G20 defuses talk of "currency war", no accord on debt

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Group of 20 nations declared on Saturday there would be no 'currency war' and deferred plans to set new debt-cutting targets in an indication of concern about the fragile state of the world economy.

Japan's expansive policies, which have driven down the yen, escaped criticism in a statement thrashed out in Moscow by financial policymakers from the G20, which groups developed and emerging markets and accounts for 90 percent of the world economy.

After late night talks, finance ministers and central bankers agreed on wording closer than expected to a joint statement issued last Tuesday by the Group of Seven rich nations backing market-determined exchange rates.

A draft communique seen by delegates on Friday had steered clear of the G7's call for fiscal and monetary policy not to be targeted at exchange rates but the later version included a G20 commitment to refrain from competitive devaluations and stated monetary policy would be directed at price stability and growth.

"The language has been strengthened since our discussions last night," Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told reporters. "It's stronger than it was, but it was quite clear last night that everyone around the table wants to avoid any sort of currency disputes."

The communique, seen by Reuters ahead of publication, did not single out Japan for aggressive monetary and fiscal policies that have seen the yen drop 20 percent.

The statement reflected a substantial, but not complete, endorsement of Tuesday's statement by the G7 nations - the United States, Japan, Britain, Canada, France, Germany and Italy.

"We all agreed on the fact that we refuse to enter any currency war," French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici told reporters.


The text also contained a commitment to credible medium-term fiscal strategy, but stopped short of setting specific goals.

A debt-cutting pact struck in Toronto in 2010 will expire this year if leaders fail to agree to extend it at a G20 summit of leaders in St Petersburg in September.

"Advanced economies will develop credible medium-term fiscal strategies ... by the St. Petersburg summit," the communique said.

The United States says is on track to meet its Toronto pledge but argues that the pace of future fiscal consolidation must not snuff out demand. Germany and others are pressing for another round of binding debt-cutting goals.

Backing in the communique for the use of domestic monetary policy to support economic recovery reflected the U.S. Federal Reserve's commitment to monetary stimulus through quantitative easing, or QE, to promote recovery and jobs.

QE entails large-scale bond buying -- $85 billion a month in the Fed's case -- that helps economic growth but creates money, much of which has leaked into emerging markets, threatening to destabilize them.

That was offset in the communique by a commitment to minimize "negative spillovers" of the resulting financial flows that emerging markets fear may pump up asset bubbles and ruin their export competitiveness.

"Major developed nations (should) pay attention to their monetary policy spillover," Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao was quoted by state news agency Xinhua as saying in Moscow.

"Major developed countries' implementation of excessively relaxed currency policy has an influence on the world economy."

Russia, this year's chair of the G20, said the group had failed to reach agreement on medium-term budget deficit levels and also expressed concern about ultra-loose policies that it and other big emerging economies say could store up trouble for later.

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said a rebalancing of global growth required more than an adjustment of exchange rates.

"Structural reforms in all countries, either with a positive or negative balance of payments, should play a bigger role," he said in an address to Saturday's talks, also highlighting the risk of spillover effects from unconventional monetary policy.

The G20 put together a huge financial backstop to halt a market meltdown in 2009 but has failed to reach those heights since. At successive meetings, Germany has pressed the United States and others to do more to tackle their debts. Washington in turn has urged Berlin to do more to increase demand.

On currencies, the G20 text reiterated its commitment last November, to move towards "exchange rate flexibility to reflect underlying fundamentals and avoid persistent exchange rate misalignments".

"The G7 made a very clear statement this week. I think you'll see the G20 echo what was said, and say that currencies should not be used as a tool of competitive devaluation," Britain's finance minister, George Osborne, said in Moscow.

"Countries shouldn't make the mistake of the past of using currencies as a tool of economic warfare."

(Additional reporting by Randall Palmer, Lesley Wroughton, Tetsushi Kajimoto, Jan Strupczewski, Lidia Kelly, Katya Golubkova, Jason Bush and Michael Martina. Writing by Douglas Busvine. Editing by Timothy Heritage/Mike Peacock)

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Different looks for Heat, Lakers at All-Star break

HOUSTON (AP) — The last All-Star game in Houston was a glimpse of what Miami Heat games would become.

LeBron James scored 29 points and was the MVP. Dwyane Wade added 20 and made the go-ahead basket to cap a huge comeback, and the Eastern Conference beat the West 122-120 in 2006.

"I had a pretty good experience the first time around, looking for the same thing this time," Wade said Friday.

The way things are going for the Heat, why not?

And think about this: James was already the best player that night, and he was nowhere near the player he is today.

"I'm a better player. At that point in time, I wasn't a complete basketball player. I couldn't shoot as well as I can now, I never posted up back then," James said. "More games, more playoff games, more knowledge. You continue to learn each and every day, it makes you a better player. That's what you want, to become a better player. That's what I want. I want to be the greatest of all-time. I try to do whatever it takes to get me in that position.

"Seven years, I've tried to improve each and every year."

Back where they first teamed up as All-Stars, Wade, James and Chris Bosh will start together for the East on Sunday night, another highlight for the NBA champions.

Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers aren't having nearly as much fun in a season so disappointing that Bryant was asked Friday if the All-Star weekend was a "retreat" for him.

"I don't know if it's a retreat, it's just more of an opportunity to get some rest, regroup, put the first half of the season behind us and move on," he said.

As Wade knows, the All-Star break can be just that — a break — from a forgettable season.

He arrived for the 2008 All-Star game with a 9-43 record after the Heat lost on Valentine's Day to the Chicago Bulls, on their way to a 15-win debacle just two years after they won the NBA title.

"I put all that aside, though, and I came and I enjoyed the weekend, and when I went back to Miami, it was like, 'Oh my God, we're back in it,'" Wade said. "But All-Star weekend, you just enjoy being an All-Star. You enjoy being around the guys. You can kind of forget about that a little bit, unless you have the cameras and the microphones in front of you asking you questions about it, but besides that you try to enjoy it."

This time, the Heat celebrated Valentine's Day in Oklahoma City with a 110-100 victory over the Thunder, the team they beat in five games last summer for the title. They have won seven in a row, James is playing arguably the best basketball of his career, and they can relax and reminisce as they return to Houston.

"It's really indescribable," Bosh said, "just to not only win a championship with great guys, be in a great locker room, and just to have fun doing it, but just to be an All-Star every year, play with great teammates. I mean to play in front of a lot people in arenas every night. I don't take those things for granted."

James just ran off an NBA-record six straight games with at least 30 points and 60 percent shooting from the field, and seems to be distancing himself from anyone else that can take the MVP award he won last year for the third time in four years.

"He's doing well," Bosh said in a Texas-sized understatement. "That's the best way to put it."

Bosh was chosen as a starter Friday by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who will lead the East. He replaces Boston guard Rajon Rondo, who pulled out with a torn ACL.

Bryant and Howard are still here, away from a Los Angeles season that's been anything but a Hollywood story.

Considered a title contender after acquiring Howard and Steve Nash in the summer, the Lakers fell to 25-29 after they were blown out Wednesday by the rival Clippers, who opened a 13-game lead over them in the Pacific Division standings.

Smiling as he sat with his daughter, Natalia, Bryant laughed that he wished the All-Star break was a chance for the Lakers to "hit the reset button" on what he's said has been a most difficult season.

"Hopefully there's an easy button like in the commercial when we come back in the second half of the season and things are a little easier for us," he said.

Howard has battled injuries to his back and shoulder and has been nothing like the player who has been the NBA's dominant big man in recent years. He said at times he hasn't been having fun and has tried to ignore all the bad news around the team.

"You just try to stay away from the tube and do as much as I can to rehab my back and my shoulder and my mind, and really just get away from everything when I'm not playing basketball," he said.

If he's looking for a chance to enjoy himself this season, it may get no better than the next few days.

"It's a great weekend, it's an unbelievable weekend for the fans to be able to put all their favorite players together in one venue," James said. "We have a great time with it."


Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney

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Meteor shows need to keep eye on sky

By Colin Stuart, special for CNN

February 15, 2013 -- Updated 1512 GMT (2312 HKT)

Meteor explodes over Russia

Meteor explodes over Russia

Meteor explodes over Russia

Meteor explodes over Russia

Meteor explodes over Russia

Meteor explodes over Russia

Meteor explodes over Russia

Meteor explodes over Russia


  • Meteor explosion above Russia left hundreds of people injured

  • Meteor came on day asteroid expected to pass 27,000 kilometers from Earth

  • Earth is sprinkled with around 170 craters also caused by debris falling from space

  • Stuart says unexpected meteor shows importance of monitoring space for potential threats

Editor's note: Colin Stuart is an astronomy and science writer, who also works as a Freelance Astronomer for the Royal Observatory Greenwich in London. His first book is due to be published by Carlton Books in September 2013. Follow @skyponderer on Twitter.

London (CNN) -- Reports coming from Russia suggest that hundreds of people have been injured by a meteor falling from space. The force of the fireball, which seems to have crashed into a lake near the town of Chebarkul in the Ural Mountains, roared through the sky early on Friday morning local time, blowing out windows and damaging buildings. This comes on the same day that astronomers and news reporters alike were turning their attention to a 40 meter asteroid -- known as 2012 DA14 -- which is due for a close approach with Earth on Friday evening. The asteroid will skirt around our planet, however, missing by some 27,000 kilometers (16,777 miles). Based on early reports, there is no reason to believe the two events are connected.

Read more: Russian meteor injures hundreds

Colin Stuart

Colin Stuart

And yet it just goes to show how much space debris exists up there above our heads. It is easy to think of a serene solar system, with the eight planets quietly orbiting around the Sun and only a few moons for company. The reality is that we also share our cosmic neighborhood with millions of other, much smaller bodies: asteroids. Made of rock and metal, they range in size from a few meters across, up to the largest -- Ceres -- which is 1000 kilometers wide. They are left over rubble from the chaotic birth of our solar system around 5000 million years ago and, for the most part, are found in a "belt" between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. But some are known to move away from this region, either due to collisions with other asteroids or the gravitational pull of a planet. And that can bring them into close proximity to the Earth.

Read more: Saving Earth from asteroids

Once a piece of space-rock enters our atmosphere, it becomes known as a meteor. Traveling through the sky at a few kilometers per second, friction with the air can cause the meteor to break up into several pieces. Eyewitnesses have described seeing a burst of light and hearing loud, thunderous noises. This, too, is due to the object tearing through the gases above our heads. If any of the fragments make it to the ground, only then are they called meteorites.

Such events are rare, but not unprecedented. An object entered Earth's atmosphere in 1908 before breaking up over Siberia. The force of the explosion laid waste to a dense area of forest covering more than 2000 square kilometers. It is not hard to imagine the devastation of such an event over a more highly populated region. The Earth is sprinkled with around 170 craters also caused by debris falling from space. The largest is found near the town of Vredefort in South Africa. The impact of a much larger asteroid -- perhaps as big as 15 kilometers across -- is famously thought to have finished off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Opinion: Don't count 'doomsday asteroid' out yet

It is easy to see why, then, that astronomers are keen to discover the position and trajectory of as many asteroids as possible. That way they can work out where they are heading and when, if at all, they might pose a threat to us on Earth. It is precisely this sort of work that led to the discovery of asteroid 2012 DA14 last February by a team of Spanish astronomers. However, today's meteor strike shows that it is not currently possible to pick up everything.

A non-profit foundation, led by former NASA astronaut Ed Lu, wants to send a dedicated asteroid-hunting telescope into space that can scan the solar system for any potential threats. For now, astronomers will use Friday's fly-by to bounce radar beams off 2012 DA14's surface, hoping to learn more about its motion and structure. One day this information could be used to help move an asteroid out of an Earth-impacting orbit. This latest meteor over Russia just goes to show how important such work is and how crucial it is that we keep our eye on the sky.

Read more: NASA estimates 4,700 'potentially hazardous' asteroids

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Colin Stuart.

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1 dead, 3 wounded in 90 minutes Friday night

Chicago police were flagged down by a man on the street as they responded to the sound of gunfire Friday night and found a woman lying on the ground, bleeding from gunshot wounds to her upper body.

She and three others were wounded between about 5:55 p.m. and 7:20 p.m. on the South and West sides, according to Chicago police, among a total of six people shot Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. 

The woman, whose age wasn't available, was shot in the 1100 block of North Pulaski Road, just a bit south of Division Street in the West Humboldt Park neighborhood about 7:05 p.m. Officers in the area heard the gunfire and headed toward it - that's when they were flagged down. 

The woman was talking when taken away in an ambulance but suffered a wound to her back and a second below her armpit and was pronounced dead at Mount Sinai Hospital. She may have been stepped on as people fled the scene, police said. 

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Four others survived shootings Friday night and Saturday morning. 

Before 3 a.m. a man was shot in the arm at a party in the 1100 block of South St. Louis Avenue in the Homan Square neighborhood. 

About 7:20 p.m., two men were shot in the 7800 block of South Merrill Avenue in the South Shore neighborhood. One was shot in the knee and the other in the ankle. The pair, 19 and 20, were at a party when someone crept up a gangway and opened fire, police said. 

The older was shot in the knee and the younger in the ankle, police said. It's not clear what hospitals they were taken to. 

About 5:55 p.m., a man sitting in his car near his home was shot in the leg by one of three guys who approached him on foot, police said. The 29-year-old was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center, where his condition had stabilized.

Earlier Friday, a 17-year-old was shot in the hand in the 7800 block of South Morgan Street in the Gresham neighborhood.

Check back for more information.

Twitter: @peternickeas

Twitter: @ltaford

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Exclusive: North Korea tells China of preparations for fresh nuclear test - source

BEIJING (Reuters) - North Korea has told its key ally, China, that it is prepared to stage one or even two more nuclear tests this year in an effort to force the United States into diplomatic talks, said a source with direct knowledge of the message.

Further tests could also be accompanied this year by another rocket launch, said the source, who has direct access to the top levels of government in both Beijing and Pyongyang.

North Korea conducted its third nuclear test on Tuesday, drawing global condemnation and a stern warning from the United States that it was a threat and a provocation.

"It's all ready. A fourth and fifth nuclear test and a rocket launch could be conducted soon, possibly this year," the source said, adding that the fourth nuclear test would be much larger than the third, at an equivalent of 10 kilotons of TNT.

The tests will be undertaken, the source said, unless Washington holds talks with North Korea and abandons its policy of what Pyongyang sees as attempts at regime change.

North Korea also reiterated its long-standing desire for the United States to sign a final peace agreement with it and establish diplomatic relations, he said. North Korea remains technically at war with both the United States and South Korea after the Korean war ended in 1953 with a truce.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland urged North Korea to "refrain from additional provocative actions that would violate its international obligations" under three different sets of U.N. Security Council resolutions that prohibit nuclear and missile tests.

North Korea "is not going to achieve anything in terms of the health, welfare, safety, future of its own people by these kinds of continued provocative actions. It's just going to lead to more isolation," Nuland told reporters.

The Pentagon also weighed in, calling North Korea's missile and nuclear programs "a threat to U.S. national security and to international peace and security."

"The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and steadfast in our defense commitments to allies in the region," said Pentagon spokeswoman Major Catherine Wilkinson.

Initial estimates of this week's test from South Korea's military put its yield at the equivalent of 6-7 kilotons, although a final assessment of yield and what material was used in the explosion may be weeks away.

North Korea's latest test, its third since 2006, prompted warnings from Washington and others that more sanctions would be imposed on the isolated state. The U.N. Security Council has only just tightened sanctions on Pyongyang after it launched a long-range rocket in December.

Pyongyang is banned under U.N. sanctions from developing missile or nuclear technology after its 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests.

North Korea worked to ready its nuclear test site, about 100 km (60 miles) from its border with China, throughout last year, according to commercially available satellite imagery. The images show that it may have already prepared for at least one more test, beyond Tuesday's subterranean explosion.

"Based on satellite imagery that showed there were the same activities in two tunnels, they have one tunnel left after the latest test," said Kune Y. Suh, a nuclear engineering professor at Seoul National University in South Korea.

Analysis of satellite imagery released on Friday by specialist North Korea website 38North showed activity at a rocket site that appeared to indicate it was being prepared for a launch (http://38north.org/2013/02/tonghae021413/).


President Barack Obama pledged after this week's nuclear test "to lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats" and diplomats at the U.N. Security Council have already started discussing potential new sanctions.

North Korea has said the test was a reaction to "U.S. hostility" following its December rocket launch. Critics say the rocket launch was aimed at developing technology for an intercontinental ballistic missile.

"(North) Korea is not afraid of (further) sanctions," the source said. "It is confident agricultural and economic reforms will boost grain harvests this year, reducing its food reliance on China."

North Korea's isolated and small economy has few links with the outside world apart from China, its major trading partner and sole influential diplomatic ally.

China signed up for international sanctions against North Korea after the 2006 and 2009 nuclear tests and for a U.N. Security Council resolution passed in January to condemn the latest rocket launch. However, Beijing has stopped short of abandoning all support for Pyongyang.

Sanctions have so far not discouraged North Korea from pursuing its nuclear ambitions.

"It is like watching the same movie over and over again," said Lee Woo-young, a professor at Seoul's University of North Korean Studies. "The idea that stronger sanctions make North Korea stop developing nuclear programs isn't effective in my view."

The source with ties to Beijing and Pyongyang said China would again support U.N. sanctions. He declined to comment on what level of sanctions Beijing would be willing to endorse.

"When China supported U.N. sanctions ... (North) Korea angrily called China a puppet of the United States," he said. "There will be new sanctions which will be harsh. China is likely to agree to it," he said, without elaborating.

He said however that Beijing would not cut food and fuel supplies to North Korea, a measure it reportedly took after a previous nuclear test.

He said North Korea's actions were a distraction for China's leadership, which was concerned that the escalations could inflame public opinion in China and hasten military build-ups in the region.

The source said he saw little room for compromise under North Korea's youthful new leader, Kim Jong-un. The third Kim to rule North Korea is just 30 years old and took over from his father in December 2011.

He appears to have followed his father, Kim Jong-il, in the "military first" strategy that has pushed North Korea ever closer to a workable nuclear missile at the expense of economic development.

"He is much tougher than his father," the source said.

(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Phillip Stewart in WASHINGTON; Writing by David Chance; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, David Brunnstrom and Jackie Frank)

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Yen firms as G20 eyed, weak Europe dampens mood

LONDON (Reuters) - The yen firmed on Friday as investors braced for the likelihood of more conflicting comments on currencies from the G20 meeting, while a revival in worries about global economic growth weighed on shares and commodities.

The G20 forum in Moscow is in the spotlight as officials are expected to discuss whether the ultra loose monetary polices of the United States, Japan, Britain and the euro zone depart from the group's commitment to market-driven exchange rates.

The dollar shed 0.5 percent to 92.46 yen, dropping as far as a one-week low of 92.25 yen while the euro fell to a two-week low of 123.10 yen.

The Japanese currency gained some support when a Russian official said drafting the final communique from the G20 meeting was proving difficult, but the text would not single out Japan for criticism.

"There is an issue of 'who started the fire?' You can say that Japan has getting really aggressive but then they might say, well what have Americans done, what about the British and so on," said William De Vijlder, chief investment officer at BNP Paribas Investment Partners.

The yen was also underpinned by expectations that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is close to selecting his nominee for Bank of Japan governor. A decision could come in the next few days, sources close to the process told Reuters [ID:nL4N0BF1LS]

Shares were broadly flat with the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index <.fteu3> little changed at 1,163.34 points following dismal gross domestic product data from across the euro zone on Thursday.

The surprisingly sharp contraction in the region's economy during the final three months of 2012 has undermined hopes of an early recovery from recession, but also boosted talk that the European Central Bank may have to ease policy further.

Frankfurt's DAX <.gdaxi>, Paris's CAC-40 <.fchi> and London's FTSE <.ftse> were around 0.1 to 0.3 percent lower.

The weaker demand outlook implied by the GDP data sent Brent crude under $118 a barrel and on course for its first weekly loss since mid-January.

Front-month Brent futures LCOc1 fell 30 cents to $117.70 a barrel, while Gold dropped to a six-week low of $1,629.89 an ounce, and was headed for its biggest weekly drop since December.

(Reporting by Richard Hubbard; editing by David Stamp)

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Pistorius in court in murder case

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Paralympic superstar Oscar Pistorius openly wept as he appeared in court Friday, charged with the murder of his girlfriend as South Africans closely watched developments in a killing that has stunned the country.

Reeva Steenkamp, a model and budding reality TV show participant, was shot and killed at Pistorius' upmarket home in an eastern suburb of the South African capital in the predawn hours of Thursday, sending the country reeling.

Pistorius solemnly entered court in a gray suit and blue tie. He later broke down in tears.

Chief Magistrate Desmond Nasir was presiding over the hearing which likely will include Pistorius' request for bail. Police oppose the granting of bail.

Pistorius' father, Henke, was in the court as was his brother Carl, sister Aimee and other supporters of the 26-year-old double-amputee athlete.

Police said Friday an autopsy on the body of the victim was taking place. Lt. Col. Katlego Mogale said the results of the autopsy would not be published.

More than 100 people packed into Courtroom C at Pretoria Magistrate's Court, including dozens of photographers and videographers.

The Paralympian and Olympic athlete was earlier seen leaving a police station, his jacket completely covering his head as he got into a police vehicle.

He was holding what appeared to be a white handkerchief in one hand as he was led by officers to a police van outside the Boschkop Police Station in eastern Pretoria, where he had been questioned on Thursday and had spent the night in custody.

Police said the victim was shot four times at Pistorius' villa in a gated community. Officers found a 9 mm pistol inside the home and arrested Pistorius on a murder charge.

Pistorius made history at the London Olympics last year when he became the first double-amputee track athlete to compete at any games. He didn't win a medal but did make the semifinals of the 400 meters and the final of the 4X400 relay, propelling the world's best-known Paralympian to the level of an international track star.


AP Sports Writer Imray reported from Johannesburg. Associated Press writer Michelle Faul contributed to this story.

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What does Kim intend with nuclear test?


  • North Korea enjoys international community chatter about its nuclear program

  • Dates of nuclear test and rocket launch have significance, writes Joo Sung Ha

  • Joo works as a newspaper journalist and came from North Korea

Editor's note: Joo Sung Ha is a Seoul-based journalist for Donga Ilbo, a newspaper in South Korea. He graduated from North Korea's Kim Il Sung University and trained as a reservist artillery officer. He has been imprisoned in China and North Korea. This piece was submitted in Korean and has been translated.

(CNN) -- On Tuesday, the international community reacted to North Korea's third nuclear test by calling its action "provocative," while South Korea's foreign minister warned that it was a "clear threat to international peace and security."

It was what Kim Jong Un, the nation's young leader, wanted.

From the North Korean government's view, the more pressure the international community places on its nuclear testing, the better. They enjoy the chatter among the world's leaders and at the U.N. about how North Korea's nuclear program must be stopped at all cost.

Joo Sung Ha defected from North Korea and is a journalist based in Seoul.

Joo Sung Ha defected from North Korea and is a journalist based in Seoul.

On January 23, the North Korean foreign ministry notified that they intended to carry out a test. They also sent photos of Kim Jong Un holding a meeting with senior officials.

If Kim had not acted by going through with the underground blast, it would have appeared that he had succumbed to pressure from the international community. In North Korea the authority of the "king" in the dynasty system cannot be compromised.

The date of the nuclear test -- conducted on February 12 -- is also significant, as it fell just days short of the 71st birthday of Kim's late father, Kim Jong Il, on February 16. Many North Korean events are associated with symbolic dates for the Kim family. On December 12, just days before the first anniversary of Kim Jong II's death, Pyongyang launched its first rocket into orbit -- despite international uproar.

North Korea has staked its pride on these events. Saving face is more important than international sanctions, even if hundreds of thousands of ordinary North Koreans have died of hunger.

Even so, I cannot say the motivation behind North Korea's nuclear test is for Kim's pride alone. It also sends a message to its people that "Kim Jong Un leads the world."

Even with the nuclear test, the government knows that war will not arise. But to its people, it can give the impression that war is impending.

Inheriting his father's position at such a young age -- he's believed to be in his 20s -- many in North Korea may question whether Kim has the clout to lead. But through this test, Kim wanted to send a strong message domestically that he is in charge.

What happens if they do develop an effective nuclear weapon? Does North Korea intend to attack the United States? That is impossible. If North Korea attacks, it will be sent back to the Stone Ages -- the leadership in Pyongyang is well aware of that.

Does this point to an eventual attack on South Korea then? South Korea is protected by a nuclear umbrella -- meaning that the United States will protect it. In return for Seoul limiting its own nuclear weapons capability, Washington offers its protection. If North Korea attacks South Korea, it's effectively an attack on the United States.

Another major reason why North Korea is developing a nuclear capability is that its conventional military is dated and there are doubts about whether it can defend itself. While North Korea has an estimated 1.2 million soldiers, making it the third largest military behind China and United States, this is only a number.

It may be hard to believe but for almost 20 years, there have been continued food shortages in the military, to the extent that as many as 20% to 30% of the armed forces have actually disappeared -- with many deserting their post by way of a bribe to their superiors. Those that do remain in service are often involved in petty crime to get by, such as stealing from the civilian population.

North Korea requires military service for 10 years. During those years, most are discharged without even having fired 30 bullets. Without sufficient fuel for planes, airborne troops have not had much training. In 1990, I stood guard at a post in Pyongyang. The anti-aircraft weapon I used was a 1940s era model from the Soviet Union.

If war is to occur, North Korea could not stand, even for days, and it is well aware of that. But could it count on traditional ally, China, for support?

Starting from Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea, the North Korean regime has never fully trusted China. The message that China is a nation that could strike North Korea at the "back of the head" has been passed down over the years to Kim Jong Un, his grandson. Since North Korea cannot count on Beijing fully, it has turned to the nuclear option as a deterrent.

North Korea would not risk a pre-emptive attack on the South, but the Kim dynasty now believes it has a card to protect itself, which is its main objective. For this reason, even if millions of people starve to death in the effects of the harsh sanctions, North Korea will keep trying to develop its own nuclear capabilities.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Joo Sung Ha.

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Passengers leave crippled ship

MOBILE, Alabama—

A crippled cruise ship that lost power for more than four days in the Gulf of Mexico was pulled into a port in Mobile, Alabama, late on Thursday as passengers cheered the end of a "hellish" voyage marked by overflowing toilets and stinking cabins.

Tugboats pulled the Carnival Triumph into port in a drama that played out live on U.S. cable news stations, creating another public relations nightmare for cruise giant Carnival Corp. Last year, its Costa Concordia luxury ship grounded off the coast of Italy, killing 32 people.

Exhausted passengers lined the ship's decks, waving towels and flashlights and cheering as it pulled into dock, while hundreds of people watched from the shore.

Carnival officials said it could take up to five hours for the more than 4,200 people on board to disembark the ship, which has only one working elevator.

Once on solid ground, many passengers still had a lengthy journey ahead. More than 100 buses were lined up waiting to carry passengers on a seven-hour bus ride to Galveston, Texas, while others had elected to stay overnight in hotels in Mobile before flying home, Carnival said.

An engine fire on Sunday knocked out power and plumbing across most of the 893-foot vessel and left it adrift in the Gulf of Mexico. The ship, which went into service in 1999, was on a four-day cruise and on its way back from a stop in Cozumel, Mexico.

Over the last four days, passengers described an overpowering stench on parts of the ship and complained to relatives and media by cellphone that toilets and drainpipes overflowed, soaking many cabins and interior passages in sewage and turning the vessel into what some have described as a giant Petri dish.

"The thing I'm looking forward to most is having a working toilet and not having to breathe in the smell of fecal matter," said Jacob Combs, an Austin, Texas-based sales executive with a healthcare and hospice company.

Combs, 30, who said he had been traveling with friends and family on the Triumph, had nothing but praise for its crew members, saying they had gone through "hell" cleaning up after some of the passengers on the sea cruise.

"Just imagine the filth," Combs told Reuters. "People were doing crazy things and going to the bathroom in sinks and showers. It was inhuman. The stewards would go in and clean it all up. They were constantly cleaning," he said.

Officials greeted passengers with warm food and blankets and cell phones. Carnival Cruise Lines Chief Executive Gerry Cahill told reporters he planned to board the ship and personally apologize to passengers for their ordeal.

"I know the conditions on board were very poor," he said. "I know it was difficult. I want to apologize for subjecting our guests to that," he said.

"We pride ourselves with providing our guests with a great vacation experience and clearly we failed in this particular case."

Operated by Carnival Cruise Lines, the flagship brand of Carnival Corp, the ship left Galveston a week ago carrying 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew. It was supposed to return there on Monday.

A Coast Guard cutter escorted the Triumph on its long voyage into port since Monday, and a Coast Guard helicopter ferried about 3,000 lbs of equipment including a generator to the stricken ship late on Wednesday.

Earlier in the week, some passengers reported on the poor conditions on the Triumph. They said people were getting sick and passengers had been told to use plastic "biohazard" bags as makeshift toilets.

Smoke from the engine fire was so thick that passengers on the lower decks in the rear of the ship had to be permanently evacuated and slept the rest of the voyage on the decks under sheets, passengers said.


Cahill has issued several apologies and Carnival, the world's largest cruise company, says passengers will receive a full credit for the cruise plus transportation expenses, a future cruise credit equal to the amount paid for this voyage, plus a payment of $500 a person to help compensate for the "very challenging circumstances" aboard the ship.

Mary Poret, who spoke to her 12-year-old daughter aboard the Triumph on Monday, rejected Cahill's apology in comments to CNN on Thursday, as she waited anxiously in Mobile with a friend for the Triumph's arrival.

"Seeing urine and feces sloshing in the halls, sleeping on the floor, nothing to eat, people fighting over food, $500? What's the emotional cost? You can't put money on that," Poret said.

Some passengers said conditions onboard improved on Thursday after the generator was delivered to the ship, providing power for a grill to cook hot food.

Carnival Corp Chairman and CEO Micky Arison faced criticism in January 2012 for failing to travel to Italy and take personal charge of the Costa Concordia crisis after the luxury cruise ship operated by Carnival's Costa Cruises brand grounded on rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio. The tragedy unleashed numerous lawsuits against his company.

The cruise ship mogul has taken a low-key approach to the Triumph situation as well, even as it grabbed a growing share of the U.S. media spotlight. His only known public appearance since Sunday was courtside on Tuesday at a game played by his Miami Heat championship professional basketball team.

"I think they really are trying to do the right thing, but I don't think they have been able to communicate it effectively," said Marcia Horowitz, an executive who handles crisis management at Rubenstein Associates, a New York-based public relations firm.

"Most of all, you really need a face for Carnival," she added. "You can do all the right things. But unless you communicate it effectively, it will not see the light of day."

Carnival Corp shares closed down 11 cents at $37.35 in trading on Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares closed down 4 percent at $37.46 on Wednesday after the company said voyage disruptions and repair costs related to Carnival Triumph could shave up to 10 cents a share off its second-half earnings.

The Triumph is a Bahamian-flagged vessel and the Bahamas Maritime Authority will be the primary agency investigating the cause of its engine room fire.

Earlier this month, Carnival repaired an electrical issue on one of the Triumph's alternators. The company said there was no evidence of any connection between the repair and the fire.

For all the passengers' grievances, they will likely find it difficult to sue the cruise operator for any damages, legal sources said. Over the years, the cruise industry has put in place a legal structure that shields operators from big-money lawsuits.

(Additional reporting by David Adams and Kevin Gray in Miami, Writing by Tom Brown; Editing by Peter Cooney and Lisa Shumaker)

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Meteorite hits central Russia, 400 hurt

YEKATERINBURG/CHELYABINSK, Russia (Reuters) - About 400 people were injured when a meteorite shot across the sky in central Russia on Friday sending fireballs crashing to Earth, smashing windows and setting off car alarms.

Residents on their way to work in Chelyabinsk heard what sounded like an explosion, saw a bright light and then felt a shockwave, according to a Reuters correspondent in the industrial city 1,500 km (950 miles) east of Moscow.

The meteorite raced across the horizon, leaving a long white trail in its wake which could be seen as far as 200 km (125 miles) away in Yekaterinburg. Car alarms went off, windows shattered and mobile phones worked only intermittently.

Chelyabinsk city authorities said about 400 people sought medical help, mainly for light injuries caused by flying glass.

"I was driving to work, it was quite dark, but it suddenly became as bright as if it was day," said Viktor Prokofiev, 36, a resident of Yekaterinburg in the Urals Mountains.

"I felt like I was blinded by headlights," he said.

No fatalities were reported but President Vladimir Putin, who was due to host Finance Ministry officials from the Group of 20 nations in Moscow, and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev were informed.

A local ministry official said the meteor shower may have been connected with an asteroid the size of an Olympic swimming pool that was due to pass Earth at a distance of 27,520 km (17,100 miles) but this could not be confirmed.

Windows were shattered on Chelyabinsk's central Lenin Street and some of the frames of shop fronts buckled.

A loud noise, resembling an explosion, rang out at around 9.20 a.m. (0520 GMT). The shockwave could be felt in apartment buildings in the industrial city's centre.

"I was standing at a bus stop, seeing off my girlfriend," said Andrei, a local resident who did not give his second name. "Then there was a flash and I saw a trail of smoke across the sky and felt a shockwave that smashed windows."

A wall was damaged at the Chelyabinsk Zinc Plant but there was no environmental threat, a plant spokeswoman said.

Such incidents are rare. A meteorite is thought to have devastated an area of more than 2,000 sq km (1,250 miles) in Siberia in 1908, smashing windows as far as 200 km (125 miles) from the point of impact.

The Emergencies Ministry described Friday's events as a "meteor shower in the form of fireballs" and said background radiation levels were normal. It urged residents not to panic.

Chelyabinsk city authorities urged people to stay indoors unless they needed to pick up their children from schools and kindergartens. They said a blast had been heard at an altitude of 10,000 meters (32,800 feet), apparently signaling it occurred when the meteorite entered Earth's atmosphere.

The U.S. space agency NASA has said an asteroid known as 2012 DA14, about 46 meters in diameter, would have an encounter with Earth closer than any asteroid since scientists began routinely monitoring them about 15 years ago.

Television, weather and communications satellites fly about 500 miles higher. The moon is 14 times farther away.

(Writing by Alexei Anishchuk, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Janet Lawrence)

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Euro falls as German, French economies disappoint

LONDON (Reuters) - The euro dropped and European shares fell on Thursday as growth data from the region's two largest economies came in weaker than forecast, throwing a first quarter recovery for the bloc into doubt.

The German economy, Europe's largest, contracted by 0.6 percent in the final quarter of 2012, marking its worst performance since the global financial crisis was raging in 2009.

Worryingly for Berlin, it was export performance - the motor of its economy - that did most of the damage. France's 0.3 percent fall was also a touch worse than expectations.

The figures suggest the euro zone could remain slumped in recession in the first quarter of this year and pushed down the euro 0.5 percent to a session low $1.3382.

"This is major data, so it's dampening sentiment," said Anita Paluch, sales trader at Gekko Capital Markets.

"It is kind of disappointing that Germany, which had shown so much resilience, is now showing signs of suffering from the debt crisis."

Stock markets also edged lower although the impact was not so marked. The pan-European ESTOXX 50 index <.stoxx50e> was down 0.1 percent by 0815 GMT with London's FTSE 100 <.ftse>, Paris's CAC-40 <.fchi> and Frankfurt's DAX <.gdaxi> all down by a similar amount.

German bonds were steady, stabilizing after a fall in the previous session as demand for traditional safe-haven assets returned.

Benchmark Bund futures were 3 ticks higher on the day at 142.08, with analysts targeting a further rise if the remaining GDP data for countries such as Italy (0900 GMT), and the euro zone as a whole (1000 GMT), also come in weak.

The pain is not confined to Europe. Japan, under some pressure over its aggressive monetary and fiscal policies which are driving down the yen, came up with an unwanted riposte earlier on Thursday - its GDP shrank 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter, leaving it in recession and crushing expectations of a modest return to growth.

The Bank of Japan also kept monetary policy steady and upgraded its economic assessment, as recent falls in the yen and signs of a pick-up in global growth in recent months give it some breathing space after expanding stimulus just a month ago.

Markets in China and Taiwan remain shut for the Lunar New Year holiday but Hong Kong resumed trading on Thursday.

(Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by Peter Graff)

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Olympian Pistorius in custody after woman killed

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius was taken into custody and was expected to appear in court Thursday after a 30-year-old woman who was believed to be his girlfriend was shot dead at his home in South Africa's capital, Pretoria.

Police Lt. Col. Katlego Mogale told The Associated Press that officers received a call in the early hours of the morning that there had been a shooting at the double-amputee runner's home in a gated housing complex.

Mogale said when police arrived they found paramedics trying to revive the woman, who had been shot an unspecified number of times. Mogale, who was speaking to the AP from the scene, said the woman died at the house.

Officers found a 9 mm pistol at Pistorius' house and Mogale said the 26-year-old Pistorius is expected to appear in court later on Thursday.

Police have not released the name of the woman, but the publicist for Reeva Steenkamp, Pistorius' girlfriend, told Sky News that Steenkamp had died. Tributes to Steenkamp, a model, poured onto social media sites.

Many South African media outlets had reported that the dead woman was Pistorius' girlfriend Steenkamp and that he may have mistaken her for a burglar and shot her, but police did not clarify the dead woman's relationship to Pistorius. Mogale said the victim's family had not yet identified the body.

It was reported that the woman may have been trying to surprise Pistorius for Valentine's Day and he thought she was an intruder breaking into his home. The shooting prompted discussions on talk radio shows about the country's gun control laws.

Radio 702 talk show host Redi Thlabi discussed accidental shootings, including one in which a father shot his daughter as she tried to sneak out early one morning, mistaking her for an intruder.

"I am just shocked and speechless," Thlabi said. "I wonder if this puts the spotlight on the gun ownership debate. Do you feel safe when you hear such stories?"

Pistorius made history in London last year when he became the first double-amputee track athlete to compete in the Olympic Games. He is one of South Africa's and the world's most famous sportsmen.

Having had both his legs amputated below the knee before his first birthday because of a congenital condition, he campaigned for years to be allowed to compete against able-bodied athletes. Having initially been banned because of his carbon fiber blades — which critics said gave him an unfair advantage — he was cleared by sport's highest court in 2008 and allowed to run at the top events.

He competed in the 400 meters and on South Africa's 4x400 relay team at the London Games, making history after being have his selection confirmed on South Africa's team at the very last minute. He also retained his Paralympic title in the 400 meters in London.

South Africa's Sports Confederation and Olympic committee released a statement later Thursday saying they had been "inundated" with requests for comment but were not in a position to give out any details of the shooting.

"SASCOC, like the rest of the public, knows no more than what is in the public domain, which is there has been an alleged fatal shooting on the basis of a mistaken identity and an apparent assumption of a burglary," the South African Olympic committee said. "The organization is in no position to comment on the incident other than to say our deepest sympathy and condolences have been expressed to the families of all concerned."

South Africa has some of the world's highest murder rates, with nearly 50 people killed each day in the nation of 50 million. It also has high rates of rape, other assaults, robbery and carjackings.

U.N. statistics show South Africa has the second highest rate of shooting deaths in the world, second only to Colombia.


Imray reported from Cape Town, South Africa.

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Obama and Rubio: How did they do?

(CNN) -- CNN asked for views on President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night, which was dominated by domestic issues such as the economy and need to reinvigorate the middle class, gun control, minimum wage, early education and immigration. Afterward, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida delivered the Republican response.

Sutter: A night that offered no hope for the jobless

John D. Sutter is a columnist for CNN Opinion. He heads the section\'s Change the List project, which focuses on human rights and social justice.

John D. Sutter is a columnist for CNN Opinion. He heads the section's Change the List project, which focuses on human rights and social justice.

After Barack Obama's speech and Marco Rubio's rebuttal, we should have heard from Kim Peters.

The 47-year-old single mother, who has been more or less unemployed since the start of the Great Recession, wore fuzzy Shrek slippers as she watched the president's State of the Union address Tuesday night from the middle of an empty living room south of Atlanta.

If the country and the president could have peered back at her through her small TV, they would have seen the piles of black trash bags, full of clothes, in the corners of the room. They haven't been unpacked since she was evicted from her last apartment. They would have seen the worry in her eyes -- felt the panic that wakes her up at 3 a.m. and makes her wonder how long it will be before she and her 7-year-old daughter end up homeless. Full story

Granderson: Rubio must have missed the year of the woman

LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com

LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com

You would think that in the shadow of a general election dubbed "Year of the Woman," the last thing any Republican in Washington would want to do is tick off women.

And while the Violence Against Women Act passed in the Senate by a healthy bipartisan majority a few hours before President Obama's State of the Union address, the fact that 22 senators -- all Republicans, all men -- voted against it should be troubling to GOP leaders.

And perhaps the most troubling aspect of that is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the so-called savior of the Republican Party, was one of those Republican men.

Just think: A few hours before Rubio was to deliver a message reflecting a new Republican Party, he casts a vote that screams more of the same. Full story

Welch: Obama's 'do-something' plan for 'have-nothing' government

Matt Welch is editor-in-chief of Reason and co-author of \

Matt Welch is editor-in-chief of Reason and co-author of "The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong With America."

The two most memorable lines of President Barack Obama's fourth State of the Union address were the ad-libbed: "Get it done" (which doesn't appear in the remarks as prepared), and the emotional "They deserve a vote," concerning victims of gun violence.

As exasperated appeals for an obstructionist Congress to get off its duff, the exhortations provided emotional catnip for Democrats. For the rest of us, however, they were sobering reminders of what governing liberalism has deteriorated into: content-free calls to take action for action's sake.

Consumers of national governance are within their rights to ask just what we've gotten in return for ballooning the cost of the stuff since 2000. The answer may lie in not just what the president said, but what he has assumed we've already forgotten. Full story

Rothkopf: Obama's message: I'm in charge

David Rothkopf is CEO and editor-at-large of the FP Group, publishers of Foreign Policy magazine, and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.\n

David Rothkopf is CEO and editor-at-large of the FP Group, publishers of Foreign Policy magazine, and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

It is sometimes said of a great actor that he could hold an audience spellbound while reading a laundry list. This is essentially what President Obama tried to do on Tuesday night. As State of the Union addresses go, his was artless. It lacked inspired phrases or compelling narrative. Save for the energy he gave it at key moments, it was pedestrian.

It was also very important.

It was important because with it, Obama returned in earnest to the work of governing. Having won a clear victory in November, and having spent the intervening months putting out the wildfires our Congress likes to set, he delivered word Tuesday night that he had a clear and full agenda for his second term. Full story

Navarrette: A kinder, gentler, wiser Marco Rubio

Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.

Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.

Sen. Marco Rubio was ready for his close-up, and he got it. Now you know what all the fuss is about.

Rubio, a rising star and possible 2016 GOP presidential hopeful, was picked to deliver the official Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union sddress.

The selection tells you a lot about what the Republican Party has in store for Rubio, and what this 41-year-old son of Cuban immigrants can do for a party that needs to become more user-friendly for Latinos. His remarks were also delivered in Spanish. Full story

Slaughter: Obama dares Congress to get the job done

Anne-Marie Slaughter is a former director of policy planning in the U.S. State Department and a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University.

Anne-Marie Slaughter is a former director of policy planning in the U.S. State Department and a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University.

The hallmark of the 2013 State of the Union address was progressive pragmatism.

Time and again, President Obama punctuated his proposals with the refrain: "We should be able to get that done." After his call for "bipartisan, comprehensive tax reform that encourages job creation and helps bring down the deficit," he said: "We can get this done," and later, "That's what we can do together."

When he proposed the addition of three more urban manufacturing hubs and asked Congress "to help create a network of 15 of these hubs and guarantee that the next revolution in manufacturing is made right here in America," he added: "We can get that done." Full story

Coleman: Where was the foreign policy?

Isobel Coleman is the author of \

Isobel Coleman is the author of "Paradise Beneath Her Feet" and a senior fellow for U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

President Obama's State of the Union address predictably focused on his domestic priorities.

Immigration reform, a laundry list of economic initiatives including infrastructure improvements (Fix it First), clean energy, some manufacturing innovation, a bit of educational reform and the rhetorical high point of his speech -- gun control.

As in years past, foreign policy made up only about 15% of the speech, but even within that usual limited attention, Tuesday night's address pointed to few new directions.

On Afghanistan -- America's longest war -- Obama expressed just a continued commitment to bringing the troops home, ending "our war" while theirs continues. On Iran, there was a single sentence reiterating the need for a diplomatic solution, which makes me think that a big diplomatic push is not likely. Full story

Greene: In 2013, democracy talks back about State of the Union

CNN Contributor Bob Greene is a best-selling author whose 25 books include \

CNN Contributor Bob Greene is a best-selling author whose 25 books include "Late Edition: A Love Story" and "Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War."

"To report the state of the union." Within the first few seconds of President Barack Obama's address Tuesday night, he quoted the late President John F. Kennedy, who 51 years ago used those words to describe a president's annual duty.

As Obama spoke, citizens around the country were tapping away at keyboards, posting and sending messages -- public and private -- characterizing their own view of how the union, and its president, are faring.

Obama told the packed House of Representatives chamber: "We can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is stronger." And those citizens around the country, typing away, were in essence saying: We'll be the ones to decide that, thank you very much. Full story

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions in this commentary are solely those of the writers.

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Anxiety grows as Chicago Public Schools narrows closing list

After trimming the number of schools that could be closed to 129, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's school administration on Wednesday entered the latest and what is likely to be the most intense phase so far in trying to determine which schools should be shut.

Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett is expected to pare the preliminary list before unveiling a final one at the end of March. She said administrators will determine which schools are saved in the coming weeks amid a final round of community meetings to hear arguments from parents, teachers and community groups about why their schools should stay open.

If a hearing Wednesday night in North Lawndale was any indication, CPS still has a long way to go to gain the public's trust.

"Our schools don't need to close," Dwayne Truss, vice chairman of CPS' Austin Community Action Council, said in front of hundreds of people packed inside a church auditorium in the West Side neighborhood. "CPS is perpetrating a myth that there's a budget crisis."

CPS initially said 330 of its schools are underenrolled, the chief criterion for closing. Members of a commission assembled to gather public input on the issue told CPS officials earlier this year that closing a large number of schools would create too much upheaval. The Tribune, citing sources, said the commission indicated a far smaller number should be closed than initially feared, possibly as few as 15.

CPS then started holding its own hearings and on Wednesday, while following many of the formal recommendations made by the Commission on School Utilization, said 129 schools still fit the criteria for closing.

The new number and the latest round of hearings sets the stage for the administration to counter questions about the district's abilities to close a large number of schools and the need to do so.

For many who have already turned up to school closing meetings, this final round of hearings will be even more critical. School supporters must show how they plan to turn around academic performance and build enrollment, and also make the case for any security problems that would be created by closing their school.

"We are prepared now to move to the next level of conversation with our community and discuss a list of approximately 129 schools that still require further vetting and further conversation," Bryd-Bennett said. "We are going to take these 129 and continue to sift through these schools."

In the past, political clout has played a role in the district's final decisions. Already this year, several aldermen have spoken out on behalf of schools in their wards.

On the Near Northwest Side, for instance, the initial list of 330 underused schools included about six in the 1st Ward. Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno helped organize local school council members, school administrators and parents to fight any closing. He also took that fight to leaders in City Hall and within CPS' bureaucracy. Nearly all of the schools in the ward were excluded from the list of 129.

"It is effort and it's organizing and not just showing up at meetings and yelling. Anybody can do that," Moreno said. "Those schools that proactively work before those meetings and explain what they are doing, what they need and that they are willing to accept new students, that's when politics works.

"My responsibility in this juncture was to focus on these schools," he said. "I had to work on the inside, with CPS and with City Hall, and with my schools on the outside."

Most of the schools on the list of 129 are on the West, South and Southwest sides, many in impoverished neighborhoods that saw significant population loss over the last decade. Largely spared were the North and Northwest sides.

In all, more than 43,000 students attend those 129 schools on the preliminary list, according to CPS records.

The area with the most schools on the list is a CPS network (the district groups its schools in 14 networks) that runs roughly from Madison Street south to 71st Street and from the lake to State Street. The preliminary list includes 24 schools in that area.

The Englewood-Gresham network has the second-largest number, 19, while the Austin-North Lawndale network where Wednesday night's meeting was held still has 16 schools on the list.

CPS critics said the preliminary list is still too large to be meaningful and that the district's promise to trim it before March 31 is only a tactic to make the final number seem reasonable.

"They started out with such a far-fetched, exaggerated list of schools, many of which are nowhere near underutilized," said Wendy Katten, co-founder of the parent group Raise Your Hand. "They might appear to be looking like they're listening, but they're not. They have not done a thorough and substantive assessment of these schools."

Following the commission's recommendations, CPS last month removed high schools and schools performing at a high level academically from consideration. On Wednesday, the district said schools with more than 600 students or utilization rates of at least 70 percent have also been taken out of consideration for closing.

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South Korea unveils missile it says can hit North's leaders

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea unveiled a cruise missile on Thursday that it said can hit the office of North Korea's leaders, trying to address concerns that it is technologically behind its unpredictable rival which this week conducted its third nuclear test.

South Korean officials declined to say the exact range of the missile but said it could hit targets anywhere in North Korea.

The Defence Ministry released video footage of the missiles being launched from destroyers and submarines striking mock targets. The weapon was previewed in April last year and officials said deployment was now complete.

"The cruise missile being unveiled today is a precision-guided weapon that can identify and strike the window of the office of North Korea's leadership," ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters.

North Korea has forged ahead with long-range missile development, successfully launching a rocket in December that put a satellite into orbit.

The North's ultimate aim, Washington believes, is to design an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead that could hit the United States.

North Korea, which accuses the United States and its "puppet", South Korea, of war-mongering on an almost daily basis, is likely to respond angrily to South Korea flexing its muscles.

North Korea, technically still at war with the South after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, carried out its third nuclear test on Tuesday, drawing condemnation from around the world including its only major ally China.

The test and the threat of more unspecified actions from Pyongyang have raised tensions on the Korean peninsula as the South prepares to inaugurate a new president on February 25.

"The situation prevailing on the Korean peninsula at present is so serious that even a slight accidental case may lead to an all-out war which can disturb the whole region," North Korea's official KCNA news agency said.

(This story has been refiled to drop redundant "said" in fourth paragraph)

(Reporting by Ju-min Park; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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Dollar, euro ease against yen on G7 policy doubts

LONDON (Reuters) - The yen rose against the dollar and the euro on Wednesday as investors reconsidered a G7 statement on exchange rates aimed at soothing concerns of a currency war but instead provoked a fresh bout of volatility.

The G7 reaffirmed its commitment to market-determined exchange rates and said that fiscal and monetary policies must not be directed at devaluing currencies in its statement which was interpreted as condoning the recent weakness in the yen.

However, an official from the group later said Tuesday's statement was meant to signal concerns about excessive yen moves, prompting a vicious reversal in the currency.

"It appears there is a lack of consensus at the G7 level in tackling the unintended weakening of currencies, due to the adoption of expansionary domestic monetary policies," analysts at Barclays said in a note clients.

In early European trading the dollar and the euro had both fallen by 0.3 percent against the yen to 93.20 yen and 125.42 yen respectively.

At the center of the debate is Japan, where Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government has made it clear that it will push for aggressive policies to beat deflation through drastic monetary expansion. Anticipation of a bolder Bank of Japan policy has sent the yen down nearly 20 percent against the dollar since November.

Dealers said the market was likely to trade cautiously ahead of the outcome of a Bank of Japan meeting ending on Thursday and before a meeting of the Group of 20 finance ministers and central bankers in Moscow on Friday and Saturday.

Markets are also awaiting the Bank of England's quarterly inflation report which should show whether there's any realistic chance of further asset purchases in coming months which would add to pressure on sterling.

The euro zone will publish industrial production data for December at 1000 GMT, seen as likely to confirm that output in final quarter was very weak.

The data comes out a day ahead of flash estimates of fourth quarter GDP for the whole euro area which is forecast to show growth contracted by around 0.4 percent in the final three months of the year - the steepest quarter-on-quarter decline since the first quarter of 2009.

Ahead of the data Europe's share markets were little changed with the FTSE Eurofirst 300 index <.fteu3> of top companies opening flat but near the top of a six-day trading range, with the focus on corporate earnings reports.

London's FTSE 100 <.ftse>, Paris's CAC-40 <.fchi> and Frankfurt's DAX <.gdaxi> were between 0.1 percent higher and 0.2 percent down.

Debt markets were also little changed as investors await the results of an auction of long-term Italian debt which is seen as a test of demand before elections later this month.

Italian debt has been under pressure in recent weeks as a comeback in the opinion polls by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's party has raised the prospect of a fragmented parliament that could hamper the next government's reform efforts.

Germany also plans to sell 5 billion euros of two-year bonds.

(Editing by Anna Willard)

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No. 8 Michigan State routs No. 4 Michigan 75-52

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State has muddled through much of its season, finding ways to win games short on style with gritty substance.

The eighth-ranked Spartans, though, showed their potential in an impressive 75-52 win over No. 4 Michigan on Tuesday night in the rivalry's first matchup of top 10 teams.

"The sky is the limit," guard Keith Appling said.

If Michigan State can play anything like it did against the Wolverines, Appling might be right.

The Spartans (21-4, 10-2 Big Ten) broke a first-place tie in the conference with No. 1 Indiana, which plays at Michigan State next Tuesday after the Spartans try to avoid a letdown Saturday night at Nebraska.

Appling acknowledged he was a little bit surprised by the lopsided victory — the school's largest since beating Michigan by 27 points in 2002 — but shrugged off the significance of it with much of the regular season remaining.

"We just have to take it for what it is and prepare for our next game," Appling said.

The Wolverines (21-4, 8-4) have lost three of four, but the closely contested setbacks on the road against the Hoosiers and at Wisconsin were nothing like the latest when they were held to a season-low points total.

"They bullied us — point blank," said Tim Hardaway Jr., who matched a career low with two points.

Michigan State didn't trail once, led by as many as 16 points in the first half and enjoyed 30-point leads in the second.

"We probably played our best game in three years," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. "And, they probably played one of their worst."

Michigan coach John Beilein agreed.

"That was the worst we've played in a long, long time and credit Michigan State for that," he said.

Burke scored 18 points for the Wolverines and didn't get much help from his teammate offensively, or defensively.

"It was an embarrassing loss," Burke said.

Hardaway Jr. was held scoreless until making a layup in the opening minute of the second half — after turning down Beilein's suggestion to work on his shot during halftime warmups — and didn't score again. Hardaway was 1 of 11 from the field.

"He's been playing as good as any player in the country," Beilein said. "He had a bad night, credit Michigan State's defense. Tim had a bad night and Tim Hardaway will bounce back like he always has."

Glen Robinson III was 1 of 4 and scored two points to match his season low.

The Wolverines, who pride themselves on taking care of the basketball, had a season-high 16 turnovers and didn't have much success getting the ball away from the turnover-prone Spartans. Michigan made fewer than 40 percent of its shots and scored one fewer point than it did in a three-point loss at Ohio State.

"Maybe we got exactly what we deserve and it's medicine for the future," Beilein said.

Everything went right for Michigan State, which had just eight turnovers and made 48-plus percent of its shots.

Gary Harris scored 17 points, making five 3-pointers, and Derrick Nix had his way on the inside, scoring 14 points as part of a balanced offense.

Appling had 11 points and Branden Dawson scored 10 before leaving the court late in the game because Michigan's Mitch McGary hit him in the face inadvertently with his right arm.

Izzo said Dawson got hit in the nose and had a cut on his lip.

"I do think he's going to be OK," Izzo said.

Matt Costello scored a season-high eight points and fellow freshman Denzel Valentine had seven points to help Michigan State win its second straight in the series after losing three in a row following a run of dominance for the Spartans.

White-clad fans in the stands were fired up before the game even started and they stayed enthusiastic, standing for much of the game, because the home team gave them plenty of reasons to cheer from start to finish.

"The crowd was just awesome," Izzo said. "It kind of reminded me of back in the day."

In the first matchup of 20-win teams in Division I basketball this season, Michigan State showed it might not be a rebuilding this season.

Michigan, meanwhile, has been humbled since being ranked No. 1 last month for the first time since the 1992-92 season.

"It was a big step for us, but don't think that's the real Michigan team because it's not," Izzo said.


Follow Larry Lage on Twitter: http://twitter.com/larrylage

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