• US renews travel alert for Europe, travel ban to North Korea takes effect

    Ramesh Tiwari
    September 3, 2017
    US renews travel alert for Europe, travel ban to North Korea takes effect

    Washington *( AFP / BBC) : The US State Department has renewed its travel alert for Europe, warning citizens about the continued threat of terrorist attacks.

    The latest update is an extension of the previous travel alert issued in May, and expires November 30.

    American travelers are urged to exercise caution, particularly when visiting busy tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets, shopping malls and local government facilities. 

    Other soft targets include hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, high-profile events, educational institutions and airports.

    Terrorist tactics include firearm attacks, explosives, the use of vehicles to ram into large crowds, and sharp-edged weapons that are difficult to detect prior to the attacks, says the state department.

    The alert follows a steady string of terrorist incidents in France, Russia, Sweden, the UK, Spain and Finland, perpetrated by the ISIS.

    “US citizens should always be alert to the possibility that terrorist sympathizers or self-radicalized extremists may conduct attacks with little or no warning,” advises the state department.

    In the event of an attack, citizens are advised to follow the instructions of local authorities, monitor media sources, stay in touch with family members and make sure they know how to reach you in the event of an emergency.

    Visitors should also consult the website of the US embassy or consulate in their destination country.

    North Korea tourism: US travel ban takes effect

    BBC reports —

    A US ban on its citizens travelling to North Korea has come into effect, at a time of heightened tensions over North Korean missile launches.

    The new rule was announced after US student Otto Warmbier died after being released from prison in North Korea.

    The State Department said it was necessary “due to the serious and mounting risk” of detention.

    Any US citizen breaking the rules may face criminal penalties and have their passports revoked.

    The State Department would only grant permission to US citizens to go to North Korea “under very limited circumstances”, such as for journalism or humanitarian work.

    Tour operators have suggested that up to 1,000 Americans visit North Korea every year, making up about a fifth of Western tourists. The vast majority of visitors are Chinese. About 5,000 Western tourists visit North Korea every year

    Otto Warmbier was arrested and jailed in 2016 after Pyongyang accused him of attempting to take a propaganda sign from a hotel while on holiday.

    He was released to his family in the US in June, but he was in a coma and died shortly afterwards without regaining consciousness. The cause of his death remains unclear.

    Otto Warmbier appeared in a news conference in 2016 confessing to stealing a propaganda sign

    The State Department said at least 16 citizens had been detained in North Korea in the past decade. Three are known to be in detention.

    Most of those detained have been US missionaries, journalists and professors.

    The US has in the past accused North Korea of detaining its citizens to use them as pawns in negotiations over its nuclear weapons programme.

    Tourism offers outside visitors a rare window into North Korean life, but tour groups are heavily regulated as well as monitored.

    It is also a lucrative source of income, with one estimate that it nets authorities up to $43.6m (£34m) a year.

    The State Department said in its latest statement that anyone visiting North Korea “should have no expectation of privacy”, with all electronic devices subject to searches and authorities able to monitor mobile phone calls.

    It also warned that it was “entirely possible” that tourism money was being used to fund North Korea’s nuclear programmes.

    The new rules also affect US citizens living and working in North Korea, such as aid workers and teachers.

    About 60 US citizens who were employees or family members of employees at North Korea’s Pyongyang University of Science and Technology have departed, according to Reuters.

    The wire news agency said they were unable to receive special permission to stay, despite attempts by the university to lobby the US government for exemptions.

    It quoted an unnamed source saying the school was “severely impacted” by the US travel ban as well as the “decision of some other personnel not to return.”

    The ban comes amid escalating tensions between the two countries and in the region.

    This week North Korea reiterated its threat to launch a missile strike on the US Pacific island of Guam, and conducted what it called its “first step” of wider military operations in the Pacific by firing a missile over Japan.

    US President Donald Trump had recently vowed to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea in response to its threats, and warned that the US military is “locked and loaded”.

    Swpt. 2 2017

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      2017 in review -Top stories

      January 1 : New year nightclub attack leaves 39 dead in Istanbul
      January 20 : Republican billionaire Donald Trump sworn in as 45th US president
      January 23 : Syria peace talks begin in Kazakh capital Astana
      March 29 :United Kingdom officially launches the Brexit process
      April 4 :Syria launches chemical attack killing 90 people
      April 6 : US cruise missiles destroy Syrian air base
      April 9 : Bombings at two churches in Egypt kill dozens
      April 16 : Refugee death toll passes 1,000 in Mediterranean
      April 16 :Turkey says YES to presidential system
      May 6 :Emmanuel Macron elected French president defeating Marine Le Pen
      May 19 :Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani wins re-election
      May 22 : Terrorist attack kills 22 at Manchester concert
      June 5 : Gulf nations severe ties with Qatar
      June 7 :Suicide bombers attack Iranian parliament killing 13 people
      June 14 :London fire kills 71 in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower
      July 4 :North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s missile ambitions
      July 28 : Pakistan’s top court disqualifies Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from office
      August 5 :US withdraws from Paris climate change pact
      August 17 :Storms cause record damage in Caribbean and southern United States
      August 25 :Muslim Rohingya start fleeing Rakhine state in Myanmar
      September 15 : NASA’s 13-year Saturn mission ends
      September 20 : Earthquake kills more than 200 in Mexico
      September 24 : Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel wins fourth term
      September 26 : Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving
      October 1 : Gunman opens fire on Las Vegas music festival killing 59 people
      October 14 : Massive bombing in Somalia’s capital Modadishu kill more than 500 people
      October 24 : China confirms the elevation of President Xi Jinping to the same status as the nation’s founder, Mao Zedong, and Deng Xiaoping, by enshrining ‘Xi Jinping thought’ in the party’s constitution at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China
      October 27 : Catalonia declares independence from Spain
      November 4 : S audi Arabia detains 11 princes, four ministers and ten former ministers in a corruption probe
      November 12 : Iran-Iraq magnitude 7.3 earthquake kills more than 500
      November 15 : Argentine navy submarine disappears with 44 crew on board
      November 21 : Robert Mugabe resigns as Zimbabwe’s president after 37 years in power. His former deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa will become president.
      November 22 : Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic convicted of genocide in Srebrenica during the 1990s Bosnian War
      November 24 : Gunmen kill hundreds at Sinai mosque in Egypt
      December 4 : Houthi militants assassinate Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh
      December 5 : Russia banned from 2018 Winter Olympics for state-sponsored doping
      December 6 : US President Donald Trump recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel
      December 17 : Price of one bitcoin reaches a new high of $19,783.06 dollars
      December 21 : Yemen’s cholera outbreak
      December 22 : Syria peace talks in Astana (compiled)

      Top ten most visited cities

      Between January and August 2017, destinations worldwide welcomed 901 million international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors), 56 million more than in the same period of 2016 .The top ten most visited cities are:
      HONG KONG26.6 million
      BANGKOK 21.2 million
      LONDON19.2 million
      SINGAPORE16.6 million
      MACAU15.4 million
      DUBAI14.9 million
      PARIS14.4 million
      NEW YORK12.7 million
      SHENZHEN12.6 million
      KUALA LUMPUR12.3 million

      Source: Euromonitor International

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