US girds for cyber threats from Iran as military clash fears ebb

by Rob Lever Agence France Presse Iran is widely expected to ramp up cyberattacks against the United States in response to the US killing of a top Iranian leader this month even as fears have receded about a military confrontation between the two countries. The simmering tensions since the US drone attack that killed Qasem Soleimani, who was by some measures the second most influential person in Iran, make it likely that Iran will seek […]

US warship sails through Taiwan Strait

  TAIPEI, Taiwan (AFP) — A United States warship has sailed through the Taiwan Strait, Taipei’s defence ministry said Friday, the first such passage since the island resoundingly re-elected its independence-leaning president. The warship was on a “routine mission”, the ministry said, as it traversed the stretch of water that divides the self-ruling island from the authoritarian Chinese mainland. The waterway bristles with hardware on both sides and China views any sail-by as a breach […]

Global decision-makers gather in Davos

PARIS, France (AFP) – Stuart WILLIAMS Global decision-makers gather in Davos starting Tuesday for their annual meeting, with challenges facing the planet — from climate change to conflict in the Middle East — as imposing as the Alps that surround the Swiss resort. Observers fear the annual World Economic Forum will serve only to again expose the differences between East and West, the US and the EU, and business and activists in combating the most […]

Second person dies from mystery virus in China: official

BEIJING, China (AFP) — A second person has died in China from a mystery virus that has stricken dozens and appeared in two other Asian countries, officials said. Local authorities said a 69-year-old man died on Wednesday in Wuhan, the central Chinese city believed to be the epicenter of an outbreak of a coronavirus from the same family as the deadly SARS pathogen. The outbreak has caused alarm because of the link with SARS (Severe […]

Qatar scraps unpopular exit permits for domestic workers

DOHA, Qatar (AFP) — Qatar scrapped mandatory exit permits for migrant domestic staff and other groups on Thursday, as part of efforts to boost rights for guest workers amid scrutiny of its record. Previously all foreigners working permanently in the gas-rich country required authorization from bosses to leave, but now only military personnel will routinely require such a dispensation. Qatar has made a series of reforms to its employment regulations since being selected to host […]

Rouhani says Iran wants dialogue, working to ‘prevent war’

TEHRAN, Iran (AFP) — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Friday he wants to avoid war after Tehran and Washington appeared on the brink of direct military confrontation in early January for the second time in less than a year. Ahead of parliamentary elections on February 21 — predicted to be a challenge for Rouhani’s camp — and amid high tensions between Tehran and the West over Iran’s nuclear program, the president said dialogue with the […]

China says US trade deal ‘addresses concerns’

BEIJING, China (AFP) — A trade deal signed Wednesday between Washington and Beijing has “considerably addressed the concerns” of both sides, said Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, as the world’s two biggest economies marked a truce in the lingering trade impasse. Liu, who led negotiations for Beijing, added in a briefing with Chinese media that the freshly-inked “phase one” deal bears both economic and political significance, reported the official Xinhua news agency. The US and […]

Death toll rises to at least 100 after Pakistan snow, avalanches

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan (AFP) — Search teams found the bodies of 14 people buried by avalanches and heavy snowfall in Pakistani-administered Kashmir Wednesday, with harsh weather hampering rescuers as they race to find any survivors, officials said. The death toll from days of bad weather now stands at 76 in Kashmir, and at least 100 across the country, according to a statement from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). Most were killed in Kashmir’s picturesque Neelum […]

Solar-powered barge a key ‘interceptor’ for plastic waste

KLANG, Malaysia (AFP) – Patrick Lee Scooping waste from a Malaysian river to stop it reaching the sea, a solar-powered barge named the “Interceptor” is the latest weapon in a global battle to rid the world’s waters of plastic. Trash is being dumped into seas and rivers in enormous quantities, polluting vital habitats, endangering a kaleidoscope of marine life and sullying once pristine tourist spots. Some eight million tons of plastics enter the world’s oceans […]

Russia’s President Putin picks little-known tax chief for prime minister

  MOSCOW, Russia (AFP) — President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday proposed the little-known head of Russia’s tax service Mikhail Mishustin for the post of prime minister, the Kremlin said. The proposal to appoint 53-year-old Mishustin, a relatively obscure figure who has run the service since 2010, came after the surprise resignation of Putin ally Dmitry Medvedev following the president’s unveiling of a package of constitutional reforms. The two met in the Kremlin where Putin “suggested […]

World’s tallest tower lights up for fire-stricken Australia

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AFP) — The world’s tallest tower, Burj Khalifa in Dubai, lit up Wednesday night in solidarity with Australia where devastating fires are still burning. The bushfires have consumed about 10 million hectares (100,000 square kilometers), leaving at least 28 people dead and destroying more than 2,000 homes since September. The skyscraper, which is 828 meters (2,717 feet) high, lit up with the statement “We can all help” and the hashtag MatesHelpMates […]

Prime Minister Medvedev announces resignation of Russian Cabinet

  MOSCOW, January 15 (Sputnik) – Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told President Vladimir Putin after his address to the parliament on Wednesday that the government was resigning. “Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich, dear colleagues, you all witnessed the message of the President of the Russian Federation. The president outlined not only the priorities for work in our country for the coming year, but also outlined a number of fundamental changes to the Constitution of the Russian […]