Julie McCarthy

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In the Philippines, the government of President Rodrigo Duterte says a new law is needed to fight terrorists. His opponents say that law could be used to suppress activists and ordinary citizens. Here's NPR's Julie McCarthy.

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In the Philippines, Congress granted President Rodrigo Duterte special temporary powers on Tuesday to manage the COVID-19 crisis that continues to surge in the country of 110 million people.

To date, there are 552 confirmed cases, and 35 deaths.

The measure granting Duterte the new powers was the first to be approved by Philippine lawmakers using Zoom, the remote teleconferencing service, and puts the country under a "state of national emergency."

The world's fourth most populous country is bracing for a spike in cases of coronavirus infection, after health experts say a sluggish government response has masked the serious of the outbreak.

Updated at 10:30 a.m. ET

Scientists in the Philippines are defending their assessment of a volcano that has been spewing ash for more than a week after a local official demanded that they change their "opinion" of the danger it poses and urged people to defy authorities and return to their homes.

The vice mayor of the town of Talisay, located within a 9-mile zone around the Taal Volcano that has been subject to evacuation, criticized the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Philvolcs), questioning the science of predicting volcanoes.

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A brief period of calm in Hong Kong is over.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

INSKEEP: Demonstrators protested in major malls, scuffling with police and members of the public. NPR's Julie McCarthy reports on how Hong Kong's year is ending.

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It looks like things are getting worse in Hong Kong. A fiery standoff at one of the city's major universities culminated with police storming the barricades before dawn this morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF THUMPING, CLANGING)

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The Constitution of the United States says an official may be impeached for a few things, quote, "treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors."

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Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong turned more violent today.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Unintelligible).

(SOUNDBITE OF CLANGING)

Updated at 11:10 p.m. ET

Chaotic scenes overtook the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday, as protesters and police engaged in running street battles in a march billed as a rally against global totalitarianism. It also launched the 17th week of pro-democracy demonstrations aimed at China's tightening grip on the territory.

Hong Kong is bracing for more rallies and unrest this weekend as two important anniversaries loom, sparking fears that anti-government protests might once again boil over into violence on the streets.

Saturday marks five years since the start of the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement that unsuccessfully sought free and open elections in Hong Kong, a former British colony that reverted to Chinese control in 1997.

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Amid weeks of mass anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong that have frequently turned violent, Beijing on Tuesday issued a stark warning to protesters: "those who play with fire will perish by it."

The remarks, at a news conference in Beijing, were made by Yang Guang, a spokesman for the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council.

He said China has "tremendous power" to put down the protests and warned that anyone who engages in "violence and crimes ... will be held accountable."

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Olowan Magarang recalls the moment he knew it was time to flee his home in Marawi, on the southern Philippines' island of Mindanao. It was in May 2017, two days into a siege by militants aligned with the Islamic State.

"I spotted ISIS fighters moving up my brother's four-story house, carrying long guns and high-caliber weapons," he says.

Magarang was living in what became ground zero — the epicenter of months of fighting — when Philippine troops waged house-to-house combat against hundreds of ISIS-affiliated fighters in Marawi.

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte harbors a no-holds-barred hostility toward the Catholic Church and he's been hurling barbs at it as he stumps for candidates in the upcoming midterm election.

"Almost 90 percent of the priests are homosexual," he has declared. He also insinuated that others have secret relationships with women.

He cast bishops as "greedy" and urged people to "rob" and even murder them.

The Philippines and the United States have reached a rare meeting of the minds: Both are enthralled that church bells seized by the U.S. have been returned to the Philippines after 117 years.

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This week, the United States and the Philippines end a 117-year-old feud over church bells. American soldiers seized the bells during the U.S.-Philippines War. And now those bells will be formally returned at a Manila air base.

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