January 9, 2014 2:24 PM EST

Dennis Rodman Shoots an Air Ball in Pyongyang

Basketball bad boy Dennis Rodman’s bizarre attempt at diplomacy with North Korea found a suitably surreal coda on a court in Pyongyang on Jan. 8. Before tip-off at the game between a North Korean team and a squad of former NBA stars, Rodman, clad in a blue jersey, marched over to a microphone and crooned “Happy Birthday” for Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s young despot, who is believed to have turned 31. The crowd in the arena, like all North Korean crowds, clapped with rhythmic discipline.

Rodman’s friendship with Kim–and the eccentric baller’s belief that a game of hoops could open the door to better ties with the Hermit Kingdom–has drawn the ire of much of the world. In the U.S., NBA officials distanced themselves as far as they could from the endeavor; New York Congressman Eliot Engel said Rodman’s overtures to Kim were like “inviting Adolf Hitler to lunch.” Even Charles Smith, a player on the tour, told reporters he felt “remorse.” Paddy Power, the Irish betting house that initially sponsored the proceedings, had already pulled out.

Throughout the strange spectacle, Rodman remained defiant, defending a trip that has yielded no clear diplomatic dividend. In a ranting interview with CNN, Rodman appeared to side with Pyongyang on its detention of Kenneth Bae, an American missionary sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor in a prison camp on unspecified charges. “Do you understand what [Bae] did in this country?” an irate Rodman asked his interviewer. Perhaps not, but we do know how foolish the man once nicknamed the Worm looked.

EGYPT

‘I am a comedic character.’

ABLA FAHITA, a Muppet-like Egyptian television personality, denying a nationalist blogger’s claim that her character’s recent commercial for Vodafone Egypt–offering customers the option to reactivate old SIM cards–contained coded messages about an attack by the Muslim Brotherhood. The fracas underscores growing paranoia in Egypt as the military-backed leadership cracks down on Islamists and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi.

POLL

WORLD’S WORST PEACEMAKERS

An annual WIN/Gallup International survey asked more than 66,000 people worldwide which country they considered the “greatest threat to peace.” The top four:

U.S. 24%

Pakistan 8%

China 6%

Afghanistan 5%

The Predictor

How Big Oil Could Hurt Greenland

The Danish territory recently awarded exploration licenses to BP, Statoil and more, reversing a tightening of offshore-drilling policies and raising hopes of eventual independence. But activists worry that the bounty–the Arctic around Greenland may hold billions of barrels of oil–will come at a dangerous cost.

DAMAGED ECOSYSTEM

Despite a large Danish subsidy, Greenland’s economy relies on fish exports (prawns, Greenland halibut and cod). Conservationists fear the impact that vibrations and undersea noise from vessels or drilling operations will have on fish behavior.

DISRUPTED COMMUNITY

Some of Greenland’s 57,000 people struggle with alcoholism, sexually transmitted diseases and depression. A sudden influx of new workers (mostly foreign men) may exacerbate those issues, breed new ones and spur culture clashes.

BORDER BATTLES

Denmark and Canada largely settled an old dispute involving rich waters in 2012. As more ice melts, opening up previously inaccessible areas to hungry energy giants, similar tensions could re-emerge as Arctic states define new sovereign lines.

CATASTROPHIC RISKS

BP temporarily abandoned its bid in 2010 after 170 million gallons of its oil flooded the Gulf of Mexico. Critics say any spill would irreparably harm the hard-to-reach waters.

Beating Down the Vote

BANGLADESH

A man, left, en route to cast his ballot near Rajshahi is laid low by anti-election protesters on Jan. 5. It was the bloodiest election day in the country’s history, with at least 18 killed. Although the ruling party of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gained more power, the low turnout and widespread violence led many countries, including the U.S., to doubt the election’s validity.

The Explainer

Israel’s Migrant Problem

Thousands of Africans rallied in Tel Aviv this month, marching to foreign embassies in hopes that international attention would push Israel to designate them refugees–a characterization many Israelis oppose. Here’s how tensions escalated.

PAST

Roughly 50,000 people (many from Eritrea and Sudan) crossed from Egypt in recent years to flee oppression or find better economic opportunities. Israel erected a fence to block more.

PRESENT

Opponents say the influx of Christian and Muslim migrants undermines Israel’s character as a haven for Jews. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called them “infiltrators” who tear at the country’s social fabric.

FUTURE

A new law (being challenged) calls for illegal migrants to be held up to a year without trial, and the Cabinet raised payments to those leaving voluntarily. Critics want work permits issued and the asylum system reformed.

WORLDWIDE

904 MILLION

Number of overweight or obese people in developing nations in 2008–up nearly 400% since 1980–says a new Overseas Development Institute report

Trending In

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PROGRESS

Tunisia’s soon-to-be-adopted constitution stipulates that “all male and female citizens have the same rights … without discrimination”

ARCHAEOLOGY

A Japanese team unearthed the 3,000-year-old tomb of a beer brewer, dating to the Ramesside period, in Luxor, Egypt

CONSTRUCTION

Nicaragua delayed starting construction on a proposed megacanal linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans until 2015 because its path was still undefined

SCANDAL

Hundreds of police officers were relieved of their duties in Ankara as the Turkish government aimed to contain fallout from a sweeping corruption probe

This appears in the January 20, 2014 issue of TIME.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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