US gives North Korea $900,000 in emergency aid

The United States announced yesterday that it is providing up to $900,000 in aid to North Korea for emergency flood assistance. The decision follows South Korea's decision to provide $5m in food aid. Today, North Korea announced that it will agree to talks with the US on locating and returning the remains of American soldiears killed in the Korean War. See also - 'US search for Korean War dead continues'

Renewed international pressure on Syria's regime

The United States today called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, and announced new sanctions against his regime. Leaders from the UK, France and Germany also echoed President Obama’s statement in the wake of a violent crackdown against protestors that has killed thousands. The demands come as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, briefed the UN Security Council after a report identified 50 Syrian officials that could be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court for possible crimes against humanity. In a statement US President Barack Obama said: “The future...

US urges Syria’s allies to “get on the right side of history”

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stepped up calls for a wider global trade embargo on Syria as anti-government protests continue, despite widespread oppression and violence in the troubled Middle Eastern state. "We urge those countries still buying Syrian oil and gas, those countries still sending Assad weapons, those countries whose political and economic support give him comfort in his brutality, to get on the right side of history," Clinton said . In a later interview with CBS , Clinton singled out China, India and Russia to join the Obama administration in pressuring the Assad regime to halt his brutal crackdown (See video of the interview here ). Clinton told CBS, “We want to see China take steps with us. We want to see India, because India and China have large energy investments inside of Syria. We want to see Russia cease selling arms to the Assad regime.”

Warren Buffet: tax the super-rich!

“I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering. “I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the...

British banks invest in cluster bomb manufacturers

An investigation by the UK newspaper, the Independent, revealed yesterday that British banks continue to invest in companies that manufacture cluster bombs. The Royal Bank of Scotland, 83% owned by the tax-payer, reportedly invested over $190 million into two companies alleged to be making cluster munitions – Alliant Techsystems and Lockhead Martin. HSBC, Barclays and Lloyds TSB are also reported to have made investments into similar companies. Although the banks have subsequently refuted such claims, anti-arms charities have pointed out that the companies concerned are yet to publicly deny the manufacturing of cluster bombs. Britain has signed up to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, effectively banning cluster bombs. However the banks utilise a legal loop hole that permits investment in companies that manufacture cluster bombs, provided there is no direct investment into the bombs.

The potential of America's 'Atrocities Prevention Board'

Welcoming the Obama administration’s launch of a new inter-agency body – the Atrocities Prevention Board – and other measures to enhance US responsiveness to the threat of mass atrocities and genocide , the Council on Foreign Relations this week put forward an analysis of its key benefits, as well as potential obstacles to the new doctrine. The Council on Foreign Relations is one of the most influential foreign policy think-tanks in the US.

UN calls for probe into Sudanese war crimes

The UN yesterday called for an independent and through inquiry into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Sudan, weeks before the country was divided into two independent nations. The preliminary 12-page report (see here ) issued by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights detailed incidents of “extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and illegal detention, enforced disappearances, attacks against civilians, looting of civilian homes and destruction of property”. Focussing on events between June 5th and 30th, the report went on to say "If substantiated (the allegations) could amount to crimes against humanity, or war crimes for which individual criminal responsibility may be sought ". UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said “This is a preliminary report produced under very challenging circumstances and with very limited access to affected areas... However what it suggests has been happening in Southern Kordofan is so serious that it is essential there is an independent, thorough and objective inquiry with the aim of holding perpetrators to account .”

United Nations: weak leaders wanted

Extracts from the editorial of The Guardian (see full article here ): The myopia of powerful governments is clearly shown in their preference for weak candidates for UN secretary-general. Occasionally they misjudge their man, with interesting results. With Dag Hammarskjöld, it was peacekeeping. Kofi Annan's staff devised the millennium development goals. This time – with the quiet reappointment of secretary-general Ban Ki-moon this summer – they got what they wanted. Mr Ban presides over the slow decay of the UN secretariat, an institution that should be working, as Hammarskjöld said, on the...

US search for Korean War dead continues

Almost 60 years after an armistice ended the Korean war, the United States has resumed its efforts to bring home the remains of more than 2000 American soldiers. The US has written to North Korea on the matter, the Pentagon said. Despite the complete absence of diplomatic ties and particularly frosty ties over recent attacks on South Korea, the US has long sought cooperation with North Korea over the repatriation of soldiers’ remains. North Korea has reportedly received several millions of dollars in exchange for cooperation. Speaking at this year’s Korean War Armistice Day, war veteran and Democratic congressman, Charles Rangal, called upon Americans to remember the fallen. "As we pay tribute to the nearly two million Americans who answered the call to defend the freedom of Korea, we should not forget about those who never returned” he said.

The myth of sports and repressive regimes

David Clay Large , professor of history at Montana State University, writes in the New York Times (see full article here ): Few Olympics are as famous as the 1936 Berlin Games, whose 75th anniversary falls this month. The publicity that accompanied the competition, held under the watchful eye of Adolf Hitler, supposedly tamed the Nazi regime. But much of that story is myth. Indeed, the Olympics gave the Nazis a lesson in how to hide their vicious racism and anti-Semitism, and should offer today’s International Olympic Committee a cautionary tale when considering the location of future events...