Tag Archives: condemns

18 reportedly killed in Myanmar anti-coup protests; Canadian Embassy condemns crackdown

Security forces in Myanmar made mass arrests and appeared to use lethal force on Sunday as they intensified their efforts to break up protests a month after the military staged a coup. At least four people were reportedly killed.

There were reports of gunfire as police in Yangon, the country’s biggest city, fired tear gas and water cannons while trying to clear the streets of demonstrators demanding that the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi be restored to power. Photos of shell casings from live ammunition used in assault rifles were posted on social media.

Reports on social media identified by name one young man believed to have been killed in Yangon. His body was shown in photos and videos lying on a sidewalk until other protesters were able to carry him away.

A violent crackdown also occurred in Dawei, a much smaller city in southeastern Myanmar, where local media reported that at least three people were killed during a protest march. The fatalities could not immediately be independently confirmed, though photos posted on social media showed a wounded man in the care of medical personnel, and later laid out in a bed under a blanket with flowers placed on top.


Protesters gather in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-largest city, on Sunday. (The Associated Press)

Confirming reports of protesters’ deaths has been difficult amid the chaos and general lack of news from official sources.

Prior to Sunday, there had been eight confirmed reports of killings linked to the army’s takeover, according to the independent Assistance Association of Political Prisoners.

The Feb. 1 coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy after five decades of military rule. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party would have been installed for a second five-year term in office, but the army blocked Parliament from convening and detained her and President Win Myint, as well as other top members of Suu Kyi’s government.

Sunday’s violence erupted in the early morning when medical students were marching in Yangon’s streets near the Hledan Center intersection, which has become the gathering point for protesters who then fan out to other parts of the city.

Videos and photos showed protesters running away as police charged at them, and residents setting up makeshift roadblocks to slow their advance. Some protesters managed to throw tear gas cannisters back at police. Nearby, residents were pleading with police to release those they picked up from the street and shoved into police trucks to be taken away. Dozens or more were believed to have been detained.


Protesters take cover as they clash with riot police in the country’s largest city, Yangon, on Sunday. (Reuters)

Demonstrators regrouped later Sunday and security forces continued to chase them in several neighbourhoods.

There was no immediate word on Yangon casualties. Sounds of gunfire could be heard in the streets and there were what appeared to be smoke grenades thrown into the crowds.

“The Myanmar security forces’ clear escalation in use of lethal force in multiple towns and cities across the country in response to mostly peaceful anti-coup protesters is outrageous and unacceptable, and must be immediately halted,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for New York-based Human Rights Watch. “Live ammunition should not be used to control or disperse protests and lethal force can only be used to protect life or prevent serious injury.”

“The world is watching the actions of the Myanmar military junta, and will hold them accountable,” he said.

On Saturday, security forces began employing rougher tactics, taking preemptive actions to break up protests and making scores, if not hundreds, of arrests. Greater numbers of soldiers have also joined police. Many of those detained were taken to Insein Prison in Yangon’s northern outskirts, historically notorious for holding political prisoners.


Protesters run after police fire tear gas to disperse them during a demonstration in Yangon. (Sai Aung Main/AFP via Getty Images)

According to the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, as of Saturday, 854 people had been arrested, charged or sentenced at one point in relation to the coup, and 771 were being detained or sought for arrest. The group said that while it had documented 75 new arrests, it understood that hundreds of other people were also picked up Saturday in Yangon and elsewhere.

MRTV, a Myanmar state-run television channel, broadcast an announcement Saturday night from the Foreign Ministry that the country’s ambassador to the United Nations had been fired because he had abused his power and misbehaved by failing to follow the instructions of the government and “betraying” it.

Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun had declared in an emotional speech Friday at the UN General Assembly in New York that he represented Suu Kyi’s “civilian government elected by the people” and supported the struggle against military rule.

He urged all countries to issue public statements strongly condemning the coup, and to refuse to recognize the military regime. He also called for stronger international measures to stop violence by security forces against peaceful demonstrators.

WATCH | From The National on Feb. 22 — Widespread strikes in Myanmar:

Protests and strikes in Myanmar against the military government following a coup three weeks ago have become so widespread the regime is using soldiers to try to fill workers’ jobs. People are demanding the elected leaders, including Aung San Su Kyi, be released from detention and their democracy be restored. 2:02

The Canadian Embassy in Yangon issued a statement on Sunday saying it is “appalled” by the increased use of force against the protesters.

“We unequivocally condemn any use of force by security forces against unarmed protesters, as well as ongoing arrests and detentions of protesters, politicians, civil servants, civil society activists, journalists and pro-democracy leaders.” the embassy said.

It called on Myanmar’s military and police to immediately cease “all attacks, intimidation and threats against protesters, and to release those detained.”

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Trump finally concedes election, condemns attack on U.S. Capitol by supporters he incited yesterday

U.S. President Donald Trump has finally conceded the 2020 election to president-elect Joe Biden in a new video condemning his violent supporters who stormed the Capitol building on Wednesday.

In the statement posted to Twitter, Trump declined to mention Biden by name or explicitly admit he’d lost the election, instead saying now that Congress has certified the election results, the “new administration will be inaugurated on January 20” and his focus now turns to “ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power.”

He called the riot in the Capitol a “heinous attack” that left him “outraged by the violence, lawlessness and mayhem.” However, in a video to the pro-Trump rioters on Capitol Hill Wednesday, he told them to go home, but also that he loved them, that they were special people and that he felt their pain. Twitter removed that video. 

In the new statement, Trump did not address what Democrats and even some Republicans say was his role in inciting the violence. He did say he “immediately deployed the National Guard,” although it took a long time for order to be restored on Capitol Hill and CNN has reported that it was Vice-President Mike Pence who co-ordinated bringing in the troops. 

In the short message, Trump told his supporters that while he knows they are “disappointed,” their “incredible journey is only just beginning.”

WATCH | Trump’s statement about the attack on the U.S. Capitol: 

U.S. President Donald Trump has posted a new video on Twitter, more than 24 hours after an angry mob of his supporters stormed the Capitol building, saying he was outraged by the “heinous attack.” He also conceded to president-elect Joe Biden and promised a “smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power.” 2:41

‘We will stop the steal,’ Trump told supporters

The address came at the end of a day where the president stayed out of sight in the White House. Silenced on some of his favourite social media lines of communication, he didn’t comment as several of his top aides, including a cabinet secretary, announced their resignations.

The statement was also a stark reversal for Trump, who has spent months insisting widespread voter fraud cost him the Nov. 3 presidential election despite providing no evidence.

During a rally in Washington on Wednesday, he encouraged his thousands of supporters to march to the Capitol to protest the certification of the electoral college vote.

“We will stop the steal,” he told the crowd, using the rallying cry of protests against the election results.

A large mob of rioters later overran police officers and invaded the Capitol building, forcing members of Congress into hiding for their own safety.

As recently as Thursday morning, Trump was still maintaining the election was stolen from him.


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, seen here in August 2020, have called on Vice-President Mike Pence to use the 25th Amendment to oust Trump from office. (Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press)

Before Trump released his video message on Thursday, the top Democrats in Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, called on Vice-President Mike Pence and Trump’s cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment, a provision of the U.S. Constitution that allows a cabinet majority to remove the president from power if he is unable to discharge the duties of the office.

But a Pence adviser says the vice-president, who would have to lead any such effort, is opposed to using the amendment to oust Trump from the White House.

Barring that, Pelosi has said she would likely reconvene the House to initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump for his role in Wednesday’s violence, which claimed five lives, including that of a Capitol Police officer.

A day later, Republicans and Democrats alike struggled with how best to contain the impulses of a president deemed too dangerous to control his own social media accounts but who remains commander-in-chief of the world’s largest military.

“I’m not worried about the next election, I’m worried about getting through the next 14 days,” said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of Trump’s staunchest allies. He condemned the president’s role in Wednesday’s riots and said, “If something else happens, all options would be on the table.”

In Pelosi’s words, “the president of the United States incited an armed insurrection against America.” She called him “a very dangerous person who should not continue in office. This is urgent, an emergency of the highest magnitude.”

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Canada Soccer condemns ‘hateful,’ racist comments made toward Alphonso Davies, Jordyn Huitema

Canada’s soccer body posted a message on Twitter on Saturday condemning ‘hateful’ racist comments directed toward Canadian national soccer team stars Jordyn Huitema and Alphonso Davies, who are in a relationship.

A photo posted to Huitema’s Instagram account in late August of the two players vacationing in Spain drew a flood of racist comments.

Canada Soccer posted that the organization “stands firm against racism and discrimination of any kind both in the game and around the world. We are appalled with the hateful comments made to members of our players through social media.

“Share love not hate and work together for a better world.”


Canadian national men’s team head coach John Herdman echoed the sentiment, posting a message on Twitter 

“We see the best in human nature from Alphonso/Jordyn two kids I’ve worked with and then the worst with the moronic comments from the small minority of humans that will just never get it. … ” Herdman wrote.


Davies, 20, was named the top Canadian men’s soccer player for 2020 and co-winner of the Lou Marsh last week. This past season he helped his Bayern Munich club capture the German championship and went on to become the first Canadian man to win a Champions League title.

Huitema, 19, signed a four-year deal with Paris Saint-Germain of the French Division 1 Féminine in 2019, and has seven goals in 27 appearances with the club.

WATCH | 2020 showed the whole of sports is greater than the sum of its parts:

Athletes around the world raised a collective voice in an unprecedented show of power. 5:03

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Canada’s chief public health officer condemns racist acts linked to coronavirus outbreak

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam is calling out acts of racism and discrimination related to the coronavirus outbreak.

On Twitter, Tam said she’s troubled by the growing number of reports of racists acts and comments on social media directed at people of Chinese and Asian descent, calling them “unacceptable and very hurtful.”

“These actions create a divide of us versus them,” she tweeted. “Canada is a country built on the deep-rooted values of respect, diversity and inclusion.”

China’s National Health Commission said the country’s total number of deaths from the coronavirus had climbed to 170 by late Wednesday, as the number of those infected rose to 7,711.

Canada has confirmed three cases of the virus here, all of which originated in Wuhan, China. 

Chinese Canadians have been reporting racist incidents as fear-fuelled misinformation about the new coronavirus spreads.

Frank Ye, a student at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto, has been monitoring online reaction to the coronavirus. He said he has seen posts calling Chinese people “dirty” or “disease-ridden.”

Lessons from SARS

“The spread of this virus, just like the spread of SARS, has been used to bring back a lot of anti-Chinese, anti-Asian tropes and racist stereotypes that really date back throughout centuries in Canada’s history,” Ye told The Current’s Matt Galloway this week.

In her Twitter thread, Tam called on Canadians to learn from the experience of the SARS outbreak — which also saw South East Asians subjected to racist behaviour and discrimination.

Toronto Mayor John Tory also has denounced the act of “shunning” Chinese Canadians or avoiding their businesses, calling it immoral and harmful.

“This type of thinking is wrong. It is entirely inconsistent with the advice of our health care professionals,” he said.

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Rockets fired at U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraqi PM condemns attack

Five Katyusha rockets crashed into a riverbank near the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone without causing any injuries or serious damage, a statement from U.S. Joint Operations Command said.

One rocket landed inside the embassy walls, an Iraqi security official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with Iraqi government regulations.

It is the third such attack this month and the perpetrators were not immediately known.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi condemned the rocket attack that targeted the U.S. Embassy. In a statement, he asserted Iraq’s commitment to “protecting all diplomatic missions.”

Separately on Sunday, one protester was killed by security forces after hundreds of anti-government protesters flooded the streets of Iraq’s capital and southern provinces.

Security forces fired tear gas and live rounds to disperse the crowds from the capital’s Khilani Square, medical and security officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. One protester was killed and six wounded after security forces fired live rounds in nearby Wathba Square later in the evening.


An anti-government protester throws back a tear gas canister fired by riot police during clashes in Baghdad on Sunday. (Hadi Mizban/The Associated Press)

At least 28 demonstrators were reported wounded by Iraqi security forces in the first hours of Sunday’s street rallies.

The mass protests started in October over widespread government corruption and a lack of public services and jobs. They quickly grew into calls for sweeping changes to Iraq’s political system that was imposed after the 2003 U.S. invasion. Iraqi security forces have responded harshly. At least 500 protesters have been killed since the unrest began.

Iraq also has been roiled by U.S.-Iran tensions that threatened a regional war after an American drone strike this month killed top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani near Baghdad.

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Hong Kong condemns London attack on justice secretary as protests rumble on

The Chinese and Hong Kong governments condemned on Friday an attack by a “violent mob” on the city’s justice secretary in London, the first direct altercation between demonstrators and a government minister during months of often violent protests.’

Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng, who was in London to promote Hong Kong as a dispute resolution and deal-making hub, was targeted by a group of protesters who shouted “murderer” and “shameful.”

A statement by the Hong Kong government said Cheng suffered “serious bodily harm” but gave no details. 

The Chinese Embassy in the U.K. said Cheng was pushed to the ground and sustained a hand injury.


Secretary of Justice Teresa Cheng, shown here in May, was targeted by a group of protesters who shouted “murderer” and “shameful.” (Kin Cheung/Associated Press)

“[Cheng] was besieged and attacked by dozens of anti-China and pro-independence activists,” the Chinese Embassy said in a statement. The incident showed that the “violent and lawless perpetrators” were now taking their violence abroad, it said.

China has lodged a formal complaint with Britain and urged British authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Escalating violence

Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, also strongly condemned the attack.

The former British colony’s government said in a separate statement: “The secretary denounces all forms of violence and radicalism depriving others’ legitimate rights in the pretext of pursuing their political ideals, which would never be in the interest of Hong Kong and any civilized society.”

The incident came amid escalating violence in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, where a student protester died earlier this month after falling from a parking lot during demonstrations.


A man walks through bricks placed on a barricaded street outside The Hong Kong Polytechnic University on Friday. (Isaac Lawrence/AFP via Getty Images)

A 70-year-old street cleaner, who videos on social media showed had been hit in the head by a brick thrown by “masked rioters,” died on Thursday, authorities said.

Parts of Hong Kong paralyzed

The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department expressed profound sadness on Friday at the death of its cleaning worker and said it was providing assistance to his family.

Anti-government protesters paralyzed parts of Hong Kong for a fifth day on Friday, forcing schools to close and blocking some highways as students built barricades in university campuses and authorities struggled to tame the violence.

Protesters used barriers and other debris to block the Cross-Harbour Tunnel that links Hong Kong island to Kowloon district, leading to severe traffic congestion. The government once again urged employers to adopt flexible working arrangements amid the chaos.

The protests escalated in June over a now-scrapped extradition bill that would have allowed people to be sent to mainland China for trial. They have since evolved into calls for greater democracy, among other demands.


(CBC)

‘Revolution of our time’

Flash mobs again protested at lunch time in the heart of the financial hub and also in the eastern district of Tai Koo, where office workers wearing now-banned face masks chanted “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time.”

“Things that happened in these few months have made people heartbroken,” said a 31-year-old office assistant who gave her name as Nicole.


Protesters build a wall to block a road at Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong. (Dale De La Rey/AFP/Getty Images)

“The government only came out to condemn rioters…. They have never thought why so many rioters have emerged in our city and why ordinary citizens support them,” she said.

Thousands of students remain hunkered down at several universities, surrounded by piles of food, bricks, petrol bombs, catapults and other homemade weapons.

Around 4,000 arrested

Police said the prestigious Chinese University had “become a manufacturing base for petrol bombs” and the students’ actions were “another step closer to terrorism.”

Around 4,000 people, aged between 12 and 83, have been arrested since the unrest escalated in June.


An anti-government protester holds a bow during a standoff with riot police at Chinese University of Hong Kong on Thursday. (Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

The demonstrations have paralyzed parts of the city and battered the retail and tourism sectors, with widespread disruptions across the financial centre and no end in sight to the violence and vandalism.

Video footage of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army garrison headquarters near Hong Kong’s central business district on Friday showed more than a dozen troops conducting what appeared to be anti-riot drills against fake protesters carrying black umbrellas.

China blames Western countries

The anti-government protests have taken a heavy toll and Hong Kong was expected to confirm on Friday it had fallen into recession for the first time in a decade amid concerns the economy could be in even worse shape than feared.

Alibaba Group chair Daniel Zhang, however, said Hong Kong’s future is “bright” as the e-commerce giant kicked off a retail campaign for its secondary listing in the city.

Many in Hong Kong are angry at what they see as China stifling freedoms guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula put in place when Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

China denies interfering in Hong Kong and has blamed Western countries, including Britain and the United States, for stirring up trouble.

A congressional advisory body urged the U.S. Congress on Thursday to enact legislation that would suspend the special economic status Hong Kong enjoys under U.S. law if China deploys security forces to crush the protests.

The Hong Kong administration reiterated that foreign governments should not interfere in the city’s internal affairs.

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China condemns U.S. visa restrictions imposed over treatment of Muslim Uighurs

The Chinese Embassy in Washington on Tuesday denounced the U.S. imposition of visa restrictions on some Chinese officials over Beijing’s treatment of Muslim minorities in Xinjiang as interference in China’s internal affairs.

The U.S. decision “seriously violates the basic norms governing international relations, interferes in China’s internal affairs and undermines China’s interests. China deplores and firmly opposes that,” an embassy spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

“Xinjiang does not have the so-called human rights issue claimed by the US. The accusations by the US side are merely made-up pretexts for its interference,” the spokesperson said. 

The Trump administration on Tuesday slapped travel bans on Chinese officials involved in a massive crackdown against Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in its west.

The U.S. State Department said it would not issue visas to Chinese government and Communist Party officials believed to be responsible for or complicit in mass detentions and abuses in western Xinjiang province. It did not identify the targeted officials or say how many were affected by the ban, which can also be applied to their immediate family members.

In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged China to halt its “campaign of repression” in the region, release all those arbitrarily detained and stop trying to coerce members of Chinese Muslim minority groups residing abroad to return to China.


U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged China to halt its ‘campaign of repression’ against Muslim minorities in its western Xinjiang province. (Mandel Ngan/Reuters)

“The protection of human rights is of fundamental importance, and all countries must respect their human rights obligations and commitments,” Pompeo said. “The United States will continue to review its authorities to respond to these abuses.”

The announcement came a day after the Commerce Department blacklisted Chinese government agencies and a number of Chinese companies that develop facial recognition and other artificial intelligence technology the U.S. says is being used to repress Muslim minorities.

The U.S. decision, which drew a sharp rebuke from Beijing, targets 20 Chinese public security bureaus and eight companies including video surveillance firm Hikvision, as well as leaders in facial recognition technology SenseTime Group and Megvii Technology Ltd.

The action bars the firms from buying components from U.S. companies without U.S. government approval — a potentially crippling move for some of them. It follows the same blueprint used by Washington in its attempt to limit the influence of Huawei Technologies for what it says are national security reasons.

U.S. officials said the action was not tied to this week’s resumption of trade talks with China, but it signals no let-up in U.S. President Donald Trump’s hard-line stance as the world’s two biggest economies seek to end their 15-month trade war.

The Commerce Department said in a filing that the “entities have been implicated in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups.”

“The U.S. government and Department of Commerce cannot and will not tolerate the brutal suppression of ethnic minorities within China,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.

China said the United States should stop interfering in its affairs. It will continue to take firm and resolute measures to protect its sovereign security, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told a regular media briefing without elaborating.

Hikvision, with a market value of about $ 42 billion US, calls itself the world’s largest maker of video surveillance gear.

SenseTime, valued at around $ 4.5 billion in a May 2018 fundraising, is one of the world’s most valuable AI unicorns, while Megvii, backed by e-commerce giant Alibaba, is valued at around $ 4 billion and preparing an IPO to raise at least $ 500 million in Hong Kong.

The other companies on the list are speech recognition firm iFlytek Co, surveillance equipment maker Zhejiang Dahua Technology, data recovery firm Xiamen Meiya Pico Information Co, facial recognition firm Yitu Technology, and Yixin Science and Technology Co.

A U.S. Hikvision spokesperson said the company “strongly opposes” the decision. It said that in January, it retained a human rights expert and former U.S. ambassador to advise the company on human rights compliance.

“Punishing Hikvision, despite these engagements, will deter global companies from communicating with the U.S. government, hurt Hikvision’s U.S. businesses partners and negatively impact the U.S. economy,” the company added.

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U.S. Border Patrol head condemns agents’ offensive Facebook posts

The head of the U.S. Border Patrol on Monday slammed as “completely inappropriate” sexually explicit posts about U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and comments questioning the authenticity of a photo of a drowned man and his young daughter in a secret Facebook group for agents.

The existence of the group was reported by ProPublica as roughly a dozen members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, including Democrats Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Veronica Escobar of Texas, toured border facilities where attorneys said they had found migrant children living in fetid, filthy conditions.

Some of the posts were graphic, doctored images of Ocasio-Cortez, including one that shows a smiling U.S. President Donald Trump forcing her head toward his crotch. Other comments refer to Ocasio-Cortez and Escobar as “hoes,” and one member encouraged agents to throw a “burrito at these bitches.”

Ocasio-Cortez said she wasn’t surprised by the posts, especially after the treatment of migrants she said she witnessed at the facility.

“It’s just indicative of the violent culture that we saw.”

The revelation about the Facebook posts only added to the vitriolic atmosphere surrounding immigration and the treatment of tens of thousands of migrants who have crossed the border, vastly straining the system that has been struggling to keep up amid Trump’s hardline rhetoric.

The Democrats delivered an emotional denunciation of what they saw inside the border facilities as protesters shouted that they didn’t believe them.

“When we went into the cell, it was clear that the water was not running … in fact, one of the women said that she was told by an agent to drink from the toilet,” said Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Democrat from Texas and twin brother of presidential candidate Julian Castro.

Facilities visited ‘appalling and disgusting,’ Congresswoman says

The Texas visit came the same day as Trump signed a $ 4.6-billion US emergency aid package that Congress passed on Friday. The Democratic-led House had pushed for more restrictions on how the money could be used and stricter oversight, but ultimately lost the battle.

Trump said he hadn’t seen the postings, but claimed Border Patrol agents were not happy with Congress.

“So the Border Patrol, they’re patriots, they’re great people. They love our country. They know who’s coming in,” the president said.

Lawmakers who toured the facilities shared their experiences widely on social media. Rep. Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts called them “jail-like. No way to keep a child or innocent human being.” The head of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, California Rep. Judy Chu said “what we saw was appalling and disgusting.”


U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, left, and other members of Congress toured two Border Patrol stations on Monday. (Julio-Cesar Chavez/Reuters)

Castro said there would likely be a congressional investigation into the Facebook posts.

Billed as “fun, serious and just work related,” the group of about 9,500 members of current and former Border Patrol employees states: “We are family, first and foremost,” according to ProPublica.

Another thread involved the image published last week by The Associated Press of a migrant father and his toddler, drowned on the banks of the Rio Grande. One commenter suggested the image was doctored because the bodies were too clean.

“We’ve all seen the dems and liberal parties do some pretty sick things,” the comment read.

Posters ‘will be held accountable’

They marked a sharp contrast to accounts of Border Patrol officers spending their own money on food for migrants in their care, or rescuing migrants from the Rio Grande, or from a bombing range in Arizona. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the parent agency of Border Patrol, said an investigation into “disturbing social media activity” was underway.

“These posts are completely inappropriate and contrary to the honour and integrity I see — and expect — from our agents day in and day out,” Border Patrol chief Carla Provost said. “Any employees found to have violated our standards of conduct will be held accountable.”

Ocasio-Cortez raised hackles last month when she tweeted: “This administration has established concentration camps on the southern border of the United States for immigrants, where they are being brutalized with dehumanizing conditions and dying.”

Her tweet set off a firestorm of criticism from Republican lawmakers and others over her use of “concentration camps,” with some saying she was unfairly comparing the southern border to the Holocaust. The Border Patrol’s union, while condemning the Facebook posts, also took a swipe at her.

“Whether one agrees with the politics of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Escobar, they both must be treated with dignity and respect,” according to a statement from the union. “Similarly, when Rep. Ocasio-Cortez refers to CBP facilities as concentration camps … she does nothing to improve the political discourse.”

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Vatican condemns sex abuse by Pennsylvania clergy

The Vatican has called the sex abuse described in a grand jury report in Pennsylvania "criminal and morally reprehensible."

The grand jury on Tuesday released the findings of the largest-ever investigation of sex abuse in the U.S. Catholic Church, finding that 301 priests in the state had sexually abused minors over the past 70 years.

In a statement released late Thursday, Vatican spokesperson Greg Burke said "those acts were betrayals of trust that robbed survivors of their dignity and faith."

The statement stressed the "need to comply" with civil law, including mandatory reporting of abuse against minors and said Pope Francis understands how "these crimes can shake the faith and spirit of believers" and that he wanted to "root out this tragic horror."

The scathing grand jury report this week accused Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Washington, of helping to protect some child-molesting priests while he was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006.

Wuerl is also facing widespread skepticism over his recent insistence that he knew nothing about years of alleged sexual misconduct by former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, his predecessor in the nation's capital.

The Washington Archdiocese, home to more than 630,000 Catholics, is considered an important power centre for the church in the United States, and Wuerl has been ranked by commentators as one of the most influential of the 10 active American cardinals.

A scathing grand jury report this week accused Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Washington, of helping to protect some child-molesting priests while he was bishop of Pittsburgh from 1988 to 2006. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

Demands for dismissal

The two scandals represent a stunning turn for the 77-year-old leader, who over the decades earned the respect of fellow bishops across the U.S. and prided himself in taking tough steps to combat clergy sex abuse during his 18 years in Pittsburgh.

Some conservative Catholics are calling for his resignation or ouster, and a petition is circulating to remove his name from a parochial high school in suburban Pittsburgh.

We showed pastoral concern by reaching out to victims and their families.– Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington

Wuerl has said he has no plans to resign. He apologized this week for the damage inflicted on the victims but also defended his actions in Pittsburgh.

"The Diocese worked to meet or exceed the requirements of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the reporting requirements of Pennsylvania law," Wuerl said. "We showed pastoral concern by reaching out to victims and their families, while reporting allegations to the authorities so they could investigate crimes."

On Thursday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced an investigation into the McCarrick scandal and said it would invite the Vatican to participate.

Priests accused of misconduct

Wuerl has not been charged with any wrongdoing but is named numerous times in the grand jury report, which details instances in which he allowed priests accused of misconduct to be reassigned or reinstated.

In one case, Wuerl — acting on doctors' recommendation — enabled priest William O'Malley to return to active ministry in 1998 despite allegations of abuse lodged against him in the past and his own admission that he was sexually interested in adolescents. Years later, according to the report, six more people alleged that they had been sexually assaulted by O'Malley, in some cases after he had been reinstated.

"Cardinal Wuerl does not contest the facts. He should resign," tweeted Matthew Schmitz, senior editor of the conservative Catholic magazine First Things. Many of Schmitz's online followers expressed agreement.


In Wuerl's defence, the archdiocese has released documents that include a detailed account of a case admirers cite as evidence of Wuerl's strong stand against sex abuse.

The case surfaced in 1988, when a 19-year-old former seminarian, Tim Bendig, filed a lawsuit accusing a priest, Anthony Cipolla, of molesting him. Wuerl initially questioned Bendig's version of events but later accepted his account and moved to oust Cipolla from the priesthood.

In 1993, the Vatican's highest court ordered Wuerl to restore Cipolla to the ministry, but Wuerl resisted and, after two years of legal procedures, prevailed in preventing Cipolla's return.

Wuerl "made a lot of enemies, but he persisted," said author and journalist Michael Sean Winters, who writes for the National Catholic Reporter. "He risked his career over five years of battling."

Looking more broadly at Wuerl's career, Winters described him as "kind of exemplary."

"When he gets up and goes to the microphone, everybody listens," Winters said of bishops' conferences he has covered. "He's not an old leftie, he's not a right-wing culture warrior. To use a word that's out of currency, he's a churchman."

The Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest who writes for Religion News Service, described Wuerl as an ideological moderate, "not someone who was part of one camp or another."

"He was totally enthusiastic about John Paul II, and then Pope Benedict, and now he's totally enthusiastic about Pope Francis," Reese said. "There are not many people in the church who are totally enthusiastic about all three of them."


Numerous conservative Catholic activists and commentators, though, consider him too tolerant of the LGBT community and too liberal on some other issues. They resent his pivotal role a decade ago in resisting a push by some of his fellow bishops to deny Communion to Catholic politicians who support the right to abortion.

However, the dismay over the latest scandals goes beyond conservative circles.

"The U.S. Catholic Church is very close to becoming a decapitated Church," tweeted Massimo Faggioli, a relatively liberal theologian at Villanova University in suburban Philadelphia. "What Napoleon and Stalin couldn't do, the hierarchy of the Church itself did."

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Myanmar's Suu Kyi condemns 'all human rights violations' in Rohingya crisis

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi condemned on Tuesday any human rights violations in troubled Rakhine State and said anyone responsible would face the law, and that she felt deeply for the suffering of everyone caught up in the conflict there.

The Nobel Peace laureate’s remarks came in her first address to the nation since attacks by Rohingya Muslim insurgents on Aug. 25 sparked a military response that has forced more than 410,000 Rohingya into neighbouring Bangladesh.

Western diplomats and aid officials attending the address welcomed Suu Kyi’s message, though some doubted if she had said enough to end the barrage of global criticism Myanmar has faced.

Human rights groups were dismissive. Amnesty International said Suu Kyi and her government were “burying their heads in the sand” for ignoring the role of the army in the violence.

Ethnic cleansing

The United Nations has branded the military operation in the western state ethnic cleansing. Suu Kyi did not address that but said her government was committed to the rule of law.

“We condemn all human rights violations and unlawful violence. We are committed to the restoration of peace and stability and rule of law throughout the state,” Suu Kyi said in her address in the capital, Naypyitaw.

MYANMAR-ROHINGYA/BANGLADESH

A Rohingya refugee arrives at a camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on Monday. (Cathan McNaughton/Reuters)

Long feted in the West for her role as champion of democracy in the Buddhist-majority country during years of military rule and house arrest, Suu Kyi has faced growing criticism for saying little about the abuses faced by the Rohingya.

“Action will be taken against all people regardless of their religion, race and political position, who go against the law of the land and violate human rights,” she said. “We feel deeply for the suffering of all the people caught up in the conflict.”

U.S. pressures Myanmar

The United States urged Myanmar on Monday to end military operations, grant humanitarian access, and commit to aiding the safe return of civilians to their homes. Myanmar’s generals remain in full charge of security and Suu Kyi did not comment on the military operation, except to say that there had been “no armed clashes and there have been no clearance operations” since Sept. 5.

“Nevertheless, we are concerned to hear that numbers of Muslims are fleeing across the border,” she said. “We want to find out why.”

Myanmar Attacks

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi said Tuesday her country does not fear international scrutiny. (Aung Shine Oo/Associated Press)

Rights monitors and fleeing Rohingya say the army and Rakhine Buddhist vigilantes have mounted a campaign of arson aimed at driving out the Muslim population. Myanmar rejects that, saying its security forces are carrying out operations to defend against the insurgents of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), which has claimed responsibility for attacks on the security forces since October.

The government has declared ARSA a terrorist organisation and accused it of setting the fires and attacking civilians.

Referring to Suu Kyi’s assertion that army clearance operations had ceased, Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch asked: “If that is true, then who is burning all the villages we’ve seen in the past two weeks?” He said satellite images showed about half of all Rohingya villages had been torched and it was time that Suu Kyi, the government and military faced the fact that the security forces “don’t follow a code of conduct and shoot and kill who they want” and burn villages.

MYANMAR-ROHINGYA/BANGLADESH

Rohingya refugees stretch for aid in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on Monday. More than 400,000 people have crossed over the border with Myanmar. (Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)

Amnesty International said there was “overwhelming evidence” the security forces were engaged in ethnic cleansing. “While it was positive to hear Aung San Suu Kyi condemn human rights violations in Rakhine state, she is still silent about the role of the security forces,” the group said. While foreign critics raised doubts, thousands of Suu Kyi’s cheering supporters gathered in the main city of Yangon and other towns to watch her speech broadcast on big screens.

The ambassador of China, which vies with the United States for influence in Myanmar, welcomed Suu Kyi’s speech saying it would improve understanding. Russia’s ambassador said there was no evidence of ethnic cleansing.

U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state Patrick Murphy also attended the address.

‘No trust’

Suu Kyi, 72, said her government had been making every effort to promote harmony between the Muslim and largely Buddhist ethnic Rakhine communities. A government official in Rakhine State did not seem to share Suu Kyi’s optimism about relations between the two communities.

“They have no trust for each other,” the state’s secretary, Tin Maung Swe, told Reuters, adding tension was high. “The situation is ready to explode. It just needs a single spark.”

Suu Kyi said her government was committed to recommendations made by an advisory team led by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan. Annan’s panel recommended last month a review of a citizenship law that makes a link between citizenship and ethnicity and leaves most Rohingya stateless.

On the return of refugees, Suu Kyi said Myanmar was ready to start a verification process. “Those who have been verified as refugees from this country will be accepted without any problem,” she said. She referred to a 1993 agreement with Bangladesh on verification. But few refugees were able to return under what aid workers said was a lengthy, complex process.

Suu Kyi said diplomats could visit the conflict zone and she called for support for her government’s efforts to end conflict across the country.

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