General Calls for More U.S. Troops to Avoid Afghan Failure
By ERIC SCHMITT and THOM SHANKER
Published: September 20, 2009
WASHINGTON – The top military commander in Afghanistan warns in a confidential assessment of the war there that he needs additional troops within the next year or else the conflict “will likely result in failure.”The grim assessment is contained in a 66-page report that the commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, submitted to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Aug. 30, and which is now under review by President Obama and his top national security advisers.
The disclosure of details in the assessment, reported Sunday night by The Washington Post, coincided with new skepticism expressed by President Obama about sending any more troops into Afghanistan until he was certain that the strategy was clear.
Hell’s bells! The joy of Morris Dancing
Beards, silly outfits and wooden sticks – the traditional English dance has been the butt of jokes for decades. So can a new movie celebrating its charms teach us to appreciate it? Jonathan Brown joins the throng
Monday, 21 September 2009
I am standing in a Scout hut on a rainy Wednesday night in a leafy suburb of York, preparing to be initiated in to the ways of morris. Few would imagine that danger is at hand. Morris dancing – with its tinkling bells, clink of pewter tankards and brightly-clad participants – evokes the timeless, gentle charm of an English village. It may be atavistic and some may even find it a little unsettling. But ultimately it is plainly harmless and above all, safe.
Yet I am now learning that what I believed to be a risk-free if rather unfashionable activity is in fact fraught with peril – a contact sport in the finest traditions of bone-crunching Sumo and tooth-spitting Aussie Rules. I had assumed that the greatest menace – apart from the occasional derisory comment – might be a nasty case of hanky burn brought on by a too-vigorously brandished snot rag; or perhaps a poke in the eye with a flailing pig’s bladder – even a mild bout of tinnitus courtesy of those chimes. But that was before I witnessed the spectacle of the Skirmish.
Democrats Target Bank Overdraft Charges
Bailed-Out Firms Lean More Heavily on Fees
By Binyamin Appelbaum and Nancy Trejos
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, September 21, 2009
A backlash is brewing on Capitol Hill against banks that charge large fees for overdrafts without asking or telling customers, the latest sign that the financial crisis is shifting the balance of power from banks toward borrowers.
Banks struggling to survive have become increasingly reliant on the fees, which could total $38.5 billion this year.
This week, the world is watching Obama
As the president steps before the United Nations for the first time — then meets with G-20 counterparts — he sees a chance to prove himself at home.
By Christi Parsons and Paul Richter
September 21, 2009
Reporting from Washington – President Obama takes the world stage this week amid an array of international challenges that have bedeviled American presidents for decades, including the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the drive of “rogue” nations toward nuclear power and uncertainty in the U.S. relationship with Russia.
It’s enough to make his domestic agenda, be it healthcare or the economy, look simple.
But the president does not see those two arenas as distinct. As Obama steps to the podium of the United Nations for the first time Tuesday, the White House is deeply mindful of the interconnections between his international and domestic agendas — and of the potential for his performance on the global stage to strengthen his position at home.
Lonely Japanese find solace in ‘rent a friend’ agencies
• Best man, relative or even spouse available at a price
• Social changes fuel boom in professional stand-ins
Justin McCurry in Tokyo
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 20 September 2009 18.27 BST
Best man Ryuichi Ichinokawa took his place before the assembled wedding guests, cleared his throat and for the next few minutes spoke movingly about the bride and groom. But his speech omitted one crucial fact: that he knew the beaming couple only marginally better than the waiters and waitresses serving their wedding breakfast.
From the moment the guests sat down until they belted out the final karaoke song of the evening, Ichinokawa was part of a grand, though well-intentioned, deception.
He is a professional stand-in, part of a growing service sector that rents out fake spouses, best men, relatives, friends, colleagues, boyfriends and girlfriends to spare their clients’ blushes at social functions such as weddings and funerals.
The last post: Inside a military morgue in Helmand
In a military morgue in Helmand, a small team of soldiers cares for comrades making the final journey home. Report by Terri Judd
Monday, 21 September 2009
Tucked away amid the maze of makeshift buildings and tents that constitute the giant British base of Camp Bastion in the Helmand desert are a couple of small white rooms. They are known as “Rose Cottage”.
In the bustle of the camp, where dust invades even the most protected crevice, the anonymous doors next to the field hospital lead into a uncommonly cool, pristine space, sparsely decorated with a couple of gurneys and a row of cold stores.
Why did so many artists attend Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s trial?
Friends of the Russian oligarch painted him in court
The Guardian, Monday 21 September 2009
You used to be Russia’s richest man, but then you fell out with Vladimir Putin. Big mistake. Now you spend your days and months stuck in a stuffy courtroom. Such is the unhappy lot of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the one-time billionaire oligarch whom the Kremlin sent to Siberia, then brought back for another vindictive show trial.
But Khodorkovsky’s supporters have come up with a novel way to cheer him up: they have sent in the artists. Since June, dozens have sat in on sessions at the court, sketching the former tycoon and his co-defendant, Platon Lebedev. With its irascible judge, troll-like guards and dim-witted prosecutor, the case has everything you could wish for, caricature-wise. There’s even a cage. Khodorkovsky and Lebedev sit in it.
Sarkozy and de Villepin square up in sleaze case
Allegations and counter-allegations about offshore funds come before court after years of toxic gossip
By John Lichfield in Paris Monday, 21 September 2009
In the court-room where Queen Marie Antoinette was condemned to death two centuries ago, the former French prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, will appear today accused of spreading faked evidence of corruption against his political colleague, and detested rival, President Nicolas Sarkozy.
After five years of trial by leak and counter-leak, the misnamed “Clearstream” affair – more a murky ditch of hatred, manipulation and mutual back-stabbing at the highest levels of the French state – will finally come to court over the next four weeks.
Khamenei denies US nuclear claims
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has denied Western claims that Iran intends to develop nuclear arms.
The BBC Monday, 21 September 2009
He said their production and use were prohibited, and that US allegations of a covert programme were false.
His comments come days after the US said it was modifying plans for defences against Iranian missiles and shelving a long-range missile shield.
Six world powers are to hold talks with Iran on 1 October that are expected to cover global nuclear disarmament.
Can Hamas spoil Obama’s three-way Mideast summit?
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Sunday that Palestinians would reject anything rival Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas agrees to during this week’s talks with President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
By Joshua Mitnick | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
from the September 20, 2009 edition
TEL AVIV – Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh slammed the Obama administration’s plan to meet Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, saying that Palestinians will reject anything Mr. Abbas agrees to during discussions on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
His comments come one day after militants in Gaza fired two rockets into Israel and as a flare up in violence along the Gaza border left two militants dead.
“Any signature will be invalid, and it won’t bind the Palestinian people to anything,” Mr. Haniyeh said in a sermon in Gaza City at the start of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday. “No one has the right to give up on Jerusalem or the [Palestinian] refugees. Not the [Palestine Liberation Organization] nor any other faction can sign an agreement hurting the Palestinian people’s principles and rights.”
Muslims mass-producing children to take over Africa, says Archbishop
From The Times
September 21, 2009
Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
One of the most powerful figures in the Anglican Church believes that Africa is under attack from Islam and that Muslims are “mass-producing” children to take over communities on the continent.
Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, 56, was elected Primate of Nigeria last week and his elevation could exacerbate tensions at a time when Anglicans are working to build bridges with Muslims. Dr Michael Nazir-Ali resigned as Bishop of Rochester earlier this year to work in countries where Islam is the majority religion.
Cuba rocks to huge peace concert
Havana has hosted the biggest open-air concert since the 1959 revolution, featuring some 15 top Latin American, Spanish and Cuban performers.
The BBC Monday, 21 September 2009
An estimated one million people – many wearing white – attended the free event in Revolution Square, Havana.
Colombian singer Juanes, who organised the “Peace without Borders” concert, received death threats from Miami-based critics of the Cuban regime.
But he had the support from 20 high-profile jailed dissidents inside Cuba.
The BBC’s Michael Voss, who was at the five-and-a-half hour concert, said there was a mood of excitement as many residents of the isolated, music-loving island had never seen anything like it before.