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Inner City Press NYC Report - February 7, 2006

Live from Gracie Mansion: Mayor Bloomberg’s Media Fest Sounds Far Away From The Bronx

 NEW YORK, Feb. 7 -- There were jokes but little self-deprecation at New York mayor Mike Bloomberg’s annual fete for the press corps. To the television press, Bloomberg mock-presented a long boomed-mike, saying that the next time Bill Clinton comes to speak with Freddy Ferrer, “you won’t have to miss the action” (a reference to the lack of sound or planning at a Bronx event in Ferrer’s fated campaign). As for having skipped the debate held at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, Bloomberg sniped, “you see how much difference that made.”  Nor, he pointed out, had he ended up needing an endorsement from “Babies for Bloomberg” (for which he’d had a t-shirt made).  He said that the gifts that he gave could be returned to Wal-Mart… in Hamilton, Bermuda.

   The press corps, mostly in suits, mostly clapped when Bloomberg introduced, as “the Banking Superintendent,” Diana Taylor. The night previous, Bloomberg eschewed an invitation to the White House and instead spoke to homeowners in Throggs Neck in The  Bronx. The tabloid press – a widening category – related this to the Bush administration’s withdrawal of Ms. Taylor’s name from consideration to chair the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (which, coincidentally or not, is consideration an application for insurance and a bank charter by Wal-Mart).

   Lest the choice of Throggs Neck be seen as genuine outer borough affirmation, to a reporter Bloomberg joked, “How’d you like it last night in Throggs Neck?” contrasting it with well-dressed “Williamsburgh hip.” While this gentrified hot-spot is in Brooklyn, one left the mayor’s press event as if from the hearty hearth of a manor house surrounded by wastelands. Five minutes north on the M15 bus, 125th Street and First Avenue was desolate.  The jokes about Bermuda and the National Rifle Association seemed far, far away.

   Across the Willis Avenue Bridge, recently put on sale for one dollar, the housing project canyons glittered with the lights of pizza and liquor stores. They say that The Bronx will be saved by new shopping malls, and by converting park land to a replacement Yankee Stadium.  But the jobs created at the most recent uptown mall, the Target by 225th Street and Broadway, have turned out to be barely minimum wage, and mostly part time (two days a week, following Christmas). How can rents of even six to eight hundred dollars be paid with such wages? The question hung in the seasonably cold air on 149th Street, a mile and a universe away from Gracie Mansion.

A previous report from last week:

Post-Tsunami Human Rights Abuses, including by UNDP in the Maldives

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press U.N. Correspondent

NEW YORK, Feb. 1 -- In the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami, human rights are being violated, including in at least one instance with funding from the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme.

            In a report released February 1 at the United Nations in New York, three non-governmental organizations identify land-grabs, loss of livelihood and forced relocations. While Sri Lanka’s shifting proposals for “buffer zones” prohibiting rebuilding on the short are the subject of some controversy (and reporting), less known is the UNDP-funded “safe islands” initiative in the Maldives. At the Feb. 1 report-launch briefing, a video was shown of the Hulhumale refugee came for people displaced from the islands of Villifushi, Madifushi and Kadholhudhoo. The camp consists of tin long houses with faulty plumbing that become so hot it is impossible to sleep, according to residents.

            Both during and after the briefing, Miloon Kothari, the Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing to the UN Commission on Human Rights, was asked by Inner City Press whether this UNDP-funded program in the Maldives runs afoul of application human right standards, including the Commission’s 1988 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which state that “Every human being shall have the right to be protected against being arbitrarily displaced from his or her home or place of habitual residence… Displacement shall last no longer than required by the circumstances.”  During the brief, Mr. Kothari replied that “human rights standards apply to everyone, including UN agencies.” He said that the report has been sent to “Bill Clinton’s office” (the UN Office of the Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery).  After the briefing, Mr. Kothari added that the issue will be raised directly to UNDP.


            On the other side of Manhattan island – after a 4 p.m. fire drill cleared the UN Secretariat – the Outreach Officer for the UN Office of the Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, Annie Maxwell, gave a lecture about the Office’s work, noting that while all are in favor of coordination, no one wants to be coordinated. When asked about the report, and the UNDP-funded displacement project in the Maldives, Ms. Maxwell replied that the report is “in her inbox,” and that she will look into it. She spoke movingly about accountability to the beneficiaries of aid. Outside, the lights of the condos of the Upper West Side twinkles. It’s a long way, from Manhattan to the Maldives…

Some previous reports:

Halliburton Repays $9 Million, While Iraq’s Oil Remains Unmetered

Darfur on the Margins: Slovenia’s President Drnovsek’s Quixotic Call for Action Ignored

Who Pays for the Global Bird Flu Fight? Not the Corporations, So Far - UN

Royal Bank of Scotland Has Repeatedly Been Linked to Terrorist Finance and Money Laundering, Not Only in the Current Brooklyn Case

From Appalachia to Wall Street: Behind the Mining Tragedy, UBS and Lehman Brothers

Iraqis Absent from Oil Oversight Meeting on Development Fund for Iraq, Purportedly Due to Visa Problems

Watching the Detectives: Oversight of the Development Fund for Iraq Will be Discussed at the UN on December 28, 2005

From the UN Budget, Transit Strike, to the USA Patriot Act, 2005 Ends with Extensions

Some previous highlights and special reports:

Citigroup Dissembles at United Nations Environmental Conference

The United Nations' Year of Microcredit: Questions & No Answers

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