Top News Stories for Today – April 6, 2017
Suu Kyi dinies ethnic cleansing
In an exclusive interview with the BBC, the Nobel peace prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi has denied there is ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar, despite widespread reports of abuses. She said ethnic cleansing was “too strong” a term to use, and Myanmar would welcome any returning Rohingya with open arms.
Ms Suu Kyi added: “I think there is a lot of hostility there – it is Muslims killing Muslims as well, if they think they are co-operating with the authorities.”It is not just a matter of ethnic cleansing as you put it – it is a matter of people on different sides of the divide, and this divide we are trying to close up.”
In recent months, some 70,000 have fled to Bangladesh to escape a government military operation in Rakhine, launched after nine policemen were killed in an attack. UN announced last month it was to conduct an investigation into allegations the military has been indiscriminately targeting the Rohingya during the operation. Myanmar government has denied this. BBC
Duterte orders to seize islands in South China Sea
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the military to seize and occupy a group of uninhabited islands in the South China Sea, a move sure to inflame a long-running territorial dispute with China. Duterte told reporters he plans to raise the Philippine flag on “about nine or 10” islands in the hotly contested Spratly Island region. He said “Let us get what is ours now, and make a strong point that it is ours.”
China has claimed sovereignty over the entire 3.5-million-square-kilometer, resource-rich South China Sea — ignoring competing claims from such neighbors as Manila, Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia — and has aggressively begun converting many reefs into artificial islands that can be used as military bases. VOA
Senate to vote on Gorsuch nomination, filibuster fate
The Senate gavels into session at 10 a.m. on Thursday, after a night of speeches by Democrats opposed to the confirmation of US federal appellate Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. An hour later, at 11 a.m., senators will vote on whether to end debate — the cloture vote — and Democrats have enough votes to stymie the attempt to move forward to a vote on Gorsuch.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he will immediately move to change Senate rules to end the filibuster for at least Supreme Court nominees, a proposal that needs only simple majority support. Assuming at least 50 Republicans support this “nuclear option,” the Senate will vote to start the clock for a vote to confirm Gorsuch, expected Friday evening. CBS News, The Washington Post, The Week
Trump to welcome Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago
On Thursday, President Trump will welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The summit will offer the leaders a chance to forge a personal relationship, after Trump has repeatedly attacked China for its trade practices, among other issues. The White House said the discussions, which are expected to touch on North Korea, trade, and climate change, will “set a framework” for future relations between the nations.
However, Politico noted that Xi’s team could have the upper hand in negotiations, as Trump has yet to fill many key positions and the people he will be bringing to the meetings — including son-in-law Jared Kushner and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — largely lack experience. Xi and his wife will stay in Palm Beach through Friday. NBC News, Politico, The Week
Rex Tillerson tells Russia to rethink alliance with Assad
Speaking to reporters a week before his scheduled trip to Moscow, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday there is “no doubt in our mind” that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government is behind a chemical attack that killed dozens of Syrians on Tuesday, and “it’s time that the Russians really need to think carefully about their continued support of the Assad regime.”
His comments echoed those made by U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who said “Assad, Russia, and Iran have no interest in peace” and Russia “cannot escape responsibility for this.” At the White House earlier, President Trump said the attack “crossed a lot of lines for me” and his “attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.” The Syrian government has said it is not responsible for the attack, which Russia has pinned on Syrian rebels. The Hill, The Week
Bannon removed from National Security Council
President Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, has been removed from the National Security Council, though Bannon will keep the highest level of security clearance. Bannon was appointed to the council after Trump’s inauguration in what The New York Times described as “a startling elevation of a political adviser to a status alongside the secretaries of state and defense, and over the president’s top military and intelligence advisers.”
The restructuring also downgraded the role of Trump’s Homeland Security adviser, Tom Bossert, and put National Intelligence Director Dan Coats and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford back as “regular attendees,” while National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster has the responsibility of setting the council’s agenda. Rick Perry, the secretary of energy and former governor of Texas, has also been added to the council. Bloomberg, The New York Times
Thai King signs Constitution to pave way for election
Thailand’s king signed a new constitution in a ceremony on Thursday, an essential step towards holding an election that the military government has promised to restore democracy after a 2014 coup. In a nationwide broadcast, King Maha Vajiralongkorn was seen signing the constitution, giving it royal endorsement and setting in motion a process for Thailand’s next general election, expected late next year.
The constitution is Thailand’s 20th since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932 and critics of army rule say it will still give the generals a powerful say over Thai politics for years, if not decades. VOA
Norway to build world’s first ship tunnel
Norway has unveiled plans to build the world’s first ship tunnel by smashing through a solid rock peninsula. The mile-long, 118-feet-wide tunnel will pass through the narrowest part of the Stad peninsula in western Norway, allowing freight and passenger ships to bypass the stormy, exposed Stadhavet Sea and avoid a highly treacherous part of the Scandinavian nation’s coastline.
The team anticipates it will take three to four years to build the tunnel and cost an estimated $315 million. To create it engineers will have to blast out a huge eight million tonnes of rock. Passages and canals for boats have been built elsewhere in the world, but this will be the first tunnel allowing enormous cruise and freight ships that weigh up to 16,000 tonnes to pass through solid rock. CNN