Trump, Turkey’s Erdogan Discuss Gulf Crisis Involving Qatar

President Donald Trump spoke with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Friday to discuss the ongoing feud between Qatar and several Arab states, a conflict that some are calling the worst Gulf Arab crisis in years.

Trump and Erdogan talked by phone to discuss how to resolve the dispute “while ensuring all countries work together to stop terrorist funding and to combat extremist ideology,” the White House said in a statement.

Turkey has been a supporter of Qatar, whose ties with some of its Gulf and Arab neighbors were severed after Qatar was accused of funding terrorism and fomenting regional instability. Qatar denies the accusations. Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates cut ties with Qatar.

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Congo Denies ‘Security Concerns’ Caused Cancellation of Military Parade

Democratic Republic of Congo officials are denying a report that security concerns led them to cancel the annual military parade.

Congo celebrated 57 years of independence Friday, but the country is grappling with militia violence in the central Kasai region, a Kinshasa prison break that freed 4,000 inmates last month and political tension over the delay in the presidential election.

President Joseph Kabila’s deputy chief of staff said there would be no parade Friday because of “security reasons,” according to the report from the Reuters news agency.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende and Congo’s deputy interior and security minister, Basile Olongo, denied that report in separate interviews with VOA.

Olongo, talking to VOA’s French to Africa Service, noted the parade has been cancelled before and implied that dominance by foreign powers played a role in this year’s decision. “When you are no longer considered a sovereign country, it is high time to stop and think,” he said, without elaborating.

Mende, speaking to VOA English to Africa, denied allegations from opposition parties that Kabila is procrastinating on holding the election. The president’s second term expired in December 2016, but he has remained in office. The government says the delay is due to slow voter registration and a lack of funding.

Mende said the electoral commission has now registered 30 million of 42 million prospective voters.

A December 2016 political deal between Kabila and opponents calls for elections to be held by the end of this year.

VOA’s James Butty and Eddie Isango contributed to this report.

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7 Killed by Roadside Bomb in Eastern Afghanistan

Mines believed to have been planted by Islamic State killed seven civilians Friday in the eastern region of Afghanistan.

The Nangarhar governor’s office told VOA that five civilians, including women and children, were injured in the explosion when a pickup truck in the Achin district was hit by a roadside bomb — apparently placed by IS militants.

No one has claimed responsibility.

Officials at the local Ghani Khil hospital told VOA the wounded civilians are in stable condition.

IS militants are active in the Achin district, where U.S. forces in April dropped the “mother of all bombs,” the largest non-nuclear weapon, in an effort to root them out and destroy some of their tunnels.

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US Travel Ban Implementation Moves Ahead with Little Protest

President Donald Trump’s modified travel ban has been implemented with little immediate protest as immigration lawyers gathered at U.S. airports to aid travelers from six affected countries.

The U.S. activated the new rules Thursday evening, requiring visa applicants from six majority-Muslim nations to have a “bona fide” relationship with a family member or business in the U.S. to be admitted into the country.

Before the rollout, senior administration officials explained how consular officials should proceed with the visa applications for people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Anyone in transit to the U.S. with travel scheduled before July 6 will be allowed to enter. Those with travel booked after that date will be addressed “later,” according to senior administration officials.

Previously scheduled visa application appointments will not be canceled, administration officials said, but all new applicants will have to prove their bona fide relationship to a family member or business in the U.S. in addition to passing traditional screening.

Acceptable close family relationships include a parent, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling who already is in the United States.

Relationships that do not meet the requirement include grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, cousin, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, fiance or other extended family. The officials said these distinctions were based on those included in the Immigration and Naturalization Act.

First court suit

Late Thursday, the Trump administration added fiance to the acceptable list after Hawaii filed an emergency motion in federal court, asking a judge to clarify that the ban can’t be enforced against relatives, including fiances, not mentioned in the administration’s guidelines.

U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson ordered the Justice Department to respond by Monday and gave Hawaii until July 6 for a rebuttal.

“I think the Supreme Court actually laid it out very clearly,” New York Immigration Coalition Director of Political Engagement Murad Awawdeh told VOA. “A bona fide relationship is anyone who has a relationship with anyone in the United States or an American entity. And for the department of state to come out with such a new version of what that word actually means, it is kind of disheartening.”

He added that the Trump administration is trying to “redefine what family means.”

Awawdeh spoke Thursday at an anti-travel ban protest of about 150 people in New York’s Washington Square.

Also at the protest was Yemeni American Widad Hassan, who says that choosing between family and country is nothing new. Her sister-in-law and newborn nephew are in Yemen, while her brother is in the U.S., unable to reunite with his family.

“Do they leave to join their family in Yemen or do they stay here? So, that is pretty much how the ban has impacted us,” said Hassan, adding that the battle is a recurring one. “It is just mentally and emotionally draining, especially when you have family members who are being directly impacted by it.”

“Hey hey! Ho ho! Syrian refugees have got to go!” shouted an older white man, hoisting a black-and-white “Keep Syrians Out” poster outside a #NoMuslimBanEver Emergency Town Hall in New York.

Travel ban supporter Pauline Pujol told VOA, “I think Donald Trump is 100% correct. He is protecting the country. A president is supposed to protect the country; there is nothing racist about it. It’s about security.”

Refugee numbers

A 120-day ban on refugees and yearly cap of 50,000 total refugees coming to the United States also went into effect Thursday evening; however, any refugee who can prove a relationship to a family member in the U.S. may be allowed entry.

Senior administration officials said 49,009 refugees had been admitted to the U.S. in fiscal year 2017 as of Wednesday night, nearing the cap three-quarters of the way through the fiscal year that begins in October. But the cap is likely to be exceeded as additional refugees are accepted on the basis of family ties. Officials said about half of refugees admitted to the U.S. have family in the country.

The Supreme Court partially reinstated the president’s executive order limiting travel after it was halted by two lower courts. The high court will hold its own hearing on the legal challenges in October.

Trump says the order is necessary to protect national security, with the entry freezes meant to give the government time to strengthen vetting procedures.

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Suicide Attack on Niger Displaced Persons Camp Kills 2, Wounds 11

The United Nations refugee agency says two female suicide bombers attacked a camp for internally displaced people in eastern Niger’s Diffa region, killing two people and wounding 11.

The agency says the attackers entered the Kabelawa camp late Wednesday.

It calls this the first suicide attack in the eastern part of the Diffa region in a year and the first-ever attack against the camp.

Kabelawa camp is about 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the border with Nigeria. It hosts more than 10,000 people who have fled violence by Nigeria-based Islamic extremists Boko Haram.

Niger contributes to the multinational force set up to fight Boko Haram in the region.

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Escalating Violence in CAR Threatens Thousands of Civilians

The U.N. refugee agency warns renewed violence in the Central African Republic is threatening thousands of civilian lives, forcing many to flee and destroying villages and camps for displaced people.

United Nations officials describe a chaotic scene of attacks by rival warring groups in different parts of CAR. UNHCR spokesman Andreij Mahecic tells VOA that violence has broken out near the capital of Bangui, in central parts of the country, and close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“It is of concern to us because it in many places affects the population that has been displaced already — most likely more than once — and these are the most vulnerable,” Mahecic said. “And, as you know, there is a plethora of armed groups within the CAR. … It is very concerning that we have recorded this escalation of violence over the past days and weeks.” 

While clashes are going on between self-defense groups and other armed groups, the UNHCR says civilians and humanitarian workers also are being targeted.

In Zemio, a town near the border of DRC, the agency says houses close to its office were burned down.  It says more than 1,000 people fled their homes, and many refugees in a nearby camp returned to DRC in fear for their lives. 

Mahecic says clashes in the town of Bria were so violent that all 2,400 inhabitants of a camp for internally displaced people fled, leaving it empty.

“Indiscriminate attacks in Bria have left some 136 people dead and 36 wounded, with 600 houses burned and an additional 180 looted,” he said. “These are conservative estimates. People fleeing the violence speak of having witnessed brutal attacks, killings, robberies, lootings and kidnappings.” 

It has not been possible to assess the full extent of damage or displacement from the recent violence because of the ongoing dangers, Mahecic says. The UNHCR reports more than five years of civil war in CAR has uprooted more than half a million people inside the country and sent nearly as many fleeing across borders.

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Famine Alert in South Sudan Lifted, But Catastrophe Continues

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies warns that the humanitarian situation in South Sudan remains catastrophic, even though the country is no longer classified as being in a state of famine.

The government and the United Nations declared on June 21 an end to the famine that had struck parts of Unity State.

However, the head of the Red Cross office in South Sudan, Michael Charles, says the situation remains precarious.

“We have over 1.7 million people that are on the brink of famine,” he said. “And, really, the lifting of the famine vis-a-vis the emergency phase of food insecurity is very blurry in the eyes of the people that are affected. So, whether famine has been lifted technically, people have not really noticed the difference because they still do not have access to food, because the children are still malnourished because diseases are still ongoing.”

Charles says more than 6 million people across the country are short of food and going hungry, and 1 million children are acutely malnourished.

Preventable, treatable diseases — such as measles, cholera and malaria — are on the increase and are a potential death sentence for children who are malnourished, according to Charles.

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House Immigration Votes Build on Trump Campaign Promises

The U.S. House of Representatives took the first steps Thursday toward fulfilling two key Trump campaign promises: strengthening penalties on undocumented immigrants who return to the U.S. after being deported and cutting federal funds to so-called sanctuary cities – those that choose not to work with immigration agents. VOA’s congressional reporter Katherine Gypson looks at what that will mean for grieving families and for undocumented immigrants across the country.

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Jailed Nobel Laureate’s Case Casts Shadow Over Hong Kong Anniversary

News this past week that jailed Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer is casting a shadow over the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China from British rule.

Ahead of the anniversary on July 1 and swearing-in of Hong Kong’s new Beijing-approved chief executive, Carrie Lam, activists perched on a statue outside the convention center where the anniversary ceremony will take place.

The protesters engaged in an hourslong standoff with police, calling for direct elections in Hong Kong and Liu’s unconditional release. Activists refused to leave until they were escorted or carried away from the statue, a gift from China after the handover in 1997.

In 2011, a Chinese court sentenced Liu to 11 years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power” for advocating democracy and political reform in China online.

“In my opinion, he was illegally arrested because what he has been saying for all of these years can never be illegal in an ordinary society,” said Lau Chung-shiu, a participant in Thursday night’s vigil. “Now he is terminally ill and this has caused a shock wave in Hong Kong. It just makes us worry about freedom of speech.”

Lau says now is the time for people in Hong Kong to speak out, to ensure that there is no further erosion of the “one-country, two systems” model that was set up before the city’s return to China.

Opportunity to look forward

For Beijing, the 20th anniversary was supposed to be a celebration and an opportunity to look forward to a brighter future for this global financial hub. However, there are those who see a similarity between Liu’s plight and concerns about eroding freedoms and China’s tightening grip over the port city’s affairs.

On Thursday evening, near Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal, dozens of supporters gathered to speak out about Liu, calling for his release and praying for his health and strength.

“In my opinion, he was illegally arrested because what he has been saying for all of these years can never be illegal in an ordinary society,” said Lai Chung-shiu, a participant in Thursday night’s vigil. “Now he is terminally ill and this has caused a shockwave in Hong Kong. It just makes us worry about freedom of speech.”

Lai says now is the time for people in Hong Kong to speak out, to ensure that there is no further erosion of the “one-country, two systems” model that was set up before the city’s return to China.

The “one country, two systems” model was established before the handover to ensure that Hong Kong’s norms such as rule of law, freedom of expression and religion continued for 50 years after its return to Chinese rule.

Now, just two decades since that event, there is growing concern that China is going back on its promises.

“Why does the Chinese government not believe the Hong Kong people should have this type of democracy ((direct elections))?” asked C.Y. Wong, another participant. “It was promised in the Basic Law. We are not asking for anything extra.”

Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, guarantees universal suffrage and activists have called for direct elections for the territory’s chief executive. China ruled out that idea in 2012, maintaining that candidates be chosen by a committee made up largely of pro-Beijing members.

Many see direct elections as crucial for Hong Kong’s development and argue that the stalled political reforms are dividing society and fueling concerns about a range of issues from the economy to education.

Divided community

“I don’t like how the Chinese government is suppressing the voices of opposing views. I don’t think that is how a country should work,” said Athena Tam, a university student in Hong Kong.

Calvin Lai, a Hong Kong resident who is currently studying overseas, said that Hong Kong still has many advantages and opportunities, but it needs to focus on more than just real estate and finance.

“I think Hong Kong has been overly dependent on consumer power from China and we haven’t got much different industry,” Lai said. “We have had several decades of booming growth, but we’ve failed to manage to have innovative industries.”

Others want to see the divide created by the debate to end.

“I think there are too many arguments and we need leadership to align the different stakeholders in Hong Kong to make society move forward,” said Leo Cheung, an engineer.

Concerns are unlikely to dampen the mood that authorities have mapped out for the event.

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Hong Kong this week ahead of the anniversary. Xi has said he will meet with people from all walks of life during his three-day visit, but heightened security is likely to keep further protests and calls for political reform – as well as the unconditional release of Liu – out of view.

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Trump, Moon Present Unified Front Against North Korea

President Donald Trump on Friday declared the U.S. has run out of patience with North Korea, as he met with his South Korean counterpart at the White House.

Speaking in the Rose Garden alongside South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Trump vowed a “determined response” against Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

“The era of strategic patience with the North Korean regime has failed,” Trump said, referring to his predecessors’ approach to the North. “Many years and it’s failed, and frankly, that patience is over.”

Trump and Moon differ over exactly how much to pressure the North into giving up its weapons programs. Both leaders also have criticized certain aspects of their countries’ defense cooperation.

But on Friday the two leaders presented a unified front.

Words of praise

After a discussion that lasted about 30 minutes longer than scheduled, Moon praised Trump’s “determination and pragmatism” and said they were able to build a “broad consensus” on issues ranging from defense ties to the North Korean nuclear issue.

“The North Korean nuclear issue must be resolved without fail,” Moon said. “North Korea should by no means underestimate the firm commitment of Korea and the U.S. in this regard.”

Few specifics were given about North Korea strategy. Moon said both “sanctions and dialogue” would be used in dealing with Pyongyang, while Trump’s comments focused more on applying additional pressure.

WATCH: Moon on relationship with US

“The United States calls on other regional powers and all responsible nations to join us in implementing sanctions and demanding that the North Korea regime choose a better path, do it quickly, and a different future for its long-suffering people,” Trump said.

It was the first meeting between Trump, a billionaire former real estate developer, and Moon, a liberal human rights lawyer who took office last month. The meeting was closely watched, not only because of the stark personality differences between the two leaders, but also for the potential areas of disagreement.

During the presidential campaign, Trump harshly criticized South Korean trade practices. He also frequently slammed Seoul and other U.S. allies for not paying enough for defense protection from the U.S.

On Friday, Trump assured Moon that the U.S. “will always defend our allies,” but he added that there needs to be “fair burden-sharing in South Korea.”


On trade, Trump said the existing U.S.-South Korea trade agreement has been “rough for the U.S.” and that he is working to create a “fair and reciprocal” economic relationship with South Korea.

WATCH: Trump on trade

Since the current trade deal went into effect in 2012, the U.S. trade deficit with Seoul has doubled. “Not exactly a great deal,” Trump complained Friday.

But the bulk of the two leaders’ comments on Friday dealt with North Korea.

“Together we are facing the threat of the reckless and brutal regime in North Korea,” Trump said. Any “threats and provocations by the North will be met with a stern response,” Moon added.

Moon is seeking to convince North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to pause his nuclear and missile programs in exchange for restarting talks, which eventually would aim for a complete disarmament. Trump prefers maximizing diplomatic pressure and sanctions before engaging in such talks.

It isn’t clear that Kim would even agree to restarting talks in exchange for a freeze, since the government in Pyongyang considers its weapons programs essential to its survival.


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MSNBC ‘Morning Joe’ Hosts Fire Back at Trump Twitter Blasts

“Morning Joe” hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski said Friday that President Donald Trump lied about their December encounter in a tweet and that his “unhealthy obsession” with their program doesn’t serve his mental health or the country well.

The two MSNBC personalities postponed a vacation in order to respond to Trump’s tweet, which drew broad condemnation a day earlier because he called Brzezinski  “crazy” and said she was “bleeding badly from a face-lift” when he saw them at his Florida estate.


“It’s been fascinating and frightening and really sad for our country,” Brzezinski said on their program.


“We’re OK,” said Scarborough, her co-host and fiance. “The country’s not.”


Trump tweeted Friday that he watched “Morning Joe” for the first time in a long time. “Bad show,” he wrote.

The hosts, who also co-bylined a column that was posted on The Washington Post’s website on Friday, said they had known Trump for more than a decade and have “fond memories” of their relationship, but that he’s changed in the past two years. They were at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida shortly before the New Year in December to encourage Trump to give them an interview.

Brzezinski, who said she’s alarmed at how the president deals with women who disagree with him, said she believed her teasing about a Post story about fake Time magazine covers with Trump’s face hanging at his golf facilities is what precipitated the latest Twitter attack.


“It is unbelievably alarming that this president is so easily played, he is easily played by a cable news host,” she said. “What does that say to our allies? What does that say to our enemies?”


They said Trump was lying about Brzezinski having a face-lift, although “she did have a little skin under her chin tweaked.”


Scarborough said that the National Enquirer had been working on a story about him and Brzezinski and that he was told by White House aides that if he called Trump and apologized for his show’s coverage, the story would go away. He said he refused and the story ran.


Trump, in his Friday tweet, directly contradicted that claim. “He called me to stop a National Enquirer article,” Trump wrote. “I said no!”


A recent New Yorker magazine article detailed a close relationship between Trump and David Pecker, chief executive of the Enquirer’s parent company, and how the supermarket tabloid has lauded Trump and printed damaging articles about his political opponents.


“Morning Joe” and Trump have had a tortured relationship. The hosts were criticized by some for being too close to Trump during the campaign and giving his candidacy an early boost, but have turned sharply against him. Brzezinski in recent weeks has wondered whether Trump was mentally ill and said the country under his presidency “does feel like a developing dictatorship.”


The hosts said that they’ve noticed a change in Trump’s behavior over the past few years that left them neither shocked nor insulted by the Thursday tweet.


“The guy who is in the White House now is not the guy we know,” Scarborough said.


Trump on Thursday had launched a crude Twitter attack on the brains, looks and temperament of Brzezinski, drawing bipartisan howls of outrage and leaving fellow Republicans beseeching him: Stop, please just stop.


Trump’s tweets revived concerns about his views of women in a city where civility already is in short supply and he is struggling for any support he can get for his proposals on health care, immigration and other controversial issues.


“I heard poorly rated (at)Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore),” Trump tweeted to his nearly 33 million followers Thursday morning. “Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!”


The tweets served to unite Democrats and Republicans for once in a chorus of protest that amounted to perhaps the loudest outcry since Trump took office.


“Obviously I don’t see that as an appropriate comment,” said Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called Trump’s tweets, “blatantly sexist.” The president, she added, “happens to disrespect women … it’s sad.”


In television interviews Friday, Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to Trump, sent conflicting messages about whether Trump was justified in his tweet. She said he had the right to fight back when attacked by critics. But when pressed on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” she said: “I didn’t say I endorsed his attacks; I never said that. Bottom line, I endorse his ability to connect on social media with Americans.”


Trump’s allies cast his outburst as positive, an example of his refusal to be bullied.


White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president was “pushing back against people who have attacked him day after day after day. Where is the outrage on that?”


“The American people elected a fighter; they didn’t elect somebody to sit back and do nothing,” she added.


On the usually friendly Fox News Channel Thursday night, hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity did not defend the president’s tweet but criticized the media reaction. “Washington melts down over Trump tweet,” read the onscreen chyron during Carlson’s show.





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Kenya’s Nomads Work Together to Reduce Conflicts and Poverty

It looked like a hostage swap, only the currency was livestock and the mission was to end decades of deadly clashes.

More than 50 sheep, goats and cows stood in the scorching heat of a desolate no-man’s land in arid northern Kenya, as Maasai and Samburu herders negotiated their handover.

Lipan Kitonga cast a critical eye over his emaciated herd, which 10 gun-toting Samburu had stolen from his home in Isiolo County, 300 kilometres (186 miles) north of Kenya’s capital.

“I was not around at the time,” said Kitonga, a community-based police officer, known as a police reservist, dressed in camouflage fatigues with a G3 rifle in hand. “Otherwise it would have been a different matter,” he said, his voice still tight with anger nine days after the animal theft.

Drought and violence

Nomadic herders in remote northern Kenya, which is awash with illegal arms, frequently raid cattle from each other and fight over scarce pasture and water, especially during droughts.

A wave of violence has hit Isiolo’s neighboring Laikipia region in recent months as armed herders searching for grazing have driven tens of thousands of cattle onto private farms and ranches from denuded communal land.

The livestock exchange was organized by the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), a charity set up in 2004 with support from donors and conservationists to reduce conflict and poverty among nomads by helping them better manage their land.

Almost 300,000 people are members of NRT’s 33 conservancies, which are community organizations focused on conservation, owning nearly 6 million acres (2.4 million hectares) of land across Kenya’s north and coast.

Nomads no more

Drought has hit millions this year in northern Kenya, where most people live off their livestock. As Kenya’s population has doubled in 25 years, nomads can no longer freely follow the rains, turning some overgrazed common lands to dust.

“You have got more people, with more livestock, on less and less productive rangeland and it’s a really explosive situation,” said Mike Harrison, chief executive of NRT, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). “The only answer to this is that everybody has to invest in improving their land.”

NRT promotes rotational grazing with a sustainable number of livestock, which allows land to rest, and the reseeding of degraded areas. Zones are set aside for wildlife, people and livestock, with limited access during drought for nomadic animals from other communities.

It also helps develop new businesses — tourism, bead-making and livestock markets — so nomads are less dependent on herding.

Tourism is the real money-spinner.

The most successful conservancies earn about $500,000 a year from visitors paying daily entry fees of $50-$80, Harrison said.

These earnings go into a community fund with 40 percent spent on operations, such as rangers’ salaries, and 60 percent on community projects, such as education and health, NRT says.


One of NRT’s main achievements has been to reduce conflict, cattle rustling and poaching by funding more than 500 rangers, trained by Kenya Wildlife Service, to patrol members’ land.

Many are police reservists, like Kitonga, issued rifles by the government to back up the overstretched police.

In Nasuulu, just north of Isiolo town, the Samburu, Turkana, Somali and Borana — who have traditionally fought each other — have come together to form one conservancy, an NRT member.

“They never used to talk to each other before, but they are now working together,” said Omar Godana, Nasuulu’s chairman.


Wildlife protected, too

Elephant poaching has stopped on 35,000 hectare (86,487 acre) Nasuulu since 12 NRT-funded scouts were deployed, he said.

NRT’s mobile security teams work with the police and wildlife service and receive aircraft and tracker-dog backup from a nearby wildlife conservancy, Lewa.

With increased security and strict controls on grazing, shootouts between armed herders and rangers are inevitable.

“It’s a killer squad,” said John Leparsanti, a Samburu herder in Laikipia who sees the crackdown on illegal grazing on NRT conservancies as a threat to his traditional way of life. “When there is a biting drought we cannot graze.”

Herding is key to the identity and culture of Kenya’s nomads, whose young men are initiated as warriors in colorful ceremonies where each kills a cow and drinks its blood. Their role as ‘morans’ is to guard the community and its animals.

Livestock provide nomads with a ready income because they can be sold quickly for cash. Pastoralists often do not have bank accounts and have high illiteracy rates because they roam over vast terrains with their cattle from a young age.

“We are not ready to do business like other tribes because we believe in cows,” said Samburu politician Mathew Lempurkel. “What are we going to replace them with?”

Harrison says less than 1 percent of NRT members’ land is set aside exclusively for wildlife.

Livestock is life

In remote, insecure lands, with poor roads and patchy mobile phone networks, there are no obvious alternative ways of life.

“If we went to say: ‘Look, you’ve all got to cut your livestock numbers in half, we would be laughed out the door,” Harrison said. “It’s a long slow process of rethinking what the incentives might be, trying different options.”

The authority of elders who used to control shared grazing land has been eroded by centralized government rule and modern education, experts say.

As climate change has brought increasingly frequent and prolonged drought and less grass, herders are keeping more goats as they can browse on shrubs and young shoots, unlike cattle.

The goats rip out the grass roots, further degrading the rangeland and reinforcing the vicious downwards cycle.

Some northern counties have formalized traditional land management customs in local bylaws, with the aim of giving power back to elders, in contrast to NRT’s approach of supporting decision-making by conservancy boards of directors.

“When you have the elders managing, there is enhanced ownership and the feeling of exclusion is not there,” said George Wamwere-Njoroge, an expert with the International Livestock Research Institute, which supports such initiatives.

ILRI is also encouraging herders to keep fewer, healthier animals, which fetch a better price at local markets, instead of trucking their cattle for 24 hours to the capital, Nairobi, where cartels control sales, he said.

Status cows

One solution, rarely discussed by politicians, would be to reduce the number of livestock owned by wealthy, urban elites, who keep vast herds on northern lands as a status symbol.

Unlike in the past, when droughts would naturally have reduced livestock numbers, the elites ship in hay and water to keep their animals alive.

“A lot of destitute pastoralists have dropped out and moved to the small trading centers and depend on relief and petty trade,” said Wamwere-Njoroge. “But the elite pastoralist animals keep on going.”

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The Next Silicon Valley? Head to France  

France is known worldwide for its wine, food and culture, but under its new president, the French are aiming to be the new global hub for tech startups.

President Emmanuel Macron has said he wants to build a version of Silicon Valley in France. His administration has launched pro-business initiatives that are loosening government restrictions and encouraging entrepreneurs to launch their startups in the country.

“The tradition has been in Europe and in France to invest in big, traditional companies and not specifically [in] tech startups. So we will dedicate a €10 billion fund to the investment in tech startups in France,” said Mounir Mahjoubi, France’s Secretary of State for Digital Affairs.

Both public and private investments will factor into Macron’s vision of France as a “country of unicorns” — the term popularly used for tech startups valued at $1 billion or more, said Mahjoubi, who recently was in New York City for “La French Touch” conference, where he discussed France’s strategy for attracting the tech world’s best and brightest.

In the French tech world, all eyes are on the privately financed Station F, which is set to open this summer in Paris. Billed as the world’s biggest startup campus, the 34,000-square-meter space already has major tech companies like Microsoft, Facebook and Ubisoft signed on. The companies will develop their products, as well as host and mentor startup founders in incubator programs. One thousand individual startups are expected to set up shop at Station F.

Seeking global appeal

Silicon Valley has attracted tech talent from all over the world. Now France hopes to do the same for those beyond its borders. Initiatives like the “French Tech Ticket” and more recent “French Tech Visa” are designed to bring startup founders, employees and investors to the country through a combination of mentorships, grants and subsidized work spaces. The French Tech Visa fast-tracks a process for participants to obtain a renewable, four-year residence permit.

Not to be left out are the locals in France’s poorer, outer suburbs, the banlieue. The new administration is aiming for social diversity through inclusion initiatives that foster entrepreneurship, said Mahjoubi.

“We decided to create hubs in the private area[s] of France,” said Mahjoubi. “There might be entrepreneurs over there that believe that it’s not for them, because they couldn’t afford to not having a salary for a year of entrepreneurship … we created the condition so they could receive money from the state, to have a salary during these 12 months [to] push their project to the highest level they can.”

Unemployment at 9.5 percent

The encouragement of entrepreneurship is a novel sentiment in a country where traditional attitudes and strict labor laws have long dominated work culture. With a national unemployment rate of 9.5 percent, venturing out on one’s own to start a business can seem too risky.

But with the success of French unicorns like ride-sharing service BlaBlaCar and network provider Sigfox, attitudes appear to be shifting; 68 percent of French people aged 18 to 25 aspire to run their own business one day, according to a 2015 Ernst & Young survey.

“I think the ecosystem, the government, have done a very good job to do some marketing about entrepreneurship and I think it’s very important because when we compare our situation to the U.S., in the U.S. there is a lot of storytelling, everyone is super enthusiast[ic] and it brings a momentum that is super beneficial,” said François Wyss, co-founder of French startup DataBerries.

Funding available

Wyss and his co-founders recently secured $16 million in their first round of funding for his digital marketing startup.

“There is a lot of funding now in France, so it’s great. We have the chance to have world-class engineers, which are far cheaper than in the U.S. So a lot of companies are developing their core product and R&D in France before exporting it overseas,” said Wyss.

“French tech is all about having roots in France and having a vision for the world,” said Mahjoubi. “The French tech startup scene is an international startup scene.”

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Former Texas Senator Nominated as NATO Ambassador

U.S. President Donald Trump has nominated a former member of the U.S. Senate from Texas to become the next ambassador to NATO.

Kay Bailey Hutchison, 73, served in the Senate for 20 years beginning in 1993, when she won a special election to fill a vacant seat. Since stepping down in 2013, she has practiced law for a firm in Houston that also has former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a Trump supporter as a partner.  

If confirmed as the U.S. envoy to NATO, Hutchison will have to straddle the longtime U.S. commitment to the military alliance and the thorny relationship that Trump has had with the 28-nation group.

As a candidate, Trump called NATO “obsolete.” Since becoming president, he has criticized NATO members for depending on the U.S. military for defense and for not paying what he said was their fair share of the alliance’s costs.

At a meeting in Brussels with NATO members in May, Trump added to strains within the alliance by complaining that what he saw as NATO members’ reluctance to contribute fully to the organization had “shortchanged” the people of the United States. He also neglected to reaffirm America’s commitment to Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which guarantees that all member nations will come to the aid of any member that has been attacked.

The Dallas Morning News reported Hutchison said she was honored to be chosen to represent America on the world stage. “I am a strong supporter of this historic defense and security alliance that was formed to protect freedom for all its members, united and indivisible,” she said in a statement.

Hutchison was the first woman to represent Texas in the Senate. She served on a variety of committees, including those reponsible for armed services, appropriations, commerce, science and transportation, intelligence, small businesses, and Senate rules and administration.

She became the fourth Texan tapped for a key role in the Trump administration, joining Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Ray Washburn, nominated to head the Overseas Private Investment Corp.

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Turkish Envoy to Greek Cypriots: Hope for Removal of Troops ‘a Dream’

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has told Greek Cypriots to stop dreaming that 35,000 Turkish forces will leave the divided island.

“This is their dream. They should wake up from this dream and they should abandon this dream,” he said Thursday at U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Crans-Montana, Switzerland.

Cavusoglu said the current round of talks should be the last attempt to resolve the decades-old dispute over Cyprus.

“We cannot continue negotiating forever,” the Turkish diplomat said.

His Greek counterpart, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, said the Turkish side has been repeating the same positions over and over.

The Greek Cypriots’ demand that Turkish forces go home is one of the major roadblocks to a deal to reunify the Mediterranean island after 43 years.

Turkish troops invaded Cyprus in July 1974, after a coup in Nicosia that was aimed at unifying the island with Greece. Cyprus has been divided since then between separate administrations — Greek Cypriots in the south and Turkish Cypriots in the north — kept apart by U.N. peacekeepers.

Only Turkey recognizes the north, while the Greek south enjoys international recognition and European Union benefits.

Turkish Cypriots want Ankara’s troops to stay on for their security; Greek officials in Nicosia say the continuing presence of the Turkish army is a threat to stability.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres plans to join the talks in Switzerland on Friday in the hope of moving the negotiations forward.

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Trump Nominates Indiana Health Chief as Surgeon General

President Donald Trump on Thursday nominated an anesthesiologist to become the next U.S. surgeon general.

Dr. Jerome Adams is the current health commissioner of Indiana, appointed by Vice President Mike Pence when he was the governor of that state.

If confirmed, Adams would replace Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, the acting surgeon general, who took over for Vivek Murthy, whom Trump dismissed in April.

In Indiana, Adams has been a prominent backer of allowing counties to start needle-exchange programs aimed at stemming the spread of diseases among intravenous drug users as the state struggles with opioid abuse.

As the health commissioner, Adams oversaw the effort, which Pence reluctantly supported in 2015 after more than 180 HIV cases hit a rural southern Indiana county that were blamed on needle-sharing among people injecting a liquefied painkiller.

“Syringe exchanges aren’t pretty. They make people uncomfortable. But the opioid epidemic is far uglier. It affects the student athlete who gets hooked on the pain pills he was prescribed for a sports injury. It affects the grandmother with chronic pain issues. The faces of this epidemic are our children, our friends, our neighbors,” Adams wrote in a in a June 22 commentary distributed by the state health department.

Adams also was an assistant professor of anesthesiology at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

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US Approves First Arms Sale to Taiwan Under Trump

The State Department has approved arms sales to Taiwan worth a total of $1.4 billion, the first such deal with the self-governing island since President Donald Trump took office, officials said Thursday.

The sale will anger China, which regards Taiwan as part of its territory. It comes at a delicate time for relations between Washington and Beijing over efforts to rein in nuclear-armed North Korea.

The sale to Taiwan comprises seven items, including technical support for early warning radar, anti-radiation missiles, torpedoes and components for SM-2 missiles, according to a U.S. official who requested anonymity to discuss the details before they were formally announced.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the Trump administration had notified Congress of its intent to approve seven proposed deals now valued at around $1.42 billion. Nauert said the approvals did not violate the Taiwan Relations Act that governs U.S. contacts with the island.

“It shows, we believe, our support for Taiwan’s ability to maintain a sufficient self-defense policy,” Nauert said. “There’s no change, I should point out, to our ‘one-China policy.”‘

Lawmakers, which are generally strongly supportive of such sales, have 30 days to object. The U.S. is legally obligated to sell weapons to Taiwan for its self-defense.

The U.S. official said the sales represented upgrades, converting existing systems from analog to digital.

The last U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, worth $1.8 billion, were announced in December 2015. They included two decommissioned U.S. Navy frigates, anti-tank missiles, amphibious assault vehicles and Stinger surface-to-air missiles, and was the first sale for four years.

China objected strongly, but it did not notably set back U.S.-China relations and military ties, which has happened after past arms sales to Taiwan.

However, relations across the Taiwan Strait have deteriorated since then, as Taiwan last year elected a leader from an independence-leaning party, Tsai Ing-wen. China has increased diplomatic pressure, cut off its contacts with the island’s government and discouraged travel there by Chinese tourists.

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Travel Ban, First On, Then Off, Is Back — But It’s Different

President Donald Trump’s first, temporary ban on travelers from seven majority-Muslim nations was short-lived, but it sparked confusion, panic and anger that lasted through months of court rulings. The Supreme Court is now taking up the case in the fall. In the meantime, the government can enforce parts of a second version of Trump’s order.


So what’s new this time?


Old order: Three-month ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, including those who had valid visas but were outside the United States when the ban was signed.

Supreme Court version: Iraq has been dropped from the ban.


For 90 days, the government can bar new visa applicants from Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Iran and Libya who can’t prove they have a “bona fide relationship” with close relatives or a business in the United States. The State Department says valid relationships include a parent, spouse, child, adult son or daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling already in the United States. Journalists, students, workers or lecturers who have valid, formal invitations or employment contracts in the U.S. will also be welcome.

Refugees hoping to come to the United States who aren’t already approved for travel must now also prove one of these relationships. Otherwise, they’ll be barred for 120 days.


Old order: Syrian visitors, immigrants and refugees were barred from the United States indefinitely.

Supreme Court version: Syrians will be treated in the same manner as citizens of the other five designated countries.


Old order: Four-month halt to refugees entering the United States.

Supreme Court version: The refugee ban will be in place for 120 days. But refugees already vetted and approved for travel through July 6 will be allowed to move to the United States. The “bona fide relationship” standard applies after a cap of 50,000 refugees that Trump set for the fiscal year is met. That is likely to happen soon. The new rules will most likely affect refugees in the next fiscal year, which starts in October. The Supreme Court will hold a hearing on the ban that same month.


Old order: The January 27 order was immediately put into place, causing chaos and panic at airports as the Homeland Security Department scrambled to figure out who was covered by the order and how it was to be implemented.

Supreme Court version: It goes into effect about 8 p.m. Eastern time Thursday, more than 72 hours after the Supreme Court issued its opinion.

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Climate Change Up Close: Southern, Poor US Counties to Suffer

Poor and southern U.S. counties will get hit hardest by global warming, according to a first-of-its-kind detailed projection of potential climate change effects at the local level.

The study, published Thursday in the journal Science, calculates probable economic harms and benefits for the more than 3,100 counties in the United States under different possible scenarios for worldwide emissions of heat-trapping gases. It looks at agriculture, energy costs, labor costs, coastal damage from rising seas, crime and deaths, then estimates the effect on average local income by the end of the century.

Researchers computed the possible effects of 15 types of impacts for each county across 29,000 simulations.

“The south gets hammered and the north can actually benefit,” said study lead author Solomon Hsiang, a University of California economist. “The south gets hammered primarily because it’s super-hot already. It just so happens that the south is also poorer.”

The southern part of the nation’s heartland — such as Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky and southern Illinois — also feels the heat hard, he said. Michigan, Minnesota, the far northeast, the northwest and mountainous areas benefit the most.

Counties hit hardest

The county hit hardest if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated is tiny and impoverished Union County in Florida, where median income would take a 28 percent hit. And among counties with at least 500,000 people, Polk County in central Florida would suffer the most, with damages of more than 17 percent of income.

Seven of the 10 counties with the highest percentage of projected county income losses from climate change are in Florida, along with two in Texas and one in Georgia. Half of these are among the poorest counties in the country. 

Five of the 10 counties that would benefit the most from global warming are in Michigan. The others are in Alaska, Colorado, Nevada and the mountainous region of North Carolina. Mineral County in Nevada would see a 13 percent increase in income, while Tacoma, Washington’s Pierce County would benefit by about 2 percent, the most among counties with a population of more than 500,000.

“You’re going to see this transfer of wealth from the southeast to the parts of the country that are less exposed to risk,” said study co-author Robert Kopp, a Rutgers University climate scientist. “On average both in this country and on this planet just poorer people are in hotter areas.”

The whole nation’s gross domestic product would shrink by 0.7 percent for every degree Fahrenheit temperatures go up, the study calculates, but that masks just how uneven the damage could be. On average, the poorest counties would suffer a drop of 13.1 percent of income if carbon pollution continues unabated, while the richest counties would fall 1.1 percent.

Rise in fatalities

Economists and scientists who specialize in climate and disasters praised the study as groundbreaking.

“This is the most comprehensive, the most detailed information to date,” said University of Illinois finance professor Donald Fullerton, who wasn’t part of the study. “Nobody had ever done anything like this.”

The biggest economic damage comes from an increase in deaths. In the early stages of warming, overall deaths fall because the number of deaths from extreme cold falls fast. But as the world warms further, the increase in deaths from heat rises faster and results in more deaths overall by the end of the century.

Fullerton said the one place where he felt the study could overstate costs is in these deaths because it uses the same government-generated dollar value for each life — $7.9 million per person — when most of the people who die in temperature-related deaths are older and some economists prefer valuing deaths differently by age.

The study looks at production of four different crops — soy, wheat, corn and cotton. Much of the Midwest could be hit “with the type of productivity losses we saw during the Dust Bowl,” Hsiang said.

The study also examines two types of crime data: property and violent crime. Previous studies have found a direct and strong correlation between higher temperatures and higher rates of violent crime such as assault, rape and murder, Hsiang said.

Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann called it “a fascinating and ambitious study.” But because many extreme weather factors weren’t or can’t yet be calculated, he said the study “can at best only provide a very lower limit on the extent of damages likely to result from projected climate changes.”

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Driver Arrested for Targeting French Mosque Worshippers

French police say a man has been arrested trying to drive into a crowd outside a mosque in the Paris suburb of Cretiel. No one was hurt in the incident Thursday.

The unidentified driver was unable to get past barriers surrounding the mosque, police said. 

Le Parisien newspaper reported that the man said he wanted to avenge attacks by Islamic State group extremists that have killed dozens of people in Paris in recent years.

Last week, one person was killed and several wounded when a van drove into worshippers leaving a London mosque.

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Malawi, UNICEF Launch Africa’s First Humanitarian Drone Testing Corridor

Malawi and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) launched an air corridor Thursday to test the effectiveness of drones in humanitarian emergencies and other development uses, the first project of its kind in Africa.

Landlocked Malawi, which suffers periodic crop failures and is prone to floods, is frequently in need of food and other aid, and limited road access in many of its rural areas makes it difficult to get help to needy communities.

“Drone technology has many potential applications. … One that we have already tested in Malawi is to transport infant blood samples to laboratories for HIV testing,” UNICEF Malawi Resident Representative Johannes Wedenig said at the launch in Kasungu, 100 km (60 miles) from the capital Lilongwe.

The test corridor is centered at the Kasungu Aerodrome, with a 40-kilometer radius and focusing on three areas: generating aerial images of crisis situations, using drones to extend Wi-Fi or mobile phone signals across difficult terrain in emergencies, and delivering low-weight emergency supplies.

“The launch of the testing corridor is particularly important to support transportation and data collection where land transport infrastructure is either not feasible or difficult during emergencies,” Malawian Minister of Transport Jappie Mhango told Reuters.

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Migrants Disillusioned With French Asylum Process Return to Calais

Somali teenager Abdulaziz Ahmad hunkered down in the sand dunes outside Calais, once again plotting how to reach Britain, eight months after French government bulldozers cleared a sprawling migrant camp in the northern port town.

In October, Ahmad, 17, was rehoused in a reception center in Rennes, in the western Brittany region, and began the process of seeking asylum. He soon became disillusioned with the slow pace of French bureaucracy. After four months he gave up.

Now his days are spent trying to climb aboard trucks and trains headed across the English Channel and evading riot police armed with batons and tear gas. He has no easy access to running water and relies on charities for food handouts.

Aid agencies and government officials estimate as many as 600 migrants have converged on Calais. Some, like Ahmad, were housed in the squalid “Jungle” camp before it was dismantled, while others are newcomers. All seek a better life in Britain.

“We know it is dangerous, but we have no other possibility because France is not giving answers on asylum requests. So people come back here,” Ahmad said in broken English.

“The police here, they are very hard on us. Thank God I can run fast, like Usain Bolt,” he said with a defiant smile.

Ahmad’s personal belongings amount to little more than a mobile phone and wallet, carefully tucked in a light sports jacket. A charity gave him a plastic sleeping bag.

His plight highlights how France and the European Union are struggling to find a coherent answer to a migration crisis that has tested cooperation among member states. French President Emmanuel Macron wants France’s asylum process sped up.

Italy, bearing the brunt of migrant arrivals across the Mediterranean, pressed  Wednesday for more help from the bloc.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said the number of migrants fleeing war or poverty globally fell marginally in 2016 from a record high in 2015.

Migrant surge expected

Charity workers in Calais anticipate a surge in the number of migrants from countries like Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and Afghanistan during the summer.

“We knew migrants would come back. The weather is improving and many of them tell us others are on their way,” said Francois Guennoc of aid group Auberge des Migrants.

Another charity worker, Gael Manzi, said there had been an outbreak of scabies among the migrants because living conditions were so dire.

Macron has promised migrants will be treated humanely after the national human rights watchdog was fiercely critical of the living conditions they face.

Nonetheless, his interior minister, Gerard Collomb, last Friday dismissed charities’ call for a new migrant reception center in Calais, saying it would act as a magnet, and said he would deploy extra riot police to contain the influx.

A local court backed the government’s stance but ruled local authorities must provide drinking water, toilets and showers.

Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchard said on Twitter she would file an appeal.

Regional prefect Fabien Sudry also said he was considering an appeal against some of the court’s decisions.

“We are determined to prevent any kind of permanent settlement in the Calais area,” Sudry said. “These are complex issues. And we want to avoid creating any new pull effect.”

Sudry denied accusations of police violence and said only one complaint had been submitted to the police so far this year.

Migrants say they are too scared to walk into a police station and file a complaint.

“The police here are after us,” said 17-year-old Eritrean national Robil Teklit, who complained his eyes itched constantly from repeated exposure to tear gas. “But it’s no worse than in Eritrea.”

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Mali Study Finds Simple Malaria Intervention Boosts Students’ Performance

New research suggests that the ability of children in Africa to perform well in school could be dramatically improved through the provision of basic malaria education and treatment.

Most malaria prevention programs focus on children under 5. Infections are less fatal among older children, but many harbor malaria parasites without displaying any symptoms of the disease. If such a condition is left untreated, a young victim’s health often deteriorates, said lead researcher Dr. Sian Clarke of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“The malaria parasites destroy the red blood cells, and as a consequence of that you get chronic anemia in children,” Clarke said. “Generally, children who are anemic feel weak, they’re tired, they’re generally lethargic, they are going to be less active and less fully engaged.”

The research involved nearly 2,000 schoolchildren in Mali, led by Save the Children and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, alongside the National Institute for Public Health Research in Mali.

About half the children were given a malaria control package delivered by their teachers, which included prevention education, insecticide-treated nets and anti-malarial treatment. Malaria infection rates fell from 80 percent to just 5 percent, and cases of anemia were almost halved compared with the control group.

“And the children’s capacity to pay attention for longer was increased,” Clarke said.

Save the Children has helped expand the program to 400 schools in Mali. It was the second African country to host the trial.

“The first study was done in Kenya, an area of year-round [malaria] transmission,” Clarke said. “This study was done in Mali, an area with malaria concentrated in just a few months.  And the fact that we saw similar results in both settings would suggest that where malaria is a significant problem and the levels of infection are high, then you might expect to see a similar impact in other settings.”

Aid workers say preventing anemia in Malian schoolgirls is particularly important because of high teenage marriage and pregnancy rates. Anemia during pregnancy can lead to a low birth weight and a higher risk of child mortality.

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Turkish-German Relations Plummet with Berlin Banning Erdogan Rally in Germany

A new dispute between Ankara and Berlin has arisen, with the Turkish president being refused permission to hold a rally for ethnic Turks while he is attending the G20 summit next week in Germany.

“We don’t have the police forces available to ensure security, given the G20,” said German Foreign Minister Sigma Gabriel.  “But I also told them [Turkey] openly that such an appearance was not appropriate, given the conflict situation that exists with Turkey, and that it would not fit into the political landscape at this time.”

Relations between the two NATO members are at an unprecedented low.  But Gabriel’s announcement appears to have taken Ankara by surprise.

“We are following the statements from Germany carefully,” said an anonymous presidential source, quoted in the Turkish media.  

Attempts to get an official comment met with no success.

The Turkish foreign ministry, in a statement Thursday, slammed Social Democratic Party of Germany leader Martin Schulz for his demand that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan be prevented from speaking during his German visit.

“Particularly, the approach of someone who held the position of the presidency of the European Parliament towards imposing restrictions on freedom of assembly and expression once again reflects the true face of the mentality that we confront, as well as the double standard of those who aim to lecture the others,” declared the Turkish Foreign Ministry statement.

Influenced by election campaign

There is a perception in Ankara that Erdogan’s visit has fallen victim to the German general election campaign. Analysts said standing up to Erdogan will likely play well with German voters, given the current crackdown in Turkey that continues to draw growing international criticism and the fact the Turkish president accused German leaders of behaving like Nazis during his April referendum campaign to extend his powers.

German authorities have raised concerns related to Erdogan’s body guards who are wanted by U.S. authorities for allegedly beating protesters during the Turkish president’s visit last month to Washington.

“I have reason to expect that these people [bodyguards], who have been incriminated by the American criminal justice (system) will not step onto German soil in the foreseeable future, including during the G20 summit.” said German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer.

Tensions stoked

Pro-government Turkish media slammed the decision claiming Erdogan will be visiting Germany unprotected.

Erdogan stoked tensions before his German visit, warning that three million or so ethnic Turkish voters could be decisive in the forthcoming German polls.

“The Germans are very unhappy with UETD,[United European Turkish Democrats]. This is a Europe-wide organization of Erdogan’s AKP Party. One of their aims is to get into the European political system through different parties,” points out Professor Cengiz Aktar, an expert on Turkish European relations. “We’ve seen this in the recent French elections and the German officials are very unhappy about any interference in their elections.”

Real consequences

Bilateral relations are still recovering from political fallout after German authorities banned some Turkish Cabinet ministers from campaigning for ethnic Turk votes in Germany during the April referendum.  With Germany in the midst of its own election, there is little expedition of any improvement in ties soon.

“We have to wait for the German elections and this going to take place in September so this summer will not give an opportunity for a new momentum [in German-Turkish relations],” warns retired Turkish ambassador Unal Cevikoz, who now heads the Ankara Policy forum research organization.  “But towards the end of Autumn this year we may see a new momentum.”

The current bilateral strains are having real consequences. Berlin is relocating its forces in the coalition against Islamic State from the Turkish Incirlik air base, in response to Ankara’s restrictions on access to the base. This week, German daily Die Welt reported Turkish intelligence is collecting information on members of the German parliament.

‘Boy who cried wolf’

Ankara accuses Berlin of providing sanctuary to people involved in the July 2016 coup attempt. Erdogan and his ministers routinely threaten Berlin with ending a refugee deal with the European Union that has slowed the exodus of immigrants into Europe and Germany. But there is skepticism Ankara would ever take such a dramatic step.

“You can only use leverage up to point otherwise it becomes the story of the boy who cried wolf,” observes Semih Idiz of al-Monitor website. “If you keep saying you are going to do it, you are going to do it, but in the end nobody takes you seriously, and I think that’s the problem facing Turkey at the moment.”

Ankara’s reticence to play the migrant card is a sign that pragmatism on both sides will likely control the current tensions.

“German Turkish relations are very tense,” points out analyst Aktar, “but Germany has huge economic stakes in Turkey so they will never sever the relationship similarly for Turkey.”

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Europe Sees Spike in Nigerian Women Trafficked for Prostitution

Police and aid groups say more than 60 percent of illegal prostitutes in Belgium are trafficked from Nigeria. Many are only teenagers and almost all come from Benin City, a city in the south of Nigeria.

Rosa was sexually exploited by Nigerian traffickers and had to prostitute herself on the streets of Spain, Norway, France and Belgium. But Belgian police saved her after two years.

“The police took me and asked me question if I want to talk. If I talk they are going to make a better way for me. They will give me document, I say yes because the stress is too much,” she said.

Rosa – not her real name – was struggling in Nigeria, making ends meet for herself and her daughter. She was told she could marry a man in Europe. After crossing Morocco and reaching Spain by boat, she was told to repay a $55,000 debt and forced into prostitution.

Europol said last year that Nigerian human trafficking rings are one of the biggest challenges for European police forces.

Police now see those who were trafficked as victims, whether they have documents or not.

After speaking to the Belgium police, Rosa ended up in Payoke, a shelter for victims of sexual exploitation. There are three similar shelters in Belgium. Payoke has helped at least 4,000 women and witnessed a rise in Nigerian women from the early 1990s.

Payoke founder Patsy Sorenson says the shelter only helps victims who agree to file charges against the traffickers.

“The reason also that we ask their cooperation, is that we like to fight also against the traffickers,” she explained. ” It is a win-win situation also for them. When they cooperate we are able to offer them a lot of things. So that they are able to start a new life.”

Citizenship offered

A court case usually takes about two to three years. In that time, the shelter helps the girl get her life organized and after five years the victims can apply for Belgian citizenship.

Police commissioner Franz Vandelook says another big challenge is that most Nigerian illegal prostitutes end up trafficking and exploiting other girls once they have paid of their debt, meaning they will no longer be seen as a victim.

“They know very well what they have suffered in the past, and of course at a certain moment they decide to transform themselves to a madam too, because of the money of course,” he said. “And they need money to feed the family who is still in Nigeria. So I can understand the situation, but in our society, in our European society, we can not accept the situation.”

Sorensen of Payoke says the women still face many challenges once they have decided to start a new life. Their family in Nigeria still needs money, their health is often a concern, many are still scared of the traffickers, and they often feel lonely while dealing with their traumatic experiences.

Rosa says when she started the court procedures, friends of the traffickers in Nigeria would beat her mother so badly she needed hospital treatment.

Despite the challenges, Rosa feels it was worth it.

“I can say now I am very happy because I am getting a good life now. Because before I was having a lot of stress, but now my stress is gone down. I can really say that I am very OK,” she said.

The International Organization for Migration says last year about 37,000 Nigerians arrived by boat in Europe, about one-third of them women. It is estimated more than 8,000 of them will end up in prostitution.


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Gunfire Rings out Near Jail in Congo’s Capital Kinshasa

Gunfire rang out near a small jail in Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital Kinshasa on Thursday afternoon and a heavy army presence was deployed at the site, witnesses said on Thursday.

The army and police surrounded the jail in the Matonge neighborhood of Kinshasa. The cause of the gunfire was not clear.

Thousands of inmates have escaped from jails this year in Congo, including about 4,000 from the capital Kinshasa’s main high-security prison last month.


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