US and Afghan forces have launched an assault against a group of Taliban in eastern Afghanistan following one of the deadliest days for US troops since the war began. On Saturday morning, 300 guerrilla fighters attacked a US outpost near the Pakistan border. During a day-long clash, eight US troops and two Afghan police officers died. A number of Afghan police officers are missing and feared captured. The attack occurred at an outpost that US commanders had been planning to abandon as part of a new strategy to withdraw from sparsely populated areas where the United States lacks the troops to expel Taliban forces.
In Pakistan, at least four people have died after a suicide bomber targeted the UN World Food Program office in Islamabad. The World Food Program said three of its staff members had been confirmed dead, and several others had been injured. Two were in a critical condition. United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack as a “heinous crime.”
In economic news, the nation’s official unemployment rate rose to 9.8 percent last month. The Labor Department said 263,000 jobs were eliminated in September bringing the total number of workers unemployed to 15 million. Another nine million people have been relegated to part-time work because their employers had scaled back their hours or they simply could not find full-time jobs. The unemployment rate has doubled since December 2007.
Economist Mark Vitner: “Not only did we have a larger than expected decline in non-farm payrolls, but it was incredibly broad based, and you have to really comb through this report to find anything to be optimistic about.”
Some economists say the job picture may be even more dire because of shortcomings with the government’s model for calculating payrolls. On Friday the Labor Department announced it had severely underestimated the number of jobs lost between March 2008 and March 2009. The Department had originally said about four point eight million jobs were eliminated during that period but now officials admit an additional 824,000 jobs were lost.
Consumer bankruptcies soared 41 percent in September from a year before. Nearly 125,000 people filed for bankruptcy last month, the fourth highest month since the bankruptcy law changed in 2005.
President Barack Obama’s climate czar Carol Browner said Friday there is no way Congress will be able to pass a bill on climate change before the climate talks in Copenhagen in December. Browner was asked about climate legislation during a forum organized by The Atlantic magazine.
Question: “At this point, what do you expect Congress to give you, if anything, to bring to Copenhagen in December?”
Carol Browner: “Well, obviously, we’d like to be, you know, through the process. That’s not going to happen. I think we would all agree that, likely, that you’d have the bill signed by the President, comprehensive energy, by the time we go early in December, it’s not likely. But we could be out of committee, certainly, in the Senate. We could perhaps be headed to the floor. There could be a leadership bill out there. You know, we will go to Copenhagen managed with whatever we have.”
The Iranian government has said it will allow UN inspectors access to a newly disclosed nuclear enrichment facility on October 25. The announcement comes just days after Iran held talks with the US and other world powers. Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran for moving forward on agreements reached at last week’s meeting.
Mohamed ElBaradei: “It is important for us to send our inspectors to do comprehensive verification of that facility to assure ourselves that it is a facility that’s built for peaceful purposes, that we understand its relationship to the Iran nuclear program, its capacity and many other technical questions that our inspectors would be interested in getting answers to.”
In Washington, Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said intense negotiations are taking place with Iran, but she acknowledged a new round of sanctions is still on the table.
Susan Rice: “There are a range of sanctions, David, under consideration. There are those that we might pursue multilaterally in the context of the Security Council. There are others that we could do outside of the Security Council with partners in Europe and elsewhere. And then there are those that we can take by ourselves unilaterally. There’s a wide range.”
David Gregory: “Economic sanctions?”
Rice: “Economic and otherwise, but that is one option. But right now we are in a period of intense negotiations. It’s not an infinite period. It’s a very finite period.”
In other Iran news, National Security Adviser James Jones has publicly disputed a front-page New York Times article that claims Iran knows how to make a nuclear bomb. The Times based its article on an alleged secret IAEA report that says Iran has “sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable” atom bomb. On Sunday, Jones said, “We stand by the reports that we’ve put out.” Two years ago, the US released a report suggesting that Iran stopped work on its nuclear weapons program in 2003. The New York Times based its article not on the actual IAEA report, but on conversations with European officials who have claimed to have seen the secret document.
The International Olympic Committee has voted to hold the 2016 Olympics in the Brazilian city Rio de Janeiro. Rio will become the first South American Olympic host. Rio is considered to be one of the world’s most dangerous cities and has a notoriously corrupt police force. Over 2,000 murders were reported in the city last year. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Rio police committed one in five of the murders. Executions by police death squads are considered common. In July, thirty police officers in Rio were charged with homicide, after an investigation that implicated them in the formation of a death squad and unlawful killings.
In other news, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports Israel’s Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon recently canceled a planned trip to Britain for fear of being arrested there. Ya’alon is the former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces. He is one of several current and former senior Israeli officers whom pro-Palestinian groups have sought to put on trial over the assassination of senior Hamas commander Salah Shehadeh in 2002. The attack also killed fourteen civilians.
The Financial Times reports Goldman Sachs stands to receive a payment of $1 billion if embattled commercial lender CIT files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. At the same time, US taxpayers would lose $2.3 billion. The Goldman Sachs payment stems from the structure of a rescue finance package that Goldman extended to CIT in June 2008, about five months before the Treasury bought $2.3 billion in CIT preferred shares to prop it up at the height of the crisis. If CIT does file, it would be the fifth largest bankruptcy filing, by assets, in US history.
In other business news, the inspector general who oversees the government’s bailout of the banking system is criticizing the Treasury Department for making misleading public statements last fall and raising the possibility that it had unfairly disbursed money to the biggest banks. A new report by inspector general Neil Barofsky found that former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and other officials deliberately created the impression last year that banks receiving huge government cash infusions were healthier than was the case. But privately, officials worried about the health of several of the banks.
For the first time since 1991, the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama will visit Washington this week and not meet with the President. The Obama administration reportedly pressured Tibetan representatives to postpone a meeting between the Dalai Lama and President Obama until after Obama’s summit with his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, scheduled for next month. The Washington Post reports the Obama administration’s decision to postpone the meeting appears to be part of a strategy to improve ties with China that also includes soft-pedaling criticism of China’s human rights and financial policies, as well as backing efforts to elevate China’s position in international institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund.
A New York activist has been arrested for using the social networking site Twitter to spread information about police actions during the recent G-20 protests in Pittsburgh. Elliot Madison was arrested on September 24 in Pittsburgh. On Thursday, FBI agents raided his home in Queens and spent sixteen hours searching it. While protesters have used text messages and Twitter to communicate before, Madison is believed to be one of the first activists to be charged criminally for sending information electronically to protesters about the police. A criminal complaint in Pennsylvania accused Madison of “directing others, specifically protesters of the G-20 summit, in order to avoid apprehension after a lawful order to disperse.” His attorney Martin Stolar said, “He and a friend were part of a communications network among people protesting the G-20. There’s absolutely nothing that he’s done that should subject him to any criminal liability.”
And the legendary Argentine singer Mercedes Sosa has died at the age of seventy-four. She was considered to be the voice of Latin America. In the 1970s her music inspired opponents of South America’s brutal military regimes. Her remains lay in state at the National Congress, where thousands of people have lined up to pay respects to one of the region’s most iconic voices.