15 MARCH 2016


David Jones, famously known as David Bowie, lived almost unnoticed in New York for over a decade until he died, when he was suddenly remembered. His latest album, after initial years of fame in the seventies and producing hits like "Ground Control to Major Tom" in his special Londoner accent, was almost disregarded, until his sad passing away, when that CD suddenly overtook that of his London compatriot, Adele. David Bowie was married to former model Iman, of Somalia, who also kept a private distance after years of fashionable fame. Incidentally, when Iman first came to New York to model, her angry former husband took away her passport to force her return. Fortunately for her, she found practical help from Somalia's UN Representative at the time, Abderrahim Aby Farah, who swiftly offered her a diplomatic passport to stay and work in the Big Apple. Iman always remained grateful to "Aby."


Very few may know his name, but René Angélil was the most substantive partner in projecting the fortune and fame of Céline Dion. She approached him when she was still sixteen to help produce her first album. He mortgaged his house to produce "La Voix du Bon Dieu," which became a hit in her native Canada, and then the single called "The Power of Love," which sent her worldwide. Mr. Angélil, who is of Syrian origin, struggled to build a music structure as his idol, then wife, became more evolved in theaters, concerts and shows. Although he was very tempted to play the tables in Las Vegas, which prompted Ms. Dion to perform there, when he passed away in January 2016, Ms. Dion made a point of having a special commemorative memorial at Montréal's main Cathedral, spreading his photo at the entrance, like he spread hers everywhere else.


Ama Annan, the first daughter of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his first wife, Nigerian Titilola Alakija, recently married in Ghana. The 42 year old financial analyst and business woman tied the knot with Nigerian Adepoju Adedeji in a 3-day event. 40 year old Poju is a divorcee with three children and the son of Professor Adebayo Adedeji, the Executive Director of the African Center for Development and Strategic Studies (ACDESS) and former senior UN official. Those who met Ama in New York when her father worked at the UN Secretariat were positively impressed by her dedication, courtesy and precious behavior. While Annan's son Kojo got negative attention during the infamous Food-for-Oil scandal, Ama kept above it all. We wish her all the happiness that she deserves.


A Representative in New York of a country recently visited by the Secretary General discreetly informed one of his colleagues about an awkward situation during that visit when, during an outing trip, an armed patrol insisted on searching the visiting Secretariat group including Ban Ki-moon who rightly felt extremely insulted. It was not clear whether it was a message of unhappiness with the Secretary Genera by an influential neighboring country; a message to the government by a military leader; or mere lack of proper coordination. At any rate,some people did not do their homework. An insult to a U.N. Secretary General, who represents our Organisation is not acceptable.


How many times do things have to happen to you before they actually occur to you? Robert Frost


A comemmoration of Seventy years of U.N. Radio would have been a welcome opportunity to highlight a pioneering role by a medium which once was predominant, particularly in countries where other media were either unavailable, unaffordable, or un-invented yet. Dedicated, often overworked staff were in the forefront of reaching out to the "peoples of the United Nations" with as many of their local languages that they could communicate. The role of Information Centres was crucial in promoting radio connections. Indeed, certain radio officers at Headquarters took over as heads of these centres. An event recently held in New York to "celebrate' that occasion passed almost unnoticed, perhaps in line with an almost "secretive" approach to Public Information. It is not certain wether some of those who actively performed radio functions for long periods and are still around New York were invited to attend. For example, an early initiator like Professor Leila Doss, in addition to others like Silvestre Roweand and Ransford Cline-Thomas, are known to live within a phone call away. By the way, who is in charge of UN Radio now? Where precisely does it reach out? Those celebrating other peoples' accomplishments would be better understood if they shared it with at least some of those who once made UN Radio relevant.


After many delays over the last few days, a UN calendar has finally been produced. (Sent by Karen Albert)


"Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around a lake."
- Wallace Stevens


Occupation: Former Secretary of State

Age: 92

May I ask you where your suit is from?

My what?

Where did you get your suit?

I have no idea.

How was lunch?

I think we've done enough.

O.K. Thanks so much.
Photo Credit Nina Westervelt for The New York Times


Even if you disregard the puzzling Fatwa, or religious decree, issued by Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh prohibiting chess as "the work of Satan," would you play chess with this Sheikh?


A blonde artist goes to the post office to buy stamps for her Christmas cards. She says to the clerk, "May I have 50 Christmas stamps?" The clerk says, "What denomination?" The blonde says, "God help us. Has it come to this? Give me 22 Catholic, 12 Presbyterian, 10 Lutheran and 6 Baptists."



The following message has been sent out by the Association of Former International Civil Servants:

"The Insurance and Disbursement Service has reported that the serious technical issues which delayed the Medicare B reimbursements for November and December have now been resolved.

Medicare B participants who provided bank account details to the Insurance Section prior to 24 December 2015

Reimbursement will be made to your bank account no later than Friday, 22 January for both November and December 2015, and on Monday, 1 February for January 2016. Thereafter, reimbursement will be made at the end of the month, starting Monday, 29 February for the February 2016 reimbursement.

Medicare B participants who provided bank account details after December 24, 2015

You will receive your first Medicare B reimbursement on either 1 February or 29 February. If made on 1 February, you will receive a reimbursement for three months (November, December and January). If made on 29 February, you will receive a four-month reimbursement (November, December, January and February).

Medicare B participants who have not yet provided banking information

You are urged to send your banking details urgently to the Insurance Section (ashi@un.org or to 917-367-4071 or 917-367-5405). Once you have done so, your first Medicare B reimbursements will be made at the end of the month following receipt of the required information and will apply retroactively to November 2015."


It may be a challenging name to pronounce, now that Andrew Lloyd Weberhe has been awarded a UK lordship. The music composer of Don't Cry for me Argentina, Phantom of the Opera, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, reappeared recently after a long retreat in the shadows to indicate an interest in having a new musical collaboration. The main handicap for New Yorkers would be in a game of words to address Lord Lloyd.


A photo of Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi raises the question of what is the real difference between an Indian and a Pakistani national. Both belong to similar traditions, lived together for centuries, and have almost the same attitude, taste and approach in daily life. As individuals they would be so close that the differences are negligible. A UN veteran insider recalled that once when an Indian ambassador was about to present his credentials to the Secretary-General, he was welcomed in the waiting room by senior secretariat officials from both India and Pakistan as one of their own.


The Holy Family Church near the UN was full to capacity on Friday 29 January to honor a departed colleague, Jean Gazarian, who had joined the UN since the beginning, worked at the Secretary-General's office, and headed the GA Affairs division. Mr. Gazarian, a citizen of France of Armenian descent was noted for his professional linguistic talent plus his thoughtful, warm human qualities. No one who ever met Jean left him without an impression that he cared. He cared for the UN, of course, but also for his colleagues, friends, and family. For someone with such an influence, working with the Secretary-General and senior government officials, he was self-effacing, never injecting himself in any situation except when he was recounting work anecdotes.


There was a hint that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would be visiting Lebanon by the month of March or April.However that seems somewhat uncertain as the host country's political situation remains unstable with no president of the republic, the official symbol of the country being present. Most likely Mr. Ban will be advised to postpone although it may not be clear whether he could visit before leaving by the end of the year.


Leila Alaoui was an outstanding reporter and photographer, who was killed during the terrorist attack in Ouagadougou. Burkina Faso. She was born in France and is of Moroccan descent. She was well known in the East and in the West, and she covered with great courage and dignity the most tragic confrontations in a fair and professional way, gaining friends and admirers wherever she went. Her untimely death is not only a loss to the professional media, but also to the admirers and friends who came to know her throughout her impressive career.


A senior member of the SG's office is ardently and urgently looking for a job elsewhere as quickly as feasible. Talk about jumping ship.


An interesting expression appears in recently published emails by former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. What did FUBAR mean? She was told that it is short for "F...Up Beyond All Repair" - it appears in a diplomatic report from Cairo.


"And here the first word that I wish to say to you: joy! Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement! Ours is not a joy born of having many possessions, but of having encountered a Person: Jesus, in our midst."
- Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy


Al-Hayat, international daily edited between London, U.K. and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia recently published a series of headlined illustrated reports about a horse show that took place in Saudi Arabia. The event was overseen by Prince Khaled Bin Sultan, who happens to own "Al-Hayat." Although he habitually avoided the limelight, the Prince seemed amenable at this time for wider attention, whether on horses, his entourage or his own projection. There was one interesting - rather amusing or puzzling - photo on 28 January displaying Prince Khaled reading his own newspaper. Whether there is an inherent message to everyone within the Saudi Kingdom, London, or elsewhere is an open question.


The man to the left, a former Syrian Prime Minister, is leading the opposition delegation which promises to lead Syria away from the dictatorship of the man to the right. (from angryarab.blogspot.com)


January 30 was the 68th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, India's outstanding symbol of tolerance, modesty and human dignity. A memorial drawing was unveiled by prominent Asian columnist Vijay Prashad as an indication of an article he wrote about how current violence in widening regions today violated tragically and brutally the practiced teachings of Mahatma, even in his own region.


There are certain words that evolve to become popular in social circles at certain times, and extend to a wider audience. Perhaps some would recall how "cool" became cool, and "bad" became outstanding. Apparently, the most recent expression is to refer with admiration to someone who "smizes," that is, smiles with his or her eyes.


A "Fusion of Culture and Dance"was performed at the Kaye Playhouse on February 26, 2016, at 7:30pm. FJK Dance, a diverse group of ten dancers founded by Fadi Khoury, connects Middle Eastern movement, Argentinean tango, classical ballet and ballroom dance in a brilliant contemporary dance setting. "Fusion of Culture and Dance" communicates diversity and tolerance, to share the endless possibilities in finding connections within our differences. Through a combination of a dance workshop, a lecture demonstration and a performance, the aim is to celebrate Middle Eastern heritage and raise awareness to its positive and artistic influence. Musical arrangements included percussion instruments with electric based sounds inspired by "Dabke", a combination of Tabla playing Latin Salsa, a composition of Rumba played with the Riq, and a selection of Chopin compositions infused with Middle Eastern percussion. Also, an evening featuring the New York Arabic Orchestra (NYAO) and its co-founders Bassam Saba and April Centrone will take place on Friday March 11, 2016, at 7pm. The evening will include selections from the Arabic and contemporary music repertoire, and will be followed by a reception.


A historic Algerian, Hocine Ait Ahmed, one of the original leaders who launched the Algerian revolution that gained independence, passed away recently in Lausanne, Switzerland at age 89. Mr. Ait Ahmed was the last of the group of nine that launched the struggle for independence in 1954. He had left his country while opposing the current government, but maintained the respect of all his countrymen in the manner with which he handled his internal political views. Mr. Ahmed, who was born in the Berber region, formed the front for socialist forces and was a candidate for the presidency in 1999, but withdrew, considering that the results were being already determined. He had worldwide support, especially among those who closely followed the Algerian struggle.


If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together.



UN Secretary General`s Special Representative in Cyprus Lisa Buttenheim`s appointment as Assistant Secretary General in the Department of Field Support was officially announced on Monday, 20 February during a press briefing by UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric. He said that the Secretary General has, in recognition of her long and successful service in the United Nations, decided to appoint Lisa Buttenheim as Assistant Secretary General in the Department of Field Support. "Ms. Buttenheim currently serves as the Special Representative of the Secretary General leading the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Cyprus (UNFICYP), and, in that role, participates in the Secretary General`s good offices on Cyprus. "Given the ongoing negotiations between the sides in which Ms. Buttenheim plays a key role, the Secretary General has asked Ms. Buttenheim for now to continue with her work in Cyprus and delay her rotation back to New York, "a statement explained. We understood later she will be expected in her new New York task by the month of May.


There are plenty of complaints, particularly among staff working with the Secretary-General, about a new young colleague by the name of Jinshang, who apparently does not realize that dedicated, hardworking staff could be better motivated through a respectful attitude rather than aggressive approach and foul language. He is doing a disservice to the Secretary-General, who happens to be a compatriot, and indeed to the thoughtful Korean culture, which he is expected to represent through exemplary behavior.


Another awkward case on the 38th floor concerns a female general service staff member who was arbitrarily promoted from the General Service level to the Professional bracket "P." Again, as a citizen of Korea, it would have a somewhat negative impact on the administrative legacy of the Secretary-General during his last year in office, as there are so many outstanding women at the General Service level who devoted their full time to effectively and completely serving Ban Ki-moon. The fact that the certain promotion was not contested now will not mean that it will not be contested next year, if or assuming that the promoted staffer in question would still remain in New York.


A new report by the Secretary- General to the General Assembly suggests an "implementation of a flexible workplace" giving details on use of specific floors at certain times for staff work configuration. If interested, figure it out. Following is the report:


"French diplomacy rules, Au Quai?"