Manchester England: Police Identify The Coward Who Set Off Bomb At Children’s Concert

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Police identified 22-year-old Salman Abedi as the suspected suicide bomber who detonated bombs as throngs of teenagers poured out of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester that killed 22 people.

The suspect carrying explosives acted as a lone attacker and died in the blast Monday night, which left the wounded and the dead scattered across the arena’s bloodied entrance and sent screaming girls running for cover, according to police.
Greater Manchester Chief Constable Ian Hopkins named the suspect Tuesday but said that the man’s identity had not been yet confirmed by a coroner.
The blast marked the deadliest terror attack on British soil since the 2005 London bombings. Hundreds of residents remembered the newest victims during a Tuesday evening vigil.
A powerful explosion shook part of the cavernous Manchester Arena late Monday as concertgoers streamed out following the American pop star’s last song.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack but offered no evidence.
An 8-year-old girl and an 18-year-old woman have been named as the first victims of the attack, which has drawn condemnation and horror from around the world as a heinous assault targeting children.

Key developments

  • Ariana Grande suspends her world tour.
  • Police have carried out two raids in Manchester.
  • Queen Elizabeth II described bombing as “act of barbarity.”
  • 59 people injured, some in life-threatening situations.
  • US President Donald Trump slams attackers as “losers.”
  • British Prime Minister says police have identified the suspect.

People tend to the injured inside the Manchester Arena after the attack Monday night.

ISIS said on its Telegram channel Tuesday that a “soldier of the caliphate” was able to “plant explosive devices” at the arena, a US counter-terrorism source told CNN. ISIS routinely claims attacks it has no proven links with.
But authorities have discovered no evidence of a link between the attacker and an established terror group, a British counterterrorism official told CNN.
No determination has been on the sophistication of the explosive device or what chemicals were involved, the official said.
A US counterterrorism official said bombing “looks much like” an ISIS attack but that American intelligence officials were working with British counterparts to determine more.
On Tuesday evening, hundreds attended a vigil outside Manchester City Hall in honor of the victims.
“We will stand together to say that this city is greater than the force that aligns itself against it,” David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, told the crowd. “We are sending a signal not just to Manchester, but across the world that you can not defeat us because love in the end is always stronger than hate.”

Girls scramble over seats and barriers to flee the arena.

Girls scramble over seats and barriers to flee the arena. 00:41
Video from inside the arena showed girls screaming as they scrambled over chairs and railings to escape the 21,000-seat venue, while photographs showed bodies laying bloodied on the floor.
After an emergency Cabinet meeting, British Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the attack as “callous” and “cowardly.”
“We struggle to comprehend the warped and twisted mind that sees a room packed with young children not a scene to cherish but as an opportunity for carnage,” May said in London before leaving for Manchester.

Young victims named

Saffie Rose Roussos, 8, was among those killed in the Manchester Arena attack.

Eight-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos from Leyland has been named as one of the fatalities, the Lancashire County Council confirmed.
Chris Upton, the head teacher at the Tarleton Community Primary School, described her as “simply a beautiful little girl” who was “quiet and unassuming with a creative flair.”

Victim Georgina Callander, left, pictured with Ariana Grande.

Georgina Callander, 18, was also killed, according to her school, the Bishop Rawstorne Church of England Academy.
“All of our students will gather together today for a time of prayer and reflection and to give thanks for the life of Georgina,” the school said.
At least 12 victims aged 16 or under were being treated at a children’s hospital for serious injuries, some of them fighting for their lives, a Manchester health official said.
Grande, who had just finished the first of three scheduled UK performances, tweeted about her devastation several hours later: “broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words.”
The pop star has suspended her “Dangerous Woman” tour following the attack, a source with knowledge of the situation told CNN. Grande was scheduled to perform in London and across Europe through mid-June.
Queen Elizabeth II said Tuesday that “the whole nation has been shocked.”

‘Darkest of nights’ in Manchester

Britain has been under a “severe” terror threat alert for three years and there has been an uptick in terror-related arrests in recent months.
Police have warned that another attack was likely after a man plowed his car into a crowd on London’s Westminister Bridge in March and stabbed a policeman, in an attack that left six dead.
Monday’s bombing has raised concerns that a more sophisticated network may exist in the country.

Emergency crews evacuated victims at the Manchester Arena Monday night.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham described the attack as “our darkest of nights.”
“These were children, young people and their families that those responsible chose to terrorize and kill. This was an evil act,” he said.
Around 400 police were deployed overnight following the attack, and on Tuesday, large groups of armed police were seen in several parts of the city. Security was boosted in London.
People began paying their respects to the victims on Tuesday afternoon. A family of four arrived at St. Ann’s Square in the city center with a bouquet of flowers and balloons.
“I’m just feeling really down for all the families that lost their children and family members,” said Michael Heveril.
“It’s quite close to home — I never thought anything like this would ever happen in Manchester.”

Chaotic scenes

The explosion rocked the arena at around 10:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m. ET). The sound of wailing sirens cut through the smoky aftermath.
Crying children and parents desperately tried to find each other as cell phone signals faltered, witnesses said.

Mom: I don't know if daughter is dead or alive

Mom: I don’t know if daughter is dead or alive 01:22
Manchester resident Charlotte Campbell told CNN she waited for news on her 15-year-old daughter, Olivia. “We’ve tried everything we can. They’re telling us to wait by the phones,” she said.
Olivia had gone to the concert with a friend and neither have been in contact. Her father was looking for the girls.
“I want her home and I want her safe,” Charlotte Campbell said. “I just want her to walk through the door.”

Trump calls attackers ‘losers’

president trump israel manchester explosion attack losers sot es_00003411

Pres. Trump: Manchester attacked by losers 02:05
US President Donald Trump slammed the attack, saying that terrorists were “losers.”
“So many young beautiful innocent people living and enjoying their lives murdered by evil losers in life. I won’t call them monsters because they would like that term. They would think that’s a great name. I will call them from now on losers because that’s what they are,” he said. “This wicked ideology must be obliterated.”
The US Department of Homeland Security said it was “closely monitoring” the situation.

Trump to propose big cuts to safety-net in new budget, slashing Medicaid and opening door to other limits

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

Trump to propose big cuts to safety-net in new budget, slashing Medicaid and opening door to other limits

May 21 at 6:54 PM

President Trump’s first major budget proposal on Tuesday will include massive cuts to Medicaid and call for changes to anti-poverty programs that would give states new power to limit a range of benefits, people familiar with the planning said, despite growing unease in Congress about cutting the safety net.

For Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides health care to low-income Americans, Trump’s budget plan would follow through on a bill passed by House Republicans to cut more than $800 billion over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this could cut off Medicaid benefits for about 10 million people over the next decade.

The White House also will call for giving states more flexibility to impose work requirements for people in different kinds of anti-poverty programs, people familiar with the budget plan said, potentially leading to a flood of changes in states led by conservative governors. Many anti-poverty programs have elements that are run by both the states and federal government, and a federal order allowing states to stiffen work requirements “for able-bodied Americans” could have a broad impact in terms of limiting who can access anti-poverty payments — and for how long.

Numerous social-welfare programs grew after the financial crisis, leading to complaints from many Republicans that more should be done to shift people out of these programs and back into the workforce. Shortly after he was sworn in, Trump said, “We want to get our people off welfare and back to work. . . . It’s out of control.”

Trump’s decision to include the Medicaid cuts is significant because it shows he is rejecting calls from a number of Senate Republicans not to reverse the expansion of Medicaid that President Barack Obama achieved as part of the Affordable Care Act. The House has voted to cut the Medicaid funding, but Senate Republicans have signaled they are likely to start from scratch.

Play Video 2:42
Trump promised over and over to ‘save’ Medicare and Social Security. Will he?
President Trump promised over and over to ‘save’ Medicare and Social Security. Will he?(Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

The proposed changes will be a central feature of Trump’s first comprehensive budget plan, which will be the most detailed look at how he aims to change government spending and taxes over his presidency. Although Trump and his aides have discussed their vision in broad brushes, this will be the first time they attempt to put specific numbers on many aspects of those plans, shedding light on which proposals they see making the biggest difference in reshaping government. Congress must approve of most changes in the plan before it is enacted into law.

Trump offered a streamlined version of the budget plan in March, but it dealt only with the 30 percent of government spending that is appropriated each year. In that budget, he sought a big increase in military and border spending combined with major cuts to housing, environmental protection, foreign aid, research and development.

But Tuesday’s budget will be more significant, because it will seek changes to entitlements — programs that are essentially on auto­pilot and don’t need annual authorization from Congress. The people describing the proposals spoke on the condition of anonymity because the budget had not been released publicly and the White House is closely guarding details.

The proposed changes include the big cuts to Medicaid. The White House also is expected to propose changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, though precise details couldn’t be learned. SNAP is the modern version of food stamps, and it swelled following the financial crisis as the Obama administration eased policies to make it easier for people to qualify for benefits. As the economy has improved, enrollment in the program hasn’t changed as much as many had forecast.

An average of 44 million people received SNAP benefits in 2016, down from a peak of 47 million in 2013. Just 28 million people received the benefits in 2008.

SNAP could be one of numerous programs impacted by changes in work requirements.

Josh Archambault, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability, a conservative think tank, said that giving states the flexibility to impose work requirements could lead to a raft of changes to programs ranging from Medicaid to public housing assistance.

“One of the encouraging things about putting this in the budget is that states will see if it works,” he said. “States will try it.”

SNAP already has a work requirement, which typically cuts benefits for most able-bodied adults who don’t have children. But states were given more flexibility during the recent economic downturn to extend the benefits for a longer period, something that split conservatives at the time.

Michael Tanner, a welfare expert at the libertarian Cato Institute, said the U.S. government spends between $680 billion and $800 billion a year on anti-poverty programs, and considering wholesale changes to many of these initiatives is worthwhile, given questions about the effectiveness of how the money is spent.

‘We’re not seeing the type of gains we should be seeing for all that spending, and that would suggest its time to reform the system,” he said.

Many critics have said work requirements can include blanket ultimatums that don’t take into account someone’s age, physical or cognitive ability, or limitations put in place by the local economy. Benefits from these programs are often low, and hardly replace the income someone would earn from a job. And critics of stricter work requirements also believe it could pave the way for states to pursue even stricter restrictions, such as drug tests, that courts have often rejected.

After The Washington Post reported some of the cuts Sunday evening, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Trump was pulling “the rug out from so many who need help.”

“This budget continues to reveal President Trump’s true colors: His populist campaign rhetoric was just a Trojan horse to execute long-held, hard-right policies that benefit the ultra wealthy at the expense of the middle class,” he said.

The proposed changes to Medicaid and SNAP will be just some of several anti-poverty programs that the White House will look to change. In March, the White House signaled that it wanted to eliminate money for a range of other programs that are funded each year by Congress. This included federal funding for Habitat for Humanity, subsidized school lunches and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which coordinates the federal response to homelessness across 19 federal agencies.

Leaked budget documents, obtained by the think tank Third Way, suggested other ways the White House plans to change anti-poverty funding. These documents show a change in the funding for Social Security’s Supplemental Security Income program, which provide cash benefits for the poor and disabled. It’s unclear, though, what those changes might look like. A White House official said the Third Way document was out-of-date and would not comment on specifics in their files.

Medicaid, SNAP and the SSI program are now classified as “mandatory” spending because they are funded each year without congressional approval.

Trump has instructed his budget director, former South Carolina congressman Mick Mulvaney, that he does not want cuts to Medicare and Social Security’s retirement program in this budget, Mulvaney recently said, but the plan may call for changes to Social Security Disability Insurance, seeking ideas for ways to move people who are able out of this program and back into the workforce.

A key element of the budget plan will be the assumption that huge tax cuts will result in an unprecedented level of economic growth. Trump recently unveiled the broad principles of what he has said will be the biggest in U.S. history, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told a Senate panel last week that these tax cuts would end up creating trillions of dollars in new revenue, something budget experts from both parties have disputed.

The tax cuts would particularly benefit the wealthiest Americans, as Trump has proposing cutting the estate tax, capital gains and business tax rates.

“The indications are strong this budget will feature Robin-Hood-in-reverse policies in an unprecedented scale,” said Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank.

The White House will use its presumed new revenue from the tax cuts combined with broad spending cuts to claim that its changes would eliminate the budget deficit over 10 years. The budget deficit is the gap between government spending and tax revenue, and there has been a deficit in the United States every year since the end of the Clinton administration.

But the Trump administration on Tuesday will say its plan to cut spending, roll back regulations and cut taxes will bring the United States back to economic growth levels that represent about 3 percent of gross domestic product.

Mulvaney told the Federalist Society last week that the economic growth is needed to balance the budget, because spending cuts alone would be seen as too draconian.

“I think we’ve trained people to be immune to the true costs of government,” Mulvaney said. “People think government is cheaper than it is because we’ve allowed ourselves to borrow money for a long period of time and not worry about paying it back.”

Combined, the tax cuts and spending cuts on anti-poverty programs would signal a sharp reversal of Obama’s legacy by pursuing big tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, a large increase in military spending and major changes to anti-poverty programs.

Its premise is that the creation of more wealth will help all Americans succeed, and the Trump administration believes that some anti-poverty programs have created a culture of dependency that prevents people from re-entering the workforce.

White House budget proposals are a way for an administration to spell out its priorities and goals, setting benchmarks for Congress to work with as they decide how much spending to authorize. Trump has an advantage working with two chambers of Congress controlled by his own party, but even many Republicans have said they won’t back the severity of some of the cuts he has proposed, particularly in the areas of foreign aid.

Ron Haskins, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, who played a lead role in drafting the 1997 welfare changes in Congress, said Trump will need to find new support from Republicans in Congress if he is going to achieve the welfare-related overhauls he’s seeking.

“I don’t think the Republicans on the Hill are going to feel a strong compulsion to follow the president,” Haskins said. “They are not afraid of him.”

In addition to the myriad cuts, the budget will include some new spending.

Beyond an increase in the military budget and new money for border security, the White House is expected to call for $200 billion for infrastructure projects and an additional $25 billion over 10 years for a new program designed by Ivanka Trump that would create six weeks of parental leave benefits.

Leaders Begin Arriving in Riyadh for Arab-Islamic-US Summit

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

Saudi Arabia

Leaders Begin Arriving in Riyadh for Arab-Islamic-US Summit

The leaders and heads of delegations of Arab and Islamic countries began arriving in Riyadh on Saturday to attend the Arab-Islamic-US summit that will be held in the Saudi capital the next day during US President Donald Trump’s visit.

Trump and the Arab and Muslim leaders will meet on Sunday to address ways of building more robust and effective security partnerships to counter and prevent the growing threat of terrorism and violent extremism around the globe through promoting tolerance and moderation.

Among those who arrived were Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, President Adama Barrow of Gambia, President Roch Marc Christian Kabore of Burkina Faso, the head of the Libyan National Accord, Fayez al-Sarraj, President Alpha Conde of Guinea, President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, President Alassane Ouattara of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia, Omani Deputy Prime Minister Fahd bin Mahmud Al Said, President David Arthur Granger of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, President Patrice Talon of the Republic of Benin, President Macky Sall of the Republic of Senegal, Suriname’s Foreign Minister Yildiz Pollack, and President Emomali Rahmon of Tajikistan.

Trump and First Lady Melania arrived in Riyadh earlier Saturday. The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques welcomed the US president at the King Khalid International Airport.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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NYT: Trump brags to Russians about firing ‘nut job’ Comey

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN AND THE NEW YORK TIMES)

NYT: Trump brags to Russians about firing ‘nut job’ Comey

“I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump said, according to the Times. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”
Trump’s Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak came one day after Comey was fired.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer did not refute the Times story but said it was Comey’s “grandstanding and politicizing” of the Russia investigation that put pressure on the administration’s ability to engage Moscow.
“The President has always emphasized the importance of making deals with Russia as it relates to Syria, Ukraine, defeating ISIS and other key issues for the benefit and safety of the American people,” Spicer said in a statement to CNN. “By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia’s actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia.”
He added, “The investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it. Once again, the real story is that our national security has been undermined by the leaking of private and highly classified conversations.”
Trump’s dismissal of Comey was met with bipartisan derision. The move, which came after Trump asked Comey for his loyalty and, according to memos written by the former FBI director, requested he kill an investigation into Trump’s top national security adviser, was seen as a clear violation of protocol and had some Democrats calling for impeachment.
The President maintains he was surprised by the response to Comey’s firing.
“Director Comey was very unpopular with most people,” he said Thursday at a news conference. “When I made that decision, I actually thought that it would be a bipartisan decision. Because you look at all of the people on the Democratic side, not only the Republican side, that were saying such terrible things about Director Comey.”
The news broke shortly after Trump took off for his critically important five-country, eight-day foreign trip, the first of his presidency.
Even before Friday’s report, news about Comey and the newly named special counsel for the Russia investigation has threatened to overshadow Trump’s trip.
Trump’s meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak was controversial before news of talk about Comey ever came out. No United States media were invited in for the meeting, but a photographer from TASS, the Russian state media organization, was in the room for at least part of the gathering. The meeting was also personal request from Vladimir Putin. The Russian President asked that they meet when he spoke with Trump earlier this month.

Jeff Sessions: Completely Out Of Touch With Honesty Or Truth?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Photo

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday ordered federal prosecutors to pursue the toughest penalties possible for criminal defendants. CreditMichael Reynolds/European Pressphoto Agency

WASHINGTON — As a senator, Jeff Sessions was such a conservative outlier on criminal justice issues that he pushed other Republicans to the forefront of his campaign to block a sentencing overhaul, figuring they would be taken more seriously.

Now Mr. Sessions is attorney general and need not take a back seat to anyone when it comes to imposing his ultratough-on-crime views. The effect of his transition from being just one of 535 in Congress to being top dog at the Justice Department was underscored on Friday when he ordered federal prosecutors to make sure they threw the book at criminal defendants and pursued the toughest penalties possible.

“This is a key part of President Trump’s promise to keep America safe,” Mr. Sessions said on Friday as he received an award from the New York City police union to mark the beginning of National Police Week.

Given Mr. Sessions’s long record as a zealous prosecutor and his well-known views on the dangers of drug use, his push to undo Obama-era sentencing policies and ramp up the war on drugs was hardly a surprise. But it was still striking, because it ran so contrary to the growing bipartisan consensus coursing through Washington and many state capitals in recent years — a view that America was guilty of excessive incarceration and that large prison populations were too costly in tax dollars and the toll on families and communities.

Continue reading the main story

In an increasingly rare achievement, conservatives and liberals had come together on the issue, putting them on the verge of winning reductions in mandatory minimum sentences and creating new programs to help offenders adjust to life after prison. Given the success shown by similar changes at the state level, bipartisan majorities in the House and the Senate seemed eager to move ahead on the issue last year.

Despite the strong support, stiff opposition from Mr. Sessions and a few other outspoken Republicans — Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia among them — stalled the bill in the Senate and sapped momentum from a simultaneous House effort.

As the 2016 elections approached, Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican and majority leader, shied from bringing to the Senate floor the politically charged issue that had divided his party. So the effort died, much to the disappointment of the unusual cross-section of advocates behind it.

Backers of the sentencing overhaul say that Mr. Sessions, who as a senator from Alabama supported legislation that would have made a second marijuana trafficking conviction a capital crime, is living in the past and is badly misguided.

“Locking up people who don’t pose a threat to public safety is a waste of taxpayer money, a waste of resources and doesn’t deter crime,” said Steve Hawkins, the president of the Coalition for Public Safety, a sentencing reform advocacy group whose partners are as diverse as the liberal Center for American Progress and the conservative FreedomWorks.

These organizations, along with Koch Industries, argued for sentencing changes as a way to save governments the huge costs of maintaining prisons and to make more productive contributors out of nonviolent offenders — a rare win-win for ideologically divided factions.

The wide backing, which came as an opioid crisis was hitting economically struggling communities across America, struck a chord with Republicans who might usually balk at a less punitive model. Prominent Republican backers in the Senate included John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 party leader; Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the Judiciary Committee chairman, who was instrumental in advancing the legislation; and Mike Lee of Utah, a well-respected younger conservative.

But while these lawmakers saw an opportunity to take a new approach to sentencing and incarceration, Mr. Sessions was not convinced. Despite a broad decrease in crime in recent years, Mr. Sessions believed that a recent surge in violence in some cities showed that America was again at risk. An early backer of Mr. Trump, Mr. Sessions shared his stark vision of an urban America besieged by criminals, and argued that plea deals disguised the real nature of crimes committed by people portrayed as nonviolent.

Mr. Sessions repeatedly said that going soft on crime would accelerate a return to the days of drug-fueled criminality across the country — a point he reaffirmed on Friday.

“We know that drugs and crime go hand in hand,” he said. “Drug trafficking is an inherently violent business.”

In the Senate, Mr. Sessions was more than willing to cede the limelight on the issue to Mr. Cotton, a rising star among conservatives who referred to the Senate legislation as the “criminal leniency bill” and said America was suffering from an “under-incarceration” problem. But Mr. Sessions remained a crucial force.

“He’s been the No. 1 opponent of the bipartisan effort in the Senate to reduce mandatory minimums for low-level nonviolent drug offenses,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, who was one of the chief authors of the bipartisan bill.

Advocates of the sentencing changes say they hope that the unilateral move by Mr. Sessions will stir Congress to intervene and establish new policy through legislation. And Jared Kushner, the president’s adviser and son-in-law, has been assigned the job of working on a criminal justice overhaul, among other issues.

But pushing the bipartisan approach would require confronting the sitting attorney general and perhaps the president — a challenge many Republicans may not be willing to accept. None of the chief Republican backers of the Senate legislation issued any public reaction to the new Justice Department directive on Friday — not a good sign for proponents of an overhaul.

As a senator, Mr. Sessions succeeded in stalling the sentencing reform movement. As attorney general, he has sent it reeling in Washington, and it could be very hard for advocates to regain their footing while he is the nation’s chief law enforcement official.

North Korea Fires Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile: Blows Up 22 Miles Into Flight

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) North Korea on Saturday launched a ballistic missile that blew up over land, a spokesman for the US Pacific Command said.

The missile didn’t leave North Korean territory, US Navy Cmdr. Dave Benham said.
A US military assessment found the main part of the missile landed approximately 35 kilometers (22 miles) from Pukchang airfield, a US official told CNN.
“North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!,” US President Donald Trump tweeted.
South Korean officials said the test likely was a failure.
“We are analyzing additional information,” the nation’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. “Our military is maintaining a thorough defense posture while keeping a close eye on the possibility of North Korea’s further provocations.”
White House officials said Trump was briefed as Air Force One returned to Maryland from Atlanta, where Trump earlier addressed a meeting of the National Rifle Association.
The test-fired missile probably was a medium-range ballistic missile called a KN-17, the US official said. The KN-17 is a land-based solid-fuel missile fired from a mobile launcher.
There has been no announcement on North Korean state television, CNN’s Will Ripley in Pyongyang reported.

Analyst: Planned provocation from North Korea

John Kirby, a CNN military and diplomatic analyst, said the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had a message for the United States and others.
“This is Kim giving us the finger. Giving China the finger. Giving the UN the finger. I think timing is absolutely planned and preordained in his mind,” he said.
Trump’s administration has delivered a drumbeat of warnings about the dangers of North Korea this week, using presidential statements, an unusual White House briefing for the Senate, and a White House lunch for UN ambassadors to underscore that Pyongyang is a priority.
The US military has moved an aircraft carrier strike group into the region, docked a powerful nuclear submarine in South Korea and staged large military drills with South Korea and Japan.
When asked whether the missile test was provocative, US deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland said North Korea has been “provocative all along.” But “there is reason to be concerned” about North Korea’s missile tests, she added.
On Thursday, the President told Reuters: “There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea.” But Trump said he would prefer a diplomatic resolution.
Washington is hopeful the Chinese can help there.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Fox News on Thursday that China has threatened North Korea with sanctions if the regime conducts a nuclear test. North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test last fall, and observers have said a sixth test could be near.
China remains one of North Korea’s only allies and is responsible for much of the heavily-sanctioned nation’s economy.

Launch follows special UN meeting

It is North Korea’s ninth attempted missile launch — by CNN’s count — since Trump became President in January. Some of those missiles reached the the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, but Saturday’s test apparently did not.
Kirby said there is no such thing as a failed missile attempt for North Korea’s Kim.
“He learns from every single attempt, and he gets knowledge, and he gets intel. And he takes those lessons learned and just churns them right over into the next one,” Kirby said.
The launch came hours after Tillerson addressed a special meeting at the United Nations, calling for increased pressure on North Korea.
“All options for responding to future provocations must remain on the table,” Tillerson said. “Diplomatic and financial leverage or power will be backed up by willingness to counteract North Korean aggression with military action, if necessary.”
Uruguay UN Ambassador Elbio Rosselli condemned the apparent missile test.
The ambassador, who sits on the UN Security Council, said, “That’s very disgraceful.”
He said that it was “against international law and humanity.”
Italy’s ambassador, Sebastiano Cardi, said the UN meeting was “very, very positive.”
“We hope that Pyongyang will refrain from any other further escalation because it is not what we hope for,” said Cardi, who heads the UN committee that could sanction North Korea.

U.S. says time to act on North Korea, China says not up to Beijing alone

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

U.S. says time to act on North Korea, China says not up to Beijing alone

By Michelle Nichols and Lesley Wroughton | UNITED NATIONS

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned on Friday that failure to curb North Korea’s nuclear and missile development could lead to ‘catastrophic consequences,’ while China and Russia cautioned Washington against threatening military force.

Washington has recently lavished praise on Beijing for its efforts to rein in its ally Pyongyang, but Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made clear to the U.N. Security Council it was not only up to China to solve the North Korean problem.

“The key to solving the nuclear issue on the peninsula does not lie in the hands of the Chinese side,” Wang told the 15-member council in remarks contradicting the White House belief that it does wield significant influence.

The ministerial meeting of the council, chaired by Tillerson, exposed old divisions between the United States and China on how to deal with North Korea. China wants talks first and action later, while the United States wants North Korea to curtail its nuclear program before such talks start.

“It is necessary to put aside the debate over who should take the first step and stop arguing who is right and who is wrong,” Wang told the council. “Now is the time to seriously consider resuming talks.”

Tillerson responded: “We will not negotiate our way back to the negotiating table with North Korea, we will not reward their violations of past resolutions, we will not reward their bad behavior with talks.”

North Korea did not take part in the meeting.

In Tillerson’s first visit to the United Nations he scolded the Security Council for not fully enforcing sanctions against North Korea, saying if the body had acted, tensions over its nuclear program might not have escalated.

“Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences,” he said.

The United States was not pushing for regime change and preferred a negotiated solution, but Pyongyang, for its own sake, should dismantle its nuclear and missile programs, he said.

“The threat of a nuclear attack on Seoul, or Tokyo, is real, and it’s only a matter of time before North Korea develops the capability to strike the U.S. mainland,” Tillerson said.

Tillerson repeated the Trump administration’s position that all options are on the table if Pyongyang persists with its nuclear and missile development, but Wang said military threats would not help.

‘FRIGHTENING’ CONSEQUENCES

Wang said dialogue and negotiations were the “only way out.”

“The use of force does not solve differences and will only lead to bigger disasters,” he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump said in an interview with Reuters on Thursday that a “major, major conflict” with North Korea was possible over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov cautioned on Friday that the use of force would be “completely unacceptable.”

“The combative rhetoric coupled with reckless muscle-flexing has led to a situation where the whole world seriously is now wondering whether there’s going to be a war or not,” he told the council. “One ill thought out or misinterpreted step could lead to the most frightening and lamentable consequences.”

Gatilov said North Korea felt threatened by regular joint U.S. and South Korean military exercises and the deployment of a U.S. aircraft carrier group to waters off the Korean peninsula.

China and Russia both also repeated their opposition to the deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system in South Korea. Gatilov described it as a “destabilizing effort,” while Wang said it damaged trust among the parties on the North Korea issue.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told the council that to bring North Korea back to the table the international community “must send a strong message that provocation comes at a high price.”

“There is no doubt that dialogue is necessary … however under the current situation where North Korea continues to advance its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, meaningful dialogue is clearly not possible,” he said.

The Trump administration is focusing its North Korea strategy on tougher economic sanctions, possibly including an oil embargo, a global ban on its airline, intercepting cargo ships and punishing Chinese banks doing business with Pyongyang, U.S. officials told Reuters earlier this month.

Since 2006, North Korea has been subject to U.N. sanctions aimed at impeding the development of its nuclear and missile programs. The council has strengthened sanctions following each of North Korea’s five nuclear tests.

(Editing by Frances Kerry and James Dalgleish)

Russian President Putin And Japan’s PM Abe Concerned Over North Korean Tensions

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BLOOMBERG NEWS)

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear program is deepening after the issue dominated talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Moscow.

He and Abe believe the situation on the Korean peninsula has “seriously deteriorated,” Putin said Thursday after the Kremlin meeting. “We call on all states involved in the region’s affairs to refrain from military rhetoric and seek peaceful, constructive dialogue.”

Abe said he and Putin spent a long time discussing North Korea during the three hours of talks that also focused on resolving a seven-decade long dispute over four islands seized by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. The issue has prevented Russia and Japan from signing a peace accord.

Sanctions Talks

While Putin and Abe didn’t discuss possible new sanctions against North Korea, the issue may be taken up during talks between the Russian and Japanese foreign ministries, Kremlin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters after the meeting.

Putin said six-party talks on North Korea involving Russia, Japan, China, the U.S. and South Korea should be revived. Japan and Russia will continue to cooperate closely to urge North Korea to abide by United Nations Security Council resolutions and to abstain from “provocative actions,” Abe said.

Putin said he and Abe agreed to develop a list of “top priority” projects for cooperation on the Kurils, while Russia will provide a direct air connection to enable former Japanese residents to visit the graves of family members on the islands. Japanese officials and business people will travel to the islands in the summer, Abe said.

Resolving the territorial dispute will pave the way for Russia and Japan to sign a peace treaty, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call. “We expect that sooner or later there’ll be the political will to sign this important document,” he said.

Before it’s here, it’s on the Bloomberg Terminal.

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White House Briefs All 100 Senators On The North Korean Situation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) Nearly every US senator attended an unusual all-hands meeting on North Korea at the White House Wednesday, though afterward few said any new information emerged about the increasingly tense US standoff with Pyongyang.

Nonetheless, members of both parties said they were reassured by the hour-long administration update, which President Donald Trump appeared at only briefly before handing the session off to his top national security aides.
“It was a sobering briefing, and an important opportunity for the entire Senate to hear the emerging plans of the Trump administration to confront what is a very real threat to our security,” said Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware.

WH summons lawmakers for North Korea briefings

WH summons lawmakers for North Korea briefings
Other lawmakers said they learned little during the session, which was held in a large auditorium in a building adjacent to the West Wing.
“It was an OK briefing,” said Sen. Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Oregon Democrat, said on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront” that they learned nothing new in terms of details on the administration’s thinking on North Korea and any potential actions the US could take in response to another nuclear test. He said he believed the White House’s decision to have the meeting was for “optics.”
“We learned nothing you couldn’t read in the newspaper,” Merkley said.
Likewise, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, said on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” that she did not see new information in the White House briefing “at all.”
“It felt more like a dog and pony show to me than anything else,” Duckworth said. “I guess it has something to with this 100 days in office.”
The varied responses came after some grumbling from lawmakers about the highly unusual nature of convening the session on White House grounds instead of on Capitol Hill. Administration officials said it was merely a logistical choice rather than an attempt to convey any particular message.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, led Wednesday’s session.
Lawmakers traveled together in a fleet of buses from across town to attend the hour-long mid-afternoon briefing. Returning to Capitol Hill, none said they heard any new revelations from the administration officials.
“I didn’t hear anything new because I have been heavily briefed before,” said Sen. John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “It’s a very serious situation, just as I had (thought) before I went there.”
Expectations for the session had varied among lawmakers, who are usually briefed on national security matters on Capitol Hill.
Some said they looked forward to hearing directly from Trump about his strategy moving forward. Others questioned why the session was occurring at the White House at all, suggesting the gathering could amount to a substance-free — and inconvenient — photo-op.

N. Korea holds large-scale artillery drill amid tensions

N. Korea holds large-scale artillery drill amid tensions 03:54

Trump administration officials, however, downplayed any suggestion that holding the meeting on the White House campus was meant to convey any particular message. Instead, they characterized it as a logistical arrangement between Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“That meeting is a Senate meeting led by Leader McConnell, just utilizing our space,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said. “So that is their meeting. So we’re not there to talk strategy.”

US submarine arrives in South Korea

US submarine arrives in South Korea
Speaking to reporters, Coons said the decision to brief every US senator sent a positive signal about the administration’s seriousness in addressing threats from North Korea.
“I’m fine coming here,” he said. “Frankly if the President and his entire national security leadership team wants to provide a thorough, detailed consultation with the Senate, I think that’s constructive.”
A spokesman for McConnell said Tuesday that Trump himself offered the White House as a venue for the briefing after McConnell requested an administration update on North Korea.
“The President offered to host the meeting and the Majority Leader agreed,” said McConnell’s spokesman, David Popp.
The auditorium on the White House grounds is not typically used for large-scale national security briefings, but can be outfitted to accommodate classified discussions among the lawmakers and officials, a White House official said.
Senators are regularly briefed by the administration on national security issues, particularly those lawmakers who sit on committees with oversight of intelligence and national security agencies. But typically those briefings occur on Capitol Hill, where rooms are specially designed for that type of sensitive discussion.
Following Wednesday’s White House gathering, many of the administration officials who conducted the meeting traveled to Capitol Hill to brief members of the House.
“I, frankly, don’t understand why it’s not easier to bring four people here than it is to take 100 there,” said Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
At Tuesday’s weekly Democratic caucus lunch, there was “grumbling” about the optics of senators being summoned to the White House, according to a person in the room.
“Is this a real briefing or is this another Trump dog-and-pony show? This feels very much that this is just a Trump request to hold a photo-op, it is totally outside the normal boundaries,” said a Democratic congressional aide, who also questioned the security of the White House auditorium.
“A (secure facility) exists (on Capitol Hill) for a reason,” the aide said. “Will he be treating this as a stunt, is that the approach that he is bringing the briefing or will this be a serious conversation about North Korea?”
Popp, McConnell’s spokesman, downplayed the notion that the setting is unusual and waved off some Democratic concerns over what they see as theatrics playing into the briefing.
“This is just like any other all-senators briefing. Just a different location,” Popp said.

US Moves THAAD Anti-missile to S.Korean Site as North Shows Power

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

World

US Moves THAAD Anti-missile to S.Korean Site as North Shows Power

Protesters stage a rally to oppose a plan to deploy an advanced US missile defense system called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, in front of the Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, March 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

South Korea announced Wednesday the installation of key parts of a contentious US missile defense system meant to counter the North hours after Pyongyang displayed its military power.

South Korea said in a statement Wednesday that unspecified parts of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, or THAAD, were installed.

It said that Seoul and Washington have been pushing to get THAAD quickly working to cope with North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile threats. According to the Yonhap news agency, the parts include two or three launchers, intercept missiles and a radar.

The South Korean move triggered protests from villagers and criticism from China.

Television footage showed military trailers carrying equipment, including what appeared to be launch canisters, to
the battery site. Protesters shouted and hurled water bottles at the vehicles over lines of police holding them back.

More than 10 protesters were injured, some of them with fractures, in clashes with police, Kim Jong-kyung, a leader of villagers opposing the deployment, told Reuters.

Kim said about 200 protesters rallied overnight and they would keep up their opposition.

North Korea conducted live-fire artillery drills on Tuesday, the 85th anniversary of the founding of its million-person Korean People’s Army.

North Korea’s official media reported Wednesday that leader Kim Jong Un personally observed the exercises, which involved the firing of more than 300 large-caliber artillery pieces and included submarine torpedo-attacks on mock enemy warships.

On the same day, the USS Michigan, a nuclear-powered submarine, arrived at the South Korean port of Busan for what was described as a routine visit to rest crew and load supplies. The US 7th Fleet said two American destroyers were conducting simultaneous maritime exercises with naval ships from South Korea and Japan.

And the USS Carl Vinson aircraft supercarrier is also headed toward the peninsula for a joint exercise with South Korea.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Wednesday that the system’s deployment would “disrupt the regional strategic balance and further aggravate the tension on the peninsula.”

Geng said “China will firmly be taking necessary measures to defend our own interests” but offered no details. China’s defense ministry has also repeatedly criticized THAAD’s deployment and said the military will take unspecified actions in response.

In Washington, top Trump administration officials are due to brief the entire US Senate on Wednesday. A rapid tempo of North Korean weapons testing in the past year has pushed Kim Jong Un’s authoritarian nation closer to developing a nuclear-armed missile that could reach the US mainland.

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat English

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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