US fighter jets arrive in South Korea; Trump attacks FBI credibility

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  • White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster said North Korea is “the greatest immediate threat to the United States.” He said the threat was “increasing every day, which means that we are in a race, really. We are in a race to be able to solve this problem.” (CNN)  Meanwhile, North Korea said the U.S. was “begging” for a nuclear war by planning the “largest-ever” joint aerial drill with South Korea just after concluding an exercise with nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. (Bloomberg) The statement came after Yonhap, South Korean’s news agency, reported that six U.S. Raptor stealth fighters planes arrived in South Korea on Saturday for a joint air drill. The F-22s flew into South Korea together to start simulated attacks on mock North Korean targets, according to Yonhap.
  • President Donald Trump hit out at the FBI in a series of tweets, saying the law enforcement agency’s reputation was “in Tatters.” He said in a tweet that “we will bring it back to greatness.” Trump was responding to reports that an FBI agent was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian election interference in the presidential election because of text messages he wrote appearing to have a bias against Trump. The agent had also worked on the investigation of Democrat Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
  • The United States quit talks over a United Nations pact that looked to create a comprehensive response to global migration issues. U.S Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the global approach to the issue was “simply not compatible with U.S. sovereignty.” With a more than 20 million refugees globally, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a declaration in September last year that expressed the “will of world leaders to save lives, protect rights and share responsibility on a global scale.” The assembly also agreed to spend two years negotiating the pact on safe, orderly and regular migration. However, Haley said: “We will decide how best to control our borders and who will be allowed to enter our country.” In a statement released on Saturday, the U.S. mission to the U.N. noted that Trump made the decision.


  • Trump said on Saturday there was “absolutely no collusion” between his campaign and Russia. Trump was responding to his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleading guilty to lying to authorities about meetings with Russians. Trump said he had to fire Flynn because he lied to Vice President Mike Pence and the FBI. Flynn also admitted in a court document that a senior member of Trump’s transition team directed him to make contact with Russian officials. On Twitter, the president said Flynn’s actions during the transition following the 2016 election “were lawful.”  In a statement he released after his morning court appearance, shown here on CNBC, Flynn said he was working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office. Mueller is tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
  • The U.S. Senate voted 51-49 in favor of a tax package that will cut taxes for businesses and the wealthy. The overhaul is the largest change to tax laws in 30 years and will add $1.4 trillion over 10 years to the $20 trillion of national debt to finance changes to boost the economy. Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the corporate tax rate will be permanently lowered from 35 percent to 20 percent, while future foreign profits of U.S.-based companies will be mainly exempt from tax. The non-partisan Senate Joint Committee on Taxation said most Americans across all income levels would see modest tax breaks until 2026, and after that families earning under $75,000 a year would likely face higher taxes. (Washington Post) The bill will now need to be merged with separate legislation that has passed the House of Representatives, a process that will begin on Monday.
  • Authorities in Honduras imposed a 10-day dusk-to-dawn curfew to curb violent protests that erupted after an election that has been plagued with accusations of vote rigging. The government also expanded powers for the army and police. Opposition leaders said the move would stifle protests over a presidential vote count that has been going on for five days. The Associated Press reported that the country’s electoral court had finished counting nearly 95 percent of the ballot boxes from the November 26 presidential election by late Friday. President Juan Orlando Hernandez had a thin lead over his challenger, TV host Salvador Nasralla, but thousands of disputed votes could still swing the outcome.

What we’re reading

  • It all started with some tweets. South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill was days away from announcing a new energy strategy for his state after a once-in-a-century storm wreaked havoc on South Australia. The storm had brought down power lines and infrastructure, causing a statewide blackout, when he got the news that Tesla chief Elon Musk wanted to solve the state’s energy woes. Musk had offered to build the most powerful battery ever made, and do it faster than generally thought possible. “Tesla will get the system installed and working 100 days from contract signature or it is free,” Musk tweeted. This piece from the Sydney Morning Herald, lays out how the project eventuated. On Friday, Weatherill turned on the largest ion battery in the world. The 100-megawatt battery system provides 129-megawatt hours of energy, reduces intermittency issues, and manages increased demand during summer peak loading periods, potentially providing enough energy to power 30,000 homes for eight hours. Weatherill called it “history in the making.” — Charles Anderson
  • Two months ago, six teen girls survived the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. This story in The Washington Post by John Woodrow Cox outlines what they endured, then and after. — Charles Anderson


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