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Day 2: Capitol Hill

In a rapid introduction to Capitol Hill, this week I attended the Swearing In Ceremonies for many members of Congress. I began my internship with GlobalSolutions.org [CGS] on Monday, January 5th and found that the next day, I would be attending the Swearing In Ceremonies. Immediately after arrival to the office in the morning, I left with Don Kraus, Bob Enholm, and Richard Thelen, for the first of many parties on "the Hill". The first member of Congress I met that day was Betty Sutton, the representative from the 13th District of Ohio. I was immediately impressed by her forward and friendly manner. Don discussed CGS and we left one of her staff members with a folder that we had prepared. The folder contained information on CGS and letters to the new members of Congress. Throughout the day we would explain CGS as a national non-profit membership group. Our goals are making the United States a more positive international force. We stated our priorites for the upcoming year and shared our excitement for the beginning of a new Congress and a new Presidential Administration. Meeting Congresswoman Sutton was only the beginning of what would be a long day of networking, eating, and doing our best to promote CGS.

Meeting the Members on Swearing-In Day

Sen. Jim Webb of VirginiaGlobalSolutions.org had a great day on Tuesday, as we welcomed many members of Congress to the 111th Congress! Our staff made the rounds of the Swearing-In Receptions, personally greeting and speaking with over 30 Senators and Representatives as they began the new session. What made it even more satisfying was the very high level of enthusiasm we heard for our goals. The congressional representatives we met with thanked us for the support our members were able to give them through the Global Solutions PAC . With so many friends in place, we're even more optimistic now that we will soon see some action on our top goals.

One of the ones we hope to achieve is ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty. I was able to raise the issue with Senator John Kerry at his reception yesterday. As the man likely to be the next leader of the powerful Foreign Relations committee, his support will be key to getting the bill onto the floor for a vote. I expect to meet with his staff soon to talk more about this.

Tom Perriello: What a Race He Won!

Tom Perriello won in a ridiculously tight race in Virginia's 5th Congressional District. Long thought a hard seat to win from incumbent Virgil Goode, Perriello succeeded with a razor thin margin. You may remember Goode as the Congressman who railed against Muslims in general and Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-05) in particular in 2006 and 2007. His vitriol alienated voters across the country who sought a new way in the 2008 elections. Looking solely at Global Solutions issues, Goode received two F's and two D-'s over the last four years. Not the kind of Representative we'd like to see.

On the other hand, Tom Perriello could be our poster child for an ideal challenger. He fully supports our issues, including funding the UN, addressing climate change, working with the ICC, supporting UNEPS and opposing new nuclear weapons. His background is ideal, having worked in Sierra Leone with child soldiers, pro-democracy groups, and aided in the post-civil war peace and reconciliation process. He also served as special advisor and spokesman for the prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Perriello pulled together an amazing campaign with volunteers throughout the district and strong fundraising. Global Solutions had backed candidates in this district in the past two election cycles, but our candidates hadn't come close to beating Goode. This time around, a great globally-minded candidate who we backed from the beginning, took on an anti-internationalist Goliath and won. We're looking forward to working with Rep.-elect Perriello.

Mary Jo Kilroy in squeaker race again, pulls off win!

In 2006, just like Eric Massa in upstate New York, Mary Jo Kilroy lost a tight race in Ohio's 15th District. Her race in the Columbus suburbs wasn't decided until mid-December of that year. This time around, she got her victory. The race wasn't a rematch since her 2006 opponent has retired. But, she battled state Senator Steve Stivers in a contest that stretched long past Election Day. It was worth the wait. Congresswoman-elect Kilroy will be joining the incoming freshmen class of the 111th Congress.

Steve Stivers wouldn't answer our candidate questionnaire, but from his campaign site, it appeared he wasn't interested in our global solutions. Kilroy, on the other hand, filled out both our '06 and '08 questionnaires. She wants to tackle climate change, opposes torture, supports the Geneva Conventions, opposes developing new nuclear weapons and offered to cosponsor a UNEPS resolution, if it is introduced in the 111th Congress. We look forward to working with Rep.-elect Kilroy next year.

CGS Obama Transition Team Meetings

I just participated in 2 back-to-back Obama transition team meetings with Eric Schwartz. Eric is in charge of the US/UN transition team and also handles multilateral issues for the National Security Policy team, which is why the transition asked him to meet with us.

The first meeting was with a delegation from the Partnership for Effective Peacekeeping (PEP) and the next was with members of the Washington Working Group on the International Criminal Court. (WICC is a coordinating group of the Washington based organizations committed to ICC). GlobalSolutions.org play a lead role in both of these coalitions.

Meetings with transition team members are opportunities to share priorities with the incoming administration. They are "listening" sessions for the transition team members. Eric was a great listener, extremely well versed in the issues we discussed and generous with his time.

Our object was to give the incoming administration pragmatic objectives that could be accomplished during a 4 year term on our issues. While there was a good deal of consensus on these goals between the very high level organizations which participated, I am only sharing these as priorities for GlobalSolutions.org and will let others speak for themselves.

For the PEP briefing 7 priorities were discussed:

Nigerian Children Branded as "Witches" to Save Community

What happens when extreme religious fervor mixes with entrenched communal beliefs in black magic? - Innocent children are stigmatized for bringing misery to the community. This is not a new phenomenon. For years, villagers in Nigeria's rural communities have attributed their woes and problems to the sorcery of their children. Once branded as "witch children," these youngsters, ranging from as young as five years to older teens, are accused of being possessed and bringing misery to their families.

Echoes of the G20 Summit

While diplomats do not save praise for the G20 summit, economists are complaining. Journalists and reporters lamented over the fruitless discussion on the November 15th meeting of presidents and prime ministers in Washington, too. Interestingly, BBC, the New York Times, and the International Herald Tribune labeled the outcomes of the G20 summit as "a plain-vanilla stuff ," a term coined by Simon Johnson, a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund.

Susan Rice for UN Ambassador

Susan RicePresident-elect Obama's announcement of Susan Rice as U.N. ambassador is welcomed news. Even more welcome is the re-elevation of the U.N. Ambassador to a cabinet level position, as it was in the Clinton administration. This is a clear signal that the Obama administration intends to seriously engage with the United Nations. Rice, who is knowledgeable and passionate about Darfur and other conflicts, will be a strong advocate for assertive U.S. multilateral engagement.

During today's annoucement Obama stressed that Rice will send a "message that our commitment to multilateral action must be coupled with a commitment to reform. We need the UN to be more effective as a venue for collective action -- against terror and proliferation; climate change and genocide; poverty and disease." I believe she will be able to, in a postive way, get this job done. Its the task of the decade.

There have been many positive statements about the appointment made today, but I particularly appreciated U.N. Foundation president Tim Wirth's:

"President-elect Barack Obama's selection of Susan Rice as the next Ambassador to the United Nations, and his decision to once make this critical posting a cabinet-level appointment, sends an unambiguous signal to the world that the United States intends to reengage with the United Nations at the highest levels. Ms. Rice understands the importance of fostering international cooperation as a means of tackling the great global challenges we face, including climate change, poverty, nuclear proliferation and terrorism."

Let National Leaders Inspire in Financial Turmoil

On November 15, world statesmen are gathering in Washington, DC to debate about global recession and a much needed change in the global financial architecture. This fall's summit, which should impose a new Bretton Woods order, is not the first international response to the financial crisis. Much has already been discussed in the UN, the IMF, the World Bank, the Financial Stability Forum, the Basel Committee for Banking Supervision, G7, and G20. Besides negotiating, actual measures showing international generosity and solidarity have been taken. Just during the last month, the IMF poured millions of dollars into various parts of the globe - $2.1 billion in Iceland, $16.5 billion in Ukraine and $15.7 billion in Hungary. Pakistan and Belarus might receive a financial boost in upcoming days too.

Solutions are being sought on the international level, because the problems are also international. Many prominent economists, including Nobel Prize laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, have asked how to cope with almost unprecedented economic slowdown. Their message is clear; the world needs a working international body which should warn us about the next crisis in advance. Despite some differences, all their suggestions have one thing in common; they contain the word "global".