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Fukushima 5 Years On, Taiwan-U.S. Deal, Toblerone In Pyongyang

Fukushima 5 Years On, Taiwan-U.S. Deal, Toblerone In Pyongyang

MORE NORTH KOREAN NUCLEAR BOMBAST

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered further nuclear tests to improve attack capabilities, national news agency KCNA reports today. Pyongyang has stepped up its threats and statements boasting about its nuclear capabilities since the U.S. and South Korea initiated joint military exercises on Monday. Today's statement was made three days after Kim Jong-un posed with what national media described as a miniature nuclear warhead. The North Korean dictator said the warhead required further testing and ordered "more nuclear explosion tests to estimate the destructive power of the newly produced nuclear warheads."


FUKUSHIMA FIVE YEARS LATER

Japan marks five years since the deadly earthquake and tsunami that triggered the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the former Soviet Union. Ceremonies were held today to remember more than 18,000 people killed in the disaster. Emperor Akihito, Empress Michiko, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe joined crowds in bowing their heads to mark 2:46 p.m. local time, when the 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck on March 11, 2011, under the Pacific Ocean.

GOP DEBATE STAYS CALM

Photo: Pedro Portal/TNS/ZUMA

In a primary campaign characterized by vulgarity and pie toss, the Republican presidential contenders offered an unusually restrained debate in Miami last night as they all gave clear signals of where their candidacies are headed, CNN reports. Key contests are slated for Tuesday in Florida and Ohio with billionaire outsider Donald Trump leading the pack.


EUROPEAN TRADING STEADIES

The euro steadied and European shares and bonds rebounded this morning after being savaged following the European Central Bank's announcement of a huge new stimulus plan, Reuters reports.


ON THIS DAY


Beyond the Fukushima‬ disaster, find out what else happened on March 11 on today's 57-second shot of history.


CHINA ANGERED OVER U.S.-TAIWAN MILITARY AFFAIRS

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei reacted angrily after the U.S. State Department authorized the sale of two Navy frigates to Taiwan, Reuters reports. U.S. arms sales to Taiwan always attract strong opposition from Beijing as China considers self-ruled Taiwan a wayward province. The sale of the two frigates, which is still subject to Congressional approval, further exacerbates the current U.S.-China tensions in the South China Sea.


MYSTERY OVER RUSSIAN BILLIONAIRE'S DEATH DEEPENS

A Washington medical examiner announced yesterday that Russian billionaire and former aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin died from blunt force to the head, and not of a heart attack as first stated by Russian media, the New York Times reports. There had been much speculation about the death of Mikhail Lesin since he was found unresponsive in the Dupont Circle Hotel in Washington more than four months ago. Lesin ran the media wing of the Russian energy giant Gazprom until late 2014 when he was presumably forced out and ended up in the U.S. The police has not yet declared his death a criminal act, but an official states that Lesin's body showed signs of blunt trauma to his neck, torso, arms and legs — the result, according to the official, of some sort of altercation occurring before he returned to his hotel room where he died at the age of 59.


EXTRA!


Next Tuesday will see five years since the start of the Syrian civil war, which has killed some 250,000 people and displaced more than half the pre-war population of 23 million. To mark the grim anniversary, French daily Libération has renamed itself in Arabic (Tahrir), and dedicated its pages to the many ways the conflict has changed the lives for ordinary citizens. Read more about the striking front page here.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

From our Rue Amelot collection of personal essays comes this story about Switzerland-born globetrotter Olivier Racine who just wanted to give North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un two gifts from his country: a giant Toblerone chocolate bar and a piece of the Matterhorn mountain. "judging by the dumbstruck expression of the soldier in front of me, I'm not sure he understands what I want to say. And you can't blame him. But no way can he open my Toblerone to make sure it doesn't contain a rifle or something, even if the exaggerated length of the packet renders his suspicions reasonable. My mission would be immediately aborted if he did. ... I don't speak Korean, and they don't speak English. But I hold on. There are now five soldiers around me, who eventually start arguing about what they should do with me."

Read the full article, A Swiss Man's Bizarre Quest To Give Kim Jong-Un A Toblerone


MY GRAND-PERE'S WORLD

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Coronavirus

Why Making COVID Predictions Is Actually Getting Harder

We know more about COVID than ever before, but that doesn't make it easier to predict what will happen this year. It also remains to be seen if we'll put the lessons we learned into practice.

​A young boy who arrived on a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong wears a face mask and face shield at Vancouver International Airport in Canada on Jan. 10, 2023.

A young boy who arrived from Hong Kong wears a face mask and face shield at Vancouver International Airport in Canada on Jan. 10, 2023.

Duncan Robertson

In 2020, we knew very little about the novel virus that was to become known as COVID-19. Now, as we enter 2023, a search of Google Scholar produces around five million results containing the term.

So how will the pandemic be felt in 2023? This question is in some ways impossible to answer, given a number of unknowns. In early 2020, the scientific community was focused on determining key parameters that could be used to make projections as to the severity and extent of the spread of the virus. Now, the complex interplay of COVID variants, vaccination and natural immunity makes that process far more difficult and less predictable.

But this doesn’t mean there’s room for complacency. The proportion of people estimated to be infected has varied over time, but this figure has not fallen below 1.25% (or one in 80 people) in England for the entirety of 2022. COVID is very much still with us, and people are being infected time and time again.

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