Taliban Nearing a Deal with United States to Withdraw Troops From Afghanistan - That’s in the news Wednesday August 28, 2019


The Taliban said on Wednesday it was close to an agreement with U.S. officials on a deal that would see U.S. forces withdraw from Afghanistan in exchange for a Taliban promise that the country would not become a haven for international militants. Two sources with knowledge of the negotiations said the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, who has been leading the talks, is scheduled to be in Kabul to brief President Ashraf Ghani about the agreement. Negotiations over how to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan have been held in Doha, capital of Qatar, since late last year. The ninth round of talks began last week. A senior security official in Kabul said the Taliban and U.S. officials had agreed on a timeline of about 14 to 24 months for the withdrawal of the U.S. forces. Ghani, who is seeking a second term in September, has repeatedly offered to hold direct talks with the Taliban, but the group demanded a complete withdrawal of foreign forces as a precondition to start negotiations. Some 14 thousand U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan, training and advising Afghan forces and conducting counter-insurgency operations. NATO also has a mission in the country totaling 17 thousand to provide support to the Afghan forces.




Tropical Storm Dorian's path shifted late Tuesday, threatening a direct hit on Puerto Rico. That prompted President Donald Trump to declare an emergency and order federal assistance for local authorities. The U.S. Caribbean territory's government also declared a state of emergency as residents brace for the storm. Late Wednesday morning, Dorian was located about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of St Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. The National Hurricane Center said Dorian had strengthened slightly, with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph (110 kph) while moving northwest at 13 mph (20 kph). Forecasters said the storm could grow into a dangerous Category 3 storm as it pushes northwest in the general direction of Florida. It’s a forecast that worries many in Puerto Rico because blue tarps still cover some 30 thousand homes nearly two years after Hurricane Maria. The island’s 3.2 million inhabitants also depend on an unstable power grid that remains prone to outages since it was destroyed by Maria, a Category 4 storm.




Torrential rain triggered floods and landslides in Japan on Wednesday, killing at least two people and prompting authorities to order more than 900 thousand people to leave their homes while another million were advised to move to safety. More than twice the usual rainfall for the whole of August has fallen over parts of the southern island of Kyushu over the past 48 hours, washing away roads, causing rivers to burst their banks and forcing the suspension of train services. Television video showed roads and railroad stations inundated and people wading knee-deep in flooded streets after several rivers broke their banks. The Ground Self Defense Force - Japan’s military - said it had deployed about 100 troops for disaster relief. Public transport and businesses were affected. Toyota said it is suspending work on Wednesday evening at a factory in Kyushu that builds Lexus cars, while Daihatsu Motors said it would also stop work at its factories in the region.




An attack on a bar in Mexico’s Gulf coast city of Coatzacoalcos killed 25 people and injured about a dozen, and authorities said is was the work of man who had been recently arrested but released. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador told reporters, “The criminals went in, closed the doors, the emergency exits, and set fire to the place." Veracruz state police said the Tuesday night attack targeted the “Bar Caballo Blanco,” though the bar’s name was in English on a sign outside: “The White Horse Nightclub.” It advertised “quality, security and service,” private rooms for $7.50 all night, "sexy girls” and a pole dance contest. López Obrador said local prosecutors should be investigated because “the alleged perpetrators had been arrested, but they were freed.” The attack came almost eight years to the day after a fire at a casino in the northern city of Monterrey killed 52 people. The Zetas drug cartel staged that 2011 attack to enforce demands for protection payments.




British Prime Minister Boris Johnson maneuvered Wednesday to give his political opponents even less time to block a no-deal Brexit before the Oct. 31 withdrawal deadline, winning Queen Elizabeth II’s approval to suspend Parliament. Though Johnson previously had refused to rule out such a move, the timing of the decision took lawmakers — many of whom are on vacation — by surprise. His critics were outraged, including Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn who wrote to the queen to protest “in the strongest possible terms on behalf of my party and I believe all the other opposition parties are going to join in with this.” But the Queen declined to get involved, in keeping with her steadfast refusal to interfere in politics. As head of state, she is politically neutral and typically follows the advice of her government in political matters. The EU is adamant that it will not renegotiate the agreement struck with former Prime Minister Theresa May on the terms of Britain’s departure and the framework of future relations. Without such a deal, Britain faces a chaotic Brexit that economists warn would disrupt trade by imposing tariffs and customs checks between Britain and the bloc, send the value of the pound plummeting and plunge the U.K. into recession.




Purdue Pharma and its owners, the Sackler family, have offered to settle a wave of lawsuits over the company's role in the opioid crisis for $10 billion to $12 billion, news outlets reported Tuesday, citing people familiar with the negotiations. About $3 billion of the settlement money would come from the Sacklers, who would give up ownership of the company, The New York Times reported. The company faces more than 2,000 lawsuits by states, cities, and counties that accuse the OxyContin maker of starting and fueling the opioid crisis, which killed more than 400,000 people from 1999 to 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The company denies the allegations, but says it "sees little good coming from years of wasteful litigation and appeals."




French authorities say they have dismantled an international cyberattack program they say was responsible for seizing control of 850 thousand computers. The attacks aimed to infect other computers and secretly set up space to mine for cryptocurrencies on various servers, a malware intrusion experts say is very lucrative for hackers. French authorities carried out a clandestine operation to disrupt the operation. Officials said the malware was developed this year when anti-virus firm Avast discovered a weakness. French national police said it worked with the FBI to gain control of the malware server, which was physically located in northern France. The French cybercrime unit of the Gendarmerie took control of the server in July and replaced it with one that directed the malware to self destruct -- something the unit said has never been done before. Authorities will keep the disinfection server online in case vulnerable computers haven't connected to the Internet in a while.



Zoos will no longer be able to import wild-caught African elephants into the United States, China or anywhere else, under a resolution approved Tuesday by more than two dozen nations. The proposal was introduced in August at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild Fauna and Flora, the global regulator of wildlife trade. Intense public lobbying led nations to pass the resolution by a vote of 87-29. Twenty-five nations abstained from voting. The European Union tweaked the language of the proposal to allow limited exceptions. The EU exception said elephants already living in an EU country can be shipped to another member nation. The measure bars the export of wild-caught elephants from Zimbabwe and Botswana, the only two African nations where it's legal to capture the large animals in their wild habitat.