North Korea says it is nearing end of COVID-19 crisis as Asian neighbors fight resurgence

Above, a safety staff disinfects a shop in Pyongyang to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 on July 2, 2022. (KCNA via KNS/AFP)
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Updated 18 July 2022
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North Korea says it is nearing end of COVID-19 crisis as Asian neighbors fight resurgence

  • Pyongyang says 99.98 percent of its 4.77 million fever patients since late April have fully recovere

SEOUL: North Korea is on the path to “finally defuse” a crisis stemming from its first acknowledged outbreak of COVID-19, the state news agency said on Monday, while Asian neighbors battle a fresh wave of infections driven by omicron subvariants.
The North says 99.98 percent of its 4.77 million fever patients since late April have fully recovered, but due to an apparent lack of testing, it has not released any figures of those that proved positive.
“The anti-epidemic campaign is improved to finally defuse the crisis completely,” KCNA said. It added that the North had reported 310 more people with fever symptoms.
The World Health Organization has cast doubts on North Korea’s claims, saying last month it believed the situation was getting worse, not better, amid an absence of independent data.
The North’s declaration could be a prelude to restoring trade long hampered by the pandemic, one analyst said.
“Under the current trend, North Korea could announce in less than a month that its COVID-19 crisis is over and that could be a prelude to resuming cross-border trade,” said Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Sejong Institute’s North Korea studies center in South Korea.
Analysts say the authoritarian North has used the pandemic to tighten already strict social controls. Pyongyang blamed its outbreak on “alien things” near its border with the South, urging its people to avoid anything that comes from outside.
Daily new cases of fever in North Korea reported by KCNA have been declining since the reclusive country first acknowledged in mid-May that it was battling an outbreak of COVID-19.
Lacking a public vaccination effort, the North said it was running intensive medical checks nationwide, with daily PCR tests on water collected in borderline areas among the measures.
The North also said it has been developing new methods to better detect the virus and its variants, as well as other infectious diseases, such as monkeypox.
North Korea’s claim of “anti-epidemic stability” comes as other Asian countries grapple with a new wave of infections. China reported 691 new cases for Saturday with locally transmitted infections at a peak since May 23.
In the neighboring South, daily COVID-19 infections jumped on Tuesday above 40,000 for the first time in two months, with authorities and experts predicting hundreds of thousands of new cases in coming weeks.
Japan also warned that a new wave of infections appeared to be spreading rapidly, as Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called for special care ahead of school summer vacations.
Tokyo’s 16,878 new cases on Wednesday were the highest since February, while the nationwide tally rose above 90,000, in a recent surge of infections to levels unseen since early this year.


Israeli private eye accused of hacking was questioned about DC public affairs firm, sources say

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Israeli private eye accused of hacking was questioned about DC public affairs firm, sources say

  • Private investigator Amit Forlit was arrested at London’s Heathrow Airport on April 30 over American cybercrime and wire fraud charges

Private investigator Amit Forlit was arrested at London’s Heathrow Airport on April 30 over American cybercrime and wire fraud charges

 

WASHINGTON: An Israeli private investigator sought by the United States over hack-for-hire allegations previously told colleagues that he had been questioned by FBI agents over his work for the Washington public affairs firm DCI Group, according to three people familiar with the matter. Federal law enforcement’s interest in DCI, which has not been previously reported, shows a years-long US probe into cybermercenary activity is wider than publicly known.
The FBI declined to comment. DCI, a public relations firm that has worked on behalf of hedge funds and multinationals, said in a written statement that “we direct all our employees and consultants to comply with the law.” Private investigator Amit Forlit was arrested at London’s Heathrow Airport on April 30 over American cybercrime and wire fraud charges. Prosecutors in London said only that Forlit engaged in a “hack for hire scheme” on behalf of several clients, including an unidentified Washington-based PR and lobbying firm. He was released two days after his arrest following a procedural error by British authorities.
He was rearrested on Thursday on the same charges and has since been released on bail, according to Britain’s National Crime Agency and a London court register published Friday. The register said Forlit surrendered his passport and was ordered not to leave the country. The 56-year-old’s lawyers did not return repeated messages. In a deposition made public in 2022, Forlit said, “I’ve never commissioned hacking and never paid for hacking.” Reuters revealed the existence of an FBI investigation into the cybermercenary industry in 2020. The only person known to have been convicted in connection with the inquiry, Israeli private investigator Aviram Azari, was given a 6 2/3 year sentence last year. Forlit acknowledged in his deposition that Azari had done work on his behalf. Privately, he expressed concern that he was being sought by American law enforcement following Azari’s arrest, according to three associates. The associates said Forlit told them he arranged a meeting with FBI officials in the US embassy in London in late 2021 to gauge whether he would be arrested if he visited the United States. It was at that meeting that the FBI quizzed him about his work for DCI, they said.
The associates spoke on condition of anonymity to relay the content of private conversations. Forlit is separately being sued in New York federal court by aviation executive Farhad Azima, who accuses the Israeli of being party to the theft of his emails in 2016. He denies the allegations. A review of court records tied to Azima’s litigation shows that Forlit had business with DCI. A Citibank document made public in August 2022 as part of Azima’s discovery effort in Florida shows Forlit’s company, then known as SDC-Gadot, listed DCI Group as one of its three “major customers.” Citibank declined to comment on the document.


NYC college suspends officer who told pro-Palestinian protester ‘I support killing all you guys’

Updated 13 min 43 sec ago
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NYC college suspends officer who told pro-Palestinian protester ‘I support killing all you guys’

  • An unidentified protester filmed the officer at Thursday’s graduation for the College of Staten Island, part of the public City University of New York system that was rocked by a recent police crackdown on campus protests

NEW YORK: A campus safety officer at a public college in New York City has been suspended after footage circulated online showing him cursing at pro-Palestinian protesters during a graduation ceremony and saying he supported killing them all, the school confirmed Friday.

An unidentified protester filmed the officer at Thursday’s graduation for the College of Staten Island, part of the public City University of New York system that was rocked by a recent police crackdown on campus protests.
In a highly edited video shared by Instagram accounts affiliated with student protest organizers, a demonstrator can be heard yelling at the officer, “You support genocide!”
“Yes I do, I support genocide,” says the officer. “I support killing all you guys, how about that?”
In another clip posted in the video, the officer can be heard hurling an expletive at another protester, followed by “your mother.”
Phone calls and emails seeking comment from the officer on Friday were unsuccessful. A person who answered a number listed under his name hung up when a reporter identified themself, and emails were not immediately returned.
CUNY confirmed the suspension Friday but declined to provide details, such as whether the officer was on paid leave.
“We condemn the offensive language used by a CUNY officer,” College of Staten Island spokesperson David Pizzuto said in a statement. “His words don’t reflect the values of the College of Staten Island or the 50 officers on our Public Safety staff. The officer has been suspended pending a full review of the incident, and we will take further action as appropriate.”
Protest camps sprang up across the US and in Europe as students demand their universities stop doing business with Israel or companies that support its war efforts. Organizers seek to amplify calls to end Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, which they describe as a genocide against the Palestinians.
The United Nations’ top court ordered Israel on Friday to immediately halt its military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, but stopped short of ordering a ceasefire for entire Palestinian territory. The International Court of Justice has said there is a “plausible risk of genocide” in Gaza — a charge Israel strongly denies.


French city postpones Israeli film festival amid Gaza tensions

Updated 24 May 2024
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French city postpones Israeli film festival amid Gaza tensions

  • The city council did not give a reason for the postponement
  • The Shalom Europa festival said on its Facebook page that “events” had forced the decision to hold the event at a “calmer” time

STRASBOURG, France: An Israeli film festival in the eastern French city of Strasbourg has been indefinitely postponed as the Gaza war rages, authorities said Friday.
The Shalom Europa festival has been hosted in the city for 15 years and was scheduled to be held from June 16 to June 20. But France has reported an increased number of anti-Semitic attacks since the Gaza war erupted on October 7.
The city council did not give a reason for the postponement but said Strasbourg “has always supported the Shalom Europa festival and will continue to do so. It promises to help hold the festival on a date that is opportune for the organizers.”
The Israeli community group that organizes the event did not reply to AFP requests for comment.
The Shalom Europa festival said on its Facebook page that “events” had forced the decision to hold the event at a “calmer” time, adding that “The safety and well-being of our participants is our absolute priority.”
The French Jewish community, the third largest in the world, has for months been on edge in the face of a growing number of attacks and desecrations of memorials.
On May 17, French police shot dead a man who set fire to a synagogue in the northern city of Rouen.


UK government ‘unequivocally failing’ Palestinians in Gaza, says charity adviser

Updated 24 May 2024
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UK government ‘unequivocally failing’ Palestinians in Gaza, says charity adviser

  • Save the Children official questions UK’s commitment to upholding international humanitarian law
  • Young people in Gaza enduring ‘the most dangerous and dire situation for children anywhere in the world’

LONDON: Palestinians in Gaza, and particularly young people, are being “unequivocally failed” by the British government, a charity adviser said on Friday.

Liz Bradshaw, Save the Children’s senior adviser on the Israel-Hamas conflict, told The Independent newspaper that a “shameful failure by the UK government” was having a huge impact on youngsters living through “the most dangerous and dire situation for children anywhere in the world.”

Health officials in Gaza say more than 35,000 Palestinians, over half of them women and children, have been killed in the territory since Oct. 7 and the outbreak of an Israeli retaliation for a Hamas attack in southern Israel, which claimed around 1,200 lives.

Bradshaw said UK arms sales to Israel were having a “high impact” on the lives of Palestinian civilians. David Cameron, the UK foreign secretary, recently admitted that he was “not really interested” in stopping weapon sales to Israel.

Children in Gaza faced immediate physical risk “from horrific blast injuries caused by the use of explosive weapons in intensely dense populated areas, like Rafah, or from amputations, leaving them in agonizing pain,” Bradshaw said.

She added that, in places like Rafah where the Israeli military is engaged in an offensive, people were facing repeated displacement “in some cases, four or five, six times condensed into ever smaller areas, where frankly, there just simply aren’t the conditions for that number of people to survive.”

According to Bradshaw, children in Gaza are in acute need of mental health support to deal with the “lifelong” psychological scars they will have gained from what they have witnessed.

She also called into question the UK government’s commitment to upholding international humanitarian law and to protecting civilians suffering in Gaza.

“The UK speaks in very powerful terms about protection of civilians in other parts of the world like Ukraine, so why are we not seeing the same level of commitment and concern in relation to Palestinian children in Gaza?” she asked.

“It’s pretty abject stuff. We hear a lot about the deep concern that they have, but frankly, their deep concern is meaningless to children in Gaza. And it’s meaningless to our staff who are desperately battling against the odds to help children. We need action, not words from this government, and it’s long, long overdue.”


Germany, Portugal say time not ripe to recognize Palestinian state

Updated 24 May 2024
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Germany, Portugal say time not ripe to recognize Palestinian state

  • “There is no clarity about the territory of the state and other questions related to it,” Scholz said
  • Montenegro said Portugal was also “not in the position to” recognize a Palestinian state

BERLIN: The leaders of Germany and Portugal said Friday the time was not ripe to recognize a Palestinian state, after three other European nations announced plans to do so.
“We have no reason to recognize the Palestinian Authority as a separate state now,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz told a press conference after talks with Portuguese Prime Minister Luis Montenegro.
“There is no clarity about the territory of the state and other questions related to it,” he said.
“What we need is a negotiated solution between Israel and the Palestinians that amounts to a two-state solution... but we are still a long way from there,” he said.
“Symbolic recognition of statehood does not bring us further” toward the goal, he added.
Speaking at the same press conference, Montenegro said Portugal was also “not in the position to” recognize a Palestinian state.
“We are waiting for the (related) issues to be further discussed within the European Union,” he added.
Ireland, Norway and Spain on Wednesday announced they intended to recognize the State of Palestinian next week.
The announcement drew fury from Israel, which warned of “serious consequences” for ties with the European nations.
For decades, formal recognition of a Palestinian state has been seen as the end goal of a peace process between Palestinians and Israel.
The United States and most western European nations have said they are willing to one day recognize Palestinian statehood, but not before agreement is reached on thorny issues like final borders and the status of Jerusalem.