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President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have marked the 17th commemoration of the 9/11 attacks by visiting a memorial in Pennsylvania.

Donald Trump delivered a speech commemorating the airplane passengers who are thought to have charged the cockpit to stop the attackers.

Ceremonies are also being held at NYC’s 9/11 Memorial plaza on the World Trade Center site.

2,996 people were killed in the deadliest foreign attack ever on US soil.

President Trump said in Shanksville on September 11: “America’s future is not written by our enemies. America’s future is written by our heroes.

“As long as this monument stands, as long as this memorial endures, brave patriots will rise up in America’s hours of need and they, too, will fight back.”

He spoke at the newly inaugurated Tower of Voices memorial, a 93ft tall structure with 40 wind chimes.

On September 11, 2001, hijackers flew planes into the World Trade Center in New York City, and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia.

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Another plane, United Airlines Flight 93, crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

It is believed hijackers were planning to aim that aircraft at the Congress or White House in Washington DC before it went down, killing all 40 people aboard.

Cockpit voice recordings of the hijackers and mobile phone calls from those aboard to loved ones indicate passengers tried to fight their way into the cockpit to regain control before the plotters nosedived the plane.

President Trump praised the passengers’ “incredible valor” and said their revolt was “the moment America fought back”.

He said: “A band of brave patriots turned the tide on our nation’s enemies and joined the immortal rank of American heroes.”

Donald Trump is the third sitting president to attend the crash site, 70 miles south-east of Pittsburgh.

Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, was among those who noted this is the first year that Americans born after the attacks will be old enough to enlist in the US military.

During remarks at the Pentagon, VP Mike Pence told audience members they “must learn the lessons of 9/11 and remain ever vigilant”.

The ceremony in New York was attended by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Mayor Bill de Blasio, as well as former mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani.

Relatives of victims read out the names of the dead, and moments of silence were observed at 08:46 and 09:03 to mark the times when passenger jets struck the two skyscrapers.

In the years since the attacks, cancer cases in lower Manhattan – especially among first responders who dug through the toxic rubble – have increased.

The 9/11 Victims’ Compensation Fund has paid out $4 billion to fund medical expenses for survivors of the terror attacks.

According to the World Trade Center Health Program, nearly 10,000 of them have had some form of cancer.

Tens of thousands of people inhaled fumes in the days after the attack, and the number of patients coming forward with tumors has increased in recent years, according to the fund.

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Former Trump aide George Papadopoulos, whose remarks in a London pub sparked the inquiry into possible collusion with Russia, has been sentenced to 14 days in jail.

The 31-year-old told the court in Washington DC he was a “patriotic American” who made a mistake by lying.

Last year, George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the timing of meetings with alleged go-betweens for Moscow.

He was the first former Trump aide arrested in the probe into an alleged Russia plot to sway the 2016 US vote.

President Donald Trump reacted by taking an apparent swipe at the cost of the investigation into George Papadopoulos.

In September 7 sentencing, George Papadopoulos was also handed 12 months of supervised release, 200 hours of community service, and a fine of $9,500.

Donald Trump’s former aide said in court that his “entire life has been turned upside down” and he hoped “for a second chance to redeem myself”.

George Papadopoulos concluded by saying “this investigation has global implications, and the truth matters”.

He was a London-based petroleum analyst before he joined the Trump campaign in March 2016 as a volunteer foreign policy adviser.

George Papadopoulos soon made contact with a mysterious Maltese academic, Joseph Mifsud.

Professor Mifsud told George Papadopoulos the Russians had “dirt” on Donald Trump’s Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails”.

In the following months, thousands of emails linked to the Clinton campaign were published by WikiLeaks.

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George Papadopoulos told Donald Trump, then a Republican presidential candidate, and other members of the campaign’s national security team that he could set up a meeting with President Vladimir Putin ahead of the 2016 election.

A pre-sentencing statement last week read: “While some in the room rebuffed George’s offer, Mr. Trump nodded with approval and deferred to Mr. Sessions, who appeared to like the idea and stated that the campaign should look into it.”

George Papadopoulos told CNN in an interview aired on September 7 that Donald Trump “gave me a sort of a nod” and “wasn’t committed either way” about the idea of a meeting with the Russian leader.

However, he said then-senator and now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions “was actually enthusiastic”. Last November, Jeff Sessions testified to Congress that he had “pushed back” against George Papadopoulos’ offer.

American authorities were alerted in mid-2016 after George Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat during a drinking session in a London pub about his meetings with Professor Mifsud.

The envoy told US investigators, shortly after the emails hacked from the Democratic Party were leaked.

When the FBI interviewed George Papadopoulos in January 2017, he falsely claimed he had met two individuals with Russian ties before he joined the president’s team in March 2016.

He had actually met them after joining Donald Trump’s campaign.

One individual was a Russian woman who George Papadopoulos believed had connections to the Russian government.

In July 2018, the DoJ charged 12 Russian intelligence officers with hacking Democratic officials.

Prosecutors said George Papadopoulos’s lack of cooperation with investigators meant they were unable to effectively question or detain Joseph Mifsud. The professor has since left the United States.

No connection between Joseph Misfud and the hacked emails has been proven.

The DNC, which is suing Russia, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks over the alleged election interference in the 2016, filed a court document on September 7, saying Joseph Mifsud “was missing and may be deceased”, without any further explanation, according to Bloomberg News.

It referred to him as a key figure to have evaded the Mueller inquiry.

George Papadopoulos said: “I made a dreadful mistake, but I am a good man who is eager for redemption.”

He said he lied not to impede investigation but “to preserve a perhaps misguided loyalty to his master”.

Judge Randolph Moss said he took the “genuine remorse” into consideration for the sentencing.

The only other person to be sentenced in the investigation – lawyer Alex Van Der Zwaan – received 30 days in prison. His judge referred to his regret as “muted”.

Outside court on September, George Papadopoulos’ lawyer, Thomas Breen, said his client was a “fool” and had acted “stupidly” in lying to the FBI.

However, the attorney said “the president of the United States hindered this investigation more than Papadopoulos ever could”.

The lawyer said President Trump had hampered the inquiry by calling it a “witch hunt” and “fake news”.

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President Donald Trump has threatened to pull the US out of the World Trade Organization (WTO), claiming the body treats the US unfairly.

In an interview with Bloomberg News, President Trump said: “If they don’t shape up, I would withdraw from the WTO.”

The WTO was established to provide rules for global trade and resolve disputes between countries.

Donald Trump says the organization too often rules against the US, although he concedes it has won some recent judgments.

The president claimed on Fox News earlier this year that the WTO was set up “to benefit everybody but us”, adding: “We lose the lawsuits, almost all of the lawsuits in the WTO.”

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However, some analysis shows the US wins about 90% when it is the complainant and loses about the same percentage when it is complained against.

President Trump’s warning about a possible US pull-out from the WTO highlights the conflict between his protectionist trade policies and the open trade system that the WTO oversees.

Washington has recently blocked the appointment of new judges to the WTO’s Geneva-based dispute settlement body, which could potentially paralyze its ability to issue judgments.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has also accused the WTO of interfering with US sovereignty.

It comes as President Trump set an August 31 deadline for Canada to sign a new agreement with the US and Mexico. He has threatened to tax Canada’s automotive sector or cut it out entirely.

Donald Trump has been sounding off about unfair trade since even before he became president.

On August 30, he said that the 1994 agreement to establish the WTO “was the single worst trade deal ever made”.

The US has been embroiled in a tit-for-tat trade battle on several fronts in recent months.

The one creating the most interest is with China, as the world’s two largest economies wrangle for global influence.

President Trump has introduced tariffs on a number of goods imported into the US.

A third round of tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods could come as soon as a public-comment period concludes next week, according to a Bloomberg report citing various sources.

Asked to confirm this during the Bloomberg interview, President Trump said that it was “not totally wrong”.

China has responded to US tariffs by imposing retaliatory taxes on the same value of US products and has filed complaints against the tariffs at the WTO.

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Donald Trump has warned that his policies will be “violently” overturned if the Democrats win November’s mid-term elections.

The president told Evangelical leaders that the vote was a “referendum” on freedom of speech and religion, and that these were threatened by “violent people”.

President Trump appealed to conservative Christian groups for help, saying they were one vote away from “losing everything”.

Mid-term elections are widely seen as a test of President Trump’s popularity.

The president has been battling negative publicity after his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen and former campaign chief Paul Manafort were convicted earlier this month.

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An audio recording of Donald Trump’s closed-door meeting with Evangelical leaders at the White House was leaked to US media.

During the meeting, President Trump said the mid-term elections were not just a referendum on him but also “on your religion, it’s a referendum on free speech and the First Amendment [guaranteeing basic freedoms]”.

He said: “It’s not a question of like or dislike, it’s a question that they will overturn everything that we’ve done and they will do it quickly and violently. And violently. There is violence. When you look at Antifa – these are violent people.”

Antifa – short for anti-fascist – is a conglomeration of left wing autonomous, self-styled anti-fascist militant groups in the United States. The far-left groups fight against far-right ideology and regularly clash with far-right demonstrators.

President Trump has previously criticized left-wing groups, infamously saying that there had been violence on “many sides” after a white nationalist killed a left-wing demonstrator at a white nationalist protest in Charlottesville last year.

Urging the Evangelical leaders to use their influence to swing voters, President Trump told them they had “tremendous power”.

He said: “In this room, you have people who preach to almost 200 million people. Depending on which Sunday we’re talking about.”

“Little thing: Merry Christmas, right? You couldn’t say <<Merry Christmas>>,” he added, according to media reports.

President Trump himself is not up for re-election, but his ability to govern in the final two years of his term will hinge upon the November 6 outcome.

All 435 members of the House of Representatives, 35 seats in the 100-member Senate and 36 out of 50 state governors, along with many state and local offices, are up for election.

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President Donald Trump asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to call off a planned trip to North Korea.

The president tweeted that insufficient progress was being made in dismantling North Korea’s nuclear program.

President Trump also suggested China was not doing enough to put pressure on North Korea – due to trade tensions with the US.

After his summit with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in June, Donald Trump said North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat.

However, since then there have been several reports that it is failing to dismantle nuclear facilities.

The UN’s nuclear agency (IAEA) has also said North Korea is continuing with its nuclear program.

Mike Pompeo was due to head to Pyongyang next week with his newly appointed special envoy for North Korea – Stephen Biegun, a retiring Ford executive.

It would have been the secretary of state’s fourth trip, though he was not expected to meet Kim Jong-un.

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President Trump took a swipe at China in the second of three tweets on the issue.

He tweeted: “…Additionally, because of our much tougher Trading stance with China, I do not believe they are helping with the process of denuclearization as they once were (despite the UN Sanctions which are in place)…”

China and the US are embroiled in a tit-for-tat tariff war after President Trump complained about the size of the US trade deficit with China and what Washington sees as other unfair trade practices.

However, only two days ago President Trump said China had been a “big help on North Korea”.

Mike Pompeo might still make another trip though.

President Trump tweeted: “…Secretary Pompeo looks forward to going to North Korea in the near future, most likely after our Trading relationship with China is resolved. In the meantime I would like to send my warmest regards and respect to Chairman Kim. I look forward to seeing him soon!”

After the optimism of Singapore, the latest development might seem like quite a change.

However, there have been ups and downs in the Trump-North Korea relationship since then.

After a visit by Mike Pompeo in July, North Korea condemned his “gangster-like demands”, only for another trip to be announced, albeit now cancelled.

The summit itself was called off in May – President Trump citing Pyongyang’s “open hostility” – only for it to take place after all.

The US has made clear that it wants to see an end to North Korea’s nuclear activities before it will consider lifting economic sanctions.

The summit was seen as possible turning point after a ratcheting up of tensions.

North Korea had carried out a sixth nuclear bomb test in September and boasted of its ability to launch a missile at the US.

President Donald Trump has tweeted that it is “great” that many Harley-Davidson owners plan to boycott the company as a row over tariffs escalates.

Two months ago, Harley-Davidson said it would move some production out of the US to avoid retaliatory tariffs from the EU.

President Trump has already attacked the move, threatening Harley with higher taxes.

He tweeted: “Many @harleydavidson owners plan to boycott the company if manufacturing moves overseas. Great! Most other companies are coming in our direction, including Harley competitors. A really bad move! U.S. will soon have a level playing field, or better.”

Harley-Davidson refused to comment on President Trump’s latest criticism, but pointed to an interview CEO Matthew Levatich did with CNBC last month.

Image source Wikipedia

President Trump Criticizes Harley-Davidson for Planning to Shift Production to Avoid EU Tariffs

In the interview, Matthew Levatich said the company’s preference “in all cases is to supply the world from the United States”.

He said, however, that Harley-Davidson had invested in international manufacturing over the past 20 years because “trade and tariff situations in certain markets” made it “prohibitive” without this investment.

Matthew Levatich said: “We’re only doing that because these are important growth markets for the company that, without those investments, we wouldn’t have access to those customers, at any kind of reasonable price.”

Harley-Davidson warned last month that its profit margins this year were likely to halve as trade tariffs bit.

The company expects added costs of $45 million-$50 million this year, due to the EU tariffs, as well as higher aluminum and steel prices.

It said in June it would shift some motorcycle production away from the US to avoid the “substantial” burden of EU tariffs.

It has assembly plants in Australia, Brazil, India and Thailand as well as in the US, but it has not said which plant would take up the extra production.

President Trump has said tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, which came into force this spring, are necessary to protect the US steel and aluminum industries – he maintains these are vital for national security.

The tariffs have drawn retaliation from the EU, Canada, Mexico, India and others while driving up the cost of metals for manufacturers in the US.

The US has also threatened to hit billions of Chinese imports with import taxes, some of which are already in effect. It is also considering tariffs on foreign cars and vehicle parts.

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President Donald Trump has invited his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to visit the US, in a move that drew startled laughter from US intelligence chief Dan Coats.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said when he was told about the invitation during a live interview: “That’s gonna be special!”

President Trump’s presidency has been clouded by allegations that Russian hackers meddled in the 2016 US presidential election in his favor. However, the Kremlin denies the allegations.

At the Helsinki summit, President Putin offered access to 12 Russians indicted in absentia by the US authorities over the alleged interference, on condition the Russian authorities could question 12 Americans over a different case. President Trump first praised the suggestion as “incredible” but later rejected it.

Since his return from Finland, President Trump or the White House have had to correct or clarify other comments regarding Russia, creating confusion and prompting the Democrats to demand details of his private talks with President Putin.

Vladimir Putin, in power in Russia since 2000, last visited the US in 2015, when he met President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York to discuss the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

Image NBC News

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On July 19, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted that discussions about a visit by Vladimir Putin to Washington DC this autumn were already under way.

Russian ambassador to Washington Anatoly Antonov said Russia had always been open to the idea of a visit but it was “up to the Kremlin to decide how many summits are needed, and when”.

The announcement appeared to come as a surprise to US intelligence chief Dan Coats, who was told about it during a live interview at the Aspen Security Forum in the state of Colorado.

Dan Coats added that he did not yet know what President Trump and President Putin had discussed during their meeting, at which only the pair and their interpreters were present.

At the post-summit news conference in Helsinki, President Putin was asked whether he would extradite 12 Russian intelligence agents indicted in the US for hacking Democratic Party computers.

No extradition treaty exists between the US and Russia, but Vladimir Putin said he would meet the US government “halfway”.

President Putin said that US investigators could question the 12 suspects inside Russia if, in turn, Russian investigators were allowed to question US citizens with regard to a case against financier Bill Browder.

Bill Browder was instrumental in the US imposing sanctions in 2012 on top Russian officials accused of corruption in the Magnitsky affair.

One of the Americans on Russia’s list is a former US ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul.

The idea of allowing Russia to quiz US citizens sparked outrage and the Senate voted 98-0 against it. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it was “not going to happen”.

Michael McFaul tweeted his gratitude to the Senate: “98-0. Bipartisanship is not dead yet in the US Senate. Thank you all for your support.”

At the news conference in Helsinki, President Trump said: “He [Vladimir Putin] offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigations with respect to the 12 people. I think that’s an incredible offer.”

Now, however, President Trump says he “disagrees” with President Putin’s proposal.

He has also clarified remarks at the news conference in which he said he saw no reason for Russia to have meddled in the 2016 US election – despite US intelligence concluding just that.

Speaking to CBS News on July 18, President Trump said he held Vladimir Putin personally responsible for interfering in the election, and that he was “very strong on the fact that we can’t have meddling”.

Vladimir Putin has also described the summit as “successful” but warned “there are forces in the United States that are prepared to casually sacrifice Russian-US relations”.

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President Donald Trump has been widely criticized in the US after defending Russia over claims of interference in the 2016 elections.

At a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Finnish capital, Helsinki, President Trump contradicted US intelligence agencies, saying Russia had no reason to meddle.

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, said President Trump must see that “Russia is not our ally”.

The president’s own intelligence chief publicly broke with him.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said in a statement that Russia is responsible for “ongoing, pervasive attempts” to undermine US democracy.

Vladimir Putin denied the claim.

On July 16, the two leaders held nearly two hours of one-on-one talks without their advisers in Helsinki.

Image NBC News

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Trump-Putin Summit: Donald Trump Defends Russia over Claims of Election Interference

At a news conference after the summit, President Trump was asked if he believed his own intelligence agencies or the Russian president when it came to allegations of meddling in the election.

He replied: “President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

President Trump also blamed poor relations with Russia on past US administrations rather than Russian actions.

US intelligence agencies concluded in 2016 that Russia was behind an effort to tip the scale of the US election against Hillary Clinton, with a state-authorized campaign of cyber attacks and fake news stories planted on social media.

President Trump later backtracked, tweeting that he had “great confidence in my intelligence people”.

He tweeted: “As I said today and many times before, “I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people.” However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past – as the world’s two largest nuclear powers, we must get along! #HELSINKI2018

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President Donald Trump has asked NATO allies to agree to double the current target of their annual GDP to military spending and to commit to 4%.

The White House confirmed President Trump had made the remarks during the NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium.

The meeting also saw Donald Trump single out Germany for criticism over its defense spending.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the main focus should be on all members reaching the current target of 2% of GDP.

He declined to answer a specific question about President Trump’s remarks, but told reporters: “I think we should first get to 2%, focus on that now… the good thing is that we are moving to that.”

For decades after the end of the Cold War, he said, NATO countries had cut defense budgets as tensions fell – and now needed to increase them at a time when tensions were rising.

Image source Reuters

Donald Trump: “All NATO Allies Must Pay Their Fair Share of Defense Spending”

Donald Trump on Angela Merkel, Brexit and NATO

Previous US presidents have urged Europe to take more responsibility for their defense and reduce the burden on US taxpayers of maintaining forces in Europe long after the end of the Cold War – but none as bluntly as President Trump.

Confirming President Trump’s comments, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said: “President Trump wants to see our allies share more of the burden and at a very minimum meet their already stated obligations.”

The NATO summit in Brussels comes less than a week before President Trump is due to hold his first summit with Vladimir Putin, in Helsinki, reviving concerns among US allies over his proximity to the Russian president.

President Trump’s main objection is that all but a handful of member states have still not increased their defense budgets to meet a goal of spending at least 2% of their annual economic output on defense by 2024.

Of NATO’s 29 members, just six meet that target this year: the US, Greece, Estonia, the UK, Romania and Poland.

At a news conference after the first meetings of leaders at the summit, Jens Stoltenberg insisted that more united NATO than divided it.

“We have had discussions, we do have disagreements, but most importantly we have decisions that are pushing this alliance forward and making us stronger.

“In the history of NATO we have had many disagreements and we have been able to overcome them again and again, because at the end of the day we all agree that North America and Europe are safer together.”

All 29 NATO members released a declaration which reaffirmed a commitment to increase military spending.

The communiqué also condemned “Russian aggression”, including the annexation of Crimea, the use of a nerve agent in southern England and “election interference”.

According to recent reports, President Donald Trump is set to reverse the Obama-era policies promoting diversity in universities, known as affirmative action.

On July 3, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked 24 guidance documents, many involving race in schools and affirmative action recommendations.

The move comes as Harvard University faces a discrimination lawsuit alleging it limits admissions for Asian-Americans.

In 2016, the Supreme Court had ruled in favor of affirmative action.

Meanwhile, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the 2016 opinion, announced his retirement from the top Supreme Court last month.

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s departure gives President Donald Trump a chance to appoint a justice who more closely matches the administration’s views on taking race into account in college admissions.

The Trump administration is expected to tell schools not to consider race in the admissions process, discontinuing the policy former President Barack Obama adopted to promote more diversity at colleges and high schools.

Academic affirmative action, which involves favoring minorities during the admissions process in order to promote campus diversity, has long proved controversial in the US.

The lawsuit against Harvard currently filed by the Students for Fair Admissions alleges that the college holds Asian-American applicants to an unfairly high admissions standard.

The DoJ is also currently investigating Harvard over racial discrimination allegations.

In April, the DoJ called for the public disclosure of the Ivy League college’s admissions practices.

Harvard argues it “does not discriminate against applicants from any group, including Asian-Americans”.

According to the university website, Asian-Americans currently make up 22.2% of students admitted to Harvard.

Image source Wikimedia

Michelle Obama once dated Treasury Department Inspector General J. Russell George at Harvard Law School

The guidelines, jointly issued by the education and justice departments under President Barack Obama, encouraged universities to promote diversity on campuses.

The guidance reads: “Learning environments comprised of students from diverse backgrounds provide an enhanced educational experience for individual students.

“By choosing to create this kind of rich academic environment, educational institutions help students sharpen their critical thinking and analytical skills.”

It features ways to encourage diversity, including granting admission preferences to students from certain schools based on demographics and considering a student’s race “among other factors in its admissions procedures”.

The Obama-era policy replaced the Bush-era view that discouraged affirmative action.

The Bush-era guidance had been removed from the government website during the Obama administration, but it has since reappeared.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told the Associated Press she would not debate or discuss the matter of race and college admissions.

According to a Pew Research Center study, 71% of Americans surveyed in October 2017 have a positive view of affirmative action.

Affirmative action, or the idea that disadvantaged groups should receive preferential treatment, first appeared in President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 executive order on federal contractor hiring.

It took shape during the height of the civil rights movement, when President Lyndon Johnson signed a similar executive order in 1965 requiring government contractors to take steps to hire more minorities.

Colleges and universities began using those same guidelines in their admissions process, but affirmative action soon prompted intense debate in the decades following, with several cases appearing before the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has outlawed using racial quotas, but has allowed colleges and universities to continue considering race in admitting students.

President Donald Trump has urged Saudi Arabia to increase its oil production to combat the rising cost of fuel.

He tweeted that he had asked King Salman of Saudi Arabia to raise oil output by up to two million barrels a day.

President Trump said the move was needed due to “turmoil and dysfunction in Iran and Venezuela”.

Oil prices rose last week, partly due to US plans to re-impose sanctions on Iran, a major oil producer.

The OPEC group agreed to increase output, as did Russia, but this failed to reassure markets.

The Saudi Press Agency confirmed that President Trump and King Salman had spoken by phone, giving few details. According to the news agency, they had discussed the need to “preserve the stability of the oil market”.

However, the statement did not confirm that Saudi Arabia had agreed to the two million barrels a day figure.

Image source Public Domain Pictures

Oil Price Climbs 3% After Russia and Saudi Arabia Agreement

Oil prices surge after Saudi Arabia and allies launch air strikes on Houthi fighters in Yemen

Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest exporter of oil and produced about 10 million barrels a day in May. The country is reported to have between 1.5 million and two million barrels a day of spare capacity – but experts told The Wall Street Journal it might not be keen to meet the president’s request.

A Saudi official told the WSJ: “Saudi Arabia does not really like going beyond 11 million barrels a day and has no intention of expanding its current production capacity. It is expensive.”

Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized OPEC even though US ally Saudi Arabia is a core member.

On April 20, President Trump tweeted that oil prices were “artificially very high”, saying this was “no good” and “will not be accepted!”

Iran, another OPEC member, has accused Donald Trump of trying to politicize the group and has blamed Riyadh for doing his bidding.

On June 30, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the US was trying to drive a wedge between Iranians and their government using “economic pressure”.

He cautioned on his website: “Six US presidents before him tried this and had to give up.”

The value of Iranian currency, the rial, has tumbled since the US backed out of the Iran nuclear deal in May.

Earlier this week, thousands of traders at Tehran’s Grand Bazaar marched in protest against rising prices and the plummeting value of the rial. It was the biggest protest Tehran has seen since 2012.

President Donald Trump has announced the search for a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will “begin immediately”.

He said at a rally in North Dakota: “We have to pick one that’s going to be there for 40 years, 45 years.”

The retirement of Justice Kennedy, a conservative who sided with liberals on many votes, gives President Trump the chance to shift the top court’s balance more to the right for decades to come.

The 81-year-old judge will retire on July 31.

Justice Anthony Kennedy made the announcement on June 27, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family after 30 years on the top court. President Trump later praised Justice Kennedy – who held the pivotal vote on many key cases – as “a great justice of the Supreme Court”.

Image source Wikimedia

Supreme Court Upholds Trump’s Travel Ban for Muslim Countries

“Hopefully we are going to pick somebody who will be as outstanding,” the president told reporters at the White House. The judge’s retirement gives President Trump his second Supreme Court pick since he became president, and he has said he will choose from a list of 25 conservative candidates.

The Supreme Court plays a key role in American life and is often the final word on highly contentious laws, disputes between states and the federal government, and final appeals to stay executions.

This week the Supreme Court upheld President Trump’s travel ban which covers people from several Muslim-majority countries, in a 5-4 conservative majority ruling. Earlier this month the court ruled in favor of a baker in Colorado who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

Speaking at the rally in Fargo, North Dakota on June 27, President Trump told supporters that Anthony Kennedy had chosen to retire under his presidency “because he felt confident in me to make the right choice and carry on his great legacy”.

Donald Trump has promised to draw names from the same list from which he picked Neil Gorsuch in February 2017.

Rather than serving fixed terms, the justices serve for life unless they decide to retire. This makes their appointments particularly significant.

Anthony Kennedy, who is the second-oldest justice on the nine-member US Supreme Court, earned a reputation as a swing vote conservative who supported liberal arguments on key decisions, including the 5-4 rulings that decided same-gender marriage and upheld abortion rights.

President Donald Trump has criticized Harley-Davidson motorcycle over its plans to shift production away from the United States in order to avoid EU tariffs.

In a tweet, he said he was surprised that Harley-Davidson had become “the first to wave the white flag”.

The motorcycle maker earlier said making bikes for the European market would be transferred to other countries.

The European Union tariffs are a response to new US duties on steel and aluminum imports.

President Trump tweeted: “Surprised that Harley-Davidson, of all companies, would be the first to wave the White Flag. I fought hard for them and ultimately they will not pay tariffs selling into the E.U., which has hurt us badly on trade, down $151 Billion. Taxes just a Harley excuse – be patient! #MAGA

Image source Wikipedia

Steel Tariffs: EU, Canada and Mexico Plan Retaliatory Moves

China Imposes New Tariffs of Up to 25% on 128 US Imports

On June 25, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters at a briefing that the EU was “attempting to punish US workers with unfair and discriminatory trade policies”.

He added: “President Trump will continue to push for free, fair and reciprocal trade, in hopes that the EU will join us.”

The Wisconsin-based company said the increased costs from the EU tariffs were a “substantial” burden and a threat to its international sales, which it has been trying to expand.

Harley-Davidson has assembly plants in Australia, Brazil, India and Thailand as well as in the US.

The company said it would raise investment in its international plants, though it did not say which ones, adding that it expected the increase in production to take nine to 18 months.

Harley-Davidson said the tariffs would add, on average, $2,200 to each bike exported to Europe from the US as the import tax increases from 6% to 31%.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is visiting China for two days, just a week after meeting President Donald Trump.

Kim Jong-un will most probably discuss sanctions and the commitment he made at the summit, in general terms, to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

China, North Korea’s only economic ally, has already suggested sanctions against North Korea could be eased.

Meanwhile, South Korea and the US have confirmed they have suspended planning for their next joint military drills.

That follows a pledge made by President Trump at the Singapore summit.

Image source Wikimedia

Trump-Kim Summit: Donald Trump Praises Historic Talks With North Korean Leader

Trump-Kim Summit To Take Place at Capella Hotel on Singapore’s Sentosa Island

The visit to China is Kim Jong-un’s third since March, when his first trip abroad since taking office was to meet President Xi Jinping.

Kim Jong-un’s latest visit was, unusually, reported by Chinese state media. However, it gave no details on the agenda.

On June 12, President Trump and Kim Jong-un signed what the US president called a “comprehensive” agreement.

North Korea agreed to denuclearization – something it had also committed to in talks with the South – while President Trump said the US would end its joint military exercises with South Korea.

Ending the war games had been a long-standing demand by both North Korea and China.

However, both South Korea and Japan – the US’s other main ally in Asia – said the joint drills were very important.

President Trump’s announcement appeared to catch South Korea off guard and there was confusion how it would be implemented.

There was also confusion over President Trump calling the drills “provocative”, a term hitherto used by North Korea to describe them. The US had always insisted they are purely defensive in nature.

There are about 29,000 US soldiers based in the South and each year the US and South Korea regularly conduct large scale military drills.

The next military drill was scheduled for August with some 17,500 US military personnel due to take part.

President Donald Trump has praised his historic talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that ended in a joint agreement were “tremendous”.

The agreement includes a pledge from Kim Jong-un to rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons.

However, in an extraordinary media conference later, President Trump announced details not in the paper.

The American president said he would halt US military exercises in South Korea, something widely seen as a concession.

The Singapore meeting was the first time a sitting US president has met North Korea’s leader, and caps a remarkable turnaround for the two.

For both leaders the meeting brought much to gain as well as considerable risk.

The meeting is seen by North Korea as a way of bringing legitimacy to a nation long regarded as a pariah.

The summit centered on nuclear disarmament and reducing tensions.

The agreement said the US and North Korea would co-operate towards “new relations”, while the US would provide “security guarantees” to North Korea.

On nuclear weapons, Kim Jong-un “reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula”.

Observers say the document lacks substance, in particular on how denuclearization would be achieved.

Photo AP

Trump-Kim Summit To Take Place at Capella Hotel on Singapore’s Sentosa Island

Speaking to reporters, President Donald Trump revealed:

  • The US would suspend “provocative” drills it holds with South Korea. He wanted to see US troops withdraw from South Korea. A spokesperson for the US forces said they had yet to receive any new guidance
  • On denuclearization, Kim Jong-un had agreed to it being “verified”, a key US demand ahead of the meeting
  • they had also agreed to destroy a “major missile engine testing site”
  • however, sanctions would remain in place for now and argued “we haven’t given up anything”.

Several reporters asked whether President Trump had raised the issue of human rights with Kim Jong-un, who runs a totalitarian regime with extreme censorship and forced-labor camps.

President Trump said he had, and did not retract his description of Kim Jong-un as “talented”.

He said: “Well, he is very talented.

“Anybody that takes over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and is able to run it and run it tough. I don’t say he was nice.”

In a post-summit interview with ABC News, President Trump said he was confident that the agreement meant full denuclearization.

“Yeah, he’s de-nuking, I mean he’s de-nuking the whole place. It’s going to start very quickly. I think he’s going to start now,” he said.

“I think he trusts me and I trust him,” the president added.

Sitting alongside each other, ahead of a one-on-one meeting, President Trump and Kim Jong-un appeared relaxed against the odds.

Kim Jong-un said: “It was not easy to get here.

“There were obstacles but we overcame them to be here.”

The two leaders, accompanied only by interpreters, spoke for a little under 40 minutes. They were then joined by small delegations of advisers for a working lunch.

Over lunch Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un shared a mix of Western and Korean dishes, including stuffed cucumbers and Daegu jorim, a soy-braised fish dish.

President Donald Trump, who is attending the G7 summit in Canada, says Russia should be part of the group.

Russia was expelled in 2014 following its annexation of Crimea, but President Trump said he wanted the country readmitted.

Fellow members of what was then the G8 suspended Russia after it took control of Crimea, saying it would remain until Russia “changes course”.

The build-up to the meeting has seen major disagreements between President Trump and other nations over his imposition of trade tariffs.

There are also likely to be disagreements with the US president over Iran and climate change.

The G7 summit, which groups the US, the UK, Canada, France, Italy, Japan and Germany, is being held in the town of La Malbaie in Quebec.

Image NBC News

G7: Russia faces further economic sanctions over Ukraine crisis

The leaders of the nations, which represent more than 60% of global net worth, meet annually. Economics tops the agenda, although the meetings now always branch off to cover major global issues.

President Trump said he regretted the meeting had shrunk in size, putting him at odds with most other G7 members on yet another issue.

He said: “You know, whether you like it or – and it may not be politically correct – but we have a world to run and in the G7, which used to be the G8, they threw Russia out. They should let Russia come back in.”

President Trump found support in the shape of the newly installed Italian PM Giuseppe Conte, who tweeted that it was “in the interests of everyone” for Russia to be readmitted.

Canada, France and the UK though immediately signaled they remain opposed to Russian re-entry. A Kremlin spokesperson said they were interested in “other formats”, apart from the G7.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is currently in Beijing, where he was presented with a friendship medal by Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

President Donald Trump has announced his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12 is back on, a week after it was scrapped.

The president made the announcement after talks with senior North Korean envoy Kim Yong-chol at the White House.

General Kim Yong-chol hand-delivered a letter from Kim Jong-un to President Trump.

President Trump at first said the letter was “very interesting” but later said he had not yet opened it.

He also said the issue of formally ending the Korean War would be on the table in Singapore.

The 1950-1953 war only ended with a truce, not a final peace treaty.

Photo AP

North Korea: Former Spy Chief Kim Yong-chol Travels to US for Talks

President Donald Trump Pulls Out of Upcoming North Korea Summit

North Korea Destroyed Punggye-ri Nuclear Tunnels

President Trump told reporters on the White House lawn: “We’ll be meeting on June 12th in Singapore. It went very well.”

“We’ve got to know their people very well,” he added.

President Trump cautioned that the summit might not achieve a final deal on North Korea’s controversial nuclear program.

“I never said it goes in one meeting. I think it’s going to be a process, but the relationships are building and that’s very positive,” President Trump said.

The historic meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un would be the first between sitting US and North Korean leaders. President Trump has offered to help rebuild North Korea’s economy if it scraps its nuclear weapons. Kim Jong-un says he is committed to “denuclearization” in some form but his precise demands are unclear.

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General Kim Yong-chol, one of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s most senior officials, is thought to be travelling to the US, as preparations for a possible summit gather pace.

South Korean news agency Yonhap said Kim Yong-chol was due to arrive in the US on May 30, via Beijing.

His trip to the US could be part of preparation for a proposed meeting between the North Korean leader and President Donald Trump.

The summit was thrown into doubt after President Trump pulled out last week.

However, both sides have been working to get the summit – scheduled for June 12 in Singapore – back on track.

It would be the first time a North Korean leader has met a sitting US president.

Photo AP

President Donald Trump Pulls Out of Upcoming North Korea Summit

North Korea Destroyed Punggye-ri Nuclear Tunnels

Kim Yong-chol was scheduled to fly to New York on May 30, after speaking with Chinese officials in Beijing, Yonhap reported, citing diplomatic sources.

The former spy chief would be the most high-profile North Korean official to visit the US since 2000.

The apparent introduction of Kim Yong-chol to negotiations would be significant, as it would underline North Korea’s desire to ensure the talks go ahead.

He has been part of recent high-profile diplomatic overtures by North Korea.

Kim Yong-chol, 72, is a controversial figure in neighboring South Korea, and previously served as a negotiator in inter-Korean talks.

During his time as a military intelligence head, Kim Yong-chol was accused of being behind attacks on South Korean targets, including the torpedoing of a South Korea warship which killed 46 seamen, as well as the 2014 hacking of Sony Pictures.

As a result of these incidents, the US imposed personal sanctions on him in 2010 and 2015.

Despite reportedly being punished for an “overbearing attitude” in 2016, Kim Yong-chol has continued to hold senior posts in the army and party, and was the head of North Korea’s delegation to the closing ceremony of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.

He is regularly seen at Kim Jongg-un’s side and has attended meetings with the leaders of China and South Korea, and met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Pyongyang.

In February, Kim Yong-chol was sent to the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, where he sat close to President Trump’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump.

President Donald Trump has announced he is canceling a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, saying the world had “lost a great opportunity for lasting peace”.

The American leader said his decision was because of “tremendous anger and open hostility” in a recent North Korean statement.

The summit aimed at ridding the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons and would have been the first time a sitting US president met a North Korean leader.

However, both sides have recently cast doubt on whether the talks would happen.

President Trump’s announcement came just hours after North Korea said it had dismantled tunnels at its only nuclear test site in a move witnessed by foreign reporters.

He said he had been looking forward to the now-canceled summit in Singapore on June 12.

Photo AP

North Korea Destroyed Punggye-ri Nuclear Tunnels

President Trump said: “I was very much looking forward to being there with you. Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have the long-planned meeting.”

“You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used,” he added.

The president called the meeting a “missed opportunity”, saying “someday, I look very much forward to meeting you”.

President Trump was apparently responding to statements from North Korea attacking his administration and casting doubt over the meeting.

Earlier today, North Korean official Choe Son-hui dismissed remarks by US Vice-President Mike Pence – who had said North Korea “may end like Libya” – as “stupid”.

Choe Son-hui, who has been involved in several diplomatic interactions with the US over the past decade, said North Korea would not “beg” for dialogue and warned of a “nuclear showdown” if diplomacy failed.

A White House official quoted by Reuters described the comments about Mike Pence as the “last straw”. They stressed, however, there was a “backdoor that’s open still”.

References to Libya have angered North Korea. There, former leader Colonel Gaddafi gave up his nuclear program only for him to be killed by Western-backed rebels a few years later.

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President Donald Trump has officially disclosed his reimbursement to Michael Cohen, the lawyer who paid actress Stormy Daniels to hush up her claims of an affair.

The Office of Government Ethics found on Wednesday that Donald Trump ought to have revealed the payment in his previous financial disclosure.

The filing shows Donald Trump paid Michael Cohen between $100,001 and $250,000 for expenses incurred in 2016.

President Trump previously denied knowing of the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels.

The White House stated in a footnote to the filing that it was listing the payment “in the interest of transparency”, and contended it did not have to make the disclosure.

However, the head of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) wrote in a letter that “the payment made by Michael Cohen is required to be reported” in the liabilities section of the statement.

In his letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the OGE acting director said: “You may find the disclosure relevant to any inquiry you may be pursuing.”

The deputy attorney general is overseeing the DoJ investigation into whether Trump aides colluded with alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

Image source Wikipedia

President Trump Reimbursed Michael Cohen for Stormy Daniels Hush Money, Says Rudy Giuliani

Stormy Daniels Lawsuit against Michael Cohen Put on Hold for 90 Days

Michael Cohen’s Documents to Be Reviewed by Special Master Barbara Jones

Russia Denies Claims Its Intelligence Has Donald Trump Compromising Info

The Stormy Daniels payment is a potential legal problem for the president because it could be seen as an illegal campaign contribution.

Michael Cohen, whose records relating to the settlement were seized in an FBI raid last month, is now reportedly under criminal investigation.

Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, alleges that she and Donald Trump had been in a hotel room in Lake Tahoe, a resort area between California and Nevada, in 2006. Michael Cohen said his client “vehemently denies” the claim.

If Stormy Daniels’ account is true, the tryst would have happened just a few months after Melania Trump gave birth to her son, Barron, whose father is Donald Trump.

Last month, President Trump said he was unaware Michael Cohen had paid Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 election.

Donald Trump’s payment to Michael Cohen was first confirmed two weeks ago by Rudy Giuliani, another of the president’s attorneys, in a TV interview.

Rudy Giuliani said the transaction was to keep Stormy Daniels quiet about her “false and extortionist accusation” that she had an affair with Donald Trump, suggesting her claim could have damaged his candidacy.

Later that week, President Trump said the newly hired Rudy Giuliani needed time to “get his facts straight”.

On May 16, the Senate Intelligence Committee backed up the American intelligence community’s findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 US election to help Donald Trump.

The panel’s assessment contradicts a conclusion in March by the House Intelligence Committee rejecting allegations that Russia had aimed to boost Donald Trump’s chances.

Donald Trump’s financial disclosure shows millions in 2017 income from rents, licenses, book and TV royalties, company shares, hotel management fees and golf courses, with interests from India to Dubai.

Trump’s Washington hotel in a former Post Office building brought in more than $40 million in 2017, its first full year in operation.

His golf courses, including the Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, did not appear to see major gains, despite frequent visits from the president.

Mar-a-Lago contributed $25 million in income, compared with about $37 million on the previous report.

President Trump reported royalties from his 1987 book The Art of the Deal in the same $100,000-$1 million range as he did last year – and sales for some of his lesser titles picked up.

Many of Donald Trump’s shareholdings are in mutual and index funds, rather than the cross-section of American companies he once owned.

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North Korea has threatened to pull out of a summit with President Donald Trump if the US insists it gives up its nuclear weapons.

The highly anticipated meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is due to take place on June 12.

However, in an angry statement, North Korea’s vice-foreign minister accused the US of making reckless statements and of harboring sinister intentions.

Kim Kye-gwan pointed the finger squarely at US National Security Adviser John Bolton.

He said: “We do not hide our feeling of repugnance towards him.”

The groundbreaking agreement for Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump to meet came about as North Korea said it was committed to denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

Photo AP

President Trump Welcomes Three American Detainees Freed by North Korea

Donald Trump to Meet Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12

Exactly what that would entail has remained unclear, but North Korea has invited foreign media to witness the dismantling of its main nuclear test site later this month.

John Bolton recently said North Korea could follow a “Libya model” of verifiable denuclearization, but this alarms Pyongyang, which watched Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi give up his nuclear program only for him to be killed by Western-backed rebels a few years later.

Kim Kye-gwan’s statement, carried by North Korea’s state media, said that if the US “corners us and unilaterally demands we give up nuclear weapons we will no longer have an interest in talks” and “will have to reconsider” attending the June 12 summit in Singapore.

The official said North Korea did have “high hopes” but that it was “very unfortunate that the US is provoking us ahead of the summit by spitting out ludicrous statements”.

He is known to be highly respected in the North Korean leadership and has taken part in negotiations with the US before. There is very little chance Kim Kye-gwan;s comments were not personally endorsed by Kim Jong-un.

Hours before the announcement, in a sign of growing problems, Pyongyang has also pulled out of a meeting scheduled with South Korea on May 16 because of anger over the start of US-South Korean joint military drills.

Pyonyang had earlier said it would allow them to go ahead, but then called them “a provocative military ruckus” which was undermining its diplomatic efforts.

The sudden change in tone from North Korea is said to have taken US officials by surprise. Analysts said Pyongyang could be trying to strengthen its hand before talks.

The US state department said it was continuing to plan the Trump-Kim meeting, and President Trump is yet to comment.

The US is moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Top US officials will attend the opening ceremony of the new embassy, including President Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner.

The move is praised by Israel but condemned by Palestinians who are gathering for mass protests. Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as their own future capital, and see the US move as backing Israeli control over the whole city.

For its part, Israel considers all of Jerusalem as its indivisible capital.

Last year, President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital broke with decades of American neutrality on the issue, and put it at odds with most of the international community.

Image source Wikimedia

Donald Trump’s Jerusalem Announcement Sparks Protests in Occupied West Bank

Donald Trump’s Jerusalem Announcement Sparks Outrage in Arab World

President Donald Trump Recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital

A small interim embassy will start operating on May 14 inside the existing US consulate building in Jerusalem.

A larger site will be found later when the rest of the embassy moves from Tel Aviv.

The opening ceremony was brought forward to coincide with the state of Israel’s 70th anniversary.

President Donald Trump is expected to address those attending May 14 event via video link.

Alongside senior White House advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan will be at the ceremony.

The EU has voiced strong objections to the embassy move.

Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu called on “all countries to join the US in moving their embassies to Jerusalem”.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has described President Trump’s decision as the “slap of the century”.

Thousands of Palestinians are gathering for a protest along the perimeter fence that separates Israel and the Gaza Strip on May 14.

The timing of the embassy move has led to concerns about increased tension in Gaza.

Since the end of March, more than 40 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers in protests at the border.

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has accused Israel of using “excessive force”.

Israel maintains it has acted legitimately to protect its civilians from militants trying to breach the border.

President Donald Trump has announced he will meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on 12 June.

The president tweeted: “We will both try to make it a very special moment for World Peace!”

Two months ago, President Trump stunned the world by accepting an invitation to meet Kim Jong-un for an unprecedented sit-down.

Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un had previously exchanged insults and threats. The breakthrough came after landmark talks between North Korea and South Korea.

The president’s announcement came hours after he welcomed home three American detainees released by North Korea.

Their release came during a visit to North Korea by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to arrange details of the meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.

Photo AP

President Trump Welcomes Three American Detainees Freed by North Korea

Mike Pompeo Makes Second Visit to North Korea Ahead of Trump-Kim Summit

CIA Director Mike Pompeo Had Secret Meeting with Kim Jong-un in North Korea

No sitting US president has ever met a North Korean leader.

According to the White House, the American citizens detained in North Korea were freed as a gesture of goodwill ahead of the summit, which President Trump earlier said he thought would be a “big success”.

The key issue expected to be discussed is North Korea’s nuclear weapons program – over which Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un furiously sparred in 2017.

North Korea has carried out six nuclear tests since 2006, despite international condemnation and sanctions, saying it needs the weapons for its own security.

The US wants North Korea to give up its weapons program completely and irreversibly.

Ahead of the meeting, Kim Jong-un has pledged to stop nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile launches, and also to shut down a nuclear test site.

However, analysts caution that Kim Jong-un is unlikely to easily abandon nuclear weapons that he has pushed so hard to obtain, and that “denuclearization” means something quite different to both sides.

The US and Singapore have a close relationship. Singapore has diplomatic ties with North Korea but suspended all trade with the country in November 2017 as international sanctions were tightened.

Other locations which had been considered for the Trump-Kim summit included Mongolia and the Korean border’s demilitarized zone (DMZ).

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Three American detainees, who were released by North Korea earlier, have been welcomed home by President Trump.

President Trump said it was a “special night for these really great people” as they arrived at the Andrews Air Force Base near Washington.

According to the White House, Kim Hak-song, Tony Kim and Kim Dong-chul had been freed as a gesture of goodwill ahead of the planned meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

President Trump said he thought the summit would be “a big success”.

The date and location have been decided but not yet announced.

President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump entered the plane after it landed at about 02:45 local time and a few minutes later emerged with the three men to wave to the media.

The president said he appreciated that Kim Jong-un had allowed the men to leave as “frankly we didn’t think that was going to happen before the meeting”.

Photo AP

Mike Pompeo Makes Second Visit to North Korea Ahead of Trump-Kim Summit

CIA Director Mike Pompeo Had Secret Meeting with Kim Jong-un in North Korea

President Trump Fires Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Naming CIA Director Mike Pompeo as Replacement

Asked if this was his proudest achievement, President Trump said that would be “when we denuclearize that entire peninsula”.

He said: “It’s a great honor. But the true honor is going to be if we have a victory in getting rid of nuclear weapons.”

Of the upcoming summit, President Trump said: “I think that we’re going to have… a very big success… I really think we have a very good chance of doing something very meaningful.”

He said he hoped he could travel to North Korea one day and that he believed Kim Jong-un wanted to bring his country “into the real world”.

The three men were smiling and waving and appeared in good health.

In an impromptu chat before the media with President Trump, Kim Dong-chul said: “It’s like a dream and we are very, very happy. We were treated in many different ways. For me, I had to do a lot of labor. But when I got sick I was also treated by them.”

Kim Hak-song, Tony Kim and Kim Dong-chul had released an earlier statement saying: “We would like to express our deep appreciation to the United States government, President Trump, Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo and the people of the United States for bringing us home.

“We thank God and all our families and friends who prayed for us and for our return.”

The three men had been jailed for anti-state activities and placed in labor camps.

Their release came during a visit to North Korea by Mike Pompeo to arrange details of the meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un.

According to the North Korean state news agency KCNA, Kim Jong-un said he had accepted a US proposal to grant the three detainees an amnesty, adding that his meeting with President Trump would be an “excellent first step” towards improving the situation on the Korean peninsula.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is making a second surprise visit to North Korea, with speculation growing that he will bring home three jailed Americans.

His visit is intended to lay the groundwork for a historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump.

Mike Pompeo told reporters he was hoping to finalize plans for talks, which are likely to focus on denuclearization.

However, the release of the detainees is a central issue for the Americans.

A South Korean presidential official told news agency Yonhap that North Korea was expected to release the US citizens as a “goodwill gesture”.

Mike Pompeo said he hoped Pyongyang would “do the right thing” and release three Americans imprisoned in North Korea.

He said: “We’ve been asking for the release of these detainees for 17 months.”

Image source Wikimedia

Mike Pompeo Confirmed as Secretary of State

CIA Director Mike Pompeo Had Secret Meeting with Kim Jong-un in North Korea

President Trump Fires Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Naming CIA Director Mike Pompeo as Replacement

North Korea has historically used its foreign prisoners as leverage in its diplomatic dealings.

One of the detainees was jailed in 2015, the other two have been in prison for just over a year. Their convictions have been widely condemned as political and an abuse of human rights.

The last American to be freed – Otto Warmbier, who was jailed for stealing a hotel sign – was released last year but was fatally ill, and died shortly after returning home. The cause of death remains unexplained.

Mike Pompeo said a “good relationship” was formed at the first meeting in April, which marked the highest level US contact with North Korea since 2000.

A state department official travelling with Mike Pompeo said the US would also be “listening for signs from North Korea that things have substantially changed” with the nation’s nuclear ambitions.

Last month, President Trump stunned the international community by accepting North Korea’s suggestion for direct talks – it will be an unprecedented move for a sitting US president to meet a North Korean leader.

President Trump referred to Mike Pompeo’s latest visit while announcing that the US was withdrawing from the nuclear agreement with Iran.