A photo tweeted by Panama's President Ricardo Martinelli on July 16, 2013, shows what he says are "undeclared weapons" hidden under the sugar cargo of North Korean container ship ''Chong Chon Gang'' in Colon. Panama has detained the North Korean-flagged ship coming from Cuba as it approached the Panama Canal, Martinelli said. REUTERS/Panamian Presidency/Handout via Reuters (HANDOUT)
SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea, as usual, looks menacing, but can't seem to keep its black ops under wraps. On Wednesday, Cuba came forward as the culprit behind a stash of weapons bound for North Korea. Panamanian authorities uncovered the illicit cargo last week-hidden in a shipment of brown sugar.
The Cuban foreign ministry claimed the obsolete, Soviet-made weapons, which included two fighter jets and the parts for anti-aircraft missiles, were being sent to Pyongyang for repair. United Nations sanctions prohibit the sales of arms to North Korea.
Whether or not that's a violation, this isn't the first time the pariah state has been caught ferrying weapons, drugs, and other illicit goods around the world.
In fact, when it comes to keeping secrets, the world's most reclusive regime has a terrible track record. Here's a list of other high-profile blunders.Paradise lost in Thailand M
An east European cargo plane full of heavy weapons that originated in North Korea is stopped on the tarmac at Thailand's Bangkok airport. (AFP/Getty Images)
In December 2009, Thai authorities seized a North Korean airplane on a refueling stop in Bangkok. What did they find? Forty tons of weapons that included grenades, rocket launchers, and other lethal cargo-along with all sorts of bizarre-looking tubes and devices used to put together arms.
Police and intelligence officials stayed silent on the cargo's final destination, and it's not clear if they ever came to a firm conclusion. The five-person crew consisted of four people from Kazakhstan and one from Belarus. Many pundits speculated the firearms were headed for Iran, and that the aircraft originally planned to make a refueling stop in Sri Lanka instead of Thailand.
A boneheaded move? Yes. Analysts pointed out that a North Korean airplane would have been smarter to land right next door in Myanmar, home to a friendly military regime with nuclear ties. Thailand is historically an American ally, and upholds UN sanctions against the isolated state.Diplomatic drug lords
A Chinese paramilitary guard stands on duty outside the North Korean embassy in Beijing. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)A Chinese paramilitary guard stands on duty outside the North Korean embassy in Beijing. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)
This one goes way back. Ever since the late 1970s, North Korean diplomats have been occasionally caught in countries like Egypt and Norway traveling with illicit drugs and counterfeit money.show more
By Dan Nakaso - San Jose Mercury News
The remains of the Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 have been and continue to be moved to a remote parking area at the San Francisco International Airport. (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group)
Airlines' threat to sue a Bay Area TV station over its airing of bogus, racially insensitive names of Asiana's flight crew represents the South Korean airline's latest perplexing response to the crash of Flight 214 at a time when it should be focusing on reassuring a nervous flying public, experts in crisis communications say.
After its Boeing 777 landed short at San Francisco International Airport on July 6, killing three young passengers and injuring 182 others, Asiana has made several communications missteps, according to experts.
That makes it difficult to predict how South Korea's second-largest airline will respond going forward as the National Transportation Safety Board continues to investigate -- and what Asiana will say once the NTSB determines the cause of the crash.
"The name Asiana is now etched in everyone's mind as a crash that fell short of the SFO runway," said Glenn F. Bunting, who runs G.F. Bunting, a San Francisco-based strategic communications company that specializes in crisis management. "There's very little the company can say to change that in the short run. What they can do about it is begin to aggressively attack and repair their reputation problem. The way to do that is not to remain silent."
Asiana officials did not respond to repeated email and telephone requests for comment.
In an era of real-time social media, Asiana's responses have played out on a global stage.show more
By Barbara Liston and Chris Francescani, Reuters
People attend a vigil for slain youth Trayvon Martin, as well as to protest the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of Martin in Florida last year, in the Harlem area of New York, July 16, 2013. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)
ORLANDO, Fla./NEW YORK -- Prosecutors in the George Zimmerman trial came under more scrutiny on Tuesday, threatened by a lawsuit from a witness while Attorney General Eric Holder renewed hints the federal government may pick up where the Florida prosecution failed.
Zimmerman, 29, remained in hiding on Tuesday after a jury of six anonymous women on Saturday found him not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter, ending a Florida state prosecution of a case that has captivated and polarized the U.S. public on issues of race, gun and self-defense laws.
A former employee at the Florida State Attorney office is preparing a whistleblower lawsuit against Zimmerman's prosecutors after testifying that they failed to turn over evidence he obtained from Martin's cell phone to the defense, his attorney told Reuters.
The shooting in the central Florida town of Sanford on February 26, 2012, prompted street demonstrations last year when police initially declined to arrest Zimmerman, and the verdict provoked renewed marches from critics saying Zimmerman racially profiled Martin as a criminal.
Zimmerman's defense team have complained repeatedly that race was wrongly injected into the case and that Zimmerman acted in self-defense, accusing civil rights leaders of inflaming racial passions with their calls for a federal investigation of Zimmerman on civil rights grounds.
In California, police and civic leaders braced for further unrest while appealing for calm on Tuesday after nearly two dozen protesters in Los Angeles and Oakland were arrested during a second night of civil disturbances sparked by the not-guilty verdict.
One of the six jurors, identified only as juror number B-37, told CNN on Monday she did not think Zimmerman racially profiled Martin and believed Martin attacked Zimmerman first. The entire panel - five white women and one Hispanic woman - believed race played no role in the case, she said.
Juror B-37's interview with CNN, her faced blacked out in silhouette, prompted extreme reactions including death threats on social media.
Holder, the chief U.S. prosecutor and an appointee of President Barack Obama, told the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Orlando on Tuesday that his office would continue its investigation of the case, which could possibly lead to federal charges against Zimmerman.
"I," he said emphatically, "am concerned about this case."show more
By Richard A. Lovett, New Scientist
Michelle Schneider and Dave Dunn use treadmill desks at Evolent, a health-care startup in Arlington, Va. Researchers are trying to determine whether the equipment allows people to burn off glucose that accumulates in the bloodstream. (Lexey Swall/for The Washington Post)
Michael Jensen, a researcher at the Mayo Clinic, is talking on the phone, but his voice is drowned out by what sounds like a vacuum cleaner. "I'm sorry," he says. "I'm on a treadmill."
David Dunstan, an Australian researcher, uses a speakerphone so he can walk around his office at the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne.
It's not that Jensen and Dunstan are hyperactive. Rather, both are exercise researchers looking into the link between sitting down and premature death. And what they have found is disturbing enough that they both make sure they spend most of the day on their feet.
Jensen explains that he and his colleagues at Mayo, in Rochester, Minn., were studying weight control when they discovered that some people "spontaneously start moving round and don't gain weight" when they have overeaten. These people don't dash to the gym; they just walk more, hop up from the couch to run errands or find other excuses to get onto their feet. "This really got us thinking about this urge to move," Jensen says, "and how important that might be for maintaining good health."
That led them to a field known as "inactivity research," which suggests that inactivity, particularly sitting, can be very bad for your health. It might sound like a statement of the obvious, but the killer point is this: Inactivity is bad for you even if you exercise. Heading to the gym is not a license to spend the rest of the day on your backside.
In 2010, a team led by Alpa Patel of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta analyzed the data from a 14-year study of 123,000 middle-aged adults. When they compared mortality rates of those who spent six hours a day or more sitting and those who reported three or fewer hours - and when they took into account other factors such as diet - they found something surprising: Extra time on the couch was associated with a 34 percent higher mortality rate for women and 17 percent higher for men in the 14 years after they joined the study. It is not clear why there is such a big sex difference.
In another study, a team at the University of Queensland in Australia analyzed data on the television viewing habits of 8,800 Australians. They calculated that each hour of television correlated with 22 minutes off the average life expectancy of an adult older than 25. In other words, people who watch six hours of television a day face the prospect of dying, on average, about five years younger than those who don't watch any.
Many other studies have reached similar conclusions. In a review of all the evidence, Dunstan's team concluded that there was a "persuasive case" that excessive sitting "should now be considered an important stand-alone component of the physical activity and health equation."
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The message is clear: Sitting still for hours at a time might be a health risk regardless of what you do with the rest of your day.show more
By DOMENIC POLI / Reformer Staff
A New York man was arrested on Interstate 91 Tuesday afternoon. Witnesses said police surrounded the vehicle with their guns drawn. (Submitted photo)
BRATTLEBORO -- A New York man was taken into custody on Interstate 91 Tuesday after allegedly punching his ex-girlfriend and a man at the Smugglers' Notch Resort.
According to Vermont State Police, Robert Waters, 48, of Massapequa, N.Y., approached his ex-girlfriend, who was in a vehicle with a man as they were getting ready to hike Sterling Pond Trail, shortly before noon. Waters opened the vehicle's passenger side door and punched the male several times in the face and chest area before punching the female multiple times in the head and chest. The victims, who were not identified and do not live in Vermont, managed to lock the vehicle's doors and drive away so they could get help from security officers at the resort.
Waters was seen leaving the area in a black Nissan with a New York registration of SKULL64.
Troopers made contact with a vehicle at 2:10 p.m. near mile-marker 14 of I-91 South. The operator was identified as Waters and was taken into custody. Bail was set at $10,000 and he was lodged at Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.