x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Bombing a warning to Zardari to end cooperation with US

The bombing of the Marriott hotel in Islamabad on Saturday was a warning from al Qa'eda to the government of President Asif Zardari to end cooperation with the United States in its fight against al Qa'eda and Taliban in the region. President Bush and Congress are trying to agree to a $700 billion bailout of the US economy after the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the effective nationalisation of insurance giant AIG to the tune of $85 billion. A new poll finds that racist feelings and the whispering campaign alleging that Barack Obama is a closet Muslim are finally denting his popularity numbers. Finally, in the UK a new opinion poll predicts a Labour wipeout in the next election, with eight cabinet ministers expected to lose their seats.

The massive bomb that blew up the Marriott hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Saturday, was a warning to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to stop all cooperation with the US in its war on terror, reports the Associated Press. "'The attack on the hotel is a message to the Pakistani leadership: End all cooperation with the Americans or pay the price,' said Brian Glyn Williams, associate professor of Islamic history at the University of Massachusetts. 'Both sides see Pakistan as a vital battlefield in their global struggle and clearly Pakistani civilians are paying the price for being in the middle of this struggle,' he told the Associated Press. "Within hours of the explosion, Pakistan's Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar was quoted on local television channels blaming 'foreigners' for the bombing. He pointed the finger at al Qa'eda and its Chechen and Uzbek members, whose hideouts in the tribal regions have been targeted by the Pakistan military. "Terrorism researcher Evan Kohlmann told the AP it is almost certainly either al Qa'eda or Pakistani Taliban. "'We are looking at either al Qa'eda or Tehrik-e-Taliban (Pakistan),' Kohlmann said. 'It seems that someone has a firm belief that hotels like the Marriott are serving as barracks for western diplomats and intel personnel, and they are gunning pretty hard for them.'"

"The Bush administration asked Congress on Saturday for the power to buy $700 billion in toxic assets clogging the financial system and threatening the economy as negotiations began on the largest bailout since the Great Depression," said the AP. "The rescue plan would give Washington broad authority to purchase bad mortgage-related assets from US financial institutions for the next two years. It does not specify which institutions qualify or what, if anything, the government would get in return for the unprecedented infusion. "Democrats are pressing to require that the plan help more strapped borrowers stay in their homes and to condition the bailout on new limits on executive compensation." "'It's a rather brief bill with a lot of money,' said Sen Chris Dodd, D-Conn., the Banking Committee chairman. 'We understand the importance of the anticipation in the markets, but we also know that what we're doing is going to have consequences for decades to come. There's not a second act to this - we've got to get this right.'" The New York Times asked on Sunday whether the rescue will work. "If it all comes to pass - if Uncle Sam becomes the repository for the radioactive leftovers of bad real estate bets - will the crisis lift? Will the fear that has kept banks clinging to their dollars, starving the economy of capital, give way to free-flowing credit?" asked the NYT. "Most broadly, what are the long-term costs of the government's stepping in to restore order after so many wealthy financiers became so much wealthier through what now seem like reckless bets on housing - bets now covered with public dollars? "Some question the prudence of adding to the nation's overall debt at a time when the Treasury relies on the largess of foreigners to cover the bills. Even so, there is wide agreement that a broad intervention like the one Treasury is proposing is necessary. "'It goes a long way; it ameliorates it very substantially,' said Alan S. Blinder, an economist at Princeton and a former vice chairman of the board of governors at the Federal Reserve, who has said for months that the government must step in forcefully to buy mortgage-linked investments. "'We're deep into Alice in Wonderland's rabbit hole,' Mr Blinder said. "But significant skepticism confronts the plan. Under a proposal circulating Saturday, the Treasury could spend as much as $700 billion to buy mortgage-linked investments, then sell what it can as it works out the messy details of the loans. But no one really knows what this cosmically complex web of finance will be worth, making the final price tag for the taxpayer unknowable. One may just as well try to predict the weather three years from Tuesday. "Also, what message does that send to the next investment bank caught up in the next speculative bubble and contemplating the risks of jumping in while wondering who is ultimately on the hook if things go awry? "Many economists say such questions are beside the point. The nation is gripped by the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Before Thursday night, when the Treasury secretary, the Federal Reserve chairman and leaders on Capitol Hill proclaimed their intentions to take over bad debts, the prognosis for the American financial system was sliding from grim toward potentially apocalyptic. "'It looked like we might be falling into the abyss,' Mr Blinder said. "As the details of the government's plans are hashed out, no hallelujah chorus is wafting across Washington, down Wall Street or through the glistening condominiums of the nation. Too many households are having trouble paying their mortgages. Too many people are out of work. Too many banks are bloodied." The Sunday Times reported that the huge size of the US economic bailout package could severely affect the value of the dollar. "The US Treasury's $700 billion (£380 billion) plan to bail out the banks could undermine the dollar, economists warn. "Word of the proposals created a mood of euphoria in financial markets on Friday. But analysts warned of the risks," wrote The Times. "Tim Bond of Barclays Capital, while conceding that the rescue was necessary to avoid the risk of depression, said: "The volume of fresh government borrowing and the fast expansion of the Fed's balance sheet are both negatives for the dollar, carrying a potential risk of increased inflation." "Other economists also think that the dollar could be undermined. Kenneth Rogoff, former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund and now a professor at Harvard, said: 'It is hard to believe that the dollar will continue to stand its ground as the crisis continues to deepen.'" Columnist Andrew Sullivan writing in the Sunday Times says that neither US presidential candidate has offered any responsible solution to the US economic crisis, concluding that the choice that American voters face in November is one of Tweedledum and Tweedledumber. "Instead of telling Americans in no uncertain terms that their recklessness has consequences, he too is peddling populist blather. He too will spend money the government doesn't have to protect small-time borrowers from the consequences of their folly. He too blames companies that operated within the rules as dictated by Congress for maximising their profits by irresponsible lending," writes Mr Sullivan. "He is fiscally more responsible than McCain - and his economic proposals would add less to US debt. But he will not cut spending and is not the fiscal conservative the economy needs. And he is playing a conventional game of economic demagoguery to win votes. "The truth is: however hard McCain tries to change personality and policy to meet the next news cycle and polling, he cannot escape the simple fact of his Republicanism. He cannot play the maverick now - after abandoning his previous common sense to embrace the Bush-Cheney economic madness of the past eight years. If he had stuck to his principles of 2000, he might have had a chance as these Bush chickens came home to pelt the Republicans with droppings six weeks before election day. "McCain sold his soul a long time ago; in the past few weeks he has been auctioning it on eBay. He deserves to lose. On the economy, though, Obama is not exactly demonstrating that he deserves to win either."

A new AP-Yahoo News poll has found that deep-seated racial views could cost Barack Obama the election if the results are very close. The poll found that one-third of white Democratic voters hold negative views towards blacks, calling them "lazy", "violent" or responsible for their own troubles. "The poll, conducted with Stanford University, suggests that the percentage of voters who may turn away from Obama because of his race could easily be larger than the final difference between the candidates in 2004 - about 2.5 percentage points," reported the Associated Press. "Certainly, Republican John McCain has his own obstacles: He's an ally of an unpopular president and would be the nation's oldest first-term president. But Obama faces this: 40 percent of all white Americans hold at least a partly negative view toward blacks, and that includes many Democrats and independents. "More than a third of all white Democrats and independents - voters Obama can't win the White House without - agreed with at least one negative adjective about blacks, according to the survey, and they are significantly less likely to vote for Obama than those who don't have such views. "Such numbers are a harsh dose of reality in a campaign for the history books. Obama, the first black candidate with a serious shot at the presidency, accepted the Democratic nomination on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech, a seminal moment for a nation that enshrined slavery in its Constitution. "'There are a lot fewer bigots than there were 50 years ago, but that doesn't mean there's only a few bigots' said Stanford political scientist Paul Sniderman who helped analyse the exhaustive survey." New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof warned Sunday of a push to 'otherise' Obama before the election by claiming he is a closet Muslim. "Here's a sad monument to the sleaziness of this presidential campaign: Almost one-third of voters "know" that Barack Obama is a Muslim or believe that he could be," says Mr Kristof. "In short, the political campaign to transform Mr Obama into a Muslim is succeeding. The real loser as that happens isn't just Mr Obama, but our entire political process. "A Pew Research Center survey released a few days ago found that only half of Americans correctly know that Mr Obama is a Christian. Meanwhile, 13 percent of registered voters say that he is a Muslim, compared with 12 per cent in June and 10 per cent in March. "More ominously, a rising share - now 16 percent - say they aren't sure about his religion because they've heard "different things" about it." Mr Kristof admits that he wrote the column partly because of previous columns he had written about Mr Obama's Muslim roots in Kenya, and which are now being used by Obama-opponents to raise doubts in voters' minds about Mr Obama's faith. "I'm writing in part out of a sense of personal responsibility. Those who suggest that Mr Obama is a Muslim - as if that in itself were wrong - regularly cite my own columns, especially an interview last year in which I asked him about Islam and his boyhood in Indonesia. In that interview, Mr Obama praised the Arabic call to prayer as 'one of the prettiest sounds on Earth at sunset,' and he repeated the opening of it," wrote Mr Kristof. "This should surprise no one: the call to prayer blasts from mosque loudspeakers five times a day, and Mr. Obama would have had to have been deaf not to learn the words as a child. But critics, like Jerome Corsi, whose book denouncing Mr Obama, 'The Obama Nation,' is No. 2 on the New York Times best-seller list, quote from that column to argue that Mr Obama has mysterious ties to Islam. I feel a particular obligation not to let my own writing be twisted so as to inflame bigotry and xenophobia. "Journalists need to do more than call the play-by-play this election cycle. We also need to blow the whistle on such egregious fouls calculated to undermine the political process and magnify the ugliest prejudices that our nation has done so much to overcome."

The Observer reported Sunday that a new opinion poll shows that eight cabinet ministers are set to lose their seats in the next election which will be a bloodbath for the Labour party being led by Gordon Brown. "Gordon Brown is set to lead Labour into an election bloodbath so crushing it could take his party a decade to recover, according to the largest ever poll of marginal seats which predicts a landslide victory for David Cameron," said The Observer. "Eight cabinet ministers, including the Home Secretary and the Justice Secretary, would be swept away in the rout as the Tories marched into Downing Street with a majority of 146, says the poll, conducted for PoliticsHome.com and exclusively revealed to The Observer. Seats that have been Labour since the First World War would fall. "The sheer scale of the humiliation is almost as bad as that endured by the Tories in 1997, suggesting it could take Labour a similar time to claw its way back to power. The party would be virtually extinguished in southern England and left with only its hardcore redoubts in northern England, the Welsh valleys and deprived inner-city areas. "The stark findings from the survey of almost 35,000 voters across 238 seats, published on the PoliticsHome website today, are likely to fuel the stalled insurrection against Brown. A third of potential Labour voters in marginal seats would be more likely to back the party if he were replaced. "Intriguingly, the findings also suggest David Miliband's hopes of leading Labour may depend on him challenging Brown before the election." Dissent within Labour against Mr Brown is rife, reported the Sunday Times. "Charles Clarke, the former home secretary, called for an immediate leadership contest, dismissing fears that Labour would be punished by voters for 'navel-gazing'. Writing in The Sunday Times he claimed that Brown lacked 'strong leadership, clarity of purpose and public support'. "Urging MPs to wield the knife, he added: 'Though prevarication and evasion may appear attractive at the moment, they are actually the most dangerous course of all.' "A YouGov poll of Labour members for The Sunday Times reveals that 60 per cent believe the party cannot win an election under Brown. David Miliband, the foreign secretary, emerges as the favourite to succeed."

ralsamh@thenational.ae