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UPDATE: Added Details of the arrested Taliban, thanks to our Af-Pak home expert, Setrak.

Half of Afghanistan Taliban leadership arrested in Pakistan

Pakistan has arrested nearly half of the Afghanistan Taliban’s leadership in recent days, Pakistani officials told the Monitor Wednesday, dealing what could be a crucial blow to the insurgent movement...

...In total, seven of the insurgent group’s 15-member leadership council, thought to be based in Quetta, Pakistan, including the head of military operations, have been apprehended in the past week, according to Pakistani intelligence officials.

Western and Pakistani media had previously reported the arrest of three of the 15, but this is the first confirmation of the wider scale of the Pakistan crackdown on the Taliban leadership, something the US has sought.

"This really hurts the Taliban in the short run," says Wahid Muzjda, a former Taliban official turned political analyst, based in Kabul. Whether it will have an effect in the long run will depend on what kind of new leaders take the reins, he says...

..."A year ago when this [Obama] administration was completing its first Afghanistan review and we asked the Pakistanis about the Afghan Taliban leadership operating from their country, they flatly denied it," says Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst who led President Obama’s initial Afghanistan policy review. "Now not only do they say there are senior Taliban leaders in their country, but they are frankly taking action against them."

Setrak guide:

Mullah Abdul Qayoum Zakir:  VERY significant.  This was the Taliban's answer to McChrystal; their "surge" commander.  A former Gitmo inmate released in 2007 to the Afghan government who was released and immediately joined back up.  Real name; Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul.  Is reportedly in charge of Helmand/Nimroz, but has also been said to run the Taliban's military operations throughout the south.

Mullah Muhammad Younis.:  Is/was the Taliban's shadow governor of Zabul province, a hotbed bordering South Waziristan and Kandahar.  Shura.

Mullah Muhammad Hassan:  If this is Mullah Muhammad Hassan Rehmani, this is also a very significant catch.  If it is him, he was the governor of Kandahar province during the Taliban's reign.  For those unaware, the Taliban were based in Kandahar even after they seized Kabul.

Mullah Ahmed Jan Akhunzada,:  Former minister of the Taliban government.

Mullah Abdul Raouf:   Reportedly the former Taliban governor of Paktia province and possibly a military commander in the north-east.
And that's exactly the kind of animal we had here with Setrak. Some kind of mole - SpringtimeforHitler

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Looks like someone over at ABC didn't get the MSM memo about the Recovery Act being a total disaster. Yesterday, during Diane Sawyer' show no less (How subversive) there was this story about the many many jobs opportunities that are out there. It was very refreshing to watch, though i'm sure the person in charge of this fiasco may no longer have his job today:
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Layoffs decline for 1st time in 3 years

Large and midsize businesses continued to lay off workers through the end of 2009 but at a significantly slower pace, according to U.S. employment data.

Citing organizational changes, financial concerns and lack of demand for their products, companies let 321,569 people go in what the federal government calls "mass layoffs" of 50 or more employees during the last three months of the year.

But despite the losses, the data appear to show that the flow of pink slips from big and midsize employers is starting to subside.

It was the first time in three years that the number of layoffs dropped from one quarter compared with the year-ago period. The nationwide toll in the fourth quarter was about 50 percent less than in 2008, when 641,714 workers were cut loose...

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Senate near a deal on financial regulation

.... By early next week, look for Sens. Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Bob Corker of Tennessee to unveil a creative bipartisan proposal that will hit all the right notes in terms of both policy and politics and will have the best shot at Senate passage. As Democratic chairman of the Senate banking committee, Dodd has shown the patience and persistence to keep at the task even after months of playing political rope-a-dope with industry lobbyists and Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, his Republican counterpart. And in deciding to pick up negotiations where Shelby left off, Corker has been a profile in courage these past few weeks in the face of social and political ostracization by some of his fellow Republicans....

Some credit also goes to Obama, whose decision to embrace a more populist critique of Wall Street in recent weeks has rattled financial markets and persuaded big banks to push for a compromise rather than leave a cloud of regulatory uncertainty hanging over their heads.....

What's likely to emerge from these still-ongoing discussions is a comprehensive regulatory reform bill that not only has the support of key sectors of the financial services industry, but also improves on the legislation passed last year by the House. once the bill reaches the Senate floor, Republicans will face the difficult political choice of either embracing financial re-regulation and handing the president a victory or defending industry practices that even Wall Street is now unwilling to defend.

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Secretary Chu Closed $465 Million Loan to Tesla Motors

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced the Department of Energy has closed its $465 million loan with Tesla Motors, Inc. for construction of a manufacturing facility in southern California on the Model S electric sedan and a power-train manufacturing facility in Palo Alto, California.  The Palo Alto facility will assemble electric vehicle battery packs, electric motors, and related electric vehicle control equipment...

...Tesla’s planned Model S will consume no gasoline and will not produce any tailpipe emissions. It is being designed to offer a variety of range options depending on the battery pack used, from 160 to 300 miles on a single charge. Volume production of the Model S is planned to begin in 2012 with a target production capacity of 20,000 vehicles per year by the end of 2013.  According to Tesla, the Model S project and power-train manufacturing facility are expected to create over 1,600 jobs.

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GM to add 1,200 jobs in Ohio

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- General Motors announced Tuesday it would add 1,200 jobs to its Lordstown, Ohio plant in preparation for the launch of its newest small car.

Detroit-based GM said the new third shift at the Ohio plant would support the production of its 2011 Chevrolet Cruze, which was launched in Asia and Europe six months ago to replace the Chevrolet Cobalt...

...Production of the new compact car isn't expected to begin until the third quarter of this year. But once underway, GM estimates the new production schedule will generate $47 million in additional payroll, $470,000 in local income taxes, and $1.4 million in state income tax...

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Four more left Gitmo

MADRID -- The United States got help from Europe on Wednesday in its troubled drive to shut down Guantanamo Bay, as Spain accepted a former inmate from the prison for terror suspects and the tiny Balkan nation of Albania took in three more.
...Spanish Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said the man who arrived in his country is Palestinian, but would not give his name or any other information, citing privacy concerns. He reiterated that Spain will take in up to five ex-Guantanamo inmates, the largest commitment yet from a European country...

...Separately, Albania's Interior Ministry said that the country had taken in three more former Guantanamo detainees - a Tunisian, an Egyptian and a Libyan national - under an agreement with the United States. They arrived Tuesday.

...The U.S. Justice Department issued a statement expressing gratitude to Spain and said there are now 188 inmates being held in Guantanamo.

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The Obama family is going to Indonesia next month, and during the president's visit in the country where he lived for four years as a child,  US will sign no less than six economic cooperation agreements deals with the largest Muslim country in the world:

Coordinating Minister for the Economy Hatta Radjasa said some of the fields of cooperation were education, industry, forestry, energy, and agriculture. "The United States is preparing a huge fund for investment," Hatta said, but he said he forgot to ask how huge the investments will be.

Hatta said the government is expecting the investments as it needs about Rp2 trillion to stimulate economic growth. "The government have to use the momentum."

So far it has approved a total of Rp500 trillion, upped from around Rp160 – Rp170 trillion received last year during the global economic downturn.

President barack Obama is scheduled to visit Indonesia from March 20th to 22nd which reportedly will include visits to some cultural landmarks like the buddhist Borobudur Temple.

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In Jakarta itself, people are already waiting for the visit (To answer your question: I have no idea who is the guy in almost every picture, but he sure did get his 15 minutes of fame ;):

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A portrait of U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle is seen hanging on the wall as students build a structure from straws during a class at an elementary school he once attended in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010.  (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
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Indonesian man Syahrial stands in the bedroom of the house where US President Barack Obama's family lived from 1970 to 1971, in Jakarta on February 23, 2010. Obama lived for four years as a child in Jakarta from 1967 after his divorced mother married an Indonesian -- and his family will visit Indonesia in March. The trip has been eagerly awaited in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country since Obama's inauguration, which has been welcomed in Indonesia as the start of a new era in US diplomacy. (ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images)
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ndonesian man Syahrial stands in the house where US President Barack Obama's family lived from 1970 to 1971, in Jakarta on February 23, 2010.
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Indonesian man Syahrial stands outside the house where US President Barack Obama's family lived from 1970 to 1971, in Jakarta on February 23, 2010.

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A sign reading 'beeware of the dog' stands outside the house where US President Barack Obama's family lived from 1970 to 1971, in Jakarta on February 23, 2010. (DEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images)
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First Lady Michelle Obama welcomes Harry Connick, Jr. to the White House to speak before a group of music students at a press preview for the Governors Ball. The First Lady and Connick talk about the work being done to rebuild New Orleans and the New Orleans Musicians Village in particular.

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President Barack Obama discusses the economy with the Business Roundtable as they meet at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010. Business Roundtable is an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies that comprise nearly a third of the total value of the U.S. stock markets with nearly $6 trillion in annual revenues and more than 12 million employees. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama enter the Governors Ball in the State Dining Room of the White House, Feb. 21, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
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US President Barack Obama makes a toast during the White House�s annual Governors� Ball at the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on February 21, 2010. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
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US President Barack Obama is framed through candles as he sits for the White House annual Governors Ball at the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on February 21, 2010. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
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President Barack Obama talks with Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire and her guest, Scott Lindsay, during the Governors Ball in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 21, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama applaud the performance by Harry Connick Jr. during the Governors Ball in the East Room of the White House, Feb. 21, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
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President Barack Obama talks with Vice President Joe Biden in the Oval Office, February 22, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
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President Barack Obama waits in the Butlers' Pantry as he is introduced to the National Governors Association meeting at the White House, Feb. 22, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
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Originally posted to blackwaterdog on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 02:03 PM PST.

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