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USA Suspends Millions of Dollars of Funding for UNESCO

UNESCO member states overwhelmingly voted to admit Palestine as a full member on Monday. This, of course, was above the strenuous objections of the United States and it did not take long for the other shoe to drop. ”Acting under a legal requirement to cut U.S. funds to any U.N. agency that recognizes a Palestinian state, the State Department on Monday announced that the United States has stopped funding the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization because of the vote. Department spokesman Victoria Nuland told reporters that the Obama administration would not make a planned $60 million payment to the agency due this month…The UNESCO membership bid, which required approval by two-thirds of the agency’s General Conference, passed by a vote of 107 to 14, with 52 abstentions.Huge cheers erupted in the Paris meeting hall when the Palestinian membership was approved, news agencies reported. France cast a surprise yes vote, drawing applause from the delegates. The United States, Israel, Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany were among those voting no. The United States provides UNESCO with more than $80 million a year, covering about 22 percent of its budget, thus making any cutoff painful. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said she supports a cutoff of aid as mandated under U.S. law.” (WaPo http://wapo.st/rXAeDx)

Kenya and Somalia Call for International Support in Their Fight Against Al Shabaab

It would appear that the conflict in the Horn of Africa about to escalate. The prime ministers of Kenya and Somalia met in Nairobi to issue a joint appeal to the international community to support broader military action against Al Shabab. “A joint statement from the two leaders called for additional troops from the African Union peacekeeping mission AMISOM. Currently, the force has about 9,500 troops based in and around Mogadishu, providing security in the capital for Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, or TFG. Djibouti recently pledged to contribute another 3,000 or so troops to the mission. The statement also called for ‘logistical and financial support’ for a planned blockade of the Somali port city of Kismayo, a major al-Shabab stronghold and supply center. Ali said liberating areas of southern Somalia is the first step to getting assistance to the people living there.” (VOA http://bit.ly/vGOktA)

USAID Taking a (Somewhat) Bold Step for LGBT Rights

It would seem that the USAID is among the first US government agencies to get with the program. “The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) implemented a new policy that ‘strongly encourages’ companies that contract with the agency to implement and enforce comprehensive nondiscrimination policies on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. While this policy change is not mandatory, it sends a strong signal to existing and prospective USAID contractors to adopt workplace protections that would shield the LGBT workforce from employment discrimination. This administrative move comes at a time when the LGBT population continues to face high rates of discrimination at all levels of employment. USAID is likely the first agency to encourage federal contractors to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination policies, building on existing regulations that require nearly all federal contractors (not just USAID contractors) and subcontractors to have employment nondiscrimination policies that include race, religion, color, sex, and national origin. Sexual orientation and gender identity are currently absent from this list of requirements.” (Think Progress http://bit.ly/uFPFWX)

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