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ABU DHABI: EXPATS TAKE FLIGHT AS ABU DHABI TIGHTENS PURSE STRINGS
(Austerity driven by low oil price prompts high-earning foreigners to quit the emirate)
[RELATED: AN EXPAT'S STORY -Why Most Filipino Expats in the UAE Go Home Broke]



FEBRUARY 8 -The sky line of Abu Dhabi. The capital of the United Arab Emirates has been slashing spending in response to low oil prices, leading to job losses and expatriates leaving
There are few bigger attractions for expatriates seeking a top-paying job in the oil-rich Gulf than the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds. But as Abu Dhabi implements a string of cost-cutting measures even Adia’s staff are starting to feel the pinch. Along with other government employees in the United Arab Emirates’ capital they now have to pay their own utility bills, which in some cases can exceed $20,000 a year, and cover more of their medical expenses. “The purse strings are tightening,” says a senior investment banker in the emirate. Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s top oil producer and the wealthiest of its seven emirates, has long epitomised the petrodollar wealth of the Gulf — Adia manages assets estimated at $800bn. But government austerity measures now illustrate how the region’s leaders are being forced to take radical action in response to prolonged low oil prices and implement politically sensitive policies that were once considered a taboo in societies where government largesse has been the norm. READ MORE...RELATED,  AN EXPAT'S STORY -Why Most Filipino Expats in the UAE Go Home Broke...

ALSO: VATICAN FINANCE CHIEF CARDINAL PELL HITS OUT AT 'ANTI-RELIGION' AGENDAS
[ALSO: This is how Pope Francis keeps his peace amid Vatican 'corruption']


FEBRUARY 9 -Australian Cardinal George Pell arrives for a meeting at the Synod Hall in the Vatican. (REUTERS/Tony Gentile / MANILA BULLETIN)
Vatican finance chief George Pell Thursday hit out at calls that he return to Australia to assist in a child sex probe into him, railing against “anti-religion” agendas. Pell, the country’s most senior Catholic cleric, was interviewed in Rome by Australian police last October over historical sex assault claims. He strongly denies the allegations and no charges have yet been laid. The Melbourne Herald Sun this week said a brief of evidence concerning the matter had now been handed to the Director of Public Prosecutions. It coincided with the final stages of a long-running national inquiry into institutional responses to child sex abuse, which heard on Monday that seven percent of Catholic priests were accused of abusing children between 1950 and 2010. Pell has appeared before the royal commission three times, once in person and twice via video-link. READ MORE...ALSO,
This is how Pope Francis keeps his peace amid Vatican 'corruption'...

ALSO
Exclusive: Alleged mastermind tells Obama 9/11 was America's fault


FEBRUARY 9 -This undated photo downloaded from the Arabic language Internet site www.muslm.net  and purporting to show a man identified by the Internet site as Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the Sep. 11 attacks, is seen in detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.© AP Photo/www.muslm.net  MIAMI — The alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 terror attacks wrote former President Barack Obama in a long suppressed letter that America brought the 9/11 attacks on itself for years of foreign policy that killed innocent people across the world. "It was not we who started the war against you in 9/11. It was you and your dictators in our land," Khalid Sheik Mohammed, 51, writes in the 18-page letter to Obama, whom he addressed as "the head of the snake" and president of "the country of oppression and tyranny." It is dated January 2015 but didn't reach the White House until a military judge ordered Guantanamo prison to deliver it days before Obama left office. In it, the man on trial for his life at Guantanamo as the alleged architect of the hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field adds that he neither fears a death sentence nor life in a prison cell. He also appends a 50-page manuscript he wrote, "The Truth About Death," illustrated with a picture of a noose. READ MORE...

ALSO: Trump backs ‘One China’ policy in first phone call with Xi
[RELATED: Trump denounced nuclear arms treaty in phone call with Putin – sources]
[RELATED(2), Trump, Japan's Abe discuss concerns about trade, security at summit]


FEBRUARY 10 -Pledge to abide by protocol of recognising Beijing not Taipei set to ease US-China tensions © EPA/AFP WASHINGTON, D.C.: President Donald Trump reaffirmed Washington’s ‘One China’ policy on Thursday (Friday in Manila) in his first conversation with Xi Jinping, in an apparent effort to ease tensions after angering Beijing by questioning the policy that underpins Sino-US relations. In a phone call with China’s leader, the US president agreed to “honor” a position that effectively acknowledges that Taiwan is not separate from China. “President Trump agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honor our ‘One China’ policy,” the White House said in a statement, adding that the two leaders had “extended invitations to meet in their respective countries.” The White House called the phone discussion—which came on the eve of Trump’s slated meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe—”extremely cordial,” saying the leaders “look forward to further talks with very successful outcomes.” Xi, a nationalist who took the helm of the Communist Party-ruled country in 2012, welcomed Trump’s gesture. READ MORE...RELATED, Trump denounced nuclear arms treaty in phone call with Putin – sources...RELATED(2), Trump, Japan's Abe discuss concerns about trade, security at summit...

ALSO: Refugees Fleeing U.S. Make Long, Cold Trek To Manitoba
[RELATED: Undocumented immigrants rounded up in US major cities]


FEBRUARY 13 -A sign post for the small border town of Emerson, near the Canada-U.S border crossing where refugees make their way often on foot into Manitoba. (Photo: Lyle Stafford/Reuters)
Afraid of what President Donald Trump's immigration policies could mean for their future, some refugees have been crossing into Canada at the Manitoba border. Manitoba RCMP have confirmed 22 people crossed the border near Emerson, approximately 100 kilometres south of Winnipeg, over the weekend. Nineteen arrived Saturday and another three on Sunday. Farhan Ahmed was among Saturday's asylum seekers. He told CBC News his group, which included a family with children, walked through deep snow in cold temperatures for about 12 kilometres before they called 911 for help. RCMP picked up the group and brought them to a Canada Border Services Agency location where they could make refugee claims, he said. READ MORE...RELATED, Undocumented immigrants rounded up...

ALSO: Pope on Trump's travel ban - “A Christian Would Never Say ‘You Will Pay for That.'”
[Pope Francis reveals anti-stress secrets;
"Italians offer a good lesson - To live in peace have a healthy 'couldn't care less' attitude]


FEBRUARY 9 -Pope Francis‘s criticism of President Donald Trump continues.
During a weekly address on Wednesday, the Pope did not name Trump, but made an undeniable reference to his controversial travel ban, an executive order barring entry to the United States for citizens of seven Muslim majority countries. He encouraged people to “build bridges” and combat the bad in the world with good. “In the social and civil context as well, I appeal not to create walls, but to build bridges,” he said, according to the AP. “To not respond to evil with evil. To defeat evil with good, the offense with forgiveness.” Catholic leaders in the United States, including Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, and Cardinal Joseph Tobin, archbishop of Newark, criticized the ban or the withholding of funds from sanctuary cities as well, according to The Washington Post. Cupich called it a “dark moment in U.S. history.” His most pointed remark towards Trump came when he made a reference to Trump’s claims that Mexico would pay for the much-disputed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. READ MORE...RELATED, Pope Francis reveals anti-stress secrets; "Italians offer a good lesson - To live in peace have a healthy 'couldn't care less' attitude...


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Expats take flight as Abu Dhabi tightens purse strings


The sky line of Abu Dhabi. The capital of the United Arab Emirates has been slashing spending in response to low oil prices, leading to job losses and expatriates leaving

Austerity driven by low oil price prompts high-earning foreigners to quit the emirate

MANILA,
FEBRUARY 13, 2017 (myFINANCIAL TIMES 2017) Published FEBRUARY 8, 2017 by: Simeon Kerr in Abu Dhabi - There are few bigger attractions for expatriates seeking a top-paying job in the oil-rich Gulf than the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds.

But as Abu Dhabi implements a string of cost-cutting measures even Adia’s staff are starting to feel the pinch. Along with other government employees in the United Arab Emirates’ capital they now have to pay their own utility bills, which in some cases can exceed $20,000 a year, and cover more of their medical expenses.

“The purse strings are tightening,” says a senior investment banker in the emirate.

Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s top oil producer and the wealthiest of its seven emirates, has long epitomised the petrodollar wealth of the Gulf — Adia manages assets estimated at $800bn. But government austerity measures now illustrate how the region’s leaders are being forced to take radical action in response to prolonged low oil prices and implement politically sensitive policies that were once considered a taboo in societies where government largesse has been the norm.

READ MORE...

Living costs have soared as civil servants’ packages have been trimmed and electricity tariffs driven up in reforms to government subsidy programmes. At the same time, delays to multibillion-dollar projects and spending cuts have triggered widespread redundancies, not least in the oil and gas sector. Adnoc, the state oil company, has shed 5,000 jobs in the past 18 months,

The result is the flight of expatriates who had descended on Abu Dhabi during the oil boom of the 2000s as the emirate embarked on an ambitious programme to transform itself into a luxurious business and tourism destination.

“2016 was a nightmare, the worst year in three decades,” said a headhunter who recruits for senior positions in the emirate. “The top and bottom end of expats are on their way out, leaving a squeezed middle, rather like in the 1980s and 1990s.”

The highest-paid European general managers were leaving and being replaced by cheaper staff, he said.


A building site on Saadiyat Island, one of Abu Dhabi's flagship developments © Bloomberg

Projects valued at $81bn have been put on hold while others worth $69bn are continuing, according to the Middle East Economic Digest, a business intelligence provider. Those delayed include showpiece schemes such as the Louvre museum on Saadiyat Island, that was supposed to begin welcoming visitors in 2012. Contracts for the Zayed National Museum and Guggenheim, which are also integral to Abu Dhabi’s efforts to become a regional cultural hub, have yet to be tendered.

Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, says: “The economy is very much driven by government, state-related entity spending, and the focus has been on fiscal consolidation and adjusting to the lower oil price environment.

“There has been a marked slowdown in economic activity, and the focus will probably remain on further adjustment albeit at a weaker pace in 2017.”

Fitch, the rating agency, says Abu Dhabi government spending shrunk by 10 per cent last year and 18 per cent in 2015, slowing non-oil GDP growth to 3.5 per cent last year from 7.6 per cent in 2015.

The government has also sought to raise revenues to bolster its coffers.

Electricity prices for expatriates rose 30 per cent this year, while Emiratis’ power and water tariffs, which are lower, were increased by 34 per cent. It was the third year running that such increases were imposed. A sales tax is due to be introduced in the UAE and other Gulf states for the first time in 2018.

Foreigners are also being hit by a new municipality tax of 3 per cent on annual rent, backdated to February 2016.

“You feel the impact from the slowdown and rising costs, with people leaving or sending their families home — there are empty houses in my compound for the first time in many, many years,” says an Abu Dhabi-based banker.


The Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

More job losses are expected as the government looks to rationalise its diverse range of affiliated companies. Bankers estimate there could be more than 2,000 job losses caused by the merger of National Bank of Abu Dhabi and First Gulf Bank, including a cull of expensive senior management and cuts across the national branch network.

Mubadala and Ipic, the Abu Dhabi state investment firms, are also being merged in another cost-saving measure.

Ripple effects are being felt across the emirate. Dentists complain that families are no longer opting for as many expensive procedures, such as brace fittings for children.

“They are already calling it the Adia effect,” the investment banker adds.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.

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ALSO FROM LINKEDin PULSE NEWS

Why Most Filipino Expats in the UAE Go Home Broke Published on January 7, 2015


By Ma. Gizelle Ferrer -Marketing Manager at Al Tair Inspection Services

Growing up with 3 sisters in a middle-class family, you could say that we really could not afford to get the extras that other kids had. I had classmates from the exclusive girls school I was attending whose parents were CEO's of their own companies, big-time lawyers, doctors, architects and engineers.

They had everything a kid like me would have dreamed of. But they were nothing compared to the children of OFW's (Overseas Filipino workers). They were the ones who had the biggest walking dolls available, the latest Tretorn rubber shoes and the most fashionable acid-washed denim skirts. This was the age when the Filipinos followed the Saudi Dream.

This was the age when Filipinos came by the thousands to Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East to work mainly in the construction industry. They would come home for vacations wearing the standard thick gold chains, denim jacket and aviator Raybans, and I was in awe.

Now in my 30's and an expat myself, I looked back to see what happened to the kids I once envied. Most of them are now expats themselves, working in the USA, UAE and in cruise ships and oil tankers. Their goal is to provide their families with houses, cars and good education. Whatever happened to the money their parents had saved up? The answer is, unfortunately, nothing. Their parents had no savings. No house to call their own, no funds for the children's college fees, nothing. It was as if the ten or more years they spent working abroad never happened.

Why is it indeed that most Filipino expats go home broke?

1. Living the high life during vacation. - In the Philippines, when someone goes abroad to work and comes home for vacation, they will be expected to treat everybody to dinner, visit expensive theme parks with the whole clan, stay in 4-5 star hotels for the weekend and have something to give to anyone who comes by their house. Taking a vacation for a month usually means spending 100-200% more than what they usually earn.

2. Relatives living the high life back home. - I see people sending an average of 40% of their salary back home. Based on a 5,000AED salary,the 2,000.00AED you send back home would convert to roughly 24,000.00PHP, which I would say is enough for a small family. Then why is it that a week or a few days before payday, relatives would start calling to ask when you would be sending money? Why is it that every time there is a medical emergency, you would be expected to shell out for the hospital bill? Because, in a household where 150 Pesos used to be the food allowance per day when you were earning 10,000 a month, the food allowance increased to 500 Pesos a day now that you are sending 24,000 a month. Where before, clothes shopping was isolated to Christmas, birthdays and special occasions, it is now done every other week. Where before, kids would be content to bring a packed lunch to school and have only 50 Pesos pocket money per day, they are now accustomed to having 150 Pesos or more as their daily allowance.

3. Spending beyond your means. - Let's face it, Dubai is one of the best places in the world to shop. People would not think twice about paying 800AED for a pair of boots, 400AED for sunglasses or 500AED for a bag because it's on SALE, without considering the fact that the only money they have left to spend is 1000.00 for the whole month. Majority of shops here offer the "Get 50AED voucher when you spend 200AED" promotion. Who would want to pass up a deal like that? The malls in Abu Dhabi always have these sales going on, and I see a lot of expats maxing out their credit cards because they "had to" get the new iphone 6, "had to" buy those gorgeous shoes and "had to" get a massage at the ladies salon.

4. Thinking it will never end. - This is the common mistake of Filipinos. Just because you are earning more than enough now doesn't mean it will last forever. Remember, you wont be as strong as you are now when you are 60 and still working in construction. Your skin won't be as supple as now when you are 50 and still working as a receptionist. It will end.

BE SMART, SAVE. Aside from the usual advice to save, invest. You can invest in stocks or in real estate back home. Ask your relatives to set something aside from the money that you are sending them so that they won't have to ask you to send some every time there is an emergency. If they are unable to save, do it for them by cutting the amount of money that you send home and have them make do with what budget is given. Now you know the reason why we go home as if nothing happened, it's up to you to decide what to do to combat it. Don't be caught in the viscous cycle of people going abroad to earn money and going home for retirement broke.


MANILA BULLETIN

Vatican Finance Chief hits out at ‘anti-religion’ agendas (MANILA BULLETIN) Published February 9, 2017, 10:43 AM By Agence France-Presse -


Australian Cardinal George Pell arrives for a meeting at the Synod Hall in the Vatican. (REUTERS/Tony Gentile / MANILA BULLETIN)

 VATICAN -Vatican finance chief George Pell Thursday hit out at calls that he return to Australia to assist in a child sex probe into him, railing against “anti-religion” agendas.

Pell, the country’s most senior Catholic cleric, was interviewed in Rome by Australian police last October over historical sex assault claims. He strongly denies the allegations and no charges have yet been laid.

The Melbourne Herald Sun this week said a brief of evidence concerning the matter had now been handed to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

It coincided with the final stages of a long-running national inquiry into institutional responses to child sex abuse, which heard on Monday that seven percent of Catholic priests were accused of abusing children between 1950 and 2010.

Pell has appeared before the royal commission three times, once in person and twice via video-link.

READ MORE...

The Greens party on Wednesday filed a motion in the upper house Senate, which was widely supported, calling for him to return to assist police and prosecutors.

“The Greens have opted for an obvious political stunt while knowing full well Cardinal Pell has consistently cooperated with the royal commission and the Victorian police,” his spokesman said in a statement to AFP.

“The suggestion that Cardinal Pell should be accountable for all the wrongdoings of Church personnel throughout Australia over many decades is not only unjust and completely fanciful but also acts to shield those in the Church who should be called to account for their failures.”

The statement added that Pell had taken “decisive actions to address the evils of abuse”.

“Their (the Greens) anti-religion agenda is notorious and most fair-minded Australians would see this motion as pathetic point-scoring,” he said.

The Greens said Pell had “done a very good job at avoiding a return to Australia”.

“We know that the Victorian police now have allegations of criminal misconduct against Cardinal Pell. It is time he came back to Australia to assist with investigations on this matter,” they said in a statement.

The allegations against him came from two men, now in their 40s, who said he groped them in summer 1978-79 at the Eureka pool in Ballarat, Australia, where the cleric grew up and worked.

The allegations were the subject of the police interview in Rome.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has also alleged Pell was naked in front of three young boys, believed to be aged eight to 10, in a surf club changing room in summer 1986-87.

There have also reportedly been complaints relating to his time as Archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s.

During the royal commission, ordered by the government in 2012, Pell admitted he “mucked up” in dealing with paedophile priests in Victoria state in the 1970s.

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

ALSO FROM THE CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY ONLINE

This is how Pope Francis keeps his peace amid Vatican 'corruption' by Elise Harris


Pope Francis at the Divine Mercy Vigil in St. Peter's Square, April 2, 2016. Credit: L'Osservatore Romano.

Vatican City, Feb 9, 2017 / 08:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a lengthy, unscripted dialogue with 140 male religious superiors, Pope Francis admitted that there is “corruption” inside the Vatican, but said that despite this, his secret to maintaining peace comes from St. Joseph and a strong prayer life.

He also spoke at length on religious life, offering advice to the superiors on how to deal with different scandals in their communities, and explained why he chose youth and discernment as the topic for the next synod of bishops.

When asked how he keeps peace amid tension and opposition, the Pope jested, saying “I don’t take tranquilizers!” and said he’s learned to take the advice given to him by Italians, to maintain “a healthy couldn’t-care-less attitude.”

On a more serious note, however, the Pope recalled that during the general congregations before the conclave that elected him in 2013, “there was talk of reforms. Everyone wanted them.”

“There is corruption in the Vatican,” he said, but added that “I’m at peace.” If a problem comes up, Francis says he writes it down on a piece of paper and puts it underneath a statue of a sleeping St. Joseph he has in his room.

“Now he sleeps on a mattress of notes!” the Pope said, explaining that this is why “I sleep well: it is the grace of God.”

Other than entrusting his problems to the care of St. Joseph, Francis said he has his own daily regimen of personal prayer, including Mass, the rosary, the Liturgy of the Hours and scripture.

After praying, “the peace within me grows...my peace is a gift from the Lord,” Pope Francis said, telling the superiors that each person must try to discover “what the Lord has chosen for them” and must never avoid problems, but carry them with humility.

Pope Francis spoke to 140 Superiors General of male religious organizations and congregations (USG) Nov. 25, 2016, at the end of their 88th general assembly.

The text of the conversation was published Feb. 9 as part of the 4,000th issue of Jesuit-run newspaper La Civilta Cattolica, marking not only the milestone number, but also the paper’s expansion into four languages other than Italian: English, Spanish, French and Korean.

No speeches had been prepared for the meeting in advance, so the unscripted Q&A session, which lasted about three hours, was completely free and off-the-cuff.

When asked by the superiors what advice he had for them in terms of dealing with financial and sexual scandals in their congregations, the Pope said that on the financial point, “the Lord strongly wants consecrated people to be poor.”

“When they are not, the Lord sends a bursar who leads the Institute to bankruptcy!” he said, noting that at times religious congregations are led by an administrator whom they consider to be a friend, but who in reality leads them to “financial ruin.”

The basic quality of someone serving as a bursar “is not to be personally attached to the money,” he said, explaining that it’s also important to check into how banks invest money, because, as an example, “it must never happen that we are investing in weapons.”

On the point of sexual abuse, the Pope noted that frequently abusers have themselves been victims of abuse before committing their own acts, and “abuse is thus sowed into the future and this is devastating.”

“If priests or religious are involved, it is clear that the devil is at work, who ruins the work of Jesus through those who should proclaim him,” he said, but stressed the importance of recognizing that this type of behavior “is a disease.”

“If we are not convinced that this is a disease, we cannot solve the problem,” he said, and urged them to use scrutiny when vetting candidates for religious life, paying careful attention to whether they are “sufficiently emotionally mature” or not.

He told the superiors to “never accept in a religious community or diocese a candidate that has been rejected by another seminar or another institute” without first asking “for very clear and detailed information on the reasons for their rejection.”

When asked what he expected from religious and consecrated persons ahead of the 2018 Synod of Bishops on “Young People, Faith and the Discernment of Vocation,” particularly given the fall of the number of vocations in the West, Pope Francis acknowledged the issue as a problem.

“The decline of religious life in the West worries me,” he said, noting that it’s in part a problem of demographics, but on the other hand vocational pastoral outreach doesn’t seem to meet the expectations of youth.

However, aside from the fall in the quantity of vocations, Pope Francis said there is another thing that worries him: “the rise of some new religious institutes” that bring with them a load of new scandals and problems.

Francis clarified that he doesn’t mean to imply that “there should be no new religious institutes. Absolutely not,” but said he often wonders what is happening when he sees new communities pop up that seem to have a fresh approach, exhibit strength and attract a lot of youth, but in the end “go bankrupt” or are found to be coving scandals.

While some communities are good and work hard, others are not born from “the charism of the Holy Spirit,” but rather from “a human charisma, a charismatic person who attracts by means of their human charms.”

Some of these people, he said, are “restorationist” in the sense that they seem to offer a form of security, but instead “give only rigidity.”

Others, he said, are “Pelagians” in that they want to return to asceticism and penance, and seem “like soldiers ready to do anything for the defense of faith and morals,” but then “some scandal emerges” surrounding the founder.

“We know all about this, right?” he said, but noted that “Jesus has a different style. The Holy Spirit made noise on the day of Pentecost: it was the beginning. But usually the Spirit does not make much noise, it carries the cross.”

The Holy Spirit “is not triumphalist,” he said, saying the attitude doesn’t mesh well with a life of prayer, and that instead, God’s style is to carry the cross “until the Lord says ‘enough.’”

So rather than placing hope in the “sudden, mass blooming of these institutes,” Francis told the superiors to seek “the humble path of Jesus, that of evangelical testimony.”

Pope Francis also reflected on how consecrated people can contribute to the renewal of both the structures and mindset of the Church, voicing his conviction that consecrated persons “are at the forefront” in this area.

On the upcoming 2018 Synod of Bishops, the Pope, when asked how he came up with the theme, said that each participant in the 2015 synod offered three suggestions for possible topics to be discussed in the future.

Youth and the need for better priestly formation were both big topics, he said, but explained that for him personally, discernment was also a big issue to address. So when the title “Young people, faith and vocational discernment” was announced, he accepted it as it was.

“The Church must accompany the young in their journey towards maturity, and it is only with discernment and not abstractions that young people can discover their path in life and live a life open to God and the world,” he said, explaining that the theme is meant to “introduce discernment more forcefully into the life of the Church.”

When asked about the theme of the next three World Youth Days, which will culminate with the 2019 international gathering in Panama, the Pope said he didn’t choose the themes, but that they were suggested by organizers in Latin America.

However, he cautioned that while the Marian themes are important, they must focus on “the real Madonna! Not the Madonna at the head of a post office that every day sends a different letter, saying: ‘My children, do this and then the next day do that.’”

“No, not that Madonna,” he said, noting that “the real Madonna is the one who generates Jesus in our hearts, a Mother. This fashion for a superstar Madonna, who seeks the limelight, is not Catholic.”


MSN WORLD NEWS

Exclusive: Alleged mastermind tells Obama 9/11 was America's fault Miami Herald Carol Rosenberg 7 hrs ago


This undated photo downloaded from the Arabic language Internet site www.muslm.net  and purporting to show a man identified by the Internet site as Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the Sep. 11 attacks, is seen in detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.© AP Photo/www.muslm.net 

MIAMI — The alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 terror attacks wrote former President Barack Obama in a long suppressed letter that America brought the 9/11 attacks on itself for years of foreign policy that killed innocent people across the world.

"It was not we who started the war against you in 9/11. It was you and your dictators in our land," Khalid Sheik Mohammed, 51, writes in the 18-page letter to Obama, whom he addressed as "the head of the snake" and president of "the country of oppression and tyranny." It is dated January 2015 but didn't reach the White House until a military judge ordered Guantanamo prison to deliver it days before Obama left office.

In it, the man on trial for his life at Guantanamo as the alleged architect of the hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field adds that he neither fears a death sentence nor life in a prison cell. He also appends a 50-page manuscript he wrote, "The Truth About Death," illustrated with a picture of a noose.

READ MORE...

"I will be happy to be alone in my cell to worship Allah the rest of my life and repent to Him all my sins and misdeeds," he says in the letter that he wrote at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"And if your court sentences me to death, I will be even happier to meet Allah and the prophets and see my best friends whom you killed unjustly all around the world and to see sheik Osama bin Laden."

The Kuwait-born Pakistani citizen of Baluch ethnic background, lists a long litany of U.S. overseas interventions — from Iraq and Iran to Vietnam and Hiroshima — to justify the worst terror attack on U.S. soil.

But he is particularly focused on the cause of the Palestinians, highlights civilian suffering and accuses Obama of being beholden to special interests, notably Israel and "the occupier Jews." Israel gets 39 mentions while Osama bin Laden gets a dozen, including once to excoriate Obama for the mission that hunted down and killed the founder of the al-Qaida movement for the 9/11 attacks.

Mohammed ridicules Obama — "a smart attorney, well acquainted with human rights" — who "can kill his enemy without trial and throw his dead body into the sea instead of giving him to his family or respecting him enough as a human being to bury him."

The former al-Qaida operations chief wrote the letter "in the context of violence in Gaza and the occupied territories," said Mohammed's death-penalty defense attorney, David Nevin. He called it "the primary motive for the drafting of the letter" and declined to say whether the client or his legal staff typed it up.

Mohammed began drafting the letter during 2014 when Israel had an offensive in the Gaza Strip that claimed civilian lives, according to his military attorney, Marine Maj. Derek Poteet.

UPSET AT U.S FOREIGN POLICY

"He's upset at U.S. foreign policy and he plainly perceives that the United States has signed a blank check to Israel," Poteet said. In the opening paragraph Mohammed tells Obama: "Your hands are still wet with the blood of our brothers and sisters and children who were killed in Gaza."

Mohammed is one of five men in pretrial hearings at the Guantanamo war court that accuses them of engineering the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings, and seeks their execution if convicted. The man who was hidden for 3 1/2 years in the CIA's secret prison network, where he was waterboarded 183 times and subjected to other brutal interrogation techniques.

"I will never ask you, or your court for mercy," he writes. "Do what you wish to do, my freedom, my captivity and my death is a curse on all evil doers and tyrants."

Mohammad spent about three years in North Carolina in the 1980s. He attended Chowan College in Murfreesboro for one semester and then transferred to North Carolina A&T in Greensboro, where he earned an engineering degree in 1986.

Prison officials refused to deliver the letter, a position backed by prosecutors who said it should be suppressed as propaganda.

His Pentagon-paid defense attorneys asked the judge to intervene in September 2015, arguing Mohammed's First Amendment right to petition the president. The Army judge in charge of the trial, Col James L. Pohl, eventually ruled that the commander in chief could receive it, virtually as the Obamas were moving out of the White House — and the public could see it a month later, once President Donald J. Trump moved in.

"What's so troubling to me is it took so long to get approval, even to get this litigated," Nevin said, reminding that the defense team started out asking the military, "How do we provide this to the president of the United States?"

In the letter Mohammed also:

— Endorses Al-Jazeera. "Don't let Fox, CNN, BBC, or American and pro-Israeli channels cover your eyes ... Their main task is brainwashing. They are experts at lying and distorting the facts to achieve their masters' ends."

— Invokes "the blood of the innocents your drone attacks killed in Waziristan, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Somalia, and elsewhere around the globe."

— Singles out "the CIA, the FBI, the Jewish community of Brooklyn, the merchants of AIPAC, the war profiteers, to pro-Israeli militias and the Christian-Zionist Lords" for condemnation, as well as "the Christian right wing and the followers of Jerry Falwall, Gary Bauer, Pat Robertson and John Hague."

— Says "Allah aided us in conducting 9/11, destroying the Capitalist economy, catching you with your pants down, and exposing all the hypocrisy of your long-held claim to democracy and freedom."

The theme is not new. In October 2012, when he was first allowed to wear a hunting vest to the war court he scolded the judge with this: "Your blood is not made of gold and ours is made out of water. We are all human beings."

The Herald obtained the document from Mohammed's lawyers after a judicially ordered 30-day review period expired. Pohl ruled on Jan. 6 that there was no "legal basis for continued sealing of the letter's contents" but gave the prison an extra month to scrub it of sensitive information before releasing it on the Pentagon war court website whose motto is "Fairness (ASTERISK) Transparency (ASTERISK) Justice."

A spokesman at the Pentagon could not explain why the document had not yet been posted on the website Wednesday.


MANILA TIMES

Trump backs ‘One China’ policy in first call with Xi BY AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE ON FEBRUARY 10, 2017 WORLD

WASHINGTON, D.C.: President Donald Trump reaffirmed Washington’s ‘One China’ policy on Thursday (Friday in Manila) in his first conversation with Xi Jinping, in an apparent effort to ease tensions after angering Beijing by questioning the policy that underpins Sino-US relations.

In a phone call with China’s leader, the US president agreed to “honor” a position that effectively acknowledges that Taiwan is not separate from China.

“President Trump agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honor our ‘One China’ policy,” the White House said in a statement, adding that the two leaders had “extended invitations to meet in their respective countries.”

The White House called the phone discussion—which came on the eve of Trump’s slated meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe—”extremely cordial,” saying the leaders “look forward to further talks with very successful outcomes.”

Xi, a nationalist who took the helm of the Communist Party-ruled country in 2012, welcomed Trump’s gesture.

READ MORE...

“Xi Jinping appreciates Trump’s emphasis on the American government’s commitment to the One China policy and pointed out that the One China principle is the political foundation of US-China relations,” the official broadcaster CCTV reported.

Trump’s insurgent campaign for the White House included frequently lashing out at China, which he accused of currency manipulation and stealing American jobs.

He raised eyebrows in the wake of his election victory with a protocol-busting telephone conversation with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen.

He later threw doubt on the “One China” policy, suggesting that it was up for negotiation and could form part of talks on trade, drawing rebukes from official Chinese media.

Taiwan has been ruled separately since the two sides split in 1949 at the end of a civil war.

Despite having its own government, military and independent foreign policy, Beijing has refused to recognize the island, viewing it as a troublesome province that will one day be reunited with the mainland—by force, if necessary.

Beijing will not do business with countries that recognize Taiwan diplomatically.

Washington cut formal ties with Taipei in 1979, recognizing the Communist mainland rulers in Beijing as the sole government of “One China.”

However, Washington remains Taiwan’s most powerful unofficial ally and main supplier of arms.

Trump’s apparent refusal to accept this policy—which Beijing views as non-negotiable—had threatened to chill Washington’s relations with the Asian giant.

While relations were strained under Barack Obama, there has been very little high-level interaction between the two countries since Trump came to power.

The White House said earlier this week that Trump had sent a letter to Xi, weeks after receiving a letter of congratulations from the leader of the Asian giant.

That was seen by observers as an attempt to break the ice. AFP

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RELATED FROM THE GUARDIAN, UK

Trump denounced nuclear arms treaty in phone call with Putin – sources The Guardian logo The Guardian Julian Borger and Ben Jacobs in Washington 16 hrs ago

Trump slammed nuclear treaty in first call with Putin

Donald Trump has told Vladimir Putin he does not want to renew a 2010 arms control treaty that limits the number of strategic nuclear weapons the US and Russia can deploy.
Trump angrily denounced the New Start Treaty in a 28 January phone call to the Russian leader, according to sources briefed on the call.

Reuters, which first reported Trump’s remarks, said the new US president also had to pause the hour long call to ask what the New Start Treaty was.

The White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, confirmed that the call was paused but said it was because the president wanted to solicit the views of his aides.

“It wasn’t like he didn’t know what was being said,” Spicer said. “He wanted an opinion on something.”

He did not give any further details, describing the hour-long conversation as a “private call”.

The Kremlin had previously characterised it as a friendly discussion in which “both sides demonstrated a mood for active, joint work on stabilizing and developing Russian-American cooperation,”

According to accounts of the conversation given to the Guardian, the phone call began with a friendly exchange, with both leaders stressing their own popularity and complimenting each other on their domestic support.

Then when Putin brought up two issues on which their countries had cooperated on, New Start and the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, Trump lost his temper, dismissing both as strategic losses for the US given away by Barack Obama, and he began hectoring Putin.

According to accounts of the conversation given to the Guardian, Trump lost his temper when Putin brought up the nuclear arms agreement.


© Getty Images
According to accounts of the conversation given to the Guardian, Trump lost his temper when Putin brought up the nuclear arms agreement.


The New Start treaty, agreed between Obama and the then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, obliges both countries to reduce their strategic arsenals, including land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarine launched missiles and long-range bombers to 1550 warheads each by 2018.

There are also limits on the number of missile launchers each side can have.

A clause in the treaty allows the agreement to be extended by up to five years by mutual agreement. According to the Reuters report, it was when Putin raised the possibility of extension, that Trump paused the call to ask about the treaty, and then returned to the conversation with a tirade against the agreement.

Thomas Countryman, former assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, said he had raised the possibility of New Start’s extension last month with his Russian counterpart, deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov.

“Both capitals have known that the extension of the treaty ... would be an easy win-win that could set a new tone for relations between the two countries,” said Countryman.

”I’m deeply disturbed that the president was not just neutral on the question, not just negative - saying not right now - but actually seemed to take a step backward in calling into question an agreement that is beneficial to both sides and has been implemented faithfully by both sides.”

Countryman was suddenly removed from his position at the end of last month while on his way to a nuclear weapons conference in Rome, as part of a purge of senior state department officials who have yet to be replaced, leaving the department’s senior ranks seriously depleted.

Countryman said he had no first-hand knowledge of the tone or content of the Putin call, but said it was “ominous” if the president had not been fully briefed on New Start before talking to the Russian leader.

“If it is all going to be seat-of-the-pants – ‘last time I looked on Twitter’ –rather than pursuing a carefully prepared agenda, that’s disturbing,” Countryman said.

Both before and after his election victory, Trump has made dramatically contradictory statements on the US nuclear arsenal.

He denounced the agreement, which he referred to as ‘Start Up’ in a presidential debate in October, wrongly claiming that it meant Russia could “create warheads and we can’t”.

In December, he tweeted that the US should “expand its nuclear capability” and told a reporter: “Let it be an arms race.”

In an interview shortly before inauguration, however, he appeared to offer deep bilateral cuts in nuclear arsenals accompanied by sanctions relief for Moscow, saying: “I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially.”

Joseph Cirincione, the head of the disarmament advocacy group, the Ploughshares Fund, said Trump was “tripping up over his own narcissism. He is letting his personal prejudices get in the way of his strategic goal. He is picking a fight with Putin who he wants better relations with.”

New Start was approved by the Senate and has the overwhelming support of the US military establishment, including seven past commanders of US nuclear forces. But it has critics on the right wing of the Republican party and some US conservatives.

“There are a lot of critics that say that New Start really got the US nothing and it allowed the Russians free space to grow their strategic nuclear deterrent,” James Jay Carafano, a national security and foreign policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

Steven Pifer, a former senior state department official, argued that if the US walked out of New Start now, it would give Russia a strategic advantage as it already has functioning production lines producing new nuclear weapons to replace the old.

Pifer, now at the Brookings institution, said the report suggested Trump “really doesn’t have a good understanding of nuclear balance between Russia and the United States.”

Countryman said he feared that if arms control broke down between Washington and Moscow, it could pave the way to an accelerated arms race.

“The Obama administration was frustrated we were not able to move forward with the Russian Federation on logical next steps in arms control,” he said. “But we didn’t move backwards, and I am very concerned that now we are.”

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RELATED(2) FROM GMA NEWS NETWORK

Trump, Japan's Abe discuss concerns about trade, security at summit Published February 11, 2017 1:33am BY STEVE HOLLAND AND KIYOSHI TAKENAKA, Reuters


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is greeted by U.S. President Donald Trump (L) prior to holdiing talks at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 10, 2017. REUTERS

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe opened two days of talks on Friday looking to cement a decades-old alliance between Japan and the United States that has been under strain because of the Republican's positions on trade and security.

The two leaders sat down for talks in the Oval Office, shaking hands and smiling for photographers. Abe set a hopeful tone, telling a U.S. Chamber of Commerce breakfast that he wanted to build a relationship of trust with the new U.S. leader.

"I would like to clearly demonstrate the unshakable Japan-U.S. alliance to the world," Abe said ahead of White House meetings.

Still, an air of uncertainty was hanging over their summit after a presidential campaign in which Trump slammed the U.S. treaty obligation to defend Japan and accused the Japanese of stealing American jobs.

After their conversations, Trump and Abe are to stage a joint news conference, have lunch and then fly to Palm Beach, Florida, on Friday afternoon for a weekend stay at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort.

The two will play golf at one or two of Trump's golf courses in the area.

READ MORE...

It will be the most time Trump will have spent with a foreign leader since taking power last month and his second face-to-face meeting with a key ally after talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May two weeks ago. Trump hosted Abe at Trump Tower last year in his first talks with a foreign leader after his surprise win in the November presidential election.

"I think the president just really enjoys his company and wants to not only get to know him better but to have a greater bilateral relationship," White House spokesman Sean Spicer said. "He understands their importance in the region. He values his friendship and looks forward to deepening the relationship."

The U.S. side took steps to get the two leaders off to a positive start by saying Trump would oppose any unilateral declarations that would undermine Japan's administration of disputed islands in the East China Sea.

There have been long-standing tensions between China and Japan over waters in the East China Sea, including islands known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.

Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping held a phone call on Thursday night. Japanese spokesman Norio Maruyama called it a positive development.

"It's good and positive in terms of peace and security of the region and the international community," he told reporters.

AMERICA FIRST

A senior U.S. administration official said Trump was unlikely to raise with Abe his frequent charge that Japan manipulates currency markets to lower its currency. Trump has hurled the same accusation at China.

"I can tell you that's not something that's at the top of the list, but whether it comes up naturally in conversation, we'll see over the course of that meeting," said the official.

Japan has had lingering concerns about what Trump's self-styled "America First" strategy means for U.S. foreign policy in Asia as well as what his decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact means for bilateral economic ties.

Abe hopes Japanese promises to help create U.S. jobs and bolster Japan's military will persuade Trump to turn down the heat on economic matters and stand by the alliance.

Abe, who will be accompanied by Finance Minister Taro Aso and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, will bring a package of steps Tokyo says could create 700,000 U.S. jobs through private-public investment in infrastructure such as high-speed trains, Japanese government sources say.

Japanese officials have been soothed by security assurances from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and others.

But they worry Trump may go off script, given his recent phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Leaks of that conversation showed Trump labeled a U.S.-Australian refugee swap deal as "dumb."

"There are concerns about Trump in every allied capital since his awkward phone call recently with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia," said a background paper about the meeting written by Asian experts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"Rather than bring a list of concrete 'asks,' Abe will likely approach this meeting emphasizing how he aligns with Trump on many of his objectives," the paper said.

To avoid questions about whether Japan is paying Trump for Abe to stay at the beachfront Mar-a-Lago retreat, the White House declared that the entire visit there, including golf, is the official gift for Abe from Trump.

It will be Trump's first use of Mar-a-Lago for diplomacy. — Reuters


HUFFINGTON POST CANADA

Refugees Fleeing U.S. Make Long, Cold Trek To Manitoba The Huffington Post Canada | By Michelle Butterfield Posted: 02/07/2017 4:08 pm EST Updated: 02/07/2017 9:20 pm EST


FEBRUARY 13 -A sign post for the small border town of Emerson, near the Canada-U.S border crossing where refugees make their way often on foot into Manitoba. (Photo: Lyle Stafford/Reuters)

Afraid of what President Donald Trump's immigration policies could mean for their future, some refugees have been crossing into Canada at the Manitoba border.

Manitoba RCMP have confirmed 22 people crossed the border near Emerson, approximately 100 kilometres south of Winnipeg, over the weekend. Nineteen arrived Saturday and another three on Sunday.

Farhan Ahmed was among Saturday's asylum seekers.

He told CBC News his group, which included a family with children, walked through deep snow in cold temperatures for about 12 kilometres before they called 911 for help. RCMP picked up the group and brought them to a Canada Border Services Agency location where they could make refugee claims, he said.

READ MORE...

Ahmed, who originally fled Somalia in 2014, had been granted work authorization in Ohio in 2015. He worked as a truck driver while trying to make an U.S. asylum claim.

However, he said, when Trump signed the executive order barring citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Somalia, from entering the U.S. he knew it was time to leave.

Rita Chahal, executive director of Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, told The Guardian the number of refugees seeking asylum has increased dramatically in the past few months.

She said her organization has opened claims for 118 refugees, compared to 50-70 filed in a typical year.

High-risk trek north

Perhaps most troubling, said Chahal, is the long, risky route these refugees are taking to get to Canada.

"They’re not crossing at the actual point where there’s an immigration and customs offices," she said.

"They’re walking through prairie fields with lots and lots of deep snow. In Europe we’re seeing people in boats; now just imagine a prairie flatland and snow for miles and miles."

Manitoba's Welcome Place refugee agency told Global News they, too, have seen a drastic increase in the number of claimants. Between Nov. 1 and Jan. 25, the group helped 91 refugees — more than they typically assist in one year.

"The U.S. presidential campaign, putting undocumented immigrants and refugees in the spotlight, terrified them," Ghezae Hagos, a counselor at Welcome Place, told Global News.

"The election and inauguration of Mr. Trump appears to be the final reason for those who came mostly last month."

Maggie Yeboah, president of the Ghanaian Union of Manitoba, told Reuters 27 men from Ghana have made the trek to Manitoba from the U.S. since last summer.

Two of those men lost fingers to frostbite after they crossed the border on foot from North Dakota on New Year's Eve.

Canadian government pressed to react

A temporary restraining order by a U.S. judge of Trump’s executive order has blocked nationwide the implementation of key parts of the travel ban and provided a reprieve for refugees trying to come to the United States.

However, a growing number of refugee advocates, including the Canadian Council for Refugees and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, are calling on the federal government to reconsider Canada's 2004 Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S.

The agreement requires people to apply for asylum in the first country they arrive in, meaning refugees may risk dangerous journeys to sneak into Canada, instead of being turned back into the U.S. while trying to cross at a border customs office.


The Canadian side of the Canada-U.S border crossing, where refugees make their way into the province, is seen in Emerson, Man., Feb. 1. (Photo: Lyle Stafford/Reuters)

Meanwhile, in Emerson, emergency officials were left scrambling on the weekend to convert a town centre into a shelter for the refugees.

Brenda Piett, assistant emergency co-ordinator for the municipality of Emerson-Franklin, said Canada Border Services called her at 8:30 a.m. Saturday to see if the Emerson Community Centre could be opened to shelter refugee claimants.

Piett told CTV Winnipeg about 10 were put up at the shelter, where they were given sandwiches, blankets and pillows.

She said they did not speak English and stayed at the shelter until 8:30 p.m. that evening. They were eventually picked up and taken to Winnipeg.

"I would hope that if someone comes to a door and they're freezing, that they would have that door opened."

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said now is not the time to strengthen the Canada-U.S. border in Manitoba.

"I would hope that if someone comes to a door and they're freezing,
that they would have that door opened," he said Monday.

"And I would hope that people would make sure and understand that there are people who require a handout right now, and that we give them that support."

TWEET

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Emerson-Franklin councillor Doug Johnston said Monday he's concerned about the volume of people crossing into town. On top of safety concerns, he said the cost of caring for the claimants comes out of the municipal budget.

Johnston wants municipal, provincial and federal politicians for the region to have a meeting and work out a plan for the future, including better security measures to stop the flow of people across the border.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Tuesday border crossings in other parts of the country have also seen an increase, but the overall numbers are not as high as they were several years ago.

"The number has risen over the last three or four years, but compared to 10 years ago, the number is substantially down,'' Goodale told reporters in Ottawa.

Goodale said he would consider providing more resources to Emerson-Franklin and other areas, but was non-committal.

"We are examining right now what are the appropriate steps to take to protect the integrity of the border, to make sure that public health and safety is properly protected and to make sure that the people involved here are treated in a fair and compassionate way.'' With files from The Canadian Press

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RELATED FROM THE INQUIRER

Undocumented immigrants rounded up Agence France-Presse / 02:09 AM February 13, 2017
 


Central American Undocumented immigrants are body searched before boarding a deportation flight. (credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON—US authorities arrested hundreds of undocumented migrants this week in the first large-scale raids under President Donald Trump, triggering panic in immigrant communities nationwide.

The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency rounded up undocumented individuals living in Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and other cities two weeks after Trump signed an executive order that broadened which undocumented immigrants would be targeted for deportation.

According to ICE, however, the operations were “routine.”

“The focus of these operations is no different than the routine, targeted arrests carried out by ICE’s Fugitive Operations Teams on a daily basis,” said agency spokesperson Jennifer Elzea.

David Marin, head of ICE’s removal operations in Los Angeles, told reporters that approximately 160 people had been arrested in the California metropolis.

About 120 of them had prior felony convictions, Marin said, adding that some people had been arrested solely because they were undocumented.

By Friday night, 37 undocumented immigrants had already been expelled to Mexico.

In a Jan. 25 decree, Trump prioritized the deportation of undocumented males who had been convicted of or “charged with any criminal offense,” including misdemeanors.

The first large-scale roundups was Trump’s attempt to make good on his campaign pledge to crack down on America’s undocumented population, estimated at 11 million people.

But Marin rebuffed reports about ICE checkpoints and random sweeps, calling them “dangerous and irresponsible.”

“Reports like that create panic, and they put communities and law enforcement personnel in unnecessary danger,” Marin said.

The raids, which hit residential areas and workplaces, sparked protests and provoked the ire of elected Democratic representatives, notably in California and particularly in Los Angeles, where the Pew Research Center estimates around a million undocumented migrants reside.

“President Trump’s policy change betrays our values,” Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in a statement. “Tearing families apart isn’t what this country stands for.”

Targets broadened

In Austin, Texas, where 100,000 unauthorized migrants live, a bystander captured video footage of an arrest, which made local front-page news and ignited demonstrations.

Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas said the roundup of undocumented migrants was part of “Operation Cross Check”—a series of large-scale raids that began in 2011 under Barack Obama.

The agency conducted the last sweep in March 2015, corraling 2,059 undocumented immigrants deemed threats to “public safety.”

In New York, which hosts the country’s largest population of undocumented immigrants—1.15 million, according to Pew—a few hundred people demonstrated near the immigration services office.


MSN WORLD NEWS

Pope Francis on Trump's travel ban: “A Christian Would Never Say ‘You Will Pay for That.'” 1/23 People logo People Diana Pearl 10 hrs ago SHARE SHARE TWEET SHARE EMAIL


Pope Francis‘s criticism of President Donald Trump continues.

During a weekly address on Wednesday, the Pope did not name Trump, but made an undeniable reference to his controversial travel ban, an executive order barring entry to the United States for citizens of seven Muslim majority countries. He encouraged people to “build bridges” and combat the bad in the world with good.

“In the social and civil context as well, I appeal not to create walls, but to build bridges,” he said, according to the AP. “To not respond to evil with evil. To defeat evil with good, the offense with forgiveness.”

Catholic leaders in the United States, including Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, and Cardinal Joseph Tobin, archbishop of Newark, criticized the ban or the withholding of funds from sanctuary cities as well, according to The Washington Post. Cupich called it a “dark moment in U.S. history.”

His most pointed remark towards Trump came when he made a reference to Trump’s claims that Mexico would pay for the much-disputed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

READ MORE...

“A Christian would never say ‘you will pay for that,’ ” he said. “Never. That is not a Christian gesture. An offense you overcome with forgiveness. To live in peace with everyone.”

Trump has had a wrought relationship with the Pope since before his election. Francis previously criticized Trump’s proposal to build a wall, and implied that he is “not Christian” in February of last year.

“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.”

Francis did send Trump his well wishes on his inauguration day, and encouraged him to focus his attention on “the poor and outcast.”

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

RELATED FROM GMA NEWS NETWORK

Pope Francis reveals anti-stress secrets — and it's not prozac Published February 9, 2017 6:40pm

Pope Francis has shrugged off recent in-fighting in the Vatican and other stresses of his job by joking: "I am not on tranquilizers."



"There is corruption in the Vatican. But I am at peace," the pontiff said in a personally revealing interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera, published on Thursday.

In it, the erstwhile Jorge Bergoglio reveals how feelings of anxiety he sometimes experienced while he was bishop of Buenos Aires disappeared following his elevation to the papacy.

And he insists that he is losing no sleep over the maneuvring of conservatives opposed to his reforms of Church teaching and governance.

The 80-year-old says his secret for dealing with stress is to write down all his problems in letters to Saint Joseph.

He then places the missives under a statue of the man described in the Bible as the carpenter father of Jesus.

"And now he is sleeping on a mattress of letters! That's why I sleep well: it is the grace of God. I always sleep six hours. And I pray," Francis said.

Francis's reform drive has run into opposition from conservative cardinals and entrenched interests in the Vatican bureaucracy.

Tensions have appeared to be running particularly high of late.

Francis last month dismissed the head of the Knights of Malta after the ancient order challenged his authority in a dispute seen as being linked to a broader row over the direction of the Church.

And the last week has seen a series of anti-pope posters plastered all over Rome by unidentified agitators.

Asked how he dealt with such tensions and the challenges he faces, Francis quipped: "I'm not on tranquilizers.

"The Italians offer a good lesson — to live in peace you need a healthy 'couldn't care less' attitude.

"I don't mind telling you that what I am going through is a completely new experience for me.

"In Buenos Aires I was more anxious, I admit it. I felt more tense and worried. Basically I wasn't like I am now.

"From the moment I was elected I had a very particular feeling of profound peace. And that has never left me. I am at peace. I don't know how to explain it."

In what may have been an allusion to opponents led by US Cardinal Raymond Burke, Francis implied he had made his intentions clear in meetings with other senior clerics before his election.

"In the general assemblies we discussed the Vatican's problems, we discussed reforms. Everyone wanted them," he said. — Agence France-Presse


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