1 APRIL 2014

DO NOT DISTURB:

A seminar for the Special Representatives of our Secretary General gathered in the discreetly charming Swiss town of Mont-Pčlerin on the Rhone-Rhine watersheds. The serene surroundings seem totally disconnected from the rest of our complex world. Chaired by, of course, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the exclusive group enjoyed an exclusive view of Lake Geneva, starting from Vevey (15 minutes away) all over Western Switzerland, including the mountains of Jura. They got there by way of a local funicular rail ride through the Chardonnay winery. A television tower has a viewing platform. The relaxing atmosphere of surrounding hills was noted by UNESCO's World Heritage sites as relating to the ice age. Luxury hotel retreats include Le Mirador Kempinski Lake Geneva, with its relaxing spa and two "Restaurant Gastronomique:" Le Trianon and Le Patio. Junior staff staying at Hotel Chez Chibrac would easily retreat to their own two restaurants when their services were not required by the "Chefs." We sincerely hope that the fresh air, spectacular unhindered view, relaxed surroundings and haute cuisine helped evolve a clear vision of how to deal credibly with the tragic humanitarian catastrophes which the Special Representatives face.

KYIV/KIEV:

Suddenly, a spelling change. After 69 years of referring to the capital of Ukraine as Kiev, U.N. communiques in March started writing it as Kyiv. What does that mean? A significant shift of position? "Guidance from the top?" It is not clear because in other communiques at the U.N. website, Kiev is still around.

PENSION:

As announced on the website of the Association of Former International Civil Servants (AFICS), U.N. retirees on the U.S. dollar track will receive a 3.2 percent pension increase effective 1 April 2014.

NEW IRAN REP:

The name of a new Permanent Representative of Iran to the U.N. was informally mentioned as Hamid Abu Talebi, who had served in Australia, Belgium and Italy. Talebi was reportedly recommended by the government of new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to replace Ambassador Khazaee in New York. Although a general impression was that he would reflect an open pragmatic approach along the lines of the current trend in Teheran, there were some circles in the U.S. who referred to his potential role in the taking of U.S. diplomats hostage in 1980. Others point out that his role was mainly to interpret and negotiate during these events 34 years ago. He is now prominent among those with a close connection to President Rouhani, former President Rafsanjani, Foreign Minister Zarif and others in Teheran advocating continued open dialogue with the West. He would need a U.S. Visa to assume his projected post which is habitually granted under the Host Country Agreement -- unless there is a serious obstacle or a substantive policy change.

FIX AFICS:

Linda Saputelli, President of AFICS, indicated that the Association's Assembly gathering will take place on 3 June. She also informed retirees that it was becoming more difficult to mail individual flyers for varied events. The reasons for this are many, but in general the U.N. services they relied on in the past have gradually been cut back. For example, the Publishing Section which has been handling our printing suffered the loss of machinery as a result of Hurricane Sandy, but also underwent drastic staff cuts and can no longer provide us with bound Bulletins, colour covers or printed, pre-addressed envelopes. "To date we have been very fortunate to have a small group of devoted members who volunteer their time to affix the mailing labels (now printed by our office) and stuff the envelopes, but we must anticipate the time when our present volunteers may no longer be able to assist us and new ones do not come forward to replace them. Additionally, we have been having difficulties obtaining the requisite large quantities of envelopes from the U.N. and foresee the day when the U.N. may not be able to pay the postage for our mailings." It is therefore suggested to check regularly the website at www.un.org/other/afics or contact its secretariat at afics@un.org .

CLOWN SHORTAGE?:

"Clowns of America International" is concerned. Its President told a reporter in Florida that whilst older clowns were passing away there are not enough young clowns replacing them. World Clown Association agreed. Its membership reportedly dropped by a third during the past decade. One of its spokesman urged interested young clowns to "stick with it." No longer is it enough to just paint your face and drop your pants, he lamented, suggesting that there were many facets to clowning. According to the N.Y. Daily News by a reader of London's Private Eye, quoting those experienced in that trade, young clowns go to high school and college and find out that clowning isn't cool anymore! Perhaps they are not looking in the right places. Should we help direct them?!

SUSPICIOUS:

"I once worked for a Scandinavian company and had to change my working pattern. In that culture, anyone who worked after 5 p.m. was viewed with great suspicion. Anyone needing to be in the office late was either a) no good at their job because they couldn't get it done during the day, or b) covering up some fraud or mistake, or c) a combination of the two."
-- From The Financial Times

DOGGED DIPLOMACY:

Colombia's Vice President Angelino Garzon had agreed to go as his country's Ambassador to Brazil before he changed his mind. In his apology he mentioned family and personal considerations. It transpired that His Excellency felt that his German Shepherd dog was not likely to enjoy the weather in Brasilia. Never mind that Brazil is one of Colombia's main trade partners and political supporters. That's why someone with the rank of Vice President was being sent there. Yet Mr. Garzon had his priorities. It's a dog life -- or dogged diplomacy.

PLASTIC LOUNGE:

A re-opened Delegate's Lounge is more like a corporate office space than a relaxed meeting spot for diplomats. Perhaps to discourage staff from hanging around for too long, the few lounge sofas are complemented by what looks like shared desks. That is, little privacy. Certainly, no ambiance for intimate chats. Very little is offered in terms of fast food (certainly no Paninis or Croissants of old days). More disappointing is the kind of coffee offered. Once a Cappuccino landmark in Manhattan, the Corner offers some sort of bitter stuff in PLASTIC cups. No ceramics. You just carry your plastic and move on. No team spirit; no hanging around; no warm chats. That's the real Master Plan.

ARMENIAN'S PROTEST:

The Armenian International Committee issued a protest against military attacks on peaceful citizens of Kessab village on Syria's border with Turkey. It accused Turkish troops of assisting foreign gunmen who entered the town, took many of its men hostage, and desecrated Armenian churches. Over 670 families were forced to leave to nearby towns in the Latakia region. The Armenian Committee called upon all powers involved in the Syrian crisis to help avert further humanitarian, religious and ethnic attacks, adding that it was the third time during the last 100 years that Turkish troops had forced Armenians out of Kassab.

VALERIE'S HANI:

Would France's former informal First Lady return the shot in her own way? New York's Lebanese community is "whispering" about a budding relationship between Valerie Trierweiler and a businessman of comparable age who works on Wall Street. The story goes back a few months ago when the French reporter was on a visit to Beirut where she happened to meet "Hani" (Honey?!) during lunch at the home of Socialist Party and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt. Reportedly they kept in touch and he visited her in Paris to celebrate her birthday. He is apparently urging her to move to New York. If she does, she would be the second French First Lady to do so, after Cecelia Sarkozy joined her new husband, a Moroccan-born Public Relations consultant. Welcome to the Big Apple!

WON-SONG:

When Ja Song Nam of North Korea presented his credentials to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, former Foreign Minister of South Korea, there was curious speculation about the atmosphere and nature of the official meeting. The outgoing envoy Sin Son-Ho had left without making the usual courtesy farewell call. How would the incoming one -- and his hosts -- handle "the delicate occasion?" With mutual discretion, apparently. Usually, a senior Under-Secretary General attends such protocol events. In that case it was Wu Hongbo of China. Also, there was Kim Won-Soo, who recently returned to the 38th floor after a couple of years in budgetary wilderness. While the Secretary General and his official guest and country neighbour chatted briefly in their mutual language, Mr. Kim whispered in English: "Congratulations." Ban Ki-moon then invited Ja Song into his office. What happened behind the closed door is a matter of speculation. Much, much better than tension across the border.

MUK-BANG:

Apropos Korea, one of the most popular television programs, is watching someone eat with special enthusiasm. Park Seo-Yeon reportedly does it with such gusto that he is called the Diva, particularly by enthusiastic watchers who are on a diet. It's a consolation prize for fasting. Many of his fans, he reported, were lonely, and for them watching him -- like all others -- eat is one way to communicate. His act has been successful enough for him to leave his day job. He proudly told a paper that he now makes more than ten million "won" (about $10,000) a month merely by eating his favorite food.

CRABTREE:

"I am Hoffman Crabtree, a highly placed official of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)," announced an email for the attention of "recipients." He would like to help "redeem you from all difficulties you have been experiencing in getting your lost overdue payment due to excessive demands of money from you by both corrupt bank officials and courier companies." There were so many complaints Crabtree announced that "we decided to put a stop to that" and that is why he was appointed "to handle your transaction -- in Nigeria!" All governments, NGOs, finance companies have now been instructed to "back-off." Only IMF, presumably through Mr. Crabtree, will deal directly with your payment! Your name, you are told, had appeared on a list of beneficiaries but you could only be paid twice a year from your "inheritance fund" of "USD 10.7 million Euro." You would be given a code for ease of reference. A hot-line direct number also listed together with an address in Asokoro Abuja. If you decide to say hello to Mr. Crabtree, say "good-bye" to your Lobster Bisque!

FABIOLA:

Former Deputy Permanent U.N. Representative of Guatemala, Fabiola Fuentes-Orellana, who also was her country's Consul General in New York, is now residing in Mexico, where she actively joined the academic community, particularly as a professor at the University of Anáhuac. She also advises the University at the historic town of Cuernavaca, where she resides. Despite a painful operation last year, she still moves around between her intellectual duties and cultural events and still maintains her fabulous cheerful smile as she welcomes visiting friends.

VISITING:

Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis has a unique distinction of being the only Security Council member voting for Ban Ki-moon as Secretary General in 2006 who did not take a U.N. Secretariat high-level post. There was always speculation about the reason: was an appropriate offer made, or not? And if not, why not? He had presided over the Council meeting in September when a deal was almost done but was somehow delayed a few days for Japan to announce the agreed consensus. Anyway, he was in New York early March as Greece's Representative in the talks on the (still unnamed) "Former Republic of Macedonia." He met the Secretary General but did not hang around enough to meet his many friends and former colleagues. Next time, perhaps.

JUMPIN' PETER:

A U.N. Truce Supervision Observer Peter Simon jumped to his instant death from the balcony of the eighth floor in the Lebanese Southern city of Tyre. He was visiting his girlfriend -- which already made him vulnerable in a rough neighbourhood where every foreigner is habitually watched. His girlfriend reportedly said he had been drunk (doubly vulnerable!) and went outside attempting to double-check a street light. UNIFIL and UNTSO issued a general statement regretting the untimely death and leaving the investigation to the very discreet Lebanese army. Condolences to his bereaved family in Austria.

DISTURBED DAY:

We did not know that there was already an International Day for Disturbed People until we noticed it on a Facebook account. Whether it means hanging a "Don't Disturb" sign or dealing with individuals who have "Disturb" problems (to keep it vague) we did not find out. Perhaps Mr. Kim, with his new -- and yet un-clarified culture -- would share some thoughts with his similarly interested colleagues. Or, if a photographer could be produced on sight -- any sight -- Jan Eliasson would pop up and compare for example with his favourite International Toilet Day. Or, perhaps they could flush out to the ready, willing -- though totally unable -- Herr Maherrr who perpetually looks either puzzled or bewildered -- or both!

WORD PLAY:

* A dentist and a manicurist got married. They fought. Tooth and nail.
* A thief who stole a calendar got six months.
* When smog lifts in Los Angeles, U.C.L.A.
* Batteries were given free of charge.
* A will is a dead giveaway.
* When you've seen one shopping center, you've seen a mall.
* Did you hear about the fellow whose left side was cut off? He's all right now.
* A bicycle cannot stand along; it's two tired.
* When she saw her first strands of gray hair she thought she'd dye.
(Sent by colleague Karen Albert)

KWIBUKA 20:

In launching a campaign to commemorate the massacre in Rwanda 20 years, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon highlighted its three themes: Remember, Unity, Renew. While rightly stressing the failure of the "international community to act," he seemed to spread the blame around to deservers and non-deservers alike; which very much suits certain influential circles that determinedly stood by and prevented any corrective or presumptive action -- despite current day rhetoric, particularly heard at legendary leader Nelson Mandela's funeral, with regard to certain former world leaders and senior U.N. officials whose shameless role is forgotten. That's when "Remember" comes in. A united front against a repetition is especially important as is the need to renew efforts and remain vigilant in offering a better future, particularly to the families of the victims and their compatriots.

DOWNER:

Finally. Downer from Down Under has stepped down. From the moment he took over as Special Envoy for Cypress, questions were raised about possible conflicts of interest. He had a political consulting company -- Speak Easy -- that could be approached by one or more sides in that conflict. He then became a partner with another consultancy led by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright which had among its partners Turkish individuals with major businesses across varied borders. His main effort was to announce now and then the date of a meeting between the Greek and Turkish leader of the Island, only to disappear and announce the date of another forthcoming meeting. Sounds familiar. Inchallah!

PROFESSOR SID:

Professor Albert Einstein was his fan. So was famed film director Alfred Hitchcock. Woody Allen wrote comedy for him. So did Mel Brooks and Neil Simon. He made a million dollars when a million dollars really counted. That got to him. From then on he almost fell apart, with several revival attempts. The only regular activity was a Saturday coffee brunch with other retired comedians on Beverly Hills' Pico Avenue. Sid Caesar didn't have to say anything to make people laugh. He just appeared, looked puzzled, or pompous, sometimes faking a foreign accent in a language he never spoke. "Ich Bin Ein Professor" he would mumble in his New York Bronx accent. Yet the professor went nowhere with his presumed research -- you got to go there yourself!

HUMPTY:

Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the King's horses
And all the King's men
Couldn't put Dumpty together again.

IT RHYMES:

It could be a Chique or a Sheikh
Who took the man's daughter
To a flat in Bayswater
And kept her a
Week there Awake!

QUE PASO?:

New York's new Mayor de Blasio was scheduled to receive U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday, 12 March. There must have been some complication as that courtesy call was postponed without any further date set. Someone mentioned a tragic accident in the Bronx. Anyway, the answer would not lie with the scrupulously courteous Mr. Ban. The other Mr. B, whose introductory anthem was "We'll Never be Royal," may eventually discover how crucial the U.N. is to the city of New York.

WORSE ZOO:

Croatians love to compete everywhere. From tennis to soccer to politics, their typical names are splashed or blinked on various boards in different countries. They now have a new title to claim. Their beach town of Split, their touristic pride and joy, has the worse animal zoo in the world. After the vote was received, the Mayor hurriedly closed it and promised a drastic improvement. Til then, beware of roaming foxes.

REMEMBERING WAGAYE:

After a religious ceremony at the Ethiopian Cathedral in Washington, D.C., a commemoration for our beloved colleague Wagaye Assebe was held at the Church Centre in New York, which overflowed with her friends and colleagues. There were loving testimonies by those who worked with her and a video message from former Secretary General Kofi Annan whom she assisted with superb loyalty. A very touching moment came when her daughter read a favourite passage of the Holy Bible and then expressed her own feelings in farewell remarks. She faithfully believed that we all belong to the Almighty to whom we all return.

PRESIDENT KABBAH:

When Ahmed Tejan Kabbah left UNDP's Budget Division in 1992, very few of his colleagues expected his next move. He ran for President of his country, Sierra Leone in 1996 and won. A gentle soft-spoken man, he stood up firmly against brutal terror against his compatriots and overturned a murderous coup d'etat. His close friend and colleague Khaled Yassir did not live long enough to witness Ahmed Kabbah's hours of deserved glory. Sadly, Khaled passed away in a New York hospital while his friends, including the President of Sierra Leone, regularly enquired about his condition. After serving two terms, Mr. Kabbah, who left office in 2007, continued to care for his former friends and colleagues, like he did for his loyal compatriots. He passed away at 82 in mid-March.

METROPOLITAN SALIBA:

A young boy at a Mount Lebanon village enjoyed chanting religious prayers. He had a beautiful voice and the neighbours enjoyed listening. His father served at the Church of the Greek Orthodox faith like many in that region. When the Patriarch of Antioch and the Whole East visited, he heard about the talented parishioner's son and wondered if he would be interested in studying at a Church Institute. An enthusiastic Philip Saliba was then transported through the mountain on a donkey to where he prepared himself for priesthood. After being ordained, he was sent to several educational spots from Balamand in North Lebanon, to the Holy Cross Institute in Brooklyn, to Vladimir College, then to others in Boston and Pennsylvania. He was first sent as Pastor of the parish in Cleveland, Ohio. He was then appointed as Bishop of the Church of Antioch for New York and all North America. During the last 15 years, he was well known by U.N. diplomats from the region, regardless of religious faith or cultural variety. He was known for his principled defense of Middle East issues, including the need to maintain the two-thousand-years-old Eastern Christian presence. He was also known for his thoughtfulness and sharp wit. On 21 March, the Patriarchate of Antioch and the Whole East announced with regret the passing away of Bishop Philip Saliba. May his memory remain forever.

DER GRAAF TOURS:

Former colleague at U.N. Headquarters and ESCWA Beirut, Richard van der Graaf, who now lives in Baden outside Vienna, has set up a guide service for visiting officials, reporters and university groups. He still travels to Lebanon and his touristic venture is in partnership with a Lebanese friend. Our other colleague Marian Anwad is in constant touch with him; she plans to visit Southern Lebanon, her father's birthplace. Meanwhile, Marian visited Vienna, together with her son Farris, on the 25th Anniversary of the passing away of her husband, who is buried there.

OLE, PACO:

When Paco de Lucia produced "Siroco" in 1987, he changed the nature of modern flamingo. A musical blend of artistry, passion and discipline, the Andalusian who played the guitar when he was too young to hold it toured the world like his back garden, conveying a refreshed and refreshing brand of flamenco culture. It was not just a display of creative art. His "Falsetas" were a cry for life, an Andalusian demand to be heard. Many tried to imitate him, but failed to convey his genuine spirit and inherent talent. Getting the Best Latin Music Award recently was merely an admission of his unique talent. His 1976 recording of "Entre Dos Aguas" received over 16 million views on YouTube. His rendition of Aranjuez-Adagio is incomparable. Capricho Arabe reflected his authentic roots. Francisco Gustavo Sanchez Gomes, which is his actual name, was born in the scenic seaside town of Algeciras in Andalusia sixty-six years ago. He died on 26 February 2014 which visiting Playa del Carmen in Mexico. Entre dos Aguas?

PAUSE:

Between Now and Now
Between I am and You are
The word Bridge
From One bank to Another
There is always a body
Stretched like a rainbow
I'll sleep beneath its arches.
-- Octavio Paz