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At UN, Ban Defends Chair of BofA, Mountaintop Removal, Orr Unaware

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 1 -- With Bank of America being protested not only for its bailout and corporate welfare but specifically as the largest funder of mountaintop removal coal mining, why did the UN make BofA chairman Charles "Chad" Holliday the co-chair of its "High Level Group on Sustainable Energy for All"?

  Inner City Press asked the UN spokesman on October 13, after attending a protest of Bank of America on the topic in lower Manhattan, across Broadway from the Occupy Wall Street encampment on Liberty Street. Spokesman Martin Nesirky said he would check with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

  Hearing nothing back, when Ban held a press conference on November 1 about sustainable energy, Inner City Press sought to ask Ban the question directly. Nesirky did not allow the question from Inner City Press. But in the hallway outside, Inner City Press did ask Ban. As transcribed by the UN:

Inner City Press: [inaudible] Bank of America is considered number one taking off the tops of mountains to take out coal, and has been protested for that. So on October 13th I asked here, what do you think of taking off the top of mountains for coal, and why is the guy [Charles Holliday] co-Chairman of the Group [High-level Group on Sustainable Energy for All]?

SG Ban Ki-moon: His record is quite clear, in the area of development, and particularly on energy issues. He is the Chairman of the World Council for Sustainable Development. He was CEO of Dupont where Dupont set an exemplary record in terms of energy. I have been, we have been working with him quite a long time. That is why he is nominated as Co-Chair of this group. I am sure that he will lead this sustainable energy group very well.

While to some being the CEO of Dupont is equally dubious, Ban Ki-moon did not answer on the question on mountaintop removal coal mining. Inner City Press went back into the briefing room and asked Assistant Secretary General Robert Orr what he and Ban thought of mountaintop removal mining.

Orr said that "Chad Holliday is a giant in business around the world." Calling mountaintop removal mining "a specific question" that Inner City Press should ask Bank of America about, Orr went on to say "I am not even aware of the issue you are raising." Video here, from Minute 18:40.

  Not only did Inner City Press asked Ban's (and Orr's) spokesman about the practice on October 13 -- any cursory review of environmentalist literature identifies the issue. Inner City Press sought to ask a follow up, if there was any civil society or environmental activist input in the UN process, but spokesman Nesirky cut in.

(c) MRLee
From right, Ban, Orr, TV: Bank of America, #OWS and MTR not shown or known

  Some wondered why Nesirky went to such lengths not to allow the question to be asked of Ban Ki-moon. Did he not want Ban mouthing these answers to appear on camera?

  Soung-ah Choi of his (and / or Ban's) office tried to cut off the question even in the hall. First she claimed that Ban inside "answered all the questions." Then after the question was posed, and before Ban graciously if disappointingly answered, she said "we'll get back to you."

   Beyond claiming to be unaware of basic environmental issues, the UN's Ban Ki-moon team claims to be paying attention to Occupy Wall Street. Its knee-jerk defense and praise of Bank of America and its involvement in mountaintop removal coal mining are telling and troubling. Watch this site.

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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

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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