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HeadlinesNovember 25, 2013

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Secret U.S.-Iran Talks in Oman Paved Way for Nuclear Deal

Nov 25, 2013

Iran and six world powers have clinched a deal to temporarily limit and roll back the Iranian nuclear program in exchange for the easing of international sanctions. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif welcomed the agreement as a first step toward a comprehensive deal.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif: “This is only a first step. It’s an important achievement, but this is a first step. We need to work together based on the same principles on which we started, principles of equal footing, mutual respect and common benefit, so that we can put an end to this unnecessary and rather sad chapter.”

Secretary of State John Kerry: “The fact is that if this step, first step, leads to what is our ultimate goal, which is a comprehensive agreement, that will make the world safer.”

The Geneva agreement came out of newly disclosed secret talks between the United States and Iran. The negotiations were held in Oman over the past several months. Iran has said the deal recognizes its self-proclaimed right to enrich uranium, a stance the United States has dismissed.

Warsaw Climate Summit Yields Modest Deal on Emissions Announcements, Loss and Damage

Nov 25, 2013

The U.N. climate summit in Warsaw, Poland, came to a close over the weekend with a deal that continues to delay major action on global warming. Countries agreed to a deadline of early 2015 for publishing their targets for cutting emissions by the year 2020. Those targets will then be used to hammer out a global accord at the end of 2015 when the U.N. climate summit is held in France. The United Nations’ top climate official, Christiana Figueres, said unlike the Kyoto Protocol, the next global climate deal should include emissions cuts from developing countries.

Christiana Figueres “What I think is very important is to realize that what remains unchanged is the fact that industrialized countries with a larger historical responsibility must take the lead. But that doesn’t mean that everybody else is off the hook. The fact is that every single country, small or large, every single sector, every single city, has to contribute, because otherwise we’re not going to be able to change the trajectory of greenhouse gases.”

Critics of the current road map for 2015 say it will let the world’s biggest polluters set insufficient cuts. Warsaw also saw the establishment of a new “loss and damage” mechanism to deliver aid to countries impacted by climate change. But the world’s biggest polluters, including the United States, continued to reject demands that such aid be deemed compensation for their record emissions. Looking ahead to 2015, the U.S. climate envoy, Todd Stern, said the talks face a continued divide between developed and developing nations.

Todd Stern: “As countries think forward about what might happen in Paris, there were some quite clear differences about — in the way that different countries conceive of the structure of an agreement, and in particular with respect to the classic kind of developed-developing country divide.”

The Warsaw climate summit saw an unprecedented walkout of both developing countries and dozens of environmental and civil society groups in protest of rich countries’ alleged inaction. In a statement, the group Friends of the Earth said: “The only success of the dirtiest climate conference on record is the fact that civil society walked out and started a domino effect already reaching our home countries, where ordinary citizens are joining the struggle for climate justice.”

Karzai Seeks Delay of U.S. Military Pact After Council Approval

Nov 25, 2013

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is threatening to delay a security pact with the United States despite its ratification by a tribal council he convened. A gathering of elders, known as a loya jirga, approved an agreement Sunday that would keep U.S. military bases and thousands of troops in Afghanistan beyond the planned 2014 withdrawal. U.S. troops would also receive immunity under Afghan law. But in his closing remarks to the meeting, Karzai said he would continue negotiations with the United States and demand an end to raids on Afghan homes.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai: “While we’re ready to give bases for Americans on our soil, we have a condition concerning security — security from today onwards meaning from now on American forces are banned from launching operations on Afghan homes.”

In his remarks, Karzai accused U.S. forces of killing two innocent villagers in a raid last week. The United States says the victims were militants. In addition to ending home raids, Karzai also called on the United States to reach a peace deal with the Taliban. While Karzai has pledged to delay his signature, the Obama administration has insisted on the deal’s ratification before the end of the year.

Both Sides Claim Victory in Honduras Presidential Race

Nov 25, 2013

In Honduras, both candidates are claiming victory in Sunday’s presidential election. The race has pitted Xiomara Castro , wife of ousted president Manuel Zelaya, against right-wing candidate Juan Orlando Hernández. With more than half of precincts reporting, Hernández has won 34 percent of the vote, while Castro has 29 percent. Zelaya was ousted in a 2009 coup.

Thousands Protest U.S. Drone War in Pakistan

Nov 25, 2013

Thousands of people rallied in Pakistan over the weekend in protest of the U.S. drone war. Speaking at a march in Karachi, Pakistani political leader Munawwar Hasan said the Pakistani government should close off NATO supply routes to bring drone strikes to an end.

Munawwar Hasan: “Drone strikes should come to an end, and Pakistan has the easiest means of stopping the drone attacks. America has to pass hundreds of thousands of containers through this country. More than 100,000 soldiers have to pass through Pakistan on their way out of Afghanistan. Pakistan should step on the tail of the United States and stop the NATO supplies. When this pressure increases on them, they will be willing to accept all our demands.”

On Saturday, a crowd of thousands staged a symbolic blockade of the NATO supply route in Peshawar.

Study: Over 11,000 Children Dead in Syrian Conflict

Nov 25, 2013

A new study says over 11,000 children have died in Syria’s civil war. According to the Oxford Research Group, seven in 10 were killed by explosive weapons.

Egypt Law Requires Permits for Demonstrations

Nov 25, 2013

Egypt has enacted a new law that will require government permission for demonstrations. The measure forces protesters to obtain seven different permits to hold public rallies. Critics say it will effectively outlaw protest in Egypt.

Sea Tribunal Orders Unconditional Release of Arctic 30

Nov 25, 2013

An international tribunal has ordered Russia to free all members of the Greenpeace “Arctic 30” and allow their return home. The group of 28 activists and two journalists were jailed for two months until last week for trying to stop Russian oil drilling in the Arctic. All but one are now free on bail, but will likely have to remain in Russia until their trial. On Friday, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea called for the Arctic 30’s unconditional release upon payment of a 3.6 milion euro bond. Greenpeace executive director Kumi Naidoo welcomed the ruling.

Kumi Naidoo: “We are happy that in fact the tribunal has ruled in our favor. We have always maintained that our activists acted peacefully, they acted legally, and that they should never have been imprisoned in the first place. So, essentially, the reality is that 30 people, who took peaceful, courageous action, have already spent two months in prison for a crime that they did not commit.”

Russia has rejected the tribunal’s ruling, saying it does not have jurisdiction. The Arctic 30 face charges of “hooliganism” which carry up to seven years in prison.

ACLU Lawsuit Challenges NSA Surveillance

Nov 25, 2013

A federal court heard arguments Friday in a case challenging the National Security Agency’s mass collection of U.S. phone call data. The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit earlier this year after leaks from Edward Snowden showed Verizon Business was ordered to hand over the call records of all of its customers. The ACLU says the NSA program goes far beyond what Congress has authorized under the USA PATRIOT Act.

House Bills Loosen Curbs on Fracking

Nov 25, 2013

The Republican-controlled House has approved several bills that would provide a major boon to oil and gas fracking in the United States. A measure approved Thursday would fast-track the construction of gas pipelines. That vote came one day after the House passed legislation that would strip the federal government’s authority to regulate fracking in states with their own rules. Another provision would impose a $5,000 fee on anyone filing an official protest against a drilling project. The measures have little chance of Senate passage, and President Obama has already threatened a veto should they reach his desk. A new study from the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington says oil and gas industry spending on congressional campaigns in fracking states and districts has jumped 231 percent since 2004.

Oklahoma Suspends Spousal Benefits for National Guard to Avoid Anti-Discrimination Rules

Nov 25, 2013

Oklahoma has suspended enrollment in spousal benefits for all members of the state’s National Guard rather than offer those benefits to married same-sex couples. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin announced the move in defiance of new military policy ending discrimination against gay and lesbian servicemembers. Fallin’s action forces all National Guard members to enroll for benefits at federal bases rather than at state ones. That means some will have to travel hundreds of miles just to sign up.

Dozens Protest Shooting Death of North Carolina Teen in Police Custody

Nov 25, 2013

Dozens of people marched in Durham, North Carolina, on Friday to protest the killing of a teenager in police custody. The family of 17-year-old Jesus Huerta had called police concerned he had run away to use illegal drugs. Police found Huerta and transported him in a van. The Durham Police Department says at some point during that trip Huerta suffered a gunshot wound to the head, but have not released details pending an investigation.

Swiss Voters Reject Bid to Limit CEO Pay

Nov 25, 2013

Voters in Switzerland have defeated a measure that would have limited the pay of top corporate executives. The “1:12 Initiative for Fair Play” would have capped CEO salaries at no more than 12 times that of their lowest-paid employees. Sixty-five percent of voters defeated the measure in Sunday’s referendum. Business groups mounted a major PR campaign against the proposal in recent weeks after initial polls showed it had a chance of passage.

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