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Houston Chronicle on the Food Crisis

An editorial in today's Houston Chronicle argues that for their own security, wealthy nations must act swiftly to confront the global food crisis.
Sparked by the high price and low availability of food, rioting on several continents has provided a sour taste of the unrest that could result from what experts report is a growing food crisis. It will take a coordinated, multinational effort to avert an international disaster of widespread starvation and violence. According to the head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Jacques Diouf, the world's poorest countries can expect the cost of imported food to rise 56 percent, even though the world's cereal production is forecast to increase slightly. That will spell extreme hardship for developing countries that already spend a large portion of their gross domestic product to buy food from abroad. [snip] When people are starving, governments destabilize, people fight for dwindling resources and refugee populations explode. So, providing aid that puts food on poor people's plates is more than a mere humanitarian gesture. Food aid can be the salve that defuses the threat widespread starvation poses to world peace and security.
Read more.
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McCain calls for Strengthening the NPT through Disarmament

On the heels of his trip to the middle east, John McCain is billed to give a major foreign policy address today. The Washington Post got its hands on some highlights.
"The United States cannot lead by virtue of its power alone," McCain said. Instead, the country must lead by attracting others to its cause, demonstrating the virtues of freedom and democracy, defending the rules of an international civilized society, and creating new international institutions to advance peace and freedom, he said. "If we lead by shouldering our international responsibilities and pointing the way to a better and safer future for humanity ... it will strengthen us to confront the transcendent challenge of our time: the threat of radical Islamic terrorism," said McCain.
Naturally, "creating new international institutions" catches my attention. Later in the article, it seems that McCain is referring to building a coalition of democracies and renewing American commitment to nuclear disarmament through strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. For a thorough explanation of why this first idea may be problematic, I'll encourage readers to (pre) order Matt Yglesias' new book Heads in the Sand. Meanwhile, it's really encouraging to see McCain throw his support behind not just disarmament, but the NPT in general. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, created in 1968, maintains that nuclear weapons proliferation can only be curtailed if nuclear countries make moves toward disarmament and the rest of the world be allowed to access civilian nuclear technology. However, this "three pillar" strategy has taken a beating in recent years, in part because some nuclear powers have largely ignored its disarmament protocols in pursuit of so-called tactical nuclear weapons. Re-affirming American support for nuclear disarmament is not only a good thing on its own, but it helps to strengthen our entire international non-proliferation regime. Supporting the NPT-- which means abiding by its precepts and working with allies to raise the costs of non-compliance -- is critical to curtailing the global spread of nuclear weapons.
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UN Plaza: Peacekeeper Edition

In the latest UN Plaza installment, I interview Nick Birnback from the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations. We discuss the recent surge of current operations and why Americans should care about peacekeeping.
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Bergmann on Funding UN Peacekeeping

Over on Democracy Arsenal, Max Bergmann takes on a subject near and dear to our hearts. He hits all the highlights: Justin Rood's excellent piece on how the president's new budget request shortchanges African peacekeeping; the 2005 RAND Corporation Study finding that UN peacekeeping is more effective and cheaper than comparable US efforts; and most critically, the burden sharing theme. Sayeth Bergmann:
"Because our military is bogged down in Iraq and stretched to its limits in Afghanistan we face so many challenges around the world, our reliance on the United Nations to address trouble spots and to prevent them from worsening has only increased. Shorting the UN on peacekeeping funding is therefore akin to shooting ourselves in the foot."
Amen to that.
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Bono, Ban ki Moon, and many others honor Tom Lantos

In the statuary room of the Capitol this morning, ambassadors, members of congress, dignitaries--and a rock star--joined to celebrate the life of Congressman Tom Lantos, the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman who succumbed to cancer earlier this week. Secretary Rice spoke early in the service. She was visibly moved as she recalled her long friendship with Congressman Lantos, which stretched back to when she was chancellor of Stanford University. Rice, with Lantos' opera-signing granddaughter, even performed together in charity benefit at the Kennedy Center a few years ago. Joe Biden, who hired Lantos as a staffer when Biden was a Senator in his early 30s, offered a very personal touch. Biden hired Lantos, but then quickly realized that Lantos should be the person calling the shots. The two developed a close relationship. In fact, at his mentor's insistence Biden was married at the United Nations Chapel. Biden even brought Lantos on his honeymoon -- to Hungary. Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer, Lantos' longtime friend Congressman Chris Shays all paid homage to the man, recalling his how his struggle to survive as a Jew in Hungary during the Holocaust shaped his profound commitment to defending human rights across the globe. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livini and Ban Ki Moon also spoke. It is no secret that Congress can sometimes be hard on the United Nations. And in his eulogy, Ban stressed that the United Nations lost a great friend. Ban very eloquently recalled his first meeting with Lantos. The two were having lunch in Lantos' office, when Lantos turned to Ban and said, "In my office, the United Nations will always have a sanctuary in this building." Bono later took the stage. He paid brief tribute to Lantos' dedication to combating global HIV/AIDS, but then spoke about the relationship between Lantos and his wife, Annette. The two have been married 58 years, and were childhood sweethearts who escaped the Holocaust together. This being Valentine's Day, Bono offered Annette a serenade and lead the crowd in "All You Need is Love." Secretary Rice, Ban Ki Moon, and Speaker Pelosi sang along. There was hardly a dry eye to be seen--mine included. Elie Wiesel gave the final eulogy. The two were friends, said Weisel, but they never socialized. Rather they shared the bond that only two genocide survivors could. When the two met, there was no small talk. It was all business between them--and that business was advancing the cause of human dignity across the globe. Sadly, Lantos passed away before the job was complete. His legacy, though, lives on in the lives he touched and the dignity-affirming legislation he passed.
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Better World Campaign Statement on Budget Request for UN Peacekeeping

Hot off the presses from the Better World Campaign: In advance of U.S. President George W. Bush's upcoming trip to Africa and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's testimony on the Administration's fiscal 2009 international affairs budget request, the Better World Campaign today urged Congress to scrutinize the Administration's anemic funding request and growing mountain of unpaid bills for UN peacekeeping missions in Africa and around the world. What follows is a statement by Deborah Derrick, Executive Director of the Better World Campaign.
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Congressman Lantos, RIP

Congressman Tom Lantos succumbed cancer today. He was 80 years old. Congressman Lantos was a lion of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, serving as its ranking member and then chair. As a Holocaust survivor, concerns for global human rights drove his work. This translated into a deep appreciation and respect for the United Nations. The UN had no greater supporter on Capitol Hill than Congressman Lantos, who would go to the mat for the organization during painful fights over UN funding. In another testament to his dedication to the least among us, one of the last pieces of legislation Lantos worked on--just last week-- would cut abstinence-only requirements to the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and use those funds to boost spending on family planning services. On a personal note, I have had the pleasure of serving as a director of the Lantos/Humanity in Action Fellowship Program. Our sympathies go out to his wife, Annette and his entire family.
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What Would You Do On Day One?

The next president will assume office in less than one year from today. Our new sister site wants to know what you think he or she should do On Day One. At you can: * Post your ideas (including videos) for the next President * Vote on and discuss other people's ideas * Tell the Presidential candidates (and friends and family) what you think Please stop by and let them know what you think. And check out the On Day One blog too!