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North Korea

North Korea's Biggest Nuke Test

At first, most thought it was another earthquake. But the 5.3-magnitude rumble coming from the northeastern corner of North Korea was a potentially much more frightening event: Pyongyang had set off its most powerful nuclear weapon test ever.


World leaders were quick to react to this latest act of defiance. South Korea denounced Pyongyang leader Kim Jong-un for his "maniacal recklessness." Japan, Russia, the U.S., France — all quickly joined in condemning the threat posed by the the biggest of North Korea's biggest of five nuclear tests.


But with each passing provocation coming from North Korea, the world is increasingly counting on one power to step in: China. Not only is it Pyongyang's direct economic ally, but as a neighbor, the stakes are even higher in avoiding that a nuclear confrontation is sparked.


Chinese state news media issued a prompt statement this morning, calling on "all sides" to stop "adding oil to the flames" while the foreign ministry in Beijing said that it was "firmly opposed" to the test. Still, too carefully picked words from a country that has spent the past decade seeking a larger role on the international stage, but has so far failed to take tougher sanctions against its gung-ho neighbor.


We're used to poking fun at the North Korean dictator and his antics. Just yesterday, news reports circulated that Kim Jong-un had banned the use of sarcasm in private conversation, which definitely sounds like a great idea. But toying with nuclear warheads is no laughing matter, and China should know it's even less funny when you're in the neighborhood.



WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY (& WEEKEND)

  • The annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca begins.
  • Pre-orders for Apple's new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus open.
  • Croatia votes in general election, the second in less than a year. (Sunday)


TRAIN DERAILS IN SPAIN, 3 KILLED

At least three people were killed in a train crash this morning in Galicia province in northern Spain. The passenger train derailed and collided with a bridge, as it was heading to Porto, Portugal, La Vanguardia reports.


PALESTINIAN ELECTIONS POSTPONED

The Palestinian high court ruled yesterday that local elections scheduled for Oct. 8 must be postponed after a dispute over party lists and the inability to hold the vote in East Jerusalem, Haaretz reports. Israel considers the area as part of its territory while Palestinians see it as an occupied territory and a potential capital in a future Palestinian state. The elections would have been the first democratic exercise in the Palestinian territories in a decade.


— ON THIS DAY

Elvis, Hugh Grant, Chairman Mao and Canada: All are in your 57-second shot of history.


MORE ARRESTS IN NOTRE-DAME TERROR CASE

French police arrested three women linked to the discovery last Sunday of gas cylinders inside a car parked in front of Paris' Notre Dame cathedral. The car owner's 19-year-old daughter, who had reportedly pledged allegiance to ISIS, was shot in the leg and arrested after stabbing an officer during a police raid last night in Boussy-Saint-Antoine, south of the capital, according to L'Express.


— WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

"So far, so good. The collapse of the British economy predicted by the former Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, in a case of a Brexit victory, has not materialized," writes Amandine Alexandre for leading French daily Le Figaro. "Still," she continues, "the fact of the matter is that all the reassuring numbers cannot hide the emergence of worrying signals from the UK's commercial partners. At the recently concluded G20 summit, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked his UK counterpart Theresa May for more clarity from London about the implications of Brexit for Japanese companies. As for Barack Obama, he clearly told May that a separate trade deal with the UK was not among Washington's priorities. These two strategic partners let it be understood that their investors could decide to stay away from the UK if London should fail to negotiate a ‘soft' Brexit deal."

Read the full article, No Post-Brexit Vote Apocalypse For UK Economy — Yet?


AIRBNB TACKLES RACIAL DISCRIMINATION

The short-term rental website has adopted an anti-discrimination policy for its hosts. A Harvard study last year found that potential renters with names that suggested they were black are 16% less likely to be accepted than guests with white-sounding names, The Guardian reports. The proposed changes include that if a host has said a particular date is unavailable, they will not be able to then offer the dates to other guests.


— MY GRAND-PERE'S WORLD

Pit Stop, Watermelon Seeds — Near Sibenik, July 1966


40TH ANNIVERSARY OF MAO'S DEATH

Thousands of Chinese are swarming former dictator Mao Zedong's hometown in Shaoshan today to pay tribute on the 40th anniversary of his death. Those unable to go in person were encouraged to send cigarettes and dishes of red-braised pork, one of the former dictator's favorite dishes, The Wall Street Journal reports. Under Mao's rule, three million Chinese died in the Great Famine (1959-1961) and millions more were prosecuted and tortured during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).


MORE STORIES, EXCLUSIVELY IN ENGLISH BY WORLDCRUNCH

TEENAGED SWOONS FOR FUTURE POPE

The ever erudite Pope Benedict XVI was in love with a woman in his youth, which made the clerical vow of celibacy particularly difficult, reveals German writer Peter Seewald, the official biographer of the man born Joseph Ratzinger. Seewald told German weekly Die Zeit that his latest installment of interviews with the now retired Pope, called "Final Conversations," due out today, includes some reflections on a young Ratzinger's affairs of the heart. Benedict, who became the first pope to step down in nearly 600 years, also talked to Seewald about his reasons for resigning.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Western Tanks To Ukraine Trigger Russian Threats — But Also Fears Of Major Counterattack

Germany and the U.S. overcame months of reluctance in the past 24 hours to commit to sending heavy combat tanks to Ukraine. Russia responded with official bluster, but others in Moscow fear that the tanks delivery could be a gamechanger on the battlefield.

Picture of recently mobilized Russian troops

Recently mobilized Russian troops getting ready to depart for service

Cameron Manley

A week of growing expectations of a coming Russian offensive was turned on its head Wednesday as Germany and the U.S. announced their intention to send heavy combat tanks to Ukraine.

The sudden show of resolve on supplying tanks — after months of reluctance, particularly from Germany — has prompted some Russians to fear that Ukraine will now be equipped for a major counterattack. That would be significant reversal after speculation had been growing this month about a Russian spring offensive.

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Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government confirmed Wednesday morning that Berlin plans to send at least 14 German-built Leopard 2 tanks to the frontline. U.S. media also reported that Joe Biden’s administration is expected to officially announce Washington's commitment, with at least 30 M1 Abrams tanks expected to be sent.

The timeline remains unclear as to when the vehicles would make it into combat. Still, both sides on the war acknowledged that it is a significant development with the potential to change the math on the battlefield.

Official Russian response was loaded with typical incendiary rhetoric. Dmitry Peskov, press secretary to Russian president Vladimir Putin, said the new tanks would "burn like all the rest, only these ones are expensive.”

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