Public trust in U.S. has dwindled with rise in income inequality

Science Daily reports:

‘Trust in others and confidence in societal institutions are at their lowest point in over three decades, analyses of national survey data reveal. The findings are forthcoming in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“Compared to Americans in the 1970s-2000s, Americans in the last few years are less likely to say they can trust others, and are less likely to believe that institutions such as government, the press, religious organizations, schools, and large corporations are ‘doing a good job,'” explains psychological scientist and lead researcher Jean M. Twenge of San Diego State University.’

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Piketty’s prophecy comes true: The planet’s middle class is rapidly going extinct

Lynn Stuart Parramore writes for AlterNet:

Piketty's prophecy comes true: The planet's middle class is rapidly going extinct ‘According to a new report, the richest one percent have got their mitts on almost half the world’s assets. Think that’s the end of the story? Think again. This is only the beginning.

The “Global Annual Wealth Report,” freshly released by investment giant Credit Suisse, analyzes the shocking trend of growing wealth inequality around the world. What the researchers find is that global wealth has increased every year since 2008, and that personal wealth seems to be rising at the fastest rate ever recorded, much of it driven by strong equity markets. But the benefits of this growth have largely been channeled to those who are already affluent. While the restaurant workers in America struggled to achieve wages of $10 an hour for their labor, those invested in equities saw their wealth soar without lifting a finger. So it goes around the world.’

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Blackwater Founder Remains Free and Rich While His Former Employees Go Down on Murder Charges

Jeremy Scahill writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Blackwater Founder Remains Free and Rich While His Former Employees Go Down on Murder Charges‘[...] The incident for which the men were tried was the single largest known massacre of Iraqi civilians at the hands of private U.S. security contractors. Known as “Baghdad’s bloody Sunday,” operatives from Blackwater gunned down 17 Iraqi civilians at a crowded intersection at Nisour Square on September 16, 2007. The company, founded by secretive right-wing Christian supremacist Erik Prince, had deep ties to the Bush Administration and served as a sort of neoconservative Praetorian Guard for a borderless war launched in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

While Barack Obama pledged to reign in mercenary forces when he was a senator, once he became president he continued to employ a massive shadow army of private contractors. Blackwater — despite numerous scandals, congressional investigations, FBI probes and documented killings of civilians in both Iraq and Afghanistan — remained a central part of the Obama administration’s global war machine throughout his first term in office.

Just as with the systematic torture at Abu Ghraib, it is only the low level foot-soldiers of Blackwater that are being held accountable. Prince and other top Blackwater executives continue to reap profits from the mercenary and private intelligence industries. Prince now has a new company, Frontier Services Group, which he founded with substantial investment from Chinese enterprises and which focuses on opportunities in Africa. Prince recently suggested that his forces at Blackwater could have confronted Ebola and ISIS. “If the administration cannot rally the political nerve or funding to send adequate active duty ground forces to answer the call, let the private sector finish the job,” he wrote.’

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After Shooting, Fear and Anxiety Take Over Ottawa

Ian Austen and Jeff Z. Klein report for The New York Times:

‘The normally bustling streets near Canada’s Parliament were transformed on Wednesday as thousands of government workers were kept inside their buildings for hours while police and military officers in combat gear swept the area, fearful that shootings that morning had been part of a larger plot.

Anxious workers pressed their faces against the windows of nearby offices, trying to figure out what had happened in a city so peaceful that pedestrians can usually walk unimpeded into the Parliament building before being checked by guards.

“I never thought this would happen,” said one woman, who refused to give her name as she hurried along a main street after the police allowed people in her building to evacuate the area in the afternoon. “This is Canada.”’

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Blowback: Attack on Canadian Parliament Leaves Ottawa Stunned

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

‘[...] Ottawa, a city of almost 900,000 people, has seen only five murders all year, and terror attacks in Canada are virtually unheard of. Yet Canada’s foreign policy, and particularly its role in NATO’s overseas operations have meant resentment was building, and this sort of blowback was only a matter of time.

There doesn’t seem to be any real dispute that the attack was ideological in nature, and Canadian Premier Stephen Harper says the shooter, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, was known to Canadian authorities already, and designated a “high-risk traveler” who could not travel abroad.

That must inevitably draw comparison to Monday’s hit-and-run attack in Quebec by Martin Couture-Rouleau, who ran over a pair of Canadian soldiers and sped off. He was also being tracked as a potentially “radicalized” citizen of Canada.

The incidents both come as Canada’s parliament is moving forward with more draconian anti-terror laws, aiming to dramatically increase the power of security agencies.

Unfortunately for Canadians, the very same policies that are triggering this blowback are likely to only get worse in the wake of the attacks, as officials are already talking up granting even more power to the CSIS spy agency.’

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White House: No change in terror threat level after Canada shooting

Brian Hughes reports for the Washington Examiner:

‘White House officials said that President Obama had been briefed on the shooting earlier Wednesday near Canada’s Parliament building but were “not aware” of additional security measures implemented in the U.S. following the deadly attack.

A man opened fire at Ottawa’s National War Memorial Wednesday morning, authorities said, killing at least one soldier. Police are investigating shootings at the Parliament building, war memorial and a nearby shopping center but have not said whether multiple gunmen are involved.’

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Canada’s Coverage of the Ottawa Shootings Put American Cable News to Shame

‘The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation today gave a master class in calm, credible breaking news reporting.

Anchored by the unflappable Peter Mansbridge, news of the shootings in Ottawa unfolded live on the CBC much like they do here in the United States: lots of sketchy details, conflicting reports, unreliable witnesses, and a thick fog of confusion. All of that was familiar. What was less familiar was how Mansbridge and his team managed that confusion, conveying a concise and fact-based version of fast-moving events to viewers across Canada and the world.

This live bit of level-headed reporting by Mansbridge, from around 11:10am Wednesday, should be given to journalism students around the country. It basically contains everything you need to know about why CBC did its audience proud.’

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Canada, At War For 13 Years, Shocked That ‘A Terrorist’ Attacked Its Soldiers

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Canada, At War For 13 Years, Shocked That ‘A Terrorist’ Attacked Its Soldiers‘In Quebec on Monday, two Canadian soldiers were hit by a car driven by Martin Couture-Rouleau, a 25-year-old Canadian who, as The Globe and Mail reported, “converted to Islam recently and called himself Ahmad Rouleau.” One of the soldiers died, as did Couture-Rouleau when he was shot by police upon apprehension after allegedly brandishing a large knife. Police speculated that the incident was deliberate, alleging the driver waited for two hours before hitting the soldiers, one of whom was wearing a uniform. The incident took place in the parking lot of a shopping mall 30 miles southeast of Montreal, “a few kilometres from the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean, the military academy operated by the Department of National Defence.”

The right-wing Canadian government wasted no time in seizing on the incident to promote its fear-mongering agenda over terrorism, which includes pending legislation to vest its intelligence agency, CSIS, with more spying and secrecy powers in the name of fighting ISIS. A government spokesperson asserted “clear indications” that the driver “had become radicalized.”’

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Pew Study On Media Habits In The U.S.

‘A Lovely Piece of Real Estate': 31 Years After the U.S. Invasion of Grenada

Mickey Z writes for CounterPunch:

‘As I’m sure everyone knows, we’re fast approaching the 31st anniversary of a truly momentous American victory — a crucial military operation that not only warmed Ronald Raygun’s cold, cold heart but was also deemed film-worthy by the former mayor of Carmel, California.

Yes, of course, I’m talking about the Oct. 25, 1983, “liberation” of Grenada.

In March 1979, socialist leader Maurice Bishop took over Grenada in a bloodless coup. Once deemed “a lovely piece of real estate” by U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, Grenada is a small East Caribbean island of some 133 square miles and 110,000 inhabitants.’

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US jury convicts Blackwater security guards in deaths of Iraqi civilians

Dan Roberts reports for The Guardian:

Three security guards working for the private US contractor Blackwater have been found guilty of the manslaughter of a group of unarmed civilians at a crowded Baghdad traffic junction in one of the darkest incidents of the Iraq war.

A fourth, Nicholas Slatten, was found guilty of one charge of first-degree murder. All face the likelihood of lengthy prison sentences after unanimous verdicts on separate weapons charges related to the incident.

The Nisour Square massacre in 2007 left 17 people dead and 20 seriously injured after the guards working for the US State Department fired heavy machine guns and grenade launchers from their armoured convoy in the mistaken belief they were under attack by insurgents.’

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IAPA: Press Freedom Deteriorating in the Americas

The Associated Press reports:

‘Freedom of expression and the press have sharply deteriorated in the Americas over the last six months due to an increase in censorship and physical attacks on journalists, the Inter American Press Association said Tuesday.

Eleven journalists were killed in attacks “carried out by organized crime, drug traffic hit men and police-style groups on the orders of several governments of the region,” the group said in a statement at the end of its 70th General Assembly.

Journalists suffered violence in almost every country in the region, including Venezuela, where some were attacked by police, and in Bolivia, Brazil and Peru during election coverage. Journalists also experienced violence while reporting on street protests in the U.S. city of Ferguson, Missouri, and the Brazilian cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.’

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Surprise: U.S. Drug War In Afghanistan Not Going Well

Ryan Devereaux writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Surprise: U.S. Drug War In Afghanistan Not Going Well‘A new report has found the war on drugs in Afghanistan remains colossally expensive, largely ineffective and likely to get worse. This is particularly true in the case of opium production, says the U.S. Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

In a damning report released Tuesday, the special inspector general, Justin F. Sopko, writes that “despite spending over $7 billion to combat opium poppy cultivation and to develop the Afghan government’s counternarcotics capacity, opium poppy cultivation levels in Afghanistan hit an all-time high in 2013,” hitting 209,000 hectares, surpassing the prior, 2007 peak of 193,000 hectares. Sopko adds that the number should continue to rise thanks to deteriorating security in rural Afghanistan and weak eradication efforts.’

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Whistleblowers: IRS officials behind ‘fraudulent’ multi-billion dollar corporate tax giveaways

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Raw Story:

IRSArt‘A 10-year veteran Internal Revenue Service (IRS) attorney has demanded a Congressional audit of the IRS to investigate the agency’s alleged role in allowing American corporations to illegally avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes at the same time the agency is cracking down on individuals and small businesses.

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, IRS commissioner John A. Koskinen, and IRS chief counsel William Wilkins, Jane J. Kim, an attorney in the IRS Office of the Chief Counsel in New York, accused IRS executives of “deliberately” facilitating multi-billion dollar tax giveaways. The letter, dated October 19, will add further pressure on the agency, which is under fire for allegedly targeting conservative and Tea Party groups.’

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Carter Center shuts Egypt office over rights concerns

BBC News reports:

Former US President Jimmy Carter observes Egypt's presidential election in Cairo on 24 May 2012‘A human rights group founded by former US President Jimmy Carter has closed its office in Egypt because of the restrictions on democratic rights.

The Carter Center also said it would not send a mission to observe this year’s parliamentary elections. It cited the “crackdown on dissidents, opposition groups, and critical journalists, together with heightened restrictions on core freedoms”.

The organisation opened an office in Cairo after the 2011 uprising. It sought to support the country’s democratic transition after President Hosni Mubarak was deposed.’

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In Egypt, an authoritarian regime holds sway again

Ahdaf Soueif, an Egyptian novelist and political commentator, writes for The Guardian:

‘Since 30 June 2013, some 40,000 people have been arrested and 16,000 of them remain in prison. The majority probably belong to the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, of whom some will have committed acts of violence; most will not. The rest, maybe 8,000 or 9,000, are split between revolutionary activists and bystanders caught up in police dragnets and used to make up required figures.

The state is commandeering every resource to establish control over the country. And even establishments that had their own intifadas during Mubarak’s time – for example, the judiciary, the universities, the media – have scampered into the fold. It’s not quite that they’re toeing the government line, but more that they have identified their own interests with “stability” and against “revolutionary change”.

A shocking manifestation of this confluence of interests is how judges and prosecutors work seamlessly with the ministry of the interior. Police drag people into custody, prosecution charges them from a now famous menu of “destructive” activities, judges decree their imprisonment on remand, postpone their trials month after month and then pass ridiculous and patently unjust sentences.

Most of the political prisoners are young. An estimated 1,000 minors, for example, across nine governorates, are in prison. And an estimated 2,000 students. Every case has its individuality, its absurdity, its heartbreak. Together, it adds up to a war on the young.’

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Egypt’s U.S-Backed Military Regime is Brutalizing Student Protestors

Murtaza Hussain writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Egypt’s U.S-Backed Military Regime is Brutalizing Student Protestors‘Just a few short months after John Kerry disingenuously congratulated Egypt’s military junta for “transitioning to democracy”, the young students who helped galvanize the 2011 Egyptian Revolution are back protesting its increasingly draconian rule. Campus protests have broken out in several major cities calling for the release of imprisoned student activists and for the removal of new limits on academic freedom imposed by the regime.

As part of wide-ranging campaign to stifle popular dissent, the government of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has recently given itself broad powers to directly appoint university heads, dismiss faculty without the possibility of appeal, and force students to sign documents promising “not to participate in political activities” in their housing applications. Private security firms have also been hired to enforce order on campus and monitor activists.

Predictably, these measures have led to outrage among students – and equally as predictable, their protests have been met with harsh retribution from the military regime.’

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CEO Of French Oil Giant Total Dies In Moscow Plane Accident

Amnesty: Summary executions but no mass graves found in Ukraine

Renee Lewis reports for Al Jazeera:

Amnesty International spoke with victims of human rights abuses and their families in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. ‘Summary executions have been carried out by both sides of the conflict in Ukraine but the scale of the killings appear to have been “hugely exaggerated,” a report by Amnesty International said Monday.

Based on interviews with victims of human rights abuses, relatives, eyewitnesses and officials, researchers found that some the more shocking Russian media articles relating to “mass graves” were overblown, but the report added that it was difficult to get accurate information from eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces have been battling for control since April.

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HRW: Ukrainian Government Forces Used of Cluster Munitions in Populated Areas

The Kohl Protocols: A new book reveals how the former German Chancellor sees his fellow politicians

Tony Paterson reports for The Independent:

‘He is still called the “father of unification”, but, 25 years on from the fall of the Berlin Wall, a new biography of Helmut Kohl has exposed the former German chancellor as a scathing critic of fellow politicians, who was adamant that people power had nothing to do with communism’s collapse.

The deeply unflattering portrait of Mr Kohl, now 84, is based on 630 hours of interviews he gave to a journalist in 2001 – three years after he was ousted as chancellor in Germany’s 1998 election. Last week, Mr Kohl’s lawyers dropped an attempt to prevent publication of the book after the appeal was rejected by a German court.’

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Isaac Asimov’s Newly Published 1959 Paper for DARPA on Creativity

Matt Novak reports for Gizmodo:

‘Isaac Asimov was one of the great sci-fi writers of the 20th century. So naturally, at the dawn of the space age, the military wanted to tap his brain. In 1959 he was approached by ARPA (now known as DARPA) to “think outside of the box” about how ideas are formed. His brief work for the organization has never been published, until today.’

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Cold War spy plane isn’t ready to retire

Tim Starks writes for McClatchy:

‘The iconic U-2 spy plane, with its long, sagging wings and a reputation for being challenging to fly and harder to land, is one of the oldest aircraft in the U.S. fleet, with a storied history to match: The downing of Francis Gary Powers is a touchstone moment in the Cold War, and many a UFO rumor can be attributed to the plane’s early flight tests at the government’s secret Area 51 in the Nevada desert.

One year before of the 60th anniversary of its first flight in 1955, the U-2 is on the chopping block, where it has been many times before. President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2015 budget called for its retirement to begin in 2016, and while one of the fiscal 2015 defense spending and authorization bills would block the move, others do not explicitly do so.

Yet the U-2 has avoided death time and again, owing to its versatility, its reliability, its low operating cost and the inability of rival airborne surveillance systems to replace what it offers. Only two budgets ago, the Obama administration proposed retiring the Global Hawk Block 30 reconnaissance drone, citing the U-2’s capabilities for the same job; this year, it has taken the opposite stance, saying Global Hawk advancements have made the U-2 less essential.

And unlike some of its 1950s peers, such as the B-52 bomber or KC-135 refueling tanker, there is no plan to build a successor, a “next generation” spy plane. That means the U-2 could be here to stay.’

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Cemetery overcrowding around the world

From the Associated Press:

‘Cemetery overcrowding is an issue that resonates around the world, particularly in its most cramped cities and among religions that forbid or discourage cremation. The reality of relying on finite land resources to cope with the endless stream of the dying has brought about creative solutions.’

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Expelled Nazis paid millions in U.S. Social Security benefits

Richard Lardner, David Rising and Randy Herschaft report for the Associated Press:

‘Dozens of suspected Nazi war criminals and SS guards collected millions of dollars in U.S. Social Security benefits after being forced out of the United States, an Associated Press investigation has found.

The payments, underwritten by American taxpayers, flowed through a legal loophole that gave the U.S. Justice Department leverage to persuade Nazi suspects to leave the U.S. If they agreed to go, or simply fled before deportation, they could keep their Social Security, according to interviews and internal U.S. government records.

Among those receiving benefits were armed SS troops who guarded the network of Nazi camps where millions of Jews perished; a rocket scientist who used slave laborers to advance his research in the Third Reich; and a Nazi collaborator who engineered the arrest and execution of thousands of Jews in Poland.’

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Joe Biden’s Son Hunter Kicked Out of Navy for Cocaine

NBC News reports:

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (R) points to some faces in the crowd with his son Hunter. (Reuters/Carlos Barria )‘Vice President Joe Biden’s son was booted from the Navy Reserve because he tested positive for drugs, it was revealed on Thursday.

A U.S. official told NBC News that Hunter Biden was kicked out of the Reserve earlier this year after he failed a drug test.

The official said Biden failed the test in 2013, but he was not kicked out until Feb. 14 of this year. Senior U.S. officials told NBC News that Biden, 44, tested positive for cocaine. The Wall Street Journal first reported the incident.’

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Ukraine confirms Russia winter gas deal

The Herald Sun reports:

‘Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has said he has reached a deal with Russia to ensure supplies of natural gas to his country this winter.

THE two sides agreed that Ukraine would pay $US385 ($A416.55) per 1000 cubic metres of gas between now and March 31, Poroshenko said in a nationally televised interview on Saturday night.

That is a much lower figure than the US$485 that Russian energy giant Gazprom had so far been demanding.”I can say that Ukraine will have gas and warmth this winter,” Poroshenko said.Poroshenko, who met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Milan last week, said the agreement could be finalised in Brussels on Tuesday at a meeting between Russian, Ukrainian and EU officials.’

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German Intelligence: Pro-Russian Rebels Downed MH17 With BUK Missile Stolen From Ukrainian Military Base

Spiegel reports:

‘After completing a detailed analysis, Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), has concluded that pro-Russian rebels were responsible for the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 on July 19 in eastern Ukraine while on route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

In an Oct. 8 presentation given to members of the parliamentary control committee, the Bundestag body responsible for monitoring the work of German intelligence, BND President Gerhard Schindler provided ample evidence to back up his case, including satellite images and diverse photo evidence. The BND has intelligence indicating that pro-Russian separatists captured a BUK air defense missile system at a Ukrainian military base and fired a missile on July 17 that exploded in direct proximity to the Malaysian aircraft, which had been carrying 298 people.’

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“Women Are Being Driven Offline”: Feminist Anita Sarkeesian Terrorized for Critique of Video Games

‘Anita Sarkeesian, a prominent feminist critic of video games, was forced to cancel a speech at Utah State University last week after the school received an email threatening to carry out “the deadliest shooting in American history” at the event. The email sender wrote: “feminists have ruined my life and I will have my revenge.” The sender used the moniker Marc Lepine, the name of a man who killed 14 women, most of them female engineering students, in a mass shooting in Montreal in 1989. Sarkeesian canceled the talk after being told that under Utah law, campus police could not prevent people from bringing guns. We speak to Sarkeesian about the incident, the “Gamergate” controversy, and her campaign to expose misogyny, sexism and violence against female characters in video games despite repeated physical threats. “Online harassment, especially gendered online harassment, is an epidemic,” Sarkeesian says. “Women are being driven out, they’re being driven offline; this isn’t just in gaming, this is happening across the board online, especially with women who participate in or work in male-dominated industries.”‘ (Democracy Now!)

The Men and Women Who Help Rule North Korea From the Shadows

Editor’s Note: Everything we learn about North Korea must be taken with a degree of scepticism. The two main sources of information about the country predominantly come from South Korean intelligence and defectors from the North, both of which will have their own agendas. There’s also no shortage of Western think-tanks with ties to the U.S. military establishment quoted in articles on North Korea. Still, it’s an interesting read and worth a share. 

Keegan Hamilton writes for VICE News:

‘[...] Coup speculation was rampant during Kim’s time in the shadows. Former top propaganda official Jang Jin-sung told VICE News that the North Korean government is largely controlled by men from the country’s Organization and Guidance Department (OGD), a shadowy agency formerly headed by Kim Jong-il. Jang has argued that OGD bureaucrats cemented their grip on power late last year by executing Kim’s influential uncle, Jang Song-thaek.

There is no consensus among North Korea experts about who actually runs the country. Some believe Kim Jong-un still has absolute control. Others suggest influential aides and family members are able to manipulate him however they please. Nobody outside of a few Pyongyang elites can say for certain, and they don’t grant a whole lot of interviews.

But whether Kim is a mighty despot or a mere puppet, he is undoubtedly surrounded by an entourage of cunning bureaucrats, powerful generals, and reclusive siblings who help set his agenda, shape his policies, and ensure that the day-to-day business of the country runs as smoothly as it can in the Hermit Kingdom.’

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