Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Tuesday, 8th July 2008

Afghanistan hints Pakistan had role in embassy bombing
KABUL: A massive suicide bombing against the Indian Embassy in Kabul received support from foreign intelligence agencies, Afghanistan said in a security report released Tuesday, as Afghan officials heaped blame on Pakistan for the carnage.
The Pakistani prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, denied that its intelligence service was behind the attack. Speaking in Malaysia, he said his country had no interest in destabilizing Afghanistan, noting that both countries were fighting the common enemy of terrorism.
But the Afghan report said terrorists had entered the country after receiving training and logistical support from across the border, a likely reference to Pakistan. The report by the Ministry of Defense and the country's national security adviser was discussed by Afghanistan's cabinet shortly after the embassy attack on Monday, which killed 41 people and wounded 150.
"Without any doubt the terrorists could not have succeeded in this act without the support of foreign intelligence agencies," the report said.
The blast was the deadliest in Kabul since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
The Interior Ministry of Afghanistan had earlier hinted that it suspected the Pakistani intelligence service of being behind the attack, saying the blast happened "in coordination and consultation with some of the active intelligence circles in the region."
Asked to comment on Afghanistan's view, Gilani said: "Why should Pakistan destabilize Afghanistan? It is in our interest to have a stable Afghanistan."
"We want stability in the region. We ourselves are a victim of terrorism and extremism," said Gilani on the sidelines of a summit meeting of eight developing Islamic nations. He did not elaborate.
Afghanistan often accuses Pakistani intelligence of supporting the Taliban insurgency, a charge denied by Islamabad.
Also Tuesday, the Afghan Foreign Ministry summoned the chargé d'affaires of the Pakistani Embassy over comments by a former Pakistani member of Parliament on the need for jihad against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Suspicion of Pakistani involvement with the Taliban runs deep in the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan because of historical reasons - Pakistani intelligence helped create the militia, many of whose leaders and recruits studied at religious schools in Pakistan.
Despite international condemnation of the Taliban regime's fundamentalist rule in Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, Pakistan was one of the few countries that gave it diplomatic recognition.
Islamabad formally abandoned its support for the Taliban after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. Still, the militia's leaders are suspected of receiving shelter and support in Pakistan.
Pakistan, meanwhile, views with suspicion Indian involvement in Afghanistan, including the millions of dollars donated for reconstruction and the Indian engineers and laborers helping to build roads and other infrastructure.

High food prices may cut opposition to genetically modified food

ZURICH: Like many stores in Europe, the Coop chain of supermarkets in Switzerland does not specify whether goods are genetically modified - because none are. But a wave of food-price inflation may help wash away popular opposition to so-called Frankenstein foods.
"I think there's a lot of resistance in Switzerland," said a shopper, Beatrice Hochuli, as she picked out a salad for dinner at a bustling supermarket outside the main Zurich station. "Most people in Switzerland are quite against it."
Consumers, even those from relatively wealthy parts of the world, are rarely first in line to adopt new technologies. Although food prices are up more than 50 percent since May 2006, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's Food Price Index, Europeans remain wary of foods derived from tinkering with the genetic makeup of plants.
But policy makers and food companies are pressing the genetic modification topic in a bid to temper aversion to biotech crops like pesticide-resistant rapeseed for oils and "Roundup-ready" soybeans, which tolerate dousing of the Roundup herbicide.
These are crops already common in the United States and other major food exporters like Argentina and Brazil.

The European Commission has said that it believes biotech crops can alleviate the current crisis in food supply, although it added in June that expediency should not overrule strict scientific scrutiny of the use of the technology involved.
The chairman of Nestlé, the world's biggest food group, has said it is impossible to feed the world without genetically modified organisms.
Meanwhile, the British government's former chief scientific adviser, David King, has said over the past week that genetically modified crops hold the key to solving the world's food crisis. He called in a Financial Times interview for a "third green revolution," in reference to two waves of innovation that helped increase crop yields sharply in Asia over the past 50 years.
Climate change and increasing concern about fresh water supplies are helping to fuel interest in new seed varieties likely to be more resistant to drought and able to produce reasonable yields with significantly less water. GM technology still has many opponents, who fear that genetically modified crops can create health problems for animals and humans, wreak havoc on the environment, and give far-reaching control over the world's food to a few corporate masters.
Yet a European Commission-sponsored opinion poll last month showed slight change in awareness and acceptance of the technology.
"For me it is just a matter of time before we get our head around GM," said Jonathan Banks at the market information company AC Nielsen. "The way people will learn to live with GM is to say 'we do it product by product and make sure everything is OK,"' Banks said. "At the moment we have a knee-jerk reaction which thinks of Frankenstein foods."
The European Union has not approved any genetically modified crops for a decade, and the Union's 27 member countries often clash on the issue. Outside the EU, Switzerland has a moratorium on growing GM crops, though that authorities have granted permission for three GM crop trials between 2008 and 2010 for research.
The market represents a substantial opportunity for biotechnology companies: the European seeds market is worth $7.9 billion, out of a global total of $32.7 billion, according to data from Cropnosis, a consultancy. The global genetically modified seeds market was worth $6.9 billion in 2007 and is set to grow further.
Agrochemical companies are riding a wave of high food prices and soaring demand for farm goods, and Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta have all raised 2008 earnings forecasts. Although high prices are a boon for farm suppliers, much of the cost has been passed on to consumers, sparking protests in many countries including Argentina, Indonesia and Mexico.
Others also see opportunity: in June, the chocolate maker Mars, the computer giant IBM and the U.S. Department of Agriculture said they would map the DNA of the cocoa tree to try to broaden the crop's $5 billion market.
In a Eurobarometer opinion poll in March, the number of European respondents saying they lacked information on genetically modified food fell to 26 percent, compared with 40 percent in the previous survey, which took place in 2005.
But 58 percent were apprehensive about the use of such crop technology and just 21 percent were in favor, down from 26 percent in a 2006 Eurobarometer survey on biotechnology.
"People do change attitudes, just gradually, because they become used to technologies," said Jonathan Ramsay, spokesman for Monsanto, the world's biggest seed company. "Consumers are looking at prices, consumers hear the stories about food production, growing population in the world, and I think people do understand that agriculture needs to be efficient."



A hungry world
Your editorial "The Group of 8 and man-made hunger" (July 7) only touches the surface of what is becoming our planet's most dire and dangerous problem: world hunger.
On the top end, we see oil-rich countries, like those in the United Arab Emirates, creating the most beautiful cities and buildings that are the result of increasing oil wealth and very small populations. On the low end, we cry when we hear of mass starvation in many African countries, as well as the result of uncontrollable environmental pollution in countries like China, now one of the world's largest petroleum consumer, like the United States.
How have we reached this situation in which farmers in many countries, including poorer ones like Brazil, are growing crops like corn and sugar cane solely for the production of biofuels, which also pollute the environment and contribute to global warming?
Don't the governments in countries that produce the most biofuels realize that every liter of ethanol takes several kilograms of food crops, and water, out of the mouths of human beings?

And now, to make things worse, intense flooding in America and China (often said to be a result of global warming) is depriving everyone of food supplies as well. The message that comes out of the G-8 summit meeting in Japan should be one of trying to save our environment, which in the long run will help prevent the catastrophes that are causing so much human misery today.
If this message doesn't get out, then we are all facing an even worse time on this good earth. After all, just as you can't eat oil, you can't eat ethanol.
Maurice Picow, Netanya, Israel



A bitter-tasting jolt for Starbucks

By Alex Beam

It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of people. The collapse of Starbucks, I mean.
This week the Seattle-based coffee kahuna announced it is closing 600 of its 6,800 U.S. stores and laying off more than 12,000 employees, or "partners" in the company's New Age-y jargon. The bad news is the culmination of a long, downward spiral. During the past year, the stock has dropped nearly 50 percent, as the allure of high beverage prices and Italianate jargon - what does "venti" mean, anyway? - fades away, along with Americans' discretionary income.
Starbucks had a unique selling proposition: Let's charge $3 and up for an above-average coffee drink. It wasn't a blindingly original idea; Alfred Peet, mining the European café tradition in Berkeley, inspired the original Starbucks founders in Seattle and George Howell's Coffee Connection in Boston. But huckster-visionary-entrepreneur Howard Schultz took the Starbucks concept and wallpapered the land with the buxom green mermaid logo and espresso-slinging baristas. Schultz was the Ray Kroc of coffee (Kroc was the fellow who bought the Golden Arches from the original McDonald brothers) but acted more like Deepak Chopra.
While behaving like a Gilded Age robber baron - just for a lark, Google the words "Starbucks" and "labor unions" or "fair trade" - Schultz positioned Starbucks as a countercultural concern. The company hyped its sofa-stuffed lounges as a new, American "third place," an alternative to work and home. I'm always amazed at the high-class hobos who clutter up Starbucks, the MacBook "novelists," and the Bluetooth-enabled "consultants," nursing their lattes and milking the Internet. The Dunkin' Donuts outlets in my neighborhood offer a glaring contrast. I hit Dunkin' a few mornings each week after exercising. It's the only time of day when I interact with men and women who actually work for a living.
What went wrong at Starbucks? To invoke the venerable business cliché, they didn't stick to their knitting. Their core business was overcharging consumers for coffee, and a very lucrative business it was. Then they started selling dreamy CDs, and the company even helped produce a movie, "Akilah and the Bee," that bombed at the box office. Schultz bought a basketball team and started hanging out with Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney, the usual recipe for business disaster.

Starbucks also made it their business to save the world. The world needs saving, I can't argue with that. But I wonder if Starbucks is best qualified to perform the rescue. To be fair, the company tries harder than many others to provide decent health benefits for its employees, and I suppose they are welcome to sell "Ethos" water and educate rural teachers in China. But if they don't figure out a way to move more java, they'll lose the opportunity to feel wonderful about themselves. You can't do good if you aren't doing well.
What now? Starbucks is throwing a couple of Hail Mary passes. They've just introduced a new, brewed coffee called Pike Place, which tastes OK, and, like their other regular brews, costs the same as Dunkin's coffee. ("Swill," as Schultz rather ungraciously calls it in the current issue of Portfolio magazine.)
Taking a page from Jamba Juice, Starbucks plans to start offering "healthy," protein-boosted smoothies and a new frozen drink, which Schultz is calling "a game changer in the coffee space."
It's hard to change a game that's already over, but there's no harm in trying.
Free plug:
I spotted this line in Portfolio's Starbucks article: "By now, many of the coffee snobs have gone elsewhere." So true! Check out the Web site of the George Howell Terroir Coffee Company, Howell is a local legend, but the dishy prose on his Web site reads like an Onion parody of the Wine Spectator: Of the South Italian Calabria-style espresso, Daterra, we read: "As a ristretto, this new roast style produces a rich and velvety crema with a deep reddish-brown color and unfolds into dense marzipan, cherry and caramel brownie on the palate, exhibiting a viscous syrupy body with a lasting sweet finish."

G-8 sets goal to halve emissions by 2050

RUSUTSU, Japan: Pledging to "move toward a low-carbon society," leaders of the world's richest nations on Tuesday endorsed the idea of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions in half by 2050, but they refused to set a short-term target for reducing the heat-trapping gases that most scientists agree are warming the planet.
The declaration by the Group of 8 - the United States, Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and Russia - came under intense criticism from environmentalists, who called it a missed opportunity and said it ignored the urgent need to cut emissions more rapidly.
But European leaders, who have long pressed President George W. Bush to adopt a more aggressive stance on climate change, said they were pleased with the agreement and cast it as an important step toward setting the groundwork for a binding international treaty to be negotiated in Copenhagen in 2009.
"This is a strong signal to citizens around the world," said José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission. "The science is clear, the economic case for action is stronger than ever. Now we need to go the extra mile to secure an ambitious global deal in Copenhagen."
The climate change document was among a spate of communiqués the G-8 leaders issued Tuesday, the second day of their three-day gathering at a hot springs resort here on the mountainous northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. In addition to climate change, they tackled food security, the global economy and aid to Africa.

On food security, the leaders said they were "deeply concerned that the steep rise in food prices" could push "millions more back into poverty." On the global economy, the leaders insisted they "remain positive," but conceded that financial markets face "serious strains."
On aid to Africa, they agreed to monitor their own progress, a victory for Bush, who has complained that countries are not living up to a 2005 promise to double development assistance by 2010. But advocates said the Africa communiqué rolled back important past commitments on health and education.
On the matter of Zimbabwe, the leaders rejected the legitimacy of the re-election of Robert Mugabe as president and called for officials there to work for a prompt, peaceful resolution of the political crisis, The Associated Press reported. G-8 leaders said they would take financial and other measures against those people responsible for violence.
Yet it was climate change that drew the most attention. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda of Japan has made global warming a high priority for the meeting, just as Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany did last year, when she played host at the gathering at Heiligendamm.
During a brief appearance with Bush before the agreement was announced, Merkel pronounced herself "very satisfied" with the leaders' progress.
Environmentalists, though, were harshly critical. Philip Clapp, an expert in climate change at the Pew Environmental Group who was in Rusutsu monitoring the talks, said the leaders had significantly weakened language they adopted last year at Heiligendamm.
"The emissions reduction goal is extremely weak," Clapp said, because it aimed to reduce emissions from current levels rather than 1990 levels, as the leaders proposed last year. He added: "The science shows that we have to reduce 80 to 90 percent from current levels to avoid the worst impacts of climate change."
Another American climate change expert who was in Japan for the meeting, Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists, called the communiqué "a missed opportunity," adding, "What was needed was a clear signal that the world's major industrialized countries would provide real leadership in cutting their own emissions of heat-trapping gases by 2020."
Kumi Naidoo, leader of the alliance Global Call to Action Against Poverty, said that the G-8 action was "significantly too slow for us," calling the G-8 negotiations "a battle of words which underscores a lack of political will."
The feelings of advocates were perhaps best summed up in a full-page advertisement in the Tuesday edition of The Financial Times of London, run by The ad showed the faces of Fukuda, Bush and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, pasted onto the well-known Japanese cartoon characters called Hello Kitty. "Hello Kiddies," the headline read. "Be a Grown-Up. Set 2020 climate targets now."
The declaration Tuesday does not end the climate change discussion at the meeting. On Wednesday, the Group of 8 will take up the issue again, this time with the so-called Outreach 5 leaders of developing nations, including China and India.
Bush has insisted that no climate change agreement is workable without the participation of the so-called "major economies" - others call them "major emitters" - like China and India.


Farmed algae choking coral in Kiribati

BUTARITARI, Kiribati: Off the palm-fringed white beach of this remote Pacific atoll, the view underwater is downright scary.
Corals are being covered and smothered to death by a bushy seaweed that is so tough even algae-grazing fish avoid it. It settles in the reef's crevices that fish once called home, driving them away.
Dead coral stops supporting the ecosystem and, within a couple of decades, it will crumble into rubble, allowing big ocean waves to reach the beach during storms and destroy the flimsy thatched huts of the Micronesians.
"We are catching less and less fish, and the seaweeds are fouling our nets," says Henry Totie, a fisherman and Butaritari's traditional chief.
The area affected, about 6.5 kilometers, or 4 miles, long and 1.5 kilometers wide, lies off the island's main village, an underwater examination showed. It looked similar to Kaneohe Bay in the Hawaiian island of Oahu, where the seaweed also has spread out of control.

Fuel prices force airlines into action

Air travel is by far the fastest-growing source of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Russian tax inspectors said to make new demands on TNK-BP
MOSCOW: Russian tax inspectors have presented TNK-BP, BP's troubled Russian oil joint venture, with a new demand only hours after Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain had raised the issue of official harassment of the company with the Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev.

Texas oilman outlines plan for cleaner energy

Michigan company to build world's largest solar array
A Michigan company, Energy Conversion Devices, planned to announce Tuesday that it would provide the solar electric system for what it says will be the world's largest rooftop array, on a General Motors assembly plant in Zaragoza, Spain. The project will be 12 megawatts, a huge number in a field where most arrays are measured in kilowatts.
Solar cell arrays on houses are commonly a handful of kilowatts, or thousandths of a megawatt. On big commercial buildings, installations of one or two megawatts have become common. A one-megawatt installation will run about 1,000 window air-conditioners simultaneously, at least as long as the sun is shining.
The Zaragoza project will use solar devices manufactured in rolls, like carpet runners. Installation will be completed this autumn, according to the company, which is based in Rochester Hills, Michigan. Energy Conversion will supply the equipment to Veolia Environment and Clairvoyant Energy, which will lease the rooftop space from GM and own and operate the installation, which will cover 185,000 square meters, or two million square feet.
Spain has become a center for solar installations because it offers generous subsidies - €0.42, or $0.66, per kilowatt hour. That is about five times the average cost of a kilowatt hour to residential customers in the United States. The Spanish government is considering a reduction in the subsidy for installations after September.
Energy Conversion plans to produce about 150 megawatts of cells this year. Last month, the company raised $400 million in new capital and announced plans to raise its annual production to one gigawatt, or 1,000 megawatts, by 2012. The company did not say what the Spanish installation would cost.

London oil summit to be in December
TOYAKO, Japan: Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Tuesday that a second summit of oil producers and consumers would be held in December in London.
Brown said the London meeting was part of a process following on from a similar meeting in Jeddah and taking forward recommendations on energy security and climate change made at the Group of Eight rich nations summit in Japan.
"We've decided on an energy forum that will be convened by the Japanese themselves over the next few weeks. It will meet by September, in the autumn," Brown told reporters.
"It will then feed its recommendations into the consumers/producers dialogue that we're having with oil and energy producers and consumers, that we're having in London in December," he said.

Oil supply and demand
The comments in the article "Navigating a world where oil costs $145" (July 5) are amazing and unbelievable. Referring to high oil prices, David O'Reilly, the chief executive of Chevron, says: "We can see how you can get to $100. At $140, I just don't know how to explain it."
Mr. O'Reilly, don't you know that the oil reserves of our planet are fixed and non-renewable, and that according to some geological estimates they will be depleted within 30 years? The law of supply and demand is causing the high prices. We will be looking soon at $140-a-barrel oil with nostalgia.
Reno Zack, San Dimas, California

China warns Sarkozy not to see Dalai Lama

Youth violence churns Paris district

Failed test trails a rider as he races into Tour de France lead
Stefan Schumacher speedily grabs the yellow jersey

CHOLET, France: Stefan Schumacher came to the Tour de France with goals similar to those of many other riders: "A stage win and a day wearing the yellow jersey would be fine," the German, who rides for the Gerolsteiner team, said this year.
On Tuesday, he achieved one goal, with a remarkable 18-second victory in the first of two time trials, a 29.5 kilometer, or 18.3 mile, individual race against the clock.

Sarkozy asks Italy to pardon militant from radical Red Brigades

Syria to send ambassador to Paris, diplomat says

Cyprus leaders to decide on peace talks

Rumors and riots

Tens of thousands of mass protests and riots take place each year in China, but the most recent and publicized riot, which occurred on June 28 in Weng'an, a poor county in Guizhou, must be deeply unsettling to the Chinese authorities.
Erupting roughly 40 days before the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, the riot, captured on YouTube, clearly bothers a government that wants to showcase China's prosperity and stability. The riot was also one of the largest (involving more than 10,000 people) and most violent in recent years. Rioters set fire to the headquarters of the local Communist Party and the police and caused widespread property damage
The riot was apparently triggered by the local police's inept handling of a recent case in which a teenage girl was allegedly raped and murdered. Instead of conducting a thorough investigation, the police reportedly closed the case as a suicide and beat up some of the victim's classmates who went to the police headquarters to protest the decision. Incensed, thousands of ordinary people besieged the police headquarters and unleashed their anger.
The Weng'an riot, however, is by no means unique or isolated. In fact, its cause and violent manifestation are eerily similar to other mass riots.
On Sept. 7, 2006, a mob of several thousand surrounded the local government buildings and the police station in Tangxia township near Rui'an (in Zhejiang Province). They were infuriated by the local police's investigation of the death of a female school teacher under mysterious circumstances.

New Zealand warns of recession

Anniversary of a prophesy
By H.D.S. Greenway
Published: July 8, 2008
Fifteen years have passed since Foreign Affairs published Samuel Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations?" in its summer issue. It has subsequently become the most sought after article for reprints in the magazine's history.
The essay, and the book by the same title minus the question mark, caused a storm among political scientists, many of whom simply refused to believe that, after the end of the Cold War, future conflicts would be over something so old fashioned. Only George Kennan's article on how to contain the Soviet Union after World War II, bylined X, can compete with Huntington's in terms of influence.
"The dominant source of conflict will be cultural," Huntington famously predicted, and "fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future."
Stroke, a failing heart and complications from diabetes have reduced Huntington, whom Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University called "arguably the most influential and original political scientist of the last half century," to bed and a wheelchair these days.
Now in his 81st year, he has good days and not so good days in the world of what has come to be called assisted living. His facility is a shingled building on Martha's Vineyard that resembles a turn of the century summer cottage.
His wife of 50 years, Nancy, lives nearby in a house built on the royalties of "Clash," as everyone calls Huntington's scoop of perception. Letters and e-mails still pour in, and the book has been translated into many languages, the latest being Albanian.
Perhaps the most articulate criticism of "Clash" came from Ajami who wrote, in 1993, that Huntington's thesis had not taken full account of modernization, that civilizations were no longer pure and unique; not "buried alive, as it were, by the Cold War."
Ajami, also writing in Foreign Affairs, quoted Joseph Conrad in whose novels characters, going out east of Suez for the first time, would observe: "the East spoke to me, but it was in a western voice."
Conrad, however, lived in a time when the Western domination of the East was at its height. Huntington saw that with the end of imperialism and the end of the Cold War, the East might begin to push back. Huntington recognized that of all the distinguishing characteristics demarking civilizations, religion was the most powerful.
Huntington noted that the Spanish Civil War had "provoked intervention from countries that politically were fascist, communist, and democratic (while) the Yugoslav conflict is provoking intervention from countries that are Muslim, Orthodox and Western Christian."
Ajami, however, wrote that "Huntington underestimates the tenacity of modernity and secularity in places that acquired these ways against great odds..."
The last 15 years have not seen conflict along all the fault lines that Huntington predicted, but his theories are looking ever more prescient, especially "along the boundaries of the crescent shaped Islamic bloc of nations from the bulge of Africa to central Asia," as he wrote in 1993.
This January, writing in The New York Times, Ajami graciously admitted he had been wrong. "Those 19 young Arabs who struck America on 9/11 were to give Huntington more of history's compliance than he could ever have imagined." Ajami wrote that Huntington had understood the "youth bulge" that was "unsettling Muslim societies, and that young Arabs and Muslims were now the shock-troops of a new radicalism."
Their rise had overwhelmed the order between Muslims and other peoples. "Islam had grown assertive and belligerent; the ideologies of Westernization that had dominated...had faded." Huntington, Ajami wrote, had always swam "against the current of prevailing opinion" which, 15 years ago, held that globalization and modernization would sweep all before it.
"It would be unlike Samuel P. Huntington to say 'I told you so,"' Ajami wrote, and perhaps that's true. But a copy of Ajami's confession is pinned over Huntington's bed, and the very mention of it brings a grin to his face, even on days when he doesn't feel like speaking.
Rights group urges Saudi Arabia to protect domestic workers
JAKARTA: A new report on the abuse of domestic workers in Saudi Arabia cites the case of an Indonesian woman, Nour Miyati, who had her fingers and toes amputated as a result of being starved and beaten on a daily basis. Her case, tried in a Riyadh court, was later dropped.
The case, according to the report released Tuesday in Jakarta by Human Rights Watch, is hardly unique: the study found that thousands of domestic workers in Saudi Arabia each year face similar abuses, including lashings, unpaid wages, forced labor and slavery-like conditions.
"In the best cases, migrant women in Saudi Arabia enjoy good working conditions and kind employers, and in the worst they're treated like virtual slaves. Most fall somewhere in between," said Nisha Varia, author of the report.
About 1.5 million domestic workers live in Saudi Arabia, coming primarily from Asian countries like Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Nepal. Indonesia accounts for by far the most workers, an estimated 600,000 to 900,000.
The report, titled, "As If I Am Not Human: Abuses Against Asian Domestic Workers in Saudi Arabia," is based on two years of research inside Saudi Arabia and nearly 150 interviews with migrant workers, government officials and labor recruiters.

Embassy attack hardens mistrust of Pakistan
KABUL: Ordinary Afghans' mistrust of the Pakistani military and its spies deepened on Tuesday in the wake of a suicide car bomb attack outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul which killed 41 people and wounded 139.
Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani spoke of his country's goodwill towards Afghanistan while visiting Malaysia, but Afghans' suspicions of their interfering neighbour and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency were running high.
"We know that Pakistan's ISI has orchestrated the attack on the Indian embassy because good relations between Afghanistan and India are not in Pakistan's interest," said student Nadir Shah a day after the attack in the centre of the Afghan capital.
"India plays a key role in building Afghanistan's infrastructure and is working on many vital projects for the people, whereas Pakistan wants to deter India by using Taliban to kill them and end their mission," he added.
The Afghan government has yet to level a direct accusation at Pakistan, though a spokesman on Tuesday said the attack bore the "hallmarks of a particular intelligence agency".
"I am not going to name it. I think it is pretty obvious," said spokesman Humayun Hamidzada.
Afghan state-run newspapers were less circumspect.
"The enemy is ISI of Pakistan, who fights on different fronts against Afghans and tries to fish in muddy waters through planning subversive attacks in Afghanistan," the Kabul Times said in an editorial.
The Dari-language Anis newspaper said Pakistan had been behind past attacks on Indian construction workers, who have been killed in bomb blasts or executed after being kidnapped.
Ahmad Fawad, a roadside money changer, said Pakistan was habitually blamed.
"Pakistan has been involved in Afghanistan's politics and security for years," Fawad said.
"So, the government blames Pakistan and its intelligence agency for any big attacks that happen in Afghanistan."
There is widespread suspicion Pakistan's ISI maintains contacts with some Taliban factions and other Islamist groups fighting in Afghanistan, although it at the same time works with Western forces and the Afghan government to counter cross-border militancy.
Pakistan has repeatedly denied the allegations, saying Kabul was trying to smear the ISI to deflect attention from its own shortcomings, including corruption and a lack of ethnic Pashtun representation in the government.
After a Taliban jailbreak in Kandahar last month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai lost patience and threatened to launch hot pursuit across the border to hunt down Taliban fighters who fled into Pakistan after carrying out attacks in Afghanistan.
Pakistan had supported the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in the 1990s, and only abandoned the Islamist militia after the United States forced President Pervez Musharraf to reverse foreign policy following al Qaeda's attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.
Having helped mujahideen, Islamic warriors, fight a guerrilla war to drive the Soviet army out of Afghanistan in the 1980s, Pakistani generals came up with the idea of "strategic depth", which meant cultivating influence in Afghanistan.
The Pakistanis wanted a friendly fellow Muslim nation on their western border ready to rally to the cause of any jihad, or holy war, against India.
Instead, they were stymied by deployment of Western forces in Afghanistan, heavy representation of the Taliban's old enemies in the Northern Alliance in Karzai's government, and India's increased diplomatic and economic presence in Afghanistan.
Pakistan frequently accuses Indian consulates in southern and eastern Afghanistan of meddling, and suspects India of supporting separatists in the western Pakistani province of Baluchistan as a payback for Pakistan's own support of separatists in Kashmir.
While nuclear-armed India and Pakistan began a peace process in 2004, having gone to the brink of fourth war in 2002, the two rivals remain steeped in mistrust and compete for influence in the energy-rich Central Asian states to the north of Afghanistan.
Communists to withdraw support of Indian government
NEW DELHI: A day after India's prime minister left for the Group of 8 summit meeting in Japan - with his government intact and enough political strength to seal a landmark nuclear deal with the United States - his Communist backers announced Tuesday that they would withdraw their support of his government.
The move ended months of political strain and allowed the government to advance its negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
A government spokesman, Sanjaya Baru, did not give any dates on when a deal with the IAEA, the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency, might be completed. But he said the text of an agreement was nearly done, and that India could swiftly finalize it and go on to secure approval from the 45 member nations of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Only after those two steps have been completed can the U.S. Congress vote on the final agreement.
A U.S. congressional delegation came to New Delhi last week to urge the Indian government to hurry it along.
The nuclear agreement would allow India access to nuclear fuel and technology on the world market.

U.S. aircraft carrier shifted to Afghanistan from Iraq
WASHINGTON: Worried about increasing insurgent attacks in Afghanistan, the U.S. military says it is sending extra air power there by shifting an aircraft carrier away from Iraq.
Defense officials said Tuesday that the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln has been moved from the Gulf to the Gulf of Oman, shortening the time that the carrier's strike planes must fly to support combat in Afghanistan.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record.
One official said the decision reflected both the worsened state of the fight in Afghanistan and improvements in Iraq. Since violence is down in Iraq, U.S. defense leadership believes it is possible to focus some air capabilities away from Iraq and more on Afghanistan.
The navy routinely moves ships in and out of the Gulf, where they not only support America's two current wars but also serve as a show of force to Iran and sign of support to regional allies.
With talks on horizon, Iran warns against military action
PARIS: A senior Iranian cleric was quoted Tuesday as threatening that Tehran would respond to any military attack by striking Israel and "burning down" America's vital interests around the globe.
"If they commit such a stupidity, Tel Aviv and U.S. shipping in the Persian Gulf will be Iran's first targets and they will be burned," said Ali Shirazi, a representative of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader.
The threat — which drew no immediate response from Israel or the United States — was the latest twist in the complex maneuvering around Western efforts to persuade Iran to abandon nuclear enrichment.
The United States, Israel and other Western countries fear that Tehran's nuclear program is designed to build nuclear weapons, but Iran says it is for civilian purposes.
While negotiations between Iran and the West are set to resume later this month, Iranian officials have sounded mounting alarms about speculation that the United States or Israel could launch a military strike on Tehran's nuclear facilities. On a European tour last month, President George W. Bush repeated Washington's warning that no options had been ruled out.
"The Zionist regime is pressuring White House officials to attack," the Iranian student news agency ISNA quoted Shirazi, an official of the Revolutionary Guard, as saying.
"The Iranian nation will never accept bullying. The Iranian nation is a nation of believers which believes in jihad and martyrdom. No army in the world can confront it."

Becoming a foreigner in my own country

By Nora FitzGerald

Expats, myself included, generally think we have more stress than other people. It's a badge of honor among the voluntarily displaced. I don't know how many times I have said or heard, "Our highs are higher and our lows are lower." This emotional arrogance, which starts with the idea that our lives are more interesting than the lives of others, keeps some of us from adjusting to the mere notion of going home.
I began writing this piece a month or two ago, as we started dealing with the end of the era. Rachel, our eldest, didn't want to leave Moscow after four years. At first she offered to handcuff herself to the gates of a luxury community where some of her friends live, as an art action and protest. Later, she cultivated invitations to stay with Russian families for her eighth-grade year.
Our twin boys, Liam and David, were initially more sanguine, but now our stuff is gone, and their names echo through the apartments when I call them. David is growing sadder, Liam quieter. Ria, our 4-year-old who has spoken Russian as long as she can remember, seems remarkably unperturbed, just as her older siblings were when we embarked on this journey 10 years ago.
What's important to me is that we try and ride out these uncomfortable feelings together. It feels like we are waiting forever on a platform for the next train to take us to an unknown destination. Russia is our home and the United States is our foreign posting, but there is one thing we know from hard-earned experience: Our adaptation will mostly be the result of our own efforts, and the compassion of those who encounter us.
Here's to a soft landing.

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