Over the weekend, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un spent some time touring what he hopes will soon be a “world-class” ski resort in Kangwon Province, North Korea. Kim — who went to school in Switzerland — is a big booster of the project, which he calls a “gigantic patriotic work.” He has specified the exact types of structures that should be built, including a heliport — for all those (illegal) helicopters in North Korea. The idea is, in part, to one-up South Korea ahead of its hosting of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. “A skiing wave will seize the country,” Kim is reported to have said.
But, as with much of life in North Korea, just because Kim Jong Un says a thing will be great does not make it so.
Aside from landslides, heavy rain, and the incredible cost of constructing a skiing area that spans dozens of miles in an impoverished nation, North Korea will have to battle trade sanctions. On Monday, the government of Switzerland announced that it has blocked the sale of more than $7 million worth of ski lifts and cable cars to North Korea. Kim’s government had contacted several Swiss companies, who then needed Switzerland’s sign-off to proceed. That didn’t go over too well with the Swiss.
Switzerland’s state secretariat for economic affairs called the ski resort a “prestigious propaganda project for the regime” and a spokesperson said that it would not be “appropriate” to export infrastructure to North Korean sports facilities with a “luxury character.” And it’s not just ski equipment that Switzerland has now added to its list of sanctions for the Democratic People’s Republic. Swiss companies will now not be able to sell golf, horseback-riding, or billiards equipment to the country. Also, perfume.
Switzerland isn’t the first ski-centric country to knock down a sale: both France and Austria have previously rejected deals. It may be a while before we get to see photos of Kim Jong Un zipping down powdered slopes.
What We're Following See More »
First, it was Sean Spicer. Then Reince Priebus. Now, presidential adviser Steve Bannon, perhaps the administration's biggest lightning rod for criticism, is out. “White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement. “We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.” That's not to say the parting of ways isn't controversial. Bannon says he submitted his resignation on Aug. 7, but earlier today, "the president had told senior aides that he had decided to remove Mr. Bannon."
"The Trump administration has ended Operation Choke Point, the anti-fraud initiative started under the Obama administration that many Republicans argued was used to target gun retailers and other businesses that Democrats found objectionable. Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd told GOP representatives in a Wednesday letter that the long-running program had ended, bringing a conclusion to a chapter in the Obama years that long provoked and angered conservatives who saw Choke Point as an extra-legal crackdown on politically disfavored groups."
"Liberal groups are raising questions about a speaking appearance Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch plans to make next month at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Gorsuch is scheduled to headline a luncheon celebrating the 50th anniversary of conservative group The Fund for American Studies on September 28, days before the next SCOTUS term begins October 2. Steve Slattery, a spokesman for The Fund for American Studies, said Gorsuch had nothing to do with venue choice, which was made long before the group asked Gorsuch to speak."
"The Trump administration has lost a handful of individuals serving in top cybersecurity roles across the federal government in recent weeks, even as it has struggled to fill high-ranking IT positions. The developments present hurdles for the new administration and speak to the longstanding challenge the federal government faces in competing with the private sector for top tech talent." Among those resigning is Richard Staropoli, "a former U.S. Secret Service agent who served as chief information officer (CIO) of the Department of Homeland Security for just three months," and Dave DeVries, the CIO at OPM. Separately, the White House announced today that President Trump has directed that United States Cyber Command be elevated to the status of a Unified Combatant Command focused on cyberspace operations.