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News Wrap: NATO, Afghan Troops Step Up Pressure on Taliban

September 27, 2010 at 4:51 PM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: NATO and Afghan troops stepped up pressure on Taliban fighters in Southern Afghanistan today. It was part of a new offensive to reclaim the insurgent stronghold of Kandahar. The combat phase of Operation Dragon Strike began several days ago. At the same time, NATO helicopters based in Afghanistan carried out weekend raids into Pakistan that killed at least 50 militants. Pakistani officials protested the raids as violations of their sovereignty.

Afghan authorities worked today to win the release of a missing British

aid worker. She and three Afghan colleagues were kidnapped Sunday in an ambush. All are employed by a consulting company that works on projects for the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The local Afghan governor tried to reassure the British government today about the woman’s fate.

ABDUL MARJAN ADEL, governor, Chawkai District (through translator): We

are doing our best. I’m hopeful that we will succeed. We have asked religious leaders and local elders to help us.

And I’m sure that, as Afghans traditionally respect women, she will be

released soon. We have sent a group of elders to talk with these kidnappers. And our struggle will continue until we ensure the safe and quick release of this woman.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Also today, there was word that a brother of Afghan

President Hamid Karzai is now under investigation in the U.S. The Wall Street Journal said federal prosecutors are looking at Mahmood Karzai for possible tax evasion and racketeering. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez made major gains in

Sunday’s elections there. They celebrated after the results came in early today. Chavez and his allies did maintain control of Parliament, but they lost their two-thirds majority. Without that margin, Chavez will no longer be able to rewrite laws unchallenged. He came to power in 1998, and has strongly opposed U.S. policy in the region and the world.

President Obama has signed a bill creating a $30 billion loan fund for

small businesses. Senate Republicans had blocked it for months, warning that it could — it would encourage risky lending. The president said today it would lead to more hiring by small business. He called it a great victory for America’s entrepreneurs.

Earlier, the president rejected House Republicans’ new Pledge to

America. He said it’s not a serious approach to fixing the economy.

BP and local officials in Louisiana clashed today over how the Gulf oil

spill was handled. BP’s chief operating officer, Doug Suttles, told a

presidential commission that the Coast Guard was in charge of the response at all times. But the president of Plaquemines Parish, Billy Nungesser, said he could not get answers from the federal command center in Houma, Louisiana.

BILLY NUNGESSER, president, Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana: BP would say it was the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard would say it’s BP. And we — it became a joke in our EOC that the Houma command, it was the Wizard of Oz, some guy behind a curtain, because we never got a name. We never got a person in charge that we could call and say, hey, are we going get it or not?

HARI SREENIVASAN: Testimony on the spill response continues tomorrow.

The commission plans to issue its report in November.

Wall Street started the week on a losing note, after Friday’s big gains. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 48 points to close at 10812. The Nasdaq was down 11 points to close at 2369.

This was the hottest day ever recorded in downtown Los Angeles. The

National Weather Service reported a reading of 113 degrees just before noon. The old record was 112, set back in 1990. California has been suffering through a heat wave since late last week.