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Trump, China escalate trade dispute as markets tumble

WASHINGTON — Unwilling to yield, President Donald Trump and China's government escalated their trade clash Friday, with Beijing vowing to "counterattack with great strength" if Trump follows through on threats to impose tariffs on an additional $100 billion in Chinese goods.

Trump made his out-of-the-blue move when China threatened to retaliate for the first round of tariffs planned by the United States. But for someone who has long fashioned himself as a master negotiator, Trump left it unclear whether he was bluffing or willing to enter a protracted trade war pitting the world's two biggest economies against each other, with steep consequences for consumers, businesses and an already shaken stock market.

"They aren't going to bully him into backing down," said Stephen Moore, a former Trump campaign adviser who is now a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He said the Chinese "are going to have to make concessions — period."

The White House sent mixed signals on Friday as financial markets slid from investor concern about a significant trade fight. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC he was "cautiously optimistic" that the U.S. and China could reach an agreement before any tariffs are implemented but added, "there is the potential of a trade war."

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters the U.S. was "not in a trade war," adding, "China is the problem. Blame China, not Trump."

Trump's latest proposal intensified what was already shaping up to be the biggest trade battle for more than a half century. The U.S. bought more than $500 billion in goods from China last year and now is planning or considering penalties on some $150 billion of those imports. The U.S. sold about $130 billion in goods to China in 2017 and faces a potentially devastating hit to its market there if China responds in kind.

Global financial markets have fallen sharply as the world's two biggest economies squared off — the Dow Jones industrial average sank 572 points Friday.

Trump told advisers Thursday he was unhappy with China's decision to tax $50 billion in American products, including soybeans and small aircraft, in response to a U.S. move this week to impose tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods.

Rather than waiting weeks for the U.S. tariffs to be implemented, Trump backed a plan by Robert Lighthizer, his trade representative, and was encouraged by Peter Navarro, a top White House trade adviser, to seek the enhanced tariffs, upping the ante.

White House chief of staff John Kelly and Mnuchin concurred with the move, as did Kudlow, who traveled with the president to West Virginia.

China said negotiations were impossible under the circumstances but Trump officials said the president and his team remained in contact with President Xi Jinping and expressed hope to him of resolving the dispute through talks. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the two sides remained in "routine contact."

In Beijing, a Commerce Ministry spokesman said China doesn't want a trade war — but isn't afraid to fight one.

"If the U.S. side announces the list of products for $100 billion in tariffs, the Chinese side has fully prepared and will without hesitation counterattack with great strength," spokesman Gao Feng said. He gave no indication what measures Beijing might take.

Trump has also pushed for a crackdown on China's theft of U.S. intellectual property, and he criticized the World Trade Organization, an arbiter of trade disputes, in a tweet Friday for allegedly favoring China. Trump asserted the WTO gives the Asian superpower "tremendous perks and advantages, especially over the U.S."

U.S. officials have played down the threat of a broader trade dispute, saying a negotiated outcome is still possible. But economists warn that the tit-for-tat moves bear the hallmarks of a classic trade rift that could keep growing. Worry is intensifying among Republicans, who traditionally have favored liberalized trade.

"The administration needs to be thinking about the unintended consequences and what are those ripple effects, those domino effects, and what are the retaliatory actions that are likely to be taken," said South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the Senate's No. 3 Republican, in an interview with KDLT-TV in Sioux Falls.

The standoff over the trade penalties began last month when the U.S. slapped tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. China countered by announcing tariffs on $3 billion worth of U.S. products. The next day, the United States proposed the $50 billion in duties on Chinese imports, and Beijing lashed back within hours with a threat of further tariffs of its own.

Further escalation could be in the offing. The U.S. Treasury is working on plans to restrict Chinese technology investments in the United States. And there's talk that the U.S. could also put limits on visas for Chinese who want to visit or study in this country.

Kudlow told reporters the U.S. may provide a list of suggestions to China "as to what we would like to have come out of this," and those issues were under discussion.

The real March (and April) Madness: The spring that won't arrive

SIOUX CITY --  How about these new words:

Wincessant -- A winter that won’t end.

Winterminable, perhaps.

If the word blizzard was reportedly created in Siouxland, can’t we coin another? If we’re going to suffer for weeks on end, at least we could be recognized by Webster’s dictionary for it.

Siouxlanders, in large numbers, are griping about The Spring That Won't Arrive, writ large. You want snow on April 3? No one does, but there it was.

A new record low temperature for any April 4 in Northwest Iowa history? Sure, and enjoy that 7 degree low in Sioux City and 0 that occurred in Sibley Wednesday.

In other words, Siouxlanders have now experienced the real March --- and sometimes April --- Madness.

The impacts of the delayed springtime conditions are many. People are paying more than in a normal year to keep running furnaces. Lawn service firms are getting a later start to prep Siouxland yards, where there's been no neighborhood roar of mowers.

"I am bummed. I want to put my winter jacket away, permanently in the closet," Karen Ford said.

Ford was moving cars Monday at her job as office manager of Zenk Auto. By midday, she was cold as the wind picked up, so Ford bundled up more heavily with the temperature at 32 degrees, well below the seasonal average of 56 degrees. The forecast on the noon television station in Ford's office cited snow coming the next day.

"It has been a long winter, because it got very cold, very quickly, right before Christmas," Ford said.

There have been teases of a break to normal weather, with warmth to swell positive thoughts.

However, the temperature only reached 50 or above seven days in March, and the forecast says Sioux City is in a period of what could be 12 consecutive days where the daytime high will be below the historical average high. Many days, the highs have been 20 degrees below the normal temperature, including likely Saturday, when the normal high for an April 7 is 59 degrees.

People in large numbers have used Facebook accounts to post high dissatisfaction with the unseasonable conditions, using phrasings such as, "I can't wait until Mother Nature steers this listing ship of hers right into heat and humidity. Bah."

By this point one week into April, in many years Siouxlanders would have mulched yards and lots of gardeners would have met the folklore tradition of planting potatoes by Good Friday. Instead, people are biding time on those tasks, while in schools all kinds of track and golf meets are being postponed.

"It is not even really growing yet. I do have some daffodils and tulips coming up, but they are only this high," Ford said, indicating growth of about two inches with her fingers. Ford also pulled up a photo on her phone that showed lush green grass and morel mushrooms on April 20, 2017.

To begin this week on Easter Sunday, a day that conjures thoughts of rebirth, the holiday had a high temp of 38, or 18 degrees below normal for  Sioux City. The National Weather Service in Sioux Falls used a wry tweet that day to tap into April Fools Day, posting a graphic with estimated highs of 76 to 85 degrees regionally, saying, "Wow! Look at those high temperatures for this afternoon."

It wasn't that funny.

Lisa Nordstrom, a management member of the Bomgaars store on Hamilton Boulevard in Sioux City, said store officials aren't filling out the greenhouse yet, which is at least two weeks behind normal timing.

"Nursery, usually by now we have our trees in and our plants, and we are not even set up for that now," Nordstrom said.

"By now, homeowners would normally have spread Weed and Feed and crabgrass preventer on their lawns, a task not recommended until temperatures warm to at least 60 degrees three days in a row.

Tim Hynds Sioux City Journal 

Members of the Morningside College track team run past a long pile of snow just outside of lane 1 during a spring practice Wednesday at the Sioux City college.  

Lawton-Bronson High School track coach Jesse Pedersen didn't let the poor weather halt his plans for outdoor practice in Lawton, Iowa.

"Takes quite a bit to get me inside," Pedersen said of his coaching approach in inclement weather. Therefore, L-B team member Michael Richards ran wearing a hat with ear flaps in weather barely above freezing during practice Wednesday.

So when will the weather break, and continuing warmth arrive?

The weekend looks like more Wincessant, with 41 degrees for Saturday The forecast shows the high temperature may not reach the normal high for the first time in the month until Wednesday, or April 11.

"I hear people say, 'I am so sick of this,' and with the chance of snow coming on Sunday, we are hearing that again," Nordstrom said.

Lost pig on highway near Sioux City rescued by deputy in training

SIOUX CITY | The Woodbury County Sheriff's Office said Friday that a lost -- and photogenic -- pig rescued along the U.S. Highway 20 bypass in Sioux City earlier in the day is in fine condition. 

Lt. Todd Trobaugh said deputies responded to a call around 10:15 a.m. Friday from a driver that noticed a small pig loose along Highway 20. They soon recovered the female pig, who they believe slid through the panels of a trailer traveling on the roadway. 

"That's usually what happens," Trobaugh said. "Sometimes they're small enough that they squeeze through the panels and fall out." 

Following the rescue, Sheriff Dave Drew posted in Twitter a photo of Deputy in training Donavan Masters holding the pig with the caption, "This Lil piggy roaming Highway 20 at the bypass. Must of fell out of a stock trailer. Feel free to let the jokes begin #NewDeputyInTraining." 

The pig continued to gain social media notoriety as the sheriff's office posted the same photo to Facebook. The comments section was flooded with possible new names for the little pig, several suggesting law enforcement-related monikers like "Officer Crisp P. Bacon" and "Cadet Baconator." As of 3 p.m., the photo had more than 650 likes and 180 shares. 

As is protocol in such situations, the sheriff's office has transported the small pig to the Sioux City Animal Adoption and Rescue Center, where it will remain for a few days until a home can be found. 

Chris Wall, the vice president of Hannah Inc., which runs the shelter, said the pig appears to have no physical injuries. The shelter will hold it for seven days to see if anyone claims it, and if not the pig will receive a new home on a farm that the shelter has a relationship with. 

"(She's) going to be fine one way or the other," Wall said Friday afternoon. 

Wall said it's typical for animal control to assist with pig-related incidents on the highway such as overturned hog trailers, but it's rare that a single pig stops by. 

"It's not totally unheard of but it's unusual for us to just see one," he said. "We don't see it very often." 

Pigs have a demeanor that's generally on the energetic side, similar to dogs, he said, although the personality can differ depending on the pig. Wall said the rescued pig doesn't have a nickname at the shelter yet, but if it hangs around for a few more days it could end up with one. 

"We normally wait a day or two before somebody comes up with a name," he said. 

Tim Hynds Sioux City Journal 

James Abbott, University of South Dakota president, and Todd Lee, new USD men's basketball coach, walk through the crowd at the start of an introductory press conference Friday in Vermillion, S.D.

2 months out: party leaders assess Iowa Democrats hoping to take on Steve King?



SIOUX CITY -- In two months, Democratic voters in 39 Northwest and North Iowa counties head to the polls to pick a nominee for the state's 4th congressional district.

In the June 5 primary, Democrats Leann Jacobsen, John Paschen and J.D. Scholten will vie for the right to face the Republican nominee, presumbly incumbent Republican Rep. Steve King, in the November general election.

King, an eight-term incumbent from Kiron, must first get past GOP challenger Cyndi Hanson, of Sioux City.

The three Democratic candidates, who have a combined one electoral win among them, have been traveling around the sprawling 4th District since mid-2017. Democrats throughout the district are deciding which of the political newcomers is best suited to challenge King in Iowa's most heavily Republican district.

"The election is still several weeks away and the field appears to be wide open. Speaking as a 4th District Democrat, I am glad that so many qualified people have stepped forward to run," said Al Sturgeon, a lawyer from Sioux City and former Woodbury County Democratic Party Chairman.

Scholten, of Sioux City, has led in fundraising among the Democratic candidates. In fact, he brought in more than King in the quarter that ended December 2017.

Scholten played baseball for the independent league Sioux City Explorers for several years, and also has worked as a paralegal. Paschen, of Ames, is a pediatrician at the McFarland Clinic in Ames. Jacobsen, of Spencer, is a first-term member of the city council in the Clay County county seat.

The three candidates each have been talking about health care and supporting working families, and at times tweeting or speaking against what they see as divisive comments by King. Some local Democratic Party leaders say they have would have liked to see more of the candidates by now, but there are still opportunities to make inroads with voters over the final weeks before the primary.

Ken Mertes, a long-time Monona County Democratic Party official, said there is a benefit to seeing the candidates in person.

"As with everything, from being a used car salesmen to preaching to politics, the more I see you, the more likely I am to like you, Mertes said.

"None of them have had the kitchen table talks with us that we need to hear," said Julie Geopfert, chairwoman of the Webster County Democratic Party. "I would say they really need to make a few more stops in Webster County for us to get to know their positions on anything (other than) defeating Steve King."

Party leaders debate whether Scholten's campaign cash advantage makes him the front-runner or whether Jacobsen's experience as the only elected official gives her an edge. Jim Eliason, chairman of the Buena Vista County Democratic Party, said he didn't see any of the candidates with a lead.

Sturgeon said he doesn't think "Jacobson’s election to Spencer City Council has given her a huge advantage, although it certainly does not hurt."

In the last fundraising period, Scholten brought in just above $174,000, while Paschen raised almost $63,000 and Jacobsen collected more than $47,000.

"Certainly in the early stages of this campaign the front runner would appear to be J.D. Scholten," said Sturgeon, a former state legislator. "This is not just due to his more successful fundraising, which is important, but the fact that he seems to work the district very hard. probably more than anybody else in terms of Woodbury County."

Eliason noted, "Money isn't everything. (2014 Democratic nominee Jim) Mowrer outraised King and it didn't give him a win. Total obscurity is likely a big problem, but once a candidate is well known, I'm not sure that being better known is much help."

Sturgeon described Paschen as "the wild card in the race," and Eliason said the physician has been the candidate who has most often visited Buena Vista County.

Sturgeon said Paschen "is very articulate in talking about the Affordable Care Act and the need for national health insurance. If he has resources, he could parlay that background into a very effective run for the nomination."

Eliason said he recalls Paschen addressing how to "improve health care and making the campaign about issues, not personalities. Leann Jacobsen is interested in making Northwest Iowa a good place to live with activities and jobs that will retain young people, (with) affordable health care, good education and economic development."

Mertes said he's seen Scholten speak about workers rights and trade issues in Monona and Woodbury counties.

For now, Eliason said the Democratic candidates should not bash each other and point out their differences on issues. Whoever wins the primary, he added, will then need to court independents and moderate Republican voters.

"The progressive base is too small in this district to win with Democrats alone. Many moderate Republicans are sick of the extremism of King, and someone who can speak to their values can get their vote. This can be done without betraying Democratic principles, since I believe that most of these people share our values," Eliason said.