UN: Afghan Opium Production Reduces By 48%
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported Wednesday that the amount of opium produced in Afghanistan during the current year dropped by 48 percent.
"We have 3,300 tones of opium production this year as compared to 6,400 tones last year," UNODC regional representative, Andrey Avetisyan, told reporters in Kabul while releasing the findings of the group’s latest Afghan opium survey.
The UNODC attributed the dramatic drop to better cooperation between enforcement agencies and Afghan policy makers. The reductions are significant following years of a steady increase in the cultivation and production of opium in the country.
Avetisyan added that opium cultivation in 2015 also went down by 19 percent across the country, however it increased in northern Afghanistan because of the deterioration of security in some places.
Helmand remains the biggest poppy producing province, but recorded a 16 percent drop since last year.
Pope Francis Apologizes for Recent Scandals
Pope Francis has offered a rare, if vague, apology for scandals involving the Roman Catholic Church, after several high-profile gaffes that were linked to the church or its clergy.
Speaking in Rome at the beginning of his weekly general audience Wednesday, Pope Francis said he asks forgiveness in the name of the church "for the scandals that have recently hit Rome and the Vatican."
He added, "It is inevitable that scandal happens, but woe to the man who causes [them]." His last phrase was a quote from the Bible.
The pope's comments drew applause, but also confusion about which scandals he might have meant. The Vatican has not addressed questions about what the pope was referencing.
On October third, the day before Pope Francis opened a meeting on family issues, a Vatican monsignor publicly announced his homosexuality, introduced his male partner to the media, and denounced the Church's stance on same-sex relationships.
A few days later, Rome's mayor, Ignazio Marino, resigned in a scandal over his personal expenses and concerns that the financially strapped city would not be prepared to handle throngs of tourists expected to come to Rome for the pope's Jubilee Year, which begins in December.
The pope has been openly scornful of Marino in recent weeks, suggesting to reporters that the mayor should not have traveled to the U.S. city of Philadelphia earlier this year when the pope visited the city.