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U.S. spy chief says he got a mixed reception in North Korea

by admin   |   Posted on Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

Director of U.S. National Intelligence James Clapper speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York March 2, 2015. CREDIT: REUTERS/SHANNON STAPLETON

(Reuters) – U.S. spy chief James Clapper said that when he made a secret visit to North Korea in November to bring home two jailed Americans he was first given a 12-course banquet and then later told by his hosts that his security could not be guaranteed.

Clapper gave details of his trip, made at the behest of President Barack Obama, for the first time during a forum on Monday at the Council on Foreign relations.

He said that after his arrival in the isolated country’s capital, a North Korean four-star general hosted what Clapper called a “marvelous” 12-course meal at a restaurant above a bowling alley.

The next day, Clapper said, a representative of the state security ministry came to his guest house and told him the government no longer considered him a presidential envoy and could not guarantee his security and that of his party.

Clapper said they packed their bags and were taken to a room at a Pyongyang hotel where a delegation of Korean officials, led by state prosecutors, was waiting with the Americans, Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller, who were still dressed in prison uniforms.

After a denunciation of the prisoners was read out, the officials walked out of the room, leaving the Americans in the company of Clapper and his aides. The freed Americans changed clothes, and the party headed for the airport for a flight home.

Bae and Miller returned to a warm welcome in the United States on Nov. 8.

Bae, 46, a Korean-American missionary from Lynnwood north of Seattle, was arrested in North Korea in November 2012 and sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor for crimes against the state. Miller, in his mid-20s, was reportedly convicted on an espionage charge and in custody since last April, serving a six-year hard labor sentence.

North Korea is under tough international sanctions for its nuclear and missile programs and was severely criticized for its human rights abuses in a United Nations report last year.

(Reporting by David Storey; Editing by Ken Wills)

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Trump tells Democratic congresswomen to ‘go back’ to ‘fix’ countries they came from

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, July 15th, 2019

(L-R) Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts | Courtesy: Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday (July 14) told a group of mostly American-born Democratic congresswomen to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” a comment that was condemned by Democrats as racist.

“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe… viciously telling the people of the United States… how our government is to be run,” Trump said in a series of three comments on Twitter.

While he did not mention names, Trump appeared to be referring to first-year Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan – a group known as “the squad” that has been very critical of Trump and also of the current Democratic leadership of the House.

Only Omar, whose family left Somalia as refugees and arrived in Minneapolis in 1997, was born outside the United States.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, has feuded with the group in an increasingly bitter intra-party fight, but came to their defense Sunday along with other Democratic colleagues. She called Trump’s comments “xenophobic.”

“When @realDonaldTrump tells four American Congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to ‘Make America Great Again’ has always been about making America white again,” she said on Twitter. (REUTERS)

(Production: Deborah Lutterbeck)

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Death toll in Nepal floods rises to 55, thousands displaced

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, July 15th, 2019

The death toll in Nepal from flash floods and landslides rose to 55 on Sunday (July 14), with dozens missing and injured, the government said.

Ten thousand people have been displaced from their homes as incessant monsoon rains pounded many areas in mostly mountainous Nepal since Thursday (July 11), submerging large areas of land, inundating homes, and destroying bridges and roads across the country.

A Home Ministry statement said 55 people had been confirmed dead and 33 injured, with 30 still missing.

India’s north eastern state of Assam has also been hard hit by the floods brought by the monsoon, with at least 1.5 million people displaced and 10 dead.

In the Chittagong division of Bangladesh there have been 10 deaths and about 500,000 displaced, with 200 villages flooded.

Officials said in some areas rains had eased but rivers in the eastern part of the country were still above flood level.

The Kosi River, which flows into the eastern Indian state of Bihar, was among those that had risen above the flood level.

The Kosi has been a serious concern for both India and Nepal since it broke its banks in 2008 and changed course, submerging large areas of land and affecting more than 2 million people in India’s Bihar state. (REUTERS)

(Production: Emily Cooper)

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Iran ready to talk to U.S. if sanctions lifted

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Monday, July 15th, 2019

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaking at televised address | Courtesy: Reuters footage

Iran is ready to hold talks with the United States if Washington lifts sanctions and returns to the 2015 nuclear deal it quit last year, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a televised speech on Sunday (July 14).

“When a big power that is a bully, well then we have to stand up to it. It must stop being a bully. We have always believed in talks. Always, right this hour, right this moment, if they stop the oppression, if they stop the belligerence, if they lift sanctions, return to the table, return to to logic; we are ready,” said Rouhani.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration says it is open to negotiations with Iran on a more far-reaching agreement on nuclear and security issues.

But Iran has made any talks conditional on first being able to export as much oil as it did before the United States withdrew from the nuclear pact with world powers in May 2018.

Confrontations between Washington and Tehran have escalated, culminating in a plan for U.S. air strikes on Iran last month that Trump called off at the last minute. (REUTERS)

(Production: Vin Shahrestani)

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