Washington, Oct 2 (AP/UNB) — With a wave and tweet, first lady Melania Trump headed for Africa on Monday on her first big solo international trip, aiming to make child well-being the focus of a five-day, four-country tour that will take her to every corner of the vast and impoverished continent.
The first lady opens her first-ever visit to Africa on Tuesday in Ghana in the West, followed by stops in Malawi in the South, Kenya in the East and Egypt in the Northeast. She departed Washington on Monday with a rare wave to the press corps and an enthusiastic tweet: "We are taking off for #Africa! So looking forward to visiting #Ghana #Malawi #Kenya & #Egypt as I take #BeBest international. #FLOTUSinAfrica2018."
Mrs. Trump's first extended turn on the world stage outside the shadow of President Donald Trump could still be complicated by her husband, who has spoken of the continent in impolite and even vulgar terms.
That leaves the first lady with some fence-mending duties.
"She's got some heavy lifting to do on this trip and it's a little bit unfair because that's not what a first lady's trip should be about," said Judd Devermont, the Africa program director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. First ladies usually practice a softer form of diplomacy, showing interest in a host nation's schools, hospitals and arts programs, and avoiding thornier issues.
Joshua Meservey, a senior Africa policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, countered by noting the "positive engagements" the president has had with some African heads of state, including President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, who met with Trump at the White House in late August. Trump also met last week in New York with President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi of Egypt.
Meservey also noted that the U.S. spends considerable amounts on public health and development initiatives in Malawi, which is among the world's least-developed countries.
"I think the U.S.-Africa relationship is much bigger than the president's comments, and it's been going on for decades and decades," he said. "Frankly, I suspect the vast majority of average Africans have not heard of any of those dust-ups. It's very much an elite preoccupation."
"Africans are, generally speaking, very gracious hosts" who will "roll out the red carpet and do their absolute best to be hospitable," Meservey said.
Days before the first lady was to board a U.S. government airplane for the flight across the Atlantic, Trump declared at the United Nations that he and his wife "love Africa."
Mrs. Trump's five days on the continent will feature a mix of visits to hospitals, schools and shelters as she focuses on the well-being of children.
Child welfare is a top issue for Mrs. Trump, the mother of a 12-year-old son. She focuses on the issue in the United States through an initiative she launched this year named "Be Best." This week's trip will mark her first extended period promoting the program and its goals abroad, separate from an event she held during a stop in London with the president in July.
A former fashion model born in Slovenia and now a naturalized U.S. citizen, the 48-year-old Mrs. Trump has traveled extensively with the president, including to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy, Brussels, France, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom. She was in Finland for the president's July summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin but did not go to Singapore for Trump's June meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Her only other international foray was brief: a September 2017 day trip to Toronto to join Britain's Prince Harry at a military athletic competition.
Often seen as a reluctant first lady — she did not fully move into the White House until nearly six months after Trump took office, due to her son's schooling in New York — Mrs. Trump has kept a low profile in comparison to her immediate predecessors. She was sidelined for several weeks following kidney surgery in May.
Immediate predecessors Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama all made multiple trips abroad without their spouses during their administration's two terms. Such travel has become expected of first ladies, and a similar excursion was viewed as a next step in Mrs. Trump's evolution in one of the world's most scrutinized roles.
Former first ladies Clinton, Bush and Obama also made repeat solo trips to Africa.
"The first lady, when she travels to a foreign country, can carry the flag and there's a great deal she could do to engender good feeling about the United States and I hope she can do that," Myra Gutin, who studies first ladies at Rider University in New Jersey, said of Mrs. Trump.
President Trump raised ire across Africa earlier this year after his private complaint about the continent's "s---hole countries" was leaked to journalists.
He later offered a partial denial in public but privately defended his remarks, The Associated Press reported in January. He also didn't deny the comment when he was asked about it while hosting Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari at the White House in April.
The president further roiled South Africa when he recently claimed on Twitter that the country is seizing farms and that high numbers of farmers are being killed. He pushed "send" on the tweet after watching a Fox News segment about land issues in South Africa. While killings of farmers have been taking place for more than 20 years and are widely seen as part of South Africa's high crime rate, experts say white farmers have not been the target. Nor are there signs of widespread killings, they said.
United Nations, Oct 2 (AP/UNB) — U.S. President Donald Trump dominated this year's gathering of global leaders that ended Monday, but his rejection of "the ideology of globalism" left America almost singlehandedly holding a nationalist banner against urgent calls from an overwhelming number countries for the world to work together.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres opened the week-long meeting last Tuesday declaring that global cooperation is the world's best hope and warning that "multilateralism is under fire precisely when we need it most." And General Assembly President Maria Espinosa Garces wrapped up the meeting, during which all 193 U.N. member nations spoke, saying that one of its major achievements was strong global backing for the U.N. and multilateralism.
The high turnout of leaders — 121 presidents, prime ministers and monarchs — "is because the world cares about the United Nations and the world cares about multilateralism, and the need to strengthen the multilateral agenda," Espinosa Garces said in a news conference. And the General Assembly is the body "for international coexistence."
But Trump's speech, not long after Guterres', poured scorn on multilateralism and touted his "America First" policy, saying his administration has achieved more "than almost any administration in the history of our country," which sparked chuckles and outright laughter from some leaders.
"We will never surrender America's sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy," the U.S. president said. "America is governed by Americans. We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism."
One of the very few countries to speak out for nationalism was Hungary, which has erected razor wire fences to keep people out. Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto called migration the greatest challenge in history, saying "migratory waves" are creating huge security risks, destabilizing countries, and bringing terrorism to a region where it did not exist before.
"The international community must respect sovereignty of the countries," he said.
But speaker after speaker over the week stressed the importance of global cooperation, starting with French President Emmanuel Macron, a progressive, multilateralist, who told the General Assembly: "Nationalism always leads to defeat."
Canada's U.N. Ambassador Marc-Andre Blanchard told Monday's final session that "the magnitude of the contemporary challenges the world is confronting" — including climate change, terrorism, economic inequality, irregular migration and protracted crises — "require the world to work together."
"The U.N. is the only place where we all come together to tackle these challenges," he said, but the U.N. and other institutions established after World War II must work together to make them "more efficient, fairer and more inclusive."
Trump faced pushback on other U.S. policies he trumpeted, including his historic meeting in June with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his "push for peace." At the same time, he insisted that tough sanctions would remain until the Korean peninsula is denuclearized.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov countered that the U.S. should consider matching Kim's positive steps — including halting nuclear and missile tests and actions to dismantle related facilities — with an easing of sanctions.
Trump also faced pushback on Iran, which he called a "brutal regime" and a "corrupt dictatorship" whose leaders "sow chaos, death and destruction." He denounced the "horrible" 2015 nuclear deal with Iran which the Obama administration signed along with Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, saying that's why the U.S. withdrew and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran.
But in a rebuke to Trump, foreign ministers from the five countries that still support the deal agreed at one of some 400 meetings on the sidelines of the General Assembly to establish a financial facility in the European Union to facilitate payments for Iranian imports and exports including oil — a key move sought by Tehran to counter U.S. sanctions.
Another major issue at the global gathering was climate change — an issue not mentioned in Trump's speech. It was raised not only by small islands that see an existential threat, but also by large countries with vulnerable coasts facing more deadly hurricanes and cyclones.
Dominica's Foreign Minister Francine Baron, whose Caribbean island nation was decimated by Hurricane Maria's 180 mile-per-hour winds last September, said her prime minister's call to all countries days later at the U.N. "to come together to save our planet" hasn't been heeded.
"Among and around us are many who still deny the reality of climate change," she said, adding that there is still no plan to implement the 2015 Paris agreement to combat global warming, and "we have not mobilized the resources to capitalize the $100 billion per year, which was agreed upon, to assist the most vulnerable."
The General Assembly meeting also put a spotlight on global conflicts and hotspots, large and small, from the seven-year-old conflict in Syria and the three-year-old war in Yemen that has sparked the world's worst humanitarian crisis to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Indian-Pakistani dispute over Kashmir and the Armenia-Azerbaijan clash over Nagorno-Karabakh.
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro accused the U.S. of attacking his country through sanctions and other means in the meeting's longest speech — 48 minutes. The shortest was Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite at 5 minutes, according to Assembly president Espinosa Garces.
Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem declared that a victory over "terrorism" is almost at hand and demanded that "occupation" forces from the U.S., France and Turkey leave the country immediately.
Palu, Oct 2 (AP/UNB) — Desperation was visible everywhere Tuesday among victims receiving little aid in areas heavily damaged by a massive earthquake and tsunami, four days after the disaster devastated parts of Indonesia's central Sulawesi island. Signs propped along roads read "We Need Food" and "We Need Support," while children begged for cash in the streets and long lines of cars snarled traffic as people waited for fuel.
Teams were searching for trapped survivors under destroyed homes and buildings, including a collapsed eight-story hotel in the hard-hit city of Palu, but they needed more heavy equipment to clear the rubble.
Desperation was evident across Palu, a city of more than 380,000 people that was hard-hit by both the quake and the tsunami, its force apparently magnified in the surrounding inlet.
Many people were believed trapped under shattered houses in Palu's Balaroa neighborhood, where the earthquake caused the ground to heave up and down violently, said disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.
"I and about 50 other people in Balaroa were able to save ourselves by riding on a mound of soil which was getting higher and higher," resident Siti Hajat told MetroTV, adding her house was destroyed.
In the Petobo neighborhood, the quake caused loose, wet soil to liquefy, creating a thick, heavy mud that caused massive damage. "In Petobo, it is estimated that there are still hundreds of victims buried in mud," Nugroho said.
Residents who found loved ones — alive and dead — over the weekend expressed frustration that it took rescue teams until Monday to reach Petobo.
The confirmed death toll of 844, mostly from Palu, is expected to rise as authorities reach cut-off areas. The regencies of Donggala, Sigi and Parigi Moutong — with a combined population of 1.2 million — had yet to be fully assessed. The magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck at dusk Friday and generated a tsunami said to have been as high as 6 meters (20 feet) in places.
About 3,000 residents flocked to Palu's airport, trying to board military aircraft or one of the few commercial flights using the facility only partially operating due to damage. Video showed some of them screaming in anger because they were not able to get on a departing military plane.
"We have not eaten for three days!" one woman yelled. "We just want to be safe!"
Nearly 50,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Palu alone, Nugroho said, and hospitals were overwhelmed.
The Indonesian air force confirmed that a Hercules aircraft carrying an unspecified number of survivors was able to leave Palu for South Sulawesi's capital of Makassar.
Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo authorized the acceptance of international help, Nugroho said, adding that generators, heavy equipment and tents were among the most-needed items. The European Union and 10 countries have offered assistance, including the United States, Australia and China, he said.
"We will send food today, as much as possible with several aircraft," Widodo told reporters in the capital, Jakarta, adding that a supply of fuel was also set to arrive.
The coastline at Palu was strewn with rubble and a few brightly colored cargo containers poking out of the water. Buildings near the water were ruined shells. The arches of a large yellow bridge rested in the water and eerie drone footage showed a Ferris wheel, untouched, on a beach scraped bare by the waves.
Rescuers searching a collapsed building Monday night were able to remove 38-year-old Sapri Nusin alive from the rubble. He was talking to his rescuers as they took him away but his condition was not known.
In the Petobo neighborhood, Edi Setiawan said he and his neighbors rescued children and adults, including a pregnant woman. His sister and father, however, did not survive.
"My sister was found embracing her father," he said. "My mother was able to survive after struggling against the mud and being rescued by villagers."
Indonesia is frequently struck by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis because of its location on the "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. A powerful quake on the island of Lombok killed 505 people in August, and two moderate quakes occurred near an eastern island on Tuesday.
The earthquakes 15 minutes apart reportedly damaged a bridge on the island of Sumba, but no tsunami warning was issued and no other damage was immediately reported. The temblors occurred nearly 1,600 kilometers (990 miles) south of Palu.
The vast archipelago is home to 260 million people on more than 17,000 islands that stretch a distance similar to that between New York and London. Roads and infrastructure are poor in many areas, making access difficult in the best of conditions.
Hanoi, Oct 2 (AP/UNB) — Former General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Do Muoi, a committed communist, has died at age 101.
The government said in a announcement posted on its website that Muoi died late Monday night at the National Military Hospital 108 after battling a serious illness despite efforts by Vietnamese and foreign doctors to treat him.
Born Nguyen Duy Cong in suburban district of Thanh Tri in Hanoi in 1917, Muoi joined the Communist Party of Indochina, the former Communist Party of Vietnam at young age and rose through the ranks the party and government before becoming prime minister in 1988.
He served as the head of the Communist Party for more than 6 years before stepping down in 1997. No funeral arrangements have been announced.
Tokyo, Oct 2 (AP/UNB)— North Korea warned Washington through its state media Tuesday that a declaration ending the Korean War shouldn't be seen as a bargaining chip in denuclearization talks — but suggested lifting sanctions might be.
The North's official news agency issued a commentary claiming Pyongyang has taken significant measures to end hostile relations between the two countries but said the U.S. is "trying to subdue" it through sanctions, a not-so-subtle call for Washington to lift sanctions if it wants further progress in their stalled nuclear negotiations.
The commentary said a declaration replacing a 65-year-old armistice to formally end the war "is not just a gift from a man to another," and added, "it can never be a bargaining chip for getting the DPRK denuclearized."
The DPRK is short for the North's official name — the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The commentary was directed at supporters of the U.S. policy to maintain maximum pressure and sanctions on North Korea until it has made clear and significant moves to denuclearize.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — a vocal advocate of that policy — is expected to travel to Pyongyang soon to try to revive the negotiation process and set the stage for a second summit between President Donald Trump and leader Kim Jong Un.
The commentary echoes a speech by North Korea's foreign minister, Ri Yong Ho, at the United Nations last week in which he claimed North Korea is ready to implement the agreements Trump and Kim made during their first summit, in Singapore in June, but also accused Washington of failing to demonstrate its willingness to ease tensions and build mutual trust.
"Without any trust in the U.S., there will be no confidence in our national security," he said, "and under such circumstances there is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first."
The North's emphasis on lifting sanctions and building trust above all else puts a spotlight on the rift between its position and Washington's since the Singapore summit, when Trump and Kim issued a vague statement about a nuclear-free peninsula without describing when and how it would occur.
Negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang have since been rocky, with neither side able to agree on a starting point and widespread skepticism in the United States over whether Pyongyang is serious about renouncing an arsenal it sees as the only way to guarantee its safety.
Hopes for progress in the talks got a boost last month, when South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with Kim in Pyongyang for their third summit.
The summit resulted in a joint statement in which the North expressed willingness for a "permanent" dismantling of its main nuclear facility in Nyongbyon — if the United States takes corresponding measures — and the dismantling of a missile engine test site and launch pad in northwestern North Korea.
What the North would see as corresponding measures wasn't specified. But Tuesday's commentary and the U.N. statement suggest sanctions are a primary concern.
The 1950-53 Korean War ended in what was intended to be a temporary ceasefire. Moon and Kim are pushing for the end-of-war declaration by December. The declaration would be less difficult to make than a formal peace treaty, and Moon says he and Kim have agreed such a "political declaration" wouldn't require the pullout of 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea.