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The M23 rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo has called off a 20-month uprising, declaring its surrender. The M23 says it will abandon armed conflict and seek a negotiated solution after being driven from its last two strongholds. Thousands have been killed and more than 800,000 have been displaced since the group of former soldiers took up arms in April 2012. Rwanda has been accused of backing the M23’s operations in the DRC, but its support has reportedly waned in recent weeks. At a summit of African leaders in South Africa, Malawian President Joyce Banda made an appeal for peace.
Malawian President Joyce Banda: “For us to achieve genuine peace and stability in the eastern part of the DRC, the conflicting parties should not only exercise maximum restraint, but also high levels of cooperation and tolerance in order to avoid any further escalation of the war. The women and children of the DRC deserve peace and deserve better. Women are dying. They are being raped. Children are being killed and maimed. Life cannot continue like this. I want to appeal to the leaders of the conflicting parties to give peace a chance.”
Talks between the DRC government and the M23 mediated by neighboring Uganda are expected to resume in the coming weeks. Earlier today, the U.S. special envoy to the Congo and the Great Lakes region, former Senator Russ Feingold, welcomed M23’s surrender as a major first step.
Sen. Russ Feingold: “In a region that has suffered so much, this is certainly a significant positive step in the right direction, that has to be followed by the disarming and demobilization of the other armed groups and a broader political dialogue. Under the auspices of the framework for hope — of hope, led by African nations, this is only the beginning of a legitimate peace and development process, but it is a valuable beginning.”
Local officials in a northwestern province of Pakistan have voted to block NATO supply routes unless the United States puts an end to drone attacks. A measure approved Monday gives the United States a deadline of November 20 or face a blockade of its supply lines. The vote came in response to the drone attack that killed Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, jeopardizing renewed talks between the Taliban and the Pakistani government. In his first public comments since the attack that killed Mehsud, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif renewed his call for an end to the drone strikes and vowed to press ahead with the Taliban peace talks.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif: “Our government, ladies and gentlemen, is firmly resolved to bringing the cycle of bloodshed and violence to an end. But it cannot be done overnight, nor can it be done by unleashing senseless force against our citizens without making — without first making every effort to bring the misguided and confused elements of society back to the mainstream. The government of Pakistan has made its position clear, that drone strikes constituted a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, violative of international humanitarian laws, besides being counterproductive to our efforts for bringing peace and stability in Pakistan and the region.”
Secretary of State John Kerry was in Saudi Arabia on Monday for talks with King Abdullah. The meeting came amidst reported tensions between the two sides over Syria, Iran and the Israel-Palestine peace talks. At a news conference, Kerry said the United States and Saudi Arabia are on the same page.
Secretary of State John Kerry: “There is no difference about our mutually agreed-upon objective in Syria. As I have said many times before, Assad has lost all legitimacy. And Assad must go. Nothing that we are doing with respect to this negotiation (with Iran) will alter or upset or get in the way of the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia and the relationship in this region.”
After meetings in Saudi Arabia, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew to Poland where he faced immediate questions over U.S. spying. Kerry is the most senior U.S. official to visit Europe since Edward Snowden revealed extensive National Security Agency spying on European leaders, diplomats and ordinary citizens. Kerry said the NSA spying controversy shouldn’t cloud ongoing trade talks.
Secretary of State John Kerry: “Now that should not be confused with whatever legitimate questions exist with respect to NSA or other activities. And as I have said previously, we want to hear from our allies. We want to have this conversation. President Obama welcomes this opportunity to work with our allies. And ultimately, if we get it right, which we will, we can not only alleviate concerns, but we can actually strengthen our intelligence relationships going forward. And we can all be more secure and safer as a result, as well as protecting the privacy of citizens.”
Thousands of people rallied in Iran on Monday in the annual commemoration of the 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy. The demonstration was held outside the old embassy building, now dubbed the “nest of spies.” Protesters chanted anti-U.S. slogans in what was seen as a rebuke of President Hassan Rouhani’s pursuit of talks with the United States and other world powers over Iran’s nuclear program.
The United Nations is warning around 40 percent of Syria’s population is now in need of humanitarian aid. On Monday, U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos told the Security Council some 9.3 million Syrians rely on assistance. Around 6.5 million are displaced from their homes.
An independent panel says U.S. military doctors have violated medical ethics by enabling the torture of prisoners in the so-called war on terror. In a new report, the Task Force on Preserving Medical Professionalism concludes medical professionals who worked with the CIA and Pentagon “designed and participated in cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and torture of detainees” at Guantánamo Bay and at secret prisons overseas. The two-year study cites doctors for breaching patient confidentiality and advising interrogators on how to exploit prisoners’ fears and crush their will to resist. The task force consists of 19 experts from the fields of military, health, law and human rights. They are calling for a full investigation of the medical profession’s role in U.S. torture and an overhaul to ensure doctors involved in interrogations follow ethical standards.
The hedge fund giant SAC Capital has agreed to plead guilty to securities fraud and pay a record $1.2 billion fine. Under the agreement, SAC admits to a massive insider trading scheme that reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in profit for the firm and its billionaire owner, Steven Cohen, over more than a decade. Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, unveiled the settlement.
Preet Bharara: “All of the charged SAC companies have agreed to plead guilty. All have agreed to wind down and close their outside investment businesses, and all have agreed collectively to pay total fines and penalties in the record amount of $1.8 billion. Today’s agreements, if approved, would resolve the two cases brought by the government against SAC in July, both the criminal indictment against the SAC companies and a separate civil forfeiture and money laundering action, as well.”
The case marks the first time a major Wall Street firm has admitted to criminal wrongdoing in nearly 30 years. Although SAC will no longer manage outside investments, it will continue to operate with owner Steven Cohen’s estimated $9 billion fortune.
The pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay $2.2 billion to settle a long-running probe into its marketing of drugs for unapproved uses. Johnson & Johnson, and subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals, promoted the anti-psychotic drug Risperdal for treating anxiety in elderly dementia patients and behavior problems in children. The company also acknowledged paying kickbacks to Omnicare, the country’s largest pharmacy serving nursing home patients. The $2.2 billion fine marks one of the largest healthcare fraud settlements in U.S. history.
A gunman opened fire in a crowded New Jersey mall on Tuesday before taking his own life. No one else was hurt, but many were trapped for several hours as police conducted a search. Paramus Police Chief Kenneth Ehrenberg briefed reporters after the gunman’s body was found.
Kenneth Ehrenberg: “One of the SWAT teams here, as we progressed through the night, was able to locate the victim in a back room with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. At this point, we are still doing a secondary search on the stores. Many stores have lockdown procedures. They have locked themselves in the store. and we need to go store by store to get these people out of the — to get them out and let them know everything is safe here.”
The U.S. Senate has voted to advance a landmark bill banning workplace discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Seven Republicans joined Senate Democrats in supporting the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. But House Speaker John Boehner has publicly opposed the bill, confirming it faces a tough battle in the House.
In a victory for reproductive rights, the U.S. Supreme Court has let stand an Oklahoma court ruling striking down restrictions on the pill form of abortion. The Supreme Court had indicated it might review the 2011 law, which banned the off-label use of abortion-inducing medication in favor of a strict protocol that doctors say is outdated. Last week, the Oklahoma Supreme Court definitively ruled against the measure, saying it would effectively ban all drug-induced abortions. On Monday, the Supreme Court opted not to review the ruling. A similar ban in Texas went into effect last week.