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Are Gas Deposits in the Mediterranean Worth a War?


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A Rare Glimpse Inside the Life of a Spy


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The Real Danger in a Quiet Escalation of Tensions Between China and India


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Kim reappears in public, ending absence amid health rumors


SEOUL, South Korea —
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made his first public appearance in 20 days as he celebrated the completion of a fertilizer factory near Pyongyang, state media said Saturday, ending an absence that had triggered global rumors that he may be seriously ill.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported that Kim attended the ceremony Friday in Sunchon with other senior officials, including his sister Kim Yo Jong, who many analysts predict would take over if her brother is suddenly unable to rule.

State media showed videos and photos of Kim wearing a black Mao suit and constantly smiling, walking around facilities, applauding, cutting a huge red ribbon with a scissor handed by his sister, and smoking inside and outside of buildings while talking with other officials.

Seemingly thousands of workers, many of them masked, stood in lines at the massive complex, roaring in celebration and releasing balloons into the air. A sign installed on a stage where Kim sat with other senior officials read: “Sunchon Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory; Completion Ceremony; May 1, 2020.”

There were no clear signs that Kim was in discomfort. He was shown moving without a walking stick, like the one he used in 2014 when he was recovering from a presumed ankle surgery. However, he was also seen riding a green electric cart, which appeared similar to a vehicle he used in 2014.

It was Kim’s first public appearance since April 11, when he presided over a ruling Workers’ Party meeting to discuss the coronavirus and reappoint his sister as an alternate member of the powerful decision-making Political Bureau of the party’s Central Committee. That move confirmed her substantial role in the government.

Speculation about his health swirled after he missed the April 15 birthday celebration for his late grandfather Kim Il Sung, the country’s most important holiday, for the first time since taking power in 2011.

The possibility of high-level instability raised troubling questions about the future of the secretive, nuclear-armed state that has been steadily building an arsenal meant to threaten the U.S. mainland while diplomacy between Kim and President Donald Trump has stalled.

Some experts say South Korea, as well as its regional neighbors and ally Washington, must begin preparing for the possible chaos that could come if Kim is sidelined by health problems or even dies. Worst-case scenarios include North Korean refugees flooding South Korea or China or military hard-liners letting loose nuclear weapons.

“The world is largely unprepared for instability in North Korea,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul. “Washington, Seoul and Tokyo need tighter coordination on contingency plans while international organizations need more resources and less controversy over the role of China.”

South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which deals with inter-Korean affairs, confirmed Kim’s visit to the fertilizer factory and said it was part of his efforts to emphasize economic development. The ministry called for discretion on information related to North Korea, saying that the “groundless” rumors of past weeks have caused “unnecessary confusion and cost” for South Korea’s society and financial markets.

South Korea’s government, which has a mixed record of tracking Pyongyang’s ruling elite, repeatedly downplayed speculation that Kim, believed to be 36, was in poor health following surgery.

The office of President Moon Jae-in said it detected no unusual signs in North Korea or any emergency reaction by its ruling party, military and cabinet. Seoul said it believed Kim was still managing state affairs but staying at an unspecified location outside Pyongyang.

The KCNA said workers at the fertilizer factory broke into “thunderous cheers” for Kim, who it said is guiding the nation in a struggle to build a self-reliant economy in the face of “head wind” by “hostile forces.”

The report didn’t mention any direct comment toward Washington or Seoul.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump declined to comment about Kim’s reappearance but said he would “have something to say about it at the appropriate time.”

State media reported Kim was carrying out routine activities outside public view, such as sending greetings to the leaders of Syria, Cuba and South Africa and expressing gratitude to workers building tourist facilities in the coastal town of Wonsan, where some speculated he was staying.

It wasn’t immediately clear what caused Kim’s absence in past weeks. In 2014, Kim vanished from the public eye for nearly six weeks and then reappeared with a cane. South Korea’s spy agency said he had a cyst removed from his ankle.

Analysts say his health could become an increasing factor in years ahead: he’s overweight, smokes and drinks, and has a family history of heart issues.

If he’s suddenly unable to rule, some analysts said his sister would be installed as leader to continue Pyongyang’s heredity dynasty that began after World War II.

But others question whether core members of North Korea’s elite, mostly men in their 60s or 70s, would find it hard to accept a young and untested female leader who lacks military credentials. Some predict a collective leadership or violent power struggles.

Following an unusually provocative run in missile and nuclear tests in 2017, Kim used the Winter Olympics in South Korea to initiate negotiations with Washington and Seoul in 2018. That led to a surprising series of summits, including three between Kim and Trump.

But negotiations have faltered in past months over disagreements in exchanging sanctions relief and disarmament steps, which raised doubts about whether Kim would ever fully deal away an arsenal he likely sees as his strongest guarantee of survival.

Kim entered 2020 vowing to build up his nuclear stockpile and defeat sanctions through economic “self-reliance.” Some experts say the North’s self-imposed lockdown amid the coronavirus crisis could potentially hamper his ability to mobilize people for labor.



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OSINT Global Trendline Report: Asia


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Afghanistan’s Hard Lessons. A British Perspective.


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WHO gives the new coronavirus a name: COVID-19


Top health officials have finally named the novel coronavirus that has sickened tens of thousands of people around the world.

The coronavirus is now called COVID-19, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general at the World Health Organization announced during a Tuesday news conference.

“Co” stands for coronavirus, “Vi” is for virus and “D” is for disease, Tedros explained. Health officials purposely avoided naming COVID-19 after a geographical location, animal or group of people.

“Having a name matters, to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing,” he said.

In the United States, Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the Americans who were evacuated on the first charter flight out of Wuhan, China, were expected to be released home Tuesday after completing a 14-day quarantine.

Those individuals are currently being assessed to ensure that they remain symptom-free, Schuchat said at the National Press Club on Tuesday.

The CDC is also re-examining whether 14 days is an appropriate duration for future coronavirus quarantines, as scientists learn more about the virus and how infectious it may be before patients show symptoms.

“There’s lots of different thinking right now from the anecdotes of the different countries’ experiences,” she added.

Schuchat also addressed lingering questions about coronavirus’ mortality rate, thought to be about 2%.

“We absolutely assume that the reported cases are an underestimate,” she said of coronavirus cases in China.

Since sicker individuals tend to seek health care treatment first, coronavirus’ mortality rate may drop as additional cases are reported.

On the other hand, in terms seeing how the disease progresses in individuals who are sickened, Hubei province and Wuhan have several weeks’ lead on the rest of the world. We may not know for a few more weeks whether the patients who have been sickened outside of China will ultimately recover, or if their conditions will worsen.

Coronavirus infects residents on different floors of apartment building, raising fears of disease’s spread

Meanwhile, a hundred people have been quarantined in Hong Kong after being evacuated from an apartment building where two residents living on different floors were diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, authorities said.

During a press conference Tuesday, officials from Hong Kong’s Center for Health Protection said the two infected residents were separated by 10 floors and the decision to partially evacuate the public housing estate in the city’s Tsing Yi area was made after the discovery of an unsealed pipe in the bathroom of the lower apartment, raising fears about how the newly identified virus may have spread between the two units.

So far, at least five other residents of Cheung Hong Estate who showed symptoms of the novel coronavirus have all been tested negative for the illness, according to Center for Health Protection director Wong Ka-hing. If all tests return negative, Ka-hing said quarantined residents could be released by the weekend.

Faulty piping in an apartment block led to the infection of hundreds of people in the semi-autonomous Chinese city during the deadly SARS outbreak in 2003.

The global death toll from the new coronavirus outbreak — 1,017 — has already surpassed that of the SARS epidemic. All but one of the deaths have occurred in China. The only death from the outbreak outside of China was in the Philippines.

Since the first cases were detected back in December in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, China’s National Health Commission said Tuesday that it has recorded a total of 42,638 confirmed coronavirus cases. There are at least 319 cases confirmed in 24 other countries, according to the World Health Organization, which has declared the outbreak a global health emergency.

The number of cases confirmed in the United States ticked up to 13 on Monday, with another American diagnosed with the novel coronavirus in California, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesperson. The patient had arrived from China on the first evacuation flight to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego. The flight landed at the military base on Feb. 5 and the passengers were to be quarantined for 14 days.

Other confirmed cases have been reported in the states of Arizona, Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington and Wisconsin. The CDC has shipped newly approved coronavirus tests to labs across the country so states can begin their own diagnostic testing instead of shipping all samples to the agency’s headquarters in Atlanta.

Prior to Monday, the last confirmed coronavirus case United States had been Feb. 5 in Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, the Untied Kingdom’s health department has declared the virus “a serious and imminent threat” and put new quarantine restrictions in place in an attempt to delay or stop the spread of the disease. Effective immediately, any individual public health professionals consider to be at risk for spreading coronavirus will be subject to a 14-day quarantine. Those restrictions only apply in England.

“I will do everything in my power to keep people in this country safe,” British health secretary Matt Hancock said in a statement Monday, while announcing the new rules. “We are taking every possible step to control the outbreak of coronavirus.”

The move came after a WHO news conference on Monday in which top health officials called reports of human-to-human spread of coronavirus in France “concerning.” The transmissions, which occurred at a French ski resort, are worrying instances of “onward transmission from people with no travel to China,” said WHO Director General Tedros.

“The detection of a small number of cases could be the spark that becomes the bigger fire,” he added. “But for now, it’s only a spark.”

The WHO convened in Geneva on Tuesday for a global research and innovation forum to identify the gaps in scientists’ knowledge about coronavirus and to accelerate the development of interventions to stem the spread of the disease.

“The bottom line is solidarity, solidarity, solidarity,” Tedros said during his opening remarks. “Publications, patents and profits are not what matters now. What matters most is stopping the outbreak and saving lives,” he said.

At the same time, an advanced team from WHO has begun its work in China. The international team will work with Chinese experts on the ground to investigate the origins and severity of the new coronavirus.

In Japan, thousands of people remain quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in the port of Yokohama since arriving there on Feb. 3. Among the 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew on board, at least 135 people have tested positive for coronavirus, including 23 Americans, according to a spokesperson for Princess Cruises, which operates the ship.

All those infected with the disease have been brought ashore for treatment, while the other passengers remain confined to their rooms on board until the quarantine period ends, according to Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

U.S. citizens Mark and Jerri Jorgensen, who are among the passengers on board, said they feel “well taken care of.”

“We’re not stressing out too much,” Jerri Jorgensen told ABC News in a telephone interview Tuesday. “We’ve got our medication. We got fresh linens for our beds. We’re not being left in the dark.”

“It’s a serious thing, we get that,” she added. “We are grateful that we’re being so well taken care of.”

Princess Cruises announced Sunday that it is offering a full refund to all guests on board the Diamond Princess.

“They gave us a complete refund, airfare and a credit for another trip,” Jerri Jorgensen said. “And people are like, are you going to cruise again? And the answer is yes, we’ve booked one for May.”

ABC News’ Jessica Mendoza, Christine Theodorou, Karson Yiu and Anne Flaherty contributed to this report.



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US Army Reserve soldier serving in Syria dies from injuries sustained in rollover accident


Spc. Antonio I. Moore, 22, was on his first deployment when he died.

A 22-year-old U.S. Army Reserve soldier serving in Syria has died from injuries he sustained in a vehicle rollover accident.

Spc. Antonio Moore was conducting route clearance operations as part of Operation Inherent Resolve in Deir ez-Zor Province in eastern Syria when he died Friday, according to the Army. It was his first deployment.

Moore, who is from Wilmington, North Carolina, enlisted in the Army in 2017 as a combat engineer, officials said. He was assigned to the 346th Engineer Company, 363d Engineer Battalion, 411th Engineer Brigade, in Knightdale, North Carolina.

About 750 troops are in eastern Syria, The Associated Press reported, citing military officials.

“The 363rd Engineer Battalion is deeply saddened at the loss of Spec. Antonio Moore,” Lt. Col. Ian Doiron, 363rd Engineer Battalion commander, said in a statement Saturday. “Antonio was one of the best in our formation. He will be missed by all who served with him. We will now focus on supporting his family and honoring his legacy and sacrifice.”

Moore’s awards and decorations include the National Defense Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon. He is survived by his mother, stepfather, three brothers and a sister.

The accident is under investigation.



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Home for the holidays: Prince Philip leaves hospital


Prince Philip has been discharged from a London hospital and joined his wife Queen Elizabeth II for Christmas at her rural retreat

LONDON —
Prince Philip was discharged from a London hospital Tuesday and immediately taken by helicopter to join other senior royals at Queen Elizabeth II’s rural retreat in time for a traditional family Christmas.

His arrival is a bit of welcome good news for the queen at the end of a year that she admits has been “bumpy.” Her comments are thought to relate not just to Britain’s difficult path toward Brexit but also setbacks experienced by the royal family in 2019.

Buckingham Palace did not reveal details about Philips medical treatment and said that he wished to thank everyone who had sent good wishes during his four-night stay at the private King Edward VII hospital in London.

The palace had previously said that the 98-year-old prince was being hospitalized for planned treatment of a pre-existing condition. The fact that he did not go to the hospital by ambulance and that the queen did not change her plans to be by his side suggested it was not an emergency situation.

Philip, a man of great pride, walked out of the hospital on his own Tuesday morning even though many patients of that age use wheelchairs when they are discharged. The prince left the hospital on foot and entered a vehicle unaided. He was dressed elegantly with his tie in a Windsor knot and waved to a nurse as he departed the hospital.

The palace said he had been hospitalized as a “precautionary measure.” Officials did not explain the nature of his treatment, which appeared to have been timed to allow him to receive the care he needed and return to the family in time for Christmas.

He has suffered from heart disease and other ailments including a bladder infection in recent years and has largely stepped out of the public eye since he announced his retirement from royal duties in 2017.

The Palace said at the time the decision was not health-related and was simply a reflection of his advanced years. “I’ve done my bit,” Philip told friends when he stepped down after decades of royal events, often carried out silently one step behind the queen.

On Monday, Prince Charles said his father was faring well but was suffering from age-related problems.

“When you get to that age, things don’t work so well,” he said.

Philip arrived at Sandringham in time for Christmas Eve, when the royals usually exchange small gifts.

It is not known if Philip will be strong enough to attend a Christmas morning church service traditionally attended by the queen and other senior royals. He did not attend last year.

The small church service near the queen’s palatial home usually draws well-wishers hoping to get a glimpse of Elizabeth and her family and perhaps to exchange Christmas wishes with the royals.

Church is usually followed by a family lunch at Sandringham and then the broadcast of the queen’s message to Britain and the Commonwealth countries. Excerpts released ahead of time reveal the queen plans to admit it has been a challenging year. It was recorded before Philip was hospitalized.

Talking about the need for reconciliation and forgiveness, Elizabeth says: “The path, of course, is not always smooth, and may at times this year have felt quite bumpy, but small steps can make a world of difference.”

She is thought to be referring both to Britain’s laborious exit from the European Union, which is now almost certainly going to happen on Jan. 31 after voters gave the pro-Brexit Conservative Party a comfortable majority in Parliament, and to the royal family’s difficulties.

The problems facing the queen’s family this year included Prince Andrew’s retreat from public duties following a disastrous TV interview in which he defended his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and failed to show empathy for Epstein’s young female victims.

The family has also endured what many close observers think is a rift between Prince William and Prince Harry, who has traveled with his wife Meghan and young son Archie to Canada rather than spend the Christmas holidays at Sandringham, as has long been customary for senior royals.

Both Harry and Meghan have complained about constant scrutiny by the media as they settle into family life with 7-month-old Archie.



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Is the Maximum Pressure Campaign Working with Iran?


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