North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Friday, December 17, 2010

Followups and an antidote

Occasionally, narratives of events and stories posted here deserve a bit of followup. Here are four updates on festering issues, balanced by one chilly, yet warming story of optimism.

The Ivory Coast standoff continues. Current President Gbagbo is facing sanctions by the European Union unless he retires from office. The UN also squarely places the responsibility on Gbagbo, siding with Alassane Ouattara. Nearly 20 citizens were killed in the past two days in a outburst of violence between the two sides.

City streets filled with military and tense civilians

Violence in Mexico between drug cartels and Mexico's central government continues. More than 30,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon took office four years ago, the government says. Almost 12,500 have been killed so far this year, a sharp increase on 2009. Mexico's attorney-general said the number of deaths was "regrettable", but showed that the security forces were having success in their fight against the drugs gangs. President Calderon has sent thousands of troops to battle the cartels.

Bound hands are mute testimony to lethal violence delivered by one rival gang to another, and lethal violence received

South Korea and the US are pursuing another military land/sea exercise in the same sea and island which North Korea recently shelled. North Korea has blustered that if the exercise goes ahead, they will retaliate. Tensions between South and North Korea remain high and volatile.

South Korean marines patrol on the island of Yeonpyeong

Haiti continues in chaos. Still suffering from a lingering cholera epidemic, new violence has broken out among various supporters of 16 presidential candidates, 14 of whom did not make a two person runoff scheduled in the near future.

A supporter of one of the many losing presidential candidates, takes cover from UN peacekeepers attempting to control a riot

We could write and read of ongoing drone attacks in Pakistan, a recent shipwreck off an Australian island where 30 immigrants lost their lives, or the rescued Chilean miners who continue to enjoy new opportunities offered them (They traveled to the UK recently to watch a football match), but let's finish in Iceland.

From a recent article, "Iceland tourism officials wouldn't wish a volcanic eruption on any country, but while the world famous (and virtually unpronounceable) Eyjafjallajokull volcano created misery for millions of travelers, it resulted in a 16 percent increase in tourism to the island nation for the first 11 months of 2010, versus the same period last year."
The unpronounceable volcano seen in the distance last April

The article goes on, "For a while there last April, it seemed as if Iceland was about to slip into the sea. Some farmers were displaced by the floods and ash, and Keflavik International Airport near the capital city was closed for a few days when the wind shifted west -- a mild inconvenience compared to the headaches the eruption caused to flight operations in Western Europe. As the lava cooled and the volcano simmered down, tourists started to arrive. So-called volcano tours began as enterprising Icelanders offered guided excursions to view the volcano and the few ash-filled valleys below. By summer, visits to the volcano rivaled attendance at the country's other best-known attraction, the famed Blue Lagoon spa.

"The eruption became our best advertising," says Einar Gustavsson, the New York-based Tourism Director for Iceland in North America. "Travel in 2011 is expected to be up 20 percent over 2010, helped in part by Delta which launches new service in spring 2011." It will be the third airline to serve the country, adding seats to those already provided by Icelandair and Iceland Express.

The Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s most visited sites with more than 400,000 visitors annually. The hotel and spa is 100% powered by geothermal power, and the lagoon itself holds six million liters of geothermal brine all of which is renewed in 40 hours. Blue Lagoon’s guests actually bathe between two continents as the Euro – Asian and American tectonic plates meet at the Blue Lagoon.

And so we're up to date.

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