Tiny Pacific Nation Sues 9 Nuclear-Armed Powers

(NEW YORK) — The tiny Pacific nation of the Marshall Islands is taking on the United States and the world’s eight other nuclear-armed nations with an unprecedented lawsuit demanding that they meet their obligations toward disarmament and accusing them of “flagrant violations” of international law.

The island group that was used for dozens of U.S. nuclear tests after World War II filed suit Thursday against each of the nine countries in the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands. It also filed a federal lawsuit against the United States in San Francisco, naming President Barack Obama, the departments and secretaries of defense and energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The Marshall Islands claims the nine countries are modernizing their nuclear arsenals instead of negotiating disarmament, and it estimates that they will spend $1 trillion on those arsenals over the next decade.

“I personally see it as kind of David and Goliath, except that there are no slingshots involved,” David Krieger, president of the California-based Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, told The Associated Press. He is acting as a consultant in the case. There are hopes that other countries will join the legal effort, he said.

The countries targeted also include Russia, Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea. The last four are not parties to the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but the lawsuits argue they are bound by its provisions under “customary international law.” The nonproliferation treaty, considered the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament efforts, requires negotiations among countries in good faith on disarmament.

None of the countries had been informed in advance of the lawsuits.

Spokespeople from the U.S. Embassy in the Netherlands said they could not immediately comment.

Paul Hirschson, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said he was unaware of the lawsuit, however “it doesn’t sound relevant because we are not members of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.”

“It sounds like it doesn’t have any legal legs,” he said about the lawsuit, adding that he was not a legal expert.

The Marshall Islands were the site of 67 nuclear tests by the United States over a 12-year period, with lasting health and environmental impacts.

“Our people have suffered the catastrophic and irreparable damage of these weapons, and we vow to fight so that no one else on earth will ever again experience these atrocities,” the country’s foreign minister, Tony de Brum, said in a statement announcing the lawsuits.

The country is seeking action, not compensation. It wants the courts to require that the nine nuclear-armed states meet their obligations.

“There hasn’t been a case where individual governments are saying to the nuclear states, ‘You are not complying with your disarmament obligations,” John Burroughs, executive director of the New York-based Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, part of the international pro bono legal team, told the AP. “This is a contentious case that could result in a binding judgment.”

Several Nobel Peace Prize winners are said to support the legal action, including South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Iranian-born rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi.

“We must ask why these leaders continue to break their promises and put their citizens and the world at risk of horrific devastation,” Tutu said in the statement announcing the legal action.

The Marshall Islands is asking the countries to accept the International Court of Justice’s jurisdiction in this case and explain their positions on the issue.

The court has seen cases on nuclear weapons before. In the 1970s, Australia and New Zealand took France to the court in an effort to stop its atmospheric nuclear tests in the Pacific.

The idea to challenge the nine nuclear-armed powers came out of a lunch meeting in late 2012 after the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation gave the Marshall Islands foreign minister a leadership award, Krieger said.

“I’ve known Tony long time,” he said. “We both have had a strong interest for a long time in seeing action by the nuclear weapons states.”

Frustration with the nuclear-armed states has grown in recent years as action toward disarmament appeared to stall, Burroughs and Krieger said.

“One thing I would point to is the U.S. withdrawal in 2002 from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; that cast a shadow over future disarmament movement,” Krieger said. The treaty originally had bound the U.S. and the Soviet Union. “One other thing, in 1995, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty had a review and was extended indefinitely. I think the nuclear states party to the treaty felt that once that happened, there was no longer pressure on them to fulfill their obligations.”

In 1996, the International Court of Justice said unanimously that an obligation existed to bring the disarmament negotiations to a conclusion, Burroughs said.

Instead, “progress toward disarmament has essentially been stalemated since then,” he said.

Some of the nuclear-armed countries might argue in response to these new lawsuits that they’ve been making progress in certain areas or that they support the start of negotiations toward disarmament, but the Marshall Islands government is likely to say, “Good, but not enough” or “Your actions belie your words,” Burroughs said.

The Marshall Islands foreign minister has approached other countries about filing suit as well, Krieger said. “I think there has been some interest, but I’m not sure anybody is ready.”

_____

Daniel Estrin and Toby Sterling contributed to this report from Jerusalem and Amsterdam.

TIME 100

Benedict Cumberbatch Is Everyone’s Favorite European on the TIME 100

The English actor's fans were full of support for the honoree, who was amongst high-profile Europeans such as Angela Merkel and Andy Haldane on the list

Reactions to Benedict Cumberbatch making 2014′s TIME 100 list were unambiguous: people are thrilled. There was almost unanimous agreement — particularly among Cumberbatch’s famed fanbase, who proudly call themselves “Cumberbitches” — that the English actor’s place on the list was thoroughly deserved.

Once the list was revealed Thursday, fans swiftly expressed excitement and support not only for Cumberbatch, but also for actor Colin Firth, who penned the tribute. Firth’s claim that Cumberbatch, famous for his roles in Sherlock, Star Trek: Into Darkness and 12 Years a Slave, was so talented that he “must be stopped” was greeted with mirth:

Alternately, reactions to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s inclusion were muted, judging by Twitter. Though German football player Jürgen Klinsmann wrote that Merkel was “firm, measured and agreeable” and that her leadership saw Germany through both the 2006 World Cup and the European financial crisis, few social media users appeared to share his enthusiasm.

Yet another European garnered some high-profile support for his inclusion on the list: Andy Haldane, the Executive Director of Financial Stability at the Bank of England, was praised by his fellow nominee Anat Admati who enthusiastically tweeted:

White House

Watch: Obama Meets ‘Scary’ Humanoid Robot In Japan

+ READ ARTICLE

On the second day of his visit to Japan Thursday, President Barack Obama toured the country’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation where he came face to face with the tiny Honda-built humanoid robot ASIMO.

“It’s nice to meet you,” the robot said in a metallic voice, welcoming Obama to the facility. It then proceeded to run around and kick a soccer ball at the commander-in-chief, who deftly stopped it.

But the experience left Obama spooked. He later quipped, “I have to say that the robots were a little scary, they were too lifelike,” he said. “They were amazing.”

Israel

Israel Halts Peace Talks After Palestinian Unity Deal

The Israeli response, which acts on earlier threats, may mean the end of U.S.-backed peace talks.

Israel’s security cabinet unanimously decided to halt peace talks with the Palestinians a day after Hamas and its rival faction Fatah agreed to a unity deal, the Associated Press reports.

The decision could bring the end of a nine-month peace effort backed by the U.S.. Those talks were set to end April 29, though negotiators have been trying to extend them.

The rival Palestinian political factions announced their reconciliation deal Wednesday. Their deal came seven years after the two factions violently split, with Hamas retaining control of the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority ruling in the West Bank.

[AP]

Africa

Twitter Reacts to Honorees From Africa on 2014 TIME 100

Religious leaders, philanthropists and activists in Africa were among the individuals honored

A mixture of praise and criticism was voiced on Twitter when news broke of the Africans included in the TIME 100 list of the most influential people in the world Thursday.

Most comments surrounding the inclusion of South African human rights lawyer Thuli Madonsela were filled with praise:

Yet some complained that Madonsela was the only one from her country to make the cut:

Others pointed out the irony of the tribute to her being penned by the apparently disgraced Nigerian bank governor Lamido Sanusi:

The South African news agency SA Breaking News and other supporters on Twitter quoted Madonsela’s statement saying she was “humbled” to have been included:

Twitter users also heaped praise on Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who was included in the list along with her fellow countryman, the business magnate Aliko Dangote, whose profile was written by U.S. philanthropist Bill Gates

The Kenyan lawyer, blogger and activist Ory Okolloh sent out a brief message of thanks in Swahili to TIME on her Twitter feed for her inclusion in the list:

Others tweeted their thanks to the American author and pastor Jim Wallis for penning tributes to the religious leaders Imam Omar Kobine Layama, Archbishop Dieudonne Nzapalainga and the Rev. Nicolas Guerekoyame-Gbangou. The men were involved in peace-making efforts in the war-torn Central African Republic, and Wallis was applauded for drawing attention to the contributions of the country’s faith leaders:

 

russia

Putin: The Internet Is a ‘CIA Project’

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to the journalists after a nationally televised question-and-answer session on April 17, 2014 in Moscow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to the journalists after a nationally televised question-and-answer session on April 17, 2014 in Moscow. Dmitry Azarov—Kommersant Photo/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin calls for his country to protect and "fight for its interests" on the Internet just days after telling former NSA contractor Edward Snowen that Russia doesn't intercept its citizens' data

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday at a media forum in St. Petersburg that the Internet is a “CIA project” that is “still developing as such,” the Associated Press reports.

Putin called for Russia to “fight for its interests” online amid an ongoing effort by the Kremlin to gain a larger grip on the Internet, according to the AP. A law passed by the Russian parliament earlier this week requires that social media websites keep their servers in Russia and save all information about their users for at least half a year.

Putin’s statements come days after he told former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that Russia does not intercept citizens’ data en masse during a live broadcast. Snowden, living in asylum in Russia, drew criticism for asking Putin a question some regarded as an easy set-up for Putin.

[AP]

Israel

Israel Halts Peace Talks With Palestinians

(JERUSALEM) — The Israeli government says it has decided to halt peace talks with the Palestinians in response to a new unity agreement between rival Palestinian factions.

The decision appears to end a nine-month peace initiative by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The negotiating period is scheduled to end next Tuesday, though the sides had been trying to agree to an extension.

Israel’s Security Cabinet unanimously decided to cut off contacts after a five-hour meeting Thursday. They announced the decision in a statement sent to journalists.

Israel is furious over Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to form a unity government with the rival Hamas movement after a seven-year rift.

Israel and the West consider Hamas a terrorist group.

Turkey

Turkey Reaction To Gul on TIME 100 Notes Absence of Erdogan

Turkey's controversial Prime Minister is more used to the spotlight than his ally and rival, President Abdullah Gul

First reactions in Turkey to the inclusion of President Abdullah Gul on the 2014 TIME 100 list of the world’s most influential people took note of the absence of Prime Minister Recept Tayyip Erdogan, the country’s most powerful political figure, from the list. “TIME 100: Gul is there, Erdogan Isn’t,” read the headline on the Hurriyet news site. Said the daily Vatan: “Flash! Gul is on the list, Erdogan doesn’t exist!”

Twitter – the social media site that Erdogan ordered shut down in Turkey after it posted links to apparently incriminating corruption wiretaps — echoed with skepticism of the choice: “JOKE OF THE DAY: Turkish President Gul in Time’s “The most influential people in the world” list..:) :)@TIME > Influential for what??” wrote @GayeAkarca

“Is he even influential in Turkey? Discuss,” quipped Bloomberg’s Turkey bureau chief, Benjamin Harvey @benjaminharvey.

In a mainstream media largely intimidated by Erdogan’s heavyhanded attentions, most early reports cited what novelist Elif Shafak had written on Gul without further comment. Gul has tacked his own course through the controversies that have erupted around Erdogan over the past year. The two men were among the founders of the moderately Islamist Justice and Development Party that has dominated Turkish politics for almost a dozen years, but Erdogan has strongly signaled his interest in running for the president’s office that Gul now holds.

For his part, Gul has largely refrained from being drawn on the subject, except to signal his reluctance to leave the office in order to take Erdogan’s place as prime minister.

Ukraine

Clashes in Eastern Ukraine Kill Up to 5 Separatists

The clashes, the first since the Ukrainian president ordered the resumption of operations against the rebels, raise concerns of a Russian intervention.

Up to five pro-Russian separatists were killed in an operation against rebels in eastern Ukraine, Ukraine’s Internior Ministry said Thursday.

A Ministry statement said that “up to five terrorists were eliminated” as Ukrainian forces removed three rebel checkpoints in the separatist-held city of Slavyansk, Reuters reports. The statement said one member of the government’s forces was wounded in the fighting.

However, a rebel spokesperson said earlier that only two fighters were killed in the clashes.

The deaths are the first since interim Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov ordered Tuesday the resumption of operations against separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened unspecified consequences as the result of those renewed operations. Russian soldiers amassed on the Ukrainian border conducted military exercises Thursday.

International parties agreed last week to a joint roadmap to ease tensions in eastern Ukraine. However, pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine have so far defied the agreement’s stipulation that they disarm. U.S. President Barack Obama said Thursday Russia was failing to live up to “the spirit or the letter” of the agreement.

[Reuters]

VIDEO: Obama Met a Robot on His Tokyo Trip

The revolution has begun

+ READ ARTICLE

It’s finally happened: The President has gone head-to-head with a robot.

President Barack Obama played soccer against a ASIMO, a very lifelike robot created by Honda, at the Natural Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo on Thursday.

Despite sharing some friendly conversation and bowing to one other out of respect, Obama later confessed to the Associated Press that “the robots were a little scary. They were too life-like.”

MORE: Smooth Moves: The History and Evolution of Honda’s ASIMO Robot

 

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