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September 18, 2018

South Korean President Moon Jae-in arrived in Pyongyang on Tuesday for a three-day summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, their third meeting since a historic summit in April. After an elaborate welcome ceremony at the airport and a ride through Pyongyang in an open-air limousine, the two leaders began official talks Tuesday afternoon. Kim told Moon he hoped the talks would produce a "bigger outcome at a faster pace" than the previous summits and Moon said it was "time to bear fruit." This is the first visit to Pyongyang for a South Korean president in at least a decade.

The talks are expected to focus on reducing military tensions and increasing economic cooperation on the Korean Peninsula and furthering nuclear diplomacy as denuclearization talks have stalled between North Korea and the U.S. over lack of agreement on details and timing.

"When the two Korean leaders met for the first time back in April, the simple fact that they were meeting was itself a major step," but "this time, Mr. Moon has to make real progress in persuading the North Koreans to make concrete steps to denuclearize," says BBC Seoul correspondent Laura Bicker. "Otherwise, the flurry of inter-Korean summits and the much-hyped Singapore meeting between Mr. Kim and President Trump this year will be seen as glossy photo ops, and the U.S. leader may begin to lose patience."

Top executives from South Korean business conglomerates, or chaebols, including Samsung, LG, Hyundai, and SK Group traveled to Pyongyang with Moon and they will meet with North Korea's deputy prime minister to focus on economic ties. South Korean officials said they don't expect any economic breakthroughs given the sanctions on North Korean. Peter Weber

8:31 a.m.

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney's past criticisms of President Trump have received new attention over the weekend following Friday's news of Mulvaney's acceptance of his third role in the Trump administration.

After the 2016 discovery of Trump's lewd Access Hollywood remarks, Mulvaney wrote on his congressional Facebook page that Trump is "not a very good person," and his words were "disgusting and indefensible." In a debate with his Democratic rival for that year's election, Mulvaney similarly said he was supporting Trump despite thinking "he's a terrible human being" because "the choice on the other side is just as bad."

Despite this past antipathy, a Politico report late Saturday describes Mulvaney as an eager recipient of his new role. "He would have given up a very valuable appendage to get that job," an unnamed Republican close to the Trump White House claimed.

Politico's sources said Washingtonian assessment of Mulvaney's aims in rising through the ranks of the Trump administration varies. While "some conservatives on the Hill see him as a sellout, a ladder-climber who puts career advancement over principle," others "argue that he's done the best he can given the president he serves and advanced conservative priorities where he can." Read the full report here. Bonnie Kristian

8:11 a.m.

The family of Jakelin Caal Maquin, the 7-year-old Guatemalan migrant who died in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) custody this month, have challenged the agency's account of her death.

"She had not suffered from a lack of water or food prior to approaching the border," said a statement from lawyers representing Jakelin's father, Nery Gilberto Caal Cuz. "Jakelin's father took care of Jakelin — made sure she was fed and had sufficient water." CPB has reported Jakelin had not been given food or water for several days before she was taken into custody, attributing her illness and subsequent death to circumstances outside CPB's control.

The statement also says CPB had her father sign a form about Jakelin's health in English, a language he does not speak, and noted that autopsy results determining a cause of death have yet to be released. The statement calls for a "transparent and neutral investigation of Jakelin's death." Bonnie Kristian

December 15, 2018

President Trump on Twitter Saturday gleefully greeted Friday's news that The Weekly Standard, a neoconservative news magazine which has been critical of his presidency, is closing its doors:

A brief reply from Weekly Standard co-founder Bill Kristol told Trump to share future insults directly instead of subtweeting them, which is the Twitter equivalent of talking behind someone's back:

A CNN report on The Weekly Standard's closure suggested the magazine's failing fortunes were linked to its opposition to the president. Conservative outlets "critical of Trump have lost influence or changed their tone," the story says, "while media organizations on the right supportive of the president have flourished."

The magazine's editor-in-chief, Stephen Hayes, seemed to hint at this dynamic in a note to staff Friday. "This is a volatile time in American journalism and politics," he wrote. "Many media outlets have responded to the challenges of the moment by prioritizing affirmation over information, giving into the pull of polarization and the lure of clickbait." Bonnie Kristian

December 15, 2018

"Brexit is in danger of getting stuck — and that is something that should worry us all," U.K. Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd warned Saturday. "If [lawmakers] dig in against the prime minister's deal and then hunker down in their different corners, none with a majority, the country will face serious trouble."

Her comments and similar remarks from other leaders come after Prime Minister Theresa May was unable to exact more concessions for the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union this week.

"The Union stands by this agreement and intends to proceed with its ratification. It is not open for renegotiation," the EU said Thursday of the previously negotiated deal, which is not expected to pass the British parliament as-is. May postponed a Tuesday House of Commons vote on the proposal. Bonnie Kristian

December 15, 2018

Thousands of "yellow vest" protesters assembled in Paris Saturday for a fifth consecutive weekend of demonstrations, though the crowd was smaller and more peaceful than it has been in weekends prior.

Additional assemblies were anticipated around France, and some 69,000 police officers — 8,000 of them in Paris alone — were deployed to respond. Paris police again used tear gas and water cannons to make protesters disperse.

The demonstrators are protesting high taxes and cost of living in France, the administration of French President Emmanuel Macron, and more. "We're here to represent all our friends and members of our family who can't come to protest, or because they're scared," a demonstrator named Pierre Lamy, 27, told The Associated Press. "Everything's coming up now. We're being bled dry."

The yellow vests are calling for a citizens' referendum. "We are protesting peacefully," said yellow vest representative Maxime Nicolle, "but, Mr. President, give us back our freedom and our sovereignty!" Bonnie Kristian

December 15, 2018

Friday night's federal court ruling that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as ObamaCare, is unconstitutional because of its individual mandate provision raised two key questions: What does this mean for Americans' health-care coverage? And will the ruling stand?

On the first point, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said there will be "no impact to current coverage or coverage in a 2019 plan." Beyond that, many legal experts are skeptical of the decision's longevity because though it claims the individual mandate is "essential to and inseverable from the remainder of the ACA," 2017's GOP tax reform law nixed the mandate's penalty.

Law professor Jonathan Adler explained this argument at length at The Volokh Conspiracy and in brief for Vox:

[Legal experts] say [the ruling] willfully ignores the intent of the 2017 Congress, which zeroed out the individual mandate penalty without touching the rest of the Affordable Care Act.

"They are asking the court to evaluate the current law on the basis of what the law used to be," Jonathan Adler, a law professor at Case Western University who supported previous ObamaCare challenges, has told Vox. "That whole analysis just doesn't apply or work anymore." [Vox]

Ted Frank, director of litigation for the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, likewise deemed Friday's ruling "an embarrassingly bad decision," arguing that "if a liberal judge had issued something like it goring a conservative ox, conservatives would be rightly up in arms." And New York Times editorial board member Cristian Farias contended the "partisan, activist ruling cannot stand," urging ACA supporters not to panic.

But George Mason University law professor llya Somin, also writing at The Volokh Conspiracy, sounded a note of greater caution. "I do not expect this ruling to survive on appeal," he said. "But I am not quite as confident on that subject as most other commentators seem to be. The fact that one federal judge has endorsed the states' severability argument increases the odds that others might, as well." Read his reasoning here. Bonnie Kristian

December 15, 2018

President Trump on Twitter Saturday morning announced Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is leaving his administration by year's end:

Trump did not say whether Zinke resigned or was fired.

Zinke's tenure at Interior has been marred by allegations of unethical conduct which have reportedly troubled Trump and prompted a Justice Department investigation. His policy proposals have included privatizing campgrounds on public land, shrinking national monument land, and raising national park visitor fees to cover renovations.

This announcement comes one day after Trump said Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget and acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, will step in as acting White House chief of staff. A Politico report in late October indicated further turnover in the already volatile administration was likely following the midterm elections. Bonnie Kristian

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