Category: Other issues


Indo-Iran relations are warming up again. These cooled off when India, in order to win American favors, did not stand by Iran and abstained from voting in the UN General Assembly on a Canada-sponsored resolution against its human right violations. This was seen as Indian retaliation for Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei equating Kashmir with Afghanistan and Gaza in Palestine. Tehran and New Delhi are due to start a new round of negotiations on the latter’s investment in major Iranian oil and gas projects. According to Fars News Agency has reported that an Indian delegation is scheduled to visit Iran next week to discuss investments in Iran’s giant South Pars Gas Field and supply of certain expensive oil equipment, like drilling platforms and towers, in meetings with Iranian officials.

Also, the Iranian and Indian officials are slated to talk about New Delhi’s return to the peace pipeline project currently under construction on both the Iranian Pakistani territories. India has stayed out of the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline (also known as the Peace Pipeline) project because of its failure to strike a deal on transition fees with Pakistan. The 2700-kilometer long pipeline was to supply gas for Pakistan and India which are suffering a lack of energy sources, but India later evaded talks. Last year Iran and Pakistan declared they would finalize the agreement bilaterally if India continued to be absent in meetings. According to the project proposal, the pipeline will begin from Iran’s Assalouyeh Energy Zone in the south and stretch over 1,100 km through Iran. In Pakistan, it will pass through Baluchistan and Sindh but officials say the route may be changed if China agrees to the project.

It is expected to cost $7.4 billion. But the intangible costs are much more than that. Kashmir Watch has narrated how Iran backstabbed Pakistan when it abstained from voting asking for imposing sanctions on India for human rights violation in Kashmir thus saving India at the cost of Kashmiris. The story goes like this:

On a winter morning, with the Elbruz Mountains overlooking Tehran airport still under snow, braving cold winds, a special Indian military plane touched down. On board was an ailing Dinesh Singh, then External Affairs Minister, along with three others. Barely able to walk, Singh had been dragged out of a hospital bed to deliver an urgent letter from Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao to Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Incidentally, this was the last such tour in the 50-year diplomatic career of Singh.

Having mortgaged its gold reserves two years ago, India was on the economic brink and Russia still licking its wounds after the break-up of the Soviet Union. The Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), supported by influential Western nations, was pushing a resolution at the UN Commission Human Rights (UNCHR), later rechristened as Human Rights Council, to condemn India for human right violations in Kashmir. The resolution, with UNCHR approval, was to be referred to the UN Security Council for initiating economic sanctions and other punitive measures against India. As in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in the OIC, too, decisions are by consensus.  Once there is no consensus in the OIC, the resolution was bound to fall through.

The Iranians had no clue to the Indian Minister’s mission. Casting aside protocol, Iranian Foreign Minister Dr. Ali Akbar Velayati was at the airport when Singh alighted. Velayati asked what on earth could be of such momentous importance for Singh to risk a perilous journey in his precarious condition. In reply, Dinesh Singh smilingly handed over a demarche.

In the course of the day, he went through his “Kashmir brief” diligently in meetings with his Iranian interlocutors, namely, Velayati, President Rafsanjani and Iranian Majlis Speaker Nateq-Nouri. By evening, Singh returned to his hospital bed in Delhi, but with an assurance from President Rafsanjani to Prime Minister Rao “that Iran will do all it can do to ensure that no harm comes to India.”

What Iran gained by obliging India is an abiding mystery? Only after 72 anxious hours did Delhi learn that Iran had killed the OIC move to table the resolution. This marked a new chapter in India-Iran relations with wider consequences. Iran distanced itself from Pakistan in the matter of Afghanistan; and, India joined hands with Iran to promote the Northern Alliance, which was inimical to Pakistani interests.  Pakistan was shocked by what it termed as “backstabbing”.

The Indian delegation to the UNCHR led by Leader of the Opposition Atal Behari Vajpayee comprised minister of state for external affairs Salman Khurshid and Farooq Abdullah. Basking in this diplomatic victory, Vajpayee and Abdullah were unaware that, three days ago, Dinesh Singh had laid the ground for it in Tehran; and Rao never tried to steal the credit from Vajpayee and Abdullah.

Much later, it came to be known that when the Pakistani ambassador sought to move the OIC resolution, his Iranian counterpart in Geneva, under orders from Teheran, backed out. He argued that as a close friend of both India and Pakistan, Iran was ready to sort out their problems and there was no need to raise these in an international forum.  That was the last time Pakistan tried to get a resolution on the Kashmir issue tabled in a UN forum.

Now, the wheel has come full circle. Iranian officials say their gesture was not reciprocated, and accuse India of “backstabbing” by voting against Iran at the IAEA. The vote had already sealed the fate of the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline. Tehran which had earlier committed to provide gas below 3 dollars per British Thermal Unit (BTU) now wants a commercial price of 9 dollars.

These officials link India’s growing proximity to US, aspirations for global economic and political power, early conclusion of civilian nuclear agreements with Western powers leading it to distance itself from Tehran. The pipeline was to begin gas supply in 2012. The 7.5-billion-dollar, 2,700-kilometre pipeline has been under discussion for almost two decades. The pipeline is to begin from Iran’s Assalouyeh energy zone in the south and run over 1,100 kms through Iran. In Pakistan it is to pass through Balochistan and Sindh before linking up Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Iran was angered when India abstained on the Canada-sponsored resolution, and subsequently summoned Iran’s Charge De Affairs Reza Alaei and issued a demarche for Khamenei impinging on the country’s territorial integrity. The Iranian leader’s appeal to the world’s Muslim elite to back the “struggle” in Jammu and  Kashmir, equating it with the “nations” of Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan had New Delhi bristling. In its official reaction, the Ministry of External Affairs said: “Our decision on the vote was made after due deliberation.”

India disapproved of Khamenei’s message to Hajj pilgrims that “today the major duties of the elite of the Islamic Ummah are to provide help  to the Palestinian nation and the besieged people of Gaza, to sympathize and provide assistance to the nations of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Kashmir, to engage in struggle and resistance against the aggressions of the United States and the Zionist regime.”

Since July this year, on three occasions Iran has spoken of support to the “struggle” in Kashmir and bracketed the situation in the state with that in Gaza and Afghanistan, sources said. “We have conveyed to the Iranian authorities our deep disappointment and regret that they have chosen to disregard our sensitivities and question our territorial sovereignty”.

Though the government has often denied that deterioration of relations was due to its hobnobbing with the US and Israel,  analysts believe the chill arises from a series of developments, including India opting out of the tri-nation gas pipeline and President Obama seeking India’s support against Iran’s nuclear armament. In 2008, Tehran had protested at India deploying for the first time ever a warship in the Persian Gulf region, which operated in coordination with the western navies under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

More recently, on September 18, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast had slammed the killing of 15 Muslim protesters in Kashmir who were outraged by the threat to defile the Holy Qur’an in the US. He had said that countering such reactions could be interpreted as supporting acts of sacrilege. These comments evoked a strong diplomatic protest from New Delhi as it had not only banned the Iranian TV channel showing provocative and “unverified” visuals but also summoned Iranian envoy to lodge a protest.  India pointed out that law and order in Jammu and Kashmir was an internal matter and Iran had no right to interfere or comment on these issues.

 

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TAPI gas pipeline project already in the pipeline….

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The first sermon that Pakistanis received from the new US ambassador, as expected, was about the implications of rampant corruption in the country. It was immediately not made clear as to who was the possible audience of this sermon but it made one thing amply clear; uncle Sam’s envoy are bold (read: un-diplomatic) in and well-versed about the country of their posting, particularly when it comes to Pakistan. According to a report in the Sify News, the new US ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, said Monday the country will not be able to attract foreign investment unless and until it is able to check corruption.

While addressing industry representatives at Karachi Stock Exchange, he said: ‘Corruption in government sector can deter foreign investors and their confidence should be restored to attract maximum investment in Pakistan. Corruption in public institutions has caused a loss of over $300 billion and these institutions suffering from bad financial health need to be privatized,’ he suggested.

‘The rich and the privileged will also have to pay taxes if the financial constraints need to be overcome,’ Munter remarked adding that the ‘levying of the proposed reformed general sales tax (GST) will also broaden the tax net and increase revenue collection’. The US envoy also pointed out that several joint initiatives for energy production with the help of US firms were awaiting Pakistan government’s approval. ‘These include a project worth $375 million for producing 150 MW of electricity,’ he said.

Pakistan is facing economic problem after devastation caused by floods and terrorism across the country. The US administration is one of the major foreign donors working with the Pakistani government to avert this crisis in energy, trade and other sectors. The relationship between the United States and Pakistan is “spicy”, US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter has said.

The ambassador was in Pakistan’s cultural capital a day before where he after a hearty spicy breakfast he said: “Pakistan-US relations are spicy. No doubt traditional Pakistani food is world famous.” Talking to the media on Sunday after enjoying a traditional Lahori breakfast at a local restaurant along with his wife Dr Merilyn Wyatt and US Consul-General in Lahore Carmila Conroy, Munter said: “Pakistani people are spicy as well as sweet, very much like the Lahori food.”

The US envoy, who also relished ‘halwa-puri’ and ‘lassi’, said Lahori food was among the best food items across the world. “Being a Californian, I prefer spicy food and I have great relish for Pakistani spicy food,” he added. Talking about the recent WikiLeaks releases, Munter said they would not affect the strong Pakistan-US ties. “The United States-Pakistan relationship is strong. Pakistan’s government leaders talk to me openly and honestly and I speak with them in the same manner,” said Ambassador Munter, adding, “We continue to work very closely with the Pakistani Government.”

We often say that Pakistan’s problems can be solved through drastic measures and such decisions which are unpopular. It is a fact that no government elected by the people and brought to power by greedy coalition partners can take such unpopular decisions, be it Zardari, Sharif or anyone else. There is, however, some ray of hope. There is one leader who is known for taking unpopular decisions. In fact the only decisions that he takes without consultations subsequently turn out to be unpopular. But he is out of Pakistan and trying hard to be able to come back and remain untouched by those who want his head to be on the chopping board. The Express Tribune has reported that the Government of Pakistan is said to be under unprecedented pressure from the rulers of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to pave the way for a safe, secure and honorable homecoming for former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf.

They are also said to have asked Islamabad to initiate steps to build a favourable political image of the former military dictator and ensure that upon his return home, he will not be harassed by court cases and the police.

According to an understanding reached between the UAE and Pakistan several months ago, it was decided that the Pakistani government would facilitate Musharraf’s return as soon as the two-year bar on his participation in politics ends, sources said. Official sources claimed that the pressure had already forced President Asif Ali Zardari to curtail his visits to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

This extraordinary interest of UAE rulers in Pakistan’s internal affairs, especially in Musharraf’s political future, was thrown into light once again due to UAE’s foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed al Nahyan’s covert visit to Islamabad within three days of the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) announcement that Musharraf has been included in the investigation of former premier Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. He spent a mere 30 minutes with President Zardari before heading back home but, immediately after his visit, Interior Minister Rehman Malik told the media that the government did not intend to question Musharraf. Rehman, on November 27, categorically said that the government had not taken any decision to include Musharraf in the probe.

 

Remember that old fellow from the US State Department hired by Obama Administration for  matters relating to Pakistan, that unwelcome guest and a frequent Pakistan visitor who irritates and annoys every time he opens his mouth, that Richard Holbrooke who, in the most difficult hour of Pakistani people made most insensitive remarks about Pakistan and its friends? An average American understands and respects the sensitivities of other people but this special representative of the representatives of Americans only added insult to injury of the hapless Pakistanis whose leaders have sold them so cheap that their very mention in the WikiLeaks produces nothing but a foul stink and stench.

It has now been revealed by Sify News that he has been sharing information he possesses on Pakistan in his official capacity with India. According to the agency, US special representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke told Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao that Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari‘s government was weakening. This again was revealed by whistle blowing website WikiLeaks. In a meeting with Rao Jan 18, 2010 in New Delhi, Holbrooke spoke about the evolving political landscape in Pakistan with a ‘weakening’ President Zardari and the relationship between chief of army staff Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif and Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, The News International reported.

This man is the most serious security threat to Pakistan and should be banned from entering the country if he is not fired by Obama Administration.

During the meeting, Rao described the Indian effort in Afghanistan, saying it was focused on strengthening governance by building Afghan capacities and that the Indian engagement is transparent and should not be threatening to Pakistan. She said India needs some deliverables on terrorism before it can engage in bilateral talks with Pakistan. Holbrooke also pledged transparency with India on America’s activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

 

 

Does the British royalty have some fixation with Adolf Hitler? If there was any, it is not publically known except for the younger prince’s special attachment with the Swastika sign which he was found fondly displaying in a party a few years ago. Was it by a mere coincidence that the heir apparent to the British throne decided to remember the 66th wedding anniversary of Hitler in his special way? The wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton has been fixed to take place on April 29, 2011. The couple and their entourage spent weeks deciding on a wedding date, repeatedly liaising with officials at Buckingham Palace, No. 10 Downing Street and Westminster Abbey. But amid all the chatter, no one had the sense to look up “April 29” on Wikipedia. On that morning in 1945, Hitler married his long-time companion Eva Braun in Berlin. They killed themselves less than 40 hours later inside der Führerbunker.

According to an article in Time, Kate’s special day is associated with death and destruction in other ways, too. In 1970, the United States invaded Cambodia seeking to stop the flow of arms from North Vietnam to Viet Cong insurgents. The multi-prong offensive ultimately led to as many as 500,000 deaths. And in 1992, race riots broke out in Los Angeles following the acquittal of four white police officers seen beating motorist Rodney King on videotape. Widespread assaults, looting, murders and robbery resulted in 53 deaths, thousands of injuries, and an estimated $1 billion in property damage.

For Kate—a commoner marrying into royalty—April 29 has other associations closer to home that may stir discomfort (or at least snickers from her detractors). On that day in 1986, the royal family buried Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor and the wife of King Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne in order to marry her.  Edward’s relatives and his inner circle deemed Simpson, a twice-divorced American socialite, as wholly unsuitable for the King.

And while Kate’s accent may sound posh to Americans, Britain’s upper crust know all too well that she doesn’t come from royal—or even aristocratic—lineage. That her parents—a former pilot and flight attendant—had to earn their money reportedly made Kate and her family the butt of jokes among William’s friends. So it’s a striking coincidence that My Fair Lady—the Broadway musical about a Cockney girl who strives to transform into a lady—premiered in London on this day in 1958. On a practical note, Kate should invest in solid footwear for the big day. In 1872, Queen Victoria, the great-great-great-great grandmother of the groom, broke her toe while fly-fishing at Balmoral Castle. Few things are less dignified than walking down the aisle in crutches.

Inflation is reflected in the rise in prices of daily use items and technically indicates that the gap between demand and supply is widening. It is not an economic ill itself; it is a symptom of the fact that a country’s economy is not being managed efficiently and properly. It is measured through various price indices prepared by the statistical organizations. As it is not always possible to increase the supply of goods and services to bridge the gap, central banks try to control inflation through controlling the money supply. This is done through various monetary policy instruments. When there is less money supply and people find other alternatives more attractive to park their money in, the prices come down. This is a conventional instrument.

However, when the increase in prices is due to unconventional factors like hoarding, which is being done in Pakistan in case of Pakistan, the countries need to take unconventional measures. That has recently happened in China. The Economist has reported that the State Council, China’s cabinet, promised “forceful measures” to stabilize prices. It said it would drum up supply and crack down on hoarders and speculators. It even threatened to “interfere” with the prices of daily necessities, which might include grains, cooking oils, sugar and cotton.

Imagine, the scale of inflation is not yet a threat to the republic in China. But consumer prices rose by 4.4% in the year to October, the fastest rise for over two years. Food prices, which account for more than a third of the consumer-price index, are largely to blame: vegetables are almost a third more expensive than they were a year ago. Even the most exotic commodities have been affected. As China’s prices rise, consumer confidence and the stock markets are falling. Shanghai shares have fallen by a tenth since the inflation figures came out. Rising food prices may explain China’s inflation, but what is behind their rise? Floods, including a deluge in Hainan province last month, hurt some crops.

Harvests have also disappointed elsewhere in the world: the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization said this week that the cost of the world’s food imports may exceed $1 trillion this year, only $5 billion short of the record bill in 2008. The macroeconomic weather has also played a role. China’s banks appear determined to breach their quota of 7.5 trillion Yuan ($1.1 trillion) of new loans this year. The People’s Bank of China raised their reserve requirements this month for the fourth time this year and lifted interest rates in October for the first time since 2007. But neither step will do much to constrain banks swimming in deposits and lending to an economy growing, in nominal terms, by 15% a year.

And so the government is reaching for less conventional weapons. To shield the vulnerable, it urged local governments to raise unemployment benefits, pensions and the minimum wage in line with inflation. It also promises to increase shipments of cotton from the western region of Xinjiang, and to cut the price of electricity, gas and rail transport for fertilizer makers. To keep the population sweet, on November 22nd it will sell 200,000 tonnes of sugar. If extra supplies do not curb prices, the government may set caps. It may repeat the kinds of measures it imposed in 2008, when food inflation topped 23% after an outbreak of disease killed many of China’s pigs. Then, the government required sellers of pork, rice, noodles, cooking oil and other staples to ask permission before raising their prices.

Such controls serve as an “extreme signal” of the government’s determination to fight inflation, note Mark Williams and Qinwei Wang of Capital Economics. That may help quash self-fulfilling expectations of higher prices. But beyond that, price controls have “little to commend them.” If sellers cannot fetch a good price, they will limit the supply of what they offer, or adulterate the quality. Whenever the government stops petrol prices from rising in line with oil prices, queues at the pump merely lengthen.

Inflation undermines capitalism, according to Keynes, in part because it discredits entrepreneurs. They become “profiteers” in the eyes of those hurt by rising prices. China’s leaders promise to hunt down and punish hoarders and speculators. According to Andy Rothman of CLSA, a broker, some traders are taking possession of agricultural commodities in the hopes that prices will rise. But how to stop households buying two bottles of cooking oil rather than one?

Also read:  Rising prices in even the most exotic products

According to some reports, telecom minister of India had to resign after Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) of India unearthed a telecom scandal costing a minimum of $39 billion to Indian taxpayers.  But those who know India’s black economy are of the view that this could be just a tip of the iceberg. The Indian economy, despite its claims of growth is marred by illegal flow of black money to and from India, mostly stashed in foreign banks. This also means that corruption and illegal transfer of ill-gotten wealth is not the issue of Pakistan alone.

According to Taiwan News, India has lost hundreds of billions of dollars over the past six decades as companies and the rich stashed cash overseas to avoid taxes and hide ill-gotten gains, widening inequality and depriving the poor of crucial resources. The flood of illegal cash has swelled to ever greater heights since the early 1990s, and averaged $16 billion a year from 2002 to 2006, as India’s opening of its economy created more wealth and opportunities to move it across borders, according to the study by Dev Kar, a former International Monetary Fund economist. Kar, now senior economist at Global Financial Integrity, a Washington D.C. group that researches the flow of illicit money, said India’s black money _ at least $462 billion since the late 1940s _ could have paid for its entire infrastructure needs and much else.

The gap between India’s rich elite and the poor who number in the hundreds of millions has widened amid rapid economic growth over the past two decades, adding to social tensions, and the report says the funneling of wealth overseas has contributed to that inequality. Other analysts aren’t taking issue with Kar’s research methods but question whether the blame should be pinned on companies and privately wealthy individuals. They argue the government and corrupt politicians are the main culprits.

Kar used a World Bank model to measure the gap between the nation’s recorded sources of funds, like borrowing and foreign direct investment, and its recorded use of funds, like financing the current account deficit and foreign currency reserves. Illicit outflows are considered to exist when a country’s recorded source of funds exceeds its recorded use of funds. Kar supplemented that by looking at differences between the value of what India says it exports and what other nations say they import from India. This captures practices such as understating the value of export contracts to hide money overseas.

Adjusted for inflation, that all added up to $213 billion missing since 1948, the first full year of India’s independence from British rule. Using the short-term U.S. Treasury bill rate to estimate a conservative investment return, Kar calculated that money would be worth, at minimum, $462 billion today. The figure could be understated by half, Kar said, partly because it doesn’t cover harder to track activities including smuggling and cash transfers outside of the financial system.

Nishith Desai, founder of Nishith Desai Associates, an international tax and corporate law firm based in Mumbai, argues that corrupt officials and government agencies have more to do with illicit money than tax avoidance in the private sector, which he says is more transparent than in the past. As individual tax rates dropped _ from as high as 97.5 percent in the 1970s to about 30 percent today _ the major motivation for tax avoidance evaporated. In its wake however, is a cultural habit of evasion, which is only now beginning to erode, he said.

Desai said officials, who face public scrutiny when they accumulate wealth while on a low government salary, have more motivation to stash illicit money overseas than company executives, and the government, as India’s biggest trader, likely indulges in more manipulation of export and import contracts. Much private-sector corruption is also done under government compulsion, he said. Though economic liberalization ended the so-called License Raj _ during which New Delhi kept tight, lucrative control of business permits _ many opportunities for corruption remain.

Private players pouring into sectors like telecoms and banking still need licenses. This week, the telecom minister resigned over alleged licensing irregularities that may have cost the treasury 1.76 trillion rupees ($39 billion). The government is also the major intermediary in land deals. Desai and others say bribes are common in land sales, which are proliferating as India’s growth spurs the development of mines, factories, buildings and special economic zones.

Regardless of debate about who is most to blame, the report shows the tide of money has been unrelenting even as India makes some efforts to clamp down on the hidden economy. The government has ramped up tax collection efforts and renegotiated its tax treaty with Switzerland to give it greater access to information for investigations of tax fraud. It already has good access to information from Mauritius, a major offshore financial center for rich Indians and companies. Many hope the government’s ambitious plan to give every citizen a unique identity number will also widen the tax net and make evasion harder.

And under pressure from opposition politicians, the Congress Party in recent weeks forced three high-ranking officials including the telecoms minister to step down amid corruption allegations. But critics say such gestures are cosmetic and will do little to stem growing popular frustration at India’s elite.

“Catch some of those high-profile guys, Bollywood fellows and cricket stars and make an example out of them,” Kar said. “If they don’t address this now, they’re going to be stuck with a much bigger problem which will tear at the heart of India. Mark my words. People are losing patience.”

Pakistani politicians of the ruling party are working overtime these days announcing death sentence through public hanging for some journalists of a media group who are guilty of exposing the (mis)deeds of the party seniors. These journalists were first labeled as enemy agents in the assembly session of one province and were subsequently convicted during the session of another assembly. It is not possible to comment on the quality of their speeches as the matter is sub judice in the Supreme Court but it will be quite in order to report the consequences of irresponsible utterances of another politicians in another land. The reference may not be relevant as Pakistani politicians can get away with anything.

The Huffington Post has reported that a British politician was arrested after allegedly posting a message on Twitter that called for a Muslim journalist to be stoned to death, the Associated Press is reporting. Birmingham City Councilor Gareth Compton took to his Twitter page to vent frustrations about Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, a liberal columnist for The Independent, who made a radio appearance Wednesday discussing human rights in China.

According to the BBC, Compton’s subsequent post in light of the broadcast read, “Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death? I shan’t tell Amnesty if you don’t. It would be a blessing, really.” The post was removed from the site, and Compton reportedly took to his account once again to apologize. “I made an ill-conceived attempt at humor in response to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown on Radio 5,” he wrote. “I [apologize] for any offense caused, it was wholly unintentional.”

Speaking to the BBC, Alibhai-Brown called Compton’s actions “loathsome,” and noted his “flippant apology” would not be enough. “If I, as a Muslim woman, had said about him what he said about me then I would be arrested in these times of the war against terror,” she said. Though Compton has since been released on bail, spokesmen for the Conservative Party say the councilor’s membership has been suspended indefinitely pending further investigation.

The moral of the story is that these irresponsible utterances can cost you very dearly if the judiciary is independent and there is a rule of law.

President Obama has spent three days in India and has, along with the first lady, been dancing to the tune of Bollywood songs. He must have learnt so many things about Indian customs, traditions and superstitions.  One of this is about the shuguns or omens. The rule of these shuguns dictate that he should immediately call of his visit to south Korea because the Indonesian volcano is a bad shugun. It has already made him think about shortening his visit durations.

Los Angeles Times has reported that President Obama will probably cut short his one-day Indonesia visit because volcanic ash is complicating air travel in the region, aides said as Air Force One arrived here Tuesday. The change would be just the latest of several disruptions in the president’s trip to the country where he lived for a while as a child.

The Tuesday arrival comes after two cancellations earlier in the year, first because of a congressional vote on the president’s healthcare plan and then because of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Originally, Obama had hoped to bring his daughters and stay for a few days. When the Indonesia visit became part of an economics-focused tour of Asia this month, the stop here was shortened to just a day. First Lady Michelle Obama is the only member of the family accompanying him.

The president still plans to deliver an address to university students and visit a mosque, but aides may change other parts of his schedule, press secretary Robert Gibbs said Tuesday.

President Obama spent a considerable part of his boyhood in Indonesia with his mom and step dad.

Social networking is not the need of commoners alone, the royals also need to have a network. The longest-reigning monarch, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II has joined Facebook, launching a series of official pages offering the website’s 500 million users daily updates on her engagements, the royal household said Sunday. The 84-year-old British monarch will be featured in videos, photos and news items on the site, which will be available from Monday, alongside other members of the country’s royal family, including Princes William and Harry.

Users will be able leave messages or comments for Buckingham Palace on the site and find details of royal events close to their homes. However, because the pages will be corporate – and not a personal account – people won’t be able to request to become friends with the queen. A royal official said the queen had personally approved the plan, but acknowledged she has not actually used the site herself.

“The decision went right up to the queen,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to discuss the plan ahead of its official launch. “If you are going to have an online presence in 2010, you just have to be on Facebook.”

The Facebook page is the queen’s latest social media venture – the royal family already have an account on the Flickr photography website, joined Twitter in 2009 and set up a video channel on YouTube in 2007. Buckingham Palace set up its own website in 1997, which now allows people to apply for palace jobs online, track the royal family via Google Maps or read details in a section devoted to the queen’s prized corgi dogs.

Her Facebook site will include Britain’s court circular, the official daily record of the royal family’s engagements. It lists all royal diary appointments from the previous day and was created by George III in 1803, reportedly after he became frustrated at inaccurate newspaper reports.

 

Please also read:  Another royal snub-Queen invites every notable except Fergie and the Obamas….