Dissidents on the run in military-ruled Myanmar called on the U.N. Security Council on Oct. 17 to impose a blanket arms and investment ban on the junta to try to force it towards democratic reform. Reuters reports that in a letter written from hiding to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, three members of the “88 Generation Students Group” said the generals were duping the international community into thinking they were serious about relaxing their grip.

Five countries have secured terms as non-permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. Libya, Vietnam, Burkina Faso were elected to the U.N.’s top body unopposed, in a U.N. general assembly secret ballot. Croatia and Costa Rica won seats after their respective rivals, Czech Republic and Dominican Republic, withdrew. Libya and Burkina Faso were endorsed by the African group and faced no opposition. Vietnam ran unopposed, with endorsement from the Asian grouping. Croatia and Costa Rica failed to secure a two-thirds majority of votes in the first two rounds of voting. They won their posts after their rivals pulled out in the third round.

More African children are getting insecticide-treated bed nets in their homes, and more are being treated for malaria, U.N. and children’s health experts said in a report released on Oct. 17. Reuters reports they said it was the best news in decades about malaria, but said nets still were distributed only in a few countries and many people at risk weren’t getting the best treatment for the mosquito-borne disease, which kills an estimated 1 million people a year.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the U.S. Library of Congress signed a pact Oct. 17 paving the way for the creation of a World Digital Library which will digitize rare materials from libraries and other cultural institutions globally and make them available free on the Internet. Manuscripts, maps, books, musical scores, sound recordings, films, prints and photographs will all be available online thanks to the agreement signed at UNESCO’s Paris Headquarters.

The European Commission initiated legal action on Oct. 17 against Britain, France, Italy, Spain and Slovenia for excessive levels of sulphur dioxide (SO2), a pollutant that can cause breathing difficulties and affect cardiovascular health. The EC also said it was asking 23 national governments to submit information on how they would bring down high levels of polluting air particles, called PM10, to EU-approved standards. (Reuters)

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa said on Oct. 17 he would call for a meeting of Arab foreign ministers to prepare for a Middle East peace conference in the United States expected by the end of the year. Hesham Youssef, Moussa’s chief of staff, told Reuters the meeting would either be limited to foreign ministers on the League’s working group on peace, or else would bring together the entire council of foreign ministers. State news agency MENA quoted Moussa as saying he had notified Arab ambassadors to the League.

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