As refugee children die, Nigeria probes theft of food aid

At Farm Centre Camp, on Maiduguri's outskirts, residents said they had received no food in more than one month. They and refugees at other camps said that when they do get meals, it consists only of rice and beans. They get one shovelful a day — literally delivered from a shovel — whether a household has six people or 12, they said.
At Farm Centre Camp, on Maiduguri’s outskirts, residents said they had received no food in more than one month. They and refugees at other camps said that when they do get meals, it consists only of rice and beans. They get one shovelful a day — literally delivered from a shovel — whether a household has six people or 12, they said.

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Children who escaped Boko Haram’s Islamic insurgency now are dying of starvation in refugee camps in northeastern Nigeria’s largest city as the government investigates the theft of food aid by officials.

Refugees have staged near-daily protests over the past week. In one, women blocked the main highway linking Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, to Kano city for five hours, shouting that their children are starving and they have no drinking water as temperatures soar above 40 degrees (104 Fahrenheit).

Between 10 and 25 percent of children in a 110-bed feeding center are dying, said Doctors without Borders spokeswoman Shaista Aziz. She called that a high percentage even in an emergency. Most of the dying are from refugee camps, she said.

Dozens of babies and children with matchstick limbs and protruding rib cages fill the tents of the feeding center visited by The Associated Press.

Families cannot leave the camps, “so they are completely reliant on food distributions,” said Dr. Natalie Roberts, deputy emergency desk manager for the medical aid group.

Doctors without Borders’ therapeutic feeding program in Maiduguri, where the most malnourished children are treated, “has quadrupled in size in the last weeks, but each time it expands it becomes rapidly full,” Roberts said. In one local camp, Muna Garage, 20 children under the age of 5 died in a single week last month, she said.

At Farm Centre Camp, on Maiduguri’s outskirts, residents said they had received no food in more than one month. They and refugees at other camps said that when they do get meals, it consists only of rice and beans. They get one shovelful a day — literally delivered from a shovel — whether a household has six people or 12, they said.

“We and our children, for about four to five days now, they are not giving us food because when they bring the food items, they (officials) take it to the room and share among themselves instead of giving us what belongs to us,” said one refugee, Binta Lawal.

Maiduguri is estimated to host 1.2 million to 2 million refugees but only a fraction stay in the camps because, as The Daily Trust newspaper reported Tuesday, “Most of the camps have become centers of hunger, malnutrition and communicable diseases.”

Nigeria’s Senate last week announced it was launching an investigation into allegations that food aid is being diverted, and the Economics and Financial Crimes Commission weeks ago said it was doing the same.

The governor of Borno state, Kashim Shettima, last week accused rival politicians of instigating the protests. Shettima has been publicly booed by refugees and residents, with some shouting “Rice thief!” when his convoy passes, several residents told the AP.

Shettima last week abruptly disbanded his government’s committee to feed refugees, which is supposed to provide cooked meals. Shettima’s office said refugees will now get food directly to cook themselves. That poses challenges, as the refugees will need charcoal for fires, cooking oil and clean water.

Angry refugees took to the streets to protest because of several deaths from starvation, said a spokesman for the refugees, Umar Abdulsalam.

“The camp officials have been restricting some of us who are strong from going out. We have been living as prisoners, and the food meant for our care is being sold in the open market,” he told a news conference, accusing government officials, camp officials and the military guarding the camps.

The camps are supposed to be run by the Borno state Emergency Management Agency.

Last week, local reporters and refugees watched as soldiers and local self-defense vigilantes shoved blankets and other aid meant for refugees at Dalori Camp into a tricycle taxi and took off.

Irish rock star Bono and Nigeria’s richest man, multibillionaire Aliko Dangote, visited Dalori on Sunday. A businessman who was there the day before said he watched a truckload of food aid arrive, wait and then leave with all the food. When he questioned a camp official, he was told the food could not be distributed until Bono and Dangote arrived. The businessman spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of losing his government contracts.

The crisis in Maiduguri, where markets are filled with fresh vegetables and fruit, is in addition to what the U.N has called a “catastrophic humanitarian crisis” in northeastern areas of Nigeria recently liberated from Boko Haram, where 2.5 million malnourished people have no access to food and drinking water. Those areas are still dangerous to reach.

Gabon’s President Bongo re-elected, parliament set on fire

A supporter of the opposition leader Jean Ping lay wounded in Libreville on Wednesday during clashes with riot police.
A supporter of the opposition leader Jean Ping lay wounded in Libreville on Wednesday during clashes with riot police.

LIBREVILLE (Reuters) – Demonstrators in Gabon clashed with police and set part of the parliament building on fire on Wednesday amid anger among opposition supporters over President Ali Bongo’s re-election in polls that his main rival, Jean Ping, claimed to have won.

Opposition members of the Central African oil producer’s electoral commission rejected Saturday’s first-past-the-post election result, which would see the Bongo family’s nearly half-century in power extended another seven years.

France, the United States, and the European Union all urged calm on Wednesday and called upon Gabonese authorities to release the results of individual polling stations for greater transparency.

Bongo won 49.80 percent of votes, compared to 48.23 percent for Ping, with a turnout of 59.46 percent, according to results announced region by region by Interior Minister Pacome Moubelet Boubeya.

“This victory by such a tight score obliges … each of us to respect the verdict of the ballot box and our institutions,” Bongo said in the text of a victory speech distributed to reporters.

“Our country is advancing and that advance must take place with the unity and peace so dear to the Gabonese people.”

Soon after the result was announced on state-owned television, riot police fired teargas in clashes with around 100 opposition supporters in one neighbourhood in the capital Libreville, according to a Reuters witness.

Police and soldiers, meanwhile, were stationed at most crossroads and petrol stations.

Protesters entered the grounds of Gabon’s parliament building, the National Assembly, late in the afternoon.

“The demonstrators entering from the back and set fire to the National Assembly … Part of the building is on fire,” said the witness, who asked not to be named out of fear of reprisal.

Firemen arrived and were attempting to put out the blaze, he said. But as night fell over the capital the flames remained visible from a distance.

Demonstrators in Gabon clashed with police and set part of the parliament building on fire on Wednesday amid anger among opposition supporters over President Ali Bongo's re-election in polls that his main rival, Jean Ping, claimed to have won.
Demonstrators in Gabon clashed with police and set part of the parliament building on fire on Wednesday amid anger among opposition supporters over President Ali Bongo’s re-election in polls that his main rival, Jean Ping, claimed to have won.

Several Libreville residents said social media, including Facebook and Twitter, were no longer functioning.

Gabon’s main cities had been on edge since Tuesday, with residents stockpiling food ahead of the expected announcement, which was later postponed by one day.


“We tell the people of Gabon not to let their victory be stolen from them. Ali Bongo does not own this country,” Paul Marie Gondjout, a member of the electoral commission from Ping’s party, told Reuters.

Commission members belonging to the opposition abstained from a vote that validated the election result.

Ping’s party said its tally showed their candidate won 59 percent of the vote versus 38 percent for Bongo, with only one province left to count — a claim the government condemned as an effort to destabilise the country.

Ali Bongo was first elected in 2009 after the death of his father, Omar Bongo, who ran Gabon for 42 years. He benefited from being the incumbent in a country with a patronage system lubricated by oil largesse.

Though voting on Saturday was generally peaceful, Bongo and Ping’s supporters traded accusations of fraud.

An EU observer mission sent to monitor the polls criticised a “lack of transparency” among the institutions running the election and said Bongo had benefited from preferential access to money and the media.

Former colonial ruler France’s foreign ministry said the manner in which the final results were announced on Wednesday was a source of concern.

“We think it is necessary to publish the results of all the polling stations. The credibility of the election as well as Gabon’s international reputation are at stake,” it said.

The statement was echoed by the U.S. Department of State, which urged all sides to “temper their rhetoric and encourage their supporters to remain calm”. It also called upon Gabon’s security forces to exercise restraint.

The election followed a bitter campaign.

Gabon’s economic troubles, caused by falling oil output and prices, have led to budget cuts in one of Africa’s richest nations and fuelled opposition charges that its 1.8 million people have struggled under Bongo’s leadership.

Ping, a life-long political insider who has served as foreign minister and African Union Commission chairman, was a close ally of Omar Bongo and even fathered two children with the late president’s daughter, Pascaline.

Girls fight back against Boko Haram by getting an education

A girl identified as Monica, during an April interview in which she tells how she escaped from Boko Haram. Andrew Harnik AP
A girl identified as Monica, during an April interview in which she tells how she escaped from Boko Haram. Andrew Harnik AP

Two years and four months ago, I, — like most other people in the world — was shocked to learn that the terrorist group Boko Haram had abducted 276 girls from their dormitory rooms at the Government Secondary School in the town of Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria. They were abducted to punish them for daring to pursue an education.

As a Nigerian human-rights attorney, I was shaken to my core. But this heinous act spurred me into action because I also am the father of a young girl I am raising in the United States, where she is free to follow her dreams wherever they lead her.

Soon after the kidnapping, which garnered global headlines and sparked the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, I traveled to Nigeria where I met U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, whose congressional district boasts a large Nigerian constituency.

After listening to the parents of the kidnapped girls and other victims of Boko Haram share their harrowing experiences, we pledged to do all that we could to support their cause; ensure the Chibok girls are not forgotten before they’ve been found; and raise global awareness about Boko Haram, whose mantra is that education is evil and has since been named the world’s deadliest terrorist group.

Part of that effort has included bringing to the United States a dozen teenagers who’ve been victims of terrorism and persecution, including some of the Chibok schoolgirls who escaped Boko Haram. For approximately two years, they have bravely defied their torturers in the most meaningful way possible — by continuing their studies at American schools.

Three of the girls are in college and have demonstrated an extraordinary level of emotional and intellectual resilience and maturity. Two others are now high school seniors and also college bound.

Their bravery sets an example for girls everywhere. They fear for the safety of their still-missing schoolmates, but courageously and willingly share the harrowing story of how they escaped from Boko Haram and why education means so much to them, even if that means being so far from home.

The world needs to hear stories like theirs. Terrorist attacks receive daily national news coverage —sometimes all day, depending on where it occurred — except when carried out by Boko Haram, which occur every day. This is unconscionable and unacceptable.

On Aug. 29, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County and Rep. Wilson will host a town hall meeting about Boko Haram, the ongoing threat it poses in Nigeria and beyond; and the conditions that led to the Chibok girls’ kidnapping.

Lawmakers have hosted forums and congressional hearings, and introduced several pieces of legislation that aim to support the Nigerian government’s efforts to defeat Boko Haram and find the Chibok girls.

Our commitment to never give up hope has been rewarded this year.

Nigeria’s army and the Multinational Joint Task Force of troops from its border nations have gained significant ground in their mission to conquer Boko Haram. One girl’s escape and two proof-of-life videos have helped the families and their advocates keep hope alive that many, if not all, of the girls will one day return home.

Their reaction has been bittersweet: Esther, one of the Chibok parents with whom I have worked, broke down in April because she didn’t see her daughter in the first video. Just days ago, she wept after both seeing and hearing her daughter, who was the girl chosen to speak in the second video.

Boko Haram is experiencing a leadership crisis, and ISIS, to whom the Nigerian insurgents have pledged their loyalty, has reportedly replaced Abubakar Shekau, Boko Haram’s leader since 2009, with the son of the group’s founder. In what may be Shekau’s way to show his strength, he has proposed that Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari enter an agreement in which the Chibok girls are set free in exchange for the release of Boko Haram fighters that the government has imprisoned.

Buhari is understandably hesitant to negotiate with terrorists, but any opportunity to attain the Chibok girls’ freedom must be seized. That time is now.

♦ Culled from the Miami Herald

Nigerian army commander says only weeks left for Boko Haram

File: Nigerien special forces prepare to fight Boko Haram in Diffa March 26, 2015.  REUTERS/Joe Penney
File: Nigerien special forces prepare to fight Boko Haram in Diffa March 26, 2015. REUTERS/Joe Penney

“Almost all of the locations held by the Boko Haram terrorists have been reclaimed. We are talking only of a few villages and towns”

By Ulf Laessing and Lanre Ola

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, Aug 31 (Reuters) – Nigeria’s army expects to seize Boko Haram’s last few strongholds in the northeast over the next few weeks, the commander in charge of crushing the jihadist group’s seven-year insurgency said on Wednesday.

The army missed a December deadline set by President Muhammadu Buhari to wipe out the group, which wants to set up an Islamic caliphate in the area around Lake Chad, but has retaken most of its territory – at one point the size of Belgium.

Major General Lucky Irabor, commander of the operation, said the jihadists were now holed up in a few pockets of the Sambisa forest – where more than 200 girls kidnapped from the town of Chibok in 2014 are believed to be held – and two areas near Lake Chad and would be flushed out “within weeks”.

Despite the set-backs, Boko Haram still manages to stage regular suicide bombings in Nigeria and neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon. Since 2009, more than 15,000 people have been killed, 2.3 million displaced and the local economy decimated.

“Almost all of the locations held by the Boko Haram terrorists have been reclaimed. We are talking only of a few villages and towns,” Irabor said in an interview at his base in Maiduguri in Borno state, birth place of the insurgency.

Much of the success is down to better military cooperation with Nigeria’s neighbours, especially Chad, whose forces have been attacking Boko Haram fighters fleeing across the border.

“There are joint operations. My commanders have an exchange with local commanders across the borders. Because of the collaborations we’ve had Boko Haram has been boxed in and in a few weeks you will hear good news,” he said.

He said the jihadists, who pledged loyalty to Islamic State last year, were still controlling Abadan and Malafatori, two towns near Lake Chad, apart from their main base in the Sambisa forest, south of Maidguri.

The army was planning a new push into Sambisa after abandoning an attempt due to torrential rain, he said.

“Earlier on this year we had a major operation in the Sambisa,” he said. “Gains were made but unfortunately the weather conditions became such that we to pull out waiting for more favorable conditions.”

He said the army had rescued some 20,000 people from Boko Haram, a fraction of the 2.2 million UNICEF said last week remained trapped in the region around Lake Chad.


Irabor’s base on the outskirts of Maiduguri, a sprawling military complex with rows of residential blocks for officers, is the most visible sign of a shake-up introduced by Buhari, a former military ruler.

Under his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, the army had a reputation for being poorly equipped and running away in the face of Boko Haram assaults.

Britain and other countries have recently increased military assistance, and two Westerners wearing flat jackets could be seen jogging in the compound.

U.S. officials told Reuters in May that Washington, which blocked arms sales under Jonathan amid concerns about rights abuses, wants to sell up to 12 A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft to Nigeria although Congress needs to approve the deal.

Irabor has set up a human rights desk to address the issue.

“The code of conduct is quite clear. Human rights issues are taken quite seriously,” he said.

He said that Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau had recently been wounded, but backed off an Air Force statement this month suggesting he had been killed in an airstrike.

“Shekau was wounded. That’s what I can confirm, but as to whether he is dead that I cannot at the moment confirm.”

Boko Haram, which normally communicates via video or audio clips posted on the Internet, has said nothing since the Aug. 24 Air Force statement about Shekau being hurt.

North Korea executes education vice premier by firing squad for ‘bad attitude’

Kim Yong-Jin, pictured second from the left, was executed by firing squad in July. (AHN YOUNG-JOON/AP).

Seoul (AFP) – North Korea has executed a vice premier for showing disrespect during a meeting presided over by leader Kim Jong-Un, South Korea said Wednesday, after reports that he fell asleep.

The regime also banished two other senior officials, Seoul said, the latest in a slew of punishments Kim is believed to have ordered in what analysts say is an attempt to tighten his grip on power.

“Vice premier for education Kim Yong-Jin was executed,” Seoul’s Unification Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-Hee said at a regular briefing.

Kim was killed by a firing squad in July as “an anti-party, anti-revolutionary agitator,” added an official at the ministry, who declined to be named.

“Kim Yong-Jin was denounced for his bad sitting posture when he was sitting below the rostrum” during a session of North Korea’s parliament, and then underwent an interrogation that revealed other “crimes”, the official told reporters.

The mass-selling JoongAng Ilbo reported on Tuesday that top regime figures had been punished, but identified the education official by a different name.

“He incurred the wrath of Kim after he dozed off during a meeting presided over by Kim,” it quoted a source as saying.

“He was arrested on site and intensively questioned by the state security ministry”.

– Fall of spymaster –

The unification ministry said two other senior figures were forced to undergo re-education sessions.

One of them was Kim Yong-Chol, a top official in charge of inter-Korean affairs and espionage activities against the South.

The 71-year-old Kim is a career military intelligence official who is believed to be the mastermind behind the North’s frequent cyberattacks on Seoul.

Kim is also blamed by the South for the sinking of a South Korean warship in 2010 near the disputed sea border with the North in the Yellow Sea. Kim was banished to a farm in July for a month for his “arrogance” and “abuse of power,” the ministry official said.

The spymaster, who was reinstated this month, is likely to be tempted to prove his loyalty by committing provocative acts against the South, the official said.

“Therefore, we are keeping close tabs on the North”, he said.

Professor Yang Moo-Jin at the University of North Korean Studies said the vice premier’s execution could be indirectly verified when Pyongyang’s state media reveals the names of attendees at the government’s anniversary ceremony on September 9.

That confirmation will be important; Seoul in February said North Korean military chief of staff Ri Yong-Gil had been executed — only for Ri to turn up at a party rally in May.

– Uncle –

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency put the number of party officials executed during Kim Jong-Un’s rule at over 100. The most notorious case was that of Kim’s uncle and onetime No. 2 Jang Song-Thaek, who was executed for charges including treason and corruption in December 2013.

In April 2015, it was reported that Kim had his defence minister Hyon Yong-Chol summarily executed with an anti-aircraft gun. Cheong Seong-Chang, a senior researcher at the private Sejong Institute, said the “reign of terror” that is characteristic of a Stalinist state showed no sign of abating under Kim.

“But the intensity of the reign of terror depends on changes to the internal and external political environment”, Cheong said.

Reports of the latest execution coincide with a series of high-profile defections from the North. North Korea’s deputy ambassador to Britain sought refuge in the South with his family, the unification ministry said earlier this month. Thae Yong-Ho was driven by “disgust for the North Korean regime” and concerns for his family’s future, it said. Twelve waitresses and their manager who had been working at a North Korea-themed restaurant in China also made headlines when they arrived in the South in April as the largest group defection for years.

About 10 North Korean diplomats made it to the South in the first half of this year alone, Yonhap said, quoting informed sources.

Donald Trump Eases Terms on Immigration, Trade After Meeting With Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto

Republican candidate says they didn’t talk about who would pay for proposed border wall

MEXICO CITY— Donald Trump eased his rhetoric on signature campaign promises regarding trade and immigration following a meeting Wednesday with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

The Republican presidential nominee, who has promised to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, said Wednesday he didn’t discuss who would pay for the wall during his meeting with Mr. Peña Nieto, which lasted about an hour. He has repeatedly said he would make Mexico pay for its construction.

“We discussed the wall,” Mr. Trump said. “We didn’t discuss payment of the wall.”

Mr. Trump and Peña Nieto delivered prepared statements at side-by-side podiums and briefly took shouted questions from reporters at the conclusion of the event.

In his comments, Mr. Trump also said he’d aim to “improve” the North American Free Trade Agreement, an accord he has said he would cancel if elected president. He also said he would aim to keep manufacturing “in our hemisphere,” referring to North America. On the campaign trail, he has promised to keep jobs in the U.S. and punish companies that move to Mexico.

Mr. Peña Nieto, meanwhile, delivered a condemnation of several of Mr. Trump’s campaign proposals without criticizing the American by name, and emphasized cooperation between the countries.

“Mexicans felt offended by what was said” during the campaign, Mr. Peña Nieto said. The Mexican president, in his remarks, defended NAFTA, said illegal immigration was at a 10-year low, and economic activity in the two nations benefit each other.

On NAFTA, Mr. Peña Nieto called the pact a boon to U.S. economy, but said he is willing to “modernize” it.

In their public remarks, both the Mexican president and the American presidential candidate described their meeting as polite but blunt. Mr. Trump said it was “a great honor” to be invited to Los Pinos, the official residence of the Mexican president, while Mr. Peña Nieto said Mr. Trump demonstrated his willingness to work with Mexico by visiting the country.

Mr. Trump, reading from notes, said he told Mr. Peña Nieto that NAFTA has benefited Mexico far more than it has the U.S. Mr. Peña Nieto said his priority is “to protect Mexicans, wherever they are.”

Mr. Trump’s surprise visit to Mexico was the latest twist in a presidential campaign that has defied political tradition. His campaignannounced the trip the night before it took place, and comes hours before Mr. Trump is due to deliver a policy speech outlining his immigration policy.

Though restricting immigration has been a signature element of his campaign, Mr. Trump in recent weeks has sought to walk back proposals to create a “deportation force” to remove 11 million illegal immigrants and their American-born children. Mr. Trump said on Fox News last week that he would only seek to remove illegal immigrants who have committed crimes.

Mr. Trump’s allies say the visit is a move to show leadership on his key domestic policy issue.

In an interview on CNN Wednesday morning, Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence said the visit marked the “beginning of a conversation” with Mexico, which will be followed by negotiations once Mr. Trump is elected and in the White House.

Mr. Trump launched his campaign with unflattering comments about Mexican immigrants. In addition to declaring Mexico will pay for a border wall and promising to repeal the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mr. Trump also labeled some Mexican immigrants to the U.S. as “rapists.”

In May, Mr. Trump said U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was born in Indiana, couldn’t fairly adjudicate civil lawsuits over the defunct Trump University because of his Mexican heritage.

Mr. Trump’s approval numbers have suffered among Hispanic voters in the wake of these remarks. While Mitt Romney won support from 27% of Hispanic voters in 2012, Mr. Trump is at near half that level, according to recent polling.

Mr. Trump trails Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in polling in each of the 11 battleground states that will decide the general election. His weakness among Hispanic voters has damaged his standing in Colorado, Nevada and Florida, and made Arizona competitive—a heavily Republican state where the Clinton campaign this month opened two offices and invested more than $100,000 in field staffers to register voters and boost Democratic turnout.

But since installing his third set of top campaign staff since May, Mr. Trump has made direct appeals to Hispanic and black audiences, suggesting that long-term policies favored by Democrats and Mrs. Clinton are directly responsible for crime and unemployment in urban black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

The Republican presidential nominee’s visit was met with anger in Mexico City, where Trump piñatas have become a big seller in the past year. The capital’s municipal legislative assembly passed a motion on Wednesday declaring Mr. Trump “persona non grata.” Senators from both the left-wing and conservative opposition also criticized the visit and said Mr. Trump wasn’t welcome.

A few dozen protesters gathered at the country’s independence monument along a main boulevard in Mexico City to rail against Mr. Trump.

“He’s not welcome in Mexico because of the statements he made in the past,” said Erick Valdepeñas, a 26-year old lawyer.

Mr. Peña Nieto and his aides had debated in the past how to respond to the real estate mogul, with many aides suggesting he take an aggressive stand against him, according to a person familiar with the meetings. But the president has said he shouldn’t take sides in a U.S. election and instead should appear above the fray, that person said.

Culled from WSJ – Write to Reid J. Epstein at, Santiago Perez and David Luhnow at

The Latest: Pena Nieto says Mexicans hurt by Trump comments

Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto and U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump shake hands at a news conference at Los Pinos in Mexico City on Wednesday. PHOTO: HENRY ROMERO/REUTERS
Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto and U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump shake hands at a news conference at Los Pinos in Mexico City on Wednesday. PHOTO: HENRY ROMERO/REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the U.S. presidential campaign (all times EDT):

4:55 p.m.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto says the Mexican people have been hurt by Donald Trump’s past comments that painted them in a negative light.

Peña Nieto told reporters following a closed-door meeting that “misinterpretation or assertions” had negatively impacted perceptions of Trump’s candidacy.

He added that, the “Mexican people have been hurt by the comments that had been made.” But he said he’s sure that Trump is genuinely interested in building a relationship that will benefit both countries.

Peña Nieto spoke in Spanish throughout.


4:40 p.m.

After meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Republican nominee Donald Trump says that both countries must respect the others’ right to build a border wall on their soil to stop the movement of people, illegal drugs and weapons.

Trump says he and PeñaNieto discussed his call for a border wall during their meeting, but did not talk about Trump’s insistence that Mexico pay for it. He says, “that’ll be for a later date.”

Trump says that having a secure border is a sovereign right and mutually beneficial. Mexicans have been outraged by the proposal.


4:35 p.m.

Republican Donald Trump is calling his surprise visit to Mexico City Wednesday a ‘great honor.’ And he says the nations share a common interest in keeping the hemisphere safe and prosperous.

The Republican presidential nominee said after meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto that the pair had a substantive, direct and constructive exchange of ideas at the president’s official residence in Mexico City.

This is Trump’s first foreign visit as his party’s nominee.


4:30 p.m.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is challenging Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s characterization of the situation on the U.S.-Mexican border.

Peña Nieto notes that the number of immigrants crossing the border illegally is down significantly “even to the point of being negative to a net effect.” He spoke at a joint appearance Wednesday at the president’s official residence.

While Peña Nieto says the countries have shared challenges, he says that there exists “an incomplete vision of the border issues,” with weapons and cash flowing south from the U.S. and fueling violence.

He’s also stressing U.S. exports to Mexico and the number of jobs reliant on the countries’ trade relationship.

He says the Mexican people are people of “good will” who “deserve everybody’s respect.”


4:20 p.m.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto says that he and Donald Trump may not agree on everything, but that their meeting underscores their countries’ shared interests.

Peña Nieto tells reporters that their meeting with the Republican nominee at the president’s official residence in Mexico City was “open and constructive.”

He says in Spanish that the next president “will find in Mexico and its government” a neighbor who “wants to work constructively to strengthen even more” the relationship between their nations.


2:55 p.m.

An official at the Mexico City international airport says a private plane carrying Republican candidate Donald Trump has touched down at the airport.

The official was not authorized to be quoted by name, nor did he provide the plane’s registry number, or say how Trump would reach the official residence of President Enrique Pena Nieto, where the meeting with the Mexican leader is to take place.

Pena Nieto’s office has confirmed there will be a meeting and subsequent press statement at the residence, which is across town from the airport.

Trump appeared likely to fly to the residence by helicopter, rather than cross town in any kind of motorcade.

—By E. Eduardo Castillo in Mexico City


1:45 p.m.

Hillary Clinton says if elected president she will make clear that the U.S. “will treat cyberattacks just like any other attack.”

Clinton says in a speech Wednesday to the American Legion convention in Cincinnati that the U.S. needs to “step up our game” and be able to defend itself against those who “go after us.”

She blamed Russia for hacking into the Democratic National Committee and perhaps “even some state election systems.”

Clinton says the United States will be ready with “serious political, economic and military responses” to any cyberattacks.

WikiLeaks released damaging emails during the Democratic National Convention that implied the DNC had favored Clinton over primary rival Bernie Sanders.


1:10 p.m.

Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine says Donald Trump has “put his feet in concrete” on his immigration positions, regardless of what the Republican nominee says in an immigration-focused speech Wednesday night.

Kaine is visiting a Hispanic community center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, hours before Trump is set to speak and about his immigration plans. Trump’s speech is being closely watched to see if he softens proposals to deport millions of people living in the United States illegally.

Kaine says Trump’s words and actions have been “frightening” to Hispanics and he doesn’t expect to hear a change in tone. And he says its “hard to say” what to expect out of Trump’s meeting Wednesday with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.


1:05 p.m.

Hillary Clinton is blasting Donald Trump for referring to the American military as “a disaster.”

Clinton says in a sharply worded speech Wednesday to the American Legion convention that it’s “an insult to the men and women serving today and all who have served before.”

The Democratic presidential nominee is reiterating that she would send American troops into harm’s way only as a “last resort,” calling it a bedrock principal.

She also says the last thing the nation needs is a president “who brings more name-calling and temper tantrums to Washington,” a reference to her Republican opponent.


1 p.m.

Hillary Clinton is tweaking rival Donald Trump’s decision to travel to Mexico, saying it takes more to make up for a “year of insults and insinuations” than a quick trip to America’s southern neighbor.

Clinton says at the American Legion’s annual convention in Ohio that voters need to know that they can count on you. She says “it certainly takes more than trying to make up for a year of insults and insinuations by dropping in on our neighbors for a few hours and then flying home again.”

The Democratic presidential nominee adds, “That is not how it works.”

Trump was meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto later Wednesday. Trump’s surprise visit was coming hours before a major address on immigration in Arizona.


12:55 p.m.

Hillary Clinton says the United States in “an exceptional nation” and is accusing rival Donald Trump of thinking that approach is “insulting to the rest of the world.”

Clinton is speaking to the American Legion’s annual convention in Cincinnati. She says the U.S. is an indispensable nation and has a “unique and unparalleled ability to be a force for peace and progress.”

Referencing Trump’s threats to “walk away from our alliances,” she notes that when America fails to lead, the country leaves a vacuum for the rest of the world to fill.


11:25 a.m.

Just days after Hillary Clinton criticized the Trump campaign for promoting groups and individuals associated with preserving “white identity,” Donald Trump Jr. has retweeted an adherent of the “alt-right” movement that Clinton singled out for criticism.

Donald Trump’s oldest son this week retweeted a post from Kevin MacDonald, a former professor at California State University Long Beach. MacDonald said last week that white people in America are becoming a victimized minority. He has been accused of anti-Semitism by critics, including the Southern Poverty Law Center.

MacDonald’s tweet had to do with Clinton’s State Department and perceived favoritism for UBS, a global financial services company that donated to the Clinton Foundation.

Trump Jr.’s retweet prompted Richard Spencer, a leader of the alt-right movement, to tweet “Wow. Just wow.”


9:50 a.m.

Mike Pence says that Donald Trump’s trip to Mexico demonstrates what a “decisive leader” he would be if elected president.

Trump’s running mate told Fox News Wednesday that Trump immediately responded to an invitation by Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto to meet. He noted that Hillary Clinton received the same invitation but hasn’t responded yet.

Pence said that Trump and Pena Nieto are expected to discuss the logistics of Trump’s proposed border wall — something Trump insists Mexico will pay for, despite Pena Nieto’s condemnation of the plan.


9:35 a.m.

At least two demonstrations are planned in Mexico City as Mexicans express anger about the visit of Donald Trump.

Former first lady Margarita Zavala wrote in a tweet aimed at Trump: “Even though you may have been invited, we want you to know you’re not welcome. We Mexicans have dignity, and we reject your hate speech.” She’s considered a potential presidential candidate for 2018.

Pena Nieto’s office hasn’t said where or when the meeting would be held, possibly in a bid to avoid protests outside the meeting site.

Leading historian Enrique Krauze also addressed Trump in a tweek, saying “We Mexicans expect nothing less than an apology for calling us “criminals and rapists”.

Krauze told the Televisa TV network that, “Tyrants are to be confronted, not pacified.”


8:30 a.m.

Mexico has awakened to the news that President Enrique Pena Nieto is going to meet with Republican candidate Donald Trump Wednesday, and many Mexicans don’t like it.

Some analysts said the Republican nominee had left Pena Nieto flat-footed by accepting an invitation the Mexican president had made simply for appearances’ sake. Trump is widely loathed in Mexico for calling migrants from the country “rapists” among other insults.

Mexico City-based security analyst Alejandro Hope suggested that Pena Nieto “wanted to invite Hillary (Clinton), but that meant inviting both of them, and nobody thought Trump would accept first.”

He added: “What’s in it for Mexico? ”

The newspaper El Universal wrote in an editorial that Trump “caught Mexican diplomats off guard” by accepting the invitation.


3:10 a.m.

Donald Trump will be taking his first foreign trip as the Republican presidential nominee on Wednesday, making a quick visit to Mexico, a nation he derided as the home of rapists and criminals as he launched his campaign.

The meeting with President Enrique Pena Nieto, who earlier this year compared the billionaire candidate to Hitler, comes hours before Trump is set to deliver a highly-anticipated immigration speech. It’s a defining issue for Trump, but one on which he has appeared to waiver.

After saying during his primary campaign he would expel all of the estimated 11 million people living in the country illegally with a “deportation force,” Trump has suggested recently he might be open to “softening” his stance as he tries to win over more moderate general election voters.

Here’s why we should be worried about Nigeria’s economy

Nigeria’s statistics office said Wednesday that the country has dropped into recession as its all-important oil industry has suffered under weak global prices.

The country’s gross domestic product (GDP) dropped by 2.06 percent in the second quarter of 2016 after falling 0.36 percent in the previous three months. The technical definition of a recession is two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

An economic adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari, Adeyemi Dipeolu, told the Associated Press that the bleak data was largely attributed to “a sharp contraction in the oil sector due to huge losses of crude oil production,” resulting from vandalism and “sabotage.”

The figures from the country’s National Bureau of Statistics placed estimated oil production at 1.69 million barrels per day, down by 0.42 million barrels per day from the first quarter. Consequently, real growth within the sector was negative 17.48 percent year on year in the second quarter of 2016.

Tony Elumelu, chairman of Heirs Holdings and the United Bank for Africa, said in an interview with CNBC Tuesday that following the fall in the price of commodities, “the government in Nigeria and across Africa … need to diversify their economies.” But, he warned that this process was a gradual one, as “you don’t diversify an economy overnight.”

Reflecting Nigeria’s potential for this diversification, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is currently in Nigeria, meeting with technology start-ups and visiting a coding summer camp for children.

According to the GDP report, Nigeria’s non-oil sector was driven by the agriculture, information and communication, water supply, arts, science, education and services sectors, which all saw positive growth. But overall, the non-oil segment of its economy declined by 0.38 percent in real terms in the second quarter of this year.

Elumelu was positive about Buhari’s economic management of the country, commending what he perceived as the current government’s genuine “realization about what the situation is” as well as its “firm commitment and determination to do something and bring change about.” Elumelu also discussed Buhari’s “policy stability” which would enable investors in the country to plan.

With regards to an overarching strategy for the region, Elumelu stressed that “Africa needs private global capital to come in,” and that “what is good for the private sector is good for society.” He viewed such investment as enabling countries to create employment, address the issues of inequality and poverty, and “engender inclusive growth.” Elumelu asserted: “this is the solution to the difficult economic times everyone is going through.”

Mother Teresa: A saint despite spiritual ‘darkness’


VATICAN CITY (AP) — When Pope Francis canonizes Mother Teresa on Sunday, he’ll be honoring a nun who won admirers around the world and a Nobel Peace Prize for her joy-filled dedication to the “poorest of the poor.” He’ll also be recognizing holiness in a woman who felt so abandoned by God that she was unable to pray and was convinced, despite her ever-present smile, that she was experiencing the “tortures of hell.”

For nearly 50 years, Mother Teresa endured what the church calls a “dark night of the soul” — a period of spiritual doubt, despair and loneliness that many of the great mystics experienced, her namesake St. Therese of Lisieux included. In Mother Teresa’s case, the dark night lasted most of her adult life — an almost unheard of trial.

No one but Mother Teresa’s spiritual directors and bishop knew of her spiritual agony until her correspondence came to light during her beatification cause. The letters were then made available to the general public in a 2007 book, “Come Be My Light.”

For the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, the Canadian priest who published the letters and spearheaded Mother Teresa’s saint-making campaign, the revelations were further confirmation of Mother Teresa’s heroic saintliness. He said that by canonizing her, Francis is recognizing that Mother Teresa not only shared the material poverty of the poor but the spiritual poverty of those who feel “unloved, unwanted, uncared for.”

“That was her experience in her relationship with Jesus,” Kolodiejchuk said in an interview. “She understood very well when people would share their horror stories, their pain and suffering of being unloved, lonely. She would be able to share that empathy because she herself was experiencing it.”

Tens of thousands of people are expected for the canonization ceremony Sunday for the tiny, stooped nun who was fast-tracked for sainthood just a year after she died in 1997. St. John Paul II, who was Mother Teresa’s greatest champion, beatified her before a crowd of 300,000 in St. Peter’s Square in 2003.

Francis has made the canonization the high point of his Jubilee of Mercy, a yearlong emphasis on the church’s merciful side. Francis has an obvious interest in highlighting Mother Teresa’s mercy-filled service to outcasts on the periphery, given that her life’s work exemplifies the priorities of his own pontificate.

But Francis is also sending a more subtle message to the faithful through the canonization of the ethnic Albanian nun: That saints can be imperfect — they can suffer as Mother Teresa did and even feel unloved by God, said Ines Angeli Murzaku, a professor of church history at Seton Hall University in New Jersey and herself a native Albanian.

“That existential periphery which is suffering and being marginalized, he wants to bring that to the attention of the world,” she said in a telephone interview. Mother Teresa “is so real. She’s not remote. She’s not a perfect, perfect saint.”

That said, her blind faith in enduring the “darkness,” as she called it, and persevering through it seems almost superhuman to outsiders.

Take the Feb. 28, 1957 letter she wrote the then-archbishop of Kolkata, Jesuit Archbishop Ferdinand Perier.

“There is so much contradiction in my soul. Such deep longing for God, so deep that it is painful, a suffering continual, and yet not wanted by God, repulsed, empty, no faith, no love no zeal,” she wrote. “Souls hold no attraction. Heaven means nothing, to me it looks like an empty place. The thought of it means nothing to me and yet this torturing longing for God.”

“Pray for me please that I keep smiling at him in spite of everything.”

In another letter, she acknowledged that her smile was “a big cloak which covers a multitude of pains.”

Revelations that the smile was a mask to inner doubts about God’s presence fueled criticism of Mother Teresa — spearheaded most famously by the late Christopher Hitchens — that the Balkan nun was something of a fraud.

Kolodiejchuk, though, says she was no hypocrite. He said that the smile was a genuine and heroic attempt to hide her private sufferings, even from God, and prevent others from suffering more.

For the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, the Canadian priest who published the letters and spearheaded Mother Teresa's saint-making campaign, the revelations were further confirmation of Mother Teresa's heroic saintliness. He said that by canonizing her, Francis is recognizing that Mother Teresa not only shared the material poverty of the poor but the spiritual poverty of those who feel "unloved, unwanted, uncared for."
For the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, the Canadian priest who published the letters and spearheaded Mother Teresa’s saint-making campaign, the revelations were further confirmation of Mother Teresa’s heroic saintliness. He said that by canonizing her, Francis is recognizing that Mother Teresa not only shared the material poverty of the poor but the spiritual poverty of those who feel “unloved, unwanted, uncared for.”

“You can be joyful even if you’re suffering because you are accepting, and you are working and acting with love that gives meaning to the suffering,” he said in the courtyard of one of the Missionaries of Charity houses on the periphery of Rome.

The revelations nevertheless shocked even Mother Teresa’s closest confidants and friends, the original sisters who joined her Missionaries of Charity after she was inspired to found the order in 1946. Kolodiejchuk said several sisters wept when he first read them her letters after he acquired them in 1998 from the archives of the Jesuits and archbishop in Kolkata.

Sister Prema, the current superior general of the Missionaries of Charity, recalled being in awe of the revelation and not being able even today to fully understand the depth of Mother Teresa’s pain.

“It took me some time, and it still takes me time, to reflect about it and to understand it more deeply,” she said in an interview. “I think a soul who has not experienced it (the darkness) will not be able to understand what it is about. This is some mystery of the spiritual life which souls who know about it can connect with and associate with, but souls who do not know, we stand before a mystery.”

Asked if she was in that latter group, the German nun paused and said quietly: “Yes.”

Kolodiejchuk, the postulator for the cause, says that in retrospect, Mother Teresa’s “darkness” was actually a critical part of her vocation, kept hidden from the world that only saw a firm but loving mother superior who was the first in the chapel each morning and often worked herself to exhaustion at night tending to society’s most unloved.

“We assumed at least she was enjoying this wonderful consoling union and love from Jesus,” he said. “But we discover, no it’s even the opposite. For me, this darkness is the single most heroic aspect of her life.”

Niger Delta Avengers say ‘hostilities ceased’ against Nigerian government

The Nigerian military parades weapons and some suspected members of the Niger Delta Avengers after their arrest in the Nembe waters, Rivers state, on August 22. The Avengers claim to have ceased hostilities against oil companies and the Nigerian government.
The Nigerian military parades weapons and some suspected members of the Niger Delta Avengers after their arrest in the Nembe waters, Rivers state, on August 22. The Avengers claim to have ceased hostilities against oil companies and the Nigerian government.

During a visit to Kenya over the weekend, President Buhari said that the federal government was open to discussions helping resolve the issue of militancy in the Niger Delta, which accounts for the majority of Nigeria’s oil production. But Buhari said he was doubtful that the militants had announced a ceasefire, according to his spokesman Garba Shehu, who stated. “We are trying to understand them more, who are their leaders and which areas do they operate [in] and other relevant issues.”

The Nigerian president is also reported to have threatened militant groups in the Delta that they will be dealt with in the same manner as Boko Haram if they refuse a dialogue with the government, according to Nigeria’s Premium Times. Nigeria and neighboring countries in West Africa have conducted an extensive military operation against the Islamist militant group, which has seen Boko Haram lose much of its territory inside Nigeria.

Nigeria’s military said on Saturday that it had launched a fresh operation in the region, killing five militants and arresting 23. The operation was aimed at “getting rid of all forms of criminal activities,” according to Nigerian Army spokesman Sani Usman, Reuters reported. There was no immediate response from the militant groups.

The Niger Delta has seen several uprisings— including in the mid-2000s by a group called the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND)—by groups demanding a greater share of Nigeria’s oil wealth for the impoverished region. MEND has said previously that it is assisting the government in negotiating an end to the current crisis.

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