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National Govt & Politics

    U.S. and North Korean officials held 'productive' talks Sunday to discuss the return of U.S. service members' remains missing since the Korean War, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. Pompeo, who was not part of the talks, said in a statement that working level meetings between U.S. and North Korean officials would begin on Monday 'to coordinate the next steps, including the transfer of remains already collected' in North Korea. It was not immediately clear who took part in Sunday's talks, held at the tense inter-Korean border. Pompeo said they were 'the first General Officer-level talks' with North Korea since 2009. He said the meeting 'was aimed at fulfilling one of the commitments' made by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at last month's summit with President Donald Trump in Singapore. 'Today's talks were productive and cooperative and resulted in firm commitments,' Pompeo said. 'Additionally, both sides agreed to re-commence field operations in the DPRK to search for the estimated 5,300 Americans who never returned home,' he said. North Korea is officially known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. North Korean officials skipped a planned meeting with U.S. officials over the war remains last week, citing lack of preparations. South Korea's Foreign Ministry said the North then requested higher level talks with the U.S.-led United Nations Command. There's speculation that Pyongyang is trying to fast-track discussions on more critical issues, such as reaching a declaration to formally end the war, which stopped on an armistice and not a peace treaty. Sunday's meeting came a week after Pompeo traveled to Pyongyang to begin follow-up talks to last month's Singapore summit in which Trump and Kim issued vague aspirations for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula without describing when and how it would occur. Last month, the U.S. military moved 100 wooden coffins to the inter-Korean border to prepare for the return of U.S. war remains, which was a rare tangible commitment the North made during the Trump-Kim summit. About 7,700 U.S. soldiers are listed as missing from the Korean War, and 5,300 of the missing are believed to be in North Korea. The war killed millions, including 36,000 American soldiers. Richard Downes, executive director of the Coalition of Families of Korean & Cold War POW/MIAs, said recently that he had been told the North may have the remains of more than 200 American service members that were likely recovered from land during farming or construction. Efforts to recover U.S. war remains have been stalled for more than a decade due to tensions over North Korea's nuclear program and a previous U.S. claim that security arrangement for its personnel working in the North was insufficient. From 1996 to 2005, joint U.S.-North Korea military search teams conducted 33 recovery operations that collected 229 sets of American remains. The last time North Korea turned over remains was in 2007, when Bill Richardson, a former U.N. ambassador and New Mexico governor, secured the return of six sets.
  • California's forgotten U.S. Senate candidate has finally had a memorable moment. Kevin de Leon, a sparsely known liberal legislator trying to oust U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, staged an insider coup Saturday by winning the endorsement of state Democratic Party leaders. The embarrassing snub to Feinstein was a testament to the leftward shift of California Democratic activists in the age of President Donald Trump, highlighting a long-running split between the party establishment and its restive liberal wing. But the benefit of de Leon's star turn — occurring at a time when voters are thinking about the beach and barbeques, not the ballot box — is likely to be fleeting. It's 'the strongest signal yet of just how far to the left California's Democratic activists have moved, how emboldened they are by their party's dominance in the state and how much the Trump presidency has polarized our politics,' said University of California, San Diego political scientist Thad Kousser. 'But it's only a signal about the party's most activist core, not a sign that everyday voters are choosing a pure progressive over a pragmatist,' Kousser said in an email. 'It may breathe new life into a campaign that was on CPR ... but it doesn't chart a path to victory for a candidate who has always earned the strong support of activists while remaining a virtual unknown to the average California voter.' So far, the state senator's challenge to the more moderate Feinstein has been largely an annoyance for his fellow Democrat, rather than a threat to her winning a fifth, full term. In the June primary Feinstein trounced de Leon, carrying every county in the state while he finished a distant second and struggled to break into double digits. California's primary system sends only the two highest vote-getters to the general election, regardless of party. With the endorsement from the state party's roughly 360-member executive board, de Leon will benefit from party money, volunteers and organizing help. But he remains a long shot. Feinstein is an institution in California politics, while de Leon remains largely unknown. She continues to hold a vast advantage in fundraising. As the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, she is about to enter a sustained period in the national spotlight, as televised hearings begin on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. De Leon fired out a fundraising appeal Sunday, highlighting his endorsement. He said the vote showed his campaign is a 'real alternative to the worn-out Washington playbook,' an obvious reference to Feinstein, who is 85. 'It's time for a new generation of leadership who will roll up their sleeves and fight to advance a bold agenda,' he said. With only two Democrats on the ballot in November, de Leon's challenge will be attracting support from beyond his liberal base. He has built his campaign around his support for universal health care, fighting climate change and recently called for abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. While energizing the party's liberal wing, abolishing the immigration agency and overhauling the health care system might give pause to moderate and independent voters de Leon needs to mount a credible challenge. That rift in the national party's direction — and the risk that comes with it — was summed up in a speech last week by Delaware Democratic Sen. Chris Coons, who warned that Democrats need to stress pragmatic ideas, not 'pie-in-the-sky' promises. He cautioned against proposals 'that might sound great in a tweet, like free college and free health care.' De Leon's endorsement follows the victory last month of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old political novice running on a liberal platform, over longtime U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley in New York. The deep split in the party was witnessed in the 2016 presidential contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. And in the California party, liberal favorite Kimberly Ellis nearly captured the organization's top job last year. Longtime Democratic National Committee member Bob Mulholland, who supports Feinstein, noted that in 1990, when Feinstein was running for governor, the state party endorsed a rival Democrat, John Van de Kamp. Feinstein went on to win the Democratic primary, but ultimately lost to Republican Pete Wilson. Claremont McKenna College political scientist Jack Pitney said Feinstein retains significant advantages and is positioned to collect most Republican votes in November, with only two Democrats on the ballot. But an upset remains possible, if unlikely. 'If she fares poorly on the campaign trail or makes embarrassing gaffes, de Leon could pick up support from voters who think that he would be stronger champion against Trump,' Pitney said in an email.
  • The sponsors of the Russian 'troll factory' that meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign have launched a new American website ahead of the U.S. midterm election in November. A Russian oligarch has links to Maryland's election services. Russian bots and trolls are deploying increasingly sophisticated, targeted tools. And a new indictment suggests the Kremlin itself was behind previous hacking efforts in support of Donald Trump. As the U.S. leader prepares to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday, many Americans are wondering: Is the Kremlin trying yet again to derail a U.S. election? While U.S. intelligence officials call it a top concern, they haven't uncovered a clear, coordinated Russian plot to mess with the campaign. At least so far. It could be that Russian disruptors are waiting until the primaries are over in September and the races become more straightforward - or it could be they are waiting until the U.S. presidential vote in 2020, which matters more for U.S. foreign policy. In the meantime, an array of bots, trolls and sites like USAReally appear to be testing the waters. USAReally was launched in May by the Federal News Agency, part of an empire allegedly run by Putin ally Yevgeny Prigozhin that includes the Internet Research Agency - the 'troll factory' whose members were indicted by U.S. special investigator Robert Mueller this year. USAReally's Moscow offices are in the same building as the Federal News Agency. The original troll factory was also initially based with Federal News Agency offices in St. Petersburg, in a drab four-story building where a huge 'For Rent/Sale' sign now hangs. The site believed to house the troll factory's current offices is a more modern, seven-story complex with reflective blue windows in a different but similarly industrial neighborhood of St. Petersburg. Associated Press reporters were not allowed inside, and troll factory employees declined to be interviewed. The USAReally site appears oddly amateurish and obviously Russian, with grammatical flubs and links to Russian social networks. It says it's aimed at providing Americans 'objective and independent' information, and chief editor Alexander Malkevich says it's not about influencing the midterm election. Yet his Moscow office is adorned with a confederate flag, Trump pictures and souvenirs and a talking pen that parrots famous Trump quotations. 'Disrupt elections? You will do all that without us,' he told The Associated Press. He said Americans themselves have created their own divisions, whether over gun rights, immigrants or LGBT rights - all topics his site has posted articles about. Most online manipulation ahead of the midterm election is coming from U.S. sources, experts say. They worry that focusing on Russian spy-mongering may distract authorities from more dangerous homegrown threats. There is Russian activity, to be sure. But it appears aimed less at swaying the U.S. Congress one way or another and more at proving to fellow Russians that democracy is unsafe - and thereby legitimizing Putin's autocratic rule at home. While security services are on high alert, 'the intelligence community has yet to see evidence of a robust campaign aimed at tampering with election infrastructure along the lines of 2016,' Christopher Krebs, the undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security, told a Congressional hearing Wednesday. That doesn't mean there's nothing to worry about. National Intelligence Director Dan Coats said Friday that warning lights about overall cyber-threats to the U.S. are 'blinking red' - much like 'blinking red' signals warned before 9/11 that a terror attack was imminent. Coats said that while the U.S. is not seeing the kind of Russian electoral interference that occurred in 2016, digital attempts to undermine America are not coming only from Russia. They're occurring daily, he said, and are 'much bigger than just elections.' Intelligence officials still spot individuals affiliated with the Internet Research Agency creating new social media accounts that are masqueraded as belonging to Americans, according to Coats. The Internet Research Agency uses the fake accounts to drive attention to divisive issues in the U.S., he said. USAReally plays a similar role. 'USAReally is unlikely to create big momentum in its own right,' in part thanks to stepped-up actions by Twitter and Facebook to detect and shut down automated accounts, said Aric Toler of the Bellingcat investigative group. However, Toler said the site could build momentum by creating divisive content that then gets passed to other provocative news aggregators in the U.S. such as InfoWars or Gateway Pundit. He believes that a key role for sites like USAReally is to please the Kremlin and to prove that Prigozhin's empire is still active in the U.S. news sphere. Prigozhin, sometimes dubbed 'Putin's chef' because of his restaurant businesses, has not commented publicly on USAReally. Prigozhin and 12 other Russians are personally charged with participating in a broad conspiracy to sow discord in the U.S. political system from 2014 through 2017. Editor Malkevich confirms his site's funding comes from the Federal News Agency. But he says he has nothing to do with the indicted trolls, who once operated under the same roof. 'I absolutely don't understand this spy mania,' he said. He says the site has a few thousand followers, and that his 30 journalists and editors check facts and don't use bots. The big question is what Trump plans to do about this. Trump is under heavy pressure to tell Putin to stay out of U.S. elections when they meet, and he said Friday that he would. But many state lawmakers and members of Congress say it's taken far too long, and that Trump's refusal to condemn Russia's interference in the 2016 election complicates efforts to combat future attacks. Adding to the pressure on Trump is a new indictment issued Friday accusing 12 Russian military intelligence officials of extensive hacking in 2016 that was specifically aimed at discrediting Trump's rival, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. After the top U.S. intelligence agencies found a Putin-ordered influence campaign in which Russian hackers targeted at least 21 states ahead of the 2016 election, several state election directors fear further attempts to hack into voting systems could weaken the public's confidence in elections. Maryland officials announced Friday that a vendor providing key election services is owned by a company whose chief investor is well-connected Russian businessman Vladimir Potanin. The FBI told state officials no criminal activity has been detected since vendor ByteGrid was purchased in 2015 by AltPoint Capital Partners. Experts note that governments have been using technology to influence foreign powers for millennia, and caution against assuming the Russians are always at fault. 'Just because it's a troll doesn't mean it's a Russian troll,' said Ben Nimmo of the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab. 'The really big challenge for the midterms ... is differentiating what the Russians are doing, and what the Americans are doing to each other.' ___ Davlashyan and Charlton reported from St. Petersburg and Moscow. Kate de Pury in Moscow, Geoff Mulvihill in Philadelphia and Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta contributed to this report.
  • The hammering and drilling began just months after Jared Kushner's family real estate firm bought a converted warehouse apartment building in the hip, Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Tenants say it started early in the morning and went on until nightfall, so loud that it drowned out normal conversation, so violent it rattled pictures off the walls. So much dust wafted through ducts and under doorways that it coated beds and clothes in closets. Rats crawled through holes in the walls. Workers with passkeys barged in unannounced. Residents who begged for relief got a standard reply, 'We have permits.' More than a dozen current and former residents of the building told The Associated Press that they believe the Kushner Cos.' relentless construction, along with rent hikes of $500 a month or more, was part of a campaign to push tenants out of rent-stabilized apartments and bring high-paying condo buyers in. If so, it was a remarkably successful campaign. An AP investigation found that over the past three years, more than 250 rent-stabilized apartments — 75 percent of the building — were either emptied or sold as the Kushner Cos. was converting the building to luxury condos. Those sales so far have totaled more than $155 million, an average of $1.2 million per apartment. 'They won, they succeeded,' says Barth Bazyluk, who left apartment C606 with his wife and baby daughter in December. 'You have to be ignorant or dumb to think this wasn't deliberate.' This up-close look at one of the Kushner Cos.' largest residential buildings in New York illustrates what critics describe as the firm's sharp-elbowed business practices while it was run by President Donald Trump's son-in-law and eventual White House adviser Jared Kushner. The Kushner Cos. told the AP that it didn't harass any tenants to get them out. But the data suggest turnover at the building known as the Austin Nichols House was significantly higher than city averages for coveted rent-stabilized buildings, leaving behind a trail of anger, disrupted lives and a lawsuit to be filed Monday in which tenants say they were harassed and exposed to high levels of cancer-causing dust. 'We've looked into hundreds of rent-stabilized buildings and this is one of the worst we've ever seen,' says Aaron Carr, head of tenant watchdog Housing Rights Initiative, whose investigation led to the pending lawsuit. 'The scale and speed of tenants leaving, the conditions to which they were exposed, provides a window into the Kushner Cos.' predatory business model.' In a statement, the Kushner Cos. acknowledged it received some complaints about construction during major renovations, which ended in December 2017, but said that it responded to them immediately and that 'tremendous care was taken to prevent dust and inconvenience to tenants.' It said many tenants moved out when their rent was increased to the maximum allowed under rent-stabilization rules. Those rules limit the amount that landlords can hike rent each year to protect tenants from getting pushed out, though in this building the rents weren't cheap, with one-bedrooms going for more than $3,000 a month. Also, the city's building department says it sent inspectors to the building dozens of times since 2015 and uncovered no evidence that construction rules were being violated, a finding that some residents say doesn't square with their experiences. The landmarked Austin Nichols House at 184 Kent Avenue, for decades a warehouse for groceries and Wild Turkey bourbon, was gutted by a previous owner in 2010 to create sleek apartments that took advantage of the building's high ceilings and waterfront views. When Jared Kushner and two partners bought it for $275 million in April 2015, they made it clear they wanted to convert the building's 338 apartments — all of them rent-stabilized — into condos. All but nine were occupied, and other than maxing out the rent, developers had few tools if they wanted to get tenants out. Just months after the purchase, the Kushners began extensive renovations, ripping out appliances, floors and countertops that had been installed five years before. 'There were consistently people in the hallway early, 8 or so, banging on things, taking down walls. There was lots of dust. ... They had fans, and they were blowing dust under the doors,' says tech salesman Marcus Carvalho, who left the building in December after six years, deciding the $1,000 or so increase in rent to renew his lease wasn't worth it. 'I didn't want to spend another minute in that construction zone.' His 679-square-foot (63-square-meter), one-room apartment, B502, sold the next month for $800,000. A few weeks after Carvalho left, the woman in C405 couldn't take the noise anymore either. 'It's like having a root canal without the physical pain. ... It was drilling from every direction,' says Jane Coxwell, a chef who works late nights and writes at home during the day. 'It was impossible to take a call. You could never sit and read a book or get any work done.' Then came the rats, including one she accosted with a tennis racket as it teetered on a curtain rod in her bathroom. She also had to contend with a flood after workers hit a pipe in the unit above her and with the constant fear workers would burst into her apartment at any moment after two with passkeys tried to do just that, once while she was in her underwear. Coxwell says she sent dozens of emails to Kushner managers for more than a year asking for help, but got little relief. One particularly noisy day she finally broke down, walked up to a construction manager and worker standing near her door and found herself forcing the words out through tears. 'I understand you have to work, but I don't know how to ask anymore,' she pleaded. 'Please, please, can you keep it down?' She says the men just laughed. Much of the work was done in 2016, and then the Kushners went on a selling spree. In 2017 alone, the company sold 99 apartments in the building, according to Jared Kushner's federal financial disclosure forms. Brokerage data show an additional 16 apartments sold by early March 2018. That same month Kushner Cos. had 151 vacant apartments in the building, according to a court document. The Kushner Cos. refused to confirm the numbers. At the height of the construction, tenants fought back with three dozen complaints to the city's 311 hotline about work after hours, banging and pounding, falling debris and rodents. After people complained about dust, Kushner Cos. put plastic sheeting around doorways, though many say it didn't help much. And after they complained about workers entering their apartments without permission, the company eventually posted guards in hallways. 'The banner says 'Luxury Waterfront Homes For Sale,'' says Jeff Werner, a banker who's lived in the building for eight years. 'It doesn't advertise 'Live in a Construction Zone with White Toxic Dust Blowing.'' Dust samples taken from nine apartments in May by consultants Olmsted Environmental Services turned up dangerously high levels of lead and crystalline silica. Breathing in tiny silica particles has been linked to lung cancer, liver disease and an incurable swelling of the lungs. A draft of the pending $10 million lawsuit alleges Kushner Cos. and its partners attempted to push tenants out by creating unlivable conditions with construction noise and dust in violation of state and city rules and laws. It also alleges the Kushners, by failing to take proper precautions, exposed residents to a 'cloud of toxic smoke and dust.' The Kushner Cos. disputed the findings of the environmental report, alleging it appeared to be an updated version of a report prepared several years ago. The company didn't immediately respond when asked for comment about the lawsuit. Ronan Conroy says he complained to the Kushners several times, walking down to the sales office once to confront management in person. 'Your strategy is to get people out, right?' Conroy recalls asking a staffer at the desk. He says the man basically shrugged, offered no dispute, then said, 'We can let you out of your lease.' Frustrated and facing a big rent hike, Conroy left in early 2016. 'My strong impression is they made the building as unlivable as possible so they could get everyone out of there.' ___ Burke reported from San Francisco. AP researchers Jennifer Farrar and Randy Herschaft contributed to this report.
  • Some immigrant U.S. Army reservists and recruits who enlisted in the military with a promised path to citizenship are being abruptly discharged . A few said the Army informed them they had been labeled as security risks because they have relatives abroad or because the Defense Department had not completed background checks on them. Throughout history, immigrants have served and earned praise for their actions in battle despite reservations about their immigration status and loyalties. Here are some examples: AMERICAN REVOLUTION French aristocrat Marquis de Lafayette sailed to the newly formed United States in 1777 to join the fight against the British. The colonists' struggle inspired him, and he eventually became a major-general in Gen. George Washington's Continental Army. News of Lafayette's actions against the British spread across the colonies and he would forever been seen as an early American hero. In addition to Lafayette, Prussian military officer Friedrich von Steuben volunteered for the Continental Army, as did a West Indies-born immigrant named Alexander Hamilton. The young Hamilton caught the eye of Washington and became a trusted adviser, helping defeat the British in the Battle of Yorktown. MEXICAN-AMERICAN WAR Newly arrived immigrants represented a large portion of recruits to the U.S. Army during the Mexican-American War from 1846 to 1848. They joined the military out of economic circumstances and came from places like Germany and Ireland. Many Irish Catholics faced discrimination in an army with a leadership that consisted of Protestants and nativists. A few deserted the U.S. Army in Mexico and formed the St. Patrick's Battalion because they related more to the Mexican Catholics they initially were fighting. CIVIL WAR During the Civil War from 1861 to 1865, non-citizens made up as much as 20 percent of the 1.5 million soldiers in the Union Army, Emilio T. Gonzalez, then-U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director, told a U.S. Senate committee in 2006. Most of them, including Union Maj. Gen. Franz Siegel, were born in Germany or Ireland. Gonzalez testified that 369 immigrants were awarded the Medal of Honor for their heroism in the Union cause, including Capt. William Joyce Sewell of Ireland. Sewell would later become a U.S. senator from New Jersey. In the New Mexico territory, Hispanic Union soldiers born in land that was once part of Mexico helped defeat an advancing Confederate surge at the Battle of Glorieta Pass in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The 'Gettysburg of the West' forced the Confederates to retreat out of the American West and back to Texas. WORLD WAR II Mexican-Americans and Mexican immigrants sought to enlist in the U.S. Army at the outbreak of World War II to show their loyalty and to demand civil rights upon their return. Among the immigrants to join were Dr. Hector P. Garcia of Corpus Christi, Texas, and cotton farmer Macario Garcia of Sugar Land, Texas. Both would become key figures in the Mexican-American civil rights movement. Macario Garcia gained national attention in 1944 after he destroyed two Nazi enemy emplacements and captured four prisoners. He was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry Truman and was treated to a hero's welcome in Houston. The day after a party in his honor, a diner outside Houston denied Garcia service because he was Hispanic. Garcia fought with diner staff and destroyed part of the restaurant in anger. After a national outcry, charges against Garcia were dropped. The fight was later portrayed in the 1956 movie 'Giant,' starring Rock Hudson and James Dean. WAR ON TERROR At the beginning of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, around 38,000 of those in uniform were not American citizens. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would naturalize more than 26,000 service members from Sept. 11, 2001, to 2006, following an executive order by President George W. Bush. One of the first combat casualties of the Iraq War was Marine Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez, 22. The Guatemalan-born Gutierrez, who entered the U.S. illegally as an orphan teen, was killed in battle around the port city of Umm Qasr. Hundreds attended his memorial service outside of Los Angeles. He was granted American citizenship posthumously. ___ Associated Press writer Russell Contreras is a member of the AP's race and ethnicity team. Follow Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras ___ See AP's complete coverage of the debate over the Trump administration's policy of family separation at the border: https://apnews.com/tag/Immigration
  • Even before the specter of a trade war with China and other countries threatened to cost them billions of dollars, American farmers were feeling the squeeze from fluctuating crop prices and other factors that have halved their overall income in recent years. The threat of counter-tariffs on U.S. farm goods and the impact of President Donald Trump's other policies on immigration and biofuels, though, have some farmers more worried than ever about their ability to continue eking out an existence in agriculture. 'No matter where you look in ag right now, you see storm clouds on the horizon and some of those are a lot closer overhead than we'd care for,' said Chad Hart, an agricultural economist with Iowa State University. Trump's tariff threats earlier this year against China, Mexico, Canada and European Union elicited quick retaliatory measures that depressed the prices of certain U.S. agricultural products, including corn, soybeans, pork. When $34 billion worth of tariffs against China took effect July 6 and China responded with tariffs of its own, U.S. farmers were already feeling the squeeze from lower crop prices, higher land prices and other factors. The Department of Agriculture predicted before the threat of tariffs and counter-tariffs that U.S. farm income would drop this year to $60 billion, or half the $120 billion of five years ago. That projection is likely high, given what's transpired since. Don Bloss, who grows corn, soybeans, sorghum and wheat on his farm in the southeastern Nebraska community of Pawnee City, said he's already seen a few neighbors quit farming as they struggled to make a profit even before the tariff battle began this year. 'They aren't making money. One has said the banker is giving up on them,' said Bloss. John Weber, who raises pigs and grows corn and soybeans with his son about 100 miles northeast of Des Moines, near Dysart, said many farmers' budgets were already tight going into this growing season and the impact of tariffs has made it worse. 'Some were given the go-ahead for another year, but boy, you start looking at these lower prices and the extra costs that are out there now it gets tough. It just doesn't work,' he said. Per-bushel soybean prices have fallen 19 percent since early May to a 10-year low and corn is down more than 15 percent. At current prices, most farmers lose money on corn, soybeans and pigs. U.S. pork producers stand to lose more than $2 billion per year because of plunging hog futures prices, the result of the Chinese retaliatory tariffs, according to Iowa State University economists' projections. 'That means less income for pork producers and, ultimately, some of them going out of business,' said Jim Heimerl, a pig farmer from Johnstown, Ohio, and president of the National Pork Producers Council, an industry trade group. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has promised that Trump will restore farmer profitability but he hasn't specified how and some economists are skeptical that the administration can come up with the billions of dollars necessary to cover losses. 'If this continues and the USDA does not discover a way to helicopter in and drop buckets of cash into the corn belt this fall, then I would not be surprised if there are tractor parades going to DC at some point in the next year,' said Scott Irwin, University of Illinois agricultural economist. There's no sign of a quick resolution to the trade dispute. The U.S. and China have threatened to impose 25 percent tariffs next week on $16 billion of each other's goods. And on Tuesday, Trump announced plans to impose 10 percent tariffs on an additional $200 billion in Chinese imports by the end of August. China said it would retaliate, leaving even more U.S. farm products at risk. Meanwhile, Trump's hardline immigration policies have been making it even harder to recruit workers for pork producers, who have historically relied on immigrants for a third of their workforce. The industry had been planning a rapid expansion due to growing export demand from China and Mexico, but the trade dispute and raids spring immigration raids on a Tennessee meatpacking plant and an Iowa concrete plant have worried pork producers. 'Skilled and unskilled foreign workers have been crucial to maintaining and growing the workforce and revitalizing rural communities across the United States. We need more of them, not less,' Heimerl said. The Trump administration's willingness to issue waivers exempting petroleum refineries from having to blend ethanol into their fuels has led to an estimated 250 million bushels of corn going unused, which contributed to lower corn prices. 'There's potential here for this to turn into the worst farm financial crisis since the 1980s,' Irwin said. ___ Follow David Pitt on Twitter: https://twitter.com/davepitt
  • Despite a national wave of elation from the World Cup that bathed Russia in a rosy light, President Vladimir Putin will face some challenges in extending the post-soccer glow at home and abroad. Well-organized, festive and friendly, the World Cup has shown off a welcoming and modern Russia in sharp contrast to common biases abroad that cast the country as dour, devious and a bit backward. Putin is likely to try to leverage that Monday when he holds a summit in Finland with U.S. President Donald Trump, and there have been strong signs the American side will be receptive. When national security adviser John Bolton was in Moscow last month to arrange the summit, he told Putin he looked forward to 'learning how you've handled the World Cup so successfully.' Just minutes after the World Cup final ended with France defeating Croatia, Trump tweeted 'congratulations to President Putin and Russia for putting on a truly great World Cup Tournament -- one of the best ever!' That admiration may not extend far enough to affect the larger questions at issue in the summit, including Russia's annexation of Crimea and involvement in a separatist conflict in Ukraine, allegations that Russia flagrantly meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement, among other troubles. The summit's prospects were further clouded Friday by the U.S. indictment of 12 alleged Russian military intelligence agents for sophisticated hacking in the 2016 election. 'There is some marginal benefit for Putin to having played host to a successful sporting competition that had a largely positive and apolitical tone ... (but) this does not give Putin any special advantage going into Monday's summit meeting,' said Matthew Rojansky, a Russia analyst at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Putin kept a relatively low profile for the tournament, attending only Russia's opener against Saudi Arabia and Sunday's final at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, even skipping the home team's win over Spain in the knockout stage at the same venue. Putin has seen his ratings fall significantly since the June 15 start of the World Cup. The state-run polling agency Foundation for Public Opinion found that the percentage of Russians who express moderate or strong distrust of Putin rose from 20 percent in the week before the tournament started to 32 percent last week. The startling rise appears to come as the government pushes a proposal to raise the eligibility age for state pensions from 60 to 65 for men and from 55 to 63 for women. The proposal was sent to the parliament the day before the World Cup opened in what many believed was a gambit to minimize public dismay. But 'the World Cup wasn't able to deflect the population from the pension reform,' the business newspaper Vedomosti wrote pointedly. The Kremlin is worried that the issue could seriously reduce support for pro-government candidates in regional elections this fall, the newspaper reported. Politics aside, the tournament has been a huge boost for the self-esteem of Russians. State TV broadcasts have devoted substantial time to reporting how foreign fans were impressed with the locals' friendliness and helpfulness. One broadcast even trilled about visitors' pleasure in travelling 'platskartny' — the notoriously claustrophobic, 54-bed dormitory cars on Russian passenger rail routes: 'Hundreds of thousands of foreign fans have discovered the romance of Russian trains.' Along with the unambiguous good cheer, the World Cup also benefited from what didn't happen. There weren't any major facility foul-ups and security was diligent but less intimidating than at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. There were almost no protests, though four demonstrators barged onto the field during the final and were quickly hauled away. The Pussy Riot punk performance group claimed credit; it's the same group whose members were whipped by a paramilitary group in one of the more notorious incidents at the Sochi Olympics. Police were unusually low-key about World Cup partying that turned a central Moscow street into a nightly fest. Even Pussy Riot recognized that , with a member saying in a video about Sunday's protest that 'The World Cup has shown very well how well Russian policemen can behave. But what will happen when it ends?' Although foreign news accounts ahead of the event warned about the dangers of Russian soccer hooligans, little trouble was reported, in part because Russia had cracked down on hooligans ahead of the tournament. 'Many stereotypes about Russia simply collapsed. People saw that Russia is a hospitable country, kindly disposed toward those who come to us,' Putin said last week. 'The Western press said that half-animals live here,' state TV presenter Dmitry Kiselev noted acidly in his weekly news magazine show, echoing officials' chronic complaint that the country is afflicted by 'Russophobia.' 'The important result of the championship is that we are looking at ourselves in the reflection of the delighted eyes' of foreign visitors, he wrote, adding his voice to what seems to be a consensus. 'Russians, the football fans of the world have learned, do not just drink vodka, wear fur caps with red stars and play the balalaika or lead a bear on a rope,' wrote Andrei Kolsenikov of the Carnegie Moscow Center. But while the last four weeks of soccer and celebration have boosted Russians' view of themselves, Kolsenikov dismissed the idea that there would be any practical effect. 'As a result of the World Cup,' he wrote, 'Russians will not become more free, the police will not stay friendly, and the regime will be no less authoritarian.
  • The Latest on President Donald Trump (all times local): 9 p.m. Several dozen supporters of President Donald Trump, many waving American flags and sporting 'Make America Great Again' caps, have cheered as the U.S. leader neared his hotel in Helsinki before his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Dozens of police cordoned off a small area Sunday night at an intersection along the route of Trump's motorcade near the posh waterfront hotel where he and his wife, Melania, are staying. The Trump fans, several from the True Finn anti-immigration party, said they wanted to make a show of support in a country where many people have criticized his policies. A few scattered boos rang out from across the road. Trump and his wife waved at the supporters, two of whom held up a handwritten banner that read 'God Bless D & M Trump.' ___ 6:50 p.m. President Donald Trump has arrived in Finland for his closely watched summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump landed in the capital city, Helsinki, late Sunday. He planned no public appearances until Monday, when he heads to the Presidential Palace for breakfast with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto. Trump and Putin meet later Monday at the palace. The president flew in from Scotland, where he and his wife, Melania, spent the weekend at a golf resort he owns there. Trump heads into the summit with little clear agenda other than to strengthen his personal rapport with Putin, which he thinks is crucial to improving relations between Washington and Moscow. Finland has a long legacy of hosting U.S.-Soviet and U.S.-Russian summits because of its geographic location and perceived neutrality. ___ 6:10 p.m. President Donald Trump says the testimony of an FBI agent who was removed from the special counsel's Russia investigation was 'an absolute disgrace.' Trump tells CBS News that he watched some of Peter Strzok's (struhkz) testimony to Congress while traveling in Europe. He says, 'I thought it was a disgrace to our country.' Strzok was removed from the investigation following the discovery of anti-Trump text messages last year that he traded with an FBI lawyer in the run-up to the 2016 election. The texts opened the Justice Department up to claims of institutional bias. Strzok vigorously defended himself during last week's hearing. Trump accuses Strzok of lying and making up excuses. He says cases like Strzok's hurt relations with Russia and other countries. Trump taped the interview Saturday in Scotland. CBS News released excerpts Sunday. ___ 6 p.m. President Donald Trump is calling the U.S. news media 'the enemy of the people' as he prepares to meet with Russia's Vladimir Putin, who has cracked down on the free press at home. Tweeting as he flew to Finland for Monday's meeting with Putin, Trump says, 'No matter how well I do at the Summit' he'll face 'criticism that it wasn't good enough.' He writes, 'If I was given the great city of Moscow as retribution for all of the sins and evils committed by Russia over the years, I would return to criticism that it wasn't good enough — that I should have gotten Saint Petersburg in addition!' Trump also writes: 'Much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people.' His summit with Putin is on Monday. ___ 4:15 p.m. President Donald Trump is on his way to Finland for a high-stakes summit with Russia's Vladimir Putin. Trump's plane departed Glasgow, Scotland, just after 4 p.m. local time Sunday for the approximately three-hour flight to the Finnish capital, Helsinki. The president has no public appearances planned after his nighttime arrival. He is due to meet with Putin on Monday. Trump and his wife, Melania, spent the weekend at his eponymous golf resort in Turnberry, Scotland, about an hour's drive from Glasgow. The president hit the links both days. On Saturday, he appeared to wave to a group of people who staged a protest picnic near several holes of the course that are visible from a nearby beach. ___ 4 p.m. President Donald Trump is describing the European Union as a 'foe' in an interview taped in Scotland. Trump told CBS News in an interview Saturday that he thinks the U.S. has 'a lot of foes,' including the bloc of European nations that are among America's closest allies. He says, 'I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade.' He adds: 'You wouldn't think of the European Union, but they're a foe.' He also says that Russia is a foe 'in certain respects' and that China is a foe 'economically.' He says of China: 'But that doesn't mean they are bad. It doesn't mean anything. It means that they are competitive.' Trump is departing for Helsinki on Sunday for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday. ___ 3:40 p.m. A U.S. senator says it's inevitable that Russia is going to interfere in American elections and that it's pointless to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin about it. Sen. Rand Paul tells CNN's 'State of the Union' that the U.S. shouldn't seek accountability from Russia. In Paul's words — 'They're another country. They're going to spy on us. They do spy on us. They're going to interfere in our elections. We also do the same.' The Kentucky Republican says Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election isn't 'morally equivalent' to U.S. interference in Russian elections. But he says, 'I think in their mind it is.' Paul also says Putin isn't going to extradite the 12 Russian military intelligence officials charged with hacking Democrats. So Paul says 'it'd be a moot point' for President Donald Trump to ask about it at their summit Monday. ___ 2:50 p.m. National security adviser John Bolton says President Donald Trump has a stronger hand going into the Russia summit because of U.S. charges against 12 Russian military intelligence officials related to the hacking of Democratic targets in the 2016 presidential election. Bolton tells ABC's 'This Week' on Sunday that the indictments show that the American justice system is aware of Russian efforts to meddle in U.S. elections. He says Trump can now say to Russian President Vladimir Putin that 'this is a serious matter that we need to talk about.' Trump has said he will raise the issue when he sits down with Putin in Helsinki on Monday. Bolton also says he finds it 'hard to believe' that the Russian intelligence officials could conduct such an operation without Putin's knowledge. ___ 2:35 p.m. The top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee says he's worried about President Donald Trump meeting one on one with Russia's Vladimir Putin during their summit in Finland. U.S. Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia says, 'We know that Trump doesn't do a lot of prep work for these meetings. He kind of goes in and wings it.' Warner notes Putin's KGB background and fears Putin could 'take advantage' of Trump during Monday's summit. Warner says he'd 'feel much better if there were other Americans in the room making sure that we make the point that the first and top point of this agenda should be no further Russian interference in our elections.' Warner tells NBC's 'Meet the Press' on Sunday that Trump 'has been completely reluctant to call out Putin as a bad actor.' ___ 2:20 p.m. President Donald Trump's ambassador to Moscow says he hopes Trump and Russia's Vladimir Putin have 'a detailed conversation about where we might be able to find some overlapping and shared interests.' The leaders are holding a summit Monday in Helsinki. Ambassador Jon Huntsman says the two countries now have a 'fraught bilateral relationship.' The diplomat adds that 'the collective blood pressure between the United States and Russia is off-the-charts high, so it's a good thing these presidents are getting together.' Huntsman tells NBC's 'Meet the Press' that he expects that the two presidents will talk about 'everything from meddling in the election to areas where we have some shared interests.' He says, 'The objective here is to meet, to put our cards on the table.' ___ 11:56 a.m. President Donald Trump says 'nothing bad ... maybe some good' will come out of his summit Monday with Russia's Vladimir Putin in Finland. Trump says in a television interview that he's going into the meeting with 'low expectations. I'm not going with high expectations.' The president also tells CBS News that he 'hadn't thought' about asking Putin to extradite the dozen Russian military intelligence officers indicted this past week in Washington on charges related to the hacking of Democratic targets in the 2016 U.S. election, but says that 'certainly I'll be asking about it.' The United States has no extradition treaty with Moscow and can't compel Russia to hand over citizens, and a provision in Russia's constitution prohibits extraditing its citizens to foreign countries.
  • President Donald Trump named the European Union as a top adversary of the United States and denounced the news media as the 'enemy of the people' before arriving in Helsinki on Sunday on the eve of his high-stakes summit with Russia's Vladimir Putin. Trump and his top aides were downplaying expectations for Monday's summit as Trump continued to rattle allies by lumping in the EU with Russia and China after barnstorming across Europe, causing chaos at the recent NATO summit and in a trip to the United Kingdom. Trump spent the weekend in Scotland at his resort in Turnberry, golfing, tweeting and granting an interview to CBS News in which he named the EU, a bloc of nations that includes many of America's closest allies, at the top of his list of biggest global foes. 'I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade,' Trump said, adding that 'you wouldn't think of the European Union, but they're a foe.' He said that Russia is a foe 'in certain respects' and that China is a foe 'economically ... but that doesn't mean they are bad. It doesn't mean anything. It means that they are competitive.' Trump has been reluctant to criticize Putin over the years and has described him in recent days not as an enemy but as a competitor. On Sunday, Trump flew to Finland, the final stop on a weeklong trip that began last Tuesday. Near Trump's hotel, police roped off a group of about 60 mostly male pro-Trump demonstrators waving American flags. Big banners said 'Welcome Trump' and 'God Bless D & M Trump' and a helicopter hovered overhead. Chants of 'We love Trump, We love Trump' broke out as the president's motorcade passed, and Trump waved. Trump set expectations for the summit low, telling CBS News, 'I don't expect anything. ... I go in with very low expectations.' His national security adviser said they weren't looking for any 'concrete deliverables.' He also said in the interview taped Saturday that he 'hadn't thought' about asking Putin to extradite the dozen Russian military intelligence officers indicted this past week in Washington on charges related to the hacking of Democratic targets in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. But after being given the idea by his interviewer, Trump said, 'Certainly I'll be asking about it.' The U.S. has no extradition treaty with Moscow and can't compel Russia to hand over citizens. Russia's constitution prohibits extraditing its citizens to foreign countries. Contradicting Trump in an interview on ABC's 'This Week,' U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said the idea of asking Putin to turn over the 12 military intelligence officials was 'pretty silly' and argued that doing so would put the U.S. president in a 'weak position.' He also argued that Trump is entering the summit with a stronger hand because of the indictments. 'I think the president can put this on the table and say, 'This is a serious matter that we need to talk about,'' said Bolton, adding that asking for the indicted Russians to be turned over would have the opposite effect. In the CBS News interview, Trump declined to discuss his goals for the summit — 'I'll let you know after the meeting,' he said — but said he believes such sessions are beneficial. He cited his historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June as a 'good thing,' along with meetings he's had with Chinese President Xi Jinping. 'Nothing bad is going to come out of' the Helsinki meeting, he said, 'and maybe some good will come out.' From aboard Air Force One, Trump complained in tweets that he wasn't getting enough credit for his meeting with Kim and railed that 'Much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people' as he headed to sit down with Putin. Putin is regarded as creating a culture of violence and impunity that has resulted in the killing of some Russian journalists. Trump regularly criticizes American news media outlets and has called out some journalists by name. Trump complained: 'No matter how well I do at the Summit,' he'll face 'criticism that it wasn't good enough.' 'If I was given the great city of Moscow as retribution for all of the sins and evils committed by Russia over the years, I would return to criticism that it wasn't good enough — that I should have gotten Saint Petersburg in addition!' he tweeted. Trump also praised Putin for holding the World Cup, which finished up Sunday. Trump and Putin have held talks several times before. Their first meeting came last July when both participated in an international summit and continued for more than two hours, well over the scheduled 30 minutes. The leaders also met last fall during a separate summit in Vietnam. But Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, said Monday's meeting 'is really the first time for both presidents to actually sit across the table and have a conversation, and I hope it's a detailed conversation about where we might be able to find some overlapping and shared interests.' Congressional Democrats and at least one Republican have called on Trump to pull out of Monday's meeting unless he is willing to make Russian election-meddling the top issue. Huntsman said the summit must go on because Russian engagement is needed to solve some international issues. 'The collective blood pressure between the United States and Russia is off-the-charts high so it's a good thing these presidents are getting together,' he said during an appearance on NBC's 'Meet the Press.' Trump has said he will raise the issue of Russian election meddling, along with Syria, Ukraine, nuclear proliferation and other topics. Bolton described the meeting as 'unstructured' and said: 'We're not looking for concrete deliverables here.' ___ Associated Press writer Darlene Superville in Washington and Jamey Keaten in Helsinki contributed to this report.
  • The outcome of the first summit between the unpredictable first-term American president and Russia's steely-eyed longtime leader is anybody's guess. With no set agenda, the summit could veer between spectacle and substance. As Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin head into Monday's meeting in Helsinki, here's a look at what each president may be hoping to achieve: WHAT TRUMP WANTS What Trump wants from Russia has long been one of the great mysteries of his presidency. The president will go into the summit followed by whispers about his ties to Moscow, questions that have grown only more urgent since the Justice Department last week indicted 12 Russian military intelligence officers accused of interfering in the 2016 election in an effort to help Trump. And while most summits featuring an American president are carefully scripted affairs designed to produce a tangible result, Trump will go face-to-face with Putin having done scant preparation, possessing no clear agenda and saddled with a track record that, despite his protests, suggests he may not sharply challenge his Russian counterpart over election meddling. 'I think we go into that meeting not looking for so much,' Trump told reporters last week. Trump has strenuously insisted that improved relations with Russia would benefit the United States. But much of the appeal of the Finland meeting is simply to have the summit itself and to bolster ties between Washington and Moscow and between Putin and Trump, who places his personal rapport with foreign leaders near the heart of his foreign policy. 'The fact that we're having a summit at this level, at this time in history, is a deliverable in itself,' said Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Russia. 'What is important here is that we start a discussion.' Trump has been drawn to the spectacle of the summit and has expressed an eagerness to recreate in Helsinki the media show of last month's Singapore summit when he met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Even as many NATO leaders made supportive noises this week, the Helsinki summit has raised fears in many global capitals that Trump will pull back from traditional Western alliances, allowing Putin to expand his sphere of influence. Back home, too, there is wariness on Capitol Hill, with a number of Democrats and a handful of Republicans urging Trump to cancel the summit in the wake of the explosive indictments. But Trump has vowed that he can handle Putin, whom he has taken to referring to as a 'competitor' rather than an adversary. And Trump in recent days has outlined some of the items he'd like to discuss, including Ukraine. Though the president has said he was 'not happy' about Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, he puts the blame on his predecessor and says he will continue relations with Putin even if Moscow refuses to return the peninsula. Trump also said he and Putin would discuss the ongoing war in Syria and arms control, negotiations that White House officials have signaled could be fruitful. 'I will be talking about nuclear proliferation,' the president said alongside British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday. 'We've been modernizing and fixing and buying. And it's just a devastating technology. And they, likewise, are doing a lot. And it's a very, very bad policy.' But it is the matter of election meddling, including fears Russia could try to interfere in the midterm elections this fall, that could play a central role in the summit talks or loom even larger if not addressed. In neither of Trump's previous meetings with Putin — informal talks on the sidelines of summits last year in Germany and Vietnam — did the president publicly upbraid the Russian leader, prompting questions about whether he believed the former KGB officer's denials over his own intelligence agencies' assessments of meddling. Trump repeatedly has cast doubt on the conclusion that Russia was behind the hacking of his Democratic rivals and disparaged special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible links between Russia and his campaign as a 'witch hunt.' But he said in Britain that he would raise it with Putin even as he downplayed its impact. 'I don't think you'll have any 'Gee, I did it. I did it. You got me,'' Trump said, invoking a television detective. 'There won't be a Perry Mason here, I don't think. But you never know what happens, right? But I will absolutely firmly ask the question.' WHAT PUTIN WANTS For Putin, sitting down with Trump offers a long-awaited chance to begin repairing relations with Washington after years of spiraling tensions. Putin wants the U.S. and its allies to lift sanctions, pull back NATO forces deployed near Russia's borders and restore business as usual with Moscow. In the longer run, he hopes to persuade the U.S. to acknowledge Moscow's influence over its former Soviet neighbors and, more broadly, recognize Russia as a global player whose interests must be taken into account. These are long-term goals, and Putin realizes that no significant progress will come from just one meeting. More than anything else, he sees Monday's summit as an opportunity to develop good rapport with Trump and set the stage for regular high-level contacts. 'Russia-U.S. ties aren't just at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War, they never were as bad as they are now,' said Fyodor Lukyanov, who chairs the Council for Foreign and Defense Policies, an influential Moscow-based association of policy experts. 'It's unhealthy and abnormal when the leaders of the two nuclear powers capable of destroying each other and the rest of the world don't meet.' Moscow views Trump's criticism of NATO allies and his recent comments about wanting Russia back in the Group of Seven club of leading industrialized nations with guarded optimism but no euphoria. Initially excited about Trump's election, the Kremlin has long realized that his hands are bound by the ongoing investigations into whether his campaign colluded with Moscow. Konstantin Kosachev, the Kremlin-connected head of the foreign affairs committee in parliament's upper house, wrote in his blog that Russia won't engage in vague talk about 'illusory subjects,' such as the prospect of lifting Western sanctions or Russia's return to the G-7. Putin knows it would be unrealistic to expect U.S. recognition of Russia's annexation of Crimea or a quick rollback of sanctions approved by Congress. Instead, he's likely to focus on issues where compromise is possible to help melt the ice. Syria is one area where Moscow and Washington could potentially reach common ground. One possible agreement could see Washington give a tacit go-ahead for a Syrian army deployment along the border with Israel in exchange for the withdrawal of Iranian forces and their Hezbollah proxies, whose presence in the area represents a red line for Israel. There is little hope for any quick progress on other major issues. Kosachev said it would be 'pointless' to discuss Russian meddling in the U.S. election, which Moscow firmly denies. He also warned that demands for Russia to return Crimea to Ukraine or revise its policy on eastern Ukraine would be equally fruitless. The Kremlin sees Crimea's status as non-negotiable and puts the blame squarely on the Ukrainian government for the lack of progress on a 2015 plan to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Putin has held the door open for a possible deployment of U.N. peacekeepers to separate the warring sides, but firmly rejected Ukraine's push for their presence along the border with Russia. On arms control, one area where the U.S. and Russia might reach agreement is a possible extension of the New START treaty, set to expire in 2021, which caps the number of deployed nuclear warheads at 1,550 for each country. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, is supposed to last indefinitely but has increasingly run into trouble. The U.S. has accused Russia of violating the terms of the treaty by developing a new cruise missile, which Moscow has denied. Russia has pledged adherence to both treaties, but it has become less focused on arms control agreements than in the past, when it was struggling to maintain nuclear parity with the U.S. After complaining about U.S. missile defense plans as a major threat to Russia, Putin in March unveiled an array of new weapons he said would render the U.S. missile shield useless, including a hypersonic intercontinental strike vehicle and a long-range nuclear-powered underwater drone armed with an atomic weapon. 'Russia was much weaker, and the weak always try to appeal to international law,' Lukyanov said. 'But the atmosphere is different now, and Russia is much more self-confident.' ___ Isachenkov reported from Moscow.