South Korean President Kim Dae-jung last night hailed his historic summit in Pyongyang with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il a success, as the two signed a landmark accord on easing five decades of tensions. Kim Jong-il accepted an invitation to a follow-up summit in Seoul. The two leaders agreed to allow reunions of families, exchange long-term prisoners, promote South Korean investment in the North and work toward unification. More on that story in a few minutes.
The United Nations is saying today that Israeli troops fired over the heads of U.N. peacekeepers at the Lebanese border, forcing a suspension of efforts to verify Israel’s withdrawal. This comes as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is in Washington to meet with President Clinton.
With backing from the Pentagon and Republican lawmakers, the Clinton administration is seeking ironclad guarantees from its allies that U.S. soldiers will not be prosecuted by a new war crimes court. So far, the U.S. has not been successful in changing rules of the world’s first permanent International Criminal Court, that’s supported strongly by the European Union, Canada and many Latin American and African countries. But David Scheffer, the U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes, has submitted a new proposal he hopes will convince nations to exclude Americans from prosecution without exempting leaders or citizens from “irresponsible countries.” At issue is a new International Criminal Court to be located in The Hague, Netherlands, to prosecute individuals for the world’s most horrible crimes — genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Some 120 countries approved the court’s statutes at a conference in Rome two years ago. The United States was among seven nations that voted against.
In election news, this from Vermont, a Progressive Party gubernatorial candidate has become the first candidate eligible for public funds under the state’s tough new campaign finance law. Anthony Pollina announced yesterday that he had raised nearly $36,000 from almost 1,600 contributors. To qualify for public funding under the two-year-old law, a candidate for governor must raise more than $35,000 with contributions from a minimum of 1,500 individuals giving no more than $50.
The New Jersey Supreme Court has unanimously overturned a lower court ruling that allowed a New Jersey mall to impose an insurance requirement on groups that seek to distribute information in the mall. Lawyers for the Green Party of New Jersey argued the insurance cost was prohibitive to small groups such as the Greens. The case dates from 1996, when James Mohn, a member of the Draft Nader Committee, requested space for an information table at the mall and was told the committee would have to provide proof of insurance, which could have cost $665, and that it could leaflet only one day per year. The committee filed a suit, later pursued by the Green Party, claiming such a requirement would interfere with its First Amendment free speech rights.
With masked men and women in the audience, a Philadelphia City Council committee yesterday narrowly approved additional penalties for masked lawbreakers, in preparation for next month’s Republican convention. The measure, which still must be approved by the full council, would impose a $75 fine on masked individuals who have specific intent to cause violence or property damage. The police would determine whether the individual intended to cause violence. About a dozen protesters appearing at Philadelphia City Hall with their identities concealed by masks or bandanas warned that proponents were trying to quash free speech.
In Philadelphia, there was a break-in at the headquarters of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal. A ”COINTELPRO-style burglary” is what the group called it. They say it happened on the night of June 8, when unknown person or persons made off with important files containing financial records and lists of high-profile contacts. Other items in the office, including valuable office equipment, appear to be untouched.
According to the Transnational Resource and Action Center, after a year-long campaign by environmentalists, human rights groups, labor unions and other NGOs, a leading U.N. agency has abandoned its perilous partnership with a group of transnational corporations whose tarnished human rights, environmental and development records threatened to rub off on the world body. The U.N. Development Programme has canceled plans to create a global sustainable development facility, known as a GSDF, in partnership with about 15 corporations, that included Dow Chemical, mining giant Rio Tinto, energy conglomerate ABB and biotechnology leader Novartis.