Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for December 18th, 2013

An open letter from a North Korean defector to Dennis Rodman

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Very interesting letter by Shin Dong-hyuk, a human rights activist and the only person born in a North Korean labor camp known to have escaped to the West. published in the Washington Post:

Dear Mr. Rodman:

I have never met you, and until you visited North Korea in February I had never heard of you. Now, I know very well that you are a famous, retired American basketball player with many tattoos. I also understand that you are returning this week to North Korea to coach basketball and perhaps visit for the third time with the country’s dictator, Kim Jong Un, who has become your friend.

I want to tell you about myself. I was born in 1982 in Camp 14, a political prison in the mountains of North Korea. For more than 50 years, Kim Jong Un, his father and his grandfather have used prisons like Camp 14 to punish, starve and work to death people the regime decides are a threat. Prisoners are sent to places like Camp 14 without trial and in secret. A prisoner’s “crime” can be his relation by blood to someone the regime believes is a wrongdoer or wrong-thinker. My crime was to be born as the son of a man whose brother fled to South Korea in the 1950s.

You can see satellite pictures of Camp 14 and four other labor camps on your smartphone. At this very moment, people are starving in these camps. Others are being beaten, and someone soon will be publicly executed as a lesson to other prisoners to work hard and obey the rules. I grew up watching these executions, including the hanging of my mother.

On orders of the guards in Camp 14, inmates are forced to marry and create children to be raised by guards to be disposable slaves. Until I escaped in 2005, I was one of those slaves. My body is covered with scars from torture I endured in the camp.

Mr. Rodman, if you want to know more about me, I will send you a book about my life, “Escape From Camp 14.” Along with the stories of many other camp survivors, my story helped persuade the United Nations to create a commission of inquiry that is now investigating human rights atrocities in my country. I was “witness number one.” In the coming year, the commission’s findings may force the U.N. Security Council to decide whether or not to approve a trial in the International Criminal Court of the Kim family and other North Korean officials for crimes against humanity.

I happen to be about the same age as your friend Kim Jong Un. But if you ask him about me, he is likely to refer to me as “human scum.” That is how his state-controlled press refers to me and all other North Koreans who have risked death by fleeing the country. Your friend probably also will deny that Camp 14 exists, which is the official position of his government. If he does, you can show him pictures of it on your phone. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2013 at 3:30 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government

Violent adults don’t become violent, they remain violent

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Very interesting article by David Dobbs in the NY Times:

To understand the violent criminal, says Richard E. Tremblay, imagine a 2-year-old boy doing the things that make the terrible twos terrible — grabbing, kicking, pushing, punching, biting.

Now imagine him doing all this with the body and resources of an 18-year-old.

You have just pictured both a perfectly normal toddler and a typical violent criminal as Dr. Tremblay, a developmental psychologist at University College Dublin in Ireland, sees them — the toddler as a creature who reflexively uses physical aggression to get what he wants; the criminal as the rare person who has never learned to do otherwise.

In other words, dangerous criminals don’t turn violent. They just stay that way.

These findings have been replicated in multiple large studies by several researchers on several continents.

“It’s highly reliable,” said Brad J. Bushman, a psychology professor at Ohio State University and an expert on child violence, who noted that toddlers use physical aggression even more than people in violent youth gangs do. “Thank God toddlers don’t carry weapons.”

The son of a professional football player, Dr. Tremblay played football himself and was fascinated with its regulated version of extreme physical aggression. After college he did social work in a prison and saw firsthand how seldom such programs changed violent criminals. By the time the violent child gets big, it’s often too late.

So he trained his focus earlier and earlier, and learned that the younger the children, the more they whacked each other. With adolescents, physically aggressive acts can be counted in incidents per month; with toddlers, he said, “you count the number per hour.”

In most children, though, this is as bad as it gets. The rate of violence peaks at 24 months, declines steadily through adolescence and plunges in early adulthood. But as Dr. Tremblay and Daniel S. Nagin, a criminologist at Carnegie Mellon University, found in a pivotal 1999 study, a troublesome few do not follow this pattern. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2013 at 2:10 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Ryan-Murray budget deal shows that the two parties cannot compromise

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As Ezra Klein shrewdly points out, the budget deal is what you get if you remove all contentious issues and just go with things you already agree on: no compromise is then necessary. And that’s good, because (still) no compromise seems possible.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2013 at 1:58 pm

Posted in Congress

Irony? or warning?

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Fascinating brief column by Brad Plumer—and scary, too. It’s about how many tracking cookies get planted on your computer at some sites.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2013 at 1:50 pm

Obama Panel Recommends New Limits on N.S.A. Spying

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I would say that this action pretty much justifies what Edward Snowden did. He should get a full pardon and a presidential medal. Basically, Snowden was right, and those who were supposed to provide oversight (Congress) and direction (Obama) failed.

Here’s the story in the NY Times.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2013 at 1:29 pm

FDA desperately needs reform

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In the NY Times Mark Bittman provides an example:

That “good” news you may have read last week about the Food and Drug Administration’s curbing antibiotics in animal feed may not be so good after all. In fact, it appears that the F.D.A. has once again refused to do all it could to protect public health.

For those who missed it, the agency requested (and “requested” is the right word) that the pharmaceutical industry make a labeling change that, the F.D.A. says, will reduce the routine use of antibiotics in animal production. I’d happily be proven wrong, but I don’t think it will. Rather, I think we’re looking at an industry-friendly response to the public health emergency of diseases caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, resistance that is bred in industrially raised animals.

You may know that around 80 percent of antibiotics in the United States are given (fed, mostly) to animals. Why? Because the terrible conditions in which most of our animals are grown foster illness; give them antibiotics and illness is less likely. There is also a belief that “subtherapeutic” doses of antibiotics help animals grow faster. So most “farmers” who raise animals by the tens or hundreds of thousands find it easier to feed them antibiotics than to raise them in ways that allow antibiotics to be reserved for actual illness. (And yes, there are alternatives, even in industrial settings. Denmark raises as many hogs as Iowa and does it with far fewer antibiotics.)

You may also know that this overuse of antibiotics is leading to increasing bacterial resistance, that we’re breeding an army of supergerms. This isn’t theoretical: . . .

Continue reading.

The government is again sticking its head in the sand, just as with climate change, only more so. We know the problem, we know the cause, we know how to fix it. But we do nothing.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2013 at 1:20 pm

Patrick Cockburn: U.S. Turns Blind Eye as Saudis Fund Jihadists in Syrian Conflict

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Odd. I don’t recall reading anything about that in the NY Times. Amy Goodman interviews Patrick Cockburn on Democracy Now! The blurb:

To discuss the role of foreign powers fueling the ongoing conflict in Syria, we are joined by Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for The Independent. “It is clearly a proxy war. This might have started off as a popular uprising in Syria, but by now it has four or five different conflicts wrapped into one,” Cockburn explains. “You have an opposition, but an opposition that is fragmented and really proxies for foreign powers, notably Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey plays a role.” He recently wrote the article, “Mass Murder in the Middle East Is Funded by Our Friends the Saudis: Everyone Knows Where al-Qaida Gets Its Money, But While the Violence is Sectarian, the West Does Nothing.” Reporters Without Borders has just revealed at least 10 journalists and 35 citizen-journalists have been killed in Syria in 2013. In addition, another 49 journalists were abducted in Syria — more than the rest of the world combined. Reporters Without Borders blamed the spike in killings and kidnappings on jihadi groups.

Video and transcript.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 December 2013 at 1:12 pm

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