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Trump says if he doubts worth of Kim Jong Un meeting ‘we’re not going’

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In March, South Korean officials announced that Trump had agreed to meet with Kim, the dictator of isolated North Korea. The meeting had been pegged for some time in May, but officials have said it could happen in June.

A senior U.S. official told NBC News on Wednesday that a number of locations had already been ruled out, including North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, as well as Beijing and Mongolia, all of which raise security concerns. U.S. officials are instead pushing for a more neutral location, preferably in Europe, with Switzerland among the top choices, the official said.

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Trump and Kim traded fiery rhetoric last year and in January over North Korea’s ballistic and other missile tests, which included tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles. North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests, the most recent of which was in September.

The United Nations imposed punishing sanctions against North Korea in response, and China — North Korea’s ally and main trading partner — in September imposed limits on energy supplies to North Korea and would stop buying its textiles.

Trump’s CIA Director and secretary of state nominee, Mike Pompeo, conducted an unannounced visit to North Korea and met with Kim over Easter weekend. News of the secret meeting was first reported by the Washington Post and later confirmed by Trump.

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Trump on Wednesday thanked China’s president, Xi Jinping, and said “President Xi understands that this is a very important set of months that are lying ahead.”

“Can he be better? I would say, yes, he can be better,” Trump said. “But he’s been very good, and it’s had a big impact, and what we’ve done has had a big impact,” Trump added.

Trump also said that his administration is “negotiating now” to try and secure the release of three Americans held in North Korea.

Asked about three Americans being detained in North Korea, Trump said, “We are doing our very best. As you know, they’ve been there a long time, and it’s harsh treatment.”

American student Otto Warmbier, arrested in that country and imprisoned for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster, was released in June but was unconscious and unresponsive and later died. He was 22.

South Korea and North Korea remain technically at war. South Korea’s senior presidential official said this week that during inter-Korea talks “we are reviewing the ways to transform the truce to a peace agreement.”

Trump did not clarify what actions the United States might take if the proposed meeting with Kim fell through. The president said of the meeting, “I like always remaining flexible and we’ll remain flexible here.”

“We’ve gotten us here and I think we’re going to be successful,” Trump said. “But if for any reason I feel we’re not, we end.”

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Coronavirus: Taj Mahal reopens – despite India recording 87,000 new COVID cases in a single day | World News

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India has reopened the Taj Mahal – despite the country recording 87,000 new coronavirus infections in a single day.

The famed monument to love had been closed for six months as part of lockdown measures – the longest it has ever been shut.

The number of daily visitors will be limited to 5,000, compared with an average of 20,000 before the pandemic.

COVID protocols are being followed - and railings at the landmark are regularly sanitised
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COVID protocols are being followed – and railings at the landmark are regularly sanitised

The 17th-century marble mausoleum was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to house the tomb of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

COVID-19 protocols are being followed at the iconic landmark, including temperature checks at the entrance and social distancing throughout. Wearing a mask is also compulsory for visitors.

A Chinese tourist and a visitor from Delhi were among the first people to enter.

One early visitor, Aditya Diksha, drove for 12 hours to pay a visit with his friends. “It is the first time in six months we have been out, so it feels good,” he said.

It comes as Prime Minister Narendra Modi faces pressure from businesses to relax lockdown restrictions amid the deepest economic contraction in decades.

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India is close to becoming the country with the highest number of coronavirus cases. The nation of 1.3 billion people currently has a total of 5.49 million infections – second only to the US on 6.79 million.

Relative to its population, COVID-19 fatalities in India are still low compared with countries such as the US, the UK and Brazil – but the economic impact has been significant.

Fewer than 300 tickets were bought for the Taj Mahal’s first opening day – a sign that the tourism industry is struggling.

Tourism employed more than 42 million people and contributed at least $240bn (£186m) – or 9.2% – to India’s gross domestic product in 2018, World Travel and Tourism Council data shows.



India has the task of locking down 1.3bn residents during the coronavirus outbreak







How is India coping with lockdown?

The Association of Tourism Trade Organisations India (ATTOI) said foreign tourists are unlikely to return until at least April, while domestic tourists are being deterred by a confusing system of regional lockdowns and quarantine rules.

“People don’t want to go on holiday,” said Manu PV, the ATTOI’s secretary. “They are very worried. There is the fear factor.”

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Australia: Humpback whale escapes crocodile-infested river | World News

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A humpback whale that made a wrong turn and entered a crocodile-infested river in Australia has managed to escape back to sea.

The whale was first spotted in the East Alligator River in the Northern Territory’s Kakadu National Park last week.

Feach Moyle, Kakadu National Park manager, said: “It made its way out on the high tides and we’re pleased it appeared to be in good condition and not suffering any ill effects.”



Humpback whale ends up in river







It is the first time there have been any recorded sightings of wales in the East Alligator River

Officials had been monitoring the whale after it was spotted just over 18 miles inland.

A further two whales were also seen in the river last week, however they managed to return to the sea after a short time.

Scientists have suggested that the whales may have made a “wrong turn” while on their annual migration where they follow the western coast of Australia to get from the tropics to Antarctica.

It is the first time there have been any recorded sightings of whales in the East Alligator River.

Despite the river’s name, Australia does not have any alligators – it was named by European explorers who did not know the difference between crocodiles and alligators.

The whales were considered unlikely to disrupt any crocodiles unless they became stranded.

Authorities also considered the chance of them being attacked by crocodiles was slim due to their size, unless they became weak or sick.

Marine ecologist Jason Fowler said he initially spotted three whales on 2 September while sailing with friends.

Mr Fowler said: “We happened to bump into some great big whales which completely blew me away.

“The water’s incredibly murky. It’s got zero visibility. So you can only see the whales when they’re right on the surface.”

He added: “There are so many humpbacks heading up the WA (Western Australia state) coast now, they’re bound to end up in new places. What’s incredibly weird is the fact that they’re up a muddy, shallow river full of crocodiles – that’s unheard of.”

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World’s biggest banks ‘allowed criminals to launder dirty money’, leaked documents allege | Business News

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Some of the biggest banks in the world have been accused of allowing criminals to launder dirty money, according to an investigation based on leaked internal reports.

Over 2,100 suspicious activity reports (SARs) covering more than $2 trillion (£1.5tn) in transactions were leaked to BuzzFeed News and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

These reports, and more than 17,600 other records obtained by the ICIJ, allegedly show how senior banking officials allowed fraudsters to move money between accounts in the knowledge that the funds were being generated or used criminally.

Covering transactions between 1999 and 2017, the SARs were leaked from the US Financial Crimes Investigation Network (FinCEN), an agency which is part of the US Treasury and tasked with tackling money laundering.

Two weeks ago FinCEN warned that media organisations were preparing to publish a story on documents that had been obtained illegally, before last week announcing that it was seeking public comments on how to improve the anti-money laundering system in the US.

According to the ICIJ, the $2 trillion in suspicious transactions identified within the documents represents less than 0.02% of the more than 12 million SARs that financial institutions filed with FinCEN between 2011 and 2017.

In the key findings of its report, the ICIJ alleged: “Big banks shift money for people they can’t identify and in many cases fail to report suspect transactions until years after the fact.

“Government fines and threats of criminal prosecutions against banks haven’t stopped a tide of illicit payments,” the organisation adds, raising questions about money-laundering enforcement.

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HSBC, Standard Chartered, Deutsche Bank and Bank of New York Mellon were the other financial firms named in the investigation

BuzzFeed News described the documents as revealing “how the giants of Western banking move trillions of dollars in suspicious transactions, enriching themselves and their shareholders while facilitating the work of terrorists, kleptocrats, and drug kingpins”.

Among the criminal organisations named in the reports are the Al Zarooni Exchange, which was sanctioned by the US Treasury in 2015 for laundering funds for the Taliban.

The SARs reportedly also show how Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs avoid sanctions to move their money into the West.

Five global banks were named in the investigation: JPMorgan Chase, HSBC, Standard Chartered, Deutsche Bank and Bank of New York Mellon.

The ICIJ reported that some of these banks continued to work with “mobsters, fraudsters or corrupt regimes” even after they were warned by US officials that they would face criminal prosecutions for doing so.

The SARs were written by internal compliance officers at these banks, and are “not necessarily evidence of criminal conduct or other wrongdoing” the ICIJ reported.

London-based HSBC said it would not comment on suspicious activity reporting but said the documents referred to historical information which predated the conclusion of its deferred prosecution agreement with the US over its failures to prevent Mexican drug cartels from laundering hundreds of millions of dollars.

As part of the conclusion of that agreement, HSBC said that the authorities were satisfied with its work tackling money laundering.

A man enters the lobby of the U.S. headquarters of Deutsche Bank in New York City, U.S., July 8, 2019. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
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Deutsche Bank said ‘a number of historic issues’ relating to its business ‘are well known to our regulators’

Standard Chartered, which is also based in the UK, responded to the reports by stating: “The reality is that there will always be attempts to launder money and evade sanctions; the responsibility of banks is to build effective screening and monitoring programmes to protect the global financial system.

“We take our responsibility to fight financial crime extremely seriously and have invested substantially in our compliance programmes,” the bank added.

Germany’s Deutsche Bank also stressed that the ICIJ “reported on a number of historic issues” and said “those relating to Deutsche Bank are well known to our regulators”.

“The issues have already been investigated and led to regulatory resolutions in which the bank’s co-operation and remediation was publicly recognised,” Deutsche Bank added.

The Bank of New York Mellon said it takes its role “in protecting the integrity of the global financial system seriously, including filing suspicious activity reports” and added that it fully complied with all applicable laws and regulations.

JPMorgan Chase, which is also based in New York, stated: “We report suspicious activity to the government so that law enforcement can combat financial crime, and have thousands of people and hundreds of millions of dollars dedicated to this important work.

“We have played a leadership role in anti-money laundering reform that will modernise how the government and law enforcement combat money laundering, terrorism financing and other financial crimes.”

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