…And Surprisingly, Trump Approves
The talks, held in the DMZ in a special building maintained for that purpose, ostensibly center around North Korea’s participation in the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea. And that part of the discussion’s already yielded some progress. The North is very likely to send a team to the games, which start in about a month. That pretty much just means a pair of figure skaters, but the North also proposed sending a cheering team and some musicians to participate in peripheral events. And it’s also likely the two Koreas will march together during opening and closing ceremonies.
- Reuniting families separated since the Korean War.
- Military matters designed to “prevent accidental conflict” along the border.
We believe there’s also an unspoken purpose here: South Korea very likely feels this show of good will to the North might act as a deterrent against North Korea instantly slaughtering a bunch of South Korean people should Trump launch a sudden attack on the North.
The talks were first suggested by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during a New Year’s Day address. South Koreans responded by proposing date, time, and place. The White House initially derided the bilateral talks, saying it would not take anything coming out of them seriously. And Trump trashed Kim for his “nuclear button” comment. But then Trump, in a Tweet, took total credit for the North and South coming together, concluding “talks are a good thing!” Strange, considering when his own Secretary of State said the same thing a couple of months ago, Trump told him to back off, calling talks a waste of time. Even more extraordinarily, Trump authorized South Korea’s President to speak on his behalf and promise the U.S. would halt military exercises around the Korean Peninsula during the Olympics.
A leading Conservative newspaper in South Korea warns North Korea is just trying to buy itself time to complete more nuclear tests and perhaps squeeze some much needed aid out of the South in the process.
At the same time, there’s more than a sprinkling of reports in U.S. media that Trump and his military advisers are planning some kind of attack. Keep in mind that Trump’s Chief of Staff, Secretary of Defense, and National Security Adviser were all Generals. And there’s lots of speculation about who among them is for and who is against an attack, and what kind of attack it might be. You’re probably going to hear a lot about a “bloody nose” attack in the coming days and weeks.
(Steve Bannon was probably the most dead-set against attacking North Korea of anyone who had Trump’s ear, but we all know how that worked out).
So while today’s talks–which just a couple of weeks ago would’ve seemed a pipe dream–undoubtedly mark progress, there are a lot of dangerous games going on in the background. Is Kim toying with South Korea? Is Trump playing both of them having already made up his mind to attack (so it no longer costs him anything to support talks, because they won’t end up mattering anyway)?
How can we make sense of it?
Right now, we believe the only way to look at it is the Trump Administration is definitely putting out trial balloons to see how both Americans and the international community would react to a preemptive attack. (The U.S. probably won’t take any action before the Olympics). To complement that, professional “thinkers” in and around D.C. are trying out arguments that might be used to justify such an attack. This Op-Ed piece in the New York Times broadly paints the South Korean government as weak. This one, in Foreign Policy magazine entitled “It’s Time To Bomb North Korea” more loathsomely suggests if South Koreans are killed it’s at least partly their own fault because they were late to install missile defense systems, and they had decades to move government offices and major corporate headquarters farther away from the North Korean border, and didn’t.
Mueller Will Likely Seek To Interview Trump, Probably Soon
NBC News first broke this story, which has since been confirmed by the Washington Post, and others. Mueller’s team has been in talks with Trump’s lawyers to set terms under which Trump will answer questions from the Special Counsel.
There’s no firm date yet, and according to the reports, it’s not even certain Trump will appear for a sit-down. His lawyers are pushing for questions to be answered in writing, or other options that would not involve impromptu statements by the President. Do they really think Mueller will go for that?
200,000 People From El Salvador, Who Have Been In The U.S. Legally For Nearly 20 Years, Will Have To Return Home
The Department of Homeland Security is giving them until September 2019 to figure it out. The people in question came to the U.S. after an earthquake in 2001 and have been permitted to stay ever since. Now they are losing their Temporary Protected Status. This status never guaranteed a path to citizenship. However renewal was taken for granted as migrants built lives for themselves in the U.S. One big issue is many of these non-citizens have children who are U.S. citizens, so it’ll mean splitting up families. (And we thought Trump’s main purpose in stopping up the Southern border is keeping criminals out).
The White House has already ended TPS for Haitians and Nicaraguans, giving them a similar 18-month window to leave. But people from El Salvador make up by far the largest number protected by TPS. The largest percentage live in the Washington, D.C. area.
The White House’s main argument? The status was intended to be temporary, and it’s been abused.
Congress could move to change the law to let them stay, but there’s no guarantee Trump would sign it. Is this something worth trading his “wall” for?
A Panel Of Mostly Republicans, Mostly Appointed By Trump, Roundly Rejects Administration Energy Proposal
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected a plan to boost struggling coal and nuclear power plants. When Trump’s Energy Secretary, Rick Perry proposed the measure, he argued the plants are essential to providing stability to the electric grid in the event of a natural catastrophe or terrorist attack, so the government should therefore work to ensure they recoup their costs. Translation: consumers would pay more to fulfill Trump’s promise to stimulate demand for coal power.
While the Commission, made up of 5 people, 4 of them appointed by Trump, agreed stability of the grid is important, they didn’t agree this is the way to go about it. Approval would’ve meant higher electric rates for consumers, and critics say it would’ve benefited just a couple of specific companies, including one owned by a key Trump supporter.
2017 Was Most Expensive Weather Year On Record, And One Of The Warmest
Catastrophic weather events led to $306-billion dollars in losses, with 16 separate events bringing more than a billion dollars in losses each. This according to the government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Here’s where, specifically:
Meanwhile, the NOAA says 2017 was the 3rd warmest year on record for the U.S., 3-degress above average overall. So much for Trump’s “Bundle up!”