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Posted on on July 29th, 2013
by Pincas Jawetz (

This posting is based on the reporting of our friend Matthew Russell Lee on
His observations were titled: “As Brazil Gets Olympic Baton, No Questions on Spending, UK Lobbied by Saudi.”

UNITED NATIONS, July 29, 2013 — UN’s Ban Ki-moon presided at the event – the transfer of the Summer Olympics baton from UK to Brazil – that was held at 3pm today in front of room #2 in the North Building (the previously temporary building) at UN Headquarters in New York. Lucky UN Secretary General – finally someone actually asked for his help in an important Inter-National procedure.

Ban Ki-moon, fresh from issuing a statement about the attack on a building housing Turkish personnel in Mogadishu, arrived and the speeches began.

A range of Permanent Representatives showed up: Sylvie Lucas of Luxembourg and her counterparts Costa Rica’s Eduardo Ulibarri-Bilbao, Bolivia’s Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz, Gabon’s Nelson Messone, New Zealand’s Jim Mclay, Kazakhstan’s Byrganym Aitimova (an Olympian, who also spoke at China’s Li Baodong’s farewell), Saudi Arabia’s Abdallah Yahya A. Al-Mouallimi and Kenya’s Macharia Kamau.

The main actors were nevertheless the pair: UK’s Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant and Brazil’s new Permanent Representative Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado who is one of our favorites because he saved the UN last year at the RIO+20 Conference that without his accoutrement could have sounded the practical end of these Non-united Nations.

Ambassador Lyall Grant joked about “Big Ban” in front of Big Ben; Ban used the opportunity to talk up the 2018 Winter Olympics in his native South Korea, which Yonhap says he will visit for six days in late August, and Brazil’s Ambassador Figueiredo Machado talked about trying to live up to London’s standard.

The UK Mission to the UN asked journalists accredited by the UN system to RSVP and put it in the UN Media Alert – this unlike the morning’s General Assembly briefing on Syria that seemingly nobody at the UN wanted to publicize.

A riser for camera-persons had been set up; there were speakers for sound and UNTV was there. We were not there but it seems the event was just something to see but not to ask any questions about – that is what angered Mr. Lee and it shows clearly in his report. Investigative journalists have difficulty in situations engineered by the UN where you cannot put up questions. In the end this decreases media coverage.

What Mr. Lee would have wanted to ask relates to spending on the Olympics, the location of newly built stadiums and Sustainability. He also had prepared questions about FIFA who gave the World Cup to Qatar, with talk now turning to holding it in the winter due to heat. Or does Ban Ki-moon think it’s “sustainable” to try to air-condition an outdoor stadium?

Oh well – not able to ask questions he just used his eyes and saw at the end of the event, Saudi Arabia’s Permanent Representative Abdallah Yahya A. Al-Mouallimi, who spoke earlier in the day about Syria, was seen chatting now up Lyall Grant. Inner City Press asked Kenya’s Permanent Representative Macharia Kamau what brought him to the event. “We always do well,” he joked, “we need commitments to get good starting places,” he said.

At the UN the games are always on – the Olympics are only a sometime thing.


N.S.A. Spied on Brazilian Oil Company, Report Says
Published: September 9, 2013

RIO DE JANEIRO — The National Security Agency spied on Petrobras, Brazil’s giant national oil company, according to a report here on Sunday night by the Globo television network, in the latest revelation of the agency’s surveillance methods that have raised tension between Brazil and the United States.
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Still, details were sparse in the report as to precisely what information the N.S.A. may have obtained from spying on Petrobras, raising questions about what objectives the agency could have in targeting the company, which is controlled by Brazil’s government and ranks among the world’s largest oil producers.

The report, based on documents obtained from Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor, said Petrobras figured among other prominent N.S.A. targets, including Google; the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or Swift, a consortium based in Belgium that aims to allow banks around the world to securely exchange financial information; and France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

It was the latest in a series of reports here in which Glenn Greenwald, an American journalist living in Rio de Janeiro who is working with Globo, has shed light on N.S.A. activities in Latin America from documents given to him by Mr. Snowden.

In a report last week, Globo revealed that the N.S.A. had spied on the presidents of Brazil and Mexico and their top aides, producing an angry reaction from Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, who held out the possibility of canceling a state visit to Washington in October that was arranged to recognize Brazil’s importance to the United States.

In a statement issued after the Globo report was aired, James R. Clapper, the Obama administration’s director of national intelligence, said that it was no secret that the United States government collected intelligence about financial matters. Mr. Clapper said that doing so was needed to gather insight into the economic policies of other countries.

“What we do not do, as we have said many times, is use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of — or give intelligence we collect to — U.S. companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line,” Mr. Clapper said in the statement.

Petrobras did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the televised report on Sunday night.

Globo acknowledged in its report that it was unclear what information the N.S.A. was seeking by spying on Petrobras, but the television network emphasized that the company controlled vast quantities of data on Brazil’s offshore oil fields. Brazil is planning to auction exploration licenses in October that would allow foreign oil companies to form ventures with Petrobras to explore for oil in deep-sea areas.

Petrobras has symbolized Brazil’s ambition of emerging as a global energy powerhouse after discoveries over the last decade of large offshore oil reserves, but the sprawling company has recently struggled with delays of major oil projects, soaring debt and declining production at some of its older offshore oil fields.

In contrast to some other major oil-producing countries like Mexico and Saudi Arabia, where state-controlled oil companies hold monopolies, Brazil already allows international oil companies to have extensive operations. While Petrobras still wields by far the most influence in Brazil’s oil industry, American, Chinese and European energy companies have been seeking to expand here.


Matthew Russell Lee also writes that the “Club des Chefs des Chefs” — literally, 25 of those who cook for heads of state — will set up shop in room S-310 – the room the UN gives to the UN Correspondents Association (UNCA), along with an also locked-up pantry.

There is something rotten cooking in this kitchen, alongside the gushed-out presence of “White House top chef Chisteta Comerford and, yes, “Her Majesty the Queen’s chef Mark Flanagan.”

We really know nothing more then that, and wonder if this is part of the UN preoccupation with poverty and hunger in the world. These Chefs surely can help when it comes to bake that famous French Queen’s cake – seems like another feat of good diplomacy – this time wrapped in secrecy.

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