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World Affairs: The UNinvited

Nobody move! Midtown falls hostage to diplomats.


New Yorkers last week equated the United Nations not with political intransigence but with plain old gridlock. "They ought to move it out of New York!" said one very agitated cabbie named Mahmoud Mahmoud on Tuesday, as his taxi took twenty minutes to cover ten blocks of Park Avenue. The New York Palace hotel -- perhaps because it's owned by the royal family of Brunei -- housed no fewer than a dozen heads of state, including one entourage that took some 250 rooms. Notes the Palace's Jennifer Tsonas, "Some are protected by the State Department, some the Secret Service; we had NYPD presence, the Fire Department, those bomb-sniffing dogs. We're used to VIP security, but the difference here is that it's all at once." Anyone stopping for a drink at the hotel had to first pass a bar of an entirely different sort -- a large concrete traffic barrier deposited in front of the Madison Avenue entrance, presumably to keep truck bombs out of Le Cirque.

Much less hubbub -- and traffic of strictly the Internet kind -- surrounded a quiet little group that was in town for their country's induction into the U.N. Tuvalu, a country made up of nine tiny islands in the South Pacific, until recently had an economy based largely on coconuts and fish. But in the digital age, it has discovered a third resource, one that Gilligan never imagined: Tuvaluan Websites carry the URL suffix ".tv," and it turns out that television companies are very happy to spend lots of money for those domain names. A Pasadena company, dotTV, will thus be giving Tuvalu $50 million over ten years for the rights to its Web addresses. The fee roughly doubles Tuvalu's gross domestic product, so the country can now afford U.N. dues, and on Tuesday its flag rose between Turkmenistan's and Uganda's. Now, that's a New Economy.


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