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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Afghanistan Talks with US, Taliban

One day before Afghanistan’s loya jirga – a grand assembly comprised of 3,000 delegates – is set to meet, US and Afghan officials have just finalized the details of a security pact that would let US forces remain in Afghanistan after 2014. At issue was a segment of the pact that allows American forces to enter Afghan homes. The US agreed to put into writing assurances that it would enter Afghan homes only in exceptional circumstances to save lives. While it refused demands to include an apology for Afghan civilian deaths, it offered an expression of regret for Afghans’ suffering and the loss of innocent lives. The loya jirga will vote on the pact, including this letter, tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Afghan officials are meeting with the Taliban’s former deputy chief, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in the hopes that he will help to forge a deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government. While Baradar is a long-time friend of reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, it is unclear if he is willing or able to help begin peace talks.

Climate Negotiations in Disarray

Representatives of the world’s poorer countries have walked out of climate negotiations after developed countries – including the EU, Australia and the US – insisted that the question of who should pay compensation for extreme climate events not be discussed until after 2015.

A new report has concluded that more than 200 million people around the world are at risk of exposure to toxic waste, mostly the result of creating products sold to Western countries. 23% of deaths in the developing world are attributable to environmental factors. Just 90 companies are responsible for two-thirds of man-made global warming emissions.

UN Accuses Syria, Iran, North Korea and Myanmar of Human Rights Violations

A UN  General Assembly committee condemned Syria for widespread human rights abuses, and also expressed concern about ongoing violations in Iran, North Korea and Myanmar. It did, however, welcome pledges from Iran and Myanmar to improve some areas. Passing this resolution against these four countries has become something of a yearly ritual. It has no legal consequences.

In addition to its discrimination against women and ethnic minorities, Iran came under fire today from Human Rights Watch for its treatment of Afghan refugees. HRW alleged that thousands of Afghans have been forcibly deported, some without being given the chance to tell their families, as well as being subjected to physical abuse and forced labor.

Venezuelan President Gets Special Powers

Venezuela’s National Assembly has given final approval to grant special powers to President Nicolas Maduro after an opposition lawmaker was stripped of her parliamentary rights and replaced with a Maduro loyalist. Under the new measures, Maduro will be able to govern without consulting congress for an entire year.

Maduro has pledged to use these powers to rescue Venezuela’s collapsing economy by restricting retail profits, fixing prices and controlling imports. It’s not clear if any of this will prevent another wave of shortages in 2014.

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