1. According to the New York Times, North Korea on Thursday demanded the lifting of United Nations sanctions and an end to joint American-South Korean military exercises as preconditions for starting dialogue to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula. By making demands that both Washington and Seoul had no intention of accepting, North Korea signaled that it would not stand down anytime soon from a weeks-long military standoff. But the fact that North Korea has recently begun responding to U.S. and South Korean offers for dialogue has raised cautious hopes among South Korean analysts that the North might be ready to wind down weeks of hostile rhetoric that at times appeared to bring the peninsula close to a point of conflict.
2. According to CNN, a massive blast at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, on Wednesday night killed an estimated five to 15 people, wounded more than 160, and damaged 50 to 60 homes in a 5-block area. Dr. George Smith, the city’s emergency management system director, said the casualty count could spike to 60 or 70. He added, “We have two emergency medical personnel that are dead for sure, and there may be three firefighters that are dead.” The site of the explosion is being treated as a crime scene until investigators determine whether it was an accident. The explosion was so powerful, that it registered as a 2.1 magnitude earthquake.
3. According to Reuters, China called on Japan on Thursday to stop sending jets up against Chinese aircraft after Japan said it had scrambled its fighters twice as often in the past year amid a territorial dispute. The number of scrambles against Chinese planes nearly doubled to 306 in the year that ended in March. China and Japan have been involved in an increasingly acrimonious stand-off over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.
4. According to First Post, a 5.0-magnitude earthquake jolted southwest China leaving nine persons injured. Some houses and businesses were damaged in the quake, but electricity and communication have not been affected.
5. According to Charisma News, a weekend of violence in the Central African Republic included three artillery shells that crashed into a church and killed seven people. At least 20 people were reported dead after gun battles in sectors of Bangui (BON-GEE), capital of the republic, where an alliance of rebel groups took power last month. Seven of the victims were attending services in the Evangelical Federation of Brothers church on Sunday.
6. According to the Associated Press, technicians upgrading Iran’s main uranium enrichment facility have tripled their installations of high-tech machines that could be used in a nuclear weapons program to more than 600 in the last three months. They say the machines are not yet producing enriched uranium and some may be only partially installed. Still the move is the latest sign that 10 years of diplomatic efforts have failed to persuade Tehran to curb its uranium enrichment. Instead, Iran continues to increase its capacities.
The Bible says in Matthew 24:27: “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”
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