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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

U.N. Approves Global Arms Trade Treaty

Today the U.N. General Assembly passed the first global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). The result was decisive with 154 nations affirming the treaty and 23 abstaining. Only Syria, Iran and North Korea voted against the treaty. The ATT will legally bind any nation that ratifies the treaty to report any arms transfers and to assess whether such transfers will reach the hands of human rights and humanitarian law violators. According to Nikola Jovanovic, spokesperson and adviser to the current president of the General Assembly, any nation that does not ratify the treaty will have no legal obligations. The U.S. National Rifle Association (NRA) has vowed to fight the treaty’s ratification by the U.S. Senate. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement that the ATT should have no bearing on domestic arms sales and could not “ever infringe on the rights of American citizens under our domestic law or the Constitution, including the Second Amendment.”

Sudanese Amnesty Begins

Sudan has released the first seven political prisoners under Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir’s new amnesty. In a speech yesterday, the president said all political prisoners will be freed as his administration seeks political dialog with their opposition. This rapprochement comes after Sudan signed a border security deal with newly independent South Sudan. The woman and six men who were released today were members of the the country’s main opposition coalition and had been in prison for nearly three months. Hundreds more remain in prison across Sudan, especially in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where rebels have engaged with government forces for more than two years.

Fire in Myanmar Claims 13 Orphans

Thirteen orphans are dead after a fire consumed a dormitory in Yangon, Myanmar. Authorities report that the boys died of suffocation in the early hours of the morning, while the remaining 60 dormitory residents escaped unharmed. Police officer Thet Lwin said that the fire was “not due to any criminal activity”, but the police are questioning the school’s leader due to possible negligence. Neighbors bore witness to the inferno saying it seemed that the dormitory’s doors were locked due to heightened security concerns over recent religious violence against Muslims. More than 200 people have been killed in the predominately Buddhist nation since sectarian tensions broke into riots last June. Since the 20th of March, at least 40 have perished in violent attacks against Myanmar’s Muslim minority. 

Serbia Kosovo Talks Go Well

After over five years of uncertainty, Serbia and Kosovo have made significant headway today in normalizing relations. The chief issue the two governments are discussing is the autonomy of the 50,000 ethnic Serbs in and around the Kosovar city of Mitrovica, just south of the unofficial Serbian border. “No way will we go with the Pristina authorities,” said Tomislav Kostic, a resident of Mitrovica. “Only with the state of Serbia and that’s it.” Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbia has yet to recognize Kosovo as an independent nation. Serbia’s aspirations of entering the European Union are dependent on normalizing relations with Kosovo. The government of Kosovo hopes these talks will bring an end to uncertainties regarding the administration of the Serbo-kosovar border, trade relations, and other irregularities that have arisen from Serbian refusal to recognize Kosovo. Negotiations should conclude by tomorrow, and deal is expected by mid April.

Iran Bests U.S. in Ice Cream Record

Iranian dairy company Choopan will claim the record for the largest tub of ice cream in the Guinness Book of World Records after they completed their 11000 pound (5000 kg) tub of chocolate ice cream on Monday. Guinness officials were on hand for the Iranian effort, but would not comment citing “security reasons.” The average Iranian consumes about 3.3 pounds of ice cream each year while the average American consumes almost 22.5 pounds a year. The current record holder, Baskin-Robbins gained the record in 2005 with a tub of vanilla ice cream weighing at 8,865 pounds (4,021 kg). In a statement today, Baskin Robbins said, “While we understand another company is vying to break this record, we remain focused on serving our guests around the world our delicious variety of ice cream flavors, custom ice cream cakes and frozen treats, and wouldn’t rule out trying to break another record in the future.”

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