North Korea: the medal-makers’ mother lode

north korean medals

North Korea has been making headlines a great deal lately, and not for good reasons.

So-called Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un has spent the past few months engaged in sabre rattling to a degree that would have made his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, proud.

In a move that must have warmed the hearts of millions of impoverished North Koreans scraping to find enough food to keep their families from starving, the nation’s leadership announced intentions to launch a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States, calling the US the “sworn enemy of the Korean people.”

A few days later, North Korea confirmed it was ending the 60-year armistice connected to the 1950-53 Korean War.

On March 30, Pyongyang declared it was in “a state of war” with South Korea, and Kim Jong-un stated that rockets were ready to be fired at American bases in the Pacific in response to the US flying two nuclear-capable B2 stealth bombers over the Korean peninsula.

While US intelligence officials speculate that Kim Jong-un is using the bluster to assert control over his country, and his ultimate goal is recognition rather than getting involved in a devastating conflict, the general consensus seems to be that the baby-faced dictator is decidedly unpredictable, if not eight kinds of crazy.

Which is just what the people of North Korea don’t need at this point.

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Georgia grave robbers charged in looting case

grave robbery

Two Georgia men – one nicknamed “Bubba” – have been charged in a recent grave-robbing incident in which the corpses of five Confederate and Revolutionary War soldiers were dug up.

Jerry Atkinson and Ralph Hillis Jr., both of Waynesboro, Ga., could get up to five years in the hoosegow if convicted of “malicious removal of the dead from a grave.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, Hillis goes by the nickname “Bubba.” He was arrested last week, but Atkinson remained at large, according to the Burke County Sheriff’s Office

However, Burke County deputies did a search Atkinson’s home and discovered a methamphetamine lab, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

The cemetery is in a secluded location and has been a burial site since the 1700s.

It is believed the suspects were searching for relics such as buttons off the uniforms the soldiers may have buried in.

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Pink diamond sells for nearly $40 million


What the 34.65-carat pink diamond known as “Princie” lacks in elegant nomenclature it makes up for with decidedly upscale value.

The diamond, first discovered about 300 years ago in the Golconda mines in southern India, was auctioned by Chrisitie’s in New York for $39.3 million earlier this month.

The diamond drew just two bidders, with action starting at $20 million and continuing for only two minutes, according to Bloomberg.

The winning bid came from Francois Curiel, international head of jewelry at Christie’s and president of Christie’s Asia, bidding on behalf of an anonymous client.

“The gem is considered one of the four most celebrated pink diamonds in the world,” according to Bloomberg. “It was first recorded in the holdings of the Nizam, or monarch, of Hyderabad, India, according to Christie’s.”

It was last sold in 1960, for nearly $71,000 during a London auction.

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Famed Islamic minaret destroyed in Syria

great mosque of aleppo minaret

In addition to tens of thousands of lives, the ongoing civil war in Syria has now claimed the minaret of one of the world’s most picturesque mosques.

The 145-foot-high minaret of the Umayyad Mosque in the city of Aleppo, dating back to 1090, was destroyed Wednesday during fighting between the Syrian army and rebel forces.

The mosque, also known as the Great Mosque, was founded by the Umayyad Caliphate in 715 on the site of a Byzantine church. It had to be rebuilt after being damaged by a fire in 1159, and again following the Mongol invasion in 1260, according to the BBC.

However, the minaret was oldest surviving part of the structure.

In addition, other parts of the mosque complex – much of which date from the 1200s – have been badly damaged by gunfire and artillery shells.

The mosque has significance for Christians as well as Muslims. It is said to hold the remains of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist

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UK official warns Scots against leaving Union

scotland money

British finance minister George Osborne wielded the cudgel of fiscal insecurity to warn Scots against voting for independence.

Scotland runs the risk of ceding control of much of its economy if it chooses sovereignty during a referendum next year and remains in a “currency zone” using the British pound – the preferred option of the pro-independence Scottish government.

Osborne also warned there was no guarantee that the rest of the United Kingdom would accept such an arrangement.

Speaking in Glasgow, Osborne said choosing such a path could result in Scotland ending up like Panama and Montenegro, which use the US dollar and the euro, respectively, but neither has control over policy, according to Agence France-Presse.

In case anyone in attendance was unclear where Osborne, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, stood regarding Scotland’s 300-year-old union with England, the British Conservative politician made it crystal clear.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t break it,” he said.

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Medal of Honor recipient found after 62 years

don c. faith funeral

More than 60 years after Army Lt. Col. Don C. Faith Jr., died at the brutal Battle of Chosin Reservoir in late 1950, the Medal of Honor recipient’s remains have been recovered and interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

Faith, a veteran of both World War II and the Korean War, was only identified last year.

The Washington, Ind., native was buried at Arlington last week.

His only child, Barbara “Bobbie” Broyles, who was just 4 years old at the time of her father’s death, attended the ceremony.

“I’m incredulous,” she told “He’s been missing for 62 years and it’s a wonderful, wonderful thing that he’s been found.”

With the onset of the Korean War in the summer of 1950, Faith, then 32, was dispatched to help stop the communist invasion of the southern part of the nation.

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Massive skate hooked off coast of Scotland

common skate scotland

A Welsh fisherman needed 90 minutes to land one of the largest skates ever caught, a 235-pound behemoth hooked in the Firth of Lorn, off the Scottish coast.

David Griffiths of Powys, Wales, landed the 7-foot-6-inch fish earlier this month.

He said it broke the British record by nearly 10 pounds, but his catch was not considered official because it was not weighed on dry land, according to the BBC.

Landing the beast was no easy feat. Using mackerel and squid as bait, Griffiths managed to get the skate to within a few dozen feet of the surface before it dove back down, he said.

“The skate has a suction pad and was stuck to the sea bed 500 feet below,” he said. “After about 30 minutes it was within 100 feet of the surface but then decided to go back down – it was a real battle.”

Griffiths, a fishing book publisher, said it took four people to lift the skate onto the boat after he brought it to the surface. He said it was only the second time he had been skate fishing.

After taking a few photos of the fish, Griffiths returned it to the sea.

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Grave robbers steal clothing off corpses


There remain a handful of actions that are generally accepted as off-limits by society today. These include: guzzling the communion wine during mass, sending your kids off on Halloween dressed in white robes and a hood, and messing with the dead.

Someone in Burke County, Georgia, apparently missed the memo on the last item, as authorities there reported that grave robbers broke into caskets in an isolated cemetery and removed clothes from the bodies of Confederate and Revolutionary War veterans.

Investigators said grave robbers turned over head stones at Old Church Cemetery in Waynesboro, Ga., pulled caskets from the ground and removed the clothes from the deceased, leaving their bones exposed.

The robbers also disturbed graves containing children’s bodies, according to the Waynesboro True Citizen.

The cemetery is in a secluded location and has been a burial site since the 1700s.

An official with the Burke County Sheriff’s Office said he believes the grave robbers were searching for relics, The Telegraph reported.

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Biologists unravel DNA of ‘living fossil’


The coelacanth was considered to have been extinct for approximately 65 million years until a specimen was caught off the coast of Africa in 1938. Evidence of how far science has progressed was demonstrated Wednesday when biologists announced they had unraveled the rare fish’s DNA.

Scientists are hopeful that the genetic blueprint of the coelacanth, called the “living fossil” fish, can shed light on how life in the sea crept onto land hundreds of millions of years ago, according to Agence France-Presse.

Analysis of the coelacanth genome shows three billion “letters” of DNA code, making it roughly the same size as a human’s, biologists said.

“The genetic blueprint appears to have changed astonishingly little over the eons, pointing to one of the most successful species ever investigated,” according to the wire service.

“We found that the genes overall are evolving significantly slower than in every other fish and land vertebrate that we looked at,” said Jessica Alfoeldi of the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard.

Coelacanths are an exceedingly rare order of fish – only 308 have ever been caught – that include two living species: the West Indian Ocean coelacanth and the Indonesian coelacanth

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Cotton prices drops as projections rise

Global cotton production for the coming year is expected to drop 4 percent, according to estimates by the US Department of Agriculture.

The projected decline is attributed to a significant reduction in Brazil, where the crop for the 2012-13 year is expected to fall by fully one-third.

Record soybean and corn prices, disease outbreak and erratic precipitation are expected to lower the crop in the central Brazilian states of Bahia and Mato Grosso, which together account for more than 80 percent of Brazil’s total annual cotton production, according to Southeast Farm Press.

In the US, production is expected to be slightly more than 17 million bales, which represents a 2 percent increase from the previous month’s USDA estimate and is 11 percent higher than the previous year’s crop, the publication added.

Worldwide, 2012-13 cotton production is estimated at nearly 120 million bales.

Global cotton stocks are expected to be significantly higher this year than last, the USDA also reported.

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