5 former presidents appear together for hurricane relief

Five former U.S. presidents, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton speak during a concert at Texas A&M University benefiting hurricane relief efforts in College Station, Texas, U.S., on Saturday. (REUTERS)
Updated 22 October 2017
0

5 former presidents appear together for hurricane relief

AUSTIN, Texas: The five living former presidents appeared together for the first time since 2013 on Saturday at a concert to raise money for victims of devastating hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
Democrats Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter and Republicans George H.W. and George W. Bush gathered on stage in College Station, Texas, home of Texas A&M University, putting aside politics to try to unite the country after the storms.
Texas A&M is home to the presidential library of the elder Bush. At 93, he has a form of Parkinson’s disease and appeared in a wheelchair at the event. His wife Barbara and George W. Bush’s wife Laura Bush were in the audience.
The concert features the country music band Alabama, Rock & Roll Hall of Famer ‘Soul Man’ Sam Moore, gospel legend Yolanda Adams and Texas musicians Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen.
The appeal backed by the ex-presidents has raised $31 million since it began on Sept. 7, said Jim McGrath, spokesman for George H.W. Bush.
Earlier on Saturday, President Donald Trump recorded a video greeting that avoids his past criticism of the former presidents and called them “some of America’s finest public servants.”
“This wonderful effort reminds us that we truly are one nation under God, all unified by our values and devotion to one another,” Trump said in the message.
The last time the five were together was in 2013, when Obama was still in office, at the dedication of George W. Bush’s presidential library in Dallas.
There is precedent for former presidents joining forces for post-disaster fundraising. George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton raised money together after the 2004 South Asia tsunami and Hurricane Katrina the next year. Clinton and George W. Bush combined to seek donations after Haiti’s 2011 earthquake.
“It’s certainly a triple, if not a home run, every time,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “Presidents have the most powerful and prolific fundraising base of any politician in the world. When they send out a call for help, especially on something that’s not political, they can rake in big money.”
Amid criticism that his administration was initially slow to aid storm-ravaged Puerto Rico, Trump accused island leaders of “poor leadership,” and later tweeted that, “Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes” while saying that Federal Emergency Management Agency, first-responders and military personnel wouldn’t be able to stay there forever.
But Rottinghaus said those attending Saturday’s concert were always going to be viewed more favorably since polling consistently shows that “any ex-president is seen as less polarizing than the current president.”
“They can’t get away from the politics of the moment,” he said of current White House occupants. “Ex-presidents are able to step back and be seen as the nation’s grandfather.”
Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas’ Gulf Coast as a Category 4 hurricane on Aug. 25, eventually unleashing historic flooding in Houston and killing more than 80 people. Shortly thereafter, all five ex-presidents appeared in a commercial for a fundraising effort known as “One America Appeal.” In it, George W. Bush says, “People are hurting down here.” His father, George H.W. Bush, then replies, “We love you, Texas.”
A website accepting donations, OneAmericaAppeal.org, was created with 100 percent of proceeds pledged to hurricane relief.
Hurricane Irma subsequently hit Florida and Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico, while both affected the US Virgin Islands.


Hollande fuels Rafale fighter jet controversy in India

In this file photo taken on October 27, 2017 Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation Eric Trappier (L), French Defence Minister Florence Parly (C) and chairman of Reliance Group Anil Ambani arrive at MIHAN SEZ, where she will participates in the foundation stone-laying ceremony of Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited (DRAL), in Nagpur. (AFP)
Updated 8 min 40 sec ago
0

Hollande fuels Rafale fighter jet controversy in India

  • Hollande denied any conflict of interest with Reliance, which partially financed a film produced by his girlfriend Julie Gayet in 2016

NEW DELHI: Former French president Francois Hollande has fueled controversy over India’s multi-billion-dollar 2016 purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets, saying that France was given no choice on the Indian partner for manufacturer Dassault.
His comments on Friday stoked debate over a subject which has gained significant traction in India in recent weeks, since the opposition Congress party accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of favoring a private conglomerate over a public company in the aircraft deal.
The party alleges Modi gave preferential treatment to industrialist Anil Ambani, the billionaire chairman of Reliance Group, to the detriment of state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
Officials in India and France say Dassault had freely chosen to partner with Reliance, despite Ambani having no previous experience in the aeronautics sector.
“We did not have a say in that,” Hollande told investigative website Mediapart. “It was the Indian government that proposed this service group (Reliance), and Dassault who negotiated with Ambani.
“We did not have a choice, we took the interlocutor who was given to us,” added Hollande, who was president of France from 2012-2017.
French firm Dassault had spent years negotiating a deal for 126 fighter jets to be manufactured in India with HAL, but talks had stalled.
On taking office, the Modi government canceled the negotiations and decided to directly purchase 36 jets made in France.
Hollande denied any conflict of interest with Reliance, which partially financed a film produced by his girlfriend Julie Gayet in 2016.
“That is why, moreover, this group (Reliance) did not have to give me any thanks for anything. I could not even imagine that there was any connection to a film by Julie Gayet.”
Speaking to AFP on the sidelines of a meeting in Canada on Friday, the former French leader insisted that France “did not choose Reliance in any way.”
When asked whether India had put pressure on Reliance and Dassault to work together, Hollande said he was unaware and “only Dassault can comment on this.”

Contacted by AFP, France’s embassy in New Delhi did not comment.
India’s defense ministry wrote on Twitter that neither the Indian nor French government “had any say in the commercial decision.”
The French foreign ministry later issued a statement saying that “the sole obligations of the French government were to assure delivery and the quality of the equipment.”
Paris was “in no way involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners,” it added.
For its part, Dassault Aviation said in a statement Friday that the contract was “a government-to-government agreement.”
Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who has led the opposition’s focus on the deal, wrote: “Thanks to Francois Hollande, we now know he (Modi) personally delivered a deal worth billions of dollars to a bankrupt Anil Ambani.”
“The PM has betrayed India. He has dishonored the blood of our soldiers,” Gandhi added.
Foreign manufacturers obtaining arms contracts in India are obliged to reinvest a portion of the sums collected in India.
Under the Rafale deal, France must spend amounts totalling around half the eight billion euros ($9.4 bn) paid by the Indian government.
Dassault has invested more than 100 million euros in its joint venture with Reliance.
India — the world’s largest defense importer — has been investing tens of billions in updating its Soviet-era military hardware to counter long-standing territorial disputes with its nuclear-armed neighbors, including a strengthening China.
It intends to use compensations payments such as in the Rafale deal to create a local defense industry.