Chatter: A North Korean nuclear test isn't so imminent after all






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Korean whispers. It's never easy to say what's going on with a country as, how shall we say, opaque as North Korea. And it certainly doesn't help when South Korea goes all equivocal too. Having warned this morning that activity at the North's underground Punggye-ri complex suggested a nuclear test was imminent, the South Korean government now says that was misspeak and all movements were, in fact, "routine."

We wouldn't convert that bunker into a pool room just yet, though: while there are no signs that Kim Jong Un has ordered a fourth nuclear test, Seoul said, the Punggye-ri site has already been prepped to allow one to go ahead as soon as he chooses to do so.

Damascus car bombed. A powerful explosion struck the Syrian capital today, according to witnesses. It's not yet clear how many people were killed or injured, but it's believed to be several.

The suspected car bomb went off in a busy part of Damascus near Syria's central bank and, disturbingly, a school. State television predictably blamed unspecified "terrorists" for the attack; security forces have since sealed off the area.


Poetry, politics, poison? Pablo Neruda, Chilean writer, lawmaker and Nobel laureate, will be exhumed today in a bid to finally determine what caused his death, almost 40 years ago.

Officially, what killed Neruda on September 23, 1973, was prostate cancer – which might be unremarkable if, 12 days earlier, Augusto Pinochet and gang hadn't seized power in a coup. Neruda's former assistant has long claimed that his boss, a high-profile critic of the new regime, was poisoned by Pinochet's henchmen. The poet's remains will now be examined for traces of advanced cancer and/or toxins, though forensics experts warn that, after four decades, the truth about his death may yet remain elusive.

WikiLeaks is at it again. The site has just published another stash of US diplomatic records, this time from the early 1970s. The more than 1.7 million cables, intelligence reports and other documents are a treasure-trove of American impressions of the world at the time, including an early description of Margaret Thatcher as "the quintessential suburban matron, and frightfully English to boot."

Fascinating, yes, but classified, no. Unlike WikiLeaks' contemporary US cables, the 1970s records are already publicly available in the US national archives; the site has simply published them in online, searchable form. WikiAggregates, anyone?

Dodging the draft, with dough. Peru's government has caused outrage by making military service compulsory – unless you can afford to pay a fine of more than $700 to skip it. The measure has been almost universally attacked as discriminating against the poor, while allowing rich kids to legally duck conscription.

GlobalPost looks at what made Peru decide to let the well-off off the hook.


Cut your damned hair. No, seriously, your hair is damned. We paraphrase, but such is essentially the message given by Hamas to the youth of Gaza, who reportedly are being rounded up on the grounds of "inappropriate hairstyles." A local rights group claims that several young men have been stopped by police, forcibly trimmed and in some cases beaten before being made to sign a statement promising they'll never sport "strange" haircuts again.

Police have acknowledged chopping offending locks but denied accusations of brutality, assuring that the youngsters' treatment was "not as harsh as it appears." Funny, that.