More North Korea bombast.
It all starts with a Channel 4 press release:
Opposite Number – an ambitious, suspense-filled original drama series spanning the UK, US and North Korea has been announced by Channel 4 today as part of its growing international drama slate.
Over ten nail-biting, action-packed episodes, Opposite Number takes us inside the closed worlds of North Korea and the charged nexus of relationships between London and Washington – from the power-playing heads of government to the opposing CIA and MI6 agents secretly deployed on the ground in Pyongyang - as the clock ticks on a global-scaled nuclear crisis....
On a covert mission in North Korea, the world's most secretive nation, a British nuclear scientist is taken prisoner, triggering an international crisis which itself must be kept secret. Realizing their man could be forced to help North Korea finally weaponize its nuclear technology, the British Prime Minister and the U.S. President, two leaders of very different political stripes, must work together and mobilize every level of their governments to pull the world back from the brink...
Matt Charman says: “North Korea is one of the last truly impenetrable nations on the planet, and one of the most dangerous for the West. I wanted to write a drama that could blow the lid off our understanding of who we think the North Korean people are and what their government truly wants.”
Not many people, I imagine, study Channel 4 press releases. But clearly someone in Pyongyang does; someone who has a hard time distinguishing fact from fiction. And the reaction has not been positive:
A spokesman for the Policy Department of the National Defence Commission of the DPRK issued the following statement on Sunday:
Recently the British 4th TV channel producers openly made public a plan for producing and airing a serial TV drama-style movie malignantly slandering the DPRK.
The movie is nothing but a conspiratorial charade painting a wrong picture of the DPRK's reality as it is based on a sheer lie intended to give impression that the DPRK's nuclear treasured sword for self-defence was manufactured by "illegally acquiring" nuclear technology from Britain.
The broadcasting service is blustering without hesitation that the purpose of the movie is to tell the world that the DPRK is the "most closed country on the earth" and the "biggest threat" to the Western world.
No matter how desperately the producers of the above-said TV channel, hooligans and rogues under the guise of artistes, may work to falsify the reality, they can never hide the truth.
The DPRK's nuclear treasured sword for self-defence is the proud fruition of the defense industry in the era of Songun based on its own efforts, technology and resources from A to Z.
The Juche-oriented nuclear power of the DPRK which is on the ultra-modern world level is so powerful and tremendous that no one can imagine....
Those who are talking about "illegal acquisition of nuclear technology" are no more than blind fools and idiots bereft of even elementary ability to discern the truth.
The gravity of the situation lies in that this despicable burlesque is being orchestrated at the tacit connivance, patronage and instigation by "Downing Street".
This mud-slinging is a premeditated politically-motivated provocation and deliberate hostile act to hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership and tarnish the sovereign authority of the DPRK and its international image.
It is not exaggeration to say that Britain is the country with inborn disposition of blindly copying the American-style diplomacy.
This is evidenced by the fact that when a movie company of Hollywood distributed a preview of a reactionary movie peppered with the story hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK after producing it, the British broadcasting service deliberately used it for staging such charade.
The British authorities should not forget even a moment the lesson drawn from the incident in which that it was sentenced to permanent death because of "poems of evil" which groundlessly slandered a country in the Mideast in the past.
Reckless anti-DPRK hysteria would only bring disgrace and self-destruction.
The British authorities should throw reactionary movies now being planned or in the process of production into a dumping ground without delay and punish the chief culprits.
This would help prevent any hurt to the image of the UK and preserve the hard-won diplomatic relations between the DPRK and Britain.
It would be well advised to judge itself what consequences would be entailed if it ignores the DPRK's warning.
A slight over-reaction, perhaps? Still, you can't buy publicity like that.
Public opinions at home and abroad are becoming increasingly critical of the south Korean puppet authorities for barring the DPRK's cheerleading squad from taking part in the Asian Games. Much upset by this, the puppet forces let a spokesman for the Ministry of Unification make poor excuses such as "regret" and "twisted assertion."
The squad, in fact, hasn't been "barred". The South Koreans simply declined to pay for them. Nevermind - it's still a fine rant.
One's evil doing will rebound on oneself. The south Korean authorities made clumsy excuses for hushing up the north's notification of its decision not to send the cheerleading squad, talking about "verbal mention" and "unofficial notice." They behaved so because they were afraid of people of broad strata in south Korea angered by the situation created by their anti-reunification racket and their behavior of deliberately taking no action to put it under control.
The DPRK cheerleading squad's loss of the opportunity to participate in the Games is entirely attributable to the south Korean puppet forces' wrong attitude. With no rhetoric they can excuse themselves for this.
What the south Korean authorities did against the cheerleading squad is recorded in history as another unpardonable crime committed by them against the nation desirous of national reconciliation and unity and the improved inter-Korean relations. Their action deprived the nation of a good opportunity of improving the inter-Korean relations and stirring up once again the enthusiasm to revive the spirit of the June 15 era of reunification.
The south Korean authorities should not make a mockery of the Korean nation with words "confidence" and "dialogue".
With nothing can they conceal their act of doing harm to national reconciliation and unity by abusing even international sports games for confrontation with the north, obsessed by bitterness and unconditional repugnancy toward the fellow countrymen in the north.
An educational tale in Newsweek of the $300 million debt owed to Sweden by North Korea:
North Korea’s foremost trade debt to the western world is bizarre even by North Korean standards. Each time the administration misses a payment, as it has done every year for the past 40 years, we are reminded of one of the most unexpected political twists of the last century: Kim Il-sung scamming Sweden out of 1,000 Volvo 144 sedans....
Together with contemporary industry giants Atlas Copco and Kockums, Volvo was one of the first European companies to foray into the North Korean market, and promptly received an order for 1,000 vehicles, the first of which were delivered in 1974. But less than a year later, the venture blew up at a Swedish-Korean industrial trade fair in Pyongyang, where it suddenly became clear that the Kim regime wasn’t actually paying for the goods it was importing – not even the machines it ordered for the expo. The bills were simply piling up.
The credulous Swedes, it seems, thought that a demand for cash up front would have been entirely inappropriate when dealing with fellow socialists struggling to build a new paradise.
Erik Cornell, a diplomat and former Swedish ambassador to North Korea, recalls in his book North Korea: Emissary to Paradise a widespread local belief that the Western world had finally “seen the light” in the global struggle against the American imperialist – that Europe had recognised its duty to assist the brave People’s Republic, and that quibbles regarding who owed whom money would soon dissolve in grand efforts to crush capitalism as a whole.
Many of the unpaid-for Volvos are still going strong, apparently, as the backbone of Pyongyang's taxi fleet.
The Ritz, Barnsley, 1937:
And the same view by day.
Closed in 1974 and subsequently demolished. The last film shown? - Reg Varney in “Holiday on the Buses”. What a long way down. Barnsley and art deco was always going to be an uncomfortable combination.
A few days ago, Alexander Dugin, an extreme nationalist whose views have helped shape those of the Russian president, issued an extraordinary statement. “Ukraine must be cleansed of idiots,” he wrote — and then called for the “genocide” of the “race of bastards.”
But Novorossiya will also be hard to sustain if it has opponents in the West. Possible solutions to that problem are also under discussion. Not long ago, Vladimir Zhirinovsky — the Russian member of parliament and court jester who sometimes says things that those in power cannot — argued on television that Russia should use nuclear weapons to bomb Poland and the Baltic countries — “dwarf states,” he called them — and show the West who really holds power in Europe: “Nothing threatens America, it’s far away. But Eastern European countries will place themselves under the threat of total annihilation,” he declared. Vladimir Putin indulges these comments: Zhirinovsky’s statements are not official policy, the Russian president says, but he always “gets the party going.”
A far more serious person, the dissident Russian analyst Andrei Piontkovsky, has recently published an article arguing, along lines that echo Zhirinovsky’s threats, that Putin really is weighing the possibility of limited nuclear strikes — perhaps against one of the Baltic capitals, perhaps a Polish city — to prove that NATO is a hollow, meaningless entity that won’t dare strike back for fear of a greater catastrophe. Indeed, in military exercises in 2009 and 2013, the Russian army openly “practiced” a nuclear attack on Warsaw.
Is all of this nothing more than the raving of lunatics? Maybe. And maybe Putin is too weak to do any of this, and maybe it’s just scare tactics, and maybe his oligarchs will stop him. But “Mein Kampf” also seemed hysterical to Western and German audiences in 1933. Stalin’s orders to “liquidate” whole classes and social groups within the Soviet Union would have seemed equally insane to us at the time, if we had been able to hear them.
But Stalin kept to his word and carried out the threats, not because he was crazy but because he followed his own logic to its ultimate conclusions with such intense dedication — and because nobody stopped him. Right now, nobody is able to stop Putin, either. So is it hysterical to prepare for total war? Or is it naive not to do so?
Coming soon to a beach near you....
"A Chinese woman and her daughter wear face-kinis while swimming in the Yellow Sea in Qingdao, China, on August 22, 2014. The locally designed mask is worn by many local women to protect them from jellyfish stings, algae and the sun's ultraviolet rays."
"Gone? What do you mean, gone?"
Oh dear (Times link, £):
One of North Korea’s top bankers has fled the country with $5 million embezzled from the personal slush fund of the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, according to a South Korean newspaper.
Yun Tae Hyong, president of the Korea Daesong Bank in Pyongyang, defected in Russia, taking with him money from the so-called “revolutionary fund”, according to an unidentified source quoted in South Korea’s JoongAng daily.
The fund, the report says, is at the personal disposal of Mr Kim, and is connected to “Bureau 39”, a shadowy department accused by the US government of raising funds through such illegal activities as manufacturing and disseminating counterfeit currency, opium, heroin and amphetamines.
The newspaper reports that Mr Yun is seeking political asylum, but that the North Korean authorities have asked their Russian counterparts to hunt him down and hand him over.
If the report of his flight turns out to be true, he will be the highest ranking defector from North Korea since Hwang Jang Yop, the regime’s chief ideologue, who fled in 1997.
His insights into the inner financial workings of the isolated government will be seized on by South Korea and the United States as they consider ways of undermining the North without having to fight a devastating war.
More details at One Free Korea.
Dashing expectations of a unique side-attraction at this year’s Asian Games, North Korea said late Thursday that it won’t send a cheerleading squad to the South Korean host city of Incheon.
The North Korean cheerleading squad was a significant draw at past sporting events hosted by South Korea. The contingent that last crossed the Korean border in 2005 included Ri Sol Ju, now the First Lady of North Korea.
But not this time: the vice chairman of North Korea’s Olympic Committee said on state television that Pyongyang would only send athletes, coaches, referees and other support staff and blamed Seoul for the decision not to bring cheerleaders.
North Korea in early July suggested sending the cheerleader group of 350 people, saying it would help ease tension on the peninsula. An inter-Korean negotiation about the terms of their stay collapsed soon after.
Pyongyang cited disagreement over whether Seoul would foot the bill for the North’s athletes and cheerleaders as one point of contention. The North initially proposed sending around 700 people including 350 cheerleaders. In previous sporting events in South Korea, Seoul has underwritten North Korea’s costs. This time around, it said that the international norm of each country paying its way should be followed.
In other words the North pulled out once they realised that the South Koreans were not prepared to stump up the costs - even though it had been reported that the selection of the girls had already taken place, with a rigorous training programme under way.
Here they are in action, at the Daegu Universiade Games in Daegu, south of Seoul, in August 2003:
A bit uncoordinated perhaps, by the usual exacting standards of a Pyongyang-trained cheering squad, but a glimpse of what we'll be missing.
New York circa 1905. "Broad Street curb brokers and the Stock Exchange."
Some background (and the modern-day view) here:
This is not just a bunch of brokers outside on a nice day. From the early 1800s through 1921, the New York Curb Market traded outside every day, no matter what the weather. Stock trading began in New York in 1792 to handle Revolutionary War debt. The original exchange met under a buttonwood tree on the corner of Wall and William Streets, where local traders signed the Buttonwood Agreement establishing rules and procedures for trading.
Some of those traders soon moved inside and eventually formed the New York Stock Exchange. Others kept trading outside and came to be known as curbstone brokers. They gathered first at the corner of Wall and Hanover Streets, then at William and Beaver Streets, and finally at Broad Street and Exchange Place—which is the scene here.
This was an official stock exchange, although it tended to be a bit wilder than its indoor cousin. The New York Stock Exchange required that a company have at least 100 shares to be traded, and many small, newly created companies did not. So independent brokers traded their stocks outside the registered exchange—literally outside. Curbstone brokers traded in highly speculative stocks in industries such as canals, railroads, and oil. The action in this outdoor stock market helped America’s new industries grow.
The Roman Vishniac Collection, at the Holocaust Museum:
The photographer Roman Vishniac created some of the most iconic images of Jewish life in Europe before the Holocaust, documenting a world that would soon vanish. He also chronicled the rise of Nazism and the aftermath of World War II. However, the public has never had the opportunity to appreciate the breadth and depth of his work—of Vishniac’s 10,000 negatives, only about 350 have previously been published. The Museum has worked with the International Center of Photography (ICP) to put those images online and invites the public to help us learn more about Vishniac’s photographs.
Here's the Vishniac archive at the ICP.
Vishniac only narrowly escaped the Nazis, arriving in New York in 1940. Here's a portrait of fellow Jewish immigrant Marc Chagall, in 1941:
The Johnny Burnette Trio, from the 1956 film "Rock, Rock, Rock", introduced - somewhat portentously - by Alan Freed:
The echoey voice, if nothing else, tells you that this is mimed. The guitarist in the clip is Paul Burlison, but the guitarist on the original recording was Grady Martin.
"Believe it or not, Johnny Burnette's Rock'n'Roll Trio were invited to appear on Ted Mack's Amateur Hour, where they won the competition three times in a row. I want you to listen to this and try to imagine anything this raw winning three weeks in a row on American Idol."
A contemporary of Elvis: also a good looker, and also from Memphis - but he never quite had that Elvis magic. Or perhaps it was the lack of a Colonel Tom Parker pulling the strings that made the difference.
He died fifty years ago, in August 1964, when his unlit fishing boat was struck by a cabin cruiser on Clear Lake, California.
Japanese PM Shinzo Abe has been at it again. After the visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, and the Unit 731 business, not to mention the ongoing saga of the comfort women (still justified by some leading Japanese politicians keen to play the populist card), comes this:
Japanese war criminals, executed for their misdeeds during the Second World War, are “martyrs who staked their souls to become the foundation of their nation”, said Shinzo Abe, the country’s nationalist prime minister.
Mr Abe made the comments, which will further inflame Japan’s increasingly tense relations with its Asian neighbours, in a message read out at a monument to the executed war criminals — known as the Showa Era martyrs, in reference to the reign of the wartime emperor, Hirohito.
The message, given at a memorial service in April, said: “I would like to sincerely express my feelings of remembrance to the spirit of the Showa Era martyrs who staked their souls to become the foundation of their nation so that Japan could achieve the peace and prosperity of today.”
The remarks, which were reported in Wednesday’s Asahi newspaper [here - MH], are the latest in a series of annual messages sent by Mr Abe to the monument on Mt Koya, a mountain in southwest Japan, holy to the Shingon sect of Buddhism.
Last December, Mr Abe outraged China, South Korea and many liberal Japanese, by praying at Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo where the country’s war dead, including executed war criminals, are worshipped as Shinto deities. He has not made a visit so far this year, apparently in the hope of securing a conciliatory summit meeting with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping. But the latest revelations are sure to stir up new anger in the countries invaded and occupied by the Japanese imperial army. The Mt Koya monument in Wakayama prefecture contains the names of 1,180 war criminals who were either executed, committed suicide or who died of illness while in detention. They include Japan’s wartime prime minister, Hideki Tojo.
Mr Abe has made no secret of his view that Japanese should be proud of their history, and cast doubt on the existence of “comfort women”, forcibly recruited into military brothels.
The Chinese are indeed not best pleased:
China has urged Japan to “make a clean break with militarism” and build trust with its neighbours after it emerged that the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, had honoured more than 1,000 convicted war criminals as “martyrs” who laid the foundations for modern Japan.
Reports of the tribute, made in April in a message Abe sent to an annual ceremony honouring war criminals at a Buddhist temple, only emerged this week and add to the strains on ties between Tokyo and Beijing.
“The Japanese government needs to sincerely reflect on its history of aggression and make a clean break with militarism, that provides an important foundation for Japan to rebuild and develop relations with its Asian neighbours after the war,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said.
“We urge Japan to abide to its commitment to post-war non-aggression and take practical action to win the trust of its Asian neighbours and the international community.”
Abe’s message is expected to frustrate attempts to arrange a bilateral meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the Apec summit in Beijing in November.
Messages from China telling another country to make a clean break with militarism and build trust with its neighbours should normally be dismissed as grotesque hypocrisy, but with the history of Japanese imperialism in China, and horrors such as the Rape of Nanking still within living memory, I think we can make some kind of exception here.
In a Friday sermon at Azuqueca De Henares, near Madrid, Sheik Saleheoldine El Moussaoui expresses himself with exemplary clarity:
Dear brothers, what is being done to the Muslims in Palestine, in Gaza, as well as in the other Muslim countries – we would have been surprised if it were done by anyone other than the Jews.
But that is their nature. The Jews are by nature treacherous and war-mongering. There can be no peace with the Jews. What peace are you talking about?! [...]
This is their way of life. The Jews and the Zionists have treachery and killing as their way of life. They are a people of enmity and jealousy, the masters of treachery and betrayal. As Allah described them in the Quran: They want to spread corruption in the land.
The Zionists do not feel alive if they don't spread corruption. They spread corruption in the land. They cannot live without corruption, treachery, and betrayal. [...]
[Allah] described them as killers, so their killing of our brothers in Gaza and in Palestine should come as no surprise. They killed the prophets, the best among mankind. The best people in the eyes of Allah are the prophets and messengers. Yet they killed them, showing no regard for pacts of protection. Allah said [to the Jews]: "Taste the punishment of the burning fire." This is what awaits them: the torments of the burning fire. [...]
Oh Allah, support Islam and the Muslims everywhere, and humiliate polytheism, heresy, and the infidels everywhere. Oh Allah, destroy the plundering Jews. Oh Allah, the Most Merciful, count them one by one, and do not spare a single one of them.