U.S. Troops Granted Immunity in Afghan Security Pact

The White House and Afghanistan have reached agreement on a bilateral security pact that would preserve a U.S. military occupation beyond 2014. Under the deal, the U.S. military would maintain several bases, and its troops would be immune from prosecution in Afghan courts. The United States would not conduct military operations "unless mutually agreed." Afghan officials say they have kept their demand for a White House apology over deadly raids on Afghan homes. But in Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry said an apology is off the table.

Secretary of State John Kerry: "But let me be clear: President Karzai didn’t ask for an apology. There was no discussion of an apology. There will be — there is no — I mean, it’s just not even on the table. He didn’t ask for it; we’re not discussing it. And that is not the subject that we have been talking about. What we’ve been talking about are the terms of the BSA [Bilateral Security Agreement] itself."

The U.S.-Afghan pact now goes before an Afghan council of elders, known as a loya jirga, meeting in Afghanistan today. If approved, the United States is expected to maintain a force of around 8,000 to 12,000 troops after the formal withdrawal next year.

U.S. Launches Drone Strike in Pakistan Despite Reported Halt

The United States has carried out a new drone strike in Pakistan despite a reported pledge to halt the attacks during peace talks with the Taliban. U.S. missiles struck a religious school in northwestern Pakistan earlier today, killing up to five people. The strike comes one day after Pakistan’s foreign minister said the United States had promised to hold back on drone strikes while the Pakistani government tries to engage the Taliban in negotiations. Pakistan accused the United States of derailing peace talks earlier this month after a strike that killed Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud.

Dozens Dead in Iraq Bombing

At least 25 people have been killed and more than 30 wounded in a car bombing in northeastern Iraq. It was the third major bombing in Iraq this week. Iraq is currently suffering its worst violence in five years.

NSA Accessed Private Info of U.K. Citizens

New disclosures from whistleblower Edward Snowden show the National Security Agency has stored and analyzed the private data of British citizens, despite no suspicion of wrongdoing. An NSA memo from 2007 says the United States and Britain reached an agreement that would grant the NSA access to phone, Internet and email records that had previously been off-limits. The information is stored in databases available to other U.S. intelligence and military agencies. A separate memo from 2005 outlines NSA proposals for spying on citizens in other so-called "Five Eyes" nations — Australia, New Zealand and Canada — even when the surveillance request has been denied.

Indonesia Suspends Military Cooperation With Australia over NSA Row

The news comes amidst a continued diplomatic fallout between Indonesia and Australia over National Security Agency spying. Indonesia has recalled its ambassador to Australia and frozen military cooperation following recent disclosures showing the NSA used Australia as part of its global spying operations. Australian intelligence agencies reportedly tried to tap the phone of Indonesia’s president and other top officials. Earlier today, around 200 people marched on the Australian embassy in Jakarta, some burning Australian flags. During a visit to Washington, both Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Secretary of State John Kerry refused to comment on the Indonesia controversy.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop: "We do not discuss intelligence matters, certainly not allegations. We do not discuss them publicly, and we will not do so."

Secretary of State John Kerry: "We work with our friends in Indonesia on many different issues, and we will continue to do that. But whatever has been or not been released or being discussed in the papers, I believe, as I think our friends in Australia do, is a matter of intelligence and intelligence procedures, and we don’t discuss intelligence procedures in any sort of public way."

Shareholders Press AT&T, Verizon on NSA Spying

Activist shareholders with the telecom giants AT&T and Verizon have submitted resolutions seeking transparency on the firms’ role in National Security Agency spying. Measures proposed by Trillium Asset Management of Boston and the New York State Common Retirement Fund call on AT&T and Verizon to report semi-annually on "metrics and discussion regarding requests for customer information by U.S. and foreign governments."

Illinois Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

Illinois has become the 16th state to legalize same-sex marriage. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn signed the measure into law on Wednesday, one week after its passage in the state Assembly. The law will take effect on June 1 of next year.

Rep. Radel Takes Leave of Absence Following Cocaine Conviction

Republican Rep. Trey Radel of Florida has been sentenced to one year probation after pleading guilty to charges of misdemeanor possession of cocaine. After appearing in court, Radel announced he is taking a leave of absence to seek treatment. In September, Radel voted for a provision in the House farm bill that would force food stamp recipients to undergo drug testing. On Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she hopes Republicans rethink their stance in light of Radel’s drug conviction.

Virginia State Senator Recovering after Stabbing

A Virginia state senator is recovering in good condition after being stabbed by his son. Creigh Deeds, a Democrat and former candidate for governor, was hospitalized after his son stabbed him in the head and chest. The son, Austin Deeds, was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He had undergone psychiatric evaluation a day earlier but was not admitted to a hospital because of a lack of available beds. The Washington Post reports other area hospitals had available beds but were not consulted.

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