US/AFGHAN PRISON TRANSFER AGREEMENT
A breakthrough in Afghanistan to report today. From Muhammad LILA in Islamabad and Aleem AGHA in Kabul: The U.S. and Afghanistan have reached a key agreement on the transfer of detention facilities from US to Afghan control. The goal is to hand over all detention facilities to Afghan control within six months. This includes Bagram, where the recent Koran burning took place. The first 500 prisoners will be transferred within 45 days. The U.S. will still have mentors/advisors who will have access to the detention facilities, to ensure all prisoners are treated according to the Geneva Convention. This agreement does NOT cover the roughly 50 non-Afghans currently in detention; they will remain under US control. The handover will be supervised by a new commission, headed by General John Allen and the Afghan Defense Minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak. The transfer of detention facilities was one of Karzai’s key demands ahead of signing the US-Afghan Strategic partnership (the other was that the US stop its night raids).
AFGHAN WOMEN HAVE THEIR OWN INTERNET CAFÉ
A first for Kabul. An internet café – for women - opened yesterday.
On the heels of the Deputy Oil Minister’s “defection,” today Turkey’s state-run television says two Syrian generals and a colonel have defected to Turkey as the Syrian forces appeared to be targeting more rebellious areas, including the northern province of Idlib near Turkey. The report of defections came as U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos toured Syrian refugee camps along the Turkish-Syrian border before talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. In the meantime comments from former Secretary General (and new envoy for the Syrian crisis) Kofi Annan have angered opposition activists. Annan suggested any resolution of the crisis had to be peaceful, and involve talks between the opposition and the government. In an interview with the Associated Press, the leader of Syria’s main opposition group, Burhan Ghalioun, said he rejects Annan’s call for dialogue between the government in Damascus and the opposition, describing them as unrealistic. “These kind of comments are disappointing and do not give a lot of hope for people in Syria being massacred every day. It feels like we are watching the same movie being repeated over and over again.” In the meantime the protests against the Assad regime continue…as does the shelling of Homs.
KONY 2012 – THE PHENOMENON CONTINUES
Has your teenager told you – or asked you about it – yet? The film “Kony 2012″ is nearing 50 million views…the praise and criticism alike continue to fill social media…and our Bazi KANANI is in Kampala to interview Jacob Acaye, the Ugandan former child abductee at the heart of the film. Acaye defends the filmmaker against criticism that it is misleading – oversimplified – and that it champions western intervention against an insurgency which is already waning.
Something global markets have been waiting for: The Greek government has announced that more than 85% of its private creditors have signed up to join a multi billion Euro-bond swap. The deal will see more than €100bn of Greece’s debt written off, but creditors will take losses on their investments of as much as 74% . Eurozone finance ministers will discuss via conference call whether to trigger the second bailout package for Greece.
A WHOLE LOT OF SHAKING!
Following last year’s devastating earthquake/tsunami in Japan…we saw all the e-mails from Akiko FUJITA in the days and months that followed about aftershocks. But it’s fair to say we all lost count. Now – two days from the one-year anniversary – the Japanese Meteorological Society has the numbers: 10,000 tremors have rocked Japan in a single year. That’s more than 8 times the number recorded in 2010. What’s even more incredible, the agency says the tectonic plates underneath Japan continue to shift the country eastward. The entire town of Yamada, 150 miles north of Sendai, has shifted 30 inches in the last year. Scientists say the movement will continue, which is why strong quakes will continue to hit Japan. Re-live it here.
NIGERIA HOSTAGES KILLED
From Dimitrije STEJIC: More details have emerged of a failed attempt to rescue Christopher McManus, a kidnapped British engineer and Franco Lamolinara, his Italian colleague. A BBC correspondent at the scene in Sokoto, in north west Nigeria, has described several hours of heavy fighting during which the two men were killed. Italian politicians have complained that David Cameron did not consult Italy before approving the failed rescue attempt.
As Bob WOODRUFF reports, the Prince continues his tour of warm, sunny destinations to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. He’ll spend the weekend in Brazil. He arrived in Rio this morning and then onto Sao Paolo tomorrow before returning to the UK.
COSTA CONCORDIA – THE SONG
Phoebe NATANSON reports from Rome: There is now a song about the Costa Concordia disaster. Two survivors of the tragedy, the pianist Antonello Tonna, who was working on the ship, and a Dutch singer Justine Pelmelay, who was on the ship on vacation have produced a song called ‘Il tempo si e’ fermato’ (time has stopped) and is already on Youtube The song tells of “hands that gather an embrace” and a shipwreck that “will speak to us forever”.
DICKENS FILM DISCOVERED
The oldest surviving film based on the works of Charles Dickens has been discovered after laying unnoticed in an archive for more than 50 years. “The Death of Poor Joe” dates from 1901 and is thought to have been filmed in Brighton. The minute-long movie was made by British film pioneer G.A. Smith and was given to the British Film Institute (BFI) in 1954 by a collector who had known Smith, but was catalogued under a different name and incorrect date.
BROMANCE ON THE SLOPES
Fresh off his election victory…Russian president Vladimir Putin, outgoing president Dimitry Medvedev and Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi hit the slopes of Krasnaya Polyva resort in Sochi – home to the 2014 Winter Olympics.