Town Square

On Deadline: Palo Alto's 'UN store' struggling to survive in a new world

Original post made by Jay Thorwaldson, editor emeritus, on Apr 19, 2011

The diminutive United Nations Association store -- a landmark in downtown Palo Alto for more than a third of a century -- is struggling for survival against changes in shopping habits and has already become an endangered species.

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Posted by Sean
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 19, 2011 at 3:59 pm

If UNICEF wants to protect innocent children, it should be leading the charge to use DDT in African malarial zones. Between 1-2 million African children die each year, because DDT is banned, but UNICEF dithers.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 19, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Good store--we hope it continues

They could stock and sell copies of recent UN reports--like the Goldstone Report and those on Dafur

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Posted by Sean
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 19, 2011 at 5:44 pm

When UNICEF does not support DDT use to prevent the deaths of 1-2 million African children per year, a real holocasut, how can UNICEF be supported?

Maybe Jay Thorwaldson can explain this construct. It does have a moral and ethical compnent to it, at least to my mind.


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Posted by Jay Thorwaldson
editor emeritus
on Apr 20, 2011 at 8:32 am

Jay Thorwaldson is a registered user.

Sean --
DDT is a great killer of mosquitoes, but in the 1970s it was discovered to also be a long-lasting poison that, among other things, was threatening bird species (such as the brown pelicans of California) by causing their egg shells to be thin and fragile. I never quite figured out why some folks felt a deep emotional tie to DDT, as there are other effective sprays and means of controlling mosquito populations. You might want to go back and do a bit more research on DDT before making it the litmus test of support for the UN or any other program.

I do feel strongly about the malaria issue, having just visited a small village near Lake Victoria, "Yimbo," a couple of years ago where about half of the 301 students in the elementary school were orphans being raised by relatives or friends of the family. Of those orphans, we were told the cause of their parents' deaths was about half malaria and about half HIV/AIDS.

We spoke with one grandfather raising two grandsons at the home of his late son and daughter-in-law. We asked the cause of death. "Natural causes," he replied. He explained that autopsies cost money so few have them done. This was a disturbing revelation, because if that is the pattern it means the statistics of causes of death in Third World countries are based not on autopsies but on estimates, really guesstimates.

The people of Yimbo -- adults and children -- were heartwrenchingly wonderful. What was infuriating was that for the cost of a few jet planes for the Kenyan military so much more could be done to fight disease, bring clean running water to villages such as Yimbo (which we're helping to do) and improve education and health care. You can see the welcome we received on YouTube, starting with parents and ending with the kids and teachers: and you can Google "Friends of Yimbo" or go to .

There are other local efforts to assist, such as the "Books for Africa" program based in Portola Valley.

I don't see how one can weigh support for such programs and people on the decades-old DDT issue, frankly.


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Posted by Tea Party
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 20, 2011 at 10:17 am

Tea Party thinks UNICEF is a communist plot. Improving the health and education of 3rd world children means there will be more foreigners competing against the USA when they grow up.

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Posted by Sean
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 20, 2011 at 11:33 am

"I don't see how one can weigh support for such programs and people on the decades-old DDT issue, frankly."


You need to do your own research on the DDT-Malaria issue in Afica. Malaria has been cut way back in countries which used DDT. Now those countries are threatened with economic boycotts from Europe, if they continue to try to save their children, with the continued use of DDT. We're not talking about bird eggs here, and btw, that was always a theory, but never proven under realistic conditions...the return of the Brown Pelican has many underlying explanations.

I fail to see how UNICEF, which purports to help children, can turn a blind eye to policies that kill them by the millions. This is a moral and ethical issue...and UNICEF must take a stand.

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Posted by MacAcadamiaNut
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 22, 2011 at 11:13 am

I used to buy all my holiday presents in one fell swoop at the UNICEF store. Lots of unique and inexpensive items. I found a lot of great things for my story-telling projects.

I'm going to start shopping there again. Not sure why I stopped. I still admire their window displays. I guess I'm trying to get rid of stuff now, not acquire more.

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Posted by Misha
a resident of Midtown
on May 18, 2011 at 10:54 pm

I love this store and being able to support the good work of the U.N. right here. My girls especially love the cool earrings which they buy as gifts for their many friends.

Thank you for letting us know of their situation. We will go there soon.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 19, 2011 at 2:32 pm

I'm with Misha, DDT or no DDT. Thank you for alerting us to this. I try to spend as much $$ as possible in my own county, but this is a great store.

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Posted by Perspective
a resident of Meadow Park
on May 21, 2011 at 8:24 am

Agree with you Sean. The horrific damage done by Rachel Carson and her "Silent Spring" propoganda manufactured from ridiculous "research" has killed millions of innocent people, and caused millions more to suffer intermittent attacks of malaria.

Truly a scourge and a real tragedy.

The UNICEF programs sound good, but I no longer support them since they run into the same corruption as the rest of the UN.

I go Catholic Charities. All organizations have corruption, but I find they are the least corrupt, and the UN the most.