President Karzai is still refusing to sign a pact concerning post-2014 involvement of U.S. troops despite the almost-unanimous endorsement of a Jirga (assembly of 3000 Afghan tribal elders). His motivation is unconfirmed but there is a serous risk the delay or failure could jeopardize Western aid and confidence in the fragile Afghan economy.
China released a communique following the Third Plenum (4-day session of top Communist officials) which detailed moves towards a more free market economy and also loosened restrictions on the 1-child policy (allows couples who are both only children to have two).
In the South China Sea, China’s most recent move is an announcement of an expanded Air Defense Identification Zone (airspace border) that affects frequently flown routes in the area.
Protests in Bangkok have been ongoing for weeks and the first fatality occurred today. Bangkok’s middle class, royalists and business leaders are calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (say that ten times fast) and her administration. Demonstrations began after critics alleged a proposed amnesty bill was designed to absolve her brother Thaksin (former PM who was ousted in 2006 by a military coup and exiled after being convicted of graft; using his public stature to gain illegal benefit in 2008). These protests are the biggest since 2010 when 91 were killed (mostly Thaksin supporters) when the military became involved.
Just 10 days after a 3-month-long emergency order was lifted interim President Adly Mansour approved a law that public gatherings of more than 10-people must have prior approval with 3-day prior notice . Under the new law security agencies can bar any protests or public gatherings, including those of political parties or in places of worship. It also endorsed police use (after warnings) of water cannons, tear gas, clubs, and allegedly unlimited birdshot. Penalties vary but of significant note is 1-year in prison for covering the face (in a country where many women wear full-face veils) and for protesting in or around a place of worship. Voting began today on the draft constitution which will shed light on the vision for democracy after the July military coup.
The U.S. has offered to destroy chemical weapons at sea (on a ship) and is supposedly searching for a suitable Mediterranean port now. Albania was originally slated to provide the service but has backed out. Approximately 880 tons of bulk industrial chemicals can be destroyed in commercial incinerators but these 550 tons of other chemicals and nerve agents are too dangerous. The current target is to get the most lethal chemical agents out of the country by the end of the year.