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Top Duterte critic stays defiant

The highest-profile critic of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal

drug war was arrested Friday on charges she said were meant to silence

her, but she vowed to keep fighting the “sociopathic serial killer”. Speaking

to journalists minutes before armed police in flak jackets detained her,

Senator Leila de Lima insisted she was innocent of the drug trafficking

charges that could see her jailed for life. “It is my honor to be imprisoned

for the things I am fighting for. Please pray for me,” De Lima, 57, said

outside her Senate office. “They will not be able to silence me and stop

me from fighting for the truth and justice and against the daily killings and

repression by the Duterte regime.” De Lima also recorded a polemical

video just before her arrest in which she called for Filipinos to show

courage and oppose Duterte’s drug war, which has seen more than 6,500

people killed since he took office eight months ago. “There is no doubt

that our president is a murderer and a sociopathic serial killer,” she said

in the 10-minute video that was posted on her Facebook page. De Lima

said her arrest was an act of revenge for her decade-long efforts to

expose Duterte as the leader of death squads during his time as mayor

of southern Davao city. Duterte first raised allegations in August that De

Lima had been running a drug trafficking ring with criminals inside the

nation’s biggest prison when she was the justice secretary in the previous

government. “I will have to destroy her in public,” Duterte said then as

he began a campaign to tarnish her reputation, including by making

unsubstantiated allegations about her sex life.

— AP


Cheap mobile maker arrested

Police say they have arrested the director of an Indian company that

said it was selling the world’s cheapest smartphone on fraud charges.

Police say Mohit Goel was arrested late Thursday in the northern town of

Ghaziabad following a complaint that his company, Ringing Bells, had not

supplied the handsets that a phone distribution company had paid for.

The launch of the smartphone priced at Rs251 ($3.70) in February 2016

was widely reported by the Indian media. Many customers who bought the

phones said at the time that they were happy with them. Police spokesman

Rahul Srivastava said Friday that the arrest was made after the distribution

company complained that it had paid Goel Rs3 million, but had received

handsets worth only Rs1.3 million.

— AP


VX nerve agent killed Kim Jong-Nam

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s half brother was assassinated with

a lethal nerve agent manufactured for chemical warfare and listed by

the UN as a weapon of mass destruction, Malaysian police said Friday.

Releasing a preliminary toxicology report on Kim Jong-Nam’s murder at

Kuala Lumpur airport, police revealed the poison used by the assassins

was the odorless, tasteless and highly toxic nerve agent VX. North Korea

has a vast chemical weapons stockpile, including VX, of up to 5,000 tons,

South Korean experts said Friday. Traces of VX were detected on swabs

of the dead man’s face and eyes, police said. Leaked CCTV footage from

the Feb. 13 murder shows the portly Kim being approached by two women

who appear to push something in his face. Just a tiny drop of the agent

is enough to fatally damage a victim’s central nervous system. One of the

two women suspects who remain in custody fell ill after the brazen killing,

with police saying Friday she had been vomiting.



Japanese to stand trial over killing spree

A man will stand trial over the brutal stabbing deaths of 19 people at

a disability center in Japan last year — the nation’s bloodiest crime in

decades — media reported Friday. Satoshi Uematsu claimed he was on

a self-styled mission to rid the world of people with mental illness when

he allegedly carried out the attack at the Tsukui Yamayuri-en care center

south of Tokyo on July 26. The mass killing at the facility in mountainous

Sagamihara city in Kanagawa prefecture shocked Japan and sparked a

review of the country’s mental health system. The Yokohama District Public

Prosecutors Office indicted Uematsu for killing 19 residents at the center,

according to public broadcaster NHK and other media. The 27-year-old

experienced a “personality disorder” but psychological reviews have

suggested he is fit for trial, media including Jiji Press said, citing unnamed



After the election,

Massachusetts Governor

Charlie Baker promised

to forge constructive ties

between the state and the

new administration. But he

has not hesitated to criticize

White House policies, including

the travel ban aimed at seven

majority-Muslim nations that

sowed confusion in the US and

abroad. He publicly backed

the state’s attorney general,

a Democrat, when her office

filed a lawsuit to block Trump’s












Saudi Gazette, Saturday, February 25, 2017



By Ben Nuckols


HESE should be heady times for

the GOP as the nation’s gover-

nors prepare to gather for their

winter meeting in Washington,

D.C. Republicans hold 33 gover-

norships, compared with just 16

for Democrats, and the GOP has full control of

the legislatures in two-thirds of the states.

But there is a sense of unease for Repub-

lican governors in Democratic-leaning states.

They criticize President Donald Trump gently,

picking their spots to appease the Democratic

and independent voters they need to remain

in office. At the same time, they don’t want to

alienate Trump supporters.

For some, the best strategy is to avoid

mentioning Trump at all.

Democrats sense an opening ahead of the

2018 elections and are taking any opportunity

to link Republican governors to the president.

Republicans will be defending 27 of the 38

governorships up for election this year and

next. Nine of the GOP governors are in states

Hillary Clinton carried last year.

“I think what the Trump administration

has done, it has really made every Republican

governor out there — especially a moderate

Republican governor in a Democratic state

— it has made them very vulnerable,” said

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat

and chairman of the National Governors As-


Republican governors who face re-election

next year in states that voted for Clinton are

Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Larry Hogan

of Maryland, Bruce Rauner of Illinois, Phil

Scott of Vermont and Chris Sununu of New

Hampshire. Four other states that voted for

Clinton have governors who will be forced out

by term limits: Chris Christie in New Jersey;

Paul LePage in Maine; Susana Martinez in

New Mexico; and Brian Sandoval in Nevada.

Sandoval, vice chairman of the governors

association, said he is comfortable being the

face of moderate GOP governors across the

country. He has urged caution on Trump’s

pledges to repeal President Barack Obama’s

health care law and build a wall along the

US-Mexico border. Sandoval said he believes

he and other moderates can work productively

with Trump and his Cabinet.

“We’re five weeks into the administration,

so I think it’s really premature to start drawing

conclusions now, with regard to what the im-

plication could be in future elections,” he said.

Heading into the upcoming governors’

races, the Republican Governors’Association

is better-funded, having raised $60.7 million

in 2016, compared with $39 million by the

Democratic Governors’Association. The RGA

has tried to paint Democratic challengers as

too liberal and out of touch with mainstream


This weekend’s bipartisan governors’ gath-

ering includes an audience with Trump and

leading Republicans in Congress. Governors

of both parties are concerned with a full range

of proposals that could affect state budgets,

including possible repeal of the Affordable

Care Act, reforms to Medicaid, immigration

enforcement and spending for infrastructure.

Republican governors in Democratic-lean-

ing states are especially vulnerable if policies

put forward by Trump and the GOP Congress

are disruptive in the states.

Baker, a moderate with high approval rat-

ings in a state politically dominated by Demo-

crats, has distanced himself from Trump since

early in the presidential campaign. He said he

left his presidential ballot blank.

After the election, the Massachusetts

governor promised to forge constructive ties

between the state and the new administration.

But he has not hesitated to criticize White

House policies, including the travel ban aimed

at seven majority-Muslim nations that sowed

confusion in the US and abroad. He publicly

backed the state’s attorney general, a Demo-

crat, when her office filed a lawsuit to block

Trump’s action.

During the women’s march after the presi-

dential inauguration, Baker was just blocks

away as protesters flooded Boston Common.

Defending his absence, he said he was work-

ing on time-sensitive matters and said it was

not an intentional snub.

A Donald Trump bobblehead doll is displayed beside one of former secretary of state Hillary

Clinton in prison garb at a booth during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC)

at National Harbor, Maryland, Thursday. Politicians, pundits, journalists and celebrities gather

for the annual conservative event to hear speakers, network and plan agendas for the new

President Trump administration. — AFP

Le Pen sees a France sans kippas, headscarves

By Elaine Ganley


O more Muslim

women in the

Metro wear-

ing the latest in

headscarf attire.

No more young

Jewish boys in kippas dashing

into the bakery for the family’s

dinner baquette.

Far-right leader Marine

Le Pen’s plan to ban religious

symbols from French streets

if elected president this spring

would dramatically alter the

country’s urban landscape.

Le Pen gave a real-life dem-

onstration of her far-reaching but

little-noticed proposal during a

trip this week to Lebanon, refus-

ing to don a head covering for

a visit with a Muslim religious


She lost out on the meeting

but won new publicity just as she

is topping polls.

The ban would stigmatize

France’s large Muslim popula-

tion anew and force Europe’s

largest Jewish community to give

up a cherished custom.

The far-right leader’s bold

plans to pull France out of the

European Union and exit the

euro currency have obscured

some elements of the 144 “com-

mitments” in her platform.

Tucked within the list is point

95. It calls for extending a 2004

law banning headscarves and

other “ostentatious” religious

symbols from the nation’s

classrooms to all public spaces,

including the streets. Only

religious workers such as nuns,

imams and rabbis would enjoy


Le Pen, leader of the anti-im-

migration National Front party,

holds up this measure as her con-

tribution to French secularism,

Trump puts moderate GOP governors in awkward spot

In Maryland, Hogan — who has enjoyed

approval ratings higher than 70 percent — also

said throughout the presidential campaign that

he would not vote for Trump. On his presiden-

tial ballot, he wrote in the name of his father, a

former congressman.

Since the president took office, he has con-

tinually sidestepped questions about Trump.

Even in a friendly interview on a Baltimore

rock radio station, he made clear he was weary

of the subject.

“I’m focused on solving Maryland prob-

lems,” Hogan said. “I have 31 different policy

proposals and a real agenda to turn our state

around, and the only questions we get (are)

‘Why aren’t you protesting Donald Trump?’

Le Pen, leader of

the anti-immigration

National Front party,

holds up this measure

as her contribution to

French secularism,

the foundational value

behind the 2004 law. A

ban on face-covering

veils in public followed

in 2010.

mentalism, seen as a gateway to

violent extremism — just as Le

Pen appears to be doing.

Current polls suggest Le Pen

could come out on top in the first-

round election in April 23 but

would lose in the May 7 runoff.

“I consider the headscarf a

symbol of a woman’s submis-

sion,” Le Pen told reporters

Tuesday at the end of her stay in

Beirut, after refusing to cover her

head to meet Lebanon’s grand

mufti, Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian.

“I will not put on the veil.”

Enlarging the space where

headscarves would be forbidden

is an ongoing debate in France.

But Le Pen’s plan to ban from

public spaces even widely worn

Muslim headscarves — and kip-

pas for Jews — may be a step too


“I know we are asking some

of our fellow citizens (for) some

sacrifices,” said Jean Messiha, a

top Le Pen adviser, referring to

French Jews. “But I am sure ev-

erybody will understand the util-

ity of this sacrifice ... to promote

French unity and French peaceful

relations in the public space.”

French Muslims fear their

estimated 5 million-strong popu-

lation could face an escalation of

Islamophobia even if many don’t

cover their heads.

The streets are “the most fun-

damental area of freedom,” said

Marwan Muhammad, head of the

Collective against Islamophobia

in France, which helped Muslim

women mount successful legal

battles last summer against bans

on burkini swimsuits on numer-

ous municipal beaches.

“Islamophobia doesn’t only

impact Muslims. It impacts so-

ciety at large because it destroys

something fundamental - liberty,”

he said.

— AP

and ‘Why didn’t you go to BWI (Airport) to

do this or that?’ I don’t see that as my role.”

Democrats, who control the Legislature

and enjoy a 2-to-1 advantage in voter registra-

tion, went against Hogan’s wishes when they

voted to expand the attorney general’s powers

in response to Trump. And they’re not nearly

as shy about mentioning the president.

“The governor seems unwilling to stand

up to Mr. Trump, and so that will fall to the

Democrats,” state Sen. Jim Rosapepe said.

As with the other governors, Rauner in

Illinois said he is focusing on his state — or at

least he’s trying to. He went to great lengths

not to stake a clear position on Trump during

the campaign — refusing to comment on the

race, who he was voting for or even to say

Trump’s name. Since the election, he has

continued to avoid taking a clear position on

the administration’s policies.

His strategy is clearly intended to avoid

alienating voters in Chicago, the suburbs

and other urban areas who supported Hill-

ary Clinton in November, or those in rural

counties that went overwhelmingly for Trump.

But avoidance also comes with some peril:

Democrats, who control the Illinois Legisla-

ture, called the Republican governor cowardly

for meeting with billionaire donors out of state

while refugees were stranded at Chicago’s

O’Hare airport after the president’s travel-

banning executive order.

Rauner already has a slim margin for error

after a two-year budget stalemate has tanked

his approval ratings.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, the

chairman of the Democratic Governors Asso-

ciation, senses a change after recent elections

went overwhelmingly in the Republicans’


“Clearly, the wave was against Democrats

in ‘10 and it was against Democrats to some

extent in ‘14, but I suspect it’s going to be

against Republicans just as strongly,” Malloy

said. “Can you overcome that? Absolutely,

you can overcome that, but you have to

overcome that by separating yourself (from


— AP

the foundational value behind the

2004 law. A ban on face-covering

veils in public followed in 2010.

In both instances, it was well-

known that the government was

also targeting Muslim funda-