How Kim Jong Il Starved North Korea
@ the Atlantic
Agriculture has always been a dicey proposition in North Korea, where the cold, mountainous terrain is short on high-quality farmland. A normal economy could cope by importing food. But during the 1980s, the North Korean government embarked on a policy of radical self-sufficiency known as juche. Farmers were expected to overcome mother nature and grow enough crops to feed the entire population. To do it, they relied on heaps of chemical fertilizer. But that crutch was yanked away in 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed.
The demise of the USSR threw North Korea’s entire economy into chaos, and agriculture was among its most important casualties. Without imports of cheap fuel (self-sufficiency had its limits), the country’s industrial base fractured, and production of fertilizer dwindled. Farm yields plummeted, and the government started a campaign urging citizens to consume less. Its cheery slogan: “Let’s eat only two meals a day.”
It was against this background that the Kim Jong Il took power. The country was at a crossroads, says Marcus Noland, a leading expert on North Korea at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. With the USSR gone, the prospects for a small, isolated, neo-Stalinist regime looked rather grim. The government could have opened up its economy, much like Vietnam did with great success. Instead, North Korea chose to stay frozen in time.
I keep forgetting to ask my South Korean bosses what they think about Kim Jong Il’s death. I’m sure their opinions would be very interesting.
EU bans claim that water can prevent dehydration
@ the UK Telegraph
EU officials concluded that, following a three-year investigation, there was no evidence to prove the previously undisputed fact.
Producers of bottled water are now forbidden by law from making the claim and will face a two-year jail sentence if they defy the edict, which comes into force in the UK next month.
Last night, critics claimed the EU was at odds with both science and common sense. Conservative MEP Roger Helmer said: “This is stupidity writ large.
“The euro is burning, the EU is falling apart and yet here they are: highly-paid, highly-pensioned officials worrying about the obvious qualities of water and trying to deny us the right to say what is patently true.
“If ever there were an episode which demonstrates the folly of the great European project then this is it.”
Ukip MEP Paul Nuttall said the ruling made the “bendy banana law” look “positively sane”.
Seriously: What. The. Frell? I have no words. No words at all.
“So, in closing, there’s only one country in the Middle East where people are free to worship, protest, women are treated equally, and flamboyantly gays aren’t killed. If you guessed that country is Palestine, well, congratulations: you’re a moron.“
President Obama, the ‘Winds of Change,’ and Middle East Peace
by Robert Satloff @ The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
President Obama did a great service in sketching out a new paradigm for U.S. engagement with the Middle East in his State Department “winds of change” speech this afternoon, in which he raised the goal of reform and democracy to a top-tier U.S. interest. Nevertheless, after critiquing Arab regimes that have used the Arab-Israeli conflict to distract their peoples from the important business of reform, he undermined the potency and effect of his own message by unveiling a new — and controversial — set of principles guiding U.S. efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Specifically, the peace process principles he articulated constitute a major departure from long-standing U.S. policy. Not only did President Obama’s statement make no mention of the democracy-based benchmarks injected into this process by President Bush in his June 2002 Rose Garden speech (which might have been appropriate, given the overall theme of his speech), he even included significant departures from the “Clinton Parameters” presented to the parties by the then president in December 2000…
Correct me if I’m wrong, but it does seem like our president is throwing another ally under the proverbial bus.
While the death of Osama bin Laden is definitely something to celebrate – God bless our troops! – I think we have to be careful not to declare this the “End of the War on Terror.” There are still plenty of bad guys out there who need to be stopped; radical Islamism is still a genuine threat to the USA and to Western civilization. We cannot let our momentary – though well-deserved – patriotic glee detract from our resolve or our vigilance. Our message to Osama’s supporters should remain loud and clear:
Apparently, we’ve finally killed bin Laden. There’s only one thing I can think of to do in response:
ETA on May 2:
And now I hear this morning that the Navy deserves the credit. Woot!
Islamist Group Is Rising Force in a New Egypt
by Michael Slackman @ the New York Times
CAIRO — In post-revolutionary Egypt, where hope and confusion collide in the daily struggle to build a new nation, religion has emerged as a powerful political force, following an uprising that was based on secular ideals. The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group once banned by the state, is at the forefront, transformed into a tacit partner with the military government that many fear will thwart fundamental changes.
It is also clear that the young, educated secular activists who initially propelled the nonideological revolution are no longer the driving political force — at least not at the moment.
At the Times, of course, reporters still hold out hope that the Muslim Brotherhood will help usher in a tolerant, pluralistic democracy. The rest of us know better, though. We may indeed end up with a “one person, one vote, one time” scenario when all is said and done.
Here are some facts regarding Fukushima, as soberly reported by Popular Mechanics. In a nutshell: Yes, this is a serious situation. No, we don’t know exactly how serious.
I expect that nuclear engineers the world over will be pouring over the incident reports from Japan so they can figure out what went wrong (besides the obvious, of course) and devise new and improved safeguards. Should we allow Fukushima to deter us from incorporating nuclear power into our plans for U.S. energy independence? Even Obama is smart enough to say no — at least for the moment.
Full text: David Cameron’s Munich speech on segregation, radicalisation and Islamic extremism
In the UK, some young men find it hard to identify with the traditional Islam practised at home by their parents whose customs can seem staid when transplanted to modern Western countries.
But they also find it hard to identify with Britain too, because we have allowed the weakening of our collective identity.
Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream.
We have failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong.
We have even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values.
So when a white person holds objectionable views – racism, for example – we rightly condemn them.
But when equally unacceptable views or practices have come from someone who isn’t white, we’ve been too cautious, frankly even fearful, to stand up to them.
The failure of some to confront the horrors of forced marriage – the practice where some young girls are bullied and sometimes taken abroad to marry someone they don’t want to – is a case in point.
This hands-off tolerance has only served to reinforce the sense that not enough is shared.
All this leaves some young Muslims feeling rootless.
And the search for something to belong to and believe in can lead them to this extremist ideology.
Read the whole speech. Despite his insistence that Islam and Islamism are not equivalent, the British left will surely rake Cameron over the coals for this. And that’s a shame, because he is absolutely, 100% correct.