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North Korea suffers worst drought in nearly 40 years amid food shortage fears | World News

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North Korea says it is suffering its worst drought in nearly four decades amid growing concerns that the country is dangerously short of food.

Just 54.4mm (2.1in) of rain fell across the country in the first four months of this year, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

The state-run news organisation said the total amounted to about 42.3% of normal rainfall.

Previously, the worst figure recorded was 51.2mm (2in) over the same period in 1982.

In the UK, for comparison, there was 63.6mm of rainfall in January alone.

The current drought is expected to continue until the end of May, according to KCNA.

Attempts are being made to find new water sources and minimise damage to the country’s struggling agriculture industry, according to local media.

Officials in North Korea blamed bad weather and US-led economic sanctions that have been toughened in recent years due to nuclear and missile testing.

This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 21, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un visiting a fruit farm at Kwail-?p County, South Hwanghae Province. / AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIS KNS AND AFP PHOTO / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS"
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Kim Jong Un, pictured surrounded by food in 2017

It seems unlikely that sanctions will be loosened in the near future, with the US wanting North Korea to first get rid of its nuclear capabilities.

At a summit between North Korea leader Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump in February, the US president rejected Pyongyang’s offer of partial disarmament.

Meanwhile, the situation is growing desperate for those living in North Korea, a country which has relied on UN food aid for years.

After the worst harvest in a decade, it was announced earlier this month that daily food rations were being cut to just 300g per person.

Children between the ages of four and five suffering from malnutrition are pictured in a nursery in Anpyon County, Kangwon province in hunger-stricken North Korea in July 1997
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North Korea suffered a devastating famine in the mid-1990s

The United Nations warned that 40% of the population (about 10 million people) are chronically short of food and do not have enough to last until the next harvest.

An investigation by the UN World Food Programme also found that many families only eat protein a few times a year.

Earlier this year, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, Kim Song, issued a rare appeal for urgent food assistance.

He blamed the bad weather – severe flooding and extremely hot temperatures last summer – but said that sanctions were also preventing North Korean farmers from feeding their country.

In a memo to the UN, he said sanctions were “barbaric and inhuman”, adding: “There is a dreadful restriction by sanctions on imports of all sorts of metal farming facilities, such as tractors, harvesters… as well as chemical fertiliser, pesticide and herbicide.”

North Korea suffered a devastating famine in the mid-1990s that the country’s leaders blamed on bad weather, but some critics said its economic system was at fault, arguing it gave no incentives to produce food.

North Korea says around 230,000 people died but some observers disagree.

Andrew Natsios, co-chairman for the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, said in a recent book that the number was more likely up to 3.5 million.

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Hong Kong: More protesters take to the streets to defy Beijing | World News

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Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in Hong Kong calling for democratic reforms.

A protest march by teachers is currently under way. It will be followed by another anti-government march in Hung Hom at 3.30pm and a pro-government rally at 5pm at Tamar Park in Admiralty.

The latest protests come days after Hong Kong airport cancelled all outbound flights after a mass sit-in by protesters.









All eyes on the Hong Kong protesters

The Chinese government has warned that, after two months of unrest, the situation is now showing “sprouts of terrorism”.

Riot police again fired tear gas and rubber bullets last weekend – letting off rounds in an underground station and using “snatch squads” disguised as protesters to detain people.

Anger in the former British colony has grown over claims of police brutality, a planned extradition law and a call for more democracy.



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China ‘will not sit on its hands’ over Hong Kong protests

Meanwhile, UN commissioner for human rights Michelle Bachelet has urged Hong Kong authorities to show restraint in dealing with the protesters.

In a statement, she said: “Officials can be seen firing tear gas canisters into crowded, enclosed areas and directly at individual protesters on multiple occasions, creating a considerable risk of death or serious injury.”

Saturday’s protests come as a warning of thunderstorms and rain was issued by the Hong Kong Observatory.

The Observatory warned of flooding in low-lying areas and where there was poor drainage.

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The Hajj is done – but challenges lie ahead for its future | World News

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The Hajj is done.

The millions of people of all races and colours, rich and poor, young and old are beginning to head home – their obligation as Muslims to do one pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime fulfilled.

Their last rites, the symbolic stoning of the devil, has been completed in Mina.

Thousands of people slept on cardboard on the streets
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Thousands of people slept on cardboard on the streets

The vast tented city, which is only used during the week of the Hajj, is eerily empty.

The air-conditioned tents are being cleared of debris.

An army of workers have begun the task of clearing the detritus left on the roads ready for next year.

But the problem of plastic remains in Saudi Arabia
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But the problem of plastic remains in Saudi Arabia

Discarded plastic bottles – probably in hundreds of millions – litter the holy site. An imaginative solution is needed to keep the Hajis watered without plastic.

The millions who slept on cardboard, ate on cardboard, and prayed on cardboard or just bare pavements outside the tents have gone.

I detected very little resentment, if any, between the haves and have-nots. They were here for a reason and that was all that mattered.

The millions who descended are now going home
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The millions who descended are now going home

Looking back, the mind still boggles about how this event could even be contemplated – let alone happen – every single year.

Lessons have been learnt from previous years when hundreds used to die in crowded choke points.

The Saudi army is out in force in these areas, directing crowds along safer routes and controlling their movement.

Just imagine what it’s like to move a city between the central Hajj sites of Mecca, Mina Arafat, Muzdalifa and back to Mina again in just a 24-hour period.

After days of crowds, it feels very different
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After days of crowds, it feels very different

And the Hajj is going to get even bigger – the Saudi authorities are planning to increase capacity to 10 million by 2030.

That will prove to be the mother of all logistical challenges.

The infrastructure of more hotels, roads and more accommodation in Mina is already being built.

The streets are quietening down
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The streets are quietening down

The focus of Hajj, the Masjid al Haram, the big mosque in Mecca, already holds about 1.5 million – and it’s being expanded.

For Friday prayers, the mosque closes its doors at 9am because it is jammed to capacity. Prayers don’t start till 12.30pm.

Imagine 15 Wembleys shutting their doors three hours before kick-off.

75-year-old Mohammed Asim from Tooting is on his fifth Hajj
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75-year-old Mohammed Asim from Tooting is on his fifth Hajj

The Hajj now is now a far cry from what it was. Among our group is sprightly 75-year-old Mohammed Asim from Tooting.

He is on his fifth pilgrimage – his first was in 1964 when he arrived on a ship full of pilgrims from Pakistan.

“Back then everywhere was desert. No hotels or accommodation,” he said.

It leaves me wondering how Hajj 2030 will look like.

It’s already a wondrous and inspiring event on an unimaginable scale.

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British beautician charged after botched bottom injection kills US woman | US News

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A British beautician has been charged with killing a woman through a botched buttocks injection in New York.

Donna Francis was extradited to the US after fleeing New York when Kelly Mayhew died.

The 38-year-old is being held without bail.

Her lawyer, Kevin O’Donnell, entered a not guilty plea for Francis.

Kelly Mayhew died after allegedly being injected with liquid silicone by Donna Francis. Pic: Facebook
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Kelly Mayhew died after allegedly being injected with liquid silicone by Donna Francis. Pic: Facebook

The beautician is accused of injecting Ms Mayhew in a basement in Queens in May 2015.

Ms Mayhew had travelled from Maryland for the procedure, but authorities allege Francis was not a licensed nurse or physician.

Officials say Ms Mayhew died because the procedure was not done correctly.

A judge in Britain ruled Francis should be extradited in October last year.

Ms Mayhew, a 34 year-old freelance television producer, started “gurgling” and struggling to breathe after receiving six injections in either side of her buttocks, and despite the efforts of paramedics, was pronounced dead later that evening.

Liquid silicone, which stays in the body permanently, caused a systemic embolism – fatally restricting Ms Mayhew’s bloodflow to her vital organs.

Francis, a mother of one, left the house and returned to the UK the next day.

Last autumn, US authorities said Francis would only face a year in prison if convicted.

According to NBC Washington, her next court date will be late September.

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