Afghanistan to cost more than Marshall Plan, watchdog says

KABUL, Afghanistan — By the time its combat troops depart at the end of 2014, the United States will have appropriated more money trying to fix Afghanistan than it did on the Marshall Plan that helped Europe recover economically after World War II, according to an analysis by a government watchdog.The comparison in the latest quarterly report of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction draws attention to the mixed results of U.S. investments in Afghanistan — $104 billion appropriated since 2002 — versus the success of the Marshall Plan, which is credited with helping to spur the economic revival of Western Europe.The Marshall Plan cost about $13.3 billion at the time, but dollars during the 1950s could purchase much more than today’s dollars. Adjusting for inflation and stated in today’s dollars, the Marshall Plan investment would be equal to $103.4 billion, SIGAR concluded. Using the same adjustments, the SIGAR report, calculated that the actual investment in Afghanistan equals more than $109 billion. The intent and focus of the two programs — one launched in the midst of war and the other after peace was restored — differ significantly, making comparisons difficult. Although the U.S. investment in Afghanistan has not brought extensive change, nonetheless there have been improvements that should be maintained, analysts say. This will require continued commitment by the U.S. and other countries, even after combat troops withdraw.Much of the Marshall Plan funding was spent on imports such as food, machinery, fertilizer and other items needed in the post-war reconstruction of Europe, which had been devastated in the war. By the early 1950s, economic output in most West European nations had surpassed pre-war levels.The Taliban insurgency remains entrenched and many reports indicate it is making gains as international combat troops depart. Civilian casualties are rising to record levels, and Afghanistan itself is regularly listed as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

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WTO talks:NDA’s radio silence takes the toll on India’s stance

The NDA government may be suffering the consequences of its near zero-engagement policy with media when it comes to the current WTO negotiations. Unwilling to communicate at the political level and choking the usual routes of briefings that take place during such events, it has got the media drawing India out as the loony lone-ranger at the WTO negotiations in Geneva.It is a lone ranger alright. But it’s only trying to pull back some of the negotiating chips it gave away for nothing under the Bali package. The negotiations of the Bali package saw India (under the UPA government) do a last minute u-turn on its allies and agree with the US to have a shorter deadline of one year to seal the Trade Facilitation pact and a four year deadline to decide the deal on minimum support price for farmers. It was an unbalanced package that promises to make the Doha Development round agenda diminish further with time. This broke trust between India and other allied developing countries. Therefore India stands as a lone figure right now in Geneva. The UPA political leadership, unable to decide what sitting at the international power-table really required it to do, remained equivocal about what it was looking for at such negotiations– friendly pow-wows with world leaders or hard-bargained additional gains from the talks. In many of these hard-nosed scuffles, its diplomats went with the express or unwritten rule – do not be seen standing alone and do not be seen ‘obstructing’ a deal. They always came back with a deal, be it climate change or WTO, only too often to assess later that India had lost more than it had gained. This was the case with the Bali rounds of WTO talks too. The next 48 hours will show whether the new government was only sabre-rattling or if it is better able to play the multinational negotiations firmly. It’s hard to see India come back from Geneva with more than some face-saving assurances unless it is willing to stand alone this year, force the talks to reset the balance and recompose its group of allies. But as much, Narendra Modi’s government faces the challenge of explaining and engaging with the media on the final results in detail and from a high enough political podium.

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Qatar Central Bank introduces mechanism to insure deposits

The Qatar Central Bank (QCB) recently introduced several new measures to strengthen the regulations governing the banking and insurance sectors and financial markets. The measures, intended to enhance economic growth and develop Qatar’s financial sector, include the introduction of a mechanism to insure customer deposits in Qatari banks. Business and investor communities welcomed this measure, saying it is a positive step that will raise the level of confidence among investors and customers in the country’s banking system.

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TOXIC Secret Behind Dr. Andrew Weil BPA Free Baby Bottles

Dr. Andrew Weil, popular TV health guru and author of several New York Times (NYT) bestselling books, speaks out against the use of bisphenol A (BPA) and released a product line of BPA-free products four years ago targeted at infants and children that contains a dangerous chemical.The Weil Baby line offers baby bottles and silicone nipples that are BPA-free and use the copolyester polymer called Tritan®EX401 as a substitute.Tritan, manufactured by Eastman Chemical Company (ECC), is a popular chemical standby for BPA in in BPA-free products and is assumed safe; however Tritan has a wide range of adverse effects such as:• Severe dizziness
• Drowsiness
• Excitability
• Headaches
• Anxiety
• Vomiting
• Nervousness
• Sleep disorders
• Urinary dysfunction
• Heart palpitations
• Hallucinations
• Seizures
• Tremors
• Macular disorders

In a 2010 thesis study conducted by Paul John Dornath entitled, “Analysis of Chemical Leaching from Common Consumer Plastic Bottles Under High Stress Conditions” it was shown that Tritan “is a polymer made up of two compounds phosgene and BPA.”Because of this basic chemical constituency, Tritan acts as an endocrine disruptor and would adversely affect the human body just as BPA:• Breast cancer
• Prostate cancer
• Infertility
• Early puberty
• Neurological disorders
• Immune system compromises

According to Key Baby LLC, the manufacturer of the Weil Baby product line, their Tritan-based baby bottles are “dishwasher safe” which makes them a good choice for “infant-care products”.

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Prithviraj Chavan accuses Narendra Modi of being autocratic

Mumbai: Accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of practising “silence” since assuming power, Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan on Tuesday said his style of governance was “autocratic” which was “not very good” for a healthy democracy. He claimed that people are “already disillusioned” with the Modi government and cited the recent win of the Congress in Uttarakhand bypolls as “an indication that people have realised their mistake”.Chavan told PTI that Congress knew that Modi’s style of running Gujarat was always autocratic and even in the election campaign, the party had said “we are afraid that there will be a very autocratic government in Delhi and now it is coming to light”. “Whether it is how the ministers are treated, whether it is who is in the inner core team, what autonomy the ministers get,” he said. He called the Prime Minister “Maunendra Modi” (silent) for not taking people into confidence or articulating his viewpoints on important issues. “The point is that Modi never took stand even during elections. He never articulated his vision on foreign policy, economy, social issues or even the favourite theme of the RSS, the common civil code, Article 370 and Ram Mandir. He just came and sold a dream of Modi sarkar,” Chavan told PTI in an interview. He said there was anger against the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government over various issues and it was utilised by Modi to sell himself. “And he did sell himself himself like selling a product, a toothpaste or soap. Excellent marketing technique, massive advertisement and all,” he said. Chavan said people have already started comparing the Congress rule, not just the UPA rule, where the “ministers had certain respect and responsibility which seems to be missing”. “There is also a question of favourites who are running this show in Delhi. Not very good for healthy democracy,” Chavan said.

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Phil McManus: Past policies pushing child migration

By Phil McManus

Notably missing was a justice lens informed by the historically troubled relations between the U.S. and Central America. In its absence, questions about what unfathomable levels of violence lead parents to send their kids on such a dangerous journey, what is causing that violence, and how to reduce it are difficult to answer.Even the case of those primarily fleeing poverty begs the question: Historically, has U.S. policy been aimed at reducing disparities or, instead, taking advantage of them to access cheap labor and resources? Nine years after the US pushed through the Central America Free Trade Agreement, the fleeing children’s utter lack of hope in their future at home (an attitude obviously shared by the gangs some are fleeing) suggests the latter.Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras account for 74 percent of the surge in child migration, Part of its self-proclaimed “backyard,” the U.S. has treated these countries as assets to be exploited. U.S. efforts to undermine democracy were spectacularly illustrated in Guatemala. Its “democratic spring” was ended by a CIA coup in 1954. A bloody, three-decade civil war followed. Hundreds of thousands, mostly noncombatants, were killed. Guatemala today is still characterized by extreme social inequality, pervasive drug violence and corruption, and impunity for human rights violations. During El Salvador’s civil war in the 1980s, the U.S. funded a rapacious military in the service of the economic elite (the so-called “14 families”). Over 75,000 were killed. More than a half-million Salvadorans fled to the U.S. Because the military they were fleeing was U.S.-funded, very few received asylum. Left to fend for themselves, some joined gangs. When violent gangsters were deported to El Salvador, they brought their gangs with them.The term “banana republic” originated from the fact that the United Fruit Company, with its close ties to the U.S. government, effectively ran Honduras. When Honduran President Zelaya, a son of the oligarchy, turned populist and advocated for reform, the jilted oligarchy staged the 2009 coup. Since then, and while U.S. aid has continued to flow, protests have been violently repressed, at least 30 journalists have been murdered, Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world, and pervasive institutional corruption makes the government itself look like a gang.

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Members of Romanian minority in Ukraine refuse to go to war in East

Members of Romanian minority in Ukrainean district of Cernauti blocked a national road, at the end of the last week, saying they refuse to go to war in Eastern Ukraine. Hundreds of men, some of them previously serving in the Ukrainean Army have recently received orders of mobilization.„We cannot accept to be used as human shields in the conflict against Russian mercenaries”, said a protester, according to Romanian media.„Among our men , there are young people without any military training, while the pro-Russians in the East are well trained and equipped, mercenaries from Russia or Chechnia”, a Romanian minority representative, Vasile Tarateanu, said.Some of the young potential recruits even think of leaving the country, if the Government still wants to involve them in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.Cernauti (or Chernivtsy) is a region located at the border with Romania, in Northern Bukovina. The region was occupied by the Soviet Union during the Second World War.

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