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Monday Morning Coffee

Obama won primaries in Maine, Kansas, Louisana, Washington, and the Virgin Islands over the weekend, drawing the delegate count even closer. McCain won Washington, but lost Louisiana and Kansas to Huckabee. Amy Winehouse won five Grammys, but was forced to accept via satellite because she was denied a visa. Trailblazing supermodel Katoucha Niane, Yves St. Laurent’s muse during the 1980s and a campaigner against female genital mutilation, may have drowned in the Seine this week.

Top Stories

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>>East Timor – President Jose Ramos Horta, winner of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, was shot three times early Monday morning in a drive-by shooting at his home, an apparent coup attempt. He is being report as in “serious, but stable” condition in Darwin, Australia, where he was airlifted. Rebel leader Alfredo Reinado, who led a rebellion in 2006 and has been in hiding since, was involved in the assassination attempt and was shot dead at the scene. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao’s home was also attacked, but he was unharmed.

>>Chad and Darfur – Sudanese airstrikes in Darfur have pushed more than 12,000 new refugees into eastern Chad, adding to the up to 400,000 refugees already in the border region. The first wave, arriving at the border on foot, were men. A second wave of women and children (unable to cross the distance as quick) are reported to be following. The EU is planning to resume the deployment of its 3,700-strong peacekeeping force to eastern Chad. Rebel groups have cautioned them against doing so.

>>Myanmar – Myanmar’s military junta announced its “road to democracy” on Saturday, setting a constitutional referendum for May and elections for 2010, the first since 1990 when Dawn Aung San Suu Kyi won a landslide victory. Although there is deep skepticism abroad and from the National League of Democracy, there appears to be some hope on the streets of Yangon that this is an opportunity (albeit the sampling size is small).

Quote of the Day

“There is no cease-fire, the war is going on. In this situation it is very difficult to talk about
peacekeeping when there is no peace to keep.”
– Suleiman Sandal
Haggar, a senior commander of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement in Darfur

Yesterday in UN Dispatch
  • Taking
    the Long View on Renewables
    by Matthew Cordell
  • href="http://www.undispatch.com/archives/2008/02/senate_urges_bu.php">Senate
    Urges Bush, International Community to Provide Helicopters for Darfur
    Mission – by Mark Leon Goldberg

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Taking the Long View on Renewables

Today the New York Times, and quite a few other papers, picked up on reports published yesterday in Science that suggest “almost all biofuels used today cause more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fuels.” The Times did sneak “today” into that first sentence, but, all in all, the coverage took an incredibly short view on renewable fuels.

Judging renewable fuels on a snapshot of what they’re capable of now is like judging aviation based on the Wright brothers’ flyer. Within 65 years, we’d broken the sound barrier and landed on the moon. In the last five years alone, we’ve been able to increase switchgrass yields by 50 percent. Everyday, less and less land can be used for more and more fuel, promising to reduce the carbon footprint dramatically. In less than a decade, it is highly likely that converting that grass to fuel will become economically viable and therefore widespread. Similar technology could be used to produce fuel from waste like yard clippings, brush, animal fats, scrap paper, algae, and sawdust — all of which requires no additional land use. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Up to this point minimal resources have been devoted to research. Unfortunately, narrowly crafted coverage of scientific articles threatens to keep it that way by not giving the public the complete story on renewable fuels, which endangers the political consensus necessary to maintain and increase funding to innovative technologies.

In addition, the future promises the ability to better use abandoned agricultural land to grow fuel crops, which a second study published in Science yesterday (and not covered in the Times) has said would offer “immediate and sustained [greenhouse gas] advantages.”

The simple matter is that second generation renewable fuels, along with increased efficiency, better urban planning and increased mass transit, hold tremendous promise for sating the world’s ballooning demand for fuel, for which there appears to be no other viable solution. And, clearly you can’t have a second generation without the first.

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Friday Morning Coffee

Romney dropped out of the Republican process. Yusuf al-Qaradawi was refused a UK visa, while Amy Winehouse was denied a U.S. one. The latter will not be able to perform at the Grammy awards.

Top Stories

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>>Smoking – A WHO report, financed by Michael Bloomberg’s foundation, has found that a billion people could be killed by cigarettes in the 21st century. Poorer countries, where cigarette sales continue to climb, collect 5,000 times as much revenue from tobacco as they use to fight its use. And, only 5 percent of the world has no smoking laws similar to those in New York.

>>Pakistan – Detectives from Scotland Yard have determined that Benazir Bhutto was killed by a bomb blast, not gunfire. The Pakistan People’s Party maintains that she was shot by an assassin, and that there was a cover-up. There was no post-mortem performed on Bhutto and the scene was scrubbed soon after the event.

>>Afghanistan – Responding to a Canadian ultimatum and an unwillingness by other NATO members, France has agreed to send troops to southern Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the relationship between Afghanistan and Britain has reached a new low.

>>India and China – The economies of both India and China are showing signs of long-term slowing. India’s growth rate for 2008 to this point is 8.7 percent, down from 9.6 percent last year. Forecasters see more of the same coming. Likewise, both Chinese and World Bank Economists have predicted something in the range of 9.4 percent growth for China this year and suggest that last year’s 11.4 percent growth might represent China’s peak.

Quote of the Day
  • “The W.H.O. is described by the tobacco industry as its biggest enemy. Today we intend to enhance that reputation.”
    – Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO director general.
Misleading Headline of the Day
Yesterday in UN Dispatch
  • Peacekeeping
    Budget and the Pentagon
    by Mark Leon Goldberg
  • href="http://www.undispatch.com/archives/2008/02/third_drc_suspe.php">Third
    DRC Suspect in ICC Custody – by Mark Leon Goldberg

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Senate Urges Bush, International Community to Provide Helicopters for Darfur Mission

Special to UN Dispatch from the UN Foundation’s Kevin Blesdoe, who attended the hearing on S.Res. 432

Last night the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in favor of Senate Resolution 432, urging the international community to provide the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) with essential tactical and utility helicopters. The resolution calls attention to the lack of necessary equipment in Darfur and urges President Bush to personally contact heads of state to ask for the necessary commitments.

The UN-AU force has requested 18 transport and 6 attack helicopters, but has not yet received them. Ethiopia has pledged 3 transport and 2 attack helicopters, while Bangladesh has also offered some support, though it is not clear how much. Without this critical air support, UNAMID cannot quickly transport troops across large areas to respond to crises, protect civilians or carry necessary cargo and supplies. In the rainy season, ground transport will become even more difficult and perhaps even impossible in some areas.

The spirit in the room was congenial, with leaders from both party’s agreeing on the urgency of the issue. “We cannot allow genocide and suffering to continue because the combined nations of the world cannot find 24 helicopters to help stop it. That is inexcusable,” said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Joe Biden, who introduced the legislation jointly with Richard Lugar, the committee’s Ranking Minority member. Senator Biden admitted that helicopters alone would not be enough to save Darfur, and urged the European Union and the United Nations Security Council to join with the US in imposing sanctions on the Sudanese government.

“History has shown that peacekeeping success depends on size, resources, mandate, mobility, and command structure of the force,” said Lugar, stressing the importance of aerial support, “And the mission must be accompanied by a peace-building process among the parties in the conflict.”

Among the bill’s cosponsors are Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Carl Levin (D-MI) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Here’s how you can take action to support the legislation.

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Peacekeeping Budget and the Pentagon

Pointing to John’s post on the $500 million shortfall facing UN peacekeeping in the President’s new budget, Foreign Policy’s Carolyn O’Hara chides

Can the Pentagon spare some change for UN Peacekeeping?…We’re talking chump change when you consider the fact that the Pentagon is due to get more than half a trillion dollars in 2009. U.N. peacekeeping is far from perfect. But it becomes far less so when it’s underfunded.”

A very fair point — and one that speaks to a structural difficulties facing Peacekeeping funding.

The United States is the single largest contributor to UN peacekeeping, picking up about 25% of UN Peacekeeping’s approximately $5.5 billion budget. US funding, though, comes from State Department, not the Pentagon. Whereas 25% of $5.5 billion may be a trivial sum for the Pentagon, it is not so at Foggy Bottom.

There is noise in some quarters advocating that the peacekeeping account simply be transferred to DoD. Another solution, is to fund the State Department at levels that reflect the critical need to bolster civilian instruments of American national security and foreign policies. This includes paying our UN dues on time and in full.

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Third DRC Suspect in ICC Custody

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On February 24, 2003 a militia from the National Integrationist Front–many of them child soldiers–attacked the village of Bogoro in Ituri, a restive province in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. 200 civilians were killed in the attack, prisoners were thrown into a locked house with decaying corpses, and women and girls were enslaved by the marauding force.

Not long ago, an attack like this would simply go unpunished–and in all likelihood, unnoticed. But not today. The International Criminal Court announced the arrest and detention of the leader of the attack, one Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui. DRC authorities arrested Ngudjolo, handed him over to ICC authorities where he was transported from DRC to the Hague. He is currently in prison in the Hague awaiting arraignment.

I, for one, am thankful to be living in an era in which crimes like this do not go unpunished. Visit the Coalition for the International Criminal Court to see how you can help end the era of impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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