Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Fed cuts by quarter-point, says that may be enough

The reduction in the federal funds rate to 4.50% is meant to spur the economy through lower borrowing costs. Lower rates should also help Wall Street firms and banks.

Fed cuts by quarter-point, says that may be enough

The reduction in the federal funds rate to 4.50% is meant to spur the economy through lower borrowing costs. Lower rates should also help Wall Street firms and banks.

Editorial: Help Wanted

Translators, interpreters and thousands of others have aided American troops and diplomats — and have become targets for militants. Under current American law, 500 Iraqis and Afghans per year who have worked for the United States armed forces for a year, may obtain special immigrant visas.

Roger Cohen: Afghanistan at the tipping point

Since the Taliban's fall in 2001, more than 4 million Afghan refugees have come home in one of the biggest post-1945 returns of people. About 38 percent of school students are girls, up from zero. Roads, clinics, mine-clearing and several million cellphones are changing Afghan lives. --Such transformation may seem a decent return on about $22 billion of American investment since 2002. A further $5.6 billion of U.S. taxpayers' money will likely be spent in 2008. The strategic aim is a stable Afghanistan no longer up for rent from one-eyed mullahs as terror's launch pad.

Rubin: Afghanistan at Dangerous 'Tipping Point'

I’m trying to give a warning. There are two very positive elements here. One is that there is a very broad, global consensus that we want to support the current political structure and government of Afghanistan and stabilize it, defeat the Taliban militarily, though of course they can form a political party and join the Afghan system nonviolently if they want to do so. Second, the Afghan people still—even if they might be resigned to the Taliban coming back, or might be in despair over the corruption and incapacity of this government and its international supporters—wish this effort would succeed. So if we put those two things together, there still is something very important to build upon. But we have not given this the priority, the resources—military, economic and political—that it requires to succeed.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mortgages and the Markets

During the recent real estate boom, with interest rates at historic lows investors poured trillions of dollars into mortgage securities in search of higher-yielding assets. The flush times allowed many homeowners to buy homes or tap into the equity of their properties, driving the homeownership rate to its highest level ever, 69 percent. It also helped drive home prices skyward, especially along the coasts and in the Southwest. --- Now, however, mortgage defaults and foreclosures are on the rise and the homeownership rate is falling. Some economists and officials expect that up to two million borrowers may lose their homes because they cannot afford to repay or refinance their loans, because home prices are falling or because they face some other financial distress. The pain will be most severe in lower-income and working-class neighborhoods, but most economists expect the broader economy to suffer as well.

Democrats Consider More Money for War

WASHINGTON -- Democrats are debating whether to approve $50 billion to $70 billion more for Iraq and Afghanistan, less than half of President Bush's $196 billion request but enough to keep the wars afloat for a few more months.

Karzai: Stop The Air Strikes ( 60 Minutes )

U.S. Home Prices Tumble

The latest data on housing prices show sharp decreases in a number of metro areas across the country

ECONOMIC REPORT: Home prices falling at record pace in August

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) - The 13-month-long decline in home prices in 20 major U.S. cities accelerated in August, with prices dropping a record 0.7% in the month, according to the Case-Shiller price index released Tuesday by Standard & Poor's Corp. --- Prices could fall much further. In a separate report, analysts at Goldman Sachs figured that prices in California are about 35% to 40% overvalued, compared with past relationships between home prices and income growth. The median sales price of a home in California was $589,000 in August, Goldman said, but should be around $375,000, they said.

In pictures: Saudi king's visit -- BBC

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is making the first state visit to the UK by a Saudi monarch for 20 years. However, his trip is not without controversy.

Saudi King meets the Queen

LONDON (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah met the Queen on Tuesday at the start of a two-day state visit that has attracted widespread criticism of the Saudi human rights record.

EU treaty 'same as constitution' -- BBC

The new EU Reform Treaty is effectively the same as the constitution it was designed to replace, according to a leading architect of the constitution.

US intelligence budget disclosed -- BBC

The US has revealed that it has spent $43.5bn (£21bn) on intelligence during 2007, the first time the figure has been made public in almost a decade. --- The 2007 sum, split among 16 agencies, is almost double what was spent in 1997 and 1998, the last budgets made public.

Japan PM left in Afghan deadlock

Japan's Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has failed to make a deal with the main opposition party to continue a naval mission backing forces in Afghanistan.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Debate Brews Over Possible U.S. Military Action Against Iran

European Ambivalence Threatens NATO Afghanistan Mission

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who happens to be Dutch, has been pleading with the public to understand the importance of the mission. The consequences of defeat in Afghanistan will reach people on the continent, he recently argued, addressing Europeans. "The security of Afghanistan is directly linked to your and my security."

UN: 34 Aid Workers Killed in Afghanistan

Tom Koenigs, the head of the U.N. Assistance Mission to Afghanistan, also said that insurgents and criminal gangs have abducted 76 aid workers and attacked or looted 55 aid convoys this year. -- "The attacks on humanitarian aid must stop," Koenigs told reporters in Kabul.

Argentina's First Lady Elected President

"We have won amply," Fernandez, 54, said in her victory speech Sunday night. "But this, far from putting us in a position of privilege, puts us instead in a position of greater responsibilities and obligations."

Alternative Minimum Tax Faces Chance of Repeal in Tax Code Overhaul

Sunday, October 28, 2007

(CBS) Karzai: Stop The Air Strikes (Afghan President Tells 60 Minutes That Too Many Civilians Are Being Killed)

Bombing Afghanistan: Afghan president Hamid Karzai demands that the U.S. military curtail its use of air strikes against insurgents in his country because they are killing too many civilians. Scott Pelley reports. Share

Gandhi on goodwill visit to China -- BBC

Mrs Gandhi's trip comes nearly 20 years after she accompanied her husband Rajiv - who was prime minister of India at the time - to China on a trip which opened a new era in relations between the two countries.

Laura Bush Defines Her Policy Role

Laura Bush, who is a teacher and librarian by training, started out in the traditional way. But as her husband's second term has evolved, her focus has shifted to issues abroad.

‘Pacifist’ Allies and the Afghan War

Related, Op-Ed Columnist: Time for the Bundesmacht (October 25, 2007)

Every US govt since ’70s secretly helped Pak become nuke power -- By By Sarju Kaul

Can Afghanistan Be Saved?

The West has been battling the Taliban for years in Afghanistan. Progress, though, has been difficult to discern. The country may be too fragmented to pacify, but leadership has been lacking as well.

Slipping in Afghanistan

THE UNITED STATES and its NATO allies are engaged in a regular ritual: blaming each other for the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan. This week, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates forcefully criticized European governments for failing to meet commitments to supply troops and equipment for Afghan operations; he even threatened that the United States might withdraw its troops from Kosovo -- a European preoccupation -- if Afghanistan were not better supplied.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

FEMA: Federal Response to the California Wildfires

Apply for Assistance Find out what assistance is available to help you recover.

The challenges ahead in Afghanistan -- BBC

After a breakfast meeting in Downing Street, Gordon Brown and Afghan President Hamid Karzai painted an upbeat picture of developments in Afghanistan.

Bush Tours Fire-Ravaged Southern California

U.S. Imposes New Sanctions Against Iran

Bush Visits California Wildfire Victims

Bush Tours 'Sad Situation' in California, Promises Strong Response to Fire Damage --- Federal response to the wildfires

Gates Doubts Europeans' War Commitment

HEIDELBERG, Germany (AP) -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday questioned the commitment of some NATO allies to winning in Afghanistan, saying the outcome there is at ''real risk'' because some European nations are unwilling to provide enough troops and resources to the mission.

UNICEF report says time is running out on Afghanistan children

GENEVA / KABUL, 25 October 2007 – UNICEF today launched Child Alert Afghanistan, saying that progress in health and education are endangered by recent surges in violence. --- “Six years after the fall of the Taliban, this should be a time of brightness for Afghans, but instead they are entering into some kind of darkness,” said Bell, who made his second trip to the country for this report. “Despite a multitude of plans and proposals, projects and partners, and the support of many countries working to bring peace and progress to Afghanistan, I have witnessed a spike in insecurity that is causing more and more schools to close and more and more children to be killed. Families, especially in the South, are caught in the middle of this crossfire, out of reach of humanitarian assistance. Simply put, it is make or break time for Afghanistan’s children.”

Do not leave Afghanistan, Karzai urges Nato as he visits Brown

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Senators reject legal status for children of immigrants

The so-called Dream Act would have allowed young people to gain citizenship through education or the military.

Bush declares major fire disaster

WASHINGTON -- President Bush declared a major disaster today in California, which allows people affected by the fires to begin to receive federal grants for temporary housing, home repairs and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses.

Kindness And Refuge Amidst The Smoke -- CBS

Calif. Wildfire Losses Top $1 Billion

The announcement of San Diego's staggering losses came as President Bush signed a major disaster declaration for California in the wake of the wildfires that have charred about 426,000 acres, or about 665 square miles.

France and Germany offer trainers for Afghan army

NOORDWIJK, Netherlands (Reuters) - Nine nations including Germany and France pledged to send more military personnel to Afghanistan but U.S. calls for major troop increases were only partly answered at NATO talks on Wednesday.

First Lady's Middle East Trip Focuses on Breast Cancer

First lady Laura Bush has visited 68 countries during her husband's presidency, but in some ways, her trip to Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, may be her most urgent and personal trip yet.

The Pushtun Civil War

Many, if not most, Pushtuns, want to absorb the lessons, and changes, of the 20th century, and get moving into the 21st. That's a daring attitude by Pushtun standards, but there's a lot of support for it.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai praises Bhutto's return to Pakistan

"We have exactly the same idea about how we should fight extremism and terrorism together, about how to bring our two countries together as very close cooperative neighbors, he said.

Nato head commits to Afghanistan

Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has said the organisation cannot "run away" from Afghanistan, as members hold talks in the Netherlands.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

US pushes for Afghan reinforcements as support wanes

BRUSSELS (AFP) - The United States will press its European allies to provide more troops and equipment to combat the insurgency in Afghanistan, as mounting casualties undermine support for NATO's mission.

'Ban on Bhutto' leaving Pakistan -- BBC

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been banned from leaving the country, her Pakistan People's Party (PPP) says

California fires affect 500,000 -- BBC

Fierce winds are fanning 17 fires that have scorched land stretching from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border.

California Fires Force 500,000 From Homes

A Once and Future Nation - New York Times

Once upon a time there was a country, more a space than a nation, landlocked, mountainous, impoverished and windblown. -- There resided many peoples, including Pashtuns and Tajiks and Uzbeks and Turkmen, and a new tribe called the Americans.

Afghanistan -- A Once and Future Nation

The West's stomach for investing blood and treasure in Afghanistan for another decade is unclear. But I see no alternative.

Afghan public increasingly pessimistic

The Afghan public has become more pessimistic about the future of their country after a year of rising insecurity and Taliban violence, Afghanistan’s largest-ever opinion poll has found.

Afghans want foreign troops to stay: poll

Most Afghans see NATO troops' presence in their country as positive and want them to stay, a Canadian media poll has found.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Stocks plunge as new wave of anxiety sweeps markets

On the 20th anniversary of Wall Street's worst one-day market crash, stocks tumbled Friday as the confidence that produced record highs just 10 days ago gave way to revived economic worries tied to housing troubles and a stubborn credit crunch.

Markets Slide as Wall Street Sees Signs of Trouble

Helping stocks mark the 20th anniversary of Black Monday by going into a tailspin, Caterpillar warned of a recession and Wachovia said it sees more credit troubles ahead. But Google couldn't be tethered and rose to a record level.

How to holiday in Afghanistan

For almost 30 years, Afghanistan has existed mainly as a virtual travel destination. It had been at the forefront of the hippy trail in the 60s and 70s that in many ways served as a harbinger for modern adventure travel, but since the country began its bloody turmoil with the Soviet invasion, any traveller dreaming of Kabul had to satisfy themselves by curling into a chair with a copy of "A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush".

BOXER UPDATES: Senator Boxer Calls for an Afghanistan Study Group

I recently joined four of my Senate colleagues in sending a letter to the Bush Administration asking for the creation of a bipartisan Afghanistan Study Group to review strategy and develop recommendations for bringing stability to the country. Our letter cited growing chaos and noted that failing to deal with military, political, diplomatic and economic problems in Afghanistan will continue to empower Al Qaeda terrorists and Taliban insurgents. -- (John F. KerryJoseph R. Biden, Jr.Christopher J. DoddHillary Rodham Clinton Barbara Boxer)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Dow Jones tumbles on credit fears

The Dow Jones, the main US share index, saw shares plummet more than 360 points by the end of the week, amid concerns over the state of the US economy.

Wall St tumbles amid new credit fears

Investors grew more nervous after Wachovia, the fourth-largest US bank, reported a 10 per cent decline in profits, and Caterpillar, the construction-equipment maker, scaled back its earnings forecast.

No evidence Iran arming Taliban: Afghan foreign minister

Bhutto points finger over blasts -- BBC

She said she had been warned that she would be targeted by four groups and had earlier told the government the names of the masterminds of the blasts.

Pakistan: Can Bhutto's Return Boost Afghan Security?

''If, in a short-sighted way, people think that this is not Pakistan's war, and that this is America's war, then we will end up with 'warlordism,' “ she said in the days before her return. “We will end up with disintegration, with fragmentation, with ethnic cleansing, with refugees. I hope not, I do not want to point [to] a nightmare scenario. But at some point, we have to learn the lessons of history."

Karzai Should Learn From History

Click here: The Post-Journal, Jamestown New York

The ISI and Terrorism: Behind the Accusations - Council on Foreign Relations

Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has long faced accusations of meddling in the affairs of its neighbors. A range of officials inside and outside Pakistan have stepped up suggestions of links between the ISI and terrorist groups in recent years. In autumn 2006, a leaked report by a British Defense Ministry think tank charged, “Indirectly Pakistan (through the ISI) has been supporting terrorism and extremism—whether in London on 7/7, or in Afghanistan, or Iraq.”

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Afghan security remains 'elusive'

French president announces divorce

PARIS -- On the day that thousands of strikers shut down the transportation system to protest President Nicolas Sarkozy's effort to reform France's public sector, the president and his wife, Cecilia, acknowledged they had ended their marriage of 11 years.

Dodi Fayed bought £11,000 engagement ring for Diana

Dodi Fayed, the son of the Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed, did buy Princess Diana an £11,600 engagement ring a few hours before the couple's death in the Paris crash in 1997, though he had no chance to give it to her, the inquest jury heard yesterday.

Afghanistan Seeks More Help as Violence Soars

Bomb Attack Kills Scores in Pakistan as Bhutto Arrives

KARACHI, Pakistan, Friday, Oct. 19 — Two bombs exploded Thursday just seconds apart and feet from a truck carrying the returning opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, narrowly missing her but killing scores of people and bloodying her triumphal homecoming after eight years in exile.

Afghan mission in peril, European experts warn

The Afghan mission appears locked in a "state of slow deterioration" and Afghan authorities are unprepared to assume core security functions by 2010, said a co-author of the briefing paper released by Chatham House, formally known as the Royal Institute for International Affairs.

INTERVIEW-West won't win Afghan war says ex-UN envoy Ashdown

"I think we are losing in Afghanistan now, we have lost I think and success is now unlikely," he told Reuters in an interview.

Attack on Bhutto convoy kills 120 -- BBC

Ms Bhutto wants to contest parliamentary elections due to be held in January and she had been negotiating with President Pervez Musharraf over a possible power-sharing agreement.

French president and wife divorce

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife of 11 years, Cecilia, have divorced "by mutual consent", according to a statement from the Elysee Palace.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Germany's Fischer calls for bigger European role in Afghanistan

BERLIN (AFP) - Former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer urged Europe to boost its backing for Afghanistan and chided his Greens party for its flagging support for the mission in the war-torn country. --- He said he deeply regretted the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, which he vehemently opposed, saying it had drawn desperately needed reconstruction funds and diplomatic attention away from Afghanistan.

Major Presidential Candidates Will Spend

NEW YORK -- Democrats Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards have proposed vast policy programs costing billions of dollars. Republicans Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, John McCain and Fred Thompson have vowed to extend President Bush's tax cuts and continue the multibillion-dollar wars in Iraq and Afghanistan indefinitely.

Bush Urges More Action From Congress

Bush Says Iran Nuclear Project Raises War Risk

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17 — President Bush warned today that Iran would be raising the risk of a “World War III” if it came to possess nuclear weapons.

Dalai Lama Is Honored on Capitol Hill

Caspian Hospitality: Putin Sends Strong Messages On Day 1 of Tehran Conference -- SPIEGEL

Russia, Iran harden against West

In a historic first visit to Iran, Russian President Putin affirmed support for Tehran's nuclear program and rebuffed any militarization in the Caspian region.

IMF cuts global growth forecast for 2008

WASHINGTON: 'Robust' growth in China, India and Russia will compensate for a slowdown in the United States, the International Monetary Fund said. --- "I would emphasize that there are serious risks ahead," Simon Johnson, the IMF's chief economist, said at a news conference in Washington. "The smoke has not yet cleared" from the financial-market turmoil, he said.

US Rejects UN Report Likening Private Contractors To Mercenaries

GENEVA (AP)--The U.S. government on Wednesday rejected a U.N. report that said it was using a new kind of mercenary in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Regional trade conference underway in Afghanistan

HERAT, Afghanistan, Oct 17 (Reuters) - A regional conference on trade among nations in the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) began on Wednesday in Afghanistan, the first such major gathering to be held for decades in the war-torn country.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bush issues Afghan call to Nato

US President George W Bush has called on other Nato members to step up their battle against Afghanistan's Taleban.

ZALMAY KHALILZAD: Difficult, But Not Impossible

When the history of the post-9/11 period is written, few witnesses will have more firsthand knowledge than Zalmay Khalilzad. As a member of the National Security Council staff, he was in the White House on Sept. 11, 2001, and he had a direct role in formulating the U.S. response. Khalilzad subsequently served as ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, and he is now the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. As an Afghan who immigrated to the United States as a high school student, Khalilzad is also the highest-ranking Muslim in the Bush administration.

Germany-Afghanistan/WRD German chancellor plans to visit war-stricken Afghanistan

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Afghan ambassador defends executions

OTTAWA — Afghanistan's ambassador to Canada says his government's decision to resume executions is a reaction to growing criminality in the country and not a sign of a return to the Islamic fundamentalism of the former Taliban regime.

Afghans crack down on private security firms

The Afghan government’s main complaints against the companies are lack of accountability, intimidation of Afghan citizens, disrespect of local security forces and companies that do not cooperate with authorities, according to a set of draft rules being debated by the Afghan government and obtained by The Associated Press.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Muslim scholars reach out to Pope -- BBC

More than 130 Muslim scholars have written to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders urging greater understanding between the two faiths.

Bhutto faces corruption setback -- BBC

Rice attacks Kremlin's power grip

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has voiced concern about Russia's direction by saying too much power is concentrated within the Kremlin.

WB grants $50m for education sector in Afghanistan

تحولات بنیـادی و انکار نا پـذیـر افغانستان در دوران زعامت اعلیحضرت محمد ظاهر شاه بخش اول

تحولات بنیادی در افغانستان در عهد سلطنت اعلیحضرت محمد ظاهر شاه (بخش دوم )

Friday, October 12, 2007

Canada picks Liberal hawk to head Afghan panel

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper. a Conservative, named a bipartisan advisory panel on Friday to review the future of Canada's military mission in Afghanistan, a move that may make life more difficult for opponents of the deployment.

Germany extends Afghanistan mandate amid growing doubts

BERLIN (AFP) - The German parliament signed off Friday on an extension of Berlin's military engagement in Afghanistan amid waning public support for the mission and pointed questions about its prospects of success.

Afghanistan 'is going down fast'

Unemployment is near 40 per cent and many Afghans live in appalling conditions, with no running water, sewerage or electricity. Roads are poor and in the capital -- crammed with tens of thousands of squatters camped in mud brick huts -- most middle-class residents are lucky to have power a few hours a day. --- "People thought democracy would give them everything -- jobs, roads, electricity, water -- but nothing of this sort has happened," Mr Tarzi said.

Afghans crack down on private security firms

KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan authorities this week shut down two private security companies and said more than 10 others — some suspected of murder and robbery — would soon be closed, Afghan and Western officials said Thursday.

Don't fail Afghanistan -- LAtimes

Iraq may be hopeless, but Afghanistan is worth defending. Here's why and how.

UN ambassador: Iraq, Afghanistan wars going badly

He expressed similar alarm about his homeland, where he served as U.S. ambassador after the 9/11 attacks. --- "I'm a little concerned about Afghanistan," Khalilzad said, citing a "loss of momentum" there. --- Most troubling are a worsening security situation, record opium crops, limited government control outside Kabul and rampant corruption.