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NEED TO KNOW:
An Afghan soldier killed an American soldier in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday. It was the second such attack this year and a reminder that America's longest war isn't exactly over yet.
The Taliban has amped up attacks in the last few weeks, announcing the end of the brutal Afghan winter and the start of the so-called “fighting season.” The Taliban is resurgent. Last year it regained lost territory and managed to carry out some of the worst attacks of the war. For Afghan soldiers, 2014 was the deadliest year yet. More than 40 US soldiers were also killed in 2014, including Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene, the highest-ranking US military officer to be killed in Afghanistan — ever.
The increased violence led US President Barack Obama to expand the mission of the 10,000 America soldiers who remain in Afghanistan. The troops had been mostly training and advising Afghan security forces. But they are now allowed to join in the fight. Obama also approved the use of airstrikes to support the controversial practice of Afghan night raids on suspected Taliban hideouts.
This also happened last year: Despite a US-funded $7.6 billion drug war in Afghanistan, the opium crop was the biggest ever. And now there are signs that the Islamic State is joining in the chaos. It does not bode well for 2015.
WANT TO KNOW:
It's hard to recall now but for weeks last summer the United States was consumed by a debate about illegal migrants entering the country. The problem was they were mostly children. By the end of the year almost 70,000 unaccompanied kids had been stopped by border agents.
Most of the children were fleeing murderous drug gangs in their home countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Others were running from unbearable poverty. Still others were simply attempting to reunite with their parents who were working in the United States.
The stories were always tragic, always sad. A difficult conversation erupted in the United States. Do you arrest them and send them back? Do you take them in? Obama called “an urgent humanitarian situation” on the southern border, provoking emergency meetings with Mexican and Central American leaders.
In the year since the news broke, Mexico has stepped up its own deportations, stopping migrants from even reaching the US border. Honduras has also sent its own special forces to stop children from leaving at all. This is all expected to prevent a repeat of the crisis last summer.
But it's done nothing to help the fleeing children.
STRANGE BUT TRUE:
In Chinese cities, there is this tradition that is kind of annoying. Elderly women gather in the early mornings or evenings, blast mixes of techno, Mandopop or revolutionary songs, and dance to their heart's desire.
It is partly for exercise, it is partly social. But for the younger generation under pressure to work and excel, the noise drives them nuts. It's gotten so bad that clashes between the dancing seniors and their neighbors have broken out.
So a couple weeks ago, to diffuse the tension, the Chinese central government decided it would try and regulated the practice. It failed almost immediately. The seniors straight-up refused to follow any state-prescribed routines. And the security forces who are supposed to enforce this kind of thing appear entirely unwilling to confront large, potentially cranky troupes of elders.
China's “dancing grannies,” it seems, just can't stop won't stop.