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A day after Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened to “beat” any protesters who dared to burn his photo during his upcoming trip to Australia, defiant demonstrators have set fire to an effigy of the leader in a beach bonfire.

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A DAY after Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened to “beat” any protesters who dared to burn his photo during his upcoming trip to Australia, defiant demonstrators have already called his bluff, setting fire to an effigy of the leader in a beach bonfire.
The move was in response to Hun Sen’s threats against would-be protesters during his trip to the Asean-Australian Special Summit on March 17. In Wednesday’s speech, delivered to 10,000 of the country’s garment workers in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen said he would follow protesters to their homes and assault them.

“I would like to send a message, do not burn my photo,” he said, as reported by The Phnom Penh Post. “If you burn my photo, I will follow you home . . . I will follow you and beat you at home.”

He added, “I want to be clear, you have your right to burn my image. I have my right to fight you, so it’s fine . . . I will go to your houses and seize you.”

Hundreds of Cambodians living in Australia are expected to rally against Hun Sen when he attends the summit between Australia and the 10-member Association of South-East Asian Nations.
Rather than deter protesters, Hun Sen’s disdain for effigy burning seems to have given demonstrators a new idea.
Cambodian-Australian Melbourne resident Va Malina told the Post she would be joining demonstrations next month during Hun Sen’s visit, and that the protests would now include burning an effigy of Hun Sen – thanks to the premier’s suggestion.
“We didn’t plan to burn Hun Sen’s effigy, but he is the one who reminded us yesterday,” she said. 
Protesters will rally against the government’s crackdown on independent media and NGOs, as well as the dissolution of the opposition party and arrest of leader Kem Sokha.
In the same speech, Hun Sen also threatened to “shame” Australia and block the release of a joint statement if he faces pressure over the political crackdown.
“Hun Sen can block the release of any statement between Asean and Australia… Australia cannot pressure Cambodia. Don’t dare,” he said, as reported by The Guardian. “If you treat me inappropriately, I will hit back and leave shame on your face at the scene.”

Critics have called on Australia to demand a retraction of Hun Sen’s comments threatening violence against Australian citizens.

Deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch Phil Robertson said Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop should tell him to stop his threats.

Elaine Pearson, also from HRW, said on Twitter it was time for Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to “tell Hun Sen to retract those remarks or don’t let him attend the leaders summit.”

'400,000 People...Live In Hell On Earth': Bombing Of Damascus Suburbs Kills Hundreds : The Two-Way : NPR

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The United Nations Security Council has approved a resolution calling for a 30-day cease-fire in Syria, following one of the bloodiest weeks of aerial bombardment in the war that has devastated the country.
In the eastern suburbs of Damascus, a region called Eastern Ghouta, nearly 500 people have been killed in a deadly escalation by the Syrian government that began Sunday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told The Associated Press. More than 120 of the dead are children, the group says.
The Security Council resolution aims to get humanitarian aid to Eastern Ghouta and other areas under siege. The resolution was delayed several times in an effort to get Russia's approval.
"Airstrikes, artillery shells and barrels filled with TNT are being dropped on neighborhoods that are heavily populated by civilians who have no way to escape," NPR's Lama Al-Arian reports. "They're being forced into bunkers, and many of them can't even find the time to bury their dead."
Syria's Civil Defense, a volunteer rescue group known as the White Helmets, told Reuters that it counted at least 350 deaths in a four-day span earlier in the week.
"Maybe there are many more," Siraj Mahmoud, a civil defense spokesman, told the news service. "We weren't able to count the martyrs yesterday or the day before because the warplanes are touring the skies."
Rescuers hurry to pull people from rubble, a difficult task amid the unrelenting barrage.
"But if we have to go out running on our legs and dig with our hands to rescue the people, we will still be here," Mahmoud told Reuters.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called for an immediate end to hostilities in the region so the sick and wounded can be evacuated.
"I am deeply saddened by the terrible suffering of the civilian population in Eastern Ghouta — 400,000 people that live in hell on earth," he said to the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday. "I don't think we can let things go on happening in this horrendous way. "
Syrian state media said rebel factions had fired shells at the Old City of Damascus on Saturday, Reuters reported.
The Security Council's resolution, which passed 15-0, demands "all parties cease hostilities" for at least 30 days throughout Syria to allow the safe delivery of humanitarian aid and evacuations of the critically sick and wounded.
The resolution, sponsored by Kuwait and Sweden, calls for all parties to immediately lift sieges of populated areas, including Eastern Ghouta. The cease-fire does not apply to military operations against ISIS, al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.
A vote on the resolution was delayed Friday as its sponsors worked to get a version Russia would approve. As NPR previously reported, most members of the Security Council had wanted to require the cease-fire to go into effect within 72 hours, but Russia had pushed for a looser timeline.
The approved resolution simply says that hostilities must cease "without delay."
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley criticized Russia for the wait, saying it had cost lives, The Associated Press reports.
The break in fighting will come at a crucial time for Ghouta's civilians.
"There is no electricity, no water, no flour, no bread and no baby formula," paramedic Siraj Mahmoud told the AP. "There is nothing inside Ghouta."
A group of doctors and medical activists, from institutions including Harvard and Johns Hopkins, published an appeal on Friday to end the suffering in Ghouta. They urged citizens and health professionals to pressure government officials to act and for the U.N. Secretariat to use more effective tactics.
"Inaction in the face of unrelenting attacks on civilians represents an epic failure of world leaders," they write in The Lancet. "The UN Security Council has utterly failed the people of Syria. The UN Secretariat seems to operate without an effective strategy for political negotiations or aid delivery. These compounded failures are increasing frustrations with the UN as a legitimate interlocutor on human rights violations everywhere, and translate into deaths and suffering. We cannot allow this situation to continue."

One million birds killed illegally every year at a wildlife site in Iran: Conservationists sound alarm over unprecedented slaughter of rare and endangered species by hunters at three lagoons.

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A million wild birds a year are now being killed illegally at a single wildlife site in Iran. That is the stark warning from conservationists who say highly endangered migratory species face being wiped out in the near future there unless urgent action is taken.
In a letter last week to the journal Science, the conservationists pinpoint the Fereydunkenar wetlands in Iran as the site of this widespread wildlife slaughter.
Three major lagoons – Fereydunkenar, Sorkhrud and Azbaran – provide resting places for species that winter there, including the Siberian crane which is designated as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservationof Nature.
Other endangered or threatened species in the wetlands include white-headed ducks (Oxyura leucocephala), red-breasted geese (Branta ruficollis), lesser white-fronted geese (Anser erythropus), northern lapwings (Vanellus vanellus) and wintering raptors such as falcons.
However, these birds have increasingly become targets for local hunters and occasionally for others who visit the region. “An estimated 3,000 of these birds are currently being killed daily by local hunters to sell at local markets,” say Jamshid Parchizadeh, an Iranian conservationist, and zoologist Samual Williams, of Venda University, South Africa, in their letter to Science. “This could have catastrophic effects on the species that depend on this ecosystem.”
The scale of the slaughter at Fereydunkenar is staggering, Williams told the Observer. “It is likely to add up to around a million birds per year, around half of the total number of waterbirds that visit the site.”
An example how this slaughter has affected one species is provided by the Siberian crane (Leucogeranus leucogeranus). It has two populations: an eastern one, made up of about 3,000 birds, and a western, of which there is only one last known remaining member and it is known to winter in Fereydunkenar – where it faces being killed by local hunters each time it visits. The rest of the Siberian crane’s western population were killed at Fereydunkenar during the early years of the 21st century, it is thought.
Many of the birds that travel to the wetlands are killed to provide food. However, some are sold to collectors who want to add the birds to their taxidermy collections. Their slaughter has also been made easier recently with the use of cheap transparent plastic nets which are not seen by the birds and which have proved highly effective in catching dozens in a single haul. “These nets have only made it easier for people to catch more and more birds,” said Williams.
The killing is illegal but little has been done to stop it. “Iran’s department of the environment has been unable to curb the illegal activities,” say Parchizadeh and Williams. “Armed locals show a great deal of resistance to wildlife rangers when they attempt to enforce existing laws to curtail hunting.”

Mexico's president called off a White House visit after Trump refused to say publicly that Mexico won't pay for the border wall

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Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto reportedly backed out of plans to visit the White House after a heated argument with President Donald Trump this week over his long-promised wall along the US-Mexico border.
Trump "lost his temper" during a nearly hour-long phone call on February 20, one Mexican official told The Washington Post . Peña Nieto had tried to persuade Trump to publicly acknowledge that Mexico will refuse to pay for the border wall, as Trump repeatedly vowed during his presidential campaign.
US officials told The Post that Trump was frustrated and exasperated by the call, as Trump believed it was unfair to expect him to renege on one of his favorite campaign refrains.
White House readout of the call made no mention of the border wall argument, instead saying that Trump and Peña Nieto exchanged condolences over recent tragedies in each leader's country - a mass shooting in Florida and a helicopter accident in Oaxaca.

"President Trump underscored his commitment to expanding cooperation between the United States and Mexico on security, trade, and immigration," the readout added.
The call marks the second time in a little more than a year that Peña Nieto and Trump have cancelled a planned meeting after an angry stand-off on the border wall.
In a January 2017 phone call , Trump told Peña Nieto he didn't want to meet with him because he "cannot live" with Peña Nieto publicly saying that Mexico wouldn't pay for the wall.
Trump urged Peña Nieto to say, "We will work it out" if either man was asked about payments for the border wall, according to a transcript obtained by The Washington Post last August.
"The fact is we are both in a little bit of a political bind because I have to have Mexico pay for the wall - I have to," Trump said. "I have been talking about it for a two-year period, and the reason I say they are going to pay for the wall is because Mexico has made a fortune out of the stupidity of US trade representatives."
The leaders' latest spat comes as Mexico heads into a presidential election later this year, prompting Peña Nieto to take a tough stance on Trump's border wall and avoid appearing to acquiesce to his demands, which Mexicans overwhelmingly view as humiliating and offensive.

NRA Is Losing Major Sponsors and Partners Amid Calls for a Boycott

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As the public outcry following the Parkland, FL, school shooting continues to build steam, gun control advocates are finding new methods to apply pressure to both politicians and the NRA. Rather than just following the standard post-mass shooting script, Parkland students are firing back at right-wing conspiracy theorists and forcing ineffectual, NRA-sympathetic senators like Marco Rubio into an embarrassing defensive crouch. And the NRA is facing a time-honored traditional protest: the boycott.
The perks of NRA membership include discounts and benefits with a variety of companies, including car rental, air travel, insurance, and banking. Those are some of the practical incentives that keep members paying their dues to the organization. Since the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, #boycottNRA has been trending on Twitter, and users and customers have demanded that companies pull out of their partnerships with NRA. So far, it's been shockingly effective.
On Thursday, the First National Bank of Omaha, the largest privately-owned bank in the country, announced that it would no longer be offering an NRA credit card in response to "customer feedback." More companies have followed suit, including Enterprise Holdings, which owns major car rental companies like Alamo and Enterprise, with Hertz soon joining in.
Mother Jones is keeping a list of NRA business partners jumping ship, but the biggest blows so far have come from major airlines: both United and Delta announced on Twitter that they were ending deals for NRA members.
Major companies like FedEx are still offering discounts to NRA members, while Amazon, Apple, Google, and YouTube are all drawing fire for hosting the increasingly deranged NRA TV.
Of course, this could provide the NRA with more fodder. As the New York Times points out, with a ridiculously NRA-friendly president and Congress, the organization can't rely on painting itself and its members as victims of a coming liberal gun round-up. As a result, they're more and more relying on the grim, perpetually angry NRA TV personalities to find new boogeymen.

China will scrap limit on presidential term, meaning Xi Jinping can stay on

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China will remove the constitutional restriction on the maximum number of terms the president and vice-president can serve, Xinhua reported on Sunday, paving the way for President Xi Jinping to stay on beyond 2023.The official news agency said the ruling Communist Party had proposed removing the line that the president and vice-president “shall serve no more than two consecutive terms” from the constitution.
Xinhua later released the full 5,000-word proposal in Chinese. The document, which will be considered by the legislature next month, was dated January 26 – a week after the party’s 200-strong Central Committee met to discuss revisions to the constitution.
Xinhua did not say why it took a month to release the document to the public.
Xi, 64, was re-elected as general secretary of the party in October and is expected to be handed a second term as president by the legislature during its annual full session starting on March 5.
The party has in recent decades largely observed an unwritten retirement age of 68 for its top leaders, but its charter does not have any limit on terms. That means there are no restrictions on the general secretary position, but the Chinese constitution does limit presidents to a maximum of two five-year terms.
Analysts said ending the two-term limit gives the strongest indication yet that Xi will stay in power longer than his recent predecessors at a time when the leadership was “fixated on stability”.
There was intense speculation in the lead-up to the party’s five-yearly congress in October over whether Xi would continue to lead the party beyond two terms, with some questioning whether his ambitious plans to “rejuvenate” China could be achieved within 10 years.
Deng Yuwen, former editor of the Study Times newspaper affiliated with the Central Party School, said the proposed change was a strong signal that Xi planned to stay on.
“This is a very clear sign that the president will remain in office beyond the existing term limit. We don’t know if it could be life tenure at this stage,” Deng said.
Kerry Brown, director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College London, said recent developments in so-called stable democracies in the West may have provided some justification for the party to seek further stability and continuity.
“Trump, Brexit, the rise of the extreme right and left again in polities throughout the democratic world … made domestic Chinese politics even more fixated on stability and on avoiding any kind of uncertainty and risk,” Brown said. “Xi is the symbolic figure at the centre of this, the person whose leadership everything hangs on.”
State-owned tabloid Global Times said in an editorial that removing the two-term limit could help maintain the system of the party boss, president and military chief roles being held by the same person.
“Over the past two decades, a trinity of leadership consisting of the CPC Central Committee general secretary, president of the nation and chairman of the CPC Central Military Commission has taken shape and proven to be effective,” the editorial said. “Removing the two-term limit of the Chinese president can help maintain the trinity system and improve the institution of leadership of the [party] and the nation.”
But amid concerns that scrapping the limit would mean a president could stay in the role for life, the editorial added: “The change doesn’t mean that the Chinese president will have a lifelong tenure.”
Sunday’s announcement follows a Politburo meeting on Saturday and comes ahead of Monday’s three-day Central Committee plenum to discuss personnel and other proposed institutional changes to be tabled at the upcoming parliamentary gathering in Beijing.
Xinhua also reported that the party proposed to write Xi’s political theory – Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era – into the constitution. It also planned to list the new super anti-graft body, the National Supervisory Commission, as a state agency in the constitution.
While the party is seeking to end the presidential term limit, one sentence will be added to the constitution to highlight the importance of its leadership, Xinhua reported.
“The leadership of the Communist Party of China is the defining feature of socialism with Chinese characteristics,” the new paragraph reads.
A clause could also be added on China “working to build a community with a shared future for humanity”, as well as saying it will “adhere to a peaceful development path and a mutually beneficial and open strategy”.
Separately, at a study session attended by the 25 members of the Politburo on Saturday, Xi talked about the “important role” of the constitution, according to Xinhua.
“No organisation or individual has the power to overstep the constitution or the law,” Xinhua quoted Xi as saying.