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NEED TO KNOW:
Iran is marching toward “Implementation Day.” That's the name given to the future day when Iran fully complies with the terms of the nuclear deal and international sanctions can be lifted. There seems to be some confusion, however, over just how far it has marched.
Iran’s official news agency reported on Monday that technicians had removed the core of the heavy water nuclear reactor at the Arak nuclear plant. It added, sort of surprisingly, that it took the extra step of filling it with concrete.
Dismantling the core means the country won’t be able to make weapons-grade plutonium anymore. Filling it with concrete means it would be difficult for it to make weapons-grade plutonium at Arak ever again.
That’s great. It means Iran is enthusiastically embracing the deal and moving ahead as negotiators hoped. Unfortunately, it’s probably not true. The official news agency cited unnamed sources, which is strange since it probably has pretty good access to Iranian officials. Iran’s deputy nuclear chief, on the other hand, spoke publicly and on the record. He is someone who should definitely know about such things. And he said the core was not removed and that it wouldn’t be until talks with China about ways to revamp it are complete.
Why would that official news agency make that up? Good question.
Meanwhile, the United States is making its own special kind of progress with its nuclear arsenal, which is so huge it is the envy of governments around the world. The United States, just last week, tested its first precision-guided atom bomb in the Nevada desert.
Will US President Barack Obama, who has long advocated for a “nuclear-free world,” talk about this progress in his final State of the Union address tonight? Good question.
WANT TO KNOW:
A suicide bombing at a busy tourist area in the center of Istanbul, Turkey has killed at least 10 people. The Turkish government says many of those killed were foreigners.
Turkey is increasingly a target of terrorist attacks of one sort or another. Officials said the suicide bomber was from Syria, but did not say if he belonged to the Islamic State or the PKK, a Kurdish rebel group the government has fought for decades.
The government has blamed the Islamic State for three bombings in the past year, one of which killed more than 100 people in Ankara, the capital. No group has yet taken responsibility for this latest bombing.
The Islamic State did take responsibility for twin attacks in Baghdad that killed nearly 30 people Monday night. Islamic militants detonated a car bomb outside a popular mall, and then lobbed hand grenades at the escaping crowd. For good measure, the militants than sprayed the crowd with bullets.
A couple hours later, in another part of Baghdad, a bomb exploded outside of a cafe filled with young people. A suicide car bomber then exploded near the crowd of people who ran from the first explosion.
The Middle East continues to suffer the worst from terrorist attacks.
STRANGE BUT TRUE:
The long tradition of Hollywood mingling with organized crime continues. This time, it is through the relationship of actor Sean Penn and Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Guzmán escaped from a Mexican prison in July 2015 and was one of the world's most wanted fugitives until he was recaptured on Jan. 8, 2016.
Surely you heard that Penn met with Guzmán in Mexico, and then granted Penn an exclusive interview. Penn wrote up the whole experience. Rolling Stone agreed to publish it unedited and even gave the final version to Guzmán to look over. There’s been a lot of debate about the integrity of this journalism. And there’s been a lot of debate over why Penn was involved at all. In the end, it was the meeting with Penn that led to Guzmán’s arrest.
This is all that we know for sure: Penn is a terrible writer. Thankfully you don’t really have to read it at all. Rolling Stone has released the full taped interview with Guzmán, which you can watch here.