Monday, August 03, 2015

NIGERIA: Review Of Soldiers Condemned In Boko Haram War

Soldiers accused of refusing to fight in the country's northeastern Islamic uprising appear before a court martial in Abuja, Nigeria. Nigeria's army is reviewing the court-martials of more than 600 soldiers and officers, including dozens condemned to death for allegedly deserting the battle against Islamic extremists, according to an order received by The Associated Press on Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015. (AP)


LAGOS, NIGERIA (AP) — Nigeria's army is reviewing the courts-martial of more than 600 soldiers and officers, including dozens condemned to death for allegedly deserting the battle against Islamic extremists, according to an order received by The Associated Press on Sunday.
The review comes three months after the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari, who has vowed to crush the Boko Haram Islamic uprising which has spilled across Nigeria's borders. An order signed by army administrator Maj. Gen. A. B. Abubakar and dated July 31 requires all accused and condemned soldiers to appear in northern Kaduna city before a committee sitting Aug. 7 to Aug. 24 "to screen and assess all disciplinary cases arising from erstwhile Op Zaman Lafiya" against Boko Haram.
Seventy-two soldiers were condemned to death by three courts-martial last year for alleged cowardice, mutiny, aiding the enemy and other charges. Another 579 are before ongoing courts-martial. Human rights lawyer Femi Falana has called the trials "a travesty" held in secret because the soldiers' evidence is a condemnation of Nigeria's military establishment — indicating corrupt officers often divert money meant for salaries and arms.
Soldiers have described being sent into battle with no rations and just 30 bullets each, and fleeing when their ammunition runs out. Falana said the army was making scapegoats of inexperienced soldiers — his clients were aged between 21 and 25.
Buhari also has said that "our military was not sufficiently supported or equipped." Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, the defense chief fired when Buhari got rid of the top echelon of Nigeria's military last month, complained last week that "fifth columnists" in the military have leaked operational plans to Boko Haram.
Amnesty International has accused Nigeria's military of the deaths in custody of 800 detainees.
Associated Press writer Bashir Adigun contributed to this report from Abuja, Nigeria.

Drivers Weigh In On Uber Boom In NYC

Uber drivers and their supporters protest in front of the offices of the Taxi and Limousine Commission in New York. In four years Uber has gone from nearly non-existent to more than 26,000 drivers, joining over 13,000 New York City taxis. (AP)


NEW YORK (AP) — On a muggy summer evening, a woman stood on a midtown Manhattan street corner and switched between raising her hand for a taxi and glancing at her phone, possibly for an Uber car.
"She's going to take whoever comes first," yellow cab driver Jatinder Singh speculated as he scouted out the scene. While New York City riders have increasingly more choices in how to get from here to there with the rise of e-hailing apps — and lawmakers grapple with how to regulate the booming industry — the drivers who keep cars moving are stuck in the middle.
Uber, a service that allows riders to choose a car type and pay by credit card from a mobile phone, has in four years gone from nearly non-existent to more than 26,000 drivers, joining the city's 13,437 taxis.
Some traditional yellow cab drivers say that since the arrival of Uber, the increased competition has cost them about 30 percent of their earnings. Uber drivers also have complained the crowded streets are hurting their bottom line, a notion disputed by the company, which is moving forward with a goal of adding 10,000 drivers by the end of the year. The plan alarmed New York City lawmakers who later backed off a plan to cap the number of cars on the street in exchange for ridership data to study the issue.
Here's a look at how the battle for New York City's streets is playing out, through the eyes of those behind the wheel: UBER RISING "In three years, there will be no taxis on New York City streets," Uber driver Michael Keflom predicted as he prowled the streets for passengers in his Mercedes SUV.
The 48-year-old driver moved from Eritrea, in Africa, to New York City in the late eighties, and during college started driving a yellow cab — a job he kept on and off for 26 years during a career as a commercial pilot.
He says that if Uber had existed back in the mid-90s, he would never have stepped foot in a cockpit. Keflom said he's made it his mission to convince his taxi-driving friends to join him at Uber for the flexibility — drivers own their cars and can work when they want.
Liang Wang has been driving for Uber for about a year and this is his first driving job. He chose the company because he believed the yellow cab shift schedule was just too rigid. "The yellow cab schedule, you have to wake up at midnight or finish really late. And I have a daughter," said Wang, who drives five to six days a week around his family schedule.
SUFFER THE TAXI DRIVER Noureddine Benbedda, who owns his own yellow cab, said he used to take home $700 a week after paying a garage and the lease on the city medallion that allows him to drive. Now he's lucky if he brings home $500. He used to have another driver take the night shift who has since quit, leaving Benbedda to drive longer hours to make up for it.
"My family is suffering now," he said. Mohammad Sultan echoes Benbedda. After 27 years as a taxi driver, the 59-year-old says his earnings have dropped by $200 a week. Even though he's lost 30 percent of his business since Uber arrived on the streets, he remains positive.
"It's good that there's no more taxi monopoly," Sultan said. "Now we have another opportunity." IN BOTH DRIVER SEATS Driver Jatinder Singh has seen both sides: he drove with Uber and returned to driving a taxi.
"The drivers who are suffering they want to come back to a cab, but they can't, because they bought a brand-new car," he said. "My friend bought a Hyundai Sonata hybrid and they're stuck for good, for five years until the car is paid off."
He owned a yellow cab, which he decided to paint black so he could start driving with Uber. That lasted about six months before he sold the car and returned to taxi driving. Singh hoped the surge pricing at Uber — it costs more to get a lift when demand outpaces supply— would make up for the lack of tips, but the money never came.
"They had so many drivers, too many drivers." Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance says the problem lies in Uber's model, which she claims was never created to serve full-time drivers.
"For them it's a gig economy. If you're a full-timer, you can't compete with the flood of vehicles," she said. "I don't want to mince words here, for generations it has been a full-time job."

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Mexico News Photographer Found Slain In Capital

Photojournalists place their cameras on the ground during a demonstration in Mexico City condemning the alleged murder of fellow journalist Regina Martinez, a correspondent for the Mexican investigative magazine Proceso. Ruben Espinosa, a photographer who worked for Proceso and other media, was among five people found slain early Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015, in an apartment in Mexico City, according to the magazine. He had recently gone into self-exile from the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, where he felt under threat, the magazine added. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 11 journalists have been killed in Veracuz since 2010, the most recent just a month ago. Two others, including Espinosa, were Veracruz journalists found dead outside of the state.


MEXICO CITY (AP) — A photographer for the Mexican investigative magazine Proceso, who had fled his home state after being harassed, was among five people found slain early Saturday in an apartment in Mexico City, according to the magazine.
The body of Ruben Espinosa, who collaborated with Proceso and other media, was identified by a family member at the morgue Saturday afternoon, Proceso reported, adding that he had two gunshot wounds. Espinosa had recently gone into self-exile from the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, where he felt under threat, according to Proceso. His family had lost contact with him on Friday and by Saturday the free speech advocacy group Article 19 had called on Mexican authorities to activate the protocols for locating a missing journalist.
He was found dead with four women, three of whom lived in the apartment in the middle-class Narvarte neighborhood near the center of the city, according to the Mexico City prosecutor's office. The fourth woman was a domestic employee, the prosecutor's statement said. It said identifications and cause of death were still being verified.
Veracruz has been a dangerous state for reporters. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 11 journalists have been killed there since 2010, all under Gov. Javier Duarte, the most recent just a month ago. Two others, including Espinosa, were Veracruz journalists found dead outside of the state.
Article 19 on Saturday called the killing of Espinosa a new level of violence against journalists in Mexico, as he was first to be killed while in exile in Mexico City. Many reporters under threat in their home states have taken refuge in the capital, where the federal government has set up an agency to help such journalists.
The advocacy group said in an article that the killing occurred "without authorities charged with protecting journalists lifting a finger to help Espinosa." Article 19 said it published an alert about Espinosa June 15 after he reported unknown people following him, taking his photograph and harassing him outside his home in Xalapa, the capital of Veracruz.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Original Sound Of Japan Emperor's War-End Speech Released

People kneel and listen to the radio in Tokyo, as Emperor Hirohito announced on radio that Japan was defeated in the World War II. The original recording of Japan's Emperor Hirohito's war-ending speech has come back to life in digital form. The original sound was released Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015 by the Imperial Household Agency in digital format, ahead of the 70th anniversary of the speech and the war's end. (Kyodo News via AP)


TOKYO, JAPAN (AP) — The 4 ½-minute speech that has reverberated throughout Japan's modern history since it was delivered by Emperor Hirohito at the end of World War II has come back to life in digital form.
Hirohito's "jewel voice" — muffled and nearly inaudible due to poor sound quality — was broadcast on Aug. 15, 1945, announcing Japan's surrender. On Saturday, the Imperial Household Agency released the digital version of the original sound ahead of the 70th anniversary of the speech and the war's end. In it, the emperor's voice appears clearer, slightly higher and more intense, but, Japanese today would still have trouble understanding the arcane language used by Hirohito.
"The language was extremely difficult," said Tomie Kondo, 92, who listened to the 1945 broadcast in a monitoring room at public broadcaster NHK, where she worked as a newscaster. "It's well written if you read it, but I'm afraid not many people understood what he said."
"Poor reception and sound quality of the radio made it even worse," she said. "I heard some people even thought they were supposed to fight even more. I think the speech would be incomprehensible to young people today."
Every Japanese knows a part of the speech where Hirohito refers to his resolve for peace by "enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable," a phrase repeatedly used in news and dramas about the war.
When people heard that part 70 years ago, they understood the situation, Kondo says. But the rest is little known, largely because the text Hirohito read was deliberately written in arcane language making him sound authoritative and convincing as he sought people's understanding about Japan's surrender.
Amid growing concern among many Japanese over nationalist Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to expand Japan's military role, the current Emperor Akihito is increasingly seen as liberal and pacifist, and the effort by his father, Hirohito, to end the war has captured national attention.
Speaking in unique intonation that drops at the end of sentences, Hirohito opens his 1945 address with Japan's decision to accept the condition of surrender. He also expresses "the deepest sense of regret" to Asian countries that cooperated with Japan to gain "emancipation" from Western colonization.
Japan itself colonized the Korean Peninsula and occupied parts of China, often brutally, before and during World War II. Hirohito also laments devastation caused by "a new and most cruel bomb" dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and asks everyone to stay calm while helping to reconstruct the country.
Its significance is that Hirohito, who at the time was considered a living deity, made the address, said Takahisa Furukawa, a historian at Nihon University in Tokyo. "What's most important is the emperor reached out to the people to tell them that they had to surrender and end the war," he said. "The speech is a reminder of what it took to end the wrong war."
On the eve of the announcement, Hirohito met with top government officials to approve Japan's surrender inside a bunker dug at the palace compound. Amid fear of violent protest by army officials refusing to end the war, the recording of Hirohito's announcement was made secretly. NHK technicians were quietly called in for the recording. At almost midnight, Hirohito appeared in his formal military uniform, and read the statement into the microphone, twice.
A group of young army officers stormed into the palace in a failed attempt to steal the records and block the surrender speech, but palace officials desperately protected the records, which were safely delivered to NHK for radio transmission the next day.
The drama of the last two days of the war leading to Hirohito's radio address was made into a film, "Japan's Longest Day," in 1967, and its remake will hit Japanese theaters on Aug. 8.
Follow Mari Yamaguchi at twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

Q & A On Possible Extradition Of Dentist Who Killed Lion

In this image takem from a November 2012 video made available by Paula French, a well-known, protected lion known as Cecil strolls around in Hwange National Park, in Hwange, Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe's wildlife minister says extradition is being sought for Walter Palmer, the American dentist who killed a Cecil. (Paula French via AP)


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Zimbabwe has called for an American dentist who killed a lion that was lured out of a national park and caused international outrage to be extradited and face as-yet filed charges. But it isn't clear whether Walter James Palmer, a 55-year-old from Minnesota, can be extradited or, if so, can fight having to go back to the African nation. Palmer has said he relied on his guides to ensure the hunt was legal.
Here's some details about the process and what could happen: WHAT'S BEEN SAID? A Cabinet member in Zimbabwe said Friday that the government has asked "the responsible authorities" to extradite Palmer so he can be "made accountable" in Cecil the lion's death. The U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe said Friday that it does not comment on extradition matters and the Zimbabwe Embassy in Washington said it had yet to receive instructions.
While a professional hunter and a farm owner have been arrested in the killing, Palmer has not been charged. That would be the key to set an extradition in motion — maybe. WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS? Any request for Palmer to return to Zimbabwe would go through the U.S. State Department, which would forward it to the Justice Department, or be sent directly to the Justice Department, according to Jens David Ohlin, who teaches international and criminal law at Cornell University in New York state.
After that, federal officials would have to decide whether it falls under the extradition treaty with Zimbabwe, which took effect in 2000. "They have to determine whether or not the allegation constitutes a crime in Zimbabwe and also a crime in the United States," Ohlin said
What the U.S. can't do is determine Palmer's guilt or innocence, said Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor specializing in international affairs at American University in Washington, D.C. Ohlin believes it would fall under the treaty. And that's where it gets complicated.
WHAT COULD PREVENT AN EXTRADITION? The U.S. hasn't sent anyone to Zimbabwe since the treaty took effect and vice versa, according to a State Department official who was not authorized to address the issue by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Extraditions "inevitably come down to political and diplomatic considerations far more than they do legal ones," Vladeck said. There's political tension between the two countries. The southern African country has blamed its economic woes on U.S. sanctions against President Robert Mugabe and close associates, though many commentators have attributed Zimbabwe's economic decline to mismanagement. Washington imposed the penalties on Zimbabwe because of human rights concerns. More broadly, Mugabe has long railed against what he calls Western meddling in Africa, saying it is an extension of the colonial rule of the past.
Ohlin said the U.S. could analyze the justice system in Zimbabwe to determine whether it's fair and whether the prisons there are up to human rights standards. The Associated Press has reported that prisoners in Zimbabwe rioted earlier this year because they hadn't been served meat in three years, and that the food woes were evidence of a debilitating economic downturn that has left the government struggling to meet obligations.
If prison conditions are "unduly harsh," the U.S. could deny extradition, Ohlin said. Plus, Vladeck noted about any extradition, "There might be concerns about the precedent it sets for U.S. tourists overseas."
IF THE U.S. ALLOWS EXTRADITION, WHAT CAN THE DENTIST DO? Palmer could waive extradition or his attorney could contest it, arguing that extradition does not fall under the treaty, Ohlin said. At that point, the defense could ask the judge to resolve the issue, which could take months, Ohlin said.
"If he contests extradition," Ohlin said, "I would think he would probably lose his case, but there are a lot of creative arguments his lawyers could make." While Palmer's case is high profile, Vladeck said, "the actual legal questions are actually routine and mundane."
Associated Press writers Steven R. Hurst and Matthew Lee in Washington and Farai Mutsaka in Harare, Zimbabwe, contributed to this report.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Newport Jazz Festival To Mark Miles Davis' 60th Anniversary

Miles Davis performs at the Jazz-Festival in Montreaux, Switzerland. Davis appeared for the first time at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1955 and gave a career-reviving performance. This year's program book is Miles-centric as the festival, which begins July 31 at Fort Adams State Park, celebrates the 60th anniversary of the jazz legend's historic Newport debut. (Keystone via AP, File)


NEW YORK (AP) — Miles Davis wasn't even listed in the program book when he appeared for the first time at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1955, but he made his presence felt with a career-reviving performance.
This year's program book is Miles-centric as the festival, which begins Friday, celebrates the 60th anniversary of the late jazz legend's historic Newport debut. Newport festival founder George Wein recalls that weeks before the 1955 festival, he ran into Davis at a New York jazz club. Wein had created the first-ever outdoor jazz festival in the Rhode Island seaside resort the year before, and Davis asked if he was going to do it again.
"I said yes, and Miles said, 'You can't have a festival without me,' and he kept repeating that," said Wein, who at 89 is still producing the festival. But Davis, who had just kicked a heroin habit, didn't have his own band. Wein arranged to add him to an all-star jam session that also included pianist Thelonious Monk and baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan.
"Miles was the hit of the festival," Wein said. "He put his trumpet right into the microphone and it came through loud and clear on 'Round Midnight.'" Backstage, Columbia Records producer George Avakian asked the trumpeter to sign with the label — the beginning of a 30-year relationship that saw Davis release classic recordings that changed the direction of jazz.
When Davis next appeared at Newport in 1958 he brought his famed sextet — with saxophonists John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley and pianist Bill Evans — that the following spring would record his masterpiece "Kind of Blue," one of the best-selling jazz records.
These performances can be heard on "Miles Davis At Newport 1955-1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4," a four-CD box set comprised of eight live performances at the Newport festival and spinoff events in Europe and New York, released earlier this month by Columbia/Legacy.
The collection includes nearly four hours of previously unreleased material, including complete performances from the 1966 and 1967 festivals with Davis' second great quintet — with pianist Herbie Hancock, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Tony Williams — at their peak.
This year's festival will feature panel discussions focusing on Davis, curated by Grammy-winning jazz historian Ashley Kahn, which will include interviews with Wein and former Davis sidemen, drummer Jack DeJohnette and guitarist Mike Stern, at a new intimate indoor stage named after Wein's former Storyville jazz club in Boston.
DeJohnette performed with Davis at the 1969 festival with a group that included Chick Corea on electric keyboard as the trumpeter was making the transition from acoustic jazz to jazz-rock fusion music. Davis spent the weekend checking out the rock bands on the program such as Sly and the Family Stone and Led Zeppelin, and just weeks later began recording his groundbreaking electronic "Bitches Brew" album.
"Wayne Shorter was supposed to play that day at Newport, but got delayed and we played as a quartet with Miles really stretching ... and the result was pretty exciting," said DeJohnette, who will be performing this year with his band Made In Chicago. "It was a real open experimental time. Everyone was reaching for different new ways to express their music and break down boundaries."
Wein has also asked the trumpeters on this coming weekend's program — Chris Botti, Peter Evans, Jon Faddis, Tom Harrell, Arturo Sandoval and Bria Skonberg — to perform at least one Miles Davis number.
For Botti, it was easy to accommodate Wein's request. He's been opening his shows for the past year with "Concierto de Aranjuez," from Davis' 1960 album "Sketches of Spain." "Miles is the reason I wanted to become a professional trumpet player," Botti said in an email. "When I first heard his sound on 'My Funny Valentine,' it hit me like a lightning bolt about how the emotion of the trumpet can make somebody feel things."
Botti will be headlining Friday night's concert at the Newport Casino. The opening act will be Jon Batiste and Stay Human, recently chosen by Stephen Colbert to be the new house band on "The Late Show."
Evans, whose quintet will be making their Newport debut at Friday's program at Fort Adams State Park dedicated to emerging artists, plans to play "Great Expectations," the opening track on Davis' underrated 1974 album "Big Fun," which featured electric sitar and other Indian instruments.
"Miles' albums from the early '70s are one of the precedents for what we do in the quintet as far as combining live electronics and acoustic improvisation," said Evans. "It was way ahead of its time."
Wein considers Davis one of the "aces" in the jazz deck who always rose to the occasion at Newport with some of the most important performances in the festival's history. "Miles and I had a wonderful relationship banging each other's heads at times and then at the end we became very close friends," Wein said.
Online:
www.newportjazzfest.org
Follow Charles J. Gans at www.twitter.com/chjgans.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

White House Notebook: Obama Faces 'Family Politics' In Kenya

President Barack Obama reflects as he participates in a wreath laying ceremony, Saturday, July 25, 2015, in Nairobi, at Memorial Park in honor of the victims of the deadly 1998 bombing at the U.S. Embassy. Obama's visit to Kenya is focused on trade and economic issues, as well as security and counterterrorism cooperation. (AP)




 NAIROBI, KENYA(AP)What happens when an American president invites his African relatives to dinner at a Nairobi hotel? A lot of family members show up — more, perhaps, than he even knew he had.
The day after dining with about three dozen relatives here, Obama reflected on the time they spent together "just catching up." He said some were distant relatives he'd never met before, despite visiting Kenya twice in the past. Chuckling, he recalled the "lengthy explanations" about how one relative or another was connected to the Obama clan.
"I think the people of Kenya will be familiar with the need to manage family politics sometimes in these extended families," Obama said with a knowing grin. With a hint of frustration, Obama said he had told his family how sorry he was he couldn't spend more quality time with them on this visit. Logistical and security considerations prevented Obama from visiting Kogelo, where his father lived and is buried. But Obama said once he leaves office, he'll have a better opportunity to reconnect.
"The next time I'm back, I may not be wearing a suit. The first time I came here, I was in jeans and a backpack," Obama said, recalling his first trip nearly 30 years ago. He may also bring back with him a few relatives of his own. Obama said after leaving the White House, he plans to return with first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia.
"They have great love for this country and its people," he said.
Kenyans eager to have their country in the spotlight during President Barack Obama's visit have been irked by a news report describing the East African nation as a "hotbed of terror."
Kenyans quickly mobilized a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #SomeoneTellCNN to correct what many here have called an exaggeration by the television network.
President Uhuru Kenyatta even joined in, telling attendees at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit that they will find Kenya to be "a hotbed of vibrant culture, spectacular natural beauty, and a wonderful people with infinite possibility." The crowd laughed and applauded at his remarks.
Kenya has struggled to contain the threat from al-Shabab militants based in neighboring Somalia. Al-Shabab, a group linked to al-Qaeda, has conducted major attacks in Kenya, including the 2013 attack on Nairobi's Westgate mall and an April attack in Garissa town that killed nearly 150 people.
CNN later added an editors' note to its story on its website that read: "The headline and lead of this article has been recast to indicate the terror threat is a regional one." A CNN spokeswoman said the network had no further comment.
Kenyan troops are deployed in Somalia to counter al-Shabab, and the United States has carried out drone strikes against suspected militants there.
Obama's first full day in Africa came with a solemn reminder of the past.
In between meetings in Nairobi, Obama placed a red-and-white wreath at the site of the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy, bowing his head for a moment before studying the names of the victims etched into a brick wall. He was joined at the site by his national security adviser, Susan Rice, who was the top U.S. diplomat to Africa at the time of the bombing.
Although the memorial isn't a crime scene, the yellow tape local authorities used to rope it off for Obama's visit suggested otherwise.
"Crime Scene Do Not Cross" the tape warned in capital letters. Perhaps it was the only tape available.
Extremists simultaneously attacked the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Aug. 7, 1998. The Kenya attack killed more than 200 Kenyans and 12 Americans at the embassy.
Thousands were injured, including Julie Ogoye, a Kenyan government worker, who suffered grievous injuries and has long questioned whether the United States will provide financial compensation.
"I just want to know what his view is on the issue," Ogoye said of Obama.
With his record on Africa being challenged, Obama pushed back on the notion that America's first black president hasn't done as much as his predecessors to help Africa's development.
In the run-up to his trip, Obama faced comparisons to President George W. Bush, whose PEPFAR program steered huge sums of money into efforts to fight the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Rather than downplay Bush's accomplishments, Obama said he was proud of the work previous administrations did. He added that PEPFAR had saved millions of lives.
"This isn't a beauty contest between presidents," he told reporters.
On multiple occasions, Obama sought to defend his "Power Africa" initiative, which aims to double sub-Saharan access to electricity but has been criticized for failing to deliver any actual megawatt gains since Obama announced it in 2013.
Building power plants takes time, Obama said, even in the United States. He promised that ultimately, millions more people will have reliable electrical power, boosting economic productivity in the process.
In an attempt to showcase Power Africa, Obama toured five exhibits from Power Africa partners on display at the business summit, including solar panels.
Obama said Africa has a chance to "leapfrog" over dirty energy — meaning fossil fuels like coal and oil that must be burned — to cleaner sources like solar. One presenter told Obama that his invention repurposed biofuel and showed off a set-up included a device resembling a pot with a hose snaking out from the top.
"Either that or you're making moonshine," Obama told him.

The Latest: Obama Jokes Kenya Trip Is A Family Reunion

U.S. President Barack Obama, centre, inspects the honor guard after arriving to meet with Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House in Nairobi, Kenya, Saturday, July 25, 2015. Obama heralded Africa as a continent "on the move" while visiting Kenya Saturday, the East African nation where he has deep family ties. (AP)


NAIROBI, KENYA) — The latest on President Barack Obama's visit to Kenya (all times local):
11:30 p.m. The "birther" jokes won't go away, partly because the target won't stop telling them. Obama says he suspects that some of his critics back home, particularly those who don't believe he's American, think he's in Kenya "to look for my birth certificate."
Well, "that is not the case," he joked at a state dinner in his honor hosted by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his wife, Margaret. Obama also joked that the occasion amounted to a "somewhat unusual Obama family reunion" because siblings, aunts, uncles and a grandmother from his father's side of the family attended.
His late father was born in Kenya. Obama was born in Hawaii. He released a copy of his birth certificate several years ago but that hasn't quieted the doubters. Obama is on his first visit to Kenya as president.
7:00 p.m.
President Barack Obama says the U.S. and Kenya are working to launch direct flights between the countries.
Obama says eliminating multiple legs of travel to get from one place to the other would be a boon for business and tourism.
Kenya's $1 billion tourism industry has suffered in the wake of mass assaults carried out in recent years by the al-Shabab extremist group, which is based across the border in Somalia.
Obama says the U.S. Transportation and Homeland Security departments are working with Kenyan officials on the protocols and security issues that must be settled before direct flights can begin.
He declined to say how soon that might happen, but said progress is being made.
5:35 p.m.
President Barack Obama is warning that corruption may be the biggest impediment to Kenya's growth and opportunities in the future.
Obama is speaking in a joint news conference in Nairobi with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. He says he believes Kenyatta is serious about going after corruption.
Obama says it's a basic issue of math for international businesses that are concerned about their profit margins. He says companies will be concerned about doing business in Kenya if 5 percent or 10 percent of the cost of investing is being diverted due to corruption.
Obama says the U.S. has seen "all kinds of corruption" in the past. But he says the U.S. over time has showed that when people decide it's a priority to stop it, corruption can be stopped.
He says it's critical to go after corruption at the highest level of government and not just at lower levels.
5:20 p.m.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta says gay rights are a "nonissue" in Kenya and that the issue is not a priority.
Kenyatta was asked about gay rights during a joint news conference with President Barack Obama in Nairobi. Obama voiced strong support for gay rights in Africa.
But Kenyatta says while the U.S. and Kenya agree on a lot, there are some things that cultures or societies just don't accept.
Gay sex is a crime in Kenya punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
Kenyatta says it's very difficult to impose beliefs on people that they don't accept. He says his government wants to focus elsewhere.
Kenyatta says after Kenya deals with other, more pressing issues such as terrorism, it can begin to look at new issues. But he says for the moment, gay rights isn't at the forefront for Kenyans.
5:15 p.m.
President Barack Obama is likening gay rights in Africa to rights for African-Americans in the United States.
Obama says he is "unequivocal" on the issue of gay rights and discrimination. He says it is wrong for law-abiding citizens to be treated differently under the law because of who they love.
Obama says he's been consistent in pressing the issue when he meets with African leaders.
The president says he knows that some people have different religious or cultural beliefs. But he says governments don't need to weigh in on religious doctrine. He says governments simply have to treat everyone the same.
Obama says as an African-American, he's "painfully aware" of what happens when a government treats some people differently. He says, "Those habits can spread."
Obama was asked about gay rights in Kenya at a joint news conference with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. Kenya criminalizes gay sexual relations and prominent politicians had warned Obama not to bring up gay rights during his visit to the country.
5:10 p.m.
President Barack Obama says terrorist organizations like al-Shabab are still able to harm civilians despite progress by the U.S. and others in weakening their networks.
Obama is speaking in a joint news conference in Nairobi, Kenya, with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta. He says the world has decreased the group's control in Somalia and undercut its operations in East Africa. But he says that doesn't mean the problem is solved.
He says groups that are willing to target civilians and are prepared to die can still inflict damage. He's calling for more intelligence-sharing between Kenya and the U.S. to identify and prevent threats.
Obama is also drawing a connection between good governance and security. He says he told Kenyatta that U.S. experience teaches that rule of law and embracing civil groups is even more important amid security threats like al-Shabab.
Obama also says that the situation in South Sudan is "dire" and that the recent elections in Burundi weren't credible.
5:00 p.m.
President Barack Obama says his administration will propose a federal rule banning the sale of almost all ivory across state lines.
Obama is speaking in a joint news conference in Nairobi, Kenya, with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta.
He says the proposed rule is part of a U.S. effort to fight poaching in Africa. An estimated 100,000 elephants were killed for their ivory between 2010 and 2012.
The proposed U.S. Fish and Wildlife regulation would prohibit the sale across state lines of ivory from African elephants and further restrict commercial exports. But it provides limited exceptions for interstate sales, namely pre-existing musical instruments, furniture pieces and firearms that contain less than 200 grams of ivory.

In Kenya, Obama Blends Blunt Messages With Warm Reflections

President Barack Obama, left, puts his arm on the shoulder of Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, right, as the two leave after speaking to the media at State House in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday, July 25, 2015. (AP)


NAIROBI, KENYA (AP) — President Barack Obama mixed blunt messages to Kenya's leaders on gay rights, corruption and counterterrorism Saturday with warm reflections on his family ties to a nation that considers him a local son.
He foreshadowed a focus on Kenya in his post-White House life, saying, "I'll be back." Obama's comments during a news conference with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta reflected the unusual nature of his long-awaited visit to this East African nation. His official agenda has been sprinkled with opportunities to reconnect with his late father's sprawling Kenyan family, including some meeting the American president for the first time.
"There are cousins and uncles and aunties that show up that you didn't know existed, but you're always happy to meet," Obama said. "There were lengthy explanations in some cases of the connections." Obama did little to paper over policy differences with Kenya's government, most notably on gay rights. He drew on his own background as an African-American, noting the slavery and segregation of the U.S. past and saying he is "painfully aware of the history when people are treated differently under the law."
"That's the path whereby freedoms begin to erode and bad things happen," Obama said. "When a government gets in the habit of treating people differently, those habits can spread." Kenyatta was unmoved, saying gay rights "is not really an issue on the foremost mind of Kenyans. And that is a fact."
A number of Kenyan politicians and religious leaders had warned Obama that any overtures on gay rights would not be welcomed in Kenya, where gay sex is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. The Kenyan gay community also complains of sometimes violent harassment.
Obama also pushed Kenya to tighten its counterterrorism practices, which human rights group say have resulted in serious abuses. A Human Rights Watch report this year accused the Kenyan government of "extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions and torture by security forces."
"If in reaction to terrorism, you're restricting legitimate organizations, reducing the scope of peaceful organization, then that can have the inadvertent effect of increasing the pool of recruits for terrorism," Obama said.
Kenyatta called the scourge of terrorism "an existential fight for us." The Somalia-based al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaida, has conducted major attacks in Kenya, including the 2013 attack on Nairobi's Westgate mall and an April attack in Garissa that killed nearly 150 people.
Obama also urged Kenyatta to keep up efforts to combat corruption, calling that the biggest potential threat to Kenya's economic growth. But he said fulfilling anti-corruption pledges will require "visible prosecutions," and had told Kenyatta, "People aren't stupid."
Obama's trip to Kenya was the first to his father's homeland since winning the White House, as well as the first visit by a sitting American president. Despite intense security throughout Nairobi, crowds gathered to watch Obama's motorcade speed through the city. U.S. and American flags lined the main road from the airport and billboard's heralded his arrival.
Acknowledging that some Kenyans have been frustrated that it took him until the seventh year of his presidency to visit, Obama joked that he did not want the rest of Africa to think he was "playing favorites." He will also visit Ethiopia on this trip.
Obama's election in 2008 was cheered in Africa, not just because of his family ties, but also because there was an expectation he would devote significant attention to the continent. Those high hopes have been met with some disappointment, given that Obama's foreign policy has focused heavily on boosting ties with Asia and dealing with conflict in the Middle East.
The White House rejects that criticism, noting that Obama is making his fourth trip to Africa, more than any previous president. Officials are particularly sensitive to criticism that Obama's Africa policies pale in comparison to his predecessor, George W. Bush, who launched a multibillion-dollar HIV/AIDS program.
On Saturday, Obama said many of his African initiatives, including a program to vastly increase access to power, were intended to be yearslong efforts. He also credited Bush's health programs with saving millions of lives.
"I am really proud of the work that previous administrations did here in Africa, and I've done everything I could to build on those successes," he said. "This isn't a beauty contest between presidents."
Some of Obama's family — his grandmother, sister and aunts and uncles — joined him Saturday night for a state dinner in his honor. The president said he begged for his family's forgiveness for not being able to travel outside the capital to see them in their homes, citing the presidential security apparatus.
After he is freed from the constraints of the presidency in early 2017, Obama said he hoped to do philanthropic work in Kenya that builds on administrative initiatives. He also promised that he would be joined on a return trip by Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha, who did not travel with the president on this trip.
Obama said that next time he's back, "I may not be wearing a suit."
Associated Press writers Darlene Superville and Christopher Torchia contributed to this report.
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Escaped Mexican Drug Lord No Saint, But Lesser Evil At Home

Mayor Mario Valenzuela speaks during an interview in Badiraguato, Mexico. “I don’t see a single building producing jobs, a single piece of public works, a soccer field, a sewer, a school, water systems, a clinic or hospital, not a single one that you can say was built by drug traffickers or their money,” Valenzuela said about his the small mountain town that is part of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman's rags-to-crime riches mythology. (AP)


BADIRAGUATO, MEXICO (AP) — People living in the hometown of drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman have heard stories of his benevolence: gifts of medicine for the poor, deliveries of drinking water to storm-stricken towns. But finding anyone who's actually received or even seen such a gift is another matter.
In Badiraguato, the small mountain town that is part of Guzman's rags-to-crime riches mythology, none of the two dozen people interviewed by The Associated Press could point out evidence of his legendary largesse.
"I don't see a single building producing jobs, a single piece of public works, a soccer field, a sewer, a school, water systems, a clinic or hospital, not a single one that you can say was built by drug traffickers or their money," Mayor Mario Valenzuela said.
If Guzman or his cartel had invested in their hometowns, he said, "they'd look different: They would have paved roads or drainage systems, but they don't." Guzman's escape on July 11 from a prison near Mexico City has focused attention again on Badiraguato, the county seat of a township that includes the hamlet of La Tuna, where El Chapo's mother still lives.
The roads to La Tuna are still washed-out dirt tracks, and Badiraguato itself has none of the flashy accoutrements of money — luxury car dealerships, palatial mausoleums, acres of fancy, gated communities of new homes, or dozens of street money-changers offering cheap dollars — that are abundant in Culiacan, the state capital, 1 1/2 hours away. The town's big projects include a new balcony for the town hall that looks out over the sleepy square dominated by a 19th-century church, where residents seek shade from the punishing Sinaloa sun.
Tucked into the foothills where the coastal stretches of flat corn and tomato fields meet the imposing mountains of the Sierra Madre, Badiraguato remains mired in poverty, Valenzuela acknowledges that many of the township's residents make a living growing marijuana or opium poppies.
Guzman grew up here, the son of a poor famer. His rise as a crime boss has been surrounded by mythology, a Hollywood version of an old-school Mafioso — ruthless, but yet honorable. Songs have been written in his honor and some locals extol him as a Robin Hood-type figure who is careful to leave innocents out of his deadly score-settlings.
"Chapo Guzman isn't violent," Valenzuela said about a man accused of hundreds of murders. "He doesn't shoot it out with the government." That's unlike the reputation of the New Generation Jalisco cartel to the south, which is alleged to have brought down a military helicopter May 1 with a rocket-propelled missile. Or the Zetas, who've fueled their notoriety in central Mexico with grisly beheadings and the hanging of bodies across public highways. Or Guerreros Unidos, the cartel alleged to have killed 43 college students last fall.
For many who live in the state that gives name to Guzman's Sinaloa cartel, he is seen as a lesser evil. Gabriel, a civil engineer, returned home recently to Culiacan after a year and a half working on road projects in the central state of Zacatecas, which is controlled by Mexico's bloodiest cartel, the Zetas. There, he said, gunmen pulled him over and demanded he either pay protection money or get out of town.
"They are worse. They are indiscriminate. They'll kill seven people just to get the one they want," he said. The Sinaloa cartel, he said, leaves ordinary people alone, "there is a certain respect." Still, the man in his 30s wouldn't give his last name for fear of reprisals.
Badiraguato is not immune to violence. The township of 30,000 regularly reports a homicide rate at least five times the national average. And while Sinaloa's population is less than that of 13 other states and the federal district, it consistently ranks among the deadliest five or six states in terms of homicides. So far this year, there are more killings here than in Michoacan or Tamaulipas, two states often in the headlines for warring cartels, vigilante justice, beheadings and daytime shootouts.
Violence, threats and fear in Sinaloa have displaced poor farming families, with hundreds fleeing the mountainous township of Sinaloa de Leyva over the last five years. Dozens of families left the village of Ocurahui after drug gangs, particularly the Sinaloa cartel, pressured local farmers to plant opium poppies in order to counter falling prices for marijuana. Residents who didn't want to grow drug crops faced kidnappings or even death. Many of them are barely hanging on as refugees without homes or jobs, living on the fringes of the Sinaloa cities of Surutato, Guamuchil and Culiacan.
"We came with only what we could grab, or what we wearing," said Mauro Diaz, 20, an Ocurahui resident who lives as a squatter in one of a half-dozen tiny abandoned cinderblock houses on the outskirts of Guamuchil.
Diaz ekes out a living as an assistant bricklayer, staying with his girlfriend in one bare room with a mattress on the floor and water leaking from the roof. He largely has given up hope of returning to the pine-covered hills of his village.
"Why return if it's only going to get us into trouble, if in a little while it gets bad again and they exile us again?" Diaz said. Yet, the mythology surrounding Guzman lives on. Lucero Uriarte, a high-school student in Badiraguato, said of the drug lord: "He has helped a lot of people — more than anyone else, the poor — because he knows what they're going through."