In Brief | Nation & World, 09-02-14


UN rights council launches investigation into Islamic State group’s alleged crimes

GENEVA — The U.N.’s top human rights body on Monday overwhelmingly approved the Iraqi government’s request for an investigation into alleged crimes against civilians committed by the Islamic State group in its rampage across northeastern Syria and parts of Iraq.

Diplomats agreed by unanimous consent to approve a nearly $1.2 million U.N. fact-finding mission at a daylong special session of the 47-nation Human Rights Council about Iraq and the extremist group.

Iraq’s request for the U.N. to investigate alleged abuses by the IS was included in a resolution that more broadly condemns the group’s severe tactics but also calls on Iraq’s government to protect human rights.

Its aim is to provide the Geneva-based council with a report and evidence next March that could shed further light on Iraqi atrocities and be used as part of any international war crimes prosecution.

The session Monday focused on the threat posed by the militants, who have seized cities, towns and vast tracts of land and carried out a number of massacres and beheadings.

American tourists detained in North Korea expect trial soon; Bae says health deteriorating

PYONGYANG, North Korea — North Korea gave foreign media access on Monday to three detained Americans who said they have been able to contact their families and — watched by officials as they spoke — called for Washington to send a high-ranking representative to negotiate for their freedom.

Jeffrey Fowle and Mathew Miller said they expect to face trial within a month. But they said they do not know what punishment they could face or what the specific charges against them are. Kenneth Bae, who already is serving a 15-year term, said his health has deteriorated at the labor camp where he works eight hours a day.

The three were allowed to speak briefly with The Associated Press at a meeting center in Pyongyang. North Korean officials were present during the interviews, conducted separately and in different rooms, but did not censor the questions that were asked. The three said they did not know they were going to be interviewed until immediately beforehand.

All said they believe the only solution to their situation is for a U.S. representative to come to North Korea to make a direct appeal.

Cuba cracks down on multi-billion dollar flow of consumer goods in luggage

HAVANA — Lugging duffel bags crammed with soap, socks, toys and other hard-to-obtain consumer goods, travelers arriving in Cuba on Monday complained that new government restrictions on their imports would leave their families wanting.

Passengers on flights from Miami said they were bringing in far less than usual thanks to higher customs duties and stricter limits on the number of products allowed under rules that went into effect Monday.

At Havana’s international airport, there appeared to be fewer bicycles, 40-inch televisions or other bulky household items that normally made the baggage carousels look like a Target or Wal-Mart checkout line during a holiday sale.

“There are barely any bags on the floor inside,” said Arnaldo Roa, a 45-year-old Miami handyman on a trip to see relatives. While he had a bag stuffed with toys and clothes for his daughter, he said he wasn’t able to bring his usual extra bags filled with gifts for other family members.

“I’m upset,” he said. “Some relatives are going to get upset because normally I bring them things.”

Obama vows to stay on the case for minimum wage boost, with economy ‘revving’

MILWAUKEE — President Barack Obama renewed his push for Congress to raise the minimum wage Monday in a buoyant accounting of the economy’s “revving” performance, delivered on behalf of Democrats opening their fall campaigns for the midterm congressional elections.

“America deserves a raise,” he told a union crowd in Milwaukee, vowing to keep a hard sell on Congress in much the way he once courted his wife. “I just wore her down,” he cracked.

Timing his push to Labor Day, the traditional start of the autumn campaign, Obama aggressively drew attention to recent economic gains, setting aside past caution on that subject.

“By almost every measure the American economy and American workers are better off than when I took office,” he said, rattling off a string of improving economic indicators even while acknowledging not all people are benefiting. “The engines,” he said, “are revving a little louder.”

By wire sources