June 18, 2019
“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
North Korea’s Little Engine That Couldn’t
In the last two months at least 30 North Koreans who escaped into China via the North’s “Underground Railroad” have been rounded up in raids by Chinese security forces. The raids have disrupted parts of the informal network of brokers, charities, and middlemen helping escapees.
The pastor at Seoul’s Caleb Mission Church, which helps defectors escape, said the increase in arrests could be linked to deteriorating economic conditions in the North, and China’s concern about the potential for another big influx of refugees. The famine that struck their country in the 1990s drove nearly half a million North Koreans to flee to China.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry declined to provide any information about the arrests, but did state that North Koreans who enter China illegally because of economic reasons are not refugees. “They use illegal channels to enter China, breaking Chinese law and damaging order for China’s entry and exit management,” the ministry said.
No hard statistics exist on how many North Koreans try to leave their country, but South Korea, where most defectors try to go, says the number safely arriving in the South dropped after Kim Jong-un came to power in 2011. That year 2,706 defectors were able to enter South Korea, compared to just 1,137 in 2018.
The non-profit Korea Future Initiative noted the numerous threats facing North Koreans who enter China illegally, including from the criminal networks they often turn to for help. Tens of thousands of women and girls trying to flee the North have been pressed into prostitution, forced marriage, or cybersex operations in China.
- Bestseller The Girl With Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story is an excellent read.
- Xi Jinping Will Make First Visit to North Korea Ahead of Meeting With Trump (NYT $)
- Huawei says U.S. ban hurting more than expected, to wipe $30 billion off revenue (Reuters)
- U.S. businesses beg to be left off Trump’s tariff list (Reuters)
- Soul Asylum – Runaway Train
Iran Is Changing Its Name To Iranium
- A spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency said Monday that “based on the country’s needs,” within days it will have exceeded the limit on its stockpile of uranium and increased uranium enrichment levels, both violations under the 2015 nuclear deal.
- The remarks come at a time of increased tension between the US and Iran, as Washington has blamed Tehran for last week’s attack on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
- President Trump withdrew the US from the nuclear deal a year ago. (NPR)
Former Egyptian President Drops Dead
- 67-year old Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected civilian president who was forced from power in a bloody coup and imprisoned on espionage charges six years ago, was attending a court session Monday when he suddenly collapsed inside a glass ‘defendant’s cage.’ He was rushed to a Cairo hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
- In 2018, a panel of three British parliamentarians reported that Morsi, who had a history of ill health, was being kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day and allowed out for exercise only one hour. The cause of his death is under investigation. (Guardian)
- An independent justice court sitting in London has concluded that China is continuing to kill prisoners for organ transplants, and victims include followers of the religious spiritual practice Falun Gong.
- The tribunal was initiated by the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China (ETAC), and has been taking evidence from medical experts, human rights investigators and others. Both former Falun Gong and Uighur inmates gave testimony of undergoing repeated medical testing in Chinese jails.
- China began persecuting Falun Gong devotees in 1999 after the movement had attracted tens of millions of followers and came to be seen as a threat to the communist party. In 2014 China announced it would stop using executed prisoners as a source of transplant organs. (Guardian)
Additional World News
- Germany’s far-right AfD party fails to win first mayor (BBC)
- Belgian monks finally launch website to sell ‘world’s best beer.’ Beer lovers will still have to travel to St Sixtus abbey to pick up their allotted crates (Guardian)
- Indian magician feared dead in Houdini-style river stunt: Divers in Kolkata search river for Chanchal Lahiri after he fails to surface in escapology stunt (Guardian)
America’s Dangerous Plasddiction
- Promotional materials from America’s plastics industry encourage Americans to drop off their plastic waste at a recycling bin, suggesting that afterwards it will be whisked off to a factory where it is seamlessly transformed into something new. Curious about what actually happens, the Guardian sent reporters to 11 countries to track how US waste makes its way across the world.
- Its investigation revealed that hundreds of thousands of tons of US plastic are being shipped every year to poorly regulated developing countries for the dirty, labor-intensive process of recycling.
- The consequences for public health and the environment are grim. Failures in the recycling system are adding to a growing sense of crisis around plastic, a wonder material that is now found in enormous quantities in the oceans, and to a lesser degree, the human digestive system.
- Reflecting grave concerns around plastic waste, 187 countries signed a treaty last month giving nations the power to block the import of contaminated or hard-to-recycle plastic trash. The US was not one of the signers. The Guardian scrutinizes the plastic crisis engulfing America and the world in this new series, United States of Plastic. (Guardian)
- Scala & Kolacny Brothers – Fake Plastic Trees (Radiohead Cover)
Additional USA News
- Supreme Court Hands Democrats A Win On Racial Gerrymandering In Virginia (NPR)
- 6 Themes To Pay Attention To In Upcoming Supreme Court Decisions (NPR)
- How elite colleges fail half of the poor students they admit: “Access isn’t the same as acceptance,” says Harvard professor Anthony Abraham Jack. (Vox)
- Are McMansions Making People Any Happier?: Homes have gotten bigger, but Americans aren’t any more pleased with the extra space. (Atlantic)
So You’re Telling Me There’s a Chance
- Why do people keep playing the lottery when the chances of winning are one in hundreds of millions? A professor of health sciences who studies lotteries at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta says it’s because the numbers don’t really register.
- “People just aren’t able to grasp 1 in 175 million,” he says. “It’s just beyond our experience—we have nothing in our evolutionary history that prepares us or primes us, no intellectual architecture, to try and grasp the remoteness of those odds.”
- As one trademarked lottery slogan goes, “Hey, you never know.” Somebody has to win. And so we continue to play a game where reason and logic are rendered obsolete, and hope and dreams are on sale. (Nautilus)
- It’s a Winner-Take-All World, Whether You Like It or Not: And a person needs to cultivate particular traits to be successful within it. (The Atlantic)
- Peter Thiel: “We Don’t Live In A Normal World; We Live Under A Power Law.” (Forbes)
- Power Law (Wikipedia)
- How to Invest and Profit in the Next Recession: A slump is likely in the next year or so. There are ways to prepare for it. (Bloomberg, $)
- Goldman Sachs is sounding the alarm: Technology stocks are overvalued (CNBC)
- Here’s how long it would take to save to buy a home on an average income in 10 major US cities (CNBC)
- Don’t misread Darwin: for humans, ‘survival of the fittest’ means being sympathetic (Aeon)
- The films that defined Generation X: Twenty-five years after the release of Reality Bites, Clare Thorp looks at the movies that capture the spirit of a pre-millennial generation. (BBC) Reality Bites has a fantastic soundtrack, and includes one of the best emo songs of the 90s: Lisa Loeb – Stay (I Missed You).
“I have three precious things which I hold fast and prize. The first is gentleness; the second is frugality; the third is humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others. Be gentle and you can be bold; be frugal and you can be liberal; avoid putting yourself before others and you can become a leader among men.” – Lao Tzu
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU