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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Palestinian Leaders Have Mixed Reactions to Kerry’s Plan

A high-level meeting of senior Palestinian leaders ended without making a decision on whether or not Kerry’s proposed peace plan was an acceptable starting point for renewed peace negotiations with Israel. While Kerry has not released the details of the plan, the Arab League’s full endorsement of it on Wednesday led to the optimistic speculation that the Palestinians would endorse it as well. They will meet again tonight to discuss the proposal in more detail.

There were differing reports of the mood at the meeting. Some described Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as upbeat and leaning towards Kerry’s proposal. Others, however, believe the proposal is insufficient. The major sticking points: before negotiations begin, the Palestinians want a freeze of Israeli settlement-building on the West Bank and a return to what would essentially be Israel’s pre-1967 borders. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the talks should not have preconditions.

Today’s U.S. National Security Mashup

The Obama administration has successfully appealed a court ruling that banned genital searches on prisoners in Guantanamo Bay.  Enforcing the ban will now be delayed until the administration can mount a full appeal. Detainees are strip searched on their way to meetings or phone calls with their lawyers and when they return to their cells. As a result, some chose to forego legal representation all together. The judge ruled that the searches were meant to deter prisoners’ access to lawyers, not enhance security.

In appeals news, Bradley Manning lost his when the military judge Colonel Denise Lind decided not to drop the most serious charge leveled against him, “aiding the enemy,” which has a maximum sentence of life in prison without parol. To be convicted on this charge, the prosecution would have to prove he had “evil intent” and “actual knowledge” that the enemy would see the material; Col. Lind ruled that due to his training, he should have “presumed foreign adversaries” would see the material. In contrast, none of the U.S. soldiers who massacred unarmed civilians in Haditha served jail time.

India’s Top Court Tries To Curb Acid Attacks

India’s Supreme Court ordered federal and state governments to regulate the sale of acid and sell it only to those who can present a viable identity card. The buyer would also have to explain why they need the chemical and the ruling requires all sales of acid to be reported to the police. The hope is that knowing the authorities have their names and addresses will prevent them from throwing acid on women.

The regulation is the most court’s most recent attempt to take on India’s endemic violence against women. Over 1,000 women a year are attacked with acid, mostly by men whose overtures they had rejected, leaving them with terrible disfigurements and crippling healthcare costs. The court also increased the minimum compensation for each victim and ordered the government to cover all healthcare costs.

Nigeria To Pull Some Troops From Mali

Nigeria will pull some of its 1,200 troops from the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali “because of the domestic situation.” The move comes just ten days before Mali’s presidential elections, which many hope will restore democracy after last year’s coup and bloody civil war. Mali’s own army is weak, and security remains fragile, as illustrated by recent attacks on peacekeepers in the north.

The fight against Islamic extremist group Boko Haram in Nigeria, moreover, has escalated over the past two months, forcing President Goodluck Johnson to declare a state of emergency in mid-May. The troops from Mali will be used to reinforce those that have been stretched thin by their efforts to root Boko Haram out of the north. Boko Haram (roughly, “Western Education is Sinful”) has targeted four schools in the past month alone and killed dozens of students.

McDonalds Creates Sample Budget For Employees

McDonalds has partnered with Visa to create a website that is meant to help their employees learn how to budget their money. The result, however, is a sobering look at how impossible it is to stay alive while making the minimum wage. The budget assumes that employees work another job in addition to their full time job at McDonald’s, which alone is not enough to live on. For minimum-wage workers, this adds up to 62-74 hours weekly, depending on the state.

The budget inexplicably does not set aside any money for heat, food or gas (although a slot for car payments is included). It also cites the laughable amount of $20 a month as the cost of health care.

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