Enjoy summer camp and choco pies... in North Korea

Summer and time for camp
Summer and time for camp

It's a cultural exchange of sorts.

Tired of the typical kids' summer camps at home? Don't fret. How does summer camp in North Korea sound?

And since goodwill goes both ways, North Koreans can also enjoy taken-for-granted sweet treats like choco pies.

A treat in North Korea

The famously secretive country has a camp, including everything from giant water slides and a private beach to video games and volleyball courts, Time magazine and website mashable reported.

Of course, it wouldn't be a North Korean destination without bronze statues of the late leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

Songdowon International Children's Camp, which has been operational for nearly 30 years, was originally intended mainly to deepen relations with friendly countries in the Communist or non-aligned world. But officials say they are willing to accept youth from anywhere — even the United States.

Sample North Korean delights. Summer camp, anyone?

The camp is located in Wonsan, a popular beach destination east from Pyongyang, on the coast of the Sea of Japan.

Mention Wonsan and North Koreans will have you know the place is known for its clear water and sandy beaches.

Post-facelift, the camp welcomed more than 300 young children and teenagers from Russia, China, Vietnam, Ireland and Tanzania this year.

Additional recent offerings to the outside world include a travel guide app with attractions and tour information, and the opening of the Pyongyang marathon to amateur foreign runners.

About 300 kids from different nationalities mingle at the camp

At the camp, kids spend eight days doing typical camp activities, like cooking, swimming, boating and mingling.

Their North Korean peers are not prohibited from speaking to tourists who visit the country, but conversations between foreigners and locals are rare, according to several visitors.

Though heavily subsidized by the government, the camp — plus a tour of Pyongyang — costs about US$270 (S$336) per child from outside North Korea.

Chocopies for you

South of the border, about 200 people packed 770 pounds of Choco Pies into plastic bags attached to 50 giant balloons.

They released the treats into North Korea from a park in the border city of Paju, an act of rebellion against the alleged North Korean ban on the chocolate confections.

"Choco Pies are an important mind-changing instrument ... [North Koreans] are suffering and starving, but thanks to Choco Pies, DVDs and large-scale labour migration to China, people don't buy the old story [that the South is even poorer] and the government does not sell it any more," Andrei Lankov, an expert on Korean studies told The Guardian.

Sources: mashable, The Guardian, Time, Associated Press

M'sian bus strike: Workers, school kids forced to walk to S'pore checkpoint

Malaysian buses staged a strike to protest the higher toll charges of the Vehicle Entry Permit (VEP) that took place today.
Malaysian buses staged a strike to protest the higher toll charges of the Vehicle Entry Permit (VEP) that took place today.

Workers and children were forced to walk along the Causeway into Singapore, from as early as 5am today.

The reason: Malaysian-registered buses were staging a strike to protest higher toll charges of the Vehicle Entry Permit (VEP), which the Malaysian government imposed this morning.

Instagram/therealkuhan

Reports from social media said some passengers were asked to alight from the buses at 5am - after drivers refused to continue their journey to Woodlands.

Most of these passengers were school children and factory workers, who commute to Singapore daily.

The strike brought traffic to a standstill, causing a massive congestion on both sides of the Causeway. 

Buses operating from Singapore to Johor Baru like 170 and 950 were reportedly not in service because of the congestion. 

As of 10am, Service 950 has resumed while services 160, 170 and 170X have resumed partial service to JB.

Mr Sivaraj Nair, who had just finished the night shift as a security officer here, was stuck at the Singapore checkpoint because no buses were willing to go over to the Malaysian side.

So, he had to walk at least 3km to the Malaysian CIQ (Customs, Immigration and Quarantine) before he could take a bus to go home.

"The whole situation was very messy. There were hardly any buses operating and both sides and we were all forced to walk. We didn't have a choice," said Mr Nair, 21.

"Not only was there a traffic congestion, there was heavy human traffic as well," he continued.

Facebook/MalaoEmbassy

Mr Gary Haris, a senior business development manager at KH securities, said that his Malaysian employees were stuck at both sides at about 6am this morning

"We were affected as well because we were short on manpower and had to scramble," said Mr Haris.

Tags: strike, bus, Causeway and jam

Najib: Day of mourning when MH17 victims' bodies return

Members of the Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry gather and place bodies at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove, Donetsk region
Members of the Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry gather and place bodies at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove, Donetsk region.

The Government will declare a day of mourning when the bodies of Malaysian victims in the MH17 tragedy are flown home, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The victims' remains arrived in the Netherlands from Ukraine last week and Mr Najib praised the way the Dutch government had organised a very dignified ceremony.

Lost lives were lost in the MH17 crash

He said the ceremony allowed the country to grieve together. It also provided the honour and dignity that the victims and their families deserved, The Star reported.

"God willing, we will do the same when the time comes. We will declare the day as a day of mourning for the whole country and I'm hoping to be there to receive the Malaysian bodies when they arrive," he told the Malaysian audience at the dinner he hosted on Thursday night.

When Mr Najib met his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte on Thursday, he said Malaysians shared their loss and understood what the Dutch were going through, having lost their own countrymen in the tragedy.

The silver lining: Bilateral relations between Malaysia and the Netherlands had grown closer "from this tragic and unfortunate event".

Justice has to be done

Mr Najib had also entered negotiations with the pro-Russian separatists controlling the crash site area because the MH17 black box, comprising the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder, must be delivered into Malaysian hands.

They could be a very strong basis for hard evidence which would explain what had befallen the Boeing 777 on July 17.

He said the international community must stand together.

"Justice has to be done and seen to be done. For that reason, I did what I had to do. Not because I'm not aware of the sensitivity, but uttermost in my mind was that I owe this to the families concerned," he said.

 Dutch and Australian experts accompanied by a team of international monitors reached today the crash site of downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 after days of fierce fighting that had stopped them reaching the area

Najib also noted that Malaysia Airlines (MAS) had been receiving letters since the incident happened but these were not letters of blame towards MAS or Malaysia.

People realised that Malaysia and MAS were also victims of a vicious struggle going on in Ukraine, with which they had nothing to do.

"But unfortunately, both the Dutch and Malaysians, and Australians and others, have become victims of a struggle in one corner of the world which we are not party to at all," he said.

Sources: Star Online, Reuters, AFP

Tags: MH17, bodies and najib

Plumber wanted: $2.5k reward

When the only plumber in remote Jackman in Maine retired, the town's 862 people were stuck. They had no handyman within 80 km.

Things got desperate enough that the town even offered a US$2,000(S$2,496) scholarship for anyone willing to learn the trade and stay.

"It can sometimes take weeks until we can find someone to respond," said local school principal Denise Plante. "And it can be worse in spring when plumbers are busy opening up lake camps and cottages."

The scholarship is funded by a local family who runs a summer camp in the area.

No new blood

Towns across Maine, which has the oldest population in the nation, face challenges keeping up with services as tradesmen retire. There are simply not enough younger workers to replace them.

In Jackman, where close to one in five residents is age 65 or older - a rate above the state average - the problem is more acute.

As local paper mills and manufacturers moved away, more young people have left the central Maine town near the Canadian border. But Plante said Jackman residents are patient, giving interested apprentice plumbers until March to apply for the scholarship.

"It can be difficult to find someone, and even when you do, the quality of the work isn’t always the best," said Plante, adding, "Are you interested?"

- Reuters

Tags: plumber, reward, aging and Maine

Massive gas explosions rock Taiwan

Multiple gas explosions rocked the Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung late Thursday night killing 15 and injuring 240.
Multiple gas explosions rocked the Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung late Thursday night killing 15 and injuring 240.

Massive explosions, caused by gas leaks in the southern Taiwanese city of Kaohsiung, killed at least 15 people and injured more than 240, on Thursday night. Four firefighters were among those injured.

Officials said that the death toll was expected to rise.

A person is seen lying on the ground after an explosion in Kaohsiung

The huge blasts overturned the city. The aftermath was so horrific that dead bodies littered the streets and paved roads were ripped open.

One witness said: "I saw fire spurting, ripping off some covers of ditches. It was terrifying."

Eyewitnesses told China's Central News Agency that the gas leaks began at about 9pm local time in Kaohsiung. 

The leaking gas, which formed a white fog, ignited and caused the blasts.

 

 

Photos showed residents carrying the injured on stretches as ambulances rushed to the scene and firefighters began removing bodies from the area.

Residents were seen carrying the injured on makeshift stretchers as ambulances rushed to the scene and firefighters in yellow overalls began removing bodies from the area.

Sources: Mail Online, Central News Agency, AFP, The Guardian

 

World #2 Li Na ruled out of US Open

Her knee woes mean China's Li Na is out of the upcoming US Open.

China's world number two Li Na has been ruled out of next month's US Open with a knee injury, she said on Thursday.

The 32-year-old Li, who won her second grand slam title at this year's Australian Open, was knocked out in the first round of the French Open and in the third round at Wimbledon.

"Since March, I have been struggling with my knee and it is just not where I need it to be in order to play at the highest level," Li said on Facebook.

"My medical team has advised me that I need to take some time off to rest my knee so it heals," the 2011 French Open champion added.

- Reuters

Mum sells 'spoiled brat' daughter's Katy Perry concert tickets online

Cindy Bjerke posted an advertisement on Facebook to sell the tickets
Cindy Bjerke posted an advertisement on Facebook to sell the tickets.

A mother in North Dakota, US, decided to teach her “spoiled brat” daughter a lesson.

Ms Cindy Bjerke was so upset with her 18-year-old daughter’s recent behaviour that she sold the girl’s tickets for a Katy Perry concert next month, Mail Online reported.

The tickets were for the Dark Horses hit maker’s upcoming show in Fargo, North Dakota, on Aug 23.

Even though the tickets are worth US$110 (S$137), Ms Bjerke was willing to let them go for US$90.

She had no problem selling them as they were snapped up within five minutes after posting a short ad on the Fargo Moorhead Online Garage Sale Facebook page.

Ms Bjerke didn’t name her daughter who was being punished, but described her in unflattering terms as a “spoiled brat” who “doesn’t deserve these tickets”.

The mum received over 200 likes in just an hour. 

Ms Bjerke did not specify what her daughter did, but the manner in which she meted out the punishment caused some controversy.

The American leg of Perry’s Prismatic World Tour started last month in North Carolina. The US leg ends in October before she visits Canada and then Australia

Some felt that the issue should have been settled in private instead of shaming the teen on Facebook.

But Ms Bjerke said she has no regrets.

The majority of comments she has received have been overwhelmingly positive.

She told North Dakota TV station WDAZ8: “I think a lot of parents are like me and feel they are being bullied over how they should parent their own children.”

The American leg of Perry’s Prismatic World Tour started last month in North Carolina.

The US leg ends in October before she visits Canada and then Australia.

Source: Mail Online, WDAZ8

 

KRANJI & KUALA LUMPUR TRACKWORK

Blue Lagoon very fit

With the exception of Kazuo, Ruapehu towers above his five rivals in Race 5 tonight. From barrier 1, he should prove hard to catch over his winning trip and surface. Kazuo, on the other hand, prefers a slightly longer trip. -Tan Thean Loon, on his best bet Ruapehu, who will be ridden by Corey Brown

With the exception of Kazuo, Ruapehu towers above his five rivals in Race 5 tonight. From barrier 1, he should prove hard to catch over his winning trip and surface. Kazuo, on the other hand, prefers a slightly longer trip. —Tan Thean Loon, on his best bet Ruapehu, who will be ridden by Corey Brown (right)

Drink to this

Kindergarten kids turn Yeo's Tetra Pak drink packets and other recycled items into miniature public housing estates

CREATIVE: In celebration of Singapore's 49th birthday, Yeo's collaborated with kindergartens across the island to create the miniature public housing display.
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KRANJI BARRIER TRIALS

Infermo blazes the trail

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