Daily News Roundup

December 6, 2018

Image: South China Morning Post

Thursday, December 6

The late president George HW Bush has been remembered at his state funeral as a World War II hero, Cold War veteran and commander-in-chief of a United States victory against Iraq who went on to represent a bygone era of civility and caring in American politics.

Mr Bush, the 41st US president, died last week in Texas, aged 94, and in keeping with the qualities he displayed throughout his life, an unusual bipartisan spirit was on display at the service at the Washington National Cathedral.

Both Republican and Democratic politicians gathering to honour a former president who called for a “kinder, gentler” nation with current president Donald Trump sitting next to former president Barak Obama and other past US presidents.

George W Bush broke down briefly at the end of the eulogy to his father while invoking the daughter his parents lost when she was three and his mother, Barbara, who died in April.

He said he took comfort in knowing, “Dad is hugging Robin and holding Mum’s hand again”.

“To us, his was the brightest of a thousand points of light.”

For all the sombre tributes to the late president’s public service and strength of character, laughter filled the cathedral time after time.

The late president’s eulogists — son included — noted Mr Bush’s tendency to tangle his words and show his goofy side.

Mr Bush was America’s last great soldier-statesman, Jon Meacham, a presidential biographer, said in a eulogy.

“He stood in the breach in the Cold War against totalitarianism. He stood in the breach in Washington against unthinking partisanship,” he said.

Canadian former prime minister Brian Mulroney also lauded Mr Bush’s role in navigating the end of the Cold War and helping the tricky reunification of Germany.

“When George Bush was president of the United States of America, every single head of government in the world knew that they were dealing with a gentleman, a genuine leader, one who was distinguished, resolute and brave,” he said.

Mr Bush put together a US-led international coalition that ousted invading Iraqi forces from Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf War.


More protests are expected throughout Spain after a regional court confirmed a controversial ruling that cleared five men of gang raping an 18-year-old woman which they filmed.

Instead of getting 20 years jail for rape, the men, who called themselves the “Wolf Pack”, received just nine years on the lesser charge of sexual assault.

The original conviction and sentence sparked widespread, angry protests over chauvinism and sexual abuse and the confirmation of the sentence by a court in  regional Navarra on Wednesday will stoke more unrest.

The state prosecutor had originally asked for sentences of more than 20 years each for rape, which in Spain requires a plaintiff to present evidence of specific violence such as being threatened with a knife or dealt physical blows.

While the ruling agreed the men had assaulted the woman in the doorway of a residential building, an incident that they recorded on their mobile phones, the lack of physical violence meant they would not be convicted of rape under Spanish law.

In July, the Government announced plans to change the Spanish criminal code to make rape convictions easier.

“The sentence reinforces the need to make precise changes to the crimes of rape and sexual violence and to differentiate them from those of abuse,” Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo said on Twitter on Wednesday.

The case attracted international attention in the wake of the global #MeToo movement that has highlighted sexual abuse and mistreatment of women.

The assault occurred during the annual San Fermin bull-running festival in the Navarran capital Pamplona, which is famed for its drunken revelry.

But concern has grown over increased reports of sex attacks and harassment at the event, as well as over the mistreatment of women in general in Spain.

“[The ruling] is an embarrassment that shows that male chauvinism is well established in the courts and we must take measures, measures that must educate judges because woman can’t continue to live in fear,” the leader of the far-left Podemos party, Pablo Iglesias, said in an interview with state broadcaster TVE.

The original ruling was met by a wave of protests in Pamplona and other cities across Spain, where chants of “I believe you, sister” and “Drunk and alone, I want to get home” rang out across town squares.

All five men, who include a former policeman and a former soldier, paid 6,000 euros ($9,400) in bail though their release led to further protests and concern across the political spectrum.


Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened the United States that if it walks out of a key arms treaty and starts developing the type of missiles banned by it, Russia will do the same.

Putin’s remarks follows US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement to NATO meeting that the US will suspend its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) in 60 days, citing Russian “cheating”.

The US has shared intelligence evidence with its NATO allies that it says shows Russia’s new SSC-8 ground-fired cruise missile could give Moscow the ability to launch a nuclear strike in Europe with little or no notice.

Russia has denied the accusations.

US President Donald Trump earlier this year announced his decision to withdraw from the INF, accusing Russia and China — the latter not being a signatory to the treaty — of violating it.

Mr Putin accused the US of making up excuses for pulling out of the pact, saying the US first made up its mind to walk out of it and only then, “started to look for the reasons why they should do it”.

“It seems that our American partners believe that the situation has changed so much that the US has to have this type of weapons,” he said in televised remarks.

“What would be our response? A very simple one: in that case, we will do the same.”

Speaking at an earlier briefing of foreign military attaches, General Valery Gerasimov, chief of staff of the Russian military, warned of a Russian response and said it would be the countries that host US intermediate-range missiles that would become immediate targets for Russia.

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