The LA Times reports the EPA proposes cuts in air pollution from foreign ships. In a submission to International Maritime Organization (IMO), a U.N. agency, the EPA proposed creating a 230-mile Emissions Control Area along the coastal waters and ports of the United States and Canada.
Foreign ships “account for 95% of all calls to port nationwide” and are “largely beyond the jurisdictional reach of state and federal air pollution regulations. This plan would regulate the emissions of foreign vessels under the auspices of the U.N. agency.”
The Washington Post notes IMO approved the concept of emission control areas last October. If this proposal is adopted, “ships must use fuel with no more than 1,000 parts per million of sulfur beginning in 2015, and as of 2016, new ships must use advanced pollution controls.”
The tighter standards would impose new costs on shipping, but industry, public health and environmental groups said the policy change is justified. “It will be costly, but it’s doable,” said Christopher L. Koch, president of the World Shipping Council. “We know this issue of vessel emissions needed an effective international response.”
The NY Times reports $296 billion in overruns in U.S. weapons programs.
Nearly 70 percent of the Pentagon’s 96 largest weapons programs were over budget last year, for a combined total of $296 billion more than the original estimates, a Congressional auditing agency reported Monday.
The findings, compiled by the Government Accountability Office, seemed likely to add to the pressure on officials to make sizable cuts in the most troubled programs as they work out the details of a proposed $664 billion defense budget for fiscal 2010.
Four at Four continues with U.S.-Iran diplomacy and Karzai’s pro-rape law in Afghanistan and the Pakistani Talibans plans attacks on Washington, D.C.
The NY Times reports Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirms envoy’s contact with an Iranian diplomat. A “brief”, “spontaneous”, “non-substantive” face-to-face “encounter” between presidential envoy Richard Holbrooke and Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Mohammad Mehdi Akhondzadeh took place on the sidelines of a conference devoted to Afghanistan.
“It was cordial, unplanned, and they agreed to stay in touch,” Mrs. Clinton said to reporters at the end of the conference. “I myself did not have any direct contact with the Iranian delegation.”
While the LA Times adds Iran has interest in a stable Afghanistan, Clinton says. “From our information, they are really concerned about all the narcotics crossing the border into their country,” Clinton said. “This is a matter of their own internal security… I would imagine that’s an area where they are willing to work with others.”
The Guardian adds Iran offers to help the U.S. to rebuild Afghanistan. Akhondzadeh responded positively to Obama’s overture and change in U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.
“Welcoming the proposals for joint cooperation offered by the countries contributing to Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran is fully prepared to participate in the projects aimed at combating drug trafficking and plans in line with developing and reconstructing Afghanistan,” Akhundzadeh, one of Iran’s deputy foreign ministers, said…
“The presence of foreign forces has not improved things in the country and it seems that an increase in the number of foreign forces will prove ineffective, too.”
But he added: “The military expenses need to be redirected to the training of the Afghan police and army, and Afghanisation should lead the government-building process” – an apparent nod towards the Obama administration’s decision to send 4,000 more US military trainers.
In Afghanistan, New laws that are ‘worse than the Taliban’ rolls back rights for Afghan women, reports The Guardian. Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed into law earlier this moth, legislation that “the UN says legalises rape within marriage and bans wives from stepping outside their homes without their husbands’ permission.”
The final document has not been published, but the law is believed to contain articles that rule women cannot leave the house without their husbands’ permission, that they can only seek work, education or visit the doctor with their husbands’ permission, and that they cannot refuse their husband sex.
A briefing document prepared by the United Nations Development Fund for Women also warns that the law grants custody of children to fathers and grandfathers only.
Senator Humaira Namati, a member of the upper house of the Afghan parliament, said the law was “worse than during the Taliban”. “Anyone who spoke out was accused of being against Islam,” she said.
Meanwhile, Secretary Clinton calls years of Afghan aid ‘heartbreaking’ in their futility. Seven years of aid worth billions of dollars “have been largely wasted” according to Clinton.
“For those of you who have been on the ground in Afghanistan, you have seen with your own eyes that a lot of these aid programs don’t work,” she said. “There are so many problems with them. There are problems of design, there are problems of staffing, there are problems of implementation, there are problems of accountability. You just go down the line.”
Clinton called the amount of money spent without results “heartbreaking.”
However despite these failures, the NY Times adds Clinton said the U.S. will pledge $40 million for Afghanistan elections. Overall, “less than a quarter of the aid pledged to Afghanistan from 2002 to 2008 has been delivered. Forty percent of it has gone back to the donors because of poor coordination with the Afghans.”
Elsewhere, The Hill reports ‘Very substantial’ aid for Pakistan will be requested from Congress by the Obama administration.
“We are asking the Congress for more resources for economic assistance and development assistance for Afghanistan. We are making a very substantial request to the Congress for Pakistan,” Holbrooke said.
In a response to the Obama administration’s missile strikes in Pakistan, the commander of Pakistani Taliban announces plans for an attack on the the U.S. according to CBS News. “Soon we will launch an attack in Washington that will amaze everyone in the world,” Baitullah Mehsud said.