Palestinians Reject Economic Solutions From ‘Punitive’ US

Palestinian leaders accused the Trump administration of punishing them with one hand and offering to reward them with the other, as protesters turned out in the West Bank and Gaza on Wednesday to demonstrate against a U.S. economic peace plan.

At a U.S.-led conference in Bahrain U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner urged Palestinian leaders boycotting the event to think outside the “traditional box” and consider the $50 billion plan to boost the Palestinian and neighboring economies.

The event drew fiery criticism both within the Palestinian territories, where demonstrations broke out for a second day, and across the wider region, where many Arabs took aim at officials for taking part.

Palestinian officials said it was Trump who had inflicted further hardship on Palestinians, cutting hundreds of millions in aid to humanitarian organizations across the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza.

“If the U.S. is so concerned about Palestinian well-being, then why did they carry out these punitive measures against us?,” senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Hanan Ashrawi said in Ramallah.

“Why did they target Palestinian infrastructure? Why did they stop scholarships to Palestinian students?,” she asked. In August last year, Washington announced an end to all U.S. funding for the U.N. agency that assists Palestinian refugees. The U.S. was UNRWA’s biggest donor by far up to that point, giving it $364 million in 2017.

And in February, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) ceased all assistance to the Palestinians, to whom it provided $268 million in 2017.

The U.S. cuts were widely seen as a way of putting pressure on the Palestinian leadership to re-engage with the White House, which it has boycotted since Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 2017.

“The same team that cut 350 million dollars of aid to refugee camps … [goes] to Manama to say we have a brilliant plan to bring Palestinians a new chance, a new opportunity,” Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Tuesday in Jericho.

“Why would Palestinians say no to such [a] plan?,” he added, mockingly.

Gulf apart

Neither the Israeli nor Palestinian governments are attending the event at Manama’s luxury Four Seasons hotel, where international bureaucrats enjoyed cocktails and delicate pastries, mingling with Arab businessmen sporting gold Rolex watches.

Some Gulf Arab states, like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, voiced qualified support for Kushner’s plan, while Qatar sent top officials but made no public comment. Egypt and Jordan, the only two Arab states with a peace deal with Israel, sent deputy ministers.

Many Arabs slammed their governments for taking part, describing the event as a sell-off of Palestinians’ rights without them present.

“The participation of Arab and Islamic countries in this conference of shame in Manama is unfortunate. .. Political courtesy does not justify this participation,” Qatar University professor of political sociology Majed al-Ansari said on Twitter.

Bahrain’s main opposition group, the outlawed Shi’ite Muslim al-Wefaq party, said hosting the event had brought shame on their country’s rulers, while Kuwait’s parliament said it would reject anything that comes out of the event.

Washington is hoping that wealthy Gulf Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar will bankroll much of the $50 billion plan, another potential sticking point unpopular with some opposed to the deal.

“The last thing we can imagine as Qatari citizens is for the wealth of our country and nation to contribute to the displacement of another Arab people,” Qatari Youth Against Normalization, a Qatari youth group, said in a statement.

Former Egyptian football star Mohamed Aboutrika took aim at FIFA head Gianni Infantino, who spoke in Manama about developing a sports sector in the Palestinian territories to drive economic growth.

“Thank you to everyone who boycotted this auction … the presence of the head of FIFA is a major question mark … our holy sites are not for sale,” Aboutrika wrote on Twitter.

Demonstrations

More than 1,500 km (930 miles) away in Gaza, where over half of the enclave’s two million people live in poverty, Palestinians criticized the Arab businessmen who attended for siding with the United States and Israel.

“Capitalists do not think of the poor,” said Abdel-Rahim Nateel, 62, who spent most of his life in the Beach refugee camp in northern Gaza.

“Let them come and give aid to the hungry people, make projects, ask Israel not to attack us … let them give us our state on the 1967 borders and we do not want anything else from them.”

Several thousand Palestinians demonstrated in Gaza on Wednesday, burning posters of Trump and his close ally, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “No to the conference of treason, no to the conference of shame,” read one banner.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, demonstrations against Bahrain were light for a second day. Some Palestinians voiced a sense of exhaustion about peace efforts and promises of cash and prosperity.

“This conference is just like all others from the past, Arab conferences, American conferences. All of them have been at the Palestinians’ expense,” said Hamdallah Qasem, 72, who lives in Ramallah.

Their own leadership was not exempt from criticism, however. At an Israeli military checkpoint separating Palestinian villages from the neighboring Israeli settlement of Givat Zeev, several Palestinian day laborers said President Mahmoud Abbas was hurting the local economy by boycotting the conference.

“If he was struggling like the rest of our people, maybe he would participate. As long as boycotting doesn’t hit his wallet, he will never change his position,” said Nasser, who declined to give his last name for fear of retribution.

Yara Hawari, a policy analyst based in Ramallah, said the low turnout at protests was due to a sense of fatigue at international initiatives from which they saw little chance of changing their situation.

“There are certain topics that mobilize Palestinians more than others — like Jerusalem. This ‘economic peace’ is just more of the same. They see it as empty talk,” Hawari said.

From: MeNeedIt

Trump Heads to Japan for G-20 Summit

Just a month after a state visit to Japan, U.S. President Donald Trump is heading to the East Asian country again.

In Osaka, Trump will attend the Group of 20 leaders’ summit, during which he is scheduled to meet one-on-one on the sidelines with such fellow world leaders as Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Before leaving Wednesday, Trump told reporters on the White House South Lawn that he’ll be meeting with leaders of a lot of different countries “many of whom have been taking advantage of the United States — but not anymore.”

A senior administration official told reporters Monday that Trump is “quite comfortable [with] his position going into the meeting” with China’s President Xi following the breakdown of U.S.-China trade talks and increased tariffs on Beijing by Washington.  

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives at the State Council’s meeting in Moscow, Russia, June 26, 2019.

U.S. officials say there is no fixed agenda for Trump’s meeting with Putin although they acknowledge issues involving Iran, Ukraine, the Middle East and Venezuela are almost certain to be discussed. 

When asked Wednesday if he would ask Putin not to meddle in future U.S. elections, Trump said it was “none of your business.”

Casting a pall over the G-20 discussions will be nervousness about the deteriorating situation between Washington and Tehran. Leaders in both capitals have been reiterating they want to avoid war but have also repeatedly stated they will not hesitate to defend their interests if provoked.

Economic pressure on Iran

Trump is to stress to his fellow leaders at the G-20 that the United States intends to continue to increase economic pressure on Iran, which finds itself under escalating U.S. sanctions, and eliminate all of the country’s petroleum exports. 

“I don’t think Iran is a distraction,” according to James Jay Carafano, vice president of the Heritage Foundation’s national security and foreign policy institute. “I think that’s under control. Trump should strive for a no drama G-20.”  

The G-20 itself no longer has the significance it did after the group’s first several summits late in the previous decade when it cooperated to avert a meltdown of the global economy.

Trump prefers bilateral discussions and agreements over multinational events. Administration officials, however, are attempting to counter the notion that they no longer see these types of meetings as vital, pointing to U.S. leadership on advancing 21st century economic issues.

“We believe that G-20 economies need to work together to advance open, fair and market-based digital policies, including the free flow of data,” a senior administration official told reporters Monday on a conference call, also stressing promotion of women’s economic empowerment.

White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney walk from the Marine One helicopter as they depart Washington for the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, from Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, June 26, 2019.

Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and a White House adviser, is to give a keynote address on the latter topic at a G-20 side event in Osaka.

G-20 host Shinzo Abe, as prime minister of Japan, and many European participants are trying to maintain the international system and its principles.

“This is where the absence of the U.S. is really harming it,” said Heather Conley, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and director of its Europe program. “We’re seeing the slow death of multilateralism in many respects. It’s a death by a thousand cuts.”

While the U.S. pulls back from such groups, the world is witnessing “the Chinese using international organizations so effectively to shape agendas,” said Conley, a former deputy assistant secretary of state.  
 
Trump-Xi meetings

Some analysts expect the Trump-Xi meeting in Osaka to be a repeat of their previous dinner last year in Buenos Aires, when the two leaders agreed to trade talks and tasked their trade ministers with reaching a deal within 90 days. 
 
“I think that that is the most likely outcome, that they’re going to reach some sort of accommodation, a truce like that and push this forward,” said Matthew Goodman, a CSIS senior vice president and senior adviser for Asian economics.  

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, June 25, 2019.

“It’s not going to solve the immediate problems,” contended Goodman, who previously served as director for international economics on the National Security Council staff, helping then-President Barack Obama prepare for G-20 and G-8 summits. “Even if we get a deal, it’s unlikely to solve some of the deep structural differences between us in the role of the state in the economy, the governance of technology and data.”

Much attention will also be on the Trump-Putin encounter.

“Whenever President Trump and President Putin meet there is a very strong [U.S.] domestic backlash after that meeting,” noted Conley. “In part, it’s because there’s a total lack of transparency about the topics of discussion and what the agenda is, and I think the president would have a better policy approach domestically if, again, there was clarity of what the agenda would be, that there would be people participating in that meeting — secretary of state, national security adviser and others.”  
 
Trump is also scheduled to hold talks in Osaka with leaders from Australia, Germany, India, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

From Japan, Trump flies to Seoul, where he will be hosted by South Korean President Moon Jae-in to discuss how to further ease tensions with North Korea.

White House officials brush off speculation Trump could meet on the Korean peninsula with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which would be their third encounter after summits in Singapore and Hanoi. And U.S. officials are not commenting on a possible presidential visit to the Demilitarized Zone, which separates the two Koreas.

There is little pressure on Trump to make any breakthroughs during his visit to Japan and South Korea, according to Carafano. 

“I think the U.S. is in the driver’s seat with regards to both North Korea and China negotiations,” Carafano told VOA. “If they come to the table now, fine. If not, fine. Trump can wait until after the 2020 election.” 

From: MeNeedIt

Straight Talk Africa

Join us every Wednesday as Shaka and his guests discuss topics of special interest to Africans, including politics, economic development, press freedom, health, social issues and conflict resolution.

 

Broadcast Schedule

Straight Talk Africa is broadcast live every Wednesday from 1830-1930 UTC/GMT simultaneously on radio, television and the Internet.

 

Join the Discussion

Find us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter

Watch us on YouTube

Contact Us:
E-mail [email protected]

Postal Mail
Voice of America
TV to Africa – Suite 1613
330 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20237
USA

Internship Opportunities

In the competitive and changing television industry, nothing is more valuable for job-seekers than “real world” experience. The Straight Talk Africa internship program offers motivated and outstanding students exciting opportunities to experience practical journalism.  In addition to helping to get our weekly studio programs on-the-air, interns also produce a final project for their portfolios. Projects include writing and producing promos, stories, and even full-length documentary or magazine shows.

Watch our interns in action

For more information and/or send your resume to: 
[email protected]
Attention to Roblyn Hymes.

From: MeNeedIt

Kenya’s Ice Hockey Team Determined to Qualify for 2022 Winter Olympics

Kenya’s only ice hockey team is still trying to earn a bid for the 2022 winter Olympics, being held in Beijing. In a two-day friendly event held in Nairobi last weekend, the team qualified for the finals but fell to team USA in a nail biter.

 In eastern Africa’s only ice rink – Kenya’s only ice hockey team, the Ice Lions, took on their first opponents in a home tournament. Team member Hassan Ali Shah says the Ice Lions got off to a great start even though the matches didn’t count.

“It’s a great feeling, especially for Team Kenya, since this is our first game we are hosting here in Kenya,” Shah said.

The team has come of age since the beginning of last year when it was created. Eric Landberg, who represented the European diplomats’ team has this assessment of its growth.

“It’s a young team but it’s already playing an excellent game and I must say that I have been very impressed by the development lately.  I had a chance to play them before and I think they are developing all the time and they are already now a very good team, I like their team spirit it’s really good,” Landberg said.

There is no ice hockey league in the country so Team Kenya plays challengers made up of Western diplomats. It is these friendly tournaments with foreign teams the Ice Lions use to prepare for the 2022 Winter Olympics, which they hope to qualify for. Kenya sees the game as a way to market itself as an ice hockey destination. 

South Africa is ranked number one on the continent among the six African countries that play hockey. On the last day of the tournament, Team Kenya fell 10 to nine to Team USA. 

From: MeNeedIt

Report: US Special Counsel Mueller to Testify Before House Panels July 17

U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who issued a report in April on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election,  will testify in open session before the House of Representatives Judiciary and Intelligence Committees on July 17, the panels’ Democratic chairmen said on Tuesday.

Representative Jerrold Nadler, chairman of the judiciary panel, and Representative Adam Schiff, head of the intelligence panel, said in a joint statement that Mueller had agreed to testify after the two committees issued subpoenas on Tuesday.

This is a breaking story. Please check back for updates.

From: MeNeedIt

US Confirms 200 Unaccompanied Minors Removed From CBP Facility

VOA’s Victoria Macchi contributed to this report.

WASHINGTON — More than 200 children held in a border facility described as unsafe and unsanitary last week were transferred to the care of another U.S. agency by Tuesday, U.S. health authorities confirmed.

In a statement emailed to VOA, U.S. Health and Human Services acknowledged it worked with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to remove 249 unaccompanied children from the CBP Clint Station facility in Texas.

The statement came after the Associated Press reported unsanitary living conditions and inadequate food and medical treatment at the facility.

The children held at Clint Station were those who crossed the border without authorization and without a guardian, and are referred to as “unaccompanied alien children,” or UACs.

Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, joined at left by Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., vice chair of the Democratic Caucus, speaks with reporters following a meeting of fellow Democrats focusing on a path to emergency humanitarian aid to help migrant detained on the southwestern border.

While CBP is the agency that detains unauthorized border crossers, HHS generally takes custody of detained, unaccompanied children within 72 hours, as is mandated by law except for rare occasions in which a child is held by CBP for longer.

“UAC are waiting too long in CBP facilities that are not designed to care for children,” an HHS official told VOA.

The agency said it was able to expedite how soon children in its care were released to sponsors  often an extended family member, like a grandparent. A process that was taking 90 days in November 2018 was down to an average of 44 days in May, according to HHS.

But like other agencies working with children and families detained at the border, HHS and CBP are struggling to meet the demands of the recent increase in arrivals.

Trump “personally concerned”

Meanwhile, despite the confirmation from HHS that 249 children were removed from the Clint facility, media outlets reported that an official from CBP, who briefed reporters on Tuesday, said the government moved more than 100 children back to the same facility .

CBP drew criticism from human rights groups and federal lawmakers  over the AP report last week.

After signing an affordable housing executive order in the Oval Office on Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump said he was “personally concerned about the conditions” at border facilities after AP’s report. 

Trump said “A lot of these young children come from places that you don’t even want to know about, the way they’ve lived, the way they’ve been.” 

He also said his administration is trying to get Democrats to give “some humanitarian aid humanitarian money.”

CBP chief resigning

It is also unclear whether that report played a role in the announcement on Tuesday that the head of CBP, Acting Commissioner John Sanders, is resigning.

He will leave his post on July 5, a CBP official confirmed in an email to VOA.

The agency declined to provide further comment on the resignation.

From: MeNeedIt

Europe Set to Experience Scorching Heat Wave This Week

A heat wave is set to descend upon Europe this week, weather so intense that a forecaster in Spain warned, “El infierno (hell) is coming.”

El infierno is coming. pic.twitter.com/j0iGEYF0ge

— Silvia Laplana (@slaplana_tve) June 24, 2019

The heat wave is expected to peak between Wednesday and Friday when temperatures are expected to top 40 degrees Celsius from Spain to Poland.

Authorities warned early summer heat waves are especially dangerous because people have not had to adapt to the higher temperatures.

French Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said more than half of France is on alert for high temperatures. Public service announcements on TV, radio, and on buses and trains urged the French to keep an eye out for older family members and neighbors.

Most of France is under an orange alert, the second-highest level on the country’s heat scale. The scale was established after the 2003 heat wave killed some 15,000 people.  

The French Education Ministry ordered the national school exams to be postponed to next week. Paris city officials mobilized teams to hand out water to the homeless. The city also extended the hours for city pools, and set up thousands of misting tents and cooling rooms.

Authorities in Switzerland also raised that country’s alert to its second-highest level, especially for regions along the southern and northern borders with Italy and Germany.

Germany’s meteorological agency said temperatures Wednesday could break the current record in June of 38.5 Celsius.

Temperatures also soared in the Baltics, sending scores of people to lakes and rivers to cool down, leading to a spike in drownings. In Lithuania, where the highs reached 35.7 degrees Celsius, 27 people were reported to have drowned.

Heat waves are becoming more common across Europe and are expected to double in frequency by 2050, the French  meteorological agency says.

From: MeNeedIt

Pompeo Hopes for Afghan Peace Deal Before September

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday during a visit to Afghanistan that the Trump administration is aiming for a peace deal in the war-ravaged country by September.

His visit came as American and Taliban negotiators are scheduled to meet in Qatar later this week (June 29) for the next round of talks in their months-long dialogue aimed at finding a political settlement to the Afghan war.

“I hope we have a peace deal before September 1st. That’s certainly our mission set,” Pompeo told reporters at the U.S. embassy in Kabul after his meetings with Afghan leaders. The country is due to hold presidential elections on September 28.

The U.S.-Taliban dialogue process is primarily focused on working out a timeline for the withdrawal of American and NATO forces from Afghanistan in return for assurances international terrorists will not be allowed to use Taliban-controlled areas for attacks against other countries.

The insurgent group controls or contests more than 50% of the Afghan territory and continues to inflict battlefield losses on U.S.-backed Afghan security forces,

“We have made real progress and are nearly ready to conclude a draft text outlining the Taliban’s commitments to join fellow Afghans in ensuring that Afghan soil never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists,” Pompeo noted.

He said discussions with the Taliban regarding foreign troop withdrawal have begun.  Pompeo also said insurgent claims that Washington has agreed to pull out of Afghanistan are not true.

“While we’ve made clear to the Taliban that we are prepared to remove our forces, I want to be clear we have not yet agreed on a timeline to do so,” Pompeo explained. He acknowledged the U.S.-Taliban discussions will be the basis for intra-Afghan peace and reconciliation talks.

Pompeo visited Kabul on a day when members of opposition groups held a large public gathering in the city to protest against extension given to President Ashraf Ghani by the country’s Supreme Court. They insisted Ghani’s constitutional five-year term ended in May and demanded the president must step down. The incumbent president is seeking re-election.

“We call upon the former president (Ghani) to withdraw his candidacy if he should continue to hold office as a caretaker president for the purpose of realization of the principles of justice and impartiality,” said a post-rally statement by the Council of Presidential Candidates (CPC).

Pompeo also emphasized the need for a credible Afghan presidential election.

“I urge the Afghan government, the Independent Election Commission, and all political stakeholders to take all necessary steps to ensure that the elections are credible,”  Pompeo stressed.

From: MeNeedIt