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American detainees freed from North Korea are back in U.S.

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Pompeo was in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, to finalize a date and place for historic face-to-face talks between Trump and the North Korean leader.

“The three Americans appear to be in good condition and were all able to walk on the plane without assistance,” Pompeo said in a statement. “All Americans look forward to welcoming them home and to seeing them reunited with their loved ones.”

Their release was confirmed to Pompeo only two hours before his plane took off, after a day of talks.

A North Korean official came to the Koryo Hotel at 7 p.m. local time (6 a.m. ET) to say Kim had granted the three detainees amnesty. The official told Pompeo that he should make sure they “do not make the same mistakes again,” according to a U.S. official who was present.

The detainees were collected 45 minutes later from another hotel and taken to the Pyongyang airport, where the entire entourage took off at 7:45 a.m. ET.

Pompeo told reporters on the plane that the Trump-Kim summit date would be announced “in short order.”

Vice President Mike Pence credited Trump’s “tough-minded diplomacy” for the release and said pressure on Kim’s regime would not cease until Pyongyang gives up its nuclear program.

“This is a proud and memorable moment for America,” he said in a statement.

Tony Kim’s family said they were grateful to “all of those who have worked toward and contributed to his return home,” and also thanked Trump “for engaging directly with North Korea.”

“We ask that you continue to pray for the people of North Korea and for the release of all who are still being held,” they said in a statement.

Detaining — and then releasing — U.S. citizens has given Pyongyang leverage in negotiations with Washington in the past.

North Korea last year released Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student who was convicted of “hostile acts” in 2016 after visiting Pyongyang. However, he was left in a coma after his labor camp ordeal and died days after returning to Ohio.

In a statement, Warmbier’s family said they were “happy for the hostages and their families,” adding, “We miss Otto.”

Image: Otto Frederick Warmbier
Otto Warmbier is taken to a court in Pyongyang, North Korea, in 2016.Kyodo News Service, via Reuters

Tony Kim, 59, was detained at Pyongyang Airport in April 2017 as he was preparing to leave the country. The Korean-American accounting professor had been working at the Pyongyang University of Science Technology, an institution privately funded by Christian groups in the West.

Kim Hak-song, who was also working at the Pyongyang Science and Technology University, was held in May 2017 for “hostile acts against the republic.” The institution said Kim was doing agricultural development work not connected with the university.

Image: Kim Dong-chul
Kim Dong-chul during a news conference in Pyongyang in 2016.KCNA via KNS / AFP — Getty Images

The longest-held was Kim Dong-chul, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison with hard labor in April 2016 for espionage and subversion. Paraded before cameras ahead of his trial, he said he had spied for South Korean intelligence authorities in a plot to bring down the North’s leadership and had tried to spread religion among North Koreans. However, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service said his case wasn’t related to the agency in any way.

Despite the imminent release of the three, the U.S. last week slammed the North Korean regime over human rights.



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Labour’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism our biggest shame says top MP

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LABOUR’S failure to tackle anti-Semitism under former leader Jeremy Corbyn will be laid bare today after an 18-month probe by the equalities watchdog. London Belfast Birmingham Cardiff Glasgow Manchester Newcastle Norwich Plymouth Britain

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One battleground state, two rallies — and radically different versions of reality

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PHOENIX — Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris held rallies 30 miles apart Wednesday, six days before Election Day, in this battleground state poised to shape the outcome of the race.

But voters could be forgiven for thinking they were running in two different universes.

In Trump’s world, the coronavirus crisis is exaggerated and the biggest danger to the country is a threat of socialism or communism, while top-of-mind issues include allegations of corruption by Joe Biden’s son Hunter and a “deep state” of government officials plotting against the president.

In the Biden-Harris world, the pandemic is an overarching issue that is crushing middle-class pocketbooks, health care access is threatened by an incompetent president and the country is on a knife’s edge between a return to normalcy and a march to authoritarianism.

Symbolic of the two attitudes, Trump’s rally featured supporters packing into a section of Phoenix Goodyear Airport, many of them elbow to elbow and maskless, while Harris held a drive-in event that was sparse and heavily socially distanced, with attendees covering their faces even when nobody was near them.

Coronavirus case numbers are surging across the country, with a death toll that has topped 225,000. Scientists widely agree that the virus can be relatively contained if people wear masks and adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Trump boasted that he has done “a great job” handling the virus. Many of his rallygoers doubted the official diagnosis figures, while others said elites were using the issue to control the population. Still others said the media was covering the pandemic to hurt Trump.

“I think it’s overblown. It’s a political ploy to keep people from voting,” said Michael Bieda, 53, of Buckeye. “It’s a power that the opposite side could control people with.”

Dee Ann Kriebs, 74, of Goodyear, who was wearing a red “MAGA” hat, said, “There is so much politicization of Covid that I find it very hard to trust numbers.” She cited the “deep state” as her top issue in the election.

“The deep state has to be eliminated in Washington,” she said.

Tammy Byler, an operations manager in Waddell, said the panic surrounding Covid-19 “feels like communism trying to take over.”

People watch a video during a rally with President Donald Trump at Phoenix Goodyear Airport in Goodyear, Ariz., on Wednesday.Brendan Smialowski / AFP – Getty Images

At her rally, Harris called the coronavirus “one of the greatest mass casualty events that we as a nation have experienced since World War II,” and Trump, she said, “covered it up.”

Rachael Clawson, a teacher in Mason, said that her husband worked in tourism and that the virus had left her in a single-income household.

“If we don’t get the pandemic under control, what does that mean for his job?” she asked, adding: “Access to health care is huge. We have three small kids and a history of chronic disease. It’s very scary to think about raising a young family without health insurance.”

‘Creating a fictional world’

Clawson said she was worried about a march to authoritarianism if Trump is re-elected.

“He thinks Article II of the Constitution allows him to do whatever he wants,” she said, fretting that if voters give Trump four more years, “what permission does that give him to do?”

Kimberly Marteau, 61, a lawyer visiting from Los Angeles, said the pandemic is “a huge concern.” She said she’s supporting Biden and Harris because they’ll “let the facts and science lead us.”

“Information and truth are our defense against someone who wants to create his own world when it’s not the reality on the ground,” she said.

The dueling rallies highlighted the extent to which Americans are voting about not just which set of policies to enact, but also which version of reality they believe to be true.

“Trump has always been about creating a fictional world that conforms to the one he’d like to be true,” said Tony Schwartz, co-author of Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal.” “What’s new is that he’s doing so now, repeatedly, in the face of unassailable facts that directly contradict what he’s claiming. Covid numbers are rising. The economy is still deeply troubled. And on and on.”

Nationally, Biden leads Trump by 7.8 percentage points in the NBC News polling average. In Arizona, Biden leads Trump by 3.5 points in the FiveThirtyEight average, buoyed by defections from college-educated white voters and independents.

Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris speaks at a mobile campaign event in Phoenix on Wednesday.Sahil Kapur / NBC News

The contrast in the compositions of the two crowds was stark. Trump’s crowd was predominantly white, and it included many of the sort of older voters who have helped Republicans carry the state in all but one presidential election since 1952. Harris’ crowd was younger, with a large share of Black and Hispanic voters, reflecting a rising Democratic-leaning electorate that is reshaping Arizona — and much of the rest of America.

The state is also home to a competitive race in a close fight for control of the Senate, with appointed Republican Sen. Martha McSally trailing Democrat Mark Kelly in polls.

“The biggest problem we have is if they cheat with the ballots. That’s my biggest problem,” Trump said, even though experts say that voter fraud is extremely rare in the U.S. and that it’s unlikely to influence any outcome.

To some Trump supporters, the coronavirus lockdowns were unnecessary.

Marlene Parsons, a retiree in Glendale, said it was a “travesty that we had to go through this and ruin the economy.” She said the virus isn’t “as serious as the media portrays it to be,” and she refuses to wear a mask, “because it doesn’t make me feel good.”

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But to Democrats, curtailing the virus is paramount, with many saying they wish Trump would listen more to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert.

“We can’t get back to normal until we get this virus under control,” said Steven Slugocki, the chair of the Maricopa County Democratic Party. “This is a campaign with reality and listening to the scientists ,or propaganda from Fox News that Donald Trump insists on listening to instead of Dr. Fauci.”

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Merkel faces 'catastrophe': No deal Brexit to hit Germany harder than any other EU nation

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IF the UK fails to strike a trade deal with the EU before the end of the year, it will be a “catastrophe” for Germany, which will be harder hit than any other member of the EU27, a former MEP has said.

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