News in Brief

Afghanistan

The United Nations published a report indicating the number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan during 2015 was the highest since recordkeeping began in 2009. Last year, the U.N. logged 11,002 civilian casualties. According to the report, ground engagements, IEDs and complex/suicide attacks caused the majority of incidents. Anti-government elements such as the Taliban were responsible in 62 percent of cases. The Costs of War Project estimates over 191,000 civilians and combatants have been killed or wounded in Afghanistan since 2001.

Germany

Following a wave of sexual assaults on New Year’s Eve in Cologne, police are investigating 73 suspects. According to Die Welt, over 1,000 criminal reports poured in to authorities, most involving theft or sexual assault. In response, many Germans have protested against the country’s acceptance of refugees, who have been widely blamed for the attacks. Some news sources erroneously reported only three suspects were refugees. No such information has been made public. Presently, the majority of suspects are known to be Moroccan and Algerian.

Qatar

Meeting in Doha, representatives from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and host nation Qatar agreed to put a hold on oil production. Since June 2014, the price for a barrel of West Texas intermediate-grade crude oil has fallen more than 300 percent, from as high as $107.95 to as low as $26.68. Petroleum-producing nations have been adversely affected by overproduction. In Venezuela, the drop in oil prices has upended the economy and caused a massive spike in inflation. According to Reuters, the deal is contingent on other nations halting production as well, including Iraq and Iran.

Bosnia-Herzegovina

Bosnia-Herzegovina has applied to become a member of the European Union. Last year, the nation signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement, which established cooperative relationship with the EU. The country follows Turkey and five other nations seeking to join the supranational organization. Bosnia was the last of Yugoslavia’s successor states to sign the SAA. Only one successor state, Croatia, has become a full EU member. Recently, Great Britain has considered leaving the EU.

United States

Seventeen governors from around the country have agreed to join forces on national energy issues. Among the Governors’ Accord for a New Energy Future’s top proposals are energy diversification and infrastructure modernization. “This is a great collaborative effort,” said Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, one of the signatories. “This partnership will help us further adapt and identify best practices as we work to make energy more affordable, reliable and environmentally protective.” Michigan is one of 26 states that sued the Environmental Protection Agency over its Clean Power Plan.