Monday morning news: November 18, 2019

U.S., South Korea extend suspend military exercise in “goodwill” gesture to Pyongyang » Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday the United States and South Korea have decided to shelve a joint military exercise that has long riled North Korea.

ESPER: We have made this decision as an act of goodwill to contribute to an environment conducive to diplomacy and the advancement of peace. 

Esper said the move is an effort to “keep the  door open” to diplomacy. But he added that no one should interpret the olive branch as a sign of weakness.

ESPER: We will continue to ensure our combined forces on the Korean Peninsula remain at a high state of readiness. 

Officials in both Washington and Seoul say they remain hopeful that they can jumpstart stalled nuclear talks with North Korea. But Japan’s defense minister said Sunday there isn’t much hope that Pyongyang will truly change its behavior. Taro Kono told Esper that they must stick together in the face of the North Korean threat.

KONO: No one could be optimistic about North Korea. 

Japan continues to feel threatened by repeated North Korean missile launches. 

Despite Sunday’s announcement, so far, North Korea does not seem ready to reciprocate. Shortly after Esper spoke, the North Korean foreign ministry said it has no plans right now to restart talks. It said Washington has to signal a willingness to reverse its—quote—“hostile” policies toward Pyongyang.

North Korea also blasted U.S. support of a recent United Nations resolution condemning the North’s human rights violations.

Hong Kong police storm university in violent clash » Police and anti-government protesters clashed once again in Hong Kong Monday in the most violent confrontation yet. 

AUDIO: [Sound of confrontation]

Authorities fired a barrage of teargas canisters and rubber bullets at demonstrators on the campus of Polytechnic University. Some activists in gas masks battled back with petrol bombs and even bows-and-arrows. 

Riot police surrounded the school, and as they moved in from all sides, some protesters retreated inside. Others set fires on bridges leading to the school. At one point, police threatened to use “lethal force” against anyone who did not surrender.

At daybreak, protesters remained in control of most of the campus. Tensions cooled a bit after the president of the university said in a video message that that police had agreed to suspend their use of force.

Trump pardons Army officers, reverses Navy Seal’s punishment » An Army Special Forces officer just pardoned by President Trump in a highly public case expressed his gratitude on Sunday. 

Major Mathew Golsteyn is a former Green Beret accused of killing a suspected bomb-maker in Afghanistan in 2010. Golsteyn believed the man was responsible for an explosion that killed two U.S. Marines. He has argued that the Afghan was a legal target because of his behavior at the time of the shooting.

He told Fox News that the president called him personally. 

GOLSTEYN: He was just incredibly sanguine, warm, and demonstrated an amazing degree of knowledge about the case and what had been going on. 

Trump also pardoned former Army Lieutenant Clint Lorance. He has served six years of a 19-year sentence for ordering his soldiers to fire on three unarmed Afghan men in 2012. 

The commander in chief also ordered a promotion for Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher. He was convicted of posing with a dead ISIS captive in Iraq in 2017. Gallagher was in line for a promotion before he was prosecuted, but he lost that and was reduced in rank after the conviction.

The pardoned soldiers said they couldn’t be more thankful, but not everyone is celebrating. Some have criticized the moves, saying the president has undermined the military justice system. Hina Shamsi with the American Civil Liberties Union said the actions amounted to an “utterly shameful use of presidential powers.” 

Venice flooded for a third time in a week » Venice was hit Sunday by another high tide—the third in a week.

Stores and museums in Venice were mostly closed in the hardest-hit area around St. Mark’s Square. And the doors of the famed St. Mark’s Basilica were shut to the public. Authorities stacked sandbags in canal-side windows to keep water from entering the crypt again.

The tide peaked at nearly 5 feet for a third time since Tuesday night’s flood—the worst flood there in a half-century. Since records began in 1872, water levels had never risen that high even twice in one year, let alone three times in one week.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards wins reelection » Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards won a tight runoff election over the weekend, edging out Republican businessman Eddie Rispone. 

EDWARDS: If this campaign has taught us anything, it’s that the partisan forces in Washington DC are not strong enough to break through the bonds that we share as Louisianans.

The blue dog Democrat held off his challenger by about 40,000 votes. That despite a big push by President Trump to help reclaim the governorship for the GOP. 

Edwards is one of the few remaining high level pro-life Democrats in the country. And with his focus on bipartisan issues, he cobbled together enough cross-party support to win 51 percent of the vote and another four years in office. 

Federal jury rules against pro-life activists over hidden-camera Planned Parenthood probe » A group of pro-life activists must pay nearly $900,000 to Planned Parenthood for secretly recording its associates talking about selling the body parts of aborted babies. That was the ruling from a federal jury in California on Friday. 

The Center for Medical Progress—CMP for short—conducted a 30-month hidden-camera investigation. The video footage led to a renewed push to pull taxpayer funding from the abortion giant. 

Planned Parenthood then sued CMP, its founder, David Daleiden, and fellow activists for fraud, illegal recording, and breaking confidentiality agreements.  

After the verdict on Friday, Daleiden called the trial a dangerous attack on the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

(AP Photo/Luca Bruno) A tourist pushes her floating luggage in a flooded St. Mark’s Square, in Venice, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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