Russia threatens to sink a reboot

Russia threatens to sink a reboot

(” Foreign Policy “
Josh Rogin (Josh Rogin)
Russia USA america button reset
© Reuters

Russia has threatened Obama administration that will stop cooperation on Iran and prevent further deliveries of supplies to Afghanistan if Congress passes a law which has been criticized in the Russian practice of human rights. The White House argues that the Russian-American relations have restarted three positive result: START-3 of nuclear arms reductions, cooperation with Russia in sanctions against Iran and Russia’s agreement (for money) for the transfer of American military supplies through Russian territory to Afghanistan. But now Russia is using two of these three results as leverage, trying to get from an administration that she did not give Congress the adoption of a law prohibiting the issuance of visas to the Russian representatives involved in crimes in the area of human rights. The bill is named for the lawyer Magnitsky , who was tortured and died in a Russian prison in 2009. It is aimed against those who arrested Magnitsky, as well as against other Russians, “guilty of murder without trial, torture and other serious violations of human rights.” The administration acknowledged that sounded Russian threats in its official statement on the bill text which managed to get Cable. “High-level representatives of the Russian government warned us that the answer is asymmetric in the case of adoption of this law, – the document says. - Their argument is that they should not be waiting for support for sanctions against countries such as Iran, North Korea and Libya, at the same time when sanctions are applied against them. Russian officials have stated that the adoption of the law will be threatened, and other areas of bilateral cooperation, including transit cargo to Afghanistan. ” “The Russian Duma has already proposed a bill to impose similar visa restrictions and the freezing of financial assets of those U.S. officials who are deemed guilty Russia in violation of the rights of Russian citizens arrested abroad and brought to trial in the U.S. – said the administration. - We can not judge the scale of such shares, but note that due to the adoption of the Law S. 1039 hit, and other U.S. national security interests “.Washington Post first reported today on a statement of administration and published the news that the State Department quietly switched involved in the murder Magnitsky Russian officials in black visa list. It seems that this blacklist was an attempt to forestall the adoption of the Administration law. “Clinton Secretary of State has taken steps to prohibit entry into the U.S. of those involved in the death of Magnitsky, which set in due to illegal actions. Therefore, the administration sees no need for further legislation, “- said in a statement. But in fact, the proposed bill included not only those who are involved in the case Magnitsky. The Senate version of the bill also included those involved in a variety of Russian affairs on human rights violations, including that of the jailed Russian dissident, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.The main proponent of the bill the Senate Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland (Ben Cardin) said today in an interview with Cable, that he is working to respond to the expressed fears of the administration. He does not know when the bill is considered in committee and at a meeting of the Senate. “I work with the administration, working with the committee, working with my colleagues Senators to decide how to proceed – he said. - The strategy may change due to two reasons: first – what happens in Russia, the second – what happens at the State Department. At the moment, all is changeable. ” Meanwhile, the administration has another problem with a reboot – it should get out of Congress repeal the Jackson-Vanik amendment of 1974, which was adopted as a punishment for the Soviet Union, his treatment of Jewish immigrants. This amendment prevents the granting Russia the status of permanent normal trade relations, which is one of the conditions of its accession to the WTO.Director of Russian National Security Council, Mike McFaul (Mike McFaul), appointed by the administration as ambassador to Moscow said last month New Republic, that it is not against the idea of making some new law to replace the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which could exert pressure on Russia in matters of human rights. “Jackson-Vanik amendment is outdated, – he said. - Let’s create a mechanism for newer, which is more appropriate for 2011. ” It is doubtful that the House of Representatives, with its Republican majority will give Russia the status of permanent normal trade relations. This means that the importance of law as a trump card Magnitsky in the negotiations may be minimal. Either way, it is now clear that the Obama administration attaches great importance to preserving the achievements of restarting and does not want that something in the way. “When we came to power, reboot, and Russia has become one of the key foreign policy goals – said in May reporters deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes (Ben Rhodes). - These relations are for the United States among the most fruitful. “

China protests against U.S. spy flights near its coast: report

(Reuters) - China warned that recent U.S. surveillance flights near the Chinese coast have severely harmed strategic mutual trust and were a major obstacle hindering military ties between the two countries, state media reported Wednesday.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, vowed Monday to press ahead with surveillance flights near China despite opposition from Beijing, following reports that Chinese jets crossed a boundary with Taiwan to pursue a U.S. spy plane.

Two Chinese Sukhoi-27 fighters last month briefly crossed a line in the center of the Taiwan Strait that is considered an unofficial air boundary between both sides. Asian media reported the Chinese jets were attempting to intercept a U.S. U-2 reconnaissance plane.

“We demand that the U.S. respect China’s sovereignty and security interests and take concrete measures to boost a healthy and stable development of military relations,” the Global Times newspaper quoted the Ministry of National Defense as saying.

Xinhua news agency later quoted ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng as saying the reconnaissance missions “have severely undermined mutual trust and remained a major obstacle to the development of military ties.”

The comments followed Mullen’s visit to China two weeks ago, part of efforts to improve ties with the People’s Liberation Army. Their ties have been rocky, with China unhappy with U.S. reconnaissance patrols near its coast and is suspicious of its bases in South Korea and Japan.

China’s rapid military buildup and territorial disputes in the South China Sea have also sparked concerns in the region.

The United States for its part wants greater military transparency from China over its military modernization, and has warned about China’s growing missile and cyber capabilities.

Self-ruled Taiwan, claimed by China as part of its sovereign territory, has been another major irritant in Sino-U.S. military relations. China has been furious about a 2010 package of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan worth up to $6.4 billion.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Ron Popeski)

Are rightwing bloggers to blame for the Norway massacre?

Are rightwing bloggers to blame for the Norway massacre?

In an article titled Killings in Norway Spotlight Anti-Muslim Thought in U.S., the New York Times highlights the connection between Anders Behring Breivik and American bloggers:

The man accused of the killing spree in Norway was deeply influenced by a small group of American bloggers and writers who have warned for years about the threat from Islam, lacing his 1,500-page manifesto with quotations from them…

His manifesto, which denounced Norwegian politicians as failing to defend the country from Islamic influence, quoted Robert Spencer, who operates the Jihad Watch Web site, 64 times, and cited other Western writers who shared his view that Muslim immigrants pose a grave danger to Western culture.

Mr. Breivik frequently cited another blog, Atlas Shrugs, and recommended the Gates of Vienna among Web sites. Pamela Geller, an outspoken critic of Islam who runs Atlas Shrugs, wrote on her blog Sunday that any assertion that she or other antijihad writers bore any responsibility for Mr. Breivik’s actions was “ridiculous.”

Much as I find Geller’s writing execrable, the primary responsibility for the slaughter in Norway rests with the cowardly killer and not the hate-mongers he quotes in his pathetic manifesto.

That’s not to say that there are no consequences for spewing a constant stream of hatred and intolerance.

After the Giffords shooting, I wrote about eliminationism on the right. My focus was on the invective directed by rightwingers at the left, but it also applies to anti-Muslim bigotry rampant on a number of conservative sites…

Hate breeds violence (Originally posted 1/8/11)

Anyone who listens to the relentless liberal-bashing on rightwing radio and other conservative outlets will quickly realize that the level of vitriol and derision directed at the left will inevitably provoke a few individuals to act out. And they do. Often with deadly consequences.

Digby explains:

It is clear to me that most people in journalism and (non-right wing) blogging do not listen to right wing talk radio very often and simply cannot believe it when critics report what they are saying. … I realize that it’s hard to believe that Americans are this obnoxious. It’s probably even harder to believe they are paid hundreds of millions of dollars to promote this bigotry on the radio to millions of other Americans, but they are — they are speaking the language of eliminationism and hate day after day after day. If it soothes you to believe that those who are alarmed by that are the intemperate ones so be it, but it doesn’t change what they are doing or the effect it’s had on our politics.

For context, read The Terrorist Threat: Right-Wing Radicals and the Eliminationist Mindset:

An abortion provider who had been a frequent target of Fox News’ bloviator Bill O’Reilly was gunned down during a church service in Kansas; a mentally disturbed man who believed the “tea-bagging” movement’s contention that the Obama administration is destroying the American economy — and who reportedly owned a number of firearms — withdrew $85,000 from his bank account, said he was part of a plot to assassinate the president and disappeared (he was later captured in Las Vegas); and this week, a white supremacist who was deeply steeped in far-right conspiracism entered the U.S. Holocaust Museum and opened fire, killing a guard before being shot and wounded by security personnel.

The three incidents share a common feature: All of these men thought they were serving a higher moral purpose, that is, defending their country from an insidious “enemy within” as defined by the far right — a “baby-killer,” the Jews who secretly control the world and a president who’s been accused of being aManchurian Candidate-style foreign agent bent on nothing less than the destruction of the American Way.

David Neiwert, a veteran journalist who has covered violent right-wing groups for years, calls the worldview that informs this twisted sense of moral purpose “eliminationism.” It’s the belief that one’s political opponents are not just wrongheaded, misinformed or even acting in bad faith. Eliminationism holds that they are a cancer on the body politic that must be excised — either by separation from the public at large, through censorship or by outright extermination — in order to protect the purity of the nation.

As eliminationist rhetoric becomes increasingly mainstream within the American right — fueled in large part by the wildly overheated discourse found on conservative blogs and talk radio — Neiwert’s new book,The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right, could not have come at a more important time. In it, Neiwert painstakingly details how the rise in eliminationism is a very real threat and points to the dangers of dismissing extreme rhetoric as merely a form of “entertainment.”

Here’s an exceptionally detailed post from Media Matters on another example of rightwing hate breeding violence:

I would have never started watching Fox News if it wasn’t for the fact that Beck was on there. And it was the things that he did, it was the things he exposed that blew my mind.” – Byron Williams

Byron Williams, a 45-year-old ex-felon, exploded onto the national stage in the early morning hours of July 18.

According to a police investigation, Williams opened fire on California Highway Patrol officers who had stopped him on an Oakland freeway for driving erratically. For 12 frantic minutes, Williams traded shots with the police, employing three firearms and a small arsenal of ammunition, including armor-piercing rounds fired from a .308-caliber rifle.

When the smoke cleared, Williams surrendered; the ballistic body armor he was wearing had saved his life. Miraculously, only two of the 10 CHP officers involved in the shootout were injured.

In an affidavit, an Oakland police investigator reported that during an interview at the hospital, Williams “stated that his intention was to start a revolution by traveling to San Francisco and killing people of importance at the Tides Foundation and the ACLU.”

One myth promulgated by the right and the media is that there is equivalence between provocative language on the far left and far right, but that is far from the case:

Even the most cursory perusal of rightwing radio, television, blogs and assorted punditry illustrates a profound distinction: in large measure, the right’s overarching purpose is to stoke hatred of the left, of liberalism. The right’s messaging infrastructure, meticulously constructed and refined over decades, promotes an image of liberals as traitors and America-haters, unworthy of their country and bent on destroying it. There is simply no comparable propaganda effort on the left.

The imbalance is stark: Democrats and liberals rail against the right’s ideas; the right rails against the left’s very existence.

The result is an atmosphere where bigotry thrives, where science and reason are under assault, where progress (associated with progressivism) is frowned upon. And it’s an atmosphere where violence becomes more likely. Pretending this is not the case is to enable it.

The deeply-etched themes that run through American politics reflect the right’s successful framing: Democrats and liberals are wimps, Republicans and conservatives are gun-toting patriots; Democrats and liberals despise their country, Republicans and conservatives are the only ones willing to protect it; Democrats and liberals want to intrude on your freedom, tax you and bankrupt the nation, Republicans and conservatives want to give you freedom, liberty and wealth. The current of eliminationism infusing the right’s worldview is an inevitable outcome of such contorted impressions – it’s a natural impulse to want to destroy that which is (supposedly) destroying you.

Those who foist the false right/left equivalency ignore this reality. Their definition of extremism is necessarily warped, since they have to stretch logic to fabricate a sense of balance. If you want single-payer health care, you’re a liberal extremist, but if you deny global warming, you’re simply a conservative skeptic. As the national discourse moves further and further right, only the most unhinged rightwingers are tagged as extreme, while all it takes for a liberal to be labeled an extremist is to espouse a policy position that is out of the mainstream. That is not to say there are not violent individuals and extremists on the left, but that it is absurd to argue that left and right are comparable in the language of violence and incitement.

When center becomes right and right becomes far right, conservatives can get away with wilder and weirder behavior. Exhortations from radio blatherers to bash liberals are dismissed as “entertainment.” Glenn Beck’s bizarre rantings barely get a yawn.

This has been a long time coming and culpability lies not just with the haters but with those in the media and Democratic establishment who refuse to confront the hate-mongering when they see it. Here’s something I wrote about Ann Coulter in 2006.  It sums up everything I want to say about the ongoing demonization of the left and the resulting potential for violence [The title of Coulter's most recent book is "Demonic"]:

NBC, a major U.S. media outlet, has given Coulter extended play in recent days. They have knowingly given a public forum to a woman who slandered 9/11 widows and who is now on the record identifying John Murtha, a U.S. Congressman, a Marine, as an ideal target for murder. Anybody who watched Ann Coulter’s June 14th appearance on the Tonight Show had to realize that it was a watershed moment in the war between the establishment media and the progressive netroots. It was also a signal to Democrats that liberal ideology can be denigrated with impunity. Had the words “Jew” or “Christian” or “Conservative” been substituted for “Liberal” we’d be waking up to a national scandal.

Never mind that Jay Leno and George Carlin sat like trembling lambs while Coulter spewed gutter-level invective at millions of Americans – we’ve already seen the same obsequiousness from Larry King, Matt Lauer (who ended his faux-debate with Coulter by saying “always fun to have you”) and others. The larger issue here is that despite an uproar from the progressive netroots, NBC saw fit to give Coulter a platform to continue her liberal-scapegoating and to slander women who lost their husbands on 9/11.

It’s hard to deny that Coulter’s words border on incitement. What she says is neither amusing nor smart nor humorous nor factual nor worthy of airing on a major media outlet. It treats a substantial segment of the population as sub-human, as creatures deserving of public scorn and worse (She said Jesus would say that “we are called upon to do battle” on liberalism). Careful not to violate Godwin’s Law, I’ll refrain from the obvious comparisons, but what we’re dealing with here is a dangerous inflection point in American politics. When this kind of opprobrium is peddled by major media outlets, it’s high time that the Democratic establishment and the larger progressive community understand that this is a make-or-break showdown with the media.

Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and their ilk have made an industry out of liberal-bashing. Coulter fits in perfectly with those hate-traffickers. And contrary to the false Michael Moore comparisons made by Leno and others, there is no progressive counterpart to these people on the national stage. The basic thrust of the left’s critique is that George W. Bush and his administration are bad for America. It is in our tradition for citizens to defend the Constitution and to question the actions of their elected leaders. Rightwingers may characterize it as Bush Derangement Syndrome, but the progressive community, for the most part, is going after government corruption and lies, not vilifying an entire group of Americans as Bin Laden-loving traitors.

Nearly five years after I wrote that, only one thing has changed: the problem has gotten worse.

Melissa McEwan nails it:

This is not an argument there is no hatred, no inappropriate and even violent rhetoric, among US leftists. There is. This is evidence that, although violent rhetoric exists among US leftists, it is not remotely on the same scale, and, more importantly, not an institutionally endorsed tactic, as it is among US rightwingers.

This is a fact. It is not debatable.

And there is observably precious little integrity among conservatives in addressing this fact, in the wake of the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

And as long as we continue to play this foolish game of “both sides are just as bad,” and rely on trusty old ablism to dismiss Jared Lee Loughner as a crackpot—dutifully ignoring that people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators; carefully pretending that the existence of people with mental illness who are potentially dangerous somehow absolves us of responsibility for violent rhetoric, as opposed to serving to underline precisely why it’s irresponsible—it will be inevitable again.

The Norway tragedy is the work of an evil individual, and he should burn in hell for his barbaric actions. He is culpable for the carnage he wrought, not the bloggers from whom he drew inspiration. The blood of children is on his hands. Nevertheless, we would be foolish to discount the climate created by the torrent of invective and incitement emanating from America’s right.

Breivik and the Anti-Muslim Right

Breivik and the Anti-Muslim Right 

Posted by Michael Cohen

I, for one, am shocked, shocked to read that anti-Muslim bigots are defending themselvesagainst charges of culpability in the heinous terrorist acts of Anders Behring Breivik, by hiding behind the narrow reed that they never specifically advocated violence against children.

I was even more surprised that my good friend and colleague, Josh Foust, is making a similar argument, claiming that “In reality, no one really understands why they or anyone else behaves the way they do” and that “it does not follow that [anti-Muslim] writers should be linked to and blamed for his attacks. All of them, to a person, have distanced themselves from and condemned Breivik’s actions.” This strikes me as a far too generous read on the damage being wrought, both directly and indirectly, by the propagation of anti-Muslim narratives not just in Europe, but certainly also in the United States.

Certainly these writers don’t deserve direct blame for Breivik’s horrific actions (and it doesn’t mean one should put restrictions on their right to free speech). However the notion that hate-filled words and paranoid assertions about Islamic “takeover” somehow operate in a vacuum and don’t inform, inspire or, above all, validate the views of sociopaths likeBrievik runs counter to well-understood links between extreme and paranoid narratives and activism and violence. Individuals who are prone to paranoia, fetishize violence, demonstrate anti-social or sociopathic behavior or externalize blame can certainly be susceptible to conspiratorial and eliminationist narratives.

Honestly, is anyone really shocked that as anti-Muslim attitudes have increased in recent years (on both sides of the Atlantic) that something like this has happened? It’s like being shocked that as anti-government attitudes took on greater prominence in the early 1990s, Oklahoma City happened. (The only thing most surprising is that Breivik’s actual violence was perpetrated against non-Muslims).

Indeed, Breivik’s own manifesto, apes the hate-filled fear mongering of Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer and other anti-Muslim bigots. He cites both writers and other anti-Islamistfearmongers in his 1,500 page manifesto that was released at approximately the same moment that he was engaging in one of the worst acts of mass violence in Europe since WWII. He is, as Toby Archer in Foreign Policy said a clear product of “predominantly web-based community of anti-Muslim, anti-government, and anti-immigration bloggers, writers, and activists.” Again, Breivik and his views didn’t just emerge from the ether.

Similarly as Brian Fishman nicely points out, Breivik’s actions coincide with the rise of radical right extremists and incipient revanchist nationalism across Europe. It stretches credulity to argue that this is all just a coincidence or that Breivik’s actions were in no way influenced or his beliefs validated by extremist narratives about Islam andmulti-culturalism that present these as some sort of existential threat to European civilization. Indeed, at his court hearing today Breivik plead not guilty, because he “believes that he needed to carry out these acts to save Norway” and western Europe from “cultural Marxism and Muslim domination.”

Of course, such rhetoric is clearly not restricted to Islam – and especially in the UnitedStates. We see it when pro-life advocates describe abortion doctors as “murderers”; we see it when political leaders warn that their opponents are seeking to ‘destroy America’; we see it when some of those same leaders talk about their political opponents with the use of eliminationist rhetoric. Stoking hatred and presenting opponents as not simply wrong, but immoral is the sort of speech that is and should be protected – but also should be recognized for what it is, deeply dangerous. (Peter Daou has a great post on this here). After the Gabrielle Giffords a lot of commentators jumped to false conclusions about what drove Jared Loughner to violence – but in a sense trying to find that connection was almost secondary in importance. Loughner may not have been influenced by Sarah Palin puttingcrosshairs over the names of vulnerable Democratic officeholders; it doesn’t mean such speech isn’t reckless and irresponsible.

Again, none of this means that those who might have inspired or influenced Breivik are responsible for his actions. And we certainly can’t know for sure if Breivik would have acted the way he did even if not for the anti-Muslims rantings of others (though it does appear on the surface that these words served as validation for his own toxic views).

But it also doesn’t mean that we should be blind to the consequences of hate-filled language.

If anything it should lead to greater scrutiny of how such words are being interpreted and even harsher condemnation for them.  And that goes for both hate-mongers and political leaders, like the majority of Republicans running for President who have warned of creeping sharia – a stance that casually plays on anti-Muslim attitudes for electoral gain. Arguing that bigoted and prejudice speech is a value neutral exercise because it is not accompanied by calls for violence is, for a lack of a better term, a bit of cop-out.

Speech matters and those who would traffic in eliminationist, extremist narratives don’t get a pass when violent psychopaths take such rhetoric to a not illogical, violent end.

Suicide bomber kills Kandahar city mayor, Ally of Wali Karzai

Suicide bomber kills Kandahar city mayor

Taliban claims responsibility for fatal attack on Ghulam Haidar Hameedi by man who hid explosives in his turban.
Ucciso da un kamikaze il sindaco di Kandahar source
The mayor of Kandahar Hamidi  

The mayor of Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar city has been killed in a suicide bombing, provincial officials say.

Ghulam Haidar Hameedi was killed when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives in a corridor near Hamidi’s office, Zalmay Ayoubi, the spokesperson for the Kandahar governor, said on Wednesday.

“It appears the bomber was carrying the bomb in his turban,” Ayoubi said.

Abdul Razaq, the Kandahar police chief, said Hameedi was meeting some elders from a district of Kandahar when one of them got close to the target and detonated a bomb hidden in his turban.

Bismullah Afghan Mal, a member of the upper house of parliament from Kandahar, also confirmed Hameedi’s death.

Taliban’s claim

Claiming responsibility for the attack, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, the Taliban spokesperson, told the Associated Press news agency that Hameedi had ordered the destruction of homes that city officials claimed had been illegally constructed.

Ahmadi said the Taliban killed him to avenge the deaths of two children who they allege were killed during the demolition work.

Afghanistan’s Taliban has been involved in the many prominent assassinations in the recent past, and Hameedi’s killing is the third assassination of a major political figure in the last one month.

Ryan Crocker, the new US ambassador to Afghanistan, and General John Allen, the new commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, both condemned the killing.

“It is an indication of the challenges ahead,” Crocker said during his first briefing at the US embassy in Kabul.

He said the recent string of assassinations could be an indication that the Taliban “have been damaged to the point that they are resorting to terrorist attacks.

“Clearly these are horrific attacks but they can also be interpreted as a sign of organisational weakness on the part of the adversary”.

Hameedi’s death comes two weeks after President Hamid Karzai’s half-brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai- one of the most powerful men in southern Afghanistan – was assassinated at his home.

Hameedi, who lived in the US for nearly two decades before returning to Afghanistan after the collapse of the Taliban in 2001, was considered to be Wali Karzai’s ally in Kandahar.

Power vacuum

Last week, Karzai’s inner circle suffered another blow when assailants strapped with explosives killed Jan Mohammad Khan, an adviser on tribal issues and a former governor of Uruzgan province in the south.

A member of parliament also was killed in the July 17 attack at Khan’s home in Kabul.

Hameedi’s killing came amid a dangerous power vacuum after Ahmad Wali’s death.

At a funeral service for Ahmad Wali, a suicide attacker killed a senior religious leader and at least four other people.

Barack Obama’s announcement in June of phased pullout of US troops seems to have further emboldened the Taliban, who have stepped up violence against senior officials.

Kandahar was the site of over half of all targeted killings in Afghanistan between April and June, a UN report said.

 

The Truth Is Out–Republicans Are Terrible At Basic Math

Debt crisis: Republicans scramble to rewrite plan following figures bungle

Embarrassment for Congress speaker John Boehner after budget office finds $350bn hole in his original proposal

guardian.co.uk

US House Speaker John Boehner

John Boehner’s miscalculation has given the US debt crisis another twist. Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters

The US debt crisis has escalated after Republicans were forced to rewrite their proposal to lift the debt ceiling, because they miscalculated how much the original plan would cut spending.

In an embarrassing development for John Boehner, the Republican Congress speaker, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) ruled on Tuesday night that his bill would have only cut spending by $850bn (£517bn)over the next decade, not the $1.2tn he had aimed for. Republicans are now racing to rewrite the legislation, and have pushed back a congressional vote on the plan from Wednesday to Thursday at the earliest.

Although Boehner was already struggling to find support for his package, the delay increases the risk that Washington will fail to agree a deal toraise the debt ceiling before 2 August, when the federal government is expected to run out of money.

The dollar dropped against other currencies on Wednesday morning as investors faced the possibility that America could default. Several economists believe the country will lose its AAA credit rating within months, which would push up its borrowing costs, even if the $14.3tn debt ceiling is increased in time.

The White House said on Tuesday it was working with Congress to devise a “Plan B” that might attract enough support. The two sides have been deeply divided for weeks, with Republicans demanding deep spending cuts and Democrats anxious to include tax rises as a major part of the deal.

The US people may be losing patience with their political leaders. The congressional telephone system was swamped with calls from the public on Tuesday, coming close to collapse. The websites of several members of Congress have crashed this week, after president Obama urged Americans to make their voices heard.

Across the globe, there is growing astonishment that the world’s biggest economy is on the brink of a technical default because its elected leaders cannot hammer out a deal. Nouriel Roubini, the leading economics professor, said there was disbelief in China. “Biggest concern in meetings in Hong Kong: will the US default on its debt? Folks here are shocked by the dysfunctional US political system,” he tweeted from Shanghai.

In London, the FTSE 100 fell 39 points at the start of trading to 5890, following widespread losses in Asia overnight. Traders are braced for the debt ceiling negotiations to go right to the wire.

“Equity markets remain on the back foot as the US debt impasse continues to dominate the agenda. The political spat continues and as a result the expectation is that negotiations will be ongoing into next week, right up to that August 2nd deadline,” said Chris Weston, Institutional trader at IG Markets.

Five French UNIFIL Troops Hurt in Sidon Blast

Five French UNIFIL Troops Hurt in Sidon Blast

by Naharnet Newsdesk

Five French soldiers serving with the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) were wounded on Tuesday, one seriously, in a roadside bomb attack in the southern city of Sidon, a UNIFIL spokesman told Agence France Presse.

“According to preliminary reports, at around 6:00 pm today (1500 GMT) an explosion targeted a UNIFIL convoy along the highway at Sidon,” said UNIFIL spokesman Neeraj Singh.

“Five UNIFIL peacekeepers were injured in the explosion. Three of the injured were transported to hospital for treatment.”

For its part, state-run National News Agency said the explosion occurred near the Siniq Bridge at Sidon’s southern entrance.

One of the soldiers taken to hospital was in serious condition with burns to his face and shrapnel in one eye, an official at Hammoud Hospital in Sidon told AFP.

The second soldier was slightly wounded in his left eye, the official added, asking not to be named. The third soldier was released and sent back to base, he said.

An army spokesman told AFP the bomb was placed on the side of the road and was triggered as the vehicle — a troop carrier — drove by.

The front of the vehicle was badly damaged and several parts were blown 20 to 30 meters by the force of the blast.

Several French peacekeepers could be seen covered in dust near the site of the explosion.

UNIFIL forensic experts rushed to the scene along with Lebanese troops, who cordoned off the area and began gathering evidence.

“We are working in coordination with the Lebanese army to determine the circumstances of the incident,” Singh said.

Prime Minister Najib Miqati, who is vacationing in France, telephoned Interior Minister Marwan Charbel and Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi, asking them to open an immediate probe into the bombing, his office said.

Miqati also called French Ambassador to Lebanon Denis Pietton to condemn the attack.

On May 27 six Italian peacekeepers were wounded — two of them seriously — along with two civilians in a similar roadside bomb explosion near Sidon.

The UNIFIL, a multinational force which currently has 12,000 troops stationed in south Lebanon, was initially set up to monitor Lebanon’s border with Israel.

It was expanded after a devastating 2006 war between the Jewish state and Hizbullah.

The force has been the target of three other unclaimed attacks, the latest in January 2008 when two Irish officers were wounded by a roadside bomb.

In the deadliest incident, three Spanish and three Colombian peacekeepers were killed in June of 2007 when a booby-trapped car exploded as their patrol vehicle drove by.