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Prisoner release; Taliban’s technical team negotiating with gov’t

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(Last Updated On: May 29, 2020)

Both the Taliban team and the government are negotiating on how to verify and release the prisoners, as well as obtaining guarantees of not returning to the war, Arg said.

An agreement on peace between the Taliban and the government has not yet been reached, but the US-Taliban peace agreement which was signed three months ago in Doha, Qatar says that the Afghan government should release 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for 1,000 prisoners from the Taliban side.

A Taliban delegation is now in Kabul negotiating the prisoners’ release.

However, the Taliban has said that the team was in Kabul only to monitor the release of prisoners and has no further authority over other aspects of the peace process.

The Afghan government and the Taliban in their latest actions came to an agreement about a three-day ceasefire on the occasion of Eid ul-Fitr.

The Afghan government is now urging the Taliban to take new and more practical steps in the process of starting Intra-Afghan negotiations.

Arg said that the government’s negotiating team was ready and that the government was committed to take new measures.

Sediq Sediqqi, the presidential spokesman said that the Afghan government had taken major steps towards peace and it was time for the Taliban to show the green light.

Sources close to the Taliban said that the unannounced ceasefire by the group is ongoing, but they will not start the Intra-Afghan negotiations until thousands of the Taliban prisoners are released.

The United States and the international community are waiting for the Afghan government and the Taliban to begin the first round of Intra-Afghan Talks, as the start of these talks could open new doors to the Afghan peace process.

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US starts formal withdrawal from WHO

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(Last Updated On: July 9, 2020)

US has begun formal processing for withdrawing from the World Health Organization after the country’s President Donald Trump repeatedly slammed the organization for alleged misinformation about the spread of COVID-19.

CNN citing multiple US officials reported that Trump has sent a notice to the Congress and the United Nations that it is officially withdrawing from the agency.

The withdrawal would take effect in July 2021, the report said, adding that it prompted criticisms among bipartisan lawmakers, medical associations, advocacy organizations, and allies abroad.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden vowed Tuesday to reverse the decision “on (his) first day” if elected.

Addressing a press conference on Monday, Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for the UN Secretary-General António Guterres confirmed that the UN has received the notice from the US of “its withdrawal from the World Health Organization, effective on 6 July 2021.”

He said that the Secretary-General, in his capacity as depositary, is in the process of verifying with the World Health Organization whether all the conditions for such withdrawal are met.

Those conditions “include giving a one-year notice and fully meeting the payment of assessed financial obligations.”

The US is the WHO’s largest contributor, providing more than $400m per year.

It comes the total confirmed cases of COVID-19 has risen to 3,054,699 with 132,300 deaths and 953,420 recoveries in the United States.

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WFP receives $49m from USAID to help feed vulnerable Afghans

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(Last Updated On: July 8, 2020)

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has received a new contribution of US$49 million from USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance towards programs that help meet the food and nutrition needs of vulnerable communities in the country.

“Providing food assistance to the most vulnerable families during these uncertain times is important,” said Peter Natiello, Mission Director for USAID Afghanistan.

“USAID is pleased to partner with WFP to help communities become more resilient to the current needs.”

With this new contribution, WFP will provide assistance – through food distribution and cash-based transfers – to nearly one million people, including communities affected by conflict and natural hazards, as well as malnourished children, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, and people participating in risk reduction activities.

“This contribution comes at a critical time when an estimated four million people are facing severe food shortage across the country,” said Robert Kasca, WFP Afghanistan Deputy Country Director and Officer-in-Charge.

“We are grateful for this funding and the steadfast support the United States Government has provided to us over the years. The lives of hundreds of thousands of people will be protected thanks to the generosity and solidarity of the American people.”

Part of the contribution will go towards strengthening WFP’s fleet capacity to deliver food to remote areas, and the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) operated by WFP on behalf of the international community in Afghanistan.

Before COVID-19, WFP’s plan was to reach 7.2 million people through its country operations; but now, an additional three million people are in need of support as a result of the pandemic.

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Scientists find dinosaur ancestors ‘may have been tiny’

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(Last Updated On: July 8, 2020)

Dinosaurs are usually thought of as these giant creatures, but the results of new research released this week outline a different view and find that they might have actually started out small.

This evidence comes from newly described fossils found on Madagascar island, off the east coast of Africa, which indicates the creatures lived about 237 million years ago and stood just 10cm tall.

Scientists say the specimen may also help clarify the origins of pterosaurs, which were winged dinosaurs that ruled the skies during the time of dinosaurs.

Co-author of the research study, Christian Kammerer, from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences told Science Daily this week that “there’s a general perception of dinosaurs as being giants.”

“But this new animal is very close to the divergence of dinosaurs and pterosaurs, and it’s shockingly small,” she said.

The specimen, named Kongonaphon kely, or “tiny bug slayer”, was found in 1998 in Madagascar by a team of paleontologists, led by John Flynn from the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Dinosaurs and pterosaurs both belong to the group Ornithodira. Their origins, however, are poorly known, as few specimens from near the root of this lineage have been found.

The description and analysis of this fossil and its relatives, published on Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may help explain the origins of flight in pterosaurs, the presence of “fuzz” on the skin of both pterosaurs and dinosaurs, and other questions about these charismatic animals.

“This fossil site in southwestern Madagascar from a poorly known time interval globally has produced some amazing fossils, and this tiny specimen was jumbled in among the hundreds we’ve collected from the site over the years,” Flynn said.

“It took some time before we could focus on these bones, but once we did, it was clear we had something unique and worth a closer look. This is a great case for why field discoveries — combined with modern technology to analyze the fossils recovered — is still so important.”

“Discovery of this tiny relative of dinosaurs and pterosaurs emphasizes the importance of Madagascar’s fossil record for improving knowledge of vertebrate history during times that are poorly known in other places,” project co-leader Lovasoa Ranivoharimanana, professor and director of the vertebrate paleontology laboratory at the University of Antananarivo in Madagascar told Science Daily.

“Over two decades, our collaborative Madagascar-US teams have trained many Malagasy students in paleontological sciences, and discoveries like this helps people in Madagascar and around the world better appreciate the exceptional record of ancient life preserved in the rocks of our country.”

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