CLIMATE CONFERENCE: The climate change talks in Copenhagen remain deadlocked with top officials losing faith that the negotiations will produce any meaningful results. Before departing for the summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Berlin that news from the talks was "not good." She also criticized the United States, saying its offers to cut emissions (by just four percent) are not ambitious enough. Other officials at the conference have expressed concerns they will not be able to hammer out a global warming treaty before U.S. President Barack Obama and more than 100 other world leaders arrive for the summit's conclusion on Friday. Environment ministers on Thursday were still far apart on how to cap greenhouse gas emissions and verify that each nation is doing its part.
MEXICO - DRUGS: One of Mexico's most-wanted drug gang leaders has been shot dead. Mexican navy officials said Wednesday Arturo Beltran Leyva, head of one of the most powerful drug crime syndicates, was killed by security forces in a shootout in a high-end residential complex in the city of Cuernavaca. At least three other gang members were also killed in the clash, while a fourth committed suicide.
Beltran Leyva's death is a victory for President Felipe Calderon's drug offensive as gang-related violence is jumping. Despite deploying nearly 50,000 troops against the cartels since taking office in 2006, more than 14,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence. Beltran Leyva, called the "boss of bosses," ran the Beltran Leyva drug cartel along with his four brothers. He was wanted by both the U.S. and Mexican authorities.
NOKOR NUKE: China and South Korea have pledged to increase their efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear standoff. The two Asian neighbors made the pledge Thursday after South Korean President Lee Myung-bak held talks with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in Seoul. In a statement released by Mr. Lee's office, the South Korean president said he hoped Beijing will play a bigger role in 2010 in convincing North Korea to abandon its nuclear program. China is Pyongyang's biggest ally and trading partner. Xi urged South Korea to improve relations with it communist neighbor to the north as a means of improving the security situation on the peninsula. Meanwhile, the U.S. envoy to North Korea said any future talks with Pyongyang will have to deal with the regime's recently unveiled uranium enrichment program.
PAKISTAN: Pakistani opposition groups are calling for President Asif Ali Zardari to step down from office following a court ruling striking down an amnesty decree protecting him and other senior officials from facing charges of corruption. The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the National Reconciliation Ordinance, which grants amnesty to some 8,000 senior politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen, conflicts with Pakistan's constitution.
The ruling opens the door for the reopening of all corruption and criminal cases pending against the president's close aides and political allies. Mr. Zardari is immune from prosecution while in office, however his opponents plan to challenge his eligibility to hold the post. Members of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party have called on him to resign on moral grounds. Former President Pervez Musharraf introduced the amnesty in the 2007 National Reconciliation Ordinance.
AL-QAIDA-YEMEN: Yemeni officials say security forces have killed 34 al-Qaida militants and arrested 17 others in a series of raids targeting the terrorist group. Defense officials said Thursday the operations took place near the capital of Sanaa and in the country's south. Just last month, al-Qaida claimed responsibility for an ambush that killed at least five security officers in Yemen's Hadramout province. Earlier this year, a senior U.S. counterterrorism official warned Yemen is emerging as a potential new regional base for the terrorist network.