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Kim Jong Un’s decade in power: Starvation, repression and brutal rule – just like his father and grandfather

Kim Jong Un has followed his father and grandfather in ruling by fear. The coronavirus pandemic has made North Korea ever more isolated, while expanded military capabilities make it a growing threat.

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Repression running in the genes? Jenni Lim/AFP via Getty Images

By the grim metric of fatalities in the first 10 years of a dictator’s rule, Kim Jong Un has yet to match the records set by his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, or father, Kim Jong Il – the two tyrants who reigned by terror in North Korea before him.

For now, the number of people Kim Jong Un has personally ordered killed – such as his uncle in 2013 and half-brother in 2017 – is likely to number in the hundreds.

But his decade in power, which began after his father’s death on Dec. 17, 2011, has proved a disaster for people living in the communist nation. The isolationist state has become even more so, as the northern border to China closed during the coronavirus pandemic – cutting off an escape route for those desperate to flee. Meanwhile, food insecurity means that “an entire generation of children” are undernourished, as the United Nations has reported.

Concrete numbers of how many have died from starvation and malnourishment-related conditions such as diarrhea and pneumonia under Kim are difficult to come by. But as a scholar of Korean history, I believe the young dictator – who turns 38 next January – has the capacity to surpass even the ghastly death tolls of his two familial predecessors.

Three generations of misery

Kim Jong Un’s first decade in power has seen a continuation of the deadly repression and failed policies that have kept North Koreans living in fear and under the threat of starvation for the last 70 years.

The Korean War that the current leader’s grandfather started in 1950, just two years after founding North Korea, claimed upwards of 4 million lives – most were North Korean civilians killed by the United Nations coalition that came to defend South Korea.

An elderly woman and her grandchild wander among the debris of their wrecked home in the aftermath of an air raid by U.S. planes over Pyongyang, the Communist capital of North Korea. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Civilians bore the brunt during the Korean War. Keystone/Getty Images

Once his campaign to take South Korea by force was thwarted by the 1953 armistice, Kim Il Sung turned to purging pro-Soviet and pro-Chinese party officials who had dared to criticize him. The North Korean leader went on a killing spree in which thousands of party officials were killed or expelled from the Workers’ Party of Korea.

His son, Kim Jong Il, inherited power in July 1994 and oversaw a devastating famine in which upwards of 2 million people starved to death.

But instead of buying food, Kim Jong Il sought aid, most of which he diverted to North Korea’s military. At the height of the famine in 1997, the U.S. State Department estimated North Korea’s military budget as US$6 billion. During those dark times, Kim spent over a billion dollars a year on his missile programs alone and over $600 million on luxury goods imports.

He also managed to eke out enough money to build an estimated $800 million mausoleum for his dead father – one in which he himself was entombed in December 2011 after succumbing to a suspected heart attack.

Had he spent just $200 million of his wealth each year on grain and distributed it fairly, no one would have died. Instead, as the 2014 U.N. Commission of Inquiry Report on Human Rights in North Korea alleges, Kim Jong Il committed the “inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.”

The same claim could be made against Kim Jong Un during his decade in power. Faminelike conditions have been observed in the mid-2010s and have resurfaced during the pandemic.

Even before Kim sealed the border with China in January 2020, North Korea recorded food shortages of around 1.36 million metric tons in 2018 and 2019. His solution has been to rely on aid and, in October, telling his people to eat less until 2025. Meanwhile, during his 10 years in power, Kim has diverted around a quarter of North Korea’s GDP toward the military.

And under Kim Jong Un it has only become harder for North Koreans to escape chronic hunger. During the famine in the 1990s, many North Korean people were able to escape to China in search of food, despite attempts by Kim Jong Il to block them.

In the first year of Kim Jong Un’s rule, the number of escapees who made their way to South Korea dropped in half from the previous year to approximately 1,500.

And in the past nearly two years of lockdown under Kim, border-crossing has become far more difficult. In 2021, the number is expected to be well below 100.

A deadly legacy

When Kim came to power in December 2011, I predicted his rule would be marked neither by reform nor power-sharing but extreme internal repression and strategic threats against neighbors.

Sadly, these projections have been proved right. The past decade has seen a continuation of the atrocious human rights record of Kim’s predecessors and a great leap forward on the despotic dynasty’s missile programs. North Korea has fired off over 130 missiles over the last 10 years, punctuated by three intercontinental ballistic missile blasts in 2017. Of the four nuclear tests, the last in 2017, was a thermonuclear bomb.

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These lethal weapons are custom made for threatening the U.S. with a nuclear war mw to insert pdf link while Kim dangles the possibility of peace, thus compelling Washington to withdraw U.S. troops and strategic weapons from South Korea – as Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, called for in August.

Kim Jong Un’s apparent goal is to render Washington’s longtime non-nuclear ally, Seoul, vulnerable to his nuclear-armed state bent on completing its “supreme national task” of completing the “great Juche Revolution” – the absorption of the south and unifying the Korean peninsula on North Korean terms.

A nuclear war, even if limited, could cause civilian deaths in the millions – a horrendous feat already achieved under the leadership of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.

What is different under Kim Jong Un is that he has built the capacity to inflict much more carnage on the outside world, including the U.S.

Sung-Yoon Lee does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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CDC Now Recommends COVID Testing For All Domestic Air Travel, Including The Vaccinated

CDC Now Recommends COVID Testing For All Domestic Air Travel, Including The Vaccinated

Authored by Jack Phillips via The Epoch Times,

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CDC Now Recommends COVID Testing For All Domestic Air Travel, Including The Vaccinated

Authored by Jack Phillips via The Epoch Times,

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that all domestic travelers undergo COVID-19 testing before and after they travel - regardless of vaccination status.

In an update on the agency’s website, anyone traveling within the United States may want to consider “getting tested as close to the time of departure as possible,” and no more than three days before a flight. It previously only recommended testing for people who have not received COVID-19 vaccines or up-to-date booster shots.

The CDC update is also recommending that people take a test before or after a trip if they went to crowded spaces “while not wearing a well-fitting mask or respirator.”

In April, a Florida federal judge struck down the CDC mandate that required people to wear masks inside airports or on airplanes. Justice Department officials have signaled they will challenge the rule, implemented after President Joe Biden took office in early 2021, in court.

A spokesperson for the agency told AFAR Magazine on May 19 that “COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing severe disease and death,” but added, “since vaccines are not 100 percent effective at preventing infection, some people who are up to date can still get COVID-19.”

“People who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines may feel well and not have symptoms but still can be infected and spread the virus to others,” the spokesperson said.

In January of this year, the CDC also implemented a change to its international travel rule, requiring plane passengers aged 2 and older to show a negative COVID-19 test from no more than a day before boarding a flight or proof of recovery from COVID-19 within the previous 90 days. Foreign nationals have to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination as well.

Neither the CDC nor the White House has given any public indication of when the mandatory testing rule for international travelers will be relaxed. Travel groups have pushed for that rule to be removed for months now.

In a letter to the White House, a group representing more than 250 organizations called for an end to the rule, saying it’s only caused “slow economic recovery of the business and international travel sectors.”

After the federal judge’s order was handed down last month, the CDC issued a new recommendation that people inside airports and airplanes wear masks, despite nearly all major airliners having scrapped enforcement.

And during a news briefing last week, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, who has been criticized for her agency’s messaging during the COVID-19 pandemic, said that people living in counties that the agency deems to have high COVID-19 transmission should wear masks in indoor settings.

Tyler Durden Mon, 05/23/2022 - 17:40

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How many bots are on Twitter? The question is difficult to answer and misses the point

Elon Musk’s focus on the number of bots on Twitter, whether genuine or a distraction, does little to address the problems of misinformation and spam….

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Yes, worry about Twitter, but don't worry whether there are hordes of spambots running rampant there. gremlin/E+ via Getty Images

Twitter reports that fewer than 5% of accounts are fakes or spammers, commonly referred to as “bots.” Since his offer to buy Twitter was accepted, Elon Musk has repeatedly questioned these estimates, even dismissing Chief Executive Officer Parag Agrawal’s public response.

Later, Musk put the deal on hold and demanded more proof.

So why are people arguing about the percentage of bot accounts on Twitter?

As the creators of Botometer, a widely used bot detection tool, our group at the Indiana University Observatory on Social Media has been studying inauthentic accounts and manipulation on social media for over a decade. We brought the concept of the “social bot” to the foreground and first estimated their prevalence on Twitter in 2017.

Based on our knowledge and experience, we believe that estimating the percentage of bots on Twitter has become a very difficult task, and debating the accuracy of the estimate might be missing the point. Here is why.

What, exactly, is a bot?

To measure the prevalence of problematic accounts on Twitter, a clear definition of the targets is necessary. Common terms such as “fake accounts,” “spam accounts” and “bots” are used interchangeably, but they have different meanings. Fake or false accounts are those that impersonate people. Accounts that mass-produce unsolicited promotional content are defined as spammers. Bots, on the other hand, are accounts controlled in part by software; they may post content or carry out simple interactions, like retweeting, automatically.

These types of accounts often overlap. For instance, you can create a bot that impersonates a human to post spam automatically. Such an account is simultaneously a bot, a spammer and a fake. But not every fake account is a bot or a spammer, and vice versa. Coming up with an estimate without a clear definition only yields misleading results.

Defining and distinguishing account types can also inform proper interventions. Fake and spam accounts degrade the online environment and violate platform policy. Malicious bots are used to spread misinformation, inflate popularity, exacerbate conflict through negative and inflammatory content, manipulate opinions, influence elections, conduct financial fraud and disrupt communication. However, some bots can be harmless or even useful, for example by helping disseminate news, delivering disaster alerts and conducting research.

Simply banning all bots is not in the best interest of social media users.

For simplicity, researchers use the term “inauthentic accounts” to refer to the collection of fake accounts, spammers and malicious bots. This is also the definition Twitter appears to be using. However, it is unclear what Musk has in mind.

Hard to count

Even when a consensus is reached on a definition, there are still technical challenges to estimating prevalence.

a network graph showing a circle composed of groups of colored dots with lines connecting some of the dots
Networks of coordinated accounts spreading COVID-19 information from low-credibility sources on Twitter in 2020. Pik-Mai Hui

External researchers do not have access to the same data as Twitter, such as IP addresses and phone numbers. This hinders the public’s ability to identify inauthentic accounts. But even Twitter acknowledges that the actual number of inauthentic accounts could be higher than it has estimated, because detection is challenging.

Inauthentic accounts evolve and develop new tactics to evade detection. For example, some fake accounts use AI-generated faces as their profiles. These faces can be indistinguishable from real ones, even to humans. Identifying such accounts is hard and requires new technologies.

Another difficulty is posed by coordinated accounts that appear to be normal individually but act so similarly to each other that they are almost certainly controlled by a single entity. Yet they are like needles in the haystack of hundreds of millions of daily tweets.

Finally, inauthentic accounts can evade detection by techniques like swapping handles or automatically posting and deleting large volumes of content.

The distinction between inauthentic and genuine accounts gets more and more blurry. Accounts can be hacked, bought or rented, and some users “donate” their credentials to organizations who post on their behalf. As a result, so-called “cyborg” accounts are controlled by both algorithms and humans. Similarly, spammers sometimes post legitimate content to obscure their activity.

We have observed a broad spectrum of behaviors mixing the characteristics of bots and people. Estimating the prevalence of inauthentic accounts requires applying a simplistic binary classification: authentic or inauthentic account. No matter where the line is drawn, mistakes are inevitable.

Missing the big picture

The focus of the recent debate on estimating the number of Twitter bots oversimplifies the issue and misses the point of quantifying the harm of online abuse and manipulation by inauthentic accounts.

screenshot of a web form
Screenshot of the BotAmp application comparing likely bot activity around two topics on Twitter. Kaicheng Yang

Through BotAmp, a new tool from the Botometer family that anyone with a Twitter account can use, we have found that the presence of automated activity is not evenly distributed. For instance, the discussion about cryptocurrencies tends to show more bot activity than the discussion about cats. Therefore, whether the overall prevalence is 5% or 20% makes little difference to individual users; their experiences with these accounts depend on whom they follow and the topics they care about.

Recent evidence suggests that inauthentic accounts might not be the only culprits responsible for the spread of misinformation, hate speech, polarization and radicalization. These issues typically involve many human users. For instance, our analysis shows that misinformation about COVID-19 was disseminated overtly on both Twitter and Facebook by verified, high-profile accounts.

Even if it were possible to precisely estimate the prevalence of inauthentic accounts, this would do little to solve these problems. A meaningful first step would be to acknowledge the complex nature of these issues. This will help social media platforms and policymakers develop meaningful responses.

Filippo Menczer receives funding from Knight Foundation, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Open Technology Fund, and DoD. He owns a Tesla.

Kai-Cheng Yang does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Monkeypox Outbreak Primarily Spreading Via Sexual Contact: WHO Officials

Monkeypox Outbreak Primarily Spreading Via Sexual Contact: WHO Officials

Authored by Jack Phillips via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

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Monkeypox Outbreak Primarily Spreading Via Sexual Contact: WHO Officials

Authored by Jack Phillips via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

The recent outbreak of the monkeypox virus in North America and Europe is primarily spreading through sex, according to World Health Organization (WHO) officials on Monday, while confirming about 200 cases so far.

The virus itself is not a sexually transmitted infection, but WHO officials said the recent surge in cases is linked to homosexual men. However, they said that anyone can contract monkeypox, which is generally confined to Central and West Africa.

“We’ve seen a few cases in Europe over the last five years, just in travelers, but this is the first time we’re seeing cases across many countries at the same time in people who have not traveled to the endemic regions in Africa,” Dr. Rosamund Lewis, who runs WHO’s smallpox research, said in a streaming event on social media.

So far, the United States has confirmed at least two cases and a third suspected case is being investigated by officials in Florida. The cases have been reported in New York City and Massachusetts.

Many diseases can be spread through sexual contact. You could get a cough or a cold through sexual contact, but it doesn’t mean that it’s a sexually transmitted disease,” Andy Seale, who advises WHO on HIV, hepatitis, and other sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs. Seale said monkeypox isn’t considered an STD.

Meanwhile, Dr. David Heymann, who chaired a meeting of the World Health Organization’s advisory group on infectious disease, told The Associated Press that the leading theory to explain the spread of the disease was sexual transmission at events held in Spain and Belgium. Monkeypox has not previously triggered widespread outbreaks beyond Africa, where it is endemic in animals.

We know monkeypox can spread when there is close contact with the lesions of someone who is infected, and it looks like sexual contact has now amplified that transmission,” said Heymann.

“It’s very possible there was somebody who got infected, developed lesions … and then spread it to others when there was sexual or close, physical contact,” Heymann said, adding that “these international events … seeded the outbreak around the world, into the U.S., and other European countries.

*  *  *

[ZH: as Michael Snyder notes, however]

Of course sexual activity is not the only way that monkeypox can be spread.

Officials at the WHO need to make that very clear.

But so far authorities have identified two “superspreader events” which seem to have been catalysts for this global outbreak. 

One was a pride festival in the Canary Islands

The Canaria Pride festival, held in the town of Maspalomas between May 5 and 15, has become a hotspot for the monkeypox outbreak, reports El País.

The massive party was attended by over 80,000 people, including three Italian men who later tested positive for the virus.

A health source told the newspaper: “Among the 30 or so diagnosed in Madrid, there are several who attended the event, although it is not yet possible to know if one of them is patient zero of this outbreak or if they all got infected there.”

And the other was a fetish festival in Antwerp, Belgium

Many of the patients who have come forward so far are gay men and Belgium’s three confirmed cases of monkeypox have been linked to a large-scale fetish festival in the port city of Antwerp. Kuipers said in his briefing that while a notable number of men who have sex with men are among the patients the virus is ‘not confined to them’. The virus can be spread via mucus membranes in the mouth, nose and eyes or via open wounds.

As we move into the summer months, the WHO is warning that similar events could cause the outbreak to accelerate even more

Now the World Health Organization is warning that summer festivals and mass gatherings could accelerate the spread of monkeypox.

“As we enter the summer season in the European region, with mass gatherings, festivals and parties, I am concerned that transmission could accelerate, as the cases currently being detected are among those engaging in sexual activity, and the symptoms are unfamiliar to many,” said Dr Hans Kluge, WHO regional director for Europe.

But even if health authorities do a great job of explaining the dangers, will people avoid engaging in high risk activities?

Of course not.

Another very interesting thing that has come to light is the fact that an international biosecurity conference that was held in Munich in March 2021 actually simulated the type of scenario that we are facing now

Elite media outlets around the world are on red alert over the world’s first-ever global outbreak of Monkeypox in mid-May 2022—just one year after an international biosecurity conference in Munich held a simulation of a “global pandemic involving an unusual strain of Monkeypox” beginning in mid-May 2022.

*  *  *

Last week, officials in Belgium said they would implement a mandatory, 21-day quarantine for individuals who contracted monkeypox. Germany has four confirmed cases linked to exposure at “party events … where sexual activity took place” in Spain’s Canary Islands and in Berlin, according to a government report to lawmakers obtained by the AP.

This is not COVID,” Heymann told AP. “We need to slow it down, but it does not spread in the air and we have vaccines to protect against it.

Heymann said studies should be conducted rapidly to determine if monkeypox could be spread by people without symptoms and that populations at risk of the disease should take precautions to protect themselves.

Symptoms include fever, body aches, and rashes. Though related to the smallpox virus, symptoms are typically less severe for monkeypox. The latter is notably distinguished from smallpox by the appearance of swollen lymph nodes during the symptomatic phase of the virus, immediately preceding a swollen rash that spreads to the inside of the mouth and the hands and feet.

Tyler Durden Mon, 05/23/2022 - 16:20

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