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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

North Korea Carries Out Its Most Powerful Nuclear Test

A 5.1-magnitude earthquake detected by U.S. Geological Survey in North Korea on Tuesday, a country not prone to such tremors, was later revealed to be caused by North Korea’s detonation of a nuclear bomb, its third nuclear test. The news was confirmed by a beaming news anchor during a broadcast by the country’s state television channel. South Korea’s Ministry of Defence said that the explosion was of 10 kilotons, bigger than the country’s 2006 test of approximately one kiloton and the second test in 2009 with a bomb of between two to seven kilotons. For comparison, the bomb dropped in Hiroshima was also of approximately 10 kilotons. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said the North Korean regime might decide to conduct another nuclear test and launch a long-range missile if the United Nations decides to sanction it because of the latest explosion. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the test was a “clear and grave violation” of UN Security Council resolutions, which called on North Korea to abandon all of its nuclear weapons programmes. U.S. President Barack Obama reacted to the test saying that it constituted “a threat to U.S. national security and to international peace and security”.

Syrian Minister Offers to Meet Opposition Leader

The Syrian Minister for National Reconciliation, Ali Haidar, said on Tuesday that he was willing to meet the leader of the opposition Syrian National Coalition “in any foreign city where I can in order to discuss preparations for a national dialogue”. His remarks were a response to opposition leader Moaz al-Khatib’s decision to pursue a dialogue with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. This was a remarkable change to the opposition’s declared intent of only speaking to representatives of the Syrian government once al-Assad left office. Haidar clarified that the offer of a dialogue with the opposition was intended as “a means to provide a mechanism for reaching free parliamentary and presidential elections”, suggesting that al-Assad could step down at the end of his current mandate next year. The Syrian president had refused to consider such a dialogue during a speech last month. “Should we speak to gangs that receive their orders from abroad to reject dialogue because they believe that dialogue will foil their schemes aimed at weakening Syria?”, he said.

Pope Benedict XVI Had a Pacemaker Installed Three Months Ago

Italian financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore revealed today that Pope Benedict XVI had been fitted with a pacemaker “less than three months ago” at the Pio XI clinic in Rome in the utmost secrecy. It is a replacement to a similar one installed 10 years ago by Dr Luigi Chiarello, who had no comment when sought out by the newspaper for comment. Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi confirmed that the Pontiff had a pacemaker for years and that its batteries had been replaced, but that the procedure had not affected his decision to resign. Earlier, Benedict’s brother Georg Ratzinger told the BBC that the Pope’s doctor had advised him against making any transatlantic trips and that he had been considering stepping down for months. Il Sole’s Vatican correspondent, Roberto Napoletano, wrote that the Pope was so adamant to keep the intervention a secret that he chose to keep to his normal schedule and recited the Angelus, a traditional Roman Catholic devotion, on Italian network television on the Sunday immediately followed his surgery.

Tesco Says Its Bolognese Sauce Contains 60 Percent Horsemeat

British supermarket chain Tesco announced on Tuesday that it had withdrawn its Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese as it was found to contain large amounts of horsemeat. The prodcut was made by Comigel, the same supplier used by Findus for its frozen lasagne product, found to contain between 60% and 100% horsemeat instead of beef. Tesco director Tim Smith said that Comigel had been instructed to use only 100 percent Irish beef in the product and that “the level of contamination suggest Comigel was not following the appropriate production process”. The supermarket chain’s announcement is the latest in a war between sellers, processors and producers over responsibility for the presence of horsemeat in supposedly 100 percent beef products. Comigel traced the horsemeat back to suppliers in Romania, an accusation denied by the Romanian government. A former scientist at the Food Standards Agency, Dr Mark Woolfe, said that part of the crisis was caused by a EU decision that chose to ban producers from using “pink slime”, a residual meat taken from animal bones using high pressure water. Manufacturers had to look for overseas for prices similar to “pink slime”, which is where Dr Woolfe claims “things started to go wrong”.

Ruling Declares British Back-to-Work Schemes Illegal

The British government’s back-to-work schemes for the long-term unemployed suffered a serious setback on Tuesday when an university graduate and an unemployed lorry driver won a ruling declaring that the unpaid schemes were legally flawed. Cait Really, a 24-year-old geology graduate, was required to work for nothing at a Poundland store and leave her voluntary work at a local museum under threat of losing her Jobseeker’s Allowance, an unemployment benefit paid by the government to those seeking work. The other case was brought forth by 40-year-old Jamie Wilson, who refused to take part in a community programme that would involve him working 30 hours per week unpaid for six months. Their lawyer said the decision would make the government have to come up with new regulations that are fair and compliant with the court’s ruling, particularly that no one should be forced to work unpaid. A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said that the government has “no intention of giving back money to anyone who has had their benefits removed because they refused to take getting into work seriously”.

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