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Unemployment Rate Rises to 9.8% in November; Korean Tensions Simmer

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released new unemployment data Friday showing the unemployment rate rose to 9.8 percent, the highest in seven months. Employers added 39,000 jobs last month, in contrast with the 172,000 added in October.

The numbers come ahead of the expected increase in consumer spending during the holidays, but the decrease in payrolls may put a damper on a December boost in sales.

The report shows cuts in both private sector and government payrolls.

Leaked Cables Show Concern Over Top Levels of Afghan Government

The strained relationship between the U.S. and Afghan President Hamid Karzai has often been played out in the public eye, and the recently-leaked State Department documents unsurprisingly corroborate further concern about corruption within the top layers of the country’s government.

In one written in October of last year, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry summarizes a meeting with Karzai’s half brother, saying that one of the key dilemmas for the U.S. in Afghanistan is “how to fight corruption and connect the people to their government, when the key government officials are themselves corrupt,” according to the New York Times. The documents also detail how money is often siphoned from U.S. development funds by government officials.

Another cable from Eikenberry shows frustration with the deficiencies of the government slowing progress against the insurgency. He wrote that “without political competence, lasting [counterinsurgency] success . . . will remain one more operation away”, according to the Washington Post.

Incoming South Korean Defense Minister Promises Strikes if Attacked Again

Kim Kwan-jin, a retired general, told members of parliament during his confirmation hearings that if North Korea launches another attack he would “definitely use aircraft” to retaliate and promised more authority for military commanders.

Tensions remain especially high after North Korea shelled Yeonpyeong on Nov. 23, killing four South Koreans. Kim Tae-young, who was defense minister at the time, has since resigned in the face of criticism that the response to the shelling was too restrained.

Special police patrol at the port of Yeonpyeong Island; Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

North Korea has promised a military response to any “provocation,” according to state-controlled television. North Korea’s internal affairs have added to the uncertainty as ailing leader Kim Jong-Il looks to be grooming his son, Kim Jong-Un, to take control of the regime. A South Korean intelligence official warned of the possibility of another attack.

Israeli Wildfire Kills 41, Consumes 3,700 Acres

More than 15,000 people have been evacuated around Haifa in northern Israel as a wildfire continues to spread. At least 41 people have died man of them reportedly in a bus accident as a result of the smoke and flames. International aid is expected as efforts to contain the blaze by air are underway. Israel’s cabinet is meeting in Tel Aviv to coordinate further efforts to the fire, which began on Thursday.

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