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Inner City Press -- Investigative Reporting From the Inner City to Wall Street to the United Nations

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UN Powder was Non Dairy Creamer Brought In, Sources Say, UN Bar to Re-Open in 2 Weeks, Reception Review

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 22 -- With the UN's cafeteria re-opened on February 22 after a two day scare caused by the find of an "unidentified powder" on the conveyor belt to the dish washing room, Inner City Press asked UN spokesman Martin Nesirky what the powder was. Nesirky said he didn't know.

A well placed source tells Inner City Press that the powder was, in fact, non dairy creamer, shaken out into an envelope. Since the UN's cafeteria does not serve non dairy creamer, this means a person brought the powder in. The source surmises this more likely makes the incident intentional.

UN's Ban in cafeteria, non dairy creamer not shown

In other UN food or beverage news, Inner City Press is informed that the re-opening of the UN's Delegates' Lounge bar may be in as little as two weeks. The physical bar has been ordered. It will be on the second floor of the North Lawn Temporary Building, facing the river.

  On February 19, beer was for the first time served in the new building. The occasion was a Japanese comedy put on by Japan's mission to the UN. Afterwards, there were noodles and chicken and shrimp, and more Saporo beer than anyone could drink.

  In fact, some who had attended another event, a film about endangered languages, venture down to the first floor for the Saporo spread. Anyone in the UN could go. Good relations for Japan, to be sure.

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UN Downplays Found Powder as Non-Toxic, Keeps Cafeteria Closed for 2nd Day

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 19, update 2:30 pm -- Seventeen hours after an envelope with an unidentified white powder was found in its cafeteria, the UN announced that "initial preliminary results indicate the substance... is a non-toxic, non-organic substance."

Still, UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said in a 7:20 a.m. e-mail, the cafeteria will remain closed today."

As of 9 p.m. on Thursday, when Inner City Press last filed on this developing story, staff from the UN's food contractor Aramark had been told to come in to work on Friday. A broadcast e-mail to the UN's own staff said that the "host country" had taken the substance for testing.

Apparently, someone decided between 9 p.m. and 7:20 a.m. both to issue a statement downplaying the threat, but also deciding to keep the UN cafeteria and Delegates Dining Room closed.

UN's Ban and spokesman Nesirky, cafeteria and powder not shown

The response can be contrasted to when an unidentified substance was found in a soda can in the closed down offices of the UN mission to search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Then, the UN did not tell the host country until news leaked out, and faced criticism for potentially putting New Yorkers at risk.

By contrast, the UN nearly immediately said on February 18 it had "alerted the host country." Some wondered, did this mean hundreds of millions of people? A mobile lab drove in, and drove out. When will results be released? Watch this site.

Update of Feb. 19, 2:30 p.m. -- after asking US Ambassador Susan Rice some questions, Inner City Press asked Associate UN spokesperson Farhan Haq at Friday's noon briefing when the results of the testing of the powder would be known. When they are available, he said.
   At 2:30 p.m., Haq said that the FBI's preliminary results are negative, and that confirmatory testing continues and mostly likely will be completed by Monday. For now, a little table has been set up in the UN lobby, turkey sandwiches for $5. Of the coup in Niger, nothing's been said....

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As Powder Removed from UN for Tests, Cafeteria on Hold, Iran Celebrates, US Not Seen

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 18 -- Six hours after the UN shuttered its cafeteria after a suspicious white powder was found in an envelope on the conveyor belt to the dish washer, the powder was removed from the UN by authorities in New York for further testing.

  While employees of the UN's contractor Aramark were told to come in Friday morning, an e-mail to UN staff said that no decision about re-opening the cafeteria would be made until further tests were conducted.

  New York authorities bought a mobile laboratory into the UN's third sub-basement. The envelope was brought to the laboratory.

  Upstairs in what had been the UN's Delegates' Dining Room three receptions were being held. Iran's mission to the UN offered smoked salmon, hummus and soda to celebrate the "31st anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution." Correspondents, some of them like Inner City Press hungry from the closure of the cafeteria, milled around with Ambassadors.

At Iran's event, there was an informal women's section, with scarved women chatted and took photos with each other. A U.S. diplomat told Inner City Press, "You didn't see me here, I'm upstairs for the Council of Caring Communities event." The U.S., it seems, did not want to be associated with the Iranian event.

UN's Ban and Ahmadinejad previously at UN, US not seen

  Inner City Press chatted with Georgia's Ambassador, who noted that the UN has yet to replace the chief of its dwindling mission in Georgia, or Abkhazia.

Sri Lanka's Ambassador spoke at length with Ban Ki-moon's chief of staff Vijay Nambiar. Afterwards, the Ambassador told Inner City Press that his country wants to be taken off the Children and Armed Conflict list, "since there is no more armed conflict." He said that the recruiter of children most recently named by the UN "does not exist."

Next door Venezuela threw a party, complete with white wine. A UN Security office explained to Inner City Press that the response to the powder was acceptable, adding that "maybe it was drugs." Watch this site.

* * *

At UN, "White Powder" Find Forces Cafeteria Lock Down

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 18 -- The UN's cafeteria has been shut down after an envelope with an unidentified white powder was found on the conveyor belt to the dishwasher, cafeteria sources tell Inner City Press.

As of 3 p.m., the lobby of UN headquarters was full of cafeteria workers and UN security officers. The cafeteria was being "locked down," a representative of the UN's contactor Aramark announced. UN Security told this reporter to leave the area. A cameraman was told not to film.

  On the UN campus for a 4 pm meeting and 4:45 pm press stakeout is former US President Bill Clinton. Meanwhile, several close observers present noted the lack of NYPD on the scene.

The UN sent this out:


Temporary Closure of Staff Cafeteria Re Suspicious Substance

The Security and Safety Service is investigating the presence of a suspicious substance in the Staff Cafeteria. Host country authorities have been alerted, and are assisting. Access to the Cafeteria will be restricted while the matter is being resolved. You will be kept updated as more information becomes available. The Service appreciates your continued support and cooperation.

Update of 3:41 p.m. -- Despite the line that the "host country authorities have been alerted and are assisting," those in the UN lobby have yet to see any NYPD...

Update of 4:19 p.m. -- told by a source to go and check the basement, Inner City Press witnessed the entrance into the lower floor of the cafeteria of NYPD Emergency Service Unit. Aramark workers have been told that the cafeteria, which was scheduled to remain open to 7:30 p.m., will not re-open today. Officious suits milling around in lobby. An NYPD with "Anti-terrorism" jacket on.

UN cafeteria staff mill in lobby, white powder not shown

This follows an incident in which white power was found in the journalists' mailbox area, and where a KFC Colonel Sanders impersonator was allowed in to meet the President of the General Assembly Ali Treki. For the later incident, UN Security officer Ralph Hering is still suspended -- a scapegoat, well informed sources say.

The UN cafeteria was closed for the month of January as it was lightly renovated to accommodate the Delegates' Dining Room, being moved down from the vacated fourth floor of the UN. What the powder was, and if dangerous who was exposed to it, is still not known. Watch this site.

 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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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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