On Monday, June 23rd - the Wild Boar youth soccer team and their coach left their bikes chained at the entrance to the Tham Luang Nang Non in northern Thailand and ventured forth in what they expected to be a two(ish) hour adventure. But the cave flash flooded and the 12 young players and their coach vanished.

Nine days later rescuers from Thailand, China and Australia found them. Other than minor scrapes, miraculously, all 13 of them were safe. Here is the first video of rescuers reaching the boys. The boys didn’t have any food and were in complete darkness but stayed alive by drinking pooled rainwater.

Finding them was step one but rescuing them, it appears, is going to be a daunting task. The boys are estimated to be trapped about 2 kilometer into the cave and approx. 1 kilometer underground. Rescuers are trying to figure out the best way to get them through a labyrinthine series of flooded caves linked together by narrow passageways with zero visibility for most of the swim.  

Thai Navy seals have even drained 120 million liters of water out of the caves in order to keep the water levels down to help the rescue. It appears as if rescuers have no great option in how to get the boys out. Some believe that the boys should be trained in underwater cave swimming, which is no easy feat. CNN spoke with Anmar Mirza, of the US National Cave Rescue Commission recently in this interview. From the interview:

"Cave diving is incredibly dangerous for people who are very experienced doing it. And now you're looking at taking people who have no experience or very little experience with diving, and putting them into a complete blackout situation, where they have to rely on a regulator and the tanks with them to breathe.”

Some believe that the boys should continue to be supplied until the rain season is over and the water levels drop and then rescued - something that could take four months.

For now Thai Navy SEALS, a doctor and a nurse are down with the boys. A communication director from the Navy told reporters:

"We have now given food to the boys, starting with the food which is easy to digest and provide high energy. Minerals are also provided. We have taken care of those boys following the doctor's recommendations, so do not worry. We will take care of them the best we can. We will bring all of them to safety. We are now planning how to do so.”

And just today, July 6th, the rescue operation has claimed it's first life, Saman Gunan, a former Thai navy diver tragically died while delivering air tanks down to the boys. This further illustrates how difficult it will be to get untrained divers, all kids mind you, out of the caves. And with monsoon season approaching, rescue workers don't really know how much time they have before the entire caves flood. A 3 mile oxygen line is now being rushed in along with power and phone cables.

Great news! On July 10th it has been reported via multiple sources that all 12 of the boys and their coach has been rescued. Fearing that the monsoon season would flood the rest of the caves rescuers had no choice but to move forward with a rescue operation. It took thousands of people rescuers more than a week to get them out safely. Here is the first video of the boys' rescue.

All of the boys and their coach have lost weight but are in pretty good shape. One of them has a lung infection but it sounds as if treatment is working well for him. The boys will be in quarantine for about 30 days to protect them from other people. Their immune systems have been weakened and doctors are taking no chances. It sounds as if they are all on the road to a full physical recovery.

 

UPDATED: July 11th. 

 UPDATED: July 10th. 

 UPDATED: July 6th 10:00 am. 

Published in World

In late Sept. 2017, North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un called the United States President a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard" in response to insults hurled by Donald Trump during his first speech to the United Nations. Trump called the North Korean dictator a “madman” on a “suicide mission” and that the U.S. would “totally destroy” North Korea if it or its allies were attacked.

Mighty Trump Says “Might” be Open to Talk

The dick measuring continued, with Trump basically saying “mine’s bigger than yours” in a tweet on Jan. 2. He was referring to the size and power of his nuclear launch button after Kim bragged that the United States was within range of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and he had a nuclear launch button on his desk. Eight days later, the White House released a statement announcing the Trump Administration might be open to holding talks with North Korea. It was an obvious attempt to reign in the war rhetoric so everyone could enjoy the Winter Olympics in Seoul, South Korea without worrying about a nuclear attack, but it was more than welcome given the threats of nuclear war made by both bullies with no regard for anyone else on this playground called Earth.

Trump’s official White House statement was hardly responsible for Kim and Trump planning to meet within a month. The statement put much of the worried world at ease despite Trump committing to nothing at all. Considering U.S./North Korea relations consisted of name calling and threatening nuclear war seven months ago and dick measuring four months ago, “might be open to holding talks” sounds really good to a lot of frightened people. So good, in fact, Trump supporters in Michigan chanted for him to win the Nobel Peace Prize. But Trump isn’t even the second-most important player in this nuclear football game. Back in Sept. 2017, when these two “leaders” started threatening each other’s nations with nuclear war, I wrote that Trump’s hands were too small to handle North Korea alone. I was right.

Moon Works His Magic

The hands that could handle Kim, China and the U.S. belong to South Korean President Moon Jae In. Moon threatened Kim, too, but unlike Trump, he didn't tweet or speak a single word. His actions spoke volumes.

In July 2017, North Korea tested a missile that could theoretically reach the U.S. mainland. Moon responded with his own missile test, sending a message that South Korea could take out Kim if attacked. He also ordered the full deployment of the missile-defense system despite China’s concerns. Moon had to convince Chinese President Xi Jinping not to take economic retaliations in response to the deployment of the missile-defense system. Xi acquiesced, and Moon earned the trust of both Trump and Xi in the process.

Moon then went to work playing good cop prior to the Winter Olympics. When Kim announced North Korea’s interest in attending the Winter Olympics in Seoul, Moon agreed to host them despite South Koreans taking issue. Trump and his defense team contemplated a “bloody nose” strike of Pyongyang to punish Kim prior to the Olympics to make him more eager to negotiate peace and denuclearization. But Moon talked them out of it, assuring the U.S. that Kim would not receive any concessions.

Thank the Sanctions

The real reason Kim sought Korean peace and is ready to talk denuclearization is because he can’t import the materials he needs to grow his nuclear arsenal, and his people are growing more and more desperate by the day due to economic sanctions limiting their access to things they need to survive.

South Korean researchers expected United Nations’ sanctions to start giving North Korea “severe economic difficulties” come March. The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved sanctions banning the import of all natural gas liquids and condensates and capped imports of crude oil. For a nation already struggling to keep the lights on in its capital, losing access to more energy sources limits the exports North Korea can produce and transport, too.

China is responsible for 85 percent of North Korea’s imports but has been limiting its exports of crude oil, refined oil products, steel and other metals to the nation since Jan. 6, as the U.N. mandated. Russia, responsible for 2.3 percent of North Korea’s imports, is also adhering to the U.N. sanctions. Putin has to expel roughly 30,000 North Korean migrant workers along with limiting oil and oil products exports and banning textile exports. Both nations have been accused of subverting the sanctions, with Russia allegedly serving as a middle man moving North Korean coal. Allegations against both nations have not yet been substantiated, but North Korea has long subverted sanctions by trading goods at sea rather than on land. Those maritime trades are being stopped more often, though.

Kim knows his people will eventually be desperate enough to revolt and overthrow him, and he certainly doesn’t want to be the last of the Kim regime, nor does he want the nation to fail. Neither do his neighbors. No one knows what would result from a failed North Korea, but both China and Russia fear a unification with South Korea would lead to American military bases along their shared borders with North Korea. That’s a pretty reasonable assumption and something Trump will no doubt demand when he visits North Korea within the month. Regardless of what comes of the denuclearization talks between Trump and Kim, Moon has proven to be most presidential and most deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize if Korean peace is indeed realized after 68 years at war. 


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Published in News & Information

In China, government censors are struggling to keep up with an incident that occurred this week at the National People’s Congress (NPC). Shanghai based reporter, Liang Xiangyi, could not contain her eye rolling disgust at a fellow reporter’s softball question.

As a quick reminder, China is a communist republic. And the state has strict control over what news outlets (and internet outlets) may or may not do or say.

The National People’s Congress is a staged, scripted event where Chinese politician pretend to vote on policy in order to “fool” the world into seeing how democratic they are. The event is carefully choreographed and reporters are specifically selected to ask prepared questions that the delegates can easily answer. Many Chinese are sick to death of state run fakery.

Enter, Zhang Huijun, who works for American Multimedia Television (AMTV), an L.A. based company with ties back to China’s state media. And then, at the NPC, she is called on to ask her question. So, first of all, she is clearly just being called on to make it look as if China is ceding the floor to a “foreign” journalist. So, already - barf! But then, things get a little crazy when delightful Miss Xiangyi, standing right next to Huijun can’t take it any longer.

Liang Xiangyi, can not believe the ridiculously long, softball question posed by Huijun. Seriously, it goes on for forty five second! Which is a ridiculously long time for a live question to linger! (As a note, the carefully scripted response was only half as long as the question). During Huijun’s question, Liang, wearing the blue jacket, looks Huijun up and down like, “Wait! Who the F are you even?” Then, towards the end of Huijun’s tedious and not terribly relevant question, Xiangyi just -  can’t - even. Quickly followed by the epic eye roll, head turn! 

The problem here is that Chinese reporters are required to … well … obey. And Xiangyi’s eye roll was captured live on television to a huge audience. And Chinese censors couldn’t have anyone expressing disgust at their fake parliamentary proceedings. They had to do something!

I mean, God forbid anyone see right through their fakery and express disgust.

Well, Chinese censors went to work to scrub any and all bits of the eye roll, but they had a hard time keeping up. Videos of the epic eye roll were seen and shared by millions. Thousands of memes, GIF’s and parodies flooded China’s internet and Miss Xiangyi was bombarded with online support as many Chinese offered a collective, “Yes, we’re sick of state run lies, too!”

I do not speak Mandarin but the NT Times has a nice piece on the event including a full translation of the question.

But still - that eye roll, man.

Well played!  

 

 

Published in News & Information

Addressing the United Nations for the first time, Donald Trump’s mouth brought the nuclear threat level to its highest point since the Cold War. Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it continues its pursuit of nuclear weaponry capable of attacking American soil and said he wouldn’t hesitate to act alone. He should hesitate, however.

Dictators with Dicks: The Age-old Problem

We’ve known this to be Trump’s stance since the featherweight, dick-measuring contest began between “Tiny Hands” Trump and North Korean dictator “Rocket Man” Kim Jong-un. Trump said Kim was on a suicide mission during his address to the UN, and he’s right. Kim’s life and the life of every North Korean depends on how comfortable Kim is in his own pants, which probably doesn’t leave many North Koreans comfortable.

The whole situation is terrible for North Koreans and has been since their “liberation” from Imperial Japan by the Soviets as a result of World War II. The communist Soviet Union and capitalist U.S. failed to negotiate a future for a united Korea during the Cold War, so Korea remains divided with the two Koreas still technically at war. But there’s no satisfaction for Kim in attacking South Korea -- only a successful attack on American soil will satisfy him.

Given the living conditions of North Koreans, consisting mostly of back-breaking work done despite so few calories consumed, we have a sense of how little Kim values the lives of his people. There is just one thing that concerns a dictator, and that’s the dynastic legacy. Kim has already starved his people to death and likely had his own brother killed, so Kim has played the part of ruthless dictator pretty well as far as Kim standards go. His father would be proud.

But if North Korea wages a devastating attack on the capitalist dogs, the Kim Dynasty and Kim Jong-un will be forever remembered as the rogue nation that got to the Americans. Kim has to decide whether the 160,000 American civilians and 7,000 American military personnel in Guam are worth the lives of roughly 25 million North Koreans. Kim could have attacked Guam yesterday, so it’s unlikely that’s his preferred target. It’s just one Kim can threaten right now.

America’s Options

A preventative attack on Pyongyang won’t necessarily prevent anything at all. If there’s anything we can assume, it’s that Kim has taken extreme measures to protect and preserve his ability to wage war. If America attacks first, Kim will go underground and be even more dangerous.

If the hunt for Osama bin Laden is any indication, Kim Jong-un should be well protected from a nuclear attack on North Korea. If an unorganized, terrorist organization relying on caves and flip phones can protect the most hunted man in the world for a decade, the North Korean military can protect Kim Jong-un for longer, even from a nuclear attack. It will be a bullet or a noose (or old age) that ends Kim Jong-un -- not a bomb.

A covert assassination attempt on Kim could be devastating if it fails. A failed assassination attempt on Kim would surely result in a counterattack by Kim. And if the assassination were successful, the United States would surely install leadership nearly as corrupt as Kim himself. It wouldn’t be the first time nor the last.

The best option for America is to negotiate a deal for the complete disarmament of nuclear weapons globally. This whole idea that having nuclear weapons prevents nuclear attacks is ridiculous and is the entire basis for the Kim Dynasty’s reason for pursuing nuclear weapons.

In the latest collection of interviews entitled Optimism Over Despair: On Capitalism, Empire, and Social Change, Noam Chomsky explains this ridiculousness thusly: “It is quite remarkable to see how little concern top planners show for the prospects of their own destruction...there was no plan, not even a thought, of reaching a treaty agreement that would have banned these weapons, though there is good reason to believe that it might have been feasible. The same attitudes prevail right to the present… (60).”

The only way to assure nuclear attacks won’t occur is to do away with every nuclear weapon in the world, but no country -- especially the United States  -- is considering disarmament at a time like this, even if it should.

This is a moment when Trump and America need a little help from its friends. UN sanctions on North Korean trade won’t be enough to slow the country’s growing weapons collection. Trump even chastised Russia and China for continuing to do business with North Korea. China represents almost 85 percent of all North Korean trade, and 24 percent of Russia’s exports to North Korea are refined petroleum products that fuel the country’s missile and nuclear arms program.

The best thing Trump could do is stop threatening military action and ask China and Russia to stop trading with North Korea. What he’ll have to give up to get those concessions might not be to his liking, but neither is nuclear fallout. So what will it take to convince China and Russia to stop trading with North Korea?

Working with China and Russia

China can’t be guaranteed that they won’t be attacked if they were to cut off just the .18 percent of its imports from and .28 percent of its exports to North Korea. That’s a total of just $5.29 billion in trade for a country that does over a trillion dollars in both imports and exports annually.

China desperately needs American investments in Chinese businesses to increase. Foreign domestic investment in China in 2016 was $170.557 billion -- the lowest it’s been since 2009. Now Trump can’t guarantee more American money will be invested in Chinese businesses if China stops trading with North Korea. Hell, he couldn’t say a bad word about Nazis and saw his entire business advisory councils resign. But he can close a business deal, allegedly, so this is an opportunity for Trump to do what he does best: collect and spend money.

For that $5.29 billion in trade China will have to find elsewhere, Trump should offer a bit of an investment in the country that struggles to attract foreign investors due to its state-controlled economy. There’s enough money in the White House and Congress to do so.

In 2011, the total net worth of the entire U.S. Congress was just under $5 billion, so there’s plenty of money that could be put together as an investment in Chinese businesses in exchange for them crippling North Korean trade. The problem with this option is it makes Kim Jong-un and North Koreans even more desperate and, perhaps, more war-willing.  

Russia holds the key to the end of the North Korean conflict. Losing Russia as a trade partner won’t likely make the lives of North Koreans much worse, but it will slow the military’s “progress” towards a nuclear weapon that can reach American soil.

Russia’s exports to North Korea constitute .025 percent of all of its exports, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s what they export to North Korea that matters. With U.S. sanctions already in place against Russia for many reasons, there’s plenty of negotiating that could be done to get Russia on America’s side against North Korea. Some of those sanctions might even have an adverse effect on the rest of Europe, so there’s much for Vladimir Putin and Trump to discuss besides Russia’s involvement in the 2016 Presidential Election.

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Published in News & Information