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Monthly Archives: September 2010

In the continuing tragicomedy of UN news, there are now reports that the director of the UN’s Vienna-based Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), Malaysian astrophysicist Mazlan Othman, is denying a story in London’s Sunday Times that the United Nations is about to hand her a new role as a UN envoy to extraterrestrials.

What’s really going on here is unclear. The Times quoted Othman, citing recent recorded remarks, as saying the UN is “ready-made” to seize the lead as decision-maker for all mankind on a “coordinated response,” should aliens show up. Such UN self-puffery is exactly the kind of talk one often hears from UN officials when a plan for some new post or program is already a backroom done deal — though it usually involves UN outreach to assorted human despotisms, not aliens. At an institution that recently seated Libya on the Human Rights Council, and allowed Iran last year to chair the board of its flagship development agency, the UNDP, gross inanity – as long as it’s coupled with any form of power or money grab — is all too credible. The Times did accurately report that Othman will be speaking at a conference on aliens next week in the UK — here’s a link to the confab, Oct 4-5, ”Towards a scientific and societal agenda on extra-terrestrial life,” where she is listed as a panelist.

But even if the Times went overboard in reporting that the UN would actually create an alien-envoy role for Othman, that in no way obviates the very real and disquieting developments going on in Mazlan Othman’s orbit at the UN offices in Vienna, which, as I described in my previous post, “The Dark Side of a UN Envoy for Extraterrestrials,” are the real problem here. Iran has now embarked on a two-year chairmanship of the UN’s Legal Subcommittee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space — for which Othman’s Vienna office (UNOOSA) serves as the secretariat. Given the ties that have developed between Malaysia and Iran, in which Malaysia was one of three states which at the UN’s IAEA last year refused to rebuke Iran’s illicit nuclear activities, that’s cause for concern — aliens or no aliens. Is anyone in Washington paying attention?

Along those same lines, here’s a far more urgent reason — even if less juicy than the vision of a UN envoy for aliens —  to ask whether the Obama administration is doing anything at all to mind the mess at the UN shop in Vienna.

At the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, as 2010-2011 chair of the IAEA’s governing body, UN member states have just picked an envoy of …wait for it …. Pakistan.

Yes, that’s right. Pakistan: the country that not so long ago brought the world the A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation bazaar, the country that spawned the Taliban and continues to breed jihadi terrorists, the country that holds out its hand for billions in aid while pouring resources into the ability to produce yet more nuclear weapons. Behold, Ladies and Gentlemen, with crisis upon us over the Iranian nuclear bomb program, the North Korean nuclear bomb, and rumblings of a further proliferation breakout —  from Venezuela to East Asia to the Middle East — the IAEA’s prime decision-making body, its 35-member governing board, as of today is chaired for the next year by one of Pakistan’s longtime nuclear insiders, Ansar Parvez of Pakistan.

Reportedly, the Obama administration did nothing to stop Pakistan winning the chairmanship of the IAEA governing board. The U.S. sits on the IAEA governing board. But according to Reuters, U.S. officials nodded along, just as they did this past spring when Iran won a seat on the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Reuters reports : “No country opposed Pakistan’s nomination by a group of Middle Eastern and south Asian member states at a meeting of the IAEA governors.” Citing an anonymous diplomat who attended the session, Reuters reports that the choice of Pakistan was approved “by acclamation.”

Aliens, schmaliens — whatever. With Obama lauding the UN as a core arena of U.S. foreign policy, and U.S. taxpayers shelling out billions for the UN budget, when does the Obama administration start showing responsible oversight, not to mention some muscle, at the UN’s offices in Vienna?

The Dark Side of a UN Envoy for Extraterrestrials

September 27th, 2010 - 12:02 am

Just when you thought the United Nations could not possibly become any more inane, out comes a story in London’s Sunday Times that the UN is about to appoint a special envoy for alien life forms. The idea, apparently, is that if aliens contact or land on earth, demanding “Take me to your leader,” the UN will have a designated official ready to step in as chief mouthpiece for the human race.

My first guess is that this close encounter of a UN kind would end swiftly, and not well. Imagine, for a moment, that you are an alien arriving on earth, curious about the ways of homo sapiens — and your first real sitdown is with a  member of the UN bureaucracy. Either you’d speed back into space, howling: “The horror! The horror!” Or, if you’re an alien of strong stomach and advanced weaponry, you’d listen just long enough to conclude that earthlings have arrived at some endpoint of blithering and irredeemable decay, and zap them wholesale off the planet. Either way, there’s really no need for a UN-alien interface. The question we ought to be asking is how many U.S. tax dollars the UN plans to lavish on this new arrangement.

However – while I may be wrong about the response of the average alien, there might just be a serious dimension to this plan. And it might be this: While President Barack Obama has NASA reaching out to the Muslim world, the Muslim world — via the UN — is making a grab for the UN’s outer space portfolio. And space programs do have some bearing on odds and ends such as guidance of long-range missiles, and whatnot.

The UN official reportedly in line for the new role of head of alien outreach is a Malaysian astrophysicist, Mazlan Othman. She currently heads the UN’s Vienna-based Office for Outer Space Affairs, also know as UNOOSA, or OOSA. According to London’s Sunday Times, Othman recently gave a recorded talk, in which she said that in the event of signals from extraterrestrials, humankind should be ready with “a coordinated response that takes into account all the sensitivities related to the subject.” She said the UN is a “ready-made mechanism for such coordination.” And, according to the Times, the UN deems Othman ready-made for the role — which she is expected to detail shortly at a conference in the UK. Absent any signaling aliens, it’s all too likely she’d begin her duties with some of those trademark UN decrees about whose “sensitivities” trump the rest in trying to commandeer the future of the planet.

The conference where Othman is expected to elaborate on all this may be a saga in itself. Titled “Towards a scientific and societal agenda on extra-terrestrial life,” (note that “societal agenda” ) it is slated for Oct. 4-5 at the Royal Society’s Kavli conference center in Buckinghamshire – where the fancy premises were acquired just this year, thanks to support from the California-based Kavli Foundation. This is a nonprofit which earlier this month, in Oslo, featured as a keynote speaker for its Kavli Prize Science Forum none other than President Barack Obama’s left-fringe science adviser, John Holdren — the command-and-control zealot who now wants to re-engineer your life to battle not global warming, but “climate disruption.”

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At the UN, America Pays, Ahmadinejad Plays

September 24th, 2010 - 10:44 pm

As long as America provides such toys as the United Nations, Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might as well play with them — and this week, again, play he did.

Ahmadinejad has just treated himself to quite a week at the UN — speaking Tuesday at a planet-wide central planning “development” summit, and again on Thursday in the starting lineup of the General Assembly debate. He has used his UN access to Manhattan to dispense TV interviews, from ABC to CNN. He has hosted media gatherings and met with Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. Ahmadinejad created this year’s special stir by using the UN podium to peddle propaganda about the 9/11 Islamist attacks, telling the world that a majority of Americans believe that “some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy and its grips on the Middle East in order to also save the Zionist regime.”

And at the UN, where Iran’s regime is in brazen violation of four Security Council sanctions resolutions on its nuclear program, officials have been falling all over themselves to make Ahmadinejad welcome. Friday’s Jerusalem Post carried a mind-bending story on “The ‘Zionist regime’ enters the UN’s Iranian underworld,” by an American reporter, Jordana Horn, who is accredited by the UN to cover this year’s General Assembly opening for the Jerusalem Post. Horn recounts how on Thursday she tried to attend an Ahmadinejad press conference — on UN premises. Let’s be clear about that: This was not at Ahmadinejad’s five-star hotel. This was on UN turf, where Iran’s regime so amply avails itself of the equal dignity accorded in theory to all nations. But in this case, Iran called the shots, and the UN fawned and scraped along. Horn was kicked out of the room, when Ahmadinejad’s security detail discovered she worked for the Jerusalem Post, a newspaper of the “Zionist entity.”

Meanwhile, the UN News Service — which is part of the UN, funded out of the UN budget, which is to say, paid for in substantial part by American taxpayers — has been cranking out press releases about Ahmadinejad. They take no account of the bloody, terror-based, sanctions-violating regime he represents. Instead, in lingo freighted with gravitas and respect, they report such items as: “Veto Power in Security Council must be scrapped, Iran’s leader says.” That’s the headline on a UN News Service press release summarizing Ahmadinejad’s speech, Sept. 11 conspiracy theories and all, to the General Assembly. The same UN News Service item concludes, straight-faced, “Mr. Ahmadinejad also said that Iran would host a conference next year to study both terrorism and the means to confront the problem.” (Gee, one has to wonder —  will that include a roll-out of illicit Iranian nuclear weapons? Or perhaps some North Korean-engineered missile delivery systems?)

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Oh how Mahmoud loves that UN stage. And four sets of binding UN sanctions on Iran since 2006 are no bar to the UN podium. Right now, for the sixth time in six years, Iran’s Bloviator-in-Chief, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is attending the annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. He’s scheduled to speak Tuesday at the UN’s conference on central planning for the planet, a.k.a., the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. He’s also due to speak Thursday afternoon, among the lineup of heads of state on the first day of this year’s General Assembly debate (which isn’t so much a debate as a parade of potentates, strutting the stage).

But that doesn’t begin to convey Ahmadinejad’s zeal for UN speaking platforms. When he finishes his double whammy UN performance this week, he will have racked up seven speeches from UN stages over the past two years alone. Along with his General Assembly speeches of 2008 and 2009, that would include his histrionics on the UN stage in Geneva (the April 2009 Durban Review bigots’ conference on bigotry); his trip to the UN stage in Copenhagen (Dec. 2009, Climate Debauch); and his appearance at the UN’s New York headquarters earlier this year (May 2010, Nuclear Nonproliferation review). And of course in June 2008, making his first trip to Western Europe, he made use of the stage at a UN Food Summit in Rome to launch one of his trademark attacks against Jews.

Each of these visits tends to be quite a production — replete with TV interviews, press conferences, receptions, dinners with select diplomats and journalists, and an entourage of many dozens, shacked up with massive security in a five-star hotel — this week, at the Hilton.

Early in this game, in 2006, when Ahmadinejad was making his second trip to the General Assembly’s annual opening in New York, there were various suggestions for how to handle it. Some said, arrest him. Some said, expel him. My view was that the best compromise would have been to simply move the UN – lock, stock and perorating Ahmadinejad — to Iran. Let the Iranian government pick up the tab, save American taxpayers billions in the process, and Ahmadinejad could declaim there daily, to his heart’s content.

Obviously that’s not going to happen. The UN isn’t going anywhere, especially with U.S. taxpayers now picking up the lion’s share of the tab for the UN’s current $2 billion-plus renovation. But maybe there’s another way to address Ahmadinejad’s evident affinity for the place. Don’t let him leave. Keep him at the UN. Just keep him there, year round.

Surely Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon can find Ahmadinejad a UN sinecure — preferably one he can’t refuse. Perhaps the UN could build him his own special stage, and put him on display, daily, as one of the talking exhibits featured in the UN Guided Tours — “Early 21st Century Messianic Despot: Discovered Intact at the Hilton Hotel, 2010.” It might bore the visiting schoolkids silly. But think of the endless interview opportunities for CNN, ABC, and MSNBC! If Ahmadinejad insists on becoming a fixture of the UN stage, well, the least we can do is extend a helping hand. I’d wager a lot of Iranians back home would be delighted with the new setup.

It gets ever more intriguing to watch the unfolding priorities of the imam behind the Ground Zero mosque project, Feisal Abdul Rauf. Having returned to New York this month after a summer spent largely incommunicado in Malaysia and the Middle East, Rauf over the past fortnight has found time to appear on CNN and ABC TV, speak at the Council on Foreign Relations and write an op-ed for the New York Times, all in service of touting his vision of a $100 million-plus high-rise Islamic complex near Ground Zero (including, as we have all heard by now, a swimming pool, basketball court, auditorium, cooking school, and mosque).

But Rauf seems to be paying rather less attention to properties where he already has a track record. When Union City, New Jersey, held a court hearing Wednesday to address the mess at a pair of rundown apartment buildings Rauf owns there, he was a no-show. According to a dispatch by the New York Post‘s Tom Topousis, the buildings are so dilapidated, with disrepair including “inoperable fire alarms and sprinklers,” that the local cops — at taxpayer expense – ”have to stand watch in the event of a fire.”  As the Post story further details, “Union City filed its lawsuit against Rauf on Monday, charging that he has refused to comply with dozens of building violations, some dating back to 1996 for two properties he owns at 2206 Central Ave.”

Union City Mayor Brian Stack, in a press conference Tuesday, deplored Rauf’s local record as a landlord. Stack said the lawsuit has nothing to do with the controversy over Ground Zero; it has to do with “Trying to send a message here, not only to Rauf, but also to other slumlords… .” You can read about this in a story from the Jersey Journal: “Union City mayor heaps scorn on imam for being  ‘slumlord.’ ‘” And you can find yet more on the business dealings of Rauf and his partners in this lengthier piece on “Feisal Abdul Rauf’s Repellent Record as a Property Developer,” by Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, on the Hudson New York web site.

Rauf’s wife and Cordoba House partner, Daisy Khan, didn’t bother to show up at the Union City hearing either. The NY Post reports that the absent peace-making bridge-builders were represented by their lawyer, Tomas Espinosa. He turned up saying that Rauf has a contractor working on a plan to repair the fire alarms and sprinklers. But Espinosa had no evidence to back up his claims. The judge set a Sept. 23 court date for Espinosa to return with the goods.

And, as reported by the NY Post, here comes the line we’ve been hearing for months about Rauf — self-described healer, outreacher, harmony-maker and bridge-builder. Rauf’s lawyer, Espinosa, said he is sure the legal process will show Rauf has ”taken care of his property.” Why? Because “He is a man of peace.”

Golly. This is “peace” redefined to mean whatever your lawyer wants to pull out of a hat. Rauf with his Cordoba House plans for the edge of Ground Zero has provoked a load of confrontation  – targeting Ground Zero as a testing ground for “tolerance,” a test in which he demands the tolerance of others, but seems to exempt himself from any need for compromise. In his public statements Rauf has been promising financial “transparency,” but along with dodging or ignoring reasonable questions about such matters as his offshore finances, he’s neglected to mention such awkward items as his New Jersey property problems. What are the priorities here? When he’s promoting his own interests, he’s a Man of Peace. When it comes to accommodating the interests of others, he’s racking up a record as a No-Show.

The talk right now is endlessly about Islam, whether one tunes in to news of Pastor Terry Jones and the will-he won’t-he question of whether he’ll burn the Koran, or news of Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam now leeching publicity from Ground Zero with his plans to build a mosque and Islamic hub just up the road — and his issuing of the ungentle warning in a CNN interview Wednesday that unless he goes forward with his “Cordoba House” near Ground Zero, the “Muslim world” might explode with anger, leading to something “very, very, very dangerous” and threatening “national security.” That’s an intriguing justification for building a mosque and Islamic “community center” on a site hit by wreckage from one of the hijacked planes during the Sept. 11 attacks.

I keep thinking that on Sept. 10, 2001, lower Manhattan had a community center. A spectacular center. It was called the World Trade Center, though I always found the name Twin Towers more alluring. One of my favorite views used to be the scene that opened up when you drove east across the Tappan Zee Bridge – from which, on clear days, looking miles down the Hudson to the southern tip of Manhattan, you could see those two white towers.

The World Trade Center was, as some of its chroniclers have said, a vertical city. It was a place of shops, cafes, restaurants, news stands, many offices and a huge plaza where in summer there were concerts, and people lunched outdoors around the fountain. Its basement concourse was the place where in 1982, as an aspiring journalist, I engaged in the oxymoronic business of calming my nerves with a cup of coffee, at one of the multitude of coffee shops, before going across the street for a job interview. It was the place where over many years I came and went from subway stops that let out into the World Trade Center complex, where you could buy everything from t-shirts to airplane tickets. I bought my favorite briefcase there, won a raffle for a bread-basket, picked up shampoo, toothpaste and dishracks; I met friends and business contacts for lunch there, walked through it on the way to more distant shops and restaurants, and interviewed people in the offices above. When I moved back to New York in 1997, after almost a dozen years working abroad, my editor took me to lunch in the North Tower, more than 100 stories up, at Windows on the World.

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Ground Zero Mosque: The Bombast of Imam Feisal

September 7th, 2010 - 11:20 pm

After summering in Malaysia and assorted petro-capitals of the Arabian Gulf, the imam behind the Ground Zero mosque project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is back in America — though not for long. His Cordoba Initiative web site now features a newsletter which mentions that this month Rauf will be off again, this time to Australia … apparently there is now some urgent “bridge-building” to be done in Perth.

But while transiting New York, site of his proposed $100 million-plus Cordoba House, Rauf has taken time to publish an op-ed in the New York Times. The op-ed itself, “Building on Faith,” is such a feat of unmitigated self-puffery that it really belongs in the paid ad section. But let’s not focus here on the eccentricities of the Times. Keep your eye on the elusive imam.

Because what he’s doing here is trying to hijack the meaning and commemoration of Sept. 11th — Rauf being now the righteous and self-appointed arbiter of how Americans should remember that day. If you strip away his New-Age-cum-United-Nations jargon, his message is that unless you join a collective group hug to exalt what he, Feisal Abdul Rauf, happens to want, you must be some sort of low-life insensitive rube — one of the legion of bigots whom his wife recently described on national television as putting America “beyond Islamophobia.” And what Rauf wants is a 15-story mosque-plus-amenities Islamic center, right up the road from where the Twin Towers were destroyed in the name of Islam.

In his op-ed, speaking apparently from a great height — a height so great that it excuses him from answering a single question about such nitty-gritty as his sources of money, or “extremist” affiliations – Rauf includes the pronouncement that “we are proceeding with the community center, Cordoba House.” (Rauf seems not to have noticed that while he was traveling, the other two-thirds of this ”we” — his wife and business partner, Daisy Khan, along with their partner and developer, Sharif El-Gamal — changed the name of the project from Cordoba House to Park51. That came after a number of commentators began pointing out that ”Cordoba” connotes not a flower-power era of harmony, but a triumphalist caliphate).

Rauf’s article is so jammed with flim-flam that it’s hard to know where to begin. But let’s take just a few samples of what he’s just dished out from his op-ed pulpit:

“Many people wondered why I did not speak out more, and sooner, about this project. I felt that it would not be right to comment from abroad.” Really? And why, with such controversy going on in the U.S. over his project, was it such a high priority for Rauf to spend the entire summer abroad, much of that incommunicado in Malaysia; and such a low priority — as in nonexistent — for Rauf to answer questions from Americans back home?

“My life’s work has been focused on building bridges between religious groups and never has that been as important as it is now.” Come again? While Rauf was out of town and disdaining all questions about such venal matters as money, New Jersey’s Bergen Record was digging up some fascinating material on the Lexus-driving Armani-clad imam’s alternate career as a proprietor of roach-infested, filth-plagued, poorly maintained, taxpayer-subsidized low-income housing in New Jersey — including some of the related financial tangles. And Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism was uncovering oddities pertaining to the tax-exempt “church” status of Rauf and Khan’s American Society for Muslim Advancement, or ASMA, which shares an office with the Cordoba Initiative, and is involved in its finances. As for building bridges… what does that mean? It’s a metaphor drawn from the same stack of baloney that the Islamic Republic of Iran served up when it proposed the U.N.’s 2001 project for a “Dialogue of Civilizations” (out of which came the UN’s current Alliance of Civilizations, now partnering with Rauf’s Cordoba Initiative). In planting one end of his bridge at Ground Zero, with all the attendant jarred nerves and publicity value, where exactly will Rauf be planting the other end? Who will be traversing this bridge? Which way? Who will be paying for it? And why?

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So, there you are, just trying to live your life and find ways to hang onto whatever you’ve earned, before ObamaCare, inflation, and confiscatory tax hikes really kick in. But at least you don’t have to worry about intrusions into your daily doings and your wallet by such alien and lumbering behemoths as the United Nations … right?

Think again. In just over a week, the UN headquarters in New York will open the 65th session of the UN General Assembly, a body rife with groups devoted to finding ever more ways to help Washington regulate your life and spend your tax dollars — from carbon controls to free-speech gags to a relentlessly resurfacing series of proposals for direct UN taxes on everything from bank transactions to the Internet to air travel. On Sept. 23rd, the General Debate will begin, expected to tie up Manhattan traffic with the usual parade of eminences, including such celebrity tyrants as Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who will be making his sixth consecutive appearance at the General Assembly annual opening).

Amid all this, there’s one item that looked — briefly – like a glimmer of good news. After a year in which Libya’s man, Ali Treki, has presided over the General Assembly, the new GA president, taking over this month, comes from Switzerland — Joseph Deiss. Sounds like an improvement, right?

Brace yourself. Deiss has already been busy consulting with UN member states about what he calls “issues of global concern,” and in a letter sent Aug. 13 to all permanent representatives and observers, he distills the results of his labors into a proposed theme for this month’s General Assembly debate:

“Reaffirming the central role of the United Nations in global governance.”

That’s quite an ambition for an organization that habitually puts the likes of Iran, Sudan, and Libya on its major committees and governing boards, while featuring an array of the world’s top tyrants on its main stage. I can see, however, why the Swiss might favor the idea. Some of the UN’s more flagrant adventures in governance, such as the Iraq Oil-for-Food program, funneled a remarkable amount of business through the Swiss corporate registries and banking system. But for most ordinary folks, not only in America, but from Asia to Africa to Latin America, “governance” UN-style — in all its murky, unaccountable immunity and impunity – is about the last thing anyone needs.

Surely the U.S. government will protect its citizens from the power-hungry, money-loving UN? Don’t bet on it. The Obama administration, via Hillary Clinton’s State Department,  just last month sent in an American self-critique to the UN’s morally addled, despot-infested Human Rights Council, inviting UN member states to weigh in on such domestic matters as Arizona’s new immigration law, and presenting as American domestic “human rights” achievements a great welter of federal spending and regulatory programs, including ObamaCare. More on this in my recent column on the phenomenon that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has correctly labeled “Internationalism Run Amok.

Is there any upside to this? Cold comfort, I guess, but if you like reading about UN scandals, there are the makings here of an endless supply of ever more financially extravagant and morally bankrupt fiascoes. Though I’d guess that most Americans, if they’d take a moment to think about it, could easily come up with cheaper and more decent forms of entertainment.