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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

International Military Coalition Reduces Contact with Afghan Forces

The international military coalition in Afghanistan, led by the U.S., has decided to restrict the number of operations carried out jointly with the Afghan army. This is in response to a spike in attacks on coalition troops by Afghan soldiers and police over the last six weeks. There was also concern the attacks will multiply following protests against a U.S.-produced film that ridicules Prophet Muhammad. Today a suicide bomber killed 14 people in a minibus, including 10 foreigners that worked under U.S. contracts. The new rules that limit contact between international forces and the Afghan military may also slow down the training mission that will make it possible for international troops to exit the country. The coalition sought to appease those worries: “We are not stepping away from this,” Spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Richard Spiegel said. “Things might look a little different, but we’re not walking away.”

Romney Seeks to Reframe Debate After Video Leak

In an interview with Fox News, U.S. Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney stood by his remarks secretly recorded last May that 47 percent of U.S. voters are “victims.” The comment was caught on tape at a $50,000-a-plate fundraiser held last May at the Florida residence of Private Equity Manager Mark Leder, and the video was released yesterday by Mother Jones, a left-wing publication. Today, Romney attempted to reframe the debate by placing the focus on the philosophical differences between him and his opponent, incumbent U.S. President Barack Obama. He characterized Obama as a proponent of redistribution, adding “we believe in free people and free enterprise, not redistribution.” Romney’s words seemed to have so far done little to end backlash from both the Republican and the Democratic camps. In the video, Romney also said peace in the Middle East is “almost unthinkable to accomplish,” explaining “Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace,” for political reasons. Palestinian Authority Chief Peace Negotiator Saeb Erakat said this comment was “absolutely unacceptable,” adding that “no one has an interest in peace more than the Palestinian people, because peace for the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership means freedom and independence from the Israeli occupation.”

Miners, Bosses Sign Agreement to End Violent Strike in South Africa

The six-week strike that killed 45 people in South Africa reached its conclusion today, as Lonmin, which operates the platinum mine in Marikana, agreed to a 22 percent pay increase for the miners. This strike saw the deadliest clash involving police since 1994, as policemen shot and killed 34 people last month. It also spread to other platinum mines owned by different producers, catching the government off guard. “This incident has been a surprise given the established procedures we have in place,” said South Africa President Jacob Zuma today. Experts worry this substantial pay raise will provoke more incidents at other mines as more workers demand the same conditions: 15,000 miners continued an illegal strike at the KDC West gold mine, operated by Gold Fields. The Marikana miners will go back to work on Thursday.

Spain Will Consider Bailout if Conditions Are Acceptable

Spain Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría said today the country will consider asking for a bailout package, provided the conditions attached to it are acceptable to the government. This is a sign the nation may be preparing to ask for financial help. Spanish authorities have been reluctant to committing to such a step as months of spending cuts have left the country reeling. “If we manage to bring those borrowing costs down to acceptable levels and that doesn’t imply an intolerable sacrifice for Spaniards, we will have to analyze it,” Sáenz de Santamaría said. This decision may be accelerated by new data that shows bad loans represent an unprecedented 9.86 percent of the banking system, according to a report released today by the nation’s central bank. The Eurozone already granted Spain €100 billion ($130 billion) to recapitalize its troubled banks in July. The government is due to present new structural reforms along with its 2013 budget on September 28. It is widely believed that many of those reforms will pre-empt conditions imposed by the European Union and the European Central Bank in exchange for a possible bailout package.

Russia Demands End to U.S. Support of Pro-Democratic Organizations

Russia demanded that the U.S. stop supporting pro-democracy and human rights organizations in the country. For 20 years, the U.S. Agency for International Development has worked in post-Soviet Russia, and had come to contribute around $50 million per year. This is the latest step in a crackdown led by the Russian government on dissidence and opposition. U.S. aid was perceived by the Kremlin as a way to meddle with internal politics, and to help President Vladimir Putin’s rivals. Among the organizations that will lose funding are health groups, but also the only independent election monitoring association Golos, which uncovered widespread fraud at the parliamentary elections last December, provoking multiple protests against the government. The Obama administration hasn’t yet said how funding will end, whether abruptly or progressively.

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