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Trump agrees to meet with Kim Jong Un

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The talks would be the first between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader and will take place by May, according to South Korea’s national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, who delivered the invitation to Trump after a visit by his delegation to Pyongyang earlier this week. Chung said Kim had offered to put Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile program on the table.
The White House said Trump had agreed to the encounter. “He will accept the invitation to meet with Kim Jong Un at a place and time to be determined,” said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.
Trump’s decision, after a year in which the two have repeatedly traded insults, is a remarkable breakthrough. It brings the North Korean regime close to its long-desired aim of recognition on the international stage, and offers Trump the tantalizing prospect of a historic diplomatic victory. But the consequences of such a high-stakes gamble remain hard to predict.
The South Korean delegation, which landed in Washington, D.C. for a debriefing Thursday on the North-South talks, was careful to praise Trump’s influence over the developments. Chung said the US President’s “leadership” and his administration’s pressure on the North Korean regime had “brought us to this juncture.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that Trump “greatly appreciates the nice words” of the delegation and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
“He will accept the invitation to meet with Kim Jong Un at a place and time to be determined. We look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea. In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain.”
Trump tweeted that “great progress” had been made but there would be no prospect of lifting sanctions until a deal was reached.

‘Almost miraculous’

South Korea’s President Moon described the announcement as “historic” and thanked both leaders for seeking a diplomatic solution to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
“This is an almost miraculous event; my administration will prepare toward the May meeting with utmost diligence,” he said in remarks read out in Seoul by a Blue House spokesman.
With State Dept. depleted, Trump admin considers outside help on North Korea

Geng Shuang, a spokesman at China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the development was positive, and it was a moment to show “political courage.” But he stressed that China would continue to maintain sanctions on North Korea until a political settlement was reached.
Other regional powers reacted cautiously. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe talked to President Donald Trump on the phone to reiterate the necessity of maintaining pressure on North Korea.
Abe, briefing reporters after the call, said that the US and Japan had agreed to “keep putting maximum pressure until North Korea takes concrete actions toward denuclearization.”
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said her government welcomed “any dialogue with North Korea” but warned that “North Korea has a history of making agreements and then failing to honor them.”
Bishop said that, during any talks, Pyongyang must abide by its United Nations obligations to refrain from nuclear and missile tests.

Rapid development

The stunning announcement was the culmination of a diplomatic whirlwind that began with the invitation of a North Korean delegation to attend the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. That event became the venue for a series of carefully orchestrated diplomatic overtures, which were reciprocated with a visit by a South Korean delegation to Pyongyang.
During the visit, Kim reportedly joked over dinners of Korean hotpot and cold noodles. At one meeting, he said previous missile tests had caused Moon to schedule early morning national security meetings. “I decided today (to freeze the tests) so he will not lose sleep anymore,” he said, according to a South Korean presidential official.
Kim and the officials shared several bottles of wine, liquor made of ginseng and Pyongyang soju, the official said. “The bottles kept coming,” said another administrative source who had official knowledge of the meeting.
The alcohol-fueled diplomacy ended in dramatic fashion[2] at the White House on Thursday.
Chung, the South Korean national security adviser, arrived at the White House shortly before 2:30 p.m. to meet with his US counterpart, H.R. McMaster.
Just minutes after 5 p.m., Trump poked his head in the White House briefing room to tell reporters South Korea would be making a “major announcement.”
Chung’s delegation appeared outside the West Wing about two hours later. In a brief statement to reporters, Chung said Kim “expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible.”
The North Korean leader had told the South Koreans “he is committed to denuclearization” and pledged that North Korea would “refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests,” Chung said. Kim also told the South Koreans he understands that the US and South Korea would move forward with their joint military exercises later this year.
Moments later, the White House confirmed that Trump had accepted Kim’s invitation to meet
There are many details to be ironed out before any meeting could take place, not least the location. The Panmunjom truce village in the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), one possible venue, hosted meetings between North and South Korea in the run-up to the Winter Olympics.

Sanctions to remain in place

Since Trump came into office, the US has leveled some of its most significant and far-reaching sanctions against North Korea and has also succeeded in pressuring China to further isolate the regime. That pressure would not abate as the US heads toward the historic talks, the White House said.
Trump reiterated the US stance on sanctions. “Kim Jong Un talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze,” he tweeted. “Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time. Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!”
A host of questions lingered over Trump’s remarkable decision, which signaled a break with the administration’s thinking just days — even hours — earlier.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters traveling with him in Ethiopia earlier on Thursday that the US was “a long way from negotiations.”
“In terms of direct talks with the United States, and you asked negotiations, we’re a long way from negotiations. We just need to be very clear-eyed and realistic about it,” Tillerson said.
Trump’s approach to North Korea has wavered between bellicose rhetoric and expressions of openness to diplomacy — with the President saying one day that the US would rain “fire and fury” on North Korea and then saying he would consider speaking directly with the country’s leader under the right circumstances.
On the campaign trail he signaled more than once that he would be open to direct talks, but more recently belittled Tillerson’s attempts to bring Kim to the negotiating table.
“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” he tweeted in October, using his disparaging nickname for the North Korean leader.
The White House did not say why it had changed its calculus toward North Korea by agreeing to talks without “concrete steps toward denuclearization.”
But a senior administration official said Trump had accepted Kim’s invitation to meet because “it makes sense to accept an invitation to meet with the one person who can actually make decisions,” even though past US-North Korea talks have taken place at a lower level.
“President Trump was elected in part because he is willing to do — take approaches very, very different from past approaches and past presidents. That couldn’t be better exemplified in his North Korea policy,” the official said Thursday evening.
The official added that “President Trump has made his reputation on making deals” and Kim “is the one person who is able to make decisions under their authoritarian — or totalitarian — system.”

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Houston Recalls Legacy of George Bush, Its Lone Star Yankee and Senior Booster

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HOUSTON — Inside the airport that bears his name, George Herbert Walker Bush looks, at a distance, as if he’s wearing a cape.

An 8-foot-tall bronze statue at the Houston airport shows Mr. Bush, who , Barbara Bush[4], who died in April at the age of 92. After Mr. Bush’s death on Friday, Houston lost its two most famous residents in the span of seven months.

“George H.W. Bush served with valor and integrity as the 41st president of the United States,” Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, said in a statement. “But to Houstonians he was one of our most esteemed and relatable neighbors. He and his wife, Barbara Bush, were our sports teams’ biggest fans, and boosters for everything Houston.”

This was the man whose most memorable quote in years had to do with men’s hosiery. In 2012, as his fondness for wearing bright eye-catching socks was going strong, he explained that he simply “likes a good sock.” At his wife’s funeral at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Mr. Bush wore a pair of socks with a colorful stack-of-books design, a tribute to Mrs. Bush’s advocacy work for family literacy.

In Houston and its surrounding suburbs, Mr. Bush had not only an airport in his name but a park, a high school and a few more life-size statues. Above Buffalo Bayou, a bronze statue of Mr. Bush looks out into the distance with his hand in his pocket, gazing at, of all things, James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state and Mr. Bush’s tennis partner at the Houston Country Club. The statues of the two close friends face each other in the downtown park, separated by about 100 yards, in Houston’s oddest and longest-running staring contest.

“All I can do now,” Mr. Bush told The New York Times in 2011 about the statue, “is hope that the pigeons will be kind and gentle.”

Charles C. Foster, a Houston immigration lawyer and a longtime friend of the Bush family, came up with the idea for the George H.W. Bush Monument, which was unveiled in 2004. Mr. Foster recalled the day he sat in Mr. Bush’s office at 10000 Memorial Drive and asked for his blessing for the project.

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Mr. Bush in 1970, when he was a congressman.CreditAssociated Press

“He looked at me and he sort of looked up at the ceiling,” Mr. Foster said. “He pointed to the ceiling and said, ‘Shouldn’t you wait until I’m up there?’ And then he said, pointing downward, ‘Or perhaps down there?’”

In 1990, Mr. Bush helped turn the eyes of the world to Houston.

As president, he brought thousands of reporters and foreign dignitaries to Houston that summer for the Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations, an annual gathering of the world’s economic powers. The summits had been held in a number of global cities — London, Tokyo, Paris, Venice — and Mr. Bush made the case that his adopted hometown belonged among such world-class company.

Houston was scrappier back then. The city was rebounding from an oil bust in the 1980s that crippled the economy, and it tried hard to present its best, and cleanest, face to the cameras and the visitors, picking up millions of pounds of trash, repaving roads and enlisting the aid of 12,000 volunteers.

“That was huge for Houston,” Mr. Foster said of the 1990 summit. “When the president had a chance, he could have picked some mountain retreat. But he picked his hometown. He was well aware of the chip on our shoulders that we didn’t feel like Houston got the recognition that it should.”

Now, with 2.3 million residents (compared with 1.6 million in 1990), Houston is the fourth-largest city in America, known as much for its diversity as its energy-capital status. George Bush High School, part of the Fort Bend school district, is 43 percent Hispanic, 38 percent black, 12 percent Asian and 4 percent white. More than 90 languages and dialects are spoken in the district.

Early Saturday morning in the upscale Tanglewood area, Houstonians paused at the gates at South Post Oak Lane and North West Oak Drive — the entrance to the gated community where Mr. Bush lived. Someone draped an American flag in the center of the gates, decorated for the holidays with Christmas wreaths.

Shirley Matthews, 66, a lifelong Houstonian who lives nearby, walked up and took a picture of the memorial for her mother. “He was just a good person,” she said. “He wasn’t perfect. But it’s family, and we love each other.”

References

  1. ^ died at his home here on Friday (www.nytimes.com)
  2. ^ Read the obituary of George H.W. Bush. (www.nytimes.com)
  3. ^ the funeral for his wife (www.nytimes.com)
  4. ^ Barbara Bush (www.nytimes.com)

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A Close Race, a Mysterious Ballot and Control of Alaska’s House at Stake

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With a crucial legislative seat in Alaska teetering toward a tie earlier this month, lawmakers in Juneau braced for the possibility of a coin toss deciding control of the state’s House of Representatives. Then a mysterious extra ballot emerged that threw the process into further disarray.

Amid several counts, the latest coming on Friday afternoon, a single ballot drew scrutiny across the state.

The state’s review board certified the race, between Kathryn Dodge, a Democrat, and Bart LeBon, a Republican, as a tie earlier this week, with exactly 2,661 votes going to each candidate. The extra ballot, for Ms. Dodge, could have settled the race for the Fairbanks-area district seat.

Later on Friday, the mystery appeared to have been solved — but the standoff over who won the election continued.

Samantha Miller, a spokeswoman for the state elections office, said that workers at Fairbanks’s No. 6 precinct told officials that a woman had come into the polling place to request a special needs ballot on behalf of her husband, who was outside in a vehicle.

The woman came back into the precinct. Her husband had made a mistake, she told the precinct worker, and needed a new ballot. She left behind the one he had already marked, thus making it a spoiled ballot.

The precinct chair told the worker who took the spoiled ballot to put it into a secrecy sleeve, “and that they would deal with it later in the day,” Ms. Miller said.

But instead, the spoiled ballot was put into a compartment with other questioned ballots.

Typically, Ms. Miller said, spoiled ballots are destroyed once they are accounted for. So, because the mystery ballot was found to be spoiled, it will not be counted, she said.

Still, that left the question of what happens if the recount that began on Friday afternoon ends in a tie — again.

Ms. Miller said that both candidates had five days to file a legal challenge to the results. And if the court decided the recount went as it should have, and the race was still a tie?

The prevailing candidate would be determined “by lot,” Ms. Miller said. “It could be a coin toss or some other way of deciding, as long as it’s random.”

It would not be the first time an Alaska race was determined by coin toss.

In 2006, State Representative Bryce Edgmon[1], a Democrat from Dillingham, beat the incumbent, Carl Moses. Mr. Moses’s name was drawn, so he got to make the call: Heads.

The state’s elections director at the time flipped an Alaska Mint medallion — the side with a walrus being heads and the side with the state seal being tails. It landed state seal side up.

Ms. Miller would not speculate about when the recount would be complete, but said both candidates were present, along with observers and officials.

Mr. LeBon did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

Sara Harriger, a spokeswoman for Ms. Dodge, said in a statement that during Friday’s recount, one additional vote was found for Ms. Dodge and a challenged ballot was allowed for her opponent, Mr. LeBon, which meant that the tally stood at 2,662 apiece. Still tied.

Ms. Dodge said in a statement that she believed every legally cast ballot should be counted. “I just want everyone watching this process to take away a sense of confidence in our democratic system and a commitment to cast their votes in future races,” she said, “and knowing that their votes will matter.”

Ms. Dodge had said earlier on Friday that legal action “unfortunately” seemed probable.

“It’s certainly not what any of us expect when we set out to campaign, to find ourselves in a squeaker of this nature,” she said. “I hope we don’t have a coin toss. I don’t know quite what to say, but it doesn’t feel like it’s an appropriate way to settle an election.”

In Alaska, the repercussions of this race will be felt into the next legislative session, though party control of the House in Juneau will be far from clear-cut.

Political coalitions in Juneau do not always come down to party-line votes like in other state houses. Even if Ms. Dodge wins the race, Democrats would still not have an outright majority, and so members of the House will still be tasked with negotiating a coalition majority.

References

  1. ^ Bryce Edgmon (akleg.gov)

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3 Killed After Pickup Truck Fleeing Border Patrol Hits Tire Spikes and Crashes

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Three people in a packed pickup truck were killed on Thursday afternoon after the driver ran over tire spikes and crashed on a Southern California highway while trying to flee Border Patrol officers, the authorities said.

The officers turned on their vehicle’s emergency lights and began chasing the pickup truck on Interstate 8, near Boulevard, Calif., at around 4:20 p.m., according to the United States Customs and Border Protection. The authorities said they believed that the pickup truck had been illegally driven over the southern border and had crashed through an “iron bar vehicle barrier.” They said they identified it by matching a piece that was missing from the truck to one agents had spotted on the ground near the border, though they did not elaborate.

The pickup truck reached speeds of over 100 miles per hour, weaving between cars and bypassing others on the side of the highway, before it drove over spikes that the Border Patrol had placed on the road, the California Highway Patrol said. About a mile later, the truck spun out of control and flipped over, ejecting the nine people who were riding in the truck’s bed, the authorities said.

A woman inside the truck, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was killed, as were two people riding in the bed, the police said. Seven people who had “multiple serious injuries” were taken to the hospital, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection said.

The driver, a United States citizen whose name was not released, was the only person wearing a seatbelt, the agency said. The California Highway Patrol took the man into custody, but it was not clear whether he had been charged. The identities of the passengers in the truck have not been released either.

“The investigation into the smuggling incident is ongoing,” the spokesman said in an email, “and the Border Patrol is fully cooperating with the CHP in their investigation of the collision.”

About an hour after the crash, the Border Patrol stopped another vehicle that officers believed had crossed over the border with the pickup truck, the agency said. The driver of that car was also arrested.

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