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Suspected Bomb Blast Kills at Least 3 in Philippines

A powerful explosion believed caused by a bomb ripped through a Catholic Mass and killed at least three people and wounded several others Sunday in a predominantly Muslim city in the southern Philippines, officials said.

The morning Mass was under way in a gymnasium at the state-run Mindanao State University in Marawi city when the explosion happened, causing panic among dozens of worshippers and leaving the victims bloodied and sprawled on the ground, said Taha Mandangan, the security chief of the sprawling state-run campus.

At least two of the wounded were fighting for their lives, Mandangan said.

“This is clearly an act of terrorism. It’s not a simple feud between two people. A bomb will kill everybody around,” Mandangan told The Associated Press by telephone.

Army troops and police immediately cordoned off the area and were conducting an initial investigation and checking security cameras for any indication of who may have been responsible for the attack. Security checkpoints were set up around city.

There was no clear indication yet who was responsible for the explosion but police said they would check the possible involvement of Muslim militants, who still have a presence in the region despite years of military and police offensives.

Regional police director Brig. Gen. Allan Nobleza said investigators were assessing if the explosion was caused by a homemade bomb or a grenade, and if the attack was connected to the killing of 11 suspected Islamic militants in a military offensive backed by airstrikes and artillery fires on Friday near Datu Hoffer town in southern Maguindanao province.

Nobleza said the slain militants belonged to Dawlah Islamiyah, an armed group which had aligned itself to the Islamic State group and still has a presence in Lanao del Sur province, where Marawi city is located.

The mosque-studded city came under attack from Islamic militants aligned with the Islamic State group in 2017, leaving more than 1,100 killed, mostly militants, before the five-month siege was quelled by Filipino forces backed by airstrikes and surveillance planes deployed by the United States and Australia.

The southern Philippines is the homeland of minority Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation and the scene of decades-old separatist rebellion.

The largest armed insurgent group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, signed a 2014 peace deal with the government considerably easing decades of fighting. But a number of smaller armed groups rejected the peace pact and press on with bombings and other attacks while evading government offensives.

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Hong Kong’s LGBTQ Community Scores Legal Victories

Something remarkable happened in Hong Kong’s decadeslong LGBTQ rights movement in recent months, though it is unclear what it means for the future.

Hong Kong’s courts issued several rulings in favor of granting LGBTQ rights — including no longer requiring conversion surgery to change their gender on ID cards, allowing same-sex couples to apply for subsidized public housing together, and perhaps the most important by the city’s highest court — ordering the government to come up with a framework within two years to recognize same-sex partnerships.

Additionally, the government last month allowed the Gay Games, an international sports event for LGBTQ athletes, to be held in Hong Kong — a first for the city and Asia.

“In general, [LGBTQ rights] are progressing. … It’s pointing in the right direction,” said Jerome Yau, co-founder of Hong Kong Marriage Equality, a group dedicated to eliminating discrimination against same-sex couples. “The government is now legally obliged to come up with a framework to legally recognize same-sex marriage by October 2025. … So, something has to happen in two years. That’s a very significant decision.”

While that ruling and other recent developments are seen as achievements, there are worries that government hesitation, possible intervention by Beijing, and Christian opposition – could prevent the city from becoming the next place in Asia, after Taiwan and Nepal, to grant equal rights to same-sex couples, including the right to get married.

“We’re in a rather complicated situation,” Yau said. “We have to tread very carefully.”

The government, considered conservative in advancing LGBTQ legislation even before Hong Kong’s handover to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, has given no indication of how it would carry out the top court’s ruling.

The Housing Authority, meanwhile, has appealed to overturn the housing rulings issued by lower courts.

At the same time, anti-gay religious opponents, including a lawmaker, have protested the games and the legalization of same-sex marriage, alleging they could threaten national security. The controversial national security law passed in 2020 has been used to jail people on charges of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.

Additionally, the annual Hong Kong Pride Parade, which used to attract thousands of participants to march on the city’s streets, was not held again this year, despite the end of COVID restrictions. Instead, an indoor exhibition was held.

“With all these developments, sometimes you see the government take one step forward and walk two steps backwards. We feel disappointed,” said Paul Choi, an LGBTQ rights advocate.

Hong Kong’s courts and public opinion may be moving at a faster pace than the government seems willing to.

A survey conducted by three universities earlier this year found that 60% of Hong Kongers said they supported same-sex marriage, up from 50% in 2017 and 38% in 2013.

At the same time, the percentage of Hong Kong residents who said they were unaccepting of gay men and lesbians dropped significantly — from 32% in 2013, to 13% this year, according to the survey.

The study’s researchers attributed the change in attitude to favorable court rulings, more jurisdictions around the world legalizing same-sex marriage and increasing representation of lesbians and gay men in the media. This includes the recently held Hong Kong Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, the longest running of its kind in Asia.

Now, many are waiting to see if the government will keep pace. There are concerns it will drag its feet or allow only separate and partial rights.

Same-sex couples who got married abroad, including simply on Zoom calls with U.S. states that allow remote marriage registration, already qualify for dependent visas, civil-servant spousal benefits, and joint tax filing.

But LGBTQ community members said they want equal rights, arguing the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, promises all Hong Kong residents “shall be equal before the law.” They said creating a separate status for them will not grant them the same rights heterosexual couples enjoy.

“Think about it, as a citizen, I’m born and grew up here and want to get married. Why do I have to travel somewhere else to get married?” asked Choi, who recently married his partner in Melbourne, Australia.

They have had to create a will and prepare power of attorney documents, although they still don’t know if they can visit each other in a hospital as family members or make medical decisions for each other if needed.

There are also fears that a tightening of restrictions on LGBTQ groups in mainland China in recent years could spread to Hong Kong, especially given lingering government worries about a return of the widespread and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests seen here in 2019.

“There’s no one threatening us, but the biggest problem we’re facing right now is that when we want to hold events [like the pride parade], we have people telling us maybe it’s not a great idea,” said Alan Hau, deacon of the LGBTQ-inclusive Blessed Ministry Community Church.

Yau sounded hopeful, though, pointing out that another gay pride event, Pink Dot, has received permission to be held in a popular gathering spot.

“We still have space to do things, which unfortunately is a whole different situation across the border. We should treasure this space,” Yau said. “Things are happening. … It’s just that things are not moving at a faster pace. Let’s see how things will go in the next two years.” 

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Профессор Робертс: РФ заберёт всю Украину до Днепра

Джеффри Робертс подчеркнул, что Киев может не думать о возвращении четырёх новых регионов РФ.

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Nihon Keizai: Япония стала зависима от выловленного в России краба

В этом году доля краба из России на японском рынке составила 69%.

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Генсек НАТО Столтенберг призвал Запад готовиться к плохим новостям с Украины


Генсек НАТО Йенс Столтенберг призвал лидеров западных стран готовиться к плохим новостям с Украины.

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В Хабаровском крае во время пожара погибли трое детей


Ночью 3 декабря в поселке Охотск Хабаровского края в деревянном двухэтажном жилом доме загорелась квартира, сообщает пресс-служба Управления МЧС по Хабаровскому краю.

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Трамп объявил о “крестовом походе” против Байдена


Экс-президент США Дональд Трамп назвал свое участие в президентской гонке крестовым походом против нынешнего американского лидера Джо Байдена.

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Austin Decries Isolationists Who Want US to ‘Retreat From Responsibility’

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday denounced those who advocate “an American retreat from responsibility” and said sustained U.S. leadership is needed to help keep the world as safe, free and prosperous as possible. He also urged Congress to end the partisan gridlock that has stalled the federal budget and war spending. 

The United States must reject calls to turn away from global interests and become more isolationist, he told an audience of lawmakers, corporate and defense leaders and government officials attending a security conference. Those who “try to pull up the drawbridge,” he said, undermine the security that has led to decades of prosperity. 

In his remarks at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California’s Simi Valley, Austin delivered a lengthy defense of U.S. support to Israel in its war against Hamas and to Ukraine in its struggle to battle Russia’s invasion.

“The world will only become more dangerous if tyrants and terrorists believe that they can get away with wholesale aggression and mass slaughter,” he said.

‘It is not bold’

Austin met privately with top lawmakers on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. 

His message of rejecting isolationism appeared directed at conservative lawmakers who are increasingly opposed to spending on overseas wars and back former President Donald Trump’s “America First” ideology. 

“You’ll hear some people try to brand an American retreat from responsibility as bold new leadership,” Austin said. “Make no mistake: It is not bold. It is not new. And it is not leadership.” 

Congress has failed to approve any new money for the wars in Ukraine and Israel and has managed to pass only a short-term budget bill, known as a continuing resolution, that runs out early next year. The Senate has been deadlocked for months over one lawmaker’s move to block hundreds of military nominations, including critical senior commanders for key regions around the world. 

“Our competitors don’t have to operate under continuing resolutions. And doing so erodes both our security and our ability to compete,” Austin said. He opened his speech with a plea to the lawmakers in the crowd to pass both the budget and the supplemental funding for the wars. 

War spending would create jobs

Administration officials have warned that money for Ukraine is running out and may only last through the end of this year. The Pentagon has about $5 billion worth of equipment it can send from its own stockpiles and has been eating away at almost weekly. Money to replace military weapons and equipment taken from Pentagon stocks to send to Ukraine is rapidly dwindling, and totals about $1 billion. 

Austin, who was in Ukraine’s capital less than two weeks ago, has repeatedly pressed the importance of helping Ukraine battle Russia’s invasion, as part of a broader campaign to prevent Russian President Vladimir Putin from threatening other countries in Europe. 

Austin also noted that as much as $50 billion of that supplemental budget request for the wars would flow through American defense companies, helping to create or support tens of thousands of jobs in more than 30 states. 

While he did not mention it in his address, Austin has often criticized Congress for its failure to confirm more than 400 military officers nominated for promotions or other jobs. 

Senator Tommy Tuberville, a Republican from the state of Alabama, has blocked the nominations and objected when other senators have tried to get some through. On just two occasions, the Senate has managed to vote to confirm a total of six high-ranking leaders. 

Almost 400 military nominations are in limbo, and the number is growing. Frustrated Republicans have tried unsuccessfully for almost nine months to persuade Tuberville to drop the holds, and negotiations are continuing. Senior military officials have warned repeatedly that the situation threatens readiness and national security.  

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Paris Police Arrest Suspect in Attacks that Killed 1, Injured 2

French police arrested a man who targeted passersby in Paris on Saturday night, killing a German tourist with a knife and injuring two others, France’s interior minister said.

Police subdued the man, a 25-year-old French citizen who had spent four years in prison for planning a violent offense. After his arrest, he expressed anguish about Muslims dying, notably in Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories, and claimed that France was an accomplice, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.

The anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office confirmed it has opened an investigation.

The attacker went after a German couple with a knife, killing the man and then used a hammer to injure two others.

The attacker, who was not identified by name, left prison after four years in 2020 and was under surveillance and undergoing psychiatric treatment, the minister said, painting a brief portrait of the assailant, who was born in Neuilly-Sur-Seine, a Paris suburb. He was most recently living with his parents in the Essonne region, south of Paris.

The fatal attack occurred in the 15th district of the French capital with the assailant using a knife to kill the German tourist, who was not identified. He then crossed the Seine to the Right Bank and used a hammer to attack the injured. Details about the victims were not immediately known.

The attacker was stopped by police, the minister said, praising the officers for their quick response.

France has been under a heightened terror alert since the fatal stabbing in October of a teacher in the northern city of Arras by a former student originally from the Ingushetia region in Russia’s Caucasus Mountains and suspected of Islamic radicalization. That fatal attack came three years after another teacher was killed outside Paris, beheaded by a radicalized Chechen later killed by police.

The Saturday attack raised the fear level in the French capital, still marked by the 2015 attacks of cafes and a music hall by Islamist radicals that killed 130 people.

“We will cede nothing in the face of terrorism. Never,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on X, formerly Twitter, sending her condolences to the victims and their families.