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Thursday, March 7, 2013

U.N. Approves New Sanctions Against North Korea

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) approved today a new set of sanctions against North Korea in response to the nuclear test it carried out last month, its third since 2006. Significantly, the resolution received the support of China, North Korea’s closest ally. China’s involvement went even further as it helped the U.S. draft the new measures, signaling to increased isolation for the totalitarian regime. “The strength, breadth and severity of these sanctions will raise the cost to North Korea of its illicit nuclear program and further constrain its ability to finance and source materials and technology for its ballistic missile, conventional and nuclear weapons programs,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said today after the vote. The measures make it more difficult for North Korea to move cash in bulk while expanding a list of items it is banned from importing, such as luxury goods, arms, and nuclear technology. Other nations are also given the power to search North Korean cargo. The efficacy of these new sanctions will depend on China’s willingness to apply them. “Now that the U.S. is set to light a fuse for a nuclear war, the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK will exercise the right to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to destroy the strongholds of the aggressors and to defend the supreme interests of the country,” North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a written statement.

Suspected War Criminal Kenyatta Ahead in Kenya Polls

Uhuru Kenyatta, the man accused of having used his fortune to pay Kenyan militias responsible for the deaths of civilians, including women and children after a disputed election in 2007, is leading in the polls as votes are being counted after this week’s presidential contest. As the country’s electoral commission said a computer glitch is responsible for multiplying the numbers of rejected votes by eight, fueling concerns over fraud, the recount began and tensions arose, raising the specter of violence and memories of a conflict that killed over 1,200 people and displaced another 600,000 in 2007. A Kenyatta win would also pose an ethical problem for the U.S., who sees Kenya as a partner in the region. Kenyatta’s running mate also faces trial for war crimes.

Brennan Confirmed as CIA Chief After Lengthy Filibuster

John Brennan was confirmed today by the Senate as the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The 63-34 vote came a day after a filibuster during which Junior Kentucky Senator Rand Paul spoke for almost 13 hours asking for more information on the White House’s targeted killing program. More specifically, he asked about whether the administration believes it would be allowed to kill an American on U.S. soil, as the white papers released to the Senate on the use of drones and other weapons abroad give no indication domestic assassinations would be excluded. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder responded today in writing. Here is the full text: “Dear Senator Paul: It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: “Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?” The answer to that question is no. Sincerely, Eric J. Holder, Jr.” Brennan was part of the escalation of drone attacks as top advisor on counter-terrorism at the White House.

Senate Panel Adopts Limited Bill on Gun Trafficking

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee backed today in an 11-7 vote President Barack Obama in the adoption of a bill that would turn the practice of illegally buying a gun for someone else a felony. The only one of the group’s eight Republicans to support the bill was Senator Charles Grassley, of Iowa, who is the panel’s highest ranking conservative lawmaker. Grassley said that he would not support a ban on assault weapons, which many say could have prevented the December 14, 2012 massacre at the elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. The committee will discuss this ban, and other measures, next week.

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