Obama’s Uncle Called An Immigration Fugitive

FRAMINGHAM, Mass., Aug. 31 (UPI) — An uncle of U.S. President Barack Obama was being held on an immigration detainer after being arrested on drunken driving and other charges, officials say.

The Boston Globe, citing federal law enforcement sources, reported Wednesday has been a fugitive from deportation since 1992.

Onyango Obama was arrested last week in Framingham, Mass.

The sources said Obama, the younger half-brother of the president’s father, Barack Obama Sr., had been told to leave the country in 1992 but did not do so.

Police said he drove a car in front of police cruiser, which nearly hit his car, and he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.14 percent, above the Massachusetts limit of 0.08 percent.

The Globe said he was being held on an immigration detainer in the Plymouth County House of Correction.

When police asked if he wanted to make a call, he replied, “I think I’d like to call the White House,” a Framingham police report said.

Obama came to the United States in 1963 as part of an airlift that helped Kenyan students study in this country, according to a new book, “The Other Barack: The Bold and Reckless Life of President Obama’s Father,” by Globe reporter Sally H. Jacobs.

He studied at a boys school in Cambridge but left the school after two years and enrolled in Newton public schools before dropping out, the book says.

The Globe said it’s unclear what he did next but he resurfaced in 1994, when he was apparently working as a clerk at a Dorchester convenience store and two masked men beat him with a sawed-off shotgun and robbed him, Jacobs’ book says.

His sister, Zeituni Onyango, had also faced deportation before being granted asylum by a Boston immigration judge last year.

A spokesman for Onyango Obama’s attorney, Margaret Wong, who had also represented his sister, did not respond to telephone calls Tuesday, the Globe said.

U.S. Concerned By South Kordofan Violence

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31 (UPI) — Washington is “deeply concerned” about allegations that civilians in South Kordofan were killed in Sudanese airstrikes, the State Department said.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch during a weeklong mission to South Kordofan found at least 26 civilians were killed during Sudanese airstrikes in the area. Sudan blames South Sudanese rebels for much of the violence amid accusations charging Khartoum with an ethnic-cleansing campaign in the southern state.

Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, called on both sides to let humanitarian groups gain access to the region. She also reminded Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir of his commitment to a cease-fire in the region.

“The United States is deeply concerned about reports of continued Sudanese air force bombings of civilian areas in South Kordofan, despite President Bashir’s announcement of a unilateral two-week cease-fire last Tuesday,” she told reporters during her regular news briefing.

The United Nations said it had evidence to suggest much of the violence is ethnically motivated. Khartoum counters that many of the allegations are based on hearsay.

A spokesman for the Sudanese military said the situation in South Kordofan is stable and the claims made by the two human rights organizations are false, the state-run Sudan News Agency reports.

Release Tymoshenko, Sen. McCain Says

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31 (UPI) — Kiev is selectively prosecuting its opponents in its case against former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, U.S. Sen. John McCain said with a European colleague.

McCain, R-Ariz., said, in a joint statement with Wilfried Martens, president of the European People’s Party, that Kiev was sliding back toward a regime reminiscent of its leadership under the former Soviet Union.

Ukraine, they said, has worked long and hard to secure democratic principles within the government’s foundations.

“Yet, today we are witnessing certain practices from the Ukrainian authorities that are reminiscent of pre-independence rule,” they said in a joint statement. “The current trial of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and the judicial practices surrounding this trial, is increasingly seen as selective prosecution of members of the opposition in Ukraine.”

Tymoshenko is charged with corruption in connection to a 2009 gas deal brokered with Russian gas company Gazprom. She’s been jailed since early August and is apparently in poor health. Both leaders have called for her release.

Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, said Washington has “concerns” about the case, adding “we want to ensure that this is not a politically motivated set of circumstances.”

Obama Urges Passage Of Air, Road Bills

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31 (UPI) — President Obama called on the U.S. Congress to set politics aside and pass a clean federal highways bill extension he said would guard 1 million jobs Wednesday.

Flanked by members of his administration, and business and labor leaders, Obama also urged Congress to pass a clean extension of the Federal Aviation Administration authorization bill.

“If we allow the transportation bill to expire, over 4,000 workers will be immediately furloughed without pay,” Obama said.

Delaying the extension for 10 days would cost about $1 billion in highway funding, “money we can never get back,” the president said.

“And if it’s delayed even longer, almost 1 million workers could lose their jobs over the course of the next year,” Obama said.

Obama said failure to pass a clean extension “just because of politics” in the nation’s capital was “inexcusable.”

He noted Congress just before it went into August recess failed to reauthorize the FAA, forcing thousands of aviation workers off the job and delaying necessary airport improvement projects across the country.

A stopgap measure funded FAA through Sept. 16.

“At a time when a lot of people in Washington are talking about creating jobs,” Obama said, “it’s time to stop the political gamesmanship that can actually cost us hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

The transportation bill and the FAA bill typically enjoy bipartisan support and have been routinely passed, Obama said.

“So I’m calling on Congress, as soon as [it] come back, to pass a clean extension of the surface transportation bill, along with a clean extension of the FAA bill, to give workers and communities across America the confidence that vital construction projects won’t come to a halt,” Obama said.

Once those matters are addressed Obama said he would propose reforms to the way transportation money is invested to eliminate waste, give states more control and ensure projects yield the biggest bang for bucks invested.

“We need to stop funding projects based on whose districts they’re in and start funding them based on how much good they’re going to be doing for the American people,” Obama said. “And we need to do this all in a way that gets the private sector more involved.”

Such changes would put construction workers back to work immediately and would boost the economy not just now, but for years ahead, Obama said.

Finally, Obama said Wednesday he was directing federal agencies to identify high-priority infrastructure projects that can put people back to work.

The projects are already funded, but could begin construction more quickly by expediting the permitting process, Obama said, noting his action was in line with a recommendation from his jobs council.

Congress also should expect “a serious conversation” about making lasting investments in the nation’s infrastructure, Obama said.

“And at a time when interest rates are low and workers are unemployed, the best time to make those investments is right now, not once another levee fails or another bridge falls,” Obama said. “Now is the time to put our country before party and to give certainty to the people who are just trying to get by.”

Target Syria, Iran Together, Lawmakers Say

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31 (UPI) — Syria and Iran are “partners in crime” and should be targeted equally by direct sanctions from Washington, a U.S. lawmaker said.

Washington and the rest of the international community have ratcheted up the sanctions pressure on Damascus as the regime’s bloody crackdown continues. More than 2,000 people were killed at the hands of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, including hundreds killed during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Tehran, for its part, has earned the scorn of its Western adversaries for its poor human rights record. There’s been little heard, meanwhile, from two of Iran’s leading opposition members since their arrest in early spring.

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Washington should directly target each regime with equal fervor.

“The Iranian and Syrian regimes are partners in crime, and the U.S. should apply the same sanctions to both dictatorships,” she said. “Both regimes brutally oppress their own citizens, and the Iranian regime is helping the Syrian regime with its ongoing bloody crackdown.”

In a separate measure, Ros-Lehtinen proposed a measure to make funding for the United Nations voluntary. The world body, she said, is “plagued by scandal, mismanagement, and inaction.”

The State Department said it opposes both measures.

Military Trainer Sentenced For Fraud

BALTIMORE, Aug. 31 (UPI) — A Maryland man who posed as a retired U.S. Army special forces veteran and terrorism expert has been sentenced to 21 months in federal prison.

Prosecutors said William Hillar, 66, claimed to have served in the U.S. Army and to have lost his daughter to sex traffickers.

He was convicted of wire fraud for conning the FBI and other organizations into giving him contracts to provide teaching and training on topics such as counter-terrorism, drug trafficking and human trafficking. According to his plea agreement, Hillar earned at least $171,415 from 1998 to 2010, the Baltimore U.S. attorney’s office said Tuesday in a release.

Hillar was sentenced to 21 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution.

“William G. Hillar claimed that he had earned praise as a hero, but the truth is that he deserves condemnation as a liar,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein.

Hillar, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve, claimed to be a retired U.S. Army Colonel and to have served in special forces in Asia, the Middle East, and Central and South America. He also claimed to have received a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon.

Prosecutors said Hillar admits to fabricating a tale that his daughter had been kidnapped, forced into sex slavery and tortured before being hacked to death with machetes and thrown into the sea. He claimed that his life story was the basis for the 2008 film “Taken.”

Wildfire Burning Out Of Control In Texas

DALLAS, Aug. 31 (UPI) — The Texas Forest Service said containment is at or near zero for a wildfire burning out of control about 50 miles west of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Spokesman John Nichols of the Forest Service told the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram the fast-burning grass fire destroyed 25 homes and threatened 125 more Tuesday.

By late Tuesday the wildfire had burned about 7,500 acres in Palo Pinto County, Nichols said.

“I don’t think I have seen it this bad anywhere,” Nichols said but no major injuries were reported.

The fire began earlier Tuesday, apparently sparked by severe drought conditions, WFAA-TV, Dallas, reported.

Two groups of elementary school students were evacuated from Camp Grady Spruce at Possum Kingdom Lake but a spokesperson said the children were never in danger because the wind wasn’t blowing in their direction.

Boats were used to ferry evacuees across the lake.

Texas is currently battling its worst fire season in state history, CNN reported.

A record 3.5 million acres have burned since the start of the season.

Hot and dry weather, coupled with a lack of rain, have made conditions ripe for rapid fire growth.

Suicide Bombings Kill Nine In Chechnya

GROZNY, Russia, Aug. 31 (UPI) — Two suicide bombing attacks killed nine people and injured 20 others in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, an official said.

Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev said Wednesday those killed in the Tuesday night blasts, which came during the end of celebrations marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, included seven police officers, RIA Novosti reported. Also killed were one member of the Emergencies Ministry and a civilian, Nurgaliyev said.

The first explosion occurred when a man blew himself up as police attempted to detain him near a local parliament building, and the second came 30 minutes later. RIA Novosti said there were also reports of a third explosion.

The 20 people injured included 16 police officers, a member of the Investigative Committee and three civilians.

The bombs detonated in the two blasts were the equivalent of 3 kilograms of dynamite, a spokesman for Russia’s Investigative Committee said.

Russia, whose forces have fought two wars in Chechnya since the fall of the Soviet Union, has declared victory over a Muslim-led insurgency there, and violence has beset neighboring Ingushetia and Dagestan.

Russian Chopper With VIPs Crash Lands

MOSCOW, Aug. 31 (UPI) — A sudden gust of wind may have caused the crash of a Mi-8 helicopter in Russia’s North Caucasus, the aircraft’s mechanic said.

Vitaly Kongra said the chopper full of district VIPs was destabilized by a gust of wind and crash-landed just short of its target in a mountain field Tuesday, the Moscow Times reported.

Five people aboard the chopper were hospitalized overnight with injuries while eight others on board walked away with just scratches and bruises.

The yellow-and-orange aircraft was flying VIPs to the Arkhyz resort for a ceremony celebrating the start of construction of a ski lift.

The helicopter hit the ground just minutes before three tour buses loaded with journalists arrived to cover the ski lift ceremony.

The Arkhyz resort is the crown jewel of a $16 billion Kremlin program to build a cluster of ski resorts in the North Caucasus to revive the local economy through tourism.

2 Colombian Officers Injured By Grenade

NEIVA, Colombia, Aug. 31 (UPI) — Colombian authorities are searching for two men who allegedly attacked a central-Colombian police station, injuring at least three people, officials said.

At least two police officers and one civilian are hospitalized after two suspected radicals on a motorcycle threw a grenade at a police post Tuesday in the city of Neiva, capital of the Huila department, La Nacion reported.

Another explosive was found in the downtown area of the city just moments later, a half block from the chamber of commerce, the report said. A Colombian bomb squad robot deactivated the device.

Neiva is known to have high activity of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better know by its Spanish acronym FARC.

The city has been a target for the gang who are accused of extorting local businesses.