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Biden sees higher toll from war in Afghanistan

Washington : Vice President Joe Biden, in a somber assessment of the road ahead, predicted yesterday that U.S. casualties would rise in Afghanistan as the Obama administration shifts military priorities in the battle against terrorism. "We've inherited a real mess" in Afghanistan, Biden said. "We're about to go in and try to essentially reclaim territory that's been effectively lost. ... All of this means we're going to be engaging the enemy more now." President Barack Obama has decided to confront an increasingly aggressive challenge from the Taliban by reducing U.S. forces in Iraq and increasing troop strength in Afghanistan. But the complexity and the potential cost of the new strategy were underscored yesterday by an outcry from Afghanistan over a U.S. operation that the United States said killed 15 militants but Afghan officials said had claimed the lives of 16 civilians.

Blagojevich trial opening without him

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. : If there is such a thing as a "normal" impeachment trial, the one that starts today in Illinois does not qualify. The defendant, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, won't be participating. He will be talking to Whoopi Goldberg and Larry King instead of facing the state Senate. And while the Democrat acknowledges that his conviction is certain, he refuses to resign. Blagojevich contends that the trial rules are unfair; however, he and his lawyers did not try to influence them. He told NBC's Today that when he was arrested on federal corruption charges, he took solace from thinking of other leaders - Nelson Mandela, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas K. Gandhi - who were imprisoned. Sen. Richard J. Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said yesterday that Blagojevich should be defending himself at the trial because the media attention will not impress the state senators who will be judging him. "Barbara Walters is not on his jury," Durbin said, referring to the co-host of The View.

Fed policy group seeks U.S. remedy

WASHINGTON : With the country stuck in a painful recession, the Federal Reserve is widely expected to keep its key interest rate at an all-time low this week and to examine other unconventional ways to lift the economy. The Fed is all but certain to hold rates near zero and might offer greater insights into what other steps might be taken to ease the problems. The Federal Open Market Committee - the central bank's main policymaking group - opens a two-day meeting tomorrow to assess economic and financial conditions, review the effectiveness of programs already in place to deal with the crises in the financial, credit and housing markets, and examine new relief options.

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