Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Biden Enters Race for 2008 Presidential Bid

With a jab at the Iraq policy of New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Delaware Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. joined the race for the Democratic presidential nomination today, saying he has more experience than any of his prospective rivals to help extricate the United States from Iraq without leaving the Middle East even more destabilized.

Politics: On Wall Street, Bush Declares Economy Healthy

All Things Considered, January 31, 2007 · At a low point in the opinion polls, President Bush found a warm welcome on Wall Street, where he delivered an updated State of the Economy speech at Federal Hall before getting a rock star's reception on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Politics: 'Chaos' Reigns in Iraq, Speaker Pelosi Says

The speaker did, however, say that more troops are needed in Afghanistan, where she also visited. She said the war on terrorism is in Afghanistan and that the distraction of Iraq led to a power vacuum that the Taliban have used to make a comeback. -- "The NATO commander there told us that this could be lost," she said. "Now I did not realize that the situation was that dire in Afghanistan."

Millions of aid dollars spent in Afghanistan without any audits released

OTTAWA (CP) - Five years after Canada began pumping millions of aid dollars into Afghanistan, taxpayers still have no idea how well the money is being spent. -- Critics say it's a massive reporting void that leaves the public in the dark as Conservatives promote a mission that has been heavy on combat, light on reconstruction. It has also cost 44 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat their lives since 2002. -- Afghanistan, still an international basket case of economic and security problems, received $100 million last year from CIDA and is to get the same amount for the next four years. Contributions are expected to total about $1 billion between 2001 and 2011 - more cash than Canada has promised to any other foreign-aid recipient.

Iranian Involvement in Afghanistan --By Muhammad Tahir

Iran has inaugurated huge cultural center in Kabul, which works to promote Iranian culture and to spread official propaganda

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Can More Aid Save Afghanistan?

Afghan call for say in aid likely to go unheard

BERLIN (AFP) - Afghan calls for a bigger role in spending billions of dollars of aid flowing into the war-scarred country look likely to fall on deaf ears as a reconstruction conference ends.

Canada pledges more than $3M for Afghan projects

Canada plans to spend $3.1 million on rural development projects in the volatile province of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. -- About 135 projects will be funded by the Canadian International Development Agency, an Afghan official said at a contract-signing ceremony Tuesday in Kandahar.

NATO, Pakistan says millions of Afghans must go home

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO and Pakistan agreed on Tuesday that three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan posed a security threat and needed to be repatriated.

1,000 Afghan civilians killed in 2006, report says

In all, more than 4,400 Afghans died as a result of the war - twice as many as in 2005 and more than in any other year since the Taliban fell in 2001, according to a report by New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Windows Vista: Home Page

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Reader, she married an Afghan warlord - Sunday Times

“HONEY, don’t come home now, we’ve got warlords in the living room,” is hardly your typical excuse for a husband who fears his wife interrupting a night in with the lads. But for Debbie Rodriguez it has become such a common refrain that she has set up Kabul’s first coffee bar as somewhere to wait. --- The crimson-haired hairdresser from America’s Midwest who came to Afghanistan to train its women in highlights and Brazilian waxing, has ended up married to a key commander for one of the country’s most brutal warlords in the unlikeliest of post-Taliban alliances.

Women and Men Get to the Joke Differently

STANFORD, Calif., Nov. 8 - Men and women process Blondie and Dagwood differently, just as they do with Charlie Brown and Lucy. Beetle Bailey too. --- MRI scanning of men and women shows that their brains process cartoons slightly differently -- especially when the joke is funny. But the differences don't show up in behavior. Both sexes find pretty much the same things funny and, for a given joke, tend to give it an equivalent humor rating.

U.S. team visits Kabul as Washington boost troops

Pelosi, leading a seven-member congressional delegation, met President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, as well as other officials and U.S. military commanders.

Pelosi, Karzai Discuss Troop Increases

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The Afghan president told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that his security forces need to be stronger as the two discussed possible U.S. troop increases on Sunday, days after the Pentagon extended the tour of 3,200 soldiers, an Afghan official said.

Rice Presses Allies to Boost Afghan Aid

"Nations that have made pledges of support should follow through and deliver," Rice told a meeting of NATO foreign ministers here.

Pelosi, Karzai Discuss Troop Increases

Pelosi told Karzai that Afghanistan has bipartisan support in Congress, the Afghan official said. Members of the delegation also told Karzai they hope to see more coordination and cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Bush defends new policy on Iranians in Iraq

U.S. troops are cleared to kill agents from Tehran seen as endangering lives.

Interviews: Jimmy Carter Defends 'Peace Not Apartheid'

Carter says he was not completely surprised that his choice of the word "apartheid" in the book's title garnered criticism. -- Yet Carter says he hopes his book will raise awareness about conditions for Palestinians in the West Bank.

Hamid Karzai becomes father at 49

His wife, Zeenat, gave birth to the couple's first baby - a son, Mirwais - in a Kabul hospital late on Thursday.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Nato discusses Afghanistan boost -- BBC

Bush seeks funds to counter Taliban --THE WASHINGTON TIMES

They said the White House had realized that an "adjustment in strategy" was urgently needed if Afghanistan was going to be the success the United States wants it to be, and a broad interagency review was conducted in the past several months.

Foreign Policy: The FP Index: Ranking the Rich

Poverty is blamed for everything from terrorism to bird flu. Rich nations have never sounded more committed to stamping it out. Is it all just hot air? The fourth annual CGD/FP Commitment to Development Index ranks 21 rich nations on whether they’re working to end global poverty—or just making it worse.

Afghan rugs leave lasting impression at US exhibition

NEW YORK, Jan 25 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The highly acclaimed rugs from Afghanistan left a lasting impression among the visitors at the International Area Rug Show last week. -- Speaking on the occasion, US Deputy Secretary of Commerce David Sampson reiterated the Commerce Department was committed to increasing bilateral business ties and stimulating trade and investment between the two countries

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Rice to press Europe on Afghan funding

Separately, the European Commission will on Friday announce about €600m ($780m, £395m) for Afghanistan for the next four years, aimed at improving governance, providing alternative livelihoods to the drugs trade, and health. -- The figure represents a fall on the levels of aid the Commission has given Afghanistan in the past, although typically European governments, not Brussels, provide the lion’s share of EU aid.

US house prices ‘set to fall’

US house prices are likely to fall this year after the number of people selling their homes fell by the most in 17 years in 2006, according to a leading real estate broker.

Bush to Seek More Aid for Afghanistan

BRUSSELS, Jan. 25 — President Bush plans to ask Congress for $10.6 billion in aid for Afghanistan, primarily to beef up the country’s security forces, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday. -- Since 2001, the United States has provided over $14.2 billion in aid to Afghanistan.

Afghan MPs Predict "Very Big War" (Civilian deaths, corruption, occupying troops leading to "jihad" against foreigners, say leaders)

"Everything is gone now, we have nothing. I regret it not because I am no longer with the Taliban, but because this government does not have the power to improve our country. -- "It's getting worse and worse and worse. I don't have any hope. But whatever is happening now, the people can't complain. If they make a noise the local governor will say they are Taliban or Al-Qaeda and get them sent to Bagram." --- Watanwall predicted any new full-scale jihad would have the same result. "Of course some tribes will fight each other," he said. "They will say: you are Pashtun, I am Tajik; I am Tajik, you are Hazara; you are Shia, I am Pashtun. The civil war will start because of differences of skin, differences of language, differences of religion." -- "Hazaras say they don't have enough positions in the government; Uzbeks say that, Tajiks say that, even Pashtuns say that and they have Karzai as President. Now it's ideological and with words, but soon it will turn to violence. -- "I believe if the international forces and the government don't take any strong steps then soon it will start and it could get as bad as Iraq."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Microwave 'sterilisers' warning -- bbc

Firefighters have warned of the dangers of zapping sponges and cloths in the microwave despite a study showing it could kill harmful bacteria.

Microwaves Kill Germs In Kitchen Sponges (Microwaves Can Sterilize Kitchen Sponges And Plastic Scrubbing Pads, Study Shows)

(WebMD) Your microwave may be a powerful weapon in protecting your family against disease-causing germs.A new study shows zapping sponges and plastic scrubbing pads in the microwave can kill bacteria, such as E. coli, that can cause illness."Basically, what we find is that we could knock out most bacteria in two minutes," says researcher Gabriel Bitton, professor of environmental engineering at the University of Florida, in a news release. "People often put their sponges and scrubbers in the dishwasher, but if they really want to decontaminate them and not just clean them, they should use the microwave."

Bush Plans New Focus On Afghan Recovery

After the bloodiest year in Afghanistan since the U.S. invasion, the Bush administration is preparing a series of new military, economic and political initiatives aimed partly at preempting an expected offensive this spring by Taliban insurgents, according to senior U.S. officials. --Even as it trumpeted a change of course in Iraq this month, the White House has completed a review of U.S. policy in Afghanistan. It will ask Congress for $7 billion to $8 billion in new funds for security, reconstruction and other projects in Afghanistan as part of the upcoming budget package, officials said.

23 January 2007: Afghans determined to rebuild, no matter the obstacles

U.S. to urge allies to boost Afghan support

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The United States will urge European allies to match it in injecting more development funds into Afghanistan at high-level talks set for Friday, a senior U.S. official said.
Condoleezza Rice will tell NATO and EU counterparts that 2007 could emerge as a key year in efforts to subdue the stubbornly resistant Taliban-led insurgency and push forward with often patchy reconstruction work.

U.S. extends combat tours in Afghanistan

Bush meets incoming NATO chief in Afghanistan

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Washington/Politics: The speech's key points and their context

Candidates court Israel, cite Iran risks -- By Joshua Mitnick

HERZLIYA, Israel -- Presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney, John Edwards and John McCain all detoured through Israel on the way to New Hampshire this week, seemingly competing to see who could be strongest in defense of the Jewish state.

ABC News: Bush's Health Plan: Does It Help You or Hurt You?

President's Proposal Provides Tax Incentives to the Uninsured -- and Could Tax Those Already Covered

‘Dreamgirls’ Leads in Oscar Nominations but Is Snubbed for Best Picture

Jimmy Carter's 'Peace' Mission To Brandeis (Ex-President Still Stands by His Controversial Palestine Book)

"This is the first time that I've ever been called a liar and a bigot and an anti-Semite and a coward and a plagiarist." Carter paused and squinted at the audience. "This has hurt me." -- Carter, who won the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize partly for brokering peace between Israel and Egypt in 1998, has a long history of involvement in the Middle East.

The State of the Union: Bush Insists U.S. Must Not Fail in Iraq

President Bush presented a modest agenda of energy and health care proposals while warning an assertive Congress against undercutting his new Iraq strategy.

President Bush's 2007 State of the Union Address

And tonight, I have the high privilege and distinct honor of my own, as the first president to begin the State of the Union message with these words: "Madam Speaker."

Harsh Winter Has Afghans Struggling For Survival (5 Years After Invasion, Many in Kabul Lack Central Heat, Water, Power)

More than five years after the U.S.-led overthrow of Islamic Taliban rule and the advent of an internationally backed civilian government, the country is still so destitute and undeveloped that most inhabitants have no central heating, electricity or running water. Even in Kabul, some desperate families remain beyond the reach of foreign aid agencies that provide cold-weather assistance such as free coal and blankets in impoverished rural provinces. --- Winter is the time that most starkly sets apart Kabul's nouveau riche from its permanent poor. -- The cozy, generator-heated homes and winking shop lights of central neighborhoods such as Wazir Akbar Khan and Shar-i-Nau, home to Afghan officials and international agency employees, seem far removed from the pitch-dark alleys and frigid rented rooms of suburban slums such as Chelsitoon and Char Qala.

Antidepressants Double Risk Of Bone Fracture

A Canadian study suggests that people over 50 on a certain type of antidepressant are twice as likely to suffer bone fractures. The study is published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

More diplomats for Afghanistan -- BBC News Security Correspondent

The government is to send up to 35 extra diplomatic staff to Afghanistan, the BBC has learned. The deployment will make the country one of the Foreign Office's biggest overseas postings.

Afghan poppies 'could help NHS' -- BBC News, health correspondent

Diamorphine, also known as heroin, is used to relieve pain after operations and for the terminally ill. -- It would be easy to export from the village to Kabul and then to the rest of the world, tablets from Afghanistan. Emmanuel Reinert, The Senlis Council

Alzheimer's vaccine 'in a patch' -- BBC

A patch which delivers a vaccine against Alzheimer's disease through the skin has been shown to be safe and effective, a study has found.

Carter Controversy | PRI's The World

Former president Jimmy Carter's recent book on the Israeli - Palestinian conflict sparked controversy before it was even published. It started with the book's title: "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid." Carter says he chose the title himself to be deliberately provocative. -- And to encourage debate in the United States about an issue that he still feels passionate about. But Carter's critics say he missed the mark.

What You Need to Know About Passport Rules -- by Thomas Pierce, January 23, 2007 · Starting Jan. 23, hopping on a flight to Toronto won't be the same. You might want to wear a jacket with extra pockets, because the U.S. government wants to see more than a driver's license before you return to the United States. --- The changes were mandated in 2004, when Congress passed a massive piece of legislation called the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act. In addition to reforming intelligence agencies, the act was designed to increase border protection and beef up transportation security.

Afghanistan: The Mysteries of Kabul

AN icy wind blasted in our faces as we trudged up a rocky slope on the southern outskirts of Kabul, the war-shattered capital of Afghanistan. Around us rose a moonscape of treeless, dun-colored hills, broken by clusters of mud-walled squatter huts. I squinted into the sunlight, looking east toward the earthen citadel of Bala Hissar, a stronghold from the time of the Silk Road to the post-Soviet wars. High above us, another wall of mud brick and stone — a fragment of the ancient rampart of Kabul, constructed before the arrival of Islam in a futile attempt to defend the city against invaders from Arabia and Central Asia — snaked along the ridgeline.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Retreat Isn't an Option -- By Liz Cheney

Heavy Afghan Fighting Expected: U.S. Ambassador

Afghan FM Rules Out Using Afghanistan as Base for US Attack on Iran

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar-Spanta has completely ruled out the possibility of the United States using Afghanistan as a base for launching a military operation against Iran.

DEMOCRACY IN THE BALANCE: Afghan women's quiet revolution hangs by a thread

Each step toward equality has been a struggle, but the nation's instability is eroding their gains.

Ethnic differences great challenge to Afghan unity

Saturday, January 20, 2007

US' presidential envoy likely to defuse Pak-Afghan tension

KABUL, Jan 18 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Senator Hillary Clinton, head of the delegation, expressed concern over the widening gaps between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the two close allies of the United States, and said the two countries needed to work together to defeat the "resurgent" Taliban and al-Qaeda. -- "I discussed with both President Karzai and President Musharraf whether a high-level United States envoy on a continuing basis would be helpful, and they both expressed a positive reaction," said the former first lady.

Clinton Officially Launches '08 Bid

(CBS/AP) Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a former first lady turned political powerhouse, launched a trailblazing campaign for the White House on Saturday, intent on becoming the first female president. "I'm in, and I'm in to win," she said.

Apples pack a big antioxidant punch (Flavonoids in the fruit can help lower the risk of disease)

If you look only at lists of fruits highest in vitamin C or read about the super health-promoting powers of the latest popular fruit, you might wonder if Grandma’s advice “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” still merits consideration. -- Apples are high in a type of fiber that creates a “full” sensation. -- Yet as research moves further into the study of the thousands of natural compounds we get from fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other plant foods, apples do shine.

Digging out of Debt -- ABC"20/20"

Nationally, credit card debt is growing — almost tripling since 1989. Today, American consumer debt is over a trillion dollars. More than half of all cardholders don't pay their cards off each month and carry an average balance of around $2,000.

From Mecca, 'the Drink of Life' (Muslims Bring Home Revered Zamzam Water After Annual Pilgrimage)

If it is Zamzam water, the answer is 1,400 years old: Muslims returning from the hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, value it as a liquid memento from the holy city.

Independent Appeal: Afghanistan... the most dangerous place in the world to have a baby

Hillary Clinton joins 2008 race -- BBC

Ms Clinton would become the US' first female president

Troop surge, and more, needed to save Afghanistan

Surging on the Afghan Front - Council on Foreign Relations

The U.S. foreign policy debate these days revolves around President Bush’s “new way forward” in Iraq. While a rash of congressional hearings seek to identify the remaining options in Iraq, commanders on the less visible Afghan front say they need more troops too. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates told reporters after a recent visit to Kabul:

U.S. Agency Tries to Fix No-Fly List Mistakes

False Positives Still Cause Travel Delays

Bush to Propose New Tax Incentives for Health Insurance

President Bush today offered a peek into next week's State of the Union address, saying he will propose a tax incentive to make private health insurance more affordable. --- A record 46.6 million Americans, including 8.3 million children, had no health insurance in 2005, up from 45.3 million in 2004, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Clinton Enters ’08 Field, Fueling Race for Money

“I’m in,” Mrs. Clinton said in an e-mail message to supporters early yesterday morning. “And I’m in to win.” -- If successful, Mrs. Clinton, 59, would be the first female nominee of a major American political party, and she would become the first spouse of a former president to seek a return to the White House.

Senator Clinton’s Statement About Her Candidacy for President

The statement issued Saturday by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, on her Web site,, about her candidacy for president in 2008: --- I'm in. And I'm in to win. Today I am announcing that I will form an exploratory committee to run for president.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Folic acid boosts older brains

Folic acid supplements may help improve the memory and brain power of people over 50, a new study suggests. -- Cognitive function such as memory and processing information quickly declines with age and has been linked to risk of dementia in old age.

Folic Acid Increases Mental Agility In The Elderly

Taking supplements of folic acid may significantly improve cognitive function in older men and women. This is the conclusion of a Dutch study to be published in the Lancet. --- Diminshing cognitive functions such as deterioration in memory, reduced ability to process information quickly, and reduced verbal fluency have been linked to risk of dementia in old age.

Senate Questions Gonzales on Spy Policy Change

The Senate Judiciary Committee grilled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales Thursday about the administration's decision to shift authority of its warrantless communication surveillance program to a secret court. Guests discuss the implications of the policy change.

Senator Clinton Calls for Cap on U.S. Troops in Iraq -- PBS

U.S., Iran Clash over Five Arrests in Iraq

Morning Edition, January 19, 2007 · A diplomatic spat is brewing in Baghdad, after Iran's ambassador accused U.S. forces of kidnapping five of its citizens and claimed the American actions violated Iraqi sovereignty.

Bush picks new ambassador to Afghanistan

Afghanistan Needs More than Reinforcements

The mission in Iraq, insatiable and interminable, has left Afghanistan in a state of chronic neglect.

Karzai sacks aide amid plot rumours

In a major shake up in the presidential palace in Kabul, President Hamid Karzai has removed Jawed Ludin, his British educated chief of staff, and replaced him with his predecessor in the job, the Daily Telegraph has learnt.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Canada Chuckles at 'Little Mosque on the Prairie'

“The kind of red-neck attitudes from some of the locals in the small town toward the Muslims is very much reflective of an American suspicion of Muslims and not a Canadian suspicion.”John Doyle, TV Critic, 'Toronto Globe and Mail'

San Francisco Orders Paid Sick Leave for All

Morning Edition, January 18, 2007 · Starting next month, San Francisco will become the first city in the country requiring employers to give their workers paid sick leave. But some are questioning whether businesses there can afford the mandate, which comes on the heels of other new benefits in the workplace.

Politics: Bush Team Signals Shift on Domestic Spying

Morning Edition, January 18, 2007 · The Justice Department says the Bush administration will end its warrantless domestic wiretap program, and accept the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The administration previously said it had the power to eavesdrop on domestic phone calls without seeking court orders.

Stable Afghanistan in your interest, Karzai tells Pakistan

Governor disputes claim by intelligence officials

UNICEF to give $23.9m to Education Ministry

Commanders seek more troops in Afghanistan

"I think it is very important not to let the success we have had in Afghanistan slip away from us," Mr. Gates said. "There is no reason to sit back and let the terrorists regroup."

EU May Ease Rules on Economic Immigration

European Union ministers are considering ways to make legal immigration to the bloc easier, in a bid to help reduce massive illegal immigration.

Religion, Born Again-- Der SPIEGEL

Amid wrenching change worldwide, people are returning to old-time religion. In the name of God, terrorists are happily maiming and killing; in the United States, the Christian Right has a stranglehold on government. On this increasingly God-fearing globe, only Western Europe looks like the last bastion of secularism - or are the faithful here too returning to the fold?

Rice Speaks Softly in Egypt, Avoiding Democracy Push

"I especially want to thank President Mubarak for receiving me and for spending so much time with me to talk about the issues of common interest here in the Middle East," Ms. Rice said. "Obviously the relationship with Egypt is an important strategic relationship - one that we value greatly."

Clinton toughens stance on Bush war plan

Urges more troops for Afghanistan, but a cap in Iraq

How to solve Afghanistan's drug problem.

The British Empire once fought a war for the right to sell opium in China. -- In retrospect, history has judged that war destructive and wasteful, a shameless battle of colonizers against colonized that in the end helped neither side. -- Now NATO is fighting a war to eradicate opium from Afghanistan.

Gates signals troop surge in Afghanistan

Mr Gates told reporters the US must not “sit back and let the Taliban regroup.”

Afghanistan a source of worry -- Sen. Clinton says more troops needed to fight Taliban, not in Iraq.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who is to stop in Afghanistan during a trip to the Middle East starting this weekend, said she believed that President Bush's plan to increase troops in Iraq was misguided and that new troops instead should be sent to Afghanistan, where, she said, U.S. policy was on "autopilot." -- "I wish we were discussing additional troops for Afghanistan," Clinton said, speaking in Washington. "We are hearing increasingly troubling reports out of Afghanistan, and we will be searching for accurate information about the true state of affairs both militarily and politically."

Gates 'sympathetic' to call for more US troops in Afghanistan

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan (AFP) - US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he was sympathetic to a request for more troops in Afghanistan and vowed not to let the situation in the country slip away.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Senators oppose Iraq troop boost -- BBC

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Chills Across U.S. As Ice Storm Heads East

Warm Winter Is Just A Memory As Snow, Ice, Freezing Temps Kill At Least 46

Gates Briefed on Afghan War Effort

Morning Edition, January 16, 2007 · Defense Secretary Robert Gates is in Afghanistan, where he's meeting with top U.S. and NATO commanders. The secretary arrived in Afghanistan as military officials warned of rising violence and a shortage of NATO forces.

No audits done on Afghan aid

OTTAWA (CP) - Five years after Canada began pumping millions of aid dollars into Afghanistan, taxpayers still have no idea how well the money is being spent. -- Critics say it's a massive reporting void that leaves the public in the dark as Conservatives promote a mission that has been heavy on combat, light on reconstruction. It has also cost 44 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat their lives since 2002. -- Afghanistan, still an international basket case of economic and security problems, received $100 million last year from CIDA and is to get the same amount for the next four years. Contributions are expected to total about $1 billion between 2001 and 2011 - more cash than Canada has promised to any other foreign-aid recipient.

Ending an Opium War -- By Anne Applebaum

Once, the British Empire fought a war for the right to sell opium in China. In retrospect, history has judged that war destructive and wasteful, a shameless battle of colonizers against the colonized that in the end helped neither one. --- Now, NATO is fighting a war to eradicate opium from Afghanistan. Allegedly, the goals this time around are different. According to the British government, Afghanistan's illicit drug trade poses the "gravest threat to the long term security, development, and effective governance of Afghanistan," particularly since the Taliban is believed to be the biggest beneficiary of drug sales. Convinced that this time they are doing the morally right thing, Western governments are spending hundreds of millions of dollars bulldozing poppy fields, building up counternarcotics squads and financing alternative crops in Afghanistan. -- Chemical spraying may begin as early as this spring. But in retrospect, might history not judge this war to be every bit as destructive and wasteful as the original Opium Wars?

Top Taleban spokesman 'arrested'

Intelligence service spokesman Sayed Ansari named him as Dr Muhammad Hanif, who has been speaking for Afghanistan's former rulers since October 2005.

1979: Shah of Iran flees into exile

The Shah of Iran has fled the country following months of increasingly violent protests against his regime.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Jordan's king: Sunnis should have say in new Iraq

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) -- Jordan's king told visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday that Washington must "actively push" for reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. King Abdullah II also warned that violence would escalate if no tangible solution was found to the lingering conflict. -- The king said that Iraqi reconciliation would fail if Sunni Iraqis were not engaged in their country's decision making. --- "Any political process that doesn't ensure the participation of all segments of Iraqi society will fail and will lead to more violence," Abdullah told Rice in a closed-door meeting in Amman, according to a statement by his press office.
"As a key component of the Iraqi social fabric, the Iraqi Sunni community must be included as partners in building Iraq's future," said the king, a top U.S. ally in the Middle East.
With other U.S. allies such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Jordan is concerned that the growing Shiite Muslim influence stretching from Iran through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, will help the hard-line Tehran regime dominate the Middle East. --- King Abdullah also wants Bush to apply an equal amount of diplomatic energy on reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Bush Chides Opponents Of His Iraq Plan

(CBS/AP) President Bush on Saturday challenged lawmakers skeptical of his new Iraq plan to propose their own strategy for stopping the violence in Baghdad. "To oppose everything while proposing nothing is irresponsible," Mr. Bush said.

Study: Gene Could Be Signal Of Alzheimer's

(AP) A huge international study has identified a gene that apparently can raise the risk of developing the most common form of Alzheimer's disease, a discovery that may help scientists develop new treatments. Scientists analyzed DNA from more than 6,000 people from a variety of ethnic groups and found evidence implicating certain versions of the gene, called SORL1.

Bush and Cheney Rebuff Critics of Iraq Troop Increase

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14 — President Bush, facing sharp and widespread opposition to his plan to send more troops to Iraq, insists that he has the authority to do so even without the approval of Congress. -- ``I fully understand they could try to stop me from doing it,” he said in a taped interview for the CBS News program “60 Minutes” that is to be broadcast this evening. “But I’ve made my decision. And were going forward.”

Witness tells of Saddam's last moments -- By Magdi Abdelhadi

Saddam Hussein was executed at dawn on the first day of the Eid al-Adha, just as Sunni Muslims were preparing to make their sacrificial offering by killing a sheep to celebrate the end of the pilgrimage season.

Hillary Clinton in Afghanistan, due in Pakistan

KABUL (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Afghanistan on Sunday for talks with President Hamid Karzai as the latest in a wave of suicide bombers struck in a southern town, killing himself and wounding a passer-by. -- Clinton, part of a three-member U.S. delegation, met Karzai at the heavily guarded presidential palace in Kabul. Clinton also met a group of Afghan women on her day-trip, a U.S. embassy spokeswoman said.

Sen. Clinton Meets With Karzai, Troops

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton ate breakfast with soldiers from New York and Indiana at the main U.S. base in Afghanistan on Sunday before meeting with the top American general in Afghanistan and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, officials said. Clinton, a Democrat from New York who is considering running for president, came from Iraq with Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and Rep. John McHugh, R-N.Y. All three are members of armed services committees. -- On Friday, Clinton said she was hearing "increasingly troubling reports out of Afghanistan" and would be searching for "accurate information about the true state of affairs" militarily and politically on her trip.

Jewish Membership in Congress at All-Time High -- By Elizabeth Williamson

About 2 percent of Americans identify themselves as Jewish. But in Congress, the proportion of Jewish members is now four times that. Six new Jewish House members were sworn in last week, bringing the total to 30. In the Senate, the 13 Jewish members include freshmen Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) and Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), according to the National Jewish Democratic Council.

Principled Leadership: A Human Rights Agenda for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Carter Center Advisers Resign Over New Book

Carter declined to comment about yesterday's resignations. In a statement issued by the center's press office, Executive Director John Hardman expressed gratitude to the members for serving and emphasized that those on the board are "not engaged in implementing work of the Center and are not a governing board."

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Media: Articles Question Gates Foundations' Investments

Pakistan Rejects U.S. Spy Chief's Charge It Is Harboring al-Qaida and Taliban Leaders

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan Jan 12, 2007 (AP)— Pakistan on Friday rejected allegations by America's spy chief that it is a refuge for terrorist leaders and demanded that his intelligence networks share information on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden and other top al-Qaida figures.

Clinton Doubts Iraqis Can Pacify Baghdad

BAGHDAD, Iraq Jan 13, 2007 (AP)— U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed doubt Saturday that Iraq's government would follow through with its promises to secure Baghdad as she met with top Iraqi officials and American commanders.

Carter and His Critics: The Skirmishes Continue -- By Tom Zeller Jr.

Rice Says Bush Authorized Iranians’ Arrest in Iraq

NATO’s Afghan Struggle: Build, and Fight Taliban

SPERWAN GHAR, Afghanistan — The road that cuts through the heart of Panjwai district here tells all that is going wrong with NATO’s war in Afghanistan.

Bush Challenges Iraq Strategy Skeptics

WASHINGTON January 13, 2007, 3:39 p.m. ET · President Bush on Saturday challenged lawmakers skeptical of his new Iraq plan to propose their own strategy for stopping the violence in Baghdad. "To oppose everything while proposing nothing is irresponsible," Bush said.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Rice and Gates Make Case for More Troops in Iraq

PM to back Iraq and Afghan roles -- BBC

Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected to defend the UK's missions in Iraq and Afghanistan in a speech in Plymouth.

US senators attack Bush Iraq plan -- BBC

Democrat Senator Joseph Biden called the move a "tragic mistake", while Republican Senator Chuck Hagel said Mr Bush had committed a dangerous blunder.

EU Should Fill Leadership Void on Human Rights

(Washington, DC, January 11, 2007) - With US credibility undermined by the Bush administration’s use of torture and detention without trial, the European Union must fill the leadership void on human rights, Human Rights Watch said today in releasing its World Report 2007.

U.S. Has Lost Credibility On Rights, Group Asserts

The advocacy group Human Rights Watch said yesterday that Washington's once-powerful role as a prime defender of human rights had effectively ended because of arbitrary detentions and reports of torture since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and the group urged the European Union to step up as a leader of the cause.

Scores of Insurgents Killed in Afghan Border Area

Intelligence Chiefs Pessimistic In Assessing Worldwide Threats

Iraq is at a violent and "precarious juncture," while al-Qaeda is significantly expanding its global reach, effectively immune to the loss of leaders in battle, Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte told Congress yesterday. He also warned that the Taliban is mounting a vigorous insurgency in Afghanistan, that Pakistan has become a safe haven for top terrorists and that Iran's growing regional power is threatening Middle East stability.

Bush's Iraq Plan Meets Skepticism On Capitol Hill

Lawmakers said they have little confidencethat the Iraqi government has the capacity to deliver on promises to take the lead in cracking down on violent militias and providing security in Baghdad, as the president's plan contemplates.

Five Flaws in the President's Plan -- By Zbigniew Brzezinski

Bush’s Plan for Iraq Runs Into Opposition in Congress

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 President Bush’s call to increase the American military commitment in Iraq ran into intense Congressional opposition Thursday from Democrats and from moderate Republicans who expressed profound skepticism. --- In the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing room, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a Republican who has been critical of the administration’s handling of the war, drew applause when he described the president’s proposals as a “dangerous foreign policy blunder,” and vowed to oppose them.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

House Passes Bill for Stem Cell Research

House Democrats end smoking in the "lobby"

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Declaring an end to "smoke-filled rooms" in the Capitol, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday said smoking would be banned from an ornate meeting area just off the floor of the House of Representatives.

Your Health: Low-Stress Life May Be Best Way to Prevent Colds

Morning Edition, January 11, 2007 · Colds are caused by viruses, but when a nasty one spreads around the office or through the family, why do some people get sick and others don't? -- Some add a jolt of wheat grass or green tea to their smoothies. Others choose megadoses of vitamin C. -- The best evidence suggests there is no magic elixir that will keep you from getting a cold. So, is there anything — besides washing your hands frequently — that you can do to protect yourself? --- Researcher Sheldon Cohen at Carnegie-Mellon University is focusing on the role of stress. "After we administered the questionnaires," says Cohen, "we exposed the people in the study to one of five viruses that cause the common cold." --- Cohen's team then tracked the volunteers for six days and found that those who had reported higher levels of stress were twice as likely to catch a cold as those who were less stressed out. --- This correlation has held up in two follow-up studies. --- Cohen has also evaluated long-term stressors such as marriage problems or the loss of a job. --- "So the longer the stress lasted," says Cohen, "the greater the probability that the participants exposed to the virus would actually catch a cold." -- Taking stress out of their lives is not something most people can do on demand; unresolved disputes don't disappear at will.

Biomarker Predicts Risk in Stable Coronary Heart Disease

SAN FRANCISCO, Jan 9 -- B-type natriuretic peptide, a marker of myocardial stretch, predicted adverse coronary outcomes and mortality in patients with stable coronary heart disease, researchers reported.

Blood Test May Predict Risks for Heart Patients

TUESDAY, Jan. 9 (HealthDay News) -- A blood test for patients with existing heart disease could help predict their future risk for heart attack, stroke or death, a new study suggests.

House OKs hike in minimum wage

WASHINGTON — The House's Democratic majority, exercising its new political clout, on Wednesday approved the first increase in the federal minimum wage in a decade — from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour over two years. -- California — where the minimum wage increased to $7.50 an hour on Jan. 1 and will rise to $8 on Jan. 1, 2008 — is among 29 states, with minimum wages that exceed the existing federal rate. The rate is also higher in Washington, D.C.

UN Involvement in Afghanistan - UN Security Council - Global Policy Forum

FEATURE-Pakistani fence plan opposed on invisible Afghan border

"How can we allow fencing and mining between us. We will never accept this. Not at any cost," said Dost Mohammad, a bearded, turbaned villager from Kulli Musa. -- The border snakes 2,500 km (1,500 miles) through rocky mountains and across deserts and is a major front line in the U.S.-led war on terrorism. -- The fiercely independent Pashtun tribes have never paid much heed to the boundary dividing their lands. -- "Half of our village mosque is in Pakistan and the other half in Afghanistan," said Mohammad, fingering a string of prayer beads as he spoke. -- His brother's home is just across the border dividing the collection of mud-walled houses lying partly in Pakistan's Baluchistan province and partly in Afghanistan's Kandahar province. -- Part of the problem is that Afghanistan does not recognise the colonial-era border, and argues that fortifying it would split Pashtun communities spread across both sides. -- "Government people know better about fencing the border but may Allah damn those who lay mines. -- They'll kill our youngsters," said Hajania, 45, a villager who regularly drives her donkey cart across the border. -- "We're poor people, we have no hostility with anyone." -- Villager Hayat Khan, 50, said: "Pashtun tribes have already been destroyed by the bombing and fighting. Now they want to destroy us further."

Bush Adds Troops in Bid to Secure Iraq

WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 —Yet in defying mounting pressure to begin troop withdrawals, the president reiterated his argument that the consequences of failure in Iraq were so high that the United States could not afford to lose.

Transcript of President Bush’s Address to Nation on U.S. Policy in Iraq

Bush to Add 20,000 Troops In an Effort to Stabilize Iraq

President Bush appealed directly to the American people last night to support a renewed campaign to pacify Iraq, saying it is necessary to add new troops so that the beleaguered Iraqi government can regain control of the streets of Baghdad and revive the process of political reconciliation and economic rebuilding.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Bush Warns Democrats About Effects of Troop Pullout From Iraq

President Bush gravely warned House Democrats yesterday that America's credibility would be shattered if the United States pulled its troops from Iraq, forcing close ally Saudi Arabia to look elsewhere for protection and potentially destabilizing Egypt, the region's most populous country, according to participants in the meeting.

Prince William's Girlfriend Turns 25

LONDON -- Prince William's girlfriend, Kate Middleton, may one day become queen of England. Before then, she is undergoing the ordeal seemingly demanded of royal wannabes since Lady Diana Spencer began dating Prince Charles more than a quarter-century ago.

Attention That's Fit for a Queen

LONDON, Jan. 9 -- Kate Middleton took one look at her lanky boyfriend, a young officer graduating from Britain's military academy last month, and purred approval to two friends.

Schwarzenegger Unveils 'Ambitious' Building Plans

Schwarzenegger releases budget he says will eliminate deficit

The governor's $143.4 billion budget would limit general fund spending increases to less than 1 percent in the 2007-08 fiscal year, the smallest such increase in five years.

Bad communications to blame for Afghan deaths: NATO

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Poor communications between NATO and Afghan authorities were to blame for the deaths of civilians killed last October by alliance warplanes during a battle with insurgents, a NATO spokesman said on Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Schwarzenegger Agenda Could Flex California's Muscle

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 9 -- A lesson from California: Never underestimate the ambition of a former Mr. Universe. Over the past week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has unleashed a torrent of proposals to shake up everything in his state from health care to road-building to politics itself, all in an effort to reshape his party and set a national agenda.

FRONTLINE: return of the taliban: introduction | PBS

Afghanistan going to plan - Hoon

"We are right to have removed the Taleban, we are right to be there, but we have got to do more in terms of deploying resources there to make certain we win on security grounds and we have got to be prepared to be there for the long haul."

Schwarzenegger Seeks Universal Health Insurance, Fees (Update3)

California in 2003 adopted a law that would have required all but the smallest employers to provide their workers with health insurance benefits, only to have it overturned in a referendum the following year as businesses argued it would deal a blow to the economy. Schwarzenegger backed overturning that law.

Diana inquest opens with plea from Princes - Britain - Times

The judge in charge of the inquest into the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, has said it is "extremely" unlikely that Princes William and Harry will be required to give evidence.

Diana inquest reopens, judge rules out royal jury

Should a jury convene to hear the inquest into the 1997 death of Diana, Princess of Wales, it will be made up of the general public — not members of the royal household, the judge presiding over the high-profile proceedings ruled Monday.

Dems Won't Rule Out Tax Hike On Wealthy

(CBS/AP) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats are not ruling out raising taxes for the wealthiest people to help pay for tax cuts for middle-income families. Asked in a CBS News interview if Americans making over half-a-million dollars a year may see their taxes go up, Pelosi said: "They may. But as I say, that's not where we'll begin. It's an option, it's not a first resort.

Poll: Americans Split On Troop 'Surge'

Interview With Bill Gates

There aren't many people in the tech world who rise to near "rock star" status in the tech world, but Microsoft chairman and co-founder Bill Gates is one of them. I

Monday, January 08, 2007

NYT Reporter: I Was Assaulted by Pakistani Agents

Akhtar Soomro, a freelance Pakistani photographer working with Gall, was detained for five-and-a-half hours. According to Gall, the agents broke down the door to her hotel room, after she refused to let them enter, and began to seize her notebooks and laptop. When she tried to stop them, she says one of the men punched her twice in the face and head. --- "I fell backwards onto a coffee table smashing the crockery," she recalled in a written account of the incident. "I have heavy bruising on my arms, on my temple and my cheekbone, and swelling on my left eye and a sprained knee."

Democrats Revise Agenda To Deal With War in Iraq

Democratic leaders who had hoped to emphasize their domestic agenda in the opening weeks of Congress have concluded that Iraq will share top billing, and they plan on aggressively confronting administration officials this week in a series of hearings.

Calif. Governor Calls for Universal Health Coverage

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday proposed to extend health coverage to nearly all of California's 6.5 million uninsured people, promising to spread the cost among businesses, individuals, hospitals, doctors, insurers and government.

FM plans more reforms in ministry

KABUL, Jan 7 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Foreign Minister Dr Rangin Dadfar Spanta has said that he is planning to introduce reforms in the ministry by removing some key posts and creating other to further improve its efficiency.

Pakistani forces start fencing: Governor

KABUL, Jan 7 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Governor of the southeastern Paktika province Dr Akram Khpalwak has said that Pakistani forces have started work on fencing and mining the border.

Border fencing a conspiracy: Taliban (Pajhwok Afghan News)

MacKay visits Kabul, Kandahar; sees progress in mission to rebuild Afghanistan

"Well, I think repetition here and blunt talk. I suspect strongly that you're going to see this coming from all countries. . . . Everyone says that the border issue has to be dealt with in a more comprehensive way - whether it's . . . aerial surveillance, fencing, border guards," he said."Canada has a particular interest, of course, because of the impact it's having on our military. -- But we also have some expertise in the area. We have a large border that we share with the United States. Some of our techniques and our technology that we're using there may be of assistance."

Canadian FM assures Afghan president of support

Foreign Minister Peter MacKay said before the meeting he would also raise Pakistan's plans to mine and fence part of its border with Afghanistan to block routes used by militants operating across the frontier. -- Karzai and the United Nations have spoken out strongly against the plan, but Pakistan has not stepped down.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Afghanistan 'sliding into chaos' -- Analyst says NATO mission doomed

As Canadian soldiers traded fire with Taliban insurgents west of Kandahar yesterday, an article in the prestigious international journal Foreign Affairs warned Afghanistan is "sliding into chaos" and that the NATO-led coalition is doomed to fail without a dramatic change in strategy. --- In a bleak assessment of the situation, Rubin writes: -- "High unemployment is fuelling conflict ... effective economic aid is vital to addressing the pervasive poverty that debilitates the government and facilitates the recruitment of unemployed youths into militias or the insurgency." --- "The lack of electricity continues to be a major problem. No new power projects have been completed, and Kabulis today have less electricity than they did five years ago." --- "Rising crime, especially the kidnapping of businessmen for ransom, is also leading to capital flight. ... People throughout the country report that crime is increasing - and complain that the police are the main criminals." --- "Opium poppy production in the country reached a record 6,100 metric tonnes last year, surpassing the 2005 total by 49 per cent. ... The massive illicit economy is booming, while the licit economy slows." --- Rubin says coalition donors must not only increase their economic aid to Afghanistan but co-ordinate its effective delivery.

Starving Afghans sell girls of eight as brides -- Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor

Villagers whose crops have failed after a second devastating drought are giving their young daughters in marriage to raise money for food. --- While the world has focused on the war against the Taliban, the suffering of the drought-stricken villagers, almost 2.5 million of them, has largely gone unnoticed. And where once droughts would afflict Afganistan once every couple of decades, this drought has come hard on the heels of the last one, from which the villagers were barely able to recover.

Hand in Hand in the Crisis Zone -- SPIEGEL ONLINE

US President George W. Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel: Hoping to reconcile America and Europe.

Afghanistan bans 'insulting' film about fall of Tabilan

The comments appear to refer to atrocities committed on all sides of the brutal, ethnically charged four-year civil war that preceded the Taliban's capture of government in 1996. The conflict left between 50,000 and 80,000 people dead in the capital Kabul alone. -- Human rights groups are demanding commanders from several ethnic groups face up to allegations of torture, mass murder, rape and other abuses that still haunt the population.

French Lawmakers Seek to Make Housing a Right

Morning Edition, January 5, 2007 · The French government later this month is expected to introduce a bill that would make housing a right, just like free medical care and education.

Afghan-Pakistani Bond Steadily Deteriorating

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Jan. 6 -- A proposal by Pakistan to plant land mines along the border with Afghanistan, aimed at preventing Islamic insurgents from using Pakistan as a sanctuary, has aroused angry protests by Afghan leaders who say the mines would endanger innocent travelers and divide tribal lands whose inhabitants do not recognize the border.

Saddam aides told to write wills before his death

AMMAN (Reuters) - "After the President there is nothing to live for," Bander told the Amman based lawyer. -- Khalil told Reuters she also met Tareq Aziz, a long time confidant of Saddam, who "cried and said nothing mattered in life any more because Iraq had been executed with the President's death."

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Israel has plans for nuclear strike on Iran: paper

LONDON (Reuters) - Israel has drawn up secret plans to destroy Iran's uranium enrichment facilities with tactical nuclear weapons, Britain's Sunday Times newspaper said. -- Citing what it said were several Israeli military sources, the paper said two Israeli air force squadrons had been training to blow up an enrichment plant in Natanz using low-yield nuclear "bunker busters".

Foreign Affairs - A Battle for Global Values - Tony Blair

The roots of the current wave of global terrorism and extremism are deep. They reach down through decades of alienation, victimhood, and political oppression in the Arab and Muslim world. Yet such terrorism is not and never has been inevitable. --- To me, the most remarkable thing about the Koran is how progressive it is. I write with great humility as a member of another faith. As an outsider, the Koran strikes me as a reforming book, trying to return Judaism and Christianity to their origins, much as reformers attempted to do with the Christian church centuries later. The Koran is inclusive. It extols science and knowledge and abhors superstition. It is practical and far ahead of its time in attitudes toward marriage, women, and governance. --- Under its guidance, the spread of Islam and its dominance over previously Christian or pagan lands were breathtaking. Over centuries, Islam founded an empire and led the world in discovery, art, and culture. The standard-bearers of tolerance in the early Middle Ages were far more likely to be found in Muslim lands than in Christian ones. --- Let me be quite plain here. I do not always agree with the United States. Sometimes it can be a difficult friend to have. But the strain of anti-American feeling in parts of Europe is madness when set against the long-term interests of the world we believe in. The danger with the United States today is not that it is too involved in the world. The danger is that it might pull up the drawbridge and disengage. The world needs it involved. The world wants it engaged. The reality is that none of the problems that press in on us can be resolved or even approached without it.

Saddam hanging deplorable - Brown -- BBC

Chancellor Gordon Brown has condemned the way in which Saddam Hussein was executed as "deplorable". -- Mr Brown told BBC One's Sunday AM show the manner of the former Iraqi leader's hanging was "completely unacceptable". -- "Even those people unlike me who are in favour of capital punishment found this completely unacceptable"

Zalmay Khalilzad, on to a New Trouble Spot -- By HELENE COOPER

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5 — In successive tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad earned a reputation as a high-flying, independent, smooth operator — an Afghan-born problem solver who worked with two fragile countries recently invaded by the United States to try to cobble together stability.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Bactrian Gold Makes International Debut in France

Paris 's Guimet Museum of Asian art has become the first international museum to exhibit ancient Afghanistan’s fabled Bactrian gold. These ancient treasures resurfaced three years ago, after longstanding fears that they had been lost to the world. More than 220 pieces from the Afghan National Museum will go on display in an exhibit including numerous pieces from the 2,000-year-old Bactrian collection and numerous masterpieces of gold and ivory that have never been seen in public. France’s strong archeological relationship with Afghanistan helped secure its nomination to be the first country to show the famous artifacts. -- "This exhibit is important to show the world that Afghanistan is not only war and killing and terrorism," said Pierre Cambon, chief curator at the Guimet. -- The exhibition will run until April 30, and may potentially travel to the United States soon thereafter.

U.S.-Afghan Women's Council Partners with Georgetown University

Georgetown University hosted First Lady Laura Bush, Ambassador Said T. Jawad and Undersecretary of State Paula Dobriansky on December 4 in a ceremony inaugurating a new partnership between Georgetown and the U.S. Afghan Women’s Council.

President Karzai Launches Action Plan for Justice

President Hamid Karzai launched on December 10 a three-year “Action Plan on Peace, Reconciliation and Justice in Afghanistan,” focused on healing the wounds of war in Afghanistan. The announcement was made to coincide with the 59th anniversary of the UN General Assembly's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The plan contains five key elements: the acknowledgment of the suffering of the Afghan people; the strengthening of state institutions; a commission on truth and justice; promoting reconciliation among the Afghan people; and establishing a proper accountability mechanism for crimes committed.

Newly released papers detail Britain's refusal to relinquish Koh-i-noor diamond to Pakistan

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, then Pakistan's prime minister had sought the return of the diamond, which was part of the Crown Jewels. -- The British Foreign Office set out its position concisely: "The stark facts are these: i) We have the Koh-i-noor diamond, whether or not our possession of it is legally justified, ii) We have made it clear that we are keeping the diamond, adducing the best arguments to support our contention."

Russ Carnahan backs morphine-free poppy to counter Afghan heroin boom

WASHINGTON — After a year of escalating Afghan heroin production, calls are mounting for a shift in U.S. policy aimed at turning Afghanistan's poppy into an economic asset by using it to produce medicinal painkillers. -- Backers of the proposal include several leading scientists and economists, as well as some in Congress. -- "You can't just cut off the poppies because that's the livelihood of the people who live there," Carnahan said Thursday. "But providing them with alternative legal markets for pain-relief medication is a way to help cut back on that heroin supply."

Pakistan's uncertain year ahead

General Gramov lesson from Afghanistan

General Gramov, commander of ex-soviet invading army in Afghanistan

AFGHANISTAN: THE MAKING OF U.S. POLICY, 1973-1990 -- by Steve Galster

The following is from the introductory essay to the National Security Archive microfiche collection Afghanistan: The Making of U.S. Policy, 1973-1990, published in 1990.

Sunnis Eye Reckoning With Head Iraq Shia -- Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- A prominent Sunni Arab group charged Friday that some officials in the Shiite-led government have links with Shiite militias involved in sectarian violence and should be held responsible for any attacks by the armed groups. -- "We also have come to know that some officials in this government know of this criminal scheme, which raises suspicions that they are collaborating with these militias," the association said.

Can the Afghans Defend Themselves?

As in Iraq, an exit strategy for foreign troops depends on building up the Afghan army. But recruiting new soldiers is growing more difficult

Chirac Blasts U.S.-Led Invasion of Iraq -- The Associated Press

PARIS -- President Jacques Chirac gave a tough critique Friday of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and its fallout, saying the war destabilized the entire Middle East and allowed terrorism to spread. -- In a speech to ambassadors, Chirac also renewed his call for an international conference on the Middle East, saying he was deeply concerned by the growing number of crises there.

Women Bask in New Speaker's Shining Moment

"For our daughters and granddaughters, today we have broken the marble ceiling," Pelosi told cheering members of the House and their families who crowded into the chamber as the Democratic leader was formally elected speaker of the 110th Congress. "For our daughters and granddaughters today, the sky is the limit."

Pakistan Premier Wants Afghan Refugees to Return Home

KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan. 4 — Pakistan’s prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, said Thursday that he wanted the three million Afghan refugees still living in Pakistan to go home as one way to end the problem of insurgents using the country as a haven. -- Mr. Aziz arrived here for talks with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, in an effort to smooth tensions between the neighbors, but after more than two hours Mr. Karzai acknowledged that relations were only growing worse.
“Unfortunately, the gulf in relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan is getting wider, and it is not getting narrower,” Mr. Karzai said after their meeting.

Bush, Merkel push Mid-East talks

US President George W Bush has backed a proposal by German Chancellor Angela Merkel for a new meeting of the Middle East Quartet on the Palestinian issue.

Merkel: 'Boost EU-US trade ties'

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she wants to see "ever-closer economic co-operation" between the 27-nation EU and the US.

Hanging 'makes martyr of Saddam' -- BCC

The circumstances of the hanging of Saddam Hussein have turned the former Iraqi leader into a martyr, Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak has said. -- "No-one will ever forget the way in which Saddam was executed - they turned him into a martyr, and the problems in Iraq remained." Hosni Mubarak

Bush Is Expected to Shift U.S. Ambassador in Iraq to U.N.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 — President Bush intends to name Zalmay Khalilzad, the Afghan-born diplomat who has been ambassador to Iraq for the past 21 months, to be the new envoy to the United Nations, part of a diplomatic shakeup as Mr. Bush prepares to announce a new strategy for the war. -- The senior administration official said the White House believed that Mr. Khalilzad, as a Muslim who had extensive experience overseas including a stint as ambassador to his native Afghanistan, would bring an important understanding of the Muslim world to his work at the United Nations.

Mubarak Calls Saddam Execution Pictures "Barbaric"

Jan 5, 2007 — CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has said pictures of the execution of Saddam Hussein were "revolting and barbaric" and that experts considered his trial under occupation illegal.

Rare British India documents surface -- BBC

Among those who wrote about the siege was a young Winston Churchill, whose description of it shows that in some ways little has changed for British troops today in similar terrain not far away across the border in Afghanistan. -- Then as now, British troops faced a determined enemy described by Churchill as people who "fight without passion and kill without loss of temper".

Khalilzad To Be Nominated For U.N. Post

(AP) Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, will be nominated by President Bush to become the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, a senior administration official said Thursday. Khalilzad, who is Afghan born, has served also as ambassador to Afghanistan. He is likely to be replaced in Baghdad by Ryan Crocker, a veteran American diplomat, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make an announcement for the White House.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Former Afghan King Reported Ill

Zahir Shah's grandson and spokesman, Mustafa Zahir, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that the illness is linked with age. Zahir Shah remains in bed under the care of doctors. "We are hoping that he will feel better but at this age it's natural to feel good one day and not so good the next day," Mustafa Zahir said. "I want to assure people not to worry."

Strokes: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

(CBS) During a stroke, a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain bursts or is blocked by a blood clot. Nerve cells in the affected area of the brain can be damaged within minutes and can die within hours. It is estimated that during a stroke, 2 million brain cells die every minute.

Canadian ambassador says Afghanistan peace plan is a 'key step' -- Canadian Press

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CP) - In a country rife with human rights abuses, the Afghan government's adoption of a new action plan is an important step forward, said Canada's ambassador in the war-torn country. -- "A task force will establish how to apply accountability mechanisms to bring those to justice who have committed crimes against humanity, war crimes and gross human rights violations," said Canadian ambassador David Sproule in a phone interview with The Canadian Press from Kabul.

Karzai Not Behind Pakistan Border Plan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- President Hamid Karzai said Thursday that Pakistan's proposal to selectively mine and fence parts of the border between the two countries will not stop the terrorism that plagues Afghanistan.

Report: U.S. Tried To Delay Saddam Hanging -- CBS

American Ambassador Concerned Execution Was Being Carried Out Too Quickly

Bush said about to name new U.N. envoy

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, is expected to be nominated the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations as President George W. Bush attempts to chart a new course for his Iraq policy, two U.S. officials said on Thursday.

Bush Claims Right to Open Mail -- By Dan Froomkin

The New York Daily News today reports on a signing statement President Bush quietly issued two weeks ago, in which he asserts his right to open mail without a warrant.

The 110th Congress: Bill Clinton Stops By

Hillary Rodham Clinton is sworn in Thursday to a second term as New York's junior senator. Former president Bill Clinton joined her for the ceremony, which was officiated by Vice President Dick Cheney, the Senate's presiding officer. (AP)

Pelosi Sworn in as First Woman Speaker of the House

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was sworn in today as the first woman speaker of the House in U.S. history, as Democrats formally took control of Congress for the first time in a dozen years and immediately set their sights on quick passage of ethics legislation.

Pashtuns on both sides of Pak-Afghan border show opposition to fencing plan

JALALABAD, KHOST, QUETTA, Jan 03 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Tribal elders and influential people on two sides of the Pak-Afghan border have warned they will take away any barriers installed on the joint border. -- Pakistan has recently announced it will fence the joint border and plant mines along the 2,500 kilometers long border to put an end to accusations by the Afghan government of letting Taliban militants to cross the border and conduct attacks in Afghanistan. -- The elders have warned they would destroy the fence and take out the mines if Pakistan goes ahead with the fencing and mining plan. -- Residents on both sides of the border believe that Pakistan want to stamp the Durand Line as an official border line between Afghanistan and Pakistan. This, they say, will further separate the one community of Pashtuns who have already been divided.

Afghanistan's record of suicide attacks in 2006

Kabul, Jan 3 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Afghanistan left behind 2006 as one of the bloodiest years since the new millennium with the rare phenomenon of suicide bombings reaching record level in its history.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Ford laid to rest at presidential museum -- USATODAY

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Gerald R. Ford was laid to rest this afternoon after being remembered as a man not afraid to laugh, make tough decisions or listen to the advice of his independent wife.

Nato laments Afghan civilian dead

Nato has said its biggest mistake in Afghanistan in 2006 was killing innocent civilians.

Guard 'quizzed over Saddam video'

Pelosi's Political Rise Is Breakthrough

WASHINGTON (AP) -- It shouldn't be surprising that it took more than 200 years for Congress to select a female speaker of the House. The United States isn't exactly at the forefront when it comes to women in politics.

Fed Expressed Concerns Over Housing

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Heightened concern about the harsher-than-expected housing slump was an important factor in the Federal Reserve's decision last month to hold interest rates steady.

Official: NATO Killed Too Many Civilians

KABUL, Afghanistan -- NATO said Wednesday that it killed too many Afghan civilians during fighting last year against resurgent Taliban militants, but that the Western alliance was working to change that in 2007.

Bush Aims to Balance Federal Budget by 2012

President Bush today pledged to submit a five-year budget proposal next month that would balance the federal budget by 2012, and he called on the new Congress to adopt key reforms, including the curtailment of lawmakers' pork barrel projects in spending legislation and committee reports.

Fed remains focused on risks to inflation

US stocks surrendered a firm start after the release of the minutes. Stock investors returned from a four-day break amid lower oil prices and evidence of better-than-expected holiday retail sales. The bullish mood continued after a manufacturing survey proved to be stronger than expected and price pressures fell, reducing inflation fears.

Top 15 donors of 2006 -- FT

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Lack of Afghan war crime trials shows ‘double standard’

KABUL: An Afghan official said on Saturday that Saddam Hussein’s trial and execution show a double standard in the international community, as no one in Afghanistan has been prosecuted for atrocities from the country’s 25 years of war.

Bush and Ex-Presidents Mourn Ford

WASHINGTON, Jan. 2 — Gerald R. Ford was eulogized today as a president and a man who embodied the best of small-town American values and whose decency made him a player on the world stage.

Iraq Plans Inquiry Into Hussein Execution

Iraqi Government to Investigate Saddam Hanging, Leak of Video

France's Significant Role in Afghanistan

France is one of the top military contributors in Afghanistan, and its new military deployment is part of a strategy designed to help that nation's development process. -- Ambassador, Embassy of France

Former Afghan king cancels meetings due to illness

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's former king, Mohammad Zahir Shah, is ill, a spokesman for the family said on Tuesday. Popal did not give details about the former king's illness but said it was linked to his age. Zahir Shah is 92.