World News

SEOUL, South Korea, July 26 (UPI) — The top military officers of South Korea and New Zealand agreed Wednesday to bolster bilateral cooperation against North Korea‘s unrelenting saber-rattling. Army Gen. Lee Sun-jin, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, briefed Army Lt. Gen. Tim Keating, chief of the New Zealand Defense Force, on the security conditions on the peninsula during their meeting in Seoul, Lee’s office said. Lee requested New Zealand’s support for South Korea’s policy on North Korea and its handling of the communist neighbor’s nuclear and missile development. They pointed out, “Chances are high that North Korea will conduct the launch of an additional ballistic missile with ICBM range,” according to the JCS. The North test-fired what is believed to be an ICBM, or intercontinental ballistic missile, in early July. Lee and Keating “agreed to cope actively with [the North’s move] through close coordination and cooperation between the two countries,” added the JCS. …

SEOUL, South Korea, July 26 (UPI) — Chung Wang-ok, 78, never thought that he wouldn’t be able to see his eldest brother again when his sibling was forcibly enlisted and taken by North Korea‘s army during the 1950-53 Korean War. It was not a temporary farewell, but a decades-long painful wait with no promise of reunion as the devastating conflict left South and North Korea technically at war. Chung said that he spared no effort to find the brother’s whereabouts and applied for state-arranged separated family reunions, but to no avail. “I would like to know whether he is alive or not. My mother died about 20 years ago while missing him so much,” he said. “How can I express the depth of sorrow that stems from the tragedy of having to live separately from beloved ones?” Chung is among some 60,500 surviving elderly South Koreans torn apart by the war, which ended in a …

July 26 (UPI) — Greek police arrested a Russian man wanted in the United States related to an alleged $4 billion bitcoin money-laundering gang, authorities said Wednesday. Alexander Vinnik, 38, was detained Tuesday on a U.S. warrant in Chalkidiki, northern Greece, and the FBI has requested his extradition, police said. Authorities found laptops, mobile phones, credit cards and tapes in his hotel room in the nearby tourist resort of Halkidiki, where he was staying with his wife and children. The man was “in charge of a criminal organization, which legitimized earnings from illegal activities,” according to Greek police. Officials described him as the “brain” behind the bitcoin operations. Vinnik was suspected of being involved since 2011, police said. Bitcoin is a digital currency used online with no central bank and is not backed by any government. The Russian embassy in Greece confirmed to state-run Sputnik Vinnik was arrested. “We, of course, are in contact with …

July 26 (UPI) — The Venezuelan opposition on Wednesday started a two-day national strike to protest President Nicolas Maduro‘s upcoming attempt to rewrite the country’s constitution. The opposition has criticized Maduro’s Constituent Assembly — scheduled for Sunday — as an attempt to establish a dictatorship in which the assembly’s powers would be further weakened. Opponents, who control the unicameral legislature, are also encouraging people to protest in the streets Wednesday and Thursday. In Maduro’s Constituent Assembly, Venezuelans will elect 545 members who will begin work within three days to draft a new constitution. There are about 6,000 candidates nationwide. Maduro said the priorities assembly members must keep in mind are the need for peace, the improvement of Venezuela’s economy, defense against foreign intervention and support for government socialist programs. RELATEDVenezuela’s high court bans chief prosecutor from leaving country Earlier this month, the opposition held an unofficial referendum in which more than seven million Venezuelans voted …

July 26 (UPI) — North Korea‘s wealthiest citizens are “plugged into modern Internet society” even though they live under a regime cut off from most of the world, according to a report by a threat intelligence company. The nation’s elite — unlike the vast majority of poor people — surf the Web, shop on retail sites, browse Facebook and check their email on computers and smartphones, according to a report by Recorded Future, which is based in Somerville, Mass. “Our analysis demonstrates that the limited number of North Korean leaders and ruling elite with access to the internet are much more active and engaged in the world, popular culture, international news, and with contemporary services and technologies than many outside North Korea had previously thought,” Recorded Future wrote in the report. “North Korean leaders are not disconnected from the world and the consequences of their actions.” Researchers monitored North Korean Internet use from April 1 …

July 26 (UPI) — The European Union on Wednesday said it is concerned with the United States’ proposed additional sanctions against Russia, citing a threat to energy independence. The EU comment comes after the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to toughen sanctions on Russia, as well as Iran and North Korea. The bill is expected to pass the U.S. Senate, as the body previously approved a version of the legislation. Though the United States took into account the EU’s energy concerns, the U.S. House “nevertheless foresees the imposition of sanctions on any company (including European) which contributes to the development, maintenance, modernization or repair of energy export pipelines” by Russia, the European Commission said in a statement. U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said it was Congress’ job to hold the countries who worked with Russia accountable for undermining the United States and disrupting global stability. “The bill we just passed with …

July 26 (UPI) — Wildfires on the French Riviera forced the evacuation of about 12,000 people overnight, local police said. The residents and tourists of Bormes-les-Momosas were moved Tuesday night about 25 miles to the city of Toulon after a new wildfire burned nearly 2,000 acres, French radio station RFI reported. About 12 square miles of forest undergrowth in LaCroix-Valmer, near the St. Tropez resort, burned before authorities declared the fire contained, but LaCroix-Valmer deputy mayor Rene Caradante said said the blaze created “a disaster area,” before adding that “there’s nothing left.” In the nearby village of Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, 740 acres of pine and oak trees burned. Fires in Luberon destroyed nearly 2,000 acres, and those in Carros destroyed 20 acres before they were under control. Forty burning acres near the ancient city of Nimes forced the evacuation of about 20 residents. CNN reported that at least 12 firefighters were injured and at least 15 police …

July 26 (UPI) — Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s highest ranking Catholic priest, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to sex abuse charges, court documents say. Pell, who is the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, or chief financial officer, said several weeks ago he would take a leave of absence to address “historical sexual assault offenses” of which he had been accused. It is unclear if the charges in court relate to accusations by two men, now in their 40s, who have said Pell inappropriately touched them in the 1970s while Pell was a Melbourne priest. Victoria state police announced in June that Pell would be charged on multiple counts of historical sexual abuse. He is the highest ranking Australian priest, and most senior Vatican official, to be charged in court with sexual abuse. Pell appeared Wednesday at a brief hearing in Melbourne, with his lawyer entering a not guilty plea on his behalf. Prosecutors have until Sept. …

July 26 (UPI) — North Korea may have a reliable intercontinental ballistic missile by next year — about two years ahead of schedule, a new assessment by the Pentagon says. An analysis by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency accelerates the timeline of Pyongyang’s missile capabilities. It says that intercontinental ballistic missiles — capable of carrying nuclear warheads — could be ready by 2018. The report’s predictions, similar to those by South Korean intelligence officials, increase pressure on U.S. and Asian leaders to stop Pyongyang’s missile progress. Earlier this month, President Donald Trump said North Korea would be confronted “very strongly” to stop its missile developments. The DIA projections follow a series of missile-related tests by the North Korean government. A North Korean rocket, tested July 4, is believed to be capable of reaching most of Alaska and hitting targets deeper into North America. An official from the office of the Director of National Intelligence told …

July 26 (UPI) — For environmental reasons, Britain will ban all new gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles from its roads beginning in 23 years, a government report says. The plan, expected Wednesday, aims to start removing gasoline and diesel engines in 2040. It follows a similar declaration in France and comes after the British government was ordered by courts to develop new plans to reduce nitrogen dioxide in the air. Judges ruled that prior clean-air plans were inadequate to meet European Union pollution limits in coming years. Britain’s government has said the poor air quality has an unnecessary and avoidable negative impact on citizens’ health, and costs up to $3.5 billion in annual lost productivity. Part of the new plan involves an offer of $260 million to local governments to change rules where vehicle emissions surpass EU thresholds. Ideas so far include changing road layouts, reprogramming traffic lights and imposing charges on the oldest and most …

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