Monday, June 27, 2011

The Rubber Duckies: Two United Nations giants of junk

By Peter Foster

This year, we award a special joint Rubber Duckie to two giants of junk, Achim Steiner and Rajendra Pachauri. Together they are collectively responsible for uncountable thousands of reports, initiatives, policies, statements, comments, studies and panels that are based on science that is politically motivated, either in content or objective.

Mr. Steiner is head of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), a font of untenable science, including his enthusiastic support for the idea that 50 million refugees would plague the world to escape climate change by 2010.

A long-term shill for junk environmental science and the green energy industry, Mr. Steiner is also an expert at sophistry. Following the 50 million refugee debacle, he took to the editorial pages of The Guardian to cover the issue with rhetoric. “Imagine if the world acted only when 100% scientific proof was in place,” he declared. “We would still be insulating buildings with cancer-causing asbestos and fuelling cars with lead additives, damaging babies’ brains.”

See the logic? Those who question “official” junk science are baby killers.

Mr. Steiner’s rhetorical arsenal also includes the reductio ad absurdum. When he was head of the IUCN, the World Conservation Union, Mr. Steiner was part of the pack ­attack on Bjorn Lomborg’s book The Skeptical Environmentalist. “Mr. Lomborg,” he wrote, “is wrong to suggest that species extinction, climate change and pollution are imaginary environmental problems.”

Mr. Lomborg had suggested none of these things.

Since UNEP is one of the parents of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Mr. Steiner has stoutly defended the IPCC, even as that institution’s credibility sinks to zero. He has suggested that questions about the stewardship of his colleague at IPCC — Rajendra Pachauri — amounted to a “witch hunt.” The IPCC’s claim that all the glaciers of the Himalayas might disappear by 2035 was, he said, a “typographical error.”

Mr. Steiner, who accuses skeptics of being “ideologically driven,” is another global bureaucrat whose priority is reformulating humanity. “We have a misdirected economic compass,” he has said. “We have arranged our economies in a way that they destroy their environmental foundations.”

Over at the IPCC, meanwhile. Mr. Pauchauri has dug himself another hole. On top of Climategate, through which he clung to power, we now have Mr. Pachauri positioning Greenpeace as lead author on a global energy report that, amazingly, endorsed Greenpeace’s global energy plan — a plan for which Mr. Pachauri had written a glowing introduction.

All in all, Mr. Pachauri and Mr. Steiner have turned in very fine performances worthy of a rarely awarded joint Rubber Duck.

Leaked Documents Suggest UN Backing Off Khmer Rouge Genocide Trials

click here for this story on SCOOP.CO.NZ

Report – By Selwyn Manning and Alastair Thompson.

Scoop Media, New Zealand: Documents leaked to Scoop suggest the United Nations-led tribunal may be backing off fully investigating crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge during the period from 1975 through to January 1979.

The documents show attempts by the Co-Investigating Judges, You Bunleng and Siegfried Blunk, to exclude testimonial information of New Zealand national Rob Hamill from being considered as evidence in Tribunal investigations.

[Scoop Editor's Note: The documents (see links to pdf files below) were not leaked by Rob Hamill, nor Keith Locke. The source will remain confidential.]

On Thursday June 23 2011, Scoop understands the documents were given to the New Zealand Parliament's foreign affairs select committee by New Zealand Green Party MP, Keith Locke. It is unclear whether the Foreign Affairs select committee will accept the documents or allow public access to the documents.

Scoop has decided to publish the documents on the basis that they are highly important from a justice point of view, also due to the fact that the decisions made by the two Co-Investigating Judges relate to the murder of a New Zealand national, Kerry Hamill, by members of the Khmer Rouge regime.

The Judges' decisions (contained in the documents) communicate a ruling on how relevant, from an evidential viewpoint, are victim impact testimonies. In particular the Judges have rejected an application by Rob Hamill to give testimony to Case 03 and 04 on the basis that the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge against his brother did not “directly” affect Rob Hamill.

Clearly, these issues are matters of high public and national interest.

Document 1 (pdf) details the application of New Zealand national Rob Hamill requesting to be party to the proceedings in Case 003 and Case 004 “for the injury he suffered as the alleged direct consequence of crimes... further to the death of his brother Kerry Hamill.

The Co-Investigating Judges ruled out Rob Hamill's application due to their definition of the word 'directly', stating that they “cannot follow the reasoning... that the applicant has shown that his 'harm was a direct consequence of the crimes...'”

The Judges also state in the documents that they were “aware that they admitted the Applicant as a Civil Party in Case 002...” but that their earlier decision regarding Case 002 was “not binding”.

Scoop understands that there are moves for Case 003 and 004 to be concluded or abandoned, perhaps without full and relevant evidence being admissible nor examined. As this aspect of the Tribunal's considerations involves a New Zealand national, Scoop believes it is vital that Rob Hamill's application to have his testimony considered be accepted and be relevant to proceedings.

Document 2 (pdf) and Document 3 (pdf) detail the reasons for the Co-Investigating Judges' decision.

Other documents (Cambodia Second-Introductory Submission.redacted.pdf and Cambodia-Third Introductory Submission.redacted.pdf) published here are important as they provide a summary of crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge during its reign of terror in Democratic Kampuchea (later renamed Cambodia) between 1975 and 1979. Millions died as a result of the Khmer Rouge's extreme policies which have been deemed crimes against humanity.

The Introductory Submissions summarise the Khmer Rouge era as:

    From 17 April 1975 until 6 January 1979, the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), commonly referred to as the Khmer Rouge, sought to fundamentally alter Cambodian society along ideological lines through forcible economic and social change. As set forth in the Co-Prosecutor’s First Introductory Submission dated 18 July 2007 (paragraphs 5 through 10), a common criminal plan existed amongst CPK leaders to establish a classless, atheistic and ethnically homogenous society, abolishing all ethnic, national, religious, class and cultural differences.

    The CPK’s criminal policies called for the evacuation of cities, and the virtual enslavement of the entire population of Democratic Kampuchea (DK) in ruthlessly run and inhumane agricultural co-operatives, factories and worksites. Anything or anyone that the CPK perceived as a threat or an obstacle to its policies and ideology would be killed or destroyed, including all religions, ethnic differences, the “feudalist,” “capitalist,” and “bourgeoisie” classes and all perceived “enemies” or “traitors” in the population or amongst the CPK cadre.

Security Concerns Delay Completion of Capital Master Plan

By Herve Couturier | Jun 15, 2011

The increased protections from possible "blasts" will add only six months to the project.

Security concerns, stemming from recent terrorist attacks against United Nations compounds around the world, will mean at least six months’ delay in the renovation of New York headquarters, says the head of the project.

Michael Adlerstein, UN assistant secretary-general and executive director of the Capital Master Plan, as the project is known, said in a recent interview with The InterDependent that the concerns were raised by the U.S. government, the UN's own security service and the City of New York.

Adlerstein would not give many details about the nature of the security anxieties but said that "there were assumptions about the level of blast that might be experienced."

He also said that those returning to work in the Secretariat building when it was finished would be rethought as to who needed to be near the secretary-general the most.

The new security scrutiny led to a pause of about six months in the restoration of two of the headquarters buildings, that of the Conference building and the General Assembly hall, delaying completion of the whole project to 2014, instead of 2013, as previously planned. The extra cost, about $100 million, was paid by the U.S. in February.

The UN complex, situated on 17 acres along the East River in Midtown Manhattan, includes the landmark 39-story glass and steel Secretariat tower, the domed General Assembly hall and the conference building with its many large meeting rooms. The complex was completed in 1950, but the Dag Hammarskjold Library and the South Annex were added later.

Six decades since the headquarters’ original construction, the entire compound had leaking roofs, was riddled with asbestos and lacked adequate fire detectors, a sprinkler system and other emergency safety devices.

The enormous overhaul, begun in May 2008, aims to make the buildings more energy efficient and bring them into conformity with New York City health and safety codes, while improving security. The initial renovation plan was for the project to be done in five years to the tune of nearly $1.9 billion.

Isabella Penney for UNA-USA
The renovation of the Secretariat building at New York headquarters is on schedule, says the UN. Here, an early-morning shot in June.

Adlerstein stressed that the work on the Secretariat building "is moving very well, right on schedule."

"It was supposed to be finished in early 2012, and it will be finished within a few months of when we originally said it would," he said.

He added that the work on the conference building and the General Assembly hall had also been on schedule "until we had to pause for several months."

"The host country, along with the UN security service and the host city, determined that the risks to the UN had elevated in recent years and that the UN needed to protect itself a little better on the perimeter, to stiffen the perimeter of the compound," he said.

Aware of the delicate nature of any UN-related financing, Adlerstein quickly noted that "the host country also stated that they would pay for it."

"It took a few months for them to secure the funding, but now that's done", he said. "In the process we lost some time, so for the Conference building and the General Assembly portion of the project, which are sequential, we will finish in 2014."

Elaborating on the issues of security, he said: "Over the years since the beginning of the project, the UN has been attacked several times, in Baghdad, in Algiers, in other places, and there have been incidents in New York where terrorists were able to almost achieve success, in Times Square and other incidents. So there was a concern that we should raise the level of protection, and that means making the building stiffer from a larger blast from outside, from the roadways around the four sides of the UN.

“We are taking care of the blast within the compound, and we count on the host city and the host country to protect us from blast from outside the compound. So we needed to stiffen up and they have provided the funding for us to do that."

Adlerstein’s goal is to have the General Assembly back in its renovated hall for the yearly general debate of September 2014, thereby limiting to only one year the inconvenience of member countries’ having to meet in temporary quarters in the windowless structure on the North Lawn of the UN.

He also explained that they were aiming to finish the Conference building at the end of 2012; it is now operating in swing space in the North Lawn building. That space will then become the temporary home for the General Assembly, where it will hold its 2013 annual debate.

"Everyone understands we had a delay for a little while," he added, noting that the member countries are pleased that the project is so far staying close to budget. "We're about 4 percent over budget. When we started the project, we were about 10 percent over budget,” but they have been “gaining on that every year and getting better."

Alma Hidalgo for UNA-USA
When the Secretariat is done, it will accommodate about 3,700 people, as before, but the staff will be prioritized to include under secretaries-general and assistant secretaries-general.

When everything is done, the Secretariat building, which housed about 3,700 people before the renovation, will accommodate roughly the same number. But "it might not be the same people," Adlerstein said, adding, "We are moving back to what's called the leadership concept, so that the leadership of the UN will be in the Secretariat."

The UN began with everyone in the Secretariat, but over time, departments established afterward were put into rental space, and the Secretariat staff -- the Department of Field Support, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and others -- "grew exponentially outside the compound."

"So this is our opportunity to intelligently restack the Secretariat with the people that the secretary-general needs."

All personnel, he pointed out, are valuable to the secretary-general, "but some of them need to be on call very quickly all the time,” so they are bringing back all the under secretaries-general and assistant secretaries-general into the Secretariat to make that building, as many corporate and governmental headquarters are, “the leadership of the organization."

Those who cannot be brought back into that area will be set up in rental space. "We only fit half our organization inside the compound; the question for the CMP is which half comes into the compound, so it will be the leadership half," he said.

Adlerstein joined the UN when the renovation project started in 2007 and has had a career in historic preservation, including working as chief architect for the Department of Interior, mainly restoring national parks like the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

A primary goal of the UN project is to make it as "green” as possible. "We're going to cut the energy consumption by 50 percent, cut the water consumption by 45 percent, cut our operations so that we continue to use less fuel and less energy in the future," he said.


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Friday, June 17, 2011

Shopping at the UN for Global Leadership

by Claudia Rosett @

Leading from behind may be President Obama’s preferred approach on foreign policy, but apparently that doesn’t apply when it comes to paying for the United Nations, where the U.S. is just one of 192 voting member states, but gets stuck with roughly one-quarter of the bill for the entire system. When it comes to spending billions on the UN, administration officials keep making the pitch for America to lead from the front. As far as there’s any logic to this pretzel of an approach, it seems to entail staying way out ahead of the pack on funding, while trying to lead from behind on policy.

The latest pitch came this week from Assistant Secretary of State Esther Brimmer, in a June 15 address to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Brimmer attempted the contortionist feat of combining, in a single speech, a profession of American support for Israel with a pitch for a continuing flood of American money into the UN system. What with the UN being a relentless font of Israel-fixated anti-Semitism, one might have supposed the better move would be to cut off the funding on which such UN bigotry enjoys a free ride. But so far that’s not in the administration’s playbook. Instead, the argument is that yet more U.S. money for the UN will help buy a degree of integrity from that institution which loads of money have already failed to produce. Brimmer says of the U.S. at the UN: “We must be a responsible global leader, and that means paying our bills.”

No, it doesn’t. Not when those bills are supporting an institution that undercuts American interests and savages an American ally. If the Obama administration wants to buy its way back toward global leadership, forget the UN — it’s time to go shopping somewhere else.

U.N. Approves Iran's Disaster Center Proposal Which Some Fear Could Boost its Ballistic Capabilities

click here for story on FOXNEWS

By George Russell

EXCLUSIVE: Even as the United Nationstries to use sanctions to block Iran’s developing nuclear weapons program, one of the U.N.’s own organizations has quietly green-lighted the Islamic Republic’s proposal to build a “disaster information management center” that could, some experts fear, advance its ballistic capability.

The decision puts the U.N. seal of approval on a controversial project that the United States has, until now, successfully blocked since Iran first proposed it in 2006.

As if to underscore its victory, Iran this week announced that it had launched its own observation satellite, Rassad-1, which will remain in orbit for the next two months.

The decision to approve the Iran proposal was taken without a vote on May 25 by the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the self-described “regional development arm of the United Nations for the Asia-Pacific region.”

Establishment of the center was not mentioned in the ESCAP press release after the meeting where the vote was taken. The release said only that the commission “adopted a set of resolutions on issues ranging from bridging wide development and infrastructure gaps within the region, to cooperation for energy security and disaster preparedness.”

Click here for the resolution adopted by ECCAP.

While little-known in the U.S., ESCAP is a major player in Asian development. Its membership includes 62 nations, among them China, India, Pakistan, Russia and North Korea, and its mandate covers a huge swath of territory, from Turkey across the Pacific. There are a sprinkling of Western nations and their Commonwealth allies on the ESCAP roster, includingFrance, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the U.S.

“This is a very clever move by Iran,” said Elliott Abrams, a former deputy national security advisor in the George W. Bush Administration, who is now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. “It’s outrageous that a country that has been denounced repeatedly by the U.N. Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency should be rewarded in this fashion.”

Abrams was responding to an inquiry from Fox News, which learned of the unannounced ESCAP decision

“We are trying to make them into a pariah state, and this sends the opposite message,”Abrams said. “ It will require lots of visits to Iran by other governments. And there are always concerns that some aspect of this will help their military or intelligence agencies.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, a Fox News contributor, when informed of the development, said he found the decision “unbelievable. This puts Iran in a very high profile. What technology Iran will get as a result I don’t know, but it would give their people more experience with satellite imagery. It’s like being involved with peaceful nuclear power: just having your people involved gives you more experience that can be turned to non-peaceful uses.”

In New York, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon told Fox News that “our records indicate that there was no advance notice to the Security Council Sanctions Committee regarding the creation of the center (nor an ex post facto endorsement thereof), and there were no notifications or requests for exemption regarding the provision of any items to the center.”

The U.N. endorsement of Iran’s disaster center was a diplomatic defeat for the Obama Administration, which strenuously opposed the proposal at the commission’s forum in Bangkok. The U.S. has managed to block several previous attempts by Iran to establish the facility on its territory.

“The United States and our allies have fought hard to prevent the center,” a U.S. State Department spokesman told Fox News. “We did not and do not support this.”

The controversial facility is described in ESCAP records as a “regional center for information, communication and space technology-enabled disaster management In the Islamic Republic of Iran,” to be installed as a “subsidiary body” of ESCAP. Its aim, according to a detailed Iranian proposal supporting their plan, is to enhance early warning of impending calamities, and provide data collection and analysis for disaster recovery, among other things.

The Iranian document cites the country’s relatively low capability in sending and receiving satellite observation data, especially in disaster recovery situations, as a reason to support the institution, in order to fill “gaps” in regional coverage.

In response to questions from Fox News, ESCAP’s Executive Secretary, Noeleen Heyzer, declared that despite the references to space-satellite technology in the Commission’s documents, “the focus of the center is on disaster related information sharing and does not have a role with regard to space or satellite technology.”

A U.S. statement issued at the Bangkok meeting argued that the Iranian proposal “did not clearly articulate a vision for the center, define existing gaps the center would fill, identify the geographic focus of the center, explain how the center would work with existing bodies to avoid overlap and duplication of effort, or set out the human and technological resources needed to operate the center to fulfill its mission.”

The U.S. strategy of opposition at the meeting, was based on “legitimate management concerns,” in the State Department spokesman’s phrase, rather than concerns about Iran’s weapons intentions.

That said, the spokesman agreed that there were “other concerns” about the center, then added, “a lot of those, we can’t get into.”

When asked by Fox News about such issues as technology that might also be useful in Iran’s missile programs, or the possibility that the center could be used as a “cover” for other ballistic missile work that has been banned by the U.N. Security Council, the spokesman declared, “Those are all legitimate questions. But we can’t talk about them.”

One reason, perhaps, is that “disaster management” has become a major theme at many U.N. gatherings around the world, usually with U.S. backing, in part because of the role that climate change has been assigned in wreaking havoc with humanity. In Asia, the suffering has been particularly acute, due to typhoons and the ravages of earthquakes and massive tsunamis. The idea of notion of linked disaster preparedness centers, backed by sophisticated information from advanced satellite observation, is now a mainstay of humanitarian and development relief.

The spokesman in effect said the U.S. had been out-maneuvered by Iran at the Bangkok meeting, as Iranian diplomats “repackaged” their proposals so that they managed to “chip away” at the bloc opposing the idea. Among other things, the Iranians emphasized “gaps” in regional disaster management efforts and offered to pay the entire $50 million cost of the center for its first five years of operation.

The spokesman declined to identify which nations changed sides as a result of the Iranian diplomatic offensive.

In the end, however, the State Department itself stood aside as ESCAP made the decision, because “we do not want to stand in the way of the long tradition ESCAP has of adopting resolutions by consensus,” according to the statement issued at the meeting.

The U.S. instead declared that it “dissociated” itself from the decision. “Dissociation is a practice the United States employs to allow consensus to occur while ensuring the text is not binding domestically,” according to the statement.

Indeed, the State Department spokesman in Washington argued that the diplomatic defeat was actually a victory. He claimed that the U.S. had actually “prevented” creation of the center, because the resolution that allows Iran to “initiate the process for the establishment of the [center]” also calls for an “evaluation” by ESCAP of the need for the facility and the benefit of creating it as a “subsidiary body” of ESCAP—in 2013.

In reply to questions from Fox News, ESCAP’s Hayzer also emphasized that so far the center is not an official Commission “subsidiary body.”

Or, as the State Department spokesman put it, the center “does not exist at least for the next two years,” the spokesman said.

Iran doesn’t see it that way. A proposed timetable for establishment of the center, included in a 28-page technical report submitted by Iran at the meeting, calls for getting all the legal, administrative and regulatory arrangements for the center out of the way by February, 2012.

The Iranian timetable calls for construction, equipping, hiring staff, and everything else to be out of the way in time for the opening of the center in November, 2012—the time of the next U.S. Presidential election.

George Russell is executive editor of Fox News and can be found on Twitter @GeorgeRussell.