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Trump sends mixed messages to China on trade war

BIARRITZ, France — Injecting fresh uncertainty at a time of global economic jitters, President Donald Trump sent mixed messages Sunday on the U.S.-China trade war as leaders at a global summit pushed the unpredictable American president to ease frictions over tariffs and cooperate on other geopolitical challenges.

Trump’s head-snapping comments at the Group of Seven summit about his escalating trade fight with China — first expressing regret, then amping up tariff threats — represented just the latest manifestation of the hazards of the president’s go-it-alone mantra. Allies fault his turbulent trade agenda for contributing to a global economic slowdown.

Despite Trump’s insistence that reports of U.S. tensions with allies are overblown, fissures between the U.S. and six of the world’s other advanced economies were apparent on trade policy, Russia and Iran as the leaders gathered at a picturesque French beach resort.

Two days after the U.S. and China traded a fresh round of retaliatory tariffs and Trump threatened to force U.S. businesses to cut ties with China, the president appeared to harbor qualms about the trade war, which has sent financial markets tumbling.

Asked during a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson if he had any second thoughts about escalating the trade conflict, Trump told reporters, “Yeah. For sure.”

He added, “I have second thoughts about everything.”

Hours later, the White House backpedaled. Press secretary Stephanie Grisham issued a statement saying the press had “greatly misinterpreted” Trump’s comments. She said the president only responded “in the affirmative — because he regrets not raising the tariffs higher.”

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, who was in the room when Trump spoke and was later interviewed by CBS’ “Face the Nation,” offered his own explanation.

Kudlow claimed Trump “didn’t quite hear the question” although reporters asked the president three times whether he had any second thoughts about ramping up the trade war and he responded three times.

At first, Trump’s admission appeared to mark a rare moment of self-reflection by the famously hardnosed leader. The subsequent explanation fits a pattern of Trump recoiling from statements he believes suggest weakness.

Earlier this month, Trump backed off on a threat to place even tougher tariffs on Chinese imports as aides fretted about their impact on the holiday shopping season and growing fears of a recession in the U.S.

Trump had hoped to use the summit to rally other leaders to do more to stimulate their economies, as fears rise of a potential slowdown in the U.S. before he stands for reelection in November 2020.

Johnson, for his part, praised Trump for America’s economic performance — but chided the U.S. leader for his unbending China policy.

“Just to register a faint sheep-like note of our view on the trade war,” he told Trump. “We’re in favor of trade peace.”

Trump said he had “no plans right now” to follow through on his threat of an emergency declaration, but he insisted he would be within his rights to use a 1977 law designed to target rogue regimes, terrorists and drug traffickers as the newest weapon in the clash between the world’s two largest economies

“If I want, I could declare a national emergency,” Trump said. He cited China’s theft of intellectual property and the large U.S. trade deficit with China, saying “in many ways that’s an emergency.”

For all of that, Trump disputed reports of friction with other G-7 leaders, saying he has been “treated beautifully” since he arrived.

The cracks started to emerge moments later after the French government said the leaders had agreed at a Saturday dinner that French President Emanuel Macron would deliver a message to Iran on behalf of the group.

Trump denied he had signed off on any such message.

“No, I haven’t discussed that,” he told reporters during a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Administration officials said Trump was noncommittal when the leaders discussed the subject of a message to Iran during a conversation about Iran’s nuclear program.

For several months, Macron has assumed a lead role in trying to save the 2015 nuclear accord, which has been unraveling since Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement. The French went even further Sunday, inviting Iranian Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif to Biarritz in a bid to open talks meant on lowering tensions.

Trump curtly told reporters he had “no comment” on Zarif’s presence. Officials said the White House was not aware in advance of the invitation to Zarif — a further indication of Trump’s diminished role.

Trump also faced opposition from European leaders over his stated desire to find a way to re-admit Russia to the G-7 before next year’s meeting of the world leaders, which will be held in the United States. Russian President Vladimir Putin was expelled from the former G-7 in 2015 following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

And, sitting feet away from Abe, Trump declined to forcefully condemn North Korea’s flouting of international sanctions with a recent burst of short-range ballistic missile tests, calling them “much more standard” missiles. Abe views them as a critical security threat.

Trump told reporters: “We’re in the world of missiles, folks, whether you like it or not.”

Miss America Nia Franklin visits young girls at I Am Beautiful Movement Workshop in Henderson

HENDERSON — Girls from the sixth grade through college age were in attendance with over 300 other people this past weekend at the Henderson Civic Center to hear Miss America 2019 Nia Franklin speak at the seventh annual “I Am Beautiful Movement” workshop.

The “I Am Beautiful Movement” is a nonprofit organization founded by Toyia Jordan and her daughter, Destini Jordan, in 2013 to promote self-esteem in young girls.

The Saturday event featured a panel of businesswomen who spoke about perseverance over adversity.

“I want to expose girls in the community to women leaders and entrepreneurs who have overcome obstacles to get to where they are today,” Toyia Jordan said. “Our theme is ‘Rock Your Own Crown.’ Everyone’s crown is different, and it’s up to you to decide how you’re going to rock your crown.”

Wearing a shimmering crown on her head in the audience was Franklin, Miss America 2019. She gave the keynote speech and met for one-on-one photos with the girls attending the workshop.

“It’s imperative that young girls have a role model, and Miss America is supposed to be a role model for girls across America, so to be here in Henderson, Texas, is so amazing,” Franklin said.

Henderson Mayor John Fullen read an official proclamation declaring Saturday as Miss America 2019 Nia Franklin Day.

The proclamation reads in part:

“The City of Henderson is concerned and committed to addressing the needs of its young citizens who are facing challenges such as self-esteem, self-image and self-confidence and leadership fears ... The I Am Beautiful Movement nonprofit organization was established in Henderson, Texas, in July 2013 to address such challenges and the organization believes every young girl should have the opportunity to feel beautiful. The Miss America Organization is loyal to these same principles and values in young girls and is joining with the I Am Beautiful Movement organization to reach these goals.”

Among the crowd was Angela Speech, the founder of Talented, Respectful, Aspiring and Powerful Girlz, a nonprofit youth empowerment and mentoring organization in Tyler. She brought 10 of her young members with her.

“I hope they listened and stay encouraged,” she said.

T.R.A.P. Girlz member Makinsey Beaudoin, 12, of Lindale, said meeting Miss America made it the best day of her life.

“I want the girls today to know that they are important, they are special, and no one should be able to tell them otherwise,” Franklin said. “Unfortunately throughout my life I’ve had people who have doubted me in field as a musician and in other areas too, but you have to know how to block out that noise, and they need to learn that at a young age.”

Franklin hopes the girls attending Saturday’s event will take her words to heart and share with others the message that they don’t have to listen to negativity, and to believe in themselves and to listen to themselves.

Twitter: @TMT_Sarah

Five questions with Smith County government employee Esmeralda Delmas

Esmeralda Delmas, 34, was born and raised in Tyler and now serves as the human resources director for the Smith County government.

Delmas attended Robert E. Lee High School, Tyler Junior College, and received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Human Resource Development from the University of Texas at Tyler.

In her job, she is responsible for staffing, employee development, safety and health. She handles benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans for about 850 employees plus the county’s retirees.

She joined the Smith County government in 2008 as a probation officer and waited for a position in the Human Resources Department to open up. She became the human resources coordinator in 2015 and was named the director earlier this year.

Why did you get into human resources?

I was in high school working at the mall, and it wasn’t working out for me, so I decided to quit. The employer didn’t like the idea that I quit, so they didn’t want to pay me for the two weeks that I had worked, so I went out and researched a little bit about employment laws and that’s how I started my interest in HR. I went to the Texas Workforce Commission, and our rights were that they had to pay us, so that’s where I got into employment rights and things like that, which transitioned into an HR degree.

What is one of the biggest misconceptions people have about your job or field?

We’re not the police. We’re not out there looking out the window making sure our employees are coming in on time. That’s the misconception. We’re really here for our employees, and we’re like the bridge with management and our employees as well. We’re really the resource for them. We’re not out there trying to get anybody in trouble. That’s what is really the misconception I would feel. We’re not the HR police.

Given how you waited for the right position to open up, what would be your advice to someone in a similar situation?

My degree was in HR. I was wanting to work in an industry like Smith County. My way in was I had a friend that worked as a probation officer. She got me into that job. I actually loved working there six years, but I was hoping during that time period something would open up in the HR department. So I was hired in (2008) and I think it took about five, six years before anything opened up here in the HR department. My big thing is if you have a company that is solid and invests in their employees and takes the time to see value in an employee, like I think Smith County has for me — as a millennial it’s really easy for me to go out and explore other options, but if you have everything you’re looking for in a company, why go out? Just be patient. And I’m thankful that our judge and my leadership believed in me and was able to transition me into a position like this. So, I would say if you’re looking and you’re in a solid company somewhere, just hang in there. Something is going to open up or could develop.

What did you learn while working as a probation officer?

I learned to treat others like you want to be treated. Especially, when you’re coming in, that time in the probationer’s life is a low period, and you have a chance to change that. So it all depends on your guidance, and just being able to change someone’s life.

Is there anything you miss about working in probation?

I miss the people, our co-workers. We were a team of like 90 employees back then, so I miss all of my coworkers then. I still get to see some of them but that’s really what I miss most about it.

TWITTER and INSTAGRAM: @_erinmansfield