World in brief: Inspectors head to nuclear plant
U.N. inspectors headed to North Korea’s key nuclear reactor today for the first time since 2002 to discuss plans to shut the plutonium-producing facility under an international accord.
The development came as a U.S. official criticized North Korea for conducting test firings of short-range missiles Wednesday, calling them a provocation that could destabilize the region.
Associated Press Television News reported that the International Atomic Energy Agency team members had left their Pyongyang hotel for the Yongbyon reactor, about 60 miles northeast of the capital.
Olli Heinonen, the deputy director of IAEA, told APTN that his team would tour the Yongbyon facility and discuss specific arrangements for future verification of the reactor shutdown and monitoring. He emphasized that the visit was not a formal inspection.
Gaza City, Gaza Strip
Israelis stage series of raids
Israeli soldiers swept into the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, killing at least 12 Palestinians in the heaviest fighting since Hamas seized control of the territory early this month, the Israeli military said.
In raids involving helicopters and ground forces, the troops attacked around Gaza City and near the southern town of Khan Yunis. The actions, which included searches for tunnels and explosives, were a further sign that Israel intends to isolate and weaken the militant Hamas movement.
The Israeli military said Palestinian gunmen were killed after Israeli troops were attacked by six or seven antitank missiles near Khan Yunis. Two Israeli soldiers were wounded.
Hefner planning mansion in Macau
Hugh Hefner is planning to open a Playboy Mansion in the burgeoning gambling mecca of Macau, complete with female “bunny” dealers, a villa-style hotel and several dozen gaming tables, his daughter said.
The 40,000-square-foot Playboy Mansion Macau, scheduled to open in late 2009, will give Hefner’s company a key foothold in China after a failed attempt several years ago to build a club in Shanghai, which some blamed on the Chinese government’s conservative line on public morality.
Macau, located an hour by high-speed ferry from Hong Kong, has seen its gambling revenue grow rapidly since the government ended a monopoly in 2002, letting in Las Vegas casino brands like Wynn, Sands and Venetian.
As the only place on Chinese soil where gambling is legal, Macau draws many tourists from the mainland who can’t bet at home. It overtook the Las Vegas strip in gaming revenue last year.
The Playboy Mansion Macau, styled after the original Playboy Mansion in the U.S., will follow the company’s planned opening of a club at the Palms Resort in Las Vegas in October.