Duterte lashes out at Trump, colonialism, climate change in epic diatribe
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- Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte delivered an off-script speech today touching on everything from U.S. assassination plots, to colonialism, to climate change and the world's problems with illegal drugs
- With less than three months until soccer's World Cup kicks off in Moscow, ticket sales have been underwhelming, especially among foreign fans
- A zero-tolerance policy toward wildlife poaching in Zimbabwe seems to be paying benefits, with just one rhino and one elephant lost to illegal hunting over the first three months of 2018
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Duterte unleashes his inner-Trump
It was supposed to be a two-page speech thanking farmers and fishermen for their contributions to the economy. But when Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks, there is no script.
So a Manila crowd — and live television audience — were instead treated to an epic, one-hour and 15 minute diatribe this morning, touching on everything from American assassination plots, to colonialism, to climate change and the world's problems with illegal drugs.
And just for good measure, Duterte, also fired his justice minister.
America was a prime target.
Clearly still riled by a U.S. Senate block on the sale of 26,000 rifles to the Philippine Army, Duterte lashed out at his country's closest ally, saying they "really do not honour their word."
And he suggested that American intelligence agencies might be plotting to kill him.
"At least, if ever my airplane explodes, or if some roadside bomb explodes, maybe you can ask the CIA," said the president. (It's not the first time that he's made such a suggestion.)
Duterte brushed away criticism of his war on drugs, which has claimed more than 12,000 lives, saying Donald Trump had admitted that the U.S. would be better off if it adopted his violent methods.
The 73-year-old leader also criticized U.S. foreign policy around the globe, saying America's armies will not be forgiven for "so many massacres," and suggested that concerns about climate change are just another way to perpetuate colonialism.
"You siphoned all their oil, so you rose into the ladder of industrialization way ahead from the rest of the natives of the world … But now, they have come up with this climate change. They are now blaming the present generation, the contemporary guys," he said.
"That's what genocide is, if I may say so," Duterte said. "I really pity the people there."
The Philippine president then went on to say that he would accept Rohingya refugees, if Europe agreed to take its share.
The freewheeling speech also featured a declaration of war against smugglers. Duterte vowed to categorize anything involving more than $1 million in illegal imports as "economic sabotage," and to deny bail to those charged with the crime "so you rot in prison."
A surprise cabinet shuffle was thrown in, with an off-the-cuff announcement that his close friend and justice secretary, Vitaliano Aguirre, was leaving — the eighth minister to depart in less than a year.
The performance came just a day after Duterte made international news by closing down the island of Boracay for the next six months, declaring the popular tourist destination a "cesspool" that needs to be cleaned up and made environmentally sustainable.
All a reminder that Donald Trump may own the headlines, but he has no trademark on political volatility.
Russia's World Cup woes
The international battle over the Kremlin's suspected involvement in the nerve agent poisoning of a former double-agent in the U.K. is taking a toll on a prize Vladimir Putin event — the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Soccer's biggest tournament is set to kick off in Moscow on June 14, with matches scheduled in 10 other Russian cities over the following month.
But with less than three months to go, ticket sales have been underwhelming — especially amongst foreign fans.
As might be expected, the vast majority — 216,000 — went to Russian fans. Americans bought the second most tickets, with 16,400 sales, followed by Argentinians (15,000), and Colombians and Mexicans (14,000 each).
However, sales to soccer-mad nations like Germany were much lower than usual, just 5,900 tickets.
The U.K. — site of the poisoning attack — didn't even make the top 10.
In an interview published today, Alexei Sorokin, head of the Russia 2018 organizing committee, told a Russian newspaper that blowback over the Skripal affair is "not helping" preparations.
"Our main problem rests abroad — not with infrastructure," he said. "Any incident, whether it occurred naturally or was created artificially, is being used to put pressure on World Cup organizers."
Tournament volunteers are being screened for "possible involvement in terrorist activities" by the Russian Interior Ministry.
"We expect that our cooperation with the security services and law enforcement agencies of foreign governments will help protect this event from terrorist acts as effectively as in previous years," he told reporters.
A reasonable request that may end up being even harder to sell than the tickets.
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A 'Crocodile' moves to protect elephants
A new, zero-tolerance policy towards wildlife poaching in Zimbabwe seems to be paying benefits, with just one rhino and one elephant lost to illegal hunting over the first three months of 2018.
Over the same period in 2017, 12 elephants and seven rhinos were slaughtered.
"There is now political will from the highest office to deal with poaching," Tinashe Farawo told the Zimbabwe Daily newspaper. "Since the coming-in of the new leadership, poaching has been going down."
Last year, Zimbabwean wildlife authorities arrested 640 hunters and killed 10 others during operations — seven locals and three foreigners. Two rangers also died in the firefights.
As recently as last fall, Mugabe's government had tried to persuade the United Nations that Zimbabwe should be exempted from a global ivory ban and allowed to legally export elephant tusks, in order to reduce black market demand and raise money for conservation.
But his successor, Emmerson "The Crocodile" Mnangagwa, has indicated that he wants to alter course in meetings with wildlife groups, reviewing the previous government's anti-poaching strategy, and instead try to protect elephants by boosting tourism.
Adrian Steirn, an Australian photojournalist, secretly filmed meetings with poachers and government officials who described Mrs. Mugabe as the "mastermind" of the country's ivory trade. He alleges she freely exported tusks out Zimbabwe by exploiting her exemption from airport security screenings.
More than 900 elephants were lost to hunters and poisoners between 2013 and 2016, although some 86,000 remain in Zimbabwe.
The key to protecting the beasts has always been choking off demand for their tusks.
Michael Gove, the environment secretary, called the trade "abhorrent."
"Ivory should never be seen as a commodity for financial gain or a status symbol," he said in a statement.
The move came after a public consultation last fall that drew 127,000 responses. Only 458 of them expressed opposition to the ban.
Quote of the moment
"I woke up over a week ago now and am glad to say my strength is growing daily. I am grateful for the interest in me and for the many messages of goodwill that I have received. I have many people to thank for my recovery and would especially like to mention the people of Salisbury that came to my aid when my father and I were incapacitated."
- The first public statement from Yulia Skripal, the victim of a March 4 nerve agent poisoning, released by London Police this morning. While she is recovering from the attack, her father Sergei remains in critical condition.
What The National is reading
- 8th round of NAFTA talks put on hold as Freeland flies to Washington (CBC)
- Brazil's former president Lula must start prison term, Supreme Court rules (BBC)
- Women barred from Sumo ring, even to save a man's life (NY Times)
- Taylor Ruck wins Canada's first Commonwealth gold (CBC)
- India to build 14,000 bomb shelters along Pakistan border (Times of India)
- The rise of America's white gangs (Guardian)
- NYPD sex crimes chief donated thousands to Trump after video scandal (NY Daily News)
- Goths, emos and metal fans at greater risk of self-harm, suicide (Independent)
Today in history
April 5, 1968: John Turner, 'My time is now'
John Turner's speech to the 1968 Liberal leadership convention is best remembered for prophesying his own loserdom: "I'm not just in this race so you will remember my name at some future date," the man they called "Chick" told the delegates. "I'm not bidding now for your consideration at some vague, future convention in, say, 1984." But it's the next lines that really deserve to go down in history. "My time is now. And now is no time for mellow men." That prescient anti-70s vibe failed to bring him victory, however, as Turner finished a distant third to Pierre Trudeau, with 8.2 per cent of the vote. It would be 16 more years until he became Liberal leader.
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