Washington, Jul 16 (AP/UNB) — Delegations from the U.S. and Russia are expected to meet this week to discuss arms control and the possibility of coaxing China into negotiating a new, three-way nuclear weapons pact, two senior administration officials said Monday.
The New START treaty, the last major arms-control treaty remaining between the U.S. and Russia, expires in 2021. There has been talk of negotiating an extension to the existing treaty, but the White House thinks the next generation of arms control must include China.
China has nuclear weapons, ballistic missile capabilities and the know-how to make chemical and biological weapons — and it is updating its nuclear arsenal. China has signed various international weapons agreements, but none limiting nuclear weapons.
New START restricts both the U.S. and Russia to 1,550 deployed strategic nuclear warheads on a maximum of 700 deployed intercontinental ballistic missiles and strategic bombers.
Daryl Kimball, director of the Arms Control Association, has advocated for a five-year extension of New START, saying there is no chance a new agreement adding China can be negotiated before the treaty expires in 2021.
"It would malpractice to discard New START in the hopes of negotiating a more comprehensive, ambitious nuclear arms control agreement with Russia and China and getting it ratified and into force," according to Kimball, who accuses the Trump administration of dithering for more than a year before beginning talks.
Before the Group of 20 summit last month in Japan, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he planned to push President Donald Trump for an extension to New START. Putin said his nation was ready to agree to an extension, but that Russia had not seen any initiative from the Americans even though the treaty expires in 2021.
At the same time, Russia also has expressed an interest in multilateral arms control deals, according to one of the administration officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the issue ahead of the talks Wednesday in Geneva.
The senior administration officials said any comprehensive dialogue about the thorny issues of arms control has been made difficult by a series of actions by Moscow: interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, poisoning a former spy and his daughter in Britain, capping the size of the U.S. Embassy in Russia, and seizing Ukrainian vessels.
John Sullivan, deputy secretary of state, will lead the American delegation comprising officials from the State Department, National Security Council, Defense Department, Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Security Agency. The eight or nine members of the U.S. team will meet with a similar-size delegation from Russia led by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.
The latest talks are being held just months after the Trump administration pulled the plug on a separate nuclear arms treaty with Russia. Washington accused Moscow of violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with "impunity" by deploying banned missiles. Moscow denied it was in violation and has accused the United States of resisting its efforts to resolve the dispute.
Democrats in Congress and some arms control advocates criticized Trump's decision as opening the door to an arms race, but Trump said the United States cannot be the only country in the world unilaterally bound by the treaty.
China's military has grown significantly since the late 1980s and the pact had prevented the U.S. from deploying weapons to counter some of those being developed in Beijing.
Washington, July 15 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump is requiring products "Made in America" to be made using more American components if they are to be used by the government.
Trump says American-made products used for government projects currently can contain 50 percent foreign components and still be considered American. He signed an executive order Monday boosting the percentage of American components to 75 percent.
The president signed the order during an annual White House "Made in America" showcase. Manufacturers from all 50 states were represented.
Trump says the administration is "heeding the wisdom" of the nation's founders by "restoring our economic independence and reawakening our industrial might."
Trump also discussed steps the administration is taking to boost the U.S. manufacturing industry. The trade deficit last year widened to a decade-long high of $621 billion.
Washington, Jul 15 (AP/UNB) — Injecting race into his criticism of liberal Democrats, President Donald Trump said four congresswomen of color should go back to the "broken and crime infested" countries they came from, ignoring the fact that all of the women are American citizens and three were born in the U.S. His attack drew a searing condemnation from Democrats who labeled the remarks racist and breathtakingly divisive.
Even as White House officials moved Monday to defend his incendiary weekend tweets, Trump refused to apologize and asked on Twitter when "the Radical Left Congresswomen" would "apologize to our Country, the people of Israel and even to the Office of the President, for the foul language they have used, and the terrible things they have said."
"So many people are angry at them & their horrible & disgusting actions!" he wrote.
Trump had starkly injected race into his criticism of liberal Democrats over the weekend, drawing searing condemnation from Democrats who labeled the remarks racist and breathtakingly divisive.
Asked whether Trump's comments were racist, Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, defended Trump, telling reporters he had been responding to "very specific" comments made by Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who was born in Somalia, and not making a "universal statement."
But Trump didn't make that distinction in his Monday tweets. He cited "Congresswomen" — an almost-certain reference to a group of women known as "the squad" that includes Omar, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.
"I don't think that the president's intent any way is racist," said Short, repeatedly pointing to Trump's decision to choose Elaine Chao, who was born outside the country, as his transportation secretary.
"The administration is welcoming of all nationalities into the United States," he said.
Even as Short spoke, Trump, who has a long history of making racist remarks, continued to fan the flames, tweeting, "If Democrats want to unite around the foul language & racist hatred spewed from the mouths and actions of these very unpopular & unrepresentative Congresswomen, it will be interesting to see how it plays out."
Omar ignited a bipartisan uproar in Washington several months ago when she suggested that members of Congress support Israel for money, while Tlaib riled up a supportive crowd by calling the president a profanity and predicting that Trump would be removed from office.
Following a familiar script, Republicans remained largely silent after Trump's Sunday morning broadsides that caused Democrats to set aside their internal rifts to rise up in a united chorus against the president.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump wants to "make America white again." Ocasio-Cortez, after jousting for days with Pelosi, said Trump "can't conceive of an America that includes us."
"Mr. President, the country I 'come from,' & the country we all swear to, is the United States," she tweeted, adding that "You rely on a frightened America for your plunder." Omar also addressed herself directly to Trump in a tweet, writing: "You are stoking white nationalism (because) you are angry that people like us are serving in Congress and fighting against your hate-filled agenda."
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, summed up the Democratic response: "Racial arsonist strikes again. Shut. Your. Reckless. Mouth."
With his tweet, Trump inserted himself further into a rift between Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez, just two days after he offered an unsolicited defense of the Democratic speaker. Pelosi has been seeking to minimize Ocasio-Cortez's influence in the House Democratic caucus in recent days, prompting Ocasio-Cortez to accuse Pelosi of trying to marginalize women of color.
On Sunday, Trump's tone took a turn.
"So interesting to see 'Progressive' Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run," he tweeted.
"Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done."
He added: "These places need your help badly, you can't leave fast enough. I'm sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!"
The attacks may have been meant to widen the divides within the Democrat caucus, which has been riven by internal debate over how far left to go in countering Trump and over whether to proceed with impeachment proceedings against the president. Instead, the president's tweets, which evoked the trope of telling black people to go back to Africa, brought Democrats together.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential front-runner, tweeted Sunday that Trump "continues to spew hateful rhetoric, sow division, and stoke racial tensions for his own political gain."
"Let's be clear about what this vile comment is: A racist and xenophobic attack on Democratic congresswomen," tweeted Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate.
Another 2020 contender, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, tweeted at the president: "This is racist. These congresswomen are every bit as American as you — and represent our values better than you ever will."
Few Republicans weighed in on the president's comments. Congressional leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, did not respond to requests for comment, nor did Sen. Tim. Scott of South Carolina, the only Republican black senator.
Trump appeared unbowed Sunday night when he returned to Twitter to say it was "so sad" to see Democrats sticking up for the women. "If the Democrat Party wants to continue to condone such disgraceful behavior," he tweeted, "then we look even more forward to seeing you at the ballot box in 2020!"
It was far from the first time that Trump has been accused of holding racist views.
In his campaign kickoff in June 2015, Trump deemed many Mexican immigrants "rapists." In 2017, he said there good people on "both sides" of the clash in Charlottesville, Virginia, between white supremacists and anti-racist demonstrators that left one counter-protester dead. Last year, during a private White House meeting on immigration, Trump wondered why the United States was admitting so many immigrants from "shithole countries" like African nations.
Repeatedly, Trump has painted arriving immigrants as an "infestation" and he has been slow in condemning acts of violence committed by white supremacists. And he launched his political career with false claims that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.
Despite his history of racist remarks, Trump has paid little penalty in his own party.
Though a broad array of Republicans did speak out against his reaction to Charlottesville, they have largely held their tongues otherwise, whether it be on matter of race or any other Trump provocation. Fearful of his Twitter account and sweeping popularity among Republican voters, GOP lawmakers have largely tried to ignore the provocative statements.
Sen. Kamala Harris, a Democratic presidential hopeful from California, tweeted, "Let's call the president's racist attack exactly what it is: un-American."
Ocasio-Cortez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, was born in the Bronx, New York, and raised in suburban Westchester County.
Pressley, the first black woman elected to the House from Massachusetts, was born in Cincinnati.
Omar, the first Somali native elected to Congress and one of its first Muslim women, was born in Somalia but spent much of her childhood in a Kenyan refugee camp as civil war tore apart her home country. She immigrated to the United States at age 12, teaching herself English by watching American TV and eventually settling with her family in Minneapolis.
Tlaib was born in Detroit.
Chicago, July 14 (AP/UNB) — Religious leaders across the country used their pulpits Sunday to quell concerns in immigrant communities and spring into action as nationwide immigration enforcement sweeps loomed.
A Chicago priest talked during his homily about the compassion of a border activist accused of harboring illegal immigrants, while another city church advertised a "deportation defense workshop." Dozens of Houston churches offered sanctuary to anyone afraid of being arrested. In Miami, activists handed out fliers outside churches to help immigrants know their rights in case of an arrest.
"We're living in a time where the law may permit the government to do certain things but that doesn't necessarily make it right," said the Rev. John Celichowski of St. Clare de Montefalco Parish in Chicago. His nearly 1,000-member congregation is 90 percent Hispanic and mostly immigrant.
While federal immigration officials were mum on details, agents had been expected start a coordinated action Sunday targeting roughly 2,000 people, including families, with final deportation orders in 10 major cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Miami.
Activists and city officials reported some U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement activity in New York and Houston a day earlier, but it was unclear if it was part of the same operation. An ICE spokesman didn't return a request for comment Sunday.
The renewed threat of mass deportations has put immigrant communities even more on edge since Trump took office on a pledge to deport millions living in the country illegally.
In Los Angeles, the Rev. Fred Morris looked out over his congregation at the North Hills United Methodist Hispanic Mission and was relieved to see everyone who usually attends the early Sunday morning service. He had been worried many would stay home, fearing Trump's threat of immigration sweeps.
"Everybody is nervous," Morris said. "They are angry, very angry at being terrorized by our president."
New York, Jul 14 (AP/UNB) — On the anniversary of a 1977 blackout that left most of New York City without power, a massive power outage on a hot Saturday night in Manhattan preemptively brought the curtain down on Broadway shows and packed streets with people wielding cellphones as flashlights amid a cacophony of sirens and horns from stalled traffic.
Underground, the scene was similarly in disarray as the blackout affecting 73,000 customers for more than three hours hit the subway system. Con Edison CEO John McAvoy said a problem at a substation caused the 6:47 p.m. power failure, which stretched 30 blocks from Times Square to 72nd Street and Broadway and spread to Rockefeller Center. Electricity was restored to customers and businesses in midtown Manhattan and the Upper West Side by around midnight, according to a statement from the utility.
McAvoy said the exact cause of the blackout would not be known until an investigation is completed.
The outage affected the entire subway system, closing four Manhattan stations to the public — Columbus Circle, Rockefeller Center, Hudson Yards and Fifth Avenue at 53rd Street. But Metropolitan Transportation Agency spokesman Maxwell Young said train operators were able to manually change the signals and bring at least one car into stations so passengers could disembark.
New York City's Emergency Management Department said the A, C, D, E, F, M, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 trains had resumed running in both directions by around 2 a.m. Sunday, following service disruptions from the blackout. Multiple street lanes between the Hudson River and Fifth Avenue had also reopened by 1:30 a.m.
The temperature was in the low 80s as the sun set just before 8:30 p.m., treating those who had streamed into the street to one of the city's famed "Manhattanhenge" sunsets. While hot, the temperature didn't reach the highs of Manhattan in July, which often challenges the city's power grid.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised emergency officials for their response to the blackout and said no injuries were reported, but called the outage "unacceptable."
"You just can't have a power outage of this magnitude in this city" Cuomo said. "It is too dangerous, the potential for public safety risk and chaos is too high, we just can't have a system that does that, it's that simple at the end of the day."
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was campaigning on the presidential trail in Iowa when the power outage struck. His press secretary, Freddi Goldstein, tweeted just before 10 p.m. that de Blasio cut short his Iowa visit and was headed back to the city.
The mayor commended New Yorkers for handling the blackout "with that trademark NYC grit and toughness" in a tweet.
For hours before the power flicked back on, doormen stood with flashlights in the darkened entrances of upscale apartment buildings along Central Park West, directing residents up flights of stairs, with all elevators out. Police and deployed troopers directed traffic at intersections, while people in the neighborhood known as Hell's Kitchen took it upon themselves to direct traffic as stoplights and walking signals went dark.
In the theater district, marquees darkened just before evening performances were set to begin. Most Broadway musicals and plays canceled their Saturday evening shows, though some cast members staged impromptu performances in the street.
Jennifer Lopez's concert at Madison Square Garden was cut short in the middle of her fourth song of the night, although officials at Penn Station below used backup generators to keep the lights on. Madison Square Garden, Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts were all evacuated. Lopez later tweeted that she would reschedule the stop on her "It's My Party" tour for Monday night at the same venue.