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All 50 states vote yes on AT&T’s $40 billion emergency response network FirstNet

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From wildfires in California to hurricanes on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, communications are the bedrock of emergency response and management. However, those communications can be challenging when quickly evolving situations cross multiple jurisdictions — a truth painfully learned on 9/11, when more than a dozen agencies found it difficult to relay critical information to the right people at the right time.

Today, AT&T announced that all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have officially signed on to FirstNet, a government program operated by AT&T to provide universal emergency response communications across the country. States had until yesterday to officially opt-in or opt-out of the FirstNet system. California, Florida, Mississippi and New York were among the states that waited until the last minute to confirm their participation.

This is a major win for AT&T, which officially won the FirstNet contract this past March. The contract stipulated that AT&T would manage the network for 25 years, and the company committed to spending $40 billion to manage and operate the network. In exchange, the company would receive 20 MHz of critical wireless spectrum from the FCC, as well as payments from the government totaling $6.5 billion for the initial network rollout.

The true win for AT&T though is in the actual spectrum itself, which is in the 700 Mhz bandcommonly used for LTE signals. While the FirstNet spectrum is prioritized for first responders, it also can be used for consumer wireless applications when an emergency is not taking place, which should improve cellular reception and bandwidth for AT&T customers, particularly in urban areas.

The bigger loss, though, is with the U.S. taxpayer. FirstNet has had something of a painful birth and maturation process. Originally created as part of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, it was designed by Congress to create an exclusive network for first responders, who presumably couldn’t use consumer technology like smartphones to communicate with each other. That was following recommendations from the 9/11 Commission that encouraged Congress to allocate a dedicated public safety spectrum.

The program has had a glacial implementation process ever since. As Steven Brill described in The Atlantic last year: “FirstNet is in such disarray that 15 years after the problem it is supposed to solve was identified, it is years from completion—and it may never get completed at all. According to the GAO, estimates of its cost range from $12 billion to $47 billion, even as advances in digital technology seem to have eliminated the need to spend any of it.”

At issue is whether the rapid improvement of consumer wireless technology — which is available today — far outweighs the performance of a hypothetical public safety network that remains a glimmer in the mind’s eye.

Most interoperability problems have been solved by modern technology, and so the question becomes what the buildout is really for anyway. Why did the government give exclusive access to a critical part of the spectrum that could have benefited millions of consumers, while also provided expedited access for first responders?

For AT&T, the victory provides a new source of revenue from local police and fire departments, who will presumably come to rely on FirstNet for their emergency communications. It also gets a serious boost in its spectrum, along with free cash from taxpayers. But for all of us, it seems billions of dollars will be spent to create a specialist comm channel, when existing technologies are more than up to the task of providing these highly reliable services.

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Crime

Zainab’s father expresses concerns over JIT head

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KASUR: The mourning father of slain 7-year-old rape victim, Mohammad Naeem, on Thursday appealed the enraged protesters to remain peaceful, while demanding authorities to remove head of Joint Investigation Team (JIT) constituted to probe into the matter. 

Addressing a press conference here, he said Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif has assured strict action against the culprit(s) but he expressed lack of confidence in the head of JIT.

“We do not trust him,” he said while calling upon the protesters to remain peaceful. He also deplored the killings of two protesters in police action.

On the occasion, he also urged an exemplary action against the culprit(s).

Earlier today, he had slammed the police for its negligence in tracing out the culprits. “Police could save my daughter’s life if a prompt action would have been taken,” he said while talking to media.

Protests in the Kasur soon erupted after the minor girl named Zainab’s body was found dumped in a garbage heap near Kashmir Chowk in Kasur on Tuesday. In light of initial postmortem, police said the minor has been sexually assaulted before her murder. The girl was strangled to death after being raped multiple times, police said.

The incident shook the whole country and made headlines around the world. The incident was widely condemned and calls for justice echoed on social media and other platforms.

The minor was a resident of Road Kot area of Kasur and was abducted on January 5 (Friday) while she was on her way to tuition centre, relatives informed.

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Grief in Kasur as residents mourn murder of minor rape victim

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KASUR: Grief and shock were evident on the faces of residents of Punjab’s Kasur city as they tried desperately to come to grips with coldblooded murder of 7-year-old Zainab after being sexually assaulted for second day on Thursday. 

Zainab’s body was found dumped in a garbage heap near Kashmir Chowk in Kasur on Tuesday. In light of initial postmortem, it was said the minor has been sexually assaulted multiple times before her murder.

The minor was a resident of Road Kot area of Kasur and was abducted on January 5 (Friday) while she was on her way to tuition centre.

The incident which shook the whole country and made headlines around the world was widely condemned and calls for justice echoed on social media and other platforms.

Tensions persist in Kasur for second day

Protests in the Kasur soon erupted after Zainab’s body was recovered from a garbage heap on Tuesday, which are still ongoing.

The residents are protesting at Kali Pul Chowk, whereas the city’s main artery has been blocked for commuters. Markets and shops are also closed in protest against the heart-wrenching incident.

The Punjab Bar Council also announced a complete boycott of courts today and lawyers have demanded immediate arrest of the killer(s).

The protests claimed two lives when police resorted to firing in a bid to stop the protesters from surrounding the District Police Officer (DPO) and District Coordination Officer (DCO) offices.

They were identified as Shoaib and Mohammad Ali. Their funeral prayers were offered on Thursday amid presence of large number of people including social and political activists.

The post-mortem of slain protesters is expected to be released later today.

Keeping the tense situation in view, the authorities have called in additional police contingents to control the law and order situation on Thursday.

FIRs lodged against policemen

Two FIRs have been registered against 16 ‘unidentified’ policemen on the complaints of the slain protesters’ relatives. The FIRs have been registered under murder charges.

To diffuse mounting pressure, authorities also claimed to have arrested two policemen for resorting to firing to disperse the protesters.

Punjab govt announces Rs1 million reward for info on suspect

Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday announced Rs10 million reward for any information about the identity of the culprit.

The chief minister also announced Rs3 million for heirs of the slain protesters, who were killed in police action on Wednesday.

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World News

Pakistan, A Victim Of The Single Story

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At a party in Lahore recently, while commiserating about the political affairs in the U.S, a Pakistani friend recounted a not so surprising experience. While visiting the U.S. through a cultural exchange program, a white woman whose house he was invited to for dinner to showcase American hospitality refused to take a photo with him because she was afraid he might give the photo to the Taliban. Other participants in the program were taking photos with her, but she specifically told my friend that she would not take a photo with him. We both laughed at the ridiculousness of this woman’s assumption. Did she really think that all Pakistanis have interactions with the Taliban?

A better assumption might be for my friend to assume his host’s sympathy to Trump’s intolerant ideology, since 53 percent of white women voters in the U.S. backed Trump. But this captures the terrible consequences of America’s mainstream political and media entities conflating Pakistan with terrorism and only understanding Muslim majority countries within the context of war. Never mind that Pakistanis continue to pay the biggest price for terrorism and are at the forefront of the fight against it. The news this year that Pakistani troops, operating on intelligence provided by the United States, rescued an American woman, her Canadian husband and their three children being held for years by militants suspected of ties to the Taliban was not surprising

This, certainly and unfortunately, is nothing new. In the early ’90s, I had just immigrated with my family to the U.S., and at my high school in the Chicago suburbs, my teacher asked me to show my fellow classmates where Pakistan is on the map. But he first asked me to show Kuwait. This was right after the first Gulf War. I was so confused about why I had to show Kuwait, a country I had no relationship to. I now understand that people in the U.S. only know about the Muslim world through war and extremely dehumanizing stereotypes that leave no room for people like my Pakistani friend to be understood as feminist, queer and just like the majority of Pakistanis, opposed to the ideology of the Taliban.

But what gets covered in the mainstream media about Pakistan is so often only about terrorism. Even human interest stories usually begin with a phrase like “despite terrorism…” After the tragic shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in June 2016, I was asked by a writer for the New Yorker if they kill gay people in my country. My response that I go back every year came as a surprise to the writer; it is to Pakistan that I return for my annual pilgrimage to find my humanity and connect with so many friends who are part of the LGBT community.

Pakistan does struggle with increasing extremism and a shrinking definition of what it means to be Muslim, which leaves so many out of the fold and susceptible to attacks; and there is also the perilous plight of religious minorities. However, to only understand Pakistan in this context is similar to only understanding the socio-cultural context of the United States as a country riddled with gun violence.

How can a country of more than 190 million with thriving cosmopolitan cities, artists of global acclaim, designers who exhibit in fashion weeks in Pakistan and around the world, feminist collectives, LGBT organizing, and most importantly, warm and loving people, be reduced to being connected to terrorism?

I do know that this makes it easier to wage war and impose harsh demands on Pakistan as Trump did during the State of the Union address. Seeing Pakistan only in the context of harboring extremists makes it easier to imagine victims of the ongoing drone attacks as terrorists and not grandmothers who happen to be out in the yard. It makes all of us Pakistanis complicit in the U.S’s imagination as terrorists as though our lives don’t hold any other meaning.

And this also makes it easier to continue to fuel anti-Muslim hate in the U.S. It is so often now that I am told that women in Pakistan get killed for going to school by those who know of Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai’s, nearly killed for encouraging girls to learn. In her much shared TED Talk of 2009, Chimamanda Adichie warns us about the danger of a single story. Malala is a powerful and brave young woman but she cannot be the only representation of women in my country; her story cannot be the only story about the women of Pakistan.

On the contrary, women in Pakistan have a long history of fiercely participating in all walks of life, including holding the highest political office in the land, an accomplishment that United States has yet to match. To Americans I would say:  Don’t make victims of us to assuage your own conscience.

No country should have to prove that it is multi-faceted and complicated, that the people living there have dreams, too, and that if they are lucky enough to go through all the checks you need to pass to get a visa to visit the U.S., they are not coming as part of a sinister Taliban plot.

Is that too much to ask?

Urooj Arshad is a member of the steering committee of the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity and the Director of international youth health and rights Programs at Advocates for Youth, and a Ford Foundation Public Voices Fellow at The OpEd Project.

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