By Emily Senger - Wednesday, December 12, 2012 - 0 Comments
‘Highly provocative act that threatens regional security’
The news that North Korea has fired a rocket into space, and has maybe even launched a rudimentary satallite, is being met with condemnation from around the world Wednesday morning.
North Korea launched the rocket around 10 a.m. Wednesday, (1:00 a.m. GMT) and reports said pieces of it landed in the water 300 kilometres off the Philippines coast.
“The satellite has entered the planned orbit,” said a North Korean television news reader after the launch. NORAD later confirmed that Korea had “deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit,” reports Reuters.
The surprise rocket launch came just days before the one-year anniversary of dictator Kim Jong Un’s rise to power after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il. Continue…
By Ken MacQueen and Mika Rekai - Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 11:30 AM - 0 Comments
Psy and a Jay-Z’s baby topped music charts, while a blogger and Kim Jong Un also earned the world’s attention.
A career in the music Biz
What with the yachts, limos and baby bling, it’s been a sweet first year for Blue Ivy Carter—the most beautiful baby ever, according to her parents, hip hop royalty Beyoncé Knowles and Jay-Z. Within days of her birth, Jay-Z had mixed her cries and coos into Glory, a song he wrote celebrating her birth, making her the youngest artist to ever appear on the Billboard charts. All Dad wants for her, he says, is to “love herself . . . be respectful and be a moral person.”
Maybe it’s the baby face and his love of theme-park rides, but North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has yet to earn the level of fear enjoyed by his late dad, Kim Jong Il. He intends to change that by gaining control of the military. Some 14 senior officials have been purged this year and army vice-minister Kim Chol was allegedly blown to bits with a mortar round after Kim ordered his obliteration.
Tied up with a good book
E.L. James has been called the Julia Child of mommy porn, and with her Fifty Shades series she’s found the recipe for riches. The three volumes of her trilogy fought for domination on bestseller lists most of the year. As in most cookbooks, there’s a certain amount of whipping, kneading and heat involved in achieving the desired result, but that’s where the similarity ends. Erika Leonard, her real name, is a British mother of two. She’s coy about her own sexual proclivities but says, “I had a good time researching these books.” Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Monday, December 19, 2011 at 3:37 PM - 0 Comments
Kim Jong Il’s death may allow Koreans to stir from the nightmare, but it won’t end it
Kim Jong Il’s death this weekend was something Western politicians both desired and feared. The North Korean dictator was an implacable enemy of the West, who pursued and obtained nuclear weapons, and was willing to give or sell the technology and know-how necessary for others to do the same. In 2007, Israel bombed what’s believed to have been a Syrian nuclear reactor that was modeled on North Korean designs.
Under Kim’s leadership, North Korea’s belligerence toward South Korea continued unabated. Only last year, the North torpedoed and sunk a South Korean navy ship, killing 46 sailors on boards. Nuclear weapons aside, there are enough conventional artillery and rockets aimed at the South that Seoul would be flattened within hours of all-out war. Continue…
By Michael Barclay - Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 9:35 AM - 0 Comments
North Korea’s prison camps are larger and more brutal than previously believed
North Korea is being battered by an outbreak of paratyphoid fever, a disease that is aggravated by malnutrition—a given in a country that has suffered from food shortages for years, whose totalitarian leadership refuses outside aid as a point of pride, and diverts most of its resources to the military. On top of that, the country suffered a terrible winter harvest that yielded half its usual quantity. There are reports of citizens eating grass, leaves and tree bark.
And yet, even North Korea’s sick and hungry can be thankful that they’re not one of the 200,000 people cooped up in prison camps, according to a report released last week by Amnesty International. Satellite images show the camps are much larger than previously believed, and interviews with 30 people who managed to escape tell stories of 16-hour workdays, being forced to witness executions, “ideology education,” and hungry inmates resorting to collecting kernels of corn from animal feces. Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific director, said conditions were “some of the worst circumstances we’ve documented in the last 50 years.”
Amnesty speculates that the camps are expanding as part of a crackdown on dissidents, timed to quell uncertainty as Kim Jong Il is expected to hand power over to his son, Kim Jong Un.
By Lianne George - Thursday, August 6, 2009 at 1:30 PM - 3 Comments
From the Summer ’09 Newsmakers family edition
With his long-awaited Star Trek prequel, released in May, director J.J. Abrams managed to do what no man has done before: lend a hint of bona fide sex appeal to the notoriously nerdy franchise. Thanks to a cast of attractive young stars—including Chris Pine as a James Dean-tinged Captain Kirk and Zachary Quinto as a suitably afflicted Spock—the ﬁlm has already grossed US$375 million worldwide. A sequel to the prequel is already underway.
Mad Men, the ’60s-themed TV series created by Matthew Weiner, is an immaculately curated visual and sartorial delight, but Weiner’s greatest contribution to design may turn out to be his ascot-wearing son Arlo, branded by GQ this year as America’s most stylish eight-year-old. Arlo, whose wardrobe includes bow ties, a pink waistcoat, a cane and a red velvet “Valentine’s Day suit,” says he draws his inspiration from old Hollywood legends like Frank Sinatra, Gene Wilder and Boris Karloff. He is possibly the only boy in the history of the world to have requested a top hat and monocle for his third birthday.
Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi
After the May elections in India, Indian National Congress leader Sonia Gandhi joined other observers in crediting her son, Rahul, 38, and daughter Priyanka, 37, with the party’s revival. Rahul, heir to India’s most powerful political dynasty—and one of the country’s most eligible bachelors—hand-picked candidates from the party’s youth wing, of which he is leader. His mother—the Italian-born wife of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, assassinated in 1991—is said to be grooming him to be PM.
Kim Jong Un
Only bits and pieces are known about the youngest son of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, tapped to be the country’s next leader, according to South Korean media reports: that he was born in either 1983 or early 1984, that he is the spitting image of his father, and that he was doted on by his Japanese mother, the late Ko Young Hee, who reportedly called him her “Morning Star King.” Educated in Switzerland, Kim Jong Un is said to enjoy Western popular culture like his old man, particularly NBA basketball. He also likes to ski.
In February, the 19-year-old daughter of pro-life Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told Fox News it is “not realistic” for adults to expect abstinence of teens. In May, she was appointed “abstinence ambassador” for the Candies Foundation, an organization devoted to educating girls about “the devastating consequences of teenage pregnancy.” Bristol—who delivered her son, Tripp, last December and announced her breakup with the baby’s father, Levi Johnson, in March—said she was proud to offer herself up as a “living example” of what not to do. Some would say she’s a chip off the old block.
Even after Harold Nicholson, a former CIA operations officer, was imprisoned in 1997 for spying for a Russian intelligence agency, he opted not to retire. Instead, operating from his prison cell, he recruited his son Nathaniel, 24, to pass secrets to Russia and collect US$41,000 in payments owed to him for past activities from Russian agents in Peru, Mexico and Cyprus. In January, both father and son were indicted. According to court documents, Nicholson hinted to Russian contacts that his other son, Jeremiah, an air force sergeant with “a security clearance” and a Russian wife, may also “hold some future value” as a spy.
Princess Di’s niece, 18-year-old Kitty Spencer, catapulted herself to fame in April when she appeared on the cover of the British society magazine Tatler. In doing so she followed in the footsteps of her mother, former model Victoria Lockwood. (Named Tatler’s “girl of the year” 25 years ago, she graced the cover in 1990.) The daughter of Diana’s brother, Charles Earl Spencer, Kitty grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, shielded from the media glare. She dates a surfer named Jasper and spends her free time on the beach or on safari. She says she wouldn’t have enjoyed growing up in England. “Our way of life is so much more relaxed,” she said.
In May, judges of NASA’s National Space Settlement Competition, in which students from around the world compete to design a space colony, chose Canada’s Eric Yam, 17, as the winner. Yam, a student at Northern Secondary School in Toronto, designed a structure called Asten—so named for the Egyptian god of divine and physical law—that would hold 10,000 citizens, all of whom would be subject to a Canadian-style point-based immigration system. Preferential consideration, Yam decreed, would go to well-educated applicants who speak one of Asten’s three official languages: English, Mandarin and Hindi.
Scientists in Japan unveiled a new “cybernetic human” in March, a five-foot-two woman who can walk, talk, blink and move like a real person. HRP-4C, who has 30 motors in her body and eight in her face, can use her eyes and mouth to express surprise and anger. Dressed in a black-and-silver space suit, she recently hit the runway in a Tokyo fashion show, but her walk was deemed clunky and inelegant. “People in the industry told us she was short and had a rather ordinary figure,” said Hirohisa Hirukawa, one of the developers. She is nonetheless priced at $287,000.
In June, Aurora, a 20-year-old beluga whale who lives at the Vancouver Aquarium, gave birth to a healthy 1.5-m calf. Staff said Aurora—whose daughter Qila, 13, and granddaughter Tiqa, 1, also live at the aquarium—remained calm throughout the 13-hour birthing process. Visitors and volunteers observed in awe as the baby emerged. “It’s simultaneously one of the most beautiful and grossest things I’ve been able to see,” said one observer.
By Nancy Macdonald - Friday, July 31, 2009 at 1:30 PM - 5 Comments
With Kim Jong Il’s failing health, relations with North Korea are more fraught than ever before
It’s been quite the year for North Korea. The Hermit Kingdom rang in July 4 by test-firing seven short-range missiles. In May, Pyongyang, the prime suspect in a cyberattack that knocked out the websites of several U.S. agencies, tested a nuclear weapon as powerful as the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima—two days after tearing up the truce that ended the Korean War. Since April, it has also walked away from disarmament talks, restarted its nuclear reactor at Yongbyong, tossed out international monitors and aid workers, jailed two U.S. reporters, and cranked up war rhetoric against rival South Korea. No, it’s not the first time Pyongyang has threatened to turn Seoul into a sea of fire or put its one-million-strong army on high alert. But combined with the naming of an heir—Kim Jong Il has apparently appointed his third son, 26-year-old Kim Jong Un, to succeed him, according to South Korean intelligence—it amounts to a lot of noise from Dear Leader’s regime.
Not since Kim Jong Il took power in 1994 following the death of his dictator father, amid purges, suicides and helicopter crashes, has North Korea’s behaviour appeared so erratic, say top Pyongyang watchers. Yet one thing seems clear: the tub-thumping is aimed at a domestic audience, first and foremost. To North Koreans, it suggests that Kim, dramatically reduced by a stroke (and, if recent reports are true, suffering from pancreatic cancer), remains fierce and in charge. That same message is also aimed at anyone who might attempt to capitalize on his now unmistakable physical weakness. A coup is every dictator’s biggest threat; according to Chinese leaks he has faced such attempts as recently as the late ’90’s. And for Kim the current danger is real: North Korea is effectively bankrupt, he can barely afford to keep the lights on or deliver basic food, and instability is said to be mounting. For all anyone knows, there could already be a power struggle in this state sealed off from the outside world. “If there is an incipient coup under way or being planned,” says Nicholas Eberstadt, a North Korea expert at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, “we will be the last to know.” Continue…
By Lianne George - Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 9:30 AM - 1 Comment
Newsmakers of the week
Kim Jong Ill?
So much mystery attends North Korea, Asia’s only Communist dynasty, and so fraught are the geopolitics of the region, that the merest sign of health trouble for its Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il, sets off international alarms. So it was this week when South Korea’s YTN television, citing Korean and Chinese intelligence sources, reported that the 67-year-old has pancreatic cancer and, at best, ﬁve years to live. In his recent appearances, Kim has looked gaunt, with thinning hair, a limp and an asymmetrical bent to his mouth, indications he’s not entirely recovered from a stroke last year. Renewed fear that Kim is not long for this world caused Seoul’s main stock index to plummet, so vexed are the markets by what his death could mean. Though he is said to have named his youngest son, the Swiss-educated Kim Jong Un, as his successor, there’s concern the installation of a weak leader still in his mid-20s will destabilize the regime and the region.
What’s wrong with being sexy?
Shannon Tweed, the Canadian adult-film star, has been denied recognition for such contributions to world cinema as Hard Vice and Indecent Behavior 3. But the acting mayor of Ottawa, Doug Thompson, issued a proclamation that this Wednesday would be “Shannon Tweed Day,” to celebrate the blond bombshell’s visit to the city where she lived in the 1970s. He soon rescinded the proclamation, however, admitting sheepishly that he “spoke to the media before the item had been fully vetted.” Tweed told the Ottawa Citizen that she had “no hard feelings” about the rejection, but bristled at a councilwoman’s suggestion that she is a porn actress: “I’ve done movies with love scenes,” said the star of Body Chemistry 4: Full Exposure and Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death, “but I’ve never had real sex on camera.” Oshawa, which recently finished first in an online contest hosted by KISS, doesn’t care either way. Oshawa city councillor Robert Lutczyk, who headed up the spring contest effort, promised a “Shannon Tweed Day” in Oshawa if she and the band come through town this fall. “I’ll be there,” said Tweed. “I’ll be there.” Continue…
By Lianne George - Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 9:30 AM - 4 Comments
The GG raw food rivalry, Veronica finally wins Archie, and Kanye West is a “non-reader”
Seal of approval
Inuit leaders are delighted by the positive publicity that Governor General Michaëlle Jean has attracted to the seal hunt ever since she appeared on camera last week snacking on a freshly slaughtered pup. During a visit to Nunavut, Jean partook in the skinning of a seal with a traditional ulu blade, and sampled a piece of its heart, calling it “fresh” and “delicious.” (According to Jean, this delicacy has the texture of sushi, but with a meatier taste.) One restaurant in Montreal told the CBC that sales of its seal appetizer have doubled since the video emerged. Adrienne Clarkson—in Nunavut last week, like Jean, for a symposium hosted by her husband John Raulston Saul—doesn’t see what the big deal is. She’s been eating raw food in the region for almost 40 years, and it never made headline news. “It’s nothing new to me, okay?” she told reporters. “I have a lovely sealskin coat . . . I’ve eaten raw food since 1971—and there you are.”
She said she wanted a revolution
For the first time since Sara Jane Moore, 77, was imprisoned for attempting to assassinate president Gerald Ford in 1975, she admitted last week that her actions were “a serious error.” Back in the mid-’70s, Moore, then a 45-year-old single mother, says she became caught up in the anti-Vietnam War protest movement in California. “I became immersed in it,” she told Matt Lauer, the host of NBC’s Today Show. “We were saying the country needed change. I genuinely thought that [shooting Ford] might trigger that new revolution in this country.” It was on Sept. 22, 1975, that Moore fired on Ford as he greeted a crowd in San Francisco. She missed his head by mere feet. After serving 32 years in jail, six of which she spent in solitary confinement, Moore was released on parole in 2007. Over time, she said, she “began to realize that I had let myself be used.” When host Lauer asked her why she was speaking out now, she said, “I think that one gets tired of being thought of as a kook, a monster, an alien.”
By Susan Mohammad - Thursday, May 7, 2009 at 12:20 PM - 0 Comments
Kim Jong Un now works for North Korea’s top government office
Since reports began surfacing that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il suffered a stroke in August, speculation has run rampant as to who might succeed him. Both of his elder sons have been seen as prime contenders for the top job, and both have since fallen out of favour. Now the youngest son of “Dear Leader” has been appointed to the Defence Commission, and all eyes are on Kim Jong Un.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported this week that Jong Un, who is in his mid-20s, was recently given a job at what is considered North Korea’s most important government office. Not much is known about Jong Un (including his exact age), except that he has little political experience, was educated in Switzerland, likes basketball, admires Jean-Claude Van Damme and is said to look and act like his father.