Biden embraces Trump accords, but struggles with his withdrawal from Iran nuclear deal amid growing threat

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(WASHINGTON) — There have been major differences between the administrations of Donald Trump and Joe Biden on foreign policy — not least over the Iran nuclear deal, with Biden officials blaming Trump’s withdrawal for bringing Iran closer to a nuclear weapon today than before.

But even as Biden’s top diplomat warned more starkly than ever about the threat from Iran and the need to salvage the nuclear deal Wednesday, there was some consistency: Secretary of State Antony Blinken embraced the set of key Trump-era deals known as the Abraham Accords.

Those historic agreements saw Israel establish relations with some of its Arab neighbors — starting with the United Arab Emirates and extending, in varying degrees, to Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

The deals were controversial in some corners not just because they sidelined the Palestinians and did nothing to address long-simmering tensions there, but also because of the big-ticket incentives Trump offered to sweeten the pot for Arab countries, including selling the most advanced U.S. fighter jet, the F-35, to UAE; recognizing Morocco’s claim to Western Sahara; and even offering to pay the Sept. 11 attacks victims to make legal claims against Sudan go away.

But with Israel’s foreign minister and alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid and UAE’s Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Blinken heralded the agreements during a meeting at the State Department Wednesday. He announced the two countries, along with the U.S., was expanding the Abraham Accords with two new working groups on religious co-existence and water and energy — and said the Biden administration is looking to add other countries to them, too.

“Normalization is profoundly in the interests of the people in the countries in question and is providing all sorts of new opportunities,” Blinken said during a press conference with Lapid and bin Zayed. “It simply means that people will have a better life, more opportunity, more security, more prosperity.”

So far, that hasn’t been the case for Palestinians. Palestinian leaders were furious that the UAE, Bahrain and others abandoned a decades-old commitment to not recognize Israel until Palestinian aspirations for a state were granted. But Blinken, Lapid and bin Zayed said Israel and UAE’s growing economic and people-to-people ties were an example for what could be possible for the Palestinians, too.

“The more of a successful UAE-Israeli relationship will be, that would not only encourage the region, but also encourage the Israeli people and the Palestinian people that this path is worth not only investing in, but also taking the risk,” said bin Zayed.

Bin Zayed announced he would visit Israel soon “to meet a friend, but also a partner,” he said, smiling over at Lapid, who made a historic visit to Abu Dhabi earlier this year.

“The Palestinians are going to be the most important element of the success of peace in the region. We cannot just talk about peace in the region without the neighbors; the Palestinians and Israelis are not in talking terms to start with,” he added, saying there had been some progress with recent meetings between Israeli ministers and the Palestinian Authority.

For his part, Lapid — who invited bin Zayed to his house and said his wife was ready to cook for him — added that Israel was now focused on making the existing Abraham Accords successful, while working to expand them to other countries, “including ones you don’t think of,” he added with a smile.

He had little to say about the Palestinians, however, adding during his opening statement, “All people are entitled to a decent way of life. This includes of course the Palestinians. Our goal is to work with the Palestinian Authority to ensure every child has that opportunity.”

Blinken reiterated the Biden administration’s support for a two-state solution and called for both sides to “enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity, democracy,” But he backed normalization as a way to get there.

“We believe normalization can and should be a force for progress not only between Israel and other Arab countries in the region and beyond, but also between Israelis and Palestinians,” he said.

To pursue that progress, he also made clear the U.S. is “moving forward” with reopening the American consulate in East Jerusalem, which has traditionally served as a de facto embassy to the Palestinians. Israel, which largely has control as host country, has vocally opposed the move, including in comments by Justice Minister Gideon Saar Wednesday, who said Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett agreed, “No way.”
US, Israel weighing ‘alternative plans’ against Iran as nuclear talks remain paused

Beyond that disagreement, there was another critical difference on display Wednesday over the growing threat of Iran’s nuclear program.

Blinken again warned time is running out for salvaging the Iran nuclear deal as Iran continues to expand its nuclear program, with more enriched uranium, enriched at higher levels, using more and more advanced centrifuges.

He once again declined to put a timetable on it, but in perhaps his strongest language yet, said the U.S. and its partners are looking at “every option to deal with the challenge posed by Iran. We continue to believe diplomacy is the most effective way to do that, but it takes two to engage in diplomacy, and we have not seen from Iran a willingness to do that at this point.”

Hours earlier, his special envoy for Iran, Rob Malley, said the U.S. must “prepare” for “a world in which Iran doesn’t have constraints on its nuclear program” — a world without a nuclear deal. The Biden administration is doing that “now in consultation with our partners from the region,” he added during an event with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

To that end, Malley is departing for United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia on Friday to discuss Iran, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Wednesday.

Those efforts were echoed in what Lapid said Tuesday after meeting National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan at the White House. The two “discussed the need for an alternative plan to the nuclear agreement,” according to his office.

Both he and Blinken declined to spell out Wednesday what those potential plans may be, but Lapid implied it includes the use of force.

“Secretary of State Blinken and I are sons of Holocaust survivors. We know there are moments when nations must use force to protect the world from evil. If a terror regime is going to acquire a nuclear weapon, we must act, we must make clear that the civilized world won’t allow it,” he said.

When asked later about the use of force, he added, “by saying other options, I think everybody understands here, in Israel, in the Emirates, and in Tehran what is it that we mean.”

But while Blinken said all three of them — along with European partners — agree that Iran must not be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon, Lapid’s language was even more stark. He urged less patience with waiting for Iran to resume nuclear talks. Those indirect talks between the U.S. and Iran have been on hiatus since June, with Iran’s new government saying it must get its team in position first.

“Iran is becoming a nuclear threshold country. Every day that passes, every delay in negotiations, brings Iran closer to a nuclear bomb. Iran is clearly dragging their heels, trying to cheat the world to continue to enrich uranium, to develop their ballistic missile program,” Lapid said, adding that Israel had not just a “right,” but a “responsibility” to stop Iran from acquiring the bomb.

Blinken did not answer a question about use of force, saying again the Biden administration believes a “diplomatic solution” is best, but adding, “To be very clear, Israel has the right to defend itself, and we strongly support that proposition.”

Other U.S. allies have joined in recent weeks in urging Tehran to resume those talks. The French Foreign Ministry said Wednesday the situation had reached a “crisis and at a critical moment for the future of the nuclear agreement,” blaming Iran for “refusing to negotiate” and creating “facts on the ground that further complicate the return to the JCPOA,” an acronym for the nuclear deal’s formal name.

Enrique Mora, the European Union’s second highest-ranking diplomat who has coordinated those talks, said Wednesday he was traveling to Iran to “raise the urgency to resume #JCPOA negotiations in Vienna. Crucial to pick up talks from where we left last June to continue diplomatic work.”

But in the meantime, the U.S. is urging immediate action on another front — the release of American citizens detained by Iran. Both Blinken and Sullivan met Wednesday with Babak Namazi, whose brother Siamak and father Baquer Namazi have been detained by Iran for six years — to the day — and 5 1/2 years, respectively.

“The Iranian government continues to subject the entire Namazi family to unimaginable abuse. Through it all, the Namazis have shown remarkable courage,” Blinken said in a statement afterward. “The United States is committed to securing Siamak and Baquer’s freedom as soon as possible, as well as that of the other U.S. citizens wrongfully detained in Iran.”

Jared Genser, a lawyer for the Namazis, filed an urgent appeal with the United Nations last week to call for Baquer Namazi’s immediate release so he can have a lifesaving surgery on a major blockage in his right carotid artery.

“My father’s already lost so much precious time. I’m begging Iran to allow him to spend whatever time he has left with his family,” Babak Namazi told reporters last week in an emotional appeal.

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US pushes diplomacy, prepares sanctions as Ethiopia launches new offensive in brutal war, risking famine

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(WASHINGTON) — Nearly a month after President Joe Biden created a new U.S. sanctions authority and threatened to impose economic penalties on Ethiopian leaders unless they halted a conflict in the country’s northern province, that war is now escalating.

The worsening fighting puts millions of lives at risk amid reports of famine-like conditions already faced by up to 900,000 people and severe food insecurity impacting 6 to 7 million, according to U.S. officials.

The U.S. announced Tuesday it is providing $26 million more humanitarian aid, but that will do little to stop the suffering as of now. Aid convoys into the Tigray region have been blocked and attacked throughout the conflict, with a particularly brutal blockade by the Ethiopian government for nearly 110 days now keeping resources like food, fuel and medicine out.

“Looking forward, it’s pretty dark and pretty bleak without a significant change either politically or militarily — I hate to say that, but the status quo really cannot continue. The famine is only going to start taking more lives at an accelerated pace,” said David Del Conte, the former deputy director for Ethiopia at the United Nations’ humanitarian agency.

Spurred by warnings like that, the U.S. seemed to kick diplomacy into a higher gear this week, too. The U.S. hosted a summit of high-level donor countries to urge humanitarian access and a halt to fighting — openly weighing the possibility of a humanitarian airlift. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also met with the African Union’s envoy trying to negotiate a ceasefire.

But once again, it is all seems to be falling on deaf ears on the ground. In the last week, the Ethiopian government launched a new major military offensive against Tigrayan forces, the country’s former longtime ruling party that has been at war with the federal government since last November.

Every side in this nearly one-year-old conflict has been accused of atrocities, in some instances documented in great detail by monitors like Amnesty International and media outlets. Blinken has said the U.S. has seen reports of “ethnic cleansing” — but increasingly, reports from the region are hard to come by because the Ethiopian government has cut cell phone and internet communications.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Tuesday the U.S. was aware of the reported offensive, adding, “Escalating fighting undermines critical efforts to keep civilians safe and the ability of international actors to deliver humanitarian relief to all those in need, and we know there are too many in need.”

The Biden administration is “considering the full range of tools,” including using those economic sanctions that Biden authorized last month, Price added. One source familiar with the administration’s plans said those sanctions are being prepared, although Price declined to preview any announcement Tuesday.

But it’s unclear what, if any, effect that will have on Ethiopian officials, up to and including Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. His government declared a ceasefire in June as its military and aligned forces retreated from Tigray and Tigrayan troops retook territory. But fighting has continued, including Tigrayan offensives into neighboring regions like Amhara and Afar — each side defying threats of sanctions from the U.S., European Union and others.

“From Abiy’s perspective, this fight is existential, at least politically for him, so the idea that these sanctions are going to make him turn on a dime and reevaluate the nature of the campaign is unlikely,” said Hardin Lang, vice president for programs and policy at Refugees International, an advocacy group. But, he added, it is an important “tool” that could “erode support of those around Abiy.”

Abiy’s blockade has created shortages of food, fuel, medicines and medical supplies, and cash in Tigray, while continued fighting threatens to heighten humanitarian crises in neighboring regions. The United Nations, aid groups and other countries, including the U.S., have increasingly sounded the alarm about the risk of a massive famine in Tigray and beyond, especially now in Amhara and Afar.

In total, more than 2 million people have fled their homes, and some 48,000 have fled across the border into neighboring Sudan as refugees, according to U.S. officials.

In response to those warnings, however, the Ethiopian government expelled U.N. officials from the country two weeks ago — sparking more international condemnation. Ethiopia’s ambassador to the U.N. accused those officials last Wednesday of falsifying data — prompting a striking rebuttal from U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Already, there are reports of people starving to death. USAID Administrator Samantha Power said today that people are going multiple days without food, left to eat leaves.

“Innocent Ethiopian lives depend upon the government of Ethiopia immediately reestablishing communications, banking and other vital services within Tigray, and fully restoring transport corridors and air linkages to Tigray,” said Power, who convened Tuesday’s high-level meeting of G7 countries and other major donor countries.

The countries discussed the “possibility of augmenting road operations — which are failing to meet urgent humanitarian needs due to government obstruction — by expanding air operations to deliver relief supplies directly to the region,” she added in her statement.

That kind of airlift would still require the Ethiopian government’s permission, however, and would be far less effective at bringing in supplies than convoys of trucks, according to Del Conte. One cargo aircraft would cost more than up to 100 trucks in a convoy, he said, while feeding only about as much aid as what one double-trailer truck could carry.

In addition to Power’s summit, Blinken held his own high-level meetings Tuesday on Ethiopia. He met one-on-one first with the African Union’s Olusegun Obasanjo, the former Nigerian president now serving as special envoy for the Horn of Africa — before they joined Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who heads the regional bloc the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, along with the EU and UK’s top diplomats and senior diplomats from Germany and France.

Together, they discussed the conflict and agreed to urge “the parties to the conflict to immediately end abuses, to enter into negotiations toward a ceasefire, and to lay the foundation for a broader and inclusive dialogue to restore peace in Ethiopia and preserve the unity of the Ethiopian state,” Price told reporters during a briefing.

But with this new offensive, it seems clear Abiy has no interest in a dialogue — instead hoping a communications blackout means the world will not pay attention.

“The government in Addis has shown remarkable commitment to a military solution to the conflict,” said Del Conte, now the leader of Refugees International’s Stop Tigray Famine campaign. “What we see out of northern Ethiopia is going to be dramatic and significant. … I’m deeply concerned at the unwillingness to change directions in any way.”

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Five dead, two injured in random bow and arrow attack in Norway

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(KONGSBERG, Norway) — Five people were killed and two others injured in an apparently random attack in Kongsberg, Norway, late Wednesday as a man roamed the city shooting people with a bow and arrow.

Authorities said the man was taken into custody in the city center and is currently being held in the nearby city of Drammen.

Police are not searching for any other suspects.

“Based on the information we have at the present time; the apprehended man has acted alone. We will also have to look at whether this is an act of terror or not,” Øyvind Aas, the city’s assistant chief of police, said in a statement. “The suspect has not yet been questioned by the police, and it is therefore too early to say anything about his motivation for his actions.”

The suspect was identified as a 37-year-old man who lived in Kongsberg, but is a Danish citizen. He has been charged in the crime, police said.

Kongsberg is located about an hour southwest of Oslo.

Police said the man was spotted walking around the city shooting at random around 6:30 p.m. local time and was taken into custody about 20 minutes later. Photos from the city showed arrows stuck in walls of buildings.

One of those who was injured was an off-duty police officer, authorities said.

“There has been, and there still is a major police activity in the area,” Aas said. “The reason for this is that the suspect has moved over a large area, and we are now working on securing evidence and get as much information about the incident as we can.”

In a statement, the U.S. State Department said, “We are aware of today’s attack and extend our heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families.”

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5 dead, 2 injured in random bow and arrow attack in Norway

Fotonen/iStock

(KONGSBERG, Norway) — Five people were killed and two others injured in an apparently random attack in Kongsberg, Norway, late Wednesday as a man roamed the city shooting people with a bow and arrow.

Authorities said the man was taken into custody in the city center and is currently being held in the nearby city of Drammen.

Police are not searching for any other suspects.

“Based on the information we have at the present time; the apprehended man has acted alone. We will also have to look at whether this is an act of terror or not,” Øyvind Aas, the city’s assistant chief of police, said in a statement. “The suspect has not yet been questioned by the police, and it is therefore too early to say anything about his motivation for his actions.”

Kongsberg is located about an hour southwest of Oslo.

Police said the man was spotted walking around the city shooting at random around 6:30 p.m. local time and was taken into custody about 20 minutes later. Photos from the city showed arrows stuck in walls of buildings.

“There has been, and there still is a major police activity in the area,” Aas said. “The reason for this is that the suspect has moved over a large area, and we are now working on securing evidence and get as much information about the incident as we can.”

ABC News’ Sohel Uddin, Kirit Radia and Christine Theodorou contributed to this report.

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US investigating reported cases of ‘Havana syndrome’ in Colombia ahead of Blinken visit

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(BOGOTA, Colombia) — A “few” U.S. personnel at the embassy in Bogotá, Colombia, have reported symptoms consistent with “Havana syndrome,” a source familiar with the cases confirmed to ABC News.

Colombia is now the latest country where American officials have reported incidents of the mysterious neurological affliction that has confounded the U.S. government for years now, but the reports are particularly notable because Secretary of State Antony Blinken is heading to Bogotá this month, the Colombian Foreign Ministry announced last week.

In a similar episode in August, Vice President Kamala Harris’s trip to Vietnam was delayed for a few hours after an unconfirmed case of “Havana syndrome” was reported by a staffer at the U.S. mission there.

American diplomats, spies and other officials have reported strange experiences and debilitating symptoms in several countries now, starting with Cuba in late 2016 and expanding to China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Germany, Austria and elsewhere.

Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, cognitive difficulties, tinnitus, vertigo and trouble with seeing, hearing or balancing. Many officials have suffered symptoms years after reporting an incident, while some have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries.

It’s unclear how many U.S. officials have confirmed medical symptoms.

Leadership at the U.S. embassy in Bogotá informed staff of the reported incidents, saying they are investigating the cases and addressing them “seriously, with objectivity and with sensitivity,” according to an email from Ambassador Philip Goldberg obtained by the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news. The source confirmed to ABC News that Goldberg has been in communication with staff, but declined to share the emails.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price declined to comment on the report Tuesday during a department briefing, saying instead the agency is working to ensure all affected personnel get “the prompt care they need in whatever form that takes” and to protect its work force around the world.

Pressed on why the administration wasn’t being more forthcoming, Price said officials had to respect personnel privacy, adding, “It’s certainly not the case that we are ignoring this. We are just not speaking to the press — we’re speaking to our workforce.”

Price also declined to confirm that Blinken is traveling to Colombia. Colombia’s Foreign Ministry announced he would visit for a high-level dialogue on Oct. 20 with Foreign Minister and First Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez after the two met last week in Paris on the sidelines of the summit of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries.

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Nobel Prize Foundation under fire for rejecting ethnic, gender quotas

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(LONDON) — The Nobel Prize Foundation is facing pushback after saying it would not implement gender or ethnicity quotas in selecting nominees. Only 59 women, or 6.2% of total winners, have ever received a Nobel Prize since its inception in 1901.

Göran Hansson, the secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science and vice chairman of the board of directors for the Nobel Foundation, told the AFP in an interview published on Tuesday: “We have decided we will not have quotas for gender or ethnicity. We want every laureate [to] be accepted … because they made the most important discovery, and not because of gender or ethnicity. And that is in line with the spirit of Alfred Nobel’s last will.”

UN Women, the UN branch dedicated to promoting gender equality around the world, criticized Hansson, saying in a statement, “Unfortunately, the underrepresentation of women Nobel laureates over the years is just another indicator of the slow progress on gender equality.”

Historically, women have been underrepresented in the scientific categories. Only 23 women have ever won Nobel Prizes in medicine, physics and chemistry.

Over the years, the Nobel Foundation has put in place some measures to increase the representation of female scientists in the nomination process. In a 2019 interview with Nature, Hansson explained that the committee asked nominators to consider diversity of gender, geography and topic when proposing candidates. The committee also tried to increase the number of female nominators, raise nominations for up to three different discoveries and even submit several names for the same award.

“It’s sad that there are so few women Nobel laureates and it reflects the unfair conditions in society, particularly in years past but still existing. And there’s so much more to do,” Hanson said in 2019.

But since those remarks were made, Maria Ressa, the journalist who won the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize with Dimitri Mouratov, is the only female winner in all categories.

Tennis player and gender equality advocate Billie Jean King spoke out on social media to denounce the decision, saying, “Women’s accomplishments are routinely erased from the history books in which they belong. Gender equality is something we all must work toward, today & every day.”

 

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Shipwreck off Colombian coast kills three migrants, six are still missing

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(CABO TIBURON, Colombia) — Three people are dead and six are still missing after a ship sank in Cabo Tiburon, Colombia.

Units of the Colombian Navy in coordination with Panamanian authorities are carrying out the search and rescue operation of the passengers who were transported in a ship that was wrecked in the general area of ​​Cabo Tiburon, in the municipality of Acandí, the Navy said.

The vessel was sailing with approximately 30 migrants, including Haitian, Cuban and Venezuelan citizens, they said.

The Colombian Navy said 21 people have been rescued, and the bodies of three dead women have been found. Two were Haitian and one was Cuban.

The Navy, with the support of the Panamanian authorities and fishermen in the region, continues the search and rescue of six missing migrants — three adults and three minors — who were on board the boat that would have set sail from a clandestine point near Necoclí.

It’s unclear what caused the incident.

This is a developing story, please check back for updates.

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Afghan interpreter who helped rescue Biden in 2008 evacuated from Afghanistan

(WASHINGTON) — An Afghan interpreter who helped rescue then Sen. Joe Biden during a congressional delegation visit to Afghanistan in 2008 has been evacuated from the country, the State Department and the nonprofit that coordinated his travel confirmed to ABC News on Monday.

The interpreter and his family were among more than 200 “at-risk” people in Pakistan who have now been moved “to safety,” the Human First Coalition said in a statement.

The organization, comprised of volunteers efforting evacuations, thanked Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the State Department for their help facilitating their travel. It said Blinken held late-night phone calls and helped coordinate a “path” out of Pakistan for the group. It also thanked Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan for welcoming the evacuees after they first got out of Afghanistan.

During his 2008 visit to Afghanistan, a helicopter carrying Biden, along with then-Sens. John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, made an emergency landing because of a snowstorm. A group of U.S. service members and their Afghan partners helped rescue them over land, including a man identified as Aman Khalili by the Wall Street Journal, which first reported his story.

After Biden ended the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and withdrew all troops and personnel in August, Khalili pleaded for help getting out — sharing this message for Biden with ABC News: “Please do not forget me and my family. Please find a way to get me out.”

In a statement to ABC News on Monday, the State Department also confirmed Khalili and his family had successfully been evacuated from Afghanistan and had “initiated onward travel from Pakistan.”

“They did so with extensive and high-level engagement and support from the U.S. government, and we are grateful for the many others who also supported him along the way,” a spokesperson from the Department of State told ABC News.

Khalili was one of thousands of Afghans who worked for the U.S. military and diplomatic mission, but had not been able to get a Special Immigrant Visa for their service. It’s unclear whether he was granted a visa now and where he and his family are headed.

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Human-inducted climate change may affect 85% of the global population, researchers say

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(NEW YORK) — Scientists are beginning to paint a clearer picture on just how many people will be affected by climate change if current warming trends continue.

About 85% of the world’s population already lives in areas experiencing the affects of human-induced climate change, according to a study published in Nature on Tuesday.

Researchers in Berlin compiled data from more than 100,000 impact studies analyzing detectable environmental signals of human-inducted climate change, finding that the evidence for how climate change is impacting communities is continuing to grow.

“In almost every study where we have enough data, we can see, [the world] is getting hotter, and it’s getting hotter in a way that is consistent,” Max Callaghan, a researcher at the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change in Berlin and one of the authors of the study, told ABC News.

The research also looked at how rising temperatures change precipitation patterns and affect crop yields and local ecosystems, and it found that human-attributable changes in temperature and precipitation are now occurring in 80% of the world’s land area, where about 85% of the global population resides, Callaghan said.

The impacts will be felt the strongest in the least developed countries, but little is known about exactly what those effects will look like, he added, describing the lack of data as an “attribution gap” that needs to be filled.

“In high income countries, almost all of those people live in an area where there is also lots of evidence about how that warming trend affects other systems,” he said. “But in low income countries… there is little evidence about how that warming trend is affecting other things.”

The new research is allowing scientists to attribute with near-certainty that global temperatures are increasing because of human influence on the planet, Callaghan said. While previous studies often focus on possible scenarios by 2050 or 2100, it is clear that climate change is “already happening.”

Countries will need to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the near future to mitigate the extremity of pending disasters, the researchers said.

“As long as we continue burning fossil fuels, things will get worse,” Callaghan said. “Until we reach net-zero, things will continue to get worse.”

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Afghanistan updates: US, Taliban hold first direct talks since withdrawal

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(WASHINGTON) — It’s been more than a month since the U.S. withdrew all U.S. troops from Afghanistan on President Joe Biden’s order to leave by Aug. 31, ending a chaotic evacuation operation after the Afghan government collapsed and the Taliban seized control of the country.

In testimony to Congress last month, their first since the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan — Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley and Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, candidly admitted that they had recommended to Biden that the U.S. should keep a troop presence there, appearing to contradict his assertions to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.

Here are the latest developments. All times Eastern:

Oct 11, 10:26 am
US, Taliban hold first talks since withdrawal

While it appears the U.S. government has agreed to provide humanitarian aid to Afghanistan as it nears economic disaster, it did not signal formal recognition of the Taliban as the country’s new rulers following weekend talks in Doha, Qatar.

These were the first direct talks between the U.S. and the Taliban since the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops at the end of August.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price called the talks “candid and professional” and said the U.S. delegation reiterated to the Taliban they will be judged on their actions, not only their words.

“The U.S. delegation focused on security and terrorism concerns and safe passage for U.S. citizens, other foreign nationals and our Afghan partners, as well as on human rights, including the meaningful participation of women and girls in all aspects of Afghan society. The two sides also discussed the United States’ provision of robust humanitarian assistance, directly to the Afghan people,” Price said in a statement.

No date has been set for the resumption of talks that took place in Doha on Saturday and Sunday.

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