North Korea’s Latest Nuclear Test Updates

On Wednesday, November 29, North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that’s allegedly able to reach the mainland United States. On the same day, the country declared itself to be a nuclear state. This came a few days after US President Donald Trump put North Korea back on Washington’s state sponsors of terrorism list. In the meantime, the US and South Korea have been continuing to hold joint air drills.

It was the first time that a missile was launched from Pyongsong, a province in South Pyongan, around 29 kilometers from the capital, Pyongyang. The missile is a Hwasong-15, which is able to contain a nuclear warhead and is reportedly more powerful than missiles that had been tested earlier. It ascended to over 4,000 km into space and landed by Japan’s west coast, 1000 km from Pyongsong.

David Wright, physicist and co-director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Global Security Program said the this latest ICBM flew longer than the ones recently launched. He also said that this missile could reach any part of mainland US. “This is significantly longer than North Korea’s previous long-range tests, which flew on lofted trajectories for 37 minutes (July 4) and 47 minutes (July 28). Such a missile would have more than enough range to reach Washington, D.C., and in fact any part of the continental United States.”

However Pentagon Spokesman Col. Robert Manning said that the missile was not a threat to American territories or their allies. “The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America, our territories or our allies.”

After the test-firing on November 29, President Trump tweeted that he had talked to the President of China, North Korea’s biggest trade partner and ally. He also said that North Korea would be given major sanctions. “Just spoke to President XI JINPING of China concerning the provocative actions of North Korea. Additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea today. This situation will be handled!”

On the same day, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley delivered remarks at an Emergency UN Security Council Meeting concerning North Korea. Haley also called for all nations to sever ties with North Korea. She ended her speech saying that if North Korea would choose war, they would face destruction.

“The nations of the world have it within their power to further isolate, diminish, and, God willing, reverse the dangerous course of the North Korean regime. We must all do our part to make that happen….We have never sought war with North Korea, and still today we do not seek it. If war does come, it will be because of continued acts of aggression like we witnessed yesterday. And if war comes, make no mistake, the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed.”

National security adviser H.R. McMaster, who spoke at the Reagan National Defense Forum on December 2, said that with every test firing, North Korea was learning more about the missiles. “It will take some time to assess each of these missile launches but what is clear is that every time he conducts a missile launch and nuclear test he gets better. Whether it is a success or failure isn’t as important as understanding that over the years he’s been learning from failures, improving and thereby increasing his threat to all of us.” The full video of McMaster’s speech can be seen here

At the Council of Defense Ministers and the Security Council of the Collective Security Treaty Organization in Minsk, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he believes Ambassador Haley’s call for all nations to cut ties is a mistake. He further said that the US’ actions may be a provocation for North Korea to retaliate, and urged for dialogue instead.

“We have a negative view of this idea…. All resolutions introducing sanctions contained a mandatory demand to resume the political process and talks. The US side completely ignores precisely this demand. I believe this is a big mistake. In addition, it appears that the latest US actions deliberately aim to provoke Pyongyang into taking further steps. This past September, our American colleagues hinted confidentially to us (I will make no secret out of this) that the next exercise was only scheduled for spring and that the DPRK could take advantage of this pause and not make any abrupt moves either. Why not try and launch some kind of dialogue in this situation?”

China, North Korea’s closest ally, commented on North Korea’s ICBM test firing through Foreign Minister Geng Shuang, “The UN Security Council resolutions have clear stipulations about the use of ballistic missile in the DPRK’s launching activities. China expresses grave concern and opposition to the DPRK’s launching activities. China strongly urges the DPRK side to abide by relevant Security Council resolutions and cease actions that will heighten tensions on the Korean Peninsula. We hope that all relevant parties will act cautiously and work together to safeguard peace and stability in the region.”

The US and North Korea have experienced strained relations of late, with President Trump calling North Korea out for escalating their nuclear weapons program in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September. The President also threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea in the speech.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un responded in a speech via the KCNA, the North Korean state news agency, saying that he would “tame” the US President “with fire.”

Full texts of President Trump and Kim Jong-Un’s speeches can be found at the following links:

Essentia Health Terminates 50 Employees for Not Getting Flu Vaccine

Essentia Health, an integrated health company based in Minnesota, has fired around 50 employees after they failed to get vaccinated for influenza. The company recently announced a new policy for all employees who had no medical or religious grounds for an exemption to get the flu shot, or otherwise risk termination. Essentia Health reportedly gave the November 20 deadline for the flu shots in October.

The company has its headquarters in Duluth, Minnesota. It has a number of long-term care and assisted living facilities, as well as 75 clinics and 15 hospitals a research institute and several ambulance services. Essentia Health serves rural communities in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Idaho. There are 14,700 people who work at Essentia Health, including at least 1,900 doctors and healthcare practitioners. The National Committee for Quality Assurance has accredited the Essentia Health system as an Accountable Care Organization.

Earlier this year, the company had allegedly asked employees to receive the vaccination to prevent already sick patients from getting sicker. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released an advisory encouraging people to get the flu vaccine as it greatly decreases the possibility of getting infected, even though the vaccine is not one hundred percent effective. “Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations. In 2017, a study in Pediatrics was the first of its kind to show that flu vaccination also significantly reduced a child’s risk of dying from influenza. The more people who get vaccinated, the more people will be protected from flu, including older people, very young children, pregnant women, and people with certain long-term health conditions who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications.”

In their flu update page, updated on December 1, 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the number of people seeking health care for flu-like symptoms is higher than the national baseline and that flu activity indicators are greater than usual. “Four states reported widespread flu activity, ten states reported regional flu activity and 24 states reported local influenza activity.”

Dr . Rajesh Prabhu, Essentia Health’s Chief Patient Quality and Safety Officer, said that the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and vulnerable members of the community. Dr. Prabhu is also a specialist in treating infectious diseases. “Getting a flu shot is not only the most effective way to prevent getting a serious case of influenza, but it also protects members of our community, especially the most vulnerable – elderly, young children, and those with significant health conditions that may not respond as well to the flu vaccine.”

However, there are three workers’ unions that have fought the company’s vaccination policy and pursued an injunction from federal courts to prevent Essentia Health from terminating employees who refused to comply with its flu vaccine policy.

In a letter to its members dated November 13, 2017, United Steelworkers’ representatives wrote, “We filed a grievance because we believe that this unilaterally implemented policy violates our collective bargaining agreement. We also filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) because we believe that the Company did not have the right under federal labor law to establish this policy without bargaining.”

The Minnesota Nurses Association and the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, Council 65, has also filed complaints against Essentia Health.

The Minnesota Nurses Union also announced in a statement that it will intercede on behalf of any terminated nurse and file a grievance against the company. They also explained the nurses’ reasons for not getting the flu vaccine. “Nurses continue to oppose the mandatory flu shot policy for many reasons. Voluntary programs have been shown to easily increase participation; such policies often do not take into account employees’ religious or moral convictions; and healthcare workers are often disciplined for using sick time within a period of time – even if the sick time is a result to an adverse flu shot reaction.”

Originally formed in January 2004 when the Benedictine Health System partnered with the SMCD Health System, Essentia Health was also joined by Innovis Health in 2008. That same year, all the health facilities of the Benedictine Health System were transferred to the company as well. In 2010, the company expanded further when the SMDC Health System, Brainerd Lakes Health, Innovis Health, Essentia Community Hospitals and Clinics, and the Essentia Institute of Rural Health all came together.

For more information on Essentia Health, please see

To see the CDC statement on the 2017-2018 flu season:


US Prosecutors Unseal Cyber Espionage Charges Against Chinese Nationals

On November 27, 2017, US prosecutors indicted three Chinese nationals for allegedly committing identity theft, computer fraud, and abuse, and stealing trade secrets from multinational companies Moody’s Analytics, Siemens and Trimble from 2011 to 2017. These individuals were identified by US officials as Wu Yingzhou, Dong Hao, and Xia Lei, employees of Guangzhou Bo Yu Information Technology Company Limited, or Boyusec.

Boyusec is reportedly a Chinese cybersecurity firm based in Guangzhou, China. In November 2013, Boyusec was registered with the Guangzhou Administration for Industry and Commerce.

Lei is listed as an employee of Boyusec, but both Wu and Dong are listed as founding members and equity shareholders of the company. Furthermore, Dong was also Boyusec’s Executive Director and Manager.

According to the indictment, Wu, Dong and Xia conspired to launch “targeted cyber attacks against US and foreign businesses.” None of these businesses hired Boyusec, nor gave the company permission to access their computer networks.

Wu, Dong, and Xia have been charged a total of eight counts: one count each for conspiring to commit computer fraud and abuse, conspiring to commit trade secret theft and wire fraud, as well as four counts of aggravated identity theft.

These charges were announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente, Acting U.S. Attorney Soo C. Song for the Western District of Pennsylvania and Special Agent in Charge Robert Johnson of the FBI’s Pittsburgh Division.

“Once again, the Justice Department and the FBI have demonstrated that hackers around the world who are seeking to steal our companies’ most sensitive and valuable information can and will be exposed and held accountable. The Justice Department is committed to pursuing the arrest and prosecution of these hackers, no matter how long it takes, and we have a long memory,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Boente.

Yingzhuo, Hao, and Lei allegedly used phishing scams and malware to steal intellectual property and sensitive information from Moody’s Analytics, Siemens AG, and Trimble. Moody’s Analytics, a unit of Moody’s Corporation in New York, furnishes financial analysis and risk management services, while Siemens is a large German technology company. Trimble, which operates from Sunnyvale, California, develops and manufactures GPS systems. The three hackers allegedly read the emails of one of Moody’s Analytics top economists from 2013 to 2014.

The emails from Moody’s Analytics had detailed confidential and proprietary economic information. In 2014, Dong Hao reportedly gained access to the computer networks of Siemens AG. Wu, Dong, and Xia then took around 407 gigabytes of the company’s commercial data concerning their transportation, technology and energy initiatives. And in 2015 and 2016, the alleged co-conspirators accessed Trimble’s systems networks and stole more than 275 megabytes of data, which included trade secrets of the company, as Trimble made advances in global navigation satellite systems, according to the indictment.

Acting U.S. Attorney Song explained how the cyber attacks were carried out. Song gave the details of how the alleged cyber hackers penetrated networks of the different businesses. “Defendants Wu, Dong, and Xia launched coordinated and targeted cyber intrusions against businesses operating in the United States, including here in the Western District of Pennsylvania, in order to steal confidential business information. These conspirators masked their criminal conspiracy by exploiting unwitting computers, called ‘hop points,’ conducting ‘spearphish’ email campaigns to gain unauthorized access to corporate computers, and deploying malicious code to infiltrate the victim computer networks.”

Warrants of arrest have been issued against Yingzhuo, Hao, and Lei, to the effect that the three men cannot travel in countries with whom the US has extradition treaties.

Special Agent in Charge Johnson admitted that cyber attacks are a growing problem. He also reiterated the need for agencies in different countries to work together to address these attacks.

“In order to effectively address the cyber threat, a threat that respects no boundaries and continues to grow in both its scope and complexity, law enforcement must come together and transcend borders to target criminal actors no matter where they are in the world,” said Special Agent in Charge Johnson.

For more details on the cyber attacks, please see: