15 December 2005


It's Japan's new Foreign Minister. Taso Aso, actually. Unhappy, very unhappy that so much Japanese money was paid thus far for so little. Having a U.N. Under Secretary General in New York doing hardly anything (under the guise of Disarmament), a Director General of UNESCO in Paris, another Director General for Internal Telecommunications Union, plus several senior Japanese officially drawing salaries from the U.N. budget is not enough. A permanent Security Council seat will be the only satisfaction. Has anyone in Japan asked WHY after so much time and money (billions in 20 years) Japanese diplomacy has failed to obtain that seat? There must be something wrong -- either with the strategy, or the tactics or with those closely knit characters trying (and failing) to implement it. First line of questioning should be at the Japanese Foreign Ministry. Aso!


Q: You cancelled your trip to Asia...

SG: We are at a critical stage of the budget process, and the next 15 days is going to be the critical period, so I decided that it was important for me to be on the ground, to work with the Member States to ensure that we get the budget approved. And there are other things coming up.

Q: Was it on the recommendation of Ambassador Bolton?

SG: Ambassador Bolton? He doesn't run my programme.

Q: Today, he had mentioned to you that...

SG: I did not speak to Bolton, and I, gosh, you know this is a building where people take credit for lots of things, so I am amazed.

Q: Sir, why couldn't you make a decision much earlier?

SG: Because I had hoped that things would turn around for the better. I had a series of meetings yesterday, and decided that we still have some difficulties, that our budget is important, it is one of the most important documents for the next two years, and that it is best I postpone my trip, not cancel, and deal with the budget and other pressing issues, and then go to Asia later.


Since everyone is trying their hand at Eliminating Poverty, why not give a free plug for the Maharishi. After all, we can at least enjoy his natural herbal teas. Those others give the peoples of the world nothing in return -- for frequent flyer ego trips. Thus, we readily recirculate a $10 TRILLION request by His Eminence the Guru in order to develop "organic agriculture" (hmmm!) on five billion acres of unused land with agriculture potential for 100 countries. Those trillions are just for start-up cost. "Every type of financial institution is invited to participate immediately and insurance companies will be involved to make the project absolutely risk-free" -- we are assured. So here you are. It's either pro bono Bono, or our very own Campo O'Campo, or the Maharishi.


First, we have to spell it right -- with an e. Then we need to inform you that it's 2008. You have adequate time to prepare for it. So, there will be no excuses if some potatoe couches remain hanging in there on the targeted ten floors -- depending on which ten the powers that be decide to target. In due course, of course. For by then, the powers that be now will be having full-bodied massages in Tuscany, Finland or Wyoming. Idaho will be the best choice, according to connoisseurs. But don't ask the Spokesman. He has enough on his hands as it is.


No pro Bono by Bono when it comes to business. For him, Poverty is History, indeed. Digital deals are now a hot issue in the media market and as Elevation Partners, a West Coast firm, is getting ready to partake in the cake, who else would be more helpful than U2's main man -- as both an adviser and a partner.


This time, the U.N. Day was the pretext, but the date was accommodatingly shifted to 22 rather than 24 October. The shameless Frequent Flyer was supposed to share the "stage" with hip hop rapper former tennis player Janique Noah. At least the French Cameroonian had something to entertain the crowd. Only there was no crowd. Just a handful of participants filling about one quarter of the hall. It is really a shame that U.N. Day which used to be celebrated in France at the highest and most popular levels falls down to such hurried limited shape. But, then, there seems to be no accountability even at a time of a budget crunch.


Several journalists attempting to affect the U.N. sponsored Tunis gathering on the Internet found themselves in difficulty, if not in physical danger of assault. Except for some limited soft spoken mumbling, no senior U.N. official offered any practical help or support. The U.N. could have at least set up a conduit of negotiations between the complaining media and Tunisian authorities. If not in accordance with Article 19 of the Human Rights Declaration, which is binding to any U.N. official, it would have facilitated smoother proceedings. However, disappointment with U.N. management reached its peak when the President of Rapporteurs Sans Frontiers, the international framework of active field journalists, was refused entry to attend the meeting. He publicly referred to "two-faced bastards at the U.N." Did he mean anyone we know?


In his last address to the staff on 8 September 1961, Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold said:

"We all know that if we feel that what we do is purposeful, not to say essential for the progress of human society in a broader sense -- yes, even if we believe that what we do is essential only for a small group of people and its future happiness -- we are willing to accept hardships and serve gladly for the value of serving." He added:

"It is false pride to register and to boast to the world about the importance of one's work, but is false humility -- and finally just as destructive, not to recognize with gratitude -- that one's work has a sense. Let us avoid the second fallacy as carefully as the first, and let us work in the conviction that our work has a meaning beyond the narrow individual and has meant something for man."


I know we were all walking on four legs. Now we are on two. I wonder where all this is going.


"Who controls the flow of the ocean? Nobody controls it; and it works just fine."
-- Leonard Kleinrock, a computer scientist at UCLA dismissing calls for more oversight of the Internet


Ahmed Zeitoon of the South Lebanese village of Kfar Tebnit found a pigeon on the roof of his home with Israeli and English inscriptions tied to one of its feet. He took it to the police which sent it to the laboratories of the Agriculture Ministry in the regional capital, Nabatiyah. After a conversion of security and linguistic experts, it transpired that the pigeon was carrying a love message. "Thanks for the wonderful night we spent together" proclaimed an enthusiastic woman whose address indicated she was in Northern Galilee. It turned out to be a case of overflight. Ahmed's wife confirmed to suspicious neighbourhood militants that he was with her at home all last night and there was nothing thrilling about it. While the police kept the pigeon, Ahmed insisted on keeping the message -- with the address -- just in case.


Following the leader is a fair motto, particularly for the new and over-ambitious. But young Salman is taking it too far. Understandably interested in the intentions of the new Under Secretary General heading his department, he seems to be very keen not only on exploring the new man's views but also his whereabouts. A visitor who dropped by to escort the new chief for a joint dinner, noticed Salman trailing them, taking the next elevator, then hotfooting it through the Secretariat exits all the way to First Avenue and 43rd Street, keeping the same pace and distance. When the upset visitor suddenly turned back to ask Salman Tailgate what the hell he was up to, the young man produced a paper from his briefcase claiming he had wanted to deliver it. An impression is he is still reporting to his old boss -- or bosses!


A day after Geir Pedersen received an "expansion" in his mandate so he would get "all," not just part of Lebanon, local jokes spread about how he took that enlarged task in hand. Puzzlement about his added functions increased when a musical promoter George Aleteriades told the audience of "Future Television" that his newly formed troupe of gypsy imitators formed their own "country," which was seeking to join the U.N. Already, Novrestan (Gypsy land) or Halbilad (That land) had received their blessing from Mr. Pedersen, Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General, according to Alexteriades, a Lebanese of Greek origin. The demonstrative music that followed was a blend of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and Balkan utterances with sudden injunctions of words like "parakalo" (Greek), Aman Aman (Turkish), and Ya Ya Ya (that could be anwhere between Marakesh and Baghdad). Another variation performed by the curiously bearded long-haired oud, lute and drum wielders was a "Yabalala" which turned out to be an old Lebanese song adapted to hip hop shoulder dancing. Why would Mr. Pedersen "bless" that group, no one bothered to find out. Maybe he was exploring new NGO's to expand his civil society role. Or maybe he was touched by a Jalman look-alike rendering of a Turkish version of Besame Mucho.


In an item on the "European Blunder" in the last issue, a parenthesis with a short hand of names needs to be clarified. A reference to a 1997 Communications Task Force joined (Malloch Brown / S. Sanbar) without explanation. Actually Mr. Mark Malloch Brown, who was then at the World Bank headed a Task Force upon the recommendation of Mr. Maurice Strong. Mr. Sanbar was the head of the Department of Public Information; he was not a member of that group. Both consulted regularly -- agreed or disagreed -- and made joint appearances to the General Assembly and its relevant committees. Hence the joint reference, and the brief clarification.


Abdallah Baali, the dynamic and popular Ambassador of Algeria will be returning home after completing his two years as his country's representative at the Security Council. As the only Arab representative at a period of several delicate issues dealing with the Arab region -- particularly Syria and Lebanon -- Ambassador Baali had to walk a fine line between the Council's general consensus and specific requirements of varying Arab countries. He did so with an enlightened approach and basic commitment to Algeria's long-standing principles in line with U.N. Charter. Having served in an earlier capacity at the Algerian Mission in New York, his return as Ambassador was facilitated by the many friendships he had developed in earlier years. His open dialogue with the press and irrepressible sense of humour came in handy. While he will certainly be missed in New York, his friends and admirers (he had plenty!) wish him all the best in his new role in Algiers.


To be or not to be. What is the question?


Returning to Japan after 12 years, fading diva Madonna revealed one of her secret passions: "I missed heated toilet seats", she declared to a raptured audience.


That's the name of the newly born girl delivered by our U.N. media colleague Ahmed Fawzi's wife. We trust she has the charm of her father and the beauty of her mother plus the wit of both. Her name is printed in full so we will be able to claim when she grows up to become a famous communicator that you saw it here first.


Our good Polish friend Zbigniew Wlosowitz is preparing to return home after serving as the U.N. Representative in Cyprus. His farewell was noted not only by the many personalities who sang his praise but by the record number of bakeries fielded by his gracious mother for the occasion. The count within the last two weeks was 1600cakes. .