Archive for Kevin Shalvey

Amtrak is being offered $80 billion for upgrades, as part of Biden’s infrastructure plan, but experts say modernizing America’s railways may cost far more

President Joe Biden boarding an Amtrak train with a mask on
President Joe Biden boards his train at Amtrak's station in Pittsburgh.
  • As Amtrak readies a spending spree, experts say it may cost more to modernize the US system.
  • Biden last week announced $80 billion in Amtrak funding as part of his $2 trillion plan.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

As President Joe Biden last week outlined the $80 billion in funding for Amtrak in his $2 trillion infrastructure package, the railway operator published a map showing all the changes it plans to make in the next 14 years.

There were high-profile new routes to Las Vegas and Phoenix in the west, and Nashville and Montgomery in the south. But experts said the most important part of the plan was the modernization of routes already in place - the ones that have been crumbling for years.

There are few who wouldn't acknowledge that the country's railways, both Amtrak and local ones, have fallen on hard times. The US is consistently ranked lower than other countries on its rail infrastructure. China, Japan, and other countries invested in high-speed trains in the last decades that are more efficient than anything in the US.

The most notable high-speed rail project in the US, for example, a train expected to connect San Francisco and Los Angeles, has repeatedly had its budget trimmed. That route was included in the map released by Amtrak this week, which detailed what it expected US routes to look like by 2035.

Amtrak Connect US Map 2021 March
Amtrak Connects US, the railway's vision for train travel in the US in 2035.

The US hasn't historically put as much funding into its rail system as its European or Asian counterparts, said Allan Zarembski, a professor and director of the Railroad Engineering and Safety Program at the University of Delaware.

"This bill will certainly help - but may not be enough by itself, since it does not address the long-term issue of ongoing funding for public passenger systems," Zarembski said on Thursday.

Biden's plan is certain to face opposition from conservatives in congress. Senator Mitch McConnell and Rep. Kevin McCarthy both said last week that the bill was full of wasteful spending.

The bill "[f]ast-tracks $80 billion in new subsidies for Amtrak and its unions, even though Congress provided billions in aid to Amtrak last year," McCarthy said in a statement denouncing "Bidenomics."

McConnell said Biden's plan was full of "sweeping far-left priorities."

Amtrak New Jersey Tunnel Project
Amtrak workers perform tunnel repairs to a partially flooded train track bed, Saturday, March 20, 2021, in Weehawken, N.J. With a new rail tunnel into New York years away at best, Amtrak is embarking on an aggressive and expensive program to fix a 110-year-old tunnel in the interim.

Over the years, academics and researchers have published a range of reports on the US rail system, most of which came to the same conclusion: More funding would be needed to modernize them to the new global standard.

A team of researchers at George Mason University, for example, in 2019 published an analysis of trains in the Northeast US, compared with their counterparts around the world.

To make the Northeast Corridor between Washington, DC, and New York City as reliable, energy-efficient, and safe as French Alstom trains, Amtrak would have to invest $164 million per mile, the researchers wrote.

That would total $37 billion for a single US route, which wouldn't include its yearly operating cost of $570 million. That would be almost half the spending allocated as part of Biden's bill.

Comparing country-to-country rail networks is a difficult task, in part because good systems are dependent on geographies. Even within the US, the rail corridors have varied uses. Commuters pile into the Acela in the northeast corridor, while site-seers relax in the glass-roofed cars that wind through Glacier National Park in the northwest.

But most of the US railway routes were "legacy" systems created by 19th-century railroads that went bankrupt, said Murray Rowden, global head of infrastructure at Turner & Townsend, a New York firm.

There's a growing investment gap between what states are willing to pay and what the railways need. A plan like Biden's can start to make up for those budget shortfalls.

"States always have their ups and downs with their budget cycles when trying to balance their priorities, with the main focus for most transit agencies being to their infrastructure in a 'state of good repair,'" Rowden added.

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Donald Trump is calling for an MLB boycott after the league said it would move its All-Star game out of Georgia. Conservative lawmakers discussed removing the league’s antitrust exemption.

donald trump melania trump
Former President Donald Trump and former first lady Melania Trump.
  • Former President Donald Trump on Friday called for a boycott of Major League Baseball.
  • MLB officials said the league would no longer host its All-Star Game in Atlanta.
  • The move came in the wake of a restrictive voting law enacted in Georgia last week.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Former President Donald Trump on Friday called for a boycott of Major League Baseball, following the league's decision to move its All-Star game out of Georgia.

The league said on Friday that it would no longer host its 2021 All-Star Game in Atlanta after Georgia passed a restrictive voting law.

In a statement, Trump said: "Baseball is already losing tremendous numbers of fans, and now they leave Atlanta with their All-Star Game because they are afraid of the Radical Left Democrats who do not want voter I.D., which is desperately needed, to have anything to do with our elections."

He added: "Boycott baseball and all of the woke companies that are interfering with Free and Fair Elections. Are you listening Coke, Delta, and all!"

Coca-Cola and Delta, which both have operations in Georgia, had spoken out against the state's law.

Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey said the company was "disappointed." Delta CEO Ed Bastian said the Georgia law was "unacceptable and does not match Delta's Values."

In asking fans to boycott baseball, Trump joined other conservative lawmakers and commentators calling for punitive measures against the league.

Sun Trust Park Major League Baseball Atlanta Georgia
Sun Trust Park in Atlanta, Georgia.

Rep. Jeff Duncan on Friday said he'd instructed his staff to draft legislation to remove a federal antitrust exemption for the league. He said MLB officials had sought to "undermine election integrity laws."

"Why does @MLB still have antitrust immunity?" Senator Mike Lee said on Twitter. "It's time for the federal government to stop granting special privileges to specific, favored corporations - especially those that punish their political opponents."

Senator Ted Cruz shared Lee's statement, adding: "EXACTLY right."

President Joe Biden earlier in the week had voiced support for moving the game, which was scheduled for July 13. Biden called the new voting law "Jim Crow on steroids."

"Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box," said Rob Manfred, MLB commissioner, in a statement.

The Atlanta Braves in a statement said it was "deeply disappointed" by the league's decision to relocate.

"Unfortunately, businesses, employees, and fans in Georgia are the victims of this decision," the team's statement said.

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As virtual reality’s popularity grows, sex-tech companies are making plans for increased online intimacy

Raspberry Dream Labs Haptic Cyber Sex
People wearing Raspberry Dream Labs prototypes in London.
  • The founder of sex-tech company Raspberry Dream Labs said the pandemic may lead to a cybersex boom.
  • "The time is so ripe for it," Angelina Aleksandrovich told Insider in an interview.
  • Her company is testing a VR cybersex experience with immersive sounds, scents, and haptic pulses.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Has COVID-19 changed the way the world will hook up?

It seems that way, according to Angelina Aleksandrovich, founder and creative director of Raspberry Dream Labs. Her company's been busy building a rig and software so people who are apart can still enjoy intimacy. The time is right, she told Insider.

Companies like Aleksandrovich's are positioning themselves for a future with rising remote intimacy, even with the end of lockdowns visible on the horizon. It's one of a few competing visions of the post-vaccine future. Suitsupply, for example, launched an ad campaign this year featuring zero social distancing, with the tagline "The new normal is coming."

Raspberry Dream Labs Founder Angelina Aleksandrovich.JPG
Raspberry Dream Labs founder Angelina Aleksandrovich wearing a VR headset she gives volunteers for her cyber-sex experience using XR, a combination of virtual and augmented reality, haptic stimulators, sounds and scent.

In the future envisioned by Raspberry Dream Labs, some people may still be skittish about meeting new partners in person, even as the pandemic fades.The company's rig is meant to give users who are apart a sense of being intimate, with immersive sounds, visuals, and scents. It also places haptic pulses on their bodies, giving them the sense of being touched. It's still a prototype but eventually, users will be able to wear the rig and enter the company's virtual platform, Raspberry Dream Land, to meet others, Aleksandrovich said.

The London-based company recently demoed the experience, hosting a weeklong event that celebrated sexuality, identity, gender, body, technology and futurism. It included talks given by artists and sex-tech proponents, who attempted to demystify cybersex, said its founder.

Now, Aleksandrovich said the company's prepping for a public launch of Raspberry Dream's platform. The company tested virtual reality hosting sites, but "faced enormous oppression" and censorship from the companies that ran them, Aleksandrovich said. So it's building its own platform instead.

Aleksandrovich continued: "As in what the future hold for us: It holds total independence from censoring corporations and freedom of radical expression as we build our own social webXR platform - Raspberry Dream Land - where people can meet in the virtual world, go on the dates, attend events that would be censored elsewhere online, get playful and build meaning connections over the distance."

Raspberry Dream Labs colored prototype
A Raspberry Dream Labs prototype.

Aleksandrovich said Raspberry Dream Labs was created as a hybrid of her formal training as an artist and her work at creative agencies, where she pitched VR experiences to big brands.

She hadn't intended to start a company; her plan for the rig was just to create it as a one-off project. But she quickly found that she felt "better about myself doing something meaningful."

"I've been interested in sex since my early childhood. But the lack of early age sex education and growing up in post-soviet eastern Ukraine didn't help my curiosity," Aleksandrovich told Insider.

Raspberry Dream prototype backpack haptic rig cybersex
A woman wearing Raspberry Dream Labs haptic rig.

After graduating from the Chelsea College of Art and Design, she built VR and immersive productions for brands. She mostly followed creative briefs, but also started pitching ideas about multisensory experiences, including scents and temperature control.

"But something that would've sounded like a great career was actually eating me from the inside," she said. "I wasn't feeling happy creating 'brand experiences' for brands I didn't care for, just for the sake of being able to keep up with that life."

In 2018, she was poking around through files on her computer, when she found a folder filled with stuff she'd made at art school. It was then that Raspberry Dream Labs was born.

"They made me feel very nostalgic and reminded me that I already found my passion, the subject of human sexuality," she said. "All I had to do was act upon it."

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An unusually high ‘spring’ tide might help refloat the Ever Given on the Suez Canal, reports say

Suez canal ever given
The Ever Given in the Suez Canal.
  • An unusually high spring tide is expected in the Suez Canal on Monday.
  • The tide, also called a king tide, could help refloat the Ever Given, according to multiple reports.
  • If the ship can't be moved soon, teams will begin removing some of its containers.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Tides go out, then come back in again, but the boat blocking the Suez Canal still won't budge.

Monday, however, will bring an unusually high tide, called a "spring" tide, to the canal. It's expected to push the canal's water level up as much as 18 inches, which could help dislodge the Ever Given, as The New York Times and other outlets reported.

Tugboats and dredging crews are working to refloat the ship, which has been blocking the canal since Tuesday. They moved it slightly on Saturday. But Monday's tide will add a little extra room for it to float, which might help move the ship, according to experts.

"The significance of this high water is that it's higher than at the time of the grounding so in theory it gives you your best shot," a retired British Navy commander, Tom Sharpe, told The Wall Street Journal.

Suez Egypt
Tides for the next seven days at the Suez Canal.

"You have a significant increase in water in there," Richard Meade, a managing editor of Lloyd's List Maritime Intelligence told Bloomberg.

Spring tides are also called "king tides," according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA0. The "spring" is a reference to the "springing forth" of the tide as a new or full moon arrives, according to NOAA.

Spring Tide Graphic NOAA
Spring tides occur with the arrival of a new or full moon.

After Monday, when the spring tides peak, the high tides will begin getting lower, according to data from Tide-Forecast. As the tides become lower, it may become more difficult to refloat the Ever Given, although Reuters reported that experts were divided on the subject.

If the ship can't be moved soon, teams will begin removing some of the containers aboard the ship, attempting to lighten its load, Lt. Gen Osama Rabie, the chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, told reporters on Saturday. That process may take weeks.

"I think the most likely outcome is that it will be refloated on Sunday or Monday. But the worst case (stuck for weeks) is a real possibility," Clemens Schapeler, of Transporeon, told Reuters.

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Scholastic has pulled a book by ‘Captain Underpants’ author Dav Pilkey over its ‘passive racism’ and racial stereotypes

Dav Pilkey Captain Underpants Movie Premiere author.JPG
Author Dav Pilkey attends the premiere of "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie" in Los Angeles in 2017.
  • Scholastic said it has stopped distributing a book by Dav Pilkey for perpetuating "passive racism."
  • "We are deeply sorry for this serious mistake," the children's book publisher said in a statement.
  • The pulled book, "The Adventures of Ook and Gluk," hit bookshelves in 2010.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Scholastic has pulled a children's book, "The Adventures of Ook and Gluk," for perpetuating "passive racism."

The publisher said in a statement the decision was made on March 22 with the author, Dav Pilkey, who is known for the wildly successful "Captain Underpants" series.

In his own statement, Pilkey said the book was "intended to showcase diversity, equality, and non-violent conflict resolution."

The book is about friends who save the world using kung fu and the principles found in Chinese philosophy, he said.

"But this week it was brought to my attention that this book also contains harmful racial stereotypes and passively racist imagery," the author said. "I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly apologize for this. It was and is wrong and harmful to my Asian readers, friends, and family, and to all Asian people."

The Adventures of Ook and Gluk
"The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future" by Dev Pilkey

Scholastic's decision on the book - subtitled "Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future" - followed a similar decision from Dr. Seuss Enterprises, which said earlier this month it would cease publication of six Dr. Seuss titles.

In the days after that announcement, other Dr. Seuss titles soared to the top of Amazon's bestseller chart. The books were pulled from eBay. Politicians and commentators claimed that "cancel culture" had come for Dr. Seuss.

Pilkey said he and Scholastic would work to remove copies of "The Adventures of Ook and Gluk" from bookshops and library shelves, although it's unclear whether libraries would remove the book.

As of Sunday, Scholastic's websites in the US and elsewhere had pulled the title. Current orders won't be fulfilled, the company said.

"Throughout our 100-year history, we have learned that trust must be won every day by total vigilance," Scholastic said in its statement.

It added: "It is our duty and privilege to publish books with powerful and positive representations of our diverse society, and we will continue to strengthen our review processes as we seek to support all young readers."

Pilkey said his advance and royalties from the book would be given to charities. He said: "I hope that you, my readers, will forgive me, and learn from my mistake that even unintentional and passive stereotypes and racism are harmful to everyone. I apologize, and I pledge to do better."

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The Ever Given container ship was reportedly travelling faster than Suez Canal speed limit before running aground

ever given suez canal
The Ever Given is wedged across the Suez Canal and blocking traffic in the vital waterway.

Moments before it ran aground, the Ever Given was apparently travelling faster than a speed limit set by the Suez Canal Authority, Bloomberg reported.

The Ever Given's last recorded speed was 13.5 knots, logged 12 minutes before it grounded, according to Bloomberg, which cited its own data. The maximum allowed speed through the canal was between 7.6 knots and 8.6 knots, the report said.

The Japan Times also reported the ship was travelling 13.5 knots, adding that two canal pilots were onboard when the ship hit land.

The Ever Given didn't have a tugboat escort through the canal, according to Bloomberg. The two ships immediately ahead of it reportedly had escorts, although such escorts were not required.

The 1,300-foot container ship ran aground early Tuesday morning amid high winds and a dust storm. Apparently, at least one ship decided to wait until the wind subsided to make the canal trip.

"Initial investigations suggest the vessel grounded due to strong wind," Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, the ship's technical manager, said in a statement.

The company said its "initial investigations rule out any mechanical or engine failure as a cause of the grounding."

One ship captain unaffiliated with the grounding spoke with Bloomberg. Chris Cillard, the captain, told Bloomberg ships sometimes speed up as a way to better control their vessels during wind storms. "Speeding up to a certain point is effective."

He added: "More than that and it becomes counter-effective because the bow will get sucked down deep into the water. Then, adding too much power does nothing but exacerbate the problem."

The Suez Canal Authority said in a statement on Thursday that eight large tugboats were working to refloat the vessel.

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Zooming out on the Ever Given – these photos from space capture the magnitude of the 1,312-foot vessel

Ever Given Suez Canal from above photo.JPG
A satellite image shows the Suez Canal blocked by the stranded container ship Ever Given.

The Ever Given, a 1,312-foot cargo ship, has been stuck in the Suez Canal since Tuesday, causing a traffic jam on either side of one of the world's most active waterways.

By one estimate, it's costing the global economy about $400 million in losses per hour. Officials in Egypt said it could take days or even weeks to dislodge the ship, giving satellites plenty of time to snap photos showing the massive scale of the ship.

Let's begin with an up-close look at the Ever Given. In this photo released by the Suez Canal Authority, crews are working on shore to refloat the ship.
Ever Given in the Suez Canal
Backing away from the Ever Given, we can get a better sense of the size of the 1,312-foot Panama-flagged cargo ship.
The Ever Given cargo ship towering over a local building
Tugboats and a specialized suction dredger worked Friday to dislodge a giant container ship.
Now let's jump up to a satellite, which captured this picture of the 224,000-tonne ship blocking the canal.
Suez Canal Ever Given photo from above.JPG
Here's another satellite image of the ship, which can hold about 20,000 shipping containers.
Suez Canal zoomed out satellite Ever Given.JPG
Zooming out a bit, we can see more of the canal, which is mostly empty. The Mediterranean Sea is to the north, toward the upper right-hand corner of this image.
Suez Canal satellite image zoomed out Ever Given.JPG
Zooming out farther adds more context. Below, we can see other cargo ships idling in the Red Sea to the south.
Suez Canal Ever Given Satellite Russian Zoomed Out.JPG
This image came from Twitter page of Director General of Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin.
Here's another satellite view without all the clutter. Those tiny colored lines are ships idling in Red Sea, waiting to pass through the canal. We can just make out the Ever Given in the upper left-hand corner.
Suez Canal from above.JPG
Zoomed out even farther, we can barely see the Ever Given, which is among the largest cargo ships in the world.
Suez Canal Ever Given Zoomed Out North Satellite Image.JPG
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A federal court has ordered a man to pay more than $571 million in fines for operating a ‘fraudulent bitcoin trading scheme’

bitcoin
Bitcoin.
  • A judge ordered a UK man to pay $571 million in fines for an allegedly fraudulent bitcoin scheme.
  • Benjamin Reynolds allegedly took about 22,000 bitcoin from customers, now worth about $1.2 billion.
  • Reynolds didn't appear in court in New York, and is "purportedly" in Manchester, US regulators said.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

A court has ordered a man to pay penalties totalling about $571 million, after finding that he acquired more than 22,000 bitcoin through a fraudulent online scheme.

The fine was announced by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) regulator on Friday.

The bitcoin handed over by more than 1,000 customers in 2017 as part of the alleged scheme was valued at about $143 million at the time, but would now be worth about $1.22 billion.

The CFTC named Benjamin Reynolds, a British national, as the person behind the alleged scheme. But the CFTC didn't seem to know exactly where Reynolds was, saying in a press statement that he was "purportedly" living in Manchester, England.

Reynolds was ordered on March 2 to pay about $143 million in restitution and $429 million in a civil monetary penalty, according to the CFTC statement.

The judgement was issued by Mary Kay Vyskocil, a judge in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Vyskocil wrote that Reynolds had "failed to appear or answer the Complaint."

The CFTC alleged that Reynolds in 2017 used a website, social networks, and email to solicit about 22,190.542 bitcoin from people around the world.

Conducting business under the name Control-Finance Limited, Reynolds collected bitcoin from more than 1,000 people, including about 169 people living in the US, the CFTC said.

Control-Finance Limited was registered in England in September 2016, with its official address listed in a nondescript office building in the center of Manchester, according to UK government records. Reynolds, who was born in 1983, was listed as the company's sole director.

Under Reynolds, Control-Finance solicited bitcoin from customers who thought they were investing the cryptocurrency, according to the CFTC complaint.

"Among other things, Reynolds falsely represented to customers that Control-Finance traded their bitcoin deposits in virtual currency markets and employed specialized virtual currency traders who generated guaranteed trading profits for all customers," the CFTC said.

Reynolds also allegedly created an "elaborate" affiliate marketing network that promised to pay "outsized referral profits" and other rewards for bringing new bitcoin customers to Control-Finance.

The CFTC said: "In fact, Reynolds made no trades on customers' behalf, earned no trading profits for them, and paid them no referral rewards or bonuses."

The regulator said Reynolds said he would return all the deposited bitcoin to customers of Control-Finance by October 2017. He "instead retained the deposits for his own personal use," it said.

UK government records listed Control-Finance Limited as dissolved as of February 2018.

Vyskocil's judgement against Reynolds said the penalties would accrue interest if not paid immediately.

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A new study has linked the rise in anti-Asian online hate speech with President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 rhetoric

trump grifting
President Donald Trump.
  • The Anti-Defamation League said online hate speech aimed at Asian Americans rose last year.
  • Rhetoric from President Donald Trump and other leaders fueled the rise, a study said.
  • ADL saw an "85% increase in anti-Asian sentiment on Twitter" after Trump got COVID-19.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

As President Donald Trump and other US officials last year referred to the coronavirus as the "Chinese virus," the "Kung Flu," and other incendiary nicknames, a chorus of commentators warned that their rhetoric would lead to an increase in harassment and hateful speech.

"There is no blame in this," said Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director at the World Health Organization, when asked about Trump's language in March 2020.

Now, a newly published study by the Anti-Defamation League has shown that the pandemic corresponded with a rise in hate speech and harassment on social networks aimed at Asian Americans. While it's difficult to quantify the effects of the president's comments, the study said some of that rise could be attributed to Trump's statements.

Online harassment aimed at Asian Americans jumped about six percentage points in 2020 and early 2021, the largest rise for any group of people during the same period, according to a study published this week by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL.)

About 17% of Asian Americans reported "severe" online harassment, up from 11% in the same earlier period, according to the study. In the same time period, online harassment reported by all Americans on social networks dipped about three points.

The survey added to previously published data about the rise of anti-Asian American speech since the start of the pandemic. Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco said this month that Trump's first tweet with the term "China virus" triggered a rise in anti-Asian hashtags on Twitter.

Kung Flu protest sign at rally against violence against Asian Americans
A rally against the rising violence against Asian Americans in Manhattan last week.
The ADL study also linked the rise in anti-Asian American sentiment on social networks and in the real world directly to Trump's "incendiary rhetoric" about the coronavirus.

"The spike in physical violence against Asian-Americans across the nation was whipped up in large part by bigotry and conspiracy theories that grew online, fanned by national leaders," including Trump, the study said.

ADL said its researchers saw an "85 percent increase in anti-Asian sentiment on Twitter" after news broke that Trump had COVID-19.

Late last year, Twitter updated its policies around hate speech, saying in part it had developed "longer, more in-depth" training for its internal teams.

ADL said such efforts by tech companies haven't yet made a difference.

"Although technology companies insist they have taken robust action to address users' safety and remove harmful content throughout the past year, this report finds scant difference in the number of Americans who experienced online hate and harassment," said the study released this week.

Since Trump departed office, there's been an uptick in leaders voicing concern about hate speech and violence toward Asian Americans.

On January 26, a few days after Biden took office, he issued a memo condemning hate speech against Asian Americans. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi said he commended President Joe Biden for taking a stance against xenophobia toward Asian Americans.

"President Trump weaponized racism and xenophobia in 2020 by calling COVID-19 the 'Kung Flu Virus' and we are still witnessing increased hate speech and violence as a result," Krishnamoorthi said.

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The US has extradited a suspected North Korean intelligence operative to stand trial on money laundering charges, as tensions rise between Washington and Pyongyang

Kim Jong Un News Conference North Korea March 25 2021
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaking on TV on Thursday.
  • A North Korean national has been extradited to the US to stand trial on money laundering charges.
  • Mun Chol Myong was an "intelligence operative" based in Singapore, according to the indictment.
  • Tensions have risen between Washington and Pyongyang, as Biden looks for a path forward.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The US has for the first time extradited a North Korean national to face a criminal trial in America, according to the Justice Department.

An indictment unsealed this week alleged that Mun Chol Myong, 55, defrauded banks and laundered money in an attempt to skirt US and UN sanctions on North Korea.

"He is the first North Korean intelligence operative - and the second ever foreign intelligence operative - to have been extradited to the United States for violation of our laws," said John C. Demers, assistant attorney general for the DOJ National Security Division, in a statement.

Demers continued: "We will continue to use the long reach of our laws to protect the American people from sanctions evasion and other national security threats."

Mun this week made his initial appearance in federal court in Washington, DOJ officials said. He was detained by local authorities in Malaysia in May 2019. His case has been ongoing in local courts since then.

Biden
President Joe Biden.

The news came as tensions between the two countries flared. On Wednesday, North Korea's military tested two ballistic missiles, according to multiple reports. A US official told NBC News that the test "threatens the peace and security of the region and our nation."

Earlier in the week, President Joe Biden's administration said it would soon finish its in-depth review of Washington-Pyongyang policy, including the relationship fostered by the previous administration.

Senior administration officials said last week that they'd spoken with former officials "to get their sense of how their diplomacy with North Korea worked out over the last four years."

President Donald Trump notably went to the DMZ to meet Kim Jong Un, the reclusive North Korean leader, in 2018. The two talked privately, and reportedly later sent each other "love letters."

Officials in Biden's administration have reportedly been trying to contact North Korean officials since mid-February, but haven't received a response.

"All I can tell you is that we are on our forward foot, in terms of wanting to clearly signal that we are prepared for continuing engagement in Northeast Asia with key partners and indeed with North Korea," a senior Biden administration official said this week.

North Korea Embassy Malaysia
North Korean diplomats leaving Malaysia last week.

In response to the US extradition of one of its nationals, North Korea pulled embassy workers from Malaysia, according to multiple reports. The South China Morning Post reported that the "hermit kingdom was outraged" over the extradition.

The newly unsealed indictment, which was signed by a grand jury in May 2018, accused Mun and other unnamed suspects of laundering money through the US financial system. While based in Singapore, Mun worked for Sinsar Trading Pte. Ltd., which used front companies to launder more than $1.5 million, the indictment said.

The DOJ said Mun and others created shell companies to hide their ties to North Korea, giving them access to US correspondent banks and international wire services, breaking sanctions.

"The indictment further alleges that Mun was affiliated with the DPRK's primary intelligence organization, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, which is the subject of US and UN sanctions," the DOJ said.

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