UN, of Bird Culls and Buzz Kill, From Ugly Betty to Than Shwe
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, October 8 -- Should animals have a seat at the UN? In some
sense they already do. The World Society for the Protection of
Animals briefed the Press on Thursday about its efforts to insert two
paragraphs into a resolution pending in the General Assembly's second
committee, on "animal welfare as a component of development...
and disaster reduction."
asked WSPA's director Mike Baker about the balance between assistance
to humans and animals, in light of the Myanmar military regime's
decision after Cyclone Nargis to allow in animal care workers while
blocking humanitarian supplies. Baker's response included a swipe at
the "Western centric view that people come first." Video
from Minute 39:13.
said that a
group called Practical Action surveyed people "around the camps
in the Darfur" and they listed their top three concerns as
security, water and donkeys -- this last, to get to market and to
plow. In Myanmar or Burma, General Than Shwe's concern may also have
been with plowing, for rice production. But Myanmar exported rice for
profit while food and monetary aid came in, with 25% skimmed by the
regime through currency exchange scams using Foreign Exchange
can be brutal, but it is not so duplicitous. Inner City Press asked
Baker if his organization might apply for observer status at the UN,
if animals should have a seat at the UN's table. I don't think we'll
get to that stage, Baker said. His colleague added that WSPA has
consultative status with ECO-SOC, and would later that day be
briefing the Group of 77 and China about the treatment of animals
(shark fin presumably not included).
UNMEE mission treats animals, pull out of mission not shown
meeting was closed, one wonders if WSPA's criticism of Egypt's cull
and slaughter of pigs, in the name of H1N1 swine flu, was raised.
Regarding the culling of poultry, Inner City Press asked Vinod Kapur,
a social entrepreneur and founder of Kegg Farm in India, if avian flu
had impacted his organization's bird work in India. Yes, he said,
adding that rather than killing, a vaccine should be developed, for
the birds. A reception -- vegetarian, one hoped -- was scheduled for
later on Thursday, perhaps including answers about the G-77 meeting.
at the other end of the spectrum, two hours later in the UN briefing
room, actors Judith Light, Ana Ortiz and Tony Plana from the TV show
"Ugly Betty" spoke about
malaria, an upcoming episode filmed at the UN in August. Inner City
Press observed and reported on
the filming, then got a response from
the UN Foundation, click here.
UN Foundation's representative on
Thursday, Ms. Gore, called malaria a "good news story," and
handed out "Buzzkill" t-shirts. Since in his introduction producer
Richard Heus said
that the focus had been on filming in a New York landmark, and that
Nothing but Nets was only one of the UN related projects
presented to Ugly Betty, Inner City Press asked what the other
projects were. This question was not answered. And so we can report
what we saw during the filming: a staged fight, in a UN conference
room, in front of a replica inauthentic UN logo. Watch October 16 at
* * *
UN, "Ugly Betty" and Basement Ugliness with Skanska's
#2, Juul Memo Day 3
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, August 21, updated -- As the UN Headquarters hollows
out, it becomes
filled with other things. With Secretary General Ban Ki-moon away,
first in South Korea and then nearly immediately on additional leave,
presumably in the host country, his Deputy Spokesperson gushed
breathlessly that the U.S. situation comedy TV show "Ugly Betty"
would be filming in the building on August 19 and 20.
From a booth
above the EcoSoc Chamber on Thursday night, Inner City Press watched
five dozen crew members mill about with boom microphones and lights
and makeup, centering around a mock mosquito in front of a large fake
UN logo. Malaria was the hook, Nothing But Nets, which
is not even a
turned down even Alfred Hitchcock from filming North by Northwest in
the building. Now, it's a fire sale, with Law and Order, a panel
about Battlestar Gallatica, and now Ugly Betty. What's next -- Jon
and Kate Plus 8 and a medley of divorce and diaper changing?
to this transition and it takes us to the muck. Word reached Inner
City Press late in the week of an incident in the bowels of the UN
involving, literally, feces. Sources say that since the Skanska
construction workers aren't allowed to use the regular UN bathrooms
but rather some
trailers set up in the garage with septic tanks
filling up, they smeared their protest on the walls of a men's room
near the publishing unit in the basement. A meeting of UN Security
was convened which involved, sources tell Inner City Press, the
"Number Two of Skanska." Indeed.
A Nothing but Nets mosquito, Ugly Betty and
Skanska's #2 not shown
officers, meanwhile, are concerned their locker room in the basement,
complete with the building's only weight room and gym, will be closed
during the Capital Master Plan. Already ping pong up on the 40th
floor has been curtailed. In much of the building, the air
conditioning is off, as it hits 90 degrees in late August. Ban
Ki-moon declared a Cool UN, ostensibly to save the environment, and
then he hit the road. Many now ask -- will he go to Norway? Click here
for that story.
Juul's memo slamming Ban's performance, including on
climate change, was the talk of the reception at the August 20
farewell for Jean-Maurice Ripert. There was guessing why it was
leaked, dark talk of Juul's husband Terje Roed Larsen wanting to be
like Mark Malloch Brown, a strong UN Number Two. Ambassadors came to
pay their respects along with the cream of NGOs, chicken skewers with
cream, salmon on small crackers. Ripert leaves Tuesday. Some asked,
how long will Ban Ki-moon stay? The Juul memo triggers a (Reuters)
blog mentioning a (this) blog, here: fun house mirrors?
-- Update: on August 24, the UN Foundation wrote in that "Nothing But
Nets is a very real initiative of the UN Foundation and works in
partnership with key UN agencies such as UNICEF, WHO, and UNHCR." Inner
City Press' comment, above, was that Nothing But Nets is not a "UN
program." And on its website,
among UN agencies only UNHCR is listed as a partner -- along with corporate partners
ExxonMobil, Orkin, Time Inc. and United Airlines. Our point wasn't
that Nothing But Nets mightn't do good work, only that it's strange to
have the UN Spokesperson's Office bragging for the third time this year
about a TV show invited into the building, in this case for a program
that is... not a UN program, but rather one that partners with the UN
as well as ExxonMobil, United Airlines and Time Inc. Home
* * *
UN Relocates Some Get Taxis, Others Pay, Closing Post Office But
Temp Building to Remain?
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, August 15 -- The UN in New York is becoming a vacant shell,
literally. Each week fewer people work here, each week there is less
press. Unit after unit is moved out for the Capital
Master Plan. This
week there was talk of disparate treatment. Those sent to Long Island
City to work for the UN Office of Information and Computer
Technology, it's said, will have to pay their own transit fare to
travel back and forth under the East River to headquarters.
it's said that those from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations,
sent to Madison Avenue and 47th Street, will have the use of taxis,
that DPKO budgeted for a van but not for gas and a driver. Would the
driver have to possess a commercial license, someone asks. With the
UN it is always about exemption for U.S. law.
UN post office
in the Secretariat building basement appears on a list for USPS
offices to be closed. But what of the UN stamps, which are sold and
sent from there? Inner City Press asked CMP chief Michael Adlerstein,
who while noting that he is not in every loop said that, yes, the
post office might be closed during the whole Capital Master Plan.
Files head to Madison, some to return to taxis while
what of the
Delegates' Lounge? A visit during the day on August 14 found the air
conditioning off and the barristas hot and complaining. Returning in
the evening, the crowd was the smallest in recent memory. When the
free food came -- this time it was sushi, followed by fried plantains
-- the platters were hardly finished. In the cafeteria these days,
there are more and more empty seats. Aramark workers with less
seniority face layoffs. The UN is offering no training.
design of the Request for Proposals for the next food service
contract, applicants are reportedly told there will be two Vienna
Cafes, the existing one by Conference Room 4 -- which will
temporarily become the Security Council -- and the other, apparently
ongoing, in the "temporary" building on the North Lawn.
Some in the process read this as an admission that the temporary
building will remain.
questions is why, in this time of fiscal crisis, the UN bulled
forward with its billion dollar plan. Given that it seems to be
happening, how could the UN justify spending months to erect a
conference building, and then just tearing it down? Watch this site.
* * *
UN, Construction Accidents and Fire Hazards Subject to Secret
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, July 31 -- The day after the UN's
Capital Master Plan sealed
off an area in front of the Security Council balcony with red
"Asbestos" tape and then afterwards quickly declared the
area safe, CMP chief Michael Adlerstein barred the Press from a "Town
Hall" meeting about the plan and safety.
Adlerstein, when Inner
City Press was previously blocked from covering such a meeting,
promised to allow entry in the future. But on July 31 he shrugged and
his spokesman argued that the offer had been only for the next
meeting, and that the presence of the Press would change the
has been provided with several blow by blow accounts of the meeting.
The fallen ceiling and testing for asbestos was raised. But another
controversy, which perhaps explains Adlerstein's desire for secrecy,
was an incident discussed in which concrete hit a workman on the UN
construction site in the head. This was written up as a violation,
along with the UN's general contractor Skanska blocking access to the
Siamese connection carried water to put out fires.
concerned UN staff that Skanska is appealing. The staff, at least as
sampled by Inner City Press, were not convinced. Adlerstein was asked
to put on the UN's web site all information about violations. He said
he would check with the Office of Legal Affairs. Given his exclusion
of the press and public from his "Town Hall" meetings,
Internet posting of safety violations seems unlikely.
grilled about bad conditions in the UN's "swing space" in
the Albano Building on 46th Street. Russian staffers of the
Department of General Services and Conference Management complained
of freezing air being thrust upon them from badly designed vents
directly above their workplaces.
City Press was invited and
confirmed this, as well as the lack of air conditioning at the Arabic
DGACM unit lower down in the Albano Building. One wag jokes that this
was a form of profiling, and that the Arabic group, if and when the
UN compound is finally fixed, are not assured of a right of return.
messengers' unit, meanwhile, says it is forced to work in cramped
quarters with the whole Albano unit using a single toilet, and
without access to the various floors of the Albano Building which
they need to visit or service. Inner City Press' invited visit
reveals some floors with fire doors blocked or taped open, others
sealed up tight. Some complained that when Secretary General Ban
Ki-moon visited this week, he went to only two floors. The issues
raised at Friday's closed door meeting and below, these staffers say,
are not understood or taken seriously by Ban Ki-moon.
UN's Ban in hard hat, workman hit in head and
short walls not shown
complaint was the lack of sound proofing cutting into the ability top
work. This is a theme with Adlerstein, who along with Department of
Management chief Angela Kane is insisting on changing a previously
commitment to the UN correspondents that their "swing space"
would be similar to what they have, with the ability to make phone
calls and, in the case of investigative journalism endeavors like
Inner City Press, to meet confidentially with whistleblowers.
Kane and Ban's advisors have decreed that walls will be only seven
feet tall, and paper thin at that. In an attempt to divide and
conquer, wire services will be able to request taller walls after a
week, while other media like Inner City Press and the Washington Post
-- which is mulling closing its long time UN bureau, as Inner City
Press exclusively reported, as picked up by the Daily Beast -- can
only make such a request after four months in a "Whistleblower
City Press' visit on July 30 -- after a demand
to delete a photograph of the police taped "Asbestos" zone
on the floor -- to Adlerstein's office in the basement under the
library found that he has full floor to ceiling walls, hard and sound
proof. Secrecy reigns at the UN, with safety and sanity seeming to
take a back seat. Watch this site.
* * *
UN, Belated Asbestos Warning by Fallen Ceiling, Photograph's Deletion
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, July 30 -- For days on the UN's third floor a patch of
fallen ceiling has been roped off with yellow police tape. Still, on
July 29 Inner City Press witnessed families with strollers walking
feet away from the police tape, touring the UN. On July 30, seeing a
workman with what appeared to be a gas mask on probing at the ceiling
with standing on a ladder, Inner City Press took a photograph.
official of the
UN Capital Master Plan rushed over to Inner City Press and asked why
the photograph was taken. The safety measures used by the UN workman,
under a ceiling hole by while unprotected visitors and children
passed only a day earlier, seemed of potential news value. The
official went back over to the roped off area and returned with the
workman. "You have to delete the picture," the workman
said. "You took it without my permission." He grabbed for
pulled back and explained that since the UN is a public institution,
the work done with public money, in an area with even outside
visitors were permitted less then 24 hours earlier, the photograph
would not be deleted. The workman retorted that he is not a UN employee
but rather a contractor. (Click
for Inner City Press' previous exclusive story about the UN's
asbestos contractor, ATC
Associates which has been hit for Clean Air Act violations).
The Capital Master
Plan official escorted Inner
City Press down to the office of the CMP in the basement of the UN's
library, to speak with CMP director Michael Adlerstein.
Tour of UN with roped off area and kids, July 29, 2009
In front of
his ample office with its views of the East River, a receptionist
asked, Is this about up there, the third floor? It's related, the
receptionist said Mr. Adlerstein is in a meeting, Mr. Adlerstein
can't be bothered. Inner City Press left a business card, if any
legal reason for deleting such a photo existed.
UN workman, with protection, under same ceiling, July 30, 2009
to the yellow police tape around the work area, now with what
appeared to be air testing machines buzzing, was added an additional
red emergency tape with the word "ASBESTOS."
is that the City of New York has already barred school children from
being taken on tours of the UN"s Conference Building, including
the third floor area at issue. It is not clear why children,
including in strollers, still passed by the fallen ceiling on July
29. The CMP's
many assurances that all asbestos work is being done in
a safe manner appear to be called into question by the amateur and
fashion that the fallen ceiling on the third floor has been handled.