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Tuesday Morning Coffee

Obama gets the endorsement of Obama, Japan, … well at least part of it, while McCain is endorsed by Bush, Sr. Today, Wisconsin and Hawaii will decide for themselves.

Top Stories

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>>Cuba – Fidel Castro has officially stepped down as the president of Cuba, citing his “physical condition” (read his letter to “compatriots”).  At 49 years, this ends the world’s longest reign in power, not including monarchies. In the next few days, the National Assembly will meet to chose a new head of state, expected to be his brother Raul.

>>Pakistan – President Pervez Musharraf’s Pakistan Muslim League-Q party suffered a devastating loss in parliamentary elections, with most of its top leadership losing their seats. An opposition leader will likely become the next Prime Minister, but it is not yet clear whether that will be the head of Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party or Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N. The Guardian reports from Punjab.

>>Kosovo – Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on Sunday, sparking a divided reaction, both domestically and internationally. Though ethnic Albanians from around the world held a massive celebration in Kosovo, Serbs in Belgrade and northern Kosovo stoned the American Embassy, burned a border crossing, and threw a grenade at a UN building. President Bush recognized Kosovo’s independence today (as did others) causing Serbia to withdraw its ambassador, while Russia suggested that recognition threatens international stability.

>>BBC World Service – More than 75 years after King George V first used “Wireless” to speak to “men and women so cut off by the snows, the desert or the sea, that only voices out of the air can reach them” through a Christmas speech prepared by Rudyard Kipling, the BBC World Service is shutting down its English-language shortwave service in Europe, another casualty of the rising price of fuel.

Quote of the Day

“I will not aspire to neither will I accept — I repeat I will not aspire to neither will I accept — the position of President of the Council of State and Commander in chief.” – Fidel Castro, in a letter to “compatriots” on Tuesday.

“I feel the heartbeat of our ancestors. We, the leaders of our people, democratically elected, through this declaration proclaim Kosovo an independent and sovereign state.” – Hashim Thaci, Prime Minister of Kosovo

Friday in UN Dispatch

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Bono’s Musical Tribute to Tom Lantos

About halfway through the clip, the U2 frontman sings “All You Need is Love” by the “old Hungarian folk singer, Jan Van Lennon.”

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At the UN, Al Gore Warns of ‘Subprime Carbon’

Al Gore spoke to the United Nations Investors Summit on Climate Change today, and invoked the ‘s-word’ to warn that carbon is more like kryptonite to investors.

“You need to really scrub your investment portfolios, because I guarantee you — as my longtime good redneck friends in Tennessee say, I guarandamntee you — that if you really take a fine-tooth comb and go through your portfolios, many of you are going to find them chock-full of subprime carbon assets,” the former vice president said.

[Snip]

“The assumption that you can safely invest in assets that come from business models that assume carbon is free is an assumption that is about to go splat,” he said. “You have lots of assets, many of you do, in your portfolios right now that truly do deserve that epithet ‘subprime.’”

Read the whole thing. Also, be sure to follow Matt’s excellent dispatches from the summit.

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Friday Morning Coffee

A day after Valentine’s, and where’s the love? Romney has some for McCain. I have some for Indy.

Top Stories

>>Hezbollah – In front of 10,000 mourners at the funeral of Imad Mughnieh in Beirut, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah threatened Israel with “open war,” because he said, “you have killed Hajj Imad outside the natural battlefield.” Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki read a letter of condolence from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Israel stepped up security in the wake of his death. Tens of thousands also gathered yesterday in Beirut to commemorate the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. (Photos of both rallies.)

>>OceansScience has published a report suggesting that only four percent of the world’s oceans remain pristine. Roughly 41 percent has been affected strongly by human activity — including climate change, overfishing, and pollution. The report was unprecedented in its detail: each square kilometer of ocean was examined individually.

>>Iraq – Iraq’s parliament announced that it would rely heavily on the United Nations to help organize the October 1 provincial elections mandated by the package of legislation passed earlier this week.

>>Eritrea – UNMEE, the UN peacekeeping force for Ethiopia and Eritrea, has begun to withdraw from its bases. Eritrea had attempted to force the hand of the international community on a border dispute by cutting the fuel supply of the mission.

Quote of the Day

“We want to assure the Iraqi people that this time the elections will
be free and transparent. We will cooperate completely with the United Nations and
prevent any violations.”
– Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, speaker of Iraq’s Parliament

Yesterday in UN Dispatch
  • Bono, Ban
    ki Moon, and many others honor Tom Lantos
    by
    Mark Leon Goldberg
  • href="http://www.undispatch.com/archives/2008/02/a_crisis_is_a_t.php">“A
    crisis is a terrible thing to waste” – by Matthew
    Cordell
  • href="http://www.undispatch.com/archives/2008/02/bush_administra.php">Bush
    administration pushes for bilateral ties with Iraq – by
    John Boonstra
  • href="http://www.undispatch.com/archives/2008/02/the_demandside.php">The
    Demand-Side Attack on Climate Change – by Matthew
    Cordell

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Bono, Ban ki Moon, and many others honor Tom Lantos

In the statuary room of the Capitol this morning, ambassadors, members of congress, dignitaries–and a rock star–joined to celebrate the life of Congressman Tom Lantos, the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman who succumbed to cancer earlier this week.

Secretary Rice spoke early in the service. She was visibly moved as she recalled her long friendship with Congressman Lantos, which stretched back to when she was chancellor of Stanford University. Rice, with Lantos’ opera-signing granddaughter, even performed together in charity benefit at the Kennedy Center a few years ago. Joe Biden, who hired Lantos as a staffer when Biden was a Senator in his early 30s, offered a very personal touch. Biden hired Lantos, but then quickly realized that Lantos should be the person calling the shots. The two developed a close relationship. In fact, at his mentor’s insistence Biden was married at the United Nations Chapel. Biden even brought Lantos on his honeymoon — to Hungary.

Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer, Lantos’ longtime friend Congressman Chris Shays all paid homage to the man, recalling his how his struggle to survive as a Jew in Hungary during the Holocaust shaped his profound commitment to defending human rights across the globe.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livini and Ban Ki Moon also spoke. It is no secret that Congress can sometimes be hard on the United Nations. And in his eulogy, Ban stressed that the United Nations lost a great friend. Ban very eloquently recalled his first meeting with Lantos. The two were having lunch in Lantos’ office, when Lantos turned to Ban and said, “In my office, the United Nations will always have a sanctuary in this building.”

Bono later took the stage. He paid brief tribute to Lantos’ dedication to combating global HIV/AIDS, but then spoke about the relationship between Lantos and his wife, Annette. The two have been married 58 years, and were childhood sweethearts who escaped the Holocaust together. This being Valentine’s Day, Bono offered Annette a serenade and lead the crowd in “All You Need is Love.” Secretary Rice, Ban Ki Moon, and Speaker Pelosi sang along. There was hardly a dry eye to be seen–mine included.

Elie Wiesel gave the final eulogy. The two were friends, said Weisel, but they never socialized. Rather they shared the bond that only two genocide survivors could. When the two met, there was no small talk. It was all business between them–and that business was advancing the cause of human dignity across the globe. Sadly, Lantos passed away before the job was complete. His legacy, though, lives on in the lives he touched and the dignity-affirming legislation he passed.

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“A crisis is a terrible thing to waste”

Vinod Khosla, of Khosla Ventures and the founding CEO of Sun Microsystems, is one of the rock stars of this summit. His presentation, “…mostly convenient truths from a technology optimist,” was sharp and witty and immediately set the summit on a new tact. Khosla has a dogged belief in technology and using bold allocations of venture capitol to reach innovative solutions. Khosla Ventures only invests in a project if he believes that it will be cost competitive with carbon within five to seven years without subsidies.

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