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July 30, 2014
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Recent news out of North Korea has mostly been of the scary sort: It's threatening to nuke the White House! It's firing missiles into the sea! It's opening up a summer camp!

But here's the thing: The North Korean military is not in great shape. Despite its bluster, it's actually quite decrepit, plagued by "antiquated" and "outdated" equipment, according to a 22-page report released by the Pentagon in March. For the latest illustration, you need look back no further than today.

South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reports that the North has had to ground half its fighter jet drills after three of its MiG-19s crashed due to "aged fuselages," according to an unidentified source. The MiG-19, for the uninitiated, is a Soviet fighter jet from the 1950s — and such museum-ready MiGs make up about three quarters of its fighters. Now, the North Korean military is increasingly counting on commandos, hackers, and nukes to make up for its aging conventional forces — but still, it's flying out your grandfather's air force.

And these crashes aren't even unusual:

It is 'far from unusual for North Korea's fighters as well as military choppers to crash,' another source said, noting frequent accidents 'are partly behind its leader Kim Jong-un's inspection tours to the air force units this year.'

'The series of visits to the air force units or events seems to be aimed at not only countering the annual joint Max Thunder air drills between South Korea and the United States in April, but to encourage airmen demoralized by crash accidents,' the source added. [Yonhap]

Oof. Nico Lauricella

April 30, 2017

After 42 years of writing letters back and forth, George Ghossn and Lori Gertz were finally able to update each other on their lives in person.

Ghossn, 56, lives in East Islip, New York, and Gertz, 54, resides in San Diego. Gertz planned on taking her son to visit Hofstra University near Ghossn's house, and she wanted to get to see him face to face. For years, he was too "superstitious" to meet, but this time, he agreed, and in the lobby of a Red Roof Inn on April 11, the friends were finally in the same room. "We just hugged and we cried," Ghossn said. "It was very emotional after all the years."

They were brought together through a chain letter, which they kept up by writing a letter to each other once a month. When they were younger, the letters were rather simple, but as they became older, they often discussed serious topics; in 2006, Ghossn wrote a note to Gertz on the back of a napkin while flying to his mother's funeral, for example. "That just blew my mind," Gertz told ABC News. "[It signaled] a loyalty and a deep abiding commitment to our relationship that I'd never had with anybody. Anybody." Ghossn and Gertz have kept all of the letters they received, evidence of a deep friendship that they both stressed was never romantic. Ghossn, whose parents and brothers have all died, views Gertz as a sister, while she told ABC News, "I love George. George is a staple in my life. My whole family knows George ... it's my longest relationship that I've had with anybody. It's beautiful." The two left their meeting knowing they would continue to write. Catherine Garcia

April 30, 2017
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On Sunday evening, leaders in Congress reached an agreement to fund the government through the end of September, congressional aides told Politico.

The deal includes $1.5 billion for border security, $2 billion in new spending for the National Institutes of Health, and extends health insurance benefits for coal miners that were set to expire on Friday. The agreement does not include any funding for a border wall with Mexico. Democrats and Republicans were unable to reach a final deal last week, due to a disagreement over funding Medicaid in Puerto Rico through the end of summer 2018. On Friday, Congress passed a stopgap bill to keep the government funded through May 5, avoiding a shutdown. Catherine Garcia

April 30, 2017
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Former Vice President Joe Biden told a crowd of Democrats in New Hampshire Sunday that he will not be running for president in 2020.

Biden was at the state's Democratic Party dinner, honoring the country's first all-female, all-Democratic congressional delegation, The Associated Press reports. By going to the state that holds the first presidential primary election, Biden said he knew it "was going to cause speculation. Guys, I'm not running." The crowd responded by booing.

While he's not going to throw his hat in the ring, Biden said he is planning on raising money and campaigning to get Democrats elected. He also urged politicians of all stripes to start talking and get things done together. "I know it seems like we're hopelessly divided," he said. "I know it feels like we're hopelessly stuck in a political death match and we can't figure out how to get out of it. But we are better than that. I've always believed that we're strongest when we act as one America." Catherine Garcia

April 30, 2017

First Lt. Weston Lee, a 25-year-old with the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, died Saturday in Mosul, Iraq, from wounds he sustained after an improvised explosive device was detonated near him while on patrol, the Pentagon announced Sunday.

Lee, from Bluffton, Georgia, joined the Army in March 2015, and was a platoon leader. He was deployed to Iraq in December 2016. Col. Pat Work, the commander of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, called Lee "an extraordinary young man and officer. He was exactly the type of leader that our paratroopers deserve." The Army said Lee has posthumously been awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, and Meritorious Service Medal. Catherine Garcia

April 30, 2017
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Sebastian Gorka, a deputy assistant to President Trump and member of the Strategic Initiatives Group, is expected to leave the White House soon, several administration officials told CNN.

Gorka, a former national security editor for Breitbart, reportedly took an oath of loyalty to a Hungarian order that the State Department says was "under the direction of the Nazi government of Germany"; Gorka denies ever being a member of Vitézi Rend or taking an oath of loyalty to the group.

Gorka first started working with the Trump campaign in 2015. One senior administration official told the Washington Examiner Gorka is taking on a new job outside of the White House but at a federal agency, likely involving the "war of ideas" to counter radical Islam, but another official told CNN said it is possible he will just take on a new role inside the administration though he's most likely making a full exit because of several controversies, including the Vitézi Rend report. It has never been clear what role Gorka, a frequent guest on Fox News, played in the Trump campaign or the White House. Catherine Garcia

April 30, 2017

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) weighed in on President Trump's standoff with North Korea Sunday in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, suggesting the situation "could be a Cuban Missile Crisis in slow motion."

McCain said he would prefer China "put the brakes on this," but would not take U.S. military intervention off the table. "This is very serious. Their capabilities of firing artillery on Seoul is absolutely real," he said. "And this, again, is why we have to bring every pressure to bear. And the major lever on North Korea today, and maybe the only lever, is China."

"But to say you absolutely rule out that option, of course, would be foolish," McCain continued. "But it has to be the ultimate last option." Watch an excerpt of his comments below, and see this analysis from The Week's Harry J. Kazianis for a more measured look at Pyongyang's capabilities. Bonnie Kristian

April 30, 2017
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President Trump has invited controversial Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte to Washington to reaffirm the U.S.-Philippines alliance, the White House said Saturday. The two leaders spoke by phone, and Trump "enjoyed the conversation," expressing his belief that the two nations are "now heading in a very positive direction."

A statement from Duterte's office was similarly friendly. "The discussion that transpired between the presidents was warm, with President Trump expressing his understanding and appreciation of the challenges facing the Philippine president, especially on the matter of dangerous drugs," Duterte's camp said.

Duterte has come under broad criticism for his brutal prosecution of the drug war, which includes encouragement of extrajudicial killings. "My order is shoot to kill you," he notoriously said of drug dealers. "I don't care about human rights, you'd better believe me." Bonnie Kristian

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