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North Korea envoy confirmed as Mike Pompeo’s number two

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The US Senate on Thursday confirmed North Korea negotiator Stephen Biegun to be the State Department’s number two, raising the possibility that the veteran Republican will become the acting top US diplomat next year.

Biegun, currently on a trip to Asia as tensions mount with North Korea, was easily confirmed as deputy secretary of state, with 90 votes in favor and three senators, all Democrats, opposed.

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Biegun’s elevation means he would take over as the acting top US diplomat if Secretary of State Mike Pompeo leaves to seek a Senate seat, a prospect that political pundits see as increasingly likely.

In the latest hint that he is seeking to endear himself to voters, Pompeo recently opened personal Twitter and Instagram accounts on which he shows himself mingling with farmers from his home state of Kansas, cheers on a Kansas basketball team, and teases of pictures to come of his dog.

Pompeo has also become increasingly implicated in the impeachment of Trump, with Senate Democrats seeking his testimony on how the president pressured Ukraine.

While Pompeo is a stalwart defender of Trump, Biegun is not known for his partisanship, and spent years in behind-the-scenes foreign policy roles for Republican lawmakers and former president George W. Bush’s administration.

Pompeo appointed him in August last year as the special representative on North Korea after Trump’s historic first summit with leader Kim Jong Un.

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Biegun managed to open working-level talks with North Korea in October, but tensions have quickly spiked.

North Korea, which is seeking a lifting of sanctions, has threatened a “Christmas gift” to the United States if it does not present concessions by the end of the year.

US officials believe that North Korea may be looking to test an intercontinental ballistic missile — which would destroy Trump’s argument that he has succeeded in reducing risks from North Korea.

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After initially choosing not to respond to North Korean statements, Biegun on a tour of South Korea, Japan and China called Pyongyang’s comments “so hostile and negative and so unnecessary.”

A native of Michigan, Biegun earlier led the Ford Motor Corp’s relations with foreign governments. He speaks Russian and lived in Russia from 1992 to 1994 when he worked in US-backed democracy promotion.

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French hospital halts trials of Trump-promoted COVID-19 drug due to worries about heart failure

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President Donald Trump's promotion of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19 has drawn criticism from medical experts who say much more work needs to be done before anyone can say it's effective at stopping the disease.

And now one hospital in France has stopped its testing of hydroxychloroquine on COVID-19 patients over worries that the drug poses a "toxic risk" to people's hearts when taken in combination with other drugs.

French newspaper Nice Matin reports that Nice University Hospital "immediately stopped" its use of hydroxychloroquine in patients who exhibit "major risks" of suffering heart failure due to the drug.

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Economist who hoped for ‘V-shaped’ recovery now predicting a prolonged downturn even worse than the Great Recession

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Tim Bartik is among the economists who has described the type of “V-shaped” economic recovery he would like to see in the United States following the coronavirus pandemic. Ideally, Bartik has asserted, all the businesses that have been shut down by the pandemic would reopen quickly when it’s safe to do so and put millions of Americans back to work. But journalist Andy Balaskovitz, in an article published in MiBiz on April 8, explains why Bartik (a senior economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo, Michigan) now believes that predictions of a “V-shaped recovery” are wishful thinking — and why Americans are in for a lot of economic pain in the months ahead.

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‘Recipe for disaster’: Officials in Florida city say they face ‘unimaginable’ potential death from COVID-19

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Officials in the Florida city of Hialeah are warning that they are uniquely vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic and face the possibility of "unimaginable" death from the disease.

In interviews with The Daily Beast, the officials explained how their large population of senior citizens is at grave risk if Hialeah erupts as a major COVID-19 hotspot.

"I think it is going to get a lot worse," Hialeah Councilman Jesus Tundidor tells The Daily Beast. “The experts have been telling us to expect a peak [in Florida] near the end of the month. As we get more testing sites up and running, the more positive cases we will see. And that will create more fear."

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