Japanese defense minister sounds alarm on North Korea

USA NEWS HEADLINES

Japan’s defense minister asserted Monday that North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities have grown to an “unprecedented, critical and imminent” level, requiring “different responses” to the threat.

The minister, Itsunori Odonera, said that this rising threat compels his country to endorse the U.S. view that “all options” must be considered, which President Donald Trump says includes possible military action. Japan was alarmed by North Korea twice launching missiles over Japanese territory, in August and in September.

Odonera’s comments, made through an interpreter, came at the outset of a so-called trilateral meeting in the Philippines with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and South Korea’s defense minister, Song Young-moo. Each made statements about North Korea before a group of reporters and news cameras, but none took questions.

Mattis was in the Philippines to attend portions of a two-day meeting of defense ministers from the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations. He used the occasion to hold a three-way meeting with his counterparts from Japan and South Korea. He is scheduled later in the week to travel to Seoul to attend annual consultative talks with the South Korean government, which is expected to focus mostly on North Korea.

In remarks that were notably explicit about the North Korean threat, Odonera said North Korea’s most recent underground nuclear test could have been a hydrogen bomb, which is vastly more powerful than an atomic bomb.

“The country has steadfastly improved it nuclear and missiles capability,” said Onodera. He added: “The threat posed by North Korea has grown to the unprecedented, critical and imminent level.”

“Therefore, we have to take calibrated and different responses to meet that level of threat,” he said, without elaborating on what “different” responses Japan favors.

Trump has said he will resolve the North Korea problem alone if necessary, to prevent the North from gaining the capability to attack the United States with a nuclear-armed missile.

Mattis was somewhat more reserved in his remarks than Onodera, although he did slam Pyongyang for defying U.N. Security Council resolutions against its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. But the U.S. defense secretary did not mention any potential military action. Mattis instead emphasized a unified U.S.-Japan-South Korea position in pressuring the North to give up its nuclear program.

“North Korea’s provocations threaten regional and global security,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Mattis used the opportunity to personally apologize to his Indonesia counterpart for an unexplained move by the U.S. government to prevent the top Indonesian general traveling to Washington over the weekend

More/Source: Japanese defense minister sounds alarm on North Korea – ABC News

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8 Ward Christmas Party Ideas

USA NEWS HEADLINESAs ward activity committee members, it can be difficult to come up with unique ideas for the ward Christmas party year after year. Here are some ideas for making this December’s event an enjoyable exp

As ward activity committee members, it can be difficult to come up with unique ideas for the ward Christmas party year after year. Here are some ideas for making this December’s event an enjoyable experience for members of all ages.

Christmas in Bethlehem

Add a new level of understanding and reverence to your ward party this year by celebrating in the city of Christ’s birth. Let ward members know what you’re planning a few weeks ahead of time by sending out a “Royal Decree,” summoning all the ward to Bethlehem to be taxed. Have families dress in simple costumes and bring a blanket to sit on, but make sure to have tables and chairs available for those who cannot sit on the floor. Set up booths that sell different kinds of food—pita bread, hummus, olives, couscous and other foods of the Middle East—and give each family a bag of money to buy their dinner and pay taxes. Include a short program, or have everyone sing hymns, and finish the night off with a reenactment of the Nativity.

Christmas in Zarahemla

The Book of Mormon gives another account of the birth of the Savior, so why not celebrate Christmas from the Nephites’ perspective? This could be similar to the Night in Bethlehem, but with a change of scenery. Use lots of greenery to create a rainforest atmosphere and decorate in a Mayan style. Since the Nephite Christmas was marked by a night that was as bright as day, make sure the room is well lit. Instead of hummus and pita bread for dinner, try serving tortillas and beans, with tropical fruits like pineapple and bananas.

Breakfast with Santa

Christmas parties don’t have to mean a complicated dinner and a formal setting. In fact, they don’t have to mean dinner at all. Instead, try celebrating the season with a casual ward breakfast. With some Christmas carols, the Nativity story, and a visit from Santa to top off the event.

Alternatively, for an extra sweet activity, your ward could do a hot chocolate bar! There’s nothing better than cozying up and enjoying good company with a drink to keep you warm in winter. Your hot chocolate bar could include tons of toppings. Aside from traditional hot chocolate toppings like marshmallows and whipped cream, get creative with unorthodox hot chocolate toppings like caramel, fun-sized candy bars, Nutella, and peanut butter.

Christmas Carol Sing-Along

Not every Christmas party has to be an elaborate affair. In fact, often the simplest activities can be the most spiritual. And what better way to get into the Christmas spirit than by singing Christmas carols? You could even break up the evening with a few special musical numbers from people in your ward. Not only will the evening be enjoyable, it will cost next to nothing.

More/Source: 8 Ward Christmas Party Ideas + Planning Tips | LDS Living

US Air Force readying B-52s for nuclear attack

USA NEWS HEADLINES

Amid rising tensions with North Korea, the US Air Force is preparing to put its nuclear-armed B-52 bombers back on 24-hour alert — a status not seen since the end of the Cold War in 1991,

Amid rising tensions with North Korea, the US Air Force is preparing to put its nuclear-armed B-52 bombers back on 24-hour alert — a status not seen since the end of the Cold War in 1991, according to a report.

A return to a 24-hour alert would mean that the venerable bombers would once again park at the long-dormant pads of the Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana — dubbed the “Christmas tree” for their angular markings, Defense One reported.

“This is yet one more step in ensuring that we’re prepared,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told the industry publication during his tour of Barksdale and other bases that support the nuclear mission.

“I look at it more as not planning for any specific event, but more for the reality of the global situation we find ourselves in and how we ensure we’re prepared going forward,” he said.

Goldfein and other top defense officials stressed that the alert order had not been given — just that preparations were under way in case it might be.

Such a decision would be made by Gen. John Hyten, commander of US Strategic Command, or Gen. Lori Robinson, head of US Northern Command, according to Defense One.

STRATCOM is in charge of the military’s nuclear forces and NORTHCOM is in charge of defending North America.

Goldfein said that in a world where “we’ve got folks that are talking openly about use of nuclear weapons,” it’s important to be vigilant and be proactive.

“It’s no longer a bipolar world where it’s just us and the Soviet Union. We’ve got other players out there who have nuclear capability. It’s never been more important to make sure that we get this mission right,” Goldfein said, Fox News reported.

Barksdale Air Force Base, home of the 2nd Bomb Wing and Air Force Global Strike Command, which manages the service’s nuclear services, is being renovated so the B-52s would be ready to “take off at a moment’s notice,” according to the publication.

The B-52 — also called the Stratofortress — can fly up to about 50,000 feet and release a variety of weapons, including cluster bombs, gravity bombs and precision guided missiles.

According to Defense One, two nuclear command planes, the E-4B Nightwatch and E-6B Mercury, will be deployed to Barksdale. During a nuclear war, they would serve as flying command posts of the defense secretary.

Putting the fleet back on alert is one of many decisions facing the Air Force as the US military responds to the hermit kingdom’s nuclear tests and President Trump’s combative approach to Pyongyang.

Tensions have skyrocketed on the peninsula after a series of weapons tests by the rogue regime and increasingly bellicose exchanges between Trump and despot Kim Jong Kim.

Recently, Trump cryptically warned about the “calm before the storm” after a White House meeting with his military leaders.

More/Source: US Air Force readying B-52s for nuclear attack | New York Post

Gold Star widow has ‘nothing to say’ to Trump

USA NEWS HEADLINES

Trump disputed her account, characterizing his conversation with Sgt. La David Johnson’s widow as “very respectful.”

Nineteen days after her husband’s death and two days after his wrenching burial, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson said she has “nothing to say” to President Trump, whose condolence call pulled the grieving widow into the center of a national controversy.

“Very upset and hurt; it made me cry even worse,” Myeshia Johnson told “Good Morning America” about her conversation with the president.

Making her first public comments since she took the call from Trump last week — on the same day her husband’s remains were flown back to the United States — Johnson recalled that the president said her husband “knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyways. And it made me cry. I was very angry at the tone of his voice, and how he said it.”

She added: “I didn’t say anything. I just listened.”

Trump on Monday disputed Johnson’s account, characterizing his conversation with her as “very respectful.”

Sgt. Johnson was killed in action in West Africa on Oct. 4, one of four U.S. soldiers who died in Niger when Islamic State militants attacked them.

His body was flown back to the United States on Tuesday. Soon after, his name became entangled in a controversy after Trump was accused of making insensitive remarks to the 25-year-old soldier’s widow.

USA NEWS HEADLINES

Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) said Trump told Myeshia Johnson on the phone that her husband “must have known what he signed up for,” an account later corroborated by Johnson’s aunt and custodial mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson.

Trump vehemently denied Wilson’s account, stating without evidence that he had proof it was “totally fabricated.” But White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly later appeared to confirm Wilson’s account. Myeshia Johnson said Monday that Wilson’s version of events was “100 percent correct.”

Johnson said several people — including her aunt and uncle, an Army official and Wilson — heard the conversation because Trump was placed on speaker phone.

“Why would we fabricate something like that?” she said.

More/Source: Myeshia Johnson, Gold Star widow, discusses President Trump’s condolence call – The Washington Post

Obama-era Russian uranium deal investigation widens

USA NEWS HEADLINES

  • Obama-era Russia uranium deal investigation widens
  • Trump warns House Republicans of midterm trouble if they don’t pass tax reform
  • Bernie Sanders seeking Senate reelection as independent, feeding 2020 buzz
  • North Korea tension: Air Force reportedly preparing to put B-52 bombers on alert
  • Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl to be sentenced after pleading guilty to desertion

THE LEAD STORY: The House Oversight committee has started investigating an Obama-era deal in which a Russian-backed company bought a uranium firm with mines in the U.S. … The uranium agreement was reached while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. Some investors in the Russian-backed company, Uranium One, had relationships with former President Bill Clinton and donated to the Clinton Foundation. When asked on “Fox News Sunday” if a criminal investigation would be coming, Rep. Ron DeSantis, a member of the House Oversight Committee, responded: “It could be criminal.” He cited statutes of limitations that may limit prosecutions of any crimes that may arise from the 2010 deal.

TRUMP TO HOUSE GOP – PASS TAX REFORM OR PAY THE PRICE: President Trump has warned House Republicans that voters will not be kind to them if they stand in the way of his push for broad tax reform … In a conference call Sunday that included Vice President Pence, Trump told the House GOP to approve the Senate’s version of the budget framework, which was narrowly passed Thursday night, to pave the route for tax reform. Sources familiar with the phone call told Fox News that Trump warned of big trouble for House Republicans in the approaching midterms if they fail to advance tax reform. House Speaker Paul Ryan on the call told Republicans he hopes to pass a revised version of the Senate bill this week.

PREPARED FOR NORTH KOREA: The U.S. Air Force is preparing to place its fleet of nuclear-armed B-52 bombers on 24-hour alert for the first time since 1991 amid escalating tensions with North Korea, the military branch’s chief of staff said in a report … Defense officials denied to Fox News that bombers were ordered to go on 24-hour alert, but Gen. David Goldfein told Defense One it could happen. “This is yet one more step in ensuring that we’re prepared,” Goldfein said. “I look at it more as not planning for any specific event, but more for the reality of the global situation we find ourselves in and how we ensure we’re prepared going forward.”

FEELING THE BERN ONCE AGAIN?  Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said Sunday he’ll seek reelection as an independent next year. But his second visit in less than two months to the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state of neighboring New Hampshire is fueling 2020 buzz …  The 2016 Democratic presidential candidate discussed his Senate reelection in an interview following an appearance in Rollinsford, N.H., small town along the Maine border. Sanders’ trip to the critical primary state stirred more speculation that he just might run again for the White House in 2020, especially as he rallies the left wing of the party around a controversial ‘Medicare-for-all’ bill on Capitol Hill.

More/Source: FOX NEWS FIRST: Obama-era Russian uranium deal investigation widens; B-52 bombers on alert on North Korea | Fox News

Underwear bomber sues over prison treatment

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is serving four life prison terms in Colorado for trying to blow up a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day 2009.

DETROIT — The man known as the underwear bomber for trying to blow up a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas day eight years ago with a bomb hidden in his underclothing has filed a lawsuit alleging his constitutional rights are being violated at a supermax federal prison in Colorado.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian native who became an al-Qaeda operative, alleges he’s being held in long-term solitary confinement, has been forced to eat foods forbidden by his religion, endured harassment yelled by white supremacist inmates saying things offensive to Muslims and has been prohibited from communicating with relatives, including nieces and nephews.

“Prison walls do not form a barrier separating prison inmates from the protections of the United States Constitution,” his 73-page lawsuit said.

The lawsuit was filed last week in federal court in Colorado against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Federal Bureau of Prisons and Joe Does 1 through 20. Spokespeople for the named defendants could not be immediately reached for comment Sunday.

Abdulmutallab is serving four life prison terms in Florence, Colo., the highest-security prison in the country.

He tried to detonate a bomb on a flight carrying more than 300 people, but his plan was foiled when passengers and crew members overcame him on Dec. 25, 2009, as the plane flew over Woodhaven, Mich., as it approached Detroit Metro Airport. The incident caused burns to Abdulmutallab’s genitals and legs.

Abdulmutallab has said he tried to carry out the bombing in retaliation for the murder of innocent civilians in Iraq, Israel, Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere by the U.S.

According to the lawsuit, the U.S. government put Abdulmutallab under special administrative measures. They prohibit him from communicating with “more than 7.5 billion people, the vast majority of people on the planet.”

Abdulmutallab, who said he’s a devout Muslim, also alleges that the restrictions hinder him from practicing his religion and violate his rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The lawsuit claims he’s not been able to participate in group prayer, doesn’t have regular access to an imam and is not provided with a halal diet.

The suit said Abdulmutallab has gone on hunger strikes to protest his alleged treatment and has been repeatedly force fed.

During his trial in Detroit in 2011, Abdulmutallab pleased guilty to eight counts, including conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism.

He’s been in the Colorado prison since March 2012.

More/Source: Underwear bomber: Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab sues over prison treatment