American higher education in an institution that dates back to the years before the founding of the country. For centuries, colleges and universities have occupied a hallowed place in America’s collective heart.
But in the last half century, higher education in the U.S. has grown from an intellectual enterprise that educated a few million students a year to a big business that enrolls more than 20 million undergraduate and graduate students. In the process, colleges and universities have become behemoths, mini-cities with nearly $500 billion in revenues and nearly a $1 trillion in assets, including cash, endowments, and of course, massive physical campuses.
Colleges and universities enroll 20 million students, have $500 billion in revenues and nearly $1 trillion in assets.
That growth spurt came in large part from huge investments by the federal government and the states through direct appropriations, student aid, and research dollars. But after a golden era of growth in public support, mostly in the 1960s and 1970s, higher education had to look elsewhere for support.
By the late 1980s and then in the 1990s, tuition started to become a much bigger source of income for public universities, in particular (where 80% of American students attend), and in the first decade of the new millennium, tuition began to edge up even more as states started to get out of the business of higher education.
This new financial reality also required universities to adopt a more bare-knuckle business approach, mostly around one of their largest costs: labor. Full-time professors with tenure were replaced with part-time adjuncts who taught one or two classes and raced off campus when they were finished. Today, half of all professors at four-year colleges teach part-time as adjuncts (and the number is even higher at community colleges). Very few parents out there shelling out tens of thousands of dollars for the education of their children have any idea that most of their teachers are part-timers making a few thousand dollars a class.
Today, half of all professors at four-year colleges teach part-time as adjuncts.
It’s not just part-timers. It’s also graduate students who for paltry stipends that sometimes hover around the federal poverty level help full-time professors teach courses and assist with their research. The exploitation of labor has been accepted, somewhat reluctantly, by administrators and even some faculty members because it advanced the mission of the institution.
But now that labor is fighting back. It started with adjuncts, who have been organizing in recent years for better pay and working conditions (even such basic things as an office where they can meet with students). And this week, in a decision that will have far-reaching consequences, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that students who work as teaching and research assistance at private universities have the right to unionize (those at public colleges already had that right under their state laws).
The ruling was immediately criticized, of course, by university administrators who always seem to be on the left politically unless they are protecting their own self interests.
The current bifurcated model of the academic workforce—a mix between full-time, well-paid, tenured professors and a large group of low-paid adjuncts and graduate students—is not sustainable for the long term as tenured professors retire and institutions increasingly are measured on their student outcomes.
A different model for unbundling the faculty role would create two distinct tracks for faculty members: one for instructors and another for researchers. The teaching-only track would be full-time and professors would be evaluated on their teaching, not their research productivity.
Standardizing and elevating the teaching-only role of faculty on campuses would eliminate the ad-hoc hiring of adjuncts that occurs now and professionalize the teaching corps by recruiting academics interested first and foremost in instruction. That in turn would provide another pathway for graduate students into academic careers and encourage graduate programs to create programs for students who want to focus on teaching at universities.
2. The Three-Member Team: Faculty, Preceptor, TA
A model is emerging that adds a third person to the teaching team—an instructor in-between the professor and the teaching assistant. These teachers, sometimes called preceptors, are experienced full-time instructors who help students make connections between what they learn in the lecture to their experience in small group sessions or in labs (in the case of science courses). The TA’s also benefit from the preceptors, who teach the graduate students how to teach undergraduates.
3. The Design-Build Approach: Faculty and an Instructional Designer
With the growth of online education in the last two decades a new player arrived on the scene: the instructional designer. Instructional designers help traditional faculty translate their face-to-face courses into virtual classes, where educational material can be presented online.
Today, the position of instructional designer is one of the hottest jobs on campuses nationwide. Membership in the Association for Educational Communications and Technology, the primary national group of institutional designers, has grown by 50 percent over the last decade, to more than 2,400.
The team approach to designing and building courses typically results in a better experience for students and reduces the workload for faculty, most of whom have little formal training in learning science and may often teach exactly the same way they were taught.
4. Scholarship for All, No Matter the Role
If the faculty role becomes divided between research and teaching, professors will need to remain engaged in some form of scholarship to remain current.
This will require colleges and universities to adopt a more comprehensive definition of research that applies to a wider range of professorial roles on campuses. For instance, faculty members in the teaching function described earlier will need to be encouraged by institutions to conduct research on effective classroom practices and learning science, and that work will need to play a role in their evaluations.
5. A Flexible Faculty Role
The four scenarios laid out above make clear that the faculty role in the future will likely change drastically from what has existed on college campuses. Flexibility will be a key attribute of anyone pursuing an academic career in the future.
In many ways, varying the role of faculty members on campus will give academics more choices about the pathways to pursue throughout their careers. Today, the faculty career is largely flat and built at one institution. Even those who become full processors perform essentially the same job they did as associate professors.
With multiple channels available for faculty, professors in the future might have more choices about the direction of their own careers.
But the 20th anniversary of the former president’s signature achievement deserves discussion.
President Bill Clinton’s welfare overhaul, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, caused welfare rolls to drop by half. But the poverty rate fell as well – especially for single mothers, minorities and children. He signed it into law Aug. 22, 1996.
The law created a program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. It is through TANF that enrollees in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly known as food stamps) receive meal money.
But state data indicate too many Illinoisans have been pushed into food-stamp dependency. And stories of abuse cast a grim shadow over one of the nation’s most basic safety nets.
Trading food stamps for cash is commonplace among struggling businesses on Chicago’s south and west sides, according to a new investigation from the Chicago Tribune.
David Williams, the Cook County assistant state’s attorney, described food-stamp trafficking as “fairly rampant” in Windy City corner stores.
“We see a lot of it,” Williams told the Tribune. “It’s a major problem. It’s our tax money that’s basically funding these criminal operations.”
Store owners are frequently approached for trades of $50, $60 or $70 for $100 worth of benefits.
Wael Ghosheh made that look like spare change.
In March of last year, the man from southwest suburban Burbank was charged with using more than $900,000 from 3,000 Link cards to buy and resell energy drinks and candy. Link cards are what Illinoisans use to access their food-stamp benefits.
Fraud on this scale is a slap in the face to struggling families. And more should be done to prevent it. Massachusetts and Missouri, for example, require photo identification on the cards used for food-stamp benefits. Maine is in the process of rolling out a similar program.
And while the federal government does enforce rules on how one may use welfare funds, 25 states have taken additional steps to explicitly ban the use of welfare funds for alcohol, tobacco, gambling, lottery tickets, guns and “adult entertainment.”
Illinois is not one of those states.
But it is one of 11 states where, statewide, food stamps don’t come with a work requirement. Federal law says that for able-bodied adults under age 50 who don’t have dependents, food stamps are cut off after three months unless he or she finds work or participates in volunteering or job training.
Illinois operates under a waiver from that requirement.
There are certainly changes needed to how welfare is administered in the Land of Lincoln. But the best welfare program is a well-paying job. And Illinoisans are struggling to find decent opportunities. The food-stamp rolls reflect that.
More than 1 in 5 Illinois households rely on food stamps to make ends meet. That’s close to an all-time high.
More than 1.9 million individual Illinoisans relied on food stamps in July, a high for the year. As of May, Illinois was home to the second-highest share of individuals on food stamps in the Midwest. More Illinoisans rely on food stamps than work in manufacturing, construction, education, health care and real estate combined.
Illinois’ dreadfully slow recovery from the Great Recession has a lot to do with it.
In terms of putting people back to work, Illinois has been the second-worst state in the nation. And since the start of the recession, the state’s personal-income growth is second worst as well.
Illinois’ manufacturing sector, the backbone of the middle class, is bleeding.
Illinois manufacturing has recovered less than 4 percent of its jobs since the recession, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the worst rate in the Rust Belt.
So what happened to families who had a loved one lose a factory job? And what happened when unemployment benefits ran out?
A 2012 survey from Rutgers University sheds some light. Researchers asked people who were unemployed for more than two years how they made ends meet. Most sold some of their possessions, most borrowed money and most cut back on doctor visits.
The next most common response? Signing up for food stamps.
Reforms to grow the state’s economy ensure fewer families are forced to make that choice. And reforming the way the state administers those benefits would go a long way toward ensuring the program’s integrity.
The Land of Lincoln’s job-killing policies are hurting minority communities increasingly hard, while black unemployment in pro-growth states remains significantly lower.
Illinois has the highest black unemployment rate in the country at 15 percent, according to a new analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, or EPI. This has resulted from policymakers’ yearslong neglect of Illinois’ economy. Illinois’ political leadership has ignored opportunities to encourage economic growth while enacting taxes and regulations that have stunted job creation. These anti-job policy decisions have helped create a situation where Illinois’ most economically vulnerable residents are the least well-off of any state considered by EPI’s study, which focuses on the half of U.S. states with larger black populations.
By contrast, pro-growth states such as Indiana, Michigan and Texas record significantly lower black unemployment rates, with Indiana at 9.6 percent, Michigan at 9.3 percent and Texas at 6.1 percent – the lowest rate of any state in the study. The EPI analysis estimates unemployment rates by ethnic groups and comes ahead of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ full release of such annual data.
No state in the Midwest, of which states have available data, comes particularly close to Illinois’ 15 percent black unemployment rate. Even Michigan, home to the highest black unemployment rate in the country as recently as 2013, has significantly improved its standing as its rate declined to 9.3 percent. Ohio comes in at 10.3 percent and Missouri at 8.2 percent, according to the estimates.
According to the EPI study, the situation has worsened in Illinois, with black unemployment rising over the last two years to 15 percent in the second quarter of 2016 from 12.6 percent in the third quarter of 2014. This contrasts with Texas, where the black unemployment rate has improved over the same time period. The Lone Star State’s black unemployment rate has fallen over the last two years even in the face of an economic slowdown caused by the falling price of oil. Illinois’ black unemployment rate is now more than double Texas’.
In particular, Illinois’ black male unemployment rate has been especially high over recent years. Declining employment in Illinois’ industrial sectors most likely has harmed job opportunities for black men. According to the BLS’ 2015 annual average data, Illinois’ black male unemployment rate was 15.1 percent, the highest in the Midwest and more than double Indiana’s rate.
Ominously, the EPI estimates that Illinois’ black unemployment rate has gone up since the 2015 annual averages. The current black male unemployment rate would be approximately 19.7 percent assuming it rose proportionally with total black unemployment. And this staggering unemployment level comes seven years after the Great Recession ended.
Black Americans would especially benefit from the pro-growth economic policies and lower tax burden all of Illinois needs. The strategy of taxing, spending and tightly regulating business has failed Illinois, and has hurt black communities in particular. Policy reformswill encourage investment and hiring in Illinois’ industrial sectors:
The status quo has failed Illinois’ industrial communities, minority communities and large swaths of people who simply want decent job opportunities. This has resulted in workers and their families leaving the state at record rates to find better opportunities elsewhere, leaving behind those with fewer resources stuck jobless in the Land of Lincoln.
Hosts Pat Hughes and Dan Proft talk to the mayor of a Georgia town that successfully relies on the private sector for most of its services. They also break down Chicago Public Schools’ finances and discuss the politics of criminal-justice reform with Bryant Jackson-Green
Earlier this year, at the encouragement of President Obama, the Department of Labor finalized the most significant update to the federal rules on overtime in decades. The new rules will more than double the salary threshold for guaranteed overtime pay, from about $23,000 to $47,476. Once the rules go into effect this December, millions of employees who make less than that will be guaranteed overtime pay under the law when they work more than 40 hours a week.
Unsurprisingly, some business lobbies and conservatives disparaged the rule as unduly burdensome. But pushback also came from what might have been an unexpected source: a progressive nonprofit called the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG). “Doubling the minimum salary to $47,476 is especially unrealistic for non-profit, cause-oriented organizations,” U.S. PIRG said in a statement. “[T]o cover higher staffing costs forced upon us under the rule, we will be forced to hire fewer staff and limit the hours those staff can work—all while the well-funded special interests that we’re up against will simply spend more.”
Though many nonprofits supported the new overtime rules, PIRG was not alone. (U.S. PIRG declined multiple interview requests for this article.) Over 290,000 comments were posted to Regulations.gov, many of them from nonprofits taking issue with the rule, including Habitat for Humanity, the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, and the YMCA of the USA.
These responses expose a gap between the values that many nonprofits hold and the way they treat their own staffs. There’s no doubt that nonprofits today face serious financial difficulties and constraints, but do they have no choice but to demand long, unpaid hours of their employees? Putting questions of fairness aside, is their treatment of their workers limiting their effectiveness?
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The answers have a lot to do with how nonprofits survive in an economy that’s geared primarily toward profit. Many nonprofit organizations stare down a shared set of challenges: In a 2013 report, the Urban Institute surveyed over 4,000 nonprofits of a wide range of types and sizes across the continental U.S. It found that all kinds of nonprofits struggled with delays in payment for contracts, difficulty securing funding for the full cost of their services, and other financial issues.
Recent years have been especially hard for many nonprofits. Most have annual budgets of less than $1 million, and those budgets took a big hit from the recession, when federal, municipal, and philanthropic funding dried up. On top of that, because so many nonprofits depend on government money, policy changes can cause funding priorities to change, which in turn can put nonprofits in a bind.
Heather Iliff, the president and CEO of an association called Maryland Nonprofits, says that she has seen a number of funders suddenly shift the requirements of their funding in response to a new trend, leaving organizations scrambling to adapt. “On the one hand it’s positive that the government is trying to look at what works and fund what works, but they tend to be categorical and abrupt in their shifts, without providing the necessary transitional supports,” Iliff says.
Iliff has seen that scramble to meet funding demands lead to bizarre and unproductive decisions. An employee of one agency that serves adults with significant developmental disabilities told her that its funders recently ordered it to provide clients with a number of hours “in the community,” as opposed to time spent on the in-house services it normally would have administered. But the funders did not provide guidance on how to do that, and the agency’s best option was to bus disabled adults to a mall’s food court just to satisfy the new requirement.
All of this is particularly difficult for human-services nonprofits that survive mostly on Medicaid funding. Homeless shelters, for example, don’t charge for their services, and thus can’t raise prices when their funding is cut. (These types of agencies have a longer period to adjust to the new overtime rules.) And when faced with funding cuts, many nonprofits have no place to turn but their own payrolls.
The pressure from funders to tighten budgets and cut costs can produce what researchers call the “nonprofit starvation cycle.” The cycle starts with funders’ unrealistic expectations about the costs of running a nonprofit. In response, nonprofits try to spend less on overhead (like salaries) and under-report expenses to try to meet those unrealistic expectations. That response then reinforces the unrealistic expectations that began the cycle. In this light, it’s no surprise that so many nonprofits have come to rely on unpaid work.
Strangely, though nonprofits are increasingly expected to perform like businesses, they do not get the same leeway in funding that government-contracted businesses do. They don’t have nearly the bargaining power of big corporations, or the ability to raise costs for their products and services, because of tight controls on grant funding. “D.C. is full of millionaires who contract with government in the defense field, and they make a killing, and yet if you’re a nonprofit, chances are you aren’t getting the full amount of funding to cover the cost of the services required,” Iliff said. “Can you imagine Lockheed Martin or Boeing putting up with a government contract that didn’t allow for overhead?”
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When faced with dwindling funding, one response would be to cut a program or reduce the number of people an organization serves. But nonprofit leaders have shown themselves very reluctant to do that. Instead, many meet financial challenges by squeezing more work out of their staffs without a proportional increase in their pay: The Urban Institute report found that most nonprofits choose to cut salaries, benefits, and other costs long before scaling back their operations. “There is this feeling that the mission is so important that nothing should get in the way of it,” Elizabeth Boris, one of the Urban Institute report’s authors, says.
The nonprofits that opposed the new rules expressed as much in the comments they submitted on Regulations.gov. One nonprofit’s human-resources director said the rule would result in “fewer services being effectively delivered to the population we serve, not to mention the deep financial impact that it will have on our agency to try to fund overtime at that level.” Said another, “Any increase in funds that have to go to salaries will cause a decrease in funds available to assist the elderly, which will result in causing them additional hardships.” “As a manager of a non-profit organization, this proposed rule would make it very clear in deciding whether it would be financially possible to find a way to stay in business,” one comment on the rule read. “The answer is no.”
These nonprofit employees are saying that their operations depend on large numbers of their lowest-paid staff working unpaid overtime hours. One way to get to that point would be to face a series of choices between increased productivity on the one hand and reduced hours, increased pay, or more hiring on the other, and to choose more productivity every time. That some nonprofits have done this speaks to a culture that can put the needs of staff behind mission-driven ambitions.
A number of forces much larger than any single nonprofit have allowed the present situation to take shape. In the 1970s, 62 percent of full-time, salaried workers qualified for mandatory overtime pay when they worked more than 40 hours in a week. Today, because the overtime rules have not had a major update since then (until this one), only 7 percent of workers are covered, whether they work in the nonprofit sector or elsewhere. In other words, U.S. organizations—nonprofit or otherwise—have been given the gift of a large pool of laborers who, as long as they clear a relatively low earnings threshold and do tasks that meet certain criteria, do not have to be paid overtime.
Unsurprisingly, many nonprofits have taken advantage of that pool of free work. (For-profit companies have too, but they also have the benefit of being more in control of their revenue streams.) Boris says that nonprofits like PIRG, for example, have a tradition of forcing employees to work long, unpaid hours—especially their youngest staff. “There’s a culture that says, ‘Young people are paying their dues. It’s okay for them to be paid for fewer hours than they’re actually working because it’s in the effort of helping them grow up and contribute to something greater than they are,’” Boris says.
Mary Beth Hastings, who has more than 20 years of experience working in the world of global-health organizations, has witnessed this in a variety of workplaces throughout her career. “Too often, I have seen the passion for social change turned into a weapon against the very people who do much—if not most—of the hard work, and put in most of the hours,” Hastings recently wrote on her blog. “Because they are highly motivated by passion, the reasoning goes, they don’t need to be motivated by decent salaries or sustainable work hours or overtime pay.”
But they probably do. A 2011 survey of more than 2,000 nonprofit employees by Opportunity Knocks, a human-resources organization that specializes in nonprofits, in partnership with Jessica Word, an associate professor of public administration at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, found that half of employees in the nonprofit sector may be burned out or in danger of burnout. The survey had some methodological limitations—its sample wasn’t as representative as the researchers would’ve hoped—but Word told me that she believes employees at nonprofits are uniquely stretched. “These are highly emotional and difficult jobs,” she said, adding, “These organizations often have very high rates of employee turnover, which results from a combination of burnout and low compensation.” Despite the dearth of research, Word’s findings don’t appear to be unusual: A more recent study of nonprofits in the U.S. and Canada found that turnover, one possible indicator of burnout, is higher in nonprofits than in the overall labor market.
Yet for all their hours and emotional labor, nonprofit employees generally don’t make much money. A 2014 study by Third Sector New England, a resource center for nonprofits, found that 43 percent of nonprofit employees in New England were making less than $28,000 per year—far less than a living wage for families with children in most cities in the United States, and well below the national median income of between $40,000 and $50,000 per year. (For comparison, about a quarter of American workers earn less than $28,000 per year.) Until the new overtime rules kick in, many of those workers could be working extra hours without any extra pay.
Why would nonprofit workers be willing to stay in jobs where they are underpaid, or, in some cases, accept working conditions that violate the spirit of the labor laws that protect them? One plausible reason is that they are just as committed to the cause as their superiors, whose decision-making can prioritize an organization’s values above all else. Another possible explanation is that because the job market is so difficult, they have no better options.
But it also might be that some nonprofits exploit gray areas in the law to cut costs. For instance, only workers who are labelled as managers are supposed to be exempt from overtime, but many employers stretch the definition of “manager” far beyond its original intent. Low-paid workers who do not have executive decision-making power and do not manage a staff, according to the Department of Labor’s criteria, shouldn’t be classified as exempt, but some employers put them in positions that are nominally managerial to escape overtime regulations.
And even regardless of these designations, the emotionally demanding work at many nonprofits is sometimes difficult to shoehorn into a tidy 40-hours-a-week schedule. Consider Elle Roberts, who was considered exempt from overtime restrictions and was told not to work more than 40 hours a week when, as a young college grad, she worked at a domestic-violence shelter in northwest Indiana. Doing everything from home visits to intake at the shelter, Roberts still ignored her employer’s dictates and regularly worked well more than 40 hours a week providing relief for women in crisis. Yet she was not paid for that extra time.
Roberts once responded to a call from a woman who needed help escaping her apartment while her attacker was out. When Roberts arrived, the battered woman clung to her and asked her to listen to a recording of the sounds of fighting and of the woman screaming and crying. Roberts joined her in prayer, helped her move her things to a new apartment, went back to the agency, locked herself in the bathroom, and sobbed. On days like that, Roberts wanted to get therapy, but knew that she couldn’t afford it. “If I had gotten paid for all the hours I was working, even at my base rate, I would have jumped at the opportunity to seek care to make sense of what I’ve experienced on the job,” Roberts says. “But I wasn’t making enough to pay for anything more than my basic needs.”
When reached by phone, Roberts’s former employer said that staff are not allowed to work overtime, but that they do work extra hours voluntarily without recording the time, such as for self-directed study on how to better serve clients. When hours run long due to travel or other circumstances, the employer said, staff can adjust their hours for the rest of the week to make up the difference. But according to Roberts, this would have meant asking for schedule changes almost every week, which would not have been acceptable in the organization’s culture. “The unspoken expectation is that you do whatever it takes to get whatever it is done for the people that you’re serving,” she says. “And anything less than that, you’re not quite doing enough.”
It isn’t clear how common Roberts’s experience is. The Department of Labor bases its enforcement actions on complaints, which makes it hard to track violations, says Catherine Ruckelshaus, the general counsel of the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy organization. With the difficulty of the job market, the decline of unions, and the culture of self-sacrifice in nonprofit work, very few employees are willing to come forward to file a complaint against their employer. This means that there’s no way to know how many nonprofit employees are working long, unpaid overtime hours when they shouldn’t be. Still, Ruckelshaus says, “Nonprofit workers have more protection than they think or than even perhaps their employers think. But because the law isn’t crystal clear … there’s a gray area and that’s been exploited by some of these nonprofits and that’s created a culture where workers don’t think they’re covered.”
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It’s certainly the case that nonprofits face considerable challenges, but it doesn’t seem like every organization is making a good-faith effort to do right by their employees when they decide how to respond to those challenges. And, setting aside the issue of fair pay, many wonder whether getting the most work out of staff for the least possible cost is efficient or sustainable. Work-life balance is particularly relevant when employees’ work is emotionally taxing and poorly rewarded, and turnover for any organization is notoriously costly. Nonprofits that don’t take this seriously may be shooting themselves in the foot.
Mary Beth Hastings suggests that if nonprofits truly care about the well-being of their staffs, one easy place to start is simply to write higher salaries into budget proposals. Likewise, government and philanthropic funders could be a lot wiser in how they dole out money: Scarce public-service dollars can impose a state of financial stress on the people who put them to use.
Indeed, many nonprofits have come out in support of the new overtime rules, even while acknowledging the challenges of following them. Stuart Mitchell, the CEO of a human-services nonprofit called PathStone, wrote in an op-ed that “paying a livable wage is the right thing to do not only for our deeply committed employees, but also for the participants that rely on our services.” And representatives of 150 social-justice organizations signed a letter stating their support for the new rules, writing, “It is time to revisit the idea that working for the public good should somehow mean requiring the lowest-paid among us to support these efforts by working long hours, many of which are unpaid.” More broadly, the Human Services Council of New York argues that the sector should call on the government to expand funding for nonprofits to maintain their level of services with increased pay. However they do that, nonprofits would be better off if they could act with efficiency as a goal, but not the only one.
The Current State of North Korea’s Nuclear Infrastructure
By: Jason Ackerman
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), better known as North Korea, has over the last fifty years become enormously invested in nuclear power and technology. While in recent years Pyongyang has focused on trying to achieve energy independence based on nuclear power, the primary purpose for their nuclear ambitions is military in application. The old philosophical concept of Juche (the Spirit of Self-Reliance) formed the ideological cornerstone for a robust and advanced nuclear power grid that would drive civilian and military industries. During the administration of Kim Jong-Il, the national ideology was further refined and morphed into Songun (the ‘Military First’ Policy). This shift would have a profound impact on the application of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and directly led to the proliferation of nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula. North Korea perceives its nuclear capabilities as essential to deter aggression by those they consider their regional rivals, and to maintain a level of, what is in their opinion, prestige on the world stage.
“Our nuclear strength is a reliable war deterrent and a guarantee to protect our sovereignty,”
-Kim Jong-un (March 31st, 2013)
In North Korea the military is the institution around which all others orbit. In addition to its dominance over all other aspects of national life, the military is the instrument that wields the most influence in their relations with other countries. In the last twenty years the vast North Korean nuclear energy complex has been appropriated by the Songun policy and much of the civilian expertise and materials diverted to projects focusing on highly enriched uranium and plutonium production. Current nuclear weapons production is spilt between two major sectors. First are IRBM (Intermediate-range ballistic missile [BM25 Musudan]) and ICBM (Intercontinental ballistic missile [KN-08 and the KN-14]) missile deployment and construction of launch infrastructure, such as mobile launch vehicles, nautical based launchers, and stationary launch pads. The control and maintenance of these fall under a branch of the Korean People’s Army known as Strategic Rocket Forces. Second is the weapons-grade fissile material enrichment and reprocessing industry which is operated by the Ministry of Armed Forces.
There are two current nuclear weapons systems being developed by the Korean People’s Army. The Taepodong-2, which has yet to be successfully tested, will be North Korea’s primary Inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM). The newest addition to the North Korean arsenal is the BM25 Musudan missile, an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM). These missiles, while never fully deployed, may set off a regional arms race with South Korea and Japan. Current estimates put the number of nuclear warheads under North Korean control from around ten to sixteen. In contrast to the relatively small number of nuclear warheads in their possession, there has been a massive buildup in launch infrastructure, including mobile launch vehicles and stationary launch platforms capable of firing both IRBM and ICBMs. In addition to these upgrades, the North Korean Navy has purchased several ships, including submarines, capable of being fitted out to launch tactical nuclear missiles [specifically the KN-11 modified KN-08]. Considering the amount of resources and capital Pyongyang has put into its missile systems and large growing array of launch sites, it is reasonable to assume that expansion of nuclear arms production will continue and that it is heavily factored into North Korean long term military planning and strategic operations. The military establishment and, by extension, the military-industrial complex of the DPRK is dependent upon the idea that the nation is under a state of siege from enemies without and within. The nuclear weapons program provides an outlet for the military to continue to enjoy its prominence in society while at the same time perpetuating the country’s place as an international pariah. This in turn makes the military’s influence grow even further.
In the last decade North Korea has viewed its ballistic missile and nuclear technological knowledge not only as a military deterrent but a lucrative trade commodity. In the last twenty years there has been a steady exportation of missile technology in exchange for cash payments and sometimes for the importation of nuclear material and knowledge. Since North Korea is considered a rogue state by many in the international community, it tends to do business with other authoritarian regimes and rogue states. North Korean technical advisors along with some Iranian counterparts have recently assisted the Assad regime in Syria to maintain and expand its SCUD-4 program. Considering Iran’s desire to expand its uranium enrichment program, its strong ties to Damascus, and the pressure the Iran-Syrian alliance is coming under from their neighbors, these weapons projects, which include North Korea, can lead to further nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and push other countries to develop their own nuclear deterrent in response. In 2010 the United Nations Security Council issued a report which specifically states that North Korea had in the past, and still is, supplying nuclear and ballistic missile technology, much of which is banned by international treaties, to several countries including Syria, Yemen, Myanmar (Burma), and Iran. The special U.N. panel report further stated that North Korea “has the capability as well as the propensity to provide nuclear and ballistic missiles related equipment, facilities, technical advice to and through clients overseas.” The report points to “evidence provided in these reports indicates that the DPRK has continued to provide missiles, components, and technology to certain countries including Iran and Syria since the imposition of these measures.”
The current phase of North Korea’s nuclear interaction with the greater international community began in 2007 with the sixth round of the Six-Party talks. The six parties consist of the United States, China, Russia, North Korea, South Korea, and Japan. The negotiators attempted to work toward an agreement which would diffuse the tenuous potential nuclear standoff by giving North Korea sixty days to freeze its nuclear program in exchange for aid and the lifting of certain economic sanctions. Significant progress was made including the shutting down and partial dismantling of the Yongbyon reactor; an aging relic built with Soviet assistance in the 1960’s. These negotiations went on successfully, with North Korea in full compliance with IAEA inspectors, and even led to the joint agreement to start “Second-Phase Actions.” The list of the Second-Phase goals was more ambitious than the first and included a complete North Korean declaration of all nuclear programs and materials, both civilian and military, to the IAEA and the dismantlement of all fuel production and reprocessing facilities at the main Yongbyon reactor. In April of 2009 talks broke down over a dispute over the launch of a missile which North Korean officials said was merely an attempt to put a Kwangmyŏngsŏng-2 satellite into orbit for broadcasting purposes. The United Nations denounced this action as a smokescreen for what was in fact an ICBM test; a test expressly forbidden by previous agreements. This incident came at a time when the leadership within North Korea was undergoing a major transition. Kim Jong-Il, who had led the country as Supreme Leader for 15 years was in extremely poor health and was preparing for the coming transition to power of his son Kim Jong-un. Later on that year North Korea received international condemnation for an underground nuclear test detonation of a scaled down warhead, in direct violation of UNSC Resolution 1718, which lead to directly to UNSC Resolution 1874. UNSC Resolution 1874 would expressly demand a complete halt to the North Korean nuclear weapons program, impose sanctions on any monetary transactions whose intention would be to aid those programs, and would in effect constitute an import/export arms embargo on all military equipment aside from small arms and ammunition. This would put a serious roadblock in the trade dealings of a nation already under severe economic sanctions, costing it capital it could ill afford to lose.
Currently the North Korean military nuclear program has continued without much regard for the will of the international community and will continue to use their status as a nuclear weapons state as a bargaining chip in the foreseeable future. The reopening and expansion of its heavy water reactor and plutonium reprocessing plant will make the North Korean nuclear threat increase exponentially in the coming years. Only with their third nuclear weapons test in 2013 did economic sanctions imposed by China, North Korea’s main trading partner and only regional ally, had the potential effect of bringing Pyongyang back to the negotiating table. However, these steps may just constitute smoke and mirrors on the part of China, trying to be seen in a more legitimate role in international affairs. “China has said it wants the U.N. measures enforced, but few analysts believe Beijing will take steps that significantly hurt North Korea as it is committed to a policy of engagement with Pyongyang…China has stepped up checks on shipments to and from North Korea, but the flow of goods in and out of the reclusive state appears largely unaffected, according to more than a dozen trading firms Reuters spoke to recently.” In the past severe economic and political sanctions, while having some serious effects, have been written off by Pyongyang as an acceptable cost of playing regional power-politics.
North Korea has been pursuing nuclear power for the past several decades. The original goal was to foster energy independence. The current state of the North Korean civilian nuclear power program is quite advanced and growing. With the reopening of the Yongbyon power plant and its expansion, the ability for North Korea to create fuel for its reactors is essential to their long term domestic energy goals. Of course these new reactors can be used for reprocessing used fuel rods and the plutonium it gains has civilian as well as military uses. In the past, used fuel rods were buried or stored to comply with the UN and IAEA agreements reached in the last decade. Since the collapse of the Six-Party talks, reprocessing facilities at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center have been reopened. North Korea has also invested in a new scientific nuclear reactor which will use highly enriched uranium, officially for medical and scientific civilian research purposes. In addition to these upgrades, in 2009 construction began on a brand new Light-Water reactor (LWR) at the Yongbyon facility. While LWRs have been used in North Korea since the 1980’s, this new reactor design is much more efficient to produce nuclear power and uses regular water as opposed to heavy-water, which must be manufactured, as a coolant. Refurbished centrifuges are being combined with newly assembled centrifuge systems to increase the speed and volume of uranium enrichment. While official statements declare these new assemblies exist to supply medical and experimental reactors, that motivation seems unlikely. “Developing estimates of future production of fissile material is complicated because North Korea’s rationale for building a gas centrifuge plant is not well understood. The UEP’s [uranium enrichment program] purpose may be more involved than only producing 3.5 percent LEU [low-enriched uranium] for a civilian LWR or for that matter just making WGU [weapon’s grade uranium] for fission weapons similar to its plutonium based weapons. In fact, the development of gas centrifuges provides North Korea with flexibility in building more sophisticated nuclear weapons.” The North Korean nuclear power grid fills many voids for their scientific, energy, military, and political needs. It’s a source of national pride, of national self-determination, and at its core, defiance. Propaganda aside, to understand the intensity the desire for nuclear energy is on the part of the North Korean government is to understand that far too much time, money, and emotional capital have been invested in these long term projects. It would not be likely for Pyongyang to give them up without a considerable amount of compensation. Even if that agreement could be worked out, it seems likely based on past performance that they still wouldn’t be willing to negotiate in good faith.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has at its heart a firm belief in its national destiny. In the decades after the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, faced with serious economic and political challenges, they have used nuclear technology as a way to further promote energy independence, expand their technological capabilities, and deter foreign powers. Morality aside, North Korea is a textbook example of the reasons states seek to develop nuclear weapons. In the years since their first official nuclear weapons test, North Korea stepped out from obscurity onto the world stage. While still an extremely closed country and international pariah, the nuclear capabilities they possess force the world powers into negotiation. With China as their largest trading partner and military ally, North Korea can continue to thumb its nose at the western powers and extort aid at regular intervals. This situation may seem strange, but considering the military is in control of every aspect of life in North Korea, the erratic foreign policy starts to show signs of a pattern. Nuclear technology has been an essential part of the nation’s power supply, a major element in their domestic propaganda, and a continued excuse to give over more control of the nation’s resources to the military high command. The military establishment actually desires the rogue status given to them by the international community. In order to justify their oppressive control over the economy and population at home, they must be able to show that the country is constantly on the verge of attack by omnipresent enemies. The huge invest of monetary and political capital North Korea has made in its nuclear weapons program essentially purchases the perpetual continuation of the present regime.
JOLIET, IL — A standoff Thursday morning with a rifle-wielding man in a downtown parking deck ended without injury
The man is going through a divorce, a source told Patch, and was armed with a rifle equipped with a sniper scope. He was on the third deck of the four-story garage opposite Harrah’s Casino. The man was taken out of the parking deck on a gurney and transported to Presence St. Joseph Medical Center via ambulance.
The man had not been identified by police Thursday morning.
The man drove into the deck in a silver Ford Focus and called his wife, who then called police, said Deputy Chief Al Roechner.
Joliet, Cass and Clinton streets were blocked off during the incident. The nearby Will County Courthouse was evacuated and put on a soft lockdown as a precaution. Two ambulances and a SWAT team assembled near the parking deck, and two K-9 units were deployed inside the garage.
Turkey has reportedly struck 63 targets in Syria this morning, in a vengeance attack on ISIS in Jarablus.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Senat RP/Polish Senate
AFP, 24/08/16 07:48
Turkey’s army and international coalition forces on Wednesday started an operation to drive Islamic State jihadists out of a key Syrian border town, a statement from the Turkish prime minister’s office said.
“The Turkish Armed Forces and the International Coalition Air Forces have launched a military operation aimed at clearing the district of Jarablus of the province of Aleppo from the terrorist organisation Daesh,” it added, using an Arabic acronym for IS group.
The state-run news agency Anadolu said the operation began at around 4 am local time (0100 GMT).
Turkish F-16 jets dropped bombs on IS targets in Jarablus — the first such assault since a November crisis with Russia sparked by the downing of one of Moscow’s warplanes by the Turkish air force, the private NTV television reported.
Security sources quoted by Turkish television said a small contingent of special forces travelled a few kilometres into Syria to secure the area before a possible operation.
Broadcaster CNN-Turk reported that Turkish artillery hit 63 targets in Syria.
Several mortar rounds from IS-held Jarablus hit the Turkish border town of Karkamis on Tuesday, prompting the army to pound the jihadist positions on Syrian soil with artillery strikes.
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The new batch of emails showing that the State Department gave special access to top Clinton Foundation donors while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state brings to mind the case of a shady Miami businessman serving a 12-year prison sentence after scamming the government out of millions. His name is Claudio Osorio, a Clinton Foundation donor who got $10 million from the government after the Clinton State Department reportedly pulled some strings.
Osorio got the money from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a federal agency that operates under the guidance of the State Department, to build houses in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. The OPIC supposedly promotes U.S. government investments abroad to foster the development and growth of free markets. Osorio’s “Haiti project” was supposed to build 500 homes for displaced families in the aftermath of the earthquake. The project never broke ground and Osorio used the money to finance his lavish lifestyle and fund his illicit business ventures. He also ran a fraudulent international company with facilities in the U.S., United Arab Emirates, Germany, Angola and Tanzania that stole millions from investors. Some of the OPIC Haiti money was used to repay investors of his fraudulent company (Innovida), according to federal prosecutors. In September 2013, Osorio was sentenced to 150 months imprisonment and three years of supervised release.
Not surprisingly, the Department of Justice (DOJ) never mentioned Osorio’s Clinton connections and seemed to downplay the $10 million scam of taxpayer funds by focusing on the “victims” that invested in his bogus company. Among them was a beloved professional basketball star. “Osorio offered and sold shareholder interests and joint-venture partnerships in Innovida to select individuals and groups, raising more than $40,000,000 from approximately ten (10) investors and investment groups in the United States and abroad,” a DOJ statement says. “Osorio solicited and recruited investors by making materially false representations and concealing and omitting material facts regarding, among other things, the profitability of the company, the rates of return on investment funds, the use of investors’ funds and the existence of a pending lucrative contract with a third-party entity. Osorio received moneys from investors based on these misrepresentations. Osorio used investor monies for his and his co-conspirators’ personal benefit and to maintain and further the fraud scheme.”
The bigger story is that, despite Osorio’s shady history, it appears that the Clinton State Department helped him get $10 million—which will never be repaid—because he was a Clinton Foundation donor. This connection was not made until years after Osorio got sentenced. After his 2013 sentencing in Miami, the area’s largest newspaper tied him to the Clintons and President Obama as a campaign donor who held fundraisers at his waterfront home, but the foundation was not mentioned. A Washington D.C. newspaper eventually connected the dots after obtaining a document that shows an OPIC official recommending funding for Osorio’s Haiti project. In the document, the OPIC official writes that Osorio’s company had “U.S. persons of political influence that are able to assist in advancing the company’s plans.” It continues: “For instance, former President Bill Clinton is personally in contact with the Company to organize its logistical and support needs,” the document states. “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made available State Department resources to assist with logistical arrangements.” Additionally, the Clinton Global Initiative had “indicated that it would be willing to contract to purchase 6,500 homes in Haiti from InnoVida within the next year.”
Less than 24 hours after the OPIC official submitted the recommendation, the news report says, OPIC approved Osorio’s $10 million loan to build homes in earthquake-ravaged Haiti. Not one was ever built and no one has been held accountable for giving the crooked businessman millions of taxpayer dollars.