“Shall we stand up to the Taleban?”

Anti-Taleban rally in Raghagan, Pakistan
AP Photo by Aamir Qureshi

With the sighting of the new moon, the Muslim holy month of fasting comes to an end and with it the customary night prayers that have kept the general mood solemn for a month.

To mark the occasion, the men in this village in the North West Frontier Province head for the hujra – a place for a Pashtun male only community gathering. But there is more on their minds than the usual feasting frenzy of Eid – the Muslim festival which the moon has heralded.

Less than two weeks ago, a couple of pro-Taleban activists from a nearby village made an appearance at night prayers in one of the village mosques. They appealed for donations and manpower for what they described as the “holy war” in Afghanistan.

The people in the mosque contributed some coins towards their cause. But no one volunteered for the war. Since then, there has been a general unrest among the villagers about the Taleban’s intentions. They want government help if they decide to resist a possible Taleban takeover.

We have to show our willingness to fight them and to raise our own force to patrol the village,” says a village councillor, addressing the men at the hujra.

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AMD spins off plants into joint venture with Abu Dhabi

Better than a Burka

U.S. chip maker Advanced Micro Devices Inc plans to spin off its manufacturing plants into a $5.7 billion joint venture with Abu Dhabi to get a cash injection and shrink debt to better compete against larger rival Intel Corp.

Advanced Technology Investment Company (ATIC), an Abu Dhabi state-owned venture capital firm, said it will invest $2.1 billion for a 55.6 percent stake in the venture, of which $700 million will go directly to AMD, which will hold the remaining stake. The two will divide the venture’s board seats equally.

ATIC also committed to investing another $3.6 billion to $6.0 billion over 5 years to fund the venture’s expansion. The 3,000-person new company will hold AMD’s two plants in Dresden, Germany and make all of its central processing units, as well as chips for other companies.

Another Abu Dhabi government company, Mubadala Development Co, will spend $314 million to increase its stake in AMD to 19.3 percent from 8.1 percent and gain a seat on AMD’s board.

Brian Mata, an analyst at IC Insights in Arizona, said AMD desperately needed the boost. The company has posted seven consecutive quarters of losses and is forecast by Wall Street to report another quarterly loss next week…

The venture will upgrade one of the two plants in Dresden and build the plant in New York to the latest technology standards, AMD said. It said the venture, which will be on AMD’s balance sheet, may ultimately build a fab in Abu Dhabi.

Now, there’s a surprise – an American corporation relying on foreign capital and building manufacturing facilities abroad to better fit a global market.

Tata announces new plant for Nano in Gujarat

Indian firm Tata Motors is to build the world’s cheapest car in the western state of Gujarat. Tata group chairman Ratan Tata said the Gujarat deal offered the best chance of making the car, the Nano, as quickly and cheaply as possible.

The move comes after Tata pulled out of its factory in West Bengal state in a row over land acquired from farmers.

The Nano is expected to cost about 100,000 rupees ($2,130) and was due to be launched this month.

“While awaiting the Sanand plant’s completion, Tata Motors will explore the possibility of manufacturing the Nano at its existing facilities at Pune and Pantnagar, and launch the car in the last quarter of this financial year.”

The Sanand plant will make 250,000 Nanos a year, rising to 500,000, the company says. It is not clear when production at the plant will begin.

The range of opposition to the Nano plant in West Bengal – from small tenant farmers to absentee landlords – displayed a collective shortsightedness rarely equaled in developing nations. They got what they asked for. Nothing.

Rock the Vote rocks with 2 million registrations

Rock the Vote registered its 2-millionth young voter in what the organization said was its largest voter registration campaign.

Pushing Rock the Vote to the 2-million mark was Morgan Reed-Parker, 17, of North Carolina, who registered Sunday, the non-profit, non-partisan organization said in a news release…

Reed-Parker said she will celebrate her 18th birthday before the Nov. 4 election.

“This election is extremely important for my generation,” she said. “As I leave home and become responsible for my own finances, I want to know that our economy is stable.”

It will take more than this election and the next couple to achieve that. If folks actually live up to their promises.

I don’t think it could be much worse than the thugs currently in charge of the US of A..

MyKey turns your Ford Focus into your Mom

Ford has made parenting a little easier by introducing MyKey, a programmable ignition key for Ford automobiles that monitors teenage driving behavior. With MyKey in place, various driving habits that parents may consider unsafe, or merely obnoxious, can be curtailed.

It covers all the common parental complaints: The car’s speed cannot exceed 80mph. Radio volume is limited to 44 percent of maximum and, if seatbelts aren’t fastened, no sound will come from the speakers at all. Extra-careful and/or paranoid parents can place warning sounds at 45, 55, and 65mph, blasting a warning of potential reckless driving to the youthful driver.

Ford realizes this is annoying. Susan Cischke, Ford’s group vice president of sustainability, environment and safety engineering even said she hoped to “turn up the annoyance factor a little bit.”

MyKey will be introduced as a free standard feature in the 2010 Ford Focus model. Ford hopes to make MyKey a standard feature on all Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury models thereafter.

How to create a generation of car owners that will never buy a Ford.

Newspaper ends 72-year streak, backs Obama

For the first time in 72 years, The Stockton Record is endorsing a Democrat for president.

Franklin D. Roosevelt got our nod in 1936…

There are many who will question – with some validity – the power or value of such an endorsement. Our decision is hardly going to tip the balance in a competitive presidential election.

But endorsements of elected officials are an important part of a newspaper’s public service duty.

Delailah Little, The Record’s librarian, diligently combed our archives when I sought to find out our endorsement history. I was stunned to discover the newspaper has endorsed 17 consecutive Republicans – the anomaly being 1992, when The Record chose not to endorse either George H.W. Bush or Bill Clinton.

If you really need someone to explain to you why they endorse Obama, here’s the link to their editorial.

Asteroid hits Earth … but at least we predicted it, say scientists

Fireball during the Leonid meteor shower

Scientists were today celebrating the first successful prediction of an asteroid smashing into the Earth’s atmosphere.

The chunk of space debris burst in a spectacular fireball though it was no more than 15ft across. And it had an impact out of all proportion to its size as it enabled experts to prove they could warn of potentially catastrophic asteroid strikes…

It’s the first time we’ve been able to predict an impactor in advance,’ said Donald Yeomans, manager of Nasa’s Near Earth Object programme, which tracks asteroids and comets that come close to our planet.

Tim Spahr, head of Harvard’s Minor Planet Centre, added: ‘If this were something larger and it was going to hit the ground we would be able to get people out of the way.’

The asteroid – labeled 2008 TC3 – was spotted yesterday a little farther away from Earth than the Moon by a U.S. observatory in Arizona.

I spotted the earlier articles, yesterday; but, decided to wait until the event took place and was observed – to Post about the asteroid. I’ll bet there are a number of observers who acquired decent still photos and video footage.

I’ll keep checking and eventually replace the stock image I used up top.

McCain retreats from ‘swing state’ plan

Campaigners for Republican U.S. presidential nominee John McCain have switched from playing swing-state “offense” to “defense” of GOP strongholds, sources say.

The McCain campaign had long sought to win the election by gaining the support of swing-state voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, appealing to culturally conservative Democrats there who may have been backers of former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York. But those plans have been shelved, ABC News reported Monday.

Instead, with Democratic opponent Sen. Barak Obama of Illinois surging ahead in many swing-state polls, the McCain team shut its Michigan campaign and is devoting more resources to defending against Obama in such traditional Republican stronghold states as Virginia, Colorado and New Mexico, the broadcaster said.

I can say, personally, he’s in further decline in New Mexico. The Republican Party has given up on supporting their neocon candidate for the seat of retiring Republican Senator Pete Domenici, as well. They stopped providing funds a while back for Steve Pearce vs. Tom Udall, the Democrat congressman from the 3rd District.

I think McCain is playing it out for a shot at leading the Republican Party back to being a traditional American Conservative party rather than the New American Reich envisioned by the Bush brothers and their button-down Brown Shirt MBA’s.

U.S. to allies: Fight in Afghanistan or write us a check!

Hercules cargo plane landing in a sandstorm in northern Afghanistan
AP Photo by Anja Niedringhaus

The United States has asked Japan and NATO allies who have refused to send troops to Afghanistan to pay the estimated $17 billion needed to build up the Afghan army.

The push to quickly increase the size of Afghanistan’s army and spread the cost of the initiative underscores the financial and military strain the war has placed on the United States and NATO members, many also operating in Iraq and elsewhere.

“The faster we get the (Afghan army) to the size and strength they need to be, the less they depend on us for providing security, and God knows we operate far more expensively than the Afghan national security forces do,” said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell.

“At a minimum it’s going to cost $17 billion. That’s a hefty price-tag and someone’s got to pay it,” Morrell said.

The United States spends more than that in two months in Iraq.

Gates in February said NATO risked a split between allies willing to “fight and die” and those who were not. Morrell last week cast it as “those who fight and those who write checks.”

There’s a quality both leave out of the equation: the fighting and dying is done to satisfy American politics – not necessarily the needs of the Afghan people.