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Friday, November 22, 2013

7 Largest Syrian Islamist Rebel Groups Form Alliance

7 of the most militarily powerful Islamist groups announced that they have agreed to a “gradual merger” to form a single organization called the Islamist Front, dedicated to overthrowing President Bashar al-Assad and building an Islamic state in Syria. It is the largest rebel alliance to date. It seems designed not only as a response to the Assad regime’s recent string of victories, but as a way to stave off challenges from al-Qaeda linked groups like Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and the al-Nusra Front, neither of which are part of the new coalition.

A spokesman for the Islamic Front said that they would cooperate with all “loyal fighters,” including the Free Syria Army, the military arm of the country’s main political opposition bloc, the secular, Western-backed Syrian National Coalition.

Political Backlash in Ukraine

Thousands of protesters rallied across Ukraine for a second day, angry about the government’s abrupt decision yesterday to pull out of an economic deal with the EU. The Prime Minister has claimed the decision to suspend the signing of the pact was due to excessively harsh terms demanded by the IMF. EU officials said that Russia had ‘blackmailed’ Ukraine with threats of trade losses worth billions and costing hundreds of thousands of jobs in addition to promising cheaper access to gas.

Jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko wrote to Yanukovich, pledging she would stay in jail if he would sign the pact (the EU had been demanding her release). Fears of facing her in the next presidential election are thought to have contributed to Yanukovich ditching the pact. She also urged Ukrainians to take to the streets, and “react to this as they would to a coup d’etat.”

More Central African Republic Horrors Come to Light

What started as a political movement against the corrupt and autocratic former president, François Bozizé, has begun to take on an ominous religious tone as the vast majority of CAR is Christian, while the Seleka rebels are overwhelmingly Muslim, their ranks swelling with mercenaries from Chad and Sudan. Amnesty International has accused the Seleka of human rights violations on an ‘unprecedented scale.’ Civilians describe their children’s throats being slit and young men tied up and thrown to crocodiles. Some Christians are taking up arms and committing atrocities of their own, thus perpetuating a spiral of violence. The number of child soldiers has more than doubled in recent months. Ban Ki-moon has called for 9,000 UN troops to ‘prevent genocide.’

Climate Talks in Warsaw End

Nations at the UN climate change talks have agreed to a significant packet of measures that will take steps toward curbing emissions from deforestation, which accounts for about 20% of global carbon dioxide emissions. The measures will give ‘results-based’ payments to developing nations that cut carbon by leaving trees standing, which requires countries to provide information on safeguards for local communities or biodiversity before they receive any money.

This is a positive reversal after the tensions and recriminations that have marked the talks. Developing nations want a new institution with legal and executive powers that would compensate people for loss and damage caused by extreme weather events exacerbated by global warming. Developed nations do not. Talks seemed to be on the verge of breaking down when green groups walked out of negotiations and developing countries launched an attack against the EU over a timetable for a global deal on greenhouse gas emissions. It now seems possible, however, that a new draft outlining the global agreement could be released on Friday.

Swiss to Vote on Executive Pay

This Sunday, the Swiss will vote on a referendum that would limit the CEO’s pay to 12 times that of the company’s lowest-paid employee. To become law, the initiative needs to win the majority in the country’s 26 cantons as well as in the total population. Last month, France limited CEO compensation to 20 times that of the lowest-paid employee in response to growing anger at corporate pay that has been flaring up across Europe. Public anger in Switzerland has already led to legislation tightening regulations on executive exit and signing bonuses.  This new law, however, would essentially cap the highest possible wage at around €400,000, and the latest polls suggest the measure only has support of about 36% of the population.

Weekend Read: How Is Hamid Karzai Still Standing?

Enemies left, enemies right, and then there’s his family. Building an Afghan legacy is even more complicated than it appears. Via The New York Times Magazine.


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