Friday, October 29, 2010

Activist Detained in North Korea

SEOUL: An evangelical activist from the US state of Arizona, imprisoned by North Korea last year after he illegally entered the country on Christmas Day, has appeared on South Korean television and spoken for the first time about how his captors treated him.

Mr Robert Park, 29, who was released in February after 43 days of detention, gave a harrowing account of his imprisonment, which he said included beatings, torture and sexual abuse.

'The scars and wounds of the things that happened to me in North Korea are too intense,' the Korean-American said in an interview with the South Korean broadcaster KBS. In the interview, which was broadcast on Wednesday, he said some of the abuse was sexual in nature, but refused to provide details.

'What happened was very humiliating. You know... there is damage that is, maybe, permanent,' he said, calling the abuse 'devastating'.

'As a result of what happened to me in North Korea, I've thrown away any kind of personal desire. I will never, you know, be able to have a marriage or any kind of relationship.'

Mr Park said he attempted suicide soon after he returned to the United States. He told the magazine Christianity Today that he had been 'in and out' of psychiatric hospitals for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Last December, he had crossed into North Korea by walking over the frozen Tumen River, which forms the border with China. He carried only a Bible and some letters urging North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to close prison labour camps in the North, free all its prisoners and resign.

Analysts in Seoul say such personal affronts to Mr Kim are forbidden in the North and, typically, draw long prison terms or death sentences. Mr Park had told friends in Seoul, before he left, that he would die with political prisoners in the North if Mr Kim refused to free them.

Early this year, Mr Park had read a confession on North Korean TV, after which officials said they 'decided to leniently forgive and release him, taking his admission and sincere repentance of his wrongdoings into consideration', according to a report then by the North's official news agency, KCNA.

Nearly nine months after his release and back in the Korean peninsula for a visit to Seoul, he said the confession and contrition were extracted with force. 'My only regret is... the false confession,' he told The Associated Press in an interview in Seoul. 'People start to know how evil North Korea was and they know the confession was a lie. They knew the confession was false.'

Mr Park also said that he had a new appreciation of the harshness and cynicism of the North Korean government, which he vowed to devote his life to fighting. North Korea, long criticised for alleged human rights abuses, has been accused of carrying out public executions and maintaining an extensive network of political prison camps where torture is thought to be common.

Mr Park's account of his detention, however, stands in contrast to those of the three other Americans who have been detained and subsequently released by North Korea since early last year. The three of them did not say they were tortured.

Mr Aijalon Gomes, 31, who reportedly was following Mr Park's example when he crossed into North Korea, was treated 'superbly', according to doctors who examined him in Boston after his release.

Journalists Laura Ling, 33, and Euna Lee, 37 - who contend they were on the Chinese side of the border when they were detained - recounted more difficult conditions, including being forced to confess to crimes and being kept in cramped, dark rooms. But they have not alleged any abuse.

All three were released following the visits of former American presidents to North Korea.


Thursday, October 28, 2010


Gone korea. Back 2 Nov. all the best guys.

Information Age? No, it’s the Chatter Age

TELL ME if you do this: start walking somewhere, take out the smartphone, check email, check Facebook, check Twitter, put the phone back in your pocket, take it out a minute later, repeat.

I do this, and so do a lot of people. Combine this lack of self-control with increasingly frequent updates, and you have a recipe for senseless distraction. These are updates, not information. Rather than the Information Age, we’re living in the Chatter Age.

Sometimes the “information’’ is just false, as in the “Balloon Boy’’ case last year: a boy’s parents reported that their son was on board a hot-air balloon; after several hours of frantic gab on television stations and on Twitter, it turned out that the whole thing was a hoax. If you came back to your computer after the whole thing was over, as I did, you got it all in reverse order: tweets telling you that the whole thing was a false alarm, followed by post after post about the tragedy. There was no information in those few hours; they may as well not have happened.

That wasn’t a rare occurrence; there’s a whole ecosystem devoted to generating and propagating non-information. If you’ve been waiting for months to buy a new phone, but have hesitated to do so because the iPhone will come to Verizon “any day now,’’ you’ve felt the effects of this chatter. Various blogs confidently asserted that there would be “A Verizon iPhone in 2010.’’ That was noise; it was not information.

Often, this non-information takes on political overtones. During the health care debate in the summer of 2009, someone probably sent you an email purporting to show that the Democratic health bill would require mandatory euthanasia counseling for seniors every five years. This prompted a round of counter-chatter, as sites such as leapt into action to disprove those rumors. More recently, social media have helped spread the (less than accurate) idea that “if you cross the US border illegally, you get a Social Security card,’’ whereas if you cross into North Korea you get shot.

Inevitably, lots of people have stepped in to rebut that argument, too. But it’s a little absurd when intelligent people feel obliged to respond to unfounded rumors that seem to gain traction and urgency only because they circulate so quickly.

During this election season, I’ve seen an endless stream of tweets, updates, and Facebook links offering up reasons why the Democrats might lose big: because of TARP, because the president isn’t politicking enough, because people are upset about health reform. These assertions stir people to high indignation.

And yet the underlying story is simple and well documented: If the economy has done poorly over the last year, people vote out the party in power; if it’s done well, they reelect the incumbents. Everything else is noise, whose predictable effect is constant anxiety — and a relentless focus on short-term ups and downs rather than on the long-term state of the world. But amid all these bits of information, there’s almost none for which it’s important that we form an opinion right away.

As our brains fill with chatter, there’s every reason to think this will only get worse; all the incentives are there for more updates, more often. Technology isn’t going to solve this. Setting up better electronic filters won’t keep this out. Installing products like LeechBlock or Freedom won’t solve the problem; that just delays it until the next time you’re on the web.

If we really want the Information Age rather than the Chatter Age, there’s only one solution: relearn self-control. By Steve Laniel
October 26, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hitler becomes tourist attraction

BERLIN - 'HITLER and the Germans', an exhibition in Berlin's German Historical Museum which investigates the society that created Hitler, has seen more than 10,000 visitors walk through its doors since opening on Friday.

Rudolf Trabold, a spokesman for the museum, said there were 4,000 visitors to the exhibition on the first day alone. People visiting the exhibition said they had waited as long as 1 1/2 hours to get in.

Ravi Nair, a 73-year-old Indian visitor, said: 'I had to queue for about an hour but it was worth it. The exhibition should help people in democratic countries realise that their vote is very valuable.' Mr Trabold said Hitler and the Germans was so popular because it was 'the first exhibition to explain how a man who lived on the margins of society for 30 years, in Vienna's men's hostels, could become an almost mythical leader of the German people.

'We are all affected by Hitler, so it speaks to all of us and helps Germans and foreigners to come to terms with the past'.

Inge Lonning, a 72-year-old tourist from Norway said: 'I thought the exhibition was very impressive. I wanted to see it because I experienced the German occupation of Norway as a small child, so it's not just history for me.' But not everyone was convinced there was something new to be learned from the exhibition.

'So much has been done about this period over the years, it was like, I knew this and I knew that,' said Canadian Julien Cayer, aged 28. 'I thought I'd find something new but I didn't.' There has been widespread concern in the German media that the exhibition could become a magnet for neo-Nazi admirers of Hitler, but Mr Trabold said that although there had been some right-wing extremist visitors, they had not caused any problems. -- REUTERS

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wang Yinfeng in the news

Several versions of the recording have been uploaded onto the Internet. In the longest recording, lasting 31 minutes, a man alleged to be Wang Yinfeng, Party chief of Jiangjin district...

Oct 17, 2010
'Fengshui' halts construction

CHONGQING - A RECORDING clip on the Internet allegedly showing a government official talking about fengshui has sparked controversy as it seemed to suggest the construction of a building was halted because the official believed it would disturb the fengshui of a nearby government compound.

Several versions of the recording have been uploaded onto the Internet. In the longest recording, lasting 31 minutes, a man alleged to be Wang Yinfeng, Party chief of Jiangjin district in south-west China's Chongqing Municipality, said the under-construction building would block the government building and asked men said to be representatives from the real estate companies: 'Do you know what fengshui is?'

However, it is unknown whether the recording is authentic and whether the man in it was Wang Yinfeng, as neither the district government nor Mr Wang has yet responded to the recording allegations. A media report on October 8 said that Wang Yinfeng called off the building project because he believed it would block the fengshui of the administration building of the district government.

The district's information office held a press conference on Wednesday, denying that Mr Wang had said anything about fengshui.

Jiangjin made an adjustment to the district's urban development plan in 2008, because the Shuiyingkangcheng building project would affect the People's Square Commercial Center Project planning, said Tian Ling, chief engineer of the district's urban planning bureau.

According to the bureau, the square is being built to improve people's quality of life and to create a better urban environment. -- CHINA DAILY/ANN

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Saturday, October 09, 2010

arrggghhh .... I wanna get in-SITE...

Google is closing groups and membership was managed from google groups. Hence you need to apply to access to MY HUMANITIES CLASS.

Step 1: In right sidebar, click "FOLLOW".
Step 2: Complete the form below.

Space to ask your questions

If you have questions, there is always space for you to ask.

More readings

Not in the textbook? Too little info? Read everything? Try this.

Compilations updated

SS SEQs and WH SEQs updated. Many thanks to Ian and Clarence. Always so dependable!

Friday, October 08, 2010

Post-graduate studies

Exceptions: these students must be present for the following slots:
Mon 11 Oct 

1120: Amrit, Darius, Pinak, Bhag, Darius, Jarren

Tue 12 Oct 

0900: Yong Kiat, Adrian, Samuel

Thu 14 Oct 

1000: Anjie, Yongwee, Gexiou, Lihao

Fri 15 Oct
1100: Yong Kiat, Tze, Voo

Mon 18  Oct 
1000: Adrian, Darius, Saw
1100: Yijun, Aik
1330: Tze, Voo

Tue 19 Oct
10: Soo, Youduen, Clarence

Chinese girls

This is for Erwei, Dawei, Gexiou, Lihao, Yingfeng, Yanxu, Jingxin

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Venice SBQ Answers MUST SEE!

Sec 4s,

Remember the SBQ on Venice from XYZ school that was given to you for practise. You can consult the answer scheme here.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Why has Germany taken so long to pay off its WWI debt?

Germany is finally paying off World War I reparations, with the last 70 million euro (£60m) payment drawing the debt to a close.

A remembrance poppy on a memorial displaying the names of some of the missing from WWI and WWII in Ypres, Belgium, on 5 November 2008 Germany was forced to accept responsibility for World War I

Germany is finally paying off World War I reparations, with the last 70 million euro (£60m) payment drawing the debt to a close.

Interest on loans taken out to the pay the debt will be settled on Sunday, the 20th anniversary of German reunification.

It is about time, some would say.

More than nine decades after the war, Germany - now a leading European Union state and the largest economy in Europe - has long cast off its post-WWI image of a defeated, beleaguered Weimar Republic.

So why has it taken so long for it to shed its age-old debt?

The European nation was not expecting to lose the war, let alone anticipate being burdened with payments that would reach into the next century.
Continue reading the main story
Price of conflict

* The Treaty of Versailles stripped Germany of just over 13% of its territory
* The treaty also reduced Germany's economic productivity by about 13%
* Germany told to pay substantial reparations for 'civilian damage', along with its allies
* While the 1919 treaty included a "guilt clause", the definite sum was decided in 1921

But, in 1919, the victors of the war wrote Germany's guilt into the Versailles Treaty at the infamous Hall of Mirrors, and collectively decided that it should pay a high price for that guilt.

About 269bn gold marks, to be exact - the equivalent of around 100,000 tonnes of gold.
'Bitter resentment'

The treaty took complex negotiation and was undoubtedly controversial; economist John Maynard Keynes was one of its most vocal critics, arguing that it would not be effective in achieving its goals.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

The economic perception that the allies are bleeding Germany is far more important”

End Quote Felix Schulz Newcastle University

The allies - mainly driven by France - wanted to ensure Germany would not be capable of war for many years.

But the plan backfired, with modern-day historians claiming that Versailles was a key factor in the lead-up to World War II.

There was bitter resentment in Germany over the sum, and also over article 231, the so-called "guilt clause", which ruled that Germany was responsible for the conflict.

"The sum was met with disbelief in Germany," says Felix Schulz, a lecturer in European History at Newcastle University.

He says Germany tried to push back the payments, and very little was paid back in the 1920s - not only because Germany was struggling financially, but because Germany didn't accept them.

"It's linked to this idea that it is always seen as unfair… In reality I'm sure they could have [paid earlier] if the Weimar Republic was to live on a shoestring, but it would have led to more radical parties earlier on."
Circa 1944: Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945) gives the fascist salute at a parade during WWII. Visible on the balcony with him are Galeazzo Ciano and Italian Benito Mussolini (far left). Hitler refused to pay back the reparations after coming to power

Faced with hyperinflation and soaring unemployment, people sought refuge in a movement that promoted national pride, and signed up to Hitler's Nazi party - which used the reparations as a propaganda tool.

"These reparations were as important politically as economically," says Mark Harrison, an economics professor at University of Warwick.

"It was what it [the reparations] stood for. The Germans hated it," he says.

"They could have [paid] more than they said they would."
'Overturning the treaty'

After Versailles, there emerged some recognition of the financial strain on war-torn Germany, and allied nations attempted to minimise the pain.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

It's unlikely that either of the German states believed they had [debt] obligations”

End Quote Professor Mark Harrison University of Warwick

The 1924 Dawes Plan and the 1929 Young Plan reduced the debt to 112bn gold marks, and granted Germany loans to meet its payments.

But then disaster struck, and the Wall Street Crash of 1929 threw nations across the world into disarray.

The ensuing financial crisis meant that not only Germany, but many nations, could not keep up with their war debts; as a result, US President Herbert Hoover introduced a one-year moratorium.

A year later, the 1932 Lausanne conference tried to write off almost all of Germany's war debt, but the proposal failed to pass US Congress.

When Hitler came into power, the system of payments had collapsed and time had run out.

Lausanne, says Mr Schulz, therefore became irrelevant.

Although the country had only paid about one eighth of what it owed, Hitler refused to pay any more.
Colourised photograph shows the German delegation, at left, as they arrive to sign the Armistice provisionally ending World War One, in a train dining car in Rethonde, outside Compiegne, France, 11 November 1918 Germany felt the end of the war was a humiliation

As Prof Harrison says: "Hitler was committed to not just not paying, but to overturning the whole treaty."

At this point, Mr Schulz says: "The economic reality is not as important as the economic perception... The economic perception that the allies are bleeding Germany is far more important."
'Two countries'

When Germany became two countries - East and West - it threw up new questions about which state inherited the debt.

"When one state succeeds another, there is always a question of whether it takes on its assets and liabilities," says Prof Harrison.

"It's unlikely that either of the German states believed they had obligations".

A new agreement in 1953 - the London Treaty - agreed to suspend many payments until Germany was unified.
Photo dated 1929, released 28 October 2004, showing a view of Wall Street in New York during the financial crisis The Wall Street Crash plunged the world into recession

By the time country was reunified, in 1990, the world had changed dramatically since the days of Versailles, and policymakers decided to write off most of the original sum.

Mr Schulz says it was, essentially, a return to the conditions in the 1932 Lausanne agreement, and a reduced amount of payments was reactivated.

"There was no real need to go back to the punitive state of the 1920s, so you return to something which is much more modest."
'Lessons learned'

With time, historians say there was recognition that Versailles did not achieve what it set out to, and that saddling a country with war debts was not a solution.

The approach was different by the time WWII ended. Germany was made to financially compensate other nations, but there was more of an emphasis on rebuilding Europe.

"After WWII they decided to hang the leaders but not to punish the nation," says Prof Harrison.

"But in WWI it was the other way around."

As Martin Farr, a senior lecturer in British history at Newcastle University, says: "The lesson was learned eventually."

Unfortunately, he says, "it required another 20 or so million people to be killed first".

Friday, October 01, 2010

Online essay review TONIGHT

Want to have your essay commented-reviewed-discussed online? Check out here to find how you can join the conference tonight at 10pm.

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