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Amid UN Negligence in S. Sudan, US Brags of Cutting Budget, Obama Raises Funds

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 19 -- In the midst of a crisis in South Sudan in which the UN stands accused of negligence in not ensuring the deployment of peacekeepers and "lethal equipment to dissuade" attacks in Jonglei state, the Obama administration on Thursday issued a press release bragging of "containing the growth of the UN peacekeeping budget... by closing peacekeeping missions, as appropriate, and showing increased discipline in establishing new missions."

  It was unclear what missions the US was claiming credit for having closed. The mission in Chad closed because President Idriss Deby threw it out. The Mission in Sudan closed because Khartoum refused to renew it; now there are complaints of war crimes in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile state where UN peacekeepers first sat idle, then left.

  While there are things the US Mission could credibly brag about, this seems the wrong time to crow about "defeating a proposed 57% annual increase in the reimbursement rate for troops in peacekeeping missions."

  The timing of the press release appears keyed to a January 20 speech by the US Mission's Ambassador for Management Joe Torsella. While the Council on Foreign Relations has a large facility on Park Avenue not far from the UN, Tosella will speak at CFR in Washington, with UN correspondents only able to listen, not ask questions.

  Among the questions one would like answered by the US Mission and State Department, beyond a 10-month delayed Freedom of Information Act request and  a thRice-requested more forthright appraisal of the UN's performance in not arranging for replacement helicopters in South Sudan after Russia told the UN in mid November that it would no longer be flying there, concerns who will replace Lynn Pascoe atop the UN Department of Political Affairs.

  Inner City Press has already exclusively named two of what it's told are three nominees: Jane Hall Lute, a previous UN peacekeeping official who presided over a $100 million "sole source" contract for Lockheed Martin in Darfur, and Alejandro Wolff, for a time the acting chief then deputy at the US Mission to the UN, now Ambassador to Chile. Who is the third name?

  Just as the US Mission issued its press release and statement by Ambassador Susan Rice, Obama was nearly at a $10,000 a plate fundraising at Daniel on Park Avenue and 65th Street, on his way to another fundraiser with an entry price over $30,000.

  Some wondered: would Obama's hedge funder nominee to the Federal Reserve Board, Jay Powell, be present at either? And if it's true that "we can't wait," why not a less industry compromised recess appointment to the Fed?

(c) UN Photo
Obama & Salva Kiir: amid flawed UNMISS response, time to brag of cutting funds?

  On the housing front, the Chicago Tribune has touted Obama's support for a Federal Reserve plan on "how to turn thousands of homes held by the government and commercial banks into rental properties. Obama administration officials have been mulling the idea for months, and say they plan to launch a pilot program in early 2012."

This proposal, which some surmise will involve "dumping" housing stock into the hands of slumlords (and campaign contributors) may well appear in Obama's State of the Union address, sources say. Watch this site.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

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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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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