Sunday, September 23, 2018

Taraji P. Henson Opens Up About Seeking Mental Health Treatment



--Taraji P. Henson is opening up her closet for a good cause.

The “Empire” star celebrated the launch of The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation, her nonprofit organization, on Saturday by inviting guests to purchase her personal dresses, shoes and purses in a special Los Angeles fundraising event. The foundation, named after Henson’s late father, focuses on erasing the stigma surrounding mental health issues, particularly in the African American community.

The cause is personal to Henson, whose son struggled with mental health after his father was murdered in 2003 and Henson’s father died two years later. When she started looking for a psychiatrist for her son, wanting “someone that he could trust, someone that looks like him and could understand his struggle,” she said it was very difficult because “they wouldn’t be African American and it wouldn’t get anything accomplished because he felt guilty for the things he was saying.”

“It was like looking for a unicorn, and the reason that happens is because we don’t talk about it in our community; it’s taboo, it’s looked upon as a weakness or we’re demonized for expressing rage for traumas we’ve been through,” Henson told Variety. “I have a lot of white friends and that’s what got me going. They say, ‘You don’t talk to anybody? Girl, I’m going to see my shrink every Thursday at 3 o’clock.’ So I was like why don’t we do that in our community?”

The star also pointed out the need for the cause to have a famous face attached, as she said there’s “the misconception about celebrities that we have it all together and we’re perfect and we’re not. Our kids aren’t perfect, we’re suffering and struggling just like the regular person and money doesn’t help. I thank God I can pay for the psychiatry bill but it doesn’t necessarily take away the problems.”

Later on in her speech inside the event, Henson revealed that she has also sought mental health treatment and sees a psychiatrist herself.

“I’m here to tell you that when they tell cut and the cameras go away, I go home to real problems just like everybody else,” she said, adding that she wanted to be open about her struggles so “people go, “Oh wow she’s going through it? Well I’m alright then.”

The money raised from the event, dubbed Taraji’s Boutique of Hope, marked the foundation’s first mission: bringing art to the bathrooms of inner city schools to help combat depression, bullying and suicide. Henson explains that this initiative — a partnership with artist Cierra Lynn — is because school bathrooms are “where fights happened, jumps, that’s where you got bullied because the teachers weren’t in there, so I thought that was a great thing to do to flip it. You go there to get your head together and instead of seeing hate stuff or whatever madness kids put in there, we decided to turn it into art.”

Jenifer Lewis, Lisa Vidal and John Singleton were also in attendance at the event, with Lewis joking that she and Henson are close friends because Lewis was the “original Cookie,” the character Henson plays on “Empire.” The “Black-ish” star, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder 25 years ago, said that fighting against the stigma of mental illness has become an important cause for her.

“We are as sick as our secrets and it’s time for people to come together, to reach out to those who are hiding in dark rooms, reach out to those who are afraid to take the next step, reach out to those who want to be better and don’t know how to,” Lewis said.

Lewis, who recently made headlines for wearing a Nike sweatshirt to the Primetime Emmys in support of Colin Kaepernick, added that the cause seems especially relevant after having just seen Michael Moore’s most recent documentary, “Fehrenheit 11/9,” which she urged “every soul on the planet to go and see.”

“If you don’t register to vote after a movie like that then you are not human. We all need to come together right now and not let the Republican administration alter reality,” Lewis told Variety. “Molestation is wrong, attempted rape is wrong, I don’t care how you lay it down. It doesn’t matter if you’re 15 or 93, if someone touches you inappropriately, you have been touched inappropriately for the rest of your life.”

In the wake of sexual misconduct allegations about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Lewis added that “there has to be a reckoning at some point,” and shared the message, “these are not dark times, these are awakening times, so wake the f— up.”

Iran Fears Plot By US And Its Gulf Allies As Pressure Grows

In nthis photo released by official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani, center, leaves for New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly, at Mehrabad Airport in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018. On Saturday, the same day Arab separatists killed at least 25 people in an attack targeting a military parade in Iran, Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s lawyer, declared that the government would be toppled. Iran fears that America and its Gulf Arab allies are plotting to tear the Islamic Republic apart. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)


— On the same day Arab separatists killed at least 25 people in an attack targeting a military parade in southwestern Iran, President Donald Trump’s lawyer mounted a stage in New York to declare that the government would be toppled.

“I don’t know when we’re going to overthrow them. It could be in a few days, months or a couple of years, but it’s going to happen,” former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Saturday. “They are going to be overthrown. The people of Iran obviously have had enough.”

For Iran’s Shiite theocracy, comments like these only fuel fears that America and its Gulf Arab allies are plotting to tear the Islamic Republic apart.

Those threats so far haven’t led to a military confrontation or violence, but the risk is rising.

“Undoubtedly the Islamic Republic of Iran will not ignore this crime. It is absolutely clear for us who did that, what group they are and with whom they are affiliated,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned before leaving for New York for the United Nations General Assembly. “All of those small mercenary countries that we see in this region are backed by America. It is Americans who instigate them and provide them with necessary means to commit these crimes.”

Rouhani is a relative moderate who was elected twice on promises to improve relations with West, and who signed the 2015 nuclear agreement. At the U.N. General Assembly that year, he declared that “a new chapter had started in Iran’s relations with the world.”

“For the first time, two sides rather than negotiating peace after war, engaged in dialogue and understanding before the eruption of conflict.”

An eruption now seems more likely. What changed in the meantime seems to be the politics of the region and the U.S. While America’s Sunni Gulf Arab allies in the region criticized the nuclear deal, many later acknowledged that it did what it was designed to do.

Iran limited its enrichment of uranium, making it virtually impossible for it to quickly develop nuclear weapons, something the government insists it has never sought. In exchange, some international sanctions were lifted, allowing Iran to rejoin the global financial system and sell its crude oil to American allies.

Over time, however, Gulf states adopted an increasingly harder tone with Iran. Officials in Tehran point to comments by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, now next in line to the throne in Iran’s Mideast archrival.

“We know we are a main target of Iran,” Prince Mohammed said in a 2017 interview, shortly before becoming crown prince. “We are not waiting until there becomes a battle in Saudi Arabia, so we will work so that it becomes a battle for them in Iran and not in Saudi Arabia.”

He did not elaborate, though the kingdom and its allies were mired then as they are now — in a war in Yemen against Iran-aligned Shiite rebels. While Iran denies arming the rebels, known as Houthis, U.N. investigators, analysts and Western nations all say Tehran supplies weapons ranging from assault rifles to the ballistic missiles, which have been fired deep into Saudi territory.

After Prince Mohammed’s comments last year, Saudi-aligned satellite news channels began playing up stories about Iranian opposition and exile groups. They also began publicizing the nighttime pipeline attacks by Arab separatists in Khuzestan, Iran’s oil-rich southwestern province, which Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein tried to seize in his 1980s war with Iran.

Those separatists claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attack in Ahvaz, Khuzestan’s capital, which struck one of many parades in the country marking the start of the 1980s war. Iranian officials, who blame the separatists for the attack, say the militants wore military uniforms and hid their weapons along the parade route ahead of time — showing a level of sophistication previously unseen by the separatists.

There has been no direct evidence linking the separatists to Saudi Arabia. However, Iranian officials have seized on the fact the separatists immediately made their claim of responsibility on a Saudi-linked, Farsi-language satellite news channel based in Britain.

The United States has meanwhile been ramping up pressure on Iran since Trump withdrew from the nuclear agreement in May, restoring crippling sanctions and voicing support for anti-government protests fueled by economic woes.

The Trump administration has said its actions aren’t aimed at toppling Iran’s government. But in the meantime, Giuliani has continued speaking before meetings of an exiled Iranian opposition group. Before being appointed national security adviser earlier this year, John Bolton gave impassioned speeches calling for regime change.

“The declared policy of the United States of America should be the overthrow of the mullahs’ regime in Tehran,” Bolton told Iranian exiles in July 2017. “The behavior and the objectives of the regime are not going to change, and therefore, the only solution is to change the regime itself.

He added, to cheers: “And that’s why before 2019, we here will celebrate in Tehran.”

Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at . His work can be found at .

US Seeks To Curtail Green Cards For Immigrants On Public Aid

In this Dec. 10, 2015, file photo, pedestrians crossing from Mexico into the United States at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry wait in line in San Diego. The Trump administration is proposing rules that could deny green cards to immigrants if they use Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers and other forms of public assistance. The Department of Homeland Security said Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, that current and past receipt of certain public benefits above thresholds will be considered “a heavily weighed negative factor” in granting green cards as well as temporary visas. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy, File)


— The Trump administration on Saturday proposed rules that could deny green cards to immigrants if they use Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers and other forms of public assistance.

Federal law already requires those seeking green cards and to prove they will not be a burden — or “public charge” — but the new rules detail a broad range of programs that could disqualify them.

The Department of Homeland Security said current and past receipt of certain public benefits above thresholds would be considered “a heavily weighed negative factor” in granting green cards as well as temporary stays.

The proposal “will clearly define long-standing law to ensure that those seeking to enter and remain in the United States either temporarily or permanently can support themselves financially and will not be reliant on public benefits,” the department said.

The 447-page proposal published on the department’s website will appear in the Federal Register “in the coming weeks,” triggering a 60-day public comment period before it takes effect.

Coming less than seven weeks before midterm elections, the announcement could help galvanize voters who have backed or opposed Trump’s broad crackdown on legal and illegal immigration.

Immigrant advocacy groups said people may avoid or withdraw from public aid programs even at the risk of losing shelter and suffering deteriorating health because they worry they will be denied visas.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said the proposal was “an inhumane attack on the health and wellbeing of so many families and communities across the country.”

“How you contribute to your community — and not what you look like or the contents of your wallet — should be what matters most,” she said. “This proposed rule does the opposite and makes clear that the Trump administration continues to prioritize money over family unity by ensuring that only the wealthiest can afford to build a future in this country.”

Potentially disqualifying benefits include Medicare Part D prescription drugs, Medicaid with some exceptions for emergency services and disability services related to education, food stamps and Section 8 housing vouchers.

At UN, Unrepentant Trump Set To Rattle Foes, Friends Alike

In this Sept. 19, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump speaks during the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters. When Trump makes his second address to the United Nations _ and wields the Security Council gavel for the first time _ he will face leaders of a global order he upended in the last 12 months by pulling out of the Iran deal, embracing Russia and alienating longtime Western allies over trade and defense spending. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)


— President Donald Trump is poised to redouble his commitment to “America First” on the most global of stages this week.

In the sequel to his stormy U.N. debut, Trump will stress his dedication to the primacy of U.S. interests while competing with Western allies for an advantage on trade and shining a spotlight on the threat that he says Iran poses to the Middle East and beyond.

One year after Trump stood at the rostrum of the U.N. General Assembly and derided North Korea’s Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man,” the push to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula is a work in progress, although fears of war have given way to hopes for rapprochement.

Scores of world leaders, even those representing America’s closest friends, remain wary of Trump. In the 12 months since his last visit to the U.N., the president has jolted the global status quo by pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, starting trade conflicts with China and the West and embracing Russia’s Vladimir Putin even as the investigation into the U.S. president’s ties to Moscow moves closer to the Oval Office.

Long critical of the United Nations, Trump delivered a warning shot ahead of his arrival by declaring that the world body had “not lived up to” its potential.

“It’s always been surprising to me that more things aren’t resolved,” Trump said in a weekend video message, “because you have all of these countries getting together in one location but it doesn’t seem to get there. I think it will.”

If there is a throughline to the still-evolving Trump doctrine on foreign policy, it is that the president will not subordinate American interests on the world stage, whether for economic, military or political gain.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters in a preview of Trump’s visit, that the president’s focus “will be very much on the United States,” its role and the relations it wants to build.

“He is looking forward to talking about foreign policy successes the United States has had over the past year and where we’re going to go from here,” she said. “He wants to talk about protecting U.S. sovereignty,” while building relationships with nations that “share those values.”

In his four-day visit to New York, Trump will deliver major speeches and met with representatives of a world order that he has so often upended in the past year. Like a year ago, North Korea’s nuclear threat will hover over the gathering, though its shadow may appear somewhat less ominous.

The nuclear threat was sure to be on the agenda at Trump’s first meeting, a dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Manhattan on Sunday night. Abe stands first among world leaders in cultivating a close relationship with the president through displays of flattery that he has used to advance his efforts to influence the unpredictable American leader.

On Monday afternoon, Trump planned to sit down with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who comes bearing a personal message to Trump from North Korea’s Kim after their inter-Korean talks last week. Trump and Moon were expected to sign a new version of the U.S.-South Korean trade agreement, one of Trump’s first successes in his effort to renegotiate trade deals on more favorable terms for the U.S.

Even so, some U.S. officials worry that South Korea’s eagerness to restore relations with the North could reduce sanctions pressure on Kim’s government, hampering efforts to negotiate a nuclear accord.

“We have our eyes wide open,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “There is a long ways to go to get Chairman Kim to live up to the commitment that he made to President Trump and, indeed, to the demands of the world in the U.N. Security Council resolutions to get him to fully denuclearize.”

Trump’s address to the General Assembly comes Tuesday, and on Wednesday he will for the first time chair the Security Council, with the stated topic of non-proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The subject initially was to have been Iran, but that could have allowed Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to attend, creating a potentially awkward situation for the U.S. leader.

Aides say the president will also use the session to discuss North Korea and other proliferation issues. While Trump is not seeking a meeting with Rouhani, he is open to talking with the Iranian leader if Rouhani requests one, administration officials said.

In meetings with European leaders as well as during the Security Council session, Trump plans to try to make the case that global companies are cutting ties with Iran ahead of the reimposition in five weeks of tough sanctions against Tehran. The penalties are a result of Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Trump at the time cited Iran’s role as a malign force in the region, particularly its support of terrorist groups, but also its involvement in Syria. U.S. officials say their priority for the region now is removing Iranian forces from Syria.

Trump is also expected to deliver a fresh warning to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad that the use of chemical weapons against civilians in the major rebel stronghold of Idlib would have serious repercussions. Britain and France are actively planning a military response should Assad use chemical weapons again, according to U.S. officials.

“I think he’s got a couple major possibilities really to help illuminate for the American people what America’s place in the world,” national security adviser John Bolton told Fox News Channel’s ’Sunday Morning Futures,” previewing Trump’s U.N. appearance.

Bolton, like Pompeo, is part of a far more hawkish national security team than the one that surrounded Trump a year ago.

Meetings on the sidelines of the General Assembly often come in rapid succession, a wearying test for even the most experienced foreign policy team. Trump has a robust schedule during his stay in New York, including meetings with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, French President Emmanuel Macron, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

But while some world leaders are still reeling from Trump’s deference to Putin in their summer Helsinki summit, there will not be an encore in New York: The Russian president is not expected to attend the proceedings.

Miller reported from Washington.

Follow Lemire on Twitter at and Miller at

Timeline: Shell's Operations In Nigeria

A view shows the Bonny oil terminal in the Niger delta which is operated by Royal Dutch Shell in Port Harcourt, Nigeria August 1, 2018. Picture taken August 1, 2018. To match Insight NIGERIA-SECURITY REUTERS/Ron Bousso 

LONDON (REUTERS) - Royal Dutch Shell pioneered Nigeria’s oil and gas industry and remains a major investor in the West African country. But over the decades it has come under fire over spills in the Delta region and struggles with oil theft, corruption and oil-fueled violence.

Following are some of the highlights of Shell’s history in Nigeria:

1936 - The Royal Dutch Shell Group establishes a Nigerian venture with the precursor company of BP Plc. The first shipment of oil from Nigeria takes place in 1958.

April 1973 - Nigerian government takes a stake in the venture. Over the coming years, the government increases its stake and BP exits.

1979 - The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC) is established, incorporating assets of the older Shell-BP consortium. Over time, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation comes to own 55 percent, Shell owns 30 percent, France’s Total owns 10 percent and Italy’s Eni 5 percent. Shell remains the operator.

1990 - The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), led by firebrand environmental rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, starts campaigning for a fairer share of oil wealth for the Ogoni people living on oil fields and compensation for environmental damage.

January 1993 - MOSOP organises protests of around 300,000 Ogoni people against Shell and oil pollution. Nigeria’s military government occupies the region.

April 1993 - Shell forms Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited (SNEPCo), which signs Production Sharing Contracts to develop offshore oil and gas interests.

1993 - Shell ceases production in Ogoniland.

November 1995 - Saro-Wiwa and eight other MOSOP leaders are executed by Sani Abacha’s military government on alleged murder charges, to worldwide horror. Nigeria is suspended from the Commonwealth.

Late 1990s - Over time, Shell’s focus shifts to offshore exploration, where it enjoys better margins and fewer threats of attack by militants.

October 2003 - SPDC pumps more than 1 million barrels of oil per day.

2005 - Shell starts production at the giant Bonga offshore field.

2006 - Militant group MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) emerges and begins to attack Shell facilities. Like MOSOP it seeks a great share of oil wealth for the Delta’s people and remediation for oil spills. SPDC pump stations and platforms in Niger delta are attacked and production falls.

2008 - Two large spills, a result of operational faults, hit the community of Bodo in Ogoniland in the Niger Delta. Tens of thousands of barrels of oil are spilt.

January 2010 - SPDC sells some onshore fields and says it is no longer looking to Nigeria for growth.

April 2011 - Shell and Italy’s Eni acquire oil production licence (OPL) 245, a large offshore field, for $1.1 billion from local company Malabu.

August 2011 - A U.N. report criticises Shell and the Nigerian government for contributing to 50 years of pollution in Ogoniland which it says needs the world’s largest oil clean-up, costing an initial $1 billion and taking up to 30 years.

March 2012 - A group of 11,000 Nigerians from Bodo, Ogoniland, launch a suit against Shell at the London High Court, seeking tens of millions of dollars in compensation for the 2008 oil spills.

January 2013 - A Dutch court rules that Shell could be held partially responsible for pollution in the Niger Delta, saying the company should have prevented sabotage at one of its facilities. Four Nigerians and Friends of the Earth filed the suit originally in 2008 in the Netherlands.

January 2015 - Shell accepts liability for the Bodo spills, agreeing to pay 55 million pounds ($83 million at the time) to Bodo villagers and to clean up their lands and waterways.

May 2018 - Court case against Shell and Eni over the 2011 OPL 245 acquisition starts in Milan. Nine current and former executives and contractors, including ENI Chief Executive Claudio Descalzi, are accused by Italian prosecutors of paying bribes to secure the license.

Reporting by Ron Bousso; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

Iran summons Western diplomats over parade attack killing 25

In this photo provided by Fars News Agency, a woman takes her children to shelter as an army member tries to help them, during a shooting at a military parade marking the 38th anniversary of Iraq’s 1980 invasion of Iran, in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, Iran, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. Gunmen attacked the military parade, killing several and wounding others, state media said. (Fatemeh Rahimavian/Fars News Agency via AP)


— Militants disguised as soldiers opened fire on an annual Iranian military parade in the country’s oil-rich southwest, killing at least 25 people and wounding over 60 in the deadliest terror attack to strike the country in nearly a decade.

Women and children scattered along with once-marching Revolutionary Guard soldiers as heavy gunfire rang out Saturday at the parade in Ahvaz, the chaos captured live on state television

The region’s Arab separatists, once only known for nighttime attacks on unguarded oil pipelines, claimed responsibility for the brazen assault and Iranian officials appeared to believe the claim. Iran summoned diplomats from Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands early Sunday for allegedly harboring “members of the terrorist group” that launched the attack.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blamed regional countries and their “U.S. masters” for funding and arming the separatists, issuing a stark warning as regional tensions remain high in the wake of the U.S. withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal.

“Iran will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of Iranian lives,” Zarif wrote on Twitter.

The attack came as rows of Revolutionary Guardsmen marched down Ahvaz’s Quds, or Jerusalem, Boulevard. It was one of many around the country marking the start of Iran’s long 1980s war with Iraq, commemorations known as the “Sacred Defense Week.”

Journalists and onlookers turned to look toward the first shots, then the rows of marchers broke as soldiers and civilians sought cover under sustained gunfire. Iranian soldiers used their bodies at time to shield civilians in the melee, with one Guardsman in full dress uniform and sash carrying away a bloodied boy.

“Oh God! Go, go, go! Lie down! Lie down!” one man screamed as a woman fled with her baby.

In the aftermath, paramedics tended to the wounded as soldiers, some bloodied, helped their comrades to ambulances. Video obtained by The Associated Press of the aftermath showed bodies of soldiers, some appearing lifeless, laying on the ground in pools of blood. One had a blanket covering him. A man screamed in grief.

The attack killed at least 25 people and wounded over 60, according to the state-run IRNA news agency. It said gunmen wore military uniforms and targeted a riser where military and police commanders were sitting. At least eight of the dead served in the Revolutionary Guard, an elite paramilitary unit that answers only to Iran’s supreme leader, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency.

“We suddenly realized that some armed people wearing fake military outfits started attacking the comrades from behind (the stage) and then opened fire on women and children,” an unnamed wounded soldier told state TV. “They were just aimlessly shooting around and did not have a specific target.”

State TV hours later reported that all four gunmen had been killed, with three dying during the attack and one later succumbing to his wounds at a hospital.

President Hassan Rouhani ordered Iran’s Intelligence Ministry to immediately investigate the attack.

“The president stressed that the response of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the slightest threat would be harsh, but those who support the terrorists should be accountable,” IRNA reported.

Meanwhile, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the attack as exposing “the atrocity and viciousness of the enemies of the Iranian nation.”

“Their crime is a continuation of the conspiracies by the U.S.-backed regimes in the region which have aimed at creating insecurity in our dear country,” Khamenei said in a statement. “However, to their dismay, the Iranian nation will persist on the noble and prideful path they have taken and will — like before — overcome all animosities.”

Tensions have been on the rise between Iran and the U.S. The Trump administration in May pulled out of the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, and since then has re-imposed sanctions that were eased under the deal. It also has steadily ramped up pressure on Iran to try to get it to stop what Washington calls “malign activities” in the region.

Despite that, the U.S. government strongly condemned the attack and expressed its sympathy, saying that “the United States condemns all acts of terrorism and the loss of any innocent lives.”

Initially, authorities described the assailants as “takfiri gunmen,” a term previously used to describe the Islamic State group. Iran has been deeply involved in the fight against IS in Iraq and has aided embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad in his country’s long war.

But later, state media and government officials seemed to come to the consensus that Arab separatists in the region were responsible. The separatists accuse Iran’s Persian-dominated government of discriminating against its ethnic Arab minority, though an Ahvazi Arab, Gen. Ali Shamkhani, serves as the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.

Khuzestan province also has seen recent protests over Iran’s nationwide drought, as well as economic protests.

Iran has blamed its Mideast archrival, the Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for funding Arab separatists’ activity. State media in Saudi Arabia did not immediately acknowledge the attack, though a Saudi-linked, Farsi-language satellite channel based in the United Kingdom immediately carried an interview with an Ahvazi activist claiming Saturday’s attack.

Hamid Baeidinejad, Iran’s ambassador to the U.K., called the channel’s decision a “heinous act” in a post on Twitter and said his country would file a complaint with British authorities over the broadcast. Early Sunday, a Foreign Ministry statement quoting spokesman Bahram Qasemi similarly criticized Britain and said Danish and Dutch diplomats were told Iran “already warned” their governments about harboring Arab separatists.

Yacoub Hor al-Tostari, a spokesman for the Arab Struggle Movement to Liberate Ahvaz, told the AP that members of an umbrella group of Ahvazi activists his organization leads carried out the attack.

The attack undermined the Iranian government “on the day it wants to give a message to the world that it is powerful and in control,” al-Tostari said. To bolster his claim, he gave details about one of the attackers that the AP could not immediately verify.

The Islamic State group also claimed responsibility for the attack in a message on its Amaaq news agency, but provided no evidence it carried out the assault. They also initially wrongly said the Ahvaz attack targeted Rouhani, who was in Tehran. The militants have made a string of false claims in the wake of major defeats in Iraq and Syria.

In Tehran, Rouhani watched a military parade that included ballistic missiles capable of reaching Israel and U.S. military bases in the Mideast. Rouhani said the U.S. withdraw from the nuclear deal was an attempt to get Iran to give up its military arsenal. United Nations inspectors say Iran is still complying with the deal, which saw it limit its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

“Iran neither put its defensive arms aside nor lessens its defensive capabilities,” Rouhani said. “Iran will add to its defensive power day by day.”

Meanwhile, Iranian Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi, a spokesman for the armed forces, alleged without evidence that the four militants involved in Saturday’s attack “were dependent to the intelligence services of the U.S. and the Mossad” of Israel.

“They have been trained and organized in two Persian Gulf countries,” he said, without elaborating.

Saturday’s attack comes after a coordinated June 7, 2017 Islamic State group assault on parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. At least 18 people were killed and more than 50 wounded.

That assault shocked Tehran, which largely has avoided militant attacks in the decades after the tumult surrounding the revolution.

In the last decade, mass-casualty militant attacks have been incredibly rare. In 2009, more than 40 people, including six Guard commanders, were killed in a suicide attack by Sunni extremists in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan province.

Gambrell reported from in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writers Sarah El Deeb in Beirut, Maamoun Youssef in Cairo and television producer Mohammad Nasiri in Tehran contributed to this report.

100 Years Ago, US Fought Its Deadliest Battle In France

In this September 26, 1918 file photo, a U.S .Army 37-mm gun crew man their position during the World War One Meuse-Argonne Allied offensive in France. It was America’s largest and deadliest battle ever, with 26,000 U.S. soldiers killed and tens of thousands wounded. A hundred years ago, the Meuse-Argonne offensive contributed to bring an end to of World War One. (AP Photo, File)


— It was America’s deadliest battle ever, with 26,000 U.S. soldiers killed, tens of thousands wounded and more ammunition fired than in the whole of the Civil War. The Meuse-Argonne offensive of 1918 was also a great American victory that helped bringing an end to World War 1.

A remembrance ceremony will take place on Sunday afternoon in the Meuse-Argonne cemetery, which is surrounded by green fields and forests in Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, a village in northeastern France. More than 14,000 graves will be lit with candles to honor those buried there.

Early Sunday, volunteers began reading the soldiers’ names aloud, while others were in charge of placing candles on all the crosses. Covering 52 hectares (130 acres), Meuse-Argonne is the largest American cemetery in Europe.

William M. Matz, secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) that maintains the site, told The Associated Press that this piece of history must be retold to younger generations.

“I think it’s important for their teachers, their parents to bring them to these beautiful sites, let them walk through the rose of crosses, let them look at the walls of remembrance, let them go into the cemetery chapels and let them learn the history of what these men did 100 years ago,” he said.

“It’s because of their brave deeds, their acts of valor and courage and commitment ... that these young folks are able to live and enjoy the life that they’re living,” he added.

During seven weeks of combat, 1.2 million American troops led by Gen. John J. Pershing fought to advance on the entrenched positions held by about 450,000 Germans in the Verdun region.

The offensive that started on Sept. 26, 1918, was one of several simultaneous Allied attacks that brought the war which started in 1914 to an end, leading the Germans to retreat and sign the armistice on November 11.

Pershing said “the success stands out as one of the very great achievements in the history of American arms.”

At the cemetery, eight wide grave sections with long regular rows of crosses stretch between the trees on the gentle slopes of a hill. On top is a chapel where the names of 954 missing American soldiers, whose bodies were never found or identified, are engraved.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

CNN: Christiane Amanpour Interviews South Africa's Emmerson Mnangagwa

South Africa's President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Face-to-Face 'Interview' With CNN's Christiane Amampour in New York Friday, September 21, 2018. Mnangagwa is attending the 73rd Ordinary Session of the United Nations General Assembly


CA: President Mnangagwa, welcome to the show. Thanks for joining me.

ED: Thank you, thank you.

CA: So here you are in the United States at the UN General Assembly. It’s your maiden speech. And it’s no secret that the world had a very, very negative impression of Zimbabwe for many, many years. President Mugabe seemed to stay in power forever and now here you are. What is it that you want to tell the world from the pulpit of the UN?

ED: Well, the first point is that there is a new administration of the Second Republic of Zimbabwe, which I lead. We have just completed harmonised general elections in July this year. So this time around, after many years of Independence and several elections, this is the only time we as Zimbabweans had democratic space for everyone, to exercise their rights. This is the only time in our history since Independence in 1980 that we had more – we usually had about five political parties contesting elections, this time around, because of the democratic political space which we created, we had 133 political parties; and of those 133 political parties, 56 contested the elections.

CA: So you’re talking about a much more pluralistic Zimbabwe. You say that it’s a new day, a new team, and a new democracy. What do you say to the people of Zimbabwe and the people who are observing around the world about whether you can be a unifier? Obviously, your election victory was very, very narrow, it was less than one percent and people have complained about it; people have said, you know, they hope you won’t be divisive, and be just for the Zanu-PF voters. Let me tell you what the United States has said about the post-election situation. The State Department in August said, “The United States government is greatly concerned by credible reports of numerous detentions, beatings and other abuses of Zimbabweans over the past week, particularly targeting opposition activists.” That is the new Zimbabwe?

ED: I can assure you that this time around we had a very peaceful, free, fair election, which we have never experienced before. I am happy that that culture is taking root. I believe that we should do everything possible under this administration to cultivate that culture, to make sure our people develop a culture of accepting opposing views within the community. And I am happy that during the entire process, the electoral process, we didn’t have any disturbances. All the political parties accessed voters whom they thought would support them. The only event which is regrettable is the one which happened two days after the elections. We regret that event and we are doing everything possible… Just before I came here I appointed a commission of inquiry to deal with that. I felt that it would not be proper for ourselves to investigate ourselves, which is why we have an outside inquiry. But besides, my message from the day I took over on the 24th of November last year is peace, peace, unity, unity and love among our people. Yes, indeed, in terms of our constitution and the terms of Commonwealth parliamentary democracy, it is first-past-the-post. I had 50,6 percent. My nearest contender had 44, I think. In terms of our Constitution, I won the elections, although the victory is very narrow as you say (chuckles). I hope that as we go forward and as we open up Zimbabwe … people can understand that we can do better. But if the opposition are going to have a better message than us, then the next election someone else (will win).

CA: The opposition, you say, they have a better message…?

ED: If the people think the other political parties have a better message than my political party they will obviously vote for the party that has the better message.

CA: So, Mr President, you have a pretty big task because you say all these things and you also were part of the old regime, right, the Mugabe regime, for all those years from the liberation struggle until you took over. And many people are asking, I think legitimately, is this really a new Government? Is it really a new dawn? Or is it a lot of the old guard now taking on a new role? Some people will describe is as old wine in new bottles.

ED: If you look at me, then you would say I belong to the old guard, and that is a fact. But look at my Cabinet, look at the new Cabinet which I have. How many people are new in that Cabinet? You can see the direction which we are going. And I said this before the conclusion of the elections: that I’m going to bring in new people with expertise in various areas, women and youth. And I have done so. So I believe that people should examine what I am doing and not live on perceptions. I believe that the past should be left behind and we do our best for the future and work for the betterment of our people. To do so, in my view, I need the best brains the country can produce across the board.

CA: So in that case are you asking for many expatriates to come back, whether they are black or white? Because you know it was a very difficult situation for many in Zimbabwe, but especially for whites. President Mugabe said many things about them and they were, you know, burnt out or run out of their farms and homes and country. You have appointed a commission to try and attract them back. Is it going to be a friendly place for white Zimbabweans?

ED: I can assure you that under my administration, the issue of colour has no place. It is the issue of expertise which we want. We want to grow our economy, we want to modernise our economy, we want to industrialise our economy. Expertise can reside in whatever colour. And fortunately, our people in Zimbabwe, they reason above that. We have a huge white population; Indian, white, other groups, they’re there. We are a family. So we have no problem with that at all.

CA: You may not think it is about colour but it is about reconciliation, and I’m interested – you did just say you want to forget about the past and move forward. I guess I just want to ask you, President Mugabe was accused of many violations of human rights, of corruption, of all sorts of violations and abuses. Would a Mnangagwa administration hold the former President accountable in any kind of way, in a court, in a truth and reconciliation kind of way? Is that on the agenda?

ED: We cannot put an agenda on a person. We put an agenda to make sure all those involved in corruption account for (the) corruption they committed. We have a Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission. I have strengthened that one, which is indicative of my desire to deal with corruption. And so many cases are being prosecuted, if you are following, of prominent persons who have been affected by the drive we are having now against corruption. But, indeed, we will not, as the new administration, focus on the past. We need to focus, because we are going to live in the future, we will never live in the past again. Yes, we regret whatever happened in the past. And I have a National Peace and Reconciliation Commission dealing with things that happened in the past. My administration, our focus is to make Zimbabwe a better place; is to make Zimbabwe acceptable again in the international community. We must embrace. We are re-engaging and engaging nations and international organisations to be accepted. And we must remove any pieces of legislation which will be constraints in the areas of political reform. We are determined to move forward and be a member of the international community again, embraced by all societies in the family of nations.

CA: So President Mugabe has been one of the longest serving presidents on the African continent. He just wouldn’t leave. Elections or no elections, he just wouldn’t go. And I asked him in my interview with him …

ED: Oh you did? (Laughing)

CA: … and he said I will never leave at the hand of imperialists, and he was furious at the idea of leaving. I’m going to play a sound bite, and he was saying I will not leave power, this is about regime change, we will dig in, we will remain in our trenches. So in retrospect, Mr President, now that you are the President, was it regrettable that President Mugabe didn’t leave legitimately and under elections a long, long time ago?

ED: The issue is that under Commonwealth parliamentary democracy, the political party which has the majority in Parliament chooses its leader, and my predecessor was generally being accepted by his party. But now under the new Constitution, which came into effect on the 22nd of May 2013, we have now limited the terms of presidency to two terms – if you are able to have two terms. But beyond that, the Constitution forbids …

CA: (Interjecting) you have pledged that you will abide by that…

ED: I’d like to entrench constitutionalism in Zimbabwe…

CA: (Interjecting) Will you abide by the …

ED: I will abide by that without any iota of resistance at all. Even if the people love me, I will still go away because I believe constitutionalism is important. In fact, we must give people the chance to have other leaders. Ten years is not a short period. In my view, it’s quite a long period; and if you have a vision, a period long enough to implement your vision.

CA: Clearly you have a vision, a desire, to move Zimbabwe away from the past. But let’s face it, you are part of the old regime, you were President Mugabe’s intelligence chief, you did take part in the suppression of the elections in 2008, when Morgan Tsvangirai actually won the parliamentary vote and actually they believe they won the first round of the Presidential election. Again, do you regret that? And I ask you this because upon Morgan Tsvangirai’s death not so long ago, you said something very important about it. You said, both in and after the Government of National Unity, he remained a national figure who obdurately insisted on free, fair and credible non-violent elections as a way of strengthening our democracy. Those were your words.

ED: That is true, that is what I said. But the point is, during that election, former Prime Minister Tsvangirai had 47 percent of the vote and my predecessor had 43, I think, percent of the vote, which meant that the former Prime Minister had a better vote than my predecessor. But the Constitution demanded that for one to become President he must have 50 percent-plus-one, which the former Prime Minister did not achieve. That was the basis of that run-off. But again, as I said…

CA: (Interjecting) It was considered a bit of a stitch up. Do you regret it?

ED: The voters themselves did not make Tsvangirai get 50 percent-plus-one. I regret that (the President at that) time did not achieve 50 percent-plus-one in that election. But, again, I do not feel it is necessary anymore for people to dwell on the past. Let us look into the future. Let us – all of us – collectively as a people under one flag, under one national anthem, under the guidance of our new Constitution, move forward and improve the economic environment so that we attract global capital to our country. For the past two decades we have been an isolated island (inaudible) … Let us have this change.

CA: You have constantly said “my predecessor, my predecessor”, you never mentioned his name …

ED: (laughing) You have mentioned it.

CA: …Mugabe. And I wanted to ask, does he call you “Mr President”? Do you hear from him? What is his …

ED: (laughing) He calls me ED.


ED: Yes.

CA: And what is “ED”?

ED: I’m Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa. E for Emmerson, D for Dambudzo … And he calls me, when I phone him, he says, “ED, how are you?” And I say…

CA: (Interjecting) And he doesn’t say Mr President to you?

ED: Officially, when he writes letters, he addresses me as “President”. He calls me that, formally.

CA: Because I read that you tried to restrain some of his excesses, some of his impulses. He wanted to go with a big plane, with a 38-person entourage, for his medical check in Singapore. And you had to try to clip those wings. Was that difficult for you? What did you say to him?

ED: No. I followed the Statutory Instrument which provides for the issues of a former President. It states how many security (personnel), how many staff, and how many times he will be able to go out per year. So it indeed is correct that initially he wanted the same level as before, then I informed him that this is not the correct (position) anymore. My predecessor is a lawyer, like myself … And he accepted it.

CA: His wife, Grace, is …

ED: That is something …

CA: What did you say?

ED: That is something else. (laughs)

CA: (laughing) I mean she wanted to be the leader, she didn’t want you to be the leader. There are suspicions that she and her gang even tried to poison you with a poisoned ice cream cone…

ED: Well, I was poisoned. And up to today I don’t know what was happening for (the first) two days. My Vice President, one of my current Vice Presidents, was quick enough to fly me to South Africa where I was saved. I …

CA: How did they save you? What was the process?

ED: After two days of being unconscious…

CA: Unconscious?

ED; Yes. So they said the level of poisoning was very high, something like 31 percent. It was reduced in six days down to 11 percent. And I had something like three to four hours of life (had I not been rushed to South Africa). I would have died of cardiac failure. The research which was done by various doctors in South Africa, in Australia and some other places, Europe, I think, where the tests were done, called it metal poisoning, arsenic metal poisoning. And they narrowed it as to where it could have come from … Well, the speculation as to who administered it … Well, I’m back now. The level of poisoning, my last review says the level of poisoning in my system now is under three percent.

CA: Well that’s good news for you, but do you think you still face a threat from, they call her Gucci Grace, Mrs Mugabe?

ED: Well, on the 23rd of June I escaped another assassination attempt. But, again, I don’t say it is from Mrs Mugabe. That’s the duty of security services and the intelligence services.

CA: Have you said anything to your predecessor, Robert Mugabe, about this, to keep his wife under control?

ED: If I did that it would mean I have something against her, or some evidence against her. I don’t have evidence against her, the former First Lady. I like the legal process to take place, let the security handle it… Whatever the outcome (of the investigations). At the end of the day, I’m alive.

CA: You’re alive. And my last question is, you’re also known as The Crocodile. (ED laughs) Snapping jaws, vicious…

ED: Well, if you have the time I can explain how it comes about.

CA: Are you The Crocodile?

ED: No, I’m human. (Laughter). In 1964, when we had come from Nanking, China, where I had done my military training, our leader then, the late Reverend Ndabaningi Sithole, deployed us. And he named my group “Crocodile”. None of my colleagues are around, they passed on. So during the entire process of the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe, my colleagues referred to me as Crocodile. But my totem is Lion. So this is how it is. Let me assure you, I’m as soft as wool. But I have the traits of being patient like a crocodile.

CA: What about the traits of the lion?

ED: That depends, being calculative, and also hunting.

CA: So I want to ask you, you mentioned the liberation struggle, in the spirit of truth and reconciliation. Obviously, there was a massacre in Matabeleland during the 1980s, and you know, there were descriptions of what was being described as North Korean-trained Zimbabwean forces killing some 20 000 people. Again, is that something that you would consider a formal, national apology for?

ED: At the time that happened, my predecessor said it was a moment of madness, that’s what he said, which is a result of what was happening internally. But when I took over, I felt that we needed to have finality on this issue. So I appointed a Peace and National Reconciliation Commission, which is now eight months into investigations and gathering evidence. And whatever report they are going to make, I’ve promised the nation that I will make it public.

CA: And if it’s the worst of the worst, will you apologise?

ED: Exactly. It will be on the basis of that report and the recommendations of that report. We should be man enough as a Government to accept whatever recommendations are made and see how, as a Government, we comply with the recommendations of the report. What I will not want to do is, in advance, say I will do this, I will do that. We will act according to the report.

CA: President Emmerson Mnangagwa, thank you very much.

ED: Thank you

World Leaders Gather At UN Under Threat From Unilateralism

In this Sept. 19, 2017 file photo, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres addresses the 72nd meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters. This year, 133 world leaders have signed up to attend the General Assembly session, a significant increase from the 114 leaders last year. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the expected large turnout “eloquent proof of the confidence of the international community in the United Nations” though other U.N. officials and diplomats say it’s because of growing concerns about an increasingly turbulent world. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)


— With rising unilateralism challenging its very existence, the United Nations convenes its annual meeting of world leaders Monday and will try once more to tackle problems together as a community of nations, addressing threats ranging from Mideast conflicts to the effects of global warming — and also encouraging the glimmer of hope over the nuclear standoff in North Korea.

This year, 133 world leaders have signed up to attend the General Assembly session, a significant increase from last year’s 114. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the expected large turnout “eloquent proof of the confidence of the international community in the United Nations,” though other U.N. officials and diplomats said it’s in response to growing concerns about an increasingly turbulent world.

The seven-year-old conflict in Syria and the three-year war in Yemen that has sparked the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and is now seriously threatening large-scale famine will certainly be in the spotlight, along with meetings on other Mideast and African hot spots. So will Iran, which faces escalating hostile rhetoric from the Trump administration over its activities supporting international terrorism, which Tehran vehemently denies.

Guterres said last week that one of his overriding concerns in an increasingly globalized world is the threat to having the U.N.’s 193 member nations work together, which is the foundation of the United Nations.

“Multilateralism is under attack from many different directions precisely when we need it most,” the U.N. chief told reporters Thursday. “In different areas and for different reasons, the trust of people in their political establishments, the trust of states among each other, the trust of many people in international organizations has been eroded and ... multilateralism has been in the fire.”

Guterres challenged diplomats at last week’s opening of the 73rd session of the General Assembly by saying: “At a time of fragmentation and polarization, the world needs this assembly to show the value of international cooperation.”

Whether it will be able to remains in question.

At this year’s gathering of presidents, prime ministers, monarchs and minsters, populist leaders will include U.S. President Donald Trump, President Andrzej Duda of Poland and Premier Giuseppe Conte of Italy along with the foreign ministers of Hungary and Austria.

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters that Trump, who champions an “America First” policy, wants to talk about “protecting U.S. sovereignty,” and she reiterated Washington’s opposition to the 2015 Paris climate agreement on curbing global warming and a newly agreed international compact aimed at regulating migration.

“We really value sovereignty of the country,” Haley said. “It is not saying multilateralism can’t work, but it’s saying sovereignty is a priority over all of that, and we always have to make sure we’re doing that — and there are many countries that agree with us.”

Before stepping down as U.N. humanitarian chief Aug. 31, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein expressed serious concern that populism, intolerance and oppression are “becoming fashionable again.”

“It all builds, because once you start down the path of intolerance, it’s very difficult to stop it, unless at the end of the day you have conflict,” he said.

French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to be a key voice joining Guterres in the coming week in speaking out against this trend and supporting multilateralism as key to promoting peace.

The week’s activities kick off with a peace summit Monday morning honoring the 100th birthday this year of South African anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela. A statue of Mandela will be unveiled at U.N. headquarters and leaders are expected to adopt a declaration recognizing the years 2019-2028 as the Nelson Mandela Decade of Peace.

Trump is hosting an event Monday on “The World Drug Problem” and Haley said 124 countries have signed a global call to action. Activists on drug policy note it was never negotiated, and one group, the Harm Reduction Coalition, called it “an instance of heavy-handed U.S. ‘with us or against us’ diplomacy.”

The increasingly strident U.S. rhetoric against Iran is expected to be a feature in U.S. speeches. Haley said that “every dangerous spot in the world — Iran seems to have its fingerprints in it,” which Tehran denies.

Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement in May and the foreign ministers of the five remaining powers who support the deal — Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — are expected to meet privately Monday evening with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The General Assembly’s “General Debate,” as the ministerial session is called, officially opens Tuesday with Guterres’ report on the state of the world, to be followed soon after by speeches from Trump, Macron and late in the morning by President Hassan Rouhani of Iran.

The U.S. holds the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council in September and has scheduled two ministerial meetings, the first on Wednesday presided over by Trump. It was initially to focus on Iran but has now been broadened to the topic of “nonproliferation” of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

“I’m sure that is going to be the most watched Security Council meeting ever,” Haley told reporters.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will preside over the second meeting Thursday on North Korea, an issue the Security Council was united on in imposing increasingly tough sanctions. But that unity now appears to be at risk over enforcement of sanctions and the broader issues of how to achieve denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and when sanctions should be lifted against North Korea.

Guterres welcomed the recent “positive meeting” in Pyongyang between the leaders of North and South Korea but warned that “there will not be success in intra-Korean negotiations if simultaneously there is not success in the American and North Korean” negotiations to rid the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the United Nations has received 342 requests for meetings during the high-level week.

They includes sessions on conflicts in Syria, Libya, Yemen, Mali and Central African Republic as well as the plight of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, aid for Palestinians, education for girls, modern slavery, environmental threats, efforts to end poverty, and the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Asked what are the big issues, Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, told The Associated Press: “All of them are big issues — nonproliferation, cooperation, the world peace architecture — it’s every year, but this year it’s maybe more topical than ever.”

Uruguayan Ambassador Elbio Rosselli said the biggest issue for his country is multilateralism.

“It’s a vow that all of us ought to keep reinforcing particularly at this conjuncture where so many undercurrents and contrary views are surfacing on different scenarios,” he told AP. “The validity of this institution is more than ever necessary, and for that we need the recommitment of all states.”

Kavanaugh Accuser Wants To Talk To Senate; Terms Up In Air

In this Sept. 5, 2018, file photo, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, for the second day of his confirmation hearing to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)


— The woman accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of a decades-old sexual assault has accepted a Senate committee’s request to tell her side next week but Christine Blasey Ford wants to resume negotiations over the exact terms of her appearance, her lawyers said Saturday.

It was not immediately clear whether the Republican-run Senate Judiciary Committee would agree to more talks with Ford’s team. Also unclear was when she might come to Capitol Hill and she was offering to speak in a public session or a private one. The committee wanted her to appear Wednesday, but she prefers her earlier request for Thursday, according to a person familiar with the negotiations who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Her lawyers’ letter to the committee’s GOP majority was released just at the 2:30 p.m. deadline set by the chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley, to respond to the panel’s latest offer. Grassley, R-Iowa, had set a possible Monday vote to decide whether to recommend Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate.

As Republicans were considering their next move in private talks Saturday, they also made it clear they viewed Ford’s offer as a way to delay voting on President Donald Trump’s pick for the court.

A senior official at the White House said the letter amounted to “an ask to continue ‘negotiations’ without committing to anything. It’s a clever way to push off the vote Monday without committing to appear Wednesday.” The official was not authorized to publicly discuss the Senate negotiations and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The White House views Ford’s potential testimony with trepidation, nervous that an emotional performance might not just damage Kavanaugh’s chances but could further energize female voters to turn out against Republicans in November against the backdrop of the #MeToo movement.

Moreover, the West Wing aides who had urged Trump to remain muted in his response to the accusations worried about how the president might react if she ended up partaking in an hourslong, televised hearing. In a single tweet Friday, Trump broke his silence to cast doubt on Ford’s story in ways Republicans had been carefully trying to avoid.

Trump mused to confidants that the “fake” attacks against his nominee were meant to undermine his presidency, according to a White House official and a Republican close to the White House. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss private conversations.

Other Republicans scoffed at Ford’s willingness to accept the committee’s request to tell her story.

“When?” tweeted the No. 2 GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a member of the committee.

The lawyers for Ford wrote that she “accepts the Committee’s request to provide her first-hand knowledge of Brett Kavanaugh’s sexual misconduct next week.”

Attorneys Debra Katz and Lisa Banks said many aspects of Grassley’s latest offer were “fundamentally inconsistent” with the committee’s promise of a “fair, impartial investigation.” They said they remained disappointed by the “bullying” that “tainted the process.” Yet they remained “hopeful that we can reach agreement on details.”

It was unclear whether Grassley would permit more negotiations Saturday, with patience among Republicans is running thin. The GOP is facing enormous pressure from its base of conservative leaders and voters to swiftly approve Kavanaugh, who would become the second of President Donald Trump’s nominees to sit on the nation’s highest court, before the Nov. 6 election.

A spokesman for GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, a committee member, tweeted that Ford “agreed to nothing. She rejected the committee’s offer to testify Wednesday.”

Earlier Saturday amid the latest deadline standoff Vice President Mike Pence called Kavanaugh “a man of integrity with impeccable credentials.” He expressed confidence that Republicans “will manage this confirmation properly with the utmost respect for all concerned” and said he expected Kavanaugh to join the high court soon.

Grassley had set a Friday night deadline for the 51-year-old California psychology professor to agree to the committee’s latest offer setting terms for her appearance. Grassley said that if she missed that deadline, he would scrap the hearing and his committee would vote on sending Kavanaugh’s nomination to the full Senate.

Ford’s lawyers asked for another day. In a tweet aimed at Kavanaugh shortly before midnight, Grassley said he was giving them additional time.

“She shld decide so we can move on. I want to hear her. I hope u understand. It’s not my normal approach to b indecisive,” Grassley wrote.

Ford’s accusations and the standoff over the terms of her appearance have left the appeals court judge’s confirmation in jeopardy. And just seven weeks from an election in which Democrats are hoping to capture control of the House and maybe the Senate, her emergence also has drawn intensified attention to the #MeToo movement’s focus on sexual abuse.

Ford says an inebriated Kavanaugh pinned her on a bed, muffled her cries and tried removing her clothes when both were teenagers in the 1980s. Kavanaugh has denied doing this and said he wants to appear before the committee as soon as possible to clear his name.

In backing away from his deadline, Grassley underscored the sensitivity with which Senate Republicans have tried handling Ford. Moderate female voters will be pivotal in many races in the elections and the #MeToo movement has elevated the political potency of how women alleging abuse are treated.

In requesting another day to decide, Katz called Grassley’s original deadline “arbitrary” and said its “sole purpose is to bully Dr. Ford and deprive her of the ability to make a considered decision that has life-altering implications for her and her family.”

Earlier Friday, Grassley rejected concessions Ford wanted if she is tell her story publicly before the committee.

Grassley turned down Ford’s request that only senators, not attorneys, be allowed to ask questions. The committee’s 11 Republicans — all men — have been seeking an outside female attorney to interrogate Ford, mindful of the election-season impression that could be left by men trying to pick apart a woman’s assertion of a sexual attack.

He also rejected her proposal that she testify after Kavanaugh, a position lawyers consider advantageous because it gives them a chance to rebut accusations.

Grassley’s stance reflected a desire by Trump and GOP leaders to usher the 53-year-old Kavanaugh onto the high court by the Oct. 1 start of its new session and before the November elections, when Democrats are mounting a robust drive to grab congressional control.

Friday was the latest in a string of tumultuous days for Kavanaugh, whose ascension to the Supreme Court seemed a sure bet until Ford emerged last weekend and provided details of the alleged assault.

Earlier, Trump ended a week of constraint and sarcastically assailed Ford, tweeting that if the episode was “as bad as she says,” she or “her loving parents” surely would have reported it to law enforcement.

Trump’s searing reproach defied the Senate Republican strategy, and the advice of White House aides, of not disparaging Ford while firmly defending his nominee and the tight timetable for confirming him.

The president’s tweet brought blistering rejoinders from Democrats and a mix of silence and sighs of regret from his own party. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who hasn’t declared support for Kavanaugh, called the remark “appalling.”

Grassley rebuffed other Ford requests, including calling additional witnesses. Ford wants an appearance by Mark Judge, a Kavanaugh friend who Ford asserts was at the high school party and in the room where the incident occurred.

Grassley consented to other Ford demands, including that she be provided security and that Kavanaugh not be in the hearing room when she testifies.

Ford’s request for security comes after her lawyers said she has relocated her family due to death threats.

Lemire reported from Bridgewater, New Jersey.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Fugitive New Mexico Priest Pleads Not Guilty To Sex Abuse

This 1989 file photo shows Father Arthur Perrault in Albuquerque, N.M. Perrault, a fugitive priest who fled the U.S. decades ago amid allegations of child sex abuse has been returned to New Mexico to face charges after being arrested in Morocco last year, federal officials said Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. (The Albuquerque Journal via AP, File)


— A fugitive priest who fled the U.S. decades ago amid allegations of child sex abuse has been returned to New Mexico to face charges after being arrested in Morocco last year, federal officials said Friday.

Arthur J. Perrault, 80, a former Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and a former Air Force chaplain, has been charged in a federal indictment with seven counts of aggravated sexual abuse and abusive sexual contact between 1991 and 1992 at Kirtland Air Force Base and Santa Fe National Cemetery.

Perrault, a one-time pastor at St. Bernadette parish in Albuquerque, is one of many priests who were sent to New Mexico in the 1960s from around the country for treatment involving pedophilia.

Victims, lawyers and church documents show the priests were later assigned to parishes and schools across New Mexico — especially in small Native American and Hispanic communities.

At a court appearance Friday, Perrault pleaded not guilty to all seven counts against him. His attorney couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

“The FBI and our partners were determined to make sure he faced justice — no matter how long it took and how far we had to go to get him,” said James Langenberg, FBI special agent in charge of the Albuquerque office.

Perrault vanished in 1992, just days before an attorney filed two lawsuits against the archdiocese alleging Perrault had sexually assaulted seven children at his parish.

The FBI said Perrault first fled to Canada and then to Tangier, Morocco, where he worked until last year at an English-language school for children.

The FBI did not provide further details on how he was located and arrested by Moroccan authorities.

Church records released last year by a New Mexico judge show Perrault is also accused in state lawsuits of sexually abusing at least 38 boys in other incidents.

The federal charges involve a boy who was younger than 12 at the time of the alleged abuse on the air base and at the cemetery — both federal jurisdictions.

“This is a great day for survivors of clergy abuse everywhere,” said Brad Hall, an attorney who has represented more than 100 victims of Catholic clergy abuse in New Mexico.

Records show Perrault was sent in 1965 to Servants of the Paraclete — a religious order that ran a treatment center for pedophile priests in Jemez Springs, New Mexico — after he was accused of molesting young men while serving in Connecticut.

A year later, he was recommended for a teaching post at St. Pius X High School in Albuquerque by a psychologist under contract with Servants of the Paraclete.

Langenberg said the FBI’s investigation began in 2016 and led to the indictment last year.

“There were some people who doubted Mr. Perrault would ever be back to New Mexico after being away for so long,” Langenberg said. “It was important to prove them wrong for one reason — the victim in this case.”

Thursday, September 20, 2018

‘700 Nigerian Children Die Daily’

FILE PHOTO: Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, center, welcomes FCT school children to the State House, Abuja, during events to commemorate 2017 Children's Day May 26, 2017. Image via The Guardian

KADUNA (NAN)--The Maternal and New Child Health (MNCH2), a UK-DFID funded programme, has claimed that Nigeria loses about 700 Nigerian children daily as a result of different preventable health challenges.

Dr Ashiru Hamza, the Advocacy and Accountability Advisor of the organisation, disclosed this while presenting the evidence at an Editorial Roundtable meeting in Kaduna on Thursday.

MNCH2 organised the meeting in order to step up media coverage on health related issues aimed at sustaining the MNCH2 intervention in the six northern states of Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Jigawa, Yobe and Zamfara as the programme is exiting its five years intervention by May 2019.

According to him, the country accounted for 10 per cent annual maternal death globally based on a survey conducted in Nigeria in 2016.

He said: “The under-5 mortality in the northern parts of the country is also much higher than the national rate which is 265 and 120, respectively.’’
He noted that women and under-5 children suffered treatable complications in pregnancy and childbirth such as injury, infection and disability.

He further said several studies conducted in the country indicated a drop in maternal mortality in Southwest and South East by 165 and 286, respectively, while the situation had remained as high as 1,549 and 1,026 in the North East and North West, respectively.

This, Hamza said, was also caused by lack of accountability and transparency where a substantial proportion of health funds do not reach the end user with the consequences of children who lost their mothers 10 times likely to die prematurely.

The Deputy Team Leader (Results) of MNCH2 Nigeria, Dr Dauda Suleman, had earlier urged the participants to influence concern from policy makers to improve the healthcare indices.

The meeting was attended by public and private media executives; representative of Palladium, Dr Ibrahim Dala; and a representation from Nigerian Health Watch.

NNPC Records N17.16 Billion Trading Surplus


The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), has recorded trading surplus of N17.16billion in April, 2018.

NNPC Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Ndu Ughamadu, who made this known in a statement, yesterday said the development was part of the highlight of the Corporation’s Monthly Financial and Operations Report for the review period.

The report, which is the 33rd edition since NNPC commenced the monthly publication of its financial and operations data as part of efforts to instill a culture of transparency and keep stakeholders, and the general public informed of its activities, indicated a N5.43billion improvement representing 46.29 per cent on the trading surplus recorded in the previous month of March, 2018.

According to the report released in Abuja, the trading surplus was achieved through a combined higher performance by the upstream, midstream (refineries) and downstream sectors, as well as a reduction in the Corporate Headquarters’ operational expenditure.

It said: “This enhanced performance is attributable to robust revenues from sales of crude oil and petroleum products by NPDC and PPMC as well as the upsurge in refineries’ performance, particularly in the Port Harcourt Refining Company (PHRC).”

On the gas production and supply front, it indicated that the average daily production for April, 2018, stood at 8,054.46 billion cubic feet (bcf), out of which an average of 835.27 million metric standard cubic feet (mmscf), equivalent of 3,283 megawatts of electricity, was supplied to the power sector daily during the review period.

“The result, when compared with that of April, 2017, implies an increase of 496mw of power generated relative to same period last year”, the report stated.

It further showed that in the period under review, a total of 1.61 billion litres of Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) was supplied by NNPC in furtherance of the zero fuel queue policy of the Federal Government.

The NNPC said it recorded a 48.21 per cent reduction in the rate of pipeline vandalism which fell to 166 from 224 vandalised points in the previous month.

According to the report, the Aba-Enugu pipeline segment accounted for 78 vandalised points, representing 84.78 per cent of total vandalised points on the nation’s network of products pipelines.

Meanwhile, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) generated over N4trillion to the Federal Government coffers in the last five years, it was learnt yesterday.

The revenue exceeded the target of the organisation for the period of five years that ended in 2017.

Officials of the Planning Division of the DPR Assistant Director, Budget and Strategic Planning, Steve Ayuba and the Accountant Planning Division, Badmus Mustafa Amodu stated this on the Radio Nigeria, Half Hour, monitored by The Nation.

They expressed optimism that the future of the organization would be brighter and expected to exceed the present revenue generation profile.

Ayuba said: “If you look at the performance of the DPR from 2017. In oil revenue performance, you will find that the DPR has generate well over N4trillion to the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the last five years. In the next five years, projections are looking very bright and brighter than what we have done in the last five years and what the government expects of us.”

The DPR, according to him, collects all revenue for the federation, and it does not operate any account for itself.

Nigeria Police Say $470.5 Million Retrieved In Asset Recovery Exercise

YENAGOA, NIGERIA (REUTERS) - Police in Nigeria recovered $470.5 million in bank accounts related to the state oil company as part of an exercise to recover stolen funds, and the money will be sent to government coffers, the country’s police force said on Thursday.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who won the 2015 election on an anti-corruption ticket, ordered government revenues to be placed in a Treasury Single Account (TSA) at the central bank as part of an anti-corruption drive. Money recovered from alleged graft would also be put in the account.

The police on Thursday said they had launched a nationwide exercise to recover stolen funds, to be placed in the TSA, during which it discovered money related to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s (NNPC) Liquefied Natural Gas business unit.

Police recovered “$470,519,889.10 belonging to NNPC Brass/LNG Investment hidden in some commercial banks after the directives of the federal government on TSA,” police spokesman Jimoh Moshood said in an emailed statement.

Moshood, who said the recovery followed an investigation by specialist police units, did not state when the money was recovered.

A spokesman for NNPC did not immediately respond to phone calls and text messages requesting comment.

Buhari plans to seek a second term in a presidential elections scheduled to take place in February 2019.

Nigeria, Africa’s top crude oil producer and which has one of the continent’s largest economies, in early 2017 emerged from its first recession in 25 years, which was largely caused by low oil prices.

Reporting by Tife Owolabi; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Leslie Adler

Sentencing Options For Cosby Include Prison, Jail, Probation

In this April 26, 2018, file photo, Bill Cosby, center, leaves the the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa. Cosby is due in court Monday, Sept. 24, for a two-day sentencing hearing that follows his conviction on three counts of aggravated indecent assault. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)


— Bill Cosby could be sent to prison next week for drugging and molesting a woman at his suburban Philadelphia home in 2004 in what became the first celebrity trial of the #MeToo era.

Cosby is due in court Monday for a two-day sentencing hearing that follows his conviction in the spring on three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault.

The judge’s options are broad, because the state guideline range of about one to four years spans the gamut from a prison term to a jail stint to house arrest or probation. The maximum term is 10 years per count.

Lawyers for the 81-year-old, legally blind Cosby will no doubt stress his age, health problems, legacy and philanthropy as they plead to keep him at home, while prosecutors hope to call other accusers to paint Cosby as a sexual predator deserving of prison.

Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O’Neill may aim straight for the heart of the guidelines to blunt public criticism from both sides and avoid being overturned on appeal, legal experts said.

“If you give a sentence in the middle, almost no one can complain,” said Daniel Filler, dean of Drexel University’s Kline School of Law, who studies sex assault issues. “And because the case has mitigating factors and aggravating factors, that’s the most likely outcome.”

Cosby should learn his fate by Tuesday.


Jurors convicted Cosby of sexually assaulting Andrea Constand without consent, while she was impaired and after incapacitating her. Though each count carries a 10-year maximum sentence, O’Neill will likely merge them since all three stem from the same encounter, in effect weighing only one charge, legal experts say.

State guidelines call for a base 22-to-36-month sentence. The judge can add up to a year for aggravating factors - such as the 60-some other accusers, Cosby’s denials and lack of remorse, and even his defense team’s repeated attacks on the judge and prosecutor. Then O’Neill could deduct up to a year for mitigating factors - Cosby’s age, health and perhaps even the $3.4 million he paid to settle Constand’s related lawsuit.

The Associated Press does not typically identify sexual assault victims without their permission, which Constand has granted.


If Cosby gets even a day more than two years, he’ll enter the state prison system, with a first stop at SCI Phoenix, a new $400 million, 3,830-bed prison in suburban Philadelphia where staff would assess his physical, medical and security needs. Cosby could end up in a long-term medical care unit there or elsewhere. If he’s deemed at risk because of his celebrity or as a risk to others, he’d be held in solitary confinement, spending most of the day alone in his cell.

Otherwise, he’d likely share a two-person cell, leaving for meals, exercise, counseling and other activities. He’d be free to bring a personal tablet for music or games but wouldn’t have internet access, corrections spokeswoman Amy Worden said.

If Cosby gets two years or less, he’d likely go to the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in nearby Eagleville, a 2,080-bed site that also has a medical unit. Or O’Neill could give him less than a year and let him serve some or all of the time on home confinement, typically with an ankle monitor or probation.

The key question, if Cosby gets time, is whether O’Neill lets him stay home while he appeals his conviction. The violent nature of the crime works against him, but Cosby’s age might work in his favor.

“You don’t want your client to go to prison and find out that (in) those twilight years of their life they shouldn’t have had to spend there in the first place,” said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson.


More than 60 other women accuse Cosby of sexual misconduct during his 50-year show business career. O’Neill allowed five of them to testify at trial, while others came to watch the court proceedings. District Attorney Kevin Steele wants some of them to speak at the sentencing.

O’Neill on Wednesday ruled out the testimony of most of the other accusers, other than the five trial witnesses. But whether any of them testify, he already knows their stories well after presiding at both trials and several intense pretrial hearings over their “prior bad act” testimony.

“The judge knows a ton about Mr. Cosby whether or not the D.A. puts on a single witness,” Filler said.


O’Neill, who is married and has three adult sons, took the bench in 2002. He has watched the Cosby team’s attacks on the court system intensify, and grow more personal, as the stakes grew.

When the first trial ended in a deadlock in June 2017, the defense attacked the judge and prosecutor from the courthouse steps. In court in April, moments after his conviction, Cosby called Steele an expletive and said he was “sick of him.”

Then, just this week, Camille Cosby filed a state ethics complaint against O’Neill, invoking a long-ago romance to allege he had a bias in the case. She has called him “arrogant,” ″unethical” and “corrupt.”

Lawyer Samuel Stretton, who often represents Pennsylvania judges in disciplinary hearings, called O’Neill an even-keeled professional who “understands human nature.” He doesn’t think the attacks will influence the sentence - but said Cosby’s lack of remorse might.

“Obviously, if no one is repenting, that’s a factor to consider. And if they’re so unrepentant they’re name calling, blaming anyone but themselves,” that’s a problem, Stretton said.

AP Analysis: Trump Heads To UN As US Retreats From World

FILE - In this Sept. 19, 2017, file photo, President Donald Trump addresses the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters. As Trump prepares for his second U.N. General Assembly, the Olympics of international diplomacy, his administration has turned unabashedly and profoundly inward, pursuing ever more unilateral policies in what critics argue is a great retreat from global engagement that had been a bipartisan hallmark of previous U.S. leaders. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)


— America first? Try America first, second and third.

As President Donald Trump prepares for his second U.N. General Assembly, the Olympics of international diplomacy, his administration has turned unabashedly and profoundly inward, pursuing ever more unilateral policies in what critics argue is a great retreat from global engagement that had been a bipartisan hallmark of previous U.S. leaders.

Trump aides who used to qualify his well-worn campaign slogan by insisting that “America first does not mean America alone” are gone. In their place are advocates of inviolable state sovereignty who share a belief that many of the institutions established after World War II to secure and maintain international order are either obsolete or in need of serious revision.

Ahead of the General Assembly, some expect the meeting to have a different tone from last year when wary world leaders weren’t prepared for Trump’s brand or style of diplomacy or for his determination to push an “America first” agenda. This time around they know what to expect.

“A lot of leaders have gamed out how to deal with the president,” said Jon Alterman, senior vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “They will be nice to him in person, but will work to create broad coalitions to block or undermine a lot of the president’s initiatives because they think they are misguided. They’ll try to use this meeting to advance strategies that promote their vision and not the president’s, but not rub the president’s face in it.”

Stewart Patrick, a former State Department official in President George W. Bush’s administration who is now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Trump is “abdicating global leadership and retreating into narrow-minded nationalism” and that his approach “provides few incentives for other countries to align themselves with American purposes.”

“The administration’s unilateralism is wearing thin, as (U.N.) member states tire of America’s browbeating and unwillingness to compromise,” he wrote on Wednesday. “Next week, the president will encounter a more skeptical global audience, woke to the reality that his administration’s diplomacy is all take and no give. ”

Getting the Trump administration to change course, however, may be difficult, considering its foreign policy trajectory.

When former Secretary of State John Kerry left the State Department for the last time on January 19, 2017, he told diplomats that the United States was “more engaged in more places in this world with greater positive impact than at any time in American history.”

His assertion was arguable at the time. But if it was true then, it is no longer.

The seeds of the retreat were planted even before Trump fired his first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, in March, and the departures the next month of his chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, and national security adviser, H.R. McMaster.

In his first several months, Trump withdrew from a trans-Pacific trade deal, the Paris climate accord and pulled the U.S. out of the U.N.’s science, educational and cultural organization. He repeatedly questioned the relevance of NATO, the utility of other multilateral groups and organizations, insulted the leaders of U.S. allies and pared back the Obama administration’s rapprochement with Cuba. In December, against the advice of his national security team, he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

But since Tillerson, Cohn and McMaster left and were replaced with Mike Pompeo, Larry Kudlow and John Bolton, the pace of the retreat has intensified and heading into the General Assembly appears set to increase.

In the last six months alone, Trump has pulled the U.S. out of the U.N. Human Rights Council, yanked funding for the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, halted virtually all assistance to the Palestinians themselves and re-ignited the Jerusalem dispute by moving the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv.

In the same time frame, the administration has also imposed sanctions on NATO ally Turkey, slashed its contributions to Syria stabilization efforts, withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal, sharply reduced refugee admissions, threatened to prosecute International Criminal Court employees if the tribunal even opens an investigation into alleged war crimes by U.S. troops, started a trade war with China and suggested the U.S. might quit the World Trade Organization.

Two areas where the administration has tried outreach — with North Korea and Russia — have been criticized or viewed with extreme skepticism by many foreign policy veterans, Republicans and Democrats alike.

Trump has met the leaders of both nations at summits that produced questionable results.

And, while he has claimed progress on the North Korea front that may yet pan out, the engagement has yet to achieve any concrete sign of success on the desired result of denuclearization.

Follow Matthew Lee at