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Last year was the seventh consecutive year, starting with 2015, when the global average temperature was more than 1°C above pre-industrial levels, the data sets compiled by the WMO show

NEW DELHI: Last year was one of the seven hottest years on record, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a United Nations body, said on Wednesday.

Although La Niña conditions between 2020 and 2022 had a cooling effect on the global average temperatures, 2021 was still one of the seven hottest years on record, six international data sets consolidated by the WMO have revealed. La Niña refers to a large-scale cooling of the ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. It has a temporary global cooling effect.

The average global temperature last year was 1.11 (± 0.13) degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, spanning the period from 1850 to 1900.

Last year was the seventh consecutive year, starting with 2015, when the global average temperature was more than 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the data sets compiled by the WMO show.

The Copernicus Climate Change Service estimated that 2021 was the fifth hottest year on record, and marginally hotter than 2015 and 2018. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Berkeley Earth found that 2021 was the sixth hottest year on record.

Nasa GISTEMP and HadCRUT also said that 2021 was the sixth hottest year on record. Data from the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) Reanalysis Rank 2021 show that last year was indeed the seventh hottest year on record.

The differences in the data sets indicate the margin of error for calculating the average global temperature.

Since the 1980s, each decade has been hotter than the previous one, according to the data put together by the UN body, and the trend is likely to continue.

The hottest seven years have all been recorded since 2015, with 2016, 2019 and 2020 topping the list. A strong El Niño event occurred in 2016, which had sparked record global average warming.

“Back-to-back La Niña events mean that 2021 warming was relatively less pronounced compared to recent years. Even so, 2021 was still warmer than previous years influenced by La Niña. The overall long-term warming as a result of greenhouse gas increases is now far larger than the year-to-year variability in global average temperatures caused by naturally occurring climate drivers,” said WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas.

“The year 2021 will be remembered for a record-shattering temperature of nearly 50 degrees Celsius in Canada, comparable to the values reported in the hot Saharan desert of Algeria, exceptional rainfall, and deadly flooding in Asia and Europe as well as drought in parts of Africa and South America. Climate change impact and weather-related hazards had life-changing and devastating impact on communities on every single continent,” Taalas said.

Last year was also the fifth hottest during the past 121 years for India, after 2016, 2009, 2017 and 2010, according to the Annual Climate Statement 2021 released by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) last week.

The annual mean air temperature was 0.44 degrees Celsius above normal in 2021, while in 2016, it was 0.71°C above normal; 0.55°C in 2009; 0.54°C in 2017 and 0.53°C in 2010.

“This is certainly an impact of global warming. The fact that the most recent years after 2000 are recorded to be the warmest years is not just true for India but also globally. That is why we are preparing better forecast strategies in view of global warming,” said M Mohapatra, director general of the IMD.

The Paris Agreement aims to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels while pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Source : ht

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Earlier, on August 30 last year, the Sri Lanka government announced a national financial emergency after a steep fall in the value of the country's currency which caused a spike in food prices.

Sri Lanka is facing a deepening financial and humanitarian crisis that could lead it to bankruptcy in 2022 as inflation rises to record levels, said a media report.

Earlier, on August 30 last year, the Sri Lanka government announced a national financial emergency after a steep fall in the value of the country's currency which caused a spike in food prices.

Writing in Colombo Gazette, Suhail Guptil said, Sri Lanka is continuously facing twin deficits, that is, fiscal deficit and trade deficit during a major part of the last decade. Since 2014, the foreign debt level of Sri Lanka has been on the rise and reached 42.6 per cent of GDP in 2019.

Guptil explained that the cumulative foreign debt of the country was estimated at USD 33 billion in 2019, which puts a huge burden on the country for debt servicing.

After this, several credit rating agencies including Standard and Poor's, Moody's and Fitch downgraded Sri Lanka's credit rating to B from C, which makes it difficult to obtain funds through International Sovereign Bonds (ISBs), Guptil said.

The financial crisis in Sri Lanka is primarily caused by a low growth rate, currently at four per cent and huge debt service repayment obligations and the situation is worsening.

As of November 2021, available foreign currency reserves were just USD 1.6 billion while in the next 12 months, the government and private sector of Sri Lanka will have to repay an estimated USD 7.3 billion in domestic and foreign loans, including a USD 500 million international sovereign bond repayment in January 2022, the report said.

It further added that one of the most pressing problems for Sri Lanka is its huge foreign debt and debt service burden, in particular to China. It owes China more than USD 5 billion in debt and last year took an additional USD 1 billion loan from Beijing to wean off its acute financial crisis, which is being paid in installments.

It is estimated that the foreign currency reserves of the country would completely deplete by January 2022 and it would need to borrow at least -USD 437 million for necessary payments. The major problem facing the country now is how to manage foreign debt service of USD 4.8 billion being due during February-October 2022, the report said.

Inflation hit a record high of 11.1 per cent in November and escalating prices have left those who were previously well off struggling to feed their families, while basic goods are now unaffordable for many.

After Rajapaksa declared Sri Lanka to be in an economic emergency, the military was given the power to ensure essential items, including rice and sugar, that was sold at set government prices - but it has done little to ease people's woes.

The former central bank deputy governor, WA Wijewardena warned that the struggles of ordinary people would exacerbate the financial crisis, which would in turn make life harder for them. The World Bank estimates 500,000 people have fallen below the poverty line since the beginning of the pandemic, Guptil said.

Guptil further stated that in an "attempt temporarily to ease the problems and stave off difficult and most likely unpopular policies", the government has resorted to temporary relief measures, such as credit lines to import foods, medicines and fuel from its neighbouring ally India, as well as currency swaps from India, China and Bangladesh and loans to purchase petroleum from Oman."

The Sri Lankan government also plans to settle its past oil debts with Iran by paying them with tea, sending them USD 5 million worth of tea every month in order to save "much-needed currency".

Moreover, Colombo has decided to close three overseas diplomatic missions from December 2021 to cut down expenditure in the face of the ongoing financial crisis and dollar crunch. However, these measures will provide only short-term relief and the loans will have to be paid back at high-interest rates, adding to Sri Lanka's debt load, Guptil added.  Source : ht

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Texas hostage situation brings focus back on Al Qaeda

Written by Friday, 19 January 2018 12:26

Demand for release of Pakistan-born neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui also called Lady Al Qaeda from US prison has been a common cause for pan-Islamic groups in Af-Pak region and the Levant.

People rally demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, who was convicted in February 2010 of two counts of attempted murder, and who is currently being detained in the U.S. during International Women's Day in Karachi, Pakistan, (AP)

The hostage situation at a synagogue in Texas was resolved on Saturday night with the release of four hostages and the death of the hostage-taker, but the demand of the suspect has raised brought back global jihad on the agenda. The hostage-taker claimed to be the brother of Pakistan born convicted neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui and demanded that she be released from Texas Federal prison, where she is serving an 86 year sentence for attempting to murder US soldiers in Afghanistan in 2010.  The identity of the dead hostage-taker has not been revealed.

Karachi-born Siddiqui is a cause celebre of the terrorist world with pan-Islamic groups like Al Qaeda and Islamic State have sought her release and US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff were beheaded by Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi’s fanatics in revenge.

Known as Lady Al Qaeda, Siddiqui was married to the nephew of the 9/11 prime accused and Pakistan national Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. For the past 15 years, pan-Islamic jihadist groups have made attempts to secure the release of Siddiqui, who attended MIT and earned a doctorate from Brandies University.

The Texas hostage situation clearly shows that Al Qaeda is alive and kicking despite all the statements to the contrary by the Biden administration and the US intelligence. The fact is that Indian Mujahideen co-founder and Pakistan based Riyaz Bhatkal, as per NIA chargesheet on Yasin Bhatkal, had met Al Qaeda operatives in 2013. Yasin Bhatkal, who was picked up by Intelligence Bureau from Nepal in August 2013, told his interrogators that Riyaz had told him to kidnap jews from Pushkar mela in Rajasthan and demand the release of Aafia Siddiqui.

Interrogation of Yasin Bhatkal also revealed that Riyaz had tried to forge an alliance with Al Qaeda to target India with terror strikes. The Indian Mujahideen group was forged by Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Taiba and Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) as part of Karachi Project to provide deniability to Islamabad for terror attacks in India as well as create the impression that there was home grown terrorism in India. The details about the Karachi project were disclosed by Pakistan born US national David Coleman Headley, who conducted the reconnaissance for the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai with LeT providing the gunman and ISI providing the military training and operational support. While the public memory is short, the Texas incident shows that Al Qaeda with its base in Pakistan and Afghanistan is back with its jihad agenda. Source : ht

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Tirumurti’s remarks were a thinly-veiled reference to D-Company and its head Ibrahim, believed to be hiding in Pakistan.

India at the UN said on Tuesday that the crime syndicate responsible for the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts was not just given state protection but it also enjoyed a five-star hospitality, in a veiled reference to the D-company head Dawood Ibrahim believed to be hiding in Pakistan.

India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti told the International Counter Terrorism Conference 2022 organised by the Global Counter Terrorism Council that linkages between terrorism and transnational organised crime must be fully recognised and addressed vigorously.

“We have seen the crime syndicate responsible for the 1993 Mumbai bomb blasts not just given state protection but enjoying 5-star hospitality,” he said.

Tirumurti’s remarks were a thinly-veiled reference to D-Company and its head Ibrahim, believed to be hiding in Pakistan.

In August 2020, Pakistan had for the first time acknowledged the presence of Ibrahim on its soil after the government imposed sweeping sanctions on 88 banned terror groups and their leaders which also included the name of the underworld don wanted by India.

Tirumurti said that the UN sanctions regimes, including the 1267 Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee, are pivotal to the international efforts in preventing terror-financing, terrorist-travel and access to arms by the terrorist organisations.

He, however, voiced concern that the implementation of these measures remains challenging.

“It is critical that all sanctions regimes established by the Council ensure due process in their working procedures and decision-making. The decision-making process and listing/delisting measures should be objective, swift, credible, evidence based and transparent, and not for political and religious considerations,” the Indian Ambassador said.

He said that a recent report of the Monitoring Team (MT) on the asset freeze exemption procedures pursuant to resolution 2560 (2020) points to the lacunae of asset freeze measures by member states, partly due to deficiencies in the existing guidelines of the Committee. Source : ht

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According to the source, IS terrorists ambushed Bashir on Monday night, while he was patrolling the district area, reported Sputnik.

The Islamic State (IS) on Tuesday killed Abid Bashir, the head of the Islamic Emirate Intelligence Agency of Bati Kot district in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar.

According to the source, IS terrorists ambushed Bashir on Monday night, while he was patrolling the district area, reported Sputnik.

So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the source claimed that the local intelligence chief was apparently killed by the IS terrorists due to a major offensive that he had launched earlier against the group in Bati Kot district.

Abid Bashir was one of the key commanders of the Taliban in Nangarhar province, who had twice before escaped after the terrorist ambush, reported Sputnik.

The Taliban-IS standoff has been ongoing in Afghanistan since 2015, when IS began forming terrorist cells in the country and recruiting fighters, compromising the Taliban influence.

Fierce clashes had erupted between the Taliban and the IS in Nangarhar, Logar and Farah provinces, reported Sputnik.

Since the Taliban return to power in Afghanistan in mid-August, the IS have carried out several terrorist attacks across the country, including the blast at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul in August that killed more than 180 people, and an attack at a Shiite mosque in Kunduz city in October that resulted in over 150 deaths.

The Taliban have repeatedly expressed their commitment to eliminate the IS faction in Afghanistan and pledged to stop the attacks. Source : ht

 

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The 14th round of Corps Commander-level talks between India and China are currently underway, with both sides looking at a possible agreement for disengagement from Hot Springs. This as part of the comprehensive disengagement and de-escalation efforts in eastern Ladakh to end the over 20-month-long stand-off. The Indian delegation is being led for the first time by Lt. Gen. Anindya Sengupta, who recently took over as the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Leh-based 14 Corps. He was part of the talks in the previous round as well. Source : ht

 

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COVID-19: Don’t underestimate Omicron, WHO chief warns

Written by Saturday, 16 September 2017 12:31

14 December 2021 Health

The Omicron variant is “probably” now present in most of the world’s countries and it would be a mistake to dismiss the COVID-19 strain as “mild”, said the head of the UN health agency (WHO) on Tuesday.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, told reporters from WHO headquarters in Geneva that the variant was now present in 77 countries.

"Omicron is spreading at a rate we have not seen with any previous variant. We’re concerned that people are dismissing Omicron as mild”, he said. “Surely, we have learned by now that we underestimate this virus at our peril.”

“Even if Omicron does cause less severe disease, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems. I need to be very clear: vaccines alone will not get any country out of this crisis. Countries can – and must – prevent the spread of Omicron with measures that work today.”

‘Do it all’

The United Kingdom’s top health adviser warned on Tuesday that Omicron infections could reach one million per day there, by the end of this month, adding that the National Health Service would face significant pressure if only a fraction of those newly infected need to be hospitalized – a troubling scenario in a country where some 70 per cent of the population are fully vaccinated.

Tedros warned that making choices about strategies to halt the pandemic, was the wrong approach: “It’s not vaccines instead of distancing. It’s not vaccines instead of ventilation or hand hygiene. Do it all. Do it consistently. Do it well.”

He said in the past 10 weeks, the international vaccine rollout initiative, COVAX, has shipped more vaccines than in the first 9 months of the year combined, with most countries using vaccines as fast as they get them.

“A small group of countries are facing challenges rolling out vaccines and scaling up rapidly, and WHO and our partners are working closely with those countries to overcome bottlenecks”, he added.

“Although we expect further improvements in supply, there are no guarantees, and the hard-won gains we have made are fragile.”

Boosters, for some

Tedros said “evolving evidence suggests a small decline in the effectiveness of vaccines against severe disease and death”, noting that booster rollouts for all over-18s to fight Omicron in some countries, had begun despite a lack of evidence that they will be effective.

“WHO is concerned that such programmes will repeat the vaccine hoarding we saw this year, and exacerbate inequity…Let me be very clear: WHO is not against boosters. We’re against inequity. Our main concern is to save lives, everywhere.”

The WHO chief said that giving boosters to groups at low risk, simply endangers the lives of those facing higher risk, who have not yet got their primary doses, due to supply constraints.

On the other hand, giving additional doses to people at high risk can save more lives than giving primary doses to those at low risk, he reasoned.

Prioritize the most vulnerable

“Together, we will save the most lives by making sure health workers, older people and other at-risk groups receive their primary doses of vaccines.

“In most countries, those being hospitalized and dying are those who have not been vaccinated. So, the priority must be to vaccinate the unvaccinated, even in countries with most access to vaccines.”

He said the priority in every country, for the sake of the global effort to halt the pandemic, “must be to protect the least protected, not the most protected.”

Some 41 countries have still not been able to vaccinate even 10% of their populations, and 98 countries have not yet reached 40%.

“If we end inequity, we end the pandemic”, he emphasised. “If we allow inequity to continue, we allow the pandemic to continue.” Source : ht

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An estimated 500,000 to 750,000 Indian H-1B visa holders could be deported if the administration goes ahead with the proposal which is aligned with President Donald Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” vision.

The Trump administration is considering a proposal that could potentially lead to large-scale deportation of foreigners on H-1B visas for high-speciality workers waiting for their Green Card — mostly Indians — and drastically alter the way high-tech companies operate in the United States.

The proposal circulated in the form of an internal memo in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees citizenship and immigration, intends to end the provision of granting extensions to H-1B visa holders whose applications for permanent residency (Green Card) had been accepted.

An estimated 500,000 to 750,000 Indian H-1B visa holders could be sent home if the administration decides to go ahead with the proposal which is aligned with President Donald Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” vision to boost manufacturing and protect local jobs for Americans.

“If implemented this could lead to large-scale deportations, mostly of Indians, throwing hundreds and thousands of families into crisis,” said an official of Immigration Voice, an advocacy body in San Jose. Immigration Voice is planning to mount a challenge through outreach and sue when a decision is announced, he added.

“The idea is to create a sort of ‘self-deportation’ of hundreds of thousands of Indian tech workers in the United States to open up those jobs for Americans,” a US source briefed by homeland security officials told McClatchy DC Bureau, which first reported the proposal.

A response to Hindustan Times requests to both DHS and the US citizenship and immigration services (USCIS) was awaited, but the existence of the memo was confirmed by sources in the US and Indian governments, industry and those that are likely to face action under the new rules.

An H-1B visa is granted for three years, with the provision of three more with one extension after which visa holders return to their countries. If approved for Green Card, they wait in the US using extensions.

For Indians, that wait could stretch for years given the massive backlog caused by the system of per-country annual cap on the number of permanent residencies.

The proposal is based on the power of discretion given to USCIS officials to decide on extensions to be given to H-1B holders waiting for Green Card. They could choose to extend from one to three years, and often chose the maximum of three, and granted some visa holders as many extensions as needed.

“If it has been left to their discretion,” said a lobbyist. “They can theoretically decide not to grant any extension at all.”

The Indian government is watching the development with mounting alarm as it had the administration’s previously announced plans and decisions to tighten H-1B rules and regulations with the objective of preventing its abuse to replace American workers with lower-paid foreigners.

One of the plans in February 2017 was to roll back H-4 EAD — a regulation introduced by President Barack Obama to attract and retain highly skilled foreign workers by granting work authorization to spouses of H-1B visa holders awaiting Green cards. That will impact mostly Indians again.

The administration also plans to redefine high-speciality professionals for the purpose of H-1B visas. And there is a general review of the programme ordered by the President.

The United States grants 85,000 non-immigrant H-1B visa every year — 65,000 to foreigners hired abroad and 20,000 to foreigners enrolled in advanced degree courses in US schools and colleges. An estimated 70% of these visas go to Indians — hired mostly by American companies such as Facebook, Microsoft and Google and some by American arms of Indian tech giants Infosys, Wipro and TCS.

The US companies, which are large employers of foreign workers but escape the scrutiny facing Indian firms, will be hit the hardest as they are more likely to apply for Green Cards for their H-1B workers than their Indian counterparts, who tend to rotate their workers home at the end of the stipulated period.

These big companies can be expected to push back as well, as could the chamber of commerce. A response was awaited to a request for comments from Compete America, a trade body representing Silicon Valley high-tech firms in Washington DC. Source : ht

 

 

 

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GENEVA (AFP) - The UN human rights chief voiced alarm on Monday (Sept 11) at widespread rights abuses in Venezuela, warning of possible "crimes against humanity" in the crisis-wracked country.

"My investigation suggests the possibility that crimes against humanity may have been committed," Mr Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said at the opening of the 36th session of the Human Rights Council, calling for an international probe.

Venezuela's crisis has caused food and medicine shortages, deadly unrest and calls for President Nicolas Maduro to quit.

Clashes with security forces at anti-government protests left 125 people dead from April to July.

"There is a very real danger that tensions will further escalate, with the government crushing democratic institutions and critical voices," Mr Zeid warned.

He said an investigation by his office had noted the widespread use of "criminal proceedings against opposition leaders, recourse to arbitrary detentions, excessive use of force and ill-treatment of detainees, which in some cases amounts to torture".

Late last month, Mr Zeid echoed international concerns that Venezuela was slipping into dictatorship, cautioning that democracy in the country was "barely alive, if still alive".

His office has previously criticised Venezuela's all-powerful constituent assembly and its "truth commission", which has been tasked with investigating several opposition leaders for treason.

On Monday, Mr Zeid said he supported the concept of a truth commission, but stressed that "the current mechanism is inadequate".

"I therefore urge that it be reconfigured with the support and involvement of the international community," he said.

He urged the UN rights council "to establish an international investigation into the human rights violations in Venezuela".

Mr Zeid also pointed out that Venezuela currently holds one of the 47 rotating seats on the Human Rights Council, and thus has a particular duty to "uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights".

Without naming Venezuela specifically, he also called on the council to consider "the need to exclude from this body states involved in the most egregious violations of human rights."

 

 

 

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The U.N. Security Council is set to vote on Monday afternoon on a watered-down U.S.-drafted resolution to impose new sanctions on North Korea over its latest nuclear test, diplomats said, but it was unclear whether China and Russia would support it. The draft resolution appears to have been weakened in a bid to appease North Korea’s ally China and Russia following negotiations during the past few days. In order to pass, a resolution needs nine of the 15 Security Council members to vote in favor and no vetoes by any of the five permanent members – the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China.

The draft, seen by Reuters on Sunday, no longer proposes blacklisting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The initial draft proposed he be subjected to a travel ban and asset freeze along with four other North Korea officials. The final text only lists one of those officials. The draft text still proposes a ban on textile exports, which were North Korea’s second-biggest export after coal and other minerals in 2016, totalling $752 million, according to data from the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency. Nearly 80 percent of the textile exports went to China.

The draft drops a proposed oil embargo and instead intends to impose a ban on condensates and natural gas liquids, a cap of two million barrels a year on refined petroleum products, and a cap crude oil exports to North Korea at current levels. China supplies most of North Korea’s crude. According to South Korean data, Beijing supplies roughly 500,000 tonnes of crude oil annually. It also exports 200,000 tonnes of oil products, according to U.N. data. Russia’s exports of crude oil to North Korea are about 40,000 tonnes a year.

The draft resolution also no longer proposes an asset freeze on the military-controlled national airline Air Koryo. Since 2006, the Security Council has unanimously adopted eight resolutions ratcheting up sanctions on North Korea over its ballistic missile and nuclear programs. The Security Council last month imposed new sanctions over North Korea’s two long-range missile launches in July. The Aug. 5 resolution aimed to slash by a third Pyongyang’s $3 billion annual export revenue by banning coal, iron, lead and seafood.

FOREIGN WORKERS

The new draft resolution drops a bid to remove an exception for transshipments of Russian coal via the North Korean port of Rajin. In 2013 Russia reopened a railway link with North Korea, from the Russian eastern border town of Khasan to Rajin, to export coal and import goods from South Korea and elsewhere. The original draft resolution would have authorized states to use all necessary measures to intercept and inspect on the high seas vessels that have been blacklisted by the council.

However, the final draft text calls upon states to inspect vessels on the high seas with the consent of the flag state, if there’s information that provides reasonable grounds to believe the ship is carrying prohibited cargo. The Aug. 5 resolution adopted by the council capped the number of North Koreans working abroad at the current level. The new draft resolution initially imposed a complete ban on the hiring and payment of North Korean laborers abroad.

The final draft text to be voted on Monday by the council would require the employment of North Korean workers abroad to be authorized by a Security Council committee. However, this rule would not apply to “written contracts finalized prior to the adoption of this resolution” provided that states notify the committee by Dec. 15 of the number of North Koreans subject to these contracts and the anticipated date of termination of these contracts.

Some diplomats estimate that between 60,000 and 100,000 North Koreans work abroad. A U.N. human rights investigator said in 2015 that North Korea was forcing more than 50,000 people to work abroad, mainly in Russia and China, earning between $1.2 billion and $2.3 billion a year. The wages of workers sent abroad provide foreign currency for the Pyongyang government. There is new political language in the final draft urging “further work to reduce tensions so as to advance the prospects for a comprehensive settlement” and underscoring “the imperative of achieving the goal of complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner.”

 

 

 

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