World this week
Representatives from the Afghan government and the Taliban started face-to-face talks in Doha after months of delay over a contentious prisoners swap agreement between the two sides. The negotiations are a result of a deal between the Taliban and the United States signed in February, which also paved the way for the withdrawal of all foreign forces by May 2021. US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said although the talks raise hopes of the war ending in the country, many challenges remain.
"This is a new phase in diplomacy for peace in Afghanistan," Khalilzad said last week. As part of the U.S. bargain with the Taliban, the Afghan government was forced to release five thousand Taliban prisoners-including a major narcotics trafficker and terrorists. The Taliban, in turn, released one thousand government prisoners. In addition, the Taliban has refrained from killing U.S. troops, although it is believed to be responsible for rockets that were fired at U.S. bases this summer.
Yoshihide Suga was elected Japan's new prime minister following a vote in the country's Parliament, confirming the former cardboard factory worker and farmer's son as leader of the world's third largest economy. The 71-year-old head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) replaces outgoing leader Shinzo Abe, Japan's longest-serving prime minister, who announced his intention to resign in August due to health problems related to colitis -- a non-curable inflammatory bowel disease that he was able to manage for most of his tenure.
Suga was elected LDP leader with about 70% of the votes, but he still required the backing of the country's national legislature, the Diet, before he could officially become prime minister.
He won the Diet vote with 314 out of 465 votes in the lower house and 142 out of 240 votes in the upper chamber. Shortly after his confirmation, the new prime minister announced his cabinet line up, which included a large number of former Abe appointees, likely to promote the impression of stability and continuity between the two leaders.
A sweeping congressional inquiry into the development and certification of Boeing's troubled 737 Max airplane found damning evidence of failures at both Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration that "played instrumental and causative roles" in two fatal crashes that killed a total of 346 people. The House Transportation Committee released an investigative report produced by Democratic staff that documents what it says is "a disturbing pattern of technical miscalculations and troubling management misjudgments" by Boeing, combined with "numerous oversight lapses and accountability gaps by the FAA."
Lion Air Flight 610 crashed in October 2018, and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed in March 2019, both Boeing 737 Max aircraft. The report is the latest of many investigations into the 737 Max crashes and includes little new information. But it appears to be the most comprehensive in analyzing both Boeing's and the FAA's roles in developing and certifying an ultimately flawed commercial passenger jet.
The British government reached a deal with some of the Tory MPs unhappy with plans to give the government the power to override parts of the UK's Brexit agreement. Boris Johnson has agreed to amend the Internal Market Bill, giving MPs a vote before he could use the powers in it that would break international law. The move could head off a potential rebellion over the issue next week. But Labour said the UK was on course to break its word, as a senior government legal officer quit over the issue.
Lord Keen, Scotland's Advocate General, stood down after days of speculation about his future. Johnson published an amendment to the bill, which would prevent ministers from activating new powers it gives them to override the Brexit divorce deal until MPs had voted to approve it first. The change is similar to those proposed by senior Tory backbencher Sir Bob Neill, who will now drop an amendment he had planned on the issue.
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