News in Brief: Afghanistan 2011 Dial-Down in Dispute, and More

Afghanistan 2011 Fate Still Up in the Air

Gen. David Petreaus and Defense Secretary Robert Gates cannot agree on what’s next for Afghanistan. According to The New York Times, Petreaus considers a July 2011 force reduction illogical. Petreaus says the war effort has only just achieved the focus and acquired the resources it needs. His boss does not agree. On Monday, Secretary of Defense Gates repeated his position that the US is ahead of the game and will meet the force-trimming goal in stride.

As a side note, Gates announced plans to leave his post in 2011, in an article with Foreign Policy.

Lockerbie Bomber Doctor Would Have Offered Different Prognosis

One of the Lockerbie Bomber’s doctors says he was misled. In an interview with the UK paper, The Observer, Professor Karol Sikora, who was one of three doctors consulted about bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s health, says the death of the bomber within three months was not an absolute certainty. “If I could go back in time I would have probably been more vague and tried to emphasise the statistical chances and not hard fact” he said. Al-Megrahi was released from prison in August 2009 on the basis of compassionate release. The US has requested his medical records. The 1998 bombing killed 259 passengers.

Couple Stoned to Death in Taliban-Controlled Village

Weeks after Sakineh Ashtiani escaped death by stoning in Iran, a couple was stoned to death in the Taliban-controlled village Mullah Quli. The woman, 23, and the man, 28, were accused of having an affair.

Tea Partiers, IT Industry Clash Over Immigration

Immigration issues are not going anywhere. A poll by Politico found that 59 percent of the US – representing both sides of the aisle – want immigration reform. Now, however, reform means different things to different party members. Tea Party protesters gathered along the border in Herford, Arizona, demanding a clampdown over what they consider a porous region that is a welcome mat for what they consider undesirable elements. On the opposite end of the spectrum: technology firms. The Wall Street Journal reports that higher visa fees, meant to bolster border security, are putting their trade at risk by increasing overhead costs. The new fees raise the cost of H-1B visas to $2,320 from the original $320. For “L” status, which allows foreign-born workers to transfer within a company, has jumped to $2,570 from $320.

Balance Sheet: Tracking State Debt and Stimulus Funds

The Daily Beast and The Wall Street Journal take a breath and assess just where state coffers and stimulus funds stand. A debt-to-GDP ratio of the most at-risk states is here, and a breakdown of how $862 billion in stimulus funds have been used is here and here.