article placeholder

Blog Roundup #72

A sampling of United Nations related blog commentaryStories in America: "Millions of children "invisible": UNICEF - "Millions of the world's neediest children are not even a blip on the radar of their own governments because there is no record of their birth, the United Nation's Children's Fund UNICEF said on Wednesday."Becks & Posh: "Perhaps you have noticed by now that Food Bloggers all over the world have pulled together to raise money for Unicef's efforts to help out Earthquake-stricken area of India and Pakistan. Here at Becks & Posh there are three prize packages up for grabs. We hope, that by tempting people with the opportunity to win the gifts our kind sponsors have generously donated, the people who enjoy our food blog will make a donation to Unicef."Blony: "It may well be that the time has come for Iraqis to take over arranging their own future. The threads that may intertwine Iraqis in the near term: A fresh start at a constitution with U.N. assistance * UN forces to secure borders * Trusted brokers (probably UN) to mediate differences."
article placeholder

Blog Roundup #71

A sampling of United Nations related blog commentaryWashington Note: "The American Prospect's Mark Leon Goldberg writes the first serious assessment of John Bolton's tenure thus far as the recess-appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations... the big news that Mark Goldberg breaks is that the American Prospect has confirmed that it was John Bolton himself who scuttled Secretary of State Rice's efforts to offer Syria a Libya-like opportunity to get itself out of the international dog house. Goldberg writes: "The tension between Rice and Bolton has grown dramatically in several areas, most notably with regard to Syria: The Prospect has learned that Bolton was the source of an October leak to the British press that submarined sensitive negotiations Rice was overseeing with that country."Daily Kos: "The $100 laptop has arrived. It is hand-crank-powered, has built-in wi-fi, and promises to bring the technology to millions of children in the developing world. This is really cool stuff, even if Intel's Craig Barret is being a grinch about it. Apparently, the $100 laptop competes against his own company's efforts. (Here's a story with picture of the device.)"Eclecticity: "My friend Tyson Vaughan pointed me to this article outlining the findings of a UN study of poverty in the United States. A primary conclusion of the report is that racial poverty is systemic in our country and that such poverty constitutes a human rights violation under the meaning of that term as defined by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights."Arms Control Wonk: "ElBaradei Accepts Nobel Prize - what he said: "I believe it is because our security strategies have not yet caught up with the risks we are facing. The globalization that has swept away the barriers to the movement of goods, ideas and people has also swept with it barriers that confined and localized security threats. A recent United Nations High-Level Panel identified five categories of threats that we face: 1. Poverty, Infectious Disease, and Environmental Degradation; 2. Armed Conflict - both within and among States; 3. Organized Crime; 4. Terrorism; and 5. Weapons of Mass Destruction. These are all "threats without borders" - where traditional notions of national security have become obsolete. We cannot respond to these threats by building more walls, developing bigger weapons, or dispatching more troops. Quite to the contrary. By their very nature, these security threats require primarily multinational cooperation."Coalition for Darfur: "Congo: As Militiamen Flee, Calm Descends At Last - From Knight Ridder: "After years of false starts and costly failures, peace is finally taking hold in Congo's remote northeastern Ituri region, a key battleground in a pan-African war that's claimed 4 million lives. In recent weeks, Congo's patchwork national army, backed by United Nations peacekeepers, has chased some 4,000 militiamen into the dense forests near the Ugandan border. It was the most aggressive military action to date against the once-fearsome militias that held sway here. The militias still control some Ituri villages. But 16,000 have turned in their guns under a 2003 peace agreement, and U.N. and Congolese officials say the militias are on their last legs."Daily Kos (Plutonium Page): "Yesterday was the last day of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Montreal. It was a historical conference because it is the very first meeting of the countries who have ratified the Kyoto Protocol; one goal of the conference is to discuss the extension of the Kyoto Protocol. So, how did the conference go? There was definite progress made, but not without difficulty, and that's the subject of this post."Disinformation: "Washington Post's Elizabeth Gross investigates the 'digital dumps' and landfills that have swamped Nigeria in recent years. Organizations such as the Basel Action Network and the United Nations Environment Program have been monitoring the environmental degradation and export of legacy computer parts."Gristmill: "Finally, some good news. From Mongabay: Friday, at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Montreal, the U.N. agreed to a proposal that allows developing nations to receive financial compensation from industrialized countries for agreeing to preserve their rainforests. Environmentalists hope the deal -- set forth by ten developing countries led by Papua New Guinea -- will give developing nations a financial reason to get more involved in climate talks while safeguarding globally important ecosystems."Ethan Zuckerman: "Jane Perrone spent the full day with us at the Global Voices summit, representing The Guardian. Her article on the conference is spot on (as is her accompanying blog post) and begins with a lead that's going to be one of my favorites of all time: "The Global Voices conference called to mind a United Nations of blogging: there was a Cambodian sitting next to an Iranian sitting next to an Indian sitting next to a Kenyan sitting next to Richard Dreyfuss."OUPBlog: "Louise Arbour, a former Canadian judge who is now the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the United Nations on December 7 that "Governments are watering down the definition of torture, claiming that terrorism means established rules do not apply anymore." The United Nations press release on her remarks further describes her as calling "on all Governments to reaffirm their commitment to the absolute prohibition of torture by condemning torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and prohibiting it in national law." There can be little doubt that the "government" she is most trying to speak to is our own."
article placeholder

Blog Roundup #70

A sampling of United Nations related blog commentaryGypsy Girl Chronicles: "Today is Human Rights Day. It has been celebrated since December 10th, 1948, when the United Nations first adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year, in the aftermath of Abu Ghraib and the current reports of secret CIA prisons, the theme is significant..."Matthew Good: "I suppose it should come as no real surprise that the United States is now saying that the UN CAT [Convention Against Torture] applies to US personnel abroad, including interrogators. Their position had been that it didn't apply to US personnel abroad, but given the various scandals that have erupted one can see why Congressional pressures might have made some headway with regards to altering the administration's point of view. Of course, the precedent set has caused a great deal of damage to global human rights standards, something that won't be so easy to correct. Terrorism, the world's new justification in perpetuity, provides rights abusers the perfect, and highly ambiguous, justification for suspect action. Just because a few skeletons in America's War On Terror closet are starting to rattle around doesn't mean that justification is any less potent. Rice has said that her statement does not imply a policy shift, but that she was simply clarifying policy. If that's the case, one has to ask the obvious question: does it apply to the last four years, or has the clock just started?"Barking Dingo: "Time to Learn How to Swim - The first recorded displacement of humans due global warming has officially been recorded: "Pacific islanders move to escape global warming: "Rising seas have forced 100 people on a Pacific island to move to higher ground in what may be the first example of a village formally displaced because of modern global warming, a U.N. report said on Monday."Guardian Blogs: "Midway through the final week of the UN climate negotiations in Montreal brings a strange kind of lull, writes Simon Retallack. It could be the calm before the storm. Something seems to be up. I've tried to attend press conferences that have been postponed three times and then abandoned. An important negotiating session was eagerly awaited and then cancelled. Without much light being shed, it's a time when dark thoughts and rumours flourish. The news overnight has not been particularly good. Negotiations on how to kick-start negotiations on new emission reduction targets for industrialised countries under the Kyoto protocol went on until 2am and a leak of the draft text that emerged suggests the state of play is worse than before. Key elements of a decision are now in square brackets, which means they are in dispute, including the suggestion that the negotiations should be completed by November 2008 (when a new US president would be elected)."It's Getting Hot in Here: "Earlier today, the US climate delegation met again with a room full of climate advocates. While the audience had expanded in size, the responses remained equally disappointing. Dr. Harlan L. Watson led his congregation of cronies through another round of crass question evasion. Once again, inaction was defended under the veil of "scientific uncertainty," adaptation, and voluntary participation in climate mitigation. As NGO (non-governmental organization) reps and US citizens voiced concern about the urgency of our climate situation, the US delegation replied with oily, rehearsed rhetoric. Ultimately, today's meeting served to reinforce the necessity of the local action emerging across the US. With or without the US administration, we are moving ahead."The Decline: "This is an essay question for my International Relations final exam. The question: What are the most important long-term US interests at the international level, and how can the US best accomplish them? Are US interests and global peace mutually exclusive, or complementary? What I came up with: We need to, overall, get back to diplomacy as a means to solve international problems.... Haass is correct when he says: "A decision to opt out of formal multilateralism should only be taken when it is truly necessary. And when the United States does break ranks with the international community, it should look to bring in the relevant regional organizations -- or the U.N. -- at the first opportunity."
article placeholder

Blog Roundup #69

A sampling of United Nations related blog commentaryCoalition for Darfur: "Darfur: UN Refugee Agency Calls for Urgent Action - From the AP: "The head of the U.N. refugee agency called on the international community to take a united stance and give urgently needed help to Sudan's embattled Darfur region."Democracy Arsenal (Morton H. Halperin): "Having spent most of Friday at the United Nations headquarters in New York, I am much more pessimistic about the chances for reaching agreement on a new human rights council. More alarming, I fear that the US is precipitating a crisis which will further weaken American ability to lead and which could debilitate the UN. As reported in an editorial in the New York Times on Friday, John Bolton has informed his colleagues that the United States will only support an interim three month budget for the UN and will accept a longer budget only after the US reform agenda is implemented. With the possible exception of Japan, the US position has no significant support. UN officials say that the UN will run out of money by late February if this course is adopted."Agonist: "UN contemplates military operation for Darfur - Reuters: "A joint military team will visit Darfur next week to study whether the United Nations should take over efforts to bring order to Sudan's lawless west, U.N. officials and diplomats said on Sunday."Strategy Unit: "Ruth Wedgwood is right to say the U.N. should not have a monopoly in what defines the international community and the U.S. should nurture relationships with other international organizations for its own foreign policy goals. But, it won't be a catalyst for U.N. reform. Indeed, it can lead to the fragmentation of the international community space - with major power getting "legitimacy" for its policies from whatever regional or international organizations out there."Tapped (Mark Goldberg): "If you were ever wondering how to lose diplomatic influence across the world, let me suggest using John Bolton's recent maneuverings over the UN budget as a case study."
article placeholder

Blog Roundup #68

A sampling of United Nations related blog commentaryMark Thomson: "For those interested in what international covenants have to say on the use of the death penalty, here are two UN sites for your information: United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."El Canche: "[P]lease forgive yet another article about poverty, the United Nations, and the lack of humanitarian assistance from wealthy nations. It's just that when the need is so dire, and a solution so easily attainable... it infuriates me that our elected "leaders" are so incapable of acting in humanity's best interests."Sudan Watch: "U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said last week that killing and rape in Darfur had increased in September and October and the region was descending into complete lawlessness. Darfur is slipping yet deeper into catastrophe before the very eyes of an unmoved international community, writes Eric Reeves Nov 20, 2005. Pope Benedict XVI said Monday "stronger international resolve" is needed to halt the bloodshed in Darfur."Bob Whitson: FACTBOX - What Is The Kyoto Protocol? Planet Ark: About 190 governments will meet in Montreal, Canada, from Nov 28 - Dec 9 to review the UN's Kyoto Protocol meant to cut emissions of gases blamed for global warming. Here are some frequently asked questions about Kyoto..."Global Voices Online: "The western Sudanese region of Darfur made the headlines for a significant portion of last year when millions of civilians were displaced by fighting between rebel groups and the pro-Sudanese government Janjaweed militia. African Union troops were then sent in to keep the peace with assistance from international bodies like the United Nations, European Union and the United States. Peace talks on Darfur between the rebel groups and Sudanese government are scheduled to continue (they have been going on intermittently for while) in the Nigerian capital of Abuja on Tuesday, 29 November 2005. The blogosphere has been active on the crisis in Darfur. We take a look at some bloggers and what they have to say on this."Indian Writing: "Ending violence against refugee women continues to be one of the priorities of the UNHCR: "The United Nations Population Fund has found that violence kills as many women and girls between the ages of 15 and 44 as cancer; that worldwide, one in three women has been beaten, coerced into unwanted sexual relations, or abused; and that roughly 80 per cent of the 800,000 people trafficked across borders each year are women and girls."Jurist: "US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton has requested that the UN Security Council put Myanmar on the council's agenda for the first time, alleging that Myanmar's military rulers are destroying villages, targeting ethnic minorities, seeking nuclear power capabilities and failing to initiate democratic reforms and repressing political opponents such as pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi."Media Girl: "In the Washington Post today, Former UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke is only half right: "Until a vaccine is found -- and that is probably more than a decade away -- we must focus on prevention and treatment.... According to U.N. figures, over 90 percent of all those who are HIV-positive in the world do not know their status. Yet there has never been a serious and sustained campaign to get people to be tested." Mr. Holbrooke rightly points out that the only true victory over HIV/AIDS will be a vaccine. But when we have Republicans beholden to pseudo-religious fanatics who oppose effective cures for diseases that affect sexually active people, will the United States even help make available any future cure for HIV/AIDS?"Philobiblion: "Three million girls abused and mutilated every year - I was going to write an extensive post on this, but it is so depressing I couldn't face it. From the Unicef press site: "An estimated three million girls in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East undergo genital mutilation/cutting every year, according to a UNICEF report released today. Yet the study says that with adequate commitment and support, this millennium-long custom could be eliminated within a single generation."Radio News America: "[AFP] Pneumonia is spreading amongst cold and hungry children who survived Pakistan's giant earthquake, killing two and affecting hundreds more as the Himalayan winter sweeps in. The United Nations begged the international community for extra help as it races against time to save millions of people threatened by disease and hypothermia because of the sudden change in the weather."Terrorism News: "U.S. storm brewing at UN climate summit in Montreal - The first United Nations climate conference since the Kyoto agreement came into force in February has opened with the US still resisting targets."
article placeholder

Blog Roundup #67

A sampling of United Nations related blog commentary1_splashfinally.gifOverthrow: "Montreal Climate Summit, the first United Nations climate conference since the Kyoto agreement came to legal force in Feb. 16, 2005, is taking place against a backdrop of increasing concern about the speed of the changes to the global climate and its consequences."Treehugger: "Today in Montreal the United Nations Climate Change Conference begins, and it will end on December 9th. This event will bring together more than 10,000 people including delegates, official observers from government, industry, business, the scientific community, and other non-governmental organisations (NGOs) interested in figuring out what to do for the post-Kyoto era. This thing will be big! Stay tuned this week for more, including the expected statement by the US that they aren't changing their position and that doing something about greenhouse gas emissions and efficiency is "bad for the economy."Politics in the Zeros: "Pay up to save rainforests: "A bloc of developing countries plans to make a radical proposal this week at the United Nations summit on climate change in Montreal: pay us, and we will preserve our rainforests. The group of 10 countries, led by Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica, argues that the rest of the world is benefiting from the rainforests' natural wealth without sharing the cost." They do have a point."Mojo Blog: "Sam Rosenfeld has a very good TAPPED post about aid to Africa, noting that while turning poor African countries into democracies with 10 percent GDP growth a year is very hard, spending a bit of money to provide them with bed nets for malaria is not. That's right. I think, though, he's attacking a straw man here. Very few "aid critics," even William Easterly, think that modest steps like sending malaria nets to Africa are useless. Easterly would probably laud it as the sort of thing we should be doing. But that's not what people like Jeffrey Sachs are proposing. Sachs argues that you can't solve one poverty problem without solving a whole host of others, and wants to send nations not just malaria nets but trees that replenish nitrogen in the soil, rainwater harvesting, better health clinics, etc. etc. The UN Millenium Project is very broad, and as such, is open to the usual criticisms. In fact, critics of Jeffrey Sachs sometimes cite the Gates Foundation's malaria net work as their preferred, more modest alternative."Stygius: "While I agree with John Bolton that -- theoretically -- unilateralism is not isolationism, an isolated unilateralist makes the two a distinction without a difference. Via Steve Clemons, it looks like Bolton's tactics at the United Nations are managing to alienate America's most steadfast partner. The Telegraph: "Britain has rebuffed a Bolton move to join him in refusing to pass the organisation's 2006 budget until member states approve wide-ranging management reforms."
article placeholder

Blog Roundup #66

A sampling of United Nations related blog commentaryCrooks and Liars: "Britain has angered John Bolton, America's combative ambassador to the United Nations, by breaking ranks with him over the need for reform. Britain has rebuffed a Bolton move to join him in refusing to pass the organisation's 2006 budget until member states approve wide-ranging management reforms: "Privately, British diplomats express surprise that he has not made greater efforts to cultivate them or build alliances. "You're either with him or against him," said one." That's the Bolton we all knew and the one Bush had to force on the UN. He doesn't have the necessary skills to bring reform to the table, but rather a heavy fist that divides and separates. Not a good tool as you can see."Tapped (Ezra Klein): "Gareth Evans, former prime minister of Australia and current head of the highly regarded International Crisis Group, has a welcome op-ed in this morning's Los Angeles Times about civil conflicts and atrocities. The reason for the drawdown in hostilities, Evans argues, is international peacekeeping, which has become vastly more widespread and efficient than ever before. Its reputation, however, has not improved commensurately with its record, largely because its successes have averted the sort of high stakes negotiation dramas that attract television cameras."Tiger Hawk: "President Bush believed that it was important for the United States to invade Iraq and replace its regime. There were a great many arguments in favor of this policy, most of which were made by the Administration in one form or another before the war. One of the arguments was a legalistic one -- that Saddam's government was, by virtue of its alleged present development and possession of WMD, in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions. It was important to some people, including some Democrats and Tony Blair, that the UNSC endorse the war, or that it be unreasonably vetoed. Colin Powell went to the United Nations to make a legal case for a UNSC stamp of approval, not to make the best geopolitical case for the removal of Saddam Hussein. The geopolitical case did not depend on existing WMD, and still doesn't. But the intelligence that appeared to show Saddam's WMD programs were central to the administration's advocacy in front of the United Nations, so it is neither surprising nor shameful that it omitted all the various footnotes and hedges that have surfaced in the last thirty months or so. Do you want our President to share all our doubts and qualifications with the world? I certainly don't."Booman Tribune: "John Goetz has been working on the Curveball story for a long time now. It is published today in the Los Angeles Times. I am proud to say that I did what I could to help him and his partner Bob Drogin with this. This story is a massive piece of the jigsaw puzzle that only now is beginning to be solved for the benefit of the understanding of the American people as to why they are now at war in Iraq. Some samples from the article: "...On Feb. 8, three days after Powell's speech, the U.N.'s Team Bravo conducted the first search of Curveball's former work site. The raid by the American-led biological weapons experts lasted 3 1/2 hours. It was long enough to prove Curveball had lied. U.N. teams also raided the other sites Curveball had named. They interrogated managers, seized documents and used ground-penetrating radar, according to U.N. reports. The U.N. inspectors "could find nothing to corroborate Curveball's reporting," the CIA's Iraq Survey Group reported last year."Daniel Drezner: "The Financial Times reports that the United States has made a new concession over Iran's ambiguous nuclear program: "In a major concession towards Iran's nuclear programme, the US on Friday gave its public backing to a proposal by Russia and the European Union that would allow the Islamic republic to develop part of the nuclear fuel cycle on its own territory. The shift in US policy "revealed after talks between President George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader" came despite a report from the UN nuclear watchdog that lent credence to US and European claims that Iran is trying, or once had ambitions, to develop nuclear weapons."Dogooder: All Africa: "In a major volte face, President Robert Mugabe's government has accepted United Nations (UN) assistance for the provision of shelter to thousands of victims of its controversial Operation Murambatsvina scattered in and around the country. The government's change of heart, coming a month before the arrival of another special UN envoy to assess the humanitarian crisis triggered by the widely condemned clean-up exercise, follows this week's forcible removal of hundreds of people that had been sleeping in the open in Mbare after the demolition of slums six months ago."Uncooperative Blogger: "Iran Has Plans To Build a Nuclear Bomb - From an article in the News Telegraph: "Iran has admitted obtaining designs that could help it make a nuclear bomb, the United Nations nuclear watchdog said yesterday in a confidential report. The IAEA report said documents bought by Iran on the black market included designs "on the casting and machining of enriched, natural and depleted uranium into hemispherical forms." Experts said the casts are used in atomic weapons." What have I been saying folks? Iran plans on building the Islamic Bomb. This is not even open to debate any longer, they are enriching Uranium and they have purchased plans to build a bomb. Do we have to wait until they actually use it to do something about it??? That is the last straw. Bush has to act, and act soon. No more talking, or EU discussion the time to act is here!"
article placeholder

Blog Roundup #65

A sampling of United Nations related blog commentaryUrban Eco: "It's a shame that it takes a major disaster to make us look at our environmental practices. The recent earthquake in Pakistan and India caused more devastation in areas that had been deforested, and the problem could only get worse as people forage remaining trees for shelter and fuel. It's heartening to see that the U.N. Environmental Programme is already stepping in to help clean up and recycle waste created by the earthquake, as well as encourage planting of new trees to help in the future: "[BBC NEWS] UN warns of quake 'toxic wast' - Debris could pollute the water sources, the UN says. The UN has warned that waste and debris left in the wake of the 8 October quake could become toxic and seriously endanger the health of survivors..."Colcam: "Green Machine At The United Nations. The prototype of the $100 wind-up laptop for kids in developing countries has made its debut at the United Nations. Millions of the lime green machines should be in production within a year. The laptop will run on open source software."Think Progress: "Last night, Bill O'Reilly referred to his comments approving of a terrorist attack on San Francisco as a "satirical riff." We're not sure President Bush would agree. Recall the recently adopted UN Security Council Resolution 1624 - passed unanimously on Sept 14, 2005, with President Bush actually personally casting the vote for the United States. In his speech to fellow heads of state, Bush singled it out and said the United States "strongly supports the implementation of this resolution." ... It sounds like O'Reilly has run afoul of at least the spirit of the UNSC resolution - and the wishes of his president."Alas, a Blog!: "Over at The Inkwell, the IWF's blog, one of the Charlottes explains why feminists oppose Ellen Sauerbrey, Bush's nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration at the United Nations: "[She] supports the Bush administration's withholding $34 million from the U.N. Population Fund because the agency has made financial contributions to China's policy of forced-abortions to limit family size."Adoption Guide: "Statistics On Orphans - GENEVA (VOA) -- The United Nations says the situation of children in Sierra Leone is dire, with a huge problem of children being trafficked abroad. UNICEF is urging that adoptions be stopped until protective measures are put in place in the West African country."War and Piece: "Go read Laura Secor's interview in the New Yorker about the limitations and achievements of Iran's internal reform movement: "What do the dissidents want? To overthrow the government? Or are there specific, more modest reforms that they seek? [Secor] Iran had a revolution pretty recently, followed by the traumas of war and dictatorship. As badly as many people want change, very few are inclined to put their lives and their country's fundamental stability on the line for it. That said, there are dissidents who flatly say that the system has to go, and that it should be replaced by a constitution based not on Islamic law but on the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
article placeholder

Blog Roundup #64

A sampling of United Nations related blog commentaryTextually: "Millions of SMS have been sent as part of a global campaign by UNICEF to raise awareness of the enormous impact of HIV/AIDS on children around the world, reports Mike Grenville for 160characters.org. "The launch of Unite for Children. Unite against AIDS took place on 25 October 2005 in 50 countries around the world and in two countries SMS has been used to back up the poster campaign. Uzbekistan: Nearly a million cell-phone subscribers in Tashkent received an intriguing 'wake-up call' on 25th October through an SMS message to launch the campaign in Uzbekistan. The message asked "Why are so many young people contracting HIV?" Each SMS message had a link to the UNICEF website where everyone interested was able find more detailed information about the campaign..."Bump in the Beltway: "Survivors of the Pakistani earthquake left to die of cold. Thousands have no shelter with the first snows of winter only days away. By Justin Huggler in Bagh, Kashmir: "At least 500,000 earthquake survivors in Pakistan still have no shelter with the fierce Himalayan winter just days away, international relief agencies have warned. Aid agencies say they are doing what they can but governments have not put up enough money. The United Nations has received only $133m towards an emergency appeal for $550m. It urgently needs $42m just to keep the current aid effort going." Can someone tell me why the victims of the tsunami are somehow more worthy of aid?"Eccentric Star: "Reconstruction Chief Challenged by Iraqis - [Reuters] Iraqi perceptions that not enough is being done to rebuild the country after the U.S.-led invasion are simply a case of bad public relations, Washington's new reconstruction chief said on Sunday. Challenged by Iraqi reporters at his first news conference since he arrived in Baghdad to head the U.S. embassy's Iraq Reconstruction Management Office, Dan Speckhart listed a string of U.S.-funded projects covering health, education, transport, water and electricity generation... Another Iraqi reporter asked him about a recommendation by a UN watchdog agency that Washington should repay $208 million in apparent overcharges paid to a Halliburton Co. subsidiary."Harowo: "Discontent Simmering in Horn of Africa - [VOA] The UN peacekeeping mission along Ethiopia-Eritrea border region has cost one billion dollars since the 2000 peace accord. The border region between Ethiopia and Eritrea is mostly barren and sparsely populated. According to most observers, it is hardly a region worth fighting for. Yet, Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a two-year war over it, between 1998 and 2000, in which an estimated 70-thousand people lost their lives. Robert Rotberg, Director of Harvard University's Program on Interstate Conflict says despite the 2000 peace agreement, the border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea remains unresolved."Politburo Dikat: "Annan pays first visit to Iraq since start of war / He calls for factions to come together for Dec. 15 elections: "U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan visited Iraq on Saturday for the first time since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq 2 1/2 years ago ... The United Nations, which pulled out of Iraq in October 2003 after a bombing at its Baghdad headquarters, is slowly re-establishing its presence in the country. The attack killed 22 people, including the top U.N. envoy to Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello."PSD: "Kenyan Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai on the importance of Africa's SME's and diaspora: "I commend the African diaspora for believing in small and medium-sized enterprises, which are key to enabling Africans to fulfill their aspirations for jobs and economic security. The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (Unido) reports that 90% of all businesses in Africa are small and medium-sized. We must support this sector and ensure that it thrives." Via Africa Unchained."True Blue Liberal: "From The Standard China: Iran has dismissed fresh US allegations about its atomic ambitions as a bid to blight a crucial meeting of the United Nations nuclear watchdog later this month. US officials said new evidence suggested Iran had made significant progress in what they call its secret pursuit of nuclear weapons, and that this strengthened the case for more international pressure on Teheran to end the program. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi rejected the allegations as an attempt to ratchet up pressure on Teheran."