Archive | August, 2013

Dennis Rodman steals ball from U.S. govt as N Korea cancels U.S. mission to free prisoner on eve of Rodman visit

30 Aug

Dennis Rodman steals ball from U.S. government as N Korea cancels official U.S. mission to free prisoner on eve of Rodman visit

State: “It was a done deal. King was going to come back with Kenneth Bae. That was the arrangement”
BY NATE THAYER , AUGUST 31, 2013

Former NBA legend Dennis Rodman will return to North Korea soon with a “promise” to gain the release of jailed American proselytizer Kenneth Bae, as Pyongyang abruptly cancelled Friday an invitation to a senior State Dept. official who, according to U.S. officials, had already hammered out an agreement that would have seen the prisoner return with the most senior U.S. official to visit the isolated nation since Kim Jong Un assumed power in December 2011.

Three days ago, on August 27, the U.S. State Department announced that Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Robert King would travel to North Korea to bring home an American Christian missionary doing hard labor in prison for proselytizing Christianity.

What several senior U.S officials involved in the negotiations to release the U.S. prisoner didn’t know, was flamboyant former basketball star Dennis Rodman, is scheduled to arrive in Pyongyang in a few days at the invitation of “my friend” Kim Jong Un with a stated mission to bring about the release of Kenneth Bae. Now, instead of Ambassador King, it appears that the tatood, heavily pierced ‘bad boy’ Rodman will likely be the point man for the release of Bae.

On Thursday, the U.S. announced King “will travel to Pyongyang August 30 on a humanitarian mission focused on securing the release of U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae,” according to a State Department spokesperson. “Ambassador King will request the D.P.R.K. pardon Mr. Bae and grant him special amnesty on humanitarian grounds so that he can be reunited with his family and seek medical treatment.”

But today, as King was en-route to North Korea and on a layover in Japan, Pyongyang cancelled the invitation to talk about the American prisoner “abruptly” and “without explanation,” according to the U.S. State department. The U.S. State Dept. said Friday it was “surprised and disappointed,” adding it had sought “clarification” from Pyongyang about the eleventh-hour decision. Despite having “sought clarification from the DPRK about its decision”, the U.S. announced this morning that  ”Ambassador King intends to return to Washington from Tokyo the afternoon of August 31.”

“King was not going there to negotiate the release of Bae. It was 100% agreed he was bringing Bae home–a done deal,” a U.S. government North Korean specialist who spoke with King Thursday and with years of experience negotiating the release of U.S. citizens jailed previously by Pyongyang told NK News. “He was going there to pick up the package.”

Had Ambassador King made his scheduled trip to Pyongyang, he would have been the highest level U.S. official to have visited the isolated nation since the young leader, Kim Jong Un, took power in December 2011.

Rodman “promised” Thursday that he would raise the issue with Kim Jong Un at a scheduled meeting at the invitation of “my friend” Kim Jong Un, the 29 year old basketball fanatic who leads North Korea and its nuclear weaponized fourth largest standing army in the world.

“I will definitely ask for Kenneth Bae’s release,” Rodman told Huffington’s Live host Marc Lamont Hill.

“I will say, ‘Marshal, why is this guy held hostage?’ I could try and soften it up in that way. If the Marshal says, ‘Dennis, you know, do you want me to let him loose?’ and then if I actually got him loose – and I’m just saying this out the blue – I’d be the most powerful guy in the world.”

See full story on NKNew.org http://www.nknews.org/2013/08/dennis-rodman-assumes-u-s-envoy-to-north-koreas-rescue-mission/

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Syria’s Chemical Weapons: The North Korean Connection

27 Aug

Given the current crisis over use of chemical weapons in Syria, here are excerpts from a recent story from NKNews.org on the origins of North Korean Syrian chemical warfare cooperation. (Full story on NKNews.org http://www.nknews.org/2013/06/north-korea-and-syrian-chemical-and-missile-programs/)

North Korea and Syrian chemical and missile programs

North Korean military experts are training Syria how to play with chemicals
Family Ties

Family Ties

BY NATE THAYER , JUNE 19, 2013

WASHINGTON D.C. – North Korean military experts are deployed on the frontlines of the war in Syria, providing key assistance to the Assad government’s chemical weapons and ballistic missile programs, according to foreign intelligence, sources within the Syrian resistance and independent analysts.

North Korean military assistance to Syria is part of a lengthy covert war that has quietly raged for a decade, leaving a trail of dead North Korean and Syrian military scientists.

The North Korean military advisors now in Syria provide components and technical expertise to Damascus to adapt North Korean-supplied ballistic missiles as delivery systems for their chemical weapons arsenal.

Captured chemical weapons equipment from Aleppo | Photo: Syrian Free Army

Captured chemical weapons equipment from Aleppo | Photo: Syrian Free Army

AL-SAFIR : A LONG AND CRITICAL HISTORY

At Syria’s biggest chemical weapons facility and missile base at al-Safir, 20 kilometers southeast of Aleppo in northern Syria, North Koreans have long been crucial to the development of the Syrian military program.

The sprawling ballistic missile and chemical weapons development facility was designed and built by North Korean engineers and specialists in the 1990s, and has since been frequently expanded.

(Full story on NKNews.org http://www.nknews.org/2013/06/north-korea-and-syrian-chemical-and-missile-programs/)

Syrian Chemical Weapons: The odd tale of a lone Israeli spy and North Korea

27 Aug

The odd tale of a lone Israeli spy and North Korea

Given the current crisis over use of chemical weapons in Syria, here is a link to a recent story on NKNews.org on clandestine North Korean Syrian chemical warfare cooperation (see full story at NKNews.org http://www.nknews.org/2013/06/the-odd-tale-of-a-lone-israeli-spy-and-north-korea/)

Explosion kills Syrian technicians on North Korean train, Israeli agent spotted in Pyongyang
an-israel-spy-in-north-korea (1)
BY NATE THAYER , JUNE 20, 2013

WASHINGTON D.C. – In the weeks after the mysterious Ryongchon train explosion that killed a dozen Syrian weapons scientists in North Korea on April 22, 2004, the Canadian Office of Foreign Affairs announced they were investigating reports that an Israeli Mossad spy travelling on a stolen Canadian passport was in North Korea around the time of the blast.

Zev William Barkan was last seen in late April in Pyongyang, North Korea, after travelling there from Beijing using a Canadian passport issued under the name Kevin William Hunter, according to the Toronto Globe and Mail and other media reports. “The Canadian passport of Kevin William Hunter was said to have been reported stolen in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou on April 11, 2004”—11 days before the massive blast, measuring 3.6 on the Richter scale, at Ryongchon.

“Israel Mossad agent in North Korea?” read the headline in the August 4 Jerusalem Post, adding “New Zealand passport scam takes Canadian twist.”

The Canadian Press reported “Federal officials are investigating whether a suspected Israeli spy is travelling in Asia on a stolen Canadian passport.”

It said “agencies are checking allegations that Zev William Barkan – embroiled in a New Zealand espionage caper – is using a Canadian passport issued under the name Kevin William Hunter.”

“That part of the story’s being checked,” said Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Reynald Doiron. “All of that being put together, we should have a clearer picture.”

Foreign Affairs spokesman Reynald Doiron told Canadian CTV television that “We are checking the information. We know some of the answers but not all of them and we are determined to get to the bottom of this.”

(see full story at NKNews.org http://www.nknews.org/2013/06/the-odd-tale-of-a-lone-israeli-spy-and-north-korea/)

The violent consequences of the North Korea-Syria chemical arms trade

27 Aug

A recent story on NKNews.org on the North Korean Origins of the Syrian Chemical Weapons Program has renewed timeliness given the current crisis over chemical weapons use against civilians in Syria

(full story at NKNews.orghttp://www.nknews.org/2013/06/the-violent-consequences-of-the-north-korea-syria-arms-trade/

Clandestine cooperation between pariah states has left trail of bodies
BY NATE THAYER , JUNE 20, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The blast at the al-Safir facility in July 2007, killing Syrians, Iranians and at least three North Korean ballistic missile specialists, is just one occasion in which underover operatives have died working on Damascus’s WMD arsenal.

The clandestine weapons collaboration between North Korea and Damascus in recent years has left a trail of bodies from Moscow to the Syrian desert to North Korea in a deadly game of spy versus spy hidden in the shadows of the Middle East.

A mysterious blast nine years ago was one of many incidents in which individuals, including North Koreans, have met violent ends cooperating with Syria in developing weapons of mass destruction.

Photo of crater after explosion, Ryongchon 2004 | Picture credit: David Hill, ECHO

Photo of crater after explosion, Ryongchon 2004 | Picture credit: David Hill, ECHO

(full story at NKNews.orghttp://www.nknews.org/2013/06/the-violent-consequences-of-the-north-korea-syria-arms-trade/

Pyongyang Porn: “Some readers may find the book objectionable” @NKNewsorg

23 Aug

Excerpts from Pyongyang Porn

“Some readers may find the book objectionable”
BY NATE THAYER , AUGUST 23, 2013
For the full story, go to NKNews.org at http://www.nknews.org/2013/08/pyongyang-porn/ , the news organization that comprehensively provides quality journalism on all North Korea. Below are excerpts…….
cammy-smithwick-pyongyang-fuck-kim-jong-un-ladies-stockings (1)

Artwork by NK News illustrator Cammy Smithwick

 

Mhari Yi, who moved to Edinburgh to attend Napier University and stayed on to work, was excited as she embarked on a new side career as a budding author. She lived happily for ten years in Edinburgh, Scotland, she said in several interviews with NKNews.org

On May 12, 2012, she published a book. On May 14, she wrote on her blog “I am so happy. My first book has been published!” But Miss Yi had also set another precedent: she is the first to penetrate the virgin North Korean porn market, dragging the famously thin-skinned and prudish dictatorship against their will into the hard core world of erotic literature.

The cheeky promotional blurb for Pyongyang F@%K: Deep inside North Korea declares the barely legal protagonist “Dae is a young Korean girl who has just turned 18 and is looking for a little fun. Now is the time for a little excitement deep inside North Korea.“

If the North Korean government gets wind of the erotica author’s work, Miss Yi may find herself on the receiving end of a serious tongue lashing.

In August, 2012 an obscure Australian weekly paper angered North Korea by publishing a graphic of the London Olympic medal count which labeled Pyongyang “Naughty Korea” and its southern neighbor as “Nice Korea.” Pyongyang went ballistic and fired off a missive (that is missive, not missile) over state media for the “sordid behavior” of “challenging the authority of the dignified sovereign state” calling the Melbourne mX a  “naughty paper” and a “symbol of rogue paper for its misdeed to be cursed long in Olympic history.”

But the 31 year old porn writer has been much naughtier………..

BEGGING FOR MERCY

In Pyongyang F@%K: deep inside North Korea, the protagonist, the barely 18 Park Min Dae, engages in a series of bawdy Pyongyang romps using her wicked talents to seduce top party cadre, distracting them from their revolutionary duties, under the gaze of the ubiquitous portrait of the regime’s dictator, Dear Leader Kim Jong Il.

Miss Park, with breasts “like grapefruit” and buttocks “like two luscious juicy melons placed perfectly together” starts “working for the party” as a photographer for the Pyongyang Times.

On her first day on the job, she intends “a lot more than a boring first day at work”, returns to her bosses house and seduces him, only to then have North Korean intelligence agents appear out of nowhere and drag her now ex-boss off to his certain fate. Her future now firmly in the hands of the feared secret police, the very naughty Miss Park prostrates herself in front of the portraits of the Great Leader Kim Il Sung and Dear Leader Kim Jong Il and begs for mercy–and offers other rather risque, specific compensatory incentives to the secret police agents–and she is given a break, only to ratchet up and continue her subversive erotic antics. She returns home and tells her mom that her boss had quit but “the new one may even give me a promotion!”

The British Foreign and Commonwealth office helpfully suggests, in its travel advice offered to UK citizens visiting Pyongyang , to refrain from “perceived insults to, or jokes about, the North Korean political system and its leadership which are severely frowned upon,” adding that visitors have “found themselves in trouble for not paying what was deemed to be a sufficient level of respect.”…………

……………………………………….In Pyongyang F@!!k, Miss Park’s parents leave a life of luxury “in Japan to live in Pyongyang, North Korea. I know reading this now you may think why on earth someone would do something so stupid?” she writes. Her father was then taken by the secret police “who had come at night but I heard many rumors from my friends that my dad had been a bad man and had committed crimes of treason against the state and our Dear Leader.”

She probably made a good choice to use a pseudonym when she penned her no holds barred erotica set in North Korea. The Pyongyang authorities are famously grumpy when it comes to challenging the official propaganda portraying the Godlike virtues of the hereditary Kim family regime.

OFFENDING THE LEADERSHIP

In June last year, upset at South Korean media, North Korea threatened the “reduction to ashes in three or four minutes, by unprecedented unusual means” several offending newspapers.

One particular newspaper in South Korea merited a declaration from the famously thin skinned Korean Central News Agency that military “strategic rocket forces” had “zeroed in” on the journalists and then broadcast the precise military map coordinates of the papers office in downtown Seoul……Less than a week later the newspaper was the target of a sophisticated cyber attack, destroying their databases and temporarily paralyzing production.

“We have dispatched our investigators urgently to the Joongang Ilbo to secure evidence,” Jong Seok-hwa, chief investigator of South Korea’s government Cyber Terror Response Center said in an interview with a Seoul newspaper. ”We have never seen a strong attack like this before.”

KCNA added the international media were “dens of heinous provocateurs hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership” concluding they “should not be allowed to exist.”

In Pyongyang F@#k: deep inside North Korea, after her father was disappeared, her mother then “married the head of the peoples party in our province” who the randy Miss Park proceeds to tease and seduce.

The book is decidedly not family friendly reading.  A disclaimer says “some readers may find the book objectionable, saying it contains references to “voyeurism, exhibitionism, anal play, anal sex, oral sex, extended orgasms, graphic language, vaginal sex and cock sucking. “

It can be assumed that among those “readers who find the book objectionable” would include the ruling officials in the “workers paradise” of North Korea…….

……And she might take special note of the helpful British Foreign Office tip on traveling to Pyongyang that it is “not advisable to bring books” as “these and any other literature deemed subversive or pornographic by the North Korean authorities risk being confiscated from travelers on arrival.”

She might even want to remain alert when in Edinburgh. In July 2010, two North Korean diplomats walked into the Rangoon, Burma office of ……the author of “Kim Jong Il: The Dear Leader of North Korea,” one ordering him to immediately stop distributing his book, while the other diplomat confiscated all the remaining unsold 310 copies. “They said I used two American books as references,’ Hein Latt, 62, told Reuters at the time……

“To tell the truth, I gave the books to them because I am afraid of North Koreans. I know more about them than others because I am writing about them.” He said one spoke “English but the other didn’t. He just stood there and collected the books.” The North Korean diplomats didn’t even offer to pay for them. And the Burmese language book had been approved by the Burmese Ministry of Information Press Scrutiny Department, a government hardly known for its fidelity to press freedoms or tolerance for political controversy.

“If anything came of my silly little erotica, I would love it to be that someone gets more interested in North Korea,: Miss Yi said. “ It really is shocking how little is publicized about the horrors that occur in North Korea!”

Mhali Yi, when asked if she is single, says: “One could say that. I’m not in a serious relationship at the moment. It’s not something I’m currently looking for as I don’t wish to be tied down.”

That likely would be the most pleasant of her possible fates if the North Korean regime got their hands on the Edinburgh lass.

For the full story, go to NKNews.org at http://www.nknews.org/2013/08/pyongyang-porn/ , the news organization that comprehensively provides quality journalism on all North Korea.

Has the news biz come to this? Freelance journalists required to sign document forbidding writing anything negative about employers or advertisers?

21 Aug

Has the state of the news biz come to this? Freelance journalists required to sign document forbidding writing anything negative about employers or advertisers before being payed unlivable wage.

Freelance journalist not only asked to work for unlivable wages, but now required to sign away constitutional rights and fundamental ethical journalistic obligations, forbidden to say or write anything negative about their employers or advertisers?

August 21, 2013

An email exchange today between me and a freelance journalist requesting advice, comment, and suggestions after receiving the contract terms for her to write, still on a freelance basis, for a major U.S. news outlet which demanded she sign an agreement which demands she “cannot criticize, ridicule or make any statement” that “which disparages or is derogatory of XXXXXXX, or any of its officers, directors, agents, associates, consultants, contractors, clients, customers, vendors, suppliers or licensees.”

All comments from anyone who has had a similar experience or thoughts on its legality, ethics, precedence or suggestions on how to respond are welcome.

Below is the email exchange in its entirety, with the name of the news organization and journalist redacted at her request.

Dear Nate,

I am one of the folks who attended your panel at the AEJMC. Since you’re attuned to the freelance world, wondered if you’d heard of media outfits making freelancers sign non-disparagement agreements. A former editor who’s now working with XXXXXXX (a major, national politically oriented news site that is ramping up its breaking news section) contacted me to see if I’d write regularly for them on things I am expert on; but when their HQ in XXXXXX (A U.S. city) sent me a contract for work-for-hire, I was amazed that I had to agree I cannot criticize, ridicule or make any statement “which disparages or is derogatory of XXXXXXX, or any of its officers, directors, agents, associates, consultants, contractors, clients, customers, vendors, suppliers or licensees.”

   I informed XXXXXXX’s attorney that this could be several hundred people and that either I need a list of all these folks or they need to change their contract. She told me that this is standard in the freelance world which is nonsense in that I’ve written in the past 18 months for WaPo, the WSJ, CNN.com, the Economist and a bunch of other biggies and I’ve never had to agree to anything like this.

   Before I email her to say she’s quite mistaken, wanted to check with someone who also writes for big markets. I know you do not know me, but would you mind telling me if you’ve ever heard of this?

Sincerely,

XXXXXXX (Freelance Journalist)

 

 From me:

Hi XXXXX,

I have indeed never heard of such a thing, and I am guessing I would have. But I could be mistaken.

I can have your question answered, I think quite readily, as one of the side effects of the Atlantic kerfuffle is I have acquired a lot of new freelance friends who follow these issues quite regularly, religiously, and passionately.

My guess? It is XXXXXXXX’s corporate–or more precisely–legal side, that wrote this up on their own without precedent or forethought.

I am sure I can get the right answer and an informed one in a couple of hours if you want me to onpass your question to colleagues–other journos and freelancers. I can of course redact your name and, actually, even the reference to XXXXXXXXX, and I am sure I will have informed replies within a couple of hours.

It is of course, outrageous. The very premise of the function of a press is to not be censored from criticism, wherever it might lead to. Particularly not as formal policy of the news organization itself. And even more disturbing the requirement to write only approved propaganda regarding any advertisers or prominent figures associated in, it seems, any way whatsoever who have a financial or other vested interest in the news organization. Not to mention your own first amendment rights as a citizen, etc. etc.

 

It more than boggles and even more so disturbing, to say the least.

Let me know. And I hope you are well.

Nate

Email reply from the freelance journalist:

Dear Nate,

Would love to get any react you can. I had no idea who else to ask.

What is so crazy about all this is that XXXXXXXX first tells its writers it will only pay $200 per multi-sourced 800-word+ stories. I worked them up to close to $400 but that is still pennies. If they paid like $2.50/word, heck, I might say yes but for less than 50 cents a word? Really?

Yes, pls leave my name out for now. For XXXXXXXXX, feel free to say it’s a politically oriented news site that is ramping up its breaking news section but wants writers for cheap who are OK with signing away their First Amendment rights.

Thanks for your time,

XXXXXXX

 

Any comments, suggestions, or similar experiences and how best to respond are welcome.

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