Category Archives: Foreign Affairs

North Korean Defector Found Riddled With Parasites

They may have to resort to nukes just because their soldiers aren’t healthy enough for a sustained effort.

The massive infection is most likely linked to the low levels of hygiene found in the hermit kingdom. The worms were most likely contracted by eating vegetables fertilized with human feces, the doctors believe. There are many ways to safely use manure to fertilize fields, however, it appears that North Korea doesn’t use these practices.

International sanctions, droughts, and disastrous internal management mean food shortages are a big problem in North Korea. Up to 70 percent of the population live on food aid and eat a dangerously unvaried diet. Micronutrient deficiencies, particularly in iron, zinc, vitamin A, and iodine, are therefore common. Inside the soldier’s gut, they also found corn, a staple grain of the North Korean diet.

In the DPRK, young men must serve compulsory military service for 10 years and women for seven. A further 4-5 percent of North Korea’s 24 million people serve on active military duty, and another 30 percent are assigned to a reserve or paramilitary unit, according to the US Office of Secretary of Defense. This means the soldier’s body is representative of many North Koreans and potentially insightful for researchers hoping to learn about the wider health of the country.

“I don’t know what is happening in North Korea, but I found many parasites when examining other defectors,” added Professor Seo Min. “In one case, we found 30 types of roundworms in a female defector. The parasite infection problem seems to be serious even if it does not represent the entire North Korean population.”

Indigenous Tribe Forced to Convert

What a fascinating, and tragic, story that seems like it should have been written in the 16th century.

The Sumatran rainforests of Indonesia are home to the Orang Rimba – the people of the jungle. Their faith and nomadic way of life are not recognised by the state and, as their forests are destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations, many are being forced to convert to Islam to survive.

In a wooden hut on stilts, a group of children dressed in white sit on the floor. They sing “I will protect Islam till I die” and shout “There is no god but Allah”, in unison.

Three months ago, the 58 families that make up the Celitai tribe of Orang Rimba converted to Islam.

[…]

The Islamic Defenders Front – a vigilante group whose leader is facing charges of inciting religious violence – helped facilitate the conversion.

Ustad Reyhan, from the Islamic missionary group Hidayatullah, has stayed to make sure the new faith is practised.

“For now we are focusing on the children. It’s easier to convert them – their mind isn’t filled with other things. With the older ones it’s harder,” he says.

[…]

But village leader Muhammad Yusuf – Yuguk, to use his Orang Rimba name – was thinking about surviving in this life when he converted.

“It was a very heavy and difficult decision, but we feel like we have no choice, if we want to move forward,” he says quietly.

[…]

The fact that they hunt and eat wild pigs also creates social tensions, he added.

“This is a Muslim community. If they see the pig’s blood and the leftover bits, they are disturbed,” the officer explained.

What is taboo, or haram, for the Orang Rimba directly contrasts with what Muslims eat, explains Mr Manurung.

“Orang Rimba will not eat domesticated animals such as chickens, cows or sheep. They think it’s a form of betrayal. You feed the animal, and when it gets fat you eat it. The fair thing to do is to fight. Whoever wins can eat the loser.”

Mugabe Hold On

I’m shocked… SHOCKED… that Mugabe would refuse to step down.

Harare, Zimbabwe (CNN)Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has turned up to a university graduation ceremony in the capital, Harare, in his first public appearance since the military staged an apparent coup two days ago.

The veteran leader arrived at the Zimbabwe Open University in a blue-and-yellow gown, accompanied by his security detail, two days after being placed under house arrest in Wednesday’s army takeover.
The event was apparently designed to convey a business-as-usual atmosphere — the generals pulling the strings in Harare are desperate not to give the impression they are orchestrating an unconstitutional coup.
But behind the scenes, efforts to push Mugabe aside appeared to be foundering. Mugabe was reported to be resisting a plan to oust him, and the generals were said to be frustrated about his refusal to go quietly.

Mugabe Under House Arrest

Mugabe is one of the worst tyrants of our lifetimes. Given that he has held and consolidated power for the better part of four decades, I doubt that there is a “constitutionally sound” resolution. It takes revolutions to oust tyrants.

South African government ministers are in Harare for crisis talks with ousted President Robert Mugabe and military leaders who have seized control.

They are trying to reach a deal on the future of Zimbabwe and the man who has led the country for 37 years and is now under house arrest.

The Southern African Development Community (Sadc) regional bloc is to hold emergency talks shortly.

But sources suggest Mr Mugabe may be resisting pressure to resign.

They say Mr Mugabe is insisting he remains the legitimate president. Regional bodies such as Sadc and African Union (AU) will be keen to reach a constitutionally sound resolution to the crisis rather than to endorse a military takeover, say correspondents.

Saudia Arabia Accuse Iran of Aggression

The Dogs of War are barking.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has accused Iran of an act of “direct military aggression” by supplying missiles to rebels in Yemen.

This “may be considered an act of war”, state media quoted the prince as telling UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in a telephone conversation.

On Saturday, a ballistic missile was intercepted near the Saudi capital.

Iran has denied arming the Houthi movement, which is fighting a Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s government.

Middle East Girds for Next War

A 24-hour sequence of political bombshells began on Saturday afternoon, when Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation from the Saudi capital of Riyadh, blindsiding his country’s political establishment. Hours later, Saudi Arabia’s official news agency reported that the country’s military had intercepted a Yemen-borne ballistic missile over Riyadh. Even as images of the blast were flashing on TV sets around the region, similarly dramatic news began to trickle in: Some of Saudi Arabia’s most high-profile princes and businessmen were being sacked and detained in an anti-corruption drive led by bin Salman.
The events serve as an opening salvo for a new period in the region’s crisis-ridden history, analysts say. They represent an escalation in a yearslong proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, threatening to activate new fronts in the region, with the Saudi show of force beginning with a sweeping consolidation of power from within.
On Friday, ISIS’ last strongholds in Iraq and Syria fell. It marked a major milestone in a fight that saw archrivals converge on the extremist group until its so-called caliphate was on its last legs. On Saturday, regional powerhouses appear to have trained their sights on one another.
[…]
Mohammed bin Salman’s campaign of “two fronts,” as analysts have dubbed it, is being met by cheers and apprehension. But there is near consensus that these are uncharted waters, and the results will be dramatic.

Saudi Purge

This smells like the purge of an autocrat. I suppose we’ll see whether or not it’s a good thing or not.

A new Saudi anti-corruption body has detained 11 princes, four sitting ministers and dozens of former ministers, media reports say.

The detentions came hours after the new committee, headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was formed by royal decree.

Those detained were not named.

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says Prince Mohammed is moving to consolidate his growing power while spearheading a reform programme.

[…]

Separately, the heads of the Saudi National Guard and the navy were replaced in a series of high-profile sackings.

SPA said King Salman had dismissed National Guard minister Prince Miteb bin Abdullah and navy commander Admiral Abdullah bin Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Sultan.

[…]

Prince Miteb, son of the late King Abdullah, was once seen as a contender for the throne and was the last member of Abdullah’s branch of the family at the highest echelons of Saudi government.

Our correspondent says Prince Mohammed, who already serves as defence minister, now has nominal control over all the country’s security forces.

Saudis Intercept Missile Fired at Capital

Yikes. That comes after the Houthi fired missiles at Saudi refineries this summer.

Saudi Arabia says it has intercepted a ballistic missile fired from Yemen, after a loud explosion was heard near Riyadh airport on Saturday evening.

The missile was destroyed over the capital and fragments landed in the airport area, officials quoted by the official Saudi Press Agency said.

A TV channel linked to Houthi rebels in Yemen said the missile was fired at the King Khalid International Airport.

The civil aviation authority said that air traffic was not disrupted.

Saudi forces have reported shooting down Houthi missiles in the past , though none has come so close to a major population centre.

Millions in Ebola Aid Stolen from Red Cross

Whenever people rush money into a crisis, fraud is a huge risk because everyone loosens controls in the interest of speed.

As Ebola spread across Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, the Red Cross Federation in Geneva was dispersing cash donations to the national Red Cross societies in each of those countries – altogether a sum of about $100m.

An investigation by Red Cross auditors has revealed that in Liberia $2.7m disappeared in fraudulently overpriced supplies, or in salaries for non-existent aid workers.

In Sierra Leone, Red Cross staff apparently colluded with local bank workers to skim off over $2m while in Guinea, where investigations are ongoing, around $1m disappeared in fake customs bills.

Last IS Strongholds Fall

Now the traditional antagonists in the region can get back to fighting each other.

The success of the Syrian government forces inevitably raises the potential for clashes between them and US-backed, predominantly Kurdish units who hold a significant swathe of northern Syria.

It is a powerful reminder that while the war against the IS “caliphate” is well on the way to being won, the situation on the ground in Syria is becoming ever more complex.

With Iran eager to consolidate its influence, questions remain as to the Trump administration’s future policy direction now IS is collapsing. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has consolidated his position and looks to squeeze opposition forces in the months ahead.

American Arrested for Insulting President on Twitter

No, not Trump.

A U.S. citizen has reportedly been arrested in Zimbabwe for insulting the country’s president on Twitter.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy told the Associated Press that Martha O’Donovan was arrested on Friday after posting tweets that allegedly insulted Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.

O’Donovan, who works for Magamba TV, a local news network aimed at youth, is being represented by lawyer Obey Shava of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. O’Donovan’s Twitter account is private, but an unverified account appearing to be MagambaTV tweeted news about her arrest.

Before you get too indignant, remember that the previous administration arrested a man for posting an anti-Islam video in the wake of the Benghazi attack.

Trump Calls for End of Visa Lottery

I’m with Trump on this one. It’s unfortunate that it took a terrorist attack to revisit this program.

US President Donald Trump has called for the green card lottery to be scrapped, saying it allowed the New York truck attack suspect into the US.

In a series of tweets he called for the immigration programme to be replaced with a merit-based system.

Mr Trump pinned blame for the scheme on Senator Chuck Schumer, who accused Mr Trump of cutting anti-terror funding.

Authorities have not yet confirmed how the suspect in Tuesday’s attack, Sayfullo Saipov, immigrated to the US.

Mr Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning: “The terrorist came into our country through what is called the ‘Diversity Visa Lottery Program,’ a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based.

The legacy of Russian influence

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Here you go:

Harry Hopkins was an energetic and tireless social worker who helped shape much of the world as we know it today. His work in New York in the early 1930s attracted the attention, and then the friendship, of New York Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor.

When Roosevelt moved to the White House, he called upon Hopkins to be one of the principal architects of the New Deal. Throughout the decade, Hopkins grew to become one of Roosevelt’s closest advisors and was probably the most influential person throughout Roosevelt’s administration except for Mrs. Roosevelt.

When World War II began, Roosevelt called upon Hopkins again to be Roosevelt’s personal emissary in high-level diplomatic discussions with Britain and the Soviet Union. Hopkins was appointed to administer the famed LendLease program and was a permanent fixture in the White House throughout the war.

One aspect about Hopkins’ work during the war had sought explanation from historians. He was energetic and consistent about advocating for the Soviet Union even to the detriment of the U.S and other allies. Hopkins greatly directed Lend-Lease resources to the Soviets, strongly pushed Stalin’s demands for a second front, dismissed the fact that the Soviets massacred 22,000 Poles in the Katyn Forest, and generally tilted every scale he could put his finger on in favor of the Soviet Union.

The fall of the Soviet Union and the release of many of the Soviet archives has begun to offer some explanation for Hopkins’ behavior. He was almost certainly a Soviet agent. The only real remaining question is to what extent. The first indication came when Oleg Gordievsky, a senior KGB defector, recalled a lecture in which another KGB office bragged that Hopkins was the Soviet’s most important agent during the war.

The confirmation came when New York Senator Daniel Moynihan forced the release of The Verona Papers — a trove of decades’ worth of coded messages from Soviet agents in the U.S. to Moscow. Those documents revealed a message from Agent 19 to Moscow about a highlevel conversation between the Western Allies. Scholars have deduced that Hopkins was the only person in a position to share the details of that conversation. The evidence points to the fact that Hopkins was not just a zealous friend of the Soviet Union, he was an active agent for their interests.

We do not want to think that there was a traitor so close to the central nervous system of American power — especially during war. We do not want to think that Joseph Stalin’s hand was at work shaping American policy. But facts are facts whether we want to believe them or not.

It took half a century for the facts about Hopkins’ treachery to come to light. Evidence of another high-level treachery is coming to light much sooner for former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

Here are a few facts that have been reported by The Hill and others:

 Former President Bill Clinton was paid $500,000 in 2010 by a bank controlled by the Russian government for a 90-minute speech to Renaissance Capital in Russia and then had a meeting with Vladimir Putin. This happened right after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had been in Russia and was actively working on a variety of follow up items for Russia after those meetings.

 One of the issues Hillary Clinton worked on was her department’s approval of a deal whereby a Russian nuclear company purchased a Canadian uranium company to control 20 percent of America’s strategic uranium reserves.

 Around the same time, a Canadian uranium magnet involved in the deal donated about $145 million to the Clinton Foundation, whose main purpose has been to support the Clinton’s lavish lifestyle rather than any meaningful charitable purpose.

 Another issue was for another Russian company that used to sell recycled uranium to the U.S., but needed a new market as their deal was ending.

 A third issue was to arrange for a group of venture capitalists from Silicon Valley to travel to Russia to look for ways to create a Silicon Valley in Russia.

 Also in 2010, the FBI broke a Russian spy ring that had been trying to get access to the State Department for a decade. They had recently gained access to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton through a Democratic donor before the FBI arrested them.

 Since 2009, the FBI had also been investigating a huge bribery and kickback program inside a Russian nuclear energy company with a division in America. As part of that investigation, the informant overheard numerous conversations from Russians about their efforts to influence the Clintons.

A kind, if naïve, reading of these facts might excuse them away as independent and unrelated events that were each conducted with the utmost propriety. After all, we do not want to believe that there could have been someone working for the benefit of the Russian government at the highest level of our national government. But at some point, the accumulation of facts point to only one reasonable conclusion whether we want to believe it or not.

Catalonia Declares Independence

The lines are being starkly drawn. There will be more blood shed before this is settled.

The Catalan regional parliament has voted to declare independence from Spain, while the Spanish parliament has approved direct rule over the region.

Catalan MPs backed the motion 70-10 in a ballot boycotted by the opposition.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy earlier told senators direct rule was needed to return “law, democracy and stability” to Catalonia.

The crisis began when Catalans backed independence in a disputed vote earlier this month.

Xi’s Ongoing Purge

“Anti-corruption”… uh huh.

Since becoming China’s leader in 2012, Xi Jinping has overseen a vast and ruthless anti-corruption drive in which more than a million officials have been disciplined.

A BBC study has found that more than 170 ministers and deputy minister-level officials have been sacked and many jailed under Mr Xi, accused of charges such as corruption, misconduct and violation of party discipline.

It has been described by some as a massive internal purge of opponents, on a scale not seen since the days of Mao Zedong, in whose Cultural Revolution many top officials were purged.

[…]

Based on official data, a staggering 1.34 million officials at high and low levels – the so-called “tigers and flies” – have been brought down by corruption and disciplinary charges during President Xi’s first five years in office.

No walk of life has been spared – those felled range from village chiefs and factory managers to government ministers and generals.

The so-called “great purge” goes right to the very top of government – the biggest scalp so far was once the third most senior leader in China, Zhou Yongkang. He had been in charge of the vast internal security apparatus until he retired.

Sun Zhengcai, who was sacked as Chongqing party secretary, was only the fourth sitting politburo member ever to be expelled from the Communist Party. Promoted before Xi Jinping took office, Mr Sun, 54, was the politburo’s youngest member and had been tipped for the very top.

WHO Cancels Mugabe Appointment

Good, but the fact that it ever happened is a disgrace.

The World Health Organization has revoked the appointment of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador following a widespread outcry.

“I have listened carefully to all who have expressed their concerns,” WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

He had previously praised Zimbabwe for its commitment to public health.

But critics pointed out that Zimbabwe’s healthcare system had collapsed in recent years.

During the first 20 years of his 37-year rule, Mr Mugabe widely expanded health care, but the system has badly been affected by the collapse of the Zimbabwean economy since 2000.

Staff often go without pay, medicines are in short supply, and Mr Mugabe, who has outlived the average life expectancy in his country by three decades, travels abroad for medical treatment.

WHO Beclowns Itself by Appointing Mugabe

What a disgrace.

The choice of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe as a World Health Organization (WHO) goodwill ambassador has been criticised by several organisations including the British government.

It described his selection as “surprising and disappointing” given his country’s rights record, and warned it could overshadow the WHO’s work.

The opposition in Zimbabwe and campaign groups also criticised the move.

The WHO head said he was “rethinking his approach in light of WHO values”.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had previously praised Zimbabwe for its commitment to public health.

If you’re not familiar with what a horrible tyrant Mugabe is, here’s an old, but very good, article that gives a glimpse.

Spain Moves to Prevent Catalonia from Leaving

I think that the Spanish authorities don’t fully understand what “declaring independence” means.

Spain is to start suspending Catalonia’s autonomy from Saturday, as the region’s leader threatens to declare independence.

The government said ministers would meet to activate Article 155 of the constitution, allowing it to take over running of the region.

Catalonia’s leader said the region’s parliament would vote on independence if Spain continued “repression”.

Catalans voted to secede in a referendum deemed illegal by Spain.

Marathon Speeches

Those silly Communists and their loooooong speeches.

Some call Xi Jinping a Chinese Putin. Others a 21st-century Mao.

On Wednesday morning he was China’s Hugo Chávez, testing his comrades’ eyelids – and their bladders – with a three-and-a-half hour, 65-page sermon in which he outlined his brave new vision for the Communist party, and the world.

“The Chinese dream is a dream about history, the present and the future,” Xi declared towards the end of his unexpectedly long-winded address to the opening of China’s 19th party congress. By the conclusion of this eastern answer to Aló Presidente! more than a few of Xi’s audience appeared to have entered a dreamlike state.

Communist Party Determines Future of China

Yes, China is still a totalitarian regime where one party controls the lives of over a billion people. What will the next 5 years hold?

China’s biggest political event, the Communist Party congress, has begun in Beijing under tight security.

Party leader and Chinese president Xi Jinping is addressing more than 2,000 delegates in the capital.

The closed-door summit, which takes place once every five years, determines who rules China and the country’s direction for the next term.

Mr Xi, who became the leader in 2012, has been consolidating power and is expected to remain as party chief.