BAN THE CLUSTER BOMB

Caleb Rossiter reports: The coalition of anti-landmine advocates who helped win the 1997 treaty banning the devices, which has been signed by more than 135 countries, is now seeking to ban “submunitions”– better known as cluster bombs. These are beer-can-size fragmentation bombs spewed out of huge air- or artillery-delivered canisters to blanket an area the size of two football fields. Current US submunitions have a failure rate of about 5 percent, meaning a lot of duds are left lying around where civilians–frequently children–will explode them and be killed or injured. Some activists call for a total ban of the weapons, but at least attaching backup fuses costing $10 would reduce failure rates to 1.7 out of 1,000. The landmine activists have helped convince the major military powers to move forward on negotiations to find a technical solution, under the aegis of the UN’s Convention on Conventional Weapons. Talks could begin this December. Meanwhile, activists should demand that the Pentagon halt exports of high-failure submunitions, update its current acceptable-failure standards and replace the Air Force’s stockpile of millions of high-failure submunitions.

ISRAEL AND THE ICC

Israel’s Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein has raised fears that Israelis might be charged and indicted by the International Criminal Court after it convenes July 1. He warned a Knesset committee that the court could charge Israel Defense Forces soldiers with human rights violations in Jenin or other cities during Operation Defensive Shield. It could also indict Jewish settlers on the grounds that the settlements are illegal. Rubinstein said IDF soldiers suspected of looting or other misconduct have been charged by military courts and are thus exempt from ICC proceedings, but he was worried about the court indicting settlers.

THE HEADLINE GAP

Washington Post: “’90s Boom Had Broad Impact: 2000 Census Cites Income Growth Among Poor, Upper Middle Class”; New York Times: “Gains of 90’s Did Not Lift All, Census Shows.” Times correction of related, earlier story: “A headline yesterday about a study on income inequality misstated the number of states in which the gap between rich and poor has widened over the last two decades…. It is 44 states, not 5.”

NEWS OF THE WEAK IN REVIEW

President George W. Bush surprised Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso by asking, “Do you have blacks, too?” Condy (who’s paid to know things) rescued her boss by aptly observing that Brazil “probably has more blacks than the USA.”