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Otto Warmbier's parents speak out about son's death, North Korean torture

Fred and Cindy Warmbier, parents of Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student who was imprisoned for allegedly taking a propaganda poster in North Korea and later died, rebuked the DPRK as “terrorist” in an interview with “Fox & Friends,” their first since their son’s death.

>> Watch the interview here

Cindy said when she and Fred heard their son was in a coma, they never imagined there was nothing that could be done to save him.

>> On Rare.us: College professor under fire for comments about Otto Warmbier’s death

“So what we pictured, because we’re optimists, is that Otto would be asleep and maybe in a medically induced coma, and then when our doctors here would work with him and he’d get the best care and love, that he would come out of it,” she said.

Matching other accounts of North Korean torture, Fred said their first encounter with their son after he returned to the U.S. was horrifying:

>> On Rare.us: Otto Warmbier, American student released from North Korea, has died

"We walked over to the plane, the engines are still humming, they had just landed … When we got halfway up the steps we heard this howling, involuntary, inhuman sound. We weren’t really certain what it was. Otto had a shaved head, he had a feeding tube coming out of his nose, he was staring blankly into space, jerking violently. He was blind. He was deaf. As we looked at him and tried to comfort him, it looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth."

>> Read more trending news

The Warmbiers said that “North Korea is not a victim; they are terrorist,” that they “tortured and intentionally injured [Otto]” and that they are a “state sponsor of terror.”

President Donald Trump said Otto Warmbier was “tortured beyond belief” in a tweet praising the interview.

>> See the tweet here

The interview comes at a time when tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have escalated significantly, with North Korea having fired at least 21 missiles during 14 tests since February 2017.

North Korean officials reach out to Republicans for help understanding Trump: report

North Korean officials are reaching out to Republican-linked analysts in an attempt to better understand President Donald Trump, according to a report published Tuesday by The Washington Post.

>> Read more trending news

The effort began before Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jung Un started trading fiery rhetoric in the wake of the Hermit Kingdom’s repeated missile tests, the Post reported.

“Their number one concern is Trump,” a source, who was not identified, told the newspaper. “They can’t figure him out.”

The Post reported that at least seven invitations have been extended to Washington-based analysts, including Douglas Paal, an expert on Asia who served on the National Security Council under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Paal, who is currently vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told the Post that he declined North Korea’s request to arrange talks between its officials and “American experts with Republican ties.”

Read more from The Washington Post

“The North Koreans are clearly eager to deliver a message,” Paal said, adding that North Korean officials wanted the meeting to take place in a neutral location, such as Switzerland. “But I think they’re only interested in getting out of the country for a bit.”

Trump's latest statement 'a declaration of war,' North Korean foreign minister says

North Korea's foreign minister on Monday told reporters that President Donald Trump has issued "a declaration of war" against the Hermit Kingdom in the president’s most recent statements on the country.

>> Read more trending news

However, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders insisted at a news briefing on Monday that no declaration had been made.

“We’ve not declared war on North Korea, and frankly the suggestion of that is absurd,” she said.

On Saturday, Trump said that North Korea "won't be around much longer" if it continues to threaten the United States.

 

Trump administration announces new travel ban: 'The tougher, the better'

The Trump administration late Sunday announced it is replacing its travel ban with a new proclamation barring visitors from eight countries, saying those nations are not doing enough to block terrorists from reaching the United States. 

>> On AJC.com: Dishwasher to Doctor: Syrian refugee achieves American dream. Now he helps others do the same.

The new directive continues existing restrictions against Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. And it adds new ones for Chad, North Korea and Venezuela starting Oct. 18 and remaining in place indefinitely until the countries toughen their security procedures. Venezuela’s restrictions narrowly apply to that nation’s government officials – and their immediate relatives – who are responsible for traveler screening procedures.

>> On AJC.com: From March: Trump travel ban again targets refugees 

“The travel ban: The tougher, the better,” President Donald Trump told reporters in Washington on Sunday. 

The first version of Trump’s travel ban — announced in January — sowed widespread confusion, triggered angry demonstrations in Atlanta and across the nation and ultimately stalled amid constitutional challenges. Trump replaced it in March with an order barring visitors from six Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. 

>> On MyAJC.com: From June: U.S. Supreme Court reinstates key parts of Trump’s travel ban

It also halted this nation’s refugee resettlement program. Senior administration officials said Sunday they would announce plans for next fiscal year’s refugee resettlements in the coming days.

Like his original travel ban, Trump’s March 6 order drew court challenges. Trump has cast his travel restrictions as efforts to block terrorist attacks, while his critics say they are driven by discrimination. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments about it on Oct. 10. 

>> On MyAJC.com: From June: Travel ban begins as guidelines draw fire

Walt Wallace — a traveler from Richmond, Virginia, who was traveling through Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Sunday — said he understood the security issues involved in the travel ban. But he also said he was concerned about the impact on "people who are legitimately trying to come here... escaping persecution."

>> Read more trending news

Edward Ahmed Mitchell, executive director of Georgia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Friday his organization might send attorneys to the airport. Mitchell added his organization will be watching to see if the restrictions are "motivated by legitimate concerns about national security, or are they motivated by anti-Muslim bigotry." 

"If the order only impacts people who do not already have visas to travel here, then nobody should be caught up at the airport," Mitchell said. But "if the order affects those already in transit like the first order did, then chaos could erupt and we'd need our attorneys at the airport."

Donald Trump brands North Korea's Kim Jong Un with new nickname – 'Rocket Man'

President Donald Trump has never been shy about giving his opponents nicknames — “Crooked Hillary,” “Lyin’ Ted,” “Crazy Bernie,” “Goofy Elizabeth Warren,” “Low-energy Jeb” and “Little Marco” all immediately come to mind — and now North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has his own Trump moniker.

>> On Rare.us: North Korea fires another missile into Japanese airspace

“Rocket Man” is the latest of Trump’s derisive epithets.

>> WATCH: Trump's 'awkward' handshake with first lady Melania has internet buzzing

On Sunday morning, Trump launched Kim's new nickname into cyberspace.

>> See the tweet here

>> Trump retweets doctored video of golf ball hitting Clinton

“I spoke with President Moon of South Korea last night. Asked how Rocket Man is doing. Long gas lines in North Korea. Too bad!” Trump tweeted.

>> Read more trending news

The “Rocket Man” nickname is a clear jab at Kim Jong Un’s now semi-regular missile launching over Japan.

>> On Rare.us: Former NBA standout Dennis Rodman stands by his man Kim Jong-un in a bizarre interview — 'He jokes'

The most recent launch happened Thursday. North Korea has fired at least 21 missiles since February 2017 in 14 missile tests.

Guam releases fact sheet for imminent missile threat: 'Do not look at the flash or fireball'

Guam releases fact sheet for imminent missile threat: 'Do not look at the flash or fireball'Guam Homeland Security on Friday released guidelines for residents to prepare “for an imminent missile threat” as President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un continued to barbs.

>> Read more trending news

The release came just days after North Korea’s army said in a statement that it was reviewing a plan to attack the U.S. territory.

The two-page fact sheet suggests that residents build an emergency supply kit and create a plan in case of a strike.

“Make a list of potential concrete shelters near your home, workplace and school,” the sheet said. “Fallout shelters do not need to be specifically constructed for protecting against fallout.”

>> Related: Why is North Korea threatening Guam?

It went on to give specific advice for during and after a strike.

“Do not look at the flash or fireball – it can blind you,” the sheet said. “Take cover behind anything that might offer protection.”

During a news conference Friday, Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo said that despite the fiery rhetoric from Washington and Pyongyang, the island is “safe and sound,” the Pacific Daily News reported.

“Everyone should continue to live their lives,” Calvo said. “There are no changes.”

>> Related: North Korea, Trump exchange threats

Still, he encouraged residents to prepare, despite the lack of an imminent threat, according to the Daily News.

Pyongyang’s state-run KCNA news agency said Thursday that the country’s army would finalize plans later this month to fire intermediate-range missiles from North Korea to near Guam, Reuters reported.

Trump told reporters gathered in New Jersey on Friday that Jong-un “will regret it fast” if he “utters one threat in the form of an overt threat … or does anything with respect to Guam or anyplace else that’s an American territory or an American ally.”

Trump thanks Putin for expelling U.S. diplomats

President Donald Trump on Thursday said that he is “very thankful” that Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to expel hundreds of U.S. diplomats, telling reporters in New Jersey that the decision will help the U.S. cut down on salaries.

>> Read more trending news

“I want to thank him because we’re trying to cut down our payroll, and as far as I’m concerned, I’m very thankful that he let go a large number of people because now we will have a smaller payroll,” Trump said, according to The Washington Post. “There’s no real reason for them to go back. … We’re going to save a lot of money.”

The comments were Trump’s first addressing Putin’s decision last month to expel 755 diplomats and technical personnel from the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Russia, according to The Post.

Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 included a 29 percent cut of State Department funding, NPR reported.

But White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an email to The New York Times on Friday that the president was making a joke.

“He was being sarcastic,” she told the newspaper.

Still, some lawmakers questioned Trump’s decision to praise Putin.

“After weeks of silence regarding Vladimir Putin's outrageous expulsion of hundreds of U.S. embassy personnel, President Trump once again let Russia off the hook and instead insulted America’s diplomats,” Rep. Eliot Engel, D-New York, the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.

“No doubt, the President's staff will eventually try to clean up after the parade by claiming it was a joke, but there's nothing funny about this,” he said.

According to Politico, “many, if not most, of the positions cut will likely be those of locally hired Russian staffers. The local staff who are let go will likely get severance payments, but cost savings are possible in the long run.”

Unidentified sources told the news site that most of the U.S. diplomats made to leave Russia will be moved to different posts.

Putin’s decision to kick American diplomats out of the country came in retaliation for sanctions placed on Russia by the U.S. Trump signed the bill, which passed with strong bipartisan support and required congressional approval to lift the restrictions, although he criticized it as being “seriously flawed.”

Amid North Korea threat, old law prevents Washington state from preparing for nuclear disaster

As North Korea considers a strike against the U.S. territory of Guam, KIRO-TV is looking into the plans to protect Washington state residents.

>> Watch the news report here

KIRO-TV found that a law from the '80s is blocking the state's effort to prepare for the worst.

That law actually prevents Washington State Emergency Management from planning for a nuclear strike.

>> Look at these photos from inside North Korea

Lawmakers passed it as a symbolic end to the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

In the 1950s and '60s during the Cold War, Washington state had a clear plan and places to shelter – even bunkers built inside Seattle bridges – in case of nuclear disaster.

>> Trump improvised 'fire and fury' warning to North Korea: reports

But currently, with North Korea's escalating threats with nukes, few people know state law prevents planning for nuclear disaster.

A little-known 1984 state law states that "Comprehensive Emergency Management" does not mean preparation for emergency evacuation or relocation of residents in anticipation of a nuclear attack.

>> Why is North Korea threatening Guam?

Washington state Sen. Mark Miloscia has been trying to repeal that old law, which he says enacted in Washington state during the Reagan era.

“I couldn’t believe how this thing could go on the books,” Miloscia said. “If we ever have to evacuate or relocate citizens due to a nuclear attack or an impending nuclear attack, right now, we can’t plan for that. It puts like a big stop order on any sort of planning we have to do to prepare for the unthinkable.”

>> North Korea, Trump exchange threats

Hawaii has a nuclear disaster plan which may include re-opening Cold War-era tunnels and shelters.

The message for lawmakers in Washington state is clear.

“I think there is, right now, a common-sense support for repealing this. We’ve just got to educate people that let’s do that soon,” Miloscia said.

>> Read more trending news

Miloscia knows something about nuclear preparedness. He was a B-52 bomber pilot during the Cold War.

He said lawmakers from both parties want to change the law.

Trump improvised 'fire and fury' warning to North Korea: reports

Officials were surprised Tuesday when President Donald Trump declared that the U.S. would respond with “fire and fury” to continued threats by North Korea hours after a report said the country had the ability to miniaturize nuclear weapons, according to multiple reports.

>> Read more trending news

The comment, which heightened tension between the U.S. and North Korea and prompted Pyongyang to threaten action on Guam, was not discussed specifically with his advisers beforehand, The New York Times reported, citing unidentified sources with direct knowledge of the situation.

“He had talked over possible responses in a general way,” the newspaper reported.

The Washington Post reported that U.S. officials determined last month that North Korea has produced a nuclear warhead small enough to fit inside its missiles.

>> Related: North Korea has reportedly miniaturized nuclear weapons: 5 things to know

“The (intelligence community) assesses North Korea has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, to include delivery by ICBM-class missiles,” an excerpt of an unrelated analysis from the Defense Intelligence Agency said, according to the Post.

Hours after the report was posted online, Trump told journalists in New Jersey that any threats against the United States would be met with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

"President Trump's comment was unplanned and spontaneous,” a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

Another unnamed official told the news wire that the comment was “all Trump.”

>> Related: Why is North Korea threatening Guam?

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared to try to minimize the president’s comments on Wednesday, telling reporters that North Korea does not present an imminent threat.

"Americans should sleep well at night," Tillerson said. "Nothing that I have seen, and nothing that I know of, would indicate that the situation has dramatically changed in the last 24 hours."

>> Related: North Korea, Trump exchange threats: Live updates

In a separate, forceful statement released Wednesday, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that North Korea “should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people." 

"While our State Department is making every effort to resolve this global threat through diplomatic means, it must be noted that the combined allied militaries now possess the most precise, rehearsed and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth,” Mattis said.

North Korea has reportedly miniaturized nuclear weapons: 5 things to know

Intelligence officials believe North Korea has produced a nuclear warhead small enough to fit inside its missiles, The Washington Post reported Tuesday, citing an unreleased report from the Defense Intelligence Agency.

>> Read more trending news

That would mean North Korea has passed a crucial threshold on the path to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power.

Here’s what you need to know about North Korea and nuclear threat:

Nuclear weapons small enough to fit onto intercontinental ballistic missiles

The confidential DIA assessment, which was dated July 28, was partially read to the Post. Its contents were verified by a pair of unidentified U.S. officials familiar with the document.

 >> Related: What is an ICBM and why should we be worried at North Korea has one? 

“The (intelligence community) assesses North Korea has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, to include delivery by ICBM-class missiles,” an excerpt of the assessment said, according to the newspaper.

Officials believed that it would still be years before North Korean scientists were able to design warheads compact enough to be delivered by missile, according to the Post

Tension mounts between North Korea, U.S.

President Donald Trump reacted within hours of the Post report, telling reporters gathered for a photo op at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf course that any threats made against the United States would be met with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

He said that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “has been very threatening.”

"As I said, they will be met with fire, fury and frankly, power -- the likes of which this world has never seen before,” Trump said.

Japanese assessment says miniaturization ‘possible’

An annual white paper released Tuesday by Japan’s Defense Ministry determined that “it is possible that North Korea has achieved the miniaturization of nuclear weapons and has developed nuclear warheads,” according to The Associated Press.

Japan, a key U.S. ally, is also a potential target of North Korean aggression.

North Korea claimed it launched its first ICBM in July

Pyongyang claimed in July that officials had successfully launched an ICBM for the first time, in spite of a United Nations ban. Such missiles can carry a warhead over more than 3,400 miles through air and space.

>> Related: North Korea fires intercontinental ballistic missile, Pentagon says 

As of Aug. 8, North Korea has conducted 14 missile tests this year.

Missile tested last month could reach U.S.

The North Korean Hwasong-14/KN20 intercontinental ballistic missile fired last by North Korea could have the range to reach Washington, D.C., or New York City, according to thediplomat.com, while other sources estimated it could hit Chicago or Denver.

>> Related: Reports: Latest North Korean missile could reach Chicago, East Coast

The website, citing sources in the U.S. government, said based on the missile’s flight time and it’s 3,700 mile-high apogee, it showed a vast improvement from the test of the missile in early July, and could reach as far as Washington, D.C., while carrying a nuclear warhead.

The Associated Press and the Dayton Daily News contributed to this report.

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