China-North Korea — Reuters reports that the Bank of China has closed the account of North Korea’s main foreign exchange bank, which Washington has accused of helping finance Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. “The new rules,” according to Reuters, “come as some experts cite China as the world’s biggest source of “dirty” funds and as it faces growing foreign pressure to scrutinize its financial links with North Korea and block cash transfers tied to Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.” In March, Washington imposed sanctions on North Korea’s state-run Foreign Trade Bank, prohibiting any transactions between U.S. entities or individuals and the bank, and urged the E.U. to do the same.
Radical Islam — France is struggling to fight radical Islam and contain home-grown militants in its own jails, notes Reuters. More than half of the inmates in France are believed to be Muslim and, according to a Reuters investigation, jail conditions in the country are turning young Muslims into easy prey for jihadist recruiters. Experts said a disproportionately high number of young, underprivileged Muslims in jail along with overcrowding and a shortage of guards and mainstream Muslim chaplains to discourage radicalization are fueling the growth of radical Islam in prisons.
E-Commerce — A new report shows that e-commerce is thriving in China where online retail sales reached about $211 billion last year, notes the New York Times. The report by consulting firm PwC said China is now one of the world’s busiest online markets, both in terms of overall sales volumes and consumers’ frequency of online shopping. Growing wages, more people going online, better telecommunications networks and the widespread availability of online devices have helped spur the growth of Chinese e-commerce.
Anonymous Targets Burma – The hacktivist group Anonymous has told the Independent that it may target Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in response to her apparent refusal to speak out against violence against Muslims in Burma. Communal rioting targeting the Rohingya Muslim ethnic minority — who are denied Burmese citizenship and viewed as illegal immigrants — in western Burma left at least 180 dead and 125,000 displaced last year. Human Rights Watch (HRW) last month accused the Burmese government of crimes against humanity for its role in their persecution. Anonymous will protest outside the offices of CNN in Los Angeles next month calling for more media coverage of the violence, and there are expected to be hacking attacks against Burmese government sites, writes the daily.
Brazil Doctor Shortage – Faced with a dearth of local doctors, Brazil is to hire up to 6,000 Cuban medics to work in the country’s underdeveloped rural areas, reports the Independent (most Brazilian doctors are unwilling to move out of the big cities to the countryside). But Brazilian medical associations oppose the plan to import doctors, arguing that the standard of medical training is much lower in Cuba than Brazil. The move follows a deal whereby Cuba sent 30,000 doctors to work in poor areas of late premier Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela, in exchange for cheap oil, notes the Independent.
The Queen’s Speech – In her annual speech marking the State Opening of Parliament, in which she sets out the government’s legislative program for the coming year, Queen Elizabeth II has outlined a fresh attempt to curb immigration into the U.K., reports the BBC. Private landlords will be forced to check tenants’ immigration status, and immigrants’ access to the National Health Service will be restricted. Illegal immigrants will also be prevented from obtaining driving licenses. But the Queen’s Speech — which is written for her by the government — did not include planned proposals to monitor internet use, or the bringing in of minimum alcohol pricing or plain packaging for cigarettes. There were also no plans for legislation for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, despite demands by some Conservative Members of Parliament, writes the BBC.