Biden to host Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on June 28 at White House

Israeli president to visit Biden at White House on June 28

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In this file photo, Israeli President Reuvin Rivlin makes remarks after receiving official election results from Chairman of Israel’s Central Elections Committee Judge Uzi Fogelman in Jerusalem, Wednesday, March 31, 2021. Mr. Rivlin will visit President Biden at the White … more >

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By Jeff Mordock

The Washington Times

Saturday, June 19, 2021

President Biden will host Israel’s outgoing president Reuven Rivlin at the White House on June 28, the White House announced Saturday.

“President Rivlin’s visit will highlight the enduring partnership between the United States and Israel and the deep ties between our governments and our people,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. “It will be an opportunity to consult about the many challenges and opportunities facing the region.”

Mr. Rivlin’s seven-year term as president will come to an end next month. He will be succeeded by Isaac Herzog, who was elected to the position by the Knesset in early June.

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U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with Mr. Rivlin last month in Jerusalem and extended an invitation to visit the White House before his term ends.

“As President Rivlin approaches the end of his term, this visit will honor the dedication he has shown to strengthening the friendship between the two countries over the course of many years,” Ms. Psaki said.

Mr. Hezog is slated to be sworn in as president on July 9.  He was elected this month in elections that highlighted the end of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reign in Israel.

The change in government was motivated, in part, by fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants.

White House denies report Vatican nixed papal Mass with Biden

White House denies report Vatican nixed papal Mass with Biden

Catholic News Agency cites 'reliable Vatican source,' concerns about bishops' meeting

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President Joe Biden departs after attending Mass at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Catholic Church, Saturday, April 24, 2021, in Wilmington, Del. Biden is spending the weekend at his home in Delaware. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) **FILE** more >

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By Valerie Richardson

The Washington Times

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

The White House denied Tuesday a report saying that the Vatican scuttled an early plan for President Biden to attend Mass and receive communion from Pope Francis as part of the president’s current European trip.

A White House official flatly contradicted a Monday report from the Catholic News Agency that said “President Joe Biden‘s attendance at early morning Mass with Pope Francis was nixed from an early plan for the first meeting of both leaders,” citing “a reliable Vatican source.”

“That is untrue,” said the administration official in an email.

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The story referred to the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops’ June 16-18 virtual meeting, where the bishops are expected to take up the issue of “Eucharistic coherence” following recent debate on whether Catholic political leaders such as Mr. Biden who advocate for abortion rights should be able to receive the Eucharist.

“The President’s entourage had originally requested for Biden to attend Mass with the pope early in the morning, but the proposal was nixed by the Vatican after considering the impact that Biden receiving Holy Communion from the pope would have on the discussions the USCCB is planning to have during their meeting starting Wednesday, June 16,” said the CNA article.

The CNA later added a note at the top of the story that corrected its previous statement that Mr. Biden and Pope Francis would meet on Tuesday.

“In a story June 14, 2021, about Joe Biden and Pope Francis, the Catholic News Agency, based on information provided by a source, erroneously reported that the U.S. President would meet with the pope on June 15. According to Vatican sources June 15, there is no meeting currently scheduled between Pope Francis and President Joe Biden,” said the Tuesday note.

Mr. Biden arrived Tuesday in Geneva for his first summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the final leg of the president’s European trip after the Group of Seven nations meeting in Cornwall, England, and the NATO summit in Brussels.

The National Catholic Reporter, which is more liberal than the conservative CNA, expressed skepticism over the report in its own article Tuesday headlined, “No, Pope Francis did not cancel a meeting with President Biden.”

The NCR included a quote from a public-affairs officer at the U.S. embassy to the Holy See that said, “President Biden has no plans to visit Rome or Vatican City this week.”

Biden, G-7 leaders agree to end public support of coal industry

Biden, G-7 leaders agree to end public support of coal industry

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In this Jan. 10, 2009, file photo, a flock of geese fly past a smokestack at a coal power plant near Emmitt, Kan. President Biden agreed on June 12, 2021, with other leaders at the Group of Seven wealthiest democracies … more >

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By Dave Boyer

The Washington Times

Saturday, June 12, 2021

President Biden agreed Saturday with other leaders at the Group of Seven wealthiest democracies to end government support of coal generation for power by the end of this year, saying the accelerated action is needed to address climate change.

At their meeting in Carbis Bay, England, the president and his G-7 counterparts committed to spend $2 billion collectively on a new “Industrial Decarbonization Agenda” to speed up “decarbonization technology, and harmonize standards,” the White House said. 

The leaders also agreed to focus on reducing carbon emissions in the sectors of power, transport, agriculture and buildings.

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A recent analysis showed the G-7 countries – the U.S, U.K., Canada, Italy, France, Germany and Japan – spent $189 billion to support oil, coal, and gas since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. mined 706 million tons of coal in 2019, down 7% from the previous year and the lowest total since 1978. The Trump administration sought to revive the domestic coal industry.

The White House said the G-7’s actions on coal are “consistent with President Biden’s domestic leadership.”

It said the leaders at the summit recognize that “unabated coal power generation is the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions globally.”

Also on Saturday, Mr. Biden urged his counterparts to take a united stand against China’s use of forced labor and to commit the G-7 to a global infrastructure initiative to compete with Beijing’s “Belt and Road” program begun in 2013.

The G-7 leaders hope their plan, known as the Build Back Better World initiative, will help to narrow the $40 trillion needed by developing nations by 2035, the White House said.

“This is not just about confronting or taking on China,” a senior Biden administration said. “But until now we haven’t offered a positive alternative that reflects our values, our standards and our way of doing business.”

There was uncertainty on Saturday whether the leaders’ final joint statement at the summit would take on China directly.

Mr. Biden sounded pleased with the meetings so far on his first overseas trip.

“The sun is shining, we’re on this beach, I’m well,” the president told reporters. “And I’m with the president of France, that makes me even feel better.”

French President Emmanuel Macron, who had his differences with Mr. Trump, said the U.S. is “definitely” back on the world stage.

“We have to deal with this pandemic, COVID-19…climate change,” Mr. Macron said. “For all these issues, what we need is cooperation. And I think it’s great to have a U.S. president part of the club, and very willing to cooperate. And I think that what you demonstrate is that leadership is partnership.”

White House: German Chancellor Angela Merkel to visit Joe Biden on July 15

White House: German Chancellor Angela Merkel to visit Biden on July 15

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Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel arrives at Cornwall Airport in Newquay, England, Friday, June 11, 2021, ahead of the G-7 summit. Leaders of the G-7 begin their first of three days of meetings on Friday in Carbis Bay, in which … more >

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By Tom Howell Jr.

The Washington Times

Friday, June 11, 2021

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit President Biden at the White House on July 15 to address COVID-19, climate change and other challenges, the White House said Friday.

Ms. Merkel has served as chancellor since 2005 but is not seeking another term, possibly making it the final Washington visit for the German who holds considerable sway over the European Union and broader world.

“Chancellor Merkel’s visit will affirm the deep bilateral ties between the United States and Germany,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “The leaders will discuss their commitment to close cooperation on a range of common challenges, including ending the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing the threat of climate change, and promoting economic prosperity and international security based on our shared democratic values.”

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The White House announced the meeting as Mr. Biden tries to project unity at the Group of Seven nations summit in the United Kingdom this weekend.

Earlier this year, Mr. Biden waived sanctions on the nearly completed Nord Stream 2 pipeline that takes gas from Russia to Germany, a move that congressional Republicans dubbed a “baffling” gift to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ms. Merkel’s planned departure, meanwhile, has set off jockeying in her home country over who can fill her shoes. Germans in their mid-teens haven’t known a country with a different chancellor.

G-7 nations gather to pledge at least 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses for world

G-7 nations gather to pledge at least 1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses for world

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U.S. President Joe Biden, right, talks with Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, during their meeting ahead of the G-7 summit in Cornwall, Britain, Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Toby Melville/Pool Photo via AP) more >

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By Zeke Miller, Aamer Madhani and Jill Lawless

Associated Press

Friday, June 11, 2021

CARBIS BAY, England (AP) — World leaders from the Group of Seven industrialized nations are set to commit at their summit to share at least 1 billion coronavirus shots with struggling countries around the world — half the doses coming from the U.S. and 100 million from the U.K.

Vaccine sharing commitments from President Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday set the stage for the G-7 leaders’ meeting in England, where leaders will pivot Friday from opening greetings and a “family photo” directly into a session on “Building Back Better From COVID-19.”

“We’re going to help lead the world out of this pandemic working alongside our global partners,” Biden said, adding that the G-7 nations would join the U.S. in outlining their vaccine donation commitments at the three-day summit. The G-7 also includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

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The G-7 leaders have faced mounting pressure to outline their global vaccine sharing plans, especially as inequities in supply around the world have become more pronounced. In the U.S., there is a large vaccine stockpile and the demand for shots has dropped precipitously in recent weeks.

Biden said the U.S. will donate 500 million COVID-19 vaccine doses and previewed a coordinated effort by the advanced economies to make vaccination widely and speedily available everywhere. The commitment was on top of 80 million doses Biden has already pledged to donate by the end of June.

Johnson, for his part, said the first 5 million U.K. doses would be shared in the coming weeks, with the remainder coming over the next year.

“At the G7 Summit I hope my fellow leaders will make similar pledges so that, together, we can vaccinate the world by the end of next year and build back better from coronavirus,” Johnson said in a statement referencing the U.S. president’s campaign slogan.

Earlier Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed the U.S. commitment and said Europe should do the same. He said France would share at least 30 million doses globally by year’s end.

“The European Union needs to have at least the same level of ambition as the United States,” he said at a news conference. He added that time was of the essence, saying, “It’s almost more important to say how many (doses) we deliver the next month than making promises to be fulfilled in 18 months from now.”

Biden predicted the U.S. doses and the overall G-7 commitment would “supercharge” the global vaccination campaign, adding that the U.S. doses come with no strings attached.

“Our vaccine donations don’t include pressure for favors or potential concessions,” Biden said. “We’re doing this to save lives, to end this pandemic, that’s it.”

He added: “Our values call on us to do everything that we can to vaccinate the world against COVID-19.″

The U.S. commitment is to buy and donate 500 million Pfizer doses for distribution through the global COVAX alliance to 92 lower-income countries and the African Union, bringing the first steady supply of mRNA vaccine to the countries that need it most.

The Pfizer agreement came together with some urgency in the last four weeks at Biden’s direction, said a senior White House official, both to meet critical needs overseas and to be ready for announcement at the G-7. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal plans, added that the Biden administration was to apply the same wartime posture applied to the vaccine rollout in the U.S. to its effort to share vaccines globally.

Biden said the 500 million U.S.-manufactured vaccines will be shipped starting in August, with the goal of distributing 200 million by the end of the year. The remaining 300 million doses would be shipped in the first half of 2022. A price tag for the doses was not released, but the U.S. is now set to be COVAX’s largest vaccine donor in addition to its single largest funder with a $4 billion commitment.

The well-funded global alliance has faced a slow start to its vaccination campaign, as richer nations have locked up billions of doses through contracts directly with drug manufacturers.

Biden’s move, officials said, was meant to ensure a substantial amount of manufacturing capacity remains open to the wealthy nations. Just last month, the European Commission signed an agreement to purchase as many as 1.8 billion Pfizer doses in the next two years, a significant share of the company’s upcoming production – though the bloc reserved the right to donate some of its doses to COVAX.

COVAX has distributed just 81 million doses globally and parts of the world, particularly in Africa, remain vaccine deserts.

White House officials said the ramped-up distribution program fits a theme Biden plans to hit frequently during his week in Europe: that Western democracies, and not authoritarian states, can deliver the most good for the world.

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Wednesday that G-7 leaders are “converging” around the idea that vaccine supply can be increased in several ways, including by countries sharing more of their own doses, helping to increase global manufacturing capacity and doing more across the “chain of custody” from when the vaccine is produced to when it is injected into someone in the developing world.

Biden, in his remarks, harked back to the Detroit-area workers who 80 years ago built tanks and planes “that helped defeat the threat of global fascism in World War II.”

“They built what became known as the arsenal of democracy,” Biden said. “Now a new generation of American men and women, working with today’s latest technology, is going to build a new arsenal to defeat the current enemy of world peace, health and stability: COVID-19.”

He noted that Pfizer’s main COVID-19 vaccine plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan, is not far from Detroit.

Last week, the White House unveiled plans to donate an initial allotment of 25 million doses of surplus vaccine overseas, mostly through the World Health Organization-backed COVAX program, promising infusions for South and Central America, Asia, Africa and others.

Officials say a quarter of that excess will be kept in reserve for emergencies and for the U.S. to share directly with allies and partners, including South Korea, Taiwan and Ukraine. Johnson said the U.K. would follow a similar model with its doses, holding 20% in reserve for bilateral agreements but sending the vast majority to COVAX.

China and Russia have shared their domestically produced vaccines with some needy countries, often with hidden strings attached. Sullivan said Biden “does want to show – rallying the rest of the world’s democracies – that democracies are the countries that can best deliver solutions for people everywhere.”

___

Miller reported from Washington. Lawless reported from Falmouth, England. AP writer Sylvie Corbet in Paris and Jonathan Lemire in Plymouth, England, contributed to this report.

Christie says Trump sent ‘wrong message’ about China’s leader

Trump sent ‘wrong message’ about Xi, Christie says

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In this June 29, 2019, photo President Donald Trump, left, poses for a photo with Chinese President Xi Jinping during a meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan. China has fast become a top election issue … more >

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By Dave Boyer

The Washington Times

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Former Trump ally Chris Christie said Thursday that President Trump sent the wrong message while in office by praising Chinese President Xi Jinping as a “good guy,” saying Mr. Xi should have been called out as a human-rights abuser.

Mr. Christie, a former New Jersey governor who served as an informal adviser to Mr. Trump, said on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show that Mr. Trump’s “biggest failing” as president was the admiration he regularly expressed for Mr. Xi when he was trying to preserve a major trade deal with Beijing.

Mr. Xi “didn’t deserve it, and it sent the wrong message to the American people,” Mr. Christie said. “I think it sent the wrong message to the Chinese.”

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He said, “At the beginning of the coronavirus crisis/pandemic, President Trump was praising President Xi for the actions that he was taking, saying that President Xi was doing a great job, and he trusted President Xi to control the virus. I don’t know based on what conduct those decisions were made, because I’ve never seen President Xi do anything that showed he would respect the rights of human beings to be safe, secure and happy.”

Mr. Trump praised Mr. Xi often as he pursued a trade deal with Beijing. At the start of the pandemic in the early months of 2020, he also expressed confidence that Mr. Xi would get the COVID-19 crisis under control.

Asked if he spoke with Mr. Trump at the time about the Chinese leader, Mr. Christie replied, “I did, and he thought he was a good guy. That’s what he told me.”

“I can’t imagine he thought he was a good person, but I think that translated into ‘strong leader,’” Mr. Christie said. “But to me, he’s a dictator, an autocrat, and a human rights abuser. And the word, the phrase, rather, ‘good guy,’ should never be used regarding somebody who has that record.”

Mr. Christie, who is mulling a bid for the White House in 2024, said he hasn’t spoken to the former president recently. He dismissed speculation among some Trump supporters that the former president will somehow be reinstated in the presidency in August.

“The problem with all of this is for our party, and then ultimately for our country, is that all of this backward-looking talk, whether it comes from the former president, from supporters and allies of his in this regard, is bad for our party and bad for our country,” Mr. Christie said. “Parties that look backwards, Hugh, are losers. Let us remember that we lost the House, the Senate and the White House within two years [under Mr. Trump]. The only time that’s happened to our party before is Herbert Hoover. So we’re talking about historic losses here, and the way for us to recover from it is not to continue to look backwards, but to look forwards.”

White House says Joe Biden will prod G-7 nations to donate COVID-19 vaccines

Biden prods G-7 nations to donate COVID-19 vaccines, pledges 500 million more doses

Formally unveils U.S. plan to donate Pfizer doses to Third World in U.K. speech

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In this March 15, 2021, file photo, boxes of COVID-19 vaccine provided through the COVAX global initiative arrive at the airport in Mogadishu, Somalia. The Biden administration plans to provide 500 million shots purchased from Pfizer to 92 lower-income countries … more >

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By Tom Howell Jr.

The Washington Times

Thursday, June 10, 2021

President Biden prodded wealthy nations Thursday to contribute a fair share of COVID-19 vaccines to the world after the U.S. set a high bar for the Group of Seven nations gathered in England, pledging to buy and donate 500 million doses of the “extremely effective” Pfizer-BioNTech version for the poorest nations.

The $3.5 billion U.S. purchase is the largest donation of COVID-19 vaccines by a single country and will stretch into the next year, with 200 million set for delivery this year and 300 million in the first half of 2022.

“This is a monumental commitment by the American people. We’re a nation full of people who step up in times of need,” Mr. Biden said in an outdoor speech from St. Ives in Cornwall.

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But, he added, “we’re not alone in this endeavor.”

Mr. Biden said he expects the G-7 to outline a comprehensive plan Friday to vaccinate the world. A draft communique viewed by Bloomberg News said the group is looking to offer up 1 billion doses by 2022 in a bid to end the pandemic.

The administration will use the second $2 billion of the $4 billion it previously pledged to COVAX, the global vaccine-sharing alliance, to pay for the Pfizer donations alongside $1.5 billion from Mr. Biden’s coronavirus relief package.

Senior administration officials said they will ensure that receiving nations have the cold-chain storage and other capabilities to get doses from the plane into people’s arms.

The push comes amid intense pressure on the U.S. and other wealthy nations to help low-income countries get vaccinated.

The coronavirus has killed 3.7 million people globally and has shown an ability to mutate quickly into new variants, so there is a push to stamp it out everywhere.

“Our values call on us to do everything we can to vaccinate the world against COVID-19,” Mr. Biden said. “There’s a risk of new mutations that could threaten our people.”

Mr. Biden said the vaccines will be donated with no strings attached, though Sen. Ben Sasse — who praised the announcement — said it would be wise to distinguish the gifts from Chinese vaccines with questionable efficacy.

“We should move quickly to share these life-saving shots with friends in Asia and across the developing world with a simple message: Uncle Sam, not Chairman Xi [Jinping], cares about your health,” the Nebraska Republican said.

The administration also portrayed the donation as a triumph of American manufacturing. The doses will be produced at five U.S. sites employing thousands in Kalamazoo, Michigan; McPherson, Kansas; Chesterfield, Missouri; Andover, Massachusetts; and Groton, Connecticut. The four facilities will employ around 7,500 people.

Mr. Biden said wealthier countries are ahead in the global vaccine push, with 64% of American adults receiving at least one shot. Daily case counts are averaging below 15,000 for the first time since March 2020.

“Americans know firsthand the tragedies of this pandemic,” Mr. Biden said. “We know the tragedy. We also know the path to recovery.”

A full course of the Pfizer vaccine requires two doses, so 500 million is enough to vaccinate 250 million people.

The donation comes on top of a previous commitment to send 80 million U.S.-controlled doses overseas by the end of June.

Oxfam, a charity association that fights global poverty, called the new pledge a welcome development but said it remains a “drop in the bucket” compared to global need.

“It’s encouraging to see that in its quest to get America vaccinated, the Biden administration has not lost sight of the needs of those outside our borders. However, charity is not going win the war against the coronavirus,” said Niko Lusiani, Oxfam America’s vaccine lead.

Mr. Lusiani also called for relaxing patent and property-rights rules, which would allow poorer countries to make the vaccines themselves, a step that the first-world countries and corporations that developed the drugs have been reluctant to make.

“It’s time to let the world help itself. Rather than more lucrative transactions with very profitable pharmaceutical corporations, we need a transformation toward more distributed vaccine manufacturing so that qualified producers worldwide can produce billions more low-cost doses on their own terms, without intellectual property constraints,” he said.

Mr. Biden backed a patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines but Europe pushed back and offered a more limited counterproposal to the World Trade Organization, leaving the idea in limbo.

The Pfizer vaccine was the first one approved for emergency use in the U.S. — in December, during the Trump administration.

Its messenger RNA technology uses a snippet of genetic code that teaches the body to create imposters of the coronavirus’s spike protein, so the body knows how to fight the real thing.

It’s proven effective against the original strain of the coronavirus and known variants, yet poorer countries reeling from mutations haven’t had much access to the mRNA shots.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, who joined Mr. Biden in Cornwall, said the company is testing its vaccine on children and eyeing dangerous variants in case it must fine-tune booster shots.

“We will be relentless in pursuing more solutions to end the pandemic,” he said.

Biden revoking Trump executive orders against TikTok and WeChat

Biden revokes Trump executive orders against Chinese apps TikTok, WeChat

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Icons for the smartphone apps TikTok and WeChat are seen on a smartphone screen in Beijing, in a Friday, Aug. 7, 2020 file photo. Officials say the White House has dropped Trump-era executive orders that attempted to ban the popular … more >

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By Ryan Lovelace

The Washington Times

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

President Biden on Wednesday moved to revoke former President Trump’s executive orders aimed at cracking down on TikTok and WeChat, popular China-based social media apps that the Trump administration feared were collecting U.S. users’ data and could be used to spy on Americans. 

Mr. Trump’s Commerce Department pursued bans of the apps last year after Mr. Trump signed two executive orders in August aiming to bar transactions with WeChat and TikTok’s China-based owner ByteDance. Mr. Biden scrapped those orders on Wednesday and undid a January 2021 order from Mr. Trump prohibiting transactions of eight Chinese-connected software applications. 

Mr. Biden is replacing Mr. Trump’s orders with new versions to create a “criteria-based decision framework” to analyze any risks posed by information and communications technology services involving foreign adversaries such as China, according to the White House.

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The White House ordered agencies to evaluate software applications and transactions that may pose national security risks to the U.S. Mr. Biden also told the federal government to give his team recommendations on how to protect Americans’ personally identifiable information from foreign adversaries. 

Prior to Mr. Trump’s executive orders, several federal agencies had banned TikTok from government devices, including the State Department, Department of Homeland Security, and U.S. military. 

The Trump administration‘s concern with TikTok and WeChat involved China’s moves to eliminate the barriers between the country’s commercial sector and its government. The companies’ ties to China raised concerns that the data collected through their apps would be learned by the Chinese government and that the government could use the companies’ products to monitor Americans. 

TikTok declined to comment on Mr. Biden‘s order. TikTok and its China-based owner ByteDance previously argued against the Trump administration’s actions in federal court and pursued different business transactions to have TikTok reside in the U.S. in attempts to satisfy the Trump administration’s concerns about its China-based ownership.

Tencent, the Chinese company that owns social messaging app WeChat, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Harris, under fire, says she’ll visit U.S. southern border someday

Harris, under fire, says she’ll visit U.S.-Mexico border someday

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Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to the traveling press corps, Tuesday, June 8, 2021, at the Sofitel Mexico City Reforma in Mexico City. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) more >

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By Dave Boyer

The Washington Times

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Vice President Kamala D. Harris said Tuesday she’ll visit the southern U.S. border eventually, as she wrapped up a two-day trip to Mexico and Guatemala on the “root causes” of illegal migration, a mission that was largely overshadowed by her refusal to personally witness the problem back home.

A day after dismissing a possible visit to the southern border as a meaningless “grand gesture,” the vice president said in Mexico City that she will make such a trip.

“I’ve been to the border before, I will go again,” Ms. Harris told reporters. “But when I’m in Guatemala dealing with root causes, I think we should have a conversation about what’s going on in Guatemala.”

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She and the White House changed their tune after Ms. Harris gave an interview to NBC News that was panned as defensive and somewhat flippant on the question of traveling to the border.

When anchor Lester Holt asked why she hasn’t visited the border, Ms. Harris replied with sarcasm, “And I haven’t been to Europe.”

She added: “I mean, I don’t understand the point that you’re making … I’m not discounting the importance of the border.”

Congressional Republicans and others say Ms. Harris must see the surge for herself to understand the problem and fix it. President Biden tasked his No. 2 with finding ways to stem the problem — part of a long and growing to-do list for Ms. Harris.

She‘s not even in her home state of California, which has a border with Mexico. She‘s in Guatemala,” Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, said. “Imagine calling 911 when your home is on fire and watching as they hose down your neighbor’s house instead. That’s what it feels like.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, tweeted on Tuesday, “On her way back from Mexico City, VP Kamala Harris should stop by McAllen, Texas — a border community overwhelmed by illegal immigrants, drug cartels, and COVID risks. No guarantee that the flight serves cookies of her likeness, but it’s just a 2-hour plane ride.”

He was referring to cookies made in her likeness that Ms. Harris shared with reporters on Air Force Two on her way to Guatemala.

The White House also tried to tamp down the self-inflicted controversy.

“I expect that sometime she may go to the border,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said of the vice president. “Her assignment was to work with countries and leaders in the Northern Triangle [Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador] to address root causes, address corruption [and] ensure we’re working together to address humanitarian concerns.”

Ms. Psaki said the administration doesn’t want advice on border and migration issues from the GOP.

“We’re not taking advice from former President Trump or most of the Republicans who are criticizing us on this, given they were all sitting there while we created this problem we walked into, both at the border and with the movement of migration that has been growing over the last year,” she said. “We’re not taking our guidance and advice from them. But if it is constructive and it moves the ball forward for [Ms. Harris] to visit the border, she certainly may do that.”

Ms. Harris also cautioned that her meetings in Mexico and Guatemala won’t bring about a “quick fix” to the illegal migration problem in the U.S.

“We are not going to see an immediate return. But we’re going to see progress,” she told NBC. “The real work is going to take time to manifest itself.

In Mexico City, Ms. Harris witnessed the signing of an agreement on Tuesday to establish greater cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico on initiatives to limit migration from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

The vice president and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador watched at the Palacio Nacional as representatives of both nations signed the memorandum of understanding that calls for greater economic development in the Northern Triangle countries. The agreement is aimed at reducing the surge of migrants from Central America.

The vice president wore a mask at the ceremony. Her host did not.

“I strongly believe we are embarking on a new era,” Ms. Harris said later during a meeting with Mr. López Obrador. U.S. journalists said Mexican officials barred at least one of the reporters traveling with Ms. Harris from attending the photo-op of their meeting.

Asked by reporters if he would increase security at Mexico’s northern border with the U.S., Mr. López Obrador replied, “We are very pleased to have her here and we will touch on that subject, but always addressing the fundamental root causes [of migration].”

The Mexican president has blamed President Biden for the increase in migration, saying the Democrat created “expectations” that crossing the border would be easier than it was under the Trump administration.

U.S. authorities saw more than 170,000 encounters on the border in April, the highest level in more than 20 years.

U.S. special envoy Ricardo Zúñiga said the agreement with Mexico marks a new level of cooperation.

“It’s very important to show that the United States and Mexico are collaborating and trying to improve conditions on the ground among our neighbors, because of the importance that other countries in Central America have for both of us,” he told reporters traveling with the vice president.

Ms. Harris began her first trip abroad in Guatemala, where she received a cordial welcome mixed with demonstrations in the streets of Guatemala City. Her motorcade passed activists holding signs proclaiming “Kamala, Trump won” and “Kamala, Mind Your Own Business.”

• Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

Michael McCaul demands Joe Biden make freedom for American detainees precondition for Putin summit

Rep. McCaul demands Biden make freedom for American detainees precondition for Putin summit

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Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with heads of the world’s leading news agencies during the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) via video conference at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, Friday, June 4, … more >

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By Joseph Clark

The Washington Times

Monday, June 7, 2021

Rep. Michael T. McCaul, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on Monday prodded President Biden to make the release of two American detainees a precondition for his meeting next week with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mr. McCaul made the demand and chided the White House’s posture toward the Kremlin during Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s testimony before the committee.

“I’ve repeatedly said that Vladimir Putin is not our friend,” Mr. McCaul said during his opening remarks, in which he cited recent cyberattacks on U.S. companies that have been attributed to Russia and the two American detainees in Russia, Trevor Reed and Paul Whelan.

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“Yet late last month, the Biden administration made the baffling assertion that waiving sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG, a Russian Gazprom subsidiary, and its CEO and corporate officers is somehow in the U.S. ‘national interest,’” Mr. McCaul said. “Let me be clear, allowing a Russian malign interest project to be build that will enrich Putin, give him greater strength in Europe, and further endanger Ukraine is absolutely not in our U.S. national interest.”

He urged Mr. Blinken to call for the release of Mr. Reed and Mr. Whelan as a precondition to the summit, saying the opportunity should not go to waste.

“It is my hope this summit will provide at least some good,” he said.

The White House is preparing for a June 16 summit with Mr. Putin in Geneva, Switzerland, during Mr. Biden’s first trip abroad. The president agreed to the Putin summit to  “restore predictability and stability to the U.S.-Russia relationship,” according to the White House.

Mr. McCaul said the meeting rewarded Mr. Putin.

“This sends a very powerful and very dangerous message,” the congressman said.

White House reaffirms military partnership with Israel, spurns Democrats’ hostility to Jewish state

White House reaffirms military partnership with Israel, spurns Democrats’ hostility to Jewish state

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President-elect Joe Biden’s national security adviser nominee, Jake Sullivan, speaks at The Queen theater, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) more >

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By Joseph Clark

The Washington Times

Updated: 5:07 p.m. on
Friday, June 4, 2021

The Biden administration has reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to strengthening the security partnership with Israel, pledging the support during Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s visit to Washington this week.

The pledge bucks congressional Democrats — mostly the party’s younger progressives — who have been critical of Israel’s conduct in the recent conflict with Hamas and want to pull back from the U.S.’s promised $3.8 billion in military assistance to the Jewish state.

Mr. Gantz was also expected to request another $1 billion in emergency military aid to replenish the Iron Dome, Israel’s missile defense system that was taxed during 11 days of fighting last month between Israel and Hamas.

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Hamas fired an estimated 4,360 rockets at Israel during the conflict, and the Iron Dome shot down 90% of the rockets that came within range of the system, according to Israeli.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan extended President Biden’s support for Israel’s right to defend itself, including support for the Iron Dome specifically, at the meeting Thursday with Mr. Gantz, the White House said.

The White House did not confirm whether Mr. Gantz requested the emergency aid.

Israel’s altercation with Hamas not only tested the Iron Dome but also the Democrats’ solidarity with Israel. Mr. Biden and Democratic leaders in Congress will continue to navigate a sharp rift in the party with a vocal faction increasingly critical of Israel and supportive of Palestinians.

“Palestinian’s aren’t going anywhere no matter how much money you send to Israel’s apartheid government,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress told her colleagues in a recent speech on the House floor.

Several of Ms. Tlaib’s fellow members of the far-left Squad of young lawmakers echoed her criticism of Israel and the Biden administration’s response to the conflict. Those voices included Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Ms. Tlaib later joined Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin in introducing a resolution to block a $735 million arms sale to Israel that had been approved by the White House in early May.

“For decades, the U.S. has sold billions of dollars in weaponry to Israel without ever requiring them to respect basic Palestinian rights. In so doing, we have directly contributed to the death, displacement, and disenfranchisement of millions,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement. “At a time when so many, including President Biden, support a ceasefire, we should not be sending ‘direct attack’ weaponry to Prime Minister Netanyahu to prolong this violence.

Sen. Bernard Sanders backed a similar resolution in the Senate aimed at blocking the deal but has since withdrawn the opposition.

During his visit to Washington, Mr. Gantz also met with Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken.

Mr. Austin also reaffirmed the administration’s support for replenishing the Iron Dome during their conversation, according to a readout provided by the Defense Department.

State Dept. says 1 million U.S. vaccine doses heading to S. Korea

State Dept. says 1 million U.S. vaccine doses heading to S. Korea

Biden pledged help during WH summit with Moon

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A South Korean elderly woman receives the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination center in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, April 1, 2021. South Korea started its coronavirus vaccination for senior citizens over 75 years old. (Chung … more >

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By Tom Howell Jr.

The Washington Times

Friday, June 4, 2021

The U.S. government on Friday said 1 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are en route to South Korea after President Biden pledged to help President Moon Jae-in protect his country against COVID-19 during a recent White House visit.

State Department spokesman Ned Price posted photos of the vaccines being loaded onto planes. The cargo is marked with the American flag and a message reading, “Temperature sensitive product.”

“With these doses, we’re ensuring the safety and readiness of [South Korean] and U.S. forces. The friendship between our two countries runs deep, especially in times of great need,” Mr. Price tweeted.

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The shipment is arriving two weeks after Mr. Biden pledged the doses to Mr. Moon during a White House summit.

The Biden administration said it makes sense to protect over a half-million South Korean troops who work alongside the roughly 28,000 American troops stationed in the Asian nation.

Top officials in Seoul told Reuters that reserve forces, the civil defense corps and persons on overseas business or diplomatic missions also would be vaccinated from the U.S. allotment.

“The Korea situation is unique. As the president said when President Moon visited, the animating purpose behind that is actually about the protection of American forces and the forces who serve alongside American forces: the Korean troops who are standing shoulder to shoulder with us in that country,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Thursday.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires a single dose, so a person is considered fully vaccinated 14 days after receiving the shot.

The coronavirus hit South Korea before most countries in early 2020, though a national testing program was relatively successful in slowing early transmission.

The country’s death rate from COVID-19 is 3.9 per 100,000 people, compared to 182 per 100,000 in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University. Mr. Moon had to look abroad for vaccines, however, due to the lack of domestic production. Roughly 4.5% of the country is fully vaccinated, vs. 41% in the U.S.

Mr. Biden pledged vaccines for troops during Mr. Moon‘s May 21 visit and said the two countries’ pharmaceutical sectors would work together to spur production inside South Korea.

Biden details plan for sharing 80M COVID-19 vaccine doses with world

Biden details plan for sharing 80M COVID-19 vaccine doses with world

NSC Adviser Jake Sullivan: 'This is just the right thing to do'

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President Joe Biden speaks about the COVID-19 vaccination program, in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Wednesday, June 2, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) **FILE** more >

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By Tom Howell Jr.

The Washington Times

Thursday, June 3, 2021

The U.S. will donate three-quarters of the 80 million COVID-19 shots it set aside for the world through COVAX, a global vaccine-sharing partnership, while the remaining 25% will be sent to countries reeling from surges in the coronavirus.

“As long as this pandemic is raging anywhere in the world, the American people will still be vulnerable. And the United States is committed to bringing the same urgency to international vaccination efforts that we have demonstrated at home,” President Biden said in detailing his donation plan for the first time.

The Trump and Biden administrations bought more than enough supply for every American who wants a COVID-19 vaccine to get one. After an early rush, U.S. officials have been forced to beg leery Americans to get vaccinated, even as poor countries clamor for doses to boost their sluggish rollouts.

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Feeling pressure to help out, Mr. Biden set aside 80 million doses for donation by the end of June. It consists of 20 million doses of vaccines approved for emergency use in the U.S. and 60 million doses of the AstraZeneca version, which is not being used in the states.

“We want to save lives and thwart variants that place all of us at risk. Perhaps most important, this is just the right thing to do,” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said. “We’re in a position to help others, so we will help others.”

Mr. Biden said the vaccines won’t be used to secure favors from other countries, a nod to the type of “vaccine diplomacy” being wielded by nations such as China.

Using COVAX will “maximize the number of vaccines available equitably for the greatest number of countries and for those most at-risk within countries,” the White House said. “For doses shared through COVAX, the United States will prioritize Latin America and the Caribbean, South and Southeast Asia, and Africa, in coordination with the African Union.”

The first tranche of donations will amount to 25 million doses. It will be a combination of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson versions as the AstraZeneca vaccine sits in regulatory limbo in the U.S.

Nearly 19 million will go to COVAX, including 6 million for South America and Central America, 7 million for hard-hit Asian nations such as India and places like Thailand and Taiwan, which are seeing surges after success earlier in the pandemic. About 5 million will go to countries in the Africa Union.

The remaining 6 million will go to Mexico, Canada, South Korea, the West Bank and Gaza, Ukraine, Kosovo, Haiti, Georgia, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Yemen and U.N. front-line workers.  

“Just like in the United States, we will move as expeditiously as possible, while abiding by U.S. and host country regulatory and legal requirements, to facilitate the safe and secure transport of vaccines across international borders,” the White House said. “This will take time, but the president has directed the administration to use all the levers of the U.S. government to protect individuals from this virus as quickly as possible.”

Some prominent voices criticized the plan as insufficient.

Doctors Without Borders said they were encouraged by the donations, but the allotment of 80 million doses “barely scratches the surface of what’s needed.”

“While people in the US are returning to a sense of normalcy as vaccination rates climb, people across the globe continue to live in constant fear as they’re caught in second and third waves without protection,” said Carrie Teicher, director of programs.

Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican, said the plan forces the U.S. to lead from behind by relying on COVAX.

“The Chinese Communist Party is attaching strings to its garbage vaccines. The United States has the most effective vaccines, but this timid, bureaucratic response isn’t just too slow — it’s keeping us from targeting relief to nations who are getting squeezed by Beijing,” he said. “We should do better by delivering this aid ourselves — it would be faster, more effective and aligned with U.S. strategic interests.”

Mr. Sullivan said the U.S. will maintain some say in which countries get vaccines in consultation with COVAX, though overarching unions in Africa and the Caribbean will be allocated vaccines to their countries as needed.

The administration said it wanted to work within the COVAX program that many global partners are using while maintaining the discretion to direct doses to certain places.

For instance, the U.S. is sending doses to South Korea to make sure troops who work alongside American servicemen and women are vaccinated.

Mr. Sullivan insisted that efforts to help other places won’t turn into a quid pro quo where the countries trade favors and described donations to the West Bank and Gaza as a case of humanitarian aid.

“We feel that given what they are dealing with in the situation on the ground there it is only right and proper and good for the United States to actually allocate some doses to that country,” he said.

He said India received an additional discretionary amount, beyond COVAX, because it is reeling from one of the world’s worst surges.

U.S. losing leverage to stop North Korea nuclear programs, experts say

U.S. losing leverage to stop North Korea nuclear programs, experts say

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By Ben Wolfgang

The Washington Times

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is prepared to wait out the Biden administration and is betting that the U.S. and its allies eventually will be forced to accept his nation as a nuclear power, former top U.S. officials and regional experts said Tuesday.

Speaking at “The Washington Brief,” a monthly forum hosted by The Washington Times Foundation, analysts said that while President Biden’s recent White House meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in showed solidarity between the two countries in their approach to Pyongyang, the levers available to pressure North Korea may be diminishing. The optimism of the Trump era — sparked by a trio of historic face-to-face meetings between Mr. Kim and former President Donald Trump — is being replaced by apparent entrenchment in North Korea, as the country’s leadership grows increasingly convinced that nuclear weapons are necessary to survive and that there’s no pressing need to abandon them.

“Why would they give this all up?” said former CIA official and longtime U.S. diplomatic adviser Joseph DeTrani. “They’ve worked so long to get this. It’s a deterrent and it provides survivability, insurance, for the regime to survive.”

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“They’re waiting for the U.S. to cave on the issue of denuclearization,” he added, “when we finally say that a responsible North Korea with nuclear weapons, maybe we can live with that.”

The White House maintains that the complete and permanent elimination of North Korea‘s nuclear-weapons program remains the ultimate goal. No recent U.S. administration has publicly indicated that Washington is prepared to accept North Korea as a nuclear power.

The U.S. and South Korea signed a joint statement last month doubling down on that stance.

And Mr. Biden and Mr. Moon stressed that diplomacy leading to denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is the best path forward for all parties. 

Mr. Biden even seemed to suggest that he’d be willing to meet Mr. Kim in person under the right circumstances. During the summit with Mr. Moon, the White House announced that longtime State Department official Sung Kim would serve as the special U.S. envoy to North Korea, signaling that the administration was ready to mount a new diplomatic push.

But the Biden-Moon meeting also sparked new animosity with Pyongyang. On the heels of that meeting, Seoul announced the end of longstanding South Korea-U.S. rules that limited South Korea’s ballistic-missile development to a range of about 500 miles.

North Korean state-run media this week blasted that announcement as another example of “U.S. hostile policy toward [North Korea] and its shameful double-dealing.” 

Specialists warn that Mr. Kim almost surely is preparing for new missile launches and perhaps even the country’s first nuclear test since 2017. He also may be growing increasingly confident that America is losing some of its influence over international affairs, particularly as China continues its rise as a major regional and global rival.

“Certainly [Mr. Kim’s] approach is to be bracing for pressure, not preparing to reap the fruits of negotiations,” Markus Garlauskas, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, said at Tuesday’s event, which was moderated by former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Christopher Hill.

“Kim has tested our will and found we are not in a position right now to be able to confront him with the costs and risks sufficient to get him to stop in his tracks,” Mr. Garlauskas said. “He may be proceeding cautiously but I think he’s still proceeding.”

Indeed, crushing economic sanctions on North Korea that have contributed to impoverished living conditions for much of its citizenry have had relatively little impact on Mr. Kim’s thinking on foreign policy and national security matters. A return to the so-called “strategic patience” approach of the Obama era seems unlikely to bear fruit, particularly if Pyongyang is able to rely on China for economic aid to circumvent a U.S.-led economic sanctions campaign.

“A long-term pressure campaign, I believe, is unsustainable because in my opinion the U.S. hegemonic role in that region is declining and our alliance system is going to weaken anyway,” said Alexandre Mansourov, professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies. “Maybe generational change, maybe technological change, in North Korea will bring us in a different situation in the future, but that’s a very distant future. So we’ll have to live with a nuclear-armed North Korea in our lifetime.”

JBS USA, major meat producer, reeling from ‘organized cybersecurity attack’

JBS USA, major meat producer, reeling from ‘organized cybersecurity attack’

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In this May 12, 2020, photo, the company logo sign sits at the entrance to the JBS Australia’s Dinmore meatworks facility, west of Brisbane. Thousands of Australian meat workers had no work for a second day on Tuesday, June 1, … more >

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By Andrew Blake

The Washington Times

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

JBS USA, the American subsidiary of one of the world’s largest meat producers, said it was the target of an “organized cybersecurity attack” that has disrupted its operations in the U.S. and abroad.

In a statement Monday, the company said it ascertained over the weekend that it suffered a cyberattack affecting some of the computer servers that support its North American and Australian IT systems.

The company owns dozens of brands, including Pilgrim’s, Country Pride, Swift and Blue Ribbon.

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“The company took immediate action, suspending all affected systems, notifying authorities and activating the company’s global network of IT professionals and third-party experts to resolve the situation,” JBS USA said in the statement, adding its backup servers were not affected and that it was working to restore its systems as soon as possible.

“The company is not aware of any evidence at this time that any customer, supplier or employee data has been compromised or misused as a result of the situation,” the statement said. “Resolution of the incident will take time, which may delay certain transactions with customers and suppliers.”

JBS USA did not immediately respond to a message requesting additional information about the incident, including questions about the scale and scope of the apparent cyberattack.

SEE ALSO: White House offers help to JBS after a ransomware attack

A number of JBS USA facilities seemed to be still be reeling from the cyberattack as of Tuesday, however, evidenced by operations at several of its plants being scaled back or sidelined.

On its social media pages, JBS USA facilities in Texas, Minnesota and Iowa each announced that several work shifts would be canceled Tuesday, for example. The incident also halted operations at a beef plant in Alberta, Canada, Bloomberg News reported. Cattle and lamb processing at an Australian facility was canceled as well, according to the Australian Financial Review.

Headquartered in Greeley, Colorado, JBS USA is a subsidiary of JBS Foods, which is based in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The subsidiary boasts online of being the biggest beef producer in the U.S., as well as the country’s second-largest producer of pork and poultry.

South Korean leader: Joe Biden tapping North Korea envoy is de facto outreach

South Korean leader: Biden tapping North Korea envoy is de facto outreach

Moon Jae-in touts accomplishment, 'like making a request for North Korea to resume dialogue'

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President Joe Biden listens as South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaks during a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House, Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) more >

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By Tom Howell Jr.

The Washington Times

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday said President Biden’s decision to appoint a special envoy to North Korea is a de facto form of outreach as denuclearizing the peninsula remains a thorny challenge

Mr. Biden, in his White House summit with Mr. Moon last week, announced that he tapped Sung Kim, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, as envoy to the secretive nation ruled by Kim Jong-un.

Mr. Moon said the appointment was “like making a request for North Korea to resume dialogue” and one of the most important accomplishments of his trip to Washington, according to the Yonhap News Agency.

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The South Korean leader made the peace process a key part of his legacy. He’s hoping to restart talks with the north after former President Trump’s personal touch with Mr. Kim failed to result in a breakthrough.

Mr. Biden said he will remain engaged but is wary of legitimizing the strongman.

“We both are deeply concerned about the situation,” Mr. Biden said on May 21. “Our two nations also share a willingness to engage diplomatically with [North Korea] to take pragmatic steps that will reduce tensions, as we move toward our ultimate goal of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

Mr. Biden also said the U.S. will provide COVID-19 vaccines for 550,000 South Korean troops who work in close contact with U.S. forces.

Mr. Moon called the gesture Wednesday a “meaningful gift,” according to Yonhap, though some South Korean politicians said they were looking for a more tangible vaccine swap to help the national population.

Lil Baby Visits White House Shares Photo With VP Kamala Harris

Lil Baby recently took a trip to the White House and met with Vice President Kamala Harris.

In a post on his Instagram page, Lil Baby wrote, “Big shoutout to @vp for taking the time out her busy day to sit with me an have an open discussion! #wegottastartsomewhere.” The statement was accompanied by two images of the rapper alongside the VP in her office.

The rapper’s visit coincided with that of the family of George Floyd. Floyd was killed in an encounter with police officers in Minneapolis last year. Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of his death.

Last month, after Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering Floyd, U.S President Joe Biden called for lawmakers to resurrect the George Floyd Justice in Policing bill. The legislation considered under the Act, if it becomes effective, would ban chokeholds, put restrictions on the use of deadly force by law enforcement and make it easier to prosecute officers for wrongdoing.

Yesterday, Floyd’s family met with the President and other White House officials to discuss the Act, which is stalled in the Senate. Lil Baby was also present at the meeting to discuss the George Floyd act. In a post on his Instagram story where he shared a snap of the meeting, the rapper said, “The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is overly important. Research it.”

In June last year, shortly after Floyd’s death, Lil Baby released the song “The Bigger Picture” in response to the protests over his death. The rapper has been extremely vocal about police brutality and other social issues faced by the black community.

Hundreds of people took to the streets across various US cities last night on the anniversary of Floyd’s death. Oregon police declared a riot in Portland as one of the demonstrations to commemorate Floyd’s death spiraled into chaos.

For his part in honoring Floyd’s memory, Lil Baby’s fans have expressed how proud they are of the rapper. One user commented, “He really working towards The Bigger Picture mad respect,” while another added, “Cant lie THATS BIG!!!”

Fans are now looking forward to what the rapper has in store on the political front as well as musically.

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White House says Biden, Putin to hold first summit June 16 in Geneva

White House says Biden, Putin to hold first summit June 16 in Geneva

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In this March 10, 2011 file photo, then-Vice President Joe Biden, left, shakes hands with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia. The White House and the Kremlin are working to arrange a summit between President Joe Biden and … more >

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By Tom Howell Jr. and David Sherfinski

The Washington Times

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

President Biden will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 16 in Switzerland, the White House said Tuesday.

The visit in Geneva comes on the heels of the Group of Seven meetings in London.

“The leaders will discuss the full range of pressing issues, as we seek to restore predictability and stability to the U.S.-Russia relationship,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

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The Kremlin put out a simultaneous statement in Moscow confirming the date and time as well.

The meeting will be a closely watched affair.

Mr. Biden says he wants a “predictable and stable” relationship with Russia, a power that’s bedeviled the U.S. and West. 

Intelligence officials blamed the Russians for cyber-interference in the 2016 election and contests in Europe, and Mr. Putin and his forces continue to stoke tensions along the Ukraine border. Russia says it is the U.S. and NATO who have been the aggressor.

President Obama tried to reset relations with Russia during Mr. Biden’s time as vice president, only to see tensions rise over Crimea and other issues, and former President Trump was often faulted for his reluctance to criticize Mr. Putin directly.

The meeting announcement comes after a flurry of activity related to U.S.-Russia relations.

The Biden administration last month announced sanctions tied to the massive SolarWinds hack Mr. Biden’s team blamed on Russia.

More recently, the administration announced sanctions on Russian entities for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany — but sidestepped penalizing the German company overseeing the massive project, which is opposed by the U.S.

Mr. Putin is a close ally of Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus’ strongman president who orchestrated the recent diversion of a private airliner to detain a journalist foe in a move condemned by Mr. Biden and much of Europe.

“I will say that while our focus and the purpose of a meeting like this will be to move to a more stable and predictable relationship with Russia after several years where it has not been exactly that — and we believe we can do that in a constructive manner — it does not mean that we will hold back on areas where we have concern,” Ms. Psaki told reporters this week.

Despite the underlying tensions between the U.S. and Russia, the administration did strike a deal to extend a nuclear arms reduction treaty shortly after Mr. Biden took office.

Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican and a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the meeting can only be construed as a reward for Mr. Putin after a series of bad acts, including harsh treatment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

“We’re rewarding Putin with a summit? Putin imprisoned Alexei Navalny and his puppet Lukashenko hijacked a plane to get Roman Protasevich,” Mr. Sasse said. “Instead of treating Putin like a gangster who fears his own people, we’re giving him his treasured Nord Stream 2 pipeline and legitimizing his actions with a summit. This is weak.”

Anthony Blinken: Nuke talks now up to N. Korea

Blinken: Time to hear from N. Korea on denuclearization talks

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FILE – This March 25, 2021, file photo provided by the North Korean government, shows what it says a test fire of newly developed new-type tactical guided projectile by the Academy of Defense Science, at an undisclosed place in North … more >

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By David Sherfinski and Dave Boyer

The Washington Times

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that the ball is now in North Korea’s court on denuclearization talks, after President Biden on Friday declined to rule out a possible meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un if there’s progress on the diplomatic front first.

Mr. Blinken said the U.S. shouldn’t have to live with a nuclear North Korea but pointed out that strategies from multiple previous administrations to deal with Pyongyang haven’t made significant headway.

“I don’t think there’s going to be a grand bargain where this gets resolved in one fell swoop,” Mr. Blinken said on ABC’s “This Week.” “It’s got to be clearly calibrated diplomacy, clear steps from the North Koreans, and it moves forward in that way.”

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He said the U.S. is now waiting for Pyongyang to engage.

“The ball’s in their court,” he said. “We’ve made clear we’re prepared to pursue this diplomatically even as the sanctions remain in place because North Korea continues to engage in activities that are clearly prohibited by the United Nations. But we’re prepared to do the diplomacy. The question is: Is North Korea?”

Mr. Blinken’s comments came after Mr. Biden talked denuclearization as he hosted South Korean President Moon Jae-in for a series of meetings at the White House last week.

Mr. Biden didn’t rule out a possible meeting with Mr. Kim, the North Korean leader, but said he wouldn’t follow the path of former President Trump, who held a trip of unprecedented personal visits with the reclusive North Korean leader without managing to strike a last deal.

Mr. Biden said Mr. Trump’ s approach amounted to giving Mr. Kim “all he’s looking for.

“I would not do what had been done in the recent past,” Mr. Biden said, without mentioning his predecessor’s name. “I would not give [Mr. Kim] all he’s looking for — international recognition as legitimate, and … allow him to move in the direction of appearing to be … more serious about what he wasn’t at all serious about.”

Mr. Trump held two summits with Mr. Kim, breaking a long-running U.S. practice of not engaging North Korea personally, and stepped across the heavily armed DMZ on the Korean peninsula for another meeting. But he did not achieve a breakthrough on beginning to dismantle Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear weapons programs.

At a White House press conference with Mr. Moon, Mr. Biden said the goal of the U.S. “remains complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

“We’re under no illusions about how difficult this is,” the president said. “The past four administrations have not achieved the objective. It’s an incredibly difficult objective.”

The president also announced that he tapped Sung Kim, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, as special envoy to North Korea.

The administration recently completed a view of its policy toward North Korea. Mr. Biden said his advisers closely consulted with South Korea during its policy review.

He said he and Mr. Moon, a longtime proponent of engagement with the North, spoke on Friday about their “shared approach [to] the continuing threat of the DPRK nuclear and missile programs.”

“We both are deeply concerned about the situation,” Mr. Biden said. “Our two nations also share a willingness to engage diplomatically with [North Korea] to take pragmatic steps that will reduce tensions, as we move toward our ultimate goal of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

Mr. Moon’s visit marked the second time Mr. Biden hosted a foreign leader at the White House for official talks since taking office in January. He welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga last month.

The choices for Mr. Biden‘s first two in-person visits illustrate how critical his administration views the Indo-Pacific region amid the persistent threats from North Korea and a rising China.

The White House said after the Friday meetings that the U.S. and South Korea pledged to work together on other major issues like climate change, coronavirus vaccine distribution, and research and development.

Growing mystery of suspected energy attacks draws US concern

Growing mystery of suspected energy attacks draws US concern

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FILE – In this Oct. 3, 2017, file photo, tourists ride classic convertible cars on the Malecon beside the United States Embassy in Havana, Cuba. The Biden administration faces increasing pressure to respond to a sharply growing number of reported … more >

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By Nomaan Merchant and Robert Burns and Eric Tucker

Associated Press

Sunday, May 23, 2021

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is facing new pressure to resolve a mystery that has vexed its predecessors: Is an adversary using a microwave or radio wave weapon to attack the brains of U.S. diplomats, spies and military personnel?

The number of reported cases of possible attack is sharply growing and lawmakers from both parties, as well as those believed to be affected, are demanding answers. But scientists and government officials aren’t yet certain about who might have been behind any attacks, if the symptoms could have been caused inadvertently by surveillance equipment — or if the incidents were actually attacks.

Whatever an official review concludes could have enormous consequences. Confirmation that a U.S. adversary has been conducting damaging attacks against U.S. personnel would unleash calls for a forceful response by the United States.

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For now, the administration is providing assurances that it takes the matter seriously, is investigating aggressively and will make sure those affected have good medical care.

The problem has been labeled the “Havana Syndrome,” because the first cases affected personnel in 2016 at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba. At least 130 cases across the government are now under investigation, up from several dozen last year, according to a U.S. defense official who was not authorized to discuss details publicly. The National Security Council is leading the investigation.

People who are believed to have been affected have reported headaches, dizziness and symptoms consistent with concussions, with some requiring months of medical treatment. Some have reported hearing a loud noise before the sudden onset of symptoms.

Particularly alarming are revelations of at least two possible incidents in the Washington area, including one case near the White House in November in which an official reported dizziness.

The new higher number of possible cases was first reported by The New York Times. CNN first reported the case near the White House and an additional incident in November.

Advocates for those affected accuse the U.S. government of long failing to take the problem seriously or provide the necessary medical care and benefits.

“The government has a much better understanding of it than it has let on,” said Mark Zaid, a Washington lawyer who represents several people affected. Zaid has obtained National Security Agency documents noting it has information dating to the late 1990s about an unidentified “hostile country” possibly having a microwave weapon “to weaken, intimidate, or kill an enemy over time.”

Chris Miller, the acting defense secretary during the last months of the Trump administration, created a Pentagon team to investigate the suspected attacks. That was after he met a soldier late last year who described how, while serving in a country Miller wouldn’t identify, he had heard a “shrieking” sound and then had a splitting headache.

“He was well-trained, extremely well-trained, and he’d been in combat before,” Miller told The Associated Press. “This is an American, a member of the Department of Defense. At that point, you can’t ignore that.”

Defense and intelligence officials have publicly promised to push for answers and better care for people with symptoms. Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell, a Defense Department spokesman, said the causes of any incidents “are areas of active inquiry.” Officials have not identified a suspected country, though some people affected suspect Russian involvement.

CIA Director William Burns testified before Congress that he would make the investigation “a very high priority to ensure that my colleagues get the care that they deserve and that we get to the bottom of what caused these incidents and who was responsible.”

Burns receives daily updates on the investigation, which covers employees who have reported cases this year. He has met with those reporting injuries as have other top CIA officials. The agency has worked to reduce the wait time for its employees to receive outpatient treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

The CIA also replaced its chief medical officer with a doctor seen internally as more sympathetic to possible cases.

“We were treated so awfully in the past,” said Marc Polymeropoulos, a 26-year CIA veteran who was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury following a 2017 visit to Russia. “Now they’re putting people in place who not only believe us but are going to advocate for our health care.”

One key analysis identified “directed, pulsed radio frequency energy” as the most plausible culprit. Published in December by the National Academy of Sciences, the report said a radio frequency attack could alter brain function without causing “gross structural damage.” But the panel could not make a definitive finding on how U.S. personnel may have been hit.

And a declassified 2018 State Department report cited “a lack of senior leadership, ineffective communications, and systemic disorganization” in responding to the Havana cases. The report says the cause of the injuries was “currently unknown.” The document was published by George Washington University’s National Security Archive.

The report also noted that the CIA ultimately closed its Havana station, a victory for a potential adversary.

Dr. James Giordano, a neurology professor at Georgetown University, consulted with the State Department on the Havana cases and has been briefed on more recent incidents in the U.S. and abroad. In reviewing records of people affected in Havana, Giordano noted evidence of neurological injuries in several people, suggesting they may have been hit with radio waves.

He identified two possible culprits: a device intentionally used to target potential victims or a tool that used directed energy waves to conduct surveillance that may have unintentionally harmed the people targeted. One of the November attacks outside the White House had “substantial similarities” to the Havana cases, Giordano said, adding that he was not authorized by the government to be more specific.

“It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to fake or misrepresent certain findings to objective clinical evaluations,” Giordano said. “I mean, there are certain things you can’t make your nerves do or not do.”

Other scientists remain skeptical. Dr. Robert Baloh of the University of California, Los Angeles, argued that scans of healthy people’s brains sometimes display mini-strokes and that any possible weapon would be too large or require too much power to be deployed without detection.

Baloh said the growing number of cases considered directed energy attacks is actually linked to “mass psychogenic illness,” in which people learning of others with symptoms begin to feel sick themselves.

“Many people are hearing about it and that’s how it gets propagated,” Baloh said.

Lawmakers from both parties are pushing the Biden administration to take this seriously. A bill introduced in both the House and Senate on Wednesday would bolster the payment of disability benefits for traumatic brain injuries suffered in the incidents.

“There’s no greater priority than ensuring the health and safety of our people, and the anomalous health incidents that have afflicted our personnel around the world are of grave concern,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, in a statement. Rep. Devin Nunes, the committee’s top Republican, said the people reporting symptoms “were apparently subject to attack.”

Polymeropoulos, the former CIA officer, said he believed the U.S. would ultimately identify what was behind the incidents and who is responsible.

“The actual intelligence is going to take us to the truth on this,” he said. “If we find that a certain adversary did this, there’s going to be uncomfortable decisions on what to do.”

Joe Biden: ‘No shift’ in my commitment to Israel’s security

Biden: ‘No shift’ in my commitment to Israel’s security

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President Joe Biden speaks during a ceremony to present the Medal of Honor to U.S. Army Col. Ralph Puckett in the East Room of the White House, Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) more >

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By David Sherfinski

The Washington Times

Friday, May 21, 2021

President Biden said Friday there’s been no shift in his commitment to supporting Israel’s security and that his Democratic party still generally supports the country.

“There is no shift in my commitment to the security of Israel — period,” Mr. Biden said at a press conference at the White House with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. “I think that my party still supports Israel.”

Mr. Biden had been asked about a push from some in his party to cancel a planned weapons deal with Israel in light of the country’s bloody conflict with Hamas over the last two weeks.

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The president recommitted to pushing for a two-state solution and said he planned to put together a package to help rebuild homes in Gaza after the most recent conflict.

“They need the help, and I’m committed to get that done,” the president said.

Mr. Biden said he’s praying that the new cease-fire between Israel and Hamas holds and that he takes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his word.

“From the very beginning, I told him what our objective was, that there needed to be a cease-fire and he, in fact, kept his commitment in a time frame in which he said he would do it,” the president said.

Mr. Moon said the Israel-Hamas cease-fire was a “relief” and said he appreciated the Biden administration’s hard work on trying to push the two sides toward an end to the fighting.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Netanyahu spoke at least six times in recent weeks as the conflict raged and other countries had called for a cease-fire.

The White House said Mr. Biden told Mr. Netanyahu in a call on Wednesday that he expected to see a significant de-escalation on the path to a cease-fire by the end of the day.

Biden welcomes South Korean President Moon Jae-in for Friday talks at White House

Biden welcomes South Korea’s Moon for Friday talks at White House

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in arrives for a ceremony to present the Medal of Honor to U.S. Army Col. Ralph Puckett, with President Joe Biden, in the East Room of the White House, Friday, May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP … more >

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By David Sherfinski

The Washington Times

Friday, May 21, 2021

President Biden on Friday welcomed South Korean President Moon Jae-in to the White House ahead of a busy afternoon involving bilateral talks, a medal ceremony and questions from the press.

Mr. Biden said he was honored to have Mr. Moon on hand to participate in a Medal of Honor ceremony for retired Army Col. Ralph Puckett, Jr. honoring Col. Puckett’s heroic actions during the Korean War.

“The strength and the alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea was born out of the courage, determination, [and] sacrifice of the Korean troops fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with American troops,” Mr. Biden said. “Having you here today is an important recognition of all that our nation has achieved together — both of them — in the decades since.”

SEE ALSO: Harris tells Moon of U.S. vision for Pacific ‘unconstrained by coercion’

Mr. Moon is hoping his meetings in Washington this week can jump-start denuclearization talks on the Korean peninsula, a topic of discussion that undoubtedly will come up on Friday.

His trip to Washington is Mr. Moon‘s first official overseas trip since traveling to China in December 2019.

Meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris earlier Friday, Mr. Moon said he supports the Biden administration’s ambitious efforts to tackle climate change and that his country plans to coordinate closely with the U.S. to denuclearize and establish “permanent peace” on the Korean peninsula.

“You have devoted your life to promoting democracy and enhancing human rights of minority groups, women, people of color, and the underprivileged,” he told the vice president.

Mr. Moon worked some of Mr. Biden’s campaign language into his remarks with Ms. Harris, praising the administration for restoring the “soul” of the country and “building back better.”

The vice president said it’s more important than ever for the two countries to work together.

“President Joe Biden and I are confident that together we can promote a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific region — a region that is unconstrained by coercion and anchored in international rules and order,” Ms. Harris said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday that North Korea would be a central part of the discussions between Mr. Biden and Mr. Moon.

“I would say that South Korea is an incredibly important partner to the United States,” Ms. Psaki said. “Hence, the president is having one of his first bilats in person with the president of South Korea, and I think that sends a clear message.”

It’s the second time Mr. Biden has hosted a foreign leader for official in-person talks at the White House since taking office in January. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga visited last month.

Ms. Psaki said climate change and China also would be topics of discussion Friday.

She said, though, that securing an in-person meeting with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un is probably not high on Mr. Biden’s priority list.

The Biden administration has signaled it is trying for a middle ground on North Korea — somewhere in between the Trump administration’s aggressive, direct outreach and the Obama administration’s more hands-off approach.

On Thursday, Mr. Moon met with congressional leaders and traveled to Arlington National Cemetery for a wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

“I hope that a series of dialogues between our two countries … will deepen our bilateral cooperation in not only establishing peace on the Korean peninsula, but also prevailing over COVID-19, reviving the economy and responding to climate change,” Mr. Moon said at the Capitol with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

• Dave Boyer and Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.

Kamala Harris tells South Korea’s Moon of U.S. vision for Pacific ‘unconstrained by coercion’

Harris tells Moon of U.S. vision for Pacific ‘unconstrained by coercion’

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Vice President Kamala Harris meets with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the ceremonial office in Eisenhower Executive Office Building in the White House complex in Washington, Friday, May 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) more >

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By Dave Boyer

The Washington Times

Friday, May 21, 2021

Vice President Kamala D. Harris met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in Friday before his meetings with President Biden at the White House.

“We are connected through our shared Democratic values,” Ms. Harris told Mr. Moon, adding that they would discuss the administration’s vision of a region “unconstrained by coercion.” It was an apparent reference to China’s influence.

The sequence of the vice president meeting with a visiting head of state before Mr. Biden followed the same pattern as the Japanese prime minister’s visit to Washington last month.

SEE ALSO: White House on a Biden-Kim summit: Not at ‘top of agenda’

In an apparent dig at former President Donald Trump, Mr. Moon praised the Biden administration through an interpreter for “blazing a trail for inclusiveness and unity by restoring the soul of America.”

“Congratulations on how the Biden-Harris administration is ‘building back better’ with the world’s most successful vaccine deployment and fastest economic recovery,” Mr. Moon said.

Ms. Harris said the U.S.-South Korea alliance is “critical to peace, security and prosperity in Northeast Asia, the Indo-Pacific and around the world.”

“President Joe Biden and I are confident that together we can promote a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific region,” she said.  

Joe Biden hails cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas

Biden hails cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas

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President Joe Biden speaks about a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, in the Cross Hall of the White House, Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) more >

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By David Sherfinski

The Washington Times

Thursday, May 20, 2021

President Biden on Thursday hailed the reported cease-fire between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza after more than a week of deadly clashes in the region.

Mr. Biden said he had just spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and that Mr. Netanyahu agreed to a “mutual, unconditional cease-fire” to begin in less than two hours.

The president said Egypt has informed the administration that Hamas also agreed to the cease-fire.

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Mr. Biden said he commended Mr. Netanyahu for helping bring the hostilities to a close.

“I also emphasized what I’ve said throughout this conflict: The United States fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks from Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups that have taken the lives of innocent civilians in Israel,” he said from the White House.

Mr. Biden said he pledged “full support” from the U.S. for Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.

“I believe the Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely and to enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and democracy,” the president said. “My administration will continue our quiet, relentless diplomacy toward that end.”

He said he sees a “genuine opportunity” to make progress.

The president spoke earlier Thursday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi as countries in the region tried to prod the two sides toward peace.

Mr. Biden thanked the Egyptian president and other officials in the country for playing a critical role in brokering the deal.

Mr. Netanyahu’s office had indicated that Israel would pull back on its campaign in Gaza, though officials indicated they reserved the right to restart the campaign if Hamas continued rocket attacks on Israeli civilians.

The fighting has claimed the lives of at least 230 Palestinians, according to Gaza officials, and at least 12 people in Israel.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Netanyahu have spoken at least six times in the past week or so.

In their call Wednesday, the president said he expected to see a significant de-escalation that day on the path to a cease-fire, according to the White House.

Back at home, Mr. Biden has been facing pressure on the issue from both ends of the political spectrum.

Left-wing Democrats like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York pushed a resolution to block a $735 million weapons sale to Israel, saying the U.S. shouldn’t be actively arming Israel while simultaneously supporting a cease-fire.

“For decades, the U.S. has sold billions of dollars in weaponry to Israel without ever requiring them to respect basic Palestinian rights,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said. “In so doing, we have directly contributed to the death, displacement and disenfranchisement of millions.”

Mr. Biden’s Thursday evening speech means such a proposal almost certainly will go nowhere.

Congressional Republicans reaffirmed their support for Israel and said there should be no “both sides” equivalence between Israel and Hamas.

GOP senators, led by Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, pushed their own resolution this week condemning Hamas’ attacks and reaffirming the American support for Israel.

Israel is under attack, yet the Democrats refuse to stand with our ally and are responsible for the anti-Israel rhetoric permeating the halls of Congress,” Mr. Scott said. 

Israel approves unilateral cease-fire in Gaza offensive

Netanyahu announces cease-fire with Hamas after nearly two weeks of clashes

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People with Israeli flags attend a rally in support of Israel, in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, May 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber more >

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By Ben Wolfgang

The Washington Times

Updated: 4:52 p.m. on
Thursday, May 20, 2021

Israeli officials on Thursday announced a cease-fire in the battle against Hamas militants in Gaza, bringing to a halt nearly two weeks of brutal fighting that has claimed hundreds of lives and shaken the region.

In a statement announcing the cease-fire, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said it would pull back on its Gaza campaign after “great accomplishments” in the fight against Hamas, a militant Iran-backed Palestinian group that controls the densely populated Gaza Strip and is considered by the U.S. to be a terrorist organization.

“The political leaders emphasized that the reality on the ground will be that which determines the future of the campaign,” the statement reads in part.

SEE ALSO: White House encouraged by reports of potential cease-fire in Middle East

The cease-fire is expected to take effect later Thursday, though the exact timing remains somewhat murky. Air-raid sirens reportedly rang out in southern Israel after the announcement of the deal, suggesting that Hamas may not immediately stop its rocket attacks against civilian targets in Israel.

President Biden on Wednesday spoke to Mr. Netanyahu and pushed him toward a halt in the fighting, and other governments in the Middle East and around the world also have called for an end to the fighting, the worst since Israel and Hamas went to war in 2014.

Taher Nounou, a Hamas official, confirmed the deal.

“The Palestinian resistance will commit itself to this deal as long as the occupation is committed,” he told The Associated Press.

At least 230 Palestinians have been killed, according to officials in Gaza. At least 12 people in Israel have also died, including several children who were killed by Hamas rocket attacks.

White House on a Biden-Kim summit: Not at ‘top of agenda’

WH on a Biden-Kim summit: Not at ‘top of agenda’

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a briefing at the White House, Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) more >

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By Tom Howell Jr.

The Washington Times

Thursday, May 20, 2021

President Biden will meet face to face Friday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in for high-profile talks, a press conference and even a medal ceremony.

No one should expect a repeat — either here or abroad — with North Korean counterpart and dictator Kim Jong-un, the White House said Thursday.

“I don’t expect that will be at the top of his agenda,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said of a possible Biden-Kim meeting.

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Mr. Moon hopes his White House summit will kick-start denuclearization talks on the Korean peninsula. The South Korean president staked a large part of his legacy on achieving peace.

Love letters and a pair of in-person summits between former President Donald Trump and Mr. Kim failed to produce the breakthrough Mr. Moon had hoped for, so the Biden administration is trying to thread the needle between the past two administrations’ strategies.

The Obama administration took a more aloof approach during Mr. Biden‘s time as vice president, hoping North Korea would change its belligerent behavior before engaging on a diplomatic level.

“Our policy will not focus on achieving a grand bargain, nor will it rely on strategic patience,” Ms. Psaki told reporters in late April. “Our policy calls for a calibrated, practical approach that is open to and will explore diplomacy with [North Korea] and to make practical progress that increases the security of the United States, our allies and deployed forces.”

Just don’t expect Mr. Biden and Mr. Kim to become pen pals or shake hands anytime soon.

White House encouraged by reports of potential cease-fire in Middle East

White House encouraged by reports of potential cease-fire in Middle East

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White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a briefing at the White House, Monday, May 17, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) more >

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By David Sherfinski

The Washington Times

Thursday, May 20, 2021

The White House is encouraged by reports of a potential cease-fire in Israel’s ongoing conflict with the Palestinian militant group Hamas, press secretary Jen Psaki said Thursday.

“We have seen reports of a move toward a potential cease-fire — that’s clearly encouraging,” Ms. Psaki told reporters. “Obviously, we can’t get ahead of any agreement that may be brokered.”

Ms. Psaki said President Biden spoke with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi on Thursday morning as countries in the region work to help end the fighting.

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Netanyahu announces cease-fire with Hamas after nearly two weeks of clashes

Mr. Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday that he expected to see a “significant de-escalation [Wednesday] on the path to a ceasefire,” according to the White House.

Mr. Netanyahu had said Wednesday he was determined to carry out Israel’s operation “until its aim is met.”

Ms. Psaki declined to say specifically whether Israel had met Mr. Biden’s deadline for action on Wednesday.

“I’m not going to give a public evaluation from the president of day-by-day actions,” she said. “What I can tell you is that we are continuing to work behind the scenes, through these 80 engagements with senior officials, to advocate for, to convey that they should be in a position now to start winding their operations down and that is what we are hopeful to see.”

An Egyptian intelligence official said a cease-fire was likely late Thursday or early Friday local time, according to The Associated Press.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

Kamala Harris: Guatemalan corruption, injustice are barriers to solving U.S.’s border problem

Harris: Guatemalan corruption, injustice are barriers to solving U.S.’s border problem

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Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a meeting with Guatemalan justice sector leaders, in the Vice President’s Ceremonial Office at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex, Wednesday, May 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) more >

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By Dave Boyer

The Washington Times

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Vice President Kamala Harris met on Wednesday with former Guatemalan judges and prosecutors who fled political reprisals in their country, telling them that rooting out corruption and injustice in Central America are keys to limiting migration to the U.S.

Ms. Harris, who will make her first foreign trip as vice president to Guatemala and Mexico on June 7-8, said she wanted to hear the stories of the four former officials, all women, before she visits their country.

“Injustice is a root cause of migration and in particular it is causing the people of the region to leave their homes involuntarily, meaning they don’t want to leave but they are fleeing,” Ms. Harris said. “Families are living in fear of traffickers and gangs. Corruption is preventing people from getting basic services that they should be entitled to receive such as educating their children, getting a business started or participating in a fair judicial trial.”

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Among the recent surge of illegal immigration, some migrants have said they came to the U.S. after President Biden’s election in the belief that his administration would be more lenient with illegal border crossings than was the Trump administration.

Reporters were escorted out of the vice president’s ceremonial office at the White House before her guests began to discuss their experiences. One of them, former Guatemala Attorney General Thelma Aldana, tweeted earlier on Wednesday, “What is happening in Guatemala hurts me. The historical setback that [the country] is experiencing damages the weak democracy. There will be more poverty, hunger and migration.”

She also posted, “State looters enjoy impunity. In Guatemala, human rights defenders and those who fight against corruption are criminalized!!”

Another guest, Gloria Porras, a former judge on Guatemala’s constitutional court, was denied a third five-year term in April by the Guatemalan Congress. She was known as a crusading judge against the wealthy, and faced a smear campaign and other alleged harassment.

Ms. Harris said restoring judicial independence and cracking down on corruption in Guatemala will give its people more reasons to stay in their country.

“If we give people a sense of hope that if they stay, help is on the way … they will do what they want to do, which is remain with their families, remain with their kin,” the vice president said. “And part of giving people hope is having a very specific commitment to rooting out corruption in the region.”

Ms. Harris said it will be hard for the U.S. and its partners to encourage business investment in the region unless Guatemala and other Central American nations address corruption.

“Corruption is also a deterrent to financial and economic investment in the region — a significant deterrent,” she said. “If we are prevented from a course of action that is about spurring economic activity because of the legitimate concern of corruption, that is another reason that demands our attention to what we must move to reduce corruption, if not eliminate it in the region.”

WH: Joe Biden tells Benjamin Netanyahu he expects immediate de-escalation to violence

WH: Biden tells Netanyahu he expects ‘significant de-escalation’ to violence

U.S. president says it will pave the path to a cease-fire

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gestures as he shows a slideshow during a briefing to ambassadors to Israel at the Hakirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wednesday, May 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, Pool) more >

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By Tom Howell Jr.

The Washington Times

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

President Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu he wants to see a “significant de-escalation” in violence Wednesday that paves the way to a cease-fire as Israel responds to attacks from Palestinian militants in Hamas with airstrikes on Gaza.

“He wants this to be de-escalated. He wants this to be a sustainable calm. This is what we have been calling for, for the past eight days, and this is what we’re continuing to do,” White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters traveling with Mr. Biden to Connecticut aboard Air Force One.

Mr. Biden outlined his expectations in his fourth call with Mr. Netanyahu since violence erupted in the region, though it was unclear from the White House description whether Mr. Netanyahu agreed to the demand.

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Congressional Republicans are pressing Mr. Biden to show unwavering support for Israel, a long-standing ally, while some Democrats say the president needs to be more vocal about Palestinian civilians who are suffering and dying from Israeli strikes.

“The two leaders had a detailed discussion on the state of events in Gaza, Israel’s progress in degrading the capabilities of Hamas and other terrorist elements, and ongoing diplomatic efforts by regional governments and the United States. The president conveyed to the prime minister that he expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire,” the White House said in a formal readout of the call.

Mr. Netanyahu’s office had no immediate comment on the call. On Twitter, the prime minister said he made it clear to “dozens” of ambassadors in a briefing about “the truth of Israel against Hamas terrorists.”

“If democracies around the world attack us instead of Hamas, they will act foolishly and irresponsibly to endanger them and reward terrorism,” Mr. Netanyahu said.

• Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s meeting with Biden in U.S. to center on vaccines, North Korea

South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s meeting with Biden in U.S. to center on vaccines, North Korea

Tour is Moon's first overseas trip since the start of the coronavirus pandemic

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in answers reporter’s question after he delivered a special address to mark the fourth anniversary of his inauguration at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, May 10, 2021. South Korea’s leader said Monday … more >

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By Tom Howell Jr.

The Washington Times

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

South Korean President Moon Jae-in departed Wednesday for a White House summit with President Biden and other U.S. stops as he looks to jumpstart COVID-19 vaccine production and North Korean peace talks.

Mr. Moon and Mr. Biden will hold a joint press conference Friday after their first in-person meeting.

The South Korean leader has “high expectations” for his first overseas trip since the start of the pandemic and hopes to speed deliveries of U.S.-made vaccines to his country and strike a deal on technology transfer to make the shots domestically, according to the Yonhap News Agency.

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Mr. Moon also wants to get on the same page as the U.S. in seeking to denuclearize his peninsula as North Korea remains unpredictable.

Love letters and a pair of summits between former President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un failed to produce the breakthrough Mr. Moon had hoped for, and the Biden administration is trying to thread the needle between the past two administrations’ strategies.

The Obama administration took a more aloof approach during Mr. Biden’s time as vice president, hoping North Korea would change its belligerent behavior before engaging on a diplomatic level.

“Our policy will not focus on achieving a grand bargain, nor will it rely on strategic patience,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in late April. “Our policy calls for a calibrated, practical approach that is open to and will explore diplomacy with [North Korea] and to make practical progress that increases the security of the United States, our allies and deployed forces.”

Yonhap reported the Moon administration was coy about whether South Korea might be floated as a new member of the Quad that includes Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. during the White House talks, although the scheduling of military exercises between South Korea and the U.S. is sure to come up.

Mr. Moon plans to stop at the Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday to pay respects to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before meeting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a groundbreaking for the Wall of Remembrance at the Korean War Veterans Memorial.

Mr. Moon may stop at SK Innovation, a South Korean company that makes batteries in Atlanta, before heading home Sunday.