The reclusive state of North Korea
is rarely in western headlines for the right reasons and Wednesday is no different. The whereabouts of a powerful uncle of the country's leader, Kim Jong Un, are unknown following speculation that he has been "removed".
Jang Song-Thaek, Kim Jong Un's uncle, was a powerful force in North Korea. He held the role of vice-chairman of the National Defence Commission and was a department head of the ruling Workers’ Party. Viewed by some as a mentor to young Kim, and often seen at his side, Jang fell off the radar this week amidst reports that he has been "purged by a resurgent military faction in Pyongyang".
Jang has not been seen in public since late November. At the same time two of his aides were publicly executed. The number of public executions in North Korea have increased this year and as
reported in early November there were 80 public executions in one single day. Those executed were accused of crimes allegedly including watching South Korean films and distributing pornography.
reports Jang's two aides were: "Found guilty of corruption and activities that ran counter to the policies of the Workers' Party of Korea, according to a report by South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS). The NIS is still trying to determine the full scale of the purge, which is apparently ongoing, Yonhap News reported, and there is a possibility that Jang has also been executed".
South Korea and North Korea are hardly firm allies and so reports from either country about the other must always be treat with some skepticism. However, in this case Jang's disappearance is now public knowledge.
A South Korean Minister
claims that Kim Jong-un's uncle is safe even though it appears he has been removed from his post. His removal is the most significant in the two years since Kim Jong Un came to power. He was a powerful figure during Kim Jong-il's time as leader of North Korea.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald "Jang, who married Kim Jong-un's aunt Kim Kyong Hui in 1972, was named to the post in June 2010 by Kim Jong-il". Many political pundits believe the "purge" is all about Kim asserting
his power. "This boy king ... very much wants to show he's in charge," says fmr. Ambassador to South Korea Christopher Hill.
Where the US goes the UK often follows. This is especially true of negatives. If the US has extreme weather we usually experience similar a few days later. If violent crime increases across the Pond likewise in the UK.
So it seems with Christmas shopping bargain days.
Black Friday has just passed and today is Cyber Monday. Each have become big shopping days on both sides of the Pond. Last Friday many people hit the shops attracted by huge price cuts and today the same is happening online. Is all as it seems though?
Mandla Mandela, the eldest grandson of former South African leader Nelson Mandela, will be charged Monday with assault and brandishing a gun and is due to appear in court Friday.
Nelson Mandela, 95, remains in fragile health following a series of health scares during 2013. TEK
earlier reported he remained ill and unable to speak. News that his grandson is facing criminal charges will add to family woes.
Sunday Luxolo Tyali, a spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority in South Africa, told Reuters
. "The NPA has decided to prosecute him and summons have been issued."
Few details have been released at this time. It is known that Mandla Mandela
is facing an assault charge and a second charge in relation to pointing a weapon.
Mandla Mandela has been making headline news in 2013 for all the wrong reasons.
reported earlier this year: "A judge ordered him [Mandla] to return the remains of three of Nelson Mandela's children - including those of his father - from a memorial center dedicated to his grandfather where he had moved them two years ago". Mandla claimed that as head of the family he was within his rights to move the remains and bury them on his property.
In October he was accused of "pointing a gun at another man during an argument" but police did not charge him. No other details were released. Two months later the prosecution has decided to charge Mandla.
Sunday MSN News
reported "South Africa's Sunday Times newspaper said the younger Mandela was reported to have drawn a gun on a 44-year-old teacher whose vehicle had collided with one driven by a guest of Mandla Mandela's".
Later the victim, Mlami Ngudle, needed surgery
to remove a blood clot on the brain. Mandla Mandela has called the charges "fabrication" and denies they happened.
Mandla has vowed to be in court to defend himself.
Media sources are reporting a train derailment in New York which happened early Sunday, at 07:20 near Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx, New York, and has caused "multiple injuries". Around 130 firefighters are at the scene of the accident. In spite of the timing of the crash Sunday, and that it is a holiday weekend in the US, early reports are that at least four people are dead and dozens injured. Sky News
is reporting the fire department said that 63 people have been taken to hospital, 11 of these are in a critical condition and six are seriously injured.
First responders are checking the carriages for more survivors and fatalities.The train was seven carriages long. Images show three carriages and the engine derailed. According to Reuters
however "at least five cars from a Metro-North train slid off the tracks, injuring several riders, officials said".
British actor Lewis Collins, famous for his role as macho special cop William Bodie in the UK television series The Professionals, has died aged 67.
His death was announced by his agent Thursday who BBC News
reports said "He died peacefully at his LA home surrounded by his family. Privacy is asked for at this very sad time." He died following a five-year struggle with cancer.
Fans of the actor, who was a huge hit in the 70's, will want to mark his passing though.
Bodie and Doyle, the cop duo played by Collins and Martin Shaw respectively, were the TV heartthrobs of the day. Their characters were tough and attracted as many male fans as females. Collins will be remembered as a handsome hunk rather than for his acting career.
Professional co-star Martin Shaw told BBC News he was sad to learn of Collins death saying: "He will be remembered as part of the childhood of so many people, and mourned by his fans. I send my love and condolences to his family, and the great many who will miss him".
Collins starred in the movie Who Dares Wins in 1982 playing the role of SAS captain Peter Skellen. In the same year he auditioned for the role of James Bond
but his acting style was deemed "too aggressive".
Lewis tended to play tough roles and early in his acting career appeared in UK TV series Z Cars and The New Avengers. However he also had a long standing role in a TV sit-com The Cuckoo Waltz.
Fellow "Professional" Martin Shaw has enjoyed a long and successful acting career but Collins was not so lucky. The Professionals was the peak of his career. Other roles that followed were minor by comparison.
married in 1992. He is survived by his wife Michelle and three sons.
As the deadline for the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi draws near Russian President Vladimir Putin announces construction work at the Mountain Carousel ski resort is complete but will downhill champion Lindsey Vonn be fit in time?
The Sochi Winter Olympics have been plagued by controversy
, and that is before they even begin. Crucial to any Olympic games though are the venues and their timely construction.
Wednesday Vladimir Putin inspected the Mountain Carousel ski resort, a key venue for the Sochi games, and announced the venue fully ready for 2014 Winter Olympics.
reports the President was on a working visit to the Krasnodar Region. The 95 and 125 meter jumps were constructed in 2012 but work was necessary to improve the infrastructure. Stands which can accommodate 7,500 people are now complete.
On the day that Putin announced the ski resort good-to-go Olympic downhill champion Lindsey Vonn, 29, cast doubt over her participation in the ski events scheduled for February 2014. Vonn injured her knee, previously surgically repaired, and said she was "feeling good" but will not know if she is fit to compete until she gets back on snow.
She sustained the latest injury during a training run on November 19 and has been undergoing extensive rehab. Reuters
reports Vonn told the Today Show's Matt Lauer during an interview from Vail, Colorado :"I've been doing rehab and I've been progressing every day, but in the next couple of days I'm going to start getting on snow here at Vail and see how it feels and hopefully get a couple of days of training before I head up to Canada. If things go well, I'll be racing next week. If they don't, then I'm going to have to reassess and kind of see where I stand and if I can make a comeback for this season".
Lindsey's rehab is complete but she remains cautious as to whether she will be ready to complete in the Sochi Olympics which run from February 7-23.
The ski resort is ready but is Vonn?
Wednesday there were reports that an accident at a stadium being constructed to host the opening game of the World Cup in Brazil, 2014, had killed three.
were that a crane collapsed hitting the stadium and destroying part of the stands. Later the death toll was revised down to two with several people sustaining injuries.
The tragedy unfolded when a crane crashed into a 500-ton metal structure that in turn cut through the outer walls of the venue. This destroyed part of a seating area before it crashed into a into a massive LED panel that runs across the stadium's facade.
The Daily Telegraph
The last metal piece of the roof was being installed at the Corinthians stadium when the ground gave way and the crane collapsed into part of the stands, according to local media. Odebrecht, the construction firm responsible for the arena, due to host the opening match at the 2014 World Cup, confirmed two workers were killed but military police in Sao Paulo said there were three deaths".
Early reports that the death toll could rise further, with some officials reporting at least four people dead, now appear unfounded.
Wednesday's stadium accident reportedly happened at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo which is scheduled to host the World Cup opening match in Brazil 2014.
Apart from any loss of life the accident is bad news for the World Cup host country and FIFA. FIFA have set a December deadline for completion of all 12 Brazilian stadiums hosting World Cup matches and today's accident may make that impossible.
The stadium was almost complete before Wednesday. Pressure to complete construction of all 12 stadiums before FIFA's deadline is reached has stretched construction workers to the limit.
In May a different Brazilian stadium scheduled to host the Confederations Cup football matches in June suffered a partial collapse of its roof, after an apparent build-up of rainwater - BBC News.
The damage from Wednesday's accident will be assessed and investigated in Brazil and by FIFA.
Jerome Valcke, Fifa Secretary General, said he is: "Extremely shocked by the news from Sao Paulo. Our thoughts are with the families of the victims of this accident” RIP
Disgraced, self-confessed pussy-eater and alleged crack cocaine user, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, has plenty he should be ashamed about but on the contrary he claims that he is "loving this," referring to the media attention he continues to receive.
Canadian politics was dominated by the shenanigans of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford for the last few weeks and the media frenzy refuses to go away.
With allegations of bullying and crack cocaine use levied against him he is rarely out of the headlines these days. Politicians in Toronto have made moves to curtail Ford but his popularity with some of the electorate has soared.
Ford, 44, has resisted calls for him to step down
Jesse Waters, for Fox News
, tracked down the Toronto Mayor, who plans on running for re-election, despite his erratic behavior and bad press, but in an interview the Mayor was unapologetic.
Fox News reports that Ford was unrepentant about his past drinking and extreme behavior during an interview for "The O’Reilly Factor".
People around the world have watched Ford apparently unravel during the last few weeks but according to the larger-than-life Mayor he is having a ball:
“Are you having fun right now?,” Fox correspondent Jesse Waters asked.
“I’m loving it,” the mayor replied. “You’re liking this?” Waters asked.
“I’m loving it. My record speaks for itself. I apologized for my mistakes; I’m only human. I can’t change the past — what it is, it is,” Ford replied.
Bravado or is the man delusional?
Ford went on to admit partying on a regular basis, as long as the next day was free of major events. The man still maintains that he does not see his previous behavior as a problem.
His interview comes hot on the heels of news that Ford's chief of staff saying the Mayor would not be doing any more media interviews for a while.
Seems someone forget to tell Mayor Ford.
The Mayor now believes the media frenzy is part of an "elaborate conspiracy to take him down". Certainly the Internet has a huge selection of articles, images and videos of Ford, most showing him in a bad light.
Ford even seems proud though of the extreme media attention saying: “This is the biggest coup that you’ve ever seen in North America”.
Watch the video to see for yourself what some of the people of Toronto think of his antics:
The couple aged 29 in 1956
The double suicide of an elderly couple in France has provoked emotion and debate in the country as details of their plight hits the headlines.
French couple Georgette and Bernard Cazes were both aged 86. Last week they died in a double suicide
at the luxurious, world-famous Hotel Lutetia in Paris.
They booked into the hotel Thursday night and died some time before breakfast-time Friday morning. Their suicide method was taking medication which allegedly induces a painless death.
They had planned the suicide down to the last detail even ordering breakfast to be delivered to their room to ensure that they were found sooner rather than later, reports The Local
. Friday morning a member of staff at the hotel found the elderly couple dead. They were in bed, holding hands and two letters were close to the bodies.
One was a suicide note which contained a scathing attack on French law regarding assisted suicide. Monday La Parisien
carried a report which included parts of that letter: "By what right can a person be forced into a cruel [situation], when they wish to end their life peacefully?. Isn’t my freedom only limited by the freedom of others? By what right can they prevent a person [from ending their life peacefully], when they’ve paid their taxes, have no debts to the state, have worked all their lives, and then done voluntary service?"
Since their death the couple's son has told the media his parents made an agreement to die together decades ago. They feared a life without each other more than death itself.
With the issue of a person's right to die back in the news in France, Monday Jean-Luc Romero, president of the Association for the Right to Die with Dignity, has addressed the media. He said that if euthanasia laws in France are not reformed many people will face a prolonged and painful death, and some, like the Cazes', will feel forced to take drastic action.
Neighbours and friends of the couple described them as "brilliant intellectuals". Bernard was an economist and philosopher, and Georgette a teacher of literature and Latin, who wrote school text-books.
One neighbour, Jeannine, said: "They had lived as they died: “Always arm in arm.”"
Early this year French President François Hollande promised to bring legislation regarding assisted suicide before parliament, before the end of 2013. In July Reuters
reported: "President Francois Hollande reaffirmed his aim to legalise voluntary euthanasia on Monday after a majority of France's national ethics committee advised him not to let doctors help the terminally ill take their lives. Hollande said France would hold a national debate on the issue in coming months and his government would submit a bill in parliament by year's end that would go beyond the current law that bars doctors from providing assisted suicide".
Too late though for Mr and Mrs Cazes - RIP
Monday the long promised peace conference aimed at resolving the Syrian crisis has been given a start date of January 22, in Geneva. The conference will be the first talks to include representatives of the regime and the opposition but will they be able to agree?
As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said it would be "unforgivable not to seize this opportunity to bring an end to the suffering and destruction" in Syria, reports BBC News.
The talks, dubbed Geneva II, still face many hurdles not least President Bashar al Assad and his role in a post civil war Syria. Who will represent the opposition in such talks is also tricky. There are breakaway factions in Syria and the opposition is fractured. The west recognizes the Syrian National Coalition (SNC). In fact it actively supports the SNC.
In September AlJazeera
reported "13 rebel groups, including elements of the Western-backed Free Syrian Army and the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra, slammed the SNC for no longer representing their interests".
So, although the UN has made some headway, there are still issues which will have to be resolved before the January conference begins. US and Russian diplomats have been working hard behind the scenes to make sure the talks take place. The aim is to find a political solution to the Syria crisis.
Monday Mr Ban acknowledged the work of these US and Russian diplomats and also expressed appreciation to UN special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahim. The UN hopes that all parties will name their representatives by the New Year.
In June 2012 the UN-backed Action Group for Syria met in the Swiss city of Geneva. This group comprises the "UN, Arab League and EU; China, France, Russia, the UK and the US; and Turkey, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar, the last three representing various Arab ministerial bodies".
The Geneva Communique was issued following that meeting. The purpose of the Geneva talks scheduled for January is to fully implement that communique. Announcing the date set for Geneva II Ban Ki-moon said "We will go to Geneva with a mission of hope".
report continues: "The Geneva conference is the vehicle for a peaceful transition that fulfils the legitimate aspirations of all the Syrian people for freedom and dignity, and which guarantees safety and protection to all communities in Syria. The conflict in Syria has raged for too long. It would be unforgivable not to seize this opportunity to bring an end to the suffering and destruction it has caused".
The 32-month-old civil war has claimed thousands of lives and wrecked Syria.
reports: Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary-general, said the goal was to agree a mutually acceptable transitional administration as well as the other elements of an outline peace plan drafted by the Western powers and Russia at Geneva in June last year.
Sunday's Iran deal adds a new dimension to Syrian peace talks but it remains to be seen whether the effect is a positive one. Will representatives from Iran and Saudi Arabia attend Geneva II?
One final question though is will Geneva II get off the ground? With the Syrian opposition still insisting that the removal of Assad is a precondition of their representatives attending Geneva II could fall at the first hurdle.