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U.S. Military “Days Away” From Afghanistan Withdrawal



The removal of American troops has led to the Taliban gaining large swaths of territory, as well increased efforts by American lawmakers to support Afghans who helped U.S. soldiers over the last 20 years.

Expedited Withdrawal

U.S. officials claim the country could be “days away” from completely pulling out of Afghanistan after 20 years, according to a Tuesday report from Reuters.

The report said 4,000 troops could be out by mid-July, well ahead of the original Sept. 11 deadline. Only 650 American troops will remain to protect the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. American troops will also defend the capital’s airport for a short period while its security is being transferred to Turkish forces. Those Turkish troops will be among the last NATO forces in the country by the end of the year as most European nations have already ended their mission to Afghanistan.

The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, which began in widespread numbers last month, has led to a massive surge in fighting between the various factions across the country as they try to position themselves for what happens next. That fighting has Coalition generals concerned that the country is facing a civil war, with American General Scott Miller telling reporters in a press conference on Tuesday, “The security situation is not good right now.”

“Civil war is certainly a path that can be visualized if this continues on the trajectory it’s on right now. That should be a concern to the world.”

It’s increasingly likely that much of Afghanistan will revert back to Taliban control, as they’ve made major territorial gains as Coalition troops withdraw. Since May, they’ve captured 50 out of 370 districts in the country, have circled many cities, and are slowly closing in on Kabul.

Special Immigrant Visas

One major concern as the U.S. departs, especially as insurgent groups gain territory, is thes Nearly all of these workers were promised visas, known as Special Immigrant Visas (SIV), for themselves and their families in return for helping American forces.

For years, the SIV process has been slow and ineffective, sometimes resulting in years between applying and receiving the document. The lengthy time period between applying for the visa and actually getting it has allowed groups like the Taliban to hunt down and kill at least 300 of these workers, according to the non-profit No One Left Behind.

After a lawsuit that was resolved in 2020, the Trump administration sought to expedite the process by approving or denying SIVs within 120 days rather than leaving them in bureaucratic limbo for years. As the American withdrawal approaches, the Biden administration has further sped up the process, although it faces practical limitations such as the size of the American embassy in Kabul, on top of certain legal requirements Afghans must complete before arriving.

One such requirement is that they must pass a medical examination in Afghanistan, but there’s only one clinic run by Germany that actually performs them. That creates a massive bottleneck and often requires people to travel far, in dangerous conditions, to get the examination in order to obtain an SIV.

To help with that, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill Tuesday that would allow applicants to instead undergo a medical exam within 30 days of arriving in the States. The Senate is expected to take up the bill relatively soon as helping Afghans who worked with American soldiers has widespread bipartisan support.

This legislation is the first in a series of bipartisan bills being discussed and voted on that are meant to smooth over the visa application process. Other bills on the table include raising the number of eligible applicants by 8,000.

There are also reports that the Biden administration could do mass evacuations of these applicants and house them in a U.S. territory like Guam until their application process is finished. President Joe Biden is on board with most of these proposals.

“Those who helped us are not going to be left behind,” he vowed last week.

See what others are saying: (AP) (BBC) (Reuters)


200 Children Seeking Asylum in the U.K. Are Missing 



The missing include at least 13 children under the age of 16. 

Children Missing From Hotels

There are 200 asylum-seeking children missing from government care in the United Kingdom according to the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office.

When children are seeking asylum in the U.K. alone or separated from their parents, the government puts them up in hotel rooms for temporary accommodation. They have done so since 2021 and have temporarily accommodated 4,600 children in that time. However, Simon Murray, the parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Home Office, said that 200 of the children placed in those hotels are missing, including at least 13 who are under the age of 16.

In response to this information, a collection of more than 100 charities sent a letter to the Prime Minister demanding the end of the procedure of placing kids in hotels over safety concerns. The letter says that these children are at risk of trafficking and exploitation by staying in these hotels alone.

Other officials have echoed these concerns, claiming these hotels are targets for organized crime where people use these vulnerable children for labor or trafficking.

Parliament Calls Incident “Horrific”

Murray told the House of Lords on Monday that despite the media reports, his department does not know of any kidnapping cases, though they are investigating. He went on to say there are many reasons why children go missing. 

However, lawmakers were not appeased by Murray’s assurances. In a later debate, one member of Parliament called the missing cases “horrific” and another said that it was “putting children at risk.”  The children’s commissioner for England also reportedly chimed in asking for, quote “assurances on the steps being taken to safeguard the children.” 

Murray went on to say that the use of hotels for asylum-seeking children will hopefully be phased out as soon as possible but did not give a timeline. 

The nonprofit Refugee Council called on the government in a tweet to spare no expense in the location of these missing kids.

See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (The Guardian) (The Telegraph)

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100,000 U.K. Nurses Launch Biggest Strike in NHS History



Opposition leader Keir Starmer called the strike “a badge of shame on this government.”

The NHS Grinds to a Halt

Some 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the United Kingdom’s largest nursing union, launched a historic 12-hour strike Thursday after the government refused to negotiate on higher pay.

The work stoppage, which spans England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, is only the second in the RCN’s 106-year history and the largest the NHS has ever seen. It marks the breaking point for many underpaid nurses and the culmination of a years-long decline in the NHS’s quality of care, put under increasing stress by severe staffing shortages.

Although most NHS staff in England and Wales received a pay rise of around £1,400 this year, worth about 4% on average for nurses, they say it has not kept up with inflation as Britain plunges deeper into a cost-of-living crisis.

When inflation is accounted for, nurses’ pay dropped 1.2% every year from 2010 to 2017, according to the Health Foundation.

Meanwhile, the number of patients waiting for care has reached a record 7.2 million in England, or over one in eight residents, more than double what it was seven years ago.

In July, the cross-party Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee estimated the staffing shortfall could be as high as 50,000 nurses and 12,000 doctors, what one MP called the “greatest workforce crisis in history.”

Many nurses argue that boosting pay will help hospitals recruit more staff.

The RCN demanded a pay raise 5% above the retail rate of inflation, which amounts to a 19% increase, but both Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and the government’s health secretary have claimed that’s not affordable.

During Thursday’s strike, partial staffing continued to remain open for urgent care such as chemotherapy, kidney dialysis, and children’s accident and neonatal units.

Sunak and Starmer Brawl in Parliament

Labor leader Keir Starmer grilled Sunak during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on the upcoming strike.

“Tomorrow will be the first-ever nationwide nurse’s strike,” he said. “All the Prime Minister has to do to stop that is to open the door and discuss pay with them. If he did, the whole country would breathe a sigh of relief. Why won’t he?”

“We have consistently spoken to all the unions involved in all the pay disputes that there are,” Sunak replied. “Last year, when everyone else in the public sector had a public sector pay freeze, the nurses received a three-percent pay rise.”

Starmer fired back: “Nurses going on strike is a badge of shame for this government. Instead of showing leadership, he’s playing games with people’s health.”

Sunak called Starmer’s demand that he reopen negotiations with the RCN “just simply a political formula for avoiding taking a position on this issue.”

“If he thinks the strikes are wrong, he should say so,” Sunak said. “If he thinks it’s right that pay demands of nineteen percent are met, then he should say so. What’s weak, Mr. Speaker, is he’s not strong enough to stand up to the union.”

While Starmer has called on Sunak to negotiate with the RCN, he has not explicitly backed the 19% pay raise himself.

Unless the government returns to the bargaining table, the RCN plans to launch a second round of strikes on Dec. 20 to be followed by ambulance strikes that Wednesday and the next.

If the government still refuses to budge, the union said in a statement that nurses will strike for longer periods in more places starting in January, disrupting more health services.

Other industries are also set to see work stoppages this month, including workers on railways, buses, highways, and borders, as well as teachers, postal workers, baggage handlers, and paramedics.

See what others are saying: (BBC) (CNN) (The Guardian)

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Fortnite Developer Sued By Parents for Making the Game as “Addictive as Possible”



One child mentioned in the lawsuit played over 7,700 rounds of Fortnite in two years.

Epic Games Sued 

A Quebec City judge recently approved a 2019 class-action lawsuit accusing Fortnite developer Epic Games of deliberately making Fortnite addictive.

The parents who brought forward the lawsuit claim their children have become so obsessed with the game that in some cases, they’ve stopped eating, showering, or socializing. The lawsuit claims that these kids have played thousands of games since Fortnite’s release in 2017. In one example, a teenager played over 7,700 games in less than two years. 

If the lawsuit succeeds, players addicted to Fortnite living in Quebec since September 2017 could receive compensation. The plaintiff’s attorney, Philippe Caron, reports that over 200 parents outside the lawsuit have reached out to him, saying their child’s well-being has diminished since downloading Fortnite. He told The Washington Post that they are very confident about their case. 

Epic Games Responds

“We plan to fight this in court,” Natalie Munoz, a spokesperson for Epic Games said to The Post, “We believe the evidence will show that this case is meritless.” 

Munoz also said that Fortnite does allow parents to supervise their child’s playtime and require permission for purchases.

The parents involved in the lawsuit are claiming that they were not aware of the dangers playing Fortnite could pose for their children. 

“If she had been informed by the defendants of the risks and dangers associated with the use of FORTNITE,” the lawsuit says of one guardian. “She would have categorically refused to allow the game to be downloaded.” 

See what others are saying: (BBC) (The Washington Post) (Deadline

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