World on a Page

Article excerpt

Byline: Tunku Varadarajan

Bounding tyrants, child like kings.

Thriller in Manila

In an impressive show of bayag--the word for testicular fortitude in the Tagalog language--the Philippines sent its biggest naval warship to confront Chinese fishing and surveillance vessels operating illegally in waters just off the country's northwest coast. The area, known as the Scarborough Shoal, is in the South China Sea, a body of water over which Beijing--with characteristic immodesty--asserts exclusive sovereign control. In deploying its navy, Manila has set a maritime collision course with the Chinese, who bridle, also, at Manila's name for the waters in question: the West Philippine Sea.

From Here to Eternity

North Korea has offered a charming posthumous sinecure to Kim Jong-il, who died in December. The late Supreme Leader has been proclaimed "Eternal General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea" and "Eternal Chairman of the National Defense Commission." At least one North Korean has job security.

Hair-Raising

Spare a thought for Amir Mohammad Afridi, who once boasted the finest mustache in Pakistan's hirsute Khyber agency. Afridi's whiskers caught the censorious eye of a local Islamist outfit, which declared his upper lip un-Islamic. He was abducted at gunpoint, produced before a religious scholar, and reduced to a mere shadow of his magnificent self by a pitiless barber. Shortly after, Afridi fled to Peshawar, where his mustache flourishes anew. "I have left my dear homeland, my friends and relatives," he told The Daily Telegraph. "I am prepared to sacrifice all that but will not compromise my mustache."

Full Nelson

Remember F.W. de Klerk, the white half of the duo that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for steering South Africa so sagely into port from the choppy seas of apartheid? The old Afrikaner sowed some consternation in a speech in Johannesburg when he described Nelson Mandela as "brutal and unfair ... by no means the avuncular and saintlike figure so widely depicted today." While Mandela himself responded with a very saintlike silence, a spokesman for the ruling African National Congress faulted de Klerk for "poisoning the country" with his remarks.

False Dawn

Zimbabwe was agog for a few blissful days when a rumor raced through the country that Robert Mugabe was on his deathbed in Singapore, the aging tyrant's hospice of choice. …