HEADLINES -- September 17, 2010 at 10:02 AM ET
Friday: Afghans Prepare to Vote Amid Violence; Gulf Well Close to Being Sealed
An Afghan election worker and a donkey carry voting materials to a remote mountainous village in Shotol. Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images.
On the eve of Saturday's parliamentary elections, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is urging citizens to vote despite fears of violence and threats from the Taliban. Afghan police are increasing security, as a spate of violence has hit in recent days, potentially disrupting the election process.
At least 21 people have been killed in election-related violence, including four candidates. On Friday, the Taliban kidnapped Abdul Rahman Hayat, a candidate from Lagman province. On Thursday, 18 election workers were kidnapped. A provincial government spokesman reported local residents said that the workers had been taken by the Taliban.
In the eastern province of Ghazni, a Taliban operative told the Associated Press that the group has warned residents they would be targeted if they left their homes or opened shops anytime Saturday or Sunday.
The AP reports: "Results of the voting for the relatively weak legislature are unlikely to affect Karzai's administration. However, the elections will be an indicator of the strength of the insurgency as NATO and Afghan forces work to secure polling stations in volatile areas."
The elections will also test the integrity of Afghanistan's voting system. The New York Times reports: "Worried that this year's election could provoke the kind of brazen fraud that marred the last one, Afghanistan's recently appointed chairman of the Independent Election Commission made a passionate plea on Thursday for all election officials to police fraud."
Want to track the elections? Wired.com introduces its readers to Afghanistan Election Data, a web-based compendium of security incidents, patterns of previous electoral fraud and demographic stats from across Afghanistan, created by the National Democratic Institute.
"The idea is to give foreign observers visibility into Afghanistan's latest round of polling -- something previous elections lacked, especially last year's brazenly stolen presidential contest. Think of it like a scorecard for judging the conditions of this year's vote," writes Wired's Spencer Ackerman.
PBS Need to Know's Joshua Foust points out five things you need to know about the elections: "Thousands of candidates are running"; "There will be blood"; "The most important voters will be disenfranchised"; "Women will be systematically excluded"; and "Everyone cheats."
United, Continental to Vote on Merger
Voting results of United and Continental shareholders will be released Friday on a deal to create the world's largest airline. If shareholders approve, the $3 billion stock deal could close in two weeks.
The airlines will operate separately for another year until they get permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to merge fleets. The combined carrier will be called United Airlines, be based in Chicago and will be run by Continental CEO Jeff Smisek.
Marketplace's Tony Arnold reports on what the merger would mean for the airline industry and for travellers.
Gulf Oil Well Close to Being Plugged for Good
Five months after the start of the worst oil spill in U.S. history, BP's busted oil well in the Gulf of Mexico is close to being plugged for good. A relief well intersected BP's blown-out well, Retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said late Thursday.
The next step will be to pump mud and cement down through the relief well to seal the ruptured well from the bottom. The final seal should happen by Sunday.