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At UN, Venezuelan Flutes and Beer, Clintons Shadow on Ban, Singapore's Vida Loca

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 10 -- The sounds of Venezuelan flutes echoes Friday evening from the UN General Assembly entrance down to the Security Council in the basement.

  There was a celebration of the declaration of independence of the “Bolivarian Republic,” complete with Venezuelan rum, arepas and the country's best known beer, Polar.

  Ironically Hugo Chavez is dueling with Polar's owner. But as one Bolivarian diplomat told Inner City Press, beer is beer, and politics, politics.

The turn out was good, including Japan's Permanent Representative Takasu who early in the day spoke outside the Security Council about the sinking of South Korea's Cheonan ship, Perm Reps of Luxembourg and Argentina and Bolivia among others, and a jazz trio playing John Coltrane songs.

The hit, however, was the folkloric Venezuelan group, flute and cuatro and stand-up bass. They played a Mercedes Sosa cover song. There were paintings of Bolivarian heroes, and a handout mentioning “the Great Colombia -- seeds of what would later become Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Panama.”

There was a rumor that pro-Chavez Oliver Stone might make the scene, in the wake of his movie “South of the Border.” A more UN specific rumor was told to Inner City Press: the team of Ban Ki-moon is concerned about getting a second term, due to issues like the Gaza flotilla and Sri Lanka, and the chance that one of the two Clintons might suddenly want the job.

They'd give Ban some climate change position,” a well place source predicted to Inner City Press.

Hugo Chavez previously at UN, Cerveza Polar and owner not shown

 All week people had complained how the UN has gotten less fun with Mr. Ban at the helm. The old Delegates Lounge and its culture have been killed; now even the cafeteria stops serving food at 2:30, and the place is empty by six.

The action has moved outside of the UN. Singapore, for example, threw a party Friday night, on the second floor of its 51st Street mission. The crowd was mostly third and four tier diplomats, the ones who actually do the work in the budget and other committees. The DJ was Latin, playing such songs as Camisa Negra and even the old Living La Vida Loca. Under Ban Ki-moon, the UN is no longer Living La Vida Loca, but rather Seca, Aburida. But where there is life, there is hope. Watch this site.

Footnote: also at the cusp of foreign policy and pop music, Jennifer Lopez was forced to cancel a concert in Northern Cyprus after Greek Cypriots protested.

 Lopez claimed she hadn't known there was any issues, just as Sting did after playing in Uzbekistan for $1 million and the daughter of strongman Islam Karimov. For shame...

* * *

Amid Lebanese Tales of Eggs and Tobacco, Dodges of Fadlallah Trap of UK and CNN, France Denies Camera Issues

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 9, updated -- When eggs are thrown at peacekeepers in South Lebanon, the Security Council in New York is summoned into action. At the request of France, whose peacekeepers also got stoned, the Council convened on Friday afternoon to consider a draft press statement. The “H word,” a diplomat told Inner City Press, would not be in the statement.

H is for Hezbollah, just as these days F is for Fadlallah. Already, CNN editor Octavia Nasr, a Maronite Christian, has been fired for Tweeting her condolences for the death of Mister F. The UK Ambassador to Lebanon Frances Guy had her Fadlallah blog blocked and removed from the web.

The question, raised at the UN's noon briefing, is whether the UN will be sending anyone to pay their respects. Some wondered if the UN shouldn't have a designated lightening rod, or Liaison to Controversial Figures (LCF). Michael Williams released a short statement.

As the Council met behind closed down on France's draft press statement, in the press pen a pro-Hezbollah television journalist -- we've called him Hezbollah TV -- spoke heatedly about the French UNIFIL peacekeepers destroying fields of tobacco with their tanks, destroying a motorcycle and reportedly pulling its rider into their tank. This, he said, triggered the stoning and throwing of eggs.

UN's Ban at UNIFIL, French, eggs and Fadlallah-gate not shown

  Another Lebanese reporter, no friend of Hezbollah, nevertheless called Fadlallah a huge and “respectful” figure. Did he mean “respected”? Both. Inside the Council the consultations continued. The Council members were to receive a briefing from DPKO's head of Peacekeeping for Asia and the Middle East, Mr. WWW Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber. Watch this site.

Footnote: after the Press Statement was read out by Nigeria's Joy Ogwu, Inner City Press asked if for example the peacekeepers' taking photographs had been raised. No, she said.

  Inner City Press asked French Ambassador Gerard Araud, who denied connection to the "incidents" of June 29, July 3 and July 4. The pro-Hezbollah TV journalist asked about tobacco and "atrocities," leading the French spokesman to urge the UN TV microphone man to swing his boom in another direction. "Have a good weekend," another journalist said. Indeed.

* * *

At UN, N. Korea Ambassador Declares Victory, Came Late to Dark Press Area

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 9 -- North Korea's Ambassador Sin Son Ho came late to the UN press area, 20 minutes after Susan Rice of the U.S. and her Japanese and South Korean counterparts had spoken and left.

  He sat with Inner City Press, asking where the other reporters were. They had left, but following tweets from @InnerCityPress and others, some returned. But there was no UNTV crew, and therefore no sound.

   Sin Son Ho sat in the penned in press area, sweating. Inner City Press offered him a fan, one handed out in June at a largely Japanese march from Times Square to the UN. “NO! Nuclear Weapons” were the words on fan. Sin Son Ho declined.

  Inner City Press asked him if he has seen the photo exhibit in the UN's entrance about the De-Militarized Zone. He nodded. “My country very beautiful,” he said. “Very beautiful.”

  Why did he come so late to the stakeout, after Ambassadors Rice, Takasu and Park had already spoken. He didn't want to mixed with them, was the answer.

  Other reporters began to arrive. Some wondered how the UN Secretariat could be treating North Korea and its Ambassador this way. The emphasis, however, was on getting him to speak and take questions before he left. Inner City Press plugged the lights in. The microphone stand was tilted.

  Finally the UNTV crew arrived, and Sin Son Ho began. He denounced the Security Council, which he said “failed to bring the correct judgment or conclusion to this case.” He said the Peninsula was now at a “trigger point” and could “explode at any moment.”

Sin Son Ho, at earlier press conference, "NO Nukes" fan not shown

  The first question was in Korean, but Sin Son Ho answered in English. This was, he said, a great diplomatic victory. Inner City Press began asking about his statement, in an earlier press conference, that he would lose his job if the Council took action.

  A reporter shouted, “Will North Korea take military action?” Sin Son Ho replied, “Thank you for coming,” and walked away from the microphone.

  A swarm of TV camera people, mostly from Japanese media, ran after him and up the stairs. A long time UN Security officer tried to stop the camera people, who surrounded Sin Son Ho as he passed through the turnstile. And then he was gone.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

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.

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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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