Perhaps Bowing to Pressure, Rohani Appoints Woman to Iranian Cabinet

Image by Aieman/Wikimedia Commons.

Many women who helped vote Hassan Rohani into office as Iran’s new president did so in the hope that he would push for equality. Yet, when Rohani released his proposed new cabinet on inauguration day on August 4, his list had the makings of an all-male club.

In an apparent response to the criticism that followed from female voters and rights watchers, the cabinet now has its first woman. Elham Aminzadeh, a former conservative lawmaker who reportedly teaches at several universities, has been named vice president for legal affairs.

Rohani said in an August 11 decree that Aminzadeh was given the job because of her “scientific competence” and “legal qualifications” and also for her “moral virtues,” Fars reported. » More

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North Korea: A Sign of Change or the Same-Old Rhetoric?

Wall painting of the late Kim Il Sung. Photo: yeowatzup/flickr

Kim Jong-un’s New Year message emphasized, among other issues, the importance of inter-Korean relations. While many observers read this as a signal that North Korea plans to open-up in 2013, some bloggers and defectors beg to differ, claiming that Kim’s message contained the same old rhetoric of the past half century.

The North Korean leader’s message was well-received by some Western and South Korean media outlets. The New York Times, for example, suggested  that Kim’s speech was an ‘overture’ to the South. The paper was particularly intrigued by his comment that the “key to ending the divide of the nation and achieving reunification is to end the situation of confrontation between the North and the South”. Indeed, the same can also be said of Kim’s belief that “a basic precondition to improving North-South relations and advancing national reunification is to honor and implement North-South joint declarations”.

Others dug a little deeper. South Korea’s Unification Ministry blog parsed the statement by keywords and counted that the word ‘unification’ was used 22 times and often in conjunction with “frequent”. This, the blog concludes, reflects a pattern that has emerged over the past three years that suggests that increasing openness by North Korea is on the horizon.

Many observers were also intrigued by the change in format for the New Year’s message. Instead publishing his statement via the North Korean press – as favored by his late father – Kim emulated his grandfather and gave a televised address. This, suggests the North Korean Leadership Watch blog, adds credibility to arguments that Kim has been trying to emulate Kim il-Sung in order to win wider support among the North Korean population. The founder of North Korea was thought to be widely loved by the population, whereas Kim Jong-il was more feared than respected. Some reports have even speculated that Kim Jung-un intentionally gained weight and mimicked the way his grandfather walked and clapped. » More

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Iran’s Power Shakedown before the Presidential Election

Weakened President? Photo: Marcello Casal Jr/Wikimedia Commons

On October 22, 2012, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wrote an unprecedented open letter to Iran’s judiciary accusing them of unconstitutional conduct. The letter was written in response to judiciary’s decision to bar the Iranian President from visiting the infamous Evin Prison in Tehran where his media adviser Ali Akbar Javanfekr is currently jailed.

In the letter, Ahamdinejad suggests that there was a “top secret” communique dispatched by the head of the judiciary, Sadegh Larijani that said the president’s request to visit Evin was not in the best interests of the country. Ahmadinejad claims he wishes to investigate the conditions of prisoners. » More

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Venezuela’s Election: Operation Complete!

Hugo Chávez

Hugo Chávez, courtesy of Bernardo Londoy/flickr (cc-nc-sa)

As a great revolutionary commander, Hugo Chávez knows how to motivate his troops. His military career clearly inspires him in his current job as a populist leader.

It’s been deliciously entertaining to follow last Sunday’s election on Chávez’s blog and twitter stream. I thought I’d (roughly) translate a few selected pieces of his rhetoric for the benefit of  all the English-speakers out there. Here’s how the Venezuelan president rallied his troops on the eve of the election:

21:50, Saturday 25 September – Chávez’s blog

“These have been difficult times. Full of pain. But the People are taking it into their stride. Fight. And always vanquish! The time has come, so let’s go! Charge!!

We pray God and give our love to those who suffer most. And despite the pain and the exhausting effort, we leave early for the battle.

Everybody on the offensive at reveille! We will demonstrate again that the revolution is here to stay! No one remains without voting!

The bugle call must resound in every corner of the Nation announcing what will be a great Popular Victory!!

Come on, all candangueros and candangueras, tweet reports from the Operation Willian Lara!”

» More

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Take-Your-Kid-To-Work Week

Portraits of Hosni Mubarak and Kim Yong Il

Hosni Mubarak and Kim Yong-Il, courtesy of efouché/una vita a 12 volt/flickr

Do you get to bring your offspring to work once a year? Will that inspire them to follow in your footsteps or do they simply enjoy playing with office supplies and promotional freebies?

The world has seen two very inspiring dads in the past week. Hosni Mubarak and Kim Jong-Il have touchingly taken their sons along on their business trips.

Gamal Mubarak got a taste of one of Egypt’s main diplomatic conundrums: Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Let’s hope that he made a good impression in Washington – he seems pretty serious about taking over his dad’s job.

Reports from South Korea signal that Kim Jong-Un has also probably been getting a little field training with his dad. Speculations that Kim Jong-Il introduced him to the Chinese president last Friday have been making the rounds.

Both authoritarian leaders’ health is ailing, but as professional statesmen they are making sure that the succession will be smooth.

Jean Sarkozy must be so jealous. But don’t worry, good old democracies offer hereditary career possibilities, too. Just ask Uncle George for advice.

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