Heavy rainfall and flash floods have killed 62 people in Sudan and left 98 others injured, the official SUNA news agency reported on Sunday.
Sudan has been hit by torrential rains since the start of July, affecting nearly 200,000 people in at least 15 states across the country including the capital Khartoum.
The worst affected area is the White Nile state in the south.
Flooding of the Nile river remains “the biggest problem”, SUNA said, citing a health ministry official.
On Friday the United Nations said 54 people had died due to the heavy rains.
It said more than 37,000 homes had been destroyed or damaged, quoting figures from the government body it partners with in the crisis response.
“Humanitarians are concerned by the high likelihood of more flash floods,” the UN said, adding that the rainy season was expected to last until October.
The floods are having a lasting humanitarian impact on communities, with cut roads, damaged water points, lost livestock and the spread of water-borne diseases by insects.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said an extra $150 million were needed from donors to respond to surging waters, in addition to the $1.1 billion required for the overall humanitarian situation in Sudan.
Sudan’s new prime minister says in an interview that ending his country’s international pariah status and drastically cutting military spending are prerequisites for rescuing a faltering economy.
Abdalla Hamdok, a well-known economist, told The Associated Press on Sunday that he has already talked to U.S. officials about removing Sudan from Washington’s list of countries sponsoring terrorism and portrayed their reaction as positive. He says that “a democratic Sudan is not a threat to anybody in the world.”
He also hopes to drastically cut Sudan’s military spending which he says makes up a large chunk of the state budget.
Hamdok was sworn in last week as the leader of Sudan’s transitional government. His appointment came four months after the overthrow of autocratic leader Omar al-Bashir, who ruled for nearly three decades.
As a young scholar, Elizabeth Warren traveled to federal courthouses, studying families overwhelmed by debt. She brought along a photocopier, gathering reams of statistics as she tried to answer one question: Why were these folks going bankrupt?
Warren, then a law professor, wasn’t satisfied with textbook explanations; she wanted to hear directly from people drowning in debt. So she sat in courtrooms, listening to one hard-luck story after another. She interviewed lawyers and judges, duplicated bankruptcy filings on a sturdy copier _ nicknamed R2-D2 _ that she hauled around to save printing costs. And she was joined in her research by two professor-colleagues who teamed with her to study those documents and build a database.
Warren had suspected bankruptcy court might be a last stop for deadbeats, or maybe the very poor. Instead, she discovered mostly middle-class people, many of them homeowners with college degrees who’d suffered one bad break – an illness, a divorce, a job loss. It was the kind of cruel twist that seemed all too familiar: When Warren was 12 years old, her father, a carpet salesman, had a heart attack. The family’s station wagon was repossessed, and her mother went to work in a minimum-wage job at Sears to pay the bills.
Warren’s foray into bankruptcy was the first step in a four-decade journey that has come to define her public profile and shape her worldview. As a law professor, bankruptcy expert, consumer watchdog, Massachusetts senator and Democratic presidential candidate, Warren has consistently championed economic reforms – with mixed results – to boost the middle class.
“The American middle class was in a lot more trouble than anyone had previously thought,” she told The Associated Press, describing her research, “and year by year, the stories have gotten worse. … The game has become a little more tilted and a little more tilted against hardworking families.”
Warren has carved out a niche as a merciless critic of credit card companies, big banks, lobbyists and Wall Street financiers, blaming them for policies and practices she has labeled as predatory, greedy or corrupt. At the same time, she cites her bankruptcy studies for revealing the real damage caused by these economic forces. It ultimately led to her prescient warnings about the economic collapse of 2008. And she continues to point to her focus on the middle class as she warns of another on the horizon.
“I’ve spent most of my career getting to the bottom of what’s happening to working families in America,” Warren recently wrote in a post titled “The Coming Economic Crash and How to Stop It.”
Warren’s own childhood was steeped in financial insecurity. She often describes her Oklahoma upbringing as “the ragged edge of the middle class.” After her father recovered, he found work as a janitor. But there wasn’t money for college until Elizabeth Herring – the youngest of four and the only girl – parlayed her champion debating skills into a full scholarship.
She married at 19, became a mother at 22, divorced and remarried. After a brief stint as a speech therapist, she changed careers, attended Rutgers Law School and eventually landed a job at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law.
She asked to teach bankruptcy, she recalled in “A Fighting Chance,” her memoir, because she wanted to know what led people to “the edge of disaster,” but thought the question seemed too personal to ask openly.
Bankruptcy law can seem dense and dry, but Warren saw pain, guilt and hope among those filing into bankruptcy court. The prospect of second chances appealed to her, as she later explained to one of her students at Harvard Law School. U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, a Massachusetts Democrat, recalls sitting in her office one day asking her to explain some nuance of the bankruptcy code.
“I turned to her at one point and said, `You know, you could have taught anything. Why on God’s green earth did you possibly pick bankruptcy?’ ” recalls Kennedy, who has endorsed Warren’s candidacy. “And I still remember the answer. She said because it’s about the way in which people can get to pick themselves up and we help them start again after they fall.”
It wasn’t just the topic but how Warren and her colleagues pursued their research that set them apart.
Their work began in the early 1980s, when legal scholars tended to focus on businesses and academic papers. But Warren joined two university colleagues in Austin – Jay Westbrook, a law professor and bankruptcy expert, and Teresa Sullivan, a sociologist – for an on-the-ground study. They visited bankruptcy courts in Illinois, Pennsylvania and Texas.
In research that continued over the decade, the three read through more than 1,500 bankruptcy filings, interviewed hundreds facing financial ruin and analyzed the findings from the database.
At the time, the bankruptcy rate was doubling and some experts thought debtors were reckless spenders; one study found almost a third of the people in bankruptcy could have repaid a significant part of their debts. Warren was skeptical, too.
“I knew that my family had been through a lot of tough times, but nobody had actually declared bankruptcy,” she recalled in the interview.
But those suspicions were dismissed after she and her colleagues discovered many debtors’ lives had been upended by things beyond their control. She saw that in questionnaires in which debtors explained why they’d filed for bankruptcy.
In her memoir, Warren recalls one unforgettable response: “Wife died of cancer. Left $65,000 in medical bills after insurance … worked five part-time jobs to meet rent, utilities, phone, food and insurance.”
Some of Warren’s friends from her Texas days speculate her political allegiances shifted because she saw her own family in these struggles. Before her Harvard years, she was registered as an independent, then a Republican and finally a Democrat in 1996.
Westbrook says he and Warren didn’t talk much about politics during their research, but he assumed she was a moderate Republican who turned more progressive, rejecting a creditor-friendly view that debtors were largely responsible for their predicament. The more they learned, he says, the more they identified with those coming to court.
“They were sort of the middle-class people that could have been our parents or the people next door,” he says.
Warren and her Texas colleagues summed up their findings in a book, “As We Forgive Our Debtors: Bankruptcy and Consumer Credit in America.”
Arrival in Washington
Warren’s credentials as a bankruptcy expert brought her to Washington. In 1995, she was appointed by a former Oklahoma congressman – he and Warren were high school debating acquaintances – to the National Bankruptcy Review Commission.
Two years later, the panel proposed a series of recommendations to Congress, including strengthening the ability to collect child support from those who’ve filed for bankruptcy and standardizing how much property could be kept by a bankrupt family and under what conditions.
Warren’s focus remained on families caught in an economic squeeze. In 2003, she joined her daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi, to write “The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents Are (Still) Going Broke.” One conclusion: “Having a child now is the single best predictor that a woman will end up in financial disaster.”
That book thrust Warren into the TV spotlight – both mother and daughter appeared on “Dr. Phil”- but growing scrutiny of her research brought out the critics, too.
In 2005, Warren was part of a team that published a study that had surveyed nearly 1,800 people who’d filed for bankruptcy in five federal courts and found nearly half cited medical causes.
But a group of researchers that analyzed that data concluded medical bills contributed to just 17% of personal bankruptcies and said those affected tended to be closer to poverty rather than the middle class.
In a rebuttal, Warren’s team said their critics had ignored large parts of the debtors’ own reports of their financial troubles and unfairly portrayed them as deadbeats.
Craig Garthwaite, a health economist at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern, is among those who disagree with Warren’s conclusions about medical bankruptcy.
“If you ask any economist – pick one at random, show them the study – the statistical methods are not sound,” he says. “I don’t think that Sen. Warren has the tools to correctly write that study from her training … for the same reason I don’t write law articles.”
Garthwaite says the findings exaggerate the degree to which medical bills are responsible for bankruptcy. “Are you getting at the causal role of medical debt in bankruptcy or simply the presence of medical debt of those who go bankrupt? These are hard questions to answer. … Just because a number is big doesn’t make it right.”
He also says the Warren team’s results have been used as talking points by progressive policymakers to argue for increased government regulation of the health care sector, “Obamacare” and “Medicare for All.”
Warren cited her research to bolster her fight against bankruptcy legislation – first pushed in the late 1990s by banks and credit card companies – that would make it harder for people to erase their debts. Proponents argued this was a necessary step because too many people who could afford to repay their debts were filing for bankruptcy.
At odds with Biden
In 2002, Warren wrote a New York Times op-ed that maintained the legislation would be particularly devastating to women, who far outnumbered men when filing for bankruptcy. She called out then-Sen. Joe Biden, who supported the measure, noting many banks and credit card companies were incorporated in his home state of Delaware.
Warren remained a fierce opponent for seven years, maintaining that the legislation would impose new pressures on people who weren’t irresponsible, just unlucky. In a 2005 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that has since gone viral, Warren clashed with Biden in sometimes-tense exchanges over bankruptcy courts, credit card companies and interest rates.
At one point, Biden called Warren’s argument “mildly demagogic” and said her problem was not with the bankruptcy bill but with credit card company usury rates. Warren replied: “If you’re not going to fix that problem, you can’t take away the last shred of protection from these families.”
To which Biden responded: “I got it. OK. You’re very good, professor.”
Warren likened the bill’s passage to losing a David vs. Goliath battle. “David really did get the slingshot shoved down his throat sideways,” she wrote in her memoir. “It hurt then, and it still hurts now.”
And it was not to be forgotten. When Biden announced his presidential bid in April, Warren immediately reminded the public they were opponents in the bankruptcy wars, declaring the former vice president had chosen credit card companies over “millions of hardworking families.”
Warren’s willingness to challenge Biden or other Democrats doesn’t surprise friends or former colleagues.
Lynn LoPucki, a professor at the UCLA School of Law who has co-written several legal texts with Warren, says the senator has long been outspoken and blunt.
“She doesn’t have a public persona and then say something different in private,” he says.
Warren is also known for her folksy manner – uttering an occasional “golly gee” or “holy cow” – and her skill at translating arcane financial terms into everyday language.
“She’s really effective in communicating with the public, which most academics are not,” says Michael Barr, dean of the Gerald Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan who met Warren when he was a top Treasury Department official in the Obama administration. “I think she has a real way of connecting with ordinary families.”
Warren was equally adept at educating senators and staff on Capitol Hill, says Melissa Jacoby, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law who was an attorney on the 1995 bankruptcy commission.
“Elizabeth can take a very complicated set of rules that most people think has nothing to do with their lives and in a small amount of time explain why they should care very deeply about it,” Jacoby says. “She’s always been really good at … telling important stories and bringing out important themes, but also having the head for all the underlying data.”
Warren moved from bankruptcy into consumer advocacy shortly after the 2008 election as the nation’s financial system was on the brink of collapse. Then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tapped her to be on a congressional oversight panel to monitor the $700 billion bank bailout package.
Warren used her new platform to lobby for a program she’d first proposed years earlier that seemed particularly timely: the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a watchdog agency that would better regulate mortgages, student loans, credit cards and other financial products.
After much political wrangling, the bureau was created under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. Though President Barack Obama asked Warren to set up the agency, Republican opposition prevented her from getting the director’s job.
But Warren was back in Washington a few years later – as a U.S. senator. At age 63, she won her first race for public office, ousting Republican Sen. Scott Brown.
Now as a presidential candidate, Warren is on the campaign trail with a long list of policy proposals and a call for structural changes in the government.
In her memoir, she lamented her frustration a decade earlier chairing the bailout panel that “couldn’t change a system that seemed hell-bent on protecting the big guys and leaving everyone else on the side of the road.”
But she also said that experience taught her an important lesson:
“When you have no real power, go public, really public. The public is where the real power is.”
Joe Walsh, a former Illinois congressman and now a conservative radio talk show host, said Sunday he is launching a challenge to President Donald Trump for the 2020 Republican presidential nomination.
The 57-year-old Walsh, who served one term in the House of Representatives before losing a re-election bid in 2012, announced his long-shot candidacy on ABC News’s “This Week” talk show.
“I’m running because he’s unfit,” Walsh said of Trump, describing him as “incompetent,” “a bigot,” and “a narcissist,” characterizations opposition Democrats often aim at Trump, who is seeking a second four-year term.
“Somebody needs to step up and there needs to be an alternative,” Walsh said.
Trump’s national approval ratings in polls of all voters remain mired in the low 40% range, but are twice that among Republican voters who continue to approve of his 2 1/2-year performance in office.
About two dozen Democrats are seeking their party’s nomination to oppose Trump in the Nov. 3, 2020 election, while Walsh is the second Republican trying to wrest the Republican nomination from Trump. Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld announced his candidacy in April, but has gained little support.
Walsh said of Trump, “The country is sick of this guy’s tantrum, he’s a child.” Walsh, an immigration hard-liner like Trump, said he would challenge Trump with conservative views and on moral grounds.
U.S. President Donald Trump insists discussions are going well at the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, despite apparent differences with leaders on issues including the trade war with China, how to handle Iran, the threat posed by North Korea and bringing Russia back into the grouping of the world’s most advanced democracies.
Sunday morning Trump appeared to be softening his stance on his trade war with China.
“I have second thoughts about everything,” when asked about the issue..
Hours later his press secretary Stephanie Grisham said the president’s statement has been “greatly misinterpreted”. She added, “President Trump responded in the affirmative – because he regrets not raising” tariffs on Chinese goods “higher.”
The statement appears to be the White House’s attempt to control the message. Trump often emphasizes that he is the only American leader that can “take on China”, and is betting that his aggressive stance will help him win support from his base as he vies for reelection in 2020.
G-7 leaders here have expressed concern about the escalation, with summit host French President Emmanuel Macron saying he hopes for leaders to pull back from an all-out war.
“I want to convince all our partners that tensions, and trade tensions in particular are bad for everybody,” he said in a speech.
Speaking alongside Trump during their working breakfast meeting, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson publicly refuted Trump’s statement that other leaders have not pressured him to give up the trade war with China, believed to be causing uncertainty in the global economy and volatility in stock markets.
“Just to register the faint, sheep-like note of our view on the trade war, we’re in favor of trade peace on the whole, and dialing it down if we can,” Johnson said.
Johnson is seen as a natural ally to Trump due to similarities in their populist policies and Brexit.
Disagreement on Iran
At the summit, Macron introduced a plan to defuse rising tensions in the Gulf by partially lifting the U.S. oil embargo on Iran in exchange for Tehran’s returning to full compliance to the 2015 deal that restricts its nuclear program.
He told LCI television that members had agreed on a joint action on Iran.
When asked whether he supports Macron to deliver the message to Tehran on behalf of G-7 countries, Trump said, “No, I haven’t discussed that”.
Trump continues to resist pressure from G-7 counterparts to rejoin the nuclear pact with Iran, a deal that’s considered a signature achievement of the Obama administration. He abandoned the deal last year and slapped crippling sanctions on Tehran.
Sunday afternoon, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived in Biarritz, the venue of the G-7 summit. A senior French official said that Macron invited him in an effort to ease tensions.
Trump declined to comment on Zarif’s arrival.
Bringing Russia back
Trump said that bringing Russia back into the G-7 is “a work in progress”.
“We have a number of people that would like to see Russia back,” he said, but would not mention who they were.
“No decision was made,” Trump said.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin underscored the importance to include Russia. “There are areas of the world that we have shared interests that are important,” he said.
In 2014, G8 members suspended Russian membership over the annexation of Crimea, a territory part of Ukraine which Moscow still now occupies.
Macron has stressed that readmitting Russia into the G7 without resolving the Ukraine crisis would underscore the “weakness” of the grouping. “It would be a strategic error for us and the consecration of this age of impunity,” he said.
Earlier this week Germany and Britain also rejected the idea of inviting Russia back into the group.
On Saturday, Donald Tusk who as president of the European Council represents the European Union’s 28 member states said there are more reasons now for Moscow’s exclusion, including “Russian provocation on the Azov Sea”, an apparent reference to the detention of Ukrainian sailors last year.
The EU and the United States have imposed sanctions on Russia over its role in the Ukraine conflict
During a bilateral meeting with Trump, Japanese Prime Minister Abe strongly condemned North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s recent missile tests.
“Our position is very clear,” Abe said through a translator. “The launch of short range ballistic missiles by North Korea clearly violates U.N. Security Council resolutions.”
The South Korean military first reported on the two projectiles, suspected to be short-range ballistic missiles that North Korea launched on Saturday into the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea. The launch is the seventh carried out since North Korea ended a 17-month hiatus on testing at the end of July.
Trump sought to downplay the North Korean nuclear threat.
“I can understand how the Prime Minister of Japan feels,” Trump said. “It’s different. But, I mean, I can understand that fully.”
Trump said he is “not happy” about the tests but did not consider it a violation. He said that the North Korean leader is not the only one testing those missiles.
“We’re in the world of missiles, whether you like it or not,” said Trump.
Six people were injured Saturday when lightning struck a 60-foot pine at the Tour Championship where they were taking cover from rain and showered them with debris, Atlanta police said.
The third round of the season-ending PGA Tour event at East Lake Golf Club had been suspended for about 30 minutes because of storms in the area, and fans were instructed to seek shelter. The strike hit the top of the tree just off the 16th tee and shattered the bark all the way to the bottom.
Ambulances streamed into the private club about 6 miles east of downtown Atlanta. The players already had been taken into the clubhouse before the lightning hit.
Brad Uhl of Atlanta was among those crammed under a hospital tent to the right of the 16th hole that was open to the public.
“There was just a big explosion and then an aftershock so strong you could feel the wind from it,” Uhl said after the last of the ambulances pulled out of the golf course. “It was just a flash out of the corner of the eye.”
Atlanta police spokesman James H. White III said five men and one female juvenile were injured in the lightning strike. He said they were taken to hospitals for further treatment, all of them alert, conscious and breathing.
The PGA Tour canceled the rest of golf Saturday, with the round to resume at 8 a.m. Sunday, followed by the final round.
Last week at the BMW Championship in the Chicago suburbs, Phil Mickelson was delayed getting to the golf course when lightning struck the top of his hotel, causing a precautionary evacuation.
The Taliban said Saturday that they expected negotiations with the United States to conclude the following day, finalizing a peace deal to end the 18-year-old war in Afghanistan.
The crucial ninth round in the yearlong dialogue between the two adversaries started Thursday in the traditional venue, the Persian Gulf state of Qatar. Afghan-born U.S. diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad is leading the American team of negotiators.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told VOA on Saturday that the two sides were fleshing out details of a mechanism for U.S.-led foreign troops to withdraw from the country.
‘We are hopeful’
“Inshallah [God willing], this time we are hopeful that each and every thing will be finalized. Work is underway to streamline the mechanism, but there is no such sticking point left that is not agreeable,” Mujahid said.
He said the “mechanism” would outline the nature of an American troop drawdown, areas where it will begin and the duration needed to complete the process.
Mujahid said Taliban and American negotiators would require “one more day” to shape up the details. He spoke to VOA just before the two sides resumed a third day of discussions Saturday night in Doha, Qatar. Mujahid would not discuss the foreign troop withdrawal timeline, nor has the American side shared specifics.
Pro-Taliban media outlets, meanwhile, released a video message Saturday from the head of the insurgent negotiating team, Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanekzai, claiming his group had brought U.S. and its NATO allies “on their knees” in war.
“I believe that Americans will leave Afghanistan very soon. Americans stand defeated and Afghanistan will again be liberated,” Stanekzai said while addressing his colleagues in the Qatar office just days before he entered into the current round of talks with American interlocutors.
Stanekzai’s assertions strengthen fears that the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces would embolden the Taliban, and that the insurgents may not uphold their commitments.
Khalilzad plans to travel to Kabul after finishing the talks with the Taliban in Doha, reportedly to share details of the agreement with the Afghan leadership.
Taliban political spokesman Suahil Shaheen, in a recent interview, told VOA the final agreement with the U.S. would be signed in the presence of international guarantors, including Russia, China, Pakistan and other neighbors of Afghanistan, as well as the United Nations.
The U.S.-Taliban deal reportedly could mean the withdrawal of all 20,000 foreign troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2020.
Within the first few months, Washington would bring down the number of American forces to about 8,600 from roughly 14,000 now. The residual military force reportedly would remain in Afghanistan to ensure the Taliban are living up to their part of the commitments outlined in the agreement.
Taliban officials have said the deal being negotiated with the U.S. would require the insurgent group to open a peace process with Afghan stakeholders to discuss a cease-fire or reduction in attacks against government forces and matters related to future political governance.
U.S. officials say the Taliban also would be bound to prevent al-Qaida from establishing a safe haven in insurgent-controlled Afghan areas, and to help defeat Islamic State terrorists in the country.
The Afghan branch of Islamic State has intensified its deadly attacks in the country lately, raising questions about whether a U.S.-Taliban deal could end violence in Afghanistan. Last week, Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a wedding ceremony in Kabul that killed more than 80 people and injured about 160 others. Almost all the victims were civilians.
President Donald Trump has been a strong critic of U.S. involvement in overseas wars. He promised during his 2016 presidential campaign that he would extricate America from international conflicts.
Trump appears to be eager to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan before next year’s presidential election.
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani’s aides have said a U.S.-Taliban deal must lead to a cease-fire and direct peace talks between the government and insurgents.
Ghani, who is seeking re-election in the presidential vote set for Sept. 28, told a campaign rally in Kabul this week that his administration was determined to hold the election because only an elected government could represent Afghans in peace talks with the Taliban.
The insurgent group refuses to engage in any talks with the government in Kabul, however, dismissing them as American puppets and an outcome of the “foreign invasion” of Afghanistan. The intra-Afghan talks, if and when they start, will include government officials among the delegates representing the Afghan society, but they will not participate as government representatives, Mujahid reiterated Saturday.