Thursday, September 23, 2010

As Obama Is Booed at Fundraiser, Chinese-Only Briefing, Sri Lanka Protest, MDGs

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 22 -- The diplomatic action moved outside of the UN on Wednesday night, as the MDG Summit ended with a whimper.

Journalists in the UN Media Center were told they'd have to leave a half hour after the General Assembly session stopped, so that power could be turned off and checked after Tuesday's power outage which canceled the press conference of the Middle East Quartet.

Inner City Press set sail out to Lexington Avenue, where in the first floor Stuyvesant Room of the Marriott Hotel it had been invited to cover a press conference by the Press Center of the Chinese Delegation. Inside there were perhaps a dozen reporters, all Chinese. The moderator asked, “Do we have to do this in English?”

US President Obama, meanwhile, went to the Roosevelt Hotel to raise money. He was booed by AIDS activist and a man chanting about “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.” There was a $15,200 dinner with Presidential “photo reception.” Present were Nancy Pelosi and Charlie Rangel, as well as Barbara Streisand and James Brolin.

Earlier in the day on 47th Street and First Avenue, Tamils bussed in from Canada held pictures of bodies charred in the Sri Lankan government's “bloodbath on the beach” of May 2009. They spoke of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's slow to begin panel of experts, hoping that it might expand its mandate and do justice. One hope they aren't holding their breaths.

UN's Ban and US' Obama, power outage not shown

They spoke of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, staying in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in a surprisingly large number of rooms. Over at the Waldorf, an entire side street was shut down, as diplomats from smaller countries milled around looking for restaurants and other entertainment.

The “debate” on the MDG Summit outcome document continued in the General Assembly past 9 pm, with Observers speaking about conservation, the Order of Malta, democracy and even the Olympics. Only at the UN.

What will be accomplished at Friday's Sudan meeting? What will be said at Iranian President Ahmadinejad's press conference, now re-scheduled for Friday at 11 am at the Warwick Hotel on 54th Street and Sixth Avenue? Watch this site.

Footnote: again in Wednesday, many press conference and stakeouts were unceremoniously canceled. Chile's new President Pinera canceled his presser, such that questions of the Mapuche could not be raised.

Ukraine's President Yanukovych changed his stakeout from 7 pm to 6 pm then canceled it, allowing for no questions about the IMF, EU or beaten journalist Furmanyuk in Donetsk. Then again, the Middle East Quartet canceled a much larger press conference, due to the power outage. AtWednesday's noon briefing, Inner City Press asked:

Inner City Press: On the switch question about power lines. I mean, I understand things happen.

Spokesperson Martin Nesirky: Yes, they do.

Inner City Press: But given that the building is totally brand new and quite a bit of money was spent building it, is there some reaction from the UN that on probably its most important day so far in the new building, that such a thing could happen; that the Quartet press conference would be cancelled? I mean what steps are being taken to find out? Is there some recouping of money from Skanska, or who made the mistake that led to the cancellation of the Quartet press conference?

Spokesperson: Well, let’s look at the big picture here, Matthew. Yes, it was not desirable that the journalists who had been expecting a press conference were disappointed that the press conference did not take place. But there were many other meetings that were taking place in that building at that time where people were working without microphones in some cases; meetings that had already started and continued after the power failed. So, it’s a bigger picture. Nobody is thrilled that, as you say, yesterday of all days that there was a technical glitch of that kind. And I know that people are looking into this. It was a short-circuit — if you want to get technical — in a major circuit breaker box, and there was also a failure in a rented back-up generator. And the short-circuit was caused by a cable with damaged insulation. And I can tell you that people were working from when this first happened, at 1:20 p.m., working very hard to solve this and to fix it, and power was eventually restored throughout by 8:00 in the evening. So, people…

Inner City Press: [inaudible]

Spokesperson: I never was very good at do-it-yourself, so I don’t know the details. But on your specific point, we can ask CMP, the Capital Master Plan people, what the score is.

What is the score? Watch this site.

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