2 Koreas restore hotline
SEOUL, South Korea — North and South Korea restored a stalled communication hotline after weeks of a hiatus in a small, fragile reconciliation step Monday, as the North pushes hard to win outside concessions with a mix of conciliatory gestures and missile tests.
Liaison officials from the two Koreas exchanged messages over a cross-border communication channel on Monday morning local time, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said.
The two Koreas are expected to restore other communication channels running across their tense border later Monday as they have both previously expressed their intentions to reopen them.
The phone and fax channels — which the rival Koreas use to set up meetings, arrange border crossings and avoid accidental clashes — have been largely dormant for more than a year. Communications were briefly revived for about two weeks this summer, but North Korea later refused to exchange messages after Seoul staged annual military drills with Washington it viewed as an invasion rehearsal.
Leaked records open a ‘Pandora’ box of financial secrets
Hundreds of world leaders, powerful politicians, billionaires, celebrities, religious leaders and drug dealers have been hiding their investments in mansions, exclusive beachfront property, yachts and other assets for the past quarter-century, according to a review of nearly 12 million files obtained from 14 firms located around the world.
The report released Sunday by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists involved 600 journalists from 150 media outlets in 117 countries. It’s being dubbed the “Pandora Papers” because the findings shed light on the previously hidden dealings of the elite and the corrupt, and how they have used offshore accounts to shield assets collectively worth trillions of dollars.
The more than 330 current and former politicians identified as beneficiaries of the secret accounts include Jordan’s King Abdullah II, former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babis, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso, and associates of both Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The billionaires called out in the report include Turkish construction mogul Erman Ilicak and Robert T. Brockman, the former CEO of software maker Reynolds &Reynolds.
Many of the accounts were designed to evade taxes and conceal assets for other shady reasons, according to the report.
AP: States and cities slow to spend federal pandemic money
As Congress considered a massive COVID-19 relief package earlier this year, hundreds of mayors from across the U.S. pleaded for “immediate action” on billions of dollars targeted to shore up their finances and revive their communities.
Now that they’ve received it, local officials are taking their time before actually spending the windfall.
As of this summer, a majority of large cities and states hadn’t spent a penny from the American Rescue Plan championed by Democrats and President Joe Biden, according to an Associated Press review of the first financial reports due under the law. States had spent just 2.5% of their initial allotment while large cities spent 8.5%, according to the AP analysis.
Many state and local governments reported they were still working on plans for their share of the $350 billion, which can be spent on a wide array of programs.
Though Biden signed the law in March, the Treasury Department didn’t release the money and spending guidelines until May. By then, some state legislatures already had wrapped up their budget work for the next year, leaving governors with no authority to spend the new money. Some states waited several more months to ask the federal government for their share.
By wire sources