TPM World News

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis’ reported comments to a gay man that “God made you like this” have been embraced by the LGBT community as another sign of Francis’ desire to make gay people feel welcomed and loved in the Catholic Church.

Juan Carlos Cruz, the main whistleblower in Chile’s clerical sex abuse and cover-up scandal, said Monday he spoke to Francis about his homosexuality during their recent meetings at the Vatican. The pope invited Cruz and other victims of a Chilean predator priest to discuss their cases last month.

Cruz said he told Francis how Chile’s bishops used his sexual orientation as a weapon to try to discredit him, and of the pain the personal attacks had caused him.

“He said, ‘Look Juan Carlos, the pope loves you this way. God made you like this and he loves you,'” Cruz told The Associated Press.

The Vatican declined to confirm or deny the remarks in keeping with its policy not to comment on the pope’s private conversations. The comments first were reported by Spain’s El Pais newspaper.

Church teaching says gays should be respected, loved and not discriminated against, but considers homosexual activity “intrinsically disordered.” Francis, though, has sought to make the church more welcoming to gays, most famously with his 2013 comment “Who am I to judge?”

He also has spoken of his own ministry to gay and transgender people, insisting they are children of God, loved by God and deserving of accompaniment by the church.

As a result, some commentators downplayed the significance of the comments to Cruz, saying they merely were in line with Francis’ pastoral-minded attitude and not in any way a challenge to current doctrine.

“What the pope was saying is, ‘God loves you and made you just as you are, and therefore you should accept yourself as you are while struggling to live according to the Gospel,'” said the Rev. Robert Gahl, a moral theologian at Rome’s Pontifical Holy Cross University.

Whether or not the pope intended to break ground, there was a time when the Catholic Church taught that sexual orientation was not something people choose.

The first edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the dense summary of Catholic teaching published by St. John Paul II in 1992, said gay individuals “do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial.”

The updated edition, which is the only edition available online and on the Vatican website, removed the reference. The revised edition says: “This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial.”

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which advocates for equality for LGBT Catholics, said the pope’s comments were “tremendous” and would do a lot of good.

“It would do a lot better if he would make these statements publicly, because LGBT people need to hear that message from religious leaders, from Catholic leaders,” he said.

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit whose book “Building a Bridge” called for the church to find new pastoral ways of ministering to gays, noted that the pope’s comments were in a private conversation, not a public pronouncement or document. But Martin said they were nevertheless significant, particularly given the original version of the Catechism.

“The pope is saying what every reputable biologist and psychologist will tell you, which is that people do not choose their sexual orientation,” Martin said in a telephone interview.

A great failing of the church, he said, is that many Catholics have been reluctant to say so, which then “makes people feel guilty about something they have no control over.”

Martin’s book is being published this week in Italian, with a preface by the Francis-appointed bishop of Bologna, Monsignor Matteo Zuppi, a sign that the message of acceptance is being embraced even in traditionally conservative Italy.

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WINDSOR, England (AP) — Prince Harry and Meghan Markle gazed into each other’s eyes and pledged their eternal love Saturday as they married at St. George’s Chapel in front of hundreds of celebrity guests and millions of viewers around the world.

The American actress arrived to a fanfare and walked down the aisle accompanied part of the way by Prince Charles and by 10 young page boys and bridesmaids. The children included 4-year-old Prince George and 3-year-old Princess Charlotte, children of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge.

Markle’s sleek white dress, designed by British designer Clare Waight Keller, had a boat neck and was made of silk. Her veil came to her waist in front and billowed out for many feet behind her long train.

Harry and best man Prince William wore dark formal military dress, with white gloves and the frock coat uniforms of the Blues and Royals, and Harry kept his full red beard intact. As Charles and Meghan drew close to the altar, Harry said: “Thank you, Pa.”

To Meghan, Harry said: “You look amazing.”

Markle seemed poised and confident as she delivered her vows without so much as a quiver in her voice. She smiled broadly as the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby declared them husband and wife. Harry seemed a bit nervous — but happy.

A host of celebrities and athletes — including Oprah Winfrey, Idris Elba, Elton John, George and Amal Clooney, Serena Williams, James Corden and David and Victoria Beckham — watched the ceremony in the gothic chapel at Windsor Castle.

Prior to the festivities, Queen Elizabeth II honored her red-headed, 33-year-old grandson with a new title: the Duke of Sussex. That means that Markle is now the Duchess of Sussex.

The wedding was a global event, thanks to Harry’s status as a senior British royal and Markle’s celebrity after starring on the U.S. television series “Suits” for seven years. The wedding pomp and ceremony — complete with Anglican prayers and tradition, classical music, a gospel choir and a horse-drawn carriage ride through Windsor — was beamed live to tens of millions of TV viewers across the world.

Relatives at the ceremony included Charles Spencer, the brother of Harry’s late mother Princess Diana, and Harry’s cousin Zara Tindall and her husband. Also in attendance was the family of Prince William’s wife Kate: Parents Carole and Michael Middleton, sister Pippa Middleton and brother James Middleton.

Harry’s ex-girlfriend Chelsy Davy was also among the congregation, as was Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, the ex-wife of Harry’s uncle Prince Andrew.

Outside the castle, thousands of fans crammed the streets of Windsor. Irene Bowdry, a lawyer from California, was aboard the jammed early train to Windsor. She booked her trip to England as soon as the wedding date was announced.

“An American in the royal family, isn’t that so exciting?” she said.

The weather was balmy and clear, bathing the ancient stones of Windsor Castle in a beautiful spring light. Royal fans have been camping outside the castle for days, and British police have stepped up security, with sniffer dogs, barricades and patrols all over town.

“Windsor is absolutely bursting with excitement,” said royal historian Hugo Vickers. “There are cardboard cutouts of Meghan and Harry in every shop window, virtually. There’s bunting all over the place. I’ve never seen so many people in the streets of Windsor.”

It is a time of transition for the British monarchy, one that seems filled with hope as William and Harry — the two sons of Charles and the late Princess Diana — step ever more confidently into the limelight. Many in the crowd, like Ana Karukin, a Brazilian nurse living in Florida, said they came to witness a moment of history.

“We’ve got to be here for him and for her, my Meghan, my special girl, to support them, because it’s a beautiful time,” she said. “I wish that Diana was here, but she’s in heaven watching over them.”

The brothers found the time amid the wedding hoopla to stroll outside the castle Friday evening to thank fans for coming. A smiling Harry gave a thumb’s up and answered “Great, thank you!” when asked how he was feeling on the eve of his wedding.

And it seems to be a time of joy for 92-year-old queen and her 96-year-old husband, Prince Philip, who plans to attend the ceremony despite his recent hip replacement surgery. She is seeing her grandson marry a woman who clearly has brought him the happiness he’s often said was missing from his life after his mother’s premature death.

The family tableau played out on the broadest possible stage. Dozens of broadcasters set up on the castle grounds for a visual feast. The chapel itself is a masterpiece of the late Gothic style, and Windsor Castle has been home to British sovereigns for nearly 1,000 years.

After the ceremony, the newlyweds will ride a horse-drawn carriage through the streets of Windsor, flanked by a British military procession with many officers on horseback.

Then it will be off to the first of two gala receptions. The first will be hosted in the afternoon by the queen — with finger foods, wine and champagne. The second, smaller reception is being thrown by Charles. A three-hour break in between will allow for a rest and a change of outfits for the lucky 200 invited to the evening soiree.

The chapel service will reflect Markle’s American roots. The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, the African-American leader of the Episcopal Church, delivered the sermon, and the musical selections included versions of Ben. E. King’s “Stand By Me” and Etta James’ “Amen/This Little Light of Mine.”

Harry invited buddies from his 10 years of military service — which included tours of duty in Afghanistan — and from many of the charities he supports, which have focused on helping wounded veterans or encouraging a more open discussion of mental health issues.

The couple also honored the memory of Harry’s mother Diana, whose older sister Jane Fellowes gave a reading during the wedding service.

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LONDON (AP) — Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal has been discharged from a British hospital, more than two months after he was poisoned with a nerve agent and left fighting for his life, health officials said Friday.

Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious in the English city of Salisbury on March 4, and spent weeks in critical condition.

Yulia, 33, recovered more quickly than her father and was discharged last month.

Salisbury District Hospital said Friday that all three people hospitalized in the attack — the Skripals and a police officer who came to their assistance — had now been released. The Skripals have been taken to an undisclosed location for their safety.

“We have been able to discharge Sergei Skripal,” said Lorna Wilkinson, director of nursing at the hospital. “This is an important stage in his recovery, which will now take place away from the hospital.”

Sergei Skripal is a former Russian intelligence officer who was convicted of spying for Britain before coming to the U.K. as part of a 2010 prisoner swap. He had been living quietly in the cathedral city of Salisbury, 90 miles (145 kilometers) southwest of London, when he was struck down.

Britain says the Skripals were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent and that Russia was behind the attack. Moscow denies it.

The poisoning has sparked a Cold War-style diplomatic crisis between Russia and the West, including the expulsion of hundreds of diplomats from both sides.

The international chemical weapons watchdog has backed up Britain’s finding that the Skripals were poisoned with Novichok, a class of nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union. Russia says Britain can’t prove that the substance used to poison the Skripals was made in Russia.

British police say they believe the toxin was smeared on the door handle of Skripal’s suburban house. Hundreds of counterterrorism officers and support staff have been assigned to the case but police have not yet named any suspects.

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NEW YORK (AP) — Cambridge Analytica, the beleaguered data collection agency that worked for President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, is liquidating operations.

The British firm filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection late Thursday. It said in a New York court filing that its assets totaled $100,001 to $500,000. Its liabilities are between $1 million and $10 million and it has between one and 49 creditors.

The filing is signed by Jennifer and Rebekah, sisters who are majority shareholders of Cambridge Analytica. The Mercer family is led by billionaire Robert Mercer, a Republican mega-donor with close ties to Trump. He sold his personal stake in the pro-Trump website Breitbart News to his daughters in late 2017.

Cambridge Analytica has come under scrutiny for possible links to the federal probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 president election and fallen into the crosshairs of special counsel Robert Mueller.

Cambridge Analytica filed papers to begin insolvency proceedings in the U.K. earlier this month. At the time, it blamed “unfairly negative media coverage” and said it had been “vilified” for actions it said were both legal and widely accepted as part of online advertising.

Cambridge Analytica has insisted that none of the Facebook data it acquired from an academic researcher was used in the Trump campaign. The company was able to amass the database quickly with the help of an app that purported to be a personality test. The app collected data on tens of millions of people and their Facebook friends, even those who did not download the app themselves.

Facebook has since tightened its privacy restrictions, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress in two days of hearings. Facebook also has suspended other companies for using similar tactics. One is Cubeyou, which makes personality quizzes. That company has said it did nothing wrong and is seeking reinstatement.

Cambridge Analytica suspended CEO Alexander Nix in March pending an investigation after Nix boasted of various services to an undercover reporter for Britain’s Channel 4 News. Channel 4 News broadcast clips that showed Nix saying his data-mining firm played a major role in securing Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential elections.

Acting CEO Alexander Tayler also stepped down in April and returned to his previous post as chief data officer.

On Thursday British lawmakers investigating the use of Facebook users’ data in political campaigns said that Nix accepted a summons to appear before Parliament’s media committee. He will appear on June 6.

Separately, it was announced that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will meet with leaders of the European Parliament in a closed-door meeting Tuesday about the data protection scandal that has engulfed his company.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Who sits where? What’s on the agenda? Will they eat together? What’s the security plan?

President Donald Trump and his team have a daunting to-do list to work through as they prepare for next month’s expected summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump’s plan to meet with Kim may have come as a surprise decision, but his team hopes to leave nothing to chance when they come together in Singapore. They’re gaming out policy plans, negotiating tactics, even menu items.

With two unpredictable leaders, it’s hard to anticipate every possibility. But White House aides are expecting hard-ball negotiating tactics — already in evidence this week as the North Koreans cast fresh doubt on the sit-down.

Leader summits on this level are a massive undertaking. Much like icebergs, only a small fraction of the work is visible above the waterline. And when the meeting involves the heads of two technically still-warring states, the list of logistical concerns expands, including sensitive items like the number and deployment of security officers.

Officials on both sides are still determining the format for the meeting or meetings, whether Trump and Kim will share a meal, and the extent of any one-on-one interactions.

All of that comes as the U.S. formulates its strategies for the talks, including what the U.S. is prepared to give up and how precisely to define “denuclearization” on the Korean Peninsula — Trump’s stated goal.

“I would say there are hundreds if not thousands of hours put into summit preparations,” said Patrick McEachern, a public policy fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center and a former State Department official.

Scott Mulhauser, a former chief of staff at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, said that in the leadup to summit meetings, staffs try to anticipate the various negotiating positions their counterparts might take, adding that “if you’re not gaming that out, you’re not preparing adequately.”

Trump is relying heavily on his top diplomat, Mike Pompeo, in preparing for the summit. Pompeo has met with Kim twice in Pyongyang, once as secretary of state and once as CIA chief, and has spent more time with the reclusive leader than any other American official. The amount of face time Pompeo has had with Kim rivals even that of most Asian leaders, apart from the Chinese.

Pompeo assembled a working group to handle negotiations with North Korea led by a retired senior CIA official with deep experience in the region. That team, based at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, remains the center of the administration’s North Korea expertise.

Planning for the summit started quickly after Trump announced on Twitter his plans to meet with Kim, but kicked into higher gear after John Bolton became Trump’s national security adviser last month. In addition to Pompeo’s two trips to Pyongyang, U.S. officials have also been coordinating with the North Koreans through what’s known as the “New York channel” — North Korean diplomats posted to their country’s mission to the United Nations.

A key question is the format for the meeting if the two countries are able to proceed to full-fledged nuclear negotiations, U.S. officials have said. That includes decisions about whether to keep the talks limited to the U.S. and North Korea or whether to bring other governments into the process, such as South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.

Also key is what the U.S. will negotiate away.

“One thing that is unclear to us is what the U.S. is willing to negotiate in exchange for North Korea’s promises on denuclearization,” said Jean Lee, director of the North Korea program at the Woodrow Wilson Center. “The North Koreans are going to be armed and very ready to negotiate. The Trump administration needs to be ready as well.”

One initial hurdle that Pompeo managed to clear during his second visit to Pyongyang was the venue for the summit. North Korea was adamant that Kim not be put in any kind of situation where his security could be at risk, U.S. officials said. North Korean officials pushed very hard for the meeting to be in Pyongyang, so Kim would not have to leave the country and they could have 100 percent control over access and communications, according to the officials.

When North Korea objected to Trump’s preferred choice of the demilitarized zone on the border between North and South Korea, the U.S. countered with Singapore. Some White House officials also opposed the DMZ choice, believing the optics on Korean rapprochement would distract from the focus on denuclearization.

U.S. officials said they believed one reason the North Koreans agreed to Singapore was that Kim had just returned from a successful trip to China the day before Pompeo arrived for his second visit. Many analysts, including U.S. officials, believe that Kim’s flight to the Chinese port of Dalian — the first trip abroad by aircraft by a North Korean leader in decades — was likely a test of the country’s ability to safely transport Kim by air. Kim’s previous trips to China had all been by train, as was the custom of his father.

The North formally signed off on Singapore while Pompeo was in Pyongyang. Even before Trump announced the summit site by tweet a day after Pompeo’s return, White House officials who traveled with Pompeo to Pyongyang were already on the ground in Singapore to begin working out summit logistics.

Very few people have had much direct contact with the North Koreans, so there are few people for the Trump administration to check with for guidance.

Bill Richardson, the former New Mexico governor and U.N. ambassador who has negotiated with the North Koreans, had one suggestion. He said that in the meeting setting, the North Koreans will be very formal, so building a rapport between the two will be vital.

His main advice: “Try to find some private time between President Trump and Kim Jong Un.”

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JERUSALEM (AP) — Most of the protesters killed this week by Israeli fire along the border with the Gaza Strip were members of Hamas, the militant group said Wednesday, an admission that deepens the starkly different narratives on both sides over the deaths.

Israel, which has faced blistering international criticism over its response, is likely to latch on to the remarks to bolster its claims that Hamas has used the weekly border protests as cover to stage attacks.

But with the images of rifle-toting Israeli snipers facing off against seemingly unarmed protesters beamed around the world, the remarks by Hamas may do little to convince Israel’s detractors, including the Palestinians.

In an interview with Baladna TV, a private Palestinian news outlet that broadcasts via Facebook, senior Hamas official Salah Bardawil said 50 out of the nearly 60 protesters killed Monday were Hamas members, with the others being “from the people.”

Bardawil did not elaborate on the nature of their membership in the group and his claim could not be independently verified. It was unclear if the protesters he was referring to were militants or civilian supporters of the Islamic group, which rules Gaza and opposes Israel’s existence.

The affiliation may matter little to those who have deemed Israel’s response to the protests to be heavy-handed.

For Israel, it was enough to cement its narrative.

“It was clear to Israel and now it is clear to the whole world that there was no popular protest. This was an organized mob of terrorists organized by Hamas,” said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had tallied similar numbers to Hamas and “won’t let those who call for our destruction to breach our borders and to threaten our communities.”

In response to the uproar over his remarks, Bardawil later said in a statement that Israel was “legitimizing the killing of Palestinians just because they are Palestinians or just because they are Hamas, even if they were unarmed and defending their dignity and rights.”

Organizers say the wave of border protests is meant in large part to break a decade-old blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt and pressure Israel to ease its restrictions. Since the Hamas-led protests began March 30, more than 110 Palestinians have been killed and more than 2,500 wounded by live fire, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Palestinian officials say the vast majority of the casualties have been unarmed protesters. One Israeli soldier has been wounded.

The weekly protests peaked on Monday when about 40,000 Gazans descended on the border area. As in previous demonstrations, the protesters burned tires and hurled firebombs and stones toward Israeli troops, and tried to attack the border fence. Israeli snipers opened fire in response, killing 59 Palestinians and wounding hundreds.

Images of the protesters being whisked away in stretchers amid the tear gas contrasted sharply Monday with jubilant scenes of the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem by a high-powered American delegation and Israeli leaders. Hardly a mention was made of the border violence, only about an hour’s drive away.

The Israeli army has staunchly defended its actions. It points to the violent history of Hamas, says there have been shootings and bombing attacks against its forces, and fears a mass border breach.

On Tuesday, the army released a video that appeared to show protesters detonating several explosions near the border. It also said its forces had killed a squad of Hamas gunmen who opened fire at troops.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said 14 of those killed Monday were actively involved in carrying out attacks.

Omar Shakir, the local director for Human Rights Watch, said that if they were unarmed, the identity of the slain protesters and their affiliation to a militant group has little to do with Israel’s right under international law to use lethal force at a demonstration.

“These individuals that were killed, regardless of their affiliation or membership, were engaged in a demonstration in which they did not pose an immediate threat to life and were gunned down, and that’s what’s relevant,” Shakir said.

Israel says it uses live fire only as a last resort. Snipers are supposed to aim at protesters’ legs and can shoot only with approval from a commander.

Hamas’ statement comes at a moment when Israel finds itself largely isolated over its response to the protests.

Countries have summoned and recalled ambassadors, the U.N. has issued condemnations and some have called for an investigation of Israel’s actions. The Palestinians held a one-day general strike and called for three days of mourning for the victims.

The U.S. was among the few countries that came to Israel’s defense, backing its right to protect its border on the same day that it countered international disapproval of moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The Palestinians, who seek east Jerusalem as capital of their hoped-for state and vehemently oppose the U.S. move, recalled their ambassadors to four European countries that had supported it.

On Wednesday, Guatemala followed the U.S. lead, festively opening its new Jerusalem mission with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales saying his country was bringing a message of “love, peace and fraternity” to Israel. Paraguay said it also will move its embassy to Jerusalem. Romania, the Czech Republic and Honduras have said they are considering doing the same.

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SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — A top European Union official branded President Donald Trump selfish and capricious Wednesday as EU leaders gathered to count the likely economic damage U.S. policies might inflict on the bloc and to try to rescue the Iran nuclear deal.

In a striking rhetorical assault on the leader of Europe’s biggest ally, EU Council President Donald Tusk said, given Trump’s recent decisions, “someone could even think ‘with friends like that, who needs enemies?'”

Trump has bewildered the Europeans by threatening to slap tariffs on EU steel and aluminum exports and reneging on an agreement to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, which the EU believes is vital to world security. Trump has also broken with a key international principle of Middle East peace efforts by moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Tusk’s remarks, just hours before he was to chair a meeting in Bulgaria of the 28 leaders of the world’s biggest trading bloc, underscored the widening gulf in EU-U.S. relations.

Listing Europe’s traditional challenges, ranging from the expanding power of China to the belligerence of Russia, Tusk said: “We are witnessing today a new phenomenon, the capricious assertiveness of the American administration.”

“Frankly speaking, Europe should be grateful to President Trump because thanks to him we have got rid of all illusions. He has made us realize that if you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm,” Tusk said.

In dinner talks in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, EU leaders will be briefed on possible incentives to keep Tehran in the nuclear agreement, even after a key player like the U.S. pulled out. The U.S. move has paved the way for U.S. sanctions that are likely to hit European companies doing business with Iran.

The options being discussed include new credit lines for Iran, increased energy cooperation and the use of EU laws to block European companies from caving in to U.S. sanctions.

“I want leaders to reconfirm that the EU sticks to the deal as long as Iran does. The deal is good for European and global security,” said Tusk.

The leaders will also discuss Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs, which could be slapped on the EU after June 1. Trump says the tariffs are needed for national security reasons. The Europeans, most of them U.S. allies in NATO, say they pose no security threat and that it is simply an excuse to break with the rules-based order of the World Trade Organization.

“It is absurd to even think that the EU could be a threat to the U.S. We need to bring back reality in this discussion,” Tusk said.

Trump’s decision to relocate the U.S. embassy to the contested city of Jerusalem will also be raised. Some EU leaders have made a direct link between the move and the killing of almost 60 Palestinians during protests on the Gaza border.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel is calling for an international investigation.

“It’s a moment that sends a shiver down your spine. Because there is a striking contrast between, on the one hand, an inauguration in great splendor, with smiles, and on the other hand, the drama, and families today that are in mourning with innocent children who are the victims of this situation,” Michel told state broadcaster RTBF.

“We knew that there was a great risk, that this decision to move moving the embassy would bring less security, bring tragedies, and sadly we were right,” he said.

But the EU is anything but united and finding consensus will not be easy.

Some countries sent representatives to the U.S. Jerusalem embassy opening on Monday and the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania blocked an EU effort to publish a statement critical of the U.S. move.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Corporate America is seeking relief from President Donald Trump’s threatened tariffs on at least $50 billion in Chinese goods as negotiators seek to prevent a trade war between the world’s two biggest economies.

Best Buy wants televisions to be spared from the tariffs. Sanden International (USA) of Wylie, Texas, warns it will have to lay off 39 of its 431 workers if 25 percent tariffs take effect on the components it uses to make car air-conditioning compressors. SABIC, a petrochemical manufacturer, wants some building materials struck from the tariff list.

As the U.S. government began three days of hearings on the tariffs Tuesday, Chinese Vice Premier Liu He traveled to Washington to seek a resolution to the trade dispute. A similar high-level U.S. delegation made a trip to Beijing earlier this month and returned empty-handed.

Trump raised hopes for the latest talks by striking a surprisingly conciliatory tone toward China, which he has long accused of predatory business practices that robbed American jobs and swelled Washington’s trade deficit with Beijing. Trump offered a lifeline to ZTE, a Chinese telecom company that is fighting for survival after being hit with sanctions this month by the U.S. Commerce Department.

Trump tweeted Sunday that he was working with President Xi Jinping to put ZTE “back in business, fast” and save tens of thousands of Chinese jobs — a stance that drew an immediate outcry from many Republicans and Democrats alike.

Trump had campaigned for the presidency on a vow to strike a much tougher trade stance than his recent predecessors, who, he argued, had agreed to deals that gave an unfair advantage to America’s competitors. The president has pointed to the U.S. trade deficit ($566 billion last year) as a sign of economic weakness caused by disastrous agreements and abusive behavior by China and other countries.

He has proposed tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese imports to punish Beijing for forcing American companies to hand over technology in exchange for access to China’s vast market. China fired back by targeting $50 billion in American products, including soybeans and small aircraft, for potential retaliatory tariffs. Trump then ordered the U.S. trade representative to look for an additional $100 billion in Chinese goods to tax.

The prospect of an escalating trade war has rattled financial markets and alarmed many businesses. The American Chemistry Council has predicted that by driving up prices and killing sales, the tariffs would wipe out 24,000 jobs at the companies that make chemicals and the companies that use them.

Yet some trade analysts have suggested that Trump’s unexpected ZTE overture could give U.S. and Chinese negotiators something to work with. Commerce and ZTE last year settled charges that the Chinese company sold sensitive telecommunications equipment to Iran and North Korea in violation of U.S. sanctions. ZTE agreed to plead guilty and pay about $1 billion in fines.

Commerce last month accused ZTE of violating the agreement and blocked the company from importing American components for seven years. The department said ZTE had misled regulators: Instead of disciplining all employees involved in the sanctions violations, Commerce asserted, ZTE had paid some of them full bonuses and then lied about it.

The two countries are reportedly attempting a swap: Relief for ZTE in return for Beijing dropping plans to impose tariffs on U.S. farm products.

“The president is transaction-oriented,” said Christine McDaniel, senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center. “He and his team are working very hard to make a deal … That (ZTE) tweet maybe teed up the visit by Mr. Liu.”

William Perry of the Seattle law firm Harris Bricken, who runs the US China Trade War blog, said he thought the president has belatedly realized that a trade war would hurt some of his staunchest supporters — farmers in the American heartland who rely on exports. It might also hurt his Republican Party in the November congressional elections.

“He’s worried about the midterms and the impact of his trade policy on farmers,” Perry said.

Still, Trump’s ZTE tweet drew fire on Capitol Hill from some Democrats and Republicans.

“It’s the wrong time to cut a deal, and this would be a terrible deal,” said Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

Rubio said China won’t play by the rules. He said the Trump administration has been given an historic opportunity to place the U.S.’s relationship with China in proper balance. He said one misstep could blow the whole thing apart and “doom generations of Americans to living in a world, not one with a powerful China, one with a dominant China and a declining America.”

“… If they win this battle on ZTE, the world will notice and the message it will send is that when push comes to shove this administration is no different than the others,” Rubio said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York lambasted Trump for going easy on a company that violated U.S. sanctions.

“He talks a big game on China,” Schumer said. “He promises to be tough, and yet this weekend on the toughest thing he did (harsh sanctions on ZTE), the thing that woke the Chinese up … the president backed off.”

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea canceled a high-level meeting Wednesday with South Korea and threatened also to call off a historic summit planned later this month with the United States due to ongoing military exercises between the South and the U.S., South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.

The two Koreas were set to hold a meeting later Wednesday at a border truce village to discuss setting up military and Red Cross talks aimed at reducing border tension and restarting reunions between families separated by the Korean War.

But hours before the meeting was to take place, Pyongyang canceled the meeting and also questioned whether next month’s talks between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump would happen, Yonhap reported, citing North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency.

“The United States will also have to undertake careful deliberations about the fate of the planned North Korea-U.S. summit in light of this provocative military ruckus jointly conducted with the South Korean authorities,” KCNA reported.

The two-week military exercise between the U.S. and South Korea started Friday and included about 100 warplanes, Yonhap said.

On Tuesday, South Korea’s military said North Korea was moving ahead with plans to close its nuclear test site next week, an assessment backed by U.S. researchers who say satellite images show the North has begun dismantling facilities at the site.

The site’s closure was set to come before Kim and Trump’s summit, which had been shaping up to be a crucial moment in the global diplomatic push to resolve the nuclear standoff with the North.

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The World Health Organization says the number of protesters wounded in border clashes with Israel was “very overwhelming” for Gaza’s health system.

Citing figures from the Health Ministry and a group of aid agencies, WHO official Mahmoud Daher told The Associated Press Tuesday that 2,771 people were wounded in Monday’s unrest. Of those, 1,360 were wounded by live fire, 400 from shrapnel and 980 from gas inhalation. He said the majority of those wounded by live fire were struck in their lower limbs.

Daher says that nearly 1,800 of the wounded sought hospital care, putting additional pressure on Gaza’s already stressed hospitals, which endure equipment and medicine shortages and face power cuts like the rest of the territory.

Daher says the numbers were comparable to wartime situations. “It is really massive in terms of numbers,” he said

 

Turkey has lowered flags to half-mast to mark three days of mourning for the Palestinians killed and wounded in the Gaza border protest.

The gesture comes as the government invites members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for an extraordinary session Friday.

Speaking late Monday, the Turkish government’s spokesman announced the official mourning period after Israeli forces killed 58 Palestinians, most by gunfire, as they protested the Gaza blockade and the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

Bekir Bozdag slammed Israel for the “massacre” and said “the U.S. now has Palestinian blood on its hands.” He said the day would be remembered as “bloody Monday.”

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LiveWire