Nation & World Briefs

Tuesday, June 12, 2018
For Trump and Kim, maybe the spectacle is what truly counted

NEW YORK — Put aside the “deliverables” and the “outcomes” and the “takeaways.” Put aside, for argument’s sake, the question of what was actually accomplished, at least in the way that we usually use the word. Put aside your politics, even — if only for a moment.

The summit that brought Donald Trump of Washington and Kim Jong Un of Pyongyang together for gripping, grinning and talking Tuesday is being vigorously debated across the planet for what it did, what it didn’t do and who emerged on top.

Strip away the spectacle and look for the substance, the pundits insist. But what if that’s not the whole point? What if, on a sunny tropical morning in Singapore, the spectacle itself was the most substantial thing of all?

“People thought this could never take place. It is now taking place,” Trump said after the meeting. And in that he is utterly correct. A decade ago, a year ago and certainly six months ago, the notion of these two sitting down together — “Little Rocket Man” and the “deranged U.S. dotard,” as they derisively called each other — seemed unfathomable.

This is not a meditation on whether it was right for Trump to meet with Kim, or whether by doing so he legitimized a despot. That’s up to you to decide. Instead, let’s examine whether, in a modern media age when we do so many things remotely and then move on with lightning speed, an old-fashioned tete-a-tete — no matter how high-profile or tabloidy — is still important of its own accord.

Puerto Rico issues new data on Hurricane Maria deaths

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Eight days after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, Efrain Perez felt a pain in his chest.

Doctors near his small town sent him to Puerto Rico’s main hospital for emergency surgery for an aortic aneurysm. But when the ambulance pulled into the parking lot in the capital, San Juan, after a more than two-hour drive, a doctor ran out to stop it.

“He said, ‘Don’t bring him in here, I can’t care for him. I don’t have power. I don’t have water. I don’t have an anesthesiologist,’” Perez’s daughter, Nerybelle, recalled.

The 95-year-old Perez died as the ambulance drove him back to southwestern Puerto Rico but he is not included in the island’s official hurricane death toll of 64 people, a figure at the center of a growing legal and political fight over the response to the Category 4 storm that hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017.

Facing at least three lawsuits demanding more data on the death toll, Puerto Rico’s government released new information on Tuesday that added detail to the growing consensus that hundreds or even thousands of people died as an indirect result of the storm.

AMA adopts sweeping policies to cut gun violence

CHICAGO — With frustration mounting over lawmakers’ inaction on gun control, the American Medical Association on Tuesday pressed for a ban on assault weapons and came out against arming teachers as a way to fight what it calls a public health crisis.

At its annual policymaking meeting, the nation’s largest physicians group bowed to unprecedented demands from doctor-members to take a stronger stand on gun violence — a problem the organizations says is as menacing as a lethal infectious disease.

The action comes against a backdrop of recurrent school shootings, everyday street violence in the nation’s inner cities, and rising U.S. suicide rates.

“We as physicians are the witnesses to the human toll of this disease,” Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency-medicine specialist at Brown University, said at the meeting.

AMA delegates voted to adopt several of nearly a dozen gun-related proposals presented by doctor groups that are part of the AMA’s membership.

Seattle repeals corporate tax after Amazon fights back

SEATTLE — Seattle leaders on Tuesday repealed a tax on large companies such as Amazon and Starbucks after a backlash from businesses, a stark reversal from a month ago when the City Council unanimously approved the effort to combat a growing homelessness crisis.

The council voted 7-2 after supporters and opponents packed a meeting with signs saying, “Tax Amazon, housing for all” and “No tax on jobs,” with some shouting for more time to discuss the issue.

The vote showed Amazon’s ability to aggressively push back on government taxes, especially in its affluent hometown where it’s the largest employer and where some have criticized it for helping cultivate a widening income gap that is pricing lower-income workers out of housing.

The tax was proposed as a progressive revenue source aimed at tackling one of the nation’s highest homelessness numbers, a problem that hasn’t eased even as city spending on the issue grew.

Businesses and residents demanded more accountability in how Seattle funds homelessness and housing and said it should take a regional approach to the problem. Many worried that Amazon and others would leave the city, with construction workers in hard hats and safety packing City Hall to object to the tax.

From The Associated Press