“Nearly everybody in their life needs someone to help them. I don’t care whether you’re the greatest self-made man; the fact is, someone has helped you along the way.” Politician and Peace Corps founder Sargent Shriver, 1915-2011.
In the meantime, Slate‘s Fred Kaplan applauds the return of real, honest-to-goodness American statecraft in London. “Vast multinational conferences, like the G20 summit…are useful mainly for the ‘bilaterals’ — the one-on-one side-room conversations — and, in these forums, President Barack Obama is living up to high expectations. Which is to say, the United States seems to be returning to diplomatic basics — a development that in the wake of the last eight years is practically revolutionary.“
At the very least, the president’s diplomatic mojo seemed to work on Russian president Dmitry Medvedev. “‘Yesterday I spoke about this with my new comrade President Barack Obama,’ Medvedev told reporters travelling with him to the London summit…’I liked the talks. It is easy to talk to him. He can listen. The start of this relationship is good,’ he said, adding: ‘Today it’s a totally different situation (compared to Bush).'”
“‘The staff were absolutely horrified by what seemed to be the Bush administration’s disdain for a clear-cut case of corruption at the bank,’ said one official.” Paul Wolfowitz’s tenure at the World Bank looks to enter its final hours after the Bank’s Board turns down an attempt by the White House to save face and the Dubya administration begins cutting its losses.
In honor of the new year, and since I spend so much time berating him and his historically terrible administration around here, two holiday tips of the hat to, of all people, Dubya. On his watch, the president has “established the world’s largest sweep of federally protected ocean” and tripled humanitarian and development aid to Africa. Hey, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
Jeffrey Sachs, take note: A new report finds that the best way to get the US to pony up some foreign aid for impoverished nations is to get that country on the Security Council, and pronto. “A two-year seat on the Security Council, for instance, can generate a 59 percent spike in U.S. assistance, according to a study by two Harvard University scholars that tracked U.S. economic and military assistance from 1946 to 2001. In times of crisis, U.S. aid to some member countries has increased by as much as 170 percent. Those aid levels tend to recede after the country leaves the 15-nation council.” So, great news, Panama…You just hit the jackpot.
“You have an innovator and a world business leader — the combination of the two making such a huge personal investment of time and wealth, it does raise the bar and raise the profile of philanthropy..” A tip of the hat to Warren Buffett for his recent decision to turn his considerable assets to philanthropy and help the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation better our world. “The foundation, already the nation’s largest with a $30 billion endowment that has largely come from Bill Gates, will hand out more per year than the gross domestic product of nearly 40 countries, including Mongolia, Togo and Zimbabwe.“
As you likely heard, the 2006 Pulitzer Prizes were announced yesterday. Special kudos go to the WP team of Susan Schmidt, James Grimaldi, and R. Jeffrey Smith for helping to expose Casino Jack; to the Post‘s Dana Priest for disclosing Dubya’s secret gulags; to the NYT‘s Nicholas Kristof for his consistently excellent commentary on world issues that merit more US (and GitM) attention; to historians David Oshinsky, Kai Bird, and Martin Sherwin for their recent books on polio and J. Robert Oppenheimer respectively; and to the inimitable Edmund Morgan — one of my favorite historians — who won a special citation for his “creative and deeply influential body of work” over the last half-century.
“Did you think to try to warn them, or were you working on something new?” This may not come as a surprise to many folks, but apparently U2 recently made the business decision to screw over their biggest fans, from forcing fan sites to remove lyric postings to misorganizing a botched online ticket presale that turned into a seriously Dirty Day. I’ve never been much more than a casual U2 fan, really — I have all their studio albums, love the A-side of The Joshua Tree like the rest of the Western World, and was most intrigued by them during their more experimental Achtung–Zooropa–Pop phase (To be honest, I haven’t had much use for their “Instant Classic Rock” incarnation since.) Still, while Bono’s continuing work for Third World debt relief is obviously a very worthy cause, it’s sad to see the band turn their backs on their hardcore following like this…and in such patently dumb ways.