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Is there a slimier United Nations department then UNESCO? In 2006, UNESCO awarded Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov with a medal for preserving Uzbekistan’s cultural heritage. Human Rights Watch said that UNESCO’s decision to honor Karimov was “a bad joke,” “absolutely scandalous,” and “incomprehensible in the face of his government’s serious violations of human rights.” Those violations include the death of one prisoner who was tortured, among other ways by having boiling water poured over his body.
A few years before that, Angola named an international arms dealer, Pierre Falcone, as its ambassador to UNESCO, which allowed him to claim diplomatic immunity and avoid prosecution (until recently) in France.
Now I see that UNESCO has established the UNESCO-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences, which is named for the dictator of Equatorial Guinea, who funded the award to the tune of $3 million. “The purpose of this Prize is to reward the projects and activities of an individual, individuals, institutions, other entities or non-governmental organizations for scientific research in the life sciences leading to improving the quality of human life.”
That’s ironic, to put it mildly, since Obiang is best known for stealing hundreds of millions of dollars in oil revenues from his country’s treasury and crushing his political opponents. Meanwhile, his own people continue to live in misery, and the Obiang government spends virtually nothing on health care, education, or housing.
What’s next? The UNESCO-Saudi award for religious freedom? Or the UNESCO-North Korean medal for free and fair elections?
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
Fleming awoke in the dark and his room felt loose, sloshing so badly he gripped the bed. From his window there was nothing but a hallway, and if he craned his neck, a blown lightbulb swung into view. The room pitched up and down and for a moment he thought he might be sick. The word “hallway” must have a nautical name. Why didn’t they supply a glossary for this cruise? Probably they had, in the welcome packet he’d failed to read. A glossary. A history of the boat, which would be referred to as a ship. Sunny biographies of the captain and crew, who had always dreamed of this life. Lobotomized histories of the islands they’d visit. Who else had sailed this way. Famous suckwads from the past, slicing through this very water on wooden longships.
A welcome packet, the literary genre most likely to succeed in the new millennium. Why not read about a community you don’t belong to, that doesn’t actually exist, a captain and crew who are, in reality, if that isn’t too much of a downer on your vacation, as indifferent to one another as any set of co-employees at an office or bank? Read doctored personal statements from underpaid crew members — because ocean life pays better than money! — who hate their lives but have been forced to buy into the mythology of working on a boat, separated now from loved ones and friends, growing lonelier by the second, even while they wait on you and follow your every order.
Rank of Detroit among major U.S. cities whose residents give the largest portion of their income to charity:
A South Dakota researcher concluded that only scant blood spatter results when chain saws are used to dismember pigs.
Four people were arrested for using a remote-controlled hexacopter to fly two pounds of tobacco to prisoners inside the yard at Calhoun State Prison in Georgia.
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Our congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature