North Korea unveils (first?) Kim Jong Il statue

While statues of former North Korean leader Kim Il Sung are ubiquitous in North Korea, the regime has so far been reluctant to build a state of his son, the country's currently leader, Kim Jong Il. Until now:

North Korea has unveiled a statue of leader Kim Jong-il, probably the first in the communist country. "It is our highest privilege and good fortune to be able to unveil a bronze statue of our comrade commander for the first time in our country," Gen. Kim Jong-gak, a vice director of the People's Army's General Political Bureau, was quoted as saying by an army newsletter that also carried a picture of the statue.

Naturally, this is provoking a brand-new round of tea leaf reading on the Kim family's succession plans: 

"The emergence of statues of a leader signifies the end of his reign," a South Korean intelligence official said. Statues of Kim Il-sung began to appear at the end of his reign and the start of Kim Jong-il's leadership.

The bronze statue may be a project by his son Jong-un, who is widely expected to inherit the North Korean throne. Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korea expert at Dongguk University, said Kim junior appears to be consolidating his succession by canonizing his father just as Kim Jong-il justified his rise to power through a personality cult of Kim Il-sung.

The statue -- the middle photo -- is a little hard to see in the newspaper above, but it does appear that the artist was awfully generous to Dear Leader. 

Choson People's Army, the North Korean armed forces newsletter, via Chosun Ilbo


Which way to Mecca?

An embarrassing slip-up by Indonesia's top religious authority: 

A cleric from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) admitted the body made a mistake last March when calculating where Muslims should turn to when praying. He said new instructions had now been issued and that people only had to shift their position for the correct alignment.[...]

Ma'ruf Amin from the MUI said a "thorough study with some cosmography and astronomy experts" revealed that Indonesian Muslims had been facing southern Somalia and Kenya instead of Mecca, which is more than 1,000 miles further north.

I know that calculating qibla was a tricky problem facing the pioneering Arab mathematicians and geographers of the Middle Ages, but with the exception of unusual situations like praying in space, it really doesn't seem like it should be all that complicated these days.  I mean, there's a free iPhone app that does it.