The Trump Investigations Report – Review Of News And Opinions: 1. Trump from Michael_Novakhov (197 sites): Donald Trump: Trump, Family Sue To Block Banks From Releasing Private Financial Documents

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House lawmakers slammed the effort, saying it was “designed to put off meaningful accountability as long as possible.”

Donald Trump

1. Trump from Michael_Novakhov (197 sites)

The Trump Investigations Report – Review Of News And Opinions


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Trump Investigations from Michael_Novakhov (85 sites): “deutsche bank and trump” – Google News: Trump sues to block US bank subpoenas – The Canberra Times

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Trump sues to block US bank subpoenas  The Canberra Times

US President Donald Trump is suing Deutsche Bank and Capital One in an attempt to block congressional subpoenas for his business records. The lawsuit by …

“deutsche bank and trump” – Google News

Trump Investigations from Michael_Novakhov (85 sites)


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Trump Investigations from Michael_Novakhov (85 sites): “deutsche bank and trump” – Google News: Trump Family Sues Deutsche Bank, Capital One To Fight Dems’ Subpoenas – Townhall

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Trump Family Sues Deutsche Bank, Capital One To Fight Dems’ Subpoenas  Townhall

The Trump family on Monday filed a lawsuit against Deutsche Bank and Capital One to prevent the banks from complying with subpoenas from the House …

“deutsche bank and trump” – Google News

Trump Investigations from Michael_Novakhov (85 sites)


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Trump Investigations from Michael_Novakhov (85 sites): “deutsche bank and trump” – Google News: Trump team sues banks to keep them from turning over financial records to Congress – KCCI Des Moines

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Trump team sues banks to keep them from turning over financial records to Congress  KCCI Des Moines

The Trump family and his business are suing two banks to block them from congressional subpoenas.

“deutsche bank and trump” – Google News

Trump Investigations from Michael_Novakhov (85 sites)


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Trump Investigations from Michael_Novakhov (85 sites): “deutsche bank and trump” – Google News: BREAKING: Trump Sues to Block Deutsche Bank from Turning Over Financial Info to Congress – Mediaite

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BREAKING: Trump Sues to Block Deutsche Bank from Turning Over Financial Info to Congress  Mediaite

The Trump family and Trump Organization are suing Deutsche Bank and Capital One to block them from handing over financial records requested in …

“deutsche bank and trump” – Google News

Trump Investigations from Michael_Novakhov (85 sites)


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Trump Investigations from Michael_Novakhov (85 sites): “deutsche bank and trump” – Google News: READ: The Trump family, Trump Organization’s lawsuit against Deutsche Bank and Capital One | TheHill – The Hill

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READ: The Trump family, Trump Organization’s lawsuit against Deutsche Bank and Capital One | TheHill  The Hill

President Trump, members of his family and his private businesses filed a fede.

“deutsche bank and trump” – Google News

Trump Investigations from Michael_Novakhov (85 sites)


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“mi5” – Google News: Outrage as newspaper claims Kate McCann was MI5 agent when Maddie went missing – New Zealand Herald

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Outrage as newspaper claims Kate McCann was MI5 agent when Maddie went missing  New Zealand Herald

Veteran Portuguese journalist makes outlandish claim against Kate McCann.

“mi5” – Google News


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Eurasia Review: Electoral Reform Crucial For Malaysian Reform – Analysis

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The key to eradicating “Malay-Nationalist” hegemony and feudalism in Malaysia

There is no doubt that the May 9, 2018 electoral revolution that ended six decades of rule of Malaysia by the Barisan Nasional is in danger. The Pakatan Harapan coalition that won has stumbled from issue to issue, in the process of losing three key by-elections and facing increased voter antipathy.

What the reform coalition must realize is that the key to its transformation agenda is electoral reform. It is the prerequisite to political, economic, market, civil service, and social reforms.

The current electoral system has locked in the New Economic Policy (NEP), which was introduced in 1971 after disastrous race riots on May 13, 1969 that took hundreds of lives but which has hamstrung the country economically in the succeeding 48 years.

The original intention was to help Malays participate in the economy along with other races and to develop a Malay professional class through education. However, this positive discrimination policy also facilitated the growth of Malay nationalist narratives into society to the point where the ethnic Malay-agenda has become the dominant political rhetoric, not just within the political environment, but is one of the major drivers of Malaysian cultural dynamics. To many, it has become hegemonic.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, during his first administration, with his then-deputy Anwar Ibrahim, went on a massive campaign to produce Malay entrepreneurs, providing them with ‘institutionally created opportunities” to get rich. We saw the privatisation of the state-owned airline MAS, the development of the Genting gaming complex, the creation of private tollways, public transport and telecommunications, in what has become to be known as crony capitalism. This cronyism became synonymous with becoming a politician as an endeavour to make money, particularly within the ranks of the governing United Malays National Organization, which led the Barisan.

As Islam is a major part of the Malay identity, a form of political Islam also developed. Political Islam’s rhetoric has increased the divide between Muslims and Non-Muslims over the last generation. Islam in Malaysia has moved away from the more inclusive forms that were once found in Egypt and Turkey towards a firebrand exclusive Islam more along the lines of teachings preached by fugitive preacher Zakir Naik.

The current Dewan Rakyat (lower house) electoral system with heavy weighting towards the rural Malay regions over more ethnically diverse urban areas perpetuates Malay-nationalist narratives. It is the heartlands where elections are won or lost, even though 76 percent of the population live in urban areas.

In an extreme example of the electoral weighting of rural areas, one vote in the federal constituency of Igan in Sarawak is worth nine votes in the Bangi constituency in Selangor. In addition, the first past the post voting system which elects the candidate with just a simple majority of votes is inadequate. ‘First past the post’ voting doesn’t give minority parties with general support across the country any voice in parliament, if they cannot win a majority in any constituency. This also promotes the polarity of Malay-nationalist narratives within the Malaysian political system today.

In the 2013 election the Barisan Nasional won 59.91 percent of the constituencies with only 47.38 percent of the popular vote. The principle of “one vote one value” more fairly allows the aggregate voting intention of the country to be reflected in which party or coalition governs the country.

A fairer voting system would help free the country of unhealthy exclusionist narratives which pit one race against another. Hopefully this would encourage inclusive politics rather than the current racial based political rhetoric which is costing the country socially, culturally, and economically.

This is a prerequisite to any development agenda.

Electoral reform cannot stop there. The Dewan Negara, the parliament, has been denigrated into a house of convenience for the federal government of the day. It is comprised of 26 members appointed by state legislatures, four representing the federal territories and 40 appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the king. There are no democratically elected members.

The Dewan Negara is a left-over artefact from the 19th Century symbolising feudalism. It doesn’t functionally review government and maintain states’ rights as it is nominally supposed to do. Its functions have been simply thrashed by past and current governments and converted to appoint members who often use this pathway to become unelected ministers of government.

The disrespect the house is given by the government today is indicated by the fact that 17 seats remain unappointed and therefore unoccupied. This makes it a mockery. The Dewan Negara should not be a convenience for the government of the day, but a working piece of the Malaysian democratic system.

A special committee to look into electoral reform chaired by former Election Commission Chairman Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman was set up last August, not under the parliament but under the Prime Minister’s Department. The Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) has held a number of roundtable discussions with stakeholders and international experts and recently signed an agreement with the UNDP to assist in electoral reform.

However with no specific timeframe and an ad hoc style investigation taking place, it remains to be seen whether this committee will just be a talk fest and travel junket or make serious recommendations in regards to how to overhaul the electoral system.

Under Article 46 of the Malaysian Constitution, parliamentary constituencies can only be reviewed in 2023 and 2026. This means there cannot be any reforms implemented until after the next federal and state elections. To hasten the process would require an amendment to the constitution, which requires a two-thirds majority in the parliament. Pakatan doesn’t command a two-thirds majority and judging by its defeat over the Sabah and Sarawak constitutional amendments, it’s highly unlikely any bipartisan approach will be taken on electoral reform.

Any amendments to the Dewan Negara will also require constitutional amendments. Any attempt to make amendments would most probably lead to charges by the opposition that the government is trying to undermine the royalty, as under the current constitution the Agong on the advice of the prime minister appoints the majority of members sitting in the house.

There are a few additional electoral reform matters which can be changed without committees and constitutional changes. De-synchronising the federal and state elections would bring state issues into elections. This could easily be achieved through dissolving respective houses at different times. Local elections are important to participatory democracy. However these reforms, proposed by he Pakatan coalition since 2008, have led to lengthy procrastination.

Gender bias in each political party could be tackled at the party level although there appears little determination to solve this problem. The balance of power between the Federal and state governments needs to be re-balanced towards the states. This could be partly achieved by political parties allowing their local memberships select their own state candidates.

However the bottom line on electoral reform is that it is not in the real interests of Mahahir’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia. The current skew in constituencies toward the Malay heartlands favors Bersatu. Any reforms toward ‘one vote one value’ would greatly strengthen the urban parties, the Malay moderate Parti Keadilan Rakyat, and the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Paety at the cost of Bersatu.

So expect the current government to sit on electoral reform until a leader comes from another party.

A system that reflects ‘one vote one value’ is badly needed if the country is going to continue to develop economically. Landslide election victories under the ‘first past the post’ system have brought arrogant, kleptocratic government in the past. The current system is keeping the NEP in place with the Malay-nationalist and exclusion dialogues propagated by ideologues. This is coming to a tipping point where it is starting to terrorize non-Muslims.

The government needs to send a strong statement against the institutionalised feudalism of the state by democratizing the upper house and giving a stronger states’ voice into the democratic system of a federation. The current electoral system is shackling Malaysia in more ways than one.

Originally published in the Asia Sentinel

Eurasia Review


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Eurasia Review: The Scaremongers Are Wrong About Robots And AI – OpEd

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By George Pickering*

Thanks to the recent efforts of
such figures as Democratic Presidential candidate Andrew Yang and
British Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, the issue of Universal Basic
Income (UBI) has been back at the forefront of the public discussion on
economic issues, along with the various arguments and justifications for
introducing such a policy. While many of these justifications have
become quite familiar over the years of waxing and waning interest in
UBI, it is interesting to note the recent surge of interest in one particular argument which sounds more like something from a science fiction novel than an economics textbook.

This argument runs roughly as follows: In the not too distant future,
rapidly advancing technology will allow robots and artificial
intelligence (AI) to perform many of the jobs now being done by humans,
and to do so more cheaply and efficiently than humans ever could. This
will result in robots/AI replacing humans in almost all jobs, making the
vast majority of people permanently unemployed, and without Universal
Basic Income how will they (the people) be able to keep food on their
tables?

Of course, the idea that advances in labor saving technology will
lead to catastrophic unemployment and declining living standards is
hardly new, arguably dating back to ancient Greece
or earlier, and economists (not to mention the facts of history) have
been refuting the idea for nearly as long as economics has existed as a
self-conscious science.

However, as familiar as the generally luddite tone of this new
argument for UBI may seem on its surface, it nevertheless does have one
key difference from the more traditional arguments against labor saving
technology. This difference not only sets the new AI scaremongering
argument apart as meaningfully different than the arguments which have
gone before, but also highlights a fundamental misunderstanding its
proponents suffer from, concerning the very nature of what a market
economy is, and what drives it.

What marks the AI scaremongering argument as new and meaningfully
different is its altered assumptions about the breadth of different jobs
which the new technology would be capable of usurping from human
workers. In previous eras, even the most hysterical denouncers of labor
saving technology shared an unspoken understanding of the limited
capabilities of the technologies they opposed. When the spinning jenny
was introduced in the 1760s, they may have argued that it would cause
unemployment in the textiles industry, but none of them would have
claimed that the same machine would cause mass unemployment among
butchers, lawyers, or pub landlords. When automobiles became widely
available, they may have argued that buggy whip manufacturers were at
risk of permanent impoverishment, but few would have argued that the
existence of cars posed an equal threat to the jobs of teachers,
waitresses, or doctors.

However, given the near-total lack of public understanding of what AI
actually is and what it’s capable of, not to mention the irresistible
temptation to sensationalize modest scientific advances into
eye-grabbing and alarmist headlines, the new AI scaremongers have
allowed their imaginations to run wild when speculating as to which jobs
are under threat from this mysterious new technology. The result is
that they, and much of the public, seem to believe AI is (or soon will
be) capable of almost anything they can imagine, in the same way that so
many charmingly naive 80s movies portrayed home computers as essentially “omnipotent science magic.”

It is this assumption that AI and robots will soon be able to accomplish almost all jobs
more cheaply and efficiently than humans, which marks the new AI
scaremongering argument as fundamentally different from the previous
arguments against labor saving technology. Economists had previously
been able to argue that labor saving technology frees up resources and
lowers prices in a way which results in net quality of life improvements
for society as a whole, creating new jobs and opening up new types of
industry, even if it results in short term unemployment for a small
minority. But would that really still be the case if the new technology
is capable of making human labor obsolete in all types of job?

There are several objections one could make against this argument,
not least of which being its dubious assumptions about the capabilities
of AI technology. However, the sign of a truly weak argument is not only
a reliance on unrealistic assumptions, but a failure to stand up to
scrutiny even when its assumptions are taken as given.

Even if it were true that robots and AI could perform absolutely all
jobs currently being done by humans, and could do so more cheaply and
efficiently than humans, the AI scaremongers would still be incorrect to
conclude that robots and AI will replace humans in all, or
even most, jobs. The source of their incorrect conclusion is a
fundamental misunderstanding of what drives business activity in a
market economy. Entrepreneurs are not driven by an arbitrary desire to
pursue the most technologically advanced, the most efficient, or even
the cheapest production process, purely for the sake of it, as seems to
be the assumption of the AI scaremongers and many other
anti-capitalists. Rather, the fundamental driving force in a market
economy is to direct and organize production in the way that best
satisfies consumers’ preferences.

For evidence that this true driving force of the economy does not
necessarily lead to increasing reliance on technology, even if that
technology would be more cheap or efficient in some objective sense, one
need look no further than the sectors in which human workers already
are being replaced by ‘robots’ of a sort. Readers who have visited a
fast food chain such as McDonalds in the past few years may have noticed
an increasing number of self-service touch screens, reducing the need
for human staff to take orders. But if this technology exists and is
already in profitable use at these fast food chains, why hasn’t it been
adopted by all other restaurants? If the AI scaremongers believe robots
and AI will necessarily replace all human workers when the former can
perform the same job more cheaply and efficiently, how do they account
for the fact that human waiters haven’t already been replaced by
self-service touch screens at the Savoy Grill or The Ritz? The absurdity
of the question illuminates the fact that a desire to satisfy consumer
preferences, not bare efficiency and cost-cutting, is the key motivator
of entrepreneurial decision making in a market economy.

With a little thought, it is easy to imagine many services which
consumers might prefer to have provided to them by human staff, even if a
machine were technically capable of providing the same service more
cheaply: nurses and care providers, entertainers, chefs, and teachers
would likely fall into this category, as would many other jobs.

Given the persistent popularity of UBI across the political spectrum,
its advocates are unlikely to abandon any of their
increasingly-familiar arguments any time soon. However, it seems
unlikely that their new argument about AI-induced mass unemployment will
turn out to be the silver bullet they were hoping for.

*About the author: George Pickering is a 2018 Mises Institute Research Fellow and a student of economic history at the London School of Economics.

Source: This article was published by the MISES Institute

Eurasia Review


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Eurasia Review: The Politics Of Aboriginals In Canada – OpEd

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The recent imbroglio involving SNC Lavalin, the Liberal Party and several of its high profile women Ministers associated with the management of the Aboriginal Question has revealed again the national quandary about the place of First Nations. The spectacle of Canadian politicians exploiting the Aboriginals for political influence and sway is atrocious but far from new. Aboriginals cannot depend on such moral frailty as that which the white man has shown them throughout their existence of this continent.

My message to the Syrian opposition fighting the brutality of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria was the same – you can only count on yourselves. Many nations will watch you die for your principles and do nothing. Some will offer help but with the proviso that they are to be reimbursed in some way. The vehicle for revolution and change must not be some external political elite.

The democratic transition in Spain is a glaring example of what happens when the liberated content themselves with supporting a political elite (the monarchy) in order to secure a sustainable democratic regime and consciousness. Spain has never severed definitively with the legacy of Franco and his henchmen. The Catalans, who have been stripped of their liberties and the right to self-determination, can testify to this. The presence of a most eloquent Constitution cannot alone protect and promote the rights and freedoms of its citizens. Democracy is not just about high-sounding documents, it must become a way of life. Forcing unity on Catalonia using the Constitution as a legal instrument is the height of hypocrisy and authoritarian rule. It is illegitimate.

We know the past from the Metis leader Louis Riel’s hanging in 1885 to the pervasive rebuff of land claims, some before duly constituted courts, to the despicable 20th century separation of Aboriginal families based on the white man’s justice and strategic aims. The past cannot be a harbinger of the future. It should be remembered but not revered.

In 2015, the newly elected Liberal government of Justin Trudeau struck a national commission of reconciliation as bait to entice Aboriginals to vote for his party. And that they did. However, the Commission has been hampered by senior resignations and is now wallowing in trivialities. The Liberals, who historically have never been unable to hold a truly creative policy convention, fall back on a leader whose knowledge of the issue is far from complete. ‘Reconciliation’ is different for the white man and the First Nations making the Commission’s mandate a ‘chateau de carter’.

As long as the Aboriginal groups and tribes remain divided over their political allegiances, they will be used by the white man’s political parties. Aboriginal interests will be subverted to political expediency. In response, the current Aboriginal leadership has attempted to put its votes behind one of the three main political parties. This policy has been an abject failure.

The Aboriginals of Canada could, however, take a page out of the Bloc Québécois playbook. Instead of having to subvert policy depending on white man’s strategic interests, the Aboriginals could found a new political party. This would have several results: the new Party may win a number of ridings where Aboriginals already live and are a majority or a significant minority. The MPs, and they alone, could focus on issues affecting Aboriginal populations in the federal parliament in Ottawa. Second, the existence of a Canadian Aboriginal Party could help focus other political parties on Aboriginal issues and how they might be delivered in an efficient and humane fashion. Ideally, on the bureaucratic side, a Canadian Aboriginal political party ought to fight to abolish the Indian Act and decentralize the Indian and Northern Affairs department budget with the objective of dissolving it.

There will be obstacles to the creation of such a political party not the least of which is the veiled opposition of the three main political parties. However, their continual misiling of Aboriginal peoples has won them international scorn and disdain. There will be jealous Chiefs and regional Aboriginal figures tied to the white man’s purse strings to build this or that pipeline or to make false promises about jobs and development. The biggest obstacle is the one Tecumseh faced during the war with the Americans during the first half of the 19th century: how to unify the distant and distinct Indian nations of North America? Tecumseh’s failure was the white man’s pleasure and we are still living in its shadow.

*Dr. Bruce Mabley is a former Canadian diplomat
having served in the Middle East, and is the director of the
Mackenzie-Papineau think tank in Montreal.

Eurasia Review


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Eurasia Review: India’s LGBTQi Community Needs ‘Personal’ Laws – OpEd

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So, joining the Parkfield Community School at Birmingham in United Kingdom are four more schools putting an end to lessons on ‘Diversity and LGBT issues’, following complaints by parents. The Leigh Trust suspended the ‘No Outsiders’ project, which teaches tolerance of diverse groups, including those of different races, genders and sexual orientation, until an agreement with parents had been reached.

Students were taught about the positive values of diversity, tolerance and acceptance, in a broad curriculum encompassing LGBTQi rights, same-sex relationships, gender identity, race, religion and colour but the sparked off protests, with mothers and fathers objecting to the teaching of the ‘No Outsiders’ project.

This is appalling, to say the least, especially coming from United Kingdom which has, the Equality Act 2010 that brought together over 116 separate pieces of legislation into one single Act to provide a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity to all.

The pieces of legislation merged into the Equality Act 2010 included: The Sex Discrimination Act 1975, The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003, and The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007.

Concurrently, in another part of the world, 3,960 kms away, from November 2017, Turkey has banned all events by lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex rights groups to protect “public security” in its capital city, Ankara. The ban imposed to last for an indefinite’ period, applied to all LGBTQi film screenings, theatres, panels and exhibitions.

The governor’s office maintained that such events may cause animosity between different groups and endanger “health and morality”, as well as the rights and freedoms of others. It warned some groups may be provoked by LGBTQi events and take action against participants due to “certain social sensitivities”. And, homosexuality is ‘not a crime’ in Turkey and numerous LGBTQi associations are even legally registered with the state.

In India, the entire LGBTQi community has been fixated on Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that has been, in a shocking display of ignorance, reported by the media across the world as having been ‘struck down’ by the Supreme Court in a 2018 verdict preceding vociferous campaigning against a ‘Victorian law’ and, concurrently, tumultuous joy at the verdict.

Sadly, following the 2018 verdict which, factually, ‘read down’ the Section, the LGBTQi movement has literally fizzled out. The Apex Court had then, underlining the prerequisite processes of law, laid down that Section 377 cannot, in any way, criminalise homosexuality, gay sex or LGBTQi, in any manner. And, the LGBTQi community were exhilarated at what they perceived as a vindication of their position in law: A position that was anyway not threatened in law, surely not by the letter of the law and arguably not by the spirit.

For a mostly heterosexual community that’s mostly male-dominated in form, the risks of a male-perpetrated molestation, rape and sexual assault of females are the more obvious aberrations. So, the development of jurisprudence in such societies leans towards identification of crimes against women and preventing them or deterring potential criminals by way of punitive measures is the norm.

So, Section 375 of IPC identifies and tackles the scourge of Rape and, with time amended by the more-recent Criminal Amendment Act of 2013 following the Delhi Gang Rape, to extend the punishment for gang rape and the commission of more heinous offences to extend to the death sentence. In 2018, a criminal amendment act was introduced to include child rapes, amend relevant acts and sections including Section 375 and further the punishment to death for child rapist. However, despite all the amendments to Section 375, it remains gender-specific and can be applied only against a man perpetrating an offence against a woman.

Now, for a homosexual community that interacts primarily with members of the same sex, the crimes that may occur are those that are perpetrated to the same sex; I.e., men being raped by men or women being molested by women. Members of LGBTQi community are at high risk of rapes, molestation and forced sexual encounters and, a gender-specific Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code that tackles the issue of rape offers absolutely no protection to them.

Ironically, it is Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code that documents the term ‘unnatural sex’ and ‘against the order of nature’ flayed by the LGBTQi community finding the terminology politically flawed, that will be applied in case a member of the LGBTQi community is sexually assaulted.

But, the Supreme Court’s recent ruling has laid down that the interpretation of Section 377 to criminalise homosexual behaviour done in private among consenting adults violated fundamental rights putting to rest the vitriolic on the issue restricting its reach even if warranted. In view of this, the police will – and for obvious reasons, be completely reluctant to apply Section 377 against anyone however realistic may seem the ‘accusation’ of the commission of an offence.

Sadly, the harbingers of LGBTQi rights are mostly silent on the absence of laws to govern their lives. So much more needs to be done for a member of the LGBTQi community to ‘live’ in free India as one. So much that is being completely overlooked.

The interpretation of Section 377 done and dusted, it’s time to initiate meaningful legislation like a LGBTIQi Marriage Act, a LGBTQi Adoption and Guardianship Act, a LGBTQi Justice Act to provide for the community parched for pertinent laws to tackle issues affecting them. They need to be framed in letter and followed through in the right spirit lest we go the UK or Turkey way. About time!

Eurasia Review


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“cia” – Google News: CIA warns Britain over China’s secret funding of Huawei – Easton Caller

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CIA warns Britain over China’s secret funding of Huawei  Easton Caller

CIA warns Britain over China’s secret funding of Huawei as tech giant bids to supply 5G mobile network across UK. The CIA has accused Huawei of being …

“cia” – Google News


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Eurasia Review: High Hopes To Shattered Dreams? A Year After Malaysia’s Regime Change – OpEd

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I am preparing the introduction to my new book, being a
collection of 40 essays on a year of the new ruling party Pakatan Harapan’s rule. It will be my
eighth book on Malaysia and the Global comtext. It will be a “Freirean-Freudian” musing, after the work of two
thinkers, the Brazilian thinker Paulo Freire and the Austrian psychologist and
father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud. The former wrote Pedagogy of the Oppressed in the 1980s, the later wrote Civilization and Its Discontents in the 1930s.  Both wrote about how we
think in an age of mental derangement. 
So, how do we educate people to think critically on religion, the state,
and a hybrid of totalitarianism these days. Especially in Malaysia?

The recent horrible massacre of hundreds of Christians in
Sri Lanka, by Islamic absurdist-fundamentalists, hurt me emotionally as a peace
educator, especially after reading about the 50 Muslim worshippers gunned down
in Christchurch,  New Zealand and the
attack and killing of Jews in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – all
three of these diabolic and despicable acts of terror committed this year, by
terrorists by any name or religion.

Today these are my thoughts by way of a summary of my
observations of the performance of the Pakatan government for the year. Since I
had high hopes that turned into something different than what I expected.
Religion, race, and royalty dominated my commentaries on my “Freirean-Freudian
Observations and Documentations” as they relate to Critical Consciousness and
Education of this nation.

Inching towards the Islamic State

HORRIBLE!

HORRIBLE!

HORRIBLE!

That Terrorist attack against
the Christians in Sri Lanka!!!

Every news of suicide bombing should make each country think
of de-radicalizing schools of extremism and deporting mad preachers who derive
power of persuasion, fame and fortune, by planting hatred towards people of
other religions.

I’d say to this to any government, including the Malaysian
government: Please don’t take lightly the power of radical preachers and
preaching to turn followers into suicide bombers! In Christchurch my
condolences the Muslims, in Sri Lanka to the Christians especially. Such a
horrific scene!

Every country must prepare to deal with urban terrorism and
to curb religious fundamentalism. Every religious teaching must be sprinkled
with a heavy dose of liberal ideas, to soften and eliminate violent strands. I
cannot understand how people can feel enlightened sitting in a mass preaching
session of some radical Mumbai preacher! This is where education comes into
play. If we are not doing the necessary to address this issue, we may regret
what we will be leaving behind for our children.

After ISIS “defeat” in Syria, the business did not
end there. The new theatres are wider: South and Southeast Asia. Preachers
trying to prove each other’s religion wrong, “People of the Book”
attacking each other. What is wrong here?

Internal politics of a country will invite external powers and
supra-national movements to intervene, through mass violence too. Since young,
I have always been suspicious what Islamic preachers from India/Pakistan are
bringing to us in Malaysia. Their understanding of jihad and to die for one’s
religion simply do not make sense, let alone be let to poison the minds of
peace-loving Malaysians living in a multicultural society.

Those who claimed to have carried out the recent Sri Lanka
bombings was a group that had an Arabic name: Jemaat Tawhid.  I asked these
questions: “Jemaat Tawhid
as suicide bomber? What in the world is that concept? I’d say we deport all
those preaching strange Islamic teachings! “Jemaat Tawhid” loosely
means “Congregation of Unity of Oneness”. To do what? To promote the
one-dimensionalism of jihad – to kill others in the name of religion and expect
to go straight to heaven?

My weekend started with dinner with my Jewish friends,
greeting Easter to my Christian friends, ended with reading about the horrible Sri
Lanka massacre! That Monday morning, in my class on Global Issues,  I Iectured on nationalism, trans-nationalism,
supra-nationalism, and millenniarist movements in our world today re: Sri Lanka.
The images of the bombings, the raw footage of the mass murderers entering the
church during Easter mass, haunted me and kept playing even while I was walking
around the classroom lecturing. More than 300 people died with about 500
injured. These are not mere statistics. They are human souls engaging in an
occasion of celebrating the life of a prophet and messenger of peace, a
spiritual figure named “Isa son of Mariam” (Peace be Upon Him).

Consider this: Islam without Sharia law, Hudud, Jihad for
the Islamic State. That will be the best! Philosophical, purely
cognitive-spiritual. One day, Islam controlled with hypocrisy by the powerful
and wealthy with be like The Monarch Butterflies. Extinct. Islamic Thinking of
Al Ghazali, Muhammad Abdul Wahab, Syed Qutb, Muhammmad Abdul A’la al Maududi
has done a lot of damage to the thinking of Muslims. Deconstruct!  To control their wealth, today’s world’s
“Muslim Monarchs” still use Islam, nervously, as a means of total
mind control.

How then must we educate? How must our policies to ensure
peace and security be put in place?

Bring home Islamic State soldiers?

Children in Malaysia’s  Islamic Tahfiz schools need a new compulsory
subject: Philosophy for Children. Malaysia is allowing home formers ISIS followers
and soldiers, gives refuge to most despised hate preacher. Horrible policy!
This is the malaise of the new Malay-Muslim government.

In the name of racial survival, the government is inching
towards the Islamic State endangering future generations. With the blessings of
the Ministry of Education, more universities may host that hate speech monger.
Absurd! We are weak in our critical thinking capacity. Malay-Muslim university
especially are easily fed with nonsense vomited by Wahabi-Salafist
televangelist preachers.

I’d say this now: Malaysians, deport any radical Islamist
preacher that do not belong in our country. Before it is too late. Pakatan
Harapan Government: have the guts to maintain peace! ISIS is not dead. Their
soldiers are merely returning home to carry out / orchestrate a
localized-global war. In Asia. In Southeast Asia. Including in the Nusantara.
It’s a business of terror and spiritualism gone totally wrong.

What would you
die for
?”  I asked this question
in a lecture to American students in discussing Global Issues re: Terrorism. One
must not die for anything. Not even for religion. Not even for God. One must
live to know oneself. To know God.

We must re-conceptualize the idea that Religion is all there
is to life. No. Spirituality reigns supreme. Even over the “self”. The
lack of and ignorance towards the meaning of “Liberal Education”
paved the way to the surrender of oneself to Jihadists.

Matriculating into Educational Malaise

“High Hopes, Broken Promises” That’s probably the theme
of this government’s one-year performance –

With regard to the Matriculation Quota Issue, what major
change has been done? Or merely a stubborn continuation of the same old racial
policy? Re: harboring radical Islamist-fugitive, what has been done? Government
is too weak in face of a nonsense that planted itself.

The Ministry of Education is seeing no value in meritocracy
and the fairness for children in a multicultural polity. Addicted to apartheid.
The non-Malays cannot hope for change it voted for, because the real agenda is
being exposed. Ketuanan Melayu 2.0.

Maybe this government is an ideological transitionary
regime, a mask of the old, the next wave of change is coming? Changing
educational policy re: equality and equity should be made as fast as
prosecuting Ajib and the 40 thieves. Why so slow?

People love to use the word “deep state” these
days. Trendy. Classy. But it’s merely a case of greed, ignorance and
incompetency.

Continuing Privatization policies and the strengthening of
the GLCs are mere recipes of disasters of previous corrupt entities. Today’s
top CEOs of American companies making 1000 times more than the average worker.
Disease of global free enterprise spreading.

In the 21st. century nobody wants Absolute Monarchy. Unless
you desire submitting yourself to mental slavery. Absolute monarchs are those
rulers who think they could swallow tons of gold daily and make themselves
powerful and holy.

Can we expect a just society to evolve if those in the
government are too busy fighting to install family-dynasties? But it’s not
about quota in education that’s only of essence, it’s the quality of thinking
too that is of concern.

Sustainable Mentality needed

Maybe the government does not understand holistically the
word “sustainability”, running across the entities? 

Maybe the
elections promises are merely silk curtains to a room full of horrible dreams?

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Russia News: Lenta.ru : Новости: Подсчитана стоимость отдыха Зеленского в Турции

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Победитель президентских выборов на Украине Владимир Зеленский мог потратить на трехдневный отдых в Турции с семьей около 30 тысяч долларов и около 33 — с учетом перелета. Об этом рассказал сотрудник пятизвездочного отеля в турецком районе Бодрум, где остановился политик.

Lenta.ru : Новости

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Russia News: “russia ukraine” – Google News: Vladimir Putin floats ‘common citizenship’ for Russians, Ukrainians – News Nation

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Vladimir Putin floats ‘common citizenship’ for Russians, Ukrainians  News Nation

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Ukrainians and Russians were.

“russia ukraine” – Google News

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Eurasia Review: China’s Digital Silk Road: The Integration Of Myanmar – Analysis

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Although relatively new to the information and communication technologies (ICT) field, Myanmar has made rapid progress in the technological domain in the past few years. This, coupled with the country’s unique geographical location between South Asia and Southeast Asia makes Myanmar an increasingly vital intersection in China’s Digital Silk Road.

By Chan Jia Hao*

With projects valued at over US$740 billion, Southeast Asia has become one of the most participative regions for China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In September 2018, China and Myanmar officially signed the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) agreement, an initiative first proposed by China’s foreign minister Wang Yi during his Myanmar visit in November 2017.

Connecting Kunming, Yangon and Mandalay, the CMEC has an enhanced bilateral focus on Myanmar within the BRI, aimed at fostering greater bilateral economic integration
through the formation of joint industrial zones and further lowering of
trade barriers. But alongside the CMEC, a parallel undercurrent of
technology flows between Myanmar and China is flourishing but given
little attention. It is crucial to understand this bilateral
technological exchange within the ambit of the Digital Silk Road to
perceive the significance of these developments.

The Digital or Information Silk Road (DSR)

Introduced as one of the sub-goals of connectivity under the massive
BRI in 2013, the Digital or Information Silk Road was conveyed to the
business community and governments at the China-European union digital
cooperation forum in July 2015 as a mere area of multilateral
cooperation with China.

But to date, memorandums of understanding between China and 16
countries have been officially signed under the Digital Silk Road (DSR).
Unofficially, the number of host countries would include at least a
third of BRI host countries − the China-based Belt and Road Portal has
reported that over 6,000 of China’s Internet enterprises alongside over
10,000 Chinese technological products have penetrated the overseas
market.

As China continues to promote digital connectivity and its
technologies under the BRI, this raises Myanmar’s playing field for
further economic integration in the region, especially with the country
acting as a strategic bridge between South and Southeast Asia. Myanmar
could do so both geographically and through its presence in regional
groupings like ASEAN and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM)
Forum.

Digitalising Myanmar

In ASEAN, Chinese investments in its combined technological sectors
account for over one third of Chinese tech investments across all BRI
countries (2007-2016). However, Myanmar is still a relatively new
entrant in the global ICT market. As of 2016, Myanmar still ranks 133th
out of 139 countries under the World Economic Forum’s Network Readiness
Index (NRI).

Across all ASEAN countries, Myanmar also scored the lowest in terms
of rank of business, government and individual usage under the NRI. In
addition, only an estimated 20 percent of Myanmar’s population has
access to 4G internet services.

But with progressive transformation from military to civilian rule,
the World Bank helped to liberalise its telecommunication sector,
through the Myanmar Telecommunications Sector Reform
in 2014. In August 2016, the Myanmar government formulated a 12-point
economic policy aimed at attracting investments as well as improving
employment opportunities and productivity. Within this grand economic
strategy, the government aims to build a digital government strategy,
supported by a rapidly growing ICT sector with infrastructure.

Through these efforts, Myanmar’s domestic ICT market is significantly
expanding. In 2017, Myanmar’s mobile phone users stood at 108 percent
of the population, having increased from a mere 13 percent in 2013. A
more liberal market has also made access to technology significantly
affordable. The average price of mobile sim cards has fallen 99.3
percent within the five year period from 2012-2017.

Broadband access also increased to 56 percent in 2017 as compared to
one percent in 2012, while the actual number of Internet lines that are
fibre optic based has grown at least 440 per cent between 2010 and
2016-17. Conversely, the number of dial-up lines fell to zero since
2016-17. At the backend of technology service provision, the Myanmar
government is also working on a 15-year power development plan to
sustain Myanmar’s digitalisation in the long run.

Digital Silk Road’s Involvement in Myanmar

Despite Myanmar’s steady growth in the ICT sector in the past few
years, the country continues to rely on external technology partners to
aid its domestic technological advancement. A number of instances
illustrates the magnitude of Chinese interest to further strengthen
Myanmar’s digital infrastructures.

First, Chinese interests in Myanmar’s ICT landscape have been
deepening over the last decade. Since, 2018 the country’s Ministry of
Transport and Communications has been working with
Huawei in order to deploy 5G broadband services across Myanmar within
the next five years. A further push was given to its 5G plans in
February 2019 when Huawei pledged to increase digital literacy and the
usage of Internet of Things in Myanmar.

However, even as early as 2013, Huawei had begun its involvement in Myanmar – it donated
more than US$5 million of equipment to Myanmar for a various purposes,
including the SEA Games Organisation and mobile technology systems.

On the softer side of Myanmar’s digital economy, Alibaba acquired
Shop.com.mn, Myanmar’s largest online shopping platform in early 2018
and has plans to localise e-commerce by working with local suppliers and
labour. It also attempts to introduce the Myanmar Payment Union on its e-commerce platform as a uniform payment solution across local bank partners.

Myanmar as a Critical Node for China

But their tech interests is not one-sided. As part of infrastructure building under the CMEC,
both China and Myanmar held their first science and technology
cooperation meeting in Yangon in late 2018, where they established a
joint radar and satellite communications laboratory. Prior to this,
China Unicom, China’s second largest mobile and fixed network operator, launched
a US$50 million China-Myanmar International (CMI) terrestrial cable
system in 2014. But this has yet to be activated for undisclosed
reasons.

Spanning across 1500 km from Ruili (Southwestern China) to Ngwe Saung
Beach on the west coast of Myanmar, the CMI cable project is but one of
the many Chinese cable projects in Asia set to link to those in
Djibouti in Africa, including ongoing Chinese cable projects under the
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Earlier in 2014, the Myanmar’s state
department of agriculture had also procured 520 sets of BeiDou satellite
navigation receiver for collecting and utilising agricultural data.

While Myanmar appears to be only one of the many hosts to the Digital
Silk Road, the country’s unique geographical location is a critical
node to link the BRI between South Asia and Southeast Asia, with respect
to digital connectivity. In addition, Myanmar’s participation in both
ASEAN and the BCIM Forum can further strengthen its position as a
potential collaborator and base for new-age projects such as inter-smart
cities for countries in this region.

*Chan Jia Hao is a Research Analyst with the Institute of South Asian Studies, an autonomous research institute of the National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore. Deepakshi Rawat is a Junior Research Analyst with Pulse Lab Jakarta, Indonesia.

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Eurasia Review: Putin-Kim Summit: Enter The Russian Factor – Analysis

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President Vladimir Putin’s meeting with North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un on 25 April 2019 in Vladivostok is not unexpected. It merely confirms that Russia has always had a role in trying to resolve the protracted issue of North Korea’s nuclear weapon development. The main purpose of this meeting is to reinforce the message that the US alone cannot influence what Pyongyang will do on denuclearisation.

By Chris Cheang*

The last summit between Russian and North Korean leaders took place in 2011 when Kim Jong-un’s father, Kim Jong-il, travelled to Siberia to meet Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s then president. That Kim Jong-un has agreed to meet Putin should not come as a surprise. Putin had issued an invitation to Kim Jong-un to visit Russia soon after the latter met Donald Trump at their summit in Singapore on 12 June 2018. It is also not surprising that the summit did not lead to any breakthrough on North Korean nuclear weapon development and denuclearisation.

The Putin-Kim summit took place not with a view to attempting a
breakthrough. That was obvious from the start. Both sides did not
publicise the summit weeks before, unlike Kim’s two summits with
President Trump. The Kremlin itself officially confirmed Kim’s visit
only on 18 April with no details or dates of the visit, other than
stating in a pithy fashion that he would visit Russia “in the second
half of April”.

Why the Putin-Kim Vladivostok Summit

While Russia is a key player in the whole issue, the fact remains
that only the United States and China could offer North Korea real
relief from the sanctions imposed by the United Nations and the US. Both
Putin and Kim know that. But there are at least four reasons why Putin
had entered the fray.

First, Putin wanted to show the world, especially the US, that no
lasting solution to the issue can be found without Russia’s
participation. Being a UN Security Council Permanent Member, a nuclear
power as well as North Korea’s neighbour, denuclearisation cannot happen
without Russia’s support. The Putin-Kim summit has only reinforced
these points. Indeed, the US Special Envoy for North Korea, Stephen
Biegun visited Moscow when news of the summit was made known.

Putin stressed at a press conference after the latest summit “it is
unlikely that agreements between the two countries will be enough”,
alluding to the need for international guarantees for North Korea’s
security. The two countries cited were the US and North Korea. Putin
felt that the Six-Party Talks format would certainly be “highly relevant
to develop a system of international security guarantees for North
Korea.”

Launched in 2003, the Six-Party Talks were aimed at ending North
Korea’s nuclear programme through negotiations involving China, the US,
North and South Korea, Japan and Russia but the process ended when North
Korea left the negotiations in 2009.

Showing Russia as an Asia-Pacific Power

Second, for the benefit of China, the US, South Korea and Japan which
have a direct interest in the issue, Putin also wanted the summit to
showcase Russia’s great power status and above all, that it is an
Asia-Pacific power.

Third, Putin would like to add momentum to international efforts to
find an acceptable and sustainable solution to the issue. Maintaining
contact and dialogue with Pyongyang therefore is not only logical but
also desirable.

Fourth, Russia also does not want a nuclear-armed and unstable North
Korea as that would pose a real security threat to its territory should
hostilities break out between North Korea and the US and its allies in
the region. Moreover, the current situation only provides the US and its
allies with more reasons to justify the deployment of missile defence
systems in the region. These systems could devalue Russia’s strategic
nuclear deterrent.

At the press conference, Putin emphasised that Russia also advocated
“complete denuclearisation: this is a fact”, adding that Russia
completely opposed the global proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction. He said that Russia had prioritised efforts to reduce the
threat of nuclear conflicts, a common priority. Of note, Putin stressed
that his impression was that Kim also “shares this viewpoint”. All North
Korea needed were national security guarantees. Putin’s references to
North Korea’s need for security guarantees imply that Russia remains
opposed to any regime change by the US.

Russia’s Limited Economic Leverage

Finally, since Russia has very limited economic leverage over North
Korea, compared to China, Russia will not exercise economic pressure on
Pyongyang. However, it is in Russia’s interest to try to revive economic
projects stalled by sanctions and the summit provided a good
opportunity to raise them with Kim Jong-un.

These projects revolve around Russia’s proposals to establish rail
links with both Koreas and a gas pipeline to South Korea running through
the North’s territory as well as the possible construction of electric
power lines.

Putin referred to these projects in the press conference, pointing
out that they were also in South Korea’s interest while alluding to
Seoul’s difficulties in making decisions. In a somewhat sarcastic tone,
Putin said that “apparently, there is a shortage of sovereignty during
the adoption of final decisions, and the Republic of Korea has certain
allied obligations before the US”. He made it plain that implementation
of these projects “would create essential conditions for increasing
trust, which is vitally needed to resolve various problems”.

On his part, Kim needed to balance his contacts and relations with
China, the US and South Korea. After all, he had met President Xi
Jinping, President Trump and President Moon Jae-in several times in the
past one year. His summit with Putin was therefore long overdue and part
of Pyongyang’s balancing act. Kim also wanted to show his people his
growing international stature, having met the leaders of the US, China
and Russia in a relatively short time.

What It Means for ASEAN

Any reduction of tensions in Northeast Asia would benefit Southeast
Asia as well. That Russia is playing its part to lessen these tensions
by holding a summit with North Korea is only to be welcomed. ASEAN
should expect Russia to continue playing a positive role in maintaining
peace and stability in the region.

ASEAN may need to revisit its position on the Six-Party Talks as this
subject may be raised by the Russian side at future ASEAN Plus settings
like the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum.

*Chris Cheang is a Senior Fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. He was a diplomat in the Singapore Embassy in Moscow for three terms between 1994 and 2013 before retiring in September 2017.

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Eurasia Review: China Bars Australian Coal In Political Rift – Analysis

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By Michael Lelyveld

After months of concern over China’s curbs on coal from Australia,
signs are growing that the imports have fallen victim to political
disputes.

Speculation over China’s motives has been rising since November, when
reports first surfaced that Chinese ports had stopped clearing inbound
coal shipments until the end of 2018 due to high inventories built up
ahead of winter.

While China is the world’s top producer and consumer of coal, it is
also the biggest buyer with imports of 281.5 million metric tons last
year, according to customs figures.

But the import restrictions in November have extended well into 2019, focusing heavily on Australia.

In early February, The Australian daily reported that customs
clearance times for the country’s exports of coking coal had doubled to
40 days at key Chinese ports. The paper cited speculation over
“Sino-Australian relations” as a reason for the slowdown.

The Australian pointed to the government’s decision last August to
ban Chinese telecom companies Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp. from
participating in the country’s 5G network development due to
cybersecurity concerns.

Other issues included Australia’s decision in November to block a bid
by Hong Kong-based CK Asset Holdings Ltd. for the gas pipeline business
of the country’s APA Group on “national interest” grounds.

Later in February, Reuters reported that Chinese traders had stopped
ordering Australian coal because of long wait times for customs
clearance at Chinese ports.

The report indicated that only Australian shipments had been targeted
for lengthy inspections at five import facilities controlled by the
Dalian Port Group in northeastern China’s Liaoning province.

“The traders and a broker said only cargoes from Australia, the
biggest supplier of the fuel to the world’s top consumer, were
affected,” Reuters said. The report noted that the ban applied to
thermal coal used in power plants and industry, as well as coking coal
for steel manufacturing.

Reuters also cited differences with China over hacking allegations and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

In January, Australian Defense Minister Christopher Pyne backed an
increase in Japan’s defense spending and voiced support for more
operations within disputed South China Sea boundaries, Australia’s ABC
News reported at the time.

In March, Chinese sources told The Australian that a second
statement on the South China Sea issue during Pyne’s January visit to
Singapore had angered Beijing and led to the coal crackdown.

As implications mounted and the Australian dollar came under
pressure, Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged caution “about leaping to
conclusions,” AFP News reported. The government sought an “urgent”
clarification from Beijing, the BBC said.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang said China was
conducting a “risk monitoring analysis … to safeguard the legitimate
rights and interests of Chinese importers and to protect the
environment.”

When asked whether Australian coal had been singled out, Geng simply repeated the statement, The Australian reported.

‘Using coal as a weapon’

Australian suppliers argued against concluding that their exports had
been targeted, but analysts saw a political message in China’s curbs.

“The banning of those coal shipments is a form of coercion against
Australia. It’s punishment against states that resist China’s pressure,”
said Dr. Malcolm Davis, senior analyst at the Australian Strategic
Policy Institute, according to the BBC.

“China is using coal as a weapon to fight back against Australia,” an unnamed commodity analyst told The Australian Financial Review.

On April 15, the business daily reported that fears of port delays
had caused Chinese buyers to switch from Australian sources to other
suppliers.

In interviews, Chinese traders and customers agreed that Australian
coal has been subjected to tougher environmental checks than exports
from Indonesia, Russia, or Mongolia.

“China doesn’t need to introduce a formal ban,” the paper quoted one
source as saying. “The real risk is that customers will just stop buying
it because they think shipments won’t get through.”

On April 12, The Sydney Morning Herald reported comments by a Chinese industry official that seemed to strip away any ambiguity over motivations behind the coal ban.

“You can’t earn Chinese money and then politically make irresponsible
comments about China and become unfriendly,” said Cui Pijiang, director
of the China Coking Industry Association, speaking at a conference in
Beijing.

“I’m afraid … this is something the Chinese government can’t tolerate,” Cui said.

Although Chinese traders were unable to say which of the
disagreements with Australia had prompted China’s restrictions, they
voiced support for retaliation on imports.

“The ban on Australian coal has created a lot of disturbance for coal traders, coal users, and related industries. But it is more important for China to give Australia a good lesson,” one trader told The Financial Review.

A common response

The import penalty appeared to signal an increasing willingness on
the part of China to throw its economic weight around in the global
energy market in the service of its political agenda and strategic
goals.

But the uncertainty over which of the bilateral conflicts may have
triggered the Chinese crackdown on Australian exports may make the
problem especially difficult for diplomacy.

Mikkal Herberg, energy security research director for the
Seattle-based National Bureau of Asian Research, said China’s government
has been typically responsive to the interests of domestic coal
companies, which have suffered from weakening demand and environmental
rules.

“It is very common for Beijing to respond to pressure from the coal
industry associations by cutting imports and using a whole variety of
often bogus explanations,” Herberg said.

But Herberg also sees a political motive behind the restrictions on Australian coal.

“Clearly, there is also a political, diplomatic element to this and
more evidence that Beijing is willing to use its market power as well as
other means to send political messages,” he said.

“It seems to me that this is clearly a message to Australia over
recent political tensions. Otherwise, how can you explain the cut and
delays in imports of Australian coking coal while other suppliers are
unaffected?” Herberg said.

A combination of industry pressures and politics also seems possible.

“Put the two together and why not help support the domestic coal
industry … by cutting cheaper coking coal imports while also sending a
very blunt message to the Australians that ‘positive political
relations’ are required for growing trade?” Herberg said.

In the case of coking coal in particular, Herberg sees no justification for banning Australian imports on environmental grounds.

“The environmental explanation hardly works, since Australian coking
coal is generally very low sulfur, one of its key market advantages,”
Herberg said.

Before the ban, Australia accounted for some 44 percent of China’s coking coal imports, The Australian reported.

While some Australian coal under contract is getting through the
ports to Chinese traders and buyers, the delays are expected to last
through the rest of the year, Australian reports said.

Last week, a Reuters report gave a glimmer of hope to Australian
exporters, noting that Chinese customs figures showed a near doubling of
coking coal imports from Australia in March from February.

But a trader suggested that some ports may have allowed the increase
to take advantage of lower prices despite the continuing customs delays.

Bloomberg News reported that the slowdown would last at least through
Australia’s federal elections on May 18, giving China time to assess
the possibility of policy changes in Canberra. The report cited unnamed
“people with knowledge of the plan.”

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Eurasia Review: India: Sustained Subversion In Punjab – Analysis

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By Nijeesh N*

As in previous years,
Pakistani efforts to create disturbances in the Indian State of Punjab
in support of Khalistani separatism continued through 2018. Worryingly,
Khalistani terrorists managed to inflict a major attack
(resulting in three or more fatalities) in the State after an 11 year
gap, with three persons killed and another 20 injured in a grenade
attack at a religious congregation at the Nirankari Satsang Bhawan at
Adliwal village in Amritsar District on November 8, 2018. The last such
major attack was reported on October 14, 2007, when seven persons were
killed and 40 were injured in a bomb blast inside a cinema hall in
Ludhiana.

The Punjab Chief Minister
Captain (Retd.) Amarinder Singh referring to the Satsang Bhavan blast
stated on November 19, 2018, that the attack had Pakistan’s ‘signature’
as the grenade used (HG-84) in the attack was similar to the grenades
manufactured by Pakistan’s Army Ordnance Factory. Indeed, Punjab Police
subsequently arrested two members of the Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF),
Bikramjit Singh (arrested on November 21, 2019) and Avtar Singh
(November 24, 2019), for their involvement in the grenade attack and
identified three other persons residing in foreign countries as accused
(names not disclosed). The arrested persons disclosed that the grenade
was provided by Pakistan-based KLF ‘chief’ Harmeet Singh Happy aka PhD.

Harmeet Singh had earlier
masterminded the conspiracy to carry out a series of targeted killings
in different parts of Punjab over 2016-2017, with the support of
Pakistan’s military establishment and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
A total of nine persons, including some leaders of Hindu outfits, were killed over
this period in ‘targeted attacks’ which the National Investigation
Agency (NIA)’s investigation unveiled were planned and executed by a
transnational network of conspirators, including Harmeet Singh.

Punjab recorded another attack
on September 14, 2018, when four militants hurled four grenades at the
Maqsudan Police Station in Jalandhar District, injuring two Police
personnel. Investigation revealed that Jammu and Kashmir-based Ansar
Ghazwat-ul-Hind, headed by Zakir Rashid Bhatt aka Zakir Musa, had
carried out the attacks. Zakir Musa had also directed Kashmiri students
to plant a grenade at the Chandigarh bus stand.

On December 26, 2018, the UMHA banned KLF and all its manifestations under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). KLF was the 40th entry in the list of terrorist organizations banned by the Government of India.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), in 2018 three civilian fatalities were recorded in Punjab, all in the November 8, 2018 attack. In 2017, apart from the targeted killings of six persons, Punjab had recorded two fatalities as the Border Security Force (BSF) shot dead two Pakistani infiltrators along the Indo-Pakistan border. During 2016, Punjab recorded 25 fatalities, which included the attack on the Indian Air Force (IAF) Base at Pathankot on January 2-3, 2016, by Islamist Terrorists of the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). 2015 also saw an Islamist terrorist attack at the Dinanagar Police Station  campus in the Gurdaspur District of Punjab in the early hours of July 27, 2015, in which 10 persons were killed (three civilians, four SF personnel and three terrorists). No fatalities were recorded in 2014 and 2013. Two infiltrators were killed along the Punjab border in 2012.

Significantly, the Minister of State in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA), Hansraj Gangaram Ahir on January 2, 2019, informed the Rajya Sabha
(Upper House of Indian Parliament) that a total of 18 Khalistani
terrorist modules were neutralized, resulting in the arrest of 95
Khalistani operatives, during the preceding two years in Punjab.

Earlier on November 18, 2018,
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh stated that at least 15 terrorist modules
had been neutralized in the preceding 18 months, with indications of
‘Kashmiri terror’ links emerging in some instances as well, as evidenced
in the case of the grenade attack at Maqsudan Police Station on
September 14, 2018.

Partial data on the SATP
database records at least 16 Khalistan militants arrested through 2018,
in addition to 42 arrested in 2017. A total of 234 Khalistani terrorists
principally associated with the Babbar Khalsa International (BKI),
Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF), Bhindranwale Tigers Force of Khalistan
(BTFK), Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF), Khalistan Commando Force (KCF),
International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) as well as some minor
factions have been arrested since 2010 (data till April 28, 2019). At
least seven of these militants have been arrested in the current year
(data till April 28, 2019).

Most recently, on March 31,
2019, the State Special Operations Cell (SSOC) of the Punjab Police
neutralized a terrorist module and arrested five ‘highly radicalised’
members of the Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) from a park near Dara
Studio in the Phase 6 area of Sahibzada Ajit Singh Nagar in Mohali
District. One .32 bore pistol along with a magazine and four live
rounds, as well as 15 letter pads of BKI, were recovered from the
possession of the arrested persons.

According to reports, the fives
arrestees were part of a bigger module which also included three other
militants, identified as Rupinder Singh, Daler Singh Bunty and Ranjit
Singh, who are yet to be arrested. Ranjit Singh, former ‘chief’ of the
Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF),
is based in Germany, and was the mastermind providing help to the
accused and motivating them to eliminate the targets. The arrested
persons were also reportedly in touch with Jagtar Singh Hawara of BKI,
currently lodged in Tihar jail in New Delhi.

According to Varinder Paul
Singh, Assistant Inspector General (AIG) of SSOC, Mohali, the arrested
persons were radicalised over social media by suspected persons based in
Europe. The module was planning to kill specific targets in Punjab,
including Hindu leaders and members of Dera Sacha Sauda. The accused
wanted to kill certain people to fulfill the ‘incomplete’ task other
militants who were lodged in different jails in Punjab and other States.
The module was mobilising funds and had already procured lethal
weapons. They were also planning to arrange weapons’ training in Jammu
and Kashmir (J&K) and were in touch with leaders such as Ranjit
Singh and Jagtar Singh Hawara in this regard.

Meanwhile, activities to keep
Khalistani/Sikh separatism alive continued at the international level.
Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a marginal Khalistani diaspora group
headquartered in the United States (US), organized an event on August
12, 2018, at Trafalgar Square in London and announced the ‘Khalistani
Referendum 2020’ campaign. The ‘referendum’ purportedly aims to
determine the wishes of the Sikh community settled across the globe on
the issue of Punjab’s ‘liberation’ from India by 2020, and then pursue a
referendum through the intervention of the United Nations (UN).

According to intelligence
sources in August 2018, ISI, a secret operation code-named as ‘Express’
was funding and promoting the ‘Khalistani Referendum 2020’ campaign.
Significantly, on November 23, 2018, when India’s Cabinet approved the
decision on the construction of the Kartarpur corridor, Pakistan gave permission
to the SFJ to open its office in Lahore. On November 28, 2018, the SFJ
leadership even declared, ‘the Kartarpur corridor is a bridge to
Khalistan’ and announced their intention to organise the Kartarpur Sahib
Convention-2019 in support of the referendum agenda at Kartarpur Sahib
in Pakistan, if the proposed corridor for Sikh pilgrims between India
and Pakistan is functional by then. On April 14, 2019, however, the
Pakistan Government disallowed foreign-based Khalistani Sikhs from
commencing registration for ‘Referendum 2020’ in Pakistan.

On the Sikh festival of
Baisakhi (April 14), the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee
(PSGPC) general secretary, Gopal Chawla, raised slogans in support of
Khalistan while trying to instigate Indian Sikh pilgrims from the stage
at Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Pakistan. An unnamed Indian intelligence
officer observed,

Things are not as they are being presented. It appears a preplanned game plan of both the ISI and SFJ… Its [Pakistan’s] leadership is under tremendous pressure from international community and can’t afford to allow a secessionist movement to operate from its soil which has the potential to turn violent. Allowing its own Sikh leader to raise Khalistan slogans is less detrimental than allowing foreign separatists to use its land for fanning anti sentiments in full public and media glare.

Interestingly, on April 12,
2019, due to the domestic political compulsions, the Canadian Government
removed eight references to Sikh extremism and six references to
Khalistan from its terror report – “2018 Public Report on the Terrorism
Threat to Canada”. Earlier, in December 2018, for the first time, the
Canadian Government had listed Khalistani extremism among the threats
the country is facing, in its annual federal report on terror threats
since the commencement of the report in 2013. On February 21, 2018,
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had handed over
a list of ‘A’ category operatives of BKI, KTF and ISYF to the Canadian
Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, during the latter’s visit to Punjab.

The peace that has long
prevailed in Punjab, after a decade and a half of Khalistani terrorism,
is now being tested. Islamabad is exerting efforts to create a bond
between Islamist and Khalistani terrorist formations in its stables.
According to an April 8, 2019, media report, the Intelligence Bureau
(IB) had warned that Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind and several pro-Khalistan
groups would come together to disrupt the General Elections in Punjab,
scheduled to be held on May 19, 2019. Seven-phase general elections are
currently underway across the country, with the last phase on May 19,
and the counting of votes on May 23.

There is a continuous trickle of Khalistani extremist recruitment and radicalization in the Punjab, fuelled by extremist elements in the Sikh Diaspora and generously supported and actively directed by Pakistan’s ISI. The Punjab Police and intelligence apparatus has been successful in neutralizing a large number of potential terrorists and cells within Punjab, and consequently in preventing a number of incidents. The impact within Punjab remains marginal, but any complacency would be an invitation to future disasters, and the risks of major incidents remain constantly alive.

*Nijeesh N
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

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Eurasia Review: South Asia: Changing Face Of Terror – Analysis

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By Ajit Kumar Singh*

On April 21, 2019, South Asia
witnessed the worst ever terror attack, in terms of fatalities, recorded
in the region till date. On Easter Sunday (April 21), Islamist
terrorists carried out eight coordinated suicide bomb attacks within a
span of six hours (8:45am to 2:45am, SST). The attacks which targeted
three Churches and three major hotels across the three main cities –
Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa – of Sri Lanka, resulted in fatalities
of at least 253 persons, including 250 civilians and three Security
Force (SF) personnel. Nine suicide bombers involved in the attacks were
also killed, taking the total death toll in the incident to 262. Another
500 persons were injured, including many severely.

Incidents in Sri Lanka after
the April 21 attack, prominently, the raid by Sri Lankan SFs’ in Ampara
District on April 26-27, 2019, which resulted in the death of 15
persons, mostly terror suspects who were part of the larger module
involved in the April 21 attacks, and their family members, clearly
indicate that the present threat is far from over.

Preliminary investigations
indicate that two little known Sri Lanka-based Islamist terror
formations, the National Thawheed Jamaath and Jammiyathul Millathu
Ibrahim in collusion with the global terrorist formation, Islamic State
(IS, also Daesh), carried out the attacks.

The previous worst attack in
the region was recorded on March 12, 1993, in Mumbai (Maharashtra) in
India, when the city was rocked by a series of bomb explosions within a
span of two and a half hours (1:30pm to 4:00pm, IST) which had resulted
in death of 253 persons. At least 713 persons had sustained injuries in
the attack. The Mumbai attacks were masterminded by Dawood Ibrahim,
whose D-Company has now established close associations with the Islamist
terrorist formations operating out of Pakistan. Dawood Ibrahim is
globally one of the most wanted terrorists.

South Asia has for long faced Islamist terrorism and, since 2005, according to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP),
the region has accounted for at least 71,400 Islamist terrorism-linked
fatalities: 24,766 civilians; 8,218 SF personnel; 38,416 militants (data
till April 28, 2019). [The data does not include fatalities in
Afghanistan as the SATP database on Afghanistan only commences January
1, 2018]. Pakistan accounted for 62,535 such fatalities, followed by
India (7,828), Bangladesh (760) and Sri Lanka (277).

1,156 of these fatalities were
recorded in 2018 down from 1,683 in 2017. There were a total of 560 such
fatalities in 2019. Fatalities in this category have been declining
since 2010.

Nevertheless, the attacks in Sri Lanka, and developments in recent pasts in Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and the Maldives,
demonstrate that threats from this form of terrorism remain as alive,
and have the potential to gain significant momentum at any juncture in
these countries if there is any slackness on the part of the Government
in the policy making and the SFs on ground. The April 21 attacks in Sri
Lanka underline the dangers of complacency, as there was ample actionable intelligence  available with authorities, but the intelligence and enforcement apparatus failed to act.

Left-Wing Extremism (LWE),
which has also afflicted wide areas in the region, has also been on a
decline. According to the SATP database, since 2005, the region has
accounted for at least 11,654 LWE-linked fatalities (3,757 civilians,
2,532 SF personnel, 5,365 militants, data till April 28, 2019). India
accounted for 8,260 such fatalities, followed by Nepal 2,623 Bangladesh
758 and Bhutan, 13.

418 Maoist fatalities were
recorded in 2018 up from 348 in 2017. There have already been 102 such
fatalities in 2019. Though fatalities in this category have maintained a
cyclical trend since 2010 it has never crossed three digits thereafter.
There were a total of 1,268 LWE-linked fatalities in 2010. 
Significantly, the two decade-long Maoist insurgency in Nepal ended with
a peace agreement in 2006, removing one of the principal theatres of
LWE violence from the conflict map.

In Bangladesh, mounting SF
pressure has forced LWEs to stop their violent activities. Indeed, the
last incident of killing by LWEs was recorded on December 9, 2013, when
suspected LWEs killed a local trader in the Santhia sub-District of
Pabna District.

Developments in India,
nevertheless, demonstrate that the residual potential of LWE groups is
significant.  In India, the intermittent and audacious attacks of the
recent past clearly indicate that the Maoists still possess the
wherewithal, albeit diminishing, to strike at will. Even as the general
elections are underway in the country, cadres of the Communist Party of
India–Maoist (CPI-Maoist)
triggered an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast and subsequently
opened fire, targeting the convoy of a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), Bhima Mandavi, in a forested
patch near Nakulnar village under the Kuwakonda tehsil (revenue
unit) of Dantewada District in Chhattisgarh’s ailing Bastar Division, on
April 9, 2019. Those killed included MLA Mandavi and his three Personal
Security Officers (PSOs), as well as the constable-driver.

Total terrorism and insurgency
linked fatalities in South Asia (including Islamist and LWE) have
dropped from a peak of 29,638 (of which 15,565 were in Sri Lanka alone)
in 2009, to just 1,648 in 2018, the lowest fatalities recorded in a year
since 2005. There were 2,145 fatalities in 2017. Such fatalities have
been in continuous decline since 2010.

At least 614 fatalities, including 329 civilians, 120 SF personnel and 165 Insurgents/terrorists, have been documented across the region in the first quarter of 2019 (data till April 28, 2019). During the corresponding period in 2018, there were 501 such fatalities, including 136 civilians, 131 SF personnel and 243 Insurgents.

The spread of conflict has
declined along with its intensity. The SATP Conflict Map for South Asia
shows significant areas of the region affected by high intensity
conflict (fatalities above 1000) in 2009, while there were no such regions remaining in 2018.
By 2018, only two Districts (Mastung and Quetta), both in the
Balochistan Province of Pakistan, remained afflicted by low intensity
conflict (fatalities between 100 and 1000 per annum).  Another 134
districts were affected by ‘other conflict’ (less than 100 fatalities
per annum), of which 83 were in India and 41 were in Pakistan.

However, the situation in
Afghanistan remains dire. According to partial data compiled by SATP,
3,705 fatalities have already been recorded, including 124 civilians,
394 SF personnel and 3,182 insurgents, in 503 incidents of killing in
2019 (data till April 28). During the corresponding period in 2018,
5,345 fatalities, including 285 civilians, 252 SF personnel and 4,502
insurgents, were recorded in 705 incidents of killing. Through 2018,
fatalities totaled 14,581, including 1,076 civilians, 1,526 SF personnel
and 11,684 Insurgents, in 1,758 incidents of killing. 

Casualties among civilians, the
best indicator of the prevailing security scenario in any theatre of
conflict, have been rising in Afghanistan since 2014, with the exception
of 2017. 2018 registered 3,804 fatalities among civilians, the highest
ever recorded by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan
UNAMA since 2009 [when UNAMA first began counting civilian fatalities].
The previous high of 3,701 civilian fatalities was recorded in 2014.
Fatalities in the civilian category remained under 3,000 for four out of
the five years between 2009 and 2013. Civilian fatalities stood at
3,133 in 2011.

Sustained improvement in the
security situation across much of South Asia has helped the region grow.
According to the latest available World Bank data,
the region’s GDP (current USD) had risen to 3.34 trillion in 2017, as
against 1.683 trillion in 2009, when fatalities were at peak. Similarly,
Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, at USD 1063.85 in 2009,
increased to USD 1723.92 in 2017. Life expectancy increased from 64.3 in
2009 to 68.95 in 2017.

Nevertheless, South Asia remains among the most violent region globally. According to the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) 2018,

South Asia had the highest impact of terrorism on average in 2017, and has had the highest average score on the GTI of any region for the past 16 years. Bhutan was the only country in South Asia not to record a death from terrorism in 2017 and is the only South Asian country to have less than a thousand deaths from terrorism since 2002.
As well as accounting for the highest number of total deaths, MENA [Middle east and North Africa], South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa also had the most lethal terrorist attacks on average, with 2.75, 1.85 and 4.35 people killed per attack respectively.

More worryingly, the GTI 2018 confirmed,

Many countries in South Asia have seen an increase in terrorist activity from ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, Daesh] and its affiliates in the past few years. In Bangladesh, the largest recent terrorist attack occurred in 2016, when an armed assault in Dhaka killed 28 people. ISIL later claimed responsibility for the attack. In 2017, the two deadliest attacks in South Asia were committed by the Khorasan Chapter of the Islamic State in Afghanistan and Pakistan, killing 93 and 91 persons respectively.

According to The Soufan Center’s report
in 2017, 75 persons from India, 650 persons from Pakistan and 32
persons from Sri Lanka had joined fighting alongside the Islamic State.
Specifically, according to the SATP database, a total of 168 Daesh
sympathizers/recruits have been arrested and another 74 persons have
been detained, counselled and released, in India (data till April 28,
2019), while 98 Indians were believed to have travelled to Syria, Iraq
and Afghanistan to join IS – microscopic numbers in terms of the
country’s huge Muslim population. Of the 98 who travelled abroad to join
Daesh, 33 are confirmed to have been killed. Further, according to an ICSR report
on Women and Minors of Islamic State published in July 2018, at least
200 persons from Maldives and 40 persons from Bangladesh were also among
Daesh’s foreign fighters.

Daesh’s involvement in the latest suicide bombings and subsequent incidents in Sri Lanka are a warning to all states across the region. Indeed, the perpetrator groups in Sri Lanka are also believed to have linkages in India. The degree to which the evolution of the National Thawheed Jamaath and the Jamiyathul Milathu Ibrahim (both groups were banned by Sri Lankan Government on April 27, 2019) was hidden away from intelligence and enforcement agencies in Sri Lanka is an index of the potential that could well be developing, or that could develop, in other countries of the region as well. Despite tremendous gains across major theatres of violence across South Asia, states and their agencies need to be far more vigilant, responsive and prepared to meet potentially escalating threats in the near future.

*Ajit Kumar Singh
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management

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FBI from Michael_Novakhov (27 sites): “fbi criticism” – Google News: AP News in Brief at 6:03 a.m. EDT – Biloxi Sun Herald

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AP News in Brief at 6:03 a.m. EDT  Biloxi Sun Herald

FBI got tips minutes before California synagogue attack. POWAY, Calif. (AP) — The FBI said it got tips about a social media post threatening violence against …

“fbi criticism” – Google News

FBI from Michael_Novakhov (27 sites)


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Eurasia Review: Clarity On Ebb And Flow In Oil Markets To Come In June – OpEd

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By Cornelia Meyer*

Last week the oil markets were packed with drama. Observers had been
waiting with bated breath for a decision on whether or not the Trump
administration would roll over the exemptions to the waivers on the
sanctions of Iranian oil imports it had granted to eight countries.

Nobody expected the US president to give his decision as early as last
Monday. To everybody’s surprise he chose to inform the public that the
US would not roll over the exemptions. That sent Brent soaring to above
$74.

Donald Trump had accompanied his announcement with comments that markets
would remain well-supplied because Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the US and
others would ensure that market demands were met.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih surprised further when he said
that the Kingdom would not change its output levels in May but closely
watch markets.

The Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC) will meet in May in
Jeddah. It monitors the production cuts of OPEC+ (an alliance of OPEC
and 10 allied nations lead by Russia). Action on the part of OPEC is
unlikely until OPEC+ meet in late June in Vienna.

On Thursday news hit that Germany, Poland and Slovakia halted Russian
imports from the main Druzhba pipeline due to quality concerns. While
quality issues with pipeline oil can occasionally occur, this could not
have come at a worse time given Trump’s announcement earlier in the
week.

The oil price quickly pierced $75 just to tumble by 3 percent on Friday on a Trump tweet urging OPEC to open its taps.

The rise and steep fall of the oil price last week showed a few things, but mainly that there is uncertainty in the markets.

On the one hand Trump’s and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s
announcement not to extend the waivers came earlier than expected and
gave some clarity on the direction of travel the US had intended to
take. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia and OPEC did not immediately
announce that they stood ready to compensate for the shortfall.

At the same time, the US simultaneous clampdown on Iran and Venezuela
takes out the heavy grades that refiners desperately need. While the US
has become a net exporter of oil courtesy of the shale revolution, there
is only that much of its light crude that refiners can accommodate at
this point. India finds itself in a particular bind as its refiners
depend heavily on Iranian crude, even more so since Venezuelan
production has fallen off a cliff.

Nevertheless, the steep fall of the oil price on Friday was a reflection
that OPEC (particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE) does have the spare
capacity to pump an extra 1.5 – 2 million bpd.

Also, if OPEC+ reversed its production cuts of 1.2 million bpd, which it
had signed up for in December of last year, this would be sufficient to
compensate even if Iranian exports fell to zero. However, no one
expects Iranian exports to go to zero. One will have to see whether
concessions on imports of Iranian crude will enter the US-China trade
negotiations and what side deals China will cut with the Islamic
Republic. India’s future course of action is a further factor.

We will need to give it until the end of May to understand how much
Iranian oil will de facto come off the markets and until June to see how
OPEC+ will react. In the meantime, Venezuelan production will remain
extremely low due to the domestic situation.

The political situation in Libya is another wild card. While the current
developments have so far not affected output, they could if the
conflict reaches the oilfields.

The US policy move will ease tensions in OPEC+, where Russia recently
piled on the pressure to relax December’s production cuts. Some of its
producers have become anxious to release their new-built capacity on the
market. In some counterintuitive way the US stance on the Iran waivers
may give the OPEC+ coalition the space to formalize future co-operation
under less pressure.

We will have to wait until June’s meetings of OPEC+ to see how the end
of the exemptions to the Iran oil sanctions will play out in the market.
While markets are getting tight, there is sufficient spare capacity to
keep them well-supplied. The safe money is on that markets will remain
well-supplied.

  • Cornelia Meyer is a business consultant, macro-economist and energy expert. Twitter: @MeyerResources

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Eurasia Review: Iran Regime Faces Twin Economic Meltdown

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By Frank Kane

Iran is facing a double financial meltdown, with soaring
inflation and an economy expected to shrink by 6 percent in 2019, the
International Monetary Fund said on Monday.

In addition, the IMF’s projection was calculated before US President
Donald Trump this month told buyers of Iranian oil to halt purchases by
May or face sanctions, ending six months of exemptions that allowed
Iran’s eight biggest customers to continue with imports.

That move followed the resumption of sanctions against Iran’s oil exports last November.

“Clearly the re-imposition of sanctions and the removal of the waivers
will have additional negative impact on the Iranian economy both in
terms of growth and in terms of inflation, and inflation could reach 40
percent or even more this year,” said Jihad Azour, director of the IMF’s
Middle East and Central Asia department.

US sanctions against Iran have already cost the regime in Tehran more than $10 billion in lost oil revenue.

Meanwhile the Iranian currency, the rial, lost more than 60 percent of
its value last year, disrupting Iran’s foreign trade and increasing
annual inflation even further.

The official exchange rate is set at 42,000 Iranian rials to the US
dollar, but the real market rate is currently about 144,000. Iran needs
to work to eliminate the gap between the market exchange rate and the
official exchange rate, said Azour.

The currency’s slide, from about 43,000 at the end of last year, has
eroded the value of ordinary Iranians’ savings, triggering panic buying
of dollars. In addition, Tehran’s bazaar traders and businessmen,
traditional supporters of the regime, have complained that they are
unable to operate their businesses because of the fluctuating dollar
exchange rate.

The weak currency and soaring inflation have led to outbreaks of
sporadic street protests in Tehran and elsewhere since late 2017.

Despite the negative economic outlook for Iran, Azour said there was
little chance of “contagion” spreading to the rest of the region as a
result of Iranian problems because the country was relatively
disconnected from trading patterns in the region.

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Eurasia Review: Islamic State Leader Baghdadi Appears In Video For First Time In Five Years

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The leader of the extremist Islamic State (IS) group has appeared in a video for the first time in five years.

The video — released by the IS’s media outlet, Al-Furqan, on April
29 — shows Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appearing with an unkempt, bushy gray
and red beard while sitting on the floor against a wall. He is wearing a
black robe with a light vest over it and has a machine gun near his
right arm.

Three masked men are seen listening to him speak.

Baghdadi — speaking slowly and often pausing — says the IS group
will gain revenge for the killing and imprisonment of its fighters.

He says his group’s operations against the West are a “long battle.”

It is unknown where the 18-minute video was taken and both Iraqi and
U.S.-backed forces are seeking to capture the extremist leader.

Baghdadi, 47, last appeared in a video while delivering a sermon at
the Al-Nuri Mosque in 2014 in the Iraqi city of Mosul, which had been
taken by IS forces when they swept over large swathes of Iraq and Syria.
It was during that speech that he declared the establishment of an
Islamic caliphate.

The SITE Intelligence group said Baghdadi spoke in the video about
the conclusion of the battle in Baghuz, which was the last IS stronghold
in Syria before falling to the U.S.-backed forces.

A date on the video said it had been recorded in April. But the authenticity and date of the video cannot be verified.

Baghdadi also discussed the recent bombings in Sri Lanka that killed
more than 250 people and claimed those attacks were carried out in
retaliation for the fall of Baghuz.

“This is part of the revenge waiting for the crusaders,” he added.

Baghdadi has been reported killed or injured several times in recent years.

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