Will remain committed to nuclear development in 2018: North Korea

Pyongyang: North Korea will remain committed to the country’s nuclear development in 2018, according to a report released on Saturday by state-media.

“Do not expect any change in its policy,” CNN quoted the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) report titled “No Force Can Prevail over Independence and Justice” as saying.  “Its entity as an invincible power can neither be undermined nor be stamped out. North Korea, as a responsible nuclear weapons state, will lead the trend of history to the only road of independence and justice, weathering all tempests on this planet,” it added.

The reportprovided a timeline of the country’s 2017 nuclear weapon achievements, mostly focused on possible US engagement.  North Korea will “continue bolstering the capabilities for self-defence and pre-emptive attack with the nuclear force as the pivot as long as the US and its vassal forces persist in nuclear threat”, the report said.  It boasted about Pyongyang’s new capability to strike “the heart of the US” and a new “status” as a “world-class nuclear power”.

North Korea preparing to launch satellite: Report
The report said North Korea will “deal with the US’s most ferocious declaration of war with fire surely and definitely”.  Throughout 2017, North Korea has conducted a series of ballistic missile tests, despite constant criticism from the West and trade sanctions, CNN reported.  The most provocative moment came on November 29 when North Korea said it successfully tested a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile, topped with a “super-large heavy warhead”, which was capable of striking the US mainland.

This missile flew higher and farther than any other previous tests and came came after a break of almost two months in testing.  The UN Security Council responded by adopting a new set of severe US-drafted sanctions designed to further strangle North Korea’s energy supplies and tighten restrictions on smuggling and the use of North Korean workers overseas.  North Korea called those sanctions “an act of war” and said the US and other nations that supported the strict measures will pay a heavy price.

British PM Theresa May’s key adviser Lord Andrew Adonis quits over Brexit

London: One of British Prime Minister Theresa May’s key advisers, Lord Andrew Adonis, has announced he is quitting his role, describing Brexit as a “populist and nationalist spasm”.

Adonis, who was appointed as her infrastructure adviser in 2015, said May was “pursuing a course fraught with danger” over the UK’s EU departure, the BBC reported.  The one-time Secretary of State in Tony Blair’s Labour government resigned as chair of the National Infrastructure Commission. He was already a high-profile campaigner against Brexit.

Europe wants Brexit transition to end by December 2020
A government source said: “He’s been moving closer towards the exit door with each new onslaught he makes against Brexit. He’s now walked through the door before he was pushed.”  Adonis later insisted it had been his decision to leave, as his “differences with the government had become too great”.  In his letter to 10 Downing Street, Adonis, who would now sit in the unelected House of Lords, told May: “The European Union Withdrawal Bill is the worst legislation of my lifetime.

“It arrives soon in the House of Lords and I feel duty-bound to oppose it relentlessly from the Labour benches.”  He told May her government “is hurtling towards the EU’s emergency exit with no credible plan for the future of British trade and European cooperation”.

He also claimed that Brexit was causing a nervous breakdown across Whitehall, Xinhua news agency reported.  He said: “If Brexit happens, taking us back into Europe will become the mission of our children’s generation, who will marvel at your acts of destruction.”  There was no immediate official response from 10, Downing Street.  Leading Brexiteer, Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith said the departure of Adonis was “long overdue”.

Fighting in northwestern Syria kills 66: monitor

Beirut: Clashes pitting mainly jihadist and rebel fighters against regime forces backed by Russian warplanes killed at 66 people on the edge of Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, a monitor said today.

Among the victims were at least 19 civilians killed by air strikes, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that the casualties were over 24 hours of fighting in an area straddling Idlib and Hama provinces.

India hatching conspiracies against CPEC: Pakistan

Karachi: Pakistan has accused India of using Afghanistan for hatching conspiracies against China- Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said the “enemies of Pakistan” were using different tactics and propaganda to fail the the USD 50 billion CPEC economically, the Dawn reported.

“India is hatching conspiracies against CPEC but Pakistan will foiled them with the support of the people,” he told journalists yesterday after inaugurating an executive passport office in Quetta.

“India is using the soil of Afghanistan for such conspiracies,” he said but expressed hope that the CPEC project would be made successful.

The minister also said that the United States should stop hurling threats at Pakistan and recognise the sacrifices it had rendered in the war against terrorism.

China has offered to extend its ambitious CPEC project to Afghanistan.

China’s offer to extend CPEC is significant from India’s point of view considering New Delhi’s strong objection to the project which traverses through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

12 dead in New York apartment blaze

New York: At least 12 persons were reported dead in a fire that raged through a New York City apartment in the Bronx area, the US media reported.

More than 170 firefighters were on the scene of the huge blaze late on Thursday that also saw more than a dozen critical injuries, authorities said.   The deadly blaze at 2363 Prospect Ave. in the Belmont section of the borough began at about 7 p.m., The New York Post quoted a fire official as saying, a witness, Jamal Flicker, said he spotted flames erupting near trash cans.

“It started down where they take the garbage. The smoke was crazy, people screaming, ‘Get out!’ I heard a woman yelling, ‘We’re trapped, help!’ ” Flicker said. It quickly spread into a four-alarm blaze.  Another witness Xanral Collins said he feared small children were among the dead.  “A father ran into the building, he couldn’t get in,” Collins said. “I saw him screaming, `My babies are dead! My babies are dead!’ ”  Eric Phillips, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s press secretary, said at least six people were dead, USA Today reported.   Phillips tweeted, “Will be more. Horrible.

Fire Commissioner on scene. Mayor here shortly.”  The firefighters rescued at least 15 people, a city fire department spokesman told The New York Daily News. Twelve of the victims were in critical condition.  Crews were working in sub-freezing temperatures to extinguish the blaze in the 101-year-old, five-story walkup apartment building, which is located a block from the Bronx Zoo.  The building was erected in 1916, The New York Times reported.

Tehran earthquake strikes ,One dead, 56 injured

Tehran: A person died of heart attack after a 4.2 magnitude earthquake struck west of Tehran on Wednesday.
According to the local media, around 56 people were injured due to the earthquake and were rushed to the hospital for medical assistance.
Iran’s Emergency Medical Services said that the people suffered injuries while trying to escape from the building.
They were released from the hospital after treatment.
Earlier on December 13, an earthquake of magnitude 6.1 on the Richter scale hit Northern and Central Iran. (ANI)


British woman sentenced to 3 years of imprisonment in Egypt for smuggling painkillers

Cairo [Egypt]: A British woman, who was allegedly caught with 290 tablets of drugs illegal in Egypt, was sentenced to three years in prison and fined the equivalent of 5,611 dollars by an Egyptian court, on Tuesday. The incident came to light when 33 year-old Laura Plummer was arrested on October 9 at Hurghada International Airport on the Red Sea after police reportedly found 290 tablets of tramadol in her suitcase.

Plummer, a shop assistant from Hull in east Yorkshire, was charged with drug possession and smuggling. However, her lawyers argue the traveler misunderstood a question in court and gave a response that appeared to be a confession. While tramadol is legal in many countries as a prescription painkiller, it is illegal for a private individual to sell it in Egypt.

Plummer said she had brought the drug to her Egyptian husband, Omar Abdel-Azim, who suffers from back pain. The pair met five years ago in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, when Abdel-Azim worked as a lifeguard. They were married in 2014 through an unregistered contract, known in Egypt as an “urfi” marriage. Plummer has been visiting her husband regularly since then.

Voting ends in contentious Liberia presidential poll

Monrovia: Liberia voted today in a delayed but peaceful run-off election for a new president, contested by former international footballer George Weah and Vice-President Joseph Boakai.

Voters have chosen a successor to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is stepping down after 12 years as Africa’s first elected female head of state, representing the West African country’s first democratic transition since 1944. AFP journalists saw polling stations closing at 6:00 pm (1800 GMT) as counting was due to begin, while results are expected in the next few days, according to the electoral commission.

The ballot was delayed for seven weeks due to legal challenges lodged by Boakai’s Unity Party against the electoral commission over the conduct of the first round of voting, but many of the complaints appeared to have been addressed in the second round.

Kremlin: Russia election boycott campaign may be illegal
National and international observers warned however that turnout had been affected in the morning of a election held immediately after Christmas Day celebrations, though it may have picked up later. “Turnout was significantly slower during the morning than for the first round election,” noted the Liberia Elections Observation Network, which had more than 1,000 observers stationed across the country, echoing a similar statement earlier by the European Union’s chief observer.

As Liberia’s most famous son, Weah attracts huge crowds and has a faithful youth following in a country where a fifth of the electorate is aged between 18 and 22. But he has been criticised for his performance in the Senate, where he has served since 2014.

Weah, 51, starred in top-flight European football teams Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan in the 1990s before playing briefly for Chelsea and Manchester City later in his career. Vice President Boakai, 73, meanwhile is seen as a continuity candidate and has won praise for his years of public service and image as a corruption-free family man, while fending off allegations he failed to tackle poverty while in government.

The two candidates voted at polling stations near their homes in Paynesville, a suburb of Monrovia, the capital of this nation of 4.6 million people. Both declared victory was theirs for the taking.  “We’re going to win because the people believe in us and they know we represent the best,” said Boakai, a public servant of four decades’ standing. But Weah was resolute that his second run for the presidency would be successful after 12 years spent building a political reputation to match his popularity.

“Victory is certain,” he told journalists after casting his ballot. Weah topped the first round of voting with 38.4 percent while Boakai came second with 28.8 percent. That triggered a run-off as neither made it past the 50 percent needed to win outright. Whoever wins on Tuesday faces an economy battered by lower commodity prices for its main exports of rubber and iron ore, and a rapidly depreciating currency.

Sirleaf guided the nation out of ruin following back-to-back 1989-2003 civil wars and through the horrors of the 2014 16 Ebola crisis, but is accused of failing to combat poverty and tackle corruption. Living standards in Liberia remain among the worst in the world.

“I voted for George Weah because he is the one who will bring the change we have been waiting for in this country,” declared supporter John Momoh after voting. Victoria Blamoh, 56, told AFP she voted for Boakai’s “experience of leadership”, explaining: “He has been in government for 12 years, so he knows the ins and outs of it.”

Weah has polled well in Bong county, the fiefdom of Liberian warlord and former president Charles Taylor and his ex-wife, Jewel Howard-Taylor, who is the former footballer’s vice-presidential pick, attracting controversy to his campaign. Charles Taylor is serving a 50-year sentence in Britain for war crimes committed in neighbouring Sierra Leone, but his presence has loomed over the election.

Thousands protest in Peru against ex-President Alberto Fujimori’s pardon

Lima: Thousands of people took to the streets across Peru to protest against the pardon granted to former President Alberto Fujimori, which exempts him from completing a 25-year prison sentence for human rights violations. In Lima, some 6,000 people demonstrated peacefully on Monday. It ended with at least one arrest and the police dispersed the demonstration with tear gas, reports Efe news.

The protesters at first wanted to march towards the Government Palace, headquarters of the executive, or to the clinic in which Fujimori is hospitalised, but instead was ended in front of the Palace of Justice. The demonstrators demanded that the pardon be quashed, given that it favours impunity for Fujimori.

He was sentenced in 2009 to 25 years in prison for his responsibility in the massacres of 25 people in Barrios Altos in 1991 and La Cantuta in 1992, perpetrated by the undercover military group Colina, and the kidnapping of a journalist and a businessman in 1992.

President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski signed the pardon for Fujimori, 79, on Sunday, only three days after he narrowly survived an impeachment vote by Congress, due to the 10 votes from Fujimori’s party, led by Kenji Fujimori, son of the former president, who had called on several occasions for a pardon for his father.

The pardon was granted for humanitarian reasons, allegedly because Fujimori is suffering from a “progressive, degenerative and incurable disease” and is at risk of aggravation due to prison conditions, according to a statement from the Presidency of Peru. According to the report by the medical board that recommended the pardon, Fujimori is suffering from paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, hypertension, mitral insufficiency, tongue cancer that has needed six operations and a lumbar hernia.

Fujimori was transferred on December 22 from the prison and is currently hospitalised in a clinic in Lima, where on Sunday his children brought him the news of the pardon. Demonstrations against the pardon also took place in other cities such as Arequipa, Ayacucho, Puno, Tacna and Trujillo, among others.

JuD chief Saeed opens MML office in Lahore

Lahore : Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed has opened the first office of the Milli Muslim League (MML) here, days after the Pakistan government said the group would breed violence and extremism in politics while opposing a plea seeking its registration as a political party.

Saeed has confirmed that his organisation Jammat-ud-Dawah (JuD) would contest the 2018 general elections under the banner of the MML.

The MML is the offshoot of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and JuD, according to the government.

The MML had challenged the Election Commission’s order in October that had declined its registration as a political party.

Saeed on Sunday inaugurated the office in Lahore’s National Assembly-120 constituency from where a JuD member had contested by-polls in September.

Despite refusal from the interior ministry to register the MML as a political party, Saeed pressed ahead with his plans to take the political plunge.

The Pakistan government has requested a court inIslamabad not to consider Saeed-backed MML’s plea seeking its registration as a political party, saying the group would breed violence and extremism in politics.

The interior ministry has categorically made it clear that the state will not allow mainstreaming of jihad outfits. Saeed’s visit and opening of political office in Lahore indicate that he has ambitious plans to enter into politics.

During his visit on Mohni Road area adjacent to DataSahib shrine, he listened to civic problems of people. People welcomed Saeed by showering rose petals on his vehicle in the area. The JuD headquarters in Chauburji also falls in NA-120. The MML had secured the fourth position with 6,000 votes, double than that of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Jamaat- i-Islami combined. Saeed, who carries a bounty of USD 10 million announced by the US for his role in terror activities, walked free on November 24 after the Pakistan government decided against detaining him further in any other case. He was under detention since January this year. The banned JuD is believed to be the front organisation for the LeT which carried out the 2008 Mumbai terror attack in which 166 people were killed.

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