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PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK
(Mini Reads followed by Full Reports below)

US-ASEAN SUMMIT: SEA FREEDOMS MUST BE RESPECTED - OBAMA


FEBRUARY 18 -PHL President Aquino joins other Asean leaders for a photo with US President Barack Obama on the second day of the US-Asean Summit at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California yesterday. Joining them are (from left) Asean Secretary General Le Luong Minh, Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Laos President Choummaly Sayasone, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Myanmar Vice President Nyan Tun. AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
 
RANCHO MIRAGE, CALIFORNIA, Southeast Asian leaders and US President Barack Obama issued a joint declaration here yesterday, expressing stronger commitment to keeping peace in the South China Sea and protecting freedom of navigation and overflight. In their 17-point “Sunnylands Declaration,” the leaders agreed to respect the sovereignty of every nation as well as abide by the rules provided for under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The declaration, named after the resort where the historic summit was held, emphasized ASEAN and US “shared commitment to maintain peace, security and stability in the region.” While there was no mention of China, the declaration was apparently addressing the Asian power, which has been aggressively staking its claims in the South China Sea, including building artificial islands. Beijing has installed facilities on their man-made islands, apparently for military purposes. The leaders also emphasized the need for “non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of activities” in disputed waters. READ MORE...RELATED, Aquino - No plans of arming up vs China
[Philippines expecting Hague ruling vs China by May]...

ALSO: US says China reneges on vow not to militarize sea


FEBRUARY 18 -Woody Island, part of the Paracel chain in the South China Sea, claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam. Philstar.com / Google Earth 
WASHINGTON — The United States warned Wednesday of rising tensions in the South China Sea after China appeared to have placed a surface-to-air missile system on a disputed island.
Taiwan's defense ministry said that China had positioned anti-aircraft missiles on Woody Island in the Paracel chain, which is occupied by China but also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said commercial satellite imagery appeared to indicate China has deployed a surface-to-air missile system. Another U.S. official gave a more direct confirmation of the deployment on Woody Island. The official, who was not authorized to discuss the information publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said it is unclear whether the deployment is intended for the long-term. The deployment follows China's building of new islands by piling sand atop reefs and then adding airstrips and military installations. The buildup is seen as part of Beijing's efforts to claim virtually the entire disputed sea and its resources, which has prompted some of its wary neighbors to draw closer to the U.S.  CONTINUE READING...

[THE NEXT 2 REPORTS, PHNO HAS QUALMISH WARNING: Fallacy of quoting out of context--The practice of quoting out of context (sometimes referred to as "contextomy" and quote mining), is an informal fallacy and a type of false attribution in which a passage is removed from its surrounding matter in such a way as to distort its intended meaning. Contextomies are stereotypically intentional, but may also occur accidentally if someone misinterprets the meaning and omits something essential to clarifying it, thinking it non-essential. (FROM Engel, Morris S., With Good Reason: An Introduction to Informal Fallacies) RE: THE FOLLOWING 2 REPORTINGS-- we love the Pope and as we know and sincerely believe he loves everybody beyond any doubt and here the media has, as usual, blown the news out of proportion. Because this is not the matter of a Kanye West and a Taylor Swift (sic), newsworthy as it is. PHNO has qualms re-broadcasting. At the same time we sincerely understand in a very PopeFrancis-way the usually freewheeling verbal notoriety of Mr. Donald Trump, therefore 'with a grain of salt" SO BE IT.]

ALSO: Pope Francis questions Donald Trump's Christianity
[The Pope declined to say whether Americans should vote for Mr Trump, who is leading the Republican race for president. "I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and I will give him the benefit of the doubt," the Pope said.]


FEBRUARY 18 -COMPOSITE PHOTOS OF 'THE' DONALD AND THE POPE GOOGLED IMAGES -COMPOSITE PHOTOS OF 'THE' DONALD AND THE POPE. GOOGLED IMAGES ,MEDIA CAPTION: Pope Francis has questioned US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's Christianity The Nyc businessman supports deporting almost 11 million undocumented immigrants. FROM CNBC: Presidential hopeful Donald Trump insisted Wednesday night that he has what it takes to get Mexico to build a wall along the U.S. border. "We're going to do a wall; we're going to have a big, fat beautiful door on the wall; we're going to have people come in, but they're going to come in legally," Trump said at the third Republican debate, hosted by CNBC.
Pope Francis said "a person who thinks only about building walls... and not of building bridges, is not Christian". The New York businessman supports deporting nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants. Calling himself a "proud Christian", Mr Trump blamed Mexico for the Pope's remarks, calling them "disgraceful". Mr Trump has alleged that Mexico sends "rapists" and criminals to the US. Pope Francis made the comments at the end of a six-day trip to Mexico. "A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not of building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel," he said. Jump media playerMedia player helpOut of media player. Press enter to return or tab to continue. Media captionDonald Trump is not happy that Pope Francis has questioned his Christianity He declined to say whether Americans should vote for Mr Trump, who is leading the Republican race for president. "I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and I will give him the benefit of the doubt," the Pope said. READ MORE...

ALSO: Donald Trump calls Pope Francis 'disgraceful' for questioning his faith[Trump responds after the pope suggests presidential candidate is ‘not a Christian’ because of his plan to build a border wall between the US and Mexico. Pope Francis: border wall plan shows Trump is ‘not Christian’].


FEBRUARY 19 -GOOGLED IMAGES
Donald Trump has called Pope Francis “disgraceful” over the pontiff’s suggestion the Republican presidential frontrunner was “not a Christian” for his plan to build a wall at the Mexican border. Flying back to Rome from a trip to Mexico, the pope said: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”  Trump responded swiftly at a campaign event in South Carolina, saying: “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.”  “No leader, especially a religious leader, has the right to question another man’s religion or faith,” he told a packed room at a golf course resort. Trump then accused the Mexican government of “using the pope as a pawn”. “They should be ashamed of themselves, especially when so many lives are involved and illegal immigration is rampant and bad for the United States.”  During his in-flight press conference, the pope insisted he did not mean to sway any Americans with his comments. “As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that,” he said.  “I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.”  In a press release timed to coincide with his rally, Trump suggested that the leader of the Catholic church would regret not supporting his candidacy. “If and when the Vatican is attacked by Isis, which as everyone knows is Isis’s ultimate trophy,” Trump said, “the pope can have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president because this would not have happened. READ MORE...

ALSO: Donald Trump tones down fight with Pope Francis


Donald Trump at CNN town hall: Pope is a "wonderful guy"
(CNN)Nobody wants to tangle with the Pope -- not even Donald Trump. One of the more unlikely battles to jolt a presidential campaign emerged Thursday when Pope Francis said Trump is "not Christian" if he wants to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump, true to form, shot back that the pontiff's comments were "disgraceful." But by Thursday evening, the GOP front-runner was doing something unusual: de-escalating a fight. "I don't like fighting with the Pope," Trump said at a GOP town hall in South Carolina hosted by CNN. "I like his personality; I like what he represents." Trump called the Pope a "wonderful guy" and blamed the day's drama on the press. Donald Trump responds to the Pope's comments Donald Trump responds to the Pope's comments 02:16 - "I don't think this is a fight," Trump said. "I think he said something much softer than was originally reported by the media." Trump added he would meet with the Pope "anytime he wants." On Friday, a Vatican spokesman said that, although the reporter at the papal press conference asked Francis specifically about Trump, the Pope's answer should be interpreted more generally. "It didn't intend to be in any way neither a personal attack nor an indication in how to vote," the Rev. Federico Lombardi told Vatican Radio. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

‘Sea freedoms must be respected’


President Aquino joins other Asean leaders for a photo with US President Barack Obama on the second day of the US-Asean Summit at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California yesterday. Joining them are (from left) Asean Secretary General Le Luong Minh, Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Laos President Choummaly Sayasone, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Myanmar Vice President Nyan Tun. AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

RANCHO MIRAGE, CALIFORNIA, FEBRUARY 22, 2016 (PHILSTAR) By Delon Porcalla February 18, 2016 - Southeast Asian leaders and US President Barack Obama issued a joint declaration here yesterday, expressing stronger commitment to keeping peace in the South China Sea and protecting freedom of navigation and overflight.

In their 17-point “Sunnylands Declaration,” the leaders agreed to respect the sovereignty of every nation as well as abide by the rules provided for under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The declaration, named after the resort where the historic summit was held, emphasized ASEAN and US “shared commitment to maintain peace, security and stability in the region.”

While there was no mention of China, the declaration was apparently addressing the Asian power, which has been aggressively staking its claims in the South China Sea, including building artificial islands.

Beijing has installed facilities on their man-made islands, apparently for military purposes.

The leaders also emphasized the need for “non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of activities” in disputed waters.

READ MORE...

For his part, President Aquino called on the global community “to demonstrate respect for the rule of law by abiding by the decision of the UN arbitral tribunal.”

He issued the statement during their second retreat here, with the theme: “Protecting Peace, Prosperity, and Security in the Asia-Pacific,” telling the other leaders that they “must collectively address the challenges we face together.”

“It is essential that ASEAN shall resolve in promoting a rules-based regime for the resolution of disputes and management of tensions in the region,” he said.

“In this regard, confronted with the common challenges in the South China Sea, it is crucial that ASEAN collectively and in a unified voice urge all countries to share with us full respect for the rule of law,” he pointed out.

Respect for the rule of law, he said, should mean abiding by whatever is decided by the international arbitral tribunal on Manila’s case against Beijing.

“In this manner, we will avoid chaos in our relations and ensure greater stability, predictability and security,” Aquino stressed.

In a speech in Los Angeles hours after the US-ASEAN summit ended, Aquino told the crowd at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council that Manila is not provoking Beijing but merely defending itself.

“Let me make it clear: we have zero ambitions in terms of arming ourselves with our own weapons of mass destruction; we have no plans of trying to come up with some sort of deterrents against the military might of that superpower,” he said.

“In other words, in the classic argument of guns versus butter, we would rather spend our limited resources on the butter side of that equation,” he added.

In the joint declaration, Obama and the Asian leaders “reaffirmed the key principles that will guide our cooperation going forward,” including “mutual respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, equality and political independence of all nations.”

The Sunnylands Declaration also emphasized the “importance of shared prosperity, sustainable, inclusive economic growth and development,” as well as the pursuit of policies “that lead to dynamic, open, and competitive economies.”

Also highlighted in the declaration is the necessity of ensuring “opportunities for all of our peoples, through strengthening democracy, enhancing good governance and adherence to the rule of law.” Also to be safeguarded and promoted, according to the joint declaration, are human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the importance of “tolerance and moderation, and protecting the environment.”

Furthermore, the leaders voiced their “strong resolve to lead on global issues such as terrorism and violent extremism, trafficking in persons, drug trafficking, and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, as well as illicit trafficking of wildlife and timber.”

Economic measures Obama, meanwhile, announced a package of measures designed to boost Southeast Asian economies, betting that the fast-growing region can be an ever more important trade partner.

The plan will establish three economic offices – in Jakarta, Bangkok and Singapore – “to better coordinate our economic engagement and connect more of our entrepreneurs, investors and businesses with each other.”

The White House sees the 10-nation ASEAN as an emerging regional counterweight to China’s regional dominance.

Collectively, the countries are the fourth-largest trading partner for the US.

According to White House figures, “two-way trade in goods and services has tripled since the 1990s, topping 254 billion in 2014,” supporting around half a million US jobs.

“We have an increasingly deep and broad economic relationship with ASEAN,” said US ambassador to ASEAN Nina Hachigian.

ASEAN includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

While Southeast Asian economies are youthful and fast-growing, many sectors remain under the control of government or special interests.

But countries like Indonesia are beginning to open up. Its president Joko Widodo recently announced steps to open the economy to foreign investment that were welcomed in Washington.

The new “US-ASEAN Connect” package will include technical advice on how countries like Indonesia and the Philippines can prepare to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a vast Pacific-wide trade deal that is in the process of being ratified.

“We’ve launched a new effort to help all ASEAN countries understand the key elements of TPP as well as the reforms that could eventually lead to them joining,” Obama said.

Other measures will focus on improving trade ties in the communications and infrastructure sectors among others, streamlining current government programs.

It will also address the power sector, an area where China has been especially active, building dams along the upper Mekong.

In Manila, a University of the Philippines professor cited the need for the government to work with neighboring countries in finding practical ways to mitigate environmental damage in disputed areas in the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea.

“Cooperation is not that easy but… it is possible for the Philippines to also strike cooperative efforts with other countries… We can only hope that we will be able to induce this change in time to minimize further damage which might become irreversible,” Jay Batongbacal, director of the UP Institute of Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea (UP IMLOS), said in a statement. - Romina Cabrera

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RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

Aquino: No plans of arming up vs China By Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) | Updated February 18, 2016 - 4:35pm 2 15 googleplus0 0


President Benigno S. Aquino III delivers his speech during a Speaking Engagement with the Los Angeles World Affairs Council at the Grand Ballroom of the Intercontinental Hotel during his Working Visit to Los Angeles, California, United States of America. Malacañang Photo Bureau/Joseph Vidal

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III clarified that the Philippines does not have intentions of arming itself despite rising tensions in the disputed South China Sea.

China has been building artificial islands in the Spratly Group of Islands in the disputed sea.

"We have zero ambitions in terms of arming ourselves with our own weapons of mass destruction; we have no plans of trying to come up with some sort of deterrents against the military might of that superpower," Aquino said in his speech before the Los Angeles World Affairs Council on Tuesday.

Aquino added that the Philippines sought a legal and peaceful resolution on the maritime dispute against China given its limited resources.

Manila earlier filed an arbitration case against Beijing before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, questioning the latter's nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.

"In other words, in the classic argument of guns versus butter, we would rather spend our limited resources on the butter side of that equation. Yet, like all nations, we need to defend our rights," the president said.

READ MORE...

The president expressed his hope that the arbitral tribunal will rule in favor of the Philippines and that China will adhere to the ruling.

READ: Philippines expecting Hague ruling vs China by May

"Given enough time and sensibilities to the Asian concept of 'losing face' perhaps we can get them to be more reasonable in their actions towards the smaller countries around the periphery of the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea," Aquino said.

Aquino, US President Barack Obama and other Southeast Asian leaders earlier issued a joint declaration expressing their commitment to keeping peace in the disputed sea following the US-ASEAN Leaders Summit in California.

The leaders agreed to respect the sovereignty of each nation and abide by the provisions of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.


PHILSTAR

US says China reneges on vow not to militarize sea By Matthew Pennington and Robert Burns (Associated Press) | Updated February 18, 2016 - 8:21am 5 18 googleplus1 0


Woody Island, part of the Paracel chain in the South China Sea, claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam. Philstar.com / Google Earth

WASHINGTON — The United States warned Wednesday of rising tensions in the South China Sea after China appeared to have placed a surface-to-air missile system on a disputed island.

Taiwan's defense ministry said that China had positioned anti-aircraft missiles on Woody Island in the Paracel chain, which is occupied by China but also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said commercial satellite imagery appeared to indicate China has deployed a surface-to-air missile system. Another U.S. official gave a more direct confirmation of the deployment on Woody Island. The official, who was not authorized to discuss the information publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said it is unclear whether the deployment is intended for the long-term.

The deployment follows China's building of new islands by piling sand atop reefs and then adding airstrips and military installations. The buildup is seen as part of Beijing's efforts to claim virtually the entire disputed sea and its resources, which has prompted some of its wary neighbors to draw closer to the U.S.

CONTINUE READING...

READ ORIGINAL REPORT: China deploys missiles in contested South China Sea island


This image with notations provided by ImageSat International N.V., Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016, shows satellite images of Woody Island, the largest of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. ImageSat International N.V. via AP World

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi accused the media of hyping the issue and saying more attention should be paid to the "public goods and services" provided by China's development of its maritime claims.

China's actions in the South China Sea have becoming a source of tension not just with other Asian governments that claim territory there, but with Washington. Secretary of State John Kerry said the signs of increasing militarization contradicted a public assurance from Chinese President Xi Jinping when he visited the White House last September.


Wang Yi

"When President Xi was here in Washington, he stood in the Rose Garden with President Obama and said China will not militarize the South China Sea. But there is every evidence every day that there has been an increase in militarization," Kerry said before meeting with Poland's foreign minister in Washington.

"It's a serious concern," he said, adding that he expected the U.S. would have a "very serious conversation" with China on the issue in the next few days.

U.S. network Fox News reported that China had moved two batteries of the HQ-9 surface-to-air missilesystem, along with radar targeting arrays on Woody island.

HIS Jane's Intelligence Review agreed with that conclusion in its assessment of commercial satellite imagery of the island.

The review's deputy editor Neil Ashdown said that depending on the version of the HQ-9 deployed, the system has a range of between 125 kilometers (78 miles) and 230 kilometers (143 miles), and would be the most advanced surface-to-air missile system currently deployed on land in the South China Sea. He described that as a significant military escalation.

Reports of the deployment came shortly after President Barack Obama wrapped up a summit in California on Tuesday with Southeast Asian leaders, who called for the peaceful resolution of the region's maritime disputes through legal means.

Obama said the leaders had discussed, "the need for tangible steps in the South China Sea to lower tensions, including a halt to further reclamation, new construction and militarization of disputed areas."

That has been a frequent appeal from Washington in the past two years, but to little effect.

U.S. officials say China has reclaimed 3,200 acres (1,300 hectares) of land, mostly in the Spratly Island group and has recently conducted test flights to an island there with a newly built 10,000-foot (3,050-meter) airstrip. The Paracels lie further north.

Although not one of the six governments with territorial claims in the South China Sea, the U.S. says it has a national interest in the region's stability and freedom of navigation and overflight in and above what are some of the world's busiest sea lanes.


McCAIN

Republican Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Wednesday that China's actions demonstrated Beijing's desire to resort to coercion and President Xi's "cavalier disregard for his public commitments to the United States."

He said the U.S. should consider "raising the costs for Beijing."

Called Yongxingdao by China, Woody Island has an artificial harbor, an airport, roads, army posts and other buildings. Recent satellite imagery appears to show it is adding a helicopter base likely dedicated to anti-submarine warfare missions.

China's move is likely to rattle Vietnam the most because of its proximity to the Paracels and because of a history of maritime tensions with China that spiked in 2014 with a standoff after China moved a massive oil rig there.

__

Associated Press writers Matthew Lee in Washington, Ralph Jennings in Taipei, Taiwan, Christopher Bodeen in Beijing, Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, and Tran Van Minh in Hanoi, Vietnam, contributed to this report.


BBC, UK

Pope Francis questions Donald Trump's Christianity 18 February 2016 From the section US Election 2016


COMPOSITE PHOTOS OF 'THE' DONALD AND THE POPE. GOOGLED IMAGES ,MEDIA CAPTION: Pope Francis has questioned US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's Christianity The Nyc businessman supports deporting almost 11 million undocumented immigrants. FROM CNBC: Presidential hopeful Donald Trump insisted Wednesday night that he has what it takes to get Mexico to build a wall along the U.S. border. "We're going to do a wall; we're going to have a big, fat beautiful door on the wall; we're going to have people come in, but they're going to come in legally," Trump said at the third Republican debate, hosted by CNBC.

Pope Francis said "a person who thinks only about building walls... and not of building bridges, is not Christian".

The New York businessman supports deporting nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Calling himself a "proud Christian", Mr Trump blamed Mexico for the Pope's remarks, calling them "disgraceful".

Mr Trump has alleged that Mexico sends "rapists" and criminals to the US.

Pope Francis made the comments at the end of a six-day trip to Mexico.

"A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not of building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel," he said.

He declined to say whether Americans should vote for Mr Trump, who is leading the Republican race for president.

"I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and I will give him the benefit of the doubt," the Pope said.

READ MORE...

In response to a question about whether contraception was allowed to prevent the transmission of the Zika virus, the Pope said that for some cases the "lesser of two evils" can be used. He said abortion "is a crime, an absolute evil," but that avoiding pregnancy is not.

Addressing a rally in South Carolina, Mr Trump responded to the Pope's comments.

"For a religious leader to question a person's faith is disgraceful. I am proud to be a Christian," Mr Trump said. "No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man's religion or faith."

"[The pope] said negative things about me. Because the Mexican government convinced him that Trump is not a good guy," he said.

----------------------------------------------

Analysis - Jon Sopel, North America editor

Did Mr Trump need to take on the Pope? Well, almost certainly yes.

Because in god-fearing South Carolina, the next state to vote in the primary process - to have the Pope say that he is unchristian is potentially very damaging.

And over the course of the campaign, the billionaire property developer has been at pains to prove his religious credentials, appearing at rallies with a copy of the Bible that his mother had given him as a child.

Trump v Pope... who wins?
Excerpt from this link: "The one thing we've learnt about Donald Trump since he entered the presidential race is that turning the other cheek is not his style. Ever. He's lashed out at his critics and bullied his opponents. He has mocked the disabled and had protesters bundled out of his rallies. Only yesterday he sent a "cease and desist" letter to his Republican rival Ted Cruz, threatening legal action over "lies" he'd allegedly committed. But issuing a writ to the Vatican is not a course of action his lawyers would recommend. We're talking about the leader of the world's 1.2bn Roman Catholics, the Bishop of Rome, the successor to St Peter, the vicar of Jesus Christ, the Holy Father - yes the Pope is all of that and more (good thing he's so well known he doesn't have to produce a business card with all that on it). Pope in MexicoImage copyrightGetty Images Image caption The Pope has millions of followers - on Earth and on social media Well, if you're Donald Trump, you meet fire with fire. The only difference between the manner of his reply to the Pope than to his conventional political opponents was that it was carefully scripted. He didn't ad lib as he normally does. He read very carefully from the words on the page." THE LINK IS WORTH READING IN FULL...TY!.

BACK TO THE ANALYSIS:
He [Trump] also said the Vatican was the so-called Islamic State group's "ultimate trophy" and that if it attacked, "the Pope would have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president because this would not have happened".

Two of Mr Trump's Republican rivals, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, both Catholics, said they look to the Pope for spiritual guidance, not political direction.

Mr Rubio said the US has a right and an obligation to control its borders.

Mr Bush told reporters he "supports walls where it's appropriate" and that "Christianity is between he and his creator. I don't think we need to discuss that".


Jerry Lamon Falwell, Jr. is the president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, appointed in 2007 upon his father's death. Jerry Falwell Jr., whose father, the Rev. Jerry Falwell, founded Liberty University and the Moral Majority movement. Mr. Falwell Jr’s decision to support a candidate surprised his associates, chiefly because of what they described as his long reluctance to become a political figure, unlike his father, who, before his death in 2007, helped mold conservative Christians into a powerful voting bloc. Mr. Falwell Jr even described his decision as “unusual and out of character.” NYTimes online

Jerry Falwell Jr, the president of the conservative Christian Liberty University and a Trump supporter, told CNN that the Pope had gone too far.

"Jesus never intended to give instructions to political leaders on how to run a country," he said.

Earlier this month, Mr Trump called Pope Francis "a very political person" in an interview with Fox News.

"I don't think he understands the danger of the open border we have with Mexico," Mr Trump said.

American Catholics are seen as an important voting bloc in US elections. Many support Republican candidates because of their opposition to abortion and gay marriage.

Mr Trump has been courting the evangelical Christian vote, often successfully, but his fellow Republican rivals have tried to argue that his religiosity is not sincere.


Donald Trump family photoImage copyrightInstagram -Image caption:
Donald Trump was raised as a Presbyterian

Trump's religious views: In his own words:

"I'm going to protect Christians" (January 2016)

"I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don't bring God into that picture. I don't" ( July 2015)

"I believe in God. I am Christian. I think The Bible is certainly, it is the book...I'm a Protestant, I'm a Presbyterian. And you know I've had a good relationship with the church over the years. I think religion is a wonderful thing. I think my religion is a wonderful religion." (2011)

His proposed Muslim ban: "Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life." (December 2015)

Muslims in general: "Most Muslims are wonderful people, but is there a Muslim problem? Look what's happening. Look what happened right here in my city with the World Trade Center and lots of other places." (2011)


Ted Cruz's campaign is now running an advertisement featuring a 1999 television interview Mr Trump gave in which he said he was "very pro-choice" when it comes to abortion.

In January, Mr Trump faced ridicule after flubbing a Bible verse when giving a speech to a Christian university in Virginia.
He has said he is a Presbyterian Christian but has had trouble recalling his favourite Bible verse when asked.

He has referred to communion, the Christian sacrament signifying Jesus' last supper, as having "the little wine" and "the little cracker."

Donald Trump: In-depth

22 things that Donald Trump believes - What are his policies and beliefs?

What would a Donald Trump presidency be like? - Anthony Zurcher imagines a Trump White House

Donald Trump and the politics of paranoia - He is just the latest example of a tendency in US politics that goes back centuries

Trump turns notoriety into a win - After New Hampshire, is Mr Trump unstoppable?


THE GUARDIAN, UK

Donald Trump calls Pope Francis 'disgraceful' for questioning his faith Ben Jacobs in Kiawah Island, South Carolina @Bencjacobs Thursday 18 February 2016 18.18 GMT Last modified on Friday 19 February 2016 00.50 GMT Share on Pinterest Share on LinkedIn Share on Google+ Shares 11,407 Comments


GOOGLED IMAGES

Donald Trump has called Pope Francis “disgraceful” over the pontiff’s suggestion the Republican presidential frontrunner was “not a Christian” for his plan to build a wall at the Mexican border.

Flying back to Rome from a trip to Mexico, the pope said: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”

Trump responded swiftly at a campaign event in South Carolina, saying: “For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful.”

“No leader, especially a religious leader, has the right to question another man’s religion or faith,” he told a packed room at a golf course resort. Trump then accused the Mexican government of “using the pope as a pawn”.

“They should be ashamed of themselves, especially when so many lives are involved and illegal immigration is rampant and bad for the United States.”

During his in-flight press conference, the pope insisted he did not mean to sway any Americans with his comments. “As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that,” he said.

“I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.”

In a press release timed to coincide with his rally, Trump suggested that the leader of the Catholic church would regret not supporting his candidacy. “If and when the Vatican is attacked by Isis, which as everyone knows is Isis’s ultimate trophy,” Trump said, “the pope can have only wished and prayed that Donald Trump would have been president because this would not have happened.

READ MORE...

“Isis would have been eradicated unlike what is happening now with our all talk, no action politicians.”

But the billionaire said he did not take the pope’s remarks personally. “The pope said negative things about me because the Mexican government convinced him Trump is not a good guy,” he said.

“The Mexican government has made many disparaging remarks about me to the pope because they want to continuing ripping us off,” he added.

He also dismissed the pope’s remarks in general: “Now it’s probably going to be all over the world. Who the hell cares? OK? I don’t care.”

After the event, attendees approached by the Guardian at the Trump rally took the side of the Republican frontrunner. “I thought the pope was a better person than that,” said Deborah Schwartz, a self-described “Trump groupie” from Round O, South Carolina.

Others simply doubted the pontiff actually used the words he was quoted saying. Elizabeth Wallschlager, a Panamanian immigrant and a Catholic, said: “I don’t think the pope said that.”

An ardent Trump supporter from Kiawah Island, she added: “I think that it’s a misunderstanding. The pope would never say that he doesn’t like anybody. The pope likes everybody.”

With a Republican primary in South Carolina and Democratic caucus in Nevada happening tomorrow, there’s a buzz of energy on the campaign trail today

Even undecided Republicans, such as Dan Brisker of Seabrook Island, had concerns about the pope’s statement. “I think the pope needs to get out of the political arena and stick to the religious,” Brisker said.

“I don’t think [Trump] disparaged the Pope,” he added – with a concession that “sometimes maybe Donald could use some better words”.

The real estate tycoon, whose campaign shot to prominence with his focus on illegal immigration and pledge to “build a wall and make Mexico pay for it”, is heavily favored by polls to win Saturday’s Republican primary in South Carolina.

His rivals in the primary election warily kept clear of the billionaire’s spat with the pontiff. Florida senator Marco Rubio said he wished to reserve judgment until he read the pope’s full comments, but added the US has “not just a right but an obligation” to enforce its immigration laws.

“We’re a sovereign country, and we have a right to control who comes in, when they come in and how they come in,” Rubio told reporters in Anderson, South Carolina.

“Vatican City controls who comes in, when they come in and how they come in as a city state. And as a result, the United States has a right to do that as well.”

Himself a Catholic, Rubio said Pope Francis is “the head of the church, he’s the successor of Peter, is what I believe, and I have tremendous respect and admiration for him”.

Marco Rubio: ‘I have tremendous respect and admiration for’ the pope. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Another opponent and converted Catholic, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, told reporters he would not comment on Trump’s faith. “His Christianity is between him and his creator,” Bush said.

Asked about the pope’s statement about walls, Bush said: “I don’t know what that means. I support walls and fencing where it’s appropriate, for sure ... I think it’s okay as a Catholic to get my guidance as a Catholic from the Pope but certainly not economic policy or environmental policy.”

Trump has previously questioned the faith of another adversary, Ted Cruz, saying: “You gotta remember, in all fairness, to the best of my knowledge, not too many evangelicals come out of Cuba, OK?”

Cruz’s father is an evangelical pastor who emigrated from Cuba, and the senator has pursued extremely religious voters throughout his campaign.

Trump has long sought to prove his own religious bona fides to social conservative voters. The Republican frontrunner has often stated on the stump that the Bible is his favorite book, with his own bestseller The Art of the Deal second.

“As much as I love The Art of the Deal, it’s not even close. We take the Bible all the way,” Trump said in August.

Trump has also repeatedly pledged that if elected, “we’re gonna be saying Merry Christmas again”, but his attempts to demonstrate his faith have gone awkwardly, at best, on several occasions. In a speech at the evangelical Liberty University, for instance, Trump referred to “Two Corinthians” rather than “Second Corinthians”, and later that month he tried to put cash on a communion plate while attending mass in Iowa.

He has also praised the pontiff in the past. Not long after Pope Francis was elected to the Holy See in spring 2013, Trump tweeted: “The new Pope is a humble man, very much like me, which probably explains why I like him so much!”

Sabrina Siddiqui contributed reporting from Anderson, South Carolina.


CNN POLITICS

Donald Trump tones down fight with Pope Francis Daniel Burke-Profile-Image1
By Daniel Burke, CNN Religion Editor Updated 3:18 PM ET, Fri February 19, 2016 |

Vatican spokesman says Pope's remarks not "a personal attack"


Donald Trump at CNN town hall: Pope is a "wonderful guy"

(CNN)Nobody wants to tangle with the Pope -- not even Donald Trump.

One of the more unlikely battles to jolt a presidential campaign emerged Thursday when Pope Francis said Trump is "not Christian" if he wants to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump, true to form, shot back that the pontiff's comments were "disgraceful."

But by Thursday evening, the GOP front-runner was doing something unusual: de-escalating a fight.

"I don't like fighting with the Pope," Trump said at a GOP town hall in South Carolina hosted by CNN. "I like his personality; I like what he represents."

Trump called the Pope a "wonderful guy" and blamed the day's drama on the press.

Donald Trump responds to the Pope's comments

Donald Trump responds to the Pope's comments 02:16 - "I don't think this is a fight," Trump said. "I think he said something much softer than was originally reported by the media."

Trump added he would meet with the Pope "anytime he wants."

On Friday, a Vatican spokesman said that, although the reporter at the papal press conference asked Francis specifically about Trump, the Pope's answer should be interpreted more generally.

"It didn't intend to be in any way neither a personal attack nor an indication in how to vote," the Rev. Federico Lombardi told Vatican Radio.

READ MORE...

Lombardi also noted that the Pope said he was not sure exactly what Trump had said about illegal immigration and "would give him the benefit of the doubt" until he did.

Pope suggests Trump 'is not Christian'

Trump has built his campaign around confrontations with everyone from Fox News' Megyn Kelly to GOP opponent Jeb Bush, so the change in tone was striking. What accounts for the shift?

The obvious answer is that he doesn't want to alienate Catholic voters, who make up about 20% of the American electorate and likely don't want to see politicians pontificating about their Pope.

Catholics consider the Pope not only the vicar of Christ but also the successor to St. Peter, who legendarily holds the keys to the Pearly Gates.

But, like most popes throughout history, Francis is also a political leader.

He heads a sovereign state -- Vatican City -- and meets regularly with world powers. When Francis made his comments about Trump's stance on illegal immigration, he was returning from Mexico, where he met with government leaders, including President Enrique Peña Nieto.

And the Roman Catholic Church, most especially through its bishops, takes policy positions on a wide range of issues, from abortion to combatting the Zika virus.

In that sense, the Pope's remarks on Trump's proposal to deport undocumented immigrants and build a big wall between the United States and Mexico weren't terribly surprising.

Trump challengers react to Pope's comments

Trump's rivals at Thursday night's town hall largely stayed away from the brouhaha.

When asked about the controversy, Ohio Gov. John Kasich simply said he was "pro-Pope."

"This man has brought more sense of hope and more about the do's in life than the don'ts," Kasich said, referring to Francis. "This guy has been so humble."

Bush, who is a devout Catholic, didn't criticize the Pope's comments. But he said he personally wouldn't "question people's Christianity."

"I think that's a relationship they have with their Lord and savior and themselves. So I just don't think it's appropriate to question Donald Trump's faith," Bush said at the town hall. "He knows what his faith is."

The Pope, 'The Donald' and the wall between them


CNN WITH ANDERSON COOPER: CNN doubtless could not believe its luck that it had scheduled a Republican Town Hall meeting on the same day the Pope questioned Donald Trump’s Christianity. “You’ve had an interesting day!” said Anderson Cooper with ill-concealed excitement as Trump took a South Carolina stage on Thursday night.

“Ah, the pope is a wonderful guy,” said Trump, downplaying any beef with the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church.

Trump then paid the Pope what is probably a very high compliment in Trump-speak: “I like him as a personality.”

Trump went on to say that he suspected the Pope didn’t fully understand the Republican candidate’s concerns about border security.

And anyway, said Trump, “He’s got an awfully big wall at the Vatican.”

Interestingly, this was almost exactly the same joke Stephen Colbert later made on Thursday night’s Late Show. (I guess they have been talking more on the Trump Phone that Colbert set up the night before.)

You have to love the way the freewheeling Trump cares not a bit how he might besmirch his fellow Republicans. Talking to Cooper about his health care proposals, Trump distinguished himself from his party this way: “Here’s where I’m a little bit different — I don’t want people dying on the streets… and that’s not a very Republican thing to say.”

Cooper asked a few light-hearted questions, about what kind of music and fast-food Trump likes. Trump said he likes Big Macs and recently “had Kentucky Fried Chicken — not the worst thing in the world.” Music? Trump reeled off a list including Elton John, the Beatles, and Michael Jackson, who, he reminded us, lived with then-newlywed Lisa Marie Presley in Trump Tower for a period. “People say they didn’t get along — not true. They were up there [in their room] for a week!”

Trump opined that Jackson was an “enormous talent” who “lost his confidence because of bad, bad, bad plastic surgery.”

Preceding Trump on the CNN special were John Kasich and Jeb Bush. (Each candidate was given a separate interview by Cooper and members of an audience.) Among the highlights: Kasich said he was “pro-Pope.” Bush was asked what his favorite kind of music is. “I like country music,” said Bush promptly. “Zac Brown [and] the Florida Georgia Band.” Well, close: Florida Georgia Line will probably be flattered to hear they’re a Jeb fave.

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