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North Korea moves closer to rocket launch, group says

By Jethro Mullen, CNN
updated 1:33 PM EST, Fri November 30, 2012
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New activity at North Korean launch site

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: U.S. military hasn’t concluded that long-range rocket launch is imminent, official says
  • Satellite images show trailers carrying the first two stages of a rocket
  • A launch could take place early next month, a U.S. academic website says
  • But it notes that North Korea hasn’t announced plans, which it did for previous launches

Hong Kong (CNN) — North Korea is another step closer to the unusual and provocative move of launching a long-range rocket in wintertime, according to an analysis of satellite images by a U.S. academic website.

Using commercial satellite imagery, the website 38 North says that trailers carrying the first two stages of one of the North’s Unha rockets can be seen near the main missile assembly building at the Sohae Satellite Launch Station on the country’s west coast.

The analysis published Thursday by 38 North, which is run by the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, follows the release of an image this week by the satellite imagery company DigitalGlobe that showed increased activity at the launch station.

The developments shown in the images suggest North Korea could carry out a rocket launch as soon as “the latter half of the first week of December, weather permitting,” 38 North said.

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Such a move would be surprising and unprecedented, since the nuclear-armed North hasn’t before tried to launch a long-range rocket in the winter or so soon after a previous attempt.

A rocket launched from the Sohae site in April broke apart shortly after takeoff; the North’s decision to go ahead with that launch drew international condemnation.

Pyongyang said the rocket was supposed to put a satellite into orbit, but the launch was seen by many other countries as cover for a ballistic missile test.

The Pentagon and the intelligence community are scouring classified and commercial imagery of the site and have not firmly concluded that North Korea is planning to launch a long-range rocket, a senior U.S. military official said.

While not discounting the possibility of a launch, the U.S. military is leaving open the chance that other motives could be involved, the official said.

“They could be moving things around just to make a point,” the official said. “But on the other hand, it’s the North Koreans, so who knows?”

The analysis by 38 North noted that before previous launches, Pyongyang has announced “dates and hours for sea or air closure areas for the rocket’s first and second stage impact areas,” as well as filing documents for satellite frequency.

“Since that has not happened yet, the window would appear to be closing for an early launch,” the website says.

It suggested the possible motivation for the activity at the Sohae site was the planned launch of a satellite-bearing rocket this week by its archrival and neighbor, South Korea. Seoul postponed that launch minutes before takeoff after the discovery of an electronic signal problem.

There was no apparent mention of a planned launch by the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency on Friday.

Another big rocket launch by North Korea could further sour its relations with the United States and South Korea. The failed launch in April scuppered a deal for Washington to provide thousands of tons of food aid to the North’s malnourished population.

It also drew condemnation from the U.N. Security Council, which repeated demands for Pyongyang not to carry out similar tests in the future. The botched launch followed attempts in 2006 and 2009.

The 38 North analysis was based on DigitalGlobe satellite images released on November 23 and 26. The analysis was carried out by Nick Hansen, who has specialized in image technology during a 43-year career in intelligence for the U.S. military and private sector.

CNN’s Adam Levine and Barbara Starr in Washington contributed to this report.

Male contraceptive pill ‘step closer’ after mice studies

By James Gallagher Health and science reporter, BBC News

Sperm approaching egg

Scientists believe they are a step closer in the difficult journey towards developing a male contraceptive pill, after successful studies in mice.

A contraceptive pill for women has been around for decades, but an equivalent for men has proved elusive.

A US study, published in the journal Cell, showed a drug could make mice temporarily infertile without hampering their sex drive.

Experts said the findings were “exciting”, but needed tests in people.

It has been argued that the lack of a male contraceptive pill has contributed to the number of unplanned pregnancies.

One of the challenges is developing a drug which can cross over from the blood into the testes.

US researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Baylor College of Medicine were testing a drug called JQ1. It targets a protein which exists only in the testes and is critical for sperm production.

‘Profound effects’

The testes of mice taking the drug began to shrink as they produced fewer sperm, which were also less mobile. Some were rendered infertile.

When the animals were no longer taking the drug they were able to have babies.

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This is an exciting report that could have major scientific and social impacts”

Prof Moira O’Bryan Monash University

One of the researchers, Dr James Bradner said: “This compound produces a rapid and reversible decrease in sperm count and motility with profound effects on fertility.

“These findings suggest that a reversible, oral male contraceptive may be possible.”

Researchers hope to be able to target the same protein in men, however, more tests will be needed to show whether the drug is both safe and effective in people.

Dr Allan Pacey, senior lecturer in andrology at the University of Sheffield, told the BBC there was a need for such a pill.

“To date, most of the trials have attempted to stop sperm production by manipulating the male hormone testosterone through the use of injections or implants.

“These approaches work reasonably well, but none have yet made it to routine use. So the door is wide open for someone to develop a novel drug that doesn’t rely on hormones.”

He said it should be fairly easy to test this latest approach in humans.

Prof Moira O’Bryan, the head of male infertility at Monash University in Australia, said: “This is an exciting report that could have major scientific and social impacts.”

She added: “The strong similarity between sperm production in the mouse and the human suggest that a variation of JQ1 may ultimately result in a human contraceptive.

“Although there is undoubtedly an urgent need for additional contraceptive options, the path between this paper and a new product is likely to be long.”

Walmart Sex Show: Kan. Couple Stole Lube for In-Store Sex Act

By Andrew Lu at FindLaw.com

Fri Aug 3, 2012 3:39pm EDT

Public displays of affection can be sickening in most situations, but a Kansas couple may have taken it to an extreme when they were arrested for putting on a Walmart sex show.

The Kansas couple was reportedly so enamored with each other that they just had to get it on in the middle of the Walmart. Right in front of other customers, 22-year-old Julian Call and 35-year-old Tina Gianakon allegedly began “sexually fondling” each other, reports the New York Daily News.

Perhaps feeling a little shy, the couple also reportedly stole a tube of K-Y Jelly to help facilitate the act. Surprisingly, police say the couple appeared sober.

The couple is cooperating with police and they now face charges for “lewd and lascivious behavior.” Depending on the audience for their Walmart sex show, the couple could face misdemeanor or felony charges.

In Kansas, lewd and lascivious behavior is defined as publicly engaging in otherwise lawful sexual intercourse or sodomy with knowledge that they are being viewed by others. For the crime, someone can face misdemeanor or felony charges depending upon the age of the people who had to view the act.

Generally, if the people at the Walmart who saw the act were 16 years of age or older, Call and Gianakon would face misdemeanor B charges. However, if anyone under the age of 16 saw what happened, the couple could face a felony IX charge.

While both the misdemeanor and felony carry a possible six-month prison sentence, the distinction is important as Call and Gianakon probably will not want a felony on their records for the Walmart sex show.

Related Resources:

  • Walmart Sex Arrest: Couple Accused Of Stealing Lubricant, Sexual Fondling In Store (Huffington Post)
  • NY Man Groped Passenger While He Slept (FindLaw’s Legally Weird)
  • Beauty Queen Dragged Out of Bed Nude by Mistaken Deputies: Lawsuit (FindLaw’s Legally Weird)

China to test superpower claims on foreign soil

By Ian Ransom

LONDON | Wed Jul 25, 2012 6:42pm EDT

(Reuters) – China’s table-topping gold medal haul at the Beijing Olympics cemented its claim as a sporting superpower but the red-clad army of 396 athletes march into London with little swagger as they renew their battle for supremacy with the United States.

China swelled with pride as their 51 titles at Beijing put the U.S. tally of 36 in the shade, dethroning their powerful rivals who had reigned supreme since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The stunning harvest was seen as an inexorable shift in the sporting landscape, with China smashing the duopoly of the U.S. and the Soviet Union/Russia that had topped the table at every Games since World War Two.

Top sports officials in the Communist Party-ruled country, however, have been at pains to emphasize the fragility of the new world order.

“Everyone knows that we were the hosts of the Beijing Games,” deputy chef de mission Xiao Tian told reporters at a team briefing on Wednesday.

“We’re not the hosts at these Olympics. Besides, we did an analysis that host countries from one Games have a decrease in their medal tally by about 30-32 percent at the next.

“I think for the team to have the same kind of success in London as they did in Beijing in terms of golds and medals overall would be extremely difficult.”

Sports minister Liu Peng, and a parade of other leading officials, made similar proclamations in the lead-up to Beijing in a determined, if fruitless, drive to ease the pressure on their athletes and hose down public expectations.

Those expectations are unlikely to figure nearly as much in London and, whereas Chinese athletes rode a tidal wave of emotion to glory in Beijing, they can expect crowds to be far less enthused about their dominance in certain events.

SWEEP

That China will reign in its traditional strengths like table tennis, diving and badminton is virtually a given.

The country’s decades-old Soviet-style sports system, which has young boys and girls sacrifice their childhoods to train in the service of the state, has proved adept at producing champions in highly technical sports that reward constant repetition in training.

China’s peerless badminton team, one of the most successful products of state-led planning, has already shown their imperviousness to London crowds by sweeping all the world titles at the Wembley Arena last year, and can be expected to do so again in the Olympic tournament.

Further sweeps of diving’s eight titles and table tennis’s four, both very real prospects, would give the Chinese a head-start of 17 gold medals, notwithstanding a near-certain parade of champions in shooting, weightlifting, gymnastics and boxing.

China’s failure to reap major success in more prestigious sports like swimming and athletics has long been a bugbear for the country’s officials, however.

“In some high-profile events which are dominated by Western countries, we have to try to make some breakthroughs and stun the world,” Liu said.

China’s much-touted “Project 119” – a scheme aimed at widening their medal-winning sports – yielded notable breakthroughs in boxing and wrestling at Beijing, but was largely a flop on the track and in the pool.

China is determined to amend that in London and leave with more than the solitary gold medal gleaned from Beijing’s swimming and athletics events.

REDEMPTION

All eyes will be trained on Liu Xiang and his bid for a second 100 meters hurdles gold medal after his title defense at Beijing ended with an Achilles injury and a tortured limp out of the “Birds Nest” stadium before his opening heat.

Many Chinese felt robbed of a crowning moment by Liu’s withdrawal and pressure is back on the 29-year-old to deliver the ultimate redemption story at Olympic Park, especially after his scintillating 12.87 second win at the Prefontaine Classic in Oregon last month.

Liu famously celebrated his Athens triumph, the first Olympic track gold won by a Chinese man, by remarking that the “yellow man can sprint”, and over at the Aquatics Centre, coaches will look to 1,500 meters world record holder Sun Yang to mark himself as another Olympic trailblazer.

The rangy 20-year-old lit up last year’s world championships by breaking Australian Grant Hackett’s 10-year-old world record and he stands on the brink of becoming China’s first male swimmer to win Olympic gold.

Sun, now trained by Hackett’s former coach Denis Cotterell, also faces a mouthwatering all-Asian battle with South Korean champion Park Tae-hwan for 400m gold.

Ye Shiwen, who became China’s youngest swimming world champion when she won the 200m individual medley at the age of 15 in Shanghai last year, should also bolster her team’s medal haul in the pool, while Zhao Jing and Jiao Liuyang have claims in the 100 backstroke and 200 butterfly respectively.

China’s Li Na became the first tennis player from an Asian nation to win a grand slam title when she won the French Open last year and will hope to become her country’s first Olympic singles gold medalist.

In a country where sport and politics are inextricably linked, many of China’s London-bound athletes have been ceremoniously handed Communist Party memberships in the lead up to bring Olympic glory to the homeland.

Were that not motivation enough, they have also been offered eye-watering sums of cash, up to 1 million yuan ($156,900) in some cases, for every gold they can deliver their home towns and provinces – incentives that might leave many athletes from the capitalist West green with envy.

(Editing by Patrick Johnston)

IMF’s Peter Doyle scorns its ‘tainted’ leadership

A top economist at the International Monetary Fund has poured scorn on its “tainted” leadership and said he is “ashamed” to have worked there.

Peter Doyle said in a letter to the IMF executive board that he wanted to explain his resignation after 20 years.

He writes of “incompetence”, “failings” and “disastrous” appointments for the IMF’s managing director, stretching back 10 years.

No one from the Washington-based IMF was immediately available for comment.

Mr Doyle, former adviser to the IMF’s European Department, which is running the bailout programs for Greece, Portugal and Ireland, said the Fund’s delay in warning about the urgency of the global financial crisis was a failure of the “first order”.

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Analysis

image of Andrew Walker Andrew Walker BBC World Service Economics correspondent

Peter Doyle’s letter is short but the criticism excoriating. Perhaps the bigger of the two main charges is that the IMF failed to warn enough about the problems that led to the global financial crises.

The IMF has had investigations which have, up to a point, made similar criticisms, but not in such inflammatory terms. The IMF did issue some warnings, but the allegation that they were not sustained or timely enough and were actively suppressed raises some very big questions about the IMF’s role.

Then there is the description of the managing director as tainted. It’s not personal. It’s a familiar attack on a process which always selects a European. It’s still striking, though, to hear it from someone so recently on the inside.

In the letter, dated 18 June and obtained by the US broadcaster CNN, Mr Doyle said the failings of IMF surveillance of the financial crisis “are, if anything, becoming more deeply entrenched”.

He writes: “This fact is most clear in regard to appointments for managing director which, over the past decade, have all-too-evidently been disastrous.

“Even the current incumbent [Christine Lagarde] is tainted, as neither her gender, integrity, or elan can make up for the fundamental illegitimacy of the selection process.”

Mr Doyle is thought to be echoing here widespread criticism that the head of the IMF is always a European, while the World Bank chief is always a US appointee.

Mr Doyle concludes his letter: “There are good salty people here. But this one is moving on. You might want to take care not to lose the others.”

The IMF could not be reached immediately by the BBC. However, CNN reported that a Fund spokesman told it that there was nothing to substantiate Mr Doyle’s claims and that the IMF had held its own investigations into surveillance of the financial crisis.

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