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The check is rarely in the mail: The dark side of freelance journalists trying to get paid for their work

6 Aug

The check is rarely in the mail: The dark side of freelance journalists trying to get paid for their work

By Nate Thayer

August 6, 2013

There is only one thing more frustrating to freelance journalists than being asked by for profit companies to work for free.

That is being forced to spend months fighting, arguing, begging, threatening, cajoling, and renegotiating to, if you are lucky, actually get paid a portion of the compensation you were promised for the work you have already done.

Every freelance journalist, photographer, musician and creative artist on the planet knows exactly this scenario–how unethical, debilitating, frustrating, and sometimes humiliating this, routinely, is part of the everyday cadence of freelancers who make a living practicing their craft.

Here is a portion of the latest example of my being forced to divert my attention today from writing for a living to trying to get paid for that work already performed that has taken up much of my last few weeks.

Most every freelance journalist, and creative artist, will immediately recognize, and is all too familiar with the depressing, common scenario.

For much of May June and July, I was solicited and commissioned by a major Hong Kong based company which promotes Chinese direct investment in the U.S. economy, to write articles, copy edit, and provide other professional consultancy work to help them write a news letter, corporate brochures, and other English language documents.

For freelance news journalists, such work is often drudgery, and slightly demeaning, but necessary to supplement the dwindling opportunities to make a living as a journalist in these profoundly changing times for a free press in free societies.

The Hong Kong company has, to date, despite scores of attempts on my part, not paid a single dollar for these months of work.

Today, I received an email from them, after no response to increasingly strident messages from me since early July, saying they had no intention of paying me–at all–for the professional services they initiated, commissioned me for, and that I provided them.

It is, unfortunately, not an uncommon scenario faced by freelancers everywhere.

from:     XXXXXX<xxx.xxxx@xxxxxx.com>

to:          Nate Thayer <thayernate0007@gmail.com>

cc:          xxxxxx.xxxxxx@xxxxx.xxxx>

date:      Tue, Aug 6, 2013 at 10:24 AM

subject: Response to second payment request

10:24 AM (3 hours ago)

Hello Nate,

Per your earlier request about $5980, I have discussed with xxx and here is our response.

You and I have agreed orally to work on the newsletter as a project and you have agreed to provide us with a compensation proposal during our first meeting in Caribou cafe on June 25th. However, you have failed to present us with that proposal. And the project didn’t yield much result because what you wrote was not usable for us. So I am afraid that we can’t pay you what you are asking for.

We appreciate your work and it’s regrettable that it didn’t work out well. I wish you best of luck with your career in the future.

Best,

xxxxxxxx

Communication Director

My Response:

Dear XXXX,

I think you must have sent me a message you intended for someone else, so I wanted to alert you so you could correct your error and direct it to the proper recipient.

This would save XXXXXX the embarrassment of being accused of being guilty of the most transparent, egregious, immoral, unethical and illegal business practices that are readily provable and evidenced by the mountain of documents from yourself and XXXXXX CEO XXXXXX to me soliciting my work, congratulating me on its quality, and repeatedly soliciting more work, which you acknowledged, approved and thanked me for, in writing, throughout June and July 2013.

There is an off chance that you actually didn’t push the wrong send button, and you actually seriously meant to tell me that you don’t intend to pay me for the 62 hours of work (which was an extremely generous and conservative invoice of my time and efforts made on your behalf in June and July, taking into account that you repeatedly missed deadlines, changed your requests, asked me to standby for urgent deadline work requests which then didn’t materialize, and other bumps and starts which I attributed to your lack of experience or knowledge of the production requirements of putting out a quality newsletter).

This is work you solicited and I performed at the request of you and XXXXXX CEO XXXXXXX that you are now in default in paying me the $5890.00 you owe.

If by some unfathomable chance you have taken leave of your sanity, and you actually intended to say that XXXXX, after contacting me and securing my professional services 2 months ago, in which the physical records of  several hundred exchanges of emails, documents, text messages, Skype conversations, phone calls, conference calls between you, I , and XXXXX CEO XXXXX in Hong Kong, and personnel meetings, all of which document with indisputable clarity me having provided those professional services at your request and the request of XXXXX CEO XXXXX to XXXXXX during that period and are in my possession, that XXXXXXXX does not owe me compensation and payment of $5890.00 for providing my services, please clarify to me why the fuck not, promptly.

Two months after I began working for you, in which you have repeatedly delayed living up to your singular end of the deal—to pay me for my fucking work—you are now seriously contending that I didn’t work for you and you didn’t use my services at your request and initiation and are refusing to pay me?

Really?

As a matter of advice, it might be in your much better interest to rethink that strategy in your rather bizarre attempt to renege on having to live up to your promises and obligations to pay for the services you solicited, contracted, and received.

Here are some random samples of scores of quotes from your own messages to me that obviously shows that your suggestion that you did not agree to pay me or use my work you contracted me to perform for XXXXX, is ludicrous.

By my rough count, there were approximately 327 exchanges of emails, text messages, Skype conversations, Dropbox documents, phone calls, conference calls, and personal meetings in June and July between you, I, and XXXXXX CEO XXXXXXX.

From XXXXXX CEO XXXXXXXX to me on June 30:

On Sun, Jun 30, 2013 at 11:45 PM,  XXXXXX  wrote:

Nate

Thanks for your notes, these are my feedback, I have not talked with Min, but wanted to send this to you first, let’s discuss and get this moving.

Thanks

XXXXXXX

President & CEO

XXXXXXXX

From XXXXXXX to me and XXXXX CEO XXXXXXXXX July 1:

Hello Nate,

The newsletter outline is right on track. We have some comments to share with you. Please see the attachment. Please let us know if you have any questions.

Best,

XXXXXXXX

Communication Director

XXXXXXXXX

From me to XXXXXXX Chairman XXXXXX and Communications Director XXXXXX July 1:

XXXXXX:

See my comments highlighted in yellow below.

I thought the comments and suggestions were all spot on, useful, and good.

Cheers,

Nate

From XXXXXX to me July 1:

Hello Nate,

please find the attachment with our comments in red underline. We are riding on a good momentum here, please let us know your plan going forward.

Good luck with moving today!

XXXXXX

Communication Director

XXXXXXXX

From XXXXXX CEO XXXXXX July 1:

date:      Mon, Jul 1, 2013 at 12:28 AM

subject: Re: Thanks for your notes

Hi Nate,

thank you, this is exciting to find a passionate, professional writer we can rely on.

July 2 email from XXXXXX to me:

Hello Nate,

We have drafted a Newsletter table of content, which includes the three articles that you are working on and also another 12 articles which we found “fit to print”. All of them need to be worked out this week. Next to you, XXXXX and myself will take up some writing. I just sent an email to our team for TOC comments and inputs. Here I am sharing with you.

Best,

XXXXXX

Communication Director

XXXXXX

XXXXXX Newsletter Table of Content for Your Comments

Dear colleagues,

We are redesigning the XXXXX newsletter. The newsletter will demonstrate our mission in building bridges between US and China, inform the readers about XXXXX developments and create a platform for XXXXX partners, XXXXX communities and XXXXX past events participants to contribute to XXXXX mission. The newsletter will have print and online edition and will contain texts, photos and videos.

Since the last time some of you saw the newsletter index, we have made quite some changes and renamed it as Table of Contents. Please take a look at the latest XXXXXXX Newsletter Table of Contents ( TOC) and share with me your comments.  This TOC is designed primarily for the English newsletter, although we plan to let the Chinese newsletter to keep most of these items if not all.

Each numerical item represent a section and an article. Articles will generally be between 300 – 600 words, with one or multiple photos. We have set up 15 sections, which roughly doubles what we used to publish. Even though XXXXX, Nate ( outsourced writer ) and myself will take up majority of the writing, there are five articles that currently don’t have author. I highlighted them in yellow and if you are interested to produce any of these articles, please send an email to me.

Because we are working on a tight schedule, I’d like to ask you to please provide your comments before July 3rd, 6 pm EST.

Thank you!

From a July 8 email to me from XXXXX on XXXXXX official email:

Hello Nate,

Thank you for submitting the three articles. They are well developed, only need some minor adjustment, which we will mark out tonight. The newsletter is moving quickly. We plan to publish it this Friday. I have a translated article that needs some copy editing. I will send it to you in a separate email in an hour or so. I can see that you have put in a lot of effort, and I hope we can find a time to have coffee and recap after the dusts are settled.”

Or another message from XXXXX to me on July 8:

“Hello again,

I am sending you the short article that need some copy editing. This one can be worked out after you finish with article 2 and 3 revision. It’s a straight forward article, just need to smooth out and make it read like a 1st tier professional English news media article.”

Email to me from XXXXXX from July 11:

Hello Nate,

We are entering the final stages in the newsletter production. Let me give you an update since yesterday.

1. XXXXX approved all the section names and the article 2-4 packaging change.

2. Two more article folders are ready for copy editing. My colleagues sent me stories for article 7 and 8.

So for today, could you first finish the final copy editing for articles 7-15? Some of these are short articles. To purpose is to smooth the language, final round check. Some of the articles are already copy edited by you, such as # 9, 10, 12. Some are functional pieces, such as # 8, 11. For these kind, little changes maybe needed, but I still hope you simply go over them to approve the language for the last round.

For this kind of editing, because no big changes are needed, so there is no need for you to turn on track changes. If you want to show me places that you are unclear about or need me to look at afterwards, please highlight them in yellow.

Can you get this done before 5 pm today? And please send them in one by one as you finish copy editing.

After that, can you add a forth paragraph to dropbox article 2 to summarize what to be expect in the following three articles ?

XXXXXXX

Communication Director

XXXXXXX

There are dozens more, but I think you get the point.

I know you are young, inexperienced, and new to my country, and I know these kinds of unethical business practices are routine in your home country of the People’s Republic of China, so here is a bit of unsolicited advice to avoid unnecessary headaches for you as you start your budding career doing business in the properly organized world: Pay your fucking bills; pay them on time; don’t try and steal other people’s work; and live up to your promises.

One’s reputation as a person and a business of honor and integrity is important in a business environment driven by the rule of law and ethical conduct.

Given XXXXXXX singular mandate, using the company slogan “Building Trust, Creating Jobs”, is to promote Chinese direct investment in the United States by easing concerns among Americans and economic development officials that such investment will not be tainted by China’s well-earned reputation of using dubious business practices to make a fast buck and undermine the interests of those it is conducting business with, the irony of XXXXXX refusing to pay a contracted employee (that would be me) for services XXXXXX solicited, is a more than a tad ripe.

Please let me know if perhaps you have misspoken and let me know sometime in the next three hours.

On a positive note, I do think that your particularly stark attempt to refuse to live up to your legal and ethical responsibilities by trying to wangle out of paying for the services you solicited, contracted, and received, does make for a perfect case study of what thousands of freelance journalists and other producers of creative products face daily and are all too familiar with.

On a more negative note, for you in any case, I assure you, have fucked with the wrong person.

If you are under the delusion that you will not very much regret not having the $5890.00 in my bank account by the end of the business day Wednesday, August 7, you would be mistaken.

With all sincerity,

Nate Thayer

Within two hours of me sending this email, the Chinese company communication director rang me on the phone, attempting to argue they had no legal obligation to pay me anything.

“Let me be clear here. Fuck you! You either have $5890.00 wired and in my my account by the close of business day Wednesday August 7, or you will, I assure you, regret you were ever under the profound miss-impression that retaining my professional services could be had without living up to your end of the pretty simple arrangement—pay me my fucking money! This is not a matter of discussion, little less negotiation.”

She then offered me $1500.00

“Fuck you! You will pay the $5890.00 you owe me and a wire transfer in my bank account with that $5980.00 by the close of business Wednesday, August 7.”

“I will let you know our decision,” she said before I hung up the phone.

3 minutes later, my phone rang. It was the company CEO from Hong Kong. The conversation was civil and polite and clear. He agreed to send the money owed me by wire transfer immediately, today Hong Kong time.

But it took 3 weeks of dozens of increasingly acrimonious messages exchanged, a considerable amount of angst, and an entirely unnecessary and distracting amount of effort to simply get paid what had been agreed long ago was the amount owed me.

I estimate I spend 40% of my time negotiating payment and then trying to get those who commissioned my writing and agreed to compensate me for it to live up to their agreement to do so.

It is hard enough to make a living as a freelance journalist these days, but it is made infinitely more difficult by those who commission one’s work, invariably under the pressure of tight deadlines, and then give no priority to living up to their side of the agreement to fairly compensate you.

I detest it. And I, for one, am fed up with it.

Within hours of receiving my above message, the $5890.00 was transferred by wire to my bank account.

Another unpleasant day distracted from focusing on the only thing I do know what to do—write.

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Happy Chinese New Year in Cambodia: Corrupt Govt Officials Hand Cash to Hundreds of Soldiers

11 Feb

Happy Chinese New Year in Cambodia

What a pathetic embarrassment the Cambodian government is, a B grade rip-off of the Lord of the Flies.

Happy Chinese New Year in Cambodia means hundreds of police, military police and Cambodian army soldiers gathering to receive cash envelopes outside the house of one of Cambodia’s biggest crime syndicate bosses tied to the murder, jailing, and beatings of poor Cambodians in the service of innumerable corrupt patronage contracts between Hun Sen’s ruling political party and selling off state assets and land concessions to China.

The house where the security services gathered in hordes to beg for corruption payoffs is owned by Cheung Sopeap, the wife of ruling Cambodian people’s party senior official Lao Meng Khun, who together own the Phiopemex company–a major financier of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany.

Hundreds of Soldiers and Police gather Outside Home of Corrupt Cambodian Crime Syndicate Seeking Chinese New Years Cash

Hundreds of Soldiers and Police gather Outside Home of Corrupt Cambodian Crime Syndicate Seeking Chinese New Years Cash

A corrupt elite who finance the Cambodian dictator, Hun Sen, and a small cabal of his corrupt cronies in power and their wives, have stripped the country of state assets, forests, oil and mineral rights, and forced thousands of villagers from their homes, in a rapacious orgy of selling the country to foreign investors—most notably China—in exchange for cash payoffs.

Phiopemex and similar front companies are given the protection and use of the army and security services to carry out what is essentially an organized criminal syndicate using the protections and benefits of a nation state–in exchange for cash to Hun Sen and a small group of former Khmer Rouge officials who have lined their pockets with hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years

More than 80% of the population lives in rural areas and 36% lives in extreme poverty, earning less than 50 US cents per day.

Pheapimex is one of Cambodia’s most powerful companies, led by a couple with extremely close ties to Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife Bun Rany. The company director, Lao Meng Khin, is a senator with the ruling Cambodia People’s Party. His wife, Choeung Sopheap (known as Yeay Phu) regularly appears publicly alongside the prime minister’s wife. Both Choeung Sopheap and Lao Meng Khin have  previously accompanied Prime Minister Hun Sen on his  diplomatic trips to China.

Pheapimex Owners Yeay Phu & Lao Meng Khin: The “Power Couple" Financing Hun Sen Who Control 7% of Cambodian Land Mass

Pheapimex Owners Yeay Phu & Lao Meng Khin: The “Power Couple” Financing Hun Sen Who Control 7% of Cambodian Land Mass

Pheopimex controls 7.4 per cent of Cambodia’s total land area through its logging and economic land concessions, having diversified since Hun Sen seized control in a bloody 1997 coup from a business portfolio to encompass concessions for pharmaceutical imports, hotel construction and special economic zones.

Since, Pheopimex has included hydropower dams and a notorious land grab in the middle of the capital Phnom Penh. The business empire has expanded to include mining across the country.

Pheopimex first came to prominence as a logging concessionaire in the 1990s in a forest industry dominated by illegal logging, murders, and land evictions, and enjoyed a long relationship with the Cambodian armed forces, using the military to provide security and exert control over its forest concessions.

Over the last few years, thousands of poor residents were thrown out of their homes in central Phnom Penh in a corrupt land deal which gave a valuable chunk of the city to Phiopemex.

In February 2007, the Municipality of Phnom Penh granted a 99-year lease to the private developer Shukaku Inc. over a 133-hectare area of prime real estate covering the lake and the nine surrounding villages, illegally stripping residents of their land rights, including Boeung Kak lake development and the surrounding land affecting 4,225 families.

On 26 October 2008, Shukaku Inc began filling the lake with sand causing flooding and the collapse of some houses. Water and electricity was cut. In September 2010, over 1500 affected families were forced to accept compensation for their homes and land well below the market value, with Shukaku Inc. offering a reimbursement of US$4000 for property despite property values assessed at over US$40,000.

The Boeung Kak settlement consisted of nine villages surrounding the iconic lake in central Phnom Penh and home to 4000 families.

By April 2012, 3500 families were coerced into accepting compensation for a fraction of the market value for their homes and land, driving many families into destitution.

The Boeung Kak evictions constitute the largest forced relocation of Cambodians since the Khmer Rouge evacuated Phnom Penh in 1975.

Displaced Villager In Phnom Penh from Corrupt Government Concession to Cronies

Displaced Villager In Phnom Penh from Corrupt Government Concession to Cronies

Shukaku Inc is a front company for Peophemex and is owned by Lao Meng Khin and his wife, both close associates of Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife, and major financial backers of the Cambodian People’s Party. The Chinese firm Erdos Hong Jun Investment Co., Ltd. formed a joint venture company with Shukaku Inc to develop Boeung Kak into a high-end residential, commercial and tourism complex.  The Cambodian Government granted permission to re-register the lease agreement in the name of the joint venture, called Shukaku Erdos Hongjun Property Development Co. Ltd.

Boeung Kak residents were denied title en masse, and residents denied the protection of a fair process for resettlement and compensation of people found to be residing on State land, in accordance with World Bank safeguards. The World Bank ruled on the side of the villagers, but the Cambodian government refused to cooperate with the Bank and turn, the World Bank informed the Cambodian government that it would stop providing loans to Cambodia and would not resume lending until there was a satisfactory resolution of the Boeung Kak case.

cam bkk-two cam2 cam3 cam4

Cambodia cracked down harder on the displaced villagers. In May, 2012, female residents of Boeung Kak staged a peaceful demonstration and were surrounded by a mixed force of military police, anti-riot police and district guards, who used violence to break up the demonstration and then arrested 13 women, including a 72-year old. Their trial began two days later on May 24th, and just one hour after charges against them had been filed. Requests by lawyers for a trial delay to allow them to prepare their defense, review the case file and evidence, and bring in witnesses were all denied. They stood trial at 2pm – without a lawyer – after court prosecutors spent the morning interviewing them. They were charged with “cursing public authority” and “encroaching upon the land of a public figure” – Cambodian People’s Party Senator Lao Meng Khin, the owner of Shukaku.

By 5:30 pm that afternoon, all 13 women had been sentenced to 2.5 years in prison. During the trial, the police arrested two more community representatives who were waiting outside the court prepared to testify as witnesses for the 13 women who were on trial.

In June 20th, 2012, the government reacted to local and international outrage by cracking down harder calling the 4000 villagers “prostitutes and terrorists”.

“Because there was an uncontrollable mixed renting by all kinds of people, this area turned to be an insecure place, shelter for criminals, gangsters, drug dealers, prostitutes and terrorists,” the Phnom Penh municipality said. Boeng Kak had, as a result, suffered from a “disappearance of national customs, traditions and Khmer culture.”

The extent of government corruption in Cambodia is so stark that revenue from illegal logging is several times that derived from legitimate enterprises. A USAID report titled “Cambodian Corruption Assessment” stated that “grand corruption involving illegal grants of logging concessions coexist with the nearly universal practice of small facilitation payments to speed or simply secure service delivery”.

“Forestry and mining concessions are signed behind closed doors … no one outside the system knows what proportion of earnings go to pay taxes, what proportion go to international businesses as excessive profits, and what proportion are transferred to foreign bank accounts.”

The tentacles of graft reach up to the highest levels, where officials maintain their position thanks to control of patronage systems that substitute for a system of government in Cambodia.

Cambodia could have earned enough revenues from its oil, gas and minerals to become independent of foreign development aid according to Global Witness, but high-level corruption, nepotism and patronage have siphoned the countries resources into the pockets of a few and left the country dependent on foreign aid and starving for access to health care, education, and basic rights.

The small number of powerbrokers surrounding the prime minister–members of the ruling elite or their family members– are the beneficiaries of these deals where millions of dollars are paid by Chinese oil and mining companies to secure access to these resources, never reaching state accounts.

“The same political elite that pillaged the country’s timber resources has now gained control of its mineral and petroleum wealth. Unless this is changed, there is a real risk that the opportunity to lift a whole generation out of poverty will be squandered,” said Gavin Hayman of Global Witness.

In 2012, the killing of journalists and environmental activists, thousands of forced evictions, the murder and beating and imprisonment of those protesting land grabs, allegedly including torture and in at least two cases murder, have dominated the mundane reality of Cambodian politics. A 15-year-old girl in Kratie province was shot dead as security forces tried to wrestle control of a plot of land away from local villagers to make way for a Russian rubber plantation that had been promised to a private firm in a land grant by the Cambodian government, and a well-known environmental activist was gunned down in April while investigating illegal logging and government corruption.

In a U.S. embassy cable released by WikiLeaks in 2011, the US embassy Phnom Penh outlined the symbiotic relationship between the Hun Sen government and corrupt cronies. “These business leaders contribute money to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and Hun Sen” and which these “symbiotic relationships illustrate the networks of business tycoons, political figures, and government officials that have formed in Cambodia, which reinforce the culture of impunity and limit progress on reforms such as Hun Sen’s self-declared “war on corruption.”

cam Choeung Sopheap (aka Yeay Phu) with Hun Sen

The US embassy cable titled the owners of Pheapimex “Yeay Phu & Lao Meng Khin: “Power Couple” said the business owners were “One of the most politically and economically connected couples in the country (after Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife and Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh and his wife)” and said they “are the co-owners of Pheapimex Fu Chan Co. Ltd, a controversial logging company that has expanded to cover salt iodization, iron ore extraction, bamboo cultivation, pharmaceutical imports and hotel construction….(and) now has access to at least 315,028 hectares of land for agribusiness.

The cable said “ Phu, who is of Chinese origin, uses her contacts in China to attract foreign investment from Chinese companies such as Wuzhishan LS and Jiangsu Taihu International. Her husband, Lao Meng Khin, is a Vice President of the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce, and he serves as a CPP senator and advisor to Hun Sen. Together, they have a joint venture with Sy Kong Triv through Wuzhishan LS for a pine tree plantation in Mondulkiri Province. This dynamic duo has a rather strong relationship to Hun Sen and his wife, Bun Rany. Lao Meng Khin has accompanied the Prime Minister on more than one trip to China, while Yeay Phu, who is a board member of the Cambodian Red Cross, is reportedly a close friend and business associate of Bun Rany. Yeay Phu is also a business associate of Tep Bopha Prasidh, the wife of the Minister of Commerce; and Ngyn Sun Sopheap, the wife of the Director of the National Department of Customs and Excise. The Pheapimex couple’s son is married to the daughter of Lim Chhiv Ho, the Managing Director of Attwood Import Export Co., Ltd. In addition to Khmer, Lao Meng Khin speaks Mandarin Chinese and Yeay Phu speaks several Chinese dialects.”

Has Kim Jong Un Had Plastic Surgery? China Says: No Comment: Pyongyang erupts following reports circulating in Chinese media

24 Jan

Has Kim Jong Un Had Plastic Surgery? China Says: No Comment

Pyongyang erupts following reports circulating in Chinese media
Kim Il Sung and his grandson, current leader Kim Jong-un. Carefully orchestrated propaganda strategies to evoke similarities are alleged to include plastic surgery, which Pyongyang vehemently denies

Kim Il Sung (R) and his grandson, current leader Kim Jong-un (L). Carefully orchestrated propaganda strategies to evoke similarities are alleged to include plastic surgery, which Pyongyang vehemently denies

by Nate Thayer , January 24, 2013
NKNews.org

In the wake of North Korean state media Thursday issuing vitriolic objections of the “sordid hackwork of rubbish media” who alleged their young dictator underwent plastic surgery to look like his grandfather, Chinese government censors have ordered Chinese media to “not report, comment on, or redistribute stories about the personal lives of North Korean leaders (such as face-lifts).”

North Korea erupted after months of silence over repeated news reports that Kim Jong Un had undergone plastic surgery to look like his grandfather Kim Il Sung, with official media denouncing “sordid” and “false reports… released by enemies… which the party, state, army and people can never tolerate.”

But what seemed to set Pyongyang off in a particularly virulent tizzy was not months of speculative South Korean rumor suggesting the young Kim had undergone plastic surgery, but rather a Chinese report posted last week by Shenzhen TV, which cited a diplomatic source who had spoken to a North Korean official while on a private visit to Pyongyang and confirmed the plastic surgery rumors.

KCNA referenced the Chinese report today, “Those hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the nation should not expect any mercy or leniency.” And reacting to a diplomatic demarche from Pyongyang to Beijing, China’s central propaganda authorities subsequently issued a directive to their journalists on January 24 reading:

Central Propaganda Department: Strictly observe propaganda and reporting regulations concerning foreign affairs. Do not report, comment on, or redistribute stories about the personal lives of North Korean leaders (such as face-lifts).

The previous day, on January 23, the provincial government state censors of Guangdong province issued another directive saying:

Guangdong Propaganda Department: North Korea objects to Shenzhen Satellite TV’s report that Kim Jong-un had a face-lift. Do not report this incident, including Xinhua’s clarification. (January 23, 2013)

What was particularly noteworthy was that the Chinese censors had specifically ordered their media to censor their country’s own state media report from Xinhua in a bid to prevent Chinese citizens from reading their own governments official propaganda, which had in this case been written for consumption by a foreign audience.

It is not unusual for both North Korean and Chinese state media to issue reports only in foreign languages and not in native Korean or Chinese, targeting and limiting the audience who is able to access it.

The January 24 Chinese censor’s directive reference to “Strictly observe propaganda and reporting regulations concerning foreign affairs” comes on the same day that Pyongyang released a blistering rejection of a new UN Security Council resolution imposing sanctions and condemning the north for its December rocket launch.

That statement issued today by the supreme power body of the regime, the National Defense Commission (NDC), vowed that North Korea would launch  “a variety of satellites and long-range rockets which will be launched…one after another and a nuclear test of higher level” in an “upcoming all-out action.” The NDC went on to dismiss “all the illegal resolutions adopted by the “United Nations Security Council.

The NDC statement is significant as is targets Beijing, as much as the U.S. or ROK.

“The keynote of the resolution was worked out through backstage dealing with the U.S. as a main player and it was adopted at the UNSC with blind hand-raising by its member nations,” said KCNA in a clear reference to Pyongyang’s only significant ally, Beijing.  “This shows, at the same time, that those big countries, which are obliged to take the lead in building a fair world order, are abandoning without hesitation even elementary principle, under the influence of the U.S. arbitrary and high-handed practices, failing to come to their senses.”

Regarding the report on Kim Jong Un’s plastic surgery, apparently Pyongyang communicated their grievances to Beijing and China’s ruling party instructed the official party media organ, Xinhua, to debunk the stories.  As such, this Tuesday Xinhua issued a report that cited two of its correspondents in Pyongyang who denied the plastic surgery rumors.

The rumours of Kim Jong Un having a face lift have been fed by Pyongyang’s propaganda apparatus for months who have carefully crafted a meticulous written and pictorial narrative trying to evoke similarities between Kim Jong Un and his grandfather, including through his dress, haircut, gestures and public appearances.

Following the new censorship directive, Xinhua said that “there have been no news reports in North Korea about Kim Jong Un’s plastic surgery” and that there was “nothing suspicious” about Kim resembling his grandfather since they carry the same genes. While Kim tries to dress, walk and smile like his grandfather, together this just aims to give the impression that he “holds the people dear,” Xinhua reported.

The official Chinese censorship directives were first reported by China Digital Times, a Berkeley California based website that monitors Chinese censorship of news reports. “Chinese state media does make a distinction for news coverage intended for domestic consumption,” said Anne Henochowicz, translation coordinator for China Digital Times. Chinese journalists and bloggers often refer to these official censorship instructions as “Directives from the Ministry of Truth.”

The Chinese censorship comes at a particularly sensitive time due to internal Chinese press freedom issues and relations between Pyongyang and Beijing.

The order by Beijing to all media and bloggers to “refrain from writing on the personal lives of North Korean leaders” also came just two days after Beijing took an unusually adversarial position against Pyongyang by signing the unanimous United Nations Security Council resolution that imposed new sanctions on North Korea for their December launch of a long range ballistic rocket.

Aside from the UNSC resolution, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said China does not support North Korea’s nuclear weapons program at a meeting with a delegation sent by South Korea’s President-elect to Beijing. “I believe South Korea under Park’s leadership will achieve its growth targets of the new era,” Yang was quoted by the official South Korean news agency, Yonhap, as saying during a meeting with the delegation. “South Korea is very important to China, and our strategic relations will develop into a new stage and take a big leap down the road.”

For those with an unhealthy need for detail, here is the longer version submitted before legitimate length and style requirements required editing and cutbacks:

China issues Censorship Order on North Korea Reporting After Pyongyang Erupts at “sordid hackwork by rubbish media”

Chinese Official Directive Orders Press “not report, comment on, or redistribute stories about the personal lives of North Korean leaders (such as face-lifts)”

By Nate Thayer

In the wake of North Korean state media issuing Thursday particularly vitriolic objections of the “sordid hackwork of rubbish media” who have alleged their young dictator has undergone plastic surgery to look like his grandfather, Chinese government censors have ordered Chinese media to “not report, comment on, or redistribute stories about the personal lives of North Korean leaders (such as face-lifts).”

North Korea has erupted after months of silence over repeated news reports that Kim Jong-Un had plastic surgery to look like his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, with official media denouncing ”sordid” and “false reports… released by enemies is a hideous criminal act which the party, state, army and people can never tolerate,” said Korean Central News Agency on Wednesday, calling it “sordid hackwork by rubbish media.”

But what seemed to set Pyongyang off in a particularly virulent tizzy was not months of speculative South Korean news reports suggesting the young Kim had undergone plastic surgery, but rather a Chinese report last week by China’s Shenzhen TV who cited a diplomatic source who, on a private visit to Pyongyang, had spoken to a North Korean official who confirmed the plastic surgery rumours. KCNA referenced the Chinese report,

“Those hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the nation should not expect any mercy or leniency,” said the KCNA.

Apparently reacting to a diplomatic demarche from Pyongyang to Beijing, the Beijing central authorities issued a directive January 24 reading: “Central Propaganda Department: Strictly observe propaganda and reporting regulations concerning foreign affairs. Do not report, comment on, or redistribute stories about the personal lives of North Korean leaders (such as face-lifts).”

中宣部:严格遵守有关涉外宣传报道规定,对朝鲜领导人个人生活(如整容)不报道、不评论、不转载。

The previous day, on January 23, the provincial government state censors of Guangdong province issued another directive saying: “Guangdong Propaganda Department: North Korea objects to Shenzhen Satellite TV’s report that Kim Jong-un had a face-lift. Do not report this incident, including Xinhua’s clarification. (January 23, 2013)” 广东省委宣传部:深圳卫视报道了金正恩整容引发了朝鲜外交抗议,此事不要报道,包括新华社的澄清也不要报道。

What was particularly noteworthy was Chinese censors had specifically ordered Chinese media to censor China’s own state media report from Xinhua, in a bid to prevent Chinese citizens from reading their own governments official propaganda, which in this case was written for consumption by a foreign audience.

It is not unusual for both North Korean and Chinese state media to issue reports only in foreign languages and not in native Korean or Chinese, targeting and limiting the audience who is able to access it.

Apparently, Pyongyang issued a demarche to Beijing, and the Chinese ruling party instructed the official Chinese party media organ, Xinhua, to debunk the stories, and Xinhua issued a report Tuesday, citing two of its correspondents in Pyongyang who denying the plastic surgery rumours. Xinhua had its correspondents in Seoul and Pyongyang write a detailed background of the story which has circulated in the often gossip fueled and unverifiable rumor filled South Korean media, concluding that media stories that Kim Jong-un has had plastic surgery six times to resemble his grandfather. The story has been reported for months in South Korean, Japanese, and other foreign media, but was reported recently on a Chinese news website, and then reported as fact on Shenzhen Satellite TV in recent days.

The official Chinese censorship directives were first reported by Chinese Digital Times, a Berkeley California based website that monitors Chinese censorship of news reports and issues that strictly control what Chinese media can report on and filter news or online discussion on issues the ruling Chinese party deems sensitive. “Chinese state media does make a distinction for news coverage intended for domestic consumption,” said Anne Henochowicz, translation coordinator for China Digital Times. “This Xinhua report was likely made for foreign consumption, including Taiwan and Hong Kong, which wold explain why it was written in both Chinese and English.’

Chinese journalists and bloggers often refer to these official censorship instructions as “Directives from the Ministry of Truth.”

“Those hurting the dignity of the supreme leadership of the nation should not expect any mercy or leniency,” official North Korean central News Agency said Thursday. “Time will clearly show what dear price the human scum and media in the service of traitors of South Korea, slaves of capital, will have to pay,” it said.

“Time will clearly show what dear price the human scum and media in the service of traitors of South Korea, slaves of capital, will have to pay,” the Korean Central news Agency said Wednesday.

The rumours of Kim Jong-un having a facelift have been fed by Pyongyang’s propaganda apparatus who for months carefully crafted a meticulous written and pictorial narrative trying to evoke similarities between Kim Jong-Un and his grandfather, including through his dress, haircut, gestures and public appearances.

Xinhua cited as evidence of the stories falsehood that “There have been no news reports in North Korea about Kim Jong-un’s plastic surgery” and that there was “nothing suspicious” about Kim resembling his grandfather since they carry same genes.

While Kim tries to dress, walk and smile like his grandfather, this just aims to give the impression that he “holds the people dear,” Xinhua said.

The Chinese censorship comes at a particularly sensitive time for both internal Chinese press freedom issues and relations between Pyongyang and Beijing.

Earlier this month, Chinese Journalists in the Southern province of XXX publicly refused to follow orders to censor reports on corruption, with the staff of the Southern Weekly holding public demonstrations.

On January 7, state censors from the central Beijing government“Ministry of Truth” issued the following: “Central Propaganda Department: Urgent Notice Concerning the Southern Weekly New Year’s Message Publication Incident: Responsible Party committees and media at all levels must be clear on three points related to this matter: (1) Party control of the media is an unwavering basic principle; (2) This mishap at Southern Weekly has nothing to do with Guangdong Propaganda Department Head Tuo Zhen; (3) External hostile forces are involved in the development of the situation. Every responsible work unit must demand that its department’s editors, reporters, and staff discontinue voicing their support for Southern Weekly online. Starting tomorrow, media and websites in all locales must prominently republish the Global Times editorial “Southern Weekly’s ‘Message to Readers’ Is Food for Thought Indeed.” (January 7, 2013).”中宣部:关于南方周末新年献辞出版事件的紧急通知,各级主管党委和媒体,对于此次事件,必须明确以下三点:一,党管媒体是不可动摇的基本原则;二, 南方周末此次出版事故与广东省委宣传部长庹震同志无关;三,此事的发展有境外敌对势力介入。各主管单位必须严格要求其部门的编辑,记者和员工不得继续在网 络上发言支持南方周末。各地媒体、网站明天起以显著版面转发《环球时报》的社评《南方周末“致读者”实在令人深思》。

The order by Beijing to all media and bloggers to ‘refrain from writing on the personal lives of North Korean leaders” comes two days after Beijing on Tuesday took an unusually adversarial position against Pyongyang in signing a unanimous United Nations Security Council resolution that imposed new sanctions on North Korea for their December launch of a long range ballistic rocket, which most analysts say was testing the rocket delivery system for nuclear warheads designed to reach the United States.

“China maintains that the Security Council’s reaction should be prudent and moderate, and that it should work for the peace and stability of the (Korean) Peninsula and avoid the progressive escalation of tensions,” foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a daily press briefing on Monday.

The U.S. and China hashed out a carefully worded agreement in private negotiations over the last month to win Beijing’s approval of the UN sanctions. “China and the US have many differences in principles over dealing with the satellite launch. That’s why the UN negotiations have lasted for more than a month,”Shi Yuanhua, a researcher on Korean studies at the Shanghai-based Fudan University, was quoted as saying.

Diplomats say the U.S. circulated a draft resolution to the 15-member U.N. Security Council condemning the launch and expand existing sanctions.

Aside from the UNSC resolution, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said China does not support North Korea’s nuclear weapons program at a meeting with a delegation sent by South Korea’s President-elect to Beijing. “I believe South Korea under Park’s leadership will achieve its growth targets of the new era,” Yang was quoted by the official South Korean news agency, Yonhap, as saying during a meeting with the delegation. “South Korea is very important to China, and our strategic relations will develop into a new stage and take a big leap down the road.”

North Korean state media just released a statement by the supreme power body of the regime, the National Defense Commission Thursday January 24 vowing “ a variety of satellites and long-range rockets which will be launched by the DPRK one after another and a nuclear test of higher level” in an “upcoming all-out action.” The NDC dismissed “all the illegal resolutions adopted by the “United Nations Security Council.

The NDC built on Wednesday January 23 KCNA official reaction to the UN security Council condemnation and sanctions taken after last month’s launch of a ballistic missile rocket designed as a delivery system for nuclear weapons, “that only when the denuclearization of the world is realized on a perfect and preferential basis including the denuclearization of the U.S., will it be possible to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and ensure peace and security of the DPRK.”

The NDC statement is significant as is targets Beijing, as much as the US or ROK.

The National Defense Commission statement, according to KCNA said : “Our successful launch of satellite Kwangmyongsong 3-2 was a great jubilee in the history of the nation as it placed the nation’s dignity and honor on the highest plane and a spectacular success made in the efforts to develop space for peaceful purposes recognized by the world.

This being a hard reality, the U.S. at the outset of the year termed our satellite launch “long-range missile launch,” “wanton violation” of the UN resolutions and “blatant challenge” to world peace and security in a bid to build up public opinion on this. Finally, it prodded the UNSC into cooking up a new resolution on tightening sanctions against the DPRK.

The keynote of the resolution was worked out through backstage dealing with the U.S. as a main player and it was adopted at the UNSC with blind hand-raising by its member nations. This goes to clearly prove that the U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK has entered a new dangerous phase.
This shows, at the same time, that those big countries, which are obliged to take the lead in building a fair world order, are abandoning without hesitation even elementary principle, under the influence of the U.S. arbitrary and high-handed practices, failing to come to their senses.

Moreover, this also indicates that the UNSC, which should regard it as its mission to guarantee sovereign rights and security of its member nations, has turned into a defunct marionette international body on which no hope can be pinned.

The DPRK National Defence Commission solemnly declares as follows as regards the adoption of the entirely unreasonable resolution on the DPRK:

We totally reject all the illegal resolutions on the DPRK adopted by the UNSC.

We have never recognized all forms of base resolutions tightening sanctions cooked up by the hostile forces to encroach upon the DPRK’s sovereignty.

Sovereignty is what keeps a country and nation alive.

The country and the nation without sovereignty are more dead than alive.

The U.S. should clearly know that the times have changed and so have the army and the people of the DPRK.

  1. Along with the nationwide efforts to defend the sovereignty, the DPRK will continue launching peaceful satellites to outer space one after another.
    2. As the U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK has entered more dangerous phase, overall efforts should be directed to denuclearizing big powers including the U.S. rather than the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
    The army and people of the DPRK drew a final conclusion that only when the denuclearization of the world is realized on a perfect and preferential basis including the denuclearization of the U.S., will it be possible to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and ensure peace and security of the DPRK.
    “Under this situation the DPRK can not but declare that there will no longer exist the six-party talks and the September 19 joint statement.”
    No dialogue on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula will be possible in the future even though there may be dialogues and negotiations on ensuring peace and security in the region including the Korean Peninsula.
    3. We will launch an all-out action to foil the hostile policy toward the DPRK being pursued by the U.S. and those dishonest forces following the U.S., and safeguard the sovereignty of the country and the nation.
    The UN Security Council resolution on expanding sanctions against the DPRK, which was adopted on the initiative of the U.S., represents the most dangerous phase of the hostile policy toward the DPRK.

Under the prevailing situation, the army and people of the DPRK will turn out in an all-out action to defend its sovereignty which is more precious than their own lives and frustrate the moves of the U.S. and its allies to isolate and stifle the DPRK.

We do not hide that a variety of satellites and long-range rockets which will be launched by the DPRK one after another and a nuclear test of higher level which will be carried out by it in the upcoming all-out action, a new phase of the anti-U.S. struggle that has lasted century after century, will target against the U.S., the sworn enemy of the Korean people.

Settling accounts with the U.S. needs to be done with force, not with words as it regards jungle law as the rule of its survival.

The world will clearly see how the army and people of the DPRK punish all kinds of hostile forces and emerge as a final victor while following the just road of defending its sovereignty, convinced of the justice of its cause.”

Out of 7,000 Internet Readers of This Blog Today, Exactly Zero Came From North Korea and Precisely One From China

21 Jan

Out of 7,000 Internet Readers  of This Blog Today, Exactly Zero Came From North Korea and Precisely One From China

A Brief Data Report Addressing the Thousands of Speculative News Stories in Recent Days on the March Towards an IT Revolution by Pyongyang and a Commitment to a Free Press In Beijing

By Nate Thayer

In case anyone was confused about censorship of, or access, the internet In North Korea, I received 7,113 page views on this blog so far today from 91 countries. More than 75% of those visitors came to read stories I had posted on North Korea.

There were precisely zero people who visited from North Korea.

And perhaps more interestingly, there was exactly 1 visitor from China. Unless one includes “Taiwan, Province of China”, which had 12 visitors, or Hong Kong, which had 44, or Macao which had 3.

South Korea, or better known as the Republic of Korea, had 141 visitors.

There were more readers from the “Palestinian Territory, Occupied” with 2, Guernsey (1), Senegal (2) Liberia (2), Guam (2), Iraq (6), Republic of Moldova (3), Afghanistan (9), and Slovenia (21) than there were from China, a country with one quarter of the world population which shares a land border with North Korea, and poses major strategic, security, economic, foreign policy, and political policy issues for Beijing and the citizenry of the People’s Republic.

Either the Chinese people have particularly shrewd and discriminating literary tastes, or their leaders are fucking around with internet access from the rest of the world on issues that, anywhere else, would be a given as a matter of public interest

Here is a breakdown of the countries from whence visitors to this blog came from today:

Country                Views

United States    3,965

Germany             830

United Kingdom 394

India      338

France  316

Canada 287

Australia 194

Singapore 165

Republic of Korea 141

Japan    110

Switzerland 103

Thailand 77

Austria  66

Cambodia 55

Finland 53

Belgium 51

Netherlands 47

Norway                45

Hong Kong 44

Indonesia 34

Romania 34

New Zealand 27

Philippines 25

Greece 22

Slovenia 21

Mexico                 20

Portugal 19

Turkey 18

Brazil     18

Ireland 18

Czech Republic  18

Sweden               17

Denmark 16

United Arab Emirates     15

Italy  15

Sri Lanka 15

Spain  14

Malaysia 14

Taiwan, Province of China 12

Poland 12

Afghanistan 9

Chile 8

Russian Federation 7

Viet Nam 7

Qatar 7

Bangladesh 7

Israel 7

Zimbabwe 6

South Africa 6

Bosnia and Herzegovina 6

Iraq 6

Saudi Arabia 6

Egypt 5

Estonia                 5

Costa Rica 5

Kuwait 5

Mongolia 4

Albania                 4

Luxembourg 4

Macao 3

Jordan 3

Republic of Moldova 3

Panama 3

Pakistan 3

Palestinian Territory, Occupied  2

Hungary 2

Slovakia 2

Nepal 2

Senegal 2

Myanmar 2

Liberia 2

Guam 2

Tunisia 2

Bulgaria 2

Ukraine 2

Venezuela 2

Georgia 2

Colombia 2

Bahrain 2

United Republic of Tanzania 1

China 1

Lao People’s Democratic Republic 1

Bermuda 1

Latvia 1

Jamaica                1

Kyrgyzstan 1

Argentina 1

Morocco 1

Montenegro 1

Kenya 1

Guernsey 1

 

 

 

 

Travels With Vice President LBJ: “Son, if you do this again, I am going to poison your soup.”

25 Dec

Travels With Vice President LBJ: “Son, if you do this again, I am going to poison your soup.” Excerpts from Interviews with Former U.S. Diplomat Ambassador Harry E.T. Thayer by the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project.

For Christmas, my father gave me a gift of a bound booklet he put together detailing some of his experiences as a diplomat, a foreign service officer for the U.S. state department, where he was a China specialist during a 30 year career from the 1950’s through the 1990’s that spanned many important periods and major changes in the U.S-China relationship.

Much of these memories are preserved as available public records at the Library of Congress where nearly 2000 diplomats have recorded detailed interviews of their roles in how the behind the scenes machine and ambiance and color and details of history is actually made. The archives are a collection of a treasure trove of riveting information, the work of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project.

I will post more excerpts which cover such important issues as the McCarthy era Red-baiting, intimidation and purges of U.S. government China specialists accused of being communist sympathizers for supporting engaging China through diplomacy, to China policy under Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter etc, and the behind the scenes activities of major movers and shakers from Henry Kissinger to Richard Holbrooke; the normalization of relations with Beijing; the shift to derecognize Taiwan; China becoming a recognized member of the United Nations; and numerous both small and momentous parts of history as it is played out in reality by those U.S. government grunts executing policy on a day to day basis.

The following is a humorous, if historically decidedly very minor, anecdote that provides a sense of the ambiance of the stories collected by the Oral History Project.

My father recounted the story during Christmas lunch, and this is the version from the transcript of the Oral History Project.

After, as a young Foreign Service Officer serving in his first overseas posting in Hong Kong as a consular officer at the U.S embassy in the late 1950’s, he was reluctantly called back to serve in an administrative job at the State Department East Asia Bureau in Washington, which he fought against as he, at the time, sought to begin intensive Chinese language study, but ultimately lost out and returned to Washington to start the unwanted assignment.

Q: How did that play out?

Harry Thayer: Well, it played out like so many things. I got interested in it, and I learned a lot about how the Foreign Service is run. They put me in the East Asia Bureau while Walter Robertson was still there, which gave me a kind of taste of things. And it was quite instructive. I learned a lot about the Foreign Service and working in the bureaucracy. And I learned a lot about management and these sorts of things, learned a lot about Congress, writing justifications for funds to the Hill. That was all quite instructive. I also met a lot of the personalities involved in China and Asia affairs. I, also, in May 1961, suddenly got yanked off to go on a trip as a coat-holder for LBJ (Lyndon Johnson) when he was vice president, went around the world as an aide to this LBJ first around the world trip

Q: This was a rather famous one, wasn’t it?

THAYER: The famous one, May of ’61. We went out to tell Diem in Vietnam that we would support him forever, but we went to Guam and Midway and manila and Taipei, Hong Kong, Saigon, Bangkok, New Delhi, Karachi, Athens, Wheelus Air Force base (Libya), Bermuda, and Washington. And it was the Goddamnedest trip I’ve ever made, learned a lot, and I was a physical wreck at the end of it. But it was an eye opener and a lot of fun.

Q: I realize that you were pretty far down the pecking line, but did you see anything of LBJ in action?

THAYER: I saw a good deal of LBJ in action. I was on his plane, in the first place. Even between Washington and Travis Air Force base I saw him in action. We put down at Travis.

Q: That’s in California

THAYER: Right. Travis Air base in California. We were on our way to Honolulu, the first substantive stop, where LBJ was to open the East-West center. And I don’t want to make this too long, but it is kind of illustrative. Bill Crocket, a senior State administrator, was on the trip. Bill Crocket was a guy in whom LBJ had confidence, so Crocket ended up travelling with Johnson wherever he went. And Crocket was my super boss in our group. Along on this trip on the substantive side was “China” Ed Martin, along with Dick Ericson, who was then a special assistant to the EA (East Asia) front office.

Anyhow, Crocket was my basic boss, and I was told on the airplane, as we began to fly across the United States with Crocket, that “You, Harry, have got to go up front (of the 707) and answer this message sent on the plane’s radio to Honolulu about the motorcade in Honolulu. There are a lot of problems with this motorcade, we want you to go up and send this message. I was just a messenger boy. In any event, with the message in hand, I had to walk up front. Incidentally, there were two 707’s on this trip. One was for the press and one was for the official group.

LBJ was spread across the center aisle (the only aisle) up in the front of the plane where there were tables in a VIP configuration. But his long legs were stretched across the aisle as he was talking to one of the young secretaries. I had to say “Excuse me, Mr. vice president” to get up to the communications place. So I went by and I said excuse me Mr. vice president. I went up and I sent the message or called the message to Honolulu about the Goddamn motorcade. Then I came back and said “Excuse me, Mr. vice president.” And he had to pull in his long legs and gave me a dirty look. About ten minutes later, Crocket said “Harry, I want you to go up there and send this other message.”

I said, “You know the Vice president is giving me some very dirty looks there.”

He said, “Send the message.”

So I walked up there, and I said, “Excuse me Mr. Vice President.” He had to pull his legs back in and stop the conversation with this young luscious that he was talking to and gave me a very dirty nasty look. And I went up there and sent the message and came back, and there were his legs spread out in front. To my horror, I had to say again, “Excuse me Mr. Vice President.”

And the Vice president looked me right in the eye. He said, “Son, if you do this once again, I am going to put poison in your soup.”

And as I remember, I said something like, “In that case, Mr. Vice president, I’ll have to get a taster.” I really remember I said it, but I am really not sure. Anyhow, that was my first exposure to LBJ.

I will say there are a lot of other tales I could tell about LBJ, but one thing on this trip, LBJ was really terribly hard to deal with. Everybody found him hard to deal with. Lady Bird was the balance. And she was often nudging the Vice President to be a little bit more polite, to take into account, to praise and so forth, the Foreign Service people that were with him.”

Chinese Official People’s Daily Reports as Serious the Onion’s Spoof Naming Kim Jong Un ‘Sexiest Man Alive’

27 Nov

Chinese Official People’s Daily Reports as Serious the Onion’s Spoof Naming Kim Jong Un ‘Sexiest Man Alive’: Voice of the Chinese Communist Party Joins Legions of Others with No Sense of Humour

In an excellent example of enterprising hard spot news reporting, China’s Communist Party newspaper, not known for its keen reporting antenna for detecting humour, reported as hard news today U.S. satirical publication’s The Onion naming North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un as the “Sexiest Man Alive.”

That is correct.

Here is a screenshot of the online version of the People’s Daily English language from Tuesday November 27, which one would suspect has a limited lifespan prior to being removed.

Headline in Today’s November 27 issue of Chinese People’s Daily

The headline reads “U.S. website The Onion has named North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un as the “Sexiest Man Alive for the year 2012” and quotes the Onion in detail:

“With his devastatingly handsome, round face, his boyish charm, and his strong, sturdy frame, this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman’s dream come true. Blessed with an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly side, Kim made this newspaper’s editorial board swoon with his impeccable fashion sense, chic short hairstyle, and, of course, that famous smile,” it said.

“He has that rare ability to somehow be completely adorable and completely macho at the same time,” said Marissa Blake-Zweiber, editor of The Onion Style and Entertainment.

The People’s Daily feature story then further digs itself into what will be an interesting hole to watch them extricate themselves from by documenting the newly crowned sex appeal Prince of the Planet with a 55 page section showing photographs of the world’s hottest male on horseback looking rugged and manly, Kim waving at a passing a military parade, Kim wearing sunglasses, and Kim inspecting stuff with new fetching lucky new bride.

Here is another screenshot of People’s Daily well sourced breaking news.

 

Another Screen Shot from Chines People’s Daily Reporting Kim Jon-un ‘Sexiest man Alive’

According to Shanghai list, thePeople’s Daily had no immediate comment. A man who answered the phone at the newspaper said he did not know anything about the report and requested queries be directed to their newsroom on Wednesday morning.

But to be fair to the keen newssense of the brilliant breaking news team of talent at the People’s Daily, the Korea Times English version made a similar mistake a few weeks ago. However, in the Korean language version of the paper, they did make clear that the Onion story was satire.

Here is a screenshot of the English Korea Times Story:

November 18 Korea Times English language Headline. The Korean language version made clear the Onion story cited was satire

The Onion, for its part released a statement congratulating their Chinese colleagues for their coverage of the award.

The Voice of the Chinese Communist Party is in good company.

For other examples of people taking seriously the satirical reports from the Onion, see http://literallyunbelievable.org/ a website devoted entirely to people expressing outrage over Onion reports after taking them as serious at face value. Literally Unbelievable also has a Face Book page that regularly updates an alarming degree of the absence of a sense of humour globally.

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