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Trump-Kim ‘Love Letters’ Reveal Friendship, Flattery

Veteran Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward’s new book, Rage, is shining more light on the unlikely relationship between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The book won’t be released until next week, but several U.S. media outlets on Wednesday published excerpts, including portions of personal letters that Trump and Kim exchanged over the past two years.
In the letters, the young North Korean leader showers Trump with extravagant praise, repeatedly addressing him as “Your Excellency” and hailing their “deep and special friendship,” even as the wider U.S.-North Korea nuclear talks were breaking down.
"Even now I cannot forget that moment of history when I firmly held Your Excellency's hand at the beautiful and sacred location as the whole world watched," Kim told Trump after their first meeting in Singapore in June 2018. It was one of two Kim letters published by the U.S.-based cable news network CNN.
Following their second summit in Vietnam, Kim told Trump “every minute we shared 103 days ago in Hanoi was also a moment of glory that remains a precious memory,” according to CNN, which says it obtained transcripts of the two letters.
Trump often returned the praise. After their Singapore meeting, Trump described Kim as “far beyond smart,” according to the Post. The paper said Trump boasted to Woodward that Kim “tells me everything,” including a graphic description of how he killed his uncle, Jang Song Thaek. The powerful Jang was executed in late 2013 for treason.
Those comments mirror an interview Trump gave to VOA immediately after his Singapore summit, when Trump said Kim was “smart, loves his people, [and] he loves his country.”
Excessive praise?
For the book, Woodward says he obtained access to 25 Trump-Kim letters, although it’s not clear how much of the correspondence will be included.
So far, the excerpts contained no huge surprises about the Trump-Kim relationship, parts of which Trump has already made public. However, analysts say the correspondence reveals important insights about each man’s personality and negotiating style.
“It’s interesting to see how you can see Kim’s personality refracted through these letters,” said Jung Pak, a former CIA analyst who now works at the Washington-based Brookings Institution.
“Surrounded by sycophants his entire life and as an observer and student of excessive displays of admiration that enveloped his father and grandfather, Kim Jong Un almost certainly understands how to weaponize praise and prey on one’s insecurities and desire for greatness,” said Pak, who recently wrote the book Becoming Kim Jong Un.
Unlikely friendship
Trump and Kim didn’t always get along. In 2017, the two regularly exchanged insults, with Trump calling Kim “Little Rocket Man” and Kim slamming Trump as a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard.” At one point, Trump threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea.
The tensions dissipated after Trump, a former real estate developer and reality television host who often claims an unmatched deal-making ability, became the first sitting U.S. president to meet a North Korean leader. Trump later claimed the two “fell in love.”

In this picture taken on June 12, 2018 and released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 13,…
FILE – In this photo taken June 12, 2018, and released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (R) walks with U.S. President Donald Trump (L) during a break in talks at their summit in Singapore.

The relationship has held firm, even after North Korea last year resumed short-range ballistic missile tests and walked away from nuclear negotiations.
If he wins reelection in November, Trump has said he will reach a deal “very quickly” with Kim. Trump’s opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, has said he will not continue Trump’s personal outreach to Kim, signaling a return to a more traditional U.S. posture.
Impact on future talks
Some now fear the publication of the private Trump-Kim letters risks offending North Korean sensitivities and upsetting future talks.
“That’s privileged diplomatic communication,” said Mark P. Barry, a veteran Korea observer and associate editor of the International Journal on World Peace.
The matter is also tricky, Barry said, because Kim’s words are typically treated with the utmost respect in authoritarian North Korea.
“The worst that could happen is that internally Kim could appear to be a supplicant to Trump,” he says.
North Korea has not responded to the release of the correspondence, but Pyongyang may not be too surprised, since Trump previously tweeted out one of Kim’s letters in July 2018.
“It won’t affect Kim Jong Un’s attitude that much," Lee Sang-sin of the Korean Institute for National Unification, said. "Kim understood the possibility of leaking," he said.
Kathryn Botto, a research analyst in the Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said she wouldn’t be surprised if Kim cited the release of the letters as a reason for refusing to hold talks.
“More evidence of disrespect from the U.S. or something like that,” she said of a possible North Korean response.
“But in reality [Kim’s] willingness to hold future talks is based on the potential of securing sanctions relief or other changes in the U.S. negotiating position, and of course this doesn't change that."
Cracks emerge?
North Korea has for months boycotted the talks, which began to break down after the February 2019 summit in Hanoi ended without a deal. Trump and Kim met once more in June 2019 at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, briefly raising hopes the negotiations could be revived.
A month after the DMZ meeting, though, Kim wrote to Trump “with a new tone,” apparently upset that the U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises had not been fully stopped, CNN reports.
"I am clearly offended and I do not want to hide this feeling from you,” Kim told Trump. “I am really, very offended.”
In recent months, North Korean officials have repeatedly said that while the Trump-Kim relationship remains strong and has likely prevented tensions from spiraling out of control, it is not enough to ensure progress in the nuclear talks.

Original Article from Isaan.Live

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Austria

Austria to Welcome Skiers This Winter, Just Not Apres-Ski Parties

Austria announced Thursday that while the alpine nation’s ski resorts will be open and skiers are welcome, the nation is banning all apres-ski events (social activities after a day of skiing) during the upcoming winter tourism season.

Skiing and other winter sports are big business in Austria, making up as much as 15% of the economy. But in February and March, post-skiing partying in the clubs and bars of the popular west Austrian resort of Ischgl resulted in an outbreak that was considered one of Europe's earliest "super-spreader" events of the pandemic.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told reporters in Vienna that while they want to encourage tourists, things cannot be as they were.

“Skiing, eating out, nature and enjoying the hospitality, outdoor activities, shopping — not just in ski resorts but also in cities, a wellness vacation in Austria, culture tourism. All that will be possible this coming winter. What won't be possible is apres ski the way we know it from the past. The risk of infection is simply too high," he said.

The new rules will follow the same COVID-19-related restrictions for all bars, clubs and restaurants in Austria — table service only, with no standing at a bar. In closed ski lifts, face masks will be required, and passengers must stay 1 meter apart, the same as on public transport.

Ski instructors and lift operators, as well as hotel and restaurant staff, will be tested regularly.

Austria is working to bring a recent surge in COVID-19 cases under control, a situation that has prompted one of its top sources of foreign tourists, Germany, to issue a travel warning for one of its skiing regions, the province of Vorarlberg.

Original Article from IsaanLive

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Coronavirus

Israel Tightens Lockdown as COVID Infections Skyrocket

Israel is tightening a strict lockdown beginning Friday as the number of COVID cases continues to skyrocket. There are close to 7,000 new cases a day, and total infections have passed 200,000, all in a country of just nine million people. Hospitals are turning away infected patients and the Israeli army is building a large field hospital for new cases.

Israel has become the first country in the world to order a second lockdown, after infection rates have spiked in the past few weeks. Israel now has one of the highest rates of new infections per capita, with more than one in eight Israelis who take a coronavirus test getting a positive result.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there was no choice but a complete lockdown to get the numbers down.

He said that if Israel does not take serious steps immediately, the country will be on the brink of disaster.

The order is for the entire country, except for essential services like supermarkets and pharmacies, to shut down completely for at least two weeks.

Schools were moved online a few weeks ago after the number of cases among students and teachers climbed.

On Sunday and Monday, the lockdown will affect prayers on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar when people fast and atone for their sins.

Small groups will be allowed to pray together both inside synagogues and outside, with some doctors saying even this is a mistake. The new rules also limit anti–Netanyahu demonstrations which had been gaining strength over the past few months.

Officials have also considered shutting down Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport.

The lockdown will exact a heavy economic price, and analysts expect the unemployment rate – which had been improving – to rise as more businesses close down permanently.

Hagai Levine, a professor of epidemiology and an advisor to Israel’s coronavirus czar, says Israel handled the first wave of the virus very well, but made some mistakes after that.

"At the beginning Israel responded and the public went with the plan, there were no exceptions, there was a complete lockdown and the public responded," said Levine. "What happened is that once the rates went lower, Prime Minister Netanyahu told the public go and have a good time. He said this is like an accordion when the rates are low, you can behave almost normally, when the rates are high, lockdown for everything. This is a wrong concept. Dealing with the current pandemic is like a marathon and in a marathon you need to keep pace all the time, you can run a bit differently but you need to keep moving on. You cannot stop completely."

Levine warns that Israel needs a detailed plan about how to slowly open up after the next lockdown. He also said that any long-term plan will only work if the public has trust in the government. For now, polls suggest that is in doubt.

Original Article from IsaanLive

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Coronavirus

Nations Urged to Help Virus-Stranded Mariners Stuck at Sea

Another COVID-19 problem the U.N. is trying to solve: How to help more than 300,000 merchant mariners who are trapped at sea because of coronavirus restrictions.

Describing the mounting desperation of seafarers who have been afloat for a year or more, Captain Hedi Marzougui pleaded their case Thursday at a meeting with shipping executives and government officials on the sidelines of this week's U.N. General Assembly.

As the pandemic washed over the world and made shipping crews unwelcome in many ports, he said, "We received very limited information, and it became increasingly difficult to get vital supplies and technical support. Nations changed regulations on a daily, if not hourly, basis."

Several months later, many borders remain closed and flights are rare, complicating efforts to bring in replacement crews for those stuck at sea and forcing their employers to keep extending their contracts.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres joined shipping companies, trade unions and maritime organizations in urging governments to recognize merchant crews as essential workers and allow them to travel more freely. With more than 80% of global trade by volume transported by sea, the world's 2 million merchant seafarers play a vital role.

Merchant ship crews are used to long stretches away from home, but as virus infections and restrictions spread early this year, anxiety mounted along with the uncertainty, Marzougui said.

"Not knowing when or if we would be returning home put severe mental strain on my crew and myself," he said. "We felt like second-class citizens with no input or control over our lives."

The Tunisian-born captain spent an extra three months at sea and finally made it home to his family in Florida in late May. But more than 300,000 mariners are still stranded, waiting for replacement crews; about as many are waiting on shore, trying to get back to work.

Maritime officials from Panama, the Philippines, Canada, France and Kenya defended steps they have taken individually to allow safe crew changes or otherwise ease the crisis.

But officials lamented a lack of international coordination among nations and shipping companies, calling for new rules to protect countries from the virus while respecting the rights of stranded crews.

No figures were released for how many merchant mariners have contracted the virus, but Guy Platten of the International Chamber of Shipping said the virus risk is "relatively low" because shipping companies have strict protection measures and "have no wish whatsoever to bring infections on our ships."

He blamed "red tape and bureaucracy" for crew change delays and said border guards and local port officials in some countries are being overzealous in blocking them from coming ashore. One way goods are still able to get ashore despite restrictions is by dock workers fetching them from the ships.

France proposed compiling a global U.N. list of ports that can be secured to accommodate crew changes. Kenya called for sharing costs globally for a rapid testing plan for major ports.

Crews often work 12-hour shifts with no weekends, and Marzougui warned that extending stints without a break risks physical and mental strain — potentially putting ships and oceans in danger.

The captain compared it to telling a marathon runner at the end of the race that they had to "do it again, right away, with no rest."

Original Article from IsaanLive

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