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North Korean authorities staged a public trial and shot two female fortune tellers to death last month, forcing tens of thousands of people to watch, in what appeared to be a resumption of public executions.
The executions of the two women took place in March in North Hamgyong’s Chongjin city, and were aimed at forcing officials to stop patronizing fortune tellers and engaging in other “superstitious” behavior, according to two sources who spoke to RFA’s Korean Service on condition of anonymity.
“Public trials and executions have resumed this year, with judicial authorities holding these trials in multiple locations for reasons of maintaining social order,” a source in North Hamgyong province, bordering China, told RFA’s Korean Service.
The public executions “shocked” city residents, RFA’s source said.
“They pronounced sentences of death and carried out public executions immediately,” the source said, adding that two of the three women put on trial were executed by shooting, with the third sentenced to life in prison.
“Tens of thousands of people from factories, colleges, and housing units from Chongjin were forced to attend the public trail in March,” added the source.
The three had created a group called Chilsungjo (Seven Star Group) to carry out what authorities described as “superstitious activities,” the source said.
“They had used a three-year-old and five-year-old child to carry out their activities, claiming that the children were possessed by a spirit oracle and receiving money for telling fortunes,” he said.
It is now common in North Korea for people to consult fortune tellers before planning weddings or making business deals, or considering other important decisions in their lives, the source said, adding, “Even high-ranking government officials and the families of judicial authorities often visit fortune tellers.”
Making an example
Also speaking to RFA, a second source in North Hamgyong said that government concerns over the involvement of high-ranking officials in “superstitious” activities has caused authorities to make an example of those caught telling fortunes.
“The Central Committee has emphasized the elimination of anti-socialist behavior and the preservation of social order, but it is hard to find residents who will follow these orders,” the source said.
“People fear that they will starve to death if they live by the law, so it is no exaggeration to say that illegal activities have now become common.”
In February, authorities held an unusual open trial in Chongjin’s Pohang district for middle school students aged from 15 to 16 who had organized themselves into groups of two to three to carry out robberies at night, the source said.
“They acted violently against residents and stole anything that they thought would earn them money. The atmosphere became uneasy in the area at night, and it was hard for a time to find people walking around after dark.”
Because the accused were minors, they were spared harsh sentences, the source said.
“But the adults tried in public are being sentenced to death, or at least receive life sentences, so the residents are living in fear,” he said.
Accurate statistics on North Korea’s use of the death penalty are hard to find.
In February, RFA’s Korean Service reported that a Seoul-based North Korean defector-led NGO had detailed that the Kim Jong Un regime had purged 421 officials since 2010 to consolidate power around Kim.
The report, “Executions and Purges of North Korean Elites: An Investigation into Genocide Based on High-Ranking Officials’ Testimonies,” by the North Korean Strategy Center, collected accounts by 14 North Korean elite group defectors, six North Korean officials in China, and five other defectors who witnessed executions.
The report notes the well-known case of Kim’s uncle Jang Song Thaek, a top official who was executed in 2013, and says that “more than 15 people were killed and 400 others were purged.
At a U.N. Security Council session on North Korea’s human rights situation in December 2017, then U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley was quoted by Reuters and other news agencies as saying that “defectors have reported that all North Koreans, ages 12 and older, are required to attend public executions—a graphic reminder of consequences of disobedience of the government.” she said.
In a landmark report in 2014, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea found that “as a matter of state policy, the authorities carry out executions, with or without trial, publicly or secretly, in response to political and other crimes that are often not among the most serious crimes.”
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“The policy of regularly carrying out public executions serves to instill fear in the general population,” said the report, based on extensive interviews with defectors from the North.
The UN report said that while public executions “were most common in the 1990s,” they continued up until the time of the landmark report’s release in 2014, and that 2013 saw a “spike in the number of politically motivated public executions.” (RFA)
The Israeli Antiquities Authority said Tuesday that a diver swimming in the Mediterranean Sea has recovered a large sword that experts believe to be about 900 years old, dating back to the Crusades.
The antiquities authority's Director of Marine Archaeology, Kobi Sharvit, said the amateur diver was swimming about 150 meters offshore near the Israeli port of Haifa a few days ago when he spotted the sword lying on the ocean floor, four to five meters below the surface.
Sharvit said the diver recovered the sword and immediately took it to the antiquities authority. Sharvit said the sword -- encrusted with marine organisms when discovered –is the most complete and well preserved he has seen in 31 years. He described the sword as large, heavy and made of iron.
He added that the one-meter-long blade, hilt and handle were distinctive and highly noticeable after undercurrents apparently shifted sands that had concealed it.
Sharvit said because the sword was found in a cove, not far from the Crusader castle of Atlit on the northern coast of Israel, it is being assumed the sword belonged to a solder in the Crusades.
The Crusades were a series of medieval European Christian-led military expeditions to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries.
Sharvit said that from an historical perspective, the handle of the sword may be the most important part of the weapon as that is where decorations, and perhaps, even names or initials are often found that will help identify the sword.
He said once it cleaned, examined, and restored, the antiquities authority will put the sword on display. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Crusader sword, Israel, Antiquity, Castle of Atlit
Facebook must pay a $4.75 million fine and up to $9.5 million in back pay to eligible victims who say the company discriminated against U.S. workers in favor of foreign ones, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.
The discrimination took place from at least January 1, 2018, until at least September 18, 2019.
The Justice Department said Facebook "routinely refused" to recruit or consider U.S. workers, including U.S. citizens and nationals, asylees, refugees and lawful permanent residents, in favor of temporary visa holders. Facebook also helped the visa holders get their green cards, which allowed them to work permanently
In a separate settlement, the company also agreed to train its employees in anti-discrimination rules and conduct wider searches to fill jobs.
The fines and back pay are the largest civil awards ever given by the DOJ's civil rights division in its 35-year history.
"Facebook is not above the law and must comply with our nation's civil rights laws," Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke told reporters in a telephone conference.
"While we strongly believe we met the federal government's standards in our permanent labor certification [PERM] practices, we've reached agreements to end the ongoing litigation and move forward with our PERM program, which is an important part of our overall immigration program," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "These resolutions will enable us to continue our focus on hiring the best builders from both the U.S. and around the world and supporting our internal community of highly skilled visa holders who are seeking permanent residence." (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Facebook, Employment, Justice Dept., Recruitment
Tomatoes are a staple in the Indian diet, be it a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian dish. It has to be a part of each meal in some form. As puree, paste, flavour, or diced into the dal. This tangy, sweet, and juicy ingredient was not always Indian. In fact, it did not even grow in India until the British sanctioned it. It is a product of colonization and has come a long way to become part of our everyday meals.
Originally, the tomato was considered poison. Its actual native is debatable. Some say it is European while others argue that is came from indigenous parts of Spain and Portugal. Either way, it is a plant species that is associated with the legendary Nightshade. It looks very similar to this poisonous plant that tomatoes were not even harvested for a long time, for fear of picking Nightshade instead. It was believed that Nightshade caused the blood to turn to acid and that tomatoes had the same property. Later research proved that the plant itself may be poisonous but the fruit is not.
The fruit if the woody nightshade plant Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Tomato is considered a fruit instead of a vegetable because it is cooked. But this theory has an interesting tale behind it. in the United States, in 1887, a tax was levied on the transport of vegetables, but not on fruits. By then, tomatoes had become a huge part of the American diet and traders could not afford to pay the ten percent duty. So, they began to call the large loads they transported fruits, just to avoid the tax due. In time, this is how the tomato came to be regarded. Some scientists went even further and stated that it is a berry. Botanists claim that since it is a part that grows from the flower's ovary and contains seeds, it is a fruit and not a vegetable. But this is a debate that will never end.
Incorporating tomatoes into the Indian diet must have happened so long ago that people do not remember a time without tomatoes, considering how it is the fundamental ingredient of most cuisines. The tomato has a name in every language as well, so the trading between nations, the voyages that brought them to India, and the decoding of the fruit-vegetable must have taken place far earlier than our ancestors remember. Or, perhaps we liked it so much that we decided to use it everywhere and make it our own. Nonetheless, it has been a delightful addition.
Keywords: Tomato, Fruit, Vegetable, Nightshade, Voyage, Staple