By Elise Solé   Ivanka Trump will meet with the South Korean foreign minister, Kang Kyung-wha (right), in place of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. (Photo: Getty Images)   Ivanka Trump is acting as secretary of state, meeting with the South Korean foreign minister in lieu of Rex Tillerson, whom President Trump fired earlier this week. On Friday, the White House confirmed the meeting between Ivanka and Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha in a statement to Newsweek: “Ivanka and members of the NSC are meeting with the foreign minister, as they developed a close relationship during the Olympic Games. The foreign minister asked for the meeting while they were at the Olympics together.” The date and agenda of the meeting are not known, but the publication reports that it centers on summits between North and South Korea and between North Korea and the U.S., as part of President Trump’s intention to conduct talks with the North Korean dictator. Many on Twitter were shocked by the notion of Ivanka conducting foreign policy. Citizens for Ethics✔@CREWcrew When President Trump’s Secretary of State is fired and can’t meet with South Korea, Trump sends his daughter, who doesn’t have a full security clearance but does have business interests in the country. … 12:00 PM - Mar 16, 2018 South Korean minister to meet Ivanka after Tillerson was fired Ivanka Trump will meet with South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha when she visits the U.S. following the abrupt ousting of secretary of State Rex Tillerson.   16 Mar The Hill✔@thehill South Korean foreign minister to meet with Ivanka after Tillerson's abrupt firing One Little Voice@1singlevoice Ivanka is not qualified to “fill in” for Tillerson with South Korea. That’s like having a Kardashian fill in for Mike Pompeo at the CIA until that position is filled. 10:39 AM - Mar 16, 2018   Martin Dillon@LeRapt Ivanka was sent to brief South Korea's president on the new NK sanctions, suggesting daddy may make her Tillerson's replacement. 8:26 PM - Feb 26, 2018     SingleGirl@SingleGirlLife Let’s be clear:@IvankaTrump is not Secretary of State, & has no business meeting with foreign dignitaries on behalf of the United States. This is blatant nepotism, & she should be stopped before further creditably of our country suffers #StopTrump 3:32 PM - Mar 16, 2018   On March 13, Tillerson, who had served as secretary of state since February 2017, was ousted from his position after clashing with Trump over a number of policies, including the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate accord, and charges that Russia meddled in the U.S. presidential election. (Trump has called the claims “fake news,” while Tillerson directed a comment to Russia during an interview, “You need to stop.”) Trump plans to nominate former CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace Tillerson. Ivanka Trump dined with South Korean President Moon Jae-In during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in February. (Photo: Getty Images)   Despite February reports that Ivanka lacks complete security clearance, notes Newsweek, the first daughter is very involved in government affairs. In February, she led the U.S. delegation at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, dining with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife, Kim Jung-sook. Ivanka also garnered criticism for taking her father’s seat among world leaders at the G20 Summit in July, a move that Trump called “very standard,” and for leading Congress in a bipartisan roundtable discussion in May.  Donald J. Trump✔@realDonaldTrump When I left Conference Room for short meetings with Japan and other countries, I asked Ivanka to hold seat. Very standard. Angela M agrees! 4:31 AM - Jul 10, 2017    

By Mary Hanbury and Áine Cain   Putin could be worth as much as $200 billion. Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo / AP Images   • Vladimir Putin — who is expected to win his fourth presidential term in Russia's upcoming spring election— may be the wealthiest man in the world. • Forbes won't even estimate his net worth, because it can't verify his financial assets, Newsweek reported. • The Russian president does indulge in some displays of immense wealth, however. • Putin is reported to own luxury watches, a fleet of yachts, and multiple expensive properties, including a $1 billion palace. • American financier Bill Browder estimated that Putin had "accumulated $200 billion of ill-gotten gains," according to the Atlantic. Vladimir Putin very well may be the richest man in the world. But it's impossible to say for sure. According to the Kremlin, the Russian president earns around $133,000 a year and lives in a small apartment. That description doesn't jive with most accounts of Putin's lifestyle. Former Russian government adviser Stanislav Belkovsky estimated his fortune is worth $70 billion. Hedge fund manager Bill Browder, a noted critic of Putin, claimed it was more like $200 billion. A fortune that enormous would propel him straight past Amazon founder and richest man in the world Jeff Bezos, who Forbes estimates has $125.6 to his name. So why can't we pin down Putin's net worth with any certainty? The 2015 Panama Papers revealed that Putin may obscure and bolster his fortune through proxies. We've put together a list of all the clues that indicate Putin is likely one of the richest people on the planet: View As: One Page Slides As President of Russia, Putin's official residence is the Moscow Kremlin. However, he spends most of his time at a suburban government residence outside of the city called Novo-Ogaryovo. Shutterstock/OlegDoroshin Source: Business Insider He reportedly has access to 20 different palaces and villas. AP Source: Up North   Official records published in 2016 by the Kremlin would have us believe that Putin has a very modest real estate portfolio. The report said he owned a small plot of land and an apartment with a garage. Reuters Source: Newsweek But over the years, Putin has been linked to other properties. The most controversial of which is the so-called "secret palace." This was reportedly built for Putin using illegal state funds. Wikicommons/Ruleaks Source: BBC   This epic mansion reportedly cost $1 billion to build. It has a private theater and landing pad with room for three helicopters. Wikicommons/Ruleaks Source: Business Insider The bedrooms are suitably grandiose. Wikicommons/Ruleaks   And the wall art is just as opulent. Wikimedia Commons Snapshots of the then-under-construction mansion leaked in 2011. Wikimedia Commons Source: Business Insider   And the following year, opposition leader and Putin critic Boris Nemtsov produced a dossier claiming that Putin owned multiple private jets, helicopters, and yachts. Nemtsov alleged that, out of the 20 state residences Putin had access to, nine were built during his tenure as president. Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Source: New York Times, "The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin" The president was also accused of owning 58 different types of aircraft, including a Dassault Falcon, which seats 19. This is not Putin's plane but an example of what his plane would look like.  Wikimedia Commons Source: Daily Mail, Business Insider   One of his planes was said to have an $11 million cabin fitted out by jewelers and that toilet which cost close to $100,000. This plane has room for up to 186 passengers. Putin is accused of owning five of these. This is not Putin's plane but an example of what his plane would look like.  AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko Source: Daily Mail and Business Insider The dossier claimed Putin has a collection of four yachts, each costing thousands of dollars to maintain. Rossiya, one of his yachts, was upgraded in 2005. It reportedly cost $1.2 billion to do. "The Graceful," another of his yachts, (shown below) reportedly sleeps 14 people and has six bedrooms. YouTube/SuperYachtFan Source: Time   Then there's Olympia. He was reportedly given this 57-meter luxury yacht, worth $35 million, as a gift from Chelsea football club owner and oligarch Roman Abramovich. According to a former head of a state shipping company in Russia, Putin runs the yacht using state money. Roman Abramovich.  Clive Mason/Getty Images Source: The Telegraph Putin also likes to take pride in his appearance. The 2012 dossier claimed it Putin has 11 watches worth an estimated $687,000. Pavel Golovkin/AP Photo Source: New York Times   According to the Russian government-owned paper "Russia Beyond the Headlines," Putin owns an A. Lange & Söhne Tourbograph Perpetual 'Pour Le Mérite,' which costs half a million dollars. Facebook/A. Lange & Söhne Source:Russia Beyond the Headlines A $1 million Patek Phillippe going up for auction in July 2017 was also said to be owned by Putin. Accompanying documentation claimed he was the owner. The Kremlin denied these claims. Monaco Legend Auctions Source: Business Insider   In the past, Putin has even given away his watches. The president reportedly owned five Blancpain watches at one time but gave away one to a Siberian boy while on vacation and another to a factory worker who asked for a keepsake. The watches were reportedly worth $10,500 each. Blancpain Source: Blancpain, ABC News, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism Then there's his clothing. Newsweek's Ben Judah spent three years researching Putin for his book and claimed that Putin prefers bespoke suits and "dour" Valentino ties over anything else. AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky Source: Business Insider,   Russian government-owned paper “Russia Beyond the Headlines” confirmed Putin’s expensive taste for tailored suits. In 2015, it published an article claiming that the president's preferred brand of suits was Kiton and Brioni, “Such suits are made ​from start to finish by one tailor, take dozens of hours to complete, and have a starting price tag of $5500,” the article said. REUTERS/Aleksey Nikolskyi/RIA Novosti/Kremlin Source: Russia Beyond the Headlines According to "Russia Beyond the Headlines", Putin also has a stylist who has been dressing him for over 10 years. “The stylist rips off all the labels from his clothes, so these do not accidentally catch the eyes of journalists." Matt Cardy / Stringer / Getty Images Source: Russia Beyond the Headlines   In 2015, Putin was photographed working out with Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev. Quartz reported that his Loro Piana silk and cashmere-blend sweatpants cost $1,425. Putin teamed this with a matching top, making the outfit cost a whopping $3,200 in total. Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA Novosti Kremlin/AP Source: Quartz In 2007, ex-Kremlin official Stanislav Belkovsky claimed that Putin had a $40 billion fortune hidden away in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. At the time, that would have made him the fourth wealthiest person in the world, between business magnate Carlos Slim and late IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad. Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool Photo via AP Source: TIME, Forbes   At the time, Belkovsy said Putin secretly controlled 37% of the shares of Surgutneftegaz and 4.5% of Gazprom, two giant Russian oil companies. He also said he controlled "at least 75%" of Swiss oil trader Gunvor, the Guardian reported, but added, "I suspect there are some businesses I know nothing about." Gunvor has refuted these claims, however. "President Putin does not and never has had any ownership, beneficial or otherwise in Gunvor," a Gunvor spokesperson said in a statement to Business Insider. "He is not a beneficiary of Gunvor or its activities." Grigory Dukor/Reuters Source: The Guardian Estimates of Putin's net worth have only risen over time. Browder, the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, believes that Putin has access to a secret fortune of $200 billion. Browder had invested in Russia in the 1990s, but ultimately came into conflict with Putin. After Browder's lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was jailed and brutally killed while investigation corruption, Browder advocated for the passage of the "Magnitsky Act" in 2012, leading to US sanctions against Russian oligarchs. Bill Browder.  Getty Images/ AFP/ Bertrand Guay Source: Fortune, The Washington Post   Putin's inner circle is actually the reason why no one can seem to pin down Putin's exact worth with any certainty. The Guardian reported that in 2010, "US diplomatic cables suggested Putin held his wealth via proxies," including his best friend Sergei Roldugin and banker Yuri Kovalchuk. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor Source: "The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin," The Guardian Some of those connections were exposed in the 2015 Panama Papers. The massive leak didn't include any files directly pertaining to Putin, but they did reveal that "his friends have earned millions from deals that seemingly could not have been secured without his patronage," the Guardian reported. Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Source: The Guardian   Russian journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan have said that, as a result, the Panama Papers leak was "seen as an attack on personal friends of Putin, his immediate circle." But Putin and the Kremlin have denied allegations that he's used his role to enrich himself and his friends. Morris MacMatzen/Getty Images Source: The Washignton Post, ""The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia's Digital Dictators and the New Online Revolutionaries" Myers wrote that the Russian leader said, "I am the wealthiest man, not just in Europe but in the whole world: I collect emotions. I am wealthy in that the people of Russia have twice entrusted me with the leadership of a great nation such as Russia. I believe that is my greatest wealth." Reuters/Alexander Zemlianichenko Source: "The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin"   The repeated rebuttals have done nothing to dispel the scrutiny on Putin's alleged riches. “In a country where 20  million people can barely make ends meet, the luxurious life of the president is a brazen and cynical challenge to society from a high-handed potentate,” Nemstov wrote in one 2012 white paper. The politician, a longtime and vocal critic of Putin, was assassinated in 2015. Boris Nemtsov.  Alex Wong / Getty Images Source: The Telegraph

By Jonathan Chait   You’re going to have to pay me… One Billion Dollars! … Sorry, One Hundred Billion Dollars! Photo: Warner Bros; Getty Images Earlier this week, President Trump raised eyebrows when he told reporters of a phone call he had held with North Korea, in which he warned the dangerous rogue state it must de-nuclearize. (His administration later admitted quietly Trump had actually spoken with South Korea, not North Korea.) This week, Trump ventured another strange foreign policy pronouncement. He had asked China to produce a plan to reduce its trade deficit by One Billion Dollars. He even capitalized it to underscore the significance of the towering sum he proposed to extract: This demand was incredibly puzzling to trade economists, and regular economists, and anybody who had ever read a couple paragraphs in a random business story. China runs a trade surplus of $375 billion with the United States. Trump was demanding a reduction of 0.3 percent, or less than a single day’s worth of imports. The Wall Street Journal’s Lingling Wei reports that the demand was actually supposed to be $100 billion. It is not clear how the Trump administration arrived at this figure, but it is a round number, which Trump is known to prefer, and is also the sum Dr. Evil demanded from the United Nations after also mistakenly opening the negotiation by demanding too little: This is not the kind of deft maneuvering Americans expected when they elected a famed negotiator to the presidency to make the Best Deals. Alas, The Art of the Deal does not include any chapters about starting off a negotiation by making a ludicrously tiny ask because you don’t understand anything about the scale of the numbers involved. Donald J. Trump‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump China has been asked to develop a plan for the year of a One Billion Dollar reduction in their massive Trade Deficit with the United States. Our relationship with China has been a very good one, and we look forward to seeing what ideas they come back with. We must act soon! 7:10 AM - 7 Mar 2018

By Glenn Kessler   The president has harsh words about trade imbalances, but his numbers don't always add up. (Meg Kelly/The Washington Post) In defending his threatened new tariffs on steel and aluminum, President Trump has made a number of statements about trade deals and deficits. Here’s a guide to the rhetoric. Because this is a quick roundup, we’re not assigning Pinocchios, but many of his claims are highly exaggerated. “We lost, over the last number of years, $800 billion a year. Not a half a million dollars, not 12 cents. We lost $800 billion a year on trade. Not going to happen. We got to get it back.” — Trump, remarks to reporters, March 5 We are going to keep explaining this until we are blue in the face but countries do not “lose” money on trade deficits. For some reason, the president must have missed this lesson in economics class when he attended Wharton. A trade deficit simply means that people in one country are buying more goods from another country than people in the second country are buying from the first country. Americans want to buy these products from overseas, either because of quality or price. If Trump sparked a trade war and tariffs were increased on Canadian or Chinese goods, then it would raise the cost of those products to Americans. Perhaps that would reduce American purchases of those goods, and thus reduce the trade deficit, but that would not mean the United States would “gain” money that had been lost. Meanwhile, trade deficits are also affected by macroeconomic factors, such as the relative strength of currencies, economic growth rates, and savings and investment rates. The president has said he wants to rescue jobs in the steel and aluminum industries. But many economists say more jobs could be lost in industries that rely on those materials for their products. Airplanes and airplane parts are one of the big export industries in the United States, helping to reduce the trade deficit, but the industry also uses a lot of aluminum. So higher costs for raw materials may increase the cost of jets and reduce sales overseas. The Trade Partnership, a consulting firm, released a report that concluded that five jobs would be lost for each one gained. In all, the report said, about 33,000 jobs would be gained, while 179,000 would be lost, for a net loss of about 146,000 jobs. (Caveat: Such estimates should be viewed with caution. We are only offering this as an illustrative example of the potential economic impacts. Still, when President George W. Bush imposed steel tariffs in 2003, his action may have saved as many as 10,000 jobs but cost up to 200,000 jobs.) The United States has an $800 Billion Dollar Yearly Trade Deficit because of our “very stupid” trade deals and policies. Our jobs and wealth are being given to other countries that have taken advantage of us for years. They laugh at what fools our leaders have been. No more! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 3, 2018 The U.S. trade deficit in 2017 was $566 billion, according to the Commerce Department. Trump gets his $800 billion number by looking only at the deficit for trade in goods ($810 billion) even though U.S. trade in services runs a substantial surplus of $244 billion. Interestingly, the recent annual report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers, which the president signed, offers a relatively benign view of trade deficits. “The United States has a goods deficit and a services surplus with the world,” the report noted. “The services surplus is consistent with the structure of the private sector, which has evolved during the last few decades toward more services output as a share of GDP.” We have large trade deficits with Mexico and Canada. NAFTA, which is under renegotiation right now, has been a bad deal for U.S.A. Massive relocation of companies & jobs. Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum will only come off if new & fair NAFTA agreement is signed. Also, Canada must.. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 5, 2018 “We’ve had a very bad deal with Mexico, a very bad deal with Canada. It’s called NAFTA. Our factories have left our country. Our jobs have left our country. For many years NAFTA has been a disaster.” — Trump, remarks to reporters, March 5 First of all, the United States has a trade surplus with Canada. Once again, Trump is ignoring trade in services to make a pejorative claim about the biggest export market for the United States — and the second-biggest trading partner. Second, long before he was a politician, Trump was dismissive of the North American Free Trade Agreement. But he consistently exaggerates the effects. Here’s how the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service in 2017 summarized the impact of NAFTA: “The net overall effect of NAFTA on the U.S. economy appears to have been relatively modest, primarily because trade with Canada and Mexico accounts for a small percentage of U.S. GDP [gross domestic product]. However, there were worker and firm adjustment costs as the three countries adjusted to more open trade and investment.” Now, a quarter-century after NAFTA went into effect, the United States, Canada and Mexico constitute an economically integrated market, especially for the auto industry. Auto parts and vehicles produced in each country freely flow over the borders, without significant tariffs or other restrictions, as thousands of parts suppliers serve the automakers that build the vehicles. This is known as the “motor vehicle supply chain.” The manufacturing sector has declined as a source of jobs in the United States, but again Trump would be fighting against economic shifts long in the making. American manufacturing has become incredibly productive, so fewer workers are needed to make the same number of goods. We are on the losing side of almost all trade deals. Our friends and enemies have taken advantage of the U.S. for many years. Our Steel and Aluminum industries are dead. Sorry, it’s time for a change! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 5, 2018 The industries are not dead. Trump is focused on aluminum smelting jobs, but that’s only 3 percent of total aluminum industry jobs in the United States, according to the Aluminum Association. The rest of the jobs are in aluminum production and processing, which has been relatively consistent since 1980. The North American aluminum market is integrated, with much of the smelting taking place in Canada, one of the United States’ closest allies, where electricity costs are lower because of  hydropower. (Aluminum smelting is an energy-intensive industry.)   Meanwhile, U.S. steel exports as a share of the domestic market are only 27.5 percent, about the level in 1997. Monthly crude steel production has been consistent since the Great Recession, according to data compiled by trade lawyer Scott Lincicome. Fewer workers are required because the factories are run more efficiently. When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win. Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don’t trade anymore-we win big. It’s easy! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 2, 2018   The president is referring to a favorite example of his — Harley-Davidson motorcycles. India recently announced it would reduce the duties from 100 percent to 50 percent, but Harley already got around that higher duty by assembling in India most of the 4,500 motorcycles sold in the country. (Trump in the past has also accused India of selling “thousands and thousands” of motorcycles in the United States, but it’s only about 1,000.) Harley, for its part, says it is indifferent to the matter and has no objection to India’s import duties. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) also says the Wisconsin-based company opposes higher tariffs for steel and aluminum because of the potential negative impact on its sales.   Source: Washington Post

by Julia Horowitz     Why this oil CEO is worried about steel tariffs President Donald Trump's steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports are now a reality. Trump on Thursday imposed a 25% tariff on steel imports and 10% on aluminum, but exempted Canada and Mexico. The tariffs will take effect in 15 days. For American companies that make metals, that's welcome news. But for businesses that consume steel and aluminum, like automakers and beverage producers, it will likely mean higher prices. Many have warned that could cut into profits and ultimately spur layoffs. Powered by Here's a look at some of the US companies that may be hit by Trump's latest protectionist move. Anheuser-Busch The aluminum used in beer cans is expected to get more expensive once the tariffs go into effect. Anheuser-Busch (BUD) has warned that it could threaten manufacturing jobs in the industry. The company employes more than 18,000 people in the United States. Auto parts manufacturers The Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, which represents companies that make vehicle parts in the United States, has said the tariffs will make cars more expensive and could put the many of the more than 800,000 jobs in its industry at risk. Boeing The nation's largest single exporter uses aluminum and some steel parts to make planes. Boeing (BA) could also suffer if other countries decide to retaliate against US tariffs by buying planes from competitors like Airbus. The company has more than 140,000 employees in the United States and around the world. Caterpillar Making Caterpillar (CAT) construction equipment could get more expensive if steel and aluminum prices rise. The company employs more than 98,000 full-time workers around the world. About 42,000 are in the United States. Campbell Soup Company Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has said that there's 2.6 cents worth of steel in a can of Campbell's soup, and consumers can expect prices to rise less than one cent as a result of tariffs. Campbell's (CPB) responded that "any new broad-based tariffs on imported tin plate steel — an insufficient amount of which is produced in the U.S. — will result in higher prices on one of the safest and more affordable parts of the food supply." Campbell's has about 18,000 employees. Craft breweries Craft breweries, which have been a breakout success over the past few years, worry that future growth will be stunted if beer cans get more expensive due to higher aluminum prices. Oskar Blues, a Colorado-based brewery with operations in North Carolina and Texas, said tariffs would put "a strain on the business." DowDuPont An executive at the chemical company told Bloomberg that it might need to start building plants in Canada or Argentina if the cost of construction goes up too much in the United States. DowDuPont (DWDP) has approximately 98,000 employees. Ford Ford (F) uses steel and aluminum in car production. Ford said in a statement that the tariffs "could result in an increase in domestic commodity prices — harming the competitiveness of American manufacturers," though it mostly uses American-made steel and aluminum in vehicles manufactured in the United States. Ford has about 202,000 employees worldwide. General Electric GE (GE) makes jet engines, power plant turbines, trains and other heavy machinery, all of which use steel and aluminum. Higher costs could inflict further damage on a company that already faces serious financial troubles. GE said in a statement that it's monitoring the situation but expects the impact to be "minimal." GE has about 313,000 employees total. About 106,000 are in the United States. General Motors GM (GM) cars contain steel and aluminum, though the company says that more than 90% of the steel it uses to make cars in the United States comes from American suppliers. It has more than 180,000 workers around the world. Molson Coors The maker of Coors Light and Miller Light has said that it makes an "increasing" number of beers in aluminum cans. Rising prices will "likely to lead to job losses across the beer industry," the company said on Twitter. The company has 17,200 employees globally, about 7,900 of which are in the United States. Oil companies Members of the oil industry have warned that Trump's steel tariffs could derail the country's energy boom by raising prices on foreign steel, which oil companies use in drilling and production, as well as in pipelines and refineries. Canary LLC, a Denver-based oilfield services company that employs about 300 people, said higher costs could force it to lay off up to 17% of its US workers. Whirlpool Whirlpool (WHR) recently got a boost when Trump slapped tariffs on imported washing machines. Now it could get more expensive to make household appliances like dryers and refrigerators in the United States as metal costs rise. Whirlpool has about 92,000 employees. 

  While Trump cracked a few jokes during his speech at the Gridiron Club on Saturday night, he turned serious when he mentioned North Korea and said he was in direct contact with the regime. (Win McNamee/Getty Images) BY Jessica Chia NEW YORK DAILY NEWS   A White House official had to clear the air on Monday after President Trump confused North and South Korea in an astounding blunder that left foreign policy experts scratching their heads. While Trump cracked a few jokes during his speech at the Gridiron Club on Saturday night, he turned serious when he mentioned North Korea and said, “It was headed for disaster and now we’re talking. And they, by the way, called up a couple of days ago and said, ‘We would like to talk.’” “And I said, ‘So would we, but you have to denuke,’” according to Trump. A U.S. official said earlier this year that the president had never spoken to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un directly, despite trading barbs on the international stage. But an official on the National Security Council told Yonhap News Agency that Trump was referring to a March 1 phone call with South Korean President Moon Jae In — not the North’s dictator Kim Jong Un. But an official on the National Security Council told Yonhap News Agency that Trump was referring to a March 1 phone call with South Korean President Moon Jae In — not the North’s dictator Kim Jong Un. (Reuters/Getty) “President Trump did not have a call with the North Koreans,” the official said. Moon briefed Trump on recent developments during the call and the two leaders agreed “any dialogue with North Korea must be conducted with the explicit and unwavering goal of complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization,” the official told Yonhap News. Paid Content by MM6 MAISON MARGIELA   On Tuesday, Moon sent a South Korean envoy to the North’s capital in the first meeting with Kim since his rise to power after his dictator father’s death in 2011. North Korea’s state media said Kim expressed his desire to “write a new history of national reunification” during a dinner Monday night that Seoul said lasted about four hours. This picture taken on March 5, 2018 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R) shaking hands with South Korean chief delegator Chung Eui-yong (C). (STR/AFP/Getty Images) Given the robust history of bloodshed, threats and animosity on the Korean Peninsula, there is considerable skepticism over whether the Koreas’ apparent warming relations will lead to lasting peace. North Korea, some believe, is trying to use improved ties with the South to weaken U.S.-led international sanctions and pressure, and to provide domestic propaganda fodder for Kim Jong Un. But each new development also raises the possibility that the rivals can use the momentum from the good feelings created during North Korea’s participation in the South’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics last month to ease a standoff over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and restart talks between Pyongyang and Washington.

  Image Image caption Jayda Fransen (left) and Paul Golding (right) had denied religiously-aggravated harassment   The leader and deputy leader of far-right group Britain First have been found guilty of religiously aggravated harassment. Paul Golding, 36, and Jayda Fransen, 32, were arrested over the distribution of leaflets and posting of online videos during a gang-rape trial. Fransen was convicted of three counts of religiously aggravated harassment. Golding was found guilty of one charge. Both were jailed at Folkestone Magistrates' Court. Fransen was handed a 36-week sentence and Golding 18 weeks. During their trial in January, the court heard they had targeted homes and people in Kent whom they believed were connected to a rape trial at Canterbury Crown Court where three Muslim men and a teenager were convicted of rape and jailed. The pair, both from Penge in south-east London, were arrested in May last year. 'Hostility' towards Muslims They denied a total of seven counts of harassment. Judge Justin Barron threw out three of the charges, while Fransen was found guilty of three and Golding of one. He told the court the pair were "well-known", "controversial" and "generate their own publicity", but his verdict was based "solely on admissible evidence heard in court". He said their words and actions "demonstrated hostility" towards Muslims and the Muslim faith. "I have no doubt it was their joint intention to use the facts of the case [in Canterbury] for their own political ends. "It was a campaign to draw attention to the race, religion and immigrant background of the defendants." Both Fransen and Golding were convicted on a joint charge of religiously aggravated harassment after an incident last May at 555 Pizza takeaway in Ramsgate, when Fransen banged on the windows and doors of the shop and screamed "paedophile" and "foreigner". However, in each case, they instead targeted innocent members of the public. They filmed the abuse and then released it on social media and through the Britain First website. They also posted offensive leaflets through the letterboxes of houses in the area where the defendants lived. Image Image caption Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen arrived at the court with Britain First supporters   Giving evidence, Fransen had denied being a racist and said she had carried out campaigns against people accused of sex offences, while Mr Golding told the court he had often acted as her cameraman. Fransen was convicted of abuse after visiting a house she wrongly believed to be the current address of Sershah Muslimyar, a defendant in the trial. She was also convicted of visiting the Kent home of another defendant, Tamin Rahmani, and shouting racist abuse through the front door while his pregnant partner Kelli Best was there. During sentencing Fransen spoke over the judge, saying: "This is a very sad day for British justice. Everything I did was for the children of this country and they are worth it." As Britain First supporters left the courtroom they hurled abuse at court staff and members of the press, shouting "no surrender".   Source: BBC News

It will no longer reference “inclusive” communities “free from discrimination.”   By Amanda Terkel   WASHINGTON ― Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is changing the mission statement of his agency, removing promises of inclusive and discrimination-free communities. In a March 5 memo addressed to HUD political staff, Amy Thompson, the department’s assistant secretary for public affairs, explained that the statement is being updated “in an effort to align HUD’s mission with the Secretary’s priorities and that of the Administration.” The new mission statement reads:  HUD’s mission is to ensure Americans have access to fair, affordable housing and opportunities to achieve self-sufficiency, thereby strengthening our communities and nation.  “An organization’s mission is never static,” Thompson wrote in the memo, which was shared with HuffPost by a HUD employee. “A mission statement describes an organization’s purpose, what it intends to do, and whom it intends to serve. Most importantly, an organization’s activities must be embodied in its mission.” She said the mission statement had been developed with input from both Carson and his deputy. It’s not clear whether the new language is final. Thompson asked the political staff to send along any “comments or suggestions.” The Carson mission statement is quite different from the current one, which is still up on HUD’s website. That one promises “strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all.” It also says these communities will be “free from discrimination”: HUD’s mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination, and transform the way HUD does business. HUD spokesman Raffi Williams said officials were considering “modest changes” to the mission statement, as has been done in previous administrations, to “make it a more clear and concise expression of the historic work this agency performs on behalf of the American people.” “You can be sure of one thing — any mission statement for this Department will embody the principle of fairness as a central element of everything that we do. HUD has been, is now, and will always be committed to ensuring inclusive housing, free from discrimination for all Americans,” Williams added.  HUD is not the only federal agency changing its mission under President Donald Trump. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director recently informed employees that it was removing the phrase “America’s promise as a nation of immigrants” from its mission statement.  Under President Barack Obama, HUD made advancing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer rights a priority. Shaun Donovan, who served as Obama’s first HUD secretary, was the first sitting Cabinet official in history to publicly support marriage equality. The agency worked to prohibit discrimination by HUD-funded housing authorities, recognized state and local laws that are more LGBTQ-friendly than federal ones and raised awareness of resources available to the LGBTQ community. Carson has a long history of making comments opposing equal rights for the LGBTQ community. New York Magazine recently reported that under Carson, HUD has pulled projects meant to help the LGBTQ community, which included online training materials for homeless shelters to ensure equal access for transgender people. “Self-sufficiency” has been a major focus of Carson’s. Last year, he said he didn’t want low-income Americans receiving federal assistance to feel too “comfortable” in their housing because it might make them say, “I’ll just stay here. They will take care of me.”  In December, he announced a new initiative that would put “EnVision Centers” near federal housing developments to help train people in character and leadership, educational advancement, economic empowerment, and health and wellness. Carson recently came under scrutiny for the revelation that his office was set to be redecorated with a $31,000 dining room set. The secretary has claimed he knew nothing about the order.    Source: HuffPost

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has cast doubt on his own agency’s ability to combat foreign governments. By Nick Visser   Muhammad Hamed / Reuters   The State Department has spent nothing of $120 million allocated to combat foreign influence in U.S. elections, according to The New York Times. The State Department has spent $0 of $120 million allocated by Congress to combat foreign efforts to influence U.S. elections, The New York Times reported on Sunday. Despite the massive budget, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has done little to thwart a sweeping influence campaign by the Russian government, and an office tasked with countering such efforts has no employees that even speak Russian due to an ongoing hiring freeze. Tillerson himself has continued to doubt the ability of his department to combat Russia, and just last month said that if Moscow wanted to meddle, it was “going to find ways to do that.” The report comes as American intelligence officials and lawmakers warn that the Kremlin is, once again, working to influence upcoming elections, using a coordinated campaign of social media trolls and disinformation in an attempt to sway voters. Congress directed the Pentagon to give $60 million to the State Department in late 2016 to combat such efforts. But the Times reported Tillerson took seven months deciding if he should spend the money, and when the agency finally asked for it, the fiscal year was almost over and the request denied. Another $60 million became available for the next fiscal year, but both State and the Department of Defense have been at loggerheads over how much money to send over. After media outlets, including the Times and Politico, began asking about the funding, the Pentagon said last Monday it would direct $40 million to the State Department sometime in April. The U.S. government also has vast resources and spends billions each year on cyberweapons, but those tools do little against trolling campaigns. Rather, State’s Global Engagement Center would use the funding to develop means to combat social media campaigns to influence voters. The Times notes the office could do so by crafting anti-propaganda projects, or amplifying pro-democracy voices. President Donald Trump has done little himself to combat Russian meddling. Rather, he’s moved to deny the influence of Moscow in his own election, despite many of the nation’s leading intelligence agencies saying otherwise. When Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians last month for such interference, Trump tweeted that his campaign “did nothing wrong” and once again emphasized that there was “no collusion!” Regardless of the president’s opinions, however, intelligence officials warned last month that Russia was using the internet once again to sow discord among American voters. “We expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokespeople and other means of influence to try to exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States,” Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, told the Senate in February. “There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.”

By Michal Kranz    President Donald Trump had one of his wildest weeks in months. Win McNamee/Getty Images   President Donald Trump has become increasingly emotionally unstable in recent weeks, and his friends blame this on his obsession with TV coverage and defensiveness in the face of perceived attacks against him. "The more pressure put on him and the more isolated he becomes, I think, his ability to do harm is going to increase," one person told the Washington Post. Trump has felt hampered by the Russia investigation and the scandals surrounding his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. His recently unstable demeanor was reflected in freewheeling policy decisions and behaviors this week. President Donald Trump's friends and confidantes are reportedly more worried about his emotional health than ever before. As Trump becomes ever more focused on perceived attacks against him, constantly obsesses over TV coverage, and lashes out at friends and foes alike in public, many close to him say he is approaching "pure madness," according to the Washington Post. Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey did not mince his words about Trump's current mental state. "I think the president is starting to wobble in his emotional stability and this is not going to end well," he told the Post. "Trump's judgment is fundamentally flawed, and the more pressure put on him and the more isolated he becomes, I think, his ability to do harm is going to increase." But others say things will likely get worse before they get better. "We haven't bottomed out," one official told the paper. Unprecedented pressure   Hope Hicks is known as the Trump whisperer. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images   The Trump administration has been hampered by a quickening Russia investigation led both by the House Intelligence Committee and special counsel Robert Mueller, who is reportedly working his way "up the food chain" and may be eyeing Trump himself. White House communications director Hope Hicks testified before the committee on Russian election interference on Tuesday, and then announced her resignation on Wednesday. One of the president's closest confidantes who's been with him since the beginning, Hicks' departure will be a huge loss for Trump, who has fewer and fewer close, trusted allies in his White House. Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner also lost his "top secret" security clearancethis week and gotten embroiled in several scandals simultaneously. In short, it's been a tough week for Trump. Chaos on the policy front Trump has recently undertaken significant policy measures, like the planned tariffs announced this week on steel and aluminum, without consulting or reviewing them with his advisers. A presidential ally who spoke with CNN said this week is "different" and that the president is spiraling. "This has real economic impact," the source said, referring to the market's rejection of the tariffs. "Something is very wrong." In the words of one official, Trump became "unglued" on Wednesday night. On Thursday, he invited business leaders to the White House without allowing the Secret Service to check their backgrounds and screen them for entry, NBC reports.   President Donald Trump is disappointed with his Attorney General Jeff Sessions.   On Wednesday, Trump had chided Republicans in a meeting for being "afraid of the NRA," and then invited members of the gun rights group to the White House the following night. Trump also escalated his public feud with attorney general Jeff Sessions, attacking him on Twitter Wednesday. Then a photo leaked of Sessions dining with a top official and deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Russia investigation since Sessions recused himself. The Post reported that Trump was "raging" about Sessions' disloyalty to friends the following morning. Former Rep. Timothy Roemer said in many ways, Trump's dark demeanor of late is exactly what voters asked for. "Many people voted for Trump in order to throw a hand grenade into national politics," the Indiana Democrat told The New York Times. "It seems he has done the same thing to Capitol Hill, and no one knows from a tweet to an exchange in an Oval Office meeting what's next."   Source: Business Insider

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