Flipping The Script
September 10, 2021
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“The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government.” — Thomas Jefferson
Kim Jong Uninviting
The last time North Korean leader Kim Jong Un engaged with foreign media was 2019. The country is historically closed-off, but in the 18 or so months since the pandemic began in earnest, that level of secrecy has reached a new level. The country sealed its borders, even to China, a major trade partner. The closures have led to worsening food and medical supply shortages. But on the dimmest of bright sides, the lockdown also led to a mass exodus of diplomats, aid workers, and other foreigners that have provided key insight into the inner workings of the country.
North Korea’s growing interest in nuclear warfare has long been a concern, but with these new accounts from insiders, policymakers were able to adjust how they negotiate with the country, and in particular, its leader. Analysts say that the country has taken the virus so seriously that it borders on paranoia. It’s been reported that anything crossing the border — human or animal — is to be treated as a trespasser and shot. An official from South Korea went missing in September of 2020, and his body was found burned, in what North Korea called an anti-coronavirus measure.
A military parade that was broadcast on Thursday showed people dressed in protective anti-virus gear that was bright orange. Kim Joon-hyung, a professor of international relations at Handong University in South Korea, said that “this covid issue, in addition to the sanctions” placed upon them have caused the country to retreat into itself even more so than it had in the past. Journalists have traveled to the country to try to get an inside look at it, but have been barred from entering. Without even the slightest inkling as to how citizens feel about the country’s isolation, policymakers are essentially having to go at it with a blindfold on. (WaPo, $)
Between Rocks And A Hard Place
- Journalists traveling with Canada’s Liberal Party posted videos of the prime minister being pelted with gravel by protestors as he boarded his campaign bus following a campaign stop in Welland, Ontario on Monday. The incident underscores a national election campaign that has been growing increasingly heated.
- Last month, Trudeau’s campaign canceled a public event for security reasons. Many protesters trailing Trudeau say they are angry with public health measures like vaccine mandates, with comments from the prime minister calling protestors “anti-vaxxer mobs” only riling them up more. Despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, with 3 out of every 4 eligible person fully vaccinated, Canada is still plagued by case counts and hospitalizations rising according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
- “Yes, there is a small fringe element in this country that is angry, that doesn’t believe in science, that is lashing out with racist, misogynistic attacks,” said Trudeau while campaigning in Ontario. Canada’s snap federal election is scheduled for September 20, with polls showing a close race between Trudeau and Canada’s Conservative Party leader, Erin O’Toole. (CNN)
Yielding To The Taliban
- China has pledged 200 million yuan ($31 million) worth of aid to Afghanistan. Beijing offered food supplies, coronavirus vaccines, and more in an effort to maintain communication with the Taliban, which recently took control of the country, and stated that they would need money in order to set up a new government. The Taliban’s interim cabinet was announced last week, with the country declared an “Islamic Emirate.”
- President Biden said that the United States is still a “long way off” from recognising the Taliban government, but China was quick to step in. China has also been openly critical about America’s withdrawal, saying its troops had “wreaked havoc” in Afghanistan. “What the US did in Afghanistan over the past two decades is a textbook example which shows us the consequences of wanton military intervention and attempts to impose one’s own ideology and values on others,” said Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin.
- Taliban officials have described China as Afghanistan’s most important partner, and pinned hopes on Chinese investment and support to rebuild the war-torn country. Even before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, China invited representatives from the group to talk in July, offering economic support for Afghanistan but also stressing that the country should not be used as a staging point for terrorists. (BBC)
Additional World News
- A Fire At A Field Hospital Set Up To Treat COVID-19 Patients Kills 14 People (NPR)
- Philippines’ Duterte accepts 2022 vice presidential nomination (CNN)
- France to give free access to contraception for women aged up to 25 (Reuters)
- UK to extend Northern Ireland’s Brexit grace periods (Reuters)
- North Korea holds toned-down military parade (NBC)
- Olaf Scholz Is Running as the Next Angela Merkel, and It Seems to be Working. (NYT, $)
- Migrants continue to cross Channel as Priti Patel meets counterpart (BBC)
Flipping The Script
- On Thursday, the Biden administration announced its support of a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) plan aimed at reducing prescription drug prices nationwide. The plan’s three “guiding principles” are: making drugs more affordable, improving competition within the industry, and encouraging innovation.
- The plan is part of Democratic legislators’ $3.5 trillion spending plan, and takes a more aggressive angle on slashing drug prices compared to similar legislation floated in the past. The HHS plan would allow the government to directly negotiate drug prices for Medicare patients and make those lowered prices available to people on private insurance plans as well.
- According to the HHS, other actions that the administration could take include testing value-based payment models in the drug market, increasing cost-sharing options for lower-income Medicare patients, and increasing monitoring of insurers and pharmacies to provide the government with better data to make legislative decisions with. While progressive Democrats support the use of “march-in rights” to allow the government to revoke the patents of drugs deemed too expensive, the bill lacks the option as it stands. (Politico)
Klobuchar Reveals Cancer Diagnosis
- On Thursday, Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar revealed that she was diagnosed with breast cancer months ago, but was successfully treated and is now cancer-free. Klobuchar chairs the Senate Rules Committee, and has become a leading member of the Democratic Party since her election to the Senate in 2006.
- In a post on Medium, Klobuchar outlined her journey with cancer: she was diagnosed with stage 1A cancer in spring of this year and underwent a lumpectomy to remove a tumor in her right breast before beginning radiation therapy in May. During this time, Klobuchar maintained her duties, chairing the Senate January 6th investigation and the For the People hearings.
- She stated, “It’s easy to put off health screenings, just like I did. But I hope my experience is a reminder for everyone of the value of routine health checkups, exams, and follow-through.” Her screenings likely saved her life, as the cancer she was diagnosed with was a “very early stage of invasive cancer.” (USA Today)
Additional USA Reads
- Flight takes off from Kabul airport after Taliban cleared Americans and others to leave (CNN)
- California surf school owner Matthew Coleman indicted after allegedly killing his 2 young children over “serpent DNA” (CBS)
- Biden ousts 18 Trump military academy board appointees including Spicer, Conway (CBS)
- Surfside identity theft: Police arrest 3 for stealing from Champlain Towers victims (WaPo, $)
- Top US court halts Texas execution of inmate seeking pastor’s touch (BBC)
- Christie steps out of Trump’s shadow — and stokes 2024 buzz (Politico)
- Karen Garner gets $3 million settlement after arrest by Loveland police (WaPo, $)
A Foiled Plot
- As California’s Caldor Fire burned through South Lake Tahoe, the blaze destroyed dozens of cabins. Standing tall in the face of the blaze, though, was a shining example of fire prevention: a house wrapped in what appeared to be tin foil. While the building wasn’t actually wrapped in everyone’s favorite food storage material, it was protected. It turns out, wrapping buildings in fire blankets or aluminized structure wrap is a legitimate fire prevention method, and clearly worked in this case.
- The wraps prevent embers from entering buildings, keep flames from making direct contact with the buildings, and reflect heat from nearby blazes. According to Fumiaki Takahashi, an engineering professor, wrapping houses against fires can block up to 92% of the convective heat and 96% of the radiation from nearby blazes, but is only effective for a short period “while the wildfire front passes — five to 10 minutes — but longer protection would be needed to prevent structure-to-structure ignition.”
- The foil used is also far from your standard Reynolds Wrap: while its outside is aluminum, its inside is made of woven threads of polyester and fiberglass, and it’s laminated with a high-temperature adhesive. 200-foot rolls are sold for just under $700, but more and more households have reportedly adopted use of the technology in the face of increased fire dangers caused by climate change. (SF Chronicle)
- Researchers complete first-ever detailed map of global coral (ABC)
- Bulgari robbery suspects arrested by Paris police for allegedly stealing millions in jewelry (WaPo, $)
- Dolphins Eavesdrop on Each Other to Avoid Awkward Run-Ins (Wired)
- ‘Dog bone’ asteroid spied by astronomers in new photos (CNN)
- Woman switched at birth sues Spanish health department (WaPo, $)
- Smoke alarms sound at International Space Station (ABC)
- 1887 Time Capsule — Including Lincoln Coffin Photo — Is Being Opened After Lee Statue Removal (People)
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