Sunday, September 12, 2004

Interesting Use of Brackets

11:54pm PDT - I checked the NYT site and found this article as the top story. It begins and focuses primarily on U.S. inter/intra agency discussions about what exactly recent North Korean activities mean. The two screen article didn't have the word "mushroom" on the first page. Then, in the 4th to last graf on page two was this:

Senior officials in South Korea and Japan did not appear to have been briefed about the new evidence, beyond what one called "a nonspecific warning of a growing problem" from American officials. But it is a measure of the extraordinary nervousness about the North's intentions that earlier this week, South Korean intelligence officials who saw evidence of an intense fire at a suspected nuclear location alerted their American counterparts that a small nuclear test might have already occurred. American officials reviewed seismic sensors and other data and concluded it was a false alarm, though the fire has yet to be explained.

[A huge explosion rocked an area in North Korea near the border with China on Thursday and appeared to be much bigger than a blast at the Ryongchon train station that killed 170 people in April, Reuters said, citing a report by the Yonhap news agency of South Korea. The United States "is showing a big interest because the blast was seen from satellites,'' Yonhap quoted an unidentified official in Beijing as saying.

[The cause of the blast has not been determined, but the Beijing official said Washington was not ruling out the possibility that it may be linked to a nuclear test. Yonhap reported that a mushroom cloud up to 2.5 miles in diameter was spotted after the blast in remote Yanggang province in the far northeast.] North Korea has declared several times in the past year that it might move to demonstrate its nuclear power. It is impossible to know how such a test might affect public perceptions of how Mr. Bush has handled potential threats to the United States. Senator John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, has already accused President Bush of an "almost myopic" focus on Iraq that has distracted the United States while North Korea, by some intelligence estimates, has increased its arsenal from what the C.I.A. suspects was one or two weapons to six or eight now.
The brackets are original to the article. I can say it's punctuation I'm used to seeing outside of directly quoted source material. Maybe I'm wrong - but it seems a clumsy meshing of two concurrent stories. Wonder how much of this was known and embargoed. Or known and developing. Or what exactly the story was that made this other material seemingly prepared separately and added at the right moment. Perhaps it's nothing - but no character is really accidental - they're not typos, but maybe they are editorial marks meant to have been removed before going live on the article.

I wondered for the first 3/4 of the article why there wasn't a mention of this latest evidence of possible move toward testing (though, in my non-expert opinion, if it was indeed a "mushroom cloud," I'd say it's safe to assume we've passed the "moving toward" stage of things.)

(The last graf has an interesting quote from Bush from 2 weeks ago on his disbelief in giving "timelines to dictators or tyrants." I guess "timeline" and "ultimatum" ARE different. So that Saddam order was, you know, like, different. )

Update:

Suspicious Blast Seen in N. Korea (washingtonpost.com)

Report: huge explosion in North Korean province (sfgate.com/AP)

Nothing at the LA Times.

And, just to be different, CNN with: North Korea cloud 'not nuke blast' - Sep 12, 2004 posted at 3:06am EDT.

Most sites note that the blast occurred on the anniversary of North Korea's founding - September 9th. Apparently, it's common for them to use notable historical dates to demonstrate national power, etc.

The CNN article's lede says a U.S. official says the blast wasn't the result of a nuclear explosion. Same official also said the cloud could be the result of a forest fire. The South Korean official interviewed said he had no information on the size of the damage or explosion and that he believed there was no correlation between the explosion and reports of North Korea preparing for a possible nuke test.

Bloggers seem to be in bed. As I should be. As I am going to be.

I'm sure there'll be more news in the morning. Just fun - eh, sorta - to watch these things unfold. And half - okay, more - of the fun of the 'sphere is trying to be the one catching something as it happens. Or at least an aspect of it.

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