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Trump Steps Into North Korea and Agrees With Kim Jong-un to Resume Talks

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President Trump on Sunday became the first sitting American commander in chief to set foot in North Korea as he met Kim Jong-un, the country’s leader, at the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone, and the two agreed to restart negotiations on a long-elusive nuclear agreement.

Greeted by a beaming Mr. Kim, the president stepped across a low concrete border marker at 3:46 p.m. local time and walked 20 paces to the base of a building on the North Korean side for an unprecedented, camera-friendly demonstration of friendship intended to revitalize stalled talks.

“It is good to see you again,” an exuberant Mr. Kim told the president through an interpreter. “I never expected to meet you in this place.”

“Big moment, big moment,” Mr. Trump told him.

After about a minute on officially hostile territory, Mr. Trump escorted Mr. Kim back over the line into South Korea, where the two briefly addressed a scrum of journalists before slipping inside the building known as Freedom House for a private conversation along with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea. Mr. Trump said he would invite Mr. Kim to visit him at the White House.

“This has a lot of significance because it means that we want to bring an end to the unpleasant past and try to create a new future,” Mr. Kim told reporters. “So it’s a very courageous and determined act.”

“Stepping across that line was a great honor,” Mr. Trump replied. “A lot of progress has been made, a lot of friendships have been made, and this has been in particular a great friendship.”

A showman by nature and past profession, Mr. Trump delighted in the drama of the moment, which he had arranged with a surprise invitation via Twitter barely 24 hours earlier. Never before had American and North Korean leaders gotten together at the military demarcation line, where heavily armed forces have faced off across a tense divide for 66 years since the end of fighting in the Korean War.

The encounter in Panmunjom had been cast as a brief handshake, not a formal negotiation, but the two ended up together for a little more than an hour. After emerging from their conversation, Mr. Trump said he and Mr. Kim had agreed to designate negotiators to resume talks in the next few weeks, four months after they collapsed at a summit meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The American team will still be headed by Stephen Biegun, the special envoy, but it remained unclear who would be on the North Korean side after reports of a purge of Mr. Kim’s team. Asked later if North Korean negotiators were still alive, Mr. Trump said: “I think they are. I can tell you who the main person is. And I would hope the rest are, too.”

Mr. Trump was already scheduled to make an unannounced visit to the DMZ during his trip to South Korea, and he portrayed the idea of meeting Mr. Kim as a spontaneous one, although he had been musing out loud about it for days. Still, it caught even his own staff by surprise and forced an extraordinary scramble to arrange logistics and security, a task that would ordinarily take days or weeks.

Mr. Trump gambled that the show of amity could crack the nuclear logjam, underscoring his faith in the power of his own personal diplomacy — even with brutal strongmen like Mr. Kim — to achieve what past presidents could not. More than halfway through his term, Mr. Trump is eager for a resolution to the longstanding dispute, seeing it as a signature element of the legacy he hopes to forge and a potential boost to his re-election campaign.

Even in this symbolic moment of reconciliation, Mr. Trump seemed to toggle back and forth between glory and grievance, reveling one minute in the history of the day and then the next griping that he was not getting enough credit for reducing friction with North Korea.

He seemed acutely defensive about criticism that he has yet to reach an agreement to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear arsenal despite summit meetings with Mr. Kim in Singapore in June 2018 and in Hanoi in February. Almost every time he saw a microphone, he complained that his achievement had not been appreciated.

“There was great conflict here prior to our meeting in Singapore,” he said. “Tremendous conflict and death all around them. And it’s now been extremely peaceful. It’s been a whole different world.”

“That wouldn’t necessarily have been reported, but they understand it very well,” he added, referring to the news media. “I keep saying that for the people who say nothing has been accomplished. So much has been accomplished.”
Since Mr. Trump took office, North Korea has suspended nuclear tests, released detained Americans and sent back to the United States the remains of some American soldiers killed in the war. South Korean officials and others in the region say tension has eased significantly, and Mr. Moon praised Mr. Trump as “the peacemaker of the Korean Peninsula.”

But American intelligence agencies have concluded that North Korea “is unlikely” to give up its nuclear arsenal, as Mr. Trump has demanded, and even amid the rapprochement with the president, the North has produced enough fuel for a half-dozen additional nuclear weapons, according to one study. In May, it launched short-range missiles in violation of United Nations resolutions.

Critics called the DMZ greeting an overhyped photo opportunity by a president who himself ratcheted up the conflict with North Korea in his first year in office by vowing to unleash “fire and fury” if it threatened American security.

“Today is a victory for South Korea’s middle-power diplomacy and President Moon’s peace agenda,” said Leif-Eric Easley, associate professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul. “But tomorrow, North Korea will still have nuclear weapons, and the U.S. will still maintain sanctions.”

Mr. Trump’s meeting with Mr. Kim in Singapore was the first time sitting American and North Korean leaders had met anywhere, and it produced vague promises to eliminate Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal. Their second meeting, in Hanoi, ended in failure when Mr. Kim made an offer that fell far short of that.

North Korean officials went dark after the collapse of the talks, refusing to respond to either the Americans or the South Koreans. In recent weeks, however, North Korea re-emerged on the world stage as Mr. Kim exchanged letters with Mr. Trump in what was seen as a signal of its interest in resuming diplomacy.

American officials have said they did not think a third meeting should be arranged unless a substantive agreement could be negotiated beforehand. But Mr. Trump was seized with the idea of an encounter at the DMZ.

Panmunjom, which straddles the North-South border, is called the “truce village” because the two sides signed an armistice there in 1953 to halt the three-year Korean War. The two-and-a-half-mile-wide DMZ is a no-man’s zone, but Panmunjom is an exception, a “joint security area” where border guards face off with no buffer between them.
Mr. Kim crossed the DMZ in April 2018 to meet with Mr. Moon, becoming the first North Korean leader to step over the line since the war. Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton each visited North Korea, flying into its capital, Pyongyang, but only after they left office. Sitting presidents, including Ronald Reagan, Mr. Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, visited the DMZ, but were never greeted by North Korea’s leader.

Mr. Trump, wearing a dark suit, emerged from Freedom House on the South Korean side, walked along gravel between two blue huts to the demarcation line and stopped there to wait for Mr. Kim to approach. Mr. Kim, wearing his traditional Mao suit, bounded forward to greet him.

They shook hands and Mr. Trump patted the younger man’s arm before they stepped across the barrier and strode across a dirt field. The two turned and shook hands again for the cameras, then walked back to the border marker, posed again, and finally headed toward Freedom House.

The scene was fairly chaotic. North Korean security personnel were particularly aggressive, pushing and pulling journalists and even White House staff members, including the new press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, as she tried to get American media into the room. The jostling made television images from the scene look frenzied.

Accompanying the president were Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, and other top aides, including Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. Asked how North Korea was, the president’s daughter answered, “Surreal.”

Mr. Kim said he knew nothing about a possible meeting until the president’s tweet. “I don’t think this kind of surprise meeting would have happened without the excellent personal relationship between your excellency and me,” he told Mr. Trump in Freedom House.

Mr. Trump expressed relief that Mr. Kim came. “If he didn’t show up, the press was going to make me look very bad,” he said. “So you made us both look good, and I appreciate it.”

After their private conversation, which lasted about 50 minutes, Mr. Trump escorted Mr. Kim back to the demarcation line and then watched as the North Korean headed back to his country.

“Certainly, this was a great day; this was a very legendary, very historic day,” Mr. Trump exulted afterward, before adding a cautionary note. “It’ll be even more historic if something comes out of it.”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/30/world/asia/trump-north-korea-dmz.html

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Public Hearing Today On Port Authority’s Planned Hikes At Bridges, Tunnels And Area Airports

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A public hearing will be held this morning in Manhattan to discuss the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s proposed fare hikes.

Last month, the agency laid out plans to raise tolls at bridge and tunnels and increase fares on PATH service and the trains to John F. Kennedy and Newark Liberty international airports. It also wants to apply a $4 surcharge to app-based car services when they pick up riders at New York City-area airport.

Under the proposal, tolls at the George Washington Bridge, Lincoln and Holland tunnels and outerbridge crossings would increase by $1. EZPass discounts would be reduced by 25 cents.

For PATH riders, a 10-day SmartLink card would rise from $25 to $26. A 30-day unlimited card would go from $106 to $110.25.
The AirTrain fee to JFK Airport would increase from $5 to $7.75, and a $4 fee would be added for all taxi and ride-sharing pick-ups and drop-offs at area airports, similar to fees charged at airports in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

The New York Taxi Workers Alliance said it will ask its 22,000 drivers to strike if the plan is approved.

The money would be used to pay for long-planned improvements at JFK, Newark and LaGuardia airports, as well as new projects, like increasing capacity and reducing delays on PATH trains.

A final vote is set for September. Today is the first of six hearings.

Hearing #1
July 16, 8 a.m.
4 WTC
23rd Floor, 150 Greenwich St., New York, NY 10007

Hearing #2
July 17, 8 a.m.
2 Montgomery
3rd Floor, 2 Montgomery St., Jersey City, NJ 07302

Hearing #3
July 18, 7 p.m
EWR Terminal One Redevelopment Outreach Office
79 West Jersey St, Elizabeth, NJ 07202

Hearing #4
July 22, 7 p.m.
College of Staten Island
Williamson Theatre, 2800 Victory Blvd, Staten Island, NY 10314

Hearing #5
July 29, 7 p.m.
Hilton Hasbrouck Heights
650 Terrace Ave, Hasbrouck Heights, NJ 07604

Hearing #6
July 30, 7 p.m.
JFK Building 14
3rd Floor, Building 14, Jamaica, NY 11430

Source: https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2019/07/16/port-authority-fare-hike-public-hearing/

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Trump administration freezes fines for fuel-economy violations

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The EPA hasn’t yet released its final ruling on a proposal to freeze fuel economy standards. However, a different federal agency—NHTSA—has finalized a rule to freeze fines on automakers who exceed the standards.

The fines have been set at $5.50 per 0.1 mpg, per car the automakers produce that doesn’t meet the standards, since 1997. These fines have amounted to tens of millions of dollars a year for automakers. For automakers with budgets approaching $100 billion a year, however, they amount to small change.

Some companies have opted to simply pay the fines instead of improving the fuel economy of their cars.

In 2015, in response to a Congressional mandate to raise fines for non-compliance across the government, NHTSA proposed to raise the fine to $14 per car per 0.1 mpg. Auto industry lobbyists complained that the proposal would cost automakers $1 billion annually, but when environmental groups along with New York, California, and several other states sued NHTSA, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the increase could go forward.

On Friday, the agency released a statement saying the new rule freezing fines at $5.50 faithfully follows Congress’s intent in setting the penalty rate at the highest reasonable amount according to the statute.

Even if the fines were raised, it may have been a moot point with the EPA (in conjunction with NHTSA) planning to freeze fuel economy requirements at 2020 levels through 2026. EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler has said he expects to finalize that proposal by late this summer, though automakers and 23 states have now stated their opposition to it.

Source: https://www.greencarreports.com/news/1124039_trump-administration-freezes-fines-for-fuel-economy-violations

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Mayor Attacks Trump as Immigration Raids Spark Fear, Protests in NYC

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As a nationwide crackdown on immigrants sparks concerns and protests in New York City neighborhoods, the mayor on Sunday called the raids a “political act” by President Trump intended to help him win re-election.

Mayor de Blasio said the raids weren’t about security or enforcing the law. “This is a political act by this president, he’s politicized a United States government agency to help him win re-election,” de Blasio said as residents confirmed sightings of ICE agents knocking on doors as early as Saturday.

No one has been arrested, the mayor said, and there were no reported raids in the city on Sunday by midday.

“There were two attempts here in Sunset Park and no one was arrested because no one open their doors. And I think that is emblematic of people understanding they have rights,” the neighborhood’s Community Board Chair Cesar Zuniga told News 4.
Protests were held across the tri-state over the weekend as immigrant advocates advised those who feared being deported of their rights.

In Brooklyn, community members surrounded two plain-clothed NYPD officers who were grabbing dinner at a taco spot and asked them to leave because they mistook the police for ICE agents.

“You’re terrifying people in the neighborhood right now,” one protester said to the officers in a video of the exchange.
After the mixup, the NYPD says its officers will be wearing the department’s windbreaker jackets to distinguish themselves to avoid future confusion. The 72nd Precinct’s Deputy Inspector Emmanuel Gonzalez also assured that officers will not engange in helping ICE with the round ups.

“The NYPD does not ask anyone for documentation in their citizenship in this country,” Gonzalez said.

A senior US official told NBC News on Sunday that ICE raids had begun as part of an operation expected to target 2,000 immigrants in 10 major U.S. cities including New York over the next few days.

De Blasio, who is one of at least two dozen Democrats running for president, came under criticism himself on Saturday when he was campaigning in Iowa during a massive midtown Manhattan blackout. He canceled campaign events and returned to the city on Sunday.

At a news conference on the blackout, he also fielded questions about the ICE raids, which he called “horrible.”

Trump is “stoking fear and he’s trying to pit immigrant against citizen in a way that’s very, very cynical,” de Blasio said. “But then when the moment of truth comes, suddenly it’s all fear, no action.”

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan would not answer questions about the operation at an unrelated briefing in Washington on Sunday on the emergency management response to Hurricane Barry.

In 2012 under the Obama administration, there were over 1,000 ICE arrests per day on average. However, families were not targeted then as they are now.

Source: https://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/NYC-Mayor-Attacks-Trump-as-Immigration-Raids-Begin-ICE-Bill-de-Blasio–512710571.html

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