SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea said it conducted a “higher level” nuclear test explosion on Friday that will allow it to finally build “at will” an array of stronger, smaller and lighter nuclear weapons. It was the North’s fifth atomic test and the second in eight months.
South Korea’s president called the detonation, which Seoul estimated was the North’s biggest-ever in explosive yield, an act of “fanatic recklessness.” Japan called North Korea an “outlaw nation.”
North Korea’s boast of a technologically game-changing nuclear test defied both tough international sanctions and long-standing diplomatic pressure to curb its nuclear ambitions. It will raise serious worries in many world capitals that North Korea has moved another step closer to its goal of a nuclear-armed missile that could one day strike the U.S. mainland.
Seoul vowed to boost psychological warfare efforts by increasing the number of propaganda loudspeakers along the rivals’ border, the world’s most heavily armed, and the number of hours of anti-North Korean broadcasts.
Hours after South Korea noted unusual seismic activity near North Korea’s northeastern nuclear test site, the North said in its state-run media that a test had “finally examined and confirmed the structure and specific features of movement of (a) nuclear warhead that has been standardized to be able to be mounted on strategic ballistic rockets.”
10 Things to Know for Today
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today:
1. NORTH KOREA SAYS IT CONDUCTED ‘HIGHER LEVEL’ NUCLEAR WARHEAD TEST
Pyongyang trumpets that it can build “at will” an array of stronger, smaller and lighter nuclear weapons, after it is fifth atomic test and the second in eight months, while Seoul slams “fanatic recklessness.”
2. EXPECTATIONS LOW FOR A SYRIAN CEASE-FIRE AGREEMENT AS WAR RAGES
Meeting in Geneva, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry opens a fourth set of negotiations with his Russian counterpart in the last two weeks.
House conservatives serve notice to Ryan _ and Clinton
WASHINGTON (AP) — House conservatives have wasted no time since returning from their summer recess showing just how tough they can make life for Speaker Paul Ryan — and for Democrat Hillary Clinton if she becomes president.
Conservatives look determined to force a vote in coming days to impeach the head of the IRS despite deep misgivings among other Republicans about such a pre-election move.
They’re pressuring Ryan to oppose a deal taking shape in the Senate on must-pass legislation to keep the government open.
And they’re promising to keep investigating Clinton’s email issues even if she ends up in the White House. Some conservatives are even saying openly that impeachment hearings should be an option against Clinton.
“There probably ought to be,” said Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala.
Trump supporters court Jewish settlers in the West Bank
JERUSALEM (AP) — Republican activists are trying to “make America great again” — from inside a Jewish settlement deep in the West Bank.
This week, supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump have set up a campaign office in the Karnei Shomron settlement in the northern West Bank, hoping to tap into the large numbers of American immigrants in the area for support.
The office is in addition to several Republican outposts set up across Israel to get American expatriates to register to vote. A new location in Gush Etzion, a bloc of settlements near Jerusalem, is expected to open next week. It’s believed to be the first time either Republican or the Democrat activists have placed a campaign office in the West Bank.
Marc Zell, co-chair of Republicans Overseas Israel, said the get-out-the-vote effort is not just for show.
His group estimates there are about 300,000 American citizens living in Israel, including some 50,000 West Bank settlers. Zell hopes as many as 200,000 of them will register to vote. With the vast majority believed to be Republicans, he said there could be enough votes to influence results in swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania or Florida.
As hajj nears, questions about deadly 2015 stampede remain
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Marching with thousands of other pilgrims at last year’s hajj in Saudi Arabia, 23-year-old Sobia Noor of Pakistan felt the crowd get tighter and the air grow thicker in the scorching heat. Suddenly, there was shouting and crying along the narrow street bordered by tall metal barriers.
She was holding hands tightly with her mother and aunt, but her grip was broken as a push of people struck her like a giant wave. She lost sight of her father. Thrown to the ground with others on top of her, she couldn’t breathe.
The next thing she remembers was being sprinkled with water and pulled from the pile. Then she saw a scene that still haunts her: “There were heaps of bodies all around, and some injured were crying for help,” she said.
The stampede and crush on Sept. 24, 2015, along Road 204 in Mina, a pilgrimage route on the outskirts of Mecca, killed at least 2,400 people — a disaster that the kingdom has yet to fully acknowledge or explain.
More than 2 million Muslims are expected at this year’s hajj that begins Saturday, and Saudi authorities say they have done all they can to prepare for the five-day pilgrimage. They are reducing the density of crowds where the crush took place, widening narrow streets in Mina, and introducing some high-tech measures.
Survivors recall the stampede and crush at last year’s hajj
A stampede and crush killed more than 2,400 pilgrims at the annual hajj in Saudi Arabia last year. Some of the survivors recount their experience:
Kauser Parveen of Abbottabad, Pakistan, who said her brother, Mohammad Sajid, fell nearby, but she could not help him:
“I was feeling extreme suffocation and, in a moment, fainted. While I was collapsing, I saw my brother from a distance on the ground screaming for help and water. People in the crowd were snatching bottles of water from each other. I saw people piling up on people already collapsed.”
Tourists, trapped in Mont Blanc cable car overnight, rescued
CHAMONIX, France (AP) — Dozens of tourists, including a 10-year-old child, were safely rescued Friday after being trapped in cable cars dangling above the slopes of Mont Blanc in the Alps overnight.
The mountain rescue service in the French city of Chamonix said cables that had become entangled Thursday were repaired, and the cable cars were able to resume operation Friday morning.
The travelers were brought to Chamonix and the Italian town of Courmayeur.
A series of cable cars got stuck after the cables tangled at 3,600 meters altitude, prompting a major rescue operation. The interior minister said 65 people were rescued Thursday night, but 45 had to be left there overnight after rescue operations were halted because of rough flight conditions for helicopters and darkness.
Five rescuers stayed overnight in the cable cars and provided blankets, food and water to help weather the chilly mountain night-time conditions.
Nigeria facing ‘a famine unlike any we have ever seen’
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — The whimpers from skeletally thin babies too weak to cry are a harbinger of worse things to come: A quarter of the children lucky enough to make it to this emergency feeding center are dying. They are the latest victims of Boko Haram’s Islamic insurgency.
No one knows how many more children are dying of starvation in refugee camps and areas too dangerous to access because of the extremists’ presence, according to Doctors Without Borders, which runs the emergency feeding center. The aid group first sounded the alarm of a humanitarian crisis of “catastrophic” proportion in northeast Nigeria as Boko Haram lost its grip on some areas and its victims began to emerge.
“These are kids that basically have been hungry all their lives, and some are so far gone that they die here in the first 24 hours,” said Jean Stowell, an American midwife in charge of the center in Maiduguri, the biggest city in this largely Muslim region. The 110-bed center has quadrupled in size in recent weeks, but each time it expands it rapidly fills.
Nearly a quarter of a million children are severely malnourished because Boko Haram has disrupted trade and farming, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Toby Lanzer warned at a meeting in Brussels on Thursday. About 2 million people in the region have not been reached, “and we can’t assess their situation. We can estimate that it’s awful.”
With Nigeria in a recession and without speedy outside help, “we will see, I think, a famine unlike any we have ever seen anywhere,” he said.
For the first time, Bill Cosby’s lawyers claim racism
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Bill Cosby has long preached the gospel of personal responsibility to fellow blacks, irritating those who fault racism for holding the community back.
But now lawyers for the 79-year-old comedian have suggested for the first time that racial bias is to blame as Cosby faces the prospect of 13 women testifying in court that he drugged and molested them. Twelve of them are white.
Cosby’s legal team raised the issue on the courthouse steps Tuesday after a hearing in his criminal sex assault case in suburban Philadelphia. Whether they intend to bring up race in the courtroom remains to be seen. At a minimum, some legal experts said the defense is trying to influence potential jurors.
“I think that you’ve always got to have in mind who’s your jury pool,” said Los Angeles lawyer Mark Geragos, whose clients have included Michael Jackson. “That’s probably the end game.”
Or the lawyers may have been dutifully carrying out Cosby’s instructions: “It could well be they are expressing the concerns of the client,” said Carl Douglas, who was on O.J. Simpson’s legal Dream Team.
Giant cruise ship makes historic voyage in melting Arctic
NOME, Alaska (AP) — The giant luxury cruise liner was anchored just off Nome, too hulking to use the Bering Sea community’s docks on its inaugural visit.
Instead, its more than 900 passengers piled into small transport boats and motored to shore, where they snapped photos of wild musk oxen, lifted glasses in the town’s colorful bars and nibbled blueberry pie while admiring Alaska Native dancers at Nome’s summer celebration.
The Crystal Serenity’s visit to Alaska’s western coast is historic. At nearly three football fields long and 13 stories tall, the cruise ship is the largest ever to traverse the Northwest Passage, where its well-heeled guests glimpsed polar bears, kayaked along Canada’s north shore, landed on pristine beaches and hiked where few have stepped.
Some remote villages along the way are seeing dollar signs, while environmentalists are seeing doom. They say the voyage represents global warming and man’s destruction of the Earth.
The terrible irony with the Crystal Serenity’s voyage is that it’s taking place only because of climate change and the melting Arctic, said Michael Byers, a professor in the political science department at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. The Northwest Passage, which connects the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, has long been choked off by ice. But melting brought on by climate change is allowing passengers to cruise up the Bering Strait and then head east toward Greenland over the Arctic Ocean before docking next week in New York City.
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