What are North Korean troops doing in Africa's prime uranium-producing region? U.S. intelligence sources are worried about reports that put Pyongyang troops at a uranium mine in Shinkolobwe, about 100 miles northwest of Lubumbashi in Congo. The sources also say that North Koreans are believed to be helping train President Laurent Kabila's ragtag army in Lubumbashi and in the capital, Kinshasa.
But what really has Washington worried is what North Korea might be getting in return. Pyongyang's plutonium-production program was blocked by a 1994 deal signed with the United States and Japan. If Pyongyang wanted to circumvent the deal, uranium enrichment would be a logical way to go.
So far, there's no conclusive proof that that's what North Korea is up to. And there's a more benign explanation: Pyongyang might have contracted out its military trainers in return for hard currency, something it needs even more desperately. The answer to this mystery lies deep in the Congolese jungle.NUKESNuclear Dread in South Asia
India and Pakistan have begun "weaponizing" the nuclear devices they first tested in 1998, senior Clinton aides warn. Pakistan has already put nuclear warheads on some missiles, and India is following suit, they say. The officials voiced their fears after the Senate slated a vote on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. India's foreign minister recently hinted that New Delhi would sign the CTBT, which would likely bring Pakistan aboard. But the U.S. aides say the race might speed up if CTBT fails. One top U.S. official also says last summer's bloody border conflict over Kashmir came close to erupting into a full-scale war--one he says would "likely have gone nuclear."HONG KONGOne Country, One System?
For the past two years, Hong Kong has been the only place in China with the freedom to commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre. Each year, tens of thousands of people light candles and sing songs to remember the bloodshed. But last week Hong Kong democrats said they had been pressured by Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa to stop organizing the demonstration. "I've told them that it is time to put down the baggage of June 4 and move forward," Tung told business leaders. The best-selling Apple Daily screamed that he had "castrated" Hong Kong's autonomy. More worrisome: insiders say this may be a whiff of an impending crackdown. Senior officials have hinted they are preparing to enact sedition laws, under which any demonstration could be illegal.THE BUZZMinis on the Move
Better enroll in step aerobics, and fast. Come spring, it will be legs, legs everywhere! At the spring-summer 2000 shows, which wrapped up last week in Paris, designers scrapped the dowdy gam-covering look of the last few years for something not just short but minuscule. Everyone from Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton to John Galliano at Christian Dior showed hotpants, usually paired with midriff-baring halter tops, and miniskirts. One retailer dubbed the new look "Lady and the Vamp." But it was Dolce & Gabbana in Milan that made the ultimate short statement, with its 18-centimeter-long "skirt." Didn't we used to call those belts?RESCUESAt Last, a Long Winter's End
When the sun first peeked above the horizon at the U.S. South Pole research station recently, it signaled Antarctic spring. For Dr. Jerri Nielsen, the base's only doctor, it also meant she would soon be going home. Nielsen, 47, discovered a lump in her breast last June, and started chemotherapy after an airdrop of supplies in July. "She's responding to treatment," says U.S. Air Force Col. Richard Saburro, and has kept working, too. But rising temps mean the Air National Guard can finally get in; Nielsen should be safely stateside by the end of the month.TELEVISIONWho Are You Calling a Fossil?
It was billed by the BBC as "the biggest thing on television in 200 million years." And, sure enough, the first episode of its $10 million documentary "Walking with Dinosaurs" last week drew more than half of Britain's TV audience. Some 13 million viewers watched as the big beasts of prehistory clumped through the late Triassic landscape, courtesy of the latest near-reality animatronic techniques.
But it's tough to match great TV with great science. Critics say many assertions in the six-part series--narrated by Kenneth Branagh--go far beyond the fossil evidence. But the show's champions are sticking to their story. Says Michael Benton of Bristol University, a consultant on the series: "I'm willing to trust that the audience has the common sense to realize that a fair amount of speculation went into it."RECORDSHe's No King Henry VIII
Germany's chancellor Gerhard Schroder has been in office only one year, but he's already in the record books. In the newest edition of The Guinness Book of Records, Schroder is singled out as "currently the most-married prime minister in a monogamous society." He's tied the knot four times, most recently in 1997 to former journalist Doris Kopf. At 36, she's nearly 20 years his junior.
The book also cites Boris Yeltsin as the "most hospitalized president." According to Guinness, he had 13 known hospitalizations from his election in 1991 through May of this year.