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California: With state executions on hold, death penalty foes rethink ballot strategy

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California advocates of abolishing the death penalty got a jolt of momentum in March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would not allow any executions to take place while he was in office.
But after trying twice this decade to persuade voters to end capital punishment, they have no plans to go to the ballot again in 2020. Rather than seeking to build on Newsom’s temporary reprieve for Death Row inmates, activists are taking their own pause.
Grappling with the legacy of their two failed initiatives, advocates are reassessing their strategy and retooling their message. Natasha Minsker, a political consultant who has long been involved with abolition efforts, said the governor’s moratorium has given advocates the opportunity to do long-term planning.
“There’s this excitement and energy in our movement that we haven’t had in a long time,” Minsker said.
Newsom’s executive order caught many Californians by surprise. Although he supported the unsuccessful ballot measures to abolish t…

North Korea: Prospects of a Purge

(...) While Kim Il-sung was revered by his people for fighting Japanese colonial rule, the halo surrounding his successors has steadily dimmed to such an extent that his grandson, the new ruler, will have to rely on people such as his uncle, Jang, to hold on to power, at least in the short term.

Official media in the North have built Kim Jong-un, a jowly and rotund man in his late 20s, into a leader worthy of inheriting the crown, naming him "respected general," "great successor," "outstanding leader" and "supreme commander."

This year, dissident groups based in South Korea, citing North Korean refugees and businessmen working in China, linked the youngest Kim to a crackdown on business activities and a tougher policy on people seeking to flee from North Korea.

Those reports could not be verified independently, but would again suggest that further repression is more likely than an economic opening under the new man.

It also gives little hope for the 200,000 North Koreans who human rights group Amnesty international says are enslaved in labor camps, subjected to torture and hunger or execution.

"There is likely to be a politically motivated purge and imprisonment, and it could go on for a considerable period of time," said Pak Sang-hak, who heads a group in Seoul working to support defectors, and is himself a defector.

"That is especially because of the relative instability of Kim Jong-un's leadership. There might also be persecution as a way of intimidation and discipline."


Source: Reuters, December 28, 2011

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