A top North Korean diplomat has slammed US National Security Advisor John Bolton for his “nonsense” and “dim-sighted” call for denuclearization amid stalled talks between the two nations following the fruitless summit in Hanoi.

In an interview with Bloomberg on Wednesday, Bolton said that Washington could only proceed with further negotiations once there is “a real indication” that Pyongyang is ready to give up its nuclear program.

Bolton’s words caused outrage in North Korea as the country’s Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui dubbed his remarks as “nonsense,” adding that they were “devoid of discretion and reason,” according to country’s state-run KCNA agency.

Bolton’s stunt also made the Pyongyang diplomat wonder whether the claims stemmed from the “incomprehension of the intentions of the top leaders” or if the national security adviser was trying to add his own vision to the debate.

John Bolton is not the first US official to recently come under fire from the North Korean authorities. Another top Foreign Ministry official earlier asked for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to be removed from the nuclear talks.

This plea from Pyongyang was in vain, however, as Pompeo later indicated that he was “still in charge of the team,” adding that the US “will continue to press North Korea to abandon all of its weapons of mass destruction, ballistic missiles related programs and facilities.”

Meanwhile, in recent weeks both Kim and Trump came up with fairly positive statements about a possible third bilateral summit. While US President Trump hailed his personal relationship with Kim and made it clear that the door to the next meeting is open, the North Korean leader said he welcomes the talks but urged the US to come to the table with “correct posture.”

The Kim-Trump summit in Hanoi essentially failed last February, despite bearing huge symbolical meaning, as both sides walked away without a deal. Pyongyang later bemoaned senior figures in the Trump team overriding the president’s efforts and complicating the talks with a “gangster-like”approach.

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While most were happy that wealthy donors gave $1 billion to rebuild Notre Dame, actress Pamela Anderson had a different take, claiming the “one percent” had their own interests at heart and that the Church is rich enough already.

The model and former Baywatch actress made her latest hard-hitting political contribution in a tweet. This time, Anderson decided to take on the Catholic Church and its wealthy patrons for allegedly over-prioritizing the reconstruction of the world-famous Notre Dame Cathedral, which partially burned down earlier in the week.

She criticized those donating to the cause, saying that their (presumably) untaxed donations are motivated more by a desire for public praise than a love of architecture. She also critically highlighted the fact that such a large sum had been quickly drummed up to rebuild the famous cathedral, but similar amounts were hard to find when it comes to helping the less fortunate.

Her controversial comments incited a variety of reactions, some praising her for calling out the public’s reliance on the whims of the wealthy. Others agreed that the Catholic Church is not exactly hurting for cash to do the repair work.

At the same time, Anderson got her fair share of criticism. Some accused her of not understand French history, culture and law, with many hitting on the fact that the French state, and not the Church, is the cathedral’s proprietor.

Others considered her comments to hypocritical, given what they see as her own less than socially conscious financial decisions.

Anderson has been quite active in commenting on a variety of hot-button political issues. Last week, she attacked the UK, calling it “America’s bitch” over the arrest of WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange.

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Japan has asked the Pentagon for permission to use its own military airstrip, currently shared with US forces, during the 2020 Olympic Games. An Air Force spokesman said the US is “excited” to consider the proposal.

Tokyo is seeking to increase its passenger capacity during the competition in July and August 2020 by making use of the Yokota Airbase, which currently houses the US Air Force and Japanese Air Self-Defense Force. Transforming the base into a dual-use airstrip would alleviate congestion at Narita and Haneda airports, the two main hubs servicing the capital, the Japanese government believes.

The US, which has never left Japan since World War II, had agreed back in January to allow some civilian aircraft to cross airspace typically reserved for American forces. However, it fears that granting civilian jets permission to land might interfere with American military power projection and has approached the request with caution.

Any future commitments of specific US military support to the Olympics and Paralympics will be balanced against operational readiness concerns and Alliance obligations,” USFJ spokesman Air Force Col. John Hutcheson told Stars and Stripes on Friday, adding that the US are waiting for detailed Japanese proposals.

Japan has other issues with the American military presence apart from being required to ask them for permission to use an airstrip. A controversial proposal to locate a US military base on Okinawa was overwhelmingly rejected by locals, but the government confirmed yesterday that it is still moving ahead with the plan.

Meanwhile, tensions between US personnel and the civilian population have been on the rise over numerous criminal incidents, including an American marine murdering his Japanese girlfriend earlier this week. Japan’s defense minister has even had to step in to ask US military leaders to enforce discipline in their ranks.

The possible permanent use of Yokota Airbase by civilian aircraft has been a source of protracted discussions between Washington and Tokyo. The US military, however, has resisted arguing that the extra use would limit its operational readiness.

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Ukraine’s incumbent president Petro Poroshenko and hard-hitting frontrunner Volodymyr Zelensky faced off in a much-hyped big stadium debate, exchanging harsh accusations yet revealing little of their plans for the country.

It was promoted as the most spectacular political show in Ukrainian history, but the debate only attracted 22,000 people at the Olympiyskiy stadium in Kiev on Friday, despite a capacity of more than 70,000. The event was the final chance for the contenders to impress the voters ahead of the election’s second round on Sunday.

An experienced comedian, Zelensky delivered stronger punchlines on the night, calling himself the predictable outcome of Poroshenko’s mistakes. “I’m not your opponent – I’m your sentence,” he told the president, hinting that the latter may well face prosecution for his misdeeds after the election.

He kneeled before the crowd in theatrical gesture, insisting that he was eager to do the same before every mother who lost her son in the military conflict in Eastern Ukraine. The fighting in Donbass was initiated by the current government and the candidate promised to do everything to end the war when in office.

Zelensky accused the head of state of stealing five years of Ukrainians’ lives while he was in power. He also grilled the president over Ukraine’s having turned into the “poorest country in Europe,” with low pensions, deteriorating infrastructure and corrupt officials from his inner circle avoiding responsibility.

There was little to parry with, but Poroshenko, who is trailing behind his rival by a whopping 46 percent, still tried to look as confident as possible. He delivered his lines with a lot more aggression, attacking Zelensky for his lack of experience and “incompetence,” which would make him a weak president and a commander-in-chief incapable of standing strong against the terrifying Vladimir Putin. The incumbent president even accused Zelensky, who had made movies in Russia before 2014, of being a Kremlin stooge.

Poroshenko was more eager to play the ‘Russian aggression’ card that used to work for him in the past, once again promising to bring Crimea back and achieve military victory in Donbass, but didn’t specify how he was planning to do this. During his speech, he was almost constantly booed by Zelensky’s supporters, who clearly overwhelmed those in the stands in Olympiyskiy who were backing the president.

The debate ended without a handshake and it wasn’t the only awkward moment. First, Poroshenko and his team started singing the national anthem before the specially invited singer could step in. When this was sorted out, Zelensky suddenly decided to kiss his wife to the tune of the anthem and showed thumbs up to the stadium. 

After leaving the stadium, the Ukrainian president moved to a television studio for the second round of debates. To no one’s surprise he was left alone there as Zelensky ignored the meeting which he had decided not to attend from the very beginning.

“Poor Ukraine. The debate was absolutely insubstantial” as neither of the candidates proved that he knew what to do with the country, Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Russian Federation Council, wrote in a Facebook post. “It seems Ukraine is up for another five lost years, no matter who wins.”

Zelensky claimed 30.24 percent in the first round of the election on March 31, beating Poroshenko with an almost twofold advantage (15.95 percent). The latest polls reveal that 73 percent of Ukrainians were eager to give their vote to him on Sunday.

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Investigators believe that an electrical short-circuit likely caused the fire that partially destroyed Paris’ iconic Notre Dame Cathedral, a French official has said. An earlier investigation too found no evidence of foul play.

Speaking to the Associated Press, the judicial police official said that investigators are still unable to search through rubble inside the cathedral for safety reasons.

The devastating blaze ravaged the centuries-old building on Monday, gutting the cathedral’s insides, completely destroying the spire and large sections of the roof.

A preliminary investigation of the scene on Tuesday found no immediate signs of arson, the city’s public prosecutor said. More than 50 people are still investigating the fire, which broke out while the landmark cathedral was under reconstruction.

French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to rebuild Notre Dame within five years “even more beautiful than before.” Donations towards the church’s reconstruction have flowed in from the private sector too. French businessman Francois-Henri Pinault has pledged €100 million and fellow billionaire Bernard Arnault offered €200 million towards the restoration.

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It was no surprise that the Mueller team, which did so much to prove a “hollow and laughable” Russiagate conspiracy, delivered no tangible result, the Russian Embassy in the US said in its own report on the issue.

The embassy responded to the much-anticipated report by Robert Mueller and his team just two days after it was made public on Thursday. In a massive 120-page paper, the diplomatic mission debunked key Russiagate claims, including allegations of meddling in the 2016 US election, involvement in the DNC hack attack, and Donald Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia.

The publication also featured a long list of “groundless accusations” made by US mainstream media, politicians and experts in relation to the Russiagate conspiracy theories. It notes that the tremendous efforts made by the Mueller team to find any sign of collusion had failed.

“All this time, Russia pointed to the obvious made-up nature of these insinuations,” the report reads. Moscow had “fruitlessly” asked Washington to provide any hard proof of the allegations, and even offered help to investigate those claims, but “the US refused every single time.”


The embassy said it hopes that the “end of the Mueller saga would contribute to further dispelling the smoke and mirrors on this topic.” Now, it is time for the US and Russia to heal ties and “join efforts to repair the damage to bilateral relations.”

The Mueller report generally obliterated the Russiagate conspiracy theory, but it still claims that Russian “interference” in the election did happen, and that Russian military intelligence was complicit in “hacking” the DNC, as well as the private email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta.

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Yellow Vests protests brought clashes and tear gas back to the streets of Paris, despite politicians’ calls for “unity” in the wake of the Notre Dame fire. For protesters, the response to the fire only showed more inequality.

Saturday’s protests mark the 23rd straight weekend of anti-government demonstrations, but the first since Notre Dame de Paris went up in flames on Monday. Officials were quick to criticize the protesters for returning to the streets so soon after the disaster.

“The rioters will be back tomorrow,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters on Friday. “The rioters have visibly not been moved by what happened at Notre-Dame.”

For many of the protesters, grief over the destruction of the 800-year-old landmark has made way for anger. With smoke still rising from Notre Dame, a group of French tycoons and businessmen pledged €1 billion to the cathedral’s reconstruction, money that the Yellow Vests say could be better spent elsewhere.

“If they can give dozens of millions to rebuild Notre Dame, they should stop telling us there is no money to respond to the social emergency,” trade union leader Philippe Martinez told France 24.

Saturday’s protests saw a return to scenes familiar since the Yellow Vests first mobilized in November to protest a fuel tax hike. Demonstrators in Paris’ Bastille district set barricades on fire and smashed vehicles, and police deployed tear gas to keep the crowds at bay.

Some 60,000 police officers were deployed across the country, while a security perimeter was set up around Notre Dame in Paris. A planned march that would have passed the site was banned by the authorities, but sporadic incidents of vandalism and looting took place across the city, with at least one car torched.

There were also clashes between protesters and gendarmerie in the capital. The police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowd, arresting 189 people, according to France Info.

Yellow Vest rallies also took place in Nantes, Pau, Caen, Montbeliard, Bordeaux, Lyon and other French cities. The total number of people who took to the streets on Saturday reached 9,600, with 6,700 of them protesting in Paris, the Interior Ministry said.

Beginning as a show of anger against rising fuel costs in November, the Yellow Vests movement quickly evolved into a national demonstration of rage against falling living standards, income inequality, and the perceived elitism and pro-corporation policies of President Emmanuel Macron. Over 23 weeks of unrest, Macron has made several concessions to the protesters’ demands, but has thus far been unable to quell the rising dissent.

After Notre Dame caught fire on Monday, the president postponed a television address to the nation, during which he was expected to unveil a package of tax cuts and other economic reforms, another measure to calm the popular anger in France.

Macron’s address will be held on Thursday.

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EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker has added a bit of romance to his song of praise for Angela Merkel, saying such a “lovable work of art” can’t “disappear into thin air” after 2021, when her chancellorship ends.

Speaking to German media this Saturday, Juncker confessed that he could not imagine Merkel disappearing without a trace as a politician. The chancellor, who promised not to run for office again in 2021, would be “highly qualified” for a top-tier EU position, the European Commission chief explained before suddenly upping the ante.

Juncker’s European People’s Party is poised to score big wins during the upcoming Europe-wide election in May, but he himself will quit his job afterwards. Manfred Weber, a Bavarian politician, has been put in pole position to be Juncker’s successor.

That, of course, raises questions as to what is left for Merkel if she is promoted to one of the EU’s top jobs. Some other leaders have suggested that she will lead EU’s foreign policy or become European Council president, but the German chancellor herself hasn’t make any statement on it yet.

Juncker’s relations with Merkel – who backed his European Commission chairmanship in 2014 – are generally warm, but maintaining them wasn’t free of embarrassing blunders.

Two years ago he mistook a call from Merkel for one from his wife right in front of TV cameras. “That’s my wife calling – sorry,” Juncker said, taking his phone from his pocket at a press conference in Brussels.

“No, it’s Mrs Merkel,” Juncker exclaimed before hanging up, prompting laughs from those in attendance.

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Vietnam is again seeking justice for the victims of Agent Orange, inspired by the multimillion-dollar verdicts against Monsanto in California. The biotech firm had supplied the US military with the chemical during the Vietnam War.

The Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange (VAVA) has written a letter to a US court asking that it restart a class-action lawsuit by Agent Orange victims against American chemical firms, including Monsanto, which the Eastern District Court of New York dismissed in 2004, claiming a “lack of evidence” and asserting that “herbicide spraying.. did not constitute a war crime pre-1975.”

Citing two recent court rulings in San Francisco, where Monsanto’s Roundup was found responsible for health damages and the company was ordered to pay millions of dollars in compensation, VAVA asserted that it is time for the company to take responsibility for supplying the US military with Agent Orange during the brutal chemical warfare campaign (1961-1971) against Viet Cong guerilla fighters in which 12 million gallons of herbicide were used.

Dioxin, a highly toxic element of Agent Orange, has been linked to major health problems such as birth defects, cancers other deadly diseases. Stressing that Vietnam currently has more than 4.8 million Agent Orange victims, the letter asked for justice for people with hideous deformities.

“Where is the justice for Vietnamese victims who are being destroyed every day by the toxic chemical?” the letter asks.

Monsanto, which was acquired by German giant Bayer AG last June, in the past argued that it was the US military that had set the specifications for making Agent Orange and decided on where and how the herbicide was used. The company also noted that it was just one of many wartime US government contractors who manufactured the toxin.

Last month a jury in San Francisco awarded $80 million in punitive damages to Edwin Hardeman after the court found that Roundup, Monsanto’s infamous glyphosate-based herbicide, was a “substantial factor” in causing non-Hodgkins lymphoma cancer. In a similar case in August 2018, Dewayne Johnson was awarded $289mn after developing cancer from long-term exposure to Roundup. After months of legal drama, the terminally ill cancer patient agreed to a reduced payout of $78 million.

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Responding to the State Department “applauding” countries that sided with Washington’s regime-change efforts in Venezuela, the Russian Foreign Ministry said clapping is at least harmless and keeps the trigger-happy US hands busy.

Applauding Malta’s decision to deny passage to Russian planes headed for Caracas, newly minted State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus called on all countries “to follow Malta’s example to stop the Kremlin’s support for the dictator,” namely Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Responding to Ortagus on Twitter, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the US should keep clapping, since that would keep it busy enough not to start any wars.

The State Department’s understanding of “democracy” in Venezuela is to back opposition leader Juan Guaido and impose sanctions until he is installed in power. Guaido’s attempts to claim the title of “interim president” since January have failed to impress the police, the military, and the bulk of Venezuelan people.

Reminding the US how its attempts to “promote democracy” around the world usually end, MFA spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters on Thursday that the unfortunate situation with Maltese airspace was nothing new.

“Let me remind you that we’ve been through this before,” Zakharova said. “When we sent humanitarian aid to Syria, our planes were also denied airspace clearance. Remember what obstacles they put up before Russian flights.”

The same countries seeking to prevent Russian aid to Syria were trying to effect “regime change” in Damascus by giving illegitimate support to “moderate” militants, Zakharova noted. “We all remember how [that] ended,” she said.

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