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Thursday
Aug172017

'Hora Cero': How a young mother copes with Venezuela's crisis

ABCNews.com(NEW YORK) -- "Upheaval" describes everyday life in Venezuela.

The South American country has been mired in an economic, political and humanitarian crisis that has spilled into the streets, with almost daily protests affecting the lives of 30 million people who either participate in them or are forced to navigate through roadblocks and debris.

In cities and towns across the country, people have come out by the thousands since early April to protest a government many no longer recognize as legitimate.

Since then, the streets of the capital, Caracas, have become the backdrop for a deadly battle of wills between the government of President Nicolas Maduro and a coalition of opposition groups intent on ousting him.

Maduro has called the protests a violent attempt to overthrow his government. But behind the protests are a large number of Venezuelans who feel they've reached a breaking point. The shortage of basic goods, skyrocketing inflation and what they call the repression by government forces have all contributed to the opposition's desire to see Maduro and his government replaced.

Also at stake is control of the country's vast oil reserves and an economy that, once strong, has descended into chaos as inflation soars to triple digits and the value of the currency plummets, according to analyses by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

At least 124 people have been killed, and thousands more have been injured, according to an August report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Government security forces and pro-government armed groups, called colectivos, are behind at least 73 of those deaths, according to the report, which adds, "It is unclear who the perpetrators in the remaining deaths may be."

For Claudia Vivas, a 29-year-old mother living in Caracas, the violence of the protests and the government's response to them have added to an already hard life.

"They're massacring us," Vivas told ABC News in Spanish. "I've breathed in tear gas like you don't have any idea. I've never been hit, thank God. Neither me nor my husband has been hit, but we've breathed in that gas."

"I've seen rubber bullets fly right by me and hit people next to me," she added.

A country in crisis


Witnesses to the clashes as well as international human rights groups and regional organizations monitoring the situation have said that Venezuelan security forces have been firing tear gas canisters and buckshot at short range and using marbles, nuts and bolts as ammunition against anti-government demonstrators. In addition to the U.N. findings last month, reports from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have told of these repression techniques, which the groups say are aimed at injuring protesters.

Alfredo Romero is the director of Foro Penal Venezolano, a Venezuelan legal aid group that documents human rights abuses and represents people who have been detained at demonstrations. He told ABC News the detentions have added to the calamity in a country that already had more than 670 political prisoners, many of them students and other young people, according to the group.

Of the approximately 5,300 people detained in this year's protests, about 650 — the majority of them civilians — have been tried in military court, according to Romero. Foro Penal Venezolano's work has been certified by the Organization of American States.

Venezuela's Ministry of Information did not respond to ABC News' requests for comment on these allegations.

Detainees say that beatings, sexual abuse and torture are common, and there are numerous allegations that the government planted evidence and denied detainees legal representation, Romero said.

"Speaking about the law here, it's nonsensical. Here, you talk about what the government wants to do, who they want to jail and who they want to free," Romero said. "Behind all this, there's a great policy of fear that's hard to understand when you don't live it. This is a regime that has stayed in power through fear."

Venezuela's unraveling has been a long and painful one. Lines for food get longer as food gets scarcer; diseases become deadlier as medical supplies wane. A meltdown of government institutions has consolidated power around Maduro's party and served to criminalize dissent, the Organization of American States, an international body made up of 35 countries from the Americas, said in its July report on the country's crisis. Earlier this month, a National Constituent Assembly was elected to rewrite the country's constitution. The opposition chose to boycott the elections, which many world leaders denounced.

Assembly members were tasked with writing a new constitution to stop what they called the imperial aggression from the fascist groups against the government, Fernando Soto Rojas, a pro-government politician elected to the assembly, said in a live broadcast of the swearing-in ceremony. Maduro and his government blame the country's woes on an economic war being waged by the political opposition, the private sector and foreign powers.

Economic woes

Oil is the country's main industry, and Venezuela's oil production has plummeted to its lowest levels since oil prices started to crash in 2014, according to an OPEC report released in July.

"[Even] when Chavez was alive, things started to get worse," Vivas said, referring to the country's President Hugo Chavez, who died of cancer on March 5, 2013. "But I can assure you, things were better with Chavez than what we have now with Maduro."

From 1999 to 2013, Chavez led the country and developed a number of oil-subsidized social programs aimed at helping the poor. His supporters were known as Chavistas, and after he died, his vice president, Maduro, took over. Maduro was elected president after defeating opposition candidate Henrique Capriles less than six weeks after Chavez's death.

But as oil prices stay under $50 a barrel, Venezuelans are bearing the brunt of their country's lack of money for imports and the corruption involved in distributing food. The Chavez-built social programs have grown too costly for Maduro's cash-strapped government.

"Venezuelans are living — it's sad to say — they are living to eat," Vivas said. "I often prefer, just like my husband, to not eat but to make sure my children have their meals."

"Economists project that by the end of 2017, the Venezuelan economy will have shrunk by around 30 percent in three years," reads a report from the International Crisis Group, a nongovernmental organization that carries out field research on violent conflict. The population living below the poverty line is growing fast, the group said.

The Venezuelan government has set price limits for some basic goods, including personal hygiene products and many food items. As supply decreases, black market prices for those products have soared — hitting Venezuelans hard.

"You cannot fall sick. You cannot be injured. You cannot even suffer a stomachache," Vivas said. "You also depend on the harvest. If there's mango harvest, you eat only mangoes. If there's tangerine harvest, you eat only tangerines."

For Vivas — who lives in a working-class neighborhood in Caracas with her two young children, her husband and her aging father — finding food is a struggle often tainted by politics. In theory, her family should get food from the local provision and production committees (abbreviated CLAP in Spanish), but Vivas told ABC News that organizers informed her she had been taken off the census for CLAP-supplied food bags because she supports the opposition.

Maduro's government started the CLAP program to distribute food in the country. Venezuelans looking for food need to sign up for CLAP and pay a monthly fee to get bags of often hard-to-find products, which are distributed by the military. Sometimes the bags include noodles, flour and oil — now prized staples in a Venezuelan diet that has become more restricted, according to Vivas.

The family now relies on her father's food bag. He still has access to it because, unlike Vivas, he supports the government. The bag lasts four days for the five of them.

"Once we have consumed the food from the bag, things change because we have to wait 21 days — sometimes 31 — and the bag doesn't come. So we have to buy on the black market, or a friend of ours tells us where there's food available, and we try to help one another," Vivas said. "You'll find a price today, and tomorrow it will be another. The amount is never accurate, what we are sure of is that it's not enough."

Raising two children is a struggle for her.

"I want my children to have what I couldn't, but in this economy, I think they will have much less than what I did," she said.

Zero hour

This is not the first time Venezuelans have taken to the streets to protest Maduro. Demonstrations in 2014 also calling for his resignation left dozens of people dead, many others injured and several opposition leaders jailed.

By late 2015, the opposition had won a majority in the National Assembly, the country's legislature.

But by 2016, the government-aligned Supreme Court curtailed the National Assembly's powers, calling its resolutions unconstitutional — including one to speed up the recall referendum process in order to oust Maduro.

Efforts to hold a recall referendum that year were squashed, and that, along with a restricted legislature and worsening economic and humanitarian crises, resulted in this year's waves of protests, which many among the opposition have called Venezuela's "hora cero" (zero hour) — the breaking point, when the Maduro government must go.

Cynthia Arnson, the director of the Latin America program at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., said the Supreme Court's 2016 decision was a turning point in what she called Maduro's move toward a dictatorial regime.

"Once he saw he could lose power through an election, he has curtailed all the institutional mechanisms that handle the electoral system," she told ABC News. "Now that they see that they're going to lose elections, they're putting away any means to do them."

But Alexander Main, a senior associate for international policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, disagreed.

"The only thing [the opposition] seems to be able to agree on is that the government needs to go," he said. "They're not very persuasive to the general population as a viable alternative to the government, so even if a lot of people are disenchanted with the government, they don't have much confidence in the opposition at all."

Splintered opposition leadership has given rise to small pockets of radicalism, as people grow frustrated with the government's repression of the protests and the lack of change.

Armed with Molotov cocktails, rocks and makeshift shields, groups of opposition protesters have waged war on security forces, throwing tear gas canisters back at the national guard and hurling rocks at pro-government groups. More radical opposition factions were responsible for a July 30 bombing in Caracas that injured seven members of the national guard.

"There are numerous examples historically in Latin America where the closing off of any peaceful means for political means radicalizes the opposition and leads some people to embrace violence, and that is happening as well in Venezuela," Arnson said. "There's a small group of people who say, 'We can't just continue to go into the streets and have people killed at point blank … We need to meet fire with fire.'"

Vivas, who said she went to the demonstrations every day for almost a month, is fearful. While she said the violent groups among the protesters are small, she needs to put her children first.

"I want to fight for my country. I want to fight for my children. But to be killed or hit by a rubber bullet or get hurt from that — that scares me a lot," she said.

The fact that the opposition is a coalition of parties united only in their discontent with the government has failed to reassure many.

"There's a great deal of jockeying for position in terms of who is the leader of the opposition. There are a number of personalities that are important that have had a hard time speaking in one voice," Arnson said.

An uncertain future


Venezuela's turmoil has garnered international attention and provoked fiery rhetoric, such as when President Donald Trump said U.S. military intervention in the country was on the table.

The Trump administration has sanctioned Venezuelan government officials it believes are linked to international drug trafficking and human rights violations, including Vice President Tarek El-Aissami and several government ministers.

For the first time since Maduro's election in 2013, the majority of countries in the Organization of American States have issued strong condemnations of his government. Although OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro has called Maduro's efforts to sew up power "treason" against the Venezuelan people, the organization has failed to pass any resolutions against the Venezuelan government.

International pressure can do only so much. It's a combination of internal dynamics and external factors that bring about change, Arnson said.

Attempts at formal dialogue between the Maduro government and the opposition — often brokered by former world leaders or other neutral parties — have so far proved fruitless.

Late last year the Vatican tried to mediate talks between leaders from both sides without success.

Opposition leaders and other critics of the Venezuelan government, including Arnson, maintain that dialogue just buys Maduro time.

Four months into the protests and with a new, powerful Constituent Assembly working to rewrite the constitution, it seems that possible solutions to the Venezuelan crisis are growing scarcer.

"The only alternative to dialogue is civil war," Main said. "Because the situation has reached such a gravity, there's kind of an opportunity now."

The Venezuelan military could prove an important factor in determining the country's future.

"The principal arbiter of power will be the armed forces — the extent to which people in the military are no longer willing to go into the streets and repress opposition protesters," Arnson said. "The splintering of the armed forces would create a moment in which negotiations once again become viable. It's those kinds of cracks in the Chavista movement that can contribute to more dramatic change."

For her part, Vivas said only Venezuelans can resolve this crisis.

"Something needs to really happen, because if we don't end up shooting each other dead, we'll starve to death, or we'll die from an illness for which you can't find medicines," Vivas said. "International help — I think we should just forget about that. We're going to have to do our own dirty laundry here."

 Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Aug172017

Canadian retailer removes Confederate plaque from Montreal flagship

Twitter/@CTVMontreal(MONTREAL) -- Not all Confederate statues and monuments are in the South -– or even the United States.

On Tuesday, Canadian retailer Hudson's Bay Company -- which also owns Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue -- removed a plaque dedicated to Confederate President Jefferson Davis from its downtown Montreal store.

Hudson's Bay Company spokeswoman Tiffany Bourre confirmed to ABC News on Wednesday night that the plaque was removed but declined to comment what promoted its removal. According to to ABC News' Canadian partner, CTV News, Montrealers expressed their dissatisfaction with the plaque in light of the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville last weekend and contacted the retailer demanding its removal.


Davis, a slave owner, was sent to prison following the Confederates' defeat in the Civil War. After his release from prison, he relocated to Montreal and lived in a home where the department store now stands.

The plaque was installed in 1957 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, according to CTV News.

 Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Aug162017

US service member killed in Afghanistan

Stocktrek Images/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- An American service member has been killed in eastern Afghanistan as part of an operation against the ISIS affiliate in that country.

"One U.S. service member has died as a result of wounds suffered Wednesday during a partnered operation with U.S. and Afghan Forces in Eastern Afghanistan," said a statement from U.S. Forces Afghanistan.

"U.S and Afghan forces were also injured during the operation aimed at further reducing Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Khorasan presence in Afghanistan," the statement continued. "The wounded personnel have been medically evacuated for treatment.

"Next of kin notifications are underway," added the statement. "More information will be released as appropriate"

Two U.S. soldiers were killed on Aug. 2 in Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan, while four others were injured in the attack. Specialist Christopher Harris, 25, and Sgt. Jonathon Hunter, 23, both with the 82nd Airborne Division, were killed when their convoy was attacked by a suicide bomber.

The death of the American service member on Wednesday is the tenth this year. In 2016, nine American service members total were killed in action.

There are 8,400 American troops serving in Afghanistan advising and assisting the Afghan military in the fight against the Taliban and ISIS-Khorasan.

The fight against ISIS in eastern Afghanistan has grown in intensity over the past year as the Afghan military has carried out multiple offensive operations against the ISIS affiliate.

The Trump administration is currently discussing a new South Asia strategy that wraps up the U.S. military role in Afghanistan.

While there is the possibility the administration could send as many as 3,900 additional troops to Afghanistan, no decision has been made pending a strategic decision from Trump about the future U.S. military role in that country.

Earlier this week, Defense Secretary James Mattis said the administration was "very close" to a decision about a new strategy and that all options were on the table, including the complete withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.

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Wednesday
Aug162017

US demands big NAFTA changes, setting stage for tough talks

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The top U.S. trade negotiator says that the United States won't settle for cosmetic changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement as negotiations to rework terms of the pact began.

President Donald Trump has called the 23-year-old trade pact the "worst" in history.

In a statement Wednesday, U.S. Trade Rep. Robert Lighthizer said that Trump "is not interested in a mere tweaking of a few provisions and an updating of a few chapters. We believe NAFTA has fundamentally failed many, many Americans and needs major improvement."

Lighthizer's comments suggest the negotiations could prove contentious. The Canadian and Mexican negotiators defended NAFTA as an economic success story but acknowledged it needs to be updated to reflect economic and technological changes.

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Tuesday
Aug152017

Experts say Kim Jong-Un doesn't want nuclear war

iStock/Thinkstock(SEOUL) -- Despite the fiery rhetoric coming from both President Donald Trump and North Korean officials, as well as concerns over the country’s recent advances in missile technology, experts maintain that nuclear war is not what Kim Jong-Un wants. Rather, experts say what Kim is searching for can be summed up in one word: survival.

“This is not a man who wants to go to war with the United States,” Jonathan Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who focuses on Northeast Asian studies, told ABC News.

“[The North Koreans] were not going to strike first because they know the risks if they did launch some kind of missile attack," Pollack said, adding that those risks include Trump deciding to put North Korea "out of business."

While statements were being hurled back and forth by both Trump and Kim last week, Scott Snyder, a senior fellow for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, told ABC News that "what we know of Kim Jong-Un is that he wants to survive."

Steve Ganyard, an ABC News aviation contributor and retired Marine Corps colonel, agreed: "Kim Jong-Un is a rational man, so the whole goal is regime survival."

“He's learned the lesson of Saddam [Hussein] and Muammar [Gaddafi]," Ganyard said. "He's never going to give up his nukes, so I think at some point we go back to Cold War-style deterrence and containment the way we did with the Soviet Union successfully," Ganyard added.

That would bring relations with the U.S. back to the status quo, but not change things much on the ground in North Korea.

"It will remain a standoff unless we can ratchet up the economic sanctions to the point that it begins to cripple the North Korean economy," Ganyard said.

Pollack went further, saying that in addition to simply surviving as the country's leader, Kim “wants to be validated.”

“He presides over one of the most misbegotten regimes in the world that has an economy one fortieth the size of South Korea's,” Pollack said of Kim. “He is trying to claim that he is now on a level playing field with the most powerful state in the world, so he does this through an over-commitment to military programs."

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Tuesday
Aug152017

ISIS 'clearly responsible for genocide,' Tillerson says

Mark Reinstein/Corbis Via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday that ISIS has committed genocide.

"ISIS is clearly responsible for genocide against Yezidis, Christians, and Shiia Muslims," Tillerson told reporters gathered in the State Department's Treaty Room, adding that his statement should "remove any ambiguity from previous statements or reports by the State Department."

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Tuesday
Aug152017

Sierra Leone mudslide leaves more than 300 dead and at least 700 missing

Twitter/@mahatmat(FREETOWN, Sierra Leone) -- At least 312 people have been killed and 700 others are missing in the wake of heavy flooding and mudslides in Sierra Leone, a Red Cross spokesperson told ABC News. An estimated 3,000 people had their homes swept away in the disaster, and those numbers could still rise, the Red Cross said.

A hillside on the outskirts of Sierra Leone's capital Freetown collapsed Monday morning after a night of heavy rain, sweeping away houses and turning roads into rivers. Many people were asleep at the time of the landslide, which happened around 6:30 a.m. local time, and aid organizations fear that many may still be trapped in their homes.

“In places, entire communities seem to have been washed away and whatever is left is covered in mud,” Abdul Nasir, program coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said in a statement.

The Red Cross said that its volunteers have rescued 71 people from the mud and rubble so far.


“Although a full picture of the damage is still emerging, reports indicate that the situation in and around Freetown is extremely serious,” Alex Carle, director of international programs at the British Red Cross, said in a statement. “At least a hundred houses have been affected, some of which have been completely submerged."

He added that he is concerned about the increased risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid after the flooding.

Save the Children said that one of their staff members and his young children are among the missing. His house was buried during the flooding.

“We were driving on the main road out of Freetown past Regent when a lady ran onto the road and started gesticulating wildly. She called out to another lady who had been riding a bike in front of us who, after a brief conversation, started crying and looked very upset,” Ramatu Jalloh, a worker with Save the Children who was near the scene of the flooding, said in a statement.

“It was clear from their reactions that something terrible had happened. Soon afterward, another man ran towards our car. He was crying about the number of lives that had been lost," Jalloh added.

Dozens of children are likely to have lost their lives in the flooding, according to Save the Children.

The U.N. Secretary-General "is saddened by the deaths and devastation" caused by the mudslide, his spokesman said in a statement.


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Tuesday
Aug152017

Kim Jong Un briefed on Guam attack plan, will watch 'stupid American behavior for a bit longer'

iStock/Thinkstock(SEOUL) -- Kim Jong Un was briefed by a North Korean general on the country's plan to launch missiles toward Guam, according to South Korea's largest news agency, but the combative leader appeared to pause the heated rhetoric, saying he would watch "stupid American behavior for a bit longer."

"Dear Supreme Leader has spent a long time to review the plan to attack Guam by surrounding it and conferred with the leaders present," reads a translated statement by Yonhap, attributed to KCNA, the state news agency of North Korea.

The war planning came during the leader's visit on Monday to the the headquarters of Strategy Division of the North Korea's People's Army where he reportedly met with General Kim Rak Gyom. While there, Kim warned soldiers to stand ready to strike "at all times," according to the Yonhap report.

The order to his army was reportedly followed by more bluster but also a call for the U.S. to ease tensions.

"Dear Supreme Leader said that the Americans' reckless military confrontational behavior has ended up the U.S. trapping themselves with their own hands and are spending pathetic fate by weary minutes and seconds and that Dear Supreme Leader will watch such stupid American behavior for a bit longer,” KCNA said, according to Yonhap.

"The United States, which was the first to bring numerous strategic nuclear equipment near us, should first make the right decision and show through actions if they wish to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula and prevent a dangerous military clash," Kim was quoted as saying.

When the preparation for battle was complete, Kim decided to take a photo with his soldiers.

"Dear Supreme Leader took a commemorative photo with the soldiers, who welcomed the Dear Supreme Leader with utmost excitement, to whom the Dear Supreme Leader responded by waving at them," KCNA reported.

Pyongyang's saber rattling comes a week after the North Korean army declared it would complete an assault to launch four intermediate ballistic missiles near Guam by mid-August. And it's one day after the U.N. passed sanctions to devastate the region; China on Tuesday announced it would phase out supplying North Korea with crucial coal imports.

Kim's rhetoric on Monday came shortly after Secretary of Defense James Mattis harshly warned North Korea of considering any sort of aggression against the U.S.

"If they shoot at the United States, I'm assuming they've hit the United States. ... If they do that, then it's game on," he said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

 

Monday
Aug142017

Defense Secretary Mattis: 'We'll take out' North Korean missiles to Guam 

Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Amid heightening rhetoric over an attack on the U.S. island territory of Guam, Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters Monday that his department will know “within moments” where a North Korean missile is headed, were it to be launched.

"We'll know if it's going towards Guam within moments," he said, adding later, "We know swiftly after it's launched where it's going to land."

Mattis also cautioned that “we'll take it out” if the missile is located heading to the U.S. territory off the coast of Philippines.

However, Mattis said that President Donald Trump would be the one to decide America’s response if the missile is found to have been launched into Guam's surroundings waters.

"Well, then it becomes an issue that we take up however the president chooses," he responded.

Mattis chose stronger words for the hostile North Korean regime during the press gaggle Monday in comparison to his words last week during an event in California.

Mattis said that if North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s army fired a missile at the U.S, it would “escalate into war very quickly,” and that if it hit U.S. cities, it would be “game on.” But the retired U.S. Marine Corps general stressed that the Defense Department will do its “best to make sure it doesn’t hit the U.S.”

When asked to clarify his comments on an escalation of war, Mattis said, "War is up to the president, perhaps up to Congress. The bottom line is that we will defend the country from an attack. For us, that's war. That's a war-time situation."

Mattis also pointed out that making the decision to go to war can’t be done in “advance,” given a “host of things going on,” especially since there are “allies that [they] have to consult with.”

Mattis' strong statement comes as Yonhap reports that KNCA, North Korea's state news agency, reported that "Dear Supreme Leader said today that the Americans' reckless military confrontational behavior has ended up the U.S. trapping themselves with their own hands and are spending pathetic fate by weary minutes and seconds and that Dear Supreme Leader will watch such stupid American behavior for a bit longer.”

On August 10, Mattis told reporters that a potential nuclear incident "would be catastrophic" and warned that the “tragedy of war is well-known.” Mattis looked to be opting for a more diplomatic route during the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) event in California, saying that he wanted to “stay right here now” in the “American effort [that] is diplomatically led.”

"It’s [North Korea's] aligning the United Nations in very serious sanctions, and I would just tell you that it did not happen by accident," Mattis said, of the 15-0 unanimous U.N. Security Council vote to impose economic sanctions on North Korea and stop its missile production.

However, Mattis changed his tune on Monday, saying “welcome to reality” for the young troops who would be going into a wartime situation, adding that this doesn’t mean war is being declared yet.

Mattis referenced the political satire Dr. Strangelove, a film that satirized the Cold War fears of a nuclear conflict between the Soviet Union and the U.S., saying he’s not trying to “do things like that.”

Mattis released a harsher statement immediately following Trump’s initial “fire and fury” comments last week and North Korea’s threat to send four intermediate range missiles to Guam. The war veteran said “it must be noted that the combined allied militaries now possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive...capabilities on Earth,” adding that any arms race would be “grossly overmatched by ours.”

Mattis has continuously warned North Korea of “the consequences” the rogue nation could bear in his slew of statements, despite calling for actions in a “diplomatically effective manner.”

The secretary said he regularly speaks with former secretaries of defense and state, as well as former national security advisers.

"Korea looms large in those discussions with all those predecessors," he said.

Mattis’ comments Monday come on the heels of North Korea’s warning Saturday that the Trump administration “better talk and act properly” if it doesn’t want to meet its “tragic doom.”

“The U.S. has done all sorts of wrongs to the DPRK… but now it finds itself in an ever worsening dilemma, being thrown into the grip of extreme security unrest by the DPRK. This is tragicomedy of its own making,” North Korea said in a statement distributed through state-run media.

Trump spoke with a key leader in the conflict, China’s President Xi JinPing, on Saturday to reiterate both nation’s commitments to “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Aug142017

Germany responds to Charlottesville violence with sharp condemnation 

Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images(BERLIN) -- The violence in Charlottesville this weekend was “absolutely repulsive,” a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday, as other German politicians condemned the neo-Nazi sympathies on display in the Virginia city and President Donald Trump’s response.

"The scenes at the right-wing extremist march were absolutely repulsive – the racism, anti-Semitism and hate on display were in their most naked and evil form," the spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said, according to a statement from the German chancellor’s office. He said what happened there was “diametrically opposed to the political goals of the chancellor and the entire German government."

The entire German government “stands in solidarity with those who peacefully stand up to aggressive, right-extremist positions,” Seibert said. He added that Merkel’s “thoughts are with the family and friends of the woman who died as well as with the other victims, who we hope will completely recover.”

Several leading politicians condemned the violence, and a couple called out President Trump for not immediately condemning the neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and other white nationalists who marched and clashed with counterprotesters in Charlottesville on Friday and Saturday.

“What happened in the U.S. is Nazi terror, that’s the only way to describe it and to call it,” Martin Schulz, the head of the Social Democratic Party and a candidate for chancellor, said Monday. “It’s shocking that the president of the United States of America has remained silent about this kind of terror, or makes comments that would allow those who committed these acts of violence there to feel encouraged.”

Another member of Schulz’s party, German Ministry of Justice Heiko Maas, echoed that criticism.

“His half-hearted dithering on the right-wing extremist violence is fatal,” Maas tweeted. “All democrats should find unambiguous words to stand up against racism. Those who can't demonstrate a definitive stand must reckon with the fact that they are empowering neo-Nazis.”

Trump on Saturday blamed “many sides” for the violence, which killed one woman and injured at least 19 others. Monday, after two days of criticism for his failure to call out white nationalists by name, he specifically denounced “the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

Germany has strict laws against displaying Nazi symbols and slogans. Even suggesting support for Nazi ideas is taboo.

Anti-immigrant sentiment in the country, however, has led to the rise of the right-wing, populist Alternative für Deutschland Party. But support for the party has reportedly slipped in recent months, after an AfD politician criticized Germany’s tradition of taking responsibility for the Holocaust and other crimes of the Nazi era.

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