Pyongyang's new gym

The English-language website of People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, presents the world today with 29 supremely boring photos of a newly opened gym in Pyongyang.  Neon lighting on the ceiling aside, it looks like a fairly standard fitness center, with treadmills, stationary bicycles, and weights. Chinese state media sometimes feel the need to publish articles reminding the world that North Korea, despite its isolation and repression, still offers the trappings of middle-class life. The most ridiculous example is probably a 2010 article on the English-language website of China's official news agency Xinhua, entitled "Nightlife in Pyongyang offers more than imagination:"

"Roller coaster screams, karaoke happy hours, and beer glass clinks at night, quite a deja vu somewhere in metropolitan areas like New York, Tokyo or Beijing.

Well, make no mistake. That's just a snapshot of what night life in Pyongyang, capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) can provide.

There are good reasons to tour Pyongyang; its nightlife or its gym is not one of them. 




Doesn't America have more than 42 allies?

One of the odder moments of last night's debate was Mitt Romney's reference to America's 42 allies:

We need to have strong allies. Our association and — and connection with our allies is essential to America’s strength. We’re the — the great nation that has allies, 42 allies and friends around the world.

Spokeswoman Andrea Saul told the Daily Caller that Romney was referring to "NATO Allies, Major Non-NATO Allies, and NATO contact countries” and provided a list. It's still a strangely limited definition.

I suspect most Americans would be surprised by a list of allies that includes Pakistan, but not Mexico. The exclusion of China is certainly arguable, though it's America's second-largest trading partner, but what about India? The United States, apparently, has no allies in sub-Saharan Africa, which is probably news to those U.S. troops helping to train the Ugandan military. The only U.S. ally in Latin America is Argentina. (So much for that whole Plan Colombia thing.) Bahrain is a U.S. ally, but non-NATO member Sweden -- which has sent troops to Afghanistan -- is not. We may all be Georgians, as John McCain famously put it, but the Georgians are not U.S. allies.

Romney's list is actually smaller than the 49 countries than the Bush administration listed as part of the Coalition of the Willing. A symptom of American decline, perhaps?