North Korea: A hole in the fabric of the 21st century

February 25, 2014

Here’s a photograph of one of the greatest, and longest-running tragedies of our time.

No, that’s not a stretch of water in the red circle.  That’s North Korea, at night, blacked out by a lack of electrical lights.

Tweetpic from the Washington Post: North Korea looks like a sea of misery in this photo from space http://wapo.st/1c1B84q  via @KnowMoreWP pic.twitter.com/nB3g8fa63Q

Tweetpic from the Washington Post: North Korea looks like a sea of misery in this photo from space http://wapo.st/1c1B84q via @KnowMoreWP pic.twitter.com/nB3g8fa63Q

It’s a photo from the International Space Station taken in January.

The KnowMore blog from the Post describes the tragedy, and points to even more disturbing stories:

North Korea appears as nothing more than a shadow in the above photograph, taken at night aboard the International Space Station last month. South Korea’s eastern coastline is indistinguishable from the demilitarized zone along the border with the North, as though the Sea of Japan flowed into the Yellow Sea and Pyongyang were an island in a strait separating South Korea from China.

North Korea’s interior is nearly invisible from orbit at night, just as what happens inside the country on a day-to-day basis is largely invisible to the outside world. U.N. investigators managed to shine a little light into North Korea’s darkest corners last month.  [Click here to get to the U.N. report]

I’ve used similar photos in class.  It’s a powerful exercise.  North Korea is as dark as undeveloped and largely unpopulated areas of the Congo River Basin, the Australian Outback, the Arabian Peninsula’s “Empty Quarter,” and almost as dark as Antarctica.

No doubt stargazing is good in some of those dark spots in North Korea.  This is one case where the absence of light pollution does NOT indicate good planning, but instead an amazing paucity of rational development.


Human rights lawyers arrested in Vietnam, Iran

June 18, 2009

Get the story here, at Accumulating Peripherals, from Matthew Steinglass.

While eyes are on Iran — as best eyes can be on a place where the government has the fog machines turned on high — Vietnam also arrestsed a leading human rights defender, with too few watching.

On Tuesday, according to NPR’s Mark Memmott, Iranian Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi told NPR reporter Davar Iran Ardalan that a prominent human rights lawyer had been arrested by security agents posing as clients.

That lawyer, Abdolfattah Soltani, spoke with Davar just yesterday — telling her that the Iranian government should recount all the votes in last Friday’s disputed presidential election, in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner by a 2-1 margin.

“Once they were inside they immediately confiscated his computer and other documents and they arrested Mr. Soltani,” Ebadi said in today’s interview. “As far as we know, they did not have an arrest warrant.”

And in Vietnam:

On the other side of Asia last weekend, Vietnamese plainclothes security agents entered the offices of the Ho Chi Minh City dispute resolution firm PIAC and arrested US-trained lawyer and former Fulbright scholar Le Cong Dinh. As a lawyer at White & Case in 2003, Dinh defended Vietnamese catfish farmers against US anti-dumping tariffs. Then, in 2007, he served as defense counsel for two Hanoi human rights lawyers, Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan, who were ultimately sentenced to several years in prison for spreading information “harmful to the State”. While continuing his corporate and civil work, Dinh also defended the well-known political blogger known as Dieu Cay in 2008, when the blogger was arrested on tax charges.

Dinh was arrested Saturday on charges of “colluding with domestic and foreign reactionaries to sabotage the Vietnamese state.”

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Irony: Celebrate Solzhenitsyn, not his ideas

August 5, 2008

In the old, old movie, from the H. G. Wells story, “Things to Come,” the forces of scientific good (led by Raymond Massey) use a gas to knock out warring parties, to stop the shooting, and to give the good guys a chance to disarm disputants and set things right.

1936 movie poster for Things to Come - WikiMedia image

1936 movie poster for "Things to Come" - WikiMedia image

That was fictional. The “Gas of Peace” doesn’t exist.

The sniping will continue about P. Z. Myers’ complaint that some Catholics grossly over reacted when they threatened death to a fellow who didn’t swallow his wafer at communion, and then kept the wafer (not a hostage — the wafer has been returned), and a lot of the sniping will come from Rod Dreher at the Dallas Morning News.

Did anyone else note the irony of Dreher’s comments commending the ideas of the late Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who campaigned his entire life against authoritative oppression of freedom and enforcement of ideas against all good and common sense, while at the same time railing against Myers’ similar campaign?

Santayana’s Ghost needs to do more active haunting. We can’t excuse tyranny from a church, nor tyranny from any government in the United States of America, either. Freedom typically works better when the freedom to offend is greater than the privilege of being free from being offended. Why doesn’t Dreher see that?

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