Monday, July 16, 2018

US Arrests, Accuses Woman Of Acting As Russian Agent

Court papers unsealed Monday, July 16, 2018, photographed in Washington, shows part of the criminal complaint against Maria Butina. She was arrested July 15, on a charge of conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of the Russian government. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick



BY CHAD DAY


WASHINGTON (AP)
— A 29-year-old gun-rights activist served as a covert Russian agent while living in Washington, gathering intelligence on American officials and political organizations and working to establish back-channel lines of communications for the Kremlin, federal prosecutors charged Monday.

The announcement of the arrest of Maria Butina came just hours after President Donald Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and just days after special counsel Robert Mueller charged 12 Russian intelligence officials with directing a sprawling hacking effort aimed at swaying the 2016 election.

Mueller didn’t file the charge against Butina, but court papers show her activities revolved around American politics during the 2016 campaign and included efforts to use contacts with the National Rifle Association to develop relationships with U.S. politicians and gather intelligence for Russia.

Court papers also reveal that an unnamed American who worked with Butina claimed to have been involved in setting up a “private line of communication” ahead of the 2016 election between the Kremlin and “key” officials in an American political party through the NRA.

The court papers do not name the political party mentioned in the October 2016 message, but they contain details that appear to refer to the Republican Party. The documents don’t say whether the back channel was ever established.

The NRA, which has previously been connected to Butina in public reporting and information released by members of Congress, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Butina, a Russian national who has been living in the U.S., was charged with conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of the Russian government. A federal judge in Washington ordered her jailed until a hearing set for Wednesday, according to a statement from the Justice Department and Jessie Liu, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.

In a statement, Butina’s attorney, Robert Driscoll, called the allegations “overblown” and said prosecutors had criminalized mundane networking opportunities. Driscoll said Butina was not an agent of the Russian Federation but was instead in the U.S. on a student visa, graduating from American University with a master’s degree in international relations.

“There is simply no indication of Ms. Butina seeking to influence or undermine any specific policy or law or the United States — only at most to promote a better relationship between the two nations,” Driscoll said in a statement. “The complaint is simply a misuse of the Foreign Agent statute, which is designed to punish covert propaganda, not open and public networking by foreign students.”

He said Butina’s Washington apartment was raided by the FBI in April, and said she had offered to answer questions from the Justice Department and Mueller’s team but the special counsel’s office “has not expressed interest.”

Court papers filed in support of Butina’s arrest accuse her of participating in a conspiracy that began in 2015 in which an unnamed senior Russian official “tasked” her with working to infiltrate American political organizations with the goal of “reporting back to Moscow” what she had learned.

The charging documents include several emails and Twitter direct message conversations in which she refers to the need to keep her work secret or, in one case, “incognito.”

Authorities did not name the Kremlin official accused of directing Butina’s efforts, but details in the court papers match the description of Alexander Torshin, a Russian official who has been publicly connected to her.

Torshin, who became an NRA life member in 2012, was among a group of Russian oligarchs and officials targeted in April with Treasury Department sanctions for their associations with Putin and their roles in “advancing Russia’s malign activities.” Torshin, who was listed as “State Secretary-deputy Governor of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation,” was designated under the sanctions as a Russian official.

The sanctions affect the targeted Russians by freezing all of their assets subject to U.S. jurisdiction and banning Americans and U.S. businesses from conducting transactions with them.

Prosecutors say Butina, at the official’s direction, met with U.S. politicians and candidates, attended events sponsored by special interest groups — including two National Prayer Breakfast events — and organized Russian-American “friendship and dialogue” dinners in Washington as part of her work.

Court papers also show that after the 2016 election, Butina worked to set up a Russian delegation’s visit to the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast, describing it in an email as an effort to “establish a back channel of communication.” After the visit, Butina emailed the organizer of the breakfast thanking him for a gift and “for the very private meeting” that followed the breakfast.

“A new relationship between two countries always begins better when it begins in faith,” Butina wrote, saying she had “important information” that would further the new relationship.

Two days later, she emailed another American who had been involved in some of the email communication surrounding the prayer breakfast and her efforts to arrange several dinners between Russians and people involved in U.S. politics.

“Our delegation cannot stop chatting about your wonderful dinner,” Butina wrote. “My dearest President has received ‘the message’ about your group initiatives and your constructive and kind attention to the Russians.”

Butina has previously surfaced in U.S. media reports related to her gun-rights advocacy.

In 2011, she founded a pro-gun organization in Russia, the Right to Bear Arms, and she has been involved in coordinating between American gun rights activists and their Russian counterparts, according to reports in The New York Times, Time and the Daily Beast.

Butina hosted several leading NRA executives and pro-gun conservatives at her group’s annual meeting in 2015, according to those reports. Among those who attended were former NRA President David Keene, conservative political operative Paul Erickson and former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, later a strong Trump supporter.

Butina also says she met with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at his presidential campaign launch event in 2015, according to a report by Mother Jones magazine earlier this year.


Associated Press writers Eric Tucker, Stephen Braun, Scott Bauer and Desmond Butler contributed to this report.

Wave Of Condemnation Hits Trump After Summit With Putin

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., criticizes President Donald Trump's performance during his side-by-side news conference with Russia's Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, as he speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, July 16, 2018. Trump openly questioned his own intelligence agencies' conclusions that Moscow was to blame for meddling in the 2016 U.S. election to Trump's benefit.



WASHINGTON (AP) — "Bizarre." ''Shameful." ''Disgraceful." That's the swift and sweeping condemnation directed at President Donald Trump on Monday after he sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a stunning appearance in Helsinki — and that's just from the Republicans.

Lawmakers in both major parties and former intelligence officials appeared shocked, dismayed and uneasy with Trump's suggestion that he believes Putin's denial of interfering in the 2016 elections. It was a remarkable break with U.S. intelligence officials and the Justice Department. And just as alarming for some, Trump also put the two countries on the same footing when casting blame for their strained relations.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called it "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory." Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., called it "bizarre." Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., called it "shameful." And Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., tweeted that it was a "bad day for the US."

"This was a very good day for President Putin," said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. He said Trump's refusal to condemn Russian interference in the 2016 election makes the U.S. "look like a pushover."

Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, said he's seen Russian intelligence manipulate many people in his earlier career as a CIA officer. But, he tweeted, "I never would have thought that the US President would become one of the ones getting played by old KGB hands."

House Speaker Paul Ryan weighed in to say there's "no question" that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and "no moral equivalence" between the U.S. and Russia. "The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally," Ryan, R-Wis., said in a statement. Russia, he said, "remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals."

Much of the Republican rebuke came from lawmakers who have been willing to openly criticize the president, a group that remains a minority in the GOP. Many top Republicans remained on the sidelines after the Justice Department on Friday indicted 12 Russian intelligence officials for election-related hacking.

But several Republicans who don't typically buck the president raised concerns, shocked by Monday's performance. Trump ally Newt Gingrich called it "the most serious mistake" of Trump's presidency — and one that "must be corrected_immediately."

Democrats pleaded with their GOP colleagues who have majority control of Congress to rein in the president and become a stronger legislative check on the executive branch. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., the minority leader, says never in the history of the country has an American president supported an adversary the way Trump sided with Putin. He challenged Republicans to move beyond words and confront the president directly by increasing sanctions on Russia and requesting testimony about the summit from Trump administration officials, among other things.

"We need our Republican colleagues to stand up for the good of this country," he said. And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Trump's weakness in front of Putin wasn't just "embarrassing" but also "proves that the Russians have something on the President, personally, financially or politically."

Republicans have been hesitant to fully confront a president who remains popular among GOP voters back home. But Trump's hold on the GOP is being put to the test by his willingness to align with Putin, a leader whom Republicans routinely describe as an enemy of the United States.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., repeated his earlier assessment that the Russians are "not our friends." He said he has "complete confidence in our intelligence community and the findings."

The second-ranking Republican, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, said Trump has a "delicate task" in dealing with Putin, but added that he supports the intelligence community's assessment of election meddling.

Monday's firestorm erupted when Trump, standing side by side with Putin in Helsinki, refused to say he believed that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, or to publicly condemn it. Instead, he directed his ire at Democrats and U.S. officials, calling special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russia a "disaster."

Asked if there was anything he thinks Russia should take responsibility for, Trump said, "We're all to blame." McCain called the summit a "tragic mistake." Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, said she is "deeply troubled" by Trump's defense of Putin against U.S. intelligence agencies "and his suggestion of moral equivalence" between the two countries.

Even Graham, a sometime Trump ally, called the summit a "missed opportunity by President Trump to firmly hold Russia accountable for 2016 meddling and deliver a strong warning regarding future elections."

While some GOP lawmakers were less strident in their criticism of Trump, their discomfort was clear. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said he was "dismayed" by Trump's stance. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., called it "unacceptable."

Off Capitol Hill, former intelligence chiefs who served under President Barack Obama were scathing in their criticism. John Brennan, who served as CIA director, called Trump's comments "treasonous." "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. Republican Patriots: Where are you???" Brennan tweeted.

James Clapper, who was director of national intelligence under Obama, described Trump's comments as "very, very disturbing." "On the world stage in front of the entire globe the president of the United States essentially capitulated and seems intimidated by Vladimir Putin," Clapper told CNN.

James Comey, the FBI director fired by Trump, tweeted, "This was the day an American president stood on foreign soil next to a murderous lying thug and refused to back his own country." At least one Republican, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, scoffed at both parties "beating their chests" on Russia and "dumbing down" the debate, saying it's important for the U.S. to have diplomatic channels open with its adversaries if the country hopes to change behavior.

"They're making a big mistake," Paul said. He dismissed the president's critics as those who hate the president. "It's Trump derangement syndrome." Another key Republican echoed the president's criticism of the special counsel probe.

Rep. Darrell Issa of California said he takes the charges filed by Mueller's team seriously but questions the timing coming days before the Trump-Putin meeting. "I personally would neither rule in nor rule out the validity."

But another Republican, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, warned that while Trump may feel that he can achieve a better working relationship with Putin by being nice to him, that's unlikely to work. "The flaw in that is that President Putin is not interested in a better relationship," Rubio said at a forum sponsored by the Atlantic. "He views politics as a battle between the strong and the weak. ... He doesn't believe in win-win scenarios. He believes in zero sum."

Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick, Alan Fram and Kevin Freking contributed to this report.

The Trump-Putin summit news hub is active on the AP News site and the mobile app. It showcases AP's overall coverage of the event. It can be found at https://www.apnews.com/tag/Trump-PutinSummit

Judge Temporarily Halts Deportation Of Reunified Families

Jelsin Aguilar Padilla shakes immigration attorney Jorge L. Baron's hand after stepping off his flight from New York into the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport as he is reunited with his mother Yolany in Seattle. The Trump administration is due back in court Monday, July 16, 2018, to discuss a plan reunify more than 2,500 children who were separated at the border from their parents.(Rebekah Welch/The Seattle Times via AP, File)



SAN DIEGO (AP) — A federal judge on Monday ordered a temporary halt to deportations of immigrant families reunited after being separated at the border, as the Trump administration races to meet a July 26 deadline for putting more than 2,500 children back in their parents' arms.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw imposed a delay of at least a week after a request from the American Civil Liberties Union, which cited "persistent and increasing rumors ... that mass deportations may be carried out imminently and immediately upon reunification."

Justice Department attorney Scott Stewart opposed the delay but did not address the rumors in court. The ACLU requested that parents have at least one week to decide whether to pursue asylum in the U.S. after they are reunited with their children. The judge held off on deciding that issue until the government outlines its objections in writing by next Monday.

ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt told reporters that he was "extremely pleased" by the halt and that parents need time to think over with their children and advisers whether to seek asylum. "It's hard to imagine a more profound or momentous decision," he said.

The hearing in San Diego occurred as the government accelerated reunifications at eight unidentified U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement locations. The families are scattered around the country, the adults at immigration detention centers, the children at shelters overseen by the government.

Annunciation House, a shelter in El Paso, said the government has begun transporting children in a "tremendous amount of airline flights" to El Paso and elsewhere. Director Ruben Garcia said he is preparing to take in as many as 100 reunified families a day.

Late last month, Sabraw ordered the government to reunite the thousands of children and parents who were forcibly separated at the border by the Trump administration this spring. He set a deadline of July 10 for children under 5 and gave the government until July 26 to reunite 2,551 youngsters ages 5 to 17.

On Monday, the judge commended the government for a revised plan submitted over the weekend to reunify the older children. The plan calls for DNA testing and other screening measures if red flags are raised during background checks.

Jonathan White of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, who is overseeing the government's effort, assured the judge that some reunifications of older children already occurred, and "it is our intent to reunify children promptly." He went into detail on how the process was working.

The judge praised White's testimony, saying, "What is in place is a great start to making a large number of reunifications happen very, very quickly." "I have every confidence that you are the right person to do this," he told White.

It was a sharp change from Friday, when the government submitted a plan for "truncated" vetting that excluded DNA testing and other procedures used for children under 5. The government official said the abbreviated vetting was necessary to meet the court-imposed deadline but put children at significant risk.

Sabraw said late Friday that he was having second thoughts about his belief that the government was acting in good faith. In a hastily arranged conference call, he told administration officials that its plan misrepresented his instructions and showed "a very grudging reluctance to do things."

Sabraw said in court Monday that the initial plan was "exasperating," ''completely unhelpful," and "written in a manner that seemed wholly divorced from the context of this case." "This is not hard stuff," he said. "It's laborious, but it's not difficult to do."

Sabraw has scheduled three more hearings over the next two weeks to ensure compliance with his order. Also Monday, advocates said in federal court in Los Angeles that immigrant children in government custody are being given poor food, kept in unsanitary conditions and face insults and threats.

The allegations came amid a long-running effort by attorneys to have a court-appointed monitor oversee the U.S. government's compliance with a decades-old settlement governing the treatment of immigrant children caught on the border.

Attorneys interviewed immigrant parents and children in June and July about their experiences in Border Patrol facilities, family detention and a youth shelter. They described much of the testimony as "shocking and atrocious."

Families described meals of frozen sandwiches and spoiled food, overflowing toilets and guards yelling at them and kicking them while they slept. Children said they were hungry and scared when their parents were taken away.

Long reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Amy Taxin in Santa Ana, California, and Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico, contributed to this report.

'I'm Tired Of Life': How Nigeria's Poorest People Struggle To Survive

In Abuja, Mohammed Ahmed and his extended family survive on just £1.50 a day, including what he sends to relatives in Maiduguri to help them buy food. Photograph: Isaac Linus




ABUJA (THE GUARDIAN)
--Families living on £1.50 a day or less tell of the hardships of life in the oil-rich nation, which now has the greatest concentration of extreme poverty

Nkechi John, 39, lives in a single room with her four children and husband, who is a welder. Their daily lives are fairly typical of people in poverty in Nigeria, which according to the Brookings Institution now has the world’s greatest number of extreme poor.

“Life is tough and everybody is complaining,” she says. “I used to sell akara [bean cake]. I could make around 1,000-1,200 naira [£2-£2.50] profit every day, but now I can’t even make 400 naira. People don’t have money to buy it because there are no jobs.

“Most of my customers are bricklayers, plumbers, electricians. I couldn’t even sell all of the cake I made today to make up to 400 naira.

“I am tired of life,” she says, adding she can believe poverty is now worse than in India. “The suffering’s too much. The president and government need to do something before we all die.

“I try to do some farming, but there is no money to buy fertiliser and the crops have all turned yellow due to the lack of it. And only two of our school-age kids are in school because we can’t afford it.”

Uche Joseph Uwaleke, an economist at Nasarawa State University in Nigeria’s central region, explains why there has been an increase in extreme poverty. “There is the issue of insecurity in the north-east. Although the Boko Haram violence has been reduced to a manageable level, local farmers in that region are still afraid of going to farms.

“Despite the end of the recession, manufacturing, the transportation sector and agriculture have still not recovered.”

He also blames poor governance. “The late approval and poor implementation of the budget is another reason for the growing poverty. All of this affects jobs.”

Although Uwaleke sees glimmers of hope from policies to improve Nigeria’s chronic poverty he is concerned that the situation remains fragile.

Life is also a struggle for Mohammed Ahmed, 33. The Islamic teacher and father-of-four comes from Borno state and now lives in Abuja. He and his extended family have just £1.50 a day to live on, including what he manages to send to relatives in Maiduguri to help them buy food.

“Because of Boko Haram they cannot go to the farms because they are afraid they will be killed. Nobody is farming in Borno state except within Maiduguri, the state capital. But I can’t give them anything because I struggle to take care of my family.”

Like Nkechi John, he also struggles to buy fertiliser he needs to grow the crops on his small farm.

“The government says one 50kg bag should cost 5,500 naira but that is not even available. So we have to buy in the open market where the bag costs 15,000 naira. So I can’t afford to buy enough.”

Putin Says He Wanted Trump To Win In 2016, Didn't Interfere

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hand with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the end of the press conference after their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018.



HELSINKI (AP) — Russia's Vladimir Putin said Monday he did want Donald Trump to win the 2016 U.S. presidential election but took no action during the campaign to make it happen. He said he favored the celebrity businessman because of his policies.

Trump and Putin "spent a great deal of time" discussing allegations of Russian election meddling as they met for several hours Monday, the U.S. president said. But Trump did not strongly condemn the interference efforts, which U.S. intelligence agencies insist did occur, including hacking of Democratic emails, the subject of last week's indictment of 12 Russians.

Trump said, as he has countless times, that there was "no collusion" between his campaign and the Russians. Putin, as always, denied all. The two leaders spoke at a joint news conference. Trump, in opening remarks, said that U.S.-Russia relations had been at their lowest point until the two sat down face-to-face in a highly-anticipated summit.

"That changed," Trump said, "As of about four hours ago." Trump also continued to deny that there had been any other collusion between his campaign and Russians, declaring: "We ran a brilliant campaign and that's why I'm president."

The summit began just hours after Trump blamed the United States — and not Russian election meddling or its annexation of Crimea — for a low-point in U.S.-Russia relations. The drama was playing out against a backdrop of fraying Western alliances, a new peak in the Russia investigation and fears that Moscow's aggression may go unchallenged.

"Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse," Trump tweeted Monday morning, blaming "many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!" The Russian foreign ministry responded by liking Trump's tweet and then replying: "We agree."

Asked about the tweet and whether he held Russia responsible for anything, Trump said he held "both countries responsible" thinks the United States has been "fooling" and that "we're all to blame." "The probe in a disaster for our country. There was no collusion at all"

Putin, speaking through an interpreter, once again denied what he described as "so-called interference of Russia." He called it "nonsense" and insisted the Russian state had never interfered and would never interfere in the American electoral process.

The pair had opened their long-awaited summit Monday with a wink and slouch, respectively, then talked one on one behind closed doors for two-plus hours before the American leader declared their meeting was off to a "very, very good start for everybody."

"We have not been getting along well for the last number of years," Trump said after arriving at the Presidential Palace in Finland's capital, where the leaders are meeting. "But I think we will end up having an extraordinary relationship. ... I really think the world wants to see us get along."

Putin, for his part, said he and Trump have maintained regular contact through phone calls and meetings at international events but "the time has come to have a thorough discussion on various international problems and sensitive issues." He added: "There are quite a few of them for us to pay attention to."

Their opening one-on-one session had been scheduled to run 90 minutes. The Russians said it lasted two hours and 10 minutes. The White House wouldn't immediately confirm the timing. The summit, which is being closely watched around the world, was not the first time Trump and Putin have held talks. They met on the sidelines of world leader meetings in Germany and Vietnam last year. But Monday's session was condemned in advance by members of Congress from both parties after the U.S. indictment last week of 12 Russian military intelligence officers accused of hacking Democrats in the 2016 election to help Trump's presidential campaign.

Trump said last week that he would raise the meddling issue again with Putin, but questions have been swirling about whether Trump will sharply and publicly rebuke his Russian counterpart for the interference that prompted a special investigation probe that Trump has repeatedly labeled a "witch hunt."

Addressing reporters before the one-on-one meeting, Putin struck a casual pose during Trump's remarks, slouching in his chair with his legs wide and eyes low. He nodded along to some of Trump's remarks before they were translated, showcasing his fluency in English. Trump leaned forward in his chair, his hands tented in front of him and frequently glanced over at the Russian president. At one point, he shot Putin a wink. After Trump concluded his remarks, American reporters shouted several questions about whether he would bring up election meddling during his discussions with Putin.

Trump did not respond; Putin appeared to smirk. With that, the leaders gave a quick handshake and their private meeting in the opulent Gothic Hall was under way . Just the two of them, each with a translator.

They continued the discussion with an expanded group of aides and over lunch in a room called the Hall of Mirrors, which was once the emperor's throne room. Then came the joint news conference. Out on the streets, the summit attracted a grab-bag of protesters, with abortion-rights activists wearing artificially bulging bellies and Trump masks, anti-fascist protesters bearing signs with expletive-laden insults, and free traders, anti-war Ukrainians and gay rights supporters making their voices heard.

Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Ken Thomas and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.

Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire and Colvin at http://twitter.com/@colvinj and Isachenkov at http://twitter.com/@visachenkov

AP Analysis: Billionaires Fuel Powerful State Charter Groups

Students wait to be picked up by parents at Animo Westside Charter Middle School following a summer session to introduce new students to the school they will attend in the fall, in the Playa Del Rey area of Los Angeles. Animo is one of many schools to benefit from donations by billionaires that are influencing state education policy by giving money to state-level charter support organizations to sustain, defend and expand the charter schools movement across the country.


BY SALLY HO


SEATTLE (AP)
— Dollar for dollar, the beleaguered movement to bring charter schools to Washington state has had no bigger champion than billionaire Bill Gates. The Microsoft co-founder gave millions of dollars to see a charter school law approved despite multiple failed ballot referendums. And his private foundation not only helped create the Washington State Charter Schools Association, but has at times contributed what amounts to an entire year's worth of revenues for the 5-year-old charter advocacy group.

All told, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has given about $25 million to the charter group that is credited with keeping the charter schools open after the state struck down the law, and then lobbying legislators to revive the privately run, publicly funded schools.

It's an extreme example of how billionaires are influencing state education policy by giving money to state-level charter support organizations to sustain, defend and expand the charter schools movement across the country.

Since 2006, philanthropists and their private foundations and charities have given almost half a billion dollars to those groups, according to an Associated Press analysis of tax filings and Foundation Center data. The review looked at 52 groups noted by a U.S. Department of Education website as official charter school resources in the 44 states plus Washington, D.C., that currently have a charter law, as well as the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Most of the money has gone to the top 15 groups, which received $425 million from philanthropy. The Walton Family Foundation, run by the heirs to the Walmart fortune, is the largest donor to the state charter advocates, giving $144 million to 27 groups.

"We ought to be paying more attention to who these organizations are, and what kind of vision they have, and what drives them. A lot of these organizations have extraordinary influence, and it's often pretty quiet influence," said Jon Valant, an education policy expert at Brookings.

Charters aren't subject to the same rules or standards governing traditional public schools but are embraced by Gates and other philanthropists who see them as investments in developing better and different ways to educate those who struggle in traditional school systems, particularly children in poor, urban areas. Studies on academic success are mixed.

The charter support groups, as nonprofits, are typically forbidden from involvement in political campaigns, but the same wealthy donors who sustain them in many cases directly channel support to pro-charter candidates through related political action committees or their own contributions. In one indication of the philanthropy's success in asserting its priorities, Georgia's lieutenant governor was recorded saying he was motivated to support school choice laws to curry the Walton foundation's favor for his gubernatorial campaign. The Walton family has denied any connection to the candidate.

Nationwide, about 5 percent of students attend charters. They have become a polarizing political issue amid criticism from some, notably teachers unions, that they drain resources from cash-starved schools and erode the neighborhood schooling model that defines communities.

The Walton foundation notes the groups it funds have resources that often pale in comparison to the war chests of teachers unions, the usual foes in their battles over state education policy. "The philanthropic support is essential for a small group of schools" that represents disadvantage families without their own political power, said Robin Lake, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education, a University of Washington-affiliated think tank that has in the past been funded by the Gates foundation to do work supporting charter schools.

But John Rogers, an education policy expert and UCLA professor, said it's a problem for democracy that billionaires who back a certain model of education reform can go toe-to-toe with a critical mass of professional teachers.

"A handful of billionaires who are advancing their vision of education reform is very different than having 200,000-some odd teachers across the state representing their understanding of public education through their union representation," Rogers said.

In California, the Waltons are the biggest backers of the powerhouse California Charter School Association, which has gotten more than $100 million since 2006 with support coming also from Gates, Michael and Susan Dell and the Mark Zuckerburg-backed Silicon Valley Community foundations.

"We're proud of our partners and very open about our desired outcomes, and that is, honestly, access to more better schools," said Marc Sternberg, who leads the Walton foundation's education program. Sternberg said the foundation doesn't set the agenda but wants to empower the local vision, which has included the charter association's fight for more money and access to public school buildings through lawsuits against Los Angeles Unified, the country's second-largest school district. The California charter group said it works aggressively when painted into a corner.

A political arm of the association also has been a force in Golden State politics. It's now focusing on pushing pro-charter candidates in the November election, including former charter schools executive Marshall Tuck for state schools superintendent, and a number of legislative seats.

In Washington state, charter skeptics say Gates single-handedly propped up the entire charter school network. He gave at least $4 million to help pass a state charter school law, though the concept had failed three times at the ballot. Voters eventually approved a charter school law in 2012, making Washington one of the last states to adopt the schooling model.

After the state's highest court ruled in 2015 that the charter law's funding model was unconstitutional, the Gates-backed state charter group shepherded almost $5 million to keep the lights on at six charter schools and urged legislators to pass a new law. In 2016, its political arm called Washington Charters Action was created, and an affiliated political action committee has already given small amounts to dozens of state lawmakers up for election this fall.

Today, the state's teachers union is challenging the second version of the law. The Washington Educators Association's spokesman Rich Wood said the charter group inserted itself into the case after the union sued the state.

The Washington charter group — and all the charter schools in the state — wouldn't agree to be interviewed. The Gates foundation said in a statement it is not involved with the lawsuit but values the association's technical work helping charter schools blossom.

Some critics say money can define the advocacy itself, so not all charter support groups accept money from the billionaire philanthropists. A second statewide charter support organization in California, the Charter Schools Development Center, relies on programming fees to preserve its independence, according to director Eric Premack.

Though the two California charter groups share many similar values, Premack said, they're on different sides of the testing issue: how to and how much to use test scores to determine educational quality. Premack said he rejects test-based accountability — embraced by the California Charter Schools Association and many of its business mogul donors — as antithetical to the charter movement's innovative spirit.

"You often find them being close political bedfellows — if not the same — who support high-stakes testing," Premack said.

Associated Press journalist Larry Fenn contributed from New York.

Follow AP Education Reporter Sally Ho on Twitter: https://twitter.com/_SallyHo

EU Official Urges Trump, Putin Not To Destroy Global Order

European Council President Donald Tusk, third from right, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, fourth from right, meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at left at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Monday, July 16, 2018.




BEIJING (AP) — A senior European official on Monday urged U.S. President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and China to work with Europe to avoid trade wars and prevent conflict and chaos.

Speaking before Trump and Putin were due to meet in Helsinki, European Council President Donald Tusk appealed for leaders to avoid wrecking a political and economic order that nurtured a peaceful Europe and developing China.

Tusk spoke at a news conference with China's No. 2 leader, Premier Li Keqiang, following an annual EU-Chinese economic summit also attended by the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. They met amid mounting acrimony over Trump's tariff hikes on goods from China, Europe and other trading partners.

"It is the common duty of Europe and China, America and Russia, not to destroy this order but to improve it, not to start trade wars which turn into hot conflict so often in our history," said Tusk, a former Polish prime minister.

Tusk appealed to governments to "bravely and responsibly" reform the World Trade Organization, the global trade regulator, by updating its rules to address technology policy and state-owned industries — areas in which Beijing has conflicts with its trading partners. Trump has criticized the WTO as outdated and has gone outside the body to impose import controls, prompting warnings he was undermining the global system.

"There is still time to prevent conflict and chaos," said Tusk. "Today, we are facing a dilemma — whether to play a tough game such as tariff wars and conflict in places like Ukraine and Syria, or to look for common solutions based on fair rules."

Last week, Tusk lambasted Trump's criticism of European allies and urged him to remember who his friends are when he met Putin. Other governments have criticized Trump for going outside the WTO when he imposed 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods. That was in response to complaints Beijing is hurting American companies by stealing or pressuring enterprises to hand over technology.

Trump strained relations with allies by imposing tariff hikes on steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico and the European Union. The 28-country European trade bloc responded with import taxes on $3.25 billion of U.S. goods.

Li, the premier, said China and the EU agreed to take steps to "safeguard free trade" and the global multilateral regulatory system. "Given the complicated and fluid international landscape, it is important for China and the EU to uphold multilateralism," said Li.

The premier repeated official promises to open China's markets wider but didn't directly address complaints about industrial policy or investment barriers the United States, EU and other trading partners say violate its free-trade commitments.

Beijing has tried, so far without success, to recruit European support in its dispute with Washington. European leaders have criticized Trump's tactics but share U.S. criticism of China's industrial policy and market barriers.

Asked whether China used Monday's meeting to try to form an alliance with the EU against Washington, Li said the dispute was a bilateral matter for Beijing and the United States to solve. "Our summit is not directed at any third party," said Li.

The EU and China announced plans June 25 to form a group to work on updating WTO rules. They gave no time line and private sector analysts expressed skepticism Beijing would agree to rules that might hamper its plans to develop Chinese champions in technology and other industries.

Li has appealed to visiting European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel in May by saying their companies were welcome to invest. An EU report last month said Beijing imposed more new import and investment barriers in 2017 than any other government.

Chinese leaders have tried to defuse foreign pressure by promising foreign companies better treatment without changing their industrial development strategies. On Monday, reporters were invited to watch part of a meeting between Li, the premier, and executives of European companies including Airbus and BMW AG in an apparent show of openness.

Li assured the companies Beijing would protect patents and copyrights. When a BMW executive said joint a German-Chinese agreement this month to cooperate in developing intelligent vehicles would benefit from the early release of standards by Beijing for the technology, Li asked whether he was concerned joint formulation of those standards would undermine his company's intellectual property. The executive said no.

"I want to hear if any big company here would like to make a complaint here on the theft of intellectual property," said the premier. "I don't know where my measure should target at if you don't let me know."

None of the executives raised concerns about intellectual property during the portion of the meeting reporters were allowed to see.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Trump Names EU A Global Foe, Raps Media Before Putin Summit

Vehicles wait for the arrival of U.S. President Donald Trump on the tarmac of the Helsinki International Airport in Vantaa, Finland on Sunday, July 15, 2018. Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold a summit in Helsinki on Monday. (Antii Aimo-Koivisto/Lehtikuva via AP)


BY JILL COLVIN


HELSINKI (AP)
— President Donald Trump named the European Union as a top adversary of the United States and denounced the news media as the "enemy of the people" before arriving in Helsinki on Sunday on the eve of his high-stakes summit with Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Trump and his top aides were downplaying expectations for Monday's summit as Trump continued to rattle allies by lumping in the EU with Russia and China after barnstorming across Europe, causing chaos at the recent NATO summit and in a trip to the United Kingdom.

Trump spent the weekend in Scotland at his resort in Turnberry, golfing, tweeting and granting an interview to CBS News in which he named the EU, a bloc of nations that includes many of America's closest allies, at the top of his list of biggest global foes.

"I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade," Trump said, adding that "you wouldn't think of the European Union, but they're a foe." He said that Russia is a foe "in certain respects" and that China is a foe "economically ... but that doesn't mean they are bad. It doesn't mean anything. It means that they are competitive."

Trump has been reluctant to criticize Putin over the years and has described him in recent days not as an enemy but as a competitor. On Sunday, Trump flew to Finland, the final stop on a weeklong trip that began last Tuesday. Near Trump's hotel, police roped off a group of about 60 mostly male pro-Trump demonstrators waving American flags. Big banners said "Welcome Trump" and "God Bless D & M Trump" and a helicopter hovered overhead.

Chants of "We love Trump, We love Trump" broke out as the president's motorcade passed, and Trump waved. Trump set expectations for the summit low, telling CBS News, "I don't expect anything. ... I go in with very low expectations." His national security adviser said they weren't looking for any "concrete deliverables."

He also said in the interview taped Saturday that he "hadn't thought" about asking Putin to extradite the dozen Russian military intelligence officers indicted this past week in Washington on charges related to the hacking of Democratic targets in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

But after being given the idea by his interviewer, Trump said, "Certainly I'll be asking about it." The U.S. has no extradition treaty with Moscow and can't compel Russia to hand over citizens. Russia's constitution prohibits extraditing its citizens to foreign countries.

Contradicting Trump in an interview on ABC's "This Week," U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said the idea of asking Putin to turn over the 12 military intelligence officials was "pretty silly" and argued that doing so would put the U.S. president in a "weak position."

He also argued that Trump is entering the summit with a stronger hand because of the indictments. "I think the president can put this on the table and say, 'This is a serious matter that we need to talk about,'" said Bolton, adding that asking for the indicted Russians to be turned over would have the opposite effect.

In the CBS News interview, Trump declined to discuss his goals for the summit — "I'll let you know after the meeting," he said — but said he believes such sessions are beneficial. He cited his historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June as a "good thing," along with meetings he's had with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"Nothing bad is going to come out of" the Helsinki meeting, he said, "and maybe some good will come out." From aboard Air Force One, Trump complained in tweets that he wasn't getting enough credit for his meeting with Kim and railed that "Much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people" as he headed to sit down with Putin.

Putin is regarded as creating a culture of violence and impunity that has resulted in the killing of some Russian journalists. Trump regularly criticizes American news media outlets and has called out some journalists by name.

Trump complained: "No matter how well I do at the Summit," he'll face "criticism that it wasn't good enough." "If I was given the great city of Moscow as retribution for all of the sins and evils committed by Russia over the years, I would return to criticism that it wasn't good enough — that I should have gotten Saint Petersburg in addition!" he tweeted.

Trump also praised Putin for holding the World Cup, which finished up Sunday. Trump and Putin have held talks several times before. Their first meeting came last July when both participated in an international summit and continued for more than two hours, well over the scheduled 30 minutes. The leaders also met last fall during a separate summit in Vietnam.

But Jon Huntsman, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, said Monday's meeting "is really the first time for both presidents to actually sit across the table and have a conversation, and I hope it's a detailed conversation about where we might be able to find some overlapping and shared interests."

Congressional Democrats and at least one Republican have called on Trump to pull out of Monday's meeting unless he is willing to make Russian election-meddling the top issue. Huntsman said the summit must go on because Russian engagement is needed to solve some international issues.

"The collective blood pressure between the United States and Russia is off-the-charts high so it's a good thing these presidents are getting together," he said during an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Trump has said he will raise the issue of Russian election meddling, along with Syria, Ukraine, nuclear proliferation and other topics. Bolton described the meeting as "unstructured" and said: "We're not looking for concrete deliverables here."

Associated Press writer Darlene Superville in Washington and Jamey Keaten in Helsinki contributed to this report.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Africa: Playground For Asian Powers – Analysis






(EURASIA REVIEW)
--The importance of Africa has increased dramatically in the current geopolitical climate. In particular, the three Asian economies China, Japan, and India have adopted a more muscular approach, as the resource-rich continent features high on their global agenda. Given the three countries are in competition for influence, both within Asia and beyond, they are keenly investing in Africa’s infrastructure, energy, and development sectors, seeking growth as strategic partners and markets.

The Asian alignment toward Africa comes at a time when the US has adopted a more isolationist approach and African economies are bearing the brunt of commodity price fluctuations. Africa now needs assistance and Asia will provide it— thereby, shifting the global strategic alignment.

However, when discussing Asia, its three largest economies are evidently seen competing for African attention: China through its grand expansionist policy of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI); and India and Japan in partnership, establishing the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) for enhanced connectivity. Both initiatives are focused on infrastructural and connectivity development aspects. However, AAGC is more people-centered, prioritizing socio-economic development projects for agriculture, health, disaster management, pharmaceuticals and skill enhancement. While lacking a land corridor and a fat purse like that of China, the Indo-Japanese project is set to leverage a sea corridor, touting it to be more cost-effective and environmentally friendly with low carbon footprint.

AAGC has been designed in consultation with African leaders and policymakers, whose priority is to connect and integrate the economies of South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Africa. While the AAGC began with clear focus on Africa, the BRI or One Belt and One Road (OBOR) Initiative initially focused on the Eurasian region and only in the last three years has China progressively made overtures to include Africa. However, one cannot discount the 20 years of Chinese investment in Africa, which is outside this project. China is also a prime consumer of African commodities, with the 2017 African Economic Outlook highlighting China’s economic footprint in Africa— accounting for 27% of Africa’s total global exports and investments worth US$ 34 billion. Though in recent years Japan and India too have invested in Africa to the tune of $30 billion, $60 billion, and $10 billion, the combined total is no match for China’s economic, infrastructural, and trade dominance in the region. What also needs to be realized is that AAGC is still too nascent to challenge China’s position in Africa, especially when OBOR, the epitome of Chinese craftsmanship in policymaking, is under full sway.

Furthermore, China has now stepped into the global leadership role and is championing the cause of globalization, aided by its $3 trillion One Belt and One Road Initiative, which comprises of a new ‘Maritime Silk Road’ and a new economic belt on land. In this context, Japan and India too have ramped up efforts to expand their own spheres of influence, which has amplified geopolitical tensions. However, without the financial muscle to compete with China, both countries are adopting alternative approaches with complementary economic and strategic agendas.

Africa indeed has now emerged as a playground for Asian powers, each vetting out its economic interests in the region and trying to expand its influence. In this regard, East Africa plays a pivotal role, owing to its strategic location to Asia. For instance, the $200 billion AAGC project which entails a sea corridor, will link Africa with India and other Southeast Asia and Oceania countries. Essentially, it will leverage ancient sea routes and create new sea corridors linking ports in Jamnagar (Gujarat) with Djibouti in the Gulf of Aden, and the ports of Mombasa and Zanzibar to those of Madurai (Tamil Nadu), While Kolkata (West Bengal) will be linked to Myanmar’s Sittwe port.

Meanwhile, China has already invested and built the continent’s first transnational electric railway between Djibouti to Addis Ababa, a project that cost $4 billion. A Chinese firm has also financed a new railway in Kenya connecting Nairobi to the country’s port city of Mombasa, with future plans to further reach out toward Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda.

Markedly, the investment strategies of the two Asian projects vastly differ. For the starters, China’s OBOR is more of a state-led project vis-à-vis the Indo-Japanese initiative, which is centered on the private sector. While China follows a typical ‘cash for infrastructure’ approach utilizing Africa’s vast mineral and energy fields, the AAGC aims for investment in the soft infrastructure needs of skill development and sustainability. In fact, China has often been criticized for exploiting the continent’s rich resources— a criticism which is strongly voiced in Zambia and Angola. Careful of this, India and Japan have promoted the AAGC as part of their “Open and Free Indo-Pacific Strategy,” concentrating on value creation by enhancing local productivity and resource development, thereby ensuring both quantity and quality and fostering a mutually beneficial relationship with Africa for the long term.

Significantly, India itself being a boiling pot of cultures, it has the experience of navigating through culturally complex, ethnically and linguistically diverse societies such as of Africa. Combine this with Japan’s technological know-how and we get a compelling partnership which can ably provide a counterweight to China. This provides Africa with a huge opportunity to court foreign trade and investments as per their needs and catalyze its growth story. Clearly then a bouquet of competitive Asian investments can propel significant long-term benefits for Africa across sectors, provided the nation-states are able to identify, prioritize, and maximize their country’s economic interests with dexterity. Notably, they have a choice, not just amongst the Asian powers but also competing Western powers. The African States are then required to adopt an “economic diplomacy” just as the one adopted by Kenya in 2013, in order to find pragmatic solutions to issues related to foreign trade and investment cooperation.

Africa is being treated as a chessboard by global influencers, and in particular for Asian powers who are keen to forge stronger alliances. There now exists a huge opportunity to create a triumphant situation for all involved nation-states (Asia or Africa), enabling them to achieve their domestic and international priorities. Africa’s ongoing development and Asia’s rise on the global stage reflects not only a power struggle of Asian nations but also of the power shift from West to East. Clearly, Africa is not a just a chessboard but rather a catalyst in this monumental shift, and the dynamics of its courting suggests new balance-of-powers in the near future.

6 Dead After Attackers Target Somalia's Presidential Palace

EDS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT People look at the bodies of alleged attackers laying on a road, near the Somali presidential palace in Mogadishu, Somali, Saturday, July 14, 2018. Somali security forces shot dead three extremists and foiled an attempted al-Shabab attack on the presidential palace in the capital, a police officer said Saturday. (Farah Abdi Warsameh)



MOGADISHU, SOMALIA (AP) — Somali security forces shot dead three extremists and foiled an attempted al-Shabab attack on the presidential palace that began with a car bomb exploding, police said Saturday.

The confrontation came a week after an attack on the nearby interior ministry compound in Mogadishu killed at least nine people, again raising questions about the state of security in the most sensitive areas of Somalia's capital.

Six people were dead in all including a suicide car bomber, Capt. Mohamed Hussein told The Associated Press, saying the situation had calmed and security in the area was being tightened. The midday attack began when a car bomb detonated near a checkpoint close to the presidential palace after security forces engaged with gunmen. A second car bomb exploded in the same area shortly afterward, Hussein said.

"There were skirmishes between security forces and the attackers and then we had a big blast and a huge boom. The blast knocked me down," one witness, Osman Ali, told the AP. The Somalia-based al-Shabab extremist group, an arm of al-Qaida, often targets high-profile places in the capital. It claimed responsibility for Saturday's attack, saying its fighters were conducting a "major operation" around the palace and nearby SYL Hotel.

Al-Shabab was blamed for the October truck bombing in Mogadishu that killed more than 500 people in the deadliest attack in the country's history. The threat from what has become the deadliest Islamic extremist group in sub-Saharan Africa has hurt efforts to strengthen Somalia's fragile government and stabilize the long-chaotic Horn of Africa nation.

The United States under the Trump administration has stepped up military efforts in Somalia, including dozens of drone strikes, against al-Shabab and a small presence of fighters linked to the Islamic State group. At least two U.S. military personnel have been killed.

The U.S. military and others in the international community have expressed concern about the plan for Somalia's security forces to take over the country's security from a multinational African Union force over the next few years, saying the local troops are not yet ready.

Associated Press video journalist Mohamed Sheikh Nor in Mogadishu contributed.

Follow Africa news at https://twitter.com/AP_Africa

Friday, July 13, 2018

Amnesty Says Cameroon Soldiers Executed Women, Young Girl And A Baby

Cameroon's President Paul Biya plans to stand for election on October 7 amid spiraling violence and alleged human rights abuses in the country. Image via CNN


BY STEPNANIE BUSARI


LAGOS, NIGERIA (CNN)--
Cameroon's 85-year-old president has announced plans to stand for re-election in the country's elections on October 7, amid spiraling violence and alleged human rights abuses in the country.

Paul Biya, who has led the country since 1982, posted on his Twitter account Friday that he plans to stand for re-election.

However, the octogenarian leader, one of Africa's longest-serving rulers, is accused by rights groups of presiding over a brutal regime, characterized by human rights abuses, particularly towards residents of Cameroon's English speaking provinces.

Horrific videos and images of abuse, murder, and torture allegedly by Cameroonian soldiers have flooded social media in recent months.

CNN has not been able to independently verify these images.

However, one of these shocking videos, which has gone viral online, shows the execution of two women and two children by uniformed men and has attracted widespread condemnation.
Rights group Amnesty International says it has "credible information" that Cameroonian soldiers were involved.

The agency said: "Extensive analysis of the weapons, dialogue, and uniforms that feature in the video, paired with digital verification techniques and testimonies taken from the ground, all strongly suggest that the perpetrators of the executions are Cameroonian soldiers."

Cameroon's Ministry of Communication said in a statement that the government is investigating the claims, although government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary is quoted in local media initially saying the video could be "fake news."

''We haven't authenticated yet, but I draw your attention to what we call fake news. Do not be peremptory in the attribution of this video to the Cameroonian army.

"Because the enemy is always able to slip into our defence and security forces to attribute to us such heinous crimes,'' Bakary said in local mediareports.

There are several edited versions of the video. One of them, which CNN has seen, is just over two minutes long and does not show the women and children being executed.

A group of men, some of them wearing army uniforms and carrying guns, are seen abusing the women and another man, who is filming, is providing commentary about them.

One of the men slaps a woman who is walking with a young girl next to her and is heard saying in French, 'BH. you are going to die."

Behind her is another woman with a baby on her back. The women are led to a side road near a dirt track, all are blindfolded, apart from the baby, and shot, according to Amnesty researchers.

BH is thought to refer to the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram, which has waged a brutal decade-long insurgency in northeast Nigeria.

This latest incident follows an Amnesty International report in June stating that English speakers in the country were being targeted by both the Cameroonian military and armed Anglophone separatists in waves of violence that Amnesty described as "unlawful, excessive and unnecessary."

Speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, one man living in Cameroon told CNN: "It is a very sad time for us... An issue, which started with people holding peace branches, has now spiraled into outright war...with gun battles becoming part of everyday life for many in these regions.
"It is terrible, and I cannot assure you that the way things are going, we are not in for a resolution any time soon," he added.

The US Africa Command, which oversees US troops on the continent including the hundreds of American advisers working with Cameroonian soldiers, said it was aware of the execution video.
However, spokesman Major Karl Wiest said: "At this time, we cannot confirm the authenticity, nor can we confirm any possible military affiliation of those shown in this troubling video."

CNN's Robyn Kriel and Ryan Browne contributed to this report.

Author Of Emmett Till Book Gave FBI Interview Recordings

Emmett Louis Till, a 14-year-old black Chicago boy, who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered in 1955 after he allegedly whistled at a white woman in Mississippi. The federal government has reopened its investigation into the slaying of Till, the black teenager whose brutal killing in Mississippi helped inspire the civil rights movement more than 60 years ago.


BY JAY REEVES AND ALLEN G. BREED

BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA (AP)
— Weeks after he published a book about the brutal slaying of Emmett Till, a North Carolina author received a call from FBI agents asking about his interview with a key witness who acknowledged lying about her interactions with the black teen.

Not long after that, Duke University scholar Timothy Tyson said, he turned over interview recordings and other research materials for his 2017 book on the 1955 case that shocked the nation and helped build momentum for the civil rights movement.

Hours after news broke Thursday about a renewed investigation prompted by the book, Tyson told reporters that he supports a fresh look at "one of the most notorious racial incidents of racial violence in the history of the world," but doesn't think his research alone will provide enough evidence for new charges.

"It's possible that the investigation will turn up something. But there's nothing that I know of, and nothing in my research, that is actionable, I don't think," he said. Still, he said investigators may be able to link it to other material in their possession.

Tyson's 2017 book "The Blood of Emmett Till" quotes a white woman, Carolyn Donham, as saying during a 2008 interview that she wasn't truthful when she testified that the black teen grabbed her, whistled and made sexual advances at a Mississippi store six decades ago.

A federal official familiar with the matter told The Associated Press that information in the 2017 book was what led federal investigators to re-examine the case. The official wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.

The reopening of the Till case was disclosed in a federal report sent to lawmakers in March that said the Justice Department had received unspecified "new information." The report's contents weren't widely known until Thursday.

The case was closed in 2007, with authorities saying the suspects were dead. The prosecutor with jurisdiction over the Mississippi community where Till was abducted, District Attorney Dewayne Richardson, declined to comment on whether federal authorities had given him new information since they reopened the investigation. The Justice Department also declined to comment.

It's unclear what new charges could result from a renewed investigation, said Tucker Carrington, a professor at the University of Mississippi law school. Conspiracy or murder charges could be filed if anyone still alive is shown to have been involved, he said, but too much time likely has passed to prosecute anyone for other crimes, such as lying to investigators or in court.

Two white men — Donham's then-husband, Roy Bryant, and his half brother, J.W. Milam — were charged with murder but acquitted in the slaying of the Chicago teen, who had been staying with relatives in northern Mississippi at the time. The men later confessed to the crime in a magazine interview but weren't retried. Both are now dead.

Donham, who turns 84 this month, lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. A man who came to the door at her residence declined to comment about the investigation. Deborah Watts, co-founder of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation, said it's wonderful her cousin's killing is getting another look but declined to discuss details, saying: "None of us wants to do anything that jeopardizes any investigation."

Abducted from the home where he was staying, Till was beaten and shot, and his body was found weighted down with a cotton gin fan in a river. His mother, Mamie Till Mobley, had his casket left open. Images of his mutilated body gave witness to the depth of racial hatred in the Deep South and inspired civil rights campaigns.

Donham, then 21 and known as Carolyn Bryant, testified in 1955 as a prospective defense witness in the trial of Bryant and Milam. With jurors out of the courtroom, she said a "nigger man" she didn't know took her by the arm in the store.

"He said, 'How about a date, baby?'" she testified, according to a trial transcript released by the FBI a decade ago. Bryant said she pulled away, and moments later the young man "caught me at the cash register," grasping her around the waist with both hands and pulling her toward him.

A judge ruled the testimony inadmissible. An all-white jury freed her husband and the other man even without it. In the book, author Tyson wrote that Donham told him her testimony about Till accosting her wasn't true.

"Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him," the book quotes her as saying.

Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo in Los Angeles, Emily Wagster Pettus in Jackson, Mississippi, and Jonathan Drew in Raleigh, North Carolina, contributed to this report.

NATO Survives Trump, But The Turmoil Is Leaving Scars

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, United States President Donald J. Trump , British Prime Minister Theresa May, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and other NATO heads of state pose for a family photo during the 2018 NATO Summit at NATO headquarters on July 11 in Brussels, Belgium.


BY JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, STEVEN ERLANGER AND KATIE ROGERS

BRUSSELS (THE NEW YORK TIMES)
— NATO, a pillar of the global order, emerged from a two-day confrontation with President Trump on Thursday intact but distracted and shaken, a further challenge to the alliance as it faces an expansionist Russia and growing authoritarianism among some of its own members.

Wrapping up talks with fellow leaders of the 29-nation trans-Atlantic alliance, Mr. Trump reaffirmed support for NATO, but only after stirring more discord with a vague threat that the United States could go its own way if the allies resisted his demands for additional military spending, capping a summit meeting punctuated by his escalating complaints.

Hours later, after landing in Britain, the assault on diplomatic norms continued. In an interview with the newspaper The Sun, published late Thursday, he undercut Prime Minister Theresa May on several fronts on her own turf.

In the midst of a week that has seen Mrs. May parrying threats to her hold on power, Mr. Trump criticized her strategy on cutting ties to the European Union, cast doubt on whether he was willing to negotiate a new trade deal between Britain and the United States and praised Mrs. May’s Conservative party rival, Boris Johnson, who resigned this week as foreign secretary, as a potentially great prime minister.

The entire day, from Brussels to London, was one unsettling experience after another for members of the Western alliance.

Mixing pique, self-congratulation and a relentless focus on whether the United States is being taken advantage of by its closest allies, Mr. Trump spent his final hours at the NATO meeting in Brussels bludgeoning other leaders but got little in the way of concrete results.

In the latest example of his penchant for creating conflict to draw attention to his agenda, he first demanded an emergency meeting to address his grievances and then called a news conference — something he has not done in the United States in more than a year — to claim “total credit” for having pressed NATO members into increasing their military budgets “like they never have before.”

It was a classic Trump performance — bluster, confrontation and demands followed by a unilateral declaration of victory — but his claim was quickly dismissed by the leaders of Italy and France, who disputed that they had made any new pledges for increasing spending, adding to the sense of disarray.

His willingness to criticize Mrs. May in her own country only underscored the tensions in his relations with other allied leaders and his unconventional approach to diplomacy.

But the NATO summit meeting did produce some substantive accomplishments for those who support the alliance’s traditional focus on maintaining security against Russia. The leaders, including Mr. Trump, had signed on to a statement — issued after the first day of the meeting rather than at its conclusion, reducing the chances that the president might change his mind about it — that highlighted agreement on a plan to improve the readiness and mobility of the armed forces across the Continent and progress on issues like cybersecurity. And they agreed on tough language aimed at Moscow, especially regarding Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

But with Mr. Trump scheduled to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Monday — and with the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia the focus of a wide-ranging investigation — the gathering of the leaders was dominated not by discussion over how to address security threats or Mr. Putin’s efforts to divide the West but by wrangling over money.

Rather than projecting unity ahead of the Trump-Putin meeting, the gathering generated nonstop images of division. Intense concern about the corrosive effects of populism and growing authoritarianism in NATO members like Turkey, Hungary and Poland on support for post-World War II institutions and policies received little or no sustained public attention.

In the weeks before the summit meeting, alliance leaders feared that Mr. Trump would try to blow everything up, dealing a truly severe blow to the multilateral world order and to trans-Atlantic deterrence and cohesion.

On Thursday, Mr. Trump dismissed concerns that his relationship with Russia was too cozy, or that his hardball tactics at NATO had played into the hands of Mr. Putin, whom he is to meet in Helsinki, Finland, next week. But after 48 hours of overt conflict with allies — and the second international summit meeting in two months where he has sparred openly with European leaders — he said he looked forward to a positive encounter with the Russian president.

“I hope that we’re going to be able to get along with Russia; I think that we probably will be able to,” Mr. Trump said. “We go into that meeting not looking for so much.”

The White House hastily called the news conference in Brussels amid reports that Mr. Trump had unleashed a tirade during a closed-door morning meeting against member countries he complained were still not spending enough on their militaries. Mr. Trump used the news conference to hail himself, again, as a “stable genius,” saying he deserved “total credit” for pushing the allies to increase their military spending by more than previously agreed to.

According to a person briefed on the meeting, Mr. Trump told other NATO leaders that if their countries did not meet the 2 percent standard by January, the United States would go it alone, a comment that some interpreted as a threat to withdraw from the alliance.

White House officials ignored requests to clarify what the president had said or offer any information on which the allies had responded to his threats with promises of more military spending.

In the end, though, he spoke supportively of the alliance, saying: “I believe in NATO. I think NATO’s a very important — probably the greatest ever done.”

President Emmanuel Macron of France said, “We are all leaving this summit stronger because the president of the United States of America reaffirmed his commitment and his desire to have a strong NATO.”

But the leaders were clearly taken aback by Mr. Trump’s disruptive posture. They had fair warning from his confrontational behavior last month at the Group of 7 summit meeting in Canada, where he called the host, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “Very dishonest and weak” in a Twitter post.

Nevertheless, they emphasized that in general Mr. Trump was conciliatory in private sessions, though he was clearly upset by Thursday headlines indicating that he was happy with the NATO discussion on spending. To express his displeasure, he came late to the scheduled meetings and insisted on the emergency session on spending.

Mr. Trump wanted to underline that he was not at all happy with the level of burden-sharing despite having agreed to the communiqué, and he urged countries lagging behind to move more quickly, according to a senior official who attended the special session. Alliance members have pledged to raise military spending to 2 percent of G.D.P. by 2024.

The discussion was a healthy one, the official said. It created more urgency and it also allowed the summit meeting to end with an agreed message on improving spending, far better than an outcome where Mr. Trump was vocally unhappy and the others were perceived not to care, he added.

Indeed, Mr. Trump came away mollified, broadcasting his own sense of triumph, though he had said the day before that member nations had to reach the 2 percent goal immediately, and that the target should rise to 4 percent.

“In the end I think the meeting was less divisive than feared,” said Alexander Vershbow, a former NATO deputy secretary general. “I think it’s the reality show that the president loves. There wasn’t enough drama, so Trump has a tantrum, knocks over the table, and allies are used as props in his reality show.”

That being said, he added, “NATO goes on.”

The substance of the meeting, he and others said, is in the communiqué. That document, a product of nearly a year of work, commits the alliance to a stronger deterrent against Russia, more efforts on cybersecurity, a strengthening of the alliance’s southern strategy and a new training program for Iraq, Tunisia and Libya. It also called for nations to devote at least 20 percent of their growing military budgets to equipment and modernization.

The United States pays 22 percent of NATO’s budget, which covers things like offices, salaries and some equipment used in joint operations. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, of the $603 billion that the United States spends on the military each year, about $31 billion goes to Europe.

In the end, some analysts criticized Mr. Trump for fabricating a ruckus that, however much it might serve his political ends, was harmful to the alliance.

“NATO always had a good story to tell at this summit, with the communiqué reflecting a robust and resilient alliance that is making real progress on a range of challenges,” said Amanda Sloat, a former State Department official now at the Brookings Institution. “Trump’s belligerent tweets and taunts unfortunately overshadowed what should have been a straightforward message of success.”


The drama in Brussels on Thursday was all about Mr. Trump’s desire to make noise for his political base, Ms. Sloat said. “Some say there was some victory for Trump, that he achieved what he wanted, but it’s not true,” she said. “There is no utility in creating all this noise, it’s incredibly divisive.”

It is good to push for more defense spending, but allies are not like business partners, she said. “You can’t lambaste Germany one day and then ask them for something else the next,” she said. “Actions and rhetoric have consequences. Blowing up summits and projecting disunity doesn’t help credibility.”

Then Mr. Trump moved on to Britain.

Follow Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Katie Rogers on Twitter: @juliehdavis and @katierogers.

Town Historian Launches West Africa Apology Bid




81st West African Division. Image coutesy of Pininteres




(LOUGHBOROUGH ECHO)
--A LOUGHBOROUGH historian has launched a campaign to force the British Government to apologise for its “racist, discriminative and disgraceful” behaviour in West Africa during World War Two.

Dr Robert Peprah-Gyamfi has lodged a petition at parliament which calls for “historic restitution” following the conscription of more than 50,000 West African men and the “shocking” treatment of 200,000 others.

The author says that many were physically dragged from their homes in the former British colonies of Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Gambia on the direct order of Her Majesty’s Government.

They were among 250,000 West Africans who were sent to the frontline to fight the Axis powers between 1939 and 1945. Thousands never returned home and countless others were injured.

And he claims almost all experienced racial discrimination and unfair treatment at the hands of their “white masters”.

But he says that despite their sacrifice, the UK government has never apologised and to this day has refused to officially recognise the vital role those men had to play in defeating Nazi rule.

The 56-year-old, who was born in Mpintimpi, near Accra, Ghana, is now calling on the West African community in Britain and beyond to support his cause.

In addition to the petition, he is also in the process of launching a charity dedicated to the families of West African troops called the West African Benevolent Trust. [www.WabTrust.com] and is organising a public protest in London in August.

The father-of-three said: “It is disgraceful that, in this day and age, the government still refuses to apologise for its shameful practice of forced conscription, decades after the event.

“It should not be forgotten that without the involvement of these brave men, the world as we know it would be very different.”

The West Africans served in the Royal West African Frontier Force (RWAAF) as part of the Commonwealth Army and were deployed against the Axis powers in Africa, as well as in Burma and Southeast Asia.

Dr Peprah-Gyamfi said all West Africans faced discrimination at the hands of the British. They served in segregated units and there was no equality of pay or treatment compared to British soldiers.

In the course of his research, he says he has discovered that an unmarried white British private received 30p per day, while a Gold Coast private received just 12p per day.

Dr Peprah-Gyamfi’s latest books, World War II Revisited: Memoirs of a Forced African Conscript and its sequel, Twins Divided, both deal with the subject of forced conscription and are based on his own family’s experiences.

Eritrea-Ethiopia Peace Is Good News For Africa

In this grab taken from video provided by ERITV, Ethiopia's Abiy Ahmed is welcomed by Eritrea's Isaias Afwerki as he disembarks the plane in Asmara, Eritrea on July 8, 2018 [ERITV via AP]





EAST AFRICA (AL JAZEERA)
--Diplomats from Ethiopia and Eritrea are calling it a "joint declaration of peace and friendship" but that innocuous name is masking what may be one of the most important political changes in East Africa in the past 20 years.

With a simple, five-pillar agreement the presidents of Ethiopia and Eritrea, which were once one country but were bitterly divided by one of Africa's most expensive and devastating conflicts, jointly declared its end.

It is very easy to be sceptical of the peace declaration given the region's history of unremitting conflict and political false starts. The Derg regime, which came to power in Ethiopia in 1974 following the ousting of Emperor Haile Selassie, was supposed to mark the end of imperial rule in the country, but in no time itself became a violent, bloody regime.

After fighting a war of liberation against the Derg regime for many years, Isaias Afwerki took control of the newly independent Eritrea in the early 1990's and swiftly transformed it into a hermit state.

In the name of remaining ready for war, hundreds of thousands of Eritreans have been forcefully conscripted into interminable military service. Despite its small population, Eritrea has consistently been producing the largest number of African refugees to Europe for years.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia constructed the most elaborate security state in East Africa. Millions of dollars that could have been spent on food security and development have instead been wasted on armies and surveillance, turning citizens into spies and destroying freedom of expression.

Therefore, the excitement and enthusiasm with which Ethiopians and Eritreans at home and abroad received the announcement about the end of the 20-year-long African Cold War are understandable. Thousands had been forced into exile as a result of rapid militarisation in both countries, and Monday's landmark agreement is the surest indicator yet that a pivot away from security-centred statehood is possible.

Yet, in the rest of East Africa, some have found it hard to process the news. The Kenyan media, for example, failed to devote any coverage to the event on the day and has only had marginal analysis since, despite the fact that thousands of Ethiopians and Eritreans currently live in Kenya. The changes Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is pursuing in Ethiopia will have an impact beyond the borders of his country and its neighbour, Eritrea. So how should East Africans especially, but outsiders in general see this peace declaration?

Between ending the war and decriminalising various political groups, Ahmed is breaking a network of political taboos that have been a constant hum in the background of east African politics for the past 20 years. Specifically the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia has been a seemingly unchangeable fact in a region that has a long history of protracted conflicts. So even floating peace as a possibility is a radical act of political transformation that changes the scope of what is possible or imaginable within the political arena - this could be the beginning of a major shift in the discourse around peace and security in East Africa and that needs to be acknowledged.

Of course, such a move will have political implications beyond this. In Kenya, the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET) is a major infrastructure project that was developed with the explicit aim of connecting landlocked Ethiopia with the sea.

The animus with Eritrea meant that shared infrastructural connections between the countries that predated Eritrean independence could not be used. As the most stable country in the Horn, Djibouti has been a natural alternative for Ethiopia, although recently Addis Ababa has also made overtures to Somalia and Somaliland for the use of Berbera port.

Kenya maintains that the LAPSSET project is part of a broader continent-wide North-South, Cape to Cairo transport network, but regardless, the utility of the LAPSSET project and the displacement and disruption it has already created will now be under greater scrutiny following the peace accord between Asmara and Addis Ababa.

At the same time, tensions between Somalia and Somaliland about the use of Berbera port will seem less urgent if Ethiopia is able to develop a workable alternative through Eritrea. In June, Mogadishu accused Hargeisa of violating the conditions of semi-autonomy by entering into an agreement with Ethiopia over the development and use of the port, which they argue should have been approved at the federal level.

The tension forced Ethiopian diplomats to backtrack on commitments to direct trade through Berbera. With peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia, both of whom stand to gain immensely from normalisation of their relationship, the tension between Somalia and Somaliland will perhaps dissipate, at the very least taking another point of contention off the table.

None of this should overshadow the human element of this declaration - the fundamental reason why this matters. Like India and Pakistan, or Sudan and South Sudan, the border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea has torn families and communities apart, particularly those living along the border.

The political separation was further entrenched by the severing of communication ties and travel bans, making any dialogue between the citizens of the two countries impossible. As mentioned above, militarisation of public life in both countries has significantly distorted networks of trust within communities and a key hope is that the end of the Ethiopia-Eritrea war will feed into a broader process of demilitarisation in both countries.

The images of joyful Eritreans and Ethiopians receiving this news is a reminder that war happens to people and to communities, and the end of war is always cause for celebration for everyone.

Of course, it is far too early to make definitive declarations of what the future holds for these two countries. Yet, while cynicism has value in political thought, and especially when history provides ample examples of good faith gone bad, it is important to be as ready to accept good news as the bad.

Independently of what happens moving forward, this is a special moment for East Africa that must be cherished and encouraged. For those of us who are neither Ethiopian nor Eritrean, this is a timely reminder that within the politics of a complicated region, sometimes good things do happen.