World Wrap

Taliban attack near presidential palace deals blow to peace talks

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
June 25, 2013

Peace talk prospects take a hit after Taliban attacks in Kabul, Brazil’s Rousseff makes surprising call for referendum, and Obama has big boots to fill in Africa. Today is Tuesday, June 25, and we wish Mozambique a very happy Independence Day. Here’s the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

Afghan security forces run to the site of an insurgent attack in Kabul, June 25, 2013. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

Not how peace talks work. Taliban militants attacked buildings close to Afghanistan’s presidential palace and CIA headquarters in Kabul on Tuesday, further threatening fragile peace talks between U.S. and Taliban officials:

A senior government official told Reuters four or five attackers had used fake identity papers to try to make their way through security gates in the Shash Darak district, which leads to Kabul’s most tightly guarded areas. One car made it through, but a second vehicle was stopped and those inside began shooting. Grenades were thrown. The area is home to the presidential palace compound, the Ministry of Defense and an annex of the U.S. embassy at the old Ariana Hotel. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s Afghanistan station is based there.

Several assailants and two security guards were killed in the attack, which occurred in the early morning Kabul time as reporters gathered to meet a U.S. envoy at the embassy. Reuters correspondent Mirwais Harooni tweeted the attack from in front of the palace, noting there were about 20 journalists present to cover a Karzai press conference. Peace talks got off to a rough start last week when Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his government wouldn’t participate, objecting to the Taliban’s new embassy-like office in Doha. U.S. officials said they hoped to move forward with the summit after some cosmetic adjustments were made to the office over the weekend.

A demonstrator holds a sign that reads, “Neymar for president,” in reference to Brazilian soccer player Neymar, during a protest in Porto Alegre, June 24, 2013. REUTERS/Edison Vara

If you can’t beat them… Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Monday announced a plan to enact sweeping reforms in response to a massive anti-government movement, an ambitious goal that could be unrealistic:

Rouseff proposed a national vote on amending Brazil’s constitution in a meeting with governors and mayors the week after the country’s largest protests in 20 years jolted politicians of all stripes. It immediately raised questions about whether she could deliver on such an undertaking as she heads to what may be a more difficult re-election in 2014. Brazil’s last sweeping political reform was 25 years ago, when the current Brazilian constitution was ratified in 1988 by the country’s last constitutional assembly, three years after the end of its military dictatorship.

Rousseff introduced proposals that would expand public transport, improve health services and address corruption in government. However, Brazil’s slowing economic growth in recent years leaves Rousseff little budget flexibility and makes short-term improvements unlikely.

Artist Ouzin puts the finishing touches on a painting honoring the upcoming visit by U.S. President Barack Obama to Dakar, June 24, 2013. REUTERS/Joe Penney

In W.’s shadow. President Barack Obama will make his first extended visit to Africa on Wednesday in an attempt to live up to the high precedent set by his predecessors:

Critics of Obama’s Africa policy point to George W. Bush’s program to combat HIV/AIDS in Africa, with an initial commitment of $15 billion over five years when it was launched in 2003. As a result, the United States is credited with directly supporting antiretroviral treatment for more than 4 million people… Before him, Bill Clinton generated enormous goodwill by becoming the first American president to make more than one trip to Africa and for signing the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which dropped trade restrictions on more than 6,000 exports to America from 35 African countries.

Africans first excited by the prospect of a black U.S. president with Kenyan roots have been disappointed by his lack of engagement with the continent. Now, Obama will try to win over the African public as Nelson Mandela’s ailing health threatens to overshadow the trip. Obama is slated to visit Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania.

Nota Bene: Russia rejects U.S. accusations of playing a role in NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s escape plan.

Standouts:

It gets worse - Edward Snowden plans his escape over fried chicken and pizza after learning that there are no computers in prison. (The New York Times)

Road rage - Police are holding a man who vowed war on German motorways to combat bad driving. (BBC)

#INGILTEREADINAAJANLIKYAPMASELINGIRIT - Ankara’s mayor accuses a BBC reporter of being a spy, sparking a hashtag war. (CNN)

Bug fans - Sony enthusiasts are called cockroaches in Japan. (Kotaku)

Drink and ride - An Austrian beer company is replacing its labels with public transport tickets to cut down on drunk driving. (Springwise.com)

From the File:

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