On Thursday, November 21st, Global Solutions staff will be live-tweeting from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's second hearing on U.S. ratification of the Disability Treaty. Secretary of State John Kerry will be testifying on the importance of U.S. leadership, as will a number of other panelists - for and against the treaty. Follow the testimony, submit questions or re-tweet our posts by following our Twitter profile @GlobalSolutions.
GlobalSolutions members have been calling their Senators this month to voice their support for U.S. ratification of the Disability Treaty -- and your calls are working! For the first time, our friends on the Committee are telling us that calls from supporters are outnumbering those from opponents. But we can be certain that this will continue. Your calls are more important than ever, as opponents will once again push the Big Lie that derailed ratification in 2012. If you have not yet shared your support, call your Senators' office today and let them know that, as a constituent, this is important to you.
Our CEO, Don Kraus, shared with the Committee's chairman, Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Ranking Member, Bob Corker (R-TN) how important U.S. leadership on the Treaty really is:
The international community is scrambling to deliver emergency aid to cyclone-devastated areas of the Philippines. The United States’ response to the crisis is strong and welcomed. However, antiquated policies are hampering efforts to get food to starving storm victims.
Congress is currently debating reforming food aid as part of the Farm bill. An NRP story explains how limited funds are being used to purchase food locally in the Philippines. But this fund, which also is helping to deliver food to war-torn Syria, is shrinking fast and U.S. law requires that the vast majority of food aid must be in the form of crops grown and shipped from the U.S. A 2008 pilot program for the local purchase of food items showed that we could provide aid at half the cost and delivery time in both emergency and non-emergency settings.
This article originally appeared on GlobalMemo.org and is cross-posted with permission of the author.
UNESCO's General Conference is taking place now, and is to continue through November 16th. It is scheduled to elect the UNESCO Director General for the next four years on Tuesday, November 12th. Since Director General Irina Bokova was endorsed for the position by the Executive Board, there is little doubt as to the outcome.
The General Conference meets only every other year, and this year will be dealing with the problems caused by the United States withholding its contributions from the Organization. During the 2011 General Conference, Palestine was elected to membership in UNESCO. Due to a two-decade old provision of U.S. law, the United States then began to withhold all its contributions to UNESCO. Since those contributions represented 22 percent of the regular budget, a financial crisis ensued in the Organization.
According to the UNESCO Constitution, a member state that is two years in arrears on its assessed contributions loses its vote. Even were the law to be changed today, the President would have to sign a waiver, the funds would have to be transferred to the State Department, and then transferred again to UNESCO in Paris. It is too late.
This week I had the unfortunate experience of studying for an International Development Exam at the same time as watching CNN's shutdown coverage. With less than 24 hours until the US reached the debt ceiling, congress was still discussing possibilities with no clear outcome. For the first time in my young lifetime, I watched our politicians play a game with the global economy, and I was horrified.
The US Government has the ability to make an impact in international development more than any NGO, international institution, or campaign. These 536 men and women can make a tremendous amount of change if they set their minds to it, but instead they bicker over small details. They could fix education, cure a disease or just build a road in a country with no real infrastructure. They've benefited from wonderful educations, yet they don't care about the problems current students face. They all claim to be religious people, yet they spend millions of dollars on negative campaigns instead of helping dying children in the global south. They're willing to risk a global economy meltdown over a law that's been upheld by our systems of checks and balances, yet they don't seem to be wiling to actually put foreign investment behind that global economy to help it grow.
A "Big Lie" is a "deliberate, gross distortion of the truth used especially as a propaganda tactic." My colleague Jake LaRaus just published a great paper: Birth of a Big Lie - How Misinformation Fuels Treaty Opposition: A Disability Treaty Case Study.
Last December, Bob Dole, former GOP presidential candidate and decorated veteran watched from his wheelchair on the Senate floor as all but eight of the Republicans in that chamber shamefully voted down the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It takes two-thirds of the Senate to ratify a treaty, and even with all 53 senators in the Democratic caucus supporting it, too few Republicans got on board for it to pass.
The treaty's opponents seem stuck in a partisan twilight zone of UN black helicopters and conspiracy theories that undercuts U.S. influence in global affairs. They've perfected a method of defeating virtually every treaty that comes along. Since controversial treaties never pass in the Senate, opponents make any unobjectionable agreement divisive by inventing a Big Lie.
What's a Congressional Candidate Questionnaire?
We here at the Global Solutions Action Network want to know what you want to ask Congressional candidates on our 2013 Congressional Candidate Questionnaire. This raises the question: What is the 2013 Congressional Candidate Questionnaire? Basically, the questionnaire is a tool used by the Global Solutions Political Action Committee to gauge the positions of Congressional candidates on issues important to Global Solutions. This information is then used to determine which candidates the PAC endorses and donates to. The questionnaire is incredibly useful, especially for learning about new candidates who have not run for office before or are not on the record. This information also helps voters make informed decisions . This is the first time that the Global Solutions Actions Network has reached out to you to contribute questions. This helps us ask the questions that truly matter to the Global Solutions Action Network community.
Many of the candidates the Global Solutions PAC contributed to based on past questionnaires won their elections -- they include: Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va), Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN). Concerning Global Solutions and the PAC, Sen. Heinrich said,
Secretary of State John Kerry has now added the United States' signature to the Arms Trade Treaty. This treaty is a great step forward in dealing with the unregulated and illicit global trade in conventional weapons and ammunition, which fuels wars and human rights abuses worldwide. I am so proud of thousands of GlobalSolutions.org members who emailed, petitioned and called the White House. Your efforts paid off!
GlobalSolutions.org also was one of 33 national organizations who urged President Obama to sign the treaty, saying it, "...would be a powerful step demonstrating the United States' commitment to preventing mass atrocities and protecting civilians from armed conflict around the globe."
Not only is it good for our nation to have all countries operating from the same rule book, it's also our responsibility. Without the treaty, warlords and terrorists will continue to get weapons which are used to force child soldiers to kill their parents, to attack American soldiers and missionaries, and to rape refugee women and girls.
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted for a bill that would cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by $4 billion per year for the next 10 years. A different version with smaller cuts was passed in July by the Senate. Colloquially known as "food stamps," this program provides 47 million Americans with the necessary funds to buy food every month. The SNAP budget in 2012 was $78 billion or 2.2 percent of the total federal budget of nearly $3.5 trillion. The argument for cuts is that the program is rife with fraud. But, according to the USDA, SNAP has a less than 1 percent fraud rate.
In 2012, the average gross income of all SNAP participant households was $744 per month. In the same year only 17 percent of SNAP households had gross incomes above the poverty line. While only 12 percent of the SNAP households received cash assistance from state or federal governments in 2012, 42 percent receive Social Security payments due to age or disability. Clearly, this program is serving a vulnerable population in need of assistance.
Imagine, if you will, that you've been asleep for the last month, closed off to the world and unaware of what had been transpiring around you. You wake up, groggy and disoriented, and try to find out what's gone on while you were incommunicado. You'd probably be better served asking some informed friends, but if you turn to the three major news networks - ABC, NBC, and CBS - you might be surprised. In a month that's been filled with climate change stories and cautionary tales about the worsening state of our environment, these three networks mentioned climate change just once combined. What really dominated the airwaves for the last month, brought up 138 times combined, was the ongoing saga of the royal baby. How could this be? How could something as shallowly insignificant (Apologies, George) as the royal baby so outpace a global issue like climate change? I believe it's two things: the continued legitimacy given to climate change deniers, and the developing nature of the television news industry.
"What the Supreme Court did today is stab the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in its very heart."
Those were Representative John Lewis's (D-GA) sad sentiments just hours after the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled 5-4 that the Act's Section 4 was unconstitutional. Section 4 set the formula for which states and districts with histories of racial discrimination were covered by the law, which requires federal oversight for electoral changes in those areas. In writing the majority opinion for the court, Chief Justice Roberts based this ruling on the changing nature of the country: "Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions." This so-called justification for the Supreme Court's gutting of landmark civil rights legislation points to the logical hypocrisy of some of the justices, and a larger problem within the American mindset.