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US court orders North Korea to pay $500m in Otto Warmbier’s death | USA News

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A federal judge in the United States has ordered Pyongyang to pay $501m in a wrongful death suit filed by the parents of Otto Warmbier, a US college student who died last year shortly after being released from North Korea.

US District Judge Beryl Howell on Monday harshly condemned North Korea for “barbaric mistreatment” of Warmbier in agreeing with his family that the country should be held liable for his death in June 2017.

She awarded punitive damages and payments covering medical expenses, economic loss and pain and suffering to Fred and Cindy Warmbier, who alleged that their son had been held hostage and tortured.

The judgment may be mostly symbolic since North Korea has yet to respond to any of the allegations in court and there’s no practical mechanism to force it do so.

But the family may nonetheless be able to recoup damages through a Justice Department-administered fund for victims of state-sponsored acts of “terrorism”, and may look to seize other assets held by the country outside of North Korea.

Warmbier, 22, was a University of Virginia student who was visiting North Korea with a tour group when he was arrested and sentenced to 15 years of hard labour in March 2016 on suspicion of stealing a propaganda poster. He died in June 2017, shortly after he returned to the US in a coma and showing apparent signs of torture while in custody.

In holding the North Korean government liable, Howell accused it of seizing Warmbier for “use as a pawn in that totalitarian state’s global shenanigans and face-off with the United States”.

“Before Otto traveled with a tour group on a five-day trip to North Korea, he was a healthy, athletic student of economics and business in his junior year at the University of Virginia, with ‘big dreams’ and both the smarts and people skills to make him his high school class salutatorian, homecoming king, and prom king,” the judge wrote. “He was blind, deaf, and brain dead when North Korea turned him over to U.S. government officials for his final trip home.”






WATCH: US student Warmbier suffered ‘brain damage’ in North Korea (02:21)

The arrest and death of Warmbier came during a time of heightened tension between the US and North Korea over the latter’s nuclear weapons programme. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met in a landmark summit in June in Singapore, and there plans for another meeting next year.

Fred and Cindy Warmbier, who are from a suburb of Cincinnati, said they were thankful the court found Kim’s government “legally and morally” responsible for their son’s death.

“We put ourselves and our family through the ordeal of a lawsuit and public trial because we promised Otto that we will never rest until we have justice for him,” they said in a statement. “Today’s thoughtful opinion by Chief Judge Howell is a significant step on our journey.”

The lawsuit, filed in April, describes in horrific detail the physical abuse Warmbier allegedly endured in North Korean custody.

When his parents boarded a plane to see him upon arrival in the US, they were “stunned to see his condition”, court documents say.

The 22-year-old was blind and deaf, his arms were curled and mangled and he was jerking violently and howling, completely unresponsive to his family’s attempts to comfort him. His once straight teeth were misaligned, and he had an unexplained scar on his foot. An expert said in court papers that the injuries suggested he had been tortured with electric shock.

A neurologist later concluded that the college student suffered brain damage, probably from a loss of blood flow to the brain for five to 20 minutes.

North Korea has denied that Warmbier was tortured and has said he contracted botulism in custody, though medical experts said there was no evidence of that.

The complaint also said Warmbier was pressed to make a televised confession, then convicted of subversion after a short trial. He was denied communication with his family. In June 2017, his parents were informed he was in a coma and had been in that condition for one year.

Though foreign nations are generally immune from being sued in US courts, Howell cited several exceptions that she said allowed the case to move forward and for her to hold North Korea liable. Those include the fact that North Korea has been designated by the US as a sponsor of “terrorism”, that the Warmbiers are US citizens and that North Koreans’ conduct amounts to torture and hostage taking.

The penalty awarded by Howell to the Warmbiers and to Otto Warmbier’s estate includes punitive damages as well as damages for economic losses, pain and suffering and medical expenses.

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When Ontario declared a COVID-19 health emergency last spring, the first instinct of Ottawa entrepreneur Peter O’Blenis was to preserve cash.

“We basically stopped our discretionary spending,” said O’Blenis, the co-founder and CEO of Evidence Partners, which makes software for accelerating the review of scientific and medical literature, using artificial intelligence. “We cut investments in things meant to help us grow.”

It was a defensive posture born of experience. O’Blenis had 12 years earlier nearly been crushed by the global financial crisis. Another looked to be on the way.

In 2008, O’Blenis and his colleagues, Jonathan Barker and Ian Stefanison, hit a brick wall with their first venture, TrialStat, which helped hospitals manage patients’ electronic data. While TrialStat had secured $5.5 million in venture financing just a couple of years earlier, the founders had burned through most of it during a rapid expansion. When the financial world collapsed, so did their firm.

The trio played things far more conservatively with Evidence Partners, which has relied almost exclusively on customer revenues to finance expansion.

The caution proved unnecessary. Like so many other businesses, O’Blenis underestimated the government’s willingness to keep the economy afloat with easy money. Nor did he anticipate that COVID-19 would prove a significant catalyst for the firm’s revenues so soon.

Evidence Partners is hardly the only local firm with technology particularly suited for the war against COVID-19. Spartan Bioscience and DNA Genotek adapted existing products to create technology for identifying the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Ottawa-based units of Abbott Laboratories and Siemens Healthineers make portable blood analyzers that diagnose patients afflicted by the virus.

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Shepherds of Good Hope wants to expand ByWard Market operation with eight-storey housing complex

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The Shepherds of Good Hope plans to build an eight-storey building near its current shelter for the homeless in the ByWard Market that would include supportive housing for up to 48 people, a soup kitchen and a drop-in centre.

The organization says it wants to be part of the solution to the housing crisis that has fuelled a rise in homelessness in Ottawa.

People would be moved out of the emergency shelters and into their own tiny apartments in the complex, which would include a communal dining hall and staff available to help with mental health, addiction and medical problems, said Caroline Cox, senior manager of communications for the Shepherds.

Some residents in the neighbourhood are opposed, saying services for the homeless and vulnerable should not be concentrated in one area of the city.

“I was flabbergasted,” said homeowner Brian Nolan, who lives one block from the development proposed for 216 Murray St., where currently a one-story building houses offices for the Shepherds of Good Hope.

Nolan said that, in the 15 years he’s lived in the area, it has become increasingly unsafe, with home and car thefts, drug dealing, loitering, aggressive and erratic behaviour, urinating, defecating and vomiting on sidewalks and yards and sexual acts conducted in public on his dead-end street. Before he lets his son play basketball in the yard, he checks the ground for needles and his home security camera to see who is nearby.

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Carleton University Hosts the Forum Lecture: Towards a Feminist Post-COVID City

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evehe Carleton University Forum Lecture: Towards a Feminist Post-COVID City given by Leslie Kern launches Ottawa Architecture Week. Urban geographer, author and academic, Kern will discuss how the pandemic has highlighted long-standing inequalities in the design, use and inclusivity of urban spaces. The talk will share some of the core principles behind a feminist urban vision to inform a wider vision of justice, equity and sustainability.

When
: Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021 at 6:30 p.m.
Registration: https://alumni.carleton.ca/event-registration-architecture-forum-series-with-leslie-kern-2/.

About the Speaker

Kern holds a PhD in Women’s Studies from York University. She is currently an associate professor of Geography and Environment and director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Mount Allison University.

Kern is the author of two books on gender and cities, including Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-Made World (Verso). The book discusses how our cities have failed in terms of fear, motherhood, friendship, activism, the joy and perils of being alone, and also imagines what they could become.

Kern argues, “The pandemic has shown us that society can be radically reorganized if necessary. Let’s carry that lesson into creating the non-sexist city.”

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