15 OCTOBER 2014

SULTAN LOST:

As usual in October, aspiring member states compete for five non-permanent seats of the U.N. Security Council. This year,the Latin Americans smoothly agreed on Venezuela to replace Argentina. The African group agreed on Angola to replace Rwanda and the Asianson Malaysia to replace South Korea. The only pending contest was amongst "Western and Others" group where Spain and New Zealand had to face a new move by the Turkish government under newly-elected President "Sultan" Erdogan. While Spain looked most confident, Turkey and New Zealand held parties, circulated pamphlets, hosted exhibits, and, of course, offered food and drink. While Turkey provided crab cakes, New Zealand offered Chardonnay wine; at second thought, olive oil was an alternative for non-alcohol visitors. More diligent New Zealanders produced a manual on Security Council work. When it came to the Assembly vote, crab cakes lost to the Manual. Spain and New Zealand won. The Sultan lost. Perhaps some modesty, for the sake of Turkey, would have helped.

MOST POPULAR:

Amongst all the prominent speakers during the U.N. General Debate and Security Council high-level meeting, the most popular in the Arab world, according to comments in digital media, was the President of Argentina: Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Her embassies in Arab capitals would have already reported a pleasant surprise. Her speech in the Security Council about combating terrorism was spread as headlines. There were editorials about her particular view that those whom we were told earlier were allies in Syria and Iraq were now discovered to be terrorist enemies; they should have been uncovered a couple of years earlier when they could have "degraded" more effectively. The fact that the "Presidente de la Nacion Argentina" is an impressive-looking woman added to her admiration. One of the most popular commentators, Abdel Bari Atwan, quipped that apparently the only "man" at the U.N. gathering was a woman!
Photo Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton

THE WALDORF:

Most New Yorkers never entered the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, but they certainly know where it stands: in the heart of the midtown centre -- a full city block between Park and Lexington Avenues, next to Grand Central Station. They also link it with blocked traffic in September during the U.N. General debate where a number of heads of state, including the U.S. President, stay. The Waldorf actually started next to the Empire State building; an annex owned by the Astor family was connected to it -- hence the Waldorf-Astoria. It was later bought by the Hilton family as it moved to its current premises and became a prominent symbol of Manhattan. It was recently sold to a Chinese insurance company, Anbang Insurance Group, for $1.95 billion. The new owners indicated that they would "restore it to its old glory." Whether that would entail turning part of it into luxury apartments or shifting the nature of its clientele remains to be seen. With major hotels like the Plaza, the Pierre, the Carlyle, the Intercontinental, the Palace -- and now -- the Waldorf taken over, even those who rarely entered them are puzzled!

"MOI NON PLUS":

It's an old French song, mainly ironic: "Je t'aime, moi non plus," written by Serge Gainsbourg for the female darling of a French generation of men: Brigitte Bardot. Translated literally, it means "I love you; me neither" about complex love-hate relationships. It just came up anew in French politics. With President Hollande in his lowest ratings, opposition UMP personalities are vying for leadership. Former President Sarkozy hinted he's interested, as did his Prime Minister Francois Fillon, although the front runner amongst them is former Foreign Minister Alain Juppe. When the outgoing President told the press he very much liked his former Foreign Minister, Monsieur Juppe responded with the title of the old song. Incidentally, Ms. Bardot, who quietly celebrated her 80th birthday last month in St. Tropez, does not support any of them. She voted for National Front female leader, Marine Le Pen.

DEJA VOUS:

"The Secretary General has appointed Simon Munzu of Cameroon as his Deputy Special Representative for the United Nations Operation in Cote d'Ivoire (UNOCI). He will succeed Arnauld Akodjenou of Benin, who now serves as Deputy Special Representative of Mali (MINUSMA). The Secretary General is grateful for his outstanding performance in Cote d'Ivoire. The Secretary General has also appointed Tadamichi Yamamoto of Japan as his Deputy Special Representative for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). He succeeds Nicholas Haysom of South Africa, who served in that position since March 2012 and was recently named the Secretary General's Representative."

THEIR BACKS:

A historical tale from old Baghdad: When the Ruler "Al-Mansur" was handed a prisoner from rebel fighters group "Al-Khawarez," he asked him: "Who amongst my military commanders fought you most forcefully? Would you recognize a face?" The rebel responded that he could not identify any of the government commanders, "because we only saw their backs, as they were fleeing away!"

I.D.:

From The New Yorker)

APPEARANCE:

For at least a couple of months, reports about the deteriorating health of Algeria's President Bouteflika were so widespread to the point of claims that he may have actually passed away. Listed as a speaker at the U.N. General Debate late September, but not showing up, widened the speculation. During a religious holiday, Eid El-Adha early October, he did not pray at the national mosque -- an official function by every Algerian President. Neither did he pray two months earlier at the end of Ramadan fasting. However, on 7 October, Algerian TV unusually showed a photo of the President receiving former U.N. Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. An announcement by the official news agency may not be just to prove that Mr. Bouteflika is still alive but perhaps to re-introduce Mr. Brahimi to his Algerian compatriots after a long sojourn abroad. "In ehallah kheir," let's hope for the best.

G.A. SPOKESMAN:

Now that the rhetorical speeches of the General Debate are over, the U.N. 69 Assembly Session gets into practical business. Committees spread around the compound at New York Headquarters gather in informal consultations and formal meetings. While delegates appear busily moving in the corridors, and hurriedly sip cups of coffee at the re-opened Viennese Café in the first Basement, "unknown soldiers," a regiment of dedicated experienced staff, including occasional retired ones, ensure an effective running of the meetings. A Spokesman presents that variety of involvement to the public media on behalf of the Session's President. This year, the Assembly President's Spokesman is Jean-Victor Nkolo, an experienced Communications professional with a practical diplomatic touch who earned his feathers at the Department of Public Information and already performed similar functions successfully with a previous President. He comes from a prominent family in the Cameroon and through his bi-lingual considerate approach, already established his internationalist credentials.

AMAL:

At age 36, her family had given up on her getting married. She would focus on her profession as a legal eagle -- with its social attachments: friends of both sexes with similar backgrounds and inside jokes. The renowned beauty in the family was her mother drawing on years ago in her journalistic youth when she charmed everyone in Beirut -- even in London where the family moved after civil wars. The father grinned away amiably as wife and daughter went their professional -- and social -- ways. Then, lo and behold, the daughter -- given up as eternally single -- meets the man of every woman's dream: a famous, sensible sensitive actor described by the media as either the sexiest man alive or the most eligible bachelor. It was at a charity ball in Florence when he asked her to dance. A year later they were married in Venice with gondolas carrying their initials and dinner at the most famous restaurant in the world. The cost varied between $1.5 million or double with participation of an overwhelmed family and an impressed number of impressive Hollywood stars. A follow-up event will follow in one of the most elegant manors in the British countryside, where her original professional and social friends will have a joyous occasion to celebrate and refresh their usual inside jokes. Her name is Amal Alamuddin. She married George Clooney. Amal in Arabic means "Hope." Hold on to your dreams.

BAAA:

Apparently feeling at ease, having been publicly assured at the highest level that an "alliance" against them will "take time," Islamic State members started their own web sites with their own inside black jokes. "Abu Khaled" told one on his recently established reference site. Their "Emir" -- meaning commander -- used to yell "Ej maaa" when calling for a meeting. One evening the Emir got a sheep and when starting to slaughter it, the sheep started moaning "Maaa...Maaa." Abu Khaled rushed to what he thought was a call for an urgent meeting but found no one.

SCAM SAMPLE:

"GOOD NEWS!!!

"I SHALL BE COMING TO YOUR COUNTRY FOR AN OFFICIAL MEETING AND I WILL BE BRINGING YOUR FUNDS OF $3.5 MILLION WHICH HAS ALREADY BEEN CREDITED INTO AN ATM CARD PARCEL ALONG WITH ME BUT THIS TIME I WILL NOT GO THROUGH CUSTOMS BECAUSE AS AN SECRETARY TO AMBASSADOR TO NIGERIA, I AM A US GOVERNMENT AGENT AND I HAVE THE VETO POWER TO GO THROUGH CUSTOMS AS SOON AS I AM THROUGH WITH THE MEETING I SHALL THEN PROCEED TO YOUR ADDRESS. SEND ME THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION:

"YOUR FULL NAMES:
YOUR CELL PHONE NUMBER:
YOUR FULL HOUSE ADDRESS:
YOUR NEAREST AIRPORT

"YOU ARE A VERY LUCKY PERSON BECAUSE I SHALL BE BRINGING IT MYSELF AND THERE IS NOTHING ANYONE CAN DO ABOUT IT: YOUR PACKAGE OF $3.5 MILLION WHICH HAS ALREADY BEEN CREDITED INTO AN ATM CARD PARCEL MUST BE REGISTERED AS SECRETARY TO AMBASSADORIAL PACKAGE FOR ME TO DEFEAT ALL ODDS AND THE COST OF REGISTERING IT IS $12. I HEREBY ADVICE YOU TO ACT VERY FAST AND SEND THE REGISTRATION FEE VIA WESTERN UNION TODAY SO THAT ALL NECESSARY ARRANGEMENT CAN BE MADE BEFORE TIME WILL BE AGAINST US.

"SEND THE FEE VIA WESTERN UNION MONEY TRANSFER TO MY OFFICER

"SENDER NAME
SENDER ADDRESS
RECEIVER'S NAME: PETER ONI
ADDRESS: LAGOS STATE, NIGERIA
TEXT QUESTION:FOR WHAT
ANSWER:DELIVERY
AMOUNT:$125

"AS SOON AS YOU SEND THE FEE MAKE SURE YOU SEND ME THE PAYMENT

"REGARDS,

"MR. JOHN FRANK
SECRETARY TO US AMBASSADOR TO NIGERIA
11 GARIK ROAD ABUJA ABUJA, NIGERIA."

FREQUENT BOMBER:

According to Steve Colbert Comedy time, an equivalent to Frequent Flyer is a new group of Frequent Bombers of the Middle East. "We've done Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Iraq, and now added Syria," he said showing his punched membership card. Next bombing, like Oman, and you'd get a Falafel award!

NEW "C":

U.N.-based diplomats were introduced to "C" when U.K. Permanent Representative John Sawers was appointed as head of MI6, Secret Intelligence Service in London. Traditionally, no one was supposed to know the name of that Chief who went by the code-name "C" (after the family initial of its first head, Mansfield Cummings), but by then a predecessor's name was already mentioned and Sir John was already on Facebook --on one occasion in his bathing suit on the beach. He gave a "lunch with FT" interview recently (more on that below), indicating a need to explain action taken with more clarity to the public. By early October, it was announced that he will be replaced by Alex Younger, who had served in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and Europe.

YES, MINISTER:

Minister: "Shred it. No one must ever be able to find it again."

Director: "In that case, Minister, I think it's best I file it."

ADVICE:

Give your love to your wife, but tell your secrets to your mother.
-- An Irish proverb.

UN-YOON:

Yeocheol Yoon, who was appointed by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as Chief of U.N. Protocol in March 2012, will be leaving his post soon. That's still a whisper, like most news relating to Korean staff around the Secretary General. Why so -- relatively -- soon for Mr. Yoon to leave and to where? Whoever cares will eventually find out. Before his current appointment, he served as the director of the scheduling unit for the Secretary General which closely coordinates with the Protocol Office, and previously as the Director of Protocol in the Korean Foreign Ministry. He also served as senior officer at the Office of the fifty-sixth President of General Assembly and at the Mission of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations. Although the Office of Protocol witnessed several changes in the chief, a dynamic team of dedicated staff was consistently able to maintain an admirable performance, despite work pressure and delicate tasks.

PAUSE:

"His mind was like a soup dish, wide and shallow. It could hold a small amount of nearly anything, but the slightest jarring spilled the soup into someone else's lap."
-- Irving Stone

IN TRANSIT:

The Consul General of Lebanon in New York, Majdi Ramadan, and his wife, Vanessa Raphael Ramadan, hosted an art exhibition, "In Transit," a contemporary art and design exhibition curated by Ms. Hala A. Malak. It was launched with a reception to showcase the work of Lebanese emerging artists at the residence of the Consul General in New York. The launching reception and the exhibition took place on Thursday, 2 October from 6pm to 9pm, and the exhibition continued on Friday. Hala A. Malak is a design critic, curator and writer, and the featured artists were Oussamah Ghandour, Chadi Younes, Muhyi Sadek, Marianna Zoghbi, Rhea Karam, Tony Khoueiry, Karim Al Dahdah, Gab Ferneine, Reem Bassous, Tarek Atrissi and Sandra Tomb.

AD INTERIM:

As announced, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco of Argentina, will move from the Department of Special Political Affairs to the Peacekeeping Support, maintaining his rank as Assistant-Secretary General. He will be replaced on an "ad interim" basis by Jens Toyberg-Frandzen of Denmark, who served in Ukraine as ad interim head of UNDP office in Kiev.

LEVY:

He's a U.N. Security Officer who seemed to think he runs the world. The name tag indicates "Levy" and the accent sounds somewhere between Dakar and Jamaica -- that is confused between naturally speaking and presumptuously posturing. During the week of General Debate with tight security on visitors, he seems to relish intervening with incoming pass holders, double-checking them and making a vocal point that dedicated retired U.N. Staff should be firmly stopped. In other words, he was a bad example of the usually polite and helpful U.N. Security Officers. What a shame.

EVELYN:

Where's the money?

WHO PAID?:

An armed Islamic State fighter who was arrested -- only temporarily as usual -- in the region North of Lebanon happened to carry about a quarter of a million dollars in cash. From whom?

"C's" LUNCH:

As mentioned above, the Chief of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) is habitually referred to only as "C". Not even his name was in the public domain. For some reason, the current (and soon to step down) "C," Sir John Sawers, decided to have a published lunch interview with The Financial Times. Sir John is known at U.N. Headquarters as he was a member, then head, of the U.K. Mission in New York. While he was recognized for courteous perceptive relations with other diplomats, he became locally famous for photos in a bathing suit circulated on his wife's Facebook page just before his designation to head the Secret Intelligence Service. Ms. Hillary Clinton jovially addressed him at a Security Council meeting by saying: "Great legs!" When referring, during his FT interview, to his newest assignment in London from New York, Sir John recounted that some stalwarts in Intelligence expressed apprehension that they will be taken over by the Foreign Office, while the response from Foreign Office staff was "Bloody Hell, now we're going to have MI6 taking over the Foreign Office."

SAMANTHA'S ACTION:

"We have a basis for action: it would depend on the action taken and under what circumstances. In the event that action is taken, believe me we will have plenty of time to engage on it."
-- Samantha Powers, U.S. Representative to the U.N.

HELLO:

His Excellency Hery Martial Rajaonarimampianina Rakotoarimanana, President of the Republic of Madagascar.

WAINAINA:

Carole Wainaina of Kenya was appointed as Assistant Secretary General for Human Resources Management in the Department of Management, succeeding Catherine Pollard. Ms. Wainaina will have frequent occasions to test one of her favourite quotes: "People may not always tell you how they feel about you, but they will always show; pay attention."

THE ONE:

"In what Secretary of State John Kerry described as a significant foreign policy coup, the U.S. claimed on Tuesday that it successfully located a moderate Syrian rebel. Though Kerry did not elaborate on how the U.S. did so, he said that locating the rebel was a culmination of a months-long effort. The Secretary of State said that the Syrian has been appropriately vetted and was deemed 'moderately rebellious.'"

(From The Borowitz Report)

I.S.?:

(From Private Eye)

MARGARET VOGT:

"With profound sadness, I need to inform you that we lost one of DPA's strongest leaders and defenders. Our friend and colleague Margaret Vogt passed away, and our thoughts and prayers are with her family. Margaret's experience and perspective were of enormous benefit to the U.N. in general and to DPA specifically. To her UN positions, she contributed rich academic and teaching credentials, a background in the African Union, and work in think tanks. Throughout her career, she served as a mentor to scores of professionals, generously guiding others to rewarding careers in international service. I had the opportunity to witness first-hand her incredible determination and courage in a trip to Bangui, where Margaret served so effectively as SRSG and head of BINUCA during a particularly turbulent time in the CAR's tragic history. And all of us in DPA will continue to reap the benefits of Margaret's active engagement with representatives of Member States after she returned from Bangui, as those representatives cannot help but have a better understanding of Special Political Missions after Margaret's vivid, "real world" descriptions of the opportunities and constraints that affect our colleagues in the field. Most of all, we remember Margaret's decency and humanity. I know Margaret touched the lives of many people through her extraordinarily varied career. I know that her DPA friends and colleagues mourn her passing. While we do not yet have details of any funeral or memorial arrangements, we will pass on any information as it comes available. With my deepest condolences to all whom she touched,

Sincerely,
Jeff Feltman
(Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs
United Nations, New York"

WINGS:

"The reason birds can fly and we can't is simply that they have perfect faith; for to have faith is to have wings."
-- Sir James Matthew Barrie

PILOT:

"I've got the greatest job. (My airline) sends me to New York ten times a month to have dinner. I've just got to take 187 people with me whenever I go."
-- Colin Sovey, airline pilot

PLURINATIONAL:

When listing names and titles of senior officials attending the U.N. General Debate, the name of President Evo Morales (Ayma) was officially mentioned as Head of "the Plurinational State of Bolivia" -- neither His Excellency nor the U.N. Secretariat bothered to explain what it actually means. No one else had time to find out.

SAMANTHA II:

"A fundamental principle in the U.N. Charter gives countries the right to defend themselves, including using force on another country's territory when that country is unwilling or unable to address it"!??

FAVOURITES:

The first evening's randomly selected question (to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter) was: "What is your favourite ice cream?" Microphone in hand (he) quickly replied: "My favourite dessert is ice cream and my favourite ice cream is mango. But I don't turn down other flavours when mango is not available."
-- From The New York Times item headed "Ex-President in Hot Seat"

CROCODILE:

"How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!

"How cheerfully he seems to grin
How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in,
With gently smiling jaws!"

(By Lewis Carroll)

IF YOU FORGET ME:


by Pablo Neruda

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
remember
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

But
if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE:


by William Shakespeare

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.