Somali diaspora: Blast won’t stop effort to rebuild homeland

MINNEAPOLIS — Like many Somalis displaced by decades of civil war, Mohamoud Elmi felt he had a duty to use what he learned in America to help rebuild his homeland. After getting a business administration degree in Ohio, he fulfilled that calling and returned to Somalia in 2008 to work in government.

Elmi, a dual Somali-U.S. citizen, was among at least 358 people killed in the Oct. 14 truck bombing in Mogadishu. He was one of countless members of the Somali diaspora who have returned to the Horn of Africa country in recent years to work as contractors, entrepreneurs, humanitarian workers, government leaders and more, despite the threat of violence.

Many say they won’t be deterred by the recent bombing, which was the deadliest attack in Somalia’s history and one of the world’s worst attacks in years. Some say the bombing, which also left 228 people injured and dozens missing, will actually energize rebuilding efforts.

“We don’t want this country to go down the tubes,” said Jibril Afyare, a Minnesota software engineer who is visiting Mogadishu. He went on to add: “I’m an American citizen, but this is my homeland and I won’t let my fellow Somali citizens suffer like this.”

Afyare was among a group of diaspora members invited to Somalia by the government to assist in the country’s progress. He was on his way to meet three relatives when he heard the blast from a couple of blocks away. His relatives died, as did friend and fellow Minnesota resident Ahmed Eyow, who had arrived in Mogadishu just hours earlier.

Afyare stayed in Somalia to help the hurt and needy. He spoke to The Associated Press last week by phone while volunteering at a hospital where many of the injured were being treated.

“Somali-Americans, or Somalis everywhere, should … contribute their skill sets to help this country come out of the ashes,” Afyare said.

Somalia began to fall apart in 1991, with warlords ousting dictator Siad Barre before turning on each other. Years of conflict and attacks by the extremist group al-Shabab, along with famine, shattered the country of some 12 million people. Somalia now has its first fully functioning government in 26 years, including a new generation of leaders who hail from the diaspora of about 2 million people.

Among those who have returned to their country to help is President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a dual Somali-U.S. citizen from New York.

Roughly one-third of Somalia’s Parliament — …read more

Source:: Deseret News – U.S. & World News

Trump shoots down retirement limit to pay for GOP tax cuts

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump shot down a possible approach for raising revenue to finance tax cuts in politically must-do legislation for the Republicans, promising Monday the popular 401(k) retirement program will be untouched.

As Republicans hurtle toward producing a bill to overhaul the U.S. tax system, they’re scrambling to find new revenue sources to pay for anticipated tax cuts exceeding $1 trillion. A proposal to eliminate the widely-used federal deduction for state and local taxes has run into heavy opposition from GOP House members from high-tax states, threatening the enactment of tax legislation that Republicans deem essential to retaining their majority in next year’s elections.

Trump pledged in a tweet there will be “no change” to tax incentives for the 401(k) retirement programs.

The plan crafted by Trump and Republican leaders calls for steep tax cuts for corporations and potentially individuals, a doubling of the standard deduction used by most Americans, shrinking the number of tax brackets from seven to three or four, and the repeal of inheritance taxes on multimillion-dollar estates. The child tax credit would be increased and the tax system would be simplified; most Americans would be able to file their income taxes on a postcard, according to the plan.

Crucial details of the plan have yet to be worked out, notably what income levels would fit with each tax bracket.

With the possibility of the state and local deduction being at least partly preserved, some Republican lawmakers were considering limiting the amount workers could save in 401(k) retirement accounts.

“It was a trial balloon and it crashed,” said Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute. “They’re struggling to find legitimate offsets” for tax cuts.

“Everyone has been promised they are going to be better off with tax reform and that’s really hard to do in a fiscally responsible way,” Riedl said.

Employees’ earnings from defined-contribution retirement plans such as 401(k)s aren’t taxed until retirement; pay-ins by both employers and employees also receive tax-preferred status. That cost the government $82.7 billion in lost revenue in the recent budget year — a potentially juicy target for Republican tax-cutters.

With 55 million U.S. workers holding some $5 trillion in their 401(k) accounts, the plans have become a touchstone of retirement security for the middle class.

“This has always been a great and popular middle class tax break that works, and it stays!” Trump tweeted. “There will be NO change to your 401(k).”

Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., …read more

Source:: Deseret News – U.S. & World News

Angry soldier’s widow says Trump didn’t know husband’s name

WASHINGTON — A fallen soldier’s widow criticized President Donald Trump on Monday over his condolence call last week, prompting a fresh Trump Twitter rebuttal as the emotional conflict case showed no sign of abating.

Myeshia Johnson, La David Johnson’s widow, spoke for the first time on ABC’s “Good Morning America. In the somber interview, she supported a congresswoman’s statements that Trump had said her husband “knew what he signed up for” and at one point could not remember her husband’s name.

“Yes, the president said that ‘he knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyway.’ And it made me cry ’cause I was very angry at the tone of his voice and how he said he couldn’t remember my husband’s name,” Johnson said. “The only way he remembered my husband’s name is because he told me he had my husband’s report in front of him and that’s when he actually said La David.”

The president answered back on Twitter soon after the interview aired, saying: “I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!”

Monday’s pointed exchange was the latest in an ongoing dispute over how Trump responded to the deaths of four service members Oct. 4 in the African nation of Niger. The clash over the call began last week when Democratic Rep. Frederica Johnson accused Trump of being callous in the conversation and Trump retorted that Wilson’s account was fabricated.

But Johnson backed Wilson’s account, saying that the congresswoman was a longtime friend who was with the family in the car when Trump called Tuesday and that Wilson listened on a speakerphone. Johnson said she had asked for the call to be put on speakerphone so relatives with her could hear.

Said Johnson on Monday: “I heard him stumbling on trying to remember my husband’s name, and that’s what hurt me the most, because if my husband is out here fighting for our country and he risked his life for our country why can’t you remember his name. And that’s what made me upset and cry even more because my husband was an awesome soldier.”

The back-and-forth drew criticism from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who said on “The View” Monday: “We should not be fighting about a brave American who lost his life.”

Johnson also said she has received little information about her husband’s death and complained she has not been …read more

Source:: Deseret News – U.S. & World News