WASHINGTON – U.S. officials and independent experts say North Korea appears to have taken unusual steps to conceal details about the nuclear weapon it tested last month, fueling suspicions that its scientists shifted to a bomb design that uses highly enriched uranium as the core.
At least two separate analyses of the Feb. 12 detonation confirmed that the effects of the blast were remarkably well contained, with few radioactive traces escaping into the atmosphere where they could be detected, according to U.S. officials and weapons experts who have studied the data.
U.S. officials anticipated the test and monitored it closely for clues about the composition of the bomb, which was the third detonated by North Korea since 2006. The first two devices were thought to have used plutonium extracted from a dwindling stockpile of the fissile material that North Korea developed in the late 1990s.
A successful test of a uranium-based bomb would confirm that Pyongyang has achieved a second pathway to nuclear weapons, using its plentiful supply of natural uranium and new enrichment technology. A device based on highly enriched uranium, HEU, also would deepen concerns about cooperation between the hermetic regime and Iran.
83 feared dead in Tibetan mudslide
Authorities in Tibet said Sunday that chances were slim that any survivors would be found after a massive mudslide at a gold mine buried 83 workers in piles of earth. Searchers have found 21 bodies and were searching for the remaining missing.
The landslide Friday has spotlighted the extensive mining activities in the mountainous Chinese region of Tibet and sparked questions about whether mining activities have been excessive and destroyed the region's fragile ecosystem.
The workers were buried when mud, rock and debris swept through the mine in Gyama village in Maizhokunggar county on Friday and covered an area measuring 1.5 square miles, about 45 miles east of the regional capital, Lhasa.
Egyptian satirist interrogated, freed
Egypt's most popular television satirist, who every week skewers the Islamist president and hard-line clerics on his Jon Stewart-style show, was released on bail Sunday but could face charges of insulting the country's leader and Islam.
Bassem Youssef is the most prominent critic of President Mohammed Morsi to be called in for questioning in recent weeks, in what the opposition says is a campaign to intimidate critics amid wave after wave of political unrest in deeply polarized Egypt.
Deputy chief prosecutor Hassan Yassin denied the nearly five-hour interrogation was part of an intimidation campaign and said his department was enforcing the law and seeking to establish some guidelines on freedom of expression.
Syrian forces shell rebel-seized area
Heavy shelling in a neighborhood in the northern city of Aleppo sent civilians fleeing for their lives on Sunday, and the Syrian state news agency accused rebels trying to topple the government by setting fire to three oil wells.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said civilians were vacating the Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood of Aleppo under heavy shelling by government forces. Rebels took over parts of the neighborhood late last week
Also Sunday, the government and the opposition blamed each other for killing 11 people found dead near the Lebanese border.
5 die in Kenya riots after election ruling
Kenyan police deployed forces Sunday in the capital and the lakeside city of Kisumu to contain the continuing threat of violence after five people were killed in riots Saturday, officials said, but the country remained mostly peaceful after a court upheld Uhuru Kenyatta's election as president.
At least three people rioting in Nairobi's Dandora slum were shot dead by police on Saturday, police said, bringing to five the number of people killed in postelection violence since the court's verdict was given aturday. Two people were killed and five seriously injured Saturday in riots in Kisumu.
German cold spell wipes out flea circus
A troupe of performing fleas has fallen victim to the freezing temperatures currently gripping Germany.
Flea circus director Robert Birk says he was shocked to find all of his 300 fleas dead inside their transport box Wednesday morning.
The circus immediately scrambled to find and train a new batch so it could fulfill its engagements at an open-air fair in the western town of Mechernich-Kommern.
Michael Faber, who organizes the fair, said an insect expert at a nearby university was able to provide 50 fleas in time for the first show Sunday.