Nepal to hold first local elections in 20 years

KATHMANDU: Nepal will hold its first local elections in two decades in May, the government has announced, a key moment in the country’s fraught transition to democracy. But deep political divides have prevented it from implementing a new constitution that paves the way for elections, but which the minority Madhesi community says leaves them politically marginalized. “This is an achievement in a way but the problem is whether the Madhesi parties will be on board. If the Madhesi go for protest it will be impossible (to hold the polls),” Nishchal Pandey, director of the Kathmandu-based Centre for South Asian Studies, told Agence France-Presse. Their five-year terms expired in 2002, at the height of the civil war, and their mandate was allowed to lapse.

February 21, 2017 09:25 UTC

SC affirms filing of raps vs Napoles over pork barrel scam

Aside from Napoles, the high court also dismissed the petition filed by her driver John Raymund De Asis and National Agri-Business Corporation (NABCOR) President Alan Javellana. The three are facing a case for malversation of public funds, corruption of public officials and violation of the Anti-Graft Law. ADVERTISEMENTIn affirming the Ombudsman’s finding of probable cause, the high court reiterated its deference to the Ombudsman’s performance of its duty. The SC added that there is no proof that the Ombudsman has abused its discretion in filing the case at the Sandiganbayan. Napoles, who, according to Solicitor General Jose Calida, has been wrongfully convicted by the Makati court for serious illegal detention, is facing a string of criminal cases including plunder before the Sandiganbayan.

February 21, 2017 08:03 UTC

Trump names H.R. McMaster as national security advisor

McMaster as his national security advisor, hoping to course correct after his first pick resigned and his second turned down the vital post. Trump scrambled to replace Flynn after retired vice admiral Robert Harward turned down the post, amid a wrangling over lower-level National Security Council appointments and a meandering Trump press conference. Former president Barack Obama’s last national security advisor, Susan Rice, congratulated McMaster on his appointment. In the path of KissingerThe post of national security advisor is a crucial, if discreet, engine for White House power and the smooth functioning of government. The national security advisor manages hundreds of staff members, arbitrates between sometimes feuding government departments, balances foreign policy and military policy and ensures the president’s national security agenda gets implemented.

February 21, 2017 03:45 UTC

Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin dead at 64

UNITED NATIONS: Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, who for years fended off Western criticism and defended Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and Syria, has died in New York. In a statement announcing his death, the foreign ministry in Moscow described him as an “outstanding diplomat.” There was no information on the cause of death. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said President Vladimir Putin “highly valued the professionalism and diplomatic talent of Vitaly Churkin” and offered condolences, Interfax reported. Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova paid tribute to Churkin, writing on Facebook: “A great diplomat. Power’s successor, Nikki Haley, who arrived less than a month ago, said Churkin had “showed himself to be a gracious colleague”.

February 21, 2017 03:19 UTC

Syrian army pounds rebels in pre-talks shelling

BEIRUT: Syrian government forces Monday escalated their bombing campaign around Damascus, raining shells down on rebel territory and sending out a “bloody message” just days before renewed peace talks in Geneva. But regime forces Monday escalated their bombing of the edges of the capital, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and activists on the ground. Targeting GhoutaSyria’s opposition on Sunday lambasted the government’s renewed bombing campaign around the capital, alleging that its aim was to sabotage the peace talks. Ankara and Moscow have teamed up to host two rounds of Syria peace talks in Kazakhstan in a bid to bolster a faltering truce they brokered in December. On Monday, 11 members of one family were killed in Al-Bab as Turkey-backed rebels advanced on the IS-held town, the Observatory said.

February 21, 2017 02:52 UTC

Thousands of anti-Trump protesters say ‘not my president’

NEW YORK: About 10,000 anti-Trump protesters marched in New York to shouts of “not my president!” Monday, joined by others in cities across the United States on its Presidents’ Day holiday. Earlier in the day, the president played 18 holes of golf with Irish golf superstar Rory McIlroy at Trump International Golf Club, according to media reports. One of the protesters, retired psychotherapist Rima Strauss, wore a denim jacket with a button that read “Not my president” and another one showing a picture of Russian President Vladimir Putin holding a baby Trump in diapers. We want to spread the message of peace and love, true Islam,” he said, adding, “I do obey President Trump as our president, but I don’t have to agree with his policies.”In Los Angeles, protesters carried anti-Trump signs outside City hall, some reading “1. Similar threats have been on the rise since Trump came to power a month ago.

February 21, 2017 01:30 UTC

New York attorney general bids to become Trump’s No. 1 enemy

New York’s attorney general was a target of Trump’s Twitter feed years before the president’s assaults on “Little Marco” Rubio or “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz. Trump called Schneiderman a “lightweight” on Twitter in 2013, when the attorney general was investigating Trump University. Schneiderman also investigated Trump’s family foundation, and he played a role recently in organizing legal opposition by Democratic attorneys general to Trump’s travel ban. He won a state Senate seat representing a Manhattan district in 1998, becoming attorney general in 2010. But Ed Zimmerman, who leads a tech group at a local law firm, praised the attorney general for taking on the president despite the risks.

February 21, 2017 00:07 UTC

Russia’s ambassador to United Nations falls ill, dies at 64

NEW YORK — Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, a veteran diplomat known as a potent, savvy yet personable voice for his country’s interests who could both spar and get along with his Western counterparts, died suddenly Monday after falling ill in his office at Russia’s UN mission. Vitaly Churkin was taken to a hospital, where he died a day before his 65th birthday, said Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov. As Russia’s envoy at the United Nations since 2006 and a diplomat for decades, Churkin was considered Moscow’s great champion at the UN, where he was the longest-serving ambassador on the powerful Security Council. ADVERTISEMENTRussian President Vladimir Putin esteemed Churkin’s “professionalism and diplomatic talents,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to the state news agency TASS. He said he’d been struck and heartened by Churkin’s openness to meeting with representatives from small countries, such as Fiji.

February 20, 2017 23:26 UTC

Magnitude 4.7 earthquake shakes Panama’s capital

PANAMA CITY — An earthquake caused skyscrapers in Panama’s capital to sway Monday and led to the evacuation of some buildings. There were no immediate reports of injuries. The US Geological Survey gave a preliminary magnitude of 4.7 for the afternoon’s quake. The shaking set off car alarms and local news media said the local subway system was halted. ADVERTISEMENTThe quake at 2:35 p.m. (1935 GMT) was centered 6 miles (10 kilometers) deep about 51 miles (83 kilometers) south-southeast of Panama City in the Gulf of Panama.

February 20, 2017 21:11 UTC

2 boys drown in quarry site

ILOILO CITY — Two boys aged 10 and 9 drowned at the quarry site filled with rainwater past 6 p.m. on Monday in Anilao town, Iloilo. PO1 Marvin Pugasa, Anilao police investigator, said the two boys were seen by a security guard, biking toward the quarry pit. After a few minutes, the guard patrolled the quarry site and found the two bicycles abandoned in the area. When the boy’s father saw the bicicyles, he got nervous and went to the quarry site. The families of the victims were living outside the quarry site where most members worked.

February 20, 2017 20:26 UTC

Marine animals in peril as Subic park management row escalates

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Marine animals in Ocean Adventure here may be put in peril as the leadership row escalated between the two warring groups of officials of the theme park. A change in management also sparked confusion among theme park employees, prompting officials of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) to step in. Laure said about 20 troopers of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force provided security when they took over the management of the theme park on Feb. 14. Laure said she would look into reports that some marine animals in the theme park had been neglected by the previous management. “Our priority now is the safety of the marine animals.

February 20, 2017 20:26 UTC

‘Tug-of-war’ over Marian image

ADVERTISEMENTBut while elated to see the original image back in the shrine, Marian devotees were wary of losing the statue, said to be one of the oldest Catholic Church treasures, again. The Advocates for Heritage Preservation (AHP) started an online petition, called “Return the Original Image of Our Lady of Caysasay to Taal,” urging Catholic Church officials to keep the image on public display. They believed that the original image, with accessories made of gold and diamonds, was hidden in the archdiocese’s office in Lipa City. Atienza said there had been efforts since 2013 to reach out to church officials, even to the Vatican, to have the original image back. In a text message last week, Arguelles said the issue on the Caysasay image was one of the “false accusations I suffered silently.”“The [original image] was never kept in Lipa.

February 20, 2017 20:26 UTC

DoT sees 6.5-M tourism workforce by 2022

THE Department of Tourism (DoT) expects about 6.5 million workers will fuel the tourism sector by 2022, the DoT secretary said. Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo disclosed DoT’s projections as she addressed global leaders and tourism industry stakeholders during the World Tourism Forum—Global Meeting in Istanbul, Turkey on February 16 to 18. “About 6.5 million workers will fuel the tourism sector by the end of President Rodrigo Duterte administration in 2022,” Teo said. She announced that the DoT has just completed its National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP), which will serve as the roadmap of the department through 2022. The Tourism chief urged the delegates to share and exchange consumer insights, information and knowledge to allow the development of diversified tourism activities and tour packages.

February 20, 2017 17:42 UTC

Peso hits new 10-yr low at P50.23:$1

The peso lost further value as the US dollar gained more strength against Asian currencies in Monday trade, driving the Philippine unit to P50.23:$1, its weakest rate in more than 10 years. The dollar continued to attract safe-haven interest amid growing uncertainty in Europe and the prospects of fiscal reforms in the US under the Trump administration. “[The peso movement] was also driven by risk-off sentiment amid geopolitical concerns, especially in Europe,” BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said in a text message to reporters. The Philippine peso first touched the P50:$1 level on November 24 last year on expectations of interest rate hikes in the US. For full-year 2016, the peso depreciated by 5.35 percent against the US dollar.

February 20, 2017 17:42 UTC

Potential loss from mining closures, suspensions to hit P800M – DoF

Citing updated estimates submitted by the Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF), the DoF noted that Carrascal will lose P198.3 million of mining revenues equivalent to 62.3 percent of total operating income. Tagana-an will lose P70.3 million or 54 percent of its total operating income and Tubajon will lose P38 million or 55.4 percent of its total operating income if the DENR orders are implemented. “The total estimated potential revenue loss from the direct payments of mining firms and the shares from mining taxes of affected LGUs amounted to P821.13 million,” Alvina said. The share of the affected local governments from mining taxes collected by the national government account for P481.17 million, he said. “The provinces of the affected component municipalities are also imposing governor’s clearance, verification and environmental fees, soil depletion tax, and processing permits for vessel,” he said.

February 20, 2017 17:42 UTC

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