1. Middle-East Peace Talks
The first peace negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli leaders got underway this summer, with the US providing mediation.
However, neither side seems to hold out much hope for the success of the talks, which have been marred by violence in the region. Four Israeli settlers were shot dead on the eve of the talks, and more recently, several lives were claimed in Gaza after an Israeli bombing raid.
The negotiations centre around the future borders of a Palestinian state, the fate of the Palestinian refugees who lost their homes in 1948, the status of Jerusalem and Israel’s security. However the continuing issue of settlement building (the construction of Israeli homes in Palestinian land) is fast becoming the main divisive issue. Palestinian leaders have threatened to walk out of the talks if the current freeze on settlement construction is not extended past the end of this month.
2. Royal Mail
Business Secretary Vince Cable has announced the Royal Mail will be privatised or sold next month. He stated that the service was in urgent need of private investment because of a lower mail volume and an ongoing pensions crisis. Unions have vowed to fight the plans, claiming that it will see Post Office closures and a potential end to the service’s ability to deliver to every address in the country.
3. Obama Announces End of Combat Operations in Iraq
Barack Obama has announced the end of American combat operations in Iraq, more than seven years after troops originally invaded the country. Obama said in a statement that rebuilding the sagging US economy was now America’s ‘central mission as a people’.
He stated that Iraq was ready to take control of its own security. Over the last seven years the war has claimed the lives of at least 100,000 Iraqi civillians and 4,400 American soldiers. Last months announcement leaves Obama in the strange position of being the first US president to end the same war as his predecessor, George Bush somewhat prematurely pronouncing the end of major combat operations in May 2003.
In related news, Amnesty International recently accused the Iraqi government of widespread torture in its prisons, where tens of thousands of people are being detained without charge.
4. UN ‘Failed’ DR Congo Rape Victims
A UN secretary reported that the UN failed 242 women and children who were raped in a single attack less than 30 km from a UN base.
The UN received an e-mail on July 30th telling them that rebels had attacked a village in the Eastern area of the Democratic Republic of Congo, but they did not report it until 10 days later. “Our actions were not adequate, resulting in the unacceptable brutalisation of villages in the area,” Atul Khare told the UN Security Council in September.
The ongoing trouble in the East of the country, born out of the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 has seen mass killing, rape and the use of child soldiers.
5. Unions Promise Joint Action To Fight Cuts
The Trade Union Congress (TUC), meeting earlier this month, has vowed to take joint action against the threat of budget cuts. Drawing on a report which said the cuts were likely to hit the poorer members of society the hardest, Union bosses promised ‘joint action’ to combat them.
The government reacted by promising to form a ‘genuine partnership’ with Unions so that they could work together to reduce the deficit.
However, Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, gave a speech however which made a future of conflict sound more likely: “Ministers must understand this: what they take apart now could take generations to rebuild. Decent public services are the glue that holds a civilised society together, and we diminish them at our peril. Cut services, put jobs at peril, and increase inequality – that is the way to make Britain a darker, brutish, more frightening place. And let no one doubt that unions and the TUC will protect and defend dedicated public service workers.”