July 08, 2021

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NEED TO KNOW

NORTH KOREA

Thinner

North Koreans are worried about their supreme leader’s weight loss.

“Our people’s hearts ached most when we saw (Kim Jong Un’s) emaciated looks,” said North Korean state-owned media, according to USA Today. “Everyone says their tears are welling up in their eyes naturally.”

The 5-foot-8, 37-year-old appeared to have dropped almost 44 pounds when he recently addressed the country on state television. He likely still weighs more than twice as much as the average 115-pound North Korean, the New York Times added.

Perhaps the North Koreans were truly concerned about the normally rotund Kim’s weight loss. But they could have also been lamenting his government’s terrible stewardship of the so-called Hermit Kingdom during the coronavirus pandemic.

North Korea officially has zero cases of the coronavirus. Even so, Kim recently went on television to say the country faced a “grave crisis” due to Covid-19, NBC News reported. He blamed bureaucrats and others for their “chronic irresponsibility and incompetence” and reshuffled some top posts, as Reuters explained. Experts weren’t sure if he was discussing an isolated outbreak of the virus or if infection rates had climbed across the country.

Still, this being North Korea, Kim took a break from lamenting the crisis to again warn against foreign influences and advise women to sing patriotic songs, write letters to soldiers, protect children from ‘alien’ influences and wear traditional clothing that makes “all the aspects of life brim over with our flavor, taste and national emotions.”

Meanwhile, the coronavirus is just one of Kim’s problems.

United Nations sanctions, China’s closure of the North Korean border due to Covid-19 fears and drought last year that has given way to typhoon rains and flooding have caused severe food shortages in the East Asian country, reported Al Jazeera. Many fear that a famine resembling the country’s food crisis in the 1990s is on the way.

Food prices have skyrocketed in the capital of Pyongyang, according to CNN. A packet of coffee is selling for $100. Black tea is going for $70.

Still, Kim publicly warning of a crisis might have been a diplomatic move, an opening for foreign powers to engage with Kim to see if he might take some action, like slowing his country’s nuclear weapons program, in exchange for food aid.

“In the 1990s, when North Korea was undergoing a famine, there was an opportunity to provide humanitarian aid to North Koreans,” said Wilson Center Senior Fellow Jean Lee, a North Korea expert, in an interview with National Public Radio. “Perhaps we’re starting to see the groundwork for discussion around some sort of humanitarian aid.”

Perhaps, someone should tell Kim he should just ask politely.

WANT TO KNOW

HAITI

Mise en place

Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated at his home early Wednesday, a killing that risks plunging the already unstable nation into further political turmoil and setting the stage for increased violence, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph said that armed assailants entered the Moïse’s residence, shooting the president and his wife. The first lady survived.

Haiti’s national police chief said Wednesday night that four suspects were killed and two others arrested in the assassination, NBC News reported. The government called them “mercenaries.”

Joseph added that the assailants spoke Spanish and English. Haiti is a predominantly French- and Creole-speaking nation bordering the Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic.

The assassination comes as the Caribbean country is reeling from economic hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic and rising insecurity, even as instability has plagued the country for years. Haiti is the poorest country in the Americas.

Over the past four years, Haiti has had six prime ministers.

Haiti has also seen months of violent protests since Moïse, who was elected in 2016, refused to leave office in February as was expected. The late leader argued that his term was to last another year. The opposition disagreed, accused him of violating the law and of corruption.

Before his death, Moïse launched an effort to amend Haiti’s constitution to give the president more power, including greater control over the armed forces and immunity from prosecution while in office.

A referendum was scheduled to take place in September over those measures alongside presidential elections. Now analysts say it’s anyone’s guess what the assassination will usher in even as all the ingredients are in place for more violence.

INDIA

Goliath Versus Goliath

India is moving to hold social media giant, Twitter, legally liable in India for anything its users post on its platform after the company refused to comply with the country’s new information technology rules, CNN reported.

Officials said this week that the social media company no longer has immunity over content posted on its platform. They added that the company has refused to fill three new roles to monitor online content, as per India’s new IT rules.

The new regulations released in February gave companies three months to create three roles in India: A “compliance officer” to ensure compliance with local laws, a “grievance officer” to address complaints from Indian users, and a “contact person” available to Indian law enforcement 24/7.

The court filing Monday said that Twitter had announced an interim grievance officer and contact officer but both left their roles soon after.

Twitter did not comment on the court filing and has previously expressed concerns about the new law being a “potential threat to freedom of speech” in India. Even so, the social media platform said it remains “deeply committed” to India, which is one of its largest markets.

Since the beginning of the year, the tech firm has clashed with Indian authorities over the content posted by its users. In May, police appeared at its office in New Delhi after the company decided to label a tweet from a spokesperson of the ruling party as “manipulated media.”

Twitter criticized the move as “intimidation tactics.”

UNITED KINGDOM

Crustacean Compassion

The British government is planning to ban the boiling of live lobsters under a new animal welfare bill that could also include the protection of other invertebrates, the Evening Standard reported Wednesday.

Lawmakers in the Parliament’s upper house are debating whether the Animal Welfare (Sentinence) Bill should also include octopuses, crabs and squids.

The bill aims to recognize these creatures as sentient beings able to feel pain. It would also provide them with legal protections and stop fishmongers and chefs from boiling them alive. Instead, they would have to be stunned or chilled before cooking – believed to be more humane.

The draft law follows a campaign by the Crustacean Compassion group with support from the British Veterinary Association.

Animal rights advocates and scientists noted that decapod crustaceans can feel pain and suffering, adding that there is a “decade of compelling scientific evidence of their ability to feel pain.”

Boiling sea crustaceans is already illegal in many countries including Norway and New Zealand.

DISCOVERIES

No Aliens Here

The United States Department of Defense released a long-anticipated “UFO report,” mentioning more than 140 sightings of unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs) that aliens were undeniably not responsible for, reported Live Science.

The report indicates that out of the 144 sightings over the past two decades, “most of the UAP reported probably do represent physical objects.”

Only one of the cases was identified with “high confidence” and turned out to be a large, deflating balloon.

Interestingly, some similarities were observed in the cases particularly with UPA propulsion. For example, some video evidence showed spacecrafts “remain stationary in winds aloft, move against the wind, maneuver abruptly or move at considerable speed, without discernible means of propulsion.”

Another video presented a spherical UFO mid-air bouncing side-to-side before seemingly plunging into the ocean.

Authors of the report classified UAP into five potential categories: airborne clutter including birds or recreational drones, natural atmospheric phenomena, classified US government programs, foreign adversary systems and a catchall “other.”

The report also includes an overview of developing processes and training for the military in cases of a UAP sighting.

While alien invasion theories may have been put to rest with the report’s release, a classified annex of the report might just hold otherworldly secrets.

COVID-19 Global Update

More than 180 nations worldwide have confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The following have the highest numbers worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*:

  1. US: 33,770,459 (+0.07%)
  2. India: 30,709,557 (+0.15%)
  3. Brazil: 18,909,037 (+0.29%)
  4. France: 5,856,682 (+0.07%)
  5. Russia: 5,614,540 (+0.42%)
  6. Turkey: 5,459,923 (+0.09%)
  7. UK: 5,007,964 (+0.64%)
  8. Argentina: 4,593,763 (+0.42%)
  9. Colombia: 4,426,811 (+0.55%)
  10. Italy: 4,265,714 (+0.02%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours