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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
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”