Trump says China has turned back N. Korean coal ships, lauds it as ‘big step’

  • Trump praised China for refusing N. Korean coal this week, saying it was a “big step”
  • A spokesman for Chinese Customs said all coal imports were banned from February 18

Washington (CNN)US President Donald Trump says China has turned a fleet of coal-carrying cargo ships back to North Korea this week, describing it as a “big step” towards cracking down on the rogue state.

China banned all imports of coal from North Korea in mid-February, soon after Pyongyang tested a new intermediate-range missile.
Almost all coal shipments to the Chinese city of Dandong, on the North Korean border, since February have been turned back, a source with knowledge of North Korean government operations in Dandong told CNN.
The ban followed strict, new sanctions imposed in November by the United Nations on North Korean coal exports, which China helped to draft and pass
Coal accounted for a third of all official North Korean exports in 2015, making up a large part of their income. China is by far North Korea’s largest trading partner.
North Korea reacted furiously to China’s February ban, saying they were “dancing to the tune of the US” and describing the cutting of imports as “inhumane.”
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Chinese Customs spokesman Huang Songping confirmed that China stopped all North Korean coal imports after February 18.
Huang said that from January 1 until that cut-off date, China had imported 2.67 million tons of coal from North Korea, 51.6% less than the same quarter in 2016.
But despite the drop off in coal, the value of North Korea imports to China rose 18.4% in the first three months of 2017 compared to a year earlier.
He didn’t provide a breakdown of trade, leaving it unclear how the gap was made up.

Trump, Xi call ‘very productive’

Trump’s statement comes days after he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. The two then spoke on what the White House called a “very productive” phone call Tuesday night.

China cuts coal imports from North Korea

China cuts coal imports from North Korea 01:45
Trump praised reports of China turning away North Korean coal during a joint news conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
“We have a very big problem in North Korea. And, as I said, I really think that China is going to try very hard, and has already started,” Trump said.
“A lot of the coal boats have already been turned back — you saw that yesterday and today — they’ve been turned back,” he said. “The vast amount of coal that comes out of North Korea going to China, they’ve turned back the boats. That’s a big step, and they have many other steps that I know about.”
When asked at a daily press briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang said turning back coal ships from North Korea was part of China “strictly carrying out our international obligations.”
“This also isn’t something new — it’s been our consistent policy,” he said.

China proving it follows sanctions

The new measures are designed to appease international critics who have argued China doesn’t enforce UN sanctions against North Korea, CNN Beijing Correspondent Matt Rivers said.
“(It) gives them a clear rebuttal to the Trump administration’s argument that China isn’t doing its part,” he said. “That could lead to greater leverage in future negotiations on other issues like trade.”
But although China has shown some willingness to follow the US line, they would never push sanctions far enough to collapse Kim Jong Un’s regime.
“It fears a united Korea under South Korean leadership, which could lead to US troops on China’s border. A collapse could also lead to a refugee crisis,” Rivers said.
Trump also signaled a willingness for the US to play a more confrontational role with North Korea, adding: “So we’ll see what happens. It may be effective, it may not be effective. If it’s not effective, we will be effective, I can promise you that.”
Reuters, which first reported that the North Korean ships had turned back to their home port of Nampo, citing its Thomson Reuters Eikon financial information and analytics platform, also reported that China is increasing coal orders from the United States.
North Korea sanctions
  • China bans all coal imports from North Korea
  • Why China’s coal ban isn’t likely to stop North Korea’s weapons
  • No US coal was shipped to China between late 2014 and 2016, but 400,000 tons had been shipped there from the United States by late February, Reuters reported.
    At Wednesday’s news conference, Trump said Xi “wants to do the right thing.”
    “We had a very good bonding. I think we had a very good chemistry together. I think he wants to help us with North Korea,” Trump said.
    He also said the United States is willing to strike a trade deal with friendlier conditions for China if the country plays a role in deterring North Korea’s nuclear program.
    “I said, ‘The way you’re going to make a good trade deal is to help us with North Korea. Otherwise we’re just going to go it alone,'” Trump said. “That’ll be all right too — but going it alone means going with lots of other nations.”

    Google’s AI will take on the world’s top Go player next month

    19-year-old Ke Jie takes on AlphaGo in a best of three matches in May

     

    It’s been a busy year for Google Deepmind. You might remember AlphaGo resoundingly beating Go grandmaster Lee Sedol by four games to one and secretly schooling some of the world’s best Go players online, but the team has also found time to help Britain’s national health service treat patients and arm its computer with new tricks to help it learn faster and “remember” previous knowledge.

    AlphaGo can now justifiably be considered one of the world’s best Go players, but the Deepmind team can’t make a bonafide claim until its AI has beaten the world number one: 19-year-old Chinese player Ke Jie. Deepmind co-founder and CEO Demis Hassabis has now confirmed that after months of speculation, the match is on.

     

     

     

    At the Future of Go Summit between May 23rd to May 27th, Google and the China Go Association (with help from the Chinese government) will bring together AlphaGo and some of the world’s best Go players and AI experts to “explore the mysteries” of the ancient board game.

    There will be a variety of games on offer including Pair Go, where Chinese professionals will face off against each other but alternate moves with an AlphaGo teammate. The Team Go match, on the other hand, will see AlphaGo battle a five-player team of Chinese pros in a bid to test “creativity and adaptability.” Ke Jie vs AlphaGo will, of course, be the main focus. It’ll be a best of three match that Deepmind hopes will push AlphaGo to its absolute limit.

    The event makes for an interesting spectacle, especially considering Ke once said he didn’t want to sit down with AlphaGo because it would learn his playing style. However, when Deepmind convincingly beat Lee Sedol, the 9th dan professional quickly changed his tune.

    “Instead of diminishing the game, as some feared, artificial intelligence (A.I.) has actually made human players stronger and more creative,” said Hassabis. “It’s humbling to see how pros and amateurs alike, who have pored over every detail of AlphaGo’s innovative game play, have actually learned new knowledge and strategies about perhaps the most studied and contemplated game in history.”


    HUD Releases $1.6 Billion in Flood Recovery Funds

    April 10, 2017

    Baton Rouge – Today, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) officially released the $1.6 billion in flood recovery funds appropriated in 2016. In an email to the Office of Community Development, HUD indicated that the state can immediately begin to withdraw funds for flood recovery. The state will immediately begin to use the funds to conduct environmental reviews based on survey responses that began from flood victims. As of today, more than 4,200 homeowners had completed the survey.

    The process for drawing down the flood recovery funds is long and sometimes overly burdensome,” said Gov. Edwards. “While it is often frustrating that we can’t get assistance to homeowners quicker, we are able to immediately move forward with our recovery plans. The fact that these funds were secured at such a record pace is a testament to what we can accomplish when we all – the Louisiana congressional delegation and myself – work together for the people of our state. I look forward to continuing that effort as we seek an additional $2 billion to provide assistance to even more homeowners across the state.”

    In October, Gov. Edwards requested that HUD work with the state to reduce or eliminate the need for costly individual environmental reviews on single family homes eligible for federal repair grants – a request that could save Louisiana more than $105 million dollars in disaster assistance and expedite the rebuilding process for homeowners. While that waiver has not been granted, and until legislation is proposed to solve this problem, the state will immediately begin conducting these reviews.


    Why Kansas Matters Nationally.

    (CNN)On its face, a special House election in Kansas should be a walkover for Republicans.

    Kansas Republicans control both U.S. Senate seats, all four House districts and the governor’s mansion and have massive majorities in the state House and Senate. It’s one of the most conservative states in the country and has been for a very long time. (The last time a Democrat represented Kansas in the U.S. Senate was 1938!)
    And yet today’s special election in Kansas’ 4th district — where Donald Trump won by 27 points last November — is causing Republicans real concern. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz campaigned on behalf of Republican nominee Ron Estes on Monday and both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have recorded phone messages urging Republicans to turn out and vote. And the House Republican campaign committee dropped $100,000 on TV ads in the district late last week.
    Why the concern? A few reasons.
    1) This is a special election. It’s April of the year after a presidential election. Turnout is virtually certain to be extremely low, meaning that if one side is more able to get their base out, it could swing the election. “These are first specials of 2017-2018 with a volatile electorate and motivated opposition, [and] we gotta make sure our bases are covered,” one Republican strategist closely watching the race told me.
    2) The Democratic base is very motivated right now. The election of Trump and his subsequent actions — from the travel ban to the attempted overhaul of healthcare — has energized liberal Democrats beyond belief. They will turn out to vote today — no matter what. Meanwhile, the Republican base is less excited, the by-product of winning everything last fall. That’s why conservative stars like Cruz and Pence are all over the district in the final days of the race; they are desperately trying to gin up GOP excitement and turnout.
    3) Sam Brownback. The outgoing Republican governor — he’s term limited out of office in 2018 — is very, very unpopular in the state. Brownback’s signature tax reform measures are being rejected even by many Republicans in the state and his six-year attempt at a grand conservative experiment has tarnished the party’s brand in the state. Estes, who is the sitting state Treasurer, is struggling to distance himself from Brownback. (Democratic nominee James Thompson has taken to referring to Estes as “Brownbacker Ron Estes.)
    4) Trump. Yes, the President carried this Wichita-based seat by nearly 30 points in November. But, this is the first chance any voters in the country have to offer their say at the ballot box since Trump won. If voters — even Republican voters — want to send a message to the boss in Washington that what he’s doing isn’t exactly what they want him to be doing, this is their first chance.
    The race was clearly moving in Democrats’ favor over its final days. Noted nonpartisan political handicapping site The Cook Political Report moved the race from “Solid Republican” to “Lean Republican on Monday. “Republicans familiar with recent polling describe extremely high Democratic intensity and very low GOP enthusiasm in what is likely to be a very low turnout special,” wrote Cook House analyst David Wasserman.
    A loss here would be a huge problem for Republicans — especially considering that they appear to be no better than an even-money bet to hold Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s now-vacant seat in another special election next Tuesday in Georgia’s 6th district.
    Even a narrow defeat for Democrats in Kansas would likely rev up the party base — and its small-dollar (and big dollar) donors — in the stretch run in Georgia.
    What national Republicans are hoping their spending and attention over the last week will yield is a clear victory for Estes that will tamp down any sort of momentum Democrats are hoping to build heading into Georgia. Democrats, on the other hand, see the Kansas special election as a launching pad for the more winnable seat in Georgia in seven days time.
    In short: Kansas, somewhat remarkably, matters to the national political picture.

    Russian arrested in Spain for allegedly hacking US election

    Reports suggest the arrest may have been carried out on an international warrant issued by the US government.

    gettyimages-633192986.jpg

    The US is pointing fingers at Russia in connection with hacking the presidential election that put Donald Trump in office.

     

    Spanish police arrested a Russian citizen on Friday for allegedly playing a part in hacking the US presidential election last year.

    The Russian embassy in Madrid on Sunday confirmed to Reuters the arrest of computer programmer Pyotr Levashov, who has been remanded in custody, although it did not say on what grounds.

    Russian television station RT said that Levashov was subject to an international arrest warrant issued by the US government, while a “legal source” told AFP that he was subject to a US extradition order.

    Suspicions have floated for months that Russia attempted to sway the 2016 presidential race. In January, US intelligence and security agencies said in a declassified report that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered hacking attacks and propaganda campaigns in the run-up to the November election. The breaches included hacking of emails from the Democratic National Committee, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager, John Podesta.

    The FBI confirmed last month that it was investigating claims that Russian hackers had links to President Donald Trump‘s election team.

    Meanwhile, both houses of the US Congress are conducting their own investigations into potential influence peddling by Russia.

    Security blogger Brian Krebs identified Levashov as an alleged spam king and distributor of malware.

    The US Department of Justice and the Russian Embassy in Madrid did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


    Internet inventor: Make tech accessibility better already

    Vint Cerf

    Both Vint Cerf, known as a “father of the Internet,” and his wife have hearing disabilities.

     

    This is part of CNET’s “Tech Enabled” series about the role technology plays in helping the disability community.

    Vint Cerf is often called the “father of the internet.” Consider him a pretty stern papa.

    Cerf, who is hearing-impaired, played an integral part in the invention of some of the most crucial technologies of the last half century, including the internet and email. But as quickly as he’ll extol how tech can advance society, he won’t mince words about its track record accommodating people with disabilities.

    Accessibility shouldn’t be a “pixie dust” designers sprinkle on as an afterthought, he said.

    “It’s a crime that the most versatile device on the planet, the computer, has not adapted well to people who need help, who need assistive technology,” he said in an interview last month. “It’s almost criminal that programmers have not had their feet held to the fire to build interfaces that are accommodating for people with vision problems or hearing problems or motor problems.”

    Cerf is best known as one of the designers of the architecture for the internet in the early 1970s, helping to shape the rules that dictate where internet traffic goes and, about a decade later, helping to deliver the first commercial email system. Today he is Google‘s “chief internet evangelist” and contributes to the People Centered Internet, a group he cofounded to advance connectivity worldwide. His own disability, and the disabilities of people close to him, shaped his approach to tech, he said.

    Email, for one, brought Cerf more than the typical benefit of posting and interacting on your own timeline.

    “Because I’m hearing-impaired, emails are a tremendously valuable tool because of the precision that you get,” he said, sitting on a hotel couch in his trademark three-piece suit before a SXSW keynote organized by engineering trade organization IEEE. (On this occasion it was grey pinstripe with a blue shirt.) “I can read what’s typed as opposed to straining to hear what’s being said.”

    He’s not alone in needing an assist from technology. About 360 million people worldwide have a hearing disability, roughly 5 percent of all the people on Earth, according to the World Health Organization. Then factor in those with vision, motor or other impairments. In the US alone, more than one in three households has a member who identifies as having a disability, according to panel research by Nielsen last year.

    President George W. Bush presented Cerf with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civil award, in 2005.Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

    Email and the internet were also crucial to his wife’s adaptation to her own disability, even though Cerf teases her for being uninterested in email for more than two decades after he began playing with network mail in the early ’70s.

    Sigrid Cerf, who became deaf as a 3-year-old because of spinal meningitis, finally took the plunge onto the net in the mid ’90s to learn about cochlear implants: surgically embedded devices that bypass the ear and send the brain signals it interprets as sound.

    She learned about the technology — and the doctors specializing in it at Johns Hopkins Hospital — by surfing the web. “She couldn’t get anybody’s attention at Johns Hopkins until somebody in Israel put her in touch by an email exchange,” he said. Even as an inventor of the internet, Cerf said he was amazed by the role email and the net played in so fundamentally changing his wife’s relationship with her disability.

    Cerf’s awareness of disability also sharpens his criticism of tech’s shortcomings.

    “It can’t be a pixie dust that you sprinkle on top of the program and suddenly make it accessible, which is the behavior pattern in the past,” he said. Accessibility should be a design choice that is rewarded, “something a lot of companies have not stepped up to,” he added.

    But he believes awareness among engineers and designers is improving. For people with hearing impairments, speech-to-text products are growing more sophisticated, like automatic closed captioning on YouTube. Voice-command technologies, like those in Amazon’s Alexa, Apple‘s Siri and Google Assistant, are more commonplace. And most recently, neural networks — a programming technique based loosely on how the human brain learns — are advancing speech synthesis, to make it more natural for people with vision or physical disabilities to interact with technology.

    Perhaps most encouraging, he said, is a growing recognition in the tech community that accessibility is important.

    “We need to build in these things from the beginning,” he said. “That’s very powerful stuff.”


    HOW THE USA-PATRIOT ACT EXPANDS LAW ENFORCEMENT “SNEAK AND PEEK” WARRANT

    I was wondering since congress recently passed a law stripping away privacy laws on the internet how this would affect information from a legal viewpoint and abuses of power could or eventually would erode our civil liberties so here is the ACLU’s article on the patriot act.


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