Posts Tagged ‘University of Virginia’

Charlottesville reschedules ‘community recovery’ town hall

August 24, 2017

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Charlottesville residents will get a chance this weekend to talk with city officials about a white nationalist rally earlier this month that devolved into deadly violence.

The city had planned Thursday evening to host what it calls a “community recovery town hall,” in collaboration with the Community Relations Services of the Department of Justice. But Charlottesville officials said the event has been rescheduled for Sunday afternoon due to conflicts with a local high school’s student activities.

Officials will provide an update on “recovery efforts” and offer opportunities for public comment, according to a news release.

“Our community has been shaken to its core,” City Manager Maurice Jones said in a statement. “We see this partnership with CRS as the beginning of a process of recovery and renewal.”

It’s been nearly two weeks since the event, which attracted what’s believed to be the largest gathering of white nationalists in at least a decade.

Rally attendees and counter-protesters fought in the streets. Heather Heyer was killed when a car plowed into demonstrators during a march, and two state troopers died in a helicopter crash that day.

City workers covered two Confederate statues in black on Wednesday to mourn Heyer’s death.

Workers in Charlottesville shrouded a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in black on Wednesday in a move intended to symbolize the city’s mourning for a woman killed while protesting a white nationalist rally earlier this month. (August 23)

Some residents have criticized city officials for granting a permit for the rally, and others have said police didn’t do enough to keep the two sides apart or stop the fighting.

City officials already got some feedback at a council meeting earlier this week when scores of people packed the chamber, shouting and cursing at members. The angry crowd forced the council to abandon its agenda. Instead, the panel heard hours of public comment.

In other developments on Wednesday, Christopher Cantwell, a white nationalist from Keene, New Hampshire, turned himself in to face three felony charges in Virginia, authorities said. Cantwell was wanted by University of Virginia police on two counts of the illegal use of tear gas or other gases and one count of malicious bodily injury with a “caustic substance,” explosive or fire.

University police issued a brief statement late Wednesday saying Cantwell turned himself in to police in nearby Lynchburg, Virginia, where he was being held at a regional jail pending transport to Charlottesville.

It wasn’t immediately known if Cantwell has a lawyer.

Contacted by The Associated Press on Tuesday, Cantwell acknowledged he had pepper-sprayed a counter-demonstrator during an Aug. 11 protest on the campus of the University of Virginia the day before the rally. But he insisted he was defending himself, saying he did it “because my only other option was knocking out his teeth.” He also said he was looking forward to his day in court.

Lynchburg police, contacted by AP late Wednesday, declined to release further information about Cantwell.

https://apnews.com/e9f4bdd445d3440c8684fe4ff21c8c13/Charlottesville-reschedules-‘community-recovery’-town-hall

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Charlottesville: A Made In America Crisis — “At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected?”

August 19, 2017

By Michael Wilner
The Jerusalem Post
August 19, 2017

History is our guide to what Charlottesville means to racism in the US.

Image may contain: 1 person, crowd and outdoor

Members of the Ku Klux Klan face counter-protesters as they rally in support of Confederate monuments in Charlottesville, Virginia, U.S. July 8, 2017. REUTERS – JONATHAN ERNST

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia – Many statues dot the Jeffersonian city of Charlottesville, a quaint, red-bricked and well-manicured college town host to the University of Virginia and, this past weekend, a neofascist rally the likes of which Americans have not seen in modern times.

On the campus itself, Homer, the ancient Greek author of the Iliad, takes center stage, while Thomas Jefferson and George Washington look upon each other across the quad. Enter town and you will pass Revolutionary War hero George Clark astride a horse, and then Sacagawea, a native American woman who guided Lewis and Clarke into the West and, according to the plaque beside her rusted base, represents “a symbol of unity and peace for all people.”

Only further in town do you reach the Confederate statues – of which there are many, as well.

An unknown infantryman stands above the stars and bars of the 1860s secessionist rebellion and Civil War, exemplifying the “defenders of the rights of the states.” Nearby, a horse-mounted Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson – one of the most revered Southern generals of the war – rides above a winged man and woman, sculpted like Soviet icons of strength and camaraderie.

But it is the statue of one particular man, with a singular grip on the Southern imagination, that is causing so much controversy here in Virginia that locals threaten to pull it down – a prospect egregious enough for white power activists to gather and march in its defense.

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That man is Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate armed forces and the central icon of what is known as the “Lost Cause” of the South. It is, in short, a myth that the American Civil War was not primarily about slavery, and that Lee actually lamented the peculiar institution which brought Africans to the American colonies in chains.

As state assemblies voted to secede from the Union one by one, each explicitly wrote that their right to enslave others was their cause. Lee chose to lead this effort. But admitting this fact in light of defeat is to admit that Southern history is defined – from its origins to its crucible moment– by the inequality of its culture and people.

Thus a campaign began in the early 1900s to change this history, in the interest of moving on and in healing national wounds from a war that remains the nation’s deadliest.

Statues were erected and the Confederacy became a symbol to many – not of states’ rights to shatter the Union or proceed with the slave trade, but simply of states rights writ large. It has remained a consistent conservative principle in the South ever since, as its representatives advocate for local control and limitations on the federal government.

And so, in Emancipation Square here in Charlottesville, Lee still stands tall. A veiled woman has brought her children to play here less than a week after neo-Nazis declared this soil their own by blood. A homeless person idles. Three black residents sit under a tree, their backs toward Lee, in peace.

“Thank you, general!” two white men yell toward Lee from a passing car.

“They descended on us – it felt like bum-rush Charlottesville,” said Hope Jackson, a longtime resident of the city who works with small children. Hope chose not to attend Saturday’s events in order to avoid stress and fear. She now sits reflectively on a bench across from a painted memorial to Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old woman who was murdered by a rally participant, and a second painting of Lady Liberty stomping out a Nazi Schutzstaffel.

“We were warned ahead of time, but we didn’t know the magnitude,” Hope added. She is black. “It’s the South – it’s part of life.”

Some 100 public schools and roughly 700 statues across the nation are named after Confederate icons, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. This is a consequence of the unfinished 19th-century history that has now become a flashpoint between those who believe America needs to move on and those who have adopted the Lost Cause as fact.

Many Americans have given little thought to the details or meaning of the Civil War, and rather identify Lee, Jackson and Confederate president Jefferson Davis as the most famous and successful men ever to emerge from the South. To them it is pride of place and little more.

But these are not the individuals who marched on Charlottesville on Saturday, as President Donald Trump asserted in his extraordinary remarks from Trump Tower on Tuesday.

Those who organized the Virginia march fit by their own definition into three camps that have aligned themselves with the Lost Cause: White nationalists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis. And this is why understanding the meaning of a statue to Robert E. Lee is critical to understanding this modern surge in American antisemitism.

White nationalists believe the United States was founded by white Christians and is therefore, in every meaningful way, their birthright. They assert that– just like African- Americans, Muslims, Jews, and other minorities– they are entitled to their cultural heritage and to its preservation. They claim the Confederacy is a part of this heritage, and thus statues to the cause are a part of their history.

White supremacists take this cause one step further by stripping away any pretense of concern over discriminating on the basis of race. They believe that whites are not only entitled to the nation by birthright – “blood and soil,” they say – but that laws allowing for the diversification of America, such as the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Voting Rights Act and more recent immigration and civil rights efforts, have all been part of a concerted effort to minimize the power of the white majority.

Neo-Nazis march for Robert E. Lee because they believe this concerted effort to thwart white power has been organized by a conspiracy of Jews. Their lexicon is similar to that of white nationalists who refer to a cabal of globalists, bankers and liberal media working against them – except that these fascists are more explicit, using terms such as Jewish globalists, Jewish money, Jewish media.

Material that promoted the Charlottesville event was evocatively antisemitic: “Unite the Right to End Jewish Influence in America,” read one advertisement for the August 12 rally on The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, depicting a man taking a hammer to the Star of David.

Another promotional poster featuring the names of prominent racist participants highlighted the statues under threat, complete with marching Confederate soldiers and Nazi-era Reichsadler eagles.

In his Tuesday press conference, Trump – the president of the Union and leader of the party of Abraham Lincoln – said that “very fine people” were among those marching here. This was despite the organizers of the event and the failure of any group – conservative or otherwise – to identify participants who have dissociated themselves from its stated original purpose.

Trump defended the Confederate statues that have become the frontline standards of America’s most undemocratic of movements. He compared Confederate icons to the nation’s founding fathers, Washington and Jefferson, as mere slave owners who happened to devise the Union, not secede from it.

Early in his career as a young man, Lincoln issued some of his first remarks on his fears over slavery’s effects on the American experiment.

“Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the Earth – our own excepted – in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years,” Lincoln said at Lyceum, Illinois, in 1838.

“At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected?” he continued. “If it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.”

http://www.jpost.com/International/A-made-in-America-crisis-502752

White supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA linked to three deaths

August 13, 2017

The Associated Press

© Paul J. Richards, AFP | People receive first-aid after a car accident rammed into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, VA on August 12, 2017.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-08-13

A car plowed into a crowd of people peacefully protesting a white nationalist rally Saturday in a Virginia college town, killing one person, hurting more than a dozen others and ratcheting up tension in a day full of violent confrontations.

Shortly after, a Virginia State Police helicopter that officials said was assisting with the rally crashed outside Charlottesville, killing the pilot and a trooper.

The chaos boiled over at what is believed to be the largest group of white nationalists to come together in a decade. The governor declared a state of emergency, and police dressed in riot gear ordered people out. The group had gathered to protest plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, and others arrived to protest the racism.

Matt Korbon, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student, said several hundred counter-protesters were marching when “suddenly there was just this tire screeching sound.” A silver Dodge Challenger smashed into another car, then backed up, barreling through “a sea of people.”

The impact hurled people into the air. Those left standing scattered, screaming and running for safety in different directions.

The driver was later identified by police as James Alex Fields Jr. of Ohio. Police say Fields, 20, has been charged with charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count related to leaving the scene. A bond hearing is scheduled for Monday.

Field’s mother, Samantha Bloom, told The Associated Press on Saturday night that she knew her son was attending a rally in Virginia but didn’t know it was a white supremacist rally.

“I thought it had something to do with Trump. Trump’s not a white supremacist,” Bloom said.

“He had an African-American friend so …,” she said before her voice trailed off. She added that she’d be surprised if her son’s views were that far right.

Bloom, who became visibly upset as she learned of the injuries and deaths at the rally, said she and her son had just moved to the Toledo area from the northern Kentucky city of Florence. She said that’s where Fields grew up. She relocated to Ohio for work.

Late Saturday, the Department of Justice announced the opening of a federal civil rights investigation into the deadly car attack. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that the FBI’s Richmond field office and Rick Mountcastle, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, will lead the investigation.

“The violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice,” Sessions said in a statement. “When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated.”

The turbulence began Friday night, when the white nationalists carried torches though the University of Virginia campus. It quickly spiraled into violence Saturday morning. Hundreds of people threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays. At least three more men have been arrested in connection to the protests

The Virginia State Police announced late Saturday that Troy Dunigan, a 21-year-old from Chattanooga, Tennessee, was charged with disorderly conduct; Jacob L. Smith, a 21-year-old from Louisa, Virginia, was charged with assault and battery; and James M. O’Brien, 44, of Gainesville, Florida, was charged with carrying a concealed handgun.

City officials said treated 35 patients altogether, 19 of whom were injured in the car crash.

State Police said in a statement that the helicopter was “assisting public safety resources with the ongoing situation” when it crashed in a wooded area. The pilot, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, 48, of Midlothian, Virginia, and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates of Quinton, Virginia, died at the scene.

President Donald Trump condemned “in the strongest possible terms” what he called an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” after the clashes. He called for “a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives.”

Trump said he had spoken with the governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, and “we agreed that the hate and the division must stop and must stop right now.”

But some of the white nationalists cited Trump’s victory as validation for their beliefs, and Trump’s critics pointed to the president’s racially tinged rhetoric as exploiting the nation’s festering racial tension.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson noted that Trump for years publicly questioned President Barack Obama’s citizenship.

“We are in a very dangerous place right now,” he said.

Right-wing blogger Jason Kessler had called for what he termed a “pro-white” rally in Charlottesville, sparked by the monument decision. White nationalists and their opponents promoted the event for weeks.

Oren Segal, who directs the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, said multiple white power groups gathered in Charlottesville, including members of neo-Nazi organizations, racist skinhead groups and Ku Klux Klan factions.

The white nationalist organizations Vanguard America and Identity Evropa; the Southern nationalist League of the South; the National Socialist Movement; the Traditionalist Workers Party; and the Fraternal Order of Alt Knights also were on hand, he said, along with several groups with a smaller presence.

On the other side, anti-fascist demonstrators also gathered in Charlottesville, but they generally aren’t organized like white nationalist factions, said Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Many others were just locals caught in the fray.

Colleen Cook, 26, stood on a curb shouting at the rally attendees to go home.

Cook, a teacher who attended the University of Virginia, said she sent her son, who is black, out of town for the weekend.

“This isn’t how he should have to grow up,” she said.

Cliff Erickson leaned against a fence and took in the scene. He said he thinks removing the statue amounts to erasing history and said the “counter-protesters are crazier than the alt-right.”

“Both sides are hoping for a confrontation,” he said.

It’s the latest hostility in Charlottesville since the city about 100 miles outside of Washington, D.C., voted earlier this year to remove a statue of Lee.

In May, a torch-wielding group that included prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer gathered around the statue for a nighttime protest, and in July, about 50 members of a North Carolina-based KKK group traveled there for a rally, where they were met by hundreds of counter-protesters.

Kessler said this week that the rally is partly about the removal of Confederate symbols but also about free speech and “advocating for white people.”

“This is about an anti-white climate within the Western world and the need for white people to have advocacy like other groups do,” he said in an interview.

Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer said he was disgusted that the white nationalists had come to his town and blamed Trump for inflaming racial prejudices.

“I’m not going to make any bones about it. I place the blame for a lot of what you’re seeing in American today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president,” he said.

Charlottesville, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is a liberal-leaning city that’s home to the flagship UVA and Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.

The statue’s removal is part of a broader city effort to change the way Charlottesville’s history of race is told in public spaces. The city has also renamed Lee Park, where the statue stands, and Jackson Park, named for Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. They’re now called Emancipation Park and Justice Park, respectively.

For now, the Lee statue remains. A group called the Monument Fund filed a lawsuit arguing that removing the statue would violate a state law governing war memorials. A judge has agreed to temporarily block the city from removing the statue for six months.

(AP)

University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier, said to be in a coma, released from North Korea

June 13, 2017

North Korea releases US citizen Otto Warmbier

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says that North Korea has released Otto Warmbier, an American serving a 15-year prison term with hard labor for alleged anti-state acts. Warmbier is on his way back to the U.S. to be re-united with his family. The announcement comes as former NBA player Dennis Rodman is paying a return visit to North Korea.

The Washington Post
June 13 at 11:45 AM
.
University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier has been medically evacuated from North Korea in a coma after being detained for 17 months, his parents told The Washington Post on Tuesday.Warmbier, 22, is due to arrive home in Cincinnati on Tuesday evening, after a stop at a U.S. military facility in Sapporo, Japan.
.

The family said they were told by North Korean officials — through contacts with American envoys — that Warmbier fell ill from botulism sometime after his March trial and fell into a coma after taking a sleeping pill. The Warmbiers said they were told their son has remained in a coma since then.

There was no immediate confirmation from U.S. officials of North Korea’s version of events — notably whether Warmbier was stricken with botulism, a potentially fatal illness that is caused by a toxin but is not usually associated with loss of consciousness.

“Our son is coming home,” Fred Warmbier told The Post on Tuesday morning after Otto Warmbier was evacuated. “At the moment, we’re just treating this like he’s been in an accident. We get to see our son Otto tonight.”

His release was announced in Washington by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Tillerson did not discuss Warmbier’s medical condition.

Tillerson called President Trump at 8:35 a.m. Tuesday to inform him that Warmbier was on an airplane en route to the United States, according to a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the details. The last instruction the president left Tillerson was: “Take care of Otto,” the official said.

Warmbier was on a New Year’s Eve tour in North Korea, en route to Hong Kong, where he was to do a January study-abroad trip.

But on his final night in Pyongyang — New Year’s Eve — Warmbier apparently went to a staff-only floor of his hotel and attempted to take down a large propaganda sign lauding the regime.

He was charged with “hostile acts against the state,” and after an hour-long trial in March 2016, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor.

He had not been seen in public since. Swedish diplomats, who represent U.S. interests in North Korea because the United States has no diplomatic relations with the country, were denied access to him.

Then suddenly, last Monday, North Korean representatives contacted American counterparts and told them that the student was in a coma.

Trump was immediately informed and ordered Otto’s medical evacuation, according to people with knowledge of the process. “This is a Trump-led effort,” one said.

The logistics were in place by Thursday. Joseph Yun, the State Department’s special representative for North Korea policy, traveled to Pyongyang on a military medical plane, accompanied by doctors, to bring Warmbier out.

State Department officials are accompanying Otto Warmbier from Sapporo to Cincinnati.

North Korea has woefully inadequate medical care, and it is not clear how North Korean doctors had been caring for Warmbier for more than a year in an unconscious state.

Warmbier was flown out of North Korea on the same day that Dennis Rodman, the controversial former basketball star, arrived for his fifth visit in Pyongyang. Rodman’s trip caused a media frenzy because of heightened tensions between North Korea and the United States, but it also raised speculation that he might be going as an envoy to secure the release of Warmbier and three other Americans being detained.

Officials involved in securing Warmbier’s release told The Post that it had nothing to do with Rodman’s trip to Pyongyang, calling it a “bizarre coincidence” that might have been a deliberate ploy from North Korea to distract from Warmbier’s condition.

One of Warmbier’s roommates at U-Va., Emmett Saulnier, said he got a call Tuesday morning from Fred Warmbier to inform him of the release.

“I’m mostly just very happy to hear that he’s coming home and alive,” Saulnier said. “The coma is obviously very concerning. I’m not really sure what to think of that at this point. . . . I’m hoping it’s not as bad as it sounds and he’ll wake up and be okay.”

Saulnier added, “I’m glad he’s going to have the best medical care, rather than whatever was going on over there.”

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), called Warmbier’s arrest and trial “unnecessary and appalling.”

“North Korea should be universally condemned for its abhorrent behavior. Otto should have been released from the start,” Portman said in a statement. “For North Korea to imprison Otto with no notification or consular access for more than a year is the utmost example of its complete failure to recognize fundamental human rights and dignity.”

Lawmakers from Virginia also hailed Warmbier’s release and denounced North Korea of its actions.

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) called Warmbier’s freedom “a long time coming” after facing “trumped-up charges.”

“It is horrific that a young man in a coma was incarcerated in a North Korea jail,” Connolly said in a statement.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), meanwhile, said he was “heartened to see the reuniting of the Warmbier family, despite the tragic circumstances.”

A former Virginia resident, Kim Dong-chul, was arrested shortly after Warmbier, on accusations of espionage, and has been held since.

In April and May, North Korea detained two other Korean Americans, both of them affiliated with the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, a private institution run by Korean American Christians.

Previous detainees have been released after visits from high-profile Americans, including former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. But efforts to persuade North Korea to release the men currently held had not been successful until Warmbier’s release Tuesday.

David Nakamura, Jenna Portnoy and Susan Svrluga in Washington contributed to this report.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/university-of-virginia-student-otto-warmbier-in-a-coma-released-from-north-korea/2017/06/13/febba10a-503d-11e7-91eb-9611861a988f_story.html?utm_term=.feeeaef2b5f6

 

U.S. Citizen Arrested in North Korea

April 23, 2017

Korean-American professor was detained at Pyongyang’s airport

Pyongyang’s skyline in February. The American arrested on Friday was detained at the city’s main airport.

Pyongyang’s skyline in February. The American arrested on Friday was detained at the city’s main airport. PHOTO: ED JONES/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

SEOUL—North Korea arrested a U.S. citizen in Pyongyang on Friday, according to people familiar with the matter, adding another potential flashpoint with the U.S. at a time of increasingly heated rhetoric.

The arrested man, a Korean-American professor named Tony Kim, had taught at a university in Pyongyang set up by a Korean-American Christian businessman, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Kim is the third known U.S. citizen to be detained by North Korea in recent months. Pyongyang last year sentenced Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia undergraduate, and Kim Dong-chul, a Korean-American businessman, to terms of 15 years and 10 years of hard labor, respectively.

The arrest of Mr. Kim comes at a time of heightened tensions between Pyongyang and Washington. During a trip to Seoul last week, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence made an unannounced stop at the demilitarized zone that divides the Korean Peninsula and warned North Korea not to push U.S. President Donald Trump, citing recent unilateral strikes on Syria and Afghanistan.

“North Korea would do well not to test his resolve, or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region,” Mr. Pence said.

The U.S. has also sent an aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, toward the Korean Peninsula. The Vinson is due to arrive early this week.

South Korea’s quasiofficial Yonhap News Agency, which first reported the arrest, said Mr. Kim was detained at Pyongyang’s main airport as he was preparing to leave the country. It cited unnamed sources.

Yonhap, which identified Mr. Kim only by his surname, reported that he was a former professor at the Yanbian University of Science and Technology in northeastern China.

The university, known as YUST, was founded in 1992 by James Kim, a Korean-American businessman and Christian who in 2010 opened a sister university in Pyongyang called the Pyongyang University of Science of Technology.

Both universities have made a practice of hiring predominantly Christian faculty, and the people said that Mr. Kim, the detained professor, had taught at the Pyongyang school known as PUST. One of them said he had taught business to North Korean students there.

Phone calls to YUST went unanswered Sunday. A spokesman for PUST said that school executives were discussing the situation.

Representatives for the U.S. embassies in Seoul and Beijing didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

A woman who answered the phone at the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang said news reports about the detention of a U.S. citizen in Pyongyang “are correct,” but declined to comment further, saying that the embassy doesn’t comment on specific cases as a matter of policy.

The U.S., which doesn’t have diplomatic relations with North Korea, relies on Sweden as its protecting power.

Yonhap reported that Mr. Kim, the professor, was in his late 50s and had been involved in aid and relief work in North Korea. It said he was in the country to discuss relief activities. The reason for his arrest was unknown, Yonhap reported.

A number of humanitarian groups with ties to the U.S. do aid work in North Korea. Many of them are associated with Christian organizations.

North Korea has arrested and sentenced a handful of U.S. citizens in recent years, including Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American missionary who the state held for more than two years on charges of trying to overthrow the North Korean government. Mr. Bae was freed in November 2014 after a trip to Pyongyang by James Clapper, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence.

In the past, high-profile U.S. envoys have been dispatched to North Korea to secure the release of U.S. citizens detained there. In 2009, former U.S. President Bill Clinton traveled to North Korea and met with then-leader Kim Jong Il to secure the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, two journalists who had been detained for illegally entering the country.

Mr. Warmbier was arrested after allegedly trying to steal a political poster from a hotel where he was staying in January 2016. Mr. Warmbier, who was 21 years old at the time of his sentencing, made a tearful apology in a government-run news conference in Pyongyang before his sentencing.

Mr. Warmbier’s parents, Fred and Cindy, appeared on Fox News earlier this month to call on U.S. President Donald Trump to help bring their son home. “President Trump, I ask you: Bring my son home,” Mr. Warmbier’s father said.

Less is known about Kim Dong-chul, a Virginia resident who was 62 years old when he was convicted in April last year on charges of spying and stealing state secrets.

A Korean-Canadian pastor, Lim Hyeon-soo, has been detained in North Korea since February 2015. He was accused of committing “state subversive plots and activities” and sentenced to life in prison with hard labor.

Write to Jonathan Cheng at jonathan.cheng@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/north-korea-detains-u-s-citizen-a-korean-american-university-professor-yonhap-news-agency-1492930149?mod=e2fb

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US envoy to UN threatens further military action in Syria — “Moscow must reconsider its support for Assad.” — “Trump’s a human being and his instincts are just as flawed as anyone else’s.”

April 7, 2017

AFP

 
© HO, US Department of Defence, AFP | US President Donald Trump’s decision to order missile strikes on a Syrian regime airbase represents an about-turn on his Syria strategy.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-04-07

The United States on Friday threatened to take further military action in Syria following its missile strikes on an air base in the war-wracked country in retaliation for a suspected chemical attack.

“The United States took a very measured step last night,” US Ambassador Nikki Haley told the UN Security Council.

“We are prepared to do more, but we hope it will not be necessary.”

The Security Council was meeting in an emergency session to discuss the US actions in Syria that Russia branded a “flagrant violation of international law and an act of aggression” against Syria.

Haley said the air strikes destroyed an air field from which the United States believes the chemical attacks on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun were launched.

“We were fully justified in doing so,” she said.

Eighty-six people including at least 27 children died in Khan Sheikhun in an attack the United States has blamed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“The United States will no longer wait for Assad to use chemical weapons without any consequences,” Haley said. “Those days are over.”

‘WE WILL NOT STAND BY WHEN CHEMICAL WEAPONS ARE USED’

While threatening further strikes, the US envoy also said it was time to press on with a political solution to the six-year war.

“Now we must move to a new phase: a drive toward a political solution to this horrific conflict.”

Haley again took a swipe at Russia for failing to rein in its ally and said Moscow must reconsider its support for Assad.

“The world is waiting for the Russian government to act responsibly in Syria. The world is waiting for Russia to reconsider its misplaced alliance with Bashar al-Assad,” she said.

The United States fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from warships in the Mediterranean at the Shayrat airfield, dealing heavy damage to the base.

The strike — Trump’s biggest military decision since taking office — marked a dramatic escalation in American involvement in Syria’s six-year civil war.

It followed days of outrage at images of dead children and victims suffering convulsions from the suspected sarin gas attack in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun.

(AFP)

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Trump’s visceral response prompts Syria strikes

© AFP/File / by Andrew BEATTY | “When you kill innocent children, innocent babies — babies, little babies — with a chemical gas that is so lethal — people were shocked to hear what gas it was — that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line,” Trump said of Syria

PALM BEACH (UNITED STATES) (AFP) – Donald Trump’s missile barrage on Syria — the first major military gambit of his presidency — revealed a leader fueled by instinct and emotion, and one willing to shake up strategy in an instant.

Early Tuesday, horrifying details started trickling into the White House Situation Room — a secure suite in the bowels of the West Wing that serves as the presidency’s eyes and ears on the globe.

The initial picture was sketchy, but US military and intelligence came to believe that 5,750 miles (9,250 kilometers) away in Khan Sheikhun, Syria, a fixed-wing aircraft from Bashar al-Assad’s air force unleashed a deadly harvest of sarin nerve agent on villagers who oppose his regime.

At around 10:30 am Washington time, US intelligence officers took their news to Trump as part of his top-secret daily briefing.

At the same time, news agencies with reporters on the ground, like AFP, began showing the horrifying reality of those clinical facts: heart-wrenching images of convulsing toddlers, empty-eyed men and women, and panicked efforts to hose the deadly agent off those still alive.

According to White House officials, this most visually focused of presidents — a man whose life has been defined by the power of image and television — had an immediate and visceral response to the images, asking for more information and options.

“It crossed a lot of lines for me,” Trump said in a stunningly frank Rose Garden press conference the next day.

“When you kill innocent children, innocent babies — babies, little babies — with a chemical gas that is so lethal — people were shocked to hear what gas it was — that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line.”

– ‘I now have responsibility’ –

Before that moment, Trump had railed against his predecessors’ military adventurism in the Middle East, arguing it was time to move on from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and put “America first.”

Trump had variously argued that Assad’s brutal actions were not really America’s problem and that the Syrian dictator — and his Russian backers — could even be allies in fighting the Islamic State group.

This was a complete U-turn. Now Trump wanted a response.

“I now have responsibility, and I will have that responsibility and carry it very proudly,” he said.

Within 24 hours, a speed that shocked allies and even some inside the administration, military and national security officials had presented the president with multiple options.

At around 2:00 pm Thursday, Trump ordered the military to launch a barrage of 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Shayrat airfield from US Navy ships in the Mediterranean.

It was an overwhelming display of power, but less risky than flying sorties in an area covered by Russia’s S-400 missile defense system and less escalatory than striking Syrian military headquarters or civilian government targets.

From the relaxed atmosphere of Mar-a-Lago, there were no signs that Trump had ordered an attack that could mark his presidency and dramatically alter the geopolitical dynamic of the Middle East.

Trump, ever the CEO, was so comfortable with his decision that hours before the attack, he was cracking jokes with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who he was hosting at his Florida resort.

– Uncertain aftermath –

Top administration officials painted the decision as a display of presidential strength and resolve. The message? There was a new sheriff in town.

Under Trump, there would be none of the ignored red lines or months-long deliberations that characterized the administration of Barack Obama.

“It’s decisive, and I have no doubt that he wanted that contrast with President Obama’s indecisiveness on Syria,” Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, told AFP.

University of Virginia Center for Politics Director Larry Sabato during an event promoting his book and new revelations on the Kennedy Assassination on Oct. 15, 2013 at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. | John Shinkle/POLITICO

“But part of it is also worrisome. This is a president who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. We’ve all seen it.”

Amid a myriad of questions about long-term strategy and the legality of the strike, top administration officials have struggled to explain the rationale beyond Trump’s reaction.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Advisor HR McMaster painted the strike both as a specific response to a specific breach of chemical weapons norms and as a warning to the world at large that Trump and America should not be messed with.

By dawn on Friday, capitals from London to Tokyo, from Tehran to Pyongyang were trying to figure out whether the strike was one-and-done or the opening salvo of a new Trump doctrine — with most leaning toward the former.

Even White House officials privately admitted that while Trump means business and the Syria strike may be repeated, it is not obviously transferable to other crises.

Striking North Korea, one official admitted on condition of anonymity, would be a much more fraught piece of business.

The US is now girding for an asymmetrical response from Assad or his backers in Tehran via Hezbollah militiamen, but the White House admits an attack on Pyongyang would almost certainly prompt a much more serious direct response targeting allies in South Korea or Japan.

What is clear from the strike is that Trump trusts and acts on his own instincts.

“I’m a very instinctual person, but my instinct turns out to be right,” he recently remarked.

Sabato however said “there’s just one problem” with that approach.

“He’s a human being and his instincts are just as flawed as anyone else’s,” he said.

by Andrew BEATTY

Obama’s ‘hope and change’ has given us ‘fear and loathing’ — ‘Truth be damned’ president moves off into history soon

November 6, 2016

So this is how Hope & Change ends. With the FBI in turmoil, with surging anti-police violence, with fears of voter fraud and foreign hacking, with a sluggish economy, with a terror warning and with two unpopular presidential candidates tearing at each other like wolves.

Heckuva job, Barack Obama!

The 44th president made history by being elected, but leaves behind a nation on the verge of a crack-up. He flatters himself by insisting his tenure has been a roaring success, but the public mood tells a different story.

Obama promised to unite America, but exits amidst far greater divisions. It is telling that he has stopped portraying himself as a uniter and, like Jimmy Carter, blames the public.

Carter saw malaise, Obama sees bitter clingers, racists and xenophobes. While Obama’s lectures convey disappointment in his fellow Americans, it never occurs to him that he is a disappointment to them.

 

His failure to come to grips with the polarization, combined with an aggressively liberal agenda spearheaded by executive orders and a politicized bureaucracy, means his successor will inherit a country broken along every fault line imaginable. Voices of discontent and even estrangement are rising among Americans of all stripes and persuasions.

So much so that the one universal point of agreement is that the next occupant of the Oval Office must forge a fundamental consensus before the country can begin to address its critical problems.

But forging that consensus could prove to be the most difficult problem of all, especially with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both better at exploiting polarization than ending it.

Indeed, polls showing a close outcome suggest the winner will take office on a wave of bitterness. Legal challenges remain a possibility, both to the legitimacy of the vote and to the candidates’ past actions.

Still, the near-universal clamor for change offers a potential opening. Grievances from across the political spectrum demonstrate that most of the country agrees our public servants are only serving themselves, and that Washington is disconnected from most Americans’ daily lives.

The necessary consensus, then, won’t be found in a new program conceived in a winner-take-all environment. While there are some areas of basic agreement — infrastructure development, tax reform, and the need to more fully confront Islamic terror — they are not the sort of things that get to the root problem.

That root, I believe, is a fundamental distrust of government. It can’t be fixed by bigger government, or even by just a smaller one.

Instead, the only solution is a more honest government, a goal that must be addressed as a distinct issue from Day One. Building trust can begin with small steps of transparency conveyed in plain English — no parsing or government mumbo-jumbo allowed.

Tragically, neither candidate is equipped for the challenge. Clinton, because of her long trail of dishonesty in public life, will never be able to summon broad national support for anything.

In fact, the campaign has undermined her claims to be ready for the presidency, and she still offers no rationale other than ambition. Her contempt for everyday Americans, expressed through the use of a private server and in words like “deplorables” and “irredeemable” directed at Trump supporters, has created a new ceiling of her own making.

Thanks to the FBI and Wiki­Leaks revelations, we know her judgment is not trusted even by her closest confidants.

If Republicans hold either house of Congress, Clinton will face hobbling probes from the start. Her arrogant resolve to keep the family foundation open guarantees an endless stream of pay-to-play suspicions. Making gender history would come at too high a price.

That leaves Trump. His defects of temperament and instinct are enormous, and it is certain he is guilty of despicable abuse of some women. Also, there are reasons why the New York business and philanthropic communities hold him in low regard.

But we are where we are, and Trump has one advantage over Clinton — a clean slate in exercising governmental power. He is a genuine outsider whose promise of change is more credible, and better matches the nation’s mood.

Unlike Clinton, he would be free to break with Obama’s failed policies on immigration, health care and Iran. Moreover, Trump’s improvement as a candidate suggests he has more potential for upside surprises. A few good Cabinet picks would reassure millions of Americans and create a valuable honeymoon for his administration.

All that said, Trump remains a long shot to be a good president. But after eight years of Hope & Change, a long shot is the only shot we have.

U. blew it, Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone magazine’s article on an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia was tailor-made for our times. Sexual assault on campus, out-of-control fraternities and indifferent administrators — it had all the hot-button angles.

It also had something else symbolic of our times: a reckless media organization that didn’t care about, or wasn’t capable of, separating fact from fiction. It was all about the agenda, truth be damned.

With many Americans believing the presidential election will be a referendum on the conduct of liberal news organizations, the jury finding that Rolling Stone defamed a former dean is a warning shot to the fact-free, agenda-driven culture common in American journalism.

Up and down the media food chain, pushing a narrative is taking precedence over an honest reporting of facts.

Social consciousness is being sold as the new journalism, but it’s actually discredited sensationalism in liberal wrapping. Advancing a political agenda without facts is no more honorable than spinning melodramatic tales with concocted quotes and scenes. Both distort the truth to serve an ulterior purpose.

That’s the beauty of the truth — it doesn’t need to be embellished.

The two faces of Blas

Bill de Blasio records a dubious hat trick.

New York’s mayor has proven himself a double threat, showing big talents for being incompetent and corrupt. Now we can add dishonest to his résumé.

The WikiLeaks deluge catches de Blasio saying one thing publicly about Hillary Clinton and the opposite privately. The public statement is what he wanted voters to believe, the private one is what he believes.

Asked in a March TV appearance whether he thought Clinton should release the transcripts of paid speeches she gave to banks, de Blasio claimed, “I don’t care about those speeches.”

Hillary Clinton and Bill de Blasio. Photo credit Getty Images and UPI

Yet that same day he sent an e-mail to John Podesta, chair of Clinton’s campaign, saying of the speeches, “I’m trying, brother, but this one is hard to defend.”

“Hard to defend” but you can if you’re willing to lie. That’s politics, brother.

http://nypost.com/2016/11/06/obamas-hope-and-change-has-given-us-fear-and-loathing/

Related:

 (Who knows more about sharing U.S. government  secrets?)

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani ripped into President Barack Obama for attending a baseball game in Cuba yesterday afternoon instead of jumping on his plane and coming home after the Brussels attacks

Obama moves to implement US sanctions on North Korea — Likely to Rile China as more much-needed revenue sources are cut off

March 17, 2016

AFP

© AFP/File | The Korean peninsula remains the world’s last Cold War frontier and the two countries remain technically at war since the 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce and not a formal peace treaty

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Barack Obama signed an order Wednesday implementing UN-backed sanctions on North Korea after a nuclear test and missile launch this year, as Pyongyang promised reprisals.

The White House said Obama had signed an executive order targeting the volatile hermit state’s energy, financial and shipping assets.

The measures were agreed to at the United Nations in response to the January 6 nuclear test and February 7 ballistic missile launch.

“The order is not targeted at the people of North Korea, but rather is aimed at the government,” said the document signed by Obama.

Among the entities targeted are the “Propaganda and Agitation Department” of the Workers’ Party of Korea and mining firms that provide the regime with much-needed revenues.

The US Treasury Department estimates that coal revenues alone generate over $1 billion a year for the government of Kim Jong-Un.

In response to the UN sanctions and a US-South Korean drill, Kim has already ordered an upcoming nuclear warhead test and multiple ballistic missile launches.

US officials say the threats are concerning, but fit a pattern of sabre rattling by the regime.

Analysts and diplomats have said that loopholes in the UN sanctions leave room for China, Pyongyang’s key economic supporter, to continue business as usual.

In 2014, China accounted for more than 90 percent of North Korea’s $7.61 billion in total trade, according to the latest available figures from South Korea?s state-run Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.

In response to Obama’s executive order, Beijing said Thursday that it “opposes any country’s unilateral sanctions.”

“We have stressed that the unilateral actions taken by any country must not undermine the lawful rights and interests of China,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular briefing.

On Wednesday, North Korea jailed a 21-year-old American student.

Otto Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor for stealing a propaganda banner from a hotel.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest accused Pyongyang of using US citizens as “pawns to pursue a political agenda” and called for his release.

“We strongly encourage the North Korean government to pardon him and grant him special amnesty and immediate release,” Earnest said.

“The allegations for which this individual was arrested and imprisoned would not give rise to arrest or imprisonment in the United States or in just about any other country in the world.”

In announcing the sentence, state news outlet KCNA said Warmbier had committed his offense “pursuant to the US government’s hostile policy” toward North Korea.

Related:

U.S. Imposes Fresh Sanctions on North Korea — finance, transportation, mining and energy all hit — Meant also to pressure China

March 17, 2016

Measures block businesses from trade with North Korean entities engaged in finance, transportation, mining and energy

A TV screen at the Seoul Railway Station in South Korea on March 10 shows file footage of a missile launch conducted by Pyongyang. On Wednesday, the U.S. placed fresh sanctions on broad swaths of North Korea’s economy in retaliation for nuclear tests.
A TV screen at the Seoul Railway Station in South Korea on March 10 shows file footage of a missile launch conducted by Pyongyang. On Wednesday, the U.S. placed fresh sanctions on broad swaths of North Korea’s economy in retaliation for nuclear tests. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON—The Obama administration tightened the U.S. trade embargo on North Korea, explicitly placing sanctions on the Pyongyang government, its ruling party and broad sectors of the country’s economy.

The U.S action, imposed through an executive order on Wednesday, is expected to significantly increase pressure on China to cut its business dealings with the nuclear-armed state.

The White House said the new measures block any U.S. trade with dictator Kim Jong Un’s government, the Workers’ Party of Korea and any North Korean entities engaged in finance, transportation, mining and energy.

Chinese companies could also be targeted in the crackdown, U.S. officials said. Under legislation passed by Congress in February and signed by President Barack Obama, the administration must also sanction non-U.S. companies found to be doing business with blacklisted North Korean entities.

China is by far the North Korean government’s largest business partner and invests in many of the economic sectors identified on Wednesday. The U.S. said revenue, particularly from North Korea’s mining industry, is invested by Pyongyang back into programs to develop weapons of mass destruction.

“We will work closely with our international partners to continue in a strong and unambiguous way to pressure North Korea to abandon its illicit nuclear and ballistic missile programs,” said Adam Szubin, the Treasury’s top sanctions official.

The Treasury also sanctioned 17 North Korean government officials and organizations, and placed travel warnings on 20 North Korean shipping vessels.

China didn’t immediately react on Thursday. It has said it is committed to implementing U.N. sanctions on North Korea but opposes unilateral sanctions and has called repeatedly for a resumption of so-called six party talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear program between China, Russia, the U.S, Japan and North and South Korea.

The U.S. action is the latest step taken by the Obama White House to punish Pyongyang for its nuclear-weapons test in January and a ballistic-missile launch in February.

The new sanctions came as North Korea sentenced Otto Warmbier, a 21-year-old student at the University of Virginia, to 15 years of hard labor after he was convicted of subversion for allegedly stealing a political poster in January, state media reported.

U.S. officials said China is critical to its efforts to pressure North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The Obama administration hailed Beijing’s support this month for new United Nations Security Council sanctions on the North, which are seen as unprecedented in scope.

The U.N. resolution mandates countries to inspect all cargo to and from North Korea, cut off shipments of aircraft and rocket fuel, ban all weapons sales and restrict all revenues to the government unless for humanitarian purposes. Countries are required to expel North Korean diplomats affiliated with illicit programs and honor the robust list of sanctioned individuals and entities.

Still, senior U.S. officials have said in recent weeks that it remained unclear how aggressively Beijing will enforce the U.N.’s mandate. China has in the past supported penalties on Pyongyang, they said, but did little in the end to inflict real financial pain on its communist ally.

The Treasury’s blacklisting of broad sectors of North Korea’s economy borrows from a strategy the U.S. used in recent years to punish Iran for its nuclear activities. The effect was that most foreign businesses cut any ties to Iranian banks, shipping firms, or insurance companies, because of fears they could also be blacklisted by Treasury.

The U.S. said mining, particularly of coal, was crucial for Pyongyang’s finances, earning it around $1 billion annually. Treasury also said North Korea uses its finance and shipping firms to support its clandestine weapons programs.

Write to Jay Solomon at jay.solomon@wsj.com

http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-imposes-fresh-sanctions-on-north-korea-1458160363

N. Korea sentences US student to 15 years hard labour — Tearful TV Confession Made No Difference — Arrested While On A Church Sponsored Trip

March 16, 2016

AFP

© KCNA via KNS/AFP/File | US student Otto Frederick Warmbier has been sentenced in North Korea to 15 years hard labour for crimes against the state

SEOUL (AFP) – North Korea on Wednesday sentenced an American student, who admitted to stealing propaganda material, to 15 years hard labour for crimes against the state, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported.

The sentence was handed down on Otto Warmbier, a 21-year-old student from the University of Virginia, by North Korea’s Supreme Court, Xinhua said in a brief despatch datelined Pyongyang.

Otto Frederick Warmbier

There was no immediate confirmation of the sentence on North Korean state media.

Warmbier, who was arrested in early January as he was leaving the country, later said he had removed a political banner from the staff-only area of the Pyongyang hotel being used by his tour group.

His detention came at a sensitive time, as the United States took a leading role in efforts to secure tough international sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear test on January 6 and a long-range rocket launch a month later.

****************

North Korea allowed the world to get its first glimpse of Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, two months after his arrest.

Warmbier is accused of trying to steal a North Korean banner, containing a political slogan that was hanging from the walls of his Pyongyang hotel.

A North Korean official with direct knowledge of Warmbier’s case says the 21-year-old held a news conference “at his own request” Monday, February 29, 2016, at the People’s Palace of Culture in Pyongyang.

The event provided insight into the bizarre charges he is facing in the secretive Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK, including allegations that he was encouraged to commit the “hostile act” by a purported member of an Ohio church, a secretive university organization and even the CIA.

The U.S. State Department said it was aware of media reports the U.S. citizen was detained in North Korea but declined to comment further “due to privacy considerations.”