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PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK
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SENATE-APPROVED: VALUE OF TAX-EXEMPT BALIKBAYAN 'PASALUBONG' CARGO UP TO P150,000 (FROM ANTIQUATED P10,000)


JANUARY 20 -Sen. Ralph Recto filed Senate Bill 2913 last August after a public outcry over a Bureau of Customs plan to open and inspect balikbayan boxes revealed outdated regulations, one of which taxes any box whose contents are worth more than P10,000. STAR/Kriz John Rosales, file photo -The Senate has approved on third and final reading the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA), which also raises to P150,000 from P10,000 the tax-exempt value of pasalubong cargo brought in or sent by Filipinos overseas. Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto hailed the approval of the measure.
Although the provision on the tax treatment of balikbayan boxes is but one of many in the 311-page bill, “it is one that is most awaited by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs),” Recto said yesterday. “We can now report to them that the Balikbayan Box Law has passed the Senate,” he added. Recto filed Senate Bill 2913, or what he dubbed as the BBL, last August after a public outcry over a Bureau of Customs (BOC) plan to open and inspect balikbayan boxes revealed outdated regulations, one of which taxes any box whose contents are worth more than P10,000. Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, chairman of the Senate ways and means committee, later incorporated the provision on increasing the ceiling for taxation of goods sent through balikbayan boxes under Section 800 of CMTA. “Once the CMTA is signed, each balikbayan box would be protected by Super Section 800,” Recto said, noting that it defines “conditional-free and duty-exempt importation.”  Under this section, “residents of the Philippines, OFWs, other Filipinos while residing abroad or in their return to the Philippines shall be allowed to bring in or send to their families or relatives in the Philippines balikbayan boxes which shall be exempt from duties and taxes.” The “total dutiable value” of the boxes shall not exceed P150,000. The privilege can only be enjoyed “up to three times in a calendar year,” Recto said, quoting the proposed law. “This means that an OFW can send two boxes at the same time provided that their total worth is not more than P150,000. That will be counted as one shipment,” Recto said. The boxes, however, must contain “personal and household effects only and shall neither be in commercial quantities, nor intended for barter, sale or for hire.”  “This is to prevent senders from abusing this privilege. With this privilege comes the duty to observe the law. It also comes with penalties so that smugglers won’t take advantage of it,” Recto said.The bill also includes a provision indexing rates to inflation, “so that it will not take another quarter of a century to adjust the tax-exempt ceiling for balikbayan boxes,” Recto said. “Every three years after the effectivity of this act, the secretary of finance, upon recommendation of the (Customs) commissioner, shall review the value herein stated and shall adjust its present value using the consumer price index as published by the Philippine Statistics Authority,” Recto quoted the provision. He said the “antiquated provision” of slapping a 50 percent duty on the value of a balikbayan box in excess of P10,000 was set 28 years ago through former president Corazon Aquino’s Executive Order 206. READ MORE...

ALSO: Filipino maid jailed in Singapore for $400,000 theft


JANUARY 20 -A Filipino maid not only stole jewelry and cash from her Filipino employer in Singapore but also gambled the money she took. Alexandre Vanier/Stock
A Filipina maid was imprisoned Monday for stealing jewelry from her Filipino employer worth $400,000 to serve her first two-year sentence in Singapore.
In a report by The Straits Times, the Filipina maid was identified as 48-year-old Mary Jane Importante Escalona, who faces up to seven years in jail. Escalona reportedly pawned the jewelry which include diamond rings, gold stone rings and earrings she took from her 60-year-old employer, Jose Isidro Navato Camacho, on the same day, to fund her gambling vice. She gambled the money away in casinos at Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands. Aside from the jewelry with value ranging from US$3,000 (S$4,064) to US$100,000 (S$135,460), Escalona also stole cash at Camacho's Rochester Drive unit between 2014 and October last year. Camacho reported the missing money to the police on Oct. 18, 2015, naming Escalona as his suspect. The report said Escalona faced 37 charges and pleaded guilty to 12 counts of theft. Due to this, she may possibly be jailed for up to seven years and fined on each charge. — Rosette Adel FULL REPORT FROM PHILSTAR

ALSO: Time running out for Pinay comfort women


JANUARY 23 -Comfort women Narcisa Claveria, 85; Hilaria Bustamante, 90; Felicidad de los Reyes, 87, and Estelita Dy, 85, display Origami paper cranes symbolizing peace during a forum yesterday to demand justice, compensation and apology from the Japanese government for their wartime ordeal. Boy Santos 
Seven decades after World War II, only six Filipina comfort women remain physically active in their fight for justice for the sexual slavery they suffered during the war.
The remaining 70 members of Lila Pilipina, an organization of comfort women, are already senile, sickly and blind. “In our records, we have a total of 174 comfort women members but 104 already passed away, 70 are sick, while only six or possibly eight of them are still pushing on with their fight for what they suffered during the Japanese occupation,” Lila Pilipina executive director Rechilda Extremadura said in a forum yesterday. Four of the six physically active comfort women attended the forum. Narcisa Claveria, 85; Hilaria Bustamante, 89; Felicidad de Los Reyes, 87; and Estelita Dy, 85 reiterated their appeal to the Japanese government to issue an official apology to all victims of sexual slavery during the war. “We have not yet received justice up to now. We lost our dignity. We lost the chance to study. Our President should do something to help us with our sufferings. We are asking for justice and compensation,” Claveria said in Filipino. Bustamante, who is turning 90 in February, said that their oppression must also be documented so that the younger generations would know and learn that sexual slavery must not be repeated. Dy appealed to Japanese Emperor Akihito, who would visit the Philippines on Jan. 27, to be fair by compensating Filipino comfort women and not only Korean comfort women. Extremadura noted that the struggle of the comfort women has reached its 25th year and, given their deteriorating health, they are preparing for any eventuality. READ MORE...

ALSO: Monster blizzard starts dumping snow on eastern, southern US


JANUARY 23 -Deborah Ellison covers Raniyah Shabazz, 4, in a blanket as they walk in the snow Friday morning, Jan. 22, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. A blizzard menacing the Eastern United States started dumping snow in Virginia, Tennessee and other parts of the South on Friday as millions of people in the storm's path prepared for icy roads, possible power outages and other treacherous conditions. Samuel M. Simpkins/The Tennessean via AP WASHINGTON — A potentially paralyzing blizzard began dumping snow on the southern and eastern United States, spurring mass flight cancelations over the weekend and causing seven states to declare a state of emergency. More than two feet (60 centimeters) of snow was predicted for Washington alone. The National Weather Service said the winter storm could rank near the top 10 to ever hit the region. NWS meteorologist Paul Kocin compared it to "Snowmageddon," the first of two storms that "wiped out" Washington in 2010, but he said the weekend timing could help limit deaths and damage. "It does have the potential to be an extremely dangerous storm that can affect more than 50 million people," said Louis Uccellini, director of the weather service. The snowfall, expected to continue from late Friday into Sunday, could easily cause more than $1 billion in damage and paralyze the eastern third of the nation, he said. So far, the snowstorm was looking just like the forecasts promised, NWS forecaster Daniel Petersen said Friday afternoon. Washington could get one of its top three storms in history, he said. Uccellini said all the elements have come together to create a blizzard with brutally high winds, dangerous inland flooding, white-out conditions and even the possibility of thunder snow, when lightning strikes through a snowstorm. Two feet or more of snowfall is forecast for Washington and Baltimore, and nearly as much for Philadelphia. New York City's expected total was upped Friday to a foot or more. A state of emergency was declared in Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, New Jersey and parts of other states. Blizzard warnings or watches were in effect along the storm's path, from Arkansas through Tennessee and Kentucky to the mid-Atlantic states and as far north as New York. READ MORE...

ALSO: 5 dead, 2 critical after shootings in Canada school - Trudeau


JANUARY 23 -The outside of La Loche Community School is shown on Friday Jan. 22, 2016. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the shootings occurred at a high school and another location but did not say where else. School shootings are rare in Canada. The grade 7 through 12 La Loche Community School is in the remote aboriginal community of La Loche, Saskatchewan. Joshua Mercredi/The Canadian Press via AP TORONTO — A shooter opened fire at a high school and a second location in an aboriginal community in northern Saskatchewan on Friday, leaving five dead and two others critically injured, Canada's prime minister said. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said from Davos, Switzerland that a suspect was in custody.
"This is every parent's worst nightmare," Trudeau said. "The community is reeling." Trudeau said the shootings occurred at a high school and another location but did not release any information on the second location. School shootings are rare in Canada. The grade 7 through 12 La Loche Community School is in the remote aboriginal community of La Loche, Saskatchewan. The school's Facebook page said it would remain on lockdown until the Royal Canadian Police resolve the matter. It asked the public to stay away. It was unclear how many died at the school. Police have yet to announce any details. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall earlier confirmed the shooting. "Words cannot express my shock and sorrow at the horrific events today in La Loche. My thoughts and prayers are with all the victims, their families and friends and all the people of the community," he said in a statement. The area's representative in parliament, who attended the same school, was setting up a constituency office in the community when the shooting occurred. READ MORE...

ALSO: Tumultuous 1st year for Saudi King Salman's 'decisive' reign


JANUARY 24 - FILE -- In this Nov. 10, 2015 file photo, King Salman of Saudi Arabia waits to receive leaders during their arrival to participate in a summit of Arab and South American leaders in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Within hours of ascending to the Saudi throne, King Salman announced sweeping changes that would recast the kingdom’s line of succession, and rework its security and economic decision-making processes. It marked the start of what would be a tumultuous year for King Salman, who completes one year as monarch on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)
RIYADH - Within hours of ascending to the Saudi throne, King Salman announced sweeping changes that would recast the kingdom's line of succession, and rework its security and economic decision-making processes. It marked the start of what would be a tumultuous year for King Salman, who completes one year as monarch on yesterday. His reign so far has been marked by a boldness that one Western intelligence agency labelled as "impulsive." However, supporters and admirers of the monarch prefer to describe him as "decisive."
Salman, believed to be in his mid-80s, inherited the throne Jan. 23, 2015 after the death of his 90-year-old half-brother King Abdullah, who had ruled Saudi Arabia for a decade. Almost immediately he dismissed two of his predecessor's sons as governors of Riyadh and Mecca, eliminated 12 different government committees and councils, elevated his then-29-year-old son to defense minister and placed him as a lead member on two new super-committees overseeing the country's security and economic affairs. Since then, Salman has led his country into an aggressive new stance confronting longtime regional rival Iran, leading a military coalition fighting Iranian-allied rebels in Yemen and unsuccessfully lobbying against Iran's newly implemented nuclear deal with world powers. Domestically, he has urgently taken on economic reforms to counter the impact of plunging oil prices. Salman has also continued to concentrate power in the hands of his son, Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman. Though few of Saud Arabia's allies have publicly critiqued Salman's policies as king, a German intelligence analysis released by the BND spy agency last month cited concern over the kingdom's future as it tries to "establish itself as a leader in the Arab world." "The previous cautious diplomatic stance of older leaders within the royal family is being replaced by a new impulsive policy of intervention," the German report said, adding that the kingdom is "prepared to take unprecedented military, financial and political risks."  World ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 The intelligence report said the concentration of economic and foreign policy power in the hands of Mohammed bin Salman carried a "latent risk" with other members of the royal family, the public and allied states in the region. In contrast to the cautious and paternal reputation Abdullah had earned, Salman's reign has been frequently described by the Saudi government press as "decisive," a term born out of his decision to launch the "Operation Decisive Storm" military intervention in Yemen. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Value of tax-exempt balikbayan goods raised to P150,000


Sen. Ralph Recto filed Senate Bill 2913 last August after a public outcry over a Bureau of Customs plan to open and inspect balikbayan boxes revealed outdated regulations, one of which taxes any box whose contents are worth more than P10,000. STAR/Kriz John Rosales, file photo

MANILA, JANUARY 25, 2016 (PHILSTAR) By Christina Mendez January 20, 2016 -The Senate has approved on third and final reading the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA), which also raises to P150,000 from P10,000 the tax-exempt value of pasalubong cargo brought in or sent by Filipinos overseas.

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto hailed the approval of the measure.

Although the provision on the tax treatment of balikbayan boxes is but one of many in the 311-page bill, “it is one that is most awaited by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs),” Recto said yesterday.

“We can now report to them that the Balikbayan Box Law has passed the Senate,” he added.

Recto filed Senate Bill 2913, or what he dubbed as the BBL, last August after a public outcry over a Bureau of Customs (BOC) plan to open and inspect balikbayan boxes revealed outdated regulations, one of which taxes any box whose contents are worth more than P10,000.

Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, chairman of the Senate ways and means committee, later incorporated the provision on increasing the ceiling for taxation of goods sent through balikbayan boxes under Section 800 of CMTA.

“Once the CMTA is signed, each balikbayan box would be protected by Super Section 800,” Recto said, noting that it defines “conditional-free and duty-exempt importation.”

Under this section, “residents of the Philippines, OFWs, other Filipinos while residing abroad or in their return to the Philippines shall be allowed to bring in or send to their families or relatives in the Philippines balikbayan boxes which shall be exempt from duties and taxes.”

The “total dutiable value” of the boxes shall not exceed P150,000.

The privilege can only be enjoyed “up to three times in a calendar year,” Recto said, quoting the proposed law.

“This means that an OFW can send two boxes at the same time provided that their total worth is not more than P150,000. That will be counted as one shipment,” Recto said.

The boxes, however, must contain “personal and household effects only and shall neither be in commercial quantities, nor intended for barter, sale or for hire.”

“This is to prevent senders from abusing this privilege. With this privilege comes the duty to observe the law. It also comes with penalties so that smugglers won’t take advantage of it,” Recto said.

The bill also includes a provision indexing rates to inflation, “so that it will not take another quarter of a century to adjust the tax-exempt ceiling for balikbayan boxes,” Recto said.

“Every three years after the effectivity of this act, the secretary of finance, upon recommendation of the (Customs) commissioner, shall review the value herein stated and shall adjust its present value using the consumer price index as published by the Philippine Statistics Authority,” Recto quoted the provision.

He said the “antiquated provision” of slapping a 50 percent duty on the value of a balikbayan box in excess of P10,000 was set 28 years ago through former president Corazon Aquino’s Executive Order 206.

READ MORE...

Even BOC Memorandum Circular 7990, which ups the maximum value of a tax-exempt balikbayan box to $500, is more than 25 years old, he said.

Recto said the proposed CMTA also increases to P350,000 the tax-exempt ceiling of “personal and household effects” that a returning resident who had lived abroad for 10 years may ship to the Philippines.

Recto said this provision was not in the BBL he filed but a brainchild of Angara, principal sponsor of CMTA.

Recto praised Angara for shepherding the CMTA, with its many complicated provisions, to approval.

The CMTA is a consolidation of eight bills, two of which are authored by Recto. The other bill Recto filed is Senate Bill 456, which slaps higher penalties for smuggling.

The measure has been described by Angara as a “broad reform measure which simplifies rules, aligns tariff regime with treaties, promotes transparency and combats smuggling.” – With Evelyn Macairan


PHILSTAR

Filipino maid jailed in Singapore for $400,000 theft (philstar.com) | Updated January 20, 2016 - 12:43pm 2 1 googleplus0 2


A Filipino maid not only stole jewelry and cash from her Filipino employer in Singapore but also gambled the money she took. Alexandre Vanier/Stock

MANILA, Philippines — A Filipina maid was imprisoned Monday for stealing jewelry from her Filipino employer worth $400,000 to serve her first two-year sentence in Singapore.

In a report by The Straits Times, the Filipina maid was identified as 48-year-old Mary Jane Importante Escalona, who faces up to seven years in jail.

Escalona reportedly pawned the jewelry which include diamond rings, gold stone rings and earrings she took from her 60-year-old employer, Jose Isidro Navato Camacho, on the same day, to fund her gambling vice.

She gambled the money away in casinos at Resorts World Sentosa and Marina Bay Sands.

Aside from the jewelry with value ranging from US$3,000 (S$4,064) to US$100,000 (S$135,460), Escalona also stole cash at Camacho's Rochester Drive unit between 2014 and October last year.

Camacho reported the missing money to the police on Oct. 18, 2015, naming Escalona as his suspect.

The report said Escalona faced 37 charges and pleaded guilty to 12 counts of theft. Due to this, she may possibly be jailed for up to seven years and fined on each charge. — Rosette Adel


PHILSTAR

Time running out for Pinay comfort women By Rhodina Villanueva (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 23, 2016 - 12:00am 2 4 googleplus0 0


Comfort women Narcisa Claveria, 85; Hilaria Bustamante, 90; Felicidad de los Reyes, 87, and Estelita Dy, 85, display Origami paper cranes symbolizing peace during a forum yesterday to demand justice, compensation and apology from the Japanese government for their wartime ordeal. Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines - Seven decades after World War II, only six Filipina comfort women remain physically active in their fight for justice for the sexual slavery they suffered during the war.

The remaining 70 members of Lila Pilipina, an organization of comfort women, are already senile, sickly and blind.

“In our records, we have a total of 174 comfort women members but 104 already passed away, 70 are sick, while only six or possibly eight of them are still pushing on with their fight for what they suffered during the Japanese occupation,” Lila Pilipina executive director Rechilda Extremadura said in a forum yesterday.

Four of the six physically active comfort women attended the forum.

Narcisa Claveria, 85; Hilaria Bustamante, 89; Felicidad de Los Reyes, 87; and Estelita Dy, 85 reiterated their appeal to the Japanese government to issue an official apology to all victims of sexual slavery during the war.

“We have not yet received justice up to now. We lost our dignity. We lost the chance to study. Our President should do something to help us with our sufferings. We are asking for justice and compensation,” Claveria said in Filipino.

Bustamante, who is turning 90 in February, said that their oppression must also be documented so that the younger generations would know and learn that sexual slavery must not be repeated.

Dy appealed to Japanese Emperor Akihito, who would visit the Philippines on Jan. 27, to be fair by compensating Filipino comfort women and not only Korean comfort women.

Extremadura noted that the struggle of the comfort women has reached its 25th year and, given their deteriorating health, they are preparing for any eventuality.

READ MORE...

“We are ready for this. Even their respective families are set to continue the fight and demand justice. The organization will just push through with its advocacy in helping our comfort women,” she added.

In the forum, the organization of comfort women also brought out origami cranes symbolizing peace. They said they made these to remind President Aquino of the number of missed opportunities he could have used to pursue justice for Filipina comfort women.

Extremadura noted that Aquino promised in November 2010 that he would task then newly appointed Ambassador Emmanuel Lopez to have the Japanese government come to a compromise on the apology.

“As for the compensation, he said that he will ask Congress to make a law that will ensure that the remaining lolas will be compensated from the funds provided by the 1956 Reparations Agreement, which he described as ‘all-encompassing,’ meaning including comfort women. As far as the lolas are concerned, it was all talk. Congress never came up with anything, except for resolutions filed by the Makabayan bloc of lawmakers,” she added.

The group also said they are doubtful that Aquino would broach the subject of apology and compensation with Emperor Akihito during his Philippine visit next week.


PHILSTAR

Monster blizzard starts dumping snow on eastern, southern US By Ben Nuckols and Seth Borenstein (Associated Press) | Updated January 23, 2016 - 1:53pm 0 25 googleplus0 0


Deborah Ellison covers Raniyah Shabazz, 4, in a blanket as they walk in the snow Friday morning, Jan. 22, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. A blizzard menacing the Eastern United States started dumping snow in Virginia, Tennessee and other parts of the South on Friday as millions of people in the storm's path prepared for icy roads, possible power outages and other treacherous conditions. Samuel M. Simpkins/The Tennessean via AP

WASHINGTON — A potentially paralyzing blizzard began dumping snow on the southern and eastern United States, spurring mass flight cancelations over the weekend and causing seven states to declare a state of emergency. More than two feet (60 centimeters) of snow was predicted for Washington alone.

The National Weather Service said the winter storm could rank near the top 10 to ever hit the region. NWS meteorologist Paul Kocin compared it to "Snowmageddon," the first of two storms that "wiped out" Washington in 2010, but he said the weekend timing could help limit deaths and damage.

"It does have the potential to be an extremely dangerous storm that can affect more than 50 million people," said Louis Uccellini, director of the weather service. The snowfall, expected to continue from late Friday into Sunday, could easily cause more than $1 billion in damage and paralyze the eastern third of the nation, he said.

So far, the snowstorm was looking just like the forecasts promised, NWS forecaster Daniel Petersen said Friday afternoon. Washington could get one of its top three storms in history, he said.

Uccellini said all the elements have come together to create a blizzard with brutally high winds, dangerous inland flooding, white-out conditions and even the possibility of thunder snow, when lightning strikes through a snowstorm.

Two feet or more of snowfall is forecast for Washington and Baltimore, and nearly as much for Philadelphia. New York City's expected total was upped Friday to a foot or more.

A state of emergency was declared in Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, New Jersey and parts of other states. Blizzard warnings or watches were in effect along the storm's path, from Arkansas through Tennessee and Kentucky to the mid-Atlantic states and as far north as New York.

READ MORE...

As far south as Atlanta, people were urged to go home and stay there.

Schools and government offices were closed, thousands of flights were canceled and millions of people stocked up on supplies. College basketball games and concerts in the region were postponed.

Flight tracking service FlightAware said airlines canceled about 7,600 flights Friday and Saturday, about 15 percent of the airlines' schedules. By Sunday afternoon, airlines hope to be back to full schedule.

Washington's subway system said it will shut down entirely late Friday night and remain closed through Sunday. About 1,000 track workers will be deployed to keep New York City's subway system moving and 79 trains will have "scraper shoes" to reduce the icing on the rails.

The federal government closed offices at noon Friday. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama would hunker down at the White House.

The U.S. Capitol Police said sledding on Capitol Hill, which only recently became legal after an act of Congress, would be welcome for the first time in decades.

In Washington, Baltimore, and Delaware, archdioceses reminded people that dangerous travel conditions are a legitimate excuse for missing Sunday Mass.

At a supermarket in Baltimore, Sharon Brewington recalled that in the massive snowstorm of 2010, she and her daughter were stuck at home with nothing but noodles and water.

"I'm not going to make that mistake again," she said.

___

Borenstein reported from College Park, Maryland. Associated Press writers Juliet Linderman in Baltimore, Jessica Gresko in Washington and AP Airlines Writer Scott Mayerowitz in New York contributed to this report.


PHILSTAR

5 dead, 2 critical after shootings in Canada school - Trudeau By Rob Gillies (Associated Press) | Updated January 23, 2016 - 8:55am 0 76 googleplus0 0


The outside of La Loche Community School is shown on Friday Jan. 22, 2016. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the shootings occurred at a high school and another location but did not say where else. School shootings are rare in Canada. The grade 7 through 12 La Loche Community School is in the remote aboriginal community of La Loche, Saskatchewan. Joshua Mercredi/The Canadian Press via AP

TORONTO — A shooter opened fire at a high school and a second location in an aboriginal community in northern Saskatchewan on Friday, leaving five dead and two others critically injured, Canada's prime minister said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said from Davos, Switzerland that a suspect was in custody.

"This is every parent's worst nightmare," Trudeau said. "The community is reeling."

Trudeau said the shootings occurred at a high school and another location but did not release any information on the second location. School shootings are rare in Canada.

The grade 7 through 12 La Loche Community School is in the remote aboriginal community of La Loche, Saskatchewan. The school's Facebook page said it would remain on lockdown until the Royal Canadian Police resolve the matter. It asked the public to stay away.

It was unclear how many died at the school. Police have yet to announce any details.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall earlier confirmed the shooting.

"Words cannot express my shock and sorrow at the horrific events today in La Loche. My thoughts and prayers are with all the victims, their families and friends and all the people of the community," he said in a statement.

The area's representative in parliament, who attended the same school, was setting up a constituency office in the community when the shooting occurred.

READ MORE...

"We're fairly shaken up. It's a sad day," said Georgina Jolibois, who was mayor of La Loche until she was elected to parliament last fall. "My own nieces and nephews were inside the school."

Jolibois said she went to the school and spoke with some of her family members, who were unharmed. She wouldn't reveal details of the shooting, saying she preferred that police release the information.

Bobby Cameron, Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, said it was the worst tragedy to ever hit the community.

"It's not something you ever imagine happening here. The whole community, province and country has been affected and we will all go into mourning," said Cameron, who attended graduations at the school for the past few years. "Right now we're just in a state of shock and disbelief."

___

Associated Press writer Charmaine Noronha in Toronto contributed to this report.


PHILSTAR

Tumultuous 1st year for Saudi King Salman's 'decisive' reign By Aya Batrawy (Associated Press) | Updated January 24, 2016 - 7:10am 2 1 googleplus0 0


FILE -- In this Nov. 10, 2015 file photo, King Salman of Saudi Arabia waits to receive leaders during their arrival to participate in a summit of Arab and South American leaders in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Within hours of ascending to the Saudi throne, King Salman announced sweeping changes that would recast the kingdom’s line of succession, and rework its security and economic decision-making processes. It marked the start of what would be a tumultuous year for King Salman, who completes one year as monarch on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)

RIYADH - Within hours of ascending to the Saudi throne, King Salman announced sweeping changes that would recast the kingdom's line of succession, and rework its security and economic decision-making processes. It marked the start of what would be a tumultuous year for King Salman, who completes one year as monarch on yesterday.

His reign so far has been marked by a boldness that one Western intelligence agency labelled as "impulsive." However, supporters and admirers of the monarch prefer to describe him as "decisive."

Salman, believed to be in his mid-80s, inherited the throne Jan. 23, 2015 after the death of his 90-year-old half-brother King Abdullah, who had ruled Saudi Arabia for a decade. Almost immediately he dismissed two of his predecessor's sons as governors of Riyadh and Mecca, eliminated 12 different government committees and councils, elevated his then-29-year-old son to defense minister and placed him as a lead member on two new super-committees overseeing the country's security and economic affairs.

Since then, Salman has led his country into an aggressive new stance confronting longtime regional rival Iran, leading a military coalition fighting Iranian-allied rebels in Yemen and unsuccessfully lobbying against Iran's newly implemented nuclear deal with world powers. Domestically, he has urgently taken on economic reforms to counter the impact of plunging oil prices. Salman has also continued to concentrate power in the hands of his son, Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman.

Though few of Saud Arabia's allies have publicly critiqued Salman's policies as king, a German intelligence analysis released by the BND spy agency last month cited concern over the kingdom's future as it tries to "establish itself as a leader in the Arab world."

"The previous cautious diplomatic stance of older leaders within the royal family is being replaced by a new impulsive policy of intervention," the German report said, adding that the kingdom is "prepared to take unprecedented military, financial and political risks."

The intelligence report said the concentration of economic and foreign policy power in the hands of Mohammed bin Salman carried a "latent risk" with other members of the royal family, the public and allied states in the region.

In contrast to the cautious and paternal reputation Abdullah had earned, Salman's reign has been frequently described by the Saudi government press as "decisive," a term born out of his decision to launch the "Operation Decisive Storm" military intervention in Yemen.

READ MORE...

Gregory Gause, head of the International Affairs Department at Texas A&M University, says this past year has shown Salman to be "a risk-taker."

While Abdullah's foreign policy also sought to counter the influence of predominantly-Shiite Iran, it was Salman who committed Saudi warplanes and ground troops outside the country's borders to fight the Shiite rebels who had forced Yemen's internationally-backed government into exile. Ten months into the Yemen war, the military intervention has proven controversial, its successes questionable; the conflict has killed 5,800 people since March and left more than 80 percent of the Yemeni population in dire need of food and water, according to international aid agencies.

"King Abdullah had himself portrayed in many ways as a paternal figure. That doesn't seem to be King Salman's desire," Gause said. "They're portraying themselves as tough guys," he said, referring to the king and his defense minister son.

In a recent surprise move, Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced in December the creation of a 35-nation Islamic counterterrorism military alliance that would be headquartered in Saudi Arabia. The move was interpreted as an effort to further project Saudi Arabia's leadership in the region and to counter the narrative that Saudi Arabia's arming of Syrian rebels has also aided extremist groups.


12 MONTHS SINCE SAUDI KING SALMAN ACCCEDED TO THE THRONE --Well-wishers kiss the hands of their new leader King Salman bin Abdul Aziz (C) in a symbolic pledge of allegiance during a ceremony at a royal palace in Riyadh, in a photo released by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) on January 23, 2015 (AFP Photo/)

Throughout the past week, Saudi newspapers marked the Islamic calendar anniversary of Salman's first year as monarch with articles proclaiming him to be the king of "decisiveness and hope." Businessmen and senior princes took out full-page newspaper advertisements expressing their loyalty and support for the king and his successors.

Salman inherited a host of domestic challenges, including the need to create more affordable housing and jobs for Saudi Arabia's burgeoning young population. The collapse of the price of oil to under $30 a barrel has forced Saudi Arabia to rein back handouts to the public, including lifting some subsidies and raising petrol prices.

Saudi Arabia posted a $98 billion budget deficit last year and expects an $87 billion deficit for 2016. The kingdom has been working for years to try and attract foreign investment and diversify its economy away from oil, including opening up the stock market to foreign investors in 2015.

However, it's most anticipated economic move may still be yet to come. In an interview with The Economist, Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the kingdom is studying launching an initial public offering for the world's largest oil producer, Saudi Arabian Oil Co.

On social reforms, Abdullah allowed for some greater women's rights, including a decision to allow Saudi women to vote and run for the first time in government elections for municipal councils.

As generational and social changes take root, the Yemen war effort put calls for democratic reforms on hold, according to activists. The country's leaders have projected the Yemen war as a defense of Sunnis against Iran, which has supported Shiite militias in Iraq and the government of Bashar Assad in Syria, where Saudi Arabia is arming Sunni rebels.

One month after the March 2015 launch of the Yemen war, Saudi citizens awoke to find that one crown prince had been replaced with another overnight — this time from a new, younger generation of princes. Interior Minister and counter-terrorism czar, Mohammed bin Nayef, was announced as first-in-line to the throne. Mohammed bin Salman was appointed deputy crown prince and second-in-line.

In Riyadh, a vague sense of pride and nationalism was whipped up by the war. The bombing campaign also helped elevate Mohamed bin Salman, who was overseeing the military intervention.

"I think that they thought that it would be a way to enhance their political capital and to demonstrate that they are more a more decisive leadership than that of King Abdullah, that they are more willing to confront Iran and sort of go at it alone," said Hani Sabra, head of Middle East practice at Eurasia Group.

Relations between Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and Shiite power Iran have been tense for decades, but the divide has only widened during Salman's year on the throne.

Iran seized on these tensions in September after a crush of crowds during the annual Islamic hajj pilgrimage killed at least 2,400 people, among them some 464 Iranian pilgrims, according to an independent Associated Press tally. A few weeks before that, a crane collapsed in Mecca, killing 111 people who were praying at Islam's holiest site, the Kaaba.

Iran accused Saudi Arabia of negligence and called on the kingdom to share its prestigious custodianship of Mecca with other Muslim countries. Under King Salman, Saudi royals largely ignored Iran's criticisms and have yet to release details into their investigation of the stampede or adjust their official death toll of 769.


Related search results U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, third left, next to U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Joseph Westphal, second left, meets with Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, second right, and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, right, at the Saudi King's farm in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016. Kerry’s trip is expected to last nine days and to encompass stops in Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Laos, Cambodia, and China. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

Tensions with Iran only worsened after Jan. 2, when Saudi Arabia executed 47 people convicted of terrorism-related charges. Most of them were alleged militants convicted of allegiance with al-Qaida, but included in the mass executions was a prominent Shiite cleric and a leader of Saudi Arabia's disgruntled Shiite minority.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr's execution sparked protests in Iran, with mobs ransacking the Saudi Embassy there, prompting Saudi Arabia to sever diplomatic relations altogether with its regional rival. Several other Gulf Arab allies also cut or downgraded their relations with Tehran, prompting a deepening regional stand-off in recent weeks.

Toby Matthiesen, author of "Sectarian Gulf," says the Saudi response to Iran following al-Nimr's execution partially reflects declining Saudi trust in the US as a strategic ally in the region following the Obama Administration's rapprochement with Iran and the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions on Tehran this month.

"They wanted to seem tough, show their population that they will not tolerate any dissent," Matthiesen said. "They want to be seen as the leader of the Sunni world and they're pushing a Saudi nationalism that is based on Arabism and Sunni Islam."

The sheikh's brother, Mohammed al-Nimr, told The Associated Press that his family had hoped King Salman would not sign off on the execution. When asked what he thought about Salman's past year as monarch and what's to come for Saudi Arabia, he said "the future is not comforting."

"It is very painful. As Muslims, we have faith in God but the picture is bleak, it's black," al-Nimr said.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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