Drought Protest Turns Violent

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine police opened fire as a protest by thousands of rice farmers who lost their crops turned violent on Friday, killing one and wounding about a dozen, a leader of a farming group said.

About 6,000 farmers blocked a portion of the main highway in North Cotabato province on the southern island of Mindanao, demanding government assistance after drought linked by some to El Nino hit hundreds of thousands of hectares of farmland.

“Loud bursts of gunfire erupted,” Norma Capuyan, leader of a farmers’ group, told reporters. “There was heavy volume of fire. We ran to a church compound and the police surrounded us.”

A farmer died on the spot and about a dozen others were wounded in the legs and shoulders, Capuyan said, adding the police first tried to disperse them with water cannon but started shooting when they held their ground.

North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Mendoza said about 20 police were wounded when the farmers attacked them with sticks and stones. She said the first shot was fired by the protesters.

The police issued a statement saying it was investigating.

“Any violation of national police rules and regulations shall be meted (out) with the appropriate penalty,” national police spokesman Chief Superintendent Wilben Mayor said in a statement.

The protest began on Wednesday when farmers barricaded the highway in Kidapawan, demanding a dialogue with the governor and the release of 15,000 sacks of rice she had promised to them as relief.

The agriculture ministry said more than 300,000 hectares of farmland had been affected by drought, causing loses of about 5.3 billion pesos ($115.09 million) in rice and corn. It said the effects of El Nino were minimal.

(Reporting by Manuel Mogato and Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Many Americans Believe In Torture

Guantanamo detainee's feet are shackled to the floor

By Chris Kahn

(Reuters) – Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe torture can be justified to extract information from suspected terrorists, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, a level of support similar to that seen in countries like Nigeria where militant attacks are common.

The poll reflects a U.S. public on edge after the massacre of 14 people in San Bernardino in December and large-scale attacks in Europe in recent months, including a bombing claimed by the militant group Islamic State last week that killed at least 32 people in Belgium.

Donald Trump, the front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, has forcefully injected the issue of whether terrorism suspects should be tortured into the election campaign.

Trump has said he would seek to roll back President Barack Obama’s ban on waterboarding – an interrogation technique that simulates drowning that human rights groups contend is illegal under the Geneva Conventions. Trump has also vowed to “bring back a hell of a lot worse” if elected.

Trump’s stance has drawn broad criticism from human rights organizations, world bodies, and political rivals. But the poll findings suggest that many Americans are aligned with Trump on the issue, although the survey did not ask respondents to define what they consider torture.

“The public right now is coping with a host of negative emotions,” said Elizabeth Zechmeister, a Vanderbilt University professor who has studied the link between terrorist threats and public opinion. “Fear, anger, general anxiety: (Trump) gives a certain credibility to these feelings,” she said.

The March 22-28 online poll asked respondents if torture can be justified “against suspected terrorists to obtain information about terrorism.” About 25 percent said it is “often” justified while another 38 percent it is “sometimes” justified. Only 15 percent said torture should never be used.

Republicans were more accepting of torture to elicit information than Democrats: 82 percent of Republicans said torture is “often” or “sometimes” justified, compared with 53 percent of Democrats. (Graphic: http://tmsnrt.rs/1ShObx1)

About two-thirds of respondents also said they expected a terrorist attack on U.S. soil within the next six months.


Surveys by other polling agencies in recent years have shown U.S. support for the use of torture at around 50 percent. A 2014 survey by Amnesty International, for example, put American support for torture at about 45 percent, compared with 64 percent in Nigeria, 66 percent in Kenya and 74 percent in India.

Nigeria is battling a seven-year-old insurgency that has displaced 2 million people and killed thousands, while al Shabaab militants have launched a series of deadly attacks in Kenya. India is fighting a years-old Maoist insurgency that has killed hundreds.

In November, terrorism replaced economy as the top concern for many Americans in Reuters/Ipsos polling, shortly after militants affiliated with the Islamic State killed 130 people in Paris. (Graphic: http://polling.reuters.com/#!poll/SC8/type/smallest/dates/20151101-20151231/collapsed/true/spotlight/1)

At the same time, Trump surged in popularity among Republicans, who viewed him as the strongest candidate to deal with terrorism. Besides his advocacy of waterboarding, Trump said that he would “bomb the hell out of ISIS,” using an alternative acronym for Islamic State.

“You’re dealing with people who don’t play by any rules. And I can’t see why we would tie our hands and take away options like waterboarding,” said Jo Ann Tieken, 71, a Trump supporter.

Tieken said her views had been influenced by the injuries suffered by her two step-grandsons while serving in the military four years ago in Afghanistan.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll included 1,976 people. It has a credibility interval, a measure of accuracy, of 2.5 percentage points for the entire group and about 4 percentage points for both Democrats and Republicans. (Graphic: http://reut.rs/1Rp3x6C)

(Reporting by Chris Kahn; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Ross Colvin)

Iran Says Missiles Are Key To Future

Iran missile is launched in desert location

By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s top leader on Wednesday said missiles were key to the Islamic Republic’s future, offering support to the hardline Revolutionary Guards that have drawn criticism from the West for testing ballistic missiles.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei supported last year’s nuclear deal with world powers but has since called for Iran to avoid further rapprochement with the United States and its allies, and maintain its economic and military strength.

“Those who say the future is in negotiations, not in missiles, are either ignorant or traitors,” Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state, was quoted as saying by his website.

“If the Islamic Republic seeks negotiations but has no defensive power, it would have to back down against threats from any weak country.”

His comments may have been directed at former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the de facto leader of a more moderate political alliance, who last week tweeted “the future is in dialogue, not missiles”.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards conducted ballistic missile tests earlier this month, in what they said was a demonstration of Iran’s non-nuclear deterrent power.


The United States and several European powers said the tests defied a U.N. Security Council Resolution that calls on Iran not to test nuclear-capable missiles, in a joint letter seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

However, Washington has said that a fresh missile test would not violate a July 2015 accord under which Iran has restricted its disputed nuclear program and won relief from U.N. and Western financial sanctions in return. That agreement between Iran and six world powers was endorsed in Resolution 2231.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that Iran’s ballistic missile had caused “alarm” and it would be up to the major powers in Security Council to decide whether fresh sanctions should be applied.

But Russia, a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council, said the tests did not violate Resolution 2231.

“You may like it or not that Iran launches ballistic missiles – but that is a different story. The truth is that in the 2231 resolution there are no such bans,” Interfax cited Mikhail Ulyanov, head of the ministry’s department for non-proliferation and arms control, as saying.

Iran has consistently denied its missiles are designed to carry nuclear weapons.

(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin, additional reporting by Lidia Kelly in Moscow and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Sam Wilkin; Editing by Richard Balmforth)