New Zealand diplomat tells US Democrats to organise against Trump or ‘we all die’

Caroline Beresford says ‘please get your shit together’, referring to a potential Sanders/Warren presidential ticket

A senior New Zealand diplomat based in Washington is in hot water over a series of tweets directed at the US Democratic party saying “please get your shit together or we will all die”.

Caroline Beresford, New Zealand’s deputy head of mission to the US and ambassador to Haiti, sent the tweet in response to a post by US politics website the Hill detailing the Democratic party’s plans for the 2020 election and the possible pairing of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as running mates. “A Sanders-Warren ticket could win big in 2020” declared the headline.

Continue reading…

Rex Tillerson: a rocky road with Trump that ended with a surprise firing

The secretary of state had known a battle was brewing – but he had survived similar clashes with the president before

Rex Tillerson’s last significant act as secretary of state was characteristically out of tune with the White House.

Donald Trump’s spokeswoman Sarah Sanders had avoided any blame of Russia for the poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain, but minutes later Tillerson issued his own statement, which was definitive in supporting the UK assessment that Moscow was behind the attack.

Continue reading…

Russian spy attack: Johnson welcomes allies’ support

Foreign secretary’s remarks precede Trump sacking of Tillerson, who had criticised Moscow

The UK has been encouraged by the “strength of support” from allies to take action against Russia after the nerve agent attack on a former spy and his daughter, Boris Johnson said just hours before the US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, was sacked by Donald Trump.

Tillerson, who spoke to the foreign secretary on Monday afternoon, had told reporters the attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal “clearly came from Russia” and would have consequences.

His remarks went further than those of Theresa May, who told the House of Commons on Monday it was “highly likely” Russia was behind the attack. The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, had stopped short of pointing the finger at Russia.

Continue reading…

OJ Simpson seems to ‘hypothetically’ confess to murder in archive TV footage

  • Simpson says in 2006 interview he was at the scene of the murders
  • Ex-NFL star acquitted of killing Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman

In an interview aired by Fox on Sunday night, OJ Simpson seemed to “hypothetically” confess to the 1994 murder in Los Angeles of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman.

Related: Review: If I Did It, the words of OJ Simpson, published by the Goldman family

Continue reading…

Gunman and three hostages found dead at US veterans’ home

Three women who devoted their lives to helping traumatized veterans were killed by a patient who had been kicked out of their treatment program, authorities and a relative of a victim said.

A day-long siege at the Pathway Home in Yountville in northern California ended on Friday evening with the discovery of four bodies, including the gunman. He was identified as Albert Wong, 36, a former US army rifleman who served a year in Afghanistan in 2011-2012.

Investigators were trying to determine when and why Wong killed two executives and a psychologist at the Pathway Home, a nonprofit post-traumatic stress disorder program at the Veterans Home of California-Yountville in the Napa Valley wine country region.

It was “far too early to say if they were chosen at random” because investigators had not yet determined a motive, California highway patrol assistant chief Chris Childs said.

Governor Jerry Brown ordered flags flown at half-staff at the capitol in memory of the victims. They were identified as Pathway Home executive director Christine Loeber, 48; clinical director Jennifer Golick, 42; and Jennifer Gonzales, 29, a clinical psychologist with the San Francisco Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System.

In a tweet on Saturday, President Donald Trump said: “We are deeply saddened by the tragic situation in Yountville and mourn the loss of three incredible women who cared for our veterans.”

In a statement, the Pathway Home said: “These brave women were accomplished professionals who dedicated their careers to serving our nation’s veterans, working closely with those in the greatest need of attention after deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Golick’s father-in-law, Bob Golick, said in an interview she had recently expelled Wong from the program.

The Pathway Home is located on the sprawling campus of the veterans center, which cares for about 1,000 elderly and disabled vets. It is the largest veterans home in the nation, according to the state Department of Veterans Affairs.

Wong went to the campus about 53 miles north of San Francisco on Friday morning, slipping into a going-away party for some employees of the Pathway House.

Larry Kamer told the Associated Press his wife, Devereaux Smith, called him to say the gunman had entered the room quietly, letting some people leave while taking others hostage.

Golick called her husband, Mark, to say that she had been taken hostage by the former soldier, her father-in-law said. Mark Golick didn’t hear from her again, Bob Golick said.

A Napa Valley sheriff’s deputy exchanged gunshots with the hostage-taker at about 10.30am but after that nothing was heard from Wong or his hostages despite efforts to contact him, authorities said.

Army veteran and home resident Bob Sloan, 73, was working at the home’s TV station when a co-worker came in and said he had heard four gunshots coming from the Pathway Home. Sloan sent alerts for residents to stay put.

A group of about 80 students who were on the home’s grounds were safely evacuated after being locked down, Napa County sheriff John Robertson said. The teens from Justin-Siena High School were at a theater rehearsing a play.

“They were a distance away from the shooting situation,” Robertson said.

The bodies of Wong and the women were found at about 6pm. While authorities had the building under siege for about eight hours they did not enter it. Wong’s rental car was later found nearby. A bomb-sniffing dog alerted authorities to something on the car but the only thing found was a cellphone, authorities said.

Yvette Bennett, a wound-care supply worker who supplies the veterans center, was turned back when she tried to deliver what she called urgently needed medical supplies for two patients inside. Of all the medical institutions she has worked with, “this is the most placid, calm, serene place”, she said. Earlier this week, when she last visited, she asked a doctor: “What’s your magic here?”

“And then 48 hours later this happens,” Bennett said.

Trump-Kim talks: US signals hardline stance as it scrambles to define position

Donald Trump will take a hardline position at his planned summit with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the White House said on Friday, as US officials scrambled to keep pace with the president after his sudden acceptance of Kim’s offer to talk.

In briefings after the surprise announcement – which would be the first ever meeting of leaders of the two countries – US officials made no mention of possible concessions that Trump might offer, other than saying that severe sanctions would stay in place until North Korea took verifiable steps to dismantle its nuclear weapons programme.

At the daily White House briefing, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders even cast doubt on Trump’s acceptance of the offer of a summit, suggesting it was dependent on preconditions.

“Let’s be very clear. The United States has made zero concessions but North Korea has made some promises. This meeting won’t take place without concrete actions that match the promises that have been made by North Korea.”

Sanders did not specify what actions the US required Pyongyang to take, and whether the demands amounted to more than the requirement of a pause in missile and nuclear testing, which Pyongyang appears to have already agreed to.

The White House later appeared to minimise the impact of Sanders’ remarks, with one official telling the Wall Street Journal: “The invitation has been extended and accepted, and that stands.”

Later, on Friday evening, Trump added to the confusion with a tweet about the meeting in which he added a qualifying phrase: “if completed”.

Donald J. Trump

The deal with North Korea is very much in the making and will be, if completed, a very good one for the World. Time and place to be determined.

March 10, 2018

The speed of events had Trump’s administration scrambling to keep up with the president. Thursday’s announcement appeared to have taken some senior US officials unawares: the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, was travelling in Africa, and had told reporters – while the South Korean delegation was in the White House conveying the offer – that talks with the North were a distant prospect.

Tillerson said on Friday that the US had been taken aback at Kim’s “forward-leaning” approach but described the outcome as a success for the US policy of severe sanctions executed by the state department. He said Trump had made the decision himself after determining the time was right for “talks” but not formal negotiations.

The vice-president, Mike Pence, said that Kim’s invitation to suspend nuclear tests and meet the US president proved that Trump’s strategy was working.

The North Koreans “are coming to the table despite the United States making zero concessions and, in close coordination with our allies, we have consistently increased the pressure on the Kim regime”, Pence said in a statement.

“Our resolve is undeterred and our policy remains the same: all sanctions remain in place and the maximum pressure campaign will continue until North Korea takes concrete, permanent, and verifiable steps to end their nuclear program.”


Why does the North Korean regime pursue a nuclear programme?

Much of the regime’s domestic legitimacy rests on portraying the country as under constant threat from the US and its regional allies, South Korea and Japan.

To support the claim that it is in Washington’s crosshairs, North Korea cites the tens of thousands of US troops lined up along the southern side of the demilitarised zone – the heavily fortified border dividing the Korean peninsula. Faced with what it says are US provocations, North Korea says it has as much right as any other state to develop a nuclear deterrent.

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un is also aware of the fate of other dictators who lack nuclear weapons.

Thank you for your feedback.

Reacting to the announcement of the summit, the Chinese and Japanese governments have echoed the US line that there would be no let-up in the economic pressure on North Korea until Pyongyang began to dismantle its nuclear weapons and missiles programmes.

North Korea must ‘match words with concrete actions’, says South – video

It remained unclear if Kim is prepared to limit his arsenal and what he might require in return for doing so. Pyongyang had not commented officially on the summit plans since they were revealed by a South Korean delegation on Thursday night.

A previous deal, the 1994 Agreed Framework, involved deliveries of fuel oil and the promise to build civilian nuclear reactors for North Korea. But Kim has consistently demanded an end to what Pyongyang calls Washington’s “hostile policies” which involve its military presence on and around the Korean peninsula and joint exercises with its ally, South Korea.

Rex Tillerson, arriving in Djibouti on Friday, appeared to be caught on the hop by news of the North Korea talks as he toured Africa.

Rex Tillerson, arriving in Djibouti on Friday, appeared to be caught on the hop by news of the North Korea talks as he toured Africa. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/AFP/Getty Images

Tillerson said it will take “some weeks” to arrange the timing for their meeting. US officials said that no time or place had been agreed. Bilateral talks in the past have been conducted in Geneva, New York and Beijing, but those involved diplomats. Kim Jong-un has not ventured outside North Korea since inheriting power from his father in 2011.

A strong possibility as a venue would be the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas, a backdrop that would only add to the drama of an extraordinary encounter.

In the coming weeks, the Trump administration will have to develop a negotiating strategy almost from scratch. Former officials have said that while much time and effort had gone into designing and enforcing sanctions, and planning military options, almost none had been devoted to putting together a plan for negotiation.

The US special envoy for North Korean policy, Joseph Yun, left his post last week, depriving the administration of the single diplomat who had been in contact with North Korea. He had been contemplating retirement for some time, one of his colleagues said, but would have stayed on if he felt the White House had been interested in his efforts.

The state department has been cut out of the loop on several critical moments in the evolution of administration policy on North Korea.

Leadership on Korean policy has shifted to the White House. A likely key figure in the weeks running up to a summit is Allison Hooker, the only official left in the administration with firsthand experience of North Korea.

She travelled there in 2014 when she was director for Korean affairs at the national security council and accompanied the US intelligence chief, James Clapper, to Pyongyang to negotiate the release of American detainees.

Martin Shkreli jailed: ‘Pharma Bro’ sentenced to seven years for fraud

Shkreli, convicted of securities fraud and conspiracy, sought leniency from the court after calling the trial a ‘witch-hunt’

In a packed Brooklyn courthouse on Friday, Martin Shkreli, the “Pharma Bro” who rose to international notoriety after increasing the price of a lifesaving drug 50-fold, was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Shkreli, 34, was convicted of two counts of securities fraud and a single count of conspiracy last August. He had dismissed the trial as “a silly witch-hunt perpetrated by self-serving prosecutors”.

Continue reading…