‘State lawmakers in Missouri last week revived an effort to significantly curtail local planners’ ability to adopt the type of smart-growth policies long touted by urban developers, demographers, and climate scientists. The bill, which sailed through the state’s lower chamber this past Monday, represents the latest victory for a onetime fringe movement that has spent the past two decades slowly gaining traction among conservatives by warning of an actual, real-life U.N.-orchestrated global takeover.
The specific target of the Missouri legislation may be well-known to heavy consumers of conservative media, but most Americans have probably never heard of it: Agenda 21, a nonbinding resolution that was signed by President George H.W. Bush and 177 other world leaders at the end of the United Nations’ 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The effort was hailed at the time as an important, albeit voluntary, action plan to promote sustainable development in the face of a rapidly expanding global population, but ultimately failed to become much more than a feel-good Democratic talking point back in the United States. In 2012 a full 85 percent of Americans didn’t know enough about the U.N. resolution to have an opinion on it, according to a poll commissioned by the American Planning Association that summer.
Not everyone forgot about it, however. Agenda 21 remained front and center for a subset of right-wing conservatives who warned that it was a harbinger of a looming new world order that would culminate with the seizure of land and guns, and an end to the American way of life. If that last part sounds like the plot of a dystopian novel written by Glenn Beck, well, that’s because it is. But what began as a far-fetched conspiracy theory has since transformed into an effective, almost methodical movement to block the type of “livability” initiatives that President Obama and his allies have made a priority. If you look past the black helicopters in the anti-Agenda 21 origin story, you’ll find a series of smart-growth-blocking victories at the state and local levels in nearly every corner of the country…’
‘Diplomats say Russia has refused to allow the U.S. television series “House of Cards” to film in the United Nations Security Council chamber.
The show’s producers approached the United Nations, and the 15 council members were asked whether they would allow the use of the chamber when the council wasn’t in session, but Russia said “no,” the diplomats said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private.’
‘The UN’s Human Rights Council (HRC) has set up a commission of inquiry into Eritrea, seen as one of the world’s most repressive states. The three-member panel will report back in one year. In a statement, the HRC condemned “widespread and systematic” human rights violations, including torture and other cruel punishments. Eritrea rejected the resolution.
Human rights groups have previously called the country a “giant prison”. Amnesty International last year said some 10,000 Eritreans had been imprisoned for political reasons since independence from Ethiopia in 1993. This was denied by the government.’
- Eritrea’s military is trafficking the nation’s children, report says
- Eritrea: ‘10,000 Political Prisoners in Awful Conditions’
- Eritrean Troops Mobilise Against Apparent Coup Attempt
- Dissident Eritrean Troops Demand Release of Political Prisoners
- UN Rights Chief Accuses Eritrea of Torture, Killings
- Eritrea Denies Rumors Its President Is Dead
‘A United Nations’ committee approved a new resolution calling on the UK and Argentina to negotiate a solution to their dispute over the Falkland Islands, essentially favouring Argentina’s stance in the long-running feud. The 24-nation Decolonization Committee passed the resolution by consensus despite passionate speeches from two Falkland Islands representatives who said most islanders wanted to keep things as they are.
The decision showed that the committee members have been largely unmoved by a referendum in the Falkland Islands last year in which more than 99 per cent of voters favoured remaining a British Overseas Territory. The UK has rebuffed Argentina’s calls to negotiate the sovereignty of the south Atlantic islands, saying it is up to people who live there to decide. Argentinian Foreign Minister Hector Timerman attacked the UK for ignoring dozens of UN resolutions urging the two countries to talk.’
‘The Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI) released a report, the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index 2014 (MPI), on Tuesday looking at the state of poverty in the world today. It is being touted as the most accurate reflection of the world’s poor, a sort of census of the global impoverished population. Didn’t that exist already? For more than a decade, the United Nations Development Programme has measured world poverty using its Human Poverty Index (HPI). The HPI defined poverty as those making less than $1.25 a day.
But it lacked in two key areas. First, it counted countries as one whole mass, unable to differentiate degrees of poverty within a country and locate the worst pockets. And second, it placed all of its scrutiny on income, without considering other indicators such as health and education…OPHI reconsidered poverty from a new angle: a measure of what the authors term generally as “deprivations.” They relied on three datasets that do more than capture income: the Demographic and Health Survey, the Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey, and the World Health Survey, each of which measures quality of life indicators. Poverty wasn’t just a vague number anymore, but a snapshot of on-the-ground conditions people were facing.’
‘The number of people living as refugees from war or persecution exceeded 50 million in 2013, for the first time since World War Two, the UN says. The overall figure of 51.2 million is six million higher than the year before,a report by the UN refugee agency says. Antonio Guterres, head of the UNHCR, told the BBC the rise was a “dramatic challenge” for aid organisations.
Conflicts in Syria, central Africa and South Sudan fuelled the sharp increase. “Conflicts are multiplying, more and more,” Mr Guterres said. “And at the same time old conflicts seem never to die.” Of particular concern are the estimated 6.3 million people who have been refugees for years, sometimes even decades.’
‘Uganda’s Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa, who was previously ousted as a junior investment minister over claims he abused his office, is not fit to become the president of the United Nations General Assembly, a watchdog has said. Kutesa has been implicated in at least two more scandals since 1999, including allegations that he accepted bribes from foreign companies seeking oil contracts in Uganda.
“He’s a hugely divisive figure because of his chequered history in Uganda’s politics,” said Nicholas Opiyo, a prominent Ugandan lawyer who runs a watchdog group called Chapter Four. “He’s not a paragon of virtues and he’s not the best this country can put forward,” Opiyo said. Kutesa, who denies all allegations, is Africa’s unanimous choice to become the UN General Assembly’s president. He’s expected to be elected to the UN position on June 11, replacing John W Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda. The post rotates annually by region.’
‘Are robots capable of moral or ethical reasoning? It’s no longer just a question for tenured philosophy professors or Hollywood directors. This week, it’s a question being put to the United Nations. The Office of Naval Research will award $7.5 million in grant money over five years to university researchers from Tufts, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Brown, Yale and Georgetown to explore how to build a sense of right and wrong and moral consequence into autonomous robotic systems.
“Even though today’s unmanned systems are ‘dumb’ in comparison to a human counterpart, strides are being made quickly to incorporate more automation at a faster pace than we’ve seen before,” Paul Bello, director of the cognitive science program at the Office of Naval Research told Defense One. “For example, Google’s self-driving cars are legal and in-use in several states at this point. As researchers, we are playing catch-up trying to figure out the ethical and legal implications. We do not want to be caught similarly flat-footed in any kind of military domain where lives are at stake.”’
- United Nations to Debate ‘Should We Ban Killer Robots?’
- ‘Killer robots’ to be debated at UN
- Why There Will Be A Robot Uprising
- Every Country Will Have Armed Drones Within Ten Years
- April 2013 report to the U.N. on Lethal autonomous robotics (LARs)
- Reigning in the Killer Robot? The DoD’s Directive on Autonomous Weapons
- DoD Directive: Autonomy in Weapon Systems
- Moral Machines: Teaching Robots Right from Wrong (Book)
- Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots (Book)
- Governing Lethal Behavior: Embedding Ethics in a Hybrid Deliberative/Reactive Robot Architecture
‘The arms race is going sci-fi, and humans are playing catch-up. United Nations diplomats convened today in Geneva for a week-long meeting of experts on killer robots. Lethal Automated Weapon Systems (LAWS) — their more technical term — would be able to track and engage targets on their own, without human intervention. They don’t yet exist, but several countries are close. Though armed robots conjure images of Terminator-like humanoids, they would likely first come from the sky, the evolved offspring of drones used by the CIA.
…Drones as we know them — the ones buzzing over tribal lands in Pakistan and attacking convoys (and weddings) in Yemen — are not considered autonomous since operators control them, albeit with a joystick, thousands of miles away. However, US defense contractor Northrop Grumman has developed the X-47b, an autonomous drone aircraft capable of flying itself, and, with a few tweaks, it could eventually fire a weapon on its own. The UK and Israel are also working on autonomous armed drones.
South Korea already has robot sentries, Samsung-built surveillance robots armed with 5.56 mm machine guns and grenade launchers that watch over the demilitarized zone separating north from south. For now, the machines — like drones — are overseen by soldiers, but they retain the capacity of autonomously targeting and firing using infrared detectors. Human rights groups hope to use the meeting as a step towards eventually banning cyborgs under the 1980 “Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW),” the international agreement that today outlaws the likes of white phosphorus, napalm, booby traps and mines.’
‘Three decades after the U.N. Convention Against Torture imposed measures to eradicate the practice, torture still happens in 141 countries — many of which are signatories to that convention — according to Amnesty International’s annual report on torture released Tuesday.
According to the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” That agreement, as well as the various Geneva Conventions and the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights, have all dictated an absolute ban on torture for any purpose — even in times of war.
And yet, in police headquarters, secret prisons and CIA black sites, detainees across the globe report being subjected to torture as a means of extracting information or confessions, silencing dissent or simply as punishment. The Amnesty report details 27 categories of torture reported in the past year, including electric shocks, mock executions, water torture, rape and sexual violence and the pulling of teeth.’
‘Abby Martin speaks with Jane Bussman, comedian and author of the book ‘A Journey to the Dark Heart of Nameless Unspeakable Evil’ a comedic yet sensible account of her experience hunting for Ugandan warlord, Joseph Kony, also discussing the negative impact of foreign aid in Africa.’ (Breaking the Set)
A new U.N. report names 21 countries where rape and other sexual violence has been committed in current and recent conflicts, from Afghanistan and Central African Republic to Myanmar and Syria. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s report, launched Thursday, says there is now unprecedented political momentum globally to end conflict-related sexual violence, but more action is needed regionally and nationally to respond to these crimes.
The report identifies 34 armed groups — including militias, rebel groups and government security forces — “credibly suspected of rape and other forms of sexual violence in conflict situations” in countries that are on the agenda of the U.N. Security Council. The groups listed in an annex to the report are from the Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Congo, Mali, South Sudan and Syria. Bangura said perpetrators almost never face justice, and survivors often don’t get help to recover physically and rebuild their lives.
A North Korean spokesman is blaming the United States and its allies for a “human rights racket” a day after the U.N. Security Council met to discuss a new report that accuses the reclusive communist regime of crimes against humanity. The North’s official Korean Central News Agency on Friday quoted a spokesman for the country’s foreign ministry and accused the U.S. and allies of reaching an “extremely reckless phase” with Thursday’s informal council meeting.
It was the first time the Security Council had met on the unprecedented U.N. commission of inquiry report, which recommends that the council refer its findings to the International Criminal Court. The commission chair says most council members expressly said the matter should be referred. All members but Russia and top Pyongyang ally China attended.
The U.N. Human Rights Committee in Geneva on Thursday condemned the United States for criminalizing homelessness, calling it “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” that violates international human rights treaty obligations. It also called upon the U.S. government to take corrective action, following a two-day review of U.S. government compliance with a human rights treaty ratified in 1992. “I’m just simply baffled by the idea that people can be without shelter in a country, and then be treated as criminals for being without shelter,” said Sir Nigel Rodley, chairman of the committee in closing statements on the U.S. review. “The idea of criminalizing people who don’t have shelter is something that I think many of my colleagues might find as difficult as I do to even begin to comprehend.”
The Committee called on the U.S. to abolish criminalization of homelessness laws and policies at state and local levels, intensify efforts to find solutions for homeless people in accordance with human rights standards and offer incentives for decriminalization, including giving local authorities funding for implementing alternatives and withholding funding for criminalizing the homeless. Those recommendations run counter to the current trends in the nation. Laws targeting the homeless—loitering laws that ban sleeping or sitting too long in one public spot, or camping in parks overnight—have become increasingly common in communities throughout the country as homelessness has skyrocketed.
While President Obama told the country to “look forward, not backward” when it came to Bush’s torture program, the United Nations has taken a different route. Recently, the UN Human Rights Committee issued a report excoriating the United States for its human rights violations. It focuses on violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the country is party. The report mentions 25 human rights issues where the United States is failing. This piece will focus on a few of those issues – Guantanamo, NSA surveillance, accountability for Bush-era human rights violations, drone strikes, racism in the prison system, racial profiling, police violence, and criminalization of the homeless.
The UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ruled that the Japanese government must halt its whaling programme in the Antarctic. It agreed with Australia, which brought the case in May 2010, that the programme was not for scientific research as claimed by Tokyo.
Japan said it would abide by the decision but added it “regrets and is deeply disappointed by the decision”. Australia argued that the programme was commercial whaling in disguise.
The court’s decision is considered legally binding. Japan had argued that the suit brought by Australia was an attempt to impose its cultural norms on Japan.
The UN has delivered a withering verdict on the US’s human rights record, raising concerns on a series of issues including torture, drone strikes, the failure to close Guantánamo Bay and the NSA‘s bulk collection of personal data.
The report was delivered by the UN’s human rights committee in an assessment of how the US is complying with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [ICCPR], which has been in force since the mid 1970s.
The committee, which is chaired by the British law professor Sir Nigel Rodley, catalogued a string of human rights concerns, notably on the mass surveillance exposed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Energy production will increasingly strain water resources in the coming decades even as more than 1 billion of the planet’s 7 billion people already lack access to both, according to a United Nations report. “There is an increasing potential for serious conflict between power generation, other water users and environmental considerations,” said the UN World Water Development Report published today that focused on water and energy. Ninety percent of power generation is “water-intensive,” it said.
Shale gas and oil production as well as biofuels “can pose significant risks” to water resources, pitting energy producers against farmers, factories and providers of drinking and sanitation services, the agency said ahead of tomorrow’s annual World Water Day. Water-related needs for energy production have tripled since 1995, according to GE Water, while more than half of the global cotton production is grown in areas with high water risks. Electricity demand is forecast to rise at least two-thirds by 2035, driven by population growth.
Political turmoil, social unrest, civil war and terrorism could all be on the table unless the world boosts its food production by 60 percent come mid-century, the UN’s main hunger fighting agency has warned. The world’s population is expected to hit 9 billion people by 2050, which, coupled with the higher caloric intake of increasingly wealthy people, is likely to drastically increase food demand over the coming decades said Hiroyuki Konuma, the assistant director-general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization Asia-Pacific.
Increased food demand comes at a time when the world is investing less in agricultural research, prompting fear among scientists that global food security could be imperiled. “If we fail to meet our goal and a food shortage occurs, there will be a high risk of social and political unrest, civil wars and terrorism, and world security as a whole might be affected,” Reuters cites Konuma as saying at a one-week regional food security conference in Ulan Bator, Mongolia.
In 1995, Conrad Harper, the Clinton administration’s top State Department lawyer, appeared before a United Nations panel in Geneva to discuss American compliance with a global Bill of Rights-style treaty the Senate had recently ratified, and he was asked a pointed question: Did the United States believe it applied outside its borders?
Mr. Harper returned two days later and delivered an answer: American officials, he said, had no obligations under the rights accord when operating abroad. The Bush administration would amplify that claim after the Sept. 11 attacks — and extend it to another United Nations convention that bans the use of torture — to justify its treatment of terrorism suspects in overseas prisons operated by the military and the C.I.A.
The United Nations panel in Geneva that monitors compliance with the rights treaty disagrees with the American interpretation, and human rights advocates have urged the United States to reverse its position when it sends a delegation to answer the panel’s questions next week. But the Obama administration is unlikely to do that, according to interviews, rejecting a strong push by two high-ranking State Department officials from President Obama’s first term.
Spain’s pioneering universal jurisdiction doctrine, which has enabled judges to prosecute foreigners in connection with human rights crimes committed in other countries, will be shaved back within four months following a vote in Congress Tuesday night [Feb 11th] to reform the judicial code. According to the reform, judges will only be able to open investigations against a suspected human rights violator if the defendant “is Spanish or a foreigner who frequently resides in Spain,” or who is currently in the country and Spanish authorities have refused to allow their extradition.
After an intense debate that pitted the entire opposition against the ruling Popular Party (PP), the final vote stood 179 in favor and 163 against, reflecting the conservatives’ absolute majority in Congress. The new legislation will come into effect within the next four months. Opposition groups roundly condemned the government’s decision and were united in their conviction that pressure from Beijing guided the hand of Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party administration.
On the 17 February the United Nations released what it called an “unprecedented” report on the state of human rights in the most secretive state in the world: North Korea. It concluded that systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and still are being committed by the country officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and that in many cases, these violations constituted crimes against humanity, including: systematic torture, starvation and mass killings bordering on genocide. As a result of this, it recommended that the UN Security Council consider referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court. (Truthloader)
- UN: Punish N. Korea, Kim for ‘Unspeakable Atrocities’
- North Korea says U.N. rights report based on ‘faked’ material
- China rejects ‘unfair criticism’ in UN North Korea report
- Why it’s a good time to be a dictator like Kim Jong-un
- Cenk Uygur on the UN Report on North Korea
- North Korea Jokes No Longer Seem So Funny
Samantha Power, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, recommitted to securing Israel a tour on the U.N. Security Council after assisting its entry to a U.N. regional group.
Israel last month became a member of the JUSCANZ regional group at U.N. headquarters in New York. JUSCANZ stands for Japan, United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, some of the 15 members of the regional group, which is a sub-group of the Western European and Others (WEOG) regional group at the U.N. Israel was admitted to WEOG in New York in 2000, and in Geneva in 2013. Israel had been a member of JUSCANZ in Geneva, but until late last month not in New York.
In an address Monday to the Board of Governors of the American Jewish Committee, Powers said she will not give up on achieving a seat on the U.N. Security Council for Israel. Israel is vying with Germany and Belgium for a seat on the 2019-20 Security Council.
Chairperson Kirsten Sandberg discusses the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child report outlining massive allegations of child abuse coverups and its demands The Vatican take action to hold guilty parties accountable. (The Real News)
The U.N. Security Council urged countries on Monday to stop the payment of kidnap ransoms to extremist groups like al Qaeda, which have earned hundreds of millions of dollars from such crimes. Although states are already required not to pay kidnap ransoms under an anti-terrorism resolution adopted in 2001, the British-drafted resolution was designed to increase political pressure on countries not to pay ransoms. The resolution creates no new legal obligations.
“We estimate that in the last three and a half years, al Qaeda-affiliated and other Islamist extremist groups have collected at least $105 million,” British U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters. “It is therefore imperative that we take steps to ensure that kidnap for ransom is no longer perceived as a lucrative business model and that we eliminate it as a source of terrorist financing,” he said. “We need to break that cycle.”
The United States has estimated militant groups have received $120 million over the past decade, including ransoms paid to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The United States and Britain do not pay ransoms, but some European governments do.
Liverpool Council bosses are to go to the United Nations to make their case that the government could be breaking international rules on keeping people out of poverty.
The authority believes the coalition – through its controversial policies such as the bedroom tax and welfare reform – could be in breach of the UN economic and social rights convention that sets out minimum standards of access to food, clothing and housing.
At Wednesday [January 15] night’s meeting of the full council, Labour members from all parts of the city spoke of the evidence they had gathered of people in Liverpool who were being forced into degrading poverty because they were being denied access to benefits they desperately needed – ending up having to resort to what they said was effectively “begging” for food at food banks.
The chamber heard stories of people stripped of their dole money for up to 16 weeks because they had been late for interviews or had failed to meet the criteria of the government’s Welfare to Work programme.
And they heard claims that in some job centres in the city, suspensions of benefits and other sanctions had risen by up to 500% since 2012.
The very same week the interim nuclear deal with Iran went into effect, a diplomatic fiasco surrounding the Syrian peace talks underscored how little Western officials think has changed, and that Iran still occupies the position of “hostile power” for them.
Early last week, the focus was on getting partial ceasefires to slow the Syrian Civil War, and Iranian involvement would’ve been a major boost to that effort. The UN did the “reasonable” thing and invited Iran.
What followed was a total rethink of the talks and 24 solid hours of threats, before Iran was summarily disinvited and the US started insisting the whole point of the Syria talks was regime change and condemning the idea of partial ceasefires as a “distraction.”
Iran remains irked at being invited and uninvited like that, Russia is also angry since the whole point of the talks seems to be changing, and the UN is trying to insist none of this is their fault, and that they just assumed Iran was ready to impose a regime change ousting a close ally and replacing them with a pro-US government.