Thursday, November 16, 2017

Afghanistan opium production jumps 87 per cent to record level – UN survey

15 November 2017 – A profoundly alarming trend in the cultivation and production of opium in Afghanistan reveals an 87 per cent production increase compared to 2016, the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) said Wednesday in its Afghanistan Opium Survey 2017.

“It is high time for the international community and Afghanistan to reprioritize drug control, and to acknowledge that every nation has a shared responsibility for this global problem,” said UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov.

According to the latest figures released by the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics and UNODC, in addition to an 87 per cent jump to a record level of 9,000 metric tonnes in 2017, the area under opium poppy cultivation also increased to a record 328,000 hectares in 2017, up 63 per cent compared with 201,000 hectares in 2016.

"For both Afghanistan, and the world, we are heading towards uncharted territoryAdditionally, the number of poppy-free provinces in the country decreased from 13 to 10 – and after more than a decade, Ghazni, Samangan and Nuristan lost their poppy-free status. The number of provinces affected by cultivation increased accordingly from 21 to 24.

“These frightening figures should give considerable pause for reflection on whether the calculus on the illicit drugs flowing from Afghanistan adds up to a workable and achievable solution,” he continued, again urging the international community to revisit its engagement with Afghanistan, and to acknowledge that fresh assessments and policy revisions may be necessary.

Pointing to the multiple challenges the increase would pose for the country, Mr. Fedotov stressed, that Afghanistan, “already suffering from the opium produced within its borders, the increases will drive drug abuse, an increased dependency on the illicit economy, and rising levels of corruption.” - Read More
Afghanistan opium production jumps 87 per cent to record level – UN survey

Afghanistan's booming heroin trade leaves trail of addiction at home - thegaurdian

For a decade, the office of the British Provincial Reconstruction Team in Helmand was busy dispersing hundreds of millions of aid dollars across the province.

Now, the base is barren; stripped of everything of value. Occasional moans reverberate down the corridors where gaunt-looking men sleep, belly-down, seeking respite from the sun beating through the windows. All of them are recovering drug addicts.

In one room, an elderly man tumbled off his bunk. “Allah, Allah,” Mohammad Rahim mutters, flapping his arms and legs about as if doing snow angels on the dusty concrete floor. He is fighting through second-day heroin withdrawal.

“We all felt like this when we came,” says his roommate, Khairullah.

Afghanistan is the world’s leading producer of opium and heroin. This year, its opium production hit a new record high, rising 87% compared to 2016, according to statistics from the UN. The increase is largely due to a rapid expansion of territory used to cultivate poppy, following advances by the Taliban who both promote and profit from the crop.

Its production leaves behind a trail of addiction. Although most drugs are smuggled abroad, there are between 1.3 million and 1.6 million drug users in Afghanistan, the UN estimates.

Treatment, though, is poor. In Helmand, where half the country’s poppies grow and where unemployment and poverty perpetuate the temptation of readily available drugs, the government offers only 70 spots at two rehabilitation clinics.

“This is a chronic disease, just like cancer,” says Dr Ajmal Fazli, director of a 20-bed clinic.

The treatment on offer is 40 days of cold turkey. Emotional comfort is found in a sort of brotherhood of fellow addicts. The sole entertainment is a small television in front of two plastic chairs. - Read More

Afghanistan's booming heroin trade leaves trail of addiction at home ...

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

After Nearly 2 Weeks In Asia, Trump Heads Home After 'Fruitful' Trip

President Trump said goodbye to Asia on Tuesday after visiting five countries, attending three international summits and meeting with more than half-a-dozen foreign leaders.

"I think we made a lot of progress just in terms of relationship," Trump told reporters as Air Force One left Manila. "We actually sold $300 billion worth of equipment and other things and I think that number is going to be quadrupled very quickly."

"It's also been really good in terms of North Korea, getting everybody together," the president added. "China has been excellent. Japan and South Korea have been excellent. I think that's a very important part of the trip."

Trump spent 12 days in Asia — the longest overseas trip by an American leader in 25 years. Japan, South Korea and China staged increasingly elaborate welcome ceremonies, competing to win favor from the U.S. president, who has a showman's eye for spectacle.

"It was red carpet like nobody, I think, has probably every received," Trump said. "And that really is a sign of respect, perhaps for me a little bit, but really for our country."

Trump extended his trip by one day in order to attend a summit of East Asian leaders in the Philippines. He'd originally planned to skip the gathering, which analysts warned could have sent a worrisome signal to allies and adversaries already questioning the U.S. commitment to the region. - Read More, NPR

After Nearly 2 Weeks In Asia, Trump Heads Home After 'Fruitful' Trip

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Game for the Wealthy The Ongoing Battle against Tax Havens - Der Spiegel

The Paradise Papers offer only the most recent look into the widespread practice of tax avoidance. Governments around the world have taken steps recently to block such strategies, but it is unclear whether they will ultimately be successful.
Early this week, the financial world was rocked by the latest revelations about tax tricks used around the world by corporations and the super-rich. The leaks, which included 13.4 million documents and were labeled the "Paradise Papers," were the product of an international investigative consortium including journalists from influential German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.

The cases uncovered are similar to those revealed in the previous leak, the Panama Papers, which triggered global outrage last year. The data describes how the rich and super-rich, international stars and companies try to avoid paying taxes in their home countries. It is a game for the wealthy.

The players are usually multinational corporations seeking to shrink their tax bill using convoluted structures. Tech-giant Apple once again stands accused of skullduggery, as does sporting-goods producer Nike. The accomplices are also largely the same. The deals in question invariably involve tax havens such as the Bermuda Islands, British dependencies such as the Isle of Man or Jersey, and European member states like the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Ireland.

The questions facing politicians are also the same ones that come up after every new substantial leak: How can we continue to tolerate a situation in which tax loopholes still haven't been closed? And why are EU member states still allowed to cheat their partners within the bloc out of tax revenues? - Read More

Game for the WealthyThe Ongoing Battle against Tax Havens

Under New Guidelines, Millions More Americans Will Need to Lower Blood Pressure - nytimes

The nation’s leading heart experts on Monday issued new guidelines for high blood pressure that mean tens of millions more Americans will meet the criteria for the condition, and will need to change their lifestyles or take medicines to treat it.

Under the guidelines, formulated by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, the number of men under age 45 with a diagnosis of high blood pressure will triple, and the prevalence among women under age 45 will double.

“Those numbers are scary,” said Dr. Robert M. Carey, professor of medicine at the University of Virginia and co-chair of the committee that wrote the new guidelines.

The number of adults with high blood pressure, or hypertension, will rise to 103 million from 72 million under the previous standard. But the number of people who are new candidates for drug treatment will rise only by an estimated 4.2 million people, he said. To reach the goals others may have to take more drugs or increase the dosages.

Few risk factors are as important to health. High blood pressure is second only to smoking as a preventable cause of heart attacks and strokes, and heart disease remains the leading killer of Americans.

If Americans act on the guidelines and lower their blood pressure by exercising more and eating a healthier diet, or with drug therapy, they could drive an already falling death rate from heart attacks and stroke even lower, experts said.

Now, high blood pressure will be defined as 130/80 millimeters of mercury or greater for anyone with a significant risk of heart attack or stroke. The previous guidelines defined high blood pressure as 140/90. (The first number describes the pressure on blood vessels when the heart contracts, and the second refers to the pressure as the heart relaxes between beats.)

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death among Americans. The new criteria, the first official diagnostic revision since 2003, result from growing evidence that blood pressure far lower than had been considered normal greatly reduces the chances of heart attack and stroke, as well as the overall risk of death. 

People whose risk of heart attack or stroke is less than 10 percent will be told to aim for blood pressure below 140/90, a more lenient standard, and to take medications if necessary to do so. - Read More

Half in U.S. Have High Blood Pressure Under New Criteria

Monday, November 13, 2017

Strong Earthquake Hits Near Iran-Iraq Border, Killing More Than 400

A magnitude 7.3 earthquake that struck northern Iraq and parts of Iran has killed more than 400 people in both countries and injured more than 6,000, according to officials. It is the strongest quake to hit the region in years.

Most of the reports of dead and injured came from Iran, with both state and semi-official news agency saying 407 people are dead and 6,660 others are hurt. The Kurdistan region Ministry of Health says eight people were killed in Iraq — seven in Kurdistan and an eighth in Diyala province. The health ministry said 535 had been injured.

The Iranian province of Kermanshah is the hardest-hit, with Reuters quoting state media as saying there are more than 140 victims in a single town there — Sarpol-e Zahab, located about 10 miles from the Iraq border. The main hospital in the town was also reported to have been heavily damaged.

"I tried to get back to pick some stuff but it totally collapsed in the second wave," Reza Mohammadi, 51, of Sarpol-e-Zahab, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying. He said he rushed out after the initial quake.

The quake hit around 9:48 p.m. local time Sunday; for hours, rescue and relief efforts were complicated by darkness in the mountainous region. Electrical and water services were also severed in areas near the epicenter.

Iran's seismological center says it has recorded about 118 aftershocks. IRNA says, "the fear of aftershocks kept thousands of people on the streets and in the parks in cold weather."

The head of Iran's Red Crescent said more than 70,000 people need emergency shelter, according to Reuters. - More, NPR

Strong Earthquake Hits Near Iran-Iraq Border, Killing More Than 400

Sunday, November 12, 2017

New Delhi’s pollution is off the charts — and it’s making residents ill

As a thick, ghostly haze shrouded India’s capital city, Juhi Dhaul and her family packed their bags and planned to leave town.

“My kids have been sitting in one room with three air purifiers on since Wednesday,” she said. “They’re virtually under house arrest.”

New Delhi’s air quality consistently ranks among the worst in the world, but the city’s air pollution last week registered 10 times worse than the air in Beijing, which is notorious for its smog. Residents complain of burning eyes and itchy throats, and doctors said chest infections and respiratory illnesses have surged.

Authorities ordered 6,000 schools to close, trucks except those carrying essential supplies have been banned from entering the city for a week, and construction projects have been temporarily stopped.

“Every winter, the weather becomes hostile,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director at the Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi. “Around this time of year, the air is cooler and the wind disappears almost entirely from the city. What you see is combination of local pollution plus episodic pollution, from winds from surrounding regions where farmers burn crop stubble in this season.”

In some parts of Delhi, air-quality readings were 40 times the World Health Organization's recommended safe level. Airfare spiked as supply dipped in low-visibility conditions; trains were delayed and bus companies reported that people were canceling tickets out of fear of highway accidents. 

A recent study linked 2.5 million deaths in India in 2015 to pollution. Worried parents carried coughing children into hospitals around the city.- Read More

U.S. wants to build ‘tsunami of air power’ in Afghanistan, but impact is years away

Just over one month ago, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan declared at a ceremony here that a new fleet of 159 Black Hawk helicopters, flown by Afghan pilots, would help create a “tsunami of air power” to turn around the stalemated conflict with Taliban insurgents.

But the UH-60s won’t have an impact for at least several years on an intense war that has already cost at least $700 billion since 2001 — and is showing no signs of letting up.

The versatile, hardy U.S. Army aircraft, each costing more than $7 million to refurbish and deliver, are intended to gradually replace the Afghan fleet of Soviet-era Mi-17 choppers to carry out military cargo drops, troop transport and medical evacuations. But they are already coming late to the game, a drawback aggravated by the slow pace of UH-60 deliveries, the limit of six Afghan pilots in each three-month training course, and the need to keep the Mi-17 choppers in action in the meantime.

President Trump’s new military strategy in Afghanistan has made beefing up the Afghan air force a top priority, and U.S. military officials said the Black Hawk program is being accelerated, amid the press of war and the broader agenda of building a professional air force.

Yet officials of the U.S. air training, advising and assistance mission here said they expect to have only four Afghan flight crews ready for conflict missions by the next spring’s fighting season and 32 teams and Black Hawks ready by spring 2019. The full fleet of 159 choppers will not be in place and manned until 2022, and only 58 will be equipped with attack weapons.

Afghan field commanders have said that more efficient air combat, rescue and resupply support is urgently needed to motivate troops and push back the insurgents. Since 2012, the United States has supplied the Afghan defense forces with 24 smaller MD-530 scouting and attack helicopters, 12 A-29 Tucano fighter-bomber planes and 24 C-208 short-range airlift planes. It has sent Afghan pilots to the United States and other countries to learn how to operate them, then continued their training here. In some cases, though, the pilots were not ready to begin flying combat-zone missions until last year.  - Read More, washingtonpost

More than 200 killed by earthquake in Iran-Iraq border region

Rescuers battle to find survivors trapped under collapsed buildings after the 7.3 magnitude quake

More than 200 people have been killed in Iran and Iraq after a magnitude 7.3 earthquake hit the border region between the two countries, state media said.

Iranian state television said that at least 200 people had been killed, Associated Press reported, after the quake struck the country’s western provinces at 9.20pm local time on Sunday. More than 1,650 were injured.

Officials in Iraq reported that at least six people had died and 50 injured.

The US Geological Survey said the quake measured magnitude 7.3, while an Iraqi meteorology official put its magnitude at 6.5 with the epicentre in Penjwin in Sulaimaniyah province in the Kurdistan region close to the main border crossing with Iran. It struck 23.2km below the surface, a shallow depth that can have broader damage.

Rescuers worked through the night to find people trapped in collapsed buildings in towns affected by the quake, which was felt as far west as Israel and south to Baghdad.

The deputy governor of the Iranian border province of Kermanshah told state television that the death toll would rise.

“There are still people under the rubble. We hope the number of dead and injured won’t rise too much, but it will rise,” Mojtaba Nikkerdar said. - Read More

More than 200 killed by earthquake in Iran-Iraq border region | World ...

Exclusive: How Saudi Arabia turned on Lebanon's Hariri

BEIRUT (Reuters) - From the moment Saad al-Hariri’s plane touched down in Saudi Arabia on Friday Nov. 3, he was in for a surprise.

There was no line-up of Saudi princes or ministry officials, as would typically greet a prime minister on an official visit to King Salman, senior sources close to Hariri and top Lebanese political and security officials said. His phone was confiscated, and the next day he was forced to resign as prime minister in a statement broadcast by a Saudi-owned TV channel.

The move thrust Lebanon back to the forefront of a struggle that is reshaping the Middle East, between the conservative Sunni monarchy of Saudi Arabia and Shi‘ite revolutionary Iran.

Their rivalry has fueled conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, where they back opposing sides, and now risks destabilizing Lebanon, where Saudi has long tried to weaken the Iran-backed Hezbollah group, Lebanon’s main political power and part of the ruling coalition.

Sources close to Hariri say Saudi Arabia has concluded that the prime minister - a long-time Saudi ally and son of late prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005 - had to go because he was unwilling to confront Hezbollah. - Read More

Exclusive: How Saudi Arabia turned on Lebanon's Hariri

Opioid abuse crisis takes heavy toll on U.S. veterans

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Opioid drug abuse has killed more Americans than the Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam wars combined, and U.S. veterans and advocates this Veteran’s Day are focusing on how to help victims of the crisis.

Veterans are twice as likely as non-veterans to die from accidental overdoses of the highly addictive painkillers, a rate that reflects high levels of chronic pain among vets, particularly those who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to federal data.

U.S. government and healthcare officials have been struggling to stem the epidemic of overdoses, which killed more than 64,000 Americans in the 12 months ending last January alone, a 21 percent increase over the previous year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. About 65,000 Americans died in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

President Donald Trump named opioids a national public health emergency and a White House commission last week recommended establishing a nationwide system of drug courts and easier access to alternatives to opioids for people in pain.

“Our veterans deserve better than polished sound bites and empty promises,” said former Democratic Congressman Patrick Kennedy, a recovering addict and a member of the president’s opioid commission.

Kennedy said in an e-mail that more funding was needed for treatment facilities and medical professionals to help tackle the problem.

Kennedy said in an e-mail that more funding was needed for treatment facilities and medical professionals to help tackle the problem.- Read More

Opioid abuse crisis takes heavy toll on U.S. veterans

Friday, November 10, 2017

Saudi arrests of princes consolidates another's power grab - ASSOCIATED PRESS

Saudi Arabia's heir to the throne is overseeing an unprecedented wave of arrests of dozens of the country's most powerful princes, military officers, influential businessmen and government ministers — some potential rivals or critics of the crown prince now consolidating his power.

Among those taken into custody overnight Saturday in the purported anti-corruption sweep were billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world's richest men with extensive holdings in Western companies, as well as two of the late King Abdullah's sons.

The arrest of senior princes upends a longstanding tradition among the ruling Al Saud family to keep their disagreements private in an effort to show strength and unity in the face of Saudi Arabia's many tribes and factions. It also sends a message that the 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has the full backing of his father, King Salman, to carry out sweeping anti-corruption reforms targeting senior royals and their business associates, who have long been seen as operating above the law.

Reports suggested those detained were being held at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh, which only days earlier hosted a major investment conference that the crown prince attended with global business titans. A Saudi official told The Associated Press that other five-star hotels across the capital were also being used to hold some of those arrested.

A high-level employee at Prince Alwaleed bin Talal's Kingdom Holding Co. told the AP that the royal was among those detained. The senior employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to fear of repercussions, said security bodies informed him of the arrest.

Prince Alwaleed's many investments include Twitter, Apple, Citigroup, and the Four Seasons hotel chain. He is also an investor in ride-sharing services Lyft and Careem. He was once a significant shareholder in Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, but sold much of those shares in 2015.

The prince, pictured sometimes on his 85-meter (278-foot) super-yacht in the Mediterranean, is among the most outspoken Saudi royals and a longtime advocate of women's rights. He is also majority owner of the popular Rotana Group of Arabic channels. - Read More

Saudi arrests of princes consolidates another's power grab - ABC News

President Trump Still Hasn't Spoken to His Top General in Afghanistan - TIME

President Trump has yet to speak with the U.S. general in command of forces in Afghanistan, despite approving a new military strategy earlier this year that committed more troops and funding for America’s longest war.

“I haven’t spoken with him,” Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told reporters Nov. 8 in Brussels.

The lack of contact between the commander-in-chief and the top military official in Afghanistan is unusual. Nicholson said he spoke to President Barack Obama twice in the 10 months they overlapped.

The general’s comments came in response to questions about whether he felt Trump had confidence in him as commander. Reports over the summer indicated the President was considering firing Nicholson over the lack of progress in Afghanistan. But Nicholson said he felt Trump had faith in him despite not having a face-to-face meeting or phone call.

“Yes, I believe I have his confidence,” Nicholson told reporters. “And I say that because the policy that we received on August 21st is everything that I asked for.” - Reead More

President Trump Still Hasn't Spoken to His Top General in Afghanistan

U.S.-Led Mission in Afghanistan Lacks Troops for New Strategy - nytimes

BRUSSELS — Nearly three months after President Trump announced his new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, the United States and its international allies are still trying to come up with the troops required to carry it out.

The relatively few American and international troops in Afghanistan are charged with training the Afghan military and with helping them beat back Taliban forces. With the militants at their strongest level since the start of the war in 2001, the issue of troop levels has renewed importance.

“We’ve fought most of the year,” Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., the commanding officer of American and international forces in Afghanistan, told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday, “however, at the lowest level of capability that we’ve ever had in the past 16 years.”

Since February, General Nicholson has requested several thousandadditional troops for the mission, to break what he calls a stalemate in the Afghan conflict. Mr. Trump announced the new strategy for Afghanistan in August, and authorized an American troop increase of roughly 3,000. - Read More

U.S.-Led Mission in Afghanistan Lacks Troops for New Strategy

Hamid Karzai Special: Former President of Afghanistan on the legacy of US intervention

In this episode of 'Going Underground' we speak to the former President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai about the legacy of U.S. intervention in the region, Donald Trump’s new policy and the prospect of peace. - More

Hamid Karzai Special: Former President of Afghanistan on the legacy ...

Hamid Karzai: US colluded with ISIL in Afghanistan

Hamid Karzai, the former president of Afghanistan, has accused the the US of working with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group in his country.

In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera's UpFront aired on Friday, Karzai said the US government had allowed ISIL, also known as ISIS, to flourish inside Afghanistan.

"In my view under the full presence, surveillance, military, political, intelligence, Daesh [ISIL] has emerged," he said.

"And for two years the Afghan people came, cried loud about their suffering, of violations. Nothing was done."

Karzai said the US administration of President Donald Trump made ISIL as an excuse to drop a massive bomb in Afghanistan on April 2017.

"And the next day, Daesh takes the next district in Afghanistan," he said referring to the Arabic name of the armed group.

"That proves to us that there is a hand in it and that hand can be no one else but them [the US] in Afghanistan." - Read More

Hamid Karzai: US colluded with ISIL in Afghanistan - Al Jazeera

د نوي قانون له مخې په سلو کې ۷۰ جنرالان تقاعد کېږي - Tannd

د افغانستان دفاع وزارت وايي، د دفاع وزارت د افسرانو د قانون د بیاکتنې په نتیجه کې به په سلو کې ۷۰ جنرالان کورونو ته ولېږل شي.

د پوځي افسرانو د شخصي چارو په بیا ارزول شوي قانون کې د سترجنرالانو لپاره ۶۲ کلني، د ډګرجنرالانو لپاره ۶۰ کلني، د تورنجنرالانو لپاره ۵۸ کلني، د بریدجنرالانو لپاره ۵۶ کلني، د ډګروالانو او نورو افسرانو لپاره ۵۴ کلني د تقاعد عمر ټاکل شوی دی.

دفاع وزارت غواړي چې په سلو کې ۳۰ تقاعد کېدونکي جنرالان وساتي او په مجموع کې دا پروسه په ۱۸ میاشتو کې بشپړه کړي.

په پخواني قانون کې، چې په ۱۳۸۸ لمریز کال کې تصویب شوی و، د افسرانو د تقاعد عمر تر اوس ۳ کاله زیات و.

دفاع وزارت وايي چې لومړی به هغه افسران تقاعد کړي چې په احتیاط کې دي او یا په ټیټو بستونو کې کار کوي. - Read More

د نوي قانون له مخې په سلو کې ۷۰ جنرالان تقاعد کېږي - تاند 

Taand Pashto - Home | Facebook

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Saudi graft inquiry spreads beyond borders as UAE examines bank accounts

ABU DHABI/DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on corruption has spread beyond its borders as regulators in the United Arab Emirates ask UAE banks for information about Saudi citizens detained in the investigation, a possible prelude to freezing their accounts.

The UAE central bank has requested commercial banks and finance companies in the UAE to provide details of the accounts of 19 Saudis, commercial bankers told Reuters on Thursday, declining to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Almost all of the 19, including billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and former National Guard chief Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, are known to be among dozens of senior officials and businessmen detained in the corruption inquiry.

The UAE, particularly its most commercially prominent emirate Dubai, is one of the main places where wealthy Saudis park their money abroad. In addition to bank accounts, they buy luxury apartments and villas in Dubai and invest in the emirate’s volatile stock market. - Read More

Saudi graft inquiry spreads beyond borders as UAE examines bank accounts

Despite NATO pledge to increase Afghan support, troop shortfall remains: U.S.

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO’s pledge to send more troops to Afghanistan still falls short of commitments, U.S. commanders said on Thursday, concerned that fewer reinforcements could threaten the already precarious security situation in the country.

At a meeting of NATO defence ministers, commanders said that nearly three months after President Donald Trump announced his “South Asia strategy,” the promised troop numbers do expand the NATO training presence but not by as much as hoped.

“We have made it very clear to the allies that we really need their help in filling these billets that we have identified,” said General John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan and head of the NATO training mission.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said this week that NATO allies and the United States would split the burden of providing some 3,000 more troops, an increase that would take NATO’s training mission to about 16,000 troops. 

Security in Afghanistan has deteriorated in recent months, 16 years after the United States invaded to topple the Islamist Taliban government that gave al Qaeda the sanctuary where it plotted the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

“Right now my plan is to have U.S. forces focused on the things that only U.S. forces can do, so I would not like to have to divert U.S. forces to do things that allies can perform,” Nicholson said.- More

Despite NATO pledge to increase Afghan support, troop shortfall remains: U.S.

CHART: How The Republican Tax Overhaul Would Affect You

Senate Republicans have outlined their version of a tax overhaul, and while the Senate plan maintains many of the same ideas of the House bill released last week — a steep corporate tax cut and bigger standard deductions, for example — it also departs sharply in a few ways, like the fact that it makes no changes to the mortgage interest deduction and it repeals the deduction for property taxes.

Here's a look at some of the changes that individual filers could expect if either the House or Senate versions were to pass as-is. Importantly, the Senate plan isn't even a bill yet and leaves some big questions as to specifics — such as its proposed tax brackets. There are currently seven individual income tax brackets, with the top rate at 39.6 percent. Senate Republicans have announced that their plan would maintain the seven current brackets, topping out at 38.5 percent. However, they have not yet announced which income groups will pay which rate.

The bar chart below shows what current brackets look like, compared with the House GOP's proposed brackets. We will update it as we get more information. The table also lays out different changes for different types of taxpayers. We will update that table as well, as new information is released. - Read More, NPR

CHART: How The Republican Tax Overhaul Would Affect You

President Trump & Melania Attend a State Dinner with President Xi in Beijing, China 11/9/17

President Donald Trump & First Lady Melania Trump attend a state dinner with President Xi Jinping & First Lady Peng Liyuan 🇺🇸🇨🇳 - Beijing, China -- More

President Trump & Melania Attend a State Dinner with President Xi in ...

TRUMP IN CHINA: President Trump AMAZING SPEECH at Joint Press Conference with President Xi Jinping

TRUMP IN CHINA: President Trump AMAZING SPEECH at Joint Press Conference with President Xi Jinping - More

TRUMP IN CHINA: President Trump AMAZING SPEECH at Joint Press ...

NATO Secretary General, Press Conference at Defence Ministers Meeting, 9 NOV 2017

Press conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meeting of the North Atlantic Council with Resolute Support operational partner nations at the level of Defence Ministers, 9 November 2017 - Opening Remarks. - Read More

NATO Ministers boost troops for Afghan training mission

NATO Secretary General, Press Conference at Defence Ministers ...