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Distracted Driving at UN, LaHood Dodges Mexican Trucks, Names Taiwan as a Country

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 19 -- In one of the stranger press stakeouts at the UN of late, US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood appeared Wednesday to talk about distracted driving. Even during a four second text message, he said, a car travels the length of a football field.

  Inner City Press asked LaHood about a controversy in the news, the US's refusal to allow Mexican trucks into the country, contrary to NAFTA. LaHood replied that "Mexican trucks have nothing to do with distracted driving." Video here, from Minute 21:16. But the issue is sure to arise during President Calderon's state dinner with Barack Obama. And LaHood went on to praise prohibiting truck drivers from texting.

  Since Jennifer Smith of Focus Driven had also denounced the use of "handsfree" devices while driving, Inner City Press asked if Wednesday's call also targeted this form of distraction. "All are distractions," LaHood said.

  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who did not stay to answer any questions, had announced an Administrative Instruction prohibiting UN personnel from texting while driving. But when Inner City Press later asked Ban's spokesman how this would be enforced, what the penalties were, the spokesman said the AI is not yet in place. Nor could he answer about UN staff in Cyprus causing a crash that killed two Bulgarians.

While few reporters asked questions, more than a dozen were present, drawn by the presence of US Ambassador Susan Rice and Russia's Vitaly Churkin, hoping one or both might speak about Iran. She did not.

When Ray LaHood spoke of anti-texting legislation in "countries including... Taiwan," Ambassador Rice reacted. In the UN, it's "Taiwan Province of China." LaHood did not clarify. Video here.

In fact, even a question addressed to Ambassador Churkin, LaHood stepped in to answer, touting the Obama administration's spending. Afterwards, Churkin said that while LaHood had promoted Obama's agenda, he Churkin would now speak for the international community.

The day after the US's sponsoring of a draft resolution to impose sanctions on Iran was met by a Brazilian vow not to engage, and similar skepticism by Turkey, the US's showing at the driving stakeout seemed, in a word, distracted.

UN's Ban and LaHood, Susan Rice, Vitaly Churkin partially shown

  As the other speakers waited for LaHood to arrive, and just after Inner City Press had asked Ban Ki-moon about the report on the UN's role in Sri Lankan war crimes put out by the International Crisis Group, Samantha Power approached Mr. Ban to mention the various Sergio de Mello projects and to introduce her husband Cass Sunstein, the Obama administration's regulatory guru. (His reaction to the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency being weakened, and to the BP oil spill, were not able to be inquired into.)

  LaHood also tipped his hat to the couple in his remarks. But what does Ms. Power, who literally wrote the book on genocide, have to say about the UN's and US Mission's positions on Sri Lanka, compared to the ICG report? While like Mexican trucks not related to distracted driving, these are questions needing answers. Watch this site.

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At UN, Of Serbian Cell Phones in Kosovo and Transport Corruption, Jeremic Runs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 17 -- "Kosovo cannot tolerate any longer so much lawlessness, " Skender Hyseni, Foreign Minister of Kosovo, told the Press on Monday. Inner City Press has asked Hyseni about this government's move last month to disable the repeaters of Telekom and Telenor, two Serbia-based cell phone companies, from providing service south of the Ibar River.

"Any company which seeks a license will be duly considered and eventually honored," Hyseni said. Video here, from Minute 2:50.

  Who provides cell service is a politically charged issue. Currently, according to Hyseni, 68 countries recognize the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo. He predicted the number will grow after the International Court of Justice rules on Serbia's case, which he said will be soon.

  The Serbs argue that regulating telecommunications should still be the responsibility of the UN, under Resolution 1244. After a Security Council meeting Monday about Kosovo, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin came out smiling. "Resolution 1244," he told the Press as he passed.

  Inner City Press asked Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic to, like Hyseni, take questions at the stakeout. Jeremic shook his head. "It was a good session," he said, gesturing back at the Council. Last Kosovo debate in January, Boris Tadic similarly declined to take questions.

Hyseni on May 17, Zennier in background, cell phone regulation not seen

  Jeremic on Monday might have been asked about the mass grave recently found in Southern Serbia, or whether Kovoso's participation in the upcoming EU - Wester Balkan conference in Sarajevo connotes increased recognition of the UDI.

  Perhaps he would have wanted to call for the ouster of Kosovo transportation minister Fatmir Limoj, whose office was recently raided by EULEX. Hyseni when asked by Inner City Press declined to speak on this, saying that the judiciary in Kosovo is independent, and that questions of corruption should be kept separate from "projects." Video here, from Minute 4:16.

  But if the alleged corruption was in the procurement for the project, how can they be separate? Watch this site.

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN 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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