May 19, 2011


[Mr. Gates said that his supposition, shared by many other Obama administration officials, did not extend to Pakistan’s top political and military officials. “I have seen no evidence at all that the senior leadership knew,” Mr. Gates said. “In fact, I’ve seen some evidence to the contrary.”]

By Elisabeth Bumiller

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, left, and Adm. Mike Mullen,
the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Wednesday that he surmised that “somebody” in Pakistan had been aware thatOsama bin Laden was hiding in a compound in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad, but that there was no evidence so far that anyone in the country’s senior leadership had known.

“My supposition is, somebody knew,” Mr. Gates said at a Pentagon news conference with Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Beyond that, he said, the Obama administration, which has repeatedly said that Bin Laden seemed to have a “support network” while in hiding, had little information.
“We don’t know whether it was retired people, whether it was low level — pure supposition on our part,” Mr. Gates said. “It’s hard to go to them with an accusation when we have no proof that anybody knew.”
Mr. Gates said that his supposition, shared by many other Obama administration officials, did not extend to Pakistan’s top political and military officials. “I have seen no evidence at all that the senior leadership knew,” Mr. Gates said. “In fact, I’ve seen some evidence to the contrary.”
Mr. Gates, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, did not elaborate on that evidence. But hundreds of intelligence analysts continue to pore over the large trove of computer files, whose volume of data has been compared to that of a small college library. Navy Seal commandos recovered the material after they killed Bin Laden on May 2 in a raid on his Abbottabad compound, a short distance from an elite military academy that is Pakistan’s West Point.
Asked if the Pakistani senior leadership should pay a price for apparently not knowing that Bin Laden was there, Mr. Gates replied swiftly. “If I were in Pakistani shoes, I would say I’ve already paid a price — I’ve been humiliated, I’ve been shown that the Americans can come in here and do this with impunity,” he said.
Admiral Mullen echoed Mr. Gates. “I don’t think that we should underestimate the humbling experience that this is, and in fact the internal soul-searching that’s going on inside the Pakistani military right now,” he said.
At the same news conference, Mr. Gates and Admiral Mullen each said that there had been too much public discussion about the details of the raid and that there were concerns about security for the families of the Navy Seal members who had carried it out.
Mr. Gates, who met privately with the commandos four days after the raid, said that the commandos, whose names are classified, “did express concern, not so much for themselves but for their families.” Mr. Gates suggested that security measures might be taken as a precaution against potential retaliation by terrorists.
“All I will say is that we have been taking a close look at that, and we will do whatever is necessary,” Mr. Gates said.
In comments last week at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, Mr. Gates said that top administration officials in the White House Situation Room who monitored the raid as it was happening had agreed not to release operational details but that the agreement fell apart afterward.
Although Mr. Gates appeared to be referring to an extensive White House briefing that followed the raid, he said at the Pentagon news conference on Wednesday that he was not singling anyone out.
Admiral Mullen said simply that “it is time to stop talking.”
India's cabinet has approved a proposal for a survey to identify people living below the poverty line, which also redefines what constitutes poverty.
It will classify the rural poor into "destitutes, manual scavengers and primitive tribal groups".
Urban poor will be defined as those in vulnerable shelters, low-paid jobs and homes headed by women or children.
The survey, to be conducted alongside a caste census later this year, will help identify those who need state aid.
There are various estimates on the exact number of poor in India.
Officially, 37% of India's 1.21bn people live below the poverty line. But one estimate suggests this figure could be as high as 77%.
The last poverty survey was conducted in 2002, but this is the first time that details about caste and religion will be included. The last caste census in India was in 1931.
Under the new system, in rural areas, families owning fixed-line telephones, refrigerators and farmers who have a credit limit of 50,000 rupees ($1,112; £688) will not be counted among India's poorest.
Government staff or those earning 10,000 rupees ($222; £137) a month will also be excluded. Home-owners with three or more rooms will also not be classified as poor.
Officials say the census to identify the people living below the poverty line is "a mammoth task", but it will help them to support those in the greatest need.
On Wednesday, a World Bank report said attempts by the Indian government to combat poverty were not working.
It said aid programmes were beset by corruption, bad administration and under-payments.
China has admitted that the Three Gorges Dam has created a range of major problems that need solving quickly.

By Michael Bristow
Top leaders say the project has led to environmental problems and issues involving relocating 1.3m people.
The Three Gorges is the world's largest dam and could have cost up to $40bn. This appears to be the first time that central government leaders have admitted to problems with the project.

The admission came in a statement from top government body, the State Council.
The statement initially praised the scheme's achievements, saying it had helped alleviate flooding, improve navigation and generate electricity.

But it went on: "There are urgent problems that need to be addressed, such as stabilising and improving living conditions for relocated people, protecting the environment, and preventing geological disasters."

China's revolutionary leader Mao Zedong dreamed of building the Three Gorges Dam. Construction started in 1994.
The dam was completed in 2006, with the reservoir reaching its full height last year after submerging 13 cities, 140 towns and 1,350 villages.
Local leaders and campaign groups have for some time complained about problems associated with the project.
At a government-organised conference in 2007, local officials warned of "environmental catastrophe".
One problem appears to have been caused by fluctuations in the water level of the vast reservoir, which stretches for 660km (360 miles). This causes frequent landslides.
The government said more also needs to be done to help those forced to move because of the construction.
They need more jobs, better transport facilities and improved social security benefits, said the State Council, chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao.

Known problems
The Three Gorges was a contentious scheme even before it was approved.
A third of the members sitting in China's normally compliant parliament voted against the plan or abstained.
Perhaps in a tacit acknowledgement of the problems, there were no major celebrations when the reservoir reached its full height last year.
In this latest statement, the State Council said it knew about some of the problems even before work started 17 years ago.
It says others arose while the dam was being built and some have happened since, because of "new demands as the social and economical situation developed".
The task now was to begin sorting out some of these problems, said the government.

As John Boehner found – attacked by fellow Catholics for backing budget cuts – mixing religion with politics cuts both ways.

By Calvin Harris 
For  years, conservative Americans have distorted the definition of moral values, almost exclusively in terms of wedge issues such as abortion and gay marriage. This narrow characterisation of what constitutes "values" has often led Democratic politicians to have their principles scrutinised. But lately, the tables have turned.

The  past weekend, House speaker John Boehner issued a message of humility and faith in his commencement speech at Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. But Boehner, a Republican who grew up in a Catholic family, has been accused by leading Catholic academics of violating the basic teachings of the Catholic Church on aiding the poor. Over 75 priests, nuns and professors from prominent Catholic universities from across the country wrote an open letter to Boehner criticising for his support for a 2012 budget that "guts long-established protections for the most vulnerable members of society". While the Catholic leaders acknowledged the need for fiscal responsibility in their letter, they stated that it should not come "at the expense of hungry and poor people".

The partisan budget proposal – sponsored by Republican House budget committee chairman Paul Ryan – provides tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations. But nearly two thirds of the budget cuts it proposes – viewed as "anti-life" by the Catholic leaders – come from programmes for America's most vulnerable populations. According to a Centre on Budget and Policy Priorities report, low-income discretionary programmes will take $400bn in cuts, mandatory programmes serving low-income Americans are decreasing by $350bn, and reductions from Medicaid and related healthcare add up to $2.17tn.

Boehner is not the first Catholic politician to face criticism over his politics and faith. In 2004, Democratic presidential candidate Senator John Kerry was denied communion over his support for abortion rights, which some bishops view as a direct violation of the church's teachings. Former Democratic Representative Patrick Kennedy was also barred from receiving communion in 2009 for having a similar stance on abortion.
It is no shock that religion plays a major role in everyday American life. The surprise is the way conservatives have hijacked doctrine to benefit their own agenda. Liberals, though, have not fared much better by separating faith and personal ethic from political discourse. Conservatives argue that God's way is their way, while liberals try to pursue an unrealistic and artificial separation of religious values from morally-grounded political leadership. In the end, voters are asked to choose between ideological religion and Godless politics.
This debate is not new. Jim Wallis, evangelical Christian and activist, has examined it for years. During the 2004 presidential elections, for example, Wallis questioned the emphasis on homosexuality in political debate.
"Jesus didn't speak at all about homosexuality. There are about 12 verses in the Bible that touch on that question. Most of them are very contextual. There are thousands of verses on poverty. I don't hear a lot of that conversation."
In a 2009 interview, Wallis went on to say:
"I think the right has made a serious mistake in adopting a moral-values strategy, because they're winning in the short run. But in the long run, they're going to lose this debate because they won't be able to restrict it to two issues. Once you open that door to a values conversation, it's going to undercut a rightwing economic agenda, which values wealth over work and favours the rich over the poor, or resorts to war as the first resort and not the last."
As America gears up for the 2012 campaign season, those so-called religious candidates should take heed to the words of Martin Luther King Jr:
I'm motivated by my faith, but I've got to persuade the public on the basis not of religion but of the common good.
@ The Guardian