Philippines ‘prepared for worst’ in dengue vaccine concerns

Sat, 2017-12-02 13:18

MANILA: The Philippines is prepared for a “worst-case scenario” following warnings that an anti-dengue vaccine administered to thousands of children may worsen the disease in some cases, a health official said Saturday.
Department of Health spokesman Eric Tayag said the country had already taken precautions against potential mishaps when it became the first country to use the landmark vaccine in 2016.
The developer of the world’s first vaccine for the potentially deadly virus, French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi, revealed earlier this week that it could trigger more severe symptoms in people who had not been previously infected with dengue.
More than 733,000 children have already received Dengvaxia, raising fears that many could develop the harsher form of the disease.
“The Department of Health is prepared for a worst-case scenario,” Tayag told ABS-CBN television, a day after the agency announced it was suspending its mass vaccination program.
Tayag said the government had been careful to only implement the scheme in areas where dengue was already widespread and had only given it to children aged nine or older.
“They are being followed up for adverse effects following immunization,” he said.
He added that the department, which had previously said there were no reported cases of worsened infection among those who received the vaccine, was also checking hospital records for severe cases of dengue.
Sanofi had said such acute dengue cases would not become apparent till about five years after vaccination, Tayag added.
The developer initially said its Dengvaxia vaccine was “critical” in the fight against dengue, the world’s most common mosquito-borne virus.
It said Wednesday that a new study has confirmed Dengvaxia’s benefits for “those who had prior infection” with the potentially lethal disease.
“For those not previously infected by dengue virus, however, the analysis found that in the longer term, more cases of severe disease could occur following vaccination upon a subsequent dengue infection,” Sanofi said.
More than 1,000 people in the Philippines died from dengue last year, out of more than 211,000 suspected cases, according to the government.

Main category: 
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Cyclone batters southwestern India coast killing 14, many missing

Sat, 2017-12-02 09:42

COLOMBO: Thousands took to relief camps in Sri Lanka and southern India on Saturday to escape rising floodwaters after a cyclone killed at least 26 people.
Cyclone Ockhi has left 13 people dead in Sri Lanka and killed an equal number in India’s Kerala and Tamil Nadu states since Friday as it churns in the Arabian Sea.
Eleven people, mostly fishermen, remained missing in the two countries as nearly 9,000 people sought shelter in relief camps.
Scores of localities suffered flooding and cut power and telephone lines as winds of up to 130 kilometers per hour swept the region.
Weather experts warned of more heavy rains to come, as the water level rose in several rivers in southern India.
The tiny Indian island of Lakshadweep off the country’s western coast braced for winds of 145 kilometers per hour.
The Sri Lankan disaster management center said 77,000 people in 16 districts have been affected, with the highest number in the southern Galle district.
Nearly 4,000 people are in Sri Lankan relief camps amid widespread destruction of property.
Authorities are on red alert in coastal areas, with five deaths already reported in Kanyakumari on the southern tip of India.
Schools and colleges in parts of India’s southern states have been shut as authorities try to restore nearly 4,000 snapped power lines.
The Kerala state emergency department said nearly 3,200 people were in relief camps. “Seven people died in several incidents and 218 were rescued from the sea,” an agency official said.
Weather officials said the storm was likely to move north into Tamil Nadu and the east coast state of Andhra Pradesh in the next four days.
India’s eastern coast — including major cities like Chennai and Bhubaneswar — are prone to storms that wreak immense damage between April and December.
In 1999, more than 8,000 people were killed when a cyclone battered the eastern state of Orissa.
While Cyclone Ockhi was said to be weakening, another tropical storm was brewing in the Bay of Bengal on the east coast, officials said.

Main category: 
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More Bali flights canceled on forecast of volcanic ash from Mount Agung

Sat, 2017-12-02 11:06

DENPASAR, Indonesia: Airlines canceled more flights departing the Indonesian holiday island of Bali on Saturday, citing forecasts of deteriorating flying conditions due to a risk of volcanic ash from the erupting Mount Agung volcano.
A Bali airport spokesman said the airport was still operating normally, but airlines such as Jetstar and Virgin Australia had opted to cancel some flights.
“Bali flying conditions expected to be clear throughout the day, but forecast for tonight has deteriorated so several flights have been canceled,” Australian budget airline Jetstar said on its Twitter account.
The erupting volcano had closed the airport for much of this week, stranding thousands of visitors from Australia, China and other countries, before the winds changed and flights resumed
Twenty flights were canceled on Friday evening due to concerns over ash. Some airlines including Malaysia’s AirAsia have said they would only operate out of Bali during the day, as the ash could impair visibility at night and wind conditions in the area were unpredictable.
Airlines avoid flying through volcanic ash as it can damage aircraft engines, clogging fuel and cooling systems, hampering pilot visibility and even causing engine failure.
There are also concerns over changing weather conditions with a tropical cyclone south of Java island impacting weather and wind in the area, including for Bali, the Indonesian Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysics agency said
With some airlines continuing to fly normally on Saturday, there was frustration among passengers.
Australian couple Justine and Greg Hill were on holiday with their two teenage children and had been due to fly out today but their flight later this evening was canceled.
“It’s more an inconvenience than anything. Don’t understand why if other airlines are flying, some others aren’t. Obviously there must be safety protocols but there’s no detailed explanation,” said Greg Hill, 46, who was waiting at the airport.
Several foreign consulates have set up booths in the international departures area to assist stranded passengers.
Subrata Sarkar, India’s vice consul in Bali, told Reuters at the airport’s international departure area that they had helped around 500 passengers so far this week.
“We have advised citizens the volcano may erupt. We never say ‘please don’t come’. But we have issued travel adviseries. If it’s urgent business, then ok, but if it’s only tourism, then plans should be reconsidered,” said Sarkar.

Main category: 
Airlines limit Bali flights to guard against volcanic ash from Mount Agung eruption
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Senate OKs tax bill as Trump, GOP near big legislative win

Sat, 2017-12-02 03:00

WASHINGTON: Republicans pushed a nearly $1.5 trillion (SR5.63 trillion) tax bill through the Senate early Saturday after a burst of eleventh-hour horse trading, as a party starved all year for a major legislative triumph took a giant step toward giving President Donald Trump one of his top priorities by Christmas.
“Big bills are rarely popular. You remember how unpopular ‘Obamacare’ was when it passed?” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said in an interview, shrugging off polls showing scant public enthusiasm for the measure. He said the legislation would prove to be “just what the country needs to get growing again.”
Senate approval came on a 51-49 roll call with Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, the only lawmaker to cross party lines. The measure focuses its tax reductions on businesses and higher-earning individuals, gives more modest breaks to others and offers the boldest rewrite of the nation’s tax system since 1986.
Republicans touted the package as one that would benefit people of all incomes and ignite the economy. Even an official projection of a $1 trillion, 10-year flood of deeper budget deficits couldn’t dissuade GOP senators from rallying behind the bill.
“Obviously I’m kind of a dinosaur on the fiscal issues,” said Corker, who battled to keep the bill from worsening the government’s accumulated $20 trillion in IOUs.
The Republican-led House approved a similar bill last month in what has been a stunningly swift trip through Congress for complex legislation that impacts the breadth of American society. The two chambers will now try crafting a final compromise to send Trump.
After spending the year’s first nine months futilely trying to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law, GOP leaders were determined to move the measure rapidly before opposition Democrats and lobbying groups could blow it up. The party views passage as crucial to retaining its House and Senate majorities in next year’s elections.
Democrats derided the bill as a GOP gift to its wealthy and business backers at the expense of lower-earning people. They contrasted the bill’s permanent reduction in corporate income tax rates from 35 percent to 20 percent to smaller individual tax breaks that would end in 2026.
Congress’ nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation has said the bill’s reductions for many families would be modest and said by 2027, families earning under $75,000 would on average face higher, not lower, taxes.
The bill is “removed from the reality of what the American people need,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. He criticized Republicans for releasing a revised, 479-page bill that no one can absorb shortly before the final vote, saying, “The Senate is descending to a new low of chicanery.”
“You really don’t read this kind of legislation,” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, told home-state reporters, asked why the Senate was approving a bill some senators hadn’t read. He said lawmakers needed to study it and get feedback from affected groups.
Democrats took to the Senate floor and social media to mock one page that included changes scrawled in barely legible handwriting. Later, they won enough GOP support to kill a provision by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, that would have bestowed a tax break on conservative Hillsdale College in Michigan.
The bill hit rough waters after the Joint Taxation panel concluded it would worsen federal shortfalls by $1 trillion over a decade, even when factoring in economic growth that lower taxes would stimulate. Trump administration officials and many Republicans have insisted the bill would pay for itself by stimulating the economy. But the sour projections stiffened resistance from some deficit-averse Republicans.
But after bargaining that stretched into Friday, GOP leaders nailed down the support they needed in a chamber they control 52-48. Facing unyielding Democratic opposition, Republicans could lose no more than two GOP senators and prevail with a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence, but ended up not needing it.
Leaders’ changes included helping millions of companies whose owners pay individual, not corporate, taxes on their profits by allowing deductions of 23 percent, up from 17.4 percent. That helped win over Wisconsin’s Johnson and Steve Daines of Montana.
People would be allowed to deduct up to $10,000 in property taxes, a demand of Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. That matched a House provision that chamber’s leaders included to keep some GOP votes from high-tax states like New York, New Jersey and California.
The changes added nearly $300 billion to the tax bill’s costs. To pay for that, leaders reduced the number of high-earners who must pay the alternative minimum tax, rather than completely erasing it. They also increased a one-time tax on profits US-based corporations are holding overseas and would require firms to keep paying the business version of the alternative minimum tax.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona — who like Corker had been a holdout and has sharply attacked Trump’s capabilities as president — voted for the bill. He said he’d received commitments from party leaders and the administration “to work with me” to restore protections, dismantled by Trump, for young immigrants who arrived in the US illegally as children. That seemed short of a pledge to actually revive the safeguards.
The Senate bill would drop the highest personal income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 38.5 percent. The estate tax levied on a few thousand of the nation’s largest inheritances would be narrowed to affect even fewer.
Deductions for state and local income taxes, moving expenses and other items would vanish, the standard deduction — used by most Americans — would nearly double to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for couples, and the per-child tax credit would grow.
The bill would abolish the “Obamacare” requirement that most people buy health coverage or face tax penalties. Industry experts say that would weaken the law by easing pressure on healthier people to buy coverage, and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has said the move would push premiums higher and leave 13 million additional people uninsured.

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Canadian judge suspends Quebec niqab ban

Sat, 2017-12-02 03:57

TORONTO: A Canadian judge on Friday suspended part of a Quebec law banning people from wearing full-face veils when giving or receiving public services, handing a provisional victory to civil liberties groups who argued that the law is unconstitutional and discriminates against Muslim women.
Judge Babak Barin suspended the portion of the act banning face coverings until the government enacts guidelines for how the law will be applied and how exemptions might be granted. The government of the mainly French-speaking province of Quebec now has a chance to clarify in detail how the law would be put into practice.
The law, passed in October, affects everyone from teachers and students to hospital employees, police officers, bus drivers and transit users.
While the law does not single out any religion by name, debate has focused on the niqab, a full-face veil worn by a small minority of Muslim women.
The judge “recognized the immediate harm the law was causing to the people it affects outweighed any theoretical public purpose of the law,” lawyer Catherine McKenzie, who is representing the people challenging the law, said.
Quebec’s Liberal government is defending the law in court, saying it does not discriminate against Muslim women and is necessary for reasons of security, identification and communication. The act’s name refers to “religious neutrality” and “accommodations on religious grounds.”
“I’m not unsatisfied with the judgment because there’s no mention that the law contravenes the charters (of rights),” Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard told reporters Friday, as quoted by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
The National Council for Canadian Muslims welcomed the ruling “as a successful first step,” its executive director Ihsaan Gardee said.
Opponents of the law say it targets a visible minority that has been subject to threats and violence. Quebec had about 243,000 Muslims as of 2011, according to Statistics Canada, out of a population of 8 million.
In January a gunman walked into a Quebec City mosque and shot six people to death. A French-Canadian university student has been charged as the sole suspect.
France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Bulgaria and the German state of Bavaria have imposed restrictions on the wearing of full-face veils in public places. Denmark plans to institute its own ban.

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Ex-Trump aide Flynn pleads guilty to lying about Russia links

Sat, 2017-12-02 08:06

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump’s former top adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI over his contacts with Russia, in a dramatic escalation of the probe into possible collusion between the president’s campaign team and Moscow.
The 58-year-old retired three-star Army general is the most senior figure indicted in special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s sprawling investigation into Russian interference in last year’s election.
Flynn’s admission that he had secret discussions in December 2016 with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak — with direction from top Trump officials — set Washington abuzz with speculation over who in the Republican leader’s inner circle might next be in Mueller’s sights.
Citing unnamed sources, The Washington Post reported that one of the “very senior” presidential transition team officials advising Flynn to contact the Russian envoy was Trump’s son-in-law and senior aide Jared Kushner.
Flynn’s guilty plea, on a federal charge of making false statements to investigators, came with a pledge to cooperate with Mueller, whose focus goes beyond possible collusion with Russia to shady business dealings and whether Trump himself tried to thwart the investigation.
The White House rejected the idea that Flynn could implicate “anyone” else, as ABC News reported that Flynn would testify that Trump ordered him to reach out to Moscow during the campaign — news that sent Wall Street shares tumbling.
ABC later issued a clarification, saying its source said Flynn would testify that Trump ordered him to reach out to Moscow after the November 2016 election.
“I recognize that the actions I acknowledged in court today were wrong,” Flynn said in a statement after a brief appearance in federal court in the US capital.
“My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the special counsel’s office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country. I accept full responsibility for my actions.”
The charge normally carries up to five years in prison, but under the terms of the plea deal, Mueller says he has recommended a lighter sentence of only up to six months in jail, court filings show.
Flynn, the fourth person charged in the Mueller probe, admitted he lied to FBI investigators about his private discussions with Kislyak about US sanctions imposed on Moscow by the administration of then president Barack Obama.
At the time, Flynn was a campaign and transition adviser with no official US government role, but he was clearly a top candidate to become Trump’s White House national security adviser.
Flynn eventually was given that post, but was forced to resign in February, just weeks after the president took office, due to public concerns over his contacts with Russia.
According to court documents released by prosecutors Flynn asked Kislyak on December 28 to moderate Russia’s response to new sanctions and the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats, announced by Obama in retaliation for Moscow’s interference in the 2016 election.
The documents say he took that action based on discussions with “a senior official of the Presidential Transition Team.”
After its announcement of punitive measures, the Obama administration was openly puzzled by Moscow’s decision not to retaliate, and began investigating possible interference by Flynn and the Trump campaign.
A week earlier, under the instruction of “a very senior member” of the transition team, Flynn also secretly asked Kislyak to defeat or delay a looming UN Security Council resolution to condemn Israel’s settlements in Palestinian territory, according to court filings.
While the two interactions do not clearly suggest collusion, they raise questions about the Trump team’s dealings with Moscow before taking office — and whether they actively worked to undermine Obama’s policies.
The White House, which has long denied any wrongdoing in relation to Moscow, said Flynn’s admitted lies about those meetings “mirror the false statements to White House officials which resulted in his resignation.”
“Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn,” said White House attorney Ty Cobb.
Since the first allegations of Russian interference last year, and despite reports from top US intelligence officials concluding it happened, Trump has dismissed the notion as “fake news” and an excuse for Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s loss at the polls.
“Since the first day I took office, all you hear is the phony Democrat excuse for losing the election, Russia, Russia, Russia,” he tweeted last week.
But Friday’s news made clear that Trump’s inner circle could increasingly come under the microscope.
For Trump, the focus is on whether he has tried to stifle the investigation, including by firing FBI chief James Comey in May, which could draw obstruction of justice charges, the same charges that forced president Richard Nixon from office in 1974.
On social media Comey posted a biblical verse: “But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
Democratic Senator Mark Warner told CNN: “The one individual that still seems to deny that this is a major issue is Donald Trump. And I just kind of wonder why.”

Main category: 
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German far-right to pick new leaders as protesters rally

Sat, 2017-12-02 05:30

HANOVER: The far-right Alternative for Germany gathers Saturday to elect new leadership, with police bracing for potentially violent street protests against the anti-migrant, anti-Islam party.
The AfD captured nearly 13 percent of the vote and almost 100 seats in parliament in a September general election — a watershed moment in post-war German politics.
However a festering row between radical nationalists and more moderate forces has roiled its top brass, with co-leader Frauke Petry abruptly quitting the AfD just days after the election to form her own breakaway party.
Some 600 delegates at the two-day congress in the northern city of Hanover will vote on a replacement for her as well as a new board, determining the ideological direction of the party as it gears up to oppose Chancellor Angela Merkel’s yet-to-be-formed government.
“The AfD is unable to settle down, it is wrestling with the course it wants to take and power within the party,” news website Spiegel Online said.
“The fight over posts and the platform shows that the party is still divided on how sharply rightward it wants to go.”
The meeting is expected to draw around 8,500 leftist protesters supporting Merkel’s liberal border policy, which allowed in more than one million asylum seekers since 2015.
The GdP police union called for calm, following clashes with demonstrators in the western city of Cologne during the last AfD congress in April that left several officers injured.
“We expect all participants in the rallies to exercise their right of assembly peacefully,” union leader Dietmar Schilff said. “Any violence will lead to the forfeiture of that right.”
Hanover police chief Uwe Lange said the congress center hosting the AfD event would be ringed with barbed wire and security barriers to protect delegates, with thousands of officers deployed.
Launched as a populist anti-euro party in 2013, the AfD has veered sharply to the right since and campaigned for the September election with slogans such as “Bikinis Not Burkas,” “Stop Islamization” and the ubiquitous “Merkel must go.”
It is now represented in 14 of Germany’s 16 state parliaments but has been shunned as a potential partner at the national level by the mainstream parties.
But the fractured political landscape has made it more difficult than ever for Merkel, in power for 12 years, to cobble together a ruling majority.
Talks to form a coalition spanning the political spectrum for her fourth and probably last term broke down in acrimony last month.
She is now trying to woo the center-left Social Democrats back into a “grand coalition” government.
If she is successful and averts a snap election, the AfD would become Germany’s largest opposition power, strongly boosting its profile.
The AfD had two leaders until now, Petry and Joerg Meuthen, who has allied himself with the party’s nativist wing.
Delegates will debate a motion to have Meuthen as the AfD’s sole president.
However more centrist forces in the party are backing the party’s Berlin chief, Georg Pazderski, a former army colonel, as co-leader.
Yet speculation was rife that the party’s powerful parliamentary group chief, Alexander Gauland, could mount a leadership challenge.
Gauland told AFP last week the party needed to bridge its divisions along ideological and geographical lines.
“It is crucial to me that the top of the AfD reflects east and west as well as more conservative and economically liberal positions,” he said.
The list of motions to be debated in Hanover offered insights into the party’s priorities.
They include a call for Germany to ban circumcision of male babies targeting a common practice among Muslim and Jewish families, and a condemnation of a new definition of anti-Semitism adopted by parliament criticized as a “curb on free speech.”
The party recently sparked outrage by calling for the immediate return of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees in Germany, claiming that “large parts” of the war-ravaged country were now safe.

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Pope Francis wraps up Asia trip after ‘Rohingya’ acknowledgment

Sat, 2017-12-02 03:00

DHAKA: Pope Francis is wrapping up his Asian trip with a visit to an orphanage and home for the disabled run by Mother Teresa’s order and a meeting with Bangladeshi priests and nuns.
At the “Mother Teresa” home Saturday, two little girls in floral dresses grabbed Francis’ hand and walked him through the courtyard. He was nearly mobbed by nuns in the Missionaries of Charity trademark blue-trimmed saris.
Francis’ final day in Bangladesh came after his emotional encounter with Rohingya Muslim refugees on Friday.
Pronouncing “Rohingya” in public for the first time on the trip, Francis begged their forgiveness for the “indifference of the world” to their plight. He said: “The presence of God today also is called ‘Rohingya.’“

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Despite Greek shelter, Yazidis struggle to integrate

Sat, 2017-12-02 06:41

SERRES, Greece: Although Ibrahim Hondeta’s Yazidi family reached Greece a year ago after fleeing persecution, they still fear being the target of violence and are fighting to keep their community together.
Having run the gauntlet of invasion, combat, killings and enslavement by Daesh terrorists in Iraq, the members of this religious minority have found temporary shelter in the largely agricultural region of Serres in northern Greece.
The camp they have been allocated to is one of the best in the country — their prefabricated homes have air conditioning and solar panels to heat water. The grounds are clean and there is a playground for the children.
Many hope to be reunited with other Yazidis stranded in Greece, but with the country struggling to manage more than 50,000 refugees and migrants stranded on its territory, that is not always an option.
“Creating a camp just for Yazidis is neither possible nor viable,” said a Greek official with knowledge of refugee management efforts.
The camp can normally accommodate 700 people. At the moment there are some 350 Yazidis, most of them women and children, waiting for EU-sponsored relocation to other parts of Europe.
Greece’s policy is to move eligible refugees from overcrowded island camps — where they undergo identity checks upon arrival from Turkey — to the mainland, where more comfortable accommodation is available in better camps, UN-funded flats and hotels.
But the Yazidis, who have already faced an ordeal keeping their dwindling community together thus far, oppose this policy.
This is partly down to fear of other communities. They had a scare earlier this year, when a Yazidi celebration in Kilkis, another part of northern Greece, descended into violence between Arabs and Kurds.
“(The Arabs) threatened to kill us. They hunted us down with knives and clubs. We had to hide in a forest to save our lives,” says 55-year-old Hondeta, sitting on a bench outside the camp.
“After that, we asked to be given a safe place for our families and we ended up here together.”
Since that time, they have frustrated the Greek government’s attempts to bring in non-Yazidis.
They recently blocked the transfer of 60 Congolese and Senegalese mothers and their children to the Serres camp, the government official said.
All of them were Catholic.
In Athens, a migration ministry source said every effort is being made to facilitate and protect the Yazidis from possible harm.
“To my knowledge, there hasn’t been an incident in 10 months,” the official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“But there are some people who chafe toward any attempt at integration,” the official said.
“Respecting one’s religious convictions, and using this issue to create sub-groups among the refugee population are two totally different things,” the government official in Athens said.
“Suppose Syrian Christians demand four camps for themselves? It’s not something that can be managed,” he added.
Rooted in Zoroastrianism, the Yazidis adhere to a faith that emerged in Mesopotamia more than 4,000 years ago but that has over time integrated elements of Islam and Christianity.
Of the world’s 1.5 million Yazidis, about 550,000 lived in Iraqi Kurdistan but some 400,000 have been displaced by fighting due to Daesh.
Around 1,500 have been killed and more than 3,000 are believed to remain in captivity, the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) and the UN rights office said in an August report.
In areas controlled by Daesh, thousands of women and girls from the Yazidi minority were used as sex slaves and suffered horrific abuse, including rape, abduction, slavery and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.
The suffering the Yazidis have endured explains why community elders in Serres have written to the migration ministry to officially request that the camp be assigned to Yazidis alone.
“We ask for our community not to be disturbed and to live here in safety until we depart,” says Hajjdar Hamat, a self-styled spokesman for the Yazidis at the camp.
“Everybody knows about our peoples’ genocide. We did not come from Sinjar to Greece for fun. Europe must protect us,” says Hamat.

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North Korea holds mass celebrations for latest missile test

Sat, 2017-12-02 07:09

SEOUL: North Korea held mass celebrations for its latest successful long-range missile test, Pyongyang’s state media said Saturday, with a propaganda-filled display of fireworks and dancing in public squares.
The ruling Workers Party official daily Rodong Sinmun covered its front page with color photographs showing thousands of tightly packed soldiers and people applauding in Pyongyang’s Kim Il-Sung square, which was decorated with large portraits of the North’s late leaders.
“We heartily celebrate the successful test launch of the Hwasong-15 which showed Chosun (North Korea)’s power and greatness to the whole world,” read one banner held up by the crowd, referring to the missile.
North Korea on Wednesday successfully tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile, with leader Kim Jong-Un declaring his country had now achieved full nuclear statehood.
The US in response warned that Kim Jong-Un’s regime would be “utterly destroyed” if its pursuit of a long-range nuclear missile arsenal provokes a military clash, and has battled to maintain international solidarity in the face of North Korea’s nuclear threat.
Kim himself was absent from the celebrations — he usually stays away from such events — but Friday’s gathering drew key military, party and government leaders.
“Long Live the General Kim Jong-Un who has brought us the great historic cause of nuclear statehood,” another banner read.
Vice Chairman Pak Kwang-Ho of the party’s decision-making Central Committee told the crowd that, after Wednesday’s test launch, “now no one can infringe our sovereignty and rights to survive and develop,” according to the daily.
He said that the United States had been “jolted” at the strengthening of North Korea’s nuclear force and could attempt to commit “robber-like” provocative acts.
He repeated Kim’s warning that the North would respond with the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.”
Kim first made the threat in September in response to US President Donald Trump’s UN speech threatening to destroy the North and mocking him as “Little Rocket Man.”
The ICBM Hwasong-15 type weaponry system used in Wednesday’s test is an intercontinental ballistic rocket tipped with super-large heavy warhead capable of striking the whole mainland of the US, the North said.
But analysts remain unconvinced that the North has mastered the technology required to launch and direct a missile, and ensure it survives the difficult re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
Tensions are expected to rise further in the coming week as South Korea and the United States launch a massive air force drill mobilizing some 230 aircraft including six US F-22 Raptor stealth jet fighters.

Main category: 
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