$52bn of American aid and still Afghans are dying of starvation
Patrick Cockburn reports from Kabul on the rampant corruption that has left the country on its knees
Monday, 13 December 2010
The most extraordinary failure of the US-led coalition in Afghanistan is that the expenditure of tens of billions of dollars has had so little impact on the misery in which 30 million Afghans live. As President Barack Obama prepares this week to present a review of America’s strategy in Afghanistan which is likely to focus on military progress, US officials, Afghan administrators, businessmen and aid workers insist that corruption is the greatest threat to the country’s future.
In a series of interviews, they paint a picture of a country where $52bn (£33bn) in US aid since 2001 has made almost no impression on devastating poverty made worse by spreading violence and an economy dislocated by war.
Cancún seen as interim step toward global treaty
The Irish Times – Monday, December 13, 2010
FRANK McDONALD, Environment Editor in Cancún
THE OUTCOME of this year’s UN climate change conference, widely seen as having “reignited” the negotiating process, is expected to encourage the EU to ramp up its target of cutting emissions by 2020 from 20 to 30 per cent.
Britain’s climate and energy secretary Chris Huhne said the Cancún deal – adopted by acclamation in the early hours of Saturday morning – “definitely makes an agreement on 30 per cent . . . more likely”, and he expected more EU member states to back this move.
Risky Borrowers Find Credit Available Again, at a Price
By ERIC DASH
Published: December 12, 2010
Credit card offers are surging again after a three-year slowdown, as banks seek to revive a business that brought them huge profits before the financial crisis wrecked the credit scores of so many Americans. The rise is striking because it includes offers to riskier borrowers who were shunned as recently as six months ago. But this time, in contrast to the boom years, when banks “preapproved” seemingly everyone, lenders are choosing their prospects more carefully and setting stricter terms to guard against another wave of losses.
For consumers, the resurgence of card offers, however cautious, provides an opportunity to repair damaged credit and regain the convenience of paying with plastic. But there is a catch: the new cards have higher interest rates and annual fees.
As Mexico drug violence runs rampant, U.S. guns tied to crime south of border
By James V. Grimaldi and Sari Horwitz
Washington Post Staff Writers
No other state has produced more guns seized by police in the brutal Mexican drug wars than Texas. In the Lone Star State, no other city has more guns linked to Mexican crime scenes than Houston. And in the Texas oil town, no single independent dealer stands out more for selling guns traced from south of the border than Bill Carter.
Carter, 76, has operated four Carter’s Country stores in the Houston metropolitan area over the past half-century. In the past two years, more than 115 guns from his stores have been seized by the police and military in Mexico.
Kosovo PM Thaçi claims election is in his grasp
Exit poll puts Thaçi’s party six percentage points ahead of its main rival, the Democratic League of Kosovo
Paul Lewis in Pristina The Guardian, Monday 13 December 2010
Kosovo’s incumbent prime minister last night claimed to be the victor of the first general election since the province declared independence from Serbia in 2008, even though official results had still not been counted.
Supporters of Hashim Thaçi’s Democratic Party of Kosovo let off firecrackers on the streets of the capital, Pristina, shortly before midnight, after exit polls suggested they had gained most votes.
The celebrations could have been premature.
Berlusconi’s fate could hang by a single vote
Premier hopes late surge will beat vital no-confidence motion
By Michael Day in Milan Monday, 13 December 2010
Italian opposition MPs are counting down the hours until tomorrow’s confidence vote that could allow them to put Silvio Berlusconi’s lame-duck government out of its misery in time for Christmas – and possibly boot the beleaguered tycoon-premier into the political outer darkness.
But the deal was by no means sealed last night, as political analysts suggested that frantic last-minute parliamentary mudslinging and deal-broking could mean that Mr Berlusconi would survive by as narrow a margin as a single vote.
Intelligence chiefs fear nuclear war between Israel and Tehran
December 13, 2010
AUSTRALIAN intelligence agencies fear that Israel might launch military strikes against Iran and that Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities could draw the US and Australia into a potential nuclear war in the Middle East.
Australia’s top intelligence agency has also privately undercut the hardline stance towards Tehran of the United States, Israeli and Australian governments, saying that Iran’s nuclear program is intended to deter attack and that it is a mistake to regard Iran as a ”rogue state”.
Israel rejects Jerusalem split plan
Prime minister distances himself from remarks made by Defence Minister Ehud Barak in favour of dividing Holy City.
Last Modified: 13 Dec 2010
Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has made clear that comments by the country’s defence minister, in favour of dividing Jerusalem were not the policy of the Israeli government.
“Ehud Barak’s comments were not co-ordinated with the prime minister,” an official in Netanyahu’s office said on Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“They represent the long-held views of the defence minister but do not represent the views of the government as a whole,” he said.
Addressing the Saban Center for Middle East policy in Washington on Friday, Barak, a former prime minister from the Israeli Labour Party, had said Jerusalem’s Jewish neighbourhoods should remain part of Israel, but Arab sectors should come under the sovereignty of an independent Palestinian state.
Crime, politics and terrorism together a combustible mix
KARACHI LETTER: Violence has returned to Karachi’s streets at levels not seen since the 1980s and 1990s
writes MARY FITZGERALD
THE MAN In the crumpled ill- fitting suit grew up in a small town in rural Pakistan but had lived in Karachi for years. He told a potted version of his life story as the plane slowly began its descent over this sprawling city lapped by the Arabian sea. His modest family background had hampered his prospects, he explained, until he moved to Karachi. There he had built up a successful business.
“This city is so big, it gives everyone a chance to escape their past,” he said. “Karachi is like the New York of Pakistan.”
Big, brash and more liberal than the rest of the country, Karachi is also the vital economic engine that generates more than 50 per cent of its tax revenues.
America’s Unsavory Friends in Central Asia
‘Bridges to Nowhere’
By Uwe Klussmann and Christian Neef
The secret country assessment from the US Embassy in the Tajikistan capital of Dushanbe, prepared for General David Petraeus on Aug. 7, 2009 ahead of his visit later that month, described a country on the brink of ruin. Tajikistan, a country of 7.3 million people on the northern border of Afghanistan, is a dictatorship ruled by Emomali Rakhmon, a former collective farm boss and notorious drunkard. “Parliament acts as a rubber stamp, barely discussing important legislation such as the national budget,” the dispatch noted.
Some of the state’s revenues were from criminal sources: “Tajikistan is a major transit corridor for Southwest Asian heroin to Russia and Europe.” The country had “chronic problems with Uzbekistan,” its neighbor, and the impoverished former Soviet republic faced the prospect of civil war fomented by Islamists in the east of the country.
Gbagbo accuses foreign powers of wooing army
Gbagbo has become locked in a dangerous face-off with long-time enemy Alassane Ouattara after both claimed victory in last month’s presidential election, declared themselves president and named rival governments.
Ouattara has been recognised by the United Nations and the international community, but Gbagbo retains control of the Ivorian army and the country’s main cocoa-exporting harbours, which are key to his ability to rule.
On Saturday, Gbagbo’s newly named “interior minister” accused un-identified foreign diplomats of trying to suborn senior military officers, and threatened unspecified reprisals against international interference.
Detroit’s Monsters Thrive on a Diet of Cheap Gas
By SIMON ROMERO
Published: December 12, 2010
CARACAS, Venezuela– Ascending the narrow streets that wind through this city’s hillside slums, the graffiti steadily gets more radical and anti-American, repeatedly proclaiming “Yankees go home!” amid murals denouncing President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
But at the same time, the cars get bigger – as in ’70s-style, gas-guzzling, Starsky-and-Hutch, Ford-Gran-Torino big – and American.
“We like our cars to be like tanks in this country, meaning they should be huge, comfortable and preferably manufactured in the United States,” said Miguel Delgado, 52, a mechanic in Los Frailes, a slum on this city’s western fringe, where he was working on a 1976 Dodge Coronet and a 1979 Chevrolet Impala.