Stories by Katie Paul

  • Iran Sanctions Watch: China on Board

    It's official: China has joined the club of six world powers pursuing a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Iran, closing the last remaining gap among the five countries with veto power on the U.N. Security Council. As per Reuters (via an unidentified source "with knowledge off the talks"): "It has been agreed with China to start drawing up sanctions on Iran," the source said. "Drawing up of a Security Council resolution is to begin in the next few days." Diplomats say China has been slowly and reluctantly falling in line with the other powers involved in the negotiations on Iran by backing the idea of new U.N. sanctions against Tehran but Beijing wants any new steps to be weak. They say the four Western powers would like a resolution to be adopted next month, before a month-long U.N. conference on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in May, but acknowledge that negotiations will probably drag on at least until June. A few quick thoug...
  • In Russia, ‘The War Is Coming to Their Cities’

    Sergey Ponomarev / APEmergency personnel carry equipment in downtown Moscow on Monday, following two rush-hour subway blasts. Russia thought it had the North Caucasus beat. Ten years ago, then-president Vladimir Putin built his reputation by using brute force to bring Russia's most volatile region to heel. On the surface, it seemed to have worked. But in the last year, a rising tide of suicide attacks in the south hinted that Moscow's hold was more tenuous than it liked to admit. Russia's most wanted Islamist leader, Doku Umarov, vowed to bring the violence out of the conflict-prone south and straight to the country's economic and cultural centers. "Blood will no longer be limited to our cities and towns. The war is coming to their cities," he warned. Still, as long as the violence was contained in the south, those cities remained calm.That confidence was shattered this morning, when two female suicide bombers killed at least 38 people on packed Moscow...
  • AIPAC's Week on the Hill: Problems With Its Three Talking Points

    With its all-star speakers out of the way, the American Israel Political Affairs Committee will shift its attention to the other goal its annual policy conference: unleashing upon Congress the persuasive firepower of its some 7,000 participants. Starting Tuesday morning, pro-Israel activists are hitting the Hill, holding about 500 meetings to lobby members of Congress and their aides on keeping the special relationship as special as possible.It's standard fare in Washington for pro-Israel groups to flex their muscles on the Hill in order to constrain White House efforts to pressure Israel. Given the tensions surrounding last week's very public spat over new settlements planned for disputed East Jerusalem, there's extra oomph behind that push this year. AIPAC, of course, just slammed the Obama administration in a press release last week over its handling of the settlements issue; the group has been trying since last year to get Congress behind an aggressive unilateral...
  • Haiti, Hopeful Yesterday, Suddenly Plunged Back Into Chaos

    Haiti was already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere when a 7.0-magnitude earthquake blanketed the island nation in devastation yesterday. In the past decade alone, aggressive deforestation had left the country without a stable food supply and extremely vulnerable to landslides. So when a tropical storm flooded Haiti in 2004, 2,500 people died. It was the same year as the rebellion that overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide (himself restored to office by U.S. Marines in 1994), leaving behind a mess for the U.N. peacekeeping mission to clean up. Then, in August 2008, Hurricane Gustav made landfall, followed barely a week later by Hurricane Hanna, and then Hurricane Ike a week after that. More than 800 people were killed and thousands were left homeless. And yet somehow, despite catastrophe upon catastrophe, Haiti had been on the mend. With help and guidance it might even have achieved something like normalcy. According to a World Bank briefing from September: Since 2...
  • Is Uganda's Antigay Fervor Spreading? An African Domino Theory, Examined.

    Uganda isn't the only star of the antigay show in East Africa anymore. Today, Rwanda's Parliament is also set to consider legislation that would for the first time make homosexuality a crime, punishable by five to 10 years in prison. The bill would also ban any activities that could be construed as "encouraging or sensitizing" same-sex relationships, eliminating advocacy and severely complicating medical treatment, especially for HIV/AIDS....
  • Manhattan Madam to Run Against Spitzer, Or, Why New York Politics Are Infinitely More Entertaining Than DC Politics

    Manhattan Madam and serial self-promoter Kristin Davis announced today that she would run against her arch-nemesis, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, should he throw his hat into the ring in the race to be the next state comptroller. Davis, you may recall, claims Spitzer was one of her clients. Their business relationship started to sour when he allegedly got rough with her girls, then completely deteriorated when she went to jail for her role in the Client #9 scandal and he did not....
  • Out of the Uganda Anti-Gay Debate, a Hero Emerges: Valerie Kalende on Life Under Fire

    Splashed across the front page of Uganda's Daily Monitor this weekend was a profile of Val Kalende, a Ugandan lesbian taking her story public to protest the bill winding through her country's parliament. As anyone who has been following the debate knows by now, if passed, the punishment for her publicly declared homosexuality would be life imprisonment or death.Ms. Kalende has been openly gay since 2002, several years before she became a rights activist with the group Freedom and Roam Uganda, six years before she met the woman she calls the love of her life......When Ms. Kalende agreed to talk to a journalist about how the proposed law made her feel, she first sought the consent of her partner. [Her partner] said yes, but with the caveat that “you don’t put me out there.” Before she left Uganda [to study in the U.S.], Ms. Kalende’s partner had sought to convince her lover to go slow with her activism, to keep a low profile, to just hang in there. It was the kind of advice...
  • Bolivia's Revolution

    Bolivian president Evo Morales and his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chávez, are comrades in a self-proclaimed socialist revolution. But their standing at home couldn't be more different. Morales won a landslide reelection on Dec. 6; meanwhile, two thirds of Venezuelans now say they foresee a possible uprising against Chávez. Why the split? Turns out that Morales, for all his fire-breathing rhetoric, governs with far more discipline. Both he and Chávez have nationalized key industries, but while Chávez blew his windfall on poorly focused social programs, Morales has been a model of fiscal austerity. He built up enormous reserves; made smart investments in infrastructure, electricity, and microfinance; and diversified trade to depend less on the U.S. So while Venezuela is suffering from blackouts, water shortages, and double-digit inflation, Bolivia is growing faster than at any point in the past three decades. Now, that's downright radical.
  • Eric Goosby: No Hold on PEPFAR Funds for Uganda

    Stigma is anathema to effective public-health work, but that's never stopped homophobic crusaders from mucking up the fight against HIV/AIDS before. Now, just as the South African government is finally changing its tune on the matter, Uganda is emerging as the world's new problem country. The recipient of $287 million in PEPFAR funds last year, Uganda is also the site of a vicious campaign against homosexuality, which took a turn for the worse last month when the "Anti-Homosexuality Bill" was introduced to Parliament. The bill threatens harsher punishments for actual or even perceived homosexual activity, which is already illegal under Ugandan law; convicted offenders could face the death penalty. "Promoting homosexuality" would also be illegal, as would a failure to report any of the above to police within 24 hours....
  • Bush Global Initiative: Japanese Baseball with Koizumi

      Bush and Koizumi, together again. (Photo by JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images) Some former presidents launch foundations. Others visit Arabian palaces. George W. Bush? He's over in Tokyo, throwing out the first pitchat the Japanese equivalent of the World Series alongside Junichiro Koizumi, the former prime minister of Japan. As far as foreign leaders go, Koizumi was the closest thing Bush had to a BFF. We're guessing they have lots to talk about, since both, you may recall, saw the political alignment of their countries shift under their leadership.The Gagglers have the backstory.
  • Alan Grayson's Crusade Against the Gentleman From Georgia

    Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) is back on his one-man quest to introduce the rhetorical combat of the netroots crowd into the halls of Congress. This time, his unfortunate target is Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), the gentleman from Georgia leading the charge against ACORN. Broun had introduced an amendment to the Fire Grants Reauthorization Act of 2009 to block any funds from reaching the group. Grayson--calm, methodical, and merciless--reminded him of the constitutional ban on bills of attainder, producing the awkward silences and shuffling of papers that serve as catnip for the likes of Jon Stewart. Grayson is as much a virtuoso of the form as Congress has ever seen. Though only a freshman, he's already made blogospheric waves with his strikes on Rush Limbaugh ("more lucid when he was a drug addict"), Elizabeth Coleman ("if you're not responsible for investigating that, who is?"), and the entire Republican party ("The Republican Health Care Plan: Die Quic...
  • Bill Clinton's Nobel Consolation Prize

    So Barack Obama got a Nobel Peace Prize. Whatever. That's all you got, Obama? The Big Dog takes your Nobel and raises you a Scholar-Statesman Award.That's right. This evening, as Barack Obama continues to fret about war, peace, and the domestic political fallout from an unexpected (and seemingly unwelcome) Nobel win, Bill Clinton will be at the Pierre Hotel in New York accepting the annual Scholar-Statesman Award from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Last week, the Gagglers named Bill Clinton one of the six people most peeved about the Obama win, but we say he has plenty of reason to feel just as good about his new award. For one, the two have a lot in common. Last year's Scholar-Statesman was Henry Kissinger, who has also won a Nobel Peace Prize. For another, the description sounds catchier. "There's a certain magic when you bring together people who have contributed so much to our nation and Western Civilization writ large," said Robert...
  • Caption Contest: Sometimes, the Only Way to Fight the Pigs Is With the Cows

    The dairy farmers of Europe have had it with the politicking at the European Union, prompting huge protests in the streets of Brussels--and puntastic headlines the world over. The beef comes down to milk prices; farmers say they're below 75 percent of production costs this year, while the European Commission, arguing that they've actually risen slightly in the past few months, has responded so far only by convening a committee to monitor the issue. This farmer had a particularly blunt way of expressing his distaste for that tepid response: spritzing the cops stationed outside E.U. headquarters with milk, fresh out of the udder.The NYT noted farmers' anger spilling into the streets of Brussels, while we've put our offering in the headline. Now it's your turn: got captions?
  • Two Earthquakes in Two Days: Coincidence? Connection? Conspiracy?

    There is devastating news coming out of the South Pacific again, where the death toll from yesterday's 7.6 magnitude earthquake in Sumatra has topped 500. Just a day before that, an 8.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Samoa, triggering a tsunami that flattened whole towns and killed nearly 200 people....
  • Today in Excellent Uses of the State Department Flickr Photostream

    Eric Spiegelman over at Bus Your Own Tray has compressed the State Department's entire 130-photo Flickr stream of the Obamas' shots with foreign dignitaries into a 20-second clip that is, quite possibly, the best thing since sliced bread. Why? Just focus in on Barack Obama's amazingly consistent smile.
  • Blaming Israeli Mercenaries, Surviving on Biscuits, Zelaya Looks for an Endgame

    As if the U.N. diplomats don't have enough of a circus to deal with already, they're now addressing a mess in Honduras that is getting messier with each passing day. Manuel Zelaya, the deposed bolero-toting Honduran president, is now holed up inside the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras with about 50 followers. Since re-entering the country on Monday, he's set up an improvised war room and living quarters in the embassy, issuing calls for the "fall of the usurpers" and spinning increasingly conspiratorial tales to the media. The once-proper president has resorted to sleeping on chairs and surviving on biscuits delivered to his makeshift bunker. His throat is sore from toxic gases, he says, while "Israeli mercenaries'' are supposedly torturing him with high-frequency radiation from a device resembling a large satellite dish. Even Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told CNN en Español he thinks Zelaya has lost it, ordering him to...
  • G20 Protests, Underappreciated or Underwhelming?

    One would think that holding the G20 in Pittsburgh would be the best way to keep the protesters away. It's a nice, quiet, conservative city that, as Sienna Miller once reminded us, doesn't exactly top the list of popular destinations. ...
  • Meet Dean Wilkening, the Man Behind the Missile-Shield Decision

    The Obama administration announced this morning that it will scrap plans for former the Bush team's missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Instead, following the recommendation of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Obama team plans to deploy a different system capable of intercepting shorter-range Iranian missiles, reflecting a need to address a new strategic reality─one that anticipates threats from Iran, not Russia.If you want to know more about what that they're thinking on this one, you have to take a look at Dean Wilkening. According to The New York Times, Obama's team relied heavily on research by the Stanford University physicist, who, they report, earlier this year presented unnamed government officials with his findings that Turkey or the Balkans─not Eastern Europe─would be the best places to set up a missile-defense system to deal with the country most likely to cause trouble: Iran. Wilkening is a smart guy...