- - Tuesday, November 8, 2011

UNITED NATIONS

Report: No consensus on Palestinian bid

There is no consensus among the 15 Security Council nations on the Palestinian application for U.N. membership, diplomats said Tuesday, citing a draft report summing up members’ views.

The four-page report says the council is divided among those who support Palestinian membership, those who can’t support it now and therefore would abstain, and those who believe the application doesn’t meet the criteria for membership and oppose it, according to diplomats.

Portugal’s U.N. Ambassador Jose Filipe Moraes Cabral, the current council president, sent the draft report to all 15 council nations Tuesday, diplomats said on condition of anonymity because the consultations are private.

Council members were given until late Wednesday to propose any changes.

The admissions committee is scheduled to meet Friday, and diplomats said it will likely approve the report and send it to the Security Council.

Diplomats said one of the Palestinian supporters on the council, most likely Lebanon or South Africa, would then have to submit a resolution recommending Palestinian membership to be put to a vote in the council.

THAILAND

Flood-plagued leader cancels trip to summit

BANGKOK — Thailand’s prime minister canceled plans to attend a Pacific trade forum in Hawaii this weekend as she struggled to cope with her country’s worst flooding in a half century.

The flooding began in late July and has killed 527 people, mostly by drowning.

Some provinces north of Bangkok have been inundated for more than a month, although floodwaters there have started to recede in recent days as massive pools of runoff flow south.

The water has made its way into Bangkok, causing distress among the capital’s nearly 10 million inhabitants and heightening criticism of the government’s inefficiency in battling the problem.

“Now it’s time for all Thai people to help each other, so I’ve informed [the forum host] that I would not go,” Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said Tuesday.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, hosted by President Obama, will bring together 21 leaders, including Chinese President Hu Jintao.

VATICAN CITY

Vatican, biotech firm host stem cell meeting

The Vatican has entered into an unusual partnership with a small U.S. biotech company to promote using adult stem cells for treating disease, rather than focusing research on embryonic stem cells.

The Vatican’s culture office and NeoStem Inc. on Tuesday provided details for this week’s conference at the Vatican on adult stem cells, which will draw scientists, patients, biotech CEOs and cardinals together.

Church teaching holds that life begins at conception. As a result, the Vatican opposes embryonic stem cell research because embryos are destroyed in the process.

The conference and partnership with New York-based NeoStem is part of the Vatican’s recent $1 million, five-year initiative to promote adult stem cell therapies and research, and in the process shift popular attention away from embryonic research.

Transplants of adult stem cells have become a standard lifesaving therapy for people with leukemia, lymphoma and other blood diseases; they also are being studied in people who suffer from multiple sclerosis, heart attacks and diabetes.

The more controversial embryonic cells may be used someday to grow replacement tissue for diseases including Parkinson’s and diabetes, but that is a future prospect.

HAITI

Group demands U.N. pay for cholera outbreak

PORT-AU-PRINCE — A human rights group said Tuesday that it has filed claims with the United Nations seeking damages on behalf of more than 5,000 Haitian cholera victims and their families.

The claims filed by the Boston-based Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti argue that the U.N. and its peacekeeping force are liable for hundreds of millions of dollars for failing to adequately screen peacekeeping soldiers.

They say the infected soldiers caused the outbreak when untreated waste from a U.N. base was dumped into a tributary of Haiti’s most important river.

“The sickness, death and ongoing harm from cholera suffered by Haiti’s citizens are a product of the U.N.’s multiple failures,” the complaint reads. “These failures constitute negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, and deliberate indifference for the lives of Haitians.”

Cholera has sickened nearly 500,000 people and killed more than 6,500 others since it surfaced in Haiti in October 2010, according to the Haitian Health Ministry.

Evidence suggests that the disease was brought to Haiti by a U.N. battalion from Nepal, where cholera is endemic, and spread throughout the country after a local contractor failed to properly sanitize a U.N. base.

From wire dispatches and staff reports