When two cultures - Islam and street art - collide in Brick Lane. From Ted Jeory at the Express:
Muslim youths have vandalised the offices of a Bengali filmmaker in east London because they claim street art on his security shutters depicts the “anti-Christ”.
The gang has even threatened further violence against Shafiur Rahman’s property unless the images, two eyes, a nose and a mouth, are removed.
Graffiti artists Josh Jeavons and Edwinonwalls painted the images on three shutters of Mr Rahman’s Six Oranges film company, which is based in a building known as Zara’s Corner in Spelman Street, just off Brick Lane in Tower Hamlets.
Viewed from across the road the painting is actually a face, with a nose on the central shutter, two single eyes on the two either side, and a mouth running across all three.
The artists wanted it to represent humanity and diversity.
They even wrote and crossed out the words, “colour” and “shape” and circled the word “space” to reinforce a message that what matters is not someone’s background or appearance but the community in which you live.
However, youths from the nearby Chicksand housing estate had a different interpretation.
They told Mr Rahman the painting in fact represented “dajjal”, an Islamic term in Arabic for the “anti-Christ”, or the devil, or the “false Messiah”.
Mr Rahman, who had given permission for the artwork, explained: “According to certain Islamic beliefs, Dajjal is the false prophet or anti-Christ who will come before Judgment Day, and will be known by his single bulging eye.”
Over the past month, his office has been attacked repeatedly.
The shutters have been splashed with spit and eggs, while the vandals have also hurled eggs into the office itself.
An entire tin of white paint was then hurled on the shutters.
Staff have been intimidated and the damage to walls and computer equipment is estimated to be hundreds of pounds.
Mr Rahman, a filmmaker who is currently working on a documentary about Syrian refugees, said the youths have demanded the art is removed.
“When we have been locking up at night, they have told us to throw away the key and not to come back,” he said.
He has sought help from the local Brick Lane Mosque and asked their imams to explain the innocuous nature of the painting.
However, he said while the mosque condemned the violence itself, an imam told him the painting would not be accepted in Islam because it depicted a face.
Mr Rahman said: “This is completely ridiculous. This is not a painting of dajjal. This is an abstract figurative piece of work.
“Mosques and madrassas should be careful what they teach young kids."
Indeed they should.
Marco Marasca, an editor at Six Oranges, said: "After these repeated incidents, we are worried about our personal safety.
“We have just finished editing a film on oppressed Bihari Muslims.
“We are writing a proposal about Syrian migrants and the hardships they suffer. “Why would we paint anything offensive towards Muslims?”...
Anti-extremism campaigners are puzzled by the incidents.
They wonder whether ordinary youths from the Chicksand estate would even be aware of theological terms such as “dajjal”.
They believe the youths are being encouraged by hardline Islamists....
No one from Brick Lane Mosque was available to comment this afternoon.
It’s one of those stories that journalists file under ‘you couldn’t make it up’ for its weirdness: a filmmaker commissions some street art in the middle of Whitechapel’s Chicksand estate; the artists come up with a scheme that’s meant to depict humanity and diversity (and add a bit of colour to the area); and then some idiots say, ‘Actually that’s not humanity, that’s the Anti-Christ.’
The Law Society, happily promoting Islamic rules and legal services, isn't the only British institution that seems to be bending over a bit too far to accommodate Muslim practices. At the Freethinker Ophelia Benson is suitably aghast at the advice given out by the NHS on the subject of Ramadan and fasting, put together "by medical experts and Islamic scholars and researchers":
No doubt the people at the NHS felt that if the advice were exclusively medical and evidence-based, very few observant Muslims would even look at it, let alone follow it. They’re probably right. Indeed the people who need medical advice most are probably the most strictly observant, and the more strictly observant they are, the less likely they are to trust secular medical advice free of any religious influence.
But the result is a pretty horrifying mess. It’s no doubt better than no medical advice at all, but it still puts the NHS in the position of seeming to endorse religious commands, including ones that are obviously dangerous to health....
AFP report from Paris:
The deadly Israeli operation in Gaza has let loose an unprecedented wave of hate on media websites and social networks in France that moderators say they are struggling to contain....
Paris protests in support of Gaza residents have degenerated into violence on several occasions.
“As soon as you talk about Israel, it crystallizes all passions, with up to 20,000 or 30,000 comments sometimes after an article, of which we will only let five to 10 percent through,” said David Corchia, head of Concileo, a firm of moderators that counts the dailies Le Figaro and Liberation as clients.
Helped by software that automatically reports suspect keywords, online moderators can filter comments in accordance with special legal requirements in France as well as client requests. Those laws ban racist, anti-Semitic or discriminatory messages among others, as well calls for violence.
The moderators have little time to decide whether to let a remark through, and generally block 25% to 40% of comments.
But on the subject of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the rejection rate can reach 95%.
“There are three times as many comments than normal, all linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” said Jeremie Mani, head of Netino, which looks after the websites of the Le Monde daily, Europe 1 radio and major French television channels.
Netino’s 250 moderators, most of them based in Madagascar, deal with tens of millions of comments every month.
“We see racist or anti-Semitic messages, very violent, that also take aim at politicians and the media, sometimes by giving journalists’ contact details,” Mani said.
“This sickening content is peculiar to this conflict. The war in Syria does not trigger these kinds of comments.
“On the pro-Palestinian side, identical messages are posted on dozens of sites. On the pro-Israeli side, there are fewer messages but they are better organized,” he said.
“But it’s a dialogue of the deaf. Neutral netizens… are really annoyed to see their space for dialogue monopolized by this issue.”
The vitriolic messages about the conflict come up not only after content about the conflict itself — but can be found under any subject.
“On an article about the Tour de France, after four comments it’s about Gaza,” said Mani.
“On one story about salmon fishing, I saw a comment saying: ‘Stop talking about this, the problem is there are too many Jews’.
- North Korea’s cheering squad has become a hot topic in South Korea because of their beauty. How are they selected?
Kim Min Soo: The selection for the cheering squad sent in 2002 to the Busan Asian Games was organized by the executive management of the Organization and Guidance Department under the Central Committee. The Kim Il Sung Socialist Youth League, also under the Central Committee, handled recruitment. Candidates had to be from Pyongyang, and were selected from a pool of women in their twenties from various art institutions including Geumseong Hakwon andPyongyang University of Music and Dance.
Being selected for the cheering squad is no simple feat. Round one of the selection involves a physical examination. The candidate’s height must be more than 160 cm, and her face and body are examined. Even if she passes this round, her family relations must be sound in order for her to be picked. North Korea’s security agency examines each candidate’s family. If she has any former criminal, exiled fugitive, or defector in her immediate or extended family, she will be disqualified.
- Goodness, those are some stringent conditions. Is coming to Korea as part of a cheering squad a popular idea amongst the twenty-something ladies of North Korea?
Kim Min Soo: Very popular. Going abroad is considered a privilege in North Korea, and it’s quite difficult to do. Even the competition to become a server at a Chinese or other overseas restaurant is fierce. Legally, going to South Korea is very difficult indeed. The North Korean people are curious about how people of their race are living in the South, and recently, with the popularity of South Korean media, the desire to go to Korea has intensified.
Because of this, they say that being selected for the cheering squad is as difficult as plucking stars from the sky. They say that even if a candidate’s beauty is up to standard and there are no criminals in her family, if she does not have connections in the executive management of the Organization and Guidance Department, there is no guarantee that she will be selected. And even then, it’s difficult. Parents with plenty of money, power, and connections, who know all the right people to bribe, are doing all they can to get their children selected.
- After the selection process, do they receive any particular training? I’ve heard that when separated families are reunited, North Korea instructs its citizens on how to behave. Is there anything like that for the cheering squad?
Kim Min Soo: According to the North Korean authorities’ propaganda, South Korea is the enemy. Because of this, they are instructed to be careful of everything, from the most trivial movement to each word they say. In the past, selected members of the cheering squad went through two months of training in the Changgwangsan Hotel in Pyongyang, involving instruction on how they should act and speak in South Korea, and the duties they must uphold. There will be a similar training period this time as well. Also, when they go back to North Korea, they are not allowed to reveal anything they’ve seen or heard in South Korea. There will be efforts to ensure that there is no ideological unrest upon the cheering squad’s return.
- The North Korean cheerleaders always seem to have the same clothes and props. Does each cheerleader prepare all of this themselves?
Kim Min Soo: The cheering squad’s underwear, uniform, and bags, are specially produced. The shoes and sneakers are ordered from and produced at a shoe factory in the Pyongcheon district of Pyeongyang. They are provided to the cheerleaders 15 days before leaving for the games.
- I heard that even if you do get picked to be part of the cheering squad, unfortunate things can still happen. Wasn’t there a cheerleader from a past squad who was punished for something?
Kim Min Soo: Yes. First of all, when you go back to North Korea from South Korea, you cannot say anything about what you’ve seen or heard. This is a strict rule because news of South Korea could incite certain aspirations, you know. But, honestly, women in their twenties love to talk. That’s why there was news of an ex-cheerleader being sent to a re-education camp. It was because she talked about her experiences in South Korea.
Something of a mixed blessing, then....
It was bad enough that the alleged rape took place in the sanctity of a mosque, and that the accused man was a mullah who invoked the familiar defense that it had been consensual sex.
But the victim was only 10 years old. And there was more: The authorities said her family members openly planned to carry out an “honor killing” in the case — against the young girl. The mullah offered to marry his victim instead.
This past week, the awful matter became even worse. On Tuesday, local policemen removed the girl from the shelter that had given her refuge and returned her to her family, despite complaints from women’s activists that she was likely to be killed....
The accused mullah, Mohammad Amin, was arrested and confessed to having sex with the girl after Quran recitation classes at the mosque on May 1, but claimed that he thought the girl was older and that she responded to his advances.
The girl’s own testimony, and medical evidence, supported a rape so violent that it caused a fistula, or a break in the wall between the vagina and rectum, according to the police and the official bill of indictment. She bled so profusely after the attack that she was at one point in danger of losing her life because of a delay in getting medical care.
After the two women’s officials began speaking out about the case, they started receiving threatening calls from mullahs — some of them Taliban, others on the government side — and from arbakai, or pro-government militiamen. One of their claims was that the girl was actually 17, and thus of marriageable age, not 10.
Photographs of the girl that Dr. Sarwari took in the hospital clearly show a pre-pubescent child, and the doctor said the girl weighed only 40 pounds. Few Afghans have birth records, and many do not know their precise ages. But the girl’s mother said she was 10, and a forensic examination in the hospital agreed, saying she had not yet started menstruating or developing secondary sexual characteristics....
When Dr. Sarwari, who is a pediatrician, arrived to pick up the girl at the hospital, a crowd of village elders from Alti Gumbad, the girl’s home village on the outskirts of the city of Kunduz, were gathered outside the hospital; the girl’s brothers, father and uncle were among them. Inside, Dr. Sarwari encountered the girl’s aunt, who told her she had been ordered by her husband to sneak the girl out of the hospital and deliver her to the male relatives outside. “She said they wanted to take her and kill her, and dump her in the river,” Dr. Sarwari said....
In the hospital room, the doctor found the girl’s mother holding her child’s hand, and both were weeping. “My daughter, may dust and soil protect you now,” Dr. Sarwari quoted the mother as saying. “We will make you a bed of dust and soil. We will send you to the cemetery where you will be safe.”
In the Times of Israel, Haviv Rettig Gur points out the tragic self-delusion at the heart of the Hamas strategy:
The Palestinian national narrative is one of calamity and victimhood at the hands of the Jews. But their politics are largely driven by those who insist that they possess an innate, unstoppable strength, that Israel, for all its tanks and jet fighters, is a paper tiger that will wither in the face of sheer Palestinian willpower.
This rhetoric is rooted in the grand strategy of the Palestinian national movement since the days of Yasser Arafat, a strategy upheld today mainly by Hamas.
This strategy is a classically anti-colonial one: A colonial power invades a territory in order to exploit its resources, and in response, the anticolonialist attempts to make the cost of staying exceed the benefit. The brutality of anti-colonial warfare in the 20th century flows from this logic. As scholars of suicide terrorism have pointed out, the perpetrators’ very willingness to die is a key part of the strategic logic behind the operation, since it signals to the enemy not only that its own civilians are not safe, but that the attackers cannot be deterred, not even by death, and therefore that each attack foreshadows worse to come. (It is in response to this aspect of suicide terrorism that Israel sometimes pursues the much-criticized strategy of destroying the homes of terrorists’ families — a kind of third-party deterrence against those too eager for self-sacrifice to be deterrable on their own terms.)
In nearly every case throughout the 20th century, when a colonialist has faced such escalating brutality, the benefits obtained from the occupied territory lost their luster, and the would-be exploiter soon returned home.
That, at least, was what happened to French Algeria, the most obvious and oft-repeated historical parallel among Palestinians....
The Algerian anticolonial struggle cost that country dearly, but ultimately resulted in liberation from the colonial oppressor. To Israelis, Hamas is a terror group engaged in wanton and pointless killing. But in Hamas’s vision of itself, it is the Algerian resistance, braving the horrific costs of the struggle in order to bring about the inevitable outcome: the expulsion of the occupier.
The anticolonial strategy depends on its ability to influence the psychology of the colonialist. So it only works if the colonialist believes he is one, if he has a separate “home country” to which he can return, if the only thing being weighed against the violence is the economic benefit of exploiting the occupied territory a little longer.
It is in these features that the strategic error (for the purposes of this argument, let’s momentarily ignore the moral problems) at the root of Hamas’s anticolonial struggle can be discerned. Israel is not the French occupation of Algeria. Again, that’s not a moral judgment, but a sociological fact. Israel’s Jews have a shared sense of national history and identity, a narrative of ancient belonging in the land and a language spoken nowhere else. More prosaically, Israel has eight million citizens, two million of them schoolchildren, living in 76 cities connected by 18,000 kilometers of road. It is no mere political system or settlement; it is a civilization. And, of course, unlike the French in Algeria, Israelis have nowhere else to go.
So we must ask: What happens when the anticolonial strategy of terrorism is employed against an indigenous national identity? Or more bluntly, what happens when you send a suicide bomber to murder the innocent children of a tribe that does not believe it has anywhere else to go? The response to such violence is the very opposite of the colonialist’s: instead of flight, war.
This lesson was bolstered in the wake of the Gaza disengagement of August 2005. The withdrawal from Gaza was carried out to the last centimeter and the last settler. The following year, Ehud Olmert won a national election after expressly promising to deliver a similar unilateral withdrawal from much of the West Bank. But instead of acknowledging and accepting Israel’s keenness to end the occupation, Palestinian “resistance” groups simply insisted that the strategy of the Algerian resistance was paying off. The colonialist was slowly withdrawing in the face of the pain inflicted by Palestinian terror, and so that terror must be increased, must become a permanent feature of Israeli life. That, after all, is the logic of Algeria.
And so Hamas set about turning Gaza into the steppingstone for an expanded anticolonial campaign designed to liberate Jerusalem, Beersheba and Tel Aviv. In its inability to view Israelis except through the lens of its own ideology, Hamas misunderstood the nature of the Gaza withdrawal, the Israeli exhaustion with the dysfunction, violence and ideological ossification of the Palestinian national movement — and failed to realize that Israel’s desire to disentangle itself from the Palestinians did not mean it would no longer defend itself.
Instead of transforming Gaza into a haven for foreign donations (as the PA did in Ramallah), or linking it economically to Israel, the wealthiest and healthiest of regional economies, as it partly was during the Oslo years, Hamas led the impoverished territory into a state of permanent confrontation. And in doing so it brought upon the beleaguered Strip wave after wave of conflict, an eight-year siege and a stiffening of Israeli security demands for any possible future peace in the West Bank. Over the past two years, it even managed to make enemies of the Egyptian military on the one hand (having sided with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt’s revolution) and Hezbollah, the Assad regime and Iran on the other (having sided with the Sunni Syrian opposition in that country’s civil war). This has further impoverished the beleaguered residents of Gaza, who are forced to watch helplessly as their government subordinates their economic and political conditions to the dictates of its ideological vision.
In 2012, when rockets rained down on Israeli cities and the Israeli cabinet seriously considered a costly and almost certainly bloody ground invasion of the Strip, the dovish Meretz party, the last bastion of the Oslo faithful, openly supported Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s air assault on Hamas. The very strategy meant to dismay and ultimately dislodge the Israelis from Israel has become the glue holding Israel’s otherwise fractious politics together. When rockets fall, the gaps between left and right, dove and hawk, fade almost to irrelevance.
Hamas’s leaders and planners are not stupid. They know the strategy isn’t working. They know Israel continues to strengthen and prosper even as the Arab world around it crumbles and their own fiefdom in Gaza collapses. They know they have been able to deliver only minuscule tactical successes while Israel continues to emerge overwhelmingly triumphant.
But Hamas cannot relent. To surrender their anti-colonial campaign, to move from a strategy of violence that cannot possibly liberate Palestine to one of compromise that might liberate at least part of Palestine, Hamas must surrender a basic fixture of its ideology and identity – the assumption that the Jews are rootless foreigners in this land, or at least that the Jews can be expected to behave as foreigners when confronted with terrorism. If either of those assumptions are wrong, then the strategy’s very premise is undermined, and Hamas’s endless war is doomed to ignominious failure.
And so Gaza is locked into a war of fruitless aggression, battling an enemy that only really exists in the Palestinian imagination, and doing so with an arsenal of tactics that only serve to strengthen the resolve and cohesion of the actual opponent it is facing in the real world....
Israel’s supreme advantage in this war lies in the enemy’s own misunderstanding. The entire edifice of Hamas as an organization, together with its affiliates, allies and ideological fellow travelers, is built to fight a particular kind of war with a very specific sort of enemy. The tragic and ongoing catastrophe that is Gaza will not be healed until the Palestinian national movement starts seeing Israelis for what they are, a flawed but rooted people living in its home, rather than what the Palestinians wish they were, sunburned Frenchmen in a land not their own.
This "colonialist" delusion is also, of course, a vital component of anti-Israel protests in the West.
Hala Jaber (Sunday Times, £) reports from Isis-controlled Syria :
A woman accused of adultery was stoned to death last week in the first public execution of its kind conducted by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (Isis).
The sentence was imposed by an Islamic court on the woman, who was not named, but said by locals to be in her thirties. It was carried out on Thursday by a frenzied mob of men and women in a town square in the northern Syrian province of Raqqa, which is under jihadist control.
There have been reports of the strict discipline imposed by Isis, but this is believed to be the first photographic evidence of a stoning.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said: “[Isis] carried out its first sentence of death by stoning against a woman in Tabaqa, accusing her of adultery.”
An activist in the province confirmed the report. Another local said the woman’s family had not been informed.
The news of the execution came after Isis ordered that all Christians living in Mosul would be killed unless they converted to Islam or paid a “protection tax”.
In a statement issued after Friday prayers, Isis, which seized Iraq’s second-largest city last month, gave Christians until lunchtime yesterday to comply.
The group said the move was prompted by the failure of Christian leaders to attend a meeting called by the “Islamic caliphate”, the name it has given to the stretch of Iraq and Syria it controls.
“They [the Christians] can leave via the border of the caliphate if they so seek; alternatively, if they refuse and decide to stay on without fulfilling the above then they face the sword,” the statement said.
Pictures emerging from Mosul showed Christian houses already marked in red with the Arabic letter N — for nasarah, the Islamic way of referring to Christians.
A blogger in Mosul said the homes of Shi’ites and Turkmen had been marked with stickers declaring them the properties of the Islamic state. Residents are obliged to pay rent and fees to the group instead of to their landlords.
Christians have lived on the Nineveh plains for almost two millennia. Before the fall of Mosul, they are thought to have numbered about 3,000.
In Raqqa, Isis has posted pictures of Christians being crucified for disobeying orders and has cut off the hands of thieves in public.
I'm sure the Archbishop of Canterbury will have some very strong words to say about that.
The voice of the Jordanian street takes to the internet....rapper and comedian Nikolas Khoury speaks out:
Gaza is being bombarded. Everybody is fed up. People are full of hatred and anger. They want to grab an Israeli and tear him apart with their teeth. But then, some "cute" and sad humanist shows up, and writes a Facebook status, with background music like this… He writes: "There is a difference between Jews and Zionists." No Siree, Bob! No Siree, Bob! This is my last concern right now. I couldn't care less. I don't care what the sons of Zion would say about me. Why should I care if they call me an anti-Semite? They are murderers. Extremists. Dogs. Do you care if a criminal and murderous dog calls you an anti-Semite? […]
There is no such thing as the State of Israel. This is a message to Israel the entity, Israel the plunderer, Israel the criminal, Israel the terrorist, Israel the eternal enemy: […]
You will not survive. You will die. Bleak days await you. When these bleak days come, you will see me laughing and gloating at your expense. I swear by every living and oppressed Arab, and by every martyr, that a bleak day will come in which you will be crying tears of blood, you dogs. The only reason I don't call you "descendants of apes and pigs" is that I have too much respect for the apes and pigs.
Can the Zionists sink any lower?
Terrorists in Gaza attempted to attack IDF soldiers with an explosives-laden donkey on Friday, the military said.
IDF forces operating in the Rafah area near the Gaza-Egypt border located the donkey suspiciously approaching their position and were forced to open fire at it, causing the explosives to detonate.
No injuries were sustained to the soldiers.
The military expressed its regret over the "shocking" incident, and condemned terrorists in Gaza for strapping bombastic [sic] devices to innocent animals as a means of attacking Israeli forces.
"This cruel incident is the most recent attempt by Gaza terror organizations to make such an abominable use of animals as explosives couriers," the IDF said on its website.
Mercilessly butchering an innocent animal! Let's see them wriggle out of this one.
The 2014 Asian Games take place in South Korea in September. In North Korea it's not the selection of the athletes that matters. In a country where the most rewards go to those who praise the loudest rather than those who actually do anything, and the highest cultural expression comes in the mass Kim-worship of the Arirang Festival, it's the selection of the cheering squad that really counts:
The North Korean authorities have embarked on the task of selecting the country’s “cheering squad” for the upcoming 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
A source from North Pyongan Province told Daily NK on the 11th, “Right now the only thing people are talking about here is the ‘Asian Athletics Competition’ being held in South Korea. The selection process began immediately after the official announcement on the 7th, and all of Pyongyang is focusing on it.”
This year marks the fourth such dispatch of a cheering squad to South Korea. In 2002 a squad of 288 was dispatched to the 14th Asian Games in the southern port city of Busan; the 2003 Daegu Universiade saw a group of 303 arrive to support the North Korean team, and in 2005 a group of 124 visited the South for the 16th Asian Athletics Championships, also held in Incheon.
Famously, one member of the 2005 cheering squad was none other than Ri Sol Ju, the wife of North Korean leader Kim Jong Eun. Ri was then a student at Geumseong Hakwon, a specialized cultural arts school in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.
According to sources, in 2002, the first time that the process of selecting a cheering squad was attempted, the Party Organization and Guidance Department’s personnel section dealt with the organizational element, while the Central Party bureau that deals with youth activities took responsibility for the practicalities.
Recruitment was restricted to females in their 20s who were then active in the cultural arts sector in Pyongyang, including students from the aforementioned Geumseong Hakwon, as well as Pyongyang University of Music and Dance.
In addition to the precondition of good songbun [political background and loyalty], candidates had to be taller than 160cm and able to pass the state’s physical checks. Additionally, all candidates had to pass checks conducted by the state intelligence agency, the Department of State Security, which ensured there were no defectors or other impure elements in their extended families.
The selection process was followed by a period of education in Pyongyang, during which the cheering squad was instructed on how to act, what to say, and what obligations accrued to a representative of North Korea in the South. At this time, they stayed in the city’s Changgwangsan Hotel.
Meanwhile, the squad’s inner and outerwear, bags etc. were imported from abroad, while their shoes and sneakers were produced by a factory in the Pyongcheon district of Pyongyang. All essential goods were distributed to the members two weeks prior to departure for Incheon.
The source alleged the presence of a further factor. “Appearance and songbun were important, but the most important thing was a candidate’s human network,” he said. “It would have been wildly implausible for someone without a link to the personnel section of the Central Party to get selected, no matter how good their songbun or appearance may have been.”
“Everyone wants to go abroad, of course, but different countries have different ‘rankings’,” he explained. “Going to China is like going to ‘the countryside,’ while going to South Korea is like going to ‘the land of stars’. So the price for it is higher. Parents wanted to get their children on the cheering squad even if it meant that they had to pay bribes to do it.”
But there are problems. The South Koreans, unfortunately, don't seem to have the right attitude:
North and South Korea failed to reach agreement on Thursday about Pyongyang's plan to dispatch athletes and cheerleaders to the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon in September.
The North Korean delegation, in a characteristic move, stormed out of the meeting room.
The biggest point of contention was apparently the number of the athletes and cheerleaders Pyongyang wanted to send. The North said it would send 350 athletes and 350 cheerleaders and asked the South to provide accommodation, although it had originally said it would send around 150 athletes.
The athletes were to fly and the cheerleaders to take a train, and the North also wanted to anchor a ferry in Incheon to house the cheerleaders during their stay.
Seoul responded by offering accommodation "according to international practice."
A government official said, "At past international sporting events, it was customary to provide all accommodation free of charge for the North Koreans, but we decided to adhere to international practice this time. And under Olympic Council of Asia regulations, each country is responsible for the expenses incurred by its athletes and cheering squads, although accommodation subsidies are provided for underdeveloped countries that are sending a small group of athletes.
This was clearly not what the North wanted to hear.
"When we asked the North how many athletes were coming and how many members of the cheering squad were musicians, the North accused us of having 'problems with our attitude’ and unilaterally called off the meeting," the official added.
Perhaps the cheering squad - or their well-connected parents - will be asked to stump up the cost of staying in a South Korean hotel. But the prospect of these impressionable young people let loose in "the land of the stars" without supervision would be a nightmare for the North. In the diplomatic chess game between the Koreas, chalk one up to the South here.
Washington, November 11, 1922. Four law-enforcement officers, looking very pleased with themselves, pose by the back-alley still they've just seized, while a crowd gathers to gawp:
A disastrous social experiment, but look on the bright side: without prohibition the Mafia would never have become so powerful, and we wouldn't have had the Godfather films, or the Sopranos....
Update: pictures celebrating the end of Prohibition 80 years ago.