Posts Tagged ‘ Chicago ’

US-Pakistan Tensions Deepen as Obama Snubs Zardari at Nato Summit

As Reported By Ewen MacAskill for The Guardian

The rift between the US and Pakistan deepened on Monday as the Nato summit in Chicago broke up without a deal on Afghanistan supply routes.

Barack Obama, at a press conference to wind up the summit, made no attempt to conceal his exasperation, issuing a pointed warning to Pakistan it was in its wider interest to work with the US to avoid being “consumed” by extremists.

Seldom in recent years have the tensions between Washington and Islamabad been on public show to the extent as at the Chicago, overshadowing the two-day Nato summit.

The main point of friction is Pakistan’s closure of Nato supply routes to Afghanistan in protest over drone attacks and a US air strike in November that killed two dozen Pakistani troops.

Obama refused to make time during the two-day summit to see the Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari for a face-to-face bilateral meeting. In a press conference, Obama made a point of stressing that the only exchange he had with his Pakistani counterpart was short. “Very brief, as we were walking into the summit,” Obama said.

The US president said he “did not want to paper over the cracks” and that there has been tension between the US-led international force in Afghanistan and Pakistan over the last few months.

But ultimately, it was in the US interest to have a stable, democratic and prosperous Pakistan, Obama said, adding it was in the interest of Pakistan to work with the US to ensure it is not consumed by extremists.

There are fears in the US that the Pakistan government is unstable and that the government could fall, to be replaced by hardliners. The risk for Obama is displaying his annoyance with Pakistan at the Chicago summit is that Zardari could leave the summit feeling humiliated and even less willing to play a positive role over Afghanistan.

Obama declined to meet Zadari one-to-one because Pakistan is refusing to re-open its Afghanistan border to Nato, which means the US and others are having to resupply their military forces through the slower and more expensive routes from the north and Russia.

The president claimed that he never anticipated the Pakistan supply line issue being resolved at the summit and, taking a more optimistic view of the stand-off, he said they were making “diligent progress”.

“We think that Pakistan has to be part of the solution in Afghanistan. Neither country is going to have the kind of security, stability and prosperity that it needs unless they can resolve some of these outstanding issues,” Obama said.

The British prime minister, David Cameron, at a press conference in Chicago, reflected the irritation with Pakistan, describing the blocked routes as “frustrating”. Cameron said he expected a deal eventually but not at the summit.

In its final communique, Nato formally committed to its withdrawal of the 130,000-strong force from Afghanistan based on a timetable agreed earlier by Obama and Karzai. All international combat troops would be withdrawn by the end of 2014. But the communique said a smaller force would remain to help “train, advise and assist” the Afghan army.

The communique does not say how many troops will be left but US commanders in Kabul are looking at a Nato force of around 15,000-20,000. Reflecting the public mood in Nato countries tired of the war, the comminque said the withdrawal timetable is “irreversible”.

Obama, at the opening of the second day of the Nato summit on Monday morning, showed his displeasure with the Pakistan government by singling out for mention the Central Asia countries and Russia that have stepped in to replace the Pakistan supply route and made no mention of Pakistan. Zardari was in the room at the time.

To ram home the point, the US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, also held a meeting at the Nato summit with senior ministers from Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Panetta expressed his “deep appreciation” for their support.

Zardari has demanded an apology from the US for the killing of the 24 Pakistani troops in November in return for reopening supply lines. He is also proposing that the tariff for each vehicle be raised from $250 to $5,000. The US is bitter about this, noting the amount of American military and other aid that goes to Pakistan annually.

In his wrap-up press conference, Obama stood praised the Chicago police for their handling of the demonstrations but also defended the rights of the protesters. “This is part of what Nato defends: free speech and freedom of assembly,” Obama said.

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Panetta to Confront Pakistan at NATO Summit on Transport Costs

By David Cloud for New York Daily News

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta heads to this weekend’s NATO summit prepared to confront Pakistan over what he considers price-gouging for transport of supplies to Afghanistan and hoping for a “consensus” among allies over the war effort.

In an interview before his arrival in Chicago, where the summit is scheduled to begin Sunday, Panetta all but ruled out paying Pakistan $5,000 for each truck carrying supplies across its territory for NATO troops waging the Afghanistan war. Pakistani officials have demanded that amount as a condition for reopening supply routes that have been closed to the alliance since fall.

“Considering the financial challenges that we’re facing, that’s not likely,” Panetta said of the demand.

Before the supply routes were closed in November after a mistaken U.S. attack on two remote Pakistani border posts that killed two dozen Pakistani troops, NATO convoys were paying an average of about $250 a truck, a senior U.S. official said.

U.S. officials say they remain hopeful they can resolve the dispute, perhaps at the summit. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari accepted a last-minute invitation to attend the meetings, although he is not expected to meet one-on-one with President Obama, officials said.

Thousands of trucks a day carrying supplies would go through multiple border crossings from Pakistan to Afghanistan, making the fees a potentially massive source of revenue for the cash-strapped government in Islamabad.

The U.S. has shifted deliveries to different routes through Russia and other countries to Afghanistan’s north. But the massive withdrawals of equipment due to unfold over the next 21/2 years as troops leave the country will be “significantly” more difficult if routes in Pakistan aren’t used, the Pentagon acknowledged in a report last month.

The Obama administration hopes the two-day summit will highlight what Panetta called a “consensus” within NATO about how to disengage militarily by the end of 2014. Exhausted after more than a decade of war, the U.S. and its allies want to hand off responsibility for fighting the Taliban to Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government, even though its army and police remain well short of being able to stand on their own.

“Everybody in the alliance recognizes that for this to work, we can’t pick up and leave. We’ve got to remain there to provide support and to assist them in that effort with training, with assistance, with advice,” Panetta said.

But he acknowledged that there would be difficulties, both on the battlefield and within the alliance. Those splits are exemplified by the new French president, Francois Hollande, the Socialist Party leader who campaigned on a vow to withdraw all 3,300 French troops by the end of this year. Hollande met with Obama at the White House on Friday.

Panetta, who plans to meet the new French defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, in Chicago, indicated that the U.S. hopes France will agree to keep some forces in a noncombat role in Afghanistan for the next 2 1/2 years, even if they withdraw all combat troops early.

Yet a more rapid exit by France than planned could lead other allies to speed up their own troop withdrawals.

“There are some countries — Canada, France — that want to bring their combat operations to an end on a faster time track, but that doesn’t have to mean they won’t accept the responsibility to continue to provide the needed support,” Panetta said.

Panetta acknowledged that U.S. efforts to persuade other countries to make long-term financial pledges to fund Afghanistan’s army and police, a key objective of the two-day Chicago summit, is running into difficulties.

“Of course, it’s not easy considering the financial difficulties that a lot of these countries are going through,” he said. “Many of them have come forward and said they would be willing to make a commitment, and I really do think we will be able to achieve the support levels we need.”

In an effort to secure more pledges, the U.S. is asking other countries to commit to providing aid for only three years, though Afghanistan’s armed forces are expected to need foreign assistance for at least a decade, a Western diplomat in Washington said.

A year ago, the Obama administration was hopeful it could draw the Taliban into peace negotiations with Karzai’s government, but Panetta acknowledged that he didn’t see a deal to end the conflict happening “any time soon.”

US Hip Hop Troupe Praises Pakistan’s Rich Music

As Reported by Dawn.com

Pakistan has very rich music and through concerts we can open up conversations about different cultures and can make real relationships. The people we have met and worked with in Pakistan are amazing.

These were some of the views members of a United States hip hop troupe ‘FEW Collective’ that is currently visiting Pakistan as part of US cultural diplomacy programme shared with Dawn. The troupe is expected to perform in Lahore on Monday (tomorrow).

The troupe consists of six people — DJ Asad Jafri, Alsarah, a Sudanese-born singer and songwriter, Aquil Charlton, writer and performer, Manal Farhan, a performing artiste, Braveonk Daniel Haywood, dancer, and Jonathan St. Clair, aka Super Inlight, a multidisciplinary performing and teaching artiste.Throwing light on hip hop music and dance, Charlton said this genre of performing arts like rapping emerged in the United States at house parties in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Charlton said The band ‘FEW Collective’ was formed in 2005 and its objectives included to convey positive message through the hip hop forum, to become the voice of the young and voice of the marginalised wanted to stand as an example for types of positive things that could happen and could bring young people from different backgrounds together and fuse their thoughts.
He said hip hop had four elements i.e. DJ, graffiti, break dance and know yourself, but ‘FEW Collective’ stood for ‘Fifth Element
Warriors’ since we are fighting for the knowledge.

St. Clair said the group had performed in Algeria, Morocco and China while Pakistan was their fourth destination.

Farhan said that Asad Jaffri, also her husband, had visited Pakistan a couple of times since his family belongs to Karachi. She said it’s been great here in Pakistan.

Asad Jaffri is also running a community-based non-profit charity organisation – Inner-city Muslim Action Network (IMAN).

Based in Chicago, IMAN organises works for social justice, provides direct services, and cultivates arts in urban communities.

Since 1997, IMAN has utilised arts as a vehicle for social change and to build bridges among communities and cultures. It also works closely with an international network of over 400 artists. This work includes artistic retreats, developmental workshops, and cultural exchanges. Through national and international efforts, IMAN stresses the importance of arts in creating mutual understanding, connecting cultures, and building community. Delivering a vast array of stories, music, movement and visual arts from rich cultures, IMAN highlights the work of Muslim artists and powerful artistic movements around the world.

The group members told Dawn that they had listened to Pakistani music which was very rich and they had also prepared a song ‘Dam Mast Qalandar’ in fusion with Pakistani instrumentalists.

During their stay in Lahore, they also worked and interacted with students of the BNU and LACAS.

The FEW is an artistic collective that believes in the power of art to engage, educate and inspire. It combines traditional forms of music, dance, and art with the elements of hip hop and theatre to address contemporary issues.

As representatives of hip hop culture, its members acknowledge the evolution of music, visual art, the spoken word, and dance as basic elements of the culture and knowledge as a master element.

Some know them as the Fifth Element Warriors, others relate them as From Every Walk, but they know themselves as always Finding Eternal Wisdom. The FEW specialises in hip hop theatre, concerts, arts workshops, team-building sessions and
leadership development.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note– This is a great initiative by the US State Department to help foster better understanding between the two countries who have hit a rough stretch after 60+ years of a close friendship and mutual regard between the people of the two nations.

Amir Khan, A Son of Pakistan

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

Amir Khan is a British boxer. Let’s first get that straight. He represented Britain in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece where he was the only British boxer in the contingent. In those Olympics, the British flag was raised and a medal counted towards their overall tally due to Amir’s performance. At the age of 17, he brought home the silver in his lightweight boxing class and became the youngest British boxer to represent the United Kingdom since Colin Jones in 1976.

Since then, an impressive professional career has blossomed to where presently Khan is the current WBA Super Lightweight champion of the world. He has a record of 26 wins and only one loss with 17 of those wins coming by way of a knockout. That sole loss to Briedis Prescott, where Khan was knocked out in the first round, is the only blemish in his otherwise stellar career. Since that bout in 2008 against Prescott, Khan has gone on to defeat such notable fighters as Marcos Antonio Barrera, Marcos Maidana and Paul McCloskey. Today he is considered one of the best pound for pound British fighters in the world.

Standing in his way to even bigger fame and glory was tonight’s fight against Zab Judah, the IBF light welterweight champion of the world and a fighter who had won five world titles in different weight classes. The fight was thought to be very interesting as Judah is considered a very experienced fighter and someone who was capable of knocking out the lightening quick Khan. The winner of tonight’s fight also would go on to unify the Light Welterweight titles as he would be the IBF and WBA Light Welterweight champion of the world.

In the boxing circles there was also a lot of talk of a potential fight in the near future with the undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr. prior to Kans’s fight against Judah. Mayweather is considered as one of the best boxers in history due to his impressive undefeated fighting record of 41 wins and 0 losses. In an interesting note, Amir Khan is trained by Freddie Roach who also happens to be the trainer for Manny Pacquiao, the seven division world champion and also arguably one of the best fighters of all time. Pacquiao is the only boxer that Mayweather has refused to fight due to one reason or another. A fight that boxing fans around the world have been salivating at for several years now. A potential fight between Khan and Mayweather will need to suffice the fight fans until and if the Mayweather vs Pacquiao fight ever materializes. Therefore saying that the ramifications of tonight’s fight are big would be an understatement in the boxing community.

As for me, my love for boxing must have started at an early age when I learned that my father, on a training trip to the United States, met and had a lengthy meeting with the greatest of all time, Muhammad Ali. At that time my dad had gone to America in the 70’s on a training course on behalf of his company. While staying at the Hilton hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, he ran into the world heavyweight champion Ali in the lobby where a crowd was hounding the champion.

Instantly recognizing Ali, who surely must be one of the most famous people the world has ever known, my dad reached out to shake his hand and at the same time uttered “Asalaam-alikum” to Ali. Grabbing my father’s hand, Ali replied with “Walikum Asalaam” and asked where my father was from, to which he replied Pakistan.

Intrigued with meeting a Muslim from the East as he later stated to my father, Ali invited him to his penthouse suite where my dad proceeded to spend close to two hours with Ali and his entourage during which time the champ asked him many questions about Pakistan and Islam. In particular, he was interested in how the religion was practiced as compared to the way practiced by the Muslims of the Nation of Islam in America, an organization that Ali was influenced by.

Having heard numerous accounts of his story growing up along with seeing countless pictures of my dad and Ali during their encounter so many years ago, not only endeared me to the champ but also to the sport of boxing. Since then I have always followed boxing and seen many great fights and boxers. But for the first time, my interests in boxing along with many people of Pakistani origins has piqued further by the arrival on the world stage of Amir Khan.

Although he is known as the pride of Bolton in England where he was born, his Pakistani origins are never far away as they are a big part of his life and spirituality since his family hails from Kahuta in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Kahuta which was previously famous for being the site of Pakistan’s main nuclear facility is now also known as the area of Pakistan where Amir’s family originates.

This nation of Pakistan has in the last few years perhaps become synonymous with terrorism, instability, bombings, religious intolerance and extremism. But for one night, the Pakistani people can raise their head with pride and claim Amir as one of their own. He is a product of their soil who is making the country proud during a difficult time in their history. It is also a credit to his native England that promoted an environment for him to train and succeed. There is no limit to the amount of other talent in Pakistan that would have a chance to succeed if only there were such facilities and opportunities in Pakistan or even stability and security that was provided to Khan in England.

There is no doubt that to many people both inside and outside the nation of his forefathers, Amir Khan represents the best of every Pakistani. To these people. whether they are Pakistani Canadians in Toronto, or a youth in the inner streets of Birmingham, UK or a Pakistani American eating paan on Devon St in Chicago, Amir Khan is one of their own.

As he fought and defeated Judah in Las Vegas Saturday night, Amir Khan looked up and saw the thousands of British fans in attendance who had traveled from the UK and were proudly waiving the Union Jack. Deep inside, he must have known that many more millions in Pakistan and across the world were praying and hoping for even greater future success for him as the hopes and dreams of an entire nation are squarely on his able shoulders.

Manzer Munir, a proud American of Pakistani descent, is the founder of Pakistanis for Peace and blogs at www.PakistanisforPeace.com as well at other websites as a freelance journalist and writer.

Chicago Trial To Put heat On Pakistan Spy Agency

As Reported by CBS News

The federal trial of Tahawwur Rana begins Monday in Chicago, in which the Pakistan-born Canadian citizen who has lived in the Midwest for many years stands accused of providing cover for a former classmate who scouted sites for the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks in India. He is also accused of providing support for attempted attacks in Denmark that were never carried out.

Rana has pleaded not guilty, and while the trial may be about Rana’s alleged abetting of international terrorism, the court proceedings are gaining international attention because they are expected to finger Pakistan’s ISI spy agency for helping a terror group carry out the attacks, the Associated Press reports.

Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani militant group, has been blamed for the 3-day siege in Mumbai that killed more than 160 people, including six Americans. David Headley, a Pakistani-American businessman who has confessed to his involvement in the attacks and has turned government informant, is expected to testify that Pakistan ISI agents helped the militant group carry out the Mumbai attacks, The Guardian reports.

The trial comes at a particularly tense time for U.S.-Pakistan relations, because U.S. Navy SEALs recently found and killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan after he had been hiding in plain sight there for several years.

Headley, a former informant for DEA, has already pleaded guilty to aiding in the attacks, and he has also already told an Indian inquiry into the attacksthat ISI officers helped Lashkar-e-Taiba plot the commando-style attacks on several sites in Mumbai, India’s largest city, The Guardian reports.

The 12 jurors selected for the federal trial of Rana are mostly minorities and mainly women, the AP reports.

Eight women and four men were sworn in for the trial, and opening statements are planned for Monday.

The AP writes: “Few biographical details have been available about the jurors or the six alternates chosen, whose identities are being kept secret. More than half of the 12 jurors are black. Questions in open court focused on the jurors’ understanding and views of Islam, citizenship and terrorism, issues that experts predict will come up at trial.”

Suspicious UPS, FedEx Packages Raise New Concerns About Al Qaeda in Yemen

By Christa Case Bryant for The Christian Science Monitor

Suspicious packages found on United Parcel Service and FedEx planes reportedly originated in Yemen. While the planes appear to be undamaged, the incidents could bring fresh scrutiny to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the relatively new franchise that claimed responsibility for the failed underwear bomber plot on Christmas Day last year.

A spokesman in Yemen’s US embassy said in a statement that the Yemeni government, which has carried out numerous strikes against suspected AQAP operatives over the past 10 months, has launched a full-scale investigation.

“We are working closely with international partners – including the US – on the incident,” said Mohammed Albasha, adding that no UPS cargo planes land or take off from Yemeni airports.

However, an airport employee in Sanaa, who did not want his name used, confirmed that there are private company flights from Sanaa to the United Kingdom, where a suspicious package was found at East Midlands airport at 3:28 a.m. local time.

The UPS store in Sanaa was staffed with one employee and one guard Friday evening local time. The employee refused to talk to the media.

The White House said that in addition to the package found in the UK, which according to CNN contained a “manipulated” toner cartridge, another suspicious item was found in Dubai. Both were said to have originated in Yemen.

“Last night, intelligence and law enforcement agencies discovered potential suspicious packages on two planes in transit to the US,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Friday. “As a result of security precautions triggered by this threat, the additional measures were taken regarding the flights at Newark Liberty and Philadelphia International Airports.”

Among the suspected targets were Chicago-area synagogues.

The incident, which CNN posited could be a “dry run” for a future terrorist plot, is one of numerous red flags raised this year about suspected Al Qaeda militants operating in Yemen.

The country’s weak central government, which has difficulty maintaining order in Yemen’s rugged mountain terrain, has over the past year quietly strengthened its cooperation with US counterterrorism officials to address the militant threat.

The US military announced early this year it would more than double the $67 million aid package to the country. Since the failed Christmas Day bombing on a Detroit-bound airliner, international concern that Yemen could become the next Afghanistan – a lawless refuge from which to launch terrorist attacks on the West – has risen.

The rise in prominence of Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American preacher linked to the Fort Hood shootings last year and now wanted by the CIA, has heightened fears that the militants could more easily navigate Western society with his help.

Experts have cautioned, however, that focusing US and international efforts solely on containing the Al Qaeda threat could backfire.

Yemen is the Arab world’s poorest country, and faces numerous other challenges, including corruption, a violent southern secessionist movement, tensions between powerful tribes and the central government, and dwindling resources.

Two With Ties To Detroit Area Held In Terror Plot

By Nathan Hurst, Robert Snell and Mark Hicks for The Detroit News

Two men with ties to Metro Detroit are being held in Amsterdam after one was suspected of making a trial run in preparation for a terrorist attack, federal authorities said.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said suspicious items were found in the checked luggage of one passenger, Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al Soofi of Tuscaloosa, Ala., flying on a United Airlines flight Sunday night from Chicago to Amsterdam. Another man, Hezem al Murisi of Memphis, was also detained.

“Suspicious items were located in checked luggage associated with two passengers on United Flight 908 from Chicago O’Hare to Amsterdam last night,” department officials said in a statement Monday.

“The items were not deemed to be dangerous in and of themselves, and as we share information with our international partners, Dutch authorities were notified of the suspicious items.”

Dutch authorities arrested the two men at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on charges of preparing for a terrorist attack.

A Transportation Security Administration official said al Soofi had originally booked a ticket from Birmingham to Chicago and onward to Washington, D.C.’s Dulles International and then to Dubai and Yemen.

In Birmingham on Sunday, al Soofi’s checked luggage drew the attention of TSA screeners, who found a taped bundle of watches, a similar bundle of cell phones, multiple knives, a box cutter and a cell phone taped to a bottle of Pepto-Bismol, among other suspicious items that were thought to be nonthreatening, allowing him to continue to Chicago.

Al Soofi was also carrying $7,000 in cash when boarding the flight in Birmingham.

His brother, Murad al Soofi, said the charges were so ludicrous that family members “were laughing about (the incident) when we heard it.”

“It’s ridiculous,” said Murad al Soofi, who owns a convenience store in Tuscaloosa, Ala., about an hour west of Birmingham.

He said his brother moved to Michigan from Yemen in 1997 and has a wife and five children — three boys and two girls — in his homeland. He moved to Tuscaloosa earlier this year in search of work after losing jobs in Detroit and Monroe, his brother said.

Murad al Soofi said his brother was flying to Yemen to visit his family, but had no explanation for why he wanted to change his flight in Chicago.

Al Soofi’s luggage made it to Chicago and to Washington, despite the fact he did not board the flight from Chicago to Washington.

Instead he changed his ticket at United’s hub at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport for the flight to Amsterdam. Normally, baggage and ticketed passengers must travel together, but it appears United officials didn’t notice the diverted baggage until the luggage arrived in Washington.

It was at Dulles where Customs and Border Patrol authorities stopped a Dubai-bound United flight and had it brought it back to the gate after it was discovered that al Soofi’s luggage was on board but he wasn’t. The luggage was off-loaded and the wide-bodied Boeing 777 arrived in Dubai about an hour late Monday morning, flight records show.

Both of the detained men are friends who lived and worked in Dearborn, said Imad Hamad of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. The al Soofi and al Murisi families are prominent within the Yemeni-American community in Dearborn, Hamad said.

Both men worked at area restaurants and grocery stores, and it is typical to spend several months working in Michigan and travel home once or twice a year to visit relatives in Yemen.

“When the news broke, people were surprised because they knew them as good people, respected people who always worked and worked hard,” Hamad said.

Al Soofi was believed to have recently lived at the Hidden Trail Apartments in Monroe.

Neighbors said he hadn’t been at the complex for at least a year. They remember him as a quiet man who associated with other local laborers. They said he sometimes covered his windows with cardboard.

Learning of his alleged involvement in preparing for a terrorist attack is “very upsetting,” said resident Stacy Louks, 32, who has lived in the complex for several years.

The incident echoes the Christmas Day bombing attempt of Flight 253 over Detroit’s skies.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is being held at the federal prison in Milan awaiting trial on terrorism charges related to that flight, which authorities say he failed to blow up using improvised explosives strapped in his underwear.

The incident sparked intense scrutiny of U.S. homeland security and border control policies and procedures. Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian native, was able to secure and retain a multiple-entry visa for the United States despite being denied entry by the United Kingdom and warnings from his own family to U.S. authorities that he was a potential terrorism risk.

His trial is slated to begin next year in Detroit.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note– If found guilty, these two individuals should be thrown in jail for life with no possibility of parole at the very least. Individuals like these do not really even deserve the rights and freedoms enjoyed by all Americans, but nonetheless should get their due process and if found guilty, deserve to have the book thrown at them and put away for life. Also, we are thankful that the authorities foiled this potential attack and request everyone to be vigilant as the September 11 anniversary approaches and we pray no acts of violence take place in the US or anywhere else taking innocent lives.

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