Update — United Nations Reform

By Martin Leatherman & Newsdesk.org staff
The United Nations faces louder calls for reform as the Iraqi oil for food scandal unfolds, and is under new pressure after the failure of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty summit and the nomination of John Bolton as America’s U.N. ambassador. The $64 billion “oil for food” program was created by the U.N. after the first Gulf War to supply war-torn Iraq with food and medicine in exchange for oil. But revelations of illegal profiteering from the program have implicated a wide range of politicians and business leaders from around the world. The first casualty is at the U.N. itself. Joseph Stephanides, head of the U.N. Security Council affairs division, was dismissed for “serious misconduct” in urging that a British company win an Iraqi inspection contract, according to Agence France Presse.

Drugs, Guns & Politics

By Martin Leatherman & Newsdesk.org staff
Terrorism, political instability and the drug trade have been forged into a single problem, as narcotics take a leading economic role in nations already suffering from violence and poverty. According to the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board, Iraq is becoming a major transit country for drugs originating in Afghanistan and entering Jordan en route to Asia and Europe. The president of the U.N. board, Hamid Ghodse, said the situation in Iraq resembles other post-conflict nations, where the aftermath of war or other disasters leaves border security weakened. Similar cases include Colombia, Bolivia and Afghanistan. According to Agence France Presse, the political obstacles to Afghanistan’s war on drugs are huge.

The Labor Movement

By Martin Leatherman, Newsdesk.org
Even as income and union membership declines for America’s working class, problems of forced labor and low working standards worldwide are driving new activist movements. Many concerns are focused on the AFL-CIO, the leading federation of traditional U.S. industrial unions. John Sweeney, president of the group, is under pressure from dissidents to make huge changes in priorities, including a new emphasis on organizing over lobbying. Andrew Stern, president of the growing Service Employees International Union, is even calling for Sweeny’s removal. At its peak in the 1960s, about 30 percent of workers in the United States were unionized.

The Activist Judiciary

Martin Leatherman, Newsdesk.org

With Representative Tom DeLay calling for the dismantling and rearranging of the courts, and three contentious federal judicial nominations up for confirmation, judicial activism is again in the spotlight. The conflict has its roots in the 1803 Supreme Court case Marbury v Madison, in which Justice John Marshall established the power of judicial review for American jurists. His ruling enables the courts to overturn legislation that is deemed contrary to the Constitution, a precedent that solidified the role of the judiciary as a separate but equal entity in federal government. Now, Republican members of Congress, saying that the courts have exceeded their mandate, have begun to push for more control. According to the Associated Press, DeLay has been investigating several ways of doing this.