Washington Extra – Analyze This

October 27, 2010

A confusing labyrinth. That is how the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) described the American development effort in Afghanistan, in a damning report on how $17.7 billion in aid and reconstruction money was doled out to 7,000 contractors between 2007 and 2009 with little or no coordination.kabul

With all the criticism that surrounds the Afghan government and the tactics employed by the U.S. military, the major shortcomings in the West’s development effort in Afghanistan sometimes seem to get too little attention. The U.S. Special Representative to the region Richard Holbrooke once said he had “never seen anything remotely resembling the mess” he inherited in terms of the development effort, while former Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani once described the aid effort to me as “dysfunctional and lacking accountability.” It is a view shared by many experts, who see it as a major reason why the West has failed to win more Afghan hearts and minds, and why things are now not going as well as President Barack Obama would have hoped.

Incredibly, SIGAR had tried to analyze contracting in Afghanistan for the years 2002-7, but found much of the data the government agencies had compiled prior to 2007 was “too poor to be analyzed.”

Here are our top stories today…

Tea Party candidates only a Democrat could love

Last spring, Democrats in Pennsylvania signed up potential voters by citing a Tea Party candidate’s long experience in government and underscoring his pro-choice record. Across the country, Democratic congressional candidates and party activists and operatives have worked behind the scenes to support Tea Party activists to run as third party candidates. The calculation is simple: by siphoning off votes from their Republican opponents, they hope to swing the outcome of a tight election in their favor.

For more of this special report by Murray Waas, read here.

Midterm losses could get personal for Obama

Obama’s famously deliberative nature will be critical to how he handles the new political realities in the second half of his term, as Republicans try to freeze his agenda. He is already showing signs of soul-searching about what’s gone wrong and has offered clues to how he might repackage himself — what some in the media have dubbed “Obama 2.0.”

For more of this story by Matt Spetalnick, read here.

For a factbox on US elections for Congress, as well as state and local offices, read here.

India says fears militant attack during Obama visit

India fears separatists in Kashmir could stage attacks during President Obama’s visit to draw attention to the region, where a two-decade old revolt against New Delhi has revived. Militants killed 35 Sikhs in Kashmir when President Bill Clinton visited India. “That’s the type of fear we have, that innocent civilians will be killed,” India’s top internal security official said.

For more of this story, read here.

Man arrested for plotting to attack DC metro

A Virginia man who allegedly believed he was helping al Qaeda plan bombings at Washington-area Metrorail stations was arrested on Wednesday. Officials said that the public was never in danger and that authorities had closely monitored Ahmed’s activities until his arrest. Earlier this month, the United States and Britain warned of an increased risk of terrorist attacks in Europe, with Washington saying al Qaeda might target transport infrastructure.

For more of this story by Tabassum Zakaria, read here.

Elections to shape US mortgage reform, someday

U.S. elections on Tuesday will help answer one of the biggest financial question marks looming over Washington: How to fix the nation’s $10 trillion housing market. But don’t expect quick action from Congress — no matter which party comes out the winner.

For a Q&A by Kevin Drawbaugh on how elections could impact mortgage reform, read here.

US Treasury: Foreclosure woes not systemic threat

The U.S. Treasury does not see a systemic financial threat from the risk that banks will be forced to buy back mortgage securities due to faulty foreclosure documents. But the foreclosure controversy could put downward pressure on home prices by delaying the sale of thousands of distressed properties.

For more of this story by David Lawder, read here.

Mixed U.S. data confirm slow economic growth path

Demand for a range of long-lasting manufactured goods unexpectedly fell last month and a gauge of business spending plans also dropped, underscoring the economic recovery’s tepid pace. “You are seeing a convergence in the different sectors of the economy around the slow-growth scenario,” said one analyst.

For more of this story by Lucia Mutikani, read here.

U.S. ends inquiry on Google’s Street View data grab

U.S. regulators looking at Google Inc’s (GOOG.O) data grab by “Street View” cars have decided to end their inquiry, noting improvements that the search company has made to build consumer privacy into its corporate structure.

For more on this story by Diane Bartz, read here.

Law empowers SEC to go after more US market players

A provision deep in the 2,323-page Dodd-Frank law empowers the SEC to bring many more cases for monetary penalties in administrative-law courts, where the rules are more favorable to the government than in federal court. Several constitutional and other due-process protections that are available to defendants in federal court — from the right to demand a jury trial to broad discovery rights — don’t exist in administrative courts.

For more of this story, which originally appeared on the Westlaw News & Insight website, read here.

What we are blogging…

When politics feels like a bad flight

He sounded like someone bombarded by too many election ads. “I call it the perfect storm of bad manners,” The former JetBlue flight attendant who quit his job by jumping down an emergency chute, beer in hand, told Larry King about his job. “I was angry at all of it.” But his words could easily have described what some think about the tone of the midterm campaign – like audience members who booed Republican California gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman for refusing to stop TV ads attacking Jerry Brown.

For David Morgan’s full post, read here.

Green energy aspirations for Obama’s India visit

When Barack Obama heads for India next month, he’ll be carrying a heavy policy agenda — questions over the handling of nuclear material, the outsourcing of U.S. jobs and India’s status as a growing economic power, along with regional relations with Pakistan and Afghanistan. But Rajendra Pachauri, the Nobel Peace laureate who heads the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, hopes the U.S. president has time to focus on clean energy too.

For Deborah Zabarenko’s full post, read here.

From elsewhere…

NY bedbug epidemic spreads to the United Nations

New York City’s bedbug epidemic has spread to yet another landmark — the United Nations. The U.N. press office said a bedbug-sniffing dog had confirmed the presence of bedbugs in furniture in the basement of the Dag Hammarskjold Library, where the offices of the team overseeing the U.N. headquarters $1.9 billion renovation project are housed. “This furniture has been moved to a part of the building not occupied by staff to facilitate fumigation,” it said.

For more of this story, read here.

For more stories from our Washington correspondents visit www.reuters.com and stay informed.

Photo Credits:  REUTERS/ Omar Sobhani (The  gutted shell of the Ali Abad training hospital in  May 2008. Reconstruction of the hospital, built 70 years ago, began in 2005.)

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