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
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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.


Maldives police freeze bank accounts of ex-president Yameen as part of probe

In this Sept. 23, 2018 photo, Maldivian president Yameen Abdul Gayoom, center, leaves a polling station after casting his vote during presidential election day in Male, Maldives. (AP)
Updated 31 min 25 sec ago
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Maldives police freeze bank accounts of ex-president Yameen as part of probe

  • The police said on Saturday a total of 100 million Maldivian Rufiyaa ($6.58 million) in both US dollars and the local currency have been frozen as a part of the investigations

MALE: Police in the Maldives said they have frozen the bank accounts of former president Abdulla Yameen as they investigate allegations by state bodies that he conducted “illicit” deals, some involving Chinese infrastructure projects, whilst leader.
Yameen lost a presidential election in September and the new government of his successor, Mohammed Ibrahim Solih, seen as close to India, has been trying to determine the extent of Chinese loans used to finance a construction boom in the Indian Ocean archipelago.
The police said on Saturday a total of 100 million Maldivian Rufiyaa ($6.58 million) in both US dollars and the local currency have been frozen as a part of the investigations.
Yameen has denied any wrongdoing and said that he took on loans to accelerate economic development. He could not be contacted on Saturday.
“We have noticed that several large transfers of money were conducted along with other transactions during the presidency ... in bank accounts operated under his name,” the statement said.
“Yameen answered all questions posed to him during today’s questioning and said that he will fully cooperate with the ongoing investigation,” it added.
Critics have alleged that contracts were given to Chinese companies at inflated prices, such as a bridge connecting the capital Male to the main airport of the palm-fringed islands famous for their luxury diving resorts.
While Yameen had strengthened ties of the archipelago of 400,000 people with China, his surprise loss in the election has raised the influence of traditional partner India.
($1 = 15.2000 rufiyaa)