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Int'l Women's Day: Protests, a strike, a Russian's apology

A 24-hour strike by millions of Spanish women. A crackdown in France on companies violating gender-equal pay policies. In Russia, a candid apology from a powerful legislator to women he sexually harassed.

Many of the International Women's Day events on Thursday powerfully echoed the #MeToo movement that has mobilized women against sexual violence and workplace harassment.

Demonstrators filled the streets in several Asian cities, including Manila, Seoul and New Delhi. Clad in pink and purple shirts, the activists in Manila lambasted Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, calling him among the worst violators of women's rights in Asia. Human rights groups have condemned Duterte's sexist remarks, including a suggestion that troops shoot female communist rebels in the genitals.

In Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, a throng of activists was joined by a victim of one of the acid attacks frequently perpetrated in the country by embittered men. Black glasses covered part of her badly burned face.

Hundreds of women gathered in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, to commemorate the occasion and urge more progress on women's political rights, education and safety. During Taliban rule, many women would have been afraid to leave their homes.

In Spain, major unions estimated that 5.3 million people joined the strike, which targeted gender violence and unequal pay. The day culminated with street protests in scores of cities. The theme was "If we stop, the world stops."

Social services worker Teresa Sonsur, protesting in Madrid, said she wanted to end workplace discrimination at her agency.

"The women are doing all the hard work, dealing with the customers, but in the positions of management it is always men," the 38-year-old woman said.

French companies that treat women unequally may soon face new pressure and penalties. President Emmanuel Macron says his government is going to name and shame such companies. He predicted positive changes "because no one wants to be the worst student in the class."

Another government initiative would fine companies with more than 50 employees if there is an "unjustified" gender wage gap.

The left-leaning French daily Liberation said that for one day only, men would have to pay 50 cents more than women for the newspaper, a reminder that women in France, on average, are paid 25 percent less than men.

In a striking development in Russia, the head of Parliament's foreign affairs committee apologized after being accused of sexual harassment by several female journalists. Noting it was International Women's Day, Leonid Slutsky said on Facebook, "I am using the occasion to ask forgiveness from those of you whom I freely or involuntarily caused suffering."

The apology came after demonstrators, including opposition presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak, picketed outside Parliament, demanding Slutsky's resignation.

In Italy, actress Asia Argento, who helped sparked the #MeToo campaign last year, said she is launching a new movement, #WeToo, to unite women against a power imbalance favoring men.

Argento told Radio 24 that her aim is "to finally change the patriarchal system so rooted in our culture, not just in Italy."

Argento helped embolden other women to report sexual assault and harassment when she accused Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein of rape in an expose by The New Yorker. She faced a backlash in Italy, with critics questioning why she waited 20 years to come forward.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of the world's most powerful women, said in a video message that the quest for greater gender equality in Germany and worldwide must continue.

"Many women before us have made sacrifices and fought persistently so that women would have more rights," she said. "But there's still a lot to do."

In Rome, Catholic women challenged Pope Francis to give women a greater voice in church affairs. Former Irish President Mary McAleese, an advocate for women's ordination and gay rights, accused the church's all-male leadership of refusing to change women's second-class status.

"The Catholic Church has long since been a primary global carrier of the toxic virus of misogyny," McAleese said.

In Uganda, where domestic violence is common and often goes unreported, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni urged men to stop abusing their wives.

"If you want to fight, why don't you look for a fellow man and fight?" said Museveni, calling domestic abusers cowards.

At a star-studded event at the United Nations, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on men to join in making gender equality "a reality for all."

"This is what women and girls want. And that is what I want," he said. "It is what every sensible man and boy should want."

International Women's Day, created over a century ago by the socialist and labor movements, traditionally has been a higher-profile occasion abroad than in the United States, where women's rights activists have been energized over the past 14 months by huge protest marches and the emergence of the #MeToo movement.

Nonetheless, several U.S. companies, including McDonald's, Kroger and Old Navy, made gestures in recognition of the day, and the White House announced that first lady Melania Trump would present State Department courage awards to women from around the world at a March 21 ceremony.

___

Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.

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The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • White House officials are pushing back against critics of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy. The policy has led to the separation of children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. >> Read more trending news Update 11:40 a.m. EDT June 19: More than 20 state attorneys general are calling for an end to the Trump administration’s immigration policy, which has led to children being separated from their parents at the border and has sparked national outrage. The 21 Democratic state attorneys general, from states including Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Washington, sent a letter Tuesday to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. “Put simply, the deliberate separation of children and their parents who seek lawful asylum in America is wrong,” the attorneys general said in the letter. “This practice is contrary to American values and must be stopped. We demand that you immediately reverse these harmful policies in the best interests of the children and families affected.” The group is led by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, who on Tuesday called the immigration policy “inhumane” and “draconian.” “The Justice Department is ignoring its legal and moral obligations for the sake of a political agenda at the expense of children and the efforts of state law enforcement officials,” Balderas said. “The latest move to unnecessarily separate families is cruel and another example of this administration putting politics ahead of people.” Update 10:15 a.m. EDT June 19: President Donald Trump insisted on Twitter that “Democrats are the problem” in the immigration debate as criticism of his administration’s policy of separating children from parents at the border continues. Trump wrote Tuesday morning that Democrats “don’t care about crime and want illegal immigrants, no matter how bad they may be, to pour into and infest our Country, like MS-13.” The president has blamed Democrats for the recent surge in family separations, saying that laws need to be changed in order to change the separation policy. >> Recording of crying immigrant children separated from parents at border sparks outrage “Now is the best opportunity ever for Congress to change the ridiculous and obsolete laws on immigration,” Trump said Tuesday in a tweet with the hashtag #CHANGETHELAWS. There are no laws mandating the separation of children and parents at the border. The president also wrote Tuesday morning that “if you don’t have Borders, you don’t have a Country,” and reiterated a claim that crime has risen in Germany since the country started accepting migrants, despite government numbers that show crime at its lowest rate since 1992. Update 9:44 a.m. EDT June 19: The executive director of the United Nations Children's Fund called stories of children being separated from their parents as a result of the Trump administration’s immigration policy “heartbreaking,” saying in a statement Monday that “such practices are in no one’s best interests, least of all the children who suffer their effects.” “Detention and family separation are traumatic experiences that can leave children more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse and can create toxic stress which, as multiple studies have shown, can impact children’s long-term development,” said Henrietta Fore, an American who has headed UNICEF since earlier this year. She noted that the U.S. government has long supported UNICEF’s efforts to help uprooted children in Syria, South Sudan, Somalia and Haiti. >> Clergy group brings church charges of child abuse, immorality against Jeff Sessions over zero-tolerance policy “Children -- no matter where they come from or what their migration status -- are children first and foremost,” she said. “I hope that the best interests of refugee and migrant children will be paramount in the application of U.S. asylum procedures and laws.” Update 8:40 a.m. EDT June 19: Sen. John McCain called the Trump administration’s family separation policy “an affront to the decency of the American people” in a tweet Monday night. The Arizona Republican said the policy is “contrary to principles and values upon which our nation was founded.” “The administration has the power to rescind this policy,” he wrote. “It should do so now.” >> Is the immigration separation policy new, where did it come from, where are the detention centers? McCain is among a growing number of Republican lawmakers voicing concern over the administration's 'zero tolerance' approach to illegal border crossings. Under the policy, all unlawful crossings are referred for prosecution. With adults detained and facing prosecution, any minors accompanying them are taken away. Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their families over a six-week period in April and May. Update 7:15 p.m. EDT June 18: The nonprofit news organization ProPublica released an eight minute audio recording of wailing children, who were separated from their parents last week. >> All 5 living first ladies speak out on separation of immigrant children, parents at border A U.S. border patrol agent can be heard laughing in the background as the 10 children from Central America are separated from their families. Update 6:00 p.m. EDT June 18: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, during a briefing Monday afternoon, said there’s nothing new about the current policy of separating undocumented children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. >> Trump's 'zero tolerance' immigration policy: 4 things to know 'This entire crisis is not new, Nielsen said, pointing to 'loopholes' in federal immigration laws from the past, but that could change this week with the introduction of several immigration measures in the U.S. House and Senate, including one from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Cruz is expected to introduce the “Protect Kids and Parents Act,” according to news reports. The measure would double the number of federal immigration judges from 375 to 750. It would authorize new temporary shelters to better accommodate families.  The bill would mandate that immigrant families remain together, unless there’s criminal conduct or a threat to the children, and it would require that asylum cases are heard within 14 days of application.   Update 5:35 p.m. EDT June 18:  The head of the Department of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, addressed the growing backlash over the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy at the southern U.S. border, which is separating undocumented children from their parents. Nielsen defended the policy and urged  Congress to fix the system and close the loopholes. >> Before Trump policy, immigrant families arrested at the border were detained together Update 5:30 p.m. EDT June 18: Two more first ladies have weighed in on the widening controversy over the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents at the southern U.S. border. Michelle Obama retweeted comments Laura Bush made that Trump’s “zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.” >> Trump border policy: How to help immigrant children separated from families Former first lady Rosalynn Carter also released a statement Monday, according to The New York Times. 'The practice and policy today of removing children from their parents' care at our border with Mexico is disgraceful and a shame to our country,' Carter said. Update 4:30 p.m. EDT June 18: The Department of Health and Human Services has released photos of the “tent city” in the Texas border outpost of Tornillo, just outside of El Paso, where the U.S. government is sending children separated from their parents at the border. There are already dozens of children at the facility, according to news reports. Update 3:10 p.m. EDT June 18: Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, called Monday for the resignation of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen amid the ongoing debate over the Trump administration’s immigration policy. The demand came one day after Nielsen said in a tweet that, “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border. Period.” Nielsen echoed President Donald Trump’s claims that a law is behind the recent spike in separations of migrant children and their parents at the border. “We will not apologize for enforcing the laws passed by Congress,” Nielsen said. “We are a nation of laws. We are asking Congress to change the laws.” However, as Harris and numerous fact checkers have noted, there is no law that mandates the separation of children and parents at the border. Harris said in a statement Monday that Nielsen’s “misleading statements ... are disqualifying.” “We must speak the truth,” Harris said. “There is no law that says the Administration has to rip children from their families. This Administration can and must reverse course now and it can and must find new leadership for the Department of Homeland Security.” Update 2:30 p.m. June 18: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday that President Donald Trump is telling an “outright lie” when he claims that Democrats are behind the recent surge in separations of children from their parents on the border. “This is not happening because of the 'Democrats' law,' as the White House has claimed,” Clinton said. “Separating families is not mandated by law at all.” Clinton, who ran as a Democrat against Trump during the 2016 presidential election, also appeared to chastise U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who cited a Bible verse last week while justifying the Trump administration’s immigration policy. “Those who selectively use the Bible to justify this cruelty are ignoring a central tenant of Christianity,” Clinton said. “Jesus said, ‘Suffer the little children unto me.’ He did not say, ‘Let the children suffer.’” Update 2 p.m. EDT June 18: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush urged President Donald Trump to end the policy that’s allowed authorities to separate migrant children from their parents on the border, writing Monday on Twitter that 'children shouldn't be used as a negotiating tool.” “(Trump) should end this heartless policy and Congress should get an immigration deal done that provides for asylum reform, border security and a path to citizenship for Dreamers,” he wrote. The president has repeatedly called for Democrats to negotiate with Republicans to address illegal immigration after falsely claiming that the party is behind laws that mandate the separation of child from parent at the border. No such law exists.  Jeb Bush, brother of former President George W. Bush and son of former President George H.W. Bush, ran against Trump in 2016 for the Republican presidential nomination. In an op-ed published Sunday by the Washington Post, former first lady Laura Bush called the Trump administration policy “cruel.” 'I live in a border state,' Bush wrote. 'I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.' First lady Melania Trump has also criticized the policy, telling CNN in a statement through her spokeswoman that “She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.” Update 12:46 p.m. EDT June 18: President Donald Trump again accused Democrats of obstructing efforts to deal with illegal immigration and the separation of children and parents at the border, telling reporters Monday that “we’re stuck with these horrible laws” because Democrats refuse to sit down with Republicans. There are no laws mandating the separation of children and parents at the border. “We have the worst immigration laws in the entire world,” Trump said. “Nobody has such sad, such bad – and in many cases, such horrible and tough – you see about child separation. You see what’s going on there.” “The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility,” Trump said. Update 12 p.m. EDT June 18: U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday said authorities don’t want to separate children from their families but that officials have a duty to prosecute people who illegally cross the border. “When we ignore our laws at the border we obviously encourage hundreds of thousands of people a year to likewise ignore our laws and illegally enter our country, creating an enormous burden on our law enforcement, our schools, our hospitals and (our) social programs,” Sessions said Monday during the National Sheriffs’ Association Annual Conference in New Orleans. He framed the issue as a debate over “whether we want to be a country of laws or whether we want to be a country without borders.” “President Trump has said this cannot continue,” Sessions said. “We do not want to separate parents from their children. If we build the wall, if we pass legislation to end the lawlessness, we won’t face these terrible choices. We will have a system where those who need to apply for asylum can do so and those who want to come to this country will apply legally.” Sessions’ arguments echoed those of President Donald Trump, who has blamed Democrats for passing laws that he said led to the separations. There are no laws mandating the separation of children and parents at the border. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said earlier Monday that officials will not apologize for enforcing immigration laws. 'We have to do our job,' she said. Original report: President Donald Trump defended his administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy on Monday, writing in a series of tweets that children are being used “by the worst criminals on earth” to get into America as critics slammed the policy for separating children from their parents. “Children are being used by some of the worst criminals on earth as a means to enter our country,” Trump wrote. “Has anyone been looking at the Crime taking place south of the border. It is historic, with some countries the most dangerous places in the world. Not going to happen in the U.S.” The president pointed to a rise in crime in Germany as an example of the chaos caused by illegal immigration, writing in a tweet that it was a “big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture.” However, Germany’s internal ministry reported last month that criminal offenses in the country were at their lowest since 1992, according to Reuters. This spring, the Trump administration ordered prosecutors to charge every person illegally crossing the border. Children traveling with the adults have been separated and placed in detention centers, prompting protests nationwide. The president has blamed Democrats for not fixing the law that allows for the separations. “Tell them to start thinking about the people devastated by Crime coming from illegal immigration,” the president wrote. “Change the laws!” Despite his claim that Democrats are at fault for the situation, The Associated Press reported that the Trump administration “put the policy in place and could easily end it.” The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • An armed civilian took down a shooter after at least two people were shot Sunday night at a Walmert in Tumwater, Washington, police said. Police said the civilian, described by officers as a good Samaritan, shot and killed the suspect at the scene.  On Monday night, KIRO confirmed the civilian is a pastor and works with the Oakville Fire Department, where he is a lieutenant and an emergency medical technician.  The shooting happened just after 5:30 p.m. at a Walmart Supercenter about 65 miles south of Seattle. “I heard two bangs. It sounded like gunshots to me,” witness Robert Berwick said. 'I looked down the aisle and saw a person running.”  That’s when Berwick ran, too. There was chaos in the parking lot, and he said the shooting suspect tried to carjack another man. That’s when the suspect was shot. “I thanked him for saving my life,” Berwick said of the attempted carjacking victim who shot the suspect. “He didn’t look like he had any regrets. I hope he doesn’t have any.' Another witness to the shooting, Megan Chadwick, said her husband saw the civilian take down the shooter. 'He said he watched him (the shooter) take his last breath,' Chadwick said. 'There were three civilians going after (the shooter) to shoot him and two of them had their guns up, and then the third guy shot him through the window of the car.' Chadwick said her husband was armed as well. She and her children were inside the Walmart during the shooting. 'I looked over and saw hundreds of people running out. Just a flood of people and everyone was screaming and frantic. When we got about to the door, I heard someone say, 'Gun. Shooter.' And I knew something was serious,' Chadwick said.
  • A recording of crying immigrant children who reportedly were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border circulated online Monday, sparking outrage among critics of the Trump administration's controversial 'zero tolerance' policy on illegal immigration. >> Click here to listen >> Jamie Dupree: Trump to meet House GOP amid furor over immigrant families The eight-minute audio clip, first published Monday by ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative news site, was recorded at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection center last week, the outlet reported. Children can be heard calling for 'Mami' and 'Papa' as one girl asks to call her aunt. One man, identified by ProPublica as a Border Patrol agent, can be heard saying of the sobs: 'Well, we have an orchestra here. What's missing is a conductor.' >> Immigration: Trump administration defends 'zero tolerance' policy (live updates) According to ProPublica, the person who secretly recorded the audio gave it to civil rights attorney Jennifer Harbury, who then passed it along to the news site. >> All 5 living first ladies speak out on separation of immigrant children, parents at border According to The Associated Press, the 'zero tolerance' policy, which started last month, 'sought to maximize criminal prosecutions of people caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally,' leading to more adults in jail, separated from their children.  >> Trump's 'zero tolerance' immigration policy: 4 things to know At a White House press briefing Monday afternoon, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said she had not heard the recording, which one reporter played on speaker phone during the briefing. She said the children are treated humanely and given meals, education and medical care.  >> Read more trending news  Nielsen said recordings and photos from the border facilities that have circulated online 'reflect the focus of those who post such pictures and narratives.' Read more here and here.