US Sending Sesame St. To Pakistan To Battle Fundamentalist Intolerance

[Perhaps this might reach a few little Pakistani minds, after all.   Just consider how many minds were damaged by our “gift” of the CIA/State Dept.’s Jihadi textbooks.]

U.S. Bankrolls Pakistani Sesame Street Hoping It Will ‘Increase Tolerance’

Associated Press

  • Pakistani Sesame Street Puppets

    October 13, 2011: A Pakistani artist gives final touches to characters of Pakistani Sesame Street in Lahore, Pakistan.

LAHORE, Pakistan –  Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch are nowhere in sight. But there’s Elmo. And new creatures too, like Baily, a kindly donkey who loves to sing, and Haseen O Jameel, a vain crocodile who lives at the bottom of a well.

Sesame Street is coming to Pakistan but not as generations of Americans know it.

The TV show has a new cast of local characters led by a vivacious 6-year-old girl named Rani who loves cricket and traditional Pakistani music. Her sidekick, Munna, is a 5-year-old boy obsessed with numbers and banging away on Pakistani bongo drums, or tabla.

The U.S. is bankrolling the initiative with $20 million, hoping it will improve education in a country where one-third of primary school-age children are not in class. Washington also hopes the program will increase tolerance at a time when the influence of radical views is growing.

“One of the key goals of the show in Pakistan is to increase tolerance toward groups like women and ethnic minorities,” said Larry Dolan, who was the head education officer for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Pakistan until very recently.

The show, which started filming last week and will air at the end of November, was jointly developed by Sesame Workshop, the creator of the American series, and Rafi Peer Theater Workshop, a group in the Pakistani city of Lahore that has been staging puppet shows for more than three decades.

The American version of Sesame Street first aired in 1969, and the U.S. government has worked with the company since then to produce shows in about 20 foreign countries, including Muslim nations like Bangladesh and Indonesia.

Perhaps nowhere else are the stakes as high as in Pakistan. The U.S. is worried that growing radicalization could one day destabilize the nuclear-armed country. Washington has committed to spend $7.5 billion in civilian aid in Pakistan over five years, despite accusations that the country is aiding insurgents in neighboring Afghanistan.

Rani, the new program’s star, sports pigtails and a blue and white school uniform. Her innate curiosity is exemplified by the magnifying glass she often carries and her endless stream of questions. She is captain of the school cricket team and plays the harmonium, an instrument used to perform Qawwali music.

The creators chose Rani as the lead character to emphasize the importance of sending girls to school, something that doesn’t often happen in Pakistan’s conservative, male-dominated society, said Faizaan Peerzada, the chief operating officer of Rafi Peer and one of several family members who run the organization.

“It makes the girl stand equally with the boy, which is very clear,” said Peerzada.

Rani and Munna are joined by Baily the donkey, Haseen O Jameel the crocodile, and Baaji, a spirited woman who serves as a mother figure for the others.

Elmo, the lovable, red, child monster, is the only traditional Sesame Street character on the show, which is called Sim Sim Hamara, or Our Sim Sim.

The action centers around a mock-up of a Pakistani town, complete with houses, a school and Baaji’s dhaba, a small shop and restaurant found in many places in the country. The town also includes a large Banyan tree, known as the wisdom tree in South Asia, in the shade of which the children often play.

Given the intense ethnic and regional divisions within Pakistan, the creators tried to build a set that was recognizable to Pakistani children but did not stand out as being from one part of the country. For similar reasons, the skin colors of the puppets range from very light brown to orange.

A total of 78 episodes will be aired in Pakistan’s national language, Urdu, over the next three years, as well as 13 in each of the four main regional languages, Baluchi, Pashtu, Punjabi and Sindhi. The shows will appear on Pakistan state television, and the producers hope they will reach 3 million children, 1 million of whom are out of school.

They also plan radio programs and 600 live puppet performances they hope will reach millions more kids and parents.

Each episode will be based around a word and a number, like the U.S. version, and will tackle general themes like friendship, respect and valuing diversity. This last theme is particularly important in Pakistan, where Islamist extremists often target minority religious sects and others who disagree with their views.

“There are many situations where we coexist peacefully, and that’s what we want to focus on,” said Imraan Peerzada, the show’s head writer.

The program will feature holidays celebrated by Muslims, Christians and Hindus in an attempt to get children to respect the traditions of different religious groups in Pakistan, said Peerzada.

American officials stressed they were not involved in creating content for the show. The U.S. is extremely unpopular in Pakistan, and suspicions run high about American manipulation in the country.

The creators realize that there is some risk of militant backlash. Events held by Rafi Peer have been attacked several times in the past, including a world arts festival in 2008 that was hit by three small bomb blasts that wounded at least half a dozen people.

“We can’t just stop because of this fear,” said Faizaan Peerzada.

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Chief US Ally Kenya Air Force Accused of Refugee Camp Bombing In Somalia

5 killed, dozens hurt in Somalia after airstrike

FILE – In this Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011 file photo, Kenyan military board a truck headed to Somalia, near Liboi at the border with Somalia in Kenya. Kenyan troops will stay in southern Somalia until Kenyans feel safe again, the chief of Kenya’s armed forces said Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011 raising questions about whether Kenya risks becoming bogged down in an open-ended occupation of its war-ravaged neighbor. (AP Photo, File)

By KATHARINE HOURELD

The Associated Press

NAIROBI, Kenya — An air strike hit a refugee camp in southern Somalia, killing at least five people and wounding 45, most of them children, an international aid agency said Monday. Kenya’s military acknowledged carrying out an air raid but said it targeted only Islamist militants.

Details emerged, meanwhile, about an American-Somali man who al-Shabab said carried out a suicide attack against an African Union base in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, on Saturday. Abdisalan Hussein Ali was 19 at the time he disappeared from Minnesota, which has a large Somali-American community, in November 2008.

In July 2010, he was among several men indicted in a long-running investigation in Minnesota. Charges against him included conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and conspiracy to kill, maim, kidnap and injure. The U.S. hasn’t yet confirmed the identity of the bomber. FBI spokesman Kyle Loven in Minneapolis said the agency is using DNA to try to make a positive identification.

A Somali Islamist militant group used the casualties from the Kenyan air strike as a recruitment tool to try to win even more recruits. Kenyan military spokesman Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir, though, blamed an al-Shabab fighter for the civilian deaths, saying an al-Shabab fighter drove a burning truck of ammunition into the refugee camp in the town of Jilib where it exploded.

Chirchir said the Kenyan air force hit the truck on Sunday as it drove away from an al-Shabab training camp and accused the driver of attempting to use the refugees as a human shield. He said 10 al-Shabab members were killed and 47 wounded in the attack, citing informers on the ground.

But Doctors Without Borders, also known as Medicines Sans Frontieres or MSF, said the aerial bombardment hit the camp for displaced people. MSF said it treated 52 wounded people. As of Monday morning, MSF confirmed five deaths and said it was still treating 45 wounded, 31 of them children. Seven other patients had been discharged after receiving treatment. The head of the MSF mission in Somalia, Gautam Chatterjee, said most of the wounded had shrapnel injuries.

Jilib town elder Ahmed Sheik Don said the planes hit a bus stop and near the camp before finally hitting a base of al-Shabab, an insurgent group linked to al-Qaida.

It was impossible to immediately reconcile the different versions. Either way, civilian casualties would be a public relations issue for Kenya and could turn ordinary Somalis against Kenya’s military intervention in the lawless nation.

Residents said hundreds ran for cover Sunday as bombs exploded. The town’s population has ballooned this year as about 1,500 families fled to the area amid a famine that has wracked the south. Residents reported that al-Shabab fighters were among the casualties.

Sheik Abukar Ali Aden, an al-Shabab official in southern Somalia, said the militants donated food to those affected by the airstrikes. Bearded men and masked fighters used megaphones to ask Somalis to join their militant group.

“I am urging all Muslims in the Jubba regions to raise their heads and defend themselves against the enemy massacring them,” Aden said at a news conference in the southern port town of Kismayo. “Go! go to the front lines and make jihad with the Christian enemy.”

Kenya sent troops across the border into Somalia in mid-October following cross-border kidnappings blamed on gunmen from southern Somalia.

Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said his government is looking into the airstrike and reports of civilian deaths.

“If it has taken place then it is an unfortunate incident and we are sorry about that,” Ali said during a press conference in Nairobi alongside Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Odinga added: “Our troops have not targeted civilians. It would be most unfortunate.”

The U.N. representative for Somalia, Augustine P. Mahiga, said civilians must be protected during any party’s military operations. He said the U.N. hopes that Kenya’s push into southern Somalia will help gain access to famine victims.

“We think this in the end will contribute to the sum total of gaining more territory, greater security and therefore more access to the victims of famine anddrought, especially in south-central Somalia,” Mahiga said.

The Danish Refugee Council, meanwhile, said it has made its first contact with an American aid worker and her Danish colleague who were kidnapped last week in northern Somalia.

“It has been some very long days as we have been waiting for signs of life. It is truly a relief that we now have received the message that they are as well as possible their circumstances taken into consideration,” said Ann Mary Olsen, the head of the Danish Refugee Council’s International Department.

Olsen said the aid agency is appealing to traditional leaders and clan elders to help release the hostages.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991. African Union troops have been engaged in fierce fighting in Mogadishu to push al-Shabab fro its last base in the city. On Saturday, the Islamists launched an attack with two suicide bombers, killing at least 10 people.

___

Associated Press reporters Jason Straziuso and Tom Odula in Nairobi, Abdi Guled in Mogadishu, Somalia, and Amy Forliti in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

___

The “Holbrooke Model” of Talk/Bombing Will Not Work With the Taliban

[“In 1995, diplomat Richard Holbrooke urged NATO to drop “bombs for peace” in Bosnia – and thereby pressure the Bosnian Serbs, and their protector Slobodan Milosevic, to come to the bargaining table.”  Attempting this in Afghanistan is unlikely to have the same effect, since the Pashtun culture which drives the Taliban movement is permeated with a sense of pride in its manly capacity to absorb the enemy’s blows and to persevere, as well as the jihadi’s desire for martyrdom in the “cause of God.”  Punishing the Taliban to drive them to the bargaining table will only harden their resolve and motivate them to seek even greater revenge.  Pushing this tactic upon Pakistan will only drive a wedge between the Army and the militants, the true objective behind the contradictory strategy.  It is merely Obama the devil being devious and spiteful, as usual.]

Pakistan agents part of U.S. push for peace talks

U.S. shifts to rely on agency which has been accused of supporting terror.

By Eric Schmitt and David E. Sanger, New York Times
WASHINGTON — Just a month after accusing Pakistan’s spy agency of secretly supporting the Haqqani terrorist network, which has mounted attacks on Americans, the Obama administration is now relying on the same intelligence service to help organize and kick-start reconciliation talks aimed at ending the war in Afghanistan.

The revamped approach, which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called “Fight, Talk, Build” during a high-level U.S. delegation’s visit to Kabul and Islamabad this month, combines continued U.S. air and ground strikes against the Haqqani network and the Taliban with an insistence that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency get them to the negotiating table.

But some elements of the ISI see little advantage in forcing those negotiations, because they see the insurgents as perhaps their best bet for maintaining influence in Afghanistan as the United States reduces its presence there.

The strategy is emerging amid an increase in the pace of attacks against Americans in Kabul, including a suicide attack Saturday that killed as many as 10 Americans and in which the Haqqanis are suspected. It is the latest effort at brokering a deal with militants before the last of 33,000 U.S. “surge” troops prepare to pull out of Afghanistan by September, and comes as early hopes in the White House about having the outlines of a deal in time for a multinational conference Dec. 5 in Bonn, Germany, have been all but abandoned.

But even inside the Obama administration, the new initiative has been met with deep skepticism, in part because the Pakistani government has developed its own strategy, one at odds with Clinton’s on several key points. One senior U.S. official summarized the Pakistani position as “Cease-fire, Talk, Wait for the Americans to Leave.”

In short, the United States is in the position of having to rely heavily on the ISI to help broker a deal with the same group of militants that leaders in Washington say the spy agency is financing and supporting.

“The Pakistanis see the contradictions in the American approach,” said Shamila N. Chaudhary, a former top Obama White House aide on Pakistan and Afghanistan. “The big question for the administration is, ‘What can the Pakistanis actually deliver?’ Pakistan is holding its cards very closely.”

On Sunday, U.S. intelligence officials deepened an investigation into what role, if any, the Haqqani network played in the bombing in Kabul on Saturday.

Several current and former U.S. officials say the United States has tried this bomb-them-to-the-bargaining-table approach before. In the 1990s, it helped drive Serbian leaders to peace talks in Dayton, Ohio, but it has resulted in little so far with the Afghan Taliban.

“I don’t think anyone expects Secretary Clinton’s visit to produce reconciliation,” said Bruce O. Riedel, a former CIA officer and the author of “Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America, and the Future of the Global Jihad.” Riedel, who advocates a policy of containment in Pakistan, added, “The deterioration of U.S.-Pakistan relations is likely to continue.”

Senior Pakistani officials say they are confused by a lack of clarity in the administration’s long-term goals in Afghanistan, and are working with U.S. officials to hammer out specific plans after Clinton’s visit. As an incentive, the United States has offered Pakistan a prominent role in reconciliation talks. But U.S. officials have warned that they will take unilateral action if negotiations fail.

Several administration officials said they considered Clinton’s trip to Kabul and Islamabad, from Oct. 19 to 21, a success largely because it had happened at all. In the months after the killing of Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil, talks were frozen, U.S. intelligence officers were denied visas, and the administration accused the ISI of turning a blind eye to attacks on Americans launched from the country’s tribal areas.

Wahhabi Religious Police Brutally Beat and Arrest Canadian Shia Imam

[The monster of Wahhabi false Islam raises its ugly head once again, in yet another demonstration of intolerance.  Will American led double-standards, concerning the Saudi pseudo-“Islamists,” get in the way of this Canadian citizen’s liberation?  Wahhabism is a disease that has infected millions of Muslim minds.  Liberating these minds is the path to eliminating “militant Islam.”]

Edmonton imam beaten, ‘manhandled’ by police in Saudi Arabia, witnesses say

Stuart Davis/Postmedia News

Stuart Davis/Postmedia News

Usama Al-Atar speaks to young muslims at a youth session at the Az-Zahra Islamic Center in Richmond.

 

An Edmonton-based Imam is in a Saudi Arabian jail after being beaten and “manhandled” by religious police, according to witness reports. On Sunday morning, Usama Al-Atar, 33, was leading a group of 10 pilgrims in prayer outside the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina when “[Saudi] religious police began to hassle him, and intimidate him into stopping,” according to a release by the U.K.-based Islamic Human Rights Association (IHRA).

 

Mr. Al-Atar attempted to leave, but he was set upon by guards, labelled a thief, violently restrained and brought into custody.

“It’s very clear that without having committed any crime, [Mr. Al-Atar] has been arrested by the Saudi authorities,” said Mahmood Mavani, president of the Islamic Shia Association of Edmonton, where Mr. Al-Atar is a resident lecturer. On Sunday, Edmonton’s Shia Muslims gathered at the Association’s main congregation hall to pray for Mr. Al-Atar’s release.

Mr. Al-Atar is a Shiite, a sect of Islam that is often subject to persecution in Saudi Arabia. “Mr. Al-Atar is a Canadian citizen and at this juncture we need Foreign Affairs to find out the facts and make sure he is safe,” said Mr. Mavani.

The Department of Foreign Affairs would only say they were “aware of the arrest a Canadian citizen in Medina.” “The Canadian Embassy in Riyadh has been notified and stands ready to provide consular assistance as required,” read a Sunday afternoon email by Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Aliya Mawani.

Mr. Al-Atar left Canada on Monday to travel to Saudi Arabia for the hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca performed annually by more than two million Muslims each year. Mr. Al-Atar was reportedly approached by Saudi religious police while offering prayers at a graveyard — a Shia practice that is frowned upon by Saudi Arabia’s ruling class, who practice a puritanical form of Sunni Islam.

Mr. Al-Atar’s group closed their prayer books and tried to leave the area, but the imam was set upon by guards after the police called out that Mr. Al-Atar was a thief, reported Ahlulbayt TV, a U.K.-based Shia Islamic channel.

The religious police then “manhandled him badly,” eyewitness Mohammed Hayward told IHRA. “They forced him to sit under an air conditioning unit, and squashed him until he was blue in the face.” Mr. Al-Atar’s arrest was witnessed by more than 200 Canadian, American and British pilgrims, the U.K. channel reported.

On Sunday, 60 pilgrims held silent vigil outside the Central Medina jail where Mr. Al-Atar was being held, reported the IHRA. Mr. Al-Atar is scheduled for a court appearance on Monday morning, where he will face accusations that he broke the arm of one of the police — although witnesses say that the Edmonton imam stayed passive throughout the scuffle.

Throughout Sunday, social networks in Canada and the U.K. abounded with appeals to free the imprisoned Canadian. Ahlulbayt TV held an emergency live show on Sunday evening to protest Mr. Al-Atar’s arrest.

The Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations on Sunday condemned Mr. Al-Atar’s arrest. “Irrespective of any allegations against Imam Al-Attar it is unconscionable that he should be physically assaulted — whether during the Hajj pilgrimage or at any other time,” wrote council executive director Ihsaan Gardee in a prepared release. “If there is no basis for holding Mr. Al-Atar, then he should be immediately released,” he added.

A cancer and diabetes researcher, Mr. Al-Atar is currently a post-doctoral fellow in the chemistry department at the University of Alberta. He has been a prominent voice for inter-faith relations and for stamping out violent extremism within the Islamic community. “Although [terroristic] acts may be carried out by Muslims, these are not the teachings of Islam,” he told Postmedia in 2005.

As recently as March, Mr. Al-Atar publicly denounced the Saudi Arabian leadership. “The atrocities committed today against innocents in several countries such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia among others, are crimes one cannot stand silent about,” said Mr. Al-Atar in a March speech delivered in Edmonton following violence crackdowns against Arab Spring protesters in the Middle East.

Campaigners for his release fear the severity of the charges against him.

“With Saudis, you never know how extreme they can go,” Montreal-based campaigner Musarrat Pyarali wrote in a letter to the Post.

National Post

thopper@nationalpost.com

Protests of Kyrgyz Electoral Fraud Begin, Bishkek-Osh Road Blocked By Protestors

If the elections’ results will not be canceled, disorders are inevitable in Kyrgyzstan – Kamchibek Tashiyev

31/10-2011 12:39, Bishkek – 24.kg news agency , by Julia KOSTENKO

“If the elections’ results will not be canceled, disorders are inevitable in Kyrgyzstan,” presidential candidate Kamchibek Tashiyev stated at today’s press conference.

According to him, about 1, 200 million people could not take part in voting. “Kyrgyzstan had an opportunity to hold honest elections refusing Akayev’s and Bakiyev’s technology for the first time. However, the present authorities followed exactly the last way having improved it a bit. I do not recognize these elections. The people will not tolerate cheating. So people who came to power would feel distrust of the population. If they begin governance with deception, they can not be worthy power representatives. People will decide by themselves what power they need. First reactions are starting from today,” explained Kamchybek Tashiyev.

He added that people will take their own decision. “My voters expect me to proceed. We can not accept rigged election results. The commissions’ members replaced all electoral lists. They were the people of the current government. This is unacceptable,” said Kamchybek Tashiyev.

Adherents of Kamchibek Tashiev blocks Bishkek-Osh road in Kyrgyzstan

31/10-2011 13:31, Bishkek – 24.kg news agency , by Makhinur NIYAZOVA

In Kyrgyzstan, adherents of Kamchibek Tashiev blocked Bishkek-Osh road as the head of Suzak district public administration Zhanybek Zholborsov reported to 24.kg news agency.

According to him, around 200 people blocked the road near Barpy aiyl okmotu. They are demanding to recognize returns as invalid.

The head of the district, the chief of local department of the State National Security Committee and the head of aiyl okmotu headed to the scene.

Recall, the rally in support of the presidential candidate Kamchibek Tashiev is going in Jalal-Abad. Around 300 people gathered. They are demanding to recognize returns invalid.

Former Kyrgyz Prime Minister Atambayev Receives Overwhelming Majority of Votes Counted

CEC processed 96.42 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s voting protocols: the presidential election still leads Atambaev

31/10/11 7:34, Bishkek –  News Agency “24.kg” , Aizada KUTUEVA      

 

CEC processed 96.42 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s voting protocols: the presidential election still leads Atambaev. This was reported on the CEC website.

At 09.30 received information on two 35 thousand polling stations out of 2 thousand 318.

The distribution of votes (in percentages):

Atambaev – 62.97;

Kamchybek Tashiev – 14.36;

Adahan Madumarov – 14.86;

Temirbek Asanbekov – 0.94;

Tursunbai Bakir uulu – 0.8;

Kubatbek Baibolov – 0.83;

Omurbek Suvanaliev – 0.87;

Anarbek Kalmatov – 0.72;

Arstanbek Abdyldaev – 0.53;

Marat Imankulov – 0.45;

Kubanychbek Isabekov – 0.18;

Torobaev Kolubaev – 0.1;

Kurmanbek Osmonov – 0.13;

Akbaraly Aitikeyev – 0.11;

Sooronbai Dyykanov – 0,007;

Almazbek Karimov – 0,007;

Against all – 0.49.

URL: http://www.24kg.org/election2011/113026-cik-kyrgyzstana-obrabotal-9642-procenta.html

Billion-Dollar Drug Gang Busted

[Ouch!]

“The cartel is believed to handle 65 percent of all drugs illegally transported to the United States, drug experts say.”

70 members of ‘billion-dollar’ drug gang arrested, official says

‘Jaw-dropping’ amount of narcotics seized; alleged drug smugglers thought to have close ties to violent Mexican cartel

Law enforcement officials in Arizona seized thousands of pounds of narcotics and arrested at least 70 suspected drug smugglers with apparent ties to a violent drug cartel in Mexico, an official involved with the investigation in the U.S. Southwest told Reuters.

The operation, which included three raids conducted jointly by local, state, and federal officials over 17 months, led to the arrests of Mexican and American nationals working with a notorious drug cartel based in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Further details of the operation will be released at a press conference at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration field office in Phoenix on Monday.

Authorities confiscated drugs, money, weapons, ammunition, and bullet-proof vests, cracking a “sophisticated network” of international drug smuggling in one of the largest such operations conducted in the Southwestern United States, the official said on Sunday.

Drugs were smuggled from Mexico into Arizona by car, plane, on foot, and through tunnels.

“This is one of the more substantial drug-smuggling operations going on right now. This is a billion-dollar drug trade organization linked to the cartel,” the official said.

The cartel is headquartered in the northwestern state of Sinaloa on Mexico’s Pacific coast, an area home to big marijuana and opium poppy plantations and considered the cradle of Mexican narcotics trafficking since the 1960s.

The cartel is believed to handle 65 percent of all drugs illegally transported to the United States, drug experts say.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in drug-related violence since Mexican President Felipe Calderon launched his military campaign against the cartels after he took office in late 2006.

‘Jaw-dropping’
The raids were overseen by the DEA, Arizona state officials, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

The official said the operation will shed light on elaborate drug smuggling into the United States and said the contraband confiscated in the raids was “jaw-dropping.”

Officials captured some of the key players in the smuggling operation, the source said, adding that the suspects will be prosecuted at the state level.

The official said law enforcement officials are still looking for dozens of people in connection with the operation.

Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters