Mindanao Times » World http://mindanaotimes.net Mon, 24 Sep 2018 02:21:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.25 US military to help prosecute migrant cases http://mindanaotimes.net/us-military-to-help-prosecute-migrant-cases/ http://mindanaotimes.net/us-military-to-help-prosecute-migrant-cases/#comments Fri, 22 Jun 2018 01:55:01 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=59377 ]]> US military lawyers will help civilian prosecutors handle cases against undocumented migrants, the Defense Department said Wednesday, in a rare use of armed forces legal staff.

Under a “zero tolerance” policy, the United States has been arresting every illegal border-crosser but the measure has failed to stop the flow of migrants from impoverished and violent Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, as well as from Mexico.
From March to May this year, more than 50,000 people a month were apprehended for illegally crossing the boundary from Mexico.
In a statement, Army Lieutenant Colonel Jamie Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Defense Secretary Jim Mattis approved a request from the Department of Justice “to detail 21 attorneys with criminal trial experience to DOJ for a period of 179 days.”
They will be appointed as special assistant United States attorneys and will focus on prosecuting misdemeanor improper entry and felony illegal reentry cases, Davis said.
NBC’s Rachel Maddow reported that the military lawyers will be sent to Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
US President Donald Trump reversed course on Wednesday and ordered an end to separation of migrant children from their parents on the US border, after domestic and international outrage, although he insisted his border policy will be just as tough.
Nearly all of the arriving families, and many others, have officially requested asylum, citing the incessant violence in their home countries. AFP

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Greece, Macedonia sign deal to end name row http://mindanaotimes.net/greece-macedonia-sign-deal-to-end-name-row/ http://mindanaotimes.net/greece-macedonia-sign-deal-to-end-name-row/#comments Mon, 18 Jun 2018 05:44:13 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=59112 Read more ›]]> Greece and Macedonia on Sunday signed a historic preliminary agreement to rename the small Balkan nation the Republic of North Macedonia, ending a row that has poisoned relations between the two neighbors since 1991.

“This is a brave, historic and necessary step for our peoples,” said Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

“We are here to heal the wounds of time, to open a path for peace, fraternisation and growth for our countries, the Balkans and Europe,” he said.

“Our two countries should step out of the past and look to the future,” said Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev.

“By signing the agreement… we have really moved mountains.”

But as the two countries’ foreign ministers signed the deal Greek protesters clashed with riot police, who beat them back with tear gas near the small village of Pisoderi, 25 kilometres (16 miles) away.

Six policemen and six protesters were injured, police said, as around 500 demonstrators waving Greek flags tried to approach the ceremony.

The accord aims to start unravelling one of the world’s longest diplomatic disputes, which began 27 years ago with Macedonia’s declaration of independence but dates back centuries.

“The time has come again to sing happy songs in the Balkans,” Tsipras said, moments before the document was signed by the foreign ministers.

Zaev and several of his ministers arrived by speedboat at the picturesque fishing village of Psarades under a sunny sky, on the southern bank of Lake Prespa, one of the natural boundaries between the two countries.

Tsipras and Zaev embraced on the village dock and were treated to a standing ovation by gathered dignitaries.

UN under-secretary-general for political affairs Rosemary DiCarlo, longterm UN negotiator Matthew Nimetz, EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini and EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn were on hand, snapping pictures with their smartphones.

Nimetz, who turned 79 on Sunday, and was given a birthday cake, has been trying to broker a solution since 1994, first as a US envoy and subsequently on behalf of the UN.

But it was the election of Zaev in 2017, replacing nationalist prime minister Nikola Gruevski, that proved crucial.

An economist and former mayor of Strumica, Zaev made a rapprochement with Greece a priority to secure his country’s membership of the European Union and NATO, blocked by Athens for years.

After the signature, Tsipras crossed over to the Macedonian side of Lake Prespa for lunch, becoming the first Greek prime minister to visit the neighbouring state.
Since 1991, Athens has objected to its neighbour being called Macedonia because it has its own northern province of the same name, which in ancient times was the cradle of Alexander the Great’s empire — a source of intense pride for modern-day Greeks.

The two premiers, born just months apart in 1974, have bucked strong hostile reactions at home to push ahead with the agreement.

- Accusations of treachery -

Tsipras has been accused of treachery by Greek hardliners, and on Saturday defeated a vote of censure against his government amid protests and clashes with police outside parliament.

In Macedonia, President Gjorge Ivanov plans to exercise a one-time veto option to block the deal that the nationalist opposition has called a “capitulation”.
The Macedonian parliament is scheduled to start debating the agreement the coming week.

The accord still needs to be approved by Macedonia’s parliament and then pass a referendum. The constitution must also be revised by the end of the year, before Greece’s parliament is called to ratify it.

On Sunday, some 5,000 people marched peacefully against the name deal in Bitola, in southwestern Macedonia, an event organised by the main opposition VMRO-DPMNE party.
But in Skopje special police fired tear gas after some among 2,000 people protesting in front of the parliament hurled stones and flares and attempted to break through a police cordon.

The protestors, who organised themselves through social networks, chanted “Zaev traitor”.

The state-run MIA news agency reported that 10 people including seven police officers were injured.

- ‘Brave steps’ -

Tsipras’ domestic critics say he has bargained away Greece’s diplomatic advantages — the power of veto over EU and NATO accession — for a deal that could backfire.
Specifically, by officially recognising a Macedonian language and nationality, it is almost certain that the country will be called Macedonia by the broader world, instead of North Macedonia, opponents of the deal argue.

Officials in Athens insist the deal will help stabilise the historically volatile Balkan region, permitting Greece to focus on other regional challenges, Turkey among them.

Macedonia was admitted to the UN in 1993 under the provisional name of the “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, but more than 120 countries including Russia and the United States have recognised the Balkan country under the name of “Republic of Macedonia”.

“It is indeed a historic day… I believe this will be inspiration for many in the region and Europe to make brave steps,” Mogherini said.

Skopje hopes to secure a date to begin EU accession talks at an EU summit in late June and an invitation to join NATO in mid-July. Agence France Presse

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US solons want to end ‘evil’ family separations http://mindanaotimes.net/us-solons-want-to-end-evil-family-separations/ http://mindanaotimes.net/us-solons-want-to-end-evil-family-separations/#comments Mon, 18 Jun 2018 05:22:29 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=59109 ]]> Democratic lawmakers vowed Sunday to end the “evil” separation of migrant children from their parents at the US border, as First Lady Melania Trump made a rare political plea to end the deeply controversial practice.

The “zero-tolerance” border security policy implemented by President Donald Trump’s administration has sparked outrage on both sides of the political aisle and took on particular resonance as America celebrated Father’s Day.

“They call it ‘zero tolerance,’ but a better name for it is zero humanity, and there’s zero logic to this policy,” said Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, after leading a group of Democratic lawmakers to the Mexican border.

“It’s completely unacceptable under any moral code or under any religious tradition to injure children, inflict trauma on them in order to send some political message to adults somewhere overseas.”

After touring a converted Walmart supermarket that is now housing about 1,500 immigrant children, Merkley said “hurting kids to get legislative leverage is unacceptable. It is evil.”

The government has said that during one recent six-week period nearly 2,000 minors were separated from their parents or adult guardians — a figure that only stoked the firestorm.

Trump has said he wants the separations to end, but continues to blame opposition Democrats for the crisis, which critics say is one of his own making.

Amid deep divisions, congressional Republicans have struggled to craft a viable immigration plan.

The Republican-led House of Representatives may vote in the coming days on two immigration measures — a hardline bill and a compromise measure that would limit legal immigration while also ending family separations.

- ‘Massive child abuse’ -

Representative Sheila Jackson Lee accused Trump of lying by claiming he was simply following to the letter a previously existing law.

“The president is not telling the truth. There is no law, there is no policy that has allowed him to snatch children away from their families,” she said.

“I can assure you we’ll be fighting to the end to stop this ugly, vile program that is harming children and creating massive child abuse.”

Earlier, Representative David Cicilline said the policy was “undermining the founding values of this country.”
“We saw the fear in the eyes of these children who are wondering when they will see their parent ever again. It’s a disgrace, it’s shameful and it’s un-American,” he added.

- Melania weighs in -

Trump’s wife, who seldom wades into the political arena, opted to call for bipartisan immigration reform to fix the issue, rather than denounce the policy.

“Mrs Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform,” her spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham told CNN.

“She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.”

The president himself later tweeted: “The Democrats should get together with their Republican counterparts and work something out on Border Security & Safety. Don’t wait until after the election because you are going to lose!” he tweeted.

Immigration is one of the most divisive issues plaguing the Trump administration.

The number of separations has jumped since early May, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that all migrants illegally crossing the US border with Mexico would be arrested, regardless of whether the adults were seeking asylum.

Since children cannot be sent to the facilities where their parents are held, they are separated, which the American Academy of Pediatrics has warned causes “irreparable harm” to the children.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen insisted, however, that “we do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.”

“For those seeking asylum at ports of entry, we have continued the policy from previous Administrations and will only separate if the child is in danger, there is no custodial relationship between ‘family’ members, or if the adult has broken a law,” she wrote on Twitter.

- Republican criticism -

Some of Trump’s fellow Republicans have said the policy must end.
“What the administration has decided to do is to separate children from their parents to try to send a message that if you cross the border with children, your children are going to be ripped away from you,” Senator Susan Collins told CBS television’s “Face the Nation.”

“That’s traumatizing to the children who are innocent victims, and it is contrary to our values in this country.”
Laura Bush, the former first lady and wife of Republican ex-president George W. Bush, was unflinching in her rejection of the policy.

“I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart,” Bush, who lives in Texas, wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece.
Ex-president Bill Clinton, a Democrat, also weighed in.

“These children should not be a negotiating tool. And reuniting them with their families would reaffirm America’s belief in & support for all parents who love their children,” he tweeted.

In one incident that highlighted the crisis, five immigrants died and several others were injured after a high-speed chase with Border Patrol agents in Texas ended in a crash, US media said. Agence France Presse

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Kim invites Trump to visit Pyongyang http://mindanaotimes.net/kim-invites-trump-to-visit-pyongyang/ http://mindanaotimes.net/kim-invites-trump-to-visit-pyongyang/#comments Wed, 13 Jun 2018 00:45:13 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=58936 ]]> KIM JONG Un invited Donald Trump to visit North Korea during their historic summit and the US President accepted, Pyongyang state media reported Wednesday, calling it the start of a “radical switchover” in the nuclear-armed Cold War foes’ fraught relations.

The unprecedented encounter in Singapore Tuesday saw the leader of the world’s most powerful democracy shake hands with the third generation scion of a dynastic dictatorship, standing as equals in front of their nations’ flags.
Kim agreed to the “complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula”, a stock phrase favoured by Pyongyang that stopped short of long-standing US demands for North Korea to give up its atomic arsenal in a “verifiable” and “irreversible” way.
In its first report on the landmark summit, the official KCNA news agency ran a glowing dispatch on the talks, describing them as an “epoch-making meeting” that would help foster “a radical switchover in the most hostile (North Korea)-US relations”.
The report said the two men each asked the other to visit their country.
“The two top leaders gladly accepted each other’s invitation,” KCNA said.
Pyongyang has reason to feel confident after the meeting which was a major coup for an isolated and heavily sanctioned regime that has long craved international legitimacy.
In a blockbusting press conference after the summit, Trump said the US would halt military exercises with Seoul — something long sought by Pyongyang, which claims the drills are a rehearsal for invasion.
The US stations around 30,000 troops in security ally South Korea to protect it from its neighbour, which invaded in 1950 in an attempt to reunify the peninsula by force.
“We will be stopping the war games which will save us a tremendous amount of money,” Trump told reporters, adding that “at some point” he wanted to withdraw US troops from the South.
Both Seoul and US military commanders in the South indicated they had no idea the announcement was coming, and analysts expressed immediate concern.
Ending the drills “is in excess of all expert consensus, South Korean requests, and even a close reading of North Korean demands”, said Adam Mount of the Federation of American Scientists.
The KCNA report said Trump committed to ending the drills during his meeting with Kim.
It added that denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula would be dependent on the two sides “refraining from antagonising… each other out of mutual understanding”.
- Smiles and handshakes -
The Singapore summit was a potentially legacy-defining meeting for both men — comparable to president Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit to China, or Ronald Reagan’s 1986 summit with Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik.
World powers from China to Japan, the European Union and Russia welcomed its outcome — while cautioning it was only the first step towards resolving the nuclear stand-off with Pyongyang.
Many agreements have been made in the past with North Korea that have later fallen apart, and ahead of the meeting, critics expressed concerns that it risked being more about headlines than substantive progress.
It also legitimised Kim, critics charged, feting a regime which stands accused of widespread human rights abuses.
In the event, the two leaders showered each other with compliments in the sumptuous setting of a luxury Singapore hotel, a marked contrast from their previous rounds of mutual insults, such as “mentally deranged” and “little rocket man”.
Trump said he had formed a “special bond” with Kim, whom he described as “very talented”.
KCNA said the two leaders ate and walked together, “deepening friendly feelings” towards each other.
After a day filled with smiles and handshakes watched around the world, the US “committed to provide security guarantees” to North Korea, while Pyongyang committed to “work towards” denuclearising the Korean peninsula.
Melissa Hanham of the US-based Center for Nonproliferation Studies said on Twitter that North Korea had “already promised to do this many times,” adding the two sides “still don’t agree on what ‘denuclearisation’ means.”
Asked about the issue — the crux of the summit — Trump said “we’re starting that process” which would begin “very, very quickly”, but gave no concrete details.
Speaking later as he flew out of Singapore bound for the US territory of Guam — towards which Pyongyang last year threatened to lob missiles — Trump said he intended to hold North Korea to its word on denuclearisation.
“We’re going to have to check it and we will check it. We’ll check it very strongly,” he told reporters on Air Force One. AFP

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Trump, Kim share historic handshake http://mindanaotimes.net/trump-kim-share-historic-handshake/ http://mindanaotimes.net/trump-kim-share-historic-handshake/#comments Tue, 12 Jun 2018 07:19:05 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=58905 ]]> DONALD Trump and Kim Jong Un made history Tuesday, becoming the first sitting US and North Korean leaders to meet and shake hands, as they seek to end a tense decades-old nuclear stand-off.

The two men strode toward each other and shared the momentous handshake beneath the white-washed walls of an upscale hotel in neutral Singapore, before sitting down for a half-day of meetings with major ramifications for the world.
They shook hands for several seconds, Trump reaching out to touch the North Korean leader on his right shoulder.
As they sat down for their one-on-one meeting, the US leader predicted a “terrific relationship” with Kim.
The extraordinary summit was unthinkable only months ago.
Then, the two nuclear-armed foes appeared on the verge of conflict, as Kim conducted nuclear and missile tests and the two leaders slung personal insults.
Trump had cajoled the international community to exert “maximum pressure” to buckle Kim’s regime and threatened to unleash “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if Pyongyang did not disarm.
For his part, Kim called the US leader “mentally deranged” and a “dotard” as he fired off a series of provocative weapons tests.
That seemed a distant memory amid the palms of the ultra-exclusive Capella Hotel.
It is a potentially legacy-defining meeting for both men — comparable to president Richard Nixon’s 1972 visit to China, or Ronald Reagan’s summit 1986 with Mikhail Gorbachev in Reykjavik.
And it is part of what Trump calls a “one-time” offer to resolve the stand-off through diplomacy.
“We will all know soon whether or not a real deal, unlike those of the past, can happen!” Trump tweeted shortly before departing for the summit.
- Hugely symbolic talks -
The pair — Kim in his thirties and consolidating his dictatorship, Trump in his seventies and struggling to bend Washington to his impetuous will — are unlikely protagonists, both instantly recognisable, so much larger-than-life as to be cartoonish.
But their work today is deadly serious.
They represent nations that are still technically at war, even if the mortars, carbines and gunships of the bloody 1950s conflict have long since fallen silent.
But that frozen Cold War-era conflict risks being thawed by North Korea’s increasingly potent weapons programs.
The totalitarian regime is on the cusp of marrying nuclear and missile technology that would put Los Angeles, New York and Washington within striking distance of a nuclear holocaust.
The United States says that is unacceptable and will be dealt with, one way or another.
For North Korea the talks are hugely significant.
Standing beside the US president in front of a phalanx of cameras is an enormous step toward ending decades of international isolation and legitimises a regime which is among the world’s most ruthless.
- ‘Brighter future’ -
Still, it remains far from clear that Pyongyang is willing to give up its nukes -— weapons that may be the ultimate guarantee of regime survival.
On the eve of the meeting, aides for both men were still scrambling to narrow yawning differences over “denuclearisation”, which means vastly different things to the two parties.
Trump will use what he says are legendary instincts to see whether Kim if bluffing, buying time or is serious.
In return, his administration may be willing to offer security guarantees, normalisation of relations, sanctions relief and economic aid that would transform North Korea from the sick man of Asia.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on the eve of the summit that the United States is willing to offer the regime “unique” security guarantees.
“We will take actions to provide them sufficient certainty that they can be comfortable that denuclearisation is not something that ends badly for them,” Pompeo said.
“Just the opposite. That it leads to a brighter and better future for the North Korean people.”
Kim and Trump will first meet one-on-one in a closed session, before a larger meeting with key advisers, US officials said.
But the summit itself is unlikely to be the end game, more likely it is the start of a longer process of negotiation.
Pompeo said he was “very optimistic we will have a successful outcome with the two leaders.”
“There are only two people that can make decisions of this magnitude. Those two people will sit in a room tomorrow.”
However, Washington’s top diplomat also warned the United States would not be “duped” and that nothing less than complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation was acceptable. Agence France-Presse

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Trump lashes out at US allies http://mindanaotimes.net/trump-lashes-out-at-us-allies/ http://mindanaotimes.net/trump-lashes-out-at-us-allies/#comments Mon, 11 Jun 2018 07:59:03 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=58848 ]]> PRESIDENT Donald Trump lashed out at US allies Monday in a Twitter rant focusing on trade following a contentious G7 summit of economic powers in Canada at the weekend.

“Fair Trade is now to be called Fool Trade if it is not Reciprocal,” Trump tweeted, as he criticized Canadian tariffs on imports of US milk.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau then “acts hurt when called out!” Trump wrote.
Trump pulled out of endorsing a joint communique after the G7 meet finished on Saturday with the US president accusing Trudeau, the summit’s chairman, of dishonesty.
His Twitter rant on Monday continued: “Why should I, as President of the United States, allow countries to continue to make Massive Trade Surpluses, as they have for decades, while our Farmers, Workers & Taxpayers have such a big and unfair price to pay? Not fair to the PEOPLE of America!”
Adding to the US trade deficit is “the fact that the U.S. pays close to the entire cost of NATO-protecting many of these same countries that rip us off on Trade (they pay only a fraction of the cost-and laugh!).”
He said the European Union “should pay much more for Military!”
According to Trump, Germany “pays 1% (slowly) of GDP towards NATO, while we pay 4% of a MUCH larger GDP. Does anybody believe that makes sense? We protect Europe (which is good) at great financial loss, and then get unfairly clobbered on Trade. Change is coming!”
Figures that Trump cites in his tweets have often been found to be incorrect or misleading.
He concluded: “Sorry, we cannot let our friends, or enemies, take advantage of us on Trade anymore. We must put the American worker first!”
Almost as an afterthought, Trump — currently in Singapore for a summit with North Korean leader Kum Jong Un — tweeted: “Great to be in Singapore, excitement in the air!”

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Trump, Kim arrive for US-North Korea summit http://mindanaotimes.net/trump-kim-arrive-for-us-north-korea-summit/ http://mindanaotimes.net/trump-kim-arrive-for-us-north-korea-summit/#comments Mon, 11 Jun 2018 01:28:49 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=58834 ]]> UPDATES with KCNA report on Kim’s departure
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump arrived in Singapore Sunday for an unprecedented summit, with Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal at the top of the agenda and the US president calling it a “one-time shot” at peace.

Bringing the Korean War to a formal end 65 years after hostilities ceased will also be on the table at the first-ever meeting between a North Korean leader and a sitting president of its “imperialist enemy”.
It is an extraordinary turnaround from the tensions of last year, when Kim accelerated his weapons programmes — earning the North more sets of UN Security Council sanctions — and the two men traded personal insults and threats of war.
But critics charge that the meeting risks being largely a triumph of style over substance.
Kim arrived in Singapore on board an Air China 747 that, according to flight tracking website Flightradar24, took off from Pyongyang in the morning ostensibly bound for Beijing then changed its flight number in midair and headed south.
He was driven into the city centre in a stretch Mercedes-Benz limousine accompanied by a convoy of more than 20 vehicles, and later met Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, thanking him for hosting the event.
“If the summit becomes a success, the Singaporean efforts will go down in history,” Kim said.
Trump landed in the evening after a long flight from Canada and the G7 meeting there, telling Singaporean officials who welcomed him that he was feeling “very good” about the summit.
Authorities imposed tight security around the summit venue and the luxury hotels where the leaders were to stay — including installing extra pot plants outside Kim’s accommodation to obstruct reporters’ views.
- ‘Not just a photo op’ -
Washington is demanding the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the North, while Pyongyang has so far only made public pledges of its commitment to the denuclearisation of the peninsula — a term open to wide interpretation — while seeking security guarantees in return.
In a report describing Kim’s departure from Pyongyang, KCNA said a “changed era” had come about, adding that views on achieving denuclearisation and a “permanent and durable peace-keeping mechanism on the Korean Peninsula” would be exchanged at the summit.
But former US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage said he expects little progress on the key issue of defining the parameters of denuclearisation .
“The success will be in the shutter clicks of the cameras,” he said. “They both get what they want.”
Trump insisted last week that the summit would “not be just a photo op”, saying it would help forge a “good relationship” that would lead to a “process” towards the “ultimate making of a deal”.
But as he embarked for Singapore he changed his tune, calling it a “one-time shot” and adding he will know “within the first minute” whether an agreement will be possible.
“If I think it won’t happen, I’m not going to waste my time,” he said.
On Sunday Pope Francis struck an optimistic note, saying he hoped the talks might “ensure a future of peace for the Korean peninsula and the whole world.”
But the value of the event — long sought by the North, and which Trump apparently impulsively agreed to in March, reportedly without consulting his advisers — has been called into question by many seasoned experts.
“People call it a historic summit but… it is important to understand that this summit was available to any US president who wanted to do it and the point is no US president wanted to do this, and for good reasons,” said Christopher Hill, a former lead US nuclear negotiator with North Korea.
- Decades of tensions -
The two countries have been at loggerheads for decades.
The North invaded the South in 1950 and the ensuing war pitted US-led UN troops backing Seoul against Pyongyang’s forces which were aided by China. The conflict ended in an armistice which sealed the division of the peninsula.
Occasional provocations by the North have continued while Pyongyang has made increasing advances in its nuclear arsenal, which it says it needs to defend against the risk of a US invasion.
Last year it carried out by far its most powerful nuclear test to date and launched missiles capable of reaching the US mainland, while Trump threatened the North with “fire and fury” and Kim dubbed him a “mentally deranged US dotard”.
But the South’s Winter Olympics in February were the catalyst for a flurry of diplomatic moves as South Korea’s dovish leader Moon Jae-in sought to bring the two sides together.
Kim has met twice with both Moon and Xi Jinping, the president of China, long the North’s most important ally.
Pyongyang has taken some steps to show sincerity, returning three US detainees and blowing up the entrances to its nuclear test site.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that progress was being made in bringing the two sides together in their understanding of denuclearisation.
But Trump baffled observers when he said he did not think he had to prepare “very much” for the summit.
“It’s about attitude,” Trump said. “So this isn’t a question of preparation.” Agence France Presse

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‘French Spiderman’ foiled in Seoul skyscraper attempt http://mindanaotimes.net/french-spiderman-foiled-in-seoul-skyscraper-attempt/ http://mindanaotimes.net/french-spiderman-foiled-in-seoul-skyscraper-attempt/#comments Thu, 07 Jun 2018 04:15:57 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=58739 ]]> French urban freeclimber Alain Robert attempted to scale the world’s fifth-tallest building Wednesday, getting more than half way up the 123-storey Lotte World Tower in Seoul before security forced him to abandon the ascent.

The 55-year-old, dubbed the ‘French Spiderman’, made his way up the building bare-handed and without ropes as staff pursued him from inside.
“I climbed about 75 stories and then after that, it was a bit like cat and mouse,” Robert told AFP. “Finally, I decided to surrender.”
He was taken to the rooftop on a maintenance cradle and arrested.
As he awaited processing by police he told AFP his climb was to celebrate the recent peace-making efforts between the two Koreas and he hoped the authorities would take that into account.
“I may get a hefty fine … but I did it because of what is happening now between South Korea and North Korea,” Robert said.
“That is my way of saying thank you to Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in.”
In the last two months the leader of nuclear-armed North Korea has twice met the South’s president, the two men exchanging smiles and hugs after years of heightened tensions.
Robert has scaled more than 100 structures without ropes or other safety equipment, setting a record for “most buildings climbed unassisted” according to Guinness World Records.
His successes include many of the world’s tallest skyscrapers and iconic buildings, such as the Eiffel Tower, the Sydney Opera House, the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai — where he used suction devices and a safety rope as it has no hand or footholds.
Several fire trucks and police were sent to the Seoul building after a security guard spotted the French climber.
“It’s regrettable,” said You In-sik, a spokesman for the Lotte World Tower. “He climbed without permission. It’s dangerous.”
Robert has suffered several severe falls while climbing and estimates his accidents have left him 66 percent disabled. He has been arrested numerous times for his exploits. AFP

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Jordan king calls for review of bill that sparked protests http://mindanaotimes.net/jordan-king-calls-for-review-of-bill-that-sparked-protests/ http://mindanaotimes.net/jordan-king-calls-for-review-of-bill-that-sparked-protests/#comments Wed, 06 Jun 2018 07:30:53 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=58689 ]]> Jordan’s King Abdullah II called for a review of a controversial draft tax law Tuesday as anti-austerity protesters staged another night of demonstrations in Amman and trade unions vowed to hold a general strike later Wednesday.

For nearly a week, the capital and other cities have been hit by angry rallies against reforms backed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that have brought repeated price hikes.

Prime Minister Hani Mulki stepped down on Monday in an effort to quell the unrest but his departure — and King Abdullah’s call to review the law — appear to have done little to reduce public anger.

On Tuesday evening, protesters held another mass rally in Amman after breaking their Ramadan fast, jostling with police and waving Jordanian flags. Trade unions said the law review was a “positive” step but nonetheless called for a general strike on Wednesday.

Many demonstrators said they wanted more than Mulki’s departure.

“We want new people who really want to bring in reforms, we do not want politicians from the same circles who only want to solve the IMF’s problems by stealing money from the people’s pockets,” one male protester, who declined to give his name, told AFP.

Another, who gave his first name as Khalil, said Jordan’s political system, which grants the monarchy vast executive powers, should become more democratic and accountable.

“We must elect the government, so that when errors are made they will be responsible to the people who elected them,” he said.

In a letter charging new premier Omar al-Razzaz with forming a government, King Abdullah II said it “must carry out a comprehensive review of the tax system” to avoid “unjust taxes that do not achieve justice and balance between the incomes of the poor and the rich”.

Late Monday, the king had warned Jordan was “at a crossroads”, blaming the economic woes on regional instability, the burden of hosting hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and a lack of international support.

Protesters on Monday night chanted “we want rights and duties, not tips and handouts!” and “down with the IMF!” as they gathered under a heavy police presence.

Last month, the government proposed a new income tax law, yet to be approved by parliament, aimed at raising taxes on employees by at least five percent and on companies by between 20 and 40 percent.

It was the latest in a series of austerity measures since Amman secured a $723-million loan from the IMF in 2016.

Since January, resource-poor Jordan, which suffers from high unemployment and poverty, has seen repeated price rises including for staples such as bread, as well as extra taxes on basic goods.

Fuel prices have risen five times since the start of the year, while electricity bills have surged by 55 percent since February.

The measures have sparked some of the biggest economic protests in five years.

After a two-hour meeting Tuesday afternoon, head of the trade unions’ council Ali al-Abous called on Jordan’s new premier to “open a constructive dialogue” with the unions and civil society groups “to get out of this impasse that the draft income tax law has put us in”.

The head of Jordan’s Bar Association, Mazen Arshidat, said the unions “were determined to withdraw” the tax reform bill.

- Resignation ‘not enough’ -

Jordan, a key US ally, has largely avoided the unrest witnessed by other countries in the region since the Arab Spring revolts broke out in 2011, although protests did flare late that year after the government cut fuel subsidies.

The latest protests started last week when unions called for nationwide demonstrations.


They have rocked several other cities, including Irbid and Jarash in the north, Zarqa in the east, and the southern city of Maan, which saw deadly riots in the 1980s over rising food prices.

“When the protests began, they weren’t just directed against Mulki as a person, they were against the income tax draft law and the price hikes,” said Bushra Abu Jabbara, a 34-year-old pharmacist.

“We want the government to respond to our demands and withdraw the bill, which hasn’t happened yet.”

A majority of deputies — 78 out of 130 — have said they will vote against the draft legislation.

“The income tax draft law is almost certain to be dropped now,” Jordanian political analyst Samih al-Maitah said.

The bill is one of a tranche of measures aimed at slashing Jordan’s public debt from over 90 percent of gross domestic product to 77 percent by 2021.

King Abdullah said gas supply cuts due to attacks on an Egyptian pipeline to Israel and Jordan had cost the kingdom some $5.6 billion (4.8 billion euros).

He added that the closure of the borders with the kingdom’s main export markets, war-torn Syria and Iraq, and the cost of securing those frontiers had added to Jordan’s economic woes.Agence France-Presse

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UN: World choking on plastic as environmental crisis grows http://mindanaotimes.net/un-world-choking-on-plastic-as-environmental-crisis-grows/ http://mindanaotimes.net/un-world-choking-on-plastic-as-environmental-crisis-grows/#comments Wed, 06 Jun 2018 00:48:20 +0000 http://mindanaotimes.net/?p=58674 ]]> UP TO FIVE trillion grocery bags are used each year and like most plastic garbage barely any is recycled, the UN said Tuesday as it warned the world was choking on trash.In a report for International Environment Day, the UN warned at current levels the earth could be awash with 12 billion tonnes of plastic trash by the middle of the century.

“Our oceans have been used as a dumping ground, choking marine life and transforming some marine areas into a plastic soup,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, in the report released in New Delhi.

“In cities around the world, plastic waste clogs drains, causing foods and breeding disease. Consumed by livestock, it also finds its way into the food chain.”

Most of this plastic garbage clogging waterways and landfill is single-use items like straws, bags and cutlery.

The report said the five trillion plastic bags consumed each year equalled nearly 10 million plastic bags per minute.

“If tied together, all these plastic bags could be wrapped around the world seven times every hour.”

Some 79 percent of the plastic ever made has ended up dumped, with hardly any reused or destroyed despite recycling and other initiatives to curb use, the report said.

Just nine percent of the nine billion tonnes of plastic the world has ever produced has been recycled. Only a little more — 12 percent — has been incinerated.

This leaves only landfill, oceans and waterways as the resting place for the world‘s plastic trash, where it takes thousands of years to decompose.

Plastic clogging sewers — a major problem in Delhi and slums across the developing world — can spread disease or wind up in the stomachs of animals, the UN said.

In India, plastic has been found inside dead cows while a whale in Thailand died after consuming waste bags.

Garbage floating at sea costs fishing, shipping and tourism industries in Asia-Pacific $1.3 billion a year, the report says.

The UN said more than 60 countries had introduced bans and levies on single-use plastic items like bags.

But better waste management, financial incentives to change consumers’ buying habits and research into alternative materials were needed to make any real change, it added.

“To meet the rising tide of plastics, we urgently need strong government leadership and intervention,” the report said. AFP



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