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If that wasn’t enough, Thomas-Greenfield will assume leadership of the U.N. Security Council on March 1 — the global organization’s top decision-making body — before the boxes of her 40th floor apartment overlooking the Hudson River are even unpacked.

Thomas-Greenfield will be sworn-in Wednesday morning by Vice President Kamala Harris, and will arrive in New York Feb. 25 to present her credentials to U.N. Secretary General António Guterres.

U.N. officials told POLITICO they hope to see both a return of American leadership and a back payment of unpaid American U.N. dues under Thomas-Greenfield’s leadership.

President Joe Biden made an initial commitment of $4 billion on Feb. 18 toward global vaccine efforts such as COVAX, and broader health security investments.

After four years of Trump-induced whiplash and withdrawal from key U.N. entities — including the World Health Organization — the sense of relief around Turtle Bay is palpable, even with thinned out attendance and a largely virtual meeting schedule.

“It can only get better,” said an adviser to Guterres who was not authorized to speak to the media. “We’re cautiously optimistic,” they added.

U.N. Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said Thomas-Greenfield and Guterres first worked together in 2005, when Thomas-Greenfield led the state Department’s refugee and migration division and Guterres served as the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. “He has witnessed her effectiveness and dedication in action,” Dujarric said.

Guterres’s top political priority for 2021 is climate change, and global progress now hinges on the ability of the Biden administration to move beyond its initial gesture of rejoining the Paris climate accord.

The current Security Council leader, U.K. Ambassador Barbara Woodward, told POLITICO the Brita in is excited to work with Thomas-Greenfield, “in particular on shared priorities such as climate and Covid-19.” Woodward today succeeded in pushing climate change onto the agenda of the Security Council, in a debate led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which also featured the Biden administration’s new climate envoy, John Kerry.

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Challenges on China loom

Europe is offering to act as a bridge between the U.S. and China, said one European ambassador. “Guterres has urged us to play the role of bridge builder. Unless we can make the two of them work together on climate and Covid, the U.N. agenda remains paralyzed,” the ambassador said.

Thomas-Greenfield, a 35-year veteran at the State Department, faced tough questions in her Senate confirmation hearings over the extent to which she will confront Chinese authoritarianism and regional meddling. She promised in her confirmation hearing to promote American values of democracy, human rights, and peace.

Her deep experience across Africa will be necessary, experts and advocates say, to advance U.S. relationships and contain China’s growing influence across the U.N. system.

Those tensions will likely come to a head in debates over equity in Covid vaccine distribution. “We believe Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s background as former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs makes her extremely qualified to understand the scale of this crisis and the importance of U.S.-Africa policy,” said Sean Simons, spokesperson for the anti-poverty ONE campaign.

Thomas-Greenfield is the fifth consecutive woman to be confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Five of the 15 Security Council ambassadors are women.

“A little less testosterone and a little more dialogue, patient listening and a capacity to facilitate – they’re undervalued qualities, particularly when there’s a lot of tension between some of the big players at the table,” Ireland’s ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason told the Irish Times.




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Neera Tanden Got Twitter Right—And That Was her Problem

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But Twitter has its own way of tempting you into provocative tweets, and then turning on you—especially when you make enough enemies from different points on the political spectrum, and they find a common moment for revenge.

A onetime Boston political boss named Martin Lomasney, who wielded power in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, had an oft-repeated rule for politicians: “Never write if you can speak, never speak if you can nod, never nod if you can wink.” Lomasney would surely have run in the other direction from Twitter, which isn’t just public but permanent. Yes, Donald Trump played the platform like a virtuoso; other politicians have used it savvily to bypass gatekeepers and build a base of loyalists. But for a political player, every tweet is fraught with peril: Even if you aren’t overtly insulting someone, there’s a chance some statement from your past will contradict a current political stance, or apply with poetic justice to a compromising situation.

Still, political types are also human beings, and the temptation to pour every thought onto Twitter, in search of a reaction, is ultimately biological. When you put out a tweet, anticipating a “like” or a “share,” your brain gets a hit of a pleasure neurochemical, says psychiatrist David Greenfield, founder and medical director of the Connecticut-based Center for Internet and Technology Addiction. At the same time, he says, the brain cuts off its pathways to the frontal cortex, the area that governs judgment. Once, this shutdown of higher-level thinking was a convenient evolutionary tool, Greenfield says: Prehistoric hunter-gatherers needed to shut out reason to serve the higher directives of mating and eating. Today, though, it has given us an internet that functions like “the world’s largest slot machine,” he says, as users embark on an endless hunt for validation. Tanden’s nakedly partisan tweets could derive her plenty of pleasure; one tweet during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh—“Susan Collins’ terrible treatment of Dr. Ford should haunt Collins for the rest of her days”—drew 3,097 retweets and 8,295 likes.

In the age of the ideological bubble, political tweets pose a specific kind of risk. If you’re sharing like-minded partisan thoughts with like-minded people, you’re likely to forget that you risk a negative reaction, says Whitney Phillips, a communications professor at Syracuse University and co-author of the upcoming book You Are Here: A Field Guide For Navigating Polarized Speech, Conspiracy Theories, and Our Polluted Media Landscape

. “You speak in a code that’s appropriate for the audience,” Phillips says. But once your statement lands in front of a less-friendly group, your intentions don’t matter. “It’s impossible to control any of our messages,” she says. “You can only focus on the consequences.”
Phillips cites an internet axiom known as “Poe’s Law”—coined in the early 2000s, on a message board for creationists, when a user who called himself Nathan Poe declared that it was hard to discern the true believers from people who were being sarcastic. On the internet, Poe’s Law holds, you can’t know anybody’s true intentions. A commenter could be sincere or mocking, a real human being or a fake account. Anger could be deeply-felt or cynically overblown. And it’s easy to weaponize the outrage machine. It was a right-wing provocateur—hoping to reveal what he saw as Hollywood hypocrisy—who unearthed incendiary old jokes
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about rape and pedophilia from “Guardians of the Galaxy” filmmaker James Gunn’s Twitter feed in 2018, Phillips notes. But it was left-wing outrage over those tweets that ultimately got Gunn fired.

Tanden’s tweets, it’s fair to say, weren’t as troublesome as Gunn’s. She was largely pumping out standard-issue political snark, the kind Trump used to post from the White House on nearly an hourly basis. Still, there are rules of political conduct, and—if you’re not Trump—consequences for breaking them. In 2008, Samantha Power, then an advisor to presidential candidate Barack Obama, resigned from the campaign after telling a Scottish reporter that Hillary Clinton was a “monster.” Power had violated a norm: voicing the kind of insult that’s usually shared, Lomasney-style, outside the public view. (Post-election, her career recovered quickly.) And, like Gunn, Tanden succeeded in getting both groups—those on the left and the right—on her bad side. If everything you tweet can be used as ammunition in the future, it’s particularly lethal when it’s coming at you from all sides.

Tanden clearly realized that old tweets could cause her trouble in this new career moment, when she had to emerge from her Clinton-Biden bubble and confront her onetime targets in the flesh. Soon after Biden named her to the budget post, she deleted at least 1,000 tweets. But the internet never forgets. And, in keeping with Poe’s Rule, it has been hard to tell who on Capitol Hill is truly horrified, and who merely senses a political opportunity. At her confirmation hearing before the Budget Committee, Sanders chided Tanden for her “vicious attacks made against progressives. People who I have worked with. Me personally.” But he also has a longer-standing beef with Tanden over the 2016 election and her ideological agenda. And he seems not the type to wither in front of an insult.

Tanden did her duty and apologized profusely, hinting that she wanted to distance herself from the cesspool Twitter had become. But the truth is, she was following the rules of her chosen medium all along. There’s no point in tweeting if you aren’t saying something that can rile people up. “Our networks have been designed for this exact outcome,” Phillips says. “The most rancorous stuff becomes the stuff that is most visible, that has the most purchase.”

In other words, the internet did everything in its power to make Tanden act the way she did, rewarded her with nearly 377,000 followers, then punished her in the end. And yet, with every tweet, she had free will. Greenfield counsels his patients who want to change their internet habits to never actually type out a tweet in the “compose” box, in Twitter or any other social media platform. Rather, he says, type your message in the Notes app, think about it for a minute, and cut and paste when you’re good and ready. Martin Lomasney would have considered that decent advice.




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Stephen Miller tangles with Florida GOP freshman at House immigration meeting

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Freshman GOP Rep. María Elvira Salazar got into a lively exchange over immigration with former Trump aide Stephen Miller during a meeting with a group of House Republicans on Wednesday, according to multiple Republican sources.

The back-and-forth came during the end of Miller’s presentation before the Republican Study Committee, the largest conservative caucus within the House GOP. Miller, the architect of Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies, spoke before the group alongside other former Trump administration immigration officials.

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Sources say Salazar pushed for immigration policies that would broaden the GOP tent while challenging Miller on how Republicans can attract Hispanic and Latino voters given the ultra-conservative policies he is advocating.


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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s sister dies from Covid as city passes 1,000 deaths

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The statement came as the mayor declared Wednesday a day of remembrance for the more than 500,000 Americans and 1,000 D.C. residents who had died from the disease. The city announced that it had passed 1,000 deaths on Wednesday.

Bowser ordered flags to fly at half-staff and encouraged houses of worship to honor those who died in the pandemic on Wednesday evening.

“These beautiful souls who passed were grandparents, parents, siblings, cousins, neighbors, classmates, colleagues, friends and loved ones,” Bowser said in a statement announcing the day of remembrance. “This tragic milestone is a reminder that this pandemic has forever changed families and communities.”

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Mercia Bowser had previously worked for Catholic Charities and the D.C. Office on Aging, focusing her work on children, the elderly and those with behavioral disorders, the mayor said in her statement.


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