Pakistan In Negotiations With Taliban

Pakistani officials, who recently have grown tired of American military influence in their region, have begun preliminary peace talks with members of the Taliban, according to reports.

Pakistani Taliban members have waged war against the government of the country over the past several years, according to The Associated Press. Recently, the Taliban have increased the number of suicide bombings and attacks in the region, and many Pakistanis believe the increase is related to the government cooperating with the United States. It is believed that a peace deal between Pakistanis and the group could represent the best hope of ending years of fighting that has killed thousands of security personnel and civilians.

The AP reported that U.S. military officials may be wary of the peace deals, since they likely will create a vast safe haven in the country for terrorist planners. However, the United States recently sought a similar peace agreement with the Afghan Taliban, so public denouncement of the talks is unlikely. The Pakistani Taliban trained the Pakistani-American who carried out a failed car bombing in New York’s Times Square in 2010.

On Saturday, a Pakistani Taliban spokesman told the AP that the group has demanded the Pakistani government cut ties with the United States if it wants to make peace with the militants.

Obama Administration Tightens Sanctions On Iran

The Administration of President Barack Obama announced earlier in the week that the United States will team with Britain and Canada in enacting tough economic sanctions in an effort to pressure Tehran to halt its suspected nuclear weapons program.

The coordinated actions represent the first direct response to the U.N. nuclear agency’s recent report suggesting Iran is working toward the development of atomic weapons, according to The Associated Press.

The U.N. report sparked increased international discussion over how to halt the Iranian threat, with Obama pressing the leaders of Russia and China a little more than a week ago to join the United States and its partners in taking action.

The Iranian nuclear program has been a hot topic in headlines of late and a key talking point among the GOP Presidential primary candidates, many of whom view Obama’s Iranian foreign policy as a failure. At a Nov. 12 debate, many of the candidates called for a military strike against Iran as a means by which to resolve the issue.

Obama has taken an approach to the country that reflects former President George W. Bush’s Iranian foreign policy. Obama believes a military strike will only postpone Iran’s ability to acquire nuclear weapons and is not worth the risk to the United States or its allies at this time.

NYC Authorities Nab Would-Be Terrorist

The New York Police Department’s anti-terrorism unit arrested an alleged terrorist on Saturday. Police say he had planned to bomb police departments, post offices and returning U.S. soldiers near the city.

The suspect, 27-year-old Jose Pimentel, is described as an al-Qaida sympathizer who had a fascination with Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein and even referred to himself as Osama Hussein, according to Infowars.

Authorities said on Sunday that the Dominican Republic native was using his New York apartment as a factory for making bombs to use in attacks.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the suspect’s uncle, who shared the apartment, said that the young man had converted to Islam two years ago. Authorities said the suspect was inspired by the American-born al-Qaida preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, and had accelerated a plot to make bombs after al-Awlaki was killed in Yemen in September.

According to officials, Pimentel ran a blog, trueislam1.com, where he published articles discussing Islamic religious issues. The site contains sections dedicated to such things as defining what jihad means to Muslims and why it is superior to traditional war.

The terrorist plotter followed bomb-making instructions from Inspire Magazine, an al-Qaida propaganda outlet, authorities said.

Supercommittee Plays Blame Game

As many pundits prepare to name the current Congress the “worst ever,” the Congressional budget supercommittee has spent its final hours discussing how to publicly admit its failure rather than how to reach a deficit-reduction compromise.

According to The Washington Post, members of the special deficit-reduction committee spent last weekend casting blame, pointing fingers and bracing for the reaction of its failure from financial markets.

Many supercommittee members spent Sunday making rounds on political talk shows to blame their colleagues on the other side of the aisle for the most recent failure and promising that the automatic spending cuts that will be implemented in 2013 will be monitored closely.

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) accused Republicans of blocking progress by demanding that George W. Bush’s tax cuts remain in place and refusing to administer tax increases on wealthy Americans. Kerry said: “We didn’t come here to do another tax cut to the wealthiest people while we’re [asking] fixed-income seniors to ante up more, people on Medicaid who are poor to ante up more.”

Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona was among the Republicans who said Democrats risked throwing the economy back into a recession for just the opposite reason, using the supercommittee’s mandate to raise taxes on small businesses and other drivers of job creation.

“Our Democratic friends said we won’t cut one dollar more without raising taxes,” Kyl told CNN. “That tells you a lot about the ethos in Washington. We went into the exercise to try to reduce federal government spending. What we get from the other side is, no, we won’t make more cuts unless you raise taxes.”

China: Global Economic Recovery Starts At Home

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan said on Monday that the global economic outlook is extremely grim, and that China will seek to bolster its own economy as the rest of the world lags behind.

Wang said he believes an “unbalanced” global recovery is the best way to approach the global financial crises and that his country is looking to invest 10 trillion yuan ($1.7 trillion) to spark its own economic growth, according to Reuters.

The investment amount is more than two times larger than China’s 4 trillion yuan stimulus package launched during the global financial crisis plans first reported by Reuters a year ago.

Wang suggested that the United States take note of China’s plan to invest in sectors including alternative energy, biotechnology and advanced equipment manufacturing. The country’s aim is to shift the growth engine of its economy to cleaner and high-tech sectors.

“As major world economies, China and the United States would make a positive contribution to the world through their own steady development,” Wang said.

Economic policy experts are still speculating whether, with the most recent round of global economic uncertainty, China will work to boost its exports like it did during the 2008-2009 crisis.

Americans No Longer Feel Exceptional

The majority of American citizens seemingly no longer believe that theirs is the best Nation in the world, a recent Pew Research Center poll indicates.

The American-Western European Values Gap poll, which addressed a number of domestic policy questions, asked people in the United States, Germany, Spain, Britain and France whether they agree or disagree with the following statement:  Our people are not perfect but our culture is superior to others.

In a blow to the idea of American Exceptionalism, people in the United States are less likely than ever to feel cultural superiority. Only about 49 percent of those polled agreed with the statement as compared to 55 percent in 2007 and 60 percent in 2002. Individuals in the other countries all agreed to the statement more than 50 percent of the time; the French were most likely to feel superior with 73 percent agreement.

Belief in cultural superiority fell across age, gender and education groups in the United States, though conservatives and older Americans are far more likely to retain the concept.

The idea of American Exceptionalism can be traced back to 1831 when a French writer named Alexis de Tocqueville wrote of Americans’ exceptional circumstances and attitudes and suggested that all democratic nations be held up to the example of America in his book Democracy in America. The concept has since been credited as the catalyst behind many of the country’s finest hours of development by historians.

Supercommittee Outcome Likely Un-Super

If Americans were expecting an outcome from the deliberations of the Congressional panel called the debt reduction supercommittee that is as impressive as its name, they will likely be disappointed when the Thanksgiving deadline arrives.

The 12-member committee, established under a summer budget and debt pact made between President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), has for most of its existence been stalemated as the lawmakers quarrel over where they can find $1.2 trillion to cut from the Federal budget over the next decade.

Reports indicate that disagreement may not be the only thing impeding the supercommittee. If the members are unable to come to an agreement by their deadline, nothing will really happen. Automatic spending cuts were put in place to create a sense of urgency in the budget debate, but those do not take effect until 2013, according to The Washington Post. That means lawmakers have a full year to come up with an alternate plan. In past months, the threat of chaotic government shutdowns has been the only thing to spark urgent Congressional budget action.

If the Thanksgiving deadline is not met, lawmakers will likely avoid working on a debt-reduction deal until after the November 2012 elections.

Chinese Yuan Years From Eclipsing Dollar

The noticeable shift of Western Economic power to the East could be complete by the end of the next decade with the Chinese yuan taking over the U.S. dollar as the principal world reserve currency, some experts say.

Since 2009, according to Shanghai Daily, Chinese officials have been promoting the yuan — also called renminbi (RMB) — outside its borders as a way to settle trade agreements. The result of this push has been a buildup of deposits in Hong Kong creating a thriving yuan bond market.

As China works to make the yuan more desirable to international investors, its strict domestic capital controls appear to be its biggest hurdle in economically eclipsing the United States. But many economic experts believe that China will gradually change its domestic economic policy over the next few years to draw investors. Alicia Garcia-Herrero, chief emerging markets economist at Spanish bank BBVA in Hong Kong, said that China could make the yuan appear more desirable than the dollar in as few as five years by just slightly altering its domestic economic policy.

Arvind Subramanian, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a Washington think tank, believes that as economic power shifts, China’s dominance by 2030 will be similar to the international economic dominance enjoyed by the United States in the 1970s.

Justice Department May Launch Second Lawsuit Against Alabama

The Department of Justice sued Alabama earlier this year for its controversial immigration law; now, as parts of the law take effect, the Department has launched a discrimination investigation against the State.

According to The Washington Post, part of the investigation has Justice Department officials seeking detailed enrollment information from Alabama schools, after reports that several Hispanic families withdrew their children from public schools as a result of the legislation.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has denied the requests and questioned the Federal government’s authority to access such information, and school districts throughout the State have been ordered not to comply. The Justice Department will likely file another lawsuit against the State in light of the controversy over student attendance records.

Strange said that Federal authorities are required by law to hand any complaints that they have received about the law over to the State so that Alabama officials can take action.

Department Of Labor: Farm Work No Good For Teens

The Department of Labor (DOL) wants to implement new rules that would ban certain farm work for children under the age of 16.

The Department, according to NPR, says that children who work on farms are six times more likely to be killed or injured than those who do not. The DOL issued the first new child labor regulations in 40 years, which propose barring children under the age of 16 from performing tasks such as driving tractors, handling pesticides and branding cattle.

The regulations reportedly exempt family-owned farms, but only if they have not grown to the point of becoming incorporated.

The department also proposed preventing anyone under age 18 from working at stockyards, livestock auctions and commercial feed lots or grain elevators.

“So kids of individuals who are involved in a family corporation would no longer be able to help mom and dad on the ranch, on the farm. They wouldn’t be able to work with animals. They wouldn’t be able to work on hay wagons stacking bales six feet tall,” said Jordan Dux, national affairs coordinator with the Nebraska Farm Bureau. “There are lots of things that kids, typical farm practices, that … would be outlawed by the Department of Labor.”

Critics of the regulations see them as a direct assault on an American lifestyle and on getting young people interested in farming in the United States. Public outcry has caused the DOL to extend a forum for public comment on the regulations that was scheduled to end Nov. 1.