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U.S. Delays Minuteman 3 Missile Test

Washington (ap) — Amid mounting tensions with North Korea, the Pentagon has delayed an intercontinental ballistic missile test that had been planned for next week at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, a senior defense official told The Associated Press yesterday.

The official said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel decided to put off the long-planned Minuteman 3 test until sometime next month because of concerns the launch could be misinterpreted and exacerbate the Korean crisis. Hagel made the decision Friday, the official said.

The test was not connected to the ongoing U.S.-South Korean military exercises that have been going on in that region and have stoked North Korean anger and fueled an escalation in threatening actions and rhetoric.

Son of Pastor Rick Warren
Commits Suicide

Lake Forest, Calif. (ap) — The Southern California church headed by popular evangelical Pastor Rick Warren announced yesterday that Warren’s 27-year-old son has committed suicide.

Warren’s Saddleback Valley Community Church said in a statement that Matthew Warren had struggled with mental illness and deep depression throughout his life.

Warren, the author of the multimillion-selling book The Purpose Driven Life, said in an email to church staff that he and his wife had enjoyed a fun Friday evening with their son before Matthew Warren returned home to take his life in “a momentary wave of despair.”

Syrian Government Airstrike Kills At Least 15 in Aleppo

Beirut (ap) — A Syrian government airstrike on a heavily contested neighborhood in the northern city of Aleppo yesterday killed at least 15 people, including nine children, activists said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the air raid hit Aleppo’s Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood, which rebels seized parts of last weekend after days of heavy fighting with regime troops.

That gain had been the latest opposition advance in an urban warzone that expanded last summer, when rebel fighters took control of several neighborhoods. Aleppo is Syria’s largest city and a key front in the civil war raging between President Bashar Assad and those trying to overthrow his regime.

The Observatory said the death toll from yesterday’s air raid, near a checkpoint of anti-government Kurdish militiamen known as the Popular Committees, is expected to rise as many others were seriously wounded.

Nelson Mandela Is Discharged
From Hospital

Johannesburg (ap) — Former President Nelson Mandela was discharged from a hospital yesterday following treatment for pneumonia, the presidency said in news that cheered South Africans who had waited tensely for health updates on a beloved national figure.

Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader who spent 27 years in prison for opposing white racist rule, was robust during his decades as a public figure, endowed with charisma, a powerful memory and an extraordinary talent for articulating the aspirations of his people and winning over many of those who opposed him. In recent years, however, 94-year-old Mandela became more frail and last made a public appearance at the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament, where he didn’t deliver an address and was bundled against the cold in a stadium full of fans.

5 Die in Sectarian Violence in Egypt

Cairo (Los Angeles Times) — At least five people were killed yesterday in clashes between Muslims and Christians, raising new questions over whether President Mohamed Morsi’s Islamist-led government can calm sectarian tensions amid Egypt’s broader political unrest.

Violence between Muslims and Coptic Christians over the last year has been a troubling subplot, especially in the provinces, to the nation’s post-revolutionary political division and faltering economy. There were conflicting accounts over what ignited the latest fighting in Khousous, an impoverished town north of Cairo.

The state news agency MENA reported that Muslims were angry over swastikas drawn by Christian youths on the wall of an Islamic institute. Other media reported that the clashes stemmed from a dispute between Christian and Muslim families.

Muslims set a church on fire and both sides began shooting at each other.

Officials said five people were killed. Al Ahram news website quoted a priest as saying at least eight people had died, including four Christians.

Freezing Weather Wipes Out
German Flea Circus

Berlin (ap) — An entire troupe of performing fleas has fallen victim to the freezing temperatures currently gripping Germany.

Flea circus director Robert Birk says he was shocked to find all of his 300 fleas dead inside their transport box Wednesday morning.

The circus immediately scrambled to find and train a new batch so it could fulfill its engagements at an open-air fair in the western town of Mechernich-Kommern. Michael Faber, who organizes the fair, told The Associated Press that an insect expert at a nearby university was able to provide 50 fleas in time for the first show today.

Faber says he hopes they’ll “get through this without any more fatalities.”