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Gambian president claims admiralship in "Nebraska Navy"

Under the headline "President Jammeh bags 4 awards," the Gambia's pro-government Daily Obersever newspaper recently reported that President Yahya Jammeh had received a number of commendations from President "Barrack" Obama:

Two of the awards with an accompanying letter came from the president of the United States of America, Barrack Obama, who congratulated the Gambian leader for the accolade, and also commended him "for helping to address the most pressing needs" in his community. The awards include the 'President's Volunteer Call to Service Award', and the 'Platinum Award 2009 by President Barrack Obama'. The last two awards are the 'Admiral of the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska', USA', given to the Gambian leader by its Governor, Dave Heinemana, whilst the fourth award, the 'Honorary Vocational Bachelors Degree' was given by the Printers and Publishers Guild of Northern Germany.

As the Committee to Protect Journalists found out with some quick digging, Obama never sent any such letter and the majority of the awards mentioned don't actually exist. The only one that does seem to be real is the admiralship in the fictitious Nebraska navy, a tongue-in-cheek award for distinguished residents of the landlocked state -- in other words, not the president of the Gambia. (Click here to nominate your favorite Nebraskan.)

It's a funny story, but highlights the all-too-serious problem of media repression under Jammeh's authoritarian regime. As one former staffer at the paper told CPG, " "If [the story] wasn't out in the paper, someone would be in Mile 2 [prison] today -- the managing director or the editor."

George Ayittey included His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Azziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh on his list of the world's worst dictators

SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images

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Kim Jong Il doesn't trust his son

Reacting to the news that Kim Jong-un, North Korea's heir apparent, has assumed high positions in the military and the ruling Workers' Party, NightWatch's John McCreary comments:

Today's appointments complete the bridge that links military and party authority. The young Kim has both, but in both domains he is shadowed and shepherded by his aunt, his father's protégés and by his uncle Chang Song-taek and his protégés. This young man has no independent authority. He is in training. A regent troika lurks behind the scenes that is composed of the Chang family leaders and the newest Vice Marshal in the army.

Kim Chong-il, meanwhile, has given up none of his positions of authority , such as Chairman of the National Defense Commission, head of the party and head of all the party organizations of importance. Kim Chong-il does not trust his youngest son to govern anything, which explains the regency troika.

The various appointments and elevation of an untested youth in this fashion has no precedent in recent North Korean history. the process looks poorly and hastily thought out in terms of competence and ability, but crafted to try to keep the Kim family in charge.

It suggests that Kim Chong-il is sick and could die with little warning. Appointing neophytes and civilians to four-star military ranks looks ill-conceived and prone to incite resistance from professional military ranks.  The leadership is becoming much less stable and durable.

Nevertheless, the announcements leave no room for doubt that the heir-apparent is the third son, Kim Chong-un. That does not mean he will ever govern.