Flow of U.S. military gear across Afghan borders halts amid dispute

By Ernesto Londoño and Thursday, July 18, 9:39 AM 

An escalating dispute between the Afghan government and the United States over customs procedures has halted the flow of U.S. military equipment across Afghanistan’s borders, forcing commanders to rely more heavily on air transport, which has dramatically increased the cost of the drawdown, according to military officials.

The Afghan government is demanding that the U.S. military pay $1,000 for each shipping container leaving the country that does not have a corresponding, validated customs form. The country’s customs agency says the American military has racked up $70 million in fines

Greece simmers as Antonis Samaras government passes more austerity cuts

German finance minister due in Athens with public sector employees continuing protests against new measures

  • guardian.co.uk, Thursday 18 July 2013 06.35 BST

Greece‘s parliament has narrowly approved a new batch of austeritymeasures, including thousands of public-sector job cuts and transfers, demanded by the country’s creditors to keep vital bailout loans flowing.

MPs backed the cutbacks in an article-by-article vote early on Thursday morning, with two of the governing coalition’s 155 deputies failing to back crucial articles.

It was the first major test for conservative prime minister Antonis Samaras since a left-wing party abandoned his coalition government last month.

Indian lunch poisoning may have been deliberate, says minister

July 18, 2013 – 3:25PM

Ben Doherty

South Asia correspondent for Fairfax Media

Delhi: Twenty-two Indian schoolchildren, who died after eating the government-provided midday meal, may have been deliberately poisoned in a political conspiracy, it has been alleged.

The 22 children, from the Dandaman school in Saran district, Bihar died after eating the meal of daal, rice, potato and soya beans. A further 24 children and the school’s cook remain in hospital. It appears the oil used to cook the soya was contaminated with a massive amount of agricultural pesticide.

“The incident smacks of a political conspiracy. The police may get vital leads once the principal is arrested,” Bihar’s education minister PK Shahi said.

18 July 2013 Last updated at 09:08 GMT

Nelson Mandela spends 95th birthday in hospital

Nelson Mandela is spending his 95th birthday in hospital in Pretoria, as events take place around the world and in South Africa in his honour.

South Africans are being urged to mark the former president and anti-apartheid leader’s 67 years of public service with 67 minutes of charitable acts.

Mr Mandela, who is in critical but stable condition with a recurring lung infection, entered hospital on 8 June.

President Jacob Zuma said his health was “steadily improving”.

“We are proud to call this international icon our own as South Africans and wish him good health,” said Mr Zuma in a statement.

Chevron back in Argentina: Will more international investment follow?

Argentina chilled foreign investment by expropriating an oil company from a Spanish firm last year. But US oil giant Chevron just signed a $1.2 billion deal with state-run YPF.

By Correspondent

BUENOS AIRES

A little more than a year ago, the Argentine government expropriated Spanish firm Repsol’s shares in oil company YPF, making Argentina the majority stakeholder. The move, together with other unorthodox economic policies, unnerved foreign investors.

Last night, however, American oil giant Chevron ended 10 months of negotiations – and a foreign investment chill – by signing a $1.2 billion deal with YPF, now state-run, to develop Argentina’s vast shale reserves. The pact came just a day after another government decree granting significant benefits to companies who invest in oil and gas in Argentina. But analysts question whether the decree is enough to make others follow Chevron and end distrust of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s left-wing administration.
 
“The Chevron deal is a step in the right direction, but what Argentina really needs is to overhaul the way it handles itself internationally,” says Alieto Guadagni, a former energy secretary here. “That would bring a flood of investment.”

Southeast Asia

     Jul 18, ’13

New reef rift hits China-Philippines ties
By Richard Javad Heydarian 

MANILA - Despite renewed regional efforts to establish a binding code of conduct (CoC), the risk of armed confrontation is rising again in the South China Sea. Tensions between China and the Philippines have spiked in recent weeks as the two sides jostle for control over the Second Thomas Shoal, a potentially oil and gas rich fixture in contested waters. 

Nearly one year after Chinese paramilitary forces and the Philippine Navy squared off precariously over the contested

Scarborough Shoal, the Second Thomas Shoal (known as “Ren’ai” in China and “Ayungin” in the Philippines) has emerged as a new regional flashpoint.