Kim Jong Un puts the party back in Workers' Party

Want some fries with your Juche?

Attempting to forge a new image for himself and his country, North Korea's youthful supreme leader Kim Jong Un is allowing women to wear pants, platform shoes and earrings, making more mobile phones available, endorsing previously banned foods like pizza, French fries and hamburgers — and he's giving kids free trips to zoos and amusement parks.[...]

Kim, educated in Switzerland during his early teens, has initiated numerous policy changes to allow people more freedom and entertainment in their daily lives. North Korean state TV last month showed an image of Kim in a straw hat with a huge smile paying a visit to Mangyongdae Amusement Park and pointing at its roller coaster.

North Korea specialist Dong Yong-Sueng tells ABC news that lifting the ban on women wearing pants and platform shoes has ushered in a "fashion revolution" in the country.

A boy ruler trying to win over his impoverished nation with cheesburgers and amusement park rides almost seems like a parody of itself, but it does seem like the restrictions on information and consumer goods flowing into the North are easing somewhat. 

The photo above shows Kim touring the previously discussed Pyongyang dolphin aquarium. 



Mugabe takes another medical trip to Singapore

We may be in for another round of Robert Mugabe medical speculation with the 88-year-old president heading once again to Singapore for what senior officials are calling a "routine medical checkup." As Reuters reports, this is becoming a pretty regular occurrence: 

State radio ZBC said Mugabe had gone for a review of an eye operation he had last year and denounced international media for exaggerating his health problems.

Local media reports say Mugabe travelled to Singapore eight times last year alone to seek medical attention.

A June 2008 U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks last year said Mugabe had prostate cancer that had spread to other organs. His doctor urged him to step down in 2008, according to the cable. In April, aides angrily denied reports by some international media that he was undergoing intensive treatment in a Singapore hospital and was fighting for his life.

It does seem odd that Mugabe's officials consider it more embarrassing to admit that he has a serious medical condition than that he has so little faith in his country's medical system that he would rather travel more than 5,000 miles than get a "routine checkup" from any Zimbabwean doctor.

In other autocrat medical news, a doctor working in Venezuela's presidential palace has been arrested on suspicion of revealing state secrets. Dr. Ana Maria Abreu's work involved treating disaster victims not the president, so it's not clear if the arrest has anything to do with Hugo Chavez's ongoing cancer treatment.