News Wrap: Weak Forecasts for Economy, Karzai Confirms Contacts With Taliban
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HARI SREENIVASAN: The latest economic forecast today provided little hope for a surge in growth. The National Association of Business Economics surveyed 46 experts. They predicted only slight improvements through 2011.
That wasn’t enough to give much spark to Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average gained three points to close at 11010. The Nasdaq rose a fraction of a point to close at 2402. More than 58 million Americans will go another year without an increase in Social Security benefits.
The government will announce this week that inflation is so low, there is no need for a cost-of-living adjustment. It’s the second year in a row without an increase.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai confirmed today his government has been talking with Taliban leaders for quite some time. He said they were unofficial contacts, and not formal negotiations.
In Berlin, Germany, the U.S. representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, said the U.S. is aware of the contacts.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE, special U.S. representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan: We’re not involved in those talks, but we support them, provided they follow the red lines that are absolutely critical, because we have a strategic interest here, that anyone deciding to rejoin the political system in Afghanistan has to renounce al-Qaida, lay down their arms, and participate in the constitution of the country.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The fighting in Afghanistan continued without any relief over the weekend. Roadside bombs killed two more NATO troops. That made 26 killed so far in October.
NATO launched an investigation today into the death of a British aid worker, Linda Norgrove, in Afghanistan. She was killed Friday, 13 days after being abducted by militants.
We have a report from Jonathan Rugman of Independent Television News.
JONATHAN RUGMAN: Linda Norgrove was 36 when she died during an attempt by American special forces to rescue her.
At first, the Americans claimed a hostage-taker had killed her by blowing himself up. But, today, an even more awful truth began to emerge, a grim-faced prime minister delaying this press conference until he had told Linda’s grieving father that her rescuers may have been the ones who killed her.
DAVID CAMERON, British prime minister: General Petraeus has since told me that review has revealed evidence to indicate that Linda may not have died at the hands of her captors, as originally believed. That evidence and subsequent interviews with the personnel involved suggest that Linda could have died as a result of a grenade detonated by the task force during the assault.
JONATHAN RUGMAN: Today, the foreign secretary said the aid worker’s captors had links with al-Qaida and that there was no credible on option for a negotiated release. And he defended the Americans, saying they had shielded 10 Afghan women and children during the rescue attempt.
WILLIAM HAGUE, British foreign secretary: Certainly, the initial reading, the initial viewing of the various videos that were taken during this action suggested that it was an explosion caused by the hostage-takers that had cost Linda Norgrove her life. It was on a second viewing by a — different U.S. personnel that it appeared there was another possibility.
JONATHAN RUGMAN: The British aid worker was traveling in a two-car convoy when she and three Afghan colleagues were kidnapped. One of the kidnapped Afghans told us Taliban militants had moved them from a house to a hideout high in the mountains.
Afghan police told Channel 4 News they had been negotiating Linda’s release and that a rescue attempt was a bad idea, because just over a week ago, Linda’s Afghan colleagues were set free after local elders intervened.
Tonight, a British security source said the U.K. was closely involved in the joint operation with the Americans, and that it was a joint decision to rescue Linda Norgrove. “Our assumption was that the captors would kill her,” he said.
HARI SREENIVASAN: In neighboring Pakistan, trucks moved back and forth once again on a major supply route into Afghanistan. The crossing was reopened Sunday, after 11 days. Pakistan had closed it when a U.S. helicopter strike killed two border guards. That led to Taliban attacks on scores of trucks hauling NATO supplies.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered today to renew a freeze on settlement construction in the West Bank. In exchange, he said the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Palestinian officials swiftly rejected the offer. They said it would deny the rights of Arabs living in Israel and refugees who want to return.
The celebrated opera star Joan Sutherland died early Sunday at her home in Geneva, Switzerland. The Australian-born soprano was acclaimed worldwide for her vocal range and control. In 2004, she was one of the recipients of the Kennedy Center honors for outstanding achievement throughout a career that spanned four decades. Joan Sutherland was 83 years old.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.