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As Obama Speech Jumps from South Sudan to Tunisia, Skipping Darfur, Asia Ceded

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 25 -- Foreign policy was obviously an afterthought in President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech Tuesday night in Washington. But why tell only the good news?

When Obama jumped from South Sudan to Tunisia, without even a mention of Darfur, a message was being sent. After November's election, Team Obama wants wins. The Republican response by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, as it turned out, did not mention foreign affairs.

So Obama did not mention Myanmar or Ivory Coast, much less the tens of thousands of civilians killed in Sri Lanka. Less than twelve hours after a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing mostly about corruption at the United Nations, he did not mention the UN.

The cameras several times panned to show Obama's UN Ambassador Susan Rice, as well as Transportation Secretary LaHood, who has come to the UN albeit to talk about texting and driving.

 When Obama mentioned South Sudan, the cameras cut to John Kerry. Who would the cameras have shown for Darfur, after Kerry “de-linked” it from taking Sudan off the state sponsors of terrorism list?

Obama w/ Susan Rice &/at UN, Darfur not shown or mentioned

   One country, strangely, was mentioned four or five time in the speech: South Korea. The technology, the pedagogy and new free trade agreement, leading up to deals with Panama and Colombia.

   The last two may represent an attempt to shore up the US sphere of influence, and that Myanmar and Sri Lanka, after Africa, is being ceded to China. Then Paul Ryan spoke only about money. And so it goes.

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At House Hearing on UN, Lack of Transparency Met by Lack of Knowledge

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 25 -- Among the “urgent problems” at the UN discussed Tuesday in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, several major ones were missing, and others only superficially covered.

  The UN's two large peacekeeping missions in Sudan are both embroiled in controversy. Darfur's UNAMID is accused throwing an “information blackout” over attacks on civilians, and accommodating Omar al Bashir, indicted for genocide by the International Criminal Court, to the extent its chief Ibrahim Gambari considered handing over to Bashir five of his opponents, probably to be tortured.

  The UN Mission in Sudan under Haile Menkerios recently flew in a UN plane Ahmed Haroun, indicted for war crimes by the ICC. Significantly, both Gambari and Menkerios, as well their Cote d'Ivoire equivalent Choi Young-jin and other Ban Ki-moon administration insiders, refused to provide the public financial disclosure which Ban said 99% of his officials do.

  One might have expected, for example, Minority Leader Berman to raise issues about Darfur. But in fact, observers were surprised by Berman's lack of knowledge about the regional groups through which much of the UN's business is done. Those defending the UN often know little about it.

  That so many UN officials chose to not disclose, and that the UN still has no Freedom of Information Act, are two of the many things that should change at the UN.

   While Sudan was not raised enough, the House Foreign Affairs Committee did hear about “20,000” civilians killed in Sri Lanka, on which Ban's UN has done little while praising President Mahinda Rajapaksa's “flexibility.”

   It heard about “Cash for Kim” in North Korea, and retaliation against the whistleblower who exposed it. This detailed testimony mentioned Inner City Press' reporting on the UN allowing the Than Shwe regime in Myanmar to over-charge the UN 20% of foreign exchange transactions, a tax on Cyclone Nargis aid that the UN never disclosed to its donors (until a UN whistleblower documented it to Inner City Press).

Afterward, it heard from the UN Foundation's Peter Yeo that the UN has

moved aggressively to strengthen the ethical culture of the institution. The UN Ethics Office was created in 2006 and, in January 2008, all UN funds and programs created individual ethics offices or agreed to use the secretariat’s ethics office. Led by an American attorney, Joan Dubinsky, the UN Ethics Office oversees the new financial disclosure statements required of UN employees above a certain level and any UN staff with fiduciary responsibilities. Since 2007, the UN has mandated ethics and integrity training for all UN staff members and put in place new whistleblower protections.”

  These are several inaccuracies here. The Ethics Office, under Robert Benson and now Joan Dubinsky, has yet to protect whistleblowers. Most recently, when Ban's adviser on genocide Francis Deng -- who served as a minister under a murderous Sudanese regime -- was challenged by Inner City Press for using UN staffers' time to work on sections of his own books, he said it was all cleared by the Ethics Office.

  That this is the UN's specialist on genocide says it all -- but wasn't said at Tuesday (first) hearing on Ban's UN.

UN's Ban on a previous DC trip: responses on OIOS not shown

Footnote: After having asked  Ban's spokesperson's office, Messrs. Nesirky and Haq, the clarify Ban's now disproved claim, and received back only this:

On the House of Representatives, what we have to say for today is:

The United Nations has always worked constructively with the United States, and we share the same goals: for a stronger UN, one that is efficient, effective, and accountable. That is why the Secretary-General has made strengthening the UN one of his top priorities since taking office.

The Secretary-General is convinced that a strong, effective and efficient United Nations needs the active and constructive support of Member States. To achieve that, he will continue to engage with the US Administration and with the US Congress on ways to ensure that the Organization can find solutions to today’s challenges, and deliver on the mandates given by it Member States.

    This was fed verbatim by Nesirky to his previous employer Reuters, and to AP by Nesirky's previously Deputy Marie Okabe in her new UN role in DC. Still with no answer at all are questions submitted January 22, including

Ban Ki-moon is quoted by Bloomberg, which he sought out, that Congressional Republicans' "only complaint they may have is the lack of much faster progress than they might have expected.” What specific areas of "progress" was the SG referring to? Namely, which areas does the SG acknowledge not having met expectations and for which progress should have been made "faster"?

Michael Dudley, the acting head of OIOS' Investigations Division, is under investigation, for among other things, retaliation and evidence tampering. Given that Ban Ki-moon says he prides himself on the transparency of his administration, what specifically are the facts surrounding the investigation process regarding Mr. Dudley, and will the UN be reassigning him to other duties during the investigation?

 Watch this site.
* * *

Retaliation by Spokesman for "Transparent" Ban Ki-moon Typifies UN Decay

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 21 -- While UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon runs for a second term claiming transparency and good government, he is represented by a spokesman who on Friday refused to answer questions after being asked about the applicability of a UN rule.

  As Inner City Press asked a question about the UN seeming cover-up of killings in Darfur, Spokesman Martin Nesirky stood up and left the briefing room, saying “I will take questions from you when you behave in an appropriate manner.”

  The only interchange earlier in the briefing had Inner City Press asking how UN Staff Regulation 1.2, prohibiting staff from public statements underlying impartiality applied to UN official (and Ban Ki-moon favorite) Michelle Montas going on CNN to say she would sue Baby Doc Duvalier.

  The previous day, Inner City Press has asked Nesirky what rule applied to Montas' actions. Nesirky did not provide any rule then, nor the next day.

  But Inner City Press was approached by outraged UN staff, who called Nesirky “the worst spokesperson the UN has ever had,” and provided the applicable rule. They also provided a precedent from last decade, when Doctor Andrew Thompson was fired under this rule for making public UN peacekeepers' sexual abuse of those they were charged to protect.

  On January 21, Inner City Press asked Nesirky about the rule, and intended to ask about the Thompson precedent. But Nesirky said, “I don't want to talk about it further.” Video here, from Minute 18:30.

  Earlier in the briefing, Inner City Press had asked why the UN has said nothing about Sudan's Omar al Bashir's government blocking the printing of a newspaper directed at Southern Sudan, after they published articles about the secession referendum. Video here from Minute 16.

After the UN Rules question, despite having said he would take Inner City Press' question about Ban Ki-moon's humanitarian coordinator for Sudan Georg Charpentier's claims that the thousands of violent deaths in Darfur in the last 12 months were not the al Bashir government's fault, Nesirky refused to take the question.

  Rather he stood up to leave. Asked why, he said “I will take questions from you when you behave in an appropriate manner.”

   A spokesperson is paid to answer questions. It is particularly strange that the spokesperson for a Secretary General claiming transparency and good government would simply refuse to answer about the applicability of a rule to a public UN action.

  To then retaliate against the media asking the question about rule and refuse to take any question, including about a UN mission for which the UN charges its member states $1 billion a year is outrageous.

   But in Ban Ki-moon's UN, will a UN official who on camera refuses to do his job, explicitly retaliating against a question about Ban administration lawlessness suffer any consequences?

  Other organizations would fire such an individual, including it seems the UN-affiliated International Monetary Fund. Inner City Press currently also covers the IMF, for example getting three questions answered on January 20 with no acrimony, retaliation or lack of professionalism. But in Ban's UN, officials like Nesirky are permitted lawless behavior that would not be allowed anywhere else.

Already, Nesirky has publicly yelled at Inner City Press, “It is my briefing! I run it how I chose!” For the week at the end of 2010, for which he was being paid, Nesirky left question after question unanswered.

Earlier this month, Inner City Press asked Nesirky for Ban's response to a New York Times article about bloat, overlap and waste in Ban's UN. Nesirky replied that since Ban was holding a press conference on January 14, Inner City Press could ask him then. But Nesirky did not allow Inner City Press to ask any question on January 14. Afterward, Inner City Press assessed the lack of transparency in Ban's UN for Swedish television, here.

Most recently, Nesirky said he would get an answer about Ban's staff's involvement in war crimes described in the New Yorker magazine - but has not provided any answers. Many UN correspondents have said he should not remain in the job. And yet he does, representing Ban Ki-moon and a UN that is, particularly on this front, in dramatic decay. Watch this site.

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.

* * *

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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