Despite questions, Trump touts ‘tremendous progress’ ahead of new summit with North Korea’s Kim

WORLD NEWS Despite questions, Trump touts 'tremendous progress' ahead of new summit with North Korea's Kim  https://linewsradio.com/despite-questions-trump-touts-tremendous-progress-ahead-of-new-summit-with-north-koreas-kim/  http://abcnewsradioonline.com/world-news/

ABC News(NEW YORK) — President Donald Trump on Thursday teased expectations ahead of his next summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, just as his top envoy is set to meet his North Korean counterpart to hammer out details of a new document for the two leaders to sign.

That envoy, Special Representative Stephen Biegun, is now saying Kim committed to destroying plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities, even though he conceded the two sides have not publicly agreed on what “denuclearization” means — the commitment made at the leaders’ first summit last summer.

Earlier this week, U.S. intelligence agencies said they assess North Korea is unlikely to give up all of its WMD stockpiles, delivery systems, and production capabilities because its leaders view nuclear arms as critical to the regime’s survival.

But Trump said the summit is on regardless, touting “tremendous progress” in the administration’s talks with North Korea and telling reporters in the Oval Office that the where and when of the meeting would be announced next week.

“Most of you know where that location is. I don’t think it’s any secret,” he said about the summit, adding the timing will be “the end of February.” He later suggested he would reveal those details in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed on Wednesday that the meeting will be “someplace in Asia,” while a U.S. official had previously told ABC News that they are zeroing in one of three cities in Vietnam — Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, or Da Nang.

Before they can sit together, however, negotiating teams from both countries will meet again. Biegun will travel to South Korea on Sunday to meet his South Korean and North Korean counterparts, the State Department confirmed Thursday, and in particular, Biegun and North Korea’s Amb. Kim Hyok Chol will negotiate the details of Trump and Kim’s second joint declaration.

They’ll be tasked with “achieving a set of concrete deliverables, a road map of negotiations and declarations going forward, and a shared understanding of the desired outcome of our joint efforts,” Biegun said Thursday during a speech at Stanford University.

The document the two leaders signed at the previous one has been criticized for being too vague, and analysts say that the future of diplomatic talks is riding on this meeting to achieve more concrete outcomes.

If not, and diplomatic talks fail, the U.S. does have “contingencies” in place, Biegun said.

But Trump wants this the conflict with North Korea to end, he added, saying, “It is over. It is done. We are not going to invade North Korea. We are not seeking to topple the North Korean regime.”

Still, achieving a lasting peace will require North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons, and as U.S. intelligence chiefs said earlier this week, the special envoy conceded, “North Korea has given us little indication that they have yet made the decision to completely dismantle and destroy that capability.”

At this point, the two sides still don’t even agree on what the term “denuclearization” means, with Biegun saying they need a “detailed,” “specific,” and “agreed” definition.

In December, North Korea state media released a statement, saying the country would not dismantle its nuclear weapons until the U.S. withdrew its forces from the region — its clearest definition yet of denuclearization, but something the U.S. has said it will not do.

“We are not involved in any diplomatic discussion, full stop, that would suggest this trade-off,” Biegun said of a possible U.S. troop withdrawal from South Korea. “It has never been discussed.”

From the U.S. perspective, Biegun said that a “final” denuclearization deal would include “the removal or destruction of stockpiles of fissile material, weapons, missiles, launchers and other weapons of mass destruction” — the kind of unilateral disarmament Kim has refused. North Korea would also have to provide a “comprehensive declaration” of its weapons of mass destruction and missile programs — something it has so far refused to do in talks, even sparking outrage among its negotiators during a meeting with Pompeo last July.

The U.S. would also require an agreement on “expert access and monitoring mechanisms of key sites” of its weapons programs, which Pompeo said North Korea agreed to in October but has not yet happened. Biegun said he would push for progress on that again in his upcoming meetings.

While North Korea’s public pronouncements do not match all of these U.S. demands, Biegun said that Kim Jong Un made commitments in private. In particular, he said, Kim committed to the “dismantlement and destruction of North Korea’s plutonium and uranium enrichment facilities… the totality of North Korean plutonium reprocessing and uranium enrichment programs” when Pompeo met him in Pyongyang in October.

Again, North Korea has not confirmed that, but Kim did agree in September in a joint declaration with South Korean President Moon Jae In to allow inspectors to the nuclear production facility at Yongbyon if the U.S. took “corresponding measures.”

Biegun said the U.S. still does not know what those measures would be, but hopes to find out soon.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 31 Jan 2019

Fecal transplants, probiotics and the microbiome: What you need to know

royaltystockphoto/iStock(NEW YORK) —

By: Dr. Tiffany Truong

The human body is host to an ecosystem of microorganisms living most prominently within our digestive tract, which many people know as the microbiome.

While most of these microbes are harmless or even helpful to us, an imbalance within this complex community has been linked to conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and even obesity, diabetes and allergies.

Research on the microbiome has exploded over the last decade, with colossal projects as diverse as The Human Microbiome Project, which catalogs thousands of genomes for researchers to study, and American Gut, which gives the public an opportunity to discover their microbiome and compare it with others. Even NASA has gotten onboard the microbiome train, studying how being in space impacts astronauts’ microbiomes.

What exactly is the gut microbiome?

The gut microbiota are all the microscopic organisms living in our digestive tract, including bacteria, viruses, fungi and other small organisms. While some people might call the collection of these microorganisms a microbiome, the term is actually meant to connote the full collection of DNA among these microbes.

(MORE: Microbiome Research Just Got a Mega Infusion of Government and Private Funding)

We are colonized at birth with gut microbiota, and our microbiome then changes throughout our lives as it adapts to the foods we eat, the illnesses we have, the medications we take and other environmental stressors. The exact composition of our microbiomes is unique to us because of this complex history. We host hundreds of species of bacteria, but many of them belong to the Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes phyla.

Our microbiome’s cells outnumber our own cells 10 to one and collectively have more than 100 times our own DNA. But, much like our own world, there are some places that have more organisms and there are microenvironments in our gut that change the microbiota as well. The amount of bacteria increases the further along the digestive tract you go.

How does the gut microbiome affect your health?

The human gut microbiome plays important roles in metabolism, nutrition, immune function and physiology. For example, bacteria produce vitamin K, which is important for creating blood clots. They also help us reabsorb bile from our intestines to metabolize fats and absorb minerals, such as iron, calcium and magnesium. They also help us to metabolize large, non-digestible sugars, including some starches, cellulose and gums from plants.

More surprisingly, bacteria help the lining of our digestive tracts grow and they help develop our immune systems, leading some to hypothesize that an environment that’s too sterile can contribute to the development of allergies.

Our microbiota even protects us from getting infected with other bacteria that can cause disease by competing with them for space and nutrition. An imbalance of the microbiota — known as dysbiosis — has been implicated in many conditions, including diseases of the digestive tract, such as irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease, as well as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

Are probiotics beneficial to the body?

While we are all familiar with how antibiotics help us to rid the body of disease-causing bacteria, we know much less about the role of probiotics — live microbes that we consume in an effort to improve health.

(MORE: Probiotics: What are they and how do they work?)

Probiotics can be found in yogurt, kefir and other fermented foods, and they are often sold as supplements, too. The most well-established benefit of probiotics is to treat and even prevent diarrhea associated with antibiotic use and infection, especially for rotavirus in children. The most commonly used probiotic groups are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Aside from these benefits, some research has shown probiotics might enhance immune function and decrease inflammation, however, it hasn’t been conclusive.

Are fecal transplants real and what do they do?

Fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) is a therapy in which healthy gut bacteria are delivered from one person to another through the transfer of stool. The transplant is delivered through either colonoscopy, a tube inserted in the nose and ending in the bowel, a retention enema, or a capsule.

FMT is most successful in the treatment of colon infections with C. difficile. This infection typically causes diarrhea in people taking antibiotics and is usually treated with different antibiotics. However, 25 percent of people will have a repeat infection after antibiotics. Repeat infections can be difficult to treat, and a 2013 study found that fecal transplantation is more effective than antibiotic therapy when someone has already been treated for recurrent infections.

(MORE: Medical Mystery: Woman Becomes Obese After Fecal Transplant)

More research is being done regarding FMT for chronic diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, but there have been varying results. Notably, studies suggest that FMTs from certain donors are particularly successful. These so-called “super donors” tend to have more diverse microbiomes.

Dr. Tiffany Truong is a resident physician in internal medicine in Houston and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

ESPN: New York Knicks trade Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas Mavericks

Sports News ESPN: New York Knicks trade Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas Mavericks https://linewsradio.com/espn-new-york-knicks-trade-kristaps-porzingis-to-dallas-mavericks/ http://abcnewsradioonline.com/sports-news/

Moses Kinnah/iStock(NEW YORK) — The New York Knicks and Dallas Mavericks have completed a trade that sends Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas and sets the Knicks up for a major run at two star free agents this offseason.

The Knicks are also sending Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee to Dallas, freeing up salary cap room for this offseason. The Mavericks would send back Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews.

Dallas will also send two future first-round draft picks in the trade. They owe their own first-rounder this year to the Atlanta Hawks as part of the draft-night trade to acquire Luka Doncic.

Sources told ESPN earlier on Thursday that Porzingis met with Knicks management to discuss concerns about the state of the franchise and his future. ESPN says Knicks officials were left with the impression that the 23-year-old would prefer to be traded.

Porzingis tore his ACL last January and hasn’t played since. The fourth overall draft pick in 2015, Porzingis was averaging a career-high 22.7 points per game before the knee injury.

The 10-40 Knicks are angling for one of the top picks in this summer’s draft. They decided against signing Porzingis to a rookie extension before this season, resulting in more salary cap room. That move, however, gave Porzingis the chance to be a restricted free agent this offseason.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 31 Jan 2019

ESPN: New York Knicks agree to trade Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas Mavericks

Sports News ESPN: New York Knicks agree to trade Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas Mavericks https://linewsradio.com/espn-new-york-knicks-agree-to-trade-kristaps-porzingis-to-dallas-mavericks/ http://abcnewsradioonline.com/sports-news/

Moses Kinnah/iStock(NEW YORK) — The New York Knicks and Dallas Mavericks are close to a trade that would send Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas and set up the Knicks for a major run at two star free agents this offseason.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski says the Knicks would also send Tim Hardaway Jr. and Courtney Lee to Dallas, freeing up salary cap room for this offseason. The Mavericks would send back Dennis Smith Jr., DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews.

Dallas is working to acquire a first-round draft pick to include in the trade. They owe their own first-rounder to the Atlanta Hawks as part of the draft-night trade to acquire Luka Doncic.

Sources told ESPN earlier on Thursday that Porzingis met with Knicks management to discuss concerns about the state of the franchise and his future. ESPN says Knicks officials were left with the impression that the 23-year-old would prefer to be traded.

Porzingis tore his ACL last January and hasn’t played since. The fourth overall draft pick in 2015, Porzingis was averaging a career-high 22.7 points per game before the knee injury.

The 10-40 Knicks are angling for one of the top picks in this summer’s draft. They decided against signing Porzingis to a rookie extension before this season, resulting in more salary cap room. That move, however, gave Porzingis the chance to be a restricted free agent this offseason.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 31 Jan 2019

Canadian parliament slams Netflix over video of real-life train tragedy in ‘Bird Box’

WORLD NEWS Canadian parliament slams Netflix over video of real-life train tragedy in 'Bird Box'  https://linewsradio.com/canadian-parliament-slams-netflix-over-video-of-real-life-train-tragedy-in-bird-box/  http://abcnewsradioonline.com/world-news/

Orchidpoet/iStock(TORONTO) — Canadian officials have a more serious problem with the movie Bird Box than people recklessly attempting the so-called Bird Box challenge.

Parliament members have called for Netflix to remove footage from the film that shows a real-life train disaster, and to compensate people in the town where the accident happened.

The footage at the center of the debate shows the aftermath of a July 6, 2013 crash of an unattended freight train. The train, which was carrying oil, derailed in downtown Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people in the ensuing explosion and fire.

Netflix did not comment for this story but pointed to a Jan. 21 letter that the company had sent to Quebec Culture and Communication Minister Nathalie Roy apologizing for the usage.

“Netflix was not aware of the source of the footage and understands that many feel frustration and sadness at seeing images of this tragic event. We regret any pain caused to the Lac-Mégantic community and have expressed this directly to [Lac-Mégantic] Mayor Julie Morin,” Corie Wright, Neflix’s public policy director, wrote in the letter.

“The use of stock footage is a widespread and long-standing practice in the film and television industry. As a result, stock images are commonly used within content on Netflix and on other services. This widespread use prevents us from making the changes you request on finished content. But going forward, we (and the broader industry) can do better. We have begun discussions internally about best practices to avoid future uses of this and similar footage,” Wright added in the letter.

The Canadian Parliament voted unanimously to call on the company to take action earlier this week.

Pierre Nantel, a member of the country’s New Democrat party, introduced a motion on Jan. 29 demanding that Netflix “financially compensate the community of Lac-Mégantic for using those images for entertainment purposes, without concern for the trauma of citizens, survivors, and the victim’s families.”

No immediate action appears to have been taken in response to the vote, but Nantel has continued his social media calls for the company to act.

“@Netflix: remove those images. This is not entertainment,” he wrote in a tweet on Jan. 30.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 31 Jan 2019

NCAA penalizes University of Missouri for academic fraud

Sports News NCAA penalizes University of Missouri for academic fraud https://linewsradio.com/ncaa-penalizes-university-of-missouri-for-academic-fraud/ http://abcnewsradioonline.com/sports-news/

jetcityimage/iStock(INDIANAPOLIS) — The NCAA Committee on Infractions levied postseason bans for three athletics programs at the University of Missouri, Columbia on Thursday for academic misconduct involving student-athletes.

According to the committee’s report, a former University of Missouri tutor completed academic work for 12 student athletes on the football, baseball and softball teams.  The completed work included courses at the University of Missouri, courses completed at other schools, and a placement exam at the University of Missouri.

As a result of the violations, the committee recommended the school’s athletics department be placed on three years of probation, as well as a one-year postseason ban for the baseball, softball and football teams. Additional penalties will include scholarship and recruiting limitations.

The report follows a two-year investigation.

Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk released a statement saying that the school will appeal the ruling.

“The Committee on Infractions has abused its discretion in applying penalties in this case,” Sterk said. “It is hard to fathom that the University could be cited for exemplary cooperation throughout this case, and yet end up with these unprecedented penalties that could unfairly and adversely impact innocent current and future Mizzou student-athletes.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 31 Jan 2019

‘Bachelor’ contestant’s sexual assault story highlights systemic rape kit issue

Carlo107/iStock(NEW YORK) — This week on The Bachelor, contestant Caelynn Miller-Keyes told Colton Underwood that she was drugged and raped four years ago while she was in college.

The 23-year-old Virginia Commonwealth University graduate said she went to a hospital to have a rape kit performed the morning after the alleged assault, but “they told me they wouldn’t do a rape kit unless I filed a police report.”

Eventually, she was able to get a rape kit collected at another hospital, but because so much time had gone by since the assault, “the results were inconclusive,” she said.

But advocates say Miller-Keyes should never have had that experience — and are trying to help other survivors know their rights. Nurse experts say a police report is not required to have a rape kit administered; a survivor does not have to decide whether they intend to file a report to have evidence collected in this way.

“No hospital emergency room should turn a sexual assault patient away who is seeking care,” Jennifer Pierce-Weeks, the CEO of the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN) told ABC News. A joint position statement from the IAFN and Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) issued in 2016 echoes this.

Patricia Kunz Howard, president of the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA), agreed.

“At my facility, we obviously would do an exam and would contact the police, but their choice whether or not to make a report is their choice,” Kunz Howard told ABC News. “We can’t force them to make a report, but we’re not going to deny anyone safe, compassionate, victim-centered care.”

Both IAFN and ENA issued a joint position statement on the issue in 2016. And the Violence Against Women Act actually requires that states provide rape kits for free in order to qualify for anti-crime grant funding, according the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).

Additionally, the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Rights Act, which was signed by President Obama in 2016, stipulates that a survivor has the “right not to be prevented from, or charged for, receiving a medical forensic examination.”

However, sexual assault cases are often handled on the state level, and not all states have passed their versions of the federal survivors’ rights act. According to Rise, a civil rights nonprofit supporting the act, 14 states passed the Survivors’ Bill of Rights. A version of the bill was signed by then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe in 2017 — the year Miller-Keyes graduated, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

In Virginia, survivors can have a rape kit examination performed anonymously, according to Sara Jennings, the manager for Bon Secours Richmond Forensic Nursing Services and IANF’s president.

“If you’re 18 or older and you’re a victim of either sexual violence or domestic violence, that’s not mandated to be reported to law enforcement,” Jennings told ABC News. “So there are options for a patient to have what we call a ‘blind’ or anonymous physical recovery kit (or what is commonly referred to as the rape kit). So they can come to the hospital, not have any contact with police, and still have that evidence collected if they were to change their minds at a later time.”

But just because there are laws in place to protect survivors who do not want to file a police report doesn’t mean they’re followed. Bon Secours, a full-service clinical forensic program in Richmond with 14 full-time forensic nurses, often gets calls from local health care providers unaware of the “blind” option, Jennings said.

The organization will walk providers through a survivor’s options in Virginia: to just get medical treatment, to get medical treatment and a kit without reporting the incident to police, or to get medical treatment and a kit and report the incident to law enforcement.

But it isn’t just Virginia. Nationwide, Pierce-Weeks said she has “consistently” seen cases that when a hospital doesn’t have a sexual assault nurse examiner program, it will sometimes turn survivors away, saying they can’t provide services, an issue also reported by Cosmopolitan in 2016.

Sexual assault nurse examiners, or SANEs, are registered nurses who go through training, practice and certification about caring for survivors of sexual assault. There are 1,545 certified SANEs in the U.S. as of the end of 2018, per IANF, but a higher number of nurses are practicing, and there has been a recent increase in nurses going through and requesting training.

“But are there enough? No,” Pierce-Weeks said. IANF estimates only 17 to 20 percent of hospitals have SANE services available.

Even without SANE services, though, the nurse associations’ leaders say hospitals should not turn survivors away, following best practices of medical care.

“Sexual assault victims should really be able to show up at any hospital emergency room and receive a minimum standard of care. That minimum standard of care does not have to be a SANE program or a sexual assault nurse examiner specifically,” Pierce-Weeks said.

A “minimum standard of care” doesn’t just include the option for evidence collection and rape kit administration, Pierce-Weeks explained. It also includes emergency contraception, HIV and STI prevention or screening and any other medical need the person has.

The path to justice for a sexual assault survivor requires a variety of factors going right across multiple systems, and one of the first steps is a hospital’s reaction, advocates say.

“We put a lot of onus on the survivor to know what to do and to have a plan if something like this were to happen. That simply is just not the right approach,” Pierce-Weeks said. “Having said that, one of the probably most effective things that a survivor can do is to call the sexual assault hotline and speak to an advocate in their own community.”

That community advocate can advise a survivor on where to go for care, like which nearby hospitals have SANE services, and can also provide long-term information about their rights.

“Best practice says that every sexual assault victim receive an appropriate exam with the correct evidence collection that protects it in a forensic manner and is focused on making sure that the victim is safe, has appropriate community support, their psychological well-being is taken care of, and their medical needs are met,” Howard said.

Miller-Keyes said she did not get that immediate, trauma-informed care. But her decision to use “The Bachelor,” and her platform as Miss North Carolina USA to speak about sexual assault is a way to help others know their rights.

“If you watch ‘SVU’ on television, it looks so easy, but it’s not,” Miller-Keyes said on “The Bachelor.” “It takes time, and it takes a lot of no’s, and hopefully eventually you can get justice.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

US envoy defends Taliban peace talks, Trump says deal means Afghanistan withdrawal

WORLD NEWS US envoy defends Taliban peace talks, Trump says deal means Afghanistan withdrawal  https://linewsradio.com/us-envoy-defends-taliban-peace-talks-trump-says-deal-means-afghanistan-withdrawal/  http://abcnewsradioonline.com/world-news/

Afghan Presidency Press Office / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) —  President Donald Trump said the U.S. will bring “our people back home” if there is an agreement with the Taliban, touting his administration’s talks with the militant group even as they have been criticized for negotiating an American “surrender” and abandoning the U.S.-backed Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani.

“For the first time, they’re talking about settling, they’re talking about making an agreement, and we bring our people back home if that happens,” the president said Thursday in the Oval Office. “We’ll see what happens. But they’re in very serious negotiations for the first time.”

The optimistic tone come hours after U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad defended his talks and cautioned against a rush to judgment.

After criticisms of the early details of his peace talks with the Taliban, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad is defending those talks and urging others not to rush to judgment yet.

While Khalilzad said his nearly week-long meeting with Taliban officials yielded “significant progress,” critics, including a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, have accused the Trump administration of negotiating an American surrender and abandoning the U.S.-backed Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani, who reportedly wrote a letter to President Donald Trump expressing concerns about the withdrawal.

As a candidate and once in office, Trump has been skeptical of U.S. military deployments overseas, calling them a waste of American blood and treasure. Against the advice of top aides, he ordered the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Syria last month and has publicly questioned the necessity of U.S. troops in South Korea.

He ordered additional troops into Afghanistan in August 2017 but said at the time it went against his instincts.

Critics have said that leaves him open to being outmaneuvered by the Taliban, who are poised to seize control of large swaths of the country once U.S. troops withdraw. But Khalilzad, himself a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan who was brought on by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to negotiate with the militant group, pushed back against early criticism of the deal he is working on.

“Skeptics have rushed to judgment based on just the first part of a much larger effort, as though we have a completed agreement,” Khalilzad wrote on Twitter Thursday. “But you can’t eat an elephant in one bite! And a forty year old war won’t be resolved in one meeting, even if that meeting runs for close to a week.”

 

 

Earlier in the week, Khalilzad, himself a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan who was brought on by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to negotiate with the militant group, announced that the two sides had made progress on countering terrorism and a U.S. troop withdrawal.

In particular, the Taliban had agreed to never allow terror groups like al-Qaeda or the Islamic State to find safe haven in the country — 17 years after al-Qaeda’s presence led to the U.S. invasion.

But the negotiators are “not even finished with these issues yet,” Khalilzad said Thursday. In addition to resolving those, they also have to work on the “vital issues” of intra-Afghan talks and a nationwide ceasefire, confirming what ABC News reported Monday.

Those “intra-Afghan” talks are particularly challenging and important. The Taliban have long refused to recognize or engage with the Afghan government, dismissing it as a puppet of the U.S. Getting them to agree to even speak to Afghan government officials has been nearly impossible so far.

A State Department spokesperson told ABC News that remains an essential part of any U.S.-approved deal: “Any final agreement must include an intra-Afghan dialogue that includes the Taliban, the Afghan government and other Afghan stakeholders. Afghans must come together to negotiate a political settlement on the future of their country,” the official said.

But critics argue the fact that these talks are happening now without representatives from Ghani’s government is a problem in and of itself.

Retired U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker, who served as envoy to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon, said the administration was undermining the Afghan government: “By acceding to this Taliban demand, we have ourselves delegitimized the government we claim to support,” he wrote in a Washington Post op-ed. “By going to the table we were surrendering; we were just negotiating the terms of our surrender.”

He warned that whatever the Taliban may promise in talks would now be empty because the militant group knows “that when we are gone and the Taliban is back, we will have no means of enforcing any of” those commitments.

That seems to have unnerved Ghani himself, who sought to reassure the nation in an address Monday that any deal would be made with his government’s awareness and full participation.

Ghani’s office and a National Security Council spokesperson declined to comment to ABC News.

He took his concerns a step further this week, according to the New York Times, writing a letter to Trump about how Afghanistan could reduce costs for the U.S. and how the U.S. could bring down troop levels to a “more efficient level,” seemingly instead of a total withdrawal.

Even though they are not in the meetings, the U.S. insists Ghani’s government has been briefed by Khalilzad and his team every step of the way — a point the U.S. envoy was trying to make Thursday. His message was, “Let’s take a step back and wait and see where all this goes before anyone expresses alarm about anything that’s happening here,” a U.S. official told ABC News.

But insisting on a seat at the table for the Afghan government had long been the U.S. position. As recently as November, the State Department said that the U.S. only supports “an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process.”

In fact, the department spent months declining to even confirm that Khalilzad or another senior U.S. diplomat Alice Wells was even directly meeting with Taliban representatives without the Afghan government.

“This is going to become a conversation or will be a conversation between the Afghan government and also the Taliban. The United States government stands ready to assist, to facilitate, but this has to be an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in September.

For his part, Khalilzad tweeted, “There are many players, many issues, and many moving parts. But we are on the right path, together.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Posted On 31 Jan 2019

US envoy for Afghanistan defends Taliban peace talks: ‘We are on the right path’

WORLD NEWS US envoy for Afghanistan defends Taliban peace talks: 'We are on the right path'  https://linewsradio.com/us-envoy-for-afghanistan-defends-taliban-peace-talks-we-are-on-the-right-path/  http://abcnewsradioonline.com/world-news/

Afghan Presidency Press Office / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — After criticisms of the early details of his peace talks with the Taliban, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad is defending those talks and urging others not to rush to judgment yet.

While he said his nearly week-long meeting with Taliban officials yielded “significant progress,” critics, including a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, have accused the Trump administration of negotiating an American surrender and abandoning the U.S.-backed Afghan government of President Ashraf Ghani, who reportedly wrote a letter to President Donald Trump expressing concerns about the withdrawal.

“Skeptics have rushed to judgment based on just the first part of a much larger effort, as though we have a completed agreement,” Khalilzad wrote on Twitter Thursday. “But you can’t eat an elephant in one bite! And a forty year old war won’t be resolved in one meeting, even if that meeting runs for close to a week.”

Earlier in the week, Khalilzad, himself a former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan who was brought on by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to negotiate with the militant group, announced that the two sides had made progress on countering terrorism and a U.S. troop withdrawal.

In particular, the Taliban had agreed to never allow terror groups like al-Qaeda or the Islamic State to find safe haven in the country — 17 years after al-Qaeda’s presence led to the U.S. invasion.

But the negotiators are “not even finished with these issues yet,” Khalilzad said Thursday. In addition to resolving those, they also have to work on the “vital issues” of intra-Afghan talks and a nationwide ceasefire, confirming what ABC News reported Monday.

Those “intra-Afghan” talks are particularly challenging and important. The Taliban have long refused to recognize or engage with the Afghan government, dismissing it as a puppet of the U.S. Getting them to agree to even speak to Afghan government officials has been nearly impossible so far.

A State Department spokesperson told ABC News that remains an essential part of any U.S.-approved deal: “Any final agreement must include an intra-Afghan dialogue that includes the Taliban, the Afghan government and other Afghan stakeholders. Afghans must come together to negotiate a political settlement on the future of their country,” the official said.

But critics argue the fact that these talks are happening now without representatives from Ghani’s government is a problem in and of itself.

Retired U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker, who served as envoy to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait and Lebanon, said the administration was undermining the Afghan government: “By acceding to this Taliban demand, we have ourselves delegitimized the government we claim to support,” he wrote in a Washington Post op-ed. “By going to the table we were surrendering; we were just negotiating the terms of our surrender.”

He warned that whatever the Taliban may promise in talks would now be empty because the militant group knows “that when we are gone and the Taliban is back, we will have no means of enforcing any of” those commitments.

That seems to have unnerved Ghani himself, who sought to reassure the nation in an address Monday that any deal would be made with his government’s awareness and full participation.

Ghani’s office and a National Security Council spokesperson declined to comment to ABC News.

He took his concerns a step further this week, according to the New York Times, writing a letter to Trump about how Afghanistan could reduce costs for the U.S. and how the U.S. could bring down troop levels to a “more efficient level,” seemingly instead of a total withdrawal.

Even though they are not in the meetings, the U.S. insists Ghani’s government has been briefed by Khalilzad and his team every step of the way — a point the U.S. envoy was trying to make Thursday. His message was, “Let’s take a step back and wait and see where all this goes before anyone expresses alarm about anything that’s happening here,” a U.S. official told ABC News.

But insisting on a seat at the table for the Afghan government had long been the U.S. position. As recently as November, the State Department said that the U.S. only supports “an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process.”

In fact, the department spent months declining to even confirm that Khalilzad or another senior U.S. diplomat Alice Wells was even directly meeting with Taliban representatives without the Afghan government.

“This is going to become a conversation or will be a conversation between the Afghan government and also the Taliban. The United States government stands ready to assist, to facilitate, but this has to be an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in September.

For his part, Khalilzad tweeted, “There are many players, many issues, and many moving parts. But we are on the right path, together.”

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Posted On 31 Jan 2019

11-year-old raises $60K to grant wishes for elderly residents in nursing homes where her mother works

KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock(HARRISON, Ark.) —  A kind-hearted fifth-grader is delivering smiles to the elderly by granting three wishes to everyone she meets.

Ruby Kate Chitsey has spent a lot of her time visiting multiple long-term nursing care centers with her mother, Amanda Chitsey, who is a nurse practitioner that provides hands-on care to residents.

In doing so, Ruby Kate has fulfilled the requests of residents in and around Harrison, Ark. — such as buying snacks, gifts and helping with petcare — and has raised over $60,000 along the way.

“She took something that we all know happens, the lonely plight of the impoverished institutionalized elderly, and she did something,” Chitsey told Good Morning America about Ruby Kate. “She thought outside the box and she used her giant heart powerfully to get it done.”

Elderly people living in nursing homes throughout the United States receive room and board and medical care through Medicaid, Chitsey explained. These patients only receive $40 cash each month for anything extra.

Ruby Kate’s idea was born after she met a resident named Pearl, who was struggling to house and keep her dog. Chitsey said Ruby Kate dipped into her piggy bank to cover the $12 cost of a pet sitter bringing her dog to the facility.

Soon Ruby Kate was asking other residents, “If you had 3 wishes, what would they be?” She wrote their answers down in a journal and her mom helped her set up a GoFundMe account to fund all the wishes.

One woman requested fresh strawberries because she hadn’t had any in nearly a decade. Many asked for snacks, gifts for their grandchildren, good books to read and recently, Ruby Kate delivered McDonald’s Happy Meals and desserts from a bakery to 50 residents.

Ruby Kate and her mom were also approved to adopt a facility cat.

“The residents cried when we told them Monday,” Chitsey said. “We are buying music programs. We are directly impacting lives every single day with one goal: to bring them joy.”

Ruby Kate created a Facebook page for her new project titled, “Three Wishes for Ruby’s Residents.” She also has an AmazonSmile list to fulfill the wishes of her friends from the nursing homes.

Last week, Ruby Kate was named “GoFundMe kid hero of the month” due to her efforts helping nursing home residents. The mother-daughter pair plan to take the project to a national level next.

“This is her hobby. This is where and how she has developed her own self-esteem and self-worth,” Chitsey said of her daughter. “Ruby rises by lifting others. It’s been food for her soul and mine, too. Often we have said, the two of us have gotten more out of this project spiritually than the patients. They’ve moved us.”

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