Friday, July 29, 2011

Stop Drone Strikes: Former Intel Chief | Pakistan | DAWN.COM

"Former US intelligence chief Dennis Blair said Friday the US should stop its drone campaign in Pakistan, and reconsider the $80 billion a year it spends to fight terrorism.

Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, Blair said the CIA’s unmanned aircraft operation aimed at al-Qaida is backfiring by damaging the US-Pakistan relationship."

Stop Drone Strikes: Former Intel Chief | Pakistan | DAWN.COM

Gunmen kill seven Shia pilgrims in Quetta – The Express Tribune

The Al-Qaida affiliates in Pakistan continue killing minoroties in Pakistan. Once again, Shiites in Quetta fell victim to the Sunni extremists, which are supported by other hardline groups.

Gunmen kill seven Shia pilgrims in Quetta – The Express Tribune

Monday, July 25, 2011

Victims of last year's floods in Pakistan

For more photographs of children still stuck in camps one year after the devastsating floods in Pakistan, please cllick on the link below:

Pakistani Perspective: Not a care in the world – The Express Tribune
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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Killing continues in Karachi

The last two days in Karachi has witnessed violent deaths of another 30 people in the poorest parts of town. My friends in the wealthier part of Karachi, which has seen almost no violence, are surprised at my concern about the spread of violence in the poor parts of town.

Unless the violence and its systematic causes are not addressed in the poor parts of town, the wealthier Karachi will not remain immune for long.

Karachi turmoil: Two days of violence leave 30 dead – The Express Tribune

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Conflict spreading in Afghanistan over time

Based on the data retrieved from the Wikileaks it appears that the conflict in Afghanistan has spread over time.  The following series of images present frequency of attacks in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2009. Notice that in 2004 (the upper left corner), most attacks were concentrated along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, which is home to the Pashtuns in Afghanistan. This would also make sense since most Afghan Taliban are ethnic Pushtuns.

However, as one moves from 2004 to 2009, one sees a dramatic spreading of attacks along Afghan border, even along the Western border with Iran. The distribution of attacks in 2009 (lower right corner) suggests both an increase in the number of attacks as well as spreading of the conflict to parts of Afghanistan that were immune to the violence earlier.

It will be interesting to see what the latest numbers suggest in the post-surge Afghanistan.

Another interesting sidebar on the maps presented below is that the data analysis and the generation of the maps was done using R, which is a freeware stats software enabling social scientists to paint pictures with data that was not possible earlier.

Click on the image below to see the original post and a larger version of the image.


The above graphic has been produced by Drew Conway, who is a PhD student in political science at New York University. Drew studies terrorism and armed conflict; using tools from mathematics and computer science to gain a deeper understanding of these phenomena.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

McGill scholar’s computer seized by US authorities

A doctoral student whose research focuses on the Shiites of Lebanon had his computer confiscated by the US authorities as he travelled in May 2010 from Montreal to his home in Brooklyn, New York.

Under the new rules, the US authorities are permitted to seize computer and other digital equipment of visitors at any port of entry.

Listen to his story in his own words where he explains how he was detained as he travelled to the US with his mother on the Mothers’ Day.

Note that as of July 2011, more than a year after the event in May 2010, McGill University has no reports listed on its website of the ill-treatment of its student by the US government.


Bloomberg News, sent from my iPhone.

Laptop Seizure, Search at Border Challenged by Student’s Suit

July 9 (Bloomberg) -- A U.S. judge is weighing whether to halt a lawsuit filed by a graduate student whose laptop was seized by customs agents as he crossed the border from Canada and found to contain pictures of rallies by Hamas and Hezbollah.

U.S. District Judge Robert Korman in Brooklyn, New York, yesterday put off ruling on whether to allow the case to go forward. Pascal Abidor, a 27-year-old U.S.-French dual citizen, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, seeks to force border guards to show a “reasonable suspicion” before searching laptop computers and other devices.

Abidor brought the case against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its secretary, Janet Napolitano, in September, saying such seizures violated the constitutional rights to free speech and to protection against improper searches.

“There are lots of burdens people are subject to in order to protect their own security and the security of others,” Korman said at a hearing yesterday. He said people can choose to travel without sensitive information if they fear it will fall into the wrong hands, just as they did 20 years ago before personal computers became commonplace.

“Not everyone has the choice to leave behind confidential information,” said Catherine Crump, a lawyer for the ACLU, citing attorneys and journalists.

More than 6,500 people, around half of them U.S. citizens, had electronic devices searched in a 20-month period starting in October 2008, according to Abidor’s complaint. In an eight-month period, 220 electronic devices were held, lawyers for Abidor said.

Broad Policies

Broad policies grant border guards access to information even if it enjoys medical, legal or journalistic privilege, and those policies don’t set limits on how long authorities can keep electronic devices, the lawyers said.

The U.S. said only one in 90,000 people coming into the country is searched, a necessary practice to detect drugs, child pornography and money laundering. The Supreme Court in 2004 found that the belongings of people entering the U.S. can be searched without “reasonable suspicion, probable cause or warrant,” lawyers for the U.S. wrote in court filings. Electronics such as laptop computers and mobile phones fall under that rule, the U.S. said.

Abidor, an Islamic studies graduate student at McGill University in Montreal, was taken aside by U.S. officials on a train on his way home to Brooklyn in May 2010. Customs agents searching his laptop found images of rallies by Hamas and Hezbollah, both designated as foreign terrorist organizations by the U.S State Department.

Doctoral Thesis

The pictures were downloaded from the Internet as part of his research into Shiites in Lebanon, the topic of his doctoral thesis, Abidor said he told the agents. He said he was patted down, handcuffed, taken off the train and held in a cell for three hours before being released without charge.

Abidor said he didn’t get his laptop, with the sole copy of his graduate work, for 11 days. When he did, there was evidence that his files, including research, personal photos and chats with his girlfriend, had been searched, he said.

The lawsuit was also brought on behalf of the National Press Photographers Association, some of whose 7,000 members have been subject to searches and seizures, according to court papers.

The case is Abidor v. Napolitano, 10-cv-04059, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Democracy in action in Afghanistan

Two female MPs in the Afghan Parliament embellished their freedom to debate by throwing water bottles, shoes, and hurling punches. Democracy is in safe hands in Afghanistan.

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