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Chasing the Flame with Cheese Cubes, US Progressives at UN Launch Campaign Funded by eBay

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Muse

UNITED NATIONS, May 13 -- Under a red light and with a broken microphone, the founders of eBay and the celebrated biographer of Sergio de Mello launched a campaign Tuesday night in the UN's Delegates' Dining Room. Samantha Power, with the requisite jokes about her falling-out with Barak Obama's campaign, announced the Freedom from Fear Social Action Campaign, to which eBay's founders Pierre and Pam Omidyar are contributing $350,000 as a matching grant. Those who are expected to match it were invited to an event about Power's book about de Mello, "Chasing the Flame."

            The goal is to make Americans care more about foreign policy, by jazzing it up with de Mello's story. The campaign's first steps, or "products" as Power called them, are an HBO documentary and a feature film based off the book.  Power spoke of synergy between Borders bookstores and the AMC movie theater chain: after a screening, a foreign policy professor could be in the bookstore to talk about it. Perhaps there'll be an affiliated line of coffees, one wag mused as the sunset reflected off the mirrored buildings on Long Island City.

            Beyond the joke about Power being exiled from the Obama campaign for overly energetic criticism of Hillary Clinton as "a monster," Obama's name came up repeatedly. The audience was told they must be chomping at the bit, and not only the cheese cubes, to get to a television and watch the night's West Virginia primary results. Power described de Mello, or at least one of his phrases, as "Obama-esque."

Samantha Power on a panel, cheese cubes and eBay not shown

   Not mentioned was Obama's letter to U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad earlier this year, demanding that the U.S. not support any statement about the blockage of Gaza until the statement also condemned Hamas. Power mused about the responsibility to protect, mentioning "Burma, Darfur and Iran" and speaking of bringing "law to lawless places." She said that "if China is to change" and be "brought in," it will happen "in capitals."

            It was a decidedly less diverse audience than one usually finds at events in the UN Delegates' Dining Room. To a sociologist's eye, these were affluent Americans, loyal supporters of all things UN without really following any of it too closely. The on-again off-again microphone was joked about -- "this is not a metaphor for the UN," Power said.  But perhaps all of it is, a metaphor...

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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