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The UN & Human Rights Dissidents

(The following is an open letter from UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres)

Dear Secretary-General Guterres,

We are deeply concerned about an apparent new UN rule that effectively bars human rights dissidents from speaking at the United Nations.

At an event that we hosted for human rights dissidents last month at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, two of our invited speakers, Mr. Dhondup Wangchen and Dr. Yang Jianli—former political prisoners in China now resident in the United States—were informed by the UN registration desk that they could not enter the premises without a passport from a UN Member State. When Dr. Yang noted that on multiple prior occasions he had been accredited without the passport of any country, but rather with other valid ID, the officer said the rules have recently been changed.

As you may know, dissidents are often forced to flee their home countries due to persecution for their human rights activism. Those governments typically deny the dissidents a passport. Once the dissidents have found a country of refuge, they will often be issued travel documents from that government—but not a passport. What this means is that the most compelling human rights witnesses in the world—dissidents who recently fled authoritarian regimes—typically have no valid passport.

The ability of these brave men and women to spotlight human rights abuses in their home countries—committed by regimes which in many cases sit on the UN Human Rights Council—is critical to the functioning of the UN human rights system. Any rule which effectively prevents dissidents from entering the UN and participating in human rights proceedings violates their right to freedom of expression—which is typically suppressed in their countries of origin—and hinders the human rights work of the UN.

We urge you to confirm that the UN will not require a country passport for accreditation to UN meetings, and will instead continue its previous policy of accepting other valid forms of identification.

Sincerely,

Hillel C. Neuer

Executive Director


Remembering Nat’l Wait Staff Day!

Dear Editor:

In these difficult economic times, it is especially important to patronize your favorite restaurants and honor the employees who make them a success. Why not join me in celebrating National Waiter and Waitress Day on May 21st? There are several ways to say thank you. Let your server(s), cooks and owners know how much you appreciate the excellent food and service.

On this day, don’t forget your cook and server. We try to tip 20 percent against the total bill including taxes. If it is an odd amount, round up to the next dollar. Why not leave a 25% tip on this day? If you can afford to eat out, you can afford an extra dollar tip. When ordering take out, don’t forget to leave a dollar or two for the waiter or cook. Trust us, it is appreciated.

Remember the people who work at your favorite restaurant are our neighbors. They work long hours for little pay and count on tips, which make up a significant portion of their income. If we don’t patronize our local restaurants, they don’t eat either. Your purchases keep our neighbors employed and the local economy growing.

Why not drop off a box of candy, cookies or some other treat for your favorite waiter or restaurant staff on this day as well?

Sincerely,

Larry Penner


Bridge Tolls & Climate Change???

Dear Editor:

It’s good news that the tolls increased on some river crossings, especially with the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge now being the most expensive bridge to drive across in the country. Maybe that would make some motorists think twice before polluting the neighborhoods through which the freeways cut and contributing to climate change.

Discouraging driving, especially driving into a city, is good urban and environmental policy. Now the city and region need to do everything possible to dramatically increase mass transit options and infrastructure so that the people who use the Verrazzano for longer trips that could be awkward by mass transit would have the viable option of taking a train or bus. Efficient and cheap mass transit and expensive tolls to discourage driving are a winning combination.

As always, people, especially some of the people who should complain the least, are having knee-jerk reactions. “My G-d — $19 without E-ZPass! I mean, you’re going to Staten Island! It doesn’t seem worth it,” Bay Ridge resident Gloria Padron told The New York Post. She is apparently unaware of the fact that motorists are allowed to use E-ZPass, which gives drivers a discount, and she does not seem to realize that the MTA has select bus service that runs between Bay Ridge and Staten Island via the bridge for $2.75, and that includes a free transfer. Now someone like her may think twice before lugging a car across the bridge when she could help the environment and also take up less road and curb space by taking the bus instead of a car.

For too long, motorists coming on and off of these bridges pass right through places like Queens and Staten Island, not stopping in for any commerce or doing anything else to otherwise benefit the communities. The cars just create noise and leave behind pollution for residents to breath in all day and night. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change gives humans just over a decade to take drastic action in order to curb the worst effects of climate change. Climate change is already happening, and especially in a low-lying area surrounded by water like the city, these places are vulnerable and will face consequences without action. By 2100, your favorite Jersey shore destinations may have constant flooding, with the boardwalk being just about the only dry area to stand.

Congestion pricing and higher tolls are a good start. Now let’s further disincentivize driving and put massive investments into our infrastructure and mass transit. Life depends on it.

Sincerely,

Libby Giebel

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