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Just over two years ago, Rajendra K. Pachauri seemed destined for a scientist’s version of sainthood: A vegetarian economist-engineer who leads the United Nations’ climate change panel, he accepted the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the panel, sharing the honor with former Vice President Al Gore.
But Dr. Pachauri and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are now under intense scrutiny, facing accusations of scientific sloppiness and potential financial conflicts of interest from climate skeptics, right-leaning politicians and even some mainstream scientists. Senator John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, called for Dr. Pachauri’s resignation last week.
Critics, writing in Britain’s Sunday Telegraph and elsewhere, have accused Dr. Pachauri of profiting from his work as an adviser to businesses, including Deutsche Bank and Pegasus Capital Advisors, a New York investment firm — a claim he denies. They have also unearthed and publicized problems with the intergovernmental panel’s landmark 2007 report on climate change, which concluded that the planet was warming and that humans were likely to blame.
Seven civilians were shot dead on Friday as they were apparently mistaken for a group of insurgents trying to cross the frontier from Pakistan, an Afghan police official said Saturday.
The official, Abdul Raziq, who leads the border police in Kandahar Province, said the seven men were from a village in Shorabak, a remote district on the Pakistani border. They were killed when they strayed close to a checkpoint staffed by the Afghan border police, who opened fire because they believed that their post was going to be overrun.
The border guards “thought they were insurgents,” Mr. Raziq said.
The guards were detained after the shooting as part of an investigation, Mr. Raziq said. The bodies of the civilians were taken back to their village, called Sortano.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates pledged on Friday that the United States would help protect foreign troops in Afghanistan by offering them armored transport vehicles, surveillance systems and electronic equipment to guard against roadway bombs. Such bombs have claimed more lives than any other weapon in the war.
The new generation of American mine-resistant troop carriers, called MRAPs, will be sold, lent or donated to allied units operating in the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan, according to NATO officials.
A growing number of the armored vehicles, with their distinctive hull shape, have been freed up recently by the reduction of American combat forces in Iraq, where the transports “have saved thousands of limbs and lives,” Mr. Gates said.
The United States military on Friday issued a long-awaited report on how insurgents managed to overrun an American Army combat outpost and kill eight soldiers last October in one of the worst single ground attacks in recent years.
Family members of the dead were notified about the results of the investigation on Thursday. They were told that “the report also recommended administrative actions for some members of the chain of command to improve command oversight.” Citing privacy reasons, the military did not reveal what those actions were or who was penalized.
The base, Combat Outpost Keating in the Kamdesh District of Nuristan Province, was attacked by insurgent forces on Oct. 3. Because the outpost was located in a deep bowl surrounded by high ground, the attackers were able to pin down defenders and prevent them from using mortars to repel the initial attack. In addition, air support was at least 45 minutes away. A second, smaller outpost nearby was also struck by the attackers.
The senior commander of American and allied forces in Afghanistan offered a guarded but unexpectedly upbeat assessment of the war effort on Thursday, saying that while the situation remained dangerous it was no longer deteriorating and that the stage was set for “real progress.”
The commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, noted that last summer he believed security in Afghanistan was at risk of significant decline, but that he felt differently now. “I am not prepared to say that we have turned the corner,” he cautioned. “So I’m saying that the situation is serious but I think we have made significant progress in setting the conditions in 2009, and beginning some progress, and that we’ll make real progress in 2010.”
NATO and the Afghan military are about to launch their biggest joint offensive of the war, and they appear to be making sure the Taliban know they are coming.
On Wednesday, spokesmen for the Afghan Defense Ministry and for the NATO forces announced at a news conference that an offensive involving thousands of troops would begin “in the near future,” and while they did not confirm the place, they also did not dispute widespread speculation that the target was the Taliban-held town of Marja.
The deliberate publicizing of the offensive — with news conferences, press releases and public pronouncements — is relatively unusual for the military. There could be several strategic benefits — and risks. If Taliban were to withdraw in advance of the offensive and civilians had ample warning, there could be fewer military and civilian casualties.
The climate change accord reached at Copenhagen in December passed its first test on Monday after countries responsible for the bulk of climate-altering pollution formally submitted their emission reduction plans, meeting the agreement’s Jan. 31 deadline.
Most major nations — including the United States, the 27 nations of the European Union, China, India, Japan and Brazil — restated earlier pledges to curb emissions by 2020, some by promising absolute cuts, others by reducing the rate of increase from a business-as-usual curve.
The Marine infantry company, accompanied by a squad of Afghan soldiers, set out long before dawn. It walked silently through the dark fields with plans of arriving at a group of mud-walled compounds in Helmand Province at sunrise.
The company had received intelligence reports that 40 to 50 Taliban fighters had moved into this village a few days before, and the battalion had set a cordon around it. The Marines hoped to surprise any insurgents within.
But as the company moved, shepherds whistled in the darkness, passing warning of the Americans’ approach. Dogs barked themselves hoarse. The din rose in every direction, enveloping the column in noise. And then, as the Marines became visible in the bluish twilight, a minivan rumbled out of one compound. Its driver steered ahead of the company, honking the van’s horn, spreading the alarm. Spotters appeared on roofs.
There is now so much unused swine flu vaccine in the world that rich nations, including the United States, are trying to get rid of their surpluses. But the world’s poorest countries — a few still facing the brunt of the pandemic — are receiving very little of it.
Of the 95 countries that told the World Health Organization last year that they had no means of getting flu vaccine, only two, Azerbaijan and Mongolia, have received any so far. Afghanistan is expected to be next.
Early last month, W.H.O. officials said they hoped to have shipped vaccine to 14 countries by now, and even then it would have been only enough to protect 2 percent of the countries’ populations.
The Afghan official in charge of reconciliation acknowledged Monday that the government had been in talks for some time with Taliban leaders to bring them into the government and end the war, dismissing the Taliban’s denials.
The official — Mohammed Masoom Stanekzai, a top security adviser to President Hamid Karzai — made the statement at a news conference to discuss last week’s international Afghanistan conference in London and later elaborated on his announcement in an interview.
Since the suicide bombing that took the lives of seven Americans in Afghanistan on Dec. 30, the Central Intelligence Agency has struck back against militants in Pakistan with the most intensive series of missile strikes from drone aircraft since the covert program began.
Beginning the day after the attack on a C.I.A. base in Khost, Afghanistan, the agency has carried out 11 strikes that have killed about 90 people suspected of being militants, according to Pakistani news reports, which make almost no mention of civilian casualties. The assault has included strikes on a mud fortress in North Waziristan on Jan. 6 that killed 17 people and a volley of missiles on a compound in South Waziristan last Sunday that killed at least 20.
The agency also found that 2009 was the second warmest year since 1880, when modern temperature measurement began. The warmest year was 2005. The other hottest recorded years have all occurred since 1998, NASA said.
Ms. Murkowski, joined by 35 Republicans and three conservative Democrats, proposed to use the Congressional Review Act to strip the agency of the power to limit emissions of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The Supreme Court gave the agency legal authority to regulate such emissions in a landmark 2007 ruling.
Facing a Jan. 31 deadline, major countries have yet to submit their plans for reducing emissions of climate-altering gases, one of the major provisions of the agreement, according to Yvo de Boer, the Dutch official who is executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which organized the climate meeting.
A team of militants launched a spectacular assault at the heart of the Afghan government on Monday, with two men detonating suicide bombs and the rest fighting to the death only 50 yards from the gates of the presidential palace.
The attack paralyzed the city for hours, as hundreds of Afghan commandos converged and opened fire. The battle unfolded in the middle of Pashtunistan Square, a traffic circle where the palace of President Hamid Karzai, the Ministry of Justice and the Central Bank, the target of the attack, are located.
The Pentagon has authorized a substantial increase in the number of Afghan security forces it plans to train by next year, in time for President Obama’s deadline for United States combat forces to begin withdrawing from the country, military officials said Thursday.
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