The Envoy
  • Who is Jim Kim, Obama’s choice to head World Bank?

    Pres. Obama announced Jim Kim (second from left) as his pick to be the next World Bank president March 23, 2012. (Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP)It's fair to say that surprise was the initial Beltway reaction to President Obama's announcement Friday that he'd picked Dartmouth president Jim Yong Kim as the U.S. nominee to lead the World Bank. Kim, a Harvard-trained medical doctor, anthropologist and former World Health Organization official, is not a familiar creature around Washington circles. White House whispers had previously floated more well-known political figures for the position being vacated in June by Robert ZoellickSecretary of State Hillary Clinton, former White House economic adviser Larry Summers, Sen. John Kerry and U.N. envoy Susan Rice, to name a few.

    But it didn't take long for the rave reviews from the global health and development community to come in. Kim was an inspired choice, they said, to head the 187-nation bank, whose mission is to fight poverty and promote development.

    "This [the choice] is much more significant than 'he is not a Washington insider,'" Heather Hurlburt, a former Clinton administration official who is now executive director of the progressive National Security Network, told Yahoo News. Hurlburt met Kim about ten years ago when she worked with Bono on the One campaign anti-poverty initiative. "This is someone who has actually done development. Have we ever had a World Bank president whose specialty is development? He is a practitioner."

    Even former President Bill Clinton weighed in. "Jim Kim is an inspired and outstanding choice to lead the World Bank," he said in a statement, that noted Kim's "years of commitment and leadership to development and particularly health care and AIDS treatment across the world."

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  • Pentagon officials said Thursday that they expect Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 38, to be charged on Friday on 17 counts of murder, among other lesser charges.

    The charges "are expected tomorrow," a U.S. official told Yahoo News Thursday night on condition of anonymity.

    "The charges signed against Bales include 17 counts of murder, six counts of attempted murder and six counts of aggravated assault as well as dereliction of duty and other violations of military law," the Associated Press reported.

    The official said he could not explain why Bales was expected to be charged on 17 counts of murder, when the number of Afghan civilians reported to have been killed in a March 11 shooting rampage in Panjwai district, southern Afghanistan was 16, including 9 children.

     

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  • French special police leave the area after suspect Mohammed Merah was killed in a shootout in Toulouse March 22, 2012. (Bob Edme/AP)

    French president Nicolas Sarkozy called for unity in France Thursday following the dramatic shootout that killed Toulouse gunman Mohamed Merah after a 32-hour standoff. Merah, a 23-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent, had admitted Wednesday to negotiators that he had killed three children and their teacher and three French paratroopers, prosecutors said. And indeed, they said they found videotapes he had made of the killings in his apartment.

    But French officials were facing sharp questions in the wake of the Toulouse killing spree, in particular about why they had failed to close in on Merah earlier.

    The 23-year-old Toulouse trained mechanic had traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan at least twice, most recently in 2011. He claimed to have trained in jihadi camps in Waziristan, according to French prosecutors Thursday, who said he had also proclaimed allegiance to al-Qaida. Merah was also well-known to Toulouse law enforcement, having been charged for  over a dozen petty crimes as a juvenile. He later served 18 months in prison from 2007-2009 for purse snatching. His attorney reportedly said this week that at their last meeting a couple months ago, he had advised Merah to be on his best behavior because he had recently returned from Afghanistan and would be on the police's radar. (Merah had been picked up for driving without a license.)

    "That is one of the big questions people in France are asking coming out of this," Christophe Bauer, a producer at French broadcaster France 24, told Yahoo News Thursday. "There's a sense he just came back from Afghanistan. French officials said they had been tracking him. But what does that tracking mean? Apparently, the French intelligence services in Toulouse talked to him when he got back from Afghanistan."

    CNN reported Thursday that Merah was on the U.S. "no-fly" list since 2010, related to his activities in Afghanistan.

    Experts on jihadi movements say several factors would have put Merah on the radar of French law enforcement and intelligence. Among them, his multiple trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan, his history of past petty crimes and his alleged affiliation with an Islamist organization.

    "The problem is trying to figure out who will go a step further," Aaron Zelin, a research associate at Brandeis University, who focuses on Islamic jihadi groups, told Yahoo News on Wednesday. As in any country, Zelin said, "it's hard to know when a person is totally radicalized."

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