PYONGYANG, December 22 -- North Korea has said US President Barack Obama is "recklessly'' spreading rumours of a Pyongyang-orchestrated cyber attack on Sony Pictures and warned of strikes against "the whole US mainland, that cesspool of terrorism".
North Korea has said US President Barack Obama is "recklessly'' spreading rumours of a Pyongyang-orchestrated cyber attack on Sony Pictures and warned of strikes against "the whole US mainland, that cesspool of terrorism".
Pyongyang specifically threatened the White House and the Pentagon in a long statement from the powerful National Defence Commission late on Sunday.
Such North Korean rhetoric during times of high tension with Washington is routine. But it also underscores the country's sensitivity over a movie whose plot focuses on the assassination of leader Kim Jong-un.
The US blames North Korea for the cyber attack that escalated to threats of terror attacks against US movie theatres and caused Sony to cancel the release of "The Interview".
The US is now considering whether to put North Korea back on its list of state sponsors of terror, Obama said on Sunday.
"We're going to review those through a process that's already in place," the president said in an interview aired on Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union".
"And we don't make those judgements just based on the news of the day. We look systematically at what's been done and based on those facts, we'll make those determinations in the future."
'A dangerous precedent'
North Korea had earlier denied responsibility for the hack attack and proposed a joint investigation with the US to to find the culprits. Obama's remarks, in the interview which was taped on Friday, followed a call from a leading US senator to reconsider North Korea's terror designation.
Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday, saying the Pyongyang regime had set a "dangerous precedent" through cyber attacks that were "able to inflict significant economic damage on a major international company".
The State Department rescinded its designation of North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism in October 2008. Currently, the list includes just four countries: Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria.
Obama has asked the State Department to consider removing Cuba, following the historic thawing of relations between the two Cold War rivals announced earlier this week.
SAMARA, December 21 -- The tenth humanitarian convoy of the Russian ministry of emergency situations will leave for Donbass on December 21 from the bordering Rostov region, Minister Vladimir Puchkov said on Saturday.
“Today we are finalising the preparations, and tomorrow morning it (the convoy) will leave (for Donbass),” he said. The trucks will be delivering food products, construction materials, medicines, spare parts for the energy sector.
The minister said as of Saturday, at 1,000 temporary accommodation facilities in Russia’s 76 regions are staying refugees from Ukraine, including 12,000 children.
NEW YORK, December 21 -- Jordan has executed 11 men convicted of murder by hanging, the interior ministry said, as it ended an informal eight-year moratorium on the death penalty.
"Eleven criminals convicted in different cases of murder were executed at dawn," the official Petra news agency quoted a ministry spokesman as saying on Sunday.
Authorities said the men were all Jordanians convicted on murder charges in 2005 and 2006. Jordan's last previous executions were in June 2006 and 122 people have since been sentenced to death.
Interior Minister Hussein Majali suggested recently that the moratorium might end, saying there was a "major debate" in Jordan on the death penalty and that "the public believes that the rise in crime has been the result of the non-application" of capital punishment.
A number of countries in the Middle East continue to impose the death penalty for serious crimes, including Jordan's neighbour Saudi Arabia which has executed 83 people so far this year.
China by far carried out the most executions last year, numbering in the thousands, followed by Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United States, human rights group Amnesty International said in a report in March.
BATTAMBANG, December 21 -- A third round of tests has confirmed that at least 90 villagers in a small rural community in northwest Cambodia have contracted HIV in an unexplained and panic-inducing mass infection.
Dr Didier Fontenille, director of the Pasteur Institute in Cambodia, said that samples sent from Roka commune in Battambang province, where the unusually high number of infections were first detected this month, have tested positive for the virus.
"It has been confirmed three times by different techniques. Around 90 [people] have tested positive," Fontenille said. More samples taken from residents in the area will be tested on Saturday, he said.
On Saturday afternoon, members of a parliamentary commission on public health attempted to address the concerns of the villagers in the northwest of the country. Commission chairwoman Ke Sovannroth told the assembled villagers that they must not lose hope and the government was working to help them with access to HIV testing and anti-retroviral treatment. Veat Vorn, 53, whose 11-year-old son was diagnosed with HIV earlier this month, was among the crowd.
"First he cried a lot. But after we consoled him he stopped," she said, adding that her son, fearing he would be shunned by his friends, was afraid to go to school after his test returned positive.
Officials from Cambodia's National Centre for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STD said this week that 106 villagers, including elderly people and 19 children under the age of 15, had tested positive for HIV in the Roka area alone, a community of about 9,000 rural farmers.
As news of the infections spread and suspicion falling on a local health provider who treated residents over several years, alarm set it and local villagers flocked to health centres to be tested for the virus.
Somewhat complicating the situation, Hun Sen, Cambodia's prime minister, said on Thursday in a speech that he did not believe that so many had been infected with HIV, speculating that unreliable testing was likely to blame.
"It is not that we do not believe in our doctors and our equipment, but it is hard to believe," he said. "I do not believe it."
Noting the unusual nature of such a large number of HIV cases in a small area, Pasteur Institute's Fontenille said now that the cases had been confirmed, what needed to be determined was when the infections actually occurred.
Meanwhile, UNAIDS, the UN programme on HIV/AIDS, says it has joined Cambodia's Ministry of Health to conduct a full epidemiological investigation in the affected community.
"UNAIDS is working with the authorities to ensure that anyone who may have been affected has access to essential HIV treatment, care and support services," UNAIDS said in a statement.
ROTTERDAM, December 5 -- Doctors at Utrecht’s main hospital UMC are preparing to receive the country’s first ebola patient, broadcaster Nos says on Friday.
The Dutch cabinet has allocated four beds at a special unit in the hospital for international aid workers who have become infected with ebola and need treatment. The patient is a Nigerian man who is being brought to the Netherlands at the request of the World Health Organisation, the Dutch health ministry is quoted as saying.
He is said to be a soldier who was serving with the UN peace-keeping forces in Liberia. He will be brought to the Netherlands on a special flight but it is not yet known when he is due to arrive.
MOSCOW, December 5 -- First Russian fighter jet of the fifth-generation fitted out with a second-stage engine is expected to make a maiden flight in 2017,
Vyacheslav Massalov, the Director General of the United Engine-Building Corporation said on Thursday. He said the second-stage engine will be 17% to 18% more efficient than the engine of its predecessor, the G4 aircraft.
“The aircraft that’s known as Item 30 at present and that has a second-stage engine is supposed to make its maiden flight in 2017,” Massalov said. “The efficiency of the new engine is 17% to 18% higher than that of the first-stage engine.”
In particular, the new engine consumes notably less fuel.
The maiden flight of fifth-generation jet fitted out with the first-stage jet took place in 2010, Mikhail Pogossian, the chief designer of the corporation said last summer. The supplies contract for those aircraft is expected to be signed in 2015.
MOSCOW, December 5 -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emphasized the necessity to continue work to ensure a comprehensive investigation of the Malaysian Boeing’s crash at a meeting with his Dutch counterpart Bert Koenders on the sidelines of the OSCE foreign ministerial meeting in Basel.
“The sides discussed the state and prospects of further development of the Russian-Dutch bilateral cooperation, as well as the most urgent issues on the international agenda,” the Russian Foreign Ministry reported.
“The ministers exchanged opinions on the course of international investigation of the circumstances of and reasons for the crash on July 17 of a Malaysia Airlines aircraft in the sky above Ukraine,” the ministry said. “Lavrov stressed the necessity to continue systemic work to ensure a comprehensive, thorough and independent investigation of the air crash in strict accordance with Resolution 2166 of the UN Security Council and rules of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO),” it said.
On July 17, a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 passenger airliner on flight MH17 from the Dutch city of Amsterdam to the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur crashed in the Donetsk Region in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board. Most passengers — over 190 people — were Dutch nationals.
The Dutch Safety Board, which is leading the probe and coordinating the international team of investigators, said in its preliminary report published September 9 that “Flight MH17 with a Boeing 777-200 operated by Malaysia Airlines broke up in the air probably as the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside.”
UN Security Council Resolution 2166 in particular says that the SC “condemns in the strongest terms the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on 17 July in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine resulting in the tragic loss of 298 lives” and “supports efforts to establish a full, thorough and independent international investigation into the incident in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines.”
It also says the Council “demands that the armed groups in control of the crash site and the surrounding area refrain from any actions that may compromise the integrity of the crash site” and “demands that all military activities, including by armed groups, be immediately ceased in the immediate area surrounding the crash site to allow for security and safety of the international investigation.”.