As a sign of its commitment to stop producing plutonium, North Korea blew up the most prominent symbol of its nuclear weapons program today. With international journalists and diplomats watching, an explosion at the base of the Yongbyon reactor cooling tower sent the cylindrical structure collapsing into a cloud of white and gray dust that billowed into blue skies. The destruction of the 60-foot-tall tower at North Korea's main reactor complex, part of a multi-step process under a six-nation accord, follows U.S. concessions on trade announced yesterday. "This is a very important step in the disablement process, and I think it puts us in a good position to move into the next phase," said Sung Kim, the U.S. State Department's top expert on the Koreas, who attended the demolition. The tower destruction was not mentioned by the North's media or shown on state TV broadcasts.
The Obama-Clinton Unity Show
Former rivals Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will take a symbolic step toward Democratic Party unity today when they step onstage for a rally in Unity, N.H.—a carefully chosen venue in a key general election battleground state. Clinton, who has already provided her top fundraisers to the Obama campaign, will now see if she can do the same with voters. It will be the two Democrats' first joint campaign appearance and their first public display of rapprochement, as they seek to set aside differences and unify the party while helping each other. Aside from the symbolism of its name, Unity awarded exactly 107 votes to each candidate in New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary in January.
A One-Shot Boost from Stimulus Payments?
The economic stimulus package, which mailed about $50 billion worth of tax rebates in April and May, sent after-tax incomes up by the largest amount in 33 years, the government said. The payments also helped boost consumer spending by the largest amount in six months. The administration is hoping that the $106.7 billion in stimulus payments being made this year to 130 million households will be enough to offset current serious drags on the economy from a prolonged housing slump, a severe credit crisis, and soaring energy bills. But economists are worried that the boost from the stimulus checks will be only temporary and that once the checks are spent, the risks of the economy falling into a recession will increase.