Canadian and U.S. Trade Relations (Trump May Have ‘No Idea,’ But We Know What’s Up)

NAFT-WA?

All right, we all remember details of NAFTA from Grade 7 history (sort of), but how about a quick refresher? The North American Free Trade Agreement was introduced in the 1990s as a way to open borders for manufacturing and trade. This continental agreement was the first of its kind, allowing for significantly reduced (or eliminated) regulations when doing business internationally between Canada, Mexico, and the United States. So basically, if Vanilla Ice wanted to sell a rollerblade-friendly Discman to his buddies up in Saskatoon, but the only place to build them was in Guadalajara, he could now do it without paying extra duty. (Man, the ‘90s were lit.)

NAFTA has been running strong since then, but was, and continues to be met with mixed reviews. Many have continued praising its open border approach to business, allowing for shared resources of three countries. This is why we saw so many “Made in Mexico” tags on our clothes growing up, and why so many of our favourite TV shows and movies were actually set in Canada. Others blamed NAFTA in part for the crash of the American manufacturing sector and the outsourcing of jobs to countries with less expensive labour. Donald Trump, citing NAFTA as a reason why America was broken, is fighting to bring jobs back to the U.S. by completely rewriting the act.

 

NAFTA Negotiations

We’re eight months into the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations and a pleasing resolution for all involved is looking a little more likely (than say it was two weeks ago). It all started when President Trump campaigned on promises to renegotiate NAFTA with Canada and Mexico, with the intention of securing industries, jobs and commerce within the U.S. Since the 1994 agreement came into effect, Mexico has seen a huge boom in certain industries, with many American assembly and production plants moving south of the border (taking jobs away from Americans). Trump also claimed (via Twitter) that Mexico has a “$71 billion dollar trade surplus with the U.S.” which would more than cover the cost of his estimated $20 billion wall. (Yes, literally every negotiation with Trump hits a wall, the border wall to be precise.) And while this all started over Mexico, Canada hasn’t escaped Trump’s threats either.

 

What This Could Mean for Canada

It’s no secret that our neighbour to the south is the largest purchaser of Canadian goods and services. A stricter and more expensive NAFTA agreement would hurt Canada’s overall GDP. Currently, Canada is the 12th largest export economy in the world. In 2016 our home and native land sold more than $387 billion dollars’ worth of goods to the rest of the world. This included things like cars, natural resources, and Ryan Gosling (swoon!). Of that $387 billion, the U.S. gobbled up $266 billion. That’s 68% of our total sales! Our second largest customer is China with only $27.3 billion. Basically, if maple syrup and poutine become too expensive as a result of the new deal and we lost our biggest customer…we probably wouldn’t be able to afford the healthcare required to heal our broken hearts.

 

Trump, Trudeau and Trade

So Trump is a bully, but what is our fearless leader doing about it? “We’re standing up for ourselves. But, we know there’s a win-win-win we can get to,” Trudeau told one employee at the Algoma steel facility during a PR event a few weeks go.

At another interview he said, “We know we can work towards a good deal. But we also know that we will not be pushed into accepting any old deal, and no deal might very well be better for Canada than a bad deal. And being firm on that is, I think, what Canadians expect of me.”

One way or another we are going to see significant change in the next few months. It will impact most of our economy, and the needle could move in either direction.

Here’s to you, PM, our financial future depends on you.

 

For a quick and clever overview of how and why NAFTA came to be, watch this.

For a deeper dive into Canada’s trade relations, visit atlas.media.mit.edu.

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Everything You’ve Been Pretending to Know About North and South Korea

Thought you could navigate conversations about North and South Korea with a “knowing” eye roll or two? Think again. For the first time in a long time, relations between the two countries seem to be improving, with North Korea going so far as to say they’d be open to abandoning their nuclear weapons and halting testing. It all sounds too good to be true, and according to the New York Times, “President Trump reacted with guarded optimism to the news” (much like his team is guarding his Twitter account) but regardless of how this shakes out, it’s crucial you have a little context on the matter (which starts by finally getting North and South straight).

Historically Speaking

A quick history lesson, if we may. (We promise it’ll make everything so much clearer.) Up until 1910, North and South Korea were ruled by one dynasty, Chosŏn. Then, Japan annexed the peninsula and it fell under Japanese colonial rule. In 1945, when Japan surrendered to the Allies, the Korean peninsula was split into two zones: the Soviet-controlled North Korea and the U.S.-controlled South Korea, resulting in two totally separate governments, with very different influences. (Much like East and West Germany.)

In 1950, North Korean leader Kim Il-sung attempted to unite Korea under his communist regime, with aid from the Soviets. In defence, South Korea and the United States went to war against North Korea (also known as the Korean War — cue the MASH soundtrack), until an armistice agreement called for a ceasefire in 1953. Things have been awkward ever since.

North vs. South

So besides their differing allegiances to the United States and Russia, and a history of war, what’s the difference between North and South Korea? Culturally speaking, a lot. Both states have a strong cultural tie to history and traditions. But, South Korean culture has had the influence of global media to impact everything from fashion to food, political views and the construction of an individual identity. North Koreans, on the other hand, live under an authoritarian government where they have little say in, really, any aspect of their lives, and even less chance of scanning U.S. headlines.

The Current Sitch

Now that you know North from South, it’s high time you catch up on the latest dramz with the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, A.K.A. North Korea). (Scrolling Twitter doesn’t count!) We have the Soviets to thank for encouraging North Korea’s interest in nuclear weapons back in the 1950s, and since then it’s been a tense timeline of nuclear research, development and testing — and things have been ramping up recently. Throughout 2017, North Korea launched four ballistic missiles which landed terrifyingly close to Japan’s coastline. Thanks to Trump’s “fight fire with fire” mentality, it’s been a tense year of threats between Trump and Kim Jong-un. However, after the Pyeongchang Olympics went off without a hitch in South Korea, things seemed pretty chill. If this week’s news is any indication, we may be able to sleep a little easier soon knowing Kim Jong-un is slowly stepping away from that notorious nuclear button.

For more information on North and South Korea, visit:
www.cnn.com/specials/asia/north-korea
www.bbc.com/news/topics/north-korea

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Making Movie Magic: What to Know Before the 90th Academy Awards

After facing more scandals than a telenovela, you’d think Hollywood would opt to give this year’s Oscars a pass (Uber Eats with a side of Real Housewives, anyone?). But in true star style (and perhaps because the films up for awards are legitimately great this year), the show must go on. 

 

The Nominees: Who’s Nominated For What

There are a lot of movies making waves this year, and if you haven’t seen them all (who even goes to the movies anymore?), you’re not alone. If you have some time before Sunday’s show, these are the films that got the most attention from the Academy this year.

The Shape of Water: This movie’s worth watching, whether or not it takes home the top prize. Not only is it nominated for 13 awards — best picture, actor in a supporting role (Richard Jenkins), actress in a leading role (Sally Hawkins), actress in a supporting role (Octavia Spencer), cinematography, costume design, directing, film editing, music (original score), production design, sound editing, sound mixing, and writing (original screenplay) — but it’s about a janitor who has a relationship with some sort of sea creature. (Seriously.) Watch the trailer.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: Frances McDormand stars in this “tragicomedy” alongside Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell and Peter Dinklage. While there’ve been mixed reviews of its storyline, the general consensus is that the acting is fantastic. McDormand, Harrelson and Rockwell are all nominated for their roles, while the film is also nominated for best picture, film editing, writing (original screenplay) and music (original score). Watch the trailer.

Dunkirk: Maybe most famously known for being Harry Styles’ first film (you know, ex-One Direction member and ex-boyfriend of one Taylor Swift), Dunkirk is the story of the Dunkirk evacuation during World War II. Along with its stellar cast (including Tom Hardy), the best picture nominee’s been praised for its creativity. It’s also been nominated for cinematography, directing, film editing, music (original score), production design, sound editing, and sound mixing. Watch the trailer.

Call Me By Your Name: Though this film lacks the star power of some of the others, its story is what caught the attention of the Academy. Based on the novel of the same name, it follows a romantic relationship between a teenage boy and his father’s assistant. It’s nominated for best picture, best actor in a leading role, best adapted screenplay and best original song. Watch the trailer.

Lady Bird: This female-led film has been the talk of Tinseltown for quite some time. Starring Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, the story follows a teenage girl on her quest to move across the country. In addition to being nominated for best picture, Ronan’s been nominated for best actress in a leading role and Metcalf’s nominated for best actress in a supporting role. The film’s also been recognized by the Academy for the directing and writing. Watch the trailer.

Get Out: It may seem like Get Out came out (see what we did there?) a million years ago, but its premiere was well within the timeframe for Oscar consideration. The horror film was praised for the way it tackled societial racial issues, and has been nominated for best picture, best actor in a leading role (Daniel Kaluuya), writing (best original screenplay) and directing (Jordan Peele). Allison Williams (of HBO’s Girls), Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener star alongside best actor nominee, Daniel Kaluuya. Watch the trailer.

 

The Fashion: Dress Code of Silence

After Time’s Up kicked off awards season with a statement-making black dress code at the Golden Globes, many have been wondering if we should expect more of the same this Sunday. The answer to that is in fact, no — and it should be noted that the Academy actually addressed the subject in an interview with the New York Times, naively asserting, “Our show will be focused on films, not the cultural moment around them.” Jennifer Todd, one of the lead producers of the Academy Awards added, “The Oscars should be a spectacle. Fun and funny and great performances.” Women everywhere, you got that? There’s a time and a place for political statements, and it’s not the Dolby Theatre.

So stars will (maybe?) wear colours, but we’ll have to wait and see what those colours will be. However, if Marie Claire knows anything, the girl in gold is poised to take home the top prize.

 

The Host: The King of La La Land

Despite being haunted by memories of last year’s epic best picture gaffe, Jimmy Kimmel will return to host the 2018 Academy Awards. While winners may still be up in the air (even after they’ve been named), if there’s anything or anyone we can count on, it’s Jimmy. His jokes are a delicious blend of spot-on commentary and quirky wit — and after boasting of the “thousands” of jokes he has to whittle down for the big night, expectations are high.

One film you can be sure he’ll raz? The Shape of Water, a film about “…a woman who has sex with a sea monster.” Kimmel explained his thought process: “…that’s got to be right at the top. That’s something we haven’t seen in the movies before, certainly not in an Oscar-nominated movie. I haven’t done the research, but I’m pretty sure that’s true.”

Another topic he’s not afraid to wade into? The #MeToo movement. “It will definitely be part of the show,” and he assured those concerned that he’ll approach it as he approaches every subject, “with a tremendous amount of class and dignity.” Sounds just like Jimmy Kimmel. 

 

The Unexpected: Keep Your Eyes Peeled For…

The best (and most talked-about) moments are always unscripted, so we’ll have to wait till Monday morning for the onslaught of memes, but here’s what we can look forward to on Sunday night:

  • Best supporting actress nominee Mary J. Blige performing “Mighty River” from Mudbound
  • The awe-inspiring vocals of Adra Day and Common performing “Stand Up For Something” from Marshall
  • Presenters Emily Blunt, Sandra Bullock and Lupita Nyong’o will no doubt stun in whatever they wear (though don’t expect any of them to go off the rails with the microphone — none of them are loose cannons when it comes to the teleprompter).
  • It wouldn’t be the Oscars unless some stars went rogue, and who better to spin some off-the-cuff jokes than presenter Dave Chapelle? (Especially since he’s currently in talks for a big deal with Netflix.)

But forget the awards, the performances, and the dresses.

Here’s the only thing that really matters when it comes to the 2018 Academy Awards: will there be a Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie showdown? After snubbing her film First They Killed My Father, it’s doubtful Ang would have any reason to show, but perhaps that opens the door for Jen and Brad to casually connect (as friends, of course) on the red carpet?

This love triangle is prime for a screenplay. (Oscars 2025. We’re calling it now.)

 

For a full list of nominees, visit oscars.go.com

For all the red carpet coverage, visit eonline.com

(Photography: Freepik)
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Your 2017 Tax Cheat Sheet: Where You Should Really Be Hiding Your Money

Let’s get one thing straight: we are in no way suggesting that you actually cheat on your taxes. But if understanding how they work — and what you really owe — saves you a few bucks at the end of the day, that’s a good thing, right?

THE UNAVOIDABLE TRUTH

You must pay taxes. There’s no escaping them. You can ignore the deadlines, but much like a mafioso, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) isn’t about to let a debt slide. Inevitably they’ll come looking for your precious tax dollars, and believe us, if you thought paying taxes was bad, being audited is worse. Much, much worse.

All working Canadians pay personal income tax, the rate of which will range based on the tax bracket that a particular individual’s earnings fall under. Federal income tax brackets range from 15% to 33%. Tack on provincial tax rates and that range jumps up another 4% to 21%, depending on income and province of residence. The brackets work by taxing wage ranges, starting with 15% for the first $46,605 earned, followed by 20.5% on the next $46,603 earned (so, the portion of total pay above $46,605 but below $93,208), and so forth.

For a full breakdown on federal and provincial tax brackets: www.canada.ca

On the global stage, our taxes rank on the higher end, cozying up alongside European countries like Germany, Portugal and Norway (though without the sexy European lifestyle). It’s easy to begrudge the taxman, but you’d be remiss to think about taxes without considering what those taxes pay for: healthcare, clean water, education, safe and clean(ish) streets, security in the form of police and emergency responders, social assistance . . . the list goes on, and they’re all points of pride for Canadians at home and abroad.

TAX TERMS YOU REALLY SHOULD UNDERSTAND

• T4 Slips: For salaried Canadians, a T4 slip is issued to you by your employer and indicates what you have been paid prior to deductions for the year (and is always damn depressing).

• T3 and T5 Slips: These are statements of investment income prepared by a bank or financial institution that covers the interest, dividends and foreign income you might have earned from mutual funds or other similar investments. (Yay!)

• Tax Credit: A specific amount of money that is deducted from the amount you owe — not the amount of income you’ve earned. So whether you owe CRA $1,000 or $10,000, the credit will always remain the same.

• Tax Deduction: Deductions reduce your total net income, thereby lowering the amount you will be taxed. For example, if you earned $75,000 in 2017 and put $5,000 into your RRSP, your total taxable income for 2017 will be $70,000.

• Audit: An investigation by the CRA of your filings (or lack thereof). Be prepared to share all reports and receipts you have used to file previous taxes. Audits can occur due to red flags on your filings, or as commonplace spot checks.

SAVINGS TOOLS

Registered Accounts: Recognized by the CRA, these can help you reduce your taxable earnings, effectively reducing what you need to pay for income taxes.

• RRSP: Think of your Registered Retirement Savings Plan as an income tax time machine. Every year you can put a fixed amount into your RRSP, and whatever amount you put in is removed from your taxable income that year, so you won’t pay taxes against it. (Hello, tax refund!) So what happens to that money? It’s placed into a magical account that’s frozen in time. You can buy mutual funds, stocks, ETFs and other investments products inside this account without worrying about taxes while you save for retirement. All magic must come to an end however, and you will need to pay tax on the whole shebang eventually. (Way to crush our tax-free shopping dreams.) Once you retire and begin to withdraw from this account, you will be taxed on what you pull out. The thought however, is that you will be making less income at that point in your life and will be taxed at a lower rate than in your younger, wealthier years.

TFSA: Tax Free Savings Account are recognized by the CRA but have a few important differences compared to the RRSP. Instead of being a time machine and deferring your taxable income for the future, the money you put into your TFSA is not tax-free, but the money you make on that money is tax-free. This means that you will not reduce your taxable income each year and will not get a fat tax refund by contributing to a TFSA. (If that’s what you’re looking for, an RRSP is a better way to go.) The good news is that you can put anything you want in a TFSA, up to a certain amount. This can include mutual funds, stocks, ETFS, GICs, etc., and anything earned from your investments is yours to keep, tax-free. Unlike the RRSP, where you need to be careful about taking money out, the TFSA has no restrictions on withdrawals. You can take money out of it whenever you’d like. The one caveat: if you withdraw from this account, you won’t be able to replace that money until the following calendar year.

To learn more about savings and pension options, visit www.canada.ca.

Non Registered Accounts: A non-registered account includes pretty much any place you would store money. It takes your after-tax dollars and if you choose to put it in an investment, you will be required to pay income tax on much of the profit.

• Standard Bank Accounts: Basic chequing and savings accounts from any big bank.

Non Registered Investment Accounts: These flexible accounts allow you to purchase investment products without contribution limits and no rules on taking money out.

Offshore Bank Accounts: Fancy a trip to the Cayman? For better or worse it’s getting harder and harder to hide money overseas.

Bitcoin (and other cyptocurrencies): A new form of decentralized currency that’s gaining in popularity. Bitcoin is incredibly volatile and therefore risky. Plus, the government is now treating any cryptocurrency withdrawals as non-registered income. (Though kudos to you if you can understand this enough to invest in it.)

PayPal: The Federal Court of Canada has ordered PayPal to hand over details about its business account customers to Canadian tax authorities. This means that if you have been running a side hustle selling hand-knit kitten mittens and collecting tax-free money on Paypal, you might need to prepare for an audit.

TAX BREAKS TO BANK ON

Moving expenses related to work

The interest on your student loans

Gluten-free products (if you’re diagnosed as Celiac)

Art classes for kids

Don’t bank on: Expensing your transit pass

For a full list of tax breaks in Ontario, visit www.canada.ca.

SAVE THESE DATES IN YOUR CALENDAR

• February 26, 2018: NETFILE is open for business.

• March 1, 2018: This is the last day you can contribute to your RRSP for the 2017 tax year.

• April 30, 2018: This is the last day for personal income tax filing for the 2017 tax year.

Still confused? You should be. There’s a reason accountants train for years and retreat to bunkers every tax season. While their fees can admittedly sound hefty (ranging from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand), the money they can often save you through deductions and credits that more than covers their fee.

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We Finally Got a Glimpse Into JFK’s Assassination

The Background

Twenty-five years after the U.S. government passed the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992, President Donald Trump released most of the records related to the 35th president’s assassination last night. In the end, 2,800 files were released, but another 300 were kept under wraps due to fears surrounding “national security, law enforcement and foreign relations.” The release was expected to quell conspiracy theories, but the 300 secret files are bound to keep them going. CNN

What Else You Need to Know

In one of his few presidential actions, Trump demanded that the agencies who had asked for certain files to stay classified, re-review their request within 180 days, explaining that “the American public expects and deserves its government to produce as much access as possible to the John F. Kennedy assassination records.” According to experts, the documents don’t contain any revolutionary information — especially any indication that anyone except Lee Harvey Oswald was responsible for JFK’s death.

What’s Next?

The groups have until March 26, 2018 to submit a report explaining why certain information needs to stay redacted. If their reasoning doesn’t meet the standards set out by the government, the remaining reports will be released on April 26, 2018. (We see another JFK biopic in our future.)

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This Is How Multicultural Canada Really Is

The Background

Right on schedule, the Canadian government released more details from the 2016 census. This time, Ottawa focused on the background of our population — which really isn’t much of a surprise. The bottom line? We’re multicultural AF (and proud of it.).  According to the results, 21.9% of Canadians are immigrants, which is the highest percentage in the last 85 years. The Indigenous population also continues to grow at double the rate of the non-Indigenous population, reaching 1.7 million last year, which accounts for 5% of our population. CBC

What Else You Need to Know

Immigrants are coming to Canada from all over the world. More than 60% are coming from Asia (including the Middle East), with Africa close behind at 13.4%. When it comes to specific countries, the top three sources of new Canadians are the Philippines (15.6%), India (12.1%) and China (10.6%). Because of the civil war, Syria is now in the top 10, coming in at seventh, up from 50 in 2011. Fewer are settling in hot spots like Ontario, and attention has shifted to provinces like Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

What’s Next?

The findings have allowed Stats Canada to make some bold predictions, including that by 2036, 30% of our population will be represented by immigrants.
(Take that, Trump.)

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Good News, Canada: Apparently Ottawa’s Rollin’ in Dough

The Background

The Liberal government released their fall economic statement yesterday, and things are looking pretty damn good. Thanks to our “surprisingly strong economy,” Ottawa announced another $14.9 billion in spending over the next five years (which is in addition to what they had originally promised to spend in their March budget). The plan is to put a good chunk of the money towards investments, tax relief and new spending on social programs to support children and the working poor. Global News

What Else You Need to Know

The $14.9 billion is really just a drop in the bucket, since the government’s also predicting an additional $46.6 billion in income over the same time period. The money that’s not being spent on investments, taxes and Canadian families, will be put towards reducing our annual deficits.

There’s More…

The extra funds will also allow the Liberals to implement a promised program enhancement earlier than they had expected: they’re upping the child benefit payments. They also plan to boost the working tax income benefit.

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How Putin Turned Bill Browder Into a Wanted Man

The Background 

Bill Browder is officially a wanted man. The very vocal critic of Vladimir Putin has been leading an international campaign against Russia and its government since 2009, when his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was murdered in one of the country’s prisons. Since then, Browder has openly criticized the Russian government, accusing them of human rights violations. Just last week, Ottawa passed the Canadian version of the U.S. Magnitsky Act, which allows our government to sanction human-rights abusers around the world — and one day before it was to take effect, Putin had Browder added to Interpol’s wanted list. Globe and Mail

What Else You Need to Know

The story of Browder, Magnitsky and Putin is a long one…with a lot of chapters (and they’re riveting. His book had us on the edge of our seats). Putin has tried to put Browder on Interpol’s wanted list five times, however the organization threw out the previous four attempts after they realized they were “politically motivated.” Until this fifth notice is tossed out (if it’s tossed out), Browder is unable to leave his home in Britain — peculiar timing considering he was supposed to come to Canada on Oct. 31 with Magnitsky’s family to thank those responsible for the bill.

What’s Next?

Russia is peeved about the Magnitsky laws — and isn’t hiding it. In a report released Oct. 4, a spokesperson said, “We warn again that in case the pressure of the sanctions put on us increases…we will widen likewise the list of Canadian officials banned from entering Russia.” Browder may have been the first, but there’s a good chance he won’t be the last.

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The World Health Organization Just Made a Mega Mistake

The Background

The World Health Organization (WHO) is reversing its (bizarre) appointment of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe as goodwill ambassador — a decision Prime Minister Justin Trudeau compared to a “bad April Fool’s joke.” (We’d call it sick.) In a statement released yesterday, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom said he decided to act after the choice drew worldwide concern and outrage. Mugabe, 93, has long been accused of human rights abuses and is often criticized for travelling overseas for medical treatment at the expense of his own people. BBC

What Else You Need to Know

Mr. Tedros had originally justified the appointment based on Zimbabwe’s commitment to public health and thought President Mugabe could “help tackle non-communicable diseases such as heart attacks, strokes and asthma across Africa, ” but critics quickly pointed out that the country’s health care system was in ruins. The collapse of the economy has forced many health care workers to go without pay and many life-saving medications are often in short supply. In addition to our PM, the U.K. government, the Wellcome Trust, the NCD Alliance, UN Watch, the World Heart Federation, Action Against Smoking and Zimbabwean lawyers also condemned the appointment.

What’s Next?

The World Health Organization hasn’t said whether or not they’ll appoint another goodwill ambassador in the area, but they should make an announcement soon. (WHO knows.)

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The Taliban Is Trying to Take Afghanistan Down With Them

The Background

As the Taliban lose power in Afghanistan, they’re determined to bring the whole country down with them. Yesterday, the terrorist group targeted an Afghan army base killing at least 43 soldiers and injuring another nine. Two suicide bombers were behind the attack, driving humvees packed with explosives into the area, completely destroying the base in the southern province of Kandahar. Simultanously, gunmen attacked police headquarters in the eastern province of Ghanzi, killing two more. BBC

What Else You Need to Know

The latest attacks were just two of four this week, as the Taliban continue to increase their terrorism efforts in the area. All four targeted the government’s security forces, killing at least 100 soldiers and military personnel. The first attack happened Tuesday when Taliban suicide bombers and gunman raided a police training facility in Gardez, killing 41 and injuring another 150. Thirty more died in a coordinated attack in the Ghanzi province — terrorists detonated car bombs before gunmen moved in.

What’s Next?

The U.S. is planning to increase its military presence there, so hopefully they can get the situation (a.k.a. these crazies) under control.

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