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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Karzai Puts Hold on Taliban Peace Talks

President Hamid Karzai suspended security negotiations with the United States and vowed to boycott negotiations with the Taliban unless they were “Afghan-led.”  His decision was spurred by images of the Taliban flag flying above the embassy and a banner using the name of the previous Taliban government, “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.” This stoked Afghans’ fears that the Taliban saw the office as an embassy for a shadow government, not the neutral address to hold negotiations that had been agreed upon. In the Taliban’s publicity-seeking, lavish opening ceremony for their embassy, they did not mention the current Afghan government once. Hours afterwards, Taliban insurgents ambushed an American convoy, killing four soldiers. American officials pressured the Taliban to remove the sign and announced that no talks with the Taliban were scheduled, but the Afghan people’s feeling of betrayal remains.

Global Refugee Numbers at 19-Year High

A report from the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees announced that 7.6 million people had become refugees in 2012, raising the total number of displaced people to 45.2 million. It is the highest figure since 1994, which saw the Rwandan genocide and bloodshed in the former Yugoslavia. 55% of refugees and internally-displaced people came from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and Syria, with Afghanistan producing the largest number of refugees of any nation (a position it has held for 32 years). There were also sharp spikes in the number of displaced people from the newer conflicts in Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. Every 4.1 seconds, someone is forced to flee their home. These figures do not include the additional one million people who have fled Syria in the past 6 months alone.

Deadly Toxin Found in Fukushima Water

Japan discovered high levels of strontium-90, a toxic by-product of the fission of uranium and plutonium, in the groundwater at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has been overwhelmed with contaminated water as it flushes water over the three reactors, claiming in April it was running out of space to store it. The discovery of strontium and a less harmful substance, tritium, in the groundwater will complicate the company’s petition to release water that it claims was only  contaminated by  low levels of radiation.  TEPCO has consistently revised announcements about radiation levels since the earthquake. Last month, it claimed that the groundwater was uncontaminated and was trying to convince local fishermen that it was safe to dump 100 metric tons of groundwater a day into the ocean.

Protests Continue Throughout Brazil

Despite President Dilma Rousseff acknowledging and supporting their concerns, hundreds of thousands of Brazilians gathered in cities across the country for a third day of protests. The long list of grievances remains centered on Brazil’s low-quality public services despite having high taxes and high prices. With additional, larger protests planned for Thursday and no end to the movement in sight, politicians struggled to figure out how to address so many separate concerns. The National Public Security Force has been deployed to five cities. Although the president emphasized that they were not there to disperse the protesters, but to rein in the illegal actions of a small group, instances of clashes between protesters and police are on the rise.


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