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April 27, 2015

Daily News Brief

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Death Toll Rises Amid Aftershocks in Nepal

The death toll (BBC) in Nepal rose to above 3,700 people on Monday, with another 6,500 injured, following Saturday's 7.8-magnitude earthquake. The earthquake and its subsequent aftershocks heavily damaged Nepal's infrastructure and heritage sites, caused landslides in rural areas, and triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest, killing at least eighteen people. Thousands of Nepalis have fled (Reuters) their homes and others have sought shelter under tents. The UN Development Program estimates (FT) that more than 40 percent of Nepal was affected by the quake. Nepal bolstered (Al Jazeera) its rescue efforts as foreign disaster assistance streams into the country.†


"Since the quake of 1934, Nepalís population has grown, become more urban, and therefore denser. Urban population growth results in rapid building, and Nepal has seen the mushrooming of brittle, multistory concrete structures with little seismic resistance throughout the Valley," writes CFR's Alyssa Ayres.

"Nepal's unstable political scene is another major obstacle. After a decade of conflict between the government and Maoist insurgents, Nepal's politicians have been too busy battling one another, most recently over constitutional reform, to treat disaster preparedness as a priority.† There have been no elections at the district, village or municipal level for almost two decades, and the committees that run local councils aren't' organized to coordinate emergency assistance," writes Kunda Dixit in the New York Times.

"Over millions of years, the squeezing has crushed the Himalayas like a concertina, raising mountains to heights of several miles and triggering earthquakes on a regular basis from Pakistan to Burma. Saturday's quake was neither unusual nor unexpected, although it was larger than most," writes Colin Stark for CNN.†


Abe Kicks Off Week-Long U.S. Visit

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrives (Japan Times) in Washington today for a bilateral summit with U.S. President Barack Obama, ahead of an address before a joint session of Congress slated for Wednesday. Guidelines for the U.S.-Japan security alliance and negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership are expected to top the agenda during Abe's stay.†

This CFR Backgrounder provides and overview of the U.S.-Japan security alliance.

CHINA: Three major-generals of People's Liberation Army were detained (SCMP) by military prosecutors in graft probes. †

CFR's Yanzhong Huang argues that China's anti-corruption campaign risks leading to government inaction in this recent blog post.†


Afghan Forces Battle With Taliban in Northern Provinces

Fighting continues (TOLO) in Afghanistan's northern Kunduz province days after the Taliban launched its spring offensive, attacking security forces in three districts. An additional two thousands reinforcement troops have been deployed to the province.

President Ashraf Ghani postponed his state visit to India on Monday by a few hours to meet (TOLO) with NATO chief General John Campbell to discuss the crisis in Kunduz.

This CFR InfoGuide explores the challenges of combatting the Taliban.†


Hardline Rebels Capture Syrian Army Base

A coalition of extremist rebels, including the al-Qaeda-linked al Nusra Front, captured (Reuters) Qarmeed camp, a government military base in northwestern Syria on Monday. The hardline coalition has seized control of most of Idlib province.†

IRAQ: A wave of bombings hit (AP) Baghdad on Monday, killing at least eighteen civilians. The self-declared Islamic State is believed to be behind the attack. Meanwhile, fighting between Islamic State militants and Iraqi security forces persists in western Anbar province.†

This CFR Backgrounder chronicles the rise of the Islamic State.†


Sudan Reelects Bashir

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was reelected (AP) with 94 percent of the vote, according to the country's election commission, further extending Bashir's twenty-five years in power. The commission said voter turnout reached 46.4 percent, dismissing reports of low participation. Opposition parties who had boycotted the elections said they would not recognize the results.

BURUNDI: Protests (AFP) against President Pierre Nkurunziza's decision to seek a third term in power continued for a second day in Burundi on Monday. At least four people were killed in clashes as the protests turned violent on Sunday.†


Poroshenko Hosts First EU-Ukraine Summit

EU leaders and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko met (Radio Free Europe) in Kiev on Monday to discuss the status of the implementation of the Minsk agreement, the peace deal signed in February intended to end fighting in eastern Ukraine. This is the first EU-Ukraine Summit since Poroshenko signed an association agreement with the European Union last year.

CYPRUS: Leftist Mustafa Akinci won (Deutsche Welle) the presidential election to lead Turkish north Cyprus with 60.5 percent of the vote on Sunday. Akinci's victory raises hopes of possible reunification of the island.††


Supreme Court to Hear Arguments on Same-Sex Marriage

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear (Hill) arguments on same-sex marriage on Tuesday in a case legal experts say may pave the way for same-sex couples to be able to marry in all fifty states. More than thirty states allow same-sex marriage, while a dozen states have approved bans on marriage between same-sex couples.† †

CHILE: The eruption of the Calbuco volcano in southern Chile last week spewed (Buenos Aires Herald) an estimated 7,420 million cubic feet of ash, according to authorities. Chile's association of salmon producers fears (Merco Press) said their hatcheries may see an 8 percent loss of production due to the eruption.†