"After the van picked us up at the airport near Pyongyang [the capital], I was advised not to throw away the copy of the Pyongyang Times I was holding. 'Don't tear or crumple the newspapers,' said one of two young women who were our appointed guides. Why? 'Because usually the newspapers have photographs of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il,' the father-son duo that's been in power over the North since the end of World War II.
Kim Il Sung died in 1994, passing on power to Kim Jong Il, but Don says that one is never far away from reminders of his rule.
"On our first morning there, we were shepherded up Mansudae, the lovely hill that commands a view of much of the city, and urged to toss flowers before his great bronze statue. It's also de rigueur to bow politely, as did groups of North Koreans, soldiers, and civilians, marching in neat formations, every one of them carrying a single flower," he says.
The night before Don left, he says, the chief guide offered him a little advice: "If you write truth about us, you are welcome anytime. If you say bad or wrong things, you will never come back."
• The M-4 Indicator: Beirut correspondent Nick Blanford has heard that the leaders of opposing factions in north Lebanon were arming themselves. He saw evidence when he interviewed Sheikh Dai al-Islam Shahhal, a leading Salafi cleric (see story). "His bodyguards carried an array of weapons, including an M-4. The M-4 carbine is a much sought after weapon in Lebanon's black market. My interpreter follows these things very closely. His eyes almost popped out of their sockets when he saw the rifle," says Nick.
– David Clark Scott