15 April 2013
"We have no choice except between Abu Nijmeh and Abu Lihyeh." Late Syrian Poet Mohammed Maghout, meaning either the regime's security
officers or obsessed Islamist gunmen.
"Beautiful things take time. But they eventually happen."
-- Gibran Khalil Gibran
"In Syria we would be arming those we are fighting in Mali."
-- Alain Chouet, former Head of France's External Intelligence
Jordan's King Abdullah II made headlines in a series of "heart to heart" interviews with an Atlantic monthly writer who managed to spread it
around in mainstream media before producing the full text. Although he came out like an honest up-to-date monarch, his office had to deny certain
points like describing tribal elders as dinosaurs, his princely brothers as overly princely, and Turkey's PM Erdogen as treating democracy like a
bus ride -- he gets off at his own station. The writer, Jeff Goldberg, was among the reporters who accompanied U.S. President Obama during his visit
to Jordan. What the media hardly noticed was the travel routing the King followed when participating in the Arab Summit of 25 March in Qatar. He stopped in
Manama, Bahrain, staying the night there before proceeding to Doha. He did the same last year, also stopping one night in Bahrain as he spent the
day in the Qatari capital. Area observers believe he is very suspicious that some in the Qatari government are encouraging Moslem Brotherhood
followers in Jordan to agitate against him and that they may do anything to get his half-brother Hamzah, son of Queen Noor, to replace him. Hence,
no overnight and no potential chance-taking. Hence, also, the very open press interview with a prominent, worldly TV reporter sticking it to
those suspected of holding their own needles -- or daggers. He must know the British saying: "Uneasy lies the head that holds the Throne." After
all, his mother is British.
Thomas Friedman coined it, as usual, and Middle East media adapted it. The most prominent global columnist said that if U.S. President Obama did
not carry with him any new action on his first visit to Israel and, briefly, to the Palestinian Territory, he'd be mostly a political tourist. Both
Arab and Israeli reporters dwelled on the touristic side, yet kept exploring every political angle of his every move. Patting someone on the
shoulder, placing a hand on the back, smiling in a garden, attentions were projected minutely and by the minute. Finding no other accomplishment,
a Palestinian Authority "communicator" found it impressive that President Obama "showed his respect" for the Palestinian flag during his very brief
Ramallah stop. Little did any of those perceptive communicators notice one of the most strategic developments of that visit. Relations between
Israel and Turkey. That is likely to impact on Middle East politics for the next four years. Follow that lead.
"Quelle musique, le silence."
-- Jean Anouilh
Today We Are Gathered to Hear More About Me. President Obama was supposed to eulogize the memory of Senator Daniel Inoye. Instead he told us
about his favourite summer vacation.
-- Emily Yoffe in Foreign Policy
I believe in Pink
I believe Laughing is the best calorie burner
I believe in Kissing -- kissing a lot
I believe in being Strong
When everything seems to be going Wrong
I believe that Happy Girls are the Prettiest Girls
I believe that Tomorrow is another Day and
I believe in Miracles.
-- Audrey Hepburn
Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri of India has just retired after serving two years at the Security Council. By most counts, the former
Professor-turned-Diplomat represented his great country with distinction. None of that presumptuous attitude of Vijay Nambiar, but the effective
straightforward amenable approach of J.P. Partha Sarathi. Despite his overburdened time, Ambassador Singh always found time to smile. "How deep is
Hardeep?" was a repeated diplomatic quip. He took it all in stride and managed to serve India, the U.N. and the international community graciously.
One pending question relates to his formidable wife, currently number two in U.N. Women. There is speculation that she is aspiring for the top
post, now that Michelle Bachelet has left. Until further notice, at least, she is in charge. We all know, as the BeeGees song goes: "How Deep is
His Love" for his wife; let's see how deep is Hardeep's influence.
The outgoing Permanent Representative of Qatar has dropped "Al" from his name since he was designated "High" Representative for U.N. Alliance
of Civilizations. How "High" we'll find out "in due course." But we now know that Nassir Abdulaziz should go
straight to Nasser. Whether pronounced like "Nasr" (victory) or Nasser (as pronounced, meaning helping the victorious), again is unclear. Also
whether his hair's black shine is getting too glaring is another matter. But certainly the new official press communique (not duly reproduced for
lack of interest) has been reporting his name differently. What happened to "call me Al" of the Hamptons youth days?!
On Saturday, 23 March, U.N. offices around the world turned their lights off for one hour. It was joining millions around the world who were
participating in Earth Hour. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed a determination to take every feasibly action on climate change. He urged
governments, businesses, and civic society to play an effective role to help get a "cleaner greener world." If "Seal the Deal," "Hopenhagen," and
Hug-a-Penguin didn't work out, would one hour of darkness shed any more light on any progress?!
General Assembly Affairs has been a mixed bag since its establishment. Sometimes very effective, sometimes pathetic. Yet mostly boring, and
time-consuming. The staff look bored, even on display on the right and left of the podium. Their immediate boss, the Under-Secretary General, looked
concerned on the podium that an incoming Assembly President would mix up the carefully typed text. One of the most incompetent heads of that
Department was Shaaban Shaaban, who acted more like a confused employee rather than a manager. Last year, Jean-Jacques Graisse of Belgium was
designated ad-interim. He carried out his tasks fairly well while seeming to enjoy himself. By the third week of March, the Secretary General had
appointed Tegegnework Gettu of Ethiopia. Like J-J, Gettu had worked in UNDP, where since 2009 he was Assistant-Secretary General and head of
the Regional Africa Bureau. His new move promotes him to Under-Secretary General. Let's hope this appointment does not impact on the role of
another Ethiopian: international civil servant Taye Zerihoun, who rose through the ranks with dedicated enlightened work and has done an effective
job in every assignment. He now holds the rank of Assistant-Secretary General. Let us hope politics does not undercut accomplished performance.
At end March, Lee way way Gomez retired. She was a constant pillar of the U.N. guided tours and Public Enquiries. Always in good spirits, helpful
and efficient, Ms. Gomez made friends for the U.N., for her beloved Philippines, and -- of course -- for herself. A former tour guide, she was one
of the dynamos behind the Sixty Years Commemoration of U.N. Guided Tours last November, particularly preparing for the dinner reunion which was
somewhat eroded by the hurricane that hit New York and blocked the travel of those coming from abroad. Perhaps another wider representation at a
revised dinner could be considered. She was always cheerful and pleasant despite her deep sorrow at the loss of her husband. We wish her well in her
"When we've been there
Ten Thousand Years
Bright shining as the sun
We've no less days
To sing God's praise
Then when we first begun."
WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?:
Pop singer Tina Turner has applied for Swiss citizenship. While hanging around Lake Geneva, the American diva who is fluent in German seemed to
enjoy the neighbourhood to the point of risking her U.S. citizenship. She was once married to a German; perhaps still is. Perhaps no one told her
that she could keep her American nationality even if she acquired a new one. Or there may be another more pressing reason. Most likely it has nothing to
do with high mountain fresh air.
Don't make a drachma out of the Euro currency crisis.
NEXT G.A. PRESIDENT:
As the African Group -- the largest in U.N. regional ones -- is preparing to field the next President of the General Assembly, there is
diplomatic wrangling -- as usual -- amongst various countries and their U.N. Permanent Representatives. Perceived as a prestigious assignment in
addition to being a potential source of influencing certain employments, seated on top of the podium affects not only ambassadors but their bosses.
Until December there was a trend supporting the experienced Michel Tommo Monthe, Permanent Representative of Cameroon, who had earned his
promotion through enlightened dedicated hard work, particularly as a pillar of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions
(ACABQ)and the General Assembly's Fifth Committee. Tommo, as he is universally known among diplomats and Secretariat staff alike, unflinchingly
defended the interest of his country and African interest, while understanding U.N. mechanisms enough to do so with elegant dignity. However, by
March, we heard feedback that another country, Kenya, has placed the name of its Minister of Foreign Affairs, although it is clear whether he
will be retaining his position following recent elections won by Uhuru Kenyetta. A consensus amongst the African Group is expected by May.
A popular button amongst New York women during Saint Patrick's Day is "Kiss Me, I'm Irish." This year's celebration was similarly jolly, with
abundant participation by many others including, of course, Scottish cousins Haig & Haig. A new angle was mentioned by some Irish expatriates who
reminded listeners that one of Saint Patrick's accomplishments was ridding the Emerald Isles of snakes. When a recent prosperity wave produced a
new class of rich people, they boasted of their success by challenging the old myth and bringing in snakes as pets. As if by counter-miracle, the
Irish bubble suddenly faded -- cash gone, yet snakes remained. Don't mess with Saints!
Heard it through the grapevine that Jaya Dayal will be getting a promotion. She will be confirmed in the office of Under-Secretary General, DPI,
with a D-1 level post. Jaya grew up at the U.N.; she comes from what you would call a U.N. family. Her father, Verandra (Veru) Dayal came to
New York from Geneva UNHCR to work first at the Department of Political Affairs then became Chef de Cabinet for Secretary General Javier Perez
de Cuéllar. It is a tribute to Veru's credibility that he did not pressure anyone to appoint his brilliant, pleasant, and obviously talented
daughter at any U.N. office. Jaya entered first as a reporter at InterPress Service and, after her father left, joined the Secretariat in a
competitive process. An excellent drafter -- like her formidable father -- and discreet, dedicated colleague, Jaya earned her way from P-2/P-3 to
P-4 before transferring to DPI where she kept gaining the confidence of her supervisors and the respect of her colleagues.
Gunman rushing from as far away as Caucas, Tunis, and Libya to "liberate" Syria even when they destroy its most valued heritage, have found
sympathetic allies in some clerics pretending to interpret Islamist Shariah. Most recently, a Jordanian cleric Yasser Ajlouni, who lived in
Syria sent a YouTube message that it was alright to have Nikah (bluntly translated "F...") with "non-Sunni women." A Saudi cleric Mohammed
Arifi issued a "fatwa" that "fighters" had the "right of Nikah" with Syria women they captured. More bizarre is a fatwa by a Tunisia Sheikh who
actually inspired 30 (yes, 30) young Tunisian women to travel to Syria to "relieve" through "Nikah weddings" -- provided they allowed more than
one fighter to take time between "liberation" duties!
The sexiest Arab singer, Haifa Wehbeh, gave a statement to a Lebanese magazine, "Laha," denying that she was ever married during her teens to
Hezbollah leader Sayed Hassan Nasrallah. Ms. Wehbeh, who uses body language as well as her whispering voice to reach out to her wide pan-Arab
public came widely more popular with a song presumably for children but was interpreted as a hidden message to keen men: "kiss where it hurts"
(Bous El-Wawa). The report on her presumed marriage to Sayed Hassan was reported early February by "Voice of Russia" radio. Now, why would Moscow
be so well-informed on the intricacies of Ms. Wehbeh's background remains a puzzle; why broadcast the story was another puzzle. The popular singer
happens to be a Shiite from Southern Lebanon -- a strong popular base for Hezbollah leadership. She declared that she has the highest regard for
"the policy and wisdom" of Nasrallah and commented that perhaps the next rumoured report will be about her marriage to U.S. President Obama. She
suggested that those determined to circulate unfounded rumours may feel better if they tried to kiss her "wawa."
A mention of former UNICEF Meeter/Greeter Italian/Swede Staffan De Mistura for an assignment as U.N. Envoy to Mali raised a question -- especially
among Africans -- about an "Italian connection" that persists in sending outdated Italian politicians on pointless yet inflated U.N. appointments.
"Demess" appointed the son of Kofi Annan's Chef de Cabinet Iqbal Riza in a P-5 post when Riza helped getting him designated (and
promoted) as U.N. Envoy to South Lebanon. He was also infamous for recruiting and promoting Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's son-in-law when he was
designated (and promoted) as Special Envoy to Iraq. In the case of angling for the Mali post his "Italian connection" may not be Italian. It could be
current Chef de Cabinet Ms. Malcorra, who had served in Rome with the World Food Programme, or Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson, who would likely
consider him a fellow Swede. A veteran source believes that the "really real" support comes from an influential and enduring U.S. connection De Mistura
had courted since his early days in WFP/FAO in Rome; that despite a somewhat clownish meeter/greeter appearance he has been, over the years,
What happened to the Tournedos Rossini? Top French Chef Paul Bocuse wants to know. Indeed, he wants you to know that he is upset because chefs
are no more telling the rich and famous what tastes good, but it's the other way 'round. Those paying the piper are increasingly insisting on calling the
tune. But that's good enough for pauper pipers, it's not good enough for proper chefs. If the main gastronomic trend is to snub the
Tournedos, then they should be told off. And if you disregard Monsieur Bocuse, you never know which one of his former sous-chefs or adoring pupils
will be preparing your next meal at your favourite restaurant anywhere between Marseille, Paris, New York, London, Los Angeles, or anywhere between
Moulins de Moujins to Tokyo. A brief advice: Don't turn your back (literally translated in French as "tourne dos") on the Tournedos.
QUE PIZZA AMIGO?:
Habitually, it's "Que pasa" or "Que paso" or just "Que," with a hand or face gesture to clarify or confuse. But one of those transient characters
with little flair for language and little concern for accuracy thought he would be winning friends and influencing people by enquiring about Pizza.
Apparently listening to a jovial joking diplomat, he took the farce as reality and pushed it around. Amused or puzzled listeners would merely smile -- and
pass it on.
A veteran colleague drew our attention that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had traveled from 31 March to 8 April to San Marino (2 days),
Monaco (2 days), and as well, Madrid and the Hague. Considering that there are no substantive issues discussed while several peace threatening crises
are happening elsewhere, the worth of the expenses and the effort was questioned.
Sometime around mid-January, a crocodile seemed to appear on New York's East River, close to U.N. Headquarters. It was apparently chasing a
Slippery Eel which had taken what the croc had assumed would be its eternal spot, having served so dutifully without questions and volunteered his
"interventions" only when required. The Slippery Eel could not help but burst into tears of laughter as his Swedish Gravlax Salmon desperately tried
to accommodate both masters at the same time; the sighting reminded those with institutional memory of the past old days where enlightened
dedicated delightful dolphins were the main floaters in that neighbourhood!
The Prime Minister of Serbia was received at U.N. Headquarters in New York by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and elaborately welcomed by the
current General Assembly President who -- with an equally elaborate team -- happens to be his compatriot. U.N. and Serbian official TV covered the
visit at length. Two weeks earlier, the Prime Minister was visibly enthusiastic about another event. His TV hostess, who happened to also be a sexy
particularly flattering in her introduction, particularly as she had her bulging breasts prominently facing him and one almost bare leg on another.
It would not be appropriate, of course, for a Prime Minister to focus on other than the main issues facing the Republic, but he managed to maintain
elaborate eye contact and substantive body language. His Excellency could not contain himself, however, when his charming interviewer briefly then
repeatedly opened her legs, showing she didn't have any underwear. After the amazed and amusing photo was snapped, the interviewer explained that
the whole show had been a satirical joke -- to see how he would react. Despite several political denunciations, it transpired that the general public
enjoyed the show although some claimed they had seen the hostess in that same position several times by then it was no longer a novelty. The Prime
Minister's office then issued a belated statement denouncing the interview as "an insult to Serbian's honour."
Speaking French is a delicate question for the new U.S. Secretary of State, Senator John Kerry. When he ran for President in 2004,
Republicans used his Francophile side to describe him as an enemy at a time when the name of French Fried potatoes was ridiculously changed to Liberty
Fries. He was dubbed Jean Cherie and "accused" of actually drinking Evian bottled water! That may have been why during his visit to Canada in his new
appointment, he awkwardly declined to respond in French during a press conference with his Canadian counterpart. He claimed his French was rusty.
A month later, however, during a visit to Paris, he seemed emboldened. Speaking impeccable "Francais," he flattered his listeners by informing he just
had a delicious lunch (a tribute to his host's cuisine), and tried to look (and dress) like a Parisian. More relevant, he seemed to enjoy himself.
Good for him.
"We don't want the army to catch him. It's we, the women, who want to arrest him ourselves. Even if you're talking to your own blood brother
on the steps of your house, they hit you. Even if you are wearing the veil and it happens to slip off, they hit you. This man, Ahmed Moussa, he
made life miserable for women. Even an old grandmother, if she's not totally covered up, he would hit her."
Fatouma Traore, 21, Timbuktu, Mali
Glad to note that Farid Zarif has been appointed Special U.N. Representative in Kosovo. Mr. Zarif is a very experienced colleague who rose through the
ranks with enlightened dedication and hard disciplined work. He was an effective team member, then team leader in U.N. missions to verify
elections, including a crucial referendum that helped Eritrea attain its independence in 1993 and also lead a working team in the U.N. Food-for-Oil
venture, where he was not involved in the very badly handled crisis. His designation in Kosovo is very well placed; he has wide
experience in dealing with emerging situations and, coming from Afghanistan, has a very practical perception of Kosovo's issues.
"The U.N. Mission in Haiti did receive a report through the Haitian Police channels concerning an altercation between a U.N. Police Officer and a
Haitian female citizen, and the Mission is looking into the matter. An investigation is being conducted to ascertain details and circumstances of the
alleged incident. The final report drawn up by the Mission's investigative unit will be sent to the appropriate office in U.N. Headquarters." An official
statement made on Monday, 11 February, 2013. Whatever happened to that report? Oh, Canada!
"If you love do not say God is in my heart. Say, I am in the heart of God."
-- Gibran Khalil Gibran
One more disappointing report about lack of real action by "U.N. Women," now mostly a symbolic non-operation under a titular head with more
interest in appearances and politically correct language than actual action. When a group of former U.N. staffers heard about a U.S. National
Committee for U.N. Women in Miami launched last June, they tried to connect in February, particularly to prepare for International Women Day
8 March. They contacted the Miami Florida Chapter of USNC-UNW Miami, but got mainly P.R. literature declaring "working towards a world where
women lives life free," stressing it was time to take a stand and that "U.N. Women" is the global champion. The two paragraph site informing
that U.N. Women "is led by former President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, and has as its Goodwill Ambassador rumoured actress and humanitarian Nicole
Kidman." That's it, folks.
While members of the Security Council on New York's East River were "seized" with pressing world issues like Congo, Syria, Myanmar and North
Korea, active New Yorkers were agitated by a recall by athletic clothes shop Lululemon of its yoga pants. A silent understanding amongst hip men and
women -- especially on Manhattan's West Side, was brought to the open. Those attending yoga gyms had to take a stand: did the soft pants, especially
while sweating, show more clearly the shape of a woman's behind? How about men's postures? While delegates on the East River may agree on a statement
to the press, Lululemon enthusiasts are still arguing it out, from Zabar's to Fairway.
A head of state whose views are regularly followed by the international media faced an awkward problem recently. He had to find one million dollars
to repay for his loss in a gambling game while visiting another country. No diplomatic privileges or immunities could help. Eventually a number of
compatriots and businesses came to the rescue.
Young staff looking for any available apartment in New York may not be interested to know that Chelsea (Bill and Hillary) Clinton just bought
an apartment in Manhattan for $10.5 million. Her "outdated" one was for sale for $4.5 million. Apparently it was time for a refresh button. Where
she got that kind of cash is obvious. Before becoming President, Bill Clinton lived on his salary as Governor of the State of Arkansas and the
trio family lived on the income brought by the very hard-working, talented, and forgiving Mom, Hillary. The former President is by now
competing with his British friend Tony Blair (who reported received $11 million from ONE member state) in "Shaking the Sheikh" and squeezing P.R.
seeking autocrats. At a Tribeca party, a reveler wanted to know whether "Chelsea Clinton" bought a new apartment in "Manhattan," or did "Manhattan
Clinton" buy a new apartment in "Chelsea."
Professor Tommy Koh, a pillar of Singapore's international diplomacy and head of its Foreign Service Institute, maintains his formidable contacts
he had established while he was Permanent Representative in New York and Ambassador in Washington. He recently gave a dinner welcoming another pillar of
diplomacy, Professor Ibrahim Gambari of Nigeria who, after resigning as U.N./Africa Joint Envoy to Darfur is spending six months as a visiting
academician there. Those with institutional memory would recall Professor Koh as playing a role way beyond his country's limitations and was once mentioned
as a candidate for an Asian U.N. Secretary General.
"CHAMPION OF CHOICE":
"Champion of Choice", a book by acclaimed author Cathleen Miller, details the life and times of Sadik, the extraordinary women’s advocate who
served as executive director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) from 1987 to 2000. A dynamic collaboration between Miller and Sadik, "Champion of Choice" stands as an example of dedication and the power of the human spirit. The
journey began 12 years ago in a quest for a story that led Miller all over the world. "The main thing that connected me to her was my tremendous respect for her," Miller told IPS about her decision to write a book about Sadik. She
emphasised the importance of spending time with Sadik’s family, the local communities with whom she had worked and the women whose stories remained
poignant contributions to "Champions of Choice". "People are not going to open up and tell you their life’s story over the telephone, to a stranger," said Miller. "It was just about spending time
with people and getting them to trust you, getting them to tell you things that were personal and sometimes very painful." Sadik fought tirelessly for women's rights and opened a global conversation on family planning. On Mar. 20, UNFPA, Friends of UNFPA and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) hosted a book launch at the Ford Foundation in
Manhattan to celebrate both author and subject. Sadik’s work focused heavily on the health of women and girls. She fought tirelessly for women’s rights in sexual and reproductive health and
opened up a global conversation on family planning. As an undersecretary general at the United Nations, Sadik noted that her position gave her "a platform to really say what I always wanted to say
about the rights of women, about sexual and reproductive health -- including family planning -- and how important it was and is for women to be able
to exercise those rights". Not to be outdone by her male counterparts, Sadik became well known for her outspoken views and disarming clairvoyance. Advocating for her
fellow women to advance themselves within the UNFPA, Sadik changed how the organisation was set up. When she joined, she set up a task force to examine how women could advance in the organisation. "I let it be known in the office that if a
position was open for advancement, I would consider both women and men," Sadik described. "For a while, if they were equal, I would promote the
woman." Advancing not only UNFPA but also the conversation surrounding global health, Sadik defied stereotypes and set out on a historic mission that
fought to give women control over their bodies. In 1994, Sadik was appointed secretary general of the International Conference on Population Development (ICPD) in Cairo that brought together
world leaders, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and activists to discuss population development and human rights. She called her work
there "my best achievement", describing, "what I did was get people to the negotiating table". Spearheading an initiative for marriage equality and the empowerment of women, Sadik believed that when a woman has the right to reproductive
health and the power to decide what’s best for her and her family, population management and sustaining global development become possible. "Of course couples should make decisions together, but in the end it should be the woman who should be able to decide about her own life and about
her own health and about her own needs," Sadik said. This, however, "is not the case for the majority of women in the developing countries". With her many contributions and the occasional controversy -- the Vatican opposed Sadik’s stand on sexual and reproductive health -- Sadik’s story
found its own special voice through Miller. "This kind of narrative story that’s very much about storytelling -- and very intimate -- had the power to affect people in a different way
than a book that’s historical or policy driven," Miller told IPS. Asking tough questions and relying on Sadik to recount stories, Miller wrote from a place of learning. The outcome was an incredible account of
advocacy. In a era when the world is driven by instant gratification and immediate results, Sadik remains one of the most dedicated activists for
women’s health and rights, an inspiring story and legacy in her own right. "The main thing I learned from Dr. Sadik is that you have to have courage," Miller shared. "Not just courage, but the determination to keep
after a task or a change for decades."
Glad to note that Professor David Malone has been appointed as Rector of U.N. University in Tokyo with the rank of Under-Secretary General. A
diplomat, a scholar (and a Gentleman), the once Deputy Permanent Representative of Canada to the U.N. has acquired a solid reputation for credible
analysis of U.N. developments. During his "incarnation" in New York as head of the International Peace Academy, he was a regular source for
mainstream media reporting on international affairs. His personal stamina and professional stature will certainly help replenish the reputation of
the almost fading U.N.U., which Japan had established almost single-handedly in order to have a U.N. presence in Tokyo and as a prelude to an
increased role by Japan in U.N. Affairs, especially Peacekeeping.
One of the most effective New York Times columnists of his time, Anthony Lewis passed away in March at the age of 85. Living in Boston, he won
TWO Pulitzer Prizes while seemingly gentle and very pleasant, Anthony Lewis was a fierce defender of human dignity and individual freedom, not only
in the U.S. but around the world. Aware of his ethical responsibility, he reached out to all social groups, visited zones of conflict, and listened
more than he talked. He was as courteous and dignified as he was perceptive and straight to the point. May his soul rest in peace.
When the new Pope, former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina, took the name of Francis, most observers thought he belonged to the
wide-spread Franciscan order. As he explained later to a group of visiting reporters, he selected the name as his neighbour at the gathering,
the Cardinal of Brazil, urged him not to forget the poor. Actually, Pope Francis is the first Jesuit priest to become Pope. Jesuits, who focus on
education and have established a worldwide network of universities like Georgetown in Washington, D.C., and Fordham in New York, are recognized
for their somewhat independent streak sometimes known as the "Marines of the Catholic Church." They are generally open, interactive, and
engaging, under a motto: "All for the Glory of God." Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam." AMDG.
(Jesuit Motto: All for the Glory of God)
A well-deserved promotion for Richard Amdur as the new Chief Speechwriter and Communications Director at the Secretary General's office. Richard,
who joined the U.N. at the Department of Public Information, has earned his rise in the ranks through devoted professionalism and courteous
teamwork. Many of the more enduring U.N. publications were actually drafted by him as he quietly and persistently collaborated with other colleagues
to present a positive outlook of certain unheralded accomplishments. We wish him well in his new challenging assignment.
COMPANY THEY KEEP:
Robert Redford's new film with Susan Sarandon about a former revolutionary desperately hiding his past is reminiscent of his movie three
decades ago with Barbara Streisand about a former rebellious college student turned businessman who desperately tries to keep in touch with his
former favorite comrade. The main difference, of course, is time; or to put it bluntly: age. The once incredibly handsome young man with an
All-American look and extraordinary zeal for what's right, is now -- like all of us -- less so; though still talented and able to deliver
impressively. To his great credit, Robert Redford has been a positive force in supporting creative talent, particularly through his Sundance film
festival and a series of productions which could have not touched the screen without his influence. The new film "The Company They Keep" has been
screened in New York with enthusiastic applause. For a change, the waiting lines along the block across from Bloomingdales were not in anticipation
of new cookies at the Magnolia bakery, nor Dylan's Candy, but to watch Robert Redford's new movie. Good for him. Good for New York.