Guantanamo being planned to be closed by Barack Obama

President Barack Obama presented a long-shot plan Tuesday to shutter the Guantanamo Bay detention centre, hoping to fulfill an elusive campaign promise before he leaves office next year.

Describing the jail as a stain on America’s reputation and a catalyst for jihadists, Obama said “I don’t want to pass this problem on to the next president.”

“For many years, it’s been clear that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay does not advance our national security. It undermines it,” Obama said from the White House’s Roosevelt Room.

He outlined a $290-475 million plan to move the 91 remaining detainees abroad and to one of 13 possible — unnamed — facilities in the United States.

Obama has tried for almost eight years to close the jail, but has been thwarted by Congress, the Pentagon, some in his own party and foreign allies who refuse to host the terror suspects abroad.

As a candidate and as president, Obama has argued that the indefinite detention without trial of Guantanamo inmates harms America’s image and its national security.

“It undermines our standing in the world,” he said. “This is about closing a chapter in our history.”

Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Congress have blocked the most obvious path to closing the facility by banning the transfer of detainees to the United States, and there is little prospect of Republicans changing tack in the runup to the November presidential election.

House Speaker Paul Ryan immediately rejected the proposal, saying bringing “Guantanamo terrorists” to the United States was neither smart nor safe.

“It is against the law, and it will stay against the law, to transfer terrorist detainees to American soil,” he added.

Obama appealed for the closure plan to be given “a fair hearing, even in an election year.”


But Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican presidential candidate, doubled down on opposing it, promising to increase the Guantanamo population if elected.

“Not only are we not going to close Guantanamo — when I am president, if we capture a terrorist alive… they are going to Guantanamo and we are going to find out everything they know,” he said.

Obama also has faced opposition from within his own administration, with the Pentagon accused of slow-pedalling transfers and overstating closure costs.

The president could still try to force the closure through an executive order, but such a move would expose him to accusations of ruling by decree.

Obama got strong backing from one prominent Democrat, presidential contender Hillary Clinton.

“Closing Guantanamo would be a sign of strength and resolve,” she said, urging Congress to implement the plan “as quickly and responsibly as possible.”

Her campaign also pointed to her efforts to help close the facility while serving as Obama’s secretary of state.

The Guantanamo Bay closure plan, which took months to produce, offers no specifics on the potential location of a US facility.

But military officials have previously listed Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, or the US Navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina, among possible destinations for inmates.

Those locations, however, face objections from local politicians.

Obama has long argued that many Guantanamo prisoners should be transferred overseas and some should be tried by military courts.

A small number — those deemed too dangerous to release but too difficult to prosecute — would be held in the United States.


Human rights groups worry this would only extend detentions without trial and create a “Guantanamo North.”

“The possibility of a new, parallel system of lifelong incarceration inside the United States without charge would set a dangerous precedent,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

The plan says a US facility would save money over time. It currently costs about $455 million each year to run Guantanamo, and a US site would reduce that amount by up to $180 million.

Most of the savings would come from a decrease in the number of troops guarding the reduced population on the US mainland, although it could cost up to $475 million in one-time expenses to move the men and build or update a facility to hold them.

Efforts to transfer prisoners overseas have been stymied by unrest in Yemen — a likely destination for many — and by recidivism among those already released.

Still, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has in recent weeks signed off on a flurry of transfers, and last month, the prison’s population dropped below 100 for the first time.

Today, 91 inmates remain. Of them, 35 have been approved for release. The rest face ongoing, indefinite detention.

Perhaps the most notorious prisoner is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who along with four co-defendants is charged with plotting the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Guantanamo opened in January 2002 on a US naval base on a coastal spit of land in southeastern Cuba leased from Havana under a treaty dating back to 1903.

It was set up after the 9/11 attacks under then-president George W.Bush’s administration to deal with “enemy combatants” denied many US legal rights.


US elections: Trump wins easily in Nevada

Republican frontrunner wins third straight victory in presidential contest, as Rubio comes in second, US media reports.

Donald Trump has won a third straight victory, the state Republican Party confirmed, with victory in the Nevada caucuses, cementing a lead that could soon be insurmountable in the Republican presidential race.

Early results on Wednesday showed Trump, who had been expected to win by a large margin, leading the pack of candidates with about 44 percent of the vote.

“If you listen to the pundits, we weren’t expected to win too much, and now we’re winning, winning, winning the country,” Trump said at a victory rally in Las Vegas.

Marco Rubio was projected by Fox News to come in second with about 30 percent, edging out Ted Cruz who received 16 percent in the Nevada caucuses, according to early results.

Both men, however, were far ahead of John Kasich and Ben Carson, Fox News projected.

The Nevada win is the third in a row for Trump in the state-by-state nominating contest for the November presidential election.

A billionaire businessman and political outsider, Trump’s brash, anti-government talk appealed to Nevada residents, political strategists said before the Tuesday evening caucus.

“If you listen to the pundits, we weren’t expected to win too much, and now we’re winning, winning, winning the country,” Trump said at a victory rally in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

Basking in his victory, Trump vowed he would keep open the military detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, if elected.

“We’re going to load it up with a lot of bad dudes out there,” he said, a day after President Barack Obama presented his latest plan to close the facility.

Trump also drew loud cheers for his vow to build a wall along the southern border and his instance that Mexico will pay for it.

Trump offered shout-outs from the stage to several of his billionaire friends, including Phil Ruffin, who owns the Treasure Island, and casino developer Steve Wynn.

“Now we’re going to get greedy for the United States,” he said.

Cruz and Rubio had both set their sights on a strong second-place finish there in the hopes that a win over the other would provide important momentum before the 12 nominating contests on March 1, known as Super Tuesday.

Polls suggest that Trump will do well in many of those Super Tuesday states, placing further pressure on Cruz, Rubio, and Ohio Governor John Kasich, another presidential candidate who was not a factor in Nevada, to come up with counter-measures quickly.


Netflix content immoral, says films board

The distribution of the Content in online by Netflix is immoral, the Kenya Film Classification Board has said.

This comes two weeks after the US-based internet streaming TV rolled out its services globally in more than 130 countries, including Kenya.

In a press conference  yesterday, KFCB chairman Jackson Kosgei said the film content being streamed by the provider has  failed  to conform to national values, ratings, and classifications regulations. “The board notes with great concern that the films being circulated on Netflix’s platforms are classified and rated on the basis of guidelines enforced in other jurisdictions, and which are totally at odds with Kenya’s regulatory standards,” Kosgei said.

“The pornography, child prostitution and massive violence themes in some of the movies threaten our moral values.”

He said some of the movies sampled from the network have ratings of suitability for 13-year-old, yet they contain classifiable elements such as extreme violence, nudity, promotion of irresponsible sexual behaviours, inappropriate language and drug abuse.

Kosgei said Kenya cannot be a passive recipient of foreign content that corrupt moral values of children and compromise security.

“Netflix is a not a religion that comes with dogmas but it is a businesses that must conform to recipient country’s laws,” he added.


US girls, women at risk of FGM due to rise in immigrants – study

More than half a million women and girls in the United States live at risk of female genital mutilation, a threefold increase in recent years due to the rise in immigrants from countries where it is practiced, a government study said on Thursday.

The number of US women and girls who have undergone the actual procedures is unknown, however, due to a lack of reliable data, said the study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The report said the estimated 513,000 women and girls at risk were born or have a parent born in a nation where female cutting is a tradition.

FGM remains traditional in many African countries as well as in South Asia and the Middle East, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated as many as 140 million women have been subjected to the practice.

The practice, which involves removal of the external genitalia, has been illegal for 20 years in the United States.

“This shows it’s not just something that happens ‘over there’ but it’s something that happens in this country,” said Shelby Quast, Americas director for Equality Now, a global group that works to end female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C).

“These girls are as American as any other girls, yet they’re facing something very, very life-altering.”

The risk has grown fourfold for US girls younger than 18, said the CDC study.



The ancient ritual, often shrouded in secrecy and widely condemned as a serious violation of women’s rights, causes many health problems which can be fatal.

The study said women and girls with family rooted in Egypt, Ethiopia and Somalia were most commonly found at risk in the United States.

“The increase resulted from the fact that the US population originating from FGM/C countries has risen sharply in recent decades,” said the study, published online in the March/April edition of Public Health Reports.

The 513,000 women and girls at risk in 2012, the most recent year data was available, more than tripled from the 168,000 at risk in the last CDC count in 1990, it said.

Some immigrants send their daughters back to their home countries in what is called “vacation cutting,” which also is illegal under US law, the study noted.

The CDC count boosts public awareness and supports stronger law enforcement, Quast said, adding that many health-care workers and teachers are unaware of the law and should be trained for dealing with survivors or girls at risk.