Thursday, June 30, 2016

OBAMA LEGACY: Immigration Stands As Most Glaring Failure

File-pool photo, detainees walk in a line at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility in Brownsville,Texas. Hours after the Supreme Court sent his immigration policy into legal limbo, President Barack Obama huddled around a long conference table in the Roosevelt Room with disappointed activists. The president looked out at familiar faces, some teary. It had been a long and tough fight, Obama said, and he had taken some beatings, even from supporters who “whupped on me good.”

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hours after the Supreme Court sent his immigration policy into legal limbo, President Barack Obama huddled around a long conference table in the Roosevelt Room with disappointed activists. The president looked out at familiar faces, some teary. It had been a long and tough fight, Obama said, and he had taken some beatings — even from supporters who "whupped on me good."

He believed his policies would prevail, according to participants in the meeting, but said it was now up to voters and the next president to take up the baton. And with that, Obama delivered his version of a concession speech on a fight that has frustrated him like few others, roiled the campaign to replace him and is certain to test his successor.

When Obama leaves office in January, immigration overhaul will stand as the most glaring failure in his 7 ½-year effort to enact a vision of social change. Despite two campaigns full of promises and multiple strategies, Obama imposed only incremental, largely temporary changes on the immigration system. He leaves behind an outdated and overwhelmed system, with some 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally.

Behind that failure, Obama's legacy will be judged by a sometimes contradictory mix of policies — some aimed at bringing immigrants "out of the shadows," others at removing them from the U.S. He will be remembered for protecting 730,000 young people, a generation of so-called Dreamers, who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Advocates and allies will credit him with embracing a newly aggressive assertion of executive power that, despite the court deadlock and political opposition, remains a legal pathway for the next president. And he will go down as a leader who consistently defended the importance of immigrants in American life, as anti-immigrant sentiment swelled up in parts of the U.S. and abroad.

"Immigration is not something to fear," Obama said last week. "We don't have to wall ourselves off from those who may not look like us right now or pray like we do, or have a different last name." "What makes us Americans," he proclaimed, "is our shared commitment to an ideal that all of us are created equal, all of us have a chance to make of our lives what we will."

But Obama also will be remembered as a president who prioritized other issues, missing perhaps the best chance to pass sweeping legislation and only reluctantly adjusting his strategy in the face of firm opposition.

And his administration aggressively enforced current laws, deporting more than 2.4 million people. The total is nearly as many as his two predecessors combined. "His strategy early on was to prove his enforcement bona fides," said Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, an immigration advocacy group, who once labeled Obama the "deporter-in-chief."

"He was facing an unprecedented, highly personalized opposition from Congress," she said. "We fault him, I believe correctly, for failing to recognize soon enough this intransigence by Congress and failing to use his authority sooner."

__ Evaluating Obama's record is a matter of tallying two columns. One is the number of people he protected from removal. The other is the number deported. The Supreme Court went a long way last week toward tipping the ledger toward the latter.

With its 4-4 tie, it thwarted Obama's last chance to shield up to 4 million people from deportation. The decision left in place an injunction freezing his 2014 executive action, which expanded his protection of Dreamers and temporarily protected some parents of people with legal status.

The deadlock, resulting from a Republican blockade against Obama's Supreme Court nominee, left the constitutionality of the action unsettled. But it had a significant impact on Obama's legacy. "If the Supreme Court had ruled in his favor, he'd probably be remembered as the person who helped to protect half of the undocumented population in the country, which probably would have been a turning point toward reform sooner rather than later," said Frank Sharry, founder of the immigration reform group America's Voice. Instead, he said Obama will be most remembered for his administration's "record number of deportations."

The White House rejects a by-the-numbers analysis. Work to modernize the border and bring new order to a chaotic deportation system isn't necessarily conveyed in the calculation, officials argue. The administration overhauled the role of local law enforcement. In 2014, the president declared the administration's limited resources would be focused on removing threats to national security and public safety and recent arrivals. Deportation has decreased since. Last year, the administration deported the fewest people since 2006.

"Devising that approach and implementing it has fundamentally changed the way laws are enforced and has had a real impact on communities," said Cecilia Munoz, the president's chief adviser on immigration. "That's a very, very big change. That's a large piece of the legacy."

It is a piece of the legacy that remains controversial. Prioritizing recent arrivals inevitably means targeting some of the women and children who have been fleeing violence in Central America. A series of Christmastime raids last year revived complaints about the policy from Democrats and immigrant advocates. The White House has shown no sign of backing down.

__ Could Obama have charted a different course on immigration? Entering office during an economic crisis, Obama focused on stimulating growth and reforming the financial sector. Then there was his massive health care legislation. Along the way, he broke a campaign promise to back overhaul legislation on immigration in his first year.

It was 2011 before Obama endorsed a set of reform principles. By then, Democrats had lost control of the House and the best window for passing a bill had closed. With Latinos, a key political constituency, restless ahead of his re-election bid, Obama announced his first executive action to shield Dreamers in June 2012. He made a new law a top priority of his second term. Although the Senate passed legislation, the GOP-led House refused to vote on it.

"Republicans never gave him credit for the actions that were taken both in terms of security on the border and deportations that did occur," said Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona who backed the Senate bill but opposed Obama's executive actions. "It was a more robust program than Republicans ever gave him credit for. But no good deed goes unpunished in this political environment. The narrative was kind of set and it was furthered by the actions that he took."

After claiming he did not have the authority, Obama bowed to intense pressure from advocates and announced a second executive action in November 2014. He'd waited until after midterm elections, concerned he would damage prospects for senators in tough races. Democrats lost the Senate anyway and the move revived Republican charges of unconstitutional overreach. More than two dozen states eventually signed on to a court challenge that froze the program.

Still, allies cast Obama's about-turn as a game-changer. Future presidents almost certainly will try to flex similar authority to work around gridlock on Capitol Hill. Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has promised to go further than Obama.

"He has rewritten the playbook and added several pages to it on what the executive can and should do. There's a lot of room there," said Angela Kelley, an immigration expert at the Center for America Progress. "Is that necessarily the best way? No. But it is legal, and it is smart and strategic."

Whether the courts agree will help shape Obama's legacy. Resolution isn't likely until after he leaves office. Clinton would likely pick up where Obama left off in pushing to address the status of the millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

If Republican Donald Trump prevails, Obama's effort could end up as another painful, close-but-not-quite moment. Trump has proposed building a wall along the border with Mexico and barring Muslims from the U.S.

"The finish line has been in sight for a very, very long time," said Munoz, a veteran of legislative battles over immigration."It is only a matter of political will," __ Associated Press reporter Alicia A. Caldwell contributed to this report.

Amid Crisis, Support Grows For Puerto Rico Statehood

JUNE 30, 2016

In this July 29, file 2015 photo, the Puerto Rican flag flies in front of Puerto Rico's Capitol as in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Congress edged closer to delivering relief to debt-stricken Puerto Rico as the Senate on Wednesday, June 29, 2016, cleared the way for passage of a last-minute financial rescue package for the territory of 3.5 million Americans.

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO (AP) — Porfirio Guerrero has grown increasingly frustrated as a decade-long recession has sapped business from his tailor shop in the Puerto Rican capital. He now feels the only way for the island to recover is to become a full-fledged part of the United States, a sentiment that is gaining force in the territory.

Puerto Ricans have been divided for decades on whether to remain a semi-autonomous commonwealth, push for statehood or break away entirely from the United States. The island's economic crisis — including a $70 billion debt and looming default — have pushed many like Guerrero toward statehood.

"Can't you see the devastation around here?" he says, gesturing at struggling and shuttered shops that make up the once thriving business district of Rio Piedras. "It would depress anyone. We need statehood."

That feeling has been reinforced by Congress' approval on Wednesday of a measure meant to help the island out of its deep economic malaise. The bill, which President Barack Obama is expected to sign, allows Puerto Rico to restructure some of its debt as U.S. cities and counties can. It also creates a board appointed by Congress and the White House that will oversee the debt-restructuring process and Puerto Rico's finances, including requiring the island to have balanced budgets.

The measure came too late to head off a likely $2 billion default on bond payments due Friday, however. Though the bill is intended to help Puerto Rico, the outside oversight board and a provision to cut the minimum wage for some workers have fed into the sense of many that islanders are second-class citizens, forced to beg Congress for help in a time of need.

"If Puerto Rico was a state, Congress could not approve a law of this nature," said Charlie Rodriguez, a former president of the island's Senate from the pro-statehood party. "But since Puerto Rico is a territory, Congress can do whatever it pleases."

The shift in sentiment is dramatized by the woes of the governing Popular Democratic Party, the standard-bearer for the island's current status as a commonwealth. "The party has completely fallen apart," said Eduardo Villanueva, a political analyst who supports independence. He said the congressional action "was the final blow to the commonwealth status."

Even some members of the party concede it faces a challenge. "There are legitimate questions about where we should be headed," said Roberto Prats, a former senator from the party. "We have a fiscal crisis; we have a debt crisis, an economic recession and an outcry of people demanding that we address the situation of the political status."

Unemployment is at nearly 12 percent, higher than in any U.S. state, fuelling an exodus of Puerto Ricans to Florida and other states — something that itself strengthens the bonds with the mainland. Many of the problems stem from the end of a federal tax break for manufacturers that prompted many factories to close, as well as massive public pension liabilities and the high cost of energy. The territorial government, its municipalities and utilities accrued about $70 billion in debt that the governor finally declared "unpayable," last year, setting off a chain of defaults.

Puerto Rico has been a U.S. territory since 1898 and it gained limited political autonomy when the U.S. approved its constitution in 1952. The territorial status has helped the island to preserve some its cultural identity, allowing it, for example, to send its own athletes to the Olympics and to keep Spanish as an official language.

That autonomy comes with a cost: While islanders are citizens, they can't vote in presidential elections and have no voting representative in Congress. They also pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, but receive less federal funding than U.S. states.

Only a small minority now backs independence, and when times were good, many people like Guerrero supported the current status. They've since changed their mind. "Statehood would fix everything," said Jaime Cruz, a 73-year-old lottery vendor. "Things are going down the drain for me."

Adel Musa, a 43-year-old clothing store owner, said he believes that statehood would help pull the island out of the economic slump. "People right now are living in misery," he said. "We're trying to survive, but it's hard."

There haven't been reliable published polls on the statehood issue in recent months. But in a 2012 referendum, 54 percent said they wanted some change in the island's status. Sixty-one percent who answered a second question said they favored statehood. But so many people left that part blank that the supporters of the current status argue that the result was too muddled to be legitimate.

Puerto Ricans may get another chance to formally express their views soon. Both the pro-commonwealth and the pro-statehood parties say they want a new, clearer referendum. Regardless of the outcome, the U.S. Congress has final say, and it may be reluctant to welcome an island of nearly 3.5 million people in economic shambles that could change the balance of power in the Senate.

Jose Manuel Saldana, a former president of the University of Puerto Rico who has become a statehood supporter, said people are realizing the current status is no longer viable. "The crisis has proven that we need a change despite emotional attachments to the past," he said. "Human beings don't change substantially unless they're faced with an existential crisis. Puerto Rico has been presented with its existential crisis."

Hope And Fear As Combative President Takes Over Philippines

JUNE 30, 2016

New Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, second from left, talks with outgoing President Benigno Aquino III during inauguration ceremony Thursday, June 30, 2016 at Malacanang Palace grounds in Manila, Philippines. Duterte becomes the 16th President of the Philippine Republic.

MANILA, PHILIPPINES (AP) — Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in Thursday as president of the Philippines, with many hoping his maverick style will energize the country but others fearing he could undercut one of Asia's liveliest democracies amid his threats to kill criminals en masse.

The 71-year-old former prosecutor and longtime mayor of southern Davao city won a resounding victory in May's elections in his first foray into national politics. He has described himself as the country's first leftist president and declared his foreign policy would not be dependent on the United States, a longtime treaty ally.

The frugal noontime ceremony at Malacanan, the Spanish colonial era presidential palace by Manila's murky Pasig River, was a break from tradition sought by Duterte to press the need for austerity amid the country's pestering poverty. In the past, the oath-taking had mostly been held at a grandstand in a historic park by Manila Bay, followed by a grand reception.

Vice President Leni Robredo, a human rights lawyer who comes from a rival political party, was sworn in earlier in a separate ceremony in her office compound. Vice presidents are separately elected in the Philippines, and in a sign of Duterte's go-it-alone style, he has not met her since the May 9 vote.

Duterte, who began a six-year term, captured attention with promises to cleanse his poor Southeast Asian nation of criminals and government crooks within six months — an audacious pledge that was welcomed by many crime-weary Filipinos but alarmed human rights watchdogs and the dominant Roman Catholic Church.

Duterte's inauguration address, before a crowd of more than 600 relatives, officials and diplomats, was markedly bereft of the profanities, sex jokes and curses that became a trademark of his campaign speeches. There were no menacing death threats against criminals, but he pressed the urgency of battling crime and graft, promised to stay within the bounds of the law and appealed to Congress and the Commission on Human Rights "to mind your work and I will mind mine."

"There are those who do not approve of my methods of fighting criminality, the sale and use of illegal drugs and corruption. They say that my methods are unorthodox and verge on the illegal," Duterte said.

He added: "The fight will be relentless and it will be sustained." "As a lawyer and a former prosecutor, I know the limits of the power and authority of the president. I know what is legal and what is not. My adherence to the due process and the rule of law is uncompromising," he said to a loud applause.

Shortly after Duterte's election win, police launched an anti-drug crackdown under his name, leaving dozens of mostly poor drug-dealing suspects dead in gunfights or in mysterious circumstances. The killings provided a fearsome backdrop to Duterte's rise.

After his resounding victory, he promised to mellow down on the vulgarity and promised Filipinos will witness a "metamorphosis" once he becomes president. Days before his swearing in, however, he was still warning "If you destroy my country, I will kill you," in a speech this week.

In a country long ruled by wealthy political clans, Duterte rose from middle-class roots. His brash style has been likened to that of presumptive U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, although he detests the comparison and says the American billionaire is a bigot and he's not.

Duterte is also the first president to come from the country's volatile south, scene of a decades-long separatist insurgency by minority Muslims. He has said he would direct security forces to refocus on fighting Muslim and Maoist insurgents — a reversal from his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, who shifted the military to take charge of territorial defense while police handle the insurgencies.

Duterte's initial foreign policy pronouncements point to potential problems for Washington at a crucial time for the region. An arbitration tribunal in The Hague is scheduled to rule July 12 on a case in which the Philippine government questioned the validity of China's vast territorial claims in the South China Sea. China has refused to join the arbitration.

Duterte has suggested he will keep the U.S. at arm's length and has shown readiness to mend frosty ties with China. Those potential shifts have raised the specter of another difficult phase in more than a century of a love-hate relationship between the Philippines and its former American colonizer.

A senior Philippine diplomat said American and Australian officials are curious how the new president will handle relations with their governments, which have enjoyed strong ties with Aquino, who bolstered security relations as a way to counter China's assertiveness in disputed South China Sea territories.

The Chinese ambassador, on the other hand, has worked hard to repair damaged relations with Manila. He told Filipino diplomats Beijing would extend an invitation to the new president to visit China within the next six months, according to the Philippine diplomat who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity for lack of authority to discuss such topic with reporters.

"Definitely if the Philippines backs away somewhat from supporting the U.S. in the South China Sea, this would be a problem for the U.S.," said Malcolm Cook, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.

"China likes to present the U.S. as a destabilizing outsider in the South China Sea and in Asia more generally," he said. "The fewer Asian states that publicly counter this Chinese depiction, the more isolated the U.S."

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Sheriff Has A History Of Political Violence, He Is Desperate — Makarfi

JUNE 26, 2016


Chairman of the Caretaker Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party, Sen. Ahmed Makarfi, in this interview with JOHN ALECHENU, speaks on the crisis within the party, peace and reconciliatory efforts, as well as other national issues

Your committee took office at a very difficult time; how far have you gone with the assignment given to you especially in the area of reconciling aggrieved members?

We came in not because we sought for this position and not because we had any ambition. Our coming can be compared to that of the fire brigade service to put out the fire in the party. Unfortunately, the fire is still raging. Our mandate was to try to bring peace to the party and provide a level playing field where all disputes could be settled among those seeking for party positions or elective offices at the national level. We were also to conduct congresses in states where they could not take place or where there were parallel congresses and try to resolve their differences. That’s the mandate we had and it was a rather general consensus, not that it pleased everybody definitely, but you and I know what has been happening which has hampered our work for quite some time. Up till now, we are not there. We will not rest on our oars. Judicial pronouncements are helpful but they don’t cure political differences. Judicial pronouncements to show who may be right and who may be wrong will leave a deep scar and we want to avoid that as much as possible.

How is the committee dealing with the series of litigations pending in court and what efforts are you making to ensure that they do not ruin reconciliatory efforts?

When we came in, we met a number of litigations in court; some were pending, while some judgments had been entered and some with certain orders. Since our appointment, more court cases have been added to the old cases. This is not helpful. We have been making approaches not as a committee; because as a committee, we are representatives of the Board of Trustees, we are representing the National Assembly caucus, we are representing the Governors’ Forum, we are representing the overwhelming number of members of our party. I won’t say all because, I have not taken a census; maybe we are representing not less than 80 to 90 per cent of the membership of the party. We are not representing ourselves; we are representing organs of the party. The methodology we have adopted is that we, as a committee, we really don’t have anything to negotiate; these organs should constitute committees to approach the remaining aggrieved side — that is, Sen. Ali Sheriff’s side. Whatever resolutions are arrived at, we, as a committee, are ready to abide by them even if the resolutions require us to step down from our positions. We are not going to argue for one minute in the interest of the party. We are working for the party. For us, it is not a do-or-die matter. For us, any time the party requires us to step aside, we will do so without saying we were appointed by the convention for three months and the three months must come and go. That is the approach we have adopted. These organs have constituted committees; individuals on their own have been making vital contacts with the former chairman and those around him with a view to getting them to come to the table to find a political solution to this. That effort is on but it is regrettable that while this effort is going on, you see more cases being added to the ones we already have in court. That really is not in the spirit of finding a political solution. But we will continue to ask these stakeholders to continue to seek an amicable solution through peaceful dialogue. This matter is not between this committee or a high-handed Makarfi and Ali Modu Sheriff. No, we are representing the party. Whatever decision the party takes, we will implement. Like I said earlier, even if the party should today say, ‘In the interest of reconciliation, step down, we are doing something new,’ we will step down, and that is life. We will not be the first to step down if it gets to it. There were others who gave way years before us in the interest of the party. It will not be the first or the last. It is in this spirit that I am calling on my colleague, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, and those around him, to take the path of peaceful resolution of this issue.

With the benefit of hindsight as a foundation member of this party, at what point would you say the PDP derailed?

The party derailed when we stopped consulting widely, when a few of us started usurping the authority to preside over everybody. You can’t know it all, no matter how old you are. If the organs of the party are allowed to perform their functions and we consulted widely, we would have avoided this. But we learn from our mistakes and we will not continue in that direction.

Some argue that former President Olusegun Obasanjo is to blame because he literarily handed over the party structure to state governors, who handpicked party leaders at the state level and also insisted on doing same at the national level. Having served as governor yourself, do you agree?

No. If that was the case, in 2007, when governors were asked to choose a successor (for the then president) they chose a successor but the then president did not accept that. He picked the person that he wanted and we respected leadership and followed. If it was true that the president gave governors too much power, how come the president did not accept the people (the governors brought) and (he) brought some people else? Look, President Obasanjo was and is a good man, no matter what anybody says. He had and still has this capacity to negotiate; his doors open very early in the morning and remain open till late into the night in meeting different people and balancing various interests and that is what politics is all about. But when you have a situation where the minority will shout and have nothing and the majority will have their way, then there will be a problem. When Obasanjo was at the helm of affairs, people were accommodated, you might not have got all that you wanted, but people were being accommodated and I think that spirit of accommodation is what we require over time. I am not saying he was a perfect human being, I that am speaking to you am not perfect. We all have our imperfections and of course we can look at our areas of imperfections and make the necessary adjustments.

Sheriff and those around him have also accused you of having a presidential ambition which they claim is responsible for the standoff. What is your position on this?

Like I mentioned earlier, if the organs of the party say Makarfi, step aside, I assure you that within one second I will step aside. Will that be the attitude of someone who wants to use the office to further a presidential ambition? I went to Port Harcourt with my luggage in the car of my friend who came to pick me from the airport. I did not even have a hotel accommodation; I was late for a meeting. This thing (chairmanship of the caretaker committee) was entrusted with me unprepared. Is that how somebody who wants to use the position to pursue a presidential ambition goes about it? Is it how it works out? You and I know that is not the way it works. Let’s look at it, who between the two of us appears desperate to remain as chairman? I am not insisting on remaining, I have said I can give way if that is what is required to bring peace to the party. I am not desperate for this. From his own reaction, who appears more desperate for it? I am not insisting, I have said I can give way, why is he not giving way? How can one say that it is because I have any kind of political ambition or aspiration? Remember the mandate is to stay for three months but I can do this in less than three months if given the chance.

Sheriff recently accused you of importing thugs to take over the party secretariat. How do you respond?

I am not a violent person and those who know me can testify that I have never been associated with violence in politics. He is the one who is known to have a history of political violence. He is the one known to have played a role in the creation of Boko Haram. He made the same malicious allegations before the former Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the State Security Service, which was disregarded after it was found to be baseless. I was there and then given additional official security (aides). You can check; the police had withdrawn his security (aides) because of his actions. They were returned after he pleaded and agreed to take the path of peace, a promise which he has reneged on.

You will agree with me that since the inception of the PDP, no chairman has been able to complete his tenure. All the chairmen have had to leave under controversial circumstances; either they were asked to resign or arm-twisted into doing so. Is this not what is playing out now?

Honestly, it was unfortunate. I am sure it must have contributed to where we are now. It shouldn’t have happened but it happened. We should draw a line and let the past remain in the past and move on. When you talk of a term said to be given by a court judgment that has not been appealed, I don’t know who went to court. We are just reading the declaration of it (in the media). My understanding is that Bamanga Tukur was the one elected by a convention. Adamu Mu’azu was approved at a convention to complete the tenure of Tukur. Thus, it was not a fresh election. Sheriff was appointed by the National Executive Committee of the party, not even by the convention, to complete the tenure which began from Bamanga Tukur which Adamu Mu’azu could not complete and that tenure should have ended in February or March this year. The NEC extended the tenure for all organs because we could not hold the convention on time to enable us to go to Port Harcourt to hold our convention. Thus, administrative loopholes must have been exploited by some people with political interests to rush to court to secure certain judgments not really with good intentions, in my opinion, in order to cause this avoidable confusion. It is the convention that elects; it is the convention that removes. Anything in between is actually to hold until the convention ratifies.

What came out of the suggestion by the now retired Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, that both your committee and Sheriff’s group should nominate four members each to serve on a peace committee?

Actually, the IGP didn’t suggest that. As a matter of fact, the suggestion came from me and it was accepted by all. The government did not close our national secretariat by force; we suggested it and, of course, you know the government is concerned about the security situation, especially if you have an uncontrolled influx of youths from all over the country. If allowed to continue, only God knows what will happen. All of these were discussed when I suggested that the security agencies should keep all party property safe and we should all keep away from the place. That was the number one suggestion. The second suggestion which I made was that we should be encouraged to find a political solution and that we should constitute a committee to sit down and resolve this issue politically. The party organs had since constituted their committees; up till now the Modu Sheriff group has not constituted their four-man group. Now who is looking for peace and who is not? Who is seeking for a resolution? The last suggestion was that if all these fail, we should wait for July 4 when the court in Port Harcourt will give their verdict as to whether the convention was valid or not and if the decisions reached there are binding — whatever the decision, we have to abide by it. These were the recommendations I made and it was debated and agreed on. Hence, it is not right to assume that the government used fiat to close down our secretariat. We all agreed to it in order to keep the place safe and to prevent a situation where things could go out of control.

Only a few days ago, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission blocked the personal accounts of one of your members, Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State. Some have described this as part of a larger plot by the governing party to destabilise the opposition. What are your thoughts?

As I speak to you, I don’t have details of this issue. We have asked two members of our committee to find out and get back to us so that we can give an informed response. But, of course, my own call here is for extreme caution. Fayose is a fiery member of the opposition; you may like his style, you may not like his style, but if certain actions are taken, people will naturally begin to think that it is because of one’s political views or opinion. Whether it is based on a court order or a legal issue or if there is evidence of any wrongdoing, I am not in a position to make an informed comment on all of this. When our members come back with all the information we require and report back, I am sure we can then act accordingly. What I can say for now is that we must exercise caution to avoid meanings being read into them.

The caucus of your party in the Senate just announced that it has withdrawn the support it earlier pledged to the President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress administration because of what they described as the persecution of the opposition, especially on the issue of an alleged forgery of the Senate rules. What is your take?
The timing of the administration’s pursuit of the case is not wise. If this had happened at the time this (the forgery) allegedly took place, no one would raise an eyebrow and with all the things happening now, I don’t think, politically, it is wise, even if the allegations have any element of truth in them. We have far more serious problems in this country and these problems require the cooperation of all the political parties not just the PDP. The other parties too have followership, the media, the judiciary and the private sector. We need all hands on deck to address all our problems in this country. As I said earlier on, we must exercise extreme caution before we take certain actions.

Do you think your party has what it takes to bounce back to reckoning?

Yes. I believe with sincerity of purpose, we will get out of our problems and forge ahead.

Some have said the party has fallen so badly and is so badly fractured that some are even suggesting a change of name for it. Do you share this sentiment?

Who knows what will happen tomorrow? Right now, as a party, we are going through our trying period; other parties are likely to go through their own. Somehow, we will come out of it; we will survive and see how we go forward. We have to wait for others whose time will come and see whether they too can survive it or not. All these issues occur in the life of political parties. Any political party for that matter, whether in government or out of government. If the PDP will continue as a party until 2019 or if it will be a conglomeration of a number of parties including the PDP, that is for time to tell.

Looking at the Nigerian economy, will you blame its woes on the global economic meltdown or the country’s missteps, considering how it fared in the past?

Our economic problems did not start now. These problems had been there even before this current political dispensation came in 1999. You have to be fair to this government that the challenges are not entirely its making. And of course, different administrations have had to confront their challenges. You should also equally note that it is not entirely the making of the PDP administration. If you observe, we were able to pass through the meltdown under President Obasanjo, we did what we could under Presidents Umaru Yar’adua and Goodluck Jonathan. Be that as it may, the government of the day, in my opinion, will need to be more apt in dealing with the challenges that we have now. These challenges are so enormous that we need to come together as a nation; we may have our political differences but the economy affects all of us. It is not good if the legislature is not working as one, it is not good if the polity is not united to confront this economic meltdown. It goes beyond the strength of one political party in my opinion. The country is sharply divided politically and in terms of ethnicity and religion. When you are dealing with this kind of society, you need to build consensus across these lines when you are in power. This will enable you to deal with the issues.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

EU Calls For UK To 'Brexit' Quickly; Britain Wants More Time


From letf, French President Francois Hollande, Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Foreign Minister Jean Marc Ayrault meet French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, right, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Saturday, June 25, 2016. France's President Francois Hollande is holding exceptional meetings with the leaders of France's political parties as EU leaders try to keep the union together after Britain's vote to leave the EU. Image: Christophe Saidi/AP

LONDON (AP) — The European Union wants a quickie divorce, but Britain wants time to think things over.

Senior EU politicians demanded Saturday that the U.K. quickly cut its ties with the 28-nation bloc — a process Britain says won't begin for several months — as the political and economic shockwaves from the U.K.'s vote to leave reverberated around the world.

"There is a certain urgency ... so that we don't have a period of uncertainty, with financial consequences, political consequences," French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said at a meeting in Berlin of the EU's six founding nations.

EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker warned that the split was "not an amicable divorce" but noted it was never "a tight love affair anyway."

Britons voted 52 to 48 percent Thursday in favor of ending their country's 43-year membership in the 28-nation bloc.

But no country has ever left the EU before, so no one knows exactly how the process will play out. Britain must, at some point, unambiguously notify the bloc of its intentions and set a two-year clock ticking for negotiating its departure. Until then, Britain remains an EU member.

In contrast to the clamoring of EU officials, the leaders of Britain's "leave" campaign, who had reassured voters that the EU would offer Britain good terms for a new relationship, were largely silent Saturday.

England's 300-year-old union with Scotland could be another casualty of the referendum, since most people in Scotland voted to remain in the EU but were outvoted by a majority in much-larger England.

Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon said Saturday that her semi-autonomous administration would seek immediate talks with EU nations and institutions to ensure that Scotland could remain in the bloc.

"(We will) explore possible options to protect Scotland's place in the EU," she said after meeting with her Cabinet in Edinburgh, adding that a new referendum on Scottish independence is "very much on the table."

Scotland voted in 2014 to remain a part of the U.K., but that decision was seen as being conditional on the U.K. staying in the EU.

The victorious "leave" campaigners have said there's no rush to trigger Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, which will begin a two-year exit process to renegotiate trade, business and political links between the U.K. and what will become a 27-nation bloc.

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation Friday and said his successor, to be chosen by October, should be the one to navigate the tricky process of withdrawing from the bloc.

The favorite to succeed him, former London Mayor Boris Johnson, has said there's "no need for haste" — but EU leaders are saying the opposite, in insistent tones.

Juncker said Saturday the British had voted to leave and "it doesn't make any sense to wait until October to try and negotiate the terms of their departure."

"I would like to get started immediately," he said.

French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron expressed the frustrations that many EU politicians feel, accusing Britain of taking the EU "hostage" with a referendum called to solve a domestic political problem: challenges to Cameron from right-wing euroskeptics.

"The failure of the British government" has opened up "the possibility of the crumbling of Europe," Macron said at a debate in Paris.

Top diplomats from the European Union's six founding nations — France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg — met in Berlin for hastily arranged talks and stressed that the exit process should be speedy.

"There must be clarity," Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told reporters. "The people have spoken and we need to implement this decision."

France's Ayrault suggested Britain could name a new prime minister within "several days" — but that is likely instead to take several months. The process calls for Conservative lawmakers to winnow candidates down to two choices who will then be voted on in a postal ballot of party members.

Legally, there is little the EU can do to force Britain's hand, since Article 50 must be triggered by the country that is leaving. But political pressure and economic instability may force British politicians to act more quickly than they had hoped.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel struck a conciliatory note, saying it "shouldn't take forever" for Britain to deliver its formal notification of leaving.

"There is no need to be particularly nasty in any way in the negotiations. They must be conducted properly," Merkel said at a news conference in Potsdam, outside Berlin.

Britain's "leave" campaigners have been accused of lacking a plan for the aftermath of a victory.

Dominic Cummings, director of the "Vote Leave" group, said it would be "unthinkable" to invoke Article 50 before a new prime minister was in place. He tweeted: "David Cameron was quite right. New PM will need to analyze options and have informal talks."

Britain will remain an EU member until the divorce is finalized, but its influence inside the bloc is already waning. Leaders of the bloc will hold a summit in Brussels next week, and the second day, Wednesday, will take place for the first time without Britain.

On Saturday, Britain's representative on the EU's executive Commission, Jonathan Hill, stepped down, saying he was disappointed by the referendum result but "what's done cannot be undone."

Juncker transferred Hill's portfolio of overseeing financial services to Latvian commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis — costing Britain a key voice in a sector that is hugely important to London, whose status as Europe's financial capital is threatened by Britain's EU exit.

The referendum has already triggered financial turmoil around the world. Stock markets plummeted Friday, with the Dow Jones industrial average dropping 611 points, or 3.4 percent, its biggest fall since August. It's not clear what will happen in the markets on Monday, the next trading day.

The pound on Friday dropped to its lowest level since 1985, plunging more than 10 percent from about $1.50 to $1.35 before a slight recovery, on concerns that severing ties with the EU single market of 500 million people will hurt the U.K. economy and undermine London's position as a global financial center.

Credit rating agency Moody's downgraded the U.K.'s economic outlook from stable to negative, saying Britain faces "a prolonged period of uncertainty ... with negative implications for the country's medium-term growth outlook."

The vote to leave the EU has upended British politics. The deeply divided Conservatives are facing a leadership battle to replace Cameron, and some members of the opposition Labour Party hope to oust their leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who they accuse of failing to promote the "remain" side strongly enough.

"(Corbyn) clearly isn't the right person to actually lead the party into an election because nobody thinks he will actually win," said Labour legislator Frank Field.

Corbyn said Saturday he would not resign and said Britain must react "calmly and rationally" to the divisive referendum result.

Grieshaber reported from Berlin, Associated Press writers David Rising and Geir Moulson in Berlin and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.

ISRAEL: Govt To Approve Package To Improve Economic Ties With Africa

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will take the package with him next week on his visit to the continent.


The cabinet is expected to approve a NIS 50 million plan on Sunday to strengthen economic ties with Africa that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will take with him next week on his visit to the continent.

With Jerusalem looking to significantly upgrade its ties with Africa, this is the first time a government has come up with this type of program for the continent. Netanyahu's visit will be the first trip by a sitting prime minister to Sub-Saharan Africa since 1987.

Netanyahu is scheduled to travel on Monday to Uganda, to take part in a ceremony at Entebbe marking 40 years to the Entebbe raid. From there he will travel to Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia.

Explaining the program, the Prime Minister's Office issued a statement saying, “The African continent constitutes vast potential for Israel in very many areas. Many countries are seeking to open their gates to Israel and we will realize this desire for their benefit and for the benefit of the State of Israel." Netanyahu will be joined by a delegation of some 50 businessmen. Today Africa represents only 2% of Israel's export market, something the high-profile nature of this trip is aiming to rectify.

The plan to be approved by the government includes the following elements:
* The establishment of designated funds, by Israel, for Africa at the World Bank while utilizing Israel's comparative advantages; * Expanding the network of commercial attaches – Two attache offices will be opened in Africa in the first stage. The possibility of opening additional offices in the future will be considered.

* The establishment of four MASHAV centers for excellence in Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda. The centers will make Israel's technological abilities known to business people and government officials in African countries and assist in increasing Israeli exports to these countries.

* . Advancing financial projects by establishing a mechanism to lower costs for Israeli companies doing business in Africa. * Establishing an agency within the Health Ministry as a platform for agreements between the Israeli health system and health systems in other countries, with an emphasis on Africa.

* Providing grants by the Chief Scientist to support products that need research and development activity to adapt them (regarding technology, engineering and marketing) for African markets.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Markets Reel As World Absorbs Shock Of UK Vote For Brexit

FRIDAY, JUNE 24, 2016

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and his wife Samantha walk back into 10 Downing Street, London, after speaking to the media. Cameron says he will resign by the time of the party conference in the fall after Britain voted to leave the European Union after a bitterly divisive referendum campaign, according to tallies of official results Friday.

LONDON (AP) — Britain has jumped. Now it is wildly searching for the parachute. The U.K.'s unprecedented decision to leave the European Union sent shockwaves through the country and around the world Friday, rocking financial markets, toppling Prime Minister David Cameron and even threatening the ties that bind the United Kingdom.

Britons absorbed the overwhelming realization that their anti-establishment vote has pushed the British economy into treacherous and uncertain territory and sparked a profound crisis for a bloc founded to unify Europe after the devastation of World War II.

"Leave" campaigners hailed the result as a victory for British democracy against the bureaucratic behemoth of the EU. Conservative former London Mayor Boris Johnson said "the British people have spoken up for democracy in Britain and across Europe," while Nigel Farage, leader of the hard-right U.K. Independence Party, said "the dawn is breaking on an independent United Kingdom."

But for the 48 percent of British voters who wanted to remain — and for the 2 million EU nationals who live and work in Britain, but could not vote — there was sadness, anger and even panic. At a London train station, commuter Olivia Sangster-Bullers called the result "absolutely disgusting."

"Good luck to all of us, I say, especially those trying to build a future with our children," she said. The decision launches a yearslong process to renegotiate trade, business and political links between the U.K. and what will become a 27-nation bloc, an unprecedented divorce that could take a decade or more to complete.

Cameron, who had led the campaign to keep Britain in the EU, said he would resign by October and left it to his successor to decide when to invoke Article 50, which triggers a departure from European Union.

"I will do everything I can as prime minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months," a somber Cameron said outside 10 Downing St. "But I do not think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers the country to its next destination."

He also said he had spoken to Queen Elizabeth II "to advise her of the steps that I am taking." In a referendum marked by notably high turnout — 72 percent of the more than 46 million registered voters — "leave" won with 52 percent of the votes.

Stock markets plummeted around the world, with key indexes dropping more than 12 percent in Germany and about 8 percent in Japan and Britain. Markets calmed and later recovered some of their losses after Bank of England Governor Mark Carney promised to take "all the necessary steps to prepare for today's events."

The euro fell against the dollar and the pound dropped to its lowest level since 1985, plunging more than 10 percent from about $1.50 to $1.35 before a slight recovery, on concerns that severing ties with the single market will hurt the U.K. economy and undermine London's position as a global financial center.

The referendum result revealed Britain to be a sharply divided nation: Strong pro-EU votes in the economic and cultural powerhouse of London and semi-autonomous Scotland were countered by sweeping anti-establishment sentiment for an exit across the rest of England, from southern seaside towns to rust-belt former industrial powerhouses in the north.

For many who voted "leave," the act was a rebellion against the political, economic and social establishment and the derided "experts" — including CEOs, artists, scientists and soldiers — who had written open letters warning of the consequences of an EU exit, or Brexit.

Pro-Brexit voters were persuaded by the argument that leaving the EU meant taking back control of immigration — by abandoning the bloc's principle of free movement among member states — and reclaiming billions that the U.K. pays to Brussels each year.

"Remain" supporters said this was a fantasy of sovereignty in an interconnected world, one that ignored the benefits the EU, and EU workers, bring to Britain. But for many "leave" voters — who tended to be older, less well-educated and less well-off than the other side — the vote was reclaiming a birthright.

"It's a vindication of 1,000 years of British democracy," 62-year-old Jonathan Campbell James declared at the train station in Richmond, southwest London. "From Magna Carta all the way through to now, we've had a slow evolution of democracy, and this vote has vindicated the maturity and depth of the democracy in our country."

The vote also represented a cultural and political populism stirring across Europe and beyond. Populist politicians including France's Marine Le Pen and the Netherlands' Geert Wilders hailed the result and called for similar anti-EU votes in their countries.

Donald Trump praised the decision during a visit to one of his golf courses in Scotland, saying Britons "took back their country." He compared the vote to the U.S. sentiment that has propelled him to presumptive Republican presidential nominee, saying "people are angry all over the world."

President Barack Obama said he talked to Cameron and believes the British voters' decision speaks "to the ongoing changes and challenges that are raised by globalization." The divisions exposed by the referendum threaten to unstitch the complex fabric of the United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said "Scotland has voted to stay in the EU," and a new referendum on independence from the United Kingdom is now "highly likely." Scotland voted in 2014 to remain a part of the U.K., but that decision was seen by many as conditional on the U.K. remaining in the EU.

The EU exit would also complicate the status of Northern Ireland, which shares a border with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member. Irish nationalists used the result to call for an all-island referendum to reunite the two parts of Ireland after 95 years of partition into an independent south and British north.

But nothing matched the shock of many in the capital, London, where more than 10 percent of the population is from the EU, and which voted by a large margin to remain in the EU. Christine Ullmann, a German who worked on the campaign urging other Europeans to "Hug a Brit," expressed a widespread sense of sadness and loss.

"What about Brits who believe in the goodness of their society who find themselves in a society where they can't travel and work freely in Europe?" she said. "I feel really sad for them. They've lost more."

London Mayor Sadiq Khan reassured the 1 million Europeans in the capital that they were "very welcome here." "We all have a responsibility to now seek to heal the divisions that have emerged throughout this campaign — and to focus on what unites us, rather than that which divides us," he said.

Britain would be the first major country to leave the EU, which was born from the ashes of World War II as European leaders sought to build links and avert future hostility. With no precedent, the impact on the single market of 500 million people — the world's largest economy — is unclear.

The result triggers a new series of negotiations expected to last two years or more as Britain and the EU search for a way to separate economies that have become intertwined since the U.K. joined the bloc on Jan. 1, 1973. Until those talks are completed, Britain will remain a member of the EU.

Leaders from across the EU voiced regret inflected with anger at the British decision. Germany called top diplomats from the EU's six founding nations to a meeting Saturday, and the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, said the bloc would meet without Britain at a summit next week to assess its future. Tusk vowed not to let the vote derail the European project.

"What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger," he said — but noted that there was "no way of predicting all the political consequences of this event, especially for the U.K." Cameron's largely self-inflicted downfall was a political tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. He called the referendum largely to silence euroskeptic challengers, then staked his reputation on keeping Britain in the EU, warning voters on the eve of the referendum that their choice would be irreversible: "You can't jump out of an airplane and then clamber back into the cockpit."

His resignation announcement sparks a Conservative leadership battle in which Boris Johnson is a leading contender. Former Business Secretary Vince Cable said Cameron had made a monumental political misjudgment that would now haunt him.

"There was a chronic failure to understand what can happen when you just throw the cards in the air," Cable said. "Unpredictable things happen. People find an outlet for their grievances, whether it's got anything to do with Europe or not."

The result also triggered turmoil in the left-of-center opposition Labour Party, whose traditional working-class supporters defied the party's call to vote "remain" in large numbers. Leader Jeremy Corbyn, a socialist who lent lukewarm support to the pro-EU cause, faces an incipient challenge to his leadership.

But for many in Britain, the economy is the biggest and most pressing worry. Authorities ranging from the International Monetary Fund to the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Bank of England have warned that a British exit will reverberate through a world economy that is only slowly recovering from the global economic crisis.

It will also affect the ability of professionals such as investment managers, accountants and lawyers to work in the EU, threatening London's position as one of the world's pre-eminent financial centers.

"The U.K. has woken up today a deeply divided society," said Megan E. Greene, chief economist at Manulife Asset Management. "In the face of political instability and economic uncertainty, the British leadership must also figure out how to reunite society to avoid adding social unrest to the list of challenges the U.K. faces. This is a tall order."

Associated Press writers Raphael Satter and Frank Jordans in London and Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin contributed to this report.

Clinton's State Dept. Calendar Missing Scores Of Entries

FRIDAY, JUNE 24, 2016

Graphic shows example of Hillary Clinton̢۪s State Department appointment calendar compared with other logs of the same event; 3c x 4 inches; 146 mm x 101 mm;

WASHINGTON (AP) — An Associated Press review of the official calendar Hillary Clinton kept as secretary of state identified at least 75 meetings with longtime political donors, Clinton Foundation contributors and corporate and other outside interests that were not recorded or omitted the names of those she met. The fuller details of those meetings were included in files the State Department turned over to AP after it sued the government in federal court.

The missing entries raise new questions about how Clinton and her inner circle handled government records documenting her State Department tenure — in this case, why the official chronology of her four-year term does not closely mirror the other, more detailed records of her daily meetings.

At a time when Clinton's private email system is under scrutiny by an FBI criminal investigation, the calendar omissions reinforce concerns that she sought to eliminate the "risk of the personal being accessible" — as she wrote in an email exchange that she failed to turn over to the government but was subsequently uncovered in a top aide's inbox.

The AP found the omissions by comparing the 1,500-page calendar with separate planning schedules supplied to Clinton by aides in advance of each day's events. The names of at least 114 outsiders who met with Clinton were missing from her calendar, the records show.

No known federal laws were violated and some omissions could be blamed on Clinton's highly fluid schedule, which sometimes forced late cancellations. But only seven meetings in Clinton's planning schedules were replaced by substitute events on her official calendar. More than 60 other events listed in Clinton's planners were omitted entirely in her calendar, tersely noted or described only as "private meetings" — all without naming those who met with her.

Clinton campaign spokesman Nick Merrill said Thursday night that the multiple discrepancies between her State Department calendar and her planning schedules "simply reflect a more detailed version in one version as compared to another, all maintained by her staff."

Merrill said that Clinton "has always made an effort to be transparent since entering public life, whether it be the release of over 30 years of tax returns, years of financial disclosure forms, or asking that 55,000 pages of work emails from her time of secretary of state be turned over to the public."

In one key omission, Clinton's State Department calendar dropped the identities of a dozen major Wall Street and business leaders who met with her during a private breakfast discussion at the New York Stock Exchange in September 2009, The meeting occurred minutes before Clinton appeared in public at the exchange to ring the market's ceremonial opening bell.

Despite the omission, Clinton's State Department planning schedules from the same day listed the names of all Clinton's breakfast guests — most of whose firms had lobbied the government and donated to her family's global charity. The event was closed to the press and merited only a brief mention in her calendar, which omitted all her guests' names — among them Blackstone Group Chairman Steven Schwarzman, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi and then-New York Bank of Mellon CEO Robert Kelly.

Clinton's calendar also repeatedly omitted private dinners and meetings with political donors, policy sessions with groups of corporate leaders and "drop-bys" with old Clinton campaign hands and advisers. Among those whose names were omitted from her calendar were longtime adviser Sidney Blumenthal, consultant and former Clinton White House chief of staff Thomas "Mack" McLarty, former energy lobbyist Joseph Wilson and entertainment magnate and Clinton campaign bundler Haim Saban.

The AP first sought Clinton's calendar and schedules from the State Department in August 2013, but the agency would not acknowledge even that it had the material. After nearly two years of delay, the AP sued the State Department in March 2015. The department agreed in a court filing last August to turn over Clinton's calendar, and provided the documents in November. After noticing discrepancies between Clinton's calendar and some schedules, the AP pressed in court for all of Clinton's planning material. The U.S. has released about one-third of those planners to the AP, so far.

The State Department censored both sets of documents for national security and other reasons, but those changes were made after the documents were turned over to the State Department at the end of Clinton's tenure.

The documents obtained by the AP do not show who specifically logged entries in Clinton's calendar or who edited the material. Clinton's emails and other records show that she and two close aides, deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin and scheduling assistant Lona J. Valmoro, held weekly meetings and emailed almost every day about Clinton's plans. According to the recent inspector general's audit and a court declaration made last December by the State Department's acting executive secretary, Clinton's aides had access to her calendar through a government Microsoft Outlook account. Both Abedin and Valmoro were political appointees at the State Department and are now aides in her presidential campaign.

Unlike Clinton's planning schedules, which were sent to Clinton each morning, her calendar was edited after each event, the AP's review showed. Some calendar entries were accompanied by Valmoro emails — indicating she may have added those entries. Every meeting entry also included both the planned time of the event and the actual time — showing that Clinton's calendar was being used to document each meeting after it ended.

Former senior State Department logistics officials and government records experts interviewed by the AP said that secretaries of state have wide latitude in keeping their schedules — despite federal laws and agency rules overseeing the archiving of calendars and warning against altering or deleting records. Omissions in Clinton's calendar could undermine the document's historical accuracy, particularly its depictions of Clinton's access to political, corporate and other influences, experts said.

"It's clear that any outside influence needs to be clearly identified in some way to at least guarantee transparency. That didn't happen," said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a nonpartisan government reform group. "These discrepancies are striking because of her possible interest at the time in running for the presidency."

When Clinton met in September 2009 with her 12 corporate breakfast guests at the New York Stock Exchange, her planning schedule that morning listed the hourlong event as "CEO breakfast discussion and New York Stock Exchange opening bell ceremony," adding that no press would be allowed.

Besides Schwarzman, Nooyi and Kelly, Clinton's other guests were Fabrizio Freda, CEO of the Estee Lauder Companies Inc.; Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks Corp.; Lewis Frankfort, chairman of Coach Inc.; Ellen Kullman, then-CEO of DuPont; David M. Cote, CEO of Honeywell International Inc.; James Tisch, president of Loews Corp.; John D. Wren, CEO of Omnicom Group; then-McGraw Hill Companies chairman Harold McGraw III; and James Taiclet, chairman of the American Tower Corp. Also attending was then-NYSE CEO Duncan Niederauer, who later accompanied Clinton when she rang the stock exchange bell.

As she opened the day's trading session, Clinton cited Wall Street's resurgence after the 2008 recession. "Coming back as secretary of state after all that we've done in the last year to try to pull ourselves out of this economic downturn is very exciting," she said.

Details about Clinton's private conversation with her corporate guests were not included in her records. Four of the attendees — Schwarzman, Nooyi, Cote and Kullman — headed companies that later donated to Clinton's pet diplomatic project of that period, the U.S. pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo. All the firms represented except Coach lobbied the government in 2009; Blackstone, Honeywell, Omnicom and DuPont lobbied the State Department that year. Schwarzman and Frankfort have personally donated to the Clinton Foundation, and the other firms — except for American Tower and New York Bank of Mellon — also contributed to the Clinton charity.

P.J. Crowley, a State Department spokesman for Clinton at the time, told the AP that Clinton's vision of "21st century statecraft" included exchanging views with corporate leaders and promoting public-private partnerships. "That was certainly reflected in her day-to-day schedule, her travel and her global outreach," Crowley said.

Clinton's calendar listed meetings with 124 business leaders and political donors and loyalists, but not with 114 others who were identified by the AP's review. In some cases, repeat Clinton visitors were listed in her calendar for some meetings, but not for others.

Four meetings with S. Daniel Abraham, a multimillionaire who founded the Center for Mideast Peace, were noted in Clinton's calendar. But in four other sessions — including two listed only as "private meeting" — Abraham's name was omitted. Abraham, a prolific fundraiser for Clinton's 2008 campaign who has donated $3 million to a super PAC backing Clinton in 2016, told the AP last year that he and Clinton typically discussed Mideast policy.

"The fact that some information was not captured isn't necessarily a sign of bad faith," said Steven Aftergood, a government records expert at the Federation of American Scientists. He added, "It's obviously more important to have a complete record than a scattershot one."

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Again, Nigerian Military Assures It’s Not Planning Coup

JUNE 23, 2016

Col. Sani Usman, Nigeria Military Spokesman

In a clear indication that it was jolted by Wednesday’s claim by a Niger Delta militant group that some Generals have been plotting to overthrow President Muhammadu Buhari government, Nigerian military authorities issued has issued another statement in less than 24 hours, assuring all political leaders and Nigerians in general that it will continue to support the development of the country’s democracy.

The statement was signed by Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar, Director of Defence Information.

Colonel Sani Usman, acting director, public relations, Nigerian Army had early on Thursday morning issued a statement denouncing the claim of the group which identified itself as Joint Niger Delta Liberation Front, JNDLF.

The group recently made futile threats to launch missile attacks against Aso Rock presidential villa and other key facilities in different parts of Nigeria.

In a statement yesterday, it claimed some top military officers had approached it to help overthrow the Buhari government by sustaining ongoing attacks on oil installations across the Niger Delta.

The group claimed the “coup plotters” whose names it did not disclose, said they wanted to use sustained attacks on oil facilities as a genuine reason to take over the government.

The statement was signed by persons who identified themselves as ‘General’ Torunanaowei Latei (Creek Network Coordinator); ‘General’ Agbakakuro Owei-Tauro (Pipeline Bleeding Expert); ‘General’ Akotebe Darikoro (Commander, General Duties) and ‘General’ Pulokiri Ebikade (Intelligence Bureau).

Colonel Usman had in the earlier statement described the claims of the group as patently false, assuring that there was no plot to overthrow the President.

In its own reaction, the Defence Headquarters which coordinates the activities of the three services- the Army, Air Force and the Navy also decribed the claim by JNDLF as “not only baseless and misleading but a dream of those who do not wish the nation well.

It added that the claim of coup plot “was concocted to achieve cheap publicity and a complete propaganda and diversionary.”

The statement quoted the Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin as assuring the citizens of military’s commitment to development of Nigeria’s democracy and continued subordination to civil authority.

The Defence Headquarters further described the coup allegation as “blackmail and distractions from fifth columnist,” in a statement signed by Brig.Gen Abubakar.
Read the full statement below:

The attention of the Defence Headquarters has been drawn to an online publications that the military intends to overthrow the civilian administration of President Mohammed Buhari.

This report to say the least is not only baseless and misleading but a dream of those who do not wish the nation well.

The story which was attributed to some Niger Delta militants was concocted to achieve cheap publicity and a complete propaganda and diversionary.

The entire Nigerian Armed Forces therefore distant itself from this story as it is not only mischievous and baseless but with the intent to heat up the polity and cause public apprehension.

The Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin wishes to assure our highly respected political leaders and the entire Nigerians that the military will continue to be apolitical and will do everything possible to defend and deepen our democratic governance which is the best, acceptable and legitimate form of government the world over.

The Defence Headquarters restates its total subordination to civil authority and upholding the supremacy of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and will continue to defend all democratic structures and will never yield to blackmail and distractions from fifth columnist.

Therefore this unfounded story should be discountenance in its entirety.

In dealing with the myriad of security challenges across the country, the military will continue to remain focus and deploy every available resources to reposition our forces to carry out their constitutional roles.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Nigeria Agrees To One-Month Cease-Fire With Delta Militants

REUTERS, JUNE 21, 2016

ABUJA—Nigeria has agreed a one-month cease-fire with militants including the Niger Delta Avengers in the oil-producing southern region, a petroleum ministry official said on Tuesday.

Militant groups including the Avengers, who have claimed responsibility for a string of attacks on oil and gas facilities in recent weeks, could not immediately be reached for comment.

They say they want a greater share of Nigeria's oil wealth to go to the impoverished Delta region. Crude sales make up about 70 percent of national income and the vast majority of that oil comes from the southern swampland.

The latest attacks have pushed production to a 30-year low.

Last week the Avengers said they would negotiate with the government if independent foreign mediators were involved.

"It was very difficult getting the Niger Delta Avengers to the negotiating table but we eventually did through a proxy channel and achieved the truce," said the official, who asked not to be identified.

A second government official, who also wished to remain anonymous, said a "a truce was agreed" with militants.

Friday, June 17, 2016



Migrants sit in a truck, holding wooden sticks tied to the vehicle to avoid falling, as they leave Agadez in Niger for Libya, June 1, 2015. Niger is a key transit country for West African migrants traveling to Europe. Image: Issouf Sanogo/AFP/Getty

Libya’s status as the preferred departure point for African migrants and refugees seeking to reach Europe has been well-documented.

But the finding of 34 bodies in the Sahara Desert has highlighted the role of Niger as a key transit point for West Africans journeying from their home countries with dreams of settling in Europe. The discovery of the bodies—which included 20 children—was reported on Thursday, with Nigerian Interior Minister Bazoum Mohamed saying that the migrants appeared to have been abandoned by smugglers and died of thirst between June 6-12.

Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world and was ranked as having the worst living conditions anywhere in the United Nations’ 2015 Human Development Index. The bodies were found in Assamakka, close to the border with Algeria. The town lies a few hundred miles northwest of Agadez in central Niger, marks the starting point for thousands of migrants each week to travel across one of the harshest terrains on Earth in an attempt to reach the border with Libya, wheresmugglers are exploiting the political instability to send people in ill-equipped and poor-quality boats across the Mediterranean.

More than 130,000 migrants and refugees have been recorded passing through Agadez between January and May, according to Giuseppe Loprete, the head of mission at the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) base in Niger, which is located hundreds of miles southwest of Agadez in the capital Niamey. “These are huge numbers and the trend is increasing. So of course there are casualties,” says Loprete.

Loprete highlights a combination of factors that have led to Niger becoming a focal point for migrants transiting from countries such as Senegal, Mali and The Gambia. Firstly, Niger is seen as the easiest route through which to access Libya. Since the fall of dictator Muammar El-Qaddafi in 2011, Libya has fallen into a political vacuum, with armed groups and militias proliferating across the country. It has also become the de facto exit point for Africans trying to enter Europe—the European Union’s border agency Frontex recorded almost 47,000 illegal border crossings along the Central Mediterranean route, which connects Libya and Italy, in the first five months of 2016.

“Migrants and smugglers, everyone knows that it’s easy to cross the border [into Libya],” says Loprete, who also says that armed conflicts in other potential transit countries—such as those waged by Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants in northern Mali and Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria —mean that Niger has become the best of a bad bunch of possible routes. “Nobody’s going through Mali right now, or very few. Same for Nigeria and Boko Haram-controlled areas,” says Loprete.

Next, the harsh conditions make the region difficult to police. The journey from Agadez to the Libyan border takes between three and six days of driving through sandstorms and searing temperatures that can reach between 40-50°C (104-122°F). While the Mediterranean migration crisis has arguably received far more coverage and funding—the EU allocated €11.82 million ($13.3m, £9.3m) in June 2015 for a 12-month mission to patrol the Mediterranean for possible instances of smuggling—Loprete says tackling the problem in the Sahara is complicated by such conditions. “Nobody is patrolling the desert...It’s not like the Mediterranean where you can set up a rescue operation,” he says. “Even the police do not patrol these areas.”

The government in Niger passed an anti-smuggling law in May 2015 in a bid to stem onward flows to Libya, but Loprete says it is yet to be fully implemented. A further factor complicating the issue of border crossings is Niger’s membership of a regional trading bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). As with the EU, a founding principle of the Nigerian-headquartered organization is to create “a borderless region” where citizens can move freely between member states without needing to show a passport and either do not need visas or can obtain them upon arrival. So for many West Africans, the first time they may have to show an identity document would be at the border with Algeria or Libya (and such checks are particularly unlikely to be in place in the latter).

“They can come from Senegal, The Gambia in two or three days, with public transportation they can reach Niamey and then Agadez,” says Loprete. “From that point, legally speaking, they need a visa to go to Algeria, to go to Libya. Of course, nobody has that and they continue irregularly toward these countries.”

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Doctor Ran Private Hospital For 10 Years On ‘Forged Licence’


Police have arrested a man who had been running a hospital for about 10 years using a forged licence to practice as a surgeon.

Until his arrest last Friday, Victor Moffat Akpan had ran his Luna Maternity & Surgery Hospital in Gwarinpa village, a neighbourhood of Gwarinpa Estate in Abuja, since 2006, outsmarting territory regulators who checked the hospital annually.

The hospital was in a converted apartment where he checked patients, had five hospital staff, delivered pregnant women of their babies, performed caesarean sections and surgically removed fibroids. 

He registered the practice with the Private Health Establishment and Monitoring Committee (PHEMC), under the FCT Health and Human Services Secretariat (HHSS) as a surgeon using credentials now discovered to have been forged. 

The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN), which regulates the practice of doctors and dentists in the country, recently got evidence that Akpan was not on its register but was instead using a folio number assigned to another doctor. 
Aso Chronicle gathered that the council immediately sealed the hospital premises while police arrested the suspect and are investigating his claims. 

At the time of questioning by the police, Akpan insisted he was a “homeopathic doctor” but admitted that his certificate was forged with the help of an administrative officer, one Mike Nwagbara, who worked at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital 10 years ago. 

Homeopathy is a branch of alternative medicine, for which MDCN also issues practice licence.
Akpan, from Akwa Ibom State, still claimed during questioning by police to be a “homeopathic doctor” who graduated from an Enugu-based College of Homeopathy. 

He had approached the MDCN for a practice licence in 2002 but was denied because his school was not recognised, according to MDCN investigators. 

Piecing a timeline before the police, he said he paid Nwagbara N15,000 to forge an MDCN licence to practise as a surgeon.

He never knew the actual doctor whose registration number appeared on the certificate. The folio number belongs to a Dr Tuoyo Awani, a 1995 graduate of University of Benin. 

Some documents also believed to have been forged showed Akpan to have interned at Calvary International Hospital in Enugu in 1996, while he did his National Youth Service with the Prisons in 1997, attended an update course by the West African College of Surgeons (WACS) in 2001 and a postgraduate course on the “scientific basis of obstetrics and gynaecology in 2002. 

Aso Chronicle also gathered that Akpan had only A3 in Geography while he obtained P7 and E8 in the rest of the subjects he sat for in the 1990 Senior School Certificate from Eastern Nsit Secondary School, Odot among his credentials. 

With his surgical licence boasting signatures from the prestigious WACS, Akpan was a member of Private Health Establishment and Monitoring Committee (PHEMC). 

Operating under the umbrella of PHEMC, he also used his “licence” to cover two other private centres where he was booked for surgeries, which he performed and was paid for, until the secretariat decided his single hospital licence could not cover three separate facilities, according to Dr Ibrahim Tata, registrar of PHEMC. 

Limited to just Luna, Akpan expanded his services to reach more patients, Aso Chronicle saw on a visit to the hospital. Tests result forms were modeled on regular hospitals’. 

In a documentation room, which opens into the street at the back of the house in Gwarinpa village, patients’ folders dating back to 2007 were stacked on waist-high shelves. 
Some five patients, including two mothers with babies, sat in the waiting room. Clinic runs in two daily batches—9am to 2pm, then 5pm to 8pm. Emergency ran 24 hours.

One certificate framed on the wall shows the National Health Insurance Scheme accredited Luna as a health care provider. 

Five staff were on Luna’s duty roster at its closure. One room is an admission ward, a second is a theatre and a third is a labour room where he took deliveries. 

His personal office doubles as a consultation room. Pictures of him, his wife and his pastor were pasted behind him. 
A patient examination bed lined one side of the wall. Above the bed was a collage of photographs showing Akpan’s success stories - babies he delivered, women who underwent C-sections under his scalp knife and fibroids he removed. 

A stethoscope and pressure cuff were displayed on his desk, next to a POS machine. He insisted he was a homeopathic doctor when investigators and police first spoke with him in his office. Asked what use a stethoscope and pressure cuff had in a homeopathic practice, he simply said he needed them to take patients’ heart rates and blood pressures. 

Patients’ folders seen by Aso Chronicle, some of which have been taken into evidence for police to prosecute Akpan, showed he meticulously used medical shorthand to prescribe drugs for his patients.
He prescribed on sheets of paper torn from school exercise books and filed inside patient folders.
PHEMC, which registered and visited the practice at regular intervals, didn’t suspect foul play until the MDCN began investigating Akpan over a medical report he issued on behalf of a female patient dating back to 2013.

Akpan authored the report as the doctor who treated injuries for a woman assaulted on separate occasions by her husband and lawyer, as he claimed in an affidavit. 

The report came under scrutiny for typographical errors and inconsistencies unexpected in a medical report.

It was to be used in a case before the disciplinary panel of the Nigerian Bar Association.
Dr Henry Okwuokenye, head of inspectorate unit at MDCN, said Akpan came under closer scrutiny when the council began investigating him for misconduct.

He obtained documents Akpan presented to PHECM to register his hospital and made the link between the “Luna” surgeon and the fresh graduate seeking licence to practise homeopathy in 2002.
MDCN handed over the documents to police on Friday as Akpan gave his deposition ahead of prosecution.

The Decline Of Terror In The West?

The Orlando shooting was a horrific crime. But larger trends suggest that the threat of mass attacks is receding.



The State Department’s 2015 Country Reports on Terrorism came out earlier this month. It will no doubt be overshadowed by events, as it deals with overseas rather than domestic terror and appeared ten days before the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. But it helps to explain the roots of America’s terrorism problem.

The document purports to be an objective review of the year’s terrorist incidents as well as an overview of some of the players, and it includes a discussion of “violent extremism” issues region by region and country by country. It is a valuable resource that provides considerable information on the various militant groups and the crimes attributed to them. But it is nevertheless a government document.

The Obama Administration definitely has a point of view on what constitutes terrorism and how to deal with it. The report’s section on Afghanistan, for example, implicitly makes a case for a more robust American role in the conflict engulfing that country, and the discussion of ISIS tends to view the group in regional terms, with less emphasis on its ability to operate transnationally.

I often find that how something is described or even ignored is just as important as what is revealed. There is, for example, a section of the report identifying “State Sponsors of Terrorism,” a status that brings with it various sanctions. It would be difficult to find a section that is more hypocritical, as many would consider Washington the leading practitioner of state-sponsored terror, given its claimed authority to go after militant targets anywhere at any time.

This year’s report names only Iran, Syria, and Sudan as state sponsors. Iran and Syria undeniably have relationships with groups like Hezbollah, which is a party of government in Lebanon. Hezbollah is currently heavily engaged in fighting ISIS, which the U.S. government in its own reporting clearly identifies as international enemy No. 1. Meanwhile, Iran is criticized for having a close relationship with Syria, while Syria is condemned for having a close relationship with Iran, resulting in both being labeled state sponsors even though their military efforts, like those of Hezbollah, are focused against groups like ISIS and al-Nusrah that are seeking to do damage to the United States. Regarding Sudan, the report states that it is no longer in the supporting-radicalism business, while earlier annual reports actually commended it for helping international efforts against terrorists—yet it remains on the list, apparently because some people in the White House do not like its president very much.

And there is a bigger problem. I have long argued that “terrorism” is a largely meaningless expression, as it has been politicized to such an extent that it no longer provides any real insight into what a designated group is or is not doing. The United Nations defines terrorism as violent acts intended to coerce a civilian population and destabilize the target country’s government, which probably as far as a reasonable observer should go with the concept.

Others inevitably entertain a somewhat broader viewpoint on what constitutes a terrorist, because the label enables one to marginalize those one does not approve of. Contemporary Turkey’s political leadership describes journalists, protesters, and even the political opposition in parliament as terrorists because it makes it possible to disregard their arguments and curtail their constitutional rights. Israel, meanwhile, calls Palestinians who are legally resisting its illegal occupation of the West Bank terrorists, while the United States uses drones to kill suspected militants based on profiles and, after the fact, rationalizes the deaths by labeling those killed as terrorists.

At any rate, how big of a problem is terrorism, however we Americans define it? The numbers tell us something. Deaths attributed to terrorists are certainly a huge global problem, with the State Department report recording nearly 12,000 terrorist attacks producing 28,000 deaths worldwide in 2015. But the mayhem is very much concentrated in countries that are gripped by what might reasonably be termed civil war, including Syria, Iraq, and Somalia. Several other countries with high levels of “terror” deaths, including Nigeria and Pakistan, are engaged in bloody regional conflicts over economic issues fueled by anti-central-government sentiment: not exactly civil war, but something close to it.

American victims are a lot harder to find. The State Department report, which is only about acts of terrorism overseas, identifies 19 American citizens as victims of terror for the year 2015. Eight of the deaths were in Afghanistan, one in Syria, and one in Somalia, all of which can be regarded as war zones. Three were in Jerusalem and on the Israeli-occupied West Bank, a region also suffering from endemic violence: two American visitors, plus a settler who held dual Israeli-U.S. citizenship.

Twenty-two more Americans were injured in terrorist incidents worldwide in 2015, and there were no reported kidnappings during the year. Though I in no way wish to minimize the killing of anyone in a criminal act, which terrorism is, the death and injury toll hardly represents a major international threat to U.S. citizens, and I am sure that many more Americans are killed every year “overseas” in traffic accidents while vacationing. So based on the State Department report, one has to question a counter-terrorism strategy costing hundreds of billions of dollars a year to combat an enemy that is largely ineffective, at least in terms of being able to do direct damage to the United States, its citizens, or its other interests.

And there is, of course, the domestic side of the terrorism industry. The year 2015 was, in fact, a relatively busy year for international terrorists, particularly those who might reasonably be linked to ISIS. Insofar as can be determined, no terrorist act carried out in the U.S. in 2015 was actually ordered or directed by an overseas terrorist group, but some terror suspects were certainly inspired by what is taking place in Europe and the Middle East. The killings in Orlando suggest that the so-called “lone wolf” pattern continues in 2016, with little direction from abroad but considerable motivation generated through interaction with radicals online.

There were 25 deaths in the U.S. attributable to some form of ostensibly foreign-sourced terrorism in 2015, a number that includes six perpetrators killed during or subsequent to the attacks. The largest single attack was at San Bernardino, Calif., in December, which killed 16 including the two gunmen. Another multiple-victim attack took place in Chattanooga, Tenn., in July, killing five military personnel plus the shooter. There has been no real suggestion that any of the attacks could have been prevented, though San Bernardino has led to demands by the government for better access to social-networking accounts and to cell phones. While both capabilities would be undeniably useful for after-the-fact assessments of what has occurred, I would argue that giving the police and intelligence agencies broad authority to access what have traditionally been private communications would lead to fishing expeditions through the thousands of communications posted and calls made by terrorism fantasists. It would be hard to justify an extreme interventionist response as either appropriate or effective.

So a total of 44 Americans died in 2015 in incidents that have been categorized by the U.S. government as foreign-sourced terror. To put that in context, the number is comparable to a single month of homicides in Chicago in the same year, when 468 deaths were recorded.

A final measure of the terrorist threat directed against the United States is the number of people being charged with terrorism offenses in 2015. There were 56 arrests in that year, some involving American citizens or legal residents who intended to travel to join a group that has been designated as “terrorist” by the State Department and/or the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control.

But what do those numbers really mean in terms of the vulnerability of the United States to an actual terrorist attack? An estimated two-thirds of all terrorism cases that result in charges in the U.S. are brought about through the use of a paid FBI informant who becomes friendly with the targets and in theory monitors their activities. In many cases, however, the informant actually creates the legal case against the accused by giving the suspects weapons or bombs that do not work.

If the FBI informant actually motivates the targets to carry out the illegal act, that would be considered entrapment, but one can imagine how difficult it would be to make that case unless one were a fly on the wall during all of the meetings involving the informant. A better measure might be whether those accused were ready, willing, and able to carry out a terrorist act without any intercession from an informant. I have done a rough media survey of the identifiable cases from 2015 and could not find a single one where that was so, though in at least one instance a suspect’s online searches relating to how to turn a pressure cooker into a bomb were considered a serious threat.

I am not trying to minimize the threat posed to the United States by terrorists either overseas or domestically, and last weekend’s horrific massacre in Orlando certainly makes one reluctant to endorse anything like complacency. But I would nevertheless advise that the danger posed by radicalized groups and individuals be put into some kind of context, and that draconian steps to deal with the problem be embraced with caution. Terror is the poor man’s weapon against powerful government forces, so it will likely always be with us, but terrorists are rarely successful in their broader objectives—these are achieved only in cases where there is a political vacuum.

I have been reading the State Department annual reports for many years now, and my firm impression is that the international terrorist threat, as poorly defined as it is, has actually been receding as more and more governments actively seek to eliminate militants in their midst, and as fewer states are willing and able to provide them with assistance or a safe haven. Terrorism is a dying industry in every sense of the word, and while the U.S. government should take every reasonable step to protect American citizens, the key word must be “reasonable.” A global anti-terror Crusade led by the United States is not a reasonable response, nor is it necessary, as terrorist groups always eventually fade away due to their own internal contradictions. It is time to declare the War on Terror finished and move on.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.