Friday’s Headlines: Marines Target Taliban Snipers; States to Get More Aid

BY Jason M. Breslow  February 19, 2010 at 9:11 AM EST

The U.S. led offensive through a Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan entered its seventh day Friday as elite teams of Marines were dropped by helicopter behind enemy lines to target snipers.

As Marines take on Taliban marksmen in and around Marjah, the Associated Press reports that other squads of U.S. and Afghan forces were marching south in a bid to link up with Marine outposts there. A NATO statement said forces were still meeting “some resistance.”

NATO also confirmed the deaths of six coalition forces on Thursday, bringing the death toll so far to 11 in the offensive.

Meantime, the New York Times reports that the capture of the Taliban’s top military commander during a raid in Karachi, Pakistan, last month appears to have been an accidental prize. According to the New York Times, American and Pakistani intelligence forces thought they were going after Taliban-linked militants in the raid.

“Only after a careful process of identification did Pakistani and American officials realize they had captured Mullah Baradar himself, the man who had long overseen the Taliban insurgency against American, NATO and Afghan troops in Afghanistan,” the paper reports.

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President Barack Obama is in Las Vegas, where he is expected to announce an additional $1.5 billion in aid to states hardest hit by the housing crisis. The money will go to states where housing prices have dropped more than 20 percent since the start of the crisis.

He’ll make the announcement alongside embattled Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Politico suggests that the two men are increasingly “bound by necessity.” The president “needs Harry Reid to get his legislative agenda through the Senate,” according to Politico, while “Reid needs Obama for something more – his political survival.”

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Consumer prices rose less than expected in January, edging up 0.2 percent according to a Commerce Department report out Friday. Despite the uptick, the Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Economics blog advises not to “mistake a jump in Friday’s consumer-price data as the start of an inflationary episode.”

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Elsewhere in economic news, the Federal Reserve announced late Thursday it was raising the rate it charges banks for emergency loans.

The announcement sent stock prices down in early trading Friday, while lifting the value of the dollar against the euro. The Fed emphasized that the move did not signal a rise in interest rates for businesses or consumers. However, as Dan Cook, a senior market analyst with IG Markets, told Marketplace’s Jeremy Hobson, the rate hike “might signal that the Fed’s not going to wait, as they traditionally have, for employment to substantially improve, that they might move ahead faster than a lot of people initially suspected.”

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Two bodies have been recovered at the IRS building in Austin, Texas, where a pilot intentionally crashed his small plane. Shortly before the crash Thursday, the pilot of the plane, Andrew Joseph Stack, posted a purported suicide note on his Web site saying “desperate times call for desperate measures.”

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African Union leaders have condemned the military coup in uranium-rich Niger on Wednesday that removed President Mamadou Tandja from office. Tandja sparked a political crisis in August when he amended Niger’s constitution to remove presidential term limits.

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In the world of sports, American Evan Lysacek won the gold medal in the men’s figure skating competition at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. But was it a win for athleticism or for art?

In golf, Tiger Woods is set to address reporters Friday about his marital infidelity. Richard Sandomir of the New York Times calls the planned mea culpa part of a “dubious media strategy” by Woods.