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OPINION

North Korea Praises Nukes

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North Korea: The Korean Central News Agency reported that "state commendations were awarded to scientists, technicians, workers, solider-builders and officials who contributed to the successful third underground nuclear test. "

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"The award ceremony took place on Monday. Those people who contributed to the successful nuclear test were awarded title of Hero of the DPRK with a gold star medal and Order of National Flag 1st Class, Order of Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Il Prize."

"59 were awarded wrist watches bearing the August name of President Kim Il Sung, and 19 the wrist watches bearing the August name of leader Kim Jong Il, and 74 citations of the dear respected Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, and 22 the citations of Kim Jong Un, supreme commander of the Korean People's Army."

Comment: The honorifics are Stalinist in style. Those analysts who hoped that a younger, western educated Kim would be more modern and progressive have proven to be far too optimistic. Kim Jung Un's regime is more severe than that of Kim Chong-il.

Pakistan: On Sunday, problems at a single electric power station lead to a cascading power outage that affected the entire country, according to Pakistan newspapers. The newspaper Dawn reported that 30 percent of the country was still without power on Tuesday morning.

The massive power breakdown affected most major cities and towns, from Islamabad to Karachi, in the late hours of the 24th, Dawn reported. The electricity supply was suspended in Lahore, Gujranwala, Multan, Quetta, Peshawar and Sukkur and other cities and towns across the country due to a major fault in the National Power Control Center system.

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The breakdown occurred at Uch Power Station around 11:00 p.m. local time. Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf ordered an inquiry to determine the cause of the countrywide power failure.

Comment: One Pakistani commentator wondered how this could have happened because in the past few years the Pakistan Electric Power Company had made a major investment in safeguards to prevent precisely this kind of blackout. Pakistan is becoming accident prone, without redundancy. That is an early sign of systemic collapse.

Tunisia: Security forces arrested a "Salafist" in connection with the murder of opposition politician, Chokri Belaid, on 6 February.

Italy: Official returns from the general elections have not been posted, but exit polls suggest that Pier Luigi Bersani's center left party appears headed to win control of the lower house of parliament. They also suggest Silvio Berlusconi's center right group is expected to have a slight majority in the Senate. A third party that made a respectable showing is led by an opponent of the euro.

The early results indicate the election was a referendum in protest of austerity measures. All three leading parties seem to agree on that, but little else.

Mali: Update. Fighting between Chadian and jihadists continued on Sunday. A statement from the Chadian general staff reported, "In the course of the clean-up operations, the bodies of 28 other terrorists were found in the combat zone ... Ten more of our soldiers fell," said a statement from the army general staff read on state radio. The final toll from the clashes ... and clean-up that followed is as follows: 93 terrorists ... on the side of the enemy. We deplore the deaths of 23 soldiers and 30 wounded."

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End of NightWatch ###

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