Cornflakes Every Sunday at the Indian Mission Boarding School

November 22, 2014 by  
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Notes from Indian Country
By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji)
© Native Sun News 2014

There is a poem in my book “Children Left Behind” called “Six days a week and twice on Sunday” that describes the lives of the Indian students at Holy Rosary Indian Mission boarding school in the 1940s. The school no longer boards students and it is now called Red Cloud Indian School.

The poem describes how we spent a lot of time in church. After church Monday through Saturday we reported to the school dining hall where we were almost always served yellow cornmeal mush. This breakfast meal gained so much notoriety that when we played basketball against our near rival, Oglala Community School (now Pine Ridge High School), they would put up banners that read, “Crush the mush.”

However on Sunday mornings at the boarding school everything changed and we were served bowls of cornflakes.

I wrote about this because the change from corn meal mush to cornflakes was dramatic. We all loved the cornflakes because it broke up our usual breakfast fare. And I never really gave much thought to that poem until last week when a young Lakota woman from Black Hills State University came to my office to interview me.

Her name is Savannah Greseth and she is the daughter of Diane Amiotte who works for the Inter Tribal Bison Council in Rapid City. Many years ago Diane was an advertising sales representative for my newspaper Indian Country Today. With bright young Lakota like Savannah on the horizon I no longer fear for the future of Native Americans.

Savannah read my book and recalled one part because it crossed a topic she was reading for a research paper. One paragraph in the poem went:

“At the end of the Mass
We’d troop to the dining room
For our Sunday morning treat. . .
CORN FLAKES!”

Savannah asked if I knew the history of cornflakes and I had to admit I did not probably because I never had a reason to check it out.

She explained it to me.

It is written that the creator of cornflakes was a Michigan physician named John Harvey Kellog. In the 18th and 19th centuries the Western world worked itself up into a mass hissy fit over the idea of people touching themselves. One of the most ardent anti-masturbators was Mr. Kellog. According to an article on Google it was reported that he believed sex was detrimental to physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. It said that he personally abstained from it and never consummated his marriage. He said that sex with one’s wife was bad, but masturbation was even worse.

Kellog’s brother Will wanted to add sugar to the newly developed cornflakes, but John demurred so Will started the Kellog Company and did add sugar to many of the grain cereals he developed. “Masturbators who enjoy cornflakes can probably attest that the sugar was a good idea since Kellog’s cereal doesn’t really have its intended effect.”

After reading this I came to the conclusion that the Jesuit priests and Franciscan nuns who were the overseers at Holy Rosary Mission probably read Kellog’s book, “Plain Facts for Old and Young: Embracing the Natural History and Hygiene of Organic Life,” and took it seriously. Why else would they favor us so grandly with cornflakes every Sunday morning? Would the corn in the corn meal mush be comparable to cornflakes?

Holy Rosary Mission housed boys and girls from kindergarten to grade 12. We were all young Lakota, raucous and full of energy so I presume the Jesuits thought cornflakes and corn meal mush would serve as a sexual depressant.
While discussing this with an ex-serviceman in my employ we both brought up the myth perpetrated on us while serving in the military. The ingredient that was supposed to have the same effect on us as cornflakes was called Saltpeter. Rumor had it that it was an ingredient added to food in prison and in military camps to curb sexual desires. Saltpeter is actually Potassium Nitrate and there has never been any proof that it affected the male libido.

I suppose that in the long run the Jesuit priests and nuns truly believed that cornflakes would quiet our sex drive and they eventually found out it did not. But I am sure they knew of the supposed impact of cornflakes and served it so us every Sunday for that purpose. Perhaps they should have been devouring it by the bowl full themselves and then perhaps there would not have been so much sexual abuse of the Indian children placed in their care.

Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard with the Class of 1991. He is now the editor and publisher of the largest weekly newspaper in South Dakota, Native Sun News. He can be reached at editor@nsweekly.com
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Koenig’s Emotions Make Serial Great

November 21, 2014 by  
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Sarah Koenig is too emotional. Sarah Koenig is in love with Adnan Syed. Sarah Koenig clearly can’t be taken seriously as a reporter.

The This American Life spinoff podcast Serial has gained a cult following. It’s hosted by producer Sarah Koenig and follows the 1999 Maryland murder of Hae Min Lee and the trial of her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed, who is currently serving a life sentence for her murder. There was no physical evidence and much of the testimony used to convict him was questionable at best. The podcast has become a sensation, inspiring meta-podcasts and a legion of listeners who are attempting to discover the truth alongside Koenig.

I’m one of those obsessed Serial listeners. Consider this a formal apology to my professors–I spend 50 percent of class time surreptitiously reading the subreddit for the podcast. And as I read, one kind of comment started popping up again and again: “can we trust SK?” “Is SK in love with Adnan?” “Did you hear how she giggled?”

It wasn’t until I started listening to Serial that I realized how few popular podcasts are hosted by women. Listen, I love RadioLab, This American Life and HowStuffWorks as much as the next student, but hearing a woman’s voice on a podcast is so rare, and it’s no wonder when you consider that we live in a world where feminine-sounding voices are devalued.

NPR did a story on this issue recently. They point out that women with higher voices are perceived as incompetent and unreliable. So it’s not just Koenig — all women are judged based on their vocal intonation. When listeners criticize the way Koenig laughs or her tone when she asks questions, they’re not just criticizing her voice, they’re attacking her credibility. And when the medium in question is aural, a podcast, perceptions of voice really matter. Which is why it’s so frustrating to see listeners project these ideas onto Koenig’s incredible reporting.

The criticism that bothers me the most, though, is the implication that Koenig is in love with Adnan Syed. Listeners point to a moment early in the show when Koenig says that he doesn’t look like a murderer. But what many don’t note is that she immediately calls herself out, acknowledging that a murderer could easily have warm brown eyes. She’s not falling in love, she’s helping the listener create a mental image of the show’s main subject. They point out that she’s friendly with Adnan, sometimes laughing at his jokes. She has over 30 hours worth of interviews with him — of course they’re friendly. It’s also her prerogative to be amiable with her main subject. If their relationship becomes cold or accusatory then she loses her main source. The assertion that she is in love with Adnan is insulting and clearly sexist. When was the last time someone accused Ira Glass of being in love with one of his subjects?

When listeners accuse Koenig of being “too emotional,” they’re continuing the tradition of devaluing emotion. Emotional reactions are just as valid as intellectual ones. And most of Koenig’s reactions are intellectual. But it’s a mistake to argue that she’s not a credible journalist because she does occasionally express emotion. It’s an emotional case which involves real people. As I write, Adnan Syed is in prison in Maryland. Many people are working to free him. Lee’s friends and family are still mourning her. So I don’t want to listen to a “Serial” that is bereft of emotion because that would mean detaching from the real trauma that impacted so many in Baltimore and beyond.

What’s so wrong with being emotional anyway? Critics of Koenig’s reporting should remember that emotion and reason are not mutually exclusive. Sarah Koenig does occasionally laugh or sigh with frustration. And these human moments make Serial great.
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Why I’m Standing with Walmart Workers This Black Friday

November 20, 2014 by  
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As a student at University of Minnesota-Duluth, Cantare Davunt graduated with a bachelor’s degree in international studies. As a Walmart associate, she’s an activist fighting for decent wages, full-time hours, predictable schedules and dignity at work.

Like many college graduates working in the new “Walmart Economy,” Cantare earns $10.10 per hour — about $322 a week. She lives paycheck to paycheck, and has to make near-impossible choices each month between buying enough food, covering her share of rent, or paying off her student loans. In the summer, she forgoes electricity. Other months, it’s her cellphone bill. This August, her car was repossessed. “Minnesota’s a hard place to get ahead without a car,” she said recently.

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Cantare Davunt, 30, a Walmart customer service manager from Apple Valley, Minnesota and member of OUR Walmart.

Cantare told her story at a recent Senate briefing hosted by Senator Warren (D-MA) and Representative Miller (D-CA), where elected officials described the growing crisis of inequality in the U.S. and offered different solutions to turn the tide. As Sen. Warren said: “We need to give workers this chance by raising the minimum wage, providing some basic fairness in scheduling, and fighting for equal pay for equal work.”

Why did the briefing single out Walmart?

Because as one of the richest corporations in the world, with profits of $16 billion annually and 1.4 million employees, it represents a class of corporations that earn record sums while their employees can’t make ends meet. By shear volume and wealth, Walmart sets a standard in our society. The workers who help Walmart make unimaginable profits in turn receive poverty wages, unaffordable health care and irregular schedules, including hours kept at part-time as a way of denying access to paid sick days.

Consumers should not have to subsidize Walmart and the “Walmart Economy” either. But we do — to the tune of nearly $8 billion a year in taxpayer-funded assistance for food, health care, and housing for Walmart employees. The Walton’s — the richest family in the country who own and run Walmart — add $8.6 million to their $150 billion wealth every day. And yet hundreds of millions of Americans subsidize their luxuries while the family robs workers of a decent living.

But there’s good news.

OUR Walmart leaders are standing up for all American families who are struggling to do more with less, and are winning changes at the company. In response to calls for more hours, Walmart created a new scheduling system. After Walmart moms called for the rights of pregnant women to be respected, Walmart improved its pregnancy policy. And after OUR Walmart members called for better pay, Walmart CEO publicly committed to raising pay for the company’s lowest paid workers.

And there’s more good news.

Elected officials at the state and federal level are increasingly introducing legislation that would help Walmart employees, and millions more low-wage workers.

Take the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would increase the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2015 and index it to the cost of living. It would also guarantee a tipped minimum wage — which has been frozen at $2.13 for 20 years — equal to 70 percent of the full minimum wage, helping to fix a glaring disparity between tipped workers and everyone else. As an African American who harbors a persistent saltiness to the idea of free labor, I know we can do better than $2.13.

Or the Schedules That Work Act, which would help give all of us a greater voice on the job. Walmart associates — like many others — are victims to last minute, unpredictable schedules; are punished or terminated when they request more hours; and find it nearly impossible to secure childcare, attend classes to better themselves and find time to organize their lives — all while frequently juggling multiple jobs. This legislation would establish a process for discussing work schedules between employees and employers, and protect workers from retaliation when they request a different schedule.

Lastly, there’s the Paycheck Fairness Act. Like most women, it pains me to talk about continuing pay discrimination across gender and racial lines, something that should have been resolved decades ago. The Paycheck Fairness Act would help close the gaps that exist from the Equal Pay Act of 1963, and if passed, bring an end to pay secrecy and protect workers who discuss their wages on the job.

So here we are. An economy still tepid in recovery, mired in precarious work situations and stagnant wages. Corporations and CEOs who enjoy record-breaking profits. Economists who continue to cite inequality as a hindrance to economic growth. And low-wage workers, emboldened and inspired by recent victories for working families, whose movement for $15 an hour and fair workplaces continues to grow at unprecedented pace.

Next week, Walmart workers will protest at more than 1,600 stores, marking the third consecutive year of Black Friday protests. We know these protests matter. They’ve captured the attention of lawmakers; they’ve gained the support of the American public; and they’ve forced Walmart to raise wages and improve policies, no matter how hard the company refuses to change.

That’s why I’ll be joining Walmart workers this Black Friday. I’ll gather up my turkey-filled friends and relatives and visit my nearest Walmart. I’ll stand outside in solidarity with workers, do some chanting and maybe take some selfies, deliver a memo to the store manager, and contribute to building a fair economy — for us all.

For workers like Cantare, I encourage you to join as well.
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Russell Brand: Fox News ‘Is A Contemporary Myth’

November 19, 2014 by  
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There’s no love lost between Russell Brand and Fox News, whose contentious relationship eventually escalated to the point of Brand traveling to Fox’s offices in midtown Manhattan to confront executives and subsequently being kicked off the property.

Brand’s feelings haven’t changed much since, which was clear during a HuffPost Live interview Wednesday.

“Of course, Fox News is where you always go first to receive direct truth from the almighty infinite lord,” Brand said sarcastically. “Roger Ailes, that’s his earthly avatar. I prefer the prophet that is Sean Hannity, who is constantly anxious. For a man that’s got such a good head of hair, he’s always worried about something.”

The original confrontation started when Brand took exception to a Fox graphic depicting Palestinians as ISIS-style terrorists. Brand expounded to host Josh Zepps on the particulars of his rage.

“Fox is a contemporary myth, peddling an contemporary story that’s their version of reality. It’s incredibly reductive and simplistic and predicates on the worst aspects of our nature. It’s easy to make us frightened, it’s easy to stimulate desire in us. That’s why I think I connect so strongly with that material. I’m a person that, I get frightened. I’m full of desire. Please, don’t make it worse, Fox News … please give me the nuance.”

See Brand’s thoughts on Fox in the video above, and catch the full HuffPost Live conversation here.

Sign up here for Live Today, HuffPost Live’s new morning email that will let you know the newsmakers, celebrities and politicians joining us that day and give you the best clips from the day before!
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Tiger Woods Is Very Angry About Golf Digest’s Very Fake Satirical ‘Interview’ With Him

November 18, 2014 by  
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Tiger Woods likes to think he has a good sense of humor. Woods likes to think he is willing to laugh at himself. With an angry rebuke of Golf Digest for a piece of satire in its latest issue, he may have ensured that no one else will think either of those things.

Incensed by a piece entitled “My (Fake) Interview With Tiger,” by award-winning sportswriter and author Dan Jenkins, that appears in the magazine’s December issue, Woods vented on The Players’ Tribune, a website founded by former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter to give athletes a forum for communicating directly with fans.

Most things in the media you let slide, but sometimes you can’t and shouldn’t. Read my @PlayersTribune piece http://t.co/u0511anhGJ

— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) November 18, 2014

Woods slammed the satirical imagined conversation as a “grudge-fueled piece of character assassination” and questioned the integrity of Jenkins, inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2012, and the magazine. Jenkins, 84, has been a longtime critic of Woods, according to ESPN.

“Journalistically and ethically, can you sink any lower?” Woods asked in his lengthy takedown of the piece titled “Not True, Not Funny.”

In an apparent attempt to have some fun at the expense of the 14-time major winner, Jenkins’ fictitious chat touched on Woods’ off-course controversies and his history of working with — and firing — various coaches. Woods made it very clear that he did not approve of the faux interview format and took offense to the content of the story.

“I like to think I have a good sense of humor, and that I’m more than willing to laugh at myself. In this game, you have to. I’ve been playing golf for a long time, 20 years on the PGA Tour. I’ve given lots of interviews to journalists in all that time, more than I could count, and some have been good and some not so much. All athletes know that we will be under scrutiny from the media,” Woods wrote. “But this concocted article was below the belt. Good-natured satire is one thing, but no fair-minded writer would put someone in the position of having to publicly deny that he mistreats his friends, takes pleasure in firing people, and stiffs on tips — and a lot of other slurs, too.”

Golf Digest defended the piece and its presentation in a statement issued to For The Win:

The Q&A is clearly labeled as “fake,” both on our cover and in the headline. The article stands on its own.

Jenkins seemed to take the controversy in stride. He may have even gotten an idea for his next column out of it:

My next column for Tiger: defining parody and satire. I thought I let him off easy: http://t.co/E7e9imSKwO

— Dan Jenkins (@danjenkinsgd) November 18, 2014

Woods’ attack on the piece likely brought it far more attention than it would have otherwise received. This did not go unnoticed by ESPN’s Rick Reilly:

Hey @TigerWoods, please hate my book next!

— Rick Reilly (@ReillyRick) November 18, 2014

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Jamie Horowitz Fired From NBC Only 10 Weeks Into His Role Overseeing The ‘Today’ Show

November 17, 2014 by  
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Well, that was quick.

Only 10 weeks into his role at NBC supervising the “Today” show, television executive Jamie Horowitz has been fired by the network.

NBC News president Deborah Turness broke the news to employees on Monday night.

She had announced Horowitz’s hiring earlier this year. He joined NBC News as “SVP and General Manager of the TODAY brand” according to Turness’ original memo.

Horowitz, a former ESPN executive, was brought on board to help “Today” reclaim the top morning spot from ABC’s “Good Morning America.” The Hollywood Reporter claims that he and Turness butted heads during his brief tenure. Sources told The New York Daily News that Horowitz “ran afoul of internal politics and clashed with established executives and talent at the show — who did not like his ideas.”

Deadline reports that Horowitz hadn’t “technically” even hit his start date yet:

NBC had announced in May that Horowitz would start December 1, overseeing all four hours of the weekday show and the 30 Rock concert series, as NBC News struggles to regain Today’s ratings foothold. According to one insider, that official start date was still on the books so, technically, Horowitz was let go before he started, which has to be some sort of record. In reality, he’d been at the offices about 10 weeks.

The full text of Turness’ Monday memo to employees can be read below:

Dear All:

I want to let you know that, effective today, Jamie Horowitz will be leaving NBC News.

Jamie joined us in September as General Manager of the TODAY brand. He’s a talented producer and executive, but, together, he and I have come to the conclusion that this is not the right fit.

Because of the hard work of so many of you, and an anchor team that is hitting on all cylinders, the show has great momentum and is closing the ratings gap. The exclusives keep coming and there is a great energy both on- and off-air, and in digital and social. My focus – as always – is to support this special brand and its amazing and dedicated staff, and to position it for continued success.

The role of General Manager remains an important one, and will be filled in due course. In the interim, I will work closely with both Don Nash and Jen Brown to oversee TODAY.

Please join me in thanking Jamie and wishing him the best.

Deborah

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WATCH: Amazing Story of a Church’s 2,000-Mile Journey

November 16, 2014 by  
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A really odd thing once happened to my journalism. And then, equally oddly or more so, it happened again.

I never really had anything like a real specialty as a reporter or as a TV producer – “Generalist!” was my proud boast. But suddenly back in the early 1980s I was unaccountably put in charge of network programs (for Britain’s commercial television service, ITV) that concentrated entirely on religion and ethics.

I say unaccountably because I had no serious background in religion – and, I thought, very little interest in it either.

Ethics were a different matter – they were viscerally fascinating to me (as evidenced nowadays, maybe, by how journalistic ethics have featured in THE MEDIA BEAT throughout its ten-year existence). Matters of faith and denomination, though, left me at that time pretty unmoved. But nevertheless … religion, even organized religion – which I had airily dismissed as irrelevant, in the often typical fashion of my 1960′s generation – unexpectedly grabbed my attention with great power and drama.

It turned out to be a hot time, journalistically. My teams and I got to cover a new Pope who was charismatic, Polish, and shot in the stomach – by a Turkish would-be assassin … a fundamentalist Ayatollah who took over Iran, with all that this came to mean for the rest of the world, especially for the country he called “The Great Satan” … and even in quiet old Britain, we covered the nation’s established church undergoing fresh paroxysms about the role of women and about homosexuality. And there was more, much more … from crazy exorcists to towering human embodiments of compassion and moral leadership.

Thus I came to enjoy one of the most rewarding periods of my working life – surrounded by some of the best journalists I have ever been with.

Life moved on of course, with other realms of interest opening up – not least my work in the developing world, Africa especially. And later (after I moved to the US) came a decade or more spent within the curious universe of the United Nations, both in its New York HQ and its many missions around the globe.

And then, that odd repetition.

I now find myself as a correspondent and producer with American television’s major forum for … guess what? … religion and ethics. Aired by the PBS network every week, it goes by the matter-of-fact (indeed you might say plodding, but definitely accurate) title of Religion and Ethics Newsweekly.

It’s likely that most of my efforts on this show concentrate on ethics more than formal religion … but even so, the world of churches, mosques and temples does often force its way onto my sometimes world-weary journalistic agenda. And sometimes – as occurs this week – it can even be an occasion for sheer delight.
EMBED

Watch the video – at: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/2014/11/14/november-14-2014-church-relocation/24594/

In this report, broadcast over the weekend (times vary in different areas), we tell a remarkable tale about a historic, in fact 200-year old, wooden Anglican church in Nova Scotia that recently outlived its usefulness and was sold off … to, of all people, a Southern Baptist congregation in Louisiana that needed a new church building.

Even more remarkably, the entire church was dismantled – by an ace team of heritage woodworkers – and then piled onto an enormous Mack tractor-trailer, and driven the 2,000-plus miles to reach the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. There it is now being reassembled by volunteer Baptist labor, under that same timber-expert guidance from Nova Scotia.

The story says much about two very different societal developments – declining religiosity in Canada intersecting with the entirely US phenomenon of surging church membership among southern evangelicals.

But it’s also, quite simply, that journalistic gem – a striking instance of unexpected human endeavor, in this case yoked together with touching respect for history. And it has the extra virtue (for a TV guy) of deeply engaging and contrasting locations. That’s not to mention a telling comparison between styles of music – the somber Anglican hymnal versus rousing jazz-influenced rhythms from the Baptists.

Oh, and in addition – but this is not going to count as any kind of journalistic specialization – my personal appetite for carpentry was greatly fed by learning a huge amount that I would never have known about early nineteenth century mortise-and-tenon joints.

****

Read more of David Tereshchuk’s media industry insights at his regular online column, The Media Beat at its new site. The Media Beat podcasts are always available on demand from Connecticut’s NPR station WHDD, and at iTunes.
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How Defectors Sneak News Out Of North Korea

November 16, 2014 by  
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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Video secretly taken in North Korea shows public executions by firing squad. The country is said to begin a currency revaluation that turns disastrous. Leader Kim Jong Un is reported to have thrown South Korean leaflets containing rumors about his wife in his aides’ faces.

Two of those stories are true. The third, who knows? All came from people in North Korea, through networks of defectors determined to get out information on the authoritarian, highly insular country they left behind. Their words and images are snapped up with enthusiasm, and often credulously, by South Korean and international media desperate for news from the poorly understood country. The sources may not be particularly well informed: They could be ruling-party officials or factory workers. Or smugglers, professors or soldiers.

Generally, they are in it for the money, not a desire to force change in their homeland, according to the defectors they communicate with.

Whatever their motives, the risks they face are the same. Defectors say the firing-squad and currency stories came from sources now dead because of their work.

The North inspires fervent curiosity and global headlines thanks largely to its tight control on information, its dogged pursuit of long-range nuclear weapons and its widely condemned record on human rights.

For outsiders it can be a breeding ground for groundless rumors, as it was recently during nearly six weeks in which Kim Jong Un stayed out of the public eye. After rumors ranging from a coup to gout brought on but a cheese addiction, he emerged limping but still clearly in power.

Leading defectors’ organizations say they are not responsible for many of the most sensational rumors, which could come from South Korean officials, businessmen doing business with the North or someone else. But that doesn’t mean the defectors are always right, either.

In the months after the North’s December 2013 execution of Jang Song Thaek — an uncle of Kim Jong Un who had been widely regarded as the country’s No. 2 official — a defector’s organization reported on its website that another top official, Choe Ryong Hae, had been detained for unclear reasons. Those reports, cited by many news outlets, appeared doubtful days later when state TV aired photos of Choe accompanying Kim on an inspection trip.

Kim Seong-Min, a well-known defector who heads the organization involved, Free North Korea Radio, said he now believes Choe was least investigated, if not detained. There have been varying reports about Choe’s political fortunes, but on Friday, state media reported that he will soon travel to Russia as Kim Jong Un’s special envoy.

Kim Seong-Min is unperturbed as long as the information helps expose North Korean wrongdoing. And he has worked to help North Koreans bolster their reports by smuggling in illegal cellphones and camcorders for them.

“There are lots of stories about North Korea, and I think all of them are good as long as they don’t praise that country,” Kim said in a recent interview. “I think they will help people understand the North’s dictatorship.”

Stories about top North Korean officials often have the murkiest sourcing.

Another defector in Kim Seong-Min’s group said it was a North Korean military official who told him about Kim Jong Un’s angry rant over leaflets South Korean activists sent to the North by balloons. The leaflets criticized the leader’s father and grandfather and made allegations about his wife’s sexual behavior before they married.

The defector said the official had not witnessed Kim Jong Un’s tirade but talked to a colleague who said he did. The defector requested anonymity due to worries about safety of relatives in North Korea.

Most of the defectors’ groups in Seoul specializing in sneaking news out of North Korea have no more than 10 North Korean sources. They regularly call their South Korean contacts at dawn or late at night, when North Korean security officials are less likely to be out with mobile equipment to detect cellphone signals.

Defectors’ organizations say they don’t tell their sources exactly who they are or how their information will be used, so the sources will more freely share information and will face less danger. The organizations usually release no details about a source except the province he or she reported from.

“They’d face espionage charges if they’re arrested” and owned up to a connection with an anti-Pyongyang organization in South Korea, said Kim Heung Kwang, a North Korean defector who heads the North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity organization. “I just tell them I’m writing something and need some information.”

His organization got a legitimate big scoop about the North, one of the few reports by defectors’ groups to be independently confirmed: the news of the country’s botched currency revaluation in 2009. South Korean officials confirmed the details days later.

Defectors say their sources often include their own relatives, friends and acquaintances. In return for information, they often get cash or gifts.

Kim Heung Kwang says he gives $50 to $100 to ordinary sources when they give him useful information, with more money for “ace” informants. He says he sent about $3,000 to both of the sources who told him about the currency reform as a special bonus. South Korea’s central bank estimates North Korea’s gross national income per capita last year at about 1.4 million won ($1,320).

“They definitely do it for the money,” Kim Seong-Min acknowledges. He says his group gives gifts, usually electronic products, to his sources because of a cash shortage.

Son Jung-hun, a defector and human rights activist who communicates with North Koreans in border towns, said they sometimes demand up to 2 million won ($1,840) for information, but he does not pay them. He said he is trying to monitor life on the border, not publish information. He also said he doubts that his contacts have information about specific news events, or even would understand what sort of information would interest the outside world.

Ahn Kyung-su, a North Korea researcher at a Seoul-based nongovernmental organization, says he suspects that sources are mostly ordinary citizens who pick up rumors circulated in North Korean border markets. That can be useful in getting a picture of life in many North Korean communities, but much less so when it comes to high-level government decisions.

Ahn pointed out that defectors’ organizations missed a big story that thousands of ordinary Pyongyang residents had to have known about: the collapse of a 23-story apartment building in the capital that North Korean state media ended up being the first to report, five days after it happened on May 13.

Defectors “were lucky to catch the currency reform,” Ahn said. “By looking at the high-rise collapse, we can say that they have no truly reliable sources” in Pyongyang.

Defectors’ organizations respond to criticism by saying they are not trying to be journalists, but are simply trying to expose the North’s abysmal human rights conditions.

When they do produce accurate information, the sources sometimes suffer for it.

Kim Seong-Min said an army major who sent him the video clips of public executions was arrested and executed in 2008. North Korean authorities identified him after spotting his motorcycle repeatedly in the footage.

“I felt wretched. I was speechless,” Kim said.

Kim Heung Kwang says one of his two sources who obtained the information about the currency reform was arrested in 2012 while returning home after conducting a mission to meet and tape a former South Korean soldier held in the country. The source, a local official, eventually died during interrogation.

“She didn’t launch a revolt but only informed us about what was happening in North Korea. There was no reason to kill her,” Kim Heung Kwang said. “My resolve to fight and overthrow the dictatorial regime was strengthened.”
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Bill Cosby’s ‘Late Show With David Letterman’ Appearance Canceled

November 15, 2014 by  
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According to Newsday, Bill Cosby’s Nov. 19 appearance on “The Late Show With David Letterman” has been canceled. No reason was given for the schedule change, but Regis Philbin will replace Cosby on the broadcast.

A representative for CBS declined to comment when contacted by The Huffington Post (the network does not publicly discuss its booking process). Cosby’s representatives did not return repeated requests for comment; this post will be updated if and when a response is received.

This marks Cosby’s second canceled booking in the last two weeks, as he dropped out of “The Queen Latifah Show” on Oct. 30. That move came a week after stand-up comedian Hannibal Buress called Cosby “a rapist” on stage in a bit that soon went viral. A spokesperson for “The Queen Latifah Show” told The Hollywood Reporter, “Mr. Cosby’s scheduled appearance on The Queen Latifah Show was postponed at his request and was in no way related to any of our recent or upcoming scheduled guests.”

This week, the Internet turned its attention back to Cosby after his team posted a meme generator on his website. The widget was taken down after users uploaded messages that highlighted allegations of rape and sexual abuse brought against the comedian over the last decade.

In addition, Barbara Bowman, one of the women who has alleged Cosby sexually assaulted her, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post on Thursday recounting encounters with the now 77-year-old comic. She told HuffPost Live in a separate interview that her experiences with Cosby were “sexual encounters that were not consensual on any level.”

Cosby was never criminally charged in Bowman’s case or any other. In 2006, he settled a civil suit with one of the women.
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Company Boss Sits Inside Armored Mercedes As It’s Shot With AK-47

November 14, 2014 by  
Filed under Videos

Here’s a guy who will not only stand behind his company’s product, he’ll also sit behind it — while being shot at by an AK-47.

R. Trent Kimball, CEO of Texas Armoring Corporation (TAC), got behind the wheel of a Mercedes that had been armored by his company. Then, sales manager Lawrence Kosub opened fire.

On his boss.

As you can see in the clip above, Kimball sat behind the wheel as a dozen bullets hit the glass. He was so still, the company released an uncut clip of him getting into the car, sitting down and getting shot at to prove he wasn’t replaced by a mannequin.

“When it comes to assuring our clients’ safety, we take product testing very seriously,” Kimball says in the clip.

TAC also released a 240fps slow-mo version of the clip:

Before the first clip, the company posted two screens of warnings to discourage copycats.

“Never point or shoot a firearm at a person or vehicle,” the warning reads in part. “Never let someone point or shoot a firearm at you.”

TAC has reinforced vehicles for the Pope, rapper T.I., Steven Seagal and oil executives in West Africa, the San Antonio Express-News reports.

“That was friggin amazin,” Kimball says at the end of the clip, while inspecting the damage. “It could’ve taken a lot more.”
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