FILE PHOTO: Khalifa Haftar, the military commander who dominates eastern Libya, arrives to attend an international conference on Libya at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo
April 19, 2019
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (Reuters) – The White House said on Friday that President Donald Trump spoke by phone on Monday to Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar and discussed “ongoing counterterrorism efforts and the need to achieve peace and stability in Libya.”
The statement said Trump “recognized Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources, and the two discussed a shared vision for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political system.”
On Thursday, mortar bombs crashed down on a suburb of Tripoli, almost hitting a clinic, after two weeks of an offensive by Haftar’s eastern troops on the Libyan capital, which is held by an internationally recognized government.
(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by David Gregorio)
Filipino devotees are nailed on wooden crosses during a crucifixion re-enactment on Good Friday, in San Fernando City, Pampanga province, Philippines, April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez
April 19, 2019
By Ronn Bautista
CUTUD, Philippines (Reuters) – Hundreds of tourists watched in shock as actors dressed as Roman soldiers hammered four-inch nails through the hands and feet of a Filipino into a wooden cross for the 33rd time in a Good Friday re-enactment of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.
The gory display of devotion, which the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines looks down upon, draws tourists to the province of Pampanga, north of the capital, year after year as barefoot penitents also whip themselves as a form of penance.
“I thought they wouldn’t be nailed but they were really nailed, and it was for me a great event to see it live,” said German tourist Johann Tenken.
Devotees, including 58-year old Ruben Enaje who has performed the act 33 times, believe their penance will wash away their sins, cure illness and lead to blessings.
Enaje was among the four people who were nailed to crosses in the village, including a woman taking part for the 17th time.
The crucifixions were the most extreme display of faith this mainly Catholic country, where millions were praying and fasting ahead of the Easter weekend.
Five other Filipinos were nailed to crosses in two other villages in Pampanga.
“At the end of the day, you have to respect the people doing this because that’s devotion,” said Filipino tourist Bianca Yao.
Christians believe Jesus died on the cross to pay for the sins of humanity and rose from the dead two days later.
(Writing by Karen Lema; Editing by Nick Macfie)
Flowers are seen at the site of a bus accident in Canico, in the Portuguese Island of Madeira, April 19, 2019. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante
April 19, 2019
By Miguel Pereira and Rafael Marchante
CANICO, Portugal (Reuters) – Doctors from Germany are working with a Portuguese medical team to evaluate when the German tourists who survived a fatal bus crash on the island of Madeira can be transferred home, the hospital said on Friday.
The bus – carrying 55 tourists and a tour guide – veered off a steep road in the coastal town of Canico on Wednesday, and came to a halt next to a house, killing 29 Germans and injuring 27, including the Portuguese driver and tour guide.
Portugal’s public prosecutor’s office has opened an investigation into the accident.
Heiko Maas, Germany’s foreign minister, landed in Madeira on Thursday evening with a team of doctors, psychologists and consular officials to meet those affected.
“We are working flat out to bring people who are injured and capable of being transported, to identify those who have died and to inform their families,” Maas said.
Maas laid a wreath a wreath at the site of the crash and held a minute of silence alongside his Portuguese counterpart.
After visiting the injured at a hospital in Funchal, Madeira’s capital city, Maas said an airplane would be made available to take the injured back to Germany.
A hospital spokesman told reporters on Friday they were working with medical staff from Germany to determine when the patients would be well enough to be flown home.
The spokesman said 16 of the 27 injured remained in hospital and 11 people had already been discharged.
Two of the injured were Portuguese and the rest were German, a hospital spokesman added.
Bus owner Sociedade de Automoveis da Madeir said it was cooperating with the authorities investigating the crash.
“It is our will and deep commitment to determine all the facts, causes and responsibilities of the accident,” Portugal’s Lusa news agency quoted its statement as saying.
(Reporting and writing by Catarina Demony in Lisbon; Additional reporting by Thomas Escritt and Madeline Chambers in Berlin; Editing by Alison Williams)
An Egyptian man walks in front of a school used as a polling station covered from outside by Egyptian flags, during the preparations for the upcoming referendum on constitutional amendments in Cairo, Egypt April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh
April 19, 2019
CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt holds a three-day referendum from Saturday on constitutional amendments that could allow President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to stay in office until 2030.
Parliament this week overwhelmingly approved the proposals, which would also bolster the role of the military and expand the president’s power over judicial appointments.
Supporters argue that Sisi has stabilized Egypt and needs more time to complete crucial economic reforms. Critics say they fear that the changes will further limit the space for dissent after a wide-ranging security crackdown.
WHAT ARE THE KEY CHANGES?
An amendment to Article 140 of the constitution extends the presidential term to six years from four. An outright bar on any president serving more than two terms will change to a bar on serving more than two consecutive terms.
An additional clause extends Sisi’s current term to six years from four currently since his election victory in 2018, and allows him to run for a third term in 2024.
The amendments provide for the creation of a second parliamentary chamber known as the Council of Senators. It would have 180 members, two-thirds elected by the public and the rest appointed by the president.
Article 200 of the constitution on the role of the military is expanded, giving the military a duty to protect “the constitution and democracy and the fundamental make-up of the country and its civil nature, the gains of the people and the rights and freedoms of individuals”.
The amendments also create the post of vice president, allowing the president to appoint one or more deputies. They task the president with choosing head judges and the public prosecutor from a pool of senior candidates pre-selected by the judiciary.
They further create a quota setting women’s representation in parliament at a minimum of 25 percent.
WHO IS BEHIND THE AMENDMENTS?
The amendments were initiated by the pro-government parliamentary bloc known as Support Egypt, and according to the parliament’s legislative committee report, 155 members submitted the initial proposal.
On Tuesday, 531 out of 596 members of Egypt’s overwhelmingly pro-Sisi parliament voted in favor of the changes.
Parliament speaker Ali Abdelaal has said that the amendments were a parliamentary initiative and that Sisi may not even choose to run again.
“This suggestion came from the representatives of the people in gratitude for the historic role played by the president,” the legislative committee report said.
Proponents of the changes have argued that Sisi, a former army chief, came to power with a huge mandate after mass protests in 2013 against Islamist President Mohamed Mursi’s one year in office. With macro economic indicators improving, they say Sisi deserves more time to build on reforms.
The legislative committee report said religious, academic, political and civil society representatives expressed strong overall support for the changes during a consultation period ahead of the parliament’s final vote.
WHAT DO OPPONENTS SAY?
The legislative committee acknowledged some opposition to the amendments from members of the judiciary and two non-governmental organizations.
Just 22 members of parliament voted against the amendments.
They and other opposition figures say a central promise of the 2011 uprising that toppled then-President Hosni Mubarak is at risk: the principle of the peaceful transfer of power.
They say the amendments were driven by Sisi and his close entourage, and by the powerful security and intelligence agencies.
They also fear the changes thrust the armed forces into political life by formally assigning them a role in protecting democracy.
“If you want your children and grandchildren to live in a modern democratic country with peaceful transition of power, I do not think this is the amendment we would want,” one of the opposition MPs, Haitham el-Hariri, told parliament this week.
While Abdelaal said a wide range of views were given a hearing during the consultation period, opposition figures and activists say genuine debate on the amendments was impossible due to a far-reaching crackdown on political dissent.
Egyptian officials deny silencing dissent and say that Egyptians from all walks of life were given a chance to debate the amendments, adding that all views were factored into the final proposals.
Abdelaal also denied that the amendments prescribe a new role for the military. He told parliament that the armed forces are the backbone of the country and Egypt is “neither a military or a religious state,” state-run Al Ahram newspaper said.
“This is part of (Sisi’s) consolidation of power,” said Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent U.S.-based think-tank. “From an institutional perspective, Egypt’s counter-revolution is largely complete.”
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Egyptians abroad start voting on Friday, while the vote inside Egypt begins on Saturday, meaning Egyptians have less than four days to read and discuss the changes following their approval by parliament.
Election commissioner Lasheen Ibrahim, who announced the dates of the referendum on Wednesday, did not say when the votes will be counted or the results announced.
More than a week before parliament’s final vote, posters and banners sprung up across the capital Cairo urging people to “do the right thing” and participate, some calling directly for a “yes” vote.
(Writing by Nadine Awadalla; Editing by Aidan Lewis and Mark Heinrich)