EU AND JAPAN SIGN FREE TRADE PACT
After four years of negotiations, the European Union and Japan agreed Thursday to create the world’s largest free trade zone. The deal will span economies representing approximately one-third of world GDP, lifting tariffs on approximately 40 percent of total international commerce. “Although some are saying that the time of isolationism and disintegration is coming again, we are demonstrating that this is not the case,” said European Council President Tusk. The statement, along with other prevalent analysis in the deal’s wake, cast the agreement as a rebuke to the protectionism of leaders like U.S. President Donald Trump that has been gaining traction across the globe. Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe likewise called the deal a “win-win” and said it represents a “strong message to the world.”
U.S. TOP ETHICS WATCHDOG RESIGNS
Walter M. Schaub Jr., the head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, resigned Thursday, leaving office more than six months before his five-year term is set to expire. A vocal critic of President Donald Trump for violating norms regarding conflicts of interest, Schaub had drawn the ire of Republicans across the country for criticizing numerous Trump administration members, as well as members of the president’s family, for failing to divest from business interests directly impacted by the federal government’s decision-making. “There isn’t much more I could accomplish at the Office of Government Ethics, given the current situation,” Schaub said in an interview following his resignation. “[T]he ethics program needs to be strengthened.” Schaub’s exit paves the way for President Trump to appoint a replacement, which a White House spokesman indicated he will do “in short order.”
NIGER’S ARMY MISTAKENLY KILLS 14 CIVILIANS
Believing they were Boko Haram militants, Niger’s army mistakenly killed 14 civilians Thursday along the Nigerian border in the country’s sparsely populated southeast. Details about the operation remain unclear, though the victims were all farmers in a restricted area outside the village of Abadam. Boko Haram, a terrorist organisation based in Nigeria, has frequently operated across Niger’s border, displacing thousands in the country’s Diffa region and leading to the creation of restricted areas like Abadam. Diffa’s General Secretary Yahaya Godi defended the mistake in a statement, “Abadam is a village located in the red zone and has been prohibited for a very long time… Any individual seen in the area is considered Boko Haram.”
CANADA GIVES GITMO DETAINEE MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR SETTLEMENT
Former Guantanamo Bay prison detainee Omar Khadr received a $10.5 million settlement payment from the Canadian government, sources told CBC news Thursday. Khadr spent 10 years in the U.S. naval base prison in Cuba after being captured in Afghanistan, before being transferred to his home country of Canada in 2012 and released in 2015. The payment, reportedly made Wednesday night, came along with an official apology as a settlement to a wrongful imprisonment suit the Canadian-born Khadr filed against his home country’s government. Khadr was suspected of killing a U.S. military officer at age 15 in 2002 and, after originally pleading non-guilty, changed to a guilty please following interrogation later deemed “oppressive” by Canadian officials. According to a report from The Globe and Mail, the payment quashes legal action intended to prevent Khadr’s remuneration taken by the family of the fallen U.S. soldier.
CYPRUS TALKS END IN STALEMATE
After marathon talks to reunify the divided island nation of Cyprus, UN Secretary-General Antonio-Guterres announced that the parties had reached an impasse Friday. “I’m very sorry to tell you that despite the very strong commitment and engagement… the conference on Cyprus was closed without an agreement being reached,” Guterres told a news conference. The stalemate comes after two years of negotiations to end the island’s more than forty-year division between Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot populations. The split originally came following a Turkish Army invasion following a coup by Greek Cypriots seeking a political union with Greece. Though the United Nations referred to the Swiss talks as “the best chance” for resolution, the parties reportedly resorted to yelling Friday morning, leading to Guterres’ ending of the session.
Picture Courtesy: http://www.consilium.europa.eu