15 June 2012


A leaked "non-paper" circulated on 7 June amongst Security Council members suggested 6 steps to support Kofi Annan's Six-Point Plan (the original was reportedly in Russian):

  1. Hold a conference to negotiate practical steps to ensure full implementation of the Plan.
  2. Suggested attendance: U.S., Russia, China, U.K., France, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, League of Arab States, Organization of Islamic Conference, European Union, and, of course, the U.N.
  3. Participation should be at decision-makers level; that is, Foreign Ministers and some experts.
  4. Immediate outcome should be: a) to stop the armed conflict and fully comply with U.N. Resolution 2042 and 2043; b) avoid rhetorical mobilization by all sides; push severely for a dialogue between the Syrian government and opposition groups; all participants should undertake to provide their practical solution for a common platform of readiness for such dialogue; all participants to undertake full support for the U.N. Supervision mandate.
  5. In case of a conducive atmosphere, further options could be explored, further meetings held and more substantive talks between the Syrian government and opposition groups could be encouraged on a common platform; the suggested conference (or conferences) should aim to support the implementation of Resolutions 2042 and 2043 that should be the only possible basis for the Syrian settlement.
  6. Venue of the conference: Moscow or Geneva.


After hijacking the hallowed name of Islam, terrorist thugs continue to harass and threaten Christian and other minorities in Syria with the ironic result of providing their supposed adversary, the Assad regime, further pretext to remain in power. While reporters of mainstream media, in particular in the U.S. who cover events there by remote control, were reporting about a fight to "liberate" the town of Qubair, the well-informed and usually cautious Vatican News agency Agenzia Fides reported that the Christian population of the town had abandoned it after receiving an ultimatum from the "rebellion commander" to get out by Thursday, 14 June. Most of the town's 10,000 Christians have fled. Some "rebels" took over mosques in order to re-launch their threats shouting from minarets: Christians must leave Qubair. And that is presented to a mostly unsuspecting Christian audience in the Western world as liberation!


We didn't witness it personally; but rely on a passing report by Inner City Press' irrepressible diligent reporter Matthew Russell Lee that in promoting Finland's election to a Security Council seat, its delegates were distributing chocolate with a photo of its former President, Nobel Prize Laureate Martti Ahtisaari on the package. No doubt Mr. Ahtisaari has accomplished a unique international status not only for himself but for Finland, U.N. and the world. Furthermore, Finnish chocolate, especially blended with its healthy milk, is a delicious temptation. However, while competitive Australia is inviting delegates to boat cruises and opera starry nights down under, it is unlikely to persuade the undecided with a chocolate imprint of our very popular former senior colleague. Why not try a visit to cool Helsinki during New York's hot, hazy and humid summer -- topped with dinner at Havis Amanda?!


After an exhausting week in the Assembly and Security Council on Syria, many delegates, particularly younger ones from Europe, were closely following the French Tennis Open Finals at Roland Garros' between two European competitors. While Spaniard Rafael Nadal took the first two sets 6-4, 6-3, Serbia's Novak Djokovic came back to take the third set easily 6-2, and started to gain in the fourth, when the game was rained out. Rain had interrupted earlier when Nadal was ahead only to have Djokovic start gaining ground. A keen French diplomat, making hay when there was no sunshine, pointed out that the final match in Paris will make history anyway whoever prevails. Nadal would have won more matches than anyone else and Djokovic would have four consecutive "opens" under his belt: Wimbledon, New York, Australia, and Paris; a technical handicap in that they would not be in the same calendar year. It takes an aspiring diplomat to note such a hidden obstacle. Anyway, Nadal won. Meanwhile, a diligent media site circulated a video with rhythmic music showing him repeatedly scratching his behind in varied competitive positions.


Amongst arrangements for a forthcoming General Assembly Session, a ballot is held to decide which country will take the first seat, followed by others in Alphabetical order. The Secretary General draws the lot from a box containing names of all member states. During the meeting to elect the new President, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon drew the favoured name of the year. No problem. It was Jamaica, Man.


We reported two months ago that a short list of candidates to head the U.N. Department of Public Information (DPI) was limited to an Italian, a Greek, and an Austrian. We discounted the Italian because one already heads UNRWA. The Greek candidate who could have had a better shot at the job was superseded in the usual internal Greek maneuvering by another candidate favoured by someone at the Foreign Ministry in Athens. The most qualified, then, was Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal of Austria. He is a experienced diplomat and -- like any Austrian worth his Sacher Torte, knows the U.N. well. Vienna is a regional European U.N. base and headquarters for the International Atomic Energy Agency. Mr. Launsky-Tieffenthal was, since 2007, the Spokesman and Head of the Department for Communications and Information of the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs. Some of those who met him when he came to New York early June were impressed by his professional approach and knowledge of the task ahead. They are hopeful that after a period of stagnation, he will bring the Department to the forefront of U.N. work.

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe


As Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was putting on his bicycle hat on Friday, 8 June, to launch a symbolic ride by diplomats on First Avenue, an introductory speaker mentioned that the French slang for a bike is velo, which comes from Latin for speed. As we all should start opting for cleaner air and placing healthier transport as one target for the Rio+20 Conference, we need not turn into "revolutionaire" but at least become "volutionaire." After a boring speaker representing inter-regional banks read from a meaningless text, a keen lady (so petite that she was almost blown away in the wind by the U.N. flag) presented a Boda Boda, a Kenyan bicycle which is increasingly used in Africa, not only for personal traffic, but to transport passengers on a back seat that opens wider when required. Apparently, it was an old bicycle and no one seemed to volunteer a demonstration, not even the Kenyan Ambassador who wisely limited his role to a repeated "Thank You." The Boda Boda seemed worn out for any serious attempt in midtown Manhattan. Our distinguished Secretary General, despite helmet readiness, was prevailed upon not to try, even as a photo op. His fingers are still bound together from an earlier soccer venture.


UN Photo/Martine Perret


Lebanese Arab media legend Ghassan Tueni passed away in Beirut after a long illness. The Publisher of daily An-Nahar and former Lebanon Representative to the U.N. in New York had suffered a few years ago the loss of his oldest son, Gebran Tueni, editor who was assassinated for his unflinching defence of free opinion and varied press. During his tenure in New York, Ambassador Tueni was distinguished for his work to establish UNIFIL in Southern Lebanon after an Israeli invasion in 1978 and for helping to establish the U.N. Committee on Information, a General Assembly oversight of the work of the U.N. Department of Public Information. Both ventures continue until this day. Mr. Tueni's thoughtful attitude and enlightened mind have gained friends not only for the newspaper but for his profession and his beloved country. He earned everyone's respect and affection through persuasive common sense and devotion to his task. Despite occasional disagreements on how best to accomplish a specific task, he was always affectionate and kind. Ghassan Tueni's impact extended way beyond Lebanon and the Arab region across continents and metropolis in pursuit of intellectual honesty and in defense of human dignity. We have lost a unique internationalist; an exceptional historical figure. May his memory remain forever. Our most sincere condolences.


A monarch with little executive power who managed to maintain the loyalty and deep affection of her people over six decades deserves admiration, respect, and -- indeed -- a special tribute. Despite so many trials and tribulations, she remained gracious, discreet, and gloriously unifying. Particularly these days when elected heads of state in powerful democracies clearly hesitate to lead or lose the confidence and esteem of even those who elected them; when the majority of people in large, mid-size and small countries do not seem to agree on even general guidelines; when heads of autocratic states act as thugs against their own people; when irresponsible leaders squander their country's valuable resources on wasted expenditures -- or worse -- on supplying arms and ammunition for conflicts elsewhere; when most heads of states do not seem to trust one another in dealing with one collectively threatening crisis after another, it is heartening to celebrate the 60th year Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. From very old war veterans to very young kids; from young partying hipsters to football soccer hooligans to intellectuals, scientists, and workers, from clergy to the secular, from military to civilian, they all waited from early dawn to late night in order to pay their respects, show their loyalty and express their love. A decade ago a sleazy greedy politician like then Prime Minister Tony Blair and his shameless Cherie tried to capitalize on tragic events to undercut the monarchy and almost take over total power with the help of ruthless media. But the British people could see through the fog of fabricated instigation and maintained their unshaken loyalty to the Queen and country. Hundreds of thousands of cheering crowds lined the promenades and streets leading up to the Palace. Additionally, Commonwealth citizens seemed to be equally proud as millions stood in unified attention to sing the royal anthem: "God Save Our Gracious Queen. Long Live the Queen."


"Don't befriend half-friends. Don't read for the half-talented. Don't chase half-solutions and don't stop at half-truths. Don't hold on to half a promise. If you speak, tell the whole truth. A "half" is an unfulfilled life, an unfinished word, and an incomplete friendship. A half-way will not lead you to a destination. You are human, born to live a full life."
-- Gibran Khalil Gibran, "The Prophet"


Do you know some people who think that just putting "Le" before a word means that it becomes French. Well, an American hotel chain just opened in Paris with a gimmick in its rooms called "Le Whif." It is an air freshener that dispenses a chocolate aroma vapor. It is free. Just to make you feel curiously refreshed. If you were inclined to grab any chocolate item in the mini-bar, however, that'll cost you 6 Euros.


A colleague who habitually looks for little things that may connect the dots pointed out that a couple of years ago, the Spokesman of the U.N. Secretary General, Martin Nesirky, a British citizen, came from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation based in Vienna. Last year, one of the new three directors in the U.N. Department of Public Information, Maher Nasser, who is married to a British woman, came from the U.N. Information Service in Vienna. In early June, it was announced that the new head of the U.N. Department of Public Information will be Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, who headed the Austrian Foreign Ministry's Public Information Department in...Vienna, of course. Is there any link?!


A very successful encounter between Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and a full house student audience at the General Assembly Hall. On 17 May, a Global Classrooms Model U.N. Conference gathered from a variety of backgrounds to hear Mr. Ban inspire them to act their ambitions and play their role. They cheered, most with a standing ovation as he said: "You have the power to demand the future that you want."

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe


Bernard Cocheme, Chief Executive Officer of the U.N. Pension Fund, submitted a comprehensive annual report. It included detailed helpful information for Retirees and beneficiaries, suggestions to active participants, indications on assessing the website, investments of the Fund, its actuarial position, together with lots of meetings and annexes. It guides users, for example, on how to obtain update information about cost-of-living and exchange rates changes immediately from the website, rather than wait for quarterly reports by mail. Bernard Cocheme has done an outstanding job over the past 12 years. It is a pity that he has decided that it was time to leave. Next year, a new Chief Executive Office will be selected. The post is crucial to a substantive number of U.N. staff and retirees. At these delicate times, it is important that utmost care be applied to insure a competent and efficient confirmation.


A symbol of revolutionary protest in the Seventies of the last century, Bob Dylan -- now in his seventies -- received the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom. A great honour to anyone, Dylan is usually associated with a harmonica and a picking guitar telling parents that "your sons and daughters are beyond your command, for the times are-a-changing." Together with Joan Baez, he launched participatory popular songs like "Blowing in the Wind," "Like a Rolling Stone," "What Was it You Wanted? Did you Want it From Me?" "The cops don't need you and, man, they expect the same." While President Obama looked as though he was congratulating himself for awarding the medal, Dylan -- dressed in a somewhat serious attire -- looked as if he was either slightly amused or seriously confused. After all, years -- indeed, decades -- have rolled in between. "I was so much older then; I'm younger than that now." Or perhaps he was saying: "It ain't me Babe!"


For those aiming to please the current U.N. "powers that be," a young Korean artist is in New York attempting to launch herself on the scene. Part singer, part actress, she had made it big in South Korea and South Asia; yet every artist seeks New York. As the song says, "if you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere." She has a film showing event, supposedly taking place in the Big Apple; but it was filmed in Toronto, Canada. BoA. Eh?


Ambassador Denis Pietton could be an impressive cooking chef, but his new official task will be Chef de Cabinet for France's new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Laurent Fabius. He is at least tri-lingual: Arabic and English, in addition to French, having served in Abu Dhabi, Jerusalem, South Africa (as Ambassador for three years), and his most recent post as Ambassador to Lebanon. Ambassador Paoli will exchange seats with his successor by going to Beirut.


With a new Prime Minister appointed by a new President, the French public may eventually learn a word in Arabic. As usual, foreigners tend to learn the least polite words in any other language. Likewise in this case. The given name of Jean-Marc is typically French and most Cabinet members tend to be Jean -- Jean-Yves, Jean-Marie, Jean-Pierre. It's the family name that may sound somewhat odd in Arabic to the point that press offices in French embassies serving in the Arab world, made a point of circulating a specific version of the name. "Ayro," as the name of the Prime Minister, as actually pronounced in French refers in Arabic to another man's sexual organ. The Prime Minister of Lebanon, for example, would not wish to boast about being in close touch, nor would the female Minister of Culture in Morocco relish a report of a tete-a-tete. Hence the insistence by the Quai d'Orsay on pronouncing the additional "RLT," for Arab audiences. Still, that did not stop mostly Francophone female TV announcers in Arab stations, from Algeria's Al-Jazeera to Beirut's New TV, from coyly repeating the name in its French pronunciation with relished amusement. It reminded us of the occasion when Pakistan proudly dispatched one of its most distinguished diplomats, Ambassador Zib, to Saudi Arabia, only to be swiftly -- though discreetly -- turned down. It is a variation of the same theme.


They say power corrupts; a T-Shirt adds "more power is absolutely neat." Diplomats wondering why French President Hollande appointed former Prime Minister Laurent Fabius as his Minister of Foreign Affairs, had listed a number of other options, depending on their analytical evaluation of the balances of internal power among the new President's circle, or possible recommendations of the Foreign Policy Establishment. An experienced observer gave a simple human explanation for choosing someone who had openly relegated the current President to the back seats of the Socialist party and rarely displayed any deference even throughout the campaign. It is simply this: Monsieur Fabius, when dutifully accompanying President Hollande on televised trip abroad or photo opportunities at home, will have to walk a couple of steps behind!


While being questioned in a British court about influence peddling with the Murdoch media group, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was interrupted by a young protester who described him as a war criminal over Iraq and of making millions trading with people's lives. The protester was thrown out and Blair proceeded to explain how it was all business as usual. Meanwhile, it was revealed that the PM of Sleaze charged $100,000 for addressing a conference on Toilet Paper! Shouldn't he be charged to pay a particular amount for masquerading as a Special Envoy of the Quartet, when all he does is to disappear at the first sign of conflict when he is most needed, only to re-appear at a Gulf Sheikhdom to collect more "consulting" fees.


A ship in a harbour is safe. But that's not what ships are built for.


...and DO something!


Former Al-Jazeera leading anchor Joumana Nammour appeared on Lebanese television to explain her resignation from the Qatari-based station. It was not a matter of how she insisted on appearing without a veil or sexual harassment, as was reported. It was more a disagreement with the changed professional atmosphere and haphazard management towards a certain policy. Having been known for her impressive interviewing, she was asked about advice she would give young broadcasters. Her response: prepare very well. But above all, listen. Listen to the person you are interviewing, and listen to other people's advice.


A propos Qatar, it was noted by those following up the current President of the U.N. General Assembly, the Permanent Representative or Doha, has been appearing with much darker hair. Could he be dyeing it? It doesn't matter much anymore. He'll be gone soon.


"Erection Assured" -- Sign spotted on a construction truck on the corner of 49th Street and 2nd Avenue.


Actor Kelsey Grammer with his pregnant wife casually having a cappuccino at a corner cafe, Via Quadronno, in New York's Madison Avenue and 73rd Street..."Murder She Wrote" television series and Broadway star British actress Angela Lansbury, taking time to befriend a puzzled puppy dog...A newly-appointed senior U.N. official patiently displaying his new pass to a vigilant security officer at the General Assembly/Security Council gate on 1st Avenue and 46th Street.


An interesting item in Inter-Press, about the "Small Five" as compared to the Big Five Permanent Members of the Security Council, used a very perceptive quotation. However, taken from a book by Kathleen Teltsch, New York Times U.N. Correspondent in the late Sixties, it refers to a question of disappearance, quoting Peruvian delegate Dr. Victor Andres Belaunde. With all due respect to all, our impression is that the disappearance quotation really belonged to our Secretary General U Thant whom Kathleen Teltsch habitually tried to undercut and -- unsuccessfully -- intimidate assuming he was a "little Asian teacher." U Thant was with his Military Adviser Indian General Rikhye when he responded with under-stated sarcasm and a smile: "You very well know that when the conflict is between two small states the conflict at the U.N. disappears; when it's between a big power and a small power the small power disappears; and when it is between two big powers, the Security Council disappears." It was on the occasion of a military confrontation between Honduras and one of its neighbours, over the result of a soccer football match.


Not only was Iran often confused with Iraq (with an accented pronunciation of the "I") by some media participants, but Iran is often confused as an African country (accent on "A"). A recent report by CNBC news reported clashes during late May between Yemeni army troops and some suspected "Qaida" dissidents, with a conclusion that there was on ongoing full war in that "North African country."


Published as one of the Photos of the Week, an AFP / Getty Images showed some Yemeni soldiers in a pick-up truck celebrating "victory" near a jihadist stronghold north of the Abyan provincial capital Zanzibar.

Although it displays a seemingly triumphant group of young men in a determined attack to eradicate terrorism, what was not pointed out, though, is what anyone who knows Yemen will easily notice. The victors were chewing a hallucinating drug common in Yemen called Qat. Senior officials like everyday commoners have "Qat" sessions where all else is halted. How could you know the soldiers were chewing? Look at the one side of their mouths, usually the left side, like the kid on top of the (right) wheel and the one behind him, plus the one on the right side of the driver, and the other raising his fist. It's called "Takhzin," makes you feel good; except that the teeth get permanently stained and the mind boggles! And you find out that senior officials and mainstream media in powerful countries believe that their "surge" is working.


Upon the return of former French (Socialist) Prime Minister Michel Rocard from Tehran, he went from the airport to join newly-elected President Francois Hollande for breakfast, with others, at the Elysee palace. Rocard had informed his colleague, then a candidate, about the intended initiative. Although French officials kept their distance, (France's Ambassador in Tehran Bruno Foucher did not attend the meetings in the Iranian capital with Foreign Minister Salehi and Nuclear Negotiator Jalili), the two reports sent by the embassy to the Quai d'Orsay in Paris conveyed a fairly accurate summary, perhaps based on the two dinners the visiting Socialist definitely had with the French diplomat. A new back-channel, par hazard.


"Been around the world on a green Gondola. Oh to be back in the land of Coca Cola."
-- From "When I Paint my Masterpiece"


Next to "Nice Matin" outdoor cafe on 79th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, there is Savann, a Turkish restaurant with Bhavan Indian across the street, and Al Dente Italian and Haru Japanese. A new American restaurant at the next block is called: "Identity Crisis." Across is Monaco, an Irish Pub, and Cafe Con Leche. That's perhaps why the one next to it is Jake's Dilemma.


"Joe often didn't know what he thought until he had to say it."


"We're not ordering coffee at Starbucks. This isn't a matter of getting a tall, grande or venti."
-- Army General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff to a military audience about missions, strikes and capabilities


With the death of the Libyan security officer accused of the Lockerbie bombing of PAN AM, all the related secrets have been buried with him. Same as with Qaddafi. His killing relieved some key high-level officials in certain powerful countries from embarrassing disclosures if any of the payoffs were truly revealed. Whether the remaining partial players like Qaddafi's son, Saif, or his security officers, could have really serious revelations remains to be seen.


Promoting social causes must be very demanding on former U.S. President Bill Clinton, particularly as he gets older and his outstanding wife gets more successful and more popular. What's a busy man to do when the spirit gets more willing yet the body more weak? Go to Monte Carlo, perhaps where "Nights of Monaco" would give him an opportunity to meet keen female compatriots, particularly those attending special prizes. Like the one with an award for her role in "the most outrageous sex scene." Well, it is not always easy. Keep trying, Bubba.


While the designation of Sweden's Jan Eliasson as Deputy Secretary General will signal a practical end of any substantive role for Norwegian Terje Roed (Herring) Larsen at the U.N., there is speculation about his leaving the International Press Institute (which used to be called International Peace Academy when it actually trained effectively a number of Peacekeepers and held useful seminars for decision-makers). Under Larsen (and a changed name), it became mainly a vehicle for his promotional contacts, assisted by former N.Y. Times U.N. reporter Warren Hoge whom he appointed. Hoge had been brought to the U.N. upon request by those around Kofi Annan whom he covered almost blindly; even when "Food for Oil" or clashes with staff union were so brazen, Hoge chose to disregard the news or presented mainly Annan's viewpoint. Now that news of Larsen's departure is increasingly credible, Hoge is pushing a rumour that he will take over. Others dismiss him as a lightweight, who would run the Institute into the ground. If any Hoge is being considered, they add, it would be his brother, James, who is a discreet yet well-known figure in American Eastern Establishment foreign affairs crowd. Anyway, the real decision will eventually be in the hands of Rita Hauser, the New York lady who substantively contributed to build up the Academy in the first place and remains Chair of the Institutions Board.



Would you go to a diplomatic reception after eating a pizza loaded with garlic?! There was once a pizza shop advertising fresh garlic near a corner near several U.N. missions. We were reminded of it when seeing an announcement in a British paper about a pizza (with everything on it!) as a prize for a competition on the occasion of the Queen's jubilee. Most likely, the lucky winner will be welcome with the usual stiff upper lip as long as he or she did not approach Her Majesty, or indeed, any member of the Royal Family.


It stands for First Lady of the United States in Secret Service jargon. In a recent interview with People Magazine, she mentioned that POTUS (her husband, the President), habitually comes over to her bed at night, turns the lights out and has a chat. Then, "he's like, ready to be tucked? I'm like, yes I am."


U.S. President Obama, who reportedly could barely endure outgoing French President Sarkozy (or his wife), made a special effort at a Camp David G-8 meeting to win over his replacement, the seemingly casual, though very cautious, Francois Hollande. In what he must have meant as a friendly quip, Obama gave a gastronomic analogy over a picnic lunch that American hamburgers usually go very well with French fries. That, however, did not seem to go down very well with another key participant, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, especially that some were enjoying a Frankfurter with Sauerkraut.


"Michelle has taken some criticism on her technique -- because she doesn't go all the way down."
-- U.S. President Barack Obama commenting with a naughty smile on his wife's exercise technique.


Why would the Chief of Saudi Arabia Intelligence Services Prince Muqrin bin Abdul-Aziz wish to own spacious land in the heartland of Christian Maronite clergy territory in Lebanon? For the breathtaking scenery, perhaps? It is placed on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, surrounded by green trees and invigorating fresh air. It happens to be called the Hill of the Cross in an area where villagers consider even inhabitants of nearby Capital Beirut as foreigners. Apparently under political pressure from the Saudi government, the Lebanese Prime Minister and Finance Minister (who has business interests in Riyadh) signed off on it. When the locals heard, they started a grassroots protest movement including, of course, the area's members of parliament. While politicians and security officials had their hands full handling fighting in the northern capital of Tripoli, a spillover from Syria, a new crisis is emerging. It is a hallowed Maronite hill where priests and patriarchs are buried, the widening circle of objectors say. Why would a Saudi Prince, whose country does not allow foreigners to own property there, wish to take it over? Especially the Chief of Intelligence? The outcry will certainly not fade away, not only because it hit a raw religious nerve, but also because a subtle anti-Saudi alliance in Lebanese (and Syrian) politics could seek to embarrass the Saudi government. Mediators are suggesting that the Prince return the land as a gracious gesture, particularly since it will be difficult for him by now to build a retreat there. Some Saudi supporters, however, are egging him to hold on even if he will never use the land. As if that region needed one more sectarian wound!


Leaders of the world's richest countries pressed German Chancellor Angela Merkel for growth policies to help pull Europe out of recession, reported The Daily Beast, at the Summit held at Camp David on Saturday, 19 May. A photo showing the group in casual attire (it was a sunny and mild day) with U.S. President Obama (shirt only), new French President Hollande (navy blue, tieless), Ms. Merkel (sky blue jacket, cream pants), out in the garden. There was an empty chair in the centre. To whom was it assigned?


A well-received world-wide networking effort by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to reach out to young students via the Internet missed one young female student at the American University of Beirut. Monica Saif, who looked forward to her turn at 10:30pm local time discovered at the last minute that the connection had been cut. Rushing to a nearby Internet Cafe in the town of Byblos did not help: no access there either. Monica was quietly replaced by another student from Zambia.


Anyone in New York during the Seventies would have at least heard of Studio 54, where "it" happened every evening until dawn. Donna Summer was the Rock Queen of those nights. "I Feel Love," would go on forever as revelers spread around dimmed corners and hedged separations as the "Lady of the Night" persuaded to keep going. The "Last Dance" was a signal that time was about up, dawn was about here, and you had your final chance. One of our female U.N. colleagues, a guide from Latin America, was so stuck there that she eventually married -- so we were told -- one of the owners. Donna Summer passed away in May of this year. She will be fondly remembered through her music, particularly those that felt their lives were more joyful and special because of her.


Bunga Bunga time at an Italian court trying former Prime Minister Berlusconi. First, Berlusc explained that the term mainly meant having a good time, "f" stood for fun, and had he really wanted he could have handled eight women in one night. His description of German Chancellor Angela Merkel while explaining why she could not be incited to join only meant that she was such a very nice lady. That's old hat by now. The new revelation was mentioned by a dancer from Dominica who told the court that she was asked to appear in a "burlesque version of Barack Obama and dance around just as a spot of fun."