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North Korea appears to resume plutonium program

WASHINGTON — New satellite photographs showing steam emerging from a newly reconstructed nuclear reactor in North Korea suggest that the country may be making good on its promise to resume the production of plutonium for its small nuclear arsenal, six years after it reached an agreement with the Bush administration to dismantle the facility.

The discovery of the new activity at the Yongbyon nuclear complex was reported by the U.S.-Korea Institute, at Johns Hopkins University, which follows the North’s nuclear program closely.

If the source of the steam proves to be the restarting of the reactor, it would enable the North, after a year or more, to begin to add to its arsenal of plutonium weapons. It would also underscore the failure of efforts by four U.S. presidents to stop the North Korean program; so far, the North has conducted three nuclear tests, including two during the Obama administration.

In recent weeks the North Koreans have expressed a willingness to return to six-party negotiations on their nuclear program with the United States, China, Russia, South Korea and Japan, although they have not clarified if they would be willing to agree to the goal of disarmament. The United States and its allies have said they would resume the talks only if the North agreed to eventually give up its nuclear arsenal.

—David E. Sanger, William J. Broad, and Choe Sang-Hun,
The New York Times

China unveils plans to reduce air pollution

BEIJING — The Chinese government announced an ambitious plan on Thursday to curb air pollution across the nation, including setting some limits on coal burning and taking old vehicles off the roads to ensure a drop in the concentration of particulate matter in cities.

The plan, released by the State Council, China’s cabinet, filled in a broad outline that the government had issued earlier this year. It represents the most concrete response by the Communist Party and the government to growing criticism for allowing the country’s air, soil and water to degrade to abysmal levels because of corruption and unchecked economic growth.

The criticism has been especially pronounced in some of China’s largest cities, where anxious residents grapple with choking smog that can persist for days and even weeks. In January, the concentration of fine particulate matter in Beijing reached 40 times the exposure limit recommended by the World Health Organization.

—Edward Wong, The New York Times

Twitter confidentially submits plans for IPO

Twitter filed the initial paperwork Thursday for its long-awaited initial public offering of stock.

Unlike with typical IPOs, however, potential investors and the public will not yet get a look at the company’s finances.

The company filed its preliminary prospectus, known as an S-1, with securities regulators using a provision of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups, or JOBS Act, that allows the company to keep its initial filings confidential if it has less than $1 billion in annual revenue.

Goldman Sachs is leading the underwriting for the offering, according to a person briefed on the matter.

While the company hopes to go public by the end of the year, the actual public offering could take place in early 2014, according to people who were briefed on the matter but could not be named because they are not allowed to speak publicly for the company.

Twitter first became profitable in December of last year, generating a record of more than $100 million in the final quarter of 2012. The company is on target to make $650 million, according to internal estimates.

—Vindu Goel and Nick Bilton, The New York Times