Thursday, October 19, 2017

Benjamin Lasker, 16, pauses while looking at what remains of his home after a wildfire swept through Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, in Santa Rosa, Calif. With the winds dying down, fire officials said Sunday they have apparently "turned a corner" against the wildfires that have devastated California wine country and other parts of the state over the past week, and thousands of people got the all-clear to return home. (AP=Newsis)
Benjamin Lasker, 16, pauses while looking at what remains of his home after a wildfire swept through Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, in Santa Rosa, Calif. With the winds dying down, fire officials said Sunday they have apparently “turned a corner” against the wildfires that have devastated California wine country and other parts of the state over the past week, and thousands of people got the all-clear to return home. (AP=Newsis)

With the winds dying down, fire officials said Sunday they have apparently “turned a corner” against the wildfires that have devastated California wine country and other parts of the state over the past week, and thousands of people got the all-clear to return home.

While the danger from the deadliest, most destructive cluster of blazes in California history was far from over, the smoky skies started to clear in some places.

“A week ago this started as a nightmare, and the day we dreamed of has arrived,” Napa County Supervisor Belia Ramos said.

People were being allowed to go back home in areas no longer in harm’s way, and the number of those under evacuation orders was down to 75,000 from nearly 100,000 the day before.

Fire crews were able to gain ground because the winds that had fanned the flames did not kick up overnight as much as feared.

“Conditions have drastically changed from just 24 hours ago, and that is definitely a very good sign,” said Daniel Berlant, spokesman for California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, who noted that some of the fires were 50 percent or more contained. “It’s probably a sign we’ve turned a corner on these fires.”

The blazes were blamed for at least 40 deaths and destroyed some 5,700 homes and other structures. The death toll could climb as searchers dig through the ruins for people listed as missing. Hundreds were unaccounted for, though authorities said many of them are probably safe but haven’t let anyone know.

In hard-hit Sonoma County, Sheriff Rob Giordano said authorities have located 1,560 of the more than 1,700 once listed as missing. Many of those names were put on the list after people called from out of state to say they couldn’t reach a friend or relative.

Sonoma County officials said they will not let people return home until it is safe and utilities are restored. Crews have been working around the clock to connect water and power, in some cases putting up new poles next to smoldering trees, the sheriff said.

Many evacuees grew increasingly impatient to go home – or at least find out whether their homes were spared. Others were reluctant to go back or to look for another place to live.

Juan Hernandez, who escaped with his family from his apartment Oct. 9 before it burned down, still had his car packed and ready to go in case the fires flared up again and threatened his sister’s house, where they have been staying in Santa Rosa.

“Every day we keep hearing sirens at night, alarms,” Hernandez said. “We’re scared. When you see the fire close to your house, you’re scared.”

Evacuation orders were lifted for the city of Calistoga, the Napa Valley city of 5,000 known for its mud baths, mineral spas and wine tastings. The city was cleared out Wednesday as winds shifted, but homes and businesses were spared.

At the Sonoma fairgrounds, evacuees watched the San Francisco 49ers play the Redskins on television, received treatment from a chiropractor and got free haircuts.

Michael Estrada, who owns a barber shop in neighboring Marin County but grew up in one of the Santa Rosa neighborhoods hit hard by the blazes, brought his combs, clippers and scissors and displayed his barbering license in case anyone doubted his credentials.

“I’m not saving lives,” he said. “I’m just here to make somebody’s day feel better, make them feel normal.”

Lois Krier, 86, said it was hard to sleep on a cot in the shelter with people snoring and dogs barking through the night.

She and her husband, William Krier, 89, were anxious to get home, but after being evacuated for a second time in a week Saturday, they didn’t want to risk having to leave again.

“We’re cautious,” she said. “We want to be safe.”

Nearly 11,000 firefighters were still battling 15 fires burning across a 100-mile swath of the state.

In the wooded mountains east of Santa Rosa, where a mandatory evacuation remained in place, a large plume of white smoke rose high in the sky as firefighters tried to prevent the fire from burning into a retirement community and advancing onto the floor of Sonoma Valley, known for its wineries.

Houses that had benefited from repeated helicopter water drops were still standing as smoke blew across surrounding ridges. A deer crossed the highway from a burned-out area and wandered into a vineyard not reached by the flames.

Those who were allowed back into gutted neighborhoods returned to assess the damage and, perhaps, see if anything was salvageable.

Jack Daniels had recently completed a year-long remodel of his Napa house near the Silverado Country Club and watched it go up in flames last week as he, his wife, 7-year-old grandson and two pugs backed out of the driveway.

His neighbors, Charles Rippey, 100, and his wife, Sara, 98, were the oldest victims identified so far in the wildfires.

Daniels, 74, a wine importer and exporter, said he lost everything left behind, including his wife’s jewelry and 3,000 bottles of wine in his cellar.

“It’s heartbreaking,” the 74-year-old said. “This was going to be our last house. I guess we’ve got one more move. But we’re fortunate. We got away. Most things can be replaced. The bank didn’t burn down.” (Ap=Newsis)

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, talks to a reporter after speaking at Whayne Supply in Hazard, Ky, Monday, Oct. 9, 2017.  Pruitt says the Trump administration will abandon the Obama-era clean power plan aimed at reducing global warming. (AP=Newsis)
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, talks to a reporter after speaking at Whayne Supply in Hazard, Ky, Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. Pruitt says the Trump administration will abandon the Obama-era clean power plan aimed at reducing global warming. (AP=Newsis)

A coalition of left-leaning states and environmental groups are vowing to fight the Trump administration’s move to kill an Obama-era effort to limit carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Speaking Monday in the coal-mining state of Kentucky, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said he would be issuing a new set of rules overriding the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s drive to curb global climate change.

“The war on coal is over,” Pruitt declared, adding that no federal agency should ever use its authority to “declare war on any sector of our economy.”

It was not immediately clear if Pruitt would seek to issue a new rule without congressional approval, which Republicans had criticized the Obama administration for doing. Pruitt’s rule wouldn’t become final for months, and is then highly likely to face a raft of legal challenges.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was among those who said they will sue.

“The Trump Administration’s persistent and indefensible denial of climate change – and their continued assault on actions essential to stemming its increasing devastation – is reprehensible, and I will use every available legal tool to fight their dangerous agenda,” said Schneiderman, a Democrat.

For Pruitt, getting rid of the Clean Power Plan will mark the culmination of a long fight he began as the elected attorney general of Oklahoma. Pruitt was among about two dozen attorney generals who sued to stop Obama’s 2014 push to limit carbon emissions, stymieing the limits from ever taking effect.

Closely aligned with the oil and gas industry in his home state, Pruitt rejects the consensus of scientists that man-made emissions from burning fossil fuels are the primary driver of global climate change.

President Donald Trump, who appointed Pruitt and shares his skepticism of established climate science, promised to kill the Clean Power Plan during the 2016 campaign as part of his broader pledge to revive the nation’s struggling coal mines.

In his order Tuesday, Pruitt is expected to declare that the Obama-era rule exceeded federal law by setting emissions standards that power plants could not reasonably meet.

Pruitt appeared at an event with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at Whayne Supply in Hazard, Kentucky, a company that sells coal mining supplies. The store’s owners have been forced to lay off about 60 percent of its workers in recent years.

While cheering the demise of the Clean Power Plan as a way to stop the bleeding, McConnell conceded most of those lost jobs are never coming back.

“A lot of damage has been done,” said McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. “This doesn’t immediately bring everything back, but we think it stops further decline of coal fired plants in the United States and that means there will still be some market here.”

Obama’s plan was designed to cut U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The rule dictated specific emission targets for states based on power-plant emissions and gave officials broad latitude to decide how to achieve reductions.

The Supreme Court put the plan on hold last year following legal challenges by industry and coal-friendly states. Even so, the plan helped drive a recent wave of retirements of coal-fired plants, which are also being squeezed by low cost natural gas and renewable power. In the absence of stricter federal regulations curbing greenhouse gas emissions, many states have issued their own mandates promoting energy conservation.

The withdrawal of the Clean Power Plan is the latest in a series of moves by Trump and Pruitt to dismantle Obama’s legacy on fighting climate change, including the delay or roll back of rules limiting levels of toxic pollution in smokestack emissions and wastewater discharges from coal-burning power plants.

On Thursday, Trump nominated former coal-industry lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to serve as Pruitt’s top deputy at EPA – one of several recent political appointees at the agency with direct ties to the fossil fuel interests.

The president announced earlier this year that he will pull the United States out of the landmark Paris climate agreement. Nearly 200 countries have committed to combat global warming by reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

“This president has tremendous courage,” Pruitt said Monday. “He put America first and said to the rest of the world we are going to say no and exit the Paris Accord. That was the right thing to do.”

Despite the rhetoric about saving coal, government statistics show that coal mines currently employ only about 52,000 workers nationally – a modest 4-percent uptick since Trump became president. Those numbers are dwarfed by the jobs created by building such clean power infrastructure as wind turbines and solar arrays.

Environmental groups and public health advocates quickly derided Pruitt’s decision as short sighted.

“Trump is not just ignoring the deadly cost of pollution, he’s ignoring the clean energy deployment that is rapidly creating jobs across the country,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. (AP=Newsis)

FILE - In this Oct. 11, 2013 file photo, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. Corker is hardly the only Republican lambasting President Donald Trump and raising dark concerns about harm the president might cause the U.S. and the world. He’s just the only one who’s sounding off in public. (AP =Newsis)
FILE – In this Oct. 11, 2013 file photo, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington. Corker is hardly the only Republican lambasting President Donald Trump and raising dark concerns about harm the president might cause the U.S. and the world. He’s just the only one who’s sounding off in public. (AP =Newsis)

A powerful Republican senator cast the president of his own party as a man-child who could set the U.S. “on the path to World War III” as the two engaged in an intense and vitriolic back-and-forth bashing, a remarkable airing of their party’s profound rifts.

In political discourse that might once have seemed inconceivable, Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, felt compelled to answer his president’s barbs on Sunday by tweeting: “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.“

In an interview Sunday with The New York Times, Corker said Trump could set the U.S. “on the path to World War III” with threats toward other countries. Corker also said Trump acted as if he was on his old reality-TV show and that he concerned the senator, adding: “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.“

Corker also said his concerns about Trump were shared by nearly every Senate Republican, the paper reported.

In a series of stinging tweets earlier in the day, Trump contended Corker:

_Was “largely responsible for the horrendous” Iran nuclear deal, which the Democratic Obama administration negotiated and Corker considered badly flawed. The senator also tried to require that President Barack Obama submit the accord to Congress for approval.

_Intended to obstruct the White House agenda, though he offered no evidence for saying he expected Corker “to be a negative voice.“

_”Begged” for Trump’s endorsement in his 2018 re-election, then opted against seeking a third term when Trump declined, showing the senator “didn’t have the guts to run.” The Associated Press reported that Trump, in a private meeting in September, had urged Corker to run. Corker’s chief of staff, Todd Womack, said Sunday that Trump called Corker last Monday to ask that he reconsider his decision to leave the Senate. Trump “reaffirmed that he would have endorsed him, as he has said many times,” the aide said.

_Wanted to be secretary of state, and “I said `NO THANKS,”‘ said Trump, who picked Exxon Mobil’s Rex Tillerson for that Cabinet post. Corker, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, was mentioned as a possible pick after the election.

Trump added another tweet Sunday evening: “Bob Corker gave us the Iran Deal, & that’s about it. We need HealthCare, we need Tax Cuts/Reform, we need people that can get the job done!“

Corker always had been one to speak his mind, and even before Sunday’s verbal volleys, his new free agent status promised to make Trump and the party nervous. Already, there was the prospect of even more elbow room to say what he wants and to vote how he pleases over the next 15 months as Trump and the party’s leaders on Capitol Hill struggle to get their agenda on track.

Corker’s comments drew a rebuke Monday from White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway, who said on “Fox & Friends” that she finds “tweets like this to be incredibly irresponsible.” She added that the president’s door is always open to speak with lawmakers privately.

The top Republican in the Senate, who has been the target of Trump’s ire, deflected questions about the escalating fight between Corker and Trump.

“Sen. Corker is a valuable member of the Senate Republican caucus and he’s also on the Budget committee and a particularly important player as we move to the floor on the budget next week and he’s an important part of our team,” Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Monday during a stop in Hazard, Kentucky.

Not long before Trump’s tweeting, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that “it’s going to be fun to work” with Corker, “especially now that he’s not running for re-election, because I think it sort of unleashes him to do whatever – and say whatever – he wants to say.“

In his interview with the Times, Corker said: “Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here,” adding that “of course they understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.“

Corker delivered a rebuke of the Trump White House after the president’s tweets scoffing at Tillerson’s diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis with North Korea. Corker said Tillerson, along with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House chief of staff John Kelly, are “those people that help separate our country from chaos.“

And Corker will be at the center of what may be a stormy debate over the future of the Iran agreement. Trump’s hostility toward the deal has stoked concerns he’s aiming to dismantle the international accord despite Europe’s objections. Corker is opposed to scrapping the agreement outright.

“You can only tear these things up one time,” Corker said. “It might feel good for a second. But one of the things that’s important for us is to keep our allies with us, especially our Western allies.“

Corker is the latest Republican to face Trump’s wrath. The president in recent months has lit into McConnell over the failure of the GOP to repeal and replace Obama’s health care law, and specifically targeted Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, for their opposition to GOP health legislation.

Corker, 65, announced last month that his second, six-year term would be his last. (AP=Newsis)

Rescue workers and volunteers search for survivors on a collapsed building the Del Valle neighborhood in Mexico City, Tuesday Sept. 19, 2017. A magnitude 7.1 earthquake has stunned central Mexico, killing more than 100 people as buildings collapsed in plumes of dust. (AP=Newsis)
Rescue workers and volunteers search for survivors on a collapsed building the Del Valle neighborhood in Mexico City, Tuesday Sept. 19, 2017. A magnitude 7.1 earthquake has stunned central Mexico, killing more than 100 people as buildings collapsed in plumes of dust. (AP=Newsis)

A powerful earthquake shook central Mexico on Tuesday, collapsing buildings in plumes of dust and killing at least 139 people. Thousands fled into the streets in panic, and many stayed to help rescue those trapped.

Dozens of buildings tumbled into mounds of rubble or were severely damaged in densely populated parts of Mexico City and nearby states. Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said buildings fell at 44 places in the capital alone as high-rises across the city swayed sickeningly.

Hours after the magnitude 7.1 quake, rescue workers were still clawing through the wreckage of a primary school that partly collapsed in the city’s south looking for any children who might be trapped. Some relatives said they had received Whatsapp message from two girls inside.

The quake is the deadliest in Mexico since a 1985 quake on the same date killed thousands. It came less than two weeks after another powerful quake caused 90 deaths in the country’s south.

Luis Felipe Puente, head of the national Civil Defense agency, reported Tuesday night that the confirmed death toll had been raised to 149.

His tweet said 55 people died in Morelos state, just south of Mexico City, while 49 died in the capital and 32 were killed in nearby Puebla state, where the quake was centered. Ten people died in the State of Mexico, which surrounds Mexico City on three sides, and three were killed in Guerrero state, he said.

The count did not include one death that officials in the southern state of Oaxaca reported earlier as quake-related.

The federal government declared a state of disaster in Mexico City, freeing up emergency funds. President Enrique Pena Nieto said he had ordered all hospitals to open their doors to the injured.

Mancera, the Mexico City mayor, said 50 to 60 people were rescued alive by citizens and emergency workers in the capital. Authorities said at least 70 people in the capital had been hospitalized for injuries.

The federal interior minister, Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, said authorities had reports of people possibly still being trapped in collapsed buildings. He said search efforts were slow because of the fragility of rubble.

“It has to be done very carefully,” he said. And “time is against us.”

At one site, reporters saw onlookers cheer as a woman was pulled from the rubble. Rescuers immediately called for silence so they could listen for others who might be trapped.

Mariana Morales, a 26-year-old nutritionist, was one of many who spontaneously participated in rescue efforts.

She wore a paper face mask and her hands were still dusty from having joined a rescue brigade to clear rubble from a building that fell in a cloud of dust before her eyes, about 15 minutes after the quake.

Morales said she was in a taxi when the quake struck, and she got out and sat on a sidewalk to try to recover from the scare. Then, just a few yards away, the three-story building fell.

A dust-covered Carlos Mendoza, 30, said that he and other volunteers had been able to pull two people alive from the ruins of a collapsed apartment building after three hours of effort.

“We saw this and came to help,” he said. “It’s ugly, very ugly.”

Alma Gonzalez was in her fourth floor apartment in the Roma neighborhood when the quake pancaked the ground floor of her building, leaving her no way out – until neighbors set up a ladder on their roof and helped her slide out a side window.

Gala Dluzhynska was taking a class with 11 other women on the second floor of a building on trendy Alvaro Obregon street when the quake struck and window and ceiling panels fell as the building began to tear apart.

She said she fell in the stairs and people began to walk over her, before someone finally pulled her up.

“There were no stairs anymore. There were rocks,” she said.

They reached the bottom only to find it barred. A security guard finally came and unlocked it.

The quake sent people throughout the city fleeing from homes and offices, and many people remained in the streets for hours, fearful of returning to the structures.

Alarms blared and traffic stopped around the Angel of Independence monument on the iconic Reforma Avenue.

Electricity and cellphone service was interrupted in many areas and traffic was snarled as signal lights went dark.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 7.1 quake hit at 1:14 p.m. (2:15 p.m. EDT) and was centered near the Puebla state town of Raboso, about 76 miles (123 kilometers) southeast of Mexico City.

Puebla Gov. Tony Gali tweeted there were damaged buildings in the city of Cholula, including collapsed church steeples.

In Jojutla, a town in neighboring Morelos state, the town hall, a church and other buildings tumbled down, and 12 people were reported killed.

The Instituto Morelos secondary school partly collapsed in Jojutla, but school director Adelina Anzures said the earthquake drill that the school held in the morning was a boon when the real thing hit just two hours later.

“I told them that it was not a game, that we should be prepared,” Anzures said of the drill. When the shaking began, children and teachers filed out rapidly and no one was hurt, she said. “It fell and everything inside was damaged.”

Earlier in the day, workplaces across Mexico City held earthquake readiness drills on the anniversary of the 1985 quake, a magnitude 8.0 shake that killed thousands of people and devastated large parts of the capital.

In that tragedy, too, ordinary citizens played a crucial role in rescue efforts that overwhelmed officials.

Market stall vendor Edith Lopez, 25, said she was in a taxi a few blocks away when the quake struck Tuesday. She said she saw glass bursting out of the windows of some buildings. She was anxiously trying to locate her children, whom she had left in the care of her disabled mother.

Local media broadcast video of whitecap waves churning the city’s normally placid canals of Xochimilco as boats bobbed up and down.

Mexico City’s international airport suspended operations and was checking facilities for damage.

Much of Mexico City is built on former lakebed, and the soil can amplify the effects of earthquakes centered hundreds of miles away.

The new quake appeared to be unrelated to the magnitude 8.1 temblor that hit Sept. 7 off Mexico’s southern coast and also was felt strongly in the capital.

U.S. Geological Survey seismologist Paul Earle noted the epicenters of the two quakes were 400 miles (650 kilometers) apart and said most aftershocks are within (60 miles) 100 kilometers.

There have been 19 earthquakes of magnitude 6.5 or larger within 150 miles (250 kilometers) of Tuesday’s quake over the past century, Earle said.

Earth usually has about 15 to 20 earthquakes this size or larger each year, Earle said.

Initial calculations showed that more than 30 million people would have felt moderate shaking from Tuesday’s quake. (AP=Newsis)

In this Sept. 16, 2017, file photo,  Abdul Kareem, a Rohingya Muslim man, carries his mother, Alima Khatoon, to a refugee camp after crossing over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, at Teknaf, Bangladesh. After a series of attacks by Muslim militants in August, security forces and allied mobs retaliated by burning down thousands of homes in the enclaves of the predominantly Buddhist nation where the Rohingya live. (AP Newsis)
In this Sept. 16, 2017, file photo, Abdul Kareem, a Rohingya Muslim man, carries his mother, Alima Khatoon, to a refugee camp after crossing over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, at Teknaf, Bangladesh. After a series of attacks by Muslim militants in August, security forces and allied mobs retaliated by burning down thousands of homes in the enclaves of the predominantly Buddhist nation where the Rohingya live. (AP=Newsis)

International opinion hardened against Myanmar on Monday as the U.S., Britain and other powers renewed calls for an end to violence against Rohingya Muslims, whose plight is overshadowing the Southeast Asian nation’s historic transition to democracy.

A year ago at the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations, Myanmar was being lauded for staging elections and shifting peacefully from decades of oppressive military rule.

At this year’s U.N. session, Myanmar, also known as Burma, appeared in danger of being an international outlier again.

Outrage is growing over a military crackdown that has triggered an exodus of more than 400,000 Rohingya to neighboring Bangladesh in less than a month in what the U.N. has described as “ethnic cleansing. ”

Last week, the Security Council, the U.N.’s most powerful body, condemned the violence in its first statement on Myanmar in nine years.

On Monday, Britain presided at a meeting of several Western and Muslim-majority governments that urged senior Myanmar officials to stop abuses against the Muslim minority and restore humanitarian access.

Myanmar’s government has blamed the crisis on Rohingya insurgents who attacked security posts in Rakhine State in late August.

But the military’s heavy response has severely affected civilians. Human rights groups, which are demanding punitive sanctions against Myanmar, say satellite imagery shows dozens of settlements have been set on fire. Many fleeing Rohingya say their homes were burned by Myanmar troops or Buddhist mobs.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called the violence a “stain” on Myanmar’s reputation.

He urged action from the nation’s democratically elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been criticized for failing to speak out in defense of the Rohingya. The minority group is widely loathed by the Buddhist majority in Myanmar and viewed as outsiders despite the fact many have lived in the country for generations.

“It is vital that Aung San Suu Kyi and the civilian government make clear these abuses must stop,” Johnson said in a statement.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate who spent nearly 15 years in house arrest under Myanmar’s former ruling junta, is skipping the U.N. gathering and will address her nation Tuesday.

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Monday’s meeting, attended by Myanmar’s national security adviser and deputy foreign minister, was productive but the situation remains dire. She urged the government to end military operations, grant humanitarian access and commit to aiding the safe return of civilians to their homes.

“People are still at risk of being attacked or killed, humanitarian aid is not reaching the people who need it, and innocent civilians are still fleeing across the border to Bangladesh,” Haley said.

Ministers from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Turkey, Australia, Canada, Sweden and Denmark also attended the closed meeting Monday. The British statement said the meeting urged Myanmar to implement recommendations of a commission led by former U.N. chief Kofi Annan calling for economic development and social justice to counter deadly violence between Buddhists and the Rohingya.

Also Monday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said one-third of the Rohingya community has been forced into exile and it requires a collective response by the international community to ensure their protection.

“We are waiting for Aung San Suu Kyi to give a strong answer and a real dialogue,” he told reporters. (AP=Newsis)

A man watches a television screen showing U.S. President Donald Trump, right, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017. The signs read "Need sanctions on North Korea."(AP=Newsis)
A man watches a television screen showing U.S. President Donald Trump, right, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017. The signs read “Need sanctions on North Korea.”(AP=Newsis)

President Donald Trump on Sunday mocked the leader of nuclear-armed North Korea as “Rocket Man” while White House advisers said the isolated nation would face destruction unless it shelves its weapons programs and bellicose threats.

Trump’s chief diplomat held out hope the North would return to the bargaining table, though the president’s envoy to the United Nations said the Security Council had “pretty much exhausted” all its options.

Kim Jong Un has pledged to continue the North’s programs, saying his country is nearing its goal of “equilibrium” in military force with the United States.

North Korea will be high on the agenda for world leaders this coming week at the annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, Trump’s biggest moment on the world stage since his inauguration in January.

Trump is scheduled to address the world body, which he has criticized as weak and incompetent, on Tuesday.

Trump, who spent the weekend at his New Jersey golf club, tweeted that he and South Korean President Moon Jae-in discussed North Korea during their latest telephone conversation Saturday.

Asked about Trump’s description of Kim, national security adviser H.R. McMaster said “Rocket Man” was “a new one and I think maybe for the president.” But, he said, “that’s where the rockets are coming from. Rockets, though, we ought to probably not laugh too much about because they do represent a great threat to all.”

McMcaster said Kim is “going to have to give up his nuclear weapons because the president has said he’s not going to tolerate this regime threatening the United States and our citizens with a nuclear weapon.”

Asked if that meant Trump would launch a military strike, McMaster said “he’s been very clear about that, that all options are on the table.”

Some doubt that Kim would ever agree to surrender his arsenal.

“I think that North Korea is not going to give up its program with nothing on the table,” said Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Kim has threatened Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific, and has fired missiles over Japan, a U.S. ally. North Korea also recently tested its most powerful bomb.

The U.N. Security Council has voted unanimously twice in recent weeks to tighten economic sanctions on North Korea, including targeting shipments of oil and other fuel used in missile testing. Trump’s U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, said North Korea was starting to “feel the pinch.”

Trump, in a tweet, asserted that long lines for gas were forming in North Korea, and he said that was “too bad.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he was waiting for the North to express interest in “constructive, productive talks.”

“All they need to do to let us know they’re ready to talk is to just stop these tests, stop these provocative actions, and let’s lower the threat level and the rhetoric,” he said.

But Haley warned of a tougher U.S. response to future North Korean provocations, and said she would be happy to turn the matter over to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis “because he has plenty of military options.”

Mattis said after Kim tested a hydrogen bomb earlier this month that the U.S. would answer any threat from the North with a “massive military response, a response both effective and overwhelming.”

Trump has threatened to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea if the North continued with its threats. Haley said that wasn’t an empty threat from the president but she declined to describe the president’s intentions.

“If North Korea keeps on with this reckless behavior, if the United States has to defend itself or defend its allies in any way, North Korea will be destroyed and we all know that and none of us want that,” Haley said. “None of us want war. But we also have to look at the fact that you are dealing with someone who is being reckless, irresponsible and is continuing to give threats not only to the United States, but to all their allies, so something is going to have to be done.” (AP=Newsis)

(170915) -- UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 15, 2017 (Xinhua) -- Olof Skoog, Swedish Ambassador to the United Nations, addresses a press encounter before UN Security Council closed-door consultations at the UN headquarters in New York, on Sept. 15, 2017. The UN Security Council on Friday condemned "the highly provocative launch of a ballistic missile by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)" and expressed commitment to a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution to the crisis. (Xinhua/Li Rui)
(170915) — UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 15, 2017 (Xinhua) — Olof Skoog, Swedish Ambassador to the United Nations, addresses a press encounter before UN Security Council closed-door consultations at the UN headquarters in New York, on Sept. 15, 2017. The UN Security Council on Friday condemned “the highly provocative launch of a ballistic missile by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)” and expressed commitment to a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution to the crisis. (Xinhua/Li Rui)

The UN Security Council on Friday condemned “the highly provocative launch of a ballistic missile” by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and expressed commitment to a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution to the crisis.

In a press statement released after closed-door consultations, the 15 members of the council urged all UN member states to “fully, comprehensively and immediately” implement all relevant Security Council resolutions concerning the DPRK, particularly the newly adopted Resolution 2375, which caps the DPRK’s oil imports and bans all its textile exports and remittances by its overseas laborers.

“The Security Council also emphasized the vital importance of the DPRK immediately showing sincere commitment to denuclearization through concrete action, and stressed the importance of working to reduce tension on the Korean Peninsula,” said Tekeda Alemu, president of the Security Council, in a readout of the press statement.

The council members stressed the importance of maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia at large, and welcomed international efforts to facilitate a peaceful and comprehensive settlement of the crisis through dialogue, said Alemu, the Ethiopian ambassador to the United Nations.

The emergency Security Council consultations were requested by the United States and Japan following the DPRK’s launch of a ballistic missile on Friday local time, which flew over Japan’s Hokkaido.
Japanese ambassador to the United Nations, Koro Bessho, said the DPRK’s latest missile launch is a grave threat to the security of Japan and also to the whole world.
“Put together with what they have been doing in the last several months, it is very clear that it is a real threat to the peace and security of the world as a whole,” he told reporters before the consultations. He stressed that existing sanctions must be implemented comprehensively, fully and immediately.

The DPRK’s latest missile launch means that two of its ballistic missiles have flown over Japan in three weeks’ time.
Speaking to reporters before the consultations, British ambassador Matthew Rycroft said the DPRK’s “illegal, provocative, reckless act” once again demonstrates its complete disregard for the sovereignty of Japan and its citizens.

He also called for the implementation of the existing sanctions, through which, he said, the international community can cut off money flow to the DPRK and constrain its capability in developing its nuclear and missile programs.

Swedish ambassador Olof Skoog said “a very rigid and vigorous implementation” of the sanctions are all the more urgent.
French ambassador Fancois Delattre said the latest missile launch by the DPRK confirms the gravity of the threat, which has evolved from regional to global.
He stressed the importance of “firmness and unity” of the Security Council. “Our firmness today is our best antidote to the risk of war, to the risk of confrontation. Our firmness today is our best tool to promote a political solution tomorrow,” he told reporters.

Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia warned that there is no alternative to a peaceful solution. He stress the importance of a political solution provided for in Resolution 2375.
“Threats, tests, launches, mutual threats should be stopped. We should engage in meaningful negotiations,” he told reporters after the consultations.
The DPRK’s missile launch, which violates Security Council resolutions, came just days after the council imposed fresh sanctions on the DPRK over its nuclear test on Sept. 3. (Xinhua=Newsis)

A beachgoer walks along the water as waves crash in Manasquan, N.J., Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017. Swells are up from recent hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, including Hurricane Jose, which is expected to stay out to sea, according to meteorologists. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
A beachgoer walks along the water as waves crash in Manasquan, N.J., Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017. Swells are up from recent hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, including Hurricane Jose, which is expected to stay out to sea, according to meteorologists. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Tropical storm Jose has strengthened again into a category-1 hurricane as it is moving toward northeastern United States, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Friday.

Out in the Atlantic Ocean, Jose was located about 965 km south-southeast of Cape Hatteras in the U.S. state of North Carolina, with maximum sustained winds of 130 km per hour, according to an advisory issued by the hurricane center.

There are no coastal watches or warning in effect but the advisory suggested areas from North Carolina northward to New England on the east coast of the United States monitor the progress of the tropical system as it is moving northwest at a speed of 15 km per hour.

A tropical storm watch may be needed for a portion of the coast of North Carolina on Saturday, the hurricane center said.

The NHC included New Jersey coastline, Long Island, most of Connecticut and Massachusetts and all of Rhode Island in its “cone of uncertainty” that shows a probable path of the center of a storm over a five-day period.

A majority of models predicted Jose’s center would stay over the ocean but its proximity to land will likely cause heavy gusting winds and rain to the northeast, including New York City and Boston, by the middle of next week.

Jose, once a category-5 hurricane, came on the heels of Harvey and Irma, two hurricanes that have recently wreaked havoc on southern United States, with massive rain, strong winds and catastrophic flooding.

Forecasters said Jose does not show any signs of the rapid intensification that both Harvey and Irma went through, but they advised people living on the coast keep an eye on the forecasts. (AP=Newsis)

In this photo provided by South Korea Defense Ministry, South Korea's Hyunmoo II ballistic missile is fired during an exercise at an undisclosed location in South Korea, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. North Korea on Friday fired an intermediate range missile over Japan into the Northern Pacific ocean, U.S. and South Korean militaries said, its longest-ever such flight and a clear message of defiance to its rivals. (South Korea Defense Ministry via AP=Newsis)
In this photo provided by South Korea Defense Ministry, South Korea’s Hyunmoo II ballistic missile is fired during an exercise at an undisclosed location in South Korea, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. North Korea on Friday fired an intermediate range missile over Japan into the Northern Pacific ocean, U.S. and South Korean militaries said, its longest-ever such flight and a clear message of defiance to its rivals. (South Korea Defense Ministry via AP=Newsis)

North Korea fired an intermediate-range missile over Japan into the northern Pacific Ocean on Friday, U.S. and South Korean militaries said, its longest-ever such flight and a clear message of defiance to its rivals.

Since President Donald Trump threatened the North with “fire and fury” in August, Pyongyang has conducted its most powerful nuclear test and launched two missiles of increasing range over U.S. ally Japan. It tested its first-ever intercontinental ballistic missiles in July.

The growing frequency, power and confidence displayed by these tests seems to confirm what governments and outside experts have long feared: North Korea is closer than ever to its goal of building a military arsenal that can viably target both U.S. troops in Asia and the U.S. homeland. This, in turn, is meant to allow North Korea greater military freedom in the region by raising doubts in Seoul and Tokyo that Washington would risk the annihilation of a U.S. city to protect its Asian allies.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile traveled about 3,700 kilometers (2,300 miles) and reached a maximum height of 770 kilometers (478 miles).

North Korea has repeatedly vowed to continue these tests amid what it calls U.S. hostility – by which it means the presence of tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Japan and South Korea. Robust diplomacy on the issue has been stalled for years, and there’s little sign that senior officials from Pyongyang and Washington might sit down to discuss ways to slow the North’s determined march toward inclusion among the world’s nuclear weapons powers.

Friday’s missile, which triggered sirens and warning messages in northern Japan but caused no apparent damage to aircraft or ships, was the second fired over Japan in less than a month. North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 3.

The missile was launched from Sunan, Pyongyang’s international airport and the origin of the earlier missile that flew over Japan. Analysts have speculated the new test was of the same intermediate-range missile launched in that earlier flight, the Hwasong-12.

That missile is linked to North Korea’s declaration that it means to contain the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam, which is the home of important U.S. military assets and appears well within the Hwasong-12’s range.

Friday’s missile test was met with the usual outrage. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis both called the launch a reckless act. The U.N. Security Council scheduled an emergency closed-door meeting to be held Friday afternoon in New York. Trump has not commented.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command and the U.S. Pacific Command said the missile posed no threat to North America or to Guam.

South Korean experts have said North Korea wants to make missiles flying over Japan an accepted norm as it seeks to win more military space in a region dominated by its enemies.

North Korea initially flight-tested the Hwasong-12 and the ICBM model Hwasong-14 at highly lofted angles to reduce their range and avoid neighboring countries.

The two launches over Japan indicate North Korea is moving toward using angles close to operational to determine whether its warheads can survive the harsh conditions of atmospheric re-entry and detonate properly.

North Korea has been accelerating its nuclear weapons development under leader Kim Jong Un, a third-generation dictator who has conducted four of North Korea’s six nuclear tests since taking power in 2011. The weapons are being tested at a torrid pace and include solid-fuel missiles designed to be launched from road mobile launchers or submarines and are thus less detectable beforehand.

North Korea claimed its latest nuclear test was a detonation of a thermonuclear weapon built for its ICBMs, which could potentially reach deep into the U.S. mainland when perfected.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved new sanctions earlier this week over the nuclear test. They ban all textile exports and prohibit any country from authorizing new work permits for North Korean workers – two key sources of hard currency. They also prohibit North Korea from importing all natural gas liquids and condensates, and cap Pyongyang’s imports of crude oil and refined petroleum products. (AP=Newsis)

Rohingya Muslim girl Afeefa Bebi, who recently crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, holds her few-hours-old brother as doctors check her mother Yasmeen Ara at a community hospital in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. The family crossed into Bangladesh on Sept. 3. Recent violence in Myanmar has driven hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to seek refuge across the border in Bangladesh. But Rohingya have been fleeing persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar for decades, and many who have made it to safety in other countries still face a precarious existence. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin=Newsis)
Rohingya Muslim girl Afeefa Bebi, who recently crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, holds her few-hours-old brother as doctors check her mother Yasmeen Ara at a community hospital in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. The family crossed into Bangladesh on Sept. 3. Recent violence in Myanmar has driven hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to seek refuge across the border in Bangladesh. But Rohingya have been fleeing persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar for decades, and many who have made it to safety in other countries still face a precarious existence. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin=Newsis)

Rohingya have faced decades of discrimination and persecution by the majority Buddhist population in Myanmar, where they are denied citizenship despite centuries-old roots in the country.

The current crisis erupted on Aug. 25, when an insurgent Rohingya group attacked police outposts in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, killing a dozen security personnel.

That prompted Myanmar’s military to launch “clearance operations” against the rebels, setting off a wave of violence that has left hundreds dead, thousands of homes burned, and tens of thousands fleeing to Bangladesh.

Guterres reiterated his condemnations of the attacks by the insurgent Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army but said reported attacks by security forces against civilians “are completely unacceptable.”

The secretary-general called on Myanmar’s authorities “to suspend military action, end the violence, uphold the rule of law, and recognize the right of return of all those who had to leave the country.” He also reiterated his call for the government to grant the Rohingyas nationality or at least legal status so they can get jobs, education and health care.

The Security Council statement acknowledged the Aug. 25 attacks on Myanmar’s security forces but it “condemned the subsequent violence” that sent more than 370,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh.

Council members in the statement “expressed concern about reports of excessive violence during the security operations and called for immediate steps to end the violence in Rakhine, de-escalate the situation, re-establish law and order, ensure the protection of civilians, restore normal socio-economic conditions, and resolve the refugee problem.”

The Security Council also urged the government to implement the recommendations of a commission led by former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan calling for economic development and social justice to counter deadly violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine state.

A Security Council diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because the consultations were closed, said even though the U.S., U.K., Sweden and others wanted a tougher statement, many council members said it was “a considerable achievement” that all 15 countries including China agreed to send a clear message to Myanmar’s government and military.

The diplomat said there will be pressure for more council action if Myanmar authorities do not change course.

Britain’s Rycroft said several council members called for a follow-up open council meeting and a presidential statement on the Myanmar crisis, which unlike a press statement becomes part of the Security Council’s official record.

He said Britain, which is in charge of drafting Myanmar statements, “will get to work” on that.

Rycroft said that on the sidelines of next week’s gathering of world leaders at the General Assembly British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will co-host a ministerial-level meeting on Myanmar. He said Turkey is also hosting a meeting on Myanmar organized by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Myanmar’s government announced Wednesday that the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi will not attend next week’s global gathering. She has been sharply criticized, especially as a former Nobel peace prize winner, for not dealing with the Rohingya crisis. (AP=Newsis)