Drill against North planned
The government yesterday said it would begin next week an annual, large-scale military exercise aimed at countering threats from North Korea. The week-long Hoguk exercise beginning on Thursday next week will involve 240,000 army, navy, air force and marine corps personnel, along with police officers, a Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman told reporters. About 500 US soldiers will also take part. Tensions on the Korean peninsula have been raised in the past month by a series of maritime border confrontations, defections and a new deal with the US to nearly triple the range of the national missile systems. There are also widespread concerns that Pyongyang might do something in the run up to December’s presidential election.
Dissident granted asylum
Chinese dissident and author Yu Jie (余杰) said late on Wednesday he was granted asylum in the US last week and plans to start a Web site in support of his friend, imprisoned Chinese 2010 Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波). Yu, who was in New York to receive the Civil Courage Prize, came to the US in January after being detained several times last year and being beaten so badly that he passed out. He wrote a book critical of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) called China’s Best Actor: Wen Jiabao and helped found the Independent PEN Center in China, which fights for freedom of expression. He plans to settle in Virginia and publish Liu’s works online, Yu said. Liu was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 for co-authoring a bold call for ending single-party rule and enacting democratic reforms.
Director Wakamatsu dies
Award-winning Japanese director Koji Wakamatsu, whose film career started in pornography and ended in acclaimed independent productions, has died after being hit by a taxi in Tokyo on Friday last week, an aide said yesterday. Wakamatsu was 76 and had only two weeks ago been named Asian Filmmaker of the Year at the region’s biggest film festival in Busan, South Korea, for his contribution to independent cinema. Interviewed by reporters in Busan, the Caterpillar director had said he felt his films were undervalued in his home country “so this is a great honor for me.” Wakamatsu first came to international attention when Secrets Behind The Wall was featured at the 1965 Berlin International Film Festival. In a career that spanned more than 100 movies, he was as noted for his work exploring strong social themes as he was for his adult films.
Gillard redefines misogyny
A fiery speech against sexism by Prime Minister Julia Gillard has prompted the textbook of Australian English to broaden the definition of “misogyny” to better fit the heated political debate raging in the country. Gillard last week used a parliamentary debate to launch a strong attack against conservative Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, accusing him of being a misogynist for once suggesting men were better adapted to exercise authority, and saying that abortion was “the easy way out,” among other things. The speech has since become an Internet hit. In response, the Macquarie Dictionary has decided to broaden the definition of “misogyny” to better match the way the word has been used over the past 30 years. The dictionary currently defines misogyny as “hatred of women,” but will now add a second definition to include “entrenched prejudice against women,” suggesting Abbott discriminated against women with his sexist views.
Barley genome unveiled
An international consortium of scientists has published a high-resolution draft of the barley genome in a move that could not only improve yields and disease resistance, but may also hold the key to better beer. “This research will streamline efforts to improve barley production through breeding for improved varieties,” said Professor Robbie Waugh, of Scotland’s James Hutton Institute, who led the research. “This could be varieties better able to withstand pests and disease, deal with adverse environmental conditions, or even provide grain better suited for beer and brewing.” Barley which has been malted is a key ingredient in brewing beer along with hops and yeast.
Drug lord’s parents probed
Mexico’s top anti-drug prosecutor says authorities are seeking permits to exhume the remains of the parents of deceased drug lord Heriberto Lazcano, to obtain material for DNA testing. The testing is aimed at confirming that a body stolen from a funeral home Oct. 8 was indeed Lazcano’s. The navy says Lazcano’s body was identified through fingerprints after he was killed in a shootout with marines on Oct. 7. Prosecutor Jose Cuitlahuac Salinas said on Wednesday that Lazcano’s parents died years ago, and are buried in central Hidalgo state. He did not say what sample from the body would be used for comparison, but an autopsy was performed before the body was stolen and officials apparently saved blood or bloody clothing.
Milan McDonald’s closes
Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, with its glittering Gucci and Louis Vuitton stores, has long attracted tourists eager to marvel at the posh heart of the world’s fashion capital. For two decades, the marble-floored arcade has also been the location for a branch of McDonald’s. The restaurant was a popular meeting point. However, apparently not everyone was “lovin’ it.” On Tuesday, the restaurant closed its doors for the last time — to make way for a new Prada outlet. “For stores like Prada or Gucci, to have a McDonald’s across from them probably didn’t play well into the prestige of the gallery,” Italian luxury adviser Salvo Spagna said. Reports suggested McDonald’s is planning to sue the City of Milan for 24 million euros (US$31 million) in damages and lost revenue, though others speculated they had struck a deal. During the day, several thousand young people queued up outside the restaurant (one of Italy’s busiest McDonald’s locations) to mourn its closing and get one last burger, which the chain gave away free in order to “go away with a smile,” according to company representatives.
Guards drunk, on drugs
A private security company working for the US government in Afghanistan is in hot water after a video surfaced allegedly showing several of its employees drunk and on drugs, US broadcaster ABC reported on Wednesday. The video posted on the Web site of ABC purportedly taken at an operations center belonging to US defense contractor Jorge Scientific shows men with nude torsos downing vodka shots and wrestling with each other. Another man, identified as the medic of the group, is shown in a dazed state after shooting up with Ketamine, a strong anesthetic. Contractors working for the US Army are banned from the use of alcohol and drugs. The cellphone video, shot earlier this year, was provided to ABC by two former employees of the company, Jorge Scientific.