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July 3, 2013 at 6:00 AM
Update 3:01 p.m.:
CNN has obtained exclusive video from Choson Sinbo, a pro-North Korean organization, showing Kenneth Bae’s first interview from a hard labor camp where he is serving a 15-year sentence for “hostile acts” against the country. In the video, Bae speaks in Korean. CNN translated his comments as follows:
“Although my health is not good, I am being patient and coping well,” Bae said. “And I hope that with the help of the North Korean government and the United States, I will be released soon.”
Kneeling on the ground and wearing a prison uniform, a visibly thinner Bae revealed July 4 is his father’s 70th birthday.
Also, I just learned via Twitter (h/t @randallito) about this change.org petition by Jonathan Bae, who identifies himself as Kenneth Bae’s son. The petition calls on President Barack Obama to send a delegation to North Korea to secure Bae’s release.
We can’t seem to get enough of The Worm and his worldly ways. If NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman can use his celebrity to smooth relations with North Korea and secure the release of Lynnwood’s Kenneth Bae during his August trip back to the land of Kim Jung Un— then I say he deserves some serious props for diplomacy.
Of course, Rodman wants more. Have you seen him on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated?
According to this July 2 preview story by SI correspondent Ben Golliver, the former Chicago Bull says he deserves to be considered for a Nobel Peace Prize after his recent foray into North Korea with a crew from Vice Media. Rodman’s visit was the subject of Vice on HBO’s season finale. (I’ve embedded a fascinating four-minute clip at the end of this post.)
From Golliver’s write-up:
Rodman plans to return to North Korea in August. “I’m just gonna chill, play some basketball and maybe go on vacation with Kim and his family,” Rodman says. “I’ve called on the Supreme Leader to do me a solid by releasing Kenneth Bae.” The Korean-American missionary was recently sentenced to 15 years of hard labor on charges that he tried to topple the North Korean regime. He’d organized tours into the isolated state.
“My mission is to break the ice between hostile countries,” Rodman says. “Why it’s been left to me to smooth things over, I don’t know. Dennis Rodman, of all people. Keeping us safe is really not my job; it’s the black guy’s [Obama's] job. But I’ll tell you this: If I don’t finish in the top three for the next Nobel Peace Prize, something’s seriously wrong.”
It’s great to see Rodman hasn’t forgotten about Kenneth Bae.
June 21, 2013 at 6:00 AM
I admit I haven’t paid much attention to the NBA finals this year. But thanks to a USC alumni club dinner in Seattle last spring, I won a bid to have lunch with Slick Watts.
This week, I finally used that El Gaucho gift certificate and treated Slick to a steak meal. It was cool. I had to do a double-take when he gave me an autographed photo of him playing back in the day. At the age of 62 — “38 years from 100!” he says —Watts is thinner now, but his face and signature shaved head look exactly the same.
My Seattle Times colleague (and Sonics/Slick Watts superfan) Bill Kossen came with me to the lunch. Watching and listening to the two of them riff about Watts’ old teammates and training regimen made me imagine a very different Seattle. Sure, I watched Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton play in televised NBA games growing up, but I didn’t know much about the Sonics’ earlier years when they were really on top.
Watts has swagger. He also has wit and a common sense about him that intrigues me. I mean, here’s a guy who played for the love of the game (making as little as $15,000 per year; as much as $130,000), went without pay when he was injured, and stayed in Seattle long after his pro basketball days ended to teach P.E. to elementary kids in an inner-city school. Certainly doesn’t fit with the image I have of today’s mega-wealthy NBA stars. (more…)
March 15, 2013 at 11:58 AM
It is an odd juxtaposition, the stream of starving North Koreans trying to defect from the militaristic country and former Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman piping up to say he had such a good time in North Korea he plans to return this summer and vacation with his new BFF, Kim Jung Un.
This is Rodman trying to be au courant with an international version of the time he went on tour for “Bad As I Wanna Be,” in full makeup, blonde wig and a fabulous wedding gown. I suspect Rodman could have just as soon chosen Antartica or Mars.
But the problem with this geopolitical/celebrity conundrum is that there is nothing funny about North Korea. Not in the slightest. The White House chided Rodman for spending more time on North Korea’s despotic leader than on its citizens. Those who think Rodman’s visit could improve diplomatic relations with North Korea are fooling themselves. Yes, Kim Jung Un loves basketball, as did his father. But basketball is not on the North Korean leader’s mind when he’s threatening to rain down missiles on neighboring South Korea or Japan. Even China is growing worried about its bellicose protege.
It is easier to talk about North Korea in a trendy sense of being a place attracting the likes of Rodman than to talk about its human rights violations, work camps and other horrific realities, says Adrian Hong, a strategic consultant who co-founded a U.S.-based non-govermental organization that helps North Koreans escapees. Hong says:
”Everybody involved with North Korea knows what’s happening. There’s no illusion as to how bad the regime is. The illusion is in the sense that we can’t solve it, that we think that this is an inevitable crisis that cannot be fixed or that we have no right or ability to do anything about it. I think that North Korea is not just an issue for human rights. This place is almost this black hole for modern civilization.”
March 6, 2013 at 9:30 AM
One of my favorite sports commentators is Frank DeFord, who zigs when other commentators zag — even when it comes to the the No. 1-ranked Zags.
Every Wednesday morning, the Sports Illustrated senior contributing writer and novelist, shares his thoughts on NPR just before the 8 a.m. hour. Today, he was talking about what everyone seems to be talking about, Gonzaga University men’s basketball team, the Bulldogs, being naming as No. 1 in both major college polls college. And of course, the clever DeFord got in a reference to the imminent Vatican papal conclave in Rome:
There is white smoke rising over the polls, for little Jesuit Gonzaga University, with less than 5,000 undergraduates, is the new No. 1 in all of college basketball.
DeFord also offered some history of Catholic universities and their sports involvement — the Spokane-based Gonzaga is a Jesuit college. In a commentary titled, “Catholic Universities See True Path To Salvation: Basketball,” he noted that basketball programs are a more common sport for these institutions because they cost less to run.
Interestingly enough, Seattle University, a Jesuit institution that was once a basketball powerhouse in its own right before ending the program, revived its Division I basketball program after 29 years. In a 2008 oped, Father Stephen Sundborg, Seattle University’s president, discusses the reasons why:
It also makes sense that we raise our profile. We are the largest independent university in the Northwest, the most comprehensive, the most metropolitan and the most diverse large university. We have an outstanding commitment to academic quality in line with our strong Catholic-Jesuit mission.
A high-profile sports program will help spread the word about our other programs, providing a window into our university. It will be a tide that raises all boats, bringing our mission, academic programs and commitment to service to the attention of more students and supporters.