What’s up with North Korea’s Kim? – National & International News – THU 15Apr2021

Officer in Wright shooting due in court. 100 firms oppose vote restrictions. US sanctions Russia, expels diplomats. What’s up with N Korea’s Kim?


Officer in Wright shooting due in court

Kim Potter, the 26-year police veteran who fatally shot Daunte Wright, 20, during a traffic stop, is due to make her first court appearance today. Potter has been charged with 2nd degree manslaughter in Wright’s death. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Potter is free pending trial after posting $100,000 bail.

Earlier this week, Potter and Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon both resigned their positions following the outcry over Wright’s death. Before resigning, Gannon stated his opinion that Potter had mistaken her gun for her Tazer, calling Wright’s death a tragic accident. Such mix-ups are rare, with 16 such incidents having been recorded nationwide in the last 10 years.

This explanation has not satisfied many in Minneapolis. Many, including Wright’s family, dismiss this explanation entirely. Others see even Tazing a person during a routine traffic stop as a manifestation of racial bias by police. Traffic stops can be surprisingly stressful for police, as many officers have been killed over the years during routine stops. Nevertheless, experts say this does not excuse Potter’s actions.

Law enforcement experts offer several explanations for the deadly mishap, including poor training practices. For example, police officers typically spend many more hours training with their lethal weapons than with their non-lethal weapons. As a consequence, muscle memory makes it more likely they will reach for their guns in stressful situations rather than any of the numerous non-lethal tools at their disposal.

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More than 100 companies sign pledge to oppose voting restrictions

This week, hundreds of CEOs, investors and other leaders in various industries took part in a Zoom call to discuss a united response to restrictive voting laws. During the call, participants stated their belief that the laws under consideration in several states were designed to disenfranchise voters of color and other marginalized groups. Proponents of the bills say they are necessary to preserve their states’ electoral integrity, citing largely debunked claims made by Donald Trump.

Following the meeting, 100 business leaders from major companies such as Apple, Amazon, Ford and General Motors took out a two-page ad in the New York Times. The ad states the companies’ opposition to voter restrictions but is fairly non-specific as to how they intend to oppose the laws. However, if any or all of these companies choose to act, they have plenty of leverage. For example, they could suspend campaign contributions to politicians or parties they hold responsible. The firms could also delay investment in any states that sign such bills into law.

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US sanctions Russia, expels diplomats

The White House has announced new sanctions against Russia, as well as the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats. The sanctions relate to accusations of Kremlin interference in last year’s elections as well as the SolarWinds hack. This is the first time Washington has explicitly blamed the SolarWinds hack on Russian intelligence.

The announcement of the sanctions coincide with a build-up of Russian troops near Crimea in Ukraine. At least one Ukrainian soldier has been killed in recent skirmishes there. The US and NATO have pledged to support the Ukraine in the event of all-out hostilities.

US-Russian tensions have steadily increased in recent months, with Biden calling Russian President Putin “a killer” and that the days of the US “rolling over” to Putin were over. However, the two leaders have spoken on the phone in an attempt at de-escalation, and there has even been talk of a summit for that purpose.

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What’s up with N Korea’s Kim?

Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued a dire warning to his people of hard times ahead. The Hermit Kingdom has suffered several crises in the past year, including disastrous flooding. The country has also cut ties with China, its only economic lifeline, due to panic over the COVID-19 pandemic. Kim’s statement was alarming, not only for his home audience but for the international community. He said the country faced its “worst-ever situation”. He further compared the troubles ahead to the “Arduous March” of the 1990s. During that crisis, an estimated 3 million North Koreans died of famine.

Compare this to an unusual speech by Kim in January at a rare national National Worker’s Party conference. In the speech, an emotional Kim admitted to political and personal failings, expressing that he and his advisers had let his people down. Add to this a similar display at a military parade in October. These speeches have raised eyebrows globally. In North Korea, Kim and his predecessors enjoy god-like status, with a propaganda machine perpetually churning out evidence of their infallibility.

But wait, there’s more…

Just to add another wrinkle, Alexander Matsegora, Russian envoy to North Korea, said this week that he saw no evidence of famine in North Korea. Matsegora said he was unsure why Kim had evoked the “Arduous March”, but said that the current situation in North Korea was in no way comparable to that period. Matsegora acknowledged that the situation in the country was difficult, citing in particular shortages of medical supplies. But, Matsegora said, “The most important thing is that there is no famine in the country today”. “Thank god,” Matsegora continued, “it is a long shot from the Arduous March, and I hope it would never come to that. I remember well what happened here in the late 1990s and I can compare”.

Matsegora said that while imports had disappeared from shops, domestic products were still widely available and that prices had only risen modestly. For example, while there’s no coffee to be had, practically anyone can get “a mug of very decent local tea”.

It’s difficult at the best of times for the outside world to get a grip on what’s happening in North Korea, and with Kim in particular. Has he lost the plot, or is this part of a careful political play? Kim’s recent doom-and-gloom statements are certainly food for thought, especially given Matsegora’s comments.

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