Indonesia, Jan 18 (AP/UNB) — Indonesian President Joko Widodo accused his election rival of allowing corrupt candidates on his legislative ticket and failing to include women in senior positions.
Widodo and former Gen. Prabowo Subianto, along with their running mates, faced off Thursday in the first of five debates before the April 17 election. The debate focused on terrorism, human rights, corruption, and law and order.
Opinion polls show Widodo commanding 52 percent to 54 percent popular support and Subianto trailing with 30-35 percent. About 10 percent of voters are undecided and another 15 percent are considered swing voters, meaning the race has the potential to tighten.
Subianto, making his second bid for president after being narrowly defeated by Widodo in 2014, waffled when asked why his party has the highest number of candidates with corruption records.
"Maybe the corruption they did was not huge, maybe he or she just, what I mean is, the theft was indeed wrong, but the most important thing to be eradicated was a corrupter who stole trillions of rupiah (hundreds of millions of dollars) of state money, of people's money," he said.
Questioning Subianto's opening statement of a commitment to empowering women, Widodo said he has nine women in important Cabinet positions but there are few the leadership of Subianto's Gerindra party.
Subianto said his party has many female candidates and criticized the quality of decision-making by Widodo's female ministers.
Widodo, the first Indonesian president from outside the country's Jakarta elite, has made upgrading Indonesia's infrastructure the signature policy of his five year-term.
In debating human rights, none of the candidates addressed Subianto's involvement in human rights abuses during the dictator Suharto's regime that ended two decades ago.
Washington, Jan 18 (AP/UNB) — She imperiled his State of the Union address. He denied her a plane to visit troops abroad.
The shutdown battle between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is playing out as a surreal game of constitutional brinkmanship, with both flexing their political powers from opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue as the negotiations to end the monthlong partial government shutdown remain stalled.
In dramatic fashion, Trump issued a letter to Pelosi on Thursday, just before she and other lawmakers were set to depart on the previously undisclosed trip to Afghanistan and Brussels. Trump belittled the trip as a "public relations event" — even though he had just made a similar warzone stop — and said it would be best if Pelosi remained in Washington to negotiate to reopen the government.
"Obviously, if you would like to make your journey by flying commercial, that would certainly be your prerogative," wrote Trump, who had been smarting since Pelosi, the day before, called on him to postpone his Jan. 29 State of the Union address due to the shutdown.
Denying military aircraft to a senior lawmaker — let alone the speaker, who is second in line to the White House, traveling to a combat region — is very rare. Lawmakers were caught off guard. A bus to ferry the legislators to their departure idled outside the Capitol on Thursday afternoon.
The political tit-for-tat between Trump and Pelosi laid bare how the government-wide crisis has devolved into an intensely pointed clash between two leaders both determined to prevail. It took place as hundreds of thousands of federal workers go without pay and Washington's routine protocols — a president's speech to Congress, a lawmaker's official trip — became collateral damage.
Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said the speaker planned to travel to Afghanistan and Brussels to thank service members and obtain briefings on national security and intelligence "from those on the front lines." He noted Trump had traveled to Iraq during the shutdown and said a Republican-led congressional trip also had taken place.
Trump's move was the latest example of his extraordinary willingness to tether U.S. government resources to his political needs. He has publicly urged the Justice Department to investigate political opponents and threatened to cut disaster aid to Puerto Rico amid a spat with the island territory's leaders.
Some Republicans expressed frustration. Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted, "One sophomoric response does not deserve another." He called Pelosi's State of the Union move "very irresponsible and blatantly political" but said Trump's reaction was "also inappropriate."
While there were few signs of progress Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence and senior adviser Jared Kushner dashed to the Capitol late in the day for a meeting with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. And the State Department instructed all U.S. diplomats in Washington and elsewhere to return to work next week with pay, saying it had found money for their salaries at least temporarily.
For security reasons, Pelosi would normally make such a trip on a military aircraft supplied by the Pentagon. According to a defense official, Pelosi did request Defense Department support for overseas travel and it was initially approved. The official wasn't authorized to speak by name about the matter, so spoke on condition of anonymity.
The official said the president does have the authority to cancel the use of military aircraft.
Rep. Adam Schiff of California slammed Trump for revealing the closely held travel plans. "I think the president's decision to disclose a trip the speaker's making to a war zone was completely and utterly irresponsible in every way," Schiff said.
Trump's trip to Iraq after Christmas was not disclosed in advance for security reasons.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump wanted Pelosi to stay in Washington before Tuesday, a deadline to prepare the next round of paychecks for federal workers.
"We want to keep her in Washington," Sanders said. "The president wants her here to negotiate."
The White House also canceled plans for a presidential delegation to travel to an economic forum in Switzerland next week, citing the shutdown. And they said future congressional trips would be postponed until the shutdown is resolved, though it was not immediately clear if any such travel — which often is not disclosed in advance — was coming up.
Trump was taken by surprise by Pelosi's move to postpone his address and told one adviser it was the sort of disruptive move he would make himself, according to a Republican who is in frequent contact with the White House and was not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.
While he maintained a public silence, Trump grew weary of how Pelosi's move was being received on cable TV and reiterated fears that he was being outmaneuvered in the public eye. Trump was delighted at the idea of canceling Pelosi's trip, believing the focus on the resources needed would highlight her hypocrisy for cancelling his speech, according to the Republican.
Trump has still not said how he will handle Pelosi's attempt to have him postpone his State of the Union address until the government is reopened so workers can be paid for providing security for the grand Washington tradition.
Pelosi told reporters earlier Thursday: "Let's get a date when government is open. Let's pay the employees. Maybe he thinks it's OK not to pay people who do work. I don't."
Trump declined to address the stalemate over the speech during a visit Thursday to the Pentagon, simply promising that the nation will have "powerful, strong border security."
Pelosi reiterated she is willing to negotiate money for border security once the government is reopened, but she said Democrats remain opposed to Trump's long-promised wall. "I'm not for a wall," Pelosi said twice, mouthing the statement a third time for effect.
In a notice to staff, the State Department said it can pay most of its employees beginning Sunday or Monday for their next pay period. They will not be paid for time worked since the shutdown began in December until the situation is resolved, said the notice.
The new White House travel ban did not extend to the first family.
About two hours after Trump grounded Pelosi and her delegation, an Air Force-modified Boeing 757 took off from Joint Base Andrews outside Washington with the call sign "Executive One Foxtrot," reserved for the first family when the president is not traveling with them. It landed just before 7 p.m. at Palm Beach International Airport, less than two miles from the president's private club.
A White House spokesperson did not answer questions about the flight.
Dubai, Jan 17 (AP/UNB) — Another Saudi woman has turned to social media for protection from her father, just days after Canada granted refuge to Rahaf al-Qunun, the 18-year-old Saudi who fled her family.
Identified only as Nojoud al-Mandeel on Twitter, her case differs from that of al-Qunun. She has not fled the kingdom, has not revealed her face and has only made her pleas for help on Twitter in Arabic.
While their circumstances are different, the claims of abuse by the two women mirror those of other female Saudi runaways who have used social media to publicize their escapes.
There has been speculation that al-Qunun's successful getaway will inspire others to copy her. However, powerful deterrents remain in place. If caught, runaways face possible death at the hands of relatives for purportedly shaming the family.
Saudi women fleeing their families challenge a system that grants men guardianship over women's lives. This guardianship system starts in the home, where women must obey fathers, husbands and brothers. Outside the home, it is applied to citizens, often referred to as sons and daughters by Saudi rulers who demand obedience.
Hala Aldosari, a Saudi scholar and activist, said the male guardianship system replicates the ruling family's model of governance, which demands full obedience to the king, who holds absolute power in decision-making.
"This is why the state is keen to maintain the authority of male citizens over women to ensure their allegiance," she said, adding that this "hierarchical system of domination" necessitates "keeping women in line."
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who's introduced social reforms loosening restrictions on women, told The Atlantic that doing away with guardianship laws has to be done in a way that does not harm families and the culture. He said abolishing these laws would create problems for families that don't want to give freedom to their daughters.
The issue of guardianship is extremely sensitive in the kingdom, where conservative families view what they consider the protection of women as a man's duty.
More than a dozen women's rights activists have been detained, many since May, after they campaigned against the guardianship system. Some had also wanted to create alternative shelters for women runaways.
Regardless of their age, women in Saudi Arabia must have the consent of a male relative to obtain a passport, travel or marry. In the past, a travel permit was a paper document issued by the Interior Ministry and signed by a male relative.
Today, Saudi men download a government mobile app that notifies them of a woman's travel. Through the app, men can grant or deny a woman permission to travel. Some young women who have fled the country had managed to access their father's phone, change the setting and disable its notifications.
In a statement read to reporters in Canada on Tuesday, al-Qunun said she wants to be independent, travel and make her own decisions.
"I am one of the lucky ones," she said. "I know there are unlucky women who disappeared after trying to escape or who could not change their reality."
That's especially true for women from conservative tribal families, like al-Qunun's.
Al-Qunun, one of 10 children, posted online that her father, Mohammed Mutliq al-Qunun, is the governor of the city of al-Sulaimi in the hilly hinterland of Ha'il — a province where nearly all women cover their face in black veils and wear loose black robes, or abayas, in public. The family belongs to the influential Shammar tribe, which extends to Iraq, Syria and other parts of the Middle East. Her father has considerable clout as a prominent town official and member of a powerful tribe.
Al-Qunun, who barricaded herself in an airport hotel room in Thailand last week to avoid deportation, said she was abused by a brother and locked in her room for months for cutting her hair short. She said she would have been killed if sent back to her family.
According to government statistics, at least 577 Saudi women tried to flee their homes inside the country in 2015, though the actual number is likely higher. There are no statistics on attempted or successful escapes abroad.
Shahad al-Mohaimeed, 19, who fled abuse and an ultraconservative family in Saudi Arabia two years ago, said fear is a powerful deterrent.
"When a Saudi girl decides to flee, it means she's decided to put her life on the line and take a very, very risky step," said al-Mohaimeed, who now lives in Sweden.
Al-Qunun's plight on social media drew international attention, helping her short-circuit the typically complex path to asylum. A little more than a week after fleeing Saudi Arabia, she was in Canada, building a new life, posting pictures of wine, bacon and donning a dress above the knees.
Back in Saudi Arabia, the woman identified as Nojoud al-Mandeel posted audio on Twitter on Monday alleging her father had beaten and burnt her "over something trivial". She posted a video looking onto a neighbor's gated pool, where she says she jumped from her bedroom window before a friend picked her up and they escaped.
"Don't tell me to report to police," she said, explaining that in a previous attempt, police just had her father sign a pledge saying he would not beat her again.
After her story gained some traction online, she was promised attention by a protection hotline in Saudi Arabia for domestic abuse victims. Prosecutors also reportedly began looking into her allegations of abuse, according to Saudi news sites.
She was placed in a domestic abuse shelter, but on Tuesday complained on Twitter about the shelter's restrictions over her movements.
Al-Mohaimeed said Twitter is where Saudi women can share stories and be heard. She and two other Saudi women took over al-Qunun's Twitter account, writing messages on her behalf during the height of her pleas last week to avoid deportation.
"I was not born in this world to serve a man," al-Mohaimeed said. "I was born in this world to fulfill my dreams, achieve my dreams, grow, learn and be independent — to taste life as I hold it in my hands."
Tokyo, Jan 17 (AP/UNB) — Japan faces unforeseen risks in guiding economic policy as its population of about 126 million ages and declines, the governor of its central bank said Thursday.
Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda told fellow financial leaders Thursday that policies must be devised to prevent the shrinking population from hindering economic growth.
Since taking his post in April 2013, Kuroda has flooded Japan's economy with cash through central bank asset purchases to help fight deflation and keep the economy growing. The BOJ also imposed a negative interest rate policy to keep lending costs ultralow in the longer term.
Kuroda told a seminar that while the conventional strategy of controlling short-term interest rates is well understood, the unconventional methods the Bank of Japan has adopted can have unexpected consequences.
Kuroda said one of the potential pitfalls could be if banks use cheap credit to seek higher yielding, high-risk investments harmful to financial stability.
"Policy makers need to manage prudential policy appropriately, taking into account the fact that the risk profiles of financial institutions could be dramatically transformed during times of demographic change," he said.
On the other hand, aging populations create new markets for many products and services, so there are positives along with the challenges, he added.
Japan's population began shrinking several years ago and is rapidly aging. That has discouraged companies from investing and hiring within Japan, while they direct their efforts toward faster growing overseen markets.
Hsinchu, Jan 17 (AP/UNB) — Taiwan held live-fire exercises along its east coast Thursday amid renewed threats from China to bring the island under its control by force if deemed necessary.
Artillery and assault helicopters fired at targets off the west coast city of Taichung, while French-made Mirage fighter jets took off amid rainy conditions from the air base at Hsinchu to the north.
The drills are Taiwan's first since Chinese President Xi Jinping on Jan. 2 reasserted Beijing's willingness to use military force to bring self-ruling Taiwan under Chinese control.
The drills also follow a new Pentagon report laying out U.S. concerns about China's growing military might, underscoring worries about a possible attack against Taiwan.
Taiwan's independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen has made national defense a priority while refusing China's demand that she recognize Taiwan as a part of China. That's led to Beijing ratcheting up economic, military and diplomatic pressure on the island of 23 million.
In a meeting with U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson in Beijing on Tuesday, China's Chief of Staff Li Zuocheng issued a warning against foreign forces coming to Taiwan's assistance. The U.S. is Taiwan's chief source of military hardware and is legally bound to respond to threats against its security.
China's military will "pay any price" to ensure China's sovereignty, Li told Richardson at their Tuesday meeting. China considers Taiwan, which split from the mainland amid civil war in 1949, as an integral part of Chinese territory.
U.S.-China relations have become increasingly frayed on the military and economic fronts over the past year. President Donald Trump imposed tariff increases of up to 25 percent on $250 billion of Chinese imports over complaints Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology. Xi responded by imposing penalties on $110 billion of American goods.
And last year the Pentagon disinvited China to a major, multinational Pacific exercise, citing Beijing's militarization of man-made islands in the South China Sea.