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Waste in US Afghan aid seen at billions of dollars

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WASHINGTON – Waste and fraud in U.S. efforts to rebuild Afghanistan while fighting al Qaeda and the Taliban may have cost taxpayers billions of dollars, a special investigator said on Monday.

Arnold Fields, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, said the cost of U.S. assistance funding diverted or squandered since 2002 could reach “well into the millions, if not billions, of dollars.”

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“There are no controls in place sufficient enough to ensure taxpayers’ money is used for the (intended) purpose,” said Fields, whose independent office was created in 2008 to energize oversight of what U.S. auditors have described as a giant, poorly coordinated aid effort that has sunk some $56 billion into Afghanistan since 2002.

Of that sum, some $29 billion has gone to building up Afghanistan’s nascent security forces, many of whose members cannot read and are just learning to shoot.

Another $16 billion has gone to trying to develop this poor country, where life expectancy is just 45 years and only 28 percent of people are literate, and to strengthening governance, said Fields, a retired Marine Corps major general.

Experts believe it will take years to build an effective government that can provide basic services in Afghanistan, where corruption and the lack a functional justice system have driven many villagers into the arms of the Taliban.

Efforts to bolster Afghanistan’s weak central government and in many cases its dysfunctional local leadership took center stage last week when a White House review of the nine-year-old war reported some military success but cautioned there was more to be done on improving governance and curbing corruption.

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President Barack Obama is under pressure to show results in Afghanistan in the first half of 2011 so he can start bringing U.S. troops home in July.

U.S. and NATO partners hope Afghan forces will be able to take control by the end of 2014 as the West looks to curtail its involvement after nine years that at the present level of effort costs U.S. taxpayers at least $113 billion a year.

More than 700 foreign troops have been killed in 2010, the most violent year since the Taliban was toppled in 2001. Afghan casualties are far higher.

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U.S. reconstruction activities are a major component in an even bigger outside assistance effort involving dozens of donor countries and hundreds of aid groups large and small.

Field’s office, known as SIGAR, described in a report issued this fall a ‘confusing labyrinth’ of agencies and contractors in that aid effort.

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(Reporting by Missy Ryan; editing by Philip Barbara)

Source: Reuters US Online Report World News

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‘A coward and a commander’: New Lincoln Project ad contrasts Trump with James Mattis

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On Friday, the conservative anti-Trump group The Lincoln Project released a new attack ad against President Donald Trump — this time using the criticism of his former Defense Secretary James Mattis, and comparing and contrasting their leadership ability.

"This is the story of a coward and a commander," said the ad's narrator. "The coward Trump dodged the draft. Jim Mattis led American troops for forty years. While a frightened Trump hides from protesters in a deep bunker firing off tweets, Jim Mattis does what he's always done: Leads. While Donald Trump angrily attacks, General Mattis' words deserve to be heard by every American."

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NFL Commissioner Goodell apologizes for league’s indifference to players’ protests against racism

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On Friday, CNN reported that National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell is acknowledging his organization turned a blind eye when his athletes took a knee to protest racism and police violence, and issued a formal apology.

"We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest," Goodell said in a newly released Instagram video. "It has been a difficult time for our country. In particular, black people in our country. First, my condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and all the families who have endured police brutality."

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Earth Has Hottest May on Record

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"This is unquestionably an alarming sign."

The Earth just experienced its hottest May on record, scientists said Friday—just a day after it was announced that atmospheric CO2 levels hit a new high.

Scientists at Europe's Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) announced the temperature record Friday. The agency said that globally, last month 0.63°C warmer than the 1981-2020 average for May. That tops the previous warmest May, which occurred in 2016, by 0.05°C.

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