Friday, January 19, 2018

Tensions Soar Along Indian, Pakistan Frontier In Kashmir

Smoke rises from a residential building following shelling from the Pakistan side of the border, in Ranbir Singh Pura district of Jammu and Kashmir, India, Friday, Jan.19,2018. Tensions soared along the volatile frontier between India and Pakistan in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir as soldiers of the rivals continued shelling villages and border posts for third day Friday.

SRINAGAR, INDIA (AP) — Tensions have soared along the volatile frontier between India and Pakistan in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, as rival troops shelled villages and border posts for a third day Friday.

Three civilians and two soldiers were killed on both sides in the latest clash, officials in the two countries said, as each blamed the other for initiating the violence. Indian officials said two civilians, an army soldier and a paramilitary soldier died and at least 24 civilians and two soldiers were injured in Indian-controlled Kashmir. According to Pakistani officials, Indian fire on Friday killed a civilian and wounded nine others in Sialkot in Pakistan's eastern Punjab province.

An Indian paramilitary officer said soldiers were responding to Pakistani firing and shelling on dozens of border posts and called it an "unprovoked" violation of a 2003 cease-fire accord. Angered over the rising violence, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry summoned Indian Deputy High Commissioner J.P. Singh and condemned what it called "unprovoked cease-fire violations" by India.

Each country has also accused the other of initiating past border skirmishes and causing civilian and military casualties. The fighting is taking place along a somewhat-defined frontier where each country has a separate paramilitary border force guarding the lower-altitude 200-kilometer (125-mile) boundary separating Indian-controlled Kashmir and the Pakistani province of Punjab.

The contentious frontier also includes a 740-kilometer (460-mile) rugged and mountainous stretch called the Line of Control that is guarded by the armies of India and Pakistan. The Indian officer, speaking on condition of anonymity in keeping with official policy, said Friday's shelling came after relative calm overnight in Jammu following two days of fighting that left at least three civilians and a soldier dead and several others wounded on both sides.

The border guard official said by Friday evening fighting had stopped in most places but continued at about half a dozen outposts. The fighting escalated late Friday in Sunderbani sector, where Indian and Pakistani soldiers fired guns and mortars at each other's positions. Col. Nitin Joshi, an Indian army spokesman, said one soldier was killed in the Pakistani firing.

Indian police officer S.D. Singh said shells have landed in dozens of villages since early Friday. He said authorities deployed bulletproof vehicles to evacuate people who were injured and sick. Bullets and shrapnel scarred homes and walls amid the intense firing and shelling.

Dozens of schools in villages along the frontier have been closed and authorities advised residents to stay indoors as shells and bullets rained down. Some damage to houses was also reported on the Indian side.

Pakistan urged India to respect the cease-fire, investigate the latest incidents and maintain peace on the frontier. It also asked India to allow the U.N. Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan to play its mandated role in accordance with Security Council resolutions.

"This unprecedented escalation in cease-fire violations by India is continuing" since 2017 despite calls for restraint from Islamabad, Pakistan's statement said. India's foreign ministry condemned what it called "continued and unprecedented cease-fire violation by Pakistan, which has caused loss of lives and properties."

"Pakistan violates the cease-fire as a cover to infiltrate terrorists across the border into India. We of course retaliate in such cases," said Raveesh Kumar, India's foreign ministry spokesman. "We'll also take up the matter at appropriate level with the Pakistani side."

Also Friday, India's External Affairs Ministry summoned Syed Haider Shah, a top Pakistan embassy official in New Delhi, and conveyed the government's "grave concerns at the continued ceasefire violations and deliberate targeting of innocent civilians by Pakistan forces."

More than 100 such violations have been carried out by Pakistan forces in Kashmir so far during 2018, a ministry statement said. India and Pakistan have a long history of bitter relations over Kashmir, a Himalayan territory claimed by both in its entirety. They have fought two of their three wars over the region since they gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947.

The exchange of fire comes days after Islamabad accused Indian forces of killing four Pakistani soldiers along the Line of Control in Kashmir, where rebel groups demand that Kashmir be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, which Pakistan denies. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown since 1989.

Ahmed reported from Islamabad, Pakistan. Associated Press writer Ashok Sharma in New Delhi contributed to this story.

People Traffickers Target Spain To Exploit New Route Into Europe

JANUARY 20, 2018

A group of migrants wrap themselves in blankets as they arrive at the southern Spanish port of MalagaJORGE GUERRERO/GETTY IMAGES

MADRID, SPAIN (THE TIMES UK) -- People traffickers are adopting the tactics of drug smugglers as migrants increasingly make Spain the route into Europe.

Swift motor launches have swapped hashish for human cargo as they head to southern Spanish beaches from Africa

Figures released yesterday showed that 22,900 people arrived in Spain from Morocco or Algeria last year, more than double the previous year, according to Frontex, Europe’s border agency, although estimates vary.

By contrast, chaos in Libya led to arrivals in Italy falling by more than a third and tighter controls in Turkey meant that arrivals in Greece were down by more than 70 per cent on the previous year.

Fabrice Leggeri, the head of Frontex, said that he expected crossing attempts to increase this year. The agency was finalising plans to start a permanent border operation in the western Mediterranean and to increase the use of air surveillance.

Mr Leggeri said that traffickers had started to use the kind of fast launches used by drug smugglers, which can pack in more migrants than flimsy inflatables and which could more easily evade patrols.

Political upheaval in Morocco’s Rif region, along with Spain’s economic recovery, have played a key role in making the Iberian peninsula more attractive to migrants. Nearly 40 per cent of those who were stopped while trying to cross the sea to Spain were from Algeria or Morocco.

Overall the numbers fleeing war or poverty in Africa in search of a new life in Europe by crossing the Mediterranean halved last year, with 171,635 arrivals by boat, compared with 363,504 in 2016, according to the International Organisation for Migration).

The increase in arrivals in Spain has worried observers, who claim that the EU is failing to tackle the underlying problems that drive migration.

“The gangs are just changing routes to Spain when tougher controls are introduced in Italy or Greece. This will just carry on unless government policies are changed,” said Estrella Galán, secretary-general of Cear, an organisation working with asylum seekers. “Governments need to tackle the causes of migration, decriminalise it and introduce a visa system.”

Migrants heading to Spain arrive on beaches in Tarifa, Malaga, Almeria, Motril and Murcia. Spanish police believe that migrants pay traffickers up to €3,000 for a seat in a boat. At least 223 died trying to reach Spain last year compared with 116 the year before.

Last week seven migrants died from exhaustion, hypothermia and starvation in a boat that was found off a beach in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. Two alleged traffickers were arrested.

Thousands more try to scale three-metre high razor wire fences in Melilla and Ceuta, Spain’s cities in north Africa, or hide in cars that cross the border.

José Antonio Nieto, secretary of state for security, said Spain was working with Morocco and Algeria to combat people traffickers. “Chasing mafias and human trafficking networks is the top priority,” he said.

Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, has called on the EU to increase funding for southern European countries to combat the traffickers.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Judges Rule For Deported Mexican Woman Threatened By Cartels


Nuns on the Bus, The Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center (IJPC) and other community members protest in Cincinnati against the deportation of Maribel Trujillo Diaz in Cincinnati. A federal appeals court is ordering U.S. immigration authorities to reconsider the case of Diaz, a Mexican mother of four U.S.-born children, who was deported last year while claiming she faced targeting by a Mexican drug cartel. A three-judge panel of the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, in favor of Diaz. (Cara Owsley/The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP, File)

CINCINNATI (AP) — A federal appeals court on Wednesday ordered U.S. immigration authorities to reconsider the case of a Mexican mother of four U.S.-born children who was deported last year while claiming she was threatened by a Mexican drug cartel.

A three-judge panel of the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Maribel Trujillo Diaz. It said the Board of Immigration Appeals shouldn't have rejected her motion to reopen removal proceedings based on new testimony about threats against her and her family by the Knights Templar cartel.

Her case had drawn attention as an early example of toughened immigration enforcement under Republican President Donald Trump. Her deportation drew criticism from Cincinnati's Catholic archdiocese and Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich. Wednesday's opinion was written by a Trump nominee, John K. Bush.

Trujillo Diaz's father gave a sworn statement that he was kidnapped by drug gang members in 2014 seeking revenge because his son had refused to work for a related drug cartel and fled the country. The father said the members told him they "knew Maribel had gone to the United States" and warned that "the whole family would suffer."

The immigration appeals board had called her fears "generalized, conclusory speculation." The appeals court opinion said the board didn't make any findings that her father's statements were unbelievable or inconsistent with other evidence.

"The BIA abused its discretion in finding that Trujillo Diaz failed to present (sufficient) evidence that her fear of persecution, or the threat to her life or freedom, was related to her family membership," Bush wrote.

Khaalid Walls, a Detroit-based spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, declined to comment Wednesday on "pending litigation." Diaz' attorneys said in a statement Wednesday that they are "thrilled" at the court's ruling.

"This is an important step toward bringing Maribel back to the United States to reunite with her family, including her four American children," attorneys Kathleen Kersh and Emily Brown said. "We will continue to support Maribel in any way we can to bring her back to the United States where she belongs."

Trujillo Diaz had filed her motion just weeks before her April 19 deportation. The 6th Circuit in April had denied her request to block the deportation.

Follow Dan Sewell at

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

US Withholds $65 Million From Palestinian Aid Programs

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington. The Trump administration is preparing to withhold tens of millions of dollars from the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, cutting the year's first contribution by more than half or perhaps entirely, and making additional donations contingent on major changes to the organization, according to U.S. officials.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Tuesday cut tens of millions of dollars in money for Palestinian refugees, demanding that the U.N. agency responsible for the programs undertake a "fundamental re-examination," the State Department said.

In a letter, the State Department notified the U.N. Relief and Works Agency that the U.S. is withholding $65 million of a planned $125 million funding installment to the body. The letter also makes clear that additional U.S. donations will be contingent on major changes by UNRWA, which has been heavily criticized by Israel.

"We would like to see some reforms be made," said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, adding that changes are needed both to the way the agency operates and is funded. "This is not aimed at punishing anyone."

The State Department said it was releasing the rest of the installment — $60 million — to prevent the agency from running out of cash by the end of the month and closing down. The U.S. is UNWRA's largest donor, supplying nearly 30 percent of its budget. The agency focuses on providing health care, education and social services to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians either fled or were forced from their homes during the war that led to Israel's establishment in 1948. Today, there are an estimated 5 million refugees and their descendants, mostly scattered across the region.

The U.S. donated $355 million to UNWRA in 2016 and was set to make a similar contribution in this year; the first installment was to have sent this month. But after a highly critical Jan. 2 tweet from Trump on aid to the Palestinians, the State Department opted to wait for a formal policy decision before sending its first installment.

Trump's tweet expressed frustration over the lack of progress in his attempts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and he pointed the finger at the Palestinians. "We pay the Palestinians HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect," he said. "But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?"

Israelis accuse the U.N. agency of contributing to Palestinian militancy and allowing its facilities to be used by militants. They also complain that some of UNRWA's staff are biased against Israel. Nauert said the United States believes there need to be more "burden-sharing," a regular Trump complaint about multilateral organizations dependent on significant contributions of U.S. cash.

"We don't believe that taking care of other nations and other people have to be solely the United States' responsibility," she said. The U.S. plan to withhold some, but not all, of the money was backed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis, who offered it as a compromise to demands for more drastic measures by U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, officials said.

Haley wanted a complete cutoff in U.S. money until the Palestinians resumed peace talks with Israel that have been frozen for years. But Tillerson, Mattis and others argued that ending all assistance would exacerbate instability in the Mideast, notably in Jordan, a host to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and a crucial U.S. strategic partner.

Eliminating or sharply reducing the U.S. contribution could hamstring the agency and severely curtail its work, putting great pressure on Jordan and Lebanon as well as the Palestinian Authority. Gaza would be particularly hard hit. Some officials, including Israelis, warn that it might push people closer to the militant Hamas movement, which controls Gaza.

Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.

Trump Accuses Democrat Of Undermining Trust On immigration


President Donald Trump with first lady Melania Trump waves as he returns to the White House in Washington, Monday, Jan. 15, 2018. Trump spent the holiday weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump turned his Twitter torment on the Democrat in the room where immigration talks with lawmakers took a famously coarse turn, saying Sen. Dick Durbin misrepresented what he had said about African nations and Haiti and, in the process, undermined the trust needed to make a deal.

On a day of remembrance for Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Trump spent time Monday at his golf course with no public events, bypassing the acts of service that his predecessor staged in honor of the civil rights leader. Instead Trump dedicated his weekly address to King's memory, saying King's dream and America's are the same: "a world where people are judged by who they are, not how they look or where they come from."

That message was a distinct counterpoint to words attributed to Trump by Durbin and others at a meeting last week, when the question of where immigrants come from seemed at the forefront of Trump's concerns. Some participants and others familiar with the conversation said Trump challenged immigration from "shithole" countries of Africa and disparaged Haiti as well.

Without explicitly denying using that word, Trump lashed out at the Democratic senator, who said Trump uttered it on several occasions. "Senator Dicky Durbin totally misrepresented what was said at the DACA meeting," Trump tweeted, using a nickname to needle the Illinois senator. "Deals can't get made when there is no trust! Durbin blew DACA and is hurting our Military."

He was referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects young people who came to the U.S. illegally as children. Members of Congress from both parties are trying to strike a deal that Trump would support to extend that protection.

Durbin said Monday the White House should release whatever recording it might have of the meeting. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of the six senators in the meeting with Trump on Thursday, supported Durbin's account.

As well, Durbin and people who were briefed on the conversation but were not authorized to describe it publicly said Trump also questioned the need to admit more Haitians. They said Trump expressed a preference for immigrants from countries like Norway, which is overwhelmingly white.

Republican Sens. David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who also attended, initially said they did not hear Trump utter the word in question, then revised their account to deny he said it at all.

There is some internal West Wing debate over whether Trump said "shithole" or "shithouse." One person who attended the meeting told aides they heard the latter expletive, while others recall the president saying the more widely reported "shithole," according to a person briefed on the meeting but not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.

The person believes the discrepancy may be why some Republican senators are denying having heard the president say "shithouse." Trump has not clarified to aides what he said. The White House has not denied that Trump used a vulgar term, and there appears to be little difference in meaning between the two words.

The reverberations kept coming Monday. Martin Luther King III, King's elder son, said: "When a president insists that our nation needs more citizens from white states like Norway, I don't even think we need to spend any time even talking about what it says and what it is."

He added, "We got to find a way to work on this man's heart." A sizeable crowd of expatriate Haitians, waving their country's flag, gathered near the foot of a bridge leading to Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, to jeer at Trump as the motorcade returned from the golf club where the president capped his weekend before returning later Monday to Washington.

The Haitians and their supporters shouted, "Our country is not a shithole," according to video posted by WPEC-TV, and engaged in a shouting match with the pro-Trump demonstrators who typically gather on the other side of the street.

On Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence, who worshipped at a Baptist church in Maryland, listened as the pastor denounced Trump's use of vulgarity. Maurice Watson, pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church in Largo, called the reported remark "dehumanizing" and "ugly" and said "whoever made such a statement ... is wrong and they ought to be held accountable." Worshippers stood and applauded as Watson spoke.

Durbin said after the Oval Office meeting that Trump's words to the senators were "vile, hate-filled and clearly racial in their content." A confidant of Trump told The Associated Press that the president spent Thursday evening calling friends and outside advisers to judge their reaction to his remarks. Trump wasn't apologetic and denied he was racist, said the confidant, who wasn't authorized to disclose a private conversation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Afterward Trump insisted in a tweet that he "never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said 'take them out.' Made up by Dems." Trump wrote, "I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians.

The contentious comments came as Durbin was presenting details of a compromise immigration plan that had money for a first installment of the president's long-sought border wall. Trump took particular issue with the idea that people who'd fled to the U.S. after disasters hit their homes in places such as El Salvador, Guatemala and Haiti would be allowed to stay as part of the deal, according to the people briefed on the conversation.

When it came to talk of extending protections for Haitians, Durbin said Trump replied, "We don't need more Haitians.'" "He said, 'Put me down for wanting more Europeans to come to this country. Why don't we get more people from Norway?'" Durbin said.

Word of Trump's comments threatened to upend delicate negotiations over resolving the status of the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children. Trump announced last year that he will end the Obama-era program unless lawmakers come up with a solution by March.

Lemire reported from New York City.

Monday, January 15, 2018

MLK Day Marked By Trump Criticism, Pledges To Fight Racism


Bernice King, the daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., is seen outside of The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta on Wed., Jan. 10, 2018.

Leaders of the Cherokee Nation marked Martin Luther King Jr. Day by welcoming the descendants of slaves into their tribe after years of exclusion, while King's children and the pastor of an Atlanta church where King preached passionately decried disparaging remarks President Donald J. Trump is said to have made about African countries.

At gatherings across the nation, activists, residents and teachers honored the late civil rights leader on what would have been his 89th birthday and ahead of the 50th anniversary of King's assassination in Memphis, Tennessee.

In Washington, King's eldest son criticized Trump, saying, "When a president insists that our nation needs more citizens from white states like Norway, I don't even think we need to spend any time even talking about what it says and what it is."

He added, "We got to find a way to work on this man's heart." In Atlanta, the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, the Rev. Raphael Warnock urged those who packed the pews to honor King to speak out against racism. Warnock also took issue with Trump's campaign slogan to "Make America Great Again."

Warnock said he thinks America "is already great ... in large measure because of Africa and African people." He urged people in the audience to speak out against such remarks about other countries, noting King's own words that "silence is betrayal."

King's daughter, the Rev. Bernice King, keynote speaker at the Atlanta service, also criticized Trump, remarking, "We cannot allow the nations of the world to embrace the words that come from our president as a reflection of the true spirit of America."

"We are one people, one nation, one blood, one destiny. ... All of civilization and humanity originated from the soils of Africa," Bernice King said. "Our collective voice in this hour must always be louder than the one who sometimes does not reflect the legacy of my father."

The day took on renewed meaning for descendants of black slaves owned by the Cherokee Nation but whose tribal citizenship was in flux until recently, despite a treaty guaranteeing rights equal to native Cherokees.

The tribe— one of the country's largest — is recognizing the King holiday for the first time this year with calls to service and speeches in which the tribe plans to confront its past. King's writings spoke of injustices against Native Americans and colonization, but Cherokee Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said the tribe had its own form of internal oppression and dispossession.

"The time is now to deal with it and talk about it," Hoskin saide. "It's been a positive thing for our country to reconcile that during Dr. King's era, and it's going to be a positive thing for Cherokee to talk about that history as part of reconciling our history with slavery."

Such talk from tribal officials would have been surprising before a federal court ruled last year that the descendants of former slaves, known as Freedmen, had the same rights to tribal citizenship, voting, health care and housing as blood-line Cherokees.

One descendant of Freedmen, Rodslen Brown-King, said her mother was able to vote as a Cherokee for the first and only time recently. Other relatives died before getting the benefits that come with tribal citizenship, including a 34-year-old nephew with stomach cancer, she said.

"He was waiting on this decision," said Brown-King, of Fort Gibson, Oklahoma. "It's just a lot of struggle, a lot of up and down trauma in our lives. It's exciting to know we are coming together and moving forward in this."

Derrick Reed, a city councilman in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and director of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center there, said Monday's events were the first attended by the Cherokee Nation in honor of the holiday. Principal Chief Bill John Baker was scheduled to speak at an after-party the tribe is sponsoring, and Hoskin served breakfast earlier in the day.

"All the freedmen are finally relieved to be recognized, and their story itself has been a civil rights struggle," Reed said. "It's definitely a turning point in the history of the relationship with the Freedmen Indians as well as the message the tribe is sending to the nation."

Contreras reported from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Fonseca reported from Flagstaff, Arizona. Associated Press writers Corey R. Williams in Detroit and Jonathan Landrum in Atlanta contributed to this report.

Nigeria Summons U.S. Ambassador Over Trump Comments: Foreign Minister

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks upon arrival for dinner at his golf club in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., January 14, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

ABUJA (REUTERS) - Nigeria’s government on Monday summoned the United States ambassador to explain reported remarks by U.S. President Donald Trump that some immigrants from Africa and Haiti come from “shithole” countries, Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama said.

He was responding to a text message from Reuters in which he confirmed that Ambassador Stuart Symington had been summoned. He gave no more details.

Trump reportedly made the remarks at a private meeting with lawmakers on immigration on Thursday. A U.S. senator who attended the gathering said the president used “vile, vulgar” language, including repeatedly using the word “shithole” when speaking about African countries.

The U.S. president on Friday denied using such derogatory language. But he has been widely condemned in many African countries and by international rights organizations. African Union countries demanded an apology on Friday.

Reporting by Felix Onuah; writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; editing by Mark Heinrich
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Trump Remarks Continue To Polarize Conservative Christians


In this Nov. 30, 2015, file photo, Pastor Mark Burns, co-founder & CEO of Christian Television Network, from Easley, S.C., right, speaks to the members of the media outside Trump Tower in New York. A few of President Donald Trump’s leading evangelical supporters defended him after he questioned why the U.S. should accept more immigrants from Haiti and “shithole countries” in Africa. However, many other evangelicals condemned his remarks, citing their increasing devotion to fellow Christians overseas, along with the large numbers of immigrants in U.S. churches and their families. (Richard Drew, File/Associated Press)

NEW YORK (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — Donald Trump’s vulgar remarks questioning why the U.S. should admit immigrants from Haiti and Africa have spotlighted the bitter divide among American evangelicals about his presidency.

While some of his evangelical backers expressed support for his leadership, other conservative Christians are calling the president racist and say church leaders had a moral imperative to condemn him.

“Your pro-life argument rings hollow if you don’t have an issue with this xenophobic bigotry,” tweeted pastor Earon James of Relevant Life Church in Pace, Florida.

Trump won 80 percent of the white evangelical vote in the 2016 election. But recent polls show some weakening in that support, with 61 percent approving of his job performance, compared with 78 percent last February, according to the Pew Research Center.

Still, conservative Christians remain as polarized as ever over his leadership.

Many evangelical leaders who defended him in the past would not comment on Trump’s remarks to a group of senators. A few offered some criticism. Pastor Ronnie Floyd, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said it was “not good” to devalue any person.

Johnnie Moore, a public relations executive and a leader among Trump’s evangelical advisers, said the reports of what Trump said were “absolutely suspect and politicized.”

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who attended the Oval Office meeting Thursday, and people briefed on the conversation said Trump did make the comments as reported: He questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and “shithole countries” in Africa as he rejected a bipartisan immigration deal.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who Durbin said objected to Trump’s remarks at that time, did not dispute Durbin’s description. On Sunday, Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., who attended the Oval Office meeting, insisted that Trump did not use the vulgar word.

Pastor Mark Burns from South Carolina remained skeptical, but said if the remarks were true, Trump was only reacting to poor conditions in Haiti and Africa that were the fault of “lazy governments” there.

The Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas and a frequent guest at the White House, said that apart from the president’s choice of words, “Trump is right on target in his policy,” putting the needs of the U.S. above those of other countries.

Yet anger spread among other conservative Christians.

They posted family photos on social media and proudly noted immigrant relatives. Bishop Talbert Swan of the Church of God in Christ, or COGIC, the country’s largest black Pentecostal denomination, tweeted a photo of one of his grandchildren born to what Swan said was his “educated, hard-working” Haitian-American daughter-in-law.

Swan, based in Springfield, Massachusetts, called Trump’s comments “vile, foul-mouthed, racist,” and posted the hashtag #ImpeachTrump.

A significant number of African immigrants are Christians who joined U.S. evangelical congregations, and many have become advocates for more generous immigration policies and critics of Trump’s views on the issue.

Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor of Anacostia River Church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Washington, said his church includes Christians from Rwanda, Nigeria, Guyana, Cameroon and Zimbabwe.

“This is my immigrant family, my true brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus,” he wrote on the site of The Gospel Coalition, an evangelical group. “As a shepherd, I cannot abide the comments our president makes regarding immigrant peoples and their countries of origin. I cannot leave them alone to hear racist barbs, evil speech, incendiary comment, and blasphemous slander against the image and likeness of God in which they are made.”

American connections with Christians overseas also have grown in recent years through mission projects often in Haiti and Africa.

In one of the more dramatic examples, Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life,” created a partnership between his Saddleback Church in California and the government of Rwanda that involved short mission trips by more than 2,000 congregants. Church members worked with more than 4,000 Rwandan churches providing health care, training pastors and helping orphan, among other projects.

At the same time, evangelicals are increasingly aware in a geographical shift in global Christianity. As its numbers shrink in North America and Western Europe, the Christian population is exploding in Africa, Asia and elsewhere, creating ties across borders.

Todd Johnson, director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, said African Christians closely follow evangelical voting in the U.S., and have deep concern about American evangelical support for Trump.

“I heard many Africans say they were dumbfounded by this,” Johnson said.

The Rev. Tish Harrison Warren, an author and Anglican priest who serves at The Church of the Ascension in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, worried about the fallout for the fellowship of evangelicals outside and inside the U.S. Her denomination, the Anglican Church in North America, was formed under the leadership of African Anglican bishops to serve conservative U.S. Episcopalians and others. Her local church includes parishioners from Uganda, Iran, Turkey, China and other countries.

“It hurts evangelism,” Warren said of the president’s comments. “I’ve sort of come to expect him to say outlandish things. I sort of expect that from him. But I do expect more from the church and from Christian leaders.”

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

APNewsBreak: US Set To Cut UN Money For Palestinian Refugees

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, speaks during a meeting with the Palestinian Central Council, a top decision-making body, at his headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is preparing to withhold tens of millions of dollars from the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, cutting the year's first contribution by more than half or perhaps entirely, and making additional donations contingent on major changes to the organization, according to U.S. officials.

President Donald Trump hasn't made a final decision, but appears more likely to send only $60 million of the planned $125 million first installment to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, said the officials, who weren't authorized to publicly discuss the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Future contributions would require the agency, facing heavy Israeli criticism, to demonstrate significant changes in operations, they said, adding that one suggestion under consideration would require the Palestinians to first re-enter peace talks with Israel.

The State Department said Sunday that "the decision is under review. There are still deliberations taking place." The White House did not immediately respond to questions about the matter. The administration could announce its decision as early as Tuesday, the officials said. The plan to withhold some of the money is backed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis, who offered it as a compromise to demands for more drastic measures by U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, the officials said.

Haley wants a complete cutoff in U.S. money until the Palestinians resume peace talks with Israel that have been frozen for years. But Tillerson, Mattis and others say ending all assistance would exacerbate instability in the Mideast, notably in Jordan, a host to hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees and a crucial U.S. strategic partner.

In another sign of the growing tensions, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas railed at Trump in a fiery, two-hour-long speech on Sunday, saying "shame on you" for his treatment of the Palestinians and warning that he would have no problem rejecting what he suggested would be an unacceptable peace plan. The speech by Abbas ratcheted up what has been more than a month of harsh rhetoric toward Trump since the president's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital

The U.S. is the U.N. agency's largest donor, supplying nearly 30 percent of its total budget. The agency focuses on providing health care, education and social services to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians either fled or were forced from their homes during the war that led to Israel's establishment in 1948. Today, there are an estimated 5 million refugees and their descendants, mostly scattered across the region.

Eliminating or sharply reducing the U.S. contribution could hamstring the agency and severely curtail its work, putting great pressure on Jordan and Lebanon as well as the Palestinian Authority. Gaza would be particularly hard hit. Some officials, including Israelis, warn that it might push people closer to the militant Hamas movement, which controls Gaza.

The U.S. officials said any reduction in American assistance could be accompanied by calls for European nations and others to help make up the shortfall. The U.S. donated $355 million in 2016 and was set to make a similar contribution this year; the first installment was to have sent this month.

But after a highly critical Jan. 2 tweet from Trump on aid to the Palestinians, the State Department opted to wait for a formal policy decision before sending any of the $125 million. Trump's tweet expressed frustration over the lack of progress in his attempts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and he pointed the finger at the Palestinians. "We pay the Palestinians HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect," he said. "But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?"

Although Trump referred to all U.S. assistance to the Palestinians, the contribution to refugee agency would be the first to be affected. Three days after the tweet, at a Jan. 5 White House meeting, senior national security officials try to find a way forward. Led by representatives from the State Department and Pentagon, all but one of the members of the "Policy Coordination Committee" agreed to continue the funding, officials said.

The lone holdout was Haley's representative, who insisted that Trump's tweet had set the policy and the money must be cut off, the officials said. The meeting ended in a stalemate. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu then weighed in, telling his Cabinet that he agreed with the critique of the agency. He said the agency only perpetuates problems and should cease operating in the region. Netanyahu and other Israelis accuse it of contributing to Palestinian militancy and allowing its facilities to be used by militants. They have also complained that some of its staff are biased against Israel.

Netanyahu suggested transferring the agency's budget to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which aids refugee matters everywhere in the world. It was not immediately clear whether any withheld U.S. assistance would be shifted.

Netanyahu's position, coupled with Haley's firm opposition to the funding, led Tillerson, with the support of Mattis, to propose the $60 million compromise, the officials said. Trump, whose recognition last year of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and announcement of plans to move the U.S. Embassy to the holy city had upset the Palestinians, was said by one official to have expressed cautious backing of the compromise.

Trump Says Program To Protect 'Dreamers' Is 'Probably Dead'

Demonstrators hold up balloons during an immigration rally in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and Temporary Protected Status (TPS), programs, near the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Casting a cloud over already tenuous negotiations, President Donald Trump said Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018, that DACA, a program that protects immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children and live here illegally, is “probably dead” and blamed Democrats, days before some government functions would start shutting down unless a deal is reached.

PALM BEACH, FLA. (AP) — President Donald Trump said Sunday that a program that protects immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children is "probably dead," casting a cloud over already tenuous negotiations just days before a deadline on a government funding deal that Democrats have tied to immigration.

At issue is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program created by President Barack Obama to shield hundreds of thousands of these individuals, known as "Dreamers," from deportation. Trump, who has taken a hard stance against illegal immigration, announced last year that he will end the program unless Congress comes up with a solution by March.

"DACA is probably dead because the Democrats don't really want it, they just want to talk and take desperately needed money away from our Military," the Republican president tweeted. "I, as President, want people coming into our Country who are going to help us become strong and great again, people coming in through a system based on MERIT. No more Lotteries! #AMERICA FIRST."

Republicans and Democrats were already at odds over funding the government, and the negotiations became more complicated after Democrats — whose votes are needed to pass a government funding bill — insisted immigration be included. Government funding expires midnight Friday without a deal in place, and some government functions will begin to go dark.

Further roiling the talks are comments by Trump during an Oval Office meeting in which he questioned the need to admit more Haitians to the U.S., along with Africans from "shithole" countries, according to people briefed on the conversation but not authorized to describe it publicly. He also said in the Thursday meeting he would prefer immigrants from countries like Norway instead. The White House has not denied that Trump said the word "shithole," though Trump did push back on some depictions of the meeting.

A confidant of Trump's told The Associated Press that the president spent Thursday evening calling friends and outside advisers to judge their reaction on his inflammatory remarks. Trump wasn't apologetic and denied he was racist, instead blaming the media for distorting his meaning, said the confidant, who wasn't authorized to disclose a private conversation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The president also rejected as insufficient an immigration deal drafted by the bipartisan group of lawmakers who attended that meeting. The deal had included a pathway to citizenship for the "Dreamers" that would take up to 12 years, as well as $1.6 billion for border security, including Trump's promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump's staunchest supporters consider any route to citizenship for the "Dreamers" amnesty for lawbreakers.

The president has said any deal must include funding for the wall as well as changes to make the immigration system a more merit-based structure. The debate over DACA's fate came as lawmakers faced questioning about whether Trump is racist.

Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, the first black female Republican in Congress and the daughter of Haitian immigrants, denounced Trump's comments as racist and called on him to apologize. "I think that would show real leadership," she said on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday.

Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., who was at Thursday's Oval Office meeting, insisted Sunday that Trump did not say "shithole" in referring to African countries. "I am telling you that he did not use that word. And I'm telling you it's a gross misrepresentation," Perdue said on ABC's "This Week." He said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., were mistaken in indicating earlier that that was the case.

Perdue and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., had issued a joint statement Friday saying they "do not recall the President saying those comments specifically." Cotton said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation" that he "didn't hear" the vulgar word used.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who also attended Thursday's meeting at the Oval Office, said, "I don't recall that specific phrase being used." Nielsen did dispute, however, Trump's assertion that DACA was "probably dead."

"I do not believe DACA is dead," Nielsen said on "Fox News Sunday." She said that the bipartisan proposal rejected by Trump did not address core security issues facing her department and that Trump's administration was not interested in "half measures."

Perdue said that "the potential is there" for a deal to protect the "Dreamers" but that Democrats needed to get serious. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., defended the agreement as a "principled compromise" on NBC's "Meet the Press" and said, "I hope people will explore it."

Associated Press writer Jonathan Lemire contributed to this report.

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Kennedy Targets Gun Violence In Illinois Governor Campaign

Democratic Illinois gubernatorial candidate Chris Kennedy, left, gathers with community leaders to discuss gun violence in Chicago at a press conference accompanied by, from left, Chicago Alderman Rick Munoz, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, Rev. Paul Jakes, and U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush in Chicago. Few people running for public office have been more personally affected by gun violence than Chris Kennedy. Now the 54-year-old Democrat has made the issue a centerpiece of his campaign for Illinois governor. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune via AP)

CHICAGO (AP) — Few people running for public office have been more personally affected by gun violence than Chris Kennedy, who was a child when his father and uncle, Sen. Robert Kennedy and President John F. Kennedy, were assassinated.

Now the 54-year-old Democrat has made the issue a centerpiece of his campaign for Illinois governor, talking often about growing up without a father and family trips to Arlington National Cemetery, and saying too many people in Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois are dealing with the same kind of pain.

The move has brought endorsements from African-American leaders, including U.S. Reps. Bobby Rush and Danny Davis, and could help Kennedy earn support in the March primary from black voters who have been disproportionately hurt by gun violence.

But it's also put him at odds with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and some others and prompted accusations of race baiting, after Kennedy said much of the violence is due to systemic disinvestment in black neighborhoods. He accused Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff, of pushing black people out of the city through a "strategic gentrification plan" that includes cutting funding for police and public schools.

"Our government needs to be held accountable for subjecting our communities to a life of crimes of survival," Kennedy told supporters. "We can reduce and control gun violence in our communities, but we need to be honest with ourselves about why it's happening."

Emanuel called the comments "hallucinatory" and said he would like to hear "ideas, not insults," while a mayoral spokesman said it was "a direct assault on one of this city's greatest strengths — our diversity."

Kennedy's other critics, including campaign rivals, called the comment hypocritical, noting he was praising Emanuel not long ago and even donated $5,000 to his campaign. The Chicago Tribune, in an editorial, called it "a cynical and divisive pitch for votes."

Kennedy is one of six Democrats seeking the party's nomination March 20 for the chance to unseat first-term Gov. Bruce Rauner, who's widely considered one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents up for re-election this fall. Among the other Democrats running are state Sen. Daniel Biss and billionaire businessman J.B. Pritzker, who's scooped up endorsements from Democratic county officials and major unions, including the Illinois Education Association.

Rush and Davis, who have both lost family members to the city's violence, said they're backing Kennedy because he's put violence prevention and gun control at the top of his agenda. Speaking at a campaign event this month at a church in a west side Chicago neighborhood where homicides have spiked in recent years, Rush said it was "the first time in my lifetime" Illinois has a gubernatorial candidate who knows how violence rips apart a family and a community. Kennedy's father was killed as he ran for president in 1968, years after John F. Kennedy's assassination.

"He understands. He gets it," Rush said. "We don't have to sit down and go over violence." Joining them was Nate Pendleton, whose 15-year-old daughter, Hadiya, was shot and killed days after returning from President Barack Obama's 2013 inauguration, and Kennedy's running mate, Ra Joy, whose 23-year-old son was fatally shot last summer, apparently by someone trying to steal his cellphone.

Chicago police recorded 650 homicides in 2017, down from the year before but still more killings than in New York City and Los Angeles combined. Kennedy criticized Chicago officials for celebrating the decrease. He said the city is using a strategy of "selective containment" in which violence is allowed to continue in certain neighborhoods and minorities are pushed out Chicago, making the city "whiter."

He says his plan to reduce violence would include more investment in neighborhoods, reducing poverty and tougher gun control measures — an approach similar to that of his opponents. Emanuel said he has worked to reverse the decline in the city's black population and reduce violence across Chicago.

Also seeking the Democratic nomination are regional schools superintendent Bob Daiber, activist Tio Hardiman and physician Robert Marshall. Rauner faces a GOP primary challenge from conservative state Rep. Jeanne Ives.

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Donald Trump 'Most Racist US President' Since Woodrow Wilson


WASHINGTON (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS) -- More than 150 years after the abolition of slavery and more than 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, President Donald Trump's incendiary comments about immigrants have ripped open a jarring debate in the United States and around the world: Is the American president racist? To Democrats and some historians, there is little dispute given the president's own words and actions. His political rise was powered first by his promotion of lies about Barack Obama's citizenship, then by his allegations that Mexican immigrants to the United States were rapists and murderers.
During a private meeting with lawmakers Thursday, he stunningly questioned why the US would admit Haitians or people from "s...hole" countries in Africa, expressing a preference instead for immigrants from Norway, a majority white nation.

US President Donald Trump says he's the "least racist person there is", but a presidential historian says the US hasn't had such a racist leader since Woodrow Wilson 97 years ago.

"President Trump said things that were hate-filled, vile and racist," said Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat-Illinois, who attended the meeting and confirmed the president's comments.

US President Donald Trump says he's the "least racist person there is", but a presidential historian says the US hasn't had such a racist leader since Woodrow Wilson 97 years ago.

"President Trump said things that were hate-filled, vile and racist," said Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat-Illinois, who attended the meeting and confirmed the president's comments.

US President Donald Trump says he's the "least racist person there is", but a presidential historian says the US hasn't had such a racist leader since Woodrow Wilson 97 years ago.

"President Trump said things that were hate-filled, vile and racist," said Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat-Illinois, who attended the meeting and confirmed the president's comments.

On Friday, few Republicans defended the president's remarks, and party leaders were silent most of the day. Those who did speak out argued the comments were merely unvarnished statements on the economic blight in some regions of the world, not an expression of racial preference. Others said Trump, a 71-year-old who relishes rejecting political correctness, was voicing views held quietly by many.

A group of African ambassadors to the UN condemn US President Donald Trump's "xenophobic" comments and call for a retraction.

"I've said all along the president many times says what people are thinking," Republican Representative Jim Renacci, a candidate for Senate in Ohio, told Fox News.

"Let's judge the president after what we've done. Let's not judge the president on what he says."

Trump has repeatedly denied he is a racist, declaring during the 2016 campaign that he was the "least racist person there is".

Historian Douglas Brinkley said Trump's recent comments stand out from those other presidents. "No president has been so racially insensitive and shown outright disdain for people who aren't white."

On Friday (Saturday, NZ time), he offered a vague denial of his comments to lawmakers, tweeting that he said nothing "derogatory" about Haitians. He did not address the reports that he disparaged African nations and ignored questions about the comments from reporters.

Yet there's no doubt that the episode has added new fuel to the charges of racism that have dogged Trump for years, since long before he assumed the presidency.

In the 1970s, the federal government twice sued Trump's real estate company for favouring white tenants over blacks. He aggressively pushed for the death penalty for a group of black and Latino teenagers who were accused of raping a white woman in Central Park but later exonerated.

Then-president Woodrow Wilson's policies pushed back any progress for the black working class. He supported segregation and, 97 years on, the world is looking at a president who is akin to Wilson, a historian says.

Now, as president, Trump's words carry the weight of an office that has long helped guide the nation's moral compass and defined the American ideal for millions around the world.

Although the United States has a complicated racial history, including slavery, segregation and persistent economic disparities between whites and minorities, Trump's most recent predecessors from both parties have used their position to promote equality and have endorsed immigration policies that brought millions of people from Africa and Latin America to the US.

"What Trump is doing has popped up periodically, but in modern times, no president has been so racially insensitive and shown outright disdain for people who aren't white," said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian.

Timothy Naftali, a presidential historian and former director of Richard Nixon's presidential library, says Trump's recent comments "shows the president is using language that implies he's thinking like a racist while making immigration policy".

Brinkley said Trump was the most racist president since Woodrow Wilson, who served from 1913 until 1921.

Wilson supported segregation, including in the federal government, and his policies are blamed for rolling back progress for the emerging black middle class in the nation's capital at the turn of the 20th century.

Decades after Wilson left office, President Richard Nixon made inflammatory comments about blacks, Jews and others in private discussions, including saying: "Do you know maybe one black country that's well run?"

Many of Nixon's comments only came to light years later, following the release of tapes from his White House years. Timothy Naftali, a presidential historian and the former director of Nixon's presidential library, said Trump's most recent comments were more jarring both because they were revealed in real time and because they came during the course of a discussion about the laws governing who can gain entry into the United States.

"This is not an example of a leak that shows the president to be a jerk," Naftali said. "This shows the president is using language that implies he's thinking like a racist while making immigration policy."

Notably, the White House did not deny Trump's comments and instead endorsed the spirit of what he appeared to be saying. In a statement, White House spokesman Raj Shah said Trump is "fighting for permanent solutions that make our country stronger by welcoming those who can contribute to our society, grow our economy and assimilate into our great nation".

Two of the Republican lawmakers who participated in the meeting, senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, said they "do not recall" Trump's derogatory comments about Africa. Another GOP attendee, South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham, suggested the reported remarks were accurate: "Following comments by the president, I said my piece directly to him."

Trump's political allies have been through this dance before, grappling with how to position themselves after a president whose supporters they covet stakes out controversial positions. In August, after the president said "both sides" were to blame in clashes between white supremacists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, many GOP officials condemned Trump's remarks but maintained their overall support for his presidency.

On Friday, several black supporters and advisers to Trump vouched for his commitment to the black community after a White House event honouring Martin Luther King Junior. Paris Dennard, a senior director of strategic communications at the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, said Trump "understands this community".

After the conversation was leaked, Trump denied he made the comments, but admitted tough language was used.

"He wants to help our community."

But the participants pointedly did not address Trump's vulgar comments. And other Trump backers made clear they wanted to steer clear of questions about whether the president is a racist.

"That's not something I want to talk about," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said.

In Atlanta, at the congregation once led by King, the Reverend Raphael Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church and other faith leaders planned a news conference to condemn Trump's "vile and racist" remarks made on the eve of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

Warnock said it's hypocritical for Trump to sign a proclamation honouring King, given his comments.

"A giant of a man does not need a proclamation from a small man like Donald Trump," Warnock said.

Trump made the comments during a meeting with lawmakers in the Oval Office, in the West Wing (at front) of the White  House.

The Poverty Of Africa’s Elites

The much referred to Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew. It is perhaps only in Africa where most intellectuals are only waiting for that one hero-president who will change the country from poverty to riches.

THE LAST WORD (THE INDEPENDENT, UGANDA) -- I recently had a Twitter debate with Prof. George Ayittey; the Ghanaian author of `Africa Unchained: the blueprint for development’ (Palgrave/MacMillan, 2004) and scholar at the American University in Washington DC.

According to him, the problem of Africa is bad leadership and that 90% of the 238 presidents Africa has had since independence have been bad and selfish. This argument is common among African elites. However, although it has good political and emotive appeal, it lacks even basic intellectual reflection.

It is perhaps only in Africa where most intellectuals (and I hope not citizens) are waiting for that one hero-president who will change the country from poverty to riches. They, however, need to answer one question: Which president, prime minister or chancellor developed USA, UK, France, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Norway, Japan, Austria, Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, Italy, Canada, New Zeeland, Japan, etc. – the most advanced nations in the world?

The hero-leader example is picked from East Asia where in one generation and under one leader, the nation transformed from poverty to riches – Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore, Park Chung Hee in South Korea and Chiang Kai Shek in China.

Even a casual reading of the histories of these nations would show the engine of transformation was not the leaders but the evolved levels of social organisation diffuse across the entire society. Hence even without Lee, Singapore would have transformed. Look at Hong Kong. It didn’t have a Lee but achieved similar heights as Singapore.

Taiwan best illustrates this point. Chiang and his political party, the Kuomintang (or KMT) presided over a classic predatory state on mainland China. When chased away to Taiwan, the same leader and party presided over an economic miracle. Did Chiang undergo a personality or genetic mutation to achieve in Taiwan what he had failed to do on mainland China?

Studies I have seen look at the structure of interests to whom he was beholden on the mainland and how defeat restructured the power, interests, and incentives of the major social forces inside the KMT to explain Taiwan’s economic transformation.

This leadership fetish in Africa shows that our intellectuals and other elites want to escape their individual and group responsibility to the destiny of nations. This escapism leads them to play the blame game: “my country has failed because my president is bad man”. Ayittey’s Ghana has had 13 presidents in 60 years of independence. How could God (or fate) be so unfair that 13 out of 13 leaders have been bad and selfish? Ayittey and his ilk need to abandon their comfort in successful nations, go home, pull up their sleeves and try to make a difference.

If any citizens of any African country are waiting for one woman or man to become president and transform their country, they are not only doomed but also foolish. Leaders of African nations do not come from Japan or Norway.

They spring from within our societies and are propelled into power by domestic (with the help of foreign) forces and interests. Every government reflects its social base. So African leaders, individually as presidents and collectively with their domestic and foreign allies, can only design and implement policies for these interests and social forces. Therefore, whatever they achieve or fail at is a reflection of us.

There is a notion in development discourse that state policies are adopted on their own merits with their own rationality. That bad policy is a result of corruption or poor priorities or ignorance. There may be some truths to this, but it is only a small part of the truth. This approach ignores the fact that state policy has a social context. This approach fails (or refuses) to put the state in its social context. What are the social forces that cluster around power and what are their interests?

When one looks at the nations of Africa critically, it becomes clear that the structure of interests in charge of power, the ideology of the elites in and outside of power and therefore the nature of the political institutions and public policies of these nations is not conducive to the social transformation we seek. Hence the state, because of this, has neither the will nor the strength to pursue a thoroughgoing project of social transformation.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

In Trump’s Immigration Remarks, Echoes Of A Century-Old Racial Ranking

Immigrants undergoing medical exams at Ellis Island in 1923. A year later, a new law significantly reduced immigration from countries outside Western Europe. CreditTopical Press Agency/Getty Images

WASHINGTON (THE NEW YORK TIMES) -- The argument was genteel, the tone judicious, the meaning plain: America, wrote the senator leading Congress’s push for immigration reform in 1924, was beginning to “smart under the irritation” of immigrants who “speak a foreign language and live a foreign life.”

The year before, things had been slightly less decorous. A certain unnamed country in Europe was “making the United States a dumping ground for its undesirable nationals,” the president of the American Museum of Natural History, Henry Fairfield Osborn, told a national immigration conference.

Here in the earliest weeks of 2018, the worldview that last gained wide acceptance nearly a century ago has found perhaps its most succinct expression yet — distilled, this time, to a pungent question from President Trump: Why should the United States take in immigrants from “shithole countries” in Africa over people from places like Norway?

Mr. Trump, who made the remark while discussing potential immigration legislation with members of Congress at the White House on Thursday, also asked, “Why do we want people from Haiti here?” “Take them out,” he added. (On Friday, Mr. Trump denied that he had used some of the derogatory language, while a senator who attended the meeting confirmed that he had.)

His commentary struck many Republicans as well as Democrats as extreme, if not outright racist. But the words were a Twitter-era detonation of an attitude that once before shaped American immigration policy, an attitude that, even after the country tried to reverse itself by loosening immigration laws in the 1960s, seems to have loitered on in the national attic.

Its resurfacing in the public sphere capsizes a half-century of mainstream consensus: that immigrants enrich the United States, no matter where they come from.Photo

Mr. Trump’s remarks were “sadly reminiscent of the language used by nativists and racists in the early 20th century against Eastern and Southern Europeans and Asians,” said Mae Ngai, an immigration historian at Columbia University.

“Obviously he likes Norwegians because they are white,” she added. “But he knows nothing about Norway, a country with single-payer universal health care and free college education. Why would anyone want to leave Norway for the U.S.?”

The more liberal immigration policies of 1965 still form the scaffolding of the United States’ legal immigration system, ushering in — if unintentionally — an America that grows less white every year. For years now, Asians, Africans and Hispanics have accounted for an expanding proportion of the country’s visas.

But first came 1924, when the people in charge spoke openly of ranking immigrants of certain origins above others.

That was the year Congress passed an immigration overhaul that set strict quotas designed to encourage immigrants from Western Europe, block all but a few from Southern and Eastern Europe and bar altogether those from Asia. Overall immigration levels were slashed. The racial theories at play in the legislation, wrote the immigration historian Roger Daniels, would later become the first draft of “the official ideology of Nazi Germany.”

There were some familiar refrains in the 1924 immigration debate. Cheap immigrant labor had depressed wages, the restrictionists said. Immigrants had seized jobs from Americans, they said. But it was also heavy on racist rhetoric aimed at preserving what eugenicists and social theorists of the time called the “Nordic” race that, in their telling, had originally settled the United States.

The bill’s authors had been avid readers of the 1916 book “The Passing of the Great Race,” in which the eugenicist Madison Grant warned that the country was in danger of a “replacement of a higher type by a lower type here in America unless the native American uses his superior intelligence to protect himself and his children from competition with intrusive peoples drained from the lowest races of Eastern Europe.”

Under the 1924 law, the number of visas given to each country could not exceed annual quotas based on the number of people from that country who were living in the United States as of the 1890 census, before the flow of new Americans had begun to tilt away from Western European countries.

The United States, the law’s supporters said, could now dispense with the “melting pot.” The only new immigrants who would be allowed to come would already look, act and speak like the Americans already here.

“Each year’s immigration should so far as possible be a miniature America, resembling in national origins the persons who are already settled in our country,” the bill’s chief author, Senator David A. Reed of Pennsylvania, wrote in The New York Times on April 27, 1924.

Englishmen and Germans were welcome; Italians and Jews, not so much. No Asians need apply. (Incidentally, Norway, home to many Nordics, was also subject to a quota, though it was given significantly more slots than countries including Greece, Spain, Turkey and Hungary.)

By 1965, Congress had repealed the per-country quotas, replacing them with a system that emphasized new immigrants’ family ties to American citizens and residents and, to a lesser degree, the skills they brought. Under the framework established then, people already admitted to the United States can sponsor their relatives overseas through the process Mr. Trump calls “chain migration.” Others now come for jobs, for study, as refugees or through the diversity visa lottery, a program put in place in 1990 and intended for nationalities that are underrepresented in the normal immigration stream.

Conservative members of Congress, including some Democrats, had fought to include the family-based preferences for relatives of people already living in the country, believing, according to historians, that more white Europeans were likely to come that way.

But fewer Europeans, and far more Latin Americans and Asians, knocked on the door.

In the 2016 fiscal year, according to government statistics, there were about 98,000 people from Europe who became lawful permanent residents. More than four times as many, 443,000, came from Asia, and half a million from North, South and Central America and the Caribbean. Africa sent another 111,000. Over all, nearly 1.2 million people obtained green cards that year, compared with about 700,000 in all the years from 1930 to 1939 combined.

The consequences of the 1965 law were unforeseen by all. They were downright alarming to some.

In an October 2015 radio interview with Stephen K. Bannon, who would become Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who would become attorney general, pointed out that the country’s population was heading toward a historically high proportion of foreign-born Americans. Mr. Sessions, a longtime supporter of tighter controls on immigration, helped craft Mr. Trump’s immigration proposals during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“When the numbers reached about this high in 1924, the president and Congress changed the policy, and it slowed down immigration significantly,” Mr. Sessions said. Those who came to the United States through the 1924 quotas assimilated into the country and helped create “really the solid middle class of America,” he continued.

But, he said, “We passed a law that went far beyond what anybody realized in 1965, and we’re on a path now to surge far past what the situation was in 1924.”

Mr. Sessions and Mr. Trump have called repeatedly for ending chain migration and the diversity visa lottery. Haitians, too, have found themselves partially shut out by the Trump administration. In November, homeland security officials announced that they would end a humanitarian program that had given some 59,000 Haitians temporary permission to live and work in the United States since an earthquake shattered their country in 2010.

Living conditions in Haiti, they said, had improved enough that Haiti could “safely receive” its citizens.

Jack Begg contributed research.

Why Trump's Remark About Nigerians And 'Huts' Is So Appalling

Pedestrians shop in a roadside market in Lagos, Nigeria. (Sunday Alamba / Associated Press)

(LOS ANGELES TIMES JANUARY 13, 2018) -- Long before I arrived in the United States in 1997 on political asylum, I’d heard the apocryphal story of the visiting African who was asked by an American whether it was “true that Africans live on trees?”

The well-educated and well-spoken African responded: “Yes, it is true, and the U.S. Embassy is the biggest hut next to my hut!”

It was funny then, until my friend was asked that same question at her school in Washington. President Trump’s reported statement that when Nigerians see America they never want to go back to “their huts” is downright appalling.

I came here in exile as a young human rights lawyer who had been imprisoned and tortured by a brutal military dictator. In recent years, I have helped a number of victims of the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram come to the U.S.

These were simply Christian schoolgirls who had jumped out of Boko Haram’s trucks after they were abducted with hundreds of classmates from their school in the northeastern community of Chibok in April 2014. They were not here because of the American dream. They just wanted to be somewhere, anywhere, they could go to school and not be abducted, raped, converted to Islam or used as suicide bombers. Boko Haram has a set a world record for the most suicide bombers in history — 80% of whom have been women and children.

Ironically, Trump’s remarks undercut his position with a group that has traditionally favored him and the GOP. In Nigeria, Trump is popular for standing up to Islamist terrorism. Strangely enough, even people who dislike Trump are amused he beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who they blame for failing to take action against Boko Haram terrorism and ultimately for foisting Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim, on Nigeria as its president. The optic of former Obama advisor David Axelrod serving as a consultant to Buhari’s campaign was perceived as a Hillary/Obama endorsement of his candidacy.

Jos, the city in northern Nigeria where I was born, is also the birthplace of many missionary kids from America, Canada and England, many of whom are proud of this fact and have asked me if this entitles them to Nigerian citizenship. The oldest American high school on the continent of Africa is located there. The Chibok school, from which the 276 schoolgirls were abducted, was built by American missionaries 70 years ago last year.

Today, as Africa’s most populous country and biggest economy, Nigeria is the United States’ largest trading partner on the continent. Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s Halliburton and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s Exxon Mobil are just a couple of American companies that have extensive dealings in Nigeria, once the fifth-largest oil supplier to the United States. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former President Clinton are other prominent Americans who have earned income in Nigeria through business transactions and speaking engagements.

For the Nigerian American community, it is simply disheartening that such hard-working immigrants with numerous academic achievements would be so derisively dismissed by the U.S. president. Hundreds of Nigerian medical doctors are helping sustain the U.S. medical system, which is in dire need of foreign medical professionals as longer-living baby boomers strain the system.

Among these are Dr. Bennet Omalu, who discovered the brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, which afflicts NFL players, as depicted in the movie “Concussion,” starring Will Smith. The condition has also been found to affect war veterans. Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye, co-director of the Texas Children's Fetal Center, performed a ground-breaking surgery on a fetus in utero — as reported by CNN — a procedure that could save babies who would otherwise be aborted.

For some of us who have worked on U.S.-Nigeria relations for years, it was not enamoring that one of the president’s first policy actions on Africa was to consider allowing elephant tusk hunting, apparently a favorite pastime of his son.

This reductionist approach to Africa, where China, Israel and the Middle East are making significant diplomatic and economic overtures, is unfortunate. In 2015, U.S. agricultural exports to Nigeria were worth $667 million, while Nigeria’s agro exports to the U.S. were a mere $32 million. These gave the U.S. a favorable trade balance of more than half a billion dollars!

One cannot quite fathom what Trump stands to gain by espousing such senseless, unhelpful, inaccurate and even racist stereotypes. Ignorance is not a defense, but at what point does ignorance become an offense?

There are tens of thousands of Americans living and earning incomes in Nigeria, and the U.S. Mission there is one of the largest and most lucrative — raking in millions of dollars in visa fees — on the planet.

Nigeria is a sought-after destination for many A-list musicians — including Beyoncé — who have performed at glitzy events, as well as prominent evangelical leaders who jet in for massive gospel crusades.

Sadly, Trump’s base has not advocated for refugee resettlement or direct aid for Nigerian Christians targeted by Jihadi terrorism.

Now more than ever, the U.S. needs less diplomatic walls and more bridges. Washington was recently stung by an overwhelmingly negative U.N. vote against the White House’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. In a similar U.N. vote against Israeli “occupation” three years ago, Nigeria abstained after then-Secretary of State John F. Kerry phoned Nigeria’s president at the time, Goodluck Jonathan — a move that spared the U.S. a veto.

It is small comfort that the White House press office has not denied the comments. Indeed Trump’s profanity-laced tirade against “shithole countries” belies any denials. It also reveals a two-faced president who infamously told African presidents during a U.N. meeting last year that Africa had made his “friends rich.” Worse still, some immigrants see in Trump a semblance to the face of tribalist autocracy that they fled from.

It is a tragic irony that the week preceding his very first Martin Luther King Jr. Day as president, his divisive remarks speak of a nightmare world where young Norwegian and Nigerian boys are not equally welcome in America.

If I had a chance to speak to the president, I would inform him that Presidents Bush, Carter and Clinton are among his predecessors who have stayed at the Hilton Abuja. And it’s one of the biggest huts in Nigeria if he ever decides to come to Africa to golf or hunt.

Emmanuel Ogebe is a Nigerian human rights lawyer who practices in the United States.

Friday, January 12, 2018

‘Reprehensible, Racist’: Trump Outrages Africans


JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Africans were shocked on Friday to find President Donald Trump had finally taken an interest in their continent. But it wasn’t what people had hoped for.

Using vulgar language, Trump on Thursday questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and “s—hole countries” in Africa rather than places like Norway in rejecting a bipartisan immigration deal. On Friday he denied using that language.

The African Union continental body told the Associated Press it was “frankly alarmed” by Trump’s comments.

“Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice,” AU spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo said.

Some African governments found themselves in an awkward position. As top recipients of U.S. aid, some hesitated to jeopardize it by criticizing Trump, especially as his administration has sought to slash foreign assistance.

“Unless it was specifically said about South Sudan, we have nothing to say,” South Sudan government spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told the AP.

But Botswana’s government called Trump’s comment “reprehensible and racist,” saying the U.S. ambassador had been summoned to clarify whether the country was regarded so poorly after years of cordial relations. Senegal’s President Macky Sall said he was shocked and that “Africa and the black race merit the respect and consideration of all.”

Both nations have been praised by the U.S. government as stable democracies in the region.

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress called Trump’s comments “extremely offensive,” while opposition leader Mmusi Maimane said “the hatred of Obama’s roots now extends to an entire continent.” Uganda’s state minister for international relations, Henry Okello Oryem, called the remarks “unfortunate and regrettable” and hoped that heads of state will reply at an African Union summit later this month.

African media outlets and the continent’s young, increasingly connected population were not shy, with some tweeting sleek photos of African landscapes and urban areas with the hashtag of the word.

“Well, that is the perfect definition of racism. That is all I have to say,” Kenyan entrepreneur Wangui Muraguri told the AP in response to Trump.

“Casual Friday at the White House is soon to include hoods and tiki torches at this rate,” South African media outlet Daily Maverick wrote.

Trump’s comments were “shocking and shameful” and “I’m sorry, but there’s no other word one can use but racist,” said a spokesman for the U.N. human rights office, Rupert Colville.

Many on the world’s second most populous continent reached for their smartphones, long-practiced in defending it from easy stereotypes. While 40 percent of the world’s poor live in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the International Monetary Fund, the region also has billionaires, reality shows and a growing middle class.

The World Bank on Friday tweeted that sub-Saharan Africa’s economic growth this year is forecast at 3.2 percent. That was the U.S. economy’s annual rate of growth from July through September, according to Commerce Department data last month.

Some in Africa decided to own Trump’s vulgar language or throw it back in his face.

“Good morning from the greatest most beautiful ‘s—hole country’ in the world!!!” South African Broadcasting Corporation anchor Leanne Manas tweeted.

“As someone from South S—hole, Trevor is deeply offended by the president’s remarks,” The Daily Show tweeted of its South African-born host, Trevor Noah.

Others said they thought Trump had a point, in a way.

“Trump is absolutely right,” said Mamady Traore, a 30-year-old sociologist in Guinea. “When you have heads of state who mess with the constitutions to perpetuate their power. When you have rebel factions that kill children, disembowel women as saints, who mutilate innocent civilians.”

In Kenya, East Africa’s economic hub, political activist Boniface Mwangi pleaded: “Please don’t confuse the ... leaders we Africans elect with our beautiful continent.” He later told the AP that “Africa gave America the greatest president ever” in Barack Obama. “It is actually a disgrace for one of the best men to occupy that office to be succeeded by an idiot.”

Trump’s comments highlighted months of concerns about his lack of focus on Africa, including empty ambassadorial posts in key countries like South Africa, Egypt, Congo and Somalia. A list maintained by the Washington-based American Foreign Service Association says eight such posts are vacant.

Trump has expressed negative opinions about the continent in the past. “Every penny of the $7 billion going to Africa as per Obama will be stolen - corruption is rampant!” he tweeted in 2013.

The U.S. president is only hurting himself both at home and abroad, some Africans said.

“He has not only insulted Africans, he has also insulted African-Americans,” said Sylvester Odion Akhaine, associate professor of international relations at the Lagos State University in Nigeria. “Internationally, such language will deepen the isolation of the United States, a country that is already losing its global prestige.”

One lawmaker in Ghana called for a boycott by developing countries against the United States until Trump leaves office. “The sooner he is made aware that America needs the world and the world needs America the better it is for all of us,” Ras Mubarak said.

As outrage spread, the U.S. government’s own Africa Media Hub tried to put out the flames.

Without directly referring to Trump’s statement, it tweeted that “US remains committed to working together w/Africans to realize the promise of a more peaceful, more productive, more prosperous 21st century Africa. US deeply respects the people of (hash)Africa & values its partnerships with them.”

Associated Press writers Elias Meseret in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Sam Mednick in Juba, South Sudan; Joe Mwihia in Nairobi, Kenya; Sam Olukoya in Lagos, Nigeria; Risdel Kasasira in Kampala, Uganda; Francis Kokutse in Accra, Ghana; Boubacar Diallo in Conakry, Guinea and Jamey Keaten in Geneva contributed.