Nation-Building in Afghanistan; Germany’s Woes; Healthcare Antitrust; and Busted Child-Porn Ring

“Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s leader, is trying to build a national army and police to bring some security and stability to his country. But his power is confined to Kabul, the nation’s capital, and even there it is limited. Elsewhere, Afghanistan’s well-armed warlords have no intention of bowing to the central government’s authority.” (From “Brothers in Arms,” The Economist.) “Trouble is brewing again in Afghanistan. On Friday August 9th, a huge explosion near the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad left many dead and scores wounded. Reports are still sketchy. It may have been an accident, but many people understandably suspect a deliberate attack because there have been so many of these in Afghanistan lately. Two days before that, 16 people were reportedly killed when a band of gunmen attacked an Afghan army post on the outskirts of Kabul, the capital. Last week, Afghan authorities reported that they had intercepted a car bomber in the heart of the city. And last month, a vice president in the transitional government was assassinated in broad daylight. All three of the latter incidents have occurred in what is supposed to be the safest place in Afghanistan — Kabul, which is under the control, at least in theory, of President Hamid Karzai.” Should the Allies use their forces to stop the violence? How about the United Nations? No, the U.N. “bluecaps” are a peacekeeping force, and are not vested with any authority in its Constitution to quelch the destabilizing (or, revolutionary) elements of a sovereign nation. Any move by the U.S. to establish a greater military presence will only cause resentment. Besides, the Pentagon does not want to use its boys as a police force for a foreign nation. However, it would if it meant some strategic advantage for an even greater enemy (i.e., China or the Mideast “rogue nations”). The Admistration would vote nay because there are no economic interests it would gain from changing the status quo. Yet, what is the “status quo”? Germany is advising Karzai’s government on police training and recruitment. The UNDP is funding police salaries (around 7,000 presently). At the end of last month, the first battalion trained by the U.S. went into active duty. In five more days, another battalion trained by the French with come into force. The U.S. plans to train seventeen more battalions. So, it’s not as if the world’s governments have forgotten Afghanistan. I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see how it’ll all turn out while things are being done.

In other news, Germany is having economic problems and its Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder is going through an uphill battle for re-election. So, it is clear why he’s against a war between the U.S. and Iraq. He already has enough problems to worry about. Odd that The Economist says Blair of Britain is willing to support a war between U.S. and Iraq, yet the LA Times said otherwise.

In other news, the Federal Trade Commission has increased its antitrust funds to investigate the mergers in the healthcare industry by 50%. According to the N.Y.T., “The commission has tried, largely unsuccessfully, to persuade federal courts to stop hospital mergers. Its new focus will be on determining whether previous mergers have actually benefited patients or simply allowed hospitals to charge more.” It is good to hear more investigations will be taking place. A huge bureaucracy like the FTC is not easily moved by suspicion of wrongdoing. A significant amount of complaints must have been lodged by patients so that the FTC was forced to reallocate more resources for an investigation. The burden of proof lies on the crooked healthcare insurance companies!

Who can deny evil existing in this world when parents molest their own children, take pictures, and distribute them over the Internet? According to the Associated Press, “A group of parents sexually molested their own children and sent pornographic pictures of them worldwide over the Internet… Forty-five children, including 37 Americans ranging from 2 to about 14, were victims and have been removed from the care of those indicted, Customs officials said. Eighty percent of the children were molested by one of their own parents, they said. The indictment alleges that members of the ring, referring to themselves as ‘the club,’ traded messages across the Internet requesting photographs of specific sexual poses. One man asked for an audiotape so he could hear a child crying while being spanked, the indictment said, and another posed naked with an underage girl. In one instance, a man swapped his own children with another pedophile to be abused.” Fucking despicable!

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