It’s been a busy and mystifying few days in North Korea. First, ex-president Jimmy Carter flew to Pyongyang to secure the release of an American jailed there for trespassing. Then, during the visit, North Korea’s reclusive leader, Kim Jong-il, secreted in his bullet-proof train to China, where he presumably sought the support of Chinese officials for his son and chosen successor. Now, Carter has not only secured the release of the American, Aijalon Mahli Gomes, but also a commitment from North Korea to resume multilateral talks over its nuclear program.
The State Department noted in an emailed statement that the trip was not initiated by Carter or the U.S. government. The former president was apparently invited by North Korean leaders, and Carter chose to accept, with the administration’s consent. Said State Dept. spokesman Philip Crowley: “The U.S. and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations.”
The U.S. economy grew at a much slower pace this spring than expected, the Commerce Department said Friday, stoking renewed fears of a sluggish recovery. The nation’s gross domestic product, a broad if somewhat inexact measure of economic strength, grew at a 1.6 percent annual rate from April to June. That’s down from initial estimates by the federal government of 2.4 percent, and a major slip from the previous quarter’s 3.7 percent growth. Analysts and traders had already been worried about the pace of the economic recovery earlier this week by plummeting home sales.
The owners of the two farms implicated in a nationwide recall of more than 550 million eggs have been summoned to testify before Congress in September. The Food and Drug Administration said it had confirmed in laboratory tests that the two farms were contaminated with salmonella, which has already sickened anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 people. The owner of Wright County Egg has a less-than-stellar health and safety record, and was labeled a “habitual violator” of environmental regulations in 2000.
Sunday marks the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and the White House says President Obama will fly down to the Gulf to commemorate the occasion. Meanwhile, his director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, says the disaster has taught her about the need to educate traditionally underrepresented communities about the effects of environmental degradation. “Environmentalism is not only about far off open spaces,” Jackson wrote in an op-ed for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “It is also about the air we breathe every day, the water that comes from our taps, and the lands — and wetlands — we depend on.”
How much more disappointment can Nationals fans take? The last-place Major League Baseball team has just suffered another blow, after its star rookie pitcher, Stephen Strasburg, was said to require Tommy John surgery on his shoulder, possibly forcing him to miss the entirety of the 2011 season. Strasburg’s entry into the major leagues was not merely an historic baseball event — it was a national hysteria. Strasburg, who made his debut just months ago, was billed as an instant hall-of-famer. President Obama even made a surprise appearance at a Nationals game in June just to watch him pitch against the White Sox. Former Red Sox Pitcher Curt Schilling, himself a likely hall-of-famer, said of Strasburg: “I’ver never seen anything like this. Never. Nothing close.” Now, Strasburg may not even throw a baseball again until 2012.