Who's the new head of the UN's Conference on Disarmament? Can you guess?
The Conference on Disarmament held a plenary meeting this morning in which the Democratic People's Republic of Korea assumed the presidency of the Conference and members bid farewell to the departing ambassadors from Canada and the United Kingdom.
In his initial address to the Conference as president, So Se Pyong of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea said that he was very much committed to the Conference and during his presidency he welcomed any sort of constructive proposals that strengthened the work and credibility of the body. He was ready to work closely with all members to provide the grounds for strengthening their work. As president, he would be guided by the Rules of Procedure and take into account the position of each delegation to find common ground on substantive issues and procedural matters as well. With their support and cooperation, he would do everything in his capacity to move the Conference on Disarmament forward....
In his farewell address, Ambassador John Duncan of the United Kingdom said that many had speculated about why the Conference on Disarmament seemed unable to play its part in the new dynamic in multilateral diplomacy; an increasing number had drawn the conclusion that the Conference on Disarmament was no longer “fit for purpose”.
No longer "fit for purpose"? Whatever would make him think that? No one else seemed to voice any concern:
All of the delegations who took the floor welcomed So Se Pyong as the president of the Conference on Disarmament and said that they looked forward to his stewardship and working with him to revitalize and strengthen the Conference.
Who can fail to feel reassured by the news that large numbers of men in Geneva are able to eat out in style every night after a heavy day discussing serious disarmament-related matters, under the dynamic stewardship of the North Koreans?
Artist Ai Weiwei is the latest symbol of revolt:
Spotted in that hotbed of radicalism, South Tottenham. "Spread the street campaign from London", it says here. Which seems, at least in part, to be a promotion for a forthcoming film about the man, Never Sorry. There's a short video here.
"Can an artist change China?" they ask. Well....you have to start somewhere, I suppose, and with his recent arrest and release he's now become the face of dissidence in China (though I wasn't particularly impressed with his recent Sunflower Seeds display at Tate Modern). Is anyone putting these stickers up round Beijing, though?
Graffiti denouncing Kim Jong Il has allegedly been found on a wall in Pyongyang, causing the authorities to launch a crackdown to uncover the culprit.
According to one Chinese-Korean trader working between the North Korean capital and Dandong, China, “Graffiti denouncing Kim Jong Il was found on the wall of Pyongyang Railroad College on the 24th; the inspections and regulations are phenomenal. Nobody can come or go from Pyongyang.”
The graffiti apparently stated, “Park Chung Hee and Kim Jong Il are both dictators; Park Chung Hee a dictator who developed his country’s economy, Kim Jong Il a dictator who starved people to death.” One syllable was a man's head and was written on a red brick wall in white chalk, making it quite striking.
Park Chung-hee, for those who don't know, was South Korea's authoritarian ruler from 1961 till his assassination in 1979, and the man credited with his country's industrialisation.
“In order to catch the culprit, regulations and inspections targeting visitors to Pyongyang as well as the city’s citizens went on for three days, until the morning of the 27th,” the source said. “They wouldn’t even sell train tickets, so my schedule got pushed back. One person visiting his son in the military in Pyongyang was not able to get home.”...
According to the trader, the authorities launched the search for the person responsible via a joint investigation team including the National Security Agency and People’s Safety Ministry, specifically targeting students and people from other provinces. They established road blocks on the roads linking Pyongyang Station and West Pyongyang Station, Pyongyang-Pyongsung, Pyongyang-Wonsan and Pyongyang-Kanri, then began questioning all passers’ by.
Reporting the latest, he said, “The investigation unit has now narrowed down the investigation to the Railroad College’s own students, and has blocked the movement of people between provinces in order to stop the spread of rumors. It seems they are dealing with it severely since it happened in Pyongyang not in the provinces.”
After the unpleasantness surrounding the swift exit of the North Korean team at the World Cup in South Africa last year, the coach of the women's team made sure he had his excuses ready - especially when their first opponents were the hated Americans:
North Korea's coach blamed his side's 2-0 loss to the United States on his players getting struck by lightning in the build up to the Women's World Cup.
Kwang Min Kim claimed that some of them were hospitalised with electrocution after a training match on 8 June....
"When we stayed in Pyongyang during training our players were hit by lightning, and more than five of them were hospitalised," said coach Kim, without naming the affected players specifically.
"Some stayed in hospital and then came to Germany later than the rest of us. The goalkeeper and the four defenders were most affected, and some midfielders as well. The physicians said the players were not capable of participating in the tournament.
"But World Cup football is the most important and significant event for a footballer, so they don't want to think about anything but football.
"The fact that they played could be called abnormal, the result of very strong will."
Only the most cynical could fail to be moved.
From Australian Broadcasting:
Footage shot inside North Korea and obtained by the ABC has revealed the extent of chronic food shortages and malnutrition inside the secretive state.
The video is some of the most revealing footage ever smuggled out of the impoverished North Korean state.
Shot over several months by an undercover North Korean journalist, the harrowing footage shows images of filthy, homeless and orphaned children begging for food and soldiers demanding bribes.
The footage also shows North Koreans labouring on a private railway track for the dictator's son and heir near the capital Pyongyang.
Strolling up to the site supervisor, the man with the hidden camera asks what is going on.
"This rail line is a present from Kim Jong-il to comrade Kim Jong-un," he is told.
The well-fed Kim Jong-un could soon be ruling over a nation of starving, impoverished serfs.
The video shows young children caked in filth begging in markets, pleading for scraps from compatriots who have nothing to give.
"I am eight," says one boy. "My father died and my mother left me. I sleep outdoors."
Many of the children are orphans; their parents victims of starvation or the gulag.
But markets do exist - private markets that stock bags of rice, pork, and corn. The state no longer has any rations to hand out.
But the state wants its share of this embryonic capitalism.
In the footage, a party official is demanding a stallholder make a donation of rice to the army.
"My business is not good," complains the stallholder.
"Shut up," replies the official. "Don't offer excuses."
It is clear that the all-powerful army - once quarantined from food shortages and famine - is starting to go hungry.
"Everybody is weak," says one young North Korean soldier. "Within my troop of 100 comrades, half of them are malnourished," he said.
Unfortunately the video has now disappeared - "Editor's note: The ABC had 24-hour rights to publish the North Korean footage online, so it has now been removed from this story." Which reduces this to little better than hearsay. A commenter here did catch it though, and describes it as "pretty powerful stuff".
See also here.
Docklands from the Greenway, at Channelsea River:
Here the river, known as Bow Creek, is tidal. If you head up to the right you get to the new Three Mills Lock, part of British Waterways Olympics development, which is supposed to allow a greener transportation of materials to and from the Olympic site by water. Why they didn't just build a lock where the Lea joins the Thames at Canning Town I really don't know. Then this whole stretch of water would be navigable all the time, instead of just when the tide's high. And you still can't get near the new lock by bike or on foot: the old riverside path round from Three Mills to Channelsea (to the right on the top picture) is closed off and has been now for a few years. They said it'd just be for a short time...
For some pics of Bow Creek at low tide, plus the gasholders at Twelvetrees, see here.
I have two questions concerning plumbers merchants. The first is, why are their names nearly always initials? THL Plumbers, or TD Plumbing (mostly beginning with T round here, it seems). Never Brown's Plumbing, or Frank J Taylor & Sons, Plumbers.
The second question is, why does it take three visits to get what you want? The first place you try will be waiting for a delivery. Could be tomorrow, or maybe later in the week. You could try TSK Plumbing (no, not DSK, TSK...T for Terry) on Hornsey High Street. Yes, turn left, then second right, can't miss it. (A third question might be, why are their directions to other plumbers merchants always so useless?)
The second plumbers will have it, but they don't sell it separately from the whole unit, and you really don't want the whole unit since everything else is fine it's just this one little bit that's broken. By now you're remembering that this is just what happened last time you needed to visit a plumbers merchant - which was a few years back because frankly you don't make a habit of this kind of thing if you don't have to.
The third one, TFD Plumbing Supplies (it's left from the junction with Ferme Park Road, not right), have it in stock, no problem, but whereas the first two places were all smiles and couldn't be more helpful, this one's a surly bastard with tattoos and you have to ask for a receipt. Not that all men with tattoos are surly - of course they're not - but I wouldn't be surprised if there's some kind of correlation.
Fingers crossed it's a few more years before I have to do this again. And no, I haven't fitted the new parts in yet. Too tired.