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At UN, More Troops for Haiti Debated, U.S. Off Table, 6 Hour Visit Detailed

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 18 -- Into the UN Security Council Monday morning, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and his top advisers filed grim faced in. UN Peacekeeping will be asking for authorization of 800 more soldiers and 450 more police, a Western Council member's spokesperson told reporters.

  Inner City Press asked, Will the resolution address the increased U.S. military presence? No, the spokesperson said. It is only about MINUTAH," the UN Mission there. That the Dominican Republic offered a battalion was discussed. The question was, only to police the border?

  A scribe chosen to accompany Ban to Haiti on Sunday recounted he was on the ground for barely six hours. He was not present at the Christopher Hotel when the Danish UN staffer was miraculously dug out.

  Rather, his spokesperson and that of UN Peacekeeping had run back, while reporters dutifully remained on the UN's bus. The UN documented its own victory over the darkness, by Flip video.

  Among Ban's most senior advisors, several chosen correspondents noticed a dandy-ish fur collar and wondered where PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, might be. These same visually oriented correspondents noted at the stakeout Monday morning the bright red tan of a Latin member's spokesman. Inner City Press asked, Haiti? Somewhere nearby, the genial red faced one replied.

  The UN reporter for a salmon colored daily, who signed up for the trip on January 13 but was told "no luck" on January 17, ended up relying on the UN's own news service for his critique for American management of the airport. Some wondered whether his realistic assessments of Team Ban had left him off the trip while South Korean media was chosen to go.

   The significant other of a still-missing UN staff member complained that no one was or is looking for her, where she was during the quake. Even with the UN dramatically focused on Haiti, these voices seem to get lost.

  While the Ban administration is all hands on deck about Haiti, its seeming inability to deal with more than one issue at once is ill-serving it. On Friday Inner City Press began asking Ban's spokesman about attacks in Kabul, Afghanistan.

   Today I'm sticking to Haiti, the spokesman archly replied.

UN's Ban in Port au Prince on Jan. 17, many things not shown

  While later he related and took the question, three days later there has been no answer.

  By Monday's Council meeting, more attacks had taken place in the heart of Kabul. Still no word from the UN. Nor about moves to further muscle the UN out of the climate change negotiation process.

  The Council's consultations began, with Ban slated to appear before the press at 10:40 or 10:50 a.m.. Watch this space.

Update of 11:19 a.m. -- When Ban Ki-moon came to the stakeout, he said he would take two questions. The first selected question was what he most moved him personally. The second concerned coordination with the U.S., to which Inner City Press followed out: What about the Doctors Without Borders plane turned back? Ban replied that his envoy Edmond Mulet is working with the Americans. Video here.

  Behind Ban, top humanitarian John Holmes whispered to the spokesman. While Ban left for his previously scheduled meeting with UN staff, Holmes stayed to take more questions, including from Inner City Press on mercenaries, Jacmel, fuel and national staff, answers to which are reported on this site, here.

From the UN's transcript:

Inner City Press: Doctors Without Borders was building over the weekend an inflatible hospital. What steps is the UN going to take to make sure, at least at the airport, that these type of needed facilities can get in?

SG: There is an overwhelming situation – bottlenecks – in airport facilities and road conditions and delivering food aid. The US Government has been assisting the Haitian Government with control tower equipment. As you know the control tower has been damaged while the runway was okay. Therefore the United Nations is very closely coordinating with the US authorities to have a smooth operation, and I am grateful that the United States Government has been swiftly and effectively dealing with this, in close coordination with the Unied Nations. Mr. Edmond Mulet has been very closely coordinating with the US ambassador and other key donors at the airport.

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UN's Ban-tourage to Haiti Grows After Protest, of Turf Wars, Hillary and Planes

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 16 -- As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and an entourage prepare to leave the UN in New York at 6 a.m. on Sunday morning, for Newark International Airport and, reportedly, a U.S. provided plane to Port au Prince, the turf war to coordinate aid to Haiti has just begun.

  Despite UN claims to be at the center, at least in this country where it had 7000 peacekeepers, 490 international and 1200 Haitian staff, the U.S. has taken control of the airport. With Ban slated to go to Haiti on Sunday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared Saturday.

  Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon if he thought the $100 million in aid pledged by U.S. President Barack Obama would channeled through the UN's $560 million flash appeal. Ban said that whether or not to work through the UN is the decision of each sovereign government. Well, the Obama Administration's $100 million is not going through the UN.

  Well placed sources tell Inner City Press that went Ban asked Bill Clinton how to fly to Haiti, the response was to "ask Hillary, she'll probably give you a better plane than she'd give me."

  Close watchers of Ban Ki-moon see in all this an attempt to re-brand Mister Ban. Accompanied by new spokesman Martin Nesirky, Ban has appeared each day at the Security Council stakeout, providing television sound byte and avoid questions such as the safety compliance of the UN headquarters building which collapses, and his not counting national Haiti staff in the casualty figures he provided.

  Late Friday, Inner City Press published a detailed report on how Ban and Nesirky chose to accompany Ban to Haiti a TV reporter from Ban's native South Korea, while excluding major wire services.

  Later, and after subsequent protest by spurned wires, an angry Nesirky reversed course and included first two more wires, including the one he used to work for, then also the Voice of America and CNN's long time Diplomatic License correspondent. Another media was belatedly asked if it wanted a seat on the plane but declined, just as the South Korean Yonhap declined Ban's invitation to document his trip to post-Nargis Myanmar.

UN's Ban and copter- Myanmar 2009, Haiti 2010 not yet shown

  Troublingly, it has emerged that the UN initially reached out and hand selected which journalists it wanted to accompany Ban. Inner City Press covered this self-selection of coverage in connection with Ban's controversial trip to Myanmar, where by most accounts he was used and abused by dictator Than Shwe.

  A humanitarian tragedy like Haiti should not present such dangers to Team Ban. Some see in the inclusion from the beginning of Korean television an attempt to use the tragedy for promotion in the homeland, and wonder if that means Ban wants to return there. But that's another story. For the immediate future, along with other UN matters Ban and Nesirky have tried to sideline, we will be reporting on Haiti, in as much detail as allowed or possible. Watch this site.

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As UN Ban Plans Sunday Haiti Trip, Picks South Korean and UN Media, Spurned Sources Say

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 15, updated Jan 16 -- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will fly to Haiti for a one-day trip on Sunday. To publicize his trip, Ban will be accompanied by journalists from France's wire service and television station, and in a surprise to some, South Korean media.

  Several journalists who had put their names on the list to go demanded to know why they were not included, while not only South Korea media but also the UN's own in house self documentarians were selected.

  One reporter, representing a major South Florida daily, says he was told by Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky, this is not like selecting a soccer team, I don't have to say how I made choices, remember, I'm not new at this job, I was with Reuters for years.

  When pressed, Nesirky told the reporter the criteria included multi-media platforms, "coverage of the UN," circulation, history of covering the region and inclusion in the directory of the UN Correspondents' Association. At least one of the invitees does not comply with this last criterion. And it is unclear, at least to some, if by "coverage of the UN" positive or negative coverage is meant.

  While the inclusion of South Korean media seems designed, several correspondents told Inner City Press, to feed Ban Ki-moon's image in his native country, they also saw a wider communications strategy at work.

  The earthquake was and is a disaster, they were quick to acknowledge. (We agree.) But for both Ban and his spokesman to resist for days now answering questions on any topic but Haiti represented, to them, a drive to remain "on message" as a politician would.

  At the January 15 noon briefing, Nesirky told Inner City Press that "I'm sticking with Haiti today," when a question about a rocket attack near the UN in Kabul was being raised. Video here, from Minute 43:05; the exchange was omitted from the UN's transcript.

   While Nesirky later relented and allowed this and a question about the UN in Somalia to be asked, ten hours later neither question had been answered. Even Nepal, on the Security Council's agenda with the UNMIN Mission, got no UN headquarters support from the UN on Friday, click here for Inner City Press story today on this and impunity.

UN's Ban and his spokesman on Jan. 14, only Haiti questions, even those (on Haitian staff) not answered

  Notably, a 2000 word expose of corruption in Ban's UN that moved on American newswires on Tuesday was never asked about or responded to, lost in the UN's wall to wall statements on Haiti.

  Even on Haiti matters, controversies were identified, outsourced and marginalized. When questions arose about Ban not counting casualties above the UN's national Haitian staff in the nation-specific presentations he made, to member states and to the press, Ban next said he would not report by nation, only Nesirky would.

   Nesirky in turn tried to explain the UN's reporting focus on international staff, and then to argue that while processed differently, reports of the deaths of national Haitian staff were treated equally.

   Ban received several waves of negative coverage in 2009, on topics ranging from seeming weak with strongmen in Myanmar and Sri Lanka. (Inner City Press went on Ban's May 2009 Sri Lanka trip, remaining on the issue since and, in full disclosure, applying to cover Ban Haiti trip.)

  Most recently, Ban has been accused by French President Nicolas Sarkozy of saying and accomplishing too little before, at and after the Copenhagen climate change talks.

   Responses to natural disasters are the UN's finest (media) hour, these long time correspondents said, pointing to the post-tsunami omnipresence of Kofi Annan's humanitarian coordinator Jan Egeland.

  In this case, Ban himself needs better coverage -- the correspondents tied it to Ban's drive to get a second five year term as Secretary General, since more than three years of his first term have expired -- and so he, rather than Egeland's successor John Holmes, is presented day after day at the stakeout camera.

  And now on a flash tour of Haiti, documented by the UN itself and South Korean media. Mr. Ban has scheduled a meeting with UN staff in New York for Monday at 11 a.m.. Watch this site.

Footnote: when Nesirky was selected, and Inner City Press asked if the fact that he speaks Korean and has family and professional tied to Korea, having covered Seoul for Reuters, were part of the reason why, the question was not answered. Then Nesirky came to a briefing and, while taking no questions, pointed out that he speaks German as well, but not French.
  France is understood to have insisted that UN lead spokespeople speak French, the UN's other working language. Now French print, TV and wire are all included on the Haiti trip, along with South Korean media. Whether all this assists in the drive to assert the UN's centrality in coordinating aid and action in Haiti remains to be seen.

Update of Saturday, Jan 16, 1:30 p.m. -- Fifteen hours after the publication of the article above, the UN's Ban and Nesirky reversed course and moved to include two more wire services on Ban's trip, increasing the size of the Ban-tourage. Their initial exclusion, and the inclusion of South Korean media (and UN in house documentarians as media) remains unexplained. Watch this site, and see this morning's Inner City Press story on U.S. description, with little UN in it, of aid work in Haiti, here.

 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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