Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte reacts to threats to force him from power

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has reacted to alleged threats by his opponents to force him from power.

Speaking to state television today, Duterte said: "If the armed forces think that I am not competent, that I am not qualified to be sitting here as president ... it's up to you," Duterte said. "You want another president? Fine."

Opposition politicians said Duterte's TV appearance, which lasted more than an hour, should have focused on growing public concern over inflation, which hit a nine-year high last month, rice shortages and poverty.

A powerful typhoon churning over the Pacific is also forecast to lash the country's agricultural north later this week.

Duterte attempted to explain the legal offensive he has launched against opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.

He linked Trillanes' political group to an alleged plot to oust him, and said he has ordered the release of intelligence provided by a foreign government about the alleged plan.

Duterte's decision to withdraw a 2011 amnesty granted to Trillanes, a former navy officer who joined past mutinies, has forced the senator to seek refuge in the Senate, where he has been marooned for a week and gained wide media coverage.

Concerns have been raised that Duterte's moves may undermine judicial independence and that the political impasse may ignite restiveness among troops in a country with a recent history of military uprisings.

Military chief of staff General Carlito Galvez Jr. warned troops over the weekend "not to meddle or take part in partisan politics".

Opposition politicians said Duterte's TV appearance should have focused on growing public concern over inflation. Source: Associated Press


Topics



Malaysia urged to ban child marriages as man, 41, weds 15-year-old

Malaysia's government has come under renewed pressure to outlaw child marriages after another case of a child bride surfaced in a poor rural state, the second in weeks.

A 15-year-old teenager became the second wife of a 44-year-old Muslim man in northeast Kelantan state, the New Straits Times newspaper reported. It said the union was approved by the Islamic Shariah court in July after her parents consented due to poverty.

The latest case occurred in the same month when a Kelantan rubber trader married an 11-year-old girl as his third wife, but only became public this week.

Muslim girls under the minimum legal marriage age of 16 can wed with the consent of the Shariah court and their parents. Muslim men can marry up to four wives.

The case has sparked renewed outrage among rights groups. UNICEF in a statement slammed the latest child marriage as "unacceptable" and urged Malaysia to bring legislative change to ban the practice.

"A new legislation on child marriage should be accompanied by other measures, including compulsory access to secondary education, sexual reproductive health education and poverty reduction," said UNICEF representative to Malaysia, Marianne Clark-Hattingh.

The New Straits Times cited the girl's parents as saying that they wanted a better life for theirs daughter, a school dropout and the youngest of 13 children.

Similarly, the 11-year-old Thai girl, who lives in Kelantan with her parents, was also a school dropout from a poor family. A 41-year-old rubber scrap dealer, who has two wives and six children aged between ages of 5 and 18, secretly wed the girl in Thailand. The union became public after one of his wives lodged a complaint with police.

The man was later fined by the Shariah court for marrying without its permission but wasn't charged for underage marriage. He told local media he would formalise the marriage by applying for an official certificate in five years when his latest wife turns 16. The girl has reportedly been sent back to Thailand where she is placed under welfare care.

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail has said the government is investigating the latest case but that its hands are tied as the marriage was approved by the Shariah court. She said the government is seeking to raise the minimum legal age of marriage for Muslim girls to 18, same as under civil laws.

Malaysia follows a dual-track justice system. Nearly two-thirds of Malaysia's 31 million people are Muslims, who are governed by Islamic courts in family, marriage and personal issues.

Rights group Lawyers for Liberty urged police to probe the man in the latest case for "sexual grooming" as he reportedly knew the girl for several months before marriage. It warned that "pedophiles are now clearly using marriage as a shield to prevent prosecution for rape or sexual grooming" following the government's failure to act.

"This puts the children of this country, particularly Muslim children, in constant danger from perverts and pedophiles," executive director Latheefa Koya said in a statement.

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia said it was concerned that parents can now legally resort to "selling" their children under the guise of marriage.

"It now appears that poverty can also be a reason accepted by the Shariah court to approve an application for marriage of an underage child, which in turn seems to treat children as mere commodities," said Chairman Razali Ismail. He called for social protection for children in poverty and echoed calls for the government to outlaw child marriages.

Government officials have said some 15,000 child marriages have been recorded in the past 10 years, two-thirds of which involve Muslims.

Malay wedding ceremony, Malaysia. Groom putting a diamond ring to his bride’s finger
(File picture). Source: istock.com


Topics

TODAY'S
TOP STORIES

Trump visits North Carolina as governor pleads for patience

The death toll from Hurricane Florence climbed to at least 37, including two mental health patients who drowned when a sheriff's van was swept away by floodwaters, and North Carolina's governor pleaded with thousands of evacuees not to return home just yet.

President Donald Trump, meanwhile, arrived in storm-ravaged North Carolina on Wednesday.

Wilmington, population 120,000, was still mostly an island surrounded by floodwaters, and people waited for hours Tuesday for handouts of food, water and tarps. Thousands of others around the state waited in shelters for the all-clear.

"I know it was hard to leave home, and it is even harder to wait and wonder whether you even have a home to go back to," Gov. Roy Cooper said.

After submerging North Carolina with nearly 3 feet (1 meter) of rain, the storm dumped more than 6.5 inches (16.5 centimeters) of rain in the Northeast, where it caused flash flooding.

Cooper warned that the flooding is far from over and will get worse in places.

"I know for many people this feels like a nightmare that just won't end," he said.

Addressing roughly 10,000 people who remain in shelters and "countless more" staying elsewhere, Cooper urged them to stay put for now, particularly those from the hardest-hit coastal counties that include Wilmington, near where Florence blew ashore on Friday.

Roads remain treacherous, he said, and some are still being closed for the first time as rivers swelled by torrential rains inland drain toward the Atlantic.

At least 27 of the deaths happened in North Carolina.

In South Carolina, two women died on Tuesday evening after a van taking the mental health patients from one facility to another was overtaken by rising floodwaters near the Little Pee Dee River, authorities said.

The risk of environmental damage mounted, as human and animal waste was washed into the swirling floodwaters.

More than 5 million gallons (18 million liters) of partially treated sewage spilled into the Cape Fear River after power went out at a treatment plant, officials said, and the earthen dam of a pond holding hog waste was breached, spilling its contents. The flooding killed an estimated 3.4 million chickens and 5,500 hogs on farms.

In Wilmington on Tuesday, workers began handing out supplies using a system resembling a giant fast-food drive-thru: Drivers pulled up to a line of pallets, placed an order and left without having to get out. A woman blew a whistle each time drivers had to pull forward.

Todd Tremain needed tarps to cover up spots where Florence's winds ripped shingles off his roof. Others got a case of bottled water or military MREs, or field rations. An olive-drab military forklift moved around huge pallets loaded with supplies.

Brandon Echavarrieta struggled to stay composed as he described life post-Florence: no power for days, rotted meat in the freezer, no water or food and just one bath in a week.

"It's been pretty bad," said Echavarrieta, 34, his voice breaking.

About 3,500 vehicles came through for supplies on the first day they were available, county officials said in a Facebook post.

Supplies have been brought into the city by big military trucks and helicopters,

At Fayetteville, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) inland, near the Army's sprawling Fort Bragg, flooding from Cape Fear River got so bad that authorities closed a vehicle bridge after the water began touching girders supporting the span's top deck.

Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin said it was unclear if the bridge was threatened.

"We've never had it at those levels before, so we don't really know what the impact will be just yet," he said.

Flood waters from hurricane Florence inundate the town of Engelhard, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Waters inundate a town in North Carolina. Source: Associated Press


Topics

TODAY'S
FEATURED STORIES

Kim agrees to dismantle nuke site if US takes steps too

The leaders of North and South Korea announced a wide range of agreements Wednesday which they said were a major step toward peace on the Korean Peninsula. But the premier pledge on denuclearization contained a big condition, with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stating he'd permanently dismantle his main nuclear complex only if the United States takes unspecified corresponding measures.

Compared to the vague language of their two summits earlier this year, Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed in their second day of meetings to an ambitious program meant to tackle soaring tensions last year that had many fearing war as the North tested a string of increasingly powerful weapons.

Kim promised to accept international inspectors to monitor the closing of a key missile test site and launch pad and to visit Seoul soon, and both leaders vowed to work together to try to host the Summer Olympics in 2032.

But while containing several tantalizing offers, their joint statement appeared to fall short of the major steps many in Washington have been looking for — such as a commitment by Kim to provide a list of North Korea's nuclear facilities, a solid step-by-step timeline for closing them down, or an agreement to allow international inspectors to assess progress or discover violations.

It also was unclear what "corresponding steps" North Korea wants from the U.S. to dismantle its nuclear site.

The question is whether it will be enough for U.S. President Donald Trump to pick up where Moon has left off. Trump, tweeting about the Korean leaders' agreements, said, "Very exciting!"

Declaring they had made a major step toward peace, Moon and Kim stood side by side as they announced the joint statement to a group of North and South Korean reporters after a closed-door meeting Wednesday morning. They took no questions.

"We have agreed to make the Korean Peninsula a land of peace that is free from nuclear weapons and nuclear threat," Kim said at the guesthouse where Moon is staying. "The road to our future will not always be smooth and we may face challenges and trials we can't anticipate. But we aren't afraid of headwinds because our strength will grow as we overcome each trial based on the strength of our nation."

Kim and Moon earlier smiled and chatted as they walked down a hallway and into a meeting room to finalize the joint statement, which also said that the leaders would push for a Korean Peninsula without nuclear weapons and to "eliminate all the danger of war." Moon and Kim planned to visit a volcano sacred to the North on Thursday, the last day of Moon's visit.

This week's summit comes as Moon is under increasing pressure from Washington to find a path forward in efforts to get Kim to completely — and unilaterally — abandon his nuclear arsenal.

Trump has maintained that he and Kim have a solid relationship, and both leaders have expressed interest in a follow-up summit to their meeting in June in Singapore. North Korea has been demanding a declaration formally ending the Korean War, which was stopped in 1953 by a cease-fire, but neither leader mentioned it Wednesday as they read the joint statement.

In the meantime, however, Moon and Kim made concrete moves of their own to reduce tensions on their border.

According to a statement signed by the countries' defense chiefs, the two Koreas agreed to establish buffer zones along their land and sea borders to reduce military tensions and prevent accidental clashes. They also agreed to withdraw 11 guard posts from the Demilitarized Zone by December and to establish a no-fly zone above the military demarcation line that bisects the two Koreas that will apply to planes, helicopters and drones.

Though not directly linked to security, the leaders' announcement that they would seek a joint Summer Olympics was a significant move in terms of easing tensions and building trust. It also flows from the North's decision to participate in the Pyeongchang Winter Games in February, which was regarded as a success for both sides.

Other agreements aimed at removing some longstanding irritants from their relations, such as allowing more contact between families divided by the Korean War. Moon also appeared to be making good on his proposals to help build up the North's infrastructure and open cross-border rail links.

Unlike Trump's initial tweets praising the summit, the news brought a quick and negative response from Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who tweeted that he was concerned the visit would undermine efforts by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley to impose "maximum pressure" on the North.

"While North Korea has stopped testing missiles and nuclear devices, they have NOT moved toward denuclearization," he tweeted.

With the main business of the day complete, North Korea was expected to hold a huge mass games spectacle in the evening, with Moon as the special guest. Seoul said Moon would make a short speech.

North Korea had put the iconic games, which feature tens of thousands of performers dancing and flipping placards in unison to create giant mosaics and slogans, on a back burner for the past several years, but revived them for this month's celebrations of its 70th founding anniversary. In a performance for the anniversary, a giant photo of Moon and Kim shaking hands at their first summit in April was projected onto one side of the stands in Pyongyang's 150,000-seat May Day Stadium.

Kim has gone all out to make Moon's visit a memorable one.

On Tuesday, the first day of the summit, he greeted Moon and his wife at Pyongyang's airport and then rode into town with Moon in an open limousine through streets lined with crowds of North Koreans, who cheered and waved the flag of their country and a blue-and-white flag that symbolizes Korean unity.

At the start of their meeting, Kim thanked Moon for brokering the June summit with Trump.

"It's not too much to say that it's Moon's efforts that arranged a historic North Korea-U.S. summit. Because of that, the regional political situation has been stabilized and more progress on North Korea-U.S. ties is expected," Kim said, according to South Korean media pool reports and Moon's office.

Two completely different worlds were bridged by a 12 second handshake.
Source: 1 NEWS


Topics


Young boy arrested after admitting he put needles in Australian strawberries

A young boy has been arrested in Australia after police say he admitted to putting needles in strawberries.

NSW Acting Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith said detectives had arrested one young boy over an incident that "could be a prank", 7 NEWS reports.

"Obviously in the last few days we found a young person has admitted to a prank, including putting needles in strawberries, and he’ll be dealt with under the youth cautioning system," the acting assistant commissioner said.

Earlier today, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the "idiot" who first sabotaged Queensland strawberries, setting off a distressing series of events, had risked the livelihoods of farmers and put fear in the hearts of parents across the country.

"This is a shocking and cowardly thing for this individual and others who have jumped onto the bandwagon here to have engaged in," Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra today.

Anyone found guilty of contaminating food could soon face a maximum of 15 years in prison, up from 10 years.

The threshold for the harsh penalties will also be lowered from an intention to cause anxiety or harm, to simply engaging in a reckless act.

The new criminal penalties are on par with child pornography and terror financing offences.

Additionally, anyone who piggy-backs off such a crisis by engaging in a reckless hoax would also face 10 years behind bars.

The offence would extend to people who provide false reports or make jokes in poor taste on Facebook.

"It's not a joke, it's not funny, you are putting the livelihoods of hard-working Australians at risk and you are scaring children, you're a coward and you're a grub." Mr Morrison said.

"If you do that sort of thing in this country, we will come after you and we will throw the book at you."

Mr Morrison wants the laws to pass Parliament by the time it rises on Thursday evening.

"I don't care if you've got a gripe with a company, I don't care whether you've got a gripe with your fellow worker, this is a very serious thing," he said.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said the sanctions would not be applied retrospectively to those responsible for the existing strawberry saga.

"But the reason we are doing this so quickly is ... this sends a massive deterrence message to anyone out there who would further cripple this industry."

NSW authorities are investigating more than 20 incidents of needles found in strawberries. Source: Breakfast