Today President Obama will make history as the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, the site of an American-inflicted nuclear attack that left an estimated 140,000 people dead.
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Thousands of Egyptian citizens have found a clever way to respond to government censorship: by posting cell phone selfies with the confrontational hashtag “Does a mobile phone camera shake you?”
The question is directed at Egyptian authorities, who arrested five members of a satirical troupe Atfal al Shawarea, or Street Children, earlier this week. The group is known for using phone cameras to shoot selfie-style videos that criticize the government.
Atfal al Shawarea’s videos are typically filmed on the streets of Cairo as the troupe’s six members perform a mix of spoken dialogue and song. The group posted a clip earlier this month titled “Sisi my president has brought us down,” ridiculing the Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi.
The satirists are now being investigated for “inciting protests that aim to disrupt peace and security and cause violent crimes against state institutions,” reported Egyptian news website Ahram Online. The BBC says four of the men were held “on suspicion of insulting state institutions and inciting protests,” while another was detained on similar charges.
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Reuters via HuffPost World Post
Uganda’s veteran president vowed to fight corruption and inefficient bureaucracy on Thursday as he was sworn in to a fifth term in office, but some Western officials walked out of the ceremony when he mocked the International Criminal Court.
In his inaugural address, President Yoweri Museveni, 71, told heads of state, diplomats and other guests he planned to fight corruption and impose discipline on inefficient bureaucrats during his next five-year term of office, which will extend his rule to 35 years.
But Museveni offended U.S., European Union and Canadian officials in attendance when he criticized the International Criminal Court in his welcoming remarks as “a bunch of useless people.”
Among guests at the inauguration was Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al Bashir, who attended despite international warrants from the ICC seeking his arrest for crimes against humanity.
“In response to President Bashir’s presence and President Museveni’s remarks, the United States delegation, along with representatives of the European Union countries and Canada, departed the inauguration ceremonies to demonstrate our objection,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau told a briefing in Washington.
“We believe that walking out in protest is an appropriate reaction to a head of state mocking efforts to ensure accountability for victims of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Trudeau said.
Museveni was re-elected to a fifth term in February after a disputed vote and protests against his rule. Authorities blocked Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and other social media, citing security concerns ahead of the inauguration ceremony in Kampala.
The president officially won 60 percent of the votes in the February election, which the opposition said was rigged. Protests erupted, leading to clashes with police and dozens of arrests. Officials say the vote was free and fair.
Since coming to power in 1986, Museveni is credited with restoring order after years of chaos. But experts say the growing economy has not kept up with a rising population, while critics complain about corruption and a clampdown on dissent.
“These two mistakes, corruption and delays in decision making, irritate the public and frustrate the investors,” Museveni told visiting African presidents and other dignitaries.
“This time I will act directly so as to discipline the public service as we discipline the army,” the rebel-turned-statesman said, adding that he would work to boost agricultural output in the coffee and tea exporting nation.
Police arrested opposition leader Kizza Besigye after a street protest on Wednesday. Besigye, who heads the Forum for Democratic Change party, won 35 percent of the vote. He has been under house arrest on and off since then.
The head of Uganda’s telecommunications regulator Godfrey Mutabazi said security agencies had asked that access to social media websites be blocked “to limit the possibility of terrorists taking advantage” of visits by dignitaries.
In the days leading up to Museveni’s swearing-in, authorities also placed more security patrols on the streets of Kampala and residents said there was a strong presence of military and police on Thursday.
The government also banned live television or radio coverage of protests in the wake of the election, which EU monitors said was held in an intimidating atmosphere. The EU also said the electoral body lacked independence and transparency.
Opposition to the president is strongest among youths in urban areas, such as Kampala, where frustration has been fuelled by unemployment, corruption and crumbling public services.
(Additional reporting by Elias Biryabarema and George Obulutsa in Nairobi and Arshad Mohammed and David Alexander in Washington; Editing by Dominic Evans and James Dalgleish)
Puerto Rico’s Government Development Bank defaulted on most of a $422 million debt payment that came due on Sunday, once again casting a spotlight on Congress’s failure to address a spiraling debt crisis that has fueled the largest wave of emigration from the island in half a century.
“We’ve been forced to take emergency measures since Congress hasn’t acted,” Puerto Rican Gov. Alejandro García Padilla said Sunday night in a televised speech.
The amount that was due Sunday accounts for just a small portion of the $70 billion debt burden that Puerto Rico’s government owes its external lenders. But defaulting on the payment will likely subject the island to more lawsuits, even as Congress dilly-dallies on legislation that would give it some relief.
Puerto Rico faces a July 1 deadline for a much larger debt service payment of roughly $2 billion.
Here are five things you need to know about what’s going on in Puerto Rico, how the situation got so bad and what the future holds.
In recent years, Puerto Rico’s government has made increasingly drastic spending cuts and tax hikes in order to meet its obligations to creditors. The government laid off tens of thousands of public employees and raised the sales tax from 7 percent to 11.5 percent. It has closed some 10 percent of Puerto Rico’s schools since 2014, driving a sharp rise in the size of classes. Even more schools are due for closure in the near future.
The strains on public health infrastructure have made it more difficult for the island to combat an outbreak of the Zika virus.
The relentless austerity has also stunted the island’s economy, while cutting back the very social services that are more needed than ever. Puerto Rico had an unemployment rate of 11.8 percent in March — more than twice the overall U.S. rate of 5 percent.
The poverty rate on the island is now 45 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Puerto Ricans with the means to do so are leaving in droves for the mainland U.S., which their status as U.S. citizens makes a relatively simple move. The largest exodus in 50 years has resulted in a 9-percent drop in the island’s population, further eroding its tax base.
There are many reasons why Puerto Rico has racked up so many IOUs. It is true, as many conservatives claim, that consecutive governments deferred hard fiscal choices by continuing to issue bonds long after the island could no longer afford to take on more debt. Widespread official corruption and notoriously inefficient state-run utilities are a few of the other underlying challenges that Puerto Rico faces.
But Puerto Rico’s unusual standing as a territory over which Congress enjoys extraordinary power may also have hindered its ability to achieve economic independence — and thus pushed it to incur so much debt to fund public services.
In 1976, Congress granted U.S. corporations a tax exemption for income earned in Puerto Rico (and other U.S. territories), prompting decades of economic growth on the island. When Congress passed another law in 1996 phasing out that exemption over 10 years, the island began an economic decline from which it has yet to recover.
Puerto Rico also suffers from the effects of the Jones Act, an early 20th-century law that bars foreign-flagged ships from traveling from one U.S. port to another. Foreign-flagged ships must instead transfer their cargo to U.S.-flagged ships after arriving at the first U.S. port. With Puerto Rico often the second port of call, the law helps make consumer goods more expensive there than on the mainland.
In addition, Medicare and Medicaid’s reimbursements to health care providers in Puerto Rico are a fraction of their mainland levels. Recent cuts as a result of the Affordable Care Act have lowered the Medicaid rate even further, reducing access to essential medical care for some of the island’s poorest residents. Sixty-eight percent of Puerto Ricans rely on one of the two programs for their health insurance, according to the Puerto Rico Health Care Crisis Coalition, an industry- and labor-backed alliance.
The island’s three main public utilities owe bondholders some $20 billion — a significant slice of the total $70 billion debt. If Puerto Rico had the same bankruptcy powers that the 50 states enjoy, it could authorize those companies to go to court to reduce their debts. But federal law does not permit the island to extend bankruptcy protections to its municipalities and public corporations.
In March, Puerto Rico presented a different legal interpretation to the Supreme Court, making the case that it can grant bankruptcy protections to its municipalities and public corporations. The high court is expected to announce a decision in the matter by late June.
A portion of Puerto Rico’s debt is held by hedge funds known as “vultures,” because of their ruthless pursuit of profit from impoverished debtor governments. The vulture funds appear to be using front groups to influence congressional debate on measures that could relieve Puerto Rican debt at the creditors’ expense. 60 Plus, a conservative seniors’ group that is funded by a few wealthy anonymous donors and played a lead role in opposing the Affordable Care Act, set up a group called “Main Street Bondholders” to fight efforts in Congress to provide Puerto Rico with even the most modest bankruptcy powers.
While Main Street Bondholders claims to represent ordinary citizens invested in Puerto Rican debt, The New York Times reported that DCI, a public relations firm that specializes in faux grassroots campaigns, enlisted 60 Plus in the effort. BlueMountain Capital Management, a vulture hedge fund with major holdings of Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority debt, is a client of DCI. BlueMountain, the Times noted, has also been one of the hedge funds most aggressively lobbying Congress against intervention on behalf of Puerto Rico in above-ground ways.
Another organization, the Center for Individual Freedom, has been running television ads against the same legislative proposals. Although its donors are anonymous, CFIF is widely suspected of being a front for hedge funds that own Puerto Rican debt.
For a time it looked like congressional aid was finally on the way. After months of dithering as the crisis escalated, the House subcommittee with jurisdiction over Puerto Rico unveiled a draft bill at the end of March that would give the island some very limited access to court-supervised debt restructuring in exchange for a Washington-based fiscal oversight board.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said passing an aid package was a priority. House Democrats, while critical of some aspects of the bill, said Republicans were negotiating in good faith and professed their commitment to finding an acceptable compromise. (Even then, not everybody was on board with the “let’s be positive” approach: Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) immediately called for the bill to be defeated outright.)
In mid-April, however, talks between the two parties reached an impasse with Democrats and Republicans involved in the process refusing to meet. Democrats wanted to weaken the fiscal oversight board, while Republicans in the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus expressed what appear to be more fundamental objections to the debt restructuring provisions.
Last week, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) ramped up the pessimism when he voiced doubt that Congress would do anything before Puerto Rico’s next major debt repayment deadline on July 1.
That makes the prospects of congressional action before May 1 virtually nonexistent. On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) ramped up the pessimism when he voiced doubt that Congress would do anything before Puerto Rico’s next major debt repayment deadline on July 1.
Puerto Rico owes its creditors $2 billion on that date, including more than $800 million in “must pay” general obligation bonds.
This story has been updated to reflect Puerto Rico’s default on most of the debt payment due May 1.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article said BlueMountain Capital management had set up Main Street Bondholders. BlueMountain is a client of the PR firm that reportedly is behind Main Street Bondholders’ efforts. The article also stated that BlueMountain holds general obligation debt; it holds municipal utility debt.
HAVANA — Francisco Jesús Jiménez misses a lot of things about the United States. He misses his five kids. He misses his car. He misses his phone. He misses walking the streets of his old neighborhood in Flatbush, Brooklyn — “better known as Crooklyn,” he says — where he felt free to speak his mind.
Jiménez was broke in those days, working as a hospital janitor before he turned to drug dealing. But he remembers New York fondly, keeping a baseball cap with the city’s initials tacked to his wall. Now, sitting on the edge of a cot as he sips coffee and smokes a parade of cigarettes, he remembers the day in 2002 that he landed back in Havana with just 100 pesos in his pocket to start over as a deportee after two decades in the U.S.
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by Kathleen Hennessey, Associated Press –theGrio.com
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama sets out this week on his first in a series of international farewell tours, a sometimes wistful tradition for presidents in legacy mode. But in a reminder of this president’s uneven ties to allies, Obama’s first stop will involve more damage control than nostalgia, more friction than fondness.
When Obama lands in Riyadh on Wednesday for a Persian Gulf summit, he’ll be met by leaders roiled by his recent public complaints about global “free riders” and harboring deep distrust of his dealings with Iran and his posture in Syria. Before heading on to what will likely be valedictory visits to Great Britain and Germany, the White House will be tasked with providing some measure of reassurance to a set of allies that remain critical of U.S. counterterrorism goals — even as they increasingly look to his successor.
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Today marks two years since Boko Haram abducted more than 270 girls from a school in northeast Nigeria. Since then, millions more children have been affected by the conflict — most notably by being kept out of school.
Boko Haram’s violence has caused nearly one million children in Northeast Nigeria alone to have little or no access to education, according to a new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report. Since 2009, the militant group has been attacking schools, teachers and students, terrorizing the local education system.
“We didn’t know what was going on, we just felt the blast,” said Hassan, a 14-year-old boy who was injured in a suicide attack on his school, in a video from HRW. “I tried to stand up and fell because my leg was no more.”
Hassan’s legs were injured when a Boko Haram suicide bomber blew himself up during his school assembly, according to the video. The young boy was unable to attend school for more than a year, because he didn’t have a wheelchair.
Boko Haram’s attacks have destroyed more than 900 schools and forced at least 1,500 more to close since 2009, according to the HRW report. The attacks are aimed at what the militants call “Western” education, or non-Quranic schools.
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WASHINGTON — Donald Trump is lucky. His campaign is gifted with the greatest foreign policy adviser ever. “I’m speaking with myself,” Trump assured the world after being asked where he gets his foreign affairs advice. “I have a very good brain.”
We combed through Trump’s many foreign policy disputations in an effort to figure out just what’s going on inside that very good brain. Inspired by HuffPost Comedy’s piece about the candidate’s view of the world, we decided to draw up a map of his foreign policy proposals. The two ended up not being all that dissimilar.
Afghanistan: A Mistake
Trump called the war there a “terrible mistake,” but later backtracked to say he supports the war effort in Afghanistan, but opposed the invasion of Iraq.
America: Make Great Again
When he announced his presidential exploratory committee last year, Trump said, “I am the only the one who can make America truly great again!”
Australia: WTF, Mate?
In January, Trump claimed Muslims have failed to assimilate in Brussels, and called the city a “hellhole.” After coordinated terrorist attacks in the city left more than 30 people dead in March, Trump doubled down on his comments, tweeting: “I was so right!”
Brazil: Dilma Who?
During a 2014 interview with a Brazilian magazine, Trump reportedly did not know Dilma Rousseff was a woman, or the nation’s president.
Canada: Ted Cruz Land
Trump has said he could sue GOP competitor Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) “for not being a natural born citizen.” (Cruz was born in Canada to an American mother.) The issue remains contested, in part because the U.S. Supreme Court has “never directly ruled on the citizenship provision for presidential office holders,” according to PolitiFact.
China: Ruining Everything
Trump has blamed China for causing a number of economic problems for the United States. He has claimed that when he’s president, “China will be on notice that America is back in the global leadership business and that their days of currency manipulation and cheating are over.” (Some of Trump’s products are, in fact, made in China.)
Cuba: We Cool
In contrast to most other GOP presidential contenders, Trump said last year he supports President Barack Obama’s decision to re-engage with Cuba. But, he added, the U.S. should have “made a better deal.”
France: Hates Guns
Trump suggested armed civilians could have stopped last year’s terrorist attacks in Paris if France did not have such strict gun control laws.
Guantanamo: Yay Torture!
Trump has said he would bring back waterboarding, a form of torture, and “much worse.” CIA director John Brennan said the spy agency would not resume the practice of waterboarding, even if a future president ordered it.
“India is doing great. Nobody talks about it,” Trump said earlier this year.
Iraq/Syria: Target Civilians
Trump has called for intentionally killing family members of Islamic State militants — which would be a war crime. He later walked back that proposal, insisting he only pledged to “go after them,” not necessarily kill them.
Iran: Who Knows?
Trump has flip-flopped on whether he’d call off the international nuclear agreement with Iran, but recently proposed a bizarre alternative: lifting restrictions on Iran’s access to U.S. markets to sell them defective missiles for a profit.
Israel: I’ll Fix It
“I would say that I would have a better chance than anybody of making a deal,” Trump said about resolving the decades-long territorial dispute between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Japan: Needs Nukes
Trump suggested Japan might need nuclear weapons in order to combat North Korea without the help of the U.S. military. Japan’s foreign minister called such a prospect “impossible.” Trump later attempted to walk back from his comments.
Kenya: Obama’s Birthplace?
Libya: Oil Money
Trump now says he never supported the 2011 intervention to oust Muammar Qaddafi — but at the time he predicted that the people of Libya would repay the U.S. for its efforts with oil.
Mexico: Big Wall (Mexico Pays)
Trump wants to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border to stop undocumented immigrants from entering the United States, and he expects Mexico to pay approximately $5 to $10 billion for it. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has said he will not pay for the wall, and compared Trump’s “strident rhetoric“ to that of Hitler.
Morocco: Mexico, Basically
A TV advertisement boasting that Trump will stop illegal immigration from Mexico showed footage of African migrants traveling from Morocco to Spanish territory. Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks told PolitiFact she did not know the source of the footage.
North Korea: Impressive
Trump has called North Korean leader Kim Jong-un a “maniac,” but he also seems to find him impressive. “How many young guys — he was like 26 or 25 when his father died — take over these tough generals, and all of a sudden … he goes in, he takes over, and he’s the boss,” Trump said, according to ABC News. “It’s incredible.”
Trump pointed to the fact that Pakistan has nuclear weapons to bolster his claim that Japan and South Korea might also need them.
Russia: Yay Putin!
After autocratic Russian President Vladimir Putin called Trump “bright and talented,” Trump returned the compliment, calling Putin a “leader, unlike what we have in this country” and “highly respected.“ Trump later tried to deny his praise.
Saudi Arabia: Money Machine
“They’re a money machine, they’re a monetary machine, and yet they don’t reimburse us the way we should be reimbursed,” Trump told The New York Times, referring to U.S. defense support to Saudi Arabia.
In 2008, Trump spent 97 seconds visiting his mother’s childhood home in Scotland. He was on his way to promote a golf course. “I do feel Scottish,” he said.
South Africa: Crime-Ridden Mess
In a December 2013 tweet, Trump wrote, “I really like Nelson Mandela but South Africa is a crime ridden mess that is just waiting to explode—not a good situation for the people!”
South Korea: Needs Nukes
Trump also suggested South Korea might need nuclear weapons in order to combat North Korea without U.S. aid, sparking fears of an Asian arms race. One of South Korea’s largest newspapers wrote in an editorial, “We are dumbfounded at such myopic views.”
Sweden: Not Terrorists
“To the best of my knowledge, the people that knocked down the World Trade Center, you know where — they didn’t fly back to Sweden,” Trump said in an interview last year.
Turkey: Strong, But Maybe ISIS
Trump is all over the place on Turkey. He accused it of allowing ISIS to transport oil into the country after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border. “Turkey looks like they’re on the side of ISIS, more or less based on the oil,” he said. But he added that Turkey, home to two Trump Towers, is made up of “amazing people” with “a strong leader.”
Ukraine: Obama’s Fault
“Putin does not respect our president whatsoever,” Trump explained to an audience at a conference on promoting Ukraine’s integration into Europe. Trump has also said he doesn’t care if Ukraine joins NATO, which he says is “obsolete.”
United Kingdom: Scared Police
“We have places in London, and other places that are so radicalized that the police are afraid for their own lives,” Trump has said. London’s Metropolitan Police responded by saying the real estate mogul “could not be more wrong.”
Uruguay: Trump Tower
Graphic by Alissa Scheller for The Huffington Post.
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist
MEXICO CITY — The rise of Donald Trump and the anti-immigrant wave he is riding in his presidential primary campaign have alarmed the Mexican government so much that it has reshuffled top diplomats and, according to officials, adopted a new strategy — to defend the image of Mexicans abroad.
Trump has consistently targeted the United States’ southern neighbor, calling Mexican border-crossers “rapists” and criminals and threatening to cut off the money they send home to their families unless Mexico pays for a border wall. But for months, the Mexican government has opted to remain quiet, with a few high-profile exceptions, rather than publicly challenging Trump’s claims.
Under mounting domestic pressure, Mexican officials now say they have chosen a new strategy: to stand up for Mexicans and defend the reputation of their countrymen living in the United States.
“In recent months, we have seen a growing anti-immigrant discourse in general, anti-Mexican in particular, and not exclusively from Donald Trump,” said a Mexican official who was not authorized to speak publicly on this issue. “This set off our fear that it would damage the image of Mexico in the United States.”
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Chinese government officials have been on an all-out PR offensive across Africa lately to reassure increasingly nervous political and business leaders that even though China’s economy may be slowing it will not affect the PRC’s investment plans in Africa.
Africans, for their part, have reason to be worried. Chinese trade with the continent has fallen sharply, 40 percent by some estimates, in 2015. Similarly, Chinese FDI in Africa plunged a staggering 84 percent last year. With commodity prices still at decade lows and Chinese demand for Africa’s raw materials not picking up, the stakes for Africa’s export-dependent economies are extremely high.
Nicholas Norbrook, managing editor of The Africa Report magazine, examined how much of Africa’s current economic headwinds are due to China’s ongoing transition from a manufacturing to a service-led economy. Nick joins Eric & Cobus — in the podcast above — to discuss his article, “When China sneezes, does Africa catch a cold?” from the March edition of the magazine.