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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 Timesquotes the Vermont Senator as saying. Sanders saved a harsh note of criticism for Clinton — though without naming her — 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 — including a rape — 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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Ideas

Iran: A Direct Link Between Killing Protesters And The Routine Of State Executions

Iran has long had a simple and prolific response to political opposition and the worst criminal offenses, namely death by shooting or hanging. Whether opening fire on the streets or leading the world in carrying out the death penalty, the regime insists that morality is on its side.

Protesters linked to the Iranian group Mojahedin-e Khalq demonstrate in Whitehall, London in 2018

Ahmad Ra'fat

-Editorial-

In early September, before Iran's latest bout of anti-government protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, there was another, quieter demonstration: Relatives of several prisoners sentenced to death staged a sit-in outside the judiciary headquarters in Tehran, urging the authorities to waive the sentences. The crowd, which doggedly refused to disperse, included the convicts' young children.

Executions have been a part and parcel of the Islamic Republic of Iran since its inception in 1979. The new authorities began shooting cadres of the fallen monarchy with unseemly zeal, usually after a summary trial. On Feb. 14, 1979, barely three days after the regime was installed, the first four of the Shah's generals were shot inside a secondary school in Tehran.

To this day, the regime continues to opt for death by firing squad for its political opponents; the execution method-of-choice for more socio-economic blights like drug trafficking has been death by hanging.

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