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BP is Defended by UN, "Accidents Happen, Nature of Modern Life," Global Compact

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 15, updated with a UNGC correction -- As BP continues gushing oil for over 50 days into the Gulf of Mexico, at the UN on June 14, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's main adviser on corporate social responsibility defended the company.

   "Big accidents happen all the time, it's the nature of modern life," said Georg Kell, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact. Video here, from Minute 42:20.

  Kell was promoting an upcoming CSR event slated for New York on June 24, featuring Ban and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Inner City Press asked about several participating and donating corporation, including a tobacco distributor and a company of mercenaries or soldiers of fortune.

   Then Inner City Press asked about BP, a long time Global Compact member. Video here, from Minute 33:11.

   Kell claimed that BP has not been active in the Compact for two years. "I think their current status is non communicating," he said. But even as he said it, on the Global Compact website BP was listed as fully in compliance, with its next "communication of progress" not due until June 9, 2011.

   One can only imagine what "progress" BP will communicate to the UN at that time. The reality is that the UN has no substantive standards for membership in the Global Compact.

UN's Ban listen to Kell, BP's gusher not shown

  Despite receiving numerous detailed complaints, the UN Global Compact has for example kept as a member PetroChina and its investment in Darfur with the Sudanese government of Omar al Bashir, indicted by the International Criminal Court.

   That Kell would try to misrepresent the status of BP with the Global Compact, and so quickly try to distance the Compact from BP before defending it, reflects that BP's image is now worse than PetroChina's.

   But that Kell would then dismissively say of BP's still gushing undersea pipeline, "Big accidents happen all the time, it's the nature of modern life," shows either that Kell is not the right person to lead the UN's Global Compact, or that the UN is not what it claims to be - or both. Watch this site.

Diplomatic footnote: "It seems that Kell is more responsive to the UK than the US," opined one senior UN official, who requested anonymity due to Ban Ki-moon's anti whistleblower policies. "But where is [US Ambassador] Susan Rice on this, given Obama's new public attacks on Tony Hayward and BP?"

Update - the day after this report, the UNGC put out a correction of Kell's statement -- and didn't even send it to Inner City Press.

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At UN, Mexican Math Disputed on Weapons Flow from US, Big Rift with Small Arms Survey

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 14 -- Mexico's claim that 90% of guns enter its country from the United States was questioned at the UN on Monday. Inner City Press asked the managing director of the Small Arms Survey, Eric Berman, about what percentage of guns in Mexico come from the United States. Video here, from Minute 23:12.

  Berman answered that contrary to Mexico's 80% to 90% figures, "there's a little problem in how the numbers are determined." He said the Mexican government has seized thousands of weapons, they selected a subset to send to the US... Another subset, those able to be determined by serial numbers, leads to a percentage 'from the US.' But the headline "skews the information."

  Berman said they have "shared the information with the government of Mexico."

  So Inner City Press asked Mexican spokespeople in Washington and at the UN. The request to DC based spokesman and former UN correspondent for Notimex Ricardo Alday was answered by the Mexican Mission's hard working Marco Morales, in the midst of an "informal consultation" with North and South Korea. Morales wrote:

Our estimates have been corroborated on various occasions by the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, even at hearings at the US Congress.

The fact remains that more than 90% of small arms enter Mexico through our Northern border, regardless of whether they are US-made or manufactured elsewhere.

So there seems to be a stark dispute, between this Small Arms Survey and the numbers used by Mexico's government and Mission to the UN. How to resolve the discrepancy?

UN's Ban and Calderone, US guns not shown (goal due to UK keeper)

 Writing in The New Yorker of May 31, William Finnegan ("Silver or Lead," Plata o Plomo) tried this nuance: "More than eighty percent of the weapons that have been seized in Mexico and that could be traced originated in the US."

But Berman of the Small Arms Survey said that was at least one more screen -- it was a percentage of (1) weapons seized in Mexico that (2) Mexico sent to the US for identification and that (3) could be traced. And Berman specifically disputed the 80% figure.

The Small Arms Survey was presented to UN member states on June 14. Apparently, Mexico wasn't there. Now what? Can each side simply use their own numbers? Whatever happened to that old saw of debating, you are entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts? Watch this site.

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Distracted Driving at UN, LaHood Dodges Mexican Trucks, Names Taiwan as a Country

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 19 -- In one of the stranger press stakeouts at the UN of late, US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood appeared Wednesday to talk about distracted driving. Even during a four second text message, he said, a car travels the length of a football field.

  Inner City Press asked LaHood about a controversy in the news, the US's refusal to allow Mexican trucks into the country, contrary to NAFTA. LaHood replied that "Mexican trucks have nothing to do with distracted driving." Video here, from Minute 21:16. But the issue is sure to arise during President Calderon's state dinner with Barack Obama. And LaHood went on to praise prohibiting truck drivers from texting.

  Since Jennifer Smith of Focus Driven had also denounced the use of "handsfree" devices while driving, Inner City Press asked if Wednesday's call also targeted this form of distraction. "All are distractions," LaHood said.

  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who did not stay to answer any questions, had announced an Administrative Instruction prohibiting UN personnel from texting while driving. But when Inner City Press later asked Ban's spokesman how this would be enforced, what the penalties were, the spokesman said the AI is not yet in place. Nor could he answer about UN staff in Cyprus causing a crash that killed two Bulgarians.

While few reporters asked questions, more than a dozen were present, drawn by the presence of US Ambassador Susan Rice and Russia's Vitaly Churkin, hoping one or both might speak about Iran. She did not.

When Ray LaHood spoke of anti-texting legislation in "countries including... Taiwan," Ambassador Rice reacted. In the UN, it's "Taiwan Province of China." LaHood did not clarify. Video here.

In fact, even a question addressed to Ambassador Churkin, LaHood stepped in to answer, touting the Obama administration's spending. Afterwards, Churkin said that while LaHood had promoted Obama's agenda, he Churkin would now speak for the international community.

The day after the US's sponsoring of a draft resolution to impose sanctions on Iran was met by a Brazilian vow not to engage, and similar skepticism by Turkey, the US's showing at the driving stakeout seemed, in a word, distracted.

UN's Ban and LaHood, Susan Rice, Vitaly Churkin partially shown

  As the other speakers waited for LaHood to arrive, and just after Inner City Press had asked Ban Ki-moon about the report on the UN's role in Sri Lankan war crimes put out by the International Crisis Group, Samantha Power approached Mr. Ban to mention the various Sergio de Mello projects and to introduce her husband Cass Sunstein, the Obama administration's regulatory guru. (His reaction to the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency being weakened, and to the BP oil spill, were not able to be inquired into.)

  LaHood also tipped his hat to the couple in his remarks. But what does Ms. Power, who literally wrote the book on genocide, have to say about the UN's and US Mission's positions on Sri Lanka, compared to the ICG report? While like Mexican trucks not related to distracted driving, these are questions needing answers. Watch this site.

  But if the alleged corruption was in the procurement for the project, how can they be separate? Watch this site.

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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