Ex-president Colom dies
Former president Alvaro Colom died on Monday aged 71 from esophageal cancer, his former security minister Carlos Menocal said. Colom, who led the nation from 2008 to 2012, was very sick and released from hospital a week and a half ago, Menocal said. “To his family and friends I express my heartfelt condolences, may God comfort them in the face of such an irreparable loss,” President Alejandro Giammattei said on Twitter. Colom was arrested in 2018 as part of a local corruption investigation looking at buses bought during his administration for a large public transport program. When he died, Colom was under preventative home arrest still awaiting a trial.
Kyiv sanctions 22 Russians
The government has imposed sanctions on 22 Russians associated with the Russian Orthodox Church for what President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said was their support of genocide under the cloak of religion. The list includes Mikhail Gundayev, who represents the Russian Orthodox Church in the World Council of Churches and other international organizations in Geneva, Switzerland, a decree issued by the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine showed. Russian state media reported that Gundayev is a nephew of the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, who was sanctioned by Kyiv last year. “Sanctions have been imposed against 22 Russian citizens who, under the guise of spirituality, support terror and genocidal policy,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly address late on Monday.
IMF approves US$105m aid
The IMF on Monday approved emergency aid of US$105 million for the nation, which has long been mired in a humanitarian crisis that has been exacerbated by global inflation. The funds should enable the Caribbean country to “support those most affected by food price rises through feeding programs and cash and in-kind transfers to vulnerable households” IMF managing director Antoinette Sayeh said in a statement. The money was released through the IMF’s “Food Shock Window,” opened at the end of September for a period of one year. The measure is used to provide rapid access to emergency funds to states facing food insecurity, particularly in the event of unexpected shocks in the import of grains or a sudden rise in prices. The nation also faces a “health crisis” in the form of a cholera epidemic and “serious security problems,” the IMF said.
‘Drug lord’ murder suspect
Police have strong evidence that an alleged drug trafficker ordered the murders of British journalist Dom Phillips, 57, and indigenous activist Bruno Pereira, 41, in the Amazon in June last year, Eduardo Fontes, chief of federal police in the Amazonas region, said on Monday. Police believe Ruben da Silva Villar, who uses the nickname “Colombia” and is in custody, ordered the murders of the two men, Fontes said. He added that the murder case was “90 percent” wrapped up and “practically closed.” Phillips and Pereira were shot dead on June 5 in Valle de Javari, a remote area where illegal fishing, mining and logging are rife. Phillips, a freelance journalist whose work had appeared in the Guardian and the New York Times, was traveling with Pereira doing research for a book on the Amazon. Fontes said Villar had provided weapons and boats to three men accused of the actual murders, and later paid for the lawyer for one of them.
Women, children repatriated
France repatriated 15 women and 32 children held in extremist prison camps in northeastern Syria, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday. “The minors were handed over to the services in charge of child assistance and will be subject to medical and social monitoring,” the ministry said in a statement. It added that “the adults have been handed over to the competent judicial authorities.” Over the past decade, thousands of extremists in Europe traveled to Syria to become fighters with the Islamic State group, often taking their families to live in the self-declared “caliphate” it set up in territory seized in Iraq and Syria. Since the “caliphate” fell in 2019, the return of family members of fighters who were captured or killed has been a thorny issue for European countries.
Mercury drops to record low
A cold spell that spread across the country last week broke records on Sunday, the coldest day the country says it has ever documented. The temperature in Mohe, a city in northern Heilongjiang Province, dropped to minus-53°C on Saturday, the Heilongjiang Meteorological Bureau said on its official social media account. That beat the country’s previous record low of minus-52.3°C, which occurred in 1969. Twelve weather stations in Heilongjiang also reported temperatures close to or below their own low-temperature records this past weekend, the bureau said. The cold snap is expected to continue this week, with temperatures in some parts of Jilin Province continuing to drop by as much as 16°C over the next few days, the China Meteorological Administration said.
N Korea stole US$100m: FBI
Two hacking groups linked to North Korea were responsible for the theft of US$100 million in an attack on a crypto service last year, the FBI said on Monday. The Lazarus and APT38 outfits perpetrated the June attack on US-based blockchain specialist Harmony’s Horizon Bridge, the FBI said in a statement. Horizon is an example of software that allows crypto tokens to move between different blockchains. Such cross-chain bridges became a soft target for hackers last year, with about US$2 billion of crypto assets stolen in 13 separate bridge hacks, according to Chainalysis. On Jan. 13, the North Korea-linked hackers used a privacy protocol called Railgun to launder US$60 million worth of ether, the FBI said. Some of this was sent to several crypto exchanges and converted to bitcoin, the bureau said. Zhao Changpeng (趙長鵬), founder of the world’s largest crypto exchange Binance Holdings Ltd, said on Twitter last week that his firm helped the Huobi platform to freeze some the funds and recover 124 bitcoins. Lazarus was also blamed for the US$600 million Ronin bridge hack.
Calls grow to ban rapper
Pressure is building from politicians and anti-hate groups for the government to ban rapper Ye after reports over the weekend said he would visit soon. The country’s Anti Defamation Commission described Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, as a “hate preacher,” and said he must not be allowed into the country. “His presence is dangerous, because it will give him a platform to keep peddling his anti-Jewish propaganda,” Dvir Abramovich, chairman of the Anti Defamation Commission, told Australia’s Seven News.
Vaccines that protect against severe illness, death and lingering long COVID-19 symptoms from a SARS-CoV-2 infection were linked to small increases in neurological, blood and heart-related conditions in the largest global vaccine safety study to date. The rare events — identified early in the pandemic — included a higher risk of heart-related inflammation from mRNA shots made by Pfizer Inc, BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc, and an increased risk of a type of blood clot in the brain after immunization with viral-vector vaccines such as the one developed by the University of Oxford and made by AstraZeneca PLC. The viral-vector jabs were
A steam of sweat rose as hundreds of naked men tussled over a bag of wooden talismans, performing a dramatic end to a thousand-year-old ritual in Japan that took place for the last time. Their passionate chants of “jasso, joyasa” (“evil, be gone”) echoed through a ceder forest in Japan’s Iwate Prefecture, where the secluded Kokuseki Temple is ending the popular annual rite. Organizing the event, which draws hundreds of participants and thousands of tourists every year, has become a heavy burden for the aging local faithful, who find it hard to keep up with the rigors of the ritual. The Sominsai festival,
Women on Thursday officially joined a so-called “naked festival” at a shrine in central Japan for the first time in the event’s 1,250-year history, donning purple robes and chanting excitedly as they bore a large bamboo trunk as an offering. Seven groups of women took part in the ritual which is said to drive away evil spirits and where participants pray for happiness. Despite its name, those taking part are not naked. Many women wore “Happi Coats” (robes that reach to the hips) and shorts that are typically worn at Japanese festivals, although men just wore loincloths similar to those worn by
DECLINE: About 27 million Argentines are poor, of which 15 percent are mired in ‘destitution,’ meaning they cannot adequately cover their food needs, a study showed Poverty levels last month skyrocketed to 57.4 percent of Argentina’s population of 46 million, the highest rate in 20 years, a study by the Catholic University of Argentina (UCA) showed. The findings quickly unleashed accusations between Argentina’s former vice president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and the government of President Javier Milei, who came to power announcing a series of shock measures aimed at tackling the country’s severe crisis. About 27 million people in Argentina are poor and 15 percent of those are mired in “destitution,” meaning they cannot adequately cover their food needs, according to the study released over the weekend. The UCA’s