UN council gets new blood
The UN General Assembly was to elect five new members to the UN Security Council yesterday and the winners will almost certainly be Nigeria, Chad, Saudi Arabia, Lithuania and Chile because there are no contested races. Chad, Saudi Arabia and Lithuania have never served on the council, while Nigeria and Chile have both been on it four times. Council seats are highly coveted because they give countries a strong voice in international peace and security matters. The 15-member council includes five permanent members with veto power — the US, Russia, China, Britain and France — and 10 nonpermanent members elected for two years. Seats are allocated by region. To win, each country must obtain support of two-thirds of all General Assembly members present, or a minimum of 129 votes if all 193 members participate.
Kennedy approved for Japan
The Senate late on Wednesday approved Caroline Kennedy, the sole surviving child of assassinated president John F. Kennedy and an early supporter of US President Barack Obama, to be ambassador to Japan. On a hectic day in which the Congress voted to end a government shutdown, the Senate gave the final nod to Kennedy and 22 other nominees unanimously without roll call votes. Kennedy will step into the most public role of her adult life after largely shying away from politics. She encountered no opposition at her confirmation hearing last month before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Kennedy’s nomination has been hailed in Japan, although some US experts have voiced concern at having a diplomatic novice in Tokyo amid high tensions between Japan and China.
Settlements growing: NGO
New settlement construction starts rose by 70 percent in the first half of this year compared with a year earlier, a local non-governmental organization said yesterday, describing the increase as “drastic.” According to figures released by the anti-settler group Peace Now, construction on 1,708 new homes in the West Bank and east Jerusalem was started between January and June, compared with 995 in the same period last year. Peace Now said 44 percent of the new construction were east of the vast separation barrier that cuts through the West Bank, while 32 percent fell to the east and 86 percent were in areas where tenders are not required, meaning the government did not technically flout the quiet freeze on tenders it had reportedly agreed to this year. “This means the ‘tender moratorium’ declared by the government until the prisoners release in July 2013 was not a general construction freeze, but only of a small part of the construction in settlements,” the group said.
Nobel winners back Arctic 30
Eleven Nobel Peace Prize winners have called on President Vladimir Putin to ensure that “excessive charges of piracy” laid against 30 Greenpeace activists are dropped, Greenpeace said yesterday. The authorities have charged the 30 crew members with piracy, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years, after they staged a protest against Arctic oil drilling last month. The Nobel laureates said an oil spill in the Arctic would have a “catastrophic impact” on local communities. “We, like millions of people around the world, are watching this case, eager to see Russian authorities drop the piracy charges, treat the ‘Arctic 30’ in accordance with international law, reaffirm the right to nonviolent protest, and rededicate efforts to protect the Arctic,” they wrote.