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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
October 15, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Senate Nears Deal to Reopen Government

Senate leaders could seal a deal on Tuesday that would reopen the government through January 15 and raise the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling (AP). European and Asian shares traded higher on Tuesday and the dollar held its value against other currencies, reflecting cautious optimism that the United States will avoid a default (Reuters). Meanwhile, central bankers from around the world, who were gathered in Washington at the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank over the weekend, are drawing up contingency plans to keep financial markets functioning in the event of a U.S. default on outstanding debt (Bloomberg).

Analysis

"To most people from outside the U.S., it's kind of bizarre. You just can't really understand that a country's politicians could take a standoff to a point where they might voluntarily default. So they couldn't understand it, but they were worried about being part of really cataclysmic consequences. And I think Christine Lagarde of the—the managing director of the IMF, she put it rather well, and she said that people were bemused, confused, but amused," says the Economist's Zanny Minton Beddoes on PBS Newshour.

"What makes November 1 different is not just the large number of payments due that day, but also its composition: Social Security benefits, payments to Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D plans, pay for active-duty members of the military, and benefit payments for civil service and military retirees, veterans, and recipients of Supplemental Security Income total around $67 billion. It is hard to imagine getting past November 1 without significant dislocations for those who are not paid," writes CFR Senior Fellow Robert Kahn.

"If the main outcome of the crisis is to suspend the medical-device tax or other health-care revenue measures, Washington will have proved only that making the deficit worse remains its basis for bipartisan agreement. Instead negotiators should aim, in talks after the government reopens, to ease the next round of sequester-mandated budget cuts, which otherwise will do severe harm to national defense, education, infrastructure and other priorities," the Washington Post writes in an editorial.

 

PACIFIC RIM

Obama's Absence in Asia Boosts China Trade Deal

U.S. president Barack Obama's absence from two Asian summits last week gave Chinese premier Li Keqiang an opening to push for the Regional Comprehensive Partnership, a trade deal that rivals the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (FT).

SOUTH KOREA: North Korean cyberattacks on South Korean computer systems are estimated to have caused more than $805 million in damage between 2009 and 2013 (Yonhap).

 

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

Afghan Provincial Governor Killed in Suicide Attack

A suicide bomber attacked a mosque in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing a provincial governor who was preparing to give a speech to mark the beginning of a major Muslim holiday. Fifteen others were injured in the attack (NYT).

AFGHANISTAN: More than 590,000 Afghans have been displaced by fighting and Taliban threats, according to the United Nations. UN officials worry the number, which is four times higher than in 2006, could climb as U.S. forces withdraw (WSJ).

 

MIDDLE EAST

Iran Nuclear Talks Resume

The United States, Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany will hold formal talks with Iran on its nuclear program in Geneva on Tuesday and Wednesday. Diplomats said Washington is prepared to ease sanctions if Iran moves quickly to address concerns about its nuclear ambitions (al-Jazeera).

The United States must take a maximalist approach in negotiations with Iran, CFR's Ray Takeyh writes in the Washington Post.

LIBYA: Alleged senior al-Qaeda member Abu Anas al-Libi has been brought to the United States to face terrorism charges in New York (LAT). After his detention aboard a Navy vessel, he is expected to appear in federal court on Tuesday.

 

AFRICA

Report Highlights Maltreatment in Nigerian Jails

Hundreds have died in Nigerian detention facilities from suffocation in overcrowded cells, starvation, and extrajudicial killings, Amnesty International said in a report released Tuesday. The Nigerian army is combating an Islamist rebellion in the northeast (BBC).

KENYA: Twenty-three people remain unaccounted for nearly one month after the terrorist attack on the upscale Westgate mall in Nairobi (Star).

 

EUROPE

Italy's Navy Rescues Hundreds of Migrants

The Italian navy rescued some three hundred migrants in the waters between Sicily and Libya after two boats sent out distress signals late on Monday (Reuters). More than four hundred people drowned this month in shipwrecks en route to the Italian island of Lampedusa.

RUSSIA: Authorities have rounded up over a thousand migrant workers (AP) after the killing of an ethnic Russian man, allegedly by a Muslim migrant from the Caucasus, sparked riots.

 

AMERICAS

NSA Collects Millions of Address Books

The National Security Agency collects contact lists from email address books and instant messaging accounts at a rate of more than 250 million lists per year. The agency uses the data to search for hidden connections and map relationships of foreign intelligence targets (WaPo).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the U.S. domestic surveillance system.

 

 

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