Lost Wilkins-Crick DNA correspondence discovered

Maurice Wilkins is in the news yet again thanks to the discovery of a lost series of correspondence between him and Francis Crick on DNA. It had been previously believed that the early correspondence between him and Francis Crick had been lost in a moment of over-zealous house-keeping. However, due to moving laboratory muddle, part of Francis Crick's papers were mixed with  those of his long-time DNA collaborator, Sidney Brenner while they shared an office in Cambridge. Brenner's papers were recently donated to the Cold Spring Harbor Library Archives, where nine archival boxes of material belonging to Francis Crick came to light.

John Steinbeck, Maurice Wilkins, James Watson and Francis Crick at the 1962 Nobel Prize ceremony (Steinbeck won his for his contribution to literature)

The correspondence with Wilkins consists of thirty four letters and three postcards between 1951 and 1964, which include eleven written between 1951 and 1953. The newly discovered letters shed light on the tensions present between the two laboratories, the strained relationship between Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin and the informal arrangements behind the famous note by Watson and Crick to Nature on the structure of DNA. Of particular interest is the complaint regarding Crick's dismissal of the Bruce Fraser DNA model; the anger felt by Randall towards Watson and Crick's involvement in DNA and above all the good humour and wit found in Wilkins letters to Crick that reflect their strong friendship.

 The new Nature article by Alexander Gann and Jann Witkowski, entitled "The lost correspondence of Francis Crick" gives excellent insight into the letters and a chance to view samples of the correspondence:

One or two other news articles also worth perusing are: 

An article on the discovery and context around the letters can also be read on the Guardian website: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/sep/29/letters-dna-double-helix-francis-crick

 To hear an interview with Raymond Gosling's witty and informed take on the newly discovered letters for BBC Radio 4's Today programme:

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EXCLUSIVE: U.N. Audit Finds 'Lapses' in Managing Food Program Aid to N. Korea

By George Russell

Published September 28, 2010

| FoxNews.com

In an eerie replay of a scandal that enveloped the United Nations Development Program, an internal audit by the U.N.’s World Food Program shows significant “lapses,” “anomalies,” and unexplained variations last year in the way the relief agency reported its financial and commodity management in North Korea.

The holes in WFP’s humanitarian reporting raise questions of whether a U.N. agency has allowed money and supplies intended for starving North Koreans to end up in the hands of the country’s brutal communist rulers, who are under international sanctions aimed at halting their aggressive atomic weapons program.

According to WFP itself, in response to questions from Fox News, the confidential audit “highlighted a small number of inconsistencies in commodity accounting that have subsequently been addressed.” All the issues involved have since been “closed,” the agency added.

However, Fox News obtained a copy of a summary of projects undertaken by WFP’s internal watchdog Office of Internal Audit between July and September of last year, which lists the North Korean lapses first among its audit highlights. Among other things, it notes:

--“inconsistent data and unreliable information systems used for reporting [WFP] commodity movements, stock balances and food utilization” in North Korea;

--“lapses…in financial and commodity management processes.”

---“numerous anomalies…in information systems used for reporting commodity movements and food utilization in the CO [WFP local country office].”


The full extent of the management lapses and their consequences cannot be determined without the unexpurgated audit report—and the WFP is not willing to make that public. The agency flatly turned down a request by Fox News for the document.

In fact, WFP has not even supplied a copy of the audit report to nations, including the U.S., that supervise its operations through a 36-member executive board. (The U.S. government gave about $1.76 billion to WFP in 2009, and has so far contributed $959 million this year.)

A Fox News query to the U.S. Mission to the U.N. in Geneva got confirmation that the U.S. government did not have the report, and that “WFP does not currently share its internal audit reports with the WFP Executive Board members.”

By now, however, it was supposed to. A policy that allowed the WFP’s executive director, Josette Sheeran, to give such audit reports to executive board members on demand was up for approval by the board at its last meeting in June. However, it was withdrawn from the board’s agenda; it is now up for consideration at the next Board meeting in November.

Even then, however, the wording of a draft version of the decision underlines that the sunlight provisions “will not be applied retroactively.”

The audit references to lapses in relief aid reporting practices are not the first indicator that the regime of ailing dictator Kim Jong Il might have the opportunity to exploit WFP resources in North Korea.

In June 2009, Fox News got an admission from the relief agency that its food supplies were carried from China to North Korea on vessels owned by the Kim regime. The potential transportation costs for those relief supplies appeared to be enormously high to outside shipping experts asked by Fox News to analyze the agency’s relief program documents. No mention of the regime’s role in transporting WFP goods appeared in the documents or on the agency’s website.

Click here to read more on this from Foxnews.com.

WFP has delivered more than $1 billion worth of food aid to North Korea since 2000, but the amount of donated money available for that effort has dwindled sharply as the Kim regime has exploded two nuclear bombs, threatened neighboring Japan and South Korea with war, and even sunk a South Korean warship on the high seas, according to the best forensic evidence available.

Its current plans call for spending about $91 million for food for about 2.2 million North Koreans this year.

The WFP audit reference to lapsed internal controls in North Korea, and the agency’s pooh-poohing of them, also bears a disturbing resemblance to the early stages of a battle over the role of the United Nations Development Program in North Korea, which led to the closure of UNDP's North Korea office for two years, from 2007 to 2009. The WFP was later named as the U.N.’s lead agency in the country.

In 2006, a whistleblower named Artjon Shkurtaj revealed that UNDP procedures in North Korea had funneled millions of dollars in hard currency to the Kim regime, allowed North Korean government nominees to occupy sensitive UNDP positions in the local country office, kept thousands of U.S. dollars counterfeited by North Korea without informing U.S. authorities, and other transgressions.

All were flatly denied by the U.N. agency, though many of the accusations were later revealed to have been mentioned in internal audit reports — which UNDP refused to make public, on the same grounds currently used by WFP, that they were internal management tools. The existence of the audit criticisms were only made known through an external board of auditors’ investigation in 2007.

A further outside investigation revealed that UNDP’s transgressions were even worse than the auditors had suggested. Not only had UNDP routinely continued to hand over millions in hard currency to the Kim regime, use government nominated officials in sensitive positions, and transfer sensitive equipment with potential for terrorist use or for use in creating weapons of mass destruction, it had done so in violation of U.N. Security Council sanctions in force at the time, and also contravened its own basic financial rules and regulations.

Click here to read the Fox News story on the report.

In the midst of the furor over its North Korean activities, UNDP finally agreed to make future internal audit reports public—at least to governments on its executive board, and as long as they applied in writing. Since then, it has also amended its internal procedures and is now relaunching itself in North Korea. (To date, the U.N. has not paid recompense to Shkurtaj that was mandated by its own ethics officer in the wake of the UNDP scandal.)

Is the World Food Program following the unsettling trail blazed by UNDP in North Korea, before it mended its ways?

Without the full internal audits, it is hard to tell—but the stonewalling of those audits looks very familiar.

George Russell is executive editor of Fox News.

Panel Discussion on Tobacco Control Issues

Please Join...
The Center for Public Health and Tobacco Policy
The Center for Law & Social Responsibility
NEL|B Chapter, American Health Lawyers Association
NEL|B Chapter, Public Interest Law Association

For a LawMatters event, a discussion of—

Hot Topics in Tobacco Control

Thursday, Oct. 7
4:00 PM
Cherry Room

With panelists:

  • Professor Micah Berman
    Assistant Professor and Director, Center for Public Health and Tobacco Policy

  • D.J. Wilson, J.D., M.P.A
    Tobacco Control Director, Massachusetts Municipal Association

  • Christopher Banthin, J.D.
    Senior Staff Attorney, Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law

Refreshments will be served.

Black and White and Pink All Over

I admit it! I love women's magazines, and love to look at the latest fashions and read tips on how to live my my best life. So I pick up the latest O Magazine around Sept 20th, with Oprah in her hot pink outfit on the cover and I leaf through this issue fairly rapidly. Guess there wasn't that much that caught my interest. But after I finished, I had a strange image of the entire magazine as one big pink blur from cover to cover. Going back through the magazine my impression was verified with the images of pink clothing and lipstick interspersed with pages and pages of  pink ads promoting breast cancer awareness and research. So okay, October is coming up, which is National Breast Cancer Month and this was the October issue of  "O", but the odd thing was that for all the pink advertising there was not a single mention of  the specially dedicated month in any of the editorial pages.

Here are the companies and their ads in support of helping prevent and cure breast cancer.

Hanes Company and their support for the Susan B Komen's Pink For The Cure
Warrior in Pink, by Ford Motor company
Breast Cancer Research Foundation sponsored by Kmart
 "Shop Till You Stop Breast Cancer" page about products that contribute a portion of sales to support research, detection and treatment.
Ralph Lauren, Pink Pony
Vera Bradley with a note about their 10 million dollar contribution to breast cancer research

And to  "O" Magazine's credit, they ran a story about the latest advances on breast cancer research with a cover page of hundreds of female figurines standing  in a pink colored shape of a ribbon.
That's quite a lot of pink advertising-maybe not enough to provide the necessary resources to knock out a real killer of a disease. But as a consumer the effect of all this pink advertising interspersed with a lot of pink color on the fashion  pages, destroyed any impact that any one ad could have had on me. After my first skim through the magazine, not one company nor one non-profit stood out in my memory.

I applaud these companies like Ralph Lauren and others, doing whatever they can to help fight breast cancer, and I believe that "O" Magazine's intentions were to help promote this cause by having a such a pink colored issue. I would have preferred a little more thought to what the effects of creating this pink blur might have and a little more information about how to help beat breast cancer.

For more information on how you or your business can help support this cause in October, check out the site for the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Research Assistant Position

Prof. Haynes seeks a research assistant to work 10 hours per week on research, footnoting and bibliographies for a book and multiple articles. Must be financial aid eligible. Experience with bluebook, interest in international law and feminist legal theory a plus, but not essential. Please send a cover letter highlighting your interest and qualifications to dhaynes@nesl.edu by September 30th.

Change the World and Look Good Doing It-GeboMana

Giving gifts the GeboMana way - fashionable organic T-shirts

With GeboMana, changing the world is as simple as changing your T-shirt.
GeboMana ships limited-edition, organic T-shirts; highly fashionable and handcrafted in Bali, Indonesia.

Each T-shirt comes hand-numbered as part of a limited edition range.

But what happens next is what has already caught the attention of people across the world, many weeks before the official launch of Gebomana.com. Every time 5 T-shirts are shipped an underprivileged child can start an education.
“It’s great receiving things from others but it feels so much better to be the one giving. So, here’s to 2010 the year for JOY to give!!! Watch my GeboMana giving tree grow!!! ;)” Joy P, London, UK
For the inaugural series of GeboMana T-shirts, “Bali Art goes to New York”, designers were briefed to incorporate traditional Eastern culture fused with fashion-forward, modern designs. Each design is screen printed by hand, then embellished and decorated by experts in Bali. The most elaborate GeboMana designs take a full eight hours to decorate!

Each T-shirt is handcrafted using certified organic Indian cotton, knitted to a superior cotton jersey for GeboMana. It’s shipped in an exclusive gift-box, direct to consumers in over 65 countries.

So wherever you are, it’s easy to start changing the world.
“Overall, great job guys! The T-shirts are lovely (very unique designs) and the packaging simple but very effective!" Marian F, Red Deer, Canada

The brainchild of Mike Boorn, of Sydney, Australia, GeboMana has been in constant development for the past four years. As such, the organisation has been launched as a strong collaboration that stretches across North America, Europe, Australia and Asia; with contributions from graphics artists, fashion designers and
craftspeople on different continents.

But that’s just where the giving starts. When you give the gift of GeboMana, you’re giving the gift of on-the ground education to underprivileged children in developing countries. You’re giving them the chance to lift themselves out of poverty and into prosperity.

All it takes is 5 T-shirts to give a child that gift of education in sustainable practices for a full year.

GeboMana makes it easy and convenient to give great fashion gifts and change lives at the same time. All you have to do is visit the site, www.GeboMana.com and click “New to GeboMana”. Within minutes you’ll be on your way to turning gift-giving into education!
"…just wanted to say a big thank you for my T-shirt.. It’s by far my favourite... Love your work, I'm a big fan."
Frank C, Sydney, Australia

For further details, please contact Mike Boorn, Founder, on mike@gebomana.com

Submitted by Mike Boorn. 
Thank you Mike!

DNA Story at King's: The Hidden DNA workers

Fortieth Anniversary at King's College London of the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1993. Pictured are four of the five names commemorated in  the grey plaque on the background wall ( from left-right they are: Raymond Gosling, Herbert Wilson, Maurice Wilkins and Alexander Stokes)

On the unveiling of the grey plaque to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the discovery of the Double Helix at King's College London, Maurice Wilkins said these words:
"I'd like to emphasize that my presence in front of this plaque is to emphasize all five names there, including that of Rosalind Franklin who is not able to be present".
This magnanimous gesture was not just based on politeness and modesty but reflected the key collaborative effort required to provide the experimental data needed to crack the structure of the double helix. In this blog, I will provide a little background on some of the key collaborators at King's during the early years of the DNA work at King's who have been somewhat overshadowed in DNA history due to the grand narratives of Jim Watson and the biographers of Rosalind Franklin.

Raymond Gosling (born 1926):

Raymond Gosling is relatively well known in the DNA story because of his collaboration with Rosalind Franklin on the X-ray crystallography of DNA. However, Gosling's role in the DNA story pre-dated Franklin's arrival at the lab and it is this work in collaboration with Maurice Wilkins which was also of great importance to the discovery of the double helix. He first joined the lab as a PhD student under the supervision of John Randall in 1949 and began working on the cell nucleus. This approach soon led to Gosling working on studies involving DNA and by 1950 Randall asked Gosling to gather information on ram sperm using X-ray diffraction. These fuzzy pictures were in rough accordance with the X-ray diffraction pictures of DNA by Astbury. The introduction of Signer DNA and the expert manipulation by Wilkins to obtain DNA threads allowed Gosling to improve these initial results and produce X-ray pictures that showed DNA's crystalline structure. With help from Randall, Gosling and Wilkins were able to produce the "Structure A" form of DNA through the bubbling of hydrogen through the camera to prevent air scattering. In early 1951, Rosalind Franklin joined the lab and Gosling was transferred to work under her in a crystallographic analysis of DNA. The crystallographic work of the two provided a key component to obtaining the structure of DNA by vastly improving the crystallographic images and distinguishing structures A and B of DNA. There collaboration continued until Rosalind Franklin left of Birkbeck College in early 1953 and is thankfully well documented  due to the survival of Rosalind Franklin's experimental notebooks (found at the Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge) and also several articles the two published in Nature and Acta Crystallographica.

Alexander Stokes (1919-2003):
  Whilst Gosling was the diligent lab worker, Alex Stokes was the theoretician who provided the crucial mathematical interpretations of the x-ray diffraction studies in order to guide the King's team in the right direction. Stokes was one of the initial appointments into the unit by Randall and came with valuable experience of X-ray crystallography from his time at the Cavendish Lab in Cambridge during the war. What distinguished Stokes from his other colleagues was his consummate ease in translating the patterns created on an X-ray diffraction film into a description of the atomic arrangement using his skills in mathematics. For example, it was Stokes who first noticed in 1950 that the X-ray diffraction photographs of DNA gave an indication of a helical structure by the absence of diffraction along the length of the molecule. Stokes later used complex mathematics in the form of Bessel functions to underline this, by famously working it out on a single train journey from his home in Welwyn Gardens City to London before christening the diagram, " Waves at Bessell-on-sea".

"Waves at Bessell-on-sea" by Alexander Stokes

Herbert Wilson (1929-2008):

Though Herbert Wilson arrived six months before Watson and Crick unveiled the double helix to the world, his work with Maurice Wilkins uncovered essential information regarding the structure of DNA. Wilson arrived at the biophysics unit in September 1952 under tenure of the University of Wales. He soon began X-ray diffraction studies of DNA, nucleoproteins and cell nuclei under the guidance of Maurice Wilkins. The two collaborated on a number of investigations beginning in the autumn of 1952 comparing, under different humidities, different samples of DNA (such as pig thymus, squid sperm, and wheatgerm DNA). Their observations confirmed what Franklin and Gosling had concluded that the phosphate groups were found on the outside of DNA. They then extended the study to look at the effect of undried preparation of live trout sperm to support the hypothesis that the drying process had no affect on the in vivo structure which it subsequently confirmed. The importance of these comparative studies was affirmed by the growing number of samples that were collected that not only showed para-crystalline patterns but also the A-type of DNA. This indicated that the crystalline appearance of DNA was not laboratory induced but occurred in biologically active samples and that the work of Franklin and Gosling would have universal applications.

The Molecular Configuration of Nucleic Acids", twenty six people along with organisations that contributed. Along with those mentioned already they also include from King's Sir John Randall, Bill Seeds, Bruce Fraser, Geoffrey Brown, Gerald Oster, Watson Fuller and Struther Arnott.

Ramos Horta: "...UNDP is only good at doing studies, they don't execute projects"

‘‘You know how many layers of bureaucracy there are when the European Union wants to help East Timor? Well, they don’t provide the funds to us, the funds allocated are managed by world bank. And the world bank has its own layers of bureaucracy. And they charge for that. The project is then managed by UNDP. But UNDP is only good at doing studies, they don’t execute projects.’‘


The headache of UN aid distribution

The age-old question of how to distribute aid once rich countries give it, continues to dog the UN millennium goal summit in New York.

Side events held by poorer nations aim to find better ways to meet targets, but many complain about red-tape.

President of East Timor Jose Ramos Horta said:
‘‘You know how many layers of bureaucracy there are when the European Union wants to help East Timor? Well, they don’t provide the funds to us, the funds allocated are managed by world bank. And the world bank has its own layers of bureaucracy. And they charge for that. The project is then managed by UNDP. But UNDP is only good at doing studies, they don’t execute projects.’‘

With so many separate bodies taking a slice, the final sum is often much smaller than originally given. But, some argue it is the only way.

The billionaire financier and philanthropist George Soros said: ‘‘They (the donors) have to account for the money, and if they just give it to the government then it’s liable to disappear. Because many of the countries that are poor are poor because they have bad governments.”

A catch 22 situation, which arguably needs to be addressed by world leaders before the UN targets on cutting global poverty and hunger can be met.

UNDP: Pfizer, Vodafone, Sproxil and WaterHealth International Commit to Fight Poverty

22/09/2010 17:29 (22:36 minutes ago)

The FINANCIAL -- New York. More than 200,000 people in Africa and Asia will have access to improved health care and water, and increased access to jobs, through commitments made by Pfizer, Vodafone, Sproxil and WaterHealth International to the Business Call to Action (BCtA) —a global leadership initiative made up of companies that apply their core business expertise to the achievement of the eight internationally-agreed Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by promoting sustainable solutions to development.

“With five years left to MDG achievement, it is important that business plays its part in contributing in a meaningful and impactful way to the long-term economic growth and stability of developing countries,” said Programme Manager of the Business Call to Action Natalie Africa. “These innovative projects are providing essential services related to water and healthcare, demonstrating the difference that can be made through putting new technologies including mobile phones to use for development purposes.”

In New York on Tuesday, Ponni Subbiah, MD, MPH, Vice President, Pfizer Global Access, announced a joint commitment on behalf of the pharmaceutical company and Vodafone, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in The Gambia and International Health Partners, to support the “SMS for Health” initiative, aimed at improving access and reliability of medicine supply using mobile phone technology. Using real-time information collected via mobile phones, SMS for Health will track medication stock levels and expiry dates and help capture trend information that can be used to predict the seasonal variation in the rate of disease. SMS for Health is currently being piloted in The Gambia.

“We’ve realized that one of the most important ways Pfizer can help improve sustainable healthcare access for underserved populations in emerging markets is through innovative business initiatives that are affordable and commercially viable,” said Jean-Michel Halfon, President and General Manager of Pfizer’s Emerging Markets Business Unit.

“Mobile technology has the potential to dramatically improve the provision of health care across the world but particularly, perhaps, in emerging economies where there is little established health infrastructure. The trick for healthcare providers is to identify the best way to maximize the opportunity. SMS for Health uses technology in an innovative way. It really can save lives and it is straight forward to implement and has low overheads. We hope that we can extend this opportunity to others,” said Vodafone Group’s Head of Mobile Health Joaquim Croca.

For its part, the company Sproxil has pledged to mobilize US$4 million over the next two years to expand efforts to empower patients and consumers with mobile phones in the fight against counterfeit medication in India and Kenya.

It is estimated that over 700,000 people die annually due to imitation malaria and TB medication alone. By using mobile phones, consumers and patients purchasing medication can text in simple numeric codes placed on the drugs to verify if a medicine is genuine. In Nigeria, Sproxil’s codes have already been used on over 1.4 million blister packs with thousands of users signing up every month.

“The increasing popularity of enhancing global health activities with private sector entrepreneurship signifies a shift in thinking among experts and practitioners,” said Sproxil CEO Dr. Ashifi Gogo. “By wrapping our business model around providing purchase decision support to those with little, we believe they will save money and increase their well-being, bringing new, locally-driven momentum to achieving the MDGs.”

In Bangladesh, where many communities lack access to regular supplies of drinking water, WaterHealth International has pledged to build 50 water purification plants that will use a sustainable business model, provide local communities with jobs and opportunities as well as access to clean drinking water at prices up to 20 times lower than traditional water service providers. The purification plants have already been installed in communities in Ghana, India and the Philippines.

“We believe that our products, services and business approach will help alleviate the huge drinking water problem in the country and we look forward to making a significant and sustainable impact to the MDGs in Bangladesh,” said CEO of WaterHealth International Sanjay Bhatnagar. “We also continue to rapidly expand our reach in India and West Africa to provide safe drinking water to people who need it the most.”

The Business Call to Action challenges companies to leverage their core business activities to contribute both to sustainable development and to their own commercial success. The initiative aims to inspire the private sector to reduce poverty while enhancing a company’s own business performance. A new report released today by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), titled ‘The MDGs: Everyone’s Business:How inclusive business models contribute to development and who supports them’, provides examples of how some of these and other successful businesses that have contributed to the MDGs, including multinational corporations, large domestic companies, SMEs and cooperatives.

EXCLUSIVE: U.N. Ignores Risks of Terror Attack, New York City Says

By George Russell

As the United Nations hosts scores of world leaders at its annual General Assembly this month — and a special summit called by Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon for Sept. 20 — behind-the-scene tensions are high between the world organization and New York City, which has repeatedly warned that the U.N. complex on Manhattan’s East side is dangerously exposed to potential terrorist attacks.

Top city officials, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, feel frustrated that after years of negotiations and a $1.8 billion U.N. facelift that is now under way, the U.N. is ignoring blunt and dire warnings about the risks faced at the 17-acre complex.

“The city is not satisfied with the U.N.’s response to date,” declared mayoral spokesman Jason Post. “The U.N. has not adopted the city’s security recommendations for the headquarters campus.” Post would not elaborate and declined to answer follow-up questions.

The city’s concerns are major. In some places at the periphery of the U.N. complex, little more than a wheel-barrow full of high explosives could have a disastrous effect. In others, a truck-bomber could drive within a few yards of the complex before setting off a blast that could be as devastating as the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

Those concerns have special resonance in New York City shortly after the ninth anniversary of 9/11, and while memories are still fresh of the unsuccessful May attempt by Muslim extremist Faisel Shahzad to detonate a car bomb in Times Square on behalf of the Pakistani branch of the Taliban.

They also have resonance for the U.N. itself: In 1995, two years after his arrest, a Sudanese immigrant named Siddig Ibrahim Siddig Ali pleaded guilty to conspiring to drive a bomb under the U.N., allegedly with the help of Sudanese diplomats. The plot was broken up two months after the first World Trade Center bombing.

Now, despite years of planning for the U.N. renovation — and a more than trebling of the original $570 million projected cost — the city strongly feels that neither the U.N. nor the State Department, which manages American host country obligations with the world organization, have committed themselves to anywhere near enough protection for the high-profile international target.

In past months, city officials have expressed the same frustrations in increasingly blunt terms to U.S. and U.N. officials, both in written communications and in face to face meetings. Among other things, Bloomberg has written personally to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the issues.

For their part, both U.S. State Department and U.N. security officials say that the security “dialogue” is still a work in progress, and there is no end in sight. But they also indicate that the city’s concerns will not ever be completely met, in part because the U.N. is merely renovating the complex, rather than starting over from scratch.

“This is a collective effort of all three parties,” U.S. Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy told Fox News in an interview. “I believe we are all working together to develop a process that will integrate security into the renovations of the United Nations complex that will be satisfactory to everyone.”

Kennedy says he has met twice with New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly on the issue, though he did not describe the outcome.

Kennedy assured Fox News that “the U.S. Government is looking at the full range of improvements and upgrades” for the complex. Yet he also declared that since “there is no desire on the part of anyone to tear down the entire United Nations complex and start over again,” the issue was discovering “exactly what security upgrades are possible”— and “at a reasonable cost.”

“There is always going to be a debate about what constitutes adequate security,” he said.

The same cost-benefit equation was cited by U.N. Under Secretary General Gregory Starr —formerly the State Department’s own security chief — who also takes much the same conciliatory long-term view. “I think ultimately we are all going to come to a good balanced solution and I think everybody will be reasonably satisfied,” he told Fox News in an interview. “I think most of the discussions have been very fruitful and a lot of the ideas that they have put forward are proper ideas.”

Both Kennedy and Starr declined to discuss specific security details, but they underlined that the danger to human life at the U.N. right now is minimal, as most U.N. employees have been removed from the landmark U.N. secretariat building and other buildings while the two-year renovation takes place.

Many of them, however, remain in less-used buildings or temporary quarters built as transitional space during the renovation.

New York City’s intense concerns, however, are focused on the facility that will remain after the renovation is finished in 2012 — an irregular, roughly rectangular shape bounded by the Franklin Delano Roosevelt highway and the East River, 42nd Street, First Avenue, and 48th Street.

All sides, in the city’s view, are dangerously exposed, and the construction standards of the old landmark buildings leave them far more vulnerable to explosions than modern U.S. government buildings, like the new, fortress-like, 26-story U.S. Mission to the U.N., located across the street from the complex, which opened in August. The new mission building has no windows on the first nine floors as an anti-blast measure, and is built, as are all State Department missions, to classified blast-resistance standards.

But one important part of the U.N. complex, the Conference Building that houses the U.N.Security Council, is vulnerable to attack from an unusual direction: underneath. The Conference Building hangs directly over the FDR, on a concrete platform that is directly exposed to a potential terrorist detonation.

The vulnerability is well-known; when President Obama or enough other high-level dignitaries at the U.N., portions of the FDR are shut down to traffic. But the Conference Building remains a potential target even when the top brass have left town.

Another major vulnerability is an exit ramp from the FDR that curls alongside the south end of the U.N. campus onto 42nd Street, a short distance from the U.N. library building.

Once again, the ramp is shut down to all traffic when high-profile events, like the annual opening session of the U.N. General Assembly, take place.

However, “on a day-to-day basis that ramp is open,” says John Cutter, a retired New York City Police chief of criminal intelligence, who inspected the U.N. campus perimeter with Fox News. “If somebody wanted to make a statement, do damage to the U.N., they could go right up there, set off [a] bomb. You could have a devastating effect.”

Much of that effect, he added, would be psychological, given the U.N. complex’s symbolism.

Cutter believes the exit ramp is "a very hard place to defend.” Yet despite a vulnerability visible to any passer-by, there is not even a blast wall in place to deflect any part of a potential explosion on the ramp — a point that city officials have made strongly.

On the north side of the U.N. complex, the exposure is less dramatic, as much of the surface area is devoted to lawns and gardens. (A large, temporary building, however, is now situated on part of the lawn area.). But here, trucks carrying large loads drive up and under the campus to make deliveries. City officials would like to see the trucks unloaded offsite, and their contents screened.

The U.N. has its official entries, and personal screening for visitors, on the west side of the complex, facing First Avenue. There, the slab-sided Secretariat building is set back considerably from the street — but that distance, Cutter says, is nowhere near as safe as it needs to be.

“You need 1,000 feet of distance” to have true security from a bomb blast, he told Fox News, and the Secretariat building is far closer to the street than that. Moreover, a setback of that magnitude is not even possible in an urban setting, which Cutter says is a “tremendous concern.”

A partial solution would be to put up another blast wall — which would mar the serene image of the U.N. from the side that most pedestrians and tourists see. That idea is unlikely to ever be considered.

Another partial solution would be to make it harder for would-be bombers to get quite as close to the complex, by removing a lane of traffic on the U.N. side of First Avenue and installing anti-truck bollards at the perimeter.

“We are looking at the perimeter,” Starr told Fox News. “We are looking at bollards. We are looking at enhancing the survivability of the buildings.”

The frustrating words there, from the city’s point of view, are “looking at,” as in: not deciding yet. The State Department’s Kennedy takes a similar long view as he describes the “process” that is still ongoing.

“We meet, information is exchanged, briefings are provided by security personnel, by architects and engineers. The questions are asked, and then more information is exchanged. And then there are working groups that take place between different elements of the United States government, different elements of the U.N. staff and their architectural engineers, and then different representatives from different departments from the New York City government.”

“We are working each and every issue and there are different timelines, obviously, for what you might do along one of the four sides.”

“I think the city would be happier if we were moving faster,” Starr admitted, while saying that progress had been made on generating some permits for work on First Avenue. (Coincidentally, those permits seem to have been approved around the time Fox News began requesting interviews on this story.)

Both Starr and Kennedy are convinced that their final security solution will have arrived by the time the renovation is finished. Both officials were leery about discussing costs, but one figure tossed out by Starr -- $50 million — seemed very small in terms of the huge spiral in renovation costs that the U.N. has so far accepted.

The big question, however, is whether the eventual solution will satisfy the City of New York —which is not only protecting the U.N., but the lives of New Yorkers at risk in any attack.

The fact is, both Starr and Kennedy emphasized, that when it gets right down to it, the U.N., is an international organization whose campus is outside the jurisdiction of U.S. law. It doesn’t have to please the city, or even the U.S. government, unless it wants to.

“I don't think it's the city's call to determine what the United Nations is going to do to its facilities,” Starr told Fox News. “Ultimately we have to come up with what we think is the right approach.”

And, whenever that approach ultimately gets decided on, the frustrated City of New York and its first responders — praised by both Starr and Kennedy as the best in the world -- will have to defend it.

Or risk their lives picking up the pieces if the U.N. gets the approach wrong.

George Russell is executive editor of Fox News