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North Korea Could Have 100 Nuclear Warheads (And Soon)

Sat, 12/28/2019 - 05:00

What can America do?

Japan police find human remains in boat suspected from North Korea: Coast Guard

Sat, 12/28/2019 - 04:59

Japanese police found the remains of at least five people in a wooden boat suspected to be from North Korea on the coast of one of Japan's outlying islands on Saturday, a Coast Guard official said. Police made the discovery in the wooden boat's stem around 9:30 a.m. (0030 GMT) on Saturday on Sado island, which is off the coast of Japan's northwestern prefecture of Niigata, Coast Guard official Kei Chinen said.

Nuclear power plant in UAE risks sparking arms race, expert warns

Sat, 12/28/2019 - 02:00

Four nuclear reactors being built in the United Arab Emirates could spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and leave the Persian Gulf at risk of a Chernobyl-style disaster, a leading nuclear scientist has claimed. In a report, Dr Paul Dorfman, chairman of the Nuclear Consulting Group, warned the UAE's Barakah nuclear power plant lacks key safety features, poses a threat to the environment, is a potential target for terrorists and could be part of plans to develop nuclear weapons.  "The motivation for building this may lie hidden in plain sight," Dr Dorfman told the Telegraph. "They are seriously considering nuclear proliferation."  Dr Dorfman, who is also an honorary senior research associate at University College London's Energy Institute, has served as a nuclear adviser to the British government and led the European Environment Agency response to the Fukushima disaster. However, the UAE has stressed that it is committed to "the highest standards of nuclear safety, security and non-proliferation." The UAE hired the South Korean firm Korea Electric Power Corporation to build the Barakah - "Divine Blessing" in Arabic, plant in 2009. It will be the first nuclear power plant in the Arabian peninsula, and has fuelled speculation that Abu Dhabi is preparing for a nuclear arms race with the Islamic Republic. The UAE has denied allegations by the Qatari government that its power plant is a security threat to their capital of Doha and the Qatari environment, dismissing any causes for concern. Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan photographed in Germany earlier this year Credit: Reuters  However, Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed they hit the Barakah nuclear power plant with a missile in 2017. The UAE denied that the rebels fired any such missile, adding that they had an air defence system to deal with such threats. Dr Dorfman said that scrambling fighter aircraft or firing surface to air missiles in time to intercept an incoming strike would be difficult. In September, Saudi air defences failed to stop a drone attack on oil processing facilities. Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for that attack, though Saudi Arabia blamed Iran. The increase in transportation of radioactive materials through the Persian Gulf when the plant goes into operation could also raise the risk of potentially fatal collisions, explosions, or equipment and material failure. Any radioactive discharge resulting from accidents could easily reach population centres on the Gulf coast and have a potentially devastating impact on delicate Gulf ecosystems, including rare mangrove swamps. The plant is also vulnerable to climate change and extreme temperatures that could affect its cooling system, Dr Dorfman's report says. The International Panel on Climate Change has said that extreme sea level events are now likely to happen more frequently, meaning coastal power plants such as Barakah could become defenseless against rising sea levels, tidal ingress and storm surges. High average sea water temperatures in the Gulf could also make it more difficult to cool the reactor using sea water. The cost of the 1986 Chernobyl accident has been recently estimated to be around $235 billion (£179 billion). The Japanese Centre for Economic Research has said the 2011 Fukushima accident cost over 81 trillion YEN(£567 billion), although the Japanese government has put the cost at YEN 22 million (£142 billion). The United Arab Emirates Foreign ministry had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

Joe Biden says he would not comply if he were subpoenaed to testify in Trump's Senate impeachment trial

Sat, 12/28/2019 - 01:54

Biden doubles down on prior comments regarding a hypothetical subpoena, saying "The issue is not what I did."

Drawn-out sex crimes case rattles Israel-Australia ties

Sat, 12/28/2019 - 01:06

Nicole Meyer endured years of sexual abuse allegedly at the hands of her former school principal. The lengthy, Kafkaesque legal saga over the sex crimes suspect’s fate has not only agonized Meyer but is testing the relationship between Israel and one of its closest allies, Australia. Malka Leifer’s case is still far from resolved and even Australia’s pro-Israel Jewish community is losing patience.

US base near North Korea accidentally sounds attack alarm instead of bugle call

Fri, 12/27/2019 - 23:40

An American military base in South Korea accidentally sounded an alert siren instead of a bugle call, causing a scare that the base might have been under attack from North Korea. The US and its allies are closely monitoring Pyongyang for signs of provocation amid a recent escalation of threats from the secretive state, which has warned that it could send Washington a "Christmas gift". The siren at Camp Casey, which is near the border with North Korea, went off by "human error" at around 10pm on Thursday, said Lt Col Martyn Crighton, a public affairs officer for the 2nd Infantry Division. The operator immediately identified the mistake and alerted all units at the base of the false alarm, which did not interfere with any operations, Crighton said. The incident came a day before Japanese broadcaster NHK caused panic by mistakenly sending a news alert saying that North Korea fired a missile over Japan that landed in the sea off the country's northeastern island of Hokkaido early Friday. The broadcaster apologised, saying the alert was for media training purposes. North Korean missile ranges North Korea has been increasing pressure on Washington before an end-of-year deadline issued by leader Kim Jong-un for President Trump to offer acceptable terms for a nuclear deal. There are concerns that Pyongyang could react if Washington does not relieve sanctions imposed on the North's broken economy. North Korea fired two missiles over Japan during a run of weapons tests in 2017, which also included three tests of developmental intercontinental ballistic missiles that demonstrated potential capabilities to reach the US mainland. Tensions eased after Kim initiated diplomacy with Washington and Seoul in 2018 while looking to leverage his nukes for economic and security benefits. But negotiations have faltered since a February summit between Mr Kim and Mr Trump broke down after the US side rejected North Korean demands for broad sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities.

Survivors tell of France's 'dirty war' in Cameroon independence

Fri, 12/27/2019 - 22:46

Ekité (Cameroon) (AFP) - It was a "dirty war" waged by French colonial troops but it never made headlines and even today goes untold in school history books. The brutal conflict unfolded in Cameroon, which on January 1 marks its 60th anniversary of independence -- the first of 17 African countries that became free from their colonial masters in 1960. "My life was overturned," Odile Mbouma, 72, said in the southwestern town of Ekite.

India's protests: why now?

Fri, 12/27/2019 - 22:45

Mumbai-based copywriter Sarah Syed says she was long alarmed by the Hindu nationalist direction of India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi but felt powerless to stop it -- until now. Like many others taking part in the current wave of protests, the final straw was Modi's new citizenship law and then the images of students being tear-gassed when they demonstrated against it. "Now though it feels criminal to sit out the protests and say nothing," the 27-year-old told AFP.

Russia claims to have deployed Avangard hypersonic missiles that 'cannot be intercepted'

Fri, 12/27/2019 - 22:26

Russia says it has deployed its first hypersonic missiles which President Putin claims are capable of transporting nuclear warheads at 27 times the speed of sound. The location of the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle has not been confirmed but has been widely reported to be the Urals, a mountain range in western Russia. Sergei Shoigu, Russia's defence minister confirmed that the missiles entered service at 10am Moscow time on Friday, describing their deployment as a "landmark event".  Vladimir Putin said that the missiles put Russia ahead of the rest of the world. "Not a single country possesses hypersonic weapons, let alone continental-range hypersonic weapons," he said, arguing that the West was "playing catch-up with us". "The Avangard is invulnerable to intercept by any existing and prospective missile defence means of the potential adversary." Vladimir Putin said that the West is now "playing catch-up" Credit: REUTERS Moscow said the Avangard is launched on top of an intercontinental ballistic missile but it can make sharp manoeuvres on the way to its target, making it more difficult to intercept. The Russian government had announced the missiles last year and in March 2018 Mr Putin likened the missile to a "meteorite" and a "fireball" in a state address. The Avangard, which Mr Putin said could penetrate current and future missile defence systems, can carry a nuclear weapon of up to two megatons. The Pentagon responded to the deployment by saying it would "not characterise the Russian claims" about the Avangard's capabilities. The United States has its own hypersonic missile programme, as does China, which in 2014 said it had carried out a test flight. The US has been developing hypersonic weapons in recent years. In August, Mark Esper, the defence secretary, said the Pentagon was some years from deploying its own missiles.

U.S. Denies Seeking 20% Troop Funding Boost From South Korea

Fri, 12/27/2019 - 22:01

(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. denied a report that it’s demanding South Korea pay as much as 20% more to host American troops, as funding talks between the two nations continue.The 10%-20% figure referred to in Korean media is “ungrounded speculation,” a Trump administration official said by email. U.S. negotiators will seek a “fair and equitable” outcome at the next round of talks in early January, the official said.Last month, U.S. negotiators walked out of a meeting on troop funding in Seoul after South Korea balked at a $5 billion price tag for hosting U.S. troops -- a fivefold increase. Citing a diplomatic source it didn’t identify, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported earlier this week that the White House had dropped that demand after receiving assurances Seoul would purchase more American weapons. The increase may now be about 10%-20% above the current level of nearly $1 billion, the newspaper said.The deal, known as the Special Measures Agreement, technically expires at the end of this year. But both sides are likely to agree to some sort of temporary extension as they negotiate, allowing for the continued operations of about 28,500 U.S. military personnel on the peninsula.The talks with South Korea could affect other countries that host U.S. troops, as the Trump administration is seeking funding increases from other American allies.To contact the reporter on this story: Kanga Kong in Seoul at kkong50@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Shamim Adam at, Edward Johnson, Tom RedmondFor more articles like this, please visit us at©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

Democrat Warren's U.S. presidential campaign issues fundraising plea

Fri, 12/27/2019 - 19:06

Elizabeth Warren's presidential campaign told supporters on Friday its fundraising haul stands at just over $17 million and made a plea for more donations with just days left in the fourth quarter. The figure was a sharp drop from the previous quarter and accompanied the progressive Democrats' slight slide in opinion polls in recent weeks in the Democratic contest to face Republican Donald Trump in the November 2020 election. In the third quarter of 2019, Warren's campaign reported raising $24.6 million, slightly behind the $25.3 million raised by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, the only other 2020 Democratic candidate to swear off big-money fundraisers.

A giant 'blob' of hot water more than twice the size of California threatens the survival of fish and coral near New Zealand

Fri, 12/27/2019 - 18:48

A 386,000-square-mile chunk of the Pacific Ocean east of New Zealand is 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average in what could be a marine heat wave.

A New Jersey mom bought a 'creepy' mermaid baby doll from Etsy for her 6-year-old daughter. It was filled with cocaine.

Fri, 12/27/2019 - 18:43

Elizabeth Faidley shipped the doll off to a doll hospital for some "cosmetic work." Weeks later, she got a call from the police department.

Judge blocks California's alligator ban after Louisiana sues

Fri, 12/27/2019 - 18:41

A federal judge has temporarily blocked a California law banning the import and sale of alligator and crocodile products. U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller also scheduled an April 24 hearing on Louisiana's request for a longer-lasting order called a preliminary injunction. “The temporary restraining order is the first step in protecting Louisiana’s alligator industry, which creates jobs, supports our economy and contributes to much-needed coastal restoration efforts,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said in a news release Friday from the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

New York City Increases Police Presence in Jewish Neighborhoods After Possible Anti-Semitic Attacks. Here's What To Know

Fri, 12/27/2019 - 17:42

Some Jewish neighborhoods of New York City will see an increase in police presence after a string of recent anti-semitic attacks.

McDonald's employees call police after woman mouths 'help me' in the drive-thru

Fri, 12/27/2019 - 17:20

Staff at a McDonald’s restaurant have been praised for coming to the aid of a woman who mouthed “help me” as she entered the drive-thru.Police in California’s San Joaquin county said the woman, had entered the restaurant on Christmas Eve, and asked staff to call to help as she went to the lavatory.

Norwegian woman told to leave India after joining citizenship law protest

Fri, 12/27/2019 - 16:09

A Norwegian woman on holiday in India's southern state of Kerala has been told to leave the country after she joined a protest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi's new citizenship law, authorities said on Friday.

Baltimore breaks city record for killings per capita in 2019

Fri, 12/27/2019 - 16:05

Baltimore broke its annual per capita homicide record after reaching 342 killings Friday. With just over 600,000 residents, the city hit a historically high homicide rate of about 57 per 100,000 people after recent relentless gunfire saw eight people shot — three fatally — in one day and nine others — one fatally — another day. The total is up from 309 in 2018 and matches the 342 killings tallied in 2017 and 2015, the year when the city's homicide rate suddenly spiked.

Man who made 27,000 crosses for shooting victims is retiring

Fri, 12/27/2019 - 16:03

An Illinois man who made more than 27,000 crosses to commemorate victims of mass shootings across the country is retiring. Greg Zanis came to realize, after 23 years, his Crosses for Losses ministry was beginning to take a personal and financial toll on him, according to The Beacon-News. “I had a breaking point in El Paso,” he said, referring to the mass shooting outside of a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.

'Trump is powerless': House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is doing to the president what no one else has in the 3 years since he took office

Fri, 12/27/2019 - 15:52

Pelosi's refusal to transmit the articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate has robbed the president of what he wants most.