Little houses on the prairie, photographed by Ben Marcin:
Obama described North Korea as "the most isolated, the most sanctioned, the most cut-off nation on Earth."
"Over time you will see a regime like this collapse," he added. No matter what restrictions the regime slams on free communication, "the Internet over time is going to be penetrating this country."
Obama said Washington is looking for ways to accelerate the flow of information into the North.
The North, via the KCNA, was quick to respond:
When interviewed by YouTube manufacturers on Jan. 22, Obama talked about "system change" while slandering the Korean-style socialist system centered on the popular masses.
He poured a whole gamut of accusations, calling the DPRK the most isolated, solitary and authoritarian country and the cruelest and repressed nation.
He even talked rubbish that over time internet will find its way to north Korea and the flow of information into it will bring about a change, asserting that they keep exploring ways of speeding up the change.
We can not but be shocked to find that Obama, president of a "big country," is so preoccupied with the inveterate repugnancy and hostility toward a sovereign state.
The recent wild remarks made by Obama are nothing but a poor grumble of a loser driven into a tight corner in the all-out stand-off with the DPRK.
This is little short of admitting himself that the U.S. lacks ability to stifle the DPRK and that a military option is not workable.
After a series of defeats in its military attempts to stifle the DPRK, the U.S. now turned to internet to undermine the DPRK through the "influx of information".
It is, however, gravely mistaken if it thinks it can break the single-minded unity of the DPRK, which it failed to do with sanctions and pressure, with internet.
The more openly the U.S. presses for the moves to undermine the DPRK, the stronger the single-minded unity of the DPRK will be.
A surprisingly mild response, really. No racist insults; no sneers about a "monkey". Disappointing.
A report on anti-Semitism presented on Sunday to the government found that France was the most dangerous country for Jews in the world in 2014. During the past year, levels of anti-Semitism and violence against Jews in France reached new records, according to the report prepared by the Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs in cooperation with the Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitsm (CFCA).
The report was presented to the government during the same week that the world marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Anti-Semitic incidents in France rose by 100 percent in the last year, with half of the racially related incidents in the country being directed at Jews, despite the fact that Jews make up less than one percent of the French population, the report found.
In addition, it was revealed that during 2014, there were 1000 different anti-Semitic incidents in France, including dozens in which Jews were beaten or attacked.
In 2014, there was a significant rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the world, the report found, and during the July-August Gaza war, known as Operation Protective Edge, there was a 400 percent increase in such incidents compared to the same period in 2013.
Far right-wing elements continued to be central perpetrators of anti-Semitic acts, but most of the violent acts were carried out by Arab or Muslim individuals, the study concluded.
The report also highlighted the continued scourge of anti-Semitism on the Internet, including the spreading of classical anti-Semitic conspiracy theories such as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Here, Barabara Doniecka, 80, photographed in Warsaw, Jan. 12, 2015:
Doniecka was 12 years old during the Warsaw Uprising when she was sent to Pruszkow camp. She was then sent by train to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
After more anti-Semitic crimes were reported in Malmo than in any other city in Sweden, Swedish reporter Peter Lindgren decided to conduct a social experiment by putting on a kippa (yarmulke or skullcap) and a Star of David necklace and walking around the city to see how locals treated Jews.
With a hidden camera and microphone documenting his stroll through the streets of Malmo, Lindgren encountered harsh verbal and physical anti-Semitic abuse.
The footage, aired Wednesday on Sveriges Television as part of a 58-minute documentary titled "Jew-hatred in Malmo," shows Lindgren sitting at a cafe in central Malmo reading a newspaper as several passersby hurled abuse at him.
In another location, Lindgren was called "Jewish shit" and a "Jewish Satan" and one person even hit his hand - though that incident was not recorded, only recounted. One passerby told Lindgren to "get out," while another warned him to leave for his own safety.
Then he reached the Muslim area.
In Rosengard, a neighborhood heavily populated by Muslims, Lindgren was surrounded by a dozen men who threatened him, while residents of nearby apartments threw eggs at him and shouted anti-Semitic slogans. Lindgren then decided to leave for fear of increased violence.
The documentary stated that many among the 600 Jews left in Malmo “are afraid to leave their homes; many want to leave the city and do not want their children to grow up there.” Many of Malmo's Jews left for Stockholm or other cities because of the rising anti-Semitism, perpetrated mostly by members of the city's Muslim community....
Anti-Semitism in Malmo first drew international attention in 2009, when riots broke out due to the presence of Israeli professional tennis players in the city.
Sweden's government has come under criticism for failing to provide adequate protection to the country's small Jewish community and address the issue of anti-Semitism, even after an explosion rocked a building in a Jewish community in Malmo in 2012.
In 2010, a group of Jews were attacked during a peaceful demonstration in support of Israel and in August several hundred Jews and non-Jews marched in Stockholm in solidarity with Malmo's persecuted Jewish community.
Malmo’s mayor, Ilmar Reepalu, said that a group of Jews who were attacked during the peaceful demonstration had brought the violence upon themselves for not distancing themselves from Israel and its actions during the month-long Gaza war in 2008-2009.
God knows I've read enough dystopian fantasies about nuclear armageddon, the third world war, and the end of civilisation as we know it. None of them, though, saw it coming on account of some cartoons:
Jamaat-e-Islami chief Sirajul Haq has said the west’s ‘extremist standpoint’ on blasphemous caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) may lead to a third world war.
“The path that the West has chosen will take the world to a third world war,” Siraj said on Friday.
He was addressing thousands of people at a rally, organised to protest against the insulting caricatures published in Western publications, particularly French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
The JI chief demanded that the United Nations make laws to discourage blasphemy of all religious personalities. He said France must apologise for hurting sentiments of billions of Muslims across the world.
Addressing the rally, Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique said the life of a Muslim is useless if he cannot protect the honour and dignity of his Prophet (pbuh). Earlier, the rally marched from Faizabad Flyover through Islamabad Highway to the Blue Area of the capital....
The protests were organised by various religious organisations, including Tehreek-e-Ahle Sunnat and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam. The protesters carried placards inscribed with slogans against the publication. They said they would not hesitate to sacrifice their lives to protect the honour, prestige and esteem of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
Tehreek-e-Ahle Sunnat chairman Qazi Muhammad Faiz Rasool Rizvi said Western countries had conspired to incense Muslims by publishing the caricatures in an effort to alter the ideology of Islam. He said love for the Prophet (pbuh) was a basic tenet of Islam.
The North Korean devotion to pictures of the Great Leader and the Dear Leader seems eminently reasonable in comparison.
[Some good comments on that piece.]
Lightnin' Hopkins having some fun over a boogie beat with what sounds like a fairly salacious invitation ("c'mon in lil' girl") to share some booze and good times. A young Joan Baez looks on, wondering quite what she's doing there:
From 1960, when the cultural and political situation at the time somehow led to Bluesmen and folk singers sharing the stage together as part of the burgeoning counterculture. God knows it'd be hard under normal circumstances to imagine two more different people or styles of performer. I wonder what they said to each other backstage.
Excellent piece from Shiraz Maher in the New Statesman:
It is true that Saïd and Chérif Kouachi may have taken offence at the cartoons of Muhammad published by Charlie Hebdo but that is not what inspired their attack. The best indication of what actually motivated them comes from their own words during their murder spree: “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad.”
That process of vengeance explains what the Kouachi brothers were attempting to do. They were seeking not to register a protest, nor to vent their anger at pictures they believed to be offensive, but to impose on the Parisian cartoonists their understanding of the Islamic punishment for blasphemy. Viewed this way, it was an act in pursuit of utopia – of the “idyllic” Islamist society to which the Kouachis aspired – where blasphemers are punished with death....
Laws against blasphemy exist across large parts of the Muslim world, often with draconian punishments for offenders. A report published by the International Humanist and Ethical Union in 2013 found that apostates or blasphemers can receive the death penalty in 13 countries, all of them Muslim: Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, the Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
Even while the Paris manhunt was still under way, Saudi Arabia began punishing a liberal blogger, Raif Badawi, with a sentence of 1,000 lashes and ten years’ imprisonment plus a fine of £175,000, supposedly for insulting Islam. Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, told the Guardian, “The Saudi government is behaving like Daesh [a pejorative Arabic acronym for Islamic State].”
This is where the distinction between our allies – such as the Saudis – and our opponents such as IS breaks down. Both operate a policy of strict liability towards any perceived insult against Islam or the Prophet. They are not the only ones.
For 16 years the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, now the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC), has repeatedly attempted to pass resolutions at the United Nations prohibiting the “defamation” of religion. It is hard to see how this amounts to anything more than an international anti-blasphemy law....
Indeed, it is principally Muslim states that heat the febrile international climate surrounding Islamic attitudes towards apostasy. This is why they have tried to introduce legislation to censure and stifle all forms of debate regarding Islam. Even though those attempts have failed, at home they routinely crush satirists, reformers, dissenters and apostates.
So, it comes as little surprise that satirical depictions of the Prophet Muhammad have repeatedly occasioned global convulsions of splenetic fury. In such an atmosphere, who from within the Muslim world could legitimately tell terrorists not to kill the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo?
Shin, 32, has been one of the most prominent defectors from North Korea, trying to raise awareness about human rights abuses there. He also testified in front of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry, whose report has led to an international campaign to hold the totalitarian state’s leaders to account for decades of human rights violations.
North Korea, alarmed by this campaign and the prospect of “Supreme Leader” Kim Jong Un being indicted, has been trying to undermine Shin’s testimony and will doubtless seize on these revisions to try to portray all accounts of human rights abuses as fabrications.
Shin admitted to Harden on Friday that when he was about 6, he, his mother and his brother were transferred to another prison camp, Camp 18, across the Taedong River from Camp 14.
As Josh Stanton notes in his useful piece on the affair, Camp 18 is in fact considerably less brutal than Camp 14. It's pretty much beyond doubt that Shin was indeed imprisoned and tortured, but yes, the whole business is particularly unfortunate, since his evidence now can no longer be relied on - and it gives the North Koreans some ammunition. Which they have not been slow to use:
North Korea has launched an aggressive campaign seeking to discredit a UN report on human rights abuses in the country, following news that a prominent defector had recanted parts of his testimony....
"He is a swindler who had appeared with false name and career, and no more than a parasite," Ja Song Nam, North Korea's Ambassador to the United Nations in New York, said in a letter seen by Reuters.
The letter was sent to the UN General Assembly and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the North Koreans asked that it be regarded as an official document.
It repeated North Korea's long-held position that it does not run political prison camps and said Shin was a "criminal who fled after raping a minor girl who was only 13 years old".
North Korea has accused Shin of rape in the past. In an October interview with Reuters, Shin said the accusation of sexual assault was a fabrication that he had heard before.
Shin, who originally said he was born and raised within North Korea's notorious Camp 14 and fled the country in 2005, now says he was transferred to the less brutal Camp 18 in early life, and first escaped to China in 2002.
North Korea's letter said "all the 'resolutions' on the situation of human rights in (North Korea) forcibly adopted by the General Assembly on the basis of such false documents are invalid".
Michael Kirby, author of the UN report, remains unfazed:
"It's part of the testimony of one witness whose testimony is referred to on one page of a 350-page report that includes the testimony of hundreds of other people, so keep it in proportion," he said.
A blip....no more.
October 1931. "Imperial Airways aircraft refueling at Semakh, British Mandate Palestine."
The plane is the Hanno (from the days when aircraft, like ships, had names), a Handley Page H.P.42, with a cruising speed of about 90 mph. Very likely on one of its many refueling stops on the way to India.
A powerful piece from Daniel Finkelstein in the Times (£): It was not just antisemitism that spawned the concentration camps. It was disdain for politicians and the rule of law. He movingly describes how his grandmother sacrificed herself so that her three daughters, one of them Finkelstein's mother, could escape from Belsen. His conclusion:
Anyone who wants to understand the way Jews in Europe are feeling now, and to appreciate Theresa May’s words this week, needs to understand this. What happened to my family did not happen in a far away place, long ago. It happened here in Europe....and within the lifespan of many British people. My mother is still alive to bear witness.
Britain is a wonderful country that has given shelter to Jews and it would be absurd and insulting to suggest that this country has not done all it can to make us feel welcome, to allow us to feel that this is home. Yet I hope we can be forgiven for viewing what is happening elsewhere in Europe with trepidation and for wondering whether it might happen here too.
The way in which criticism of Israel has become virulent and been elevated above any other foreign policy question, and the way that it overlaps with conspiracy theories about Jews, particularly in Islamic states, has become unnerving. And often, with the best will in the world, the difference between prejudice and criticism is hard to tell. When those Jewish shoppers died in Paris, were they killed by antisemitic bullets or anti-zionist ones? It was unnerving too, to discover that old ideas about Jews grasping for money remain so prevalent.
Yet, strangely enough, what worries me most is something rather different. For the Nazis to kill the Jews it wasn’t enough for them to persuade the German people to hate us. They also had to persuade the German people to despise democratic politicians and the accompanying rule of law.
In dark moments, when I think, however fleetingly, that disaster could overtake us all again, my nightmare always begins with reflections on the casual disdain it has become fashionable to use when talking about politics.
Interestingly, the latest issue of Private Eye hits the streets today. The Charlie Hebdo attack was exactly two weeks ago - the day the previous issue appeared - so they've had plenty of time to prepare. The cover? (Not yet shown on the Private Eye website - the Eye doesn't really do the internet.) "World Leaders March for Free Speech", over a picture of all those politicians marching in Paris, with a huge "Je suis charlatan!" speech bubble.
Clever....yes, no doubt. Inside there's a piece about the government's hypocrisy over Saudi Arabia, berating Cameron for marching in Paris whilst at the same time fighting a freedom of information battle with the Eye over complicity with corruption on a £2bn Saudi MoD contract. Fair enough. But for me that cover just hits the wrong note. God knows there are enough reasons to criticise and mock politicians, but this time - when they're marching through Paris in solidarity with the murdered journalists of Charlie Hebdo, even at some (small) risk to themselves - just isn't the time to do it.
Inside it's not much better. The only reprint of a Charlie Hebdo cover shows it as part of a rack of papers outside a newsagent, with a speech bubble "Bleed all about it!". (Yes I know...hilarious.) Plus three pages of not very funny cartooons on the subject. And that's it.
Yes I know - the Eye is nothing like Charlie Hebdo, and we shouldn't have expected more. But that cover does seem to bear out Daniel Finkelstein's concern about the fashionable disdain for politicians; even when, for once, they're doing something we should be praising them for.