Shooting Hoops In The Hermit Kingdom

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a VICE media employee, three Harlem Globe trotters and Dennis Rodman—no, this isn’t the beginning of a “walk into a bar” joke—got together Thursday to tape a made-for-TV basketball exhibition in the Hermit Kingdom for an upcoming HBO show.

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According to the Associated Press, Rodman, three members of the Harlem Globetrotters, VICE correspondent Ryan Duffy and a production crew put on the exhibition between two teams, each featuring two Americans playing with North Koreans. The game ended in a questionable 110-110 tie.

At one point, Rodman told Kim, “You have a friend for life.”

At a time when tensions over nuclear weapons remain high between North Korea and the U.S., VICE media founder Shane Smith said he hoped the stunt would break the ice between the two.

”We knew that he’s [Kim’s] a big lover of basketball, especially the Bulls, and it was our intention going in that we would have a good-will mission of something that’s fun,” Smith said. ”A lot of times, things just are serious and everybody’s so concerned with geopolitics that we forget just to be human beings.”

Do you think this kind of privatized diplomacy is helpful?

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PHOTOS FROM VICE

Woodward: White House Email Was Threatening

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — Veteran journalist Bob Woodward, half of The Washington Post’s famous Watergate team, says he received a threatening email from a senior White House aide.

In his “Behind the Curtain” column, Woodward, a prolific political author, said Gene Sperling, economic adviser to President Obama, messaged him that he would “regret” questioning the administration’s version on how the forced federal spending cuts known as sequestration came about.

The $85 billion in across-the-board federal budget cuts go into effect over the next few months if an agreement is not reached by Friday.

Woodward said in his 2012 best-selling book “The Price of Politics” that the idea for the sequester began in the White House, something the president denied and that the White House later acknowledged.

“They’re not happy at all,” Woodward said Wednesday on CNN’s “The Situation Room.” “It was said very clearly, you will regret doing this.”

Woodward and Sperling have known each other for decades, beginning when Sperling was an economic adviser in the Clinton administration.

Politico obtained emails exchanged between the men Feb. 22-23 in which Sperling apologized for “raising my voice in our conversation today.”

He said the two just did “not see eye to eye here.”

“But I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying that Potus [president of the United States] asking for revenues is moving the goal post. I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim. The idea of that the sequester was to force both sides to go back to try at a big or grand bargain with a mix of entitlements and revenues…”

Woodward messaged back, “Gene: You do not ever have to apologize to me. You get wound up because you are making your points and you believe them. This is all part of a serious discussion. I for one welcome a little heat; there should be more given the importance.”

Benedict Officially Resigns As Pope

VATICAN CITY, (UPI) — Benedict XVI officially resigned as pope Thursday evening, leaving the Roman Catholic Church without a pontiff for the time being.

The moment was marked at Castel Gandolfo, about 15 miles southeast of Rome, where the former pope is now living and plans to reside for the next couple of months. Swiss Guards formally closed the doors to the papal apartment, signalling that they no longer guard the person of Benedict.

Vatican police will now guard the former pope, who remained behind closed doors. Benedict was just a couple of weeks short of serving eight years after succeeding the late John Paul II. He was the first pope in 600 years to resign.

A Vatican official explained in Italian outside the lakeside summer residence that the closing represented the end of Benedict’s papacy.

The Chair of St. Peter is now empty — or “sede vacante” in Latin.

Earlier in the day, Benedict left the Vatican for the last time as pope, traveling by motorcade to a helipad at the train station.

To the sound of bells, the retiring pope was flown by a white Italian air force helicopter to the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, with its 35 acres of grounds.

The helicopter landed at the summer residence at dusk, also to the sound of bells.

In his final day as pope, Benedict XVI told the cardinals charged with electing his successor he will be praying for them during the conclave.

The 85-year-old pontiff met with the cardinals, greeting them each individually as they kissed his ring before a golden throne in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, The New York Times reported.

“I will be close to you in prayer,” he told them, referring to the conclave to select a new pope, expected to begin much earlier than its original date in mid-March.

Benedict said he would behave with “unconditional reverence and obedience” toward his successor. Both will be residing in the Vatican, but Benedict will be away from the papal apartment in a restored convent on the Vatican grounds, officials said.

After he steps down, Benedict will be referred to as pope emeritus or Roman pontiff emeritus. The German-born pope will continue to be addressed as “Your Holiness” following his retirement.

Illinois Man Ordered To Write Lynching Essay

CHICAGO, (UPI) — An Illinois man who put a noose around the neck of an African-American teenager has been ordered to write an essay about lynching, officials say.

Matthew Hermann, 20, had pleaded guilty in October to misdemeanor battery on Joshua Merritt in December 2011, the Chicago Tribune reported Thursday.

At the time of his plea, Hermann also agreed to participate in a “peacemaking circle” with the victim, his family, clergy and school counselors.

In handing down the sentence usually reserved for juvenile proceedings, Judge James Linn also sentenced Hermann to two years’ probation.

Prosecutors said Hermann and two juvenile friends put a noose around the neck of the then-17-year-old Merritt and hurled racial epithets at him because of his friendship with one of the boy’s female cousins. Merritt ran outside but was followed by one of the boys, who held a knife against his throat.

One of the boys pleaded guilty to battery and was sentenced to two years’ probation. The third teenager is due in court next week.

After the hearing, Hermann said there had not been a racial motive in the attack, adding he still sees Merritt occasionally at the community college where they both attend class.

Liberal Gun Advice: Lie Down And Die, Or Shoot Blindly Through Doors

Protestors took to cities throughout the Nation Wednesday to denounce “Stand Your Ground” laws as they marked the one-year anniversary of the shooting death of 17-year old Trayvon Martin. One woman in Atlanta made remarks that stood out as particularly disturbing to 2nd Amendment advocates in an interview with CBS.

Against a backdrop of anti-gun and pro-Trayvon signs, one protestor — who was wearing a President Barack Obama hat — said she’d rather be murdered than defend herself against an attack.

“Self-defense is not an option. It is not an option,” she said.

“But what if someone’s trying to kill you?” asked CBS Atlanta’s Christopher King.

“They’ll just have to kill me, Christopher,” she responded.
 

 
The woman’s willingness to be killed rather than use a gun in self-defense is nearly as disturbing as “Shotgun” Joe Biden’s latest self-defense advice in an interview with Field and Stream magazine.

“Well, you know, my shotgun will do better for you than your AR-15, because you want to keep someone away from your house, just fire the shotgun through the door,” Biden said.
 
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Chicago Kindergartners May Learn Sex Ed

CHICAGO, (UPI) — Chicago Public Schools is considering a proposal that would begin teaching sex education in kindergarten, the district said.

The district’s proposal follows “national sexuality education standards” and also would address sexual orientation and bullying for the first time, FoxNews.com reported Thursday.

Under the proposal, students in kindergarten through third grade would learn about appropriate and inappropriate touching and feelings, the district said. In the fourth grade, students would learn about puberty and HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

From fifth grade and beyond, instruction would include discussions on reproduction, contraception, and the transmission and prevention of HIV/AIDS, the district said.

“It is important that we provide students of all ages with accurate and appropriate information so they can make healthy choices in regards to their social interactions, behaviors, and relationships,” Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a statement.

“I just don’t think it’s appropriate,” Melissa Diebold, a parent, told MyFoxChicago.com. “I don’t think its age appropriate. They have no concept of anything like that at that stage in life.”

Parents can elect not to have their children participate, the district said.

If approved, the program would be implemented by 2016.

Gold Coin Auction Brings $3.5 Million

CARSON CITY, Nev., (UPI) — Recluse Walter Samaszko Jr.’s gold coins, found after his death, brought in more than $3.5 million in a Carson City, Nev., auction.

About half the collection, found neatly organized and labeled after the death of Samaszko, 69, in June, was offered in the Tuesday auction, the Carson City Appeal said Wednesday, noting his wealth was never suspected until a crew sent to clean out his home discovered the trove of coins.

A total of 9,644 coins were auctioned at the Carson Courthouse, the majority of the lots obtained by Carson City coin dealer Allen Rowe.

Howard Herz said he has appraised other collections after an owner’s death, but never one this large.

“It’s a very well-managed investment in gold,” he said.

The rest of the coins will be auctioned or sold at a later date, the newspaper said.

No Jail For Drunk Driver Going 142 MPH

NAPIERVILLE, Ill., (UPI) — A Shorewood, Ill., man was sentenced to court supervision and community service for crashing his car while driving drunk at 142 mph.

Dean Suominen, 37, avoided jail time by pleading guilty Monday to drunken driving and reckless driving charges in the Jan. 10, 2012 accident in Napierville, Ill., the Chicago Sun-Times reported Thursday.

Suominen’s car disintegrated around him after it struck a curb, rolled over and struck a billboard, although he received only minor injuries, authorities said.

Tests after the crash indicated his blood alcohol level was .20, more than twice the .08 legal limit, Napierville prosecutor Michael DeSanto said, and police said a data recorder in the car clocked his speed at 142 miles per hour immediately before the accident.

Tooth Fairy Poll Shows Recovering Economy

OAK BROOK, Ill., (UPI) — An Illinois Tooth Fairy poll spokesman said the increased amount given children for lost baby teeth augurs good news for the U.S. economy.

The Original Tooth Fairy poll revealed the average Tooth Fairy gift went up from $2.10 in 2011 to $2.42 in 2012, a 15.2 percent gain, Delta Dental in Oak Brook, Ill., reported.

The Original Tooth Fairy Poll showed trends in Tooth Fairy gifts has tracked the Standard & Poor’s 500 index in nine of the last 10 years. In 2012, the TF’s gain of 15.2 percent was similar to the S&P gain of 13.4 percent.

“As the leaders of the dental benefits industry, we look at all kinds of economic indicators. I’m happy to say that the Tooth Fairy delivered encouraging news about the country’s economic recovery in 2012,” said Delta Dental Plans Association’s spokesman, Bill Hupp.

The survey, which contacted more than 1.200 parents nationwide, indicated the Tooth Fairy rewarded first-time tooth losers even more generously, leaving an average of $3.49.

In 98 percent of the homes the Tooth Fairy visited, cash was left for consolation for the first loss. The remaining 2 percent got toys, candy, gum or other gifts.

Lincoln Statue Destined For Gettysburg

GETTYSBURG, Pa., (UPI) — The artist who created a statue of Abraham Lincoln to be erected in Gettysburg, Pa., said he will return annually for the statue’s maintenance.

Salt Lake City artist Stanley Watts, who since 2008 has sought a Gettysburg site able to accept the extreme weight of the 7-foot-6-inch-tall statue, will also provide the crane for the statue’s installation in April at the library in downtown Gettysburg, the Hanover Evening Sun reported Tuesday.

“It will be a very attractive gift to the borough and should be a compelling driver for tourists to visit downtown,” said Rob Lesher, the executive director of the Adams County Library System.

After years of unsuccessful attempts to install the statue at the library and other sites, such as the American Civil War Museum, the Lincoln Train Station, Gettysburg Presbyterian Church, the library now owns the statue, the Evening Star reported.

“It’s a very sizable monument,” said Lesher, who said the pedestal alone weighs 3 tons. “We had to make sure that it was safe for the building and the community.”