For the night of 25 September 2014
North Korea: The second session of the 13th Supreme People's Assembly convened today. Kim Jong Un did not attend. The "rubber stamp" legislature made personnel changes to the National Defense Commission and approved 12-year compulsory education for all children.
Comment: The Assembly's first session was in April when it elected Kim Jong Un as leader of the National Defense Commission. Multiple Asian media have reported that North Korean state media have reported no public appearances by Kim since 3 September, when he attended a concert in Pyongyang. This is the first time he has failed to open a session of the Supreme People's Assembly. The speculation is that he is ill.
China: Update. Chinese media reported a significant upward revision to the number of casualties in the 21 September riots and explosions in Luntai County in western China. State media reported 40 "rioters", six civilians and four policemen killed. The bombs injured 54 people. Police captured two rioters.
Comment: Earlier in the week, state news services reported only two people killed. The significance of the numbers is that they expose a more serious breach of local security than authorities were willing to admit at first. Chinese security officials do not seem to appreciate that the bombers are a manifestation of what appears to be a large and durable living system that protects and supports Uighur militants and is viscerally hostile to the Han Chinese. The Chinese security agencies know about the hostility, to be sure, but they do not seem to approach it as the output of a robust living system. They prefer arrests and cracking the heads of minorities, whom they judge to be inferior.
China's supreme court distributed new wide-ranging guidelines for prosecuting terrorism cases. Xinhua reported that making and displaying banners and other materials of "religious extremism" is criminalized. It also criminalized insults, such as calling a person a "religious traitor" or a "heretic."
Comment: Authorities severely restricted public displays of Islamic devotion during Ramadan this year. The new court guidelines extend the ban on public displays of religious observance.
Syria: Government forces recaptured Adra, a town located northeast of Damascus on Thursday. The town is empty of residents and has been fought over for more than nine months.
Comment: The location of the town makes its control tactically significant. Whoever controls Adra can operate from it to disrupt the main south-to-north highway that links Damascus to the Mediterranean port cities of Tartus and Latakia.
Beyond the tactical significance, this operation appears typical of the government's reaction to Coalition air strikes. While the Islamists are distracted by the new air threat, the Ba'athist government is consolidating and expanding its area of control, picking off easy targets.
End of NightWatch for 25 September.
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