Passport

Are fake funerals the next big thing?

This past weekend, Zeng Jia prepared and participated in her own funeral -- except she was alive the whole time. The Chinese college student, whose grandfather's recent death inspired her to organize her own -- rather premature -- funeral, said that she staged the event in order to think about her life and to find her true self. "I feel so good after coming out of the coffin," Zeng told China Daily. Yeah, I bet.

Though the funeral was fake, at least the friends and family in attendance were real -- something that is apparently not so much of a given anymore. The market for paid "mourners" -- professionals hired to attend a funeral (and sometimes grieve rather dramatically) so that the deceased appears popular -- is fairly large (and growing) in parts of China and the Middle East. And now, the trend has popped up in Britain. According to its website, "Rent-a-mourner," a new company based in Essex, rents out "professional, discrete people to attend funerals and wakes" for about $35 an hour.

Whether fake mourners are a sign of societal breakdown, as one Catholic Herald article claims, or just a way to make a grieving family feel a little better, the practice, along with Zeng's funeral stunt, does raise the question: What does it mean when funerals aren't quite so real anymore?  

chinanews.com

Passport

White House: All quiet on the 38th parallel -- still

Pushing back against reporting in an article by the Washington Free Beacon, the White House reiterated on Monday that North Korea has not altered its military posture since its steep uptick in belligerent rhetoric last week.

In a Monday press briefing, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that North Korea's rhetoric has been all bark and no bite. "Despite the harsh rhetoric we are hearing from Pyongyang, we are not seeing changes to the North Korean military posture such as large-scale mobilizations and positioning of forces," Carney said. "We are vigilant and we are monitoring the Korean situation very diligently."

While Carney's statement about the lack of troop movements was duly noted, noticeably absent from the briefing was any mention of the country's anti-aircraft, artillery, or missile systems. Then, hours after the briefing, the conservative Washington Free Beacon cited anonymous officials discussing a mobilization of missile forces.

North Korea, meanwhile, is mobilizing missile forces, including road-mobile short- and medium-range missiles, according to officials familiar with satellite imagery of missile bases.

The missile activity is believed to be North Korea's response to the ongoing U.S.-South Korean military exercises that last week included highly publicized flights by two B-2 strategic nuclear bombers near North Korean territory as part of annual military exercises.

In a post-briefing follow-up about the movement of missile systems with National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden, the White House reiterated that all was quiet in North Korea.

"Jay mentioned a couple examples, but his broad point was that we are not seeing changes to the North Korean military posture," she told Foreign Policy.

By contrast, the U.S. military moved a Navy destroyer to the coast of the Korean peninsula today with the capability of intercepting missiles. A day earlier, the Pentagon sent two F-22 stealth fighter jets to Seoul. 

The Free Beacon article did not display the satellite imagery relevant to its report.