Friday’s Headlines: 17 Killed in Kabul; Mixed Reaction to Health Summit

BY Jason M. Breslow  February 26, 2010 at 9:12 AM EST

One day after the Afghan government raised its flag in the Taliban stronghold of Marjah, militants killed at least 17 people in a series of attacks in Kabul.

The suicide attacks targeted two hotels rented by Indian embassy workers and other foreigners, according to the Associated Press. Witnesses said the main blast hit at roughly 6:30 a.m. local time, followed by a series of smaller explosions and gun battles in the streets.

In addition to the dead, at least 32 were wounded in the attack, the first on Kabul since a bold assault briefly paralyzed the city in January.

Reporting from Kabul, NPR’s Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson said the Taliban may be trying to prove it is alive and functioning despite the arrests of more than two dozen senior and mid-level leaders in recent weeks, including the group’s top military commander.

“Whatever the motive, the Taliban — who said they carried out the latest attack — want to demonstrate that they can strike anywhere in the country,” writes the BBC’s Martin Patience. “The movement is determined to show that the Afghan government and Western forces cannot control the security situation across the country and, in this case, the capital,” he says.

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Vice President Joe Biden is set to introduce a package of regulations Friday aimed at protecting workers’ retirement savings. The proposals would shield workers from potential conflicts of interests by prohibiting investment advisors or money managers from steering clients into funds for which they earn a commission on.

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Reaction continues to pour in from Thursday’s bipartisan health care summit hosted by President Barack Obama.

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein says the big story coming out of the talks is that “Democrats are not taking reconciliation off the table, they are not paring back the bill, and they are not extricating themselves from the issue.”

Slate’s John Dickerson writes, “Obama and Republicans seemed reasonable. That’s bad news for Democrats.”

Despite “glimmers of hope for the next set of reformers,” NewsHour commentator David Brooks writes in the New York Times that he still doubts health care reform can be accomplished this year.

The Economist, meanwhile, thinks talks accomplished “more than meets the eye.”

We’ll have lots more on Thursday’s health care summit later, including an interview with Mary Agnes Carey of Kaiser Health News.

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Much of the Northeast is reeling from a pounding blizzard that has dropped as much as 30 inches of snow in some areas and left more than a half-million homes and businesses without power and closed schools.