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Kanye West announces he’s running for president


The controversial rapper will have to defeat friend Donald Trump.

It’s unclear whether he’s consulted with his friend Donald Trump, but rapper Kanye West has announced he’s ready to unseat the Republican president.

“We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future,” West wrote on Twitter Saturday evening. “I am running for president of the United States! #2020VISION”

It’s not apparent how serious he is about running, but it seems unlikely the polarizing entertainer could actually unseat Trump. It’s probably more likely he could use a little publicity for his upcoming album, “God’s Country,” and its first single, “Wash Us in the Blood,” which was released earlier this week.

But Trump himself was a reality TV star and former President Ronald Reagan of course made his name as a Hollywood actor before entering politics.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Trump both have a few hundred million dollar fundraising advantage on the 21-time Grammy winner. Though his wife, Kim Kardashian, is very nearly a billionaire after selling 20% of her KKW Beauty last month if he’s looking to borrow a few hundred million.

If West does actually want to run for president, he would have to do so as an independent. And even that would take him acquiring the necessary signatures to get on November’s ballot. Bad news for voters in Indiana, Maine, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina and Texas — the deadline has already passed to file and you won’t get a chance to vote for West. (Unless you want to write him in.)

West, 43, made a surreal appearance in the Oval Office in October 2018, meeting with Trump after professing his love for the current president. The move ostracized the Chicago rapper from many of his peers in the entertainment industry. In the end it turned out West hadn’t even voted in the 2016 election.

Donning a “Make America Great Again” hat, the two were set to talk about the president’s appeal to African Americans. But in reality the conversation swung from his IQ — he’s in the 98th percentile, he said — to his mental health to Ford needing to design the “fliest most amazing” cars and his comments on live TV during a Hurricane Katrina charity fundraiser that George W. Bush didn’t care about Black people. All the while, he tested television producers’ censor buttons.

The two actually did discuss West running for president, believe it or not.

Trump said the rapper “could very well be” a future presidential candidate.

“Only after …” West responded, referring to after Trump left office.

“That’s good, I’m glad to hear that,” Trump said.

Apparently, he’s moved up the date.

He seemed to imply in the May issue of GQ that he was going to vote for Trump this year.

“We know who I’m voting on,” West told the magazine. “And I’m not going to be told by the people around me and the people that have their agenda that my career is going to be over. Because guess what: I’m still here!”

Trump has also made acquaintances with West’s wife. Kardashian has visited the White House multiple times and met with Trump to push criminal reform policy. She first met with the president in 2018 when she secured the commutation of a Tennessee woman’s life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense.

Kardashian visited the White House most recently in March along with three other women who had their sentences commuted by the president.

For what it’s worth, Kardashian tweeted an American flag emoji in response to her husband’s declaration.

One tweet before he made his proclamation, West shared a July 1 photo with maybe the only celebrity figure more polarizing than himself: Elon Musk.

Musk immediately responded to West’s presidential announcement, writing, “You have my full support.”

ABC News’ Jordyn Phelps contributed to this report.



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#Kazakhstan President Tokayev’s first year in office a success says EU



What happens in Kazakhstan also matters for the EU because the 27-member bloc is the number one investor in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan’s new president, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (pictured), has marked his first year in office, with a pledge to forge ahead with more reforms. Tokayev won the presidential election on 9 June 2019 with 70% of the votes, running against six other candidate.  He is widely praised for introducing far-reaching reforms in the country, the eighth largest in the world though with a population of just 20 million.

In his first major speech, the president defined his policies in all fields of the economy and society.

In the state-of-the-nation address he promised to oppose ‘unsystematic political liberalisation’ and instead carry reforms ‘without running ahead’. Crucially, a large part of his one-hour speech was devoted to improving living standards for the Kazakh people.

He also emphasised his goal of having a strong president, an influential parliament, and an accountable government. This reflects the government’s continued focus on reducing inequality in Kazakhstan and improving Kazakh citizens’ quality of life.

At the same time, the president also focused on political and economic development, including supporting micro, small and medium-sized businesses.

While much of President Tokayev’s first year in office has focused on – successfully – delivering on these promises  prioritised domestic reforms, he has also paid heed to several foreign policy priorities for Kazakhstan.

Most recently, of course, the focus has been very much on combating the ongoing health pandemic.

Last month, he admitted that this “has not been easy for our country.”  He also warned, “the crisis has not yet been completely overcome. The epidemic has not completely disappeared. A pandemic is still dangerous to public health.”

Several key issues, he believes, still need to be resolved in the near future.

First. Improving the self-sufficiency of the Kazakh economy.

Second. Kazakhstan has allocated around 1 trillion tenge for the implementation of the president’s Employment Roadmap and, following the implementation of the projects, an analysis of their socio-economic efficiency will be carried out.

Third. the construction of affordable housing will give a powerful incentive for economic development, employment growth and social support.

Fourth. the time has come, he insists, to work out the issue of introducing a progressive scale of individual income tax in respect of wages and other types of income.

Fifth. Support for national business.

Sixth. The country should switch to working directly with each capital holder to boost increased competition for foreign capital.

So, what is the verdict on his first year?

Mukhtar Tileuberdi, the minister of foreign affairs of Kazakhstan, says, “The President has been quick to implement his ideas. In his first few months in office, he has shown his commitment to promoting the development of a multi-party system, increased political competition, and pluralism of opinions in the country”.

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, said that in recent months “the breadth and depth of our relationship has progressed immeasurably.”

This is partly due to the fact that president Tokayev, in March this year,  signed an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the European Union, he said.  In doing so, Borrell notes it became the first country in Central Asia.

The Spanish official, a former president of the European parliament, adds “The European Union is the country’s biggest trade and investment partner, while Kazakhstan is by far the EU’s largest trade partner in Central Asia. What is more, we have invested heavily in strengthening governance, supporting its justice, social and economic reforms.”

Borrell says that, under the president’s tutelage, “We are turning the page and beginning an exciting new chapter.”

Polish MEP Ryszard Czarnecki, the Chair of the EU-Kazakhstan Friendship group in the European parliament, is equally enthusiastic, saying “In Europe, the prevailing opinion is that Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, in fact, is building a social welfare state, where special attention is paid to reducing inequality, improving the quality of life of every Kazakh, and where priority is given to solving the day-to-day problems of the people.”

The ECR deputy adds, “In the field of foreign policy, Kazakhstan, as has been the case before, pays special attention to its partnership with the European Union. On 1 March 2020, the European Union-Kazakhstan Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement came into force. On the basis of this document, we expect that the parties will be able to fully reap the benefits of their partnership. As EU-Kazakhstan Friendship group chair I will do my utmost to further our relations to our mutual benefit.”

But the president has also overseen a whole raft of other changes, including abolishing the death penalty and reaffirming the need to strengthen the role of the Kazakh language as a state language.

He is spearheading a rapprochement between the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union and also promoted freedom of expression for his country’s 20m citizens.

The president is also intensifying efforts to attract foreign direct investment, support farmers to market their products to foreign markets and support the activities of the Astana International Finance Centre.

He has also pledged to continue to support micro, small and medium sized businesses.

Shavkat Sabirov, director of the Institute for security and cooperation in Central Asia, says there has been a damaging lack of public confidence in political leadership around the world in recent time and this has many causes.

“But,” he notes,” perhaps none is more important than the widespread belief – fairly or unfairly – of citizens that their wishes, concerns and hopes are being ignored or taken for granted by those they have put in power.

It is a charge that Kazakhstan Tokayev has shown in his first months in office that he is determined to avoid.

Since his election last year, he has made his main priority reforming state and government services so they are more responsive to the needs and ambitions of its citizens.

He has wasted no time, either, in extending as he promised opportunity to all and increasing support to those who need it most.

It is a packed agenda – and President Tokayev is promising there will be no slow-up in reforms.

Fraser Cameron, director of the Brussels-based EU/Asia Centre, is a vastly experienced and respected expert on Asian affairs and gives a decidedly upbeat assessment of the country’s new head of state.

“President Tokayev’s ambitious reforms,” says Cameron, a former senior European Commission official,”should provide a solid basis to deepen cooperation between the EU and Kazhakstan.”

According to Willy Fautre, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers, there is still room for improvement. He says, “In the field of human rights, the legacy of President Tokayev’s predecessor is very heavy and a lot of progress needs to be quickly achieved. Freedom of religion is one of those areas where some controversial laws should be revised and aligned to international standards as quite a number of peaceful Sunni Muslims have been unduly sentenced to very long prison terms. The US is putting in place a constructive policy in this regard with the establishment of the US-Kazakhstan Religious Freedom Working Group.

“Washington is also developing an Enhanced Strategic Partnership Dialogue (ESPD) and has engaged Kazakhstan on a range of issues, such as human rights, labor and religious freedom. President Tokayev should not miss this opportunity to restore the image of his country.”

Looking to the future, there is still much more to do if the shared ambition of First President Nazarbayev and his successor of Kazakhstan joining the ranks of the world’s most developed 30 countries is to be achieved.

 

Kazakhstan/EU Factfile

  • The EU is Kazakhstan’s biggest trade partner, with almost 40% share in its total external trade.
  • Kazakhstan’s exports to the EU are heavily dominated by oil and gas which account for more than 80% of the country’s total exports.
  • Exports from the EU are dominated by machinery and transport equipment, as well as products within the manufacturing and chemicals sectors.
  • Imports from Kazakhstan greatly exceed EU exports to Kazakhstan.
  • Kazakhstan has a growing importance as an oil and gas supplier to the EU. Kazakhstan has benefited from strong foreign direct investment in recent years, largely to its oil and gas sector. Almost half of the foreign direct investment inflow comes from the EU.

 



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A black delivery driver filmed himself being trapped in an Oklahoma City neighborhood as an HOA president demanded to know why he was there


Travis Miller (center) being held in an Oklahoma City neighborhood.
Travis Miller (center) being held in an Oklahoma City neighborhood.

Facebook/Travis Miller

  • Travis Miller, a delivery driver in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, says a neighborhood’s homeowners’ association president blocked him into a gated community and demanded to know why he was there. 

  • Miller captured the ordeal on Facebook Live, in a video that lasts for 37 minutes that has been watched more than 170,000 times.

  • The HOA official, who said his name was David Stewart, told Miller that he had called police on him after Miller refused to disclose customer information. 

  • After the HOA official left, Miller said he was afraid to leave the gated community, telling police: “I didn’t want to leave and have it seem like I was fleeing the scene or anything like that.”

  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A black delivery driver in Oklahoma City says a neighborhood’s homeowners’ association (HOA) president blocked him into the gated community and demanded to know why he was there and how he got in.

Travis Miller, a home appliance and furniture delivery driver, captured the ordeal on Facebook Live, in a video that’s now been watched more than 170,000 times.

Related Video: How to Stay Safe at Work During COVID-19

He told KFOR that he was making a delivery in the Ashford Hills neighborhood of Oklahoma City on Monday when a man claiming to be the president of homeowners’ association blocked him from exiting the gated community with his car.

Video of the incident shows the man, self-identified as David Stewart, repeatedly asking Miller why he was in the gated community. The video shows that a white car had been parked in front of Miller’s truck, so he couldn’t drive forward.

Miller refused to tell Stewart who he dropped packages off to in the neighborhood, citing customer privacy.

About 30 minutes into the Facebook video, another man joined Stewart, and asked Miller: “All we want to know is why you’re in here and who gave you the gate code. That’s all we need to know.”

 

Miller again told the men that he didn’t want to share personal information of customers, and told Facebook viewers that the men had called the police. The police don’t arrive during the video, but the Stewart eventually moved his vehicle out of Miller’s way.

“I guess they must have contacted the customer and the customer came around and they spoke for a minute and he moved out the way,” Miller can be heard saying in the video.

Miller then called police himself, telling dispatch what happened to him and making sure it was safe for him to leave the area. 

“He said that he called the cops back and let them know that everything was clear but I didn’t want to leave and have it seem like I was fleeing the scene or anything like that,” Miller said. 

‘I knew if I get out this truck, no matter what happened, I would have been in the wrong’

Miller told KOCO that the person he delivered items to had given him the key code for the gated community, and that when Stewart approached him, he kept his seatbelt on the entire time, locked his doors, and tried keeping his window up.

“I knew if I get out this truck, no matter what happened, I would have been in the wrong,” Miller told KOCO. “I always say to myself, ‘I’m going to go home to my wife and my kids.'”

The incident happened in the wake outrage over the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was gunned down while jogging in Georgia in February, and the death of Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was killed in a police shooting Kentucky in March.

Miller has received an outpouring of support online since his video went live. He told KOFR that he didn’t know why Stewart responded in the way that he did.

“I just know that emotionally, it was hard to maintain restraint, especially when I’m dealing with death in the family, two family members within two days of each other,” Miller said. “I just did the best I could to not make a bad situation worse.”

Insider



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Mexican president claims rivals would take over if he self-isolated, as experts decry coronavirus response


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Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has remained steadfast against sweeping restriction measures that could help the spread of the coronavirus in his country.

This weekend, he balked at the idea of self-isolating, claiming that his rivals would use that time to overpower him politically and take control of the government.

Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador arrives at his daily news conference at the presidential palace in Mexico City, early, Tuesday, March 24, 2020.

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador arrives at his daily news conference at the presidential palace in Mexico City, early, Tuesday, March 24, 2020.
(AP)

“Do you know what the conservatives want? For me to isolate myself (but) there would be no leadership (of the country) or there would be their leadership because in politics there are no power vacuums – the voids are filled and that’s what they want, for there to be a vacuum so that they can take control … in an irresponsible way,” he said Sunday, according to the Mexico Daily News.

CLICK HERE FOR FULL CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE

The 66-year-old president has sparked a furor in recent weeks for not imposing stricter measures against COVID-19 and hugging followers and saying religious medals would protect him.

He flew commercial to the western state of Sinaloa on Sunday, where he shook hands with residents, including the mother of convicted drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera.

“Coronavirus isn’t the plague,’’ the president declared in a video message on social media.

“Those of us who have an important function, a basic one, can go out to the street and work. … You can’t close a tortilla shop, doctors and nurses have to keep working, the police [too] so that there are no robberies,” he said.

A bus commuter wears a face mask amid the spread of the new coronavirus in Mexico City, Tuesday, March 31, 2020. Mexico's government has broadened its shutdown of “non essential activities,” and prohibited gatherings of more than 50 people as a way to help slow down the spread of the coronavirus. The one-month emergency measures will be in effect from March 30 to April 30. 

A bus commuter wears a face mask amid the spread of the new coronavirus in Mexico City, Tuesday, March 31, 2020. Mexico’s government has broadened its shutdown of “non essential activities,” and prohibited gatherings of more than 50 people as a way to help slow down the spread of the coronavirus. The one-month emergency measures will be in effect from March 30 to April 30. 
(AP)

Mexico has only just started taking tougher measures, including late Monday night banning non-essential work in the public sector and gatherings of more than 50 people.

As of Wednesday morning, Mexico had reported more than 1,200 confirmed cases and at least 27 deaths.

MEXICO’S LÓPEZ OBRADOR SHAKES HANDS WITH MOTHER OF ‘EL CHAPO’ DESPITE CORONAVIRUS WARNINGS, VIDEO SHOWS

Some experts warn the sprawling country of 129 million is acting too late and that the government figures likely underestimate the true number of infections.

A woman walks past a sign that reads in Spanish "Stay home" in Mexico City, Tuesday, March 31, 2020. Mexico's government has broadened its shutdown of "non-essential activities," and prohibited gatherings of more than 50 people as a way to help slow down the spread of the new coronavirus. The one-month emergency measures will be in effect from March 30 to April 30. 

A woman walks past a sign that reads in Spanish “Stay home” in Mexico City, Tuesday, March 31, 2020. Mexico’s government has broadened its shutdown of “non-essential activities,” and prohibited gatherings of more than 50 people as a way to help slow down the spread of the new coronavirus. The one-month emergency measures will be in effect from March 30 to April 30. 
(AP)

Mexico has done far less testing than many other countries — around 10,000 tests. New York state alone had performed more than 205,000 tests by Tuesday. There were also signs the disease may be far more advanced in Mexico than the limited testing shows. Three state governors have already tested positive for coronavirus.

“Politics is very, very much involved in the decision-making going on right now,” said Janine Ramsey, an infectious disease expert who works for Mexico’s National Public Health Institute, a federal research agency, and has spent 35 years of her public health career in Mexico.

“Mexico, politically, does not value scientific evidence. Why? Because it takes decision-making away from the politicians,” Ramsey said.

The Mexican government has defended its policies, saying that its robust health surveillance system gives it a good idea of how the epidemic is evolving and that health experts are charting the country’s fight against the virus. Its focus now, it says, is keeping people at home to avoid a rapid spread that would quickly overwhelm the health care system.

“For most of us, especially those of us who work with infectious pathogens, there is absolutely no excuse not to test because you cannot predict a) the response, b) the velocity of transmission, or c) the vulnerability of people” to becoming infected or to infecting others, she said.

“February and March is when we should have been testing everybody.”

CLICK HERE FOR THE FOX NEWS APP

But many are taking their cues from the president himself, who had this to say at a news conference Tuesday: “Soon, very soon there’s going to be the day of hugs and kisses in all the public plazas.”

“We’re going to hug because we’re going to overcome this coronavirus crisis and the economic crisis and the social welfare crisis,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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University of Guelph pauses search for new president, names interim one – Guelph


The University of Guelph says it is suspending its search for a new president and vice-chancellor amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, the board of governors have appointed current provost and vice-president Charlotte Yates as president on an interim basis for two years.


READ MORE:
University of Guelph cancels ‘face-to-face’ classes, events in response to COVID-19

Board chair Shauneen Bruder said universities and organizations worldwide are focused on addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and this is where their efforts and resources should be concentrated.

“COVID-19 is creating much uncertainty, both now and for the future,” Bruder said in a statement. “We expect that even once the crisis subsides, the implications will be long-lasting. At the same time, there are many other strategic imperatives the university must address to continue to move forward.”

Yates replaces outgoing president and vice-chancellor Franco Vaccarino, who announced last year that he was stepping down. His term will end on Aug. 1 and Yates will officially take over the following day.

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A search committee has been working since last fall and the university said it was at a critical stage of the process when it made the decision to pause the search.

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Bruder said Yates was chosen in part because of her effectiveness in a range of complex situations and circumstances.

“Her significant experience and extensive knowledge of the complexities and challenges facing the university will enable her to act immediately on priorities during this critical period,” Bruder said.


READ MORE:
McGill University students design 3D-printable masks for health-care workers

Yates has served as provost since 2015 and the university said since then she has built a strong leadership team that includes five new deans and other key academic leaders.

She previously served as dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at McMaster University.

“I am deeply honoured by the trust the board has placed in me to lead the University of Guelph during this challenging time,” Yates said.

“I welcome this opportunity. The university has extraordinary, dedicated faculty, staff and students and exceptionally strong academic and administrative leaders. Working together, we will rise to meet the challenges before us while also enhancing our reputation for quality and excellence.”

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An announcement regarding an interim provost and vice-president to replace Yates will be forthcoming, the university said.


READ MORE:
Here’s why frequent handwashing is recommended in preventing spread of COVID-19

In response to the pandemic, the University of Guelph has cancelled all in-person classes for the remainder of the winter semester and more than 4,000 students living on residence have moved out.

Classes resumed on Monday in what the university called an “alternative delivery format.”

More information on its response to the pandemic can be found on the university’s website.










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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Endorses Joe Biden For President



Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who quit her Democratic presidential campaign in August, endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for the party’s nomination, calling him the “absolute best candidate to defeat President Donald Trump.”

“I’m proud to endorse @JoeBiden today,” Gillibrand wrote Thursday on Twitter, becoming the latest big-name Democrat to throw her support behind Biden. “Our country needs a president who will provide steady, honest leadership, and I believe Joe has the right experience, empathy, and character to lead. I’m excited to help him defeat Donald Trump in November.”

Biden has amassed a deep roster of support in recent weeks, with endorsements from many former 2020 rivals. Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Kamala Harris (Calif.) all said they’ll back him, as did former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and billionaire Mike Bloomberg.

“He’s the absolute best candidate to defeat President Trump, and I think he is the person who has gained the trust and the respect of the American people in a way that no one else has,” Gillibrand told The Washington Post, noting Biden was prepared to handle the coronavirus pandemic. “The truth is he’s run the strongest campaign.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), Biden’s last major competitor, has lagged behind in recent primaries. Biden scored major victories in Tuesday’s primaries in Florida, Arizona and Illinois, and now holds a commanding lead in delegates.

Biden thanked Gillibrand for her support, saying the lawmaker has “never been afraid to speak without fear, to be brave in the face of injustice, and to empower others to get off the sidelines.”





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Americans Sick of President ‘Lies All the Time’



Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Saturday celebrated his big Nevada caucus win with supporters in San Antonio, Texas, declaring that the American people are “sick and tired of a president who lies all of the time.”

Multiple media outlets on Saturday evening called the Nevada race for the socialist senator, and he celebrated with supporters in San Antonio:

“I’m delighted to bring you some pretty good news. I think all of you know we won the popular vote in Iowa, we won the New Hamshire primary, and according to three networks and the AP, we have now won the Nevada caucus,” he said as supporters broke out in cheers of “Bernie.”

“No campaign has a grassroots campaign like we do, which is another reason we are going to win this election,” he declared, also proclaiming that he will win the Democrat Primary in Texas and in the general election.

Sanders told supporters that Trump gets “very very upset easily” so “don’t tell him we’re going to beat him in Texas.”

“We are going to win in Texas and across the country because the American people are sick and tired of a president who lies all of the time,” Sanders said.

“They are sick and tired of a corrupt administration. They are sick and tired of a president who is undermining American democracy, who thinks he is above the law, and who apparently has never read the Constitution in this country,” he continued.

“The American people are sick and tired of a government which is based on greed, corruption, and lies. They want an administration which is based on the principles of justice —  economic justice, social justice, racial justice, and environmental justice,” he added.

The socialist senator also told his supporters that Trump and his friends “think they are going to win this election”  by dividing people by race, religion, and sexual orientation.

“We are going to win because we are doing exactly the opposite,” he declared.

President Trump reacted to Sanders’ strong showing in Nevada on Saturday, warning him against allowing the Democrat establishment to steal the nomination from him.

“Looks like Crazy Bernie is doing well in the Great State of Nevada. Biden & the rest look weak, & no way Mini Mike can restart his campaign after the worst debate performance in the history of Presidential Debates,” he said.

“Congratulations Bernie, & don’t let them take it away from you!”:





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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is trying to trump President Trump



Obama had criticized the Philippine leader on human rights, and Duterte repeatedly insulted Obama in response. But Trump didn’t push.

“We’ve had a great relationship,” Trump said when he visited Manila in November 2017, declining to answer questions about the startling toll of Duterte’s war on drugs, which has resulted in thousands of extrajudicial killings since it went nationwide in 2016.

But perhaps the two leaders were too alike for their relationship to last. This week, the Philippines took a step away from the United States, notifying Washington on Tuesday that it would end a major security pact that allowed American forces to train in the country.

Trump has dismissed the importance of the move, telling reporters Wednesday that it would save the United States money. But Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper warned that it is a shift in the “wrong direction” and analysts have said it could be a turning point in U.S.-Philippine relations.

Duterte’s planned withdrawal from the agreement was a death blow to U.S.-Philippine ties that “effectively ended his country’s century-old alliance with the United States,” Richard Javad Heydarian wrote for the Asia Times this week.

Implicit is something else: Despite the American overtures, the Philippines may be choosing Chinese President Xi Jinping over Trump.

Duterte’s move may have been a shock, but it shouldn’t have been a surprise. He for years has threatened to walk away from the Visiting Forces Agreement, or VFA, a pact that allows joint military exercises and a small number of U.S. troops to be stationed in the Philippines.

“I want, maybe in the next two years, my country free of the presence of foreign military troops. I want them out,” he said in Beijing in October 2016, a month before Trump’s election win.

Even before the colorful personalities of Trump and Duterte came to power, the military relationship between the United States and the Philippines bore a lot of baggage. After almost 50 years as a U.S. colony, the Philippines gained independence in 1946, and the two countries maintained joint military cooperation.

But in 1991, the Philippine Senate rejected a proposal to renew U.S. bases, prompting the withdrawal of the majority of U.S. troops from the country and the closure of the largest U.S. military base outside the United States.

The two countries kept a mutual defense treaty, despite its vague wording, and in 1999 they entered into the VFA, which was followed in 2014 by an enhanced agreement for increased cooperation. In recent years, as many as 100 U.S. Special Forces troops had been based on the Philippine island of Mindanao, helping in the fight against militants linked to the Islamic State.

The Philippines remained an attractive ally for the United States — the two countries shared history, as well as fears of Islamist extremism and a rising China. In the Philippines, opinions of the United States and Trump are far higher than in most countries. But the Philippines’ strategic location was, it turns out, also a curse for its relations with the United States.

With its proximity to China and interests in the disputed South China Sea, the Philippines has become a target for Chinese investment — Beijing has been developing the former Clark Air Base, first established by American forces during the Spanish-American War, into, among other projects, an airport.

Trump’s pushback on Chinese influence is one of his signature foreign policies. In that context, Duterte’s decision to withdraw from the VFA looks like a geopolitical loss for the U.S. president. “Beijing will certainly be happy with this,” said Jeffrey Ordaniel, assistant professor of international security studies at Tokyo International University.

“One of the very few options available for the U.S. to influence China’s behavior in the South China Sea, long-term, is to work with its alliance with the Philippines,” Ordaniel told Stars and Stripes, noting that other U.S. bases in the area are simply too far away to be of use.

But there may still be time to pull back: There are 180 days before the withdrawal from the VFA takes legal effect. Duterte made the move amid criticism from some Philippine lawmakers and even some in his government.

Despite the geopolitical implications, Duterte has framed the shift in more-personal terms, pointing toward a U.S. decision to revoke a visa for a former police chief, Ronald Dela Rosa, who had been implicated in extrajudicial killings during Duterte’s war on drugs.

Trump may say that Duterte’s push against U.S. troops has no impact, but he can’t knock the Philippine leader’s strategy. Duterte is ignoring the advice of domestic allies and rivals alike to play hardball in negotiations and conflating personal issues with geopolitics. Trump might admire it, if only he’d done it himself.





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President Trump, Melania Trump share holiday video: ‘We wish everyone a joyous and merry Christmas’


President Trump has mostly taken the day off of Twitter on Christmas, with the exception of posting holiday greetings from his family.

Wednesday morning, the president simply tweeted, “MERRY CHRISTMAS,” then followed that up by retweeting a video message from first lady Melania Trump and him.

“The president and I want to wish each and every American a very merry Christmas,” Melania Trump said at the beginning of the video, which was first posted by her account.

MIRACLE BABY GETS TO SPEND HER FIRST CHRISTMAS AT HOME

“At this sacred time of year, Christians celebrate the birth of our lord and savior, Jesus Christ, and rejoice in his love for every person,” the president continued. “We give thanks for the millions of Americans who come together to care for others with compassion and bring the warmth and bliss of this holy season to our families, our friends, our neighbors, and to those in need.”

The message concluded with a prayerful message of thanks to U.S. military and law enforcement.

“As we gather with loved ones this holiday, Americans across this land are grateful for all the men and women in uniform who keep us safe: our military, our police and everyone in law enforcement,” Mrs. Trump said.

The president closed, stating, “We say a special prayer for those military service members stationed far from home, and we renew our hope for peace among nations and joy to the world. On behalf of the entire Trump family, we wish everyone a joyous and merry Christmas and a very happy, happy new year.”

The president also retweeted a Christmas greeting from the White House’s official Twitter account.

The first family has been spending the holiday at the president’s private club in Palm Beach, Fla. They attended a music-filled Christmas Eve service at a Southern Baptist Convention-affiliated church before celebrating with dinner in the ballroom of his private club. They were expected to remain out of sight Wednesday.

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On Tuesday evening, the first lady answered calls from children across the country as part of North American Aerospace Defense Command’s “Operation NORAD Tracks Santa” program. Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said Mrs. Trump spoke with several children and heard items on their Christmas lists.

Grisham said Mrs. Trump “reminded the kids to put milk and cookies out for Santa, and wished each child and their families a very merry Christmas.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.





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Brazil president Bolsonaro says he has a possible skin cancer



Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Wednesday that he has a possible skin cancer, after a medical visit where he had a mole removed from his ear, Trend reports citing Reuters.

The presidential office, however, said there is no sign that Bolsonaro has a cancer, adding that the president had been to a hospital in Brasilia in the afternoon. “The president is in good health, without any indication of a skin cancer and is keeping his appointments for this week,” said the statement.

Earlier, Bolsonaro also said he had been advised to cancel a trip to Salvador, in the state of Bahia, due to suffering from exhaustion.

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