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UN's Ban in Shirt-Sleeves, a Cooling Room Next Door, Asked about Double-Standards by Fox

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, August 1 -- Television camera crews were waiting for the UN's Ban Ki-moon on Friday morning; he showed off for them a short sleeved shirt and lack of tie. To set an example, he said, of action for climate change, the UN will raise the temperature in the building by five degrees. A photo opportunity was scheduled for 9:15 in Ban's office, but upon arrival the Press was told there would not be enough space. It was said Ban would take no questions, that no reporters should go upstairs. Ultimately questions were allowed, by CNN, Fox and Inner City Press.

   The Fox TV reporter demanded that Ban address the "double standard" in the cooling of rooms on the 38th floor. Ban's office felt warm, but a conference room next door was, the Fox team estimated, closer to 60 degrees. Ban said, "I have been sometimes very warm in this room, I have to switch to the next conference room." To some, this meant that he will have his own cooling spot upstairs, which Fox called a meat locker, while other UN staff, particularly in rooms facing the sun and East River, sweat through August. The Staff Union, in a July 31 meeting, questioned whether Ban had consulted with the UN medical service.

UN's Ban and "two advisors," cooling room and Fox' double-standards question not shown

   Inner City Press asked Ban if he is encouraging Presidents like George Bush and Nicolas Sarkozy to follow his lead. "I don't have any control over member states," he said. "They are sovereign member states... I will be happy if member states follow." In fact, South Korea and Japan, for example, already have such programs. Ban added that when he met with Japan's foreign minister, they did so without ties.

  The Press was then escorted down to the UN's third and fourth sub-basements, control and machine room. One staffer said, "This won't really reduce greenhouse gasses, but it might save us money." He said that under Kofi Annan, something similar was tried, in order to save money. When Inner City Press asked how much money had been saved, he said to ask the spokesperson's office. Inner City Press did, at Friday's briefing, and will publish the answer when received.

And at 6:16 p.m. on Friday the following arrived --

"The UN introduced a cost-savings program in 2002 in response to significant budget cuts made by the General Assembly at the time. The program included the total shutdown of the fan system every night after 6 p.m. There were other measures that were introduced, such as reduced service to the conference rooms and reduction in mail service. Most of the services were later restored. No specific savings figure is available."

  We can further report that, at least for today, complaints were becoming widespread about being too hot, about whether the savings were worth it and, yes, about what some called Ban Ki-moon's cool room on the 38th floor...

Watch this site. And this --


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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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