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Monday, July 29, 2013

Israel and Palestinians Resume Talks After 5 Years

Israeli and Palestinian teams flew to Washington D.C. today, to prepare for a new round of Middle East peace talks. The resumption of diplomatic ties was due, in large part, to the decision by Israel’s cabinet to release 104 long-held Palestinian prisoners in four stages, linked to the progress of the talks.  Previously, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had been unwilling to deal with Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.

The talks will simply attempt to lay the groundwork for a fully-fledged peace process, which would start later this year. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who brokered the talks, called for both sides to make “reasonable compromises” while referring to the task as “daunting.” Obama welcomed the talks, but warned that “hard choices” will have to be made. Few in the Middle East seemed optimistic.

North Africa: What You Should Know

Egypt: Over the weekend, soldiers and armed civilians opened fire on a peaceful pro-Morsi rally, massacring at least 72. The Anti-Coup Alliance of Islamist groups urged its supporters to hold a ‘million person’ protest, while the National Defense Council warned that it would take “decisive and firm” action against demonstrators. Meanwhile, the military announced the resurrection of controversial secret police units, which both Mubarak and Morsi had been criticized for using.

Tunisia: Following the assassination of a secular politician last week, there have been continual riots and protests calling for the removal of the Islamist ruling party, Ennahda. The Prime Minister refused to step down, saying his party was not clinging to power, but filling their mandate. He also scheduled a general election for December 17th, in an attempt to defuse the tension. Ennahda has blamed the assassination on Tunisia’s branch of al-Qaeda, which, in turn, denied involvement.

Libya: A prominent critic of the Muslim Brotherhood was gunned down on Friday, sparking attacks on the movement’s headquarters in Tripoli and Benghazi; on Sunday, two blasts targeted Benghazi’s judicial buildings. The violence continues to escalate.

Fast Food Workers Strike for Decent Wages

In New York City, thousands were scheduled to walk out of their minimum-wage jobs at McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s throughout the day. Workers from Kansas City, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, Flint and Seattle are expected to join them over the next week.

The Fast Food Forward campaign began in New York City last year, calling for fast food workers to earn $15 an hour, more than double the federal minimum wage. Most workers are living in poverty and to stay at the poverty line, likely work two full-time jobs. Many can’t put food on the table or even afford to take the train to work.

Supporters point to businesses like Costco, which pays $20 an hour, as evidence that treating workers well does not, in fact, decrease a company’s competitiveness.

Cambodian and Malian Elections

Both Cambodia and Mali held highly anticipated elections over the weekend.  Official results in Mali’s election are not scheduled to be released until Tuesday, but most polls suggest that former premier Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was in the lead. High voter turnout and a lack of violence has made many optimistic and garnered Mali international praise.

In Cambodia, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) says it won the election with 68 seats to the opposition’s 55, which is a significant reduction in its majority. Nevertheless, the Cambodian National Rescue Party rejected the results, citing “serious irregularities”, including names missing from voter lists and people arriving to discover someone had already used their ballot. It has called for a committee with members from both parties, the UN and the National Election Committee (NEC) to be “urgently established” to investigate. Prime Minister Hun Sen and the CPP have ruled Cambodia for the past 30 years.


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