Dhaka, May 28 (UNB) - North Korea has distilled its own brand of whisky and plans to launch it at the end of this year, reports BBC.
This would be the first time the country has produced whisky, according to the South Korean Hankook Ilbo newspaper.
The source of the story is the Young Pioneer Tours tourism company, based in China, which specialises in visits to North Korea and other places that "your mother would rather you stay away from".
Pioneer Tours say they managed to lay their hands on a couple of bottles of the elusive spirit, which North Korea's own media have not yet mentioned.
Samilpo Distillery say they based the bottle on the characteristic square design of Johnnie Walker, a famous Scotch whisky brand also "well-recognised in North Korea", according to Young Pioneer Tours.
It will come in different expressions, ranging from an entry-level black label to a red label, with a higher-proof bottle "that's not yet ready".
The whisky takes its name from Lake Samilpo near Mount Kumgang, one of North Korea's major tourism centres.
Young Pioneer Tours reassures drinkers that Samilpo's product contain 15 amino acids, including eight essential amino acids, which will "help prevent liver damage and reduce the negative side-effects of alcohol abuse".
But it is silent on the types of grain that go into the spirit, or how old it is - questions of great interest to whisky connoisseurs.
This may be North Korea's first whisky venture, but its alcohol producers have a record of promoting booze with alleged health benefits.
In 2016, North Korea claimed to have invented hangover-free liquor, and its Taedonggang Brewery has advertised its beer as "promoting the health and longevity of drinkers" on the grounds that it's brewed with underground water from the Taedong River, "free from environmental pollution".
The Taedonggang Brewery itself has a curious history.
It got a new lease of life in 2000, when North Korea bought equipment from the defunct Ushers brewery in Britain's rural Wiltshire, which it dismantled, shipped and rebuilt thousands of miles away on the Taedong, the NK News site reports.
The news that North Korean whisky is in the making has stirred curiosity and excitement on the Reddit social media platform, with fans wondering how they can get a bottle.
Some doubt whether it's the real thing.
"I reckon what defines a whisky in North Korea is probably very loose. I'd be surprised if they have real working and functional pot stills with a warehouse for aging," Reddit user Scotchtalk posted.
One user referred to the bottle design in this tongue-in-cheek comment: "Who came up with that clever and innovative packaging?"
But others posted critical comments, pointing out the whisky is "made with grain that could have been used to feed a starving population".
Sudan, May 27 (AP/UNB) — A leading Sudanese opposition party said it has refused a call by protest leaders for a two-day general strike, in a sign of divisions within the pro-democracy movement that is challenging military rule in Sudan.
The opposition Umma Party said Sunday it opposes the "preparations and timing" of the strike. However, it said authorities do not have the right to fire those who take part in the planned strike.
The party's chief Sadek al-Mahdi led the country's last democratically elected government, which the military autocrat Omar al-Bashir ousted with Islamist support in 1989.
The party is a member of the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, an umbrella group representing protesters and opposition parties in the negotiations with the ruling military council.
The FDFC said the nationwide strike would begin Tuesday. Protest leaders are hoping to force the military, which removed al-Bashir from power in April, to transfer power to a civilian-led authority.
Shams al-Deen al-Kabashi, a spokesman for the military council, meanwhile said negotiations with the protest leaders are slow. He warned that "lots of choices" are on the table as military and protest leaders argue over the details of a transition plan.
He was talking to troops in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman on Sunday.
Talks between protesters and the army stalled earlier this week after both sides had agreed to a three-year transitional period, a cabinet and a legislative body.
They remain split over the makeup and leadership of the sovereign council that would run the country during the transition.
Protest leaders say they want a civilian leader and "limited military representation," but say the ruling generals have refused to relinquish power over the proposed council.
Also on Sunday Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, head of Sudan's military council, arrived in the United Arab Emirates for talks with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, believed to be the Emirates' day-to-day ruler.
Bin Zayed tweeted that he "affirmed the UAE's support in preserving Sudan's security and stability."
Burhan's visit to the UAE came a day after his meeting in Cairo with Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on Saturday. Also his deputy Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemedti , visited Saudi Arabia and met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman on Thursday.
Egypt has voiced its support for the military council, pressing the African Union not to suspend Sudan's activities in the regional block. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have pledged $3 billion in aid to shore up Sudan's economy.
Peru, May 27 (AP/UNB) — A powerful magnitude 8.0 earthquake struck a remote part of the Amazon jungle in Peru early Sunday, collapsing buildings and knocking out power to some areas but causing only one reported death.
The quake struck at 2:41 a.m. and was centered in a vast nature preserve 57 miles (92 kilometers) east of the small town of Yurimaguas. Helping limit damage was the earthquake’s depth, at 70 miles (114 kilometers) below the surface, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Earthquakes that are close to the surface generally cause more destruction.
President Martín Vizcarra called for calm before traveling to the zone with members of his cabinet to survey the damage. He said first reports indicate a bridge had collapsed and several homes and roads had been affected.
“It’s a quake that was felt throughout the Peruvian jungle,” said Vizcarra, who was scheduled to host a regional summit Sunday in the capital with the presidents of Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador.
Ricardo Seijas, chief of the National Emergency Operations Center, said one person died when a rock fell on a house in the Huarango district.
A preliminary survey by authorities found that six people were injured and 27 homes damaged across seven provinces. Three schools, three hospitals and two churches were also affected
In Yurimaguas, a bridge and several old houses collapsed, and the electricity was cut, according to the National Emergency Operations Center.
Images circulating on social media showed residents in several parts of the country panicked as the quake shook buildings.
The quake also awoke people in Lima, who ran out of their homes in fear.
“It was a really long quake,” said Maria Brito, who lives on the fifth floor of an apartment building in the capital. “It could’ve been worse, and luckily it’s over.”
Earthquakes are frequent in Peru, which lies on the Pacific’s so-called Ring of Fire. On August 15, 2007, a similarly sized quake struck near Lima, killing more than 500 people.
Papua New Guinea, May 26 (AP/UNB) — Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has resigned after seven years on the job.
His announcement Sunday follows weeks of high profile defections from his government to the opposition.
O'Neill said in a news conference in the capital of Port Moresby that recent movements in parliament have shown a "need for change."
He handed over his leadership to a former prime minister and current member of parliament, Sir Julius Chan.
On Friday, one of O Neill's key coalition allies abandoned him. The opposition bloc has since been saying it has 62 lawmakers in its camp, which would give it a majority in parliament.
The resignation will be formalized when O'Neill visits the governor-general, the official representative of Queen Elizabeth II.
Afghanistan, May 26 (AP/UNB) — Afghan captives held by the Taliban have been subjected to abuse, ill-treatment and actions that may amount to torture, the U.N. said Sunday — a statement that comes as the U.S. is trying to find a negotiated solution to the country's protracted war.
The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said it interviewed 13 detainees from a group of 53 recently rescued from the Taliban, mainly members of Afghan forces but also civilians and government officials captured by the insurgents.
The group was freed on April 25 when Afghan troops raided a Taliban-run detention facility in the Khas Uruzgan district in southern Uruzgan province.
Most of the captives were held since 2018, with three since 2016, the UNAMA statement said, adding they were kept in poor conditions and subjected to forced labor. It cites the detainees as saying that the Taliban killed some of their captives.
"I am gravely concerned about these serious allegations of ill-treatment, torture and unlawful killing of civilians and security personnel, as well as the deplorable conditions of detention," said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of UNAMA.
The detainees were shackled while in captivity and almost all said they were beaten. The Taliban told them it was punishment for supporting the government, working with the Americans or fighting the insurgents.
The U.N. statement comes as Washington's peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad is pressing ahead with talks with the Taliban, who refuse to negotiate directly with the Kabul government.
The talks so far have focused on a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal as well as Taliban guarantees that they won't harbor terrorist groups or allow Afghanistan to be used as a staging ground for global terrorist attacks.
The conflict in Afghanistan has cost more than 2,300 American lives and hundreds of billions in taxpayer dollars. As the war approaches its 18th year, 14,000 U.S. troops are still in Afghanistan, and senior intelligence officials have repeatedly warned that the country remains fragile and could once again become a terrorist haven.
"The United Nations reminds the Taliban that international humanitarian law applicable to international and non-international armed conflicts provides that all persons who do not take direct part in hostilities, or who have ceased to do so, must always be treated humanely," said Richard Bennett, UNAMA's chief for human rights.
Since 2011, UNAMA has monitored and reported on the treatment of conflict-related detainees.