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Kim Jong Il back from the dead to ban long hair?

Korean Central Television/Yonhap via Getty Images

The world has been waiting for days for news of ailing North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's health. A rumored "important announcement" about Dear Leader's condition yesterday never materialized. Now, the Japanese paper Mainichi Shimbun has the first reported story of Kim's activities in days and it's characteristically weird:

Kim was watching a special match between Kim Il-sung University -- his own alma mater, which was celebrating its 62nd anniversary -- and Pyongyang University of Railways. According to an insider, after realizing that several of the Kim Il-sung University players were sporting long hair, Kim declared it to "look disgusting," and said "I can't tell if this is men's soccer or women's soccer."

His mood grew steadily worse until the end of the first half, at which point he announced he would not be watching the rest of the match. Whether he was actually watching from the stadium or on television is unknown.

Shortly after the incident, a notice was posted in workplaces across the country banning long hair for men. Staff at Kim Il-sung University were witnessed carrying out particularly stringent checks.

The entire story comes from one anonymous North Korean source so it should be taken with a grain of salt, but this isn't the first time that Kim has tried to ban long hair. Frankly, considering the bouffant and ladies' sunglasses look that Kim has been rocking since the '80s, I don't think he's really in a position to be criticizing anyone's style.

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Is any old coverage good coverage?

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The media circus surrounding the upcoming U.S. presidential elections and the candidates' constant reversion to rehearsed talking points in both the debates and interviews might leave you feeling jaded about the value of media political coverage. But rather than hope for the hoopla to stop, perhaps we should pray that it continues.

 

A recent study by political scientists at MIT and IIES, a research institute in Stockholm, suggests that in the long run media attention really does make politicians -- or U.S. congressmen, anyway -- more accountable:

Congressmen who are less covered by the local press work less for their constituencies: they are less likely to stand witness before congressional hearings, to serve on constituency-oriented committees, and to vote against the party line… Federal spending is lower in areas where there is less press coverage of the local members of congress.

The study set low standards for what counts as press coverage; the researchers simply looked at how often a politician's name is mentioned in local newspapers, which makes the apparent impact of such coverage all the more surprising. The study also finds that press coverage of local politicians is lower in areas where residents get their news from media sources that cater to multiple political districts. Bad news for local readers of the Washington Post and the New York Times?