Hope for Afghanistan? Obama administration officials announced today the Taliban has agreed to peace talks ahead of the planned U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan next year. The talks will be held in Qatar, where the Taliban just opened an office in the capital, Doha. Meetings between U.S. officials and Taliban representatives could take place as early as this week. After U.S. negotiations, Afghani representatives will take over the discussions. “The core of the process is not going to be U.S.-Taliban talks,” said one senior official, who requested anonymity to discuss the matter ahead of a formal announcement. “The core of it is going to be negotiation among Afghans and the level of trust on both sides is, as one would expect, extremely low.” Although news of the talks offered some optimism for Afghanistan’s future, an explosion in Kabul around the same time as the announcement served as a reminder that peace, like the war, probably will be hard fought.
Trial delay. The military judge presiding over the trial of an Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009 will decide today whether to delay the trial again. Maj. Nidal Hassan’s trial is scheduled to begin July 1, but after the judge threw out his planned defense last week, he could get more time to come up with a new strategy. Hassan wanted to justify his actions as a way to protect others, namely Taliban fighters, from American aggression. He has asked for a three-month delay to recalibrate his defense. Hassan is acting as his own lawyer, with Army attorneys serving as advisors. He faces the death penalty.
More pot measures. Alaska voters could soon get to decide whether to follow Colorado’s example in legalizing marijuana. Supporters of the measure must gather 30,000 signatures by January to put the issue on next year’s ballot. The proposed ordinance would create a legal, taxable market for marijuana, overseen by Alaska’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. State officials estimate the tax could be as high as $50 an ounce, roughly equal by weight to what smokers pay on a pack of cigarettes. But the regulation framework could cost as much as $800,000, meaning pot providers will have to sell as much as 1,000 pounds before the state starts making any money. That probably won’t be too hard.
Grave digging. The FBI is once again digging for Jimmy Hoffa, this time in a grassy field in Oakland Township, north of Detroit. So far, they’ve found nothing. But investigators insist they are acting on a “highly credible” tip from a former mobster who was in jail at the time of Hoffa’s disappearance in 1975. Tony Zerilli claims a mob enforcer told him Detroit mobsters ordered a hit on Hoffa, luring him to a farm to kill and bury him. Zerilli served several stints in jail but was freed in 2008. He says he had nothing to do with Hoffa’s disappearance but was as curious as everyone else about what happened to him. FBI agents allegedly spent months looking into Zerilli’s claims. That sounds expensive, which makes me wonder: After all this time, does it really matter where Hoffa’s buried?