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Conversation 15 Jan 2018

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North Korean pop group could perform at Winter Olympics
Moranbong Band may join North’s athletes in Pyeongchang but they would not be allowed to play propaganda songs





North Korea’s best-known pop group could join the country’s athletes and cheerleaders at next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea – provided their repertoire omits the revolutionary songs that have made them hugely popular at home.


Reports said a troupe of artists from the North would cross the border into South Korea on foot – although the exact composition of the group was not immediately clear.
The two countries met on Monday to discuss an appearance at the Pyeongchang Games by North Korean artists, who are likely to include the all-female Moranbong Band.
Watch hits from North Korea’s most famous pop group, Moranbong Band – video
Last week senior officials from North and South Korea held talks for first time in more than two years, following an offer to send a delegation to the Games by the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.
The North Korean officials included Hyon Song-wol, the Moranbong Band’s leader, fuelling speculation that the group would be part of the Olympic delegation.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that a 140-member North Korean orchestra would perform in Seoul and Gangneung, a city on the east coast, during the Olympics.
Formed in 2012 to project a more modern image of North Korea, the Moranbong Band are among the country’s few performers to have attracted international interest.
The musicians, who are reportedly handpicked by Kim, play a mixture of western pop covers and songs lauding the Pyongyang regime, such as Mother’s Birthday, a tribute to the ruling Workers’ party, and We Call Him Father, an ode to Kim.
But lyrics praising the North could fall foul of South Korean security laws, and any attempt to use the Games to peddle regime propaganda could quickly backfire, according to Cheong Seong-chang, an analyst at the Sejong Institute in Seoul.
“If the Moranbong Band members, who are all formally military officers, come to the South in military uniforms, it could cause discomfort among many South Koreans,” Cheong said. “And it would stir an even bigger controversy if any praise of Kim Jong-un or missile launches are featured on the stage during their performance.”
Q&A
What threat does North Korea pose to South Korea?
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The North may have found a way to make a nuclear warhead small enough to put on a missile, but firing one at the South is likely to provoke retaliation in kind, which would end the regime.
Pyongyang has enough conventional artillery to do significant damage to Seoul, but the quality of its gunners and munitions is dubious, and the same problem – retaliation from the South and its allies – remains.
In the event of a non-nuclear attack, Seoul’s residents would act on years of experience of civil defence drills, and rush to the bomb shelters dotted around the city, increasing their chances of survival.
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Monday’s talks, held on the northern side of the truce village of Panmunjom, focused on performance schedules, venue and stage design, according to the South Korean unification ministry.
Pyeongchang organisers will be desperate to avoid a repeat of the band’s ill-fated trip to Beijing in 2015, when they abruptly cancelled a concert tour and returned to North Korea, reportedly after Chinese officials objected to their “anti-American” lyrics.
The Koreas agreed to continue their Olympic talks on Wednesday ahead of a meeting in Lausanne with the International Olympic Committee this weekend where they will discuss fielding an all-Korea women’s ice hockey team and marching together at the Games’ opening ceremony on 9 February.
Last week North Korea agreed to send a large delegation to Pyeongchang and hold military talks aimed at reducing cross-border tensions. The country’s Olympic party will include athletes, cheerleaders, journalists and a taekwondo demonstration team.
Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan dies aged 46
Irish singer, whose band has sold more than 40m records, died suddenly in London, her publicist says

Dolores O’Riordan, the lead singer with the multi-platinum band the Cranberries, has died aged 46.

The news was confirmed by her publicist in a statement, but no cause of death has yet been announced. O’Riordan, who had to cancel a tour with a reunited Cranberries in 2017 due to a back problem, had been in London for a recording session.

The statement described the death as “sudden”, and added: “Family members are devastated to hear the breaking news and have requested privacy at this very difficult time.”
A Met police statement also confirmed the news, and that O’Riordan’s body was found at a Park Lane hotel. “At this early stage the death is being treated as unexplained,” the statement read.





Irish president Michael D Higgins said he learned of the news with “great sadness”, adding: “To all those who follow and support Irish music, Irish musicians and the performing arts, her death will be a big loss.”
Musicians have started to pay tribute, including Irish songwriter Hozier, who said he was “shocked and saddened”, and that O’Riordan’s voice “threw into question what a voice could sound like in that context of rock. I’d never heard somebody use their instrument in that way.”
Hozier (@Hozier)
My first time hearing Dolores O’Riordan’s voice was unforgettable. It threw into question what a voice could sound like in that context of Rock. I’d never heard somebody use their instrument in that way. Shocked and saddened to hear of her passing, thoughts are with her family.
January 15, 2018
Irish rockers Kodaline said they were “absolutely shocked” by the news, and pop singer Maggie Rogers said “Dolores O’Riordan’s voice helped me understand my place in the world”. Jim Corr of Irish pop group the Corrs passed his “deepest sympathies” to O’Riordan’s family.
Duran Duran, whose tour manager Don Burton was married to O’Riordan for over 20 years before their divorce in 2014, said they were “crushed” by the news. O’Riordan and Burton had three children together: Taylor Baxter, Molly Leigh and Dakota Rain.
O’Riordan, born in Limerick in 1971, joined the Cranberries – then called the Cranberry Saw Us – in 1990, and performed with them until 2008 when they took a hiatus. Driven by O’Riordan’s heartfelt vocals and her unmistakeable west Irish accent, they became hugely successful on both sides of the Atlantic.
Their hits began with the lilting, keeningly romantic Linger, which reached the Top 10 in the US and Ireland, and No 14 in the UK. It was described by O’Riordan in the Guardian last year as being inspired by “being dumped, publicly, at the disco. Everything’s so dramatic when you’re 17, so I poured it into the song.”
They built on its success, and that of their album Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?, with their next album, 1994’s No Need to Argue. The lead single Zombie showed a new side to the band and to O’Riordan’s voice – a heavy, tortured, anthemic song filled with the violence of the Troubles, it was written in the wake of a 1993 IRA bombing in Warrington that killed three-year-old Jonathan Ball and 12-year-old Tim Parry.

No Need to Argue sold 17m copies, including 7m in the US, and cemented them as one of the biggest alternative acts of the 1990s – their overall album sales topped 40m. The Cranberries released three more albums before taking a break in 2008, allowing O’Riordan to record two solo albums. The band reformed in 2009, initially just to perform live, but new material was eventually released on two subsequent albums, including 2017’s Something Else.
The band’s 2017 European tour was curtailed due to O’Riordan suffering from a back problem; their US dates were then also cancelled on the advice of O’Riordan’s doctors. In a statement after the cancellations the band said they were “very disappointed” and added: “The outpouring of support The Cranberries have received from fans and followers during the past several months is greatly appreciated.”

Thousands in China watch as 10 people sentenced to death in sport stadium
Residents in Guangdong invited to see group sentenced before they are taken away for summary execution in wake of drugs crackdown

 





A court in China has sentenced 10 people to death, mostly for drug-related crimes, in front of thousands of onlookers before taking them away for execution.
The 10 people were executed immediately after the sentencing in Lufeng in southern Guangdong province, just 160km (100 miles) from Hong Kong, according to state-run media.
Seven of the 10 executed were convicted of drug-related crimes, while others were found guilty of murder and robbery.
Four days before the event, local residents were invited to attend the sentencing in an official notice circulated on social media. The accused were brought to the stadium on the back of police trucks with their sirens blaring, each person flanked by four officers wearing sunglasses.
They were brought one by one to a small platform set up on what is usually a running track to have their sentences read, according to video of the trial. Thousands watched the spectacle, with some reports saying students in their school uniforms attended.

People stood on their seats while others crowded onto the centre of the field, some with their mobile phones raised to record the event, others chatting or smoking.
China executes more people every year than the rest of the world combined, although the exact figure is not published and considered a state secret. Last year the country carried out about 2,000 death sentences, according to estimates by the Dui Hua Foundation, a human rights NGO based in the United States. China maintains the death penalty for a host of non-violent offences, such as drug trafficking and economic crimes.
However, public trials in China are rare. The country’s justice system notoriously favours prosecutors and Chinese courts have a 99.9% conviction rate. The trend to reintroduce open-air sentencing trials is reminiscent of the early days of the People’s Republic, when capitalists and landowners were publicly denounced.
The most recent public sentencing and subsequent executions were not a first for Lufeng. Eight people were sentenced to death for drug crimes and summarily executed five months ago in a similar public trial, according to state media.
The town was the site of a large drug bust in 2014, when 3,000 police descended on Lufeng and arrested 182 people. Police confiscated three tonnes of crystal meth, and authorities at the time said the area was responsible for producing a third of China’s meth.
Although open-air sentencing hearings are rare in China, they have been revived in recent years in some areas, most notably for cases of alleged terrorism in the country’s far western region of Xinjiang.
A crowd of 7,000 watched as 55 suspects were sentenced in 2014, where at least one person was sentenced to death.



RAF fighters intercept two Russian bombers near UK airspace
Typhoons escort pair of Tu-160s flying over North Sea

 

The RAF has been scrambled to intercept two long-range Russian bombers over the North Sea.

 


The Tupolev Tu-160s, known to Nato as Blackjacks, were monitored on Monday as they flew past Norway and Denmark and near the Netherlands.
Two Typhoon jets from RAF Lossiemouth picked them up about 30 miles (48km) from UK airspace and escorted them.
Both Russia and Nato, including Britain, routinely test reactions with such sorties, sometimes flying almost up to the boundaries of each other’s airspace. Blackjacks make flights close to UK airspace about eight to nine times a year.
Russian fighters tend not to use transponders, which alert other aircraft to their presence, and this policy can create problems for civilian planes in the area. The RAF escort is partly to alert other aircraft to the Russian presence.
Despite an increase in diplomatic tension between Moscow and the west, the number of such sorties by Russia towards UK airspace has not increased. However, there has been a rise in activity by Russia around the Baltic states, where the RAF is also deployed.
An RAF spokesman said: “The Russian aircraft were initially monitored by a variety of friendly nation fighters and subsequently intercepted by the RAF in the North Sea. At no point did the Russian aircraft enter sovereign UK airspace.”

The new rules of dining out: resist table-hogging, tip in cash, don’t moan about cakeage

 

The modern British restaurant scene is more casual and popular than ever before. Formal etiquette is, thankfully, history. But in this newly democratic realm there are still ways we can behave for the good not just of our fellow diners, but also restaurant staff and the venues we love. In the past few months, I’ve noticed chefs on social media making pleas for drunk patrons not to grope staff, and taking rude customers to task. So, to prevent that kind of thing and more from happening, here are the new rules of dining.
No-show no-no

 


With restaurants facing their toughest trading conditions since 2008, no-show bookings that leave tables empty is a hot topic. “We’d easily get eight in a 60-cover service at Sticky Walnut [in Chester] and that can absolutely be the difference between making money and not,” says owner Gary Usher. Staff would phone absent customers who, if they picked up at all, would be rude or blase.
OpenTable suspends user accounts after four no-shows in 12 months. But unless you are a swine who books several tables across town and idly chooses one at the last minute, it should never come to that.
If you need to cancel, simply let the restaurant know as early as possible, so it can refill that table. Accept also that, increasingly, restaurants will demand your credit card details when booking and charge you if you no-show without explanation. It is not personal. It is survival. Usher’s restaurant now holds card details to secure bookings during popular services: “I was nervous. We’re not a destination. But it’s a deterrent. The no-shows stopped immediately.”
Dietary requirements
You may see mouthy chefs on social media moaning about vegans, but many modern restaurants will accommodate not just allergies, but a spectrum of ethical, medical and lifestyle dietary requirements – biting their tongues where necessary. “Avoiding gluten through dinner then treating yourself to a brownie happens a lot. It drives chefs to distraction but it shouldn’t matter. Many people consider it acceptable,” says Ben Wright, co-owner of the north-west’s Joseph Benjamin and Porta restaurants. “We do everything we can. We recently had someone in with a white-food-only diet.”
But the onus is on diners to communicate their requests early and clearly when booking. Chefs cannot rework dishes mid-service. “We’re not mind-readers,” says Vicky Roberts, manager at York’s Le Cochon Aveugle. “We serve a blind tasting menu so we’re hot on checking dietary requirements. It’s amazing how many ‘vegetarians’ eat chicken and fish.”
Group booking
When tasked with a group-booking, play nice. Do not book somewhere inconsiderately pricey (real friends discuss a ballpark spend-per-head beforehand), at a contentious time slot or as part of some passive-aggressive power play. This is not an opportunity to challenge your parents’ provincial tastes. Being a finicky foodie does not give you licence to drag noncommittal friends to that new Szechuan offal place. Ultimately, friendship should trump food quality. Be considerate: compromise.





Queue here
Most points of conflict (queue jumping, people placeholding for five mates etc) have melted away. The voguish London restaurants that attract them – Kiln, Pastaio, Hoppers – now generally use virtual waiting lists and text callbacks to manage their queues, so you can wait in a pub not in the rain. Yet in this fast-casual sphere, diners need to learn to vacate tables promptly. Is there any greater frustration than being kettled in a tiny bar/holding pen as you wait for a table, watching people take an eternity to finish their drinks, get their coats on and leave? Sling yer hook.
Communal living
From street food markets to hip cafes, we increasingly find ourselves sharing – or begrudgingly, not – communal tables. This horrific trend necessitates some basic rules. Do not spread your bags, coats and laptops everywhere. Sit in a way that uses space efficiently. Do not claim seats for people who are not there yet. This is first come, first served, fast-turnover seating. Pass the time and the salt, be civil, but do not pursue conversation. People are here to enjoy their precious free time, not (ye gods!) make pottering small-talk with strangers.
Child care
In restaurants, children should be seated and not heard. Break out the tablets (electronic ones, not tranquilisers). Staff and other diners are not obliged to entertain, indulge or corral your children back to the table. In adult restaurants, do not get huffy because the kitchen declines to make child-friendly tweaks to dishes/add chips/nip out to Tesco for a pizza. Want to prioritise your kids? Take them somewhere family-friendly.
Staff relations
The base level of dining competency is, obviously, to treat waiting staff like equals who are providing a professional service. Say please, say thank you. Accept interruptions gracefully. Ask questions about the food, but do not quiz staff about their accents, background, hair, tattoos, personal life or anything else that might make them feel uncomfortable. Do not make dumb jokes at their expense.
At its most rewarding this is a joint performance. Smile, even if you don’t feel like it. Do not project your bad mood. Pretend, as waiters have to. Tip: if you really want to enjoy that expensive tasting menu, engage in the rhythm of service and stop taking toilet/fag breaks just as the next course arrives.
Addendum: don’t touch the staff
In 2018, you might assume it is a given that customers must not pet, grope or manhandle waiters. But having browsed Twitter and seen chefs such as Stevie Parle reminding diners to “Keep your hands to yourself” – and Guinea Grill landlord Oisin Rogers proudly relaying his team’s zero tolerance approach: “She told him she would cut his arm off if he touched her again” – it needs reiterating: DO NOT TOUCH THE STAFF.
Sharing and sharing alike
“Small plates designed for sharing,” reads the menu, often erroneously (try splitting three croquetas between four or evenly dividing a burrata salad). Plus, who wants to only get a few forkfuls of the dish they really fancied? No. To guarantee small-plate satisfaction, we need rules. Namely that everyone gets a first pick of at least one dish – to eat or share as they see fit – then a further two loosely negotiated sharing dishes “for the table”.
Quiet zone
Phones in restaurants? A non-issue. Egotistical chefs dislike diners photographing dishes (they crave reverent diners and loathe blurry online shots of their work), but other guests? Unconcerned. Even people preening for at-table selfies is more ludicrous than intrusive. In 2018 does anyone really take offence at someone briefly texting, tweeting or answering an email at lunch? No.
Gastrospods
Are you droning on about the provenance of the heritage tomatoes again? Is everyone glazing-over? Please desist, foodies. You chose a good restaurant. Well done. Now where is that wine waiter?
Cakeage
Restaurants exist to sell you things, like dessert. If you want to bring your own birthday cake to eat, you cannot moan about “cakeage” (corkage charge for cakes). As an alternative, the Sticky Walnut staff will present your cake so you can blow the candles out, but you cannot eat it. “People would bring Sainsbury’s frangipane tarts in. I make frangipane tart. And birthday cakes. Why would I let you eat that here?” asks Gary Usher.
Not so private party
Cakeage arises because large parties (balloons, party poppers, top-volume bantz with other tables) have a tendency to treat restaurants like home. If you want to take over, book a private dining room. Otherwise, consider the comfort of fellow diners. “I had to ask one group to leave when their excess noise deteriorated to singing Another One Bites the Dust and clapping-out traumatised neighbouring diners,” says Ben Wright.
Complaints procedure
The British are notoriously bad at complaining face-to-face (hence the rise of the cowardly keyboard warrior). We do not complain often and when we do we can really lose it. “Nervous people don’t always become shy; some get blunt and aggressive,” says Wright. We need to learn how to complain confidently.
Rather than emailing later (“Emails are easily misinterpreted,” says Roberts), complain in person and promptly. “I’ve shouted ‘thief!’ down the street at a woman who refused to pay for the soup that she ate every spoonful of, but ‘didn’t like’,” says Wright. Where possible, stick to objective facts: this dish is salty/burned/cold. Not liking something is opinion. Likewise, arguing a dish is inauthentic could run and run. Pulling out the pompous but-I-holiday-in-Sicily-every-year card proves nothing.
Keep calm, be clear and do not demand a freebie. Restaurateurs want to resolve issues and make sure you leave happy, but they have procedures. Transparent blagging rankles. Wright: “Freebie-hunters are rarer in indie places but staff in chains robotically apologise and give away free stuff, perpetuating the issue.” As for threatening a restaurant with a one-star TripAdvisor review, don’t. At best, it sounds petty and self-important, at worst like blackmail.
Tipping point
After recent scandals about restaurants deducting charges from card tips, diners began to ask if staff would prefer cash. Laudable. Until you discover that, for example, some waiters are disingenuously asking for their 10-20% in cash in order to avoid pooling it – despite that being the (arguably, fairer) system that the staff voted for. “I’ve given up asking,” says exasperated Restaurant magazine editor, Stefan Chomka. “I always tip cash explicitly for the person serving me but if it’s shared out, fine. I don’t want to start trying to understand the machinations of a business every time I eat out.” Tip generously in cash, but the sooner others follow Camber’s Gallivant hotel (prices and wages raised, all staff are on above Living Wage Foundation rates, tips are discouraged), the better.
Paying up
Splitting the bill evenly is the only way to pay without rancour or tediously itemising every drink and side. Occasionally you will pay more, but it evens out over time. Happily swallowing that discrepancy confirms to friends and family that, actually, their companionship is of greater value to you than what you ate. If it is not (if you are skint, on a diet, teetotal and resent subsidising your boozy mates etc), decline the invitation. Better that than everyone else dreading the moment when you start quibbling sourly about the bill. There are exceptions: perhaps there’s a designated driver at the table and you have all hammered the wine. Someone has brought four kids along and you only have one. But, even then, any discount should be offered by the drinkers or parents. Demanding it strikes a jarring, selfish tone. Above all, do not ask the staff to split the bill for you. They are busy. Use the calculator on your phone. Pay up, tip well. Goodnight.
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Rolls-Royce weighs up sale of subsidiary L’Orange

Rolls-Royce is considering selling its components business as it tries to pare back its sprawling portfolio and bring costs under control.
The German-based subsidiary, L’Orange, makes diesel injection technology for large trucks and generators. Its equipment is used by industrial giants such Wärtsilä, the Finnish marine manufacturer, and Caterpillar, the American maker of construction equipment, as well as Rolls-Royce engines.


The aerospace and engines group confirmed that it was “reviewing strategic options” for L’Orange yesterday, after the prospective sale was reported by Bloomberg News and The Sunday Times. Investment bankers from Goldman Sachs are believed to be handling the sale, which is expected to make Rolls-Royce between £300 million and £500 million. The group began showing the financial details of L’Orange to potential bidders last month, Bloomberg reported, and is closing in on an agreement.
Rolls-Royce is one of only three companies that power the world’s big aircraft, Airbus and Boeing, along with General Electric and Pratt & Whitney. It tends to make a loss on the sale of aircraft engines but profits from long-term maintenance contracts and spare parts. It produces engines for the Eurofighter Typhoon jet, British warships and nuclear submarines, as well as for civil maritime vessels, trains and construction and agricultural equipment.
The sale of L’Orange would be the biggest disposal under Warren East, the chief executive, who was given the top job in 2015. Mr East has tried to slim down the FTSE 100 company, cutting thousands of jobs and considering the disposal of smaller businesses to simplify its structure and fund investment. Rolls Royce has also been ramping up its manufacture of Trent aero engines, which has been a drain on its resources.
L’Orange has about 1,000 staff in Stuttgart. Rolls-Royce said it intends to maintain close ties to L’Orange if it does sell the business and added that the review has no impact on the remainder of the company’s power systems business.
Rolls-Royce agreed a record settlement of £671 million with the Serious Fraud Office last January over allegations of corruption and bribery reaching back 20 years. The office is still deciding if it will charge former executives.
Shares in the group shed 7p to 854p.

Man advertises room for rent with brutal amount of honesty

A man is advertising a room for rent with an unlikely amount of honesty.
Raphael Briand posted a candid advert on Spareroom detailing his old room in a house he describes as a “cramped s***hole”.

 


The Lib Dem supporter posted the tenancy, in Whitechapel, East London, not long after US President Donald Trump branded several countries ‘s***holes’ during a meeting.
According to the Washington Post, Trump said: “Why are we having all these people from s***hole countries come here?”
The reality TV star was apparently referring to immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries.


While Trump stopped short of describing East London in the same vein, Raphael made light of his comments while offering the £660 per month rental.
He wrote: “Large room with double bed and built-in wardrobe. Looking for someone to replace me as I am leaving London. Current tenants are British, Italian, and New Zealander, including a student, an accountant, a chef, a waitress, and a junior banker!
“ABSOLUTELY ALL bills included, including council tax and internet!”
The property is close to a number of Tube stations, the City, and round the corner from a “beautiful Curzon arthouse cinema”.
There’s even a car park, full fitted kitchen, and washing machine. What’s more, Raphael said the agency has always been quick to fix problems.
“Recently refurbished bathroom and another small toilet,” he added.
“Available from the start of February but if you desperately need to move in before then that’s fine as well.”
You might be curious to learn that £660 for such accommodation in the capital is actually a reasonable deal. Or so dictates the market, anyway.




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