Tag Archives: United Nations Security Council

10 things you need to know today: September 28, 2013

President Obama outlined his phone conversation with Iranian President Rouhani on Friday.

The Week

Obama talks to Iran, the Senate kicks the government shutdown ball back to the House, and more

1. Senate passes budget bill, sends government shutdown fight back to House
By a 54-44 party-line vote, the Senate on Friday approved a continuing resolution to fund the government that did not include a provision defunding ObamaCare. The bill now returns to the House, where Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has indicated his party would not agree to a clean budget bill. If the House fails to pass the Senate’s version, the government will likely shut down at midnight Monday. [New York Times]
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2. Obama holds historic talk with Iranian president
In a Friday news conference, President Obama announced he had spoken directly by phone with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, marking the first time leaders from the two nations have spoken to each other since 1979. The news came on the same day that Iran and the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency held “constructive” talks about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. [New York Times]
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3. New Jersey court rules state must permit gay marriages
A New Jersey judge on Friday ruled the state must allow same-sex couples to wed. Citing the recent Supreme Court ruling that barred the federal government from discriminating against gay couples, Judge Mary Jacobson said it would be unconstitutional for New Jersey to deny same-sex couples rights now guaranteed by the federal government. [Washington Post]
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4. Health groups sue to block parts of Texas’ restrictive abortion law
A coalition of national women’s rights groups and Texas health clinics sued the state on Friday to block implementation of key pieces of a new abortion law set to take effect October 29. The law, which drew significant national attention following Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis’ (D) 13-hour filibuster attempt, would require doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals and ban abortions beyond 20 weeks. [USA Today]
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5. U.N. probes more allegations of Syrian chemical weapons use
Inspectors from the United Nations are looking into seven more alleged cases of chemical weapons being used in Syria, three of which may have happened after the August 21 attack that left hundreds dead and triggered an international outcry. They are expected to wrap up the investigation next week and deliver their findings by the end of October, though the U.N. did not offer many other details. The U.N. Security Council, meanwhile, has tentatively agreed on a resolution calling on Syria to give up its chemical weapons cache. [Reuters]
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6. EA Sports settles lawsuit with college athletes
Video game company E.A. Sports and Collegiate Licensing Company agreed to pay out $40 million to settle a lawsuit brought by former athletes who objected to their names and likenesses being used without their consent. Former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon brought the lawsuit, which will benefit some 200,000 to 300,000 players, and which could have broad implications for the future of college sports. If a judge approves the terms of the settlement, the NCAA would be left as the lone defendant in the case. [ESPN]
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7. Obama offers bankrupt Detroit $320 million in aid
The Obama administration on Friday extended $320 million in federal and private aid to the struggling city, which in July became the largest municipality ever to file for bankruptcy. The funds will be used to do everything from clearing blighted buildings and beefing up law enforcement, to improving transit infrastructure and repairing streetlights — 40 percent of which are broken. [Bloomberg]
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8. Aaron Hernandez’s fiancee indicted in murder investigation
Prosecutors indicted Shayanna Jenkins, the fiancee of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, accusing her of perjury in the murder case of Odin Lloyd. They also filed charges against Hernandez’s cousin, Tanya Singleton. Hernandez is charged with orchestrating Lloyd’s murder, and has pleaded not guilty. [Boston Globe]
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9. Scientists create new form of matter likened to Star Wars‘ lightsaber
To the delight of nerds everywhere, a team of Harvard and MIT scientists said they had stumbled across a way to bind photons together, thus creating what they said was something “similar to what we see in the movies.” Scientists previously believed photons had no mass, but when placed under the right conditions, the researchers discovered they could clump photons together to form molecules. “It’s not an in-apt analogy to compare this to lightsabers,” Harvard physicist Mikhail Lukin said. [The Independent]
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10. NSA staff accused of spying on spouses, former lovers
Some dozen staffers with the National Security Agency — the body tasked with monitoring foreign correspondence for signs of terrorism — allegedly used their power to snoop on their current and former partners, according to a government watchdog group. The NSA Office of the Inspector General said the practice, known in the business as “LOVEINT,” took place over the past decade and included inappropriate monitoring of personal email and phone records. [Reuters]

 

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Obama To Address Iran, Syria In UN Speech

obama un

Obama will speak to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday morning. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) | AP

The Huffington Post

Seeking to build on diplomatic opportunities, President Barack Obama is expected to signal his willingness to engage with the new Iranian government if Tehran makes nuclear concessions long sought by the U.S. and Western allies.

Obama, in a planned address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday morning, also will call on U.N. Security Council members to approve a resolution that would mandate consequences for Syria if it fails to cooperate with a plan to turn its chemical weapons stockpiles over to the international community.

The president’s address will be closely watched for signs that he may meet later in the day with Iranian President Hasan Rouhani, a moderate cleric who has been making friendly gestures toward the U.S. in recent weeks. Even a brief encounter would be significant given that the leaders of the U.S. and Iran haven’t had face-to-face contact in more than 30 years.

U.S. officials say no meeting was planned, though they hadn’t ruled out the possibility that one might be added. The most likely opportunity appeared to be at a U.N. leaders’ lunch Tuesday.

Rouhani was scheduled to address the U.N. General Assembly late Tuesday afternoon.

The possibility of a thaw in relations with Iran was expected to factor heavily in Obama’s address to the U.N. In a preview of the president’s speech, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Obama would discuss “our openness to diplomacy and the prospect for a peaceful resolution of this issue that allows Iran to rejoin the community of nations should they come in line with their international obligations and demonstrate that their nuclear program is peaceful.”

The U.S. and its allies long have suspected that Iran is trying to produce a nuclear weapon, though Tehran insists its nuclear activities are only for producing energy and for medical research.

American officials say Rouhani’s change in tone is driven by the Iranian public’s frustration with crippling economic sanctions levied by the U.S. But it is still unclear whether Iran is willing to take the steps the U.S. is seeking in order to ease the sanctions, including curbing uranium enrichment and shutting down the Fordo underground nuclear facility.

State Department officials said Secretary of State John Kerry would seek to answer that question Thursday when new Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif joins nuclear talks between the U.S. and five other world powers. Zarif’s participation, which was announced Monday, sets up the first meeting in six years between an American secretary of state and an Iranian foreign minister, though it was unclear whether the two men would break off from the group and hold separate one-on-one talks.

Also high on Obama’s agenda at the U.N. was rallying Security Council support for a resolution that would establish consequences for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime if it failed to adhere to a U.S-Russian plan to turn over its chemical weapons.

Under the agreement, inspectors are to be in Syria by November and all components of the chemical weapons program are to be removed from the country or destroyed by the middle of next year. The U.S. wants the Security Council to approve a resolution making the U.S.-Russian agreement legally binding in a way that is verifiable and enforceable.

But a key obstacle remains, given U.S. and Russian disagreement over whether to put the resolution under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter. Chapter 7 deals with threats to international peace and security and has provisions for enforcement by military or nonmilitary means, such as sanctions. Russia is sure to veto any resolution that includes a mandate for military action.

Rhodes said Obama also would address tenuous progress on a new round of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. And he was to address other developments in the Arab world, including in Egypt, where the nation’s first democratically elected president was ousted this summer in a military coup.

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Vladimir Putin’s New York Times op-ed, annotated and fact-checked

(ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian president Vladimir Putin wrote a stunning (that word is subjective) op-ed piece to “The American People” last night.  Surprisingly it was not the usual rhetoric coming out of that geographical area for the last sixty years.  I recommend that everyone read the entire 800 word op-ed here.  The following is an annotated version.

The Washington Post

Russian President Vladimir Putin has an op-ed in today’s New York Times urging President Obama not to strike Syria. It’s a fascinating document — a very Russian perspective translated into American vernacular, an act of public diplomacy aimed at the American public and the latest chess move in the U.S.-Russia standoff over Syria, one in which we the readers are implicated. Putin does make a number of valid and even compelling points, but there is an undeniable hypocrisy and even some moments of dishonesty between the lines.

Below, I’ve annotated the op-ed, line-by-line, elaborating and translating at some points, fact-checking a bit in others. Putin’s writing is set off in italics; my notes are in plain text.

MOSCOW — RECENT events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.

Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization — the United Nations — was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.

So far so good, and all true, establishing a baseline of coöperation on shared interests while acknowledging U.S.-Russia tensions.

The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America’s consent the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.

Putin here is implicitly defending Russia’s right to use its veto to block the United Nations from any action on Syria, including simple press releases condemning the use of chemical weapons. The U.N. Security Council veto system, which means that Russia can block any action just because it says so, was not a product of “profound wisdom” as  much as profound pragmatism. Countries don’t like to give up their power to other countries. After World War II, getting the world’s five remaining great powers (the United States, Britain, France, China and the Soviet Union) to consent to this newfangled United Nations system required granting them veto power so they’d be comfortable with it. This is what it took, but it wasn’t profoundly wise, and both Russia and the United States abuse their veto power plenty.

No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.

It’s true that the League of Nations collapsed because no one took it seriously, including the United States. But the United Nations survived the Cold War, which included lots of non-U.N.-approved military actions from — you guessed it — the United States and the Soviet Union. If the United Nations can survive the unilateral Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the U.S. intervention in Vietnam, among many other wars large and small, it will survive cruise missile strikes on Syria.

The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.

Continue reading here…

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10 things you need to know today: February 12, 2013

The Week

North Korea conducts a nuclear test, Obama preps for the State of the Union, and more in our roundup of the stories that are making news and driving opinion

1. NORTH KOREA STAGES LONG-THREATENED NUCLEAR TEST
North Korea confirmed Tuesday that it had conducted its third nuclear test, provoking immediate and harsh criticism from foreign leaders. President Obama called the long-threatened move a “highly provocative act” demanding “swift and credible action by the international community.” China, which had urged Pyongyang not to conduct the test, declared its “staunch opposition” but urged calm. The United Nations Security Council scheduled an emergency meeting for Tuesday. North Korea’s official KCNA news service said the test involved a “miniaturized and lighter nuclear device with greater explosive force” than those the reclusive communist regime tested in 2006 and 2009, suggesting the country had made strides toward becoming a full-fledged nuclear power. [New York Times]
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2. CATHOLICS BRACE FOR SELECTION OF NEW POPE
The world’s 1.1 billion Catholics reacted in shock to the news that Pope Benedict XVI would be stepping down on Feb. 28 due to his advancing age and declining strength. Benedict became the first pope in six centuries to resign, and triggered an internal debate over whether his successor — expected to be elected by Easter, which falls on March 31 — should be someone looking to foster a smaller church with more fervent believers, or one with broader appeal and looser restrictions on everything from divorce to condom use. “If you run any business, whether it’s the papacy or a pizza shop, you have to consider if you focus on your core or where you’re expanding,” says Philip Jenkins, an expert on global Christianity at Baylor University. “The question is, who you are going to appeal to?” [Washington Post]
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3. OBAMA HEADS INTO CRUCIAL STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS
President Obama is preparing to give his State of the Union address Tuesday night in what could prove a critical moment for his second term. Analysts say Obama has roughly a year to push through his policy priorities — regarding the economy, immigration reform, gun control, and more — before lawmakers begin focusing on the 2014 midterm elections, which could strengthen Republicans and hasten his transition to the “lame-duck” status of presidents ineligible to run again. That makes the speech an important opportunity to build momentum, says Tony Fratto, who was a White House spokesman under George W. Bush. “I don’t want to say it’s the last important speech he’s going to give,” Fratto says, “but the window for a second-term president is fairly narrow.” [Reuters]
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4. EGYPTIANS PROTEST AGAINST MORSI ON ANNIVERSARY OF MUBARAK’S FALL
Egyptian protesters clashed with riot police in front of the presidential palace in Cairo Monday night during a rally marking the second anniversary of the toppling of Hosni Mubarak. Police fired tear gas and water cannons as demonstrators threw stones and spray-painted walls telling the country’s democratically elected Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, to “leave.” Morsi’s supporters say rivals are trying to dismantle Egypt’s fledgling democracy, but opposition activists say Morsi is using his newfound power to impose an Islamist constitution and deprive them of their rights. [BBC]
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5. SUSPECTS CHARGED IN HADIYA PENDLETON KILLING
Chicago police have arrested two reputed gang members in connection with a shooting that killed 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton last month, just days after she performed with her high school band at President Obama’s second-term inauguration. Michael Ward, 18, and Kenneth Williams, 20, were charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder, and aggravated battery with a firearm in the Jan. 29 attack, which also left two other teens wounded. According to police, Ward confessed, saying he and Williams mistakenly thought some of Pendleton’s companions were members of a rival gang involved in the shooting of Williams last July. [Chicago Tribune]
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6. DORNER CHARGED WITH CAPITAL MURDER
California authorities filed formal murder charges Monday against former Los Angeles police officer Christopher Dorner, a fugitive suspected of killing one police officer and trying to kill three others. In an online manifesto, Dorner allegedly claims he wants revenge for his firing from the Los Angeles Police Department in 2008. Dorner was charged with capital murder in the ambush of Riverside Officer Michael Crain, meaning he could face the death penalty if caught and convicted. [USA Today]
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7. COURTHOUSE SHOOTING LEAVES THREE DEAD
Police say a man who was locked in a child-custody dispute opened fire in a Delaware courthouse lobby on Monday, killing two women before police fatally shot him. Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams said one of the women killed was the suspected shooter’s estranged wife, although police did not confirm that and cautioned that only they had access to confirmed information. “It happened so fast,” said courthouse employee Jose Beltran, who was entering the building as the first shots rang out. Two police officers suffered non-life-threatening injuries. [Associated Press]
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8. PANETTA EXTENDS MILITARY BENEFITS TO SAME-SEX COUPLES
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta extended 20 military benefits — including education, hospital visitation, family counseling, and more — to gay and lesbian couples on Monday in one of his final acts before he steps aside. Panetta said discrimination based on sexual orientation “has no place in the Department of Defense.” Some benefits, including health care and housing, are still only available to married heterosexual couples under the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which forbids same-sex couples from receiving federal benefits heterosexual spouses get. [San Francisco Chronicle]
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9. SI SWIMSUIT ISSUE HITS NEWSSTANDS
Sports Illustrated is releasing the 50th anniversary edition of its popular swimsuit issue on Tuesday. For the second straight year, the eagerly anticipated magazine features model Kate Upton on the cover. Upton is the first model to win the coveted cover spot in consecutive years since Tyra Banks, who did it in 1996 and 1997. Others who have graced more than one cover Christie Brinkley (1979-81), Elle MacPherson (1986 and 1988), and Paulina Porizkova (1984 and 1985). [Bleacher ReportCBS]
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10. HACKERS AIR WARNING OF ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE
Pranksters hacked into a Montana TV station’s emergency alert system and issued a brief warning that “bodies of the dead are rising from their graves” and attacking the living. The warning was aired during the Steve Wilkos show on KRTV in the middle of the “Teen Cheaters Take Lie Detectors” episode. The station quickly issued a statement assuring viewers that there was “no emergency.” [International Business Times]

 

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President Obama Tries — Without Success — To Explain His Way Around An Undeclared War

John Nichols – The Nation

President Obama finally got around to speaking to the American people about the fact that he has led the country into a third war.

The speech was, to no one’s surprise, ably delivered. The president spoke with emotional and rhetorical power of how he felt there had been a need to intervene in order to prevent “a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.” He explained how there are times “when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and values are.” He decried the temptation “to turn away from the world” and promised that “wherever people long to be free, they will find a friend in the United States.”
 
Those are noble sentiments, well expressed.
 
Unfortunately, he also spoke about how he had initiated the way on his own: “I ordered warships into the Mediterranean.” I refused to let that happen.” “I authorized military action…” “At my direction…”
 
The problem is that presidents are not supposed to start wars, especially wars of whim that are offensive rather than defensive in nature. That was the complaint against George W. Bush when he failed to obtain a declaration of war before ordering the invasion of Iraq, that is the ongoing complaint against Obama for maintaining the undeclared wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And that is the legitimate and necessary complaint against Obama now, a complaint that should come not just opponents of the military intervention but supporters who want that intervention to be lawful and legitimate.
 
The president did not address the fact that the Libyan adventure is an undeclared war. In fact, he barely mentioned the Congress that is supposed to declare wars, saying only: “And so nine days ago, after consulting the bipartisan leadership of Congress, I authorized military action to stop the killing and enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.”
 
But the Constitution does not discuss “consulting the bipartisan leadership…” It says that: “Congress shall have the power… to declare war, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.”
 
That was the point that Congressman Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, made with regard to the speech.

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The Latest News from Libya

Gawker

Barely two days after U.N. authorization, the vaunted no-fly zone over Libya has been been “officially enforced” by a coalition of U.S., French and British forces. Here’s the latest from the ongoing conflict in Libya:

Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s compound was reportedly struck by U.K. forces on Sunday night, though American officials insisted the dictator wasn’t a target. Nevertheless, the mission of the coalition forces “moved beyond taking away his ability to use Libyan airspace, to obliterating his hold on the ground as well,”The New York Times reports. [NYT]

The U.S. is hoping to pass the metaphorical war-baton to either a combined French-British or a NATO command, possibly “in a matter of days.” Italy says it is contributing eight of its jets to coalition forces, and Qatar is expected to join coalition forces in some unspecified capacity on Monday. [AP; The Guardian]

The Arab League, which had initially supported the no-fly zone and theoretically lent military action some degree of legitimacy in the Arab world, appeared to waver on Sunday as strikes went on. Secretary General Amr Moussa released a statement saying “What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone” and specifically condemning reports of civilian casualties. [WaPo]

Also not on board: Russia, India and China, all of which abstained from the U.N. Security Council vote and all of which cited reports of civilian casualties in condemning the airstrikes. [Telegraph]

More…

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Iran Bars Some Nuclear Inspectors, Raising U.N. Alarms

Flag of the International Atomic Energy Agency...

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Looks like it’s time we pay close attention to Iran’s nuclear ambitions…

Huffington Post

The U.N. atomic agency expressed alarm Monday about Iran’s decision to bar some of its inspectors, suggesting that its efforts to monitor the country’s nuclear program were suffering as a result.

The unusually blunt International Atomic Energy Agency warning was voiced in a restricted report on Iran made available to The Associated Press that otherwise contained few surprises. It followed Iran’s recent decision to strip two experienced inspectors of the right to monitor its nuclear activities after the two reported what they said were undeclared nuclear experiments.

The Islamic Republic says the reporting by the two was inaccurate, but the IAEA stands by the findings. And the 11-page IAEA document issued Monday devoted a special section to the complaint, reflecting the importance attached to it by IAEA chief Yukiya Amano.

Such a section was included in only one previous report, after Iran stripped the right of dozens of inspectors in 2006 and 2007 – most of them in order to show displeasure over recently passed U.N. Security Council sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

Read more…

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