Sony Pictures is worried that North Korea hacked its computers

The Interview movie poster

If you’ve been intrigued by the hack that took down Sony Pictures’ computers, you’ve probably wondered who the self-proclaimed culprits, the “Guardians of Peace,” might be. Are they disgruntled employees? Social activists? According to Recode sources, Sony is worried that they’re actually North Korean cyberwarriors.

The company and its security consultants are “actively exploring” theories that an outfit in China breached the network on North Korea’s behalf. Investigators haven’t confirmed anything, but they also haven’t ruled out the Korean link so far.

Why make the connection? Supposedly, the digital assault may be tied to the Christmas Day release of The Interview, a comedy about an attempt to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. The country vowed “merciless retaliation” over the movie, and a cyberattack on the responsible studio would certainly qualify. With that said, the story doesn’t completely line up.

The Guardians of Peace have been calling for “equality,” and there’s not much besides the name that would suggest they’re state-sponsored.

Sony certainly isn’t pointing fingers in public — it’s only repeating a previous statement that there was a “service disruption” in the week. As it stands, it’s likely that the company is more concerned about getting its systems back in action than figuring out who to blame.

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Bomb threat on inbound plane at JFK airport, squads mobilized

Reuters / Eduardo Munoz

A bomb threat has been reported on a plane flying in from Barcelona to New York City’s JFK International Airport, according to the NYC Fire Department. A bomb squad has been dispatched and emergency services are on standby.

The bomb threat signal came from an American Airlines flight which, as NYFD tweeted, has landed at runway 31R. The Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) is searching the plane.

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“Sitting off the runway at JFK on @AmericanAir 67 from BCN and we are held after landing due to an unspecified threat. Welcome home?” Twitter user Jacob Rosenberg wrote, uploading some images of his exit from the plane.

Passengers were told to evacuate immediately. “Fairly uneventful if quick de planing,” Rosenberg tweets.

View image on Twitter

No injuries or delays to flights were reported.

In 2007, four men were charged over a bomb plot at JFK International – one of the busiest airports in the US. Although the plot did not succeed beyond just being planned, the airport’s fuel tanks and pipelines were potentially disastrous intended targets.

 

National Geographic Traveller Photography Competition 2014

Taken during "The Mayana Soora Thiruvizha" festival “Divine Makeover” was captured by Mah

Merit – “Divine Makeover” – Photo and caption by Mahesh Balasubramanian / National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest.

Taken during “The Mayana Soora Thiruvizha” festival takes place every March in the small village of Kaveripattinam, the day after Mahashivarathiri (The great night of Shiva). The festival is devoted to Angalamman, a fierce guardian deity worshipped widely in Southern India. Location: Kaveripattinam, Tamilnadu, India

PICKING your favourite picture from a massive 18,000 entries is no easy task, as the judges from this year’s National Geographic Photo Contest have found this year.

From wondering around ice-caves to slumbering on desert sand-dunes, taking part in important spiritual festivities to grabbing an ice-cream on your wedding day, it seems that our world is an still an incredible place for photographic inspiration.

CHECK out the incredible winning pictures from this year’s National Geographic Traveller

Winner of the grand prize — “The Independence Day” – Photo and caption by

This year’s grand prize winners will be inspired for their next photography project on special National Geographic expeditions to Alaska and Santa Fe.

Here are the 35 countries one flight away from Ebola-affected countries

The Ebola virus outbreak of 2014 is unlike any past pandemic. With more than 670 West Africans dead, it has already killed 50% more people than the first—and, until now, deadliest—outbreak in 1976. That may be because this year’s involves the most lethal strain of the five known Ebola viruses. But its mysterious arrival in bustling West Africa also marks Ebola’s urban debut; past outbreaks have been confined to the remote jungles of central Africa.

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And with the recent spread to Lagos, Nigeria’s densely populated commercial capital, this is also the first time the Ebola virus has been spread via a commercial airplane passenger (at least in recent history). Witnesses say Patrick Sawyer, a Liberian government consultant who succumbed to Ebola after arriving in Lagos, began vomiting and having diarrhea mid-flight (though accounts vary).

Anyone on that flight who came in contact with those fluids and touched their own mucus membranes may have contracted the virus—a prospect made more worrisome by the fact that Nigeria’s health authorities don’t seem to know where all of Sawyer’s fellow passengers are right now.

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If that could happen, where else could Ebola go? In theory, to quite a few global hub airports. Flights out of major airports in the affected countries arrive in 39 airports in 35 other countries. There are seven in Europe, in the UK, Belgium, Germany, France, Spain and the Netherlands; four in the Middle East; and three in the US (Houston, Atlanta and New York).

That doesn’t mean it’s time to panic about the possibility of this virus spreading across the world via commercial flights. The combination of the virus’s swift onset and its brutality—among other things, it causes its victims to bleed from mucus membranes, and sometimes the nose, gums and eyes—means the infected usually struggle to make it to the hospital, let alone through a baggage-check.

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“[P]eople generally transmit the infection when they are very sick, have a high fever and a lot of symptoms—and in these situations, they don’t travel,” Kamiliny Kalahne of Médecins Sans Frontières, a non-governmental medical organization, told CNN.

So far, the World Health Organization hasn’t endorsed any travel restrictions. “We would have to consider any travel recommendations very carefully, but the best way to stop this outbreak is to put the necessary measures in place at the source of infection,” Gregory Hartl, a WHO spokesperson, told CBC. Closing borders “might help, but it won’t be exhaustive or foolproof,” he said.

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West African airports are now stepping up their Ebola vigilance—albeit perhaps a little late. At the time Sawyer departed from Monrovia—on Jul. 20—Liberian health authorities were not screening outbound passengers for signs of Ebola.

Now they are, as Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced earlier today. Nigeria, Guinea, and Togo—where Sawyer’s ill-fated flight to Lagos stopped over—also say they are screening outbound passengers for signs of the virus. Meanwhile, Asky Airlines—that’s the airline on which Patrick Sawyer flew—has temporarily halted flights to Monrovia and Freetown.

Health authorities in Hong Kong and Birmingham, UK, quarantined air passengersflying from Kenya and Nigeria, respectively (though the virus hasn’t shown up anywhere near Kenya, where the Hong Kong passenger returned from, she was reportedly exhibiting symptoms). It turned out neither passenger had the virus.

Still, scary public health possibilities remain. Aside from coming into contact with open cuts, Ebola likely enters a person’s body through mucus membranes, such as the surface of the eye or by clinging to cells in their throat. Because the virus is bloodborne—it grows only in an animal’s bloodstream—it’s not as easily transmitted as something like, say, the flu. Still, it can survive in liquid or dried materials for a number of days outside a human host. It also is an STD of sorts, having been found in semen 61 days after its onset, with transmission occurring seven weeks after the patient recovered. Otherwise, the incubation period—meaning, between exposure and when a person begins to show symptoms—is between two and 21 days.

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That’s a big reason why it’s unnerving that Nigeria’s health authorities allowed Sawyer’s fellow passengers to leave the airport after briefing them on Ebola symptoms: The 100 or so passengers on Sawyer’s flight might not fall ill for another couple of weeks. The airline has yet to provide the Lagos state health ministry with a passenger list for the flights the victim was on, Reuters reports, though the authorities also say they’ve tested 20 out of 59 people who came into contact with Sawyer, reports CBC.

Even more unnerving is that, despite the fact that Ebola had been raging in other West African countries for at least five months, Sawyer’s sickness apparently took the Nigerian health system completely by surprise. After he collapsed in the Lagos airport and was taken to a private hospital, Sawyer was initially treated for malaria, for which he tested positive, reports Buzzfeed. But it was only when he began hemorrhaging blood that doctors thought to check for Ebola as well, after which they isolated him. The hospital is now closed for disinfection, say health authorities.

While the World Health Organization is stepping up its efforts to contain any potential spread in Nigeria, things continue to worsen elsewhere in West Africa. A surge in new cases in Guinea, the heart of the hot zone, suggests that it’s being transmitted in ways that health authorities don’t yet understand, says the WHO. Monrovia has run out of hospital space to care for Ebola patients, making it impossible to isolate them. And the virus has now claimed the lives of two of the region’s top Ebola doctors, Sierra Leone’s Dr. Sheik Umar Khan and Liberia’s Dr. Samuel Brisbane.

Switzerland votes on whether to slash immigration

The Swiss are voting in a referendum on whether to curb net immigration to no more than 0.2% of the population, in a vote heavily criticised by the main political parties.

If passed, the measure would require the government to reduce immigration from about 80,000 to 16,000 people a year.

Supporters argue that this would reduce pressure on the country’s resources.

Opponents say that the measure would be bad for the economy.

The country voted in February to re-introduce immigration quotas, effectively opting out of a EU free movement agreement.

A man casts a ballot in Bern, Switzerland, on 29 November 2014Many Swiss are said to worry about environmental degradation

The government still has to implement that referendum result, which threw relations with the EU into turmoil.

Two other referendums are also being held on Sunday: one on forcing the central bank to boost its gold reserves and one on scrapping a tax perk for expatriates.

Under the country’s system of direct democracy, citizens can force a referendum if they muster enough signatures of support.

‘Too crowded here’

The BBC’s Imogen Foulkes in Geneva says that while unemployment is low and living standards are high, many Swiss worry about overcrowding and environmental degradation.

Switzerland’s population has grown by over a million in 20 years, and is currently 8.2 million. Some 23% of its inhabitants are foreign nationals, most of them from EU states.

Opinion polls suggest the vote will be close, with latest indications suggesting that the measure will not be voted through.

Last year, net immigration stood at 81,000, according to public broadcaster Swiss Info.

The so-called Ecopop measure is named after Switzerland’s 40-year-old Ecopop movement, which seeks to link environmental protection with controlling population growth.

Supporters say restricting immigration will safeguard Switzerland’s environment by reducing the need for new transport links and new housing.

People vote in Bern, 29 NovemberPeople voting in Bern on Saturday

Ecopop also aims to limit overpopulation abroad, by devoting 10% of Switzerland’s overseas aid to family planning in developing countries.

“It’s already getting too crowded here,” Anita Messere of the Ecopop committee was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency, adding that the country was being covered in concrete at a rate of more than one metre (yard) a second.

Opponents, among them all the major political parties, say the proposals will be bad for the economy because business leaders want to be able to recruit skilled labour from across Europe.

They also fear that if passed, the measure could put the country in breach of its international commitments and damage its image.

Christian Luescher, a parliamentarian for the Liberal Party and co-chairman of the committee opposing Ecopop, described the initiative as “absolutely absurd”.

“It aims to drastically, linearly and arbitrarily reduce immigration to Switzerland, with absolutely no consideration for the needs of the economy,” he told AFP.

Many environmental groups argue that if the Swiss really want to protect their environment, they should start by adjusting their own lifestyles, the BBC’s Imogen Foulkes says.

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Immigration in Switzerland

File photo of seasonal workers in Switzerland from Unia's exhibition 'Baracken, Fremdenhass und Versteckte Kinder' Switzerland recruited high numbers of foreign workers in the 1950s and 1960s

  • Switzerland’s population is about 8.18 million – of whom 1.96 million are not Swiss nationals, according to the Swiss Federal Statistical Office (FSO)
  • EU citizens make up the vast majority of immigrants in Switzerland
  • The largest group of foreign nationals living in Switzerland is from Italy; immigration from Italy started more than a century ago, but difficulties getting Swiss nationality meant many families remained Italian
  • The second largest group comes from Germany, and the third largest comes from the former Yugoslavia

Germans demand honour for Turkish woman beaten to death

Thousands of people gathered outside a hospital in Germany hours before the family of a 23 year-old woman decided to turn off her life support machine.

Tugce Albayrak, a student of Turkish descent, was brutally beaten two weeks ago by three men in the car park of a fast food restaurant in Offenbach near Frankfurt.

She had confronted the men, who were of Serbian descent, after responding to cries for help from two girls, aged 13 and 16 in the toilet area of the restaurant.

“She showed great moral courage, stood up and helped, and I really hope that won’t be forgotten. It’s simply not ok for a guy to raise his hand against a girl, that’s the reason I’m here”, said Yakup Simseki, a member of a support group for Tugce.

Tugce slipped into a vegetative state several days ago after suffering a brain haemorrhage.

Up to a hundred thousand people have signed a petition calling for her to be awarded the Order of Merit. President Joachim Gauck said she deserves the respect and gratitude of Germans.

An 18 year old man has been arrested in connection with her death.

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