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Kim health rumours spotlight succession in secretive North Korea

Seoul, South Korea – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was last pictured centre stage at a key political meeting on April 11, but has been out of the country’s state media ever since. Now, after failing to appear at one of the secretive nation’s most important annual events, there is mounting speculation about his…

Kim health rumours spotlight succession in secretive North Korea

Seoul, South Korea – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was last pictured centre stage at a key political meeting on April 11, but has been out of the country’s state media ever since. Now, after failing to appear at one of the secretive nation’s most important annual events, there is mounting speculation about his health.
Kim is thought to be 36 years of age, but obesity and a weakness for cigarettes mean he has long been the subject of rumours about poor health – from fractured ankles to gout and even heart complications.
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But the latest rumours have proved more worrying than most. Speculation over Kim’s health went into overdrive when a Seoul-based watchdog publication cited an anonymous source stating that the North Korean leader was in a grave condition after heart surgery.
Those who follow developments in North Korea say Kim is probably sick. The issue is the extent of any illness.
“I think he is recovering from something,” said Cheehyung Harrison Kim, a professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa who researches North Korea. “His health was always somewhat questionable and he may have gotten treatment … There are very few reports of him appearing in public in the past two weeks, and the news is usually filled with Kim Jong Un making on-site visits and so forth.” 
Peter Ward, a researcher on the North Korean economy and a columnist at NK News website, says there is little sign of Kim being seriously ill. 
“I think that he is indeed sick, but how sick he is, I don’t know,” Ward said. “There is little evidence that something is critically wrong. If something was critically wrong, we’d see more movement on the ground from space – planes, cars, the military might be on high alert as well. The state would have to go into emergency mode. But we’re not seeing that.”

There is tangible evidence that something might be wrong, most tellingly Kim Jong Un’s absence from the annual ceremonies to mark the birth of his grandfather on April 15 – a hugely important event in North Korea. 
Reading the signs
Satellite images have been shared showing a train standing at what is believed to be a private station for the Kim family at a beach resort in Wonsan, and the Stimson Center’s 38 North website reported that the train was there again on Wednesday. Medical experts from China have also been dispatched to North Korea, according to Reuters news agency.
“We should remain very sceptical of rumours about North Korea’s leadership,” said Leif-Eric Easley, an associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.
“Reports about North Korean palace politics are often wrong or only partially accurate. If these stories were just gossip about a photogenic royal family, probably they wouldn’t matter much.”
Even so, the rumours over Kim Jong Un’s health are sparking a debate over the succession in North Korea with analysts warning that Kim’s sudden death could be disastrous for the Korean Peninsula.
“We don’t know how the transition of power would happen if the state broke down. It’s a scenario that is fraught with danger and uncertainty and it’s something we should all be very, very concerned by,” NK News’ Ward said.
Kim Jong Un took control of North Korea when he was just 32, after his father and North Korea’s previous leader, Kim Jong Il, died of a heart attack in 2011.
Though sudden, analysts were not so surprised: Kim Jong Il was notably reclusive, had been in poor health for a long time and was already roughly 70 years old. His son had already appeared enough times to suggest he might take over from his father.
But in the event that Kim Jong Un dies suddenly, there is no clear successor in place.

Kim Jong Un took power in North Korea after the death of his father in December 2011 [File: KCNA via Korea News Service and AP Photo]

Even though the Kim family has ruled over the country since its beginnings, experts are not even able to confirm if Kim Jong Un and his wife, Ri Sol-ju, have children or how many they might have.
That has focused attention on Kim’s siblings.
“I think Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, would most likely become the new head of state,” said the University of Hawaii’s Harrison Kim. “But I think the power could possibly become less centralised than ever before. We might witness a transition into a kind of pluralistic leadership, with Kim Yo Jong as the symbolic head of state, but more people consulting behind the scenes.”
Earlier this month, Kim Yo Jong was promoted to a position as an alternate member of the Central Committee Politburo in the ruling Korean Workers’ Party in what could be a sign of her being positioned for higher ranks, although she was dismissed from the committee last year.
There is also Kim Jong Un’s older brother, Kim Jong Chol, but he has long been overlooked by North Korean leadership and it is Yo Jong who is most often seen with her brother.
“Kim Jong Un has come to represent a roadblock to further change in the country. His death will probably allow new opportunities in the future,” Ward said. “But at the same time, we could be fraught with danger. We don’t know what would happen with a transition of power, or what would happen if the state broke down.”
No political freedom
Since coming to power, Kim has continued to abuse human rights in order to maintain control. Rights groups have catalogued executions, state-sponsored sexual violence and the use of political prison camps that are believed to be holding at least 120,000 people.
As one United Nations report put it: “The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.”

Kim Yo Jong acted as an emissary for her brother during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics. She has also accompanied him at key summits and was this month promoted in the political hierarchy [File: Brian Snyder/Reuters]

Ward describes the situation as “abominable” and notes North Korea’s human rights situation is the worst in Asia, if not the world.
“Every human rights abuse you can think of has probably happened in those camps,” Ward said. “The situation is abominable, and the reason why is simple: There are no political freedoms in that country at all.”
Most chillingly, Kim is suspected of ordering the assassination of his half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, on the busy concourse of Kuala Lumpur’s international airport using a deadly chemical weapon in February 2017. Kim also reportedly had his uncle executed in 2013, perhaps to further consolidate his power. 
Despite such brazen acts, Kim Jong Un has also reached out to the wider world through international diplomacy. 
A significant breakthrough was the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea, after the North Korean leader sent a brigade of cheerleaders, half a women’s hockey team and Kim Yo Jong as his emissary.
Since then, Kim himself has sought closer engagement – meeting South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump several times during historic, face-to-face summits.

Although Kim Jong Un’s true intentions have been questioned and nuclear talks broke down in Hanoi last year leading to a slew of missile tests, Kim’s death could mark an abrupt end to North Korea’s relationship-building measures and diplomatic progress.
Meanwhile, Kim’s death could lead to panic among the senior leaders in North Korea where the economy is struggling under sanctions, there is widespread poverty, and the ever-present risk of natural disaster. Some worry that the country could collapse if its central leadership becomes too weak, leading to possible conflict between North and South Korea, or some sort of intervention from other countries. 
“There’s a lot of possible scenarios. We can’t know who will be able to maintain the North Korean regime after Kim Jong Un,” said Baek Jin-kyung, a researcher at the East Asia Institute in Seoul. “But the most important thing in the end is to maintain power, so I think that will be the country’s top priority.”
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The peaceful protests bridging a nation divided

There are a number of different theories and hypotheses regarding early state formation that seek generalizations to explain why the state developed in some places but not others. Other scholars believe that generalizations are unhelpful and that each case of early state formation should be treated on its own.

Voluntary contend groups theories of people came together to form states as a result of some shared rational interest.

Conflict theories of state formation regard conflict and dominance of some population over another population as key to the formation of states.

The first states of sorts were those of early dynastic Sumer and early dynastic Egypt, which arose from the Uruk period and Predynastic Egypt respectively around approximately 3000 BCE.

Although state-forms existed before the rise of the Ancient Greek empire, the Greeks were the first people known to have explicitly formulated a political philosophy of the state, and to have rationally analyzed political institutions. Prior to this, states were described and justified in terms of religious myths.

Several important political innovations of classical antiquity came from the Greek city-states (polis) and the Roman Republic. The Greek city-states before the 4th century granted citizenship rights to their free population; in Athens these rights were combined with a directly democratic form of government that was to have a long afterlife in political thought and history.

Firefighter combats flames downtown

Political globalization began in the 20th century through intergovernmental organizations and supranational unions. The League of Nations was founded after World War I, and after World War II it was replaced by the United Nations. Various international treaties have been signed through it. Regional integration has been pursued by the African Union, ASEAN, the European Union, and Mercosur. International political institutions on the international level include the International Criminal Court, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization.

The history of the world is commonly understood as the history of humanity spanning the major geopolitical developments of about five millennia, from the first civilizations to the present. In terms such as world religion, world language, world government, and world war, the term world suggests an international or intercontinental scope without necessarily implying participation of every part of the world.

The world population is the sum of all human populations at any time; similarly, the world economy is the sum of the economies of all societies or countries, especially in the context of globalization:

  • Terms such as “world championship”, “gross world product”, and “world flags” imply the sum or combination of all sovereign states.
  • While the Germanic word thus reflects a mythological notion of a domain of Man compare Midgard.
  • The corresponding word in Latin is mundus literally “clean, elegant” as an act of establishing order out of chaos.

Itself a loan translation of Greek cosmos “orderly arrangement.” presumably as opposed to the divine sphere on the one hand and the chthonic sphere of the underworld on the other, the Greco-Latin term expresses a notion of creation.

“World” distinguishes the entire planet or population from any particular country or region: world affairs pertain not just to one place but to the whole world, and world history is a field of history that examines events from a global (rather than a national or a regional) perspective. Earth, on the other hand, refers to the planet as a physical entity, and distinguishes it from other planets and physical objects.

Was also classically used to mean the material universe, or the cosmos: “The worlde is an apte frame of heauen and earthe, and all other natural thinges contained in them.”

The term can also be used attributively, to mean “global”, or “relating to the whole world”, forming usages such as world community or world canonical texts.

By extension, a world may refer to any planet or heavenly body, especially when it is thought of as inhabited, especially in the context of science fiction or futurology.

In philosophy, the term world has several possible meanings. In some contexts, it refers to everything that makes up reality or the physical universe. In others, it can mean have a specific ontological sense. While clarifying the concept of world has arguably always been among the basic tasks of Western philosophy, this theme appears to have been raised explicitly only at the start of the twentieth century and has been the subject of continuous debate. The question of what the world is has by no means been settled.

The traditional interpretation of Parmenides work is that he argued that the everyday perception of reality of the physical world is mistaken, and that the reality of the world is One Being: an unchanging, ungenerated, indestructible whole.

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7,000 health workers dead from coronavirus, says Amnesty: Live |NationalTribune.com

The death toll from the coronavirus disease in the Middle East is more than 50,000 but numbers still may be an undercount, as testing in war-torn nations like Libya and Yemen remains extremely limited. The United States has said it will stop paying its dues to the World Health Organization, a day after it said…

7,000 health workers dead from coronavirus, says Amnesty: Live |NationalTribune.com

The death toll from the coronavirus disease in the Middle East is more than 50,000 but numbers still may be an undercount, as testing in war-torn nations like Libya and Yemen remains extremely limited.

The United States has said it will stop paying its dues to the World Health Organization, a day after it said it would not participate in the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX), a global vaccine development and distribution project.
Steroids have been confirmed to reduce the risk of death in patients suffering from severe cases of COVID-19.
More than 26 million people around the world have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, and at least 866,598 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. Some 17.4 million people have recovered.
Here are the latest updates:
Friday, September 4
01:35 GMT – Brazil’s coronavirus cases top 4 million
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Brazil has risen above four million, after health authorities logged 43,733 new infections at the end of Thursday.
Data from the health ministry also showed that the virus has caused nearly 125,000 deaths in Brazil.
Both totals are the second-highest for any country in the world, behind the US, according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

01:19 GMT – 100 million discounted meals eaten in UK during August
Around 100 million discounted meals were eaten by British diners during August as part of a government drive to encourage nervous customers back to restaurants.
Under the so-called “Eat Out to Help Out” programme, sitting customers could receive a 50 percent discount on food and non-alcoholic drinks at participating restaurants between Monday and Wednesday up to 10 pounds ($13) per person.
Official figures show the programme for August cost more than envisioned, racking up a cost of 522 million pounds ($680m), 22 million pounds more than estimated.

Diners have lunch outside a restaurant in Manchester, UK, as the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme continues [File: Jason Cairnduff/ Reuters]

Critics said the scheme did not change the underlying dynamics facing the industry, but Treasury chief Rishi Sunak said the programme helped protect the jobs of 1.8 million people working in the hospitality sector and boosted the country’s economic recovery from the coronavirus-recession.
“From the get-go, our mission has been to protect jobs, and to do this we needed to be creative, brave and try things that no government has ever done before,” he said.
00:58 GMT – ‘The Batman’ shoot suspended after positive COVID-19 test
British actor Robert Pattinson has tested positive for COVID-19, news media reported, temporarily halting the production of “The Batman”.
Warner Bros said in a statement that “a member of ‘The Batman’ production” in the United Kingdom had tested positive for the coronavirus, but did not give a name. Variety, the Hollywood Reporter and Vanity Fair all cited sources as saying the person who tested positive was Pattinson, the film’s star.
00:24 GMT – At least 7,000 health workers dead from coronavirus, Amnesty says
At least 7,000 health workers worldwide have died after being infected with the coronavirus, including more than 1,300 in Mexico alone, the most for any country, according to Amnesty International.
“Every health worker has the right to be safe at work, and it is a scandal that so many are paying the ultimate price,” said Steve Cockburn, head of economic and social justice at Amnesty.
“Many months into the pandemic, health workers are still dying at horrific rates in countries such as Mexico, Brazil and the USA, while the rapid spread of infections in South Africa and India show the need for all states to take action.”
Other hard-hit countries include the US with 1,077 deaths among health workers, the UK with 649, Brazil with 634, Russia with 631 and India with 573.
Even these figures are likely to be “a significant underestimate,” as deaths may not have been officially registered in many countries, Amnesty said.

00:11 GMT – Tracing apps may stem COVID-19 spread even when only a few use them
Contact tracing apps can sharply reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus even when only a few people use them, according to a study published by researchers at Google and Oxford University.
An app used by 15 percent of the population together with a well-staffed contact-tracing workforce can lead to a 15 percent drop in infection rates and an 11 percent drop in COVID-19 deaths, according to statistical modelling by the Alphabet Inc unit and Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Medicine.
With a 15 percent uptake of contact tracing apps alone, the researchers calculated an 8 percent reduction in infections and a 6 percent reduction in deaths.
The findings were based on data from a digital tracing system similar to one jointly developed by Google and Apple Inc.
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives. 
For key developments from yesterday, go here.
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Top US health agency urges schools to reopen: Coronavirus latest |NationalTribune.com

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported a record increase in global coronavirus cases, with the total rising by 284,196 in the past 24 hours. France advised its citizens not to travel to the Spanish region of Catalonia in order to help contain the spread of COVID-19.  India reported more than 49,000 fresh cases of the…

Top US health agency urges schools to reopen: Coronavirus latest |NationalTribune.com

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported a record increase in global coronavirus cases, with the total rising by 284,196 in the past 24 hours.

France advised its citizens not to travel to the Spanish region of Catalonia in order to help contain the spread of COVID-19. 

India reported more than 49,000 fresh cases of the coronavirus with 740 new deaths, marking the biggest daily surge in infections.

Here are the latest updates:
Friday, July 24
01:07 GMT – New foreign students cannot enter US if courses are online
The United States announced new guidelines that will block any new foreign students from entering the country if they plan to take their classes entirely online this autumn.
In a memo to college officials, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said new students who were not already enrolled as of March 9 will “likely not be able to obtain” visas if they intend to take courses online.
The policy strikes a blow to colleges a week after hundreds united to repel a Trump administration policy that threatened to deport thousands of foreign students.
That rule sought to bar all international students in the US from taking classes entirely online this fall, even if their universities were forced to switch to fully online instruction amid an outbreak.
Read more here

US coronavirus catastrophe: Who is to blame? | Head to Head (48:31)

00:17 GMT – US health agency urges schools to reopen
The top health agency in the United States issued new guidelines on reopening schools in the autumn, with officials stressing the need for children to get back into the classroom despite fears about safety as coronavirus cases surge across the country. 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) added the documents, titled “The Importance of Reopening America’s Schools this Fall”, after President Donald Trump called earlier recommendations too tough, impractical and expensive. Trump sees reopening of schools as important to boost the economy as he seeks re-election in November.
Dr Robert Redfield, CDC director, said the additional documents were “all put out with the intent to help facilitate … the full reopening of schools for face-to-face learning”.
The guideline includes recommendations such as keeping desks six feet apart, keeping students in small cohorts and using outdoor spaces.
Read more here.
Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Zaheena Rasheed in Male, Maldives. 
You can find all the key developments from yesterday, July 24, here.

SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies

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