Globe Trot: Nuclear tests, Gen. Allen leaves NATO, letters for Iranian prisoners, and Koreans killed in Nigeria
International | Mindy Belz
North Korea’s third nuclear test measured as a 5.1-magnitude earthquake detected by U.S. Geological Survey in North Korea on Tuesday. Since North Korea isn't prone to naturally occurring tremors, scientists and officials quickly revealed the cause as the detonation of a 10-kiloton bomb. A congratulatory anchor also announced the news during a broadcast on state television.
South Korea’s Ministry of Defense said the explosion was larger than a 2006 test of approximately one kiloton and the second test in 2009 with a bomb of between two and seven kilotons. The bomb dropped in Hiroshima during World War II was approximately 10 kilotons. As the UN Security Council prepared a resolution, President Barack Obama made only this reference in his State of the Union address last night: "The regime in North Korea must know, they will only achieve security and prosperity by meeting their international obligations."
Most Americans favor using pilotless drones to “target extremists” in places like Pakistan.
A divided Senate Panel approved confirmation of former Sen. Chuck Hagel, by a vote of 14-11, to be the next Secretary of Defense. A full Senate vote is likely this week.
Gen. John Allen has given up command of NATO forces in Afghanistan—at 19 months becoming the longest serving commander there—but may not take up an expected post as Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. Allen’s move has come as President Barack Obama in last night’s State of the Union message announced he will bring home 34,000 U.S. troops this year—significantly more than expected—ahead of the 2014 end to U.S. involvement in the war in Afghanistan. Here's a list of Allen accomplishments.
Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Allen’s replacement in Afghanistan, had hoped for a more gradual drawdown.“Pulling out 34,000 leaves us dangerously low on military personnel while the fledgling Afghan army and police still need our support. It’s going to send a clear signal that America’s commitment to Afghanistan is going wobbly,” said an unnamed official close to Dunford.
Former Iranian captive Maryam Rostampour has an upcoming book about her imprisonment in Tehran’s Evin Prison for her Christian faith. She also recently counseled Naghmeh Abedini, wife of Saeed Abedini, a U.S. citizen sentenced in January to eight years in prison for “undermining national security” in Iran through his work to establish a network of house churches. Rostampour urged supporters to continue a letter-writing campaign on behalf of Saeed, based on her own experience:
“She said there were many who would have to translate and read those letters and they were touched by the children's drawings or verses. She also said that although they never read the letters, the guards would report to them (in anger!) how many letters they were receiving and that was a great encouragement to them. She also mentioned that this was a great way to let the Iranian government know that those prisoners were not forgotten.”
Here’s the address, if you wish to write on behalf of Abedini or Farshid Fattahi, another house church leader in prison for his Christian faith.
Naghmeh also keeps a Facebook page with the latest on her husband’s case.
Three Korean doctors were killed in northern Nigeria last weekend, and one of them was beheaded. Officials suspect Boko Haram, the militant group that in 2012 killed nearly 800 people in the region. The attack follows the February deaths of 9 health workers administering polio vaccines in the north.
In Egypt, welcome to the revolution … long lines and little fuel.
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