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Tuesday
Sep182018

South Korean president lands in North Korea for latest summit

Pyeongyang Press Corps/Getty Images(PYONGYANG, North Korea) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un greeted South Korean President Moon Jae-in with a lavish welcome ceremony Tuesday at Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, as the two leaders kicked off their third summit this year.

Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, hugged the first couple from the South at the red-carpeted airfield as a crowd of thousands lined up to cheer for them -- some holding national flags, some holding unified-peninsula flags and some holding colorful plastic bouquets.

North Korea's ceremonial guards honored the South's delegation. Kim's influential sister, Kim Yo Jong, first vice department director of the central committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, also was on hand to escort the visitors.

Moon flew to Pyongyang Tuesday for the third inter-Korean summit with Kim.

The South Korean delegation, which was about 200 people from all walks of life, including businessmen and musicians, landed around 10 a.m. local time.

Moon and Kim rode in a lavish parade, standing together and waving to the crowd from an open-top black Mercedes limousine. Tens of thousands of citizens dressed in colorful national costumes and waving flags and paper-flower bouquets lined up in the streets chanting “Unification!”

The two leaders arrived at the Baekhwawon guesthouse, had separate luncheons, and then began the first of a three-day summit talk.

“You traveled to best places around the world but our accommodation is plain compared to developed countries,” Kim told Moon just before going into closed-door meetings. “Though our standards may be low, I hope you understand our efforts with full heart that we did our best to prepare the best accommodation and schedule [for this trip].”

A priority on the agenda is to ease military tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Im Jong-seok, the South Korean presidential office's chief of staff, said at a press conference Monday. The two leaders will spend considerable time reviewing in detail the progress of their joint agreement made in April and then draw up a "concrete and practical" agreement.

Moon also will focus on bridging the gap between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump regarding denuclearization. So far, the U.S. wants concrete steps by the North to prove denuclearization, for example, a "list" of nuclear facilities. On the other hand, North Korea wants a regime-security guarantee that includes declaring the Korean War over and signing a non-aggression peace treaty.

It's "difficult to have an optimistic outlook" on the progress of denuclearization, although it will depend on the honest conversations between Moon and Kim to reach such an agreement, Im said.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep172018

Strongest storm recorded this year leaves path of destruction across Asia

iStock/Thinkstock(HONG KONG) -- Although they are used to weathering several typhoons every year, Hong Kongers woke up shell-shocked on Monday after Super Typhoon Mangkhut, the strongest storm on the planet recorded this year, tore through the city on Sunday, injuring over 300 people but killing none. Even after such a devastating storm, most people went back to work on Monday, and the stock markets opened for trading.

Despite weakening after first hitting the Philippines and killing at least 65 people, the Hong Kong Observatory confirmed Mangkhut was the most powerful storm to hit the southern Chinese territory since records have been kept beginning in 1946.

Hong Kong avoided a direct hit and escaped without any fatalities, but Mangkhut’s ferocious winds and storm surge uprooted more than 1500 trees and broke hundreds of windows across the city.

Record-setting storm surges of more than 11 feet were measured in some parts of Hong Kong, while huge waves crashed into waterfront apartments. Low elevation and coastal neighborhoods like the beach town of Shek O and waterfront housing estate Heng Fa Chuen experienced flooding.

Windows across Hong Kong were blown out by wind gusts that were recorded at speeds of up to 120 mph. Most dramatically, dozens of windows of the One Harbourfront complex that juts out into Hong Kong’s famed Victoria Harbor were destroyed. Online video taken during the storm showed reams of paper being blown out from the building.

Hong Kong’s normally secure and bendable bamboo-scaffolding used in construction could not withstand the force of the winds, and many scaffolds were ripped off of buildings, crashing into the streets below.

The Hong Kong Government made the call to lower the storm signal early Monday morning to allow the stock market to open for trading, meaning that Hong Kongers were also expected to go to work.

Public transportation was not running at full capacity as numerous bus routes and light rail services were suspended due to debris, causing major crowding at transportation hubs across the city.

In a press conference Monday, trade union leader Lee Cheuk-yan criticized Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam for not giving workers a day off to recover from the typhoon.

Terence Chong, an Economics professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong told the South China Morning Post that if the entire city had not worked on Monday, the economic loss could amount to about $7.3 billion Hong Kong dollars, the equivalent of $930 million U.S. dollars.

What was left of Mangkhut went on to wreak havoc on neighboring Macau on Sunday, which suspended normal casino operations for the first time ever. The storm later made landfall in China’s Guangdong province, where it has killed at least four people.

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Monday
Sep172018

Global warming's melting of polar ice allows 1st commercial container ship to cross Arctic Ocean

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Maritime history was made this month with the passage of the first commercial container ship through the Northern Sea Route of the Arctic Ocean, a route made possible by the melting of Arctic ice.

The Venta Maersk, a new ship loaded with Russian fish and South Korean electronics, left Vladivostok, Russia, at the beginning of September and is expected to arrive in Bremerhaven, Germany, next week, after successfully navigating ice-plagued seas from the Bering Straits north.

The waters at the top of the world have warmed rapidly over the last four decades, at nearly twice the rate of warming in the rest of the world, according to the Arctic Council, an international group that studies the region. The United Nations' panel on climate change says the dramatic warming is unprecedented in human history.

Only a decade ago shipping experts all but ruled out traveling across the Arctic Ocean.

The Venta Maersk, which has protections built in for moving through ice, is owned by the largest container shipping agency in the world, Danish company A.P. Moller Maersk. With its successful Arctic passage, commercial shipping agencies are likely to consider what kind of market might be developed using the Northern Sea Route.

Traveling across the Arctic Ocean can reduce ships' travel time 40 percent by allowing them to go north instead of around southern Asia and through the Suez Canal or past the Cape of Good Hope in Africa. That could mean lower fuel costs, fewer canal transit fees, reduced danger from pirates, and less wear and tear on the vessel.

But commercial customers also demand reliability on delivery dates, and the Northern Sea Route could close quickly if weather suddenly changed, potentially causing a container ship to get stuck in ice until rescued by bigger ice-breakers remains a possibility. Such unpredictability has until now led commercial shipping companies to stay away.

Chinese and Japanese shippers are among those exploring the possible benefits of Arctic Ocean crossings, Frederic Lasserre, a professor at the Universite Laval in Quebec and expert on Arctic shipping, told the EUObserver newspaper.

China has already announced an ambitious plan to create a “polar Silk Road” by developing shipping lanes opened up by global warming. The Arctic Shipping Forum says 300 ships have used the Northern Sea Route, but the Venta Maersk is the first container vessel for commercial shipping to cross.

"In the last two, three years the ice melt in summer has been so extensive that developments are getting very hard to predict. I will not rule out that some shipping agencies may reach the necessary level of flexibility so that they can offer regular container service in the North East Passage during summer within the next 10 years," said Lasserre.

NOAA

The Venta Maersk is one of seven new vessels that the Maersk company is building for possible use on this route. Each new ship is 650 feet long, 115 feet wide and capable of carrying 3,600 shipping containers through waters frozen with 3 feet of ice.

But the company is so far downplaying the historic trip as a one-off.

"The trial passage will enable us to explore the operational feasibility of container shipping through the Northern Sea Route and to collect data. Currently, we do not see the Northern Sea Route as a commercial alternative to our existing network which is defined by our customers' demand, trading patterns and population centers," a statement from A.P. Moller Maersk says.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep172018

Australia investigates sewing needles in strawberries as consumers advised to cut fruit before eating

iStock/Thinkstock(BRISBANE, Australia) -- Australian authorities have ordered a review into the handling of strawberries after they say fruit containing sewing needles turned up in supermarkets across the country.

Annastacia Palaszczuk, premier of Queensland state, also offered a reward of roughly $72,000 for information leading to the arrest of anyone responsible.

“Whoever is behind this is not just putting families at risk across Queensland and the rest of Australia – they are putting an entire industry at risk,” she said in a statement.

No suspects have been identified.

The first reported case of strawberry contamination sparked national fears last week. Hoani van Dorp went to the hospital with "severe abdominal pain" after swallowing half a sewing needle lodged in a strawberry, according to friend Joshua Gane.

Gane made the allegation in a Facebook post that has been shared thousands of times.

Authorities have not confirmed any injuries or the number of strawberries that have been affected.

The Queensland Strawberry Growers Association described the incident as “extremely disheartening and troubling.”

“Strawberries were interfered with between the time they were packed and the time they were purchased,” it said, also advising purchasers to cut their fruit in half before eating for “peace of mind."

Contaminated strawberries have now been found in supermarkets Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp., which reported that strawberry growers are using metal detectors to scan their fruit.

Coles and Aldi supermarkets have reportedly pulled all strawberries from their shelves while two of New Zealand’s biggest food companies -- Countdown and Foodstuffs -- have reportedly stopped importing Australian strawberries.

The Queensland Health Department has advised anyone who has bought Berry Obsession and Berry Licious strawberries to destroy or return them after they were pulled from shelves. At least six major brands have been affected, according to the Guardian newspaper.

Minister for Health Greg Hunt announced on Twitter that regulatory body Food Standards Australia New Zealand will investigate.

He tweeted, “I urge all Australians be vigilant for potential contaminants.”

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Saturday
Sep152018

2018 World's Strongest Storm: Typhoon Mangkhut barrels through Philippines toward China

Jes Aznar/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The strongest storm on Earth in 2018 barreled through the northern Philippines before dawn on Saturday, bringing with it ferocious winds and torrential rain.

Typhoon Mangkhut, known locally as Ompong, made landfall in Cagayan province on northeast Luzon island at 1:40 a.m. local time, according to the country's weather agency, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration. It's estimated that the tropical cyclone put at least five million people at risk.

Mangkhut, considered the strongest storm on the planet so far this year, was the 15th to hit the Philippines. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center U.S. Navy-U.S. Air Force command, located in Hawaii, had downgraded Mangkhut from a "super typhoon" prior to landfall, when it had peak wind speeds of 180 mph.

Mangkhut weakened slightly as it reached Luzon's mountainous coastline early Saturday morning; however, it was still packing winds equivalent to a Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale.

Its tropical storm-force winds extended 550 miles across, according to the country's weather agency, making it nearly double the size of Florence, the hurricane-turned-tropical storm that made landfall over the southeastern United States on Friday.

Mangkhut's high winds churned rough seas as it moved across Luzon, producing waves nearly 30 feet high, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. The heavy rain triggered landslides that reportedly claimed the lives of several people in the area.

Images from hard-hit areas in Cagayan province show countless downed trees and toppled power lines, blown out buildings and debris strewn across roadways.

Global nonprofit Oxfam said it deployed teams of responders to the area to assess the damage and provide disaster relief.

"The situation is very bad," Oxfam's April Abello-Bulanadi said in a statement from Tuguegarao City. "The winds are howling and we can feel the destructive force of Ompong. The roof of the hotel where the response team convened has been blown away. We are on the third floor. The walls and ceiling are shaking. It has been raining nonstop."

Mangkhut has been tracked northwestward at about 16 mph over the past six hours, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center.

The cyclone is forecast to make another landfall over southeastern China, just west of Hong Kong on Sunday, and will ultimately dissipate over the rugged terrain.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Sep142018

South Korean president to fly to North Korea for first time to continue nuclear talks

iStock/Thinkstock(SEOUL) -- South Korea's president, Moon Jae-in, is expected to fly to Pyongyang for the first time next week in hopes of accelerating international efforts to denuclearize North Korea.

"At this stage, I believe it is most important to put a complete end to military tensions between North and South, or possibility of military conflict, or war threat," Moon told reporters Thursday.

It will be the third summit this year between Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The first two meetings -- in April and May -- took place at Panmunjom, which separates the two Koreas.

Moon and the South Korean delegation will fly directly to Pyongyang using the Western air route, Moon's office said, adding that an advance team will take the land route to Pyongyang on Sunday for preparations. Next week's summit is set to take place from Tuesday to Thursday. Key parts of the three-day trip will also be broadcast live.

At the top of the agenda is defusing military tensions, Moon said during a meeting Thursday with his special advisers.

Moon is also eager to mediate differences between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump in order to bring the denuclearization process back on track. The third inter-Korean summit has been planned as denuclearization discussion between the United States and North Korea have faltered.

"I believe finding an intersecting point to restart the dialogue and let denuclearization to take place promptly, is the role [South Korea] must serve in the middle," Moon said.

Moon Chung-in, an adviser in the South Korean presidential office, also explained during a briefing with foreign journalists that the president will want his North Korean counterpart to seek "bold and imaginative approaches" that go beyond just freezing of the North's nuclear program and involve a declaration, inspection and verification process.

"President Moon will be placing the utmost impetus on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Therefore, he will try to play role of a facilitator or a mediator between Pyongyang and Washington," the top adviser told reporters.

Next week’s summit will mark the fifth inter-Korean meeting. The late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il invited South Korean President Kim Dae-jung to Pyongyang in 2000 and Roh Moo-hyun in 2007.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Sep142018

Bin Laden raid commander resigns from Pentagon board after criticizing Trump

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- Retired Adm. William "Bill" McRaven, who led the mission to kill Osama bin Laden, resigned from his post on the Pentagon's Defense Innovation Board last month, just days after he publicly criticized President Donald Trump, the Pentagon confirmed Thursday.

"I can confirm that Admiral (Ret.) William H. McRaven resigned from the Defense Innovation Board, effective Aug. 20, 2018,” Heather Babb, a spokesperson for the Pentagon, told ABC News on Thursday. "The department appreciates his service and contribution on the board."

The Defense Innovation Board is an independent advisory committee to the Pentagon specializing in issues related to technology and innovation.

His resignation was first reported by Defense News on Thursday.

The resignation came four days after he criticized the president for revoking the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, whom McRaven called "one of the finest public servants" he’d "ever known."

"Few Americans have done more to protect this country than John. He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don’t know him," McRaven, the former head of Special Operations Command, wrote in an op-ed for The Washington Post last month. "Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency."

"Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation," McRaven added in the op-ed.

The retired admiral, who led the Joint Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014, noted that he had criticized Trump in the past and hoped to see Trump "rise to the occasion and become the leader this great nation needs."

"A good leader tries to embody the best qualities of his or her organization. A good leader sets the example for others to follow," McRaven wrote. "A good leader always puts the welfare of others before himself or herself. Your leadership, however, has shown little of these qualities."

McRaven oversaw the 2011 mission that killed the former head of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, in Pakistan.

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Thursday
Sep132018

China joins the close of Russia's spectacular 'war games'

Satellite image (c)2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company(TSUGOL, Russia) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin Thursday watched a huge simulated battle put on by Russian and Chinese troops, as he attended the largest so-called war games in his country’s history.

Putin attended the climax of the Vostok or “East” 2018 exercises that have been held across Russia’s far eastern regions this week.

After the mock battle, Putin oversaw a vast combined military parade of Russian and Chinese troops, who joined the exercise for the first time.

The military spectacle was a remarkable instance of Russian and Chinese cooperation and one that seemed intended as a coordinated attempt to promote both countries’ ambitions to be dominant global powers.

The elaborate display took place at Tsugol training range close to the Russian city of Chita, roughly 3,600 miles from Moscow. There, just north of Mongolia, a neat, square battle camp had been constructed, divided into Russian and Chinese sections.

Russia’s military has said the Vostok drills are of unprecedented scale, involving 300,000 troops and over 36,000 tanks.

Many experts have said those numbers are heavily exaggerated, however. But Thursday’s exercise was clearly intended to impress with size. Dozens of helicopters and hundreds of tanks took part in the mock battle.

The scenario called for mixed Russian and Chinese forces to fight over a river crossing. Watched by Putin from an observation tower, waves of helicopters launched the battle.

Chinese fighting vehicles drove into the field, as Russian Ka-52 and Mi-24 gunships strafed. Forty-two warplanes later joined the bombardment, along with artillery and multiple-rocket launchers. Ash and acrid smoke from the blast floated back onto the spectators.

The display seemed larger than that at the Zapad war games last year that alarmed parts of Europe.

More symbolically striking than the battle was the parade recalling those that Putin watches in Red Square but here was held on an empty plain.

Hundreds of tanks and trucks stood in massed ranks, as dozens more paraded past. A band played mostly Russian (or rather Soviet) marches.

Standing on a grandstand, Putin— who had flown to the exercises after hosting China’s president Xi Jing Ping in Vladivostok— hailed the troops for ensuring a common “Eurasian security”.

“Russia is a peace-loving country,” Putin said, adding it could never have aggressive plans. But it would continue to develop its military, he said, to be able to defend itself and its allies.

A Chinese commander, Lt. Gen. Sho Yuanmin, speaking to journalists afterward, said military cooperation was now constant between Russia and China, and enthused over the opportunity to learn from Russia’s more experienced troops.

But experts are skeptical of how deep the warm feeling goes, noting both sides, in reality, are wary after decades of rivalry that saw the countries almost fight a war in 1969.

The military power displayed was also thinner than it was presented, some experts said.

Considerable effort had gone into the spectacle. Tanks and trucks had been parked artfully in lines across the hills behind the main parade to give the impression that the army stretched on and on.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Sep132018

Russians accused of poisoning Skripals say they were in Salisbury to visit cathedral

RT(SALISBURY, England) -- Two men accused of poisoning ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury have denied carrying out the attack and said they were just visiting the town to see the cathedral in an interview with Kremlin-funded news channel RT.

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov confirmed they are the men accused of carrying out the attack in the interview with RT. Boshirov also called on the U.K. to apologize for the allegations, claiming that their lives had been "turned upside down."

"We’re afraid of going out. We fear for ourselves, our lives and lives of our loved ones," Boshirov told RT.

Petrov and Boshirov claim to have been visiting the "wonderful town" of Salisbury, England, to see its famous cathedral. But British Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement to the House of Commons last week that the Russian nationals were wanted for the attempted murder of Sergei and Yulia Skripal and attending police officer Nick Bailey on March 4.

The British government believes the men sprayed the front door of the Skripals' front door with the highly toxic Novichok nerve agent before returning to London and flying to Moscow that same evening. The Skripals were found collapsed on a park bench at 4:15 p.m. Both survived after long stays in the hospital.

Speaking at an economic forum in Eastern Russia on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russian authorities were aware of who the suspects were, but dismissed British claims they were linked to the GRU, Russia's foreign military intelligence agency. They were "civilians," Putin said, before encouraging them to come forward and speak to the media.

British police said in a statement that on March 3 -- the day before the Skripals fell ill -- the two men were on a "reconnaissance trip."

In the interview with RT, Boshirov denied those claims, saying they had traveled that day to see Stonehenge, but "couldn’t do it" because "the town was covered by this slush. We got wet, took the nearest train and came back to London."

Boshirov added that maybe they did approach Skripal's house, "but we don’t know where is it located."

When asked about the Nina Ricci perfume bottle allegedly used to spray the Novichok nerve agent on the Skripals front door, Boshirov said the pair didn't have it.

"Isn't it silly for decent lads to have women’s perfume? The customs are checking everything; they would have questions as to why men have women’s perfume in their luggage. We didn’t have it," Boshirov told RT.

The pair were interviewed by Margarita Simonyan, RT's editor-in-chief. Simonyan tweeted in Russian earlier that Petrov and Boshirov had "refused to give interviews to anyone else, not even our journalists, as they said, they know me on the air and read my social networks and therefore, again they said they trust me."

After a six-month investigation, Scotland Yard released a detailed account of the pair's alleged movements from March 2 to March 4.

CCTV footage shows Petrov and Boshirov, who traveled on Russian passports and were previously believed to have used aliases, arriving in the U.K. on Friday evening on an Aeroflot flight into London's Gatwick airport. On Sunday, images show the pair in Salisbury town center, near the Skripals' house.

In the House of Commons last week, May said the attack was "almost certainly" approved "at a senior level of the Russian state." An Interpol red notice and a European arrest warrant were issued, but extradition is impossible as it is forbidden by the Russian state.

A spokesperson for the U.K. Home Office said the men are the "prime suspects."

"The Police and Crown Prosecution Service have identified these men as the prime suspects in relation to the attack in Salisbury," the spokesperson said. "The government is clear these men are officers of the Russian military intelligence service -- the GRU -- who used a devastatingly toxic, illegal chemical weapon on the streets of our country. We have repeatedly asked Russia to account for what happened in Salisbury in March. Today -- just as we have seen throughout -- they have responded with obfuscation and lies."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Sep132018

Sen. Chris Murphy: U.S. 'turning a blind eye to likely war crimes' in Yemen

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Congress late Tuesday that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are taking "demonstrable actions" to minimize civilian casualties in their war against Houthi rebels in Yemen -- in a certification required by law.

But to critics, his words are, to a certain extent, refuted by the State Department's own report, an unclassified version that was obtained by ABC News.

The certification from Pompeo means that the U.S. will continue to assist the Saudi-led coalition with mid-air refueling for its war planes. But it comes amid mounting pressure from Congress and the public to withdraw the U.S. support that includes not just refueling jets, but also sharing intelligence and selling advanced weaponry.

Saudi Arabia and UAE have been fighting in Yemen since 2015, when the Houthis -- an Iranian-backed Shia group -- took control of the government in the capital, Sanaa, and ousted the government. A brutal civil war, the conflict has raged for three years now with allegations of human rights abuses and war crimes on both sides -- but, in particular, the Saudis, Emiratis and their Yemeni government allies are responsible for "most direct civilian casualties," according to a United Nations report last month that accused them of targeting residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, civilian boats and even medical facilities.

The backlash in the U.S. to the American military's support for both countries led to a provision in this year's defense spending bill that required the administration to brief Congress within 30 days on the war, and certify that the Saudis and Emiratis were taking steps to minimize civilian casualties and implement a peace process.

But while the State Department report said the two countries are in fact "taking appropriate steps to avoid disproportionate harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure," it's unclear to which recent steps it's referring.

Outrage has grown over the coalition's bombing campaign after it hit a school bus and killed more than 40 children and several adults on Aug. 9, and then dozens of children and women in another bombardment a week later.

In particular, the report said the Saudis "incorporated a no-strike list into its target development procedures." But the Saudis have lauded their no-strike list since at least May 2017, when a Saudi embassy press release listed it as one of "several steps" taken to "create a more thorough vetting process for target selection." The list included 33,000 targets at the time, the embassy said.

The State Department report also references a U.S. government course to the Royal Saudi Air Force "that included training on the law of armed conflict and air-to-ground targeting processes," but that course was delivered in May 2017, according to the report.

Instead, the report itself admits "recent civilian casualty incidents indicate insufficient implementation of reforms and targeting practices."

A State Department official would not comment on the contents of the certification report but did point to the coalition's investigation of the Aug. 9 bombing.

"That investigation led to the coalition admitting it made errors," the official told ABC News, and the coalition is now "reviewing its rules of engagement, will hold those at fault accountable and compensate victims of the Aug. 9 air strikes in Sa'ada that tragically killed children on a school bus."

But the department's report also showed that, so far, "investigations have not yielded accountability measures."

Critics have said the administration is loath to criticize the Saudis, even in a spat between Canada and the kingdom over human rights.

"They've got a bad set of facts, but they don't care about that. They are singularly focused on having the Saudis be a buffer to Iran, and that has been this administration's policy since the president took office," Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., told ABC News. "The casualty of that is Yemeni civilians."

The Saudis, however, said they have taken steps, including finding fault during their investigation of the school bus bombing. They have also maintained that the Houthis are a legitimate threat to Saudis, pointing to rocket attacks, including a handful that have come close to Riyadh's airport.

"What Pompeo said is actually accurate, despite all the naysayers. A huge effort is being made to improve targeting and work to avoid such accidents, and the U.S. is very aware of that," Ali Shihabi, founder of the Arabia Foundation in Washington, which has close ties to the kingdom, said in an email.

By Wednesday, the Trump administration was obligated to provide a briefing to Congress on the conflict, including the successes of the Saudi and Emirati military campaign, the Houthi rebels' human rights abuses and sources of support, and the impact on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) -- widely seen as the most dangerous branch of the terror group.

While the deadline for that classified briefing was Wednesday, it's actually scheduled for Sept. 20, according to two Congressional aides and a State Department official.

But several lawmakers are already up in arms over the certification.

"We need to hold our allies to a higher standard and, unfortunately, this certification fails in that regard," said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who co-authored the section of the defense bill that created the reporting requirements. "It is evident that the administration is deliberately sidestepping congressional oversight."

Her Republican co-sponsor, Sen. Todd Young of Indiana, expressed urgency this week in a joint op-ed with Shaheen. His office did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who opposed U.S. arms for the Saudi campaign virtually from the start of the conflict -- and who, at one time, held up arms sales to the country -- also declined to comment.

Democrats had sharp words for the administration.

"How can the Trump administration deny what everyone can see with our own two eyes?" Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said in a statement. "These certifications are a farce, and we should all be ashamed that our government is turning a blind eye to likely war crimes."

There is also movement to do something about it. In her statement, Shaheen pointed to certification deadlines in 180 and 360 days, when the administration must again certify that Saudi Arabia and UAE are taking steps to reduce civilian casualties and end the war.

But other lawmakers don't want to wait.

Last year, Khanna was the sole sponsor of a war powers resolution to withdraw U.S. forces from any role in the Yemeni conflict. Now, he is set to introduce the same bill with the ranking members of the House Armed Services Committee and Rules Committee as co-sponsors, among eight others.

Last March, a similar vote died in the Senate, but it did garner 44 votes, including from five Republicans.

With the Democrats hoping to take back the House in November's midterm elections, the legislation could be top of list for the Armed Services Committee, which oversees the Pentagon's budget.

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