France Offers Conference on Sudan’s Debt if US Lifts Sanctions

France will host a conference with Sudan’s international creditors to help Khartoum address debt issues as soon as the United States removes the country from its state-sponsored terrorism list, French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday.

In efforts to stabilize the country and to repair an economy battered by years of U.S. sanctions and government mismanagement during Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year rule, Sudanese transition government led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok is holding talks with Washington to see Sudan withdrawn from the list.

“As soon as the Americans make their decision, we will be able to restructure the debt together,” Macron said at a joint press conference with Hamdok in Paris.

“I have decided that France will host an international conference with private and public international creditors,” he added.

Macron provided no timeframe.

“The precise timing of the conference will depend on the timing upon which sanctions are to be lifted,” Macron said.

On the sidelines of a United Nations General Assembly last week, Hamdok expressed hope Sudan would reach an agreement with the United States “very soon.”

Sudan has been unable to tap the International Monetary Fund and World Bank for support because the United States still lists the country as a state sponsor of terrorism.

A senior U.S. official said in August that Washington would test the commitment of Sudan’s new transitional government to human rights, freedom of speech and humanitarian access before it agrees to remove the country from a list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Macron said France had also planned for Hamdok to have a meeting in Paris on Sunday with one of Darfur’s rebel leaders, Abdel Wahid el-Nur.
 

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Are Missing and Murdered Indigenous Men in US Being Ignored?

Hub Binion Williamson, 34, was last seen in April near Hardin, Montana, about 12 miles away from his home on the Crow Indian Reservation.  It was a trip he made almost daily, said his cousin Rachel Reddog. Along the way, she said he stopped at his aunt’s house for a drink of water.  After that, he vanished without a trace, leaving his family devastated.

“It’s like having a huge splinter in your foot,” Reddog said. “Things just aren’t the same.”

Crow Citizen Hub Binion was last seen walking home to the Crow Reservation from Hardin, Montana, April 9, 2019.

Williamson is one of thousands of American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) men and boys who are missing or murdered in the U.S. but capture little media attention in the shadow of the greater campaign seeking justice for missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIW).

Faulty reporting

Lissa Yellowbird-Chase, a member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota, steps in where tribal police have failed to locate the missing.

“I can tell you from what I’ve witnessed personally, that men are murdered and missing more than the women,” she said. “But not all their deaths are reported.”

Medical examiners, she explained, trying to avoid the burdensome paperwork required in homicide cases, may note the cause of death as “overdose” or “alcohol-related” for both men and women.

Williamson’s cousin Frankie Backbone, a member of the Crow Nation, cites the example of a another missing relative, his 14-year-old niece, Henny Scott, who disappeared in December 2018 and was later found dead.

“She had a broken nose and bruises all over her body, but the county coroner said she died from ‘exposure,’” he said.

Robert Garrett Steward, Jr., nicknamed “Baby Garrett,” a member of the Crow Nation in Montana, has been missing since October 4, 2013

According to a 2008 Department of Health and Human Services study, medical examiners may also misclassify the deceased as “white,” especially if the victim is of mixed race. 

Several federal agencies collect homicide data, but reporting is mostly voluntary.  Federal law requires police to report all missing juveniles to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) but not adults.

Currently, only 47 tribes have access to NCIC.

In 2018, the FBI reported more than 9,900 adult and juvenile Native Americans were missing, but did not break them down by gender.

A better-known database is the Justice Department’s (DOJ) National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) that tracks missing, unidentified and unclaimed persons and allows police, medical examiners and families of the missing to post, search and update cases at no charge.  But participation is voluntary, and its data is also incomplete.

As of late September 2019, NaMus listed 404 missing Native Americans — 250 males and 154 females.

Meskee Yatsayte, a Navajo citizen who tracks and shares information on the missing and murdered on Facebook, believes these numbers represent the tip of the iceberg.

Volunteer citizens planning a search and rescue operation after a 94-year-old elder went missing, Sept. 17, 2019.

“Everybody is talking about MMIW, and that’s good. But our men and boys are missing and murdered in way higher in numbers,” Yatsayte said. “In the Navajo Nation alone, 57 persons are currently missing. Thirty-seven of them are men.”

‘They’ll be back’

So, why aren’t indigenous men getting more attention?

Yellowbird-Chase and Yatsayte both point to gender stereotypes. Women are perceived as more vulnerable; men as more able to take care of themselves.  And because men commit most of the violence against women, families and law enforcement fail to recognize that men, too, are vulnerable.

“I also think they focus more on the women because when that monthly check comes and she is not there to sign it — and the kids are having to be tended for by another family caregiver — well, then, they’re looking for the mother right away,” said Yellowbird-Chase.

Yatsayte believes police ignore cases in which men go missing.

“A lot of our indigenous brothers in the Navajo Nation have alcohol and drug problems,” she said. “You know, it’s kind of routine for them to take off for a couple days, go party with their friends in the border towns.”

Knowing this, families may not report the missing for days, even weeks.

“And when they finally do, the police say, ‘Oh, they’ll be back,’” Yatsayte said.

Mona Sespe, a member of the Pala Band of Mission Indians in California, knows this firsthand. Ten years ago, her 60-year-old cousin Joseph Scott went missing.

“I thought he was down in his trailer,” Sespe said. “He’d come up to eat, and I’d do his wash and stuff.  “He hadn’t come up for like a couple days, so I walked down there and called to him, knocked on the trailer door, and no answer.”

Joseph Lawrence Scott disappeared from his home in Temecula, Cal., in 2009; he may have been spotted in Mexico in 2015.

She called tribal police, who refused to break open the trailer door. Only after she complained to the tribal chairman did lawmakers act. The trailer was empty. Williamson has not been heard from since.  

Reddog cites police apathy, not only in the case of her cousin Hub, but another cousin, Robert “Baby” Garrett, who went missing nearly six years ago.

“Tribal police didn’t know my cousins personally, and it feels like we were almost laughed at for trying so hard to find them,” she said. This indifference has forced her family to organize their own search parties.

“Law enforcement, they showed up once for the first search and rescue,” Reddog said. “They gave us some maps, and that was it.”  

Police stretched thin

More than 200 police departments operate in Indian Country, ranging in size from a single officer to more than 200.  Complex jurisdictional rules mean that some crimes fall under state, local or federal jurisdiction, and some fall through the cracks.

Most tribal police forces are limited in resources and manpower, and some are responsible for reservations the size of small U.S. states.

This means police must pick and choose which cases deserve their attention:  When a 94-year-old citizen of the Navajo Nation disappeared from his front yard in Fort Defiance, Arizona, tribal police searched the desert with helicopters.

Navajo Nation police used helicopters to search for a missing 94-year-old man, Sept. 17, 2019.

“But if there’s no reason to believe that the person is in danger, if they don’t have a disability, they’re not a child, they’re not elderly, helicopters and search parties usually don’t happen,” said Yatsayte.

Legislative remedies

A number of bills have been introduced that would address these issues:

Savanna’s Act would improve tribal access to national databases and require DOJ to develop national guidelines for handling missing and murdered Native Americans and report statistics annually to Congress. 

The Bridging Agency Data Gaps & Ensuring Safety (BADGES) for Native Communities Act would improve sharing of law enforcement agency data and boost officer recruitment and retention.

The Not Invisible Act of 2019 would require the DOJ to allocate more resources toward missing and murdered Native Americans based on input from local, tribal and federal leaders.

Congresswoman Deb Haaland, a Democrat from the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico, has introduced amendments to the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA), which expired in February and is pending reauthorization, that would provide victim advocate services to urban Indians.

In the interim, advocates are calling on the MMIW movement to change their acronym to MMIR — “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives.”

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San Francisco Tour Guide Charged With Carrying US Secrets to China

A San Francisco tour guide has been charged with being an agent of the Chinese government, accused of picking up U.S. national security secrets from furtive locations and delivering them cloak and dagger style to Beijing, federal prosecutors said Monday.

Xuehua Peng, also known as Edward Peng, was arrested on Friday in the San Francisco suburb of Hayward, California, and was denied bail during an initial court appearance by a U.S. magistrate judge that same day, federal prosecutors said at a Monday morning news conference.

“The conduct charged in this case alleges a combination of age-old spycraft and modern technology,” U.S. Attorney David Anderson said.

“Defendant Xuehua (Edward) Peng is charged with executing dead drops, delivering payments, and personally carrying to Beijing, China, secure digital cards containing classified information related to the national security of the United States,” Anderson said.

Peng, 56, is not accused of stealing secrets from the U.S. government himself, but is charged with acting as a courier who between October 2015 and June 2018 picked up classified information from the “dead drops” in Oakland and Newark, California, and Columbus, Georgia, and delivering them to his handlers from the Ministry of State Security (MSS) in Beijing.

FBI surveillance

FBI agents began conducting surveillance on Peng after a double agent, referred to in court papers only as “the Source,” was told by MSS officers in March 2015 that “Ed,” who had family and business dealings in China, could be relied on.

“I believe that ‘Ed’ — who was later identified as Peng — had been instructed in spycraft, practiced it and knew that he was working for intelligence operatives of the PRC,” FBI Agent Spiro Fokas said in a sworn affidavit filed with the criminal complaint, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

An MSS officer told the Source that the ministry “control(s) everything about Ed’s” company and would “cut him off” if he did not do as told.

Hotel drops

According to Fokas’ affidavit, the double agent on several occasions passed information to Peng for delivery to Beijing, dropping them at the front desk of a hotel or in rooms reserved by Peng.

The dead drops sometimes involved Peng leaving $10,000 or $20,000 taped in white envelopes inside the drawer of a television stand and retrieving secure digital cards with the classified information, according to the court papers.

Peng then flew to Beijing with the digital cards, the affidavit alleges.

Peng, who works as a sight-seeing tour operator for Chinese tourists in the Bay Area, faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted, prosecutors said. He has been ordered to return to court in San Francisco on Oct. 2.
 

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Former President Jimmy Carter Marks 95th Birthday

Four years after battling life-threatening cancer in his liver and brain, and four months after falling and breaking his hip, requiring surgery and weeks of intense physical therapy, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter took the stage September 18, unassisted, here for the Annual Jimmy Carter Emory University Town Hall, which he’s participated in, uninterrupted, for 38 years.

Standing without assistance for more than 30 minutes, addressing topics ranging from current polarized U.S. politics to his favorite animal, Carter, a distinguished professor at Emory, showed no signs of fatigue or pain as he enthusiastically answered question after question from those who gathered in the cavernous campus gymnasium by the thousands to hear him speak.

“Before this I really didn’t know much about President Carter,”  freshman Stephanie Teng said. “I feel so fortunate to be here.  I know that many students won’t have this opportunity in their lifetime, and this is a uniquely Emory thing, and something I’ll remember the rest of my life.”

“I think it’s a problem when we overly lionize political figures, but I do have a great deal of respect for Jimmy Carter,” another freshman, Gian-Luigi Zaninelli, said. 

“I’ve heard a great many conservatives being credibly critical of Jimmy Carter and basically view him as an ineffectual president,”  he said. However, Zaninelli said that comes from Carter’s presidential term, from 1977 to 1981.

“Because of the good works he’s been doing over the course of the last 30 or more years, we have a high opinion of him as a human being,” Zaninelli said.  “What is indisputable is that Jimmy Carter cares about other people and devotes himself to service, and when he did serve as a president, regardless of the success of his policies, he was doing so as a servant leader and not someone who was intending to enrich himself.”

“I would say I still adhere to the advice my school principal gave me, ‘You must accommodate to changing times – and these are really changing times – but cling to principles that never do change,’” Carter told VOA in an exclusive interview at the Atlanta-based Carter Center.

WATCH: VOA interview with President Carter


President Jimmy Carter Interview September 2019 video player.
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“So I have faith in those principles, like telling the truth, and helping other people.”

Carter this year became the oldest living former president in U.S. history, surpassing George H.W. Bush for the record, and October 1 becomes the first former occupant of the White House to reach 95.

He reaches the milestone while continuing to engage with new and younger audiences born years after his presidency, and to work on the sorts of projects that have characterized his post-presidency life.

He is still involved in the Carter Center, which he leads with Rosalynn, his wife of 73 years, and which “wages peace, fights disease, and builds hope” around the world through programs including election monitoring, the elimination of river blindness, and the eradication of Guinea worm disease, among others, he told VOA.

“We still have in the neighborhood of 25 cases of Guinea worm, but we started out with three and a half million,” Carter said, with most of those cases in Africa.

During an August 2015 press conference here, when Carter told the world he was battling cancer that had spread to his brain, he said his one key hope was to witness the eradication of Guinea worm disease in his lifetime. 

There have been setbacks in the Guinea worm fight, including new cases of transmission between dogs, which can pass the worm to humans through water sources, that could ultimately jeopardize his hopes.

“We think we’ve prevented maybe 80 million people from having Guinea worm who may have had it otherwise,” Carter said, “So we’ve made very good progress but we still have a little ways to go.”  

While staff and volunteers around the world continue to work on the various peace and health initiatives that President and Mrs. Carter have championed since establishing the center in 1986, the former peanut farmer continues to participate in the annual weeklong Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project with Habitat for Humanity, a global nonprofit housing organization, building homes for those who need them most.  This year’s event is in Nashville, Tennessee, occurring soon after Carter’s birthday.

While there are no further signs of cancer and Carter says he is in relatively good health, he concedes age may finally be catching up with him.

“I still feel just about as active as I ever was, but my overseas movements are restrained because of age and health.  I used to travel to Africa three or four times a year, and always to China and so forth, so I’ve cut back on my foreign travel,” he said. 

Nevertheless, Carter remains an admired figure.

“President Carter is a kind of secular saint in America today,”  Joe Crespino, the Jimmy Carter professor of history and chair of the history department at Emory University, said.  He said Carter has set a high standard for what is expected of U.S. presidents once they leave office.

“His longevity, his commitment to doing as much good as he can do on the time he had left on earth is really a remarkable model, not just for his fellow Americans but for people around the globe,” he said.

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China Spurns US Criticism of Economic Cooperation With Afghanistan

A regional Chinese diplomat has rebuked the United States for being “ignorant” about his country’s ongoing key economic contributions and cooperation with Afghanistan.

Arrangements are being worked out to enhance the cooperation with Kabul even under Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Yao Jing, the Chinese ambassador to neighboring Pakistan told VOA.

He hailed Saturday’s successful Afghan presidential election, saying China hopes they will boost peace-building efforts in a country wrecked by years of conflicts.

“We hope that with the election in Afghanistan, with the peace development moving forward in Afghanistan, Afghans will finally achieve a peaceful period, achieve the stability,” said the Chinese diplomat, who served in Kabul prior to his posting in Islamabad.

Earlier this month, U.S. officials and lawmakers during a congressional hearing in Washington sharply criticized China for its lack of economic assistance to Afghan rebuilding efforts.

“I think it’s fair to say that China has not contributed to the economic development of Afghanistan. We have not seen any substantial assistance from China,” Alice Wells, U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia, told lawmakers.

Wells, however, acknowledged that Beijing has worked with Washington on a way forward on peace as have other countries, including Russia and immediate neighbors of Afghanistan.

“She is a little ignorant about what China’s cooperation with Afghanistan is,” ambassador Yao said when asked to comment on the remarks made by Wells.

He recounted that Beijing late last year established a trade corridor with Kabul, which Afghan officials say have enabled local traders to directly export thousands of tons of pine nuts to the Chinese market annually, bringing much-needed dollars. Yao said a cargo train was also started in 2016 from eastern China to Afghanistan’s landlocked northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

China is also working on infrastructure projects, including the road linking Kabul to the eastern city of Jalalabad and the road between the central Afghan city of Bamiyan and Mazar-e-Sharif. Chinese companies, Yao, said are also helping in establishing transmission lines and other infrastructure being developed under the CASA-1000 electricity transmission project linking Central Asia to energy-starved South Asia nations through Afghanistan.

Ambassador Yao noted that China and Afghanistan signed a memorandum of understanding on BRI cooperation, identifying several major projects of connectivity.

“But the only problem is that the security situation pose a little challenge. So, that is why China and Pakistan and all the regional countries, we are working so hard trying to support or facilitate peace in Afghanistan,” he said.  

For her part, Ambassador Wells told U.S. lawmakers that China’s BRI is a “slogan” and “not any reality” in Afghanistan. “They have just tried to lockdown lucrative mining contracts but not following through with investment or real resources,” she noted.

Wells said that Washington continues to warn its partners, including the Afghan government about “falling prey to predatory loans or loans that are designed to benefit only the Chinese State.”

U.S. officials are generally critical of BRI for “known problems with corruption, debt distress, environmental damage, and a lack of transparency.” The projects aims to link China by sea and land through an infrastructure network with southeast and central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

But Yao rejected those concerns and cited the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a pilot project of BRI, which has brought around $20 billion in Chinese investment to Pakistan within the past six years. It has helped Islamabad build roads and power plants, helping the country overcome its crippling electricity shortages, improve its transportation network and operationalize the strategic deep-sea Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea.

 

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Washington Prepares for Trump Impeachment Inquiry

Following Tuesday’s announcement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of an impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump, politicians in Washington are trading allegations over Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and the business activities of Hunter Biden, the son of leading Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden.  Mike O’Sullivan reports, the rhetoric is heated as the Democratic-led investigation of the Republican president gets under way

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