Editor's note: This is Chatter, our morning rundown of what you need and want to know around the world. Fortunately for us all, you can have Chatter emailed to you every day. Just sign up here!
NEED TO KNOW:
According to a report by the Naval Criminal Investigation Service, or NCIS, as well as an investigation by the New York Times, several American soldiers working with a unit of Navy SEALs have accused the elite group’s members of abusing Afghan detainees. In at least once case, that abuse led to death.
The accusations come from four specific American soldiers, two Navy support personnel, a local police officer and another Afghan detainee, who all witnessed the mistreatment. The US soldiers all worked alongside the SEALs at a small US army outpost in Kalach, Afghanistan.
Some of the witnesses said the SEALs posted there were consumed with the group's celebrity status and spoke often about SEAL Team 6, which is now known globally as a squad of elite American soldiers and assassins that most famously killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. There are several SEAL teams. It was SEAL Team 2 that was based in at the outpost in Kalach. Witnesses described the group as “undisciplined.”
The witnesses said, according to the report, that the SEALs would toss grenades for sport, once punched a civilian in the face, fired for fun at passing vehicles and used slingshots to pelt young Afghan children in the face with hard candy. This was all even before the prisoner mistreatment.
The abuse, or some might call it torture, included beatings to the head and an improvised sort of waterboarding. The NCIS, however, cleared the members of SEAL Team 2 of any wrongdoing.
Abuse of detainees is a serious crime in the American military and several justice experts told the New York Times that it was wrong that the investigation had been internal. They say such allegations should have led to a trial, a grand jury and possibly a court-martial.
WANT TO KNOW:
A year ago Cuba and the United States announced to the world that they would resume diplomatic ties. Months later they did just that. Now there may soon be commercial flights flying between the longtime rivals.
For more than half a century, Cuba has been America's enemy. Diplomacy between the two governments was nonexistent. Relations were marked by distrust, fear, aggression, embargoes and “crazy assassination plots.” Those exciting days are now all over.
Secretary of State John Kerry became the first US Secretary of State to visit Cuba in 70 years when he witnessed the raising of the American flag over a newly opened US Embassy in Havana in August. It was the final step in a process that began in December 2014 when US President Barack Obama announced that Cuba and the United States would work toward normalizing ties.
Since then the number of Americans visiting Cuba has risen by some 50 percent. Though traditional tourism is still not allowed, that number will surely grow when commercial flights begin. The agreement to allow commercial flights was struck in Washington on Wednesday. It could be just 3 to 6 months before American passenger jets start landing in Havana.
STRANGE BUT TRUE:
Neighboring countries often have disputes about history and culture. After all, most political boundaries are the results of arbitrary dealings. Before the modern era, people who lived in what is now the United States could freely mosey on down to Central American, and vice versa, without anyone saying otherwise.
Every few years, rhetoric between Indonesia and Malaysia heats up over which country is appropriating the other’s culture. At times it gets so bad that actual war is threatened. These are arguments over classic dishes or traditional fabrics.
Macedonia and Greece are the same way. Macedonia used to be part of Yugoslavia before that country broke apart after a series of conflicts in the early 1990s. Ever since, Greece has accused Macedonia of taking its name from a historical northern region of Greece. Greek officials also believe Macedonia, which is home to a majority Slavic population, is passing off elements of Greek culture and history as its own.
The dispute has gone on for two decades now. And Macedonia is so tired of it (Greece has even prevented Macedonia from entering the European Union over the issue), it might actually agree to change its name. Leaders from the two countries will discuss it today.