Italian fashion house United Colours of Benetton has launched a shock and awe advertising campaign called Unhate to boost its lagging brand recognition. Not a huge deal, just a bunch of unauthorized doctored photos of world leaders kissing each other on the lips. Obama smooching Hugo Chávez, for example.
In another photo he kisses Hu Jintao. Last year, the White House called foul when Weatherproof featured their jacket-clad Commander in Chief without permission in one of the company's New York billboards. But I'm sure they'll be fine with this.
Another photo shows presidents Kim Jong-Il and Lee Myung-bak kissing. In Benetton's world, the fact that they preside over one of the most contentious borders on the planet just adds to their latent steaming affection for one other.
Here's the mission statement for the Unhate campaign from the Benetton website:
Object: the aim of contrasting the culture of hatred and promoting closeness between peoples, faiths, cultures, and the peaceful understanding of each other's motivations... The central theme is the kiss, the most universal symbol of love, between world political and religious leaders
Someone over there must have picked up on our Merkozy story, too, as France and Germany's leading man and lady lock lips in another Unhate photograph. Also of note is the Prime Minister of Israel rounding first base with the President of the Palestinian Authority.
Will it sell more scarfs and clutches? Maybe. But it most definitely will incite a response from the catholic church whose pope is shown cozying up to the mustache of the sheikh of the al-Alzhar mosque.
(Update: prediction confirmed. But we've still got the Pope photo below... for now.)
Here are more:
Ulan Bator is funding a $730,000 ‘ice shield' initiative to counterbalance urban heat island effect and global warming and to lighten up the city's air conditioning bill. The experiment is sort of like a scotch on the rocks, except instead of scotch it's Mongolia, and instead of one cube or two it's the artificially super-frozen Tuul river. The hope is that a giant ice sheet -- known as a naled -- will store the winter's cold and cool the city through the hot months to come.
At the end of November, the engineers of the Mongolian ECOS & EMI firm will begin recreating the natural naled-forming process by drilling holes through the ice covering the river Tuul. This will allow water to rise through the ice sheet in the warmer daytime temperatures and spread across its surface. Then the new layers will freeze during the nights and create an ever thickening ice shelf.
While naleds have served industrial applications before, as military bridges in North Korea or as platforms for drilling in Russia, the Ulan Bator climate experiment is unprecedented. But if the Tuul successfully cools down the spring and summer as it gradually melts, providing water and a hospitable microclimate, the practice may become more common in places like Mongolia where the environmental conditions are right.
Worst comes to worst, with Winter Olympics only two years away, Mongolia's figure skaters have a new place to practice in the summer.
Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images
That's the title of an official statement published by Phil Larson of the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy.
The Obama administration will formally respond to any petition posted and digitally signed by over 25,000 people on the "We the People" section of the White House website.
One example of a recent petition that got 248 signatures is "reform the care system for people with developmental disabilities to prevent additional tragedies." "List the Syrian National Council as a terrorist group" got 347 signatures as of this writing.
The White House's official statement on extraterrestrial life, on the other hand, responds to two separate petitions with a total of 17,465 signatures. 5,387 for "Immediately disclose the government's knowledge of and communications with extraterrestrial beings" and 12,078 for "formally acknowledge an extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race - Disclosure."
Here's Larson's response:
Thank you for signing the petition asking the Obama Administration to acknowledge an extraterrestrial presence here on Earth. The U.S. government has no evidence that any life exists outside our planet, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted or engaged any member of the human race. In addition, there is no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public's eye.
Larson goes on to note that the NASA-started Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI) continues, though it's now privately funded. Also he reminds us that the Keplar spacecraft continues its search for earthlike worlds and that the aptly named Curiosity rover will soon troll the Red Planet.
One possible foreign policy angle here: the case for cooperation against extraterrestrials, as recently described by Paul Krugman to CNN's Fareed Zakaria:
There was a 'Twilight Zone' episode like this in which scientists fake an alien threat in order to achieve world peace... If we discovered that, you know, space aliens were planning to attack and we needed a massive buildup to counter the space alien threat and, really, inflation and budget deficits took secondary place to that, this slump would be over in 18 months...
Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images for BBC Worldwide
The protestors of London's "Occupy" chapter have chosen to camp out in the forecourt of St. Paul's cathedral. The site of the tent city was originally to be further down the road at the home of the London Stock Exchange and rightful equivalent to Wall Street, but Paternoster Square is privately owned property and, right now, it's heavily guarded. But the cathedral locale has become a flashpoint of a larger, unexpected controversy: a schism in the Anglican Church.
A lawsuit has been filed by the City of London Corporation (CLC) to evict the protestors on the grounds that they are blocking traffic. While the demonstrators aren't actually occupying the streets or, more specifically, the highways which are the jurisdiction of the CLC's Planning and Transportation Committee responsible for the suit, committee member Michael Wellbank explained that "encampment on a busy thoroughfare clearly impacts the rights of others."
In fact, the iconic St. Paul's Cathedral closed its doors to worshippers and tourists last week due to safety concerns for the first time since WWII and joined the CLC's lawsuit last Friday. But since the court action could lead to the forceful removal of protesters, and ultimately violence, the cathedral proceeds without three of its clergymen who have already resigned in protest. One of them, Canon Chancellor Giles Frase, explained his decision to the Guardian:
St. Paul was a tentmaker. If you looked around and you tried to recreate where Jesus would be born -- for me, I could imagine Jesus being born in the camp. It is not about my sympathies or what I believe about the camp. I support the right to protest and in a perfect world we could have negotiated. But our legal advice was that this would have implied consent. The church cannot answer peaceful protest with violence.
Church leaders seem divided between general sympathy for the protesters' goals, and a desire to have them advocate those goals somewhere else. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams addressed the controversy for the first time today, saying, "The urgent larger issues raised by the protesters at St. Paul's remain very much on the table and we need -- as a Church and as society as a whole -- to work to make sure that they are properly addressed."
Meanwhile, the bishop of London, Rev. Richard Chartres, was called a hypocrite by angry protestors as he tried to walk a fine line with his remarks supporting both their causes and their peacefully disbanding. On Sunday, he told the crowd, "You have a notice saying, ‘What would Jesus do? That is a question for me as well."
CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images
Next April, North Korea plans to partially open the Ryugyong Hotel, a quarter century after ground was first broken for its construction. The new opening date coincides with the 100th birthday of North Korea's founding father, the late Kim Il-sung.
The Ryugyong has been referred to in the international press as the 'Hotel of Doom' and "the worst building in the world". During its intitial construction phase, which began in 1982, the clunky but imposing outer space pyramid dwarfed its neighbors on the Pyongyang skyline and had been honored on stamps. But by 1992, continuing to mirror the state of North Korean affairs, the completed but empty 1,080 foot shell was underfunded, abandoned and airbrushed out of official photos.
Through the years of neglect, the 105-story Ryugyong's potential as the highest hotel in the world was surpassed four times by taller (completed) hotels and, though it once might have been the 7th largest skyscraper, it currently ties at #40.
The resurrection of the Ryugyong is said to come as a result of resumed funding by the Egyptian Orascom Group. It's been reported that new construction has already begun and that the forthcoming hotel might boast as many as five rotating restaurants. Critics may argue that North Korea could make better use of the 2 billion dollars it could cost to bring the Ryugyong back to life. But if all goes according to plan this time, the Ryugyong Hotel will soon be an enigma in a country not especially known for its hospitality industry.
Feng Li/Getty Images
It's been a very public few days for Kim Jong Il's 16-year-old grandson, Kim Han Sol.
On Friday, the United World College's (UWC) Bosnia-Herzegovina campus, one of 13 UWC international schools globally, announced Kim Han Sol's acceptance. Board chairman David Sutcliffe explained that the decision "understandably generated surprise and comment, some of it critical." But, echoing the school's mission statement, he went on to say that the UWCs "exist in order to cross new frontiers in international education.… The opportunity of taking a first step in bringing North Korea into the international community, through youth, is one to be cherished."
Three days after the UWC announcement, the Korean Daily News discovered what's believed to be Han Sol's Facebook page as well as the page of his father, Kim Jong Il's eldest son, Kim Jong Nam. If it is really him, then one picture shows Han sporting dyed blond hair and posing with a girlfriend. His favorite movie, according to the page, is Love Actually. Notably for the grandson of one of the world's most brutal tyrants, the page includes an encyclopedia definition of democracy. He also reportedly polled his friends on whether they preferred it to communism, as he did.
In this way, Kim Han Sol would resemble his father, whose talk of reform within North Korea (and being caught with a fake passport with the name "Fat Bear" en route to Tokyo Disney Land) cost him his position in line for the throne. Kim Jong Nam has lived in exile in China and Macau since 2001. What's believed to be his own Facebook page criticizes both his father and the North Korean establishment including his half brother, heir apparent Kim Jong Un.
In any event, it doesn't seem like there's much future for Kim Han Sol in the family business.
Photo by Gawker.com
The Dalai Lama shook up 370 years of tradition last March when he announced that he would step down from his post as the political leader of the Tibetan government in exile. Over the weekend the Nobel laureate shook things up again, saying: "When I am about ninety I will... re-evaluate whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not."
But Beijing and Dharamsala don't see eye to eye on much, and reincarnation is no exception. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei told journalists on Monday that "the title of Dalai Lama is conferred by the central government and is illegal otherwise... the reincarnation of any living Buddha, including the Dalai Lama, should respect the religious rules, historical standards and state laws and regulations." China claims authority over this process based on the histories of its ancient emporers, whereas Tibetan's believe in finding the manifestations of the continuous mindstreams of their leaders.
Recently, China has asserted itself on the issue by appointing its own successors to Tibetan positions. Today's Panchen Lama, currently nominated for the Chinese version of the Nobel prize, was appointed by the Chinese government days after they arrested the Dalai Lama's own appointment (who hasn't been heard from since 1995.)
In handing off political power, the Dalai Lama hoped to prevent any instability his death and reincarnation might bring to Tibet. But China seems intent not to let him off that easy.
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
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