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At UN, Of Ransacked Banks, Drinking and Dining Shutdowns As CMP Proceeds

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 2 -- As UN Headquarters is being emptied out, it takes on the aura of a ghost town. On the first floor under the Economic and Social Council chamber, the Chinese verbatim offices are in shambles with file cabinets tipped over. Out the windows of the vacant riverfront offices one sees the changing leaves on Roosevelt island, by the long empty building on its tip. Ruins to ruins.

  The UN Federal Credit Union sign was pried off the wall of its flagship branch on October 30, with even its automatic teller machines to be closed down. According to the UN's intra-net, "UNFCU, which also operates a branch in the DC-2 Building, will relocate their Secretariat office to the 20th floor of 380 Madison Avenue and decommission its ATM terminals on the 1st and on the 4th floors."

  Then again, it also reported that

"24 December 2009 will be the last day of service as we know it at the Main Cafeteria, the Delegates Dining Room, the Staff Café and the Delegates Lounge, though it is currently under consideration to keep the Delegates Dining Room open for special events until the end of February 2010. While the Main Cafeteria will undergo remodeling in order to function as a scaled down cafeteria as well as the temporary Delegates Dining Room, the Staff Café and the Delegates Lounge will remain closed until the completion of the renovation of the Conference Building, which is projected for early 2012. Information on food service options during the remodeling of the Main Cafeteria and the date of the reopening will follow. "

  Until recently, staff in the Delegates' Lounge has said discussions were ongoing to keep the Lounge open. After the above announcement, this was modified. On November 16, a winner of what is now Aramark's contract is to be decided, those involved in the process tell Inner City Press. The winner, which may or may not be Aramark, might be in a position to modifying the Lounge's closing date.

UN Capital Master Plan, can't make an omelet without breaking eggs

  On the night of October 30, the Lounge was jumping, with talk of the Kentucky Fried Scapegoats and even the Goldstone report. The jewel of Santo Domingo arrived with a rolling cart full of chicken and pork rolls. The political advisor of a mission from a Muslim country took a bite and spat it out -- pork! -- and replacement chicken was quickly provided. Someone asked, Kentucky Fried? That story still has legs. Watch this site.

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In Ban's UN, Tinker Bell and Bolton, Kentucky Fried Scapegoats

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 30 -- This week a diplomat of a country under UN sanctions stopped just outside the Security Council and told Inner City Press, "The UN has become a joke, all they have now are seminars and panels for discussion, with no knowledge of the ground." He missed one of the more incongruous UN events of October, the naming of Disney's Tinker Bell as Goodwill Ambassador, after the UN screening of the straight to DVD film

  Only this week, John Bolton was at the UN with other conservatives, promoting a book about UN reform. Another group held a working lunch about the defamation of religion. The Office of Internal Oversight Services held another celebration of itself, this time complete with former UN journalistic talent, at which it was finally said in the open that the 38th floor is seeking a new Communications strategist.

  The John Bolton gab-best at least was interesting. It was sponsored by Fiji, and headlined by C-FAM, which denounced Special Rapporteur Martin Scheinin for "redefining gender" and addressing gay rights. Inner City Press asked, did this mean they were on the same side of Eygpt and Syria? Apparently it did. What about Belarus, which fought off and get canceled its own Rapporteur? Bolton handled this one, saying he likes country specific rapporteurs, the thematics not so much.

All gone now: Bolton and previous Japan and UK Ambassadors

  To salad with walnuts and grilled breast of chicken, the Becket Fund denounced moves by the Organization of Islamic Conference to get language in the UN against the defaming of religion. It was mentioned that the Dutch director of Fitna got a screening this month down on Capitol Hill.

  In a mockery of due process, two UN Security officers have been placed on administrative leave for the entry of a KFC Colonel Sanders impersonator last week, rather than highers-up who knew all about it. We'll have more on this.

* * *

At UN, Line on Egypt and Gays Triggers Indian Response, Looming Culture War

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 26 -- The president of the UN General Assembly Ali Treki in a statement last month first reported by Inner City Press called homosexuality "not acceptable" to him and, he said, "two billion Muslims." On Monday, UN Special Rapporteur Martin Scheinin presented to the General Assembly's human rights committee a report stating, for example, that

"in Egypt, Government targeting of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals has been a way of shoring up religious legitimacy and signifying to opposition movements that the State is 'the guardian of public virtue.'"

  Inner City Press asked Scheinin about fight-back to his report from Egypt and other delegations, including India. Scheinin said that such moments in the Assembly's Third Committee "can't be controlled." Video here, from Minute 20:09.

  He said his quote about Egypt was from a "half academic NGO" (the footnote reads, "See Hossam Bahgat, “Explaining Egypt’s Targeting of Gays”, Middle East Report, 23 July 2001" -- that is, before 9/11/01).

  Inner City Press asked Scheinin about Treki's quote. Scheinin said that UN is an inter-governmental body with no single voice. He said he only hopes that UN Special Rapporteurs respect rights without regard to gender identify or sexual orientation. He highlighted the threat of sexual humiliation directed at men with homosexual fears, including by "civilized countries." Inner City Press asked, Abu Ghraib? That is one example, Scheinin replied.

Scheinin at UN, Indian and Egyptian push back not shown

  As cited in the UN's summary, "India's delegate said that it was unfortunate that the Rapporteur [Scheinin] had redefined the notion of a 'gender perspective.' In trying to give a comprehensive assessment, he had taken the Committee away from a meaningful debate, which was academic in nature and did not fall within the terms of his code of conduct."

  This last, "code of conduct," is a code word for seeking to attack the Rapporteur's mandate or even the position going forward. The UN representative of a major NGO last week told Inner City Press the group is concerned that Egypt and Syria and even "some Catholic countries in the EU" will try to use Scheinin's report as a way to attack all of the Rapporteurs and special procedures. But what of pro-Scheinin advocacy? Watch this site.

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At UN, Rights Reports Overshadowed by Climate Change and Sex, Evictions, Films and UNU

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 24 -- There are only two big issues, a major human rights group told Inner City Press on Frday, in the UN's Third Committee: Gaza and the gays. The reference was to Richard Goldstone's report on Gaza -- which now seems destined not for the Committee but the full or plenary General Assembly -- and a forthcoming report by Martin Scheinin which touches on the lesbians, gay, transgendered and bisexual issue.

  This is sure to draw fire from Egypt, Syria and other countries which last year when a motion for decriminalization of homosexuality was proposed, countered with amendments referring to bestiality. Only at the UN.

  Blocked out by these two super charged issues are appearances of the UN's other special rapporteurs, who travel the globe, from rural Russia to Brazil to yes, the South South Bronx to assess government's compliance with the treaties that they sign. On Friday Raquel Rolnik, the special rapporteur on housing, told the Press how climate change will mostly hurt the poor.

  Inner City Press asked Rolnik about her entreaty to the governments of Cambodia and Nigeria to stop their mass evictions. In the Cambodian case, the cleared site is now being offered to South Korean businessmen for profit. The news is not good, Ms. Rolnik said. She said evictions have also continued in Angola, where UN HABITAT claimed to have gotten a commitment to the contrary.

  Ms. Rolnik is a law professor in Brazil, so Inner City Press asked for her views on President Lula's much touted plan to limit land use for ethanol. Ms. Rolnik said as a Brazilian she might be biased, then said the problem goes beyond ethanol to all of agri-business. She noted that Brazil grows the soy beans to feed cattle all over the world. One wanted to hear also about the favelas, and recent surge of violence. Next time.

Housing Rapporteur Raquel Rolnik, next stop CCNV in DC

  Rapporteur Manfrek Nowak spoke, not only about torture but also imprisonment. He said that in Uruguay, people were kept in metal boxes called las latas, but later were released. Inner City Press asked if he'd look into the two UN system staff in Sri Lanka who reportedly were tortured by the government. Not personally, he said. Doesn't charity begin at home? Said otherwise, if the UN system can't even defend its own people, what can it do for others?

  An event sponsored by UN University featured the Bruce Jencks of the UN Development Program bragging about UNDP's work with local entities like Catalonia. He apologized for not speaking Spanish, much less Catalan. But one wondered if UNDP likewise has an agreement to work not only with northern Sri Lanka, but South Ossetia, and if not, why not. Madrid gives a lot of money to UNDP, and is said to not be happy with the UN's hype of Catalan. But to actually oppose it would be bad politics at home. And so UNU goes forward, webcasting to the world.

  Radhika Coomaraswamy, herself from Sri Lanka, hosted a film screening early in the week. To make a film about the brutal lives of child soldiers cannot be easy. The Dutch production "Silent Armies," based on a thinly veiled Lord's Resistance Army, is far from a perfect film. But it aims high, or low, to confront the audience with children being forced to kill their own parents, children blown up by casually mislaid bombs, and a United Nations more concerned with the "big picture" of working with governments than the fate of children pulled into the bush and a hellish life. Sounds about right.

  In  an attempt to draw in European audiences, "Silent Armies" plays up a Dutch restauranteur who son befriends an African boy the same age. While the Dutch boy mimics machine gun killings on Play Station, the African boy has a wooden console carved by his father in a wheelchair. Regardless, the screening of this film at the UN was more appropriate than the one slated for October 25, when the UN is given to Disney to put on Tinker Bell, who -- or which -- will be named a "Goodwill Ambassador of Green." For the green?

Footnote: An argument being advanced for taking the Goldstone report straight to the full General Assembly is that it will somehow show the United States respect. "They took the leap to join the Human Rights Council in Geneva," one insider said. "We don't want their first time in the Third Committee on this to be overshadowed by Goldstone, which we know they'll have to oppose. Let them have their moment." Really? To be continued.

* * *

As Israel Blocks Falk, Goldstone to the UN General Assembly, Democracy No Safeguard

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 23 -- As Israeli minister Silvan Shalom told the Press that the Goldstone report on Gaza should not even be at the UN in New York, sources tell Inner City Press that the report will go next to the full or plenary General Assembly, and not to its Third Committee on human rights.

  Shalom came to the UN on October 23, met with Ban Ki-moon and then took question at the Security Council stakeout. Inner City Press asked for his response to the testimony, given the day previous in the human rights committee, of special rapporteur Richard Falk, who said Israel refused to let him into the country.

Shalom at the stakeout, Falk's entry to Israel not shown

   Shalom answered, but not about not letting Falk in. Inner City Press noted that North Korea, too, didn't let its the rapporteur assigned to it by the UN. Shalom scoffed at the comparison, saying the Israel is a democracy. But so is Sri Lanka, also accused of war crimes. Democracy is no safeguard.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) 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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