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Could Rebel Fighting Possibly Be Good for Gorillas?

In the Year of the Gorilla, and amidst a consistent panoply of violence, comes this bit of surprising good news:
The population of mountain gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Virunga National Park has risen by 12.5%, a census shows.
Rebels have had control of the park for a over a year, and the first census taken since then shows an increase in their population? This is either an anomaly, or it belies the convention intuition that having a huge protected forest in the hands of murderous rebels probably does not bode well for primates. That, or some entirely different explanation that has more to do with gorilla demographics than I'd care to know. With only the first two options available, I'd say a little bit of both. Not to disparage the benefits provided by the gorillas' caretakers -- the deplorable attacks against whom, one could reasonably wager, have been a destabilizing factor with regard to the area's gorilla population (and they have a blog, so there's no way I could disparage them) -- but rebel presence in the enormous Virunga National Park may not have affected gorillas as much as is typically assumed. Over 3,000 square miles. a couple hundred gorillas are not too likely to get hit by a stray bullet. Really, though, the relative well-being of the region's gorillas should just provide further reason to the, shall we say, morally eerie logic of bemoaning gorilla deaths when many, many more human beings are being raped and killed. May the Year of the Gorilla continue successfully, but may the Year of Peace in Eastern Congo flourish at least equally.
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Effects of Climate Change Inevitable, So Our Response Should Be Too

An item in today's Washington Post rams home the disastrous inevitability of the massive effects of global warming.
Greenhouse gas levels currently expected by mid-century will produce devastating long-term droughts and a sea-level rise that will persist for 1,000 years regardless of how well the world curbs future emissions of carbon dioxide, an international team of scientists reported yesterday.
This lede is somewhat deceptive, however -- not for the immensity of the crisis that it forecasts, but for the subtle implication that inaction will be as effective as action in preparing for these devastating global changes. The scientists' findings are a warning cry, certainly: carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere longer than other greenhouse gases, and is "more like nuclear waste than acid rain," they caution. But the study also emphasizes the importance of not delaying in halting our current carbon emissions, lest the sea rises of the future be even higher, the droughts more pronounced, and the repercussions of our fecklessness even more deadly. The money quote, from the study's senior scientist: "The more time that we take to make decisions about carbon dioxide, the more irreversible climate change we'll be locked into." So there's irreversible, and then there's irreversible. If President Obama's early sign of support for a California emissions regulation that his predecessor subverted is any indication, then he understands the imperative of immediate U.S. leadership in the fight against climate change. And with Al Gore testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the subject tomorrow, Congress does not seem to be waiting to take action either. Without such initiative, those iconic emperor penguins of the Antarctic, according to the scientists, will go marching right into extinction within the next century.
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Obama’s Al Arabiya Interview

There is lots to parse from this brief, nine minute interview. What stands out to me is how firmly President Obama rejects the "War on Terror" paradigm that we have become so used to here in the United States.
Q: President Bush framed the war on terror conceptually in a way that was very broad, "war on terror," and used sometimes certain terminology that the many people -- Islamic fascism. You've always framed it in a different way, specifically against one group called al Qaeda and their collaborators. And is this one way of -- THE PRESIDENT: I think that you're making a very important point. And that is that the language we use matters. And what we need to understand is, is that there are extremist organizations -- whether Muslim or any other faith in the past -- that will use faith as a justification for violence. We cannot paint with a broad brush a faith as a consequence of the violence that is done in that faith's name. And so you will I think see our administration be very clear in distinguishing between organizations like al Qaeda -- that espouse violence, espouse terror and act on it -- and people who may disagree with my administration and certain actions, or may have a particular viewpoint in terms of how their countries should develop. We can have legitimate disagreements but still be respectful. I cannot respect terrorist organizations that would kill innocent civilians and we will hunt them down. But to the broader Muslim world what we are going to be offering is a hand of friendship. " But I do think that it is important for us to be willing to talk to Iran, to express very clearly where our differences are, but where there are potential avenues for progress "
There are, of course, policy implications for eschewing the language of the "War on Terror." One is that it makes America's ability to combat terrorist groups much, much easier. In an On Day One video the journalist Nicholas Schmidle explains why this is so. Have a listen.
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Amb. Susan Rice: Darfur is an “Ongoing Genocide”

In her first press availability Ambassador Susan Rice had this to say about Darfur.
Well, obviously we remain very deeply concerned about the ongoing genocide in Darfur. The priority at this point has to be effective protection for civilians. And in that regard, our effort and attention will be, and as we discussed this morning with the Secretary-General and colleagues, on effective efforts to support the full and complete deployment of UNAMID so that there is the capacity on the ground to begin to effect that civilian protection.
Obviously, we will continue to look at what is necessary to deal with any obstruction, continued violence or reprisals that may occur anyway or may emanate as a result of a potential indictment. And we want to be supportive of the Special Envoy's efforts to negotiate a lasting peace and resolve the underlying political differences. [emphasis mine]
The previous administration had a disturbing tendency to make claims like this, but then follow up with a lackluster response. Then-Brookings Institution fellow Susan Rice described that policy as "bluster and retreat." I, for one, look forward to a new day in America's approach to the Darfur crisis. I'm encouraged by the fact that Rice so clearly stated that the genocide was "ongoing" because this implies a sense of urgency on the part of the Obama administration to do something about it. So far, though, it's hard to see how that urgency has been manifest. Within 48 hours the President appointed Richard Holbrooke as a special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan and George Mitchell to the Mid-east. Clearly, these are two top-tier America foreign policy priorities. But if the genocide is really "ongoing" as Ambassador Rice says it is, then it would have been nice to see a similarly high-level international troubleshooter assigned the Sudan portfolio.
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Susan Rice Presents Her Crendentials at the UN

Rice is officially, official. And in her first interview with reporters as UN Ambassador, she suggests that reviving the "P-5 plus one" diplomacy on Iran (short hand for the Security Council plus Germany) is a top priority. Meanwhile, the official Chinese news service Xinhua seems to forget that civil rights icon and longtime Atlanta mayor Andrew Young served as President Carter's UN Ambassador.
Susan Rice, the new U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, Monday presented her credentials to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon here.
Rice is the first African American to assume the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations as the new U.S. administration and the United Nations both vowed to work closely with each other to address major global problems, such as the Middle East peace process and the climate change.
UPDATE: Read below the fold for a transcript of Amb. Rice's first press availability at the UN.
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Final Thoughts from Zalmay Khalilzad

I guess it's video day here on UN Dispatch. Steve Clemons sends in an 11 minute video of his interview with former US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzhad. The video was cut right after Khalilzad's talk at the New America Foundation two weeks ago. (You can read my take on that). Thanks to Steve for passing this along.
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Highlights From The First Trial at the International Criminal Court

The ICC prosecutor made his opening statements today in the case of Thomas Lubanga Dyalo, a Congolese militia leader accused of using child soldiers. Lubanga has the dubious honor of being the first-ever case tried before the International Criminal Court. Over the course of the next year, the prosecution will call 30 witnesses--including former child soldiers--who will to testify to Lubanga's guilt. The trial, though, almost never happened. There were significant prosecutorial missteps early on, including accusations that the prosecutor did not turn over potential exculpatory evidence as is required. The judges, though, decided to let the trial commence. A Bolivian, British and Costa Rican judge will preside over the hearing. This video of highlights from today's hearing--including an extended excerpt of the prosecutor's opening statement--just landed in my inbox. Great to see that the ICC people are new media savvy.
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This is what a modern day international war crimes tribunal looks like. Get used to it. The ICC's work is just beginning.
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The UN’s Loss is the Department of Homeland Security’s Gain

Jane Holl Lute*, a retired U.S. army officer who has stewarded UN peacekeeping through one of its fastest periods of growth, will leave UN for the United States Department of Homeland Security. She will serve as the Deputy Secretary to Governor Janet Napolitano. This is the UN's loss. Lute is a brilliant logistician who managed the day-to-day operations of the second-largest deployed military force in the world. Since August, she has headed the new UN Office of Peace-building Support. This is the UN's loss. But in criticizing the pick, the Heritage Foundation's James Carafano reveals that he knows precious little about Lute's role at the UN.
Homeland Security expert thinks Lute is an odd pick. "She doesn't have the right skill set," said Carafano, a fellow with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. "And she knows nothing about the issues."
Carafano said the Homeland Security deputy secretary needs to be someone who knows how to manage massive bureaucracies like the department. "She's going to have a really incredibly steep learning curve," he said. [emphasis mine]
She just left a job managing a larger and more complex bureaucracy than DHS. So, while I lament the fact that the United Nations is losing such a talent, I'm confident that she will excel in her new post. Here is an oldie but goodie of Jane Holl Lute from the UN Dispatch archives. * Jane Holl Lute was formerly affiliated with the United Nations Foundation. As regular readers know, UN Dispatch enjoys the support of the UN Foundation.