EUROZONE SOLUTION? NOT YET
The markets have had a couple of decent days, but no one watching the Euro-slog closely believes the continent’s fiscal mess is anywhere near an end. The head of the European Central Bank is urging governments to speed implementation of measures to staunch the debt crisis. Read the interview published today in Italy’s Corriere della Sera. The head of the European Commission warned today that more unification is critical to the EU’s survival, and for that matter the well being of the rest of the world. Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Union’s executive arm, says without “more unification,” there will be “more fragmentation. And even after the latest push for a European financial firewall, in the best-case scenario Europe’s leaders will have a newly expanded rescue fund that most analysts say will be – at $600 billion – grossly inadequate. Too little, too late?
-SPECIAL OPS VIEW: OPTIMISTIC As we near the 10th anniversary (October 7th) of what some call America’s longest war, a returning US Army Special Forces officer writes a compelling op-ed in the New York Times based on his experience in the war embedded with Afghan units. His thesis: this war is still winnable.
-HOME FRONT: THE TRAUMA Nearly 1,400 U.S. service members were found to have concussions or mild brain injuries in Afghanistan and Iraq this year under a program that forces service members to take a break from combat when exposed to a blast or other jarring incident. The military has pulled about 9,000 service members from combat according to data given to USA Today. Also today, the New York Times takes a look at the caretakers – the wives, brothers, mothers - who meet their soldiers at home.
-POLICE ATTACKED An Afghan police commander says eight policemen were shot and killed in an attack on a checkpoint in the country’s south.
-CHOPPER CRASHES USA Today reports that accidents are the major cause of helicopter crashes in Afghanistan, despite the recent shootdown of a Chinook that killed 30 U.S. service members. Twenty-nine helicopters have crashed in Afghanistan since January 2009 through mid-September, while only six have been shot down. Human error, bad weather and mechanical problems are among the other causes of crashes, according to the Army.
U.S. V. PAKISTAN
-MULLEN’S COMMENTS CRITICIZED The Washington Post reports that the fiery comments Admiral Mike Mullen made last week – which have become central to an already-deteriorating Pakistan-US relationship – may have been overstated, according to American officials. Mullen alleged that the militant Haqqani group had become a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s spy service. The internal criticism by the officials reflects concern over the accuracy of Mullen’s characterizations at a time when Obama administration officials have been frustrated in their efforts to persuade Pakistan to break its ties to Afghan insurgent groups.
-BURNING FLAGS In Pakistan, US and Israeli flags tend to be the most flammable, reports the Express Tribune. The Pakistani newspaper profiles a shopkeeper who knows the instant his flags fly off the shelves, they will be burned, stomped up on or destroyed.
LIBYA: MISSING MISSILES
The White House says it plans to expand a program to secure and destroy Libya’s huge stockpile of dangerous surface-to-air missiles, following an ABC News report that large numbers of them continue to be stolen from unguarded military warehouses. Currently the U.S. State Department has one official on the ground in Libya, as well as five contractors who specialize in “explosive ordinance disposal”, all working with the rebel Transitional National Council to find the looted missiles, White House spokesperson Jay Carney told reporters. “We expect to deploy additional personnel to assist the TNC as they expand efforts to secure conventional arms storage sites,” Carney said. “We’re obviously at a governmental level — both State Department and at the U.N. and elsewhere — working with the TNC on this.”
-LIBYA: WHERE’S GADHAFI? A senior Libyan official tells the AP that the military believes Moammar Gadhafi is hiding in the southern desert, possibly in a vast area near the Algerian border. Revolutionary command spokesman Abdel-Rahman Busin says the fugitive leader is under the protection of the ethnic Tuareg group. “We do believe that he is somewhere in that region and we do know that Tuaregs are supporting him, probably because he’s paying them.” Meanwhile, as rebels continue to surge forward, this video shows a pro-Gadhafi march in one of the towns currently up for grabs.
-YEMEN: SNEAKY PRESIDENT? The Financial Times confirms suspicions that President Saleh’s return home to Yemen came as a surprise to both Saudi and American officials. The Times reports Saleh appears to have tricked his Saudi hosts when he unexpectedly returned home last week, exacerbating the stand-off between his regime and the country’s pro-democracy protest movement. According to a senior US official, Saleh, who had been undergoing medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, “bolted the kingdom under the pretence of going to the airport for something else.”
-SYRIA: MANY DON’T THINK ASSAD IS LEAVING The New York Times reports that as chaos reigns in Syria, many Christians are backing President Assad out of fear that something worse may follow were his regime to fall. As Nasser ATTA notes, unless the demographic support changes, there’s little hope Assad will leave. Meanwhile, Alex MARQUARDT notes that EU leaders withdrew demands for UN sanctions against Syria Wednesday, following veto threats from Security Council members China and Russia.
ISRAELIS: OBAMA REMAINS WITH THEM
For all the criticism Jewish groups have levied at President Obama, Alex MARQUARDT reports from Jerusalem that Israelis believe he’s on their side. According to a new Jerusalem Post poll, when asked about the Obama administration’s policies, 54 percent said they were more favorable toward Israel, 19 percent said they were more pro- Palestinian, and 27 percent called them neutral.
KNOX TRIAL: NEARING THE END
Elizabeth VARGAS and George STEPHANOPOULOS spoke with Amanda Knox’s father and her sisters today. As the trial winds down, Knox’s lawyers will deliver their final arguments on Thursday. A verdict is expected either Saturday or Monday.
BEIRUT: BEAUTY PARLORS FOR 5-YEAR OLDS
As controversial shows like Toddlers & Tiaras gain attention here, Lebanon’s capital is opening beauty parlors for young girls – and getting heat for it. Known (among other things) for its wild night club scene and cosmetic surgery, Beirut is now a hot spot for the very young image-conscious, seeking professional makeovers and hair styling. BBC has a package on these shops featuring five year old Malak.
DREAMLINER LANDS IN TOKYO
Finally, after all the hoopla, the Dreamliner has completed its first flight.
Simon MCGREGOR-WOOD notes a remarkable story from our colleagues at the BBC. It’s about Derek Paravacini, 32, blind and severely autistic, who can play any piece of music after hearing it only once. Tonight he plays at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall – a concerto specially written for him.