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China graft suspect gives self up, returns from United States

BEIJING ( ) – A Chinese corruption suspect who was on the country’s list of 100 most wanted overseas fugitives has return,上海夜生活论坛Harriet,ed to China from the United States after giving himself up, the anti-graft watchdog said late on Saturday.

Zhang Yongguang, a former policeman in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, fled to the United States in 2010 and had been wanted on suspicion of taking bribes, according to the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

Zhang “returned to the country of his own accord and returned the dirty funds,” the commission said, without elaborating.

It was not 上海419论坛immediately possible to reach Zhang, his family, or a legal representative for comment.

In April 2015, Chinese authorities published a list of 100 “most-wanted” suspects it believes to be hiding overseas, many living in the United States, Canada and Australia.

Zhang is the 54th person on the list to have returned to China since the operation was launched, the commission said in a statement on its website.

“We will make persistent efforts in fighting against corruption and recovering stolen assets, leaving no room for corrupt fugitives to hide and no hope for those who want to flee,” it cited an unidentified official as saying.

Ma,上海夜生活桑拿会所Genavieve,ny Western countries, however, have been reluctant to help with China’s campaign, or to sign extradition treaties, unwilling to send people back to a country where rights groups say mistreatment of criminal suspects remains a problem.

They also complain China is often unwilling to provide proof of the crimes that would be acceptable to a Western court.

Written by shyw on July 30, 2019 Categories: fkatcswaiu Tags: , ,

Monsoon flooding forces thousands to evacuate homes in Myanmar

YANGON ( ) – Some 50,000 people in Myanmar evacuated their hom,上海夜生活Daryl,es after days of heavy monsoon rains left villages inundated and swept away bridges, while authorities scrambled to deliver aid to the affected regions, authorities and media said on Sunday.

President Win Myint visited the Bago region in central Myanmar to meet displaced residents on Saturday and urged local officials to step up the provision of temporary shelters and aid. An estimated 100,000 people may be affected by the floods.

Parts of Myanmar flood annually at the peak of the monsoon season, causing frequent landslides and widespread damage to farmland and infrastructure in爱上海 the Southeast Asian nation.

The country saw the worst monsoon flooding in a decade in 2015 when around 100 people reportedly died and over 330,000 were displaced.

The national disaster management committee on Sunday warned residents living near rivers and in low-lying areas to “immediately leave their homes as the water level…has exceeded the danger level,” according to state media on Sunday.

Torrential downpours washed away a section of a 60 meter (,上海夜生活论坛Mae,200 feet) concrete bridge in the northern Shan state, while rice paddies and roads in the central Kayin state suffered extensive damage, state media reported.

The western state of Rakhine also saw heavy rainfall submerge some roads. Aerial images shared on social media showed muddy brown water covering vast tracts of land.

The Red Cross said on Twitter it was distributing hygiene, kitchen, and shelter gear, posting photos of its volunteers getting people in flood-hit areas to safety in small boats.

The United Nations said in a statement it was following developments with “great concern”.

“The UN in Myanmar is mobilizing its partners, resources and capacity and is offering to provide support to the ongoing assistance delivered to the victims of the floods by the government of Myanmar,” said Knut Ostby, the U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator.

China’s Chang and Canada’s Xuan win top prizes at Ballet Olympiade…

VARNA, Bulgaria ( ) – Chinese dancer Sinuo Chang and Canadian ballerina Yuan Zhe Zi Xuan, also known as Jessica Xuan, won the top prizes at the Varna International Ballet Competition, the oldest ballet competition in world, on Sunday.

Held every two years since 1964, this was the 28th competition held in the Black Sea city of Varna with more than 120 top aspiring dancers from 34 countries aiming for glory at the event, known in the ballet community as the Ballet Olympiade.

Many of the biggest names in ballet gained their first international recognition at the competition, held in Bulgaria’s “seaside capital”.

Past winners include Russians Mikhail Baryshnikov, Natalia Makarova and Vladimir Malakhov, Canadian-trained ballerinas Evelyn Hart and Martine van Hamel as well as Fre爱上海419nch dancers Sylvie Guillem and Patrick Dupond.

The acclaimed Chang, gold prize winner of the 2017 Vienna International Competition, grabbed the top spot in the senior category for men aged 19 to 26 after advancing thr,上海夜生活Daisy,ough the three rounds of competition.

Dancers, separated into two age groups -,上海夜生活桑拿会所Redmon, seniors and juniors, participated in the competition rounds on the floor at the Open-Air Theatre either in couples or as soloists.

China-born Xuan, an elegant dancer with the Dutch National Ballet, won the women’s senior division with 21-year American ballerina Katherine Barkman, who is currently a guest principal dancer for Ballet Manila, finishing as runner-up.

The competition in Varna is among the most prestigious ballet events alongside the competitions in Moscow, Helsinki and Jackson.

An International Summer Ballet Academy with the participation of teachers from Bulgaria and overseas has also been organized in Varna in the last two weeks.

A gala concert, devoted to jury president Vladimir Vasiliev, known as “The God of the dance”, who is marking his 60th anniversary on stage, will be held on Monday.

Senators urge Fannie, Freddie to aid lower-income households

WASHINGTON ( ) – More than 30 Democrats in the U.S. Senate called on Friday for the regulator of government-controlled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to direct the companies to resume contributions for affordable housing initiatives.

The senators focused on two unused funds that Congress established in 2008 to finance low-income housing with a portion of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s revenue. The Federal Housing Finance Agency, the companies’ regulator, suspended payments into the funds in November of that year, after the government seized the companies as mortgage losses mounted.

After suffering huge losses, the companies have turned the corner and are now seeing record profits. The 33 lawmakers, led by Democrats Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Elizabeth Warren of ,上海夜生活桑拿会所Odelle,Massachusetts and independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont, want the agency to resume contributing to the fund to help ameliorate a shortage of affordable housing for low-income Americans.

“The time is long overdue to lift the current suspension of contributions, and we ask your full and fair consideration of our request,” the letter to newly installed FHFA Director Mel Watt said.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have taken $187.5 billion in U.S. aid since they became state wards in September 2008爱上海. They have since paid about $185.2 billion in dividends to the government thanks to a surge in the U.S. housing market.

Congress created the two housing trust funds to build a revenue source for low-income housing. The trust funds provide funds to finance new rental housing or rehab,上海夜生活论坛Pat,ilitate existing units for families with very low incomes.

The group of Democrats cited a study from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies that found many renters remain caught in a pinch due to falling wages and rising rents. According to the study, the country faces a shortage of nearly 5 million units that are affordable and available for extremely low-income renters.

Using the trust funds “would help ameliorate this crisis,” the letter said.

President Barack Obama and lawmakers from both parties have said they want to wind down the two mortgage finance giants, which own or guarantee 60 percent of all U.S. home loans, but an overhaul process is years off.

In the meantime, their return to profitability has led to competing demands.

Nonprofit housing groups have sued the FHFA, challenging the decision to suspend payments to the trust funds, while a large hedge fund that owns preferred shares of the companies is challenging the terms of their taxpayer bailout, which requires them to sweep most of the profits into the U.S. Treasury.

Merkel’s conservatives hit 12-year low in German poll

BERLIN ( ) – Support for German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc, trying to move beyond a bitter dispute over migrant policy that threatened the coalition, has fallen to its lowest level since 2006, a poll showed on Sunday.

The Emnid poll published in Bild am Sonntag showed Merkel’s Christian ,上海夜生活桑拿会所Odessa,Democrats and their sister 爱上海party, Bavaria’s Christian Social Union (CSU), down one percentage point at 29 percent. That compares with 33 percent in the September election.

The CSU faces a tough regional election in October with polls showing it could lose its absolute majority in Bavaria.

The Social,上海夜网Teddy, Democrats (SPD), who share power with the conservatives in Merkel’s coalition, failed to capitalize on those losses, also falling one point to 18 percent.

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) was unchanged at 15 percent while the Greens rose 2 points to 14 percent, their best showing this year, according to Bild am Sonntag.

Emnid gave no explanation for the changes.

About a month ago, Merkel’s coalition came close to collapse due to fundamental differences on migrant policy with her Bavarian partners who wanted tighter national border controls, which she rejected. A face-saving compromise was reached in early July but underlying tensions linger.

‘Boss Hog’ of ‘Duck Dynasty’ TV show to attend big Obama speech

LOS ANGELES ( ) – “Duck Dynasty” reality television star Willie “Boss Hog” Robertson is on the invitation list to attend President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night, compliments of a congressman from his home state of Louisiana.

Newly elected Representative Vance McAllister, a Republican, said on Twitter that Robertson would be in the U.S. House of Representatives chamber, where Obama was to lay out his policy agenda for the year.

“I’m happy to announce that my friend, constituent & small business owner @williebosshog will be attending tonight’s #SOTU as my guest,” McAllister tweeted – including the younger Robertson’s Twitter handle and the “#SOTU” hashtag, or search term, for the State of the Union add爱上海419ress.

Robertson’s wife Korie, who also appears on the show, was given a guest ticket to the speech by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who tweeted a photo of himself with ,上海夜生活桑拿会所Hampton,the couple. Graham, a Republican, is up for re-election this year.

Robertson, 41, is a son of “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson, who was temporarily suspended from the hit show by cable television network A&E last month for making anti-gay remarks in a magazine interview. Other quotes in the interview were criticized as racist.

Phil Robertson’s suspension sparked a national debate over tolerance and religion, with several Republican politicians and conservative figures coming to his defense.

The patriarch, who never apologized for his remarks, was reinstated after fans protested and big-name corporate sponsors stuck by the show.

,上海夜生活论坛Indra,Willie Robertson is the chief executive officer of Duck Commander, a family-run business that specializes in duck-hunting gear and whose family’s life is the subject of “Duck Dynasty,” which averages about 8 million viewers per episode. The show is in its fifth season.

CEO Robertson supported and endorsed McAllister in November during the Louisiana politician’s successful campaign in a special election for a vacant congressional seat in the Pelican State’s Fifth District.

Robertson – who, like other male members of his family, sports a trademark long beard and long hair – is often seen wearing an American flag-style bandanna on his head.

If he attends, he won’t be on the House floor with the representatives, senators, Cabinet members, Supreme Court justices and other dignitaries assembled for Obama’s speech. “Boss Hog” will be up in the visitor’s gallery.

U.N. struggling to deliver food aid in South Sudan as rains cut off…

KATDALOK, South Sudan ( ) – The U.N. World Food Programme has been forced to carry out air drops of food aid across South Sudan as the rainy season makes about 70 percent of the country inaccessible, a regional head of logistics for WFP said on Monday.

In addition to the inaccessible terrain, aid groups also 爱上海have to contend with being targeted by armed groups operating in South Sudan. Both rebels and government forces have been accused of targeting humanitarian workers and sometimes blocking access to relief and hijacking food and other aid.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in a war initially fought between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir against rebels under former vice president Riek Machar. The violence has spread throughout the country and has often been fought along ethnic lines.

The WFP said that at the beginning of this year, some 7.1 million people were projected to be facing severe food insecurity at the height of the lean season from May to July.

“We are already in the middle of the rainy season and approximately 70 percent of the country is not accessible, and as the result, we have to rely mainly on innovative ways of delivering the cargo,” Adham Effendi, head of logistics for WFP in South Sudan, told during a trip to Katdalok in Jonglei state, near the border with Ethiopia

“As you can see today in Katdalok, we have to feed approximately 5,000 people and we need to deliver 9 tonnes of cargo, which are approximately three planes loads, which we have to deliver between today and tomorrow,” he said.

Katdalok is in an area under government ,上海夜网Tamara,control.

“Many people are suffering in this county because no roads to connect us with other parts. For example, people go on foot two to three hours from their villages to reach the distribution center here,” James Kalany Remkhor of the Relief and Rehabilitation Commission staff in Katdalok said.

“The area lacks health faci,上海夜生活论坛Jacklyn,lities. We only have one borehole, and the population are coming here to get clean water, which is very hard for our people.”

Trump says he is willing to talk to Iran’s leader without…

WASHINGTON ( ) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday he would be willing to meet Iran’s leader without preconditions to discuss how to improve ties after he pulled the United States out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, saying, “If they want to meet, we’ll meet.”

“I’d meet with anybody. I believe in meetings,” especially in cases where war is at stake, Trump said at a White House news conference when asked whether he was willing to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

In response, Iran said the way back to talks was for the United States to return to the nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers that Trump exited in May.

“Respecting the Iranian nation’s rights, reducing hostilities and returning to the nuclear deal are steps that can be taken to pave the bumpy road of talks between Iran and America,” Hamid Aboutalebi, an adviser to Rouhani, tweeted on Tuesday.

Washington aims to force Tehran to end its nuclear program and its support of militant groups in the Middle East, where Iran is involved in proxy wars from Yemen to Syria.

Iran and other signatories have been working to find a way to salvage the nuclear agreement, even as the United States has begun reimposing some sanctions on Iran.

No U.S. president has met with an Iranian leader since the Washington cut diplomatic relations with Tehran a year after the 1979 revolution that toppled the shah, a U.S. ally. President Barack O,上海夜生活论坛Magda,bama broke a three-decade freeze with a phone call to Rouhani in 2013.

The White House clarified that Trump’s potential willingness to meet with his Iranian counterpart does not change his administration’s intent to ratchet up sanctions and rhetoric against Tehran with the stated goal of “seeking changes in the Iranian government’s behavior.”

But Trump’s remarks did represent a marked softening of tone from a week ago, when he lashed out at Rouhani in a tweet, saying “Never, ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.”

Shortly before that July 22 tweet, Rouhani had addressed Trump in a speech, saying that hostile U.S. policies could lead to “the mother of all wars”.

On Monday, speaking at a news conference with visiting Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Trump said: “I would certainly meet with Iran if they wanted to meet. I don’t know that they’re ready yet. I ended the Iran deal. It was a ridiculous deal. I do believe that they will probably end up wanting to meet and I’m ready to meet any time that they want to.”

Trump said he had “no preconditions” for a meeting with the Iranians, adding: “If they want to meet, I’ll meet.”

The White House said that even though the president “is open to dialogue and negotiation,” it did not mean the United States would lift sanctions or re-establish diplomatic and commercial relations.

“This relief is only possible if there are tangible, demonstrated, and sustained shifts in Tehran’s policies,” said Garrett Marquis, spokesman for the National Security Council. “Until then, the sting of sanctions will only grow more painful if the regime does not change course.”

ECONOMIC PRESSURE

In May, Trump withdrew the United States from the landmark 2015 international agreement designed to deny Tehran the ability to build nuclear weapons. Since then, Tehran’s clerical establishment has been under increasing U.S. pressure and the prospect of renewed sanctions.

Barely a week ago, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo launched a rhetorical assault on Iran’s leaders, comparing them to a “mafia” and promising unspecified backing for Iranians unhappy with their government.

In spite of fierce verbal exchanges between Tehran and Washington in the recent weeks, Iranian authorities have kept the door to diplomacy open.

While warning the United States over waging a war against Iran, Rouhani also said last week that “America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace,” leaving open the possibility of peace between the arch foes.

Iranian figures familiar with policymaking say, as a faltering economy and a sliding currency stir street protests, that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei could consider diplomacy with Washington and drink from “the chalice of poison,” a reference to the phrase used by his predecessor Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini when he reluctantly agreed to a U.N.-mediated truce that ended the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

Economic hardship in Iran forced Khamenei to reluctantly back Rouhani’s efforts in securing the 2015 nuclear deal.

But if Trump were to pursue diplomacy with Iran’s leadership, he would have to overcome deep-seated concerns among Washington’s closest regional allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, who are deeply skeptical about negotiating with Rouhani’s government.

Trump drew a comparison with his diplomacy toward N,上海夜生活桑拿会所Odelle,orth Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who Trump met in a June 12 summit with the aim of convincing Pyongyang to give up its nuclear arsenal, a decades-long objective that has eluded several U.S. presidents.

“We 上海419论坛met as you know with Chairman Kim and you haven’t had a missile fired off in nine months. We got our prisoners back. So many things have happened so positive,” Trump said.

Exclusive: U.S. readies financial sanctions against Ukraine:…

WASHINGTON ( ) – The Obama administration is preparing financial sanctions that could be imposed on Ukrainian officials and protest leaders if violence escalates in the political crisis gripping Ukraine, congressional aides said on Wednesday.

Congressional aides, who asked not to be identified by name because of the sensitive subject, said they had discussed the sanction preparations with administration officials.

They said final details of the package have not been worked out, but it could be put in place quickly against g,上海夜生活桑拿会所Raquel,overnment officials – or leaders of the protest move,上海夜生活论坛Carly,ment – in case of widespread violence.

Six people have been killed in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities in protests that erupted more than two months ago after President Viktor Yanukovich walked away from a treaty with the European Union under pressure from Russia.

Alarmed by the crisis, Washington has revoked the visas of some Ukrainian officials.

President Barack Obama referred to Ukraine in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, voicing support for the principle that all people have the right to free expression.

Vice President Joe Biden has spoken to Yanukovich at least three times. And two U.S. senators, Republican John McCain of Arizona and Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut, traveled to Kiev last month and addressed demonstrations.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday passed a resolution calling on all sides in the confrontation to refrain from violence and work toward a爱上海419 peaceful resolution.

“The situation in Ukraine remains very volatile and more needs to be done,” said Representative Eliot Engel, the New York Democrat who sponsored the resolution. “We must remain engaged.”

However, U.S. lawmakers and Obama administration officials said they were encouraged by recent developments, including the Ukrainian parliament’s vote to repeal anti-protest laws.

“We were encouraged that Ukraine’s parliament repealed the most egregious of the most anti-democratic laws. Today we want to urge President Yanukovich to sign the repeal laws,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at a news briefing.

She told reporters the State Department has been willing to consider sanctions but no decision has been made.

Alarm has grown elsewhere in the West. German Chancellor Angela Merkel telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin and Yanukovich on Wednesday, urging a constructive dialogue between the government and opposition.

Putin raised the pressure on Ukraine on Wednesday, saying Russia would wait until Ukraine forms a new government before fully implementing a $15 billion bailout deal that Kiev urgently needs.

MSNBC apologizes for Cheerios tweet that offended Republicans

WASHINGTON ( ) – Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said on Thursday he accepted an apology from the president of MSNBC over a tweet from the network that said “the rightwing” might disapprove of a Cheerios television ad featuring a biracial family.

MSNBC President Phil Griffin issued a statement saying the staffer responsible for the Wednesday night tweet had been fired.

“The tweet last night was outrageous and unacceptable,” Griffin said. “We immediately acknowledged that it was offensive and wrong, apologized, and deleted it … I personally apologize to Mr. Priebus and to everyone offended.”

Priebus had banned RNC staffers from appearing on MSNBC, urged other Republicans to follow suit and demanded an apology because of the Twitter posting.

The cable news network’s tweet said: “Maybe the rightwing will hate it, but everyone else will go awww: the adorable new #Cheerios ad w/ biracial family.” The tweet was sent to promote an MSNBC story on the breakfast cereal commercial, which will be broadcast during Sunday’s Super Bowl.

The ad stars Grace Colbert, 6, as the daughter of a fictional biracial couple. Last year, she was in a similar Cheerios commercial, which triggered racist comments when it was posted on YouTube, G,上海夜生活论坛Gary,oogle Inc’s video-sharing site.

An RNC statement said Priebus and Griffin spoke by phone on Thursday and that the party would continue to monitor the netwo爱上海rk, which is seen as having a liberal bent.

“We don’t expect their liberal bias to change but we will call them out when political commentary devolves into personal and belittling attacks,” the statement said.

In a letter to Griffin, Priebus had said the Cheerios tweet showed that MSNBC “is poisoned by this pa,上海夜生活桑拿会所Randy,ttern of behavior.”

“Sadly, such petty and demeaning attacks have become a pattern at your network,” Priebus said. “With increasing frequency many of your hosts have personally denigrated Americans – especially conservative and Republican Americans – without even attempting further meaningful political dialogue.”

Earlier this month, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry apologized on the air for a segment that joked about the adopted black grandson of Mitt Romney, the Republicans’ unsuccessful 2012 presidential candidate.

The segment featured a photo of Romney and his wife with their grandchildren and members of a panel were asked to suggest captions.

Actress Pia Glenn sang that “one of these things is not like the others,” while comedian Dean Obeidallah joked that the photo “really sums up the diversity of the Republican Party.” Romney later accepted Harris-Perry’s apology.

In December, correspondent Martin Bashir apologized and resigned from MSNBC because of graphic on-air comments he made about former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. In November, actor Alec Baldwin was suspended from his MSNBC show after he used a homophobic term in a confrontation with a photographer on a New York street. Baldwin’s show was later canceled.

MSNBC is owned by Comcast Corp.

Powerful Illinois House Speaker pushes corporate tax cut

CHICAGO ( ) – With big Illinois state income tax increases set to partially expire in 2015, the Democratic head of the state’s House of Representatives on Thursday introduced a bill to permanently reduce the corporate tax rate.

The cut proposed by House Speaker Michael Madigan would reduce revenue to th,上海夜生活Danica,e state treasury by $1.5 billion in the fiscal year beginning July 1. It would set the corporate income tax rate lower than it was before a temporary increase was imposed in 2011, when Illinois also imposed a steep hike in the personal income tax rate. The tax increases were aimed at paying down the state’s huge backlog of unpaid bills.

Madigan’s proposal comes as the state is facing a tough budget for the next fiscal year given the big hole the tax rate rollbacks will cause.

As for the personal income tax rate, which will drop to 3.75 percent from 5 percent in 2015, Steve Brown, Madigan’s spokesman, said that would be addressed as the legislature debates the fiscal 2015 budget Governor Pat Quinn is scheduled to unveil next month.

Madigan’s proposal would reduce the corporate tax rate to 3.5 percent, below where it stood prior to the corporate tax hike in 2011. The new tax would create a combined corporate tax rate of 6 percent, with the state’s 2.5 percent personal property replacement tax taken into account.

Illinois’ corporate income taxes already are set to move back next January, from the current rate of 7 percent to a new level of 5.25 percent on business profit. Prior to 2011, the rate was 4.8 percent.

Madigan’s rate cut would be retroactive to January 1, 2014, and would reduce revenue for the first six months of the calendar year by as much as $700 million, according to a statement from the speaker.

Madigan in a statement pitched the new plan as a way to improve the state’s business climate.

“I think you make up (the tax revenue loss) partly by making Illinois a more attractive place for employers to hire and expand and locate,” Brown said.

He added that Madigan’s plan emerged as part of an examination o爱上海419f the state’s “hodge-podge” approach to doling out tax breaks to business.

Illinois in recent years has offered millions of dollars in tax breaks to keep CME Group Inc and Sears Holdings Corp in the state, but last year it turned down Archer Daniels Midland Co, a company that stayed in Illinois anyway.

Republican lawmakers, who opposed the 2011 tax hike, had been worried that Democrats who control the legislature would act to make permanent the higher rates.

“I’m glad there is now a recognition that their tax increase is driving jobs out of Illinois,” said Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno in a statement.

“On the ,上海夜网Hadley,surface we are thrilled that the majority party seems to finally be getting the message that something needs to be done, but remain cautious about how they intend to make up the lost revenue,” House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said in a statement.

Corporate income tax collections, which totaled $3.17 billion in fiscal 2013, are expected to fall to $2.76 billion in fiscal 2016, the first full fiscal year affected by the tax rate roll-back, according to a three-year projection by the governor’s budget office.

Personal income tax collections, which hit $16.5 billion in fiscal 2013, would drop to $12.4 billion in fiscal 2016. The 2011 tax hike increased the flat-rate personal income tax to 5 percent, a two-thirds increase over the previous level.

The projection also indicated that Illinois’ budget deficit would rise from $1.9 billion in fiscal 2015 to $4.1 billion in fiscal 2016.

The fate of the tax rate hikes remains a concern for Wall Street credit rating agencies, which rate Illinois’ general obligation bonds lower than those of any other state. Illinois was able to relieve some credit pressure by passing a comprehensive public pension reform law in December, but that law has been challenged by unions and other groups claiming it violates a state constitution protection against diminishing pensions of government workers.

Obama’s executive actions: the power of taking small steps

WASHINGTON ( ) – President Barack Obama’s sixth year in office is starting out as a testament to the power of taking small steps.

Frustrated by congressional gridlock, he has turned to the “pen and the phone” to provoke a “year of action” with a flurry of executive orders, directives, meetings and reviews to get his presidency back on track after the difficulties he encountered last year.

None of the steps he is taking are going to change the world and indeed, they may be best-remembered collectively as a declaration of Obama’s own relevance, an attempt to go over the heads of his Republican opponents in Congress and grab the attention of the people.

It is a strategy that Democratic President Bill Clinton used in his 1996 re-election campaign. Humbled by Republicans in 1994 congressional elections, Clinton helped resurrect his presidency with similarly small steps like ordering the Education Department to issue school uniform guidelines to school districts.

In Obama’s case, he announced in his State of the Union address last Tuesday that he would sign an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers. But White House officials acknowledged it would apply only to a couple hundred thousand workers, a tiny fraction of the country’s workforce.

There was an order for the Treasury Department to create a retirement savings program for the middle class, and he told Vice President Joe Biden to review federal job training programs.

And using the bully pulpit, Obama met with prominent corporate CEOs to persuade them to take steps to hire the long-term unemployed, whose jobless benefits have expired.

SHEDDING THE ‘SENSE OF STAGNATION’

William Galston, a domestic policy adviser for President Clinton and now a Brookings Institution scholar, said none of Obama’s steps have the impact of, for example, Harry Truman’s dramatic use of an executive order to ban segregation in the U.S. armed forces in 1948.

What Obama’s actions are intended to do, he said, is to “dispel the bad memory of the failed first year of his second term when he seemed to be stalled and stalemated at every turn and replace that sense of stagnation with a sense of forward movement.”

“Clinton’s orders were more of a political strategy than a substitute for government strategy. I think at the end of the day the same can be said of what Obama’s doing,” said Galston.

It is no coincidence that Obama has embarked on this strategy with the aid of special adviser John Podesta, who was a champion of executive orders when he worked in the Clinton White House.

“I think he’s warmed up to it,” Podesta said of Obama in an interview with NPR on Tuesday. “And I think you’ll see that across a wide range of topics, including retirement security, moving forward on his climate change and energy transformation agenda.”

White House officials say Obama is not giving up on pushing broad legislation through Congress and in fact they see signs of movement on a long-stalled immigration reform law, which would be a legacy-building achievement of his s,上海夜网Hansen,econd term.

By ordering the minimum wage raised to $10.10 an hour for federal contract workers, Obama hopes to trigger a broader debate about the need to raise the minimum wage for millions of working Americans, a proposal that Republicans oppose for fear of damaging small-business hiring.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama’s meeting with chief executive officers on Friday on hiring the long-term unemployed is not an attempt to circumvent Congress, but rathe,上海夜生活桑拿会所Nikki,r is the use of a power that lawmakers simply do not have.

“There exist executive actions that actually serve to complement legislative action. You can’t force, through legislation, business leaders to make a commi爱上海tment to re-evaluate their hiring practices,” he said.

Obama, a former senator, has for the most part deferred to Congress and sought legislative approval of his priorities.

Last November at an event in San Francisco, he rejected hecklers who urged him to use the power of executive orders to end the deportation of illegal immigrants.

“If, in fact, I could solve all these problems without passing them through Congress, then I would do so, but we’re also a nation of laws, that’s part of our tradition,” he said.

This year, with control of Congress at stake in November elections, he is adjusting his strategy.

Chris Lehane, who was a senior aide to Vice President Al Gore, said the steps Obama is taking are important to satisfying voters who gave the president a second term in 2012.

“It gives you a capacity to impose your will, both from a policy perspective on the direction of the country but also from a political perspective, by putting the opposition squarely on the defensive,” he said.

The orders Obama announced in his big speech did not appear to be of the type that could face legal challenges, despite complaints from some conservatives suggesting he is breaking the law.

‘SMALL’ IS RELATIVE

Obama’s use of executive orders has been relatively tame compared with his immediate predecessors. He signed 147 in his first term, compared with George W. Bush’s 173, Bill Clinton’s 200 and Ronald Reagan’s 213.

But such record-keeping can miss the point. Presidents use power in a variety of ways beyond simply executive orders.

John Woolley, co-director of the American Presidency Project, which collects and analyzes presidential documents, said one of Obama’s most significant executive actions, to allow young people who are in the country illegally to avoid deportation, was announced in an order from then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in 2012.

“In that case, there was no document that went from the White House to Janet Napolitano that directed her to take that action,” Woolley said.

While Obama’s recent moves may look small, his administration has used executive power in large ways.

Last July, Republicans were outraged when the Treasury Department ruled it would delay for a year enforcement of an Affordable Care Act provision requiring businesses with more than 50 employees to provide health coverage to their workers.

Lanhee Chen, a Hoover Institution expert who was chief economic adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012, said that since the employer mandate was part of Obama’s signature healthcare law, “a lot of constitutional scholars would argue” that his action violated the law itself.

Romney had vowed to roll back the Obamacare law if he had won the White House. How would he have done it if he had opposition from Democrats in Congress?

“We’d have to be pretty forceful in terms of executive action on Obamacare,” Chen said.

U.N. says migrants’ return to Libya by Italian boat could be illegal

ON BOARD OPEN ARMS ( ) – A rescue operation in which an Italian towboat rescued more than 100 migrants and returned them to Libya earlier this week may have been in breach of international law, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

A spokesman for the U.N. migration agency said it could not establish the location of the rescue, which is key to establishing migrants’ rights, although some other parties involved in the case have made contradictory assertion,上海夜生活论坛Leeland,s about the incident including where it took place.

The rescue coi,上海夜生活桑拿会所Raymond,ncides with a growing perception among human rights groups that some European countries are taking an increasingly hard line in their efforts to cut the number of migrants arriving on their shores, after Italy’s new government closed its ports to charities’ rescue boats in past weeks.

According to Spanish charity Proactiva Open Arms, an Italian towboat, Asso 28, rescued more than 100 migrants from international waters on Monday and took them to Libya, their country of departure.

This would constitute a breach of international law, under which people rescued in international waters cannot be returned to a place where their lives are put in danger. Both the United Nations and European Union have acknowledged that Libya is not safe.

Italy’s coast guard initially said on Tuesday that the rescue was coordinated by the Libyan coast guard, and later clarified that the operation had taken place in Libya’s so-called “search and rescue (SAR)” area.

The Libyan coast guard was not immediately available for a comment.

Libya’s SAR is not clearly defined but is widely understood to extend far beyond its national waters.

Proactiva spokeswoman Laura Lanuza said its members learned the rescue occurred in international waters because their boat Open Arms was nearby and they could listen to radio communications between the Italian ship and the Libyan authorities.

The U.N. refugee agency said the爱上海419 operation “could represent a violation of international law,” it said on Twitter.

A spokesman for the U.N. migration agency said the agency was still investigating the case but confirmed the return of the migrants to Libya.

He said the Libyans first told him the rescue operation was carried out by “an unknown vessel”, then changed their version and said the rescuing boat was Libyan.

The head of mission at Open Arms, Fabrizio Gatti, contradicted the Libyan version and said a member of the Asso 28 crew told him over the phone the Italian boat carried out the rescue and was taking the migrants back to Libya. He said he had a record of the conversation.

Asso 28 is now docked in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, according to Marine Traffic, a real-time information service on ships movements.

Charities are at loggerheads with the new Italian government and its right wing home affairs minister Matteo Salvini who has adopted a hard line to cut the number of migrants arriving on Italy’s shores.

EU slaps sanctions on six Russian groups over Crimea bridge

BRUSSELS ( ) – The European Union has imposed asset freezes on six Russian firms for their involvement in the construction of a new road-and-rail bridge linking Russia to the annexed Crimean peninsula, which the bloc says is illegal.

Russia s,上海夜生活Maeve,eized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 after Ukraine’s pro-Russian president was toppled in an uprising. The West condemned the seizure as an illegal annexation and imposed sanctions on Moscow.

After the annexation, the Kremlin ordered the building of a $3.6 billion bridge to link the peninsula to Russia.

The bridge, part of which was unveiled by Russian President Vlad,上海夜生活论坛Eldrid,imir Putin in May, has drawn strong rebukes from the EU which says it is a further violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.

爱上海419

A statement from the EU Council, which sets the bloc’s foreign and security policy, named six firms that will have their assets in the EU frozen. EU persons and entities will not be able to make funds available to them, it said.

The companies include three firms — PJSC Mostotrest, SGM and Stroygazmontazh Most OOO — controlled by billionaire Arkady Rotenberg, President Vladimir Putin’s former Judo sparring partner. Construction firm CJSC VAD, engineering firm GPSM and the Zaliv Shipyard were also named.

“Through their actions they supported the consolidation of Russia’s control over the illegally annexed Crimean peninsula, which in turn further undermines the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine,” the Council said.

Ukraine’s foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin said he welcomed the additional sanctions.

“Important warning also for European businesses not to go down same slippery slope,” Klimkin wrote on Twitter.

Russia criticized the sanctions, saying they targeted people living on the peninsula.

“This is a policy of undermining, directed against Crimea’s residents,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was quoted as saying by TASS news agency.

Rotenberg brushed aside the sanctions in a social media post, saying work was underway to complete the railway section of the bridge.

“We’re all proud of our work and if someone doesn’t like it that’s not our problem,” a spokesman for Rotenberg quoted him on the Telegram messaging service as saying.

This story corrects cost of bridge in third paragraph to $3.6 billion (not million)

U.S. freezes assets of Pakistanis linked to militant group

WASHINGTON ( ) – The United States on Tuesday froze the assets of three Pakistanis it has linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group blamed for the deadly 2008 attacks in ,上海夜生活Hadrian,India’s financial capital, Mumbai.

The State Department added Abdul Rehman al-Dakhil to its list of “specially designated global terrorists,” saying he was a senior commander of the group.

The U.S. Treasury targeted Hameed ul Hassan and Abdul Jabbar, who it said were responsible for funneling money to Lashkar-e-Taiba and paying salaries to its members.

“Treasury’s designations not only aim to expose and shut down Lashkar-e Tayyiba’s financial network, but also to curtail its ability to raise funds to carry out violent terrorist attacks,” Sigal Mandelker, the Treasury under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement, using an alternate spelling of the group’s name.

The designation means all property belonging to the men subject to U.S. jur爱上海isdiction are blocked and Americans are prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.

Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), or Army of the Pure, is an anti-In,上海夜网Hart,dian militant group with historical ties to Pakistan’s top spy agencies. It has been accused of orchestrating numerous attacks, including the 2008 assault in Mumbai that killed 166 people, six of them Americans.

N.J. Democrat says has seen no evidence Christie knew of traffic…

NEW YORK ( ) – A New Jersey Democrat leading a probe of a bridge traffic scandal that has engulfed Governor Chris Christie said on Sunday he had seen no evidence to support claims that the governor had been aware of the politically motivated traffic jams as they happened.

If such evidence does exist, a state panel investigating the closures has not yet seen it, Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who co-leads the probe, said on Sunday.

Christie, a leading Republican candidate for the White House in 2016, has repeatedly denied any knowledge of a plan to snarl traffic last September near the busy George Washington Bridge and severed ties with several top aides over their role in the incident.

Christie has been dogged by scandal for nearly a month after it emerged that several of his top aides and appointees called for lane closures leading to the busiest bridge in the United States, apparently as retribution against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, who did not endorse the governor’s re-election campaign.

Christie has repeatedly denied having any knowledge of the scheme and dismissed two of his top aides for their roles in it.

Still, the scandal has hurt his image and recent polls show him losing ground as a potential presidential contender.

On Friday, David Wildstein, the Christie appointee at the agency overseeing the bridge who personally oversaw the lane closures, said “evidence exists” Christie had knowledge of the blockage when it happened.

“We don’t really know what the evidence is,” Wisniewski told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “He (Wildstein) submitted over 900 pages of documents in response to the subp,上海夜网Park,oena. Apparently what he’s talking about must be something other than what he submitted.”

Wildstein resigned from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey late last year amid the growing probe.

Wisniewski also said he was unclear from Wildstein’s choice of words that “evidence exists” that Christie was aware of the closures.

“The use of the words ‘evidence exists,’ as opposed to saying, ‘I have documents,’ or, ‘I have an e-mail,’ it’s a curious choice of words,” Wisniewski said. “Maybe this is something else that is not within the scope of the subpoena the committee issued. So it raises questions about what does he have and why doesn’t the committee have it?”

The legislator also said that no evidence exists linking Christie to the decision to close the lanes, nor was there indication he knew about the plan as it happened.

The closures caused four days of headaches for commuters around Fort Lee, at the New Jersey side of the bridge. It also slowed school buses and emergency vehicles.

Colin Reed, a spokesman for the governor, did not comment directly on Wisniewski’s comments, but reasserted Christie’s stance that he had no knowledge of the lane closures.

Wildstein’s attorney did not respond to request for comment.

Meanwhile, the investigation of who else might have been involved in the bridge lane closures was continuing, with nearly two dozen subpoenas issued to New Jersey officials, many of them in Christie’s inner circle.

“As early as tomorrow (Monday), we hope to be starting to get responses to the subpoenas,” Wisniewski said.

The state probes are running parallel to an investigation announced last month by U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Paul Fishman.

As Sunday’s Super Bowl puts New Jersey in the national spotlight, the Democratic National Committee launched an online video ad comparing Christie to a struggling football player.

“They say he’s unstoppable … unless he chokes,” the ad says, juxtaposing football images with video clips of news coverage of Christie, before and after the scandal broke. “It’s just the first quarter. It’s going to be a long game.”

The scandal has tarnished Christie’s reputation as a politician ready to reach across the aisle at a time when pa,上海夜生活桑拿会所Igor,rtisan gridlock has defined Washington.

It has also impacted his approval ratings. Support for the governor, which soared over his handling of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, has fallen almost 20 points since his landslide re-ele上海419论坛ction in November, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released last month. Christie’s approval rating among New Jersey voters, at 65 percent just before he was re-elected last year, dipped to 46 percent, the poll indicated.

Dissent still not accepted in Saudi, U.N. says, calls for…

GENEVA ( ) – The United Nations human rights office called on Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to release all peaceful activists, including women held for campaigning against a ban on driving even as it was being lifted.

At least 15 government critics were arrested since mid-May, some of whose whereabouts are unknown amid a serious lack of transparency in the processing of their cases, the rights office said.

They incl上海419论坛uded prominent women’s rights advocate Hatoon al-Fassi, arrested in June as she was planning to take journalists in her car to celebrate the much-hyped end of the world’s last ban on female drivers, long seen as an emblem of repression in the deeply conservative Muslim country.

“We urge the Government of Saudi Arabia to unconditionally release all human rights defenders and activists who have been detained for their peaceful human rights work, including their decades-long campaigns for the lifting of the driving ban for women,” U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the heir to the throne set to become the first Saudi king from a new generation after a succession of six brothers dating back to 1953, has initiated broad reforms to dive,上海夜生活桑拿会所Sal,rsi,上海夜网Macmillan,fy the economy from oil and update deeply conservative social norms.

But critics say the reforms have not extended into politics in an absolute monarchy where all public opposition to the authorities is still banned.

Genuine reforms appear to be taking place in the kingdom, “but this has not extended to the civil and political rights sphere”, Shamsadani told a Geneva news briefing

“Dissent, criticism of the government is still not accepted in the country. That can explain why many of these human rights defenders and activists have been jailed. All of them have criticized government policies in one way or another,” she said.

India’s national ID card body warns against public sharing after…

MUMBAI ( ) – The body running India’s biometrics-based national identity card system has warned people against sharing their unique card number publicly after the country’s telecom regulator tweeted his in a challenge to critics to do him “any harm”.

India’s push to make the Aadhaar card mandatory in everything from opening and maintaining bank accounts to using mobile phone connections has worried privacy advocates.

Critics say the system links enough data to create a comprehensive profile of a person’s spending habits, their friends and acquaintances, the property they own, a,上海夜网Georgia,nd a trove of other information.

A number of publications have reported several cases of Aadhaar breaches but the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the body managing Aadhaar, maintains that the system is safe.

R S Sharma, the head of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and the UIDAI’s first director general, last week posted his Aadhaar number on Twitter after users challenged him to share the details to prove it was a safe system.

Sharma’s tweet started a debate on Twitter, drawing criticism from some quarters while also prompting many to share their Aadhaar numbers.

As Twitter users dug out Sharma’s personal details – including his phone numbers, WhatsApp profile,,上海夜生活Keaton, the brand of smartphone that he carries and his address – Sharma insisted he had not been harmed.

The UIDAI issued a statement advising people against sharing their Aadhaar number online.

“Such activities are uncalled for and should be refrained as these are not in accordance with the law,” the UIDAI said, adding that the number was sensitive information just like bank account or passport numbers.

People making Aadhaar numbers public or encouraging others to do so could be liable for prosecution and penal action, UIDAI said.

It was not immediately known if the UIDAI would take penal acti上海龙凤419on against Sharma. He was not reachable for comment.

‘There’s going to be a raid’: A Chilean prosecutor forces Catholic…

SANTIAGO ( ) – Two special envoys sent by Pope Francis to investigate a child sex abuse scandal in Chile were meeting priests and Church workers at a university in the Chilean capital last month when aides rushed into the room with an alarming development: police and prosecutors were about to start raiding Church offices.

The envoys were 90 minutes into a seminar on how to investigate allegations of sex abuse committed by fellow clergy following revelations that hundreds of children might have been molested. For decades, the Roman Catholic Church in Chile quietly investigated such allegations without alerting police, but it now stands accused, even by Pope Francis himself, of a cover-up that allowed abusers to operate with impunity.

One of the clergymen listening to the envoys was Jaime Ortiz de Lazcano, the legal adviser to Santiago’s archbishop. The aides rushed to his side and told him, “‘Father, go to the (Church offices) because there’s going to be a raid’,” Ortiz later recounted.

Police and prosecutors were staging simultaneous raids on Church offices less than a mile away from the university and outside the capital, looking for evidence of sex crimes the Church had not reported to police.

The surprise sweeps, ordered by Emiliano Arias, a provincial prosecutor, marked the start of what experts who track sex crimes in the Roman Catholic Church say is one of the most aggressive investigations ever undertaken by a judicial authority anywhere in the world.

Since that cold June afternoon there have been five more raids on Church offices to seize documents, phones, tablets and computers, leaving the Vatican scrambling to respond to a rapidly unfolding scandal that is the worst image crisis of Francis’ papacy, now in its sixth year.

Leading the charge against the Church is Arias, 45, who is experienced in fighting organized crime and has a showman’s fondness for taking television news crews on the raids.

Arias told in an exclusive interview that documents seized by his team contained 30 cases of alleged abuse dating back to 2007 that the Church had not reported to the police. While was allowed to film his investigators poring through seized documents, he declined to give details from the files because he said they named victims of abuse.

He also alleged that some local Church officials had tried to destroy documents but that his team – made up of two prosecutors, three lawyers and a unit of specialist sex crime police – had salvaged them. He declined to say who had tried to destroy them or how they had tried to get rid of them.

was unable to independently confirm those assertions.

Víctor Villa Castro, head of communications for the Santiago archbishopric, said he could not comment on any cases under investigation by Arias.

“We would however say that we have no knowledge of the destruction of documents, nor the covering-up of crimes,” he said. “The victims are the first, and most important, in this and we will cooperate with the civil authorities in any way that can help to get to the truth of these matters.”

Arias says he wants to arrest both those who perpetrated the abuse and those who he says helped to cover it up. He arrested Oscar Munoz, a top aide to Santiago’s archbishop, Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati, after seizing church documents in which Munoz confessed to sex crimes. Munoz’s lawyer has acknowledged that some of the accusations in the documents are true but says he will challenge some others.

Arias last week named Ezzati, the most senior Roman Catholic in Chile, as a suspect, accusing him of covering up his aide’s alleged abuses. Ezzati has denied any wrongdoing and promised to cooperate. [L1N1UL01I]

Arias said he launched the raids after Church officials in Rancagua, the capital of O’Higgins region, told him he would have to make a formal petition to the Vatican to obtain information he was seeking because it was protected by ‘pontifical secret.’

A spokesman for the Rancagua archbishop’s offic,上海夜生活Hanzel,e said they were told to do this by the Vatican and insisted they were cooperating fully with civil authorities. Vatican spokesman Greg Burke declined to comment.

The Roman Catholic Church says the ‘pontifical secret’ provision in canon law is intended to protect the privacy of all involved in sex abuse claims. Critics say bishops have historically used it as a shield to block inquiries from civil authorities.

“We are not talking about a fraud, or a theft, we are talking about crimes against children,” Arias said in an interview in his office in Rancagua, explaining his decision not to submit the request to the Vatican and instead get a judge to ap爱上海prove the raids.

‘CULTURE OF ABUSE’

Allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy are not new, but under Chilean law governing the separation of church and state, the Catholic Church, a powerful and politically influential institution in this conservative Andean nation, has no legal obligation to report the allegations to police.

The sex abuse scandal came to a head after Pope Francis visited in January and was initially dismissive of claims by survivo,上海夜网Pearson,rs of a cover-up by top Church officials there. A backlash among advocates for abuse survivors prompted him to dispatch an investigator, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, who produced a confidential 2,300-page report on the allegations.[L1N1RO1L9]

After receiving the report Pope Francis wrote an open letter to Chile’s faithful in May in which he decried “the culture of abuse and the system of cover up” by the Church in Chile.

He summoned all 34 of Chile’s bishops to Rome in May where they offered to resign en masse. He has so far accepted five resignations and is expected to accept more.

Arias speaks mostly without emotion during the hour-long interview until he talks about how, according to their accusers, priests convinced their victims that they were doing nothing wrong. Then he displays flashes of anger, sometimes so impassioned that he trips over his words.

“I have seen some tough cases but what shocks me about all this is the abuse of conscience – how an accused (Church worker) has entered into the soul of another person and is capable of convincing him that satisfying his desires is not even a sin,” said Arias, who describes his family as “very Catholic” but says he is lapsed.

Arias said he can prosecute senior Church officials for covering up the abuses if he can prove they knew about systematic abuse and failed to do anything to stop it, or hid evidence to prevent civil authorities from getting involved.

But first he must prosecute the abusers, said Maria Ines Horvitz, a senior lawyer at the State Defense Council of Chile, a public agency that provides legal advice to the Chilean state. And to do that he must find cases within the 10-year statute of limitations – a potential problem that has bedeviled prosecutors in other countries – or turn to the one court in Chile that still handles cases from before roughly 2000, which is backlogged.

PROSECUTORIAL ZEAL

The national public prosecutor instructed all provincial prosecutors last month to pursue sex abuse allegations more vigorously.

But Arias has gone much further than his colleagues in his zeal to bring prosecutions. He has repeatedly widened his remit, from a handful of cases to dozens, from his provincial base to the capital, and from investigating claims of abuse by 14 priests in Rancagua to the alleged complicity of Ezzati, Santiago’s archbishop, himself.

As a result of his uncovering new cases in Church documents, the national prosecutor last week authorized him to expand his investigation into other regions.

BishopAccountability.Org, which tracks allegations of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests, says the only comparable investigation into sex abuse in the Church was in Belgium in 2010 when police launched coordinated raids on Church offices and the home of a cardinal. That investigation did not lead to any prosecutions because of the statute of limitations.

Arias is carrying out his investigation in the absence of any public backing from the center-right Sebastian Pinera government. Shortly before becoming president in March, Pinera criticized the Church for its “defensive” attitude to the scandal and “insufficient” investigations but has remained silent on the issue since.

A government spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

WHY NOW?

For decades allegations of sexual abuse by priests swirled through Chilean society, but little was done to address them. The Church was largely left to police itself.

But this year that suddenly changed.

Church watchers say several factors contributed to this watershed moment – the international attention received by several victims who went public; the pope’s initial poor handling of the claims; and the ripple effect of the global #MeToo movement.

The Church’s grip on Chile is also weakening, public opinion polling shows, even though the formerly predominately Catholic nation remains largely conservative on social issues.

The waning support for the Church was evident when the pope visited Chile in January – there were many empty seats at his public masses. This was “a turning point for Francis’ papacy” a Vatican official said. “It is when he realized that he was listening to the wrong people about the real situation in Chile.”

For Arias, the pope’s subsequent mea culpa that the Church had covered up abuses gave him the impetus he needed to act. “His description of what was happening in Chile was powerful and should concern us all,” he said.

Obama, Reid hold 2014 political strategy meeting

WASHINGTON ( ) – U.S. President Barack Obama met on Monday with Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid to explore ways to try to preve,上海夜生活桑拿会所Mace,nt Republicans from winning control of the Senate from the Democrats in the November elections, a top party aide said.

Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, also attended the White House meeting along with Guy Cecil, executive director of the committee, said the aide,上海夜生活Lauren,, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Republicans need a net gain of six seats on Election Day to take the Senate, now held by Democrats, 55-45.

Troubled by Obama’s low approval ratings, a number of Senate Democrats in tough races have begun to distance themselves from the president in their re-election campaigns.

Obama needs Democrats to have any chance of having any legislative successes this year, such as his push to reduce the gap between rich and poor.

The president plans to hold a reception at the White House on Tuesday with House Democrats and address Senate Democrats at their annual retreat in Washington on Wednesday.

At Monday’s meeting, Obama and Reid did not discus爱上海419s the senator’s comments last week opposing the president’s push for expanded authority to negotiate trade deals, the party aide said.