North Korea wants guarantee of security in return for 'complete denuclearization'
Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories
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- North Korea is saying it would consider "complete denuclearization" in pursuit of a peace deal with the U.S., according to South Korean President Moon Jae-in
- Prosecutors in Minnesota have determined that singer Prince died of an accidental fentanyl overdose, likely by ingesting a counterfeit pain pill
- Ikea's new CEO says the company's future is in small stores, online shopping and home delivery
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Peace with North Korea?
In advance of a possible face-to-face meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, the Hermit Kingdom suddenly seems willing to make a deal.
"North Korea is expressing a will for a complete denuclearization," South Korean President Moon Jae-in told reporters in Seoul today.
The North and South will hold a summit on April 27, inside the demilitarized zone that separates the two countries, with plans afoot for a live TV broadcast of the discussions.
And speculation is running high that the two sides might soon sign a deal bringing an official end to the 1950-53 war, which concluded in a truce rather than a treaty.
Even if peace does come to the Korean peninsula, it will be an awfully long time before the soldiers disappear.
South Korea is now the U.S. military's third-largest foreign deployment, behind Japan's 39,000 and the 35,000 in Germany. (Afghanistan now ranks fourth with 15,000 and Iraq's 5,500 is well down the list, behind Italy, the U.K. and Kuwait.)
For decades, U.S. forces were scattered across South Korea, guarding 174 bases as recently as 2003. But the Pentagon has been steadily consolidating its operations, with a goal of having just 96 installations by 2020.
Camp Humphreys, the headquarters of Eighth United States Army located 80 kilometres south of Seoul, is currently undergoing a massive $11 billion US expansion. (The old Army base at Yongsan in Seoul was problematic — located in the heart of a sprawling city, and within North Korean artillery range.)
It will provide space for up to 42,000 military personnel and their families. Airstrips, pads for Apache attack helicopters, high-tech communications facilities and barracks have all been added — almost entirely paid for by the South Korean government.
In addition, the U.S. Air Force operates two major air bases in South Korea — Osan with about 8,000 personnel, and Kunsan. And there's a Navy port in Chinhae.
Broader American strategic interests in the region — like countering China — suggest that those installations aren't going anywhere, even if many South Koreans doubt their utility. Just ask the Japanese, who are still hosting 112 U.S. bases 73 years after the end of the Second World War.
The Korean War was a United Nations "Police Action" and the armistice was between China, North Korea and the UN Command.
A new peace treaty will legally require all of those parties to sign off.
Even then, it could take years for the sides to pull back. The last Russian troops left East Germany in September 1994, four years after reunification.
Prosecutors in Minnesota have determined that Prince died of an accidental fentanyl overdose, likely by ingesting a counterfeit pain pill.
No criminal charges will be filed in connection with the April 2016 death of the musician, Mark Metz, the Carver County Attorney, told a press conference this afternoon.
Authorities have been investigating the circumstances surrounding the singer's death since he was found unconscious and unresponsive inside an elevator at his Paisley Park estate outside Minneapolis on April 21, 2016.
An autopsy later determined that he died of a fentanyl overdose, with a toxicology report flagging "exceedingly high" concentrations of the drug in his blood, liver and stomach — more than enough to kill.
(The family doctor, Michael Todd Schulenberg, has reached a settlement with the U.S. attorney's office, paying a $30,000 US fine but avoiding criminal prosecution.)
The two-year investigation was a thorough one, with police obtaining search warrants for the reclusive star's home and email, and the cellphone records of his associates. (Prince didn't have his own phone.)
Six days earlier, Prince had passed out on his private plane while returning home from a concert, and had to be revived with two doses of Naloxone, following an emergency landing.
Prince left behind a vault full of unreleased audio and video recordings — he once told a guitar magazine that he taped everything, including informal jam sessions.
But he died without a will and his estate — estimated to be worth between $100 million and $300 million US —the subject of a legal tug-of-war, pitting his sister against five half-siblings. To date, no one but the lawyers has seen a penny of it.
The singer's memoir, The Beautiful One, will be published later this year, although he had only submitted 50 handwritten pages to his publisher before his death.
Beyoncé has written the foreword.
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Ikea reassembles its business
Ikea has seen the future — and it's smaller and cheaper.
Jesper Brodin, the new CEO of the world's largest furniture retailer, has been laying out his vision for the company in a series of interviews this week. And it is focused on the explosive growth of the world's cities, where future consumers will have less space to fill and little time to shop.
As such, the company plans to move away from its traditional store and catalogue approach and put more focus on improving its online shopping experience, including home delivery.
On Tuesday, Ikea announced that it will open a new, compact outlet in Paris' ritzy Madeleine neighbourhood in the summer of 2019, which will be about one-fifth the size of standard stores. It will stock some smaller items, but large furniture will be strictly order and delivery.
The company established its first downtown shop in Hamburg in 2014, followed by a bedroom showroom in Madrid, and now has plans for similar urban beachheads in London and Copenhagen.
There's even thought to making the whole experience virtual. A test program at one of its Swedish locations outside Stockholm lets shoppers don virtual reality goggles and walk around their future kitchen.
Brodin has been musing about leasing furniture, as well as selling it. Retail sales growth for the Ikea Group, which owns 362 stores worldwide, slowed to two per cent last year, down from a seven per cent average over the previous five years.
The shift, particularly to digital, is not without risk, however.
Yesterday, the company was forced to shut down an affiliated app and website due to an unspecified "cyber-security incident."
Meanwhile, there a sign that such services will soon be outdated themselves.
Engineers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have released a video of robots building an Ikea 'Stefan' chair. Like humans, it took them a few goes, but the robotic arms, equipped with 3D cameras, eventually managed to put peg A in hole B.
Or an hour-and-a-half for everyone else.
Quote of the moment
"Hans Asperger, who for a long time was seen as only having made valuable contributions to the field of pediatrics and child psychiatry, was, as Herwig Czech's newly unearthed evidence shows, also guilty of actively assisting the Nazis in their abhorrent eugenics and euthanasia policies ... Asperger was not just doing his best to survive in intolerable conditions but was also complicit with his Nazi superiors in targeting society's most vulnerable people."
- An editorial, published today in the Journal of Molecular Autism alongside an article on the war-time activities of Austrian doctor Hans Asperger, a pioneering autism researcher whose name has been given to a form of the developmental disorder.
What The National is reading
- Two-year-old found dead in Quebec City park, mother harms self in custody (CBC)
- Facebook moves 1.5 billion users out of reach of European privacy law (Guardian)
- Why Billy Bragg is at the Bank of England (BBC)
- Vietnam's socialist dream hits on hard times (Asia Times)
- Leon vs Leon: Inside the feud tearing apart Canada's furniture family (Financial Post)
- Measles infection rate triples in Germany (Deutsche Welle)
- Nigerian police recover stolen Senate mace (AFP)
- Why coffee is beginning to outsell booze at campus bars (CBC)
Today in history
April 19, 1982: Woman busted for selling carpet by the yard
Calgary retailer Zoritza Kasparian became the test case for Canada's new Metric Commission when she persisted in advertising and selling carpets by the yard instead of by metre. Fears of "enforced metrification" might have been overblown, however. You can still purchase imperially measured rugs today.
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