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Nation & World Briefs


Thursday, June 14, 2018
Trump’s halt of ‘war games’ may weaken defenses in Korea

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s decision to suspend major U.S. military exercises in South Korea could weaken allied defenses, depending on the length and scope of the hiatus. But the potential for diplomatic damage seems even greater.

The United States, South Korea and Japan were making a public display of solidarity Thursday over the outcome of Trump’s summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. But analysts and former officials with experience in U.S.-Asia policy were shaken by Trump’s failure to inform the Asian allies — or even the Pentagon — before mothballing the military maneuvers.

“Those exercises are critically important because they are deterrence,” said Chuck Hagel, a former defense secretary in the Obama administration. He welcomed Trump’s willingness to talk to Kim but worried that the president has underestimated the complications he has introduced for the Pentagon by suspending the military drills.

“You don’t just shut them on and off like a water faucet,” he said.

The exercises in question go well beyond routine training, which apparently is unaffected by Trump’s decision. Large-scale exercises are done to ensure that evolving tactics, procedures and plans can be carried out smoothly and that U.S. and South Korean forces are in sync. They also are a means of showing allied solidarity, which is part of the psychology of deterring enemy attack.

Saudi-led troops fight rebel forces south of Yemen’s Hodeida

SANAA, Yemen — The Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s exiled government captured a town south of the port city of Hodeida on Thursday as fierce fighting and airstrikes pounded the area on the second day of an offensive to capture the strategic harbor that is the main entry point for food in a country teetering on the brink of famine.

A Saudi military spokesman said the forces were drawing closer to the Red Sea port in a campaign aimed at driving out Iranian-aligned Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who have held Hodeida since 2015, and breaking the civil war’s long stalemate.

International aid agencies and the United Nations have warned the assault could shut down the vital aid route for some 70 percent of Yemen’s food, as well as the bulk of humanitarian aid and fuel supplies. Around two-thirds of Yemen’s population of 27 million relies on aid and 8.4 million are already at risk of starving.

The United Arab Emirates ambassador to U.N. agencies in Geneva maintained the Saudi-Emirati coalition had no choice but to act.

“Should we leave the Houthis smuggling missiles?” Ambassador Obaid Salem al-Zaabi told a news conference. “This comes from this seaport. We already gave the United Nations the chance to operate from this seaport, and (the Houthis) refused.”

Apple closing iPhone security gap used by law enforcement

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple is closing a security gap that allowed outsiders to pry personal information from locked iPhones without a password, a change that will thwart law enforcement agencies that have been exploiting the vulnerability to collect evidence in criminal investigations.

The loophole will be shut down in a forthcoming update to Apple’s iOS software, which powers iPhones.

Once fixed, iPhones will no longer be vulnerable to intrusion via the Lightning port used both to transfer data and to charge iPhones. The port will still function after the update, but will shut off data an hour after a phone is locked if the correct password isn’t entered.

The current flaw has provided a point of entry for authorities across the U.S. since the FBI paid an unidentified third party in 2016 to unlock an iPhone used by a killer in the San Bernardino, California, mass shooting a few months earlier. The FBI sought outside help after Apple rebuffed the agency’s efforts to make the company create a security backdoor into iPhone technology.

Apple’s refusal to cooperate with the FBI at the time became a political hot potato pitting the rights of its customers against the broader interests of public safety. While waging his successful 2016 campaign, President Donald Trump ripped Apple for denying FBI access to the San Bernardino killer’s locked iPhone.

New San Francisco mayor went from projects to City Hall

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco’s incoming mayor knows the yawning gap between rich and poor firsthand, having been raised by her grandmother in the city’s drug- and violence-riddled projects.

It is now the job of London Breed — the first black woman elected mayor of the city — to unite a wealthy but conflicted San Francisco, where the high-tech economy has sent the median price of a home soaring to $1.3 million and where homeless tents and human waste fester on sidewalks.

People who know her say the 43-year-old Breed has the grit, drive and deep love for her hometown to tackle its problems.

“I know where she comes from. I know where she is currently,” said high school classmate Adonne Loggins. “It’s not an easy way to come up. A lot of people fall by the wayside, and she didn’t. That’s a tribute to her character and her willingness to fight.”

Breed, currently president of the 11-member Board of Supervisors, was declared the winner Wednesday of last week’s eight-way mayoral election. The Democrat takes office next month.

From Associated Press