Tag Archives: harmony

Anonymous declares war on North Korea as it breaks into the regime’s Twitter and Flickr accounts

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Anonymous declares war on North Korea as it breaks into the regime’s Twitter and Flickr accounts

Associated Press | 13/04/04 | Last Updated: 13/04/04 1:43 PM ET

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un raises his hand with other officials to adopt a statement during a plenary meeting of the central committee of the ruling Workers' Party in Pyongyang, North Korea.

AP Photo/KCNA via KNSNorth Korean leader Kim Jong Un raises his hand with other officials to adopt a statement during a plenary meeting of the central committee of the ruling Workers’ Party in Pyongyang, North Korea.
Flickr

Flickr
The photo manipulation of Kim Jong-un posted to the hacked Flickr account

SEOUL, South Korea — Hackers apparently broke into at least two of North Korea’s government-run online sites Thursday, as tensions rose on the Korean Peninsula.

The North’s Uriminzokkiri Twitter and Flickr accounts stopped sending out content typical of that posted by the regime in Pyongyang, such as photos of North’s leader Kim Jong-un meeting with military officials.

Instead, a picture posted Thursday on the North’s Flickr site shows Kim’s face with a pig-like snout and a drawing of Mickey Mouse on his chest. Underneath, the text reads: “Threatening world peace with ICBMs and Nuclear weapons/Wasting money while his people starve to death.”

Another posting says “We are Anonymous” in white letters against a black background. Anonymous the amorphous hacker collective born out of the political wing of the 4chan message board. Anonymous has picked many different political (and less political) causes over the years and often adopts the iconography of the 2005 movie adaptation of V for Vendetta.

Twitter

Twitter
The North Korean official twitter account has been hacked.

A statement purporting to come from the attackers and widely circulated online said that they had compromised 15,000 user records hosted on Uriminzokkiri.com and other websites. The authenticity of the statement couldn’t be confirmed, but the North’s official website did not open Thursday.

Tweets on the North’s Twitter account said “Hacked” followed by a link to North Korea-related websites. One tweet said “Tango Down” followed by a link to the North’s Flickr page.

North Korea opened its Twitter account in 2010. It has more than 13,000 followers. The North uses the social media to praise its system and leaders and also to repeat commentaries sent out by North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

Tensions have been high in recent days between North and South Korea, and the North’s military warned Thursday that it had been authorized to attack the U.S. North Korea is angry about sanctions against its nuclear program and joint military drills between the U.S. and South Korea.

THE FULL TEXT OF ANONYMOUS’S MESSAGE TO NORTH KOREA

Hello, citizens of the world.

We are Anonymous

North Korean government is increasingly becoming a threat to peace and freedom.

Don’t misunderstand us: As well we disagree with the USA government too – these guys are crooks, USA is a threat to world peace too, and direct democracy (or any kind of democracy) doesn’t exist there. The American government is a target and enemy of Anonymous as well!

This is not about country vs country – This is about we, the people, the 99% (of USA and of North Korea) vs oppressing and violent regimes (like USA gov. and N.K. gov)!

We, the people, are gathering together because we are stronger now and we won’t fight your wars anymore, we won’t eat your shit anymore!!!

We demand:

– N.K. government to stop making nukes and nuke-threats

– Kim Jong-un to resign

– it’s time to install a free direct democracy in North Korea

– uncensored internet access for all the citizens!

To Kim Jong-un:

So you feel the need to create large nukes and threaten half the world with them?

So you’re into demonstrations of power?, here is ours:

– We are inside your local intranets (Kwangmyong and others)

– We are inside your mailservers

– We are inside your webservers

Enjoy these few records as a proof of our access to your systems (random innocent citizens, collateral damage, because they were stupid enough to choose idiot passwords), we got all over 15k membership records ofhttp://www.uriminzokkiri.com and many more. First we gonna wipe your data, then we gonna wipe your badass dictatorship “government”.

To the citizens of North Korea we suggest to rise up and bring these motherfuckers of a oppressive government down!

We are holding your back and your hand, while you take the journey to freedom, democracy and peace.

You are not alone.

Don’t fear us, we are not terrorist, we are the good guys from the internet. AnonKorea and all the

other Anons are here to set you free.

We are Anonymous

We are Legion

We do not forgive

We do not forget

Expect us!

 

http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/04/04/anonymous-declares-war-on-north-korea-as-it-breaks-into-the-regimes-twitter-and-flickr-accounts/

Obama Talks Peace to Iran, But Dishes Out Violence

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Obama Talks Peace to Iran, But Dishes Out Violence

by Jamasb Madani, April 09, 2013

 

Four years ago, President Barack Obama quoted the beloved 13th century Persian poet Sa’di in his first Nowruz message to the Iranian people. The address, with its veneer of peace and diplomacy, was a well-received gesture to both civil society and the leadership in Tehran, recognizing the Islamic Republic and celebrating the country’s ancient culture and history.

In this year’s Nowruz message, on March 18, 2013, President Obama recited more medieval Persian poetry, this time a famous 14th century poem from Hafez about friendship.

An informal and casual survey of public opinion on the heels of this address suggest that Obama’s renewed efforts to tap the well of goodwill failed to resonate with many Iranians. This time around, Obama’s speech has been received a somewhat negative response.

Over the past few years, U.S. hostility and pressure toward Iran has reached a critical level. As a result of draconian sanctions and a resulting drastic drop in oil revenues, Iran’s economy, currency, and people are hurting.

Many essential and non-essential goods have been subject to sanctions, both old and new. Measures preventing the sale of spare airplane parts to Iran have long made air travel unsafe, threatening the well-being of civilian passengers. More recently, unilateral sanctions imposed by certain Western countries have cut Iran off from the international banking industry, resulting in severe shortages in medicines and rising food prices that place the lives of millions of Iranians at risk.

While Obama’s Nowruz messages represent an attempt to achieve a sort of ‘cultural connectedness’ between Americans and Iranians, the U.S. government seems unaware of how its policies and actions toward Iran cut against these efforts.

During Iran’s post-reform years in late 1990′s, certain key terms became central to the Reformist discourse. Concepts such as ‘pluralism’, ‘tolerance’ (tasahol/tasamoh), and especially the term “violence” (khoshoonat’garaee) took on a deeper and more comprehensive meaning.

Based on a wider reading of the concept of violence, Iranian civil society has not only viewed the assassination of its scientists as a direct form of violence, but has also considered unilateral and crippling sanctions to be instruments of violence against the Iranian people.

These and other similar measures undermine the administration’s attempts to appeal to Iranians’ cultural sensibilities. Ironically, as President Obama delivered his first Nowruz message in 2009, urging Iran’s government to “unclench” its fists, his administration was accelerating a covert, cyber warfare initiative launched by the Bush administration, codenamed “Olympic Games.”

In the years that followed, as Obama delivered other Nowruz messages, the United States conspired with Israel to develop and launch additional attacks of cyber-terrorism against Iran, such as Stuxnet and Flame.

In the Iranian public psyche, cyber attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities are not mere technological sabotage, but rather instill collective fear and anxiety about damage to nuclear installations that threaten the safety of the Iranian population.

And let’s not forget the looming threat of direct military attack. With each passing year, and with every Nowruz message, the level of both real and potential American violence against Iran and Iranians has escalated.

As the targets of these threats, victims of collective punishment and the bearers of U.S.-imposed hardship, Iranians feel that Obama’s actions coupled with his recitation of the poetry of Sa’di or Hafez make for a disturbing juxtaposition.

In Hafez’s poetry and ethos, duplicity, hypocrisy, and pretense are considered major sins. It is fitting then that a group of democracy activists in Iran, in conversation with this writer, have suggested Obama reflect on the message of another Hafez poem:

Preachers who lecture others in the pulpit
in private, away from the public gaze, they do otherwise.
I have a concern; ask this question from the wise one in the group
those who order us to repent; they, themselves don’t consider any repentance?

Daryoush Mohammad Poor, an opposition activist who has translated the statements of former Iranian presidential candidate and reformist politician Mir Hossein Mousavi into English, was similarly offended by Obama’s Nowruz message this year.

In a critical essay posted in both Persian and English on his website, “Malakoot,” Mohammad Poor writes that the American-Iranian impasse is not binary. For instance, as he explains, just because he is connected with the Iranian opposition, does not mean he will be silent about the devastating and lethal effects of Obama’s policies on the people of Iran.

Mohammad Poor addresses Obama directly, writing, “Remember, Hafez was – and still is – a great social critic of the conditions of his time. His strength lay in his being outside the circle of power. He was the voice of the powerless. He was never a two-term president of a superpower nation. If he lived today, he would probably be highly critical of you, too, as he would be critical of the leaders of Iran.”

With few exceptions, the opposition in and outside Iran explicitly opposes both unilateral and UN Security Council sanctions against the country. The anti-imperial legacy of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq, who was ousted during a CIA-led coup in 1953, still permeates the present Zeitgeist and ethos in Iran. As such, despite economic hardships and the relative popularity of Voice of America among some opposition members, so far the American/French/British axis has failed to cultivate any notable support for either foreign intervention or collaboration. As things currently stand, Iranians across the political spectrum blame the United States, and less, their own government, for their economic woes.

U.S. hegemonic domination has its internal contradictions and cannot avoid double standards, inconsistencies, and half-truths. But Hafez, the ‘elder of kharbat’, is precisely the antithesis of duplicity (riya). The term kharabat in Hafez’s poetry symbolizes a tavern, a gathering place where there is no pretense (tazvir), only the opportunity to be true to one another.

Those who threaten others with military aggression and destruction, those who unleash economic war and hardship and instill fear in the hearts of their victims, those who manipulate international organizations for their own ends, and make life difficult for so many people should not reference Hafez. In fact, Hafez is perhaps the last poet they should invoke, since his central message is to condemn hubris and selfishness (a’een khod’parasti).

A substantial number of Iranians believe that Barack Obama, who has relatives in Kenya and Indonesia, studied progressive politics at Columbia University and broke bread with public intellectuals like Edward Said, is a worldly, decent and dignified person.

But in the context of American hegemony, as the executor of oppressive policies toward Iran, Obama has become a perplexing puzzle for Iranians. For four years, Obama’s Nowruz messages have led the Iranian collective psyche to compartmentalize his various actions. The orchestrated hostility of the “American Regime,” the pain and suffering directed by the United States toward Iran are all changing this approach.

At the same time, the symbolism and dichotomy of Obama’s Nowruz messages, coupled with the history of U.S. structural violence against Iranian society, may provide a glimpse into the bigger picture behind Obama’s inconsistencies. In his capacity as president, Obama may have no choice but to bow to long-term American policies toward Iran. Many Iranians, in fact, maintain that the real culprit is not Obama, but rather an institutional form of thinking and worldview to which Obama himself is bound.

Unfortunately, it seems the president’s ideals are also victims of this power structure.

Rather than trying to appropriate Persian poetry to blunt American aggression, Obama would do well to heed the words of Hafez himself. Only then may he truly begin to pursue peace instead of issuing ultimatums. As Hafez poignantly observed,

Engage in love (of humanity) before it is too late; or the life-purpose given to you by the world will be wasted.

*Jamasb Madani is an architect and writer. His grandfather was an activist and strong supporter of Dr. Mohammad Mossadeq.

This piece was originally published at Mufta.org

 

http://original.antiwar.com/jamasb-madani/2013/04/08/obama-talks-peace-to-iran-but-dishes-out-violence/

Ancient Africa Practiced True Democracy

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Ancient Africa Practiced True Democracy

By Black T Bvumavaranda

Ancient System of Checks and Balances

African leaders have often been portrayed as unyielding and brainless people for whom remorse and morality are completely disjoined from power and authority. In the West, our leaders are often caricatured as clueless goofballs in suits but who are above the law and can commit the most embarrassing cases of common theft and abuse of poor and defenceless people with impunity.

This terrible stereotype has received unfortunate support from the behaviour of our post-colonial autocratic leaders who, barring some military coup or popular uprising, mysteriously prefer to die in power. These leaders often cite the ancient African political order in which a leader was only removed from power by death.

Black Technocrat

However, the traditional setup was totally different from what the post-colonial pretenders want us to believe. While the post-colonial African leadership deeply detests accountability and the rule of law, the traditional leadership structure had a complex mechanism for accountability and the counterbalance of power.

Mambo did not rule as an absolute king for one simple reason. The social order was subdivided into two separate but equally powerful areas; (i) the secular or political order and; (ii) the religious order. The king was the leader of the secular institutions of the social order. The priesthood, represented by the chief priest, was responsible for the religious institutions.

The king ensured food security, the maintenance of the rule of law, the fair application of the justice system without fear and favour, defending the state from its enemies, and making sure that all the members of the community acted for the benefit of society over and above individual gains. The king had the power and authority to act to save and serve the people.

For spiritual matters, the priesthood was in charge. Where secular laws and other codes of social conduct were not possible to enforce or simply ineffective, the priesthood offered the complimentary part. The priesthood led petitions made to the ancestors who, in turn, carried the petitions to Mwari.

The two branches were separate but equal. When presiding over secular functions, mambo wore the skin of a lion while the chief priest wore the skin of a leopard. This was to show that the office of mambo was, on such occasions, above that of the priesthood.

During state-related rituals, the chief priest was in charge. To acknowledge his subordinate role, mambo had to wear a leopard skin while the chief priest wore the skin of a lion. The king did not hold both offices. So, his power was kept in check, and vice versa for the priesthood.

There were two additional traditions that also strengthened the system of checks-and-balances of the traditional African social order.

Muzukuru, the nephew of the ruler through his sister, had the role of verbally restraining his uncle, and do so without fear of making the king angry. Muzukuru was actually designated as the pacifier of the king especially when the king was angry or deemed out of control. During disputes within the ruling family, muzukuru was responsibility for restoring order and harmony. There were other functions in which only muzukuru presided over, too.

This role of muzukuru was not confined to the court alone. It was a tradition that was practiced all the way down to the family level. The role of muzukuru has not changed even to this day. That is the third ancient mechanism of checks and balances

The fourth traditional mechanism of checks and balances was the accepted but unsaid contract between the elders and the young members of the community. The youths were expected to be respectful of their elders at all times. For their part, the elders honoured the compact by accepting that at a particular point in their lives, they had to begin the gradual handover, to the young members of the community, the power and authority to run the community.

Way back in antiquity, two proverbs were coined to remind the elders that they held power and authority only in trust, and for the benefit of the young members of the community and those yet to be born. The simplified proverb, kutonga madzoro, served to remind the elders that power and authority, the two levers of leadership, best benefitted the community when others, specifically the youths, were given their turn and opportunity to take over the leadership of the community.

To receive respect from the youths, a proverb, gudo/bvene guru peta muswe kuti vapwere vakuremekedze, was often used to admonish elders who were behaving in manners that made them look less respectable in the eyes of the youth. Our ancestors had observed that a leader of a troop of baboons that did not tuck its tail close to itself often found itself being used as a toy by baby baboons, which was the beginning of the diminishing of that baboon’s influence on the rest of the baboons.

So, our post-colonial leaders are not really following the ancient social arrangement. We have to be judged not by what is going on in our times but by what our forebears put in place. We had a well-defined and efficient system of checks and balances developed and refined over millennia. It worked for millennia, and that is how we survived all these thousands of years. We are familiar with governing and leading because we have been doing it for a long time, or we were until we were disrupted not too long ago.

Do we have a better system of checks and balances now that we have become “civilized” and have adopted alien models that we do not even seem to understand?

I report but you decide.

That is my belated Zimbabwan/African Factoid of The Day, I’m Bvumavaranda BTechno MuRozvi.

http://www.zimeye.org/?p=77096

Mayans and Tibetan Monks Join Forces in the Name of Peace, Harmony and Freedo

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Mayans and Tibetan Monks Join Forces in the Name of Peace, Harmony and Freedom

The 2nd Mayan-Tibetan Bicultural Encounter concluded activities in the environmentally friendly Hacienda Tres Ríos Resort, Spa & Nature Park 

 

Cancún, Quintana Roo (PRWEB) September 27, 2012

In a call for peace, harmony and freedom for all people, the Tibetan Monks of the Drepung Loseling Monastery as well as Mayan representatives concluded their participation in the 2nd Mayan-Tibetan Bicultural Encounter, held at Hacienda Tres Ríos Resort, Spa & Nature Park.

In the presence of a number of tourists, special guests and those who enjoy these two cultures, the Tibetan monks destroyed the Tara Blanca Mandala, which was crafted during the five days of the encounter. This action was carried out as the final activity of the encounter to symbolize the transitory nature of life.

Deputy Vice President of Sales and Marketing of Hacienda Tres Ríos, Daniel Arroyo emphasized that the encounter met with all expectations to transmit a message of peace and respect of nature that is so lacking in our world today.

Arroyo also disclosed that because of the success of the second edition of event, there will be a third bicultural encounter in September 2013. The program will include more conferences, meditations and teachings that are sure to fill participants with good vibes and positive thoughts.

From September 12 to 16, the 2nd Mayan-Tibetan Bicultural Encounter brought together a group of nine Tibetan monks, Mayan dancers and representatives, the founder of Casa Tibet, Tony Karam, as well as a number of researchers and speakers of both cultures, who spoke on the principle teachings and philosophies of these two incredible civilizations.

The encounter included a presentation of Sacred Mayan and Tibetan Music and Dance in the Teatro de Cancún, as well as a photo exhibit, rituals and healing and meditation ceremonies (both group and individual). There were also meditations involving positive energy and the search for peace and harmony through ancient techniques.

As part of the closing activities of the encounter, Tony Karam, founder of Casa Tibet, presented a conference on Buddhism which covered relaxation and meditation techniques, as well as the principle doctrines of this religion.

Daniel Arroyo thanked the Tibetan monks, Mary Coba of Producciones Arte Maya, as well as the hotel collaborators who helped make this event a total success, accomplishing the objective of sending a message of love and hope to all of humanity.

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/9/prweb9947130.htm

Russian Federation: Violent attack of peaceful picket in defence of LGBTI rights

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Russian Federation: Violent attack of peaceful picket in defence of LGBTI rights 

On 20 January 2013, a peaceful picket of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights defenders was attacked by counter-protesters in the city of Voronezh. The picket was was organised by local human rights defenders Messrs Andrey Nasonov, Evgeny Chunosov and Pavel Lebedyev against the proposed bill in the Russian Parliament which, if passed, would ban the “propaganda of homosexuality”.

On 17 January 2013, Andrey Nosonov and Pavel Lebedev wrote to the Centre for Combating Extremism, the offices of the local administration and the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation regarding multiple death threats they had received from individuals through social media sites, who also threatened to disrupt the planned peaceful picket, for which permission had been sought from the city’s administration. Despite the fact that at least 15 authors of the threats were named individuals, police failed to react to the complaint.

As the picket began on 20 January 2013, more than two hundred counter-protesters had gathered at the scene, who had coordinated their attack through social media sites and many of whom were members of radical right wing and religious groups. The individuals proceeded to shout offensive remarks such as “Beat the faggots”, throw bottles at the protesters and imitate Nazi salutes. Despite police presence at the picket, at least 4 LGBTI rights defenders and their supporters were physically beaten by counter-protesters, while many others were verbally attacked. Police present did not intervene to protect the demonstrators.

Later the same day, LGBTI rights defenders and their supporters, returning from the picket, were confronted by approximately 30 people in a local café, and were threatened with physical violence. The conflict was resolved upon police arrival.

On 21 and 22 January 2013, Andrey Nosonov, Pavel Lebedev and Alexey Kozlov submitted written official complaints to the Investigative Committee regarding the above mentioned violent attack by counter-protesters against peaceful demonstrators, and the failure of police and of the city administration to fulfil their obligation to assure the safety of demonstrators. Front Line Defenders condemns this attack against peaceful protesters and expresses serious concern at the failure of police to react appropriately in order to ensure the security of the protesters.

http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/21367

Mexico’s Drug War: 50,000 Dead in 6 Years

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Mexico’s Drug War: 50,000 Dead in 6 Years

May 17, 2012 | 216

Since Mexico’s President Felipe Calderón began an all-out assault on drug cartels in 2006, more than 50,000 people have lost their lives across the country in a nearly-continuous string of shootouts, bombings, and ever-bloodier murders. Just last weekend, 49 decapitated bodies were reportedly discovered on a highway in northern Mexico. The New York Times reports on an increasing numbness and apathy among Mexicans after years of worsening carnage, about which they’ve been able to do virtually nothing. Gathered here is a collection of recent photographs from Mexico’s drug war and the people so horribly affected by it.

Warning: All images in this entry are shown in full. There are many dead bodies; the photographs are graphic and stark. This is the reality of the situation in Mexico right now.

A masked Mexican soldier patrols the streets of Veracruz, on October 10, 2011. Soldiers of the Army, Navy and members of Federal Police patrol the streets of the city as part of “Veracruz Safe Operation” after a rising tide of violence plaguing this tourist city. (Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images)

A masked Mexican soldier patrols the streets of Veracruz, on October 10, 2011. Soldiers of the Army, Navy and members of Federal Police patrol the streets of the city as part of “Veracruz Safe Operation” after a rising tide of violence plaguing this tourist city. (Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images)

A police officer stands near evidence markers at a crime scene in Ajijic on the outskirts of Guadalajara, on April 9, 2012. Gunmen shot dead three who were sitting in two different cars outside their homes, according to local media. (Reuters/Alejandro Acosta) #

The body of a man lies behind the wheel inside a car in Acapulco, on February 10, 2012. Two men were shot by gunmen, one was killed and the other seriously injured, according to local media. (Reuters/Jacob Garcia) #

Poet and peace activist Javier Sicilia (center) embraces family members and relatives of his 24-year-old son Juan Francisco Sicilia and his friends at their flower wreath, during Juan’s death anniversary in Temixco near Cuernavaca, on March 28, 2012. The bodies of Juan and his friends were discovered on March 28, 2011, in a car in Cuernavaca by the police along with a menacing message from drug cartels. (Reuters/Margarito Perez Retana) #

Morgue workers place a coffin holding an unidentified body into a grave at San Rafael cemetery on the outskirts of the border city of Ciudad Juarez, on December 27, 2011. The bodies of 36 unidentified people, killed in drug-related incidents, were buried after being held in the city morgue for several months without being claimed by relatives. (Reuters/Jose Luis Gonzalez) #

A forensic technician points his flashlight at the shoes of a man at a crime scene in Mazatlan, on February 13, 2012. The man was shot dead by gunmen while he was walking on the street, according to local media. (Reuters/Stringer) #

Baseball players belonging to the Saraperos de Saltillo team take cover during an intense shootout that broke out during a game in the parking lot of the stadium in the city of Saltillo, northern Mexico, on March 13, 2012. According to a state police spokesman, three gunmen were killed and another was injured and captured after the gunmen battled with a special tactics unit of the state police. (AP Photo) #

Thousands of guns are destroyed in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua State, on February 16, 2012. At least 6,000 rifles and pistols seized from drugs cartels were destroyed by members of the Mexican Army. (Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images) #

Jose Lopez Tapia, 8, rests in hospital after he and his mother were attacked on February 6 in Ciudad Juarez, on February 8, 2012. Sonia Tapia and her son were attacked by members of the Municipal Police, she was accused of carrying weapons and arrested for 36 hours. (Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images) #

Mexican marines escort Marcos Jesus Hernandez Rodriguez, aka “El Chilango”, alleged leader of assassins and member of the Los Zetas drug cartel, in Veracruz state, during his presentation for the press in Mexico City, on May 11, 2012. Rodriguez was arrested last May 9, during a military operation in the city of Xalapa, Veracruz state, a navy spokesman said. (Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images) #

A young man lies dead next to a skateboard and a bicycle after unknown gunmen opened fire in the eastern part of Saltillo, Mexico, on December 7, 2011. According to the state attorney general, three young men were killed in the attack. (AP Photo/Alberto Puente) #

Soldiers put the final touches on a giant “No More Weapons” billboard composed of crushed firearms, placed near the U.S. border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on February 17, 2012. President Felipe Calderon unveiled the billboard Thursday and urged the United States to stop the flow of weapons into Mexico. (AP Photo/Raymundo Ruiz) #

Firefighters remove the body of a man hanging from a bridge in Ciudad Juarez, on March 3, 2012. The body was found hanging from its neck on a bridge late Saturday, local media reported. The body showed signs of torture and the head was covered with duct tape. (Reuters/Jose Luis Gonzalez) #

Mexican soldiers burn marijuana plants in a field, in Los Algodones community, Culiacan, Sinaloa State, on on January 30, 2012. Mexican soldiers found the marijuana field and incinerated the drug as part of the Culiacan-Navolato operation. (Alfredo Estrella/AFP/Getty Images) #

Pictures of victims of violence are hung on the facades and walls of houses in the neighborhood of Cerro Gordo in Ecatepec, outside Mexico City, on March 7, 2012. The Murrieta Foundation opened an exhibition called “Giving face to the victims in Ecatepec” with 15 giant photographs placed on houses as part a campaign against violence (rape of women, kidnappings, murders and robberies) in Ecatepec. (Reuters/Henry Romero) #

The body of a dead man, a rifle next to him, lies in a field after a shootout with police on the outskirts of Monterrey, on February 28, 2012. According to local media, 11 people were killed in different violent incidents in the city. (Reuters/Daniel Becerril) #

A soldier stands guard inside a clandestine chemical drug processing laboratory discovered in Tlajomulco de Zuniga, on the outskirts of Guadalajara, Jalisco State, on February 9, 2012. (Hector Guerrero/AFP/Getty Images) #

An abandoned neighborhood in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, on March 30, 2012. Violence in Ciudad Juarez has changed the lives of its residents, where many have fled. Among those who remain, anxious mothers look for missing daughters, families cross the border daily to sleep in neighboring Texas, and men live alone among abandoned houses. (Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images) #

Blood flows near the arm of a killed boy, on the pavement in Acapulco, Mexico, on August 15, 2011. (Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty Images) #

An unidentified woman weeps for her relatives at the scene where gunmen attacked a tow truck business in the resort city of Acapulco, on July 8, 2011. Two men and a woman died after unknown gunmen opened fire at the tow truck business. (AP Photo/Bernandino Hernandez) #

Cuban citizen Joel Rodriguez Barrero, after being detained in Xochitepec in this April 6, 2012 photograph. Rodriguez Barrero ‘El Cubano’, was detained on April 6 by soldiers and policemen during a patrol and found to be in possession of drugs and weapons. Barrero is responsible for the recent murder and dismemberment of four minors and drug trafficking, according to the State Attorney’s Office. (Reuters/State of Morelos Attorney’s General Office) #

Two men with their hands tied behind their back and with their faces covered with duct tape lie by the side of the road as police secure the area in the city of Veracruz, Mexico, on December 6, 2011. A total of 4 men were found killed in separate incidents in the Gulf port city, which has recently suffered growing violence as drug gangs battle for control of the region. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez) #

A truck burns on the road in Guadalajara, Mexico, on March 9, 2012. Drug criminals set 25 city buses and other vehicles on fire in 16 different places, spreading fear throughout Mexico’s second-largest city after an army operation, according to officials. (AP Photo / Bruno González) #

Police stand next to the body of a dead colleague in Ixtapaluca, on the outskirts of Mexico City, on January 23, 2012. Municipal police were transferring two detainees when they were ambushed by gunmen, who shot dead all five police officers and one of the detainees, according to local media. (Reuters/Stringer) #

Children lie on the ground among silhouettes representing people allegedly killed by soldiers during Mexico’s drug war, during a protest organized by the National Regeneration Movement, MORENA, at the Zocalo central square in Mexico City, on March 4, 2012. Mexico’s Defense Secretary Guillermo Galvan recently conceded that the military has committed errors in the fight against organized crime and drug traffickers, such as torture, homicide and drug-trafficking but said those responsible have been punished. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte) #

Students at the University of Ciudad Juarez and participants of the “Illuminate Juarez” event prepare to release lanterns in Samalayuca, Ciudad Juarez, on May 28, 2011. According to the organizers, the event was held to seek the return of peace to the city, which is considered one of the most violent in the world as a result of drug trafficking, and to promote tourism. (Reuters/Gael Gonzalez) #

A forensic technician holds the head of a woman at a crime scene in San Pedro on the outskirts of Monterrey May 15, 2012. The decapitated body of a woman and her head were found early Tuesday on the foot of a hill next to a low-income neighborhood, according to local media. (Reuters/Daniel Becerril) #

Pallbearers carry the coffin of Regina Martinez, a journalist and correspondent for the Mexican magazine Proceso, as friends and family members attend her funeral in Xalapa, on April 30, 2012. Martinez, from Veracruz, was found dead in the bathroom of her house on Saturday with signs of violence, according to local media. (Reuters/Stringer) #

Photojournalists place their cameras on the floor during a demonstration condemning the alleged murder of fellow journalist Regina Martinez in Mexico City, on April 29, 2012. The Mexican government’s human rights commission said Sunday that it will investigate the apparent slaying of Martinez, who often wrote about drug trafficking. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte) #

The body of a man, covered by a cloth in a restaurant after he was shot by unknown assailants in Acapulco, Mexico, on July 30, 2011. Once a glamorous beach mecca for international tourism, Acapulco’s image has steadily deteriorated as a fierce turf war continues between rival drug gangs. (AP Photo/Bernandino Hernandez) #

Relatives of Elmer Constantino Castro Andres, a Guatemalan immigrant whose body was found in a mass grave in Tamaulipas in northern Mexico, mourn over his coffin at the air force base of Guatemala City, on March 21, 2012. The bodies of 11 Guatemalans, who were among a group of 193 immigrants believed to be killed by members of the Zetas drug gang and whose bodies were found in a mass grave in Tamaulipas in April 2011, were repatriated to Guatemala on Wednesday after DNA tests confirmed their identities. (Reuters/Jorge Dan Lopez) #

Fliers for missing people hang on the door of the city morgue in Acapulco, Mexico, on March 1, 2012. Drug violence surged in the coastal resort last year, making Acapulco the second most deadly city in Mexico after Juarez. (John Moore/Getty Images) #

A skeletal corpse lies in Betania neighborhood, Acapulco, on March 27, 2012. During a recent wave of violence lived in Acapulco, eight people were killed, three of them found decomposed in the outskirts of the City. (Pedro PARDO/AFP/Getty Images) #

Working on a scarf, a woman embroiders the account of a murder in a park in Mexico City, on November 13, 2011. The “Red Fountains” civil movement proposes the “Embroidery for Peace, a scarf, a victim” action for each of the victims of violence in Mexico. (Omar Torres/AFP/Getty Images) #

The body of a young man who was shot several times, reflected in a mirror next to an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe inside a bus in Acapulco, on August 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Bernandino Hernandez) #

Demonstrators march to protest against violence in Mexico City, on August 14, 2011. The continuing tide of drug-related killings in Mexico has drawn thousands of protesters to march against violence. The sign reads in Spanish: “Stop the war. No to the National Security Law”. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo) #

The body of a man killed in a suspected drug-related execution lies along the path where he was shot on March 1, 2012 in Acapulco. (John Moore/Getty Images) #

Medical workers stand next to the bodies of 10 men and one woman, discovered in a pile near a well in Valle de Chalco, Mexico, on July 8, 2011. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo, file) #

A woman rests prior to a protest against violence as part of the campaign “March of National Dignity – Mothers searching for their children and justice” at the Revolution Monument in Mexico City, on May 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini) #

Colleagues, relatives and friends of murdered journalists place candles and pictures on an altar erected at the Independence Angel monument in Mexico City, on May 5, 2012, during a vigil to protest against violence towards the press. Days earlier, Mexican security forces found the dismembered bodies of missing news photographers Guillermo Luna Varela and Gabriel Huge and two other people in bags dumped in a canal in the eastern state of Veracruz. The bodies of the photographers, who worked for the Veracruz news photo agency, also showed signs of torture. (Yuri Cortez/AFP/GettyImages) #

A suspected drug-related execution victim lies on Acapulco’s famous Caleta Beach in Acapulco, on March 4, 2012. (John Moore/Getty Images) #

Locals look at the screening of names of 10,000 victims of violence in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, on the facade of Annunciation House, a shelter for immigrants and indigent people in the US city of El Paso on April 23, 2012. Annunciation House organized a mournful tribute called Voice of the Voiceless in which more than 10,000 names were screened on the facade of the building. (Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images) #

A woman covers her daughter with a towel as they walk past a crime scene in the municipality of San Nicolas de los Garza, neighboring Monterrey, on September 14, 2011. Six men were gunned down by unknown assailants in separate incidents in this municipality, local media reported. (Reuters/Tomas Bravo) #

A forensic technician sweeps blood off a street at a crime scene in Monterrey, on February 8, 2012. A taxi driver was shot dead by gunmen as another group of hitmen attacked three taxi drivers in a different neighborhood, killing two and injuring one, according to local media. (Reuters/Daniel Becerril) #

Romney Touts ‘Prosperity Pacts’ To Help Middle East, Developing Nations

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Romney Touts ‘Prosperity Pacts’ To Help Middle East, Developing Nations

September 25, 2012 9:52 AM

One former president, one would-be: Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (left), spoke this morning at former President Bill Clinton’s annual forum in New York City. President Obama addresses the Clinton Global Initiative later today.

Mandel Ngan /AFP/Getty Images

One former president, one would-be: Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (left), spoke this morning at former President Bill Clinton’s annual forum in New York City. President Obama addresses the Clinton Global Initiative later today.

Saying that foreign aid must play a role in bringing peace to the Middle East, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney made the case today for what he calls “prosperity pacts” that would aim U.S. assistance packages at nations that develop “the institutions of liberty, the rule of law, and property rights.”

Romney was addressing the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, a forum that will host President Obama later today.

If he’s elected in November, Romney said (per his prepared remarks):

“To foster work and enterprise in the Middle East and in other developing countries, I will initiate ‘Prosperity Pacts.’ Working with the private sector, the program will identify the barriers to investment, trade, and entrepreneurialism in developing nations. In exchange for removing those barriers and opening their markets to U.S. investment and trade, developing nations will receive U.S. assistance packages focused on developing the institutions of liberty, the rule of law, and property rights.

“We will focus our efforts on small and medium-size businesses. Microfinance has been an effective tool at promoting enterprise and prosperity, but we must expand support to small and medium-size businesses that are too large for microfinance, but too small for traditional banks.

“The aim of a much larger share of our aid must be the promotion of work and the fostering of free enterprise. Nothing we can do as a nation will change lives and nations more effectively and permanently than sharing the insight that lies at the foundation of America’s own economy — free people pursuing happiness in their own ways build a strong and prosperous nation.”

Romney introduced that proposal by saying he is “often asked why, and what can we do to lead the Middle East to stability, to ease the suffering and the anger and the hate.

“Religious extremism is certainly part of the problem. But that’s not the whole story.

“The population of the Middle East is young, particularly compared with the population of the West. And typically, these young people have few job prospects and the levels of youth unemployment across the region are excessive and chronic. In nations that have undergone a change in leadership recently, young people have greater access to information that was once carefully guarded by tyrants and dictators. They see the good as well as the bad in surrounding societies. They can now organize across vast regions, mobilizing populations. Idle, humiliated by poverty, and crushed by government corruption, their frustration and anger grows.

“In such a setting, for America to change lives, to change communities and nations in the Middle East, foreign aid must also play a role. And the shape that role should take was brought into focus by the life and death of Muhammed Bouazizi of Tunisia, the street vendor whose self-immolation sparked the Arab Spring.

“He was just 26-years-old. He had provided for his family since he was a young boy. He worked a small fruit stand, selling to passers-by. The regular harassment by corrupt bureaucrats was elevated one day when they took crates of his fruit and his weighing scales away from him.

“On the day of his protest, witnesses say that an officer slapped Bouazizi and he cried out, ‘Why are you doing this to me? I’m a simple person, and I just want to work.’

“I just want to work.

“Work. That must be at the heart of our effort to help people build economies that can create jobs for people, young and old alike. Work builds self-esteem. It transforms minds from fantasy and fanaticism to reality and grounding. Work will not long tolerate corruption nor quietly endure the brazen theft by government of the product of hard-working men and women.”

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/09/25/161738202/romney-touts-prosperity-pacts-to-help-middle-east-developing-nations

UN doctor shot in Karachi

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UN doctor shot in Karachi

By Hasan Mansoor (AFP) – Jul 17, 2012

KARACHI — Gunmen opened fire on a UN vehicle in Pakistan’s volatile city of Karachi Tuesday, wounding a foreign doctor working on a polio immunisation campaign and a local driver, officials said.

The shooting, which happened in the low-income eastern neighbourhood of Soharb Ghoth, highlighted resistance to a widely publicised three-day vaccination campaign, which began Monday.

The Taliban have banned immunisations in the northwest, condemning the campaign as a cover for espionage since a Pakistani doctor was jailed after helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden using a hepatitis vaccination programme.

“A WHO vehicle was fired upon with gunshots. One international staff and one local driver were injured in the incident,” Maryam Yunus, spokeswoman for the United Nations’ World Health Organization, told AFP.

She said the doctor from Ghana and the Pakistani driver had been transferred to a private hospital in the southern port city where their condition was stable.

“They are out of danger,” Yunus said.

Attacks on foreigners are rare in Karachi, but parts of the city are highly volatile. Ethnic, sectarian and politically-linked violence has killed at least 740 people in the city so far this year alone, rights activists say.

Police blamed the shooting on two Afghan men. Soharb Ghoth neighbourhood is home to thousands of Afghan refugees and migrants from northwest Pakistan looking for work in what is Pakistan’s largest city, with a population of 18 million.

The UN staff were travelling in an unmarked, white double-cabin pick-up. Local TV channels broadcast footage of bullet holes in the vehicle.

WHO said later Tuesday that there was currently “no evidence to suggest that this was a deliberate or targeted attack against polio eradication efforts or WHO”.

It paid tribute to the “incredible bravery” of more than 200,000, mainly Pakistani volunteers who run every vaccination campaign, and said the shooting would not derail efforts to eradicate polio in the country.

But police suggested that the doctor could have been targeted deliberately, because he had been working in the neighbourhood for about three months.

“It could be related to the polio campaign, as there is resistance in the population against it. We are, however, still investigating the real motives,” local police station chief Mohammad Sultan told AFP.

A health expert, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, also interpreted the attack as a sign of an alarming trend.

He said there had been threats and announcements in mosques branding the vaccine anti-Islam and blamed “a new wave of attacks on polio workers” on the CIA’s use of Pakistani doctor Shakeel Afridi to help find bin Laden.

The doctor was jailed for 33 years in May after helping the CIA find Osama bin Laden using a hepatitis vaccination programme as cover.

“It has become a very serious and critical issue. People suspect foreigners’ involvement in the programme and fake campaign by Afridi has given further credence to conspiracy theory,” he said.

He said polio workers were beaten in the capital Islamabad on Monday, a team fired on in the southern town of Jacobabad, and a motorcycle stolen in the southwestern town of Ziarat.

“It is an alarming situation because neither the government, nor international aid agencies have a clear strategy to deal with this issue,” he said.

Pakistan is one of only three countries where polio remains endemic, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria.

The Taliban ban and insecurity have forced officials to postpone inoculations in parts of Pakistan’s northwestern tribal belt, jeopardising the health of more than 350,000 children.

Pakistan says 34 million children under five will be targeted in the campaign, which runs until Wednesday.

The highly infectious disease affects mainly the under-fives and can cause paralysis in a matter of hours. Some cases can be fatal.

The Lancet medical journal has said vaccination problems led last year to Pakistan’s highest number of polio cases in a decade, 198, compared to 144 in 2010

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iNmS0p6vLI8eya_Vxz0ASksivlhQ?docId=CNG.677603afc5efb606df47df0f86a41039.141

‘There will be no peace until Gaza blockade is lifted’

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‘There will be no peace until Gaza blockade is lifted’

Published: 22 November, 2012, 03:54

The ceasefire between Hamas and Israel is unlikely to last, as Tel Aviv will not lift the siege of Gaza, anti-war activist Don DeBar told RT. For a lasting peace, Gazans’ living conditions must be improved beyond the bare minimum for survival.

­“Unless the people of Gaza are allowed food and medicine and material to rebuild their blown-up country, then there is no justice until that happens and probably be no peace,” Don DeBar, an anti-war activist and journalist said in an interview with RT.

RT: Given the experience of previous ceasefires between Israel and Hamas – how long do you expect this to last?

Don DeBar: Well unfortunately earlier they had included the lifting of the blockade of Gaza in the peace agreement, and just here and now that is not the case. The reason for the entire extension of the hostilities – the precondition – has not been lifted, which is the starving of the 1.5 million people of Gaza by Israel illegally. So until that blockade is lifted, any act of violence that comes out of Gaza – as mild as they are, are really the acts of self defense from a people that are being starved to death. So until that precondition is removed, there should be no peace, and certainly there will not be.

RT: Gaza is celebrating the truce, with the head of Hamas declaring it as a victory over Israel. How much of a victory for Hamas is it?

DD: Their condition degraded from being starved to being starved and bombed, and now the bombing apparently will stop. And so that is the reason to celebrate, as meager as it might seem, in the face of starvation. But the real crime here is the fault of the Arab nations, including Egypt and the others. Egypt has no problems supporting a revolution with material, a quote-unquote revolution in Syria. They had no problem allowing material to be smuggled into Libya to overthrow the Libyan government, and yet they’ve been acting as a gatekeeper for Israel, even under Morsi, at the various crossings into Gaza. Rather than the Egyptian population marching into Gaza and standing with them, which it sounded like it was going to happen a couple of days ago, now we have this. Again, we’ll see what happens – but unless the people of Gaza are allowed food and medicine and material to rebuild their blown-up country, then there is no justice until that happens and there probably be no peace.

RT: Is it a victory because they’re not being bombed anymore?

DD: I would consider it a victory also if I were being bombed – but they need to be dealing with the material things of life, and they need food, medicine, construction materials, water – the things everyone else needs and feels entitled to, and the things everyone else is allowed under international law – and to go to war over it when they’re denied.

RT: The previous war four years ago, while even bigger in scope, didn’t stop Hamas attacks in the long-term. Do you think the latest Israeli offensive has managed to achieve its goal?

DD: No, other than to destroy some of the means of self defense that the Gazans had. Again, the precondition to dealing with that is to give people, if not justice, at least enough to survive and have a decent life. Right now it’s 1.5 million people in an open-air prison camp without food, without medicine, without the material means of survival except through those crumbs that are allowed to pass through the hands of the Israelis. Until that changes, Israel will not see peace and it should not.

RT: Few expected Israel to sign up to a ceasefire hours after the terror attack on its capital in the last 24 hours – most expected retribution instead. What was the key factor that made this truce possible?

DD: Probably Hillary Clinton and her going there. Morsi has a serious problem and it may hinge on that. The revolution that took place in Egypt has been guided by the people from the streets, and the real hot button issue that certainly diverges between leadership and people there is how the leadership deals with Israel. And the people in Egypt are not happy with the situation in Gaza even before these recent hostilities, and if Morsi did not do something and look as if he did something, then his position would become extremely untenable. It may well be just them just trying to keep Morsi in there and his compliance is what’s behind this most recent effort. But it will fail.

RT: Netanyahu’s reportedly just said Israel’s next mission will be to stop weapons smuggling from Iran to Gaza. How does he plan to do that?

DD: It sounds like they’re beginning a PR offensive against Iran, and it’s going to justify some sort of Israeli strike against Iran. It will probably happen before the election, if it does happen.

http://rt.com/news/israel-gaza-peace-blockade-287/

Five Truths About India

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Five Truths About India

Milan VaishnavARTICLE, NOVEMBER 2, 2012

For over sixty years, India, a low-income country occupying a sprawling geography and serving as a home to a dizzying diversity of ethnic and linguistic groups, has managed to survive—indeed, thrive—as a functioning democracy. Its political system in particular has the capacity to confound even the most knowledgeable and insightful Indian, so it should come as no surprise that for outsiders, interpreting Indian politics can be downright daunting.

 

But trying to fit India into neat categories to get a handle on the South Asian behemoth misses much of the nuance at the heart of the Indian polity. For instance, India’s politics have grown more regionalized, yet powerful forces of centralization remain intact. Old caste divides have lost social relevance but often thrive in the domain of politics. Five trends playing out in India today highlight the tensions between continuity and change in the country.

 

India’s party system is fragmented, but centralization has not disappeared

A dominant narrative about Indian politics over the last few decades has been the increasing regionalization of the political party system. One way to measure this fragmentation is to compare political competition in India’s first general elections in 1952 to the most recent parliamentary elections of 2009. In 1952, 55 parties contested general elections, and in 2009, there were 370 competitors (see figure 1).

Of course, these numbers overstate the level of fragmentation because they do not account for the actual support political parties have among the electorate, but the changes remain large even when parties are weighted by the actual seats they win. In 1952, this measure of effective number of parties in parliament stood at 1.7, and it has exhibited a more-than-fourfold increase over the past six decades, reaching 6.5.

 

The emerging federal nature of India’s electoral politics was given a shot in the arm in the early 1990s thanks to the rise of coalition governments in New Delhi, which provided a new set of incentives for aspiring regional politicians to abandon the dominant national parties and establish their own political outfits. While some of these new “regional parties” have strong links to subnational, separatist, or regional cultural markers, most simply draw support from a narrow (subnational) geographically defined territory. In this sense, several Indian parties formally classified as “national” by the Election Commission of India are actually regional in nature, such as the Nationalist Congress Party, whose success is largely confined to the state of Maharashtra.

 

As a result of these shifts, state-level politics are now theprincipal settings for political contestation, while national elections are increasingly “derivative.” While this does not mean that national elections are merely a sum of state-level contests, state-level politics is often the prism through which voters make decisions about national elections. For example, when state-level elections are held less than two years prior to national elections, voters are prone to reaffirm their state-level decisions when they vote in parliamentary elections. But when national elections take place midway through a state government’s tenure, more often than not voters punish the ruling state party or parties in national polls.

Moreover, fractures have developed within the two major national parties. Fragmentation within the ruling Indian National Congress (Congress, for short) is largely due to the leadership’s “dyarchic” nature. Ever since the Congress Party’s current president, Sonia Gandhi, refused to assume the position of prime minister after the Congress came to power in 2004, handing over the reins to former finance minister Manmohan Singh, dual power centers revolving around these two figures have persisted. In reality, Singh occupies the throne, but Gandhi is perceived to wield the power. The wheels came off the arrangement during its second term. Now, the “divided leadership” within the Congress Party may be the most significant political hurdle to implementing badly needed political and economic reforms.

The problem for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is far more complicated. The party boasts a surfeit of leaders clamoring for the post of prime minister. Many of the BJP’s most well-known personalities continue to jockey for greater visibility and stature within the party hierarchy—leading to frequent internal disputes. Complicating this picture even more is the fact that the BJP exhibits a significant amount of diversity at the state level. In the words of scholar Pratap Bhanu Mehta, the BJP “is, for all practical purposes, a collection of six or seven state parties.” Furthermore, the leaders of the BJP in the states pledge their political loyalties to different national-level BJP leaders.

Yet, it would be premature to sound the death knell for the two major national parties. In the 2009 general elections, the Congress and BJP won a combined total of 322 seats—or 60 percent of the overall count (543). Indeed, Congress’s vote share in national elections has essentially remained constant since 1996—hovering around 28 percent. (Yet due to the peculiarities of India’s winner-take-all electoral system, the number of seats the Congress has won with a roughly similar vote share has fluctuated wildly from election to election—see figure 2.) Both parties also continue to have a considerable presence at the state level. Nearly two-thirds of states (19 of 30) are presently governed by either Congress or BJP chief ministers, though several are in a coalition with regional parties.

States are the solution to India’s policy dilemmas, but also the problem

When India’s central government is unwilling or unable to take action on policy reform, its states are often heralded as the solution to gridlock or “policy paralysis” because Indian federalism gives the states considerable space for policy innovation. When the center fails, the respective states can usher in and lead intra-Indian competition for resources, investment, and talent, which produces a dynamic process of policy diffusion.

What complicates the picture is that the degree to which “good policies” are adopted often varies considerably within states. For instance, Gujarat has enjoyed fantastic economic growth rates and enormous investment inflows under Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure. In this sense, it is one of India’s most highly developed states. Yet, while Gujarat’s economic “model” is heralded, it a lags on health and family welfare, scoring near the bottom of India’s states on basic indicators of malnutrition.

The coexistence in Modi’s Gujarat of economic vitality with endemic malnutrition illustrates, in a nutshell, the promise and the peril of state-level leadership. Indeed, while there is a generally positive correlation between the level of development and malnutrition across India’s states, the states that thrive economically often “underperform” on addressing malnutrition (see figure 3 with Gujarat highlighted in red).

And when it comes to natural resource management states have strongly opposed reforms that would minimize their discretion and, therefore, their rent extraction possibilities. Consider the recent corruption scandal known as “Coalgate.” A blistering report from the comptroller and auditor general accused the central government of using an opaque, uncompetitive, and ad hoc discretionary process for allocating nearly 60 licenses for captive coal mines across India. The report estimates that the policy led to $33 billion in lost revenue.

The central government is surely to blame for dithering in establishing a new, competitive policy for allocating coal licenses. But the states themselves played a starring role in the scandal. The chief ministers of several mining-intensive statesstrongly opposed a change of policy and lobbied the government to maintain the status quo. And state governments played a prominent role in recommending which private sector firms should receive licenses.

The Indian state is often overbureaucratized yet undermanned

Given the corruption, cronyism, and abuse of government authority that have come to light in recent years—ranging from the discretionary allocation of licenses governing 2G telecommunication spectrum to the procurement scandals which plagued India’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games—there is a strong sentiment within India that the powers of the bureaucracy have to be substantially curbed. There is certainly a considerable need to curtail the worst excesses of the state, especially where the state’s heavy-handed role distorts economic incentives. For instance, transactions involving land—construction, mining, and infrastructure—remain a hotbed of corruption and malfeasance. The regulatory intensity of the state with respect to land is extremely high, allowing politicians and bureaucrats to trade regulatory forbearance for bribes and kickbacks.

Yet, while the Indian state needs to cede authority over certain realms, it simultaneously needs to expand its authority in others. Notwithstanding the widely held image of India as a country overburdened by a massive bureaucracy, India has one of the lowest rates of per capita public sector employment of any G20 country. Furthermore, government employment in India (across local, state, and federal levels) is in decline.

The Indian state suffers from debilitating weaknesses that hinder its ability to raise revenue, adjudicate disputes, guarantee public order, and provide public goods. It has the lowest tax-to-GDP ratio of any BRIC country (a grouping that also includes Brazil, Russia, and China). Indeed, it has one of the smallest ratios of any country in the G20. Admittedly, it is difficult to disentangle issues of policy choice from capacity, but there are ample signs that India is failing to enforce the taxes that are on the books. For instance, a new investigations unit of the income tax department dedicated to recovering lost tax revenue has barely gotten off the ground one year after setting up shop thanks to a personnel shortfall.

The relative incapacity of the judiciary has been well documented. The Supreme Court reported in late 2011 that the country’s courts are saddled under the weight of 32 million pending cases. Courts at all levels—the Supreme Court as well as various high courts and district and subordinate courts—see their dockets grow rather than shrink year after year.

Meanwhile, India’s security forces suffer from endemic personnel shortages. As of the end of 2011, only 77 percent of available posts in the civil police force were occupied according to the National Crime Records Bureau. Even if the state governments were to boost their recruitment and close the vacancy gap, India would still have one of the smallest ratios of police per capita anywhere in the world. The armed forces too struggle with manpower shortfalls: the Indian army faces a shortage of 12,000 officers, or roughly 20 percent of its overall sanctioned strength.

Finally, India also struggles in its ability to provide basic services such as healthcare and education. On education, for instance, it is true that India is growing ever closer toward achieving universal primary enrollment. Yet, the quality of those activities that regularly take place in schools is, on average, abysmal. According to the last several rounds of the Annual Status of Education Report conducted by the nongovernmental organization Pratham, the proportion of children aged six to fourteen who can read a simple paragraph has stagnated around 40 percent—with only marginal improvement over the past several years.

India’s economic crisis is largely self-inflicted

After over a decade of booming growth, the Indian economy was recently brought down to earth. In the quarter ending in June 2012, the economy grew at a rate of 5.5 percent—down from 8 percent the same quarter one year ago. While the International Monetary Fund now projects that growth in 2012 will dip below 5 percent, most independent observers forecast a quick rebound in 2013. A sustained period of growth at 5 percent or below, if such a situation materialized, would constitute a serious social and economic crisis for India.

In many ways, the particular success of India’s economy may have planted the seeds of its future slowdown. Reforms of the early 1990s, which involved industrial delicensing, reducing tariffs, and removing barriers to foreign capital flows, created a powerful new class of entrepreneurs who leveraged their political connections to entrench their positions in a newly liberalized economy. These private sector winners, and their political allies, believed it was in their self-interest to obstruct follow-on, second-generation reforms that would further increase international competition in the economy or introduce more transparent and competitive processes for natural resource contracts. Crony capitalism may have helped fuel rapid economic growth, but the rot in the system now threatens to swallow the whole thing up as the economy struggles in the wake of revelations of gross misgovernance and corruption.

There is also a perception that the roots of the current economic malaise are deeply political, from two years of unrelenting corruption scandals to a divided ruling party. The situation was further compounded by the government’s missteps on key policy issues at critical junctures. For instance, the government announced aggressive new anti-tax-avoidance policies that would retroactively levy taxes on business deals it perceived were structured to circumvent tax compliance. This move rattled investor confidence and contributed to an atmosphere of heightened private sector uncertainty.

In an encouraging move, in mid-September the government announced a slew of long-awaited reforms, notably raising the price of diesel (which is heavily subsidized) and increasing foreign investment caps in a range of sectors such as broadcasting, multibrand retail, and civil aviation. The government referred to these reforms as a “big bang,” but the current changes can best be described as a collection of modest steps. Most political parties acknowledge the need for more fundamental structural reform; India’s administrative, regulatory, and legal machinery is hopelessly out of date. Yet the implementation of such reforms carries with it great political risk, discouraging bolder action.

Caste in India is declining socially, but remains strong politically

Social relations in India have long been defined by the peculiar tenets of Hinduism’s hierarchical caste system. But according to a recent study, the social inequalities that have historically defined relations between Dalits (lower castes) and non-Dalits have declined precipitously in the market-reform era. Indeed, India now boasts a talented crop of “Dalit millionaires” who have formed their own Dalit Chamber of Commerce. Moreover, several groups have benefitted from reservations (or ethnic quotas) in government jobs, higher education, and political representation.

Yet caste hierarchies are alive and well in other areas. In one study, economists sent fictitious online job applications to firms, randomly manipulating the caste-based surnames of the fake applicants. Large and significant differences in the treatment of applicants was seen in competition over call-center jobs, where “soft” or intangible skills are difficult to effectively signal through resume credentials alone, suggesting the persistence of discrimination against disadvantaged groups in certain sectors.

And there can be no doubt that a significant amount of political mobilization still occurs along caste or communal lines. This is most glaring in north Indian states such as Uttar Pradesh, where rival political parties vociferously court opposing “vote banks” and speak of “caste equations.” Yet, political mobilization along identity lines is hardly confined to north India: politically motivated communal violence in Kerala and the persistence of political divisions between the Kamma, Reddy, and Kapu communities in Andhra Pradesh are evidence of this.

Moreover, caste seems to still influence voter behavior across India. Some observers have heralded the delinking of ethnicity and vote choice by examining national-level aggregates of voter behavior, finding little evidence to suggest that a majority of any given ethnic community favors one political party over another. But when onedisaggregates the data at the state level—which is the prime venue for political contestation—a majority of a caste group in many states votes in favor of one political party.

A closer look at state-level realities also suggests that some prominent leaders who have been celebrated for their perceived willingness to transcend caste divides in fact embrace caste—albeit in less overt, divisive ways. One prominent leader who is said to have risen above caste politics is Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in the state of Bihar. In reality, Kumar has not ignored caste; he has simply played the caste cardshrewdlyIn his first term, Kumar instituted a “Mahadalit” scheme—earmarking government transfers for certain Dalit segments, namely those that fell outside of the traditional vote banks of his opposition—and established quotas in government jobs for lower caste Muslims.

Looking Ahead

Over the past two decades, India’s politics have grown far more complex. Economic liberalization, growing political competition, and increasing decentralization have fundamentally remade India’s political economy. Yet these new shifts have not completely displaced prevailing ideologies and proclivities.

In today’s India, liberalization coexists with the remnants of state-driven planning. Regionalization has expanded but has not completely taken over. And the bureaucracy’s authority has receded in many domains while becoming more entrenched in others. Those looking to make sense of where India’s political project is headed in the years to come would be well-served to heed the words of Cambridge economist Joan Robinson: “Whatever you can rightly say about India, the opposite is also true.”

The author thanks Reedy Swanson for excellent research assistance, Ashley Tellis and Frederic Grare for comments, and Devesh Kapur for useful conversations.

http://www.carnegieendowment.org/2012/11/02/five-truths-about-india/ebjq