'does this guy have anything better to do with his life?'

'does this guy have anything better to do with his life?'

This week in Russia

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US “is prepared to discuss with Russia joint efforts to stabilize war-torn Syria, including no-fly zones.”

On Friday, President Trump will meet in person with Russian president Vladimir Putin for the first time since taking office.

Don’t forget about North Korea

North Korea claims it has successfully launched a long-range ballistic missile capable of reaching Alaska. The launch, if confirmed, would “represent a significant technological and political accomplishment for North Korea” and place the United States “in a much tougher negotiating position.” The missile, according to analyses by the South Korean and Japanese militaries, “flew nearly 600 miles, reaching an altitude of 1,500 miles – higher than many satellites in orbit – before turning to come back down.” It landed in the Sea of Japan within Japan’s exclusive economic zone, which Japan’s Defense Ministry called “a serious threat [which] cannot be tolerated.”

The US’s first response came in a series of tweets from President Trump, who wrote, “North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea…and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!”

According to the Associated Press, “China and Russia proposed on Tuesday that North Korea declare a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests while the United States and South Korea refrain from large-scale joint military exercises.” On Wednesday, however, the US and South Korea “announced they had held a new ballistic missile drill to counter ‘North Korea’s destabilizing and unlawful actions.’” At an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council that same day, US Ambassador Nikki Haley claimed the US would use military force if needed against North Korea, whose actions, she said, were “quickly closing off the possibility of a diplomatic solution.” Earlier in the day, North Korea claimed its missile could carry a nuclear warhead.

On Thursday, ahead of a G-20 meeting with leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies, the Associated Press reported that the Trump administration was considering “secondary sanctions” against Chinese companies that do business with North Korea. Though it’s sure to upset China, it’s a strategy that’s paid off in the past, as the AP reports, particularly in Iran, “where American economic penalties helped drive Tehran to the nuclear negotiating table.” North Korea, which relies on China for about 90 percent of their trade, would be “even more susceptible to such pressure.”

At The Atlantic, Krishnadev Calamur reviews the US’s options and concludes acceptance of North Korea’s nuclear program “could be the policy the U.S. adopts.”

At the National Interest, Robert E. Kelly argues that North Korea’s nuclear program “is intended to deter U.S.-led regime-change efforts [and] as a hedge against Chinese domination [in the region].”

Other notes:                                                        

On Sunday, Trump “escalated his self-proclaimed war with the media, tweeting an edited video that portrays him physically attacking…a man whose head is replaced by a superimposed CNN logo” with the hashtags “#FraudNewsCNN” and “#FNN” below. In its official response, CNN said “It is a sad day when the President of the United States encourages violence against reporters.” The tweet comes just days after another tweet – condemned by both Republicans and Democrats – in which he crudely attacked “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski, whose show, as Axios reports, is among his media staples.

In a “sharply worded” decision, a federal appeals court on Monday blocked the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) attempt to suspend an Obama-era regulation “limiting methane and smog-forming pollutants emitted by oil and gas wells.” As the Washington Post reports, “in a 2-to-1 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit concluded that the EPA had the right to reconsider [the 2016 rule] but could not delay the effective date while it sought to rewrite the regulation.”

Congressman Steve Scalise (R-LA) was readmitted into the intensive care unit at MedStar Washington Hospital Center on Wednesday after contracting an infection. Scalise was critically wounded last month after a gunman opened fire on a baseball practice that he and fellow congressional officials had been participating in.

During a news conference with Polish president Andrzej Duda on Wednesday, Trump criticized Russia for “destabilizing behavior,” and claimed, when asked about election meddling that “it was Russia, and I think it was probably others also,” although he spent more time criticizing former President Obama for “[doing] nothing about it.”

The weedkiller dicamba has been drifting “into neighboring fields and damaging other crops, especially soybeans,” in Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, and Mississippi. As NPR reports, “the total area of damaged soybean fields could reach 2 million acres.” Though dicamba has been around as a weedkiller for decades, it wasn’t used widely until the biotech company Monsanto developed soybean and cotton varieties tolerant of it.

Office of Government Ethics (OGE) Director Walter Shaub resigned on Thursday, telling NPR that “the current situation has made it clear that the ethics program needs to be stronger than it is,” and asserting that his new role with the Campaign Legal Center, “a nonpartisan organization of election-law experts,” will allow him to push for reform.

18 states, along with the District of Columbia, sued the US Education Department “over the recent suspension of rules that would have swiftly canceled the student-loan debt of people defrauded by Corinthian Colleges Inc and other for-profit schools.”

above image: "president trump's trip to poland," the white house / flickr

‘this is obviously very high level and sensitive information’

‘this is obviously very high level and sensitive information’

‘a new aggression under ill-founded pretexts’

‘a new aggression under ill-founded pretexts’