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News Wrap: Military Suicides Outnumbered Combat Deaths in Afghanistan in 2012

January 14, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Suicides in the ranks of the U.S. military hit a record 349 last year.

The Associated Press reported the figure was nearly 50 more than the previous year. It’s also more than the 295 U.S. combat deaths in Afghanistan in 2012. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has called the problem of military suicide an epidemic.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai called today for loya jirga, or grand assembly, to decide whether U.S. troops should be immune from Afghan laws. The U.S. has said it needs sole legal jurisdiction over any troops who stay after combat forces leave at the end of 2014. In a Kabul speech, Karzai said it would take about eight or nine months to come to a decision.

PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI, Afghanistan (through translator): It is the decision of the people of Afghanistan. So, a loya jirga, the national assembly of elders of the people of Afghanistan should decide whether to give the immunity or not and, if they give it, under which conditions they should do so.

But the Americans told us that if you do not give us the immunity, we have to leave Afghanistan for good and won’t have any relationships with you.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Karzai said the U.S. has agreed to his demands to respect Afghan sovereignty. He discussed the issues with President Obama in Washington on Friday.

Mass protests were held in Islamabad, Pakistan, today demanding new election reforms. Thousands of supporters of an outspoken Muslim cleric gathered in the capital amid heavy security. They called for an end to government inefficiency and corruption. To the south, there were funerals for many of the 86 Shiites killed in last week’s bombings in Quetta. Thousands of Shiites had refused to bury the dead until the provincial government was dismissed.

Syrian women now cite rape as a primary reason for fleeing their war-torn country. That’s according to a new report by the International Rescue Committee. It says women report being sexually assaulted and raped, often in public and in front of family members. The IRC gathered the data by interviewing more than 240 women in refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon. The U.N. has registered more than 600,000 Syrian refugees.

In China, the people of Beijing suffered through another day of severe smog, and for the first time government officials openly acknowledged the problem. The pollution was at its worst over the weekend, keeping Beijing’s skyscrapers enveloped in a gray haze. Residents young and old wore masks to shield themselves from the pollutants. The smog is expected to linger through tomorrow.

Leading Cabinet ministers in France insisted today they will go ahead with a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, despite a mass weekend protest. Hundreds of thousands of people rallied yesterday at the Eiffel Tower in Paris. They urged President Francois Hollande to withdraw the legislation, and called instead for a national debate. Current plans call for the French parliament to take up the gay marriage measure later this month, and approve it by June.

Former President George H.W. Bush has left a Houston hospital, two months after being admitted with a heavy cough. Mr. Bush is 88 and the nation’s oldest living former president. He was hospitalized the day after Thanksgiving, after suffering bronchitis. Later, he was transferred to intensive care when a fever developed. The hospital said today the former president will continue physical therapy to rebuild his strength.

On Wall Street today, stocks ended the day with very little movement as investors waited for a slew of earnings reports later this week. The Dow Jones industrial average gained nearly 19 points to close at 13,507. The Nasdaq fell eight points to close above 3,117.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.