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Eastside RCU robbed at gunpoint, police seek help identifying suspect

Royal Credit Union’s east side branch office in Menomonie was held up at gunpoint. Menomonie police are asking the public for any information about the identity of the suspect.

According to a release from Menomonie Police Chief Eric Atkinson, the armed robbery took place at 12:34 p.m. on Wednesday. A man showed a teller a black, semi-automatic handgun and demanded money. The suspect is described as a white male, approximately 6’2” tall and sporting a thin dark goatee. The man was wearing thick, dark-rimmed eyeglasses, a light blue winter cap, black jacket and ski pants with white stripes on the sleeve. A red hoodie sweatshirt could be seen underneath the jacket.

The man was last seen walking westbound away from the bank. Nearby Mayo Clinic Health System-Red Cedar was placed on lockdown. Both Oaklawn Elementary and Menomonie Middle Schools were also locked down when a possible suspect was seen walking on the sidewalk in the area. The man was questioned and determined not to be the robber.

As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, the man had not yet been located.

Police are asking that anyone with information leading to the identity of the person responsible for the armed robbery to call Investigator Kelly Pollock at 715-232-2198 or Dunn County Crime Stoppers at 715-847-3866.

barbara / SUBMITTED 

Surveillance video yielded this photo of the man who held up Royal Credit Union's east branch around 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Police are searching for the man and asking for the public's help in doing so.

Putin's nuke boasts are unlikely to change balance of power

WASHINGTON — Russia’s claim to have developed new strategic weapons impervious to Western defenses seems unlikely to change the balance of global power.

Russian nuclear missiles already have the ability to annihilate the U.S., and U.S. defense strategy is based mainly on the deterrent threat of massive nuclear retaliation, not on an impenetrable shield against Russian missiles.

Some analysts said President Vladimir Putin’s statements about the new weapons may speed up what they see as an emerging arms race with the United States. Just last month the United States cast Russia as the main reason it needs to develop two new nuclear weapons: a lower-yield warhead for a submarine-launched ballistic missile and a sea-launched nuclear cruise missile.

The Trump administration has vowed to expand U.S. nuclear strength, while criticizing Russia’s buildup. Putin’s remarks seem unlikely to change that equation or divert the Trump administration from its path toward modernizing the full U.S. nuclear arsenal at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars while also expanding missile defenses.

Putin, in a state-of-the-nation speech Thursday in Moscow just days before he is expected to win another six-year presidential term, said his new weapons include a nuclear-powered cruise missile, a nuclear-powered underwater drone that could be armed with a nuclear warhead, and a hypersonic missile that has no equivalent in the world.

The Pentagon recently mentioned Russia’s work on two of those weapons: the underwater drone with intercontinental range and a hypersonic “glide vehicle,” which is a weapon that Washington and Beijing also are working on. The Pentagon has not publicly talked about the nuclear-powered cruise missile mentioned by Putin. It is reminiscent of U.S. work in the 1960s on a similar weapon, dubbed “The Big Stick,” but ultimately scrapped.

The White House dismissed Putin’s comments.

“President Putin has confirmed what the United States government has known all along, which Russia has denied: Russia has been developing destabilizing weapons systems for over a decade in direct violations of its treaty obligations,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House spokeswoman, said in response to Putin’s announcement.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert noted that Putin was speaking ahead of the March 18 election.

“We think he was playing to the audience,” she said, adding that Putin’s boasts were irresponsible. She said it was “unfortunate” to watch a Russian video animation Putin showed during his address that she said depicted “a nuclear attack on the United States.” She called the animation “cheesy.”

Although Putin said his announcement was intended to get America’s attention, he also said he was open to talks with the U.S.

“We aren’t threatening anyone, we aren’t going to attack anyone, we aren’t going to take anything from anyone,” he said.

Putin claimed his new weapons will render U.S. and European defenses useless, suggesting an escalation of the stakes in a long-running struggle for stability in the post-Cold War world. Moscow has long threatened to find technological ways around Western missile defenses that it sees as threatening and that the West denies are aimed at Russia.

Thomas Karako, a missile defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Putin’s statements are consistent with a larger pattern of Russian thinking about nuclear weapons and Russia’s role in the world. The Trump administration interprets Russian statements and actions over the past several years, including its annexation of the Crimea and military incursions into eastern Ukraine, as requiring a stronger U.S. nuclear deterrent.

Pentagon spokeswoman Dana W. White said the U.S. will stick to its insistence that U.S. missile defenses are not a threat to Russia.

“This is not about defense; it’s about deterrence,” she said, adding that the Defense Department was not surprised by Putin’s weapons claims.

Michaela Dodge, a Heritage Foundation missile defense expert, said Putin’s statements confirm that the Trump administration was right to build its recent review of nuclear weapons policy around concerns about Russia.

The administration’s view is that Russian policies and actions are fraught with potential for miscalculation leading to an uncontrolled escalation of conflict in Europe. It specifically points to a Russian doctrine known as “escalate to de-escalate,” in which Moscow would use or threaten to use lower-yield nuclear weapons in a limited, conventional conflict in Europe in the belief that doing so would compel the United States and NATO to back down.

AP writers Lolita C. Baldor, Josh Lederman and Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

ROD STETZER, The Herald  

Judge Steve Gibbs administers the oath of office Monday morning to Chippewa County District Attorney Wade Newell before a packed courthroom of Newell’s family and law enforcement officers.

White House plans tariffs on imported steel, triggering possible trade war with China

WASHINGTON — President Trump said Thursday he will sign an order next week to impose 25 percent tariffs on steel imports and 10 percent tariffs on aluminum, potentially triggering an ugly trade war with China and other countries.

He promised U.S. manufacturers that they will “have protection for a long time. … You’ll have to regrow your industries. That’s all I’m asking.”

“We are going to have much more vibrant companies,” Trump added, during a listening session with several top U.S. manufacturing executives.

The announcement came after a chaotic 12-hour period in which the president pushed for an announcement Thursday and abruptly summoned the executives to the White House.

Trump himself added to the expectations by tweeting early Thursday: “Our Steel and Aluminum industries (and many others) have been decimated by decades of unfair trade and bad policy with countries from around the world. We must not let our country, companies and workers be taken advantage of any longer. We want free, fair and SMART TRADE!”

But later in the morning, the White House appeared to pull back on making a formal announcement. Trump released the details of the plan in response to shouted questions at the end of a media availability.

Administration officials did not give a reason for the back and forth, but it was likely due to a previously scheduled visit to the White House on Thursday by a high-level emissary of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Announcing punitive actions targeting Chinese steel on the same day that Xi’s senior economic advisor, Liu He, is in town will only further rile Beijing and make retaliatory action a certainty.

Some analysts speculated that the confused timing reflected “internal chaos” in the White House, even as Trump and others in the administration are itching to follow through on his campaign promise to get tough on trade and protect American manufacturing.

The president has been weighing various options to limit imported aluminum and steel, which accounts for about one-fourth of American consumption and has left domestic mills running well below capacity. A decision to impose tariffs or quotas would represent one of Trump’s strongest actions to overhaul U.S. trade practices that he has sharply criticized for causing industrial decline and loss of jobs.

It was unclear when Trump would ultimately make an announcement. The president has until mid-April to issue his decision on steel and aluminum tariffs under the U.S. trade law under which the administration is pursuing the punitive measures. Officials are invoking a rarely used and controversial provision of the law that grants the president wide discretion to restrict imports on the grounds of national security.

Domestic producers, along with unions and lawmakers in steel-producing states, have been pressuring Trump to act swiftly, but some in the administration have sought to restrain the president, arguing that such action will hurt some American companies and consumers of steel, and possibly the U.S. economy, and is certain to raise the ire of allies and adversaries alike, and worse, triggering a costly trade war with China.

It will open a Pandora’s box, said David Loevinger, an analyst for TCW Emerging Markets Group in Los Angeles and a former senior Treasury Department official for China affairs. Other countries also will be tempted to take protectionist actions in the name of national security, he said, and other U.S. industries could seek relief from import competition for that same reason.

“It’s a real slippery slope,” he said.

In a report submitted to Trump earlier this year, the Commerce Department concluded that steel imports were “in such quantities” and “under such circumstances” that they threatened to harm national security. The Commerce report urged Trump to consider across-the-board tariffs or targeted tariffs on select countries, as well as quotas, or a combination of these.

Analysts and officials from other countries have questioned such a broad reading of “national security,” given that U.S. steel makers produce more than what’s needed for the Defense Department and its various military programs. Any sweeping new tariffs are expected to be contested at the World Trade Organization.

The Trump administration has argued that the country must ensure it has ample U.S. suppliers of steel to safeguard the nation’s economic security, which encompasses infrastructure such as energy generation, water systems and transportation networks. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has said that the United States has just one domestic maker of transformers that are essential for the country’s electrical grid.

Canada is by far the largest exporter of steel and iron to the United States, and some analysts say that Canada along with some others should be excluded from any tariff measures. China’s exports of steel to the United States have declined over the years, thanks to a host of previously imposed duties for dumping, and accounted for less than 3 percent of U.S. imports of steel and iron last year.

However, China would be a primary target of any Trump action as some Chinese-produced steel is thought to be shipped to America through other countries. Massive overproduction of the metal at Chinese mills is seen as being at the root of depressed global steel prices.

“A remedy, whether tariffs or quotas or a combination of the two, is one piece of the puzzle,” said Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, which has advocated for strong relief for domestic steel producers. “Ultimately, the administration needs to work to squeeze out overcapacity in the steel industry globally.”

Imposing curbs on steel would mark the culmination of a Trump administration investigation launched last spring, and any decision will be laden with as much political symbolism as economic significance.

As a candidate, Trump promised to take aggressive actions on steel trade in manufacturing states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, which Trump later won. The administration blamed rising steel imports for hurting employment and profits of domestic mills.

Trade experts and economists worry that steel tariffs could ratchet up already increasing trade tensions, particularly with China, the United States’ largest trading partner, with whom America has a huge trade deficit.

Recently, Trump approved hefty duties on solar panels imported from China, and his administration also has undertaken various other investigations and actions on Chinese goods and economic practices, raising concern that they could lead to a costly trade war for both sides.