Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Leonard Nimoy previews new Star Trek movie!

Whoa! Trekkers in Austin lived long and prosperous on Monday night! They had come to see a screening of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but instead were treated to a surprise guest from Vulcan and a surprise world premiere of Paramount's new Star Trek film. Check out the story over on the New York times, and the video below...

Hugh Jackman Not Happy with X-Men Origins: Wolverine Leak

A few days ago we reported that a copy of X-Men Origins: Wolverine has leaked to p2p networks a month before its official release. Hugh Jackman, the film’s leading star, was very upset ("heartbroken," in his own words) about the leaking and it a "serious crime".

Jackman was busy promoting his latest film and took time to comment on the misfortunate leaking of an unfinished version of it which he compared to a "Ferrari without a paint job". "There's no doubt it's very disappointing. Obviously people are seeing an unfinished film," Jackman said.

The actor tried to impress his fans with a spectacular apparition at Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour (almost dangling from a helicopter) and later he also showed them 20 minutes of finished footage at the location where a main part of the film was shot.

According to BBC News, a journalist for Fox News was sacked earlier this week for posting a review of the film after viewing the illegal downloaded copy of it.

Michael Jordan's Mid-Life Crisis?

Michael Jordan was recently elected to the NBA Hall Of Fame. No big surprise there. He may be the best basketball player to ever live. What is surprising is how hard it seems it is for Michael to accept getting old (BTW - he is just one year older than me).

As you watch this video clip, stay with it until about 1 minute in...where Michael gives his reaction to being elected to the Hall Of Fame. He asks the question, 'what is there to do with my life now that I don't play basketball? Basically, 'what is my life all about anyway?'

I'm curious. What would you say to Michael Jordan if you had the chance?

US Supreme Court Refuses Hearing For Political Prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal

US Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Case of Mumia Abu Jamal
A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by Bruce A. Dixon

This is indeed the age when a black boy can become president of the United States. It's also the age when another black mother's son in that same United States can begin his third decade as a political prisoner. Furthermore, it's the age when prosecutors are permitted to deliberately exclude African Americans from jury pools to boost their conviction rates, while the US Supreme Court turns a blind eye to the practice.

The Supreme Court has just refused to hear the argument that Mumia Abu Jamal's conviction should be overturned because the Philadelphia prosecutors' office had a policy of arbitrarily, or to use the legal term, peremptorily removing African Americans from juries. The existence of this longstanding policy is beyond dispute, since recordings of the training sessions for new prosecutors have come to light in which supervisors instructed newbies to routinely violate professional ethics and the rights of accused persons to fair trials before a jury of their peers in precisely this manner. Despite the clear and straightforward evidence of this unconstitutional practice in the Philadelphia prosecutors' office, or perhaps because the evidence is so clear and incontrovertible, the Supreme Court will not allow Jamal's attorneys to make their case in open court. Prosecutorial ethics and the Constitution are one thing, it seems, while politics are quite another.
This is the clearest proof anyone could want that former Black Panther and working journalist Mumia Abu Jamal is indeed a political prisoner. His conviction, his death sentence and his continued incarceration have never been anchored in the purported evidence offered at his trial, and they are, as the Supreme Court has shown once again, quite independent of the law and the Constitution. That's not legal. That's political.

No reasonable or fair minded person believes that contradictory and coerced testimony, long since recanted are a proper basis for decades of imprisonment, let alone the death penalty.
Less than a week ago, an outraged black federal judge threw out the conviction of a white Republican senator on grounds that prosecutors lied and withheld evidence. If the same standard were applied to Mumia Abu Jamal's prosecutors and trial judge, he would have been free long ago. But again, facts and law matter little in the cases of political prisoners.

Europeans, despite their own problems and their own bloodstained history, possess the necessary distance from white America to discern this easily. That's why they have streets and municipal holidays named after Mumia Abu Jamal in France, and why people in a dozen other countries in Africa and Asia know more about his case than many Americans, including many African Americans.
We may have a black president. But we also have black political prisoners, whose incarceration has nothing to do with the crimes of which they were accused and convicted. Some things change more slowly than others.
Those who want to learn more about the case of political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal should visit on the web. That's Mumia Abu Jamal's online commentaries are available at, again that's
For Black Agenda Report, I'm Bruce Dixon.

Reflections by Comrade Fidel Castro on the Meeting With Barbara Lee and Other Members of the Black Caucus


The morning was stormy, damp and cold. Strong winds were blowing and the sky was dark. This was no spring day, not warm.

Barbara wanted to visit the Latin American School of Medicine where 114 young Americans are dedicated to studying medicine.

The official plane that had brought them to Cuba had pushed forward their trip by 24 hours and it would be leaving at two in the afternoon of Tuesday, instead of on Wednesday.

I did not attempt to meet with all of them since I don’t have enough room for the seven of them, plus the translator and the minister accompanying them. I asked that she visit me with two other legislators, as assigned by the group. Thus I was able to meet with her again.

On this occasion, circumstances had changed considerably. The Legislative Black Caucus represents a sector that carries a lot of weight in the United States.

The long struggle for equality and justice was illuminated by the life and example of Martin Luther King whose thinking and work today enthrals millions of people in the world and who was the reason, in my view, why a black citizen, at a moment of deep crisis, reached the U.S. presidency.

As a result, a new meeting with the Black Caucus would take on, for me personally, a special significance. I learned about their stay in Cuba from the comrades who looked after them during their visit, the basic ideas of the congressional organization and the opinions held by its members.

Raul had also communicated to me the magnificent impression they had made on him during his meeting with them which had extended for almost four hours last night, on Monday.

When Barbara Lee arrived at the house, accompanied by Bobby Rush, Democratic Congressman for Illinois, and Laura Richardson, Congresswoman for California, together with José Miyar Barrueco, the Minister of CITMA, who for many years was secretary of the Council of State, it was 11:35 a.m.; the skies had cleared and radiant sunshine filled the courtyard. I was really happy to see Barbara once again and to have the possibility of personally greeting Bobby and Laura, two people whose names were by now familiar because of their words spoken at the meetings with Raul, Alarcón, Bruno, Miyar and the relatives of the Cuban Five.

Their meeting with me lasted 1 hour and forty-five minutes, by the clock; in reality, it took half a minute if I were to judge by the speed with which it took place and my desires to listen to them.

I briefly told them about my experiences during two years and seven months of medical care and the activities to which I now dedicate myself. I explained to them all I have learned in this period of enforced confinement, especially my great interest in all that is happening in the world and especially in the United States, collecting news and concentrating on study. I recalled that I had invited them so I could listen to them and I began to forget what most interested me: to hear their opinions. Their interest and the depth with which they were expressing their points of view, the sincerity and warmth of their simple and profound words were comforting. The three of them were reflecting transparency, pride in their work, their organization, their struggle and their country. It is clear that they know Obama and they radiate confidence, certitude and sympathy with him.

Barbara is proud of presiding over the Black Caucus, of participating actively in her country’s politics with new verve and optimism, of her son who had not yet been born at the time of the Cuban revolution, and of her five grandchildren. She had cast her sole vote against Bush’s genocidal war in Iraq. It was unbeatable proof of political courage. She deserves every honor.

She particularly remembers Dellums who brought her to Cuba for the first time when she was his assistant and they spent many hours conversing with me on a cay. He is no longer a legislator, she tells me, but a mayor in Oakland, looking after a population of 400,000 inhabitants; she also tells me about the former congresswoman who visited Cuba with Dellums and who is now 98 years old and sends warm greetings.

Laura is California congresswoman for Long Beach and she speaks with special pride about the California port which, she says, “is the third in the world”. In truth I couldn’t hold back my desire to joke and bearing in mind that she is an active defender of the environment I told her: “Laura, if the Antarctic polar ice cap melts, your third port in the world will be underwater”. In the ambience created there, she wasn’t upset in the least and she continued telling me interesting things.

Rush spoke next; he is the oldest and most experienced of the legislators and he was a radical activist in his youth. His life has been a never-ending crescendo of political and human knowledge. He is member of the Trade and Energy Committee and of the Communications and Internet Sub-Committee. I listened to him without interrupting for a period of 15 or 20 minutes. He explained that in his youth he read the works of important modern revolutionary thinkers who were the starting point for his later political maturity through observation and meditation about what was happening in his country and in the world. He mentioned Mandela, Che and other extraordinary persons by name, people who sacrificed themselves for others. As a general characteristic among the leaders of the Black Caucus, he quotes verses from the Bible like Martin Luther King used to do, backing up his points of view. “The word justice is mentioned in the Bible two thousand times, almost as many times as the word love”, he tells me. He spoke of his health, the battles he has waged to preserve it and to survive from cancer.

He personally knows Obama, having dealt with him closely for years, at times even as an adversary; he expressed a high and sincere concept of him; he describes him as an honest and good person who wants to help the American people.

He expressed admiration for the health services provided in Cuba for the people and for the research centers that are dedicated to the war against disease.

I could listen to him for hours as a never-ending fountain of knowledge and maturity.

I asked him about the meaning of his statement: “Obama can improve relations with Cuba, but Cuba should help Obama”. We have never been aggressors nor do we threaten the United States. Cuba would not have the possibility to take the initiative. From the beginning we had had the certainty that his words were sincere and we said it publicly before and after his election. At the same time we expressed the opinion that, in the United States, the objective realities were more powerful than Obama’s sincere intentions.

Finally, I asked him about which of the books published in English in the U.S. about Martin Luther King were the best and whether they were translated into Spanish. The three of them spoke to me about Taylor Bretch’s trilogy, as the most interesting among them, and of: “Letters from Birmingham Jail”. They were not sure about their translation into Spanish and they promised to send me the pertinent material.

It was an excellent meeting.

Iran charges American journalist with espionage

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — An American journalist jailed for more than two months in Iran has been charged with espionage, her lawyer said Wednesday, dashing hopes of a quick release days after her parents arrived in the country seeking her freedom.

The espionage charge is far more serious than earlier statements by Iranian officials that the woman had been arrested for working in the Islamic Republic without press credentials and her own assertion in a phone call to her father that she was arrested after buying a bottle of wine.

Roxana Saberi, who grew up in Fargo, North Dakota, and is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Iran, has been living in Iran for six years. She has reported from there for several news organizations, including National Public Radio and the British Broadcasting Corp.

The announcement of spying charges got the attention of the Obama administration, which has been pushing for her release.

"We are deeply concerned by the news that we're hearing," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters at the State Department, adding that the administration has asked Swiss diplomats in Iran for the "most accurate, up-to-date information" on Saberi. Though the U.S. has no diplomatic relations with Iran, it has an interests section at the Swiss Embassy.

Officials in the woman's home state who have been pressing for action also expressed concern about the direction her case is taking.

"This is disturbing news and is certainly hard to believe," said Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota, noting that at first the government had accused her of working without accreditation. "Now the story is Roxana is a spy? I find this all very hard to believe."

The 31-year-old freelance reporter was arrested in late January. Her lawyer, Abdolsamad Khorramshahi, said Saberi has been informed of the espionage charge against her and that he plans to request that she be released on bail until a trial.

Human rights groups have repeatedly criticized Iran for arresting journalists and suppressing freedom of speech. The government has arrested several Iranian-Americans in the past few years, citing alleged attempts to overthrow its Islamic government.

In another indication of the seriousness of the case, Saberi's lawyer also learned this week that it would be reviewed by Iran's Revolutionary Court, which normally handles cases involving threats to national security. No date has been set for a trial.

The semi-official ISNA news agency quoted a judge in charge of the case as saying that Saberi is accused of involvement in spying under the cover of being a journalist.

Khorramshahi said he has not yet been allowed to read the text of the indictment, which he expects to see by Saturday.

After her arrest, Iran's Foreign Ministry had initially said she had engaged in illegal activities because she continued working in Iran after the government revoked her press credentials in 2006.

Saberi's parents visited their daughter Monday in Evin prison, north of the capital, Tehran. The couple from North Dakota met Saberi for half an hour — the first time they had spoken to her since she called them on Feb. 10 to say she had been arrested.

Her father, Reza Saberi, and her mother, Akiko, were pleased after the meeting and said it appeared their daughter was in good health and in good spirits, according to the lawyer.

They could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Saberi's father has said his daughter was finishing a book on Iran and had planned to return to the United States this year.

Roxana Saberi was Miss North Dakota in 1997 and was among 10 finalists in the Miss America pageant that year. She graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, with degrees in mass communication and French and with ambitions to become an international correspondent. She said that her goal as Miss North Dakota was to encourage people to appreciate cultural differences.

Saberi's mother is from Japan and her father is from Iran. Roxana was born in the United States and grew up in Fargo. Her father has said she was determined to go to Iran.

"I was very worried and I was reluctant for her to go," Reza Saberi said in an interview March 1. "She was very persistent about it."

Insurers get life through TARP

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Life insurers, despite a very nasty pre-existing condition, will get a much-needed lifeline through the expanded Troubled Asset Relief Program.

But it won't solve all the industry's ills.
Losses on many life insurers' balance sheets have yet to be realized. The depth of those losses probably won't be known for a while, but most analysts agree that they exceed the cash reserves at the some of the industry's biggest names, according to Bret Howlett, an insurance analyst with Standard & Poor's Equity Research.
Analysts at Friedman, Billings, Ramsey said last month that they estimated significant need for capital across the industry and further expected that credit losses would reach 3.4 times the current excess capital of the sector on average. This includes extra capital generated from any earnings this year and in 2010, the analysts explained.

The industry can expect a short-term gain, if only because insurers will get access to low-cost cash that will fill the most gaping holes in their balance sheets. Howlett said insurers are in far better shape than their banking counterparts, but he worries that the life-insurance industry doesn't know how much of the $130 billion in remaining TARP funds will be available.
"It's no silver bullet," he said.
Investors were shrugging off any concerns about the TARP. Shares of Lincoln National Group Inc.

It Is Official, Jesse O. Kurtz files mayoral of AC.

Nominating petitions submitted by Jesse O. Kurtz, Lan Dang, Sharon Zappia, and Bob Willman were accepted by Atlantic City's Clerk. The Kurtz Ticket will appear on the June 2nd Republican primary election ballot. Kurtz, Dang, Zappia, and Willman constitute the first full Republican ticket in Atlantic City since 1911.

"The initial response to our campaign has been very positive," says Jesse O. Kurtz. "A lot of people are glad that we are speaking out against the corruption," claims Lan Dang. "There is a lot of fear from residents. I am running to be a voice for those afraid to speak."

The candidates are now working to convince more voters to switch from Democrat to Republican before the Monday, April 13 deadline for changing party affiliation. "I have always been a Democrat," explains Bob Willman. "But with the corrupt direction of Atlantic City Democrats, I agreed to switch parties to support Jesse O. Kurtz and run on his ticket."

The Kurtz Ticket's message of lowering taxes, by reducing spending by at least ten percent and fighting corruption through instituting transparency is resonating with city residents. "I know first hand of the difficulty that reckless city government spending brings to residents," remarked Sharon Zappia. "As both a property owner and a real estate broker, I have both felt the economic pain and witnessed the pain city government's bad decisions bring to other families."


Kurtz for Mayor
Dang, Zappia, & Willman for Council
P.O. Box 704
Atlantic City, NJ 08404

Watch Video of Woman Kills Son, Self at Gun Range

WARNING: Graphic Images. A security video from inside a gun range shows a Florida woman shoot her son in the back of the head before turning the gun on herself. Family members say she was mentally ill. (April 7)

Raw Video: Obama Returns From Overseas Trip

President Barack Obama is back home following a whirlwind trip in which he traveled to Britain, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Turkey and Iraq. (April 8)

Chris Brown Court Appearance

After almost two months after his arrest for assaulting girlfriend, Rihanna, Chris Brown finally had his day in court yesterday. For those living in a cave for the past couple of months Brown reportedly punched, bit, & strangled Rihanna. The assault left numerous contusions to her face and caused her mouth to fill with blood splattering all over herself and the interior of the vehicle.

AP claims: Brown entered his plea, speaking in a soft voice, while his mother sat in the first row, red-eyed. The 21-year-old “Umbrella” singer was represented by attorney Donald Etra, who said Rihanna is hoping that a deal can be worked out before a preliminary hearing or trial in the case, but that she will testify if required to.”She would be pleased if this was over quickly,” Etra said.

Of course she does! She doesn’t want anything to do with this case. Have you seen her around lately? No! She’s been keeping busy with work trips, mini vacations, attending outdoor concerts. She is just waiting for all of this to blow over! Good thing the law can proceed even without her testimony!

Nevertheless Brown is trying to arrange a plea bargain. If the attorneys and judge can agree on a plea, the prosecutor won’t have to prosecute the case, the defense attorney won’t have to defend it and the judge won’t have to judge it. It’s tough being a celebrity! It’s impressive that all these people get paid so much to do so little.

Will New Military Budget Prolong Recession?

Will New Military Budget Prolong Recession?
Many Cities and Towns Rely on Government Spending to Keep Their Economies Strong
By Scott Mayerowitz

Many cities and towns across this country rise and fall with military spending. And with Defense Secretary Robert Gates' announcement earlier this week of new defense spending priorities, many communities are bracing for drastic cuts or a windfall.

From Seattle to St. Louis to Fort Worth, communities are closely watching how the $534 billion spending plan for the 2010 fiscal year plays out in Congress.

The key to the whole process is that Gates and President Obama have to look out for the nation as a whole while individual congressmen are concerned about jobs in their districts.

Michael A. Cohen, a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation, said that in the short term -- the next six months or so -- there probably is not going to be an enormous impact.

"You've got places that obviously rely pretty heavily on military spending," Cohen said. "You can't really dictate the Pentagon budget based on just those issues. You really have to make choices about what are the best programs to strengthen American security."

But the big industrial military companies know how politics works and spread out their risk appropriately.

For instance, Lockheed Martin says that its $65 billion F-22 program "directly and indirectly" provides 95,000 jobs across 44 states.

That's a lot of congressmen and senators who would see jobs cut in their districts if the F-22 disappears, as Gates suggests.

"Military contractors are smart. They put their projects all over the country, so they sort of build in political support for them," Cohen said. "If you are a congressman from a district that relies on military spending, you have a responsibility to your constituents to try and protect that funding. It may not be in the national interest, but it's certainly in the constituents' interests."

Sure, you might spend more money in Seattle or St. Louis, but you might end up building something you don't need and wasting taxpayer money.

"It's a very hard conversation because certain people are going to be hurt by this," he said. "What Gates put forward was extremely ambitious and frankly, I think, long overdue. He put the kibosh on a lot of Cold War-style programs that don't further American security."

F-22 Cut, But F-35 Is Ramped Up

To see just how complicated the issue is, take a look at the F-22, which cost $140 million apiece.

Boeing builds the F-22's wings and aft fuselage in Seattle, employing almost 1,200 people. Another 2,000 workers are employed in Marietta, Ga., assembling the planes.

Neither of those communities would be happy if the Pentagon scraps the program, as Gates proposed.

"It is unacceptable that this administration wants to eliminate 2,000 jobs in Marietta and potentially 95,000 jobs nationwide at a time when unemployment rates are rising across the country," Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said in response to the announcement.

But not all of the news is bad for Georgia. While he may want to end the F-22, Gates also wants to ramp up production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

That plane is also assembled in Georgia.

And people in Forth Worth, Texas, could gain as many as 10,000 workers in the long term, also for assembling the F-35.

St. Louis looks like it got hit hard with Gates' announcement that it would no longer buy any more Boeing C-17 transport planes. About 1,800 people in the area work on the C-17 and another 4,000 work on the F/A-18s.

Gates also announced that plans to build a new helicopter for the president and a helicopter to rescue downed pilots would be canceled. A new communications satellite would be scrapped and the program for a new Air Force transport plane would end.

Wall Street also liked the changes, in part because they weren't as deep and drastic as investors had feared. Many defense stocks jumped Monday even as the overall market fell. Shares of Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman each rose nearly 9 percent.

Growing Defense Budget

Todd Harrison, fellow of defense budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, noted that the overall defense budget is not a cut.

"It's actually growing by 4 percent over last year's," Harrison said.

In fact, defense spending accounts for roughly one out of every five tax dollars spent by the federal government. This budget won't reduce that at all.

Harrison said the real factor is deciding which programs -- and, therefore, which communities -- get hit is going to be Congress. Like everything else, some districts will suffer and some will gain. The question remains, which politician is more powerful.

"There are really some tough decisions that have been put off for a while and Secretary Gates was really cleaning up some loose ends," Harrison said. "I think he's sending a really strong message that poor-performing programs are going to be held accountable and that spending is not unlimited. Politically, it looks like the White House has put a lot of confidence in him and the question is whether or not Congress is going to back him up."

Pirates hijack British-owned cargo ship in Gulf of Aden

For hundreds of years the harbour village of Hobyo was famous for one thing: the sharks caught in the azure waters of the Indian Ocean, which would be dried and shipped to Kenya.

Generations of children followed their fathers to sea and a lucrative career in fishing. They still want to go to sea. Only now they dream of being pirates. “I want be a pirate, they have cool cars and lots of money,” said a boy, 13, staring out to sea.

At night the inky darkness glows with the lights of an international naval flotilla, sent to tackle the scourge of piracy. The village’s natural harbour was once filled with small boats that put to sea in search of lobster, fish and sharks.

With no central government since 1991 and nothing but anarchy on land, there was no coastguard or navy to protect Somali waters from foreign trawlers that arrived in search of rich pickings. Fleets from countries such as South Korea took advantage of the chaos, poaching tuna with impunity.

Piracy has brought the boom back to Hobyo in the past couple of years. The pirates have even set up a form of social security with their illicit earnings.

“They have allocated $100,000 [£68,000] to help those who are outside their business and not working,” said the town’s car dealer, who criss-crosses Somalia to drive 4x4s to the tiny village. He can sell as many as 50 top-of-the-range cars when a big ransom comes ashore.

Last year Somali pirates mounted 111 attacks and captured 42 ships, according to the International Maritime Bureau. Ransom demands have ranged from $1 million to $8 million, earning the modern-day brigands an estimated $30 million in ransom payments in 2008. They made $3.2 million for MV Faina, which was laden with tanks and armaments, on her way to the Kenyan port of Mombasa. A similar amount was paid for the release of the Sirius Star, a super-tanker, held at anchor just off Hobyo.

That is a lot of money in a drought-ridden land where almost half the population is hungry. The new money is visible everywhere among the wind-swept, sandy roads and tumbledown stone buildings in Hobyo. Every day two pickup trucks arrive laden with leafy qat stems – chewed for their mildly narcotic effect across East Africa. Their cargo sells for $40,000 every day.

The finest sarongs now fetch up to $50, rather than the $10 or so that they used to cost. Local telecoms companies have even arrived to cash in, putting up a mobile phone mast.

“Satellite phones used to be the only means of communications but now Somali telecoms have arrived to fill the gaps,” said a grizzled pirate sipping spiced tea in a dingy roadside shack. “Without the pirates’ money no one would be able to afford them.”

The pirates are now investing some of their booty in new, faster speed-boats. “We were fishermen before and since we can’t fish any more because of illegal fishing trawlers taking all the fish we have nothing else,” he added.

4 shot, 1 dead at Korean religious retreat in California

Associated Press - April 8, 2009 9:13 AM ET

TEMECULA, Calif. (AP) - A language barrier is giving investigators trouble as they try to sort out exactly what happened at a Korean Christian Retreat center in Southern California last night.

What is clear is that one person is dead and at least three others are injured after a gunman opened fire.

Authorities went to the center after receiving reports about a man shooting his wife.

At least 2 of the victims are described as critically injured.

The identity of the suspected shooter has not been released, but that person is believed to be among the wounded.

A spokesman for the Riverside County Sheriff says officers began interviewing people at what appeared to be a triage center for the victims, but most only spoke Korean. Translators have been sent to the scene and the hospital.

NKorea rally to mark 'historic' rocket launch

SEOUL (AFP) — Some 100,000 North Koreans rallied on Wednesday to celebrate their country's rocket launch, state media said, as the UN agonised over whether it had staged a peaceful space shot or a provocative missile test.

Pyongyang's military separately warned Japan to stop sending warships to search for debris from Sunday's launch, calling this an act of espionage and an "intolerable military provocation."

The rally on Pyongyang's Kim Il-Sung Square came one day before a meeting of the communist state's new parliament, which will re-elect leader Kim Jong-Il to his most important post.

Analysts say blast-off was timed for maximum propaganda value ahead of the meeting, at which Kim is set to strengthen his grip on power despite lingering health concerns.

Senior communist party secretary Choe Thae-Bok called the exercise historic and a "proud victory" which struck a "hammer blow" to imperialists trying to stifle North Korea, according to the North's broadcasters monitored by Yonhap news agency.

Choe credited Kim's leadership and called for unity around the 67-year-old, who is widely reported to have suffered a stroke last August.

The North says its rocket put into orbit a communications satellite which is beaming back patriotic songs.

South Korea, Japan and the US military say there is no sign of the object in space, and the launch was in any case a disguised long-range missile test in violation of UN resolutions.

The North insists otherwise. On Tuesday it warned of "strong steps" if the United Nations censures it.

The United States and its allies are pushing for a strong Security Council response but face opposition from China, Russia and others.

Hours after the communist state released footage on Tuesday of the white rocket blasting off, its deputy UN ambassador Pak Tok-Hun said that if the council "takes any kind of steps whatever, we will consider this infringes upon the sovereignty of our country."

Pak told reporters in New York the North would take "necessary and strong steps" following any censure motion.

The North has previously warned it will walk out of long-running six-nation nuclear disarmament talks in response to any UN action.

"Every country has the inalienable right to use outer space peacefully," Pak said, insisting that the three-stage Taepodong-2 rocket carried a satellite and not a missile.

China has said the North has a right to the peaceful use of space, and called for a calm response "so as to jointly safeguard the peace and stability of the region and promote the six-party talks."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said world powers should "avoid any hasty conclusions" over the exercise.

With the world body divided, the United States has hinted it may not insist on a binding resolution.

The film footage suggests the North has made technological advances, Japan's top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura, said Wednesday.

"It was launched in a more advanced way than in previous cases," Kawamura said, noting also it was much larger than those previously fired.

The first stage landed in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) between Japan and Korea and the remaining stages in the Pacific.

The North's military general staff, in a statement on official media, said it would not tolerate "irrational provocative activities targeting the DPRK (North Korea) by Japanese reactionaries, the century-old arch enemy."

It would "not forgive them if they dare to violate our sovereignty in the slightest."

The military called on Japan to "immediately stop its ridiculous military espionage activity" in the name of searching for parts. This was an "intolerable military provocation," it said.

Foreign experts say the second and third stage failed to separate and it fell short of the designated landing zone in the Pacific.

Still, South Korean media and analysts point out that the Taepodong-2 travelled some 3,200 kilometres (2,000 miles) -- twice the range North Korea achieved with a Taepodong-1 in 1998.