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Tension as Tillerson brings tough N.Korea stance to China

Author: 
Dan Martin | AFP
Sat, 2017-03-18
ID: 
1489825026165732400

BEIJING: The United States’ top diplomat will press a tougher new line on North Korea in talks with a wary China on Saturday, in a tense atmosphere after President Donald Trump accused Beijing of failing to rein in Pyongyang.
On a tour of Asia, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has broken with years of strategic patience over North Korea, saying that approach had “failed” and that US military action against North Korea was possible if its threats escalated.
The sea change in US policy follows two North Korean nuclear tests last year and recent missile launches including a salvo earlier this month that Pyongyang described as practice for an attack on US bases in Japan.
Trump upped the pressure on China to get tough in a Friday Twitter blast accusing Beijing of failing to use its leverage as North Korea’s key diplomatic and trade partner to put a leash on Pyongyang.
“North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been ‘playing’ the United States for years. China has done little to help!” Trump said.
But Beijing is deeply reluctant to get too tough with its volatile neighbor lest it trigger a confrontation or a messy regime collapse on China’s front door.
China has hit back at the US, angrily accusing it of fueling tension by holding military exercises with its ally Seoul and deploying an anti-missile system in South Korea.
Beijing called this month for all sides to take steps to defuse the situation and avoid a “head-on collision,” calling for re-started diplomatic efforts to dismantle the North’s banned nuclear and missile programs.
Years of diplomacy, however, have failed to deter Pyongyang, and Washington has rebuffed the Chinese proposal.
China’s state-run Xinhua news agency said in an editorial on Saturday that “there is nothing new” in the harder stance outlined by Tillerson during meetings with allies in Tokyo and Seoul, saying that approach had “failed” in years past.
It rejected suggestions that Beijing was not doing enough.
“Positive results require effort and good faith from both sides. China has never fallen short of offering its fair share. It’s all up to Washington now,” it said.
Tillerson, a former Exxon oil executive who until now had adopted a low profile in office, was to meet Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Saturday afternoon. The two were to hold a press conference at 4 p.m. (0800 GMT).
Later, he was to meet China’s top foreign-policy official Yang Jiechi.
Plans also are in the works for Tillerson to meet Sunday with President Xi Jinping as Beijing and Washington negotiate a possible first summit with Trump — a frequent China critic — next month in the United States.
Beijing shares US concerns over Pyongyang’s nuclearization but appears to prefer the tense status quo over drastic action.
But China took one of its toughest steps yet in February, announcing it would halt all imports of North Korean coal, a key source of income for the impoverished state, for the rest of this year, citing UN sanctions over Pyongyang’s weapons programs.
The United Nations has imposed multiple sets of sanctions on the North but China is accused of not fully enforcing them.
China insisted Thursday its latest proposal — for North Korea to suspend nuclear and missile activities in return for the US and South Korea halting the military exercises — was the “only feasible plan” available.
Tillerson is yet to detail the harder new US line, but said in South Korea on Friday “we are exploring a new range of diplomatic, security, economic measures.”
Under the Obama administration, the US ruled out diplomatic engagement until Pyongyang made a tangible commitment to denuclearization, hoping that internal stresses in the isolated country would bring change.
North Korea says it needs to be able to defend itself, and conducted its first underground atomic test in 2006 despite global opposition. Four more test blasts followed.
Beijing also is upset over the US deployment of an anti-missile system to South Korea.
Washington and Seoul insist it is purely a defense against a possible North Korean attack.
But Beijing says the system undermines its own security and has reacted angrily, imposing a series of measures seen in South Korea as economic retaliation.

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Bangladesh police shoot militant armed with explosives

Author: 
Reuters
Sat, 2017-03-18
ID: 
1489824018785696000

DHAKA: Bangladesh police shot and killed a suspected militant who tried to enter a security checkpost on a motorcycle armed with explosives on Saturday, the latest in a string of security incidents since a deadly attack on a cafe in July.
The latest incident came a day after a suicide bomber blew himself up at a security forces base near the international airport in the South Asian nation’s capital, Dhaka.
Bangladesh’s counter-terrorism Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) said some of its officers opened fire when a man riding a motorcycle tried to break through a checkpost.
“The man was carrying explosives on his body,” the RAB’s Legal and Media wing chief Mufti Mahmud Khan told Reuters. He said two officers were wounded in the attack.
Bangladesh has stepped up security at all airports and prisons across the country after Friday’s suicide attack. The most serious in a string of attacks in recent years came last July, when gunmen stormed a Dhaka cafe and killed 22 people, most of them foreigners.
On Thursday, four suspected members of an Islamist militant group blamed for the cafe attack were killed during a police raid on their hideout in the southeastern town of Chittagong.
Al Qaeda and the Islamic State militant group have made competing claims over a recent spate of killings of liberals and members of religious minorities in Bangladesh, a mostly Muslim country of 160 million people.
Authorities have consistently ruled out the presence of such transnational groups, blaming domestic militants instead. However, security experts say the scale and sophistication of the cafe attack suggested links to a transnational network.
Police have killed more than 50 suspected militants in shootouts since the cafe attack, including the man they say was its main planner, Bangladesh-born Canadian citizen Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury.
(Reporting by Ruma Paul)

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How a school bomb-scare case sparked a media-vs.-FBI fight

Author: 
RAPHAEL SATTER | AP
Sat, 2017-03-18
ID: 
1489824068395700900

WASHINGTON: The young hacker was told in no uncertain terms: You are safe with me.
“I am not trying to find out your true identity,” AP journalist Norm Weatherill assured the teenager in an online chat. “As a member of the Press, I would rather not know who you are as writers are not allowed to reveal their sources.”
But Norm Weatherill was no reporter. He was FBI agent Norman B. Sanders Jr., and the whole conversation was a trap. Within hours, police descended on the 15-year-old hacker’s home and led him away in handcuffs for making a week and a half of e-mailed bomb threats at his high school in Washington state. He eventually confessed and was sentenced to 90 days in a juvenile detention center.
The 2007 bust would put an end to the bomb scares and save graduation at the school but would also raise a troubling question that is unanswered to this day: How often do FBI agents impersonate members of the news media?
The answer is important, says one expert who played a key role in revealing the bureau’s subterfuge, because sources need to know journalists won’t turn them in.
“Journalists play a very similar role to doctors in our society in that we trust them,” Christopher Soghoian, former chief technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union, said earlier this year. “And without trust they cannot operate.”
Two weeks ago, a federal judge rejected a lawsuit from The Associated Press and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press demanding more detail from the FBI about the practice of posing as journalists. The two media organizations are appealing.
Meanwhile, the AP has drawn on hundreds of pages of records and interviews with a dozen people to piece together the story of how the computer-savvy sophomore’s end-of-year prank escalated into a confrontation between the Justice Department and the media.
Using hijacked servers in Europe, the teenager, who was assigned the pseudonym Charles Jenkins by the FBI, e-mailed grandiose, profane bomb threats almost daily to teachers and administrators at Timberline High, forcing repeated evacuations at the 1,500-student school in Lacey, a middle-class suburb of Olympia.
In one message, he told his principal: “ENJOY YOUR LIFE ENDING.” Other messages instructed high school staff to say, “Have a nice explosive day.”
Students quickly became annoyed at the threats.
“There was just no learning because everybody was waiting for another bomb threat to happen,” said Meggan Dowd, who was a Timberline sophomore at the time.
Parents were getting panicky, and police were at wits’ end. They had a multitude of suspects and lots of possible leads generated by the high school rumor mill, but nothing solid. And because of the hoaxer’s use of proxy servers, investigators were unable to zero in on his location.
“It’s more difficult to track e-mail than you might think, if you have computer savvy on the Internet” Lacey Police Chief Dusty Pierpoint told parents at a meeting.
It was about then that “AP Staff Publisher Norm Weatherill” e-mailed Jenkins for comment on the threats. Weatherill — that is to say, Sanders — promised anonymity.
Jenkins agreed to chat, and the FBI agent sent him a couple of links related to an AP article he was supposedly putting together. The links were booby-trapped. When Jenkins clicked, malicious code ran on his computer, broadcasting his Internet protocol address back to law enforcement.
Six hours later, Lacey police were at his door. Jenkins later pleaded guilty to harassment, making bomb threats and identity theft. In an interview with the AP a decade later, he said he had no particular motive beyond “feeling powerful.”
A decade later, the AP is still seeking information about the FBI’s practice of masquerading as journalists. The AP and the Reporters Committee have obtained documents from the bureau, but no solid answers about how often it happens.
“AP is calling for the release of all FBI documents related to the impersonation of any and all journalists in order to make the public aware of this deceptive practice and its breadth,” Executive Editor Sally Buzbee said in a statement.
The FBI declined to comment on the case or its fallout and refused to make its agent available for an interview.
Back in Lacey, even some of those who were pleased with the FBI’s work allowed that the bureau’s methods raised eyebrows.
Dave Lehnis, Timberline’s principal back then, said the bureau caught Jenkins in the nick of time — less than two days before graduation ceremonies.
“We were glad it ended when it did,” he said. “But using the press? Certainly if I were a journalist that would piss me off some.”
___
AP Researcher Monika Mathur in Washington contributed to this report.
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Online:
Timberline High Bomb Hoax Documents: http://apne.ws/2niMDP0

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Blasphemy charges create climate of fear for Pakistani media

Author: 
KATHY GANNON | AP
Sat, 2017-03-18
ID: 
1489819744075469800

ISLAMABAD: Ahmad Waqas Goraya couldn’t see anything through the black hood, but he could hear the screams.
A Pakistani blogger with a penchant for criticizing Pakistan’s powerful military and taking the government to task, Goraya was kidnapped in January along with four other bloggers.
“I could hear the screams of torture,” he said, struggling for words as the memories flooded back. “I don’t even want to think about what they did.”
But that wasn’t the worst of it, he said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. More terrifying was the accusation of blasphemy — punishable by death in Pakistan — hurled at him and his fellow bloggers. They were held in what Goraya called a “black site” on the edge of Lahore that some say is run by Pakistan’s powerful intelligence agency.
Analysts and social media monitors say the blasphemy law is a powerful tool to silence critics. Some say it is being used by extremists to silence moderates at a time when Pakistanis are increasingly speaking out against violence and extremism, and voicing support for a government crackdown on Islamic militants.
In Pakistan, even the suggestion of blasphemy can be tantamount to a death sentence. It has incited extremists to take the law into their own hands and kill alleged perpetrators, often forcing people to flee the country, as Goraya and the other bloggers have.
Pakistan’s government heightened concerns earlier this week when it said it had asked Facebook and Twitter to ferret out Pakistanis posting religiously offensive material, promising to seek their extradition if they are out of the country and prosecute them on blasphemy charges if they are in Pakistan.
In one high-profile case six years ago, Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer was gunned down by one of his guards, who accused him of blasphemy because he criticized the law and defended a Christian woman sentenced to death for allegedly insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.
“Right now they have made sure I cannot come back to Pakistan by introducing blasphemy charges,” Goraya said.
The lawyer who is arguing the case against the bloggers, Tariq Asad, has openly called for their deaths, while praising outlawed Sunni militant groups who want the country’s minority Shiites declared non-Muslims.
“They should have been killed,” Asad told the AP in an interview this week. “If I had the opportunity I would have killed them.”
Asad smiled at the suggestion that invoking the blasphemy law subdues the media and frightens social media activists.
“They should be scared,” he said.
The blasphemy charges against the bloggers being heard in Islamabad’s High Court were filed by Salman Shahid, who has ties to Pakistan’s Red Mosque, a hotbed of Islamic militancy where hundreds were killed in 2007 after security forces ended a months-long standoff with militants holed up inside. Asad is Shahid’s lawyer.
Zahid Hussain, a defense analyst and author of several books on militancy in the region, said invoking the blasphemy law is a form of “pushback” against the proliferation of news outlets and social media that amplify moderate voices.
Extremists “are trying to reassert themselves with this ideological battle and the easiest thing for them to use is the blasphemy law,” he said.
Hamid Mir, a popular Pakistani news anchor, says both media owners and journalists operate under a cloud of fear. Threats come from a variety of quarters in Pakistan, including the powerful spy agencies, but the most frightening are from those who would use the blasphemy law, he said.
Mir was shot six times in a drive-by shooting in Karachi three years ago. The culprits were later said to have been killed, but Mir pointedly accused Pakistan’s intelligence agency at the time.
“I am not afraid of bullets or bombs,” he said in an interview this week in his office in Islamabad. Even with three of the six bullets still in his body, he has refused to leave Pakistan.
But now he is having second thoughts. Last year, he was charged with blasphemy after writing a column condemning those who would kill in the name of honor following the burning death of a young girl.
“It broke me,” he said. “Here I had done nothing wrong and for four months I faced this blasphemy charge. Then I thought I should leave my country.”
Asad, the attorney prosecuting the bloggers, also argued the case against Mir.
A group of senior lawyers in Pakistan told Mir there was only one lawyer who could defend him, Rizwan Abbasi, who was defending the seven militants accused in the deadly 2008 multi-pronged assault in Mumbai, India, which killed 127 people. Abbasi had also defended Hafiz Saeed, the founder of the outlawed Lashkar-e-Taiba group and one of India’s most wanted men.
“I thought if the judge saw him by my side he would think ‘if he is with him then I won’t get into trouble if I free him,’” said Mir, explaining that judges and lawyers fear retaliation from militants if they exonerate someone of blasphemy.
But even Abbasi needed help. He had Mir send his column to five of the country’s top clerics to ask if it contained anything blasphemous. They all rejected the charge and it was dropped, but Mir says his approach to journalism has changed.
“I don’t talk about human rights any more. . . You become selective in your criticism,” he said.
The Committee to Protect Journalists and Amnesty International have spoken out against the abduction of the bloggers and expressed concerns about growing fears within Pakistan’s journalist community brought about by the use of the blasphemy law.
“It’s not the elected government that is putting pressure on the media, but journalists express fear of offending religious and militant groups, and the military and intelligence organizations,” said Steven Butler, the CPJ’s Asia program director. “The latest fear is of being labeled as ‘blasphemer’ and that this could lead to attacks.”
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did nothing to allay fears earlier this week when he demanded a review of social media to seek out offensive content, and when his interior minister said the government had reached out to Facebook and Twitter.
Facebook said it reviews all government requests carefully, “with the goal of protecting the privacy and rights of our users.” Twitter declined to comment.
In the past, Pakistan has banned YouTube after the circulation of videos deemed offensive to Islam.
“Our argument has never been about the law, but what is most dangerous is how it is used in Pakistan,” to stifle critics and muffle moderate voices, said Haroon Baloch with the Islamabad-based Internet advocacy group Bytesforall. He said radical religious groups use social media to attack moderate views, but there have been no restrictions imposed on them.
In an open letter to Pakistan’s interior minister, Amnesty International earlier this month asked that the government “protect journalists, bloggers, civil society and other human rights activists who are facing constant harassment, intimidation, threats and violent attacks in the country.”
Goraya, the blogger, is still haunted by his three weeks of captivity at the black site, where he said several cells were overcrowded with men both young and old, many of them in chains. One of his eardrums is damaged and he no longer has feeling in one hand.
“I was tortured beyond limits, beatings, different equipment used, psychological torture,” he said.

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S. Koreans protest against US missile defense system

Author: 
Agence France Presse
Sat, 2017-03-18
ID: 
1489822665525585200

SEONGJU, South Korea: Hundreds of South Koreans protested Saturday against the deployment of a US missile defense system, a day after the visiting US Secretary of State reiterated that its installation would go ahead.
Rex Tillerson said in Seoul Friday that the United States and South Korea would “proceed with the installation” of the system, known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD).
Residents of Seongju county — where the system will be deployed — say it poses health and environmental hazards and argue that its presence could make them a priority target for North Korea.
About 2,000 residents of Seongju and a neighboring county, 275 kilometers (170 miles) southeast of Seoul, rallied with banners reading: “No THAAD but peace.”
Some 2,000 riot police were mobilized to maintain order at the march and stop protesters reaching the installation site.
Washington and Seoul say the system is for purely defensive purposes, but China fears it could undermine its own nuclear deterrent and has reacted with fury, imposing a series of measures seen as economic retaliation on the South.
North Korea has a long-standing ambition to become a nuclear power and has conducted several atomic tests in defiance of the international community and UN sanctions.
Earlier this month, Pyongyang test fired a salvo of missiles that fell in waters off Japan.
On his visit to Seoul, Tillerson — who is now in Beijing — held talks on North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats with foreign minister Yun Byung-Se and acting Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-Ahn.
“It’s my expectation that the new government in South Korea will continue to be supportive of the THAAD system, because it is directed solely at the defense” of the country, Tillery told journalists after the meeting.

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Trump clings on to wiretap accusation against Obama

Author: 
JULIE PACE and VIVIAN SALAMA | AP
Sat, 2017-03-18
ID: 
1489822665545585300

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump defiantly refused to back down from his explosive claim that Barack Obama wiretapped his phones, and sidestepped any blame for the White House decision to highlight an unverified report that Britain helped carry out the alleged surveillance.
In brushing off the diplomatic row with perhaps America’s closest ally, Trump also revived another: the Obama administration’s monitoring of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s calls.
“At least we have something in common, perhaps,” Trump quipped Friday during a joint news conference with Merkel.
Merkel, who was making her first visit to the White House since Trump took office, looked surprised by the president’s comment, which he appeared primed to deliver. The Obama administration’s spying infuriated Germany at the time and risked damaging the US relationship with one of its most important European partners.
Trump’s unproven recent allegations against his predecessor have left him increasingly isolated, with fellow Republican as well as Democratic lawmakers saying they’ve seen nothing from intelligence agencies to support his claim. But Trump, who rarely admits he’s wrong, has been unmoved, leaving his advisers in the untenable position of defending the president without any credible evidence.
On Thursday, spokesman Sean Spicer turned to a Fox News analyst’s contention that GCHQ, the British electronic intelligence agency, had helped Obama wiretap Trump. Fox News anchor Shepard Smith said Friday that the network could not independently verify the reports from Andrew Napolitano, a former judge and commentator who has met with Trump.
The GCHQ vigorously denied the charges in a rare public statement, saying the report was “utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.”
According to a Western diplomat, Britain’s ambassador to Washington, Kim Darroch, had told the White House Tuesday that Napolitano’s assertions were not true. Still, it was among several news reports Spicer referenced in his briefing Thursday as part of an angry defense of the president’s claims.
Darroch and other British officials complained directly to White House officials after the episode, Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said it had been assured the White House would not repeat the allegations. Spicer was very apologetic when confronted by Darroch at a White House dinner on Thursday, the Western diplomat said.
But Trump himself offered no public apologies and suggested there was nothing wrong with the White House repeating what it had heard.
“All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television,” Trump said during Friday’s news conference. “You shouldn’t be talking to me, you should be talking to Fox.”
Spicer was also defiant Friday, telling reporters, “I don’t think we regret anything.”
A White House official confirmed that Darroch and the British prime minister’s national security adviser, Mark Lyall Grant, expressed concerns to both Spicer and Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster. Spicer and McMaster said that the press secretary was simply pointing to public reports and not endorsing any specific story, the official said.
The US and United Kingdom are members of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, which prohibits members from spying on each other. Australia, Canada and New Zealand are the other members.
The diplomat and White House official both spoke only on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
The president is a voracious consumer of news and frequently repeats information he reads or hears on television, often without verifying it first. It was a story in Breitbart — the far-right website once run by his senior adviser Steve Bannon — that appeared to spark Trump’s March 4 tweets accusing Obama of wiretapping the New York skyscraper where he lived and ran his presidential campaign.
The White House has asked the House and Senate intelligence committees to investigate the matter as part of their inquiries into Russia’s hacking of the presidential election and possible contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials. But the top lawmakers on both committees have said they have seen no indications that Trump Tower was wiretapped.
The Justice Department said Friday that it had complied with congressional requests for information related to any surveillance during the 2016 election. The department would not comment further on what information, if any, was provided.
The chairman of the House intelligence committee, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., confirmed Friday that the Justice Department had “fully complied” with the committee’s request. He, too, declined to provide details.
Republicans in Congress also said Trump should retract his claims. Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pennsylvania, called the accusation against Britain “inexplicable” and the Trump’s accusation against Obama unfounded.
“A president only has so much political capital to expend and so much moral authority as well, and so any time your credibility takes a hit, I think in many ways it weakens the officeholder,” Dent said.
FBI Director James Comey is sure to be asked about the wiretapping allegations when he testifies on Capitol Hill Monday. The public hearing is the first of several that the intelligence committees are expected to hold on Russia’s interference in the election.
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AP writers Jill Lawless in London and Jill Colvin and Erica Werner in Washington contributed to this report.

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Philippines rejects European Parliament’s call on detained senator

Author: 
JIM GOMEZ | AP
Fri, 2017-03-17
ID: 
1489819779465471800

MANILA, Philippines: The Philippine government on Friday rejected a call by the European Parliament for the release of Sen. Leila de Lima, a leading critic of the president who has been detained on drug charges, and told the international community to refrain from influencing her case.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said a European Parliament resolution calling for de Lima’s release “casts aspersion on Philippine legal processes, its judicial system.”
“The pillars of the criminal justice system remain to be effective and well-functioning in the Philippines, not only for Sen. de Lima but for all,” it said in a statement. “The case is pending before the proper Philippine courts and the Philippine government will allow the legal process to proceed accordingly.”
De Lima said she was elated “that the international community is closely monitoring the trumped-up charges brought up against me.” She called on President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration to heed the call.
De Lima is a former top human rights official and vocal critic of Duterte’s brutal crackdown on illegal drugs. She was arrested last month on charges she received bribes from detained drug lords when she served as justice secretary under Duterte’s predecessor.
She has vehemently denied the charges, which she said are part of efforts by Duterte and his officials to muzzle critics of his anti-drug crackdown, which has left thousands of mostly poor drug suspects dead. Western governments, along with EU and UN officials, have expressed alarm over the crackdown.
When de Lima headed the government’s Commission on Human Rights, she tried unsuccessfully to have Duterte prosecuted when he was mayor of Davao city for unlawful deaths in a similar crackdown on illegal drugs he had launched there. However, no witnesses came forward to testify against him.
Duterte expanded the crackdown nationwide after becoming president last June, and de Lima continued to criticize him after winning a Senate seat last year. Duterte has denied condoning extrajudicial killings, although he has repeatedly threatened drug suspects with death in public speeches.
The European Parliament strongly condemned “the many extrajudicial killings” under Duterte’s crackdown and urged his government “to prioritize the fight against trafficking networks and drug barons over tracking down small-scale consumers.”

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Hillary Clinton says she’s ‘ready to come out of the woods’

Author: 
MICHAEL RUBINKAM | AP
Sat, 2017-03-18
ID: 
1489819444575459900

SCRANTON, US: Hillary Clinton said Friday she’s “ready to come out of the woods” and help Americans find common ground.
Clinton’s gradual return to the public spotlight following her presidential election loss continued with a St. Patrick’s Day speech in her late father’s Pennsylvania hometown of Scranton.
“I’m like a lot of my friends right now, I have a hard time watching the news,” Clinton told an Irish women’s group.
But she urged a divided country to work together to solve problems, recalling how, as first lady, she met with female leaders working to bring peace to Northern Ireland.
“I do not believe that we can let political divides harden into personal divides. And we can’t just ignore, or turn a cold shoulder to someone because they disagree with us politically,” she said.
Friday night’s speech was one of several she is to deliver in the coming months, including a May 26 commencement address at her alma mater, Wellesley College in Massachusetts. The Democrat also is working on a book of personal essays that will include some reflections on her loss to Donald Trump.
Clinton, who was spotted taking a walk in the woods around her hometown of Chappaqua, New York, two days after losing the election to Donald Trump, quipped she had wanted to stay in the woods, “but you can only do so much of that.”
She told the Society of Irish Women that it’ll be up to citizens, not a deeply polarized Washington, to bridge the political divide.
“I am ready to come out of the woods and to help shine a light on what is already happening around kitchen tables, at dinners like this, to help draw strength that will enable everybody to keep going,” said Clinton.
Clinton was received warmly in Scranton, where her grandfather worked in a lace mill. Her father left Scranton for Chicago in search of work during the Great Depression, but returned often. Hillary Clinton spent summers at the family’s cottage on nearby Lake Winola.
She fondly recalled watching movies stretched across a bedsheet in a neighbor’s yard, and told of how the cottage had a toilet but no shower or tub.
“Don’t tell anybody this, but we’d go down to the lake,” she said.

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Canadian government apologizes to citizens tortured in Syria

Author: 
Agence France Presse
Sat, 2017-03-18
ID: 
1489815343125355400

OTTAWA, Canada: The Canadian government on Friday formally apologized in a statement to three of its citizens who were tortured in Syria, which Canadian officials allegedly played an indirect role in.
The government said it had settled civil suits with three Canadian nationals — Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin — who were arrested and tortured in Syrian custody just after the 9/11 attacks and detained until 2004.
“On behalf of the Government of Canada, we wish to apologize to Mr. Almalki, Mr. Abou-Elmaati and Mr. Nureddin, and their families, for any role Canadian officials may have played in relation to their detention and mistreatment abroad and any resulting harm,” read a statement from the country’s public safety minister Ralph Goodale and the foreign minister Chrystia Freeland.
The statement did not divulge the nature of the agreement reached.
Amnesty International welcomed the news and said the settlement included financial compensation.
Released in 2004 without charges against them, the trio sued the Canadian government for damages.
This past September Canada’s CBC news network obtained exclusive documents showing that Canadian officials had fed Syrian officials questions they asked the men who were detained and tortured.
“We hope the steps taken today will support them and their families in their efforts to begin a new and hopeful chapter in their lives,” the Canadian ministers’ statement read.
In a similar case, Canadian computer engineer Maher Arar was tortured in a Damascus prison in 2002, after he was transferred there by US officials based on a Canadian tip-off.
But Arar was later cleared of any suspicion by the Canadian authorities, and in January 2007 won an apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Can$10 million in compensation from the Canadian government.

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Tensions show as Trump, Merkel meet for first time

Author: 
Andrew Beatty| AFP
Sat, 2017-03-18
ID: 
1489815421305365800

WASHINGTON: Stark differences between President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on everything from trade to immigration were in full view during an icy first meeting at the White House Friday.
In a frequently awkward joint press conference, Trump and Merkel showed little common ground as they addressed a host of thorny issues including NATO, defense spending and free trade deals.
For most of the 30 minutes in the East Room, Merkel was stony-faced as Trump ripped into Washington’s NATO allies for not paying for their “fair share” for transatlantic defense and demanded “fair and reciprocal trade” deals.
The veteran German chancellor had arrived at a snowy White House hoping to reverse a chill in relations after Trump’s incendiary election rhetoric.
The visit began cordially, with the pair shaking hands at the entrance of the White House.
But later, sitting side-by-side in the Oval Office, Merkel’s suggestion of another handshake went unheard or ignored by Trump — an awkward moment in what are usually highly scripted occasions.
There was never going to be an easy rapport between the cautious German chancellor and impulsive US president.
For years, Merkel — a trained physicist — had been president Barack Obama’s closest international partner, with the two sharing a strong rapport and a similar deliberative approach.
Before coming to office in January, Trump had set the tone by calling Merkel’s acceptance of refugees a “catastrophic mistake” and suggested she was “ruining Germany.”
In a similar vein, Merkel has sought to remind — some in the White House would say lecture — the real estate mogul about democratic values.
Comments like that have prompted some of Trump’s fiercest critics to declare Merkel the new “leader of the free world” — a moniker normally taken up by the occupant of the White House.
During the press conference, Merkel said “it’s much, much better to talk to one another and not about one another, and I think our conversation proved this.”
But even the lighter moments were tinged with tension.
Amid a furor over Trump’s unfounded allegations that he was wiretapped by Obama, the new president cracked a joke referring to past revelations that Merkel’s phone had also been bugged by his Democratic predecessor.
“As far as wiretapping, I guess, by this past administration, at least we have something in common perhaps,” he said.
Merkel appeared not to find the humor in what had been a major political scandal.
And neither side tried to make small talk about Trump’s own background.
His family hails from Kallstadt, a tidy village nestled in southwest Germany’s lush wine country. His grandparents left for America more than a century ago fleeing poverty and later, after a brief return, trouble with the law.

‘Not an isolationist’
Although Trump has tempered his criticism of NATO and the personal attacks against European leaders, officials still fret that Trump has too closely embraced the nationalist ideology of key adviser Steve Bannon.
Bannon has championed trade protectionism and opposed the European Union and other multilateral institutions that underpin the world order.
Trump on Friday pledged to “respect historic institutions” but Bannon, also in the East Room, gave a chuckle as Merkel was asked whether she believed Trump had lied and treated the European Union disrespectfully.
Trump insisted he was not isolationist, saying: “I’m a free trader but also a fair trader.”
Merkel rejected Trump’s suggestion that individual European countries should negotiate free trade deals with the United States, rather than under existing EU-US negotiations.
“I hope we can come back to the table and talk about the agreement” between the EU and US, she said.
Trump departed Washington later Friday, arriving in Florida where he will spend the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate, accompanied by his youngest son Barron, wife Melania and the first lady’s parents.

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