KOREA – IN MOURNING, IN TURMOIL
-MOURNING THE “DEAR LEADER”…As David WRIGHT reports, the body of North Korea’s “Dear Leader”, Kim Jong Il, was laid out in a memorial palace Tuesday – and the mammoth-scale sobbing really kicked into gear. “Why did you leave us so soon?” a man in Pyongyang cried. Weeping mourners filled public plazas — state television showed throngs of mourners, including King Jong Un himself, passing the open coffin surrounded by guards and flowers. The Korean people are in “deep sorrow at the loss of the benevolent father of our nation,” Ri Ho Il, a lecturer at the Korean Revolutionary History Museum, told The Associated Press. “He defended our people’s happiness, carrying on his forced march both night and day,” Ri said. Still images aired on state TV showed that the glass coffin holding Kim’s body was surrounded by his namesake flowers — red “kimjongilia” blossoms. He was covered with a red blanket, head on a white pillow. The coffin was presented in a room of the Kumsusan Memorial Palace, a mausoleum where the embalmed body of his father — national founder Kim Il Sung — has been on display in a glass sarcophagus since his death in 1994.
-WELCOMING THE “GREAT SUCCESSOR”…The North’s state media was also busy today feeding a budding personality cult around Kim’s third son, hailing him as “a great person born of heaven,” a propaganda term previously used only for his father and grandfather. The Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the ruling Workers’ Party, added in an editorial that Kim Jong Un is “the spiritual pillar and the lighthouse of hope” for the military and the people. It described the twenty-something Kim as “born of Mount Paektu,” one of Korea’s most cherished sites and Kim Jong Il’s official birthplace. On Monday, the North said the people and the military “have pledged to uphold the leadership of comrade Kim Jong Un” and called him a “great successor” of the country’s revolutionary philosophy of juche, or self reliance. Young Koreans “are burning with the faith and will to remain loyal to Kim Jong Un…”
-PORTRAIT OF THE NEW LEADER AS A YOUNG MAN…The Wall Street Journal reports that the portrait of Kim Jong Un that emerges in his U.S. intel profile is that of a young man who, despite years of education in the West, is steeped in his father’s cult of personality and may be even more mercurial and merciless, officials said.
-INTEL FAILURE?…The New York Times reports that Kim’s death represents a massive intelligence failure for South Korea and to a certain extent, the U.S. as well. Allied intelligence failed to pick up any clues that Kim Jong Il had died – even though he had apparently been dead for a day and a half before the news broke. South Korean leaders say they first heard the news when it was announced on North Korean TV.
-SOUTH KOREA OFFERS CONDOLENCES…A significant sign of outreach and goodwill: Joohee CHO reports that South Korea is offering condolences to North Korea’s people as they mourn the death of their longtime ruler – though no official delegation will be traveling from Seoul to Pyongyang to pay respects. CHO adds that out of respect, South Korea will not be lighting three Christmas trees along the DMZ – an act seen in holidays past as provocation.
-CHINA HINTS AT INVITING NEW LEADER…China is North Korea’s one true ally, and today Chinese President Hu Jintao offered his condolences to the North and the government hinted at an early invitation for a visit by son and successor Kim Jong Un.
-ASIAN STOCKS BOUNCE BACK…Most Asian stock markets bounced back Tuesday as fears receded of political turmoil in the region. Investors appeared relieved that Kim’s death from a heart attack had not triggered an immediate crisis over a leadership succession in the isolated nation known to be pursuing nuclear weapons. Wall Street is up sharply as well — the Dow at +250 as we write.
-OBAMA & BIDEN MARK HOMECOMINGS…The President and Vice President will greet troops returning from Iraq to Andrews Air Force base, and salute the return of the United States Forces-Iraq Colors in a ceremony at Joint Base Andrews at midday. Just last Thursday, the colors were removed in a casing ceremony in Baghdad.
-LAST TROOPS ARRIVE ON U.S. SOIL…The last 300 Airmen to leave Iraq return to BWI Airport tomorrow aboard two flights. They are from bases all over the US. The flight has 230 airmen aboard, another one later tomorrow night carries 70. The planes are coming in from Kuwait.
-IN IRAQ, TROUBLE AFTER U.S. EXIT…Mike GUDGELL reports from Baghdad: As if tensions weren’t already high - the issuing of an arrest warrant against Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi threatens the relationship (holding barely steady as is) between Iraq’s Sunnis and Shiites. Iraqi officials on Monday accused al-Hashemi of running a hit squad that killed government officials. The vice president is in Kurdistan and is not in custody. No reminder needed probably…but it was a Sunni-Shia rivalry that threatened to unravel the entire nation during the bloodiest days of the war.
-NEW DEAL SIGNED ON DEADLY DAY…Alex MARQUARDT reports that – according to opposition activists – on the day Syria signed a deal to allow Arab League observers into the country, more than 100 people may have been killed. If true, Monday would be one of the bloodiest days in the nine-month uprising.
-A SPARK OF CREATIVITY?…Meanwhile, the New York Times notes that one day earlier this month, protesters in Syria broke into dance, a conspicuous break from the traditionally somber mood at funerals. On the simplest level, the dancing signals that despite months of bloody repression, the euphoria people feel in seeking freedom cannot be suppressed, participants said.
MARQUARDT also reports that Egyptian troops and riot police raided Cairo’s Tahrir Square early Tuesday in their latest attempt to evict protesters who want the ruling military to immediately step down, according to a field hospital doctor. It was the second pre-dawn raid in as many days on the city’s central square. And in one of the more hideous comments we’ve heard – to go along with those awful scenes of the crackdown – a military advisor told the Egyptian newspaper Al Shook: “[protesters] deserve to be thrown into Hitler’s ovens.”
BIRD FLU STRAIN IN AN INSECURE LAB?
From Simon MCGREGOR-WOOD: U.S. authorities are said to be worried by this latest development – scientists at Rotterdam’s Erasmus University say a highly infectious new form of bird flu is said to be stored in the university’s basement, without sufficient security. Some fear the new strain of the flu could cause a global pandemic if it is released. “The fear is that if you create something this deadly and it goes into a global pandemic, the mortality and cost to the world could be massive,” a senior scientific adviser to the US Government told The Independent, speaking on condition of anonymity.
From Alexandra NADEZHDINA: Reports from the oil-producing Kazakhstan town of Zhanaozen say riots involving hundreds of oil workers erupted last Friday, the nation’s Independence Day, and that anywhere from 15 to “many dozens” of rioters were killed by police. Protests reportedly continued into Monday and that the town is now under military – and hundreds are reported missing. A three-week state of emergency has been declared.
PHILIPPINE DEATH TOLL NEARLY 1000
The Philippine government shipped more than 400 coffins Tuesday to two flood-stricken cities in the south where the death toll neared 1,000 as President Benigno Aquino III declared a state of national calamity and relief agencies rushed to help.
FRANCE: 30,000 WOMEN TO HAVE “FAULTY BREAST IMPLANTS” REMOVED
BBC reporting: The French authorities are to ask 30,000 women who received potentially defective silicone breast implants to have them removed, reports say. There are concerns that the implants supplied by Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) carry potential health risks, according to the newspaper, Liberation. PIP was found last year to have used a non-authorised silicone gel that caused abnormally high implant rupture rates. The French government has formed a special committee to look at the issue. “We have to remove all these implants,” Dr Laurent Lantieri, a plastic surgeon on the committee, told Liberation. “We’re facing a health crisis, linked to a fraud.”
PIERS MORGAN TESTIFIES AT HACKING HEARING
CNN host and former News of the World editor Piers Morgan testifies today at the hacking inquiry which is investigating the culture and practices of British tabloids after this summer’s scandal. The Independent highlights four instances Morgan is sure to be grilled on. The BBC reports Morgan will appear via videolink from the
U.S. PAROLED AMERICAN LEAVES PERU
Paroled American Lori Berenson, who stirred international controversy after being convicted of aiding Peruvian guerrillas, has returned to the United States for her first visit back home since Peruvian authorities arrested her in 1995. The idea (we’ll see how it plays out) is that she is to retrun to Peru once this visit has ended.
IRANIAN NUKE MEETING
Italy is hosting a meeting of the United States and its allies to discuss sanctions against Iran in a bid to halt its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons. The Italian Foreign Ministry said officials of “like-minded countries” are meeting Tuesday in Rome but did not give details.
WIDER PROTESTS PLANNED IN CHINESE VILLAGE
Karson YIU and the Wall Street Journal report that Chinese villagers in Wukan are planning a march to the nearby city of Lufeng on Wednesday, according to organizers, expanding the protest outside the village in a major test for how authorities will respond.
THE PENGUIN BEAT
From Molly HUNTER: “This is probably the coolest pet you could ever own!” reads the caption of this clip of a trained penguin plucking the newspaper from his owner’s front door.
THE PANDA BEAT
HUNTER again: The Telegraph has video of Giant pandas doing summersaults in the snow.