Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
from Photographers' Blog:
Landing at North Korea's Pyongyang International Airport to cover the two-day visit by the New York Philharmonic, we did not know what to expect. Myself, and Reuters TV cameraman Anil Ekmecic, had never been to Korea before, and what must be a fairly unusual experience, we could now say we traveled to Korea via the reclusive North first.
As we touched down, both Anil and I, along with text journalist Jon Herskovitz, the feeling was of intense anticipation of the unknown in a visual sense. The first sight was a welcoming party, consisting of some 10 uniformed North Korean soldiers and more than 60 well-attired officials. All looking tense. Then what happened next must have been a rather unusual sight for North Korea - a media scrum. The traveling press of which we were a part of, consisted of approximately 60 journalists, 20 television cameraman and 10 photographers. But then what we hadn't counted on was the local media, who appeared from nowhere, and were definitely not used to having to worry about getting in other people's viewfinders, let alone being told to "get outta the way, Man".
After the official group photograph of the orchestra had finished, we were introduced to our ‘guides' for the two-day visit, and shuffled into buses. These friendly yet intimidating officials stated that they all were named "Kim" and they would be more than happy to accommodate our every need.
The convoy then started out to our hotel, about a 45 minute ride into town. At first we were expecting to have to sneak a few photographs and footage as we had been told on all previous official tours was the case, but all of us were pleasantly surprised when no orders to lower our cameras were given. So through thick, badly scratched and tinted windows, we recorded what we saw. A bleak and gray landscape covered in snow, dotted with run-down dilapidated buildings, the occasional car (usually an early 80's model Mercedes), horse-drawn carts, and many many weary-looking people. Some were collecting firewood, while others were just aimlessly walking or standing by the road.
It started as a women's protest for the right to wear Muslim headscarves at university, in this case at Marmara University in Istanbul. Then the men showed up with their banners and megaphones, lined up in front of the cameras and began speaking in place of the women. That left the ladies standing demurely on the sidelines or in the crowd, all decked out with their bright silk scarves with nothing to do but clap at what the men said.
It was just another case of what women here often complain about -- that the headscarf has been hijacked by politics for decades, leaving ordinary women to suffer the consequences. Some have sacrificed an education for their faith, preferring not to go to university if it means uncovering, and they feel like little more than a political football in this very masculine power struggle.
By Jon Herskovitz
Being the leader of one of the world ’s most paranoid states can make a person, well, paranoid. So when guests to the New York Philharmonic ’s concert in Pyongyang arrived to very little security, it was obvious that North Korean leader Kim Jong-il wouldn’t be attending.
Foreign aid workers based in Pyongyang said that when they have attended an event where the Dear Leader, as he is called in state media, does appear, the North ’s massive security is very evident. Guards check all people attending, make sure no one has cameras or gets anywhere near the world’s first communist dynastic ruler unless they have been vetted well in advance.
What a way to start my first full day in Pyongyang. Our breakfast spread was amazing. It was a lavish affair with ice sculptures, more types of cereal than can be found at Kellogg’s, two fancy espresso makers and a lot of North Koreans hovering nearby. I had myself a ham omelet and a nice cup of coffee. There wasn’t a Starbucks in sight!
Yesterday, we took the first of the trilogy. A plane. Today, it was trains and automobiles. I spotted this car sputtering through the streets of Pyongyang. It looks like it hails back to the Soviet era.
By Jon Herskovitz, on the road with the New York Philharmonic
Welcome to North Korea. Do you have any killing devices?
I do not, but North Koreans certainly want to know. It’s on the customs form. Visitors to one of the world’s most isolated states are asked to tick a box if they are carrying: weapons, ammunition, explosives, and killing devices. Other no-nos include “exciters” and poison.
Oh yes, and mobile phones. Your mobile phone is collected before stepping on the plane to North Korea and returned once you’ve left the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as the North prefers to call itself. That rule puts visitors on an equal footing with locals for most of whom these are also illicit possessions.
North Korea may be suffering from a chronic food shortage but that did not stop the impoverished state from throwing a lavish dinner reception for the New York Philharmonic for their first night in Pyongyang.
When visitors arrived at the banquet hall, they saw tables were covered in fancy dishes, bottles of booze and even a chocolate cake that had the word “opera” written in the icing. The main dish was a selection of cold meats and baby corn that was described as a “floral basket-shaped turkey”.
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
Reports last week in the New York Times and the Washington Post about CIA operations against al Qaeda inside Pakistan -- with or without the permission of the Pakistan government -- have got everybody asking what exactly is going on. Let's rewind and look at what the United States asked for immediately after 9/11 when it demanded President Pervez Musharraf's cooperation in hunting down al Qaeda.
In his book "In the Line of Fire", Musharraf says the Americans presented him with a list of demands on Sept. 13, 2001 which included a requirement Pakistan "provide the United States with blanket overflight and landing rights to conduct all neccessary military and intelligence operations". Musharraf says that though he agreed to cooperate with the United States, this particular request was turned down.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, according to state media, rarely misses a chance to see Russian dancing girls when they make their rare trips to his reclusive country. But will he be interested in seeing the oldest U.S. orchestra?
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
Scanning the U.S. media for reaction to the Pakistan election, two themes stand out. One is a U.S. desire to reach out to the newly elected political leaders in Pakistan and bolster a return to civilian-led democracy. The other is the U.S. need to shore up the battle against al Qaeda and the Taliban -- even if it means pursuing them aggressively inside Pakistan's lawless tribal areas. One may turn out to contradict the other.
The New York Times says in an op-ed that the United States must invest in Pakistan's people -- its schools, courts and political parties -- to build popular support for tackling al Qaeda and the Taliban. Reuters Washington-based Asia Correspondent Paul Eckert quotes Barack Obama, among others, as saying a democratic Pakistan will make "a better ally in the fight against terror and extremism."
from Pakistan: Now or Never?:
President Pervez Musharraf could hardly have found a better way of convincing the world about his commitment to holding a "free and fair" election in Pakistan -- by letting his own allies in the Pakistan Muslim League (Q) be defeated at the polls.
Commentators are already trying to work out whether the opposition Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of the late Benazir Bhutto and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif -- ousted by Musharraf in a 1999 coup -- can muster enough seats between them in parliament for the two-thirds majority needed to impeach him.