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At UN, Italian Jazz and Off-the-Record Stylings As Labor Unrest Looms

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

UNITED NATIONS, December 5 -- At the UN Wednesday night, the Italian mission invited the press corps for jazz piano by 16-year old prodigy Alessandro Lanzoni, who played selections from Herbie Hancock and Thelonius Monk before an audience including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Lanzoni's rendition of "Scrapple in the Apple" involved him reaching inside the grand piano -- with UN logo, of course -- to deaden the strings. Afterwards, Inner City Press asked him if he'd learned this technique from a mentor or other piano player. No, he said, he invented it himself. He lives in Florence and, along with New York, has played in Israel. If the youth can do this, Italian Ambassador Marcello Spatafora said, it bodes well for the future.

            Outside the auditorium, Ban Ki-moon chatted with reporters as canapes and drinks including bellinis were passed through the crowd. Mr. Ban is slated to more formally address the press, and on-the-record, Thursday at 3 p.m.. Strangely that's to be followed by a by-invitation-only session for some reporters at 5:30, anticipated at be off-the-record. The finger-food talk after the jazz performance has chief Ban aide Kim Won-soo headed to Sudan, along with Number Two Peacekeeper Ed Mulet, while Ban himself begin to travel on Saturday, December 8. "Will there be an end-of-year press conference?" a reporter asked on Wednesday. "There will be tomorrow's stakeout," was the answer. And that, apparently, is that.

Mr. Ban with UN's in-house media to staff (but labor unrest looms)

            Also on Thursday, knowledgeably sources predict two relevant labor actions. It just may be that UN tour guides, who have long struggled in their words for health insurance, sick days and respect, may not come in to work. There may also be a vote by the UN Staff Union regarding the Secretariat's decision to allow each UN fund and program to set up its own ethics office, and confine its whistleblower, at least in the first instance, to this in-house process.

            Mr. Kim is also known to have been summoned to brief the Fifth (budgetary) committee last Friday, November 30. More and more questions have arisen about the budgets, particularly that for the UN's Darfur mission, which includes a $250 million no-bid contract stealthly awarded to Lockheed Martin. Click here for more on that.

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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

  Because a number of Inner City Press' UN sources go out of their way to express commitment to serving the poor, and while it should be unnecessary, Inner City Press is compelled to conclude this installment in a necessarily-ongoing series by saluting the stated goals of the UN agencies and many of their staff. Keep those cards, letters and emails coming, and phone calls too, we apologize for any phone tag, but please continue trying, and keep the information flowing.

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

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