player

Hmm, maybe this is why John Kerry didn't want to badmouth him: Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials. You have to wonder what other unsavory things the CIA is up to in Afghanistan. Which may also be a reason why Barack Obama isn't too keen on digging deep into Bush-era agency practices. P.S.

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Ever since he helped convince Hamid Karzai last week to agree to a run-off election, John Kerry has become a critical player on Afghanistan policy to a degree that's surprising even for a chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Today, Kerry gave a speech on Afghanistan at the Council on Foreign Relations, in which he indicated that, while he thinks General McChrystal's counterinsurgency plan is too ambitious, he would support Obama sending some additional troops.

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Short Cuts

Robert Altman: The Oral Biography By Mitchell Zuckoff (Knopf, 592 pp., $35) Here is your exam question: who is the last American movie director who made thirty-nine films but never won the Oscar for best director? Name the film by that director that cost the most money, and name the film of his that earned the most. Clue: The Departed, which must have been around Martin Scorsese’s thirtieth picture, and did win the directing Oscar, cost $90 million (four times as much as any of this man’s films cost)--so don’t go that way.

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David Roth is a writer living in New York. They cruise through cities, klezmer pumping from the speakers of RVs emblazoned with the image of the late Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. They approach even vaguely Semitic-seeming pedestrians with the question, "Are you Jewish?" and are known for their expansionist approach to growing their congregations.

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Now that Chris Dodd has decided to keep his chairmanship of the Senate banking committee, it looks like Tom Harkin will leave his agriculture post to go take Ted Kennedy's former spot atop the HELP committee. To the dismay of a lot of food-policy reformers, this means the more conservative Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas will be next in line for the Ag Committee gavel (there are more senior members on that committee, but they all have other, more powerful chairmanships already). It's not unreasonable to ask if this will really make a big difference as far as agricultural policy's concerned.

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Ed Kilgore is managing editor of The Democratic Strategist, a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, and a frequent contributor to a variety of political journals.    Believe it or not, it's becoming possible to get a feeling for how the health care reform struggle may play out this fall. The House will almost certainly pass a bill that includes a "public option." The Senate won't; any Senate bill will almost certainly be based on some version of the "health care cooperative" idea. Votes in both Houses will be very close, leaving little room for error.

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Fathers V. Agents

At the risk of turning this into a basketball blog, I wanted to follow up on that web story I wrote last week about how having an active, involved father might actually be an obstacle to becoming a big-time basketball star. On a related note, the basketball writer Adam Zagoria has a really interesting article about the ever increasing role sports agents are playing in the college recruiting process: The coach we spoke to added: “I don’t think this is happening with most Division 1 recruits.

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Massive cheating or not? A new kind of coup d’etat or not? How do we interpret this strange election whose results were announced by the press affiliated with the secret services and militia--even before the polls were closed? Considering the absence of international observers, considering that the election officials demanded by Ahmadinejad’s rivals were chased from polling places with billy clubs, and considering the climate of terror in which the whole process was steeped, it is hard to come down on one side or the other with much certainty. Nevertheless, three things are quite clear. The fi

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Dodd Complex

The father, the son, and a Connecticut dynasty in peril.

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All of the us stalwart Houston Rockets fans were heartened by the exciting news that NBA bad boy Ron Artest, star of the sport's worst ever brawl in Detroit a few years back, has joined the team. The reason to cheer is that Artest is a phenomenally talented basketball player and defensive specialist who will allow Houston to compete for an NBA championship next year. Usually when a new player joins a team, his new teammates embrace him with smiles and open arms, even if he is completely insane--as Artest happens to be.

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