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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
October 1, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Congress Forces Partial Government Shutdown

Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters  

Kevin Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters

Roughly 800,000 federal employees won't go to work today after a stalemate between the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate delayed a temporary funding bill (AP). Analysts expect the partial shutdown will cost the U.S. economy $300 million per day, and this effect will accelerate the longer government spending is disrupted (Bloomberg). Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who will send half of his department's 800,000 civilian workforce home today, said the shutdown undermines U.S. credibility (Reuters).


"I hate the fact that I now know what a 'clean C.R.' means. It's the kind of inside-the-Beltway term that the country only learns about when there is some big crisis in Washington, as there is now. A government that functioned would fight over the budget but would ultimately pass a budget," Joe Nocera writes in the New York Times.

"For much of the rest of the world, America's actions seem bafflingly illogical and self-harming. The reality, however, is that the Republican congressmen who have pushed this over the brink are not (by and large), crazy. It is just that their political incentives are now stacked towards confrontation with President Obama," Gideon Rachman writes in the Financial Times.

"There's nothing wrong with continuing to resist Obamacare even though it has been on the books for three years. What would be strange is if Republicans ended their opposition to it. The law was, after all, passed over almost-unanimous Republican objections. Other large government programs haven't seen as sustained a campaign against them, but they had more bipartisan support at the outset," writes Ramesh Ponnuru in Bloomberg.



Japan to Hike Sales Tax in April

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan will raise its sales tax from 5 percent to 8 percent in April, and will outline a stimulus package that will offset the impact of the higher tax rate (JapanTimes). The stimulus is expected to include corporate tax breaks and infrastructure spending.

This Backgrounder explains Abe's economic vision for Japan, dubbed Abenomics.

SOUTH KOREA: Seoul displayed new ballistic and cruise missiles designed to target North Korea's artillery and long-range missiles (Yonhap). Both South Korean systems have been deployed.



U.S. Marine Generals Sacked Over Taliban Attack

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos asked two major generals to retire after an investigation concluded that they didn't make adequate preparations to fortify an Afghanistan base that was attacked by the Taliban in September 2012 (Politico).

This Backgrounder explains the origins and resiliency of the Taliban.

SRI LANKA: Foreign Minister G. L. Peiris said his country shouldn't face inquiry over the reported deaths of thousands of civilians at the end of its civil war, despite pressure for an international investigation (Guardian).



Chemical Weapons Inspectors Head to Damascus

Inspectors are on their way to Damascus to oversee the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons, and will begin with dismantling the production facilities before a November 1 deadline (al-Jazeera). Inspectors may smash equipment with sledgehammers and drive tanks over empty shells.

ISRAEL: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed skepticism over Iran's recent overtures on a nuclear negotiation, and said after a meeting with President Obama that Iran's new tone hasn't been matched with action (USAToday).

CFR President Richard Haass explains the challenges of Iran's nuclear diplomacy in this op-ed.



Sudan's Opposition Parties Join Protests

The leaders of Sudan's two main opposition parties, National Umma and Popular Congress, have called on their followers to join the protests against the removal of fuel subsidies that have morphed into a more general call for political and economic reforms (SudanTribune).

KENYA: Officials are focusing their efforts to contain the al-Qaeda-linked group Shabab by targeting its finances, which have been raised from kidnappings, piracy, and other illegal activities (NYT).



Norway's Conservatives Form a Coalition

Norway's Conservative party, which finished second in the September parliamentary elections, is forming a right-wing minority government that will include the anti-immigration Progress party, which came in third in the elections (AP).

GERMANY: Unemployment increased by 25,000 to 6.9 percent in September, an unexpected rise that German officials said was due to a reduction in government job schemes (BBC).



Venezuela Expels U.S. Diplomats for Inciting Sabotage

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro said he was expelling Kelly Keiderling, U.S. chargé d'affaires, the top U.S. diplomat in the country, as well as two other (Reuters). Maduro accused them of meeting with opposition leaders and encouraging "acts of sabotage" against Venezuela.



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