North Korean authorities have told diplomatic missions that their safety can not be guaranteed. They declared that conflict was inevitable due to United States and South Korean military exercises. But staff at embassies in North Korea appear to be remaining in place despite the appeal by authorities in Pyongyang for diplomats to consider leaving. Tensions in North Korea are increasing due to U.N. sanctions following a nuclear weapons test in February. China’s news agency quoted the North’s Foreign Ministry as saying the issue was no longer whether, but when a war would break out. The South Korean capital, Seoul, appeared to be calm. Traffic moved normally through the city center busy with shoppers.
According to Tokyo Electric Power Co as much as 120 tons of radioactive water may have leaked from a storage tank at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant. The power company has not discovered the cause of the leak, which was detected on one of the seven tanks that store water used to cool the reactors. Water from the leaking tank is not expected to reach the sea but may have contaminated the surrounding ground. The storage tanks are lined with sheets meant to keep contaminated water from leaking into the soil. Fukushima was the site of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake triggered a tsunami that disable the cooling system and back-up generators causing three reactors to melt down. The decommissioning of the plant is projected to take decades to complete.
A new strain of bird flu was detected in China killing five among 14 confirmed cases. The virus, called H7N9, was not known to infect humans and was first detected on Thursday in pigeons at a market selling agricultural products in Shanghai. It is not yet known how people are becoming sick with the virus but there are no indications that it can be transmitted from one person to another. Scientists studying the virus’s genetic code said that the virus may have mutated, spreading to other animals and posing a greater threat to humans. The chinese government confirmed six cases in Shanghai, four in Jiangsu, three in Zhejiang, and one in Anhui.
A Saudi man faces being forcibly paralyzed as a punishment under Islamic sharia law. The court convicted Ali al-Khawaher, 24, of stabbing a childhood friend in the spine during a dispute when he was 14. Under sharia law the courts can set an eye-for-an-eye punishment for crimes, but victims can pardon convicts in exchange for money. The victim requested $533,000 then reduced it to $266,000, but al-Khawaher’s mother said she did not have even a fraction of the money, meaning the court can issue an order of retribution instead. Saudi judges in the past ordered sharia punishments such as flogging, eye gouging, tooth extraction, and death.
A U.S. military pilot died while on a night flight over mountainous terrain in Afghanistan on Wednesday. His F-16 fighter jet crashed in the mountains, but there was no indication of enemy fire in the area at the time of the crash. The cause of the crash is under investigation. There have been F-16 accidents in the past but they are rare in Afghanistan where helicopters are more at risk.
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