USAID Administrator Shah Blogs at HuffPo

The new USAID Administrator, Rajiv Shah has a maiden blog post in the Huffington Post today: One Month Later, Haiti’s Humanitarian Crisis Remains (Posted: February 12, 2010 10:33 AM).  A curious thing though — this post is up in the Huffington Post but not in DipNote when I last checked. Dr. Shah was sworn in as the 16th Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on December 31, 2009. In the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, President Obama appointed Dr. Shah as coordinator of the government’s relief efforts in Haiti. Excerpt below:

Despite the human challenges, we are working with the Haitian people and their leaders to focus on tomorrow, even as we face enormous challenges. Efficient operations at food distribution points are allowing us to feed more people on a regular basis, but still, too many go hungry. Together with our international partners, we are providing Haitians with the tools and materials to construct temporary shelters to protect them in the rainy season, but Haiti’s already fragile natural environment is now even more vulnerable to the rains, floods and hurricanes. The ability to care for those recovering from injury is increasing, and monitoring for potential for outbreak of disease is constant; but even in the best of conditions, temporary settlements make the public health threat very real.

With this sense of urgency, the United States will continue to work tirelessly with Haiti and our international partners to identify where each country can best contribute, in order to to alleviate this humanitarian crisis and lay the foundation for future Haitian development that reduces the impact such disasters have on Haiti’s population. American citizens echoed this commitment. Nearly half of all American families have donated to the Haiti relief effort through efforts such as the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund.

Read his whole post here.

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Nomination Confirmed: Betty King

One of the 27 nominees confirmed by the Senate on February 11 was Betty King for the US Mission in Geneva:

PN1111 *      DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Betty E. King, of New York, to be Representative of the United States of America
to the Office of the United Nations and Other International Organizations in
Geneva, with the rank of Ambassador.

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Ambassador Beyrle’s blog makes news

Most days the ambassadors’ blog posts do not really make news. The topics they address in their blogs are normally selective and noncontroversial ranging from travel, development/relief work or embassy events.  On very few occasions, they skirt on policy areas like this one and recently in livejournal Ambassador Beyrle blogged about missile defense. Josh Rogin of The Cable had this item yesterday: State Department: No shift on missile defense:  

U.S. Ambassador to Moscow John Beyrle‘s recent blog post about ongoing negotiations for a START follow-on agreement does not represent a shift in the U.S. position, despite the articles saying so.
Written in Russian, Beyrle’s post says, “The treaty deals with offensive, not defensive systems, but since we acknowledge a logical link between them, our presidents have agreed that the treaty will contain a provision on the interconnection between strategic offensive and defensive weapons.”
The Associated Press declared on its own authority that “Beyrle’s statement indicated the U.S. stance has shifted,” and that “Beyrle’s statement apparently reflects an attempt by Washington to overcome Russia’s suspicions of the U.S. missile defence plans.”
Not so, say our State Department sources, who point out that Beyrle was simply referring to the July 8 Joint Understanding between President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, which said that the START follow-on would include “a provision on the interrelationship of strategic offensive and strategic defensive arms,” nothing more, nothing less.
The ambassador’s post has a link to the DOD’s February 2010 report on Ballistic Missile Defense Review, if you want to read up on that.  Do do think a follow-up post is coming?  

Quickie: Arabic flash cards can get you detained? In America?

From CNN: Passenger who had Arabic flash cards sues over his detainment (February 10, 2010):

A college senior studying Arabic says he was wrongly detained for almost five hours last summer after an airport screener found his Arabic-English flash cards and a book critical of U.S. foreign policy.[…] George, of Wyncote, Pennsylvania, said he is studying Arabic because of his interest in Middle East politics. He plans to take a foreign service exam later this year, he said.

“I want to serve my country using my Arabic language,” George told CNN. “And it just seems crazy to me that for that I was arrested and treated like a criminal.”
He said the incident occurred August 29 after he arrived at the Philadelphia airport for a flight to California to begin his senior year at Pomona College. When he was asked to empty his pockets at the airport checkpoint, he produced a set of handmade flash cards, which piqued the interest of the TSA screener. The flash cards had an English word on one side and the corresponding Arabic word on the other.
Of the approximately 200 flash cards, about 10 had words such as “bomb,” “explosion,” and “terrorist,” George said.
“They asked me why I had those words. I told them honestly because I had been trying to read Arabic news media, especially Al-Jazeera, and these are words that come up when you read the news about the Middle East,” George said.
He said he was in the secondary screening area for about a half hour before a TSA supervisor arrived and began questioning him in a “hostile and aggressive manner.”
Noting that George had a book titled “Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions,” the supervisor asked him a series of questions, including “Who did 9/11?” and “Do you know what language he spoke?” The supervisor then held up the flash cards and said, “Do you see why these cards are suspicious?” George said.
[…]
One year ago, JetBlue Airways and two TSA screeners paid $240,000 to an Iraqi man to settle claims that they refused to let him aboard a flight until he had covered up his T-shirt, which read, “We Will Not be Silent” in English and Arabic.
The man, Raed Jarrar, said one screener told him, “Coming to an airport while wearing a T-shirt with Arabic letters on it was equivalent to going into a bank while wearing a shirt saying, ‘I am a robber.’ “
Read the whole thing here.
Does this mean I could potentially get whisked to secondary at the airport if I’m carrying Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America? Rogue Nation, by the way, was written by Clyde Prestowitz, a former Reagan Administration trade official.  I wonder if the TSA supervisor had even read that book. Do you see why brains are needed?

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