Trump Upbeat on US-China Talks as Beijing Underscores Tariff-Cut Demands

U.S.-China trade talks are “moving right along,” President Donald Trump said Thursday, striking an upbeat tone even as Chinese officials held fast to their line that existing tariffs must come off as part of an interim deal to de-escalate the 17-month trade war between the two powers.”It’s moving along very well,” Trump told reporters when asked about the talks, a refrain of comments made Wednesday.Earlier in the week, though, Trump rattled global markets when he said a deal might have to wait until after the 2020 election.His remarks came after Chinese officials reiterated their stance that some U.S. tariffs must be rolled back for a phase one deal.FILE – Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin takes a question from a reporter in the Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, Oct. 11, 2019.”The Chinese side believes that if the two sides reach a phase one deal, tariffs should be lowered accordingly,” Chinese commerce ministry spokesman Gao Feng told reporters, adding that both sides were maintaining close communication.U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said deputy negotiators held a call in the last 24 hours and are “actively working” toward a deal. He said talks are on track but the United States is not bound by an “artificial” deadline.Completion of a phase one deal between the world’s two biggest economies had been initially expected in November, ahead of a new round of U.S. tariffs set to kick in on Dec. 15, covering about $156 billion of Chinese imports.Asked whether he will allow those tariffs to take effect, Trump said: “We’ll have to see, but right now we’re moving along. We’re not discussing that, but we are having very major discussions. On December 15th, something could happen but we are not discussing that yet. We are having very good discussions with China, however.”Trump’s and Mnuchin’s comments did little to soothe Wall Street, where stocks were litle changed as market participants stayed on the sidelines, awaiting further developments in the trade talks. All three major indices were slightly higher in late trading.Core issuesTrade delegations on both sides remained locked in discussions over “core issues of concern,” with rising bilateral tensions over non-trade issues such as the protests in Hong Kong and Beijing’s treatment of its Uighur Muslim minority clouding prospects for a near-term deal to end a trade war.China warned on Wednesday that U.S. legislation calling for a tougher response to Beijing’s treatment of Uighurs in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang will affect bilateral cooperation.But “there is no need to panic,” as the trade talks did not stop, a Chinese source who advises Beijing on the negotiations told Reuters on Wednesday.FILE – China’s Ministry of Commerce spokesperson, Gao Feng, attends a news conference at the commerce ministry in Beijing, China, June 19, 2018.”Both leaders have talked about reaching a deal, and officials are now finishing the work,” said the source, who thought it unlikely China would retaliate against U.S. legislation by releasing its so-called “unreliable entities list” aimed at punishing firms deemed harmful to Chinese interests.When asked if China would release the list this year, Gao said he had no further information to reveal at present.Beijing may hold back from publishing the list until the trade situation with the United States is at its most tense, a Chinese government source told Reuters in October.On Nov. 7, Gao said China and the United States must simultaneously cancel some existing tariffs on each other’s goods for both sides to reach a phase one trade deal, but there was room for negotiation.On a telephone call last week, China’s lead trade negotiator Vice Premier Liu He discussed “core issues of concern” with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Mnuchin.Washington imposed additional 15% tariffs on about $125 billion worth of Chinese goods on Sept. 1, on top of the 25% tariffs levied on an earlier $250 billion list of industrial and consumer goods.Trump and Lighthizer recognize that rolling back tariffs for a pact that fails to tackle core intellectual property and technology transfer issues will not be seen as a good deal for the United States, a person briefed on the matter told Reuters last month.Trump has made whittling down the U.S. trade deficit with China a top priority of his presidency, and data from the Census Bureau on Thursday showed the goods deficit narrowed in October for a third straight month to $31.3 billion, with imports unchanged and exports increasing 3.4%.So far this year, the cumulative deficit has declined by nearly 15%, to $294.5 billion from $344.8 billion in the first 10 months of 2018.Still, Chinese purchases of American soybeans, a key U.S. export, slid to a six-week low late last month, the Agriculture Department reported.
 

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UN Security Council to Head to DC, Kentucky 

The U.N. Security Council is set to meet President Donald Trump over lunch Thursday, then travel later this month to part of the U.S. that’s off the beaten path for world diplomats: Kentucky. 
 
It’s the home state of Ambassador Kelly Craft, who announced the plans in brief remarks to reporters Monday as the U.S. began a stint in the council’s rotating presidency. She said the U.S. tenure would focus on how the council could gain more credibility.'' 
 
We’re speaking to the world, and I think it’s really important, that we owe it as a moral obligation, not only to speak about topics that are relevant but also to have an outcome,” Kraft said, calling for reflection on the council’s work this year and how it might improve. 
 
Tasked with maintaining international peace and security, the council generally sets out for hotspots when it leaves headquarters. 
 
Visits this year have included Iraq and neighboring Kuwait, a council member; Mali, the site of the deadliest U.N. peacekeeping mission; and other countries dealing with or trying to emerge from war, violence, political crises and other strife. The U.S. and South Africa co-led an October trip to South Sudan, where there’s a U.N. peacekeeping force, and to a meeting with African Union leaders in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 
 
The council also has traveled at times to the White House and to informal retreats or visits to members’ countries. China’s invitation
 
China invited the council to visit during its November 2018 presidency, for example, in what was billed as a side event'' for members to learn more about China's participation in peacekeeping operations and get a firsthand look at its development. 
 
Former U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley talked about bringing council members to her home state of South Carolina in September 2018. The Carolinas were hit by a hurricane that month, and the trip ultimately didn't happen. 
 
The U.S. mission to the U.N. didn't immediately say Monday what the theme would be for the December 13-15 trip to Frankfort and Lexington, Kentucky. 
 
Kraft said members would have a day of
sofa talks” and informal meetings, to be held at the headquarters of animal feed and beverage conglomerate Alltech Inc. 
 
Also on the agenda: dining at the governor’s mansion, watching the No. 8-ranked University of Kentucky men’s basketball team play unranked Georgia Tech, and bottling some of the Bluegrass State’s famed bourbon. 
 
Kraft became Washington’s envoy to the U.N. in September, after serving as ambassador to Canada. 

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South Sudan Creates Tribunal to Try Security Operatives

South Sudan’s government has opened a special tribunal to try National Security Service (NSS) operatives accused of committing crimes.The head of the NSS legal directorate said Thursday the tribunal is an attempt to end impunity and restore the image of the service, damaged by numerous reports of human rights abuses.Five years ago President Salva Kiir signed into law the controversial National Security Service Act, which gave security agents the right to arbitrarily arrest, detain and investigate citizens or confiscate the property of any suspect deemed to be a threat to national security.  However, a section of the act provides for the creation of special court to try NSS officers suspected of committing crimes.Jalpal Ubwech, NSS director of legal affairs, said the tribunal will prosecute hundreds of its officers accused of criminal offenses.”It’s mandated to hold the members of the National Security Service accountable for all criminal acts and breaches of the National Security Act and any other laws and regulations. The tribunal also shall have the power to try and punish officers of the National Security NCO [noncommissioned officers] as an individual or as a member of the National Security [Service] if they are charged with offenses which include human rights abuses,” Ubwech told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.Aid Group Says Gunmen Stormed Its Compound in South SudanAid group says gunmen storm its compound in South Sudan, assault several staffers
Eds: Removes reference to sexual assaultHuman rights advocate Issa Muzamil said the National Security Service must end impunity by its officers and stop the practice of arbitrary arrests of civilians if it wants to regain the trust of citizens.“Let us avoid arbitrary detention of people, since we have a court in the army… and a court in the National Security. If the person commits a crime and the law says he must be produced in court within 24 or 48 hours, due process of law must be well observed, even if [a suspect has killed 1,000 people,” Muzamil told South Sudan in Focus.Muzamil said the tribunal must be accessible to all citizens.Legal advocate Philiph Nyang said the tribunal is long overdue.  Nyang said all national security suspects under detention should be brought to trial.“They must be produced before this court. This goes to the institution that if you are holding someone now within your facility, we believe that, for the next few days from Monday, they should be produced before this court,” Nyang told South Sudan in Focus.Eujin Endoara, director of the human rights division at the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, says he hopes the court will be a turning point for the National Security Service.“It is also very important for the NSS to know that they have to be accountable if there is any abuse of power, because NSS is sometimes taking some action where people will be detained and they will stay in detention for months,” Endoara told South Sudan in Focus.The National Security Service tribunal is composed of five members, including a high court judge. 

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Kenya’s World Heritage Town Worries Development Will Dilute Culture

Kenya’s island of Lamu, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is under threat, activists say. Authorities are constructing major projects on the mainland, including a port and an oil pipeline. They also hope to build the region’s first coal-fired power plant. While the infrastructure is likely to boost the local economy, some Lamu residents worry the development and a flood of outsiders will affect the local culture — and the architecture, which some say is already falling apart.”We are doing our best to prevent that kind of intervention and new developments, so that we can preserve the Lamu,” said Abu Bakr Badawi, who is with the century-old Riyadha Mosque.The remoteness of the island, where cars don’t fit on the narrow streets and donkeys are the main mode of transport, has helped maintain its 650-year-old Swahili culture and traditions.But authorities say the $26 billion group of projects will improve economic links between Kenya, South Sudan and Ethiopia, and create thousands of jobs.A Kenyan court in June, however, halted construction of a coal-fired power plant that was to help fuel the projects, encouraging opponents.”We as Lamu people are afraid because when people come from other areas, they come with many things,” said Raya Famau Ahmed, an activist opposed to the coal plant. “Their own language, their own culture, their own way of living. And this might alter the cultural way people have been living.”Lamu authorities vow to protect the island’s world heritage status from the development projects.FILE – People walk along the streets in Kenya’s resort town of Lamu.However, activists worry the changes could affect the town’s unique, antique character. More than a third of Lamu’s historic buildings are already falling apart, says Athman Hussein of the National Museums of Kenya.”Some of the owners don’t want any kind of intervention,” Hussein said. “They think perhaps by putting money into their building, you are actually owning it; you are taking over a particular building. So, it’s a complex kind of thing.”Lamu authorities say they are raising funds to help renovate historic buildings and develop the economy, with tourism as a major pillar. At the risk of commercializing their culture, some argue that bringing in more tourists may actually help keep Lamu’s unique traditions alive.
 

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Will Boris Johnson Slay the ‘Beast of Bolsover?’

BOLSOVER, ENGLAND — Dennis Skinner is a no-nonsense, unchanging socialist and the only British MP ever to heckle the Queen’s Speech Ceremony, when Britain’s lawmakers process from the Commons annually to the House of Lords to hear the monarch’s address outlining the government’s legislative program.Nicknamed the “Beast of Bolsover,” a reference to the Derbyshire constituency he has represented since 1970, the 87-year-old Skinner has traditionally occupied the seat of the front bench below the gangway in the Commons, where invariably wearing a tweed jacket and red tie, he has harangued those he deems “class enemies,” earning himself a dozen cooling off’ suspensions for what was deemed “unparliamentary language.”The son of a coal miner — his father was sacked after the historic coal strike of 1926 — and a former miner himself, his first brush with the Speaker of the House of Commons was in 1984 when he dubbed the leader of a group of Labour defectors a “pompous sod” and was ordered out of the chamber when he agreed to withdraw only the word “pompous.” In 1992, he incurred another suspension for describing the then Conservative agriculture minister as “a little squirt” and “a slimy wart on Margaret Thatcher’s nose.”Skinner’s working-class constituents, many of them former coal-miners or the sons and daughters of miners, have been relentlessly behind their pugnacious tribune with the snappy bark, and they have been loyal to the Labour Party. The closure of local collieries by Conservative governments in the 1980s and 1990s only deepened Bolsover’s allegiance to Labour and to their MP, who took a pay cut himself in support of the miners during a ferocious 1984-85 miners’ strike.But the times are changing and the country’s oldest serving MP may became next week a casualty of electoral war thanks to the scrambling of British politics by Brexit and a makeover of the Labour Party, which has become more focused on metropolitan issues pushed by progressive urban recruits, irritating older and more socially conservative traditional Labour voters.FILE – Labour party MP Dennis Skinner listens to a speech at a Labour party conference in Liverpool, England, Sept. 25, 2018.Britain’s ruling Conservatives hope Boris Johnson can pull off what his predecessor at 10 Downing Street, Theresa May, failed to do in a snap election 18 months ago. Their hope is that Johnson will breach the Labour Party’s so-called northern red wall,’ once thought to be impregnable, by persuading anti-European Union northern working-class voters to defect to the class-enemy Conservatives to “deliver Brexit.”Skinner’s constituency is one brick in that wall and on the streets of Bolsover in the north east of the county of Derbyshire amid rolling hills, the talk is the December 12 general election may mark the end of the long-serving lawmaker’s political career. Locals say while they still admire their local MP, who’s been unable to campaign personally because of recent hip-replacement surgery, Brexit is driving them away from a Labour Party, which wants to hold a second Brexit referendum, if it wins power.
Bolsover voted 70 percent to Leave the EU in the 2016 referendum and because of that high proportion of pro-Brexit voters, the seat is a key target for the Conservatives. On a cold, breezy day when VOA visited the town center, which has the feel of left-behind desperation about it with boarded-up shops, shuttered pubs, neglected terrace houses and shabby cheap takeaways, it wasn’t difficult to find locals planning to switch their votes to either the Conservatives or the newly-minted Brexit Party of Nigel Farage.One former miner, Dave Michaels, a stocky 65-year-old wearing a flat cap, said, “I’ve been Labour all my life, as was my father, and I don’t like Johnson, don’t trust the man, but I think he’ll get us out of the EU and stop all the dithering.” He voiced annoyance at the influx of eastern European migrants to staff new warehouses and online retail distribution centers. Locals complain migration has altered the social cohesion of this corner of Derbyshire and strained already under-resourced public services.Others expressed similar sentiments, suggesting that Skinner’s 5,000 majority may well collapse next week, adding to a possible seismic change in British politics that could see Labour and the Liberal Democrats snatch traditional Conservative seats in the pro-EU south of England and the commuter belt around London, but lose heartland seats of their own in the north, midlands and southwest of the country.Britain’s Labour Party leader and Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s rival in the country’s upcoming election Jeremy Corbyn takes pictures with people outside the University of London, in London, Britain, Dec. 3, 2019.The Conservatives’ assault on the “red wall” will make or break Johnson’s dream of securing a parliamentary majority and dictate whether Britain leaves the European Union or not.Daphne, a 52-year-old, who’d just finished shopping in a butcher’s shop, said she’ll be voting for Skinner’s Conservative rival Mark Fletcher. The mother of two grown up daughters, Lewis says she remains grateful to Skinner for all he’s done in the past, but he is “long in the tooth” and it is time for a change. “The Conservatives seem to have a goal,” she says.The 34-year-old Fletcher, the grandson himself of a miner who was educated at state schools before heading to Cambridge University, says locals “want to get Brexit done and the Labour party has lost its way.” He’s convinced he can win Bolsover and that the Brexit Party won’t deny him victory by splitting the Leave vote. He is buoyed by a seat-by-seat opinion survey last week produced by the YouGov polling agency that predicted he will win the seat on December 12 with 42 percent of the vote, with Labour trailing 38 percent and the Brexit Party picking up 12 percent.But the remaining days will be crucial before voting — in Bolsover, as well as in 49 other Labour seats in Wales, the midlands and northern England targeted by the Conservatives. At the last general election there were hints the ‘red wall’ isn’t as strong as Labour strategists suppose — two of Bolsover’s neighboring constituencies, North East Derbyshire and Mansfield, defected to the Conservative camp.The Labour activists are hitting the doorsteps hard in the northern constituencies, though, trawling residual party support. And while the Conservatives are doing well when it comes to the issue of Brexit, they are on the back foot when it comes to public-service issues, and especially in regards to the under-staffed and under-funded National Health Service.But Brexit isn’t Labour’s only problem in the north in what commentators describe as a “hold-your-nose election.” Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, seen widely as the most far-left leader the party has ever had, are vying in the unpopularity stakes, and according to opinion polls neither are trusted by voters. Johnson is the most disliked new prime minister in the modern history of opinion polling, while Corbyn is the most disliked leader of the opposition.General election victory or defeat may come down to who is disliked the most. 

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Biden Video Says World Leaders Are Laughing at Trump

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is attacking President Donald Trump as a laughingstock among world leaders in a new video that has gone viral.The minute-long video plays off a clip taken at a NATO summit in Britain this week that appeared to show Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joking about Trump’s press appearances during a chat with other world leaders.The world is laughing at President Trump. They see him for what he really is: dangerously incompetent and incapable of world leadership.We cannot give him four more years as commander in chief. Trump has argued that former President Barack Obama, whom Biden served as vice president, pursued trade deals and other policies that let other countries take advantage of the United States.The latest video is meant to reinforce one of the key arguments Biden is making ahead of the 2020 presidential election: that he is most prepared to deal with foreign policy, not just in comparison with Trump, but also other Democrats seeking their party’s nomination.

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US House Speaker Denies Hating Trump, Declares ‘Don’t Mess With Me’

At the close of the news conference, an indignant Pelosi, the top Democrat in the U.S. Congress, took strong exception to a reporter’s question as to whether she hated Trump, a Republican. The reporter explained he was asking because some Republicans have said a dislike of Trump is driving impeachment.”I don’t hate anybody,” Pelosi said. “I was raised in a Catholic house. We don’t hate anybody. Not anybody in the world.So don’t you accuse me,” she said, pointing at the reporter.Earlier on Thursday, Pelosi said she directed the House Judiciary Committee to draft articles of impeachment – formal charges – against Trump over his effort to pressure Ukraine to investigate a political rival, a historic step that sets up a fight over whether to oust him from office.Responding to the question about hating Trump, Pelosi criticized the president on policy, calling him a “coward” on failing to take steps against gun violence, “cruel” for seeking to remove protections for “Dreamers” immigrants and “in denial” about climate change. But Pelosi said those were issues to be settled in an election, while the impeachment inquiry was aimed at preventing abuses of presidential power as outlined in the U.S. Constitution.”This is about the Constitution of the United States and the facts that led to the president’s violation of his oath of office,” she said, tapping the podium for emphasis.She also said that she continued to pray for the president.”As a Catholic, I resent your using the word hate in a sentence that addresses me. I don’t hate anyone. I was raised in a way that is … a heart full of love, and always pray for the president,” Pelosi added.”So don’t mess with me,” she said, “when it comes to words like that.”Trump responded to Pelosi’s comments with a Twitter post, saying, “Nancy Pelosi just had a nervous fit,” adding that she hated his accomplishments under his administration.Nancy Pelosi just had a nervous fit. She hates that we will soon have 182 great new judges and sooo much more. Stock Market and employment records. She says she “prays for the President.” I don’t believe her, not even close. Help the homeless in your district Nancy. USMCA?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 5, 2019″She hates that we will soon have 182 great new judges and sooo much more. Stock Market and employment records,” Trump added.”She says she ‘prays for the President.’ I don’t believe her, not even close. Help the homeless in your district Nancy,” Trump wrote, adding “USMCA?” – a reference to a pending trade agreement with the United States and Canada that Pelosi has not brought to the House floor for a vote. 

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French Cosy Up in Carpools to Beat Transport Strike

Quentin Louedec, a 28-year-old engineer, usually struggles to find anyone wanting to share a ride on his daily three km (two mile) commute to the Val-de-Seine industrial zone in northern Paris. But not on Thursday.Demand on carpooling apps surged ahead of a public sector strike across France that paralyzed transport and forced commuters to find other ways to travel, or work from home.”This time, it was super quick,” Louedec said – as his company car plodded through the heavy rush-hour traffic for 30 minutes.Along for the ride was 23-year-old Justin Guerinot, three months into a new job and with no laptop to let him work from home.Authorities in the Ile-de-France region around Paris promoted carpooling apps to keep commuters moving, promising each driver 4 euros ($4.40) per shared ride.”I thought it would be better than using my own car,” Guerinot said.The carpooling platform BlaBlaCar said registrations for its commuter app, BlaBlaLines, were 25 times the normal level in the greater Paris region on Wednesday. The number of shared rides planned for Thursday was double the typical level.BlaBlaCar launched in France 12 years ago, initially aimed at car-sharing on longer trips, and now has 85 million registered users worldwide.Chief executive Nicolas Brusson said the average number of people per car on a normal day was only 1.09.”With the disruptions, we will see lots of people discovering short-distance carpooling for the first time,” he said.Neither Louedec nor Guerinot had much sympathy for the public sector workers’ opposition to a reform that unions say will punish the younger generation. Many public sector workers such as rail staff and mariners enjoy special benefits.”I understand why they want to protect their rights, but I think that we should work towards more equality in pension plans,” Louedec said.Guerinot said simply: “I don’t much like social movements that make the lives of others difficult.” 

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