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Activity detected at North Korea nuclear site: US monitor

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SEOUL: Activity has been detected at North Korea’s main nuclear site, suggesting Pyongyang may be reprocessing radioactive material into bomb fuel since the collapse of a summit with Washington, a US monitor said Wednesday.

The possible signs of fresh reprocessing activity last week come after a February summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ended abruptly without agreement on Pyongyang’s nuclear programme.

Since then North Korea has said it was mulling options for its diplomacy with the US and Kim said last week he was open to talks with Trump only if Washington came with the “proper attitude”.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies said satellite imagery of the Yongbyon nuclear site on April 12 showed five railcars near its uranium enrichment facility and radiochemistry laboratory.

“In the past these specialized railcars appear to have been associated with the movement of radioactive material or reprocessing campaigns,” the Washington-based monitor said.

“The current activity, along with their configurations, does not rule out their possible involvement in such activity, either before or after a reprocessing campaign.”

Trump and Kim held their first landmark summit in Singapore last June, where the North Korean leader signed a vaguely-worded deal on the “denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.

But their failure to reach agreement at their second summit in Hanoi on walking back Pyongyang’s nuclear programme in exchange for relaxation of sanctions has raised questions over the future of the wider process.

The US president walked away from a partial deal proposed by Kim, which included an offer to dismantle the Yongbyon complex.

About 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of Pyongyang, Yongbyon is home to the country’s first nuclear reactor, and is the only known source of plutonium for the North’s weapons programme.

Yongbyon is not believed to be the North’s only uranium enrichment facility and closing it down would not in and of itself signal an end to the country’s atomic programme.

North Korea suspended nuclear and missile testing during the diplomatic process in 2018 but the International Atomic Energy Agency has said there were indications that Yongbyon has been in use as recently as the end of February.

 

 

 

 

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Health

Fight vaccine hesitancy as ‘contagious disease’

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GENEVA: Faced with a global resurgence of measles, health experts called today for countries to step up the fight against vaccine resistance, warning the movement was spreading like a contagious disease.
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus joined experts and health ministers from a range of countries at an event on “promoting vaccine confidence”, amid rising concerns that resistance to immunization is allowing preventable diseases to flourish.
“No country can afford to be complacent about immunization,” Tedros told the meeting in Geneva, where the WHO is hosting its main annual gathering.
The WHO says cases of measles — a highly contagious viral infection that can prove fatal — surged 300 percent in 2018.
The resurgence of the once all-but-eradicated disease is linked to the growing anti-vaccine movement in richer nations, which has been identified as a major global health threat.
“It’s a contagious disease,” Seth Berkley, who heads the GAVI Vaccine Alliance, told AFP, warning that misinformation about vaccine safety “spreads at the speed of light.”
The anti-vax phenomenon has adherents across Western countries but especially in the US, where it has been fuelled by the spread on social media of medically baseless claims, debunked 20 years ago, that the jab could cause autism.
The United States, which sponsored Tuesday’s event with the EU and Brazil, lamented the “misinformation” causing vaccination rates in the country to decline.
“Vaccines are some of the most thoroughly tested medical products we have. Vaccines are safe, effective, and lifesaving,” US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told the meeting.
He slammed “social media conspiracy groups (that) confuse well-meaning parents so they hesitate to get the recommended vaccinations.”This misinformation has real impacts,” he said, pointing to the more than 700 measles cases in the US so far this year.
Azar dismissed questions about whether past statements by President Donald Trump in support of some anti-vaccination movement claims may bear some responsibility for the problem.
Pointing to recent comments by the president urging Americans to “get your kids vaccinated”, he stressed Trump was “extremely firm” in his support of vaccination.
EU Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukatis meanwhile suggested that vaccine skepticism was in part linked to the fact that vaccines have been so effective that most people have no concept of how devastating the diseases they prevent can be.
“We have become victims of our own success,” he said.
Among the measures being taken to inoculate populations against the spread of misinformation about vaccine safety was putting pressure on social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to remove or flag demonstrably false information.
“This is wrong information that is killing people,” Berkley said.
According to WHO, vaccines save some three million lives annually.
“Vaccines do not cause autism. Vaccines actually cause adults,” said Katherine O’Brien, who heads WHO’s immunization department.

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Europe

Eiffel Tower climber ‘admitted to psychiatric unit’

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PARIS: A man, believed to be Russian, who sparked a mass evacuation of the Eiffel Tower by scaling the iconic Paris landmark, has been admitted to a psychiatric unit, legal sources said today.
The man caused chaos Monday and the closure of the monument to tourists by spending six hours clinging to the outer metal framework of the Eiffel Tower. His identity has not been disclosed. He was questioned by police on Tuesday and had now been admitted to the psychiatric hospital of the police, legal sources told the Media. An investigation had been opened for unauthorized entry into a cultural monument, a judicial source said.
“It is a Russian man, who has suicidal tendencies,” said a source close to the case, asking not to be named. Firemen, who had rappelled down from the tower’s third-floor observation deck to near the black-clad climber, managed to persuade him to come down. Some 2,500 people, who had come to visit the Eiffel Tower, had to be evacuated Monday but it reopened as normal on Tuesday.

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89 arrested in Sri Lanka over Easter bombings

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COLOMBO: At least 89 suspects have been arrested over their alleged links to the Easter Sunday terror explosions which killed over 250 people and injured over 500 in Sri Lanka on April 21, the police said here Tuesday.
The suspects are currently under the custody of the Criminal Investigations Department and the Terrorism Investigations Department.
Police Spokesperson SP Ruwan Gunasekara said that search operations were ongoing across the country to hunt for more suspects who would be linked to the terror attacks but assured that most of those involved had now been arrested.
Hundreds of Sri Lankans on Tuesday visited the grave sites of the terror victims to pay tribute as the nation marked one month since the suicide attacks which targeted three luxury hotels and three churches.
Sri Lanka’s Army Commander Mahesh Senanayake, in a special statement has urged the people to return to normalcy and to send children back to school, assuring that all precautionary security measures had been put in place.
Senanayake said that search operations and investigations were ongoing and were “effectively advancing now with a marked progress as at now.”
Sri Lanka continues to be under a state of emergency following the April 21 explosions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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