Over the weekend, following reports that China has banned all North Korean coal imports which marked a troubling escalation in relations between the two formerly "amicable" nations in the aftermath of last week's North Korean ballistic missile launch, we noted that the move not only led to Kim Jong-Un potentially losing a "very big ally", but that it could also result in jeopady for his regime, and a potential political coup in the dictatorship.
Now, it appears that the likelihood of a regime collapse in North Korea is being taken seriously by none other than the country's formerly largest trading partner, China, which as SCMP reports, will take the “necessary measures” to safeguard national security in the event of the collapse of the neighbouring North Korean regime, a defence official said on Thursday. The recent assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s half-brother Kim Jong-nam has sparked renewed concerns over the stability of Pyongyang and the possibility of a collapse of the reclusive regime.
Information coming available indicates the half-brother was killed by elements within the North Korean Military to "end the Kim dynasty once Kim Jung Un . . . . is gone." This is leading intelligence agencies to believe an actual military coup may be in the works because the actions of Kim Jung Un have brought hunger and poverty to the nation -- again.
Beijing – long seen as the guarantor of Pyongyang’s security – has stayed largely silent on the incident. However in the aftermath of the abrupt coal import suspension, Beijing was no longer able to avoid the topic.
Asked whether China had a contingency plan for a North Korean collapse, defense ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said Beijing has maintained its usual policy towards Pyongyang, and urged the “relevant parties to refrain from any actions that will escalate tensions”.
"We are resolute in safeguarding the peace and security of the Korean Peninsula, sticking to the objective of denuclearization and to resolving disputes through dialogue and consultation,”Ren said on Thursday. “The Chinese military will take the necessary measures, according to the need that arises in the security environment, to safeguard national security and sovereignty,” he said.
Ren denied recent reports that China had sent troops to the border between China and North Korea after Kim Jong-nam’s death to prevent potential large-scale refugee crossings. Beijing has often been criticised by US President Donald Trump for not doing enough to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear development. The latest missile test has reaffirmed South Korea’s resolve to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD), a US-developed anti-ballistic missile system, following North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January last year.
South Korea’s acting president, Hwang Kyo-ahn, said on Monday the deployment could not be delayed in the face of the growing nuclear missile threat from the North, despite Beijing’s hostility to the move, Reuters reported. Beijing has strongly protested deployment of THAAD, arguing that the system is not targeted to prevent an attack from North Korea, but could be used to spy on Chinese missile flight tests. Ren at the defence ministry yesterday reiterated China’s opposition to THAAD, saying China would “take all necessary measures to safeguard its national security and sovereignty”.
Meanwhile, in an inexplicable move, the WSJ reports that in a move that will only antagonise China, North Korea appeared to lash out at Beijing in a state-media commentary published on Thursday, in unusually pointed rhetoric from Pyongyang toward a powerful neighbor that it has long relied on for economic support.
In Thursday’s piece, North Korea even adopted a mocking tone, saying that the country is “styling itself a big power, is dancing to the tune of the U.S.” The KCNA statement also vowed that cutting its exports wouldn’t deter North Korea from developing its nuclear arsenal.
“It is utterly childish to think that the DPRK would not manufacture nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic rockets if a few penny of money is cut off,” the statement said.
The commentary, published by the state-controlled Korean Central News Agency, didn’t name China, but left little doubt about its target: “a neighboring country, which often claims itself to be a ‘friendly neighbor’.” In particular, the article lambasted China for playing down North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, and for curbing foreign trade—an apparent reference to China’s statement over the weekend that it would suspend coal imports from North Korea for the rest of the year.
North Korea remains heavily reliant on its larger neighbor for trade, while China sees North Korea as a buffer against South Korea and Japan, both U.S. allies. But Beijing’s patience wore thin after Pyongyang conducted a series of nuclear and ballistic-missile tests last year, prompting China to back fresh United Nations sanctions in November that target North Korea’s coal exports. According to the KCNA report, the unnamed country “has unhesitatingly taken inhumane steps such as totally blocking foreign trade related to the improvement of people’s living standard under the plea of the U.N. ‘resolutions on sanctions’ devoid of legal ground.”
While an early round of U.N. sanctions restricted coal imports from North Korea, China is widely believed to have used a so-called humanitarian exception to exceed that cap. That loophole was removed in last November’s U.N. resolution, and North Korea’s protest against China suggests that Beijing has made clear it intends to adhere to the new rule, said Adam Cathcart, a scholar who focuses on China-North Korea relations at the University of Leeds in the U.K.
“I would take this editorial as hard evidence that China has told North Korea it is narrowing the definition of coal exports for ‘humanitarian purposes,’” Mr. Cathcart said, adding that it was exceedingly rare for North Korea to criticize China so directly. Mr. Cathcart called the KCNA editorial “a frontal assault on China’s position on the U.N. sanctions issue,” a shift from the oblique critiques of China that North Korea usually turns to when it expresses its displeasure.
* * *
North Korea’s apparent anger at the Chinese comes as Pyongyang has escalated a diplomatic row with another friendly nation in Asia, Malaysia, after authorities in Kuala Lumpur identified a North Korean embassy official and a state-owned airline employee among seven suspects still at large in the killing of dictator Kim Jong Un’s half brother. North Korea has denied its involvement in last week’s public slaying of Kim Jong Nam. Malaysian authorities have refused to turn over the corpse to North Korea, as the embassy there has demanded, instead conducting its own autopsies—a move decried by North Korea as part of a broader conspiracy engineered by South Korea and the U.S.
Just hours before its broadside against China, KCNA published a report blaming Malaysia for an “undisguised encroachment upon the sovereignty of the DPRK,” referring to North Korea by the acronym for its formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “The biggest responsibility for his death rests with the government of Malaysia as the citizen of the DPRK died in its land,” KCNA reported, quoting a group called the Korean Jurists Committee.
* * *
While it remains unclear if there are political pressures mounting on Kim Jong-Un from within (or externally), some have suggested that his reaction to a potential military coup could be terminal, and irrational, potentially resulting in ballistic missile launches at close neighbors, with potentially dire consequences.
Fox News Channel's Alan Colmes has passed away at age 66 after a brief illness.
Colmes leaves behind his wife, Jocelyn Crowley, who issued the following statement:
Alan Colmes passed away this morning after a brief illness. He was 66-years-old. He leaves his adoring and devoted wife, Jocelyn Elise Crowley. He was a great guy, brilliant, hysterical, and moral. He was fiercely loyal, and the only thing he loved more than his work was his life with Jocelyn. He will be missed. The family has asked for privacy during this very difficult time.
Bill Hemmer announced the sad news this morning on "America's Newsroom," which then aired a tribute package from Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity, his former co-host on "Hannity & Colmes."
In a statement this morning, Hannity called Alan Colmes "one of life's most decent, kind and wonderful people you'd ever want to meet."
"When Alan and I started 'Hannity & Colmes,' there wasn't a day that went by where we didn't say we were the two most fortunate men in all of television," said Hannity.
Despite their political differences, Hannity said the two "forged a deep friendship" over the years.
"Alan, in the midst of great sickness and illness, showed the single greatest amount of courage I've ever seen," he said.
Colmes was known for his electric commentary and for the fierce debates across Fox News programs since the channel's launch in 1996. "Hannity & Colmes" debuted on Fox News in 1996 and ran until Jan. 2009.
Colmes also hosted the nationally-syndicated "Alan Colmes Show" on Fox News Radio. He addressed his recent absence from the show in a note to listeners on Jan. 30.
"As I previously mentioned on the show last year, there would be times I would be taking off from the show to deal with a medical issue. This is why I’ve been out recently and will be out this week as well. But I will be back taking your calls as soon as I can," he wrote.
Colmes' passing comes just days after the death of Fox News Channel's Brenda Buttner, who died at age 55 after a battle with cancer.
An "abrupt" magnitude 4.2 earthquake shook Seattle, Washington around Midnight, eastern US time today, with shaking felt more than 100 miles in all directions, including Tacoma and Olympia, WA! The quake took place at a shallow depth of only 16.6 km; the closer to the surface a quake occurs, the more widely it is generally felt.
An hour later, a larger quake, Magnitude 4.8, was triggered about 200 miles northwest, in the dangerous "Cascadia Subduction Zone" in the Pacific Ocean near Vancouver, BC Canada.
When a small quake triggers a subsequent larger quake relatively nearby, it does not bode well for a region; these quakes may loosen other unstable areas, leading to a large and damaging earthquake. Persons in Washington and Oregon should be aware and have emergency food, water and evacuation routes planned.
Entire San Jose neighborhoods were submerged by water on Wednesday during the worst floods for 100 years.
50,000 people were told to flee their homes after evacuation warnings were issued in the early hours of the morning. Most were issued a flood warning but for 14,000 the order was mandatory.
The flooding began when Coyote Creek, which runs through Silicon Valley from the San Francisco Bay, burst its banks on Tuesday night. It sent dirty water pouring in to the towns below it at frightening pace.
On Wednesday, residents complained that the alert had not been sent out fast enough. Some said their first warning came when they saw neighbors being rescued from their drowning homes by firefighters in dinghies.
Mayor Sam Liccardo labeled the city's response to the emergency situation a 'failure'.
'If the first time a resident is aware that they need to get out of their home is when they see a firefighter in a boat, that's a failure. We are assessing what happened in that failure.'
Residents have been warned not to go into the water which was likely contaminated by sewage.
'People should take every precaution to stay away from the water to avoid illness or injury,' Sara Cody, Santa Clara County Health Officer said.
California has been battered by winter storms for weeks after one of the wettest seasons on record. The most recent problems were brought by an 'atmospheric river' - the name given to a sudden and severe horizontal moving patch of weather.
The entire state has recorded higher than average rainfall, bringing an abrupt end to its five-year drought and sparking emergency situations all over.
In Southern California, flash flood warnings and wind advisories were issued last week as up to six inches of rain hammered Los Angeles and surrounding areas.
Further north, the Oroville Dam threatened collapse after its reservoir rose to capacity for the first time ever.
Engineers have been battling the punishing weather to try to fix the crumbling spillways which nearly gave way to the lake for days.
San Jose's state of emergency was brought on suddenly late on Tuesday night. Water agencies have admitted they did not expect so much water to move downstream on Coyote Creek so quickly.
'The water was much higher than anybody expected. The creek spilled over the banks faster and higher than anybody expected,' city spokesman David Vossbrink told The Los Angeles Times.
Residents who had signed up for emergency alerts received them and warnings were issued over social media but first responders eventually resorted to going door-to-door to get people out of the danger zone.
'It was scary,' said Irma Gonzalez, 59, whose two-story apartment complex is alongside the creek. She was awakened about 2:30 a.m. by police pounding on her door.
'They were like, "You've got to hurry up and go! Move it!"'.
Resident Sandy Moll said she had prepared for about a foot of water, but the flooding spilled over sandbags stacked 3 feet high and broke down her back door. Moll told The Mercury News in San Jose she was angry at the lack of warning.
'I'm seething. It's the lack of information and forewarning when they had to have known. They never even said you need to prepare for a major flood.'
Bob Benjamin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the water level in Coyote Creek reached a 100-year high during this week's storm.
The floodwaters were receding Wednesday but the mayor said it would be at least another day before residents would be allowed to return home.
Assistant City Manager Dave Sykes said officials first became aware of the rising water late Tuesday when firefighters began evacuating about 400 people from a low-lying residential area.
City officials did not believe the waters would spread to other neighborhoods and did not expand the evacuation orders.
About 300 people stayed in emergency shelters set up by the city, while many found other accommodations. Coyote Creek flooded after Anderson Dam in Santa Clara County reached capacity during heavy weekend rains.
'We've been pummeled by a number of storms since Jan. 9.
'We've been letting out as much water as we possibly could,' said Rachel Gibson, a spokeswoman for the Santa Clara Valley Water Project, which operates the dam.
Managers of the Anderson Dam were taking advantage of a break in the storms to draw down the reservoir, which is supposed to be limited to 68 percent of capacity because of earthquake concerns but is now at 100 percent, said Jim Fiedler, a chief operating officer at the Santa Clara Valley Water District.
He said it could take nine weeks to bring it down to normal levels. Inspectors in 2010 discovered the dam is vulnerable to a major quake and $400 million is being spent to make it earthquake-proof by 2024.
Flood warnings were in place until Saturday because waterways were overtaxed. Another storm was forecast Sunday.
The rains have saturated the once-drought-stricken region and wreaked havoc for residents. At least four people have died as a result of the storms throughout the state in the past week.
San Jose resident Daniel Martinez said he didn't think twice about what to do when police knocked on his door at 1 a.m. to warn of a flood.
'We decided to leave just to be safe not sorry,' said Martinez, a 32-year-old yogurt shop manager. He woke up his daughter, grabbed his diabetes medicine and hustled to an emergency center at a nearby high school. By Wednesday morning, he hadn't slept a wink but was trying to stay positive.
'Can't dread on it, you know. Keep your spirits up and hope for the best,' Martinez said.
The Trump administration on Wednesday night rescinded Obama-era guidance directing schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.
In a letter sent to schools on Wednesday, the Justice and Education Departments said the Obama administration's guidance -- which cited Title IX -- did not explain how it was consistent with the law.
The letter claimed that the directive caused confusion and lawsuits over its enforcement. Anti-bullying safeguards will not be affected, according to the letter.
"All schools must ensure that all students, including LGBT students, are able to learn and thrive in a safe environment," the letter reads.
Instead, the letter suggests that the states should take a "primary role" in establishing policy.
"As President Trump has clearly stated, he believes policy regarding transgender bathrooms should be decided at the state level," the White House said in a statement, adding that today's letter "paves the way for an open and inclusive process to take place at the local level with input from parents, students, teachers and administrators."
Public reaction has been uniform here in New York.
Tim McLean from New Jersey said "These trans-gender people have serious mental issues; they must conform to society, not the other way around."
Louie Knaub from Manhattan said "I don't want some cross-dressing freak using the same bathroom as my little daughter."
Gina Chirco from Connecticut told SuperStation95 "Trans-gender people have taken a sexual fetish and turned it into their entire identity. It's very twisted and these people need help, not accommodation."
A self-described gang member assaulted a police officer and threatened two others after he was caught stealing more than $500 worth of merchandise from Macy's, authorities said.
A security guard at the Newport Centre mall department store stopped 19-year-old Davonta Barr on Sunday after the teenager ripped security tags and damaged the items he was attempting steal, according to a criminal complaint.
Jersey City police officers were called to the security office to report the theft. One of Barr's family members offered to pay for the damaged merchandise, but the store's law prevention officers said they wanted to file charges against the Claremont Avenue resident, the records state.
The 19-year-old elbowed one of the police officers in the face and wrapped his arms around the cop's leg in an attempt to throw him to the ground, the complaint states.
The officer was carrying a "back-up pistol" in a holster around his leg and Barr grabbed for the gun's handle. Police were able to handcuff Barr before he had full control of the gun, according to the report.
Barr told one of the other officers he was a "big Bloods gang member" and that if the cop came around Claremont Avenue he would "shoot him down" with an AK-47, the court records show.
During Barr's first court appearance Monday afternoon, Judge Cynthia Jackson told him the state motioned for pretrial detention.
"About the bracelet, how can I go about getting one?" Barr asked the judge.
Jackson told Barr that Superior Court Judge Paul DePascale would address his detention status during a hearing on Thursday.
He is charged with shoplifting, multiple counts of assault, disarming a law enforcement officer, and resisting arrest.
A woman is claiming she was barred from attending a performance at New York City’s Lincoln Center because she wouldn’t remove an anti-Trump sign affixed to the back of her jacket.
Jenny Heinz, a longtime Metropolitan Opera and New York Philharmonic subscriber, told The New York Times that it happened this month at David Geffen Hall when she went to see the Budapest Festival Orchestra.
The 8-by-11-inch sign read “No! In the name of humanity we refuse to accept a fascist America.” She said she’s been wearing it ever since she attended a protest outside Trump Tower in November.
“At what point does one draw the line?” Heinz, 72, said. “We’re talking about freedom of expression.”
Lincoln Center officials refunded Heinz’s ticket, though they declined to discuss the incident with the Times.
Heinz said the center’s vice president for concert halls and operations told her during a meeting with her lawyer that signs were not allowed inside the performance halls or on the plaza.
Police say an elderly woman was killed and another person was seriously injured in an Upper West Side high-rise fire that was likely ignited by a cigarette.
The 87-year-old woman was found dead in the bedroom of her fifth-floor apartment at 595 Columbus Ave. early Thursday morning.
The woman had apparently fallen asleep while smoking a cigarette sometime after midnight, police said. The FDNY responded to the fire around 1:15 a.m.
Police said the woman was found unconscious in her bed after firefighters extinguished the flames. She was pronounced dead at the scene. Her name has been withheld pending the notification of her family.
A second person being treated by paramedics was said to be in serious condition.
Four firefighters suffered minor injuries and were transported to Mount Sinai St Luke's hospital.
Fire officials said the blaze was brought under control shortly before 2 a.m.
The 11-story building provides affordable housing for older adults. It appears that the woman's apartment was the only unit damaged by the fire.
Sen. John McCain as a presidential candidate in 2008 directly and illegally propositioned Vitaly Churkin, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, to donate to the McCain/Sarah Palin GOP ticket, according to documents released by Wikileaks.
Since the 2016 presidential election in Nov., Sen. McCain has accused Russia of hacking and meddling in U.S. politics and President Donald Trump’s successful campaign. But ironically it was McCain himself who sought Russia to interfere in the 2008 presidential campaign by asking the ambassador and Russian embassy for a campaign contribution.
At the time of McCain’s presidential campaign, however, Churkin and the Russian government fired off a terse letter and official statement to the senior U.S. senator’s request for thousands in cash to his campaign.
“We have received a letter from Senator John McCain requesting financial contribution to his Presidential campaign.
In this connection we would like to reiterate that Russian officials, the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations or the Russian Government do not finance political activity in foreign countries.”
Russian officials clearly understood that McCain’s request was not legal per U.S. law which forbids foreign governments from contributing money or assistance to presidential campaigns and U.S. presidential candidates from seeking foreign donations. Apparently McCain didn’t know this or simply ignored it before sending his Sept. 29th letter addressed directly and personally to Churkin at the Russian embassy on 67th Street in Manhattan.
McCain offered the Russians a chance to use any major credit card to donate $5,000 or even more. To be fair, McCain’s letter reads much like a normal campaign fundraising letter seeking contributions and likely would have gone unnoticed except that Churkin was compelled to release an official statement from the Russian government rebuking the request, which in part read:
Contributions to McCain-Palin Victory 2008 (“Victory 2008”) are not deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes. Victory 2008 allocates contributions to the Republican National Committee (“RNC”), the state parties’ federal accounts, and the McCain-Palin Compliance Fund (“Compliance Fund”) in conformity with federal limits. Unless a contribution would exceed federal limits or a contributor designates otherwise, Victory 2008 will divide contributions as follows:
For Individuals – The first $28,500 will go to the RNC, the next portion will be divided evenly between the Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Pennsylvania state parties’ federal accounts up to a maximum of $9,250 for each Committee, and the final $2,300 will go to the Compliance Fund.
President Trump plans to address a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28, his press secretary said Tuesday.
Newly inaugurated presidents often deliver this type of speech instead of a formal State of the Union address, giving them a full year instead of a few weeks to fully assess the state of the country.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said Tuesday morning that he had invited Trump to address a joint session. Later in the day, Trump's press secretary Sean Spicer said the president had accepted that invitation.
“This will be an opportunity for the people and their representatives to hear directly from our new president about his vision and our shared agenda,” Ryan said Tuesday. “This is an ambitious agenda and rightly so. For too long, Washington has been too timid about addressing the big challenges facing our country. We want this to be a bold government. We want this to be a government of action. We want this to be a government of solutions. And a government unified not just by party but by a commitment to restore self-government and to get our country back on track.”
Ryan also said he had “very, very productive discussions” Monday with Trump and Vice President Pence about the governing agenda, including on health care, tax reform, military spending and border security.
“The president is eager to get moving on this agenda,” he said, “and so are we.”