News in Brief: Taliban Say They Are Winning the War in Afghanistan, and More

The Taliban has told the BBC that they are winning the war in Afghanistan and would refuse to negotiate with the coalition forces after US and British commanders suggested it might be helpful to start a dialog between the warring parties. Taliban spokesmen Zabiullah Mujahedd pointed to the recent firing of Gen. Stanley McChrystal from his position as top US commander in Afghanistan and the record 102 NATO casualties incurred in June as evidence of the insurgent’s success. “We are certain that we are winning,” Majahedd told the BBC. Why should we talk if we have the upper hand, and the foreign troops are considering withdrawal, and there are differences in the ranks of our enemies?”

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Some of the formaldehyde-tainted trailers that house victims of Hurricane Katrina and became the symbol of the government’s ineffective response to the disaster have been redeployed to the Gulf coast to house oil spill cleanup workers, according to The New York Times. Disaster cleanup contractor Ron Mason told the Times that he has sold about 20 of the trailers to workers in Louisiana and expects to sell 40 more. “These are perfectly good trailers,” Mason said. “Look, you know that new car smell? Well, that’s formaldehyde, too. The stuff is in everything. It’s not a big deal.”

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the first mountaintop removal mining permit since the agency established new guidelines for mountaintop removal mining in April that some analysts said were strict enough to end the practice, which involves blowing off the tops of mountains and filling valleys with liquid sludge. The permit allows mountaintop removal mining in Logan, West Virginia. Mountaintop removal mining is controversial because it destroys entire mountains, and Appalachian people have organized to stop the practice after their water supplies have been contaminated with coal sludge runoff and heavy metals.

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An international worker’s union reports that a Pakistan branch of the Coca-Cola company has responded to a union organized last year at its plant in Multan, Pakistan, with death threats, extortion, abduction, forgery and fraud. Thugs made night visits to the homes of union officers with threats that an “accident” could take the lives of the organizers and their family members.

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Riots and demonstrations have erupted across Iraq as frustrated citizens react to an electricity shortage exacerbated by the summer heat, according to the Environmental News Service. At least two demonstrators have been killed and 17 police officers wounded in clashes during riots in the past weeks.