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Resources updated Wednesday, April 19, 2017

April 19, 2017

The United Nations Economic and Social Council (File photo)

Today the UN held elections for positions on some of its top bodies and the result goes a long way in explaining why the organization does not and cannot keep the promises it made when created more than seven decades ago. Saudi Arabia was elected to protect women, Sudan to protect children, and Russia to prevent crime. The elections took place on April 19, 2017 at UN Headquarters. The selection was done by the 54 UN member states of the UN's Economic and Social Council.

The election results included:

  • The UN Commission on the Status of Women: Saudi Arabia (leading practitioner of gender apartheid)
  • The UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice: Afghanistan, China, and Russia (world leaders in the absence of the rule of law and lack of an independent judiciary)
  • The UN Intergovernmental Working Group of Experts on International Standards of Accounting and Reporting: Belarus and Russia (states infamous for a lack of accountability)
  • The Executive Board of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF): Sudan (whose President is a fugitive charged with crimes against humanity and genocide perpetrated against, among others, the children of Sudan).
  • The UN International Narcotics Control Board: Afghanistan (uncontrolled narcotics capital, world's largest producer of opium found in 90% of heroin worldwide)

UN elects Saudi Arabia to its top women's rights body Article

Venezuelans cowering from the pro-government forces

Two people were shot dead as opponents of President Nicolas Maduro flooded the streets of Caracas and other Venezuelan cities Wednesday, battling security forces in what's been dubbed the "mother of all marches" against the embattled socialist leader.

Tens of thousands of protesters made an unsuccessful attempt to march to downtown Caracas as security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd. Dozens even had to slide down a concrete embankment and into the Guaire River to escape the noxious fumes.

Carlos Romero, just three days away from his 18th birthday, was walking to play soccer with friends when he bumped into pro-government militias stalking a pocket of protesters, family spokesman Melvin Sojo told The Associated Press, based on the accounts of two people who rushed Romero to the hospital after he was hit by gunfire.

"This was supposed to be a happy moment but instead I came home to see my brother die," said Sojo, who grew up in the Romero home and returned Tuesday from Ecuador, where he had been living the past year.

There was no immediate confirmation that the militias shot the boy, and some government officials cast doubt on the account, saying Romero was killed during an attempted assault.

In the western city of San Cristobal, a 23-year-old woman identified as Paola Ramirez was shot dead by similar groups, according to Mayor Patricia Gutierrez, who said the groups circled demonstrators on motorcycles as they were heading home from the demonstration.

The two killings bring to seven the death toll since protests began three weeks ago over the Supreme Court's decision to strip the opposition-controlled congress of its last remaining powers, a move that was later reversed but not before enraging the opposition and causing a storm of international criticism. The charges that Venezuela is moving toward a full-blown dictatorship come against the backdrop of an ever-deepening economic crisis.

As night fell, a few thousand people were still gathered in a plaza in wealthy eastern Caracas as residents in nearby buildings banged pots and pans in a show of support. A group of youths with their faces covered tore down street signs and billboards for makeshift barricades. They then launched rocks and Molotov cocktails against lines of police and national guardsmen who responded with tear gas in cat-and-mouse skirmishes likely to last deep into the night.

The Supreme Court's decision energized Venezuela's fractious opposition, which had been struggling to channel growing disgust with Maduro over widespread food shortages, triple-digit inflation and rampant crime. They've called for another day of protests Thursday.

"We'll see each other tomorrow at the same place and same time because our fight for democracy doesn't end," former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, who the government last week barred from running for public office, said at an evening press conference to announce the opposition's next steps.

Opponents are now pushing for Maduro's removal through early elections and the release of scores of political prisoners. The government last year abruptly postponed regional elections the opposition was heavily favored to win and cut off a petition drive to force a referendum seeking Maduro's removal before elections late next year.

Maduro, addressing supporters at a larger countermarch, seemed open to some sort of electoral showdown. He said he was "anxious" to see elections take place sometime "soon" and repeated his call for dialogue, saying he had a proposal he wanted to make the opposition.

"Today they attempted to take power by force and we defeated them again," said Maduro.

Opposition marchers included Liliana Machuca, who earns about $20 a month holding two jobs teaching literature. Although she doesn't expect change overnight, she said protesting is the only option the opposition has after what she says are scores of abuses committed by the government.

"This is like a chess game and each side is moving whatever pieces they can," said Machuca, her face covered in a white, sticky substance to protect herself from the noxious effects of tear gas. "We'll see who tires out first."

A short block away, a sea of red-shirted government supporters marched by calmly, some dancing to a salsa band that tried to provide an air of normalcy to the otherwise tense political standoff that has paralyzed Venezuela the past few weeks.

Many were state workers like Leidy Marquez, who was bused in from Tachira state, on the other side of the country, along with co-workers at state-run oil giant PDVSA.

"The opposition is trying to provoke a conflict but they aren't going to achieve their goal," said Marquez, wearing a shirt emblazoned with the eyes of the late Hugo Chavez, a symbol of revolutionary zeal in Venezuela.

The government has responded to the near-daily protests with its own show of force: jailing hundreds of demonstrators, barring Capriles from running for office and standing by as pro-government groups violently attack opposition members of congress.

The president also signed orders on TV late Tuesday activating the "green phase" of enigmatic military plans to defend Venezuela against what he describes as U.S.-backed attempts to sow chaos and overthrow him. He also said authorities in recent hours had rounded up unnamed members of an underground cell of conspirators at Caracas hotels, including some who were allegedly planning to stir up violence at the march.

Maduro didn't provide evidence to back his claim that a coup attempt was underway, and the opposition rejected his comments as a desperate attempt to intimidate Venezuelans from exercising their constitutional right to protest.

"We're convinced the country knows who the true coup mongers are and it's against them we will march," the opposition said in a Tuesday late-night statement.

Foreign governments are also warning about the increasingly bellicose rhetoric and repressive stance of the government.

Maduro this week said he was dramatically expanding civilian militias created by Chavez and giving each member a gun. There's also criticism that the government isn't doing enough to restrain the collectives - motorcycle-driving militants - that have operated like shock troops firing on protesters as security forces stand by.

"We're a peaceful people, but we're also armed," Energy Minister Luis Motta Dominguez told state workers gathering for Wednesday's rally.

The U.S. State Department said those who commit human rights abuses and undermine Venezuela's democratic institutions would be held accountable.

"We are concerned that the government of Maduro is violating its own constitution and is not allowing the opposition to have their voices heard, nor allowing them to organize in ways that expresses the views of the Venezuelan people," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters Wednesday.

2 killed amid massive anti-government marches in Venezuela Document

Scene of Palestinian car-ramming terrorist attack

A 60-year-old Israeli lightly injured his head in a vehicular terror attack at a bus stop the Gush Etzion junction on Wednesday evening.

Security forces at the scene fatally shot the Palestinian driver who had rammed a grey-four door hatchback into the back of a bus. 

A photo of the car showed a glass window shattered from the impact and a knife in the car's coffee holder. The IDF confirmed that a knife had been found in the vehicle.

Magen David paramedic Shmuel Daniel said upon arrival he saw the victim on the ground "conscious" but "confused."  Witnesses described how he had been hit as he stood behind the bus, Daniel said.

Magen David Adom transported both the Israeli civilian and the terrorist to the Sha'are Medical Center emergency room.

The hospital spokeswoman said that doctors were unable to save the driver's life and pronounced him dead shortly after his arrival. 

According to Ma'an News Agency the driver was Suhaib Moussa Mashour Mashahra, 21, from the village of al-Sawahira outside of Jerusalem.

The Gush Etzion spokesperson said the incident marks the second such attack at the junction in the last month.

It follows two fatal attacks in April. One in which a British tourist was stabbed to death on the Jerusalem Light Rail Hannah Bladon.  In the second Sgt. Elchai Teharlev was killed in a car ramming attack while guarding a bus stop outside of the Ofra settlement.

The Gush Etzion junction has been a site of frequent attacks since the wave of terror started in September 2015. 

Gush Etzion Regional Council head said that the attack was one more attempt by terrorist to subdue Israeli, but "they should understand that this just strengthens us."

He called on the government to respond by authorizing more building in Judea and Samaria so that the terrorists would know that there was a price for such actions.

According to the Foreign Ministry, since September 13, 2015, Palestinian assailants have carried out 1754 stabbing attacks and 113 attempted stabbings; 143 shootings; 58 vehicular (ramming) attacks; and one vehicular (bus) bombing.

Forty-eight people were killed in these attack and 713 were injured, including 4 Palestinians.

One more Palestinian vehicular terror attack - rams car into bus, injuring One Israeli Document

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley at the Security Council (File photo)

This month the United States holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council and took the opportunity on April 18, 2017 to convene an unusual meeting on the topic of human rights. The Security Council usually shies away from talking about human rights under the premise that the Human Rights Council is doing a fine job and their mandate to protect peace and security is only tangentially related to protecting human rights. Despite earlier indications that agreement to hold the meeting was conditioned on there being no finger pointing - a conversation about human rights violations with no human rights violators - U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley called out Syria, Burundi, North Korea, Burma, Iran, and Cuba in her statement, and a few other countries named a few perpetrators: the United Kingdom named Syria and South Sudan, France called out Syria, and Ukraine named Russia.

Haley also took the opportunity to take a swipe at the U.N.'s long and dismal record on human rights, pointing to the infamous "Zionism is Racism" resolution.

In Amb. Haley's words:

"Thirty years ago, my predecessor, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, made the case that human rights have a special place in foreign policy. It had been just two years since the General Assembly passed its outrageous resolution equating Zionism with racism. Moynihan thought tolerance and compassion could use a win at the UN, and as usual, he was right...Consider North Korea. Systematic human rights violations help underwrite the country's nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The government forces many of its citizens, including political prisoners, to work in life-threatening conditions in coal mines and other dangerous industries to finance the regime's military...Now consider Syria. In 2011, a group of 12 to 15 year-old teenage boys spray-painted a message on the wall of their school: "The people want the fall of the regime." For this, the Syrian regime arrested them. These children were brutally beaten, had their fingernails ripped out by grown men in government prisons, and tortured before they were returned to their parents. The outrage spawned more protests and more crackdowns, and the cycle repeated until the situation turned into a full-fledged war. And not just any war, but a war that has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees...We've seen numerous instances where the Burundian government services use torture to crack down on protesters...We continue to watch Burma, where the security forces have allegedly conducted episodes of violence and repression against ethnic Rohingya, who already face widespread ethnic and religious discrimination from governmental authorities and popular social movements...The next international crisis could very well come from places in which human rights are widely disregarded. Perhaps it will be North Korea or Iran or Cuba..."

UN Security Council talks about human rights Development

Naim Mehmeti, whose daughter died from lead poisoning before she was five

Roma Sickened in U.N. Camps Are Still Waiting for Redress Article

The monastery attacked by ISIS, April 19, 2017

ISIS-Claimed Attack Near Sinai Monastery Kills One, Injures Four Document