Why North Korea sanctions are unlikely to produce desirable results
For multiple reasons, there is little reason to be hopeful of positive results
August 16th, 2016
As of late, the issue of sanctions has been at the front and center of all discussions regarding North Korea. Because of well-founded disappointment in the ‘soft-line’ approach – centered around negotiations and mutual concessions – an unavoidable result has emerged for many: that sanctions are now “the only game in town”.
Despite this recent shift in opinion, I cannot be enthusiastic about the tightening sanctions on North Korea, which are firstly difficult to implement and, secondly, unlikely to produce desirable results – even if properly implemented
This position – which I recently articulated in an interview with RFA in Washington – has consequently invited some criticism, notably from Joshua Stanton, an experienced and observant North Korea watcher who has very different views from mine on this issue.
This lengthy piece is, therefore, in a sense an indirect response to Joshua Stanton’s criticism – “indirect” because, instead of arguing point by point, I will reiterate my arguments about the inefficiency of sanctions in a more systematic manner.
Chinese boat sailing along Yalu River, adjacent to DPRK | Picture: NK News
HURDLES TO IMPLEMENTATION
To start with, North Korea sanctions don’t work. To put it in a more cautious way, so far they have failed to produce any noticeable impact on the state of the DPRK economy or the lifestyle of common North Koreans or members of the elite.
The international sanctions regime was first introduced by the UN Security Council in 2006, at the time when the North Korean economy began its slow recovery from the 15 years of crisis experienced after the collapse of the communist bloc. Yet despite ever-tightening sanctions, the ten years that since passed have been a time of steady economic growth and significant improvement in the living standards for a majority of the North Korean population.
The ten years that since passed have been a time of steady economic growth and significant improvement in the living standards for a majority of the North Korean population.
The inefficiency of those sanctions has been once again demonstrated by the results of Resolution 2270, which was adopted by the UN Security Council in early March 2016. This resolution envisioned sanctions of hitherto unprecedented severity, including, for example, a complete or partial ban on mineral exports from North Korea. However, after nearly half a year of the sanctions being implemented, it is still “business as usual” in North Korea. Such vital economic indicators as grain market prices and market exchange rates for foreign currencies have remained virtually unchanged, while most of the construction projects (including resource-wasteful hallmark projects in Pyongyang) are still continuing apace.
There are many reasons why initial UN sanctions and those outlined by Resolution 2270 have been so inefficient, but the major role is played by the uneasy and controversial attitude of China.
When from time-to-time the Chinese government expresses its support for some sanctions or criticizes North Korean policies on nuclear and missile issues, there are outbursts of joy in Washington and other Western capitals where people start saying that “finally the Chinese are in the same boat with us”. But such optimism has so far always been proven to be misplaced, for the Chinese are not in the same boat with the United States and they are unlikely to share this proverbial boat ride in the foreseeable future.
There is little doubt that China is seriously annoyed by North Korea’s nuclear brinksmanship and its nuclear and missile program as an indirect but significant security threat. However, on the list of the problems the Chinese government has to deal with, this particular danger is not very high. For China, any possible change in status quo on the Korean peninsula constitutes a potential challenge, and this is well understood in Beijing.
From decades of painful experiences, the Chinese have learned that the North Korean government is remarkably indifferent to minor pressures, so Pyongyang reacts to outside demands only when it faces a mortal threat. China, having a near complete monopoly on North Korean foreign trade, is in a position to create a crisis of such magnitude that it would indeed put in danger the survival of the DPRK economy and – perhaps – even reverse its policy on the nuclear issue. Indeed, if China stops all trade and dramatically reduces the number of North Koreans residing and doing business in China, this would wipe out the North Korean economy in a year or two.
China does not need regime collapse, revolution, and anarchy in a nuclear country located on its borders
However, such a crisis is likely to produce results which will not serve China’s long-term strategic interests. It is possible that the North Korean government would yield and indeed surrender its nuclear program, but it is even more likely that it will remain stubborn to the bitter end, leaving the crisis to trigger a revolution. However, this is clearly not what China wants. China does not need regime collapse, revolution, and anarchy in a nuclear country located on its borders. And, of course, it is not very enthusiastic about the emergence of a unified Korea, which is likely to be democratic, nationalistic, and friendly to the United States, Beijing’s major strategic adversary.
Thus, one should not be surprised that the Chinese are using their trade, economic exchanges and aid to North Korea in a very measured manner. They sometimes decrease the amount of economic exchange and giveaways, but it is usually done for symbolic purposes to indicate Chinese dissatisfaction with particular North Korean actions.
And it seems that this is exactly what we see now again: after a few months of a tough approach, China appears to be getting softer on Pyongyang. While this turn is currently being brought about by the general deterioration in Beijing-Washington relations and emergence of the THAAD deployment issue, it is nevertheles something that was going to happen anyway.
Targeting only elites in North Korea is difficult | Picture: E. Lafforgue
ELITE ONLY SANCTIONS?
Proponents of sanctions are likely to reject what has been said above, claiming that the major goal is not to damage the North Korean economy nor to make the life of common North Koreans more difficult. Instead, they will claim, it is rather to create uncomfortable conditions for the North Korean elite so they will start considering a change of their policies in order to have their life comforts returned to them. To simplify things a bit, it is assumed – or hoped – that if top decision makers are deprived of their Hennessey cognac, overseas travel and Mercedes Benz luxury cars for a sufficiently long period of time, they will start considering the denuclearization of their country.
Such logic would possibly work in most authoritarian states, where the ruling elite does not face an existential threat. Therefore in an average dictatorship, elite dissatisfaction might lead to a palace coup or revolution. But such political changes are unlikely to produce a wholesale replacement of the entire ruling elite, for while former colonels might become generals after revolutions, the overall elite change little. Just look at the Soviet Union: as of early 2016, only four of all leaders of post-Soviet States are neither former Soviet-era officials nor officials’ children.
This is not the case in North Korea, however, since the existence of a rich, free and highly seductive South Korea means that any serious internal disturbance there will likely result in regime collapse, soon followed by absorption of the North by its rich twin state.
In other words, unlike a majority of dictators’ henchmen in other countries, North Korean elite members understand that in case of even a successful coup, the winners will face too high a risk of rapidly losing everything as a result of instability, a popular uprising and potential unification (a cross of East German and Romanian scenarios).
They need stability, and, if worst comes to worst, they also need nuclear weapons to safeguard themselves against foreign powers
Taking this into consideration, these people are significantly less likely to start conspiracies – even if they are indeed deprived of their usual nightly glass of Hennessey cognac. They need stability, and, if worst comes to worst, they also need nuclear weapons to safeguard themselves against foreign powers being involved with their domestic crisis, Libya style. Thus in order to ensure stability, and stay alive, they can survive without a daily glass Hennessy cognac.
A poster promoting a ‘strong and prosperous’ economy | Picture: E. Lafforgue
TARGETING THE ECONOMY?
So let’s talk about a more realistic and tested model of sanctions – those which target the economy at large and whose (usually unstated) aim is to decrease the living standards of the general populace in order to create some discontent, hence putting the government under political pressure.
Such sanctions have been tried many times, from Serbia to South Africa. In most cases, they were not remarkably efficient, but there have been cases when sanctions seemingly made a great contribution towards desirable change. However, there is a tendency which is often overlooked; that sanctions have worked much better in countries which were democracies or semi-democracies, or where the common people had at least some opportunity to express their discontent with the government’s policy.
Indeed, such sanctions usually work in an indirect way, by making the lives of the common people more difficult, in some cases being without daily bread, in others, without the opportunity to buy a car every few years. All the pressure is built with the hope that discontent can crystalize into all kinds of opposition movements. And, if they are given the luxury of relatively free elections, citiznes become more likely to vote for opposition candidates, as was the case in Serbia and South Africa, for example.
However, this model is not applicable to North Korea.
North Koreans have no way to influence their government’s decisions or even register their dissatisfaction with government policy. They vote in elections with claimed 100% approval rate, and most of them cannot even think about any kind of open civil disobedience.
We have seen how it worked back in the late 1990s when the country faced a grave shortage of food and basic necessities. At least half a million people starved to death during the so-called ‘Arduous March’ of 1996-1999, but their deaths had little, if any, impact on government policy. Indeed, Kim Jong Il and his advisors did not abandon their goals of developing nuclear weapons and missile-based delivery systems, nor did they introduce reforms which, if applied correctly and timely, could have saved most –if not all – the lives lost during the famine.
At least half a million people starved to death during the so called ‘Arduous March’ of 1996-1999, but their deaths had little, if any, impact on the government policy
Of course, North Korean society has changed much since then, so widespread starvation might indeed lead to a revolution, for nowadays citizens are significantly less docile and much better informed about the possible alternatives. However, this is a risky bet, especially if we take into account that an economic crisis will kill many people before it can lead to a revolution.
This is the reason why economic sanctions so far have remained unsuccessful and the North Korean economy continues to perform at a modest, but acceptable level.
This is not to say that harsh economic sanctions do not make sense at all, for such measures might make sense if your goal is denuclearization at any cost. However, if your goal is to improve lives of common North Koreans, this is clearly not the way to go. Fortunately, due to the position of China and other reasons described above, sanctions are not going to drive the North Korean economy to the brink.
Capitol in DC | Picture: Flickr Creative Commons
SOME SAD CONCLUSIONS
It is clear now the dominant mood in Washington and other world capitals is in favor of sanctions, so a sanctions-centered policy is likely to continue for a long time, perhaps many years to come. No amount of debate is likely to change this fact – especially since such a policy sells well with voters, creating a false and misleading impression that a principled and morally correct stance has been taken, and “something is being done” about North Korea and its nuclear threat.
Furthermore – as the experience of Cuba sanctions has demonstrated – even a long-term absence of political effect resulting from the sanctions regime is not going to discourage proponents, who will probably keep saying that “results are just beyond the corner”. In the case of Cuba, such figures were making claims like this for more than six decades, or a period of two generations.
Therefore, we have to accept that we are going to live in a sanctions-dominated world, and find ways to encourage desirable changes within it, even when the environment is harsh and unproductive. But sanctions are not conducive for policies which could probably be significantly more successful, such as cultural and personal exchanges which familiarize North Koreans with the outside world and help them realize that they live in a remarkably inefficient and backward society.
While programs targeting refugees might still be compatible with sanctions, working with the still loyal subjects of the Kim family might be a lot more difficult. Unfortunately, academic and personal exchanges are usually frowned upon by hard-liners who tend to believe that such programs ‘reward’ the North Korean dictatorial regime by inviting their students – who will be scions of the elite – to study in Western schools or encourage other exchanges between North Korea and the outside world. This ability to nearly freeze exchanges and thus reduce the information in-flow to North Korea is a major negative side-effect produced by the excessive adherence to the sanctions regime.
However, as I have said, sanctions are likely to remain part of the American and, broader speaking, Western policy for the foreseeable future. So we have to live within this, unfortunately.
Main picture: NK News
August 16th, 2016
Are you special, basic or complex? Behind North Korea’s caste system
‘Songbun’ separates citizens according to ancestral and social standings – or whether they’ve had their photograph taken with the great leader. NK News wonders how will it coexist with Kim Jong-un’s proposed reforms
North Korean Army soldiers and civilians on the stands of the Kim Il Sung Stadium, a photograph by Ilya Pitalev which won at the Sony World Photography Awards in 2013. Photograph: Ilya Pitalev/Sony
Fyodor Tertitskiy for NK News, part of the North Korea network
Wednesday 4 March 2015 05.00 GMT Last modified on Wednesday 4 March 2015 12.13 GMT
It might not be obvious from the outside, but experts agree that North Korea is undergoing significant upheaval. Kim Jong-un’s regime is said to be serious about reforms, with the so-called “30th May measures” promising to increase personal income and allow greater social mobility.
But this has left many wondering how North Korea’s strict songbun system of social classification will coexist with such unprecedented reforms.
Songbun was most important element in the social structure of Kim Il-sung’s North Korea. Sung, who established the Democratic People’s Republic in 1948, initiated the system of social classification in the late 1950s, dividing the population into groups according to the actions and status of their paternal ancestors during the Japanese colonial period and the Korean War.
Songbun determines, among other things, whether North Koreans are allowed to live in the capital or in special cities, the workplace they’re allocated, and what kind of education they can receive.
While there has been some research into songbun, much of it is either outdated or incomplete. Researchers aren’t allowed to access official North Korean documents of this kind, which are always classified, but fortunately I have a friend who served in the North Korean police and is very familiar with the songbun documents, who was able to explain it in more detail.
Brahmins and untouchables, North Korean style
According to this system of social classification North Korean society is divided to five groups, from the best to the worst: special, nucleus, basic, complex and hostile. Earlier research has usually only mentioned three strata, because the existence of the special class was largely unknown, and the complex classification was only introduced in the 2000s.
Nucleus, also known as core, is the standard. Special is very rare and acts as a bonus in status. In contrast, basic (also known as wavering) can lead to slight discrimination, while people deemed complex and especially hostile face substantial prejudice.
‘Awarded with an audience’ is a title given to North Koreans who have talked to the leader for 20 minutes or more
A possible exception from this system would be blood relatives of the Kim family, who are seemingly excluded from all official documentation, although this remains to be verified.
Songbun is calculated from two factors. The first measures the social position and actions of one’s paternal ancestors during the Japanese colonial period and the Korean War. Did they fight with Kim Il-sung and later remain close to the Great Leader? Congratulations, your ancestry songbun is as good as it can be. Or, did they work as a clerk in the colonial administration, or worse, were they part of a faction in the independence movement that later proved hostile to Kim? Well then, your ancestry songbun is very bad and you’re unlikely to advance to any meaningful position in society.
The second – social songbun – measures the place occupied by a person in North Korean society; a worker, farmer, military man, teacher or policeman. There is, however, one variation of social songbun which overrides all others – party member – and another, the strange sounding “awarded with an audience”.
Portraits of North Korea’s national founder Kim Il-sung (left) and late leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang, North Korea. Photograph: AP
The latter is a title given to North Koreans who have talked to the leader for 20 minutes or more, or who have had their picture taken with him. That’s why commemoration photos printed in the official newspaper of the ruling Worker’s Party, Rodong Sinmun, often include thousands of people – the songbun of all of them has just increased.
Songbun influences many aspects of life in North Korea. If your songbun isn’t good enough, you cannot live in Pyongyang. Or, you cannot enter a good university, no matter how smart you are. You cannot be employed as a teacher or a policemen with bad or even average songbun. And if you want to join the ranks of the secret police (as many North Koreans do) not only you, but all you relatives up to the sixth generation must have a good songbun, or you do not qualify.
Can you alter your songbun? When it comes to ancestry , the answer is almost always no. Records are kept in four locations: at the local administration office, ordinary police, secret police and at specific organisations, like the Worker’s Party, Women’s Union, or labour union.
The situation during the Kim Il-sung era was much the same: a person of bad ancestry could not get a good job, so his or her songbun remained bad too. However, many things have changed since Kim Il-sung died in 1994, and the role of this system of classification is one of them. Now, a person who has worked for three years gets a new social designation decided upon by the decision of the local party committee. And these days even people of questionable ancestry can join the party. Some North Korean officials have also started to simply ignore songbun, reasoning that punishing someone for the sins of their ancestors is unfair and unjust.
The role of songbun is gradually reducing, as the country embraces new ways and new economic models. If Kim Jong-un really wants to proceed with promised reforms, one of the necessary steps would be to abolish songbun, at least in practice.
A version of this article first appeared on NK News
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Rampaging elephant ‘turns back to save baby’
A male elephant that smashed up a house in an Indian village allegedly returned to lift the debris from a crying baby girl.
By Becky Barnes
Last updated: 12 March 2014, 14:03 GMT
A distressed elephant turned back to save a 10-month-old baby after smashing up a family home, a couple in India have claimed.
Lalita and Dipak Mahato, who live in a village in West Bengal’s Purilia district, told the Times of India (ToI) that they were having dinner at around 8pm on Monday night when they heard a “cracking sound”, then a huge crash.
"We ran over and were shocked to see the wall in pieces and a tusker [male elephant] standing over our baby,” dad Dipak told ToI.
“She was crying and there were huge chunks of the wall lying all around and on the cot.
“The tusker started moving away but when our child started crying again, it returned and used its trunk to remove the debris."
The daily newspaper reports the male elephant removed every last bit of stone, brick and mortar from the tiny girl’s body before returning to the forest.
"We worship [elephant god] Lord Ganesh in our village,” the baby’s mum Lalita told ToI.
“Still, I can’t believe that the tusker saved my daughter after breaking down the door and smashing a wall.
“We watched amazed as it gently removed the debris that had fallen on her. It’s a miracle."
The youngster was taken to hospital where she was treated for external injuries and is expected to make a full recovery.
According to forest officers, the same elephant has killed at least three people in the last year. It has reportedly damaged at least 17 houses in three adjoining villages.
Forest officer Om Prokash said elephants come to the villages in search of food and do not intend to harm humans unless they are attacked.
According to ToI a similar incident was reported in Jalpaiguri’s Madarihat village about six months ago when a herd of elephants carefully removed a little girl before smashing several houses.
"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:44-45
Family of Kim Jong-Un’s uncle put to death
All direct relatives of the executed uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, including women and children, have been put to death at the leader’s instruction, multiple sources reported this week.
Jang Song-thaek was executed last month on charges of attempting to overthrow the Communist regime. His executed relatives include Jang’s sister Jang Kye-sun, her husband and Ambassador to Cuba Jon Yong-jin, and Ambassador to Malaysia Jang Yong-chol, who is Jang’s nephew, as well as his two sons, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
"The executions of Jang’s relatives mean that no traces of him should be left," a source said. "The purge of the Jang Song-thaek people is under way on an extensive scale from relatives and low-level officials."
This latest crackdown is bad news for all citizens, and certainly for Christians, who are viewed as enemies of the state. How can we pray for Christians in North Korea in the light of these terrible events? Jan Vermeer, an Open Doors worker involved with our work in North Korea, shares what he has learnt from the Bible about praying for the persecuted church.
"’Pray for those who persecute you. Bless your enemies.’ We tend to miss the significance of Jesus’ commandment. He orders us to pray for the persecutors and to bless the enemies of the gospel. Canon Andrew White from Baghdad has to lead his congregation through a time of severe terrorism. He says: ‘If you want to stop terrorism, there is no point in talking to the good people. You have to speak with the bad people.’ Praying for our enemies is the most strategic thing we can do.
"The difficult part is application in everyday life. These principles just feel… wrong. So God really wants me to pray for Kim Jong-Un’s terrible regime and bless them?
"Then I read what North Korean Christians say about their requests before God’s throne. They pray God will come to their aid soon. They pray God will bless their leaders with the gospel of the risen Christ. They pray that God’s name will be glorified through the underground church. And so should I."
Source: Yonhap news agency; Open Doors
- Ask God to bless Kim Jong-Un and to open his heart to the gospel
- For change within the regime. Pray that God will rescue them from the dominion of darkness and bring them into the kingdom of light
- For Christians in North Korea. Ask God to give them the strength, wisdom and courage to glorify His name in every circumstance.
With many thanks for your prayers.
Open Doors Prayer Team
The Property Spot
83 Armagh Road
T: 02838 339700
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30 Crewcatt Road
- Entrance hall
- Dining room
- Family room
- Large kitchen with family/dining area
- Utility room and downstairs w.c.
- Five bedrooms (two with en suites)
- Double garage
- The property has PVC double glazed sash windows installed
- 3 Patio doors available but not fitted
Partly Constructed Spacious Detached Family Home
Extending To Approx 4000 Sq Ft Plus Large Garage
Designed By Local Architect Emily Warwick
Located In A Scenic Rural Area With
Views Over Surrounding Countryside
10′ 9" x 5′ (3.28m x 1.52m)
14′ 8" x 13′ 6" (4.47m x 4.11m)
4′ 7" x 4′ 6" (1.40m x 1.37m)
11′ 1" x 4′ 7" (3.38m x 1.40m)
23′ 10" x 15′ 6" (7.26m x 4.72m) Fireplace
14′ 1" x 13′ 6" (4.29m x 4.11m)
15′ 7" x 14′ 3" (4.75m x 4.34m) Fireplace
30′ 5" x 27′ 9" (9.27m x 8.46m) L shaped room, large patio door space
14′ 6" x 5′ 7" (4.42m x 1.70m)
11′ 5" x 8′ 10" (3.48m x 2.69m)
11′ 5" x 4′ 9" (3.48m x 1.45m)
23′ 9" x 15′ 7" (7.24m x 4.75m) Walk in wardrobe
Walk in wardrobe
13′ 4" x 7′ (4.06m x 2.13m) Door to bedroom 3
13′ 4" x 6′ 10" (4.06m x 2.08m)
18′ x 13′ 4" (5.49m x 4.06m)
13′ 9" x 4′ 7" (4.19m x 1.40m)
16′ 3" x 15′ 7" (4.95m x 4.75m)
13′ 9" x 9′ 10" (4.19m x 3.00m)
17′ 3" x 12′ 1" (5.26m x 3.68m)
23′ 7" x 21′ (7.19m x 6.40m)
From the Armagh Road at Sleepy Valley, take the Crewcatt Road, the property is on the left at the old railway bridge
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It’s no wonder he looks grumpy: ‘Hideous’ blobfish is crowned the world’s ugliest animal | Mail Online
It’s no wonder he looks grumpy: ‘Hideous’ blobfish is crowned the world’s ugliest animal
A living blob of jelly that dwells in the darkest depths of the ocean has been officially named the world’s ugliest animal.
The blobfish, described as ‘hideous’ by Simon Watt from the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, is a jelly-like fish that resembles a bald, grumpy old man.
Measuring up to a foot in length, it lives between 600 and 1,200 metres below the ocean surface off the coasts of Australia and Tasmania.
The blobfish, described as ‘hideous’ by Simon Watt from the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, measures up to a foot in length. It lives between 600 and 1,200 metres below the ocean surface off the coasts of Australia and Tasmania
Despite being completely inedible, it has a habit of being hauled up in trawler nets.
Experts believe the blobfish is under serious threat, although there are no reliable estimates of its numbers.
‘We’ve needed an ugly face for endangered animals for a long time,’ said Mr Watt, speaking at the British Festival of Science at the University of Newcastle.
The Axolotl, a freaky cross between Peter Pan and the Xmen, is endangered because of urbanisation in Mexico City and polluted waters
‘For too long the cute and fluffy animals have taken the limelight but now the blobfish will be a voice for the mingers who always get forgotten.’
The blobfish topped a shortlist of five ugly animals voted for online by members of the public.
In second place was the Kakapo, a critically endangered giant parrot from New Zealand, and number three was the Axolotl, a weird type of salamander from Mexico that is the equivalent of a giant tadpole.
Next on the list was the Titicaca water frog, aka the ‘scrotum frog’, which is only found in Lake Titicaca on the border of Peru and Bolivia.
The Titicaca frog, also known as the ‘scrotum frog’, is found on the border of Peru and Bolivia. Locals make a frappe of the frog, which is considered an aphrodisiac, by cooking it and running it through a blender
Kakapo is a classic example of evolution on an isolated island – it is the only flightless parrot in the world, and also the heaviest
The Proboscis monkey is named after its enormous nose
Locals make a frappe of the unfortunate frog, which is considered an aphrodisiac, by cooking it and running it through a blender.
The last ugly animal is the proboscis monkey, from Borneo, whose enormous nose is literally its hooter.
The nose provides a resonating echo chamber for the monkey’s deafening mating calls.
The Ugly Animal Preservation Society was set up to champion the cause of endangered creatures with no friends.
It is backed by a number of celebrity scientists, presenters and comedians, and organises road shows and school visits.
Particle physicist and broadcaster Professor Brian Cox said: ‘I support the ugly animal campaign. There are too many people trying to save cute animals. They get all the press, and all the attention.
‘Ugly animals are more deserving than cute animals.’
Describing the blobfish, Mr Watt said: ‘Indeed this is an ugly hideous thing. It looks sad and so it should, because it’s suffering from severe problems.
‘They’ve got a really gelatinous flesh that is slightly more buoyant than the water. So they float around and they can be right lazy.
‘They’ve got no muscle tone whatsoever because they don’t have to move. They just sit there looking unhappy, grabbing any food that comes by.
‘It’s the ultimate deep sea couch potato.’
MORE OF THE WORLD’S UGLIEST ANIMALS
European common eel
A favourite cockney snack, the European eel is threatened by overfishing and environmental changes. Its unusual life cycle sees it change colour as it grows, from transparent to yellow to dark grey.
Rob Wells (comedian and science presenter) – urges supporters to ‘support the eel so we can have a jolly good East End knees up in its honour!’
European common eel: A favourite cockney snack, the European eel is threatened by overfishing and environmental changes. Its unusual life cycle sees it change colour as it grows, from transparent to yellow to dark grey
Dromedary jumping slug
The dromedary jumping slug wriggles its way out of danger, avoiding predators with a quick flick. It’s part of the Aronidae family and lives mainly in the Americas.
Tom Toal (comedian and actor) thinks the slug deserves far more recognition than it currently gets… ‘It’s a slug, with a hump on its back, that can jump! Where’s its Disney movie?? You’ve got the Hunchback of Notre Dame… where’s the dromedary jumping slug and the princess?’
Dromedary jumping slug: The dromedary jumping slug wriggles its way out of danger, avoiding predators with a quick flick. It’s part of the Aronidae family and lives mainly in the Americas
Greater short-horned lizard
Stephen Fry is supporting this feisty little lizard, found in North America. The greater short-horned lizard is identified by its toad-like appearance. When scared, it builds its blood pressure near its eyes, and forces blood through its tear ducts, squirting it at predators. Combined with a noxious smell, the blood is a surprisingly effective method of repelling predators such as foxes, coyotes and dogs.
Great short horned lizard: Stephen Fry is supporting this feisty little lizard, found in North America. The greater short-horned lizard is identified by its toad-like appearance
The pig-nosed turtle is the sole surviving member of an ancient and once widespread family of animals. The most unique feature is the elongated, pig-like snout, which acts like a snorkel, allowing the turtle to breathe while the rest of the body remains underwater (perhaps so it never has to show the world its ugly face?).
Greg Foot (daredevil scientist and C4 Sunday Brunch’s ‘resident scientist’) says: ‘Forget your big cuddly attention grabbing pandas. It’s time for something else to step up into the limelight, well, I guess something to swim up in this case! Yes, it is the pig-nosed turtle… so there you go – the pig-nosed turtle. Vote now! It’s quite clear it’s got to be the pig-nosed turtle. No longer does he need to be bullied in the animal playground, he can now stand there with his piggy snouty nose raised up high.’
Pig-nosed turtle: The most unique feature of the animal is the elongated, pig-like snout, which acts like a snorkel, allowing the turtle to breathe while the rest of the body remains underwater
Pubic lice have been around for over 3 million years but face extinction because of increasing hygiene habits across the world. They live in coarse hair and eyelashes.
Dan Schreiber (producer, presenter and from QI Elf) explains why he has sympathy for these particularly unattractive beasts… ‘So many women worldwide are having Brazilians that they don’t have a natural habitat to exist on anymore… they’re being deforested!’
Pubic louse: Pubic lice have been around for over 3 million years but face extinction because of increasing hygiene habits across the world. They live in coarse hair and eyelashes
There are 18 varieties of bat in the UK, and most are in national decline. Seventeen of these are currently known to be breeding, the eighteenth is actually just one lone male who appears to have come over from the continent and lives in a cave in South England on his own. Bats make up over a quarter of the mammal species that live in the UK and can often be found near railway lines, as they like to use the tunnels as roosting areas, and short cuts to other hunting grounds.
Simon Watt sympathises with these species: ‘Bats are brilliant, if you cannot see all the reasons British bats are fantastic, you must be as blind as a, well, as a bat actually!’
Simon Watt sympathises with these species: ‘Bats are brilliant, if you cannot see all the reasons British bats are fantastic, you must be as blind as a, well, as a bat actually!’
You’ve bitten off more than you can chew! Lion cub causes uproar… by chomping on its dad in a bid to make him play
This is the moment an attention seeking cub annoyed his father once too often.
The cheeky cub can be seen tugging on his father’s mane, chewing on his fur and even smacking him on the end of the nose in a bid to entice him to play.
But while the father initially returned his son’s affections, he soon lost patience with the playful cub and snapped – baring his teeth at the startled cub.
I warned you, boy… Luke the lion makes it clear he has had enough of his son’s fun and games
The images were taken by photographer Paul Sutherland, 54, at the National Zoological Park in Washington, Columbia, US.
He said: ‘I’m connected with a number of people at the zoo and they invited me to come along when the lion cubs were born.
‘Having been an editorial photographer I like to create images which tell a story or send a message.
‘I spent a lot of time photographing the cubs, I went whenever I could. Every time the cubs came out there was a question mark over what they would do.
The cheeky cub can be seen tugging on his father’s mane, chewing on his fur and even smacking him on the end of the nose
So much for my lie-in: Luke’s nap is a no-no as far as the youngster is concerned
Seriously, son, take the hint: Luke looks like he is enjoying a cuddle…but that out-stretched paw is getting ready to swipe
‘When the adult male lion, Luke, is in the yard the cubs come out with the female lions.
‘Interestingly many of the cubs head straight for dad, they’re like "hey dad look at me".
‘The cubs would jump on Luke to try and get his attention, just being playful really.
‘But if Luke is grumpy he’ll roar and as he does the mother lion gives him a telling off. He’s a bit of a wimp compared to other lions so if he gets a telling off he’ll tolerate the cubs a little longer.
‘They would get five to ten minutes’ interaction with dad before he would get tired and there’d be a roar.
‘And if one of the cubs would make the mistake of grabbing his tail, Luke would get really angry.
‘It’s really just nature in action. Humans do it too. You annoy your dad that much, he’ll snap and be like "that’s enough".’
Right, that’s it! The cub takes a bite out of Luke’s chin… and he’s not happy about it
Fine, I’ll leave you alone! The cub retreats to safety… still with a look of mischief about it
Inside North Korea’s brutal prison camps
Prisoner Shin was beaten, starved, tortured and treated as a slave. Miraculously he escaped and survived to tell the tale
The North Korean military has put on a lavish display to mark the anniversary of the armistice which ended the Korean War. But despite the truce nearly 60 years ago, North Korea is still seen as a volatile nation. It has been condemned by other countries for its nuclear testing programme and its record of human rights violations – in particular its use of brutal prison camps. One man who knows all about the country’s abuse of human rights is Shin Dong-hyuk – the only man born inside a North Korean prison camp who managed to escape. His story has been documented in a book ‘Escape from Camp 14’ by journalist Blaine Harden. Here the author offers Yahoo! News a startling picture of what life is like in notoriously secretive North Korea.
A naked Shin was hung from the ceiling by his arms and legs, his body in the shape of a U. Just a boy at the time, he was lowered by a winch towards a tub of burning charcoal. Crazed with pain, he smelled his burning flesh. A guard then pierced his stomach with a hook on a pole and held him over the fire until he lost consciousness. This was just one instance of the brutal torture Shin experienced and witnessed at Camp 14 – one of North Korea’s inhumane prison camps.
American Journalist Blaine Harden spent years trying to gain the trust of Shin, now in his late 20s, so that his story could be told. He tells us: "The purpose of writing the book is to grab people by the throat and explain how North Korea operates and Shin’s story does that so well because no one has told it before."
Shin is the only person to be born in a prison camp who has escaped and lived to tell the tale.
His only crime? Being related to his father’s brothers who escaped to South Korea after the Korean War in the 1950s. There are people like Shin who were born in the camps and never allowed to leave and others, considered defectors, who are either there for ‘rehabilitation’ – or more likely until they die.
Harden says: "They can arrest anybody they want, for any reason, without any charge and take them away in the middle of the night and never tell them why they were taken."
The camps have been around since the late 1950s and Harden says they have always operated in almost exactly the same way. He says: "There is an incredible culture of brutality. Working people to death, usually by the time they’re in their mid-40s, they have executions, guards who are at liberty to murder, rape and torment the prisoners without any sanctions against them. They are taught to regard the prisoners as pigs and dogs. They can rape them, impregnate them, kill the babies and kill the women. They can also beat children to death if they’re in the mood."
A female North Korean soldier looks out from behind a barbed-wire fence around a camp (PA)
A total of 60 former camp inmates have told their stories to human rights investigators. Harden explains how those interviews, carried out separately across a decade, tell a remarkably consistent story about how the camps operate, what life is like, who lives, who dies, why and how.
Shin was starved, beaten and raised as a slave in a culture of disclosure and reward. He reported his mother and brother for plotting an escape which ultimately led to their execution.
Harden says: "How Shin was raised in the camp is an example of the sort of mentality that is spread across the country. There are about 170,000 secret police in North Korea. They are in virtually every apartment block, every village. They are there to incentivise people to snitch on each other. And children, relatives and friends do snitch on each other."
An estimated 200,000 people are detained in prison camps and there are fears the camps are growing. Satellite images show the existence of the camps, yet North Korea still denies their presence to the rest of the world.
But people in North Korea know the camps exist. "They know that every once in a while people disappear into the night – an entire family," says Harden. "And they know if they speak out there’s a chance that they could join them."
North Korean female soldiers on parade in Pyongyang (Reuters)
People may be scared into silence but they are armed with more knowledge. Despite its extravagant ceremonial parades and military displays, North Korea is poor. Times are hard and although the Kim family rulers have tried to isolate the notoriously secretive country from the rest of the globe, censoring media, preventing access to the internet and effectively starving the populace of information, knowledge about the wealth and freedoms in the outside world has seeped through into this totalitarian state.
More electronic products such as DVDs, radios and USB sticks are crossing the border illegally, primarily from China, and the number of radios that can tune into outside radio stations has increased. A recent survey of all defectors who have fled the country revealed that while in North Korea, 60 per cent were able to listen to outside radio stations on a daily basis.
Harden says: "They know more about the outside world but their ability to act on it and interact with each other based on the new information they have is not changing very much at all. There’s no civil society inside North Korea. People do not get together. They cannot meet in more than groups of three or four anywhere and people cannot travel easily within the country so they are socially and politically atomised."
Harden believes that life may have actually got worse under new leader Kim Jong-Un, who was declared the ‘Supreme Leader’ of North Korea at the end of 2011 following the death of his father.
He says: "It seems to have gone backwards in some ways. The border has been effectively closed down, people are not crossing or fleeing the country. The number of defectors arriving in South Korea has been cut significantly in the past year. Kim Jong-Un recognised that having this porous border was allowing people to go off and tell stories to human rights people and he wanted to end it. The Government has lost none of its appetite for cruelty."
Propaganda is also used incessantly and it is extremely powerful. Pictures of the ‘great’ and ‘dear’ leader Kim Jong-Un are everywhere and the state owned Central News Agency is the sole news provider in the country, ensuring the publication and broadcast of specific messages, including verbal attacks on America and South Korea.
Harden says: "They teach people that the US in particular, South Korea and Japan are plotting to murder them, to bomb them to kill their children – and there are some good reasons for North Koreans to believe it. During the Korean War the Americans bombed North Korea. They destroyed virtually every city, town and village, including about 85 per cent of the structures.”
Harden states that every single person in the country had a relative killed in the war. "That is sold and resold in the state propaganda about why you need the Kim family to protect you."
[North Korean defector’s ‘impossible’ dream of closing prison camps]
Shin was not subject to the propaganda. There was no use for propaganda for the prisoners born in the camps. They have no choices. They are put to work, then they die. For the rest of the population though it’s a highly effective method of control.
Despite all this, Harden is optimistic change will occur in North Korea. The UN has authorised a human rights investigation into the camps, amid denials from the country’s UN ambassador Sin Son-ho, who recently asserted ‘we don’t have any human rights problems’.
Harden says: "They are surrounded by a booming China and an absolutely amazing South Korea which is one of the fastest growing economies, one of the most wired places in the world and Japan. They’re getting poorer and their options are fewer. As more information seeps into the country, the contradictions become sharper, so change has to happen."
Shin is one of many who dares to hope he is right.
Nermin Oomer – Fri, Aug 2, 2013
Scotland Yard detectives to return to holiday resort where Madeleine McCann vanished ‘within days’ to follow up new leads | Mail Online
Scotland Yard detectives to return to holiday resort where Madeleine McCann vanished ‘within days’ to follow up new leads
New leads: Scotland Yard detectives could travel to Portugal in the coming days to follow up on new leads in the case of missing Madeleine McCann (pictured)
Detectives searching for Madeleine McCann could fly to the Portuguese holiday resort where the youngster went missing within days to follow up on new leads.
Metropolitan Police officers could potentially interview suspects, search properties and even make arrests in the Algarve where Madeleine disappeared while on a family holiday in 2007.
The Crown Prosecution Service has written a Letter of Request to Portuguese judges this week asking for permission to work in the country to gather evidence alongside local police.
According to the Daily Mirror, the letter included the names of some of the suspects that police wish to speak to regarding the case and an outline of a number of offences being investigated.
Madeleine went missing from an apartment in Praia da Luz on May 3, 2007, as her parents dined with friends at a nearby tapas restaurant.
The shambolic Portuguese inquiry was shelved in 2008, but Scotland Yard began a Home Office-funded review in 2011 – known as Operation Grange – following the intervention of David Cameron.
The Met said earlier this month that it was preparing to swoop on 38 suspects ‘scattered across Europe’ after announcing a full criminal investigation.
Among them are a dozen British nationals who were visiting or living in the Algarve at the time the then three-year-old went missing.
Investigators said that they have no prime suspects but said that they had found no evidence that the youngster had been murdered.
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood, who is leading the inquiry, said: ‘We continue to believe that there is a possibility that Madeleine is alive.’
Crime scene: The Ocean Club Resort in Praia da Luz where Madeleine went missing in 2007
New hope: Madeleine’s parents Kate and Gerry McCann welcomed the Met’s announcement that it had new leads earlier this month
The Met’s announcement came toward the end of a two year £5million review of the case which officers said has created a ‘unique picture’ of what happened in the Algarve.
Hopeful: Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood said that police have no evidence that Madeleine was murdered
Mr Redwood said the painstaking review has brought together all the information about Madeleine for the first time.
He said: ‘That has given us the ability to see this case with fresh eyes, and through that bring out new – genuinely new – lines of inquiry.
‘I’m hopeful that when we pursue those lines of inquiry, we will be able to bring some sort of resolution.
‘Whether we will be able to solve it is a different issue, but I hope we will be able to have the ability to move the investigation on.
‘I believe that this is an important moment for Madeleine. It is a great opportunity which we intend to exploit to the full.’
A Met Police spokesman refused to comment on when detectives will be sent to Portugal as part of the investigation and the CPS was unavailable for comment.
Prime Minister David Cameron had ordered the review of the case back in 2011.