Good morning, Quartz readers!
As you wake up, you may learn North Korea has launched more missiles, this time to celebrate its 69th anniversary. Then again, there has been little correlation between key anniversaries and its weapons tests; instead, Pyongyang seems more intent on spitefully ruining long weekends and international meetings.
Launch or not, rest assured Pyongyang will continue to evade sanctions, advance its weapons technology, and threaten its enemies, especially the US. (And, oh yes, sell arms.)
To many Americans, it’s puzzling that North Korea is trying to intimidate the US with its ballistic missile launches and nuclear weapons tests, including its sixth and most powerful last weekend.
They wonder: Does Kim Jong-un not realize the US would prevail in any conflict? And that any attack on the US or its allies would provoke instant retaliation, leading to his untimely end?
Kim is, of course, fully aware. The confusion stems from the belief that North Korea’s primary obsession is with the US. In fact, that honor goes to a rival closer to home: South Korea.
North Korea doesn’t want merely to enrich the ruling regime, end sanctions, and be fully accepted as a nuclear power by the international community. Its aim is to rule the Korean Peninsula, and rid it of foreign forces.
But there’s no rush. Kim, in his thirties now, expects to be in power for life. Decades after Donald Trump and other US presidents have receded into history, Kim should still be supreme leader, albeit maybe with grey hair.
For now, Kim’s problem is that the US is pledged to defend South Korea. But is that pledge iron-clad? Would the US waver if its own cities were in range of North Korean nuclear-tipped missiles? Kim hopes to put the security arrangement into doubt.
Americans, rest easy: It’s highly unlikely Kim will ever attack the US. But as for Washington’s commitment to its Asian allies, that’s an easier target. —Steve Mollman
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Sanctions: the most maligned tool of diplomacy. This week, Russian president Vladimir Putin, South Korean president Moon Jae-in, and US president Trump all voiced their opinions on the matter of sanctions against North Korea. As North Korean nuclear tests and threats escalate, world leaders continue to be in disagreement about the effectiveness of sanctions. Steve Mollman highlights the fact that sanctions are notorious for not working—until they do.
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Uno shows love for the colorblind. Mattel’s classic card game got its first redesign in nearly 50 years, and now includes an “accessibility system for colorblind people.” Fast Company’s Mark Wilson explains the makeover, which involves matching colors and numbers. The changes mean the game can now be played by another 350 million people.
The diversity of TV casting is changing how shows are made. Shows that center around people of color, like HBO’s Insecure, face the same problem any dark-skinned person taking a selfie in the club has experienced—it’s hard to look good in low light. Xavier Harding of Mic examines the history of why, historically, it’s been hard to light for people of color, and reveals the tools cinematographers for Spike Lee and Issa Rae use to make the cast pop, regardless of their skin tone.
An animal kingdom controversy. When scientists discover new species, there are rules for how they are named. But a handful have flouted them by exploiting a little-known loophole. It’s a very specific kind of scientific “crime”—taxonomic vandalism—and it’s starting to ruffle feathers. “These glory-seeking scientists use others’ original research in order to justify their so-called ‘discoveries,’” writes Benjamin Jones in Smithsonian magazine.
The foundation of Donald Trump’s presidency is the negation of Barack Obama’s legacy. In The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates advances the argument that the 45th president is America’s first white one—in that he actively chooses the mantle of white supremacy and repudiation of his black predecessor as a political platform. The article coalesces all of the conventional wisdom floating around about Trump’s upset victory—in order to dismantle it, and reveal, according to Coates, the racial reckoning America has yet to fully undertake.
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