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At UN, Screening of Miral Has Schnabel Looking for Color, Gucci for Profits

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 14 -- The UN went glitzy Monday night, premiering Julian Schnabel's movie “Miral” in the General Assembly hall. At a pre-screening reception, Schnabel posed for pictures with President of the General Assembly Joseph Deiss, Willem Dafoe and others.

Hey Jean Victoire!” Schnabel called out to Jean Victor Nkolo, who served the UN in the Democratic Republic of the Congo before serving as spokesman for Ali Treki and now Deiss. “Come into the picture, we need some color!”

While some taking the pictures, including Inner City Press, cringed at the comment, Deiss continued to smile for the camera. Maybe the UN can only handle one form of political correctness at a time.

The film may mean well, but features wooden dialogue and historical inaccuracies, like referring to the League of Nations in the late 1940s. More interesting is the controversy generated by its screening in the UN General Assembly Hall. For example Long Island Congressman Peter King, fresh from speaking in favor of the Obama administration's gift of $100 million in US Tax Equalization Funds to secure the UN from threats from the FDR Drive, loudly boycotted Monday's UN screening.

Schnabel in introducing the film thanks “Jean Victoire” again, along with Gucci. Deiss, criticized online for inviting the screening, afterward told a critic that now that he's seen the film, he support it even more. (He'd previously claimed to have seen it before inviting it into the GA).

Deiss, Julian "We Need Some Color" Schnabel, and Jean "Victoire" Nkolo, (c) MRLee

Leaving aside the pro and anti Israel arguments about the film, why a commercial venture was allowed to promote itself in the General Assembly Hall is a good question. Harvey Weinstein, asked if the controversy would actually help market the film, said it's not about profit, it's about peace.

Is that why Gucci had advertisements in front of the GA Hall? Watch this site.

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At UN, Glitzy DVF Awards Have Kelly Partying In Space He Called Unsafe

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 12 -- The UN cafeteria, suspended over Manhattan's FDR Drive, Friday night hosted Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, Diane Sawyer, Diane von Furstenberg and New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, as DVF awards were given to Elizabeth Smart, the American Widows Project and programs in Kenya and India.

While there was heightened security with Secretary of State Clinton in attendance, one irony went unaddressed. In a controversy earlier this year, citing security, the UN kept $100 million owed to the US Treasury in Tax Equalization Funds.

  When Inner City Press asked on what basis the $100 million had been retained, the UN responded that Kelly's NYPD had advised it, and Hillary Clinton's Department of State had given the OK.

   The UN has yet to name which US official approved the “keep the ($100 million) change,” and the change in scope and duration of the Capital Master Plan renovation was criticized on March 7 by Argentina on behalf of the Group of 77 and China. (The UN has yet to respond.)

   Inner City Press on Friday night asked Commissioner Kelly how he could be partying directly over the FDR Drive, when he was quoted by the UN has saying this location was so unsafe it must be fortified and restructured on an emergency basis with $100 million otherwise due to US taxpayers.

Kelly didn't try to present it as an emergency, instead saying “What they're trying to do is always improve.” Then he said, “the money has been handed back.”

  Inner City Press asked if he meant handed back to the US Treasury.

  Kelly shook his head and said, of the House Republicans, that “what they tried to do is get the money back from the UN. That wasn't allowed... Peter King got it back” for the UN.

  This is ironic, Peter King as the protector of the UN, in that he is currently criticized for sponsoring Congressional hearings focused on “Muslim extremism.”

Kelly at DVF Awards at UN March 11, $100 M not shown (c) MRLee

  There were other ironies on Friday night. Taryn Davis of the American Widow Project spoke of US soldiers killed in Iraq with no mention that barely 100 feet above the UN cafeteria, the UN Security Council refused to authorize US action in Iraq.

Hillary Clinton, who was initially not listed on the program, arrived with high security. Clinton was in the UN building for the first time, one wag snarked, while the US Permanent Representative to the UN Susan Rice is not here much either.

Somali model Iman made one of the few references to the UN, if only in passing, saying it was an honor “to be in this building.” Not a word, however, about the criticism by Doctors Without Borders and others of the UN “taking sides” in Somalia, in a way that harms humanitarian work.

At the UN's noon briefing on March 10, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky about both of these: the $100 million held back from the US Treasury for the NYPD / Kelly “demanded” security renovation, and the UN in Somalia:

Inner City Press: Médecins Sans Frontières has put out a statement today, it’s largely criticizing the DFID [Department for International Development], the UK, cutting back on funding to some countries and saying it should be security-related. But their position is that they have put out is that the UN is not neutral in Somalia. They say that because the Resident Coordinator wears both political and humanitarian hats, it shows that the humanitarian side is in the service of the, quote, “the UN’s political aims” and that it has compromised the UN’s ability to safeguard independent humanitarian assistance. And I just wonder, this critique has been made before, of the UN decision there, but is it, is it a conscious decision by the UN to blur, to merge these two things? Is there a place for humanitarians that is not totally aligned with the UN and the Security Council support of the [Transitional Federal Government? What do you make of the Médecins Sans Frontières saying that their work is actually impaired by the UN’s process in Somalia?

Spokesperson Nesirky : I’ll ask my colleagues who deal with this specifically. But as I recall, Mr. [Mark] Bowden, sitting right here, has spoken quite clearly on that topic already. But if there is anything further, then we’ll let you know.

Inner City Press: The other thing is, earlier this week in the Fifth, in the resumed Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), this $100 million tax equalization fund came up. And the head of the G-77, María Luz Melon [of Argentina], said that the scope was supposed to have been presented… any change of scope like this was supposed to have been presented to the Budget Committee in advance, raised a number of questions about it. I am wondering, what is… there didn’t seem to be a response at that time; what is the Secretariat’s response to G-77 saying that the $100 million was done improperly?

Spokesperson: As I have mentioned numerous times, this is US money and this work that needs to be carried out is something that US authorities have agreed to and have agreed to fund from the fund that you mentioned. If I have anything further specifically responding to the point you have mentioned, then I will be happy to let you know. But at the moment I do not.

Inner City Press: Okay. Because they… When you look into it, you will see, they cite a specific resolution, 62/87, said that any change of scope or this is also going to delay the Capital Master Plan, that this was supposed to come back to the GA. I am just sort of…

Spokesperson Nesirky: Well, I think it would be for the Capital Master Plan people, the people in charge of the renovation of the building, to say whether that would constitute a delay or not. That is not our understanding. Let’s hear from the Capital Master Plan, all right?

  But when Inner City Press then asked the head of the CMP, Michael Adlerstein, all he said was “You should asked them,” Argentina. And so it goes at the UN.

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Amid Torched Villages in Abyei, UN Flew in Torcher Haroun, Questions Unanswered

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 7 -- Amid the torching of villages in Abyei by Sudanese nomads, the UN flew into Abyei Ahmen Haroun, indicted by the International Criminal Court for organizing nomads to commit war crimes in Darfur, it confirmed to Inner City Press on March 4.

In follow up, Inner City Press over the weekend asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Martin Nesirky to

provide all previously requested specifics of ICC indictee Ahmed Haroun's now second flight with the UN, and did DPKO tell the Security Council? Was it a special or scheduled flight? How much did it cost? Did the UN ask why Sudan's air force couldn't make the flight? Did OLA consider and approve this? When will Patricia O'Brien hold a press conference and take questions?”

On March 7, with Nesirky not having answered any of the questions, he used his noon briefing opening to deliver praise to the government of Omar al Bashir, also indicted by the ICC for genocide, for now agreeing to try to avoid violence. Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: on Sudan, I mean, I heard your message lauding this agreement between the SPLM and the NPC. Has the UN seen, and can it… seen this report, and can it confirm that three villages were burned down in Abyei, 300 buildings destroyed, and what’s the relation between that… is this the violence that the agreement that you are applauding will be stopping or… and what was, did Ahmed Haroun, this indicted ICC [International Criminal Court] individual, what was his role? Did he sign this for the NPC, and do you think that villages will no longer be burned down in this way?

Spokesperson Nesirky: First of all, it is precisely that kind of violence and damage with human, as well as material, cost that this agreement would be designed to stop, and to try to stop. Governor [Ahmed] Haroun of South Kordofan, as you know, is responsible for the Misseriya’s respect for the rule of law and finding a solution to their migration, and so that is why his role was crucial in that respect.

Inner City Press: What do you say to those who say that, since he is actively charged by the ICC with organizing nomadic tribes to burn down villages that may be relying on him, transporting him may be not a good idea?

Menkerios (r) with Mbeki & Hillary Clinton, Haroun not shown

Spokesperson Nesirky: I think the point here is that, as I just said, his role in ensuring that Misseriya respect the rule of law and also in helping to find a solution to their migration is really crucial. And, indeed, the talks between the Ngok Dinka/SPLM and the Misseriya/NCP really can’t take place without his participation.

So it is impossible to deal with murderous nomads without the UN flying in a Sudanese government official indicted by the ICC for organizing nomads to murder in Darfur. Is the resulting and continuing murder any surprise?

Footnote: Meanwhile on March 7 Inner City Press on deadline asked the three spokespeople of the US Mission to the UN the following question, so far without response:

Does the US State Department / Administration find the new Satellite Sentinel Project imagery, confirming the deliberate burning of three villages in Sudan's contested Abyei region, useful? How is the Obama administration focusing on Abyei? Do you agree with the conclusions of the Satellite Sentinel Project that it's systematic targeting of civilian infrastructure, and as such, evidence of a possible war crime?”

There are other questions to the US Mission to the UN that have gone unanswered. Watch this site.

Click for Mar 1, '11 re Libya, Sri Lanka, UN Corruption

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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