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As Barack Obama looks through papers, his eight-year-old daughter, Sasha, spies on him from behind a sofa.

The photograph, released by the White House, was taken by Peter Souza, whose brief is to document the Obama presidency.

Mr Obama has said that one of the greatest benefits of working in the White House is having his family living in the same building.

Despite its spontaneous feel, the image evokes obvious – and possibly intentional - comparisons with famous pictures of a three-year-old John F Kennedy Jr playing under the same desk as his father sat working at it.

The photographs were taken a month before President Kennedy's assassination in November 1963.

Earlier this year, the White House released pictures showing Mr Obama, watched on by Caroline Kennedy, peering into the same section of the desk from which her young brother looked out 46 years ago.

The boy would often play under the desk – presented by Queen Victoria to President Rutherford Hayes – and liked to pretend that its kneehole panel was a secret door.

Mr Obama has said that one of the greatest benefits of working in the White House is having his family living in the same building.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Young Afghans see hopes crushed

"I want to be a doctor," says Nagina, six, wearing a small white headscarf.
"I want to be a pilot," says Hemat, eight, who adds that he is top of his class in maths.

There is optimism among the young children at the Bibi Mahro school on the outskirts of Kabul and a cast-iron certainty about the jobs they would like to do in the future.

With much going wrong in Afghanistan, education is seen as one of the rare success stories in the country.

Educated workforce

"If a person does not have any higher education he can lose his hope," he says.

"If I go to university, I will solve all my problems and I will serve my people and my country."

And that is the point. If you have a functioning, effective government - so the argument goes - Afghans will be willing to support it.

But Mushtaq warns that unless the government provides opportunities, then young people will be forced to find opportunities elsewhere.

"If our government doesn't pay attention to young people," he says, "the Taliban will be able to exploit them."

Ultimately, the West wants to put the running of the country firmly back into Afghan hands.

But there can be no long-term stability in the country without its own educated workforce.

Anders Fange, however, believes that there has not been enough focus on developing the education sector.

"It's too feeble," he says. "It's too little. And crucially, what's coming now, it might be too late."

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