Our Common Good

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), the lead Republican on the Senate Committee on Energy and Public Works, held a climate-denial press conference at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change on Thursday. With Inhofe was an activist who believes the UN is starting the apocalypse and a British Lord who was banned from all UN climate conferences for impersonating the representative from Myanmar.

Senator Inhofe’s first guest was Cathie Adams, the President of the Texas Eagle Forum and former Texas GOP chair. Adams must have felt quite uncomfortable speaking at a United Nations function, as she has maintained for over a decade that the UN was the anti-Christ’s vehicle for stealthily taking over the world. From a 1999 newsletter:

The Bible tells us that in the end times there will be a world government headed by a world leader, called the anti-Christ, who will profess a world religion, but did you ever think you would live in the day when these things would come into being? That is exactly what the United Nations is doing behind the backs of most Americans.

Adams has singled out environmentalism as part of the UN’s sinister agenda, suggesting a fictional UN Pledge of Allegiance would require “worship[ping] the Earth.” She also believes, among other things, that the CO2 emissions do not cause climate change and that vaccination is a plot to steal American freedom.

Senator Inhofe’s other guest, Lord Christopher Monckton, has a storied history of making things up, especially with respect to climate science. It’s a pattern Monckton fell into at the Doha negotiations, where he took the platform reserved for the Myanmarese delegation and claimed to be speaking for “Asian coastal nations.” The double pretense got him ejected from the nation of Qatar and banned from every future UN climate summit.

One might think this clown show would embarrass the Senator, but his record suggests otherwise: Senator Inhofe has claimed that climate science is a hoax that contravenes the will of God and is currently working with the Heartland Institute — which suggests that climate change advocates are like the Unabomber — to de-fund the Environmental Protection Agency.

Just discovered this site:

UNEARTH News is a 501 (c) (3), independent news agency based in the United Nations in New York City and is a new initiative of the award-winning MediaGlobal News. Through a multi-media communications platform, UNEARTH News seeks to make visible the narratives, news and community networks around the globe that are underreported and vital for understanding the impact of climate change on developing countries.  Relying on stories from our own team as well as emerging and established journalists, other news outlets, and through strategic partners in the field, UNEARTH News provides a unique perspective on the impacts of climate change from the countries and communities that are nearly invisible to mainstream media. Featuring news stories, photo essays, documentaries, exclusive interviews, articles and resources, UNEARTH News will reveal the human dimensions of climate change to the global media, parliamentarians, environmental companies, institutions, policymakers and civil society in the United Nations member states — and to all people concerned about the state of the planet.


History was made at the United Nations on Thursday when the General Assembly voted to grant Palestine non-member observer State status at the United Nations, while expressing the urgent need for the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians leading to a permanent two-State solution.

Overview from United Nations News Centre
Statement from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Photo: Mahmoud Abbas (front centre), President of the Palestinian Authority, with his delegation in the General Assembly Hall following the Assembly’s decision. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas


History was made at the United Nations on Thursday when the General Assembly voted to grant Palestine non-member observer State status at the United Nations, while expressing the urgent need for the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians leading to a permanent two-State solution.

Overview from United Nations News Centre

Statement from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Photo: Mahmoud Abbas (front centre), President of the Palestinian Authority, with his delegation in the General Assembly Hall following the Assembly’s decision. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

The United Nations says access to contraception is a universal human right that could dramatically improve the lives of women and children in poor countries.

It is the first time the U.N. Population Fund's annual report explicitly describes family planning as a human right.

It effectively declares that legal, cultural and financial barriers to accessing contraception and other family planning measures are an infringement of women’s rights.

The report released Wednesday isn’t binding and has no legal effect on national laws.

The global body also says increasing funding for family planning by a further $4.1 billion could save $11.3 billion annually in health bills for mothers and newborns in poor countries.

Now, as the world’s nations prepare to meet in Qatar for annual United Nations climate change treaty negotiations later this month, the world’s 48 least developed countries have issued a strongly worded letter to Obama urging him to take a leadership role in helping poor countries prepare for climate change. Poor countries have long charged they suffer the most from climate change brought on by wealthy countries that are emitting the vast majority of heat-trapping gases from power plants, cars, and industry.

Brown University’s Climate and Development lab has shown that “climate related disasters such as droughts, extreme temperatures, floods, and hurricanes have caused an estimated 1.3 million deaths since 1980. Two-thirds of these deaths (over 909,000) occurred in the least developed countries. We are only 12 percent of the world’s population, but we suffer the effects of climate-related disasters more than five times as much as the world as a whole,’’ according to the letter by lead least-developed countries negotiator Pa Ousman Jarju of Gambia.

…The Brown lab is also collecting signatures for a related petition here.

Text of the letter posted in the article.

United Nations-affiliated election monitors from Europe and central Asia will be at polling places around the U.S. looking for voter suppression activities by conservative groups, a concern raised by civil rights groups during a meeting this week. The intervention has drawn criticism from a prominent conservative-leaning group combating election fraud.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a United Nations partner on democratization and human rights projects, will deploy 44 observers from its human rights office around the country on Election Day to monitor an array of activities, including potential disputes at polling places. It’s part of a broader observation mission that will send out an additional 80 to 90 members of parliament from nearly 30 countries.

Liberal-leaning civil rights groups met with representatives from the OSCE this week to raise their fears about what they say are systematic efforts to suppress minority voters likely to vote for President Obama.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the NAACP and the ACLU, among other groups, warned this month in a letter to Daan Everts, a senior official with OSCE, of “a coordinated political effort to disenfranchise millions of Americans — particularly traditionally disenfranchised groups like minorities.”

The request for foreign monitoring of election sites drew a strong rebuke from Catherine Engelbrecht, founder and president of True the Vote, a conservative-leaning group seeking to crack down on election fraud.


The observers, from countries such as Germany, France, Serbia, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, will observe voting at polling places and other political activity.

“They [will] observe the overall election process, not just the ballot casting,” said Giovanna Maiola, spokeswoman for OSCE. “They are focusing on a number of areas on the state level, including the legal system, election administration, the campaign, the campaign financing [and] new voting technologies used in the different states.”

GDACS is a cooperation framework under the United Nations umbrella. It includes disaster managers and disaster information systems worldwide and aims at filling the information and coordination gap in the first phase after major disasters.
GDACS provides real-time access to web‐based disaster information systems and related coordination tools.


GDACS provides alerts and impact estimations after major disasters through a multi-hazard disaster impact assessment service managed by the European Commission Joint Research Centre. To this end, JRC establishes scientific partnerships with global hazard monitoring organisations. Flood disasters are provided by the Dartmouth Flood Observatory. Relevant data is integrated automatically into GDACS alerts and impact estimations. 


The earth’s environmental systems “are being pushed towards their biophysical limits,” beyond which loom sudden, irreversible and potentially catastrophic changes, the United Nations Environment Program warned Wednesday.

In a 525-page report on the health of the planet, the agency paints a grim picture: The melting of the polar ice caps, desertification in Africa, deforestation of tropical jungles, spiraling use of chemicals and the emptying out of the world’s seas are just some of myriad environmental catastrophes posing a threat to life as we know it.

“As human pressures on the earth … accelerate, several critical global, regional and local thresholds are close or have been exceeded,” the report says. “Once these have been passed, abrupt and possibly irreversible changes to the life-support functions of the planet are likely to occur, with significant adverse implications for human well-being.”

Such adverse implications include rising sea levels, increased frequency and severity of floods and droughts, and the collapse of fisheries, said the report, which compiles the work of the past three years by a team of 300 researchers.

The bad news doesn’t end there. The report says about 20 percent of vertebrate species are under threat of extinction, coral reefs have declined by 38 percent since 1980, greenhouse gas emissions could double over the next 50 years, and 90 percent of water and fish samples from aquatic environments are contaminated by pesticides.

It adds that of the 90 most crucial environmental goals, little or no progress has been made over the past five years on nearly a third of them, including global warming. Significant progress has been made on just four of the objectives, the report says.

“This is an indictment,” UNEP executive director Achim Steiner said at a news conference in Rio De Janeiro, which is to host later this month a U.N. conference on development that protects the environment. “We live in an age of irresponsibility that is also testified and documented in this report.”


A groundbreaking new report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Anand Grover, was released yesterday. And it is big!!

In the new report, Grover calls for the immediate removal of all impeding restrictions to abortion, full access to modern contraceptive methods, and complete and accurate information on sexual and reproductive health.

As the International Planned Parenthood Federation explains, “the report examines the disproportionate impact these laws and policies have on those who already suffer human rights violations and the denial of adequate heath care (e.g., women, impoverished peoples) and emphasizes individuals’ right to dignity and autonomy in health-related decision making.”

Having someone this high up basically say that all UN members states should provide safe abortion and contraception is a big deal, and many women’s health orgs are already hailing this as a huge victory for global sexual and reproductive rights and health.

For more, check out AWID’s analysis of the report (also available in Spanish and French).

RH Reality Check is also running a series looking at the issues in the report from different angles, including US policy.

Hundreds of the world’s largest investors, representing more than $20 trillion in assets, today encouraged governments and international policy makers to take new legally-enforceable steps to combat climate change at the upcoming UN climate summit in Durban, South Africa.

The group of 285 investors issued a joint statement emphasizing the urgent need for policy action which stimulates private sector investment in climate change solutions, creates jobs, and ensures the long-term sustainability and stability of the world economic system.

The statement represents the largest group, by both number of signatories and assets under management, ever to call for policy action on climate change. Signatories to the statement include financial institutions, state treasurers, controllers, pension fund leaders, asset managers, insurance groups, faith groups and foundations worldwide.

The poll results fly in the face of American conservatives and even President Barack Obama, who have taken the lead in discouraging the U.N. from voting on the matter, claiming that it could threaten Israel’s security.


President Obama Addresses the UN General Assembly

In a shift of tactics that has alarmed American officials, the antisecrecy organization WikiLeaks has published on the Web nearly 134,000 leaked diplomatic cables in recent days, more than six times the total disclosed publicly since the posting of the leaked State Department documents began last November.

A sampling of the documents showed that the newly published cables included the names of some people who had spoken confidentially to American diplomats and whose identities were marked in the cables with the warning “strictly protect.”

State Department officials and human rights activists have been concerned that such diplomatic sources, including activists, journalists and academics in authoritarian countries, could face reprisals, including dismissal from their jobs, prosecution or violence.

…Government officials and journalists were poring over the newly released cables on Monday to assess whether people named in them might face repercussions. A quick sampling found at least one cable posted on Monday, from the American Embassy in Australia, had a name removed, but several others left in the identities of people whom diplomats had flagged for protection.

Among those named, despite diplomats’ warnings, were a United Nations official in West Africa and a foreign human rights activist working in Cambodia. They had spoken candidly to American Embassy officials on the understanding that they would not be publicly identified.

The New York Times, “Wikileaks Leaves Names of Diplomatic Sources In Leaked Cables.”

This is so fucking outrageous and sickening and is an asshole move on Julian Assange’s part.  He knows full well that he is now putting lives in danger and simply doesn’t give a fuck.

(via inothernews)


The U.N.’s World Food Program has been airlifting food and supplies into the famine-stricken areas of the Horn of Africa. The program’s director, Josette Sheeran just returned from Somalia. 

Droughts may not be avoidable, but famines are, Sheeran said.

More here. And an update from the Dadaab refugee camp and hospital in Kenya.