The mystery of the missing $2.9 trillion

Like most people, economists love a mystery – especially if it involves not a missing person but a missing $2.9 trillion in United States debt.

That’s $2.9 with 11 zeros after it.

Some words of explanation: Every quarter the Department of Commerce comes up with the US “International Investment Position.” At the end of 2006, for instance, the US had a net negative position – by this measurement of international assets and liabilities – of $2.6 trillion. In other words, the country is by far the world’s biggest debtor nation.

A quarter century ago, the US was the world’s largest creditor nation.

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Rumsfeld flees France fearing arrest

Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld fled France today fearing arrest over charges of “ordering and authorizing” torture of detainees at both the American-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the US military’s detainment facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, unconfirmed reports coming from Paris suggest.

US embassy officials whisked Rumsfeld away yesterday from a breakfast meeting in Paris organized by the Foreign Policy magazine after human rights groups filed a criminal complaint against the man who spearheaded President George W. Bush’s “war on terror” for six years.

Under international law, authorities in France are obliged to open an investigation when a complaint is made while the alleged torturer is on French soil.

According to activists in France, who greeted Rumsfeld shouting “murderer” and “war criminal” at the breakfast meeting venue, US embassy officials remained tight-lipped about the former defense secretary’s whereabouts citing “security reasons”.

Anti-torture protesters in France believe that the defense secretary fled over the open border to Germany, where a war crimes case against Rumsfeld was dismissed by a federal court. But activist point out that under the Schengen agreement that ended border checkpoints across a large part of the European Union, French law enforcement agents are allowed to cross the border into Germany in pursuit of a fleeing fugitive.

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The fog of work: What happened to Fremont mechanic Hamid Sayadi after 9/11?

In the beginning, 9/11 was a local story — it was the intimate grief and shock and incomprehension that so profoundly shook us those first days and weeks. Over time it morphed into something political, and we came to see the tragedy through the wide-angle lenses of foreign policy and law and the other spasms of governance it inspired.

But even as the specific event blurred into unspecific politics and symbolism over the years, it continued to affect individuals in concrete ways — ways that Fremont resident Hamid Sayadi claims he paid a price for.

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