Although the US and most developed countries are nominally democratic, many of us seem to be again yearning for a man on a white horse, and in the current era, the horse ridden is corporate. On Health Care Renewal, we having been talking about this pheonomenon for a long time. We have written about it in terms of the messianic (or visionary, or charistmatic) CEO, CEO disease, and the imperial CEO.
These concerns are diffusing into the broader media. For example, from the introduction to a revent Vox article entitled "The Problem with CEO Worship"
Society has always had heroes, be those of war or art or politics. But entrepreneurs are particularly suited for our current moment, in which success in business is our primary marker of achievement. Business acumen doesn’t just get you money anymore; it can make you the most powerful man in the world.
The signs of CEO worship are everywhere: unprecedented venture capital funding for founders, media overemphasis on company leaders, and to use the most extreme and obvious example, the election of Donald Trump.
That article noted that CEO worship may overestimate the importance of leaders; create "secular fundamentalists" out of individuals; perpetuate destructive neoliberal ideologies; encourage CEOs to make worse decisions; and be bad for business
Those are not the only consequences. CEO worship makes it possible for a progressively impaired leader to go unconstrained. Unfortunately, we may be seeing the ultimate example of this in the US.
Incoherent Verbal Utterances
Even before he was elected, we noted that Donald Trump sometimes was completely incoherent when describing his health policy ideas. In early 2016 we raised questions about Donald Trump's cognition. At that time, a conservative columnist labelled as "word salad" Trump's attempts to sketch a position on health care, specifically the "mandate" provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). We found other examples of his utterances on health care policy that could be characterized as gibberish. This one was short, if not sweet
I want to keep pre-existing conditions. I think we need it. I think it’s a modern age. And I think we have to have it.
How could anyone understand this while listening in real time? A close reading suggests that maybe this was meant to suggest that some people ought to have insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions. However, Trump seemed to befuddled by that concept. Furthermore, note that pre-existing conditions are not desireable, so that one would not want to "keep" them, nor can one choose not to. To what the word "it" in the second sentence and again in the fourth refers is unclear. The third sentence seems to be a complete non sequitur.
We found additional examples of incoherent verbal responses about health care in 2017, and early 2018. In the last six months, things have only gotten worse. Examples of verbal incoherence have multiplied, although most were not related to health care.
I have broken more Elton John records, he seems to have a lot of records. And I, by the way, I don’t have a musical instrument. I don’t have a guitar or an organ. No organ. Elton has an organ. And lots of other people helping. No we’ve broken a lot of records. We’ve broken virtually every record. Because you know, look I only need this space. They need much more room. For basketball, for hockey and all of the sports, they need a lot of room. We don’t need it. We have people in that space. So we break all of these records. Really we do it without like, the musical instruments. This is the only musical: the mouth. And hopefully the brain attached to the mouth. Right? The brain, more important than the mouth, is the brain. The brain is much more important.
Perhaps this was meant to suggest that the president drew a larger crowd to an arena than did Elton John. However, note the non-sequiturs: from "Elton has an organ" to "lots of other people helping" to "we've broken a lot of records," "They need much more room, for basketball, for hockey..." Who are the people helping whom are they helping, and to do what? What records were broken by whom, and how is this relevant to Elton John, etc. To whom does they refer, and why do they need a lot of room? Etc, Etc. Again, in real time this would have made no sense at all
In fact, the president was difficult to follow because he simply doesn’t make any sense half the time.
Trump was asked one specific question about health care, and good luck to anyone who tries to figure out what his answer meant. He pretty clearly has just as little idea what he’s talking about on most major policy issues as he did when he first started running for president. On Jamal Khashoggi, waivers on Iranian sanctions, North Korea and Russia, he either ducked the questions with non sequiturs or just babbled.
When President Donald Trump met with Dalia Grybauskaitė of Lithuania, Kersti Kaljulaid of Estonia and Raimonds Vējonis of Latvia earlier this year, he started with a criticism. At the White House in April, Trump opened by chastising the Baltic leaders for starting the war in the 1990s that ended with the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. The Baltic leaders were apparently very confused and it took them 'a moment' to realize that the commander in chief was confusing Baltic states with the Balkans
this case is particularly notable considering Melania Trump is originally from the Balkans. The first lady was born in Slovenia, which gained independence in 1991 at the start of the Balkan wars. As Le Monde wrote, Trump remained 'apparently uneducated in the matter by his wife, Melania, originally from the former Yugoslavia.'
This suggests at best that at times Trump may be unable to distinguish words that sound vaguely alike but have quite different meanings.
And I’m not blaming anybody, but I’m just telling you I think that the Fed is way off-base with what they’re doing, number one. Number two, a positive note, we’re doing very well on trade, we’re doing very well — our companies are very strong. Don’t forget we’re still up from when I came in 38 percent or something. You know, it’s a tremendous — it’s not like we’re up — and we’re much stronger. And we’re much more liquid. And the banks are now much more liquid during my tenure. And I’m not doing – I’m not playing by the same rules as Obama. Obama had zero interest to worry about; we’re paying interest, a lot of interest. He wasn’t paying down — we’re talking about $50 billion lots of different times, paying down and knocking out liquidity. Well, Obama didn’t do that. And just so you understand, I’m playing a normalization economy whereas he’s playing a free economy. It’s easy to make money when you’re paying no interest. It’s easy to make money when you’re not doing any pay-downs, so you can’t — and despite that, the numbers we have are phenomenal numbers.
The author of the article stated,
I have basically no idea what Trump is talking about here, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t either.
On repeated close reading, I still do not have any idea what Trump meant. I would add the following questions: 38 percent of what? Who is much more liquid, and how is liquid defined? Who is paying a lot of interest? What does "paying down and knocking out liquidity" mean? What is a "normalization economy?" Note that this was coming from someone who claims to be a brilliant business manager.
Furthermore, consider what Trumps aid about the climate,
And when you’re talking about an atmosphere, oceans are very small. And it blows over and it sails over. I mean, we take thousands of tons of garbage off our beaches all the time that comes over from Asia. It just flows right down the Pacific, it flows, and we say where does this come from. And it takes many people to start off with.
Oceans are "small?" What "blows over and sails over?" Over what? What "flows?" What "takes many people?"
STAT reviewed decades of Trump’s on-air interviews and compared them to Q&A sessions since his inauguration.
To summarize the conclusions.
The differences are striking and unmistakable.
Research has shown that changes in speaking style can result from cognitive decline. STAT therefore asked experts in neurolinguistics and cognitive assessment, as well as psychologists and psychiatrists, to compare Trump’s speech from decades ago to that in 2017; they all agreed there had been a deterioration, and some said it could reflect changes in the health of Trump’s brain.
In 2018, Trump's verbal communications at times are even more garbled. Parts of the passages above suggest the word salad produced by somebody with fluent aphasia versus the nonsensical responses produced by patients suffering from acute delusional states. That Trump is capable of producing this sort of word salad at times, without realizing he is making no sense, suggests the intermittent symptoms seen early in progressive dementia.
Lack of Insight About Cognition
Furthermore, Trump appears to lack insight about his difficulties commicating.
In July, 2018, after the NATO conference, Politico reported, that Trump seemed to have no insight about why much of what he says appears unbelievable to others. The article noted
leaders who spent the first 18 months of Trump’s presidency thinking there might be a method to his chaos creation — and struggling to discern what it might be — now seem to have concluded that it’s just chaos, and that Trump himself may not understand what he’s doing.
More specifically, European officials commented on what Trump was saying:
A senior NATO official said leaders had concluded that they simply could not rely on anything Trump said.
'You know the way he speaks, you cannot take him literally,' the official said.
Another EU official echoed the point. 'He speaks a language that doesn’t match with diplomacy,' the second official said. 'We were used to the Brits, who speak a more frank diplomatic language, but this is another thing.'
These officials again seemed to be stating that Trump's verbiage can be completely incoherent, albeit they were doing so diplomatically. After the conference, however, when confronted with a question about the inconsistency of his remarks,
When a Croatian journalist confronted Trump about his inconsistencies, the president flatly denied there were any, and he repeated a defense of his own sanity that he had made when previously questioned about his fitness for the presidency.
'We understand your message, but some people ask themselves, will you be tweeting differently once you board the Air Force One?' the reporter said.
Trump, speaking at his news conference before leaving the summit, replied: 'No, that's other people that do that. I don’t. I’m very consistent. I’m a very stable genius.'
Not to belabor the point, but the examples noted above suggest neither consistency nor stability. And true geniuses almost never boast about their intellect.
In September, 2018, The Hill reported an interview with Trump in which he said his personal health and management style were reasons that Republicans might do better than expected in the 2018 elections,
'You know, I took that test when I got my last physical, and the doctor said that’s one of the highest scores we’ve ever seen,' Trump said. 'I did that not because I wanted but I did it, I was always good at testing.'
He continued: 'But if there’s anything great about me it’s stability, and I’m a good manager. Always been a good manager, but you know, I have a vision,'
Note that above Trump was presumably referring to the screening test for dementia he took during his official physical examination. High scores on the test are common, and do not signify great intelligence, just the probable absence of dementia.
In addition, this interpretation assumes that the test was administered in an unbiased way. However, there are reasons to question whether Trump's physical was unbiased. In retrospect, we now know that soon after taking the test, Trump nominated the physician who administered it to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Later the physician withdrew his name after allegations of his questionable personal behavior appeared (look here).
At least Trump's boast about having "a vision" does correspond to the language often used by public relations spokespeople to justify their CEOs' lack of accountability and high compensation (look here)
Similarly, in the Vox summary of the November, 2018, Washington Post interview (see above for link), Trump stated
a lot of people like myself - we have very high levels of intelligence
Finally, a November 18, 2018 article in MediaIte described this interchange between Trump and interviewer Chris Wallace on Fox News, starting with his response to a question about how he makes decisions
'I don’t think about them,' Trump replied. 'I don’t think about, you know, how I make them....'
However, he responded to a question about Federal Reserve policy
They're making a mistake because I have a gut, and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else's brain can ever tell me
This suggests that Trump has lost insight into his own thinking.
External Observers Suggested Trump Is Cogitively Impaired
More than ever, Trump is acting by feeling and instinct. 'Trump is nuts,' said one former West Wing official. 'This time really feels different.' Deputy Chief of Staff Bill Shine has privately expressed concern, a source said, telling a friend that Trump’s emotional state is 'very tender.' Even Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are unsettled that Trump is so gleefully acting on his most self-destructive impulses as his legal peril grows.
[Dr] Lee told Salon that two Trump administration officials approached her after the book was published to express their concern about the president’s mental health, saying he was 'scaring' them because he was 'unraveling.'
In comments to Newsweek over email, Lee said 'it appeared that the officials (if they were officials at all) were at least frequently in [Trump’s] presence.
She continued, 'They were definitely calling from within the White House, which I confirmed by calling back their number. However, I did not ask about their rank. There was no reason for me to doubt they were high-ranking enough to have regular access to the president.'
Lee also said that a 'person [who] was a friend of his entire family, since his childhood” had also been in touch with her at the same time in October 2017, as people in the White House were “stating concern about the president (this was an observation from afar).'
Also in September, 2018, a Politico review of the new book by Robert Woodward based on numerous White House interviews suggested that Trump's inner circle called him a "dope," "idiot," or "moron."
Donald Trump is the chief executive officer of arguably the most powerful country in the world. Starting during his campaign for the US presidency, we noted that his utterances about health care were at times so incoherent as to suggest cognitive dysfunction. In the two years since then, especially in the last six months, he has increasingly been noted to be verbally incoherent or confused, has seemed to lack insight about these episodes, and has been observed by close allies and associates to be cognitively impaired.
However, there have ben few, at best, public attempts to link these suggestions of cognitive impairment together, nor to discuss their implications. The most recent of those that I have found was in January, 2018 (look here and here). Yet the problems appear to have been getting worse since then.
While patients with worsening cognitve impairment deserve accurate diagnosis, compassionate care, and access to what few effective, safe treatments may be available for their condition, they obviously should not be in a position to make consequential decisions. They certainly should not be in charge of large organizations, particularly powerful countries with nuclear weapons.
Yet President Trump's apparent cognitive decline remains anechoic.
For this we may blame CEO worship, which we have too often seen in health care. We have seen many health care leaders praised for their brilliance and paid royally despite leadership resulting in financial distress, threats to the organizations' health care missions, poor patient care, unethical behavior, or even crime. Yet health care CEOs, like other corporate CEOs, and like politicians are just people, sometimes smart, but almost never brilliant. Promoting them as messianic to bewitch key constituencies, justify the remuneration of other top managers, and the hiring of more public relations flacks is likely to lead to the sort of organizational disasters and system-wide dysfunction we discuss on Health Care Renewal. The rise of the falsely messianic leader may allow the entry of the most dangerous false messiahs, the psychopathic ones. (We discussed the likelihood that some health care leaders are actually psychopaths here.)
We must get quickly past our worship of CEOs. We may not long survive in a world where leaders of nuclear armed nations have no cognitive clothes.
This month we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To mark the occasion, we have asked Human Rights Watch experts to reflect on some of the key human rights challenges in their area of specialty.
In the 80s and 90s, Newsweek Magazine delivered US women the cheery news that they were more likely to be killed by a terrorist than to find a husband after age 40. There were too many women—supposedly—and not enough men, and women were the losers. And, of course, staying single was a horrible fate.
The World Health Organization says the natural sex ratio at birth is about 105 boys to every 100 girls and its best to have equal numbers of men and women in a society. You need a few extra boys for balance, because men die earlier.
We are learning right now what happens when the sex ratio becomes wildly out of whack, through a huge unintended experiment. In the world’s two most populated countries—China and India—there is a serious woman shortage.
For example, for several decades in China, the most populated country in the world, sex ratios at birth have been much higher than 105, sometimes exceeding 120 boys for every 100 girls. Many parts of India, the second most populated country, have also, for decades, had a sex ratio at birth significantly higher than 105. The consequence is that in those countries combined—which together have a population of about 2.73 billion—there are now an estimated 80 million extra men. “Nothing like this has happened in human history,” the Washington Post wrote in an April 2018 article.
In India, many families used sex-selective abortion to choose boys, prompting the passage of a law that made it illegal to screen for the sex of the fetus and conduct sex-selective abortions. In China, similar decisions were encouraged by the “one-child” policy in place from 1979 to 2015, which prompted many parents to decide that their sole child must be a boy.
The common thread is gender discrimination—from garden-variety sexism to practical concerns about sons being more likely to financially support parents in old age and provide grandchildren, while daughters are expected to live with their in-laws—which is hardly unique to China and India. When women lack equal rights and patriarchy is deeply engrained, it is no surprise that parents choose to not to have daughters.
But there are consequences. For example, China now has a huge, and growing, gender gap among the generations most likely to be seeking a spouse—a bride shortage. Experts project that many of the extra men will never marry; others may go to extreme measures to do so.
The woman shortage is having harmful consequences in China and sometimes in neighboring countries. Human Rights Watch looked at one of those consequences for a report forthcoming in 2019 focused on bride-trafficking from Myanmar to China. In Myanmar’s Kachin and northern Shan states, bordering China, long-standing conflict escalated in recent years, displacing over 100,000 people. Traffickers prey on vulnerable women and girls, offering jobs in, and transport to, China. Then they sell them, for around $3,000 to $13,000, to Chinese families struggling to find brides for their sons. Once purchased, women and girls are typically locked in a room and raped repeatedly, with the goal of getting them pregnant quickly so they can provide a baby for the family. After giving birth, some are allowed to escape—but forced to leave their children behind.
There is evidence of similar patterns of bride migration and trafficking in Cambodia, North Korea, and Vietnam, and more may emerge from other countries bordering China. Importing women doesn’t solve the shortage—it spreads it.
Trafficking is only one consequence. The woman shortage has also been linked to other forms of violence against women. Other consequences include social instability, labor market distortions, and economic shifts.
There is irony here. When there are too many women, women lose. When there are too few women … women again lose. But the truth is we all lose. We know that skewed sex ratios are already having harmful consequences and we do not fully understand what other long-term consequences there may be for societies affected by these disparities.
China ended the “one-child” policy but continued restricting reproductive rights through a new “two-child” policy. It has banned sex-selective abortion. But such prohibitions are often both ineffective and a threat to women’s rights to access abortion and make their own reproductive choices.
China, India, and other affected countries need to act urgently to mitigate the effects of the woman shortage. They should carefully examine the consequences of the woman shortage, including links to trafficking and other forms of violence against women. More importantly, they need to do much more to tackle the fundamental cause of the demographic imbalance—gender discrimination and the distaste for daughters that it breeds.
In late 2016, South Koreans took to the streets for months of massive protests against government corruption that became known as the “Candlelight Revolution.” At one point, crowds in Seoul were estimated at over 1 million. The overwhelmingly peaceful protests deposed President Park Geun-hye and landed her behind bars. The protesters achieved tangible results, garnering international praise for their organized, nonviolent political activism.
Now, hundreds of thousands of Koreans are back in the streets, and though they haven’t swelled to quite the same size as the anti-Park demonstrations, they are once again too large to ignore. These protests, which began in June, are against the presence of about 500 Yemeni refugees on the island of Jeju (the nation’s southernmost territory and a tourism hot spot billed as “Korea’s Hawaii”). On an island with 660,000 residents, and in a nation of over 50 million, it’s a negligible amount of people—especially considering that South Korea has the 11th-largest economy in the world. But 500 is considered far too many in a country that accepts fewer refugees than almost any comparable nation. (Only about 4 percent of applicants are accepted.)
More than 3 million Yemenis have been displaced by the brutal war between a U.S.-backed Saudi Arabia–led coalition and the Houthi rebels, and tens of millions more are at risk of cholera and malnutrition. The U.N. has dubbed it the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world. But many Koreans are convinced that the Yemenis are somehow “fake” refugees because they have cellphones and clean clothes.
For a country intimately familiar with wartime refugees resulting from its own bloody conflict, the hostile attitudes can be difficult for foreigners to grasp. Since 1953, up to 300,000 North Koreans have fled the country, and over 30,000 defectors currently live in South Korea.
The Yemenis began trickling in from nearby majority-Muslim country Malaysia (also featuring visa-free access, leading many Yemenis to seek refuge there initially) in December 2017, which is when budget carrier AirAsia began direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Jeju. Previously, the resort island waived visa requirements for many foreign travelers to promote tourism (which has resulted in legions of Chinese travelers drawn by its famous beaches; this is yet another sore spot for locals). The government has since slammed that window shut, removing Yemen from the list of accepted countries for visa-free entry in June. The move elicited international criticism and appeared to be a concession to the protesters.
An anti-asylum online petition broke records last summer, drawing over 700,000 signatures and forcing President Moon Jae-in (himself a child of North Korean wartime refugees) to vow tighter screening and enhanced border control. The government has so far refused to grant the Yemenis official refugee status, instead giving them one-year residence permits and initially containing them to Jeju—where they have received a frigid reception for a subtropical volcanic island.
“I suppose I have a negative viewpoint because Muslims have had a lot of criminals and terrorists in other places” says Park Jong-hee, a 21-year-old college student. “I’m afraid of sexual violence against women.”
Song Jae-hyun, a 38-year-old entertainer, is somewhere in the middle. “Korea does need more policies to promote acceptance of different cultures. Yet there are also many foreign criminals in Jeju, and the people there are concerned about damage to their way of life.”
Widespread youth unemployment and economic disenfranchisement play a role in these sentiments, as does the monocultural country’s deeply ingrained xenophobia and racism. Like its neighbor Japan, South Korea is a country where the foreign population is below 5 percent. Some Jeju residents are so afraid of the asylum-seekers that they no longer allow their children to play outside. There is a widespread perception that the Yemeni refugees are potential job stealers, rapists, or terrorists—or simply that they won’t assimilate.
“The Yemeni refugees do not accept different cultures. My friends in Jeju have told me about this,” Park Jong-hee adds.
The debate over the refugees comes at the same time as a controversy involving K-pop’s biggest act, the boy band BTS. Last month they were featured on Time magazine’s cover, after previously being named one of the 25 most influential people on the internet. In September, the group was invited to speak at the U.N. General Assembly, following in the footsteps of entertainer-activists like Emma Watson. But the group has also come under fire for several incidents, including one where a member was photographed smiling and wearing a Nazi-era SS Death’s Head hat, and another where they posed for a crass photo shoot at a Holocaust memorial. More recently, another member wore a T-shirt depicting two atom-bomb mushroom clouds and a slogan appearing to celebrate the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, leading to more friction between the always-tense relations between Japan and Korea.
Lee Taek-Gwang Lee, a cultural critic and professor at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, told the Guardian these scandals are symptomatic of the nation’s struggle to reconcile nationalist sentiments with its growing global cultural presence: “BTS insist they are a global brand, but their identity is rooted in Korean nationalism, as it is with many young South Koreans,” he said.
Bigotry and xenophobia can’t shoulder all of the blame—economic conditions and insecurity about the future are also driving these protests. Youth unemployment nationwide is close to 10 percent, and that likely contributed to an all-time low of marriages in 2017. Like their American counterparts, young Koreans are putting off marriage until they feel more economically stable. A popular internet meme among young Koreans is “Hell Joseon,” (meaning “Hell Korea”) which can refer to economic inequality, youth unemployment, the notoriously brutal Korean work culture that is literally killing people, and a host of other social issues. Predictably, President Moon’s approval rating has been falling as the unemployment rate has risen.
Of course, the angriest voices are the loudest, but there’s certainly no shortage of Koreans with more sympathetic views. Lee Jin, a 36-year-old academic director at a private academy (or hagwon) views the refugees through a historical lens. “During and after the Korean War, we got a lot of international help from other countries. It’s important to do something in return, and help these refugees,” she says.
“Racism does contribute, but this young generation doesn’t have a clue about the past, and the favors our country was given—favors that we need to return to others. A lot of people simply don’t want to share even any little piece of the pie.”
Some Jeju residents have been welcoming, opening their homes to these asylum-seekers. Local civic groups, religious organizations, and expat teachers have teamed up to create the Jeju People’s Coalition for Refugee Rights, working to provide food, housing, and Korean language classes for the Yemenis.
Esmail al-Qublani, a 31-year-old Yemeni refugee currently still in Jeju, says that “overall, it was a great welcome. Because this is a tourist island, we actually haven’t encountered much xenophobia.” The hardest part for al-Qublani, a journalist in his home country, has been employment. “Finding work on Jeju island has been very difficult, but now there are more opportunities since a lot of us have traveled to the mainland.” So why are they being labeled “fake” by some Koreans?
“You’d have to ask them,” he says, his voice heavy with exhaustion. “We are only humans. We are refugees from a war. If they can get to know us, they will come to understand our reality by getting to know us one by one—if they want. We’re easy to make friends with.”
Lee Yu-lim, an unemployed 24-year-old woman, noted that “they came to Korea because their life was so hard. I feel empathy for them. And not all Islamic people are terrorists.” As far as the economic effects, Lee sees it as a positive: “They can start businesses, create more jobs, and help to grow the economy.” Indeed, a Yemeni restaurant opened in November: Wardah (Arabic for flower) already seems pretty popular with the locals.
But the hostility remains. Lee Hyang, the leader of an anti-refugee activist group in Jeju, told a Bloomberg reporter the refugees are “not only a threat to our people, but they’re also a threat to our future generation, because of our youth unemployment issue … they’re not even real refugees. If they were women or babies, I would believe them, but they’re able-bodied men. They’re fake, like fake news.”
The bottom line is that even after months, South Korea has refused to grant even a single Yemeni refugee status—although in October, 339 were granted the humanitarian visa. This means they can finally leave the island and travel within the mainland peninsula, but their ability to seek employment is curtailed, and they won’t receive rights that official refugee status would grant (among them health care, labor insurance, and the opportunity to bring their families into the country).
Though it’s one of the world’s richest countries, and one that was founded by a devastating war that sparked its own refugee crisis, many Koreans still aren’t ready to open their country’s door to others.
Benjamin Malcolm contributed reporting to this piece.
It seems all that was needed to cool off a trade war that had kept much of the global economy on edge was a two-hour dinner in Buenos Aires. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed Saturday night that they would put a burgeoning trade war on pause for the next 90 days as both leaders said they wouldn’t impose new tariffs for 90 days while the world’s two largest economies negotiate a longer-term deal. The truce was called after a dinner that took place after the end of the Group of 20 summit in Argentina.
“Both sides believe that the principled agreement reached between the two presidents has effectively prevented the further expansion of economic frictions between the two countries,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters. As part of the agreement, Trump will keep tariffs on around $200 billion worth of Chinese goods at 10 percent, and won’t raise them to 25 percent as previously threatened. In exchange, “China will agree to purchase a not yet agreed upon, but very substantial, amount of agricultural, energy, industrial, and other product from the United States to reduce the trade imbalance between our two countries,” the White House said in a statement.
The deadline for the longer deal though seems pretty strict as both countries agreed that if a final deal isn’t reached within 90 days then the 10 percent tariffs will automatically increase to 25 percent. And some aren’t very optimistic a deal will be able to be reached considering the preliminary agreement doesn’t tackle any of the toughest issues that have bedeviled past efforts at compromise. Yet even those who said the preliminary deal didn’t really move the needle on trade agreed the two sides did seem to make progress on cooperating on North Korea and restricting Chinese shipments of the addictive opioid fentanyl.
For most of human history, kinship was both the source and substance of political power. Except in a few out-of-the-way places like North Korea and Saudi Arabia, dynastic rule has now faded away, but it is nonetheless striking how important family connections remain in American public life. The Caseys of Pennsylvania (Robert, governor; Robert Jr., senator), the Cuomos of New York (Mario and Andrew, governors), the Daleys of Chicago (Richard J. and Richard M., mayors) are just a few of the names on the long list of America’s prominent political families. It may be misleading to describe these families as “dynasties” since most do not last more than two generations. Moreover, almost all of them remain closely tied to a particular city or region; only a few (the Kennedys and Bushes are the obvious examples) manage to succeed at the national level. Both these limitations are apparent in the remarkable careers of the Browns (Edmund J., known as Pat, and Edmund J. Jr., known as Jerry), the subjects of Miriam Pawel’s deeply researched and engagingly written book. The Browns’ political prominence, begun when Pat won his first election in 1943, will almost certainly end in 2019, when Jerry completes his fourth term as governor. Both father and son failed dismally when they tried to project their influence beyond the borders of their state. As the title of Pawel’s book tells us, the story of the Brown family is, above all, a California story.
For the Browns, California meant San Francisco, where Pat (in 1905) and Jerry (in 1938) were born and reared. Although “the city” prided itself on its cosmopolitanism (some even called it “the Paris of America”), pre–World War II San Francisco was an insular, provincial town. It was run by people who had known each other from childhood (my parents, members of Pat Brown’s generation, met in the first grade), went to the same schools (Lowell for Protestants and Jews, St. Ignatius or Sacred Heart for Catholics), belonged to the same clubs (Bohemian, Olympic, Family), and spent their summers on “the river” (Russian) or at “the lake” (Tahoe).
This small world, held together by a dense web of friendships and favors, was made-to-order for a man like Pat Brown. Smart, affable, and energetic, Pat had a natural politician’s ready laugh and long memory. By the time he was in high school (although a Catholic, he went to Lowell), his political aspirations were already apparent: he was elected president of no fewer than eleven student groups, having run for office, as he recalled, whether he was a member of the organization or not.
After establishing a modestly successful legal practice, Pat Brown patiently began to build a political base, calling on old friends, carefully cultivating useful allies, and joining every club he could. In his second try, he was elected district attorney in 1943, went on to be the state’s attorney general seven years later, and then became governor in 1958. After a successful first term, he soundly defeated Richard Nixon in 1962, the occasion for what many believed (and not a few hoped) would be Nixon’s final press conference; the former vice-president told the assembled reporters they “would not have Nixon to kick around anymore.” Pat’s popularity ebbed during his second term; in 1966, he was defeated by Ronald Reagan, the rising star in the conservative firmament.
Perhaps the most important source of Jerry Brown’s extraordinary success is his apparently inexhaustible capacity for self-invention.
Pat Brown’s political career ended in part because he had a run of bad luck, but mostly because the world of California politics was changing in ways he never truly understood. In an era of television, big money, and photogenic celebrities, the skills he had honed as an ambitious young lawyer in San Francisco were no longer enough. Pat, who went on to make a small fortune practicing law in Los Angeles, never quite recovered from his electoral defeat. From 1967 until his death in 1996, he had to satisfy his political appetites vicariously by observing, with a characteristically paternal mixture of affection, admiration, and perplexity, the changing fortunes of his third child and only son.
Jerry Brown needed special permission to attend his father’s inauguration as governor in January 1959. A seminarian at the Novitiate of the Sacred Heart, he was subject to the discipline that the Jesuits imposed on everyone who set out on the long and arduous path to the priesthood. Looking somber and somewhat out of place in his cassock, he had only a few hours with his family before returning to the novitiate’s strict routine. Jerry left the seminary a year later and would eventually drift away from the church. But for him (and, in a quite different key, for his father), Catholic values and rituals remained an important part of his identity, the starting point and an abiding presence in what would be a lifelong quest for a spiritual home. The Browns’ story is, among other things, a Catholic story.
Jerry was unlike his father in many ways: less amiable, more introspective, and less disciplined, he was not a natural politician. But the two shared both the capacity to inspire loyalty among those who knew them best as well as some core beliefs about the importance of public service, the evils of racial discrimination, and government’s obligation to protect society’s most vulnerable members. Above all, father and son shared an insatiable appetite for elected office. After a few fitful attempts to practice law, Jerry devoted more and more of his time and energy to campaigning, first for the Los Angeles College Board, then California Secretary of State, and finally, in 1974, for governor. After he was reelected by a substantial margin, Jerry’s popularity began to slip, in part because he could not resist the siren call of national politics, mounting a series of fruitless efforts to win the Democratic nomination for the presidency. In 1982, after deciding not to run for a third term as governor, he was defeated in a bitterly fought senatorial race. A year later, his somewhat quixotic attempt to restart a presidential campaign collapsed. Although he was just forty-five years old, it looked as though Jerry Brown’s political career was over.
Like his father, Jerry was the victim of some bad luck (for example, an infestation of the Mediterranean fruit fly and his very unpopular decision to delay combating it with a toxic chemical), as well as changes in the political climate. But here the resemblance ended: after a few years in the political wilderness, Jerry came back, slowly working his way up the electoral ladder until 2010 when he was, once again, elected governor; he was reelected with a nineteen-point margin four years later. Once the youngest governor in California’s history, he now became the oldest, a feat that is not likely to be matched any time soon.
Although written with the Brown family’s cooperation, Pawel’s book is not an authorized biography; she does not hesitate to point out, rather gently to be sure, her subjects’ faults and foibles, such as Pat’s highly profitable but unsavory connections to an Indonesian oil firm and Jerry’s stubborn refusal to abandon his doomed presidential ambitions. Overall, however, she provides a sympathetic and affectionate group portrait of the Browns, based on their own letters and diaries and on the testimony of more than seventy relatives and friends. Along the way, Pawel tells us a great deal about the issues that continue to confront the golden state—immigration, racial inequality, crime, water supply, environmental degradation—but her main subject is the complex interplay of public life and personal relationships within the Brown family. Considering their differences in character, temperament, and experience, and the incandescent intensity of their individual ambitions, the Browns managed to treat one another with an impressive amount of love and loyalty. Pawel argues that this was largely due to the influence of two remarkable women, Ida Schuckman Brown, Pat’s mother, and Bernice Layne Brown, his wife. The third remarkable woman in the Brown saga is Jerry’s wife, Anne Gust Brown, whom he married in 2005, just as the second act of his political career was getting under way. Unlike Ida and Bernice, she has been directly and actively involved in policy-making and deserves a good deal of credit for the accomplishments of her husband’s last two terms as governor.
Perhaps the most important source of Jerry Brown’s extraordinary success is his apparently inexhaustible capacity for self-invention. Like the California that he governed, he has been driven by a constantly changing vision of the future. This vision, it should be said, was not always clear and accurate, but in a career stretching across half a century, he has been more often right than wrong. For decades he has warned about the dangers of climate change and environmental catastrophe, and is now one of the most eloquent critics of the institutionalization of ignorance that characterizes so much of contemporary American politics. Jerry’s success depends on more than his commitment to prepare for a tomorrow that will not be like today. He has also been, as many of his fellow Californians have not, inspired by his awareness of the past’s enduring power, an awareness nourished by the spiritual values that he learned from the Jesuits, by his own broad and eclectic reading, and by his engagement with his ancestors, whose experiences have begun to play an increasingly important part in his public statements and private reflections.
Pawel begins and ends her book where the Browns’ own story began and apparently will end, in the rugged foothills of Colusa County where Jerry Brown’s great-grandparents first settled in the middle of the nineteenth century and to which he plans to return when he leaves office in January 2019. “It is nice,” the governor recently remarked, “to walk in the very footprints of your grandmother, and your great-grandfather.” The Browns always looked where they were going (often it was to the next election), but they never forgot where they came from.
The Browns of California
The Family Dynasty that Transformed a State and Shaped a Nation
Bloomsbury Publishing, $35, 496 pp.
The past four days has seen three foreign policy promises made by President Donald Trump deflate like a dropped soufflé, and in pretty public fashion, no less. The president spent most of 2018 engaging in some measure of tough-talk against Russia, China, and North Korea. As of now, the promises of having the best relationship […]
National security adviser John Bolton said that President Trump believes he should hold a second summit with Kim Jong Un because the North Korean leader hasn't lived up to commitments he made during their first meeting.
President Donald Trump thinks everything is done with personal relationships, but it doesn’t seem to be working with China on trade much less with North Korea on denuclearization. During an economic discussion about the stock market free-fall Tuesday, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich explai...
National security adviser John Bolton said Tuesday that President Donald Trump believes he should hold a second summit with Kim Jong Un because the North Korean leader hasn't lived up to commitments he made during their first meeting.
A bunch of stories got the whole world talking this year - and for very good reasons. Sadly though, many stories were difficult to hear, and some even upsetting to watch... thankfully we saw good people helping to change those stories for the better.
In the tricky world of politics in 2018, a lot of eyes were on America. Thousands of teenagers demanded to be heard on the issue of gun violence.
US President Donald Trump entered his second year in office and he went for a stroll with North Korea's leader, and North Korea's leader walked over to meet South Korea's leader. All aiming to turn old enemies into new friends.
In many places in the world, disaster struck. There were deadly earthquakes and tsunamis, floods, hurricanes and volcanic eruptions. Countries battled some of the worst forest fires they'd ever seen, and others are still struggling with drought.
But it wasn't just natural disasters that had the world worried. The war in Syria continued and people kept fleeing the country causing the biggest refugee crisis in decades. In another Middle Eastern country, Yemen, a different war escalated. Leaving around 11 million kids facing famine. In Central America, thousands of people left their homes to walk towards the US and Mexico border in search of a new life. But wherever there was disaster or war or poverty, there were always people working to make things better as well.
There was the incredible rescue of a boys' soccer team who were stuck in a flooded cave in Thailand. Many nations also came together to commemorate 100 years since the end of the First World War and to celebrate the biggest sporting event in the world. But some stories stretched beyond our world. We sent a probe on a mission to get closer to the sun than any spacecraft before it, and another touched down on Mars to uncover more of the red planet's secrets.
Back on Earth, we said goodbye to a genius who spent his life studying the universe. A singer whose voice helped change lives through music and activism and a man who created superheroes. A super blue blood moon made us look up to the sky, a search engine's 20th birthday that made us look down at our screens, and a whole lot of other wild, weird, wonderful things made us take a closer look at the world around us.
The last Japanese POW challenge to Allied prison authorities took place in the spring of 1945 at the British-run facility at Bikaner, located on the edge of the Indian desert some two hundred forty miles west of Delhi. In this camp, originally constructed to house German prisoners of the First World War, the first prisoner was Senior Sergeant Aoki Akira, whose plane was shot down over Rangoon and crash-landed. He eventually became one of the POW section leaders. Although a Japanese citizen, as were all Koreans at the time, Aoki was a member of the royal house of Korea. Mizui Hajime, a Japanese fellow prisoner deeply imbued with the justice of Japan's cause, paid Aoki the ultimate tribute of noting that he possessed "a high degree of military spirit as well as strong leadership qualities," even though he spoke Japanese with a heavy accent.
In a curious historical footnote, Aoki, reverting to his family name Rhee, achieved a measure of renown in 1949 when he became the first commandant of the Republic of Korea's nascent air force academy. In the following year, shortly after the outbreak of the Korean War, it was Colonel Rhee who took possession of a shipment of ten American P-51 Mustang fighters at Itazuke Airfield on Kyushu. After only three days of training on the new planes, Colonel Rhee, still full of the old fighting spirit, led a formation of three P-51s in a low-altitude raid on a North Korean concentration of T-34 tanks south of Seoul. Hit in the exchange of fire, Rhee crashed his plane into the enemy formation on a suicidal dive and was posthumously promoted to the rank of brigadier general.
When Seoul was preparing to open a liaison office in the North Korean city of Kaesong this summer after a decade of virtually no contact with its longtime enemy, South Korean officials had heated debates over whether they should seek approval from Washington.
US President Donald Trump said that Chinese President Xi Jinping promised to work with him “100 percent” on the issue of North Korea. This appears to mean that China and the US have restored cooperati..
South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s emphasis on the importance of a reciprocal visit to Seoul within the year by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the positive views expressed on the issue by the S..
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Dec. 1 that Seoul and Washington “agree that it is desirable and necessary for in-depth discussions on a timetable” for North Korea’s denuclearization and co..
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and South Korean president Moon Jae-in have discussed North Korea tensions, the Pacific reset and closer co-operation during talks in Auckland. Moon is in New Zealand straight from the G20 summit this week. He met Ardern...
When Seoul was preparing to open a liaison office in the North Korean city of Kaesong this summer after a decade of virtually no contact with its longtime enemy, South Korean officials had heated debates over whether they should seek approval from Washington.
One day our world famous POTUS says one thing and then he back tracks. First he kept on spouting that he would increase military spending (Why? isn't it time we stopped attacking other countries just to please ISRAEL?) and now he says its crazy that we are spending $716 billion on Military spend. Then he thanks Omarosa for her service and after a week calls her a "dog"?? WTF?? Then he goes on about Kim from North Korea, the list is endless.
Is this guy for real? Who can respect someone who behaves like a little child and says naughty things and takes them back? America is doomed with this guy as a leader, he is clueless about how to run the country, how to behave in public and he just lacks the gravitas that a normal President has.
It is call "click bait" and it feeds into the Fu Manchu hysteria about China. Some gwailos still thinks Mao is in charge and that North Korea is part of China. Some ignorant westerners think Japan should be freed from Chinese rule.
A few years ago the BBC contacted Dalai Lama and in an interview with the mad monk claim to have discovered a possible breakthrough because Dalai told them he does not seek independent. BBC seriously thought they can help broker peace with China and presented their finding to the Chinese embassy with excitement. I bet the Chinese and Dalai Lama were falling over laughing over how ignorant the BBC is. That report never did another round again.
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST: There is a pattern to the foreign policy of Donald Trump - the assertion of Richard Haass, who's made a career of tracking U.S. foreign policy from his perch as president of the Council on Foreign Relations. Haass says he saw this pattern play out just this past weekend in U.S.-China relations as President Trump met the president of China, Xi Jinping, and the two leaders agreed to hit pause in their trade war. Richard Haass joins me now. Welcome. RICHARD HAASS: Thank you for having me. KELLY: Lay out for me the pattern that you see. HAASS: Well, what we see is a pattern where Mr. Trump inherits a challenge or a problem of some sort, whether it's with China or North Korea or many other parts of the world. What he does is he takes a very confrontational stance, triggers something of a crisis. Then he backs down from the crisis in large part he created. And then he tends to claim victory, somewhat overselling what exactly he
When Seoul was preparing to open a liaison office in the North Korean city of Kaesong this summer after a decade of virtually no contact with its longtime enemy, South Korean officials had heated debates over whether they should seek approval from Washington.
North Korea's iconic 'Pink Lady' newsreader, Ri Chun-hee, is stepping down from of state-controlled channel KCTV, is believed to be replaced by a younger presenters - according to sources in the country.
[South Korea], Dec 5 (ANI): In an aim to reduce inconvenience of the residents staying near the inter-Korean border, the South Korean government on Wednesday gave its nod to lift the classification of certain restricted zones that host military facilities.
The ruling Democratic Party agreed to lift the designation of the military-controlled zones in 21 places, totalling an area of around 337 million square metres. This exercise is the largest since 1994 when South Korea had lifted classification of certain restricted zones, with a total area of 1.7 billion square metres, Yonhap News Agency reported.
The lifting of the zones near the inter-Korean border will not affect military operations, the South Korean government said. The zones are situated in border areas of Gangwon Province, in the country's northeastern part and Gyeonggi Province, situated near the capital Seoul.
The restricted zones were put in place by South Korea during confrontations and tensions with North Korea over the past few decades. In these areas, land development is limited and people residing at the border face restrictions over property rights.
The South Korean government also agreed to simplify the people's entry process into the civilian-access controlled zone located near the inter-Korean border. If the proposal goes ahead, it would help some 30,000 residents and tourists visiting the border village of Panmunjom every year in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), the de facto border between the two Koreas.
Last month, a South Korean train arrived at the Panmun station in North Korea's Kaesong Industrial Region for an 18-day joint railway inspection which aims at modernising railway lines and eventually connecting both the nations through railways.
Inter-Korean relations have dramatically improved this year following South Korean President Moon Jae-in's meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the past few months.
The two Korean leaders have met thrice -- in April, May and September -- agreeing to cease hostilities against each other, strengthening inter-Korean cooperation and achieving complete denuclearisation in the Korean Peninsula.
As part of the efforts, South Korea has been keen to expand and carry out inter-Korean projects with North Korea, despite the international sanctions imposed on the latter over its nuclear weapons programme. (ANI)
[Belgium], Dec 05 (ANI): United States Secretary of State Micheal R Pompeo fired a warning of suspending the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty if Russia did not adhere with the accord within 60 days.
Speaking during a NATO meeting here, Pompeo said that when the INF was signed in 1987, it represented a "good-faith effort between two rivals to de-escalate the threat of nuclear war".
"But whatever successes this treaty helped produce, today we must confront Russian cheating on its arms control obligations. As I told my fellow ministers earlier today, our nations have a choice. We either bury our head in the sand or we take common-sense action in response to Russia's flagrant disregard for the express terms of the INF Treaty," Pompeo said during a press briefing.
The US Secretary of State further stated there have been at least 30 instances since 2013 itself where the US has flagged Russia's non-compliance with the treaty and stressed that "a failure to return to compliance would have consequences".
"The United States today declares it has found Russia in material breach of the treaty and will suspend our obligations as a remedy effective in 60 days unless Russia returns to full and verifiable compliance," Pompeo said.
The warning comes as a milder version of President Donald Trump's announcement in October stating he had decided to "terminate the agreement," The Washington Post reported.
The INF agreement banned the production and use of nuclear and non-nuclear missiles with a range of 500 to 5, 500 kilometres. The treaty has been the base for Europe's security over three decades, although Trump has stated that it affords China a military advantage over the US as it is not bound by the treaty.
Addressing the issue of other states like North Korea and Iran, apart from China, being free to build intermediate-range missiles, Pompeo said, "There is no reason the United States should continue to cede this crucial military advantage to revisionist powers like China, in particular when these weapons are being used to threaten and coerce the United States and its allies in Asia."
The INF agreement was a turning point in the Cold War as it led to the elimination of over 2,600 missiles and ended the long-standing nuclear stand-off between East and West Europe. Trump's announcement of terminating the treaty raised concerns of a revival of Cold War tensions.
"I regret that we now most likely will see the end of the INF Treaty. We really felt that the world was moving forward when the Soviet Union and the United States in 1987 agreed," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.
While the US' withdrawal was slated to go into effect on Tuesday, European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel convinced Trump for a postponement during the recently concluded G20 Summit in Argentina. (ANI)
Hutchinson is set to publish Michael Palin’s North Korea journal after associate publisher Nigel Wilcockson acquired the Monty Python member's account of his trip to one of the world’s most isolated countries.
Cornerstone has announced two new appointments: Katie Sheldrake, most recently commercial TV broadcaster at UKTV, joins as Cornerstone’s new deputy publicity director while Zennor Compton joins from Penguin Random House imprint Michael Joseph as senior editor for non-fiction.
Day after day, rampant speculation about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's possible trip to Seoul is making headlines in South Korea, despite no official confirmation from either government. Many … Click to Continue »
North Korea experts have cautioned against another summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, citing a lack of progress on denuclearization since the first summit in Singapore.
After meeting with the leaders of South Korea and China during the G-20 summit, Trump expressed a willingness to hold a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
On his way home from the weekend gathering in Buenos Aires, Trump said a second summit with Kim will likely take place in January or February and three sites were discussed as potential meeting locations.
"We're getting along very well," Trump said. "We have a good relationship with Kim."
The White House released a statement during the G-20 summit saying "great progress has been made" on Trump's discussions on North Korea.
"It was … agreed that great progress has been made with respect to North Korea that President Trump, together with [Chinese] President Xi [Jinping], will strive, along with Chairman Kim Jong Un, to see a nuclear free Korean Peninsula," said the White House.
However, former U.S. officials who have dealt with North Korea extensively and analysts on North Korea have questioned the timing of a second summit.
They argue that working-level talks between Washington and Pyongyang should come before Trump meets with Kim, emphasizing working-level negotiations are where progress on denuclearization can be made.
Robert Gallucci, chief U.S. negotiator during the 1994 North Korean nuclear crisis, said, "What I care about is that there would be real progress."
He continued, "And that is going to take [place] in the working-group level discussions about what the North Koreans expect, and what we are prepared to give in order to make progress towards our goal."
Christopher Hill, a chief negotiator with North Korea during the George W. Bush administration, doubts Trump's second summit with Kim will yield much in terms of results, similar to the lack of progress made on denuclearization after Trump's first summit with Kim.
"I don't see what they are going to even discuss," Hill said. "But I think what [Trump's] just trying to tell the press and others is that we are continuing to make progress, although I think the rest of us do not really see what the progress is. So I wouldn't take too seriously what he says."
Hill believes pre-summit agreements on denuclearization made in working-level talks will determine the success of the next Trump-Kim meeting.
"The success of a summit is proportional to the amount of work that it's done before the summit," Hill said. "I think there's a lot of skepticism about the process right now."
Trump's openness to another meeting with Kim comes amid growing skepticism about North Korea's commitment to denuclearization.
North Korea called off planned talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the last minute in early November. The cancellation came after Pyongyang refused to engage with Stephen Biegun, the U.S. point man on North Korea. Some experts believe Pyongyang is only interested in direct talks with Trump.
Bruce Klingner, former CIA division chief for the Korea and current senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said Pyongyang sees Trump as "more likely to offer additional concessions, as he did in Singapore."
"It would be a mistake to convene a second summit without real progress toward a comprehensive agreement on North Korean denuclearization," Klingner said.
Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, also cautioned against holding another summit.
"The first summit outcome was so ambiguous that it has not provided any impetus for detailed negotiations or a framework for talks to resolve the whole set of issues," Manning said.
During a press briefing last week, Robert Palladino, deputy spokesperson for the State Department said, "Future dialogue will take place and it'll definitely be something that Special Representative Biegun will be leading."
While the U.S. remains open to talks with North Korea, it is maintaining that sanctions will stay in place until the North takes steps toward denuclearization.
In a statement released shortly after Trump's meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in during the G-20 summit, the White House said the two leaders "agreed on the importance of maintaining vigorous enforcement of existing sanctions" against North Korea.
Moon said Tuesday he hopes Kim's visit to South Korea occurs this year, although a specific date is yet to be determined.
"Although there is no timeframe set for that, still, it's very meaningful," said Moon from New Zealand about Kim's visit.
Ahn So-young of VOA's Korean Service contributed to this report.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Tuesday a visit to Seoul by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was "a possibility" and that such a trip would help to improve Pyongyang's relationship with the United States. Moon made the comment when a
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Day after day, rampant speculation about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's possible trip to Seoul is making headlines in South Korea, despite no official confirmation from either government.Many analysts say it would be
NORTH KOREAN leader Kim Jong-un could still visit Seoul for the first time in the next few weeks, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said yesterday, describing the possible trip as a major boost in efforts to make the peninsula nuclear-free. Moon and...
SOUTH Korea’s military says a North Korean soldier has defected across the heavily fortified border. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said South Korean soldiers escorted the defector to safety early yesterday after finding him moving south of the...
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – The United States and China reached a 90-day cease-fire in a trade dispute that has rattled financial markets and threatened world economic growth. The breakthrough came after a dinner meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires.
Trump agreed to hold off on plans to raise tariffs Jan. 1 on $200 billion in Chinese goods. The Chinese agreed to buy a “not yet agreed upon, but very substantial amount of agricultural, energy, industrial” and other products from the United States to reduce America’s huge trade deficit with China, the White House said.
The truce, reached after a dinner of more than two hours Saturday, buys time for the two countries to work out their differences in a dispute over Beijing’s aggressive drive to supplant U.S. technological dominance.
“It’s an incredible deal,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One, adding, “if it happens it goes down as one of the largest deals ever made.”
Trump said: “What I’ll be doing is holding back on tariffs. China will be opening up, China will be getting rid of tariffs. … China will be buying massive amounts of products from us.”
In a long-sought concession to the U.S., China agreed to label fentanyl, the deadly synthetic opioid responsible for tens of thousands of American drug deaths annually, as a controlled substance. And Beijing agreed to reconsider a takeover by U.S. chipmaker Qualcomm that it had previously blocked.
The White House announcement framed a victory for Trump and his unflinching negotiating tactics, securing a commitment from China to engage in talks on key U.S. economic priorities, with little obvious concession by the U.S. Notably, however, the White House appears to be reversing course on its previous threats to tie trade discussions to security concerns, like China’s attempted territorial expansion in the South China Sea.
“It’s great the two sides took advantage of this opportunity to call a truce,” said Andy Rothman, investment strategist at Matthews Asia. “The two sides appear to have had a major change of heart to move away from confrontation toward engagement. This changes the tone and direction of the bilateral conversation.”
The Trump-Xi meeting was the marquee event of Trump’s whirlwind two-day trip to Argentina for the G-20 summit after the president canceled a sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin over mounting tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Trump also canceled a Saturday news conference, citing respect for the Bush family following the death of former President George H.W. Bush.
Trump said Bush’s death put a “damper” on what he described as a “very important meeting” with Xi.
The United States and China are locked in a dispute over their trade imbalance and Beijing’s tech policies. Washington accuses China of deploying predatory tactics in its tech drive, including stealing trade secrets and forcing American firms to hand over technology in exchange for access to the Chinese market.
Trump has imposed import taxes on $250 billion in Chinese products – 25 percent on $50 billion worth and 10 percent on the other $200 billion. Trump had planned to raise the tariffs on the $200 billion to 25 percent if he couldn’t get a deal with Xi.
China has already slapped tariffs on $110 billion in U.S. goods.
Under the agreement reached in Buenos Aires, the two countries have 90 days to resolve their differences over Beijing’s tech policies. If they can’t, the higher U.S. tariffs will go into effect on the $200 billion in Chinese imports.
U.S. officials insist that the American economy is more resilient to the tumult than China’s, but they remain anxious of the economic effects of a prolonged showdown – as Trump has made economic growth the benchmark by which he wants his administration judged.
A full-blown resolution was not expected to be reached in Buenos Aires; the issues that divide them are just too difficult.
Growing concerns that the trade war will increasingly hurt corporate earnings and the U.S. economy are a key reason why U.S. stock prices have been sinking this fall.
Joining other forecasters, economists at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development last week downgraded their outlook for global economic growth next year to 3.5 percent from a previous 3.7 percent. In doing so, they cited the trade conflict as well as political uncertainty.
The U.S. and China also made progress on the regulation of fentanyl, which is 50 times more powerful than heroin. U.S. officials for years have been pressing the Chinese government to take a tougher stance against fentanyl, and most U.S. supply of the drug is manufactured in China.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said China’s decision to label the drug as a controlled substance means that “people selling Fentanyl to the United States will be subject to China’s maximum penalty under the law.”
The White House also said that China’s government is “open to approving” the purchase of Dutch semiconductor manufacturer NXP by American chipmaker Qualcomm.
China nixed the proposed takeover earlier this year, citing antitrust concerns, after U.S. and European regulators approved the deal. China’s decision came amid a period of heightening tensions between the U.S. and China over trade and intellectual property issues.
Qualcomm announced it was dropping plans to proceed with the deal after it failed to receive Chinese government approval. It is unclear whether the transaction could be revived even with China’s acquiescence.
In other developments, Trump announced aboard Air Force One on his return to Washington from Buenos Aires that his next meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un would likely happen in January or February. He said there were three sites under consideration, but he declined to name them.
Trump also said he would shortly be providing formal notice to Congress that he will terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement, giving lawmakers six months to approve the replacement he signed Friday. He said lawmakers can choose between the replacement, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or nothing.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and South Korean president Moon Jae-in have discussed North Korea tensions, the Pacific reset and closer co-operation during talks in Auckland. Moon is in New Zealand straight from the G20 summit this week. He met Ardern...
Have you ever met someone or found yourself saying something like this?
There were many times when I was judged by someone right off the bat, and what would hurt was that this person assumed my characteristics/ behavior patterns were due to my being asians. How dare he/she. This led me to defend myself by saying I was actually white-washed and unlike the ‘asians’ this person had met before. I wanted to be viewed as loud, crazy, and unpredictable, and not this quiet, non-opinionated, submissive woman.
I thought it was clever, let people know how ‘white’ you are by demonstrating your hatred or discontent for other asians, especially my Korean culture. But long two year trip to South Korea made me think about this term in another way.
I was in Korea, and the people never asked me this question, because obviously, I looked Korean. No one gave a shit. Except, well, myself. I didn’t have to prove to anyone that I was ‘white-washed’ or not ‘Korean’. No one cared. And then I thought, why do I care so much about what other people think about me?
No one likes to be judged based on the color of their skin. Even asians. And especially, asians who have been born, grown up and have lived their entire lives in a country that does not fit their profile. Yes, it sucks, but that doesn’t mean we need to abandon our culture or look down upon it.
In the states, I think we have this view that our asian background is not American enough. It says freedom to be who we are, but really, people don’t want to know about our culture. 5 years ago, South Korea was barely known by the general population of American. Now, at least, we’re associated with North Korea, Psy, and K-pop.
Looking back at myself, I didn’t think this meant too much. But the meaning behind those words meant something deeper that I slowly started to understand, once I heard other friends of mine refer to themselves as a ‘banana’ or a ‘twinkie’. The real question is, why do you want to be white? And why is this so important to assert this? We should embrace our culture, and our American culture, or the soil we grew up in, but we should never be ashamed of ourselves, because, at the end of the day, you’re still Korean physically. And that won’t change.
Isn’t it silly when you meet someone who doesn’t identify with their own race? It’s a little funny because it is! France does a great job of accepting both cultures. It’s time, we stop wanting others to see ourselves as something other than asian.
Sure, I consider myself a little ghetto at times; I’ll walk around with no shoes on out in public in sweats, talk with a little bit of a slang, because I like it, I’ve grown up with hip-hop music. But for the love of God, I will not say I’m black. Just like I won’t say I am more ‘white’ than ‘asian’. Why? Because I am just me. You don’t hear Sik-E saying he’s ghetto or really a black guy. You don’t hear Rich Chigga tryin’ to let people know he’s ACTUALLY more black than an asian. He just owns it, even with his fanny pack.
Which brings me to my next point, if I date a guy, and he happens to be white. I don’t just like ‘white guys’. And for the caucasian guys, don’t say you have ‘yellow-fever’ or be this guy. You just like what you like. When I was dating a German guy, oddly enough, when people asked me if he was white, I would say he’s German, and people associated it as two different things. Are white guys suppose to be from America? Should I call my ex boyfriend a European guy now?
Can we just stop with the goddam labels? It’s making me confused. Why can’t people just like other people, be who they are, and not get asked stupid questions.
I think if we start acting this way, people would stop acting like being born ‘Asian’ is such an uncool thing. If it helps, we have Crazy Rich Asian now.
Anyway, what do you think? Should we just stop using this dumb words that ‘identify’ us? Have you experienced something similar? How do you deal with someone assuming your ‘asian-ness’? What do you think about other people calling themselves ‘white-washed’?
If you’re not asian, has anyone said this to you? What did you think when someone said this to you?
A fierce debate is underway about the Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA), which was reached by South and North Korea on Sept. 19. Initially, opposition to the agreement was led by several conserva..
“Even if US and UN sanctions against North Korea aren’t relaxed for some time, there’s still work that can be done in the area of inter-Korean exchange and cooperation. One of the best examples is cre..
After getting stuck at the threshold of negotiations regarding denuclearization and the normalization of diplomatic relations, North Korea and the US appear to be making progress on their bilateral re..
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has determined that US$111 million in funding is required for humanitarian aid to North Korea, and that six million people have been s..
Part 2: Cynthia McKinney joins the program to discuss her relationship with Robert David Steele and addresses accusations that he may be a CIA asset. We also continue the discusses on #UNRIG, MeetUp account cancellation, AIPAC lobby and the methods it uses to control Washington D.C. She also discusses the latest legislation that passed the Senate on July 27th, 2017 that adds sanctions to Russia, North Korea, and Iran. Cynthia McKinney doesn't hold back on her analysis of the situation "... i ...
Part 1: Cynthia McKinney joins the program to discuss #UNRIG, MeetUp account cancellation, AIPAC lobby and the methods it uses to control Washington D.C. She also discusses the latest legislation that passed the Senate on July 27th, 2017 that adds sanctions to Russia, North Korea, and Iran. Cynthia McKinney doesn't hold back on her analysis of the situation "... it has started. The dangerous dance toward war"
Support the program at Patreon.com/SarahWestall.com ...
This is the 2nd part of my interview with Senator Richard Black. We discuss Syria, Russia, North Korea and other foreign policy issues.
IMPORTANT: What people do not realize is the mass slaughter that will occur if Syria falls. Over 4 million innocent Christians, Jews, moderate Islamic rebels and other groups will be slaughtered in the region when/if Syria falls. We are fighting on the side of 3 of the worst regimes in human history: Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. History will jud ...
It seems the entire world has shifted its focus to Israel and Palestine with the recent U.N. resolution and John Kerry’s speech. It’s crazy that such a tiny area in the Middle East garners so much of the world’s attention. In fact, the U.N. General Assembly adopted 20 Israel resolutions this year, while passing just four for the rest of the world – one for North Korea, one for Syria, one for Iran, and one for Russia”. (Source: Fox News)
So much ...
THRILL-seekers are heading to the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster for their stag parties. The Chernobyl “dead zone” tops a list of extreme locations including secretive North Korea and the dangerous Gaza Strip. The nuclear reactor north of...
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un could still visit Seoul for the first time in the next few weeks, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Tuesday, describing the possible trip as a major boost in efforts to make the peninsula nuclear-free. Moon and Kim have met three times in 2018 amid warming ties between the two Koreas, with South Korea hoping to host a first-ever visit by Kim to Seoul before year's end. "There is a possibility that Chairman Kim Jong Un's visit to Seoul may be made within this year, but there's more important things than the timing," he said in translated remarks during a visit to New Zealand.
When Seoul was preparing to open a liaison office in the North Korean city of Kaesong this summer after a decade of virtually no contact with its long-time enemy, South Korean officials had heated debates over whether they should seek approval from Washington.
Some top aides to President Moon Jae-in stressed it was an issue for the two Koreas alone and there was no need to involve their US ally, according to two people with knowledge of the situation. But to the surprise of several officials at...
North Korea’s Kim Jong Un may be one of the most murderous leaders on Earth, but his image has been quietly getting a makeover with help from some of his former sworn enemies. The long list of atrocities against Kim’s name includes cruel and inhumane...
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good evening, everyone. I want to begin this evening by expressing my condolences to the Bush family on the passing of a great man, President George H. W. Bush. He embodied literally the best of America in his devotion to public service and his ardent patriotism. My wife Susan and I mourn with President Trump and all of our fellow Americans as we celebrate his incredible life. Tomorrow I will join the President and my fellow cabinet members in honoring him during America’s national day of mourning.
President Bush, during his entire lifetime, was a relentless defender of transatlantic security. Today, we strive to emulate his example by asserting powerful American leadership on behalf of our people and our allies. When the INF Treaty was inked in 1987, it represented a good-faith effort between two rivals to de-escalate the threat of nuclear war. President Reagan described it as the realization of “an impossible vision,” and Mikhail Gorbachev said it had “universal significance for mankind.”
But whatever successes this treaty helped produce, today we must confront Russian cheating on its arms control obligations. As I told my fellow ministers earlier today, our nations have a choice. We either bury our head in the sand or we take common-sense action in response to Russia’s flagrant disregard for the express terms of the INF Treaty.
It’s worth noting that Russia’s violations didn’t happen overnight. Russia’s been flight-testing the SSC-8 cruise missile since the mid-2000s. They’ve been testing it in excess of ranges that the treaty permits. All the tests of the SSC-8 have originated from a Kapustin Yar site from both a fixed and mobile launcher. Its range makes it a direct menace to Europe.
In 2017, General Selva of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Congress that Russia had deployed its missile, and I quote, “in order to pose a threat to NATO and to facilities within the NATO area of responsibility,” end of quote. Russia continues to press forward, and as of late 2018 has filled multiple battalions of the SSC-8 missiles.
Throughout all of this, the United States has remained in scrupulous compliance with the treaty. In spite of Russia’s violations, we have exercised the utmost patience and effort in working to convince Russia to adhere to its terms. On at least 30 occasions since 2013, extending to the highest levels of leadership, we have raised Russia’s noncompliance and stressed that a failure to return to compliance would have consequences.
Russia’s reply has been consistent: deny any wrongdoing, demand more information, and issue baseless counter-accusations. For more than four years, Moscow has pretended that it didn’t know what missile or test the United States was even talking about, even when we provided extensive information about the missile’s characteristics and testing history. It was not until we chose to publicize the Russian name of the missile in November of 2017 that Russia finally acknowledged its existence. Then Russia changed its cover story from the missile that does not exist to the missile that exists but is treaty-compliant.
These violations of the INF Treaty cannot be viewed in isolation from the larger pattern of Russian lawlessness on the world stage. The list of Russia’s infamous acts is long: Georgia, Ukraine, Syria, election meddling, Skripal, and now the Kerch Strait, to name just a few.
In light of these facts, the United States today declares it has found Russia in material breach of the treaty and will suspend our obligations as a remedy effective in 60 days unless Russia returns to full and verifiable compliance.
We’re taking these steps for several reasons. First, Russia’s actions gravely undermine American national security and that of our allies and partners. It makes no sense for the United States to remain in a treaty that constrains our ability to respond to Russia’s violations. Russia has reversed the trajectory of diminishing nuclear risk in Europe, where America has tens of thousands of troops and where millions more American civilians are living and working. These Americans live and work alongside many more millions of Europeans who are put in danger by Russian missile systems.
Second, while Russia is responsible for the demise of the treaty, many other states – including China, North Korea, and Iran – are not parties to the INF Treaty. This leaves them free to build all the intermediate range missiles that they would like. There is no reason the United States should continue to cede this crucial military advantage to revisionist powers like China, in particular when these weapons are being used to threaten and coerce the United States and its allies in Asia.
If you ask the question why the treaty wasn’t enlarged to include more nations, including China, keep in mind that it has been tried three times without any success already, and it has failed each time.
Third, inertia will not drive policy in the Trump administration. As President Trump has made clear and as I spoke about this morning, the United States will not support international agreements that undermine our security, our interests, or our values.
Finally, and I want to be clear about this, America is upholding the rule of law. When we set forth our commitments, we agree to be bound by them. We expect the same of our treaty counterparts everywhere, and we will hold them accountable when their words prove untrustworthy. If we do not, we’ll get cheated by other nations, expose Americans to greater risk, and squander our credibility.
Earlier today, I spoke on America’s enduring leadership role in the international order and I reiterate that powerful American leadership means never abandoning our responsibility to protect our security and our nation’s sovereignty. I’ve stated our position in no uncertain terms. The United States remains hopeful that our relationship with Russia can get better, can get on better footing.
With that being said, the burden falls on Russia to make the necessary changes. Only they can save this treaty. If Russia admits its violations and fully and verifiably comes back into compliance we will, of course, welcome that course of action. But Russia and Russia only can take this step.
We appreciate NATO’s strong support for the United States decision as expressed in this statement released today. The United States and our NATO allies stand vigilant that Russia’s lawless conduct will not be tolerated in the realm of arms control or anywhere else.
MS NAUERT: We have time for several questions. The first one goes to Teri Schultz from Deutsche Welle. Teri.
QUESTION: What does this mean concretely? What will the next steps be? Are you just waiting the 60 days and hoping that Europe can help pull Russia back into compliance? What exactly – how exactly will this play out now? And then does the six months start in 60 days? Just a few more details on that. Thank you.
SECRETARY POMPEO: You bet. So as I said in my remarks, we would welcome a Russian change of heart, a change in direction, the destruction of their program and their follow-on continuance of the terms of the treaty. And so over the next 60 days they have every chance to do so. And we would welcome that.
I will tell you, our European partners appreciate that extra time. We work closely with them. They asked for an extended period, and we, in our efforts to make sure that we had complete unity – and I will tell you, as you speak to the other 28 ministers who are here today, there is complete unity around this – we believe this is the right outcome. The six-month period will begin to run 60 days from now. During the 60 days, we will still not test or produce or deploy any systems, and we’ll see what happens during this 60-day period.
We’ve talked to the Russians a great deal. We’re hopeful they’ll change course, but there’s been no indication to date that they have any intention of doing so.
MS NAUERT: Jessica Donati from Wall Street Journal.
QUESTION: Yeah. Thank you. Beyond withdrawing from the – or suspending your membership of the INF Treaty, what other steps can you do to help Ukraine in what it’s suffering at the hands of Russia?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So there was lots of discussion about that today. I’ll leave to a couple of others to talk about the conversations. But two things were very clear from the time that we spent with the Ukrainian foreign minister as a group, is that there is complete unanimity that the Russian action was lawless and unacceptable and deterrents must be restored, and that that is a collective commitment of Europe and the world to deny Russia the capacity to continue to violate basic international law norms. We hope that the Russians will return the sailors that they’re holding today, just immediately. And we will collectively develop a set of responses that demonstrate to Russia that this behavior is simply unacceptable.
MS NAUERT: Emerald Robinson from One America News.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. You talked about, yes, the commitments with treaties in regards to the United States and its allies. But you also talked about international institutions and gave America’s viewpoint on that. You called out specifically the IMF and the World Bank and the UN. How do you think so many large international institutions can be reformed today? Is it a question of new leadership?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Every institution needs to be evaluated consistently, right. That doesn’t – multilateral, international organizations are no different. These organizations have now been around for an extended period of time, and each of them is worthy of full review. Do they still – are they still fit for purpose? Do they still serve their intended means? That’s what I spoke about this morning.
President Trump believes that if we exert American leadership and American national sovereignty and we evaluate these institutions against the objective of creating prosperity and peace around the world, that each of them is ripe for some piece of reform. And we’ll look at the parts that are working as I – and I described several institutions’ functions that are working. We’ll keep those. We’ll enhance those. We’ll want to be part of those.
But if it’s broken and it’s not delivering for America and for the world then we ought not rest on our laurels and think, “boy, that’s good,” just because it’s multilateral. That notion that the mere nature of something being multilateral is not in and of itself a good. The things that are good are the things that flow, the things that follow from the work that nation-states do as part of those multilateral organizations, and the United States is intent on being a leader to make sure each of those institutions that you mentioned is delivering.
MS NAUERT: Last question, Guy Taylor from Washington Times.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Back to the INF Treaty just for a second. You mentioned the prospect of the U.S. developing and deploying systems that would otherwise be in violation of the treaty. From a strategic perspective, is that kind of deployment something that the administration, the Trump administration, is really now preparing to do? And can you speak perhaps to European concerns about the prospect of the deployment of midrange nuclear weapons across Western Europe, for instance, that have been banned by this treaty for so long?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So I can say two things about that today. European nations can rest assured that as we prepare how we will all protect and create stability in Europe and around the world from the threat of intermediate nuclear range missiles, and those in particular from Russia, that we will be working closely with our European allies and other allies throughout the world who are also threatened by these missile systems. And so it won’t come to a surprise anyone what the United States is thinking, how we’re approaching it, and we will look for their assistance, their help, their inputs in how to develop a security architecture – an architecture that actually delivers.
I mean, we – just to be clear, we had a party – a treaty that had two parties, only one of which was compliant. That’s not an agreement. That’s just self-restraint, and it strategically no longer made sense to remain in that position and we’ll develop our course forward. I don’t want to say much about what the United States policy is going to be because there are lots of folks still to talk to. And I will also leave to the Department of Defense the nature and work that they’re doing on systems that will ultimately potentially be noncompliant.
MS NAUERT: Okay, thank you very much everyone. Thank you.
The Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.
Most films, whether or not they claim an outsized ambition, don't deserve a runtime longer than 120 minutes simply because too much action easily leads to a case of diminishing returns. Lee Chang-dong's Burning (Beoning)is the rare film that warrants such excess; its languorous passivity takes time to fester, all up to a point of inevitable climax when, seemingly out of pure necessity, a final action is taken that brings all parties the long-overdue gift of change.
There's something slightly alien about the film, too, which is expected, given its source material — a short story called "Barn Burning" by the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami. In it is a tale of modern-day South Korea, but mostly a depiction of rural and suburban life that innately challenges both the hustle of late capitalism and the supposed duty of art to entertain. It's certainly not a thriller in the typical mode of chugging action and gun-toting machismo, but rather a haunting portrayal of inner turmoil, boiling over eventually into violence.
Jong-soo (Yoo Ah-in) is a recognizable figure to anyone familiar with Murakami's work, but such a distinction doesn't make him any less of an enigma. Open-faced but emotionally closed off, Jong-soo is a recent college graduate who lives on a farm outside Paju, a city near the North Korean border. He maintains the farm alone because his father, a revolutionary, was recently arrested for numerous violent outbursts against the government. (None of that is seen here, and his father's presence is only felt in the photographs around the house, which Jong-soo stares at with what we might assume is longing.)
Burning begins as Jong-soo meets a woman named Hae-mi (Jeon Jong-seo) in the city. She's selling tickets to a raffle by dancing while scantily clad and talking to passersby, and she tells Jong-soo that they were neighbors in their youth but that he used to ignore her. He doesn't seem to remember her, but regardless, he agrees to tag along for dinner. At dinner, she shows him a trick where she peels an imaginary tangerine — the trick, she says, is not to pretend that the tangerine is there, but to try and forget that it's not there — and afterwards they go back to her apartment and have sex. The scene isn't unromantic, but Jong-soo himself is completely passive, only responding to her questions with vague, dispassionate answers. Hae-mi takes the lead instead, monologuing about her own life and her upcoming trip to Africa. The next day, she leaves him behind to take care of her cat which, like the tangerine, may or may not actually be there.
In Hae-mi's absence, Jong-soo's life is back to its normal slog, save for the times when he goes to Hae-mi's apartment to feed the unseen cat and masturbate while looking at the tower outside her window. He wants to be a writer, but even that possibility is met with inaction because he doesn't know what to write about (his therapist suggests that he write about his father, but, by way of contemptuous laughter, he also suggests that he shouldn't bother trying to be a writer at all). It turns out that Hae-mi's return is the catalyst for his fiction, but not for the simple reason we might think.
Upon return, Hae-mi greets Jong-soo with another man named Ben (Steven Yeun) in tow. Ben is rich, handsome and composed, but perhaps most noteworthy is his affectless manner. He's affable and welcoming, but exudes an air of cold mystery (Jong-soo later compares him to Jay Gatsby). The situation is strange but matter-of-fact — although it might be convenient to label Jong-soo jealous or Ben defensive, neither appear much more than slightly curious of the other, and the three proceed to hang out as a trio in the coming weeks.
This isn't to say that there isn't tension, or that Jong-soo is altogether happy to have another man around, but Chang-dong takes painstaking measures not to telegraph any obvious sense of male jealousy, rage or competition. In fact, it's not even clear if Ben or Hae-mi are sleeping together, only that he appears one day and sticks around. One day, Ben invites them over to his gorgeous apartment in Seoul. Ben is only a few years older than Jong-soo, and when asked what he does for a living, he simply says: "I play." He also tells them that he's never cried, at least not recently, and has trouble relating to people when they do.
The revelation comes later, though, at Jong-soo's farm. The trio smoke pot, and after Hae-mi dances topless to a mesmerizing sunset (a particularly gorgeous scene in a roundly beautiful film), Ben confesses to Jong-soo that he has a peculiar hobby of burning down abandoned greenhouses. Furthermore, he tells him that he's already picked his next target, and that it's very close to the farm. A few days later, Hae-mi is missing, and Jong-soo starts going on routine runs around the country, searching for the greenhouse presumedly gone up in smoke.
Much can be assumed in Burning, but little can be proved. Is Ben a serial killer? Is burning greenhouses just a metaphor? Is Jong-soo, otherworldly and disengaged, a reliable narrator to begin with? There are other theories: Maybe Jong-soo and Ben are simply another form of Fight Club doubling, with one who's mild-mannered and ineffectual and another who knows just how to get exactly what he wants. Maybe it's their meeting, and their mutual recognition as two individuals completely out of sync with the normal world, that spurns a kind of life-affirming reckoning at the film's end. Lost in the mix, sadly, is Hae-mi who, despite a great performance from Jong-seo, is somewhat reduced to a man's plaything. She's the woman who gives a sad man a reason to live.
But aside from poetic imagery and a pulsating score that thrust the film onto an off-kilter plane, Burning also includes recognizable present-day details. Jong-soo's farm, for example, is so close to the North Korean border that he can hear the country's radio propaganda. Elsewhere on the radio, commentators discuss South Korea's college graduate unemployment rate — a statistic Jong-soo, with his unspirited attempts at making a living, fully wallows in. And even Hae-mi, seemingly carefree, turns out to be laden with huge credit card debts.
If Burning is uninterested in offering distinct answers about its characters and their plights, it's at least committed to exploring ennui and desperation in the abstract. Jong-soo has very little, and Ben has everything, but in each other's presence both admit to a simmering desire for more. It's a festering internal journey, and one that stands in contrast to the indifference of the external world. It's a riveting film to watch.
Progress toward an agreement between the U.S. and North Korea may have slowed, but South Korea has taken another remarkable step toward linking up with the neighboring regime — by train. Last week, a South Korean train crossed the border into North Korea for the first time in a decade. It was a prelude to the two Koreas reconnecting their railways, after being separated for more than half a century. South Korea is determined to push railway development forward, despite the lack of progress on the North Korean nuclear issue. At the Dorasan Station, the last stop before the inter-Korean border, South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon on Friday saw off nearly 30 engineers and officials, as they prepared to head north. "Through the connected railways, South and North Korea will prosper together," he said, "and solidify peace on the Korean Peninsula." North and South Korean inspectors will cover about 1,600 miles over 18 days, surveying the state of the rails in North Korea. They
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has cleared three days later this month to make a historic first visit to Seoul to discuss ridding the Korea peninsula of nuclear weapons, according to a report Wednesday. Kim’s visit Dec. 18 would come three months after South Korean President Moon Jae-in traveled to Pyongyang for a state...
A North Korean soldier defected to South Korea, according to the South Korean military, but there were no unusual movements by North Korea’s military in response. The North Korean soldier was spotted moving toward South Korea, and then crossed over a...
OTTAWA — Internal memos show Canadian officials have been quietly preparing for the fallout from an atmospheric nuclear-weapons test by North Korea, including the spread of radioactive debris across the Pacific and the major public conce...
Eritrea is indeed a despot lawless state and the North Korea of Africa". RULLED BY UNELECTED SELF APPOINTED NARCESSIST PSYCHOPATH criminal ISAYAS AFEWORKI. The criminal tyrant will sell his soul to stay in power.
1-Our journalists are in jail without committing any kind of crime and all free media outlets are SHUT DOWN.
2-Our politicians including G-15 are dying in prison for choosing democracy instead of tyranny and dictatorship.
3- Every month 4 to 5 thousands of our youngsters are running away from slavery, hopelessness, torture, rape and death by the unelected criminal regime of ISAYAS AFEWORKI and his criminal gangsters.
4-Heroic leaders like BITEWEDED ABRHA and other heroic Eritrean men and women who secured our independence instead of getting honored and celebrated for their unparalleled contribution for our independence, because they chose freedom and democracy instead of accepting tyranny and dictatorship, they are thrown into prison cells like common criminals by the narcissist ISAYAS AFEWORKI and his criminal regime and paying the ultimate price for our freedom.
5-Thousands of our youngsters are decaying and dying in the concentration camps of SAWA, slaving their life away in the name of misguided and delusional national service.
6-Our Eritrea is heading towards NOT self reliance but towards self destruction and decay because of misguided and delusional policies of a drug addict despot ISAYAS AFEWORKI and his criminal gangsters.
This checks out: WASHINGTON — President Trump plans to hold a second summit meeting early next year with Kim Jong-un, even though North Korea has failed to follow through with promises to start dismantling its nuclear weapons program, John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, said on Tuesday. “They have not lived up to […]
The US ultimatum on the INF treaty is part and parcel of what Washington throws at Russia - from the Kerch Strait and the Skripals, to meddling in elections - that is not constructive, former American diplomat Jim Jatras said. The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has given Moscow an ultimatum over its alleged violations of a key nuclear missile treaty, saying Russia has two months to show it is complying with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) before Washington pulls out. While the US has previously accused Russia of building missiles in violation of the treaty, Moscow denies all the allegations, and in turn claims American missile defense systems in Europe, officially installed to counter Iran and North Korea, could easily be used offensively against Russia.
WASHINGTON — President Trump plans to hold a second summit meeting early next year with Kim Jong-un, even though North Korea has failed to follow through with promises to start dismantling its nuclear weapons program, John R. Bolton, the national security adviser, said on Tuesday.
“They have not lived up to the commitments so far,” Mr. Bolton said. “That’s why I think the president thinks another summit is likely to be productive.”
The death of George H.W. Bush is bringing together the five remaining members of an oh-so-exclusive fraternity — the presidents club. But for President Donald Trump, it may not be an entirely comfortable reunion, throwing him together with former occupants of the Oval Office who have given him decidedly mixed reviews.
Wednesday's state funeral for the late president will be attended by "formers" Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. The last time they were together with Trump was at his inauguration in 2017. Recalling the funerals for Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, they will all sit together in Washington National Cathedral, with the exception of the younger Bush, who will be seated nearby with his family.
Those who have occupied the Oval Office share an unparalleled experience that typically builds a special camaraderie. And by virtue of health, longevity and opportunities for continued influence, ex-presidents are sticking around longer than ever and staying active in the public eye.
But since taking office, Trump has had little contact with his predecessors. He has not spoken to Democrats Clinton or Obama since his inauguration. He did speak with the younger Bush during the contentious confirmation process for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, as the previous Republican president helped lobby for his former aide. Democrat Carter has been briefed by White House officials on North Korea, though it was not clear if he has engaged directly with Trump.
Trump has sought to meet the elder Bush's passing with grace, a contrast to the rhythms of much of his tumultuous presidency. He came to office after a campaign in which he harshly criticized his Democratic predecessors and co-opted a Republican Party once dominated by the Bush family. Despite the traditional kinship among presidents, Trump's predecessors have all made their discomfort known in different ways.
"It's unusual that a cabal of ex-presidents from both parties dislike a sitting president and that's what you've got happening right now," said Douglas Brinkley, a history professor at Rice University.
Past presidents often built relationships with their predecessors, Brinkley said. "Bill Clinton would reach out to Richard Nixon for advice on Russia," he said. "Harry Truman leaned heavily on Herbert Hoover. It's endless."
To be sure, Brinkley added, those ties vary from president to president and there have been chilly relationships as well, noting, for example, that "FDR would never talk to Herbert Hoover."
Busy with a mix of personal pursuits, charitable endeavors — and, in some cases, paid speaking gigs — the former leaders don't mingle very often, making a funeral in their group a big occasion. Bonded by the presidency, they tend to exercise caution in their comments about each other. Still, all the living former presidents have aimed barbs — directly or indirectly — at Trump.
In a speech in September, Obama slammed the "crazy stuff" coming out of the White House without directly naming Trump. Last year, the younger Bush made a speech that confronted many of the themes of Trump's presidency without mentioning him by name, cautioning that "bigotry seems emboldened" and the nation's politics "seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication."
Over the summer, Carter told The Washington Post that Trump's presidency was a "disaster." And Clinton — stung by Trump's defeat of wife Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race — told a weekly newspaper in New York state after her stunning loss that Trump "doesn't know much."
Even the late Bush's feelings about Trump were harsh at times. In Mark K. Updegrove's book "The Last Republicans," published last year, the elder Bush called Trump a "blowhard."
The late Bush said he voted for Clinton in 2016 while George W. Bush said he voted for "none of the above."
There have been other moments when the ex-presidents offered more sympathetic sentiments for Trump. After Trump's surprise victory, Obama stood in the Rose Garden at the White House and said he was "rooting" for the next president. Carter told The New York Times in 2017 that the media had been harder on Trump than other presidents. Clinton said in June that America should be rooting for Trump to succeed in his North Korea talks.
While he has struggled to set the right tone in past moments of national grief, Trump has gone out of his way to address Bush's passing with consideration, issuing kind statements and ensuring that Bush family members have whatever they need for the funeral. On Tuesday, first lady Melania Trump welcomed Laura Bush and other family members for a tour of the White House Christmas decorations. And Trump and the first lady visited with members of the Bush family at Blair House.
Jim McGrath, a spokesman for the late president, tweeted thanks to Trump for his efforts, praising the president and the first lady, as well as White House staff and Congress leadership "for their amazing support as we attempt to give this great and good man the send-off he surely deserves."
Brinkley said that presidential funerals tend to be civil occasions, even after political strain.
After all, he said, "Bill and Hillary were at Nixon's funeral and Hillary worked to impeach him."
Auckland (AFP) Dec 4, 2018
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un could still visit Seoul for the first time in the next few weeks, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Tuesday, describing the possible trip as a major boost in efforts to make the peninsula nuclear-free.
Moon and Kim have met three times in 2018 amid warming ties between the two Koreas, with Seoul hoping to host a first-ever visit by Kim to the South befor