Seismic activity detected near North Korean nuclear site; cause is unknown

Seismic activity was detected Saturday near the site of North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear site, but it is not known whether a nuclear test caused the development.The first sign Pyongyang has conducted a nuclear test is usually seismic activity. North Ko…

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Seismic activity detected near North Korean nuclear site

Seismic activity was detected Saturday near the site of North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear site, but it is not known whether a nuclear test caused the development.

The first sign Pyongyang has conducted a nuclear test is usually seismic activity. North Korea has one nuclear test site — Punggye-ri.

A magnitude 3.5 earthquake struck at 4:29 a.m. ET Saturday 22 kilometers (more than 13 miles) east-northeast of Sungjibaegam, North Korea, the U.S. Geological Survey said. The depth of the earthquake was 5 kilometers (3.1 miles).

“This event occurred in the area of the previous North Korean nuclear tests,” the USGS said. “We cannot conclusively confirm at this time the nature (natural or human-made) of the event. The depth is poorly constrained and has been held to 5 kilometers by the seismologist.”

Saturday’s detection comes at a time of rising tensions between the United States and North Korea, with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump engaging in an escalating war of words.

Two South Korean officials at the Korea Meteorological Administration told CNN that their analysis so far suggests Saturday’s seismic activity around the nuclear site was not caused by an explosion or a collapse of the site.

“We assess that there is a slim possibility that it was caused by a collapse,” said Park Jong-shin, one of the officials.

“Our analysis shows that it was a natural earthquake. However, we are carrying out a further analysis because there are concerns that it might have been a man-made earthquake.”

Another official at the the Korea Meteorological Administration’s command center said it is believed to have been a natural earthquake.

“Seismic waves from a natural earthquake have a distinct pattern,” the official said. “The waves we have detected from the latest earthquake have a similar pattern to that of natural earthquakes. What we detected today (was) clearly different from wave patterns that would have been created as a result of an explosion or a man-made earthquake.”

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Trump: NFL owners should fire players who protest the national anthem

President Donald Trump criticized some in the National Football League Friday night at a rally for Alabama Republican Senate candidate Luther Strange, saying team owners should fire players for taking a knee during the national anthem.

Trump added that if fans would “leave the stadium” when players kneel in protest during the national anthem, “I guarantee, things will stop.”

Trump said NFL owners should respond to the players by saying, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired. He’s fired!”

“For a week, (that owner would) be the most popular person in this country. Because that’s a total disrespect of our heritage. That’s a total disrespect for everything we stand for,” Trump said.

Last year, Colin Kaepernick — formerly with the San Francisco 49ers, but currently without a team — drew national attention for refusing to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner” prior to kickoff.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in August 2016.

His protest spurred both support and backlash.

Following the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacists gathered to protest the removal of a Confederate soldier statue, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett told CNN he would follow suit.

“I can’t stand for the national anthem,” Bennett said. “I can’t stand right now. I’m not going to be standing until I see the equality and freedom.”

Trump also took aim at NFL efforts to prevent concussions. “They’re ruining the game, right?” he said. “They’re ruining the game.”

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Protests erupt after ex-cop acquitted in black man’s death

Protests broke out in St. Louis after former police officer Jason Stockley was acquitted Friday of first-degree murder in the 2011 shooting death of black driver Anthony Lamar Smith.

At least 23 people were arrested and 10 law enforcement officers injured in protests Friday night.

The city had been on edge for days. Shortly after the verdict, people gathered outside the courthouse to protest the controversial ruling. Some protesters locked arms and prayed together, but within hours others were smashing the windshield of a police vehicle and throwing water bottles, rocks and bricks at law enforcement.

Stockley expressed a sense of relief after the acquittal and said he felt vindicated that the judge ruled he had done nothing wrong.

“It feels like a burden has been lifted, but the burden of having to kill someone never really lifts,” Stockley told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“The taking of someone’s life is the most significant thing one can do, and it’s not done lightly. … My main concern now is for the first responders, the people just trying to go to work and the protesters. I don’t want anyone to be hurt in any way over this.”

Protests started peacefully with some people making their way to the police headquarters to call for officers’ resignations. St. Louis police said the demonstrators later threw rocks at the mayor’s home and hit officers with water bottles.

St. Louis Metro Police Department Chief Lawrence O’Toole said his officers showed great restraint despite injuries.

Video footage showed officers using tear gas to disperse the crowds after police said the protests were considered an unlawful assembly. O’Toole said his officers used pepper balls.

‘Everyone wants someone to blame’

In 2011, Stockley, then a St. Louis officer, fatally shot Smith, 24, after a police chase in December over a suspected drug deal.

Stockley said that before firing his weapon, he ordered Smith to show his hands, and believed the suspect was reaching for a handgun between the center console and the passenger seat, according to a police department report obtained by the Post-Dispatch.

In the report, Stockley said he entered Smith’s car “to locate the weapon and render it safe,” and removed the ammunition from the silver revolver.

During the trial, prosecutors argued that a revolver found in Smith’s car had been planted by Stockley to justify the shooting, but the gun was never seen from the multiple cameras that captured Stockley and other officers at the scene.

He said he understood the video of the shooting looked bad to investigators and the public.

“Every resisting (arrest) looks bad, it never looks good,” Stockley said. “But you have to separate the optics from the facts.”

Initially, state and federal authorities did not prosecute Stockley, but in Ferguson’s aftermath, then-St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce charged him with first-degree murder in May 2016, citing new evidence.

He pleaded not guilty to the first-degree murder charge and waived his right to a jury trial, meaning the ruling was left to the judge.

On Friday’s ruling, St. Louis Circuit Judge Timothy Wilson said the prosecution’s argument was “not supported by the evidence.” The gun was too large, Wilson said, for Stockley to hide it from the cameras at the scene.

“I can feel for and I understand what the family is going through, and I know everyone wants someone to blame, but I’m just not the guy,” Stockley said in the interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Stockley left the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department in August 2013. Later that year, the St. Louis police board settled a wrongful death suit with Smith’s survivors for $900,000.

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What motivates ISIS fighters psychologically?

Scott Atran and his research colleagues were sitting face-to-face with captured ISIS fighters in Kirkuk, a city in northern Iraq, near the front lines of battle.

The researchers handed the fighters a set of cards, engraved with study questions to answer.

“They literally threw the cards down and said they refused to respond,” said Atran, a cognitive anthropologist who is director of research at Artis International, a multidisciplinary research institution, and who holds teaching positions at the University of Michigan and the University of Oxford.

To Atran’s surprise, the fighters were still willing to answer research questions; it was just that those particular questions were incomprehensible to some of them because the questions focused on the wrong motivations, he said.

Atran and his colleagues spent the past couple of years interviewing captured ISIS fighters, as well as Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) members and other front-line fighters battling against ISIS, to better understand what drives anyone to willingly attack and die for a cause.

The researchers discovered that three crucial factors motivate both ISIS fighters and those fighting them: a deep commitment to sacred values, the readiness to forsake family for those values, and the perceived spiritual strength of the group or community that the fighter represents.

The findings, which were published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour on Monday, also help explain why the ISIS fighters whom the researchers interviewed were irritated with the initial line of questioning, Atran said.

That first round of research questions was not related to sacred values. Yet when Atran and his colleagues developed new questions and measurements based around spirituality and values, the ISIS fighters started opening up, he said.

The study could “help to inform policy decisions for the common defense” and fighting terrorism, the researchers write.

“The main thing that really matters to them is what they ‘feel in their hearts,’ as they themselves put it. Some of these guys are really committed,” Atran said, adding that he found the same characteristics in the Kurdish fighters and others fighting ISIS.

“In our material world, we have underestimated or underplayed the spiritual dimension of human action,” he said. “Doing so runs the risk of leaving ourselves open to people who are motivated by deeper spiritual and sacred values and virtues, and I think that’s the greatest danger we face.”

‘Not only are they willing to sacrifice their group but their family’

To examine what may drive someone’s willingness to fight and die, the researchers analyzed their previous interviews with captured ISIS fighters and PKK members from 2015.

Then, in the new study, the researchers carried out a quantitative field study in which they interviewed 19 Peshmerga or Kurdish Regional Government forces, 17 Iraqi army Kurds and 20 Arab Sunni combatants — all fighting ISIS — about their willingness to make costly sacrifices for the sake of their values, from February to March 2016.

Many of those interviews were conducted on the front lines of war.

To get access to the front line, “we had to talk to the political leaders or whoever was in charge of the territory,” Atran said.

He added that his colleagues and he would try to connect with the fighters through word of mouth or even with the help of journalists covering the war.

The sacrifices mentioned in their interviews were dying, letting their families suffer, killing civilians, undertaking a suicide attack or torturing women and children.

The researchers checked the combatants’ responses to interview questions against objective factors, such as the frequency of being wounded in battle or time spent at the front line, Atran said.

Next, the researchers conducted 14 separate online surveys and controlled psychological experiments in which 6,649 noncombatants in all regions of Spain, including the North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, indicated their own willingness to make costly sacrifices.

Atran said, “We chose Spain due to reasons that they have been targeted by al Qaeda and ISIS.”

Among all study participants, whether on the front lines or noncombatants, the researchers found that the willingness to fight and make sacrifices was associated with whether people saw themselves as having greater spiritual strength than their enemy rather than having greater physical strength.

The findings were based on all study participants’ in-person interview responses to questionnaires that included experimental designs and measures or online survey results.

“This means that sacred values and strength of spirit are critical driving factors for ISIS fighters and the people fighting against them most successfully,” Atran said.

“Now, what if, when push comes to shove, the values and the group divorce? Are you going to go with your buddies or the values? We found for the most devoted fighters … those most willing to make sacrifices were those willing to sacrifice their group” or buddies, he said. “Not only are they willing to sacrifice their group but their family.”

Predicting an enemy’s will to fight can be crucial in times of conflict, according to the study.

Atran pointed to how in 2014, President Barack Obama endorsed the declaration of former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper that “we underestimated ISIL and overestimated the fighting capability of the Iraqi army. … It boils down to predicting the will to fight, which is imponderable.”

Measuring ‘what motivates us all’ to die for a cause

Limitations of the new study include that the data are based on small numbers of participants from the battlefront due to restricted access, and data from noncombatants are self-reports that are only representative of Spain.

Moving forward, however, Atran said he and his colleagues are working on followup research that involves brain-imaging data.

All in all, for the researchers to combine ethnographic fieldwork with fighters, scientific theory and online surveys was “impressive,” said Josh Horgan, distinguished professor at Georgia State University’s Global Studies Institute and Department of Psychology.

“The challenges of doing such research shouldn’t be underestimated, but this study shows us that it can be done,” said Horgan, who was not involved in the study but wrote an accompanying editorial in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.

“What this study tells us is that there are three compelling reasons why someone would be willing to fight and die: They commit to and embrace some sacred value, they willingly forsake their own kin for those same values, and they truly believe in the spiritual strength of their own group compared to the enemy,” he said. “This is an elegant theory that makes both intuitive sense but is supported by real-world data.”

In other words, he said, “there are common psychological threads woven into the fabric of what motivates us all to fight and die for a cause.”

In general, those are main components of research on radicalization and terrorism: the ideology component and to some extent the network component, or the component of having support from others who share your values, said Arie Kruglanski, distinguished professor of psychology at the University of Maryland and a fellow of the American Psychological Association.

“The ideology component addresses individuals’ need to matter and feel significant. … It tells people what to do, such as fight and make sacrifices, in order to gain respect and admiration from others,” said Kruglanski, who was not involved in the new study.

“Especially when it comes to violence that is shunned by most religions and most cultures, you need validation from a group of people that would then become your reference group. So the group component is very important, particularly when it comes to antisocial activities that are forbidden or shunned,” he said. “Some of Scott Atran’s work addresses that aspect. In general, I think it’s a very important piece of the puzzle that Scott and his colleagues are addressing.”

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Haley: Kim Jong Un ‘begging for war’

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Monday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was “begging for war” as she urged the UN Security Council to adopt the strongest sanctions measures possible to stop Pyongyang’s nuclear program.Speaking …

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