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

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At UN, of Beepers and Bed Bugs in the Albano Building, Electronic Sign In

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 12 -- Months after Inner City Press exclusively reported that bed bugs had been found in portions of the UN's office space in the Albano Building on 46th Street, and the UN belated confirmed it, the UN has found that there are bugs on almost all floors of the building. A notice was sent out on May 7, provided to Inner City Press by a whistleblower, that

"Dear Focal points, Please be advised that the report came back from the exterminator on the bed bug follow up inspection. The exterminator reported that the dog found problems on almost all floors. The reports says 90% of the building had problems. The exterminator will be fumigating the building on Saturday 08 May 2010 from 9:00am -9:00pm. No staff are allowed in the building while it is being fumigated. All staff are safe to return to the building on Sunday morning. Sorry for the short notice. If you have any questions please feel free to call me. Thanks, Brian Hogan."

The Albano Building houses, among other things, the UN's Text Processing Units. These are about to be subject to an electronic sign in system promoted by Assistant Secretary General Franz Baumann, who tells Inner City Press that when he was at the UN in Vienna, staff had no problem with this system. Here the Staff Union -- both factions -- have opposed by swipe in. But Baumann is pushing forward, as explained in this recent Q & A:

Inner City Press: Can you confirm or deny you have ordered the text processing unit to implement electronic sign-in, despite opposition to it?

ASG Baumann: Nothing has been ordered. But DGACM will introduce the kind of state-of-the art electronic time and attendance keeping system which has been successfully implemented at UNOV/UNODC since 2003 to much acclaim from staff, including the Staff Union there. So, stay tuned. In the meantime, we are discussing details with the staff and the staff representatives of DGACM.

UN's Ban swears in Baumann, staff shown, bugs not

  Inner City Press also asked Baumann about another controversy within the Text Processing Unit(s)

Inner City Press: Can you confirm and explain that you now expect all of this in Text Processing Unit to have (and pay for) their own cell phones, to replace the beeper system you have discontinued?

ASG Baumann: There is not one Text Processing Unit, but six. Staff in these, as in other parts of DGACM, are expected on occasion to be on stand-by - and are compensated for this. During such stand-by periods, staff have to be reachable, whether on their home-phone or, if they choose to be away from home, by other means. It is not a contractual requirement - or a sensible assumption in this day and age - for the Organization to pay for this reachability. Pagers are a - like Morse Code or Telex - a very outdated technology, yet expensive to administer, and their use has indeed been decided to be discontinued by the DGACM Departmental Management Group on the advice of its ICTC Committed.

Several DGACM staff complain that they do not have a cell phone, and should not be required by the UN to get one at their own expense, while others even having one do not view this as a legitimate demand by the UN as employer. But so it goes.

Footnote: The most independent judge in the UN's internal justice system has been pressured not to seek re-appointment, Inner City Press is told. Judge Adams, who has issued findings of contempt against the administration of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, his USG Shaaban Shaaban and others, will hear his last case for the UN on May 12. We hope to be there.

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At UN, Lebanon Dodges on Iran and Congo Trip, Says Ban's Staff Is Invited

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 4 -- This month's Security Council president, Nawaf Salam of Lebanon, is in a tough position. While the Western permanent powers on the Council have been beating the drums for sanctions on Iran to pass this month, Lebanon's coalition government contains the pro- Iranian Hezbollah. Salam was asked if he would prefer Iran not come up this month. No one has ask that it come up, he replied.

  Inner City Press asked about the Congo, the Council's whirlwind trip only to Kinshasa. Video here, from Minute 21:33. In previous years, when the Council has gone to Africa it has included four or more countries. This time it was going to be three, with Uganda and Rwanda, but is not whittled down to one.

  Several African Ambassadors-- and one African American Ambassador -- have complained to Inner City Press for different reasons about the limitations on the trip. Sudan's Ambassador said, on the record, that it should be called the Council's DRC trip, not an Africa trip. Another, off the record, questioned not at least going to the East.

  Salam replied that the Council has gone to the East in the past, that this is to negotiate with Joseph Kabila the terms of renewal of mandate of the MONUC mission. He said, "I haven't heard from any African state on the Council that it is a disrespect." But African states are not limited to those on the Council.

Lebanon's Salam on May 4, apples and oranges not shown

Inner City Press also asked about the Council's decision last month to bar the UN Office of the Spokesperson from its consultations. Salam said yes, this has been an issue, but said that now the Executive Office of the Secretary General can come inside.

To some, this means only the identifiable denizens of the third floor of the UN's North Lawn building. Spokesman Martin Nesirky has declined to answer this question, saying to ask the Council. Now, as Ban Ki-moon himself said this week, the ball is back on the other side of the court. Watch this site.

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At UN, Ahmadinejad Defends Iran's Treatment of Women, Mocks Obama & Ban Ki-moon

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 4 -- When Iran dropped its candidacy for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council last month, some described it as restoring at least some credibility to the UN, as when Bosnia stepped in and beat out Belarus for a seat two years ago.

But when Inner City Press asked President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about Iran's successful replacement candidacy, for a seat on the UN Commission on the Status of Women, despite gender discrimination and repression, Ahmadinejad had a different and lengthy answer.

  He said the switch was procedural, that Iran had always wanted the CSW seat more than the Human Rights Council, which within the Asia Group Pakistan was supposed to run for. Due to a misunderstanding, Ahmadinejad said, Iran temporarily made a grab for the HRC, before returning to the seat promised to it, on the Commission on the Status of Women.

  But how does Iran intend to use the seat, Inner City Press asked, since it has refused to sign the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women? We will never sign that, Ahmadinejad vowed. He went to on paint of picture of "love and complementariness" in Iran.

Women won't do menial jobs in Iran, he said, nothing "like you and me, cleaning the street or driving a truck." He said he had read that 70% of married women in Europe suffer physical abuse, but refuse to complain for fear of losing their families. Women are better off, he concluded, in Iran than in Europe.

UN's Ban and Ahmadinejad, human rights not shown

Ahmadinejad's answers came during a more than one hour long press conference held Tuesday across the street from the UN. The room in the Millennium Hotel was full, with journalists from the Daily News, Washington Post and wires, and even Christiane Amanpour (who was not called on).

The moderator had taken a list of reporters who wanted to ask question, which Inner City Press arrive too late to sign. But having covered Iran's Nowruz receptions -- "be more positive next time," the Iranian mission admonished, leading Inner City Press to ask "or what?" -- the moderator nodded and allowed the question.

In fact, many journalists remarked that Ahmadinejad's press conference was more open and democratic than those of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, or the pre-screened stakeout by Hillary Clinton the previous day. There, the US State Department decided in advance which questions to take. At Iran's event, alongside some very pro Tehran question, questions were taken about for example the reports of North Korean weapons intercepted on their way to Iran.

We don't need weapons from them, Ahmadinejad answered. If America finds and seizes such weapons they can keep them. Regarding Ban Ki-moon, Ahmadinejad said that if the UN were in Tehran and Iran had a Security Council veto, Ban would never have spoken as he did on Monday. Asked repeatedly about sanctions, he said that if they go through, it will mean that US President Obama has "submitted" and been taken control of by a gang. This order, he said, will soon collapse.

But what of those arrested and disappeared after the contested elections? Ahmadinejad did not answer that question, fastening instead on the women's rights part of the question. Whether the Iranian mission will in the future allow such questions to be asked, and even answered, remains to be seen.

 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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