North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Il reported dead >> Reflections

It has been a tumultuous year in regards to geopolitics  sociopolitics with several rather infamous world figures having died over the past year. First, Osama Bin Laden, then, Muammar Gaddafi, and now Kim Jong-Il.

Twitter, the blogoshpere , Facebook, and the news networks are all buzzing non-stop over North Korean Leader, Kim Jong-Il’s death.

He “died of ‘great mental and physical strain’ while in a train during a ‘field guidance tour,’ North Korea’s state-run KCNA news agency reported.” [])

The 3 clusters of questions that run to the forefront of my mind are:

How is this going to affect the Korean Peninsula and what does it mean for geopolitics there? ..

What does this mean for America? Just as important, what does this mean for geopolitics for the whole East Asia and Southeast Asia?

Will the situation of the global economy improve or get worse? How are the dollar and the yen going to be impacted by this?

UPDATE: 12/19/2011 00:35 EST

Below is a link (provided by The Globe and Mailout of  Toronto, taken from Reuters, Published Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011 11:21PM EST; Last updated Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011 11:37PM EST) to some analyst’s views on the effects of this news. Some of the questions I asked are answered pretty succinctly.

Analysis: What are the implications for Kim Jong-il’s death?

Essentially, people are falling on both sides of the line on whether this event is positive or negative.

UPDATE: 12/19/2011 00:49EST


I guess we will see how this begins to play out. We are living in very interesting times, indeed. I can only hope that some celebrity gossip won’t overshadow something as important and complex as the current geopolitics.

Top 5 Lunch Break Tweets

Iceland’s Grimsvotn volcano erupting (via BBC)

Grimsvötn in Vatna Jökull glacier in Iceland o...
Grimsvotn Volcano Image via Wikipedia

The world may not have ended, but air travel in Europe may run into some nature-induced trouble again.


Iceland’s most active volcano, Grimsvotn, has started erupting, scientists say.

The volcano, which lies under the Vatnajokull glacier in south-east Iceland, last erupted in 2004.

In 2010, plumes…Read More: Iceland’s Grimsvotn volcano erupting.

Susquehanna River Top Most Threatened for 2011

Pennsylvania has landed the top spot on a national list, but unfortunately the list is America’s Most Endangered Rivers. According to the national environmental group American Rivers, the Susquehanna River is America’s most endangered river . The group said the Susquehanna is being damaged by hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.” The process is used to reach natural gas deposits in the underlying Marcellus Shale natural gas formation.

After being in Pennsylvania for nearly two years, I’ve grown attached to the area. It is upsetting to hear that a river that is amongst the oldest in the world is now being endangered through natural gas drilling the associated environmental hazards of the drilling procedure.

For more information you can check out the related articles below:

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LED bulbs hit 100 watts as federal ban looms (via Associated Press)

40 watt light bulbs with standard E10, E14 and...
Image via Wikipedia

The warm, amber light of incandescent light bulbs is on its way out, ending a 130-year relationship with Thomas Edison’s invention that brightened the modern world. While this does mean that mood lighting will be a lot harder to come by, developments in technologies are now moving forward with more energy-efficient replacements for incandescent bulbs. Now the big debate will be whether CFLs (Compact fluorescent Lights) or LEDs will rule the market. It looks, so far, as if LEDs are leading the way:

NEW YORK – Two leading makers of lighting products are showcasing LED bulbs that are bright enough to replace energy-guzzling 100-watt light bulbs set to disappear from stores in January.

Their demonstrations at the LightFair trade show in Philadelphia this week mean that brighter LED bulbs will likely go on sale next year, but after a government ban takes effect.

The new bulbs will also be expensive — about $50 each — so the development may not prevent consumers from hoarding traditional bulbs…Read More

via Associated Press

No More Hiroshimas and Nagasakis

The title of this post refers to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima at 8:15 am, on August 6, 1945 and of Nagasaki at 11:02 am on August 9, 1945.

This year, a U.S. representative participated for the first time Friday in Japan’s

The A-bomb Dome

annual commemoration of the American atomic bombing of Hiroshima, 65 years after the bombing.  Hiroshima’s mayor welcomed Ambassador John Roos to the commemoration.

Hiroshima Peace Park: The cenotaph can be seen in the center of the park.

I visited the Peace Memorial Halls located in both Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the two cities which suffered atomic bombings, in 2007. I was in Japan for a study abroad taking a class in International Studies: Peace Studies. The experience was one I will never forget and think about often.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki are important not only to American history and Japanese history, but also world history.  It is important for American students to visit places like this so they can understand that history has more than one

Nagasaki Peace Memorial: This is the marker indicating where the hypocenter of the blast was.

perspective.  For example, in visiting the peace memorials and museums in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I was able to gain a better understanding of what the atomic bomb truly meant.   It was one of those things that I had even studied personally as a history major, but seeing it firsthand was different.   I suddenly realized the horrifying scope of it all and what it must have actually been like to have been a victim of the bomb.  It is something I do not think I would have ever really understood if I had not gone abroad to Japan.  The experience was not something one could just imagine or learn from a book.

In visiting Japan, I came to learn of how important peace really is and saw how horrible the results of war could really be.  Hearing firsthand accounts from people like a-bomb survivor, Keijiro Matsushima, made me realize how real the event was and how horrible it had been.  It helped me understand the message for peace the museums and memorials aimed to deliver to the public.  I think sometimes we as Americans don’t like to really think that something horrible can happen and don’t really care about the importance of world politics.  Visiting made me realize how important political issues are to everyone and not just to one group of people versus another.

I think what struck me most about the various monuments and museums was the atmosphere of seriousness surrounding the monuments.  This was especially true in Nagasaki where there were less people visiting the memorial since it was not a school day.  It gave one a sense of sacredness, almost, and respect.  In one way, it was like visiting a church.  You had this sense that the so much had happened in the different places that you had to simply show respect.  I remember everyone in the group being really quiet.  It almost felt as if you couldn’t really say anything other than, “I can’t believe these people actually went through this.”

It was also unnerving, because we walked into the Remembrance Hall in

Strings of paper cranes left strung up as a wish for peace at the memorial in Nagasaki.

Nagasaki at 11:02 which was the same time the bomb hit.  Afterwards, we kept thinking that people had been going about their business just like we had when it happened.  It really put things into perspective of how insane the whole experience must have been for the survivors to go from walking on the streets to being thrust into an inferno.

While people can have different perspectives about what was the right thing to do, in either the past or the present, I think that Washington’s move in sending an ambassador, even 65 years later, shows that we can all agree that peace is important.

Monday Musings on Mortality and the Icelandic Volcano

On April 14 2010, the Eyjafjallajökull volcano resumed erupting after a brief pause following an eruption in March. This time, the eruption was from the top crater in the center of the glacier, causing melt water floods. Meanwhile, the ash cloud produced by the volcano has been blowing over much of Europe. Airline travel in Europe has been slowed to only 25 percent of it’s usual volume as a result.

According to the BBC article, “Europe’s airlines and airports question flight bans”:

“The flight bans came amid fears that the volcanic ash – a mixture of glass, sand and rock particles – can seriously damage aircraft engines. Airlines are estimated to be losing some £130m ($200m) a day.

The European air traffic coordinating agency, Eurocontrol, reports that 63,000 flights have been cancelled since Thursday. There were only 5,000 flights in European airspace on Sunday, against 24,000 normally, it says.”

The list of closed airspaces, as documented by the BBC, this morning was:

Airspaces closed:

Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Switzerland, UK

Partial closures:

Italy (northern airspace closed until Monday)

Norway (most airports open)

Bulgaria (Sofia and Plovdiv open)

Poland (several airports, including Warsaw, open)

Sweden (northern airports open)

France (southern airports open)

Flights operating:

Greece, Lithuania, Portugal, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Spain

It’s amazing how much we have come to rely on air transportation in just over a century. If one eruption can bring such a halt to human activities, we are pretty much sitting ducks if most of the scenarios from major natural disaster movies came to pass. Hollywood seems rather optimistic. For example, any minor meteor impacts capable of raising a sizeable dust cloud would completely cripple human activity over a large region as we have seen from the response to the ash clouds.  The nightmare of logistics regarding aid in the affected area would be something to consider as well. Which reminds me, it could be something to consider while watching the Lyrid meteor shower on the nights of April 21 and 22. (The Moon sets around 3-4 a.m. making before dawn viewing optimal.)

Despite things such accelerating natural global warming, pollution, and everything else humans have done to the planet, the Icelandic eruption  is yet another reminder that the Earth was here first and will continue on long after us, even if we do manage to damage it.


Sources used:

BBC. “Europe’s airlines and airports question flight bans.” (19 April 2010).