Tales from the Trail

So what’s the carbon footprint of a motorcade?

World leaders in New York City for the U.N. General Assembly also bring motorcades, gridlock, and idling engines. GERMANY-AUTOSHOW/

So when White House reporters, also in New York following President Barack Obama around, got a briefing on U.N. climate change talks, the question had to be asked.

CBS’s Mark Knoller wondered about the carbon footprint of the summit: could the earnest statements on climate change be undermined by motorcades, gridlock, idling engines?

The answer: electric motorcades!

(Would that mean electric sockets on every corner in midtown Manhattan?)

“I think the U.N. should make a pledge to electric vehicle motorcades within five years,” U.S. climate negotiator Todd Stern told reporters.

Photo credit: Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach (power plug is seen next to an electric-drive car)

Michelle Obama’s close encounters with Elmo, Big Bird and U.S. diplomats

Michelle ObamaU.S. first lady Michelle Obama told an audience at the U.S. mission to the United Nations that she was “thrilled” to be back in New York for the first time since her husband Barack Obama became the 44th U.S. president in January. But she said some things are even more exciting than addressing an audience of 150 U.S. diplomats, military advisers and other government officials.

“I’m thrilled to be here but I was just at ‘Sesame Street’, I’m sorry,” she said, referring to the long-running U.S. children’s television program. “I never thought I’d be on ‘Sesame Street’ with Elmo and Big Bird and I was thrilled. I’m still thrilled. I’m on a high. I think it’s probably the best thing I’ve done so far in the White House.”

Elmo
One of the biggest rounds of applause during the first lady’s 20-minute appearance at the U.S. mission in midtown Manhattan came when she read a letter the son of one of the mission staffers, Scott Turner, recently sent to the president.  According to Michelle Obama, Turner’s son Jack, a first grader,  wrote to the president:

from Global News Journal:

Iran warns Obama’s government: “Quit talking like Bush”

Iran’s U.N. Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee didn’t attend the latest U.N. Security Council meeting on Iraq. But the moment the 3-hour session was over the Iranian delegation was circulating a strongly worded letter from Khazaee that had a very clear message for the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama: Stop talking like Bush.

He was responding to less than two dozen words on Iran in U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice’s speech to the council during a routine review of U.N. activities in Iraq. Rice said that U.S. policy "will seek an end to Iran's ambition to acquire an illicit nuclear capacity and its support for terrorism.”

Those words clearly infuriated the Iranians, who have been toning down their anti-U.S. rhetoric since Obama took over from George W. Bush five weeks ago.

from FaithWorld:

Can the United States fix Durban II?

The United States has decided to participate in planning meetings for the United Nations Conference on Racism in April in order to influence its final declaration. The conference, a follow-up to the 2001 meeting in South Africa that the U.S. and Israel walked out on because the draft declaration called Israel racist (that language was later dropped). Israel and Canada have already announced they would boycott "Durban II," as the conference is being called, and the Bush administration was opposed to the conference. But the Obama administration has decided to wade into the debate in the hopes of getting a better result. (Photo: United Nations General Assembly, 26 Sept 2008/Eric Thayer)

Apart from the expected criticism of Israel, this conference in Geneva is also due to be a showplace for a drive by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to have the U.N. condemn defamation of religion. The U.N. General Assembly voted for just such a condemnation last December, for the fourth year running. While the non-binding resolution urged member states to provide "adaquate protection against acts of hatred, discrumination, intimidation and coercion resulting from defamation of religions and incitement to religious hatred in general," the only religion it mentioned by name was Islam. Western countries opposed that resolution as contrary to the basic rights of free expression and opinion.

In statements in December, the freedom of expression rapporteurs of the United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) have called on the United Nations not to issue any such resolution.