodiles for seven centuries and many generations. My forefathers were the followers of Mango Pir, who assigned them this task,” Mohammad Sajjad Barfat, caretaker of the crocodile’s sanctuary, told AFP.

 

Wildlife experts are unsure how the crocodiles came to be there. Some believe they may be traced back to a time when the area was a swamp.

 

“The area may have been a wetland some time in history and that could be the only explanation of their presence at such an isolated place,” said World Conservation Union (IUCN) researcher Tahir Qureshi.

 

“Earlier, their natural habitat was available to them. But now they are confined to ponds and their subsistence largely relies on artificial food.”

 

Pilgrims, including many from neighbouring India just 400 kilometers (250 miles) away, give beef, mutton or chicken to the crocodiles as offerings in the hope they will make their wishes come true.

 

Acceptance of the meat offerings by the “king” of the crocodiles, known as More Sawab, is taken as a sign that a wish will be granted.

 

“If More Sawab accepts the offering, that means the wish of the devotee is fulfilled,” caretaker Barfat said.

 

Despite being the largest of the crocodiles, More Sawab is reputed to be friendly towards humans, although such tall tales are legion in South Asia.

 

“I cannot forget the incident when a child of 10 years tumbled into the pond and everyone including his mother were sure of child’s ill fate,” recalled the caretaker.

 

“But More Sawab nudged the child with his snout to help him reach the bank of the pond. It was amazing to witness.”

 

The Mango Pir draws leprosy patients and those suffering from chronic skin diseases, seeking to bathe in the lukewarm waters gushing outside the shrine.

Scientists say the water may contain sulfur, which has therapeutic value in healing scabies, a common disease among people living in crowded areas in unhygienic conditions.

However it can aggravate other diseases.

“This is a general misconception about the Mango Pir stream, which could be good for scabies because of sulfur in the water but disastrous for (leprosy patients),” said dermatologist Sharaf Ali Shah.

Bathing in the mild gushing springs, Roshan Ali was unfazed.

“A close relative of mine told me of this sacred water and I took a bath here,” Ali told AFP.

“It cured my chronic leprosy.”

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