El Salvador’s President Bukele Not Focused on ‘Free Money’ from the US

El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele hailed a new chapter in his country’s relationship with the United States, thanking Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for being the first top U.S. diplomat to visit his country in ten years.

For his part, Secretary Pompeo praised Bukele’s shift towards the United States.

“El Salvador with its new leadership has made a clear choice to fight corruption, promote justice and partner with the United States, and together both of our peoples will reap those benefits.”

Pompeo also praised El Salvador for declaring it does not recognize what he termed “the corrupt Maduro regime” as the legitimate government of Venezuela.

El Salvador’s Bukele spoke in English and it was clear that he has a warm rapport with Pompeo.

“We talk about fighting the gangs together, we talk about interdicting narcotics together, we talk about reducing immigration together.  So I think this was a very, very important meeting.  I think that it’s a game-changer.”

Asked about the U.S. freezing its foreign aid for El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to compel their leaders to stem the flow of migration to the U.S. southern border, Bukele had a strong response.

“What do we want to do in El Salvador? Do we want to get more free money?  Do we want more blank checks?  No. We want to improve the conditions at home.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, listens to simultaneous translation as El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele speaks at the Presidential House in San Salvador, El Salvador, Sunday, July 21, 2019.

Bukele said it “sounds tacky” to have the top U.S. diplomat visiting and to ask him for free money. 

Benjamin Gedan of the Wilson Center told VOA Bukele is much more pro-American than his predecessor, and is committed to a new approach to fighting violent gangs and drug traffickers with the U.S.

“The new president [of El Salvador] from the very beginning was very enthusiastic about the idea of working closely with the United States on any number of issues and in fact was skeptical about the role of China in El Salvador which was a source of tension with his predecessor.”

U.S. lawmakers from both major political parties are calling on the Trump administration to restore U.S. foreign aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, saying it is counterproductive to punish countries fighting extreme poverty and violence, while at the same time calling on them to reduce the flow of migration.  

Before heading to San Salvador, Pompeo met with Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard on an overnight stop in Mexico City.  Asked by VOA whether Mexico has done enough to meet the requirements of a 45-day U.S. deadline on imposing potential tariffs, Pompeo said there has been progress, but he would consult with President Donald Trump.

“There are fewer apprehensions taking place today along our southern border, but we’ve got a long way to go yet.  There is still much more work to do.”

In this handout photo released by the Mexican Government Press Office, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Mexican counterpart Marcelo Ebrard meet in Mexico City, Sunday morning, July 21, 2019.

Mexico has deployed forces to its southern border to stem the flow of migration from Central America. But Benjamin Gedan of the Wilson Center said he is skeptical that Mexico has the resources to sustain this for a long time.

“Rather than addressing the root causes of migration flows from northern Central America, there is this effort to harden the U.S. border, to encourage Mexico to harden its southern border and to have Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador take their own steps to really impede the flows of individuals north to the United States.”

Before going to Mexico, Pompeo made a stop Saturday in Guayaquil, Ecuador to meet with President Lenin Moreno, the first visit by a U.S. Secretary of State to that country in nine years.  They also stressed common goals and improved relations between the two countries.  Moreno asked for more help from the U.S. and the international community to deal with the influx of refugees to his country from neighboring Venezuela, calling it a “social apocalypse.”  Pompeo discussed the ongoing crisis in Venezuela at every stop.

Pompeo started his jam-packed Latin America trip Friday in Argentina.  He confirmed the U.S. has imposed financial sanctions against a Hezbollah militant group leader suspected of directing a deadly bombing in 1994 of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.

“They were killed by members of a terrorist group, Hezbollah, and had help that day from Iran,” which provided “logistical support and funding through its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” Pompeo said at an event in Buenos Aires to rally support from Latin American leaders in the U.S. fight against Middle East militant groups.

Standing at a memorial at the site of the car bombing, Pompeo lit a candle with AMIA President Ariel Eichbaum and said the worst terrorist attack in Argentina is a stark reminder of the danger to the Western Hemisphere from Hezbollah and other groups based on the other side of the world.

“It was a moving reminder that our discussion today isn’t abstract; it’s not theoretical. The risk of terrorism is real for each and every one of us and each and every one of our citizens.”

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1960s Prankster Paul Krassner, Who Named Yippies, Dies at 87

Paul Krassner, the publisher, author and radical political activist on the front lines of 1960s counterculture who helped tie together his loose-knit prankster group by naming them the Yippies, died Sunday in Southern California, his daughter said. 

Krassner died at his home in Desert Hot Springs, Holly Krassner Dawson told The Associated Press. He was 87 and had recently transitioned to hospice care after an illness, Dawson said. She didn’t say what the illness was. 

The Yippies, who included Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman and were otherwise known as the Youth International Party, briefly became notorious for such stunts as running a pig for president and throwing dollar bills onto the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Hoffman and Rubin, but not Krassner, were among the so-called “Chicago 7” charged with inciting riots at 1968’s chaotic Democratic National Convention. 

By the end of the decade, most of the group’s members had faded into obscurity. But not Krassner, who constantly reinvented himself, becoming a public speaker, freelance writer, stand-up comedian, celebrity interviewer and author of nearly a dozen books. 

“He doesn’t waste time,” longtime friend and fellow counterculture personality Wavy Gravy once said of him. “People who waste time get buried in it. He keeps doing one thing after another.”

He interviewed such celebrity acquaintances as authors Norman Mailer and Joseph Heller and the late conservative pundit Andrew Breitbart. The latter, like other conservatives, said that although he disagreed with everything Krassner stood for, he admired his sense of humor. 

An advocate of unmitigated free speech, recreational drug use and personal pornography, Krassner’s books included such titles as Pot Stories For The Soul'' andPsychedelic Trips for the Mind,” and he claimed to have taken LSD with numerous celebrities, including comedian Groucho Marx, LSD guru Timothy Leary and author Ken Kesey. 

He also published several books on obscenity, some with names that can’t be listed here. Two that can are “In Praise of Indecency: Dispatches From the Valley of Porn” and “Who’s to Say What’s Obscene: Politics, Culture & Comedy in America Today.” 

For his autobiography, Krassner chose the title, “Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in the Counterculture,” using a phrase taken from an angry letter to the editor of a magazine that had once published a favorable profile of him. 

“To classify Krassner as a social rebel is far too cute,” the letter writer said. “He’s a nut, a raving, unconfined nut.”

What he really was, Krassner told The Associated Press in 2013, was a guy who enjoyed making people laugh, although one who brought a political activist’s conscience to the effort. 

In this May 7, 2009, file photo, author, comedian and co-founder of the Yippie party as well as stand-up satirist, Paul Krassner, 77, poses for a photo at his home in Desert Hot Springs, Calif.

He noted proudly that in the early 1960s, when abortion was illegal in almost every state, he ran an underground abortion referral service for women. 

“That really was a turning point in my life because I had morphed from a satirist into an activist,” he said. 

His original career choice, however, had been music. 

A child prodigy on the violin, he performed at Carnegie Hall at age 6. Later he all but gave up the instrument, only occasionally playing it as a joke during lectures or comedy routines. 

“I only had a technique for playing the violin, but I had a real passion for making people laugh,” he would say. 

After studying journalism at New York’s Baruch College, Krassner went to work for Mad Magazine before founding the satirical counterculture magazine The Realist in 1958. He continued to publish it periodically into the 1980s. 

For a time in the 1950s, he also appeared on the stand-up comedy circuit. There, he would meet his mentor, Lenny Bruce, the legendary outlaw comic who pushed free speech to its limits with routines filled with obscenities and sexual innuendo that sometimes landed him in jail. 

Krassner interviewed Bruce for Playboy Magazine in 1959 and edited the comedian’s autobiography, “How To Talk Dirty and Influence People.” 

When the counterculture arrived in earnest in the ’60s, Krassner was working as a comedian, freelance writer, satirist, publisher, celebrity interviewer and occasional creator of soft-core pornography. To mark the death of Walt Disney in 1966, he published a colorful wall poster showing Disney cartoon characters engaging in sex acts. 

When he and other anti-war activists, free-speech advocates and assorted radicals began to plot ways to promote their causes, Krassner said he soon realized they would need a clever name if they wanted to grab the public’s attention. 

“I knew that we had to have a who' for thewho, what, where, when and why’ that would symbolize the radicalization of hippies for the media,” Krassner, who co-founded the group, told the AP in 2009. “So I started going through the alphabet: Bippie, Dippie, Ippie, Sippie. I was about to give up when I came to Yippie.” 

As one of the last surviving Yippies, he continued to write prolifically up until his death, his daughter said. 

His newest book, “Zapped by the God of Absurdity,” will be released later this year. And he recently wrote the introduction for an upcoming book about his old friend Abbie Hoffman, Dawson said. 

Krassner also had hoped to publish his first novel, a mystery whose protagonist is a crime-solving comedian modeled after Lenny Bruce. He got so into the story, Krassner once said, that he began to believe he was channeling Bruce’s spirit. That ended, however, when the spirit reminded his old friend one day that Krassner was an atheist. 

“He said to me, ‘Come on, you don’t even believe that (expletive),”’ Krassner recalled with a laugh. 

He is survived by his wife, Nancy Cain; brother, George; daughter, Holly Krassner Dawson; and one grandchild. 

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Lufthansa Resumes Flights to Cairo, British Airways Stays Grounded

The German airline Lufthansa resumed daily direct flights to Cairo on Sunday after a one-day suspension due to unspecified safety concerns.

But British Airways still has all its flights to the Egyptian capital grounded and plans to keep them that way for six more days.

The two airlines on Saturday abruptly canceled all flights to Cairo after the British government warned of a “heightened risk of terrorism against aviation.”

Egypt’s minister of civil aviation, Lt. General Younes Elmasry, on Sunday expressed frustration that the airline suspended flights without consulting Egyptian authorities.  He met with Britain’s Ambassador to Egypt Geoffrey Adams and said the two sides would work to resolve the situation as soon as possible.

Passengers scrambled to find alternative flights after receiving a notification from the airline informing them about the decision which came into effect immediately.

In a statement, British Airways said the move was “a precaution to allow for further assessment”, without offering further details.

The U.S. State Department warned citizens Friday about traveling to Egypt. “A number of terrorist groups, including Islamic State, have committed multiple deadly attacks in Egypt, targeting government officials and security forces, public venues, tourist sites, civil aviation and other modes of public transportation, and a diplomatic facility,” the State Department said. “Terrorists continue to threaten Egypt’s religious minorities and have attacked sites and people associated with the Egyptian Coptic Church.”

It also warned of “risks to civil aviation operating within or in the vicinity of Egypt.”

No American flights have been affected so far.


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At Least 6 Dead in US Heat Wave

Health officials say an oppressive heat wave that has blanketed large swaths of the United States has contributed to the deaths of at least six people.

Various news outlets have reported heat-related deaths in the states of Maryland, Arizona and Arkansas.

The National Weather Service warned a “dangerous heat wave” paired with high humidity in the United States over the weekend could quickly cause heat stress or heat stroke, if precautions are not taken.

Events were canceled throughout the nation, from festivals and concerts to sporting events.

The NWS said temperatures would remain warm at night, in the upper 70s to low 80s, with more heat on the way Sunday for the East Coast. The agency also advised people to check in on relatives and friends, especially the elderly.

During a span of three days in July 1995, more than 700 people died in Chicago, when temperatures rose above 36 degrees Celsius. Many of those who died were poor or elderly with no access to air conditioning. Many also lived alone.

Despite the warnings, one runner in the nation’s capital planned to head out for a run early Saturday. “It’s brutal,” Jeffrey Glickman, 37, said, adding, “You just have to power through it the best you can.”

Temperatures have been rising in cities from the Midwest to the East Coast because of a high pressure system that has trapped the warm air. City officials are allowing public pools to stay open longer and municipalities are issuing advisories to inform the public about how best to deal with the heat.  

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Britain Calls Ship Seizure ‘Hostile Act’ As Iran Releases Video of Capture

Britain on Saturday denounced Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf as a “hostile act” and rejected Tehran’s explanation that it seized the vessel because it had been involved in an accident. 

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards posted a video online showing speedboats pulling alongside the Stena Impero tanker, its name clearly visible. Troops wearing ski masks and carrying machine guns rappelled to its deck from a helicopter, the same tactics used by British Royal Marines to seize an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar two weeks ago. 

Friday’s action in the global oil trade’s most important waterway has been viewed in the West as a major escalation after three months of confrontation that has already taken Iran and the United States to the brink of war. 

It follows threats from Tehran to retaliate for Britain’s July 4 seizure of the Iranian tanker Grace 1, accused of violating sanctions on Syria. 

British Defense Secretary Penny Mordaunt called the incident a “hostile act”. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he had expressed “extreme disappointment” by phone to his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif. Britain also summoned the Iranian charge d’affaires in London. 

A spokesman for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Brigadier-General Ramezan Sharif, said Tehran had seized the ship in the Strait of Hormuz despite the “resistance and interference” of a British warship which had been escorting it. No British warship was visible in the video posted by the Guards. 

Iran’s Fars news agency said the Guards had taken control of the Stena Impero on Friday after it collided with an Iranian fishing boat whose distress call it ignored. 

The vessel, carrying no cargo, was taken to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. It will remain there with its 23 crew – 18 of them Indians – while the accident is investigated, Iranian news agencies quoted the head of Ports and Maritime Organization in southern Hormozgan province, Allahmorad Afifipour, as saying. 

In a letter to the U.N. Security Council, Britain said the tanker was approached by Iranian forces when it was in Omani territorial waters exercising its lawful right of passage, and the action “constitutes illegal interference.” 

“Current tensions are extremely concerning, and our priority is to de-escalate. We do not seek confrontation with Iran,” the letter said. “But it is unacceptable and highly escalatory to threaten shipping going about its legitimate business through internationally recognized transit corridors.” 

Oil prices up

Zarif told Hunt that the ship must go through a legal process before it can be released, Iran’s ISNA news agency reported. 

The strait, between Iran and the Arabian peninsula, is the sole outlet for exports of most Middle Eastern oil, and the seizure sent oil prices sharply higher. The United States, which tightened sanctions against Iran in May with the aim of halting its oil exports altogether, has been warning for months of an Iranian threat to shipping in the strait. 

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he also discussed the situation with Hunt, his British counterpart. 

“We talked about what they’ve seen, what they know, and how they’re beginning to think about how they will respond,” Pompeo said in an interview with the Washington Examiner that was published on Saturday by the State Department. “Iran is in a place today that they have taken themselves.” 

Another oil tanker, the Mesdar, was also boarded by Iranian personnel on Friday and temporarily forced to divert toward Iran, but later was allowed to continue on its route through the strait. On Saturday Algeria’s APS news agency said the Mesdar was owned by Algeria’s state oil company Sonatrach. 

France, Germany and the European Union joined Britain in condemning the seizure. 

The three big European countries are signatories to a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers that Washington undermined by quitting last year, setting Iran’s already fragile relations with the West on a downward spiral. 

Under the pact, Iran agreed to restrict nuclear work in return for lifting sanctions. The European countries opposed the Trump administration’s decision to abandon the agreement last year, but have so far failed to fulfill promises to Iran of providing alternative means for it to access world trade. 

Extreme disappointment 

“Just spoke to … Zarif and expressed extreme disappointment that having assured me last Saturday Iran wanted to de-escalate situation, they have behaved in the opposite way,” Hunt wrote on Twitter. “This has to be about actions not words if we are to find a way through.” 

Earlier he said London’s reaction would be “considered but robust” and it would ensure the safety of its shipping. 

On Friday, Hunt said the solution would be found via diplomacy and London was “not looking at military options.” Britain’s government said it had advised British shipping to stay out of the Hormuz area for an interim period. 

During the past three months of escalation, the United States and Iran come as close as ever to direct armed conflict. In June, Tehran shot down a U.S. drone and President Donald Trump ordered retaliatory air strikes, only to call them off just minutes before were to have been carried out. 

The vessel had been heading to a port in Saudi Arabia and suddenly changed course after passing through the strait. 

The United States has blamed Iran for a series of attacks on shipping around the Strait of Hormuz. Tehran has rejected the allegations. Washington also said it had this week downed an Iranian drone near where the Stena Impero was seized. 

The United States is sending military personnel and resources to Saudi Arabia for the first time since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. 

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Trump Relished Rally Chant, Ocasio-Cortez tells Constituents in Queens

U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on Saturday that President Donald Trump relished a chant by the crowd at a campaign rally this week that called for a Democratic congresswoman to be sent back where she came from. 

Trump renewed his criticism of four minority women lawmakers on Friday, saying that they had said horrible things about the United States, and defended himself from criticism over his comment that they should leave the United States if unhappy. 

A day after saying his audience in North Carolina went too far when they chanted “Send her back!” about Somalia-born Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, on Friday he defended the crowd members as “incredible patriots.” 

Appearing before her constituents in New York City for the first time since the latest flare-up between Trump and the four Democratic congresswomen, Ocasio-Cortez rejected the president’s statement that he had tried to quiet the crowd, saying he had egged them on instead. 

“Roll back the tape … He relished it. He took it in and he’s doing this intentionally,” the freshman U.S. lawmaker told about 200 constituents gathered for a town hall meeting on immigration at a school in the Corona section of Queens. 

Video of the crowd in North Carolina shouting “Send her back!” shows Trump pausing his speech and looking around the arena for about ten seconds. 

The president’s attacks on the four congresswomen – known on Capitol Hill as “the squad” – have been condemned by Democrats as racist, while many Republicans have shrugged them off. 

Last weekend Trump ignited a firestorm by tweeting the four should “go back” to where they came from if they do not like the United States. 

All four are American citizens. Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan were born in the United States while Omar came as a refugee from Somalia and is a naturalized citizen. 

All four are known as sharp critics of Trump’s policies as well as the Democratic leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Ocasio-Cortez said the president’s comments had been hurtful, but “men like him” have been telling women like her to go back to their own country for a long time. 

“We’re gonna stay right here,” she said to applause “That’s where we’re gonna go,” she said. “We’re not going anywhere.” 

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Japan Animation Studio Chief Mourns Bright, Young Staff

Many victims of an arson attack on an animation studio in the western Japanese city of Kyoto were young with bright futures, some joining only in April, the company president said Saturday, as the death told climbed to 34.

Thursday’s attack on Kyoto Animation, famous in Japan and overseas for its series and movies, was the worst mass killing in two decades in a country with some of the world’s lowest crime rates.

Company president Hideaki Hatta said many of the victims were young women.

“Some of them joined us just in April. And on the eighth of July, I gave them a small, but their first, bonus,” he said. “People who had a promising future lost their lives. I don’t know what to say. Rather than feeling anger, I just don’t have words,” Hatta said.

Policemen stand behind a police line at the torched Kyoto Animation building in Kyoto

Fifteen of the victims were in their 20s and 11 were in their 30s, public broadcaster NHK said. Six were in their 40s and one was at least 60. The age of the latest victim, a man who died in hospital, was not known. The names of the victims have not been disclosed.

The studio had about 160 employees with an average age of 33, according to its website.

Police have confirmed the identity of the suspect as Shinji Aoba, but have declined to comment further.

Aoba had been convicted of robbery and carried out the attack because he believed his novel had been plagiarized, NHK and other media have said.

But Hatta said he had no idea about any plagiarism claim, adding he had not seen any correspondence from the suspect.

Police have not arrested Aoba, as he is being treated for heavy burns, NHK said, although police have taken the unusual step of releasing his name.

Two days after the fire, animation fans gathered near the burned studio to add to a growing pile of flowers, drinks and other offerings.

A man prays for victims in front of the torched Kyoto Animation building in Kyoto

Bing Xie, 25, a Chinese student at Kyoto University, said she could not forgive the arsonist.

“The criminal who does this seems to have been mentally disturbed, but I can’t forgive him. The young people at Kyoto Animation were beautiful and warm and it is hard to accept they are gone.”

Police guarded the site as investigators, some on the roof near where many died in a connecting stairwell, examined the blackened building. The smell of smoke lingered over the quiet suburban neighborhood.

Hatta said the building needed to be torn down because it was so badly damaged.

Tributes to the victims lit up social media, with world leaders and Apple Inc.’s chief executive offering condolences. The hashtag #PrayforKyoAni, as the studio is known among fans, has become popular.

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Hawaii Seeks Peaceful End to Telescope Protests

Officials in Hawaii said Friday that they will not call up additional National Guard troops or use force on peaceful telescope protesters blocking access to the state’s highest peak.

Gov. David Ige said that his priority is to keep everyone in the community safe, including the activists at the base of Mauna Kea. The 80 guard members on the Big Island since the start of the protests will remain, state officials said.

“We will not be utilizing tear gas, as some of the rumors have been (saying),” Ige said. “We are looking for the best way forward without hurting anyone.”

The governor said last week that National Guard units would be used to transport personnel and equipment as well as to enforce road closures.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige speaks at a news conference in Honolulu, July 17, 2019, about issuing an emergency proclamation in response to protesters blocking a road to prevent the construction of a giant telescope.

Ige said Friday no more troops would be called in to the Big Island, but he stopped short of removing an emergency proclamation that he enacted Wednesday. The emergency order broadened the state’s authority to remove protesters from the mountain, including the use of National Guard for security.

Big Island Mayor Harry Kim, who met with Ige Friday morning as about 800 to 1,200 activists gathered on the mountain, said he hopes the protesters and state officials will take some time to discuss a better way forward.

“We all need to step back a little bit,” Kim said. “This is still our home, this is still our family. On both sides.”

Presidential candidates comment

The move comes after some notable politicians weighed in on the issue Friday.

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii followed fellow Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in supporting protesters.

She said in a statement that Ige should withdraw the emergency declaration and sit down with protesters to find a peaceful way forward.

“Trust must be earned — it is wrong that state leaders have approved the development of a new telescope on a new site on Mauna Kea, without first ensuring the timely removal of decommissioned facilities along with full restoration of those sites,” Gabbard said. “This failure and a history of broken promises has resulted in the standoff that we are seeing today.”

Earlier in the day, Sanders said in a tweet that has since been deleted: “We must guarantee native people’s right to self-determination and their right to protest. I stand with Native Hawaiians who are peacefully demonstrating to protect their sacred mountain of Mauna Kea.”

Sanders’ campaign didn’t immediately respond to an email asking why the tweet was deleted.

Protesters brace for arrests

Protest leader Kaho’okahi Kanuha said protesters have been bracing for law enforcement to show up in force ever since the governor signed the emergency proclamation. That was the day officers arrested 34 protesters.

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