Your article would have been much improved if you had taken a minute to ask anyone at Apache about this. As it is you have stated several things incorrectly.
First, saying something is being done in a branch does not mean, as you state: "that work is being done, we just aren't allowed to see it yet". A branch is merely a way to do preliminary coding in an isolated way without causing instability in the main trunk of the project. Once a feature is working and tested on a branch, then the merge into the trunk can be done with greater confidence. This is a good thing and is how larger projects can work on several features simultaneously while preserving stability.
You will see there branches for both the IAccesibility2 integration as well as the sidebar UI enhancements from Symphony, as well as other features.
Presumably this also answers your rhetorical question of "One might wonder why almost none of that work appears to be happening." The work in fact is being done, though by failing to ask us about it you also failed to see that the work was in plain site in our version control, in the branch, exactly where I said it was.
As for saying that 167 bug fixes are not "significant", I'd note that these fixes are mainly in the area of improved Microsoft Office interoperability, which according to our latest user surveys is #1 on their list of improvements they want to see. 100+ fixes in that area, taken together, is a significant benefit, and not something that should so easily be dismissed.
As for the "obscure internal process" Apache uses to review the code contributed to new projects, it is called "Incubation" and we have an entire website dedicated to it: https://incubator.apache.org/ How a new product is reviewed and prepared for release is described there in excruciating detail for anyone who cares to look. And all of this work occurs transparently, on public mailing lists. This is far from "obscure"
In the future, please consider sending clarifying questions to the Apache OpenOffice project. I think it would go far to improve the quality of Lwn.net articles. We have a link for Press inquiries right on our homepage. We'd be glad to answer any questions.