The only news coming out of North Korea that is hardly ever shocking are the country's "election" results.
Pushing the terminology of democracy to its very limit, North Korea's parliament "re-elected" Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un as the head of the country's military body, Agence France Press reports on Wednesday. The announcement of Kim's victory was made by North Korean state media, which added that "all the deputies and participants in the session broke into stormy cheers of 'hurrah!', extending the highest glory and warmest congratulations to him."
The New York Times explains that this week's vote effectively rubber-stamps Kim's leadership of the National Defense Commission, the top seat of power in the isolated nation.
North Korea's parliament, the Supreme People's Assembly, is itself the product of not-so-democratic elections. North Koreans voted for the assembly's deputies last month, but each candidate stood unopposed.
In any case the body has little power, meeting about once a year. "To the best of my knowledge, not a single SPA member has ever voted against a bill or motion introduced by the government," Andrei Lankov, a professor at Kookmin University in South Korea, told the Associated Press.
The rare parliamentary session is instead regarded as a formality that allows Kim to bring in new loyalists. According to the Wall Street Journal, two top officials -- premier Pak Pong Ju and the ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam -- had angered Kim and were slated for removal during this parliamentary session, however news of their fate was scant on Wednesday.
PERTH, Australia (AP) -- After a month of failed hunting and finding debris that turned out to be ordinary flotsam, an Australian ship detected faint pings deep in the Indian Ocean in what an official called the "most promising lead" yet in the search for Flight 370.
Officials coordinating the multinational search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet still urged caution Monday after a weekend that also brought reports of "acoustic noise" picked up by a Chinese vessel also trying to solve the aviation mystery.
The Boeing 777 vanished March 8 while flying from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing with 239 people on board.
The focus of the search changed repeatedly since contact was lost with the plane between Malaysia and Vietnam. It began in the South China Sea, then shifted toward the Strait of Malacca to the west, where Malaysian officials eventually confirmed that military radar had detected the plane.
An analysis of satellite data indicated the plane veered far off course for a still-unknown reason, heading to the southern Indian Ocean, where officials say it went down at sea. They later shifted the search area closer to the west coast of Australia.
"We are cautiously hopeful that there will be a positive development in the next few days, if not hours," Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said in the capital of Kuala Lumpur.
But Angus Houston, the retired Australian air chief marshal who heads the search operation, added: "We haven't found the aircraft yet."
The Ocean Shield, an Australian ship towing sophisticated U.S. Navy listening equipment, detected two distinct, long-lasting sounds underwater that are consistent with the pings from an aircraft's "black boxes" - the flight data and cockpit voice recorders, Houston said.
Navy specialists were urgently trying to pick up the signal detected Sunday by the Ocean Shield so they can triangulate its position and go to the next step of sending an unmanned miniature submarine into the depths to look for any plane wreckage.
Geoff Dell, discipline leader of accident investigation at Central Queensland University in Australia, said it would be "coincidental in the extreme" for the sounds to have come from anything other than an aircraft's flight recorder.
"If they have a got a legitimate signal, and it's not from one of the other vessels or something, you would have to say they are within a bull's roar," he said. "There's still a chance that it's a spurious signal that's coming from somewhere else and they are chasing a ghost, but it certainly is encouraging that they've found something to suggest they are in the right spot."
And in "very deep oceanic water," Houston said, "nothing happens fast."
"Clearly, this is a most promising lead," he said in Perth. "And probably in the search so far, it's probably the best information that we have had."
Houston said the signals picked up by the Ocean Shield were stronger and lasted longer than faint signals a Chinese ship reported hearing about 555 kilometers (345 miles) south in the remote search zone off Australia's west coast.
The British ship HMS Echo was using sophisticated sound-locating equipment to determine whether two separate sounds heard by the Chinese patrol vessel Haixun 01 were related to Flight 370. The Haixun detected a brief "pulse signal" on Friday and a second signal Saturday.
The Chinese reportedly were using a sonar device called a hydrophone dangled over the side of a small boat - something experts said was technically possible but extremely unlikely. The equipment aboard the British and Australian ships is dragged slowly behind each vessel over long distances and is considered far more sophisticated.
Little time is left to locate the flight recorders, whose locator beacons have a battery life of about a month. Tuesday marks exactly one month since the Malaysia Airlines plane disappeared.
China's official Xinhua News Agency reported late Saturday that the signal detected by the Haixun crew was pulsing at 37.5 kilohertz - the same frequency emitted by flight data recorders. Malaysia's civil aviation chief, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, confirmed the frequency emitted by Flight 370's black boxes was 37.5 kilohertz.
The Ocean Shield picked up its signals late Saturday night and early Sunday morning.
The first lasted two hours and 20 minutes before it was lost. The ship then turned around and picked up a signal again - this time recording two distinct "pinger returns" that lasted 13 minutes, Houston said.
"Significantly, this would be consistent with transmissions from both the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder," Houston said.
The frequency used by aircraft flight recorders was chosen because no other devices use it, and because nothing in the natural world mimics it, said William Waldock, a search-and-rescue expert who teaches accident investigation at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Ariz.
"They picked that so there wouldn't be false alarms from other things in the ocean," he said.
But these signals are being detected by computer sweeps, and "not so much a guy with headphones on listening to pings," said U.S. Navy spokesman Chris Johnson. So until the signals are fully analyzed, it's too early to say what they are, he said.
"We'll hear lots of signals at different frequencies," he said. "Marine mammals. Our own ship systems. Scientific equipment, fishing equipment, things like that. And then of course there are lots of ships operating in the area that are all radiating certain signals into the ocean."-
The Ocean Shield is dragging a ping locator at a depth of 3 kilometers (1.9 miles). It is designed to detect signals at a range of 1.8 kilometers (1.12 miles), meaning it would need to be almost on top of the recorders to detect them if they were on the ocean floor, which is about 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles) deep.
"It's like playing hot and cold when you're searching for something and someone's telling you you're getting warmer and warmer and warmer," U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Matthews said. "When you're right on top of it, you get a good return."
While Matthews said the signals picked up by the Ocean Shield were both 33.3 kilohertz, the manufacturer indicated the frequency can drift in older equipment.
If they pick up the signal again, the crew will launch an underwater vehicle to investigate, Matthews said. The Bluefin 21 autonomous sub can create a sonar map of the area to chart any debris on the sea floor. If it maps out a debris field, the crew will replace the sonar system with a camera unit to photograph any wreckage.
The water depth there is right at the limits of the sub's capability.
Meanwhile, the search effort continued on the surface.
Twelve planes and 14 ships scoured three designated zones, one of which overlaps with the Ocean Shield's underwater search. All of the previous surface searches have found only fishing equipment or other sea trash, something that gave Houston pause.
"I would want more confirmation before we say this is it," he said. "Without wreckage, we can't say it's definitely here. We've got to go down and have a look."
Breed reported from Raleigh, N.C. Associated Press writers Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Rohan Sullivan and Kristen Gelineau in Sydney contributed to this report.
SIMFEROPOL, Crimea, March 30 (Reuters) - The hands of a clock on the mainrailway station in Simferopol jumped from 10 P.M. to midnight on Saturday as Crimea switched to Moscow time, symbolicly finalising the region's incorporation into Russia.
Several hundred people gathered on the railway square for the ceremonial change of time, waving Russian national flags and chanting "Crimea! Russia!" after Moscow formally annexed the Black Sea region from Ukranie on March 21.
"I greet you with our return home," Crimea's new pro-Moscow Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov told the crowd.
"I am confident that all that we have done is to the benefit of Crimea and Crimeans," he exclaimed, extending his thanks to "our President Vladimir Putin" to noisy applause from the crowd.
Wrapped in Russian flags and some with tears of joy in their eyes, the people gathered in the provincial capital of Simferopol on Saturday sang Russia's national anthem when the clock moved to Moscow time.
"This is my moment of happiness. We all dreamed of this but did not dare think it may come now," said Tatiana, a 35-year-old waitress dancing to the music played on the square.
Her colleague Inga said she was 11-years-old when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, giving Ukraine independence and splitting Crimea from Moscow.
"My heart was crying back then. But now it is rejoicing, we have returned home. We were born on Moscow time and we are back to it again," she said. "I love the Ukrainian people but I do not recognise Ukraine as a country."
Crimea has already introduced the Russian rouble as its official currency and started paying out pensions and state salaries in the unit since the region voted overwhelmingly in favour of joining Russia on March 16.
Kiev and the West have denounced Russia's annexation of Crimea, an impoverished region of 2 million people with a narrow ehtnic Russian majority, as illegal and undermining peace in Europe.
The United States and Europe curbed cooperation with Moscow and introduced sanctions on Russia as well as some of Putin's closest allies over the move but have refrained from harsh economic sanctions.
Kiev has ordered its troops in Crimea to retreat to the mainland, acknowledging defeat after Russian soldiers grabbed Ukrainian bases in the region one after another in a largely bloodless seizure.
Scores of mid-level Russian officials are now in Simferopol helping the local authorities to bring Crimea's legal and tax regulations in line with the Russian ones, a process due to be finalised by the end of the year.
Aksyonov and Crimea's new authorities hope Russia will now sponsor an economic upgrade of the region, a project likley to put additional pressure on the state coffers in Moscow that are already strained from a slowing economy. (Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Angus MacSwan)
YOKOHAMA, Japan (AP) — In an authoritative report due out Monday a United Nations climate panel for the first time is connecting hotter global temperatures to hotter global tempers. Top scientists are saying that climate change will complicate and worsen existing global security problems, such as civil wars, strife between nations and refugees.
They're not saying it will cause violence, but will be an added factor making things even more dangerous. Fights over resources, like water and energy, hunger and extreme weather will all go into the mix to destabilize the world a bit more, says the report by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The summary of the report is being finalized this weekend by the panel in Yokohama.
That's a big change from seven years ago, the last time the IPCC addressed how warming affected Earth, said report lead author Chris Field of the CarnegieInstitution of Science in California. The summary that political leaders read in early 2007 didn't mention security issues will, he said, because of advances in research.
"There's enough smoke there that we really need to pay attention to this," said OhioUniversity security and environment professor Geoff Dabelko, one of the lead authors of the report's chapter on security and climate change.
For the past seven years, research in social science has found more links between climate and conflict, study authors say, with the full report referencing hundreds ofstudies on climate change and conflict.
The U.S. Defense Department earlier this month in its once-every-four-years strategic review, called climate change a "threat multiplier" to go with poverty, political instability and social tensions worldwide. Warming will trigger new problems but also provide countries new opportunities for resources and shipping routes in places such as the melting Arctic, the Pentagon report says.
After the climate panel's 2007 report, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote that along with other causes, the conflict in the Darfur region of western Sudan "began as an ecological crisis, arising at least in part from climate change. " While the IPCC report this year downplays global warming's role in that particular strife, saying other issues were far more influential, the report's drafts do add that there is "justifiable common concern" that climate change increases the risk of fighting in similar circumstances.
"Climate change will not directly cause conflict — but it will exacerbate issues of poor governance, resource inequality and social unrest," retired U.S. Navy Adm. David Titley, now a Pennsylvania State Universityprofessor of meteorology, wrote in an email. "The Arab Spring and Syria are two recent examples."
But Titley, who wasn't part of the IPCC report, says "if you are already living in a place affected by violent conflict — I suspect climate change becomes the least of your worries."
That illustrates the tricky calculus of climate and conflict, experts say. It's hard to point at violence and draw a direct climate link — to say how much blame goes to warming and how much is from more traditional factors like poverty and ethnic differences. Then looking into future is even more difficult.
"If you think it's hard to predict rainfall in one spot 100 years from now, it's even harder to predict social stability," said Jeff Severinghaus, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution for Oceanography who isn't part of this climate panel. "Obviously that's going to be controversial. The most important thing is that it's going to be talked about."
Severinghaus and other scientists say this will be one of the more contentious issues as the panel representing more than 100 nations meets here and edits word-by-word a 30-page summary of the multi-volume report for political leaders. Observers said the closed door meeting went through the security and climate section Sunday, in the hurried last hours of editing.
There's an entire 63-page chapter on security problems, but most leaders will read the handful of paragraphs summarizing that and that's where there may be some issues, he says.
The chapter on national security says there is "robust evidence" that "human security will be progressively threatened as climate changes." It says it can destabilize the world in multiple ways by making it harder for people to make a living, increasing mass migrations, and making it harder for countries to keep control of their populations.
The migration issue is big because as refugees flee storms and other climate problems, that adds to security issues, the report and scientists say
While some climate scientists, environmental groups and politicians see the conflict-climate link as logical and clear, others emphasize nuances in research.
The social science literature has shown an indirect link, especially with making poverty worse, which will add to destabilization, but it is not the same as saying there would be climate wars, said University of Exeter's Neil Adger, one of the study's lead authors. It's not exactly the four horsemen of the apocalypse, he adds.
Joshua Goldstein, an international relations professor and expert on conflict at theUniversity of Massachusetts, sees that link, but says it is probably weaker than people think. It's not as a big a problem as other impacts from climate change, like those on ecosystems, weather disasters and economic costs, he says.
Poverty is the issue when it comes to security problems — and policies to fight climate change increase poverty, says David Kreutzer at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington.
But environmental groups such as the Environmental Justice Foundation are issuing reports that dovetail with what the IPCC is saying.
Titley, the retired admiral, holds out hope that if nations deal with climate change jointly, it can bring peace instead of war to battling regions.