Top news stories for today – September 16, 2016
Witness tells Duterte had hit squad
A witness told lawmakers in the Philippine Senate that before his election as president, Rodrigo Duterte paid a squad of hit men to carry out extrajudicial executions. The witness, Edgar Matobato, said he and other killers chopped up the bodies and dumped them at sea, and once fed a corpse to a crocodile.
Senators are holding hearings to investigate a wave of summary executions that have left more than 3,000 people dead under now-President Duterte’s anti-drug campaign. The Washington Post
Chinese influence in Australian politics
In an exclusive interview with the daily newspaper The Australian, departing US Ambassador John Berry said he is worried about China’s influence in Australia’s domestic politics. Berry said the United States objects to Beijing’s ability to advance its interests by funding Australian politicians during an election campaign and said Washington was “surprised” at the extent of the involvement of the Chinese government in Australian politics.
He said the United States hopes Canberra will protect Australia’s “core responsibilities against undue influence from governments that do not share our values.” The ambassador’s comments follow the resignation of opposition Labor senator Sam Dastyari, who had asked a company connected to the Chinese government to pay part of a travel bill. VOA
Bratislava EU meeting
The European Union is in a “critical situation”, the German chancellor has said, as leaders meet in Slovakia to discuss ways to regain trust after the UK’s vote to leave the bloc. Angela Merkel said they needed to show they could improve on security, defence co-operation and the economy.
But EU countries are deeply divided over how to bolster growth and respond to the influx of migrants. Meeting in Bratislava without the UK, they will not discuss Brexit talks. The one-day Bratislava meeting is set to be the first in a number of confidence-building meetings where a “roadmap” should be set up to culminate in a summit in March in the Italian capital Rome, when the 60th anniversary of the EU’s founding Treaty of Rome will be celebrated. BBC
Japan to join US in South China Sea patrols
Japan is planning on upping its activities in the South China Sea through joint training patrols with the United States and exercises with regional navies, Japanese Defense Minister Tomomi Inada said.
Japan would also be giving military aid to countries such as the Philippines and Vietnam as it increases its role in the contested waters of the South China Sea, Inada said Thursday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, DC. Inada also welcomed the US’s plan to allocate 60% of its Navy and Air Force assets to the Asia Pacific region by 2020. CNN
The iPhone 7 hits stores
Apple fans are finally laying their hands on the brand new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Eager customers joined long lines in cities like Sydney and Hong Kong on Friday as the new models went on sale, more than a week after they were unveiled.
Apple (AAPL, Tech30) is releasing the phones, which are water resistant and feature beefed-up cameras, in more than 25 countries around the world. But people who haven’t reserved one in advance won’t be able to be too picky about the color. They’ll be available at Apple stores, carriers and retail partners. Many locations planned to open their doors an hour early to accommodate the anticipated demand. CNN
US Presidential election
Trump campaign acknowledges Obama was born in US: The Trump campaign has acknowledged in a statement that President Obama was born in the US. But Trump, who led the “birther” movement that questioned Hawaii-born Mr Obama’s citizenship, has refused to say it himself. In April 2011, Mr Trump challenged Mr Obama to show his birth certificate, gaining approval from Republicans including former Alaska governor Sarah Palin. Weeks later Mr Obama released his actual birth certificate from his native state of Hawaii. At that year’s White House correspondents dinner, Mr Obama made light of the allegations, mocking Donald Trump. BBC
Michelle Obama to campaign for Clinton: On Friday, First Lady Michelle Obama will hit the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton for the first time. The first lady is set to speak at a rally at George Mason University in northern Virginia, less than a month ahead of the state’s October 17 voter registration deadline. “The first lady’s remarks supporting Secretary Clinton will be focused on the qualifications and demeanor a president needs, the values we hold dear as Americans, and our shared hopes for the future,” said Michelle Obama’s communications director, Caroline Adler Morales. CNN reported Michelle is Clinton’s “most popular campaign surrogate,” with her favorability rating sitting at 60 percent. CNN
Ford CEO: Donald Trump is wrong about Mexico: Ford CEO Mark Fields says Donald Trump is completely wrong when he says that Ford plans to move its US operations to Mexico, or even shift future investment outside the country. Asked if Ford would cut any US jobs as part of its plans to build a new plant in Mexico, he responded; “Absolutely not. Zero. Not one job will be lost. Most of our investment is here in the US. And that’s the way it will continue to be.” Earlier Thursday, Trump said in an interview on Fox News that Ford planned to “fire all their employees in the United States and…move to Mexico.” He added that Ford would have to pay a 35% tax on any car that comes back to the US if he becomes president. “And you know what’s gonna happen, they’re never going to leave.” CNN
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