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Karzai says US can keep Afghan bases after 2014

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan is ready to let the United States and its allies keep military bases here after the end of the NATO combat mission next year, President Hamid Karzai said Thursday, offering a concrete public signal that foreign troops would remain welcome in the coming years.

The United States and Afghanistan are negotiating a security agreement that would allow U.S. forces to stay here beyond the end of 2014, and Karzai said the Obama administration has asked for nine bases spread across the country.

“We agree to give them these bases,” Karzai told students during a speech at Kabul University. “We consider our relations with the United States beyond 2014 to be positive for Afghanistan.”

The U.S. reaction, though, was far less positive than what one would expect. Officials characterized Karzai’s comments as premature, at best, and said they appeared to reflect the Afghan government’s desire for a larger force than the United States is likely willing to commit.

The Obama administration has yet to decide how large a force it would like to keep in Afghanistan, but administration officials have signaled that it is unlikely to total more than 10,000 service members.

—Matthew Rosenberg, The New York Times

Top editors abruptly leave Village Voice

The tumult that has characterized New York City’s The Village Voice in recent years resurfaced Thursday when the top two editors said they were leaving the weekly publication.

Will Bourne, who became editor-in-chief in November, and Jessica Lustig, the deputy editor since January, met with the staff at 11 a.m. Thursday to announce their departure. In a phone interview, Bourne said Christine Brennan, executive editor of Voice Media Group, had instructed them to lay off or drastically reduce the roles of five employees on the 20-person staff. Rather than carry out the cuts, they resigned and left immediately, in the middle of closing Monday’s edition.

Turnover at The Village Voice has become something of a pattern as the weekly and its owners have struggled to come to grips with declining revenue and increased competition for readers and advertisers on the Web. When Bourne took over last year, he became the sixth Voice editor since 2005.

—David Carr, The New York Times

YouTube’s pay channels include “Sesame Street”

YouTube on Thursday detailed its plan to let producers sell paid subscriptions to their videos, creating a prominent new marketplace for programming on the Internet.

The sprawling video website, a unit of Google, said the first paid video channels would come online Thursday afternoon, with subscription rates ranging from 99 cents to $7.99 a month. The early participants include Sesame Workshop, the producer of “Sesame Street,” which will stream full episodes of the children’s show to paying subscribers; Ultimate Fighting Championship, the mixed martial arts league, which will stream classic fights to fans; and The Young Turks, a progressive talk show.

YouTube identified about 30 of these partners on Thursday and said other video makers would soon be able to set up their own paid channels, using YouTube’s infrastructure. In a conference call for reporters, Malik Ducard, the director of content partnerships for YouTube, suggested that this “self-service feature” was the most important piece of the announcement.

“As we roll out wider and as we roll out self-serve, you’ll see a lot of innovation,” he said, predicting that homegrown YouTube stars with fan followings would choose to set up paid channels.

—Brian Stelter, The New York Times