The Bush administration, whose pro-business policies on climate change have long rankled environmentalists and U.N. delegates, has done it again. The United States is pressing to scrap a proposal to have world leaders gathering in New York next month express "respect for nature."
That phrase was included in a draft statement of principles to be agreed to by 175 heads of state and government attending a Sept. 14 United Nations summit on poverty and U.N. reform. The statement invited leaders to embrace a set of "core values" that unite the international community, including respect for human rights, freedom, equality, tolerance, multilateralism and respect for nature.
The offending phrase would place no fresh legal or financial burdens on U.S. taxpayers, but the Bush administration voiced concern that it would distract attention from the main goal: reforming the United Nations.
Ric Grenell of the U.S. mission to the United Nations said the phrase "is too broad a subject, and if we had to define the multiple ways the U.S. government respects nature, the document would be too long and way off its original intent."
Susan Brown, a spokeswoman for the World Wildlife Fund International, said ditching the phrase represented "a blow" to efforts to keep environmental issues a priority of governments.
U.N. delegates were puzzled by the U.S. initiative. "Nature is something which needs a lot of respect," said Yuri Fedotov, a senior Russian diplomat.
Army medic Daniel Salas put his life and health on the line for his country in Iraq. He doesn't think he should have to sacrifice his financial well-being, too.
A back injury he suffered when the Humvee in which he was riding took fire and crashed on Christmas Day 2003 left Salas, 28, unable to lift more than 20 pounds or stand for more than 15 minutes at a stretch. The condition also will keep the Texas native, stationed at Fort Meade, out of the military: He is being discharged for medical reasons next week. Salas and his wife, Charlotte, plan to move back to the Fort Worth area.
But there is a hitch. Their landlord at the Orchards at Severn Townhomes in Severn has refused to let the couple out of a lease that runs through July. Salas says he is afraid they will be on the hook for nearly $9,000 in rent on the two-bedroom townhouse. Salas said the landlord told him that if he had orders transferring him to another post, rather than a medical discharge, releasing him from the rental obligation would be no problem.
"I think it's unfair," said Salas, who joined the Army in 2000 and spent a year in Iraq. "I didn't choose to get hurt. . . . I didn't choose to be in this predicament. I don't appreciate them taking advantage of it like that. [T]he last thing you want to do is hassle with them about rent."
Sundi Gathier, a leasing manager at the property, said the landlord is trying to reach an accommodation with the Salases. "We're working on his situation," she said.
-- Colum Lynch and Christopher Lee