Friday, October 21, 2011

Beyonce Knowles and the Looming Crisis at the UN

UNESCO member states are poised to admit Palestine as the newest member of the UN body. This is an achievement for the Palestinian leadership, which is seeking admission to various UN agencies, but potentially catastrophic news for UNESCO and American leadership at the UN. And through no fault of her own, even Beyonce may suffer.

At issue here are two strict laws passed by the United States congress in 1994 which stipulate that “the United States shall not make any voluntary or assessed contribution to any affiliated organization of the United Nations which grants full membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood.” And if that were not clear enough, a second clause clearly states that the United States may not “provide funds [to] the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof which accords the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member states.” The law authorizes no “waiver authority” by the executive branch, meaning that there is no way for President Obama to end run around this prohibition.

Read more, here.

Video: The Dying Trees of France’s Canal du Midi

Click here to watch a short video about the 42,000 plane trees lining France’s historic Canal du Midi that are being felled because of a fungus brought to Europe by US soldiers in World War II.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Skyscraper threatens Seville's world heritage status

SEVILLE, Spain — Seville is famed for its imposing cathedral and whitewashed streets but the Spanish city may lose its UN World Heritage status because of a new 41-storey skyscraper.
The 178-metre (584-foot) high, oval-shaped building, still under construction, will house the offices of savings bank Cajasol when completed in 2012.

It was designed by Argentine-American architect Cesar Pelli, who is responsible for some of the world's tallest buildings, including the Petronas Towers which dominate the skyline of Kuala Lumpur.

Pelli's office boasts the new skyscraper "will define the skyline of Seville."
But that is a prospect that dismays the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) which since July has called in vain for work on the project to be stopped.

It is planning a visit to the city together with the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) to "determine if the skyscraper has a visual impact on the historic centre of Seville, said UNESCO spokeswoman Lucia Kuntz.

ICOMOS, which works to protect cultural heritage sites around the world, advises the UN body on World Heritage sites, which include cultural landmarks such as the Great Wall of China and the leaning Tower of Pisa.

The building already rises up eight stories into the sky just several hundred metres -- and on the other side of the Guadalquivir river -- from the historic centre of Seville.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

Palestinians to push heritage agenda at UNESCO

(Reuters) - The Palestinians will seek World Heritage status for the birthplace of Jesus once the U.N. cultural agency admits them as a full member, and will then nominate other sites on Israeli-occupied land for the same standing, an official said.

Hamdan Taha, a Palestinian Authority minister who deals with antiquities and culture, said UNESCO membership was the Palestinians' natural right. He described as "regrettable" the objections of some governments including the United States.
UNESCO's board decided last week to let member states vote on a Palestinian application for full membership, seen as part of a Palestinian drive opposed by Israel and the United States for recognition as a state in the U.N. system.
"UNESCO membership carries a message of justice and rights. Why must the Palestinians be left outside the international system?" Taha said. "I see it as crowning long efforts over the past 20 years."

Read the rest of the article, here.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sarkozy says no to shale gas drilling in beauty spot

"I want to take the opportunity I have here to confirm that there will no exploitation of shale gas by hydraulic fracturing in this exceptional area," Sarkozy said during a visit to the Gard, home to Cevennes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Read the whole article, here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Japan asks UNESCO to list Mt. Fuji, Kamakura as World Heritage sites

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The Japanese government on Wednesday submitted to UNESCO a provisional letter of recommendation for it to register Mt. Fuji and the ancient city of Kamakura as World Heritage cultural sites in 2013, government officials said.

To read the rest of the article, click here.