A police officer says the woman bomber blew herself up about 8:30 p.m. Thursday near a checkpoint in central Baquba.
The officer says at least eight guards were killed and 24 other people were wounded. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
Here in The Valley it's market day.
Is Afghanistan a narco-state?
By Thomas Schweich
Published: July 24, 2008
Around the same time, the United States released photos of industrial-size poppy farms — many owned by pro-government opportunists, others owned by Taliban sympathizers. Most of these narco-farms were near major southern cities. Farmers were digging wells, surveying new land for poppy cultivation, diverting U.S.-built irrigation canals to poppy fields and starting expensive reclamation projects.
Yet Afghan officials continued to say that poppy cultivation was the only choice for its poor farmers. My first indication of the insincerity of this position came at a lunch in Brussels in September 2006 attended by Habibullah Qaderi, who was then Afghanistan's minister for counternarcotics. He gave a speech in which he said that poor Afghan farmers have no choice but to grow poppies, and asked for more money. A top European diplomat challenged him, holding up a UN map showing the recent trend: poppy growth decreasing in the poorest areas and growing in the wealthier areas. The minister, taken aback, simply reiterated his earlier point that Afghanistan needed more money for its destitute farmers. After the lunch, however, Qaderi approached me and whispered: "I know what you say is right. Poverty is not the main reason people are growing poppy. But this is what the president of Afghanistan tells me to tell others."
1. Inform President Karzai that he must stop protecting drug lords and narco-farmers or he will lose U.S. support. Karzai should issue a new decree of zero tolerance for poppy cultivation during the coming growing season. He should order farmers to plant wheat, and guarantee today's high wheat prices. Karzai must simultaneously authorize aggressive force-protected manual and aerial eradication of poppies in Helmand and Kandahar Provinces for those farmers who do not plant legal crops.
2. Order the Pentagon to support this strategy. Position allied and Afghan troops in places that create security pockets so that Afghan counternarcotics police can arrest powerful drug lords. Enable force-protected eradication with the Afghan-set goal of eradicating 50,000 hectares as the benchmark.
3. Increase the number of DEA agents in Kabul and assist the Afghan attorney general in prosecuting key traffickers and corrupt government officials from all ethnic groups, including southern Pashtuns.
4. Get new development projects quickly to the provinces that become poppy-free or stay poppy free. The north should see significant rewards for its successful anticultivation efforts. Do not, however, provide cash to farmers for eradication.
5. Ask the allies either to help in this effort or stand down and let us do the job.
The final report from the authority, an independent advisory body, was less reassuring about safety than a draft in January. It comes after an earlier, negative assessment from a European ethics committee. The European Commission, which must decide whether to approve such products, will take both reports into account.
The findings also contrast with those of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which concluded this year that such products were safe - although a voluntary moratorium on marketing them remains in place.
Europeans seem likely to take an even more cautious approach similar to that followed with genetically modified crops - which has led to years of trade friction with the United States. Surveys show resistance in Europe to biotechnology remains high, especially when it comes to food.
While cloning animals is still a young and inefficient technology, scientists expect it to improve greatly in the coming years. In theory, the procedure can produce meatier cows or pigs that are better able to resist diseases.
"We are potentially closer than we have ever been to a deal, but the final steps are the hardest and still look formidable," the negotiator, Peter Mandelson, wrote in his blog after he and trade ministers from six countries met for 12 hours in what he described as "some of the most difficult and confrontational negotiation of my time" as the European Union trade commissioner.
Subsidies that encourage farmers to grow more cotton in rich countries like the United States are blamed for flooding the market and depressing world prices in recent years, making it harder for poor farmers in Africa to make ends meet.
"It is the growers at the bottom who suffer," said Seydou Ouedraogo, who grows cotton near Leo, some 200 km (125 miles) south of Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou.
"We just want to be treated equally. It is our only source of income, and only cotton can lift us out of poverty. This is unfair competition," Ouedraogo said.
At this time of year, the cotton plants here are still small, standing 20-30 cm (1-foot) tall. Their broad green leaves standing out against the rich, dark earth which has soaked up the seasonal rains of the past couple of months.
The group, which also includes Mali, Benin and Chad, has had some success. Negotiators in Geneva are discussing a draft that would cut U.S. cotton subsidies by 82.2 percent -- more than the 60 percent cut proposed for other similar farm subsidies.
Washington has paid out $2 billion (1 billion pounds) to $4 billion a year in subsidies in recent years to the 25,000 U.S. cotton farmers who export 80 percent of their output and account for 40 percent of cotton traded internationally around the world.
The lure of the Arctic as oil's next big frontier was vindicated this week as a major geological survey found the region might hold as much as a fifth of the world's yet to-be-discovered oil and natural gas reserves.
Many of these new resources, according to the survey, are to be found in Russia. If true, that would cement Russia's position as one of the world's dominant energy players, particularly for natural gas, and increase its already powerful clout over Europe's energy supplies.
Dudley, a U.S. citizen, has no plans to step down as head of the venture and has a legal right to continue running TNK-BP from abroad, he said in an e-mailed statement sent Thursday.
Dudley, who said the relocation was temporary, has had problems renewing his visa as billionaire shareholders in TNK-BP were demanding his dismissal.
"The company will continue to operate and trade as normal," his statement said.
"They have to come to an agreement. There is nothing good in this conflict. It is a burden to their projects," Sechin told Reuters during his visit to a metallurgical plant to the Nizhny Novgorod region in central Russia.
Gassing up with garbage
Many companies have announced plans to build plants that would take in material like wood chips, garbage or crop waste and turn out motor fuels. About 28 small plants are in advanced planning, under construction or, in a handful of cases, already up and running in test mode.
For decades scientists have known it was possible to convert waste to fuel, but in an era of cheap oil, it made little sense. With oil now trading around $125 a barrel and gasoline above $4 a gallon, the potential economics of a waste-to-fuel industry have shifted radically, setting off a frenzy to be first to market.
"I think American innovation is going to come up with the solution," said Prabhakar Nair, research chief for UOP, a company working on the problem.
Success is far from assured, however. Some of the latest announcements come from small companies whose dreams may be bigger than their bank accounts. They are counting on billions in taxpayer subsidies. Big technological hurdles remain, and even if they can be solved, no one is sure what unintended consequences will emerge or what it will really cost to produce this type of fuel.
"Everybody says cut and cut some more, but how are we going to sustain this company?" Mulally said in one meeting in his office on the 12th floor of Ford headquarters, according to people in attendance. "What does a sustainable Ford look like, gentlemen?"
In less than two years since he arrived as an outsider from Boeing to run Ford, Mulally had already mortgaged the company to raise cash, sold off three brands and cut truck production in the face of rising gasoline prices.
"Why are we in business?" he repeatedly asked the group. "We are in business to create value. And we can't create value if we go out of business."
On Thursday, the company officially announced its response to those questions - a huge shift in production to build more small cars, and fewer pickups and sport utility vehicles.
There are no guarantees that it will pay off, of course. But industry analysts are beginning to see Mulally as an executive who is willing to take big chances to reinvent a way of doing business in Detroit. The old way, relying on sales of big, profitable trucks and SUVs, increasingly looks out of step with the times.
"He has become the symbol of change for the American auto industry," said John Casesa of the consulting firm Casesa Shapiro Group. "Because he's from the outside, he's not tied to the past."
The loss was deeper than analysts had forecast and sent Ford shares down by 7.5 percent. Its bonds also traded lower.
Ford cautioned that it did not expect a U.S. economic turnaround until 2010 with oil prices remaining "high and volatile" and no relief for the high prices for steel and other commodities that have hit automakers hard.
BG said in a statement on Thursday that net profit rose 59 percent to 747 million pounds as the price BG received for its UK gas soared 37 percent to 32.8 pence per therm due to tight supplies and rising oil prices.
In audiotapes uncovered in their investigation, regulators said, one defendant described the scheme as an effort to "bully the market" by making a huge number of trades at or near the end of the trading day to move closing prices.
The lawsuit, against Optiver Holding, is certain to resonate loudly in Washington, where the Senate is in the midst of debating proposals to tackle high oil prices by curbing market speculation and where lawmakers have repeatedly demanded tougher enforcement measures by regulators.
Don't blame the oil companies
It is true that some major oil companies have made huge profits, but this does not mean that they are responsible for the price of oil. When a consumer buys a gallon of oil, the company benefiting is more likely to be the national oil company of Saudi Arabia, Nigeria or Venezuela rather than Chevron, Shell or Exxon. About 86 percent of the world's oil is produced by state-owned oil companies. The reality is that the major U.S. oil companies are price takers: Their prices are set by the world market where they contribute smaller and smaller percentages of the world's production.
If the major oil companies are not to blame, what about the speculators? There is little doubt that the number of speculators participating in the marketplace has grown exponentially and that they are responsible in some part for both the speed and magnitude of the recent increases in world oil. Who are these speculators? They are oil-consuming companies, like airlines, that fear prices may go still higher. They are oil-producing companies that fear that the price may fall precipitously and thus "sell" into the futures market. They are brokerage firms and banks that are trying to protect their assets in a market where inflation fears are rising and the value of the dollar is declining. Almost certainly there are some bad actors among the hundreds of speculators, but most are not Enron clones ripping off consumers. They are companies and individuals trying to protect their assets.
So, why are oil prices so high? The answer is simple: Demand is high and supply is low.
Between 1982 and 2002, oil prices were low. Gasoline prices more than doubled between 2002 and 2007, and instead of cutting back, Americans drove more and continued to buy large gas-guzzling vehicles. Part of the reason was that they were a lot wealthier than they were in the 1980s. Thus their change in incomes over the past 30 years was dramatically greater than changes in the value of their oil purchases. With gas at $4.10 a gallon, this situation is finally shifting, and consumers are forced to allocate an ever-growing proportion of their incomes for fuel.
The company said in a statement there was no certainty the talks would lead to an offer. The two companies have been trying to hammer out a deal for months, while one industry source told Reuters it was hoped a deal could be completed in the next two weeks.
The natural gas company, based in Barcelona, said in a regulatory filing Thursday that it was competing to buy a controlling stake in a rival utility, Unión Fenosa, based in Madrid, its third attempt to acquire another Spanish energy company.
If successful, the move could lead to the creation of a domestic energy champion and head off would-be foreign acquirers. That is something likely to please the administration of the Socialist prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who has supported such Spanish consolidation and has been chided by the European Commission for doing so.
Analysts have said that if Gas Natural were to purchase Fenosa that could be the precursor to an eventual three-way merger between Gas Natural, Fenosa and the utility Iberdrola, based in Bilbao, Spain.
The new legislation, which was passed by Parliament late Wednesday night and which will take effect in September, is the boldest step yet in stripping what many view as an emblematic labor law, without quite getting rid of it. While the workweek limit is as good as buried, every hour beyond 35 that is worked will be considered overtime and will therefore be more expensive.
"We wanted to put an end to the rigidity of the labor market" Labor Minister Xavier Bertrand, one of the chief architects of the change, said Thursday on France Info radio. "Everything will be negotiated company by company."
It does, according to the women, who call themselves Les Bâtisseuses de Paix, or Peace Builders. Their aim is not to solve a conflict that has defied the best brains in diplomacy for decades, but rather "to block the transfer of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into France."
Even their detractors say the aim is laudable, although the means may be inadequate to address such intractable problems.
But that has not dampened the spirit of the women. About 50 of them convened for mint tea recently at Les Jardins de la Méditerranée, or The Mediterranean Gardens, a kosher restaurant in the Paris suburb of Créteil. After kisses and compliments on hairdos, it was time for business. "Let's get to work!" one woman shouted, as eggs, dates and other sweet ingredients were passed around.
With new burnish, young team glows in Tour de France
With three days to go, Stapleton's Team Columbia has now won five stages after the victory Thursday by Marcus Burghardt, a 25-year-old German rider. Burghardt outdueled Carlos Barredo of Quick Step in the final meters of the 18th stage after a long breakaway as the Tour moved out of the Alps and toward the finish in Paris on Sunday.
Combined with the four days that Kim Kirchen of Team Columbia spent in the race leader's yellow jersey, the Columbia team has arguably had the most successful Tour of any of the 20 teams in the race. "We had a great preparation for the Tour, and there is on the team a great team spirit," Burghardt said after his victory. "Every rider works for the other. That's why we manage to be so successful."
Burghardt and Barredo finished 3½ minutes ahead of another small breakaway group and 6 ½s minutes ahead of the main pack of riders. That meant there were no major changes in the overall standings on Thursday.
Carlos Sastre of CSC-Saxo Bank leads a teammate, Frank Schleck, by 1:24 minutes and Bernhard Kohl of Gerolsteiner by 1:33. Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto is one second further back in fourth place, followed by Denis Menchov of Rabobank, who is 2:39 behind the race leader.
How will 'comfort capsules' help defeat Al Qaeda?
One revealing symptom of the ongoing leadership drift was revealed by The Washington Post last week. The paper reported that at least four ranking generals have been deeply involved in designing airborne "comfort capsules." These two-room luxury pods, with all the amenities of sports arena skyboxes, would be inserted into the fuselage of military aircraft to carry top brass and their VIP guests.
The most offensive part of this project is that the air force has been pressing Congress for the last three years for permission to tap $16 million in counterterrorism funds to pay for this indulgence.
Congress never envisioned comfort-class counterterrorism, particularly with beds affording "no more than 50 percent compression of the mattress material" for a general's comfort, according to one specification. It rebuffed the generals, yet the service still diverted $331,000 in counterterrorism money to cover last-minute design changes ordered up as the brass waxed stylistic over the color of seat belts, carpets and swivel executive chairs. (Apparently everyone was happy with the drapes and the full-length capsule mirror.) The chic pods would be in addition to the air force's existing fleet of 100 planes meant for VIP travel.
The air force began to scale back its ambitions for Project SLICC, or Senior Leader Intransit Comfort Capsules, as soon as it was uncovered by a private watchdog group, the Project on Government Oversight. But it has already stoked deep resentment among lower-ranking officers concerned about plummeting morale and other serious problems.
PITTSBURGH: The head of a prominent cancer research institute has issued an unprecedented warning to his faculty and staff: Limit cellphone use because of the possible risk of cancer.
The warning from Dr. Ronald Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, issued Wednesday, is contrary to numerous studies that have not found a link between brain cancer and cellphone use and a lack of official concern from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Herberman said he was basing his alarm on early unpublished data. He said that it took too long to get answers from science and that he believed people should take action now, especially in regard to children.
"Really at the heart of my concern is that we shouldn't wait for a definitive study to come out, but err on the side of being safe rather than sorry later," Herberman said.
Ferreting out clues to Serb's secret life
Karadzic's accomplices to be tracked
BELGRADE: Radovan Karadzic was preparing his false identity during the autocratic rule of his mentor, Slobodan Milosevic, an official said Thursday, promising to track down the people who helped the Bosnian Serb warlord remain in hiding for 12 years as he tried to escape trial on charges of genocide.
Bruno Vekaric, spokesman for Serbia's war crimes prosecutor, said investigators were trying to determine the true identity of Dragan Dabic - the name Karadzic used during his long flight from justice.
Officials said Karadzic had been captured Monday in Belgrade and was awaiting extradition to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands. However, Karadzic's lawyer insisted his client was captured last Friday.
The lawyer, Sveta Vujacic, said Karadzic had instructed him to file a lawsuit against "unidentified persons" who "abducted" Karadzic last week. Vujacic said Karadzic was taken off a public bus in a Belgrade suburb, hooded and transferred to an unknown location where he was kept for three days.
"We have three witnesses who have contacted us, who saw all this," Vujacic said.
But in Sarajevo, media reports said he was a civilian killed by Karadzic's troops as they besieged the Bosnian capital during the war.
The discrepancies surfaced because there were several men with that name in Sarajevo at the time.
Vekaric refused to speculate.
"There are seven Dragan Dabics in Sarajevo, dead or alive," he said.
Vekaric said Karadzic had obtained the false papers while former President Slobodan Milosevic's regime was still in power in Serbia, ousted only by a popular revolt in October 2000.
He said the fake ID card bearing the name of Dragan Dabic was issued to Karadzic in Ruma, a town north of Belgrade, where a notorious paramilitary commander was apparently involved in the paperwork.
The commander, Slobodan Medic, is himself on trial in connection with the killings of about 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995 by Karadzic's troops.
Those suspected of helping Karadzic evade justice while on the run will be prosecuted, Vekaric said. He also hoped those helpers could be used to track down the remaining war crimes fugitives, including the wartime military commander of the Bosnian Serbs General Ratko Mladic.
"The point is to finish The Hague story," Vekaric said, referring to the UN court, which has indicted both Karadzic and Mladic on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. "Whoever was helping Karadzic was committing a criminal act, and they know it."
The market had been split ahead of the decision, which came as recent data suggested the economy is likely in recession but also suffers surging inflation.
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand cut its cash rate by a quarter percentage point to 8 percent, after being on hold for a year, saying the downturn in activity would gradually dampen rampant inflation pressures.
"There'll be a series of 25 basis point cuts until they think they've done enough, and that should extend into early next year," said Robin Clements, a UBS senior economist.
Particularly at a time when Israel seems to be contemplating military strikes on Iranian nuclear sites, the United States would be a better friend if it said: "That's crazy" - while also insisting on a 100 percent freeze on settlements in the West Bank and greater Jerusalem.
Granted, not everybody sees things this way, and discussions of the Middle East usually involve each side offering up its strongest arguments to wrestle with the straw men of the other side. So let me try something different.
After I wrote a column last month from Hebron in the West Bank, my blog, nytimes.com/ontheground, was flooded with counterarguments - and plenty of challenges to address them. In the interest of a civil dialogue on the Middle East, here are excerpts from some of the readers' defenses of Israel's conduct in the West Bank and my responses:
Jews lived in Hebron for 1,800 years continuously ... until their community was murdered in 1929 by their Arab neighbors. The Jews in Hebron today - those "settlers" - have reclaimed Jewish property. So I don't see what makes them illegitimate or illegal. (Irving)
If Israel were to bar American Christians from Jerusalem, that would not be grounds for the United States to send in paratroopers and establish settlements. And if Israel insists on controlling the West Bank, then it needs to give citizenship to Palestinians there so that they can vote just like the settlers.
One side is a beautiful, literate, medically and scientifically and artistically an advanced society. The other side wants to throw bombs. Why shouldn't there be a fence? (Mileway)
So, build a fence. But construct it on the 1967 borders, not Palestinian land - and especially not where it divides Palestinian farmers from their land.
While I do condemn this type of violence, it pales in contrast to Palestinian suicide bombers, rockets and other acts of terror against Jews. (Jay)
B'Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, reports that a total of 123 Israeli minors have been killed by Palestinians since the second intifada began in 2000, compared with 951 Palestinian minors killed by Israeli security forces.
To withdraw from the West Bank without a partner on the Palestinian side will find Israel in the same fix it has once it withdrew from Gaza: a rain of daily rockets. Yes, the security barrier causes hardship, but terrorist attacks have almost disappeared. That means my kids can ride the bus, go to unguarded restaurants and not worry about being blown up on their way to school. Find another way to keep my kids safe, and I'll happily tear down the barrier. (Laura)
This is the argument that I have the most trouble countering. Laura has a point: The barrier and checkpoints have reduced terrorism. But as presently implemented, they - and the settlements - also reduce the prospect of a long-term peace agreement that is the best hope for Laura's children.
If Israel were to stop the settlements, ease the checkpoints, allow people in and out more freely, and negotiate more enthusiastically with Syria over the Golan Heights and with the Arab countries on the basis of the Saudi peace proposal, then peace might still elude the region. But Israel would at least be doing everything possible to secure its long-term future, rather than bolstering Hamas.
If there is no two-state solution, there will be a one-state solution - and given demographic trends, that will mean either the end of Israeli democracy or the end of the Jewish state. Zionists should be absolutely clamoring for a Palestinian state.
Laura is right about the need for a sensible Palestinian partner, and the failures of Palestinian leadership have been legion. At the moment, though, Israel has its most reasonable partner ever - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas - and it is undermining him with its checkpoints and new settlement construction.
Peace-making invariably involves exasperating and intransigent antagonists and unequal steps, just as it did in the decades in which Britain struggled to end terrorism emanating from Northern Ireland.
But London never ordered air strikes on Sinn Fein or walled in Catholic neighborhoods. Over time, Britain's extraordinary restraint slowly changed attitudes so as to make the eventual peace possible.
I hope Obama, as a candidate or as a president, will be a true enough friend of Israel to say all this, warmly but firmly.
Too much gloom and doom
Are you anxious? Dejected? Fearful?
Why wouldn't you be, considering the barrage of rotten news assaulting you from every direction?
"Everything seemingly is spinning out of control," moaned the apocalyptic headline on a recent AP dispatch.
"Midwestern levees are bursting. Polar bears are adrift. Gas prices are skyrocketing. Home values are abysmal. Airfares, college tuition, and healthcare border on unaffordable ... Americans need do no more than check the weather, look in their wallets, or turn on the news for their daily reality check on a world gone haywire."
Thanks in part to journalism of that caliber, American consumers are more apprehensive than they have been in decades.
Americans' consumer confidence is at a 16-year low, and more Americans than ever, 84 percent, think the country is headed in the wrong direction. The New York Times devoted one-fourth of Saturday's front page to illustrating ways in which the economy is mired in "A Slowdown With Trouble at Every Turn" - and continued the gloom for a full page inside.
Voices of reason keep trying to point out that conditions are not nearly as bad as they were the last time consumers were this despondent.
That was in May 1980, during the final year of the Carter administration, when the "misery index" - the sum of the inflation and unemployment rates - hit an excruciating 21.9. Inflation was then at 14.4 percent; unemployment was 7.5 percent. The numbers today are 5 and 5.5 respectively.
But voters don't want to be told to buck up. When former Senator Phil Gramm, an economic adviser to John McCain, said last week that America had "become a nation of whiners" and described the current slowdown as a "mental recession," the backlash was immediate.
McCain repudiated Gramm's remarks and quickly issued a statement assuring voters that he "travels the country every day talking to Americans who are hurting, feeling pain at the pump, and worrying about how they'll pay their mortgage."
Well, that's politics. Politicians who want to get elected genuflect to what Bryan Caplan, in "The Myth of the Rational Voter," calls the pessimistic bias: the "tendency to overestimate the severity of economic problems and underestimate the (recent) past, present and future performance of the economy."
For a nonpessimistic view, hearken to W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, who in the current issue of The American ask "How Are We Doing?" - and offer some useful perspective.
The nation's present troubles, they argue, "will turn out to be mere footnotes in a longer-term march of progress." The U.S. economy, "a $14 trillion behemoth," remains without equal as an engine of growth and prosperity. However impolitic it may be to say so, when you take the long view it is clear that we Americans have never had it so good.
Cox and Alm point to an array of reassuring trends.
Americans on average work far less than they used to. Annual hours devoted to the job have fallen from 1,903 in 1950 to just 1,531 today. We start working later in life, retire earlier and live much longer. Even including household labor, they write, "only about a quarter of our waking hours are consumed with work, down from 45 percent in 1950."
The material progress of recent decades has been extraordinary - at all income levels. Forty percent of poor families own their own homes. For many goods (kitchen appliances, color TVs, air conditioners) ownership rates are higher among poor Americans today than they were among the general population in 1970.
On highways and in the air, we travel billions of miles more than we used to, yet death rates are at all-time lows. Healthcare is more expensive, true, but quality is much better. Real total compensation - wages plus benefits, adjusted for inflation - has been climbing for generations. And if prices are calculated as a function of work-time - how long one must work at the average pay rate to earn the price of something - a gallon of gasoline, even with the runup in pump prices, "still goes for less than 11 minutes of work."
Short-term troubles notwithstanding, Cox and Alm observe, the "data points add up to steady, continuing progress for average Americans." So no, everything is not spinning out of control. Alarmist headlines notwithstanding, America is doing all right.
Economic data from the United States on Thursday showed the housing market remained weaker than Wall Street's already grim estimations, with existing-home sales tumbling to a 10-year low.
In Europe, key measures of business activity and company sentiment fell more than expected in Germany, France and Italy, as well as in a survey of the 15-nation euro zone.
The Ifo institute's gauge of German business sentiment, based on a survey of about 7,000 companies, suffered its biggest drop since soon after the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.
Japanese exports, which are heavily dependent on U.S. demand, shrank in June for the first time in nearly five years and Bank of Japan policy-maker Atsushi Mizuno, said there was a chance that Japan could slip into a recession although he did not expect a deep one.
"This is not something we are going to snap out of quickly," said Richard Sparks, senior equities analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research in Cincinnati.
Editors at the Depression-era Federal Writers' Project, which happened at the time to be combing the country for local color - and for writers as well, for a series of travel guides about the United States that are now coming online and enjoying a public revival of sorts - included the story in the Wyoming guide, published in 1941, as an example of cowboy eccentricity.
The tale of the would-be rebels, who called their new state Absaroka (accent on the second syllable), from the Crow word meaning "children of the large-beaked bird," then faded into the mist. Details were forgotten - how a baseball-player-turned-street-commissioner in Sheridan named A.R. Swickard appointed himself governor and began hearing writs of grievance, and how license plates were distributed along with pictures of Miss Absaroka 1939, the first and apparently last of her breed. There was even an Absarokan state visit, when the king of Norway made a swing through Montana.
But here is the great open secret of this part of the West: The frontier spirit of the state that never was lives on.
Hold up the map today that Swickard and his compatriots sketched out - partly at the Sheridan Rotary Club, a hotbed for rebel recruitment - and the distinctions that made this part of the country feel worthy of statehood in the 1930s - different in its geography, history, economic base and political outlook - are mostly still there.
Iraqi team barred from Beijing Olympics
BAGHDAD: Just two weeks before the start of the Olympics, Iraq was told Thursday it's not welcome in Beijing because of a political feud in Baghdad that angered the games' guardians and exiled a country that arrived to a roaring ovation at the opening ceremony four years ago.
The International Olympic Committee told Iraqi sports officials in a letter that it would uphold its ban imposed in June after the government in Baghdad replaced its national Olympic panel with members not recognized by the IOC.
The IOC had called the move unacceptable government interference.
In Iraq, it also smacked of the lingering sectarian bitterness between the new Shiite power brokers and the Sunnis who were once favored under Saddam Hussein — whose son, Odai, ran the nation's Olympic committee as a personal fiefdom and was accused of torturing athletes who came up short.
Acer has hidden most of the laptop's complexity behind a simple interface. The Aspire One allows you to edit Word and Excel documents, surf the Web and look at pictures and video without having to run complex software. The laptop, which is 1.14 inches, or 2.9 centimeters, thick and weighs 2.19 pounds, or almost one kilogram, in its smallest configuration, has an 8.9-inch LCD screen and an Intel Atom processor. The laptop starts at $379; a $399 version runs Microsoft Windows XP Home. It comes in blue, pink, white and brown, ensuring that you can find an Aspire One to match your luggage.
In other words, like its predecessor, "Moral Clarity" is a sustained defense of a particular set of values, and of a moral vocabulary that enables us to express them. Neiman sees these values as neglected or threatened all along the political spectrum. They received their strongest defenses in the moral thought of the Enlightenment, in David Hume and Adam Smith, but more particularly in Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant. So the book is not only a moral polemic, but a powerful argument in support of the resources that these Enlightenment figures left us. Neiman, an American who is currently the director of the Einstein Forum in Berlin, boldly asserts that when Marxism, postmodernism, theory and fundamentalism challenge the Enlightenment, they invariably come off second best. I agree, and I wish more people did as well.
Neiman's Enlightenment is not the hyperbolic ideology detected by some critics. It is not the unthinking worship of science, the materialistic, technological ideology that upset the Romantics and continues to upset their followers. It is not an unthinking confidence in the human capacity for knowledge, and still less in human perfectibility and unending progress. On the other hand, neither is it merely an expression of liberty, a resistance to unearned authority and the discovery of tolerance, which, she argues, provides too pallid an ideology to tempt people away from the superstitions and fundamentalisms that promise them more. It is rather an attitude encapsulated in four virtues: happiness, reason, reverence and hope. The moral clarity of her title is therefore not the ability to calculate answers to the practical conundrums that life sets us. It is rather the ability to see life in ways infused with these categories: to cherish happiness, to respect reason, to revere dignity and to hope for a better future.
It may seem surprising that we could need reminding of these things, but a foray into an airport bookstore, or a trip around any gallery of contemporary art, would show how far our culture would have to move before it gets back to being comfortable with them. To take just one significant example that Neiman highlights, the current value placed on being a "victim," and the glorification of victims as heroes, should be seen as a denial of human freedom and dignity, a denial of happiness and a barrier against hope.
Although her philosophical heroes are associated with the secular character of the Enlightenment, Neiman is deeply respectful of religious traditions and religious writings, and rightly dismissive of the kind of brash atheism that confidently insists there is no good in them. On the other hand, following Plato, she does not see ethics as the distinct preserve of the faithful.
Some members of Congress have greeted the proposal with dismay and anger, and may block the move. Lawmakers and their aides say that F-16s do not help the counterterrorism campaign and defy the administration's urgings that Pakistan increase pressure on Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in its tribal areas.
The timing of the action also caught lawmakers off guard, prompting some of them to suspect the deal is meant to curry favor with the new Pakistani prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, who will meet with President George W. Bush in Washington next week, and to ease tensions over the 11 members of the Pakistani paramilitary forces killed in an American airstrike along the Afghan border last month.
The financing for the F-16s would represent more than two-thirds of the $300 million that Pakistan will receive this year in American military financing for equipment and training. Last year, Congress required those funds to be used specifically for law enforcement or counterterrorism purposes. Pakistan's military has rarely used its current fleet of F-16s, which were built in the 1980s, for close-air support of counterterrorism missions, largely because the risks of civilian casualties would inflame anti-government sentiments in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. State Department officials say the upgrades would greatly enhance the F-16s' ability to strike insurgents more accurately, while reducing the risk to civilians. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because Congress is weighing the plan, said the timing was driven by deadlines of the American contractor, Lockheed Martin.
Having the United States pay for the upgrades instead of Pakistan would also free up cash that Pakistan's government could use to help offset rising fuel and food costs in the country, which have contributed to an economic crisis there, the State Department officials said.
Having gone to the brink of a fourth war in 2002, the nuclear armed South Asian rivals embarked on a peace process four years ago but relations were strained by a suicide attack outside the Indian embassy in Kabul this month.
Afghan and Indian officials have accused a Pakistani intelligence agency of involvement in the attack that killed 58 people, including two senior Indian diplomats.
Gilani called Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to congratulate him on winning a vote of confidence on Tuesday and said Pakistan attached "immense importance" to its relations with India.
"The present state of unrest in the region demands more cooperation in the field of combating terrorism and extremism as both the countries are victims of this menace," a statement from the prime minister's office quoted Gilani as saying.
The battle came as NATO's secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, warned of critical danger to Afghanistan, with foreign fighters and terrorists from different countries trying to destabilize the country. He called for greater international attention to the problem.
"Those people — and we see too many of them in recent weeks and months — who are coming into Afghanistan to create mischief and havoc, those people who want to destabilize Afghanistan, and those people are killing NATO forces as well, are the same who are after the destabilizing of Pakistan and the destabilizing of other parts of the world," he said.
He said the current situation was unacceptable and a regional political approach was needed to tackle the threat. "I cannot imagine anyone who would consider it acceptable that many terrorists from all over the world gather in a certain area and create mischief and havoc there," he said.
NATO has some 53,000 soldiers in the International Security Assistance Force operating in Afghanistan, , Scheffer said, who "are also the victims of the surge and the uptick in violent in incidences we have seen recently."
"Our policy at the time was not to read Miranda rights," FBI special agent Robert Fuller said in testimony at the U.S. military commission trial of Salim Hamdan on charges of conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism.
The quake, which had a preliminary magnitude of 6.8, came just one month after a 7.2 magnitude temblor killed at least 12 people in the northern mountains.
The Meteorological Agency in Japan said the earthquake struck shortly after midnight, at a depth of 105 kilometers, or 65 miles, near the coast in Iwate Prefecture, which is 450 kilometers north of Tokyo. The quake was felt in the capital.
Most of the injuries were minor, and none were life threatening, said a National Police Agency official on condition of anonymity, citing department policy.
The earthquake shook many areas of northern Japan for about 40 seconds, witnesses said, but life quickly returned to normal.
Married once, widowed twice
By Carol Levine
Thursday, July 24, 2008
My husband and I met when I was a 19-year-old college student from upstate New York and he was a worldly man of 28, with a job, an apartment and a car. We were married a year and a half later. Of course there were rough spots in our long marriage - job pressures (his), illness (mine), money problems (ours). We got through them, sometimes a little chastened but with our deep need for each other strengthened. Of all the ways that Howard changed me, a shy, studious teenager when we met, the most important was that he made me laugh.
Then one morning in January 1990, 34 years into our marriage, we were traveling on an icy road. The car skidded, hit a guardrail and turned over and over, plunging down an embankment. I was physically uninjured, but he was in a deep coma from a devastating brain-stem injury. Over the next months and years he regained some cognitive function but was unable to do anything for himself. Caring for him at home required an enormous managerial effort, the assistance of strong, patient home-care aides and, not incidentally, a lot of money.
Oddly, my professional life, which started late because I stayed at home while our three children were young, flourished. But beneath my professional, in-control exterior was an empty void. I had lost my life partner, and not to death but to a continuous series of reminders of what was and what might have been. It was a kind of widowhood with a living partner. And so it went for years and years and years. I thought it would last forever.
On New Year's Eve, 2006 - the 52nd anniversary of our first date - Howard developed chest congestion just before midnight. The usual remedies didn't work, and by 3 a.m. I told him that I thought we should go to the emergency room. "No!" he yelled. "No hospital!" An hour later I said: "I can't handle this. I'm going to take a quick shower so I have my wits about me and then I'm getting an ambulance." When I came out of the shower - it wasn't more than a few minutes - all was quiet. I ran to him and knew at once that he was dead.
In a split second in 1990 I became a caregiver and not a wife, and in a split second as 2007 dawned I became neither a caregiver nor a wife but a widow. After a few weeks, I threw out or donated everything in our apartment that reminded me of my husband's 17 years of living with the effects of the traumatic brain injury. Out went two wheelchairs, a hospital bed, oxygen equipment, incontinence supplies, prescription drugs, lotions, therapeutic aids, orthotics, sweat pants, sneakers and loose shirts - everything.
But Howard stayed. For the first few months I continued to hear him calling me. A few times I even got up at night and went into his room, absolutely certain that he would still be there and that his death, not his voice, was the dream.
Those incidents began to fade, but I found myself feeling the original loss in a way that I could not bring myself to do when Howard was alive. And as the more distant and the more recent pasts collided, I felt unmoored. Nothing seemed right. I could finally go out at night without making special arrangements, but I had to be prodded to do it. Having never lived alone, I did not like coming home to a silent apartment. Yet home was where I wanted most to be. "You should take a trip," friends said. "Maybe a cruise." But instead I decided to renovate my apartment.
The project gave me a way to focus on improving my life within the security of home. The wall that created a separate hospital-like bedroom for Howard came down, opening up new living space for me. For three months, I zipped myself into my plastic-encased bedroom at night, and I stepped over construction materials as I entered and left.
Slowly I began to find a new way of living, without the vibrant, intellectually curious and loving person Howard used to be, and without the angry, needy and impatient person he became. And the two kinds of memories began coming together. They were parts of the same person, after all, and I loved and lost them both.
The new living-dining room is clearly my creation: the prints on the walls are Inuit graphic pieces that I collected; the needlepoint pillows are the ones I stitched in hospital rooms. But he is there, too. One of the Roseville vases we bought together sits on a table. The small black clock with the big white numbers remains at just the right angle for his vision. He is ever-present, but the room is now a reflection of me as I am now. Married once, I have been widowed twice. I am still sad, but now I can laugh again.
Carol Levine is director of the Families and Health Care Project at the United Hospital Fund in New York City.
The United Nations said last week that recent killings and kidnappings of aid workers in Somalia threatened to wreck all efforts to end one of the world's worst humanitarian disasters.
Aweys, an Islamist cleric who is on U.S. and U.N. lists of al Qaeda suspects, called on the international community to help his Eritrea-based opposition group expel Ethiopian forces supporting the country's fragile Western-backed government.
Operations will continue against the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the military said in a statement on its website.
British tabloid loses suit over Nazi 'orgy' article
LONDON: A High Court judge ruled on Thursday that a British tabloid newspaper breached the privacy of Max Mosley, the overseer of grand prix motor racing, when it published a story in March claiming he had participated in a sadomasochistic "orgy" with a Nazi theme.
The judge, Sir David Eady, sitting without a jury, awarded Mosley damages equivalent to about $120,000 as well as legal costs in his suit against The News of the World. His legal fees have been estimated at more than $1.7-million. But the judge did not award the "punitive damages" sought by Mosley, which could have run into millions of dollars, saying that this was not appropriate in a privacy case.
The judge upheld the central argument made by Mosley and his lawyers in court and in the battle to save his job as president of the Paris-based Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, or FIA, which supervises international motor racing: that there had been no Nazi theme to the five-hour sex session in a Chelsea flat that was secretly filmed by the newspaper, and no issue of public interest in its decision to splash the story on its front page and to run video footage of the session on its Web site.
"I found that there was no evidence that the gathering of March 28, 2008, was intended to be an enactment of Nazi behavior or adoption of any of its attitudes. Nor was it in fact," Eady wrote in his judgment. He added: "I see no genuine basis at all for the suggestion that the participants mocked the victims of the Holocaust."
The judge said the "bondage, beating and domination" that took place between Mosley and the five women involved, admitted by Mosley in court, had been "typical of S-and-M behavior." But he added that Mosley had a "reasonable expectation" of privacy for sexual activities that took place on private premises and that did not involve breaches of the criminal law, and that he had a right to be spared the "embarrassment and distress" he had suffered as a result of the newspaper's actions.