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Friday, February 15, 2013

Meteor Impact Injures 900 in Russia

A meteor crashed to Earth over Russia’s Chelyabinsk region early on Friday, blowing out windows and rocking buildings with its shockwave and injuring at least 900 people. The region is home to several heavy industry sites, a nuclear power plant and a nuclear waste and storage treatment centre. Videos posted on the internet showed a fireball streaking across clear skies, followed by sonic booms. Estimates by the Russian Academy of Sciences pegged the meteor’s weight at about 10 tons before mostly burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere. The worst damage was found in the town of Chelyabinsk at a zinc factory, the walls and roof of which were hit by a shockwave. Some reports in the Russian media speculated that the meteor had been intercepted by the country’s military, a claim later denied by the local emergency services. Russian President Vladimir Putin said he thanked God no large fragments had fallen on residential areas, while right-wing Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said that the meteor was in fact “Americans testing their new weapon”.

Oscar Pistorius Denies Murdering Girlfriend in ‘Strongest Terms’

South African paraolympic star Oscar Pistorius “strongly rejected” the charge that he murdered his girlfriend, offering “his deepest sympathies to her family”. The statement, issued by his management company in London, added that he expressed his thanks for the messages of support, but that “thoughts and prayers should be for Reeva and her family”. His girlfriend, South African model Reeva Steenkamp, was found shot dead at his gated community home in Pretoria on Thursday. Despite being told to “take it easy” by Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair, Pistorius broke down several times as he heard prosecutors allege that the murder had been premeditated. He was not formally charged with Steenkamp’s murder as he was not asked to plead at this appearance. It is reported that Pistorius will plead that he mistook her for a burglar and shot her four times, in the head, chest, hand and pelvis, through a bathroom door.

North Korea Prepares for Sequence of Nuclear Tests

North Korea has told China that it is prepared to stage one or more nuclear tests this year to force the United States to come to the negotiating table, according to the Reuters news agency. These tests could be accompanied by new rocket launches. A source quoted by the news agency said that another two tests are ready and the devices to be used would be larger than the test held on Tuesday. North Korea was technically banned from developing nuclear or missile technology by the United Nations after carrying out tests in 2006 and 2009. Lee Woo-young, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, interviewed by Reuters, said that “it is like watching the same movie over and over again. The idea that stronger sanctions make North Korea stop developing nuclear programs isn’t effective in my view”. He added that he saw little room for compromise with Kim Jong-un, the 30-year-old North Korean leader that took over power after Kim Jong-il’s death in December 2011.

Chinese Leader Tells Officials to Heed the Lessons of the Collapse of the Soviet Union

Chinese leader Xi Jinping delivered a stern warning to party officials during a visit to Guangdong province in December, according to the New York Times. He told them that, despite years of economic growth, the Communist Party should heed the lessons of the former Soviet Union. “Why did the Soviet Union disintegrate? Why did the Soviet Communist Party collapse? An important reason was that their ideals and convictions wavered. Finally, all it took was one quiet word from Gorbachev to declare the dissolution of the Soviet Communist Party, and a great party was gone. In the end nobody was a real man, nobody came out to resist”, said Xi according to a summary of comments circulated among party officials. His remarks were first published by a Chinese political commentator on his blog and later confirmed by party officials who asked to remain anonymous for fear of punishment. His remarks point to a ruling party fearing that the social strains brought about by an increasing economic openness could overwhelm and lead to a repeat of the fate of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Weekend Read: The Last Time a Pope Resigned

When Pope Gregory XII resigned in 1415 the only form of mass media was the daily Mass. How long did Europeans take to hear the news 600 years ago? In the Atlantic.

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