TPM World News

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican and Mexico are lamenting how children “are suffering the most” from forced migration, as the Trump administration comes under increasing criticism for its policy of separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Vatican on Monday released the conclusions of the second Vatican-Mexico conference on international migration, held last week at the Vatican. The statement made no explicit reference to the separation policy, though it stressed the need to “insist on the centrality of the human person in every political act … reaffirming the inviolability of human rights and the dignity of every human being on the move.”

“Children are the ones who are suffering the most from forced migration. We must respond effectively to the challenges created by these flows, balancing the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity and co-responsibility,” the statement said.

Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new “zero-tolerance” policy that refers all cases of illegal entry for criminal prosecution. U.S. protocol prohibits detaining children with their parents because the children are not charged with a crime and the parents are.

The head of the U.S. conference of Catholic bishops’ committee on migration has condemned the policy as “immoral,” and the issue dominated the U.S. bishops’ recent assembly in Florida.

The Vatican-Mexico statement called for a global governance body for migration “to ensure a safe, ordered and regular migration that helps all those involved.”

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BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union has extended sanctions against Russia for a year over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

The EU said in a statement on Monday that it “remains firmly committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and said that it continued to “condemn this violation of international law.”

The sanctions are now set to run until June 23, 2019, and apply to EU citizens and companies. They ban the import of products from Crimea and Sevastopol, halt any European investment or real estate purchases there and stop cruise ships from stopping there.

The measures also ban the export of some goods and technologies that could be used for transport, telecommunications or in the energy sector — particularly oil, gas or mineral exploration.

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TOKYO (AP) — Authorities in western Japan say the number of people treated for injuries suffered in a strong earthquake Monday morning now exceeds 300.

The magnitude 6.1 earthquake near the major city of Osaka killed three people, toppled concrete walls and store shelves and temporarily knocked out some power and water supplies.

The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said 307 people have been treated at hospitals in five prefectures. Most of the injured were in Osaka, which did not give details, but the injuries reported in Kyoto and three other neighboring prefectures were all minor.

The earthquake damaged buildings and left many homes without water or gas. The quake also grounded flights in and out of Osaka, and paralyzed traffic and commuter trains most of the day.

By the evening, bullet trains and some local trains had resumed operation, with stations swollen with commuters trying to get home, many of them waiting in long lines. An exodus of commuters who chose to walk home filled sidewalks and bridges.

Some commuters took refuge at nearby shelters instead of going home. Video on Japan’s NHK public television showed dozens of men wearing ties and carrying briefcases sitting on gym mats at a junior high school gymnasium in Ibaraki city, where some families also gathered.

A 9-year-old girl was killed by a falling concrete wall at her school, and the two other fatalities were men in their 80s.

The Fire and Disaster Management Agency said 307 people were treated for injuries at hospitals. Most of the injured were in Osaka. Osaka officials did not give details, but the injuries reported in Kyoto and three other neighboring prefectures were all minor.

The quake struck shortly after 8 a.m. north of Osaka at a depth of about 13 kilometers (8 miles), the Japan Meteorological Agency said. The strongest shaking was north of Osaka, but the quake rattled large parts of western Japan, including Kyoto, the agency said.

Dozens of domestic flights in and out of Osaka were grounded, while train and subway service in the Osaka area, including bullet trains, were suspended to check for damage. Passengers exited trains on the tracks between stations.

Some subway service resumed in the afternoon, but stations remained crowded with passengers waiting for trains to restart, many of them sitting on the floor. Long lines of people waited to board bullet trains as they resumed operation.

The quake knocked over walls, broke windows and set off scattered building fires. It toppled bookcases in homes and scattered goods on shop floors. It also cracked roads and broke water pipes, leaving homes without water.

A falling concrete wall knocked down and killed the 9-year-old girl, Rina Miyake, as she walked at her elementary school in Takatsuki. NHK aired video showing the collapsed upper half of the high wall, which was painted cheerfully with trees, flowers and blue sky and surrounded the school swimming pool.

Takatsuki Mayor Takeshi Hamada apologized over her death because of the wall’s collapse. The structure was old and made of concrete blocks — a known risk in earthquakes. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga ordered the Education Ministry to conduct nationwide safety checks of concrete block structures at public schools.

More than 1,000 schools were closed in Osaka and nearby prefectures, Kyodo News reported. Wall cracks and other minor damage were found at several schools.

A man in his 80s died in the collapse of a concrete wall in Osaka city. An 85-year-old man in nearby Ibaraki died after a bookcase fell on top of him at home, according to the disaster management agency.

Many homes and buildings, including a major hospital, were temporarily without power, though electricity was restored at most places by midafternoon.

Due to damage to underground gas lines, 110,000 homes in Takatsuki and Ibaraki cities were without gas, and repairs are expected to take as long as two weeks, according to Osaka Gas Co.

More building damage was found in the afternoon as disaster and relief workers inspected and cleaned up the affected areas. Roofs and roof tiles at homes and at least one temple fell to the ground in Osaka. At a shrine in Kyoto, stone lanterns broke and collapsed to the ground.

Defense troops joined rescue and relief operations in parts of Osaka, along with special vehicles to deliver clean drinking water.

Residents cleaned up debris at home and stores throughout the day. Meteorological agency officials warned of strong aftershocks in the area, urging residents to stay away from damaged structures.

The earthquake reminded many of the magnitude 7.3 Hanshin-Kobe quake in 1995 that killed more than 6,000 people in the region. Monday’s quake also followed a series of smaller quakes near Tokyo in recent weeks. Japan’s northern prefectures are still recovering from the magnitude 9.0 quake and tsunami in 2011 that killed more than 18,000.

“It was not as bad as the Kobe quake,” said Jun Kawanami, a 30-year-old lawyer in Osaka. He said his wife ducked under a table and elevators in his office building were out of operation. “I used the stairs but I was out of breath by the time I arrived at my office on the 22nd floor,” he said.

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Hiromi Tanoue in Osaka contributed to this report.

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VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis denounced abortion on Saturday as the “white glove” equivalent of the Nazi-era eugenics program and urged families to accept the children that God gives them.

Francis spoke off-the-cuff to a meeting of an Italian family association. The Vatican didn’t immediately provide a transcript of his remarks, but the ANSA news agency and the SIR agency of the Italian bishops’ conference quoted him as denouncing the pre-natal tests that can result in parents choosing to terminate a pregnancy if the fetus is malformed or suffering other problems.

“Last century, the whole world was scandalized by what the Nazis did to purify the race. Today, we do the same thing but with white gloves,” the agencies quoted Francis as saying.

The pope urged families to accept children “as God gives them to us.”

Francis has repeated the strict anti-abortion stance of his predecessors and integrated it into his broader condemnation of what he calls today’s “throw-away culture.” He has frequently lamented how the sick, the poor, the elderly and the unborn are considered unworthy of protection and dignity by a society that prizes instead individual efficiency.

Francis has dedicated much of his pontificate to preaching about families, marriage and the problems that families today encounter. These issues he is expected to highlight during his August trip to Ireland where he’ll close out the Catholic Church’s big family rally.

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BEIJING (AP) — China’s government said Friday it will retaliate for U.S. President Donald Trump’s tariff hike on Chinese goods by immediately imposing penalties of the “same scale” on American goods.

The Commerce Ministry said it also is scrapping deals made with Washington in talks aimed at defusing a sprawling trade dispute.

A ministry statement gave no details of what U.S. goods would be affected, but China announced possible targets in April including soybeans, light aircraft, orange juice, whiskey and beef.

“The Chinese side doesn’t want to fight a trade war, but facing the shortsightedness of the U.S. side, China has to fight back strongly,” the statement said. “We will immediately introduce the same scale and equal taxation measures, and all economic and trade achievements reached by the two sides will be invalidated.”

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has approved a plan to impose punishing tariffs on tens of billions of dollars of Chinese goods as early as Friday, a move that could put his trade policies on a collision course with his push to rid the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons.

Trump has long vowed to fulfill his campaign pledge to clamp down on what he considers unfair Chinese trading practices. But his calls for billions in tariffs could complicate his efforts to maintain China’s support in his negotiations with North Korea.

Trump met Thursday with several Cabinet members and trade advisers and was expected to impose tariffs on at least $35 billion to $40 billion of Chinese imports, according to an industry official and an administration official familiar with the plans.

The amount of goods could reach $55 billion, said the industry official. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the matter ahead of a formal announcement.

If the president presses forward as expected, it could set the stage for a series of trade actions against China and lead to retaliation from Beijing. Trump has already slapped tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and European allies, and his proposed tariffs against China risk starting a trade war involving the world’s two biggest economies.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Friday that China’s response would be immediate and that Beijing would “take necessary measures to defend our legitimate rights and interests.”

Geng gave no details. Beijing earlier drew up a list of $50 billion in U.S. products that would face retaliatory tariffs, including beef and soybeans, a shot at Trump’s supporters in rural America.

Trump’s decision on the Chinese tariffs comes in the aftermath of his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The president has coordinated closely with China on efforts to get Pyongyang to eliminate its nuclear arsenal. But he signaled that whatever the implications, “I have to do what I have to do” to address the trade imbalance.

Trump, in his press conference in Singapore on Tuesday, said the U.S. has a “tremendous deficit in trade with China and we have to do something about it. We can’t continue to let that happen.” The U.S. trade deficit with China was $336 billion in 2017.

Administration officials have signaled support for imposing the tariffs in a dispute over allegations that Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology, according to officials briefed on the plans. China has targeted $50 billion in U.S. products for potential retaliation.

Wall Street has viewed the escalating trade tensions with wariness, fearful that they could strangle the economic growth achieved during Trump’s watch and undermine the benefits of the tax cuts he signed into law last year.

“If you end up with a tariff battle, you will end up with price inflation, and you could end up with consumer debt. Those are all historic ingredients for an economic slowdown,” Gary Cohn, Trump’s former top economic adviser, said at an event sponsored by The Washington Post.

But Steve Bannon, Trump’s former White House and campaign adviser, said the crackdown on China’s trade practices was “the central part of Trump’s economic nationalist message. His fundamental commitment to the ‘deplorables’ on the campaign trail was that he was going to bring manufacturing jobs back, particularly from Asia.”

In the trade fight, Bannon said, Trump has converted three major tools that “the American elites considered off the table” — namely, the use of tariffs, the technology investigation of China and penalties on Chinese telecom giant ZTE.

“That’s what has gotten us to the situation today where the Chinese are actually at the table,” Bannon said. “It’s really not just tariffs, it’s tariffs on a scale never before considered.”

The Chinese have threatened to counterpunch if the president goes ahead with the plan. Chinese officials have said they would drop agreements reached last month to buy more U.S. soybeans, natural gas and other products.

Scott Kennedy, a specialist on the Chinese economy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the Chinese threat was real and helped along by recent strains exhibited among the U.S. and allies. “I don’t think they would cower or immediately run to the negotiating table to throw themselves at the mercy of Donald Trump,” Kennedy said. “They see the U.S. is isolated and the president as easily distracted.”

Ron Moore, who farms 1,800 acres of corn and soybeans in Roseville, Illinois, said soybean prices have already started dropping ahead of what looks like a trade war between the two economic powerhouses. “We have to plan for the worst-case scenario and hope for the best,” said Moore, who is chairman of the American Soybean Association. “If you look back at President Trump’s history, he’s been wildly successful negotiating as a businessman. But it’s different when you’re dealing with other governments.”

The U.S. and China have been holding ongoing negotiations over the trade dispute.

The United States has criticized China for the aggressive tactics it uses to develop advanced technologies, including robots and electric cars, under its “Made in China 2025” program. The U.S. tariffs are designed specifically to punish China for forcing American companies to hand over technology in exchange for access to the Chinese market.

The administration is also working on proposed Chinese investment restrictions by June 30. So far, Trump has yet to signal any interest in backing away.

“I think the tariffs are coming,” said Stephen Moore, a former Trump campaign adviser and visiting fellow at The Heritage Foundation. “It really does depend on whether China makes a move to ameliorate Trump’s concerns, and so far they haven’t.”

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump got the history-making handshake he wanted with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. Now, with the smiling snapshot a part of history, new details are emerging about the bizarre behind-the-scenes negotiations that led up to the summit — and about the president’s post-summit frustrations with how it’s being portrayed.

Setting up the Singapore meeting was no easy feat for the technically still-warring heads of state, requiring planners to accommodate confounding requests and paranoia. But neither has it been easy for Trump to sell the plan to a doubting class of experts, allies and the media. He’s chafing at the skepticism swirling about the nuclear accord that he wants to define his legacy.

Scenes from inside the summit:

“ALIEN” TERRITORY?

Like talking with “aliens.” Sitting at tables at the luxurious Capella Hotel in Singapore or in the sparse Demilitarized Zone on the Korean Peninsula, that’s how U.S. officials involved in negotiations with their North Korean counterparts described their conversations ahead of the summit.

The North Koreans had never before participated in an event of the sort, were unfamiliar with notions of press access and deeply afraid about both espionage and assassination. The North Korean logistics teams struck the Americans as organized, detail-oriented and mission-focused, said one official involved in the planning. There were also a number of women involved in senior roles, surprising to the U.S. side.

On the day before the summit, U.S. and North Korean officials met throughout the day in Singapore to hash out areas of agreement for what became the joint statement issued by the two leaders on Tuesday. The U.S. team wanted to send in an official photographer to capture the moment for history — a manifestation of the White House’s desire to turn the summit into an international media event — but the North Koreans balked.

“How do we know she’s not a spy?” protested the North Koreans. They eventually agreed the photographer could attend, said an official familiar with the discussions with the North Koreans who wasn’t authorized to discuss it and insisted on anonymity.

Similar worries had come up earlier in the talks when the Korean delegation voiced concerns that cameras belonging to the press could be concealed weapons.

THE TRUST GAP

There was hardly trust on the U.S. side either. Kim, after all, is accused by the U.S. of ordering the murder of his half brother with a nerve agent last year.

From the first logistical talks in Singapore, it was clear to U.S. officials that overcoming the security trust gap was among the most significant hurdles to getting the two leaders into the same room.

For every person the White House wanted to put in the room for the meetings, the North wanted to know how they would know the person was not there to spy on the proceedings or harm Kim.

U.S. officials credited the Singaporean government for helping to prevent the mistrust from sinking the summit.

Checkpoints were jointly patrolled by U.S., North Korean, and Singaporean officials, with some journalists on site required to undergo separate security sweeps by each of the three parties. U.S. officials agreed to cap the number of U.S. government officials they allowed onto the luxury summit property to match the far smaller North Korean delegation.

It left all but the most senior American negotiators, including many subject matter experts, monitoring the proceedings via television and emailed updates from the president’s hotel, a 20-minute drive away.

OLD HABITS DIE HARD

At a formal signing ceremony Tuesday afternoon, a gloved North Korean official inspected Kim’s chair and the black felt-tipped pen bearing Trump’s signature in gold that was positioned for Kim’s use.

At the last minute, Kim’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, who was standing to his side, provided a pen of her own for his use.

The U.S.-supplied pen was later retrieved, unused, by a White House staffer.

EQUAL PARTNERS

Throughout the summit preparations, U.S. officials described the North Koreans as focused on ensuring they were not the junior partner in the talks.

In a symbolic concession, the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) was listed above the U.S. in the official summit logo on credentials for the summit. The White House also agreed to limit the number of journalists allowed to cover some events to mirror the North Korean contingent of state-run media.

Still, Trump appeared to be in the driver’s seat, clapping Kim on the back and directing over to their interpreters to start their one-on-one meeting. The U.S. president also signaled for reporters in the room to be escorted out — after both took questions from the journalists.

FRUSTRATION FACTOR

On the final day before the summit, officials at the White House National Security Council back in Washington grew incensed over a New York Times report suggesting that “science is unwelcome” in Trump’s administration and that the U.S. negotiating team was devoid of nuclear physicists. So the White House issued a directive to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo: He would go in front of cameras in Singapore and call out the newspaper by name, an official familiar with the instruction said. Pompeo complied.

“Before discussing the summit, I want to address a report in The New York Times,” Pompeo opened. “Any suggestion that the United States somehow lacks the technical expertise across government or lacks it on the ground here in Singapore is mistaken.”

Now that he’s back home, Trump has been fuming privately and publicly over the skeptical news coverage about his signed agreement with Kim. Never steeped in details or history, the president feels he has made ground-breaking progress, as evidenced by his grand statements telling the world to “sleep well.” Back in DC, in a terrible mood, he is frustrated by all the questions about the fine print.

Trump has been calling lawmakers to express enthusiasm for the agreement — but also complaining that he has not had more robust support from GOP lawmakers, said a person with knowledge of the calls, who spoke on condition of anonymity to share internal conversations. While the president calls the summit a “first step,” with more meetings sure to come, he also has been arguing that he has already done more than his predecessor, President Barack Obama.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States on Thursday renewed calls for the Cuban government to determine the source of health “attacks” on U.S. diplomats in Cuba that have affected some two dozen people.

At a senior-level meeting with Cuban officials in Washington, the State Department said it had again raised the issue, which has prompted a significant reduction in staffing at the U.S. Embassy in Havana. It reiterated “the urgent need to identify the source of the attacks on U.S. diplomats and to ensure they cease.”

“We also reiterated that until it is sufficiently safe to fully staff our embassy, we will not be able to provide regular visa services in Havana,” the department said in a statement.

Cuba has denied any knowledge of the source or cause of the incidents that have sickened at least 24 diplomats since late 2016, leaving some with brain damage. Two other diplomats suffering similar symptoms in Cuba were sent to medical specialists for evaluation, U.S. officials disclosed last week.

The potential new cases come as the U.S. has begun issuing health alerts to Americans in China after a worker at the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou reported symptoms and strange sounds and was flown to the U.S. That worker was then medically confirmed to have “suffered a medical incident consistent with what other U.S. government personnel experienced in Havana, Cuba,” the department has said.

The confirmed Cuba patients have been found to have a range of symptoms and diagnoses including mild traumatic brain injury, also known as concussions. Unexplained sounds and vibrations that accompanied the symptoms initially led investigators to suspect a sonic weapon, though an interim FBI report in January said no evidence had been uncovered that sound waves could have damaged the Americans’ health, The Associated Press reported.

The department also voiced concern Thursday about the “arbitrary detention of independent journalists and human rights defenders” in Cuba.

The U.S. side in the talks was led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs John Creamer. Cuba’s side was led by Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, the Foreign Ministry’s director general for U.S. affairs.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says on Twitter, “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” as he returns to the United States after his historic summit with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump says on Twitter that “everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office.”

He says before he took office, “people were assuming that we were going to War with North Korea,” and President Barack Obama said North Korea was the nation’s biggest problem.

Trump and Kim signed an agreement to work toward denuclearization, but it appears weaker than past deals that failed. Independent experts estimate North Korea now has enough fissile material for 20 to 60 bombs, and it has tested missiles that could potentially deliver a nuclear weapon to the U.S. mainland.

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