Posts tagged with: united nations

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Regis Nicoll over at The Point notes a WaPo story that is getting a lot of play on the blogosphere about the UN’s downgrade of the estimate of the extent of the AIDS epidemic, “U.N. to Cut Estimate Of AIDS Epidemic: Population With Virus Overstated by Millions.”

Nicoll writes that while of course it is good news that fewer people are infected than were previously thought, “The bad news is that previous estimates were inflated because of politics, bad science, or both.”

Nicoll continues, “While reading the announcement, I couldn’t help but draw parallels with certain climate change proponents and Intelligent Design critics whose tactics involve alarmism, exaggerated estimates and the politicization of science to protect their study grants and mandarin status.”

That’s something I’ve been wondering about a long time, and have previously drawn comparisons between climate change alarmism and the exaggerated claims of the spread of AIDS (as well as between the challenged position that ID proponents and climate change skeptics share).

The financial incentive for governments, the UN, and NGOs to play up potential cash cows for their pet social and scientific agendas is one that cannot be overlooked. And it’s the sort of corruption that those who really want to tackle corruption should take a hard look at.

When you think about it, NBC’s little promotional stunt on Sunday Night Football for their “Green is Universal” week is a lot like a mini-Kyoto treaty: it was an empty gesture that had no long-term impact on the problem it was trying to address, while immediately making things worse on their broadcast, and in the end the only thing it accomplished was to make the participants feel a bit better about themselves. They probably shouldn’t though, considering that in order to send Matt Lauer to Illulissat, Greenland (4,200 miles roundtrip from 30 Rock), Al Roker to the Galapagos Islands (6,100 miles roundtrip), and Ann Curry to the South Pole (18,000 miles roundtrip) probably created many times the carbon emissions that were “offset” by Bob Costas’ romantic candlelight rendezvous with the American football-viewing public.

Or perhaps they shouldn’t feel so bad, considering that we’re just now learning that the southeastern United States is suffering through a dreadful drought (caused, of course, by Global Warmingtm) partly because of a lack of hurricaines (also brought to you by Global Warmingtm) over the last few years:

…journalists from The New York Times to the Augusta Chronicle have blamed the Southeast’s woes on man-made carbon dioxide.

Wrote the Chronicle: “Indeed, the drastic effects of global climate change intrude everywhere on our daily consciousness – from the serious drought that now threatens cities in the Southeast to. . . Category 5 hurricanes regularly battering coastlines.”

But, according to the AP stories that ran across the nation, the drought conditions are a result of “stifling summer heat and a drier-than-normal hurricane season.”

Complained a USA Today story: “With hurricane season nearing an end, no one expects relief before winter.”

Yes, both the presence and absence of hurricanes are simultaneously the fault of – you guessed it – climate change! If only we could figure out some way to distinguish between those carbon emissions that cause lingering drought and those that cause increased hurricanes and balance them somehow.

Perhaps the UN could add that to the agenda of their upcoming UN Climate Change Conference 2007 in fabulous, sunny Bali, Indonesia! Via The New Editor, Claudia Rosett gives insight into the sacrifice that our beloved international diplomats will be making to save us from ourselves:

UN policy allows even the lowlier UN staffers to travel business class on long-haul flights (your tax dollars at work), the better to arrive wined, dined and ready to hit the ground …and the beaches … and the golf courses … and the tennis courts — running. Apparently there is so much to discuss that the conference will run for a full fortnight, from Dec. 3-14, at Bali’s seaside luxury resort of Nusa Dua.

For all those taxpayer mugs out there who have not had the experience of flying business class to spend a fortnight at Nusa Dua, check out the spectacular seaside photos of the Bali International Convention Center, with its slogan: “The Place…Where Business is a Pleasure.” For more information, page through the Bali conference outline on the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change, or UNFCC, web site. This includes a handy list of pre/post conference tours, and a list of hotels (Nusa Dua Beach Hotel and Spa, and Melia Bali Villas and Spa Resort, already sold out) plus recreational facilities: sailing, fishing, snorkeling, ocean kayaking, and, of course, the shopping gallery.

I don’t know about you, but I shudder at the thought of a world so ravaged by the horrors of climate change that UN staffers would be forced to fly coach to a two week long conference at a fabulous seaside resort.

In the meantime, though, let’s just be thankful that the UN and NBC are willing to kick out so much carbon in order to help in creating the global warming-caused hurricanes that will offset the global warming-caused drought that afflicts the global warming-ravaged Southeast US. And let’s tip our cap to Glenn Beck, who is using his perch on CNN to help out as well:

The idealism and the goals of the United Nations are laudable. The results, at least in recent years, have often been nothing short of a disaster. One example will suffice—the recently created U.N.’s Human Rights Council, begun a year ago this past week. This council is sadly typical of the modern collapse of the U.N. The Human Rights Council consists of 47 members, almost half of which are "unfree" or "partly free" nations, at least as ranked by Freedom House. Trying to get China, Russia, Cuba and Saudi Arabia to reach an agreement on violations of freedom in various countries is like trying to get the mafia to give up crime.

Presently there are only nine countries on the human rights "watch list." These are Burundi, North Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Liberia, Cambodia, Burma, Somalia and Sudan. But if Cuba is watching "the watched" then that is somewhat like the the fox watching the hen house. And at China’s request the council now insists on the "broadest possible support" of at least fifteen nations on the council to act. This means, in effect, that probes on freedom of speech and political rights are likely to amount to nothing. There has been a deafening silence from the other 190 U.N. members about these developments along with strong hints that most investigations of violators will soon end.

The council recently adopted a resolution entitled "Combating Defamation of Religions." This sounded promising. The document says that speech must "be exercised with responsibility" and limited to protect "public order, public health or morals and respect for religions and beliefs." Well and good. But there is a small problem. The only religion mentioned is Islam.

Critics of the U.S. tell us quite routinely that we who are not huge fans of the U.N. don’t really care what goes on in the world yet the U.S. is quite often one of the few nations that will actually intervene to protect human rights, though all too slowly many times. The European Union will not protect human rights so long as it has to defend Israel thus the real enemies of human rights have no real opposition politically in most of Europe. The U.S. taxpayers cover 22% of the bill for all this mess. This is why The Wall Street Journal piece was correct last week when it suggested we have only one real option: Stop funding the U.N. Human Rights Council. I have believed in the U.N., at least in theory, for a lifetime but the reality of the real world situation is fast making me doubt its real value for the future.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The UN has been busy updating the Chicken Little fable into a contemporary context. You know the story where the little chick runs around crying, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

In this edition, however, the looming disaster is (predictably) climate change. The news comes courtesy of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (HT: NewsBusters).

Sedna, the Mother of the Sea

The Gaia motif is perhaps the most revealing part, as in “Tore and the Town on Thin Ice,” (PDF) the title character is visited by “Sedna, the Mother of the Sea” who claims to be “the one who created and cares for the sea creatures – whales and walruses, seals and fish.”

Sedna is the Inuit goddess of the sea, and apparently the link between environmentalism and paganism is a natural one at the United Nations Environment Programme.

Of course the Christian faith provides a more than adequate basis for true stewardship of the environment, which neither divinizes the creation nor absolutizes human power over the world.

The Lord who “created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind” also made man the “ruler over the works” of his hands, including “the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.”

If it is true that the sea life is suffering, I think it is less a sign of the distress of Sedna than it is something else…the day of the Lord, perhaps? See what some of the prophets have to say about this, particularly Ezekiel and Zephaniah.

But perhaps that story is too scary for the UN. It prefers the Chicken Little myth and the illusion both that human action is the direct cause of and the potential solution for all disasters.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Via International Civic Engagement:

Already available in English, Japanese, Italian and Polish, the game will now be accessible in French, Hungarian and Chinese by the end of next week, vastly increasing the forum for the UN World Food Programme’s (WFP) ‘Food Force’ www.food-force.com – designed to teach youngsters about the problems of global hunger and what humanitarian organizations do to fight it.

The English, Japanese, Italian and Polish versions, which were launched over the past 18 months, have totalled over 4.5 million downloads to date, making Food Force a major success story in the educational gaming sector.

My review of the game is here, along with other PowerBlog commentary on socially active video games.

Allow me to summarize the message of outgoing UN General Secratary Kofi Annan’s speech to the General Assembly yesterday (HT: International Civic Engagement):

“The United Nations is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to utopia but through it.”

You can compare the text of Annan’s speech to see if I’ve gotten it right, and then contrast my summary with another source.

Seven years after the United Nations assumed control of the Serb province of Kosovo, talks are underway about its future. Orthodox Church leaders for the minority Serb population, which has been subject to attacks for years by Muslim extremists, are hoping to forestall mounting pressure to establish an independent state. Is the Church headed for extinction in Kosovo?

Read the complete commentary here.

Bono and Sachs: Does The Edge feel left out?

Although I am a year behind here, I have just started reading Jeffrey Sachs’s The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time, paperback just released by Penguin (with a foreword by Bono!). I’ll avoid the urge to comment on everything that strikes me this or that way in the book–and I most certainly am not going to try to go head to head with Sachs on economic matters. But, being a student of language, I would like to point out a subtlety some might consider benign, but I suspect is of relevance. It exists in the following passage from the Preface to the Paperback Edition: (more…)

Wired News passes along this article by Chris Kohler, “U.N. Game Wins Hearts and Minds.” The story gives a brief overview and history of the video game created by the United Nations World Food Programme, Food Force.

Kohler writes, “The United Nations created the game after witnessing the success of the U.S. Army’s recruitment game, America’s Army.” The game takes players through six stages of work to get desperately needed food and supplies to vulnerable and malnourished populations.

Justin Roche, the game’s project manager, points out that Food Force is a non-violent game that competes with first-person shooters like America’s Army. “We really are the antithesis of the plethora of violent games that dominate the market,” he said. “Not one shot is fired, yet we are competing for kids’ time often devoted to shoot’em-ups.”

The Washington Post published an article yesterday highlighting the usage of virtual combat games to train a generation of new soldiers (HT: Slashdot). “The technology in games has facilitated a revolution in the art of warfare,” says David Bartlett, the former chief of operations at the Defense Modeling and Simulation Office, a high-level office within the Defense Department and the focal point for computer-generated training at the Pentagon.

Roche also said of Food Force,”We have many e-mails from children, saying that they would like to come and work for us when they are older. It’s wonderful to think that our little game is having this kind of impact.”

Check out my review of Food Force here. I conclude that the game is good as far as it goes: “Larger structural issues about the WFP and the UN remain outside the scope of the game, but nevertheless are reflected in the game’s guiding ethos and makeup. We can only hope that the WFP’s stated commitment to the independence of those it helps is manifested by policies that actually give those in need economic freedom and the hope of development. Addressing the root causes of poverty can be the only real long-term solution to poverty, hunger, and the devastation brought about by natural disasters.”

Got bureaucrat?

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Thursday, February 9, 2006

The traditional formula for understanding the relationship between the developed and the developing world is the following: Aid = Economic Growth. That is, foreign aid spurs economic development in poorer nations.

A new study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research challenges this wisdom, however. “Aid and Growth: What Does the Cross-Country Evidence Really Show?” by Raghuram G. Rajan and Arvind Subramanian shows that “regardless of the situation — for example, in countries that have adopted sound economic policies or improved government institutions — or the type of assistance involved, aid does not appear to stimulate growth over the short or long term.”

Findings like this should cause advocates of aid-oriented programs like the ONE Campaign and the Micah Challenge to reassess their efforts. One way to change things would be to focus on actual outcomes rather than simply looking at the inflow of aid. The ONE Campaign by definition is focused on the front side, the supply of aid, rather than any actual effects of the aid: “We believe that allocating an additional ONE percent of the U.S. budget toward providing basic needs like health, education, clean water and food, would transform the futures and hopes of an entire generation of the poorest countries.”

A summary of the NBER paper states, “Challenging the simplistic but seductive view that increased assistance from rich countries is likely to put many poor countries on the path to prosperity, a new study on the impact of foreign aid finds ‘little evidence’ that it ever has a positive effect on economic growth.” So the real-world formula looks something like this: Aid ≠ Economic Growth.

“Rajan and Subramanian observe that there is a tendency in analyzing the impact of aid for economists to take sides and conclude that it is good or bad for growth. But the authors argue that neither assertion is valid because the data supporting either argument is so ‘fragile’ that with only minor tweaks, it can yield the opposite result. For example, they take an analysis.”

The important thing to realize is that past aid programs have had no provable positive effect. The conclusion is not that aid has no part to play in future development, but simply that it cannot be the only answer, and as part of the solution, “the aid apparatus (in terms of how aid should be delivered, to whom, in what form, and under what conditions) will have to be rethought.”