Obama in India, Clinton in the Asia Pacific, & great ideas from unexpected places

November 1, 2010 By Andy Amsler

Who’s In the News

Obama in India (James Love – Huffington Post)

On November 5, President Obama will begin a four day trip to India. This will begin with a Business and Entrepreneurship Summit that has been carefully organized with big U.S. and European business interests. A number of NGOs working on public health issues are concerned that the President may push India to adopt more strict intellectual property protections on pharmaceutical drugs. They have reasons to be concerned. And, as is discussed below, there is also an emerging argument that current U.S. trade policies on medicines and intellectual property have an overall negative impact on our own domestic interests.

Smart Power

Great Ideas from Unexpected Places (Bill Gates – Huffington Post)

Grand Challenges Explorations — part of the foundation’s Grand Challenges in Global Health initiative — funds bold research ideas that have the potential to create breakthroughs in global health solutions. This week, nine previous grant recipients were awarded next-stage grants of up to $1 million. I have always been interested in the scientific discoveries underlying health advances in developing countries. The benefits of such breakthroughs are substantial, with the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives. And the challenges are great, often involving issues that no one has been able to solve before. Two years ago, the foundation launched Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE), which is aimed at encouraging researchers with promising and sometimes unconventional ideas for improving health to apply for $100,000 grants.

U.S. to Send Visual Artists as Cultural Ambassadors (Kate Taylor – New York Times)

But under a new $1 million program being announced this week, the Obama administration is planning to expand its cultural diplomacy programs to include visual artists like painters and sculptors, who will be asked next year to create public art projects in 15 foreign countries. The new program, known as smART Power, will be administered by the Bronx Museum of the Arts, which was selected from a dozen institutions to choose the artists. They will be sent to places that include Pakistan, Egypt, Venezuela, China, Nigeria and a Somali refugee camp in Kenya. “To me, visual artists are just as capable as other artists of capturing a dialogue with people,” said Maura M. Pally, a deputy assistant secretary of state who is overseeing this two-year pilot program.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Clinton proposes China, Japan join 3-way talks with U.S. to ease tensions (John Pomfret – Washington Post)

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told China on Saturday that she expects Beijing to press North Korea not to take “provocative steps” against South Korea. She also appealed to Chinese and Japanese officials Saturday to end their month-long spat. Chinese officials told Clinton, for their part, that China was committed to maintaining its exports of rare-earth minerals – crucial to the manufacture of many high-technology products – despite reports that it had halted its sales to gain diplomatic leverage over Japan and the United States. Clinton’s demands for help dealing with North Korea underscored U.S. concern about reports indicating increased activity at nuclear sites in the reclusive state and worries about possible North Korean mischief in the run-up to the meeting of the Group of 20 major economies scheduled to begin Nov. 11 in Seoul.

Op-Ed: Cantor’s foreign aid ‘gimmick’ is dangerous (David Harris – JTA)

This election season in the United States has not been a great one for the U.S.-Israel relationship. Republicans and the tainted Emergency Committee for Israel launched mendacious ads and campaigns against pro-Israel Democrats across the country threatening the historic bipartisan support for Israel that has existed in Washington. The lies in these campaigns have been called out by an array of independent journalists from The New York Times to Salon, and politicizing support for Israel in this way has been condemned by key figures such as Israeli U.S. Ambassador Michael Oren. But now U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia — the Republican whip and a key member of the GOP leadership team — has shared with us a disturbing policy planned for the future. Cantor signaled to JTA recently that if Republicans take control of the House in November, he and the GOP leadership would sever aid to Israel from the larger foreign aid budget.