FRONT PAGE NEWS
29 December 2019
N. KOREA'S KIM HOLDS TOP PARTY MEETING AHEAD OF US DEADLINE
SEOUL -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has convened a key meeting of top
ruling party officials, state media said Sunday, ahead of a year-end
deadline for Washington to shift its stance on stalled nuclear talks.
The plenary session, which opened on Saturday, follows widespread
speculation that Pyongyang is preparing to test an intercontinental
ballistic missile -- as a threatened "Christmas gift" for Washington.
Kim presided over the meeting which discussed a new "transparent,
anti-imperialist independent stand," the official Korean Central News Agency
The ruling Workers' Party of Korea will also "discuss important matters
arising... in the building of the state and national defense," KCNA added.
Talks on denuclearizing the Korean peninsula have been largely deadlocked
since the second summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump collapsed
in Hanoi at the start of this year.
The opening of the plenary comes a week after Kim held a meeting of top
defense officials and discussed boosting military capabilities, and ahead of
the leader's New Year speech on January 1, a key political set-piece in the
NETHERLANDS TO DROP 'HOLLAND' AS NICKNAME
The Netherlands has announced to officially drop the nickname 'Holland' as
part of a rebranding campaign. Companies, embassies, ministries and
universities will only be able to refer to the country as 'the Netherlands'
from January. 'Holland' refers to just two of the 12 provinces in the
Netherlands, but the two names are often used interchangeably to describe
the European country.
KAZAKHSTAN JET'S BLACK BOXES SENT TO MOSCOW
Kazakhstan observed a national day of mourning on Saturday after 12 people
died when an airliner crashed shortly after take-off and slammed into a
Witnesses spoke of the terrified screams of passengers as the plane came
down on the edge of the country's biggest city Almaty on Friday, but many on
board managed to walk away without serious injury. The jet carrying nearly
100 passengers operated by budget carrier Bek Air was torn apart and its
nose crushed on impact with a two-storey building just minutes after taking
off en route to the capital Nur-Sultan.
Kazakh authorities have launched an investigation to determine the cause of
the disaster, and the plane's black boxes have been sent to Moscow for
examination, according to Deputy Industry Minister Berik Kamilyev, cited by
Russian news agencies.
In Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan's largest flag was at half-mast for the day of
mourning while officials made urgent appeals for blood donations to help the
dozens of injured survivors. Neighbouring Russia and China were among the
countries to join the Vatican and the European Union in expressing
condolences to the former Soviet Central Asian republic. Officials say the
Fokker 100 plane's tail hit the tarmac twice on Friday during take-off
before it came down and crashed into the concrete building.
"Either this is a pilot error, or there were technical reasons," Deputy
Prime Minister Roman Sklyar said at a press conference in Almaty on Friday.
"The aircraft split into two parts. Most of the passengers who died were in
the front part."
According to Kazakh emergency authorities, the 12 dead included the pilot.
Another 47 passengers out of the 98 people on-board were still in hospital
on Saturday. Nine of them were children, officials said.
SEXIST SLURS MAR TAIWAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
TAIPEI -- Taiwan has forged a reputation as Asia's most progressive
democracy and it boasts a higher proportion of women in parliament than
anywhere else in the region -- yet misogynistic insults have littered its
The campaign for the January 11 polls has exposed an undercurrent where
female politicians face a gauntlet of personal abuse and jibes that their
male counterparts rarely suffer.
The island's most prominent female politician is President Tsai Ing-wen, 63,
who is seeking a second term.
She has once again faced insults based on her gender, much of it focused on
the fact she is not married and does not have children.
Wu Den-yih, chairman of the opposition Kuomintang party, earlier this month
used a Taiwanese slang term to dub Tsai "an unlucky woman" who had brought
misfortune to her people.
And her presidential opponent Han Kuo-yu, 62, invoked two characters from an
ancient Chinese erotic novel to describe Tsai's rivalry with her running
Han's running mate Chang San-cheng also said Tsai could not understand the
hearts of parents because she was "a woman who has never given birth."
In a Facebook post, Tsai hit out at the campaign rhetoric.
"I find such a political culture unacceptable and we will not accept any
personal attacks against women using such language," she wrote.
Wu later apologized, saying he respected women and meant to criticise Tsai's
ALGERIAN PRESIDENT NAMES EX-DIPLOMAT AS PRIME MINISTER
Algeria's President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Saturday named a university
professor and former diplomat as Prime Minister as he builds a new
government to handle political unrest and a looming economic challenge.
Abdelaziz Djerad, 65, served in the administration of a previous President
in the 1990s, but was sidelined by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was
ousted in April after two decades as head of state.
The massive street protest movement that prompted Mr. Bouteflika to step
down regarded Mr. Tebboune's election this month as illegitimate and it
seems unlikely to accept any government he appoints.
The protesters rejected any election that took place while the military
stayed involved in politics and Bouteflika-era figures retained powerful
AT LEAST 90 PEOPLE KILLED IN MOGADISHU BLAST
At least 90 people were killed and dozens were wounded when a bomb-laden
vehicle exploded at a bustling checkpoint in the Somali capital Mogadishu on
Saturday, an international organisation working in the country said, in one
of the most deadly recent attacks.
The dead included many students and two Turkish nationals, the Somali
Foreign Minister said. Rescuers carried bodies past the twisted wreckage of
a vehicle and a minibus taxi smeared with blood.
A report by the international organisation, which did not want to be named,
said the death toll was more than 90. A Somali MP also tweeted that he had
been told the toll stands at more than 90, including 17 police officers.
Abdikadir Abdirahman Haji Aden, founder of Aamin ambulances, told Reuters
that dozens of people were also wounded.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast.
VIOLENT CLASHES IN NEW ROUND OF CHILE PROTESTS
Thousands of protesters clashed with police on Friday in Santiago in a fresh
round of anti-government demonstrations that erupted more than two months
ago in Chile.
The rally took place in the Plaza Italia, which has since October 18 become
the epicentre of massive citizen protests against President Sebastian
Pinera's right-wing government. Police entered the square in mid-afternoon
and dispersed demonstrators with water cannon and tear gas. But after almost
two hours of confrontations, thousands of protesters finally occupied the
plaza, according to AFP reporters. "We are going to continue in the struggle
until Pinera gives in to the people's demands," said Luis Rojas, 46.
Authorities have been trying to restore calm in downtown Santiago, which has
been roiled by a crisis that initially erupted over metro fare hikes but
quickly escalated into the most severe outbreak of social unrest since the
end of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet nearly 30 years ago. Chileans
have taken to the streets to register their anger over inequality and
particularly to vent at the elites that control much of the country's
Friday's demonstration occurred the same day Mr. Pinera signed a decree
calling for a plebiscite on April 26 to decide whether to replace the
current constitution, which dates back to Pinochet's rule.
US SAW HIGHEST NUMBER OF MASS KILLINGS ON RECORD IN 2019, DATABASE REVEALS
The US suffered more mass killings in 2019 than any year on record,
according to researchers.
A database compiled by the Associated Press (AP), USA Today and Northeastern
University recorded 41 incidents and a total of 211 deaths.
Mass killings are defined as four or more people being killed in the same
incident, excluding the perpetrator.
Among the deadliest in 2019 were the killings of 12 people in Virginia Beach
in May and 22 in El Paso in August.
Of the 41 cases in 2019, 33 involved firearms, researchers said. California
had the highest number of mass killings per state, with eight.
The database has been tracking mass killings in the US since 2006, but
research going back to the 1970s did not not reveal a year with more mass
killings, AP reported. The year with the second-highest number of mass
killings was 2006, with 38.
Though 2019 had the highest number of incidents, the death toll of 211 was
eclipsed by the 224 people who died in mass killings 2017. That year saw the
deadliest mass shooting in US history, when 59 people were gunned down at a
festival in Las Vegas.
Many mass killings in the US fail to make headlines because they involve
family disputes, drug deals or gang violence, and don't spill into public
places, the researchers said.
NEWLY FACE-LIFTED BIG BEN WILL RING IN LONDON NEW YEAR
LONDON -- Britain's Big Ben bell in parliament's landmark clock tower will
ring at midnight on New Year's Eve, marking the start of a year for the
first time since its new face was revealed from under scaffolding halfway
through restoration work.
The work has seen the 96-meter-tall Elizabeth Tower, one of the most
photographed buildings in Britain, enveloped in scaffolding for the last two
years as the four clock dials are reglazed, ironwork repainted and
intricately carved stonework cleaned and repaired.
In March, part of the scaffolding was removed, showing that the clock's once
black numerals and hands have been repainted blue, in line with what
scientists say was its original color.
Since restoration work began in 2017, Big Ben has been largely silenced,
sounding only for important events. It last tolled on Remembrance Day on
The bell will be tested several times in the run-up to New Year's Eve,
parliament said in a statement.
The 4-billion-pound ($5.2 billion) restoration work is due to be completed