Monthly: February 2019

Євросоюз закидає Google, Facebook і Twitter невиконання обіцянок

Пошуковий сервіс Google, соціальні мережі Facebook і Twitter не виконують свої обіцянки щодо боротьби з недостовірними новинами. Про це йдеться в оприлюдненій 28 лютого заяві Єврокомісії.

Відомство зазначає, зокрема, що Facebook, усупереч домовленостям, у січні не надав результати розслідування щодо реклами, яка вводить в оману. Google не роз’яснив, що було зроблено для усунення дезінформації. Twitter не надіслав результатів щодо поліпшення контролю за розміщенням реклами.

У заяві Єврокомісії також наголошується, що напередодні виборів до Європарламенту компанії не продемонстрували прогресу.

Восени 2018 року Євросоюз узгодив із Facebook, Twitter і Google добровільний регламент для боротьби з недостовірними новинами. Документ передбачає маркування політичної реклами, а також змушує корпорації боротися з інтернет-ботами, що поширюють недостовірну інформацію.

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Балуха етапують до колонії, де застосовують насильство до в’язнів – адвокат

У колоніях загального режиму в Тверській області Росії, куди етапують українського активіста Володимира Балуха, застосовують насильство до ув’язнених. Про це 28 лютого проекту Радіо Свобода Крим.Реалії розповіла адвокат Балуха Ольга Дінзе.

«За моєю інформацією, Балуха етапують у колонію загального режиму в Тверській області. Я можу тільки припустити, в яку колонію. Цю інформацію не уточнили. Можливо, це колонія номер 6 загального режиму. У Твері досить жорсткі колонії, які знаходяться під адміністрацією і, відповідно, там часті випадки застосування насильства до ув’язнених. Він свій термін буде досиджувати в не дуже хороших умовах», – сказала Дінзе.

За її словами, адвокатам так і не вдалося з’ясувати причину етапування Балуха.

«Причина етапу нам не відома, і ми зможемо дізнатися інформацію від Балуха, коли він прибуде. Або інформація може бути побудована на припущеннях: керченська колонія просто хотіла позбутися незручного «в’язня» і відповідно перевела його в іншу колонію», – вважає адвокат.

Публічних коментарів Федеральної служби виконання покарань Росії з приводу умов майбутнього змісту Балуха немає.

Про етапування Балуха зі слідчого ізолятора в російському Краснодарі правозахисникам стало відомо 21 лютого. Вони також наголосили, що етапування Володимира Балуха в Росію порушує статтю Женевської конвенції про захист цивільного населення під час війни, яка забороняє переміщення мешканців окупованих територій на територію країни-окупанта.

13 лютого Кримська правозахисна група повідомила, що Володимира Балуха етапували з керченської колонії в СІЗО Сімферополя. Пізніше правозахисники повідомили, що Балуха знову перевели – вже у Краснодар в сусідній Росії голодним і без речей. Уповноважена з прав людини в Росії Тетяна Москалькова стверджувала, що етапування Балуха в російську колонію триватиме близько місяця.

За кілька тижнів до цього підконтрольний Росії Керченський міський суд відмовив Балуху в умовно-достроковому звільненні.

Активіст упродовж кількох місяців у 2018 році голодував на знак протеступроти несправедливого ув’язнення.

Суд засудив Балуха до 4 років і 11 місяців колонії і штрафу в розмірі 10 тисяч рублів (близько 4 тисяч гривень) за сукупністю двох кримінальних справ.

ФСБ Росії затримала його 8 грудня 2016 року. Співробітники ФСБ стверджували, що знайшли на горищі будинку, де живе Володимир Балух, 90 патронів і кілька тротилових шашок. Захист Балуха і правозахисники стверджують, що він став жертвою репресій за свою проукраїнську позицію – через прапор України на подвір’ї його будинку.

Друга кримінальна справа пов’язана з нібито нападом на керівника ізолятора тимчасового тримання.

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Turkey Flexes Naval Muscle Amid Regional Tensions

Turkey is carrying out its largest naval exercises in a display of its rapidly growing navy. The show of force comes amid rising regional tensions over territorial and energy exploration rights disputes.

Dubbed “The Blue Homeland,” the drills involve more than 100 ships operating across the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea and eastern Mediterranean. On display in the 10-day exercise are many of Turkey’s newest warships, along with the use of high-tech domestically produced drones.

“Turkey is a regional power, and this naval exercise is to show the world that Turkey is a player,” said international relations professor Huseyin Bagci of Ankara’s Middle East Technical University, “It is a show of strength in military terms to any country in the region.”

“They should be aware how important it is to be with Turkey or to work together with Turkey or the risk of being against Turkey,” he added. “It is showing the flag, the showing of the muscles. We are here in the Mediterranean; we have our interests in Cyprus, we have our interests in gas exploration and economic interests.”

Turkey has many outstanding disputes with Greece over territorial waters, which saw the two NATO members in the past go to the brink of war. Energy exploration in Cypriot waters is also a new point of rising tension.

The Mediterranean island is divided between Greek and Turkish-Cypriot communities since a Turkish military intervention in 1974, following a Greek-inspired coup. The international community only recognizes the Greek-Cypriot administration. However, Ankara says the Greek-Cypriots must collaborate with the Turkish-Cypriot government in energy exploration after recent massive finds of natural gas in the island’s territorial waters.

“Nothing at all can be done in the Mediterranean without Turkey,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced last week. “We will not allow that, [unilateral Greek Cypriot energy exploration].“

He declared that Turkey would begin drilling for oil and gas near Cypriot waters with two new exploration ships.

Despite Ankara’s rhetoric, Greek Defense Minister Evangelos Apostolakis sought to play down the naval exercises, calling them “regular Turkish military training activities.”

Unnerving Cyprus, Greece

Analysts say Turkey’s powerful display of modern naval prowess will likely unnerve both Nicosia and Athens, which is the Greek-Cypriots’ main ally.

“Turkey has resumed expanding its naval power after a decade, so we are talking about important material capabilities and the expansion of the Turkish navy should threaten the Greeks,” said international relations professor Serhat Guvenc of Istanbul’s Kadir Has University.

“But Greece has been struggling to come out of this deep recession,” he added, “Therefore they don’t have money to respond to this Turkish naval expansion.”

Turkey’s growing military capabilities are forcing new regional alignments, say analysts such as Guvenc.

“Athens is trying to remedy the lack of financial resources with the involvement of third parties, namely Russia and the United States,” he said.

Greece traditionally has good relations with Russia, which has been building up its naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean as part of its backing of the Damascus government in Syria’s civil war. Until recently, however, the Greek government has had a frosty relationship with Washington.

“[Greek Prime Minister Alexis] Tsipras was elected on a relatively anti-Western, anti-American platform,” he added, “But Greek-American relations have been improving, and the Greek government has been the most cooperative in decades in terms of promoting military cooperation with the United States.”

In December, Greece and the United States launched a strategic dialogue to increase cooperation.

“We recognize Greece as a key player in the east Mediterranean. Greece emerges as a leader of regional stability. Our strategic dialogue will lead to a stronger future,” said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Pompeo also added that Washington was working to strengthen relations with “democratic allies there, like Greece and Cyprus and Israel.”

The three countries are already cooperating in the development of significant gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean. They also have had strained ties with Turkey.

“Turkey’s policy toward its neighbors is threatening and aggressive, and this is and will have repercussions,” said political scientist Cengiz Aktar of Athens University.

“We should not forget that Greece is expected to sign in the [coming] months, a mini security arrangement with the United States, to which Egypt, Israel and Cyprus could potentially join as non-NATO countries, and this is clearly aimed at Turkey,” he added.

Turkey maintains that it poses no threat to any of its neighbors and that it is only committed to defending its rights and those of its allies. But analysts warn such words will likely do little to allay neighbors’ concerns, with Turkey committed to expanding its armed forces, in particular, its navy.

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Слідом за Найємом і Заліщук про бажання вийти з фракції «БПП» заявив Лещенко

Народний депутат Сергій Лещенко написав заяву на ім’я голови депутатської фракції партії «Блок Петра Порошенка» Артура Герасимова про вихід зі складу цієї фракції. Відповідний документ депутат оприлюднив на своїй сторінці у Facebook.

«Прошу виключити мене зі складу фракції партії «Блок Петра Порошенка», – написав Лещенко.

Раніше заяви такого ж змісту на ім’я голови депутатської фракції партії «БПП» написали інші два депутати Мустафа Найєм і Світлана Заліщук.

Відповідно до закону «Про статус народного депутата», народний  депутат  має  право  вільно  вийти   зі   складу депутатської фракції (групи).

Згідно з Конституцією, невходження обраного від партії депутата Верховної Ради до складу депутатської фракції цієї партії або вихід з такої фракції є підставою для дострокового припинення його депутатських повноважень. Водночас закон «Про статус народного депутата» не передбачає можливості дострокового припинення повноважень депутата через його вихід із фракції тієї партії, від якої він був обраний.

Найєм, Заліщук і Лещенко були обрані народними депутатами за багатомандатним округом на парламентських виборах у 2014 році.

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Парламент доручив ТСК розслідувати ймовірну корупцію в оборонному секторі

Верховна Рада України ухвалила проект постанови «Про невідкладне розслідування фактів, оприлюднених у засобах масової інформації щодо зловживань в державному концерні «Укроборонпром» та причетності до цього посадових осіб».  За таке рішення проголосували 229 депутатів. 

Депутати доручили ТСК провести публічне засідання спільно з представниками Генпрокуратури, Спеціалізованої антикорупційної прокуратури, Національного антикорупційного бюро, Міноборони, «Укроборонпрому» та інших посадовців щодо розслідування оприлюднених у ЗМІ фактів зловживань в оборонній сфері.

25 лютого журналісти «Bihus.info» опублікували розслідування «Друзі президента крадуть на оборонці (секретні переписки)» про суми «відкатів» і схеми розкрадання мільйонів в оборонній сфері.

За даними журналістів, безпосереднім учасником цих схем був син заступника секретаря Ради нацбезпеки і оборони Олега Гладковського, Ігор. Він нібито був причетним до контрабанди російських деталей для військової техніки. Згідно з розслідуванням, державні оборонні підприємства «Укроборонпрому» купували ці деталі у фірм-«прокладок» за цінами, завищеними в кілька разів.

Після цього Олег Гладковський, якого називають соратником президента, попросив зупинити його повноваження першого заступника секретаря Ради національної безпеки і оборони на час розслідування матеріалів, викладених журналістами. Речник президента України Святослав Цеголко заявив, що Петро Порошенко підтримав відсторонення Гладковського.

Ігор Гладковський, зі свого боку, заявив про намір позиватися до суду на авторів розслідування.

У державному концерні «Укроборонпром» назвали маніпулятивнимрозслідування програми «Наші гроші». Пізніше концерн усунув із посад двох директорів оборонних підприємств.

 

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Тривалість переговорів Трампа і Кіма вирішили скоротити – Білий дім

Переговори другого дня саміту лідерів США і Північної Кореї вирішили скоротити на дві години, повідомляє Білий дім.

Як заявила 28 лютого в Ханої речниця Білого дому Сара Сандерс, Дональд Трамп скоро завершить переговори з Кім Чен Ином, а потім планує підсумкову прес-конференцію – приблизно на дві години раніше, ніж планувалося спочатку.

Про причини скорочення зустрічей, які раніше мали тривати п’ять годин, речниця не повідомила.

За підсумками саміту сторони мають підписати документ, зміст якого поки що не розголошується. Речниця Білого дому не уточнила, чи братимуть участь у підписанні документа лідери держав.

Трамп перед другим днем переговорів із Кімом у столиці В’єтнаму заявив, що не має наміру поспішати, бо хоче укласти «правильну угоду». Якщо «відносини хороші, то може статися чимало хороших речей», додав президент США.

Лідер Північної Кореї вперше відповів на запитання іноземного журналіста. Як пишуть західні агенції, коли перед початком другого дня саміту 28 лютого Кім і Трамп з’явилися перед журналістами, на запитання про очікування від зустрічі північнокорейський лідер відповів: «Ще зарано говорити. За відчуттями, результати будуть хорошими», – додав він.

Кім Чен Ин також зазначив, що на їхню з Трампом зустріч дивиться «весь світ», а деяким вона здається сюжетом з «фантастичного фільму».

Головна тема переговорів між лідерами США і КНДР – ядерне роззброєння Пхеньяна.

Це другий саміт лідерів США і КНДР. Перша зустріч в Сінгапурі в червні минулого року завершилася підписанням документа, згідно з яким Північна Корея зобов’язана проводити роззброєння у відповідь на гарантії безпеки з боку США. Однак пізніше ЗМІ повідомляли, що КНДР продовжує ядерні розробки.

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Ракета «Союз» вивела на орбіту британські супутники зв’язку

Російська ракета-носій «Союз-СТ-Б», яка стартувала в четвер з космодрому Куру у Французькій Гвіані вивела на орбіту Землі шість супутників зв’язку британської компанії OneWeb. Про це повідомила компанія Arianespace, яка обслуговує запуски.

На розрахункову орбіту британські супутники вивів розгінний блок «Фрегат».

Спочатку запуск планувався на 19 лютого, проте був перенесений на 27-ме через виявлений отвір в одному з трубопроводів розгінного блоку.

Мета проекту OneWeb, який залучив вже майже два мільярди доларів інвестицій, – забезпечити широкосмуговий доступ в інтернет для користувачів з усього світу. Для цього компанія планує вивести на орбіту 900 супутників.

У 2015 році Росія підписала контракт на запуски ракет «Союз» з супутниками OneWeb з 2017 по 2019 рік. Запуски будуть здійснюватися з трьох космодромів: Байконур, Східний і Куру, 17 з них – з російських майданчиків.

При цьому Федеральна служба безпеки (ФСБ) виступає проти розгортання мережі над територією Росії. У російській спецслужбі заявляють про відсутність гарантій, «що система супутникового зв’язку не носить розвідувального характеру і не зможе завдати шкоди інтересам Росії».

26 лютого російський уряд затвердив постанову, яка зобов’язує іноземних операторів супутникового інтернету, які працюють на території Росії, отримувати дозвіл на роботу у ФСБ, ФСО і міністерства оборони.

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Cohen Uses Canceled Checks, Financial Statements in Attacking Trump as ‘Con Man’

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s disgraced former personal lawyer and fixer, is headed for three years in prison for lying to Congress, cheating on his taxes and a host of other crimes. He faced a tall order Wednesday to convince lawmakers that Trump had engaged in criminal activity before and after the 2016 election and that the president was a “cheat” and “con man.”

With Democrats wary of Cohen and Republicans poised to shred what little remains of his integrity as a lawyer and operative, Cohen dug several potentially incriminating documents out of boxes in storage in a bid to bolster his explosive claims during testimony before the House Oversight Committee.

The documents included a personal check for $35,000 that Trump signed Aug. 1, 2017, to partially reimburse Cohen for $130,000 in hush money that was paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels to prevent her from going public with her story of a sexual liaison with the president that might have torpedoed his campaign.

​Payments

Cohen said he made the payment at the direction of Trump, contrary to what the president has said, implicating him in what prosecutors say was a violation of campaign finance law.

The president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has acknowledged the payment but has said it did not violate campaign finance laws because it came from Trump’s personal funds rather than his campaign.

Cohen says Trump’s canceled check was part of the hush money payment.

Nevertheless, the appearance of a check written against Trump’s personal account seven months after Trump had taken office was an eye-opener for many of the lawmakers, congressional aides and reporters packed in the hearing room.

Among the other documents that Cohen produced before the lawmakers: copies of Trump’s financial statements from 2011 to 2015 showing that the former New York billionaire real estate mogul may have inflated or deflated the value of his assets, depending on whether he wanted to impress potential lenders like Deutsche Bank or financial publications like Forbes, or sought to minimize his exposure to real estate and income taxes.

Cohen also revealed copies of letters he wrote on Trump’s behalf threatening the president’s high school and colleges and the College Board to not release his grades or test scores.

 

WATCH: Cohen Testifies Trump Involved in Hush Money Payments

​Cohen, the most high-profile witness to testify against a sitting American president since former White House Counselor John Dean implicated President Richard Nixon in 1973 in a cover-up conspiracy, has emerged as a star witness in a wide-ranging federal investigation into Trump’s business and political affairs.

Cohen came into the hearing with many questions about his checkered past and credibility as a witness. Republicans blasted the committee’s Democratic leadership for inviting a liar and scofflaw to testify before Congress.

“We’ve brought the committee to its knees,” said Republican Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia. “This is a mockery of what our purpose is.”

Trump lashes out from Hanoi

Trump, in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi for a nuclear summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, accused Cohen of lying.

Cohen, who last year pleaded guilty to nine criminal counts, acknowledged questions about his credibility and repeatedly apologized to members of Congress and his friends and family.

He said that he spent the last week scouring through boxes of documents in search of evidence to corroborate his testimony. The documents were part of a trove of evidence seized by FBI agents from Cohen’s office, home and hotel room last year. Investigators later returned the documents to Cohen.

“I recognize that some of you may doubt and attack me on my credibility,” Cohen said. “It is for this reason that I have incorporated into this opening statement documents that are irrefutable and demonstrate that the information you’ll hear is accurate and truthful.”

In his opening statement, Cohen recounted how Trump directed him to silence Daniels as well as former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who had also alleged an affair with Trump. Trump denied both women’s allegations.

To pay off Daniels, Cohen said, he was directed by Trump to use his personal funds from a home equity line of credit in order to “avoid any money being traced back to him (Trump) that could negatively impact his campaign.”

Cohen testified that Trump spread out his reimbursements over 11 months to make them look like Cohen was on a retainer for legal services. A second $35,000 check shared with the committee was signed in March 2017 by Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg.

He said one of his biggest regrets was that he lied to first lady Melania Trump about the payoffs.

​‘Catch and kill’ scheme

Cohen arranged for tabloid publisher American Media Inc. to pay McDougal $150,000 during the campaign, but he said Trump never reimbursed the company for the hush money payment. AMI has confirmed it bought the rights to McDougal’s story in a “catch and kill” scheme and is cooperating with federal prosecutors.

Republicans on the committee sought to cast doubt on the significance of the checks. Rep. Mark De Saulnier of California said the checks do not prove reimbursement for the hush money payment.

However, Bennett Gershman, a professor at Pace Law School in New York, said the checks supported Cohen’s claim that they were for reimbursement for silencing Daniels.

“Certainly the documents he presented bolstered his credibility,” Gershman said. “They do provide corroboration.”

The financial documents turned in by Cohen put Trump’s net worth at $4.2 billion in 2011 and $4.5 billion in 2012, and $8.4 billion in 2013. During the 2016 campaign, Trump boasted that he was a really “rich man” worth more than $10 billion. But Bloomberg News estimated his net worth at about $2.9 billion.

Cohen said that while Trump exaggerated his wealth to get a good bank loan or a better insurance deal, he sometimes understated his assets to pay less in taxes.

The Trump Organization has denied the allegations.

​Russia meeting

Not everything Cohen alleged about Trump was supported by documentary evidence. Cohen claimed that his former boss knew and approved of a controversial June 2016 meeting between Trump advisers and a group of Russians, a claim Trump has dismissed.

Cohen said he recalled being in a room with then-candidate Trump when Donald Trump Jr. walked in behind his father and whispered into his ear, “The meeting is all set.”

“I remember Mr. Trump saying, ‘OK, good … let me know,’” Cohen testified.

Donald Trump Jr. agreed to the meeting with the Russians after learning that they had “dirt” on Democrat Hillary Clinton and has said that his father didn’t know about it.

But Cohen said, “Nothing went on in Trump world, especially the campaign, without Mr. Trump’s knowledge and approval.”

​Stone, WikiLeaks

Cohen also accused Trump of involvement in secret efforts by his associates to obtain Democratic emails stolen by Russian operatives and handed over to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

During a July 18 or 19, 2016, Trump Tower meeting with Trump, Cohen recalled Roger Stone, a longtime Trump adviser, calling to inform the Republican candidate that WikiLeaks was about to release a “massive dump” of damaging emails about Clinton’s campaign.

“Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of ‘wouldn’t that be great,’” Cohen testified, recalling that Trump had put Stone on a speakerphone.

WikiLeaks leaked the stolen emails July 22, 2016. Stone was indicted by a grand jury last month in connection with efforts to solicit the emails from WikiLeaks in coordination with Trump campaign officials. He has pleaded not guilty.

During his testimony, Cohen also raised the possibility that Trump’s legal problems may run deeper. He said federal prosecutors in New York are investigating other criminal matters as part of a broader look at Trump’s business and political activities.

Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight in Washington, said Cohen came off as a truthful witness.

“Everyone is going to hear this testimony and realize that Mr. Cohen has a very checkered past, has lied to the IRS, and to state and local officials in New York,” Amey said. “But that doesn’t mean once a liar always a liar. At some point Cohen decided to turn things around and start telling the truth. He seems to be trying to provide truthful statements to the committee.”

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Senator Panel Wants Chinese Institutes to Change or Leave US

China has provided more than $158 million to U.S. schools for Confucius Institutes to promote Chinese culture, U.S. Senate investigators said Wednesday, releasing a report saying the centers have acted as tightly controlled propaganda arms for Beijing and should be changed or shut down.

The Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations spent eight months investigating the Confucius Institutes, which were created in 2004 to promote Chinese language and culture at schools and universities around the world.

But the centers have been criticized, particularly in the United States, for promoting the views of the Chinese Communist Party, assertions denied by both the institutes and the government.

China’s government said Feb. 24 that it plans to “optimize” the spread of the institutes and they will remain a key part of government policy.

The new Senate report said China’s government controls nearly every aspect of the institutes in the United States, including their funding, staff and programming. It also can veto any program or speaker.

The report was released amid a costly trade war between Washington and Beijing, which has seen President Donald Trump and other U.S. officials accuse the Chinese of using students as spies, stealing intellectual property and a range of other dirty tricks.

Earlier Wednesday, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told a House of Representatives committee that the United States will need to maintain the threat of imposing tariffs on Chinese goods for years even if a deal is struck to end the current dispute.

No evidence of spying

The Senate investigators did not find evidence that staff at the Confucius Institutes were involved in espionage or other activity that would need to be reported to law enforcement. But they did find many staff had obtained the wrong type of visa and that 70 percent of U.S. colleges and universities that received at least $250,000 per year from the Chinese government did not report it as required by the Department of Education.

The report’s recommendations included requiring that U.S. schools publish online all contracts with foreign governments, ensure hiring confirms to their rules, not Beijing’s, and that the State Department review all visas and demand reciprocal treatment in China.

“Absent full transparency regarding how Confucius Institutes operate and full reciprocity for U.S. cultural outreach efforts on U.S. campuses in China, Confucius Institutes should not continue in the United States,” Senator Rob Portman, the subcommittee’s Republican chairman, said in a statement.

Subcommittee investigators said they were considering legislation to ensure the centers complied with their recommendations. The subcommittee will hold a hearing on China’s influence on U.S. education on Thursday.

Officials at the Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

High schools, primary schools also funded

Besides Confucius Institutes at 100 U.S. schools, Beijing also funds more than 500 “Confucius Classrooms” that teach Chinese language and culture in primary and high schools.

The investigators said some of the U.S. universities’ contracts with the Chinese government include non-disclosure provisions and require adherence to U.S. and Chinese law. They faulted the U.S. Department of Education for doing too little oversight.

Officials at the Education Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The report also said the U.S. State Department had tried to set up a program in China to promote U.S. culture, but that China had insisted on controlling the program to such an extent that the department stopped funding it in October.

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Walmart Is Eliminating Greeters, Worrying Disabled Workers

As Walmart moves to phase out its familiar blue-vested “greeters” at 1,000 stores nationwide, disabled workers who fill many of those jobs say they’re being ill-treated by a chain that styles itself as community-minded and inclusive. 

 

Walmart told greeters around the country last week that their positions would be eliminated on April 26 in favor of an expanded, more physically demanding “customer host” role. To qualify, they will need to be able to lift 25-pound (11-kilogram) packages, climb ladders and stand for long periods. 

 

That came as a heavy blow to greeters with cerebral palsy, spina bifida and other physical disabilities. For them, a job at Walmart has provided needed income, served as a source of pride and offered a connection to the community.  

Customer backlash

 

Now Walmart, America’s largest private employer, is facing a backlash as customers rally around some of the chain’s most highly visible employees. 

 

Walmart says it is striving to place greeters in other jobs at the company, but workers with disabilities are worried.  

 

Donny Fagnano, 56, who has worked at Walmart for more than 21 years, said he cried when a manager at the store in Lewisburg, Pa., called him into the office last week and told him his job was going away.  

 

“I like working,” he said. “It’s better than sitting at home.” 

 

Fagnano, who has spina bifida, said he was offered a severance package. He hopes to stay on at Walmart and clean bathrooms instead. 

 

Walmart greeters have been around for decades, allowing the retail giant to put a friendly face at the front of its stores. Then, in 2016, Walmart began replacing greeters with hosts, adding responsibilities that include helping with returns, checking receipts to deter shoplifters and keeping the front of the store clean. Walmart and other chains have been redefining roles at stores as they compete with Amazon.  

The effect of the greeter phase-out on disabled and elderly employees — who have traditionally gravitated toward the role as one they were well-suited to doing — largely escaped public notice until last week, when Walmart launched a second round of cuts. 

 

As word spread, first on social media and then in local and national news outlets, outraged customers began calling Walmart to complain. Tens of thousands of people signed petitions. Facebook groups sprang up with names like “Team Adam” and “Save Lesley.” A second-grade class in California wrote letters to Walmart’s CEO on behalf of Adam Catlin, a disabled greeter in Pennsylvania whose mother had written an impassioned Facebook post about his plight. Walmart said it has offered another job to Catlin. 

 

In Galena, Ill., hundreds of customers plan to attend an “appreciation parade” for Ashley Powell on her last day of work as a greeter. 

 

“I love it, and I think I’ve touched a lot of people,” said Powell, 34, who has an intellectual disability. 

‘What am I going to do?’

 

In Vancouver, Wash., John Combs, 42, who has cerebral palsy, was devastated and then angered by his impending job loss. It had taken his family five years to find him a job he could do, and he loved the work, coming up with nicknames for all his co-workers. 

“What am I going to do — just sit here on my butt all day in this house? That’s all I’m going to do?” Combs asked his sister and guardian, Rachel Wasser. “I do my job. I didn’t do anything wrong.” 

 

Wasser urged the retailer to “give these people a fair shake. … If you want to make your actions match your words, do it. Don’t be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” 

 

With the U.S. unemployment rate for disabled people more than twice that for workers without disabilities, Walmart has long been seen as a destination for people like Combs. Advocacy groups worry the company is backsliding.  

“It’s the messaging that concerns me,” said Gabrielle Sedor, chief operations officer at ANCOR, a trade group representing service providers. “Given that Walmart is such an international leader in the retail space, I’m concerned this decision might suggest to some people that the bottom line of the company is more important to the company than inclusive communities. We don’t think those two are mutually exclusive.” 

 

The greeter issue has already prompted at least three complaints to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as a federal lawsuit in Utah alleging discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under the federal law, employers must provide “reasonable” accommodations to workers with disabilities. 

 

Walmart did not disclose how many disabled greeters could lose their jobs. The company said that after it made the change at more than 1,000 stores in 2016, 80 percent to 85 percent of all affected greeters found other roles at Walmart. It did not reveal how many of them were disabled. 

 

This time, Walmart initially told greeters they would have 60 days to land other jobs at the company. Amid the uproar, the company has extended the deadline indefinitely for greeters with disabilities. 

 

“We recognize that our associates with physical disabilities face a unique situation,” Walmart spokesman Justin Rushing said in a statement. The extra time, he said, will give Walmart a chance to explore how to accommodate such employees. 

Offers made

 

Walmart said it has already made offers to some greeters, including those with physical disabilities, and expects to continue doing so in the coming weeks.  

 

But some workers say they have been tacitly discouraged from applying for other jobs. 

 

Mitchell Hartzell, 31, a full-time Walmart greeter in Hazel Green, Ala., said his manager told him “they pretty much didn’t have anything in that store for me to do” after his job winds down in April. He said he persisted, approaching several assistant managers to ask about openings, and found out about a vacant position at self-checkout. But it had already been promised to a greeter who doesn’t use a wheelchair, he said. 

 

“It seems like they don’t want us anymore,” said Hartzell, who has cerebral palsy. 

 

Jay Melton, 40, who has worked as a greeter in Marion, N.C., for nearly 17 years, loves church, Tar Heels basketball and Walmart. His sister-in-law, Jamie Melton, said the job is what gets him out of bed. 

 

“He doesn’t have a lot of things he does himself that bring him joy,” she said. Addressing Walmart, Melton added: “When you cut a huge population of people out, and you have written a policy that declares they are no longer capable of doing what they have been doing, that is discrimination.”  

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World Bank: Women Have Just 75 Percent of Men’s Legal Rights

Women around the world are granted only three-quarters of the legal rights enjoyed by men, often preventing them from getting jobs or opening businesses, the World Bank said in study published Wednesday. 

 

“If women have equal opportunities to reach their full potential, the world would not only be fairer, it would be more prosperous as well,” Kristalina Georgieva, the bank’s interim president, said in a statement. 

 

While reforms in many countries are a step in the right direction, “2.7 billion women are still legally barred from having the same choice of jobs as men,” the statement said. 

 

The study included an index measuring gender disparities that was derived from data collected over a decade from 187 countries and using eight indicators to evaluate the balance of rights afforded to men and women. 

 

The report showed progress over the past 10 years, with the index rising to 75 from 70, out of a possible 100, as 131 countries have agreed to enact 274 reforms, adopting laws or regulations allowing greater inclusion of women. 

 

Among the improvements, 35 countries have proposed laws against sexual harassment in the workplace, granting protections to an additional 2 billion women, while 22 nations have abolished restrictions that kept women out of certain industrial sectors. 

 

Six perfect scores

Six nations — Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden — scored a 100, “meaning they give women and men equal legal rights in the measured areas,” the World Bank said. 

 

A decade ago, no economy had achieved a perfect score. 

 

On the other hand, too many women still face discriminatory laws or regulations at every stage of their professional lives: 56 nations made no improvement over the last decade. 

 

South Asia saw the greatest progress, although it still achieved a relatively low score of 58.36. It was followed by Southeast Asia and the Pacific, at 70.73 and 64.80, respectively.  

 

Latin America and the Caribbean recorded the second-highest scores among emerging and developing economies at 79.09. 

 

Conversely, the Middle East and North Africa posted the lowest score for gender equality at 47.37. The World Bank nevertheless pointed to encouraging changes, such as the introduction of laws against domestic violence, in particular in Algeria and Lebanon.

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Venezuela Minister: Maduro,Trump Should Meet to ‘Find Common Ground’

Venezuela’s foreign minister said on Wednesday the United States was trying to overthrow the government of Nicolas Maduro and suggested talks with U.S. President Donald Trump — an idea the Trump administration immediately rejected.

Jorge Arreaza, addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council, suggested that Maduro and Trump meet to “try to find common ground and explain their differences.” He also said his country had lost $30 billion in assets “confiscated” since November 2017 under sanctions.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence ruled out prospects of talks. “The only thing to discuss with Maduro at this point is the time and date for his departure,” Pence said on Twitter.

“For democracy to return and for Venezuela to rebuild — Maduro must go,” Pence said.

Dozens of diplomats, mainly from Latin American countries, walked out as Arreaza began to speak, while some European ambassadors boycotted the speech.

The United States and dozens of other nations have recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate president, but Maduro still controls the military, state institutions and oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA , which provides 90 percent of the country’s export revenue.

Maduro also “stands ready for dialogue” with the Venezuelan opposition, Arreaza said.

“There is an attempt by external powers to overthrow an elected government, this goes against all rules of international law,” Arreaza said.

‘Ilegal pillage’

The United States targeted Venezuela’s government with new sanctions on Monday and called on allies to freeze the assets of state-owned PDVSA after deadly violence blocked humanitarian aid from reaching the country over the weekend.

The “blockade” against Caracas amounts to “theft of the assets and gold” of Venezuela, Arreaza said.

Some $30 billion in state assets had been confiscated since November 2017, he said, adding: “This is the illegal pillage of the resources of our state oil company in the United States.”

U.S. refiner Citgo Petroleum Corp is cutting ties with its parent PDVSA to comply with U.S. sanctions imposed on the OPEC country, two people close to the decision told Reuters on Tuesday.

The Bank of England has blocked $1.5 billion and Belgium $1.4 billion, Arreaza said. The Bank of England has previously declined to comment on questions about Venezuela’s gold, citing client privacy considerations.

“The humanitarian crisis is being used as a pretext for foreign intervention in my country,” Arreaza said.

In weekend clashes at the Colombian border, Venezuelan security forces acted with “proportionality and caution,” as humanitarian aid was burned, he said.

Earlier, an aide to President Ivan Duque of neighboring Colombia called for action to end Venezuela’s humanitarian crisis and bring about a political transition leading to free elections.

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UK’s Labor Party to Back Proposal for Public Brexit Vote 

Britain’s opposition Labor Party will put forward or support an amendment in favor of a public vote to prevent a damaging Brexit, the party’s Brexit spokesman said on Wednesday. 

British lawmakers voted 323-240 against a Labor proposal for a permanent customs union with the EU.

“Disappointed the government has rejected Labor’s alternative Brexit deal,” Labor Member of Parliament Keir Starmer said. “That’s why Labor will put forward or support an amendment in favor of a public vote to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit.”

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Fed to Stop Shrinking Portfolio This Year, Powell Says 

The Federal Reserve will stop shrinking its $4 trillion balance sheet later this year, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said on Wednesday, ending a process that investors say works at cross-purposes with the Fed’s current pause on interest rate hikes. 

“We’ve worked out, I think, the framework of a plan that we hope to be able to announce soon that will light the way all the way to the end of balance sheet normalization,” Powell told members of the House Financial Services Committee in what were his most detailed remarks to date on the subject. 

“We’re going to be in a position … to stop runoff later this year,” he said, adding that doing so would leave the balance sheet at about 16 percent or 17 percent of GDP, up from about 6 percent before the financial crisis about a decade ago. 

The U.S. gross domestic product is currently about $20 trillion, suggesting the Fed’s balance sheet would be between $3.2 trillion and $3.4 trillion. 

The Fed has been trimming its balance sheet — bulked up by trillions of dollars of bond-buying during the post-crisis years to help keep interest rates low and bolster the economy — by as much as $50 billion a month since October 2017. As recently as a few months ago it had expected to keep shrinking its portfolio for another couple of years. 

New tack

But in a series of meetings that began in November, the Fed has been devising a new approach. With rising demand for currency around the world, and from U.S. banks for reserves held at the central bank, Fed policymakers now believe a big balance sheet is necessary just to ensure it has proper control over the short-term interest rates it sets to manage the economy. 

In addition, Fed policymakers now say balance sheet policy should take financial and economic conditions into account. 

Questions about the plan remain, including whether the Fed will adjust the maturities of its Treasury portfolio, and how it will go about shedding the mortgage-backed securities (MBS) it accumulated during its asset-buying days. 

Powell said the Fed still has a bunch of decisions ahead of it. 

“The one on MBS sales is really closer to the back of the line — really, we have to decide about the maturity composition, things like that, and we’ll be working through that in a very careful way,” Powell said.  “Markets are sensitive to this.” 

Powell’s remarks on the balance sheet came toward the end of more than two hours of testimony before the Democrat-led House panel that includes several new members, including New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

But the Green New Deal advocate and Bronx populist asked no questions during the debate, and much of what Powell said on Wednesday repeated comments made Tuesday to the Republican-controlled Senate Banking Committee, including that the economy is on solid ground and the Fed would be patient on raising rates. 

Inflation goal unchanged

Powell was asked, as he was in the Senate, about the Fed’s plan to rethink its policy framework this year. He assured lawmakers that the Fed is merely trying to refine its approach so it can meet its current 2 percent inflation goal. 

“We are not looking at a higher inflation target, full stop,” he said. 

Powell also repeated his warnings against a failure by Congress to raise the debt ceiling, saying there would be “bad consequences” should the United States default on its debt payments. 

Powell by law appears two times a year before Congress to brief members of the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee on monetary policy and the state of the economy. 

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Кошториси ОВК, інструкції сисадмінам і зустріч з керівництвом ПА ОБСЄ – 27 лютого у ЦВК

У Центральній виборчій комісії України 27 лютого відбулася низка підготовчих заходів до проведення виборів президента 31 березня. Як йдеться у повідомленні на сайті ЦВК, у середу комісія зареєструвала кількох довірених осіб від кандидатів у президенти, затвердила єдині кошториси видатків окружних виборчих комісій на загальну суму понад 885 мільйонів гривень, внесла зміни до переліку звичайних та спеціальних виборчих дільниць.

Крім того, у відомстві відбувся інструктаж системних адміністраторів Інформаційно-аналітичної системи «Вибори президента України» всіх 199 окружних виборчих комісій.

27 лютого у ЦВК відбулася зустріч із керівництвом Парламентської Асамблеї ОБСЄ про виклики напередодні голосування.

«Неодноразово доводиться дізнаватися зі ЗМІ, що з Держреєстром виборців виникають певні проблеми. Проте чомусь ні журналісти, ні кандидати офіційно не звертаються до ЦВК з цього приводу», – повідомила делегації ОБСЄ голова ЦВК Тетяна Сліпачук.

Раніше сьогодні Служба безпеки України повідомила, що її фахівці запобігли масштабній кібератаці на комп’ютерне обладнання, яке забезпечує роботу офіційного сайту Центральної виборчої комісії. 

Вибори президента відбудуться 31 березня 2019 року. Центральна виборча комісія зареєструвала 44 претендентів на цю посаду.

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Помпео вказав на «незмінну позицію» США – Крим має бути під контролем України

Сполучені Штати підтверджують свою незмінну позицію, що Крим є українською територією і повинен повернутися під контроль України. Про це йдеться в заяві держсекретаря США Майка Помпео, опублікованій на сайті Держдепартаменту 27 лютого.

«П’ять років тому російська окупація Кримського півострова України викликала ескалацію російської агресії. Росія намагалася зруйнувати міжнародний порядок, підірвала основні людські свободи і послабила нашу загальну безпеку. Світ не забув цинічну брехню, яку Росія використала для виправдання своєї агресії і маскування спроб анексії української території», – йдеться в заяві.

За словами держсекретаря США, авторитетні держави не повинні проявляти толерантність при «застосуванні Росією сили проти мирного сусіда».

Крім того, у заяві йдеться, що Сполучені Штати, як і раніше, серйозно стурбовані посиленням репресій «російським окупаційним режимом» у Криму.

У березні 2014 року Росія окупувала та анексувала український півострів Крим. Верховна Рада України офіційно оголосила 20 лютого 2014 року початком тимчасової окупації Криму і Севастополя Росією. 7 жовтня 2015 року президент України Петро Порошенко підписав закон про це.

Міжнародні організації визнали окупацію і анексію Криму незаконними і засудили дії Росії. Країни Заходу запровадили низку економічних санкцій проти Москви. Росія заперечує окупацію півострова і називає це «відновленням історичної справедливості».

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Meet Elon Tusk: Tesla Chief Changes Twitter Display Name

Silicon Valley billionaire Elon Musk changed his Twitter display name to “Elon Tusk” in another late-night flurry of tweets on Wednesday, which also promised news from his electric carmaker Tesla Inc later this week.

In a series of tweets to his 25 million followers following charges from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this week, Musk accused the regulator of failing to read Tesla’s annual reports and said its oversight was “broken”.

On Wednesday, he changed his display name and added an elephant tag.

Social media platforms have featured a number of memes involving wordplay around Musk’s name this week.

He also promised Tesla would have “news” at 2 p.m. California time on Thursday. The company, deep in debt as it ramps up production of its popular Model 3 sedan, is due to repay a $920 million convertible bond a day later.

Musk had promised last year to have his public statements vetted by the company’s board, as part of a settlement with the SEC that headed off demands for him to resign as Tesla CEO.

Tesla did not immediately respond to request for comment.

 

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Volvo’s Polestar Unveils Electric Car Touted as Tesla Rival

Volvo’s electric performance brand Polestar is unveiling a battery-powered compact car touted as a rival to Tesla’s Model 3.

The Polestar 2 is a five-door vehicle with a panoramic glass roof, an all-vegan interior and a battery with enough capacity to drive 500 kilometers under European tests for range measurement, or 275 miles under U.S. testing rules.

With 408 horsepower, it should accelerate from zero to 100 kph (0-62 mph) in under five seconds. Polestar said Wednesday that the car’s U.S. price for the launch version will be $55,500 after tax incentives; later a lower-priced version with less range is envisioned.

The car, to be shown at next month’s Geneva auto show, becomes available in 2020.

Volvo Car Group, headquartered in Goteborg, Sweden, is a subsidiary of Chinese automaker Geely.

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Key Comments from Trump’s Ex-Attorney Testimony

Michael Cohen, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former long-time personal attorney, is testifying Wednesday before a congressional panel about his dealings with Trump through the years, during the 2016 presidential campaign and in the first months of his presidency two years ago.

His testimony is occurring about two months before he is set to begin a three-year prison term for financial crimes, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress.

Trump, in Vietnam for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un, assailed Cohen on Twitter, saying he “was just disbarred by the State Supreme Court for lying & fraud. He did bad things unrelated to Trump. He is lying in order to reduce his prison time.”

Here are some of Cohen’s comments from his prepared statement at the opening of the hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform:

“Never in a million years did I imagine, when I accepted a job in 2007 to work for Donald Trump, that he would one day run for president, launch a campaign on a platform of hate and intolerance, and actually win. I regret the day I said ‘yes’ to Mr. Trump.  I regret all the help and support I gave him along the way.”

“I am ashamed that I chose to take part in concealing Mr. Trump’s illicit acts rather than listening to my own conscience. I am ashamed because I know what Mr. Trump is. He is a racist.  He is a conman.  He is a cheat.”

Cohen said he was providing the congressional panel with several pieces of evidence to support his account. Cohen described one of them as “a copy of a ($35,000) check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account   after he became president –  to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made to cover up his affair with an adult film star and prevent damage to his campaign.”

He also submitted “a copy of an article with Mr. Trump’s handwriting on it that reported on the auction of a portrait of himself he arranged for the bidder ahead of time and then reimbursed the bidder from the account of his non-profit charitable foundation, with the picture now hanging in one of his country clubs.”

Cohen admitted lying to Congress in previous testimony, saying, “I lied to Congress about when Mr. Trump stopped negotiating the Moscow Tower project in Russia. I stated that we stopped negotiating in January 2016.  That was false   our negotiations continued for months later during the campaign.”

“In conversations we had during the campaign, at the same time I was actively negotiating in Russia for him, he would look me in the eye and tell me there’s no business in Russia and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing. In his way, he was telling me to lie.”

“To be clear: Mr. Trump knew of and directed the Trump Moscow negotiations throughout the campaign and lied about it. He lied about it because he never expected to win the election. He also lied about it because he stood to make hundreds of millions of dollars on the Moscow real estate project.”

“Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great, not to make our country great. He had no desire or intention to lead this nation  only to market himself and to build his wealth and power. Mr. Trump would often say, this campaign was going to be the ‘greatest infomercial in political history.’ He never expected to win the primary. He never expected to win the general election. The campaign for him was always a marketing opportunity.”

“A lot of people have asked me about whether Mr. Trump knew about the release of the hacked Democratic National Committee emails ahead of time. The answer is yes. Mr. Trump knew from (political adviser) Roger Stone in advance about the WikiLeaks drop of emails.  In July 2016, days before the Democratic convention, I was in Mr. Trump’s office when his secretary announced that Roger Stone was on the phone.  Mr. Trump put Mr. Stone on the speakerphone.  Mr. Stone told Mr. Trump that he had just gotten off the phone with (WikiLeaks founder) Julian Assange and that Mr. Assange told Mr. Stone that, within a couple of days, there would be a massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Mr. Trump responded by stating to the effect of “wouldn’t that be great.'”

“Mr. Trump is a racist. The country has seen Mr. Trump court white supremacists and bigots. You have heard him call poorer countries ‘shitholes.’ In private, he is even worse. He once asked me if I could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a ‘shithole.’ This was when Barack Obama was president of the United States. While we were once driving through a struggling neighborhood in Chicago, he commented that only black people could live that way. And, he told me that black people would never vote for him because they were too stupid.”

“Mr. Trump is a cheat. It was my experience that Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes, such as trying to be listed among the wealthiest people in Forbes, and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes.”

“Mr. Trump is a conman. He asked me to pay off an adult film star with whom he had an affair, and to lie to his wife (first lady Melania Trump) about it, which I did. Lying to the first lady is one of my biggest regrets. She is a kind, good person. I respect her greatly   and she did not deserve that.”

Trump claimed a bone spur in his foot to avoid serving during the Vietnam War in the 1960s, but Cohen said, “When I asked for medical records, he gave me none and said there was no surgery. He told me not to answer the specific questions by reporters but rather offer simply the fact that he received a medical deferment. He finished the conversation with the following comment. ‘You think I’m stupid, I wasn’t going to Vietnam.”

“I find it ironic, President Trump, that you are in Vietnam right now.

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Could Kim Jong Un Survive Prosperity

President Donald Trump’s message to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been simple and clear: give up your nuclear weapons and a flood of wealth will soon be yours for the taking.

But here’s a nagging question: Is that really what Kim wants?

With Trump and Kim descending on Hanoi for their second summit , there has been a persistent suggestion that Kim will look around at the relative prosperity of his Vietnamese hosts — who are certainly no strangers to U.S. hostility — and think that he, too, should open up his country to more foreign investment and trade.

Trump himself has been the primary cheerleader.

On Wednesday morning he tweeted: “Vietnam is thriving like few places on earth. North Korea would be the same, and very quickly, if it would denuclearize. The potential is AWESOME, a great opportunity, like almost none other in history, for my friend Kim Jong Un. We will know fairly soon – Very Interesting!”

For sure, North Korea could have a brighter future.

“Using the words ‘great economic power’ is a Trumpian exaggeration, but a useful one,” said William Brown, a North Korea economy expert and former CIA analyst. “The truth is North Korea quite easily could become a prosperous country, growing faster than any of its neighbors and catching up with them in terms of income per capita. It has what it takes.”

Brown cited North Korea’s strong human capital, low wages and high levels of verbal and math literacy. He also noted it has a potential bonanza of natural resources such as lead, zinc, rare earths, coal, iron ore and hydropower. He agreed with Trump about location — saying North Korea sits “between four big economies that are far richer but increasingly moribund.”

But girding against a foreign threat is a time-tested justification for giving a leader extraordinary powers and limiting individual freedoms, like travel and expression. Opening up to foreign capital and bringing his country in line with international financial standards means giving up a great deal of control.

Control, for Kim, is the most important commodity of all.

While his country is far more dynamic than many outside observers realize, opening up in the pursuit of wealth is for Kim an extremely dangerous proposition. It seems clear he wants to revitalize the economy, but it is anything but apparent he’s ready or even interested in opening up any more than he needs to in order to achieve that narrow goal.

As Kim arrived in Hanoi, back in Pyongyang the ruling party’s daily newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, printed a commentary vowing the nation will stay the course the Kim family has set for the past three generations.

“The revolutionary cause of juche (self-reliance) and the cause of socialism are sure to triumph” under the guidance of the party and the people “who remain faithful to the cause of the party with indomitable mental power,” it said.

Kim’s primary objectives have focused on the development of infrastructure projects, building up the tourism industry and strengthening government regulation of the country’s expanding market-style economy.

“The statements from Trump at North Korea as the next economic powerhouse seem to assume that were the nuclear weapons out of the picture, North Korea would immediately open its doors and society to anyone wanting to come in and invest,” said Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein, a fellow at the Henry L. Stimson Center and editor of North Korea Economy Watch. “But the regime will want to maintain the main facets of social control.”

Silberstein said the government isn’t likely to let foreign businesspeople roam freely around the country anytime soon. He added that Kim has focused on promoting special economic zones because they have the potential for high growth while remaining isolated “walled gardens.”

In the immediate future, Kim’s goals are pragmatic.

He is seeking to get in front of the grassroots market forces that are growing all around him and undercut support for trade sanctions that are limiting his options and drying up government coffers.

His government is especially interested in moving ahead on projects with South Korea, including the re-opening of a tourist resort at Mount Kumgang and an industrial center near the city of Kaesong that were both built with massive funding from the South. North Korea is also hurting badly from its inability to export its minerals and coal.

Having nuclear weapons is what got him to the point where he could meet directly with a U.S. president. So he would be foolish to throw that away without a significant reward. On the other hand, if he goes deep down the capitalist path, like South Korea, Kim could risk undermining his regime’s own legitimacy.

The story of Vietnam, north and south, is in that sense a cautionary tale. The economic reforms and growth of today’s Vietnam only came after unification. For North Korea, the South represents a rival that not only still exists, but is richer and its people are allowed far greater individual freedoms.

Silberstein believes that is not an insurmountable fear for Kim.

“Market reforms are already happening and have been for quite some time, it’s just that Kim Jong Un never formally announced an overhaul of the system,” he said, adding that under Kim, market trade has been allowed to expand, and has even been encouraged by the state to do so. Enterprises have received unprecedented freedom to plan their own production and dispose of a large share of their profits themselves.

“The same has happened in agriculture, and from what we know, the results have been successful,” he said. “I strongly believe that Kim wants to take this process of liberalization further, though it will likely never be called ‘reforms,’ only ‘improvements.’”

“The tricky part is how to balance letting loose on some of the strict social control, such as opening up space for private investments both from abroad and from the general public, changing the governance of private property, massively upgrading communications infrastructure and the like, with still keeping information about the outside world away or at least regulated.”

Silberstein suggested that if given a choice between social controls or economic reforms, Kim will choose control.

“Whatever might happen, they’ll proceed cautiously,” he said.

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