Japan does away with 'silly shirt' photo for APEC

Especially after his awkward Bhangra dancing experience in Mumbai, this will probably come as welcome news to President Barack Obama:

Over the years, one of the most memorable moments of the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit has been what's come to be called the "silly shirts" photo, often representing the host country's culture.

The 21 APEC leaders have posed for together in Javan batik shirts (Indonesia in 1994), flowing ponchos (Chile in 2004) to Vietnamese "ao dai" -- elegant silken tunics in which several of the leaders were visibly ill at ease -- in 2006.

But this year in Japan, the leaders were instructed to come in "smart casual" for Saturday's photo, said a government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing department rules.

The Japanese official cited the timing for the photo session, which falls between a traditional Kabuki theater perfomance and an official dinner hosted by Prime Minister Naoto Kan, as one possible reason for the relatively staid choice.

The typical tight-fitting traditional kimono is not very comfortable or suitable for a photo session, said another official, though he did not say why.

As a firm supporter of the ritual humiliation of the world's most powerful people, I strongly protest this decision.

A look back at some APEC memories below the jump.

Chile, 2004:

Australia, 2007:

Peru, 2008:

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images; MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images; TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images


Burmese election monitored by North Korean diplomats

It's not strictly accurate to say there was no international observation of Sunday's Burmese election: 

The newsreader said Myanmarese had voted "freely and happily," noting the election had been witnessed by foreign diplomats, including some from North Korea, Vietnam and China, as well as the "Foreign Correspondents' Club of Rangoon."

Compared to those three countries, all of which have elections in which only the ruling Communist party participates, Burma, which at least has multiple military-backed parties disagreeing on small points of policy, may actually be the most democratic. Perhaps they were ensuring that international standards for rigging and suppression were met.