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North Korea H-Bomb Claim, Cologne Outcry, Black Hole Burp

North Korea H-Bomb Claim, Cologne Outcry, Black Hole Burp

NORTH KOREA CLAIMS FIRST H-BOMB TEST

Photo: Yonhap News/ImageCollect/Newscom/ZUMA

North Korea claimed Wednesday it had successfully conducted its first hydrogen-bomb test, with the regime’s official television network hailing the move as “a world-startling event to be specially recorded in the national history.”

  • International condemnation quickly followed the first reports. South Korean President Park Geun-Hye said in a statement: “The test is not only a grave provocation to our national security but also a threat to our future ... and a strong challenge to international peace and stability.”
  • The explosion, which took place at the nuclear test site at Punggye-ri provoked an earthquake, the magnitude of which was estimated between 4.8 and 5.1. But experts believe that a genuine hydrogen-bomb explosion should have produced a much stronger quake, leading many, including South Korea’s spies, to say that it’s likely the test involved a less powerful atomic bomb, AP reports.
  • The UN Security Council has announced an emergency meeting.

VERBATIM

“We know we can't stop every act of violence, every act of evil in the world. But maybe we could try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence,” said a tearful Barack Obama during what CNN describes as “a passionate call for a national "sense of urgency" to limit gun violence.” The U.S. President is pushing for Congress to accept improved background checks for gun buyers and he insisted his plan was “not a plot to take away everybody's guns.” The Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan criticized Obama’s words and plans, which he said amounted to “intimidation that undermines liberty.”


SANDERS ATTACKS WALL STREET, CLINTON

Hillary Clinton’s main rival for the Democratic nomination for presidency, Bernie Sanders has launched his campaign’s most direct attack on Wall Street and “establishment politicians,” as he unveiled plans Tuesday to break up “too big to fail” banks. “The reality is that Congress doesn’t regulate Wall Street. Wall Street and their lobbyists regulate Congress. We must change that reality, and as president, I will,” The New York Times quotes the Vermont Senator as saying. Sanders saved a harsh note of criticism for Clinton â€" though without naming her â€" and those who earned “very generous speaking fees” from bankers.


ON THIS DAY


Mother Teresa, Joan of Arc and more in today's 57-second shot of history.


18 MINUTES

FBI investigators working on the Dec. 2 San Bernardino shooting said they were “missing 18 minutes” during which the actions of attackers Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik are unknown, The Los Angeles Times reports. “We’re dark,” said David Bowdich, assistant director in charge of the FBI's L.A. office.


COLOGNE PROTESTS AFTER NEW YEAR’S EVE ASSAULTS

  • Anger is growing in Germany in the wake of revelations that more than 90 crimes â€" including a rape â€" were reported around the train station and cathedral area during the end-of-year festivities by suspects reported to be of North African and Arab origin.
  • Germany’s interior ministry reported on Wednesday that about 1.1 million migrants had entered and registered in the country in 2015, five times more than in 2014, with some 40% of the refugees arriving from war-torn Syria.
FROM 140 TO 10,000

Twitter could soon scrap its 140-character limit and allow users to post messages with up to 10,000 characters, a move some critics say will ruin the experience of using the platform. In case you’re wondering, 10,000 characters really is a lot of text.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Long relied upon to rally against the far-right National Front party, young French people are increasingly seduced by the ideas of Marine Le Pen, Aurélie Collas and Eric Nunès write for Le Monde. And terrorism isn't the only reason: “For some people, in a context where elites appear to be always the same faces, the FN embodies novelty. Take Fabien, 15, also a 10th grader at the lycée Baggio: ‘Why not give it a chance? On the right and left, it’s always the same guys, who’ve never been able to solve problems and have no other program than preventing the FN from accessing power.’”

Read the full article, French Youth And The Far Right, A Budding Love Affair?


NEW ABUSE ALLEGATIONS AGAINST UN PEACEKEEPERS

The United Nations are investigating new allegations that peacekeepers sexually abused four underaged girls in the Central African Republic’s capital Bangui, Al Jazeera reports. The international body was criticized in a recent report for its response to similar allegations made in the past. At least 480 allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse had been made between 2008 and 2013, one-third of them involving minors.


BLACK HOLE “BURP”

Astronomers have spotted what they say are two gas “burps” from a black hole, in evidence that “black holes can create, not just destroy.”


MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD



LORD OF THE GLITCH

A “technical glitch” caused the Ukrainian version of Google Translate to turn “Russian federation” into “Mordor”, the territory controlled by evil character Sauron in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings.

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Queen Elizabeth II with UK PM Boris Johnson at a reception at Windsor Castle yesterday

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Hej!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where chaos hits Syria, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is accused of crimes against humanity and a social media giant plans to rebrand itself. For Spanish daily La Razon, reporter Paco Rodríguez takes us to the devastated town of Belchite, where visitors are reporting paranormal phenomenons.

[*Danish]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Syrian violence erupts: Army shelling on residential areas of the rebel-held region of northwestern Syria killed 13 people, with school children among the victims. The attack occurred shortly after a bombing killed at least 14 military personnel in Damascus. In central Syria, a blast inside an ammunition depot kills five soldiers.

• Renewed Ethiopia air raids on capital of embattled Tigray region: Ethiopian federal government forces have launched its second air strike this week on the capital of the northern Tigray. The air raids mark a sharp escalation in the near-year-old conflict between the government forces and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) that killed thousands and displaced over 2 million people.

• Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A leaked draft government report concludes that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity, forging documents and incitement to crime, following his handling of the country's COVID-19 pandemic. The report blames Bolsonaro's administration for more than half of Brazil's 600,000 coronavirus deaths.

• Kidnappers in Haiti demand $17 million to free a missionary group: A Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 members of a Christian aid group, including five children, demanded $1million ransom per person. Most of those being held are Americans; one is Canadian.

• Putin bows out of COP26 in Glasgow: Russian President Vladimir Putin will not fly to Glasgow to attend the COP26 climate summit. A setback for host Britain's hopes of getting support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle climate change.

• Queen Elizabeth II cancels trip over health concerns: The 95-year-old British monarch has cancelled a visit to Northern Ireland after she was advised by her doctors to rest for the next few days. Buckingham Palace assured the queen, who attended public events yesterday, was "in good spirits."

• A new name for Facebook? According to a report by The Verge website, Mark Zuckerberg's social media giant is planning on changing the company's name next week, to reflect its focus on building the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"Oil price rise causes earthquake," titles Portuguese daily Jornal I as surging demand coupled with supply shortage have driven oil prices to seven-year highs at more than $80 per barrel.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

98

For the first time women judges have been appointed to Egypt's State Council, one of the country's main judicial bodies. The council's chief judge, Mohammed Hossam el-Din, welcomed the 98 new judges in a celebratory event in Cairo. Since its inception in 1946, the State Council has been exclusively male and until now actively rejected female applicants.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Spanish civil war town now a paranormal attraction

Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite outside Zaragoza. Tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town, reports Paco Rodríguez in Madrid-based daily La Razon.

🏚️ Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, more than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting in Belchite in north-eastern Spain, and the town was flattened. The fighting began on the outskirts and ended in house-to-house fighting. Almost half the town's 3,100 residents died in the struggle. The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one.

😱 Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, mustn't. For many locals, the battle of Belchite has yet to end, judging by reports of paranormal incidents. Some insist they have heard the screams of falling soldiers, while others say the Count of Belchite wanders the streets, unable to find a resting place after his corpse was exhumed.

🎟️ Ordinary visitors have encountered unusual situations. Currently, you can only visit Belchite at set times every day, with prior booking. More daring visitors can also visit at 10 p.m. on weekends. Your ticket does not include a guaranteed paranormal experience, but many visitors insist strange things have happened to them. These include sudden changes of temperature or the strange feeling of being observed from a street corner or a window. Furthermore, such phenomena increase as evening falls, as if night brought the devastated town to life.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

We still cling to the past because back then we had security, which is the main thing that's missing in Libya today.

— Fethi al-Ahmar, an engineer living in the Libyan desert town Bani Walid, told AFP, as the country today marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The leader who had reigned for 42 years over Libya was toppled in a revolt inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings and later killed by rebels. Some hope the presidential elections set in December can help the country turn the page on a decade of chaos and instability.

🇮🇷🎓  IN OTHER NEWS

Iran to offer Master's and PhD in morality enforcement

Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.

Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.

The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.

Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.

Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."

Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.

Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Thoughts on Facebook's new name? Zuckerverse? Tell us how the news look in your corner of the world: Drop us a note at info@worldcrunch.com!

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