Google’s chairman takes a controversial trip to North Korea. Meanwhile, a new political group in Spain promises to "reinitiate the system". And the White House relives Barack Obama’s 2012 in pictures.
Google’s chairman visits North Korea
Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt arrived in North Korea on Monday accompanied by former US ambassador Bill Richardson for a private visit. He has not spoken of the purpose of the trip and it has sparked controversy. The US State Department has said the timing is not constructive and the media is wondering what the head of one of the world’s biggest Internet companies is looking to achieve in a country where access to the web is virtually inexistent.
The Pyongyang regime is in fact on the "Enemies of the Internet" list drawn up by the NGO Reporters without Borders which says in North Korea access to the World Wide Web is a luxury reserved for highly placed politicians and foreigners.
Only a lucky few get to log on to a computer in one of the capital’s rare cyber cafés or in university libraries. All the machines use “Red Star”, North Korea’s custom built operating system reportedly developed at the request of former leader Kim Jong-Il.
And it’s highly unlikely that the Google search engine will be accessible from these PCs. Internet access is indeed restricted to a network of authorized sites that relay government propaganda.
Some now manage to skirt these restrictions using mobile phones. Mobile use has become increasingly widespread across the country in recent years, and despite the risks involved, many North Koreans use smuggled devices that connect to networks from neighbouring China to connect and share information with the outside world.
Spain: Party X wants to reinitiate the system
"Happy 2013 ! The year in which we will reinitiate the system". This New Year message for the people of Spain was posted online by "Partido X, partido del futuro", meaning “Party X, Party of the Future”, a new political group that’s made quite an entrance into Spanish politics.
The movement makes great use of all the online tools available to reach as wide an audience as possible and convince them it’s time for a change. Party X has a Facebook page and a Twitter account which are already followed by thousands of Spaniards. The clearly stated objective is twofold: get rid of the leaders and bankers that have brought the country to the brink of bankruptcy and invent a new fairer political system.
Indeed, as the Party X founders explain in this online video outlining their political program, they believe that Spain’s current political system makes a farce of democracy and it’s high time the people of Spain regain control of their destiny. The video was made in the style of a sci-fi film and has been enjoying great success on sharing sites, racking up over 25,000 views in just one week.
But not everyone is so excited about this new political group, others are more skeptical. This Twitter user for example says that if you want to launch a political party, then a film teaser is not enough, and asks the Party X founders to issue a more detailed program. This web user agrees, adding it’s not the first time a political movement has promised change, and he wants to see more concrete actions.
Barack Obama’s 2012 in pictures
The official White House photographer Pete Souza has uploaded a selection of photos to the White House Flickr account, documenting Barack Obama’s 2012 in pictures. A variety of shots, sorted in chronological order, showing him relaxing, on his own or with his family, and also hard at work, with G8 leaders, during his re-election campaign or visiting Hurricane Sandy victims in hospital.
Now trending on social networks
« It is the truth. Yup. I’m coming ». This message was posted to Brad Pitt’s account on China’s Twitter equivalent Sina Weibo on Monday, drawing widespread commentary. Many interpret it to mean the “Seven Years in Tibet” actor will soon be visiting China for the first time. But they may well be left disappointed because the message was deleted just several hours after it was posted, but Brad Pitt’s page remains active. If the account does actually belong to Brad Pitt himself then the actor, just like many other well-known faces, will finally be able to communicate with fans in China, where Twitter is blocked.
Video of the day
The man who made this video attached a camera to his trombone and then filmed himself performing a piece. A fun little clip called “Trombone silliness” which you can check out in its entirety on all good sharing sites...