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How the World Cup is Changing Brazilian Politics

Germany faces off with host Brazil in what will likely be a thrilling match in the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup. How would a win today and on Sunday affect Brazilian politics and President Dilma Roussef’s chances of winning re-election this fall? How has the World Cup changed Brazil’s emerging middle class? And why did Brazilians have such low expectations for this World Cup in the first place?

I speak with blogger Hugo Godinho in Sao Paulo who discusses these questions and more in a new edition of BloggingHeads.

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UN Peacekeeping is Really, Really Cheap

UN Peacekeeping just got a little bit more expensive.

The UN has no standing army, so when the Security Council votes to create a new peacekeeping mission, it relies on member states to contribute troops to the cause. This is not a charity, though. The countries that contribute the bulk of blue helmets mostly come from the developing world and those countries are compensated for their contributions on a per-soldier per month basis.

After weeks of negotiation, UN member states agreed to a new compensation rate for UN Peacekeeping. The new rate amounts to a 10% raise for the first two years, to $1,332/soldier/month, and then further increasing to $1,365 in the third year and $1,410 in the fourth.  In other words, it will cost the United Nations just under $16,000 for each of the approximately 100,000 blue helmets serving across 16 missions in 2014.

This is extraordinarily cheap.  How cheap? A report last fall from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment found that the USA will spend an average $2.1 million in 2014 for each soldier in Afghanistan.  In total the USA budgeted $74 billion for operations in Afghanistan through this fiscal year, even as troop levels decline from about 33,000 today to fewer than 10,000 by the end of the year. Again, this is orders of magnitude more expensive than UN Peacekeeping, which will deploy over 118,000 personnel this year, at a cost of $7.8 billion.

Yes, peacekeeping just got marginally more expensive due to the new compensation rates agreed to (by consensus) by UN member states. But it’s worth putting these figures in context. Compared to other kinds of military deployments, UN Blue Helmets come at an extraordinary discount.

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Top of the Morning: Booted from Bahrain

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Bahrain Expels Top US Diplomat…The Bahraini government formally made the top American human rights diplomat, Assistant Secretary of State for Rights, Democracy and Labor Tom Malinowski persona non grata. The USA  has a large naval base in Bahrain and provides the monarchy with significant military assistance. “Mr Malinowski ‘held meetings with a particular party to the detriment of other interlocutors, thus discriminating between one people, contravening diplomatic norms and flouting normal interstate relations’, state news agency BNA reported. Mr Malinowski was expected to visit Bahrain for three days, and had meetings scheduled with Al Wifaq, government officials, and a leading human rights activist, Nabeel Rjab. (BBC

United Nations Secretariat Extends Same Sex Partner Benefits…”The policy change was announced on Monday. “Previously, the United Nations only recognized the unions of staffers who came from countries where gay marriage is legal, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said. “This is a step forward that many of the staffers at the United Nations had been seeking for some time,” Haq said. The new policy became effective June 26, and will impact the U.N.’s approximately 43,000 employees worldwide. Employees of separate U.N. agencies, such as the children’s agency UNICEF and the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO, are not affected by the change in policy, Haq said.” (USA Today


International donors who withheld aid over Uganda’s anti-gay bill “misinterpreted” the law whose main focus was to stop promotion of homosexuality to children and others, the government said. (AP

UNHCR said an unprecedented number of refugees from the Central African Republic and Nigeria are still flowing into Cameroon, fleeing violence by anti-Balaka and Boko Haram militias. (VOA

A U.S. citizen in Ghana is being tested for Ebola, which has killed nearly 500 people in West Africa this year. (VOA

Police fired tear gas at anti-government protesters in Kenya on Monday, shortly before an opposition rally in the capital, stoking tensions in a nation haunted by past political violence and battling a wave of militant attacks. (Reuters

Somalia’s food security crisis is expected to worsen over the next several months following poor performance of the major rainy season, shrinking humanitarian assistance and access, increasing malnutrition, conflict and surging food prices, analysts have warned. (FAO

More than 60 Nigerian girls and women abducted by Islamic extremists two weeks ago have managed to escape, officials said Monday, though more than 200 girls who were kidnapped in April remain missing. (AP

Jill Biden, wife of US Vice President Joe Biden, is returning Monday from a week-long trip to Africa, where she stressed the need for girls’ education and for women to work in government. (VOA


Hamas has fired a volley of rockets into southern Israel following a series of air strikes by Israeli forces. (BBC

Iraq’s parliament has postponed meeting until August, adding to the chaos and uncertainty of the future of Maliki and the stability of the Iraqi government. (CBS


The five BRICS nations have reached a broad consensus on their $100 billion development bank though some differences remain, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Monday ahead of a summit in Brazil next week to be attended by President Xi Jinping. (Reuters

India’s Supreme Court has ruled Sharia courts and fatwas have no legal power over the country’s Muslims. (VOA

Myanmar is beginning its citizenship verification process, which many people feel is a ruse to exclude the Rohingya a term recognized by the UN, and foreign nations, including the US. Burmese authorities are calling them “Bengalis.” (VOA

Recent heavy rain, coupled with the after-effects of a recent aid worker pull-out, is prompting health concerns in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State for the more than 140,000 IDPs mostly from the persecuted Muslim Rohingya minority. (IRIN

Thailand’s military government said on Monday peace in the Muslim-dominated south was an “urgent national priority” for the Buddhist-majority country following a decade of unrest blamed on separatists. (Reuters

The Americas

Football’s World Cup in Brazil is drawing to a close leaving great sporting memories. It also leaves a legacy of controversy over evictions and land dispossessions that made way for the event. The scenario is repeating itself as Brazil prepares for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. (VOA


Fighting Killer Diseases Is Essential in the Post-2015 Agenda (IPS

New thinking needed on food aid for refugees in Africa (IRIN

Back to the People: Reorienting China’s Health System to Primary Care (CGD

Vulnerability and Poverty: Which 7 countries are most committed to ending hunger? (IDS

Q&A: Jeffrey Sachs on why the SDGs are big on science (SciDevNet

Food Prices and Food Riots: How High — Not Volatile — Food Prices Cause Food Riots (Marc F. Bellemare

Africa’s big gender gap in agriculture #AfricaBigIdeas (AfricaCan End Poverty


In a new report that capitalizes on the “data revolution” for development, the Center for Global Development and African Population and Health Research Center identify core issues behind a lack of good data in Sub-Saharan Africa and provide strategies to help donors and governments overcome them. (CGDev

The UN and international NGOs are failing to respond to humanitarian emergencies despite having more resources at their disposal than ever before, warned MSF. (Guardian

According to World Bank official Daryl Fields, understanding the water-energy nexus is critical for addressing growth and human development, urbanisation and climate change, but many policy-makers are finding it challenging to transform this concept into a reality. (IPS

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ISIS is Another Example of Saudi Arabia’s Myopic Foreign Policy

For years , Saudi Arabia has exported and subsidized a violent and extreme version of Islam espoused by Wahhabi clerics throughout the world.  Fueled by this fanatical ideology, many Saudi nationals left to take up arms in Iraq and Syria over the last decade.  Now the Saudi kingdom is alarmed that ISIS is on its northern and southern borders and that many of their own radicalized citizens will find their way home. While the United States continues to search for a way to maneuver the threat of ISIS (born partly out of its own flawed strategies), Saudi Arabia’s chickens are coming home to roost, and they have no one to blame but themselves.

Although a 2003 al-Qaeda-led attack in Riyadh led to tighter reins on terrorism, the House of Saud has continued to bankroll Wahhabi-led intolerant religious centers across the globe, as well as militancy abroad during the Iraq War and the Syrian civil conflict. Leaked U.S. diplomatic cables from 2009 have confirmed that the Saudi kingdom is still considered the “critical financial base” for the export of terrorist activities. Saudi-funded extremism has not only assaulted and defaced an entire religion, but has also heavily fractured regional stability in the Middle East and continues to threaten global security.

Yet Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s most undemocratic and fundamentally “religious” states, has shared a prosperous relationship with the United States for close to a century. In the last few decades alone, the Saudi kingdom has obtained military weapons, training, and technology to counter the rise of Shi’ite extremism. In exchange, the U.S. found a steady oil supplier in the region, benefiting from Saudi Arabia’s increased production to stabilize rising oil costs when needed.  In fact, this relationship has allowed the Saudis to provide a counterweight to both nations’ common adversary, Iran, since the Iranian Revolution.

But the alliance between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia has also allowed undemocratic practices in the Gulf nation, usually publicly condemned by the U.S. in other parts of the world, to continue unabated­­.  In 2011, while the Western world welcomed democratic transitions in the Arab world, the Saudi monarchy, suspecting similar unrest within its own borders, provided close to $200 billion in stimulus packages to its citizens while simultaneously sending Saudi troops to crush the Shi’ite majority’s uprising in neighboring Bahrain.  While many perceived these acts to be a bribe and an obstruction to democracy respectively, there were little to no repercussions on the House of Saud.

As the U.S. continues to grapple with ISIS’ debilitating effects on Iraq and careful, strategic avoidance of a military presence in Syria, perhaps it ought to reevaluate its questionable relationship with the Saudi kingdom—a relationship that is not only counterproductive to U.S. interests, but also unsustainable in light of backfiring developments in the Middle East. And for Saudi Arabia, it might be helpful to remember that you reap what you sow; if the House of Saud wants to fortify its borders and keep terrorism out of its country, it ought to stop funding and supporting it elsewhere.

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Live from the UN 2014 (Part 2)

It’s a special edition of the podcast today! I have a number of officials from the United Nations on the show. These interviews were conducted on location at the United Nations. Each conversation lasts about 10 minutes or so and focuses on some aspect of my interviewees work. Enjoy!

In order of appearance:

Richard Wright, UNRWA (Palestinian Refugees agency)

George Papagiannis, UNESCO

Valere Mantels, Office of Disarmament Affairs, Weapons of Mass Destruction Branch

Sarah Crowe, UNICEF

Gary Fowlie, The International Telecommunucations Union

Silke von Brockhausen, UN peacekeeping mission to Sierra Leone

Warner Schmidt, UN Capital Master Plan (renovatin the UN building)





Previous episodes

Inside the Iran Nuke Talks

Episode 23: Jillian York, Digital Free Speech defender

Turkey’s Strategic Interests in Iraq

Episode 22: Live from the UN, 2014 (Vol 1); A special edition, featuring the President of the General Assembly,  the UN Ambassadors from Vietnam and Jamaica, the head of the UN Association, and more!

The UN’s View of the Iraq Crisis

Episode 21: Thomas Pickering, former Ambassador to the UN, Israel, Jordan, Russia, India and more.

Dying for the World Cup

Episode 20: Jessica Tuchman Matthews, foreign policy trendsetter

Egypt After the Counter Revolution 

Episode 19: Louise Arbour, human rights pioneer.

What Obama Left Out of His Big Foreign Policy Speech

Episode 18: Zalmay Khalizad, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the UN.

Why Libya is Suddenly on the Verge of a Civil War 

Episode 17: Gov Bill Richardson, he frees hostages.

The Foreign Policy Implications of India’s Elections

Episode 16: Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children

What Boko Haram Wants

Episode: 15 Laura Turner Seydel, philanthropist

Episode 14: Douglas Ollivant, Iraq expert

Episode 13: Gary Bass, historian

Episode 12: Mark Montgomery, demographer

Episode 11: Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watcher

Episode 10: Live from the UN, Volume 2.

Episode 9: Mia Farrow, humanitarian activist and Goodwill Ambassador

Episode 8: Suzanne Nossel, Big Thinker

Episode 7: Live from the UN, Volume 1. 

Episode 6: PJ Crowley, former State Department Spokesperson

Episode 5: Octavia Nasr, reporter

Episode 4: Arsalan Iftikhar, “The Muslim Guy”

Episode 3: Dodge Billingsley, filmmaker.

Episode 2: Laura Seay,  @TexasinAfrica

Episode 1: Heather Hurlburt, national security wonk

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Top of the Morning: Kenya Reeling from Weekend Attacks

“Gunmen killed at least 29 people in two coastal areas of Kenya in raids the deputy president indicated on Sunday were the work of political rivals, despite Somali Islamists al Shabaab claiming responsibility. The raids will hammer Kenya’s beleaguered tourist industry after a wave of militant attacks and will deepen public frustrations about poor security, a day before a big opposition rally in the capital.The Interior Ministry said one of the Saturday night attacks killed nine in the trading town of Hindi in Lamu County, close to where 65 people were killed by gunmen last month in Mpeketoni. Another was further south in the Gamba area, where 20 died. (Reuters

Clashes Reported in Remote Uganda Border Region… Ethnic tensions are likely to blame. “A Ugandan military official said Sunday more than 40 gunmen were killed in clashes between Uganda’s security forces and a tribal militia near the country’s border with Congo, in what appeared to be coordinated attacks targeting police posts and military barracks in three districts. Ugandan troops killed at least 41 gunmen and repulsed others before containing the situation, Ugandan military spokesman Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda said.” (CBC

What you need to know about the Iran Nuke Talks. Mark speaks with journalist Laura Rozen and Darly Kimball of the Arms Control Association who take listeners inside the negotiations. (Global Dispatches Podcast

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Nigeria’s military said on Saturday that it had killed 53 Boko Haram Islamist fighters when it repelled an attack on a military base in the northeast Nigerian town of Damboa. (Reuters

Access to water and sanitation are major challenges for thousands of new IDPs in Zamzam, Kalma and Al Salam camps in Darfur, according to the WASH sector. (OCHA


The Israeli police have arrested a group of Israeli suspects in connection with the kidnapping and killing of a Palestinian youth from East Jerusalem who was found beaten and burned in a Jerusalem forest last week, a spokesman for the Israeli police said Sunday. (NYT

ISIS has expelled more than 30,000 people from their homes in the eastern Syrian town of Shuheil, a monitoring group said on Sunday. (Al Arabiya

Under the new restrictions, Palestinians from Syria cannot enter Lebanon unless they have permission from the Lebanese General Security and meanwhile the Syrian authorities are not giving permission for any Palestinians to leave for Lebanon without prior consent from the Lebanese embassy. (IPS


India wants to join the nuclear suppliers group of 48 countries, created to  ensure that civilian trade in nuclear materials is not diverted for military purposes, as was done by India itself.  (NYT

Indonesia’s upcoming presidential election is too close to call, according to regional analysts. Some pollsters give Jakarta governor Joko Widodo a slight edge over former military general Prabowo Subianto in Wednesday’s vote, but nothing is certain they say. (VOA

Thousands of refugees fleeing an offensive by Pakistan’s army have poured across the lawless border into ramshackle camps on rugged hills in Afghanistan, stirring unease that Taliban militants may be hiding among them. (Reuters

Eleven construction workers were killed Sunday in southern India after the boundary wall of a warehouse collapsed, in the country’s latest building disaster. (AP

The Americas

Cuban President Raul Castro told parliament on Saturday the communist country’s market-oriented reforms must remain gradual, a clear signal he would resist calls to accelerate change in order to address an underperforming economy. (VOA


Malawi: 50 years after independence education remains a big challenge (Guardian

The Litmus Test of Karzai’s Leadership (VOA

Reflections on the new aid paradigm, part 1: continuity in Australian aid policy (DevPolicy

What the Dutch court ruling against blackface figure Zwarte Piet means (Africa is a Country

Three ways to avoid being misled by humanitarians who lie (WhyDev

The Ethics of Political Science in Practice (Dart Throwing Chimp

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