Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Garlic 'does not cut cholesterol'

Eating garlic - either raw or as a supplement - does not lower cholesterol levels, a US study has found. --- "In order to reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease, it's best to eat a diet rich in fruit and vegetables and low in fat, especially saturated fat, and keep physically active."

Garlic does not lower cholesterol in study, (Stanford researcher tests both cloves and supplements)

Garlic may be good for a lot of things -- spicing up your diet, for sure -- but it seems to be no good at all at lowering your cholesterol.

Supplements May Lead to Increased Risk of Death, New Research Suggests

Are Too Many Vitamins Bad for Your Health?

Supplements May Lead to Increased Risk of Death, New Research Suggests

Some Antioxidant Supplements Linked to Lethality

COPENHAGEN, Feb. 27 -- The antioxidant supplements beta carotene and vitamins A and E have a dark side, carrying an increased risk of all-cause mortality, according to a meta-analysis of 68 randomized trials.

Shares plummet on fears of global slowdown

US stocks suffered their steepest drop since markets reopened following the September 11 attacks in 2001, after the biggest fall in Chinese shares for a decade and slides in other global stock markets triggered a sharp rise in risk aversion.

Health & Science: Study Sees Rise in Narcissism Among Students

Day to Day, February 27, 2007 · College students today are more narcissistic and self-centered than a generation ago, according to a study released by San Diego State University. Students' scores on the study's Narcissistic Personality Inventory have steadily risen since the test was introduced in 1982. -- Study psychologists worry the trend, attributable to the influences of schools, media and parents, could be harmful to personal relationships and American society. The study says narcissists are more likely to have short-lived romantic relationships and lack empathy.

Green card quota for Afghan translators

NEW YORK, Feb 26 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The US Congress is likely to sanction increase in green card quota for Afghan translators, who complete at least one year with the US armed forces.

Intelligence Officials Offer Grim Assessment of Security

U.S. Base in Afghanistan Targeted During Cheney Visit

Vice President Cheney was shuttled into a bomb shelter at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan this morning after a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the main gate in an attack Taliban officials say was aimed at the vice president. -- Speaking about the incident en route to Oman following a two-hour meeting with Karzai, Cheney said the attack was meant as a blow against the Afghan president but would "not affect our behavior."

Monday, February 26, 2007

U.S. aid to Pakistan of over $10 bln is questioned

War criminals in Afghanistan, U.S.

Re "Crimes of politics," editorial, Feb. 22, Crimes of politics - Los Angeles Times

Crimes of politics: Many members of Afghanistan's parliament are alleged war criminals. But the nation isn't ready to try them.

HOW DOES A government prosecute people for crimes against humanity when the suspects happen to be running the government? That's the question facing Afghanistan, where men suspected of horrifying acts of rape and murder sit in parliament and hold other high offices.

Bill of wrongs, by Conor Foley

The approval of an amnesty law covering 25 years of war crimes in Afghanistan will contradict the constitution and put the lives of British soldiers at risk.

U.S. sends strong message to Pakistan on Taliban

BAGRAM AIRBASE (Reuters) - Vice President Dick Cheney flew into Pakistan and Afghanistan on Monday to press for a united front in the war against the resurgent Taliban, with media reports saying he would tell Islamabad only results count.

White House: Pakistan Must Guard Border

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House is pressuring Pakistan to crack down on al-Qaida and Taliban operatives in the lawless border area with Afghanistan that President Bush recently said was ''wilder than the Wild West.''

Cheney Warns Pakistan to Act on Terrorism

Bush to Warn Pakistan’s Leader on Aid

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 — President Bush has decided to send an unusually tough message to one of his most important allies, President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, warning him that the newly Democratic Congress could cut aid to his country unless his forces became far more aggressive in hunting down operatives with Al Qaeda, senior administration officials say.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Afghans in No Mood to Forgive Killers (A parliamentary resolution on immunity for war crimes has the country in an uproar.)

Forgive and forget may be a noble aspiration, but it is not playing well in Afghanistan today. A wide spectrum of public opinion, both at home and abroad, has weighed in against a parliamentary resolution passed on January 31, which would grant blanket immunity for war crimes. --- Many of those who stand accused of war crimes by human rights organisations are now in positions of power within the government. There are several behind the resolution itself. -- The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, expressed concern at the resolution, stating that it “will undermine the process towards securing long term peace through re-establishing the rule of law in Afghanistan”. -- “I lost two brothers, two uncles, how can I forgive?” said Mohammad Rafi, 24, who sells phone cards on the streets of Kabul. "Karzai is chosen by the people. Karzai represents people not these criminals. I hope Karzai doesn't stand by these killers and instead stands by the nation."“Parliament is a shelter for criminals,” said Mohammad Akram, 45, a shopkeeper in Kabul. “They are granting forgiveness for themselves.”

Afghan warlords in amnesty rally

The upper house of parliament has passed the controversial bill but it has yet to be signed by the president. -- Tens of thousands of people were killed and tortured during decades of war and unrest in the country. -- If the bill were to become law, those who led fighting first as leaders of the anti-Soviet resistance during the 1980s and then during the 1992-1996 civil war would be immune to prosecution for war crimes. -- International rights groups and the UN have voiced opposition to the proposal, saying justice must be done.

Afghanistan in Winter -- Where Death Comes Cheap

A crazy woman stalks the streets near Afghanistan's parliament. When a warlord's rocket killed her family during the early 1990s she lost her mind. Now she moves between the cars and people looking for it, another of the living dead trapped in her own private hell. She's always around there somewhere: in front of the homes still wrecked after they were destroyed more than a decade ago, next to the police station that was torched by a mob last year, in the gutter as an MP cruises by in his SUV. -- That's how life is here. Every corner has its own pitiful story and the old sorrow mixes with the new until it all becomes part of the same incessant sadness.

Harper to boost Afghanistan reconstruction aid

Ottawa — Prime Minister Stephen Harper will announce about $200-million in reconstruction aid for Afghanistan in an effort to demonstrate that Canada's mission there is making a positive difference in people's lives.

In the shadow of the warlords

Australia and Britain look set to send more troops to fight the resurgent Taliban. But other villains are now wearing the cloak of legitimacy in Afghanistan.

Rice: Pakistan Must Control Border Area

WASHINGTON -- The White House is pressuring Pakistan to crack down on al-Qaida and Taliban operatives in the lawless border area with Afghanistan that President Bush recently said was "wilder than the Wild West." -- The move comes amid growing concern in Congress and the administration that terrorist forces are regrouping in the border area and preparing for a spring offensive in Afghanistan.

Bush to warn Pakistan on combating militants: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush has decided to send an unusually tough message to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf warning that the new Democratic-led Congress could cut aid to his country unless it does more to crack down on al Qaeda operatives, The New York Times reported on Sunday. --- Pakistan receives about $850 million annually in U.S. economic, military and counternarcotics aid and about $350 million of that could be affected by the House bill, congressional experts say.

'Departed' Arrives; Whitaker, Mirren Are King and Queen

AP Interview: Former Afghan customs chief says Afghanistan losing war against drugs

LONDON: A Pakistani man sewed opium into the beads of a tapestry. An Afghan taped drug bags to his body. A Chinese woman tucked narcotics into hollowed heels. --- Afghan Gen. Aminullah Amarkhil arrested them all — and he says that has been the source of all his problems. --- Amarkhil said he can prove his claim that high-placed officials allow drug runners to operate brazenly. From a small, dark suitcase placed on top of a wooden cupboard, the former customs officer brought out videotapes describing dates and times of some of his most successful busts.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Foreign Affairs - Saving Afghanistan - Barnett R. Rubin

Summary: With the Taliban resurgent, reconstruction faltering, and opium poppy cultivation at an all-time high, Afghanistan is at risk of collapsing into chaos. If Washington wants to save the international effort there, it must increase its commitment to the area and rethink its strategy -- especially its approach to Pakistan, which continues to give sanctuary to insurgents on its tribal frontier. --- For decades -- not only since 2001 -- U.S. policymakers have underestimated the stakes in Afghanistan. They continue to do so today. A mere course correction will not be enough to prevent the country from sliding into chaos. Washington and its international partners must rethink their strategy and significantly increase both the resources they devote to Afghanistan and the effectiveness of those resources' use.

Friday, February 23, 2007

British government to bolster troops in Afghanistan

LONDON — Britain has confirmed it is bolstering its force in Afghanistan with an extra 1,000 soldiers. The announcement comes days after the country said it plans to withdraw 1,600 troops from Iraq in coming months.

Afghan ambassador to US says Pakistani army has power to counter terror and extremism

Afghan Charter of Impunity:

Yesterday on 20 February 2007, Afghanistan's upper house of Parliament, Mushrano Jirga, passed a resolution known as National Reconciliation Charter by a 50-16 majority to provide amnesty to all Afghans who were involved in war crimes since Soviet's invasion in 1979. The resolution which was passed earlier by the lower house of Parliament, Wolesi Jirga, on 31 January 2007 provides impunity to the war criminals including Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. This poses the most serious threat to the credibility of President Hamid Karzai.

Italy's Prodi Loses Vote in Senate on Afghanistan Mission

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi's ruling nine-party bloc fell 2 votes short on a motion to support the government's foreign policy, and on keeping its military contingent in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Pakistan: Friend or Foe? -- By Janet Levy

As part of Pakistan’s efforts to prove its commitment to the war on terror, it has revisited plans for walling off and possibly mining sections of its 1,700-mile border with Afghanistan along the hotly contested Durand Line. ---- The Durand Line was imposed by the British in 1893 to separate Afghanistan from what was then British India and is now the North-West Frontier Province (N.W.F.P.) of Pakistan. --- Afghanistan has never accepted that the N.W.F.P. is part of Pakistan and refers to the natural border of the River Indus as its national boundary. In 1949, following India’s independence from Britain and the creation of Pakistan, Afghanistan declared the Durand Line invalid. --- Since that time, successive Pakistani governments have attempted without success to reach a bilateral agreement with Kabul to establish the Durand Line as the international border. --- No Afghan government, including the Taliban regime, has accepted this division.

US military: Afghan leaders steal half of all aid

Corrupt police and tribal leaders are stealing vast quantities of reconstruction aid that is intended to improve the lives of ordinary Afghans and turn them away from the Taliban, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt. --- A joint report by the Pentagon and the US state department, circulated to congressional committees last month, concluded that the Afghan police force was corrupt to the point of ineffectiveness. One Pentagon official told The Sunday Telegraph that police officers had stolen and sold at least half of the equipment supplied by the US, including thousands of cars and trucks.

Homeowners' most common nightmares

Cracked plaster! Rate resets! Flood! Fire! Here's how to learn to stop worrying and love owning a home.

Annuity options in a retirement plan (Our expert tells a reader their options for shifting funds from an annuity.)

What is an issue, though, is your age. If you withdraw money from an annuity prior to age 59 1/2, you are hit with a 10 percent tax penalty on top of the regular income taxes that are due. Which means if you and your wife are in the 25 percent tax bracket, you would end up paying an effective tax rate of 35 percent on your annuity gains if you withdraw the money before you turn 59 1/2. --- There is a way around the 10 percent tax penalty, though: annuitize, that is, convert the value of your annuity into regular payments based, say, on your life expectancy. (The 10 percent tax penalty is also waived on payments you take because you've become totally and permanently disabled and on payments made after the death of the annuity owner.)

Sandwich Generation: Survive the midlife tug of war

(Money Magazine) -- You're rushing to drop the kids at school, fumbling with coats and lunch boxes, when you get the call. Mom's had a fall, and she's in the E.R. Your dad is panicked and asking you to come home, now. -- But "home" is 1,200 miles away, and the last-minute flight, plus the home health aide you'll have to hire, will set you back $1,500 at least. -- And, oh yeah, you're scheduled to give a major presentation to your biggest client this afternoon. You're worried about your mom, your dad, your kids, your boss and how in the world you're going to pay for it all. -- Welcome, boomer. You're not just part of the sandwich generation - you're part of a triple-decker club with all the trimmings.

Bush sends U.S. envoy to Moscow, other European capitals, following Putin criticism

Putin surprised the White House on Feb. 10 by angrily accusing the United States of inciting other countries to seek nuclear weapons to defend themselves from an "almost uncontained use of military force." At a security conference in Germany, the Russian leader said that "one state, the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way."

UN envoy in Afghanistan says Talibanization poses threat to Pakistan

Tom Koenigs, the U.N. special representative to Afghanistan, also criticized a senior Pakistani official who last week likened the Taliban resistance to a nationalist struggle against foreign forces. -- There is "a danger of Talibanization of the region ... particularly of Pakistan," Koenigs told reporters. "Other states should look at this experience (of Afghanistan) and make it very clear that they don't want to repeat this experience."

Those Who Wage War Should Call it War -- International - SPIEGEL

In approving the deployment of Tornado jets to Afghanistan, but only for reconnaissance purposes, the German cabinet has revealed the full extent of Germany's schizophrenic Afghanistan policy. This double game has to stop. The chancellor should finally say it like it is: Germany is at war.

Experts fret over Afghanistan

"A point could be reached at which the government of Afghanistan becomes irrelevant to its people, and the goal of establishing a democratic, moderate, self-sustaining state could be lost forever," Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, the former top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Copter Crash in Afghanistan Kills 8 U.S. Troops

SHAH JOY, Afghanistan. Feb. 18 -- A U.S. helicopter suffered a "sudden, unexplained loss of power" and crashed Sunday in southeastern Afghanistan, killing eight American troops, the military said. Fourteen people on board survived.

Experts Issue New Heart Disease Guidelines for Women

Aspirin and Lipid Lowering Pushed to Prevent Heart Disease in Women

DALLAS, Feb. 19 -- All women age 65 or older, regardless of health, should be considered for daily low-dose (81 mg) aspirin therapy to protect their hearts, according to new American Heart Association guidelines

Sunday, February 18, 2007

ANALYSIS: Fields of conflict

Nato forces are preparing for a new wave of fighting in Afghanistan. But away from the battlegrounds, local and international schemes are attempting to break the country's cycle of conflict and poverty.

U.S. chopper crash kills 8 in Afghanistan

KABUL (Reuters) - Eight U.S. soldiers were killed and 14 injured when their helicopter crashed in a mountainous, snow-covered area of southern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said on Sunday.

Pakistani forces say determined to seal Afghan border

The Afghan crucible - Los Angeles Times

President Bush's focus on that other war is welcome, but more than American military might is needed.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Afghan President Hamid Karzai to meet with Italian premier in Rome

Speaking during a joint news conference with Karzai, Italian Premier Romano Prodi said Italy would keep its troops in Afghanistan despite opposition from within his own government, but urged a political solution to the Afghan problem. -- "We are committed with a sizable effort, and we stick to that commitment," Prodi said. "I think it is Italy's job to insist on a political solution."

Afghanistan forgotten as U.S. focuses on Iraq

WILMINGTON, Ohio (Reuters) - Brian Spurlock is in Afghanistan with the U.S. Air Force but his wife, Eileen Brady, relies on the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. rather than CNN for news of America's forgotten war. -- While the U.S. public rallied behind the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 in the wake of the September 11 attacks, the start of the Iraq war 17 months later quickly stole the spotlight -- and has kept it ever since.

Afghanistan's proxy war -- boston/globe/editorial

THE PAPERS ARE full of the slow demise of Afghanistan. The Pakistanis are to blame; no, the Afghans; no, the United States. America didn't do enough or did too much. NATO isn't stepping up to the plate, or is it the Germans, or the French people. Is it the Taliban, Al Qaeda , or Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence that is pulling the strings? Is President Karzai powerless, or is he boosting the warlords, or is he a puppet for Americans , or all three? The blame is widespread.

Bush boosts troops for Afghanistan -- FT

Britain's Prince Charles, left, greets President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan

End Corruption or Rethink Funding: Senate Report

Afghanistan's government must within the next year provide a comprehensive plan to reduce corruption as a condition of Canada's continued long-term commitment to the Central Asian country, a Senate committee has recommended. --- "Canadians aren't going to send money over there to make a few Afghans rich." --- "But if the funding isn't going to the people who need it...then you're going nowhere in terms of winning the hearts and minds of people. You're building up bank accounts in Switzerland."

Karzai in UK as Senlis report sounds warning

LONDON: Afghanistan is at a "tipping point" ahead of an expected Taliban spring offensive, a hard-hitting report warned yesterday as Afghan President Hamid Karzai was due for talks in London. -- The Senlis Council think tank said the US and its allies urgently needed to reassess their strategy in Afghanistan, where Nato forces are bracing for a major battle with insurgents as winter snows melt. --- The field report was released hours ahead of talks in London between Karzai and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose country is the second biggest provider of troops in Afghanistan. --- The study slammed the international community for "misguided" policies in the war-shattered state, saying it was doing nowhere near enough to help the local population through better economic and humanitarian support and was inadvertently helping the Taliban."The international community has reached a tipping point in southern Afghanistan," said The Senlis Council, which provides analysis and proposals in security and development policy.

General Warns of Perils in Afghanistan

Army Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, the outgoing top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, also warned that an even greater threat than the resurgent Taliban is the possibility that the government of President Hamid Karzai will suffer an irreversible loss of legitimacy among the Afghan population.

Rice: Karzai's opium fight insufficient

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 (UPI) -- The State Department says it is unsatisfied with results of counter narcotics efforts by the Afghanistan government. -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday, said the United States was currently reviewing alternatives to eliminating narcotics from Afghanistan. -- "Our goal is to help the Afghan government improve the quality of life for its people by extending security, providing good governance and opening up new economic opportunity," Rice said.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Afghanistan: Winning or losing? -- BBC

Sharp disagreements over the conduct of the war against the Taleban in Afghanistan emerged at a seminar in London timed to coincide with a visit to Britain by the Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Iraq War Deepens Sunni-Shia Divide

Morning Edition, February 15, 2007 · When the United States invaded Iraq four years ago, on March 20, 2003, it didn't set out to deepen the Sunni-Shia divide in the Islamic world. But that may be one of the most important outcomes of the war. -- American leaders told the nation and the world that the Iraqis would view the United States as liberators, not occupiers, that the war would be over quickly, and that Iraq would return to peace.

Taliban Resurgence

President George W Bush has called on other NATO members to step up their battle against Afghanistan's Taliban.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Napping May Be Good for Your Heart -- SCIENCE NEWS

Like to kick back for an afternoon siesta? Good news: A new study shows that regular napping may cut your risk of dying of a heart attack or other heart problems.

Guest column: Afghan winter cold, but not like home

As a Green Bay native, you would think I could take the cold. Yet here I sit, shivering in the blistery white winter of Kabul, Afghanistan, a world away from Wisconsin, where this week some schools were forced to close due to frigid temperatures. -- In Afghanistan, it is said that the winter is the calmest time of the year because "it's just too cold to fight." After the cold Green Bay has felt in the last week and the many weeks of subzero temperatures I have felt in Kabul, I think we can both see the logic in that.

Bhutto party activists shot dead -- BBC

The PPP is led by former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto who has lived in self-imposed exile since 1998. -- She has said she that will return for the election, although President Musharraf has warned that she will not be allowed to compete in the vote.

Putin attacks 'very dangerous' US -- BBC

Iran’s President Dismisses U.S. Charges on Iraq

TEHRAN, Feb. 12 — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday dismissed American accusations that Iran was arming Shiite militants in Iraq, saying Iran was opposed to “any kind of conflict” in Iraq.

Putin warns US policy creating new arms race

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Saturday that the United States' increased use of military force is creating a new arms race, with smaller nations turning toward developing nuclear weapons. Speaking at a conference of the world's top security officials, including Iranian nuclear negotiator --- "One state, the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way," he told the 250 officials, including more than 40 defense and foreign ministers. --"This is very dangerous: Nobody feels secure anymore because nobody can hide behind international law," he said through a translator. --"This is nourishing an arms race with the desire of countries to get nuclear weapons," he added, without singling out any particular nation. -- In a harshly critical speech, Putin also voiced concern about US plans to build a missile defense system in eastern Europe, probably Poland and the Czech Republic, and the expansion of NATO as possible challenges to Russia.

Gates to Putin: 'One Cold War is enough'

MUNICH, Germany - Pentagon chief Robert Gates responded Sunday to Vladimir Putin's assault on US foreign policy by saying "one Cold War is enough" and that he would go to Moscow to try to reduce tensions. Gates also sought more allied help in Afghanistan

Monday, February 12, 2007

Gates' Prepared Remarks at 43rd Munich Security Conference

Gates Seeking More Effort in Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates has asked NATO allies and colleagues for more effort in Afghanistan, but it is too early to tell whether his lobbying will pay off.

EU Will Send Mission to Train Afghan Police

Making up for lost time in Afghanistan

You view Kabul differently if you were there before the fall of the Taliban. If it's your first trip to the city, then it looks pretty dismal, despite the pure aesthetics of the hills, the snow and the sky. -- Rubbish in the streets, hideous traffic, desperately poor beggars, erratic electricity, meat hanging on hooks outside the butchers' for want of refrigeration, one-legged mine victims hobbling along potholed roads, entire families piled into one- or two-roomed mud-walled homes without proper sanitation and without proper food either.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Billionaire Aims To Solve A Math Problem

Math For America Pays Students To Get Master's Degree And Boosts Their Salaries If They Teach Math

Investigation of bird flu in Britain grabs attention in USA

Bird Flu Hits British Exports Hard

Bush to seek more budget for Afghanistan

NEW YORK, Feb 6 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The annual budget proposals of President George Bush, if approved by the US Congress, would accelerate the development of Afghanistan in the next few years. --- In his budget proposals, Bush requested the Congress for $5.9 billion in 2007 and $2.7 billion in 2008 for expedited training of Afghan security forces Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police. Activities include training, equipping, personnel support, and developing the capacity of government ministries to maintain forces. Expressing his commitment to strengthen Afghanistan Government and improve the quality of life, Bush also requested $698 million in 2007 and $339 million in 2008.

U.N. Rights Boss Arbour Condemns Afghan Amnesty

PARIS (Reuters) - U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour has criticized Afghanistan's parliament for granting immunity to all Afghans involved in the country's 25 years of war. --- ``They are letting people who have committed atrocities hold on to power,'' Arbour was quoted as saying. ``An amnesty is permanent. There is no going back on it.''

Distrust Hinders FBI In Outreach to Muslims -- By Karen DeYoung

Gates to urge more help from allies in Afghanistan

US military: Afghan leaders steal half of all aid

Corrupt police and tribal leaders are stealing vast quantities of reconstruction aid that is intended to improve the lives of ordinary Afghans and turn them away from the Taliban, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Afghanistan: Tipping Point?

With so much attention focused on the military escalation in Iraq, it's easy to forget the other war -- the war to secure Afghanistan. Analysts fear a coming offensive from the Taliban this spring. Meanwhile, attacks continue from across the Pakistan border. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is one of many voices asking for a "surge" in Afghanistan instead of Iraq. On a recent trip to that country, Pelosi spoke with the NATO commander in Afghanistan who said that we could very well lose the war there. Are we approaching a tipping point in the war in Afghanistan? Or is it possible that we have already passed it?

Not the Same as Being Equal: Women in Afghanistan

For most Afghan women the burqa is the least of their problems. --- The fact is that the "liberation" of Afghan women is mostly theoretical. The Afghan Constitution adopted in 2004 declares that "The Citizens of Afghanistan -- whether man or woman -- have equal Rights and Duties before the Law." But what law? The judicial system -- ultra-conservative, inadequate, incompetent, and notoriously corrupt -- usually bases decisions on idiosyncratic interpretations of Islamic Sharia, tribal customary codes, or simple bribery. And legal "scholars" instruct women that having "equal Rights and Duties" is not the same as being equal to men. --- Afghanistan is just about the poorest country in the world. Only Burkina Faso and Niger sometimes get worse ratings. -- After nearly three decades of warfare and another of drought, millions of Afghans are without safe water or sanitation or electricity, even in the capital city. Millions are without adequate food and nutrition. Millions have access only to the most rudimentary health care, or none at all.

Gates bracing for more Afghan violence

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday that NATO allies must provide the troops and equipment needed to battle an expected increase in violence by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan this spring.

Britain hands over Afghanistan to US

Afghan leader will likely reject war crimes amnesty bill: aide

KABUL (AFP) - President Hamid Karzai will likely reject as unconstitutional a draft bill adopted by the lower house that gives amnesty for crimes and abuse in Afghanistan's 25 years of war, his spokesman said.

Afghan lawmakers denounce war crimes resolution, say it won't become law

Friday, February 02, 2007

Bush Administration Seeks $245B for Wars

WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration will ask for another $100 billion for military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan this year and seek $145 billion for 2008, a senior administration official said Friday.

Bush's 2008 Budget Calls For Boost to Pell Grant

Afghanistan: Slow Progress on Security and Rights -- Kabul, Donors Should Focus on Accountability and the Rule of Law

Human Rights Watch: The United States, the European Union and other donors should provide greater economic, political and military assistance necessary to protect the human rights of Afghans, Human Rights Watch said. President Karzai’s government should improve the rule of law and hold militias and warlords accountable for abuses. --- “After three decades of suffering abuses, Afghans have repeatedly called for accountability for those responsible for serious human rights abuses, whether communists, warlords, or the Taliban,” Zarifi said. “There can be no sustainable peace and security in Afghanistan without respect for the rule of law.”

Afghan parliament approves bill on amnesty for 'war criminals'

KABUL (AFP) - Afghanistan's warlord-filled parliament has approved a bill ruling out judicial proceedings against men accused of rights abuses in the past 25 years of conflict, a spokesman said. --- The National Reconciliation Bill says the "defenders" of the jihad "must be treated with respect and be defended against any kind of offence," Noori said. In a move to reconcile different communities, the law states that no political party or groups involved in the past two and a half decades of war will be pursued by the judiciary," he said. --- Joya, known for standing up to the jihadi commanders who occupy many of the seats in parliament, said the draft was unjust and went "against the will of the people." --- "National unity cannot be achieved through forgiving national traitors," she told AFP. "They must be tried. In fact, they have already been tried in the minds and hearts of people and they should be tried officially," she said. -- Only victims of abuse could choose to forgive the perpetrators, said Nader Nadery from the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. --- Kabul is still scarred by the civil war, which left the capital in ruins with estimates that around 80,000 people were killed in ethnically charged fighting.

Afghan refugees fear war, reluctant to go home

PIR ALIZAI CAMP, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistan says its Afghan refugee camps are a hotbed of support for a resurgent Taliban and they should be closed, but it seems no one in the Pir Alizai camp wants to go home. -- A sprawling settlement of about 150,000 refugees crammed into mud houses about 50 km (30 miles) from the Afghan border, Pir Alizai was set up soon after Soviet forces invaded Afghanistan in 1979.

Pakistan to Fence Border of Afghanistan

Climate Report Predicts Environmental Changes

Morning Edition, February 2, 2007 · Scientists and government officials from 113 countries issue a new report on climate change that blames humans for rising global temperatures. The report predicts changes in temperature, precipitation patterns and sea level over the next 100 years.

NIE Report: Iraq Not Likely to Be Stable by 2008

All Things Considered, February 2, 2007 · The situation in Iraq is very bad and getting worse. That's the judgment of a new National Intelligence Estimate that represents the views of all 16 U.S. spy agencies.

U.S. Not Planning for War With Iran, Gates Says

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates denied today that the United States is planning for war with Iran, saying that U.S. military efforts are focused on countering alleged Iranian activities against American troops in Iraq.

National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq (pdf)