Archive | February 18th, 2017

Disqualify “The White Helmets” for an Oscar

NOVANEWS

Image result for White Helmets CARTOON

The Syria Solidarity Movement® advises disqualification of the film “The White Helmets” for a 2017 Academy Award.  It has been nominated in the category of Short Documentary.
 

The problems with this film

  1. It is more infomercial than documentary. The filmmakers never set foot in Syria..
  2. Much of the footage, including the opening scenes, appears staged, with sound effects, and may not be from Syria. The White Helmets have made faked scenes of this type.  The lighting is always perfect, as well as the camera work. There are never body parts or ghastly wounds.  The authenticity is completely unverified.
  3. Claims that the “White Helmets” are apolitical volunteers are false. White Helmet leaders actively campaign for US/NATO military intervention. They operate only in areas controlled by the armed opposition, primarily al-Nusra/al-Qaeda.
  4.  The White Helmets organization is a creation of foreign powers supporting the war to overthrow the Syrian government. It was initiated by James Le Mesurier, a British military contractor, with major funding from the UK, US, and other countries, now more than $100 million for this “volunteer” organization. The “White Helmets” brand is managed by a New York marketing company called “The Syria Campaign”, directed by an Anna Nolan, an Irish American who has never been to Syria. This is a media campaign, with the Netflix film being one of their promotions.
  5. The White Helmets stole the name Syrian Civil Defense from the legitimate organization of this name which has existed since the 1950s and which is a founding member of the International Civil Defense Organization. When terrorists invaded Aleppo in 2012, they stole equipment and killed volunteer rescue workers of the authentic Syrian Civil Defense.
  6. Claims that “White Helmets” are unarmed are untrue. Photos and videos show their members carrying arms and celebrating al-Nusra/al-Qaeda military victories.
  7. Claims that the White Helmets have saved 80,000 lives are nonsense and totally unsubstantiated.
  8. When the Syrian army recaptured east Aleppo in 2016, nearly all the civilians (of east Aleppo) rushed into the protection of government-controlled areas. The civilians described abuse by the “terrorists” and how civilians who tried to flee had been killed by the armed groups. These civilians described how the “White Helmets” prioritized support to the armed fighters and did little to help civilians.
“The White Helmets” film is typical of the disinformation and deceit in the war on Syria. For detailed information see Jan Oberg’s extensive articleJust How Grey are the White Helmets and Their Backers?. See also the video The White Helmets – Al Qaeda with a Facelift“.

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Put not your trust in judges

NOVANEWS
The fall of Michael Flynn involved not litigation, but threats of prosecution. But, if Trump is in fact brought down by the same scandal, it will not be leftwing litigation that does it, but the creation of a cross-party and inter-bureaucratic political coalition. And the result, if so, argues Howe Cheatem, will be president Pence and a new and rapid war drive

Donald Trump and Neil Gorsuch: tilting the balance of Scotus

Not so long ago, the media were giving intense attention to the decisions of the Queen’s Bench Divisional Court (November 3 2016) and the UK Supreme Court (January 24 2017) on Gina Miller’s litigation demanding that an act of parliament should precede the triggering of article 50 by Theresa May. The decisions were presented by the media as serious defeats for May’s government.

‘Not with a bang, but a whimper’, however: it turns out that all that is needed to satisfy the judgments is a very short act of parliament. (No surprise to any lawyer, since this stuff is usually taught at the beginning of a law degree.)

In fact, it appears that the real reason for May’s government to have resisted the demand for an act of parliament to authorise the triggering in the first place may have been, precisely, so that there should be judgments against the government. These could serve the purpose of the Tory press keeping the ‘Brexiteer’ fervour whipped up against ‘remoaner’ elites supposedly blocking the popular will. This political context then makes it practically impossible for either Labour or Tory ‘remainers’ to mount any effective opposition to the government’s plans; the litigation activities were false friends to ‘remain’ campaigners.1

An analogous process appears to be going on in the US. On January 27 the new president signed an executive order barring entry to certain refugees and to people from seven, predominantly Muslim, countries.

These countries were probably selected by the fact that they had already been targeted for tougher immigration control by the Obama administration. It remains striking that the one country whose citizens notoriously have executed a large-scale terrorist attack on US soil – Saudi Arabia – is not included: again, continuity with the Obama administration’s covert alliance with Saudi Arabia and its jihadi terrorist puppets, while ostensibly denouncing these puppets.

But Trump’s order was radical in that it barred persons with visas to enter the US, including some who already had ‘green cards’ permitting them to live and work in the country. Trump was using executive prerogative rights both to make general law and to divest vested rights: that is, to legislate. It caused immediate chaos at US airports.

Litigation

Predictably, like the May government’s claim that the government could trigger article 50 without a parliamentary vote, Trump’s travel ban order prompted rapid litigation. An interim decision was first of all taken on the claims of the states of Washington and Minnesota – where federal district judge James Robart on February 3 issued a ‘temporary restraining order’ (TRO – in English law terms, an ‘interlocutory injunction’) barring implementation nationwide. Trump denounced the “so-called judge”, but the administration immediately appealed as a matter of urgency rather than attempting to instruct immigration officers to defy the ruling.

The Federal Ninth Circuit (west coast) Court of Appeals refused to overturn the TRO on an interim basis on February 4, but heard the appeal against it very fast on February 7 and handed down its ruling, reaffirming the decision on February 9.2

Just see how quickly courts can act when they are under a lot of political pressure! Contrast the 2011 decision in Sienkiewicz v Greif, where the final decision in litigation about tort liability for mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure at work was delayed until six years after the death of the original victim.3 This was not an unusual degree of delay in such cases.

Trump, and White House sources more generally, have continued to denounce the decision and Fox News reported that “Republicans push bill to split up ‘nutty 9th Circuit’” (February 9), while White House spokesman Stephen Miller called the decision a “judicial usurpation of power”. But, in spite of Trump tweeting “See you in court!”, the administration has not, in fact, appealed to the United States Supreme Court. (The court is now commonly called ‘Scotus’, a US-military-style acronym, analogised from ‘Potus’ for the president, which is an actual department of defense acronym;4 the style has become popular, along with growing US militarism.5 From now on I will use the new terminology for convenience.)

Why not? The answer is, most likely, because the decision of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is extremely narrow – contrary to the impression which has been given of it by the media.

In the first place, they are both decisions about a TRO: an interim bar on applying Trump’s order, pending a full trial of the Washington and Minnesota claim. For this reason it might well happen that Scotus would simply refuse to hear an appeal; and anyhow the White House could respond to the media (as they did) that they were confident they would win at full trial.

Secondly, the actual argument is pretty narrow. It is conceded that the general power to let non-citizens into the country or keep them out is prima facie in the executive. This concession is plainly correct on the basis of the design of the US constitution, which is elective-constitutional-monarchist, with substantial carry-overs of 18th century English law, and on the basis of the prior precedents. The case that Trump’s order was unconstitutional can then be made in one of two ways.

Either, which is not straightforward, reading the order together with Trump’s electoral promise of a ‘Muslim ban’, it amounts to an ‘establishment of religion’ contrary to the ‘establishment clause’ in the first amendment to the constitution. This is not straightforward because, though there is precedent in support of it, it is all from the later 20th century, and is rejected by some ‘originalist’ legal theorists, for whom the general Christianity of the founders, and their Christian language, means that the establishment clause only prohibits establishment of a particular Christian religion and does not prohibit discrimination against non-Christian religions (an approach common in US practice down to World War II).6

Or, which is perfectly straightforward, the point is that it revokes existing visas and green cards without even the slightest due process for the individuals affected. This is not a controversial point at all. This is also the central point which, according to the Court of Appeals, justified the right of Washington and Minnesota states to sue: that the effect of the order was to exclude some of their employees who held green cards, came from affected countries and happened to be overseas when the ban was introduced; hence the states’ rights as employers were directly infringed.

The consequence is that – as the White House said on February 11 – it would be pretty easy to draft a new ban which would not fall foul of the reasoning of the decision, by leaving existing visas untouched (or even merely providing a case-by-case procedure for revoking them).7

Moreover, this approach would have the advantage of delay. As things now stand, Scotus is split four-four between ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’. If, however, Trump’s nominee, Neil Gorsuch, is endorsed by the Senate before any appeals reach the court, the ‘conservatives’ will have a prima facie majority. Washington Post journalists wrote on January 31 that “Republicans are hoping to confirm the nominee by early April before a two-week Easter recess, allowing Gorsuch to participate in the final cases of the court’s term ending in June.”

If, then, the due process aspects of Trump’s original order could be got out of the way, and the focus could be solely on executive powers in immigration control and the proper scope of the establishment clause, the litigation might end somewhere in the summer with a resounding reversal of establishment clause case law since the 1960s.

Meanwhile, just as the Miller litigation provided a target for the Mail and so on to attack ‘remoaners’, with the wind in their sails because of widespread mass opposition to immigration, so the travel ban litigation in the US provides the Trump administration with the opportunity to keep targeting liberals and liberal judges as elites undemocratically blocking the popular will.

Judicial powers

But, it may be said, the constitution there is different: the US courts are more powerful than UK courts. True, but only partly true.

Here, parliament is in theory sovereign (at least, that is what the Divisional Court and UK Supreme Court decisions in the Miller case on article 50 say). The underlying meaning of this sovereignty is that the final appeal is not to the UK Supreme Court, but to parliament. That means that, if push comes to shove, parliament can pass an act simply reversing a judicial decision: as was done, for example, in the National Health Service (Invalid Direction) Act 1980 – validating an individual ministerial decision which had been struck down as unlawful by the courts.

This juridical position, reaffirmed in Miller, is subject to real political limitations. The most important of these is that for a Labour government to pass an act like the NHS (Invalid Direction) Act 1980 would be regarded as precipitating a constitutional crisis, while it is constitutionally acceptable for Conservative governments (backed by the Tory press) to do so.

In the US, the 1803 decision in Marbury v Madison and its subsequent interpretation mean that the United States Supreme Court is juridically sovereign. That is, neither Congress nor the president has juridical power to actually reverse a decision of Scotus.

That power exists only in the form of amendment of the US constitution, requiring passage through both houses of Congress with two-thirds majorities, as well as ratification by three quarters of the states. A total of 27 amendments have been adopted since 1789. The first 10 of these constitute the 1791 ‘Bill of Rights’, and the 13th to 15th amendments put into effect the results of the 1861-65 civil war; that leaves 14 in 226 years – a pretty rare event.

But, just as parliamentary sovereignty in the UK has political limitations, so judicial supremacy in the USA has political limitations. It is well known that when FD Roosevelt responded to Scotus striking down New Deal legislation by attempting to expand the court and introduce a compulsory retirement age in order to ‘pack’ the court, one of the sitting judges changed sides in the next case – raising a constitutionality issue in order to ‘defang’ the political threat to the court.8

A general unwillingness to ‘go nuclear’ in confrontation between judiciary and executive, or between judiciary and Congress, is reflected not merely in the back-down (on both sides) in 1936-37, but also more recently.

For example, the US constitution allocates the power to declare war to the Congress, but the status of commander-in-chief of the armed forces to the president. For a considerable period of time, presidents have claimed that the powers of the commander-in-chief as such authorise them to deploy forces abroad (up to and including in actual combat) without a congressional declaration of war. After the Vietnam imbroglio, the two houses of Congress in 1973 passed the War Powers Resolution denouncing this doctrine except in the case of “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces”. Presidents have consistently claimed that the resolution is unconstitutional, and have acted outside it; but, since no-one is prepared to go for a constitutional confrontation on the issue, its constitutionality remains untested in the courts.9

Avoiding political confrontation is also reflected in legal doctrines which restrict the sort of claims which can be brought before the courts to challenge the constitutionality of legislation or executive action. The ‘case or controversy’ doctrine asserts that the court will not issue advisory opinions or general rulings; the parties must have a real and individual material stake in the outcome.10 Equally, following the same logic, courts will often decide cases on the narrowest possible basis: they see their job as to decide the case before them, not to settle the underlying disagreement about the constitution if they do not have to. And judges often express a degree of ‘deference’ to legislative or executive actors’ supposed expertise in particular fields.11

These last are precisely reasons why the ruling of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, discussed above, is narrow. But then they naturally imply that the high expectations created by liberal media outlets and by advocates of litigation as a left or anti-war tactic will pretty much invariably be disappointed. Compare Boumediene v Bush (2008), which establishes (by a five-four majority) the important principle that habeas corpus can reach detention in Guantanamo – with its ‘not with a bang, but a whimper’ practical outcome.12

Gorsuch

Into this context comes Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to Scotus. This poses sharply related issues, because Gorsuch is not a simple traditional ‘originalist’ rightwinger. He wrote an Oxford University doctoral thesis passed in 2004, titled ‘The right to receive assistance in suicide and euthanasia, with particular reference to the law of the United States’ under the supervision of professor John Finnis.13 It is an argument against assisted suicide and euthanasia (which incidentally also argues against general decriminalisation of suicide), on the basis of sanctity-of-life arguments of the sort commonly used to support the criminalisation of abortion.

Finnis is not any old academic doctoral supervisor. He is a Catholic holding strongly ‘traditionalist’ views on a range of subjects; and most famous for his 1980 book, Natural law and natural rights,14 which set out to vindicate a version of the natural law theory of Thomas Aquinas (c1225-74): ‘neo-Thomism’. Finnis’s argument supports ‘Thomism’ against modern ‘legal positivism’ (the idea that the question what the law is can be wholly separated from arguments of morality about what the law ought to be).

It also supports neo-Thomism against liberal versions of ‘natural rights’ theory (like John Locke’s) which have been used to support, for example, the right of women to control their own bodies, or the rejection of prohibitions on consensual forms of sexual conduct. There is no coincidence in the fact that neo-Thomism opposes this sort of natural rights argument.

An unusually systematic and rigorous critique of the arguments of Finnis and similar authors on this front was published in 2008 by NC Bamforth and AJ Richards, which demonstrates that, in spite of the neo-Thomists’ claims that their arguments are independent of revealed religion, in reality they depend on smuggling in Catholic religious doctrine.15

Brought up as a Catholic, Gorsuch listed among his school activities in the yearbook of his (Jesuit-run, private) high school “Fascism Forever Club (founder and president)”. It seems to have been a bad-taste joke, albeit one which strongly points towards rightist political commitment in general. As an adult, he has become an Episcopalian (the US equivalent of Anglican), presumably in order to be able to worship together with his Anglican Brit wife.

This point is ‘political’ because Gorsuch has been touted as potentially the only Protestant Scotus justice.16 It is also material to how he could be expected to act as a judge, because there is, in fact, an inconsistency between Anglicanism and neo-Thomist natural law theory here. Anglicanism is founded on the subordination of the church to parliamentary statute. Neo-Thomist natural law theory, in contrast, implies a limit on the right of a parliament or congress to legislate against Catholic doctrine.

Gorsuch’s published work clearly implies that, in spite of his apparent Episcopalianism, we should expect him to act judicially as a neo-Thomist, not as an Anglican. He may even be completely unaware of the Anglican politico-legal theology of the subordination of the church to state sovereignty (there is, after all, an ‘Anglo-Catholic’ trend within English Anglicanism17).

Abortion is the notorious ‘big issue’ with US Christian ‘conservatives’ long committed to re-establishing back-street abortion manslaughter. But narrow interpretation of the establishment clause to allow legal discrimination against non-Christians would also follow logically from neo-Thomist arguments – as do a whole raft of other positions.

Aquinas, for example, argued that political authority was necessarily and naturally monarchical – a stronger claim for monarchy than was made by most monarchist theorists.18 It is then perhaps unsurprising that Finnis should argue for a narrow view of parliamentary sovereignty, and hence for the royal prerogative to apply to triggering article 50.19

Law, politics, morality

In the debates over Brexit and the travel ban, the nationalist-rightists complain that the unelected judges are usurping the right to make political decisions from the electorate. The judges, on the other hand, insist that they are not making political decisions, but merely legal ones.

The issue in relation to the Gorsuch nomination and his connection to neo-Thomism is, in fact, the same, but presented in a different form. It raises the question whether the separation of law from religious moral judgments is desirable or, indeed, possible.

Before saying anything about the substance of the issue, it is necessary to make two preliminary points. The first is that the right, which is now complaining that the decisions of the courts against its views are political, will, if it gets court decisions compliant with its view, assert that these are purely legal and not political at all. So rightwing commentators’ use of the point is just rhetorical spin.

The second is that, when judges explicitly assert that what they are deciding is not political at all, this usually means that the they have actually anxiously considered the political implications of the decision. They merely do not wish to admit to political motivations in front of media and political attention.

In contrast, when the media are not paying attention, judges will commonly make broad policy and substantive ‘justice’ claims. Thus, for a single example, in Tiensia v Vision Enterprises (2010) the Court of Appeal by a majority drove a coach and horses through the provisions of the Housing Act 2004 for protection of tenant deposits, on the ground that the sanction provided by the act was unfair to landlords, and hence ‘must’ be interpreted in a way which would make it never operate in practice.20

Within the framework of these points, what can be said is, first, there are such things as legal rules which are morally neutral. But there is an enormous degree of overlap between ‘is’ and ‘ought’ in law. The reasons for rejecting neo-Thomism are, then, not that legal positivism (that societies can make effective legal rules completely arbitrarily) is true, but rather that the concrete moral value claims of neo-Thomism are false.

Second, there is such a thing as rules of law – or, more exactly, types of judicial disputes – which are in principle not immediately tinged with political choices for the whole society. But again there is enormous overlap: as soon as we move from the individual disputes to the rules to be applied to them, politics tends to become implicated.

To take the first point first, and give a concrete example. Should the rule of the road require us to drive on the left or on the right? There is a moral need that there should be some rule, but it is completely arbitrary which rule should be adopted. In this sense, the concrete legal rule in itself is morally neutral; and there are very numerous similar morally neutral rules. In contrast, the rule against killing other people (subject to various exceptions) is pretty clearly a moral as well as a legal rule.

The problem arises as soon as we are forced to decide on the borders of a rule. An example given by legal positivist theorist HLA Hart is a rule banning ‘vehicles’ in a park.21 Is a kiddy-car banned? And then, if a kiddy-car is not banned, is a child-sized motorised go-kart? Hart’s view is that, when confronted with an issue like this, the judges act as subsidiary legislators – in which case what they do is plainly political, as the rightwingers argue. The ‘natural law’ theorists, and RM Dworkin,22 argue that judges in this situation are forced to ask what the purpose of the rule is in order to establish its scope; and this process inevitably becomes one of moral judgment.

The idea that the judges are subsidiary legislators is violently artificial, precisely because the interpretive activity is so commonplace. Indeed, we do it every day in ordinary conversation, to decode from the context which among several possible meanings of a word is intended. ‘Law and economics’ theorist and US federal judge RA Posner argues, in my view rightly, that there is no such thing as an ‘ordinary, natural meaning’ of words without this interpretive process.23

It is, then, impossible to establish meanings fully independent of the purposes of rules; and moral claims inevitably form part of the interpretive process.

The problem with neo-Thomism is that itsmoral claims are false. To take one of the obvious and most controversial cases: abortion. The argument for the sanctity of life is made on the basis of natural law reasonings which, if carefully analysed, turn out to depend on the will of ‘god, the creator’, as read off from his (sic) creation, or the teleological good for humans as so read off. But we now know that abortion takes place without human intervention under conditions of serious malnutrition.24 That is, supposing for the sake of argument that there was a ‘god, the creator’, his creation is such that the survival of the pregnant female is preferred to that of the foetus. The strong sanctity-of-life claim against abortion is therefore untenable.

Similar objections can be made to a great deal of the neo-Thomist reasoning. Seriously pursuing such points leads to the conclusion reached (more politely) by Bamforth and Richards, that this theory is nothing but apologetics for gender bias and for clericalism.

Turning to the second point. Suppose Adam and Bill are involved in a motor accident involving no-one else and dispute who is to blame; or that Clare and Dot have a boundary dispute about their respective gardens. This sort of litigation is, on its face, politically neutral.

It turns out, however, that the rules applied even to such cases are anything but apolitical. The judiciary, the bar and the insurance companies cling to a set of rules for dealing with motor accidents, which are dilatory and expensive – but lucrative for lawyers and incidentally protect the interests of insurance companies in accident litigation outside the road traffic context.25 Parliament in 2002 seriously damaged the rules for deciding boundary disputes in the interests of saving banks the small cost of inspecting the property before granting a mortgage.26 These are both political choices (albeit ones carried on almost entirely behind the backs of the legislators, let alone the electorate).

… and party politics

How are these grand-theoretical points about law, politics and morality relevant to what is going on in the party politics of Brexit and of ‘Trumpism’? The answer is that they help to explain why the tactic of left litigation fails – both as a way of jumping to a solution, thus avoiding the need to rebuild an independent labour movement at the grassroots; and as a way of constructing a ‘broad democratic alliance’ with the liberals against the ‘Trumpists’ or the Brexiteers considered as forms of the far right.

Judicial action in itself is inherently implicated in politics. Moreover, at the end of the day, judges are paid by taxes raised by state coercion and their judgments on any matter will only take effect if implemented by bailiffs, police, and in the last analysis armed forces (as, for example, in Waco, Texas in 1993). Hence, judges seek as far as possible to avoid large-scale political confrontations with other branches of the state.

The consequence is that leftist litigation as an alternative to independent mobilisation will inevitably end ‘not with a bang, but a whimper.’ If, on the other hand, litigation takes place in the context of a real mass mobilisation (not meaning a mere small-scale street protest movement), then the right wing may well back off through the litigation.

Equally, suppose that the litigation is defined by an alliance between a section of big capital and the left, in the name of liberal principles, against backward sections of the petty bourgeoisie and working class, which are themselves aligned to another section of capital. This is true of both Miller and the travel ban litigation (just as it was true of the Boston ‘bussing’ litigation in the 1970s27). The result is that the litigation serves to harden the right-populist, cross-class alliance and reduce the possibility of building effectively against it.

It may be that Trump will be brought down in the near future, as his national security advisor, Michael Flynn, has been. The fall of Flynn involved not litigation, but threats of prosecution, under an ancient (1799) act of Congress. But, if Trump is in fact brought down by the same scandal, it will not be leftwing litigation that brings down Trump, but the creation of a cross-party and inter-bureaucratic political coalition around the issue of aggression against Russia. And the result, if so, will be president Pence and a new and rapid war drive; leaving the left and the workers’ movement overall weaker.

The use of litigation in the name of a ‘broad democratic alliance’ and/or ‘anti-fascism’ will then have contributed to the unfolding disaster.

Notes

1. A secondary point might have been to delay the need to make any firm decisions until after the US presidential election. The victory of Trump has meant support for Brexit; a Clinton victory would probably have forced the British government to try to find some way out from the referendum decision.

2. http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2017/02/09/17-35105.pdf.

3. Sienkiewicz (estate of Costello) v Greif (UK) Ltd (2011) UKSC 10.

4. www.dtic.mil/doctrine/dod_dictionary.

5. William Safire offered a longer history for Potus: ‘On language; Potus and Flotus’ New York Times October 12 1997.

6. A critique of a less extreme variant of this view is offered in AM Koppelman, ‘Phony originalism and the establishment clause’ (2011) Northwestern Law Faculty Working Papers No3 (http://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/facultyworkingpapers/3).

7. ‘Donald Trump considering “brand new” immigration order’ The Guardian February 11.

8. Significance debated: D Ho and KM Quinn, ‘Did a switch in time save nine’ J Leg Analysis Vol 2 (2010), pp69-113. One of the very common references, this one in an interesting rightist post: https://mises.org/blog/congress-should-pack-supreme-court (Nov 23 2016).

9. Eg, KJ McHale, ‘The war powers resolution: intent, implementation and impact (1993): www.dtic.mil/get-tr-doc/pdf?AD=ADA276778; TS Boylan, GA Phelps, ‘The war powers resolution: a rationale for Congressional inaction’ Parameters spring 2001, pp109-24.

10 There is a convenient outline summary in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Case_or_Controversy_Clause.

11. One example from the very extensive discussion, this time in relation to the ‘war on terror’, is in KL Scheppele, ‘The new judicial deference’ Boston U LR Vol 92 (2012), pp89-170.

12. Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boumediene_v._Bush) provides a convenient summary of both the case and the subsequent outcomes. Guantanamo Bay detention has survived Obama in spite of his campaign promises: The Guardian January 18 2017. Only the application of the Habeas Corpus Act 1679, criminalising such activities on penalty of forfeiture of all property and disqualification for life from public office (repealed in English law), could really hope to end such practices.

13. The thesis has been published in an edited form as The future of assisted suicide and euthanasia (Princeton 2006).

14. J Finnis Natural law and natural rights New York 1980.

15. NC Bamforth and AJ Richards Patriarchal religion, sexuality and gender Cambridge UP.

16 There have been 86,500 hits for ‘Gorsuch Protestant’ on Google: eg, Christianity Today January 31 (www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2017/january/trump-nominates-neil-gorsuch-supreme-court.html).

17 A convenient if debatable short summary is at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Catholicism.

18 De regno, ad regem Cypri: http://dhspriory.org/thomas/DeRegno.htm#3; ‘Thomas Aquinas: political philosophy’: www.iep.utm.edu/aqui-pol; Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ‘Medieval political philosophy’, chapter 9: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/medieval-political/#ThoAqu.

19 Eg, ‘Terminating treaty-based UK rights’ (October 2016): https://ukconstitutionallaw.org/2016/10/26/john-finnis-terminating-treaty-based-uk-rights; and several subsequent interventions.

20. EWCA (2010) Civ 1224.

21. HLA Hart The concept of law Clarendon 1961, chapter 7.

22. RM Dworkin Law’s empire Fontana 1986, passim.

23. RA Posner Theproblems of jurisprudence Harvard UP 1990, chapter 1.

24. Eg, J Neela and L Raman, ‘The relationship between maternal nutritional status and spontaneous abortion’: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9069700.

25. See the discussion in P Cane and P Atiyah Accidents, compensation and the law Cambridge 2013.

26. Land Registration Act, sections 97-98 and schedule 6; Zarb v Parry (2011) EWCA Civ 1306.

27. The convenient summary account on Wikipedia is at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_busing_desegregation. The episode was disastrous for the US ‘New communist movement’.

Posted in USAComments Off on Put not your trust in judges

Pakistan: Who is Behind Lahore Terror Attack?

NOVANEWS

By Sajjad Shaukat

At least 13 people were killed and 85 injured on February 13, this year when a suicide bomber

struck outside the Punjab Assembly on the Mall Road in the eastern city of Lahore, Pakistan

during a peaceful protest of the chemists and pharmacists against a new law.

Seven police officials, including two senior officers—SSP Operations Zahid Gondal of Punjab

Police and DIG Traffic Lahore Capt (retd) Ahmad Mobin were among those killed in the attack.

The affiliated faction of the Tehreek-e- Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Tehreek-e- Taliban Pakistan

Jamaat-ur- Ahrar (TTP-JA) took responsibility for the deadly suicide bombing in Lahore.

Terror attack in Lahore coincided with the incident in Quetta-the provincial capital of Pakistan’s

Balochistan province, where at least one policeman was killed and five people were injured on

February 13, 2017 in an explosion occurred on Sariab road.

It is mentionable that the final cricket match of the ongoing Pakistan Super League (PSL),

being played in Dubai (United Arab Emirates) was to be held in just a few weeks’ time at

Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium—nearly six kilometers away from the blast site. The return of

cricket to Pakistan was being touted as a successful demonstration of the PSL final in

Lahore—a move which could have presented the country as a safe nation to the world.

PSL chairman Najam Sethi, on many occasions, had said that foreign players participating in

the league have signed contracts which abide them to play the final in Lahore; however, they

have always quoted security as an issue. Hopefully Sethi and the Chairman of Pakistan Cricket

Board (PCB) Shaharyar Khan and the Pakistani players were helping to convince the foreign

ones to come to Pakistan for the PSL final match. Hence, apart from other sinister aims,

especially India is behind the latest explosion in Lahore to sabotage the final cricket match.

Besides, at least 24 people had been killed and over 50 injured in a powerful explosion that

ripped through a crowded marketplace in Parachinar Kurram tribal agency on January 21, this

year. Soon after the incident, Afghan-based TTP claimed responsibility for the blast in

Parachinar.

At least 65 people were killed and more than 100 others were injured when a blast struck at

the shrine of the Sufi saint Shah Noorani in Balochistan’s Hub Tehsil on November 12, 2016.

The Middle East-based movement of the Islamic State group (Also known as Daesh, ISIS, ISIL)

had accepted responsibility for the attack via Amaq, its affiliated news agency. ISIS had also

claimed responsibility for a terror assault on the Police Training College in Quetta, which left at

least 60 individuals dead on October 24, 2016.

Earlier, the affiliated faction of the TTP, TTP-JA took responsibility for a deadly suicide

bombing in Quetta, which killed at least 74 people on August 8, 2016 in an attack at the

government-run Civil Hospital.

In fact, the armed forces of Pakistan have broken the backbone of the foreign-backed terrorists

by the successful military operation Zarb-e- Azb which has also been extended to other parts of

the country, including Balochistan. And Pakistan’s primary intelligence agency, ISI has broken

the network of these terrorist groups by capturing several militants, while thwarting a number of

terror attempts.

Since the government of the Balochistan province announced general pardon and protection to

the Baloch militants as part of reconciliation process, many insurgents and their leaders have

surrendered their arms and decided to work for the development of Pakistan and the province,

peace has been restored in Balochistan, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, FATA (Tribal

Areas) and Karachi. But, it is due to lack of effective management mechanism at the Pak-Afghan

border that as part of the double game, the US-led India and Israel have again started acts of

sabotage in Pakistan to destabilize the latter. They are also trying to sabotage the China-Pakistan

Economic Corridor (CPEC).

It was part of ploy that two terrorist groups accepted responsibility for the terror assault at the

Police Training College in Quetta to divert the attention from the US-led India and Israel.

Based in Afghanistan, operatives of CIA, Mossad and RAW which are well-penetrated in the

terrorist outfits like ISIS, TTP and their affiliated Taliban groups are using their terrorists to

destabilize Tibetan regions of China, Iranian Sistan-Baluchistan and Pakistan’s Balochistan by

arranging the subversive activities.

As regards the terror assault on the Police Training College in Quetta, IG FC Major General Sher

Afgun had informed the press that the attackers acted on directions from Afghanistan and the

initial investigation suggested that the terrorists were affiliated with the outlawed Lashkar-e-

Jhangvi Al Almi militant group. He elaborated, “We came to know from the communication

intercepts that there were three militants who were getting instructions from Afghanistan.”

Notably, as part of the dual strategy, CIA, RAW and Mossad are in connivance with the Afghan

intelligence agency, National Directorate of Security (NDS) and other terrorist groups. With

latest capture of six NDS supported terrorists in Balochistan, the number of NDS backed

terrorists arrested and killed by Pakistani Intelligence agencies has crossed over 126. These

external secret agencies are particularly supporting the TTP which is hiding in Nuristan and

Kunar provinces of Afghanistan. Reportedly, Mullah Fazlullah led TTP was being prepared to

carry out a fresh wave of terror activities inside Pakistan, as the latter has become center of the

Great Game owing to the ideal location of Balochistan.

Located on the southwestern coast of Pakistan, Balochistan’s Gwadar seaport is close to the

Strait of Hormuz from where more than 17 million barrels of oil passes every day. Its location

among South Asia, the oil-rich Middle East, and oil and gas-resourced Central Asia has further

increased its strategic significance. Besides, Balochistan’s abundant mineral resources irritate the

eyes of the US, India and Israel which intend to weaken Pakistan for their collective aims, as the

latter is also the only nuclear country in the Islamic World.

As regards Balochistan, every Pakistani knows that the militant outfits like ISIS and separatist

groups like the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and their affiliated groups, including

Jundollah (God’s soldiers) and Lashkar-i- Janghvi which have been creating unrest in the

Balochistan get logistic support from RAW and Mossad with the tactical assistance of CIA. In

the recent years, these terrorist outfits massacred many persons through suicide attacks, bomb

blasts, targeted killings and sectarian violence. These externally-supported insurgent groups had

kidnapped and killed many Chinese and Iranian nationals in Pakistan including Iranian

diplomats. They have claimed responsibility for a number of terror assaults, including those on

Shias in Balochsitan and Iranian Sistan-Baluchistan.

As a matter of fact, like Syrian war, as part of the dual strategy of their countries, CIA, RAW and

Mossad are especially using ISIS terrorists who are behind the latest blasts in Balochistan to

obtain the covert aims of their countries against Pakistan, China and Iran.

It is of particular attention that arrest of the Indian spy Kulbushan Yadav in Balochistan has

exposed Indian undeclared war against Pakistan. While addressing a joint press conference with

Federal Minister for Information Pervaiz Rasheed, Director General of Inter-Services Public

Relations (ISPR) Lt. Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa said on March 29, 2016, “Kulbushan Yadav’s

arrest is a rare case that does not happen very often.” He disclosed that Yadav was an active

officer of the Indian Navy prior to his joining RAW. He also served as a scrap dealer and had a

jewelry business in Chahbahar, Iran, after he joined RAW in 2013.

A video was also shown during the press conference in which Yadav confessed that he spied for

India. Yadav admitted that he was assigned with the task to create unrest in Karachi and

Balolchitan by stating, “I supported the individuals who worked to destabilize Pakistan…I

promoted the criminal mindset that was there in Balochistan.” Another task assigned to him was

to target the Gwadar Port. Yadav also confessed—funding Baloch separatists along with other

terrorists. During investigation, RAW agent Yadav admitted that during his stay, he contacted

various Baloch separatist leaders and insurgents, including Dr Allah Nazar Baloch, to execute

the task to damage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s secret agencies uncovered another ring of Indian spies in the country,

working as under covert agents, found involved in subversive activities to destabilize Pakistan.

In this connection, on November 2, last year, Islamabad disclosed that five Indian diplomats who

were serving at the Indian High Commission in Islamabad found to be part of the RAW spy

network and were involved in subversive activities by facilitating and funding terrorism. They

were declared as persona non grata and expelled from the country.

Undoubtedly, almost all the terrorists or terrorist groups and insurgency in Pakistan, especially

have their connections in Afghanistan. The porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is

frequently used by human and drug traffickers, criminals and terrorists. Their easy access

through unguarded porous border provides opportunity to miscreants to cause havoc inside

Pakistan and Afghanistan. For effective counter terrorism measures strong border, control

management is vital at Pak-Afghan border. But, Afghan rulers are using delaying tactics in this

respect.

Taking note of the anti-Pakistan intruders, Pakistan’s army had decided to build a fence along the

border, and to control the border crossings. The strategic project of 1,100-kilometre- long trench

with the cost of Rs14 billion which was initiated along Pak-Afghan border in Balochistan by

Frontier Corps in 2013 has been completed last year. In the next phase, the project will be

extended to the entire long border with Afghanistan which had opposed this plan.

While, from time to time, controversy arises between Afghanistan and Pakistan when Afghan

officials refused to recognize the Durand Line which is the 2640 kilometer long and porous

border, situated between both the countries.

The issue again came to the limelight on June 12, 2016 when Afghan security forces started

unprovoked firing at Torkham border crossing, resulting in injuries to more than 16 Pakistani

citizens, including the martyrdom of some Pakistani security personnel. The aim was to stop

Pakistan from construction of a gate.

Durand Line has not been drawn by Pakistan, but it was declared border line by British

representative Sir Durand and Afghan Ameer Ghazi Amanullah Khan in 1919. People of

Pakistan’s province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA (Tribal Areas) opted to join Pakistan in

1947. So, it is a declared border line and Afghan government has no right to object on any

construction along with the Durand line.

There is no doubt that escalation of tension at Pak- Afghan border is deliberately engineered by

the elements opposed to peace talks and improvement of bilateral relations between Islamabad

and Kabul.

Pakistan is committed to tackle the problem of terrorism mainly emanating from Afghanistan.

Therefore, the effective border management becomes imperative to control all the terrorism-

related infiltrations, drug smuggling etc.  Moreover, effective border management will also

facilitate both countries to come out of blame game, as it would offer a strict check on both sides

to counter the free movement of terrorists and drug mafia lords, who are the important factors of

deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and its obvious backlash on Pakistan.

Besides, Afghan peace and reconciliation process is a reality despite of its slow pace and

continual interruptions. The positive trajectory of constructive relations between Islamabad and

Kabul raised alarm-bells amongst the US-led adversaries who are attempting to affect the

progressive Pak-Afghan relations through smear and sinister scheming.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have previously suggested many initiatives to resolve their differences.

However, as fast as these solutions had emerged, they have disappeared due to lack of follow-up.

Afghanistan and Pakistan have no other option, but to cooperate and resolve their differences

through political and diplomatic dialogue. And there is a huge lack of trust between the both

sides. Hence, it is imperative for both the countries to develop a framework for strategic

dialogue, focused on short, medium and long term solutions. As a trust building initiative, an

effective border management mechanism will be beneficial for the two countries. Such an

establishment will also plug in many loop holes, being manipulated by the terrorist outfits to

conduct cross border terrorism.

Returning to our earlier discussion, with the assistance of CIA and Mossad, particularly Indian

RAW is behind the terror attack in Lahore.

 

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants,
Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

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Trump Caves on Flynn’s Resignation

NOVANEWS

Exclusive: President Trump’s acceptance of National Security Advisor Flynn’s resignation marks Official Washington’s first big success in neutering Trump and killing hopes for a détente with Russia, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The neocon-dominated U.S. foreign policy establishment won an important victory in forcing the resignation of President Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn over a flimsy complaint that he had talked to the Russian ambassador during the transition.

Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn speaks at the Defense Intelligence Agency change of directorship at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, July 24, 2012. (DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo)

The Washington Post, the neoconservatives’ media flagship, led the assault on Flynn, an unorthodox thinker who shared the neocons’ hostility toward Iran but broke with them in seeing no strategic reason to transform Russia into an implacable enemy.

After Flynn’s resignation on Monday evening, the Post gloated over its success in achieving the first major crack in Trump’s resistance to Official Washington’s establishment. The Post cited Flynn’s “potentially illegal contacts” with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, a reference to the Logan Act, a 1799 never-enforced law that forbids private citizens from negotiating with a country in dispute with the U.S. government.

Though no one has ever been prosecuted under the Logan Act, it has been cited in recent decades as an excuse to attack American citizens who disagree with U.S. government policies while traveling abroad and having contacts with foreign leaders.

Often those accusations are aimed at Americans seeking to peacefully resolve disputes when a U.S. president is eager to escalate a conflict, such as President Ronald Reagan’s denunciations of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson for visiting Cuba and House Speaker Jim Wright for exploring ways to end the Contra war in Nicaragua.

In other words, the Logan Act is usually exploited in a McCarthyistic fashion to bait or discredit peace advocates, similarly to how it has now been used to destroy Flynn for daring to look for ways to reduce the dangerous tensions between Washington and Moscow.

But the media-driven attacks on Flynn are particularly curious since he was the National Security Advisor-designate of an incoming administration at the time of the calls and – as such – he would be expected to make contacts with important foreign officials to begin laying the groundwork for relations with the new president.

Whether U.S. sanctions against Russia were mentioned or not, the notion that an elected president or his designees – during a transition – can have no meaningful contact with diplomats whom they may need to deal with in a matter of weeks represents a particularly contentious interpretation of a law that has never been tested in a court of law and may well represent an unconstitutional infringement on free speech and dissent.

An Expanding Hysteria

Indeed, referencing the Logan Act appears to be an excuse to continue – and expand – Official Washington’s hysteria over Russia, which has become the useful villain to blame for every U.S. foreign policy debacle  and even Hillary Clinton’s disastrous presidential run.

Donald Trump and Governor Mike Pence of Indiana speaking to supporters at an immigration policy speech at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. August 31, 2016. (Flickr Gage Skidmore)

Flynn’s more egregious offense in this case may have been to mislead Vice President Mike Pence on exactly what was discussed, but Trump’s White House has not seemed previously overly concerned with the precise accuracy of its statements.

Indeed, Trump and his team have tangled themselves up for weeks by promoting “alternative facts” — that Donald Trump’s inaugural crowd was bigger than Barack Obama’s and that Trump would have won the popular vote if not for three million to five million illegal votes. Though these absurd claims pertain more to Trump’s ego than to anything important, he and his representatives have continued fighting these fights on Twitter and TV appearances and show no signs of stopping.

So, the ouster of Flynn for failing to provide a complete readout on some telephone conversations in December stands out as even more significant in the context of the deluge of falsehoods that have poured forth from Trump’s White House.

Flynn’s real “offense” appears to be that he favors détente with Russia rather than escalation of a new and dangerous Cold War. Trump’s idea of a rapprochement with Moscow – and a search for areas of cooperation and compromise – has been driving Official Washington’s foreign policy establishment crazy for months and the neocons, in particular, have been determined to block it.

Though Flynn has pandered to elements of the neocon movement with his own hysterical denunciations of Iran and Islam in general, he emerged as a key architect for Trump’s plans to seek a constructive relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Meanwhile, the neocons and their liberal-interventionist sidekicks have invested heavily in making Putin the all-purpose bête noire to justify a major investment in new military hardware and in pricy propaganda operations.

The neocons and liberal hawks also hated Flynn because – as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency – he oversaw a prescient 2012 analysis that foresaw that their support for the Syrian insurgency would give rise to “a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria.”

The DIA report, which was partially declassified in a lawsuit over the 2012 killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other U.S. personnel in Benghazi, Libya, embarrassed the advocates for an escalation of the war in Syria and the ouster of secular President Bashar al-Assad.

Flynn even went further in a 2015 interview when he said the intelligence was “very clear” that the Obama administration made a “willful decision” to back these jihadists in league with Middle East allies, a choice that looked particularly stupid when Islamic State militants started beheading American hostages and capturing cities in Iraq.

A Beloved ‘Regime Change’

But “regime change” in Syria was dear to the neocons’ hearts. After all, Israeli leaders had declared Assad’s removal central to smashing the so-called “Shiite crescent” reaching from Tehran through Damascus to Beirut.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Aug. 30, 2013, claims to have proof that the Syrian government was responsible for a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21, 2013, but that evidence failed to materialize or was later discredited. [State Department photo]

The neocons and liberal hawks had come very close to getting the direct U.S. military intervention that they so wanted to destroy Assad’s army after a mysterious sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013. The Obama administration quickly pinned the atrocity on Assad even though a number of U.S. intelligence analysts suspected a “false flag” attack carried out by jihadists.Still, despite those doubts, it appeared a bombing campaign against Assad was in the offing, except that Obama delayed its implementation and Putin then proposed an alternative in which Assad would surrender all his chemical weapons.

Putin’s interference in the neocon/liberal-hawk war plans made him the new prime target – and Ukraine became ground zero for the effort to explode the cooperative relationship between Obama and Putin.

On Sept. 26, 2013, only weeks after the aborted U.S. bombing campaign against Syria, Carl Gershman, the neocon president of the U.S.-government-funded National Endowment for Democracy, took to the Post’s op-ed page to declare “Ukraine the biggest prize” and suggest that winning it could ultimately lead to toppling Putin inside Russia.

Key U.S. government neocons, such as Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland and Sen. John McCain, then began pushing for the violent right-wing coup that – in February 2014 – ousted Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych and touched off the new Cold War with Russia.

Amid these heightened tensions, the mainstream media in the United States and Europe joined in the full-scale Russia/Putin-bashing. All rational perspective on the underlying reality was lost, except for a handful of independent Internet journalists and foreign-policy outsiders who rejected the over-the-top propaganda.

A Few Dissenters Too Many

But even a few dissenters were a few dissenters too many. So, to enforce the new groupthink – holding Russia at fault for pretty much everything – a new McCarthyism emerged, deeming anyone who dared disagree a “Moscow stooge” or a “Russian propagandist.”

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking with supporters at a campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona, March 21, 2016. (Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The ugliness penetrated into the U.S. presidential campaign because Democrat Hillary Clinton took a belligerent line toward Russia while Trump broke with the Republican establishment and called for improved ties between Washington and Moscow. Clinton called Trump Putin’s “puppet” and – after Clinton’s stunning loss – the Obama administration floated unproven allegations that Putin had intervened in the election to put Trump in the White House.

This hysteria over Russia gained added strength because Democrats were so angry over Trump’s election that liberal and progressive operatives saw a chance to build a movement and raise lots of money by pushing the Trump-Putin accusations.

This opportunism has turned much of the liberal/progressive community into a pro-New Cold War constituency willing to engage in a new breed of McCarthyism by demanding intensive investigations into alleged connections between Americans and Russians.

From the neocon side, The Washington Post has gone so far as to promote baseless accusations from an anonymous group called PropOrNot that 200 Internet sites, including Consortiumnews.com and other important independent news sources, are guilty of spreading Russian propaganda. Congress approved a new $160 million bureaucracy to combat such “propaganda.”

However, since Trump’s inauguration, the focus has shifted to Flynn, as the personification of the effort to cool off the New Cold War, because he had phone conversations with the Russian ambassador that presumably were intercepted by U.S. intelligence.

Because Flynn supposedly misrepresented some details of the calls to Vice President Mike Pence, senior Justice Department holdovers from the Obama administration concocted an argument that Flynn might be vulnerable to Russian blackmail.

The argument is dubious because the Russians would know that the U.S. government knew exactly what the conversations entailed, so how would the blackmail work? But this “blackmail” argument is another throwback to the earlier McCarthy days when gays were barred from sensitive government jobs because of their alleged susceptibility to blackmail.

But the gambit to get Flynn worked. Amid frenzied coverage on CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post, The New York Times and the rest of the mainstream media, Flynn and the Russia détente that he stood for were not expected to be long for this world of Official Washington.

Flynn’s resignation and its acceptance by Trump also prove that these tactics work and that “tough-guy” Trump is not immune to them. While the President may battle to the end over pointless questions about the size of his inaugural crowd and his belief that he should have won the popular vote, he will cave when the pressure builds on a matter of genuine substance and real importance to the future of the world.

The so-called permanent government of Washington and its complicit mainstream media – what some call the Deep State – have taught Trump a lesson and have learned a lesson, too. They now can be expected to redouble their march toward war and more war, ironically with progressives and leftists in tow.

 

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Tillerson Attends G20 Summit with NATO and Russia as Policy Priorities

NOVANEWS

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivers remarks to Department of State employees upon arrival at the Department of State in Washington, U.S., Feb. 2, 2017.

  • U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivers remarks to Department of State employees upon arrival at the Department of State in Washington, U.S., Feb. 2, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

The U.S. and Russian relationship continues to cause friction, particularly over NATO.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attended the G20 summit Thursday in Bonn, Germany for his first official foreign trip to discuss the future of NATO and meet with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

RELATED: Trump Calls Intelligence Agencies ‘Un-American’ After Leaks

Foreign policy rhetoric under U.S. President Donald Trump’s new administration has left many around the world wondering what will materialize, particularly in regards to NATO and Russia. Russian spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that in the scheduled meeting will Tillerson, Lavrov will “discuss bilateral relations, which were taken into a dead end by the previous administration.”

Tillerson and Lavrov’s meeting comes amid ongoing accusations of Russian hacking and the resignation of Trump’s national security aide Michael Flynn after allegations that he discussed U.S. sanctions on Russia with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak before Trump took power.

A key point of friction between the two states is U.S. imposed sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis, which many say could be reversed under Trump’s new administration.

Earlier this week, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that the U.S. “expects the Russian government to de-escalate violence in the Ukraine and return Crimea.” Russia, however, has remained steadfast on keeping its presence in the territories.

WATCH: Media Review – Russian Interference in the US Elections

Trump has also been critical of NATO, labeling the bloc as a drain on U.S. resources. Many European states have been wary of waning U.S. support, especially Baltic and Eastern European states who are fearful of Russian influence in the region.

During a NATO defense meeting yesterday, U.S. defense secretary James Mattis explained that while the U.S. would support the bloc, other NATO allies needed to increase their defense spending or the U.S. would start to “moderate” its commitment to the organization.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told state media that NATO has justified its expansion amid perceived Russian threats and “has been constantly provoking us in order to embroil us in confrontation.”

RELATED: Russia and Ecuador to Sign Peaceful Space Deal

Tillerson, a former CEO of oil giant ExxonMobil, is known for his close business and personal connections to Russia. In 2013, Putin awarded Tillerson Russia’s Order of Friendship.

Other pressing foreign policy concerns for Tillerson at the talks include ongoing conflicts in Yemen and Syria, a missile launch by North Korea and ongoing disputes over territorial claims in the South China Sea. The two-day talks in Bonn come ahead of the main G20 meeting in Hamburg scheduled for July, where heads of state from 20 of the world’s major economies will be present.

Posted in USA, RussiaComments Off on Tillerson Attends G20 Summit with NATO and Russia as Policy Priorities

Zambian Government Continues Crackdown on Media

NOVANEWS
  • Zambian president Edgar Chagwa Lungu speaks at the UN General Assembly in New York, Sept. 29, 2015.
    Zambian president Edgar Chagwa Lungu speaks at the UN General Assembly in New York, Sept. 29, 2015. | Photo: Reuters
As part of efforts to silence critical voices, the Zambian government has shut-down four media outlets in less than five months.

Armed police officers on Wednesday afternoon raided esteemed journalist Dr. Fred M’membe’s residence in Lusaka, Zambia as part of broader government efforts to crack down on alternative media outlets.

RELATED: Zambia: Lungu Wins Re-Election Amid Unrest and Charges of Fraud

Dr. M’membe was editor-in-chief of Zambia’s main independent newspaper, The Post, which was controversially liquidated and subsequently forced to close after allegations that it owed $6 million in unpaid taxes.

However, the legal charges targeting the Post have been repeatedly denounced by international watchdogs and African social movements as politically motivated efforts to silence dissenting voices within the country.

“It is clear for all to see that the Patriotic Front is determined to eliminate The Post Newspaper, and Fred M’membe himself by any means necessary. Obviously this is an attack on freedom of the press, which is the cornerstone of any democratic society,” Africa’s largest and most influential trade union, NUMSA, said in a statement Thursday.

Meanwhile, in a recent report, the Media Institute of Southern Africa cited that at least two radio stations and a television station have closed since Edgar Lungu was elected President last August.

“It is our view that the said suspension of licenses for the three stations is extreme and has a negative effect on the flow of information as well as a chilling effect on the practice of journalism as it amounts to arbitrary censorship of dissenting views,” the report states.

During Wednesday’s raid, Zambian security forces, who refused to provide a warrant to enter Dr. M’membe’s home, attempted to carry out their search without the presence of lawyers, a witness told the Mast newspaper.

However, Dr. M’membe was not home during Wednesday’s police operation. State security officers arrested his wife, Mutinta, on charges of “obstruction and assault” of a heavily armed police officer.

RELATED: France’s Media Under Attack as Election Race Heats Up: Watchdog

“They came in around 16:00 hours and demanded to start searching. But we refused because the lawyers were not here. And Dr. M’membe himself is not around as we speak, he is in Jamaica. And seeing that they could not find Dr M’membe, in frustration, they picked up his wife [Mutinta] after roughing her up, tore her dress in the presence of onlookers who were passing by,” a witness at the scene told the Mast newspaper.

The search and arrest comes after Dr. M’membe issued a legal challenge to the provisional liquidation order, which forced the Post to stop publishing last June by the country’s tax revenue agency.

“The whole issue has been sparked by the move to challenge the liquidation. Zambian tax revenue official Lewis Mosho feels that giving an opportunity to Dr. M’membe in court over the liquidation would be a mistake. He feels that this matter has already gone past redemption and the The Post must never be allowed to recover,” a source told the Mast newspaper.

Posted in AfricaComments Off on Zambian Government Continues Crackdown on Media

US Congress Moves to Strip Gun Ban for Mentally Disabled

NOVANEWS

A customer tests a Glock at Guns-R-Us in Phoenix, Arizona, in 2012.

  • A customer tests a Glock at Guns-R-Us in Phoenix, Arizona, in 2012. | Photo: Reuters

As part of the ban around 75,000 people with mental disabilities would be barred from purchasing firearms.

The United States Congress voted on Wednesday to block a gun regulation that would prevent thousands of people with mental disabilities from purchasing weapons. Passed by the Republican-led house, the legislation will now be sent to President Donald Trump.

RELATED: Mental Health Experts Say Trump Unfit to Be President

The move was passed by 57 votes to 43 in the Republican-controlled Congress. The U.S. Senate has also backed the legislation and the White House expects Trump to sign the law into action, according to the Associated Press.

Former President Barack Obama proposed the restriction following the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting where 20 students and six staff members were killed at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

The shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, shot dead his mother with her own gun and killed himself after the school shooting. Lanza is believed to have had a number of mental conditions including Asperger’s syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder and was battling with anxiety before the shooting.

The regulation would prevent around 75,000 people with mental disabilities from purchasing firearms, where names of citizens receiving social security benefits for mental impairments were fed to authorities. Only those receiving benefits for their disability would be banned under the rule.

Republican Senator Charles Grassley from Iowa is a key figure behind repealing the restriction and said it stigmatizes disabled citizens and criticized the list of mental disorders covered in the ban such as eating and sleeping disorders.

“If a specific individual is likely to be violent due to the nature of their mental illness, then the government should have to prove it,” Grassley added.

RELATED: Bat-Wielding Guatemalan Grannies Protect Residents from Gangs

The National Rifle Association and a number of disabled advocacy groups also backed the repeal. The ACLU was concerned that the rule would stigmatize and stereotype people with mental disabilities as violent.

Republicans have continued to peel back a number of Obama-era reforms on gun control. Democrats have been critical of the repeal efforts, arguing that regulations will make it safer for people with mental disabilities and the general public.

“If you can’t manage your own financial affairs, how can we expect that you’re going to be a responsible steward of a dangerous, lethal firearm,” said Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut.

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Samjhota Express Incident Revisited

NOVANEWS

Image result for India-Pakistan Samjhota Express train PHOTO

By Sajjad Shaukat

On the midnight of 18-19 February 2007, India-Pakistan Samjhota Express train was bombed in

which 68 Pakistani nationals were killed. A Hindu extremist leader Swami Aseemanand, a leader

of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has confessed that he was involved in several bombings

incidents. He also claimed to have been a part of the incident.

In fact, ideology of Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) prevails in every field at the cost of other

minority groups. It is even supported by Indian defense forces secretly. This could be judged

from the incident, when on April 6, 2008 in the house of Bajrang Dal fundamentalists in Nanded,

a bomb went off. The investigation proved that these militants were found in the bomb-making

and attack on a mosque in Parbhani in 2003. Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) of the Maharashtra

arrested a serving Lt. Col. Srikant Purohit along with other army officials, indicating that they

were helping in training the Hindu terrorists, providing them with the military-grade explosive

RDX, used in the Malegaon bombings and terrorist attacks in other Indian cities. ATS further

disclosed that Lt. Col. Purohit confessed that in 2007, he was involved in bombing of Samjhota

express, which burnt alive 70 Pakistanis.

India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) was convinced that Sadhu Swami Aseemanand, a

Hindu right-wing leader was directly involved in the Samjhota Express blast. Sources in NIA

further pointed out that besides Lt. Col. Purohit, other Indian army officials were also behind that

train-bombing. In this regard, a court in Panchkula, Haryana has recorded Aseemanand’s

statement which confirmed the NIA inquiry.

Aseemanand’s statement in the Samjhota Express blast case was recorded under Section 164 of

the Criminal Procedure Code before a magistrate. His earlier admission was recorded in the

Mecca Masjid case, which was being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Sadhu Aseemanand stuck to his confession that Hindutva radicals were behind the bomb attack

on the Samjhota Express. Aseemanand, Aka Naba and Kumar Sarkar, named absconding

Hindutva militants—Ramji Kaisangra and Sandeep Dange as the key plotters in that terror

attack.

Sources of the NIA also disclosed that the confession in connection with the Samjhota Express

blast practically rules out the involvement of other groups.

In the Samjhota Express case, the probe team has found that the bomb used in the train waskept

in a suitcase that was bought from a shop of Indore’s Kothari Market. The suitcase had cloth

covers stitched by an Indian local tailor. The NIA was now trying to get details of those who

bought the suitcase and covers.

It is notable that Dr. J C Batra, who is a senior advocate at the Supreme Court of India, was

asked to give opinion on Aseemanand’s confession. He appeared very defensive and as usual

started accusing Pakistan’s its primary intelligence agency ISI—its so-called history for such

activities, alleging that even this could be an ISI plot. He further said that Swami’s statement

does not have much legal value as circumstantial evidence is also needed, while adding that RSS

is being wrongly implicated and there could be others involved who are not being exposed. In

this regard, a Pakistani parliamentarian, Mr. Mian Abdul Sattar, parliamentary secretary for

planning and development, who was accompanying him, later stated that that he was told by Mr

JC Batra that the Indian Army was involved in this case and there “are efforts to shield it from

getting exposed”.

Swami Aseemanand also confessed in the court that several RSS preachers and Sang activists

were directly involved in planning, financing and executing Malegaon, Samjhauta Express,

Ajmer and Mecca Masjid blasts. He stated that various leaders of Hindu communal organizations

including Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Abhinav Bharat, Jai Vande Matram and Vanvasi

Kalyan Ashram were also behind these blasts.

It is mentionable that in various tapes, LT. Col Purohit said, “We are all on the same plane,

Hindu Rashtra (Nation)”. He even claimed that Gen. J J Singh is “with us”. (Former Singh was

Army Chief till Sept. 2007). Significantly, Purohit mentioned that “one of our own captain had

visited Israel”, and demanded “continuous supply of arms, training, an office with a saffron flag

in Tel Aviv, political asylum and support for our cause of a Hindu Nation in the UN.” The

Israelis, he added, gave “a very positive response.”

In this context, exposing the nexus between Bhartia Janta Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya

Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the then Indian Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde disclosed on

January 20, 2013 that organized training camps run by the fundamentalist parties, RSS and BJP

were promoting Hindu Terrorism. He also explained that these extremist parties were behind the

Samjhauta Express, Meccca Masjid and Malegaon blasts. He added, “We will have to think

about it (Saffron terrorism) seriously…Hindu extremist parties BJP and RSS were involved

many times in Hindu Muslim violence in India, especially Gujarat and Babri masjid incident.”

The then India’s External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid endorsed Shinde’s statement, saying

that it was based on facts. Meanwhile, Indian Home Secretary R K Singh revealed that during

investigation the government had found ten names of the Hindu extremists, associated with RSS,

who were involved in these terror attacks including Ajmer Sharif.

Similarly on July 19, 2013, the Indian ex-investigating officer Satish Verma disclosed that terror-

attacks in Mumbai in November 26, 2008 and assault on Indian Parliament in January 12, 2001

were carried out by the Indian government to strengthen anti-terrorism laws.

While, India has always accused Pakistan’s ISI of these acts of terrorism, but it is quite silent

over Hindutva-terror which has obtained a new face, under the fundamentalist Indian Prime

Minister Narendra Modi, as Indian RAW, country’s high officials and fundamentalist parties

have co-relationship.

Nevertheless, despite the confessions of Swami Aseemanand, instead of taking action against the

culprits of the Samjhota Express explosion, the Supreme Court of India accepted the bail of

Swami Aseemanand after the covert interference of the Modi-led authorities who changed the

investigations in this respect in order to weaken the case.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants,

Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

Posted in India, Pakistan & KashmirComments Off on Samjhota Express Incident Revisited

Nazi forces continue systematic crimes in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt)  

 

NOVANEWS

(09 – 15 February 2016)

 Image result for NAZI GESTAPO LOGO

 

  • A Palestinian Civilian succumbed to his wounds in the West Bank

–         Four Palestinian civilians were wounded, including 2 journalists, in the West Bank.

  • Nazi forces continued to target Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Sea.
  • Nazi forces continued to target the Gaza Strip border areas, but no casualties were reported.
  • Nazi forces conducted 60 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank, and one limited incursion in the northern Gaza Strip.

–         51 civilians, including 4 children, were arrested in the West Bank.

–         9 of them were arrested in occupied Jerusalem.

  • Nazi forces continued their efforts to create Jewish majority in occupied East Jerusalem.

–         Settlers took over a room, store and yard in Silwan village.

–         3 houses and sheep barn were destroyed in al-‘Issawiya village, while a civilian was forced to self-demolish a store in Silwan.

–         Two under-construction houses, part of an inhabited house and shop were levelled in Hezma village, northeast of occupied Jerusalem.

  • Nazi forces turned the West Bank into cantons and continued to impose the illegal closure on the Gaza Strip for the 10thyear.

–         Dozens of temporary checkpoints were established in the West Bank and others were re-established to obstruct the movement of Palestinian civilians.

–         9 Palestinian civilians, including a child and a girl, were arrested at military checkpoints.

–         Nazi forces arrested Director of Tika Agency at Beit Hanoun “Erez” crossing in the northern Gaza Strip.

 

Summary

Nazi violations of international law and international humanitarian law in the oPt continued during the reporting period (09 – 15 February2017).

 

Shooting:

During the reporting period, A Palestinian civilian succumbed to his wounded while Nazi forces wounded 4 others, including 2 journalists, in the West Bank.  In the Gaza Strip, Nazi forces also continued to chase Palestinian fishermen in the Gaza Sea and open fire at farmers in the border areas.

In the West Bank, On 10 February 2017, the family of Mohammed ‘Amer Jallad (23) from Tulkarm received the news of his death in Belinison Hospital in Petah Tikva in after succumbing to his wounds.  According to PCHR’s investigations, on 09 November 2016, Nazi soldiers who were patrolling in the streets of Howarah village, south of Nablus, opened fire at the aforementioned civilian.  As a result, he was hit with a bullet to the back and another to the right hand.  The Nazi forces claimed that Jallad attempted to stab an Nazi soldier before being shot.  After Jallad was wounded and arrested, he stayed in Belinison Hospital in Petah Tikva until he died.

On the same day noon, Nidal Ishtaya (48), a photojournalist in the Xinhua – China News Agency, and Ayman al-Nobani (32), a reporter in the Palestinian News Agency (WAFA), were both wounded while covering the weekly protest in Kafr Qodoum, northeast of Qalqilya.

 

The full report is available online at:

http://pchrgaza.org/en/?p=8755

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Human RightsComments Off on Nazi forces continue systematic crimes in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt)  

German Intel Clears Russia on Interference

NOVANEWS

Exclusive: Mainstream U.S. media only wants stories of Russian perfidy, so when German intelligence cleared Moscow of suspected subversion of German democracy, the silence was deafening, says ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern

After a multi-month, politically charged investigation, German intelligence agencies could find no good evidence of Moscow-directed cyber-attacks or a disinformation campaign aimed at subverting the democratic process in Germany. Undaunted, Chancellor Angela Merkel has commissioned a new investigation.

President Barack Obama talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G7 Summit at Schloss Elmau in Bavaria, Germany, June 8, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Last year, Berlin’s two main intelligence agencies, the BND and BfV (counterparts of the CIA and FBI) launched a joint investigation to substantiate allegations that Russia was meddling in German political affairs and attempting to shape the outcome of Germany’s elections next September.

Like the vast majority of Americans malnourished on “mainstream media,” most Germans have been led to believe that, by hacking and “propaganda,” the Kremlin interfered in the recent U.S. election and helped Donald Trump become president.

German intelligence agencies rarely bite the hand that feeds them and realize that the most bountiful part of the trough is at the CIA station in Berlin with ultimate guidance coming from CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. But this time, in an unusual departure from past practice, analysts at the BND and BfV decided to act like responsible adults.

Whereas former CIA Director John Brennan prevailed on his analysts to resort to anemic, evidence-light reasoning “assessing” that Russia tried to tip the U.S. election to Donald Trump, Berlin’s intelligence agencies found the evidence lacking and have now completed their investigation.

Better still, the conclusions have been reported in a mainstream German newspaper, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, apparently because a patriotic insider thought the German people should also know.

Lemmings No Longer?

If BND President Bruno Kahl thought that his own analysts could be depended upon to follow their American counterparts lemming-like and find evidence – Curveball-style – to support the U.S. allegations, he now has had a rude awakening.

CIA Director John Brennan at a White House meeting during his time as President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism adviser.

When the joint investigation was under way with his analysts doing their best to come up with reliable evidence of Russian perfidy, Kahl had behaved like his BND predecessors, parroting the charges made by his CIA counterpart, that the Russians were fomenting uncertainty and instability in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

In a rare interview with the mainstream newspaper, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, on Nov. 28, 2016, Kahl went out on what he probably thought was a safe limb, denouncing subversive “interference” by the Russians (“as they did in the U.S.”). He was just a few months into his job and may have been naïve enough to consider what John Brennan said as gospel truth. (If he really is that gullible, Kahl is in the wrong profession.)

In the interview, Kahl played the puppet-doll Charlie McCarthy with Brennan in the role of Charlie’s ventriloquist Edgar Bergen. Kahl told the Sueddeutsche that he agreed with the U.S. intelligence “assessment” that the Kremlin was behind the cyber attacks aimed at influencing the U.S. election.

He added: “We know that cyber attacks are taking place and that they have no purpose other than to produce political instability. … Not only that. The perpetrators are interested in delegitimizing the democratic process itself. … I have the impression that the outcome of the American election has evoked no sadness in Russia so far. …

“Europe is [now] the focus of these disruption experiments, and Germany especially. … The pressure on the public discourse and on democracy is unacceptable.” Sound familiar?

Still, one might excuse the novice BND president for assuming his analysts would remember which side their bread is buttered on and follow past precedent in coming up with conclusions known to be desired by their masters in Berlin and the CIA.

So it must have come as an unwelcome surprise to Kahl when he found out that, this time, BND analysts would stand on principle and refuse to be as malleable as their Washington counterparts. His analysts could find no proof that the Kremlin was working hard to undermine the democratic process in Germany, and said so.

Worse still from the U.S. point of view, the two German intelligence agencies resisted the usual pressure from some senior leaders in Berlin (perhaps including Kahl himself) to jam whatever innocuous information they could find into the anti-Russian mosaic that Washington was constructing, a kind of Cubist version of distorted reality.

And So, a Do-Over

So, what do powerful officials do when the bureaucracy comes up with “incorrect” conclusions? They send the analysts and investigators back to work until they come up with “correct” answers. This turned out to be no exception. Absent evidence of hacking directed by the Kremlin, the Germans now have opted for an approach by which information can be fudged more easily.

CIA seal in lobby of the spy agency’s headquarters. (U.S. government photo)

According to the Sueddeutsche, “Chancellor Merkel’s office has now ordered a new inquiry. Notably, a ‘psychological operations group’ jointly run by the BND and BfV will specifically look at Russian news agencies’ coverage in Germany.” We can expect that any articles that don’t portray Vladimir Putin in a devil’s costume will be judged “Russian propaganda.”

For guidance, Merkel may well give the new “investigators” a copy of the evidence-free CIA/FBI/NSA “Assessment: Russia’s Influence Campaign Targeting the 2016 US Presidential Election.” Released on Jan. 6, the report was an eyesore and embarrassment to serious intelligence professionals. The lame “evidence” presented, together with all the “assessing” indulged in by U.S. analysts, was unable to fill five pages; filler was needed – preferably filler that could be made to look like analysis.

And so, seven more pages were tacked onto the CIA/FBI/NSA Assessment, even though the information presented in them had nothing to do with the cause celebre of Russian hacking. No problem: The additional seven pages bore the ominous title: “Annex A: Russia – Kremlin’s TV Seeks To Influence Politics, Fuel Discontent in US.”

The extra pages, in turn, were then used to support the following indictment: “Russia’s state-run propaganda machine contributed to the influence campaign by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences.”

Did an Insider Leak?

It is not clear how the German daily Sueddeutsche acquired the conclusions of the joint investigation or even whether it has the full 50-page copy of the final report. The newspaper did make it clear, though, that it now realizes it was played by Kahl with his unsupported accusations last November.

Russian President Vladimir Putin answering questions from Russian citizens at his annual Q&A event on April 14, 2016. (Russian government photo)

From what the newspaper was told, the analysts seemed willing to give the boss what he had already declared to be his desired conclusion, but the evidence simply wasn’t there. The article quotes one security expert saying, “We would have been happy to give Russia a yellow card,” a soccer metaphor referring to improper conduct. A cabinet source lamented, “We found no smoking gun.”

Initially, the BND and BfV planned to release excerpts of their still classified inquiry, the Sueddeutsche reported, but it’s now not clear when, if ever, the full report will be released.

The day after the Sueddeutsche story appeared, some other media outlets reported on it – briefly. Newsweek and Politico gave the scoop all of three sentences each. Not fitting with the preferred “Russia-is-guilty-of-everything” narrative, it then died a quick death. I have been unable to find the story mentioned at all in major U.S. “mainstream media” outlets.

If Americans became aware of the story, it was probably via RT – the bête noire of the abovementioned CIA/FBI/NSA report condemning Russian “propaganda.” Can it become any clearer why RT America and RT International are despised by the U.S. government and the “mainstream media?” Many Americans are slowly realizing they cannot count on American network and cable TV for accurate news and are tuning in to RT at least for the other side of these important stories.

It was from a early morning call from RT International that I first learned of the Feb. 7 Sueddeutsche Zeitung report on Germany’s failed hunt for evidence of Russian electoral interference.

Posted in Germany, RussiaComments Off on German Intel Clears Russia on Interference


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