US and Taliban negotiators agreed on a draft framework for a peace deal seeking to put an end to the 17-year conflict in Afghanistan, according to Washington's top negotiator. US negotiators held six days of talks with the Taliban in Qatar last week. The Afghan president has made a new call for direct talks with the Islamist group, but they have so far refused, dismissing the government as "puppets".
The group ruled the country from 1996-2001 and remain a top insurgent force. Their rule ended when the US invaded Afghanistan after al-Qaeda - which had used the country as a base - carried out the 9/11 attacks in the US. Analysts say it could be years before a substantive peace deal is reached. Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, was in Kabul to brief the Afghan government about the talks.
US President Donald Trump formally recognized Juan Guaidó, the leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly, as the country’s interim president, just minutes after the young lawmaker took an informal oath of office declaring himself the country’s leader before a cheering crowd of tens of thousands in Caracas during nationwide demonstrations meant to challenge the ruling regime.
Other countries followed the United States’ lead: within hours of Trump’s announcement, Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, Peru, Argentina, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Canada all publicly backed Guaidó, in what has become a momentous challenge to nominal Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s grip on power. In response, Maduro announced he was severing diplomatic ties with the US and accused the opposition of attempting a coup.
The death toll from a Brazilian dam collapse at an iron mine rose to 60, according to officials. Authorities say 427 people were in the Córrego do Feijão mine in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais when the dam burst on January 25, unleashing a muddy sea of mining debris into the region. Hundreds of people are still missing and the extent of damage is still being calculated, especially in the mining town of Brumadinho, which was nearly buried in the deluge.
The disaster renewed scrutiny of Brazilian mining giant Vale, which was linked to another deadly dam collapse in Minas Gerais less than four years ago. Protesters gathered in Casa Branca, about 15 kilometers from Brumadinho, waving signs that read "Vale kills" and "Vale profits while mud kills," local media reported.
The longest federal government shutdown in US history, which ran to 35 days before President Donald Trump was forced to capitulate and bring it to an end, cost the economy $11 billion, according to a new analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, reflecting lost output from federal workers, delayed government spending and reduced demand.
The report, which was released a day after Trump’s surrender, estimated a hit of $3 billion, or 0.1 percent, to economic activity during the fourth quarter of 2018. The impact was projected to be greater during the first quarter of 2019: $8 billion, or 0.2 percent of GDP. Although most of the damage to the economy will be reversed as federal workers return to their jobs, the CBO estimated $3 billion in economic activity is permanently lost after a quarter of the government was closed for nearly 35 days.