Passport

So what did Obama do to get the Nobel Peace Prize?

U.S. President Barack Obama was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize just 12 days into office. FP took a quick look back at what Obama did to improve world peace -- or, really, anything with foreign-policy relevance -- in those two weeks. Here's what we found:

  • January 21: Obama met with the ambassador to Iraq, commander in Iraq, and regional commander to receive a complete briefing on the war.
  • January 22: Obama ordered the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention center.
  • January 22: Obama signed an executive order explicitly prohibiting the use of torture and ordering all U.S. forces to obey the Army Field Manual. He also ordered a review of the case of Ali Saleh al-Marri, a detainee held on a Naval brig in South Carolina.
  • January 22: Obama met with numerous retired generals.
  • January 23: Obama rescinded the Mexico City policy, which had prevented nongovernmental organizations from receiving government funding if they supplied family planning assistance or abortions abroad.
  • January 23: Obama calls Prime Minister Harper of Canada, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain, and Ban Ki-moon, secretary general of the United Nations.
  • January 26: Obama announced his appointing of Todd Stern to the new position of special envoy for climate change -- recognizing the environment as a pressing foreign-policy concern.
  • January 27: More phone calls. This time Obama speaks with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, and Prime Minister Taro Aso of Japan.

For 12 days, not bad! The resciding of the Mexico City policy, rejection of torture, naming of the climate change envoy, and closing of Guantanamo all seem like banner moments. Hardly equal to, say, negotiating peace between the Israelis and Palestinians or being willing to give up your life to end apartheid. But, not bad. 

Of course, this just provides evidence of Obama's win as symbolic -- the importance of his calls for a nuclear free world pale in comparison to the importance of his tone and his preference for dialogue at the helm of the world's biggest superpower. 

Passport

Was NASA's moon bombing legal?

One small step for science, one giant step for international treaty lawyers. Or something like that anyway.

Amateur astronomers squinted to see the anti-climactic "explosion" Friday morning, but others were far more concerned about the potential impact (and legality) of NASA's scientific experimentation.

The UN Moon Treaty (technically the 1967 Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and other Celestial Bodies), states that:

In exploring and using the Moon, States Parties shall take measures to prevent the disruption of the existing balance of its environment, whether by introducing adverse changes in that environment, by its harmful contamination through the introduction of extra-environmental matter or otherwise."

Although the (no joke) United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs makes no mention of the lunar explosion, some bloggers say the treaty seems to have been violated, and that

Only people with colonized minds believe these things are positive, or that this type of "progress" can be beneficial to anyone beyond a small circle of exploiter-elites."

NASA investigators attempted to allay environmental concerns, albeit without addressing the potential international law issues:

The impact has about 1 million times less influence on the moon than a passenger's eyelash falling to the floor of a 747 [jet] during flight," said an investigator.
The response won't satisfy the pacifists, but it should reassure the many moon property owners as to the continuing worth of their land.