Today’s Headlines

September 23, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

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Smart Power      

PepsiCo to Foster Chickpeas in Ethiopia (Stephanie Strom, The New York Times)

PepsiCo plans to announce a new venture on Wednesday aimed at increasing its access to chickpeas, which play an increasing role in its food products, and expanding production of the crop in Ethiopia.  The company’s partners, the World Food Program and the United States Agency for International Development, say the project has the potential to reduce famine in Africa over the long term. “If it works as we believe it will, it will go a long, long way towards improving nutrition and hunger there,” said Nancy E. Roman, director of public policy and private partnerships at the World Food Program.

Pet projects put foreign aid in pockets of war criminals (Adil Baguirov, The Hill)

It is hard to disagree with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) (“Protecting America’s first line of defense,” Sept. 19) about the pressing need to increase or at least maintain USAID and State Department budgets. Indeed, every dollar spent on foreign assistance probably offsets 10 dollars spent on conducting wars, doing emergency supplies of preventable maladies and infrastructure breakdowns around the world, which strains us even more and puts our people in harm’s way.  However, something just as important, that Schiff does not mention, is how that money, allocated to USAID and the State Department, is being directed to be spent. Because of some in the Congress, and against the wishes of State Department and USAID themselves, it is allocated in sometimes quite wasteful and even immoral ways that go against U.S. national interests.

Scofflaw Diplomats Rob Their Own People of Foreign Aid (Ross Kenneth Urken, AOL Autos)

Ever have the urge to rip up that pesky parking ticket and not worry about the consequences? You might consider a career change of the political variety. As diplomats’ cars flood the streets of New York for the 66th session of the UN General Assembly this week, Manhattanites may be wondering how all the ambassadors get away with so much flagrant illegal parking. While foreign diplomats have plagued New York over the years to the tune of some $17 million, the Big Apple is not alone in losing the revenue and enduring the headaches of the diplomatic community. Washington D.C. is owed $340,000, not exactly chump change either. It won’t be paid. Why? Because foreign diplomats are granted immunity from paying fines. But warning to hallowed diplomats, according to WTOP: your days of flipping off hard working meter maids may be numbered.

Food aid driver kidnapped in Kenya (AFP Editorial)

A Kenyan driver working for an international aid organisation has been kidnapped by unknown gunmen in one of the camps that make up the world’s biggest refugee complex, his employer said on Wednesday. The Kenyan, who has not been identified, works for Care International and was abducted at gunpoint close to midday on Monday from Hagadera camp in the Dabaab complex at the wheel of his vehicle.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Funding bill passes; conflict looms (David Rogers and John Bresnahan, Politico)
Working past midnight, the Republican House narrowly approved a stopgap spending bill to keep the government operating past Sept. 30 but inviting new conflict with the Democratic Senate over emergency disaster aid and proposed cuts from alternative energy programs. The 219-203 vote, muscled through after an extended roll call, allowed Speaker John Boehner to recover from a stinging loss Wednesday when 48 of his own Republicans deserted him. But even before passage Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid warned he was prepared to block enactment and push the fight into next week when lawmakers had hoped to be on recess for the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah.

Moves to Snap Up Land in Africa Draw Scrutiny (Patrick McGroarty, Wall Street Journal)

Some foreign companies are acquiring land in Africa without proper approval or adequate compensation for the people living on it, according to a new report by the international aid group Oxfam, highlighting the political risk of pursuing agricultural projects as the continent’s economy heats up. In anticipation of rising demand for construction materials such as lumber and food staples such as corn, investors in Africa have been buying land for forestry and agriculture projects. Those investments often have been in countries where individual property rights are still being refined or land laws aren’t evenly enforced. As a result, friction over land usage is rising.

Immigration Takes Center Stage in GOP Debate (Susan Page and Jackie Kucinich, USA Today)
In the third Republican debate in three weeks, immigration joined Social Security as an issue creating fireworks between the two men leading the field in national polls. On the issue of foreign aid, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman had to interrupt the moderators to get a word in.

Pakistan warns U.S. “can’t live without us” (CBS News Editorial)
Pakistan lashed out at the U.S. for accusing the country’s most powerful intelligence agency of supporting extremist attacks against American targets in Afghanistan — the most serious allegations against Islamabad since the beginning of the Afghan war.  Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar dismissed the claims as mere allegations. She warned the U.S. that it risked losing Pakistan as an ally and could not afford to alienate the Pakistani government or its people.

Going after the global gag rule (Jay Jochnowitz, Times Union)
Since the Reagan administration, the U.S. government has had an intermittent rule known by various names — including the Global Gag Rule and the Mexico City Policy — barring organizations that receive government funds from performing or promoting abortions. The rule applies to non-governmental organizations (NGOs), even in countries where abortion is legal and even if they use their own money for such services. Supporters of the rule say it’s consistent with federal policy not to allow public funds to be used for abortions in the U.S., except in cases of rape, incest, or where the woman’s life is endangered. Critics say that since it applies to all of an NGO’s activities whether U.S. funds pay for them or not, it’s an infringement on free speech that wouldn’t be legal in this country. It’s counterproductive, they add, to our foreign policy goals of promoting democracy and human rights abroad.