Items filtered by date: Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Ravena gets Paras on board for 3×3

By: Randolph B. Leongson -

Funny how a simple conversation between gym buddies escalated to a partnership for flag and country.

That was how led Kobe Paras came to be part of Chooks-Pilipinas 3×3 squad which will compete in the 2017 Fiba 3×3 World Cup in June.

“He was in our house and on our way to the gym when Anton (Altamirano) were discussing who has already committed,” shared Kiefer Ravena.

The two-time UAAP MVP broached the idea to the 19-year-old prodigy, who was vacationing in the country after transferring from Creighton to Cal State Northridge.

“It was only Jeron (Teng) and I who have stated our commitment and I told him, ‘Kobes, you’ll redshirt, right? Maybe you want to play for us?’ He said he’ll look at it and eventually got the green light,” he said.

Turning into some sort of an agent for the 3×3 crew, Ravena hoped to also get Raymar Jose onboard infuse some hustle and energy, but the team eventually settled for JR Quiñahan after the former’s obligations with Cignal in the PBA D-League.

Ravena, though, was still satisfied, saying that the NLEX big man can provide the same and more, particularly veteran smarts, for the young team.

“Kuya JR, fortunately, will bring us the same thing,” he said.

Seeing how talented the team is, Ravena knows that the one of the biggest concerns for the team is to form a strong bond which he believes shouldn’t be a problem under the guidance of coach Eric Altamirano.

“His presence is very important for us. He explained to us how the game is played and how we can mesh,” he said. “He just told us to enjoy this because this is a rare chance for us to be together. It’s not everyday that we can be in one team so we have to make the most out of it.”

  • Published in Sports

Army officer in ‘Hello Garci’ scandal confirmed as general

By: Christine O. Avendaño-Philippine Daily Inquirer 


The Commission on Appointments on Wednesday confirmed the appointment of 29 general/flag and senior officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, including a newly promoted brigadier general who was grilled for his involvement in the “Hello Garci” wiretapping scandal in 2004.

It was Sen. Panfilo Lacson who sought for newly promoted Brig. Gen. Pedro Sumayo Jr. to disclose what really happened in the wiretapping incident of a purported conversation between former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Commission on Elections (Comelec) official Virgilio Garcillano where the pair talked about rigging of the 2004 elections.

President Arroyo later won the presidency and she apologized for the scandal that almost brought down her administration.


At the hearing called by the commission’s committee on national defense, Lacson told Sumayo the controversy “remains unresolved and needed closure.”

Sumayo was implicated in the controversy as he was the group commander of MIG-21, the unit that was responsible for the recording of the phone of Garcillano.

On questioning of Lacson, Sumayo admitted that his unit intercepted phone communications of “enemies of the State,” including the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Jemaayah Islamiyah and the New People’s Army.

He said he was not aware until informed by his officers that the unit had intercepted calls of Garcillano.

“I was not aware of who ordered the wiretapping of the phone of Garcillano,” Sumayo said.

Sumayo said his immediate superior ordered him to destroy the recordings. He said Garcillano’s number was removed from the list of his “targets” at that time.

But he sought to assure the committee that it would never happen again.

The other confirmed officers were Carlito Galvez Jr. (to the rank of lieutenant general); Adelius Bordado (commodore); Danilo Rodelas, Robert Emperad and Allan Ferdinand Cusi (rear admiral); Arnel De la Vega, Emmanuel Salamat and Ronnie Evangelista (major general); Milfredo Melegrito, Cirlito Sobrejana, Jess Estoesta, Perfecto Rimando Jr., Francisco Mendoza Jr., Arnulfo Matanguihan, Melquiades Ordiales, Manolo Samarita, Glorivine Dida, Ramiro Manuel Rey, Nixon Dortes, Raniel Ramiro, Felipe Bejar, Felicisimo Budiongan, Henrico Rennaldo Macalalad, Jose Faustino Jr., Lope Dagoy, Erickson Gloria, Ernesto Lopena, and Pelagio Valenzuela (brigadier general).



P14M offered for capture of 7 rogue policemen


President Rodrigo Duterte has offered a P2 million reward for each of the seven policemen suspected involved in a kidnapping and robbery incident in Malabon City.

In a news conference in Camp Crame, the headquarters of the Philippine National Police, Counter-Intelligence Task Force commander Senior Supt. Jose “Chiquito” Malayo said that Duterte, through PNP chief Director General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, has offered a P2-million reward for any information leading to the capture “dead or alive” of the seven policemen suspected to be behind the kidnapping of a woman whom they later robbed and tried to extort money from.

The seven suspects were identified as PO3 Luis Hizon, Jr.; PO2 Michael Huerto; PO2 Jovito Roque; PO2 Michael Angelo Solomon; and PO1 Ricky Lamsen of the Malabon City police; SPO2 Jerry Dela Torre, of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and PO2 Bernardino Pacoma, of the Civil Security Group.

Their alleged cohorts, four operatives of the Drug Enforcement Unit of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Malabon City, were arrested on Monday for kidnapping and robbery.

The suspects were identified as SP02 Ricky Pelicano, P02 Wilson Sanchez, P01 Joselito Ereneo and P01 Frances Camua.

Malayo said the four arrested policemen have been charged before the Department of Justice with carnapping, robbery, kidnapping and planting of evidence.

The arrest of the four suspects arose from the complaint of the family of alias “Norma”, who was abducted in Quezon City after she visited her boyfriend Raymond Bongabon at the Medium Security Compound of the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.

Ten DEU operatives allegedly detained Norma and demanded P2 million in exchange for her freedom. The P2 million demand was later lowered to P1 million.

The group also allegedly instigated the complainant to transact with her Chinese contact for one kilo of shabu which was picked up in a hotel in Novaliches, Quezon City.

The DEU operatives then contacted Bongabon to produce the P1 million for the release of the victim.
However, the payoff did not push through.


At least 5 dead, 10 wounded in Jakarta bus terminal bombing

JAKARTA, Indonesia (3rd update) — Indonesian National Police spokesperson Setyo Wasisto has said that 2 people were killed and 9 wounded in an explosion that occurred near a bus terminal in the Kampung Melayu neighborhood of East Jakarta on Wednesday, May 24, around 9:00 PM local time.  

One of the casualties was a police officer while the other is suspected to be the  bomber. Of the nine wounded, four are police officers while the other five are civilians. 

"As you know, this is a global occurence," Wasisto said to media gathered near the terminal on Wednesday night. "In Manchester, at the Ariana Grande concert there was a bombing. And in the Philippines, ISIS has attacked the city of Marawi."

"In my opinion this is a global attack," Wasisto concluded.

Deputy National Police Chief Syafruddin had previously confirmed that a bomb was the source of an explosion.

"Currently, we suspect that it was a suicide bomber," he said to media near the scene of the explosion on Wednesday night. "But that is only for now."

He also said that two people had died in the explosion, one police officer and one unidentified man that police suspect is the bomber. Five others are wounded and currently being treated at a nearby hospital.

He also did not confirm where exactly the explosion originated from, but there are reports that it occured in the terminal's restroom.

The explosion was strong enough to break the bus terminal's windows, as seen in the following tweet from a police Twitter account:

An eyewitness, Sultan Muhammad Firdaus, told TV station Kompas TV he heard two explosions about 10 minutes apart.

"The explosions were quite loud, I could hear them clearly," he said. He added he thought two police officers were injured in the blast. 

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority country, has long struggled with Islamic militancy and hundreds of radicals from the Southeast Asian state have flocked to fight with IS, sparking fears that weakened extremist outfits could get a new lease of life.

A gun and suicide attack in Jakarta left four attackers and four civilians dead in January last year, and was the first assault claimed by the Islamic State group in Southeast Asia.

Indonesia has suffered a series of Islamic militant attacks in the past 15 years, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.

A sustained crackdown weakened the most dangerous networks but the emergence of IS has proved a potent new rallying cry for radicals.

Bookmark this page for further updates. —

  • Published in World

No link to ISIS, no martial law

POSTSCRIPT By Federico D. Pascual Jr. (The Philippine Star)

WITHOUT the supposed ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) link to the Maute terror attack on Marawi City this week, the group’s depredation was just the usual lawlessness that state forces should be able to suppress without imposing martial law in Mindanao.

The combined might of the armed forces and the police in Mindanao, under competent leadership, should be more than enough to neutralize the Maute marauders – said to be only 100-200 in number -- that pillaged Marawi the other day.

To justify his martial law proclamation, the Commander-in-Chief may have to prove actual Maute-ISIS connection (not mere “inspiration”) when he submits to the Congress not later than 10 p.m. today the proclamation that he issued 10 p.m. Tuesday (6 p.m. in Moscow same day).

The only indication of an ISIS element in the Marawi raid was the waving of black flags resembling those of the Islamic terrorist group that has vowed to establish a global caliphate annexing areas that it has overrun.

For Mr. Duterte to cite homegrown terrorism, staged by Maute or other brigands, as the factual basis for martial law may not be sufficient.

That may even amount to an admission of his failure as the Chief Executive to keep the peace and enforce the law in Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities.

Opinion ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1
Section 18, Article VII, of the Constitution says: “In case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it, he (the Commander-in-Chief) may, for a period not exceeding 60 days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law.”

There seems to be no invasion or rebellion in Mindanao, unless the President is able to document and magnify the ISIS element and present it as an invasion, or to demonstrate that the Maute attack where three persons were killed was part of an ongoing rebellion.

The 1987 Constitution, which reads in some parts like a reaction to Filipinos’ harsh experience under Ferdinand Marcos, has made it difficult for a budding dictator to impose martial rule again, as can be gleaned from Section 18, Article VII.

The Congress and the Supreme Court can still check a President’s proclaiming martial law, or suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. His edict may be revoked by a majority vote of the two chambers of the Congress voting jointly. (And according to conscience, if we may add.)

Also, any citizen may ask the Supreme Court to review the sufficiency of the factual basis of the proclamation. The tribunal has 30 days to rule on the petition. Meanwhile, all courts on all levels continue to function even under martial law.

The suspension of the privilege of the writ applies only to persons judicially charged with rebellion or offenses inherent in or directly connected with the supposed invasion. Any person arrested or detained must be judicially charged within three days, otherwise he shall be released.

• Duterte planned martial law all along

IT APPEARS that the Maute pillage of Marawi gave President Duterte what he has been looking for – an opening and a justification to carry out his intention to declare martial law in Mindanao, if not in the entire country.

Explaining why all of Mindanao was included, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told media: “Because there are also problems in Zamboanga, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, also in Central Mindanao, the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Forces) area, and also some problems in Region 11 (Southern Mindanao), yung pangongotong ng NPA (extortion by the New People’s Army).

Carolyn O. Arguillas of MindaNews, which has extensive coverage on the ground, recalled that President Duterte has repeatedly said that if he declares martial law in Mindanao, he would “finish” all the problems there.

In a meeting last March, Arguillas reported, the President told Mindanao governors and mayors: “Either tulungan ninyo ako or I will declare martial law tomorrow for Mindanao.” He exhorted them to use their powers to prevent violence “from spinning out of control.”

MindaNews has monitored social media postings of residents. Norhanidah Macatoon posted on Facebook what looked like CCTV footage of armed men with high-powered firearms wearing camouflage parading near Masjid Abubakar Markaz where the heavy clash took place. “Allahu Akbar! Brothers and Sisters, please stay in your houses,” she said.

An ISIS flag was hoisted at the Amai Pakpak Hospital near City Hall and the Army Brigade station. “It caused panic (among) civilians in the hospital but none of them was used as shields by the armed group. They only raised the black flag there,” said Abul Alibasa. “There is also violence near Haifah Palace of Calookan.”

Omai Atar, wife of Marawi’s sultan and a hospital employee, said: “All physicians and nurses on duty are safe and okay per our communication. Employees are in hiding. May mga sundalo na daw duon sa may gate. Sana manegotiate nila peacefully. Please spare the hapless patients.”

The movement of the armed group caused traffic congestion, said Drieza Lininding on Facebook. “The Marawi City jail is also under siege. Oh my Allah, spare my family and relatives from any harm.” Javier Alonto posted: “As conflict escalates, we also have power interruption.”


That martial law thing and why Mindanaoans seem to like it

By John Tria/Manila Bulletin Editorial


Davao City — As the first morning after of the 60 day martial declaration dawns on this city, life is normal, with the usual hum of daily economic activity apparent.

Our social media feeds were unsurprisingly filled with posts along two general themes: martial law supporters and martial law haters. Supporters hail the decisiveness and resolve, which, as of presstime, have kept markets steady.

Of course, most of those who do not agree with martial law come from Metro Manila, while the support for martial law comes mainly from within Mindanao.

Before we argue on the merits of such a measure, let’s look at what this response is trying to address. What exactly is at stake here?

For one, the livelihoods of millions seeking better lives as investments enter North and South Mindanao. Travel to Iligan, Cagayan de Oro, and Butuan and you will notice a construction boom renewing the city skylines, and employing millions in new retail and BPO enterprises, with increased agricultural output putting more cash in people’s pockets.

For the first time, a good number of northern Mindanaoans working in Metro Manila and Cebu are seriously thinking of relocating back home, what with possible jobs, education and urban comforts becoming more readily accessible.

ISIS incursions into these cities, even sporadic ones may cause more than an economic hiccup, negating gains have been made in the last two years. It is tough enough to lure investments in Mindanao due to the perception of violence among investors, and a criminal incursion may just spoil its momentum.

Second, the food of half the country is sourced from, or passes through, the Lanao-Bukidnon plateau. The uplands straddling the areas from Marawi to Wao, Lanao del Sur, are highly productive vegetable and cash crop farming areas bordering the towns of Kalilangan and Pangantucan in Bukidnon.

Many of these farmers are rebel returnees taking advantage of the high demand for fresh vegetables. As a new highways near completion in this area, produce from local farmers can be brought faster to the port of Cagayan de Oro to be loaded on ships bound for the dense tourist areas of Bohol and Cebu. Increasingly, the Visayan islands have been taking in almost half their food requirements from Mindanao.

Third, mobility and connectivity within Mindanao will be seriously hampered if this strategic area is compromised. As ASEAN integration draws near and the free exchange of goods and people is expected between Mindanao and the Sulawesi and Borneo regions of Indonesia and Malaysia, the risk of these elements is there.

Note that these concerns are way beyond the borders of Marawi City. We must all be vigilant.

Given these, we cannot stress the need to deal with ISIS quickly and decisively, with the same political will and resolve to win a war. No wimpyness and pussyfooting here. Steel and guts needed. After all, they are forcibly taking territory, holding people hostage, and reportedly executing those who do not agree with them. Poverty is no justification for their greed.

The Manila cognoscenti led by Leah Navarro with their doubt, fear, and anxiety over possible abuse must take note that the enemy in question is a greedy and ruthless bunch which, like drug lords, cannot be negotiated with, and must only be defeated. They are welcome to “talk” and “convince” to the ISIS. Good luck.

This greedy evil grew under the nose of PNOY and Mar Roxas, as it is their administration that tried to downplay their presence in Mindanao (

This same regime that had a poor track record handling Mamasapano and Zamboanga — these blunders may have emboldened these terrorists to set up shop.

With these attacks on Marawi, we must all cooperate with authorities. ISIS must be destroyed.


Estrada doubles security in Manila


Mayor Joseph Estrada on Wednesday placed Manila under tight watch and ordered the police to set up checkpoints and conduct more patrols to ensure that the violence in Marawi City will not reach the city.

Estrada directed 4,600 Manila policemen to increase their patrol around Malacañang Palace and other government offices and major installation that could be targeted by extremist groups.

“To the Manileños, please rest assured that our law enforcement units are on guard to protect our city,” he said. “Remain calm but be vigilant. You have nothing to worry about as of this moment.”

Estrada directed Manila Police District Director Joel Coronel to use all available assets to preserve peace and order and thwart any attempts by lawless elements to sow chaos or terror.

Coronel said Malacañang is ringed with security checkpoints. Foot and mobile patrols are being held in coordination with the Presidential Security Group (PSG).

“We are on full alert to prevent the incident from Marawi City to spill over in Metro Manila. There might be diversionary actions so we have to prepare for it,” he said.

Coronel added that 300 more policemen will be deployed to secure the observance of the holy month of Ramadan which will start on May 27.

Anti-riot policemen were also stationed at the US Embassy and at the Supreme Court in Ermita to counter possible mass actions by militant organizations.

Terror attacks had hit the city of Manila in the past. In December 2000, terrorists bombed Plaza Ferguson in Malate and an LRT-1 coach that left 22 people dead.

Recently, three bombing incidents occurred in Quiapo but authorities said the explosions were not terror-related.

Remain calm
Makati Mayor Abby Binay also on Wednesday called on her constituents to remain calm and vigilant amid the conflict in Marawi City and the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

“It should be business as usual in the country’s financial center,” Binay said.

The mayor expressed solidarity with those affected by the recent violence in Marawi.

“Our prayers go out to our brothers and sisters in Mindanao,” she said.

The mayor ordered the Makati Police Department to undertake precautionary measures to keep Makati and its people safe.

“I am directing the Makati police to take the needed steps to ensure the safety of the city and its citizens,” she said.


78 'hostages' rescued in Marawi hospital – military

The military declares facilities previously occupied by local terror groups – including the Amai Pakpak Medical Center – 'cleared of Maute presence'

Carmela Fonbuena

ILIGAN CITY, Philippines – Up to 78 civilians were held captive by the Maute Group inside the Amai Pakpak Medical Center on Tuesday, May 23, when the local terrorist group occupied the public hospital.

All were rescued, according to the military with the hospital declared "cleared of Maute presence" on Wednesday, May 24.

"At 3:00 pm today, the Amai Pakpak Hospital where Maute members accordingly occupied and held captive some 78 civilians was already declared cleared of Maute presence," said Captain Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command.

More civilians were rescued in other facilities attacked by the Maute Group on Tuesday, estimated to be a total of 120 civilians.

Others were not as lucky. At least 4 residents, including a priest, were reportedly taken by the terrorist group. (READ: Marawi bishop: Priest, 4 others held hostage by Maute)

The Maute Group killed a cop and a security guard, and then took hostages – 8 patients, 49 construction workers, and 21 hospital staff – on Tuesday when they forced hospital staff to treat two of their wounded colleagues.

Rappler sources said they left the hospital late evening on Tuesday as clashes with the military raged.

In Dansalan College, one of the buildings where fire broke out, they rescued up to 42 teachers who were trapped. It was also declared "clear of Maute presence" Wednesday afternoon.

Five soldiers and 13 members of the terror groups were killed in the clashes, based on military reports. Up to 31 soldiers were wounded.

Clashes erupted on Tuesday as the military moved to hunt down Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who was spotted in Marawi City.

Hapilon, who reportedly has direct links to international terrorist group Islamic State (ISIS), joined the Maute Group in Lanao Del Sur supposedly to establish an Islamic caliphate in Central Mindanao. –


Trump’s Budget Cuts Deeply Into Medicaid and Anti-Poverty Efforts



WASHINGTON — President Trump plans to unveil on Tuesday a $4.1 trillion budget for 2018 that would cut deeply into programs for the poor, from health care and food stamps to student loans and disability payments, laying out an austere vision for reordering the nation’s priorities.

The document, grandly titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” encapsulates much of the “America first” message that powered Mr. Trump’s campaign. It calls for an increase in military spending of 10 percent and spending more than $2.6 billion for border security — including $1.6 billion to begin work on a wall on the border with Mexico — as well as huge tax reductions and an improbable promise of 3 percent economic growth.

The wildly optimistic projections balance Mr. Trump’s budget, at least on paper, even though the proposal makes no changes to Social Security’s retirement program or Medicare, the two largest drivers of the nation’s debt.

To compensate, the package contains deep cuts in entitlement programs that would hit hardest many of the economically strained voters who propelled the president into office. Over the next decade, it calls for slashing more than $800 billion from Medicaid, the federal health program for the poor, while slicing $192 billion from nutritional assistance and $272 billion over all from welfare programs. And domestic programs outside of military and homeland security whose budgets are determined annually by Congress would also take a hit, their funding falling by $57 billion, or 10.6 percent.

The plan would cut by more than $72 billion the disability benefits upon which millions of Americans rely. It would eliminate loan programs that subsidize college education for the poor and those who take jobs in government or nonprofit organizations.


How Trump’s Budget Would Affect Every Part of Government 

Government spending would be cut substantially. See how every budget item would be changed.; width: 18px; height: 22px; background-position: -370px -87px; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat;"> OPEN INTERACTIVE GRAPHIC 

Mr. Trump’s advisers portrayed the steep reductions as necessary to balance the nation’s budget while sparing taxpayers from shouldering the burden of programs that do not work well.

“This is, I think, the first time in a long time that an administration has written a budget through the eyes of the people who are actually paying the taxes,” said Mick Mulvaney, Mr. Trump’s budget director.

“We’re not going to measure our success by how much money we spend, but by how many people we actually help,” Mr. Mulvaney said as he outlined the proposal at the White House on Monday before its formal presentation on Tuesday to Congress.

Among its innovations: Mr. Trump proposes saving $40 billion over a decade by barring undocumented immigrants from collecting the Child Tax Credit and adding additional measures to ensure they cannot collect the Earned Income Tax Credit. He has also requested $19 billion over 10 years for a new program, spearheaded by his daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump, to provide six weeks of paid leave to new parents. The budget also includes a broad prohibition against money for entities that provide abortions, including Planned Parenthood, blocking them from receiving any federal health funding

The release of the document, an annual ritual in Washington that usually constitutes a marquee event for a new president working to promote his vision, unfolded under unusual circumstances. Mr. Trump is out of the country for his first foreign trip, and his administration is enduring a near-daily drumbeat of revelations about the investigation into his campaign’s possible links with Russia. 

The president’s absence, which his aides dismissed as a mere coincidence of the calendar, seemed to highlight the haphazard way in which his White House has approached its dealings with Congress. It is just as much a sign of Mr. Trump’s lack of enthusiasm for the policy detail and message discipline that is required to marshal support to enact politically challenging changes.

“If the president is distancing himself from the budget, why on earth would Republicans rally around tough choices that would have to be made?” said Robert L. Bixby, the executive director of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan organization that promotes deficit reduction. “If you want to make the political case for the budget — and the budget is ultimately a political document — you really need the president to do it. So, it does seem bizarre that the president is out of the country.”

The president’s annual budget — more a message document than a practical set of marching orders even in the best of times — routinely faces challenges on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers jealously guard their prerogative to control federal spending and shape government programs. But Mr. Trump’s wish list, in particular, faces long odds, with Democrats uniformly opposed and Republicans already showing themselves to be squeamish about some of the president’s plans.

“It probably is the most conservative budget that we’ve had under Republican or Democrat administrations in decades,” said Representative Mark Meadows, Republican of North Carolina and the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

But in a signal that some proposed cuts to domestic programs are likely to face resistance even from conservatives, Mr. Meadows said he could not stomach the idea of doing away with food assistance for older Americans.

“Meals on Wheels, even for some of us who are considered to be fiscal hawks, may be a bridge too far,” Mr. Meadows said.

Republicans balked at Mr. Trump’s demand for money for the border wall in negotiations over a spending package enacted last month. Many were deeply conflicted over voting for a health care overhaul measure that included the Medicaid cuts contained in the budget to be presented on Tuesday. Now the president is proposing still deeper reductions to the federal health program for the poor, as well as drastically scaling back a broad array of social safety net programs that are certain to be unpopular with lawmakers.

“The politics of this make no sense to me whatsoever, in the sense that the population that brought them to the dance are the populists out there in the Midwest and South who rely on these programs that he’s talking about reducing,” said G. William Hoagland, a former senior Republican congressional budget aide. Referring to Representative Paul D. Ryan, he said: “I don’t see how Speaker Ryan gets anywhere close to 218 votes in the House of Representatives if this is the model. It’s an exercise in futility.”

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, said Monday that the Medicaid cuts would “carry a staggering human cost” and violate Mr. Trump’s campaign promise to address the opioid epidemic.

“Based on what we know about this budget, the good news — the only good news — is that it was likely to be roundly rejected by members of both parties here in the Senate, just as the last budget was,” Mr. Schumer said on the Senate floor.

The budget itself avoids some of the tough choices that would be required to enact Mr. Trump’s fiscal vision. The huge tax cut was presented but without any detail about its elements or cost. Mr. Mulvaney said the tax plan would not add to the deficit, implying that its cost would be made up with other changes, such as eliminating deductions.

To balance the budget, Mr. Trump’s budget relies on growth he argues will be generated from the as-yet-unformed tax cut.

The blueprint also steers clear of changing Social Security’s retirement program or Medicare, steps that Mr. Mulvaney, a former South Carolina congressman who has backed entitlement cuts, said he had tried to persuade Mr. Trump to consider.

“He said, ‘I promised people on the campaign trail I would not touch their retirement and I would not touch Medicare,’ and we don’t do it,” Mr. Mulvaney said. “I honestly was surprised that we could balance the budget without changing those programs, but we managed to do that.”

But budget experts argued that was little more than fiction, and the plan could never deliver the results it claims to.

“The central inconsistency is promoting a massive tax cut and spending increases in some areas and leaving the major entitlement programs alone,” Mr. Bixby said. “You don’t have to be an economist to know that that doesn’t add up, and that’s why there’s a great deal of concern about the negative fiscal impact that this budget will have.”

While past presidents have often launched a road show with stops around the country to promote the components of their inaugural budgets, Mr. Trump is spending the rest of the week overseas, leaving his staff to explain his plan while Republicans prepare their own response.


“This budget is dead before arrival, so he might as well be out of town,” said David A. Stockman, a former budget director under President Ronald Reagan.

Mr. Stockman said both political parties had grown comfortable with running large annual budget deficits. “There’s not a snowball’s chance that most of this deep deficit reduction will even be considered in a serious way.”

Correction: May 24, 2017 

An article on Tuesday about President Trump’s budget proposals, using information from Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, misstated a proposal to bar undocumented immigrants from receiving certain tax credits. A Social Security number is already required to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit. The proposal would impose this requirement for the Child Tax Credit, and the Child and Dependent Care Credit is not affected. The article also referred incorrectly to one effect on Social Security. The budget proposes cutting Social Security disability benefits, not reducing retirement benefits.



  • Published in U.S.

‘The Beguiled’ Review: Nicole Kidman and Kirsten Dunst Subvert Male Fantasies in Sofia Coppola’s Sensational Southern Potboiler

Between “The Virgin Suicides” and “Marie Antoinette,” it was already quite clear that Sofia Coppola loves watching Kirsten Dunst struggle to make peace with some kind of purgatory. In “The Beguiled,” the mustiest and most conventionally entertaining film of Coppola’s brilliant career, Dunst is once again cast as a woman with so much to give and nowhere to go, but this is the first of her characters who actually has a legitimate hope of escaping from her limbo.

Alas, peace can be hard to come by in the middle of a war, and freedom even harder. And if Edwina Dabney wants to get herself out of the Confederacy, she might have to let the Union inside first.

Ruthlessly shorn from Thomas P. Cullinan’s 1966 novel of the same name (and not remade from the Don Siegel adaptation that first brought its story to the screen), “The Beguiled” is a lurid, sweltering, and sensationally fun potboiler that doesn’t find Coppola leaving her comfort zone so much as redecorating it with a fresh layer of soft-core scuzz. The year is 1864, the Civil War still rages on despite the outcome growing more certain by the day, and — somewhere amidst the unloved willow trees that surround the Great Dismal Swamp of southeastern Virginia — seven women of various ages are cooped up in a schoolhouse like chickens waiting to be plucked.

These are the small handful of students and faculty who remain at the Farnsworth Seminary; the rest of the residents have abandoned the gothic mansion like rats from a sinking ship (including the slaves, who surely took advantage of their captors’ dwindling numbers), leaving behind only those who have nowhere else to go. The girls range in age from minors to matrons, but they all have one thing in common: It’s been a very long time since they’ve seen a man, and even longer since once has been close enough to touch.

And then, like the answer to a prayer that these devout belles would never dare offer to their Christian God, a man appears. And not just any man, but Colin Farrell. An Irish immigrant who sold his soul to the Union Army for $300, Corporal John McBurney is in urgent need of some tender care. He’s run away from the battlefield with “enough iron in his leg to shoe a horse,” and he’s on the brink of death by the time he’s discovered by the youngest of the Farnsworth females. She escorts him back to the house, where the air stiffens as soon as the soldier is dragged inside.

Perpetually clenched headmistress Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman) agrees to care for this uninvited guest, but she’s well aware that he might cause trouble. Trouble from teenage Alicia (Elle Fanning, another Coppola alum), a born rebel in every sense of the word who sweats pure hormones as she stares at the exposed “blue-belly” from across the room. Trouble from Edwina, her teacher, who seems tortured by the same desire that tickles the younger girls. And trouble for Martha herself, who has a little bit too much fun scrubbing her patient down (particularly when her hands wander below his Mason-Dixon Line). John rouses as inevitably as he arouses, but if he thinks that he’s stumbled into a male fantasy, he’ll soon find that this fantasy may not belong to him.

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Shot in Louisiana’s Madewood Plantation House (a location recognizable from the “Sorry” portion of Beyoncé’s “Lemonade”) and almost entirely confined to the seminary’s withered interiors, Coppola’s film is told with surgical precision and savage grace. The story reveals itself across a tight 93 minutes — a considerably shorter runtime than that of Siegel’s film — packing all manner of ripe details and intimations into each of its frames.

The writer-director trims Cullinan’s book down to its bare essentials, cutting out all of the most heightened elements (like incest) so that she could see these girls more clearly and represent their conflicting perspectives with less clutter to get in the way. The result is a movie that sometimes feels too compressed, like a bonsai tree that’s suffered one too many cuts, and the scale of the story can be uncomfortably dwarfed by the depth of its characters, and the performances that bring them to life.

That’s true for Kidman, the movie star going supernova in her hyper-contained role as a woman who’s torn between lust, envy, and her maternal instincts. And it’s truest of all for Dunst, the most conflicted woman at Farnsworth, who longs for the outside world but is tortured by the messenger it sends her way.

All of these characters deserve more, but they so fluidly serve each other that the film around them doesn’t nearly as reduced as it might. To that point, it would be extremely difficult to single out any one of them as the narrative’s protagonist, but it’s telling that Coppola’s no bullshit approach so vividly reflects Martha’s nature; as she tells John: “I’m as blunt as I want to be.”

But while the pace of “The Beguiled” might be new for Coppola, who’s known for her languorous portraits of ennui and dislocation, the film’s evocative flair for detail is par for the course. Here is a writer-director who always sees her characters as reflections of their hyper-specific environments, who is compelled by the rifts between women and the worlds they inhabit and insists on giving equal thought to both sides of that divide. This is Coppola’s third period piece, and once again it finds her using the trappings of another time to better convey the timelessness of its longing and loneliness, flowing through history like the fluorescent chemical dye of a magnetic scan.

One shot of the untended weeds growing around the seminary is all we need to recognize that nature will overtake the house as naturally as it will the women inside of it; one blast of distant cannon fire is all we need to appreciate that innocence is fleeting, even in the eye of a storm; one look from Edwina is all we need to feel how the tone of a room can change when a sisterhood is interrupted.

Coppola has never been quite so concise, she’s never conceived of a more perfect visual rhyme than the one between the blue bow that ties together Edwina’s shirt (and begs to be pulled) and the blue cloth that Amy ties around the property gates to signal the presence of a Union soldier.

On the other hand, Coppola has also never been quite so verbose, as it often feels like there’s more dialogue in “The Beguiled” than there is in her previous five features combined. That’s not actually true, of course, but maybe it feels that way because her cast makes a delightfully indulgent meal of her words. Every line in the first half of the film is delivered as a double entendre, Farrell somehow managing to keep a straight face as he looks across the dinner table and tells Martha that “her roses need pruning,” or talks to some of the other girls about his favorite kind of pie.

Finally, Coppola is going to get credit for how funny she can be, as the humor here is often much less ambiguous than the twin strippers in “Somewhere” or the venomous satire that rotted “The Bling Ring” from the inside out. And “The Beguiled” only gets funnier as temptation turns into action and the shit hits the fan, as Coppola seals every delirious moment of bloodshed with a smirk.

Even the most important character beats are played for gently sadistic laughs; there’s tons of perverse amusement in the moment when John screams “I’m not a man anymore!” after losing an important appendage (but not the one you think). And his loss is the film’s gain, as “The Beguiled” is at its best and most complex as John loses his physical control over the girls, and Coppola’s beautifully posed interior shots give way to outright anarchy; if the story’s first half is shot to look like “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” its second might owe more to “Stoker.”

By the time Coppola unveils her haunting final shot and lets it linger for a minute, her wildly thrilling new movie has made one thing very clear: Even the most prim and possessed of women have always had needs, but men ought to be careful who they fuck with.

Grade: A-
“The Beguiled” premiered in Competition at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. Focus Features will open the film in theaters on June 23.


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