Top News Stories For Today – Dec 4, 2017
US military drill in South Korea
On Monday, about 230 US and South Korean military aircraft began a five-day joint air force exercise in South Korea, just days after North Korea test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile that can probably reach anywhere in the United States.
The US Seventh Air Force said the annual fall exercises were not a response to any incident or provocation from Pyongyang, but the US sent an unusually large number of latest-generation stealth fighters: six F-22s and 18 F-35s. In all, 12,000 US military personnel will be involved in the drill, called Vigilant Ace. North Korea said Sunday that this drill pushes the Korean Peninsula “to the brink of nuclear war” and Pyongyang will “seriously consider” countermeasures. The Associated Press
Pakistan, Nepal and Myanmar cancel Chinese projects
In the short space of just a few weeks, Pakistan, Nepal and Myanmar have confirmed the cancellation three major hydroelectricity projects planned by Chinese companies. The rejection of the three projects, worth nearly $20 billion, comes as a serious jolt to China’s ambitious trade-linking project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Pakistan cited tough financing terms imposed by China as its reason for canceling the $14 billion Diamer-Bhasha Dam project. Nepal’s deputy Prime Minister recently announced a decision to scrap a $2.5 billion contract for a hydroelectricity project, accusing the Chinese company of financial irregularities. And Myanmar, which halted a $3.6 billion Chinese-backed dam three years ago, confirmed last month that it no longer is interested in big hydro-electric power projects. These decisions could mean a serious loss of image for BRI, which involves plans to build infrastructure across the globe, including in developed countries like the United States and those in Europe. VOA
Opposition to planned Trump’s Jerusalem announcement grows
Opposition is growing in the Arab world to an expected announcement by Trump that the US will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Reports say the president will make the statement this week but will further delay acting on a campaign pledge to move the US embassy to the city. The head of the Arab League, Jordan and the Palestinian president have warned of the consequences of a declaration.
The city’s fate is one of the thorniest issues between Israel and the Arabs. A deadline for Donald Trump to sign a waiver delaying the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem expires on Monday. Every president, including Trump, has signed the waiver every six months since US Congress passed an act in 1995 calling for the embassy to be moved. Trump repeatedly pledged during his election campaign to move the embassy, and while he has said it was still his intention, he has not yet done so. There are signs however he will make a statement on Wednesday announcing Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel while holding off moving the embassy. BBC
US Government shutdown threat looming
Congress is heading into another busy week following the frenetic rewriting and passage of the Senate GOP tax bill. At the top of the agenda is negotiating a deal on keeping the federal government funded to avoid a shutdown of some agencies on Friday, when current funding runs out. House Republican leaders are proposing a two-week extension through a “continuing resolution” that would keep government agencies funded until Dec. 22.
GOP leaders say the extra time would allow for negotiations on boosting spending for the Pentagon and domestic agencies, which otherwise face cuts. Democrats are demanding a deal on protecting young undocumented immigrants. Republicans don’t want to include the immigration fix in the budget deal, suggesting a possible deadlock. Politico
Trump slams FBI in Twitter
After Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in the Russia probe, President Trump stayed quiet on the matter — for about a day. Then the President went on an epic weekend Twitter tirade. On Saturday morning, Trump sent out a tweet that raised questions as to whether he knew Flynn had lied to the FBI when he fired him in February. Trump’s personal lawyer tried to tamp down that ruckus by saying he had authored that tweet.
But Trump wasn’t finished. He then went after the Justice Department, the FBI and Hillary Clinton (of course). He said the FBI was in “tatters” under the leadership of former director James Comey and poked Justice for not being harsher with Clinton during the investigation into her emails. CNN
CVS to buy Aetna for $69 billion
CVS will buy Aetna, one of the country’s largest health insurers, for $69 billion, the companies announced Sunday. Aetna insures around 22 million people, while CVS runs more than 9,700 drugstores and 1,100 walk-in clinics.
The deal, which must be approved by antitrust regulators, has CVS Health Corp. paying $207 in cash and stock for each share of Aetna Inc. The acquisition could lead to CVS turning its stores into places where customers can do more than just pick up their prescriptions and basic household items, like have their blood drawn or meet with a nurse practitioner. The Associated Press, The Week
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