The Global Note: North Korea’s $850 Million Plan…Bin Laden’s Wives…Suu Kyi’s Win…A Mafia “Magic Mirror”

By Tom Nagorski

Apr 2, 2012 9:58am

NORTH KOREA LAUNCH

-GETTING READY…New satellite imagery shows that North Korea has ramped up preparations for a rocket launch that the U.S. and others call a provocation, and a cover for a long-range missile test. An analysis provided to The Associated Press by the U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies says the images show a mobile radar trailer and rows of what appear to be empty fuel and oxidizer tanks. The trailer is considered essential for a launch scheduled for April 12-16.

-THE COST – TO A HUNGRY NATION…Akiko FUJITA flags a Yonhap agency report that the rocket launch is expected to cost North Korea a whopping $850 million. That’s the equivalent of feeding 19 million people a year in a country where some people are believed to be starving. Yonhap also reports North Korea will spend $2 million to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Kim Il-Sung – that’s April 15.

OSAMA BIN LADEN’S WIVES SENTENCED…Habibullah KHAN reports from Islamabad: Osama Bin Laden’s three widows and two eldest daughters have been charged and sentenced for living in Pakistan illegally, their lawyer has confirmed. They have received a jail term of 45 days in prison and a fine of 10,000 rupees ($114) each. The women have already served a month of their sentence and are expected to be deported in two weeks. They have been in Pakistani custody ever since US special forces killed the al-Qaeda chief last May. The widows – thought to be two Saudi Arabians and a Yemeni – are believed to be in a house in the capital, Islamabad, which has been designated as a “sub-jail”, with all of their children.

HERO AFGHAN SOLDIER TO BE BURIED TODAY

Lt. Colonel Denis Weichel, who died in Afghanistan to save a girl from being run over by an MRAP vehicle, will be buried today in his home state of Rhode Island. The Boston Herald reports there’s a memorial service at 10am ET at the Swan Point Cemetery in Providence, followed by burial at the Rhode Island Veterans Cemetery in Exeter. Luis MARTINEZ filed on the story of Weichel, a Rhode Island National Guardsman, who was riding along in a convoy in Laghman Province in eastern Afghanistan when some children were spotted on the road ahead. The children were picking up shell casings lying on the road. The casings are recycled for money in Afghanistan. Weichel and other soldiers in the convoy got out of their vehicles to get them out of the way of  the heavy trucks in the convoy.  

IRAQ: LOWEST DEATH TOLL SINCE 2003

Official figures show 112 people were killed by violence in Iraq in March, still a large number but the lowest monthly death toll for Iraqis since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

OBAMA’S SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS

Today President Obama hosts Prime Minister Harper of Canada and President Calderon of Mexico for the North American Leaders’ Summit at the White House. After a series of closed press meetings, Obama, Harper and Calderon will hold a joint press conference in the Rose Garden at 1:15 pm/ET. Sure to feature prominently in Monday’s Oval Office session: Mexico’s role as a major oil exporter and the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada that Obama has shelved pending further review.

SYRIA: A STEP TOWARDS INTERVENTION

-PAYING THE REBELS…It’s a big change – though not at all clear what the impact will be: The United States and dozens of other countries moved closer this weekend to direct intervention in the fighting in Syria, with Arab nations pledging $100 million to pay opposition fighters and the Obama administration agreeing to send communications equipment to help rebels organize and evade Syria’s military.

-KOFI ANNAN REPORT…Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is scheduled to deliver a second report to the Security Council today on the progress he is making to broker peace in Syria, two days after a foreign ministry spokesman said the government would not withdraw troops from cities engulfed by unrest. Meanwhile, overnight, Syrian activists say two people were killed in government raids on villages in the country’s north while a bomb in a northern city killed one.

-SYRIA’S GHOST TOWN…Some compelling pictures out of Homs, Syria today show a destroyed, destitute ghost town.

MYANMAR’S LADY LIBERTY

-FROM PRISON TO PARLIAMENT…Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy advocate silenced for two decades by Myanmar‘s generals with house arrests and overturned elections, will assume a new role in her country’s political transition, after winning a seat in Parliament. A major step for democracy. Nobel laureate Suu Kyi won a by-election for parliament after a landmark vote that saw 45 seats contested. Ms Suu Kyi’s opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) said she had easily won in Kawhmu. In a statement, Suu Kyi urged supporters to show restraint in their celebrations.

-THE ECONOMIC REFORM…Meanwhile, Myanmar has launched a new currency regime that ushers in the boldest economic reform yet as the civilian government opens up the country after years of isolation.

DEADLY SIBERIA CRASH

Kirit RADIA reports from Moscow: A passenger plane crashed in Siberia shortly after taking off Monday morning, killing 31 of the 43 people on board, Russian emergency officials said. The 12 survivors were hospitalized in serious condition. The ATR-72, a French-Italian-made twin-engine turboprop, operated by UTair was flying from Tyumen to the oil town of Surgut with 39 passengers and four crew. The aircraft went down on a snowy field outside Tyumen, a major regional center in Siberia. The cause of the crash is not yet clear. No foreigners believed to have been on board.

675 ICE FISHERMEN FLOAT AWAY

Kirit RADIA again: Russian ice fisherman love their hobby so much they can’t stand the thought of putting it on hold when the spring weather thins the ice. As a result the ice floes sometimes break off and strand the fishermen on the floating ice. Over the weekend one of the biggest rescues was organized to save some 675 fishermen that were trying to get one last fishing trip in before the season ended. Alas they got stuck when the ice they were fishing on broke off and floated some 2km form shore in far eastern Russia. The rescue involved 40 people, 10 boats, and 2 helicopters. ‪

“KONY 2012″ – A SEQUEL?

Bazi KANANI reports from Nairobi: The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor voiced confidence this weekend that fugitive Ugandan rebel chief Joseph Kony will be arrested this year, praising the role of that viral online campaign.  Luis Moreno-Ocampo said the California-based group Invisible Children, and its 30-minute “Kony 2012″ video seen by more than 100 million people, had helped bring more pressure to capture the alleged war criminal.  “Invisible Children will I think produce the arrest of Joseph Kony this year,” said Moreno-Ocampo, after meeting the makers of the video. A sequel to “Kony 2012″ is set to be released in the next few days — in Los Angeles. 

AZAMARA CRUISE SHIP DOCKS IN MALAYSIA

The BBC reports that a cruise ship left adrift at sea for 24 hours by a fire has arrived in Malaysia following repairs. The Azamara Quest docked in the port of Sandakan, on the island of Borneo. Fire broke out on the vessel on Friday, a day after it left Manila for Malaysia, carrying 1,001 people, mainly European and American tourists.  

HACKERGATE

The Telegraph reports that Rupert Murdoch is braced for further damaging allegations against his News Corporation empire in a BBC documentary that alleges one of his companies broke the law to “bring down” a commercial rival.  

FRENCH OIL COMPANY TO SEND HELP TO LEAKING NORTH SEA PLATFORM

French oil company Total wants to fly experts to a North Sea oil platform that’s leaking gas. The company is discussing the safety of the mission with British experts. Total’s Elgin platform is enveloped in a huge gas cloud.

NORWAY KILLER WANTED TO KILL OBAMA

Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik planned to bomb President Barack Obama as he collected his Nobel Peace Price in 2009, according to Norway’s Dagbladet paper. The far-right extremist reportedly told Norwegian police of a plot to drive a car packed with explosives onto the square next to Oslo City Hall, and detonate it while the ceremony was taking place there, according to Dagbladet. Breivik, 33, told police that the Obama attack would have been largely symbolic, as the security surrounding the visit would have prevented him bringing the vehicle sufficiently close to the ceremony. But, with hundreds of millions watching on television, he believed it would have been a perfect way to promote his anti-Islamic message.

THE FALKLANDS WAR, 30 YEARS LATER

Tensions between Argentina and the Falklands Islands, which the South Americans have yearned to win back from British control for nearly 180 years, are higher now than they have been since the failed 74-day occupation that began 30 years ago Monday. A few voices on both sides still hope to find common ground, but nationalist passions have drowned them out.

MALI REBELS SEIZE LEGENDARY TOWN OF TIMBUKTU

From Bazi KANANI: Taking advantage of the chaos caused by the recent coup in Mali, rebel Tuareg fighters have swept across the north and seized the last government holdout, the legendary desert town of Timbuktu. Meanwhile, coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo may be planning to step down soon and return the country to a democratically elected government. On Sunday he told reporters Mali’s constitution was restored, state institutions would be reinstated, and his junta would not be part of elections. Other West African nations have threatened to close the borders with Mali if the government isn’t restored by today. The U.S. is now advising citizens in Mali to stock up on a week’s supply of food and water and to make plans to leave if it becomes necessary.

U.K. STUDY: DIABETES PILL TO FIGHT OBESITY IN BABIES?

In a small and controversial study in Britain, the National Health Service is giving diabetes drugs to obese pregnant mothers - to see whether they can prevent their babies from also becoming obese. Four British cities are in the trial. However, there is likely to be unease about resorting to medication in pregnancy for a problem that can be treated through changes in diet and exercise. If the strategy is a success, the treatment could be in widespread use in as little as five years, with tens of thousands of overweight but otherwise healthy mothers-to-be drugged each year. 

LONDON 2012: EXCLUSIVE HOTELS

From the AP: Coming for the London Olympics with money to spend? Then there’s still time to ensure you can take tea at The Ritz, drink at the Savoy’s American bar, or  sleep in an Art Deco room at Claridge’s. Most of London’s most exclusive hotels have been booked for the Olympics, snapped up by Olympic officials or companies block-booking rooms for favored customers, but there are still amazing places to stay. That is, if you can afford the bill.

MAFIA FUGITIVE CAUGHT BEHIND ‘MAGIC MIRROR’

A Mafia fugitive has been caught in Naples after police found him hiding behind a ‘magic mirror’ in a wardrobe that led to a secret hiding place inside his luxury villa. When police searched the master bedroom of Antonio Cardillo, a 34-year-old alleged crime boss affiliated with the Lo Russo clan of the Naples Camorra, they found a tiny remote control device that did not appear to belong to a television, computer or any other appliance. When they entered the walk-in closet beside the master bedroom and activated the remote control, a full-length mirror that seemed to be attached to the wall moved aside. The mirror was operated by a series of large hydraulic pistons and tubes activated by the remote control device and Cardillo was found sitting on a small red chair in the small room behind it, The Telegraph reports.  

STRONG VIDEO – A GLOBAL TOUR

Joe SIMONETTI flags several bits of good video.

-FIJI CYCLONE FLOODING…Severe flooding is affecting parts of the South Pacific island nation of Fiji after days of heavy rain that has been pounding the country since Wednesday. Four people have died, and up to 11,000 people have been evacuated to emergency shelters, as the western part of the country was inundated, Television New Zealand reported. Rising flood waters have cut off roads, surrounded houses and business centres, and many people are completely isolated.

-EAGLES ATTACK A KANGAROO…Yes, that’s right – watch it here.  

-NORWAY TRUCKS TUMBLE DOWN AN ICY SLOPE 

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