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Mr. Cheney goes to Riyadh -- mysteriously

In a move that is sure to set conspiracy theorists aflutter, former Vice President Dick Cheney popped up yesterday in Saudi Arabia, where he met with King Abdullah. Accompanying him was former State Department diplomat and its top interpreter, Gamal Helal, who recently left the government to form a consulting firm, Helal Associates.

While the Arabic press has caught on to this story, I haven't seen it reported in the U.S. media as of yet. But still, it raises a few eyebrows: Cheney, a private citizen who has reportedly been working on his memoirs, doesn't have any obvious reasons to sit down with the Saudi monarch. The details behind the meeting could go a long way toward unraveling what the former vice president plans to do with his retirement. Here's hoping that the inevitable theorizing about his plans doesn't generate more heat than light.

Saudi Press Agency

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Kim's quiet trip to China

Japan's Kyodo News has some good detail on Kim Jong Il's hush-hush train trip to China as well as some rare unstaged photos of the reculsive leader, who looks a lot more haggard than he does in all those inspection tour images.

Kim was seen today at a hotel in city of Dalian, near the Korean border, where he arrived by train and is later thought to have traveled to Beijing by car :

 Highways linking Dalian to Shenyang and Beijing were blocked Monday afternoon, apparently to strengthen security for travels by Kim and his party.

While in Dalian, Kim's party is thought to have inspected a company or companies investing in North Korea.

The international train terminal at Dandong Station in Liaoning Province had been closed until around 5 a.m. Police deployed about 30 vehicles around the station and enforced tight security measures.

Yonhap reported the 17-carriage train arrived in Dandong around 5:20 a.m. All regular passenger trains from North Korea to Dandong arrive in the afternoon and usually have only four or five coaches, it said.

Kim is known to use trains when traveling abroad.

Dandong hotels where customers can see a steel bridge linking the two countries did not accept guests. The hotels, which are observation posts for trains traveling between the two countries, locked their entrance doors. 

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency has made no mention of the trip, though it is currently carrying an item on North Korean no. 2 Kim Yong Nam meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao last Friday. Also no word on whether presumed heir-to-the-throne Kim Jong Un accompanied his dad on this trip.