President Bush has nominated John Bolton to become the next ambassador to the United Nations. Bolton most recently served as undersecretary of state for arms control. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice made the announcement Monday. "The President and I have asked John to do this work because he knows how to get things done," Rice said. "He is a tough-minded diplomat, he has a strong record of success, and he has a proven track record of effective multi-lateralism."
But Bolton’s nomination stunned many in Washington and at the United Nations because he has been one of the Bush administration’s fiercest critics of the United Nations. In 1994 he said '’if the UN secretariat building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference.'’ He has also called for the US to stop paying dues to the United Nations. On Monday, Bolton said this is now a time for the UN to achieve reform. "I have consistently stressed in my writings that American leadership is critical to the success of the UN–an effective UN. One that is true to its original intent of its charters framers," Bolton said. "This is a time of opportunity for the UN, which likewise requires American leadership to achieve successful reform. " According to journalist Jim Lobe, who has closely monitored the rise of the neoconservatives in Washington, Bolton was widely considered the most unilateralist and least diplomatic of senior U.S. officials during Bush's first term. He has repeatedly opposed major global treaties including the anti-ballistic missile treaty and the formation of the International Criminal Court. He described Bush’s decision to pull its support for the court as "the happiest moment of my government service." More recently Bolton unsuccessfully led a campaign to oust Mohamed ElBaradei from his post as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, because he has not ruled Iran in violation of its international obligations. The Guardian of London reports Bolton’s nomination may signal that the US intends to push Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons ambitions to the top of the security council’s agenda.
In Italy, the country’s foreign minister has demanded the Bush administration identify and punish those responsible for the killing of an Italian intelligence agent in Iraq. Last Friday, U.S. soldiers in Iraq shot at the car carrying Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena who had just been released after two months in captivity. Italian intelligence agent Nicola Calipari was killed as he tried to protect Sgrena from the bullets. Sgrena was wounded in the shoulder in the attack. Sgrena has said the U.S. likely targeted the car. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said such an idea is "absurd." Earlier today Italy’s foreign minister said he didn’t believe the attack was deliberate but said Washington and Rome have "different" versions of what happened.
In other news, protests and celebrations have been taking place around the world in recent days to mark International Women’s Day. In Brazil, some 30,000 women are expected to gather in Sao Paulo today to mark the start of a seven-month global march to call for a global charter for equal rights for women. The world tour is scheduled to pass through over 50 countries between now in October when it will end in the African country of Burkina Faso. In Istanbul Turkey on Sunday, thousands of women were peacefully demonstrating when police in riot gear charged the crowd. Women were beaten and sprayed with tear gas. One police officer beat a woman to the ground with his baton, then another officer ran up and kicked her in the face. Police arrested 59 women for taking part in the unpermitted rally. In Nepal, a jailed women’s leader has been able to smuggle a message out to her followers calling on them to stage protests on this International Women’s Day against the Nepalese king who recently seized complete power. Meena Pandey, President of Nepal Women’s Association, said, "I call upon all Nepalese women to celebrate the occasion by raising strong voice against the authoritarian rule." In Kuwait, hundreds of women demonstrated Monday outside the Kuwaiti parliament demanding the right to vote and to be able to stand for political office.
On Capitol Hill, the Senate has rejected two different measures Monday that would have raised the minimum wage for the first time since 1996. The Republicans had put forward a bill to raise the hourly minimum wage from $5.15 (five dollars and fifteen center) to $6.25 (six dollars and twenty-five cents) over the next 18 months. The Democrats wanted to raise it to $7.25 (seven dollars and twenty-five cents) over the next 26 months. Meanwhile the Senate is preparing to vote on new legislation that would overhaul the nation’s bankruptcy laws. The changes have been sought for over a decade by the banking and credit card industries.
In business news, Robert Allbritton has resigned as chief executive and chairman of Riggs bank. Last week the bank announced it would set up an $8 million fund for the victims of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet who used the bank to covertly transfer millions at a time when he was under investigation for war crimes. Last year the bank was forced to pay $25 million in penalties for violating money-laundering laws in dealing with the embassies of Saudi Arabia and Equatorial Guinea.
In China, a new law has been introduced that will allow the Chinese military to use force against Taiwan if the island formally declares independence. Taiwanese lawmakers criticized the proposed anti-secession legislation, saying it was a pretext for attack.
In news from the Dominican Republic, 134 prisoners have died in one of Latin America’s deadliest prison fires in history. The cellblock where the fire broke out was so overcrowded that inmates were sleeping on top of toilets. About 180 inmates were living in a cellblock designed for 25 people. According to the United Nations, the Dominican Republic has the most overcrowded jails in the Western Hemisphere and that the site of the fire is the most crowded jail in the country. A representative of the Dominican National Human Rights Commission said of the prison, "It is hell on earth. It is unfit for human beings." The government has said the fire broke out during a fight among prisoners.
In environmental news, police in Oregon have arrested 10 activists as they attempted to stop the logging of an old-growth forest reserve that was burned in a 2002 fire.
In New York, the trial of a New York police officer who shot dead an unarmed African immigrant two years ago has ended in a jury deadlock. A new trial will now be held to determine if Officer Bryan Conroy committed manslaughter when he killed the unarmed Ousmane Zongo in a Manhattan warehouse in May 2003.
And a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist has resigned from Newsday and has ripped the paper’s parent company, the Tribune Company, for putting profit over quality journalism. The journalist, Laurie Garrett, sent her colleagues a blistering memo announcing that she is going to work full time at the Council on Foreign Relations. Garret wrote "All across America news organizations have been devoured by massive corporations —-— and allegiance to stockholders, the drive for higher share prices, and push for larger dividend returns trumps everything that the grunts in the newsrooms consider their missions." She went on to write, "This is terrible for democracy. I have been in 47 states of the USA since 9/11, and I can attest to the horrible impact the deterioration of journalism has had on the national psyche. I have found America a place of great and confused fearfulness." Garrett continues, "It would be easy to descend into despair, not only about the state of journalism, but the future of American democracy. But giving up is not an option. There is too much at stake."
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