PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korea held a mass rally Tuesday in its capital to protest a United Nations resolution condemning its human rights record.
Thousands of protesters in Kim Il Sung Square carried banners praising their leaders and condemning the United States. Such mass rallies are organized by the government and are used to express its official line.
North Korea has denounced the U.N. resolution, which is the first to urge the Security Council to refer the issue to the International Criminal Court. That would open the possibility of its autocratic leader, Kim Jong Un, being targeted by prosecutors. The non-binding resolution is to come before the U.N. General Assembly in the coming weeks. Read the rest of this entry »
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide bomber attacked a volleyball tournament in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, killing at least 45 people, officials said.
Dozens more were wounded when the bomber, who was on foot and mingling with the crowd, detonated his explosives, said Mokhis Afgha, the spokesman for the governor of Paktika province.
“There were too many people gathered in the one place to watch the game. Dozens of others are wounded and we have reports that many of them are in critical condition.”
He said the attack happened during an inter-district volleyball tournament attended by large crowed in Yahyakhail district late Sunday afternoon.
“We need urgent help from the central government because we might need to transfer wounded people to Kabul for treatment.”
“There were too many people gathered in the one place to watch the game. Dozens of others are wounded and we have reports that many of them are in critical condition,” Afghan said. Read the rest of this entry »
The Kunstmuseum Bern is expected to decide as early as Saturday to accept the estate of the late Cornelius Gurlitt.
BERN, Switzerland— MARY M. LANE reports: A small art museum in the Swiss capital is preparing to take possession of more than 1,000 artworks bequeathed to it by the son of one of Hitler’s main art dealers, unshackling Germany from an embarrassing burden that has weighed on it for a year.
Barring any last-minute legal objections, the Kunstmuseum Bern is expected to decide as early as Saturday to accept the estate of the late Cornelius Gurlitt, according to three people familiar with the museum board’s discussions.
‘When something like this falls into your lap of course you’re going to vote to take it.’
—A person at the Kunstmuseum Bern’s board meetings
That could expedite restitution for heirs of Holocaust victims, many of whom have seen their claims that the art was stolen from their families languish since the existence of the trove was publicly revealed a year ago. For some works, restitution could happen within days if the museum accepts the bequest.
Stuart Eizenstat, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ’s special adviser on Holocaust issues, called the prospect “tremendously welcome and wonderful.”
“It was obvious from the start, and a huge source of angst, that accepting the works would fundamentally change the identity of our museum forever.”
The collection includes masterpieces by Claude Monet, Henri Matisse and Pierre Auguste-Renoir and was amassed during and shortly after World War II by Mr. Gurlitt’s father, a museum director turned art dealer for Hitler. Historians and lawyers have already concluded the trove contains several pieces stolen from European Jews by the Nazis.
The German government has been quietly urging the museum to accept the art, according to the people familiar with the discussions. Since the existence of the trove was revealed a year ago, Berlin has been under pressure from Holocaust victims’ families as well as the U.S. and Israeli governments to return all stolen pieces to their original owners.
“One of the prime pieces is an Henri Matisse portrait of a creamy-skinned brunette that a German-government appointed group of experts has already determined is looted.”
Mr. Gurlitt unexpectedly bequeathed his estate to the museum shortly before he died May 6 at 81. According to the will Mr. Gurlitt signed on his deathbed, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, the Kunstmuseum Bern would be required to conduct this research and restitution. Museum director Matthias Frehner has pledged that it would do so if it accepts the bequest.
If the museum were to decline the collection, it would go to Mr. Gurlitt’s distant relatives, who are dispersed in and outside Germany. While his will stipulates that they also return Nazi-looted art, lawyers say there is no way to make sure the multiple heirs conduct such research properly or efficiently outside of going to court, meaning individual cases could drag on for years.
One of the prime pieces is an Henri Matisse portrait of a creamy-skinned brunette that a German-government appointed group of experts has already determined is looted. Read the rest of this entry »
Last year, 274,439 Chinese students came to the U.S. to study, a 16.5% increase over the year before and nearly one third of the total international population
Douglas Belkin reports: Another wave of Chinese undergraduates pushed the number of international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities up 8% last year to a new all-time high of nearly 900,000, according to a new report.
“The fastest growing international student populations in the U.S. were from Kuwait, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia, all countries whose governments are investing heavily in scholarships.”
But massive Chinese investment in that nation’s domestic universities, a flattening in the number of Chinese graduate students coming to the U.S. and the return to China of thousands of U.S.-trained Ph.D.s may portend a disruption in what has become a critical asset to U.S. university balance sheets.
“The majority of U.S. students study abroad for less than eight weeks, according to the report. The majority of international students who come to the U.S. to study come for either one or four years.”
“China as a country has seen a much faster expansion of its own higher education sector establishing many world class universities,” said Rajikla Bhandari, deputy vice president for research and evaluation at the Institute for International Education, which released its “Open Doors” report on Monday. They are ”successfully retaining some of the Chinese students who might have otherwise gone overseas.” Read the rest of this entry »
HONG KONG — Isabella Steger reports: Members of a student protest group who planned to take their demands for democracy in Hong Kong to the Chinese capital weren’t allowed to board a flight to Beijing on Saturday.
Four members of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, who have been at the forefront of pro-democracy protests that have gone on for more than 40 days in the city, were unable to board their Cathay Pacific flight.
Representatives of the group said the airline denied boarding to Alex Chow, who leads the student group, Nathan Law, Eason Chung and Jeffrey Tsang, because they received notification that the students’ entry permits had been voided.
About 100 pro-democracy protesters went to Hong Kong’s airport to send the students off, carrying yellow umbrellas and singing protest anthems. Read the rest of this entry »
Large Convoys Reported to be Moving Into the Region
BRUSSELS—Naftali Bendavid reports: Russia has sent convoys of tanks, howitzers and other weaponry along with troops into eastern Ukraine in recent days, possibly aiming to consolidate separatist enclaves there in preparation for a long-term standoff, Western observers say.
The new incursions represent a sharp increase in Russia’s presence in the region, posing a significant new challenge to the peace plan signed in early September in Minsk, Belarus.
“This is a severe threat to the cease-fire,” the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. “Any attempt by separatist forces to seize more territory in eastern Ukraine would be another blatant violation of the Minsk agreement.”
The flow “includes Russian artillery, tanks, air defense systems and troops,” he said.
‘We…are again at a point in which we can’t say for sure how this conflict will proceed.’
—German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
In addition, international monitors in the region said that the Russian-backed rebels have been gaining territory, and that the mission’s surveillance drones have been shot at and jammed.
‘While our aim is to try to work to consolidate the cease-fire, it is more on paper.’
—Lamberto Zannier, OSCE secretary-general
Russia’s Defense Ministry denied the allegations of a military presence—troops or weaponry—in Ukraine, calling them, like previous ones, “regular concussions of the Brussels air.”
Since the cease-fire was reached between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists on Sept. 5—under Russian auspices—the two sides have regularly accused each other of violations. Hundreds of deaths of fighters and civilians have been recorded since then. Read the rest of this entry »
Mary Chastain reports: According to reports, the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) murdered four journalists on November 4 and five on November 6 in Mosul, Iraq. Since the terrorist group drove out journalists when they took over the city in June, the reports cannot be confirmed.
“It is currently very hard to get any reliable information from either Iraq or Syria. This example of contradictory information demonstrates the difficulty or even impossibility for journalists to work.”
A source told Rudaw the jihadist group murdered “brothers Ahmed and Aitar Rafi, Mohandis Yasir, Yasir Alqaisi, and Modhas Adari” in the Sumar district last Thursday. This resident said the Islamic State accused the journalists of being spies. On Tuesday, local residents told Haaretz the militants murdered four journalists. Their bodies were given to medical authorities. Read the rest of this entry »
Adam Kredo reports: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei published early Sunday a 9-step plan to “eliminate” Israel, prompting Israel’s prime minister to file a formal complaint with Western negotiators involved in nuclear talks with Tehran.
Khamenei’s official Twitter account on Sunday tweeted out the 9-step plan explaining “the proper way of eliminating Israel.”
“The only means of bringing Israeli crimes to an end is the elimination of this regime.”
– Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
“There is no moderation in Iran. It is unrepentant, unreformed.”
– Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
“The only means of bringing Israeli crimes to an end is the elimination of this regime,” Khamenei wrote. “And of course the elimination of Israel does not mean the massacre of the Jewish people in the region. The Islamic Republic has proposed a practical and logical mechanism for this to international communities.”
Khamenei accuses “the fake Zionist regime” of committing acts of “infanticide, homicide, violence, and iron fist while boasts about it blatantly [sic].”
Israel’s enemies must commit to “armed resistance” until Israel is eliminated, Khamenei says. Read the rest of this entry »
China is no refuge from Obama’s woes
Edward Luce writes: Second-term US presidents traditionally seek solace on the global stage. Barack Obama is no exception. Following last week’s drubbing in the US midterm elections, he lands in China on Monday for a summit with Xi Jinping. He is unlikely to find Beijing more pliable than Washington DC. As time goes on, it becomes ever harder to separate his domestic weakness from his global standing. Even the tone is spreading. “US society has grown tired of [Obama’s] banality,” China’s semi-official Global Times said last week.
“It is a fair guess that China would be more assertive whoever was in the White House. Its aim is to become a global power.”
Mr Xi is too polite to put it like that. Yet there is no mistaking which of the two is on the way up. In his first year in office, Mr Obama offered Beijing a “G2” partnership to tackle the world’s big problems. China spurned him. Mr Obama then unveiled his “pivot to Asia”. China saw it as US containment and reacted accordingly. Its defence spending today is almost double in real terms what it was when Mr Obama first visited China in 2009. Over the same period, the US military budget has barely kept pace with inflation.
Will a weakened Mr Obama have better luck with China? The answer is not necessarily “no”.
“This is where his domestic weakness really bites. Little headway has been made in the Pacific talks because Congress has refused to give Mr Obama fast-track negotiating authority. That was with the Democrats in charge.”
With the exception of North Korea, China’s neighbours are clamouring for a stronger US presence in the region. As the quip goes, Mr Xi talks like Deng Xiaoping – who opened China to the world – but acts like Mao Zedong, the imperial strongman. Countries that were once wary of military ties with the US, such as Vietnam, India and the Philippines, are now openly courting it. Mr Obama’s pivot means 60 per cent of America’s military resources will be deployed in the Pacific – against the old 50:50 split with the Atlantic. Read the rest of this entry »
In Britain, if you have extreme views on anything from Western democracy to women’s role in public life, you might soon require a licence from the government before you can speak in public. Seriously.
“It’s the brainchild of Theresa May, the Home Secretary in David Cameron’s government. May wants to introduce ‘extremism disruption orders’, which, yes, are as terrifyingly authoritarian as they sound.”
Nearly 350 years after us Brits abolished the licensing of the press, whereby every publisher had to get the blessing of the government before he could press and promote his ideas, a new system of licensing is being proposed. And it’s one which, incredibly, is even more tyrannical than yesteryear’s press licensing since it would extend to individuals, too, potentially forbidding ordinary citizens from opening their gobs in public without officialdom’s say-so.
“Once served with an EDO, you will be banned from publishing on the Internet, speaking in a public forum, or appearing on TV. To say something online, including just tweeting or posting on Facebook, you will need the permission of the police.”
It’s the brainchild of Theresa May, the Home Secretary in David Cameron’s government. May wants to introduce “extremism disruption orders”, which, yes, are as terrifyingly authoritarian as they sound.
Last month, May unveiled her ambition to “eliminate extremism in all its forms.” Whether you’re a neo-Nazi or an Islamist, or just someone who says things which betray, in May’s words, a lack of “respect for the rule of law” and “respect for minorities”, then you could be served with an extremism disruption order (EDO). Read the rest of this entry »
BEIJING—Here in China’s capital, riding the city’s sprawling subway can sometimes be a contact sport. Morning rush hours turn into mosh-pit-like scenes in which riders compete to board packed trains. Shouts and curses ring out. Elbows are thrown. Occasionally, passengers who squeeze their way in are flung out again by the crowds.
“‘We must select the good passengers and let them show up with honor in our town!’ says an open letter to riders circulated as part of the event.”
Now, as President Barack Obama and other world leaders descend on Beijing for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit next week, authorities have launched a behavior-modification campaign: A contest to promote grown-up deportment onboard.
“Photos of contestants are hung on posters during rush hour across the city’s subway and bus stations. The prize for winners, to be named later this month, includes a subway pass with about $10 of stored value, and a certificate of honor.”
Started this summer, the “Be a Splendid Beijinger and Welcome APEC—Civilized, Polite Passengers” competition aims to identify and honor the top 100 best-behaving bus and subway passengers. It’s a kind of “China’s Next Top Model,” except for public transportation.
“Some 40,000 residents have entered to win. Many did so by filling out forms that asked them to explain their “accomplishments” as riders.”
Others were handpicked by the more than 8,000 yellow-jacketed guides, mostly elderly retirees, Beijing has deployed to encourage more-orderly behavior at bus stops and subways. Read the rest of this entry »
‘When Kim Jong Il would arrive in his vehicle, 60- to 70-year old advisors would run away and throw themselves onto the grass…they wanted to hide from him’Posted: November 7, 2014
North Korean Defector: ‘I was Kim Jong Il’s Bodyguard’
SEOUL — Head butting stacked tiles, smashing a slab of granite on your chest with a mallet, breaking light bulbs with one finger. All vital qualifications if you want a job protecting the elite of North Korea.
Propaganda footage from North Korean TV shows a staggering array of physical feats, using taekwondo and other martial arts. Visually impressive — although it’s not certain how the skills would keep an armed assassin at bay.
“As power was handed down to the third generation, it became crueler. Kim Jong Un has created loyalty, but it is fake and based on fear.”
Lee Young-guk was bodyguard to the late Kim Jong Il for 10 years until just before he took control of North Korea. He says he went through very similar training before he was considered fit to protect a leader.
“Lee knew the North Korean leader was cruel when he was serving him. But, he says, it was only after he escaped to South Korea, his new home, that he realized Kim was a true dictator — as his father Kim Il Sung had been before him, and his son and current leader Kim Jong Un is now.”
“It’s tough training,” says Lee. “But why do it? It’s to build up loyalty. A handgun won’t win a war and taekwondo serves nothing but the spirit, but it creates loyalty.”
In an interview at CNN’s Seoul bureau, Lee says his training also involved more traditional methods. Target practice, physical, tactical and weight training, swimming and using a boat. But that’s only part of the preparation. Read the rest of this entry »
Sacré Bleu! Socialism in France as Unpopular as ‘Progressivism’ is in U.S.: Hollande Approval Ratings Freeze Over in Midterm French PollPosted: November 7, 2014
Half-way into his five-year mandate the popularity of French President Francois Hollande hit a new low on Thursday, hours before the Socialist leader addresses the nation to defend his shaky record on the economy.
“The absence of a clear vision and lack of coherence in economic policies is weighing on confidence and therefore investment and economic activity.”
– CEO Jean-Paul Chifflet
In the worst score for a president in modern-day polling, Hollande received a 12 percent approval rating in the monthly survey by pollster YouGov, down 15 percent from the prior month. Other recent polls have put his popularity at 13 percent.
Earlier the chief executive of France’s third-largest bank, Credit Agricole, slammed Hollande’s government for its uncertain efforts to kickstart the eurozone’s second largest economy. Read the rest of this entry »
9/11 Mastermind Featured in Turkish Hair Removal Ad
“We didn’t know that he was a terrorist. This image is in popular use in Turkish memes on the Internet. The guy is quite hairy, so we thought his body was a good fit for our ad.”
– Turkish cosmetics company