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Obama imposes new sanctions against North Korea in response to Sony hack

Saanctions on N KoreaThe US has imposed economic sanctions against several North Korean government agencies and senior officials in retaliation for the country’s alleged role in hacking Sony Pictures’ systems and threatening US moviegoers.

Despite some continued claims from outside the US government that the hack may have been the work of disgruntled employees instead, the White House on Friday followed through on its threat to seek revenge, blaming the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for “provocative, destabilizing, and repressive actions and policies, particularly its destructive and coercive cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment”.


Italy rescues second ship carrying hundreds of migrants

migrants ship rescuedA ship carrying hundreds of migrants has been abandoned by its crew in rough seas in the Mediterranean Sea off Italy's south coast, in the second such incident in three days, the Italian coast guard said on Friday.

Guardsmen managed to take control of the vessel, the Ezadeen, after landing on it by helicopter, a statement said. Facing difficult weather conditions, they are trying to take the vessel to an Italian port.


Israel ex-minister: Settlement funding is corrupt

Israeli settlementsIsrael's former finance minister on Thursday said the government's rush to allot tens of millions of dollars to West Bank settlements last month amounted to corruption, as he sought to link the secretive spending spree to a growing wave of scandals ahead of March elections.

With the accusations, former Finance Minister Yair Lapid took subtle aim at the powerful West Bank settler movement, whose allies in parliament appear to be poised for a strong showing in the vote.


Congo government ‘hounding’ hospital for rape victims

Congo hospital hounded by gov'tA hospital founded by an award-winning gynaecologist to treat rape victims has accused the Congolese government of “hounding” it after tax authorities seized its accounts.

Panzi hospital in Bukavu, set up in 1999 by Dr Denis Mukwege, said it could no longer withdraw money or pay December wages to its 500 employees.

Mukwege survived an assassination attempt in 2012 and recently spoke out about insecurity and bad governance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has failed to lift millions out of poverty despite vast mineral resources.


France’s rock star economist Thomas Piketty turns down Legion of Honor

Thomas PikettyFrench economist Thomas Piketty has spurned the Legion of Honour, the country’s highest distinction, on the grounds that the government should not decide who is honourable.

Piketty, author of the bestselling Capital in the Twenty-First Century, which has become compulsory reading for world leaders, added: “They’d be better off concentrating on boosting growth in France and Europe.”


Dozens killed and injured in stampede at Shanghai’s new year celebrations

shanghai stampedeAt least 35 people have been killed in a stampede during new year’s celebrations in downtown Shanghai, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency has reported. The report, citing the Shanghai government, said a further 42 people had been injured.

The deaths and injuries occurred at Shanghai’s popular Bund riverfront area, which can be jammed with spectators for major events.


HarperCollins omits Israel from school atlas

Harper Collins mapHarperCollins, one of the world's largest publishing houses, sells English-language atlases to schools in the Middle East that omit Israel.

Collins Middle East Atlases show Jordan and Syria extending to the Mediterranean but do mark the position of the West Bank.

“The publication of this atlas will confirm Israel’s belief that there exists a hostility towards their country from parts of the Arab world. It will not help to build up a spirit of trust leading to peaceful co-existence,” said Bishop Declan Lang, the chairman of the Bishops' Conference Department of International Affairs, to The Tablet.


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