Archive for October, 2016

Ties between the U.S. and Philippines run deep. It won’t be easy for Rodrigo Duterte to unravel them

October 31, 2016

By Jessica Meyers
The Los Angeles Times
October 31, 2016

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte arrived in China this month and declared his “separation” from the United States. Then he went to Japan and threatened to kick American troops out of his country, throwing the future relationship of two longtime partners into doubt.

His rancor tests one of America’s most crucial alliances in Asia. Duterte’s comments stoke indignation about U.S. treatment of its former colony, but they also discount deep economic and military bonds — ones that would prove difficult for the tough-talking leader to unravel.

“It’s quite hard to underestimate the depth and complexity of the relationship,” said Malcolm Cook, a senior fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.

“The harm would be much more on the side of the Philippines than the U.S.”

How close are the two countries?

The U.S. is the nation’s second-largest trading partner after China and one of its biggest foreign direct investors. A predominately Catholic population has absorbed America’s fast food, basketball and pop culture.

More than 90% of Filipinos regard the U.S. favorably, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey, a larger percentage than any other country polled — including the U.S.

That relationship extends to California, which holds the majority of some 4 million Filipinos and Filipino Americans who live in the U.S. The money they send back makes up nearly half of all remittances from overseas Philippine workers. Total payments home contribute about one-tenth of the nation’s gross domestic product.

The U.S. provides some equipment and training for the military, and American troops have helped fight Islamic separatists in the southern Philippines. A defense treaty affirming support against outside attacks dates back nearly seven decades.

“It’s clear Duterte’s special sensitivities to the U.S. may not be shared by the vast majority of Filipinos,” said Gerard Finin, director of the East-West Center’s Pacific Islands Development Program in Honolulu.

What are the origins of this relationship? 

The U.S. paid Spain $20 million for the Philippines in 1898 following the Spanish-American War. The purchase drew the U.S. into an ongoing battle with Philippine rebels over independence. The violence led to tens of thousands of Filipino solider deaths and, in some instances, massacres of women and children. Then-Indiana Sen. Albert Beveridge justified the conflict when he said the U.S. had a duty to civilize “a barbarous race.”

Relations improved during World War II when American Gen. Douglas MacArthur helped rid the nation of Japanese invaders. Soon after, the U.S. granted the Philippines independence.

But left-leaning nationalists like Duterte, a former prosecutor and populist mayor, believe America has failed to atone for its conquests. Some still seethe at its support for autocratic ruler Ferdinand Marcos, which allowed the U.S. to operate its largest overseas military bases: Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Base.

The next government eliminated foreign military bases.

Philippines’ foreign minister, Perfecto Yasay, in September demanded the U.S. stop viewing the nation as its “little brown brother,” a reference to the term used for Filipinos when Americans controlled the island.

Some think “it’s time for the U.S. to wake up and not treat the Philippines as a doormat … but more maturely as a friend,” said Eduardo Araral, vice dean of research and associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s public policy school.

What could a breakdown in relations mean for the U.S.?

The U.S. considers the Philippines a vital partner in the face of China’s swelling ambitions, particularly in the South China Sea.

Duterte’s recent call to evict American troops takes aim at a 2014 agreement, which allows the U.S. to return soldiers to five Philippine military bases. The deal offered the Obama administration a strategic spot to boost its Asia Pacific influence, a move Chinese leaders view as an attempt to contain it.

Duterte’s predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, inched closer to Washington out of fears about China’s assertiveness in the contested waterway. An international tribunal this summer ruled in favor of the Philippines and invalidated China’s claims to the South China Sea. But Duterte has downplayed the decision, instead connecting himself with the communist country’s “ideological flow” on a recent visit and signing a whirlwind of trade deals.

“China is the clear winner in this,” Araral said.

The apparent realignment also may benefit its Southeast Asian neighbor. Philippine officials on Friday said China appears to have stopped blocking Filipino fishermen from entering waters near the disputed Scarborough Shoal.

But analysts caution against reading too much into posturing from a president new to foreign policy and just four months into office.

Duterte later couched his U.S. separation comments and said he wanted to maintain diplomatic ties.

Otherwise, “the Filipinos in the United States will kill me,” he said.

How is the White House responding?

Duterte’s threats are compounded by his bloody campaign against drugs, a spate of extrajudicial killings that has left more than 3,000 dead.

The Obama administration has responded cautiously, labeling his rhetoric “troubling” and gently reinforcing a decades-long partnership.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest last week said the administration has received no formal indication that relations will shift.

Duterte’s comments have “injected some unnecessary uncertainty in the relationship,” he said. “It’s not indicative of the seven-decade-long alliance between our two countries. It’s not indicative of the deep cultural ties between our two countries.”

Administration officials are caught. They can respond and incite further outbursts, or wince and wait to see whether his rhetoric will spur actual changes.

“While Duterte is more talk than policy, there are going to be some policy implications,” said Richard Javad Heydarian, assistant professor of political science at Manila’s De La Salle University, “but it’s not as severe as his language suggests.”

http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-us-philippines-explainer-20161031-story.html

Meyers is a special correspondent.

ALSO:

Meet the Nightcrawlers of Manila: A night on the front lines of the Philippines’ war on drugs

Here’s how the U.S. is dealing with Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte’s blitz of rants, insults and ultimatums

Philippines president cozies up to China after talking tough about the U.S.

U.S. senator, citing rights concerns, opposed Philippines weapons sale

October 31, 2016

Reuters

Mon Oct 31, 2016 | 4:04pm EDT

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin informed the State Department that he would oppose the planned sale of some 26,000 assault rifles to the Philippines’ national police, and the sale has not gone ahead, Senate aides told Reuters on Monday.

Aides said Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was reluctant to provide the weapons given concerns about human rights violations in the Philippines including extrajudicial killings.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle)

Opioid overdose hospitalizations double among young Americans

October 31, 2016

AFP

© Getty/AFP/File | The rise of youth hospitalization due to opioid overdose is due mainly to the huge increase in the presence of the powerful painkillers in Americans’ homes–doctors wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers in 2012

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Hospitalizations for overdoses of more than doubled among US children and adolescents between 1997 and 2012, according to a new study published Monday.Suicide attempts and accidental ingestion accounted for a growing number of the poisonings, said the authors of the report published in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics.

They identified more than 13,000 cases of children and adolescents ranging from one to 19 years old hospitalized for overdoses of doctor-prescribed opiates, from which 176 died.

Among children aged one to four, hospitalizations increased by 205 percent, and 161 percent for adolescents aged 15 to 19 years.

Young children were hospitalized mainly for ingesting the painkillers accidentally, while attempts at suicide or self-inflicted injury accounted for most overdoses among adolescents over the age of 15, said co-author Julie Gaither, an epidemiologist at Yale School of Medicine.

Overdoses among other teenagers probably resulted from attempts to get high.

The authors attribute the explosion in the number of overdoses from painkillers among young children to their parents or other adults in their households who provided access to the drugs.

In general, poisonings attributed to prescription drugs have become the leading cause of injury-related deaths in the United States, they stress.

The rise is due mainly to the huge increase in the presence of the powerful painkillers in Americans’ homes.

Use of the drugs has skyrocketed in recent years, prompting the authorities to sound alarms over the sharp increase in overdoses and addiction.

Doctors wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers in 2012.

The study also found that the vast majority of children and adolescents who overdosed on the drugs were white — 73.5 percent — and that almost half were covered by private medical insurance.

The proportion of young people from families receiving Medicaid — federal health insurance for lower-income Americans — hospitalized for opiate overdoses increased from 24 percent in 1997 to 44 percent in 2012, the study says.

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All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day — “We pray for them all so Nobody is forgotten.” — “This is an opportunity to ask for God’s mercy.”

October 31, 2016
A boy scout plants Philippine flags on each crosses of soldiers buried at the Heroes Cemetery as the nation prepares for observance of All Saints Day, the traditional honoring of the departed, Monday, Oct. 31, 2016 in suburban Pasay city, southeast of Manila, Philippines. Filipinos, in this predominantly Catholic nation in Asia, troop to cemeteries and memorial parks every Nov. 1 to light candles and offer prayers as they pay tribute to their departed loved ones. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines – All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are occasions to pray for the departed and the saints, especially those in purgatory and those who have been forgotten by the living.

Fr. Roy Bellen of the Archdiocese of Manila’s Office of Communications said yesterday not all souls go directly to heaven when they die, as some souls have to pass through purgatory.

Bellen said part of Christian teaching is believing in purgatory, where the person who died gets purified to be worthy to enter heaven.

He added that some souls who have gone way ahead of the present generation – the great, great grandparents – are sometimes no longer included in the special intentions of their living families. This is why, he said, the living must also pray for them, especially on All Souls’ Day.

The faithful must also pray for the saints, he added, as some of them are simply forgotten because of their growing number.

“With the many saints in Rome, not all of them are remembered, and there is a day for them, so they will be remembered,” the Catholic priest said. “The same with the souls, there is a day dedicated for them… so we pray for all souls, whoever they are.”

According to Bellen, no one is sure the souls of the departed have gone up to heaven, thus, they need continuous prayers.

“We have no way of really knowing when they get there, but still we pray for them as much as they pray for us also,” he said. “Hopefully it becomes a habit for us that we pray.”

He said some of the traditions about the dead are not really for the deceased to reach heaven, but for the living to cope with their loss and feel that they have dutifully mourned the passing of their love ones.

He cited, for instance, the so-called “babang luksa,” when Filipinos wear only black and no red for a year after a close relative has passed on.

“Babang luksa” essentially means end of mourning. The word “baba” means to lower, referring to a veil customarily worn to mourn the passing of a loved one.

Same thing with the so-called “40 days,” which family and friends observe after the death of a person.

Fr. Bellen said 40 is a biblical number.

He related that a philosopher once said that death is actually an experience of the one living.

“Meaning to say that we are the ones still experiencing pain, emptiness and loss… The dead person no longer experiences these things. It is already between him and God,” the Catholic priest said.

“After 40 days, it gives you a sense of fulfillment that I have done my part, my obligations. It gives you peace, thanking God that you were able to mourn and it is now time to move on,” he added.

There can also be family reunions, he said, sometimes on the first death anniversary of a person, helping the family feel the support of their relatives.

“There might be superstitious beliefs, and they may not actually be true, but these help you. It makes you feel that you are doing something,” Bellen said. “These are ways for the family and close friends of the deceased to move forward in life.”

‘Satanic origin’

On the other hand, Fr. Alfred Viernes, assistant parish priest of St. Peter the Martyr Church in Pangasinan, urged Filipino Catholics to examine their faith on All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.

Viernes also expressed disapproval of Halloween parties which, he said, were of “pagan and satanic origin.”

“What do we see now in the cemetery?” he asked. “It’s no longer a feast of the departed but feast of the living.”

He said it’s a good thing drinking sprees are now banned inside the cemeteries, so people could focus on the needs of their departed loved ones.

“What the dead need is prayer, and the most effective prayer is the Holy Mass because it is where Jesus Christ, through His sacrifice on the cross, lifted all our prayers to God our Father,” Viernes said.

According to him, Filipinos are copycats, particularly in the holding of Halloween parties.

“It’s really unfortunate, that’s why we in the church try our best to catechize and educate our people,” the priest said.

He said shows on television or Halloween parties have demons, witches and vampire child, which are not helpful to people.

“The All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day happen only once a year, yet what is shown are frightening creatures,” the priest noted.

He said it is high time the Church taught the people through the mass something which he has been doing in his 13 years in the priesthood.

“I have been saying this, and hopefully, it will change our minds, our cultures about the real spirit of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day,” he said.

‘People not in control of everything’

Meanwhile, Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco has reminded the faithful of people’s vulnerability and the need to ask for God’s mercy.

The Metro Manila-based prelate said yesterday the 6.6 magnitude earthquake that hit Italy last Sunday is a reminder that people do not have complete control of their lives.

The bishop said earthquakes are natural calamities that happen and affect the lives of people. It should be used as an opportunity to ask for God’s mercy, he pointed out.

“Natural calamities are part of our lives and more important is how we react,” Ongtioco said. “These are occasions to care for others and to seek God’s guidance and mercy.”

He said he hopes the quake would shake up people’s faith so they would have a stronger relationship with God.

It brings the “reality that we are not in complete control of everything. There is a God who is with us and loves us,” he said.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/11/01/1639375/pray-departed

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls Breaks With President Francois Hollande

October 31, 2016

AFP

© AFP/File / by Adam Plowright | Within President Francois Hollande’s (L) camp, Premier Manuel Valls (R) is talked of as a possible “Brutus”, a reference to assasination of Julius Caesar

PARIS (AFP) – French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, fed up or finally sensing his opportunity, has turned on President Francois Hollande six months from elections in which his Socialist party faces crushing defeat.The trigger for Valls, unfailingly loyal to Hollande since taking office in March 2014, was a bombshell book on the president published earlier this month whose contents continue to reverberate.

In “A President Shouldn’t Say That”, written by two political journalists after a series of interviews, Hollande is quoted criticising judges, the national football team and even his own government’s policies.

Valls talked of his “anger” and the “shame” in the party last week, opening up a breach with his political master who is the most unpopular president in sixty years.

His criticism breaks with French political tradition — in which the prime minister’s main job is devotion to the all-powerful president — and has led to a surge in speculation about Valls’ strategy.

“I have respect for Francois Hollande, he’s a friend,” Valls added on Sunday in an interview with the France 24 television channel during a trip to Africa. “I also have respect for the role.”

Is he seeking to discourage Hollande from standing for re-election, a seemingly hopeless endeavour according to the polls? Or is Valls simply distancing himself ahead of the inevitable crash?

“It’s essential for Valls to differentiate himself to prevent himself sinking with the president,” analyst Bruno Jeanbart from the polling group OpinionWay wrote in Le Figaro newspaper on Monday.

Within Hollande’s camp, the 54-year-old Barcelona-born premier is talked of as a possible “Brutus”, a reference to the Roman-era politician who famously took part in assassinating Julius Caesar.

“The boss, until further notice, is the president of the Republic. He was elected,” Hollande’s spokesman, Stephane Le Foll, said acidly on Sunday.

– A sinking president –

Valls, a Spanish painter’s son who only obtained French nationality at age 20, has never hidden his presidential ambitions.

In 2011, he ran in the Socialist presidential primary but scored a lowly six percent, eventually throwing his support behind Hollande and running his campaign communications.

When Hollande took office, Valls was rewarded with the interior minister’s post before becoming prime minister in March 2014 when Hollande moved his government towards the political centre-ground.

“It’s the first time there’s a breach between the president of the Republic and the prime minister,” one Socialist MP told AFP on Monday on condition of anonymity.

“The question is who will it benefit? We’ll have to watch the polls in the coming days,” he added.

Alain Juppe, a candidate from the centre-right Republicans party, is widely seen as the election frontrunner, polling around 28 percent of the vote in the first round.

He is likely to face — and defeat — Marine Le Pen from the far-right National Front in a final second-round vote in May.

– A future leader? –

Analysts are still unsure of how the Socialist party will emerge from its current disarray, whether Valls will go down as a tarnished one-time PM under Hollande or reposition himself as a future leader of the party.

The premier faces multiple problems, not least his image as one of the leading figures in Hollande’s unpopular government which has been ground down by high unemployment, multiple terror attacks and policy U-turns.

He began as premier as one of the country’s most popular Socialist politicians, with his tough talk on crime and battles with the left-wing of the party leading to comparisons with former British prime minister Tony Blair.

He also takes a hard line on identity questions and secularism in France, supporting a ban on the Islamic veil in universities and criticising the burkini swimsuit as a “provocation.”

But in a poll published on October 26, Valls and the more instinctively left-wing Hollande would win the same vote share in the first round of next April’s election, a humiliating nine percent.

He also risks being eclipsed by fellow pro-business centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, who quit as economy minister in August to start his own political movement, and hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon.

The main question for him is “how do I get through the next stage, how do I get out of the presidential wreck to be useful afterwards?” concludes the Socialist party MP who spoke to AFP anonymously.

by Adam Plowright

US should strike back at cyberattackers: report

October 31, 2016

AFP

© AFP/File | Although the scope of cyberattacks is understood, the solutions remain controversial

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US government and private sector should strike back against hackers to counter cyberattacks aimed at stealing data and disrupting important computer networks, a policy report said Monday.A panel of experts assembled by the George Washington University Center for Cyber and Homeland Security said policies should be eased to allow “active defense” measures that deter hackers — differentiating that from the idea of “hacking back” to disable systems used by attackers.

The panel envisioned measures such as taking down “botnets” that disrupt cyberspace, freeing data from “ransomware” hackers and “rescue missions” to recover stolen data.

“The time for action on the issue of active defense is long overdue, and the private sector will continue to be exposed to theft, exfiltration of data, and other attacks in the absence of a robust deterrent,” the report said.

“When private sector companies have a capability to engage in active defense measures, they are building such a deterrent, which will reduce risks to these companies, protect the privacy and integrity of their data, and decrease the risks of economic and societal harm from large-scale cyberattacks.”

The report follows a wave of high-profile attacks against US companies and government databases, and after the Obama administration accused Russia of using cyberattacks to attempt to disrupt the November presidential election.

US policymakers are moving too slowly in dealing with a “dynamic” threat from cyberspace, former national intelligence director and task force co-chair Dennis Blair said.

“We are shooting so far behind the rabbit that we will only hit it if the rabbit makes another lap and comes back to where it was,” he told a conference presenting the report.

However, the panel did not recommend hacking back “because we don’t want the cure to be worse than the disease,” project co-director Frank Cilluffo said.

But “there are certain steps companies can take” to repel and deter cyberattacks, he added, advocating the establishment of a legal framework for them.

Although the scope of the problem is understood, the solutions remain controversial.

Some of the recommendations go too far by inviting companies to gain unauthorized access to outside computer networks, task force co-chair Nuala O’Connor, president of the Center for Democracy & Technology, said in a dissent.

“I believe these types of measures should remain unlawful,” she wrote, adding that it remains difficult to be sure of cyberattacks’ sources.

“The risks of collateral damage to innocent internet users, to data security, and to national security that can result from overly aggressive defensive efforts needs to be better accounted for.”

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China and Russia held joint military exercises in the pacific Ocean in 2014 — they executed similar exercises in the South China Sea during September 2016.

President Obama in the White House, December 3, 2015 — the day after 14 Americans were killed and 22 were seriously injured at a Christmas party terrorism attack in San Bernardino, California.

President Obama went all the way to Vietnam to go to dinner with ANOTHER AMERICAN? — Anthony Bourdain — What are we paying for? This is not, not international diplomacy…. The American people should get a refund for all the wasted jet fuel on Air Force One….

While Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton began what was called the “U.S. pivot to Asia.” In this photo, Hillary Clinton talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. on September 5, 2012. Today Hillary Clinton is running to become the next President of the United States and China’s former Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi has been promoted to the number three leadership within the Chinese Communist Party. China seems to be in control of most of the South China Sea and is pressuring all U.S. allies from Japan to Australia to Singapore to ally themselves with China or face consequences. In 2012, Hillary Clinton was a big advocate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). After Donald trump said the TPP was not a good deal for American workers, Hillary Clinton became against the TPP.

Those were fun times, weren’t they?  U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov press a red button symbolizing Mrs. Clinton’s  intention to “reset” U.S.-Russian relations during their meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, March 6, 2009. Only the Clinton State Department Used the word for “overcharge” instead of the word for ‘reset.” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton left her post as U.S. Secretary of State with a Russia in military resurgence. The button meant “Reset to the Soviet Union and the Cold War” to Putin’s Moscow government, we suppose. (AP Photo)

A general view shows destruction in Aleppo’s rebel-held Bustan al-Basha neighbourhood on October 6, 2016. Credit George Ourfalian, AFP

 (From Sunday, June 26, 2016)

Susan Rice September 16, 2012, just a few days after the attack on the U.S. at Benghazi. She told and re-told the lie that blamed the attack on a video seen as offensive to Muslims on all five major U.S. TV Sunday news talk shows. President Obama promoted her from U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations to the post of U.S. National Security Adviser.

The number of migrants and refugees during the Obama Administration has exceeded the total number from World War II.

Because the threat of Radical Islamic Terrorism was not addressed more forcefully from the start with a concerted campaign to eliminate them,  the number of killed, wounded and displaced has continued to rise. The citizens of Syria and other places gave up waiting for Barack Obama to end the war and, at great peril to their own lives, and the lives of their family members, they became refugees and migrants.  How much longer must the world stay in this state of upheaval?

President Obama now has the distinction of being the longest serving American president during war in the history of the United States. That’s his legacy.

Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes. Photo by The White House

U.S. Navy sailors taken prisoner by Iran, January 12, 2016

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“This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Okay, so it’s written to do that. In terms of risk rated subsidies, if you had a law which said that healthy people are going to pay in — you made explicit healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed… Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really really critical for the thing to pass… Look, I wish Mark was right that we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not.”

Aung San Suu Kyi Under Pressure After Reports Say Myanmar’s Army Guilty of Killing, Rapes of Muslim Rohingya

October 31, 2016

Reuters

Mon Oct 31, 2016 | 11:24am EDT

By Simon Lewis, Wa Lone and Shwe Yee Saw Myint | NAYPYITAW/YANGON

Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi faces mounting criticism for her government’s handling of a crisis in Muslim-majority northern Rakhine State, where soldiers have blocked access for aid workers and are accused of raping and killing civilians.

The military operation has sharpened the tension between Suu Kyi’s six-month-old civilian administration and the army, which ruled the country for decades and retains key powers, including control of ministries responsible for security.

Exposing the lack of oversight of the armed forces by the government, military commanders have ignored requests for information about alleged misconduct by soldiers for more than 10 days, according to a senior civilian official.

Troops moved into northern Rakhine, near the frontier with Bangladesh, after militants killed nine border police in coordinated attacks on Oct. 9.

Since then, the government has said five soldiers and at least 33 insurgents have been killed in clashes with a group it believes has around 400 members drawn from the mostly stateless Rohingya Muslim minority.

While Myanmar’s army-drafted constitution puts the military firmly in control of security matters, diplomats and aid workers say privately they are dismayed at Suu Kyi’s lack of deeper involvement in the handling of the crisis.

Suu Kyi, who as well as effectively leading the government as state counselor is also Myanmar’s foreign minister, has pressed ahead with a busy schedule of overseas trips.

When fighting erupted in Rakhine, she departed for a four-day visit to India, and is due to leave again on Tuesday for a five-day trip to Japan.

“Right now there’s only one person calling the shots – when she’s abroad, nothing gets done,” said an international observer familiar with the situation, echoing previous criticisms of Suu Kyi’s autocratic decision-making style.

United Nations human rights experts have urged the government to investigate the allegations of abuses by troops and U.N. agencies have called for aid access to the area.

Suu Kyi has not directly commented on those calls or on statements from human rights monitors, although she has urged the military to exercise restraint and act within the law.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS

In its public comments the government – largely through presidential spokesman Zaw Htay, a former soldier and holdover from the previous military-aligned administration – has backed the military line that the army is conducting carefully targeted sweeps against Islamist militants it blames for the Oct. 9 attacks.

But residents and rights groups have reported killings, looting and sexual assaults committed by soldiers against civilians.

Pointing to behind-the-scenes tensions, Reuters has obtained a list of 13 questions the civilian side of the government has sent to the military, requesting information about reports of killings, looting, arrests and destruction of homes.

“We submitted the list on Oct. 20, but we still haven’t heard back,” said a civilian official who refused to be identified because he was not allowed to discuss the previously unpublished list with the media.

Suu Kyi and President Htin Kyaw – a confidant handpicked by the Nobel laureate – met the military’s top brass on Oct. 14 and urged a restrained and judicious response to the attacks.

Civilian officials were “managing that problem very closely”, Zaw Htay told Reuters on Friday.

“They already agreed on the policy. That’s why the military and the interior ministry ordered ground troops and police in Rakhine to work according to the law,” he said.

Richard Horsey, a former United Nations official and analyst based in Yangon said that since taking power Suu Kyi’s government had established a level of “confidence and trust” with the military leadership.

Still, it remains unclear whether there is the “active, working-level relationship” needed to address concerns about the military’s actions in Rakhine, he said.

MORE REPORTS OF LOOTING

Civilian and police officials have said it was not possible that security forces had committed abuses.

Diplomats and United Nations officials want independent observers allowed into the area to verify the reports. They are also pressuring the government to allow humanitarian aid into the area, where the Rohingya population are denied Myanmar citizenship and face restrictions on their movements.

Last week, eight Rohingya women told Reuters reporters who visited their village that they have been raped by soldiers. Presidential spokesman Zaw Htay denied the allegations.

Since that report was published, about 400 soldiers again searched the village at the weekend, a resident said on Monday.

The resident, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said security personnel warned women in the village of U Shey Kya about talking to media.

There were no allegations of further assaults, but soldiers looted food stores, farming equipment and solar panels, according to the resident and Chris Lewa of the Arakan Project, a monitoring group with a network of sources in the area.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said it had analyzed satellite imagery taken on Oct. 22 that showed “multiple areas of probable building destruction” in at least three villages where residents have also said that troops torched homes.

“The government should end its blanket denial of wrongdoing and blocking of aid agencies, and stop making excuses for keeping international monitors from the area,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director for Human Rights Watch in Asia.

(Editing by Alex Richardson)

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Half of Russians fear Syria could spark WWIII — Putin and Kremlin Propaganda Spooking Russians more than Europeans?

October 31, 2016

AFP

© RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY/AFP/File | Moscow’s air strikes have negatively affected the way Russia is perceived internationally, 32 percent of poll respondents said, up from 16 percent in November

MOSCOW (AFP) – Nearly half of Russians fear that Moscow’s bombing campaign in Syria could spark World War III, a poll showed Monday.Moscow, an ally of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, has been staging bombing raids in Syria since September 2015.

Forty-eight percent of Russians were concerned that “heightened tensions in relations between Russia and the West could grow into World War III,” according to a poll conducted by independent pollster Levada Centre last week.

That figure was up from 29 percent in July this year.

Moscow’s air strikes have negatively affected the way Russia is perceived internationally, 32 percent said, up from 16 percent in November.

Nevertheless, 52 percent of Russians said they back Moscow’s air strikes, while 26 percent said they opposed them.

Asked whether Russia should continue “intervening in what is going on in Syria,” 49 percent said yes, while 28 percent said no.

Western powers and rights groups have accused Syrian and Russian forces of carrying out indiscriminate attacks on civilian infrastructure in the country, particularly around the former economic powerhouse Aleppo, parts of which have been reduced to rubble.

Moscow announced on October 18 it was halting strikes on Aleppo in a moratorium that has so far lasted 14 days.

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Why Philippine President Duterte Really Hates The U.S.

October 31, 2016

By Ryan Pickrell
The Daily Caller

The president of the Philippines is engaging in a personal fight against the U.S., leading people to question his hatred of America.

Under former president Benigno Aquino III, the Philippines was a strong American ally. President Rodrigo Duterte, however, is moving in a different direction.

Duterte said earlier this month that he would “break up with America” and last week announced in China his “separation from America.” He has also promised to end joint drills and war games with the U.S., and called for the removal of U.S. troops from the Philippines, threatening to tear up existing defense agreements. Due to opposition from the Filipino citizenry and the defense community in the Philippines, both of which have strong ties to and positive views of the U.S., Duterte is retracting some of his more shocking statements. But, his animosity towards the U.S. remains and will most likely continue to be a key part of his presidency.

Duterte’s disdain towards America is often blamed on U.S. criticisms of his brutal shoot-to-kill drug war, which resulted in thousands of deaths and led the U.S. to inquire about possible human rights violations. When President Barack Obama expressed an interest in discussing these issues with Duterte, the bombastic president called Obama a “son of a whore” and told him to “go to hell.”

So, why does Duterte hate America? There are five possible explanations, and any one or combination could potentially explain the president’s disdain for the U.S.

Explanation one: Duterte revealed last year that he was molested by American Catholic priest Paul Falvey when a student at the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Davao University. The president said that the priest who abused him has been “forgiven but not forgotten.” Such a traumatic experience may have left a lasting mark on Duterte, possibly stirring up anti-American sentiment early on.

“I will never kneel before the Americans,” Duterte said earlier this month.

Explanation two: Duterte grew up with a strong sense of nationalism, which laid the groundwork for the rise of an anti-American/anti-colonialism attitude. During his university years, he studied under political science professor Jose Maria Sison, and his nationalistic sentiments became much more pronounced. The now-exiled Sison founded the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), an organization based on Mao Zedong Thought, and helped to foster an anti-American attitude critical of U.S. imperialism. Such attitudes led to the closing of the Subic and Clark military bases in the 1990s.

The president moves closer to China, praising the communist country’s ideologies, possibly a result of his education. Duterte also threatens to tear up the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) signed when Benigno Aquino III was in office. EDCA, which was hailed as a landmark agreement by the U.S. and the Philippines, gives the U.S. access to five military bases in the Philippines. Duterte is actively pushing for the complete removal of the U.S. military from the Philippines.

Explanation three: Duterte was denied a visa to the U.S. to visit his girlfriend when he was in college. When the interviewer at the U.S. consulate asked him whether or not he would get married and try to stay in the U.S., he reportedly said, “Even if you offer me free visas for a lifetime and even if you offer me 10,000 dollars, I’d still return to my country and be a Filipino.” He was not granted a visa to the U.S., and this issue has clearly weighed on him for many years.

“The problem is you go to America. You’ll not be issued a visa,” Duterte said recently. “But the Americans can enter the Philippines anytime without visa. Why?,” he asked.

Explanation four: Duterte was reportedly harassed by American security personnel at the Los Angeles International Airport. While traveling, his travel authorization papers disappeared, and he was detained by LAX security. “If there’s a plane available going back to the Philippines now, I’ll be happy to ride and go home,” he told them. “That was the last time I went to America,” he explained. Duterte’s troubles getting to and entering the U.S. negatively impacted the future president.

Explanation five: Duterte suspects that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was behind a series of deadly attacks in Davao, a city in Mindanao and the current president’s hometown, that killed dozens and injured hundreds.

An ammonium nitrate bomb exploded in the hotel room of a U.S. citizen named Michael Meiring in 2002. Meiring, who was severely injured by the blast, was picked up at the hospital and taken away by U.S. government agents. Meiring was taken back to the U.S., where his name was changed. He died in 2010 with a lot of unanswered questions.

The prevailing theory in the Philippines is that Meiring was a U.S. operative, possibly CIA, carrying out a destabilization or false flag attack that went awry. Bombs went off later at Davao International Airport and Sasa Wharf in 2003, killing 38 and injuring 204.

The story that emerged is that the CIA, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), launched the attacks but pinned them on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), an Islamic insurgency, to justify intense military action and greater U.S. military involvement in Mindanao. Although the U.S. later reversed its policy on the MILF and a peace was brokered between the Philippine government and the insurgency, the U.S. continued to deploy troops into the region to combat the Abu Sayyaf Group and other militant Islamic insurgency groups.

Duterte asserts that the U.S. massacre of Moro people at the turn of the century created the Islamic insurgency problem in Mindanao. The Abu Sayyaf Group reportedly evolved from the recruitment of Muslims from the Philippines to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. Duterte perceives the U.S. as the core problem in a conflict that has destabilized the Southern Philippines for decades.

While Duterte already called for the removal of U.S. troops from the Southern Philippines, he also remains suspicious of the CIA, believing that the U.S. might try to assassinate him. He brought his concerns to light this month when he dared the CIA to try to kill him.

Duterte had several bad experiences with the U.S. and each of these experiences appears to have impacted his policies.

“Duterte became ideologically anti-American at a relatively young age and has selected experiences in his life since to fit and fuel that prism through which he sees US-Philippine relations,” Gregory Poling, Director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative and Fellow in the Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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Related:

Hillary’s Two Official Favors To Morocco Resulted In $28 Million For Clinton Foundation

October 31, 2016
By Richard Pollock
Reporter
The Daily Caller
.

Hillary Clinton did two huge favors for Morocco during her tenure as secretary of state while the Clinton Foundation accepted up to $28 million in donations from the country’s ruler, King Mohammed VI, according to new information obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group.

the Clinton Foundation accepted up to $28 million in donations from the country’s ruler, King Mohammed VI, according to new information obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group.

WASHINGTON, :  US President Bill Clinton (2nd R) and US First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton (2nd L) greet His Majesty Mohammed VI, King of Morocco (R), and his sister, Her Royal Highness Lalla Meryem (L), at the North Portico of the White House 20 June 2000 in Washington, DC.       (ELECTRONIC IMAGE)   AFP PHOTO/Tim SLOAN (Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Bill Clinton (2nd R) and US First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton (2nd L) greet His Majesty Mohammed VI, King of Morocco (R), and his sister, Her Royal Highness Lalla Meryem (L), at the North Portico of the White House 20 June 2000 in Washington, DC. Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2016/10/31/hillarys-two-official-favors-to-morocco-resulted-in-28-million-for-clinton-foundation/#ixzz4OfrIEMio

Clinton and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Lisa Jackson tried to shut down the Florida-based Mosaic Company in 2011, operator of America’s largest phosphate mining facility.

Jackson’s close ties and loyalty to the Clintons were revealed when she joined the Clinton Foundation’s board of directors in 2013, just months after she left the EPA. Jackson is also close to John Podesta, Clinton’s national campaign chairman.

Morocco’s state-owned phosphate company, OCP, would ostensibly have benefited from Jackson’s move to shut down Mosaic. Mohammed donated up to $15 million to the Clinton Foundation through OCP.

Clinton also relaxed U.S. foreign aid restrictions on Morocco, thus allowing U.S. funds to be used in the territory of Western Sahara where OCP operates phosphate mining operations. The aid restrictions stemmed from Morocco’s illegal occupation of the territory since 1974.

Morocco is repeatedly condemned for seizing the territory and for unilaterally extracting the country’s valuable minerals, impoverishing what’s left of the local Sahrawi Arabs.

No nation recognizes Moroccan sovereignty over the Western Sahara and the United Nation’s Security Council legal office and the International Court of Justice both demand that Muhammed withdraw his claim over the territory and end illegal extraction of minerals.

An email WikiLeaks made public last week illustrated how Clinton, while acting as secretary of state, negotiated an additional $12 million donation to the Clinton Foundation from Muhammed in return for holding the 2015 Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting in Marrakech, Morocco. Another $1 million payment came from OCP to cover the expenses of the CGI meeting. (RELATED: Hillary Got $12 Million for Clinton Charity As Quid Pro Quo For Morocco Meeting)

The regulatory assault against the U.S. phosphate industry began in earnest when Jackson launched a barrage of intimidating regulatory initiatives against Mosaic. Environmental concerns about phosphates date from 1979 but the EPA did little to address concerns related to phosphate mining until Jackson’s 2011 moves.

The regulatory assault on the U.S. phosphate industry encompassed several agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). DHS aircraft flew at low altitudes over Mosaic’s central Florida operations in search of environmental problems. The EPA also threatened large Superfund penalties, which could have bankrupted Mosaic.

Phosphates are essential ingredients in fertilizers used in American farming. Closing or reducing Mosaic’s output would have cost tens of thousands of American jobs and injured the country’s agricultural productivity.

It also would leave the U.S. dependent upon foreign phosphate producers, but particularly Morocco’s OCP. The only other countries that mine phosphates are Russia, China and Saudi Arabia.

Rep. Dennis Ross, a Republican congressman who represents the Florida district where Mosaic operates, told TheDCNF he now sees why the EPA went after Mosaic.

“The tactics makes perfect sense as to why the EPA, under Lisa Jackson’s tutelage, targeted Mosaic’s phosphate operations in my district. I was never given any answers when I questioned Lisa Jackson about the EPA’s deliberate actions against Mosaic,” Ross told TheDCNF.

“Now I know why. An environmental concern never existed. This targeting was all done as a payback to Morocco for donating millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation,” Ross said.

An uproar from Florida regulators push-back from the state’s congressional delegation and the agency’s tenuous legal position all forced the EPA to end its threats against Mosaic.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican who is vice-chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and a vocal critic of the Clinton Foundation, agreed with Ross, saying “these facts seem to reveal the possibility of more pay-to-play activities at the Clinton Foundation.”

“It would be especially troubling if the Clinton Foundation was working with the EPA to suppress the American phosphate industry in favor of Morocco. The EPA and Clinton Foundation should be forthcoming about their dealings with the Moroccan government and the American phosphate industry.”

Clinton’s 2012 support of a rider on the U.S. foreign aid bill permitting foreign aid to be sent to the Western Sahara arguably legitimized Moroccan occupation of territory and depopulated the Sahrawi Arabs. Native Moroccans were sent into the country by the government to extract the minerals.

The rider approved by Clinton said that U.S. foreign aid funds “may be used in regions and territories administered by Morocco,” meaning, the Western Sahara. The Western Sahara is classified a “Non-Self-Governing Territory” under international law.

“Previously, United States excluded Western Sahara from bilateral assistance to avoid seeming to endorse Moroccan control,” said Eugene Kontororvich, a professor at Northwestern University School of Law, in a legal review of occupied territories around the world.

Hans Corell, the U.N. Security Council’s Under-Secretary for Legal Affairs, said in January 2002 that “if further exploration and exploitation activities were to proceed in disregard of the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara, they would be in violation of the international law principles applicable to mineral resource activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories.”

A Dec. 10, 2015 report by the International Court of Justice ruled that “the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Morocco over Western Sahara is not recognized by the European Union or its Member States, or more generally by the UN, and the absence of any international mandate capable of justifying Moroccan presence on that territory.”

But none of that mattered to former President Bill Clinton, who said nothing about the world’s condemnation of Morocco’s exploitation of the area for its phosphate industry, while speaking at the Clinton Foundation’s 2015 Marrakech CGI conference. Instead, he praised it.

“The Moroccans who are here will tell you that in the last several years, they have become the Saudi Arabia of phosphates, and what they have done with it, to diversify their economy and to make it part of a comprehensive strategy instead of another example of resource curse, is very impressive indeed,” Clinton said.

“Hillary Clinton sold her soul when they accepted that money,” reported Politico the day after the Marrakech CGI conference.