Defectors have confirmed to Daily NK that while some hydro-electric power stations continue to function, most small and medium-sized stations remain shuttered, full of decrepit machinery.
Pyongyang and other areas that idolize the ruling Kim family are given first priority in the distribution of the limited power available in the North, meaning that those far from the center of power have no choice but to continue on with their lives in the dark....
First priority for power distribution is given to buildings and zones that idolize the Kim family. Next in line is the military, powerful national organizations and public agencies. Pyongyang also receives more electricity than the rest of the country, as befitting its status as the "Capital of the Revolution."
In contrast, those who reside in areas like Yangkang and North Hamkyung Province receive barely any power at all. Defectors report that days when the lights come on are few and far between, and creative methods have been conjured up to overcome the perennial shortages.
An inside source from Yangkang Province told Daily NK on the 5th; "A small amount of electricity was provided recently during the heightened crackdowns as a way to catch citizens contacting people in the South. Now, though, it's hard to get power even for an hour a day. People either siphon electricity or use car batteries to generate power."
A former employee at a distribution office now living in the South explained, "Powerful cadres get electricity after cajoling the office and installing their own power line. Those with money, too, are paying bribes to the distribution office and there are even monthly payment systems in place. Such people even install electric heaters in their animal pens."
"The cadres siphoning the power at no cost to themselves go to great lengths to prevent light escaping during the night. Some go as far as covering their doors with blankets and placing multiple layers of paper on their windows," the defector went on.
Those continuing to suffer from lack of electricity have come to adopt a number of coping mechanisms. One such method involves secretly connecting a line to a cadre's power supply during the night to avoid detection. During the day the line is either disconnected or buried underground. In some cases, defectors say, a third line is secretly connected to the one stealing power from the original source.
"As such activities grow commonplace, quarrels erupt between people and the security agents have been able to punish the perpetrators accordingly. People are unhappy that the power only goes to buildings that deify the Kim clan, and some even say things like, 'We live like dogs. We can't use electricity even though we are living and breathing, but ridiculous structures [statues of the leaders] are able to be seen every night," said the defector.
Photographer Daniel Kukla in Southern California’s Joshua Tree National Park:
All done with mirrors - or, in the photographer's words:
While staying in the Park, I spent much of my time visiting the borderlands of the park and the areas where the low Sonoran desert meets the high Mojave desert. While hiking and driving, I caught glimpses of the border space created by the meeting of distinct ecosystems in juxtaposition, referred to as the Edge Effect in the ecological sciences. To document this unique confluence of terrains, I hiked out a large mirror and painter’s easel into the wilderness and captured opposing elements within the environment. Using a single visual plane, this series of images unifies the play of temporal phenomena, contrasts of color and texture, and natural interactions of the environment itself.
At Bromley-by-Bow next to the Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach:
With the ubiquitous Sweet Toof, who I see now has his very own Wikipedia entry - including this helpful analysis of the tooth (or "toof") imagery:
According to an account by Olly Beck, Sweet Toof looked at himself in a looking glass "in crisis after a messy break-up", with the enlarged and distorted imagery of the "crescents of teeth", the "visible part of our skeletal frame" as a reminder of mortality. Beck relates Sweet Toof's concerns and imagery with the 16th Century Northern European "Vanitas" tradition of reminding of the transience and vanity of life, and to the Mexican celebration of skull imagery to accepting, honouring and celebrating death as part of the life trip.
Sweet Toof's own comments seem to uphold this interpretation, in which the artist comments, "To get one's teeth into things, before it's too late." Elsewhere he notes, "Teeth can be really sexy, or aggressive, but they're also constant reminders of death. They're how we get recognised by police when there's nothing else left."
So there you go. And here on a building scheduled for demolition, no less. Wow, that....that resonates, man.
From an upcoming exhibition of photographer CA Mathew:
The collection was discovered a few years back packed into a cardboard box in the archives of the Bishopsgate Institute, where they'd languished unseen for at least 60 years.
Australian missionary John Short may have been released after his arrest last month, but otherwise the North Koreans continue to live up to their reputation as the worst country in the world for Christians - against, it has to be said, some stiff opposition. South Korean Baptist Kim Jung-wook was arrested last October, according to the North Korean authorities, for "illegally sneaking into Pyongyang with Christian instructional materials and porn movies", and has since appeared on TV apologising for his anti-state crimes. He told a press conference last week that he was attempting to overthrow the DPRK regime, and had received assistance from South Korea's intelligence agency.
The authorities, apparently, are keen to play this up, as Kim Jong-un looks for more reasons to clamp down on any signs of dissidence:
North Koreans who converted to Christianity or received money from a South Korean missionary apparently face execution. A source said Sunday 33 North Koreans will be executed in a secret cell at the State Security Department on charges of attempting to overthrow the regime by receiving money to set up 500 underground churches.
Baptist missionary Kim Jung-wook was arrested in the North last year for allegedly trying to establish underground churches.
Experts believe the North Koreans to be punished more harshly than usual since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered stepped up efforts to prevent the influx of capitalist practices and beliefs and held mass rallies to reinforce the North's "juche" or self-reliance doctrine.
In a press conference on Feb. 27, North Korean authorities aired interviews with five North Koreans who claimed to have met the missionary and received money from him. They said Kim Jung-wook told them that when the regime collapses, a church must be built on the spot in Pyongyang where a statue of nation founder Kim Il-sung stands.
They also said that they received money from South Korean agents.
But many believe the regime orchestrated all this on purpose as part of its campaign to ferret out underground churches. A source in China said Kim Jung-wook "did not enter North Korea voluntarily but was kidnapped by North Korean agents in Dandong."
North Korea paraded Kim at the press conference to publicize its claim that underground churches are sedition cells funded by South Korea's National Intelligence Service.
One member of a missionary group said, "There are hundreds of underground churches across North Korea. North Koreans who have lost hope in their future are attracted to religion and superstitious practices" looking for an alternative to the "juche" ideology.
The Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University surveyed 200 North Korean defectors in 2013 and found that a growing number of North Koreans are disillusioned with the "juche" doctrine.
Pyongyang is bolstering propaganda efforts. It recently raised the number of reporters for the official Rodong Sinmun daily from 100 to 300 and started construction of a new building for the daily.
A widening gap between the rich and poor since Kim Jong-un came to power has exacerbated the sense of hopelessness felt by many North Koreans. Kim and high-ranking members of the Workers Party live in high-rise apartments in Pyongyang that have a steady supply of electricity and hot water, enjoy their weekends at newly-built amusement parks, equestrian grounds in the capital and a ski resort in Masikryong in Wonsan. But the vast majority of North Koreans have apparently sunk into absolute poverty due to the prolonged economic slump, breakdown in state supplies of rations and rampant corruption.
Many North Koreans have side jobs to supplement their meager incomes, but most of them have to bribe officials and barely eke out a living. Some find work as maids and construction workers, but others have become homeless.
Peter Neumann, Professor at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, King’s College London, quoted at the Freethinker on the subject of Western converts to Islam - who, apparently, are over-represented among jihadists:
Those who were born into Islam may be ignorant of their religion and its actual teachings, therefore they are Muslims who are most likely to interpret Islam in a peaceful way. However, many converts to Islam are more zealous; learning as much about their new found faith as they can. When they do that, the only conclusion that they can draw is that Islam’s deity endorses terrorism and rewards terrorists.
If someone is involved in crime and terrorism and they had converted to a certain faith system, it is almost always Islam that the person converted to. The hate for non-Muslims found in Islam is quickly picked up by them. As a result, these converts often turn to the practice or support of terrorism and violence; often showing hatred for their own family, country, and former way of life.
For Walter Russell Mead, Ukraine is yet another blow for Obama's foreign policy - and in particular for his attempts to negotiate nuclear non-proliferation:
Here’s the rub. When Ukraine escaped from the Soviet Union in 1990, Soviet nukes from the Cold War were still stationed on Ukrainian territory. After a lot of negotiation, Ukraine agreed to return those nuclear weapons to Russia in exchange for what (perhaps naively) its leaders at the time thought would be solid security guarantees from the United States and the United Kingdom. The “Budapest Memorandum” as this agreement is called, does not in fact require the United States to do very much. We can leave Ukraine twisting in the wind without breaking our limited formal obligations under the pact.
If President Obama does this, however, and Ukraine ends up losing chunks of territory to Russia, it is pretty much the end of a rational case for non-proliferation in many countries around the world. If Ukraine still had its nukes, it would probably still have Crimea. It gave up its nukes, got worthless paper guarantees, and also got an invasion from a more powerful and nuclear neighbor.
The choice here could not be more stark. Keep your nukes and keep your land. Give up your nukes and get raped. This will be the second time that Obama administration policy has taught the rest of the world that nuclear weapons are important things to have. The Great Loon of Libya gave up his nuclear program and the west, as other leaders see it, came in and wasted him.
It is almost unimaginable after these two powerful demonstrations of the importance of nuclear weapons that a country like Iran will give up its nuclear ambitions. Its heavily armed, Shiite-persecuting neighbor Pakistan has a hefty nuclear arsenal and Pakistan’s links with Iran’s nemesis and arch-rival Saudi Arabia grow closer with every passing day. What piece of paper could Obama possibly sign—especially given that his successor is almost certainly going to be more hawkish—that would replace the security that Iran can derive from nuclear weapons? North Korea would be foolish not to make the same calculation, and a number of other countries will study Ukraine’s fate and draw the obvious conclusions.
Life - and carnival - goes on:
"A woman, covered in oil and soot wearing bull horns on her head and cowbells on a belt representing the devil, runs around while participating in carnival celebrations in the small village of Luzon, Spain, on March 1, 2014."
Nick Cohen cites Noam Chomsky's example as one reason why so many on the Left refuse to condemn Russia's actions in Crimea (see below, for example). They may, like Chomsky, actually believe that the West are by far the worst offenders when it comes to terrorism and international violence. But in any case they believe their concentration on Western crimes is justified because, living in the West, it's something they can hope to influence by their protests:
Even if, he says, America were responsible for only two per cent of the violence in the world rather than “the majority of it”, he would still concentrate all his criticism on American crimes because as a US citizen he can do something about American policy, but nothing about the crimes of others:
‘The ethical value of one’s actions depends on their anticipated and predictable consequences. It is very easy to denounce the atrocities of someone else. That has about as much ethical value as denouncing atrocities that took place in the 18th century.’
Indeed, the most basic morality is the morality of us against them - we're right, and they're wrong. It's a huge moral leap to be able to view the other side above this level of partisanship, and admit that, yes, possibly, there may be something to their side of the story. The person who's able to look at both sides can, with justification, claim to be operating on a higher moral level than those who simply assume that their side is right because - well, because it's their side.
This sense of moral superiority is, I think, a large part of how the Left sees itself vis a vis the Right. Whereas the jingoistic Right will cheer on our lads as they march off to war against Johnny Foreigner, the more morally sophisticated Left - as they see themselves - will say, hold on here: they may have a point too, you know, these foreigners. We're not necessarily always right. We need to look at this from a higher moral plane - a universal moral plane.
Which is fine - until you assume that by disparaging your side's claim to the moral high ground you're always right: that by automatically assuming your side is wrong and the other side is right, you're thereby showing how much your morality is superior to the morality of the jingoists. Because you'e now making the same mistake as them, but from the other side. Which is where Chomsky and his followers find themselves.
Back to Nick:
Although there is something to be said for the notion that protest, like charity, should begin at home, Chomsky’s argument turns into the left-wing equivalent of the right-wing belief that we should not give aid to poor world. When you rule out concern for the victims of ‘the atrocities someone else’ you prohibit lobbying for Western states to take in the refugees of ‘the atrocities of someone else’. You rule out organising diplomatic pressure, and investigating ‘the atrocities of someone else,’ and prosecutions in the international criminal court, and sanctions. In short, Chomsky rules out the idea of solidarity.
When solidarity goes, all kinds of contortions become possible. The worst elements of the Western left opposed Saddam Hussein, and wept hot tears for his victims. But when Saddam stopped being America’s de facto ally his crimes became “the atrocities of someone else,’ which they dismissed with a shrug. If Western governments were supporting Assad as a bulwark against radical Islam, the left would be marching against Baathist crimes. Equally, if NATO had intervened after Assad had used chemical weapons the left would also be marching – but this time against a ‘western war’.
As events have turned out, the West has done nothing worth mentioning in the Levant, so the mass murder in Syria can be dumped in the file marked ‘the atrocities of someone else,’ and forgotten.
The lack of principle on display shows the breakdown of any coherent far left project. We have seen alliances between western leftists and radical Islamists, even though radical Islam is a vicious movement of the religious right. Now we are seeing left-wing defences of Putin, even though Putin wants to make Russia a bulwark of reactionary politics.
I use the word ‘alliances’ because the indifference to ‘the atrocities of someone else’ Chomsky recommends always slips from neutrality to endorsement...
[As it happens one of the first pieces I ever wrote on this blog was on Chomsky, and how I thought he'd let the methodology of his approach - both in linguistics and in his poltical writing - influence his findings. I think it's relevant to what's being argued here. The methodology, to concentrate solely on Western crimes, comes to determine the conclusion: that there are only Western crimes.]
The crisis in Ukraine is being driven by a hysterical West....the threat to kick Russia out of the G8 is "dangerous escalation"....it's really all about the West's determination to force Ukraine to join NATO....the forces behind the Kiev insurrection are "anti-Russian ultra-nationalists"....at the back of Pentagon minds "is the dream that a US navy will one day replace the Russian Black Sea fleet in the Crimean ports of Sevastopol and Balaclava"...the Russian invasion of Crimea, while of "questionable legality", is considerable less questionable than the US-led invasions of Iraq or Afghanistan...
The Moscow Times? No, it's the Guardian, of course. Jonathan Steele, in fact.
Read it and weep for the state of the Left.
The streets of republican Belfast during the Troubles, shot by photographer Syd Shelton:
All photos © Syd Shelton.
It has been known for years that North Korea is a totalitarian hellhole ruled by megalomaniacs who have turned the country into a vast concentration camp. Millions of North Koreans have died from starvation caused by their government's deranged policies; millions more have been victimized by its fanatic efforts to repress any hint of independent thought, and by its merciless assaults on human dignity. But the report issued by the UN panel this month, after a year-long investigation that gathered evidence from more than 320 victims and witnesses, paints such an extensive and meticulous portrait of evil that it compares in significance, as the Washington Post observed, to Alexander Solzhenitsyn's devastating history of the Soviet labor camps, The Gulag Archipelago.
The UN inquiry, headed by former Australian Supreme Court Justice Michael Kirby, concluded that "the gravity, scale, and nature" of North Korea's enormities are without parallel anywhere today. Of course there is no shortage of human-rights-abusing dictatorships, not in a world that contains the likes of Syria, China, Pakistan, and Iran. But as Kirby's commission documents, North Korea's savageries are not "mere excesses of the state." They go the essence of an ideological system that the world has tolerated for more than half a century. And the horrors that system has spawned are comprehensive in their scope:
"These crimes against humanity," the report concludes, "entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation."...
What will it take to make North Korea's human-rights atrocities a matter of urgency for the free world? The country's horrendous concentration camps, where innocent victims by the hundreds of thousands have been starved, tortured, and worked to death, have lasted twice as long as the Soviet gulag did, and 12 times as long as the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison, and people the world over rallied for his freedom. In the 1980s, anti-apartheid protesters maintained a non-stop vigil, 24/7, outside South Africa's embassy in London, refusing to leave until Mandela was released. Who rallies for the freedom of North Korea's martyrs? Where are the non-stop vigils for them?
I recently cited a Times piece on the suggestion by some academics that creationism should be discussed in science lessons, to avoid alienating those of strong religious faith. Now in today's Sunday Times (£) we learn that some exam boards are happy to compromise with faith schools so that their "religious beliefs can be respected":
Exam boards have been accused of colluding with faith schools to “censor” exam papers that contain questions on evolution and human reproduction.
The boards are said to be “accommodating creationism in the classroom” by working with schools that want to remove questions in GCSE papers that conflict with their religious beliefs.
One of England’s most respected exam boards, OCR, has a policy of reaching agreement with faith schools about removing such questions. Papers obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show the board believes it is important to respect the schools’ need to do this “in view of their religious beliefs”.
The move has been condemned by key figures in the education world who accuse the board of helping to deny children the right to take part fully in exams and learn the full curriculum.
The policy emerged after an ultra-orthodox Jewish girls’ school in north London was said to have redacted a question in a GCSE science paper on evolution because it conflicted with religious teaching.
In a memo last summer Mark Dawe, chief executive of OCR, said such redaction had “significantly wider implications and could apply to other faith schools”.
He said the exam board wanted to reach an agreement with schools about how unwanted questions should be dealt with “by stipulating how, when and where the redactions take place . . . but at the same time respect their need to do this in view of their religious beliefs”.
Why on earth should an exam board be so keen to "respect" religious beliefs when it comes to tampering with the syllabus?
But I suppose that's the logic of faith schools.