Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., laugh as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci=Newsis)
Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., laugh as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci=Newsis)

President-elect Joe Biden signaled on Sunday he plans to move quickly to build out his government, focusing first on the raging pandemic that will likely dominate the early days of his administration.

Biden named a former surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, and a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, David Kessler, as co-chairs of a coronavirus working group set to get started, with other members expected to be announced Monday.

Transition team officials said that also this week Biden will launch his agency review teams, the group of transition staffers that have access to key agencies in the current administration to ease the transfer of power. The teams will collect and review information such as budgetary and staffing decisions, pending regulations and other work in progress from current staff at the departments to help Biden’s team prepare to transition. White House officials would not comment on whether they would cooperate with Biden’s team on the review.

“People want the country to move forward,” said Kate Bedingfield, Biden deputy campaign manager, in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press, and see Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris “have the opportunity to do the work, to get the virus under control and to get our economy back together.”

It’s unclear for now whether President Donald Trump and his administration will cooperate. He has yet to acknowledge Biden’s victory and has pledged to mount legal challenges in several closely contested states that decided the race.

Biden adviser Jen Psaki pressed for the Trump-appointed head of the General Services Administration to quickly recognize Biden as the president-elect, which would free up money for the transition and clear the way for Biden’s team to begin putting in place the transition process at agencies.

“America’s national security and economic interests depend on the federal government signaling clearly and swiftly that the United States government will respect the will of the American people and engage in a smooth and peaceful transfer of power,” Psaki said in a Twitter posting.

A GSA official said Sunday that step had not been taken yet.
A bipartisan group of administration officials from the Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton administrations on Sunday called on the Trump administration to move forward “to immediately begin the post-election transition process.”

“This was a hard-fought campaign, but history is replete with examples of presidents who emerged from such campaigns to graciously assist their successors,” members of the Center for Presidential Transition advisory board said in a statement.

The statement was signed by Bush White House chief of staff Josh Bolten and Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt as well as Bill Clinton-era chief of staff Thomas “Mack” McLarty and Obama Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.

Biden aides said the president-elect and transition team had been in touch with Republican lawmakers. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, one of Trump’s closest allies, opened a Cabinet meeting on Sunday by congratulating Biden, a former vice president and longtime senator.

“I have a long and warm personal connection with Joe Biden for nearly 40 years, and I know him as a great friend of the state of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “I am certain that we will continue to work with both of them in order to further strengthen the special alliance between Israel and the U.S.”
George W. Bush, the sole living Republican former president, also wished Biden well.
“Though we have political differences, I know Joe Biden
to be a good man, who has won his opportunity to lead and unify our country,” Bush said.

Biden faces key staffing decisions in the days ahead. The always-frenzied 10-week transition period before Inauguration Day on Jan. 20 already has been shortened by the extra time it took to determine the winner of Tuesday’s election.

The second Catholic to be elected president, Biden started his first full day as president-elect by attending church at St. Joseph on the Brandywine near his home in Wilmington, as he does nearly every week. After the service, he visited the church cemetery where several family members have been laid to rest, including his late son, Beau.

Beau Biden, a former Delaware attorney general, died in 2015 from cancer. Before his death, he had encouraged his father to make a third run for the White House.

Joe Biden said Saturday in a victory speech that he would announce a task force of scientists and experts Monday to develop a “blueprint” to begin beating back the virus by the time he assumes the presidency. He said his plan would be “built on bedrock science” and “constructed out of compassion, empathy and concern.”

Murthy, who had advised Biden during the campaign, was named to a four-year term as surgeon general in 2014 by President Barack Obama. Murthy was asked to resign by Trump months into the Republican’s term. Kessler was appointed as FDA commissioner by President George H.W. Bush and served in the position through President Bill Clinton’s first term in the White House.

Biden senior adviser Ted Kaufman said the transition team will focus on the “nuts and bolts” of building the new administration in coming days.
Biden may not make top Cabinet choices for weeks. But he built his presidential run around bipartisanship and he has spent the days since Tuesday’s election pledging to be a president for all Americans. That suggests he could be willing to appoint some Republicans to high-profile administration positions.
Many former Republican officeholders broke with Trump to endorse Biden’s campaign. Biden’s selection of some of them to join the new government could appease Senate Republicans, who may have to confirm many of Biden’s choices for top jobs. The GOP could retain control of the chamber after two special elections in Georgia on Jan. 5.

Still, too much across-the-aisle cooperation could draw the ire of progressives. Some already worry that uncooperative Senate Republicans could force Biden to scale back his ambitious campaign promises to expand access to health care and lead a post-pandemic economic recovery that relies on federal investment in green technology and jobs to help combat climate change.

“I think there will be a huge misuse of the word `unity’ to imply that we need to water down the ideas that Joe Biden just campaigned on,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. He said the country was more united around bold solutions to big problems than small-scale efforts.

Biden’s efforts at bipartisan reconciliation could still be derailed by Trump’s refusing to concede the race.

Symone Sanders, a Biden campaign senior adviser, said that while several Republican lawmakers have been in contact with the president-elect in recent days, the campaign has yet to hear from White House officials.
“I think the White House has made clear what their strategy is here and that they are going to continue to participate and push forward these flailing and, in many – in many respects, baseless legal strategies,” Sanders said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said Trump had a right to pursue recounts and legal challenges. But he noted that those efforts will unlikely change the outcome and he urged the president to dial back his rhetoric.

“I think one has to be careful in the choice of words. I think when you say the election was corrupt or stolen or rigged that that’s unfortunately rhetoric that gets picked up by authoritarians around the world. And I think it also discourages confidence in our democratic process here at home,” Romney said on NBC. (AP=Newsis)

FILE - In this early Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, file photo, a waning moon is seen at the sky over Frankfurt, Germany. The moon’s shadowed, frigid nooks and crannies may hold frozen water in more places and in larger quantities than previously suspected, good news for astronauts at future lunar bases who could tap into these resources for drinking and making rocket fuel, scientists reported Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Probst, File=Newsis)
FILE – In this early Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, file photo, a waning moon is seen at the sky over Frankfurt, Germany. The moon’s shadowed, frigid nooks and crannies may hold frozen water in more places and in larger quantities than previously suspected, good news for astronauts at future lunar bases who could tap into these resources for drinking and making rocket fuel, scientists reported Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Probst, File=Newsis)

The moon’s shadowed, frigid nooks and crannies may hold frozen water in more places and in larger quantities than previously suspected. And for the first time, the presence of water on the moon’s sunlit surface has been confirmed, scientists reported Monday.

That’s good news for astronauts at future lunar bases who could tap into these resources for drinking and making rocket fuel.

While previous observations have indicated millions of tons of ice in the permanently shadowed craters of the moon’s poles, a pair of studies in the journal Nature Astronomy take the availability of lunar surface water to a new level.

More than 15,400 square miles (40,000 square kilometers) of lunar terrain have the capability to trap water in the form of ice, according to a team led by the University of Colorado’s Paul Hayne. That’s 20% more area than previous estimates, he said.

The presence of water in sunlit surfaces had been previously suggested, but not confirmed. The molecules are so far apart that they are in neither liquid nor solid form, said lead researcher Casey Honniball, a postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

“To be clear, this is not puddles of water,” she stressed at a news conference.

NASA’s astrophysics director Paul Hertz said it’s too soon to know whether this water – found in and around the southern hemisphere’s sunlit Clavius Crater – would be accessible. The surface could be harder there, ruining wheels and drills.

These latest findings, nonetheless, expand the possible landing spots for robots and astronauts alike – “opening up real estate previously considered `off limits’ for being bone dry,” Hayne said in an email to The Associated Press.

For now, NASA said it still aims to send astronauts to the lunar south pole, especially rich in frozen water. The White House deadline is 2024.

As for the shadowed areas believed to be brimming with frozen water near the moon’s north and south poles, temperatures are so low that they could hold onto the water for millions or even billions of years. These so-called cold traps get down to minus 261 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 163 degrees Celsius).

Using data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the researchers identified cold traps as small as a few yards (meters) across and as wide as 18 miles (30 kilometers) and more, and used computer models to get all the way down to micrometers in size.

“Since the little ones are too small to see from orbit, despite being vastly more numerous, we can’t yet identify ice inside them,” Hayne said. “Once we’re on the surface, we will do that experiment.”

For the second study, scientists used NASA’s airborne infrared observatory Sofia to conclusively identify water molecules on sunlit portions of the moon just outside the polar regions. Most of these molecules are likely stored in the voids between moon dust and other particles or entombed in the glassy residue of of micrometeorite impacts. In this way, the molecules can withstand the moon’s harsh environment, scientists said.

By flying 45,000 feet (18 kilometers) above Earth, the Sofia plane is above the water vapors that can interfere with infrared observations.

For now, Sofia can analyze only the moon’s outermost surface, but these water molecules could be buried yards (meters) deep, Honniball noted. As a comparison, the Sahara desert has 100 times the amount of water than what Sofia detected in the lunar soil.

Scientists believe all this water on the moon came from comets, asteroids, interplanetary dust, the solar wind or even lunar volcanic eruptions. They’ll have a better idea of the sources “if we can get down on the surface and analyze samples of the ice,” Hayne said.

Jason Bleacher, chief scientist for NASA’s human exploration and operations office, said at some point decisions will need to be made regarding lunar technology. Will it be easier to survive the extremely cold polar environments and tap into deep shadowed craters for water, he asked, or to dig into the moon at the milder middle latitudes in search of water. (AP=Newsis)

“I can certainly envision ways that robots might be beneficial in all of those,” Bleacher said.

NASA plans to launch a water-seeking rover named Viper to the moon’s south pole by the end of 2022. Astronauts would follow in a series of missions intended to set up long-term bases. The space agency wants its new Artemis moon-landing program to be sustainable, unlike the Apollo program a half-century ago. (AP=Newsis)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference to announce the Trump administration’s restoration of sanctions on Iran, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, at the U.S. State Department in Washington. Standing behind Pompeo are National security adviser Robert O'Brien, from left, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky=Newsis)
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference to announce the Trump administration’s restoration of sanctions on Iran, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, at the U.S. State Department in Washington. Standing behind Pompeo are National security adviser Robert O’Brien, from left, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky=Newsis)

President Donald Trump, who prefers speaking to boisterous crowds, is set to give a prerecorded address to the U.N. General Assembly as he grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, chilly relations between the U.S. and China and ongoing threats from North Korea and Iran – all during a heated campaign for reelection.

Trump told reporters Monday that he’d have a “strong message” for China, where the first cases of COVID-19 were reported, but he didn’t elaborate ahead of the Tuesday address. Earlier in his administration, Trump hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Florida club, but now the two leaders are exchanging angry words over trade.

The administration has been slamming the Chinese Communist Party for its handling of COVID-19, election meddling, espionage in the United States and influence peddling across the world.

Trump is not popular at the United Nations and his speech this year comes at a time when U.N. members are pushing back against Washington. On Monday, Trump declared that all U.N. sanctions against Iran have been reimposed, a move that most of the rest of the world rejects as illegal.

Trump’s statement came shortly after he signed an executive order spelling out how the U.S. will enforce the “snapback” of sanctions. “My actions today send a clear message to the Iranian regime and those in the international community who refuse to stand up to Iran,” he said.

The U.S. said it was reimposing sanctions on Iran for being in noncompliance with the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and global powers. But Trump in 2018 pulled out of the deal in which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief.

Few U.N. member states believe the U.S. has the legal standing to restore the sanctions because Trump withdrew from the agreement. The U.S. argues it retains the right to do so as an original participant in the deal and a member of the council.

The White House has not previewed his U.N. speech, but Trump was expected to highlight agreements the U.S. brokered between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. The historic agreements come as relations between the Jewish state and Arab nations are thawing as a pushback against Iran.

The president likely will take credit for brokering economic cooperation between Serbia and Kosovo and for pressuring NATO nations to meet their pledge to spend 2% of their gross domestic product on their own defenses to lessen the burden on the alliance.

He might also have words for North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. In 2017, Trump told the U.N. he was bringing a “message of peace,” but then said that if the U.S. was forced to defend itself against Kim, “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” He called Kim “rocket man,” but has since met with him three times, although North Korea has not made a move to give up its nuclear weapons.

Trump’s has tussled with multilateral organizations throughout his presidency, although his aides say he is not against all multilateral groups, only the ones that aren’t effective. After COVID-19 took hold, Trump yanked support from the U.N.’s World Health Organization, saying it was too beholden to China. (AP=Newsis)

Palestinians wave national flags during a protest against normalization ties between the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain with the Israel, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Israel is set to sign agreements with the UAE and Bahrain at the White House on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed=Newsis)
Palestinians wave national flags during a protest against normalization ties between the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain with the Israel, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Israel is set to sign agreements with the UAE and Bahrain at the White House on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed=Newsis)

Israel on Tuesday signed historic diplomatic pacts with two Gulf Arab states at a White House ceremony that President Donald Trump declared will mark the “dawn of a new Middle East,” casting himself as an international peacemaker at the height of his reelection campaign.

The bilateral agreements formalize the normalization of Israel’s already thawing relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in line with their common opposition to Iran. But the agreements do not address the decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, who view the pacts as a stab in the back from their fellow Arabs and a betrayal of their cause for a Palestinian state.

Hundreds of people massed on the sun-washed South Lawn to witness the signing of agreements in a festive atmosphere little marked by the coronavirus pandemic. Attendees did not practice social distancing and most guests didn’t wear masks.

“We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history,” Trump said from a balcony overlooking the South Lawn. “After decades of division and conflict, we mark the dawn of a new Middle East.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the day “is a pivot of history. It heralds a new dawn of peace.”

Neither Netanyahu nor Trump mentioned the Palestinians in their remarks, but both the UAE and Bahraini foreign ministers spoke of the importance of creating a Palestinian state.

Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the brother of Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, even thanked Netanyahu for “halting the annexation” of West Bank land claimed by the Palestinians in exchange for Emirati recognition. Netanyahu, however, has insisted that Israel has only suspended its plans to annex West Bank settlements.

“Today, we are already witnessing a change in the heart of the Middle East – a change that will send hope around the world,” al-Nahyan said.

Bahrani Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani said Bahrain would stand with the Palestinians. “Today is a truly historic occasion,” he said. “A moment for hope and opportunity.”

But in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian militants fired two rockets into Israe l, apparently meant to coincide with the ceremony. The Israeli military said the rockets were fired from Gaza and one was intercepted by air defenses. Earlier in the day, Palestinian activists held small demonstrations in the West Bank and in Gaza, where they trampled and set fire to pictures of Trump, Netanyahu and the leaders of the UAE and Bahrain.

Israel and the U.S. hope the agreements can usher in a major shift in the region should other Arab nations, particularly Saudi Arabia, follow suit. That could have implications for Iran, Syria and Lebanon. Until now, Israel has had peace deals only with Egypt and Jordan.

Other Arab countries believed to be close to recognizing Israel include Oman, Sudan and Morocco.

“We are very down the road with about five different countries,” Trump told reporters before the ceremony.

Many longtime Mideast analysts and former officials, among others, have expressed doubts about the impact of the signings.

In addition to the bilateral agreements signed by Israel, the UAE and Bahrain, all three signed a document dubbed the “Abraham Accords” after the patriarch of the world’s three major monotheistic religions.

The “Abraham Accords” and the bilateral agreement signed by Israel and Bahrain fell short of more detailed formal treaties that are the diplomatic norm. Both documents were made up of general statements pledging to advance diplomacy, mutual cooperation and regional peace.

The most detailed of the agreements was the one between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. The nations agreed to approve bilateral agreements on 15 areas of mutual interest, including finance, trade, aviation, energy, telecommunications, health, agriculture and water.

During the signing ceremony, the leaders were seated at a long table where President Harry S. Truman once held weekly luncheon meetings with his Cabinet. Discussions about the Truman Doctrine to restrain Soviet expansion during the Cold War and the Marshall Plan to send billions in economic aid to Western Europe after World War II were held at the table.

The stagecraft, including live music and flags was meant to evoke previous Middle East agreements. Trump’s political backers are looking to boost his standing as a statesman with just seven weeks to go before Election Day. Until now, foreign policy has not had a major role in a campaign dominated by the coronavirus, racial issues and the economy.

Besides Republicans, a few House Democrats attended the event, a notable development at a time when their leader, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is barely on speaking terms with the president. Many Democrats, including presidential nominee Joe Biden, widely support the deal.

Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., said she accepted the invitation immediately on receiving it over the weekend. “It definitely was a monumental event, and the ceremony was very fitting for that,” Luria, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a telephone interview afterward.

Like Luria, some other Democrats in attendance, such as Rep. Anthony Brindisi of New York, are freshmen in tough reelection races. Still others, such as Florida Reps. Ted Deutch and Stephanie Murphy hail from districts with large numbers of Jewish constituents.

Questions remain, however, about the significance of the agreements. Even in Israel, where the accords have received widespread acclaim, there is concern they might result in U.S. sales of sophisticated weaponry to the UAE and Bahrain, thus potentially upsetting Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region.

Trump said he is OK with selling military aircraft to the UAE. Pelosi also welcomed the agreements but said she wants to learn details, specifically what the Trump administration has told the UAE about buying American-made F-35 aircraft and about Israel agreeing to freeze efforts to annex portions of the West Bank.

The UAE and Bahrain have a history of suppressing dissent and critical public opinion, but there have been indications that the agreements are not nearly as popular or well-received as they are in Israel. Neither country sent its head of state or government to sign the deals with Netanyahu.

Bahrain’s largest Shiite-dominated opposition group, Al-Wefaq, which the government ordered dissolved in 2016 amid a yearslong crackdown on dissent, said there is widespread rejection of normalization.

The ceremony followed months of intricate diplomacy headed by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and the president’s envoy for international negotiations, Avi Berkowitz. On Aug. 13, the Israel-UAE deal was announced. That was followed by the first direct commercial flight between the countries, and then the Sept. 11 announcement of the Bahrain-Israel agreement. (AP=Newsis)

This photo provided by the North Korean government shows the explosion of an inter-Korean liaison office building in Kaesong, North Korea, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. South Korea says that North Korea has exploded the inter-Korean liaison office building just north of the tense Korean border. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP=Newsis)
This photo provided by the North Korean government shows the explosion of an inter-Korean liaison office building in Kaesong, North Korea, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. South Korea says that North Korea has exploded the inter-Korean liaison office building just north of the tense Korean border. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP=Newsis)

North Korea said Wednesday that it will send soldiers to now-shuttered inter-Korean cooperation sites in its territory and reinstall guard posts and resume military exercises at front-line areas, nullifying tension-reducing deals reached with South Korea just two years ago.

The announcement is the latest in a series provocations North Korea has taken in what experts believe are calculated moves to apply pressure on Seoul and Washington amid stalled nuclear negotiations. On Tuesday, the North destroyed an empty inter-Korean liaison office in its territory.

Though North Korea’s recent actions haven’t lead to clashes or bloodshed, it’s still raising animosity on the peninsula to a level unseen since Pyongyang entered nuclear talks in 2018.

The North’s General Staff said military units will be deployed to the Diamond Mountain resort and the Kaesong industrial complex, both just north of the heavily fortified border. The two sites, built with South Korean financing, have been closed for years due to inter-Korean disputes and U.S.-led sanctions.

The North also said it will resume military exercises, reestablish guard posts and boost military readiness in border areas as well as open front-line sites for flying propaganda balloons toward South Korea. Those steps would reverse agreements reached between the Koreas in September 2018 aimed at lowering military tensions along he border.

South Korea’s military expressed regret over the North Korean announcement and warned that the North will face unspecified consequences if it violates the 2018 deals.

Maj. Gen. Jeon Dong Jin at the Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters that South Korea maintains military readiness and will strive to prevent military tensions from rising. Vice Unification Minister Suh Ho warned against destroying South Korean assets that remain at the two cooperation sites.

Under the 2018 agreements, both Koreas halted live-firing exercises, removed some land mines and destroyed guard posts along the world’s most heavily armed border.

Some experts argued the moves undermined South Korea’s security more than the North’s as Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal remained intact.
North Korea will likely next dismantle South Korean-built structures, equipment and other assets at the two cooperation sites before performing military drills and firing missiles and shells toward the sea, said Cheong Seong-Chang, an analyst at the Sejong Institute, a think tank in South Korea.

Cheong said the deterioration of ties was now “unavoidable” and South Korea might respond with the resumption of propaganda loudspeaker broadcasts and joint military drills with the United States.

Some analysts see North Korea’s provocations as an attempt to get concessions from Washington and Seoul at a time when its economy, already battered by sanctions, has likely worsened due to the coronavirus pandemic. They say North Korea may be frustrated because the sanctions prevent Seoul from breaking away from Washington to resume joint economic projects with Pyongyang.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency on Wednesday said that recent actions were taken to retaliate for South Korea’s failure to prevent activists from floating propaganda leaflets across the border.

It said the destruction of the building Tuesday was a “reflection of the zeal of our enraged people to punish human scum who challenged the noblest dignity and prestige of our country and those who sheltered the scum, perpetrators of shuddering crime.” It said North Korea will set the intensity and timing for its additional steps while closely monitoring South Korean moves.

Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, separately revealed that North Korea had rebuffed a recent offer by South Korean President Moon Jae-in to send special envoys to Pyongyang to defuse tension.

Kim Yo Jong, who has spearheaded the North’s recent rhetoric against South Korea, called Moon’s offer a “petty farce” and a “trick” to tide over a crisis. She also slammed Moon’s recent urging of North Korea to return to talks and find a breakthrough with South Korea.

In response, one of Moon’s senior presidential advisers, Yoon Do-han, called Kim Yo Jong’s statement “very rude,” “irrational” and “senseless.” Yoon warned South Korea won’t tolerate similar statements by North Korea any longer, while expressing regret over North Korea’s publicizing of South Korea’s offer to send envoys.

The exchange of verbal salvos between the Koreas is highly unusual under Moon’s government, which has espoused greater rapprochement with North Korea since taking office in 2017. Moon has faced criticism that he was too soft on North Korea even when it publicly conducted weapons tests targeting South Korea.

Moon, who met Kim Jong Un three times in 2018, was a driving force behind the diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington, including the first summit between Kim and President Donald Trump in Singapore in June 2018.

Relations between the Koreas have been strained since a second Kim-Trump summit in early 2019 fell apart due to wrangling over the sanctions. (AP=Newsis)

President Donald Trump holds a Bible as he visits outside St. John's Church across Lafayette Park from the White House Monday, June 1, 2020, in Washington. Part of the church was set on fire during protests on Sunday night. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky=Newsis)
President Donald Trump holds a Bible as he visits outside St. John’s Church across Lafayette Park from the White House Monday, June 1, 2020, in Washington. Part of the church was set on fire during protests on Sunday night. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky=Newsis)

Embracing the language of confrontation and war, President Donald Trump declared himself the “president of law and order” and signaled he would stake his reelection on convincing voters his forceful approach, including deploying U.S. troops to U.S. cities, was warranted in a time of national tumult and racial unrest.

Trump made his Rose Garden declaration on Monday evening to the sound of tear gas and rubber bullets clearing peaceful protesters from the park in front of the White House. It created a split screen for the ages, with his critics saying the president was deepening divisions at a time when leadership was crucial to help unify a fractured country.

The president’s forceful turn to a partisan posture was reminiscent of the us-vs.-them rhetoric he has often used when under pressure, including in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. He has responded to the violence with a string of polarizing tweets, one starkly laying out the political stakes by underscoring the approach of Election Day.

“NOVEMBER 3RD,” was all it said.

Trump vowed to deploy the U.S. military to America’s own cities to quell a rise of violent protests, including ransacking stores and burning police cars. He offered little recognition of the anger coursing through the country as he demanded a harsher crackdown on the mayhem that has erupted following the death of George Floyd.

Floyd died after a white Minneapolis police officer pinned him down and pressed his neck with his knee as the man pleaded that he couldn’t breathe. Violent demonstrations have raged in dozens of cities across the nation, marking a level of widespread turmoil unseen for decades.

The political ground beneath Trump has greatly shifted in the spring of this election year. He was supposed to be running on a strong economy, but now he’s facing a pandemic, an economic collapse and civil unrest not seen since the 1960s.

Indeed, some around the president likened the moment to 1968, when Richard Nixon ran as the law-and-order candidate in the aftermath of a summer of riots and captured the White House. But Trump is the incumbent and, despite his efforts to portray himself as a political outsider, he risks being held responsible for the violence.

Trump emerged after two days out of public view in the White House to threaten to deploy “thousands and thousands” of U.S. troops. Then he made a surprise walk through Lafayette Park to a Washington house of worship known as “The Church of the Presidents” that suffered fire damage in the protests.
That brought a quick condemnation from Episcopal Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde.

“The president just used a Bible and one of the churches of my diocese as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and everything that our church stands for,” she said. But he had his campaign moment.
In a video teleconference Monday morning, Trump scolded governors.
“Most of you are weak,” he said. “It’s like a war. And we will end it fast. Be tough.”

“You have to dominate” and “if you don’t dominate you’re wasting your time,” Trump said, demanding the protests be swiftly crushed, even as some warned that such an aggressive law enforcement response could lead to an escalation of violence.

The president urged governors to make more use of the National Guard, which he credited for helping calm the situation Sunday night in Minneapolis. He demanded that similarly tough measures be taken in cities that also experienced spasms of violence, including New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

“You’re going to arrest all those people and you’re going to try them. And if they get five years or 10 years, they have to get five years or 10 years,” the president said. “So I say that, and the winners dominate.”

Trump’s exhortations came after a night of escalating violence, with images of chaos overshadowing largely peaceful protests. The disturbances grew so heated Friday night that the Secret Service rushed the president to an underground White House bunker previously used during terrorist attacks.
Some West Wing officials and political advisers have acknowledged that some of the president’s tweets have not been helpful, and they have been pushing Trump to acknowledge the pain of the peaceful protesters without lumping them in with the agitators he says are responsible for the violence.

But another faction within the administration, including longtime law-and-order proponent Attorney General William Barr, has encouraged Trump’s instincts to focus on the group violence. The hope is such a posture can help Trump draw a contrast with Democrats who have been less vocal in their condemnation of the unrest.

The West Wing had been mostly empty over the weekend. Many staffers were told to stay home to avoid the protests, chief of staff Mark Meadows was out of town celebrating his daughter’s wedding and senior adviser Jared Kushner was marking a Jewish holiday.

Among the options being discussed in the White House: a new criminal justice reform package, a task force that would include Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and a listening tour of African American communities, according to people familiar with the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity because nothing had been finalized.

Democrats hammered Trump, accusing him of stirring the unrest.

“Hate just hides. It doesn’t go away, and when you have somebody in power who breathes oxygen into the hate under the rocks, it comes out from under the rocks,” said the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, speaking at a church in Wilmington, Delaware.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Trump “struggles to summon even an ounce of humanity in this time of turmoil.”

“The president has reacted to the pain and anger in the country by playing politics and encouraging police to be tougher on protesters by bragging about his reelection prospects and his personal safety inside the White House,” Schumer said.

Long drawn to displays of strength, Trump and his advisers believe that the combative rhetoric and promises to send the military into cities will reassure voters, including senior citizens and suburban women, concerned by the lawlessness.

Eager to change the narrative of the election, just five months away, from a referendum on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, Trump and his aides see a cultural war issue that could captivate his base.

Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition and a close ally of the president, said, “In the same way that he became the unlikeliest of champions for evangelicals and the faith community, he has it in him to do the same thing for the minority community.”

Much as he has with the pandemic, Trump has tried to scapegoat the nation’s Democratic governors and mayors, much to their dismay.

During the teleconference, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker bluntly told Trump that “the rhetoric that’s coming out of the White House is making it worse.” (AP=Newsis)

Students who were dropped off by a school bus walk past a location in south Seattle Tuesday, March 3, 2020, where King County will be placing several temporary housing units to house patients undergoing treatment and isolation in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren=Newsis)
Students who were dropped off by a school bus walk past a location in south Seattle Tuesday, March 3, 2020, where King County will be placing several temporary housing units to house patients undergoing treatment and isolation in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren=Newsis)

The coronavirus epidemic shifted increasingly westward toward the Middle East, Europe and the United States on Tuesday, with governments taking emergency steps to ease shortages of masks and other supplies for front-line doctors and nurses.

“We are concerned that countries’ abilities to respond are being compromised by the severe and increasing disruption to the global supply of personal protective equipment, caused by rising demand, hoarding and misuse,” said World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“We can’t stop COVID-19 without protecting our health workers.”

Deaths in Italy surged to 79, making it the deadliest reported outbreak outside China. Twenty-three members of Iran’s Parliament and the head of the country’s emergency services were reported infected. South Korea expanded drive-thru testing and confirmed hundreds of new cases. And in Spain’s Basque region, at least five doctors and nurses were infected and nearly 100 health care workers were being held in isolation.

The mushrooming outbreaks contrasted with optimism in China, where thousands of recovered patients were going home and the number of new infections has been dropping.
Worldwide, more than 93,000 people have been infected and over 3,100 have died, the vast majority of them in China. The number of countries hit by the virus exceeded 70, with Ukraine and Morocco reporting their first cases.

Virus clusters in the United States led schools and subways to sanitize and spread fears among nursing home residents, who are especially vulnerable. The number of the infections in the U.S. topped 100 and the death toll climbed to nine. All of the deaths were in Washington state, and most of them were residents of a Seattle-area nursing home.

The U.S. Federal Reserve announced the biggest interest-rate cut in over a decade to try to counter the expected damage to the economy, and stocks rose briefly on Wall Street in reaction before slumping again. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said the virus “will surely weigh on economic activity both here and abroad for some time.”

Other Group of Seven countries appeared reluctant to follow suit with their own cuts, probably because many of their interest rates are already near or below zero.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave health care workers the OK to use an industrial type of respirator mask often used to protect construction workers from dust and debris.

Iran’s supreme leader ordered the military to assist health officials in fighting the virus, which authorities said has killed 77 people. Among the dead are a confidant of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s former ambassador to the Vatican and a recently elected member of Parliament.

Iran’s judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, said some people are stockpiling medical supplies for profit and urged prosecutors to show no mercy. “Hoarding sanitizing items is playing with people’s lives, and it is not ignorable,” he said.

France’s president announced the government will take control of current and future stocks of face masks to ensure they could go to health workers and coronavirus patients, and the finance minister warned that binge-shopping for household essentials could trigger shortages. The country reported a total of more than 200 cases and four deaths.

“In this period we’re going through – we have entered a phase that will last weeks and, undoubtedly, months — it is indispensable to have clarity, resilience, sangfroid and determination to stop the epidemic” French President Emmanuel Macron said during a visit to the government’s virus crisis center.

South Korea confirmed another 142 cases Wednesday morning, raising its total to 5,328, the second-highest in the world. At drive-thru virus testing centers, workers dressed head-to-toe in white protective suits leaned into cars with mouth swabs to check for the virus. Troops sprayed disinfectant on streets and alleys across the city.

In China, the count of new cases dropped again Wednesday, with just 119 reported. It is still by far the hardest-hit country, with over 80,000 infections and about 95% of the world’s deaths.

“We scrutinized this data and we believe this decline is real,” said WHO outbreak expert Maria Van Kerkhove, who traveled to China as part of a team from the U.N. agency. She said the extraordinary measures taken there, including the lockdown of more than 60 million people, had a significant effect on the direction of the outbreak.

“We believe that a reduction of cases in other countries, including Italy, Korea, Iran, everywhere, that this is possible,” she said.

China’s ambassador to the United Nations said the country is winning its battle against COVID-19. “We are not far from the coming of the victory,” Zhang Jun said.

In Japan, questions continued to build about the fate of the Olympics.

The country’s Olympic minister, Seiko Hashimoto, said Japan is “making the utmost effort” to proceed with the games’ opening on July 24 in Tokyo. But she told parliament that the country’s contract with the International Olympic Committee specifies only that the games be held in 2020, meaning they could be postponed to later in the year if necessary.
___
Hinnant reported in Paris. Contributors include Martin Crutsinger and Christopher Rugaber in Washington; Jamey Keaten in Geneva; Maria Cheng in London; Matt Sedensky in Bangkok; Nicole Winfield and Frances D’Emilio in Rome; Aritz Parra in Madrid; Chris Grygiel in Seattle; Kim Tong-Hyung and Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea; Stephen Wade in Tokyo; Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran; and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (AP=Newsis)

(200110) -- CANBERRA, Jan. 10, 2020 (Xinhua) -- The road from Braidwood to Batemans Bay is blocked in Braidwood in the southeast of Australia, Jan. 8, 2020. If without the bushfires, Braidwood in the southeast of Australia would have been busy at this time of the year, greeting tourists going to the beach of Batemans Bay.     But the bushfires on New Year's Eve that had burned down houses and stranded holidaymakers in the tourism destination 45 kilometers away not only took a toll on local economy, but also cast a shadow over people's life there.     TO GO WITH: "Feature: Worries, wishes of a town close to bushfires" (Photo by Chu Chen/Xinhua=Newsis)
(200110) — CANBERRA, Jan. 10, 2020 (Xinhua) — The road from Braidwood to Batemans Bay is blocked in Braidwood in the southeast of Australia, Jan. 8, 2020. If without the bushfires, Braidwood in the southeast of Australia would have been busy at this time of the year, greeting tourists going to the beach of Batemans Bay.
But the bushfires on New Year’s Eve that had burned down houses and stranded holidaymakers in the tourism destination 45 kilometers away not only took a toll on local economy, but also cast a shadow over people’s life there.
TO GO WITH: “Feature: Worries, wishes of a town close to bushfires” (Photo by Chu Chen/Xinhua=Newsis)

Thousands of people fled their homes and helicopters dropped supplies to towns at risk of nearby wildfires as hot, windy conditions Friday threatened already fire-ravaged southeastern Australian communities.

 

The danger is centered on New South Wales and Victoria, Australia’s most populous states, where temperatures and wind speeds are escalating after a few days of relatively benign conditions.

 

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service had warned that coastal towns south of Sydney including Eden, Batemans Bay and Nowra could again be under threat weeks after losing homes to the fires. By early evening Friday, the wildfires burning in that region were holding within containment lines, but a strong shift in winds predicted for later Friday could cause them to flare anew, Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons told reporters.

 

“A long afternoon to go, a long night still to go, for all our firefighters and those affected by the fires,” Fitzimmons said.

 

In neighboring Victoria, evacuation orders were issued in alpine areas. Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews pleaded with residents to evacuate fire-danger areas when alerts were issued.

 

“If it is safe to get out, then you must get out. That is the only way to guarantee your safety,” Andrews said on Thursday.

 

The unprecedented fire crisis in southeast Australia has claimed at least 26 lives, destroyed more than 2,000 homes and scorched an area twice the size of the U.S. state of Maryland since September.

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Australian military was on standby to help firefighters and emergency agencies.

 

“I’ve given them very clear instructions that they are to stand ready to move and support immediately,” Morrison said on Friday. “In the event that they are needed in the wake of what we hope we will not see today, but we must prepare for today.“

 

The military has already been involved in the unfolding crisis by clearing roads closed by fallen trees, burying dead cattle and sheep and providing fodder to surviving livestock.

 

In the small village of Towamba in southern New South Wales, most residents had evacuated by Friday, after firefighters warned them that without a solid defense against the blazes, they should get out, said John Nightingale, a volunteer firefighter with the Rural Fire Service.

 

Last week, some houses in the village were destroyed by a fire that turned the afternoon sky first a deep magenta and then pitch black, Nightingale said.

 

“Late at night, you could hear the rumbling of the fire,” he said. “It was very terrifying.“

 

A wind change from the south was predicted to hit the village on Friday evening, which officials fear could blow the flames in a new direction. Nightingale said he and the other firefighters would work to snuff out any spot fires that flare up to try and keep them from spreading. But if conditions became too dangerous, they would need to take shelter at a community hall, a solid structure with about 25,000 liters (6,600 gallons) of water attached to it. Alongside the hall is a cleared, grassy area away from trees and shrubs where people can retreat as a last resort.

 

“The grass on the oval is very short so there’s nothing to carry a strong fire,” he said. “So that’s a survival option, basically. A patch of grass. And if that happened, we’d have trucks and sprinklers going and hoses going, wetting people down. But I would hate it to come to that. Anything but that.“

 

Temperatures in the threatened area were expected to reach into the mid-40s Celsius (more than 110 degrees Fahrenheit) on Friday, and conditions remained tinder dry.

 

The wildfire disaster has focused many Australians on how the nation adapts to climate change. Morrison has come under blistering criticism for downplaying the need for his government to address climate change, which experts say helps supercharge the blazes.

 

Morrison said on Thursday that a government inquiry into the fires would examine the role of climate change.

 

Asked on Friday whether he expected fire emergencies of the same magnitude to become more common in the future with climate change, Morrison did not give a direct answer.

 

“There’ll be the reviews that take place as you’d expect and I’ve indicated in response to questions that we’ll be working closely with state and territory authorities on how they’re undertaken,” Morrison told reporters. “The links and implications here have been acknowledged.“

 

Morrison brushed off criticism over what many Australians perceive as a slow, detached response to the wildfire crisis.

 

“What we’ve got here is the single largest federal response to a bushfire disaster nationally that the country has ever seen,” Morrison said. “The government’s responding to an unprecedented crisis with an unprecedented level of support.“

 

The conservation group WWF-Australia estimates that 1.25 billion wild animals had died during the current fire crisis in addition to livestock losses, which the government expects will exceed 100,000 animals.

 

WWF fears the disasters could lead to local extinctions and threaten the survival of some species, such as the glossy black-cockatoo and a knee-high kangaroo known as the long-footed potoroo.

 

WWF conservation scientist Stuart Blanch described the estimate as conservative, and it did not include bats, frogs and insects.

 

The majority of estimated losses were reptiles, followed by birds, then mammals such as koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, echidnas and wombats.

 

“Kangaroos can get away from fires. But a lot get burnt to a crisp stuck in a fence,” Blanch said.

 

WWF estimates there were between 100,000 and 200,000 koalas across Australia before the fire season. Estimated koala losses in the current emergency include 25,000 on Kangaroo Island off southern Australia and 8,000 in northwest New South Wales.

 

“It’s a significant loss, but I don’t think we’ll know for several months,” Blanch said of the koala deaths. (AP=Newsis)

Damage caused by bushfire is seen at resident Brian Williams' resort at Lake Cooroibah Road in Noosa Shire, Queensland, Australia, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. Australia’s most populous state New South Wales declared a state of emergency on Monday due to unprecedented wildfire danger as calls grew for Australia to take more action to plan for an counter climate change. New South Wales state Emergency Services Minister David Elliott said residents were facing what "could be the most dangerous bushfire week this nation has ever seen.” (Rob Maccoll/AAP Images=Newsis)
Damage caused by bushfire is seen at resident Brian Williams’ resort at Lake Cooroibah Road in Noosa Shire, Queensland, Australia, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. Australia’s most populous state New South Wales declared a state of emergency on Monday due to unprecedented wildfire danger as calls grew for Australia to take more action to plan for an counter climate change. New South Wales state Emergency Services Minister David Elliott said residents were facing what “could be the most dangerous bushfire week this nation has ever seen.” (Rob Maccoll/AAP Images=Newsis)

Climate change and the environment have emerged as the biggest concern for Australian voters, according to the latest Trust Issues survey, published by JWS Research on Friday.
Post-election optimism for the governing Coalition has faded and anxiety levels over the stagnating economy have grown. The survey conducted from Nov. 6 to Nov. 11 revealed a significant shift in voters’ priorities since the election.

When asked, unprompted, to identify their top three issues of concern, 34 percent of respondents named the environment and climate, followed by hospitals, healthcare and ageing (28 percent), employment and wages (22 percent) and the economy and finances (20 percent).

By comparison, in the previous survey in June, one month after the election, only 22 percent of voters identified climate change as a concern.

The governing Liberal National Party Coalition and Prime Minister Scott Morrison have faced criticism for refusing to pursue ambitious climate change policies.

The poll was taken amid debates about the links between climate change and catastrophic bushfires that have devastated much of Australia’s east coast, killing four people.

When respondents were given a list of 20 potential concerns and asked to rate them in order of importance, climate change and the environment came fourth behind cost of living, health and employment and wages. (Xinhua=Newsis)

A Maylands employee checks the bronze paint at the factory in London, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019.  Founded 135 years ago, Mylands paint factory has survived two World Wars, and now supplies film and TV productions such as ``Harry Potter'' and ``Game of Thrones,'' but Brexit is already reshaping business decisions as they increase storage and have moved extra stocks to Germany. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein=Newsis)
A Maylands employee checks the bronze paint at the factory in London, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. Founded 135 years ago, Mylands paint factory has survived two World Wars, and now supplies film and TV productions such as “Harry Potter” and “Game of Thrones,” but Brexit is already reshaping business decisions as they increase storage and have moved extra stocks to Germany. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein=Newsis)

Global shares were mixed Friday, after Wall Street indexes posted modest gains, cheered by solid profits and forecasts from U.S. technology companies.

But uncertainties such as U.S.-China trade tensions and Britain’s unruly process toward leaving the European Union weighed on investor sentiment.

France’s CAC 40 edged up 0.2% to 5,692.86. Germany’s DAX slipped 0.2% to 12,845.85. Britain’s FTSE 100 added nearly 0.2% to 7,316.62.

U.S. shares were set to drift higher with Dow futures inching up slightly to 26,782. S&P 500 futures were up 0.1% at 3,006.80.

Faltering progress toward the United Kingdom’s departure from the EU took another setback when British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday he plans to ask Parliament to vote Monday on a motion calling a national election for Dec. 12.

That came two days after lawmakers stymied Johnson’s latest attempt to get approval for his proposal for leaving the 28-nation bloc.

In Asian trading, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 added 0.2% to finish at 22,799.81. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.7% to 6,739.20. South Korea’s Kospi edged 0.1% higher to 2,087.89. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dipped 0.4% to 26,683.95, while the Shanghai Composite advanced 0.5% to 2,954.93.

Traders have been bracing for weaker results this earnings season amid concerns about the costly trade war between the U.S. and China, and increased signs of slowing economic growth worldwide.

The Federal Reserve and Japan’s central bank are due to hold policy meetings next week that hold the potential to please or disappoint markets.

However, earnings reports so far have mostly exceeded Wall Street analysts’ modest expectations.

“The past week saw most major share markets push higher helped by generally good U.S. earnings reports, benign geopolitical news and optimism that global recession will be avoided,” said Shane Oliver, chief economist at AMP Capital.

Meanwhile, U.S. and Chinese officials have been working on the details of an agreement aimed at resolving some of the disputes that have embroiled the world’s two largest economies in a tariff war that is squeezing manufacturers and farmers on both sides.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence adopted a hard line in a speech Thursday laying out President Donald Trump’s China policies.

He accused companies, including Nike and the NBA, of being too willing to ignore Chinese pressure and censorship and repression in pursuit of profits. He also said the FBI has 1,000 active investigations into intellectual property theft, most of them involving China.

Pressure on U.S. companies to share advanced technology is one of the key sticking points in the dispute with Beijing over its own industrial and trade policies.

Pence also reiterated U.S. support for protesters in Hong Kong who have been holding increasingly violent demonstrations for more than four months to voice their fears Beijing is infringing on liberties promised to the semi-autonomous region when China took control of the former British colony in 1997.

So far, American backing for the protesters has drawn sharp rebukes from China but hasn’t appeared to affect the trade talks.

But the expected approval of a resolution expressing support for the protesters by the U.S. Senate, following a similar one in the House of Representatives, is likely to anger Beijing further.

ENERGY: Benchmark crude oil dipped 17 cents to $56.06 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 26 cents to $56.23 a barrel Thursday. Brent crude oil, the international standard, lost 13 cents to $61.54 a barrel.

CURRENCIES: The dollar was little changed, rising to 108.64 Japanese yen from 108.60 yen on Thursday. The euro rose to $1.1112 from $1.1105.(AP=Newsis)