Decision on N Korea summit next week

North Korea has said the future of the summit between Pyongyang and Washington is “entirely” up to the United States, even as US President Donald Trump cast further doubt on plans for the unprecedented meeting.

Trump said he would know next week whether his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would take place on June 12 in Singapore as scheduled.

White House aides are preparing to travel to Singapore this weekend for a crucial meeting with North Korean officials to discuss the agenda and logistics for the summit, US officials said.

Asked on Wednesday whether the summit would go ahead, Trump told reporters: “It could very well happen. Whatever it is, we’ll know next week about Singapore. And if we go, I think it will be a great thing for North Korea.”

Trump did not say, however, whether the preparatory talks between U.S. and North Korean officials in coming days were expected to clarify the situation.

Trump raised doubts about the summit in talks on Tuesday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who came to Washington to urge Trump not to let a rare opportunity with reclusive North Korea slip away.

The White House was caught off guard when, in a dramatic change of tone, North Korea last week condemned the latest US-South Korean air combat drills, suspended North-South talks and threatened to scrap the summit if Pyongyang was pushed toward “unilateral nuclear abandonment.”

Meanwhile, North Korea’s vice foreign minister has said her country was willing to pull out of a planned summit.

“Whether the U.S. will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States,” North Korea’s central news agency quoted Choe Son Hui as saying.

“We will neither beg the US for dialogue nor take the trouble to persuade them if they do not want to sit together with us.”

Choe said she could suggest to Kim that North Korea reconsider the summit if the US offended the North’s good will. She also slammed recent comments by US Vice President Mike Pence that compared North Korea to Libya.

If the summit is called off or fails, it would be a major blow to what Trump supporters hope will be the biggest diplomatic achievement of his presidency.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insists the Trump administration is “clear-eyed” about North Korea, which has a history of making promises in negotiations and then backtracking.

“A bad deal is not an option,” Pompeo said in his written opening statement for a House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.

“If the right deal is not on the table, we will respectfully walk away.”

Pompeo, who was director of the CIA before becoming secretary of state in April after Trump fired Rex Tillerson, is the highest-ranking Trump administration to meet Kim. On his most recent trip he brought back three Americans who had been held by North Korea.

Thieves target mansion, with $500,000 in jewellery taken in one break-in

A PALM print left on a window at a six-bedroom mansion has linked a Tallangatta woman to a break-in at the property.

Liric Halligan, now aged 22, was involved in one of several break-ins at the house, which had been uninhabitable after a landslip.

A safe with $500,000 of jewellery was stolen in one incident.

Halligan was living around Melbourne when she took part in one break-and-enter on November 15, 2015.

A small safe was taken from the property on Violet Street, along with a projector, camera and tools worth about $10,000.

A flyscreen was cut and a door pried open.

Halligan left the palm print on glass, which was later used to link her back to the incident.

The property sits on the side of a hill and was unlivable following the landslip.

The victims had been overseas and had friends checking in.

There were several more burglaries at the property, including the one which netted the expensive jewellery.

Despite extensive investigations, police could not link them back to the Tallangatta woman.

The Wodonga Magistrates Court on Tuesday heard Halligan knew who was responsible for the haul, but didn’t want to tell police.

She had fronted the court on 10 charges.

The court heard she had moved back to Tallangatta about six months ago following a stint in the Melbourne region.

Her lawyer, Mario Vaccaro, told the court she hadn’t obtained any property from the burglary, but had been present.

The former MCG worker last came to police attention in March after she threatened to arm herself with a knife.

The victim had an intervention order out against her, but police were called to their home about 12.10pm on March 16 following an argument.

Halligan had told the victim she was going to grab the weapon, causing them to flee in their vehicle in fear.

Other offences included illegal ammunition possession following a traffic stop on August 27, 2015.

Halligan was a passenger in a car and was searched, with four rounds of .22 bullets recovered.

She gave a fake address to the officers.

The 22-year-old was also caught with six Endone tablets and two Valiums after leaving a property known for drug dealing in July 2016, andagain gave a fake name.

Mr Vaccaro said his client had returned to the North East to live with her father.

He said she was still a relatively young offender who was keen to find work, and recently applied for a job at Mitta.

She was placed on a community corrections order and the drugs and ammunition will be destroyed.

The Border Mail

Clean up planned for PFAS contaminated Truegain site Rutherford

Clean up planned for PFAS contaminated Truegain site Rutherford TweetFacebook Hazmat crews investigate the Rutherford site in 2017Pictures: Perry Duffin and Nick BielbyThe EPA will oversee the clean-up process at the PFAS contaminated Truegain waste oil processing facility at Rutherford.

Truegain’s Environment Protection Licence was suspended by the EPA in 2016, following poor environmental performance.

The site still has storage of waste oil and other chemicals and there is a high-level of PFAS contamination in liquid waste across the site, but thecompany has since gone intoliquidation.

“Protecting the community and the environment is a priority,”NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Uptonsaid.

“The EPA is working closely with the formerTruegainowners and Maitland City Council to ensure the site is suitably cleaned up and does not present a risk of discharge of contamination into the nearby Stony Creek, particularly after heavy rain.”

The Government is undertaking a Selective Tender process so an experienced contractor can manage the unique nature of the premises.

The tender closes on June 14, 2018.

EPA Acting Chair and CEO Anissa Levy said the EPA was also investigating other potential sources of PFAS contamination in the Stony Creek catchment, including a number of premises within Rutherford Industrial Estate.

“The NSW Government has adopted a precautionary approach to managing PFAS because these substances take a long time to break down in humans and the environment”, she said.

“Until more information becomes available, precautionary advice to minimise exposure to PFAS will remain in place in NSW.

“As such we are reminding residents to avoid using water from Stony Creek and Swamp Creek waterways, downstream of the Rutherford Industrial Estate, for domestic or livestock use.

“The EPA is again contacting residents to ensure they are aware of this. Water from the town supply or rainwater tanks is safe to use.”

For more information visit


Federal health panel’s PFAS report dismisses cancer linkJury out on toxins in Williamtown’s red zone,banks believeWilliamtown contamination investigation

Trump can’t block his critics on Twitter

A federal judge in New York has ruled that President Donald Trump may not legally block Twitter users because doing so violates their right to free speech under the First Amendment of the constitution.

US District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald stopped short of ordering Trump to unblock users, saying it was not necessary to enter a “legal thicket” involving courts’ power.

She said she assumed Trump or his social media director Dan Scavino, who also was a defendant in the case, would unblock the users in light of her decision.

Buchwald’s ruling on Wednesday was in response to a lawsuit filed against Trump in July by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and several Twitter users.

Twitter declined to comment on the ruling while the White House and the US Department of Justice, which represents the president in the case, did not immediately comment.

Trump was a prolific tweeter from his @RealDonaldTrump account even before being elected in 2016 and has since made it an integral and controversial part of his presidency.

Aides reportedly have tried to rein in his tweeting, which often starts early in the morning. But he has remained unfettered and uses Twitter to promote his agenda, announce policy and attack critics, especially the media, and the investigation into possible Russian connections with his campaign.

The plaintiffs claimed in their lawsuit that by blocking users for their views, Trump was shutting them out of discussion in a public forum, violating the First Amendment.

When one Twitter user blocks another, the blocked user may not respond to the blocker’s tweets on the social media platform.

Media reports say among those Trump has blocked are novelists Stephen King and Anne Rice, comedian Rosie O’Donnell, model Chrissy Teigen, actress Marina Sirtis and the military veterans political action committee VoteVets苏州桑拿.

The individual plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Philip Cohen, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland; Holly Figueroa, described in the complaint as a political organiser and songwriter in Washington State; and Brandon Neely, a Texas police officer.

Buchwald agreed with the plaintiffs’ contention that the discussions arising from Trump’s tweets should be considered a public forum. She rejected an argument made by Justice Department lawyers that Trump’s own First Amendment rights allowed him to block people with whom he did not wish to interact.

“While we must recognise, and are sensitive to, the president’s personal First Amendment rights, he cannot exercise those rights in a way that infringes the corresponding First Amendment rights of those who have criticised him,” Buchwald said.

Buchwald said Trump could “mute” users, meaning he would not see their tweets while they could still respond to his, without violating their free speech rights.

Scramble to lift low banking standards

Terrible behaviour unearthed at the banking royal commission has the government and industry scrambling to lift financial standards.

But Labor is worried prosecutors will run out of money to track down serious financial crime within a year.

Financial Services Institute of Australasia chief executive Chris Whitehead announced industry-wide standards to restore trust in financial services.

has no defined industry-wide requirements for professional qualifications in banking, so the Chartered Banker qualifications are based on an international model.

“As an organisation, we felt the industry needed to focus on lifting levels of competency and conduct and improved culture in banking,” Mr Whitehead told reporters on Thursday.

Mr Whitehead is pushing for a “professional banking council” to set standards of competence and conduct for the banking industry.

Treasurer Scott Morrison introduced legislation into parliament to create a second deputy chair position within the n Prudential Regulation Authority.

“This helps to maximise the skills and capabilities available to APRA within its leadership,” Mr Morrison said on Thursday.

The royal commission has heard bank advisers charged dead clients for years, with n Federal Police commissioner Andrew Colvin promising to investigate any criminal referrals.

Mr Morrison said the banks must be brought to account, but governments can’t go too far.

“But what we must also be aware of is, if we are not careful in how we respond to these issues … we could cause great self-harm to our national economy,” he said.

Labor is concerned prosecutors will be unable to launch action against dodgy bankers and financial crooks when their dedicated funding runs out just after the royal commission ends.

Money allocated to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions to pursue serious financial crime is due to end in about 12 months.

“It is astonishing that the government sees fit to abolish the serious financial crime taskforce just when it may be needed the most,” Labor’s justice spokeswoman Clare O’Neil said.

Labor announced a $25 million boost to the CDPP if it wins the next election.

Maitland Leagues Club and Club Maitland City members will vote on a memorandum of understanding on the clubs’ amalgamation

Maitland Leagues Club. Picture: FileMembers of two of Maitland’s biggest clubs have been asked to vote next Wednesday on a memorandum of understanding whichwill bethe next step in uniting the two entities.

Maitland District Leagues Club and Club Maitland City members have all been notified about the vote which will occur at the Leagues Club from6pm and 7pm at Maitland City.

Club Maitland City President Henry Meskauskas is urging members of both clubs to make their vote count.“It’s veryimportant for members to have their say,” he said.

“We are governed andrun by the members and based onour constitution and by-laws any changes that need to be made outside the realm of the board has to be ratified by members,” he said.

Fairfax Media reported in April how the Leagues Club and Maitland City announced a proposal to amalgamate,with thebusinesses tipped to trade from Maitland City’s Rutherford site.

Both organisations entered into an in principlememorandum of understanding last month.The final say however,will be up to clubmembersandleagues club creditors.

The history making agreement proposes to sell the Leagues Club’s Bulwer Street property and consolidate the business with Maitland City at its Arthur Streetsite.

“The general feeling at Club Maitland City is positive,” Mr Meskauskas said. “I don’t think there is one member who is not going to support the amalgamation move,” he said.

“We had information sessions a couple of weeks ago and explained the resolution for amalgamation.Solicitors will be present at both meetings and members can ask what ever they want in regards to thatresolution.”

Mr Meskauskas expects to have an outcome about 9pm Wednesday.“We are asking clubmembers to really support this vote which is for the benefit of both clubs, for Maitland and the future of Maitland rugby league,” he said.

Maitland Leagues Club continues to trade however its opening times have varied and it isclosed on Mondays.

Dive deeperMaitland Leagues Club goes into voluntary administrationClub Maitland City urged to merge with Maitland LeaguesClub Maitland City backs Pickers with 30-year sponsorship

Stars will be poached if ABC discloses pay

The ABC claims its presenters could be poached by commercial networks if it reveals their salaries.The ABC maintains moves to force it to disclose the salaries of staff earning more than $200,000 a year would open it up to poaching by rival commercial networks.

There’s legislation before parliament to force the ABC and SBS to reveal the earnings of the highest-paid presenters.

ABC chief financial officer Louise Higgins said the public broadcaster already discloses salary bandings, bonuses, and the salary of key management personnel.

“We are not the BBC,” Ms Higgins told a Senate estimates hearing on Wednesday night.

“The highest (paid) presenter at the BBC earns $3.5 million, ours is closest to $400,000 or under.”

Disclosure would open the ABC up to “key talent being poached” as well as lead to increased wage pressure, she said.

Meanwhile, Ms Higgins defended the broadcaster’s handling of a 1981 child sex abuse case involving former ABC producer Jon Stephens.

Liberal senator Eric Abetz criticised the ABC for seeking lawyers first before reaching out to the victim.

The hearing was told Stephens pleaded guilty to one count of indecent assault in June last year and a NSW local court sentenced him to 12 months’ jail.

Ms Higgins said the broadcaster had been in email contact with the victim’s lawyer last month.

“We did not lawyer up before we contacted the victim,” she said.

She maintained it was appropriate for the ABC to start its internal investigation once court proceedings had finished and to get outside assistance to ensure it was comprehensive.

The results of the investigation were inconclusive.

The broadcaster had been unable to get access to the police file despite lodging a freedom of information request.

The ABC had spent $14,000 on external legal services.

Senator Abetz also disputed the ABC’s decision to broadcast the story about the case in NSW but not nationally.

“The story was treated on its merits,” editorial director Alan Sunderland said.

Greg Walls, Bistro Molines pair named legends of vines

DINING: Sally and Robert Molines, of Bistro Molines, were named Living Legends of Tourism and Hospitality at Thursday’s Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Awards.A MAN who heads a Newcastle-based company that sells wine to more than 200,000 people throughout and a husband and wife team who have graced the region’s fine dining scene for 45 years became Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism legends on Thursday night.

Greg Walls, chief ofn Wine Selectors (AWS), was declared a Hunter Living Legend of Wine at the 12thannualHunter Valley Wine and Tourism Awards dinner atthe Ben Ean function centre at Pokolbin.

Robert and Sally Molines, proprietors of the one-hatted restaurant Bistro Molines at Mount View, were crowned Hunter Living Legends of Tourism andHospitality.

The three new legends were cheered by a crowd of more than 250 at the 2018 awards dinner. They join an august group that includes Karl Stockhausen, Brian McGuigan, Fay McGuigan, Jay Tulloch, Bruce Tyrrell, Phil Ryan, Chris Barnes, Pat Auld, Ian Scarborough, Kevin Sobels, Ken Bray, Alain Le Prince and Ian Tinkler.

WINING: Living Legend of Wine Greg Walls, chief of n Wine Selectors, was honoured at Thursday night’s dinner at Pokolbin’s Ben Ean.

Greg Walls established the Hunter Valley Wine Society in 1975 and this has grown into the huge n Wine Selectors mail-order wine business.

Robert and Sally Molines met while working in Sydney restaurants and came to the Hunter in 1973 to spark a culinary revolution at the Happy Valley Restaurant. In the years since, in a succession of restaurants, they have become fine dining icons.

Other 2018 award winners were: Winemaker of the Year, Stuart Hordern, Brokenwood Wines; Viticulturist of the Year, Neil Stevens, Glen Oak Wines; Rising Star of the Year, Aaron Mercer, Tamburlaine Wines; Cellar Door of the Year, Margan Wines; Hunter Valley Wine Industry 2018 Heritage Award, Drayton’s Bellevue wine label.

The Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association vice-president, Brian McGuigan, said the award recipients were among the “passionate custodians” who earned the Hunter recognition as a wine and food destination.

“The Hunter Valley is the oldest and most-visited wine region in by overseas tourists and its incredible wines have found their way into the homes of many others, thanks to the hard work and vision of all our winners,” he said.

Gus right to criticise Cordner: Alexander

NSW skipper Boyd Cordner’s form has been questioned heading into Origin I.NSW advisor Greg Alexander says Phil Gould was right to criticise Blues skipper Boyd Cordner ahead of the State of Origin series opener.

But Alexander believed the Blues back-rower still had plenty to offer in 2018.

Cordner came under fire before the Blues team is named next week for June 6’s Origin I in Melbourne, earning the ire of Phil Gould.

The former Blues coach claimed he wouldn’t select Cordner for the Origin opener because the Sydney Roosters star’s game had stagnated.

Cordner admitted this week he had been stunned by the comments from the Blues’ most successful coach but Alexander believed Gould’s call was warranted.

“I agree with some of them (comments) in part,” Alexander told Fox Sports’ NRL 360.

“I think Boyd was struggling for the opening month and a half, even two months of the premiership.

“His performances have improved over the last couple of weeks dramatically compared to what he was doing in the opening two months.”

Gould questioned the impact of Cordner – a veteran of nine Origins and 16 Tests – at representative level and said St George Illawarra second-rower Tariq Sims was in better form.

He also claimed he would choose James Maloney as Blues skipper.

While critical of Cordner, Alexander hinted that the Roosters star would still get a nod for Origin I.

“You don’t overlook Origin players if they are down in form a little bit,” he said.

“I think Gus (Gould) had every right to question Boyd’s form (but) I think Boyd has a lot more to offer than what he has been coached to offer at the Roosters.”

Queensland great Billy Moore surprisingly defended Cordner’s disappointing 2018 numbers after early season title favourites the Roosters limped to seventh place after 11 NRL rounds.

“It’s a bit of mind games,” Moore said of Gould’s crack at Cordner.

“If you look at his numbers you can slightly justify that his metres are down because he is playing in a side that is not going quite as well.

“But Boyd brings something extra than just those metres. He brings stability to a team that is going to have a lot of debutants.

“You need some concrete to a team, a leader and that is what he will bring to the team.

“He will always rise to the occasion in a big game.”

Sound advice for successful video hangouts

HEAR ME OUT: Every technology has its Achilles heal, and in many instances it’s related to the human using it.All professions have a key thing that makes their job “go”.

For doctors it be might years of training and a stethoscope. For lawyers it might be years of training and a flexible approach to the truth. For the modern journo, thrust into theagile hot-desking world of the smartphone/laptop, it’s the earphone, with a mic.

Technology has tamedthe tyranny of distance. Physical meetings are a thing of the past.We no longer have to be in the same room, town, state or country to bore each other senseless.

Video hangouts have become the norm, bringing the art of feigned engagement, or in some cases overt indifference, to a new height.

But the key to it all is earphones with a mic. No good sitting in without being able to hear and contribute. Well there is, but it’s frowned on.

Such was the mighty dilemma I found myself in the other Monday.Caught short without my earphones –a failure of process.

Normally they’re there 24/7 because I’m obsessive about making sure no daughters or wives ransack my bag over the weekend so they can save themselves the trouble of finding their own earphones.

That was the accusation. The denials were blunt. But that wasn’t helping in the moment. (The headphones ended up being on the kitchen table where I left them.)

I should have seen it coming. Riding to work Monday morning heading up the same hill I have to confront each day in low gear, my chain comes off.

Bad omen! Eventually got to work a bit oily, a bit flustered, but well in time for the weekly work video hangout I knew was coming.

Cue the earphones. Reach into the bag. Gone!! Usually there as reliable as clockwork. For some reason this particular morning, nothing. Recall the bad omen.

Immediately blamethe crew at home and textas such, receiving in quick time retorts about having a “boys look”.

But that had already failed. Twice.

So I turned to IT and asked if there were any spares in the builiding. None, I’m told. Work throw them all out once they’ve been usedbecause work’s not going to facilitate the spread of ear tinea. Fair enough. But work is prepared to facilitate self-reliance.

Advised to hotfoot it over to Office Works. Get there. Sold out. Would you believe it.

Didn’t matter what I believed. Fact.

Advised to hit Telstra across the road. They might have some. They did. But $40. No deal!

Headed up to Big W. Joy. Only one question –the $2.50 earphones or the $5?

Go the $5 because you get what you pay for. And I do. They work, like sticking a grasshopper in your ear, only slightly poorer audio, but they have a mike. Into which I feel like saying: “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears, or better still, make it your ear phones.”

Not as straightforward as it might seem in this era of unsung, misplaced work essentials and legitimate, yet very inconvenientOH&S issues.

SIMON WALKER: That’s Life archive