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Korean Whispers, Charlotte Video, The Goat Life


Just how dangerous is a nuclear-armed North Korea? Run by Kim Jong-un, the unpredictable 32-year-old scion of an autocratic dynasty, the country has been virtually sealed off from the rest of the world for decades. What we know is disturbing: The pace of both nuclear weapons and missile-delivery systems has been accelerating. China, thought to have some sway over its regional neighbor, does not seem to know how to handle Kim. And then there's what we don't know: Are Kim's chest-beating and nuclear ambitions about reinforcing domestic control or a sign that he wants to declare war on other countries? A report this morning shows that South Korea is not waiting to find out. Seoul has already drawn up plans to assassinate the leader if nuclear threat is imminent.

Another scenario also worries observers — the prospect that the regime could begin to lose control domestically. Writing in July, Andrei Lankov, a Seoul-based Korean history professor put it this way: "The sad, simple fact is that the status quo on the peninsula is inherently unstable. Sooner or later, North Korea's political and economic elite is likely to fall. This will present the very risky prospect of violent chaos, in the style of Libya or Syria, in a country that possesses nuclear weapons — and that lies along a strategic fault line where the interests of the United States, China, and Russia meet and often clash."

Much decision-making about the Korean Peninsula happens behind closed doors. Perhaps the best one can hope for is that some line of communication between diplomats in the region is opened. On that note, Swiss daily Le Temps revealed yesterday that amid all the sabre-rattling, North and South Korean diplomats were secretly meeting on the shores of Lake Geneva.


  • U.S. President Obama opens new Smithsonian Museum of African-American History (Saturday).
  • Berlin Marathon (Sunday).


While police say a video of a black man, Keith Scott, being shot dead by law enforcement in Charlotte, North Carolina, shows that the shooting was justified, Scott's attorney says the victim's demeanor had been calm and not aggressive, and called for the video to be released to the public, local newspaper Charlotte Observer reports. The death has sparked ongoing protests in the city, though demonstrations last night were more peaceful than the previous nights.


Internet giant Yahoo said yesterday that "state-sponsored" hackers stole personal data from half a billion of their users in 2014, Wired reports. The hack includes theft of email addresses, phone numbers, security questions and answers, and passwords. It is not clear if the breach could impact the recent $4.8 billion purchase of Yahoo by telecommunications giant Verizon.


This planet — the eighth from the Sun — was discovered 170 years ago today … Which is it? Hand on the buzzer, here's your 57-second shot of history.


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday that he's no longer trying to salvage the Russia-U.S. brokered ceasefire in the war-torn nation. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told the Associated Press that the U.S. is to blame for the deal's collapse, saying that a deadly airstrike by a U.S.-led coalition on Syrian troops last weekend was intentional — accusations the U.S. has dismissed.


A massive blackout has hit the U.S. territory. See the bright front page of El Nuevo Dia.


A New York-based study finds that a Donald Trump presidency would cause about 20 million people to lose their healthcare coverage, while Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton would provide coverage for an additional 9 million people, AP reports.


Hundreds of atomic bombs were detonated at the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in eastern Kazakhstan during the Soviet regime. For Russian daily Kommersant, Nataliya Nehlebova went to the now-abandoned Polygon facility, where scientists are conducting research to evaluate how radiation affected the region and its residents: "Sheep and dogs used to be tethered while the bombs were tested. At the Polygon museum, you can see the flattened brown organs of these animals preserved in formaldehyde next to information stands about ruptures and bleeding. You can even press the very button that launched the first bombs. A phone next to the command post at the Polygon has a direct line to the Kremlin."

Read the full article, At Former Soviet Nuclear Test Site, "Best Not To Take Souvenirs."


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to address Israel's parliament, The Jerusalem Post reports. Netanyahu, who made the remarks in an address to the UN General Assembly in New York, added that he would "gladly come to speak peace with the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah."


Here Comes The Calvary — Plougonven, 1987


When UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson proposed a timeline for official "Brexit" negotiations to begin in early 2017, he was quickly slapped down by Prime Minister Theresa May, who has refused to say when talks on the country's departure from the European Union should start. Most of all, May clearly used the opportunity to show who's in charge.



The 26th edition of the spoof scientific Ig Nobel prize ceremony was held last night at Harvard University. Winners include a study on the effects of wearing polyester on the sex life of rats, an assessment of the perceived personalities of rocks, and a "scientist" who spent three days being a goat in the Swiss Alps.

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A Brazilian Plea For Science, Religious Freedom And The Right To Samba As You Wish

An evangelic group has threatened to take legal action against a samba school because of its mix of religious iconography at the 2023 Carnival festivities. A Brazilian secular institute has a response.

Photo of Rio's carnival 2015

Rio carnival in full swing

Daniel Gontijo E Pirula


SÃO PAULO — To celebrate religious diversity at 2023 carnival, the samba school Gaviões da Fiel in São Paolo combined Christian symbols with imagery from African religions — for example, Christ with Oxalá (a deity from Candomblé, an African diasporic religion).

Gaviões received a disclaimer note from the country's conservative Evangelical Parliamentary Front (FPE). In these politicians’ view, "one cannot compare Christ and Oxalá … under no circumstances", and there would only be one god, one Son, and one Holy Spirit.

Having interpreted this artistic syncretism as an immoral, vile act, the FPE is now threatening to take legal action against the samba school.

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