Fearless Forecast

Kim Jung-un, the North Korean leader, who is also the Chinese People’s Daily’s “sexiest man alive,” ended this year with a bang. He had ordered a successful rocket launch into space that put an object into an impressive 500-kilometer orbit. Warned by everybody not to do it as it would escalate tensions in the region, he did it anyway. Nobody was amused, not even his Chinese patrons. The fury of the US, Japan and South Korea, all proven to be within reach of the Hermit’s Kingdom’s rockets, knew no bounds.

But that consolidated Kim’s leadership. With his throne secure and the military under his thumb, he well may now start North Korea on a path of economic reform, a la Deng Xiaoping. Far-fetched? Anything is possible in the year of the water snake.

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KL’s ‘Baghdad Bob’

Zainuddin Maidin, former information minister of Malaysia, described by observers as “a nobody who wants to be somebody again,” has found a new career: slinging outrageous barbs at famous Indonesians. He hopes this new career will salvage him from oblivion.

He started with former President BJ Habibie. In his column in Utusan Malaysia, a daily that’s identified with the ruling party, he wrote that, like Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, Habibie sold out to foreign powers and was “a traitor to his nation” and a “dog of imperialism.” Naturally, that triggered uproar in Indonesia.

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Obama’s Tears

US President Barack Obama couldn’t hold back the tears when he went on TV on Friday and sent condolences to those who lost their loved ones in the massacre of innocents in Newtown, Connecticut last week. Twenty children — aged 6 and 7 — and seven adults, including the gunman’s own mother, were killed in that carnage.

If you’re a father — like Obama, like I am — you would be stricken with grief and anxiety. Any of those children could have been yours. You’d want to reach out to all those who lost a child, a sibling or a parent in that tragedy. Our hearts are broken.

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Not an Empty Chair

On the night of Aug. 30 earlier this year, Clint Eastwood, Hollywood’s macho icon and conservative activist, stood in the limelight of the packed US Republican National Convention. He had placed an empty chair to his left and imagined an utterly failed President Barack Obama sat on it. Then he gave the furniture a merciless but incoherent tongue-lashing.

The witless act went viral. Overnight he became the laughingstock of the American electorate and helped President Obama win a second term. A new word was born: “eastwooding.”

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Beyond Symbolism

Last week in New York, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa cast Indonesia’s vote in favor of Palestine’s bid for non-member state observer status. After the vote — which favored Palestine 138 to nine, with 41 abstentions — he told the press that the upgrade of Palestine’s status in the UN righted a historic wrong and would increase the momentum of the peace process between Israel and Palestine.

It was vindication for Indonesia, which campaigned hard for the Palestinian bid.

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