Pope Francis denounces religious extremism on historic Egypt visit

Pope Francis has called on Muslim leaders to unite in blocking the flow of money and arms to jihadi groups. The Catholic pontiff has also paid tribute to the victims of recent attacks on Coptic churches.

Watch video02:47

Francis calls for peace and dialogue

Pope Francis urged Muslim leaders to unite in denouncing religious extremism as he began a two-day visit to Egypt, a country that has suffered a series of brutal Islamist attacks in recent weeks.

“Peace alone… is holy and no act of violence can be perpetrated in the name of God, for it would profane his name,” Francis said Friday at an interfaith peace conference in Cairo.

The Catholic pontiff stressed that “demagogic forms of populism… are on the rise” and that it was essential to block “the flow of money and weapons destined to those who provoke violence.”

Read: ‘The pope of peace in the Egypt of peace:’ What can Francis achieve in Cairo?

“Together let us affirm the incompatibility of violence and faith, belief and hatred,” he said.

The pope’s arrival marks a historic visit to the Arab world’s most populous country and his most symbolic gesture yet in promoting Christian-Muslim ties. Francis’ speech was also organized by Egypt’s prestigious Al-Azhar University.

Watch video02:48

Morning Q&A: Pope in Egypt – Martin Gak

‘Pope of peace’

Francis also held talks with Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi immediately after landing in Cairo.

The pontiff was escorted through heavily guarded streets, plastered with posters reading “Pope of Peace in Egypt of Peace.” As often the case, however, Francis eschewed traveling in an armored motorcade, riding instead in a normal car with the window wound down.

Ägypten Papst Franziskus in Kairo | (picture-alliance/AP Photo/G. Borgia)Despite the heightened security tensions in Egypt, Pope Francis traveled with his car window down

Francis pays tribute to Coptic Christians

Francis’ push for religious dialogue has taken him to a country that has seen its Coptic Christian minority targeted in a series of extremist attxacks. Three ago, two bombings perpetrated by the so-called “Islamic State” (IS) jihadi group in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria killed 45 Coptic Christians who were attending Palm Sunday services.  Egypt has been under a three-month state of emergency since.

Read: Bishop Damian: Egypt terror ‘a declaration of war against Copts’

The twin bombings followed a December attack on Cairo’s main Coptic church that killed 25 people and injured around 50. Francis visited the church later on Friday to pay tribute to the victims.

“To the members of their families, and to all of Egypt, I offer my heartfelt condolences and my prayers that the Lord will grant speedy healing to the injured,” he told a ceremony also attended by el-Sissi.

On Saturday, the pope will preside over a Coptic Mass, where security will be extremely tight.

IS has labeled Christian minorities in the region as its “favorite prey.” Last week, the group claimed an attempted attack on St. Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai, the site where the Prophet Moses is believed to have received the 10 biblical commandments. One police officer was killed.

Watch video02:04

Berlin Coptic Christians mourn bomb victims

dm/sms (dpa, Reuters, AFP)



Newt Gingrich: Trump vs. the swamp, Round III — Democrats turn to bureaucrats to stop POTUS

FILE -- The U.S. Capitol dome and U.S. Senate (R) in Washington.

FILE — The U.S. Capitol dome and U.S. Senate (R) in Washington.  (Reuters)

When Neil Gorsuch won long-overdue confirmation this month to serve on the United States Supreme Court, Republicans in turn won control of judiciary. This meant they led all three branches of the federal government – at least the three envisioned by our Founding Fathers – for the first time in a decade.

As a consequence, Democrats have pinned their hopes to stifle President Donald Trump’s pro-growth agenda on the unprecedented insurrection of an unchecked, de facto branch of government: the bureaucratic state.

Now that Alexander Acosta is confirmed as secretary of labor, President Trump has a better ability to reign in the bureaucracy.

Through executive orders, President Trump immediately began cutting needless red tape draped across the federal government by his predecessor. This led deliberately resistant entrenched civil servants to wage a campaign to subvert the administration’s clear intention of deregulation.

Consider this: In February, the president ordered the Department of Labor – previously run by Tom Perez, who is now the chairman of the Democratic National Committee –  to review and re-evaluate the implementation of the so-called fiduciary rule, a controversial Obama-era rule that would deny middle-class Americans access to sound investment advice.

The order’s intention was clear-as-day. It aimed to indefinitely delay or outright kill this bad rule before it could hurt middle class American investors. Instead, Perez’s faithful holdovers at the Department of Labor effectively expedited the rule with minimal changes. This was exactly the opposite of President Trump’s instructions.

Now, the department will make the rule effective on June 9, before completing the president’s review, and argued that “the Fiduciary rule and Impartial Conduct Standards … are among the least controversial aspects of the rulemaking process.”

Nothing about this rule is uncontroversial. It would be the single largest government expansion over individual savings in four decades and the second-most expensive regulatory regime crafted in the last 12 years that doesn’t deal with environmental issues.

The rule changes the law to give the Department of Labor direct authority over individual retirement accounts, which are already regulated by the Securities and Exchange Committee, the federal agency responsible for protecting investors. For the first time, IRAs would be pulled into a complex Labor Department system created 43 years ago to regulate employee pension and health plans. Seizing control over IRAs by the Labor Department leads to bigger government, less competition, fewer jobs, and diminished savings for the American worker.

Disingenuously marketed as a way to raise the standards of advice provided to retirement investors, the rule would result in the “orphaning” of most ordinary American savers, left to seek advice on saving for their golden years from an online computer program using algorithms no investor would know about or understand.

The rule has received extensive criticism from those who’ve historically regulated the securities market. Acting SEC Chair Michal Piwowar called the rule a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad rule,” adding that it was a “highly political” move that was “never about investor protection.”  President Trump and the Congress want the rule gone. Business wants the rule gone. Ordinary Americans want the rule gone.

But none of that matters to the bureaucratic state. They’ve lost the battle over the Supreme Court and the president’s cabinet. More than anything, the swamp wants to win this battle. That’s why it’s so important that President Trump and Secretary Acosta implement the president’s instructions in a timely way.

President Trump’s first order wasn’t enough to reign in Tom Perez’s faithful deputies, and only now did Senate Democrats stop obstructing Acosta’s confirmation.

So, the president and the secretary must work quickly to delay indefinitely or completely rescind the fiduciary rule under the secretary’s statutory authority.

More than that, the president needs to fully drain the swamp – especially by getting rid of the mutineers at the Department of Labor.

Newt Gingrich is a Fox News contributor. A Republican, he was speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999. Follow him on Twitter @NewtGingrich.

Trump’s first 100 days: Did he keep his promises?

Candidate Donald Trump made big promises on the campaign trail for what he’d do to “make America great again” in his first 100 days.

In a series of campaign rallies, speeches, and a contract with voters last year, Trump made sweeping pledges to “drain the swamp” and “bring change to Washington.”

So how did he do?

Here’s where he stands on holding to those promises:

Promises kept

·         Trump imposed a hiring freeze on the federal workforce, with the exception of military, public safety and public health officials. While he promised to do this on day one, he implemented it Jan. 23. The freeze expired on April 12.

·         Trump signed a “Two-for-One” regulation executive order, as promised, that would require agencies to eliminate two regulations for every new regulation passed. This was another item Trump promised for day one, though it slipped a bit.

·         Trump signed an executive order to impose a five-year ban on White House and congressional officials becoming lobbyists when they finish work in government.

·         Trump signed an executive order to institute a lifetime ban on White House officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government.

·         Trump signed a presidential memorandum notifying a withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

·         Trump ordered a study to identify and investigate all foreign trading abuses.

·         Trump granted approval for the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, following through on a vow to move forward on energy infrastructure projects.

·         Trump nominated, and won confirmation, for a successor to the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch.

·         Trump signed a bill to extend the Veterans Choice Program to deliver on a promise to give veterans the ability to receive public VA treatment, or see a private doctor of their choice.

·         Trump signed multiple executive orders to create new task forces to fight crime and drug cartels.

·         Trump directed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to order embassies to increase scrutiny and security checks before issuing visas to ensure new screening procedures for immigration to the U.S.

·         Trump signed ethics policies to “drain the swamp” by making it harder for people to profit from their time in government.

·         Trump ordered departments and agencies to identify wasteful spending on programs and asked for recommendations for potential improvements.

*Many of the above items were promised for day one of Trump’s presidency, but not completed until later

Promises broken/No action taken

·         Despite Trump’s promise to cancel visas, on his first day in office, to and from foreign countries that do not allow criminal and illegal aliens back into their countries, he did not follow through. China, Jordan and India do not take back criminal aliens.

·         Trump promised to propose a constitutional amendment, on his first day in office, to impose term limits for all members of Congress. No such proposal exists.

·         Trump promised to get rid of gun-free zones that exist at schools and military bases on his first day, but gun-free zones still exist.

·         Trump promised to direct the secretary of the Treasury to designate China as a currency manipulator, but Trump changed his mind and said China is not a currency manipulator.

·         Despite his promise to cancel billions of dollars, on his first day in office, in payments to U.N. climate change programs, he did not. Trump’s budget proposal does cut funding for climate change programs, but it doesn’t stop funds that have already been approved.

·         Trump promised to save and protect Social Security and Medicare, but there haven’t been any changes to these programs.

·         Ending Common Core was among “first 100 day” promises, but it still exists.

·         Trump promised to increase funding for local police programs, but no additional funds have been directed to those programs. In fact, under Trump’s budget proposal, local counterterrorism programs would see cuts.

·         Despite his promise to have the “great, big, beautiful wall” fully funded, and paid for by Mexico, the plan to fund the U.S.-Mexico border wall is unclear, and Mexico has denied any suggestions that it would pay for the construction.

·         Trump planned to enhance penalties for those who overstay their visas, but current penalties have not changed

·         Trump promised to appoint a team to create a cybersecurity plan within 90 days, but there has yet to be a team appointed, and no such plan exists. Trump also promised to have a full report on hacking within 90 days, but no such report exists.

·         Trump promised to ban foreign lobbyists raising money for American elections, but no action has been taken—it is already illegal for foreign nationals to contribute money to American elections.

·         Trump continues to promise to speed the approval of life-saving medications, but the administration has yet to address this.

Working on it

·         Trump vowed to secure U.S. borders to eliminate illegal immigration, and while unlawful crossings still exist, the volume of these border crossings has dropped significantly in the first 100 days.

·         The administration has yet to sign a bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare as vowed, but they’re working on it. The first Republican health care plan failed to get the support necessary to even take it to the House floor for a vote. Republicans are now considering new legislation, but it has not yet been slated for a vote.

·         Trump promised to begin the “very, very, very fast” removal of more than 2 million criminal illegal aliens. In March, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said they arrested 21,362 since January.

·         Trump issued executive orders and signed Congressional Review Acts to roll back Obama-era policies, but did not cancel “every unconstitutional” executive action issued by Obama, as promised.

·         Trump vowed to cut funding for “sanctuary cities,” which has not yet happened. Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned the cities that funding would be cancelled if they resisted federal immigration law and enforcement—but a U.S. judge blocked the executive order.

·         Trump promised to begin building the U.S.-Mexico border wall in his first 100 days. Construction has not started, but Customs and Border Protection have requested and received bids from companies interested in building the wall

·         Trump attempted to suspend the Syrian refugee resettlement program and suspend immigration from terror-prone regions by signing two “travel ban” executive orders. The first order specifically banned Syrian refugees, and targeted seven predominantly Muslim countries for a 90-day suspension of entry to the U.S. Federal courts blocked the order. A revised version is still tied up in the courts.

·         Trump signed an executive order to roll back Obama-era coal leases in an effort to produce “clean coal,” and has signed an order that could lead to lifting restrictions on offshore drilling.

·         Trump’s budget proposal directed a massive increase in defense spending, as promised, but did not eliminate the defense sequester.

·         Legislation to establish a mandatory minimum federal prison sentence for those who illegally re-enter the U.S. after a previous deportation has been introduced to Congress, but has not passed.

·         Trump is talking about a $1 trillion infrastructure package, but nothing has been implemented yet.

·         Just before the 100-day mark, Trump announced a plan to renegotiate NAFTA.

·         Trump also announced the blueprint for a tax plan just before his 100-day mark, which the administration says would provide “massive tax cuts” for the middle class. Congress must still draft and debate an actual bill.

Brooke Singman is a Reporter for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @brookefoxnews.

Theresa May turns combative ahead of Brexit negotiations

Days after waxing lyrical about the “special relationship” between the UK and the EU, the British premier has hardened her tone. The change came after Angela Merkel said the UK was suffering illusions over its future.

Großbritannien Wahlkampf Theresa May (picture-alliance/dpa/PA Wire/A. Devlin)

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday accused European Union member states of lining up to oppose Britain ahead of the release of the EU’s negotiating position on Brexit.

“We’ve seen from Chancellor Merkel today, we’ve heard her comments today. We’ve seen that actually there will be times when these negotiations are going to get tough,” May was quoted as saying by the BBC while speaking at a campaign rally in the Labour stronghold of Leeds ahead of the snap general election she called for June.

“Our opponents are already seeking to disrupt those negotiations – at the same time as 27 other European countries line up to oppose us,” she said.

“That approach can only mean one thing – uncertainty and instability, bringing grave risk to our growing economy with higher taxes, fewer jobs, more waste and more debt,”

May’s combative comments came just days after dining with EU Brexit negotiators and saying the UK had a “commitment to achieving a deep and special partnership with the European Union.”

British illusions

May was responding to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s warning to the UK on Thursday against “illusions” over the exit process.

Merkel stressed in parliament that “a third-party state will not have the same rights or even superior rights to a member state,” referring to the relationship the EU has with non-EU countries such Switzerland and Norway.

“This may sound self-evident, but I have to say this clearly because some in Britain seem to have illusions on this point,” she said. “That would be a waste of time.”

Watch video00:25

Merkel’s statement on Brexit

EU presents unified front

EU ministers met in Luxembourg on Thursday to underscore their unity ahead of Saturday’s meeting to approve their negotiation position.

“It seems that at the moment we are completely united on everything,” said Vice Premier Louis Grech of Malta, the country that holds the rotating EU presidency. “Naturally we have to protect the EU’s interests.”

He said a prime objective was “to ensure that we will conduct the negotiations in a spirit of unity and trust between the 27.”

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said that “we are united.”

Saturday’s EU’s guidelines will inform a tight negotiating mandate for Barnier which should be ready by May 22.

60 billion euro bill

The EU is expected to push on issues such as the treatment of EU expats, the bill of remaining costs to be paid by Britain and border issues in Ireland.

Some reports claim the EU could hold Britain liable for costs until at least a year after it leaves, at a possible cost of 60 billion euros (US$65 billion).

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson responded angrily to those claims.

“If you’re saying that they want the money before they get any substantive talks, then that is obviously not going to happen,” he told the BBC.

Northern Ireland

Ireland was expected to push for automatic membership of Northern Ireland to the EU if the two ever reunified.

German daily “Frankfurter Allgemeine” reported on Thursday that rental payments from the EU medicines agency in London could also become a sticking point in negotiations.  The lease agreement of the EU authority was reportedly signed until 2039, according to a document from the European Parliament, and could cost 347.6 million euros. Various EU members are seeking to be the new home of the institution.

Negotiations will likely start after Britain’s June 8 election, in which May is seeking to crush a weakened Labour party.

Watch video26:00

Nigel Farage on Conflict Zone



Netanyahu accuses German Foreign Minister Gabriel of ‘tactlessness’

Israeli PM Netanyahu has urged Germany’s foreign minister to avoid meeting with “radical fringe groups.” Earlier this week, Netanyahu canceled a meeting with Sigmar Gabriel just after Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel.

Israel Benjamin Netanjahu (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Sultan)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Germany’s foreign minister of meeting with “radical fringe groups,” days after the right-wing leader snubbed Sigmar Gabriel for meeting with human rights organizations.

In an interview with the German daily “Bild,” Netanyahu called Gabriel’s meeting with two human rights groups critical of the Israeli military’s treatment of Palestinians and occupation of the West Bank “tactless.”

“I find it extremely tactless for such a meeting (with “Breaking the Silence” and B’Tselem) to take place at this time,” Netanyahu, who is also foreign minister, he said. “On this day we mourn the murdered members of our people and our fallen soldiers.”

Gabriel’s visit with groups “Breaking the Silence” and B’Tselem came a day after Israel commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day, when Gabriel attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the Yad Vashem memorial alongside Netanyahu.

B’Tselem is a prominent NGO that records human rights abuses and Jewish settlement building in Palestinian territories. “Breaking the Silence” documents testimony from ex-Israeli soldiers about abuses committed against Palestinians.

The Israeli prime minster added that he had attempted to explain his actions to Gabriel, “but he refused a telephone call,” said Netanyahu. The German foreign ministry refutes the claim.

Sigmar Gabriel in JerusalemGerman Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (left) on Mount Zion in Jerusalem this week

Netanyahu, who overseas the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history, has roiled relations with Germany over continued illegal settlement building in the West Bank and a crackdown on critical civil society groups. Berlin is concerned Israeli policies are veering away from a two-state solution. 

The prime minister’s decision to cancel a scheduled meeting Gabriel was criticized by Israel’s liberal opposition, but backed by the right-wing and Netanyahu’s allies.

Analysts suggested that Netanyahu’s decision was in part a move to gain political points among the right-wing on the domestic front, something Gabriel also noted when he commented that Germany cannot become “a political football for Israeli domestic politics.” Notably, Gabriel’s visit with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin went ahead.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesperson defended the foreign minister.

“In a democracy it should be possible for foreign visitors to speak without problems to critical representatives of civil society,” Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said earlier this week.

Both sides have sought to downplay the row’s impact on long-term relations.

Watch video26:00

Hanan Ashrawi on Conflict Zone



US at UN accuses Russia of covering up Syria attacks

The US and Russian ambassadors at the UN engaged in a heated exchange over chemical weapons, attacks and aid in Syria. Russia claimed Turkey and Iran were working to ensure compliance with a ceasefire.

USA Vereinte Nationen zur Lage in Syrien Stephen O'Brien (picture-alliance/Zumapress/A. Lohr-Jones)

US ambassador Nikki Haley forcefully attacked Russia’s role in Syria, accusing Moscow forces of providing cover for the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons and denying desperately needed aid to hundreds of thousands of beseiged people.

“All eyes and all pressure now need to go to Russia because they are the ones that could stop this if they wanted to,” Haley said at the monthly Security Council meeting on the humanitarian situation in Syria on Thursday.

USA Vereinte Nationen zur Lage in Syrien Nikki Haley (picture-alliance/Zumapress/A. Lohr-Jones)US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley

She urged council members not to continue “to give Russia a pass for allowing this terrible situation to occur.” The US ambassador urged other UN Security powers to pressure Russia into persuading its ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and “deliver real peace talks.”

Haley referred to eight resolutions blocked by Moscow to shield Assad’s government and Russia “cover for a leader who uses chemical weapons against his own people.”

Russian response

USA Vereinte Nationen Peter Iliichev (Getty Images/AFP/K. Betancur)Russian Deputy Ambassador Peter Illiichev

Petr Iliichev, Russia’s deputy UN ambassador asserted that Russia, Iran and Turkey were working to ensure that Syria’s factions upheld a December 30 ceasefire. He demanded that Syria’s many opposition groups “meet us halfway.”

“The ongoing criticism of the Syrian government and the emotional calls to the country guarantors (of the cease-fire) including Russia don’t help anything,” Iliichev said.

The Russian envoy said earlier that, on the whole, the December ceasefire was holding, although there were movements of “terrorists and armed groups” and incidents undermining it that were affecting the delivery of aid.

Humanitarian situation deteriorating

UN humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien decried “starve and surrender” tactics being used primarily by al-Assad’s government on besieged areas with 620,000 people affected.

Syrien Douma UN Hilfskonvoi Roter Halbmond (Reuters/B.Khabieh )UN aid convoy in October 2016

An already bad situation was deteriorating O’Brien said. Not a single convoy had reached a besieged area during April “due to a lack of authorizations,” the UN official said. O’Brien said that “children have fared the worst,” as the conflict in Syria enters its sixth year. They were “suffering physical and psychological trauma,” he said.

Syria accuses Israel

The exchanges in New York took place hours after Syria accused Israel of striking a military installation near Damascus International Airport.

Israel subsequently said one of its Patriot missiles had struck an incoming drone from Syria over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Israel has in the past maintained it has the right to prevent weapons being transferred to Hezbollah, a Syrian-allied Lebanese force.

Air strikes in Idlib province

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human rights said airstrikes across the opposition-held Idlib province on Thursday had claimed at least 19 lives.

A Syrian group, Civil Defense, said those killed included four medical staff of a university hospital in Deir Sharqi.

ipj/jm (AP, Reuters)


United Airlines settles with passenger David Dao who was dragged from plane

United Airlines has reached an “amicable settlement” with Dr David Dao, the passenger dragged off a domestic US flight to make room for crew members. Dao’s lawyers say he suffered concussion, a broken nose and teeth.

Deutschland United Airlines-Flieger hebt in Tegel ab nach New York (Lars Wendt)

Less than three weeks after Vietnamese-American doctor David Dao was dragged by his arms from a United Airlines flight at Chicago’s O’ Hare airport, the carrier has reached a settlement with the passenger.

An attorney for the 69-year-old Dao on Thursday said the two parties had agreed an undisclosed sum in compensation.

Watch video01:46

United: the video that won’t go away

‘Sole responsibility’

Lawyer Thomas Demetrio said United took “full responsibility” for what happened on Flight 3411 on April 9, when Dao was pulled out of his seat by airport officers and his face hit the armrest during the struggle.

The law firm, Corboy and Demetrio, tweeted its full statement.

The violent incident began when airline managers offered compensation to passengers to vacate their seats on the overbooked flight to make room for four airline employees who needed to travel for work purposes to the flight destination, Louisville, Kentucky.

When no one volunteered to leave the plane, four passengers were selected. They included Dao, who remained unwilling to leave the jet.

Nasty injuries

Dao suffered a concussion, a broken nose and teeth in the confrontation, according to his lawyers.

USA United Airlines-Passagier wird aus einem Flugzeug gezogen in Chicago (picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. D. Bridges)Dao, a 69-year-old Vietnamese-American doctor, was injured and hospitalized after being dragged off the plane

In a separate statement, the airline said: “We are pleased to report that United and Dr. Dao have reached an amicable resolution of the unfortunate incident that occurred aboard flight 3411.”

“We look forward to implementing the improvements we have announced, which will put our customers at the center of everything we do,” the airline added in a statement.

Change of attitude

United has been trying to repair its image since the incident, which was filmed by fellow passengers and widely circulated on social media. It has published its own videos detailing its new customer service commitment.

We let policies get ahead of our values. We’re taking steps to change. http://uafly.co/changes 

The company also plans to change its overbooking policies, and will now offer passengers up to $10,000 (9,200 euros) in compensation for giving up a seat.

United’s CEO Oscar Munoz has apologized for the incident, and the carrier said it will train its customer service team to find “creative solutions” for passengers whose flights are disrupted or overbooked.

Demetrio’s law firm said the settlement included the release of Republic Airways and the city of Chicago, which employs the airport security officers, from any responsibility.

Watch video01:01

United makes policy changes

mm/jm (AFP, Reuters)



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