Trump-Kim Hanoi summit gets off to shaky start

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  • How the summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump came together so quickly. 
  • Returning to Haiti nine years after a devastating earthquake, Paul Hunter finds a country struggling to come to terms with its past amid a chaotic political climate. 
  • A sexual assault survivor speaks out about her attack in the wake of the #MeToo movement, but as The National‘s Ioanna Roumeliotis discovers, she also questions why anyone would. 
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here.

The perils of speed-summits

The second “peace summit” between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has come together at lightning speed for a big, international event — in just over a month.

And as the two leaders arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam, this morning, the hasty arrangements were on full display.

The agenda for the two-day confab is still being hammered out, with an initial meeting and a “social” dinner set for tomorrow evening Vietnam time and then perhaps as many as four face-to-face sessions on Thursday

U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at Noi Bai Airport for the summit with Kim in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Tuesday. (Kham/Pool/Reuters)

The purpose of the discussions is hazy, too, with Trump indicating he may come away without any sort of deal beyond the vague denuclearization vow the North Koreans made during the first summit in Singapore last June

Although the clearest indication of seat-of-the-pants flying came when Kim arrived in the Vietnamese capital Tuesday and checked into the five-star Melia Hanoi — the same hotel where the White House media had booked rooms and set up a press filing centre. The reporters and TV crews were given an hour to clear out and find new digs, which isn’t sitting well with some big U.S. network stars, still cranky after a 20-hour flight.

The North Korean leader’s trip was even longer, featuring a cross-China train trip of 50 to 70 hours (depending on which source you believe) including smoke breaks

The green bullet-proof train with 21 carriages is reportedly quite luxurious, fitted out with comfy pink leather arm chairs, big-screen TVs, private sleeping and dining quarters and an all-white conference room.

It also carried the Mercedes-Benz limousine that ferried Kim over the final 160 km from the Chinese border, since the two countries’ rail networks use different-sized tracks – a legacy of past invasion fears.

The train trip may have been borne out of necessity, rather than travel preferences, since his official Soviet-era government jet is no longer considered safe enough for the Supreme Leader

The sanctions that the United States and other Western nations have imposed on North Korea prevent Kim from buying a new aircraft, but apparently not luxury cars, as he has recently been observed tooling around Pyongyang in a Rolls Royce Phantom and a new armoured Mercedes Maybach S600, a vehicle with a base price of more than $500,000 US.

At a time when the North Korean government is seeking urgent assistance from the UN’s World Food Programme, saying that the combined effects of drought, floods and sanctions have forced it to impose 300g per person rationing, Hanoi will provide a prosperous contrast.

Some of the face-to-face meetings will take place at the historic Metropole Hotel, which has hosted celebrities from Charlie Chaplin to Jane Fonda, and where Graham Greene wrote The Quiet American. There’s a shopping concourse with Chopard, Patek Philippe and Hublot boutiques, and visitors can tour the Vietnam War-era bomb shelter that was tunnelled out beneath the hotel bar.

(Trump is staying down the road at the JW Marriott, which promises five-star accommodations and “the pinnacle of luxury,” including a spa, indoor pool, “sumptuous bedding” and the Cool Cats Jazz Club.)

Deal or no deal, the U.S. president will fly home on Friday. Kim, however, may stick around for a couple of days of sightseeing, with members of his advance team having already scoped out the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Halong Bay, a famous coastal beauty spot 160 km from Hanoi.

It’s not clear if either leader will check out one of Hanoi’s newest tourist attractions

But some of the reporters already have.

Haiti reckons with its troubled past

CBC Washington Correspondent Paul Hunter returns to Haiti nine years after he first reported on the earthquake there, to find a country struggling to come to terms with its past amid a chaotic political climate. 

Strange how some feature stories can come about.

Last week, we were in Haiti to cover the latest round of violence on the streets of Port-au-Prince. Haiti’s a fantastic country but with a long history of never seeming to catch a break and it seemed at risk of sliding into yet another crisis.

These latest demonstrations were unnerving. Truth is, we were all a little freaked out by some of the videos from it that we’d seen on social media — very bloody and scary stuff. 

Smoke billows from a van set on fire by protesters during clashes with police amid a protest demanding the resignation of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse near the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Feb. 12. (Dieu Nalio Chery/Associated Press)

For safety, we packed our helmets, gas masks, flak jackets and med kits. Then we took a deep breath and hopped on a plane. We were met at the Port-au-Prince airport by our security team, who were armed with guns that we hoped would never be needed. 

And off we went.

But then — the demonstrations paused.

Still, when we got there the vibe on Haiti’s streets was tense (indeed there were many times in our first day or two that our security team ordered us to stay inside our vehicles for our own safety). But as it turned out, there were no large demonstrations staged while we were there.

So we did what journalists should do; dive in and tell other stories about the complicated country and its amazingly resilient people, such that — as we say at CBC News these days — we could add depth and context to Canadians’ understanding of the world. (End of corporate-speak!)

And this is when we bumped into something unexpected, literally right in front of us.

Earthquake rubble.

A street market in Port-au-Prince is seen during a lull in rioting on Feb. 18 amid remnants of earthquake rubble nine years later. (Paul Hunter/CBC)

Nine years after Haiti’s terrible quake, there it was. A great big pile of a still-uncleared crumbled building. Talk about a metaphor for the country’s continuing challenges.

At the time, we were trying to talk our way into a downtown hospital for a story on how it’s running desperately short of medical supplies. Our producer, Sylvia Thomson had gone inside with fixer Marc Steed, while cameraman Jay Burles and I stayed outside to take some pictures.

Then, having wandered down to a nearby street corner, I saw what made my jaw drop. Something that, having covered fallout from the quake for CBC News on multiple visits in 2010, was acutely familiar to me — that pile of rubble.

To be sure, I asked whoever I could find: “Is that — from the earthquake?  Still?” The answer (translated from Haitian Creole for me by our handy security team) was, “Absolutely.”

So the two of us climbed up onto it, took some video and used those images as the closing shot in our piece that night for The National.

And for all the other interviews and visuals in our report on the continuing needs and unrest in Haiti, it was that shot of the earthquake rubble that seemed to generate the most feedback.  Like me, people could hardly believe it was still there.

So for our final report coming from this latest trip to Haiti, we thought we’d dive in on that a little bit and measure how Haitians are faring on that front, all this time after that terrible day. 

As ever, discerning such stuff is a scramble in Haiti, so we focused on just a few people and their stories, hoping to underline the broader picture of a lingering challenge and its inherent misery.

-Paul Hunter

Watch Paul Hunter’s feature story on Haiti’s post-earthquake progress tonight on The National or streamed online

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Speaking out in the #MeToo era

CBC News Senior Reporter Ioanna Roumeliotis talks to a sexual assault survivor about her decision to speak out about her attack in the wake of the #MeToo era.  

WARNING: This story contains graphic details that may be disturbing to some readers

Sam Fazio is a reluctant warrior, a 20-year-old woman coming of age in the #MeToo era. 

A survivor of a violent sexual assault so horrific she required emergency surgery to stem massive bleeding from deep cuts in and around her vagina. 

It would be weeks before Sam could walk and three years later she still suffers flashbacks. 

Sam Fazio has had a publication ban lifted so that she can speak out about her violent sexual assault. She discusses the challenges of doing so even in the #MeToo era with The National. (Glen Kugelstadt/CBC)

What struck me when I met her in Vancouver is her grace and her vulnerability. 

As the victim of a sexual assault and a minor at the time, her identity could have remained anonymous but Sam went to court to ask the publication ban on her identity be lifted so she could share the intimate details of her story publicly for the first time. 

From the assault itself, to the first conversation with police – who asked her what she was wearing that night – to defence lawyers suggesting the attack was consensual. 

Ultimately her attacker was convicted and, as a young offender, sentenced to the maximum three years. 

The judge ruled only two weeks of that sentence be served in custody, the rest under supervision. 

That decision has created a storm of protest and a petition demanding the judge be removed from the bench. 

Sam’s decision to speak out is to question why, even now, even in this era of reckoning, anyone would ever want to. 

-Ioanna Roumeliotis

Watch Ioanna Roumeliotis’ in-depth interview with Sam Fazio tonight on The National or streamed online

Quote of the moment

“If a man has been touching women inappropriately for decades, why would a woman want to work for him if the only reason he’s not touching them inappropriately now is that it says in his contract that he must behave ‘professionally’?”

Actor Emma Thompsonexplaining her decision to pull out of the animated film Luck over the studio’s decision to hire John Lasseter, the subject of a number of #MeToo allegations. 

Emma Thompson speaks during a news conference for the film The Meyerowitz Stories at the Cannes Film Festival in France on May 21, 2017. (Regis Duvignau/Reuters)

A few words on… 

The next Benji.

What The National is reading

  • Trudeau ‘pleased’ Wilson-Raybould can share her ‘perspectives’ on SNC-Lavalin affair (CBC)
  • India launches airstrikes inside Pakistan after deadly Kashmir attack (CBC)
  • Pope’s former top adviser guilty of sexual assaults against young boys (CBC)
  • Elon Musk lashes out at U.S. regulators (CNBC)
  • Algerian students demonstrate against 5th term for president (France 24)
  • Brexit may clip wings of UK game shooters (Reuters)
  • Vandals decapitate 800-year-old ‘Crusader’ at Dublin church (Irish Examiner)
  • Iceberg water theft could have been vodka mix-up (The Telegram)
  • Stop flushing Yorkshire puddings down toilet, water company pleads (Independent)

Today in history

Feb 26, 1979: Total eclipse of the sun darkens Manitoba

The Brandon eclipse was big news, attracting thousands of solar pilgrims from around the world, turning day to night, and later becoming a plot point in Douglas Coupland’s Generation X. Although as impressive as it was, it still pales compared to this.

Travellers from around the world flock to Manitoba in winter to view the moon pass over the sun. 12:42

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