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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

North Korea Warns South Korea of “Final Destruction”

North Korea warned South Korea that its actions may lead it to its “final destruction” at a United Nations Conference of Disarmament (UNCD) in Geneva today. “As the saying goes, a new-born puppy knows no fear of a tiger. South Korea’s erratic behavior would only herald its final destruction,” North Korean Ambassador to the UNCD Jon Yong Ryong said. His comment drew immediate condemnation from the international community, including France, the U.K., South Korea, Germany, Britain, and the U.S. “In the 30 years of my career I’ve never heard anything like it,” said Spanish Ambassador to the U.N. Javier Gil Catalina. “It seems to me that we are not speaking about something that is even admissible, we are speaking about a threat of the use of force that is prohibited by Article 2.4 of the United Nations charter.” Jon also warned that North Korea could take “the second and third stronger steps in succession” against U.S. “hostility,” following a successful nuclear test last week.

Tunisian PM Resigns

Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, of the Islamic Ennahda party, announced today his resignation after a meeting with President Moncef Marzouki. His decision comes after a failed attempt at forming an interim cabinet of “apolitical technocrats” to resolve a political crisis sparked by the assassination of Chokri Belaid, secular opposition leader. “I promised and assured that, in the event that my initiative failed, I would resign as head of the government, and that is what I have done,” Jebali said. His plan encountered fierce resistance among ministers, most notably from members of his own party. Protesters took to the streets after Belaid’s killing deepened fears that the government has been unable to keep the religious fanatics under control.

Obama Calls for Action on Sequester

U.S. President Barack Obama spoke from the White House today to call for congressional action on fixes that would stay the “sequester,” a series of automatic spending cuts, for the rest of the year. Surrounding himself with firefighters and other first responders, Obama raised the pressure on his Republican opponents to delay $1.2 trillion in cuts that would affect most domestic and defense programs over the next 10 years. “These cuts are not smart, they are not fair, they will hurt our economy, they will add hundreds of thousands of Americans to the unemployment rolls,” Obama said. “This is not an abstraction — people will lose their jobs.” Obama is trying to force Republicans to compromise with him on new revenues rather than focus only on spending cuts, something they have refused to do. Congress is on a recess until the end of this week.

Chinese Army Behind Hacks of Multiple U.S. Companies, Institutions

Over 97 percent of the cyberattacks followed by Mandiant, a U.S. computer security company, have led to a building of the headquarters of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Shanghai, a report published by the company shows. Unit 61398 of the PLA’s 2nd Bureau, or Advanced Persistent Threat 1 (APT1) as Mandiant calls it, could include hundreds of agents dedicated to cyber espionage. The earliest attacks tracked by the company occurred in 2006, and they rocketed in 2011. So far, Chinese hackers have only focused on breaking confidentiality and stealing data pertaining to clinical trials, technology blueprints, pricing, manufacturing, and other information, but it could get worse. “If the mission should change, they do have all the tools in place to be destructive,” said Kevin Mandia, CEO of Mandiant.

Tax Sugary Drinks to Fight Obesity, U.K. Doctors Say

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges called yesterday for a 20 percent tax increase on sugary drinks in the U.K. and healthier hospital food to fight obesity. The tax is to be tried for a year to evaluate its effect on sales, doctors say. Other recommendations including banning fast food restaurants near schools and colleges as well as forbidding advertisement of foods high in saturated fats, sugar and salt before 9 p.m. “It’s now time to stop making excuses and instead begin forging alliances, trying new innovations to see what works and acting quickly to tackle obesity head on,” said Pediatrician Terence Stephenson, chair of the Academy. “Otherwise the majority of this country’s health budget could be consumed by an entirely avoidable condition.” The British Soft Drinks Association reacted to the announcement by rejecting “the idea that a tax on soft drinks, which contribute two percent of the total calories in the average diet, is going to address a problem which is about overall diet and levels of activity,” according to Director Gavin Partington. He added consumption of soft drinks dropped nine percent over the past decade, while obesity increased.

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