Trump says he'll meet Kim Jong-un; Syria aid convoy postponed after attack

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  • Historic meeting between U.S. and North Korea mooted  – After years and months of tension, including threatening nuclear rockets, President Donald Trump responded positively to overtures from South Korea about meeting Kim Jong-un of North Korea. The two leaders could meet as soon as May this year, agencies report. AP notes that this would have been “unthinkable” just a few months ago. The proposal followed discussions between delegations from North and South Korea, in the wake of the successful Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang. The rapprochement was announced by South Korean national security adviser, Chung Eui-yung (Washington Post).
  • Aid convoy in Ghouta, Syria, postponed after suspected chemical attack – A convoy expected to bring aid to civilians in eastern Ghouta was postponed amid fears of a chemical attack, according to The Guardian. It’s the second time this week aid has been delayed because of military action. Dozens of people were treated for breathing difficulties after Syrian government airstrikes hit rebel enclaves in eastern Ghouta yesterday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. UN investigators said the Syrian government used chlorine as a weapon at least three times between 2014 and 2015 and sarin gas in 2016, as reported by The Guardian.
  • Manafort pleads not guilty – President Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort pleaded not guilty on Thursday to criminal charges in a second criminal case brought by special counsel Robert Mueller. The charges range from bank fraud to filing false tax returns. This will be the first of two trials for Manafort this year. Another trial, scheduled to begin in September, accuses Manafort and another former Trump aide, Rick Gates, of conspiring to defraud the United States by hiding tens of millions of dollars from their work in Ukraine helping Russia-friendly parties.
  • Florida moves on gun control measures – Florida’s state House of Representatives has pushed new gun control measures through another legal hurdle. The House passed a bill raising the age to buy a gun from 18 to 21 and imposing a three-day waiting period on all gun sales. It also includes a program to arm some teachers. The bill comes weeks after one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history, in which 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The bill now goes to Governor Rick Scott, who will sign it into law.

  • Spy attack police officer recovering – The police officer who came into contact with a nerve agent used in an attack on a former British double agent is now talking and engaging with people, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said. She called the attack on ex-British spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, an “attempted murder in the most cruel and public way,” after they were both found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury on March 4. An unspecified but “very rare” nerve agent was used to try to kill the two, who remain in critical condition, according to Rudd. The unnamed police officer, who was the first to respond to the scene, was also hospitalized. She added during a BBC radio interview that the British government would respond but keep a “cool head” if Russia was deemed responsible for the attack. Comparisons have been drawn (NYT, The Guardian) between the attack and the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, which British authorities concluded was ordered by the Kremlin. (Read more WikiTribune coverage on this story.)

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  • The Trump administration has appointed hundreds of staffers to powerful positions across the federal government. Some are old policy hands from conservative D.C. think tanks. Others have little-to-no government experience and come straight from the industries they are now tasked to regulate and oversee. ProPublica has collected personnel records for thousands of these appointees. Use this database to search for them by name, former employer and agency. – Charles Anderson
  • Fascinating piece from The New York Times on ‘life without devices’. Farhad Manjoo spent two whole months – think about it! – reliving 20th-century life, getting his news only from print newspapers. He felt lonely at times, and wondered what the online hordes were saying. But there were upsides. With reference to the Parkland school shooting, a major story that happened towards the end of his abstinence, he writes of print-only information: “Not only had I spent less time with the story than if I had followed along as it unfolded online, I was better informed, too.” – Angela Long

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