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NBC Trades In ISIS & Shabab, Playing Catch Up to CBS's Mme Secretary

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 17 -- In the first episode of "State of Affairs" on NBC, there are fast references to Al Shabab and ISIS, and a Syrian opposition leader scamming the French -- can you say, Jarba?

   Compared to the CBS show that beat it to the gate, Madame Secretary, NBC's editing it faster and the protagonist played by Katherine Heigl is more risque. But being second is, after all, being second. Both follow in the trial of Homeland, but are on free TV. But does that matter anymore?

  On CBS, the first weeks of “Madame Secretary” also vaguely tracked the news, but the “Republic of West Africa” episode broadcast on October 26 hit too false a note. Why make up a country while alleging genocide, while naming Burundi, for example?

In one sequence, “Central African Republic” shows up on a map behind Tea Leoni. So where is this made-up country, “between Gabon and Cameroon”? And why make up a country in this episode?

Many reviews of the show have linked it to prospective Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. But the interventionist streak and “independence” brings to mind the current US Ambassador to the UN. So who's promoting that?

When an activist becomes an ambassador, what happens?

  On September 30, US Ambassador Samantha Power emerged from the UN Security Council and described to the press some of the General Debate week meetings held by President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and she had in New York.

  She mentioned the Biden-chaired meeting on Strengthening Peace Operations, which came to be described as a pledging conference. But what of particular problems with UN Peacekeeping that need to be strengthened, such as its covering up of attack on civilians in Darfur as alleged by a whistleblower?

  UN inaction amid death in Darfur is the type of issue an activist, including this one, fastens onto and doesn't let go. But right now the Obama administration likes and is using the United Nations, and so offers very little criticism of it.

  Recently the US State Department filed legal papers supporting the UN's immunity -- read, impunity -- for allegedly having brought cholera to Haiti. In the General Debate on September 29, the foreign minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

called on the United Nations to accept itsrole and offer recompense to the victims of the cholera outbreak that its peacekeepers have been proven to introduce to Haiti. A year later, the UN continues to dodge its moral and ethical responsibility. The legitimacy of this body to conduct future peacekeeping missions and the legacy of its leadership at the highest levels, will be irreparably damaged by failure to immediately redress this glaring wrong.”

  An activist, including this one, would latch onto such an analysis and not let go. But right now, the US is supporting the UN's impunity.

  Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about the quote at the September 30 noon briefing, and he said the UN is raising money, and Ban Ki-moon visited Haiti. But what about accountability? How can the UN preach rule of law while dodging the service of legal papers?

  Or a closer question: how can UN Peacekeeping, even to try to belatedly stop the bloodletting in the Central African Republic, use helicopters from the Sri Lankan Army, currently under investigation for war crimes by the UN's own Human Rights Council?

  How about moves against freedom of the press inside the UN, in writing, on video, systemic?

  Or back to Darfur: even in order to carrying corpses in the Ebola red-zone, how can the UN move out 400 four by fours from Darfur, which it is accused of covering up ongoing attacks on civilians?

  There are, of course, smaller or less media-genic issues on which the roles of activist and ambassador don't conflict. The freeing in Burundi, if only on health grounds, of human rights activist Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, would seem to merit some comment from Ambassador Power, given her comments at the beginning of the month and before.

  These type of questions are not taken or at least, were not taken on September 30. Instead the line of the questions taken, some in advance, ranged from a request to criticize Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov's General Debate speech (done), to praise Ban Ki-moon (done), and to disagree with Syrian Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari (done). Even on the perennial issue of Palestine there was little pushing. It is an ecosystem. Watch this site.


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