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At the UN, Hacker Cut-Up Brings Turkish Denial, UNEP Doesn't Answer About Its Still-Hacked Site

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Muse

UNITED NATIONS, August 13, updated August 14 -- On what most reporters called a slow day at the UN, the noon briefing turned into Comedy Central. It all began with the hacking of the UN's websites, on which Inner City Press reported over the weekend.

    Spokesperson Michele Montas, just back from Haiti and Barbados, referenced to the hackers in terms of pseudonyms. More than one correspondent heard this as "Sudanese," and one longtime correspondent used the word. "Why do you assume that they are from Sudan?" Ms. Montas asked. The laughter began. Video here, from Minute 21:44.

            Another correspondent disagreed, noting media reports that "they are Turkish."

            "One of them," Ms. Montas corrected, "claimed to be Turkish."

   At the UN, at least regarding the countries with reporters in the press corps, there was bound to be a response. Soon a Turkish reporter demanded to know the basis of the slur. "Do you think they are so stupid," he asked, "as to give their name and nationality?" The reporter said, maybe they are "Japanese, or Mexican." With such a large contingent from Japanese media, things could have gotten ugly. The saving grace was one Sunny correspondent's persistent questioning about the new big screen televisions on which Inner City Press reported last week, dubbing them "Banovision."

            Ms. Montas later revealed that the flat screens, rather than costing the UN money, were gifts from Samsung. The Sunny correspondent asked, "And what country is Samsung from?" The job can be thankless sometimes. Of late, the talk was of an online / FaceBook Ban Ki-moon, with an ear not as soft as the one seen in RealLife, whom people are starting to quote. The UN's engagement with the Internet remains not only hacked but halting.

            Even on Monday late afternoon and evening, several UN web pages were down. And as of midnight on Monday, neither the transcript or even summary of the noon briefing had been posted online. As Ms Montas put it, in the wake of the hacking, the UN's ability to "post so fast and readily might be hampered."

            At the UN Environment Program, it appears that they can't even get the hack off their website. Before noon on Monday, Inner City Press asked UNEP's lead spokesman:

is the "" domain [and this hacked page] held by UNEP?

Please describe any and all "partnership" or relations UNEP has with PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (Riaupulp), see below;

Finally, could you describe UNEP's participation in the UN Communications Group meeting in Madrid on June 21-22, 2007, particularly on Item 6 / "new media." Who attended for UNEP, what position did or will they take on these issues, and what update to the June 21-22 discussion can you provide?

            It is unclear how UNEP can solve global warming if three simple questions, sent to the lead spokesman on a day UNEP's been hacked, result in not a single answer. [August 14 update -- an answer has been received, and will be reported out later today].

Another surreal day at UNHQ, earlier this summer, as ice bear melted in the background

            The Staff Council, feeling itself on a roll following last week's well-reported resolution against going to Iraq, passed another resolution on Monday, this time demanding "that all staff members be relocated out of the affected UNHQ buildings during construction" of the Capital Master Plan.

            "Fat chance," one UN insider opined. If the New York government, City and state, has allow the UN to build on Robert Moses Park, the entire staff could have left at one time. But now it will be ten floors at a time. Bring out the dust masks.

            [The insider's theory on the withholding of Robert Moses Park is that, rather than the UN's work on Israel, the blockage was for real estate interests. But until the park ends up being given for another building project, it's not clear how that theory works.]

            Inner City Press asked to be given a list of the 866 violations at the UN. Ms. Montas said she would look into it; we'll see. Video here, from Minute 11:38. There was talk of sprinklers, and of an August 9 letter to the City from Alicia Barcena, which has yet to be released. Would the City actually block tours of the UN?  If you can't visit the website, the building should be open...

* * *

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund, while UNDP won't answer.

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540