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Rood has the Goods

Justin Rood of ABC News reports on the critically important, yet often overlooked story of American arrears to UN Peacekeeping.

On the eve of President Bush’s trip to Africa, his administration has decided to drastically cut money for United Nations peacekeeping missions in war-torn countries there.

According to White House figures quietly released this week, more than $193 million for U.N. troops would be cut for missions in Liberia, Rwanda, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire and elsewhere. A State Department official who would not be named confirmed to ABC News Monday that the cuts could be even worse.

“America’s reputation and standing are not helped when we call and vote for — but don’t pay our fair share of — new and bigger U.N. peacekeeping operations in places like Darfur and Chad,” Deborah Derrick, executive director of the Better World Campaign, told ABC News. “Great nations pay their bills.”

Amen to that! (The Better World Campaign is the sister organization to the UN Foundation, which sponsors this site.)

Since the start of the US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United Nations has quietly assumed responsibility for managing a growing number of conflicts worldwide. The flare-up in Haiti in 2004, the July 2006 fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, and the situation in Darfur, are just a few of many conflicts managed by the UN with little direct involvement by the United States. In fact, most Americans would be surprised to learn that of the 76,000 UN troops currently deployed to 20 missions worldwide, only eleven are American service members.

At the heart of this arrangement is an implicit deal: The UN will go to places where the United States cannot or does not want to so long as the United States picks up a little over a quarter of the cost of each mission. At least, that is the way it is supposed to work. In reality, the United States, as a veto-wielding member of the Security Council, has approved mission after mission while falling behind on its payments.

This arrangement is clearly not sustainable. If promoting democracy abroad and ending genocide are as much of a priority as the White House proclaims, then surely somewhere in the $3.1 trillion budget they can find spare change to fund Peacekeeping.

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Tuesday Morning Coffee

The RNC hates on Obama’s Grammy (video) as we head into the “Potomac” or “Chesapeake” primaries today (DC, VA, and MD). Television and film writers are expected to approve a deal to end the three-month-long strike today. Saudi Arabia bans red, at least for a day.

Top Stories

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>>Malaria – Interpol, the WHO, and others have exposed a massive trade in counterfeited, and sometimes life-threatening, malaria pills, funneled from China to Southeast Asia. Sophisticated methods were used by manufacturers to mimic the actual drugs and to trick authorities, including distributing the pills in bubble packs authenticated with up to 16 holograms and lacing them with trace amounts of the active ingredient of the authentic pill (artesunate) to foil screening tests. Up to half the pills tested in Southeast Asia were counterfeit, some containing toxic chemicals and psychedelics. The upside: the investigation was carried out employing a new form of analysis using pollen that allowed authorities to arrest four in China and promises to bolster similar investigations in the future.

>>Pakistan – Two Pakistani nuclear technicians have been abducted in northwest Pakistan, in the Dera Ismail Khan district. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Tariq Azizuddin, may or may not have been kidnapped in Kyber in northwest Pakistan, but he’s definitely missing. Also, the convoy of Nisar Ali Khan, a parliamentary candidate campaigning in Northern Waziristan, was attacked by a suicide bomber, killing seven and injuring the candidate.

>>Iraq – Two CBS journalists were abducted in Basra. Witnesses say that they were taken from the Sultan Palace Hotel by at least eight gunman.

>>Kenya – Kofi Annan (the former SG not Kenya’s new rhino), mediating the crisis in Kenya that has killed over 1,000 and caused over 600,000 to flee their homes, has said that it looks like there will be a political solution by the end of the week. That solution appears to include a “Grand Coalition” government, an independent investigation that will lead to election reforms, and new elections next year.

Quote of the Day

“He’s got a great life. He wakes up around 11, gets a couple of cookies and goes with me to the grocery store. Everywhere we go, people want to pet him.”
– Barbara Bishop, owner of Rufus, the 2006 Westminster champ who took a digger over the weekend leaning in “for a better look at the other dogs.”

Yesterday in UN Dispatch
  • Congressman
    Lantos, RIP
    by Mark Leon Goldberg
  • href="http://www.undispatch.com/archives/2008/02/escalation_in_d.php">Escalation
    in Darfur – by Mark Leon Goldberg

The Rest of the Story
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Americas

Asia

Europe

Middle East

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Congressman Lantos, RIP

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Escalation in Darfur

Two top UN Officials briefed the Security Council on Darfur today, warning that the peace process had reached an impasse and that the peacekeeping force was stalled. Meanwhile, reports are emerging of a fresh round of government attacks on villages in West Darfur. From Warren Hoge

Jan Eliasson, the special envoy for Darfur, said the present impasse could cause the people of Darfur, particularly those in overcrowded camps, to lose confidence in the ability of the United Nations to help them.

Jean-Marie Guehenno, the under secretary general for peacekeeping, warned that if Darfurians “see that we cannot meet their expectations — and their expectations are very high — then I think they will be in a very difficult situation.”

[snip]

Mr. Guehenno said the international peacekeeping force for Darfur urgently needed a decision by the government in Khartoum to permit the participation of critical military units from Thailand and Nepal. Only a third of the anticipated 26,000 members of the force — a joint effort by the United Nations and the African Union — are in Darfur, and the government has been objecting to the participation of non-African troops…The force also lacked the 18 tactical and six attack helicopters it needs, despite a loan promised this week of a small number of aircraft from Ethiopia. “Darfur is a vast area, and we must have the ability to quickly move troops to strategic points,” Mr. Guehenno said.

Read more.

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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

The Rest of the Story
Africa

Americas

Asia

Europe

Middle East

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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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