The Global Note: 7,000,000,000 Humans…Russia Spy Tapes…Pakistan’s Sesame Street…Cosmetic Fangs

By Tom Nagorski

Oct 31, 2011 10:44am

SEVEN BILLION HUMANS

-WHO’S THE LUCKY KID?…Acknowledging that they could never identify an actual seven-billionth child, demographers at the United Nations Population Division chose this day for the likely arrival of human # seven billion — and have invited countries to name their own “7 billionth baby” today. So we have already met some cute would-be media stars around the world. The Daily Mail has pictures of Danica May Camacho, a baby born in the Philippines that has been selected as that nation’s symbolic 7 billionth baby. Alexandra NADEZHDINA reports from Moscow that the western- and eastern-most regions of Russia, the city of Kaliningrad and the Far East’s Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, have announced their seven-billionth births — with nice baby pix to match. “Peter was born just after midnight in Kaliningrad, and “Alexander” (good Russian names, both) was born 19 minutes past midnight in Kamchatka. India has made a similar announcement, and World News has gathered elements in Gaza, Jerusalem, London, Beijing, Tokyo, Nairobi, and Islamabad.

-WHAT NUMBER WERE YOU?…Great interactive here

-WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?…The U.N.’s best estimate is that population will march past 9.3 billion by 2050 and exceed 10.1 billion by the end of the century. Nearly all the projected growth this century is expected to occur in developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, while the combined populations in Europe, North America and other wealthy industrialized nations will remain relatively flat. As the Los Angeles Times writes, today’s milestone has reignited debate about population growth and how best to help lift a billion people out of poverty. Others see today as a success for medical advancements that have allowed people to live longer and the number of infant deaths to drop.

-WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY # 6 BILLION?…When the world hit 6 billion people in 1999, the UN designated a now-12-year-old boy, Adnan Mevic, born to refugee parents in Sarajevo. Jean FIEVET caught up with Adnan and his story, twelve years on. 

RUSSIAN SPY SCANDAL — THE TAPES

From Pierre THOMAS: In the summer of 2010 – a story broke that had lots of the elements we love: intrigue, spying and overtones of a long lost era of Cold War espionage — the Russian spy case, with poster woman Anna Chapman. After the story faded from the headlines, the Washington Justice/Homeland Security team  filed a (FOIA) request for files and surveillance tapes the FBI secretly recorded in building their case. As a result of our request and that of  other news organizations, some tapes and other materials will be released by the FBI today, Halloween. Interestingly enough, the code name for this investigation was Operation “Ghost Stories.” Pierre and Jason RYAN report there are at least eight videos: some showing Russian spies handing off materials to each other in public locations in classic spy style – there is a meeting at a New York restaurant where you see Chapman having lunch with an undercover FBI operative – and other tapes of Russians digging up a buried package in the woods in upstate New York.

AFGHAN WAR

 -NINE-HOUR ATTACK…Per Nick SCHIFRIN and Aleem AGHA, today’s attack in Kandahar was a major one, targeting both the UN and a USAID contractor in Kandahar city. The UN building was severely damaged by a truck bomb and subsequent automatic weapons fire, and the USAID contractor IRD’s office was also shot by insurgents who took over a local building after the suicide attacker blew up himself and his bomb, concealed in a pickup truck, according to UN, US, and Afghan police officials. No foreigners died, but they were definitely targeted, and this is the second major attack on foreigners in Afghanistan in three days. Undoubtedly, we’ll hear the military argue this is a sign not of strength, but of weakness — that insurgents are able only to launch big, spectacular attacks because they can’t launch frontal assault after losing their safehavens. But most Afghans will tell you these high profile incidents make them feel security is getting worse, not better. The fighting caused by 3 suicide attackers finished 9 hours after it began. Four civilians and 1 policeman was killed, and 4 were injured, including a Nepalese guard to the UNHCR guesthouse.

-U.S. KNEW OF ABUSE AT AFGHAN PRISONS…From the Washington Post: Across the street from U.S. military headquarters in Kabul, shrouded from view by concrete walls, the Afghan intelligence agency runs a detention facility for up to 40 terrorism suspects that is known as Department 124. So much torture took place inside, one detainee told the United Nations, that it has earned another name: “People call it Hell.” But long before the world body publicly revealed “systematic torture” in Afghan intelligence agency detention centers, top officials from the State Department, the CIA and the U.S. military received multiple warnings about abuses at Department 124 and other Afghan facilities, according to Afghan and Western officials with knowledge of the situation. Despite the warnings, the United States continued to transfer detainees to Afghan intelligence service custody, the officials said. Even as other countries stopped handing over detainees to problematic facilities, the U.S. government did not.

LIBYA

-END OF THE MISSION…The NATO mission in Libya officially ends today at midnight. The NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen travels to Libya today — a victory lap of sorts for the alliance.

-CHEMICAL WEAPONS…Add to the many post-Gadhafi issues the country faces, Libya’s interim Prime Minister, Mahmoud Jibril, has confirmed the presence of chemical weapons in Libya. Jibril says Libya has no interest in keeping the weapons and that foreign inspectors will arrive later this week to deal with the weapons.

-THE U.S. ROLE: “HILLARY’S WAR”…Meanwhile, the Washington Post has an interesting read on the critical role Secretary of State Clinton played in holding together the coalition that launched airstrikes against Libya.

ISRAEL-GAZA CLASH

Alex MARQUARDT reports: Two Palestinians were found dead in Gaza early this morning following a night strike by the Israeli Air Force. It’s the latest in a series of dozens rocket launches from Gaza over the weekend and IAF retaliation that left one Israeli and around a dozen Palestinians dead. There is a fragile truce, mediated by Egypt and involving Israel, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Yedioth Ahronoth reports that “a truce was made after an explicit threat was made in Jerusalem early Sunday morning, which reshuffled the deck: stop the fire or there will be a military operation in the Gaza Strip.”

SYRIA

On Sunday, the Arab League panel held a “clear and frank” meeting with a Syrian delegation in Qatar, handing over a plan (details unknown) to end the bloodshed. The Local Coordination Committees notes that 343 people have been killed since the Arab League called on Syria to enact a ceasefire on October 16 — and more than 3,000 have been killed since the uprising began. Assad told the Telegraph that foreign intervention would lead to “tens of Afghanistans” but that he would consider talking to the opposition. “We will cooperate with all political powers, both those who had existed before the crisis, and those who arose during it. We believe interacting with these powers is extremely important.” 

 KIM JONG IL’S GRANDSON

 Kim Jong Il’s grandson is getting quite the media blitz at his boarding school in Bosnia. He talked to PRI last week, where the reporter described him as a teenager with “a touch of a hipster, sporting thick-rimmed glasses, a stylish haircut and earrings.” Kim Han Sol says he knows little about North Korea because he’d lived in Macau since he was 2. He tells PRI, that being Kim Jong Il’s grandson comes with “a lot of baggage.” ”It’s guilt by association,” he says. “All I want to do is study and live my life.” The Asahi newspaper also has a revealing look about what life is like for Kim Ham Sol, and the students that go to school with him.  

BANGKOK: FLOODS + ANGER

Bangkok may have been spared from floodwaters, for now…but growing resentment on the city’s outskirts threaten to complicate the situation. Akiko FUJITA writes: There is growing anger among those who have been placed on the wrong side of the floodwalls – areas the government has opted to “sacrifice” for the sake of inner Bangkok. Local media report furious residents threatening violence or vandalism against workers trying to build flood barriers. Guns are being fired to scare away city employees, while police arrested one man Friday for trying to dismantle a floodwall. The growing outrage threatens to bring down floodwalls that have kept the center of the capital dry, until now. The Bangkok Post reports some communities being flooded, after angry residents tore down flood barriers, while the NY Times writes other walls have been “destroyed under mysterious circumstances” in recent days, despite the military deploying 50,000 troops to guard and maintain them. Meanwhile, 6 additional Bangkok districts were told to evacuate Monday, as run-off from the North moved in closer towards the inner city. 

SESAME STREET COMES TO PAKISTAN

A Pakistani version of Sesame Street, called “Sim Sim Hamara,” began filming last week and will air at the end of November, featuring a new cast of characters led by a six-year-old Pakistani girl, Rani, and Sesame Street stalwart Elmo. Rani was chosen as the lead character to emphasize the importance of sending girls to school. The U.S. is bankrolling the initiative with $20 million, hoping it will improve education in a country where one-third of primary school-age children are not in class. Washington also hopes the program will increase tolerance at a time when the influence of radical views is growing. The U.S. government has worked with the show before to produce shows that air in about 20 foreign countries. The shows will appear on Pakistan state television, and the producers hope they will reach 3 million children, 1 million of whom are out of school.

TIME CHANGE SNAFU — THANKS TO SMART PHONES?

Alexandra NADEZHDINA in Moscow notes that smart phones in Russia weren’t smart enough to be up to date with Russian policy. Many computers and smart phones automatically set back their clocks an hour on Sunday morning, unaware that the country would remain permanently on summertime under orders issued by President Dmitry Medvedev in March.  

JAPAN TREND: COSMETIC “FANGS”

Young women in Tokyo are undergoing a cosmetic procedure called yaeba — giving them pointy, crooked teeth.Yaeba in Japanese means “double tooth”. The procedure pushes canine teeth forward so they stick out. The teeth often are made longer and sharper, and look like a vampire’s fangs. The procedure is popular with female Japanese celebrities. Now, young women who can’t afford the cosmetic surgery are having fake adhesive teeth stuck on top of their real canine teeth to get the look. The New York Times, in a story about the trend, quotes a Los Angeles blogger, saying: “It’s not like here, where perfect, straight, picket-fence teeth are considered beautiful,” said Michelle Phan, a Vietnamese-American based in Los Angeles, who wrote about the phenomenon on her popular beauty blog. ”In Japan, in fact, crooked teeth are actually endearing, and it shows that a girl is not perfect. And, in a way, men find that more approachable than someone who is too overly perfect.”

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