SEARCH

Monday
Sep242018

Trump preparing for 2nd summit with Kim despite little nuclear progress

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- President Donald Trump is preparing for his second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, he said on Monday while meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

While critics have warned against holding another meeting when North Korea has taken no meaningful steps toward dismantling its nuclear arsenal, Trump had nothing but praise for Kim, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the potential sit-down as something of "enormous value" but only "if we can continue to make progress and have conversations."

Trump said that the meeting would happen "in the not too distant future," not in Singapore but a "location to be determined." He added that Kim had shown "tremendous enthusiasm ... toward making a deal" and praised their relationship as "very good. In fact, in some ways it's extraordinary."

"We are in no rush. There's no hurry. ... We've made more progress than anybody's made ever, frankly, with regard to North Korea," he added.

But that kind of talk has negatively impacted the push to have North Korea denuclearize, according to diplomats and experts. By praising Kim and saying there is no rush while North Korea has taken no concrete steps to dismantle its nuclear-weapons program, he takes the pressure off North Korea.

That's why the North Koreans "want to go right to President Trump," according to Michael Green, senior director for Asia on George W. Bush's National Security Council, "because they want to try to get big symbolic agreements like a peace declaration without any details on dismantling nuclear weapons."

Green, now a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, added that the regime wants to skip meetings with Pompeo the U.S. would prefer to have first.

Still, Pompeo said Monday he will head to Pyongyang soon for those conversations, which need to happen to see if the two sides are to be on the same page, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told ABC News on Sunday.

"When the president meets with North Koreans," she said, "that's in itself a bonus ... so until we find out a little bit more, the president won't be meeting with them."

Pompeo declined to give details on when he would travel beyond, "Lord willing, I will be traveling before the end of the year."

To prepare for that trip, Pompeo offered to meet with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho this week at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, but the North Koreans have still not accepted that meeting.

Still, Kim remains committed to denuclearization, according to Moon, who said he would debrief Trump on his own meetings with the North Korean dictator just last week.

"North Korea's decision to relinquish its nuclear program has been officialized to a degree that not even those within North Korea can reverse," he added.

But talks have been stuck in a deadlock over the sequencing, with the U.S. insistent that it will make no more concessions until North Korea denuclearizes -- although it's unclear how far along that process it will have to be before the U.S. responds. North Korea wants some actions, like signing a declaration to formally end the Korean War, first.

Pompeo muddied those waters on Sunday, implying that a declaration may not be a concession and that the U.S. would agree to one: "Everybody's got their own idea of what a concession might be," he told Fox News.

What was a concession, he made clear Monday, and one the U.S. won't make, is sanctions relief.

But experts have warned against a peace declaration for the potential "domino effect" it could have, leading to "prematurely signing a peace treaty, reducing U.S. deterrence and defense capabilities, and abrogating the mutual defense treaty" between the U.S. and South Korea, according to Bruce Klingner, former CIA deputy division chief for Korea and now a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

Klingner has warned that Kim's flattery of Trump and Trump's appreciation of it are getting in the way of the need for real progress.

But Moon continued to pour on that adulation during his meeting with Trump, telling him, according to a translator, "Chairman Kim also repeatedly conveyed his unwavering trust and expectations for you, while expressing his hope to meet you soon to swiftly complete a denuclearization process with you because you are indeed the only person who can solve this problem."

Moon's meetings in Pyongyang last week resulted in a joint declaration that he and Kim signed, committing to shutting down a missile-engine test site with inspectors present and offering to take other steps towards denuclearization, such as shutting down its main nuclear site at Yongbyon, but only if the U.S. takes "corresponding measures."

It was enough to revive this peace process, but much less than the North Koreans have committed to in previous negotiations. It's also still unclear what corresponding measures the U.S. would be willing to take.

"The North Koreans have agreed to shut down, with inspectors, these two old facilities that we can see from satellite, but have not put on the table the most dangerous weapons they're developing, which were the cause of this crisis in the first place," said Green, comparing it to finally offering to sell the U.S. their Dodge Dart and Ford pickup after 30 years, now on cinder blocks, and still at a high price -- while hiding a Lexus and BMW in the garage.

The question becomes, should Pompeo and his team pursue that "sale" to keep talks alive, or do they stay focused on their original ask?

The U.S. has been asking North Korea to provide detailed information about its nuclear arsenal and facilities, but the North has refused to even discuss it, multiple sources told ABC News.

After Pompeo's last visit to Pyongyang in July, North Korea released a blistering statement about the U.S.'s "gangster-like demands," but a top North Korean official wrote later in its state newspaper that it was the U.S. team's demands on "suspect North Korea's secret nuclear facilities, a fiction" that really "derailed dialogue."

The following month, as Pompeo prepared to return to North Korea for more talks, the U.S. received a letter that warned the American team not to get on a plane if the delegation again would not stop with its "gangster-like demands." Trump canceled Pompeo's trip the next day.

But now, even though little seems to have changed in each side's position, the administration is moving full-steam ahead with plans for two meetings -- Pompeo's in Pyongyang and Trump's with Kim.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep242018

American diplomat found dead in Madagascar

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- An American diplomat in Madagascar was found dead in their home late Friday night, the State Department confirmed on Monday.

U.S. and Malagasy authorities are conducting a joint investigation into the death in the African country's capital of Antananarivo, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement.

"Our deepest sympathies go out to the family and to the U.S. Embassy Antananarivo community," she added.

The State Department declined to release the name of the diplomat or discuss details of the death, citing the ongoing investigation and respect for the diplomat's family.

While it does not deal with particularly high levels of violence, Madagascar is one of the world's poorest countries.

"Driven by poverty and the continuing downward employment trends, the entire country has experienced a dramatic spike not only in the number of crimes, but also in their severity and type, including armed attacks, robberies, and assaults," the State Department's travel office wrote in July of 2018. It categorizes Madagascar as a travel advisory level 2, and recommends people “exercise increased caution” when visiting the country.

"More serious crimes, including home invasions, are not uncommon," the travel office said, with U.S. personnel now forbidden from using minibus taxis because of high risk of robbery and carjackings.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep242018

Dozens of distressed migrants in limbo after Panama withdraws rescue ship's registration at sea

iStock/Thinkstock(ROME) -- Dozens of distressed survivors aboard a migrant rescue ship in the deadly Mediterranean Sea were in limbo after Panama withdrew the vessel’s registration amid Italian complaints about such ships that one official has called a “taxi service" for migrants.

The Aquarius 2 is the last private rescue vessel to search for shipwrecked migrants on the route from North and Sub-Saharan Africa to Italy, via Libya. The ship, which has made rescues in recent days off Libya, is operated jointly by SOS Mediterranee and Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders).

The two aid humanitarian groups view Italy's complaint “as further proof of the extent to which the Italian government is willing to go to, knowing that the only consequence is that people will continue to die at sea and that no witnesses will be present to count the dead.”

“We are asking E.U. governments to step in and provide the Aquarius 2 with some solution,” SOS Mediterranee spokewoman Natalia Lambana told ABC News by phone from Berlin. “At the moment we still have Panama flag. We cannot be deflaged at sea.

“We are still at sea involved in search-and-rescue operations. We have 58 survivors on board the ship; 17 of them are children and further 17 survivors are women. And we don’t have a port of safety yet. Malta and Italy refused to let Aquarius dock, and we made a formal request to France to allow the ship in Marseille.”

Matteo Salvini, Italy’s anti-immigration interior minister, who earlier described the rescue vessels as a "taxi service" for migrants, has denied that his government was behind Panamá’s decision Sunday to deflag the Aquarius. He tweeted that he doesn’t even know the country dialing code for Panama.

SOS Mediterranee’s Lambana called his denial “strange.”

Salvini also reportedly said Aquarius 2 had hindered the work of the Libyan coast guard by ignoring instructions. Aquarius 2 was about to have its registration revoked by Panama because it was “illegal and does not respect procedures,” he told reporters.

But Lambana argued that Aquarius 2's refusal to return migrants to Libya was in compliance with the maritime law because Libya doesn't meet international standards for safe harbor.

More than 1,250 people have drowned while attempting to cross the Central Mediterranean Since the beginning of the year, officials say.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep242018

Teen rescued after 49 days adrift at sea on a floating fish trap 

ABC News(OSAKA, Japan) -- An Indonesian teenager has been rescued after 49 days lost at sea on a floating fish trap.

Aldi Novel Adilang, 19, was living on and operating the fish trap, known locally as a rompong, when the rope anchoring the vessel in place broke on July 14 and strong winds blew him roughly 1,200 miles away into Japanese waters, according to the Associated Press. He floated adrift for nearly two months on the makeshift vessel, which is not equipped with steering like a boat.

Adilang was working as a lamp-keeper on the tiny wooden structure 78 miles from the shore when he was swept out to sea, according to the Jakarta Post. His job was to stay alone for months at a time and kindle lamps to attract local fish.

Supplies were brought out to Adilang weekly –- his only human contact while at work –- so he did not have enough to last for the 49 days the vessel was adrift.

After running out of supplies, Adilang used the floating hut’s wooden slats to make a fire, the Indonesian consul general Murza Nurhidayat told the newspaper. The teenager survived by catching fish and drinking seawater that he filtered through his shirt, in a miraculous story of survival reminiscent of "The Life of Pi."

Fajar Firdaus, a diplomat at the Indoneasian consulate in Osaka, Japan, told The Jakarta Post that more than ten ships sailed past Adilang before the MV Arpeggio vessel discovered him in Japanese waters near Guam and rescued him on August 31.

After receiving medical attention from the crew on board, Adilang arrived in Japan on September 6 and flew back to Indonesia two days later. In a Facebook post, the Indonesian Consulate in Osaka said Adilang was found in "good condition."

The teenager has now been reunited with his family in Manado in the North Sulawesi province of Indonesia, the Consulate said on Facebook. He is said to be recovering well after his traumatic ordeal.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep242018

Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic, Alexey Navalny, is let out of a Russian jail, then arrested again 

iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) -- Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, Alexey Navalny, was released from jail and then immediately arrested again on charges of calling for unsanctioned protests.

Navalny was met by police officers at the door of a Moscow detention center as he stepped out of jail Monday after serving a 30-day sentence for organizing an unauthorized rally.

He was immediately taken to a police station where he was again charged again with organizing an unsanctioned demonstration, his spokeswoman, Kira Yarmish wrote on Twitter.

Navalny now faces a fine and potentially another 20 days in jail, Yarmysh wrote. He is due in court later.

Navalny, 42, has become the best-known face of Russia's anti-Putin opposition and has been arrested regularly as he and his supporters have staged demonstrations protesting a lack of political freedom and alleged corruption under president Vladimir Putin.

Navalny was arrested the last time in August shortly after he called for nationwide protests against a reform to raise Russia’s pension age. He was jailed then on charges relating to a demonstration organized eight months previously in January close to Red Square.

Police at the time said it had taken them until August to charge Navalny because they had been unable to locate him, despite the fact that he had spent much of May in police custody after being detained for a different demonstration held on the eve of Putin’s inauguration for a fourth term as president.

Navalny has said the arrests are intended to disrupt his protest activity. He has spent 172 days in detention since 2011, according to his spokeswoman, Yarmysh.

Most recently, Navalny has been calling for protests against the controversial pension reform that has attracted unusual public discontent in Russia and which has taken a toll on Putin’s approval rating, which dropped from close to 80 percent in May to 67 percent in July, according to an independent polling agency, the Levada Center.

Navalny’s supporters have staged a number of relatively large anti-Kremlin demonstrations across Russia in recent years, which are usually broken up by police. He has built a grassroots following, particularly among younger Russians, in part through video investigations into the alleged ill-gotten wealth of senior officials.

Two weeks ago, one of the subjects of these investigations, the head of Russia’s National Guard, Viktor Zolotov released a video address in which he challenged Navalny to a duel and promised to make “a juicy beefsteak” of him after the activist alleged there was large-scale corruption in the organisation under Zolotov.

The Kremlin has said Navalny's protests violate a law requiring rallies to be authorized and has called Navalny a criminal.

Navalny was sentenced to a five-year suspended sentence in 2013 on fraud charges that he says are trumped up and designed to prevent him running for office. The conviction was used in 2018 to bar him from taking part in this year's presidential election.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Sep242018

American tourist severely injured in shark attack while spearfishing in the Bahamas

Abaco Fire Chief Colin Albury(ABACO ISLAND, Bahamas) -- An American tourist suffered a severe injury when she was attacked by a shark while spearfishing in the Bahamas Sunday afternoon, according to authorities.

The unnamed Massachusetts native had “severe trauma” to her left hand, and was flown by air ambulance to a hospital in Florida.

“She isn’t mad at the shark because getting attacked is a common risk with spearfishing,” Abaco Fire Chief Colin Albury told ABC News.

According to Albury, the 32-year-old woman is an experienced spearfisher who has a vacation home in the Treasure Cay area of Abaco Island in the Bahamas.

The attack happened when she was swimming back to her boat with a speared fish. She was with three other people, but no one else was injured.

The victim is now being treated by a trauma surgeon at Memorial Hospital in Hollywood, Florida, authorities said.

According to Albury, this is the first shark attack in Treasure Cay this year.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Sep232018

Art exhibition in Sicily highlights human side of European migration

iStock/Thinkstock(PALMERO, Sicily) -- In a small room in a former fortress in the port town of Palermo, Sicily, a video displayed across one of the walls depicts a nondescript stretch of highway. A closer look reveals four white marks on the ground -- the outline of a truck -- and faint, brownish stains.

This is a crime scene simulated in video by John Gerrard, an artist who visited the location two days after the bodies of 71 migrants from Iraq, Syria and Iran were found in the back of a refrigerated truck near Vienna in 2015. They had suffocated while journeying north after the driver forgot to turn on the ventilation. The driver subsequently fled the scene.

The deaths made headlines, but Gerrard’s video artfully adds a grim human element: a few marks, surely washed away by now, the only remnants of an incident where so many lives were lost.

Such works define the best of Manifesta 12, a nomadic European art biennial on display until Nov. 4 in Palermo, which prides itself for engaging with political and social issues. This year, many of the 40 works focus on the subjects of human movement and cohabitation. Pieces such as Gerrard’s offer powerful contemplations on the realities of migration, from the frequency of deadly Mediterranean crossings to the harsh lives Yazidi women have in Iraqi refugee camps.

It’s a prescient point in time for the festival to take place in Sicily, a Mediterranean crossroads that has been featured centrally in Europe’s migration debate in recent months. Italy’s new populist far-right coalition government came to power on an anti-migration platform and has gained popularity at home by refusing to allow Mediterranean rescue ships to dock in Italian ports.

In August, Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini refused to let the Diciotti -- a rescue boat with more than 100 migrants onboard -- dock in the Sicilian port town of Catania. He later allowed the passengers to disembark, but not before being placed under formal investigation for possible illegal detention. The event fueled international outrage and further sparked the European Union's migration debate while boosting Salvini’s popularity in Italy.

Such debates are precisely what the exhibition's organizers aimed to comment on. “When Manifesta was founded, it was for investigating the changes after the fall of the Berlin wall,” explained curator Maria Chiara di Trapani. “It was started to study through art how society is changing in different ways around Europe.”

“Now, if you want to see what’s happening in the world when it comes to migration, the Mediterranean needs to be focused on,” she added.

A consistent landing point for migration over the centuries, Sicily was inhabited by the Greeks; Arabs; Normans; and, more recently, people from West Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. A walk through the city reveals an architectural mélange of Greco, Moorish and Roman buildings. During World War II, allied troops heavily bombed the city to scare out Mussolini’s fascists. The damage left holes in the landscape, many of which were refilled by shoddy apartment blocks, while others were simply left empty.

Today, Palermo attracts an increasing number of tourists after having shed its mafia reputation, in large part thanks to its mayor, Leoluca Orlando, who took broad steps to clean up corruption. In 2018, the city was designated Italy’s capital of culture. Manifesta has helped to further launch the city into the international spotlight.

The biennial deftly makes use of various abandoned historical buildings, displaying works in everything from crypts to abandoned mansions that are in various states of decaying splendor. Even the city’s impressive botanical garden plays host to a variety of installations.

When discussing migration and the concept of physical borders, Palazzo Forcella De Seta, a former city fortification, is an apt setting for some of the biennial’s most powerful works.

A video installation titled Liquid Violence, by UK-based research group Forensic Oceanography, uses digital maps and charts to recreate Mediterranean water borders and convey specific cases where boats were abandoned, leaving their passengers to die.

Liquid Violence
aims to visualize “the policies and practices of migrant boats being stranded at sea to defer them from crossing,” according to the organizers, who added that the works use images to show the EU and Italy’s decision in 2014 to cut back on search and rescue missions.

It is gruesomely timely in light of the UN Refugee Agency report released in September that highlighted the increasing number of deaths by those attempting to cross the central Mediterranean. One in 16 people died while crossing from Libya between January and July this year, compared to one in 42 during the same period in 2017, according to the report.

The Italian coast sees more migrant arrivals (119,369) than Greece (29,718) or Spain (22,103), according to 2017 United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees statistics. Most migrants stop only briefly in Italy, often living in prison-like reception centers on the city’s periphery while they wait for asylum requests to be processed.

This reality is the subject of a video piece in the mixed-media exhibit Signal Flow, organized by filmmaker Laura Poitras, who is best known for her work on the Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour.

For Signal Flow, Poitras worked with local film students to create a series of works that touch on the U.S. military presence in Italy. The documentary focuses on the day-to-day lives of several people living in migrant holding centers, which were formerly a U.S. Army compound. The film depicts migrants slinging backpacks over barbed wire to climb in and out, meeting with smugglers to discuss northward journeys and reading texts with Jehovah’s witnesses who are parked on the sides of streets.

The next edition of Manifesta will take place in another Mediterranean port town, Marseille, in 2020. Chances are that when it opens, the works on display will once again touch on immigration, which is all but certain to remain Europe’s most pressing issue.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Sep222018

'Tribe' of good Samaritans with electrical power offer food, showers and chargers after tornado blacks out Ottawa

Twitter/@ErinBlaskie(OTTAWA, Canada) -- In the wake of a powerful tornado that wreaked havoc in the Canadian capital of Ottawa and surrounding areas, an army of Good Samaritans came to the rescue of their neighbors by offering up their homes, their time and their resources -- and they're using social media to invite those in need and to connect with each other.

The tornado tore through parts of Ontario and Quebec, ripping apart houses, snapping trees, injuring dozens of people and leaving hundreds of thousands without power. Many were forced to go hungry, as restaurants and stores shut down while others were left in the dark or even without a roof over their heads.

Some Ottawans who were lucky enough not to lose power, like 38-year-old Shawna Tregunna, put their cooking skills and their vast Twitter following to use in helping their neighbors in need.

"I checked out the requests for help and it was mostly for people looking for food, " she told ABC News. "So I started responding, got some addresses, and put in a batch of meatballs and rice."

Tregunna posted her offer for help on Twitter and many, many people responded, she told ABC News. Within a few hours, she had dropped off toilet paper, coffee and dog food to one family, more food to a single mother who couldn't get out, and candles and food to a man downtown, she said. On Saturday, people stopped by to charge devices and get showers.

Tregunna found she didn't have to operate alone. Her offer spread across the Twitterverse and a huge number of volunteers poured in.

Her offer was retweeted by, among others, James Duthie, a popular sports host who has nearly 900,000 followers.

"This is why Ottawa is such a great town," Duthie wrote.

Tregunna said people dropped off food, Tupperware, candles and matches; some volunteered to do deliveries, others wanted to donate money. Together, they sent food for the nurses at a local hospital where the power had gone out and reached out to elderly or sick people out of town who needed help, she said.

"So far today, we've gone through dozens of pancakes, some chicken fingers and fries, vegetarian lasagna, butternut squash soup," she added. "We had two huge pasta bins donated, we're sending out pickles, chocolate bars, apples -- really, anything I can figure out how to pack with the containers we have."

Tregunna's friend Erin Blaskie said she visited her daughter's school shortly after the tornado tore through it and was aghast at the devastation. Many of her daughter's friends and their families were in the zone of damage.

"I just thought to myself, 'How can I help?'" Blaskie said. "I know what it's like to go through struggles — I've had my fair share in my life. But today I'm very fortunate to be able to have the means to give back."

Blaskie tweeted out that her doors were open for anyone who needed help, from people who had to charge their phones to those who needed warmth or groceries, water or containers. On Saturday, she cooked up a batch of chili for those in need of hot food.

One of those she helped reached out to thank her publicly.

Both Tregunna and Blaskie said they've been amazed by the number of people and organizations that have pitched in to help.

"It's incredible to see," Blaskie said. "I feel like we've got a sort of tribe of people trying to do whatever we can. We already knew we lived in a great city. But I think going through something like this and having everyone raise their hand and say 'how can I help?' really proves that."

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Saturday
Sep222018

UN General Assembly to convene this week

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- President Trump joins dozens of world leaders in New York this week for the United Nations General Assembly, a jam-packed series of diplomatic meetings and speeches.

It's no longer Trump's first time at the U.N., so the questions of what kind of impact he'll have on this world stage have evaporated. But they've been replaced by what could be a dramatic week of jockeying in a world disrupted by Trump, with both American allies and adversaries scrambling to reshape relationships and fend for themselves.

It's also a world largely more peaceful, but torn apart in different regions by civil wars and ethnic violence, with humanitarian crises and the largest number of displaced people and refugees at any time in recent history. World leaders and international organizations will be pressed on how to address these challenges effectively, if they can.

Here are the top issues that will be on the agenda for the 73rd General Assembly.

WORKING WITH, AGAINST, OR AROUND TRUMP

Trump's "America First" foreign policy has reshaped many relationships across the globe, including some of the U.S.'s decades-old alliances.

While the demands Trump has made of NATO members to pay up have been a longstanding U.S. concern, his rhetoric towards those countries and his expressed doubts about the alliance's common defense have unnerved European allies. His treatment of friendly leaders like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who he has called "very dishonest and weak," and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who he has criticized on everything from trade to immigration, has undermined America's relationships with those countries.

But it's also his policies that have opened divisions, in particular with western countries. Since last year's General Assembly, the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, the cuts in aid to Palestinians and recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the tariffs on aluminum and steel, and most recently the threats to the International Criminal Court have been fiercely opposed by Europe and Canada.

"Other U.N. member states no longer look to the United States as a natural leader, or even a reliable partner," according to Stewart Patrick, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who served in the George W. Bush administration. "They have tired of Trump's my-way-or-the-highway act and are increasingly hitting the road -- or looking to China to fill the vacuum left by the U.S. retreat."

That doesn't necessarily mean Trump will be unwelcome at the U.N., analysts say -- just maneuvered around.

"It's very unlikely to see many people confronting President Trump. You are likely to see many people thinking of ways to undermine President Trump because they think that the approach that the U.S. has articulated isn't going to take the world in the direction it needs to go," said Jon Alterman, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who also served at the State Department under Bush.

For example, French President Emmanuel Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani despite Trump's calls to isolate Iran. After failing to keep Trump in the nuclear deal, they are still looking for ways to salvage the accord and engage Iran diplomatically and economically, even as U.S. sanctions loom.

NORTH KOREA AND IRAN'S NEXT MOVES


Iran is clearly on the president's mind as he heads into the week, tweeting Friday that he would chair a special U.N. Security Council meeting about the country, even though the administration says it will actually be broadly focused on nonproliferation. A draft concept note for the meeting obtained by ABC News makes no direct mention of Iran, saying the meeting instead will be about how "to counter the spread and use of the world's most dangerous weapons."

That's something that the U.S. and its allies no longer agree on entirely. As Security Council permanent members, France and the United Kingdom will be in the meeting, but along with Germany, they continue to support the Iran nuclear deal as the best way to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Trump withdrew from the agreement in May and has begun an economic pressure campaign to drive Iran to the negotiating table again.

On the world stage in New York, Rouhani will have the opportunity to fire back at the Trump administration and keep Europe from withdrawing their business from the country.

The other critical proliferation challenge is North Korea, and the General Assembly will be key for taking next steps in the diplomatic initiative underway. One week after his historic summit with Kim Jong Un in North Korea, South Korean President Moon Jae-in will meet with Trump and share a personal message from Kim.

Moon will be pushing Trump to sign a declaration to officially end the Korean War, something the U.S. has said it will not do until North Korea takes steps to denuclearize. Figuring out that sequencing will be a top priority for all sides to see if there is a way forward.

To that end, Secretary Pompeo has also offered to meet with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho during the week as he prepares to head back to Pyongyang to revive negotiations. The North Koreans have not yet accepted that invitation.

A WORLD OF HUMANITARIAN CRISES


The world's attention will also be focused on trying to solve several humanitarian crises, from Myanmar to Yemen and Syria to South Sudan -- each the focus of at least one major meeting.

In particular, there could be diplomatic momentum on Syria after Russia and Turkey negotiated a truce to halt an offensive by Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad into Idlib, the last rebel stronghold. Pompeo recently named Amb. Jim Jeffrey, an experienced diplomat, as the new Special Representative for Syria Negotiations, and he and U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura will have meetings in New York amid a push to revive the peace process in Geneva.

The U.N. has so far taken few concrete steps to pressure Myanmar over its slaughter and expulsion of Rohingya, a Muslim-majority ethnic group. But after it released a detailed fact-finding report that called for Myanmar leadership to be prosecuted for genocide, there could be movement. There will also be discussions about the nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, which is straining under that enormous need and seeking more funding to help care for them and an agreement to ultimately repatriate them to Myanmar.

But the world's worst humanitarian crisis is in Yemen, and there will be several meetings to coordinate the response to the horrors on the ground -- famine, a cholera outbreak, and displacement, let alone the violent war. After the U.N. Special Envoy Martin Griffiths tried to convene a peace meeting but failed to get the Houthi rebels to attend, it's unclear where the diplomatic push stands.

A worldwide crisis, the drug addiction epidemic will also be addressed, with Trump hosting a special meeting called "Global Call to Action on the World Drug Problem." One hundred twenty-four countries have already signed up to support the agenda, according to the Associated Press.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Sep212018

Bolivia eyes lithium in picturesque salt flats as country's big moneymaker

Victor Oquendo/ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Near the crest of the Andes mountain range in Bolivia lies the Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world.

The stunning location is a growing international tourist destination and was recently used as the setting for an epic battle scene in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”

What can at times look like a snow-covered wonderland is actually several dried-up, prehistoric lakes that formed salty pentagon patterns on the surface. But beneath the crust is lithium, the precious metal element, that could potentially provide a better economic future for Bolivia.

“Nightline” traveled to the Salar de Uyuni to get a closer look at the 4,500 square miles of the world’s largest deposit of lithium, which powers batteries, electric cars and phones. For perspective, the Salar is nearly 100 times larger than Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flat.

As one of the poorest countries in South America, Bolivia hopes the global need for the element will revolutionize its economy and it'll become “the Saudi Arabia of lithium.”

The Salar’s barren landscape is a robust worksite where families have mined salt for generations.

Two brothers, Moises and Erick Chambi, are known as “saleros” or salt pickers. Their work is physically demanding. They chop, saw and stack salt blocks directly from the earth’s crust for sale across Bolivia.

“(The Salar is) not 10 or 20 years (old),” Moises Chambi said while pointing to lines in the salt blocks. "This is the accumulation of thousands of years.”

He explained that the brown lines between the layers of salt were indicative of periods of flooding in the Salar and, similar to rings of a tree trunk, each spaced out area could span hundreds of years.

Running his fingers along lines in the ground, he shared that “the Salar is like a human being that breathes through these cracks,” Moises Chambi said. “It’s also like a living plant. That’s why we also have to respect it and take care of it. For us it is sacred.”

Consumers across Bolivia once sought out the Chambi brothers’ business, but these days the product mostly goes to making salt licks for cattle and bricks for construction.

The Salar’s popularity with tourists has been a boon for local hotels, especially ones made of the Salar’s most popular ingredient. The exquisite five-star Luna Salada and Palacio de Sal hotels have walls, floors and furniture made entirely of salt detail and salt blocks, similar to those sold by the Chambi brothers.

They sell each of their salt bricks for about 50 cents and while it won’t make them wealthy, it is enough to support their young families.

An hour’s drive from the Chambi brother’s work site sits a bustling lithium carbonate processing plant, run by the Bolivian government.

The plant exports the natural resource for roughly $25,000 per ton to a number of countries, including the U.S., Russia and Japan.

Marco Antonio Condoretty, head of implementation and engineering, oversees each step of the production process and gave us a tour of his site.

Wells tap nearly 100 feet deep to source the Salar’s lithium-rich brine, running it through a system of pipes that span miles into one of the plant’s many pools.

The brine sits in those pools for approximately six months where the sun and constant wind help separate lithium from the salt and other impurities through evaporation.

In one of the final stages the lithium gets processed and separated from another by-product: potassium, which the plant also sells.

This factory is projected to process 200 tons of lithium in 2018. That number will explode by nearly 750 percent to 15,000 tons when a neighboring government plant wraps construction next year.

Despite some concerns that lithium processing could take over the Salar, Condoretty assured that this vast location will remain largely unaffected. “The lithium we take out now is very little. Therefore if we are going to expand, we are not going to affect the Salar.”

In fact, only up to 4 percent of the Salar has been set aside by the government for mining and processing, he said.

Due to the plant’s remote location, it is also home to its employees who live on site for two weeks at a time, followed by a seven day break. To keep plant employees busy and healthy, the location offers a hangout area and workspace, including a gym, pool tables, even a clinic.

As for the living arrangements, Condoretty said employees share their living quarters, sleeping in shared rooms like dormitories that sleep up to three people per room.

The entire plant is proudly run and operated by Bolivians only, with, until very recently, foreigners completely shut out of development and production. That's because Bolivia is holding fiercely on to its natural resources, limiting foreign involvement following centuries of foreign exploitation of its silver, gas and oil.

Condoretty acknowledges this may have hampered their production and ultimately, their sales, but claims “we are doing it ourselves. This means generating income only for Bolivians. Our achievement is that it took us longer, but we [are the ones who] did it.”

When asked whether the local salt pickers might have a future at the expanding plant, Condoretty replied, “the salt pickers can create a future here, and in reality, all the people of Bolivia have a future here to work, because this plant belongs to them.”

Despite its previous heavy emphasis on limiting foreign involvement, the plant recently announced a $1.3 billion dollar deal with a German company, ACI Systems, to expand local production. With a 51 percent majority stake, the new deal adds promise to Bolivia’s gamble that lithium could one day lift its economy.

And as the global demand for lithium-powered lives seemingly increases daily, the future in the Salar de Uyuni seems brighter than ever.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.







ABC News Radio