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Help stop violence against women

The United Nations Foundation has announced that it will donate $1 dollar for each of the first 100,000 signatures to an online petition aimed at battling violence against women.

18,000 worldwide have already added their names to the campaign – “Say NO to violence against women” – since its launch last November. The campaign is run by the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).

To find out more about the campaign, and to sign on, click here.

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Wednesday Morning Coffee

Oscar nominations were released yesterday. If you haven’t seen No Country for Old Men yet, do yourself a favor. Meanwhile, the Fed made the largest interest rate cut in over 20 years.

In other news:

>>The five UN permanent representatives to the Security Council and Germany reached a deal yesterday on a third round of sanctions, a “moderate tigthening,” against Iran. The resolution will be introduced in the Security Council “in the next few days.” In the meantime, Shrek, Elmo and Spongebob Square Pants hit hard by existing sanctions.

>>Russia continued to flex its muscles at the UK by practising strike tactics and test-launching nuclear-capable missles yesterday in the Bay of Biscay. RAF fighters were scrambled. Meanwhile, a criminal investigation was launched against Russian opposition leader, former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, putting his Presidential candidacy in doubt. Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s chosen successor launched his campaign.

>>The junta that ousted Thailand’s Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2006 has stepped down, a day after a newly elected parliament was sworn in. The parliament is dominated by the Shinawatra-friendly People’s Power party, which promises to bring him home from exile.

The End of an Error

Quote of the Day

“We might be deprived of BMWs but we still have the Nissans and the Peugeots of the world. And if you’ve been in an [Iranian] Paykan, then a Peugeot seems great.”
Bijan Khajepour, chairman of the Atieh Group business consultancy, on sanctions against Iran

The Rest of the Story

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Tuesday Morning Coffee

Over the long weekend, Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney won the Nevada caucuses, while John McCain outlasted the dirty politics of South Carolina. Last night the Dems had a firey debate in Myrtle Beach (C&L has video. )

In Other News…

>>The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and rebel general Laurent Nkunda have reached a peace agreement possibly ending a conflict in eastern DRC that has driven 400,000 people from their homes and threatened the fragile, newly elected government. United Nations peacekeeping forces will maintain a buffer zone between the two forces.

Prince Charles in holographic message to energy summit

>>The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany are meeting in Berlin to discuss a possible third Security Council sanctions resolution to further pressure Iran to dismantle what some believe is a nascent nuclear weapons program. Russia and China have hardened their position against sanctions in light of the National Intelligence Estimate released earlier this year that stated that Iran discontinued its program in 2003.

>> Italy’s Prime Minister Romano Prodi called for votes of confidence in both the Chamber of Deputies, where he has a decisive majority, and the Senate, where victory is not so certain. Prodi’s coalition took a hit yesterday when a small Catholic party led by the Justice Minister, Clemente Mastella, quit. Mastella is under investigation for corruption.

>>Stock markets around the world declined yesterday amid fears that the U.S. economy is in recession. Analysts see this as a blow to the theory of “decoupling,” which suggests that markets in Europe and Asia are now less dependent on the U.S. economy.

Climate Change News of the Weird

  • Prince Charles reduced his carbon footprint by appearing as a hologram at an alternative energy summit in Abu Dhabi.
  • Lower-altitude ski resorts, endangered by climate change, are selling for $1.
  • The Swedish University for Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala has received a grant to measure the greenhouse gases emitted when cows belch.

The Rest of the Story

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UN peacekeeping chief and Sudanese officials set for talks on Darfur

The head of United Nations peacekeeping is en route to the Sudan for talks with senior government officials about the joint UN-African Union Mission in Darfur.

Under-Secretary-General Jean-Marie Guehenno is expected to reach the capital, Khartoum, today to begin a four-day visit, UN spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters.

Assistant Secretary-General Jane Holl Lute is already in the African country, having visited all three states in Darfur since arriving on Friday. She returned to Khartoum today for a meeting with Mutrif Siddiq, the Undersecretary at the Sudanese Foreign Affairs Ministry.


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Some Good News on AIDS


In its annual update on worldwide trends in the AIDS epidemic, UNAIDS announced today that the number of people living with HIV is lower than previously thought. New sampling techniques used for this year’s report show that about 33 million people worldwide are infected with HIV, compared with last year’s estimate of around 40 million. Also, the new techniques yield an estimate that 2.5 million people will be infected with AIDS this year–which is a 40% drop in last year’s estimate.

The number of people living with AIDS each year is still increasing–but at a much slower rate than previously thought. This is excellent news, but far from a declaration of victory. From the Los Angeles Times:

Dr. Roger Detels, a UCLA epidemiologist, cautioned that the reduced numbers should not be used as an excuse to dismiss concerns about the pandemic.

“Even though the estimates are lower than we had previously thought, they’re still pretty significant,” Detels said. “You’re still talking about prevalences in sub-Saharan Africa where you’ve got over 20% of adults infected with HIV…I think the danger here is to say: ‘Oh my Lord, you know they overestimated. It’s not a very serious epidemic.’ I would say 33 million is a pretty serious epidemic.”

Indeed, the report shows that 5,700 people die each day from AIDS-related conditions. That’s like losing the population of Miami every two and a half months.

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UNHCR pledges $11 million to Iraqi refugees in Jordan

The United Nations refugee agency has pledged $11 million to help care for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees living in Jordan.

Under a funding agreement signed in Amman today, the money will help the Ministry of Health enhance public medical services and primary health centres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a news release.

“For a long time there was not enough attention given to the burden on Jordan and we continue to try to help in alleviating this burden,” UNHCR Representative in Jordan Imran Riza said after signing the agreement.


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