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.
Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

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."

Obama In Kenya: 'Africa Is On The Move'

President Barack Obama, right, shakes hands with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta before delivering a speech at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit at the United Nations Compound, on Saturday, July 25, 2015, in Nairobi. Obama's visit to Kenya is focused on trade and economic issues, as well as security and counterterrorism cooperation. (AP)


NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — President Barack Obama heralded Africa as a continent "on the move" Saturday as he opened a U.S.-sponsored business summit in Kenya, the East African nation where he has deep family ties.
"Africa is one of the fastest growing regions of the world," Obama said. "People are being lifted out of poverty." Obama's visit to Kenya — the first by a sitting U.S. president — has been highly anticipated in a nation that views him as a local son. The president's late father was born in Kenya and many family members still live here, including his elderly step-grandmother.
"This is personal for me," Obama said. "There's a reason why my name is Barack Hussein Obama." Much of the president's visit is focused on boosting business and security ties with Kenya, a growing economy grappling with the threat of terrorism — most notably from the Somalia-based al-Shabab network. Nearly two dozen U.S. lawmakers and 200 American investors have joined Obama on his trip, which also includes a stop in Ethiopia.
Speaking at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit on Saturday, Obama announced more than $1 billion new commitments from the U.S. government, as well as American banks, foundations and philanthropists. Half of the money will go to support women and young people, who Obama says face bigger obstacles when trying to start businesses.
"If half of your team is not playing, you've got a problem," Obama said, referring to women excluded from the formal economy. Obama hosted the inaugural entrepreneurship summit at the White House in 2010. This year's conference is the first to be held in sub-Saharan Africa.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who co-hosted the summit with Obama, lamented that the continent's security and other challenges, including the 2013 attack on an upscale Nairobi mall, had created a negative reputation. He said he hoped Obama's visit would help change the narrative about Kenya and Africa.
"Africa is the world's newest and most promising frontier of limitless opportunity," Kenyatta said. "Gone are the days when the only lens to view our continent was one of despair and indignity." Obama arrived in Nairobi late Friday and spent the night reuniting with his father's family. Security was tight in the Kenyan capital, with some of the city's normally bustling streets closed to traffic and pedestrians during his visit.
Still, there was palpable excitement in Nairobi for Obama's long-awaited visit. U.S. and Kenyan flags lined the main road from the airport and billboards bearing Obama's picture dotted the city. Local newspapers marveled at the massive U.S. Secret Service contingent that accompanies Obama whenever he travels overseas.
Ahead of a formal meeting with Kenyatta on Friday afternoon, Obama was to lay a wreath at the site of the deadly 1998 bombing at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi.
AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace contributed to this report.
Follow Darlene Superville at http://twitter.com/dsupervilleap

Friday, July 24, 2015

Nigeria Celebrates 1 Year With No New Polio Cases

A man suffering from polio leans against a make shift motor bike in Kano, Nigeria. Nigeria celebrates its first year with no reported case of polio on Friday, July 24, 2015 overcoming obstacles from Islamic supremacists who killed vaccinators to rumors the vaccine was a plot to sterilize Muslims. Just 20 years ago this West African nation was recording 1,000 cases a year of the crippling disease _ the highest number in the world _ and was stigmatized as the polio-epicenter of the world. (AP)



LAGOS, NIGERIA (AP) — Once stigmatized as the world's polio epicenter, Nigeria on Friday celebrates its first year with no reported case of the crippling disease, having overcome obstacles ranging from Islamic extremists who assassinated vaccinators to rumors the vaccine was a plot to sterilize Muslims.
Just 20 years ago this West African nation was recording 1,000 polio cases a year — the highest in the world. The last recorded case of a child paralyzed by the wild polio virus endemic in Nigeria's impoverished and mainly Muslim north was on July 24, 2014.
"We are celebrating the first time ever that Nigeria has gone without a case of polio, but with caution," Dr. Tunji Funsho, chairman of Rotary International's polio campaign in Nigeria, told The Associated Press.
If there are no new cases and laboratory tests remain negative in the next few weeks, the World Health Organization will take Nigeria off the list of polio-endemic countries, said Oliver Rosenbauer of the U.N. agency's polio unit.
Nigeria is the last African country on that list. The two remaining countries are Pakistan, which recorded 28 new cases this year, and Afghanistan, with five, said Rosenbauer. It's a 99 percent reduction since the Global Polio Eradication Initiative began in 1988, when one of the world's most feared diseases was endemic in 125 countries and was paralyzing nearly 1,000 children every day.
Polio shows up unsuspiciously as a fever and cold, followed quickly by acute paralysis as the virus destroys nerve cells. The disease mainly affects children under 5. The virus invades the body through the mouth and multiplies in the intestine, then is spread through the feces. It is highly contagious with infected but asymptomatic carriers able to spread it silently and swiftly.
That's why "surveillance takes place in every nook and cranny of this country, even in those areas that have been free for years," said Rotary's Funsho. In Nigeria, where Boko Haram Islamic extremists held a large swath of the northeast for months until March, that means testing sewage and stool samples of refugees from areas too dangerous to access.
The extremists opposed the campaign and Boko Haram gunmen killed nine women vaccinators in northern Kano state in February 2013, but the vaccinations continued. The milestone has been reached despite the government's failure to deliver the most basic services: 100 million of Nigeria's 170 million people defecate in the open, while the percentage with piped water has shrunk from 12 percent in 1990 to 2 percent today, according to U.N. estimates.
Nigeria has been on the brink of recording no new cases before, only to fall back during elections in 2007 and 2011 when money was lavished on political campaigns instead of vaccinations, said Dr. Oyewale Tomori, chairman of the government's Expert Review Committee on Polio Eradication.
Politicians spent unprecedented amounts on March elections that for the first time ousted a sitting president. But 2015 also brought the government's biggest commitment of $80 million to fight polio. Flexible strategy was needed for the campaign to succeed. "Initially there was this wrong approach ... we thought we could overcome it with global pressure and scientific information," Tomori said. "It didn't work."
The campaign had to win over religious and community leaders and grass-roots women's groups, he said. Nigeria tracks vaccinators through GPS on their cell phones and has emergency operations centers that provide "real-time information," said Tomori. "If someone refuses vaccination, we know within minutes and can go back and take action. Before, it could take weeks."
The polio tracking system has additional benefits. It formed the backbone of Nigeria's successful efforts to fight Ebola. The WHO will not declare Nigeria out of the woods until 2017. "It will take another two extra years of no polio to be polio-free and that is why we cannot relax," said Tomori, who has been fighting polio for 20 years.
He said monitoring, surveillance and vaccinations all must increase to ensure no backsliding: "On no account must we lose focus and take our eye off the polio radar."

Could Twitter Stop The Next Terrorist Attack?

 Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., speaks during an interview with The Associated about the CIA torture report, in her Capitol Hill office in Washington. Social media giants including Twitter, Yahoo, Facebook and Google are pushing back against Senate legislation that would require them to alert federal authorities of any terrorist activity. The Senate Intelligence Committee has included the requirement in a broader intelligence bill. The House didn’t include a similar provision in its bill. (AP)


WASHINGTON (AP) — Social media giants including Twitter, Yahoo, Facebook and Google are pushing back against Senate legislation that would require them to alert federal authorities of any terrorist activity, according to industry and government officials.
In private meetings on Capitol Hill, industry officials have told lawmakers and congressional staff that they already ban grisly content like beheadings and alert law enforcement if they suspect someone might get hurt, as soon as they are aware of a threat.
But tech officials also said they worry that the proposed legislation is too broad and would potentially put companies on the hook legally if they miss a tweet, video or blog that hints of an attack. They said the result would probably be a deluge of tips to law enforcement, making it tougher for the government to find more valuable information.
Those interviewed by The Associated Press spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing debate over the legislation. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who is backing the legislation, says requiring social media companies to tip off law enforcement to a pending terrorist attack makes sense
"The FBI and the intelligence community have made it abundantly clear that the terrorist threat is severe and increasing, and that those directing, inspiring and carrying out attacks make heavy use of social media sites," Feinstein told the AP in an emailed statement. "This provision will help get potentially actionable information to the agencies responsible for preventing attacks, without requiring companies to take any steps to monitor their sites they aren't already taking."
The tech industry in 2013 faced a public relations nightmare after former government analyst Edward Snowden leaked details of a massive government surveillance program that relied on their cooperation. Company officials said the law gave them no choice but to supply consumer data and comply with gag orders that prevented companies from talking about it. Still, many consumers and Internet activists were furious that U.S. businesses had enabled the government to spy on their customers, in some cases even charging the government administrative fees to do it.
Since then, the tech industry has led an aggressive public push to limit surveillance requests and increase transparency, adopting more sophisticated encryption techniques despite opposition from the Justice Department. Their primary argument has been that consumers won't use technology they don't trust, and that unnecessary surveillance would hurt the industry.
At the same time, popular social media sites have become instrumental in helping terrorist groups expand their influence, despite widespread industry policies against posting or promoting terrorist-related content.
The Islamic State group and similar groups have relied heavily on Twitter and Facebook to recruit followers, while militants post beheading videos on sites like Google's YouTube, giving an image the chance to go viral before being shut down. In 2013, al-Shabab live tweeted its Westgate shopping mall massacre, opening up new feeds even after Twitter shut others down.
"This is not your grandfather's al-Qaida," FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee this month. "This is a group of people using social media to reach thousands and thousands of followers, find the ones who might be interested in committing acts of violence, and then moving them to an (end-to-end) encrypted messaging app."
The same week as Comey's testimony, the Senate Intelligence Committee endorsed Feinstein's proposal that would require companies that spot terrorist activity on their networks to alert law enforcement.
Feinstein's provision, part of the intelligence authorization bill that still has to be approved by the Senate, is almost identical to the law requiring companies to report child pornography. One exception is that Feinstein's provision doesn't say whether or how a company would be penalized if it fails to report terrorist activity, whereas a tech company can be fined for "knowingly and willfully" failing to report an image of child pornography.
Tech officials say determining what constitutes child pornography is easier to do because the process is more objective. A criminal photograph can be digitally analyzed and assigned a unique identifier that be used to find similar images across networks.
But oftentimes, determining terrorist activity requires more context. The image of an Islamic State flag, for example, could appear in a news article or video clip as well as terrorist propaganda. Monika Bickert, head of policy management at Facebook, said the social media site shares the government's goal of keeping terrorist content off the site.
"Our policies on this are crystal clear: We do not permit terrorist groups to use Facebook, and people are not allowed to promote or support these groups on Facebook," she said. "We remove this terrorist content as soon as we become aware of it."
The House didn't include a similar provision in its version of the intelligence bill. A spokesman for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., declined to comment on the issue. Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House intelligence panel, said there's "no question" the Islamic State group uses social media to disseminate propoganda and recruit fighters. Schiff, D-Calif., said Congress should work with the tech industry "to determine the most effective response."
__ Follow Anne Flaherty on Twitter at https://twitter.com/annekflaherty

Lifestyle Changes May Guard Aging Brain Against Memory Loss

Michael Gendy of King, N.C. Gendy continues to exercise after participating in a Wake Forest School of Medicine study that found aerobic activity may lower a risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s. (Cagney Gentry/Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center via AP)


WASHINGTON (AP) — The latest Alzheimer's research has a clear theme: Change your lifestyle to protect your brain.
It will take several years for scientists to prove whether some experimental drugs could at least delay Alzheimer's disease, and an aging population is at risk now. Whatever happens on the drug front, there are generally healthy everyday steps people can take — from better sleep to handling stress to hitting the books — that research suggests just might lower the risk of Alzheimer's.
Making these lifestyle changes "looks more promising than the drug studies so far," said Dr. Richard Lipton of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, whose lab researches what makes up healthy aging. The findings on stress prompted Lipton to take up yoga.
Here are five tips to guard your brain against memory loss, based on research at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference: GET BETTER SHUT-EYE Studies of more than 6,000 people linked poor sleep quality — and especially sleep apnea — to early memory problems called mild cognitive impairment, which in turn can raise the risk of later Alzheimer's. Other research showed poor sleep can spur a brain-clogging protein named amyloid that's a hallmark of Alzheimer's.
Talk to your doctor if you're having sleep problems, advises Dr. Kristine Yaffe of the University of California, San Francisco: "Sleep disorders are so common, and we think many are quite treatable." EXERCISE YOUR GRAY MATTER
Seniors often are advised to work crossword puzzles, take music lessons or learn a new language to keep the brain engaged. The protective effects of learning may start decades earlier in life. In Sweden, researchers at the Karolinska Institute unearthed school report cards and work histories of more than 7,000 older adults. Good grades as young as age 10 predicted lower risk of dementia later in life. So did getting a job that required expertise with numbers or, for women, complex interactions with people — occupations such as researchers or teachers.
Why? Learning and complex thinking strengthen connections between nerve cells, building up "cognitive reserve" so that as Alzheimer's brews, the brain can withstand more damage before symptoms become apparent.
GET MOVING What's good for the heart is good for the brain, too, and physical activity counters a list of damaging problems — high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol — that can increase the risk of memory impairment later in life.
Get started early: One study tracked the habits of 3,200 young adults for 25 years, and found those who were the least active had the worst cognition when they were middle-aged. Sedentary behaviors like TV watching played a role. Yaffe — who just had her desk raised so she can spend more time standing — worries about kids' screen time.
DON'T FORGET MENTAL HEALTH Late-life depression is a risk factor for Alzheimer's. Harvard researchers found loneliness is, too, accelerating cognitive decline in a study that tracked more than 8,000 seniors for over a decade.
Stress is bad for the brain as well, Lipton said. It's not just experiencing stress — we all do — but how we cope with it. Brooding over stressful events, for example, prolongs the harmful effects on brain cells. One study found seniors with the poorest coping skills were much more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment over nearly four years than seniors who could shrug off the stress.
EAT HEALTHY Diets high in fruits and vegetables and lower in fat and sugar are good for the arteries that keep blood flowing to the brain. Type 2 diabetes, the kind linked to excess weight, raises the risk of dementia later in life.
Weight aside, Lipton's lab recently found a healthy diet lowered seniors' risk of impaired "executive function" as they got older — how the brain pays attention, organizes and multitasks.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Bono Teams Up With Revo For Eye Care Awareness

Bono of U2 performs at the Innocence + Experience Tour at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. Bono, who has had problems with his own eyesight, is partnering with a company to provide better eye care to the underprivileged. Bono was diagnosed with glaucoma two decades ago and while he says his eyesight is now ok. But in a statement, Thursday, July 23, he said "tens of millions of people around the world with sight problems don’t have access to glasses, or even a basic eye test." (Photo by Rich Fury/Invision/AP, File)


NEW YORK (AP) — Bono, who has had problems with his own vision, is partnering with a company to provide better eye care to the underprivileged.
The "Buy Vision, Give Sight" campaign with eyewear brand Revo is designed to raise $10 million for screening, eyeglasses and other assistance to the impoverished. Revo will donate $10 for each pair of eyeglasses it sells, and the U2 frontman will introduce his own line of Revo sunglasses, which he has been wearing on U2's sold-out tour, in the fall.
Bono, who was diagnosed with glaucoma two decades ago, says his eyesight is OK now. But in a Thursday statement, he said "tens of millions of people around the world with sight problems don't have access to glasses, or even a basic eye test."
He called sight a "human right." The 55-year-old rocker is known for his activism and philanthropy