It’s been eight, long, devastating months in the United States since the pandemic began. A staggering number of people have been sickened and hospitalized, and hundreds of thousands have died. People are isolated from those they care about, businesses are hurting, education has suffered, and so has our mental health.
It’s understandable, then, why the concept of ending the pandemic through building up herd immunity continues to hold allure. The proponents of herd immunity, who want all schools and businesses to reopen and sports and cultural activities to resume, say they want to ease the burden of the pandemic: “Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal,” reads a document called The Great Barrington Declaration, the latest vessel for this hope that life can return to normal for some before community spread of the virus is contained.
The authors of the Declaration — a trio of scientists from Harvard, Stanford, and Oxford, whose views, we should say, are outside the mainstream — call their approach “focused prevention.” The big idea is that we could let the virus spread among younger, healthier people, all the while making sure we protect older, more vulnerable people.
The declaration attracted 10,000 signatures (though the names of those who signed have not been made public) and has fans on the right and at the White House, where pandemic adviser Scott Atlas (who is a neuroradiologist, not an epidemiologist) has previously suggested this is a good thing to do. “When younger, healthier people get infected, that’s a good thing,” he said in a July interview with a San Diego local news station.
And yet there are ample reasons to fear that this “focused prevention” strategy of allowing the young and healthy to get sick to build population immunity to the virus would never work. And it could cause devastating unintended consequences.
“It just presumes this level of control that you can really wall off people who are at high risk,” Natalie Dean, a University of Florida biostatistician, told me earlier this year. Society doesn’t neatly separate itself into risk groups. We’ve seen outbreaks that have begun in younger populations move on to infect older ones.
The Barrington Declaration has been getting a lot of attention in the news and through viral social media posts. That’s caused alarm among scientists who see through its thin scientific reasoning. One group has written a counter piece in the Lancet.
“Prolonged isolation of large swathes of the population is practically impossible and highly unethical,” a group of scientists representing the mainstream thinking writes in a letter they are calling the John Snow Memorandum (named after the “father” of modern epidemiology).
It’s unethical for many, many reasons. Here’s why.
Herd immunity through natural infection is unethical because disadvantaged people are most at risk for getting very sick
There are multiple dimensions that put someone at risk for severe Covid-19. It’s not just age. Conditions like diabetes and hypertension exacerbate risk. So do societal factors like poverty, working conditions, and incarceration.
Severe Covid-19 and coronavirus deaths have disproportionately impacted minorities and the less advantaged in the United States. This herd immunity strategy risks either isolating these already marginalized communities even further from society since they may not feel safe in a more relaxed environment. Or even worse: We risk sacrificing their health in the name of building up a level of population immunity sufficient to control the virus.
The risk of transmission is complex and multi-dimensional. It depends on many factors: contact pattern (duration, proximity, activity), individual factors, environment (i.e. outdoor, indoor) & socioeconomic factors (i.e. crowded housing, job insecurity). (2/n) pic.twitter.com/0mEiHhbnWa
— Muge Cevik (@mugecevik) September 21, 2020
Harvard epidemiologist Bill Hanage underscores a gross inequality here: Herd immunity achieved through natural infection would come at an undue cost to some of the most vulnerable groups in the country.
“Because of the fact that some groups are more at risk of becoming infected than others — and they are predominantly people from racial [and] ethnic minorities and predominantly poor people with less good housing — we are effectively forcing those people to have a higher risk of infection and bear the brunt of the pandemic,” Hanage says.
I think about my grandmother, who recently died at age 94, of her final years of life in a nursing home, where she spent most of her time confined to her room, due to Covid-19 precautions. “I’m so lonesome here,” she would say when I called. Older people don’t deserve to be written off, isolated further, and forgotten.
Or as the John Snow memorandum (which Hanage signed) states: “Such an approach also risks further exacerbating the socioeconomic inequities and structural discriminations already laid bare by the pandemic.”
Herd immunity through natural infection is also a scientifically bad idea
Typically, the term herd immunity is thought of in the context of vaccination campaigns against contagious viruses like measles. The concept helps public health officials think through the math of how many people in a population need to be vaccinated to prevent outbreaks.
“Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said this week. “It is scientifically and ethically problematic.”
Let’s count the reasons why.
1) Even if we could limit exposure to the people least likely to die of Covid-19, this group still can suffer immense consequences from the infection — like hospitalization, long-term symptoms, organ damage, missed work, and high medical bills. The long-term health consequences of the virus have barely been studied. When we expose younger, healthier people to the virus (on purpose!), we don’t know what the consequence of that will be down the road.
2) We have a lonnnnnngggggg way to go. There’s no one, perfect estimate of what percentage of the US population has already been infected by the virus. But, by all accounts, it’s nowhere near the figures needed for herd immunity to kick in. Overall, a new Lancet study — which drew its data from a sample of dialysis patients — suggests that fewer than 10 percent of people nationwide have been exposed to the virus. No one knows the exact threshold percentage for herd immunity to kick in for a meaningful way to help end the pandemic. But common estimates hover around 60 percent.
So far, there have been more than 200,000 deaths in the United States. There’s so much more potential for death if the virus spreads to true herd immunity levels. “The cost of herd immunity [through natural infection] is extraordinarily high,” Hanage says.
Look at what happened to Manaus, Brazil, an Amazonian city of around 2 million people, which experienced one of the most severe Covid-19 outbreaks in the world.
Researchers now estimate between 44 percent and 66 percent of the city’s population was infected with the virus, which means it’s possible herd immunity has been achieved there. (This research has yet to be peer-reviewed.) But during their epidemic period, there were four times as many deaths as normal for that point in the year.
3) Scientists don’t know how long naturally acquired immunity to the virus lasts or how common reinfections might be. If immunity wanes and reinfections are common, then it will be all the more difficult to build up herd immunity in the country. In the spring, epidemiologists at Harvard sketched out the scenarios. If immunity lasts a couple of years or more, Covid-19 could fade in a few years’ time, per their analysis published in Science (much too long a time to begin with, if you ask me). If immunity wanes within a year, Covid-19 could make fierce annual comebacks until an effective vaccine is widely available.
At the same time, we don’t know how long immunity delivered via a vaccine would last. But, at least a vaccine would come without the cost of increased illnesses, hospitalizations, and long-term complications.
If immunity doesn’t last, “such a [focused prevention] strategy would not end the COVID-19 pandemic but result in recurrent epidemics, as was the case with numerous infectious diseases before the advent of vaccination,” the John Snow Memorandum says.
4) By letting the pandemic rage, we risk overshooting the herd immunity threshold. Once you hit the herd immunity threshold, it doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. After the threshold is reached, “all it means is that, on average, each infection causes less than one ongoing infection,” Hanage says. “That’s of limited use if you’ve already got a million people infected.” If each infection causes, on average, 0.8 new infections, the epidemic will slow. But 0.8 isn’t zero. If a million people are infected at the time herd immunity is reached, per Hanage’s example, those already infected people may infect 800,000 more.
There are a lot of other unknowns here, too. One is the type of immunity conferred by natural infection. “Immunity” is a catchall term that means many different things. It could mean true protection from getting infected with the virus a second time. Or it could mean reinfections are possible but less severe. You could, potentially, get infected a second time, never feel sick at all (thanks to a quick immune response), and still pass on the virus to another person.
Scientists who favor some continued distancing have never argued for endless lockdowns
The mainstream scientific consensus on fighting the pandemic has never been calling for endless lockdowns and an endless choking of our economy.
Rather, health experts have argued that the first thing we need to do is manage community transmission of the virus, and then keep new huge outbreaks from forming with aggressive testing, contact tracing, and interventions like universal masking, better indoor ventilation, and social distancing.
But we never managed to get the virus down to containable levels. (It’s not impossible; other countries like South Korea and Japan have.) So here we are.
The last thing that strikes me as really cynical about the Great Barrington Declaration is it avoids discussing how the government could have done more to help people suffering the downstream economic impacts of the pandemic. Instead of forcing restaurants to choose between their livelihoods and putting their customers and staff at risk, they could have been paid by the government to remain closed. Instead of letting people face the stark psychological insecurity of a missing paycheck, Congress and the White House could have extended unemployment insurance benefits by now (they haven’t).
For so many reasons, the Great Barrington Declaration — like all herd immunity proposals — just feels like giving up, while sacrificing young people’s health and the health of the marginalized. Don’t give up. There’s no easy way out.
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All the products we found to be the best during our testing this year
Throughout the year, CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — be it coffee makers or headphones — to find the absolute best in each respective category.
Our testing process is rigorous, consisting of hours of research (consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings) to find the top products in each category. Once we settle on a testing pool, we spend weeks — if not months — testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings. All this in an effort to settle on the absolute best products.
So, as we enter peak gifting season, if you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift, we know you’ll find something on this list that they (or you!) will absolutely love.
Beginner baristas and coffee connoisseurs alike will be pleased with the Baratza Virtuoso+, a conical burr grinder with 40 settings for grind size, from super fine (espresso) to super coarse (French press). The best coffee grinder we tested, this sleek look and simple, intuitive controls, including a digital timer, allow for a consistent grind every time — as well as optimal convenience.
Best drip coffee maker: Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($79.95; amazon.com)
During our testing of drip coffee makers, we found the Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker made a consistently delicious, hot cup of coffee, brewed efficiently and cleanly, from sleek, relatively compact hardware that is turnkey to operate, and all for a reasonable price.
Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus ($165; originally $179.95; amazon.com)
Among all single-serve coffee makers we tested, the Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus, which uses pods that deliver both espresso and “regular” coffee, could simply not be beat for its convenience. Intuitive and a snap to use right out of the box, it looks sleek on the counter, contains a detached 60-ounce water reservoir so you don’t have to refill it with each use and delivers perfectly hot, delicious coffee with a simple tap of a lever and press of a button.
Best coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottlecoffee.com)
Blue Bottle’s coffee subscription won us over with its balance of variety, customizability and, most importantly, taste. We sampled both the single-origin and blend assortments and loved the flavor of nearly every single cup we made. The flavors are complex and bold but unmistakably delicious. Beyond its coffee, Blue Bottle’s subscription is simple and easy to use, with tons of options to tailor to your caffeine needs.
Best cold brewer coffee maker: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot ($25; amazon.com)
This sleek, sophisticated and streamlined carafe produces 1 liter (about 4 1/4 cups) of rich, robust brew in just eight hours. It was among the simplest to assemble, it executed an exemplary brew in about the shortest time span, and it looked snazzy doing it. Plus, it rang up as the second-most affordable of our inventory.
Best nonstick pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid ($39.97; amazon.com)
If you’re a minimalist and prefer to have just a single pan in your kitchen, you’d be set with the T-fal E76597. This pan’s depth gives it multipurpose functionality: It cooks standard frying-pan foods like eggs and meats, and its 2 1/2-inch sides are tall enough to prepare recipes you’d usually reserve for pots, like rices and stews. It’s a high-quality and affordable pan that outperformed some of the more expensive ones in our testing field.
Best blender: Breville Super Q ($499.95; breville.com)
With 1,800 watts of motor power, the Breville Super Q features a slew of preset buttons, comes in multiple colors, includes key accessories and is touted for being quieter than other models. At $500, it does carry a steep price tag, but for those who can’t imagine a smoothie-less morning, what breaks down to about $1.30 a day over a year seems like a bargain.
Best knife set: Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set ($119.74; amazon.com)
The Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set sets you up to easily take on almost any cutting job and is a heck of a steal at just $119.97. Not only did the core knives included (chef’s, paring, utility and serrated) perform admirably, but the set included a bevy of extras, including a full set of steak knives. We were blown away by their solid construction and reliable execution for such an incredible value. The knives stayed sharp through our multitude of tests, and we were big fans of the cushion-grip handles that kept them from slipping, as well as the classic look of the chestnut-stained wood block. If you’re looking for a complete knife set you’ll be proud of at a price that won’t put a dent in your savings account, this is the clear winner.
Best true wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro ($199, originally $249; amazon.com)
Apple’s AirPods Pro hit all the marks. They deliver a wide soundstage, thanks to on-the-fly equalizing tech that produces playback that seemingly brings you inside the studio with the artist. They have the best noise-canceling ability of all the earbuds we tested, which, aside from stiff-arming distractions, creates a truly immersive experience. To sum it up, you’re getting a comfortable design, a wide soundstage, easy connectivity and long battery life.
Best noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($278, originally $349.99; amazon.com)
Not only do the WH-1000XM4s boast class-leading sound, but phenomenal noise-canceling ability. So much so that they ousted our former top overall pick, the Beats Solo Pros, in terms of ANC quality, as the over-ear XM4s better seal the ear from outside noise. Whether it was a noise from a dryer, loud neighbors down the hall or high-pitched sirens, the XM4s proved impenetrable. This is a feat that other headphones, notably the Solo Pros, could not compete with — which is to be expected considering their $348 price tag.
Best on-ear headphones: Beats Solo 3 ($119.95, originally $199.95; amazon.com)
The Beats Solo 3s are a phenomenal pair of on-ear headphones. Their sound quality was among the top of those we tested, pumping out particularly clear vocals and instrumentals alike. We enjoyed the control scheme too, taking the form of buttons in a circular configuration that blend seamlessly into the left ear cup design. They are also light, comfortable and are no slouch in the looks department — more than you’d expect given their reasonable $199.95 price tag.
The Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick has thousands of 5-star ratings across the internet, and it’s easy to see why. True to its name, this product clings to your lips for hours upon hours, burritos and messy breakfast sandwiches be damned. It’s also surprisingly moisturizing for such a superior stay-put formula, a combo that’s rare to come by.
The Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is a longtime customer favorite — hence its nearly 7,500 5-star reviews on Sephora — and for good reason. We found it requires little to no effort to create a precise wing, the liner has superior staying power and it didn’t irritate those of us with sensitive skin after full days of wear. As an added bonus, it’s available in a whopping 12 shades.
The Steelcase Series 1 scored among the highest overall, standing out as one of the most customizable, high-quality, comfortable office chairs on the market. At $415, the Steelcase Series 1 beat out most of its pricier competitors across testing categories, scoring less than a single point lower than our highest-rated chair, the $1,036 Steelcase Leap, easily making it the best bang for the buck and a clear winner for our best office chair overall.
Best ergonomic keyboard: Logitech Ergo K860 ($129.99; logitech.com)
We found the Logitech Ergo K860 to be a phenomenally comfortable keyboard. Its build, featuring a split keyboard (meaning there’s a triangular gap down the middle) coupled with a wave-like curvature across the body, allows both your shoulders and hands to rest in a more natural position that eases the tension that can often accompany hours spent in front of a regular keyboard. Add the cozy palm rest along the bottom edge and you’ll find yourself sitting pretty comfortably.
Best ergonomic mouse: Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99; logitech.com)
The Logitech MX Master 3 is an unequivocally comfortable mouse. It’s shaped to perfection, with special attention to the fingers that do the clicking. Using it felt like our fingers were lounging — with a sculpted ergonomic groove for nearly every finger.
Best ring light: Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light ($25.99; amazon.com)
The Emart 10-Inch Standing Ring Light comes with a tripod that’s fully adjustable — from 19 inches to 50 inches — making it a great option whether you’re setting it atop your desk for video calls or need some overhead lighting so no weird shadows creep into your photos. Its three light modes (warm, cool and a nice mix of the two), along with 11 brightness levels (among the most settings on any of the lights we tested), ensure you’re always framed in the right light. And at a relatively cheap $35.40, this light combines usability and affordability better than any of the other options we tested.
Best linen sheets: Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachute.com)
Well made, luxurious to the touch and with the most versatile shopping options (six sizes, nine colors and the ability to order individual sheets), the linen sheets from Parachute were, by a narrow margin, our favorite set. From the satisfying unboxing to a sumptuous sleep, with a la carte availability, Parachute set the gold standard in linen luxury.
Best shower head: Kohler Forte Shower Head (starting at $74.44; amazon.com)
Hands down, the Kohler Forte Shower Head provides the best overall shower experience, offering three distinct settings. Backstory: Lots of shower heads out there feature myriad “settings” that, when tested, are pretty much indecipherable. The Forte’s three sprays, however, are each incredibly different and equally successful. There’s the drenching, full-coverage rain shower, the pulsating massage and the “silk spray” setting that is basically a super-dense mist. The Forte manages to achieve all of this while using only 1.75 gallons per minute (GPM), making it a great option for those looking to conserve water.
Best humidifier: TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier (starting at $49.99; amazon.com)
The TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier ramped up the humidity in a room in about an hour, which was quicker than most of the options we tested. More importantly, though, it sustained those humidity levels over the longest period of time — 24 hours, to be exact. The levels were easy to check with the built-in reader (and we cross-checked that reading with an external reader to confirm accuracy). We also loved how easy this humidifier was to clean, and the nighttime mode for the LED reader eliminated any bright lights in the bedroom.
Best TV: TCL 6-Series (starting at $579.99; bestbuy.com)
With models starting at $599.99 for a 55-inch, the TCL 6-Series might give you reverse sticker shock considering everything you get for that relatively small price tag. But can a 4K smart TV with so many specification standards really deliver a good picture for $500? The short answer: a resounding yes. The TCL 6-Series produces a vibrant picture with flexible customization options and handles both HDR and Dolby Vision, optimization standards that improve the content you’re watching by adding depth to details and expanding the color spectrum.
Best streaming device: Roku Ultra ($99.99; amazon.com)
Roku recently updated its Ultra streaming box and the 2020 version is faster, thanks to a new quad-core processor. The newest Ultra retains all of the features we loved and enjoyed about the 2019 model, like almost zero lag time between waking it up and streaming content, leading to a hiccup-free streaming experience. On top of that, the Roku Ultra can upscale content to deliver the best picture possible on your TV — even on older-model TVs that don’t offer the latest and greatest picture quality — and supports everything from HD to 4K.
Best carry-on luggage: Away Carry-On ($225; away.com)
The Away Carry-On scored high marks across all our tests and has the best combination of features for the average traveler. Compared with higher-end brands like Rimowa, which retail for hundreds more, you’re getting the same durable materials, an excellent internal compression system and eye-catching style. Add in smart charging capabilities and a lifetime warranty, and this was the bag to beat.
Best portable charger: Anker PowerCore 13000 (starting at $31.99; amazon.com)
The Anker PowerCore 13000 shone most was in terms of charging capacity. It boasts 13,000 mAh (maH is a measure of how much power a device puts out over time), which is enough to fully charge an iPhone 11 two and a half times. Plus, it has two fast-charging USB Type-A ports so you can juice a pair of devices simultaneously. While not at the peak in terms of charging capacity, at just $31.99, it’s a serious bargain for so many mAhs.
Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained
Searches for changing one’s vote did not trend following the recent presidential debate, and just a few states appear to have processes for changing an early vote. But that didn’t stop President Trump from wrongly saying otherwise on Tuesday.
In early morning posts, the president falsely claimed on Twitter and Facebook that many people had Googled “Can I change my vote?” after the second presidential debate and said those searching wanted to change their vote over to him. Trump also wrongly claimed that most states have a mechanism for changing one’s vote. Actually, just a few states appear to have the ability, and it’s rarely used.
Trump’s claim about what was trending on Google after the debate doesn’t hold up. Searches for changing one’s vote were not among Google’s top trending searches for the day of the debate (October 22) or the day after. Searches for “Can I change my vote?” did increase slightly around the time of the debate, but there is no way to know whether the bump was related to the debate or whether the people searching were doing so in support of Trump.
It was only after Trump’s posts that searches about changing your vote spiked significantly. It’s worth noting that people were also searching for “Can I change my vote?” during a similar period before the 2016 presidential election.
Google declined to comment on the accuracy of Trump’s post.
Trump also claimed that these results indicate that most of the people who were searching for how to change their vote support him. But the Google Trends tool for the searches he mentioned does not provide that specific information.
Perhaps the most egregiously false claim in Trump’s recent posts is about “most states” having processes for changing your early vote. In fact, only a few states have such processes, and they can come with certain conditions. For instance, in Michigan, voters who vote absentee can ask for a new ballot by mail or in person until the day before the election.
The Center for Election Innovation’s David Becker told the Associated Press that changing one’s vote is “extremely rare.” Becker explained, “It’s hard enough to get people to vote once — it’s highly unlikely anybody will go through this process twice.”
At the time of publication, Trump’s false claims had drawn about 84,000 and 187,000 “Likes” on Twitter and Facebook, respectively. Trump’s posts accelerated searches about changing your vote in places like the swing state of Florida, where changing one’s vote after casting it is not possible. Those numbers are a reminder of the president’s capacity to spread misinformation quickly.
On Facebook, the president’s post came with a label directing people to Facebook’s Voting Information Center, but no fact-checking label. Twitter had no annotation on the president’s post. Neither company responded to a request for comment.
That Trump is willing to spread misinformation to benefit himself and his campaign isn’t a surprise. He does that a lot. Still, just days before a presidential election in which millions have already voted, this latest episode demonstrates that the president has no qualms about using false claims about voting to cause confusion and sow doubt in the electoral process.
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Nearly 6,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan so far this year
From January to September, 5,939 civilians – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded – were casualties of the fighting, the UN says.
Nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters rages on despite efforts to find peace, the United Nations has said.
From January to September, there were 5,939 civilian casualties in the fighting – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report on Tuesday.
“High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” the report said.
Civilian casualties were 30 percent lower than in the same period last year but UNAMA said violence has failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Qatar’s capital, Doha, last month.
The Taliban was responsible for 45 percent of civilian casualties while government troops caused 23 percent, it said. United States-led international forces were responsible for two percent.
Most of the remainder occurred in crossfire, or were caused by ISIL (ISIS) or “undetermined” anti-government or pro-government elements, according to the report.
Ground fighting caused the most casualties followed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks, targeted killings by the Taliban and air raids by Afghan troops, the UN mission said.
Fighting has sharply increased in several parts of the country in recent weeks as government negotiators and the Taliban have failed to make progress in the peace talks.
The Taliban has been fighting the Afghan government since it was toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.
Washington blamed the then-Taliban rulers for harbouring al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda was accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.
Calls for urgent reduction of violence
Meanwhile, the US envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Tuesday that the level of violence in the country was still too high and the Kabul government and Taliban fighters must work harder towards forging a ceasefire at the Doha talks.
Khalilzad made the comments before heading to the Qatari capital to hold meetings with the two sides.
“I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he said in a tweet.
There needs to be “an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”, added Khalilzad.
1/4 I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever. https://t.co/hVl4b032W6
— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) October 27, 2020
A deal in February between the US and the Taliban paved the way for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to sit with the Afghan government to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula.
But progress at the intra-Afghan talks has been slow since their start in mid-September and diplomats and officials have warned that rising violence back home is sapping trust.
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