Archive for March, 2017

March 28, 2017

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US Fed’s Fischer worried by possible rise of protectionism

March 28, 2017


© AFP/File | On monetary policy, Fischer confirmed that he is expecting to see two more interest rate hikes this year, in line with the forecast of most Fed policymakers
WASHINGTON (AFP) –  Federal Reserve Vice President Stanley Fischer said Tuesday he would be worried by any return to protectionism in the global economy.In an interview on CNBC, Fischer said the economic policies following World War II were beneficial to the global economy, notably for China’s development, but also for the United States, which was able to buy goods that were not accessible previously.

“I’d be concerned if that basic model is overturned,” he said. “On average, the way to grow was to integrate the world economy and that worked spectacularly for China.”

The Trump administration’s “America first” focus has tilted toward protectionism to reduce the large US trade deficit, including threatening tariffs on imports from trading partners like Mexico and China.

On monetary policy, Fischer confirmed that he is expecting to see two more interest rate hikes this year, in line with the forecast of most Fed policymakers.

“That seems to be about right. That’s my forecast as well,” he said.

The Fed has raised the benchmark lending rate twice in the last four months as job creation has remained solid, bringing down interest rates, and inflation has begun to creep up.

He also said the US central bank was closely monitoring the Trump administration’s promised fiscal stimulus plans, and had included a small fiscal expansion in its forecast.

While his term as vice chair comes to an end in June 2018, Fischer can remain at the Fed as a governor through January 2020, but he said he had not yet decided whether or not to remain beyond next year.

China to work with Asean on sea code

March 28, 2017
Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua relayed the message to President Duterte during their meeting in Davao City last Monday, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said. Kamuning Bakery Cafe/Released

MANILA, Philippines – China is determined to work with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for the crafting of a framework for the code of conduct for claimants in the South China Sea dispute.

Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua relayed the message to President Duterte during their meeting in Davao City last Monday, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said.

“His excellency Zhao expressed China’s determination to work with ASEAN member states in finalizing the Code of Conduct Framework on the South China Sea middle of this year,” Abella said in a statement.

Zhao said China is looking forward to the first meeting on bilateral mechanism for the South China Sea row in May.

“Through this bilateral mechanism, mutual trust and maritime cooperation will be forged and misunderstandings will be avoided,” Abella said.

Hours before the meeting, United States Ambassador Sung Kim called on Duterte to convey his country’s readiness to assist the Philippines in terms of military equipment and training.

“The President said that Philippines-US relations at the bilateral level remain strong and there is readiness to discuss more matters of mutual interest with the US,” he said.

“His Excellency Sung Kim also assured (President Duterte) that the US understands the security concerns of the Philippines and that the US is ready to provide more military equipment, assistance and training,” he added.

Abella said Duterte and Kim agreed that their countries have mutual interests and shared values and that fruitful engagements and discussions are very important “in ensuring that both states are on the same page.”

Duterte and Zhao also discussed the handling of the South China Sea issue, defense cooperation and capacity building, infrastructure projects financing, anti-poverty and the campaign against illegal drugs.

Abella said Zhao assured Duterte that China is ready to implement a cooperation agreement signed by the two countries’ coast guards.

“He (Zhao) looks forward to the Philippine Coast Guard delegation’s visit to China to hammer out actions, activities and new engagements to ensure that South China Sea is a sea of cooperation,” Abella said.

“He is also looking forward to the resumption of bilateral defense cooperation and participation in the One Belt, One Road Summit in Beijing in May 2017,” he added.

Zhao said China is hopeful that the Philippines would soon use its donations for anti-poverty programs and anti-illegal drugs operations.

Duterte also met with Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s foreign affairs and trade minister, and expressed readiness to strengthen bilateral ties between Manila and Budapest.

“The President said that the Philippines is very interested in further strengthening bilateral relations with Hungary in terms of trade and investment and commerce, opening up the Philippine countryside as potential new markets, security cooperation and people-to-people exchanges through scholarship programs,” Abella said.

Szijjárto informed Duterte that Hungary is set to reopen its embassy in the Philippines.

“There will also be constant dialogue and person-to-person exchanges through scholarship programs to Hungary. Citing these areas of cooperation, Szijjártó said he is excited about the upgrade in the Philippines-Hungary cooperation,” Abella said.

Szijjárto said Hungary shares a common vision with the Philippines in the fight against terrorism and illegal migration.

Panatag master plan

Despite an earlier denial of reports that it was building a monitoring station on Panatag Shoal, China actually has a master plan for the full development of the shoal which is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, former Parañaque congressman Roilo Golez said yesterday.

Based on the master plan, Beijing is eyeing a 3,000-meter long runway and a harbor on the shoal.

“In our various strategic meetings – that latest was held in Japan – China, it turned out, already has a master plan (for Panatag Shoal),” Golez said in a forum at the Manila Hotel yesterday.  – With Jaime Laude, Paolo Romero

Planned Russian Exercises in September Sow NATO Worries

March 28, 2017

Biggest Baltic exercises ever come at same time as drills in Sweden, raising concerns over risk of miscalculation

Russia’s Zapad exercises occur annually in the Baltic region. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko attended the pictured 2013 event at Russia's base in Kaliningrad.

Russia’s Zapad exercises occur annually in the Baltic region. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko attended the pictured 2013 event at Russia’s base in Kaliningrad. PHOTO: ALEXEI DRUZHININ/RIA NOVOSTI/KREMLIN/REUTERS

BRUSSELS—Western military commanders are concerned that large-scale Russian military exercises near the Baltic states in September pose heightened risks for a miscalculation that could lead to a crisis, allied officials said.

The exercises, which Western officials estimate will involve nearly 100,000 troops, will be the first to roll out after the new North Atlantic Treaty Organization force in the region reaches full strength. They will also take place at the same time as military drills by Western forces in Sweden, across the Baltic Sea.

U.S. and NATO officers have warned this year’s version of Russia’s annual Zapad exercises could create more tensions than they have in years, even recalling those that arose during the Cold War.

Soldiers of the Estonian Defence Forces practice moving toward an enemy position during a joint exercise with U.S. Army troops last week near Tapa, Estonia.

Soldiers of the Estonian Defence Forces practice moving toward an enemy position during a joint exercise with U.S. Army troops last week near Tapa, Estonia. PHOTO: SEAN GALLUP/GETTY IMAGES

NATO diplomats and their Russia counterparts will hold a meeting Thursday of the NATO-Russia Council, the alliance announced Tuesday. While the Zapad exercises aren’t on the agenda, the ambassadors are expected to discuss Russia’s military buildup in the region, particularly in its Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad, and as well as details about the continuing deployment of the NATO force in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Baltic Sea Region Map


The U.S. troops committed to that NATO force will arrive at their training base in Poland on Saturday. German troops are in place in Lithuania and the entire force is due to be operational by the summer. The alliance force is relatively small at roughly 4,000 troops, but Moscow has criticized it as destabilizing.

For the Russians, the Zapad exercises will be a chance to practice detecting, jamming and targeting allied forces with drones and advanced artillery, while spreading disinformation about what its forces are doing—techniques they employed in Ukraine. At the same time, they will offer the U.S. and its allies a prime opportunity to see how Russia undertakes such efforts.

The Baltic states have raised concerns about the Zapad exercises, which are being conducted jointly by Russia and Belarus. Lithuania’s president has said they show Moscow is preparing for war with the West. Allied officials have noted that Russia used military exercises to hide preparations for the annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Many officials are on edge that an error by an alliance or Russian soldier, such as misreading a drill as an aggressive act, could quickly escalate into a crisis if one side were to respond with force. An incident such as a crashed jet fighter could also raise questions about whether an accident or aggression by the other side occurred.

Senior NATO and American officials say they have precautions in place to minimize the chance of miscalculations. NATO forces will avoid holding exercises close to the Russian border during the Russian drill.

U.S. soldiers, part of the NATO force, on the move Tuesday in Poland.

U.S. soldiers, part of the NATO force, on the move Tuesday in Poland. PHOTO: MACIEJ KULCZYNSKI/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

“We will be alert, we will be very vigilant. But we don’t want it to turn into a face-off during their biggest exercise of the year,” said Gen. Ben Hodges, the top U.S. Army commander in Europe, said at a recent training event for the American unit joining the NATO force.

Alexander Grushko, Russia’s ambassador to NATO, declined to comment on the Zapad exercises. But he said the flexible format of Thursday’s meeting with the alliance would allow consideration of “issues related to regional security” and other military activities. Russian officials have expressed hope that the alliance and Moscow are moving to more regular meetings.

September is the traditional month for military exercises and Sweden, a close NATO partner, is planning its biggest military exercise in two decades at the same time.

The Swedish exercise will involve the U.S. and more than a half-dozen NATO allies. Some 19,000 troops will be involved in practicing for the territorial defense of Sweden, including Gotland Island, which U.S. officials consider critical for ensuring allied access to the Baltic States.

Swedish officials said they were aware of the Zapad exercises and would be using caution to ensure no errors occur.

The U.S. contribution to the NATO force is planning its own exercises, including an August drill with Polish and Lithuanian forces to simulate an operation to keep open the Suwalki Gap on the two countries’ border in the event of a Russian incursion.

In an effort to avert miscalculations, the top NATO commander, U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, will take peacetime control of strategic communications, exercises and force posture.

NATO has long criticized Russia for not opening its exercises up to observers and has said it is far more transparent with its drills. The two sides have been briefing each other in the NATO-Russia Council sessions about exercises.

Russia has said the Zapad exercise will involve 3,000 troops, below the number requiring notification. Retired Gen Philip Breedlove, the former top NATO commander, has estimated 100,000 troops, however, and alliance officials have said it would be the largest exercise ever on the border of the Baltic states.

Write to Julian E. Barnes at

Prayer and Meditation for Wednesday, March 29, 2017 — “They shall not hunger or thirst, nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them….”

March 28, 2017

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent
Lectionary: 246

I bless the Lord:  O Lord my God, how great you are!  You are robed with honor and majesty and light!

Reading 1 IS 49:8-15

Thus says the LORD:
In a time of favor I answer you,
on the day of salvation I help you;
and I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people,
To restore the land
and allot the desolate heritages,
Saying to the prisoners: Come out!
To those in darkness: Show yourselves!
Along the ways they shall find pasture,
on every bare height shall their pastures be.
They shall not hunger or thirst,
nor shall the scorching wind or the sun strike them;
For he who pities them leads them
and guides them beside springs of water.
I will cut a road through all my mountains,
and make my highways level.
See, some shall come from afar,
others from the north and the west,
and some from the land of Syene.
Sing out, O heavens, and rejoice, O earth,
break forth into song, you mountains.
For the LORD comforts his people
and shows mercy to his afflicted.

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”
Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.

Responsorial Psalm  PS 145:8-9, 13CD-14, 17-18

R. (8a) The Lord is gracious and merciful.
The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful.
The LORD is faithful in all his words
and holy in all his works.
The LORD lifts up all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful.
The LORD is just in all his ways
and holy in all his works.
The LORD is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.
R. The Lord is gracious and merciful.

Verse Before The Gospel JN 11:25A, 26

I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord;
whoever believes in me will never die.

Gospel JN 5:17-30

Jesus answered the Jews:
“My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.”
For this reason they tried all the more to kill him,
because he not only broke the sabbath
but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God.

Jesus answered and said to them,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, the Son cannot do anything on his own,
but only what he sees the Father doing;
for what he does, the Son will do also.
For the Father loves the Son
and shows him everything that he himself does,
and he will show him greater works than these,
so that you may be amazed.
For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life,
so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes.
Nor does the Father judge anyone,
but he has given all judgment to the Son,
so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.
Whoever does not honor the Son
does not honor the Father who sent him.
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word
and believes in the one who sent me
has eternal life and will not come to condemnation,
but has passed from death to life.
Amen, amen, I say to you, the hour is coming and is now here
when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God,
and those who hear will live.
For just as the Father has life in himself,
so also he gave to the Son the possession of life in himself.
And he gave him power to exercise judgment,
because he is the Son of Man.
Do not be amazed at this,
because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs
will hear his voice and will come out,
those who have done good deeds
to the resurrection of life,
but those who have done wicked deeds
to the resurrection of condemnation.

“I cannot do anything on my own;
I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just,
because I do not seek my own will
but the will of the one who sent me.”


First Thoughts from Peace and Freedom

The counterintuitive propositions of the Gospels.

Society tells us: be strong. Seek money. Show off your skills. Rise to the top.

Jesus tells us: be humble. Become totally dependent upon the father. Seek out and do service for the marginalized.

Embraces all his creatures.

Eat my body. Drink my blood.

Can we follow him? Can we imitate him? There is little in the way of reward here on earth…..

Do not be afraid…

The Gospels also say, “No matter what you encounter, be joyful. Your reward shall be in heaven.”


Reflection by The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore


29 MARCH, 2017, Wednesday, 4th Week of Lent


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Is 49:8-15; Ps 144:8-9,13-14,17-18; Jn 5:17-30]

Today, the liturgy continues with the theme of joy in expectation of the feast of the resurrection, albeit in the shadow of hostility and death.  “Shout for joy, you heavens; earth, exult! Mountains, break into joyful cries! For Yahweh has consoled his people, is taking pity on his afflicted ones.”  In the first reading, we read the consoling words of the Lord to the Israelites who felt forsaken and abandoned in their exile at Babylon, “Can a woman forget her baby at the breast; feel no pity for the child she has borne? Even if these were to forget, I shall not forget you.”   On the day of salvation, the Lord would restore Israel.  “Along the roadway they will graze, and any bare height will be their pasture. They will never hunger or thirst, scorching wind and sun will never plague them; for he who pities them will lead them, will guide them to springs of water. I shall turn all my mountains into a road and my highways will be raised aloft.”

This promise of the Lord of course was fulfilled in Jesus who is the Suffering Servant prophesied in the first reading.   The words spoken to the Suffering Servant of Isaiah aptly applies to Jesus when God said, “I have formed you and have appointed you to be the covenant for a people, to restore the land, to return ravaged properties, to say to prisoners, ‘Come out,’ to those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves.’” In the last few days, the gospel narrated how Jesus manifested Himself as a life-giver.  He told the story of the Prodigal Son and the mercy of His Father whom He sought to imitate.  He said, “I tell you most solemnly, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees the Father doing: and whatever the Father does the Son does too.”

The works of Jesus was done in union with the Father.  He said, “My father goes on working, and so do I.”  So like the Father, Jesus gave life to the Court Official’s son who was on the brink of death.  Yesterday, we read how Jesus healed the paralyzed man and forgave his sins.  This is justified by the fact that “the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he does himself, and he will show him even greater things than these, works that will astonish you. Thus, as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son gives life to anyone he chooses.”   The authority and powers of Jesus to heal, raise and forgive were given by the Father.  Jesus saw Himself as acting on His behalf.

On this basis, Jesus claimed identification with the Father!   And the Jews knew what He was implying.  “That only made the Jews even more intent on killing him, because, not content with breaking the Sabbath, he spoke of God as his own Father, and so made himself God’s equal.”   By healing on the Sabbath and giving the basis for doing good works of mercy on the Sabbath, in imitation of His Father, Jesus was making implicit claims that He was God.  They were fully aware that Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah, the Son of Man mentioned in the Book of Daniel, chapter 7.  The miracles He performed were messianic signs, especially the raising of the dead, curing the lame and giving sight to the blind. He was thus seen as making a blasphemous claim to be the Son of God.

Secondly, He claimed to speak the Word of God.  He said, “I tell you most solemnly, whoever listens to my words, and believes in the one who sent me, has eternal life; I tell you most solemnly, the hour will come – in fact it is here already – when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and all who hear it will live.”   He is the Word of God in person.  If He were to speak God’s words, then it means that one has to believe in Him and all that He said.  It means that we need to accept Him as the Way, the Truth and the Life.   Only by accepting Jesus, can we find life, not just life after death but life on this earth.   In following the path that Jesus set out for us, the way of love and humble service, in obedience to the Father’s will, in everything, we will live the fullness of life.  Hence, for such a person, “without being brought to judgement he has passed from death to life.”

Thirdly, Jesus claimed to be the Judge as well, a position reserved for the Father.  He said, “For the Father, who is the source of life, has made the Son the source of life; and, because he is the Son of Man, has appointed him supreme judge.  Do not be surprised at this, for the hour is coming when the dead will leave their graces at the sound of his voice: those who did good will rise again to life; and those who did evil, to condemnation.  I can do nothing by myself: I can only judge as I am told to judge, and my judging is just.”   Jesus could judge only because He is holy and perfect like the Father.  Because He is the Word of God, He could judge with full knowledge and understanding.   He judges with love and compassion, as the psalmist says. “The Lord is kind and full of compassion, slow to anger, abounding in love. How good is the Lord to all, compassionate to all his creatures.”  So the judgement of Jesus is founded on truth, love and compassion.  In speaking of Himself as the judge, He takes the place of God.

How could Jesus dare to make such claims of divinity and authority to act on behalf of the Father?  How could He be so confident and courageous to make such claims at the risk of courting death?  How is it that He was not afraid of being misunderstood, condemned or opposed? How do we explain the confidence in Jesus if not because of His intimate relationship with the Father? 

This identity with the Father is based on a mutual union between the Father and the Son.  This union with the Father must be seen as a union of mind and heart.  Jesus performed everything in union with the Father, based on the union of mind and will.  Jesus would not do anything except in alignment with the Father’s will.  He reiterated, “I can do nothing by myself: I can only judge as I am told to judge, and my judging is just, because my aim is to do not my own will, but the will of him who sent me.”   Jesus’ obedience to the Father was not a reluctant obedience or simply a submission of will. Rather, His obedience was the consequence of a union of will and love.  As Jesus said to the disciples, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work.” (Jn 4:34)  Jesus loved His Father because of His Father’s love for Him.  He lived and died for His Father.  He said, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”  (Jn 10:17f)

What about us?  What is the basis for our good works?  What is the basis for living a life of love and truth?  Is it based on purely humanitarian reasons, simply because we feel the sufferings of our fellowmen or because of moral obligation to contribute to society because we have been beneficiaries?   In truth, many of us do good out of guilt, or at most out of responsibility because of our conscience.  Of course, some do out of love for their fellowmen but many help because of fear of condemnation or at least to gain respect and honour from the world.

In the case of Jesus, His good works came from His identification with the compassion and love of His Father.  His union with the Father was the cause of His mission to humanity.  As the psalmist says, “The Lord is faithful in all his words and loving in all his deeds.  The Lord supports all who fall and raises all who are bowed down. The Lord is just in all his ways and loving in all his deeds. He is close to all who call him, who call on him from their hearts.”  So it was out of the love of the Father in Him that He went about doing good so that the Father could be seen through Him. This too must also be the source of our strength in doing good. We must not be like the pagans.  “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  (Mt 5:46-48)

So today, we need to return to the ancient times when Catechumens were instructed more intensely during this time.  At this mass, salt would be placed in their mouths so that they would receive the Word of God and be the salt of the earth.  They too would be given the creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Four Gospels so that they will become more identified with the Lord in how they live their lives.  For those of us who are baptized, let us renew our appreciation for the love of God in Christ as we contemplate on His passion.  We must come to know the identity of Jesus more and more so that we can truly be identified with Him in mind and in heart as Jesus is with the Father.





“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

This little “anti-anxiety” prayer was a part of every Catholic Mass for centuries:
Deliver us, Lord, from every evil,
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy keep us free from sin
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Another anti-anxiety prayer is this one:
God, I offer myself to Thee-
To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help
of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
Praise Jesus for St. Teresa of Ávila who gave us one of the simplest and finest prayers, “Let Nothing Disturb You” –
Let nothing trouble you,
let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices.
Nada te turbe;
nada te espante;
todo se pasa;
Dios no se muda,
la paciencia todo lo alcanza.
Quien a Dios tiene, nada le falta.
Solo Dios basta.

Commentary on John 5:17-30 From Living Space

Let us not be afraid or cast down; God is on his way in the person of Jesus

Today’s Gospel follows immediately on yesterday’s story of the healing of the crippled man by the pool. That passage had ended with the words: “The Jews began to persecute Jesus because he did this [i.e. the healing] on a sabbath.” We might point out, as with some other sabbath healings, that there was absolutely no urgency to do the healing on a sabbath for someone who had waited 38 years. It is just another indication of the divine authority with which Jesus works.

So Jesus’ reply is direct and unapologetic: “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.” Because Genesis speaks of God resting on the seventh day (the origin of the Jewish sabbath), it was disputed whether God was in any way active on the sabbath. Some believed that the creating and conserving work of his creation went on and others that he continued to pass judgement on that day. In any case, Jesus is claiming here the same authority to work on the sabbath as his Father and has the same powers over life and death.

The Jewish leaders are enraged that Jesus speaks of God as his own Father. They want to kill him. They understand by his words that Jesus is making himself God’s equal. Jesus, far from denying the accusation, only confirms it.

“A son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will also do.” This saying is taken from the model of an apprentice in a trade. The apprentice son does exactly what his father does. Jesus’ relation to his Father is similar. “For the Father loves his Son and shows him everything that he himself does, so that you may be amazed.” And “just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so also does the Son give life to whomever he wishes” – and whenever he wishes. And such giving of life is something that belongs only to God. As does the right to judge, which Jesus says has been delegated to him.

Jesus is the perfect mirror of the Father. The Father is acting in him and through him. He is the Word of God – God speaks and acts directly through him. God’s Word is a creative Word. Jesus, like the Father, is life-giving, a source of life.

The right to judge has been delegated by the Father to the Son. And to refuse to honour the Son is to refuse the same honour to the Father. In everything Jesus acts only according to the will of his Father and does what his Father wants.

Jesus, then, is the Way, the Way through whom we go to God. For us, there is no other Way. He is God’s Word to us and for us.




I cannot fathom what it must have been like for You Lord. Most of our hearts cried out for salvation while others could not, having been bound and gagged by Sin.

Your love for us was so great that You promised to come save us, prepared us for Your coming and then fulfilled Your promise to us. What did we do? How did we welcome You? We turned our backs on You, We mocked You, plotted to kill You and eventually did.

Knowing all this You still came seeking out Your lost sheep. You brought light into our darkness, living water to quench our thirst, bread from heaven to nourish bodies and souls. With Your precious blood You washed us so that we can stand spotless before our heavenly Father. How great is our God!

Our lives are nothing without You and without You there is no relationship with our heavenly Father. All love, peace and joy comes from You for in You is life eternal. May we always seek to do our Father’s Will. Amen




Lectio Divina from the Carmelites


• The Gospel of John is different from the other three. It reveals a more profound dimension which only faith is able to perceive in the words and gestures of Jesus. The Fathers of the Church would say that the Gospel of John is “spiritual”, it reveals what the Spirit makes one discover in the words of Jesus (cf. Jn 16, 12-13). A beautiful example of this spiritual dimension of the Gospel of John is the passage which we are going to meditate on today.

• John 5, 17-18: Jesus explains the profound meaning of the healing of the paralytic. Criticized by the Jews for having cured on Saturday, Jesus answers: “My Father still goes on working, and I am at work too!” The Jews taught that no work could be done on Saturday, because even God had rested and had not worked on the seventh day of creation (Ex 20, 8-11). Jesus affirms the contrary. He says that the Father has always worked even until now. And for this reason, Jesus also works, and even on Saturday. He imitates his Father! For Jesus the work of creation is not finished as yet. God continues to work, unceasingly, day and night, holding up the Universe and all of us. Jesus collaborates with the Father continuing the work of creation in such a way that one day all may be able to enter into the eternal rest that has been promised. The reaction of the Jews was violent. They wanted to kill him for two reasons: because he denied the sense of Saturday and for saying he was equal to God.

• John 5, 19-21: It is love which allows the creative action of God to shine and be visible. These verses reveal something of the relationship between Jesus and the Father. Jesus, the Son, lives permanently attentive before the Father. What he sees the Father do, he does it also. Jesus is the reflection of the Father. He is the face of the Father! This total attention of the Son to the Father makes it possible for the love of the Father to enter totally into the Son and through the Son, carry out his action in the world. The great concern of the Father is that of overcoming death and to give life. It is a way of continuing the creative work of the Father.

• John 5, 22-23: The Father judges no one; he has entrusted all judgment to the Son. What is decisive in life is the way in which we place ourselves before the Creator, because it radically depends on him. Now the Creator becomes present for us in Jesus. The plenitude of the divinity dwells in Jesus (cf. Col 1, 19). And therefore, according to the way in which we are before Jesus, we express our position before God, the Creator. What the Father wants is that we know him and honour him in the revelation which he makes of himself in Jesus.

• John 5, 24: The life of God in us through Jesus. God is life, he is creating force. Wherever he is present, there is life. He becomes present in the Word of Jesus. The one who listens to the word of Jesus as a word that comes from God has already risen. He has already received the vivifying touch which leads him beyond death. Jesus passed from death to life. The proof of this is in the healing of the paralytic.

• John 5, 25-29: The resurrection is already taking place. All of us are the dead who still have not opened ourselves to the voice of Jesus which comes from the Father. But “the hour will come” and it is now, in which the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who will listen, will live”. With the Word of Jesus which comes from the Father, the new creation begins; it is already on the way. The creative word of Jesus will reach all, even those who have already died. They will hear and will live.

• John 5, 30: Jesus is the reflection of the Father. “By myself I can do nothing; I can judge only as I am told to judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me”. This last phrase is the summary of all that has been said before. This was the idea that the community of the time of John had and diffused regarding Jesus.

Beijing demands answers after Paris police shoot dead Chinese national

March 28, 2017

China has summoned a French embassy representative after Paris police shot and killed a Chinese national in his Paris apartment. The shooting has prompted clashes between authorities and Paris’ Chinese community.

Image may contain: 6 people, outdoor

France’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday launched an enquiry into the killing of a Chinese national by Paris police after Beijing filed an official complaint and urged French officials to “get to the bottom of the incident as soon as possible.”

A spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry also said that the steps should be taken to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens living France after around 100 members of the Chinese community protested in the French capital Monday night.

The French Foreign Ministry also sought to calm concerns in Beijing, saying the security of Chinese citizens was a priority. “Additional (security) measures have been taken in recent months and everything has been done to provide them with the best conditions for living here and for their security,” the ministry said in a statement.

Three policemen were injured and 35 people were arrested in Monday night’s demonstrations in the northeast of the capital. One police vehicle was damaged by an incendiary device.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and crowd

Police stood in front of the police station in the 19th arrondissement on Monday night

Victim’s family disputes official version of events

Sunday’s incident saw police shoot dead a Chinese national in his apartment in front of his family. The police officer had been called to the scene to investigate an alleged altercation with a neighbor. Paris authorities maintain that the man attacked the policeman with scissors.

However, lawyer Calvin Job said the family of the dead man “totally disputes this version of events,” saying that the man, a father of four, had been trimming fish with the scissors when police came to the door.

“Police forced open the door of the apartment, pushing him back,” Job said, adding that the police “shot without warning” even though the man did not rush towards them.

No automatic alt text available.

About a hundred people from the Chinese community took part in the protest

Discrimination against France’s Chinese population

France’s Chinese population has routinely accused the police of not doing enough to protect them from racism, as well as the media of neglecting their plight.

“Chinese are victims of racist attitudes in France – especially from other ethnic groups like Arabs,” Pierre Picquart, Chinese expert at the University of Paris VIII, said. “They are targets for crime because they often carry cash and many don’t have residence permits, so can be threatened easily. They’re angry with police for not protecting them enough.”

Last September, some 15,000 people rallied protest calling for an end to discriminatory violence and ethnic tensions after a Chinese tailor was beaten to death.

“Chinese people do not like to protest or express themselves publicly, so when we see them like this it means they are very, very angry,” Picquart said. “They’ve had enough of discrimination.”

France is home to some two million ethnic Chinese, more than any other European country.

dm/jm (AFP, AP)




Poland will withdraw from the Eurocorps force by 2020 — “Poland is EU’s problem child”

March 28, 2017


© AFP/File | Soldiers of a Eurocorps detachment carry the EU flag in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France
STRASBOURG (FRANCE) (AFP) – Poland will withdraw from the Eurocorps force by 2020, a spokesman for the Strasbourg-based intergovernmental military body said Tuesday.The withdrawal of NATO member Poland, which has “associate-nation” status in Eurocorps, is a “decision of the Polish government,” Colonel Vicente Dalmau told AFP.


” (Poland’s Kaczynski says EU on path toward Kaczynski )

See also:

Poland has reinforced its position as Europe’s problem child

Nicola Sturgeon wins vote for second Scottish independence referendum

March 28, 2017

Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon wins vote for second Scottish referendum

Nicola Sturgeon wins vote for second Scottish referendum
Nicola Sturgeon has won a vote to approach Theresa May over a Scottish referendum (Picture: AFP/Scottish Parliament/Andrew Cowan)

The Scottish Parliament has backed Nicola Sturgeon’s call for a second independence referendum.

MSPs voted 69-59 demanding Westminster gives Holyrood the power to hold a second referendum.

Scottish Parliament expected to back Sturgeon’s call for second independence referendumThe vote means the First Minister will make an official demand to Theresa May for talks over an order to transfer powers to the Scottish government for a referendum to take place between autumn 2018 and spring 2019.

However, the prime minister, who was in Scotland yesterday, has already said she will not allow another independence vote until Brexit has been negotiated and Scotland will see how the land lies.

It was expected that the Scottish parliament would back the vote following a two-day debate that started last Tuesday but was delayed because of the terror attack in Westminster.

Scottish Parliament votes for second independence referendum
Nicola Sturgeon wins vote for second Scottish referendum
Theresa May met with Nicola Sturgeon in Glasgow yesterday (Picture: REUTERS/Russell Cheyne)

Opening the debate, the First Minister told the Scottish Parliament it would be ‘wrong, unfair and utterly unsustainable’ for the UK Government to block her request.

About 62% of Scottish voters backed the UK remaining part of the EU in June 2016 and the SNP manifesto for last year’s Holyrood elections made clear another ballot on independence should take place if there were a ‘material change in circumstances’ from the previous ballot in 2014.

The example cited was for Scotland to be removed from the EU against its wishes.

Nicola Sturgeon wins vote for second Scottish referendum

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The Telegraph

Watch | Scottish Parliament backs second independence referendum
By  Simon Johnson

MSPs have backed Nicola Sturgeon’s call for a second independence referendum in a vote at Holyrood this afternoon.

Green Party MSPs joined forces with the SNP to back the First minister’s controversial motion, which passed with 69 votes to 59.

The vote has triggered an official demand from ms Sturgeon to the Prime Minister for talks over a Section 30 order, the legal mechanism used to transfer the powers to Holyrood for a referendum, preferably between autumn 2018 and spring 2019.

Theresa May has already said that she will not allow another independence vote until Brexit has been negotiated and Scots can see how it has worked out.

Speaking during the debate Ms Sturgeon said she would delay making the section 30 request until “later this week”.

She said: “I want the UK to get a good deal from these negotiations because whatever path Scotland decides to take in the future that is in our interests.”

Watch | Sturgeon: Scotland’s future should be in Scotland’s hands


She said she “hoped the UK Government would respect the will of the Scottish Parliament”, but if it did not she would set out plans after the parliament’s Easter recess on her next steps.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson accused the First Minister of having a “rushed timetable” for the referendum.

Ms Sturgeon said the Prime Minister had clearly set out at their meeting on Tuesday the UK’s exit terms and a free trade deal would be agreed by March 2019, but Ms Davidson said people in Scotland have the “right to see the Brexit process working in practice”.

But Ms Davidson said the First Minister wants to push for independence regardless of how good a Brexit deal the UK negotiates.

“Last week, in what was a disgraceful episode, we were shouted at from the SNP benches we were frightened to debate independence”, she said.

“We’re not frightened but we are sick of it, and most people in Scotland have had enough too.”

David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary, told the BBC: “We won’t be entering into any negotiations at all until the Brexit process is complete. Now is the time for the Scottish Government to come together with the UK Government, work together to get the best possible deal for the UK and that will mean for Scotland as we leave the EU.”

Watch | David Mundell: Referendum request will be politely declined


Confirming there would be no talks over another independence referendum during Brexit, he said: “We don’t have a crystal ball as to how long that process will take. We don’t recognise, for example, 18 months as being a key point in the journey.

“It will be a journey that will involve negotiations with the EU. It may be a journey that involves transitional measures, it may be a journey that will involve significant implementation time. It’s not appropriate to have a referendum whilst people do not know what the future relationship between the UK and the EU is and they won’t know that until the Brexit process is complete.”


Parliament votes for second referendum

MSPs have voted 69-59 demanding Westminster gives Holyrood the power to hold a second referendum.

Breaking: Scottish Secretary tells @BBCScotlandNews UK government will reject Holyrood’s call for power to hold referendum


SNP close debate…

View image on Twitter

John Swinney wrapping up the ‘Scotland’s Choice’ debate at Holyrood. Votes to follow at 1700.


‘A waste of parliamentary time’

Murdo Fraser, is closing the debate for the Scottish Tories.

He describes the debate as a “waste of parliamentary time” and “disappointing”.

The only thing Nicola Sturgeon has achived is making  a Tory Prime Minister popular in Scotland again.

The Tories will continue to say “no thanks” and speak up for the people of Scotland.

This is the worst debate on indyref2 I’ve ever heard.

*Since last week

“A waste of parliamentary time… the arguments have advanced not one iota” – @murdo_fraser in Holyrood debate on indy vote


Sturgeon: Scotland’s future should be in Scotland’s hands

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warns on the impact of Brexit as she makes her case for a second referendum on independence.

Watch | Sturgeon: Scotland’s future should be in Scotland’s hands



The UK did not vote to leave the single market

Ross Greer, winding up for the Greens, praises the 2014 vote.

“We should try to replicate its successes and not the failures of 2016”, he says.

On the case for independence in the wake of the Brexit vote, he says: “Not only did Scotland not vote to leave the single market, but the people of the UK did not vote to leave the single market.”

View image on Twitter

Ross Greer closing fr Greens: says indyref2 could “extract Scotland from this mess before the Tories hurl Britain off the hard Brexit cliff”


‘The people say no’

Mike Rumbles , the Lib Dem MSP, accuses Nicola Sturgeon of “making a bad situation worse”.

He says:

The first minister may have the votes in this chamber tonight but she has failed to take the people of Scotland with her.

The people say no.


‘By sharing the pain, you share the gain’

Edward Mountain, the Tory MSP, calls on Nicola Sturgeon to”get on with the day job.”

He adds:

As a former sergeant major used to say, by sharing the pain, you share the gain.

Scotland benefits from being part of the United Kingdom.

We are better together.


‘It is not a fair choice’

Pauline McNeill, the Labour SNP MSP,  says people do not have a clear idea of what an independent Scotland would like. They also don’t know what Brexit will look like.

She says: “It is not a fair choice to put to the Scottish people.”

View image on Twitter

Pauline McNeill last speech in open part of debate; closers next. She says not fair to offer choice until implications of Brexit/indy clear


‘The greatest collapsed political soufflé of our time’

Jackson Carlaw, a Tory MSP, says he will always oppose a second referendum.

He tells the Chamber:

Any cook will tell you that both the correct ingredients and the correct timing are essential to get a soufflé to rise. Get either wrong and the whole thing will irretrievably collapse.

In what increasingly has all the characteristics of the greatest Scottish Government miscalculation of the devolution era, Nicola Sturgeon’s gambit of just a fortnight ago, in calling for a second independence referendum has been met with the loudest raspberry from every corner of Scotland.

View image on Twitter

Jackson Carlaw explains importance of ingredients & timing in making a souffle; indyref2 “greatest collapsed political souffle of our times”


Ruth Davidson tells Nicola Sturgeon to sit down

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson tells First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to sit down and refuses to let her intervene in the debate on a second independence referendum.

Watch | Ruth Davidson tells Nicola Sturgeon to sit down



‘Get on with the day job’

Johann Lamont, the Labour MSP,  says she is not a nationalist and  will not have her politics defined by the “constitution.”

She calls on the SNP to “get on with the day job”, adding that “if you do that we will support you.”


What does Scotland really think of  Sturgeon’s IndyRef2 plans?

The Scottish Parliament will today vote on whether to hold a second independence referendum before Britain leaves the European Union.

With the Scottish National Party and the independence-backing Greens holding the majority of seats in Holyrood, MSPs are expected to call for a new vote between Autumn 2018 and Spring 2019.

Despite this, the latest polling shows that the majority of Scottish voters wish to remain in the United Kingdom. Some 56 per cent of Scots would vote No in an independence referendum, according to recent polls.

Support for Scottish independence is at record highs – even though the Union is still the most popular option

Even though polls suggest Scots would still support the Union in a second referendum, support for Scottish independence is at record highs.

The referendum helped the SNP at the ballot box

As well as helping the cause for independence, the 2014 Scottish independence referendum also helped the SNP’s cause. It gained its largest vote share in any Westminster or Holyrood Parliament a year later, with the Nationalists gaining 50 per cent of the Scottish vote in the 2015 General Election.

The party wasn’t quite so successful in the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, with the SNP failing to retain its overall majority in Holyrood. Still, at 46.5 per cent, its constituency vote share was up a point on what it achieved at the previous Scottish Parliament election in 2011.

This rise is due to the underlying increase in support for independence in recent years.

Euroscepticism has almost doubled in a decade

Nicola Sturgeon shouldn’t celebrate yet, as Euroscepticism has also been increasing at the same time.

The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey said that a quarter of Scottish voters want Britain to leave the EU, with another 42 per cent wanting EU powers to be reduced, totalling 67 per cent of people holding Eurosceptic views.

Despite the 62 per cent vote to Remain in Scotland, the country has become more sceptical about the EU in recent years – with support for leaving the EU in Scotland increasing from 10 per cent in 1999 to 25 per cent in 2016.

Unionists have become especially Eurosceptic in recent years

Support for Brexit has shifted from the nationalist to the Unionist camp in the last few years.

In 2013, 24 per cent of independence supporters wanted Brexit, compared with 17 per cent of Union supporters. By 2016, Brexit was backed by 21 per cent of independence supporters and 29 per cent of Unionists.

Even among Scots who want to stay in the EU, Euroscepticism has increased in recent years. In 2013, 29 per cent of Scottish people said that Britain should stay in the EU but reduce its powers – with the figure now increasing to 42 per cent in 2016.


It is only right Scots have another vote

Sandra White, the SNP MP,  says Brexit has changed the shape of Scotland’s future and that its only fair there is a vote.

She says:

It is only right the people of Scotland are given the choice to choose their future.

We never had any ‘division’. We had debate… debate is healthy.


‘2014  was not a celebration of democracy’

James Kelly, the Labour MSP, insists that Scotland does not want another referendum.

He hits out at the “aggressive, intimidatory nature of the Yes campaigners” in 2014.

Adding that the result of that referendum “wasn’t a celebration of democracy”.


Scots face a Tory Brexit

Ben Macpherson, the SNP MSP, says the people of Scotland face two futures.

He says:  “The people of Scotland face an important choice between independence in Europe or a Tory Brexit.”

He says also urges those on both sides of the argument to avoid “divisive” words like “nationalists” and “unionists” .

The MSP says these words are becoming “more meaningless by the day”.

“this is indyref NEW, not indyref2” says Ben Macpherson, to audible groans. One MSP is overheard saying “jesus”


‘Party before people’

Oliver Mundell, a Tory SNP MP, says Nicola Sturgeon believes she can dictate terms not just to UK government, but also to the people of Scotland.

He says the SNP are putting “party before people.”


There is no majority support for this proposal in Scotland. I am not sure if Nicola Sturgeon beliveves the people of Scotland are daft.

The truth is that after a decade in power, it is Nicola Sturgeon that thinks she can dictate terms, not just to the UK government, but to the people of Scotland.


‘There is a fog of confusion’

Kate Forbes, an SNP MSP, says there is a “fog of confusion and there is no certainty Scotland’s voice will be heard”.

She says Scotland’s future should be, now and always, in the hands of the people of Scotland.

The 26 year old receives praise for reciting Gaelic in her speech.

.@KateForbesMSP: Choice for the nation’s future should be down to the people, not any single politician or government.


‘Brexit broke my heart’

Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton says the decision to leave the EU broke his heart but it didn’t mean it justified leaving another Union.

He says the SNP has rowed away from a commitment to rejoining the EU after independence and warns them that Remain voters will find them out.

He says people don’t want another vote and the parties who will back the motion this evening have not met their own tests for another referendum to be held.

The MSP questions the wisdom of breaking the Union because you don’t like a particular government and likens it to someone cutting off a limb because it is arthritic in the winter.

Hamilton says he has yet to vote on a Scottish Government bill since being elected last May and he will vote against the motion because he is still proud to be British.


‘Another referendum is not welcomed by some voters’

Green MSP Andy Wightman admits his party has been contacted by people not happy at the prospect of another referendum.

“Another referendum is not welcomed by some voters,” he says.

But he insists that the Scottish Green Party is “not nationalist “.

We are Greens, he says. “Our politics is decentralist, autonomous, confederalist and co-operative.”

Wightman says his party has a long-standing policy of autonomy for Scotland.

The Greens pledged in their Holyrood election manifesto from last year they would not support a referendum timed for political advantage that people did not want.

It suggested that a petition with a million signatures would be needed.

But Mr Wightman says this was not the only way in which his party could back another referendum.

He says most MSPs would not choose to be where they are and said Brexit was a massive failure of UK statecraft.

He says his party has ‘no difficulty’ in backing Sturgeon’s motion.

Andy Wightman opening for Greens, also calling on MSPs to set tone with “respect, tolerance and empathy” & accept some don’t want indyref2


‘Independence is first, last and everything’

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale accuses Sturgeon of only being accused of independence.

Sturgeon intervenes claiming her highly complex plan to stay in the single market was a compromise.

Dugdale says independence is ‘first, last and everything’ for the First Minister.

She accuses the Tories of jeopardising the Union instead of being its protectors and calls on them to show some humility.

She also cites a series of failings of the SNP government, saying each were a scandal and together they represent a ‘complete abdication of responsibility’ Dugdale says the outcome of the vote is known thanks to the Greens’ compliance.

She says the Scottish Government’s own figures show Scotland has a £15 billion deficit and that would damage poor working families.

Dugdale challenge the First Minister to roll up her sleeves to get more powers for Scotland instead of spending the next two years campaigning for separation.

She confirms Labour MSPs will vote against another divisive referendum.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale 
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale  CREDIT: JANE BARLOW/PA

‘It stinks and people aren’t buying it’

Davidson cites Alex Neil, a former Scottish Government minister, that Sturgeon should wait until there is public support for a referendum She says Sturgeon knows her proposal is unworkable.

She says “it stinks and people aren’t buying it.”

She cites a series of failings in devolved policy areas that have emerged since last week’s debate, including cancer waiting times targets Davidson refers to claims that Roseanna Cunningham, the Environment Minister, accused the Tories of being scared of debating independence when the debate was suspended last week.

She says they are not scared but they are sick of it.

Leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davidson 
Leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth Davidson  CREDIT: JEFF J MITCHELL/AFP 

Tory Scottish leader mocks Sturgeon

Ruth Davidson says if this debate has served one purpose it has shown why most people don’t want the Scottish Government to focus on independence again.

She said the debate, which started last week, has added nothing to human knowledge on independence.

Davidson says the only thing on Sturgeon’s agenda on her meeting with Theresa May was to spin a new rationale for her rushed timetable for a referendum.

She says there’s no guarantee a trade deal will be done within the First Minister’s timetable.

Sturgeon intervenes to say the PM had said a trade deal would be done but Davidson says Theresa May has repeatedly said it would take longer.

She mocks Sturgeon for claiming the PM had taken her into her confidence with different information and causes uproar in the chamber by telling Sturgeon to sit down when she tries to intervene again.

Ruth Davidson responding for Tories; she says contributions to this debate last week “added nothing to the sum of human knowledge” on indy


‘Scotland’s future should be in Scotland’s hands’

Sturgeon says the details of independence would be set out in advance of a vote.

She says she seeks sensible discussion on a referendum after tonight’s vote.

The First Minister pledges the Scottish Government will play a full and constructive role in the Brexit talks and says she wants the UK to get the best deal.

If Mrs May refuses to drop her opposition, she says she will set out her next steps to Parliament after the Easter recess, which starts next week.

She closes her speech saying “Scotland’s future should be in Scotland’s hands”.

Nicola Sturgeon says if UKgov rejects talks, she’ll come back to Holyrood after Easter to outline steps to “progress the will of parliament”

Nicola Sturgeon closes saying “Scotland’s future should be in Scotland’s hands”, debating indyref2 “positively, passionately & respectfully”


‘Scotland stands at a crossroads’

Nicola Sturgeon opens debate by calling for MSPs to conduct themselves in a way that is not divisive and not treat the other side as enemies.

She says Scotland stands at a crossroads when Article 50 is triggered tomorrow and change is inevitable.

The First Minister argues there will be damage to trade and living standards and Scottish society and that when the nature of that change becomes known Scots should have the choice of independence.

She argues the question is one of timing and repeats her call for it to be held between autumn 2108 and spring 2019.

Sturgeon says the Prime Minister was clear with her yesterday that the details of the Brexit and trade deals would be known by then.

Nicola Sturgeon: “When the nature of the change that is made inevitable by Brexit becomes clear, that change should not be imposed upon us.”


Daily Mail tells BBC to ‘get a life’ over ‘sexist’ Legs-it story​

The Daily Mail has responded to the anger it created by posing the question: “who won legs-it?” on their front page about Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May’s Brexit meeting.

The Daily Mail asked critics, including the BBC and the “left-wing commentariat”, to “get a life” after their headline made national headlines and caused a storm on Twitter.

It’s 2017. This sexism must be consigned to history. Shame on the Daily Mail.

More than 300 people complained to press regulator Ipso about the front page splash.

A spokesperson for the paper said: “For goodness sake, get a life! Sarah Vine’s piece, which was flagged as light-hearted, was a side-bar alongside a serious political story.

“It appeared in an 84-page paper packed with important news and analysis, a front page exclusive on cost-cutting in the NHS and a health supplement devoted to women’s health issues.

“For the record, the Mail was the paper which, more than any other, backed Theresa May for the top job.

“Again for the record, we often comment on the appearance of male politicians including Cameron’s waistline, Osborne’s hair, Corbyn’s clothes – and even Boris’s legs.

“Is there a rule that says political coverage must be dull or has a po-faced BBC and left-wing commentariat, so obsessed by the Daily Mail, lost all sense of humour…and proportion?”


Scots should see how Brexit has worked out in the ‘real world’

Nicola Sturgeon will open the debate with a speech that is expected to reiterate her claim yesterday that her meeting with Theresa May bolstered her case for a referendum between autumn 2018 and spring 2019.

The First Minister claimed Mrs May told her that both the terms of both the Brexit and trade deals would be known within that timescale.

However, Downing Street sources have rejected this interpretation of Mrs May’s comments, saying that Scots should be able to see how Brexit has worked out in the “real world” before another referendum is held.

Expect Ruth Davidson, who is opening for the Scottish Tories, to push back hard on Ms Sturgeon’s claims about yesterday’s meeting.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May and Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon CREDIT:REUTERS/RUSSELL CHEYNE

PM only allowed Nicola Sturgeon to speak ‘briefly’ on vote

It was her big chance to tackle the Prime Minister over Scottish independence, but Nicola Sturgeon was only “briefly” allowed to mention a second referendum before she was shut down by Theresa May, it has been claimed.

The Prime Minister is understood to have dictated terms during their meeting in a Glasgow hotel, running down the clock by talking about Article 50 and a policing exercise before Ms Sturgeon tried to grab her chance at the end of their talk.

But sources made it clear that there was no “substantive” discussion of a referendum because Mrs May had already reiterated her position that “now is not the time”.

Watch | Theresa May: My position won’t change on independence vote


She instead told the First Minister to forget all thoughts of a second Scottish referendum until voters have seen how Brexit is working “in the real world”.

However Mrs Sturgeon insisted that her case for staging the vote within the next two years had been bolstered by Mrs May during their first face-to-face talks since she issued her referendum demand earlier this month.

The First Minister insisted there is no “rational” case for an independence referendum being delayed longer than two years because the Prime Minister told her both the UK’s Brexit and EU trade deals will be known by then.

Watch | Nicola Sturgeon speaks after meeting with Theresa May



Theresa May vows to build a ‘more united nation’

Speaking during a visit to Scotland, Mrs May vowed to build a “more united nation” as Britain leaves the European Union (EU).

She also pledged Brexit would not mean the UK “stepping back from the world”, insisting she was aiming to build “a new partnership with Europe” while taking the opportunity to build “a more global Britain”.

Addressing staff of the Department for International Development in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire, Mrs May said: “We stand on the threshold of a significant moment for Britain as we begin the negotiations that will lead us towards a new partnership with Europe.

“I want to make it absolutely clear as we move through this process that this is not – in any sense – the moment that Britain steps back from the world.

“Indeed, we are going to take this opportunity to forge a more global Britain.

Scottish lawmakers vote in favour of new independence referendum

March 28, 2017

AFP and Reuters

© Oli Scarff, AFP file picture | The vote is expected to be held either late next year or in 2019


Latest update : 2017-03-28

The Scottish parliament voted on Tuesday to back First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s bid to hold a new independence referendum in late 2018 or 2019, once the terms of the UK’s exit from the European Union have become clearer.

The Edinburgh assembly’s vote, which was widely expected, gives Sturgeon a mandate to seek permission from the British parliament in London to press forward with preparations for a referendum.

Scotland voted against independence in a 2014 referendum, but Sturgeon argues circumstances have changed since then because the UK as a whole voted to leave the European Union while Scotland voted strongly to remain in the bloc.

The motion, put forward by Sturgeon, passed by 69 votes in favour and 59 votes against in the Scottish parliament.


No peace deal in Syria without US role, opposition says — Ongoing peace talks stalled — The United States has a “moral duty”

March 28, 2017


© POOL/AFP/File / by Layal ABOU RAHAL | Syrian main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) chief negotiator Mohamad Sabra (R) and leader Nasr al-Hariri arrive for a meeting with UN Special Envoy during Syria peace talks in Geneva on February 27, 2017
GENEVA (AFP) – A political deal to end the Syrian conflict is not possible without a strong US role, the opposition’s chief negotiator told AFP, warning that Washington’s absence was threatening ongoing peace talks.

Lead negotiator for the main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC), Mohamad Sabra, said in an interview late Monday that the UN-backed talks in Geneva remained “stalled”.

“There can be no real and viable political solution without the presence of the Americans,” he said.

The United States has a “moral duty” to throw its weight behind efforts to end the six-year conflict, he added.

Years of diplomatic initiatives have failed to end the war, which has killed more than 320,000 people and displaced millions since it started in March 2011 with protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Washington has long been the biggest backer of the Syrian opposition, but it appears to be putting far less diplomatic muscle towards the rebel cause since President Donald Trump came to power in January.

Two UN-backed taskforces co-chaired by the United States and Russia and aimed at securing ceasefires and access for humanitarian aid in Syria seem to be having less impact.

At the same time, regime supporters Russia and Iran along with rebel-backer Turkey have been pushing separate negotiations in Astana since January after gains on the ground by Damascus turned the tables in the conflict.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was on Tuesday set to host his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani for talks that are being closely watched for signs of their next moves in Syria.

Closer cooperation between the two Syrian regime supporters will likely go even further in marginalising US influence in the peace process.

– ‘No partner’ –

While urging Washington to be more fully engaged in the peace process, Sabra warned that a deal would be impossible “if the Russians do not withdraw their (military) support for the regime.”

Russia’s entry into the conflict in September 2015 — when it began launching air strikes to shore up Assad’s forces — played a significant role in turning the tide for the Syrian regime.

The HNC delegation was expected to meet with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Genady Gatilov on Wednesday, after he met with the government delegation on Tuesday.

In the interview, Sabra also reiterated the HNC’s often-repeated claim that the Syrian government delegation, headed by the country’s ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari, was “not seriously involved” in the talks.

“Until now, we don’t have a partner in these negotiations,” he insisted.

His comments came amid a fifth round of negotiations in Geneva being mediated by UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura which have remained clouded by persistent violence on the ground and deadlock over the country’s political future.

The government has ruled out discussing Assad’s possible departure, while the HNC says it will refuse any deal that leaves him in power.

Sabra insisted that “once the transitional government is formed,” Assad’s regime would end, and he “and his clique will be referred to a fair trial” for their crimes.