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North Korea announced on Monday the dismissal of Jang Song Thaek, the once powerful uncle of leader Kim Jong Un, for what it described as a string of criminal acts including corruption, womanising and drug-taking. South Korea's spy agency last week said it believed Jang, long regarded as the second most powerful man in the secretive state, had been relieved of his posts in November. The sacking means Pyongyang is undergoing its biggest leadership upheaval since the death in 2011 of former leader Kim Jong Il, the younger Kim's father. "Jang and his followers committed criminal acts baffling imagination and they did tremendous harm to our party and revolution," the North's KCNA news agency said in a report following a meeting of the ruling Workers' Party politburo on Sunday.
Thirty years of shrinking Arctic sea ice has boosted extreme summer weather, including heat waves and drought, in the United States and elsewhere, according to a study published today (Dec. 8) in the journal Nature Climate Change. The new study — based on satellite tracking of sea ice, snow cover and weather trends since 1979 — links the Arctic's warming climate to shifting weather patterns in the Northern Hemisphere's midlatitudes. "The results of our new study provide further support and evidence for rapid Arctic warming contributing to the observed increased frequency and intensity of heat waves," said study co-author Jennifer Francis, an atmospheric scientist at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Changes in the Arctic can perturb midlatitude weather in such regions as the United States, Europe and China because temperature differences between the two zones drive the jet stream, the fast-moving river of air that circles the Northern Hemisphere, explained lead study author Qiuhong Tang, an atmospheric scientist at the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research in Beijing.
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh has dropped yet another bombshell allegation: President Obama wasn't honest with the American people when he blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for a sarin-gas attack in that killed hundreds of civilians. In early September, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States had proof that the nerve-gas attack was made on Assad's orders. "We know the Assad regime was responsible," President Obama told the nation in an address days after this revelation, which he said pushed him over the "red line" in considering military intervention. But in a long story published Sunday for the London Review of Books, Hersh — best known for his exposés on the cover-ups of the My Lai Massacre and of Abu Ghraib – said the administration "cherry-picked intelligence," citing conversations with intelligence and military officials.
SAINT-EMILION, France (AP) — An FBI agent recently showed Arnaud de Laforcade a file with several labels supposedly from 1947 bottles of Chateau Cheval Blanc, one of France's finest wines. To the Saint-Emilion vineyard's CFO, they were clearly fakes — too new looking, not on the right kind of paper.
MIAMI (AP) — When insurance agent Kelly Fristoe recently spent 30 minutes helping a client pick a mid-level health plan and the federal marketplace website froze, he called the government's hotline and tried to finish the application. But the operator refused to credit Fristoe as an agent on the application, meaning he wouldn't get the commission or be listed as the follow-up contact if his client needed help again later.
By Caren Bohan and Aruna Viswanatha WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A senior Democrat said on Sunday he hoped an emerging deal on the U.S. budget would include an extension of unemployment benefits but added that his party would not necessarily walk away from an agreement that left it out. "I don't think we've reached that point where we've said, ‘This is it, take it or leave it,'" Senator Richard Durbin told the ABC program "This Week," when pressed on whether his party would insist on including jobless aid in a final deal. Durbin, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, said that based on what he has heard from Senator Patty Murray, the lead Democratic negotiator on the budget, the fiscal talks are making progress and moving in the right direction. The House of Representatives and Senate budget panel, created after the government shutdown in October, is discussing a two-year accord that would ease the impact of across-the-board spending cuts known as the "sequester" and lower the near-term risk of another damaging fiscal showdown.
By Hamid Shalizi KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai agreed on a cooperation pact with Iran on Sunday, an Afghan official said, while continuing to resist signing a long-term security agreement with the United States. Karzai struck the deal with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran in a move that will be greeted with suspicion by his U.S. ally, which is trying to convince him to sign the security accord governing any post-2014 U.S. presence in Afghanistan. "Afghanistan agreed on a long-term friendship and cooperation pact with Iran," Karzai's spokesman Aimal Faizi said. "The pact will be for long-term political, security, economic and cultural cooperation, regional peace and security." He said a formal document would be prepared and signed soon.
(Reuters) - Scottish singer Susan Boyle says she has a form of autism known as Asperger's syndrome, a diagnosis she says came as a relief after years of believing she had brain damage. Boyle, 52, told the Observer newspaper in an interview published Saturday she had sought help from a Scottish specialist a year ago believing her childhood diagnosis of brain damage was incorrect. "I was told I had brain damage.