G20 Diary: Don't believe the hype

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Indy Politics

Official advice from the President of the United States: "Stop reading those London tabloids." Barack Obama's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, dismissed stories of a breach in the special relationship, propagated mainly by The Daily Telegraph, as "a bunch of silliness". Sure, the White House turned down repeated requests from No 10 for a bilateral meeting, but Obama is talking with Gordon Brown all the while through the UN and G20 summits, Mr Gibbs told the US press corps travelling down to Pittsburgh. So that's a few dozen Telegraph subscriptions cancelled, then.

Warhol and jazz for the Wags

Michelle Obama is hosting the international First Ladies' club for the first time in Pittsburgh, where the presidential and prime-ministerial wives will be on a schedule of art and music. There's a trip to see an exhibition of art by Andy Warhol, and time at a performing arts school, where the pupils will be joined by the cellist Yo-Yo Ma and singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles. As for dinner, even that will be accompanied by a little light jazz in the background. "Jazz, America's indigenous art form, is considered by many to be America's greatest artistic gift to the world," Mrs Obama says in the invite.

Michelle's sweet treat

Barack Obama hit the Apple Store when he was choosing his gift for the Queen, but such conspicuous consumption seems inappropriate when the G20 leaders are assembling to assess the global economic collapse. So it is that the First Lady's gift pack to the G20 wives and girlfriends includes honey from the White House beehive. It is in a crystal vase engraved for the occasion, though. Oh, and it comes with a porcelain tea-set, encrusted with platinum to symbolise Pittsburgh's steel industry heritage.

The cost of idling

How does the UN calculate its carbon footprint? The organisation reckons its summit throws 461 tons of carbon into the atmosphere, and has vowed to buy offsets, directing money to a power project in Andhra Pradesh in India. The number-crunchers took into account a return flight for each world leader, a car to and from the airport, and a little extra for travel between their hotel and the UN. What they didn't add in was the extra time that other cars have had to spend idling while they have waited for presidential motorcades to sweep through New York.

Bridging the great divide

After having their request to bathe the Empire State Building in green light turned down, supporters of the Iranian opposition took their protest to a different monument. The day after the victor of the country's disputed election, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, addressed the UN, opponents marched across Brooklyn Bridge with a mile-long green banner declaring "Ahmadinejad is not my president". It had been stitched together from cloth sent in from around the world, covered with the signatures of Iranians living abroad.