Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 25th 2015 Contents B47
Thursday, June 25, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
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Barack Obama said yesterday
that the US government had
let down the families of Amer-
icans held hostage by terrorists,
and he outlined new policies
that could make it easier for
those families to pay ransom
to help free their loved ones.
"These families have already
suffered enough and they should
never feel ignored or victimised
by their own government,"
Obama said as he detailed the
results of a six-month review
of US hostage policy.
The review s conclusions aim
to streamline and improve com-
munications with families, who
have sharply criticised the gov-
ernment for providing them
with confusing and contradic-
tory information. Some families
have complained about threats
of criminal prosecution if they
seek to pay ransom to terrorists
--- threats Obama said would
"The last thing we should ever
do is add to a family s pain with
threats like that," Obama said.
The president s pledge essen-
tially clears the way for families
to take actions the US govern-
ment has long said put Amer-
icans abroad at greater risk.
While no formal changes were
being made to a law prohibiting
material support for terrorists,
the Justice Department indicated
it would essentially ignore the
law in most situations involving
Obama expressed his con-
cerns that paying ransoms
makes Americans greater tar-
gets for kidnapping and
increases funding for terrorists.
He also said the US govern-
ment would continue to abide
by the "no concessions" policy,
but made clear that govern-
ment officials can have contact
Critics of the White House
review argue that allowing fam-
ilies to do what the government
will not could lead to those same
"We have had a policy in the
United States for over 200 years
of not paying ransom and not
negotiating with terrorists," said
John Boehner, a senior Repub-
lican Congressman. "The con-
cern that I have is that by lifting
that long-held principle you
could be endangering more
Americans here and overseas."
The president spoke shortly
after meeting privately with sev-
eral hostages families and some
former hostages. While more
than 80 Americans have been
taken hostage since the Sept. 11
attacks, the issue has gained
fresh attention in recent months
following the deaths of several
Americans held by the Islamic
State group, al Qaeda and oth-
ers.Despite the ban on the US
government making concessions
to terrorists, the Obama admin-
istration did negotiate with the
Taliban last year to win the
release of Army Sgt. Bowe
Bergdahl, who was captured
after walking away from this
post in Afghanistan. Five Guan-
tanamo Bay detainees were
exchanged as a condition of his
release. White House officials
say those negotiations were per-
missible because Obama sees a
special responsibility to leave no
American service member
behind on the battlefield.
Obama said that in the future,
the US would treat families of
hostages held by terrorists as
partners in the effort to secure
their loved ones release.
"We re not going to abandon
you. We re going to stand by
you," he said. (AP)
Obama eases US hostage policy
Families can pay terrorists UNITED NATIONS---The UN special envoy for
Yemen warned yesterday that the conflict-torn
Middle East nation is "one step" from famine,
with 31 million people in need of humanitarian
assistance compared with just 7 million two years
Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed told reporters after
briefing the UN Security Council behind closed
doors that all parties to the conflict are responsible
for the dire suffering of the Yemeni people until
there is "a true cease-fire."
The humanitarian crisis in the Arab world s poor-
est country has escalated as the conflict has inten-
sified. Ground fighting and Saudi-led airstrikes
targeting Yemen s Shiite Houthi rebels killed nearly
100 people yesterday.
The fighting in Yemen pits the Houthis and allied
troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh
against southern separatists, local and tribal militias,
Sunni Islamic militants and loyalists of President
Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is now based in
Saudi Arabia. The rebels seized the capital, Sanaa,
in September. In March, a Saudi-led and US-backed
coalition began launching airstrikes against the
rebels and their allies.
The conflict has left 20 million Yemenis without
access to safe drinking water and uprooted over
one million people from their homes, Ould Cheikh
Ahmed said. A near-blockade of Yemen s ports has
made it very difficult to deliver humanitarian aid.
But the International Committee of the Red Cross
said a ship carrying 1,000 tons of food and three
large generators from Oman had docked in Yemen s
Hodeida port yesterday.
"In view of the economic blockade that affects
all the people in Yemen, the arrival of this emergency
aid is a welcome development," said Antoine Grand,
who heads the ICRC in Yemen. "The food and gen-
erators will make a difference for tens of thousands
of people directly affected by the armed conflict."
While the ship s arrival was a rare piece of good
news, fighting kicked off at dawn yesterday in the
cities of Ibb, Aden, Taiz, Marib, Dhale and the
Houthi stronghold of Saada, killing nearly 100 peo-
ple, including many civilians, Yemeni officials said.
In Aden dozens of shells fell on densely populated
neighbourhoods, while artillery duels shook the
city of Taiz.
Guests hold up cell phones to get shots as US President Barack
Obama, right, is greeted by White House chief technology officer
Megan Smith after he arrived for a reception to celebrate LGBT
Pride Month at the White House in Washington yesterday.
UN warns of
in war-torn Yemen
DENVER---The Denver County Fair is dropping
marijuana exhibits from the event---a year after
some people said they were served pot-infused
chocolate in the "Pot Pavilion."
The organiser insists that the fair made the move
because marijuana-related vendor sales were slow,
not due to the incident at the pavilion.
Organiser Dana Cain says Denver has so many
marijuana-related festivals that the drug has become
kind of old hat.
The event last year did not display actual mar-
ijuana. Instead, marijuana growers entered pictures
of plants for competition.
Vendors were forbidden from giving away or
selling pot, but more than a dozen attendees filed
suit, saying they were given weed-infused choco-
The lawsuit has since been settled out of court.
Colorado and Washington are the first two US
states to legalise recreational marijuana. (AP)
Fair drops ganja
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