Germany didn’t get the memo about policy changes?

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

A rift between the US and Germany over the conduct of the war in Afghanistan widened today as both countries sought to shift blame over a botched bombing raid that led to scores of civilians being killed.

Berlin defended the raid as “militarily necessary” to protect German troops, even though it went against the express orders of the new US commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, to safeguard civilians…

The strike was called in by a senior German officer. The German government said the officer feared two hijacked oil tankers, stuck in a riverbed, were to be used for a suicide bombing of the German base at Kunduz, in the north of the country.

While the US has expressed most of its criticism in private, the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, did not hold back today, siding with the US in condemning the German decision.

“What an error of judgment! More than 90 dead all because of a simple lorry that was, moreover, immobilised in a riverbed. Why didn’t they send in ground troops to recover the fuel tank? … General McChrystal telephoned me to apologise and to say that he himself hadn’t given the order to attack,” Karzai said, in an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro.

The folks on the ground aren’t especially concerned with which uniform was worn by whom – when they’re burying their dead.

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US consumer debt declines record amount

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

This is one of those times when my native cynicism approaches levels of superstition. I really hope the conclusions being reached are appropriate and accurate. But, I would never risk my life on believing Americans can learn from experience.

US consumers slashed their borrowing by a record amount in July as rising job losses and uncertainty about an economic recovery hit home.

Consumer credit fell by $21.6bn (£13.1bn) compared with June, figures from the Federal Reserve showed, massively more than analysts expected. June’s figure was also revised downwards, to $15.5bn from $10.3bn.

Economists say that US households are focusing on cutting back debt levels during the recession.

Meanwhile, there have been signs that the US economy is recovering.

Last week, figures showed that US manufacturing grew in August for the first time in 19 months and that home sales hit a two-year high in July.

That’s it. Short and sweet. Not a lot of analyzing and no psychologizing.

I continue to bump into ancillary articles claiming Americans are learning to save, discovering moderation and good sense. I’ll believe when I see it for a decade or so.

RV rebound in Elkhart is an exit sign from recession road


George Graber was unemployed for three months this year after the shutdown of a recreational- vehicle plant in Elkhart County, Indiana. Now, he’s building $15,000 travel trailers at startup Heritage One RV.

His job-hunting luck reflects a rebound in RV demand that may signal the end of the worst U.S. recession since World War II. In the last four domestic cycles, Winnebago Industries Inc. and other RV makers foreshadowed the economy’s decline and heralded its recovery, government and trade-group data show.

The RV industry is always the first in and the first out, and there’s already been a noticeable beginning of it coming out of the current recession,” said Dave Hoefer, 66, an adviser to Earthbound Recreational Vehicles, which was founded this year on the site of another bankrupt maker in Middlebury, Indiana.

Elkhart County builds about half the RVs sold in the U.S., making it the center of a $14 billion domestic market. Evidence of a turnaround is showing up in new companies like Heritage One sprouting from the remains of failed manufacturers, and in no- vacancy signs at a motel favored by RV-hauling truckers…

Sales in July, the latest available, ran at the strongest annual rate since October, according to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. By year’s end, those shipments should show their first monthly gain since October 2007, predating the onset of the recession in December of that year…

Showroom visits and consumer-loan approvals now are rising for the first time in more than a year, said Steve Smith, a Heritage One partner who recently drove 5,000 miles through the Midwest and South as part of a company sales call…

Elkhart County needs that kind of news. Located along the Michigan border and home to about 200,000 people, the county has a jobless rate of about 17 percent, the worst in Indiana. President Barack Obama has visited the area three times to talk about economic hardship…

For Graber, 45, who had to sell his pickup for a cheaper model and take other belt-tightening steps after losing his purchasing job at Travel Supreme, the Elkhart recovery can’t come fast enough.

“People I know personally, a couple of them will get back every week now,” he said. “Three months ago, everyone was just down and they weren’t even taking applications.”

RV’s are part of everyday life among grayheads. So, whether you own one – and there are a few in our family – or damned near live full-time in one, you stay in touch with the marketplace and the health of design and sales.

We were discussing this article this morning and the final question raised was whether or not the inevitable startups will be doing anything dramatic in core design and production.

I’m certain my father-in-law will tell me about it. When he gets back down here from Canada with his 5th-wheeler.

US gangbangers – fit right into Mexican cartels

gang members

Prisoner number 1447523 does not understand the question. And it is not exactly a controversial one. Why does he believe killing for a living is “glamorous”? Surely most people would find that kind of strange?

“Kind of strange? In what way?”

Prisoner 1447523’s name is Rosalio Reta. He was born and raised in Texas. By the age of 13 he was an assassin for one of Mexico’s drug cartels.

It’s a job man. You gotta do something for a living.”

Convicted of two murders (he says he killed many more), he will probably spend the rest of his life behind bars…

Rosalio Reta is perhaps the most extreme example of a worrying trend: American teenagers being recruited to work for the Mexican drug cartels that control a multi-billion dollar trade.

What concerns law enforcement officials, and those working to keep teenagers out of the cartels’ grip, is that this is not simply a case of the cartels preying upon American teens – many actively want to join…

Teenagers are useful to them. In Texas, under-17s cannot be prosecuted as adults, so if they are caught working for the cartels, they often get away with light punishment…

What does Rosalio Reta think about attempts to keep kids away from drug gangs?

“Where I’m from, man, there’s only a couple of things you can be, and being part of a cartel is one of them.

“A lot of people wanna get involved in the cartels and that. Honestly, there are a lot of people who will look up to me.”

Laura Bush supports Obama’s stay-in-school speech

Laura Bush at Texas Book Festival, last week. Yes – books.
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Former first lady Laura Bush praised the performance of her husband’s successor, breaking with many Republicans in telling CNN that she thinks President Obama is doing a good job under tough circumstances.

She also criticized Washington’s sharp political divide during an interview covering a range of topics including her thoughts on first lady Michelle Obama, former Vice President Dick Cheney, the situation in Afghanistan and Myanmar, and life after eight tumultuous years in the White House.

Bush sat down with CNN on Monday during a United Nations meeting in Paris, France, where she was promoting global literacy, a cause she trumpeted during her husband’s administration.

The typically reserved former first lady defended Obama’s decision to deliver a back-to-school speech to students, putting her at odds with many conservatives afraid that the president will use the opportunity to advance his political agenda…

“I think there is a place for the president … to talk to schoolchildren and encourage” them, she said. Parents should follow his example and “encourage their own children to stay in school and to study hard and to try to achieve the dream that they have.”

Bush indicated that she didn’t think it was fair for Obama to be labeled a “socialist” by critics and expressed her disappointment with the intensely polarized nature of contemporary American politics.

RTFA. Interesting stuff – pleasing to see that she’s keeping on with her support for literacy programs.

Texas Republicans will probably send some teabaggers by to picket her next local appearance.

And here’s the text of President Obama’s speech.

Coach takes player out of game. Player shoots coach!

A baseball game intended to help young men avoid violence in the streets ended abruptly Sunday afternoon when one of the players opened fire on his coach at a park in Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood…

The coach, Glynn Hall, 44, was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he was treated for multiple gunshot wounds. His condition had been upgraded to fair by Sunday evening…

The shooting happened during the second game of the day for the Cardinals after the gunman became upset with Hall for pulling him from the game…

The player retrieved a semiautomatic handgun, returned to the field and chased after the coach, firing repeatedly. At one point, the player stopped to reload his gun, said the captain.

Hall appeared to have been hit twice, in an arm and in the back, the captain said. When Hall fell to ground, it appeared the player wanted to continue firing at him, but he had run out of bullets, the captain said.

The Cardinals are part of the National Adult Baseball Association’s Chicago Community League, a league for young adults to keep them out of trouble.

Helluva mission statement. Not, uh, exactly having a boatload of success.