Secretary of State Rex Tillerson threatens pre-emptive strike on North Korea if Pyongyang chooses to 'elevate threat'
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Friday in South Korea that all options are "on the table" regarding North Korea's nuclear weapons programs, including a pre-emptive U.S. strike "if they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action." The U.S. does not want a military conflict with North Korea, he said at a press conference in Seoul, "but obviously if North Korea takes actions that threaten South Korean forces or our own forces, that would be met with (an) appropriate response."
The U.S. keeping a military option open on North Korea is not new, but U.S. officials don't normally make the threat explicit or publicly. Tillerson is on the second of three stops of a tour of Asia, following a visit to Japan and right before he heads to China. Beijing has been urging the U.S. and North Korea to return to multilateral peace talks, but Tillerson ruled that out for now. "The policy of strategic patience has ended," Tillerson said, referring to the Obama administration's decision to wait for North Korea to collapse and slowly increasing sanctions, pressure, and covert activity.
In the past year, Pyongyang has fired 24 test ballistic missile and conducted two nuclear tests, in violation of multiple U.N. Security Council sanctions. You can learn more in the CNN report below. Peter Weber
Earlier this week, somebody leaked outtakes from Lawrence O'Donnell's MSNBC show, and they were not flattering. "Wow, he went from zero to dad-on-Day-3-of-road-trip like that," Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show, and that was before the hammering began somewhere at MSNBC. After showing censored excerpts of O'Donnell losing his cool, Colbert expressed some sympathy. "Folks, I gotta say, while the footage is not flattering, as a broadcaster, I sincerely feel for Lawrence O'Donnell on this clip," he said. "Hosting a television show is extremely stressful," especially with distractions. In fact, he added, "I had a meltdown of my own recently, so that's why, in solidarity with Lawrence O'Donnell and just to get ahead of the story before it breaks, I'm releasing my own tape." Watch the soft mockery below. Peter Weber
Tom Price, President Trump's health and human services secretary, has taken at least 24 flights on private charter jets since May, Politico reported Thursday night, including a chartered flight to Oklahoma on Tuesday, after Politico found that Price had taken five chartered flights in just three days last week, including one to Philadelphia from Washington. The cost of the private flights Price is known to have chartered exceeds $300,000, Politico reports, and HHS spokeswoman Charmaine Yoest said Price's work trips are paid for "from the HHS budget," or taxpayer funds.
Yoest said Price has "taken commercial flights" for work since his confirmation, as was the rule under his predecessors, but that he uses "charter aircraft for official business in order to accommodate his demanding schedule," using as an example when Price, the HHS secretary, "was directing the recovery effort for Irma" and Hurricane Harvey. Politico said it "identified at least 17 charter flights that took place before the first storm — Hurricane Harvey — hit in late August," including to pre-arranged conferences and, in one case, a $7,100 chartered Learjet-60 from San Diego to Aspen, arriving 19 hours before his speech in the Colorado resort town.
"No one is quite sure what [Price] is doing," a senior White House official told Politico, noting that Price's frequent travels have little to do with Trump's priorities. As Brian Williams noted on MSNBC Thursday night, Price styles himself as a budget-cutter, both while in Congress and at HHS, and he's not the only Trump Cabinet member under scrutiny for questionable expenditures. You can watch below, and read the entire report at Politico. Peter Weber
— 11th Hour (@11thHour) September 22, 2017
Late Thursday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un responded to President Trump's threat on Tuesday to "totally destroy North Korea" with a very rare personal statement saying Trump's "unprecedented rude nonsense" has "convinced me, rather than frightening or stopping me, that the path I chose is correct and that it is the one I have to follow to the last." The statement, released by the official Korean Central News Agency, is full of colorful phrases — Kim calls Trump "a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire," for example — and ends with Kim's own threat to "surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U. S. dotard with fire."
Hours after the statement was released, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters at the United Nations that Pyongyang is considering testing a hydrogen bomb. "It could be the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific," Ri said, according to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency. "We have no idea about what actions could be taken as it will be ordered by leader Kim Jong Un." Earlier on Thursday, Ri had mocked Trump as a "dog barking" and laughed off his "Rocket Man" nickname for Kim, and Trump had signed new financial penalties for North Korea.
If you are wondering what "dotard" means, you're not alone — "searches for 'dotard' are high as a kite," Merriam-Webster tweeted Thursday night, defining the word as someone in "a state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise and alertness"; according to the Oxford English Dictionary, "dotard" now means "an old person, especially one who has become weak or senile," after earlier referring to an "imbecile." (You can read a longer history of the word at The Washington Post.) Peter Weber
Jimmy Kimmel wants you to know that he did not pick this fight. But as long as Republicans keep bringing him up in the fight over the GOP's Graham-Cassidy health-care bill, he's going to come back swinging. Thursday night was Round 3 on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and he started with President Trump getting involved on Twitter Wednesday night. Trump probably didn't know that he was wrong, that Graham-Cassidy doesn't protect people with pre-existing conditions, Kimmel said. But at this point, "he'd sign copies of the Quran at the Barnes and Noble in Falllujah if it meant he could get rid of ObamaCare."
"A lot of people have been saying I'm not qualified to talk about this, and that is true: I'm not qualified to talk about this," Kimmel said. "But I think those people forget, Bill Cassidy named this test after me." Sen. Cassidy (R-La.), who is a doctor, went on TV again Thursday morning to say Kimmel doesn't understand the bill, but Kimmel noted that most experts on health-care oppose Graham-Cassidy, too. He put up a list of all the medical groups, full of doctors, opposing the bill to make a point. "We haven't seen this many people come forward to speak out against a bill since Cosby," he cracked.
People have been telling Kimmel he should give Cassidy the benefit of the doubt, he said, "and you know what? I do give him the benefit of the doubt. I doubt all the benefits he claims are part of the new health-care bill." Kimmel took some swings at other Republicans dismissing his concerns and joked that Trump's qualifications to be president is that "he fired Meat Loaf on television," then tackled the main GOP argument in favor of the bill, "that it's better to put these decisions in the hands of the states." Even if Graham-Cassidy didn't leave state governments with $200 billion less to work with, he said, "have you seen some of our states? If Florida could make their own decisions, it would be legal to bring an alligator into a strip club." (Paul Waldman presents a more serious counter-argument at The Week). Watch below. Peter Weber
Former New England Patriots tight end and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez, who committed suicide in his prison cell while serving a life sentence, has been posthumously diagnosed with the degenerative brain disease CTE. Hernandez's lawyer, Jose Baez, announced in a news conference Thursday that Hernandez's was "the most severe case they had ever seen in someone of Aaron's age." Hernandez was 27 when he died in April.
Baez has filed a lawsuit against the Patriots and the NFL on behalf of Hernandez's daughter. CTE is linked to repeated head trauma, and numerous football players have recently been diagnosed with the disease.
Facebook will give Congress copies of the more than 3,000 ads purchased through Russian accounts during the 2016 election, Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch announced Thursday in a blog post. "We believe the public deserves a full accounting of what happened in the 2016 election, and we've concluded that sharing the ads we've discovered, in a manner that is consistent with our obligations to protect user information, can help," Stretch wrote.
Though Facebook gave the ads to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the social networking site took back select ads shown to congressional investigators before they could be thoroughly examined, citing privacy concerns. The move sparked complaints from government officials and the public.
If Tom Hanks had gotten his way last fall, the world would've been a very different place. Former Saturday Night Live castmember Bobby Moynihan has revealed that Hanks didn't really want to play the now iconic role of David S. Pumpkins, and tried to talk his way out of wearing the pumpkin suit. "He thought it was very bizarre and was like, 'Hey, I think Chris Hemsworth [the following week's host] would make a great David Pumpkins,'" Moynihan recalled.
Hanks, who obviously ended up playing the haunted house character flanked by dancing sidekick skeletons, has since come to his senses about how bizarrely good the sketch is. The official SNL YouTube video of the sketch has racked up more than 8.3 million views, and rumor has it Hanks might reprise his character again this fall.
Breathe a sigh of relief that Hanks didn't get his way as you watch the brilliant Halloween sketch below. Becca Stanek