1. World from mikenova (22 sites): World – TIME: A Japanese Pilot Was Arrested After Being Caught Nearly 10 Times Over Legal Alcohol Limit

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A Japan Airlines copilot was arrested in London earlier this week after he was found to nearly ten times over the legal alcohol limit shortly before takeoff.

The tipsy copilot, identified as Katsutoshi Jitsukawa, was arrested Sunday at London’s Heathrow Airport after a test administered just 50 minutes before takeoff revealed the level of alcohol in his system, the BBC reports. He was detected by the sensitive nose of a crew bus driver, who smelled alcohol and reported him to police, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK.

A test later revealed that Jitsukawa had 189mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, nearly 10 times the U.K.’s legal limit of 20 mg for pilots, according to the BBC. He had been scheduled to serve on a flight to Tokyo, which took off just over an hour late. Jitsukawa was not aboard.

Jitsukawa, 42, attributed the elevated alcohol levels to a bout of serious drinking the previous night in his hotel bar and room, according to NHK.

He appeared in court in London on Thursday and pleaded guilty to exceeding the alcohol limit, according to the BBC. He is expected to remain in custody until his sentencing on Nov. 29.

The airline issued an apology, promising “immediate actions to prevent any future occurrence.” It also announced it would roll out a more sophisticated breathalyzer system to monitor its pilots’ alcohol overseas later this month, according to NHK. The new system, which is already in place for Japanese domestic flights, will send test results back to Japan in real time.

Japan’s Transport Ministry also responded to the incident, promising to institute a national standard for pilot blood-alcohol levels. Previously, the country had allowed airlines to set individual thresholds.

In a separate case last week, Japanese domestic airline All Nippon Airways was forced to apologize after five flights were delayed by a hungover pilot, the Associated Press reports.

World – TIME

1. World from mikenova (22 sites)


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1. US Security from mikenova (86 sites): Eurasia Review: We Need A #MeToo Movement For Political Consent – OpEd

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By James Bovard*

The #MeToo movement is spurring millions of Americans to reconsider the meaning of consent in sexual relations. But there is another realm where far too much has been presumed because of often token gestures. Political consent is defined radically differently than the consent that people freely give in their daily lives.

The Declaration of Independence enshrined the notion that government must possess “the consent of the governed.” Unfortunately, winning politicians often claim blank checks to define the hidden meaning behind citizens’ ballots. “Consenting” on Election Day is portrayed as pre-approving anything politicians dictate in the following years.

Regardless if your candidate campaigned on a peace platform, you “consented” to any wars he might subsequently start or support . Regardless if your candidate promised to end federal crackdowns on marijuana , you “consented” to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s raids on medical cannibis cooperatives. Regardless if your candidate promised to end deficit spending, you “consented” to trillions of dollars of additional federal debt. Regardless if your candidate promised transparency and honesty, you consented to the government keeping millions of secrets and shrouding its worst abuses.

Government agencies structure their policies to make even more absurd presumptions of “consent” in daily life.

Because you traveled abroad, you supposedly consented to Department of Homeland Security agents examining and copying all the records on your cell phone or computer when you return to the United States. The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups are fighting this policy in federal court but this Obama-era policy remains the law of the land.

Because you bought an airline ticket, you supposedly consented to being pawed by a Transportation Security Administration agent, including an “enhanced patdown” that often includes vigorously groping Americans’ groins (regardless of TSA’s incompetence at discovering actual threats).

Because you chose to use the Washington or New York subway, you have consented to a warrantless search of your backpack or purse by local police who receive a federal grant to conduct security theater performances.

Because you drive on government roads, you supposedly consented to federally-funded license plate scanners compiling a dossier of when and where you travel. And for anyone who objects to federal, state, and local agencies tracking them at almost all times (including when they visit gun shows ), remember that “those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear.”

Presumed consent entitles government to do as politicians please. Because Americans “consented” to George W. Bush and Barack Obama’s presidential candidacies, their appointees authorized the National Security Administration to create massive databases compiling details on all the phone calls they made or received. In millions of cases, NSA also vacuumed up Americans’ emails and web browsing history . Even though presidents denied they were illegally spying on Americans, voters still presumably “consented.” Americans may be shocked in the coming months and years to learn of illegalities they purportedly “consented” to when Trump was elected.

Political consent is defined these days as rape was defined a generation or two ago: people consent to anything which they do not forcibly resist. Anyone who does not stone city hall presumably consented to everything the mayor does. Anyone who does not jump the White House fence and try to storm into the Oval Office consents to all executive orders. Anyone who doesn’t assail the nearest federal office building consents to the latest edicts in the Federal Register. And if people do attack government facilities, then they are terrorists who can be justifiably killed or imprisoned forever.

Ironically, the Founding Fathers proffered a notion of political consent much closer to what #MeToo activists are championing nowadays. The Bill of Rights provided bright lines which politicians were prohibited from crossing regardless of vote counts. The Bill of Rights was a sacred pledge that politicians admitted they had no right to censor the press, confiscate private firearms, suppress religion, or inflict cruel and unusual punishment on citizens. The fact that politicians routinely often violate Americans’ constitutional rights does not make the Bill of Rights any less binding.

Regardless of the outcome of the midterm congressional elections, we should remember that members of Congress and the president took oaths promising to honor and defend the Constitution. In the same way that consenting to a dinner date does not entitle someone to bind and beat another person, consenting in a voting booth does not entitle politicians to ravage Americans’ rights. A strict adherence to the Bill of Rights is the surest way to reduce perils after Election Day.

About the author:
*James Bovard
is the author of ten books, including 2012’s Public Policy Hooligan, and 2006’s Attention Deficit Democracy. He has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Playboy, Washington Post, and many other publications.

Source:
This article was published by the MISES Institute

Eurasia Review

1. US Security from mikenova (86 sites)


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1. US Security from mikenova (86 sites): Eurasia Review: Foreign Policy And The 2018 US Midterms – Analysis

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By Colin Dueck*

(FPRI) — How might international issues play into the coming U.S. midterm elections? The conventional wisdom is that foreign policy rarely matters in congressional midterms, and will have no impact this November. In reality, however, even a cursory glance at American political history reveals that foreign policy and related issues can have an important impact on midterm elections. Despite the voluminous good work on closely associated topics by journalists, political scientists, and historians, I’m not aware of a single scholarly book or article that focuses on the relationship between foreign policy and U.S. midterm elections over multiple cycles.[1] (Dear reader: If you know of one, please let me know.) Here’s a first crack at it.[2]

With regard to the political impact of international issues, there seem to be four types of U.S. midterm elections:

  1. Quagmire. These are congressional midterm elections where the president’s party is punished by voter dissatisfaction with some protracted and inconclusive military intervention overseas. Clear examples include 1950 (Korea), 1966 (Vietnam), and 2006 (Iraq). In each case, the president’s party lost a great many seats in Congress, and popular frustration with an ongoing war was one major reason why. The midterms of 1942 might also be included in this category, insofar as voter frustration with wartime inconveniences played into Democratic losses that fall.
  2. Presidential affirmation. These are midterm elections where the president’s own party picks up seats in Congress in significant ways because of the president’s perceived strengths on foreign policy or national security issues. Such elections are surprisingly rare. The one obvious example is 2002, where Republicans broke the usual midterm pattern and gained seats in both houses, partly due to George W. Bush’s high support ratings on counterterrorism at that time. Even the midterms of 1962, immediately following the Cuban missile crisis, do not fit this pattern. At best, Democrats were able to use John F. Kennedy’s effective handling of the October missile crisis to negate potential Republican criticism.[3] In the end, that November, Democrats picked up seats in the Senate, but lost them in the House.
  3. Foreign policy as non-issue. These are congressional midterms where international issues are simply not politically important at all. Numerous midterm elections from the 19th and early 20th century would fall into this category, especially if trade and tariff policy is excluded.
  4. Foreign policy as secondary but significant. Finally, these are midterm elections where foreign policy issues—though not of uppermost concern—can have an important impact at the margins. For example, during the 1994 midterm elections, the leading issues were indisputably domestic. But President Bill Clinton’s handling of a series of international security challenges—including Somalia, Haiti, and Bosnia—created political problems for numerous congressional Democrats at the ballot box that November.

Where does 2018 fit into the above categories?

This does not appear to be a quagmire election. Over the years, many American voters have grown tired of the war in Afghanistan. But the reduced U.S. presence, compared to its peak in 2011, has drawn the sting from that complaint. There is no evidence that frustration over Afghanistan is a significant political issue this fall. And with regard to the U.S.-backed campaign against ISIS, the Trump administration can point to significant success in rolling back the Islamic State at little cost in American lives. At the same time, President Donald Trump’s approval ratings on foreign policy, averaging in the low 40s, are not high enough to make a rare and ringing midterm presidential affirmation very likely. Nor are foreign policy issues, per se, of primary concern this November. For example, the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi—while of dramatic importance to U.S.-Saudi relations and beyond—is not a major point of contention in current U.S. midterm elections. The question this electoral season is whether the place of international issues overall lies in category 3 (non-issue) or category 4 (secondary but significant). I would suggest category 4, secondary but significant, and here’s why.

First, ever since the U.S. assumed a global strategic role in the 1940s, any president’s handling of this role has been a significant issue politically, including in midterm elections, even if only in the background. The question of whether specific presidents are viewed as competent or incompetent in managing America’s continuing international commitments is an inescapable political issue for both parties, and is bound up with broader perceptions of presidential leadership.

Second, beginning with his run for the White House, President Trump—specifically—has bundled together what might be called transnational issues, with conventional foreign policy ones, to create a distinctly nationalist political platform emphasizing the relationships between trade, immigration, counterterrorism, allied burden-sharing, and foreign policy. His political opponents have no choice but to address this issue bundling, whether they agree with it or not.[4]

Third, although the very top issues this November—health care, the economy, and Supreme Court appointments, to name three—are undoubtedly domestic, there is considerable polling evidence that foreign policy is of some real interest to voters right now. According to a September 2018 poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, 66% of voters say that “foreign policy and terrorism” is a very important issue in determining how they will vote. Republicans are even likelier than Democrats to consider terrorism a “very important issue.”[5] And when factoring in other transnational issues such as trade and immigration, along with broader perceptions of presidential leadership, the political significance of U.S. international policy becomes more fully apparent.

According to the Pew Research Center, trade policy is a “very important issue” for 55% of voters approaching the November elections.[6] Moreover, a number of Democratic congressional candidates in both agricultural and Rust Belt states have treated it as such, focusing in on concerns about trade disputes with U.S. allies.[7] Immigration policy for its part is undoubtedly a major issue this fall, with the two parties highly polarized. A survey recently conducted by the Washington Post with the Schar School at George Mason University indicated that 52% of voters describe immigration as “extremely important” in determining their vote. Indeed, 17% of Republicans say that immigration is the single most important issue for them electorally. President Trump’s leadership style is also under judgement this fall, and that necessarily includes his foreign policy leadership as part of his overall approach. A solid majority of American voters regularly indicates that Trump himself is a leading issue for them.[8]

Are there indications that international issues broadly defined favor one party over the other this November?

Numerous observers have argued that President Trump’s foreign policy approach will act as a liability for Republicans on November 6.[9] Perhaps, they think it should. But in reality, the evidence on this score is mixed. Polls taken by Quinnipiac University and the Pew Research Center in August and September, respectively, showed Democrats with a 3-to-8 point lead over Republicans on foreign policy issues. These polls, along with others by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, further showed Democrats with a 4-to-10 point lead on the issue of immigration.

Yet, when the question is posed as one of illegal immigration or border security, in these same polls, Republicans take the lead over Democrats by a margin of anywhere from 3-to-11 points. The White House is certainly aware of this, and looks to be emphasizing it in the final days of the midterm election season.[10] National security, according to the Quinnipiac poll, also continues to be a strong issue for Republicans, by a margin of 8 points. And when asked which party is now preferred on “protecting America’s interest on trade issues,” according to NBC News, voters prefer Republicans over Democrats by a margin of anywhere from 8-to-17 points.[11]

One notable foreign policy achievement in recent weeks was the successful renegotiation of NAFTA with Canada and Mexico. To reach this point, all three countries made significant concessions.[12] For those congressional Republicans nervous about their own re-election as well as the president’s trade policies, this agreement could hardly come too soon.[13] Critics will note that the new agreement only removes uncertainties originally introduced by Trump himself.[14] Still, the president ran and won the 2016 election on a platform clearly critical of NAFTA, and in pressing for its revision did what he said he would do. For Midwest farmers, U.S. exporters, congressional Republicans, America’s allies, and U.S. consumers as a whole, the conclusion of this revised agreement with two of America’s largest trading partners should be considered a success. The administration can now reasonably point to this agreement as evidence that the president does not look to dismantle international trade with allies per se, but is open to compromise involving revision of existing arrangements, with a growing common focus on the greater challenge from China.[15]

Viewed altogether, while international policy and related issues such as trade, immigration, and presidential foreign policy leadership may not be the primary driver of voting this season, they are still quite significant. November 6 will see a number of tight races to determine party control of both the Senate and the House. And as one seasoned observer notes, “In these tight races, everything matters.”[16] Of course, Republicans may very well lose control of the House of Representatives, for reasons having little to do with foreign policy. But what polling evidence does exist on these subjects suggests that international issues taken together will not hurt congressional Republicans as badly as once believed. In effect, particularly with the conclusion of the new NAFTA agreement, the administration may have removed foreign policy as a potentially damaging issue heading into the coming midterms. For Republicans interested in winning elections under current circumstances, this in itself counts as a kind of relief.

Finally, how might the midterm election results impact U.S. foreign policy?

Foreign observers—whether U.S. allies or adversaries—are paying close attention to these midterm elections, in the knowledge that voting results may have some impact on American foreign policy.[17] If Democrats take control of the House, for example, this will of course increase their ability through committee majorities to hold hearings, exercise oversight, and generally hold the president’s feet to the fire. This could complicate ongoing U.S. diplomatic negotiations in some cases. It could even lead to impeachment proceedings, depending upon the final outcome of Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation.

One germane foreign policy question in 2019 will be whether congressional Democrats, possibly in control of the House, will support the new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico. Ironically, in these negotiations, President Trump delivered a number of policy revisions called for by organized labor and progressives over the years.[18] But of course congressional Democrats are also under intense pressure to oppose the Trump administration as a whole. It remains to be seen whether sufficient numbers of congressional Democrats can bring themselves to support a revised NAFTA concluded by this particular president.

On the GOP side, given the retirement of Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) and the death of John McCain (R-AZ), congressional Republicans face new leadership challenges on foreign policy and national security issues. In the Senate, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) now assumes the mantle for the perspective once represented by McCain. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has carved out a strong role on key issues such as U.S. policy toward Cuba and Venezuela. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) has become an articulate proponent for the nationalist point of view. And Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) continues to be a prominent champion for libertarians. Interestingly, President Trump appears to have developed surprisingly good working relationships with all four of these senators—Graham, Rubio, Cotton, and Paul—regardless of their ideological differences.[19] In the House, look for current freshman Representative Mike Gallagher (R-WI) to continue his rise as a leading Republican voice on national security matters.

Observers should note that in the American foreign policy system, as it has evolved since the 1940s, all presidents tend to assume remarkable leeway in exercising executive authority, regardless of congressional majorities. Significant midterm losses can and do often act as a calibration or check on overall presidential agendas. But in foreign policy, at least, recent presidents have tended to react to midterm losses with a forceful determination to continue on their settled course. This was certainly true of George W. Bush in 2006-07 with regard to Iraq. It was also true of Barack Obama in 2010-11 and 2014-15, for example in nuclear arms control negotiations with Iran.

Analysts should therefore consider the possibility that President Trump will react to any midterm losses, not by abandoning his overall foreign policy direction, but by maintaining its basic continuity alongside tactical adaptations.[20] Indeed, the conclusion of midterm election season might very well free up the president to pursue foreign policy directions he prefers in any case. This would be consistent with historical precedent. In an excellent study of past presidential elections and U.S. foreign policy, political scientist Kurt Taylor Gaubatz points out that presidents tend to hew closer to the median voter on key international issues before re-election.[21] If this logic holds true for midterm elections as well, then with or without GOP losses, Trump may take the midterms’ conclusion as reason to forge ahead on foreign policy and defy his critics—just as recent presidents have done.

About the author
*Colin Dueck
is a Professor in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University, and a Senior Fellow in the Program on National Security at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

Source:
This article was published by FPRI

Notes:
[1] On presidential elections and the prospect of U.S. military intervention, Kurt Taylor Gaubatz, Elections and War: The Electoral Incentive in the Democratic Politics of War and Peace (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999) is indispensable. A good overall study of U.S. midterm elections is Andrew Busch, Horses in Midstream: U.S. Midterm Elections and Their Consequences (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1999).

[2] This essay also draws upon a related panel discussion held at the American Enterprise Institute on October 23 with Tom Davis, Rick Dearborn, Myra Miller, and Karlyn Bowman. For the full video of that discussion, see: http://www.aei.org/events/who-cares-foreign-policy-and-the-2018-midterm-elections/.

[3] Timothy McKeown, “The Cuban Missile Crisis and Politics as Usual,” Journal of Politics 62:1 (February 2000), 70-87; and Thomas Paterson and William Brophy, “October Missiles and November Elections: The Cuban Missile Crisis and American Politics, 1962,” Journal of American History 73:1 (June 1986), 87-119.

[4] Trevor Thrall, “Will Trump’s foreign policy matter for the midterms?” The Hill, August 9, 2018.

[5] AEI Political Report: A Monthly Poll Compilation 14:9 (October 2018), p. 3.

[6] AEI Political Report, p. 4

[7] Michael Collins, “In the farm belt and manufacturing hubs, tariffs and trade turn into election issues,” USA Today, October 9, 2018.

[8] Scott Clement and Dan Balz, “Survey of battleground House districts shows Democrats with narrow edge,” Washington Post, October 8, 2018.

[9] Natasha Korecki, “Poll: Trump’s overseas ‘chaos’ gives Democrats and edge in midterms,” Politico, August 8, 2018.

[10] Julie Hirschfield Davis, “GOP Finds an Unexpectedly Potent Line of Attack: Immigration,” New York Times, October 14, 2018. This development was accurately predicted months ago by Freddy Gray, “Trump is ‘vice-signaling’ over immigration – and it’s going to work,” The Spectator, June 19, 2018.

[11] AEI Political Report, pp. 5-6. A 17-point advantage for the GOP on issues of trade was noted by Janet Hook, “Interest in Midterm Surges, Along With Trump Approval Rating,” Wall Street Journal, October 21, 2018.

[12] Robert Fife and Adrian Morrow, “Canada, U.S. reach tentative NAFTA deal; Trump approves pact,” The Globe and Mail, October 1, 2018; Edward Helmore, “Global stocks soar on U.S.-Mexico trade breakthrough as Canada is sidelined,” The Guardian, August 28, 2018; and Jacob Schlesinger, Kim Mackrael and Vivian Salama, “U.S. and Canada Reach NAFTA Deal,” Wall Street Journal, October 1, 2018.

[13] Justin Sink, “Trump’s New NAFTA Deal Comes Just in Time for the Midterms,” Bloomberg, October 1, 2018; and Ben White, “Trump’s trade wars start biting GOP ahead of midterms,” Politico, September 24, 2018.

[14] James Pethokoukis, “Trump’s new trade deal with Canada and Mexico fixes what he broke,” NBC Think, October 2, 2018.

[15] Aaron Back, “New Trade Deal Sets Stage for Contest with China,” Wall Street Journal, October 1, 2018.

[16] Collins, “Tariffs and trade turn into election issues.”

[17] Robbie Gramer, “Will Republicans Lose Their Majority in Congress? Ask Pyongyang,” Foreign Policy, October 8, 2018; and David Ignatius, “Trump’s friends overseas are very, very nervous about the midterms,” Washington Post, August 21, 2018.

[18] Schlesinger, Mackrael and Salama, “U.S. and Canada Reach NAFTA Deal.”

[19] Marc Caputo, “Trump’s team gets payback for Rubio on Venezuelan assassination plot,” Politico, May 22, 2018; Eliana Johnson, “Trump connects with Rand ‘at gut level’,” Politico, August 8, 2018; John McCormack, “The Neo-Trumper,” Weekly Standard, June 22, 2018; and Jason Willick, “A Foreign Policy for ‘Jacksonian America’,” Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2017.

[20] Jamie Fly, “Do Not Look for Foreign Policy Change,” German Marshall Fund, October 23, 2018.

[21] Gaubatz, Elections and War, 49-50, 78-79, 126-27, 142-45.

Eurasia Review

1. US Security from mikenova (86 sites)


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1. US Security from mikenova (86 sites): Eurasia Review: Sri Lanka: It Is Neo-Cold War, And At India’s Gates – Analysis

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By N Sathiya Moorthy

Independent of the domestic outcomes of the current constitutional crisis in Sri Lanka, it may have already opened up the floodgates for a neo-Cold War centred on South Asia, and knocking at India’s multiple gates already. For a ‘thinking’ Sri Lankan politician, ‘sacked’ UNP Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, may have done the unthinkable by inviting select western diplomats, and also the Indian envoy, to explain his case, keeping out countries like China and Russia, among others. This may have medium and long-term consequences, not only for Sri Lanka but also for the region as a whole, whether or not it spreads out to other regions and continents, as with the forgotten ‘Cold War.’

According to media reports, the deputy high commissioner at Colombo represented India at Wickremesinghe’s briefing. Unlike American and European friends/allies, India also maintained cautious silence on the first day. By the time India’s official statement appeared on Sunday, the ground situation had become clearer with some indication that the Wickremesinghe ‘government’ could well clear a floor-test, whenever held. This does not necessarily mean that the ‘whenever’ part cannot remain eternal, or there cannot be many a slip between the cup and the lip.

This reality may have also prompted Chinese Ambassador Cheng Xueyuan to call on Wickremesinghe a day after he had met with ‘rival prime minister’ Mahinda Rajapaksa, sworn in by controversial President Maithripala Sirisena, after office and court hours on 26 October 2018. As official statements said, Amb. Xueyuan conveyed to Rajapaksa Chinese President Xi Jinping’s congratulatory message on his assuming the ‘prime ministership.’

Nothing much has been said about Amb. Xueyuan’s meeting with Wickremesinghe. It is also unclear if China, after waking up to an unanticipated situation, began running with the hare after hunting with the hound. However, the uninformed observer cannot be blamed, if he likened the situation, thus.

Surprise element

The only thing that has remained ‘non-controversial’ about Sirisena thus far is that of his constitutional position as President. It used to be so in the case of Wickremesinghe, too, until Friday evening — not any more, at least until he is able to prove his parliamentary majority for real, and/or seeks and obtains a favourable verdict from the nation’s Supreme Court.

Before this real show-down, Sirisena and Wickremesinghe had indulged in many, many rounds of shadow-boxing and dog-fights, so much so the Sri Lankan nation had stopped taking them seriously. What mattered to the people was the effect of the same, as it involved governmental policy (as with Hambantota debt-equity swap-deal involving China) and massive financial losses (Central Bank bonds scam). The more recent ones involved India, taking them from a breakdown to a showdown.

In the past, on most such issues, Wickremesinghe and his UNP ministerial colleagues got caught on the wrong foot. Sirisena played ‘catcher’, who would then give the impression that but for him at the helm, worse would have happened to Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans. It is this ‘watch-dog’ personality that Sirisena sought to convey in his national address on Sunday, the first one after what Team Ranil dubs a ‘constitutional coup.’

If Sirisena’s SLFP-UPFA ministers did not get similarly caught like their UNP alliance partners, one reason was that the latter would never allow them to dip their hands in the till. It was also the personal grouse of most of them, leading to and ‘justifying’ the UPFA withdrawal of support to the Ranil leadership.

Otherwise, Sirisena also retained the ‘surprise element’ this time as he had done while quitting the Rajapaksa Government and challenging him in the presidential polls of 2015. Sirisena won the election, but Wickremesinghe and his (international) backers did not seem to have learnt enough about the man by then, or even later.

Neighbourhood concerns

For India, as with common neighbour Maldives, democracy and constitutional propriety seems to have become an overnight concern in Sri Lanka, too. As Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), said on Sunday, India was closely following the political developments in Sri Lanka and expressed the “hope that democratic values and constitutional process will be respected.”

This could well imply that India may wait for any direction/verdict from the Sri Lankan Supreme Court, if and when moved. Though Wickremesinghe’s UNP Speaker Karu Jayasuriya has contested President Sirisena ‘unilaterally’ proroguing Parliament when the Budget was to be presented on 5 November, the interregnum may have unwittingly given the Supreme Court to give its firm views in the matter.

If team Ranil were to move the Supreme Court, very many questions could be agitated. The first and foremost concerns the legitimacy and constitutionality of Sirisena’s decision to ‘sack’ Wickremesinghe, which according to the latter, was ‘invalid’ under the 19th Amendment to the Constitution that they had got passed. On the question of proving a majority, who between Wickremesinghe and Rajapaksa, should be allowed to face a floor-test?

While Sri Lankan legal experts may count on British author May’s Parliamentary Practice, from among the South Asian nations, India has vast and varied constitutional literature and court verdicts in the matter. This includes the Supreme Court’s landmark verdict in the S.R. Bommai case (1994) and various off-shoots, and also such compendiums as the one by Kaul & Shakder and going by the same title.

Multi-faceted, but…

The fallout of the Sri Lankan problem now on India is multi-faceted and none of them is going to be easy to address and/or decide upon. They are not stand-alone, either. The MEA statement on Sunday, specifically, referred to continued development assistance to Sri Lanka, implying a tentative tilt towards Wickremesinghe, if at all. Given that India development projects were at the centre of the most recent tiff between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe, New Delhi can forget its offer, at least for a while, whichever Sri Lankan stake-holder wins (for) now.

Despite the tall-talk after his recent discussions with Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in New Delhi, Wickremesinghe was taking a pot-shot at Sirisena more than anything else. In a near-similar context, as Prime Minister under President Chandrika Bandaranaike in 2004, Wickremesinghe had said that the “US is not going to like it,” when the latter had sacked some of his ministers unilaterally when he was still in an Oval Office meeting with President George Bush.

Wickremesinghe’s comments did not go down well with some of his intellectual supporters and some members of the strategic community back home, though they were even more vehement in their opposition to Bandaranaike’s decision as also her timing of the ministerial sackings. In particular, they did not approve of Wickremesinghe saying such things from the White House lawns, as if the US would back him if there was a show down, and thus threatening the Sri Lankan President of the day.

In taking India projects forward, Wickremesinghe may also be stymied by apprehensions of stirring up the majority ‘Sinhala nationalist constituency’, especially when India was purportedly at the centre of the current controversy — including the avoidable and unsubstantiated name-drawing of R&AW, India’s external intelligence agency, in a perceived plot to assassinate Sirisena. If the Sirisena-Rajapaksa duo won the gamble now, again India can forget the ‘development’ offer for some more time, but exactly for opposing reasons.

Ethnic issue and solution

In the immediate context, India may also get bogged down in the Sri Lankan ethnic issue, for which again, New Delhi’s then favourite, namely, the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe duo did precious little in the past nearly four years. Not that the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has done better on this score, other than playing hide-and-seek with the duo leadership, depending on the politico-electoral pressures that they faced from within the community than from friends like India.

The Sirisena-Rajapksa coup, if it could be called so, may have well tilted the limelight away from Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran, who has since floated a breakaway Tamil People’s Alliance (TPA), a day after remitting office at the end of the five-year term. In a way, Rajapaksa’s ‘post-Inauguration’ call for early polls refers only to Provincial Council polls of the kind (equal to Indian States but with powers akin to those of the Union Territories) — and not for the presidency or Parliament.

For now, the TNA too seems to be sending out confusing signals to the Sinhala stake-holders, though it may still be ‘Advantage Wickremesinghe’, if it came to a parliamentary show-down. But the TNA’s problem, as also of the Sinhala and international stake-holders, may occur, if the newly-formed TPA (and its prospective allies) decide(s) to field Wigneswaran as a ‘Tamil candidate’ in the presidential polls of 2019-20, the first one after the late Kumar Ponnambalam, as far back as 1977.

Democracy discourse

These are some of the short and medium-term pin-pricks for India, as much as it may end up being so for Sri Lanka, too, if only over the longer term. But over the long term, the Sri Lankan crisis may have drawn and drawn out the context and contents of a neo-Cold War in the immediate Indian Ocean neighbourhood, after whatever has happened and continues to happen in Maldives. For India, overnight, ‘democracy discourse’ has become the watch-word, not only in the domestic context, but also in terms of ’Neighbourhood Policy.’

At one-level, it is akin to the post-9/11 American and European concerns for democracy in such nations as other Asian Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, which Washington branded as an ‘Axis of Evil.’ Unlike in the case of the US and the EU, for India, such democracy concerns are in the immediate neighbourhood, not in distant lands.

Barring Pakistan, India’s real politico-diplomatic and geo-strategic concerns do not pertain to the other neighbourhood nations. Instead, it is now centred more on China than possibly Pakistan. India shares a 4000 km land border, up north and away from the seas in the south, where alone the current pro-democracy actions are situated.

As coincide would have it, increasing Chinese presence in individual countries in the immediate Indian neighbourhood have coincided with more and more democracy issues. There is nothing to suggest that China was/is the architect of any of these, but then, at least in the interim, and maybe over the longer period, China may become the geo-strategic beneficiary.

Apart from Sri Lanka and Maldives, which are only the two of the latest in the list, India already has democracy problems, among others, in Afghanistan, Nepal, and also Bangladesh. That is, leaving out Pakistan, but not excluding Bhutan, where yet another successful democratic transition has occurred for a third time in a row, after voluntary democratisation just a decade ago.

The new Bhutanese government, for instance, is pronouncedly centre-left, though not necessarily pro-China, by extension. Post-Doklam and before it, too, Bhutan had commenced border talks with China, and may continue it under the new government. The question thus before India is this: Should New Delhi see ‘democracy’ and ‘China factor’ as two sides of the same coin, or draw a line and look at their independent presence/absence in individual nations, on their own and on merit?

India can now take pride in former Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom thanking New Delhi for the ‘restoration of democracy’ in his country. Until outgoing Maldivian President and his half-brother Abdulla Yameen came to be dubbed ‘anti-democratic’, domestic and western critics used to call Maumoon Gayoom, ‘autocratic’ for 30 long years. India then had no problem in doing business with him, given New Delhi’s ‘geo-strategic priorities’ of the time, and since.

Eurasia Review

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1. US Security from mikenova (86 sites): Eurasia Review: Discovered The Giant That Shaped Early Days Of Our Milky Way

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Some ten billion years ago, the Milky Way merged with a large galaxy. The stars from this partner, named Gaia-Enceladus, make up most of the Milky Way’s halo and also shaped its thick disk, giving it its inflated form. A description of this mega-merger, discovered by an international team led by University of Groningen astronomer Amina Helmi, is now published in the scientific journal Nature.

Large galaxies like our Milky Way are the result of mergers of smaller galaxies. An outstanding question is whether a galaxy like the Milky Way is the product of many small mergers or of a few large ones. The University of Groningen’s Professor of Astronomy, Amina Helmi, has spent most of her career looking for ‘fossils’ in our Milky Way which might offer some hints as to its evolution. She uses the chemical composition, the position and the trajectory of stars in the halo to deduce their history and thereby to identify the mergers which created the early Milky Way.

Gaia’s second data release

The recent second data release from the Gaia satellite mission last April provided Professor Helmi with data on around 1.7 billion stars. Helmi has been involved in the development of the Gaia mission for some twenty years and was part of the data validation team on the second data release.

She has now used the data to look for traces of mergers in the halo: “We expected stars from fused satellites in the halo. What we didn’t expect to find was that most halo stars actually have a shared origin in one very large merger”.

Thick disk

This is indeed what she found. The chemical signature of many halo stars was clearly different from the ‘native’ Milky Way stars. “And they are a fairly homogenous group, which indicates they share a common origin”. By plotting both trajectory and chemical signature, the ‘invaders’ stood out clearly. Helmi: “The youngest stars from Gaia-Enceladus are actually younger than the native Milky Way stars in what is now the thick disk region. This means that the progenitor of this thick disk was already present when the fusion happened, and Gaia-Enceladus, because of its large size, shook it and puffed it up.”

In a previous paper, Helmi had already described a huge ‘blob’ of stars sharing a common origin[1]. Now, she shows that stars from this blob in the halo are the debris from the merging of the Milky Way with a galaxy which was slightly more massive than the Small Magellanic Cloud, some ten billion years ago. The galaxy is called Gaia-Enceladus, after the Giant Enceladus who in Greek mythology was born of Gaia (the Earth goddess) and Uranus (the Sky god).

The data on kinematics, chemistry, age and spatial distribution from the native Milky Way stars and the remnants of Gaia-Enceladus reminded Helmi of simulations performed by a former PhD student, some ten years ago. His simulations of the merging of a large disc-shaped galaxy with the young Milky Way produced a distribution of stars from both objects, which is totally in line with the Gaia data. “It was amazing to look at the new Gaia data and realize that I had seen it before!” said the astronomer.

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Trump Investigations from mikenova (32 sites): 1. Trump from mikenova (198 sites): Palmer Report: As Robert Mueller closes in, Donald Trump’s underlings are now trying to send each other to prison

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By all accounts, Special Counsel Robert Mueller is closing in on Donald Trump, and is preparing to make his big move after he sees what options he’s given for moving forward by the midterm election results. Of course that means Mueller is likely about to move against numerous Trump underlings as well, or at least the ones he hasn’t already taken down. With the clock ticking, Trump’s people are trying to send each other to prison.



First we learned that Donald Trump’s former campaign boss and former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon sold out Trump’s oldest friend Roger Stone to Robert Mueller a few days ago. Then, after we learned today that Bannon and Stone had exchanged mutually incriminating emails during the Trump-Russia scandal, Stone published an op-ed for pro-Trump propaganda site Daily Caller, throwing Bannon under the bus. Make no mistake, these two men are taking steps aimed at sending each other to prison.




There’s a reason why a kingpin’s top underlings always inevitably turn on each other as the Feds move in on the kingpin. They figure a whole lot of people within their circle are about to go down, and they each hope that by selling each other out, they might somehow end up being the one who escapes without handcuffs. There also comes a point where the less naive ones understand that they’re all going down no matter what they do, and they begin acting on old grudges against each other while they still can.


Keep in mind that what we’re seeing play out from the likes of Stone and Bannon, two people who like to fight their battles in public, is only a small fraction of whatever is going on behind the scenes. Which of Donald Trump’s henchmen and/or family members might already be under sealed indictment? Which of them might have already secretly cut plea deals? Stay tuned, because we’re getting very close to the fireworks.

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The post As Robert Mueller closes in, Donald Trump’s underlings are now trying to send each other to prison appeared first on Palmer Report.

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Trump Investigations from mikenova (32 sites): 1. Trump from mikenova (198 sites): Putin and the Mob – Google News: Salena Zito column: Not about left vs. right, but insider vs. outsider – Richmond.com

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Richmond.com

Salena Zito column: Not about left vs. right, but insider vs. outsider
Richmond.com
Add a relentless news cycle of Russia, Robert Mueller, Charlottesville, provocative tweets, Vladimir Putin, more Russia, James Comey, Brett Kavanaugh, a snowball of Republican House retirements, and 70 other exhausting outrages in between, and all of
Opinion: Trump has his post-election excuses all preparedMarketWatch
Heading into final campaign blitz, Trump cements his central role in the midterms: ANALYSISABC News

all 3,900 news articles »

Putin and the Mob – Google News

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1. World from mikenova (22 sites): FOX News: Dias Kadyrbayev, friend of Boston Marathon bomber, deported to Kazakhstan

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A 24-year-old man who was convicted in June 2015 for concealing criminal evidence for his college friend, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was deported to his native Kazakhstan, federal immigration officials announced Thursday.

FOX News

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1. World from mikenova (22 sites): World – TIME: U.S. Charges Malaysian Fugitive Financier Over 1MDB Money Laundering Scheme

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(WASHINGTON) — The Justice Department announced charges Thursday against a fugitive Malaysian financier and two former Goldman Sachs bankers accused in a money laundering and bribery scheme that pilfered billions of dollars from a Malaysian investment fund created to spur economic development projects in that country.

A three-count indictment charges Low Taek Jho, also known as Jho Low, with misappropriating money from the state-owned fund and using it for bribes and kickbacks to foreign officials, to pay for luxury real estate, art and jewelry in the United States and to help finance Hollywood movies, including The Wolf of Wall Street.

Also charged was a former Goldman Sachs banker, Tim Leissner, who pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy and to conspiring to violate foreign bribery laws. Another former bank official, Ng Chong Hwa, 51, also known as Roger Ng, was arrested earlier Thursday in Malaysia and accused of circumventing internal accounting controls, prosecutors said.

Leissner’s attorney did not return messages seeking comment. It was not clear if Ng had a lawyer.

A spokesman for Goldman Sachs, which the indictment says raised about $6.5 billion through bond offerings for the fund, said the firm “continues to cooperate with all authorities investigating this matter.”

Police in Malaysia said in July that Low had fled Macau to an unknown destination. Before facing criminal charges, Low became well known in the New York City and Los Angeles club scenes. In 2012, he threw a lavish 31st birthday bash attended by Leonardo DiCaprio, Kim Kardashian and other celebrities that The Wall Street Journal called the “wildest party (Las) Vegas ever saw.”

Low, who remains at large, issued a statement through a spokesman maintaining his innocence.

“Mr. Low simply asks that the public keep an open mind regarding this case until all of the evidence comes to light, which he believes will vindicate him,” the statement said.

Leissner acknowledged paying millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks to government officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi, according to court records. He was ordered to forfeit $43.7 million as part of his guilty plea.

The set of charges represent the first criminal prosecutions in the U.S. arising from the epic corruption scandal at the state investment fund known as 1MDB. The Justice Department in 2016 moved to recover more than $1 billion that it said had been stolen, filing a civil complaint that sought the forfeiture of property, including a Manhattan penthouse, a Beverly Hills mansion, a luxury jet and paintings by Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet.

Read more: The Accidental Whistleblower: Clare Rewcastle Brown and 1MDB

In a speech last year in Washington, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions denounced the scandal as “kleptocracy at its worst.” The pilfered funds were used on a “lavish spending spree,” the attorney general said, including a $265 million yacht and a $100 million investment in the music label EMI.

“In total, 1MDB officials allegedly laundered more than $4.5 billion in funds through a complex web of opaque transactions and fraudulent shell companies with bank accounts in countries ranging from Switzerland and Singapore to Luxembourg and the United States,” Sessions said.

The fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad, was set up in 2009 by then-Prime Minister Najib Razak to promote economic development. It relied primarily on debt to fund investment and economic development projects and was overseen by senior Malaysian government officials, according to court records.

Najib chaired its advisory board and as finance minister held veto power over its activities. Low, a friend of Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz, had no official role at 1MDB but had considerable influence over its dealings and was in frequent contact with Najib, U.S. authorities have said.

“As noted in the indictment today, Mr. Low held no formal position at 1MDB, nor was he ever employed by Goldman Sachs, or the Governments of Malaysia or Abu Dhabi,” Low’s spokesman said.

The scandal has already had major political ramifications in Malaysia, where Najib in 2015 sacked his attorney general and a deputy prime minister for demanding answers about 1MDB. A parliamentary inquiry found many irregularities but had no mandate to prosecute.

Former leader Mahathir Mohamad, outraged over the scandal, came out of retirement and the opposition united behind him in the national elections, leading to Najib’s ouster in May.

Najib and his former treasury chief were charged last week with criminal breach of trust involving 6.64 billion ringgit ($1.6 billion), charges that came on top of 32 earlier counts of corruption, breach of trust and money laundering that Najib faces in connection with the 1MDB scandal.

Najib and Mohamad Irwan Serigar Abdullah, the former treasury secretary-general, pleaded not guilty to misappropriating government funds between December 2016 and December 2017. Police have also seized hundreds of luxury handbags, jewelry and cash — worth more than $266 million — during raids on apartments linked to Najib’s family.

An attorney for Najib, Shafee Abdullah, dismissed the latest charges as “foolish.”

World – TIME

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1. World from mikenova (22 sites): FOX News: Charlie Kirk: Here’s why Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration protects all Americans

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Yes, America is a nation of immigrants – but the immigrants have to enter legally. Throwing open our borders to everyone who wants to enter is impractical and could cause grave harm to our nation and the American people.

FOX News

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1. US Security from mikenova (86 sites): Eurasia Review: Countering Technology Companies’ Crackdown On Alternative Voices – OpEd

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There was bound to be a major pushback. Widespread use of the internet has helped make all sorts of information much cheaper to create and easier to access. That has been a boon for people seeking to communicate and receive information that would not have been readily available in the days when radio, TV, and newspapers were the overwhelming means of mass distribution of information about current events. At the same time, the internet-facilitated alternative voices boom threatens the interests of people who benefit from limiting the availability of information and commentary about current events to within a much narrower range.

In recent months, big technology companies have accelerated a crackdown on communicating “alternative” news and views via the internet. Much of the early major action was supported by the contrived scare that Russia President Vladimir Putin directed a covert operation to spend a pittance on some Facebook communications about apparently random topics in a wildly-successful scheme to trick the American people into electing Donald Trump as president. Since then, the movement to suppress alternative voices has gained momentum, with major speech suppression successes including, over a brief period of time, a slew of major technology companies denying service to Alex Jones and his popular media operation.

For me, the big tech companies’ speech suppression actions have become personal, threatening the Ron Paul Institute (RPI) for which I am a senior fellow. Earlier this year, the percentage of people who follow RPI at Facebook who Facebook actually allows to see RPI posts on their news feeds plummeted. Before that, RPI’s Ron Paul Liberty Report was hit by YouTube preventing or delaying the display of advertisements with episodes — a change that the show’s co-host and RPI Executive Director Daniel McAdams said “creates enormous financial burdens for the program.” In addition to Alex Jones, who has for a long time supported and regularly interviewed RPI Chairman Ron Paul, Twitter has suspended or purged the Twitter accounts of several other people with connections to Paul or RPI, including McAdams, whose Twitter account was suspended twice in the last few months.

Seeing what was happening to competitors of the “mainstream” media and “establishment” commentators, I knew I should look for additional social media platforms at which I could share my articles, audio show episodes, interviews, and speeches. Facebook and Twitter just were not cutting it. Still, inertia can be hard to overcome. I kept delaying my investigation of alternatives.

I wrote in August about an interview in which Paul declared his hope “that we can have alternatives to the dependency on Twitter and these other companies that have been working hand in glove with the government” in suppressing the communication of alternative news and insights. But, it still took a couple more months for me to take the step of sitting down at a computer and starting accounts at some of the competitors of social media behemoths Facebook and Twitter.

In October, I created pages at Gab, MeWe, Minds, and Steemit. Creating the pages, as well as posting at them in addition to at my Twitter and Facebook pages, has taken some extra time, and I know I am not using any of the pages optimally. Still, I think using the alternative social media websites is an important, worthwhile step.

The question remains whether government and big technology companies will kill off or pay off the competitors of the social media giants. Case in point, this week I have been unable to post at my Gab page. Gab is not closed for maintenance or shut down by a technical glitch. Instead, as Gab Chief Executive Officer Andrew Torba explains in a statement at the Gab home page — and that statement has been for several days the entirety of the Gab website, “Gab has been no-platformed by essential internet infrastructure providers at every level.” Also, PayPal dumped Gab in the last few days, depriving the company of its means of receiving payments.

Torba expresses optimism about the future of Gab, writing in his statement that Gab “isn’t going anywhere” and that “[w]e will exercise every possible avenue to keep Gab online and defend free speech and individual liberty for all people.” More power to him. But, I wonder if Gab can weather the extreme force that appears determined to make the site either shut down or become a speech-limiting clone of Twitter and Facebook.

Will other alternative social media companies face similar pressure to bend to speech restriction or perish? Time will tell. In the meantime, I will keep posting on all my social media pages, hoping that my contribution will help in countering the crackdown on alternative voices.

This article was published by RonPaul Institute

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1. US Security from mikenova (86 sites): Eurasia Review: Moscow Patriarchate Moving In Regions To Make Study Of Orthodoxy Compulsory In Schools – OpEd

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The Moscow Patriarchate may be on the defensive because of its obvious losses in Ukraine and elsewhere, but it is very much on the offensive in the predominantly Russian regions of the Russian Federation where it is moving to make the study of Orthodoxy compulsory in the schools.

Under Russian law, parents are supposed to be able to choose which course on religion or civic ethics they would like their children to be exposed to; but in Pskov Oblast – and likely elsewhere as well – students are being compelled to study “Foundations of Orthodox Culture” (zen.yandex.ru/media/mbkhmedia/mama-na-menia-bog-rasserdilsia-v-pskovskih-shkolah-pervoklashek-obiazali-izuchat-osnovy-pravoslavnoi-kultury).

In the first and second classes, it is no longer an elective as the law specifies but a required subject children and their parents have no choice but to follow, according to Boris Kiryukhin, one of the parents of a pupil in Pskov’s School No. 3. He learned his son was being forced to study Orthodoxy only by chance when he saw his boy’s notebook.

The school administration had demanded that parents sign a consent form, but Kiryukhin says that he didn’t sign it. Nonetheless, his son is in the class. In his view, the father says, his son is “too young” to be exposed to religion. But the education authorities in Pskov Oblast disagree and are compelling pupils to take the class.

Pskov administrators say that the inclusion of Orthodoxy as a required course reflects “the regional, national and ethno-cultural characteristics” of the region. Since Pskov is predominantly ethnic Russian and Orthodox, students must study that faith (znak.com/2018-10-31/v_pskovskih_shkolah_uchenikov_1_i_2_klassov_obyazyvayut_izuchat_pravoslavie).

The textbook used in these courses is anything but neutral about Orthodoxy. It blames all of Russia’s problems today on the lack of historical-cultural education and “religious enlightenment” and says that God’s law must be learned and implemented by Russians in order to save their country from disaster.

Many parents may have no problem with this or fear what might happen to them or their children if they disagree. But anyone concerned about the provisions of the Russian Constitution which guarantee the separation of church and state should be worried about this stealth introduction of religious propaganda in schools far away from the glare of the Moscow media.

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1. US Security from mikenova (86 sites): Eurasia Review: Ma’ruf Amin: Jokowi’s Secret Weapon? – Analysis

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The running mate of the Indonesian president is remembered for his hand in toppling Jakarta governor Ahok on charges of blasphemy. In Singapore, he advocated ‘Middle Way Islam’. Is this President Joko Widodo’s secret formula for mobilising the electorally critical Islamic constituency? Who is Ma’ruf Amin, really?

By Yang Razali Kassim

Indonesian ulama, or religious scholar, Ma’ruf Amin’s speech in Singapore on 17 October 2018 was awaited with some anticipation. He came with the reputation of having played a key role in the massive movement that brought down the controversial Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as Ahok, over accusations of blasphemy against Islam.

This in itself had given Ma’ruf Amin a certain image of being a “conservative”, whatever that may mean. However, the posture he struck in Singapore at a lecture organised by the Indonesia Programme of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) was, well, not exactly this. If anything, the prospect of being a national leader − beyond just the Muslim majority community − may be pushing him to become more centrist.

The Middle Way

Kyai Ma’ruf Amin, as he is respectfully referred to as an ulama, is now a vice-presidential running mate for incumbent President Joko Widodo in next year’s pilpres, or presidential election. While not really seen by some as an ideal pairing, the coming together of the duo is significant. It reflects the traditional symbiosis of the two main streams of Indonesian politics – nationalism as manifested in Jokowi, as the president is known colloquially, and Islam, in Ma’ruf Amin.

But who really is Ma’ruf Amin? What are his thoughts? Needless to say, his speech at the RSIS talk was followed closely for a measure of the man who is, after all, within earshot of being Indonesia’s No 2 leader.

KMA, as he is also referred to, spoke as chairman of the Majlis Ulama Indonesia (Indonesian Ulama Council), though in a non-active capacity, having stepped down due to his nomination as a VP candidate. Also a veteran politician, Ma’ruf Amin wasted no time, diving straight into the theme of his lecture on ‘The Emergence of Wasatiyyah Islam in Indonesia: Promoting Middle Way Islam and Socio-economic Equality in Indonesia’. Loosely translated, the term wasatiyyah connotes a middle way, a path of moderation that is balanced in all respects.

The talk was to be a tour d’horizon of his thoughts, with nuggets on how much Wasatiyyah Islam meant to Indonesia, and how Indonesia should not only practise but also project Wasatiyyah Islam to the world. To him, Wasatiyyah Islam not only engenders peace and security in Indonesia but in turn also contributes to peace and security globally, given the country’s position as the world’s fourth largest country in terms of population.

So what is Wasatiyyah Islam? “It is,” Ma’ruf Amin said, “Islam Tengah (Middle Way Islam or centrist Islam) that produces the best community (khairu ummah).” Islam Tengah, according to him, is anchored in at least six characteristics: tawassuth (the middle way); tawazun (balance); tasamuh (tolerance); musawah (egalitarian and non-discriminatory); musyawarah dan muakafat (consultation and consensus); and islah (reformism).

Centrist Islam in Indonesia

Indeed, he had a lengthy explanation about why Wasatiyyah Islam is not really new to Indonesia: it has always been part and parcel of Indonesian life and was the driving spirit behind the founding of the Indonesian republic, which led to the ideological compromise between political Islam and nationalism that became the basis of the independent nation-state.

Nahdlahtul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest Islamic organisation that Ma’ruf Amin also until recently led as chairman, had historically been one of the groups that played a key role in this ideological compromise. The relationship between political Islam and the state in Indonesia has, however, gone through ups and downs in a process marked by a mix of latent tension and mutual accommodation.

“The commitment to Wasatiyyah Islam in Indonesia in recent years is a reaffirmation of Islamic moderation as the conviction of mainstream Muslims in Indonesia. This is an important response to the strengthening consolidation in recent years of extremism in the name of Islam, be it from the left or from the right,” he said.

In a national convention in August 2015, the Indonesian Ulama Council adopted Wasatiyyah Islam as its devotional paradigm. This was a year after Islamic State (IS) came into existence in Syria and campaigned for a caliphate through war. “IS’ influence spread to Indonesia, followed by various acts of terror by its supporters,” Ma’ruf Amin said.

Before IS, Indonesia had already seen the emergence of the caliphate ideology which Ma’ruf Amin described as ‘contra nation state’. “Some were of the non-violent kind such as Hizbut Tahrir. Some resorted to violence such as Jemaah Islamiyah, a transnational organisation with structures covering Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines and Australia.” In the earlier years of Indonesian independence, there was Darul Islam, which morphed into the Indonesian Islamic State movement.

All of them shared one thing in common: a push for the maximum accommodation of political Islam. What Indonesia needed, Ma’ruf Amin said, was a nation based on the consensus of all elements of society − what he called Darul Mitsaq. Although he did not state it, in its current form, this is known as the Pancasila state based on the national ideology of Pancasila (five principles) and the 1945 constitution of independence.

Going Global

With Indonesia’s strategic position in the Muslim world, and in Southeast Asia in particular, Ma’ruf Amin’s push for Wasatiyyah Islam bears import for the region, especially should his views prevail and become national policy if he is elected as vice-president. Already in Indonesia, there is a growing related movement known locally as Islam Garis Tengah. It is essentially the same Centrist Islam which rejects both extremist tendencies as well as overly liberal religious thought.

Indeed, Ma’ruf Amin argued for the globalisation of Middle Way Islam. “Given its importance, Wasatiyyah Islam must not be seen to be exclusive to Indonesia. Wasatiyyah Islam can also be used to foster harmony and stability of the Southeast Asian region.” In May this year, Indonesia hosted in Bogor a High Level Consultation of World Muslim Scholars on Wasatiyyah Islam.

Philosophically, Wasatiyyah Islam, in spirit or in form, has also been a part of mainstream Islam in Southeast Asia, which is preponderantly Sunni Muslim. In Malaysia, under three previous administrations, Islamic moderation was already the clarion call and practised policy. In his first tenure as prime minister from 1981 to 2003, Mahathir Mohamad consistently advocated Islamic moderation.

His successors followed through with such ideas as Islam Hadhari (Civilisational Islam) and Islam Wasatiyyah too, leading to the formation of the Wasatiyyah Institute Malaysia. As in Indonesia, the institute was a Malaysian response to the rising extremism in some sections of the Muslim community and was to be a platform to promote moderation in the practice of Islam in Malaysia.

Wasatiyyah Islam has also long been a key characteristic of Islam as practised in Singapore, a polyglot society where Muslims are a significant minority conscious of life in a multi-religious and multicultural milieu. Moderation, balance and the middle way are the three Islamic principles that guide Singapore’s Muslim community. In short, Wasatiyyah Islam, as popularised in Indonesia and Malaysia, is something very much familiar with Singapore’s Muslims.

It can be argued that the Muslims of Southeast Asia as a whole are going through a phase of adjustment and response to what Ma’ruf Amin sees as the twin phenomena of religious extremism and religious liberalism. Will this response lead to the wider reaffirmation of the Wasatiyyah doctrine − as Ma’ruf Amin put it − of Middle Way Islam, the essence of the religion which is more nuanced than just “moderation”?

*Yang Razali Kassim is Senior Fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. An earlier version appeared in the South China Morning Post. Next: A translated excerpt of Ma’ruf Amin’s RSIS lecture on The Emergence of Wasatiyyah Islam: Promoting ‘Middle Way’ Islam and Socio-Economic Equality in Indonesia.

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1. US Security from mikenova (86 sites): Eurasia Review: US Charges Malaysian Financier, Others With Laundering Billions From 1MDB

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By John Bechtel

The U.S. Justice Department unsealed a criminal indictment on Thursday against fugitive Malaysian financier Jho Low alleging he paid millions of dollars to officials from Malaysia’s previous government while embezzling billions from state development fund 1MDB.

Another Malaysian national, Ng Chong Hwa (also known as Roger Ng) was named in the three-count indictment filed on Oct. 3 in a federal court in the Eastern District of New York, and has been arrested in Malaysia, according to the U.S. government.

In addition, former banker Tim Leissner pleaded guilty to two charges related to money laundering involving the state development fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which was established by former Prime Minister Najib Razak and is central to the investigation.

“More than $2.7 billion (11.28 billion ringgit) was misappropriated from 1MDB and Jho Low, Ng, Leissner and others conspired to launder this money through the U.S. financial system to pay bribes to foreign officials and for the personal benefit of themselves and their relatives,” the government said in a news release about the indictments.

Ng and Leissner both held positions with the investment bank Goldman Sachs, according to media reports, and were described in their indictments as working for U.S. Financial Institution #1.

The government alleges they hid their partnership with Jho Low – whose real name is Low Taek Jho – from the financial institution because compliance and intelligence officers refused to approve the business relationship over concerns about the source of his wealth.

Among those named in the indictment as having received kickbacks are Malaysian Official 1 (MO1) and his wife, referred to as “the Madam,” in email correspondence among the three. MO1 has not been named in previous lawsuits related to 1MDB filed by the Justice Department, but sources have identified him as Najib.

Since his government was swept out of power in a general election in May, Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, have been arrested by authorities in their home country and charged with a raft of graft-related offenses linked with the 1MDB financial scandal.

The indictment alleges that in June 2014, Jho Low (also known as Low Taek Jho) and an unnamed conspirator discussed through electronic chat, the need to “suck up to” an unnamed 1MDB official “and to send ‘cakes,’ referring to bribes, to ‘madam boss.’”

In October 2014, Jho Low and co-conspirators wire transferred $4.1 million (17 million ringgit) to a New York jeweler to pay for gold jewelry for the wife of MO1, U.S. justice officials alleged.

A year earlier, Jho Low was involved in an even bigger payment.

In September 2013, a high-end New York jeweler met with Jho Low along with MO1 and his wife at a hotel to show her a pink diamond necklace the jeweler had designed for her. Three weeks earlier, the necklace was purchased for about $27.3 million (114 million ringgit) from a shell company controlled by Low and others, the U.S. government alleges.

Projects Magnolia, Maximus and Catalyze

The government alleges that the conspirators cooked up three schemes to collect funds from 1MBD and diverted portions for their own use.

The first scheme, named Project Magnolia, began in early 2012. Jho Low, Ng, Leissner and other unnamed conspirators agreed that with the assistance of the financial institution, 1MDB would issue $1.75 billion in bonds guaranteed by an entity owned by Abu Dhabi’s government.

“Low explained to Ng, Leissner and others at that time that, to complete the transaction, bribes would need to be paid to officials in Malaysia and Abu Dhabi,” the government alleged in a news release, adding that millions of dollars were paid to officials in those two countries.

“After Project Magnolia closed on or about May 21, 2012, more than $500 million of the bond proceeds were misappropriated and diverted from 1MDB through numerous wire transfers to bank accounts in the name of shell companies beneficially owned and controlled by Low, Leissner, Ng and other co-conspirators,” the release said.

Some of the money was used to produce the film “The Wolf of Wall Street,” the American Justice Department said.

Najib’s stepson Riza Aziz, is founder of Red Granite Pictures, the film’s producer.

Beginning in May 2012 and running through 2013, investigators allege that the trio and unnamed conspirators pushed through a pair of bond transactions, Project Maximus and Project Catalyze, designed to raise more than $4 billion (16.7 billion ringgit) for 1MDB projects.

Following the close of Project Maximus, $790 million (3.3 billion ringgit) was transferred to accounts controlled by Low, Leissner and others, including Malaysian and Abu Dhabi officials.

More than $1 billion (4.17 billion ringgit) “were laundered, at Low’s direction to bank accounts in the name of entities beneficially owned and controlled by Low, Leissner and others, including 1MDB officials,” when Project Catalyze closed.

Also, more than $160 million (668 million ringgit) laundered through the two projects was used to purchase a New York City condominium for Jho Low and high-end art, the government alleges.

Jho Low and Ng were charged with violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by committing bribery and circumventing internal accounting controls along with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Malaysian officials did not confirm the U.S. report that Ng had been arrested.

Fugitive

Jho Low, who is in hiding, has maintained his innocence. Earlier this week, the Malaysian government began a month-long auction to sell his $250 million yacht Equanimity to recoup some of the losses tied to 1MDB.

Former Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin said on Thursday that he had been in touch with Jho Low and the fugitive wanted to meet with him in Singapore.

“I decided not to meet him at all. We roughly know where he is now. The problem is he has many passports, he can run anywhere,” Daim said in an interview with Astro Awani TV. “What he likes is his boat. When he had the boat it was easy for him.”

Daim, who did not answer Jho Low’s most recent call last week, said he told the fugitive to return if he is innocent.

“Only guilty people run away,” he said.

Also on Thursday, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) announced that it was looking for a British man, Paul Geoffrey Stadlen, whose last known address was in Kuala Lumpur, to assist in the 1MDB investigation.

Stadlen had served as a public relations officer for Najib, according to Malaysian media.

“The commission was working closely with the Immigration Department to locate the 39-year-old Briton. As of today, the MACC has yet to blacklist Stadlen from leaving Malaysia and we are still in discussion with the Immigration Department on that matter,” MACC Chief Commissioner Mohd Shukri Abdull told reporters.

Muzliza Mustafa, Hadi Azmi and Noah Lee in Kuala Lumpur contributed to this report.

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1. US Security from mikenova (86 sites): Eurasia Review: Where Water Goes After Fracking Is Tied To Earthquake Risk

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In addition to producing oil and gas, the energy industry produces a lot of water, about 10 barrels of water per barrel of oil on average. New research led by The University of Texas at Austin has found that where the produced water is stored underground influences the risk of induced earthquakes.

Beyond supporting the link between water disposal and induced seismicity, the research also describes factors that can help reduce earthquake risk.

“If we want to manage seismicity, we really need to understand the controls,” said lead author Bridget Scanlon, a senior research scientist at UT’s Bureau of Economic Geology.

The research was published in the journal Seismological Research Letters. Co-authors include Matthew Weingarten, assistant professor at San Diego State University; Kyle Murray, adjunct professor at the University of Oklahoma; and Robert Reedy, research scientist associate at the Bureau of Economic Geology. The bureau is a research unit at the UT Jackson School of Geosciences.

The researchers found that the increased pressure that is caused by storing produced water inside geologic formations raises the risk of induced seismicity. The risk increases with the volume of water injected, both at the well and regional scale, as well as the rate of injection.

Researchers specifically looked at water stored near tight oil plays, including the Bakken, Eagle Ford and Permian shale plays, and Oklahoma overall, which has high levels of induced seismicity in concentrated areas. Researchers found marked differences in the degree of seismic activity associated with underground water storage.

For example, the study found that in Oklahoma 56 percent of wells used to dispose of produced water are potentially associated with earthquakes. The next highest is the Eagle Ford Shale of South Texas, where 20 percent are potentially associated with earthquakes.

The study reported that the different levels of induced seismic activity relate to, among other reasons, how the water is managed and where it is stored underground. In Oklahoma, the tendency to store water in deep geologic formations — which are often connected to faults that can trigger earthquakes when stressed — has increased the risk of induced seismicity. In the other areas, water is stored at shallower depths, which limits exposure to potentially risky faults.

In conventional energy production, water is usually injected back into the reservoir that produced the oil and gas, which stabilizes pressure within the reservoir. However, water produced during hydraulic fracturing–the method used to access energy in tight oil plays– cannot be returned because the rock pores are too small for the water to be injected back into the rock. That water is usually injected into nearby geologic formations, which can increase pressure on the surrounding rock.

The findings are consistent with directives issued by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) in 2015 to mitigate seismicity, which included reducing injection rates and regional injection volumes by 40 percent in deep wells. This study confirmed the changes resulted in a 70 percent reduction in the number of earthquakes over a 3.0 magnitude in 2017 compared with the peak year of 2015.

“Everything they (the OCC) did is supported by what we have in this article,” said Murray. “The decisions they made, the directives that they put out, are supported by statistical associations we found.”

The reduction in earthquakes in Oklahoma shows that subsurface management practices can influence seismic risk. However, Scanlon said the changes could come with trade-offs. For example, shallow disposal may help lower the risk of earthquakes, but the shallower storage depths could increase the risk of the produced water contaminating overlying aquifers.

“There’s no free lunch,” Scanlon said. “You keep iterating and doing things, but you must keep watching to see what’s happening.”

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1. World from mikenova (22 sites): FOX News: Facebook apologizes after blocking pro-life group’s ads for GOP Senate candidates

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Facebook admitted late Thursday that it improperly had removed two advertisements paid for by the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List that endorsed Republican Senate candidates.

FOX News

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1. World from mikenova (22 sites): FOX News: Pennsylvania boy, 7, found dead at bus stop after getting ‘struck by a vehicle,’ police say

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A 7-year-old boy was found dead Thursday morning at a bus stop in Pennsylvania after getting hit by a vehicle, state police said.

FOX News

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1. World from mikenova (22 sites): FOX News: American Airlines served too much alcohol to passenger who sexually assaulted woman, lawsuit claims

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A woman filed a federal lawsuit against American Airlines on Wednesday alleging an intoxicated man sexually assaulted her on their aircraft after he was served drinks on board.

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1. World from mikenova (22 sites): FOX News: ‘Penny Dreadful’ returning with spinoff that will be ‘spiritual descendant’ of earlier series

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“Penny Dreadful,” the Showtime series which ended after three seasons in 2016, is back from the dead.

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1. US Security from mikenova (86 sites): Eurasia Review: South Korea, India To Continue Importing Iranian Oil

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South Korea and India agreed with the US on the outline of deals that would allow it to keep importing some Iranian oil after it asked the United States for “maximum flexibility” this week, according to Asian officials.

No final decision has been made and an announcement is unlikely before US sanctions on Iran are re-imposed Nov. 5, the officials said, asking not to be identified because the information is confidential. That opens the possibility that the terms could still be modified or the deals scrapped entirely.

The waivers would ensure at least some Iranian oil continues to flow to the global market, potentially calming fears of a supply crunch and further suppressing international oil prices just before mid-term elections in the US Brent crude has fallen 14 percent from over $85 a barrel last month on signs that other OPEC producers will pump more to offset any supply gap, according to Bloomberg.

Almost all buyers have been negotiating with the US for waivers. That was after the US President Donald Trump in May withdrew from a nuclear agreement with Tehran hammered out by his predecessor, Barack Obama, and said he would re-impose economic curbs lifted under that 2015 accord.

India’s payments for the Iranian oil will go into a local escrow account, which can be used for barter trade with the Middle East producer, one of the people said.

A waiver would allow companies to buy limited volumes of Iranian oil without running the risk of being shut out of the US financial system. In India, it would provide some relief by allowing the purchase of relatively cheap crude as the government faces protests over higher fuel costs before national elections next year.

And for South Korea, a US exemption would mean a resumption in imports of the Persian Gulf state’s South Pars condensate, a type of ultra-light oil that is particularly critical for the Asian nation because many of its plants are geared to process it.

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Trump Investigations from mikenova (32 sites): russian infiltration of both republican and democratic campaigns in elections 2016 – Google News: This RSS feed URL is deprecated

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This RSS feed URL is deprecated, please update. New URLs can be found in the footers at https://news.google.com/news

russian infiltration of both republican and democratic campaigns in elections 2016 – Google News

Trump Investigations from mikenova (32 sites)


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Trump Investigations from mikenova (32 sites): 1. Trump from mikenova (198 sites): Palmer Report: A whole lot of Robert Mueller’s cards are suddenly showing

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If there’s one thing we all know about Special Counsel Robert Mueller, it’s that he keeps all his cards close to the vest, so he can catch his targets utterly by surprise when he comes out of nowhere and makes his biggest moves. Yet there are times when even he can’t keep something secret, because a court filing is made public, or a witness goes running to the media, or so on. But that tends to happen with Mueller only on occasion. That’s what makes this week’s revelations all the more surprising.



Earlier this week we learned from the media that Robert Mueller had recently brought in Steve Bannon to testify against Roger Stone. So who let that cat out of the bag? It could have been leaked by anyone, including Bannon, in an effort at looking cooperative. But then today we learned that Mueller has emails between Bannon and Stone that make them both look very guilty of conspiring against the United States. So who would leak that? Not Bannon. Not Stone. But that’s just the half of it.




This week the media managed to figure out that Mueller has been engaged in a secret two month court battle against an unknown adversary, and the courts are treating the proceedings with such unusual importance, it suggests the adversary may be Donald Trump himself. So did the media finally get lucky on this, after Mueller had been sneaking around in plain sight for months? Did the media just happen to trip over the Bannon interview, and the evidence against Bannon?


Maybe. The other explanation would be that Robert Mueller – who has clearly been periodically leaking things on purpose for strategic reasons, despite the oft-stated mantra that he never leaks anything – has been making it easy for the media to “uncover” these things because he’s preparing the public for what’s about to happen. Either way, a whole lot of Mueller’s cards are suddenly showing, and that strongly suggests that he’s very close to playing his hand against Donald Trump.

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The post A whole lot of Robert Mueller’s cards are suddenly showing appeared first on Palmer Report.

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