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At UN, Bloomberg Thanks Ban on "The Ukraine," Conflict of Interest UNanswered

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 21 -- Three weeks after the UN announced a "climate change and cities" post for Michael Bloomberg, and Inner City Press asked about conflicts of interest, Bloomberg held a photo op with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Ban's 38th floor conference room.

  The Press was told there would be "remarks," but that it could ask no questions. (Stop and frisk, practiced on the way up to the photo op, came to mind.)

  Ban said that Super Storm Sandy impacted the UN, and that a climate agreement by 2015 is key. (Strangely, the Press was told to leave before Ban's and Bloomberg's 9:40 am meeting with the UN's Special Envoy on Climate Change, Jens Stoltenberg.)

   Bloomberg's remarks, after a joke about the blue UN pass he had just received, included thanking Ban for his comments on February 20 about "The Ukraine."

  As Inner City Press reported, Ban's comments were scripted and came as one of three pre-selected questions Ban took at a stakeout ostensibly about the Central African Republic. (Another question was about Syria.)

 This is the increasingly controlled way in which Ban's UN tries to communicate. On February 21, Stephane Dujarric who is slated to become Ban's new spokesperson on March 10 was up on the 38th floor already. The day before, outgoing spokesperson Martin Nesirky told Inner City Press there would be no overlap between UN Media Accreditation, which Dujarric has been overseeing, and the role of UN spokesperson. Video here.

   If the UN wants to communicate, it should answer what safeguards it will put in place to ensure tha Bloomberg's business interests somehow don't create conflicts of interest with his UN role. Only three days after getting the UN post, Bloomberg was in the news on his own Bloomberg Africa TV, which covers such issues as Air France and mining on The Continent.

   So Inner City Press went to the February 3 UN noon briefing and asked for whom Bloomberg is speaking, the UN or himself?  Video here from Minute 14:52. UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky replied that his deputy Farhan Haq had answered on this on January 31.

  But Haq on January 31 after citing "terms of reference" said they are not public, instead to look at a press release which, it turns out, contains no safeguards. Nesirky said this is an early stage, and that is true. But it already seems clear that safeguards will be necessary. For now: UNIFEED video of Ban Ki-moon and team dining with Bloomberg, here.

  On January 31 Inner City Press asked Haq if any thought had been given to possible conflicts of interest, or restrictions on how information or access from the post could be used, given Bloomberg's businesses.

  The UN's Haq replied, "I believe appropriate terms of reference have been worked out with former Mayor Bloombeg, that should be an acceptable arrangement devised between them." Video here and embedded below.

  Inner City Press asked if these "terms of reference" were public and could be seen. Haq said "No... What's public is a lengthy press release available in our office."

  But the press release does not address any safeguards on conflict of interest at all.

  As Inner City Press noted before the UN's announcement, when Michael Bloomberg was Mayor of New York, in light of obvious conflicts of interest he stepped back from Bloomberg News. He was criticized on issues ranging from stop-and-frisk to defending banks against minimal City community reinvestment standards.

  Now, according to one gushing report, he is poised to move to the United Nations, as envoy on cities and climate change. What about new conflicts of interest, and the above critiques?

  To give what credit is due, on the evening of January 30 Reuters' UN bureau issued a breathless "exclusive" with nothing but praise of Bloomberg -- not a word of any criticism, nothing on the conflict of interest with Bloomberg News purporting to cover the UN and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Given the percentage of the piece praising Bloomberg, that would seem to be the (anonymous) sourcing.

  Meanwhile at the UN on January 30, Inner City Press on climate change asked Ban's acting deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq of documents leaked by Edward Snowden showing that the NSA spied on the Copenhagen talks in 2009:

Inner City Press: there’s one of the [Edward] Snowden-released documents, but there’s a reason I’m asking you is it’s published in a Danish website “Information” and it talks about the Copenhagen climate change talks of 2009. And this seems to be the document and it says that the NSA [United States National Security Agency] was involved in monitoring communications at the discussions in order to advise the United States on the position of other Governments and presumably at the UN. So, I’m wondering, this seems to get more closely into things that are of much import to the UN, to the Secretary-General. Is there any response as to this memo coming out and the propriety of such surveillance?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we wouldn’t have any specific response to this because ultimately, again, this is a case where we’d need to know what the basic facts are and whether there was any such surveillance that’s happened. However, our basic point that we’ve articulated many times in recent months still holds: that the inviolability of diplomatic premises needs to be respected by all States.

  If Bloomberg is named on Friday, or is named at all, what will the coverage of criticism and conflicts of interest be? Watch this site.

Footnote: While giving what credit is due to Reuters' UN bureau, despite their history, it must be noted that the bureau chief has not only spied for the UN -- he has also misused the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act to get Google to block from its search a leaked document showing him trying to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN. All of this.. is how this UN works, or doesn't.


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