An appropriate subject, I think, for Christmas Day....
Kim Jong-Il was born in a village near Khabarovsk in the Soviet Union. Officially, though, he made his first appearance at the revered site of Mt Baekdu, with his birth foretold by a swallow, and heralded by the appearance of a double rainbow across the sky over the mountain and a new star in the heavens.
Now, in line with the iconography of holy birth for leaders of the Great and Prosperous Socialist Nation, the official birthplace of the new Supreme Commander is being prepared as a place of pilgrimage:
The North Korean authorities have reportedly completed work on one of the key pieces of infrastructure in the idolization of new leader Kim Jong Eun; his official birth home at Hyangmok Village, part of Kangdong County, which lies within Pyongyang municipality.
As such, it is likely to be only a matter of time before the authorities begin to publicize the area as Kim’s official birth place to the international audience.
The three-stage plan for the development of Hyangmok Village was begun back in the second half of 2008. The first step was that of overhauling the local environs, the second to remodel the interior of the house, and the third to complete road and rail connections to the area.
According to one local source, “The third stage is in the middle of being completed right now, the road and railways from the center of Pyongyang, the track bed for the dedicated railway from Pyongyang is finished. Work on rail connections from Chongjin and Hamheung are both set to be finished soon.”
A corn field on the way from downtown Pyongyang to the area has reportedly been turned into an apple orchard, so as to allow those travelling from the capital to honor the new leader to have access to fruit en route. The project was led from Pyongyang by central construction authorities.
Of course it's important for the North Korean authorities, in this period of uncertainty, to get their priorities right:
Elsewhere, the authorities are also pushing forward with the establishment of villas for the use of Kim Jong Eun, one in Gyeongseong County in North Hamkyung Province and another in Changseong County in North Pyongyan Province.
Work at the site in North Hamkyung Province, near the town of Onpo, apparently risked resistance from local people, many hundreds of whom were forced to move to make way for a private railway in. The area was formerly home to a rest and recuperation area run by the provincial Party and another owned by Daesung Trading Company, which was founded by Japanese-Korean Oh Sa Seong, but these reportedly had to make way.
The railway line, spanning the 10km between the Onpo Villa and Gyeongseong Station for the exclusive use of Kim Jong Eun, has been completed thanks to the labor of around 1,000 mobilized soldiers, according to a North Hamkyung Province Party insider.
The old classic, originally done by Charles Brown, never sounded better:
Though the video may be a little....strange.
And here's a Metafilter post with some more fine blues links.
Got to dash: presents to wrap.
Luis Suarez isn't the only Latin American footballer in Europe who's got himself into a spot of bother. See this BBC video.
The Dutch football federation said Thursday it has yet to decide whether to replay a cup match between Ajax and AZ Alkmaar that was halted after a supporter ran onto the field and tried to attack Alkmaar's goalkeeper.
The alert Costa Rican goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado deflected the attack by a 19-year-old fan, tripping him with a karate-like kick. But Alvarado was given a red card for kicking the supporter again in anger twice immediately afterward before the intruder was dragged off by security guards.
Alkmaar coach Gertjan Verbeek ordered his side to walk out in protest rather than play with 10 men and the game was halted in the 36th minute. Ajax was leading 1-0 on a goal by Gregory van der Wiel.
Ajax director Jeroen Slop said the supporter had already been banned from the stadium for a year due to a previous run-in with security guards, but managed to sneak into the cup match with a ticket purchased by a friend. He has now received a lifetime ban from all Ajax matches....
The Dutch players' union has demanded that the red card be retracted.
"This cannot lead to a suspension" for Alvarado, said union chief Danny Hesp, arguing that Alvarado's reaction was in self-defense after an unexpected, unprovoked attack. The union "will do everything it can to fight this" decision, he said.
The federation said Thursday it will decide "soon" whether Wednesday's match should be replayed, resumed, or have Ajax declared the winner....
In a highly unusual move, the country's justice minister Ivo Opstelten got involved in the debate, saying the attack was "beastly" and that "jerks and nuts don't belong on the field." He added that he thought AZ's Verbeek was right to walk out under the circumstances.
For what it's worth, I don't see why it's any business of the ref's. This wasn't part of the game. If the goalie needs disciplining, let the Dutch FA or the police deal with it afterwards.
Only a select few foreigners have been invited to the Dear Leader's funeral - one of them a glamorous female magician from Japan:
The 51-year-old lady, who goes by the stage name Princess Tenko, was officially asked to perform a magic show in North Korea twice in 1998 and 2000. She also attended no fewer than 10 of the 'dear leader's' private dinners.
"I received the invitation via a phone call and an email from a member of Kim's family," said Tenko. "And I was asked to wear white."...
Tenko said the last time she met the reclusive leader was at a dinner party in 2009. At that time, Kim drank several glasses of whisky and engaged in some horseplay at his own expense -- affecting a limp as a byproduct of his stroke, she said.
She also said that when she performed a Houdini-type trick that saw her escape from a tank filled with water, Kim ordered the tank to be filled with two tons of Evian water. Kim said that because the water in North Korea was not as clean as that used in Japan, mineral water would be better for her skin.
Tenko received a container-load of various presents, including a life-size portrait of herself decorated with diamonds, rubies and other jewels, Japanese media said.
This is a strange case:
A baby at risk of becoming the victim of an "honour killing" because she was born as the result of her unmarried Muslim mother's secret affair must be adopted to keep her safe, the Court of Appeal ruled on Wednesday.
Three senior judges rejected a bid by the one-year-old girl's natural father to have her live with him and his wife.
The child's natural mother is in favour of adoption so that her own family will not find out about the birth.
Lord Justice Munby, Lady Justice Black and Lord Justice Kitchin said in a joint judgment the case involved "exceptionally difficult adoption proceedings," the Press Association reported.
The judges imposed unusually wide reporting restrictions banning the publication of all names and locations linked to the case because of the continuing dangers faced by mother and child...
The judge ordered that "baby Q" should be adopted by a couple, also Muslim, from the same country as the mother, but from a different community.
She found there would be "a very significant risk of two and two being put together" if the child went to the father because Q was quite obviously not the child of his wife, who had a child of her own.
If the child's maternal grandfather found out about the affair "it would be a matter of intense almost unimaginable shame to him and his family," said the judge.
The appeal court said on Wednesday: "It was plainly the judge's view that this might provoke action to preserve the family's honour."...
Both the unmarried mother and her lover were from abroad and moved to the UK in the last 10 years. Although both Muslim, there was a "profound cultural difference" between them.
When M realised she might be pregnant she ran away from home. She was "terrified" over how her family would react.
As soon as Q was born, she gave her daughter up for adoption because she "genuinely feared for Q's safety should (her father) become aware of, or forced to acknowledge, her existence."
Q's grandmother had told the police that, if her husband found out about the child, "he would consider himself honour-bound to kill the child, the mother, the grandmother herself and the grandmother's other children."...
The adopting couple were Muslims who had taken advice from their imam that they could adopt Q.
While appreciating that this may well be the best solution in very difficult circumstances, one could perhaps wish for a little more condemnation of the attitudes that led to this farce, and a little less acceptance of it all as somehow the way things are. And why is it so essential that the baby be adopted by a Muslim couple? - who had first to obtain permission from their imam?
At least 675 Pakistani women and girls were murdered during the first nine months of the year for allegedly defaming their family's honour, a leading human rights group said Tuesday.
The statistics highlight the scale of violence suffered by many women in conservative Muslim Pakistan, where they are frequently treated as second-class citizens and there is no law against domestic violence....
The Commission reported 791 honour killings in 2010 and there was no discernible decrease this year, the official added.
Around 450 of the women killed from January to September were accused of having "illicit relations" and 129 of marrying without permission.
Some victims were raped or gangraped before being killed... At least 19 were killed by their sons, 49 by their fathers and 169 by their husbands.