“No New Foreign Students For All-Online Classes”- US

US President Donald Trump waves upon arrival to Morristown Municipal Airport, New Jersey on July 24, 2020. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP)
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Kanye West reportedly drops out of US presidential race

If multiple reports are to be believed, it appears that American rapper, Kanye West’s potential journey to the White House has officially ended.

Continue reading “Kanye West reportedly drops out of US presidential race”

Slavery. We know why Covid-19 is killing black people in the US

People waiting for a distribution of masks and food in Harlem, New York City.Credit…Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press

By Sabrina Strings
Dr. Strings is an associate professor of sociology at the University of California at Irvine

About five years ago, I was invited to sit in on a meeting about health in the African-American community. Several important figures in the fields of public health and economics were present. A freshly minted Ph.D., I felt strangely like an interloper. I was also the only black person in the room.

One of the facilitators introduced me to the other participants and said something to the effect of “Sabrina, what do you think? Why are black people sick?”

It was a question asked in earnest. Some of the experts had devoted their entire careers to addressing questions surrounding racial health inequities. Years of research, and in some instances failed interventions, had left them baffled. Why are black people so sick?

My answer was swift and unequivocal.

“Slavery.”

My colleagues looked befuddled as they tried to come to terms with my reply.

I meant what I said: The era of slavery was when white Americans determined that black Americans needed only the bare necessities, not enough to keep them optimally safe and healthy. It set in motion black people’s diminished access to healthy foods, safe working conditions, medical treatment and a host of other social inequities that negatively impact health.

This message is particularly important in a moment when African-Americans have experienced the highest rates of severe complications and death from the coronavirus and “obesity” has surfaced as an explanation. The cultural narrative that black people’s weight is a harbinger of disease and death has long served as a dangerous distraction from the real sources of inequality, and it’s happening again.

Reliable data are hard to come by, but available analyses show that on average, the rate of black fatalities is 2.4 times that of whites with Covid-19. In states including Michigan, Kansas and Wisconsin and in Washington, D.C., that ratio jumps to five to seven black people dying of Covid-19 complications for every one white death.

Details of the death certificate for a black man who died of the coronavirus in April.
Details of the death certificate for a black man who died of the coronavirus in April.Credit…David Ryder/Reuters

Despite the lack of clarity surrounding these findings, one interpretation of these disparities that has gained traction is the idea that black people are unduly obese (currently defined as a body mass index greater than 30) which is seen as a driver of other chronic illnesses and is believed to put black people at high risk for serious complications from Covid-19.

These claims have received intense media attention, despite the fact that scientists haven’t been able to sufficiently explain the link between obesity and Covid-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 42.2 percent of white Americans and 49.6 percent of African-Americans are obese. Researchers have yet to clarify how a 7 percentage-point disparity in obesity prevalence translates to a 240 percent-700 percent disparity in fatalities.

Experts have raised questions about the rush to implicate obesity, and especially “severe obesity” (B.M.I. greater than 40), as a factor in coronavirus complications. An article in the medical journal The Lancet evaluated Britain’s inclusion of obesity as a risk factor for coronavirus complications and retorted, “To date, no available data show adverse Covid-19 outcomes specifically in people with a BMI of 40 kg/m2.” The authors concluded, “The scarcity of information regarding the increased risk of illness for people with a BMI higher than 40 kg/m2 has led to ambiguity and might increase anxiety, given that these individuals have now been categorised as vulnerable to severe illness if they contract Covid-19.”

Promoting strained associations between race, body size, and complications from this little-understood disease has served to reinforce an image of black people as wholly swept up in sensuous pleasures like eating and drinking, which supposedly makes our unruly bodies repositories of preventable weight-related illnesses. The attitudes I see today have echoes of what I described in “Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia.” My research showed that anti-fat attitudes originated not with medical findings, but with Enlightenment-era belief that overfeeding and fatness were evidence of “savagery” and racial inferiority.

Today, the stakes of these discussions could not be higher. When I learned about guidelines suggesting that doctors may use existing health conditions, including obesity, to deny or limit eligibility to lifesaving coronavirus treatments, I couldn’t help thinking of the slavery-era debates I’ve studied about whether or not so-called “constitutionally weak” African-Americans should receive medical care.

Fortunately, since that event I attended five years ago, experts focused on the health of African-Americans have continued to work to direct the nation’s attention away from individual-level factors.

The New York Times’1619 Project featured essays detailing how the legacy of slavery impacted health and health care for African-Americans and explaining how, since the since the era of slavery, black people’s bodies have been labeled congenitally diseased and undeserving of access to lifesaving treatments.

In a recent essay addressing Covid-19 specifically, Rashawn Ray underscored the legacy of redlining that pushed black people into poor, densely populated communities often with limited access to health care. And he pointed out that black people are overrepresented in service positions and as essential workers who have greater exposure than those with the luxury of sheltering in place. Ibram X. Kendi has written that the “irresponsible behavior of disproportionately poor people of color” — often cited as an important factor in health disparities — is a scapegoat directing American’s attention from the centrality of systemic racism in current racial health inequities.

Evaluating the inadequate and questionable data about race, weight and Covid-19 complications with these insights in mind makes it clear that obesity — and its affiliated, if incorrect implication of poor lifestyle choices — should not be front and center when it comes to understanding how this pandemic has affected African-Americans.Even before Covid-19, black Americans had higher rates of multiple chronic illnesses and a lower life expectancy than white Americans, regardless of weight. This is an indication that our social structures are failing us. These failings — and the accompanying embrace of the belief that black bodies are uniquely flawed — are rooted in a shameful era of American history that took place hundreds of years before this pandemic.

Sabrina Strings is an associate professor of sociology at the University of California at Irvine and the author of Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia.

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U.S. evacuates citizen who tested positive to coronavirus in Nigeria

Akin Abayomi, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, provided the information on his Twitter handle on Wednesday.

Mr Abayomi said eight patients out of the 82 confirmed cases in Lagos have been discharged from the isolation facility following their full recovery while an American has been evacuated.

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“One of the confirmed case who is an American citizen has been evacuated to USA,” Mr Abayomi, a professor, who coordinates the Lagos government’s COVID-19 response, said.

The U.S. government had earlier said it was preparing evacuation flights for its citizens in Nigeria due to COVID-19.

In a notice released last Friday by the U.S. Consulate tagged ‘Health Alert’, U.S. citizens were told to prepare to join the arranged flights that would evacuate them from Nigeria, PUNCH newspaper reported.

U.S. citizens in different states of Nigeria were enjoined to find their way to Abuja and Lagos for the evacuation process.

“We will email US citizens immediately once we have flights details, routes, and costs,” the notice read.

Mr Abayomi has now confirmed that the U.S. citizen in the Lagos government facility has been evacuated.

Prof Akin Abayomi

The U.S., like Nigeria and the rest of the world, is currently battling the COVID-19 pandemic. The situation is, however, worse in the U.S. where over 200,000 people have been infected and over 5,000 dead.

U.S. deaths from the virus are projected to rise to over 100,000 in the next few weeks as various American states battle with insufficient equipment to treat patients.

In Nigeria, 174 people have tested positive for the virus including two deaths.

Lagos is still the state with the highest confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country with 91 cases out of the total 174 cases nationwide, followed by Abuja which has 35 cases.


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Twelve states and Abuja have confirmed cases of coronavirus out of the 36 states in Nigeria. The health authorities have also said more cases will be recorded as contact tracing continues nationwide.

Coronavirus: President Donald trump may have been infected

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Tony Fauci (left) speaks to President Trump during a tour of the National Institutes of Health’s Vaccine Research Center in Bethesda, Maryland, on March 3, 2020.
 Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro who is 64, was tested for the coronavirus earlier this week after his top aide, press secretary Fábio Wajngarten, tested positive for the virus. That result came after Bolsonaro, and Wajngarten, had visited with President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago over the weekend, which means the US president could also been exposed to the virus.

Bolsonaro’s visit to Mar-a-Lago has implications for other world leaders, specifically President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, the latter of whom is leading America’s coronavirus response.

ut Bolsonaro, along with Wajngarten, the press aide who tested positive for the coronavirus, didn’t just visit with Trump and Pence at Mar-a-Lago over the weekend. Other US lawmakers were also present for the meeting, including Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Rick Scott (R-FL), who have since placed themselves in self-isolation due to those contacts.

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Miami Mayor Francis Suarez — who met with Bolsonaro and his staff this weekend when they visited Florida — also announced Friday that he’d tested positive for the coronavirus.

The White House said Thursday that Trump or Pence did not currently require testing for the coronavirus because they had “almost no interactions” with Wajngarten. Still, this goes against the CDC’s guidelines that instruct individuals to separate themselves if they are “reasonably believed to have been exposed to a communicable disease but not yet symptomatic.”

Trump, like Bolsonaro, has downplayed the coronavirus. In February, Trump said the coronavirus was “very much under control in the USA,” while also saying the number of cases would remain low and that it might go away in warmer weather, of which there’s no evidence right now.


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“Thirty-two is too many,” he added of the number of cases then. “But when you look at the kind of numbers that you’re seeing coming out of other countries, it’s pretty amazing when you think of it. So, that’s it.”

The number of cases in the US has since risen sharply, with dozens of deaths as of March 13. While the Trump administration is taking increased measures, including an imminent national emergency declaration, the president can’t easily undo his previous mixed messages, or his spread of misinformation. The same goes for Bolsonaro.

Multiple times during this press conference, Trump has been asked about the Brazilian official whom he met and who subsequently tested positive. He was asked if he was offering different advice to Americans than he’s practising himself.

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I think they have to listen to their doctors and they shouldn’t be jumping to get the test unless they have it.

In response to a followup question Trump said he would be tested “fairly soon.”

The Consequences of Sudan on US terrorism blacklist

If Washington wants to be on the right side of history, it must open the way for Sudan to receive economic support.

A child looks on as the Sudanese prime minister Abdalla Hamdok visits a camp for displaced people in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state. Photograph: Ashraf Shazly/AFP via Getty Images

Over the past year, the Sudanese people have staged a near miraculous revolution, overthrowing the 30-year dictatorship of President Omar al-Bashir.

Following mediation led by the African Union and Ethiopia, a transitional government consisting of civilians and military generals is headed by Abdalla Hamdok, a veteran economist untainted by the decades of corruption and misrule. It is the best compromise: the army, and especially the paramilitary Rapid Support Force, are simply too powerful to be removed from politics in one fell swoop.

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At the UN general assembly in September, and last week in Washington DC, Hamdok made a series of good-faith policy pledges to return Sudan to the club of respectable nations.

Hamdok is charged with the gargantuan task of steering Sudan out of crisis and into a period of economic stability and growth. But what brought the first demonstrators on to the streets a year ago was rampant inflation and the collapse of the wage-earning economy: ordinary people simply couldn’t afford to buy bread or fuel. That hasn’t changed. The economy remains on the slide towards hyperinflation and the people towards possible famine.

Wealthy Gulf states – Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – bailed out Sudan with $3.5bn (£2.65bn) worth of cash and commodities earlier this year. That was never enough, given the magnitude of the crisis, and it is running out.

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What Sudan needs is for its debt to be rescheduled and sanctions against it lifted. That will require action by the US to remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism (SST). Among other restrictions, inclusion on the list prohibits economic assistance, including loans from the World Bank and other international financial institutions.

International sanctions on Sudan began shortly after the last democratic revolution in 1985, when the International Monetary Fund suspended the country for non-payment of arrears on its debts. Intended to compel fiscal responsibility, that economic shackle condemned the democratic government to failure. So began a catalogue of foreign sanctions, mostly a story of mishap and failure.


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In 1993, the US designated Sudan as an SST. Four years later, it imposed comprehensive economic, trade, and financial sanctions. In 2007, in response to the Darfur atrocities, Washington imposed further measures including individually targeted asset freezes. The measures hurt the regime, but also the people.

The economic and trade sanctions were eased in 2017-18, in a rare example of policy continuity between the Obama and Trump administrations. But the biggest measure remains in place: the SST listing. That basically prohibits anyone from doing business with Sudan without a special licence from the US Treasury; the alternative is prosecution.

And while legitimate business stays shackled, illicit business continues to thrive. Sudanese people call it the “deep state” – at best crony capitalists profiteering from oil and gold sales, and from the security agencies’ lockdown of the financial and telecom sectors, and at worst mafia cartels. Along with their soldiers on the streets, this financial muscle is the power base of the generals.Advertisement

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The military oligarchs’ power will start eroding when exposed to the fair winds of free competition – when sanctions are lifted.

The state department candidly admits that all its main objectives have been met: Sudan isn’t a state sponsor of terror and, indeed, has been cooperating with the US for years; it let South Sudan secede peacefully, and has been assisting in trying to resolve its neighbour’s civil war; and it is committed to democratic reform, and peace with the remaining provincial rebels in Darfur and Southern Kordofan.

But the US has not yet properly recognised the once-in-a-generation achievement of the Sudanese people. Last week, Washington made the symbolic gesture of sending an ambassador to Khartoum and followed up with promises of incremental progress towards normalising relations. But removing the SST listing has been made dependent on Hamdok enacting a series of reforms, which is like sending a boxer into the ring with one hand tied behind his back, telling him: “If you can knock out the other guy, then we will untie your hand.”

If Sudan’s economy slides into complete meltdown and the civilian administration fails, the rug pulled from under Hamdok’s feet will have “Made in the US” written all over it.

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If the US administration – and Congress, which must approve the lifting of sanctions – wants to be on the right side of history in Sudan, it must respond expeditiously to the Sudanese people’s plea.


• El-Ghassim Wane is a former African Union and UN official with responsibilities for peace and security. Abdul Mohammed is chief of staff of the African Union high-level implementation panel for Sudan and South Sudan, speaking in a personal capacity; Alex de Waal is executive director of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University

US National Security Advisor John Bolton sees China as a threat to Washington in Africa.

Why is Africa still so important to the US

By Maria Ryan


US National Security Advisor John Bolton sees China as a threat to Washington in Africa.
US National Security Advisor John Bolton sees China as a threat to Washington in Africa. John Bolton is pictured. | AP Photo/Politico

In December last year the US National Security Advisor, John Bolton, gave a speech at the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC, in which he outlined the Trump administration’s new Africa strategy. According to Bolton, the US now faces “great power competitors” – namely Russia and China. In his view [they both]

are rapidly expanding their financial and political influence across Africa… to gain a competitive advantage over the United States.

Bolton’s portrayal of great power competition sounded like the Cold War era when the US and the communist powers, led by the Soviet Union, fought for influence over the new states emerging from colonialism across sub Saharan Africa.

At the end of the Cold War, the US withdrew almost completely from Africa. In the 1990s, Washington distanced itself from an area of the world in which it no longer saw any vital interests.

But in the 21st century there has been a significant turnaround in US policy. What’s emerged is a return to seeing sub-Saharan Africa as a site of US geopolitical and commercial interests.

This reversal is based on three factors. The first is the increasing significance of new African oil supplies. The second is the alleged presence of terrorists in the “large uncontrolled, ungoverned areas” of sub-Saharan Africa. And the third is the emergence of middle class African consumers as a potential new market for US exports.

Oil

Under George W. Bush, the US recognised that African oil from the Gulf of Guinea had become an “important factor in determining conditions in the oil market.”

Africa was also home to

a number of frontier oil provinces that may become hot exploration areas during the coming decade.

These included São Tomé and Principe, Gambia, Liberia, Togo, Benin and Niger.

Washington launched a programme to improve transparency in the oil sectors of the major African producers to make these countries

better hosts to the very large investments needed to develop energy resources and make more reliable contributions to our own energy security.

Energy security considerations led to more US military activity in the Gulf of Guinea. In 2004, Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Charles Snyder, called  for a West African coastal security programme because

a lot of this new oil is actually offshore. There is no one to protect it, unless we build up African coastal fleets.

This led to the launch of the US Navy’s Africa Partnership Station in 2007 to help Gulf of Guinea states secure the region from security threats at sea.

The focus on energy security continued through the Obama years. The Obama administration established Operation Obangame Express, and the African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership to train Gulf of Guinea nations to protect offshore energy.

Both have been continued under the Trump administration.

Counter-terrorism

The terrorist attacks on the US in September 2001 resulted in a new counter-terrorism dimension to US security strategy in sub-Saharan Africa. The region began to be viewed as part of an “arc of instability” stretching from Latin America, through Africa and the Middle East and extending through Asia. Its “ungoverned space and under-governed territories” might provide “sanctuary to terrorists.”

To prevent this, the Bush and Obama administrations established a series of programmes designed to strengthen border security and build internal security. A number of initiatives were launched in a bid to build security capacity in African states thought, by Washington, to be vulnerable to penetration by terrorists.

These included (to name but a few), the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (2002-present), the Partnership for Regional East African Counterterrorism (2009-present) and the Counter-terrorism Partnerships Funding (2014-present).

The expanding US military presence in Africa was symbolised by the establishment in 2007 of a new US military command structure, Africa Command(AFRICOM). It took charge of all US military activity on the continent, including the bombing of Somalia.

Commercial drivers

Finally, US interest in Africa has been driven in recent years by commercial considerations. In April 2012, the Assistant US Trade Representative, Florizelle Liser, told Congress that sub-Saharan Africa contained

many of the fastest growing economies in the world with rapidly growing middle class consumers

who were “increasingly demanding high quality US products.”

One result was a law passed in 2012 that sought to increase American Jobs through greater exports to Africa.

Commercial opportunities in Africa were also at the heart of the first ever US-Africa Leaders Summit in 2014. This saw the launch of the Doing Business in Africa campaign.

What now

The Trump administration’s expansion of the bombing of Somalia, its continuation of Bush and Obama era counterterrorism programmes, and its own new strategy for Africa suggest that policymakers continue to view the continent through a geopolitical lens.

The particular twist put on this by Trump is his emphasis on the competition the US faces from China – but this is hard to imagine given that China has just one military base in Africa.

But the Trump administration must learn from mistakes made in the recent past by Bush and Obama. This includes the negative impact US action has had in some instances. Take its support for the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2006 and for the subsequent Ethiopian-led occupation force. These actions contributed to the development of Al Shabaab, the extreme Islamist group that merged with Al Qaeda in 2012 and began to conduct attacks in other countries.

report by the US Senate concluded that:

Al Qaeda is now a more sophisticated and dangerous organization in Africa… [It]s foothold in Somalia has probably been facilitated by the involvement of Western powers and their allies.

It is likely that US air strikes in Somalia “have only increased popular support for Al-Shabaab.”

More broadly, Washington’s internal security and capacity building initiatives have not worked. If anything, terrorism in Africa has worsenedwith the emergence of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in Mali and Boko Haram in Nigeria.

US policymakers need to think again about whether a security agenda based on US priorities and choices will always solve the problems sub-Saharan African states face.


Maria Ryan has received funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

VIDEO: Atiku arrives US after all the speculations

Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has arrived in the United States of America.

He landed at the Washington Dulles International Airport on Thursday evening, accompanied by Senate President Bukola Saraki.

He hadn’t stepped on American soil for well over decade dating back to his vice presidency, allegedly due to the belief he would be arrested for allegations of corruption, including one by US congressman Williams Jefferson that part of the $100,000 cash found in his refrigerator was intended as bribe for Atiku for his role in helping American firm iGate secure a contract to expand broadband in Nigeria.

However, in October, Atiku Abubakar, Gbenga Daniel, Director-General of the Atiku Presidential Campaign Orgsanisation (APCO), said his principal had received “signals from American officials” to apply for visa and it would be granted.

Despite the protestations of Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information, that the United States should exercise caution in granting visa to Atiku, it was reported in December that the visa had indeed been granted.

“Atiku will travel to the US any moment from now, and it could even be on Thursday,” a source very familiar with the development had told said late Wednesday. “He is still afraid the coast is not completely clear, and he could be harassed or arrested once he steps in. But I can authoritatively confirm that he will indeed be going to the US very, very, very soon.”

We need a high wall with a big gate

With Trump using immigration simply for political gain, Democrats need to be the adults and offer a realistic, comprehensive approach.

Kamala Harris, the Democratic senator from California, recently raised eyebrows when she asked Ronald Vitiello, President Trump’s nominee to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement, whether he appreciated the “perception” that ICE spreads “fear and intimidation” among immigrants the way the Ku Klux Klan did among blacks.

Harris carefully worded her question around the “perception” of ICE — and it was raised in part because Vitiello had once shamefully tweeted that Democrats were “the NeoKlanist party.” Nevertheless, with Harris a likely Democratic presidential candidate in 2020, Republican media pounced on her with variations of: “Hey voters, get this: Democrats think the ICE officers protecting you from illegal immigrants are like the K.K.K. You gonna vote for that?”

ICE does seem to have a bad culture, but it is not the K.K.K. At the same time, I don’t think the Democratic Party is just for open borders. Alas, though, I’m also not sure what exactly is the party’s standard on immigration — and questions like Harris’s leave it open to demonization.

Since Republicans have completely caved to Trump’s craven exploitation of immigration as a wedge issue, the country, as usual, needs the Democrats to be the adults and put forward a realistic, comprehensive approach to immigration, which now requires two parts.

The first is a way to think about the border and the second is a way to think about all the issues beyond the border — issues that are pushing migrants our way. You cannot think seriously about the first without thinking seriously about the second, and if you don’t, this week’s scenes of Customs and Border Protection officers firing tear gas to keep out desperate migrants near Tijuana will get a lot worse.

Regarding the border, the right place for Democrats to be is for a high wall with a big gate.

Democrats won’t do as well as they can nationallywithout assuring Americans that they’re committed to securing our borders; people can’t just walk in. But the country won’t do as well as it can in the 21st century unless it remains committed to a very generous legal immigration policy — and a realistic pathway to citizenship for illegals already here — to attract both high-energy, low-skilled workers and high-I.Q. risk takers.

They have been the renewable energy source of the American dream — and our secret advantage over China.

But thinking beyond the borderis where Democrats can really distinguish themselves; it’s where Trump has been recklessly AWOL.

This is how we got to where we are today: During the 19th and 20th centuries, the world shifted from being governed by large empires in many regions to being governed by independent nation-states. And the 50 years after World War II were a great time to be a weak little nation-state.

Why? Because there were two superpowers competing for your affection by throwing foreign aid at you, building your army, buying your cheap goods and educating your college students; climate change was moderate; populations were still under control in the developing world; no one had a cellphone to easily organize movements against your government; and China was not in the World Trade Organization, so everyone could be in textiles and other low-wage industries.

All of that switched in the early 21st century: Climate-driven extreme weather — floods, droughts, heat and cold — on top of man-made deforestation began to hammer many countries, especially their small-scale farmers. This happened right as developing-world populations exploded. Africa went from 140 million in 1900 to one billion in 2010 to a projected 2.5 billion by 2050.

Syria grew from three million people in 1950 to over 22 million today, which, along with droughts, totally stressed its water resources. Guatemala, the main source of the migrant caravan heading our way, has been ravaged by deforestation thanks to illegal logging, farmers cutting trees for firewood and drug traffickers creating landing strips and smuggling trails.

A satellite map just released by University of Cincinnati geography researchers demonstrated that nearly a quarter of the earth’s habitable surface changed between just 1992 and 2015, primarily from forests to agriculture, from grasslands to deserts and from wetlands to urban concrete.

Meanwhile, the internet has enabled citizens to easily compare their living standards with those in Paris or Phoenix — and find a human trafficker to take them there. Also, China joined the W.T.O., dominating low-wage industries, and the end of the Cold War meant no superpower wanted to touch your country, because all it would win was a bill.

So it’s now much harder to be an average little country. The most frail of them are hemorrhaging people, like Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Sudan and most every nation in sub-Saharan Africa. Others — Venezuela, Syria, Afghanistan and Libya — have just fractured.

Together, they’re creating vast zones of disorder, and many people want to get out of them into any zone of order, particularly America or Europe, triggering nationalist-populist backlashes.

Why? Because there were two superpowers competing for your affection by throwing foreign aid at you, building your army, buying your cheap goods and educating your college students; climate change was moderate; populations were still under control in the developing world; no one had a cellphone to easily organize movements against your government; and China was not in the World Trade Organization, so everyone could be in textiles and other low-wage industries.

All of that switched in the early 21st century: Climate-driven extreme weather — floods, droughts, heat and cold — on top of man-made deforestation began to hammer many countries, especially their small-scale farmers. This happened right as developing-world populations exploded. Africa went from 140 million in 1900 to one billion in 2010 to a projected 2.5 billion by 2050.

Syria grew from three million people in 1950 to over 22 million today, which, along with droughts, totally stressed its water resources. Guatemala, the main source of the migrant caravan heading our way, has been ravaged by deforestation thanks to illegal logging, farmers cutting trees for firewood and drug traffickers creating landing strips and smuggling trails.

A satellite map just released by University of Cincinnati geography researchers demonstrated that nearly a quarter of the earth’s habitable surface changed between just 1992 and 2015, primarily from forests to agriculture, from grasslands to deserts and from wetlands to urban concrete.

Meanwhile, the internet has enabled citizens to easily compare their living standards with those in Paris or Phoenix — and find a human trafficker to take them there. Also, China joined the W.T.O., dominating low-wage industries, and the end of the Cold War meant no superpower wanted to touch your country, because all it would win was a bill.

So it’s now much harder to be an average little country. The most frail of them are hemorrhaging people, like Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Sudan and most every nation in sub-Saharan Africa. Others — Venezuela, Syria, Afghanistan and Libya — have just fractured.

Together, they’re creating vast zones of disorder, and many people want to get out of them into any zone of order, particularly America or Europe, triggering nationalist-populist backlashes.

Melania Trump handed out blankets and teddy bears at an open-air clinic at Accra's Ridge Hospital. Photo: BBC

Melania Trump arrives Ghana, visits Accra hospital

US First Lady Melania Trump’s two-day visit to Ghana has kicked off with a visit to a hospital in the capital, Accra. Earlier on, she had tea with Ghana’s first lady at the presidential palace.

Melania Trump handed out blankets and teddy bears at an open-air clinic at Accra's Ridge Hospital. Photo: BBC

With support from the US Agency for International Development (USAid) Mrs Trump hopes to explore ways to support Ghana in enhancing healthcare for mothers and their newborns.

Her visit is also likely to boost tourism in Ghana, according to Information Minister Kojo Oppong-Nkruma.

But a Bloomberg journalist tweets that local reaction to the US first lady’s visit, however, has been underwhelming.

Some observers in Ghana say her visit is an indication of US President Donald Trump’s resolve to engage with African nations after largely ignoring the continent since his start in office.


Cover photo: Melania Trump handed out blankets and teddy bears at an open-air clinic at Accra’s Ridge Hospital. Photo: BBC

US First Lady Melania Trump is on her way on a trip to Africa

U.S. first lady Melania Trump departed for Africa on Monday for a four-country trip that serves as her first major solo sojourn abroad on behalf of her husband President Donald Trump’s administration.

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Mrs. Trump is scheduled to make stops in Ghana, Malawi, Kenya and Egypt in a nearly week-long trip to focus on children’s issues. She is due to arrive in Accra on Tuesday.

President Trump has not visited Africa since entering office in 2017, but he has garnered sharp criticism for reportedly referring to immigrants from African countries with a derogatory term.

“I was raped at 16 and I kept silent”

When I was 16 years old, I started dating a guy I met at the Puente Hills Mall in a Los Angeles suburb.

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I worked there after school at the accessories counter at Robinsons-May. He worked at a high-end men’s store. He would come in wearing a gray silk suit and flirt with me. He was in college, and I thought he was charming and handsome. He was 23.

When we went out, he would park the car and come in and sit on our couch and talk to my mother. He never brought me home late on a school night. We were intimate to a point, but he knew that I was a virgin and that I was unsure of when I would be ready to have sex.

On New Year’s Eve, just a few months after we first started dating, he raped me.

I have been turning that incident over in my head throughout the past week, as two women have come forward to detail accusations against the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Christine Blasey Ford said he climbed on her and covered her mouth during an attempted rape when they were both in high school, and Deborah Ramirez said he exposed himself to her when they were in college.

On Friday, President Trump tweeted that if what Dr. Blasey said was true, she would have filed a police report years ago. But I understand why both women would keep this information to themselves for so many years, without involving the police. For years, I did the same thing. On Friday, I tweeted about what had happened to me so many years ago.

You may want to know if I had been drinking on the night of my rape. It doesn’t matter, but I was not drunk. Maybe you will want to know what I was wearing or if I had been ambiguous about my desires. It still doesn’t matter, but I was wearing a long-sleeved, black Betsey Johnson maxi dress that revealed only my shoulders.

The two of us had gone to a couple of parties. Afterward, we went to his apartment. While we were talking, I was so tired that I lay on the bed and fell asleep.

The next thing I remember is waking up to a very sharp stabbing pain like a knife blade between my legs. He was on top of me. I asked, “What are you doing?” He said, “It will only hurt for a while.” “Please don’t do this,” I screamed.

The pain was excruciating, and as he continued, my tears felt like fear.

Afterward, he said, “I thought it would hurt less if you were asleep.” Then he drove me home.

I didn’t report it. Not to my mother, not to my friends and certainly not to the police. At first I was in shock. That evening, I let my mother know when I was home, then went to sleep, hoping to forget that night.

Soon I began to feel that it was my fault. We had no language in the 1980s for date rape. I imagined that adults would say: “What the hell were you doing in his apartment? Why were you dating someone so much older?”

I don’t think I classified it as rape — or even sex — in my head. I’d always thought that when I lost my virginity, it would be a big deal — or at least a conscious decision. The loss of control was disorienting. In my mind, when I one day had intercourse, it would be to express love, to share pleasure or to have a baby. This was clearly none of those things.

Later, when I had other boyfriends my senior year of high school and in my first year of college, I lied to them — I said I was still a virgin. Emotionally, I still was.

When I think about it now, I realize that by the time of this rape, I had already absorbed certain lessons. When I was 7 years old, my stepfather’s relative touched me between my legs and put my hand on his erect penis. Shortly after I told my mother and stepfather, they sent me to India for a year to live with my grandparents. The lesson was: If you speak up, you will be cast out.

These experiences have affected me and my ability to trust. It took me decades to talk about this with intimate partners and a therapist.

Some say a man shouldn’t pay a price for an act he committed as a teenager. But the woman pays the price for the rest of her life, and so do the people who love her.

I think if I had at the time named what happened to me as rape — and told others — I might have suffered less. Looking back, I now think I let my rapist off the hook and I let my 16-year-old self down.

I have a daughter now. She’s 8. For years I’ve been telling her the simplest and most obvious words that it took me much of my life to understand: “If anybody touches you in your privates or makes you feel uncomfortable, you yell loud. You get out of there and tell somebody. Nobody is allowed to put their hands on you. Your body is yours.”

Now, 32 years after my rape, I am stating publicly what happened. I have nothing to gain by talking about this. But we all have a lot to lose if we put a time limit on telling the truth about sexual assault and if we hold on to the codes of silence that for generations have allowed men to hurt women with impunity.

One in four girls and one in six boys today will be sexually abused before the age of 18. I am speaking now because I want us all to fight so that our daughters never know this fear and shame and our sons know that girls’ bodies do not exist for their pleasure and that abuse has grave consequences.

Those messages should be very clear as we consider whom we appoint to make decisions on the highest court of our land.


Padma Lakshmi (@PadmaLakshmi) is the host and executive producer of “Top Chef,” the author of books including “Love, Loss and What We Ate” and an A.C.L.U. ambassador for immigration and women’s rights.

A version of this article appeared on The New York with the headline: I Was Raped at 16 and I Kept Silent.
In this photo taken Monday, April 16, 2018, a U.S. and Niger flag are raised side by side at the base camp for air forces and other personnel supporting the construction of Niger Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger. On the scorching edge of the Sahara Desert, the U.S. Air Force is building a base for armed drones, the newest front in America's battle against the growing extremist threat in Africa's vast Sahel region. Three hangars and the first layers of a runway command a sandy, barren field. Niger Air Base 201 is expected to be functional early next year. (AP Photo/Carley Petesch)

Trump is expanding C.I.A. Drone Mission in Africa that Obama curtailed

The C.I.A. is poised to conduct secret drone strikes against Qaeda and Islamic State insurgents from a newly expanded air base deep in the Sahara, making aggressive use of powers that were scaled back during the Obama administration and restored by President Trump.

In this photo taken Monday, April 16, 2018, a U.S. and Niger flag are raised side by side at the base camp for air forces and other personnel supporting the construction of Niger Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger. On the scorching edge of the Sahara Desert, the U.S. Air Force is building a base for armed drones, the newest front in America's battle against the growing extremist threat in Africa's vast Sahel region. Three hangars and the first layers of a runway command a sandy, barren field. Niger Air Base 201 is expected to be functional early next year. (AP Photo/Carley Petesch)

Late in his presidency, Barack Obama sought to put the military in charge of drone attacks after a backlash arose over a series of highly visible strikes, some of which killed civilians. The move was intended, in part, to bring greater transparency to attacks that the United States often refused to acknowledge its role in.

But now the C.I.A. is broadening its drone operations, moving aircraft to northeastern Niger to hunt Islamist militants in southern Libya. The expansion adds to the agency’s limited covert missions in eastern Afghanistan for strikes in Pakistan, and in southern Saudi Arabia for attacks in Yemen.

Nigerien and American officials said the C.I.A. had been flying drones on surveillance missions for several months from a corner of a small commercial airport in Dirkou. Satellite imagery shows that the airport has grown significantly since February to include a new taxiway, walls and security posts.

One American official said the drones had not yet been used in lethal missions, but would almost certainly be in the near future, given the growing threat in southern Libya. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the secretive operations.

A C.I.A. spokesman, Timothy Barrett, declined to comment. A Defense Department spokeswoman, Maj. Sheryll Klinkel, said the military had maintained a base at the Dirkou airfield for several months but did not fly drone missions from there.

The drones take off from Dirkou at night — typically between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. — buzzing in the clear, starlit desert sky. A New York Times reporter saw the gray aircraft — about the size of Predator drones, which are 27 feet long — flying at least three times over six days in early August. Unlike small passenger planes that land occasionally at the airport, the drones have no blinking lights signaling their presence.

“All I know is they’re American,” Niger’s interior minister, Mohamed Bazoum, said in an interview. He offered few other details about the drones.

Dirkou’s mayor, Boubakar Jerome, said the drones had helped improve the town’s security. “It’s always good. If people see things like that, they’ll be scared,” Mr. Jerome said.

Mr. Obama had curtailed the C.I.A.’s lethal role by limiting its drone flights, notably in Yemen. Some strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere that accidentally killed civilians, stirring outrage among foreign diplomats and military officials, were shielded because of the C.I.A.’s secrecy.

As part of the shift, the Pentagon was given the unambiguous lead for such operations. The move sought, in part, to end an often awkward charade in which the United States would not concede its responsibility for strikes that were abundantly covered by news organizations and tallied by watchdog groups. However, the C.I.A. program was not fully shut down worldwide, as the agency and its supporters in Congress balked.

The drone policy was changed last year, after Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director at the time, made a forceful case to President Trump that the agency’s broader counterterrorism efforts were being needlessly constrained. The Dirkou base was already up and running by the time Mr. Pompeo stepped down as head of the C.I.A. in April to become Mr. Trump’s secretary of state.

The Pentagon’s Africa Command has carried out five drone strikes against Qaeda and Islamic State militants in Libya this year, including one two weeks ago. The military launches its MQ-9 Reaper drones from bases in Sicily and in Niamey, Niger’s capital, 800 miles southwest of Dirkou.

But the C.I.A. base is hundreds of miles closer to southwestern Libya, a notorious haven for Al Qaeda and other extremist groups that also operate in the Sahel region of Niger, Chad, Mali and Algeria. It is also closer to southern Libya than a new $110 million drone base in Agadez, Niger, 350 miles west of Dirkou, where the Pentagon plans to operate armed Reaper drone missions by early next year.

Another American official said the C.I.A. began setting up the base in January to improve surveillance of the region, partly in response to an ambush last fall in another part of Niger that killed four American troops. The Dirkou airfield was labeled a United States Air Force base as a cover, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential operational matters.

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Dirkou is an oasis town of a few thousand people in the open desert, 300 miles south of the Libyan border. Photo: Joe Penney for The New York Times

The town has a handful of narrow, sandy roads. Small trees dot the horizon. Date and neem trees line the streets, providing shelter for people escaping the oppressive midday heat. There is a small market, where goods for sale include spaghetti imported from Libya. Gasoline is also imported from Libya and is cheaper than elsewhere in the country.

The drones based in Dirkou are loud, and their humming and buzzing drowns out the bleats of goats and crows of roosters.

“It stops me from sleeping,” said Ajimi Koddo, 45, a former migrant smuggler. “They need to go. They go in our village, and it annoys us too much.”

Satellite imagery shows that construction started in February on a new compound at the Dirkou airstrip. Since then, the facility has been extended to include a larger paved taxiway and a clamshell tent connected to the airstrip — all features that are consistent with the deployment of small aircraft, possibly drones.

Five defensive positions were set up around the airport, and there appear to be new security gates and checkpoints both to the compound and the broader airport.

It’s not the first time that Washington has eyed with interest Dirkou’s tiny base. In the late 1980s, the United States spent $3.2 million renovating the airstrip in an effort to bolster Niger’s government against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, then the leader of Libya.

Compared with other parts of Africa, the C.I.A.’s presence in the continent’s northwest is relatively light, according to a former State Department official who served in the region. In this part of Niger, the C.I.A. is also providing training and sharing intelligence, according to a Nigerien military intelligence document reviewed by The Times.

The Nigerien security official said about a dozen American Green Berets were stationed earlier this year in Dirkou — in a base separate from the C.I.A.’s — to train a special counterterrorism battalion of local forces. Those trainers left about three months ago, the official said.

It is unlikely that they will return anytime soon. The Pentagon is considering withdrawing nearly all American commandos from Niger in the wake of the deadly October ambush that killed four United States soldiers.

Joe Penney reported from Dirkou, Niger, Eric Schmitt from Washington and Rukmini Callimachi and Christoph Koettl from New York. Omar Hama Saley contributed reporting from Agadez, Niger, Dionne Searcey from Dakar, Senegal, and Helene Cooper from Washington.


A version of this article was published on the New York with the headline: Drone Missions Curbed by Obama Expand in Africa.

Cover photo: In this photo taken Monday, April 16, 2018, a U.S. and Niger flag are raised side by side at the base camp for air forces and other personnel supporting the construction of Niger Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger. On the scorching edge of the Sahara Desert, the U.S. Air Force is building a base for armed drones, the newest front in America’s battle against the growing extremist threat in Africa’s vast Sahel region. Three hangars and the first layers of a runway command a sandy, barren field. Niger Air Base 201 is expected to be functional early next year. (AP Photo/Carley Petesch)

Left or Right wing?

By Samuel Sola Micheal


The political terms LEFT & RIGHT were coined during the French Revolution (1789–1799), referring to the seating arrangement in the Estates General: those who sat on the left generally opposed the monarchy & supported the revolution, including the creation of a republic and secularization, while those on the right were supportive of the traditional institutions of the Old Regime.

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Indepth understanding & analysis of the French Revolution provide an insight as to the core meaning of Right Wing or Left Wing politics.

Many people call themselves Leftists without understanding what it entails, while some unknowingly belong to the Right Wing.

The Left Wing(Leftist) shares the ideology of egalitarianism & social equality as opposed to social hierarchy & social inequality.

It typically involves a concern for those in society whom its adherents perceive as disadvantaged relative to others as well as a belief that there are unjustified inequalities that need to be reduced or abolished (by advocating for social justice).

On the other hand, we have the Right Wings who hold that certain social orders and hierarchies are inevitable, natural, normal, or desirable, typically supporting this position on the basis of natural law, economics or tradition. Hierarchy & inequality may be viewed as natural results of traditional social differences or the competition in market economies.

The original Right in France was formed as a reaction against the Left, & comprised those politicians supporting hierarchy, tradition & clericalism.


Cover photo: To many people outside the US, the way the US government has been organized may be somewhat eccentric. First, the Founders established 3 branches of government: the Executive, the Legislature, and the Judiciary. However, the Legislature actually has 2 distinct houses: the House of Representatives and the Senate. But do you know the purpose of the US Senate?

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There may be ‘violence’ if GOP loses midterms – Donald Trump warns

President heard urging Christian ministers to sway voters and alluding to leftwing violence in leaked audio.

Donald Trump

In a private meeting with Christian ministers, Donald Trump warned of “violence” if Republicans do not maintain control of Congress in the midterm elections, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by the New York Times.

At a state dinner for evangelical Christian ministers on Monday night at the White House, Trump urged religious leaders to use the power of their pulpits to make sure that “all of your people vote” in November, the New York Times reported.

“You’re one election away from losing everything you’ve got,” Trump reportedly told them.

If Republicans lose Congress, “they will end everything immediately”, the president said, seemingly referring to Congressional Democrats.

He went on: “They will overturn everything that we’ve done and they’ll do it quickly and violently. And violently. There’s violence. When you look at antifa, and you look at some of these groups, these are violent people.”

The Times reported that these additional remarks did not make clear “whom he was talking about”.

A White House spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request to clarify whether the president was referring to congressional Democrats as “violent people”, or to comment on what connection the president was alleging between establishment Democratic lawmakers and young anti-fascist protesters.

Trump’s comments appear to echo the rhetoric of political advertisements from the rightwing National Rifle Association. In a much-criticized video advertisement last year, the gun rights group used footage from street protests to paint the entire American left, and all Americans who oppose president Trump, as violent thugs who “bully and terrorize the law-abiding”. The ad’s incendiary rhetoric was sharply criticized, with one critic calling it “a whisper shy of a call for full civil war”.

Over the past two years, as emboldened neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups have staged public rallies and marches across the United States, black-clad anti-fascist protesters, or “antifa”, have shown up to demonstrate against them. Anti-fascist protesters argue that the best way to prevent American neo-Nazis from growing more powerful is to make them afraid to meet or demonstrate in public.

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White supremacists and neo-Nazis exchange insults with anti-fascist protesters at last year’s rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Many of the rightwing groups that “antifa” demonstrators show up to protest are self-described fascists. But the tactics of direct street protest and physical confrontation remain controversial among many Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike.

The protest behavior of “antifa” has become a favorite topic for Republicans looking to deflect attention from the activities of violent white supremacist extremists who greeted Trump’s presidency as a victory, and who advocate publicly for a whites-only nation.

During the violent neo-Nazi rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, last August, white supremacists attacked black residents and protesting local ministers, and clashed with anti-fascist protesters in the streets. Afterwards, Trump repeatedly condemned “both sides” for the violence.

Local Charlottesville residents who had showed up to protest the white supremacists, and found themselves as the targets of violence while police officers stood by, had a different opinion.

“Antifa saved my life twice on Saturday,” the Rev Seth Wispelway, a local minister from Charlottesville, told Slate in the wake of last August’s violence.


Cover photo: On August 23, US President Donald Trump tweeted that he has asked Mike Pompeo to study the seizing of farms and ‘large scale killings of farmers’ in South Africa [AP Photo/Evan Vucci]

US First Lady Melania Trump is coming Africa

US First Lady Melania Trump will travel to Africa later this year, although it is not clear where or when she plans on visiting the continent.

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US First Lady Melania Trump. Cheriss May/NurPhoto

She said in a statement.

This will be my first time travelling to Africa and I am excited to educate myself on the issues facing children throughout the continent, while also learning about its rich culture and history.”

Mrs Trump is expected to focus on humanitarian work and “development programmes being done in many of the countries”.

She will not be travelling with US President Donald Trump, who was criticised earlier for allegedly referring to some African nations as “shithole countries”, though he denied he was being a racist.

Mr Trump has yet to make a trip to the continent since coming to office in January 2016.

African countries are going to war with the US – they might win


By IfeOluwa Nihinlola


Barack Obama’s ‘Trade not Aid’ policy direction in Africa had its detractors, but at the very least, his view of the continent was charitable. Through two US-Africa Business Forum (USABF) meetings, the first black president seemed to actively pursue improved trade relations with countries on the continent.

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But for President Trump, his posture to the continent has been hostile. And the latest trade war with Rwanda typifies how the current US administration views African countries.

This trade war has been long coming. First came the “shithole” comments directed at countries like Nigeria caught in US’s immigration fracas. President Trump is given to misstatements, like how he infamously tweeted about the African country “Nambia”, so his people continue to admonish supporters that what he does matters, not what he says. The man himself has gone full Animal Farm, saying “what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” In Africa, however, the words match the actions.

In 2018, beyond the aforementioned shithole comments, the U.S. has tangled with South Africa over the vote to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. In that instance, aid was used as bait to seduce South Africa into submission. Perhaps if President Jacob Zuma was still in charge of the country, things would have changed. But President Ramaphosa has other ideas of sovereignty.

His country stuck with the decision to oppose, and their relations with the US have remained terrible. 20 months after his mission was terminated, no one has replaced the last US Ambassador to South Africa, Patrick Gaspard. President Cyril Ramaphosa also opposed the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement, and it’s been reported that he is pursuing stronger economic ties to Iran. The two countries aren’t done battling.

Taken in context of his relationship with the continent, Trump’s trade war with Rwanda isn’t shocking. In the trade war with China, he desires fairness and wants China to reduce the trade deficit between the two countries. “The increase in the possible rate of the additional duty is intended to provide the administration with additional options to encourage China to change its harmful policies and behaviour and adopt policies that will lead to fairer markets and prosperity for all of our citizens,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said recently in a statement. But African countries like Rwanda already have trade surpluses with the US, so the hypocrisy of asking for prosperity for all of his own citizens while actively pursuing the converse in other places is glaring. But contrary to popular belief, this has always been the American posture to countries in the global south. The difference is that what used to be covert is now overt.

It, however, isn’t all gloom for African countries. With the principled stance of Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and South Africa’s Ramaphosa—Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari can’t be counted in this crusade since he has already gone for his photoshoot in Washington DC—perhaps African countries will begin to redefine their relationship with countries keen on imperialist policies. President Kagame already made news for receiving the presidents of China and India on the same day. And in hosting the BRICS summit, with China’s President Xi Jinping in attendance, the South African government reinforced its message of improving relations with the rest of the world. Kenya, too, is already seeking improved trade relations with China, with hopes that it can increase agricultural exports to the country.

Of course, China can’t be trusted. Their desire for world domination is well documented, too. Their war of attrition with the U.S., however, presents opportunities for leverage. When two elephants fight, the grass doesn’t have to suffer; the smart ones will thrive. If all that is derived from this romance with China is to show that rather than cower in the face of American threats, African countries are ready to play the game of international relations with some savvy, then the war with Trump might just be a win for the continent.


CREDIT: Cover photo is a photo of a man sweeping dust off the street at dusk in Agadez, Niger, on January 16, 2018. Photo was taken by Joe Penney.


SOURCE: This was written by IfeOluwa Nihinlola and was first published on The Nerve Africa.


 

Trump finally suspends clothes exports to Rwanda

Donald Trump’s administration has suspended duty-free exports on clothes to Rwanda after the East African nation imposed tariffs on US imports of second-hand clothing and footwear which it blames for harming the local textile industry.

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Rwanda banned second-hand clothes to revive its textiles industry. Photo: AFP

“The president’s action does not affect the vast majority of Rwanda’s exports to the US”, a statement by the office of the US trade representative read.

The clothes imports account for 3% of what Rwanda exports to the US under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) and are valued at $1.5m (£1m).

Rwanda’s position had been widely adopted by East Africa’s states but Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda dropped their stance fearing retaliatory action that would lead to loss of access to US markets via Agoa.

Rwanda clothing imports have so far dropped by a third.

Donald Trump denies knowing of Russia meeting

  • President issues volley of tweets after explosive CNN report
  • Trump attacks former lawyer’s use of Clinton-linked counsel

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Donald Trump is pictured. | AP Photo

Donald Trump responded on Friday to bombshell reports that his former lawyer Michael Cohen says Trump knew of and approved a meeting between his son and aides with Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton.

The president denied knowing of the meeting and questioned Cohen’s motives and connections, writing: “He even retained Bill and Crooked Hillary’s lawyer. Gee, I wonder if they helped him make the choice!”

The lawyer referred to is Lanny Davis, Cohen’s counsel who defended Bill Clinton during his impeachment in the late 1990s.

Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr, son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign chair Paul Manafort met at Trump Tower on 9 June 2016 with a group including the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, having been told she was offering sensitive information about Clinton from the Russian government.

On Thursday, citing an unnamed source, CNN reported that Cohen said he was present when Donald Jr told his father about the Russians’ offer to meet and that Trump approved it. NBC said it had independently verified the report.

On Friday, the president first tweeteda familiar complaint, that “the ridiculous news that the highly conflicted Robert Mueller and his gang of 13 Angry Democrats obviously cannot find Collusion”.

Mueller is a Republican appointed by a Republican, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein. According to public information, 13 of Mueller’s investigators have registered as Democrats and nine have donated to Democrats.

“The only Collusion with Russia was with the Democrats,” Trump added, without presenting evidence. He then referenced a New York Times reportthat Mueller, the special counsel, is examining his Twitter feed as part of his investigation of potential obstruction of justice.

“The rigged Witch Hunt continues!” he added. “How stupid and unfair to our Country….And so the Fake News doesn’t waste my time with dumb questions, NO,….

“…..I did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr. Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam (Taxi cabs maybe?). He even retained Bill and Crooked Hillary’s lawyer. Gee, I wonder if they helped him make the choice!”

Cohen’s investment in New York taxi medallions, which have been hit by the rise of Uber and other car services, has been widely reported.

Trump, his son, his lawyers and other officials have repeatedly claimed the Trump Tower meeting did not produce any “dirt” on Clinton and the future president did not know about it until details were revealed in July 2017. The president told reporters onboard Air Force One then: “I only heard about it two or three days ago.”

Trump’s role in the production of a misleading statement about the meeting is reportedly part of Mueller’s investigation.

On Thursday night Trump’s current lawyer, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, mounted a counterattack.

“It would have to be people in the room with the president that can corroborate Cohen, which there won’t be because it didn’t happen,” he told CNN. “And then it becomes a credibility contest between two or three witnesses who say one thing and Cohen who says another.”

He added: “He’s been lying all week, he’s been lying for years” – a comment potentially damaging to Trump since Cohen was working for him during those years. Cohen has also seen his home and premises raided by the FBI over his role in payments to women who claim affairs with Trump – affairs Trump denies. Whether or not Cohen will “flip” and turn against Trump has been the subject of mounting speculation.

Trump’s knowledge or otherwise of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting is a key issue in Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference and links between Trump aides and Russia.

Stress is killing American workers

Poor health care and job insecurity shorten lives.

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WORK can make you sick and shorten your life. That is the argument of a hard-hitting book* by Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. In an obvious way, that claim is outdated. Health-and-safety rules help explain why deaths from accidents in American workplaces fell by 65% between 1970 and 2015. But one problem has not gone away: stress. As many as 80% of American workers suffer from high levels of stress in their job, according to a survey entitled “Attitudes in the American Workplace”. Nearly half say it is so debilitating that they need help.

Firms are at least aware of the issue. A study in 2008 by Watson Wyatt (a consultancy that is now part of Towers Watson) found that 48% of organisations said job-related stress affected performance. But only 5% of employers said they were doing anything to deal with the matter.

Mr Pfeffer’s book focuses on America, where the problem seems particularly acute. One survey found that 55% of employees log into their e-mails after 11pm (in contrast, a new French law gives employees the right to ignore e-mails after their working day has ended); 59% do so on holidays. That is, if they actually take a break at all; more than half of American workers eligible for holiday do not use all the time allotted. All told, Mr Pfeffer calculates that work-related issues may be responsible for as many as 120,000 American deaths a year. A comparison with Europe suggests that around half of those deaths could be eliminated.

One reason for Europe’s better record is the provision of universal health care. Mr Pfeffer reckons that the absence of health insurance for all, and its often limited nature where firms do provide it, is the biggest single contributor to America’s higher work-related death rate. One survey estimated that being uninsured increased mortality risk by 25% among working-age adults. Many insured workers have restricted cover. In 2015 a Gallup survey found that almost a third of Americans delayed medical treatment in the previous year owing to the cost. None of this is good for businesses. Workers in poor health are less productive; they also tend to leave work, meaning higher staff turnover.

Mr Pfeffer is also critical of America’s work culture, in which firms are quicker than peers elsewhere to shed labour. “Increased employee fear, disengagement and reduced effort frequently swamp any positive direct effects that come from cutting costs by reducing the payroll,” he argues. And if unemployment strikes, poor health may well follow. Americans who lose their jobs are 22% more likely to experience a heart attack, after controlling for factors such as smoking, drinking and obesity.

Mr Pfeffer thinks that the growth of the gig economy may make matters worse still. Freelance workers are less likely to have health insurance. They may also suffer higher levels of stress, over their unreliable incomes and irregular hours. Broadly speaking, jobs that give individuals more autonomy and control increase motivation and also make individuals healthier, Mr Pfeffer writes.

Many will think Mr Pfeffer overstates his case. Some of the problems he describes are rooted in society as a whole, not business in particular. The design of health-care systems is a political choice, rather than a business one. A general rise in unemployment, caused by an economic downturn, is not the fault of individual businesses. The stress for workers of a hire-and-fire culture cuts less deep when unemployment is at record lows, as today. Much as the gig economy spells job insecurity for some, for others it means greater control of their working lives. And some behaviour, such as the unwillingness of Americans to take holidays, is long-standing.

But Mr Pfeffer is right to call attention to the problem of stress, and persuasive that job insecurity and the ubiquity of electronic communication have added to the pressure in the past 20 years. A big change in America’s health-care system is unlikely. So the best hope may lie in a change in corporate behaviour.

The author cites firms such as Aetna, an insurance group, and Barry Wehmiller, a manufacturer, which have introduced policies such as wellness programmes and a higher minimum wage, without sacrificing profits. That model worked in the past for Quaker-run British confectionery businesses such as Cadbury and Rowntrees. Mr Pfeffer’s book is a powerful argument for looking at it again.

* “Dying for a Paycheck: How Modern Management Harms Employee Health and Company Performance—And What We Can Do About It”, published by Harper Business


SOURCE: Business Insider/The Economist

US adds Kenyan wing of Al-Shabab to terror list

The US has extended its designation of the al-Shabab jihadist group as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation to include a Kenya-based wing of the group known as al-Hijra.

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Somali soldiers are seen here on patrol in the country’s south in June, where days earlier al-Shabab militants claimed responsibly for the killing of an American special operations soldier. Photo: AFP

Washington says al-Hijra is interconnected with al-Shabab and consists mainly of Kenyan and Somali members.

The move comes at the end of a legally required five-year review of al-Shabab’s status as a terror group.

With these terror designations, the US says it aims to expose and isolate individuals or organisations it considers a threat – and to deny them access to its financial system.

The Somali group al-Shabab has had this label since 2008, the same year al-Hijra was formed in neighbouring Kenya. The State Department says this wing has been openly recruiting for al-Shabab in Kenya and facilitating travel for its members to Somalia “for terrorism purposes”.

Security analysts suggest that al-Hijra was involved in planning the siege on Kenya’s Westgate shopping mall in 2013.

A United Nations report named Aboud Rogo – a radical Kenyan cleric – as al-Hijra’s ideological leader.

Rogo was killed in 2012 but continues to inspire Swahili-speaking jihadists in eastern Africa.

Donald Trump personally blames Putin for election meddling

After clashing statements on who was responsible, president claims he told Russian leader: ‘We can’t have this’.

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Donald Trump now says he holds the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, personally responsible for his country’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, further walking back a statement on Monday that drew bipartisan rebukes.

In an interview set to be broadcast Wednesday evening, the US president told Jeff Glor of CBS News that he holds Putin responsible “because he’s in charge of the country, just like I consider myself to be responsible for things that happen in this country”.

Asked if he agreed with US intelligence assessments that Russia meddled in the election in 2016, Trump replied: “Yeah, and I’ve said that before, Jeff. I have said that numerous times before, and I would say that is true, yeah.”

Asked what he had said to Putin during a one-on-one meeting the two had in Helsinki on Monday, Trump replied: “Very strong on the fact that we can’t have meddling, we can’t have any of that.”

But Trump stopped short of saying that if the intelligence services were correct in their assessment, then Putin must be lying.

“I don’t want to get into whether or not he’s lying. I can only say I do have confidence in our intelligence agencies as currently constituted. I think Dan Coats is excellent … we have excellent people. So when they tell me something it means a lot.”

Christopher Wray, the FBI director, speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, said Wednesday that Russia continued to attempt to sow discord in the US, using fake news and propaganda to “spin up” Americans.

He added that he stood behind the US intelligence agencies’ assessment of Moscow’s election meddling.

He also said that Moscow’s offer of assistance in the investigation of Russian military intelligence officials indicted in the US on espionage charges, was “not high on our list of investigative techniques”.

The president’s statements came after a second day of efforts by the White House to quell bipartisan anger over his failure to publicly hold Putin to account at a joint news conference in Helsinki.

Trump rejected criticism from senior members of even his own party, including Senator Lindsey Graham, who accused him of showing “weakness”.

“I totally disagree. I think it was a strong news conference. People said you should have gone up to him, you shoulda started screaming in his face. We’re living in the real world, OK?”

In his private meeting with Putin, Trump continued, the two leaders discussed nuclear proliferation and the protection of Isreal. On North Korea, Trump said the Russian president “agrees with what I’m doing and that I’m doing a great job. He said he’d help, and I think he will.”

“I think we have a deal. There’s no rush. There’s no missiles going off. We have our hostages back. There’s no testing, so we’ve come a long way in a short period of time. There is no rush, but we would like to see the denuclearization of North Korea. He (Putin) feels strongly about and I feel strongly about it, so that’s good.”

Earlier on Wednesday, the White House tortured semantics of the past several days continued when Trump replied “no” when asked by reporters whether he believed Russia was “still targeting the US”, contradicting Dan Coats, director of national intelligence.

A few hours later, the White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, claimed Trump had been answering a different question, and that “we believe the threat still exists”.

The exchanges came a day after Trump’s tortured effort to clarify what he had said in Helsinki on Monday, claiming that he had accidentally used “would” instead of “wouldn’t” to describe whether he thought Russian intelligence interfered in the election.

Trump had told reporters: “They said they think it’s Russia; I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia,” Trump told reporters. “I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

In a series of Twitter posts on Wednesday morning, Trump continued his campaign to recast interpretation of the Helsinki meeting.

“So many people at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki. Putin and I discussed many important subjects at our earlier meeting. We got along well which truly bothered many haters who wanted to see a boxing match. Big results will come!”

Obama ‘stylishly ‘ attack Trump by criticising ‘strongman politics’

Former US president uses speech in Johannesburg to urge respect for human rights.

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Former US President Barack Obama speaking in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo: Reuters

Barack Obama has made a coded attack on his successor, Donald Trump, attacking “strongman politics” in his highest-profile speech since leaving office.

Speaking in Johannesburg, Obama urged people around the world to respect human rights and other values that are under threat, in an impassioned address marking the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth.

While not mentioning Trump by name, Obama’s speech countered many of the US president’s policies, calling on people to keep alive the ideas that Mandela worked for, including democracy, diversity and tolerance.

Obama said today’s times were “strange and uncertain”, adding: “Each day’s news cycle is bringing more head-spinning and disturbing headlines … we see much of the world threatening to return to a more dangerous, more brutal way of doing business.”

He targeted politicians pushing “politics of fear, resentment, retrenchment”, saying they are on the move “at a pace unimaginable just a few years ago”.

He attacked “strongman politics”, saying “those in power seek to undermine every institution … that gives democracy meaning”.

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About 14,000 people gathered in a cricket stadium to hear Obama’s speech. Photo: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

His speech highlighted how Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years, kept up his campaign against what appeared to be insurmountable odds to end apartheid, South Africa’s system of white minority rule.

Mandela, who was released from prison in 1990 and became South Africa’s first black president four years later, died in 2013, leaving a legacy of reconciliation and diversity along with a resistance to inequality, economic and otherwise.

Obama has shied away from public comment on Trump, whose administration has reversed or attacked many of Obama’s achievements. The US under Trump has withdrawn from the 2015 Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal, and tried to undercut the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

Instead of commenting on politics, Obama’s speech drew on broader themes and his admiration for Mandela, whom the US’s first black president saw as a mentor.

When Obama was a US senator he had his picture taken with Mandela. After becoming president he sent a copy of the photo to Mandela, who kept it in his office. Obama also made a point of visiting Mandela’s prison cell and gave a moving eulogy at Mandela’s memorial service in 2013, saying the South African leader’s life had inspired him.

Many South Africans view Obama as a successor to Mandela because of his groundbreaking role and his support for racial equality in the US and around the world.

Moses Moyo, a 32-year-old Uber driver, was among the thousands lining up to listen to Obama’s speech. “I think he’ll speak about how Mandela changed the system here in South Africa, how he ended apartheid and gave hope for the poor and encouraged education,” he said.


SOURCE: BBC/The Guardian, UK/SABC

Five Questions on the Trump-Putin summit – Your morning briefing

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In a joint press conference that followed Monday’s closed-door summit between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, the U.S. president refused to blame the Russian president for any meddling in the 2016 presidential election, accepted Putin’s denial of interference – and cast doubt on the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies, just two days after a federal grand jury indicted 12 Russian military officers for conspiring to interfere with the election.

Trump’s Helsinki performance drew criticism from Republican lawmakers such as Senators John McCain, Jeff Flake and Rob Corker, who denounced the president’s comments. On Twitter former CIA director John Brennan called Trump’s behavior “nothing short of treasonous.”

Steven Pifer, a non-resident senior fellow with the Brookings Institution and a former State Department official focused on U.S. relations with the former Soviet Union, spoke with Reuters editor Helen Coster about the summit.

“Following Trump’s bull-in-the-china-shop diplomacy at NATO and in London and his obsequious and embarrassing performance in Helsinki,” said Pifer, “it is hard to avoid the conclusion that U.S. foreign policy interests would have been better served had Trump stayed home.

OSTER: What was your main takeaway from the summit?

PIFER: Based on the press conference, Vladimir Putin has every reason to be happy. He got a formal summit with President Trump, which helps his spin that Russia is no longer isolated. He did not appear to give on any major issue, and Trump declined to challenge Russian actions. The president, at least in public, failed to criticize Russian aggression against Ukraine and did not put down a marker that Russian meddling in U.S. politics is unacceptable and, if continued, would result in U.S. retaliation. One can only hope that things went better in the actual discussions, but it’s not clear there is any reason to believe that.

COSTER: What do you think of the fact that Trump took Putin’s side against the U.S. intelligence community?

PIFER: Trump’s acceptance of Putin’s denial of election-meddling over the considered judgment of the U.S. intelligence community (and the growing number of indictments of individual Russians) is astonishing. He gave the Kremlin no reason not to continue such interference in U.S. election processes: it’s been successful (from their point of view), the costs are minimal, and the U.S. president apparently does not believe it is happening. Why not continue?

COSTER: What do you expect to be the reaction among U.S. allies – in public and in private?

PIFER: U.S. allies will likely keep their views to themselves publicly, but they have to be dismayed in private. Contrast Trump’s reluctance in Helsinki to criticize Putin or any Russian misbehavior with his eager readiness to criticize allies [at last week’s NATO summit] in Brussels, particularly Germany and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, over defense spending, plus his London interview in which he put the European Union at the top of his list of foes of the United States.

COSTER: So much of diplomacy happens in small steps and behind the scenes. What steps of that nature might have come out of today’s meeting, and what do you expect for U.S.-Russia relations going forward?

PIFER: Hopefully, the summit will produce follow-up dialogues that might yield some progress. Putin opened the door for discussions on arms control, including on extending the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which would be in the U.S. interest. We will have to see what comes, but it would be wise to be patient and keep expectations modest.

COSTER: A lot of people are stating that Trump’s comments today give Putin a blank check in terms of his future behavior. What do you think?

PIFER: Genuine improvement in U.S.-Russian relations will require at least some change in problematic Russian policies, such as aggression against Ukraine, interference in U.S. domestic politics and involvement in Syria. It does not appear that Trump gave Putin a reason to change any of those policies, so Russian misbehavior will likely continue.

Have a great day!


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Putin’s denial of election meddling more ‘powerful’ – Trump

US president indicates Russian leader’s denial outweighs findings of his own intelligence agents.

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U.S. President Donald Trump (left) and Russian President Vladimir Putin.


Donald Trump has been condemned as “treasonous” for siding with the Kremlin over his own government agencies after a stunning joint appearance with Vladimir Putin in which he seemed to accept the Russian leader’s denial of election meddling.

At a joint press conference after one-on-one talks that lasted more than two hours in the Finnish capital, the US president offered no criticism of Putin or election interference, saying only: “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

The comments set off a new firestorm in Washington and only fuelled the intrigue of why Trump’s refusal to criticise Putin remains one of the few constants of his presidency. Critics said it was the weakest performance by a US president

Addressing reporters in the baroque surroundings of the presidential palace, Trump acknowledged that Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, had told him that Russia was behind the cyber-attack on American democracy but that Putin insisted it was not. “I don’t see any reason why it would be,” he said.

He then veered off into a rambling discussion of the Democratic National Committee’s server and Hillary Clinton’s missing emails – a move a seen by critics as a crude attempt to deflect and distract.

“Where is the server? I want to know. Where is the server and what is the server saying?” And bridling at the suggestion that his election victory might be discredited, Trump added: “I beat Hillary Clinton easily … We won that race. And it’s a shame that there can even be a little bit of a cloud over it … We ran a brilliant campaign and that’s why I’m president.”

There was swift condemnation from some of Trump’s leading critics in Washington, where intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia actively sought to interfere in the election to help Trump and harm his rival, Hillary Clinton.

John Brennan, a former director of the CIA, tweeted: “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors’. It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin.”

Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader in the Senate, said: “In the entire history of our country, Americans have never seen a president of the United States support an American adversary the way President Trump has supported President Putin.

Officers policing Trump visit sleeping on mats ‘worse than cells’

Police Federation says conditions are worse than cells for officers working away from home.


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Donald Trump is expected to meet Theresa May and the Queen during his UK visit. Photo: APA-PictureDesk/Rex/Shutterstock

Officers policing Donald Trump’s trip to the UK are being forced to sleep in unacceptable conditions worse than cells, rank and file police have complained as the government reveals it is expecting more than 100 separate protests over the visit.

Members of the Police Federation circulated images showing cramped lines of camp beds filling a sports hall in Essex, and sleeping mats on the floor of a squash court, for officers to rest on between long shifts policing the controversial visit.

The Home Office minister, Nick Hurd, was challenged about the conditions facing officers when an urgent question was granted on the issue in the House of Commons.

The shadow policing minister, Louise Haigh, said: “It has emerged that officers being accommodated in Essex are sleeping on cots in squash courts, 100 female officers with four toilets between them, likely to be sleeping on mats tonight, 300 male officers with five toilets between them. Is it any wonder that forces struggle to fill their requirements?”

Hurd replied: “Those concerns [about accommodation] have been raised directly with Essex police and are being managed.”

He confirmed that nearly every force in the country has been asked to contribute officers to help police the visit. He also revealed the scale of the estimated protests, saying: “The police are expecting over a 100 separate protests across the country, there are separate policing plans within one strategy.”

The cost of policing the visit will come to a minimum of £12m, with leave for thousands of officers cancelled, a particular strain for forces on alert for possible disorder during the World Cup.

About 4,000 officers will be drafted into the areas Trump is visiting, the biggest mobilisation since the 2011 riots across England. The National Police Chiefs’ Council has urged the public to avoid putting any extra strain on officers, many of whom will work 12-hour shifts.

Hurd conceded that the visit comes at a time when the police are “very stretched”. He told the Commons: “This is a significant policing operation and comes at a time when police resources are also focused on investigating the incidents in Salisbury, in protecting us against terrorist attacks, and in delivering on their own local policing plans.

“That right to protest is a fundamental one and needs to be respected.”

The Police Federation has complained about the conditions its members are facing during the operation. Simon Kempton, the organisation’s deputy treasurer in England and Wales, said 300 officers were expected to sleep in a sports hall with no hot water and restricted access to hot food.

“These officers have been asked to leave their families to travel to another part of the country to help protect the public and the president, and all they expect in return is to be treated with some dignity and respect,” he said.

“What’s clear is that anyone overnight who has been arrested by the police would be put in accommodation far superior to what the officers are staying in.”

He said officers at that site are only averaging three to four hours’ sleep ahead of 15-hour shifts because of the conditions.

John Apter, the chairman of the Hampshire Police Federation, said: “There’s so much pressure on officers at the moment. Many are having rest days cancelled, working extended hours and this on top of it – do the bosses really care?

The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson, said the conditions were “an absolute disgrace”.

He said: “No officer should be made to sleep on a camp bed, inches from the floor, in a sports hall with scores of colleagues only metres apart after a 12-hour shift.

“These officers are in the south east to keep the president safe. They aren’t asking for luxury accommodation, but the least we can do is put them up in a room with a proper bed.”

Hurd was also challenged about why the Metropolitan police had refused to allow a platform to be erected in Portland Place for speakers at the demonstrations.

Hurd said: “The police have worked closely with organisers of the protests because they are absolutely determined to respect the fundamental right in this country to peaceful protest. They do have the right to impose some conditions on protests in the interest of public safety.”

During his trip, Trump is expected to meet the Queen and Theresa May as he visits locations including Blenheim Palace, Chequers, Windsor Castle, the US ambassador’s official residence in Regent’s Park, London, and Scotland.

Forced migration from Central America: 5 things you need to know

Since President Donald Trump ordered border officials to criminally prosecute all people caught trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in May, approximately 2,000 children of Central American migrants have been forcibly separated from their parents.

Video footage of distraught children isolated in detention centers has provoked outrage worldwide. The United Nations’ human rights chief called the policy child “abuse,” and Mexico says the U.S. is violating human rights.

The grim logic behind Trump’s family separation policy: If would-be migrants know that the U.S. will take away their children, they may decide it’s safer to stay home.

Such thinking ignores some inescapable dangers that each year compel hundreds of thousands of Central Americans to flee their jobs, homes and families and cross Mexico by foot to reach the U.S.

Why make this perilous journey? Here, immigration experts explain that many Central American migrants are what’s called forced migrants. They are escaping conflict, generalized violence and targeted persecution – not traveling by choice.

1. Record-high homicide rates

“An increasing number of individuals are now arriving at the U.S. southwest border because of crime, violence and insecurity in Central America,” says Jonathan Hiskey of Vanderbilt University.

Hiskey’s research shows that pure fear drives many migrants to leave home.

With 60 murders per 100,000 people in 2017, El Salvador was the deadliest place in the world that was not at war. Almost 4,000 people were killed there last year.

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El Salvador has been one of the most dangerous places in the world for over a decade. Photo: Reuters/Jose Cabezas

Honduras’ murder rate has dropped markedly in recent years, but with 42.8 murders per 100,000 people in 2017, it is still one of the world’s most dangerous places.

People who’ve been victims of crime multiple times are most likely to emigrate, Hiskey says.

2. Sexual and domestic abuse

Such migrants would typically surrender at the border and request asylum, explains immigation lawyer Sabi Ardalan. They are now being arrested before they can surrender.

“International refugee law, which the U.S. has incorporated into domestic law, requires signatory countries to offer protection to people who demonstrate a well-founded fear of certain kinds of severe harm in their home countries,” she says.

Their persecution must be related to race, religion, nationality, political opinion or their particular social group.

Under international law, women who experience severe sexual or physical violence at home and who live in countries that – like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – cannot or will not protect them may qualify as members of a “particular social group” that warrants protection, Ardalan explains.

So might people who are persecuted for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Today, many countries recognize the “unique torments” that many women face worldwide,“ says Ardalan.

The U.S. used to. On June 11, Attorney General Jeff Sessions upended decades of legal precedent by asserting that women escaping domestic abuse are not eligible for asylum.

3. Gang violence

Other Central Americans flee home because of unbridled gang violence.

The gang MS-13 first appeared in Los Angeles during the 1980s, says Florida International University professor José Miguel Cruz. In the early 2000s, the group expanded into Central America. As rival Salvadoran gangs from LA did likewise, crime across Central American cities increased.

Police in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras began to crack down.

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Police began to crack down on gang violence in the early 2000s, leading violence to spiral. Photo: REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

“In El Salvador, the spiritual homeland of MS-13, the police arrested nearly 31,000 young people from 2003 to 2005,” Cruz writes.

As Central American gangs grew stronger, in part by recruiting members from jail, they began fighting to expand their territorial control. Beginning in 2010, these turf wars contributed to an astronomical rise in violence across the region.

“El Salvador went from a homicide rate of 36.9 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2000 to 64.4 in 2006 and 70.9 in 2009,” writes Cruz. “The same thing happened in Honduras and Guatemala, where the rivalry between MS-13 and the Eighteenth Street Gang descended into a succession of local street wars.”

4. Why can’t their own governments protect them?

In many ways, Cruz says, Central America’s uncontrolled gang violence is just “a symptom of a far more critical issue plaguing the region – namely, corruption.”

Prosecutors in Honduras and El Salvador have discovered numerous financial links between MS-13 and high-ranking government officials.

“They shield criminal organizations in exchange for economic support and political backing in gang-controlled barrios,” writes Cruz. These illicit relationships have “shattered most efforts to build the kinds of criminal justice institutions necessary to support a democratic society.”

Indictments for government corruption and murder are both rare in Central America. As a result, criminals can extort, threaten and kill with impunity. In 2014, 99 percent of all murders in Honduras went unsolved.

President Trump has frequently justified his administration’s crackdown on immigrants by asserting that migrants are “criminals.” In fact, in many cases, they are the criminals’ victims.

5. Do immigrants hurt the US economy?

Trump has also claimed that most people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border are “unskilled” economic migrants intent on “taking [Americans’] manufacturing jobs” or “taking our money.”

That’s false, says Raquel Aldana, a law professor at the University of California, Davis.

“Most studies on the fiscal impact of U.S. immigration conclude that immigrant contributions have been positive to the overall U.S. economy,” Aldana says.

That includes the kind of low-wage workers who typically arrive from Central America. Such immigrants “do the difficult work of picking our fruit, cleaning our houses, cutting our lawns and caring for our children and elderly,” Aldana says.

She believes Trump’s perspective that certain migrants are “undeserving” of entry to the United States “distorts the facts.”

“Nearly all U.S. citizens would likely be undeserving of U.S. immigration” if the Trump administration’s harsh new rules applied to them.


Editor’s note: This article is a roundup of stories from The Conversation’s archive.

FBI to help probe deadly Ethiopia blast

The United States is sending FBI investigators to Ethiopia to look into Saturday’s grenade attack on a political rally.

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The blast ripped through a rally addressed by the prime minister. Photo: EPA

The offer of help was made during talks between the US Under Secretary of Commerce, Gilbert Kaplan, and the Ethiopian Foreign Minister, Workneh Gebeyehu.

Dozens of people have been arrested in connection with the blast, including the deputy chief of police in the capital, Addis Ababa.

Two people were killed and more than 150 were wounded at the mass rally called in support of the reform agenda of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The US is a longstanding ally of Ethiopia.

US blocks visas for ‘corrupt’ DR Congo officials

The US State Department has imposed visa bans on a number of Congolese officials accused of corruption or electoral malpractice.

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It declined to name those targeted, but said the move was intended to send a strong signal that Washington was committed to fighting corruption and to supporting credible elections.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is to hold a much-delayed presidential election in December to choose a successor to Joseph Kabila.

His second and final term in office ended in 2016 but many suspect he is trying to stay in power.

Poll: It is ‘safer’ to live in Egypt than UK and US

Egypt has been ranked the safest country in Africa – coming higher than both the UK and US – according to a new poll.

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Egypt has struggled recently with terror attacks, but people still feel safe. Photo: AFP

The Gallup Global Law and Order report placed the North African country at 16 out of 135 countries on its annual list, which measures people’s sense of personal security and their personal experiences with crime and law enforcement.

It scored 88, placing it on the same level as countries like Denmark, Slovenia and China.

Crisis-hit Venezuela was ranked the most dangerous, with South Sudan considered the least safe country in Africa, just ahead of Afghanistan.

The East African nation is followed by Gabon, Liberia and South Africa, one of the continent’s most popular tourist destinations.

Gallup’s questions revolve around confidence in local police, safety at night, cases of theft, robbery and assault.

Across sub-Saharan Africa, just 60% of people polled told Gallup they were confident in the local police force, rising to 68% across North Africa and the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Rwanda scored highest on the continent when it came to safety at night, with 88% of people saying they would be happy to walk about after dark.

Rwanda is not giving up on ban US’ second-hand clothes

US President Donald Trump’s “America First” stance on global trade has hit Rwanda, by imposing tariffs on clothing exports from the tiny East African nation. The issue revolves around an obscure import, second-hand clothes, and Rwanda’s refusal to back down from the fight.

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When did the dispute start?

In March 2018, the US gave Rwanda 60 days’ notice that it would be suspending the landlocked country from selling clothes to America duty free – a status it enjoys under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa).

Agoa is the flagship US trade legislation designed to boost trade and investment in qualifying African countries by granting duty-free access to 6,500 exported products.

“The president’s determinations underscore his commitment to enforcing our trade laws and ensuring fairness in our trade relationships,” Deputy US Trade Representative CJ Mahoney said at the time.

Those 60 days have now expired.

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Donald Trump and Paul Kagame did not seem too close when they met in January. Photo: AFP

Why did Rwanda ban the import of second-hand clothing?

The idea is to protect its nascent garment and textile industry.

Many African nations were once home to vibrant textile industries. But decades of mismanagement, instability, and increased global competition have taken a toll.

This can be seen in Ghana, where a study found that market liberalisation the 1980s had led to a sharp drop in textile and clothing jobs – from 25,000 people in 1977 to just 5,000 in 2000.

Kenya had half a million garment workers a couple of decades ago. Today that number is in the tens of thousands.

Second-hand clothing is one factor in the near-collapse of the garment industry in sub-Saharan Africa. The West’s cast-offs were so cheap that local textile factories and self-employed tailors could not compete.

According to a study by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), in 2015 the East African Community (EAC) accounted for nearly 13% of global imports of used clothing, worth $274m (£205m).

Around 67% of the population in East Africa purchased at least a portion of their clothes from used clothing markets, the USAID study found.

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Used-clothing markets like Gikomba in Nairobi can be found across Africa. Photo: AFP

East African governments argued that domestic demand for locally made clothes was being suffocated by cheap, second-hand clothes.

So in 2015, countries in the EAC announced that second-hand apparel would be banned from their markets from 2019.

In Rwanda’s case, the government said wearing hand-me-downs threatened the dignity of its people.

Rwanda increased tariffs on imported used clothes from $0.20 (£0.15) to $2.50 (£1.90) per kg in 2016. The eventual aim is to phase out all used-clothes imports.

Its government hopes the move will help nurture their garment industry and create more than 25,000 jobs.

Why did this upset the US?

It began when a trade organisation in the US filed a petition with the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR).

The organisation, called the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMRTA), said that the EAC’s 2016 decision to phase out used-clothing would impose “significant economic hardship” on America’s used-clothing industry.

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The second-hand clothing industry in the US is believed to employ thousands. Photo: Getty Image

It estimated that EAC’s second-hand apparel ban could cost 40,000 US jobs and $124m (£93m) in exports.

Those figures have raised some eyebrows. According to Reuters, SMRTA has not publicly disclosed the survey of its members used to calculate the job losses in the US, saying it contains proprietary information.

“The EAC has disputed a lot of the statistics SMRTA has used,” Grant T Harris, who served as the principal adviser to former US President Barack Obama on issues related to Africa, told the BBC.

By March 2017, USTR threatened to remove four East African countries – Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda – from Agoa.

Why did Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania back out?

Threats proved strong enough to ward them off.

In mid 2017, Kenya said it would “comply” with Agoa and withdrew the proposed ban on used clothes.

Kenya’s benefits from Agoa are considerably higher than Rwanda: exports to the US amounted to nearly $600m (£450m) in 2017, compared to just $43m (£32m) for Rwanda.

The USTR explained in a press statement why Tanzania and Uganda capitulated: “The President is not suspending benefits for Tanzania and Uganda because each has taken steps toward eliminating prohibitive tariff rates on imports of used clothing and footwear and committed not to phase in a ban of these products.”

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Rwanda aims to be a middle-income country by 2020. Photo: AFP

Is what the US doing fair?

Yes and no. The US has every right under Agoa to require countries to eliminate trade barriers, which is its stated aim.

“But that doesn’t make it the right thing to do,” Mr Harris said. “The broader goal of Agoa is to use trade to support development, economic growth.”

He added that the US provides duty-free access to its market to many other countries that have created barriers to US exports – this includes India and Brazil. “If the US wants to take a principled stance and pursue actions against every country that is blocking its product, that would make more sense.

“To take this particular approach with Rwanda, which is working towards becoming a middle-income country, is not consistent with the broader goals of Agoa even if it is consistent with the letter of the law.”

He said the best way forward was for the administration to negotiate with Rwanda without using Agoa “as a cudgel”.

How will this affect Rwanda?

While the US is not Rwanda’s largest export market, the move could hurt the country, Florie Liser, the former assistant US Trade representative for Africa, told the BBC’s Newsday programme.

“I visited a production facility where… 150 women were producing bags for Kate Spade specifically to come into the US market duty-free through Agoa,” Ms Liser said.

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Rwanda’s used-clothes industry is worth nearly $20m. Photo: BBC

Those jobs might be at risk and tariffs could scare off investors seeking to take advantage of Agoa, she said.

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame seems willing to sacrifice economic growth. “This is the choice we find that we have to make. As far as I am concerned, making the choice is simple [although] we might suffer consequences,” he said in 2017.

“Rwanda and other countries in the region that are part of Agoa, have to do other things – we have to grow and establish our industries.”

The real winner in this dispute will be China, experts say. Chinese exports of cheap, ready-made clothes to East Africa is worth $1.2 bn, according to the USAID survey.

This far outstrips the value of second-hand clothing imports, which are currently being bought by the poorest 40% of the population in East Africa.

“This will just open up more market space and greater dependency on them [China],” Mr Harris said. “The individuals buying the clothes won’t have the means to buy domestic-made apparel, so they are going to turn to cheap, ready-made clothes from China.”

What do Rwandans think about it?

Some Rwandans are not thrilled by their government’s tough policy.

The used-clothing market in Rwanda employs more than 22,000 people in 2016 and was worth $17m (£12m). That ecosystem is struggling since President Kagame’s ban.

Mariam, a clothes buyer in Kigali, told the BBC’s Swahili service that the only thing you can find in clothes markets today is “Chinese clothes and they are very expensive”.

“I understand that Rwanda needs to develop its own industries, I support the ‘Made in Rwanda Campaign’, but we are yet to see these industries. It would have been fair if the government allowed second-hand clothes for the sake of the poor,” she said.

Second-hand clothes trader, Rulinda Elmass, said he was not against the plan to develop local industries. “But for now they are few, and almost non-existent.”

He said the fair thing would be to allow competition for second-hand clothes because “people should be allowed to have choices”.

“As for the US sanctions, I think this is a big problem glaring the country. Everyone will suffer.”


SOURCE: BBC/Reuters/AFP/Agencies

Al-Shabab is fighting to overthrow Somalia's goverrnment

Senior US official in rare visit to Eritrea

A senior US government official is making a rare visit to Eritrea – a country which is under sanctions over alleged ties to Islamist militants.

Al-Shabab is fighting to overthrow Somalia's goverrnment
Al-Shabab is fighting to overthrow Somalia’s goverrnment.


The acting Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Donald Yamamoto, is to meet government officials at a time when the Eritrean authorities are seeking support to end the UN sanctions, which include an arms embargo.

The UN Security Council imposed the sanctions in 2009 after an investigation found that Eritrea was supporting armed groups in neighbouring Somalia, including al-Shabab.

Eritrea has denied the links.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and then US secretary of state, John Kerry, at the UN in April 2016 after the JCPOA on Iran’s nuclear programme was implemented.

Iran warns, ‘It will not be very pleasant,’ if Trump sabotages nuclear deal

Foreign minister indicates Tehran could go back to enriching uranium if US president tries to add new conditions to groundbreaking agreement.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and then US secretary of state, John Kerry, at the UN in April 2016 after the JCPOA on Iran’s nuclear programme was implemented.
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, and then US secretary of state, John Kerry, at the UN in April 2016 after the JCPOA on Iran’s nuclear programme was implemented. Photo: Andrew Gombert/EPA


Iran’s top diplomat has issued a stark warning to Donald Trump that if he follows through on his threat to scrap the 2015 nuclear agreement in three weeks’ time he will have to “face the consequences” that will not be “pleasant” for the United States.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, painted a bleak picture of the prospects for survival of the nuclear deal, which Trump has threatened to tear up on 12 May by refusing to waive a set of sanctions – a move that is integral to the agreement. Zarif indicated that should the US effectively pull out, Iran would refuse to stay inside the deal alongside the Europeans, calling that option “highly unlikely”.

An option actively being considered by Tehran, by contrast, was to withdraw entirely from the deal by returning to uranium enrichment. Other proposals being floated in the Iranian parliament, Zarif said, involved more “drastic” measures – though he would not specify what those entailed.

In an interview with reporters at an Iranian official residence overlooking New York’s Central Park, Zarif said that the Trump administration had the “option to kill the deal, but they have to face the consequences … We will make our decision based on our national security interest when the time comes, but whatever it is it will not be very pleasant for the United States, I can say that.”

Trump indicated in January that he would refuse to sign the sanctions waiver when it came up for its next renewal on 12 May unless Iran agreed to accept a raft of new restrictions. But Zarif made it clear that the Iranian regime had no intention of accepting any new demands, and turned the argument around by accusing Washington of already violating the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

He accused the US of doing everything in its power to prevent Iran from engaging economically with the rest of the world, thus blocking Tehran from benefitting from the easing of sanctions permitted under JCPOA. He said that and other moves by the US amounted to a breach of the deal that had been going on for the past 15 months.

“I don’t think that a country that has been in breach for at least the last 15 months is in a position to make any new demands,” he said.

Zarif is in New York to attend a UN meeting on peace-building. In the course of a six-day stay in the city he will have a one-on-one audience with the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres.

As the final countdown begins to the next sanctions waiver deadline, and amid Trump’s grand posturing, European states are scrambling to see what can be done to salvage matters should the US president stand by his word and pull the rug out from under the deal. But Zarif gave very little sense of hope that anything would be possible.

He said it was “highly unlikely” that Iran would stay inside the JCPOA if the US effectively pulled out. “It’s very important for Iran to receive the benefits of the agreement – there’s no way that Iran would do a one-sided implementation of it.”

He said France and Germany could try and persuade the US to deflect from the collision course it was on, but he predicted such efforts would be “fruitless”. And he warned of the danger to world peace posed by Trump’s stance.

“The US is sending a very dangerous message to the people of Iran and the people of the world. It says you never come to an agreement with the US.

“The situation is creating an impression globally that agreements don’t matter.”

The Iranian regime has been heavily criticised in recent months for its role in propping up the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, despite his complicity in the death of thousands of civilians and his willingness to use chemical weapons against his own people. Zarif insisted that Iran was not engaged in the Syrian civil war to assist Assad but to combat the threat of extremist groups, notably Isis.

He went on to question claims by western governments that Assad had launched poison gas attacks against the Syrian town of Douma earlier this month, killing at least 40 civilians. Zarif said there was insufficient evidence from the actual sites of the attack to reach that conclusion – while glossing over complaints that international inspectors had been prevented from reaching Douma for several days by the Syrian regime and Russia.

Zarif faced strong questioning about the apparent build-up of permanent Iranian military bases in Syria, and whether the long-term ambition was to prepare for conflict with Israel. He denied there were any Iranian bases inside the country, claiming that his nation’s presence was limited to military advisers stationed at existing Syrian bases.

He also denied that Iran operated aerial drones inside the country.

When asked about the recent Israeli airstrike against the T4 Iranian base east of Homs earlier this month that appeared designed to reduce Iran’s aerial capabilities, he said: “T4 is not an Iranian base, we don’t have a base in Syria.”


SOURCE: The Guardian, UK

Army worm (file photo).

U.S. Committed to Stop Spread of Fall Army Worm in Africa

The US government has expressed its commitment to pursue partnership with African nations in the fight against stopping the spread of fall armyworm.

Army worm (file photo).
Army worm (file photo).


In her telephonic press briefing about efforts to combat fall armyworm in Africa to day, USAID Fall Armyworm Task Force Coordinator Regina Eddy said the worm has been identified in over 35 countries of Africa.

She revealed that the US has a decade of experience in controlling fall armyworm so the challenge is transferring that knowledge to African counterparts and opening the path to thousands of technology.

The worm has damaged about 3 million hectares of maize crop since it occurred in Africa two years ago. Additionally, agriculture experts estimate the pest has caused over 13 billion USD in losses for crops across African countries.

To combat the pest in Ethiopia, the US government has been working with government and the private sector on making recommendations on the measures to be taken based on experience, Eddy said.

A total of 210 experts and development agents were reportedly trained early this year so that they can cascade the knowledge and skills to communities, it was learned.

The fall army worm has spread in more than 5 regions of Ethiopia.


SOURCE: Ethiopian News Agency (Addis Ababa)

CIA Director Mike Pompeo arrives the FDD National Security Summit in Washington, U.S., October

Trump nominee Pompeo promises to rebuild State Department

U.S. Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo promised on Thursday to rebuild the State Department that has been gutted by the departure of senior diplomats and has found itself sidelined in foreign policy decisions under the Trump administration.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo arrives the FDD National Security Summit in Washington, U.S., October
CIA Director Mike Pompeo arrives the FDD National Security Summit in Washington, U.S., October


A reorganization and hiring freeze initiated by former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has left the rank and file demoralized, with vacancies in most of the jobs that are filled by political appointees.

Pompeo, director of the CIA, said he would work quickly in his new role to fill the gaps.

“This is critical to strengthening the finest diplomatic corps in the world, and America and the world needs us to be that,” he said in his confirmation hearing at the Senate.

President Donald Trump nominated Pompeo to become the country’s top diplomat on March 13 when he fired Tillerson. Tillerson, a former chief executive of Exxon Mobil(XOM.N), had a rocky relationship with Trump in just over a year in the job.

The start of Pompeo’s hearing was disrupted by half a dozen protesters chanting “No Pompeo, no more war” before they were led out by security officials.

Pompeo appeared emotional at the start of his testimony as he talked about his family and offered personal details about himself, such as his love of meatballs.

Trump developed a warm relationship with Pompeo during White House meetings over the first year of his presidency and believes the former Republican congressman shares more of his world view than Tillerson, who at times disagreed with the president.

“Good luck to Mike Pompeo during his Confirmation Hearing today. He will be a great Secretary of State!” the Republican president said on Twitter.

Senators have said they want to make sure that Pompeo will be able to stand up to Trump, and they pressed him on the issue.

Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said it was fair to question whether his relationship with Trump was “rooted in a candid, healthy and give-and-take dynamic.”

“I know that you have developed a close relationship with the president and I believe that relationship could well serve you if you’re confirmed as secretary of state. However, many strong voices have been terminated or resigned,” Corker said.

Among the first issues Pompeo was pressed on was whether or not Trump had talked to him about the Russia investigation looking into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Pompeo acknowledged he had been interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, whose federal probe includes looking into whether there was collusion with Moscow by Trump campaign aides, but he declined to discuss details.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded last year that Russia interfered in the campaign in hopes of tilting the election in Trump’s favor. Moscow has denied the charge and Trump has denied any collusion by his campaign.

Trump has been accused by Democrats and some of his fellow Republicans of being too soft on Russian President Vladimir Putin, but Pompeo has signaled he will take a tough line on Russia..

Pompeo, who is seen as more of a hard-liner than Tillerson on issues including the nuclear agreement with Iran that he strongly opposed, said he wants to work with U.S. allies to fix the deal.

“I want to fix this deal. That’s the objective,” he said, when pressed on whether the United States should withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers.

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He denied that he had advocated for regime change in North Korea.


SOURCE: Reuters

‘Caravans’ of migrants in Mexico mean US ‘is being stolen’ – Trump claims

Donald Trump returned to the offensive on immigration on Monday, repeating a claim that “caravans” of migrants from Central America are threatening to enter the US via Mexico and demanding: “Act now Congress, our country is being stolen!”

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Central American migrants gather before continuing their journey to the US in Ixtepec, Mexico. Photograph: Stringer/Reuters


“Mexico has the absolute power not to let these large ‘Caravans’ of people enter their country,” the president tweeted. “They must stop them at their Northern Border, which they can do because their border laws work, not allow them to pass through into our country, which has no effective border laws.

“Congress must immediately pass Border Legislation, use Nuclear Option if necessary, to stop the massive inflow of Drugs and People. Border Patrol Agents (and ICE) are GREAT, but the weak Dem laws don’t allow them to do their job. Act now Congress, our country is being stolen!

Trump’s use of the term “caravans” – also made in a sequence of tweets on Easter Sunday – was a reference to a large group of people who are heading through Mexico, hoping to reach the US border. A reporter from BuzzFeed has been with them.

“For five days now,” Adolfo Flores reported on Friday, “hundreds of Central Americans – children, women and men, most of them from Honduras – have boldly crossed immigration checkpoints, military bases, and police in a desperate, sometimes chaotic march toward the United States. Despite their being in Mexico without authorization, no one has made any effort to stop them.”

The “caravan” has been reported on by Fox News, Trump’s preferred cable network.

The “nuclear option” would be a reform of Senate rules to allow major legislation to pass with 51 votes rather than the current 60. The Republican majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has shown no sign of acceding to Trump’s repeated demand.

On Monday, Trump widened his attack, tweeting: “DACA is dead because the Democrats didn’t care or act, and now everyone wants to get onto the DACA bandwagon … No longer works. Must build Wall and secure our borders with proper Border legislation. Democrats want No Borders, hence drugs and crime!”

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or Daca, was an Obama-era programme which shielded undocumented migrants brought to the US as children, known as Dreamers, from the threat of deportation.

Trump announced the cancellation of Daca last year. No replacement has been instituted but court orders have maintained protections for recipients.

Trump claimed on Sunday that “a lot of people are coming in because they want to take advantage of Daca, and we’re going to have to really see”.

In fact, to be eligible for Daca, applicants must have lived in the US continually since 15 June 2007 and come to the country before their 16th birthday. Applicants must also either be in school, or have graduated high school, or have been honourably discharged from the US military or coast guard.

Trump’s decision to quash any remaining hopes of a Daca deal drew criticism on Sunday. John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio who is seen as a possible primary challenger to Trump in 2020, tweeted: “A true leader preserves & offers hope, doesn’t take hope from innocent children who call America home. Remember, today is Easter Sunday.”

Trump rejected one deal with Democrats which would have funded a border wall, which he promised throughout his campaign for the White House would be paid for by Mexico. He has recently suggested the military could pay for the wall, a prospect experts said was extremely unlikely.

Later on Monday, Trump returned to the North American Free Trade Agreement, a favourite target which in his Sunday tweets he had threatened to “stop”. “Mexico is making a fortune on NAFTA,” he wrote, adding: “With all of the money they make from the US, hopefully they will stop people from coming through their country and into ours, at least until Congress changes our immigration laws!”

Regarding possible motives for Trump’s latest outburst, which also took in AmazonNBC and CNN, news outlets reported White House sources as saying Trump has been told his base thinks he has softened on immigration.

The president has also been beset by damaging stories, from developments in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian election interference and alleged collusion between Trump aides and Moscow, to adult film actor Stormy Daniels’ claim that she had an affair with the billionaire in 2006.

Controversies over ethics and spending are affecting members of the Trump administration, including housing and urban development secretary Ben Carsonand Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt.

On Sunday the former Veterans Affairs secretary David Shulkin told network television he was fired last week, rather than resigning as the White House claimed. Shulkin, who opposed the privatisation of VA operations, blamed political appointees for his downfall.


SOURCE: The Guardian, UK

US, UK, Germany and France unite to condemn spy attack

Joint statement deplores ‘assault on UK sovereignty’ and says only plausible explanation is that Russia is responsible.

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The leaders of Britain, the US, Germany and France have released a joint statement strongly condemning the Salisbury nerve agent attack as “an assault on UK sovereignty” and saying it is highly likely Russia was behind it.

The rare united comment from Theresa May, Donald Trump, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, released by Downing Street, follows extensive UK efforts to drum up international support for its response to the poisoning of Sergei Skripaland his daughter.

After the statement’s release Donald Trump said that Russia appeared to be behind the attack. “It looks like it,” he told reporters. “I’ve spoken with the prime minister and we are in discussions. A very sad situation. It certainly looks like the Russians were behind it. Something that should never, ever happen, and we’re taking it very seriously, as I think are many others.”

May, speaking on a visit to Salisbury on Thursday, said the statement showed the UK’s allies “are standing alongside us” in protest at Russia’s behaviour.

The statement said the use of novichok “constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the second world war”, noting that the four leaders “abhor the attack that took place against Sergei and Yulia Skripal”.

“A British police officer who was also exposed in the attack remains seriously ill, and the lives of many innocent British citizens have been threatened,” it read. “We express our sympathies to them all, and our admiration for the UK police and emergency services for their courageous response.

“It is an assault on UK sovereignty and any such use by a state party is a clear violation of the chemical weapons convention and a breach of international law.

“It threatens the security of us all. The United Kingdom thoroughly briefed its allies that it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack.

“We share the UK assessment that there is no plausible alternative explanation, and note that Russia’s failure to address the legitimate request by the UK government further underlines its responsibility.”

The unambiguous tone of the comments about Russia will greatly please British ministers, who have spent the past few days seeking to persuade allies to take this line, notably France, where Macron’s spokesman warned the UK on Wednesday against “fantasy politics”.

Speaking after visiting businesses in Salisbury and speaking to emergency services, May said the four countries were “vey clear in attributing this act to Russia”.

“What is important in the international arena – and we have taken this into Nato, into the United Nations, we’ve taken it through into the European Union – is that allies are standing alongside us and saying this is part of a pattern of activity that we have seen from Russia in their interference, their disruption that they have perpetrated across a number of countries in Europe,” she said.

“This happened in the UK, but it could have happened anywhere and we take a united stance against it.”

There was overwhelming support for the UK from its allies, including the US, at a UN security council meeting overnight.

Washington’s envoy, Nikki Haley, said: “Let me make one thing clear from the very beginning: the United States stands in absolute solidarity with Great Britain. The United States believes that Russia is responsible for the attack on two people in the United Kingdom using a military-grade nerve agent.”


The joint statement calls on Russia to “address all questions related to the attack” and provide full disclosure of the novichok programme to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague.

“Our concerns are also heightened against the background of a pattern of earlier irresponsible Russian behaviour. We call on Russia to live up to its responsibilities as a member of the UN security council to uphold international peace and security,” it ends.

On Wednesday, May announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats from the UK and a range of other measures to crack down on “corrupt elites”, including new measures to combat spying.

The expulsion was the largest such move since the cold war, and marked a considerable escalation on the expulsion of four diplomats after the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.


Earlier on Thursday, the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, told BBC News: “There is something in the kind of smug, sarcastic response that we’ve heard that indicates their fundamental guilt. They want to simultaneously deny it, yet at the same time to glory in it.”
He suggested Vladimir Putin had some responsibility for the attack. “There is very little doubt in people’s minds that this is a signature act by the Russia state, deliberately using novichok, a nerve agent developed by Russia, to punish a Russian defector as they would see it, and in the runup to Vladimir Putin’s election.”

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, confirmed Moscow would soon expel British diplomats from the country in a tit-for-tat response, Russian state news agencies reported.

Asked by journalists at a press conference on Thursday whether diplomatic expulsions would be included in a Russian response, he said: “Absolutely.” Asked when those statements would be made public, he said: “Soon.”

“As polite people, we’ll first be delivering our response to our British counterparts,” Lavrov said.


SOURCE: The Guardian, UK

Sack of Tillerson will not affect Nigeria – Federal Govt


The Federal Government has declared that the sack of the American Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson who was in Nigeria on Monday, by President Donald Trump will not in any way affect Nigeria/U.S. ties, saying that “government is continuum.”

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Former U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson and Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari. Photo: Premium Times


It also said the establishment of the proposed modular refineries in Niger Delta region will not make any meaningful impact on the shortage of petroleum products in the country.

Briefing State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama said, “Rex Tillerson sack won’t affect (Nigeria) because government is a continuum as we all know.

“When he came it was the United States that was speaking and clearly we expect that with every expectation that everything he has said as regards U.S./Nigeria relations reflects the position of the United States, reflects the position of the president of the United States, so we don’t see any change happening.”

On the proposed modular refineries to be established in Delta and Rivers States, the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu said the modular refineries would essentially address the problems associated with illegal crude oil refining in the Niger Delta, while also saving the environment and providing more legal opportunities for the youth of the area.

“It’s not meant to address the refining product gap we have in the country, we are hoping that those gaps will be covered by a mixture of the three or four refineries that government owns currently, Warri, Port Harcourt and Kaduna and of course the Dangote refinery of 600 barrels.”


SOURCE: The Guardian, Nigeria

US students in walkout to end gun violence

  • About 3,000 schools across America protest in coordinated riposte
  • Students step out of classrooms to spur action for change

Thousands of students poured out of classrooms in the US on Wednesday in an unprecedented expression of mourning and a demand for action to stem the country’s epidemic of gun violence.

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In a stunning visual riposte to the public inertia that has followed mass shootings in the US, crowds of students at an estimated 3,000 schools across the country marched on running tracks, through parking lots and around building perimeters, carrying signs that read “Enough” and chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, gun violence has got to go”.

The walkout fell one month after a student gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, in the deadliest high school shooting in the country’s history. Survivors of that massacre joined other student activists to organize Wednesday’s demonstration, which was promoted by the Women’s March movement that sprang up after the election of Donald Trump.

“There were lots of emotions, many people were crying. We were thinking of the 17 we lost,” said Florence Yared, a third-year student at Stoneman Douglas, who joined 3,000 of her schoolmates on the school’s football pitch, where exactly one month ago many were running for their lives.

Students elsewhere filled sidewalks in Brooklyn, kneeled in hallways in a Georgia high school, stood silently in a row in Virginia, and sat in a group with backs turned on the White House. Most demonstrations were planned to last 17 minutes, one for each of the Parkland victims.

In some school districts, students gathered against the warnings of administrators. At Booker T Washington high school in Atlanta, Georgia – once attended by Martin Luther King – a public announcement warned that any protester who left school hallways would incur “swift and severe consequences”.

“Dr King carries a legacy even in death,” said Markail Brooks, a senior. “So I feel as if it’s an obligation to carry on what he wanted and what he was trying to fight for and that’s why this day is very important.”

At an elementary school in Alexandria, Virginia, children synchronized their watches and a captain in each room led students outside two minutes before the planned 10am protest start time.

“Some parents have felt that we’re not old enough to know about it,” said one student, Carter, 11, about school shootings. “They think because we’re fifth-graders we don’t know anything about what’s happening.”

Another student, Henry Gibbs, 10, said: “Just the sensation that we are going to make a difference makes me feel proud.”

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In Chicago, public schools changed class schedules to accommodate the walkouts, while the archdiocese announced that about 80,000 students at 200 Catholic schools would participate in assemblies to discuss gun violence.

The protesters called for new gun safety legislation, including a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and the introduction of universal background checks. They also opposed the additional fortification of schools with fences and armed guards, policies endorsed by the NRA, America’s powerful gun lobby group.

The NRA’s “national school shield” proposal to prevent school shootings calls for the “hardening” of school sites with not only armed guards and armed teachers but also the elimination of trees, parking lots and some windows, and the construction of fences.

“Let’s work together to secure our schools and stop school violence,” the NRA said as the walkouts began. Shortly afterwards, the group tweeted a picture of a semi-automatic rifle with an American flag sticker and the caption: “I’ll control my own guns, thank you.”

Neither Trump nor the White House offered a statement.

At the Academy for Young Writers high school in Spring Creek, Brooklyn, New York, students used the walkout to also bring attention to discrimination against people of color, women, and other groups.

“Our protest brings together many things and I do empathize with those in Parkland in Florida, but this is Brooklyn, East New York, and we have our own separate struggles and I wanted to advocate for that as well,” said Nathaniel Swanson, 16.

“We have policing [issues]. Discrimination in housing [and the] workforce. Gentrification is really getting bad in Brooklyn. Gun violence … these are the things that happen in our community.”

The youthful protesters seemed to be the latest indicator that a carapace of resistance to gun policy changes in the United States could be cracking. Recent polling has indicated that as many as seven in 10 Americans want stricter gun laws, the highest such figure in 20 years.

A recent Monmouth University poll found that 83% of Americans support requiring comprehensive background checks for all gun purchasers, including private sales between two individuals. Among NRA members, 69% support comprehensive background checks, the poll found.

The gun policy reform group Everytown for Gun Safety reported a 25% leap in members in the two weeks after the Parkland shooting, and at least 20 corporations changed age limits for buying guns or stopped selling some semi-automatic rifles altogether after the shooting, according to activists.

“While Congress sits on its hands, students like my son will stand and walk out of school this morning to demand action on gun violence,” tweeted Shannon Watts, the founder of the gun safety group Moms Demand Action, on Wednesday morning. “Next we march. Then we vote to #ThrowThemOut.”

Gun safety activists are focused on the midterm elections in November as an opportunity to expunge pro-gun legislators, whose ranks are increasingly out of proportion with the national mood.’

As protesters filled the streets, the Senate judiciary committee convened a hearing on school safety in light of the Parkland massacre. Republican chairman Chuck Grassley gave voice to “the imminence and necessity of passing some legislation quickly” but he hewed in his questioning to minor proposals that even the NRA supports, such as the banning of certain gun accessories.

Multiple gun control bills are currently pending in the US Congress, including bills that fit with the student protesters’ demands relating to assault weapons and background checks. But Congress in the past has repeatedly taken up such legislation only to shelve it, year after year, including in the wake of the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

Ninety-six Americans are killed each day by guns, and Americans overall are “25 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than people in other developed countries”, gun control advocates say.

In Connecticut, Washington and New York, the signs were hoisted by growing hands: “Disarm hate”, Protect kids not guns” and “We call BS.”

On the football pitch in Parkland, Florida, the students listened to a recording of the song Shine – “heaven let your light shine down” – as sympathy banners sent from around the world draped an adjacent building.

Then, 17 minutes later, the students filed back inside.


SOURCE: The Guardian. Uk

Trump fires Rex Tillerson, replaces him with Mike Pompeo

US President Donald Trump has fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replaced him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

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“Mike Pompeo, director of the CIA, will become our new secretary of state. He will do a fantastic job,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday. “Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service!” the president added.

The resignation represents the biggest shakeup of the Trump Cabinet so far and had been expected since last October when reports surfaced about a falling out between Trump and Tillerson, 65, who left his position as chief executive of Exxon Mobil to join the administration.

U.S. stock index futures pared their gains and the dollar also trimmed gains versus the yen while extending losses versus the euro amid the news.

Trump publicly undercut Tillerson’s diplomatic initiatives numerous times, including on Monday when the former secretary of state’s comments about Russia appeared to be at odds with those of the White House.

Tillerson also appeared out of the loop last week when Trump announced he would meet with North Korea’s leader and become the first sitting U.S. president to do so.

“Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!” Trump said on Twitter.

Trump plans to arm school teachers but says no more age limit on gun purchase

Florida survivor says president ‘no better than other politicians’ after plan to ‘harden’ schools against mass shootings retreats from confrontation with NRA.


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A memorial outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Florida where 17 students were killed in February. Photo: Gerald Herbert/AP


The Trump administration will use existing justice department funding to help train teachers and other school personnel to use firearms in an attempt to “harden” schools against mass shooting attacks, the White House announced on Sunday.

But in a watered-down school safety plan, the White House backed away from other proposals the president had endorsed, including raising the legal age to buy certain guns.

The president had clashed with the National Rifle Association over the issue of raising age limits to purchase rifles such as the one used in the attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Florida in February, in which 17 people were killed.

“It should all be at 21,” Trump said in late February. “And the NRA will back it.”

But the NRA remained firm, filing a federal lawsuit on Friday challenging the legality of Florida’s newly passed age restrictions on buying rifles and other long guns.

The president then backed away from the issue, assigning the question of whether age limits should be raised on some gun purchases to a new federal commission on school safety, chaired by education secretary Betsy DeVos.

On Monday, survivors of the Florida shooting criticised Trump’s decision.

“What President Trump showed when he said he wanted to raise the age to 21 was bipartisanship and the need to work together on this and save some lives,” one of the students, David Hogg, told CNN.

“But the other thing he showed after that is that he’s no better than the other politicians because he called out other GOP members and said, ‘You’re owned by the NRA and that’s why you don’t want to take action.’ But then he stepped back down from where he was and that’s why we’re seeing this stuff.

“I ask him why? Show us that you’re better than these other politicians and that you aren’t owned by the NRA and that you actually want to take action. Those proposals were great but proposals without action remain proposals.”

Under the White House plan, homeland security officials will work with states to develop a public awareness campaign to prevent school shootings, based on the “See something, say something” campaign launched after 9/11, which encourages members of the public to stay vigilant and report potential signs of terrorism.

The administration will work with states to provide “rigorous firearms training” to “qualified volunteer school personnel”, said Andrew Bremberg, director of the president’s domestic policy council. No figures were given for what the plan would cost.

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Florida high school student David Hogg speaks to the media. Photo: Sun Sentinel/TNS/Sipa USA/REX/Shutterstock

The White House also endorsed a piece of bipartisan legislation that would improve the nation’s background check system for gun sales by providing incentives for federal agencies to comply with the current law.

It did not endorse a bill that would actually close some of the gaping loopholes in the nation’s background check system, despite Trump’s words of praise for stronger legislation in a public meeting with Democratic lawmakers in late February.

Trump did endorse two policy proposals with strong support from advocates for gun violence prevention.

The president called on states across the country to pass extreme risk protection orders, which would provide law enforcement and family members with a legal way to petition a court to temporarily remove an unstable person’s guns, and block them from buying new ones.

A senior administration official emphasised that this process would include respect for due process, while giving law enforcement officers the ability to temporarily take away guns from extremely high-risk people.

The White House also endorsed the bipartisan STOP School Violence Act and asked Congress to provide funding to support evidence-based school violence prevention programs. This legislation is endorsed by Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit founded by some of the family members of the 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school, in which 20 young children and six adults were killed. The group has been working with school districts across the country to implement its “Know the Signs” programs.

White House officials attempted to frame Trump’s proposal as a bold step forward.

“We’ve had to talk about this topic way too much over the years,” DeVos said on Sunday night. “There’s been a lot of talk in the past, but very little action.”

Pressed by reporters to explain why forming a new commission to discuss school safety was an example of action, rather than more talk, senior administration officials had few answers. They declined to give any specific timeline for the DeVos commission to produce recommendations, other than saying it would be less than a year, and the commission would work “quickly”.

At a campaign-style rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday night, Trump himself mocked the idea of presidential commissions on controversial issues, saying: “We can’t just keep setting up blue ribbon committees with your wife and your wife and your husband, and they meet and they have a meal and they talk.”


SOURCE: The Guardian, UK

Trump will have a military parade, but with no tanks, just planes

It looks as if President Trump will get the military parade he has coveted for months. But it will not be on the Fourth of July — and it will not include tanks.

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The Bastille Day parade in Paris in July. President Trump attended at the invitation of President Emmanuel Macron of France. Photo: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times


Instead, plans are underway to hold a plane-filled display on Veterans Day in Washington, according to a Pentagon memo sent to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The memo, with Thursday’s date, says its purpose is to “provide initial guidance for the planning and execution” of a procession that would run from the White House to the Capitol and integrate with the city’s annual Veterans Day parade.

Medal of Honor recipients and veterans’ organizations are to be included in the march, which, according to the memo, will feature a heavy dose of history.

“This parade will focus on the contributions of our veterans throughout the history of the U.S. Military, starting from the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 to today, with an emphasis on the price of freedom,” the memo said.

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The Bastille Day parade included tanks, which won’t be present in a military parade in Washington planned for November. Photo: Markus Schreiber/Associated Press

In practice, that means “period uniforms,” re-enactments and even the use of an “old guard fife and drum,” the memo says.

The parade will also “highlight the evolution of women veterans from separate formations in World War II to today’s integrated formations,” the memo says. It will close with a “heavy air component,” which officials hope will include older planes.

Why no tanks?

“Consideration must be given to minimize damage to local infrastructure,” the memo notes, adding that there will be “wheeled vehicles only.”

The details come more than a year after Mr. Trump first signaled interest in the possibility of a military parade.

His inaugural committee reportedly explored, but rejected, the idea of highlighting military equipment in his inaugural parade. Then, in July, Mr. Trump watched a Bastille Day celebration in Paris and days later called it“one of the most beautiful parades I have ever seen,” adding that “we should do one one day down Pennsylvania Ave.”

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A military parade through Red Square in Moscow last year. Photo: Yuri Kochetkov/European Pressphoto Agency

Two months later, while making remarks at the United Nations, Mr. Trump said he was actually looking into staging a Fourth of July parade, noting again that he had gotten the idea after watching the Bastille Day event.

Finally, last month, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis acknowledged that the Pentagon had been “putting together some options” for an event, which would be sent to the White House. A week later Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, estimated that the sort of public display that Mr. Trump had called for could cost between $10 million and $30 million.

Soon after that, Mr. Trump told Fox News that he would forgo the idea if it could not be done at a “reasonable cost,” which might help explain the decision to integrate the new parade with one that already exists.

Military parades in the United States have traditionally followed the end of wars. In 1991, President George Bush hosted a $12 million demonstration of military prowess after the end of the Persian Gulf war.

Other places in the world, though, are no stranger to military parades. In addition to France’s Bastille Day celebration in July, China held a huge military parade last summer, and in May, Russian leaders organized a large military paradethrough Red Square.

North Korea also frequently puts on displays of its military hardware, highlighting the nation’s missile capabilities by driving them down the streets of Pyongyang.

Africa is still the dumping ground for used clothes from America

ANALYSIS 


Africa has become a dumping ground for used clothes from the West where it often costs more to dispose of clothing than to export it. This has had a negative impact on local economies and the dignity of Africans. Domestic capital in the industry and the domestic consumer market has been decimated in many African countries.

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Jessica Kiyingi, a vendor at Kampala’s Owino market, selling second-hand clothes. Photo: Jimmy Siya/The Independent


When the East African Community (EAC) resolved to prioritise the development of a competitive domestic textile and leather sector to provide affordable clothes and leather products in the region, this was a positive step towards determining its own development path. India’s textile sector is an example of an inward domestic driven structure.

By limiting the size of textile and garment producers, India encouraged small business, mostly family run. India produces textile and garments that are uniquely Indian and despite the transformation of the sector since 2000, with increased imports changing clothing styles in India and an increased focus on exports, the textile and garment sector is the second largest employer after agriculture in India in a decentralised manufacturing structure that has localised benefits of the garment value chain.

However in a world dominated by neoliberal globalisation, such inward orientated strategies offering domestic protections and privileges have been under attack. Tanzania, once very insular under Julius Nyerere who focused on development, in particular rural cooperative development, found too impossible to push back on the conservative agenda of global economic powers in the 1980s. A year before Nyerere stepped down from power in 1985, Tanzania succumbed to pressure from the Bretton Woods institutions, liberalising trade policy.

The consequent liberalisation of tariff lines along with structural adjustment policies have created economic sectors based on export based growth and dependent on foreign direct investment. As the result of liberalisation, policy shifted towards export led growth in textile and garment which has not developed the sector; instead Tanzania’s cotton leaves the country unprocessed and second hand clothing, as well as cheap and illegal imports have flooded the country.

Export led growth in the Africa’s garment sector has focused on the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) that has created a complete dependence of African garment workers and the communities they support on the United States market and legislature.

This has resulted in high levels of flight risk in foreign producers that have set up shop in African countries to take advantage of the access to the US market under AGOA, resulting in highly vulnerable low paid employment. For Tanzania, garment exports under AGOA to the US was valued at US $25 million in 2015, this is substantial given that all exports are from only two factories, Mazava in Morogoro and Tooku in Dar es Salaam, with a total employment of 4,000 workers.

The development of the industry under current trade dispensations has failed to significantly develop full value chain production in Tanzania from cotton through spinning, weaving, knitting, design and finished goods production processes. The Tanzanian government has been at the forefront of pushing for a shift in the EAC to locally produced garment consumption in order to reduce foreign market and producer dependency and to stimulate economic activity. The EAC announced in 2016 that it would consider a complete ban on the importation of second hand clothing as a vital first step to stimulate a localised value chain and the import tariff was raised on second hand clothing.

In March 2017, the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association (SMART) submitted a petition to the US Trade Representative requesting an out-of-cycle review to determine whether EAC countries are meeting the AGOA eligibility criteria. The SMART petition asserts a ban on imports of used clothing and footwear is imposing significant economic hardship on the US used clothing industry, and is in violation of the AGOA statutory eligibility criteria to make continual progress toward establishing a market based economy and eliminating barriers to US trade and investment. Acting Assistant US Trade Representative for Africa, Constance Hamilton, told the AGOA Forum held in Togo in August 2017 that the AGOA criteria is very clear about not putting in place bans or restrictions on US products and said if the EAC turns down used clothing from US, 40,000 people would be out of jobs in US.

While the US government is clearly concerned about its own companies and workers in the used clothing sector, in Tanzania there are also tens of thousands of informal sector workers and their families that were dependent on the trade in second hand clothing, already suffering by the sharp decline in second hand clothing imports in Tanzania as a result of the increased tariffs in 2016. The labour market has not been able to absorb the impact of the decline in trade in second hand clothing in Tanzania on informal sector employment

Kenya, which has the largest garment sector amongst the EAC countries and produces predominantly for the US, chose to suspend the tariff on used clothing because of the risk of a backlash from the US which could mean losing AGOA. The outcome of the out-of-cycle review has been the temporarily suspension of Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania from duty-free access to US and AGOA for all eligible exports until they reverse plans towards a ban.

EAC countries including Tanzania lack a sufficient domestic garment production base to meet domestic need with local or regional production. Thus cheap imports from countries like China will fill the market gap created by the ban in used clothing. The potential for social and economic deprivation as a result of the withdrawal of AGOA and the lack of a domestic base to absorb the impact of a ban are very real.

However the forces at play show the limited space developing countries have for economic self-determination. This move towards a common action plan aimed at developing regional value chain in the textile and garment industry position indicates a desire in the EAC to articulate and implement an African approach for the best utilisation of African resources within the region, with a greater focus on domestic consumption.

Producing affordable clothes and leather products in the region for local consumption could assist in the reduction of poverty, stabilise employment and improve the social wellbeing and the dignity of East African communities. It could also acknowledge and include informal sector traders in regional value chain developments.

Instead EAC countries have bowed to pressure from the US, announcing in a February 2018 joint statement of EAC presidents that partner states would focus on building the textile and footwear sectors in a manner that does not jeopardise AGOA benefits. The US acting director for Economic and Regional Affairs, Harry Sullivan has patronisingly suggested that it would be most effective if the domestic growth strategy focused on building brands and markets for the middle class rather than banning used clothing. Certainly this is most effective for the US and the used clothing and footwear that they dump on Africa’s poor.


*Aisha Bahadur is a consultant providing strategic support to civil society organisations including trade unions focussed on African issues.

Easy steps to renewing a U.S. Passport

If you’re planning to travel internationally in the next year, it’s time to check the expiration date on your passport. While processing times for passport renewal can vary (it typically takes four to eight weeks, depending on seasonality), travel experts and the U.S. Department of State recommend starting the process as early as possible.

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U.S. Passport Offices Face Record Demand for Applications. Photo: Skift

However, if you’re in a rush, you can choose expedited service – and receive your passport in two to three weeks – or you can visit a regional passport agency, but both will cost extra.

Read on for a step-by-step guide from U.S. News on renewing your passport.

Passport Renewal by Mail

If your passport was issued less than 15 years ago (and you still have it), you can renew your passport by mail. You’ll need to submit the existing passport, a new photo that meets passport requirements, a completed Form DS-82 and a personal check or money order for the fee. The fee for a standard passport book application is $110, and payment must be made out to the U.S. Department of State and include the full name and date of birth of the applicant. If your name has changed since your last passport was issued, you’ll need to also provide documentation, such as a marriage certificate, divorce decree or court order, to prove the name change.

You can mail all your materials in a large envelope, including your old passport and any name change documents, through the U.S. Postal Service to one of the National Passport Processing Center’s designated post office boxes. The address varies depending on what state you live in and whether you choose expedited or routine service. Expedited service ensures you’ll receive your new passport faster, but it will cost an additional $60. To expedite your passport by mail, clearly write “EXPEDITE” on the outside of the envelope.

You can also choose to expedite the process by renewing in person, but you’ll pay the same additional fee. The Department of State also recommends applicants use a trackable delivery method.

Passport Renewal in Person

If your passport has been damaged, lost or stolen, or if it’s more than 15 years old, you’ll have to renew in person. You’ll need to fill out Form DS-11 and provide proof of U.S. citizenship along with a photo ID. Proof of citizenship can be an original or certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate, a certificate of naturalization or citizenship, or a consular report of birth abroad. Your identification document can be a driver’s license, a government employee or military ID, a valid foreign passport or a certificate of naturalization or citizenship.

Keep in mind, applicants can use an expired passport as either evidence of citizenship or photo ID, not both. No matter what evidence you decide to provide, you’ll need to supply the documents in person, as well as submit photocopies of both your proof of citizenship and your photo ID. You’ll also need to provide a check or money order made out to the Department of State for the $110 fee, along with a photo that meets passport requirements. Credit cards are not accepted when renewing in person. When renewing your passport in person, you’ll also need to pay a $25 execution fee. (Note: This fee will increase to $35 on April 2, 2018.) An additional $60 fee applies if you choose expedited service.

Once you’ve gathered all your materials, you can make an appointment to visit a passport acceptance facility near you. Facilities range from post office locations to clerks of courts to other government offices. Some passport acceptance facilities include on-site photo facilities as well. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t sign your passport application until you’re instructed to by an acceptance agent.

Passport Renewal for Minors

Passports for children younger than 16 are only valid for five years, so parents will need to keep that in mind when obtaining and renewing passports for youngsters. Much of the same documentation used when first applying for a child’s passport will be needed for a renewed version. This means you’ll have to fill out the DS-11 form, provide proof of citizenship and present photo ID (as well as photocopies of both), submit a photo and pay the appropriate fees. Additional documentation is required to prove the parental relationship (like a birth certificate or adoption decree), and proof of parental consent is mandatory from both parents. The cost for renewing a child’s passport is $80, plus the $25 execution fee for applying in person. (Note: This fee will increase to $35 on April 2, 2018.) For more information on renewing a child’s passport, visit the Department of State website.

Passport Photo Requirements

Whether you’re applying by mail or in person, you’ll need to provide a photo that was taken in the last six months to go along with your passport application. The 2×2 color photo should have a white or off-white background with your head facing forward and a neutral expression or natural smile (don’t show your teeth). Keep in mind that glasses, hats and head coverings aren’t allowed in passport photos, except for medical and religious purposes. If that applies to you, you’ll need to provide a written statement from your doctor or religious official that verifies your traditional attire. You can obtain a passport photo from select post offices, passport acceptance facilities and some major drugstores. You can learn more about specific passport photo requirements from the Department of State website.


SOURCE: US News

Trump may have done something illegal

In a pair of extraordinary interviews on Monday, former Donald Trump aide Sam Nunberg said he would defy a grand jury subpoena from special counsel Robert Mueller but also said the president “may have done something” illegal.

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Sam Nunberg. Photo: The Times of Israel


Speaking first to the Washington Post and then on MSNBC, Nunberg vowed to defy Mueller, who is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 US election and alleged collusion between Trump aides and Moscow.

Mueller has indicted 13 Russians and four former Trump aides, three of whom have entered plea deals involving cooperation.

Nunberg, however, said he would tear up his subpoena live on Bloomberg TV.

He also told MSNBC host Katy Tur, the author of a bestselling book on the Trump campaign, that he thought the candidate “may have done something” illegal during the election.

He added: “I don’t know that for sure.”

Later, Nunberg told the Associated Press that though he was angry over Mueller’s request to have him appear in front of a grand jury and turn over thousands of emails and other communications with other ex-officials, he was “going to end up cooperating with them”.

A protege of veteran political operative Roger Stone, Nunberg was Trump’s political adviser before the start of his White House run. He was fired in August 2015, over racially charged Facebook posts, after he and Stone lost an internal power struggle with the then campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

Nunberg was sued by Trump on the eve of the 2016 Republican convention, for allegedly leaking information about Lewandowski’s relationship with the close Trump aide and future White House communications director Hope Hicks. The case was settled and Nunberg has remained close to many in Trump’s orbit.

Speaking to the Post, Nunberg dared Mueller to act if he refused to appear before a grand jury on Friday.

“Let him arrest me,” he said.

Speaking to MSNBC, Nunberg said: “I think it would be funny if they arrested me.”

Nunberg told Tur he would not cooperate with Mueller, saying: “It’s a witch-hunt and I’m not going to cooperate.

“Why do I have to spend 80 hours going over my email? That I’ve had with Steve Bannon and Roger Stone? Why does Bob Mueller need to see my emails when I send Roger and Steve clips and we talk about how much we hate people?”

Nunberg also said that had Trump not won the Republican primary, “he was probably going to endorse Hillary Clinton”.

He also showed the Post a copy of what appeared to be his subpoena, the newspaper reported, which included a list of names of those about whom the special counsel is seeking information. Hicks, former White House strategist Steve Bannon, Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, Lewandowski and Stone were among the names listed.

Speaking to the AP, Nunberg retreated again, saying: “I’m happy if the scope changes and if they send me a subpoena that doesn’t include [ex-foreign policy adviser] Carter Page.”

Nunberg insisted he had never spoken to Page, a key figure in the Russiainvestigations, and said the only reason he was being asked to testify was to provide information to be used against Stone, which he would not do.

The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, dismissed Nunberg’s comments.

“I’m not going to weigh into someone who doesn’t work at the White House,” she said. “From our perspective, we’re going to cooperate with the special counsel’s office and the reason we’re so comfortable doing so is there was absolutely no collusion with the Trump campaign.”

Nunberg also asked Tur for advice, saying: “What do you think Mueller is going to do to me?”

Tur responded: “I’m not a lawyer, I don’t know but given the circumstances you might be held in contempt of court.”

In a separate television interview, Nunberg told CNN that Mueller “thinks Trump is the Manchurian Candidate” though the former aide said he disagrees.

Nunberg said he believes investigators are interested in learning more about theMiss Universe pageant Trump held in Moscow in 2013.

“They probably want to know about Miss Universe 2013, if I had to guess,” Nunberg said. “There was nothing there, but they want to hear the testimony. They want to hear what other people said, and perhaps other people told them different things than I heard.”

It was during this visit to Moscow that Trump is said to have discussed potential business opportunities in Russian. Nunberg said he was asked about Trump Tower Moscow, which was under discussion but never built.

Investigators also asked him about the goings on inside Trump Tower in New York, where Trump lived and worked before moving into the White House.

“They asked questions to me in terms of did I hear Russian spoken around Trump Tower? No, Gloria, I never heard Russian spoken around Trump Tower, OK? Now, I understand why they have to ask that, but it was pretty ridiculous to me,” Nunberg said, referring to CNN’s political analyst, Gloria Borger.


SOURCE: The Guardian, UK/CNN

Ethnic cleansing: How US, UN failed South Sudan 

When South Sudan’s Yei region turned violent in the midst of the country’s civil war last year, a handful of U.N. and U.S. officials begged their leaders for help. Government soldiers were burning villages and slaughtering men, women and children, they warned.

Their pleas fell on deaf ears. The U.N. did not send peacekeeping troops to stay in Yei, and the U.S. continued to support South Sudan’s military, possibly in violation of U.S. law, according to an AP investigation based on dozens of internal documents and interviews.

Yei became the center of a nationwide campaign of what the U.N. calls “ethnic cleansing,” which has created the largest exodus of civilians in Africa since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. More than 1 million people have now fled to Uganda, mostly from the Yei region. And tens or even hundreds of thousands of people in South Sudan have died.

Kate Almquist Knopf, director at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the U.S. Defense Department, compared the situation in South Sudan to Rwanda.

“The same thing is happening now in South Sudan,” she said. “It’s happening on Africa’s watch. It’s happening on America’s watch. It’s happening on the United Nations’ watch.”

The U.N. says it is still considering sending a permanent peacekeeping force to Yei if it gets more troops. The U.N. now has about 12,000 peacekeepers throughout South Sudan, but U.S. officials say it would take roughly 40,000 to secure the country.

“It’s all about what resources the mission has available,” said spokesman Daniel Dickinson.

The U.S. budgeted $30 million in aid to South Sudan’s military for the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years and gave further $2 million in July for a military and security operations center. The assistance appears to violate a U.S. law prohibiting support to any unit that has committed a gross violation of human rights. South Sudanese soldiers are accused of gang-raping women and killing people, including civilians and a journalist. The government has denied “ethnic cleansing.”

A spokesperson for the State Department said military officials who received assistance “were vetted and not credibly implicated in the gross violation of human rights.”

However, the U.S. aid is a “red flag,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, who sponsored the law. “The South Sudanese security forces, like their rebel counterparts, are notorious for violating human rights without fear of being punished. We do not want the United States to be associated with such misconduct.”

South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, has received more than $1 billion in humanitarian aid every year from the U.S. and the U.N. In 2013, civil war broke out. A peace deal brokered by the U.S. and the international community collapsed in July 2016.

That month, government troops rampaged through the town of Nyori in the Yei region, according to a former local official. Like others, he spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retribution.

He ran into the bush to hide, and returned three days later to carnage.

“I witnessed with my own eyes, young children, they were slaughtered,” he said.

Rose Kiden fled when the soldiers swarmed her house. She said she came back to find her sister on the floor, after being raped by eight soldiers. Her husband was killed by government troops when he went to collect food.

But even as the violence near Yei spread, Kiden said, U.N. vehicles drove by without stopping.

“They didn’t do anything,” she said. “They just passed.”

When U.N. officials visited Yei in September 2016, they were horrified by stories of women gang-raped and a baby hacked with a machete.

“If the security situation is not rapidly stabilized, the protection crisis in Yei will swiftly become a multi-faceted humanitarian crisis,” said a U.N. report from Sept. 15 obtained by AP to the top U.N. leader in South Sudan at the time, Ellen Loj.

After nearly two months, the U.N. started sending small, temporary patrols to the Yei region, but the violence merely continued after they left. On Nov. 11, special advisor Adama Dieng warned about “the potential for genocide.”

That month, the U.N. decided not to send a permanent force to Yei. When asked why at her farewell press conference on Nov. 28, Loj said the U.N. did not as yet have enough troops.

“South Sudan is a big country and we cannot have a soldier behind each and every South Sudanese,” she said.

During another U.N. visit in February this year, a community leader from the Yei area said he had begged for peacekeepers three times in the past few weeks.

“We need imminent protection before it’s too late,” he said, according to an internal report. “If we get killed because we told you the truth today so be it.”

Hours later the U.N. left.

The U.S. also struggled to respond to the crisis in South Sudan, according to documents and interviews. In July 2016, the South Sudanese military fired dozens of bullets into two U.S. embassy vehicles.

Still, the U.S. continued to believe it could fix South Sudan’s military. In September, President Barack Obama sought a “long-term military to military relationship” with South Sudan and allowed military training and education, according to a letter to Congress obtained by AP.

“Once again in South Sudan, we have shown a pattern of having bad analysis, either ignoring the symptoms of the problem entirely, not seeing them, or analyzing them in the wrong way,” said Cameron Hudson, the director of African affairs at the National Security Council in the Bush administration.

The U.S. also got approval from the U.N. Security Council for 4,000 extra U.N. peacekeepers in South Sudan, but failed to get the South Sudan government to accept them.

In the fall, a dissent cable drafted within the State Department argued that U.S. support for the peace deal and failure to act was fueling violence.

“The risks of famine, continued mass atrocities, and genocide are among the highest in the world,” the draft cable said. The risks of not changing U.S. policy, it continued, “are immediate and unacceptably high.” The draft was never finalized because it did not gain enough support, and senior officials said pulling out of the peace deal would have created even more violence.

Today, more than 18,000 homes have been destroyed in the Yei region. Hundreds of people have died, and many more have fled.

A pastor from the Yei area at a refugee camp in Uganda said he felt abandoned by the U.N. and the world.

“They could have protected people’s lives,” he said. “They could have saved us from coming to this camp.”

US is missing World Cup for first time since 1990 and Trump is to be blamed

The last FIFA World Cup that didn’t feature the United States of America was in 1986 in Mexico, but all that seems to have changed as the US National team was unable to qualify for the most prestigious football event in Russia next year.

The result was an inexcusable 2-1 defeat suffered against Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday night.

Many Americans have described Tuesday night as the most “surreal and embarrassing night in US soccer history.”

Although, the sport has not been fully embraced in the US, the country has featured in every FIFA World Cup for the last 31 years and has become a CONCACAF powerhouse.

Even though the Americans are more excellent in other sports, football cannot be regarded as their weakest sport, judging by the history of the country’s football team.

The American football team managed to get a ticket to the 1990 World cup in Italy, even when the CONCACAF region had only two slots to the tournament.

They went on to make seven consecutive appearances in the World Cup Finals, reaching the knock out stage in four of the tournaments.

But that run came to a catastrophic end on Tuesday night and there’s just one person to blame: DONALD TRUMP.

Since his inauguration as President, Trump has been driving everyone crazy. I mean everyone. From politicians, to professionals, sportsmen, and even ordinary citizens.

Trump has attacked everyone who he sees as an antagonist in his bid to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.

Recently, players in the National Football League (NFL) have been his major target.

He has continued to attack the players for bending the knee in protest of his racist remarks when the national anthem comes up before the game. Not to forget his attack on basketball star, Steph Curry for turning down his invitation to the White House.

But he has refused to think for a minute what his constant, meaningless ramblings may be doing to the morale of the sportsmen of his country.

Trump’s unending hits on the NFL players and basketball stars may have just demoralised their football counterparts, leading to the United States witnessing its lowest point in its recent sporting history.

Trump to meet with Putin at the G-20 summit - H.R. McMaster

US approves new sanctions on Russia, Iran, N Korea

The US House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to slap new sanctions on Russia and force President Donald Trump to obtain politicians’ permission before easing any sanctions on Moscow.

Trump to meet with Putin at the G-20 summit - H.R. McMaster
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The sanctions bill comes as politicians investigate possible meddling by Russia in the 2016 presidential election and potential collusion by Republican Trump’s campaign.

New sanctions against Iran and its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which stands accused of supporting terrorism, and North Korea, for its missile tests, are also included in the bill backed by house members.

The Republican-controlled Senate passed an earlier version of the bill with near-unanimous support. The House added the North Korea measures after becoming frustrated with the Senate’s failure to advance a bill it passed in May.

Representative Ed Royce, the Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the three countries “are threatening vital US interests and destabilising their neighbours. It is well past time that we forcefully respond”.

It was unclear how quickly the bill would make its way to the White House for Trump to sign into law or veto.

The bill still must be passed by the Senate, which is mired in debate over efforts to overhaul the US healthcare system as politicians try to clear the decks to leave Washington for their summer recess.

A prominent member of the upper house of Russia’s parliament, Konstantin Kosachyov, responded on Wednesday saying that Moscow should prepare a “painful” response to new US sanctions.

“Judging by the unanimous vote in the US House of Representatives on the sanctions package against Russia, Iran and North Korea, there will be no breakthrough [in U.S.-Russian relations] … In fact, further degradation of bilateral cooperation is becoming inevitable,” Kosachyov said on his Facebook page.

Bill ‘likely to pass’

Al Jazeera’s Heidi Zhou-Castro reporting from Washington, DC, said the bill is likely to pass in the Senate and be on the president’s desk for final approval by the end of the month.

“This was a rare show of bipartisan solidarity in a near unanimous vote and reflects the widespread concern about Trump’s perceived overfriendly relationship with Moscow,” she said.

“If Trump signs the bill, giving it approval, he will acknowledge that Russia did meddle in 2016 US presidential elections.

“But if he does not sign the bill, he faces a political firestorm given that his campaign, his close family members and closest advisers are under investigations in Capitol Hill for their alleged roles of colluding with the Russian government in getting Trump to the White House.”

The intense focus on Russia, involving several congressional probes and a separate investigation by a Justice Department-appointed special counsel, Robert Mueller, has overshadowed Trump’s agenda.

The scrutiny has angered and frustrated the president, who calls the investigations a politically motivated witch-hunt fuelled by Democrats who cannot accept his upset win in last November’s election against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state.

On Tuesday, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, spent three hours with the House of Representatives intelligence panel, his second straight day on Capitol Hill answering questions about his contacts with Russians during the campaign.

Kushner had a “very productive session” with the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic Representative Adam Schiff said after the meeting.

Kushner, who is now a top aide in Trump’s White House, told reporters on Monday he had no part in any Kremlin plot.

US House Republicans on Tuesday rejected a legislative effort by Democrats to obtain Treasury Department documents that could show any ties between the finances of Trump, his inner circle and the Russian government.

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US Secretary of State John Kerry

US gives conditions for more assistance to South Sudan

Bloomgist have been reporting on the visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry to Nigeria today, but comments that he made in Kenya on Monday are still making headlines.

John Kerry
Screen shot from Eye Radio


South Sudan’s Eye Radio says it’s got an exclusive following an interview with Mr Kerry.

He was talking about the money that the US could give to South Sudan more funding if the peace agreement signed last year to end the country’s civil war is implemented.

He said:

If they choose not to do that, then we, who have been the largest donor in the world to the government of South Sudan, will have to rethink what we are doing because we are not [going to] work with the government that is not willing to work with itself and with its own people.”

 

The peace process has hit a problem following clashes in the capital, Juba, last month.

SInce then, Riek Machar, who led rebel forces in the civil war has left the country and has been sacked as First Vice President.

Mr Kerry said one aspect of the peace process that needs to be implemented is the creation of a court to try those suspected of committing crimes during the civil war, which began in December 2013.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/Eye Radio/BBC