AMSTERDAM, December 31 -- The departures hall at Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands has been evacuated due to a possible bomb threat, according to reports.
Initial reports suggest that a man entered Departure Hall 3 and shouted that he was in possession of a bomb. Pictures from the scene appear to show heavily armed officers arriving at the location and detaining a man. Witnesses say passengers were forced to run from the terminal after the threat became apparent.
The Twitter account for Schipol wrote: "Man threatens with a bomb in Departure hall 3 at Schiphol. Currently Departure hall 3 is being evacuated. More information will follow as soon as possible.
We'll be bringing you the very latest updates, pictures and video on this breaking news story.
BELFAST, December 31 -- Fans of legendary Belfast rocker Gary Moore are to start fundraising for a memorial statue in his honour in the new year.
he former Thin Lizzy guitarist, who grew up in the Newtownards Road area in the east of the city, was found dead in a hotel room on the Costa del Sol in 2011, aged 58. A campaign to raise money for a statue will be launched on April 12th with a memorial show at The Empire Music Hall. Organizers state: "It is with great honour and respect that we announce the acts for GFG 2019:
The show will finish with an epic blues jam with all musicians on stage! It’s going to be a very special night. Tickets will be on sale very soon from Ticketmaster. Stay tuned!"
BAGHDAD, December 31 -- The Iraqi army had announced victory in late 2017 after an ISIS occupation that started in 2014 with massacres in Mosul and throughout a wide area.
Tens of thousands of gang members captured during the war continue to face trial. There are some 20.000 persons reportedly on remand. Iraqi Supreme Council of Judges Spokesperson Judge Abdul Settar Bayraktar announced that 616 men and women have been put on trial for membership to ISIS in 2018. Bayraktar said 508 of these individuals have been convicted on grounds of antiterror laws. Bayraktar didn’t give details about the convictions but said 466 of the individuals had been women, 42 men and 108 children, 31 boys and 77 girls.
Bayraktar said 73 women and 22 men are still under investigation in the prosecution. Most of the convicts are citizens of Turkey and former Soviet republics. One German citizen, one Belgian citizen and one Russian citizen have been sentenced to death. Two female and one male French citizens have been sentenced to life in prison.
The North Korean leader acknowledges the two Koreas have escaped the danger of war and have “established ties of harmony and trust that are irreversible.". Kim regrets not being able to visit Seoul, whilst for the South Korean president, “There will be a lot of difficulties going forward. But our hearts will be opened to each other.”
SEOUL, December 31 -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent a letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-in asking for more peace talks in the new year.
Moon yesterday welcomed North Korea's renewed commitment to the denuclearisation of the peninsula, which could give new impetus to the stalled negotiations with the United States over Pyongyang’s nuclear programme. According to Moon, Kim has acknowledged that the two Koreas have escaped from the danger of war and “established ties of harmony and trust that are irreversible”.
The North Korean leader, Moon added, “has expressed his willingness to actively carry out agreements reached at the inter-Korean summits and the US-North Korea summit”. “Chairman Kim said he wants to meet [with me] frequently in the new year again in order to discuss practical issues related with peace and prosperity and the issue of denuclearisation. I heartily welcome this.”
Whilst the Office of the President did not fully disclose Kim’s letter, Moon’s spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said that Kim expressed regret that he could not make a planned visit to Seoul, South Korea’s capital, by the end of December as the two leaders had agreed at their last summit in September in Pyongyang. In September, the Koreas agreed to a number of goodwill gestures to reduce their conventional military threat, such as removing mines and firearms from the border village of Panmunjom, destroying some front-line guard posts and creating buffer zones along their land and sea boundaries and a no-fly zone above the border. “Kim said the leaders by meeting three times in a single year and implementing bold measures to overcome the long period of conflict lifted our nation from military tension and war fears,” Moon’s spokesman noted. In addition, he leader expressed his willingness to “keep a close eye on the situation and expressed strong will to visit Seoul.” Still, “There will be a lot of difficulties going forward. But our hearts will be opened to each other depending on how much effort we make,” Moon said.
'Certainties of international cooperation are coming under pressure,'
BERLIN, December 31 -- German chancellor Angela Merkel framed 2019 as a year for Europeans to defend the multilateral order that two world wars have shown is needed to avoid global conflicts.
As she heads into the twilight of her political career after 13 years in office, Merkel used her New Year's message to hammer home a world view sharpened by US president Donald Trump's "America First" policies and the UK's looming exit from the European Union. European elections in May can help secure the EU as a pillar of peace and prosperity, she said. It's in Germany's interest to tackle climate change, terrorism and promote orderly migration, and the best way to do so is by considering the interests of others, even if some have lost sight of that, Merkel will say in her speech to be broadcast on Monday.
"Certainties of international cooperation are coming under pressure," Merkel will say, according to emailed comments from the government. "We have to advocate, argue and fight for our convictions more strongly. And it is in our own interest to assume more responsibility." After a year that ended with Merkel preparing to exit from politics by 2021, she portrayed the challenge as a matter of war and peace, a choice between heeding the lessons of World War II or the risk of drifting into an era of greater conflicts. Politicians such as Trump as well as some European leaders have criticised international cooperation and are setting their countries on more nationalistic paths.
Closer to home, Germany is working to make the European Union more robust and better able to take decisions, Merkel will say. The country also wants to maintain a close partnership with the UK after Brexit, according to the chancellor. Germany will seek global solutions as it joins the United Nations Security Council as a non-permanent member in 2019, according to Merkel. The country is raising its spending on humanitarian and development aid as well as defense, she will say.
NAKHON PHANOM, December 31 -- Police on Monday were trying to identify the bodies of two men dumped into the Mekong River with concrete placed inside their ruptured bellies. The bodies washed up on a riverbank in this northeastern province.
Police suspected the victims were political activists. The two bodies were found in That Phanom and Muang districts handcuffed and with their ankles tied together. Their bellies had been ripped open and chunks of concrete stuffed inside them. The bodies had then been placed in sacks and dumped into the river. Local police collected samples from the bodies for examination at a forensic facility in Khon Kaen province. Sources said national police chief Chakthip Chaijinda ordered police handling the case to speed up the investigation in order to verify the belief that the victims were political activists.
According to sources, relatives of political activists in Bangkok contacted Nakhon Phanom police, requesting to see the bodies and provide information that might help identify them. Detectives were quoted as saying that the handcuffs found on the bodies were often used in Laos and Vietnam. Nakhon Phanom police commander Thanachart Rodkhlongtan said the men were murdered about a week ago, and their bodies may have been dumped into the Mekong River five days ago. Police would try to identify them from relatives' information and DNA tests, he said.
BUCHAREST, December 31 -- No country has ever been less prepared, less qualified and less willing to assume the rotating presidency of the European Council than Romania.
Their government is taking an increasingly anti-European path, one which threatens the country's future.In Brussels on December 29, the penny finally dropped. Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, questioned whether Romania is ready for the political give-and-take of running the presidency of the European Council, which it assumes on January 1.
Mr Juncker told Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper: “I think the government in Bucharest hasn’t yet fully understood what it means to take the chair over the EU countries.” The role of the EU’s presiding country – held on a rotating basis for six months – includes setting the EU agenda and serving as a diplomatic go-between among the 28 member countries. Mr Juncker also pointed to deep domestic political divisions and said a “united front” at home is needed to foster unity in Europe. The ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), now openly anti-European in words and actions, in stark contrast to the staunchly pro-European population at large (which includes the country’s president), makes such unity impossible.
BEIJING, December 31 -- Beijing Capital International Airport handled its 100 millionth passenger of the year on Friday, making it the first Chinese airport, and the second in the world, to reach the milestone, the airport said in a news releases.
Since 1978, when its annual passenger was just 1.03 million, the airport has seen an average annual growth rate in passenger traffic of 12.1 percent. It has also witnessed dramatic growth in terms of cargo traffic, handling 2 million metric tons of cargo this year, compared with 34,000 tons 40 years ago. Opened in 1958, the capital's main airport has been the world's second-busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic since 2010. The airport also plays an important role in the regional economy. According to the airport, it contributed over 140 billion yuan ($20.43 billion) annually to the regional economy from 2013 to 2017, providing a total of 611,000 jobs.
MOSCOW, December 31 -- Russia’s Federal Security Service has detained US citizen Paul Whelan in Moscow on suspicion of espionage, the public relations center said on Monday.
"On December 28, 2018 staff members of the Russian Federal Security Service detained US citizen Paul Whelan in Moscow while on a spy mission," the center said. A criminal investigation into espionage has been launched against the US citizen. No other details of the charges were announced.
A police statement read: "On October 28 members of the Federal security services of the Russian Federation arrested US citizen Paul Whelan in Moscow for carrying out espionage.
"The necessary investigations are ongoing.". If found guilty, he faces between 10 and 20 years in jail.
BEIJING, December 31 -- China has pledged to coordinate its efforts of environmental protection and economic development in 2019, an important year for winning the tough battle against pollution.
At the annual Central Economic Work Conference earlier this month, authorities called for building on this year's achievement in pollution control, making more efforts and input in 2019. Since the turn of this year, China has made solid efforts to combat pollution and seen constant improvement of the environment. However, the challenges of pollution remained as some local governments paid less attention to environmental protection amid downward pressure in the economy. "We can neither ease our efforts on environmental protection nor harm the productivity of enterprises," said Peng Yingdeng, a researcher with an institute focused on urban pollution control, adding that China needs to balance pollution treatment and economic advancement.
The Central Economic Work Conference made it clear that local governments must avoid past simple and unscrupulous practices in dealing with environmental problems. Rather than simply shut down environmentally-unqualified companies, the city of Hengshui in north China's Hebei Province unveiled environment management guidance to help enterprises achieve green development. Thanks to the environment protection upgrade, Hengshui Baili Rubber Products Co. bid farewell to their previously disheveled factory area, meeting the requirements of the European market.
"When inspecting environmental problems, reasonable demand from enterprises should be taken in consideration, so as to achieve strict enforcement and warm-hearted service at the same time," an unnamed official with the Ministry of Ecology and Environment said. Zhang Liqun, a researcher with the Development Research Center of the State Council, said the conference offered targeted prescriptions for problems in the country's environmental protection plan. "This will give better support to balancing environmental protection with economic development and realizing mutually-enhancing interaction," Zhang said.
In the first 11 months, air quality improved in 338 monitored Chinese cities as against last year, according to official data. During the period, the density of PM2.5 in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and surrounding areas declined 12.1 percent year on year.