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Global Warming Gets Some Attention

But not much. Here's hoping it's enough.

Is Afghanistan a new Vietnam?

Although George Will's goals are transparent, his new article makes the case for withdrawal from Afghanistan. Actually Doonesbury makes a better case. My personal feeling is that the current election in Afghanistan was a huge missed opportunity to dislodge an unresponsive, weak national government.

Look for the Republican base to begin railing against nation building again.

Malnutrition and Starvation in Guatemala

Malnutrition and starvation continue to dog Guatemala. As it enters the "hungry season" - the time of year when people in many of the drier areas of Guatemala must depend on food stores for their survival - the forecast is not good. Already unusually high numbers of deaths by starvation are being reported. But that is acute hunger.

Guatemala is also home to chronic hunger and widespread malnutrition, as Sam Loewenberg notes a recent news piece. The U.S. government will spend $25 million this year to attempt to alleviate the pain of some of this. But to shift millions of people out of hunger is a herculean task.

210 Days into the Obama Administration

Well, by my count, this is day 210 of Obama's first 1,461 day administration. And Obama has still only announced 300 of some of the 501 appointments he has to make as commander and chief, this according to the Post's handy Head Count. Compared with past administrations this is amazingly slow. And from a HR perspective, it makes you wonder what's up. A White House full of the best policy in the world isn't going to get you anywhere without people to implement it.

This all came to mind again, when a friend pointed out that a "frontrunner" for the USAID Administrator post, at least according to the windy personalities that populate the speculative, leadership vacuum that is current Washington, decided to take an actual job offer instead of waiting around for Obama to come calling.

Out in the field, a lot has moved into a "wait and see" mode. And as someone new to the ways of the federal government,  I wonder how long we can go with a black hole in the center.

Honduras:  On July 7, the State Department announced, as a policy matter, the suspension of all assistance programs that would legally require termination if the events in Honduras were found to have triggered section 7008 of the FY09 Appropriations Act.  As of July 8, USAID had suspended four programs totaling approximately $1.9 million in basic education, family planning, and the environment, including activities supporting the Government of Honduras (GOH) on CAFTA-DR environmental standards.  LAC, USAID/Honduras, and GC are reviewing additional Agency assistance to the GOH to determine other programs appropriate for suspension.


Haiti:  High Level Visitors in HaitiU. N. Special Envoy Bill Clinton visited Haiti July 6-7.  Former President Clinton’s visit coincided with a visit from
Cheryl Mills, Counselor to Secretary Clinton, and Paul Farmer, a prominent Haiti expert.  Former President Clinton was in Haiti to discuss economic, social and environmental priorities of the national government.  His visit included a tour of a mango processing factory in Cite Soleil, one of Haiti’s largest slums, a solid waste sorting center in Port-au-Prince, and the city of Gonaives to assess hurricane rehabilitation work.  Counselor Mills and Dr. Farmer met with Haitian President Preval, Prime Minister Pierre-Louis, and key ministers to assure them of USG commitment to Haiti’s economic development. 


Haiti:  Haiti's External Debt Cancelled.  Haitian economists welcome the decision of the World Bank, which waived the final four conditions, to cancel $1.2 billion dollars of Haitian debt to the international financial institutions, including $140 million in HIPC relief from all creditors and $841 million in additional relief from the World Bank and IDB.  This debt cancellation allows the GOH to redirect nearly $4 billion dollars into projects focusing on the provision of basic services to Haitian citizens and economic growth activities.  USAID intends to pay remaining IDB debt service for Haiti through 2011 (through $20 million in GOH budget support), per the USG’s pledge of budget support at the April Donors’ Conference. 

:  On July 5, 2,000 victims of Colombia’s illegal armed groups received the first payment from the Government of Colombia as part of the individual reparations program.  The initiative was carried out with support from USAID/Colombia’s Community-Based Reintegration Process.  President
Uribe attended the ceremony and apologized to victims on behalf of the state. 


Bolivia:  Foreign Minister Choquehuanca described President Obama as "worse" than George Bush due to U.S. interference in Bolivia’s internal issues and the indefinite suspension of the Andean Trade Preference and Drug Eradication Act.  Choquehuanca was quoted in a La Paz newspaper as saying, “They are meddling with our Constitution and that is interference….  I have said that to

Mrs. Hillary Clinton and also that we no longer believe in their negotiators.”  Vice President Linera stated that negotiations would continue but that the Bolivian government had increasingly less hope of fair treatment by the United States.


Mexico:  High Level Meeting on Influenza A (H1N1) – Lessons Learned and Preparedness.  Organized jointly by Canada, Mexico, the United States, the World Health Organization  and the Pan American Health Organization, the High Level Meeting on Influenza A (H1N1) Lessons Learned and Preparedness took place in Cancun, Mexico July 13.  Representatives from 43 countries, including 22 health ministers, gathered to compare and analyze experiences of different countries and discuss strategies for preventing, detaining and mitigating influenza A H1N1. 


El Salvador:  Elective Surgeries Suspended Due to H1N1.  In light of the need to use more beds for common flu patients, the Director of the Children’s Hospital announced that elective surgeries have been suspended.  There are 319 confirmed cases of H1N1 with one death being reported by the Ministry of Health authorities.


Nicaragua:  Many Nicaraguans Question OAS Actions Against Honduras.  Editorials, political cartoons and op-eds in the two main daily newspapers,

La Prensa and El Nuevo Diario continue to question why the OAS has been quick to criticize the removal of President Zelaya in Honduras but has failed to take any action against the Ortega administration following the credible allegations of fraud in the November 2008 municipal elections.  In a television interview, respected Catholic Church leader Bishop Bernardo Hombach said the OAS and

Jose Miguel Insulza has shown “great belligerence” with Honduras but has said nothing about the fraudulent municipal elections.  

:  Assistance Agreement Signed.  The governments of Panama and the United States signed an Assistance Agreement with an anticipated total budget of $9.2 million to support activities under the Merida Initiative.  Panama’s Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Juan Carlos Varela, and the U.S. Ambassador to Panama, Barbara J. Stephenson, were present at the signing ceremony.

Natural Beauty

Maybe it's my recent trip scuba diving in Roatan. Or maybe it's the amazing skill of the photographers in question. But I am once again welling up with awe of the natural world. The National Geographic just released its annual top photographs. Here are some. Just absolutely stunning.

Former assistant secretary of state Wendy Sherman, who was also North Korea policy coordinator in Clinton days, has also been mentioned for China and for undersecretary for economic matters at State and for head of the Agency for International Development. Another candidate for that latter job is Frederick Barton, a highly regarded former AID official who was a member of the Obama transition review team on development assistance and chaired an Obama campaign team on post-conflict reconstruction.

Whoever takes the AID job will have to rebuild an organization that's but a shell of its former self in terms of overseeing major development programs.

Government and Religion

Revisionists get my goat. Gingrich is the newest arguing that the United States isn't a secular society. As proof he selectively draws from the Declaration of Independence "endowed by their creator." Here's what the author had to say about that:

To messers. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.


The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.

Th Jefferson
Jan. 1. 1802.

Washington Biz Skinny

House and Senate will be in recess April 6-17, 2009.


- On Wednesday, April 1, the Senate passed unanimously an amendment
by Senators Kerry and Lugar, Chairman and Ranking Member, Senate
Foreign Relations Committee, to restore the 150 international
affairs part of the Senate FY 2010 Budget Resolution to the
President's request.  Prior to the amendment, it was $4 billion
below the request.

- The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a bill aimed at
spurring a "green revolution" to combat global food insecurity, in
part by loosening restrictions on using U.S. aid to buy food
overseas.  The legislation would authorize $500 million for a new
emergency food assistance fund that could be used to buy food in
the affected region instead of buying it in the United States and
shipping it overseas.  The bill also would create a global food
"czar" position at the White House, and would authorize $7.75
billion for agriculture research and exchange programs through FY

- The House approved on March 31, the Edward M. Kennedy Serve
America Act, which authorizes $10 million for USAID's Volunteers for
Prosperity Program.   The measure was passed by the Senate on March

- Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) Energy and Commerce Committee
and Chairman Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Energy and Environment
Subcommittee introduced legislation intended to create jobs, help
end dependence on foreign oil, and combat global warming. The
American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES also creates
an International Climate Change Adaption Program within USAID to
provide U.S. assistance for adaption to climate change.

Washing Mashines and Womens' Liberation

To mark International Women's Day this year, the Vatican published a lovely little article that proves how perfectly out of step the Pope and his coterie of sexless wonders are. The gist is a simple one. Contraceptives did little to affect the liberation of women. Rather the most important factor to change the status of women in Western society in the whole of the 20th century, was - you guessed it - the washing machine.

Why on earth does anyone put up with this twaddle?

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