WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. experts who have been forecasting an imminent North Korean nuclear test said on Tuesday they were surprised when they viewed their latest satellite images of the country's nuclear test site and saw volleyball games under way. With tension mounting between Pyongyang and Washington, analysts had thought they would see activity suggesting preparations for an underground explosion at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site and were not expecting what the photos, taken on Sunday by a commercial satellite, revealed. "We see that at three locations in the facility – in the main administrative area, at the support area, at the command center and at the guard barracks near the command center - they have volleyball games going on," said Joe Bermudez, an expert with 38 North, an independent North Korea monitoring project based in Washington. Bermudez offered two possible explanations - that the test site could be going into "a standby mode" or that the games were intended to confuse observers, given North Korea knows that Punggye-ri is under constant observation. North Korea has conducted a series of ballistic missile launches in recent months in defiance of U.N. sanctions and concerns have been growing that it could soon conduct a sixth nuclear test after carrying out two last year. South Korean and U.S. officials and 38 North have been saying for weeks that North Korea could test a bomb at any time and speculation was rife that it could coincide with celebrations last Saturday to mark the 105th birthday of North Korea's founding father, Kim Il Sung. Fears of military confrontation mounted last week after U.S. President Donald Trump warned against further North Korean provocation and North Korea's state media said the isolated country would respond to any sign of U.S. aggression with nuclear strikes. Bermudez said Sunday's images of the Punggye-ri site showed indications of some minor dumping from mine carts - a sign of tunneling work - but no active pumping of water out of the tunnel system used for nuclear testing. (Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Bill Trott)
U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday told Saudi King Salman he would work for bilateral ties "as strong and transparent as possible," the White House said, ahead of the expected release of a sensitive U.S. intelligence report on the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The report is a declassified version of a top-secret assessment that sources say singles out the 85-year-old king's son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for approving the murder of Khashoggi in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul. Saudi Arabia denies that the 35-year-old crown prince, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, approved the killing.
- Associated Press
India's coast guard has found a boat adrift in the Andaman Sea carrying scores of Rohingya refugees, including eight who had died, officials said Thursday. The boat left Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh on Feb. 11 with 90 people, including 23 children, on board and its engine failed on Feb. 15, Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said. Two Indian coast guard ships were sent to help the refugees, and the Indian government is in discussions with Bangladesh to ensure their safe return, Srivastava said.
- Associated Press
Less than a month after excoriating Donald Trump in a blistering floor speech, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that he would “absolutely” support the former president again if he secured the Republican nomination in 2024. “I've got at least four members that I think are planning on running for president, plus governors and others,” McConnell said. McConnell's remarks underscore an awkward balancing act he sought to maintain since Trump lost the election, reflecting the reality that McConnell’s own path back to power in the Senate hinges on enthusiasm from a party base that still ardently supports Trump.
President Joe Biden's nominee to be director of the CIA, William Burns, told a Senate committee on Wednesday that he saw competition with China - and countering its "adversarial, predatory" leadership - as the key to U.S. national security. Burns, 64, a former career diplomat during both Democratic and Republican administrations, is expected to easily win confirmation to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Burns has already been confirmed by the Senate five times for his stints as ambassador to Jordan and Russia and three senior State Department positions.
- Associated Press
Don't tell Clemson coach Dabo Swinney he has anything to worry about without offensive stars and team leaders in quarterback Trevor Lawrence and tailback Travis Etienne on the Tigers. “There's nobody that's left our program that we can't go into the locker room and replace,” Swinney said with a smile. Clemson seemlessly moved from quarterbacks Tajh Boyd to Deshaun Watson to Lawrence.
- Associated Press
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's controversial plan to ship surplus coronavirus vaccines to a group of allied nations was frozen Thursday following a legal challenge to the deal, his office announced. The plan has also illustrated how at a time of global shortages, the vaccine has become an asset that can be used for diplomatic gain. Netanyahu announced on Wednesday that he had personally decided to share small quantities of surplus Israeli vaccines with allied nations.
- Reuters Videos
Facebook on Thursday said it had banned Myanmar’s military from its platforms, Facebook and Instagram.Facebook said in a blog post, "Events since the February 1 coup, including deadly violence, have precipitated a need for this ban.”Facebook’s ban came due to what the company calls “severe human rights abuses” and a “clear risk of future military-initiated violence.”The company added it would also ban advertisements from all military-linked “commercial entities.”The army detained Democratic party leaders earlier this month, including the popular figure, Aung San Suu Kyi, after alleging fraud in the November election in which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy had won in a landslide.In 2018, Facebook banned Myanmar’s army chief and 19 other senior officers and organizations, and took down hundreds of accounts run by military members for spreading false or propaganda content.Ahead of the most recent November elections, Facebook announced it had taken down a network of 70 fake accounts and pages operated by members of the military.Despite those efforts, the tech giant said on Thursday that attempts had been made to rebuild those army-run networks on its platform.
A Belarusian court sentenced an anti-government protester to 10 years in prison on Thursday, media and activists said, on charges that the opposition says were trumped up as part of a crackdown to keep President Alexander Lukashenko in power. Aliaksandr Kardziukou was convicted of attempted murder for attacking security forces who were trying to disperse nationwide protests that erupted last August following a contested election that extended Lukashenko's rule since 1994. Kardziukou denied wrongdoing, according to local media reports, saying he was confronted by two plain clothes security forces who pulled a gun on him in the city of Brest and killed another protester, Henadz Shutau, as they tried to escape.
- Associated Press
Regional diplomatic efforts to resolve Myanmar's political crisis intensified Wednesday, while protests continued in Yangon and other cities calling for the country's coup makers to step down and return Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government to power. Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi visited the Thai capital, Bangkok, and held three-way talks with her Thai counterpart Don Pramudwinai and Myanmar’s new foreign minister, retired army colonel Wunna Maung Lwin, who also traveled to Thailand.
Mara Wilson details the perils of child stardom and draws a line between her experiences with those of Britney Spears.
- Business Insider
While President Biden visits storm-torn Texas, Sen. Ted Cruz will be giving a speech on 'cancel culture' in Florida
The president will tour the state with Gov. Greg Abbott.
Billie Eilish's documentary gives an intimate look at her secret relationship with rapper 7: AMP - and why she decided to end it
They began dating in late 2018, when Eilish was 16. The film chronicles her frustration with his "lack of effort" and "self-destructive" behavior.
Israel aims to reopen its economy by April 5 after having vaccinated all its eligible population and is in talks with vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna to open facilities in the country, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday. Israel has been importing Pfizer-BioNTech PFE.N, BNTX.O and Moderna Inc MRNA.O vaccines. It has administered at least one Pfizer dose to almost 50% of its 9 million population so far in one of the world's swiftest campaigns.
- The Week
Journalist Tim O'Brien, who's seen Trump's taxes, thinks Trump's accountant will now flip in D.A. inquiry
Bloomberg's Tim O'Brien, one of the few journalists who has seen former President Donald Trump's tax returns, told MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell on Thursday night he will sleep better now that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance finally has eight years of Trump's financial documents, from 2011 to 2019. Trump "is very afraid of what's in these documents, I think," because they put him in serious criminal jeopardy, O'Brien said, but he isn't the only one implicated. O'Brien went on to explain why he thinks it's likely Trump's chief accountant, Allen Weisselberg, is likely to flip on Trump. "The thing to really focus in on here is that it's not just the tax records that Cy Vance has now," O'Brien said. "He probably has reams and reams of the accountant's work product. This is a criminal case, they're going to need to prove criminal intent on the part of Trump, his three eldest children, Allen Weisselberg, and anyone else in the Trump Organization who's fallen under the parameters of this investigation. And if there are email and notes and other records of communication about what they intended to do when they inflated the value of buildings so they could get loans against them and then turned around and deflated the value of the buildings so they could pay lower taxes on them, and there's a communication around that that predates any of these tax entries, that is gold for a prosecutor." A few hours earlier, O'Brien told MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace that the particular eight years of documents Vance's team has "is important, because it predates Trump's ascent into the White House, and I think helps build the narrative around the money trail and Trump's motivations for his destructive and obscene dance with people like Vladimir Putin. It's a shame they couldn't go back further — think this is one of the tragic misses of Robert Mueller's investigation, he could have gone back further, I think, than Cy Vance is able to into Trump's finances." O'Brien also underscored that the investigation implicates at least Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump, and "it also targets people inside the Trump Organization who might flip on Trump if they're exposed to criminal liability," but "the brass ring in all of this is that if Trump has a criminal conviction, he cannot run for president again, and that's looming over this entire thing as well." More stories from theweek.comDemocrats should take the Romney-Cotton proposal seriouslyThe GOP's apathy for governing is being exposedThe MyPillow guy might be Trump's ultimate chump
How a woman lives in a 500-square-foot apartment with 2 roommates, a dog, 100 houseplants - and zero clutter
Maximalist Bruna Mello lives in a sunny, vibrant tiny apartment in South London, and she doesn't let the small space keep her from collecting things.
- Business Insider
Coinbase says the entire crypto market could be destabilized if Bitcoin's anonymous creator is ever revealed or sells their $30 billion stake
Satoshi Nakamoto owns about 5% of the bitcoin market. If their 1.1 million cache was transferred, bitcoin prices could plummet, Coinbase said.
- The Week
In the race to get former President Donald Trump's tax records, New York prosecutors have won. While it was more of a marathon than a sprint, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office confirmed Thursday that it had received Trump's tax records a year and a half after first requesting them. Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance and his team will now be able to dig through what sources tell CNN are "millions of pages" of documents spanning January 2011 to August 2019. Vance got the documents, which include financial statements and engagement agreements, from Trump's accounting firm Mazars USA. The transfer happened within an hour of the Supreme Court ordering that Mazars hand over the documents on Monday, Vance's spokesperson told reporters. Forensic accountants and analysts are now prepared to root through the records to find potential fraud or wrongdoing by the former president. But because the records were handed over as part of a grand jury investigation, they're unlikely to ever be made public. Democrats in the House had meanwhile been trying to access Trump's tax returns from the time they gained a majority two years ago. Courts had ruled both for and against the Democrats' subpoenas, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ultimately decided in December not to rule in the case, essentially letting Trump run out the clock. It's unclear if Congress will try to pursue Trump's records again now that he's out of the White House. More stories from theweek.comDemocrats should take the Romney-Cotton proposal seriouslyThe GOP's apathy for governing is being exposedThe MyPillow guy might be Trump's ultimate chump
Acting U.S. Capitol Police chief Yogananda Pittman testified on Thursday that cellphone records show former USCP chief Steven Sund requested National Guard support from the House sergeant-at-arms as early as 12:58pm on Jan. 6, but he did not receive approval until over an hour later.Why it matters: Sund and former House sergeant-at-arms Paul Irving clashed at a Senate hearing on Tuesday over a dispute in the timeline for when Capitol Police requested the National Guard during the Capitol insurrection.Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with Axios Markets. Subscribe for freeIrving insisted that he has no recollection of receiving the request until after 2pm. Lawmakers are looking for accountability over that hour of lost time, when pro-Trump rioters were able to breach and ransack the Capitol."I did not get a request at 1:09 that I can remember," Irving, who resigned after the insurrection, testified. "The first conversation I had with chief Sund in that timeframe was 1:28, 1:30. In that conversation, he indicated that conditions were deteriorating and he might be looking for National Guard approval."Details: Pittman testified to a House subcommittee that Sund's phone records show the former chief first reached out for National Guard support to Irving at 12:58pm.Sund then spoke to former Senate sergeant-at-arms Michael Stenger to make the same request at 1:05pm, per Pittman.Pittman says Sund repeated his request to Irving at 1:28pm, then spoke to him again at 1:34pm, 1:39pm and 1:45pm.Go deeper: Pittman testifies officers were unsure of lethal force rules on Jan. 6Like this article? Get more from Axios and subscribe to Axios Markets for free.
- Yahoo News
Why experts like Dr. Fauci think 'there's a really good chance' the worst of the U.S. pandemic is behind us
New data suggests Americans should be less pessimistic about the dangers of a fourth, variant-driven wave — and more optimistic about a return to normal as soon as this summer.
- The Independent
The building was closed for two days out of an abundance of caution