This column incorrectly said that Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) and three aides were on their way to China. Such a trip had been contemplated, but Dodd decided against it.
In the Loop
Nays on the prize?
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
The controversial decision by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to set up a life sciences award in the name of Equatorial Guinea ruler Teodoro Obiang Nguema - to be endowed for five years by a $3 million gift from Obiang - appears about to be reversed.
Loop Fans may recall that the original 2008 decision, strongly opposed by Washington, the European Union and others, appeared dormant until April, when UNESCO announced that some award winners were to be named soon.
Human rights groups objected, noting that State Department reports found Obiang's regime involved in "arbitrary arrest, detention . . . harassment and deportation of foreign residents with limited due process" and judicial corruption and so forth.
On May 20, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who oversees the subcommittee funding UNESCO, wrote the organization that "it seems highly likely" Obiang's donation "came from corruption, kickbacks and other theft."
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of South Africa weighed in that day with a sharply worded statement in opposition. All that objecting stalled the process until the UNESCO executive board's meeting in Paris this week.
A draft decision circulating Tuesday - likely to be adopted Wednesday, we're told - said the board "decides to suspend" the prize award and continue thinking about it "until a consensus is reached." (That would be never.)
"President Obiang and his family have looted their country while its people barely survive," Leahy said in a statement to us Tuesday. "UNESCO will be doing the right thing by disassociating itself from this corrupt, abusive regime."
Political? This thing?
A new video released by House Republicans, titled "Putting the Power Back in Your Hands," went viral Tuesday and raised some eyebrows on the Hill about whether it might violate rules against political activity just before an election.
But House Republicans say the video, produced by the Republican Study Committee and Republicans on the House oversight committee, just lays out the party's philosophy.
"We're presenting the governing principles guiding the Republicans," said Kurt Bardella, spokesman for the Republicans on the oversight committee. And while the video looks very professionally done, Bardella says it was done in-house by a staffer.
Besides, the House rules, impossibly arcane to begin with and focused on mailings, have precious little to say about video content.
Sure, there are times when a layman might think the video, two weeks before the election, is a tad political. For example, at the beginning of the two-minute production, Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) says "many people in Washington have just stopped listening." But he never says who those "people" are - although the pictures of President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid shown at the bottom of the screen might be a clue.