By Robert A. Vella
Trump-Kim summit collapses
HANOI —President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un abruptly cut short their two-day summit Thursday after they were unable to reach an agreement to dismantle Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons.
Talks collapsed unexpectedly amid a disagreement about economic sanctions, with the two leaders and their delegations departing their meeting site in Vietnam’s capital without sitting for a planned lunch or participating in a scheduled signing ceremony.
Kim said he was prepared in principle to denuclearize, and Trump said an agreement was “ready to sign.” But Trump said the main impediment to a deal was Kim’s requirement that the United States lift all economic sanctions on North Korea in exchange for the closure of only one nuclear facility, which still would have left Pyongyang with a large arsenal of missiles and warheads.
Russia prosecutes cybersecurity experts
Convictions handed down this week in a high-profile treason case in Russia have reopened questions about the Russian hacking of the 2016 US presidential election.
On Tuesday, a Russian military court issued lengthy sentences to two top cyber-security experts, Russian news agencies reported. Sergei Mikhailov, a former officer with the Federal Security Service (FSB) — Russia’s domestic intelligence agency — received 22 years in prison, and Ruslan Stoyanov, a former Kaspersky Lab employee, was sentenced to 14 years.
Both men had years of experience fighting cyber-crime, and Mikhailov was one of the few FSB officers who had the privilege of traveling abroad and interacted with Western colleagues at events and conferences.
Texas voter purge blocked
A federal judge has blocked election officials in Texas from checking the citizenship of registered voters and potentially purging them from electoral rolls in a temporary order that marks a significant victory for civil rights activists.
The ruling by US district judge Fred Biery on Wednesday comes a month after the Texas secretary of state’s office flagged almost 100,000 registered voters who it claimed required a citizenship review in order to maintain the right to vote in the state. The office was later forced to concede the data it had used was significantly flawed as advocates argued it discriminated against Hispanic Americans.
Democrats advance gun control bill
The House on Wednesday passed a bill expanding federal background checks for gun purchases and transfers, the first major new firearm restrictions to advance in a generation.
The Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which passed 240 to 190 with mostly Democratic votes, is unlikely to be considered in the Senate, where Republicans hold a majority with 53 seats. President Trump issued a veto threat Tuesday for the expanded background checks bill.
But amid loud applause in the House, Democrats and gun-control advocates celebrated Wednesday’s vote as the first significant congressional movement on tightening access to firearms since the 1990s. The outline of the bill approved by the House was first sketched in the days after the 2012 killing of elementary school students and staff members in Newtown, Conn., only to fail a key Senate test vote months later.
Racial disparity in education funding
School districts that predominantly serve students of color received $23 billion less in funding than mostly white school districts in the United States in 2016, despite serving the same number of students, a new report found.
The report, released this week by the nonprofit EdBuild, put a dollar amount on the problem of school segregation, which has persisted long after Brown v. Board of Education and was targeted in recent lawsuits in states from New Jersey to Minnesota. The estimate also came as teachers across the country have protested and gone on strike to demand more funding for public schools.
Anti-vaxxers target doctors
Groups set up on social media platforms to promote anti-vaccination messages are targeting vaccine advocates in online harassment campaigns, reports claim.
In an interview with The Guardian, Elias Kass—a naturopathic primary care physician, licensed midwife and prominent pro-vaccine advocate—talked about the targeted abuse he had received for stating his views.
On February 20, Kass testified before a Washington state Senate committee in support of a measure that would eliminate personal and philosophical exemptions for childhood vaccinations. The move came amid a measles outbreak in the state that has infected 66 people—most of whom weren’t immunized—at the time of writing.
Kass—who won a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention immunization advocacy award in 2017—said that someone called him “a disgusting liar” in a hallway soon after the hearing, but this was nothing compared to the torrent of abuse that he found online several hours later, The Guardian reported.