Duterte Allies Break Impasse on Philippine House Leadership

(Bloomberg) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies in the House of Representatives broke an impasse on the chamber’s leadership Tuesday, ahead of a special session called to pass next year’s 4.5 trillion-peso ($93 billion) budget.

Alan Peter Cayetano wearing a suit and tie: Congressman Alan Peter Cayetano stands on the rostrum as new Speaker of the House of Representatives during the 18th Congress opening at the House of Representatives in Manila.

© Photographer: NOEL CELIS/AFP
Congressman Alan Peter Cayetano stands on the rostrum as new Speaker of the House of Representatives during the 18th Congress opening at the House of Representatives in Manila.

Congressman Alan Peter Cayetano on Facebook said he’s resigning as House Speaker, as the election of his challenger Lord Allan Velasco was formalized by 186 lawmakers. Duterte will meet the two lawmakers this afternoon to push for the approval of the 2021 budget, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a separate briefing.

Philippines’ 2021 Budget Hangs as Duterte House Allies Clash

The resolution of the House leadership row removes a hurdle in the passage of next year’s budget, which is seen to help boost the economy that Central Bank Governor Benjamin Diokno said may shrink more than expected this year by up to 9%.

Cayetano and Velasco entered into a term-sharing deal last year, where the latter will be speaker starting next month. The rivalry resurfaced last month when an ally of Velasco accused Cayetano of allocating more infrastructure funds to some lawmakers — an allegation he denied.

(Adds comment from Duterte spokesman, more details from 2nd paragraph)

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What the White House and Trump allies said about his condition over the course of the day

By that point, though, it’s likely the president already knew something was wrong. Reporting has suggested that he started feeling under the weather from a coronavirus infection as early as Wednesday, when he held a shorter-than-normal rally in Minnesota. At the fundraiser at his private club in Bedminster, N.J., on Thursday, attendees thought he seemed somewhat tired.

For the public, though, the scale of Trump’s illness only became apparent Friday afternoon, when the White House announced that the president would be headed to Walter Reed for several days. Since the diagnosis was made public early that morning, there were competing claims about how the virus was affecting Trump, leading to a sense that his condition might be worsening. To some extent, though, that’s a function of misleading claims from people not necessarily in a position to know. The administration’s message was fairly consistent — but that, too, should be taken with a grain of salt.

Here’s how the cascade of messaging played out.

12:54 a.m. Trump tweets confirmation of the diagnosis, without conveying any information about how he and the first lady, who also tested positive, were feeling.

1:05 a.m. White House physician Sean Conley provides a statement released by the administration. In it, he states that the president and first lady were doing “well at this time.”

1:27 a.m. The first lady tweets that she and her husband are “feeling good.”

4:31 a.m. Unexpectedly, Trump’s former physician, Ronny Jackson, weighs in on Twitter. The president and first lady, he writes, are “both fine and completely asymptotic [sic].” He doesn’t indicate how he is aware of this information.

Around 6:45 a.m. Jackson appears on “Fox and Friends,” where he repeats his assertions about Trump’s condition.

“He’s asymptomatic right now,” Jackson says. “And I think that’s great. I think he’s going to continue to be asymptomatic.”

Around 9:15 a.m. Scott Atlas, a radiologist who Trump tapped to assist on the coronavirus response after seeing him interviewed on Fox News, tells the network that no one should worry about the president’s health.

“This is a widespread, highly contagious infection,” Atlas said of the virus broadly, “and this is going to be very mild or asymptomatic for the overwhelming majority of people, especially if you’re a healthy person.”

He assures the Fox News audience that there is “zero reason to panic.”

Around 10:50 a.m. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows offers the first assessment directly from the White House team. The president, he said, had “mild symptoms,” without getting into details.

Around 12:15 p.m. In a conference call with governors that was supposed to have been led by Trump, Vice President Pence assures listeners that the president was all right.

“They are both well at this time,“ he said of Trump and the first lady, ”and will remain at the White House.”

The subject of the call, coincidentally, was support systems for seniors during the coronavirus pandemic.

Around 3 p.m. In another interview on Fox News, Trump’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow

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Operation Market Garden: The Allies’ Audacious WWII Gamble

With his troops in a bitter fight with German forces in northern France in the late summer of 1944, General Omar Bradley, commander of the Allied 12th Army Group, could not believe his ears. “Had the pious teetotaling Montgomery wobbled into SHAEF with a hangover, I could not have been more astonished than I was by the daring adventure he proposed,” Bradley remembered. He was of course referring to Operation Market Garden. 

Field Marshal Sir Bernard Law Montgomery had led British and Commonwealth forces to victory in North Africa during the pivotal Battle of El Alamein in 1942 and then chased the German-Italian Panzer Armee Afrika across 1,000 miles of desert. Coupled with the Allied landings of Operation Torch in the west, the Axis forces were caught in a vice and defeated thoroughly by the spring of 1943. Through it all, Montgomery had proceeded with caution, meticulously planned, and made sure that his forces were superior in number to the enemy. The same conduct had characterized his command of the 21st Army Group since the D-Day landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944.

Now, however, it appeared that the cautious, deliberate Montgomery had gone off his rocker. As summer gave way to autumn in 1944, Montgomery had been lobbying General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe, to abandon or at least suspend the broad front strategy that had the Allied armies advancing sluggishly toward the German frontier, where the fixed fortifications of the Siegfried Line, or West Wall, were waiting, their garrisons intent on defending the Fatherland.

Montgomery hammered home his concerns. Not only did stiff German resistance promise to become even tougher, but supply lines were stretching. The availability of fuel, ammunition, foodstuffs, and all the elements that keep an advancing military force on the move were becoming scarce.

Montgomery continually argued that the American Third and Canadian First Armies should be halted and resupplied just enough to consolidate their gains and hold their lines against any German counterattack. His own British Second Army and the American First Army would then take center stage, receive the vast majority of war matériel, outflank the Siegfried Line, and rapidly thrust into the Ruhr, the industrial heart of Germany. A swift and successful offensive under Montgomery’s command would cripple Germany’s capacity to wage war and open a direct route to the Nazi capital of Berlin.

On September 10, 1944, Montgomery outlined his tactical blueprint in a meeting with Eisenhower in Brussels, Belgium. Along with the strategic overview of the offensive, Montgomery proposed Market Garden, a preparatory attack as bold as it was shocking.

A two-phase offensive, Operation Market Garden called for airborne troops to parachute into the German-occupied Netherlands and seize key bridges across the Maas, Waal, and Lower Rhine Rivers. The paratroopers would hold the bridges until relieved by ground troops racing swiftly through the Netherlands and into Germany. The war might even be won by Christmas 1944 if everything went according to plan.


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White House, Allies Try to Defend Trump’s Woodward Debacle

If only Trump hadn’t listened to him, everything would be fine.
Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

In the aftermath of Wednesday’s damning revelations from Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book — most notable, that President Trump deliberately misled the American public about COVID-19’s severity — the Trump administration and its allies struggled to mount a defense. At a White House press briefing on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany maintained that the president has never downplayed the virus (never mind that he admitted to doing so on tape).

Others in right-wing media argued that even though Trump had downplayed the virus, this was consistent with his public-facing posture that Americans shouldn’t panic — ignoring the fact that the president’s supposed reasoning for not panicking was that he thought the virus’s danger was overrated (when, we now know, he was making the opposite case in private).

Tucker Carlson, meanwhile, found a scapegoat. On his show Wednesday night, the Fox News host pinned the blame for the entire Woodward episode squarely on South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham.

Posing the question of why Trump would sit down for interviews that would very likely cast him in an unfavorable light, Carlson said he had “the answer to that mystery” from “a source who knows.” Carlson went on to say that Graham had convinced Trump to talk to Woodward and that his sabotage is of a piece with his opposition to Trump’s policies on immigration, foreign entanglements, and “law and order at home.”

But Carlson’s attempt to cast Graham as a scheming Svengali strains credulity, considering the president’s well-documented tendency to cast aside any advice he doesn’t like. (It also ignores the fact that Trump had cooperated on a previous Woodward book, as well as his knack for self-immolating in front of conservative-leaning journalists.) And Carlson’s portrayal of Graham as insufficiently loyal to the president is just slightly at odds with the senator’s slavish devotion to the man he sees as his political meal ticket.

The president, as usual, mounted his own defense. On Thurday morning, in the midst of a tweet binge during which he assured Americans that Kim Jong-un is in good health, he twisted an argument proffered by some journalists — that Woodward had a responsibility to alert the public to Trump’s deception — by offering that same argument as proof that Trump didn’t really do anything wrong.

Cleanup complete — now on to the next scandal.

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