U.S. President Donald Trump will host Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, at the White House on July 22 for official talks aimed at “creating conditions” for an “enduring partnership” and cooperation to secure a peaceful South Asia.
The White House said Wednesday that that the two leaders would discuss such issues as counterterrorism, defense, energy and trade.
Peace efforts in Afghanistan are expected to be high on the agenda.
“The visit will focus on strengthening cooperation between the United States and Pakistan to bring peace, stability and economic prosperity to a region that has seen far too much conflict,” a White House statement said.
Khan’s first interaction with Trump is seen in the region as signaling a thaw in the often acrimonious relationship between Washington and Islamabad.
The acrimony stems from U.S. allegations that, despite having received billions of dollars in financial assistance as an ally in the war against terrorism, Pakistan has harbored Taliban leaders and fighters and other militants who plot deadly attacks against American and NATO troops in Afghanistan and rival India. Islamabad rejects the charges.
Since taking office, Trump has suspended all military cooperation and assistance to Pakistan, alleging the country has “given us nothing but lies and deceit.”
Khan took office nearly a year ago and argued with Trump on Twitter a few months later about the U.S. allegations. He defended Pakistan’s counterterrorism successes, saying the country had suffered tens of thousands of casualties and billions of dollars in losses to its national economy while fighting America’s war on terrorism.
However, Islamabad has since helped arrange direct peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban aimed at ending the 18-year Afghan war. The effort is credited with easing tensions, which prompted Trump to acknowledge in February that the two countries had recently “developed a much better relationship.”
Analysts do not expect anything major to emerge from the Trump-Khan meeting, but they note it could still go a long way toward improving bilateral ties because both leaders dislike the status quo and have strong personalities.
Trump has consistently been critical of U.S. involvement in foreign wars while Khan is known for leading anti-war campaigns and calling for seeking a politically negotiated settlement to the Afghan war, even when his party was in the opposition.
A former oilfield worker camp off a dirt road in rural Texas has become the U.S. government’s newest holding center for detaining migrant children after they leave Border Patrol stations, where complaints of overcrowding and filthy conditions have sparked a worldwide outcry.
Inside the wire fence that encircles the site are soccer fields, a giant air-conditioned tent that serves as a dining hall, and trailers set up for use as classrooms and as places where children can call their families.
The long trailers once used to house workers in two-bedroom suites have been converted into 12-person dorms, with two pairs of bunk beds in each bedroom and the living room.
The Department of Health and Human Services said about 225 children are being held at the site in Carrizo Springs, with plans to expand to as many as 1,300, making it one of the biggest camps in the U.S. government system.
The government said the holding center will give it much-needed capacity to take in more children from the Border Patrol and prevent their detention in stations like the one in Clint, Texas, where lawyers last month reported some 250 youngsters were being held in cells with inadequate food, water and sanitation.
HHS said the Carrizo Springs location is a comfortable environment for children while they wait to be placed with family members or sponsors in the U.S.
But immigrant advocates and others liken such places to child prison camps and worry that the isolated location 110 miles (180 kilometers) from San Antonio, the nearest major city, will make it more difficult to find lawyers to help the teenagers with their immigration cases.
Advocates have complained that HHS’ largest holding centers — a facility in Homestead, Florida, a converted Walmart in Brownsville, Texas, and a now-closed tent camp at Tornillo, Texas — have traumatized children through overcrowding and inadequate staffing.
“All of this is part of a morally bankrupt system,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro, a San Antonio Democrat.
There’s also the huge cost: an average of $775 per day for each child. HHS plans to pay the nonprofit Baptist Child and Family Services up to $300 million through January to run the Carrizo Springs site.
The government allowed The Associated Press to visit on Tuesday and distribute photos and video, though the AP could not show children’s faces because of privacy restrictions.
Boys and girls are kept in separate buildings and follow separate schedules. They have decorated their rooms with drawings of superheroes and the flags of their home countries, including Guatemala and El Salvador. Many children smiled and greeted visitors as they walked by. Several girls knitted yarn hats and armbands.
A series of tents serves as the infirmary, with nurses on hand treating a few children for lice and flu-like symptoms.
Breakfast is at 7 a.m., followed by soccer, then six hours of classes in reading, writing, social studies, science and math.
In reading class on Tuesday, the students were asked to practice reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in English. Many did so haltingly before the teachers called one student to the front to help lead them. After he finished, the whole class applauded.
HHS said the goal is to move the children through the holding center and others like it as quickly as possible. The department said it has sped up placing children with sponsors to an average of 45 days, down from 93 days last November. One key, HHS said, was lifting a requirement that all adult relatives be fingerprinted before they can take a child out of custody.
“This facility is all about unification,” said Mark Weber, an HHS spokesman.
The holding center is opening amid record numbers of family members apprehended at the border and thousands of children traveling without their parents as they flee violence and poverty in Central America.
Baptist Child and Family Services also ran the Tornillo camp, which opened last summer as thousands of children were separated from their parents by Trump administration policy. Tornillo reached as many as 2,800 children until it was closed in January.
BCFS CEO Kevin Dinnin said he had refused in December to take more children at Tornillo because the camp was holding them for so long, a decision that led to its closing. Dinnin said he resolved never to open another emergency center like it, but the conditions reported in Border Patrol custody changed his mind. He said he also believes HHS is doing more to process children more quickly.
“At the end of the day, our philosophy has been … to keep kids out of CBP jail cells,” Dinnin said.
Jonathan Ryan, executive director of the legal group RAICES, said his organization is ready to send lawyers to Carrizo Springs but is waiting for the OK from the government.
“We just want to get inside and work with those kids,” Ryan said. “Children who have been detained, who have gone through deprivation and cages in Border Patrol custody, are potentially being released without ever having had access to legal advice and screening.”
Ask about Jeffrey Epstein on St. Thomas and rooms go quiet. Some people leave. Those who share stories speak in barely audible tones.
The 66-year-old billionaire bought Little St. James Island off this U.S. Caribbean territory more than two decades ago and began to transform it — clearing the native vegetation, ringing the property with towering palm trees and planting two massive U.S. flags on either end. When guides took scuba divers to spots near the island, security guards would walk to the water’s edge.
It was off-putting to residents of St. Thomas — a lush tropical island east of Puerto Rico with winding roads through mountains dotted with dainty Danish colonial-era homes. Then, when Epstein pleaded guilty in a 2008 to soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution, his need for privacy began to appear more sinister.
“Everybody called it `Pedophile Island,”’ said Kevin Goodrich, who is from St. Thomas and operates boat charters. “It’s our dark corner.”
Many people who worked for Epstein told The Associated Press this week that they had signed long non-disclosure agreements, and refused to talk. One former employee who declined to be identified said Epstein once had five boats, including a large ferry in which he transported up to 200 workers from St. Thomas to his island every day for construction work.
The man said he saw a handful of young women when he was on Epstein’s property but he believed they were older than 18.
“When he was there, it was keep to yourself and do your thing,” the man recalled, adding that Epstein paid well and would give away older machinery and surplus including lumber to his employees.
Epstein built a stone mansion with cream-colored walls and a bright turquoise roof surrounded by several other structures including the maids’ quarters and a massive, square-shaped white building on one end of the island. Workers told each other it was a music room fitted with a grand piano and acoustic walls. Its gold dome flew off during the deadly 2017 hurricane season.
Locals recalled seeing Epstein’s black helicopter flying back and forth from the tiny international airport in St. Thomas to his helipad on Little St. James Island, a roughly 75-acre retreat a little over a mile (about 2 kilometers) southeast of St. Thomas.
Epstein later bought neighboring Great St. James Island, which once was popular with locals and tourists for its main attraction, Christmas Cove, a place where you could hang out and order pizza and have it delivered via boat.
“He wasn’t well received,” recalled Spencer Consolvo, a St. Thomas native who runs a tourist shop near a large marina. “People think he’s too rich to be policed properly.”
Federal authorities consider the smaller of the two islands to be Epstein’s primary residence in the United States, a place where at least one alleged victim said in a court affidavit that she participated in an orgy, as well as had sex with Epstein and other people. She said she saw former U.S. President Bill Clinton on the island, but that she never saw him having sex with anyone. A Clinton spokesman issued a statement saying he never visited there.
A day after he pleaded not guilty in a New York courtroom to charges of sexually abusing dozens of underage girls, there was scant movement on the Caribbean island. Hurricane shutters covered the windows, locals hadn’t seen any lights at night and a lone worker drove a bright blue golf cart around the property.
At a nearby office that locals say Epstein owns in a seaside strip mall, a man in a T-shirt and sunglasses on his head opened the door a crack, shook his head vehemently when asked about Epstein and locked the door. The firm, Southern Trust Company Inc., hired Cecile de Jongh, wife of former Gov. John de Jongh, as its office manager, according to records with the U.S. Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority.
Meanwhile, Epstein’s arrest also prompted the U.S. Virgin Islands representative in Congress, Stacey Plaskett, to announce she would give the money Epstein had donated to her campaigns to charitable groups.
Now that Epstein has been arrested a second time, locals say tourists are increasingly asking about his islands when they visit St. Thomas. A woman who did not want to be identified for fear of losing her job running a charter company said she was elated when Epstein got arrested but is now vexed at tourists’ curiosity, saying she reluctantly shares whispered details of his case to prying adults if children are around.
Some of that fascination aggravates Vernon Morgan, a taxi driver and St. Thomas native.
“It brought some kind of notoriety to the Virgin Islands,” he said. “We would much rather that the Virgin Islands be seen in a different light.”
Qatar’s emir has used his visit to Washington this week to highlight his nation’s growing economic and defense ties with the United States, but has said nothing about his apparent bid to mediate U.S.-Iran tensions.
Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani met President Donald Trump at the White House on Tuesday and Acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper at the Pentagon a day earlier, with both sides praising what they called “increasingly close” strategic and defense relations. They cited Qatari purchases of and agreements to buy U.S.-made aircraft, jet engines and missile defense systems, the joint development of a Qatari petrochemicals complex and Qatar’s expansion of the Al Udeid Airbase hosting U.S. forces.
But the U.S. readouts of Al Thani’s meetings with Trump and Esper made no explicit mention of Iran, whose long-running tensions with Washington have soared in recent months. Neither did Trump nor Al Thani say anything about a Qatari desire to mediate between the United States and Iran, as the two leaders spoke to reporters ahead of their White House talks.
Qatar not only serves as a U.S. ally by hosting the U.S. military’s Central Command forward headquarters at the Al Udeid Airbase, but it also serves as Shi’ite-majority Iran’s best friend among Sunni-led Gulf Arab nations that have largely shunned Tehran in retaliation for its support of anti-Sunni insurgencies in the region. Doha has boosted its economic and diplomatic ties with Tehran since 2017, when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain imposed a land, sea and air blockade on Qatar for its perceived support of terrorism and advocacy of improved ties with Iran.
In a report published Tuesday, Qatari news agency Al Jazeera, founded by the emirate’s ruling family, quoted Qatar University politics professor Majed al Ansari as saying Doha is “actively working in mediation between Iran and the United States.” Al Ansari, a former Qatari foreign ministry official, also described that mediation as likely to be a “main topic” of Al Thani’s meetings with U.S. officials in Washington.
In a Tuesday press briefing at the State Department, spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said U.S.-Qatari cooperation in dealing with what she called Iran’s “destabilizing activities” in the region would be on the agenda of Al Thani’s meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday.
But some analysts say Al Thani faces multiple obstacles in any effort to mediate U.S.-Iran tensions that have escalated since last year, when Trump withdrew from a 2015 deal in which world powers offered Iran sanctions relief in return for limits on its nuclear program.
Trump reimposed U.S. sanctions on Iran and called on it to negotiate a new deal, saying the existing one did not do enough to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons or engaging in other malign behaviors, such as developing ballistic missiles and supporting U.S.-designated terrorist groups.
Tehran has called its nuclear ambitions peaceful and vowed to continue those behaviors. It also claimed responsibility for downing a U.S. drone over the Persian Gulf last month, while denying U.S. accusations that it attacked six foreign oil tankers in the region with mines since May.
“I expect Iran to be the thorniest of all the issues that the emir and Trump discuss,” said Varsha Koduvayur, a senior researcher at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, in a VOA Persian interview.
“Unlike Oman or Kuwait, two Gulf Cooperation Council countries that have officially declared themselves to be neutral, Qatar sent its ambassador back to Tehran in 2017, shortly after the Gulf blockade began, and trade with Iran is just continuing to rise. In my view, this doesn’t put Qatar in any sort of neutral, mediating light,” she said.
Speaking separately to VOA Persian, Matthew Brodsky, a senior analyst at the Security Studies Group in Washington, said he believes the Trump administration is not interested in any foreign mediation of U.S. tensions with Iran at the present time.
“The point of the (U.S.) strategy is to create the maximum amount of tension so that the leaders in Tehran reach a decision point (that) would lead them to the table to negotiate over not just their nuclear program but their ballistic missiles and of course their very bad regional behavior,” Brodsky said. “So a lessening of the tension … plays against the White House strategy to bring the leaders in Iran to a decision point, and that requires tension,” he added.
Iranian intransigence is another barrier to mediation, in the view of James Phillips, a senior researcher at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.
“I doubt that Qatar could play a significant role in easing tensions between the U.S. and Iran, because Iran does not want tensions to be eased right now,” Phillip said in another VOA Persian interview. “As long as Tehran wants to continue escalating this slow-motion crisis, I doubt third party efforts will make much of a difference. But if Iran should change its mind, there may be an opening for such a role,” he said.
Relentless global warming threatens the potential success of a sweeping set of goals established by the United Nations to tackle inequality, conflict and other ills, officials said on Tuesday.
Climate change imperils food supplies, water and places where people live, endangering the U.N. plan to address these world problems by 2030, according to a report by U.N. officials.
Member nations of the U.N. unanimously adopted 17 global development goals in 2015, setting out a wide-ranging “to-do” list tackling such vexing issues as conflict, hunger, land degradation, gender inequality and climate change.
The latest report, which called climate change “the greatest challenge to sustainable development,” came as diplomatic, business and other officials gathered for a high-level U.N. forum to take stock of the goals’ progress.
“The most urgent area for action is climate change,” said Liu Zhenmin, U.N. Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, in the report.
“The compounded effects will be catastrophic and irreversible,” he said, listing increased extreme weather events, more severe natural disasters and land degradation. “These effects, which will render many parts of the globe uninhabitable, will affect the poor the most.”
Progress has been made on lowering child mortality, boosting immunization rates and global access to electricity, the report said.
Yet extreme poverty, hunger and inequality remain hugely problematic, and more than half of school-age children showed “shockingly low proficiency rates” in reading and math, it said.
Two-thirds of those children were in school.
Human trafficking rates nearly doubled from an average 150 detected victims per country in 2010 to 254 in 2016.
But it was unclear how much of the increase reflected improved reporting systems versus an increase in trafficking, said Francesca Perucci of the U.N.’s statistics division, who worked on the report.
“It’s hard to exactly distinguish the two,” she said at a launch of the report.
But climate change remained paramount.
Greenhouse gases have continued to climb, and “climate change is occurring much faster than anticipated,” the report said.
At this week’s goals summit, 47 countries were expected to present voluntary progress reviews. Almost 100 other countries and four cities including New York have done so.
Earlier U.N. reports said the goals were threatened by the persistence of violence, conflict and lack of private investment. Outside assessments have also cited nationalism, protectionism and insufficient funding.
The cost of implementing the global goals has been estimated at $3 trillion a year.
In the Dutch port city of Rotterdam, nine “water plazas” have been created that soak up excess rainfall while offering people a green space to meet and children to play.
The city is also planting gardens and putting solar panels on a growing area of its nearly 20 square kilometers (8 square miles) of flat roofs.
Paris, meanwhile, is redesigning and opening green schoolyards as cooler places for locals to escape extreme heat, while in New Zealand, Wellington is rolling out neighborhood water supplies to keep the taps on when an earthquake hits.
More than 70 cities that are part of the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) network, set up in 2013, have crafted “resilience strategies” that include about 3,500 activities designed to combat shocks and stresses – everything from floods to an influx of refugees.
The United Nations estimates that by 2050 nearly 70% of the world’s population will live in cities, which are increasingly impacted by extreme weather and sea level rise, while producing about 75% of planet-warming emissions.
Michael Berkowitz, president of 100 Resilient Cities, told a gathering of the network’s cities in Rotterdam on Tuesday that efforts to build resilience had now become established as an approach to improving quality of life in cities.
Those efforts to keep people safe and well in the face of rising climate, economic and social pressures will continue, despite the closure this month of the organization that helped them craft those plans, officials said.
At the end of July, 100RC will shut its offices after the New York-based Rockefeller Foundation said in April it would no longer fund the body, having given about $176 million for its work.
That funding helped pay initial salaries for chief resilience officers in member cities, for example, though about 80% of the cities now have made the role a part of their staff, 100RC officials said.
The Rockefeller Foundation said on Monday it would provide an additional $8 million over 18 months to help 100RC cities and their chief resilience officers transition to a network they will lead themselves.
“Ultimately, we aim to ensure continued collaboration and sharing among cities to address some of their most pressing challenges,” Rockefeller Foundation President Rajiv Shah said in a statement.
Krishna Mohan Ramachandran, chief resilience officer for the Indian city of Chennai, which has just launched its resilience strategy, said he was relieved it would be able to carry on with planned projects.
Those include conserving scarce water, putting vegetable gardens in schools, and finding less risky but nearby locations for flood-threatened communities, among others.
Rotterdam chief resilience officer Arnoud Molenaar, who led colleagues in lobbying for extra funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, said resilience work had garnered more support and created more value in cities than was often appreciated.
The Rockefeller bridge grant meant the network would now have time to raise more money from donors and others to stand on its own, and expand partnerships with politicians, communities and businesses, Molenaar said.
Elizabeth Yee, who moved from 100RC to The Rockefeller Foundation to manage its climate and resilience work, said there was a “huge” amount of money looking for resilient urban infrastructure projects, but cities often struggled to meet investor requirements.
She said a key to finding funding was to design a bus rapid transit system or a clean power plant, for example, to also create local jobs and make communities more economically secure.
“I am hopeful that we can keep helping cities develop those projects and getting them ready for bigger, broader investment,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines of the conference in Rotterdam.
Cities in the 100RC network have so far raised $25 billion from their own budgets, businesses and other sources to put their resilience plans into practice, 100RC’s Berkowitz said.
In a decade’s time, he said, he hoped urban resilience – with its holistic approach to multiple, modern-day stresses – would have become “an absolutely essential part of city government.”
For now, as cities rapidly expand and climate threats grow, much more such work will be needed, he said.
“Even 100 cities is a ridiculously small number of cities, compared to the world’s 10,000 cities,” he said. “We need more effort if we’re going to really win the battle of the 21st century, which is going to be fought in cities.”
П’ять українських військових поранені, ще четверо отримали бойове травмування внаслідок обстрілів на Донбасі, інформує штаб української воєнної Операції об’єднаних сил.
Згідно з повідомленням, підтримувані Росією бойовики 27 разів порушили режим припинення вогню 9 липня, ще п’ять разів – у ніч на 10 липня.
В угрупованні «ДНР» українську армію звинувачують в обстрілах «за напрямками Водяне-Безіменне, Лебединське-Ленінське» (Південне). Бойовики угруповання «ЛНР» заявляють про три обстріли з боку Збройних сил України 9 липня.
Збройний конфлікт на Донбасі триває від 2014 року після російської окупації Криму. Україна і Захід звинувачують Росію у збройній підтримці бойовиків. Кремль відкидає ці звинувачення і заявляє, що на Донбасі можуть перебувати хіба що російські «добровольці».
Унаслідок бойових дій, за оцінками ООН станом на 31 грудня 2018 року, загинули від 12 тисяч 800 до 13 тисяч людей.
Перемир’я, про які домовлялися на засіданнях Тристоронньої контактної групи в Мінську, порушувалися практично відразу. При цьому сторони заперечують свою вину в цих порушеннях і звинувачують противників у провокаціях. …