Trump Investigations from Michael_Novakhov (85 sites): “2016 Presidential Election Investigation” – Google News: Trump lawyers welcome report of third probe of Russia investigation – NBCNews.com

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Trump lawyers welcome report of third probe of Russia investigation  NBCNews.com

Attorney General William Barr told Congress last month that he thought federal authorities had likely spied on the Trump presidential campaign.

“2016 Presidential Election Investigation” – Google News

Trump Investigations from Michael_Novakhov (85 sites)


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Eurasia Review: And The Beat Goes On: Congress Spars With Trump And Barr Over Mueller Report – Analysis

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By George W. Croner*

(FPRI) — For those who thought that the long-awaited release of the redacted “Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election” (the “Mueller Report” or the “Report”) might presage an end to debate over the controversial events investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the past few weeks have provided a stark reminder that partisan divisions and the election calendar will not allow for such a respite.

Having recently written to offer my own views on the Mueller Report itself,[1] the subsequent events that now have followed the Report’s completion and submission to the Attorney General are deserving of further comment since, in many respects, it is those events that will now drive the course of the inevitable follow-up to Mueller’s investigation and conclusions.

The Handling of the Public Release of the Mueller Report

What might be dubbed the “post-Report” phase of the Mueller investigation began with the Attorney General’s March 24, 2019 letter to Congress (the “March 24th Letter”)[2] providing William Barr’s four-page synopsized interpretation of “the principal conclusions reached by [the] Special Counsel.” Most notable, where Mueller had carefully refrained from reaching a prosecutorial conclusion on whether the President had obstructed justice, Barr rushed to fill the void by announcing that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had concluded that “the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.” This judgment was made despite Mueller’s specific statement that “if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.”

Not surprisingly, the Attorney General’s March 24th Letter triggered immense public scrutiny and heightened anticipation for the release of the actual Report—despite the Attorney General’s promised redactions. In the midst of the initial reaction prompted by Barr’s comments, Mueller wrote to Barr taking issue with the Attorney General’s summary: “‘The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions,’ Mueller wrote. ‘There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.’”[3] The Attorney General chose not to publicly share the content of Mueller’s letter, or the fact that he had received it, and the letter’s contents remained unknown until revealed by The Washington Post on April 30, 2019.

The next step in the Justice
Department’s choreographed release of its redacted version of the
Mueller Report played out in the somewhat unusual format of an April 18,
2019 press conference, where the Attorney General held court flanked by
Rod Rosenstein and Edward O’Callaghan. By using such an orchestrated
setting as his chosen stage for the “release” of his redacted version of
the Mueller Report, the Attorney General assured that the story would
focus nearly as much on his presentation as on the merits of the Special
Counsel’s work, and, in his remarks at the press conference, Barr
doubled down on several of the points made in his March 24th Letter.

While certain aspects of the Attorney
General’s public performance on April 18th might be defensible if
considered in isolation, the chosen forum allowed Barr an initial
opportunity to vet the Special Counsel’s findings selectively and, one
could argue, sometimes misleadingly—but uniformly in a way that aligned
with President Trump’s narrative. A few examples: Barr said that “the
President took no act that in fact deprived the Special Counsel of the
documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation.” This
ignores the President’s refusal to be interviewed during the
investigation, as well as Mueller’s conclusion that former Trump
campaign manager, Paul Manafort, lied to the government after statements
by the President that “had the potential to influence Manafort’s
decision whether to cooperate with the government.” Barr also announced
that Mueller had found “substantial evidence to show that the President
was frustrated and angered” by an investigation that was “undermining
his presidency,” suggesting that “this evidence of non-corrupt motives
weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt
intent to obstruct the investigation.” In truth, what Mueller actually
said was that while “[s]ome evidence indicates that the President
believed that the erroneous perception he was under investigation harmed
his ability to manage domestic and foreign affairs . . . [o]ther
evidence . . . indicates that the President wanted to protect himself
from an investigation into his campaign.” Contrasting this deliberately
selective phraseology with Mueller’s own language as found in the Report
reveals that Barr presented, at best, half the picture.

Perhaps even more troublesome, when asked whether the Justice Department’s policy against indicting a sitting President[4] “had anything to do with” Mueller’s refusal to reach a decision on obstruction of justice, Barr responded that Mueller “made it very clear that . . . [h]e was not saying that but for the [Office of Legal Counsel] OLC opinion, he would have found a crime.” Barr’s statement may be literally true, but given that Mueller’s actions derived entirely from his view that the OLC Opinion precluded indictment and prosecution, it was misleading. The Report makes clear that the Special Counsel’s perception of his required acceptance of the OLC Opinion that a sitting President could not be indicted[5] incontestably influenced Mueller’s view that he was, therefore, unable “to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment” with respect to the President. Moreover, Mueller emphasized that his reticence to make such a judgment reflected not only the constitutional considerations underlying the OLC Opinion, but also the practical view “that a federal criminal accusation against a sitting President would place burdens on the President’s capacity to govern and potentially preempt constitutional processes for addressing Presidential misconduct.” By carefully parsing his press conference presentation, Barr may have been literally accurate that Mueller had not made the OLC Opinion a “but for” basis for not accusing the President of a crime; but, he conveniently ignored the Special Counsel’s observation that—in perhaps the most freighted twin statements found in the Report—“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not obstruct justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”

Finally, the Attorney General emphasized
both in his March 24th Letter and at his press conference that Mueller
did not find a basis to charge Americans with conspiring with the
Russians to affect the 2016 election. In doing so, Barr elided Mueller’s
cautions that “[a] statement that the investigation did not establish
particular facts does not mean there was no evidence of those facts,”
and that because the Special Counsel lacked access to certain witnesses
and documents, Mueller “cannot rule out the possibility that the
unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new
light) the events described in the [R]eport.” Instead, Barr exercised
selective myopia choosing to emphasize that “there was in fact no
collusion” and that “we now know that the Russian operatives who
perpetrated these schemes did not have the cooperation of President
Trump or the Trump campaign.” Barr’s conclusions may accord with the
more restrictive results produced by Mueller’s determination that
“collusion” must be read to require conduct that would comport with the
definition of “conspiracy” under federal law. But, to most individuals,
at some point, the persistently parallel conduct that Mueller found
between Russian actions and the activities of the Trump campaign coupled
with the “multiple links” that Mueller also uncovered between Russian
operatives and members of the Trump campaign suggest that their conduct
was coordinated—not coincidentally parallel—even if that “coordination”
was not necessarily reflective of the explicit or tacit agreement that,
in Mueller’s view, was necessary to establish the elements of the
federal crime of conspiracy.

But even apart from Barr’s contorting of
the findings found in the Report, a critical question is why Barr felt
it was necessary to have a press conference to summarize Mueller’s
report at all. In his March 24th Letter to the congressional judiciary
committees, Barr insisted that it would not be “in the public’s
interest” for him to “summarize the full report” because “[e]veryone
will soon be able to read it on their own.” So, if the public’s interest
was not served by a CliffsNotes version from Barr three-and-a-half
weeks before its release, what—other than a desire to “spin” the
Report’s contents in the President’s favor—served the public interest to
do so 90 minutes before its release? Yes, the Report itself was to be
released shortly, but Barr surely recognized that his commentary would
both shape initial perceptions of the Report and be seized upon by the
President in his defense—and it was.

Admittedly, the Attorney General has his defenders. In a Lawfare post,[6] Jack Goldsmith, who once oversaw the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department, took a decidedly more generous view of Barr’s actions suggesting that the Attorney General was actually “trying to limit the damage to Article II that has resulted from Trump’s unfathomably stupid, impulsive, self-defeating efforts to wield executive power to control the Russia investigation, and Mueller’s overzealous reading of obstruction law and his odd nontraditional prosecutorial decision in response.”[7] While Goldsmith’s characterizations almost certainly aren’t what Barr’s boss in the Oval Office had in mind when he claimed that Mueller’s Report, as portrayed by Barr, afforded him “total exoneration,” they do provide a more principled, nonpartisan explanation for Barr’s own conduct.

Of course, recognizing such a nonpartisan purpose in the Attorney General’s actions might be more persuasive if Barr—as a private citizen—hadn’t written a memorandum in June 2018 that he sent to Justice Department officials only months before Trump nominated him to succeed Jeff Sessions to lead that same Justice Department.[8] Barr’s unsolicited memorandum offers his detailed analysis of the legal basis for the Special Counsel’s investigation concluding that Mueller’s obstruction inquiry was “fatally misconceived,” even as Barr himself conceded that he was “in the dark about many facts.”[9] One episode that Barr had clearly prejudged before ever seeing any of Mueller’s findings: the future Attorney General wrote in his June 2018 memo that Trump’s asking then-FBI Director James Comey to let go of the investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, and then later firing Comey, was within Trump’s powers as head of the executive branch.[10] With this paper trail, it is readily apparent that Barr was possessed of something considerably less than an open mind as he awaited the receipt of the Special Counsel’s Report. For all of his other blemishes as Attorney General, even Jeff Sessions recognized when a conflict of interest dictated his recusal from decision making in matters related to that conflict. How Barr, having already prejudged the Special Counsel’s obstruction of justice inquiry as “fatally misconceived,” nonetheless perceived no conflict in then sitting in judgment on the evaluation and disposition of the results of that effort is a question for which the Attorney General has yet to provide an acceptable answer.[11]

Another consistent Trump apologist, Andrew McCarthy, has offered a considerably more strident defense of the Attorney General and vociferous denunciation of Mueller’s findings, analysis, and conclusions.[12] McCarthy insists that, if Mueller were convinced that the President had obstructed justice, his proper course was to have returned an indictment under seal that, presumably, although violative of the language of the OLC Opinion forbidding indictment of a sitting President, would be faithful to the intent of that Opinion because actual prosecution would await the President’s departure from office.

This approach is both legally and practically specious. Legally, as McCarthy surely knows, the governing OLC Opinion forbids “the indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President” precisely because either action “would impermissibly undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions” in violation of “the constitutional separation of powers.” No exception is made for an indictment under seal since, as a practical matter, the existence of such an indictment would have precisely the same intrusive impact on the sitting President’s performance of his constitutional duties.[13]

Ultimately, McCarthy’s legal contortions are revealed as eyewash for his basic contention: that the histrionics surrounding the handling of the Mueller Report are the product of nothing more than partisan politics. According to McCarthy, Mueller was compelled to write a report because Democrats insisted that DoJ regulations required one, and then those same House Democrats abandoned the confidentiality that was intended to limit access to such a report solely to eyes within the Justice Department by insisting upon congressional access to parts, like grand jury information, for which disclosure is forbidden by congressional statute.[14] When Barr justifiably, in McCarthy’s view, balked, House Democrats held him in contempt.

McCarthy’s hyper-partisan analysis
essentially brings us current in the ongoing debate, even if the path he
takes is, to be charitable, considerably overwrought. The revelation of
Mueller’s March 27th letter to Barr came a day prior to the Attorney
General’s scheduled May 1st testimony before the Senate Judiciary
Committee and, in the eyes of some, spared Barr the embarrassing
prospect of having its existence disclosed for the first time in a
public congressional hearing. In his May 1st testimony before the
Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee, Barr defended his
handling of the Mueller Report and, more generally, strongly asserted
that his actions, and any subsequent matters regarding the handling of
the Report, are his prerogative as Attorney General.

Following Barr’s Senate testimony,
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell presumptuously announced, “Case
Closed,” signifying his view that the probe into Russian election
interference, Trump campaign activities, and possible Presidential
obstruction of justice was concluded. As McConnell presumably knows
despite his attempt at glibness, this is quintessential wishful
thinking.

Barr was scheduled to testify before the House Judiciary Committee the next day (May 2), but, expressing disagreement with the questioning format intended for that session, failed to appear. On May 8, 2019, the House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Barr in contempt for his failure to comply with a committee-issued subpoena that directed production of the unreacted Mueller Report and supporting documentation. That same day, President Trump invoked executive privilege to preclude production of any further materials related to the Special Counsel’s investigation. Consequently, absent a material change in the positions currently espoused by the executive and legislative branches, the next stages of the multiple confrontations related to the Special Counsel’s investigation are likely to be decided in the courts.[15]

What to Expect as the Sparring over the Mueller Report Moves to the Courts

As the disputes related to the Special Counsel’s investigation, the evidence procured in that investigation, and the Report of its activities, findings, and conclusions move to the courts, the principal points of contention are likely to center on the issues of grand jury secrecy and executive privilege.[16] In the area of grand jury secrecy, the courts, particularly those in the District of Columbia where issues related to the Special Counsel’s grand jury matters will be litigated, are unlikely to be generous to congressional demands that seek information clearly within the scope of the grand jury secrecy rule—Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e).

Grand Jury Secrecy and Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e)

Rule 6(e) protects the secrecy of grand jury proceedings by specifically designating those persons, including, inter alia, grand jurors and “attorney[s] for the government,” who “must not disclose a matter occurring before the grand jury” unless the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure “provide otherwise.” The prohibition is indefinite (i.e., the secrecy is not eliminated merely because a grand jury has completed its investigation by either issuing an indictment or declining to do so). While Rule 6(e) contains a series of exceptions to the general rule of grand jury secrecy, none of those exceptions specifically extend to permitting disclosure of grand jury matters to Congress—with or without a court order.[17]

Since the Attorney General is an
“attorney for the government” within the meaning of Rule 6(e), he is
bound by Rule 6(e)’s obligation not to disclose grand jury “matter[s].”
That term, however, is not defined in Rule 6(e) and has been the subject
of sometimes unclear and contradictory judicial constructions.
Generally, courts have viewed “matter[s] occurring before the grand
jury” as encompassing any information that “would tend to reveal some
secret aspect of the grand jury’s investigation,” such as “the
identities of witnesses or jurors, the substance of testimony, the
strategy or direction of the investigation, the deliberations or
questions of jurors, and the like.” Under this broad umbrella,
particular categories of information clearly constitute grand jury
“matter[s],” while other categories may hinge on the specific factual
context in which a request is made and the use to which a grand jury is
put in the investigation at issue. By way of example, actual transcripts
of proceedings and witness testimony, as well as written “summaries” or
“discussions” of the proceedings, are grand jury matters. So, too, are
the details of a grand jury’s composition and focus. But general
statements about prosecutors’ deliberations, independent of the grand
jury, may not constitute grand jury matters, nor may notes or other
memorializations of witness interviews conducted before a grand jury
subpoena is issued (e.g., FBI form FD-302, the well-known FBI “302” form used to record witness interviews).

The application of Rule 6(e) to allow for disclosure of grand jury matters to Congress has produced conflicting conclusions by the courts.  Most recently, and significantly, the federal court of appeals in the District of Columbia has ruled that the disclosure of grand jury matters is explicitly governed by the text of Rule 6(e) which, as noted earlier, does not include an exception for disclosures to Congress.[18] Thus, the federal court of appeals in the jurisdiction with authority over the grand jury matters related to the Special Counsel’s investigation has taken a position that parallels the Justice Department’s, i.e., that grand jury matters may be released to Congress only if disclosure is explicitly permitted under Rule 6(e).[19]

Again, however, Rule 6(e) governs disclosure solely of “a matter occurring before a grand jury.“ Particular challenges often arise in the context of documents such as business records that have been subpoenaed or considered by the grand jury, but do not on their face relate to the grand jury itself. In general, “[t]here is no per se rule against disclosure of any and all information which has reached the grand jury chambers,”[20] and thus “[t]he mere fact that information [or documents have] been presented to the grand jury” does not bar independent disclosure in other proceedings.[21] However, utilizing various (and sometimes conflicting) tests, courts have acknowledged that independently generated documents presented to a grand jury may sometimes constitute “matters occurring before the grand jury” in a particular case if the context of a request would make production revelatory of the substance of the grand jury’s investigation. For instance, a request for “documents subpoenaed by the grand jury” might impermissibly call for disclosure of grand jury matters, as production “would reveal to the requester that [the documents] had been subpoenaed” and potentially suggest the focus of the grand jury’s investigation.[22] Conversely, a request for documents presented to a grand jury, when coupled with broader requests for “all evidence” or documents related to a factual matter, would not necessarily call for disclosure of grand jury matters if production would leave the requester unable to “determine which documents,” if any, “had been submitted to the grand jury.”[23] The framing of a particular request for documents, and the context in which the request is made, will thus impact whether documents presented to or obtained by a grand jury are considered “matters occurring before” it within the meaning of Rule 6(e).[24]

From this discussion of Rule 6(e), two major conclusions are discernible as the sparring over the redacted parts of the Mueller Report continues: (1) a recent decision by the federal appeals court with jurisdiction over the Special Counsel’s grand jury matters[25] narrowly construes the scope of the exceptions to grand jury secrecy contained in Rule 6(e) and aligns with the narrow construction afforded Rule 6(e) by the Justice Department; and (2) the other voluminous jurisprudence governing grand jury secrecy provides significant interpretive latitude to the “attorney for the government” in deciding whether materials requested “disclose a matter occurring before the grand jury” such that disclosure is barred by Rule 6(e). For matters relating to the Special Counsel’s investigation, that interpretive latitude lies with Attorney General William Barr. So, if you are counting on congressional subpoenas to pry open the door shielding those portions of the Mueller Report protected by grand jury secrecy, the law, generally speaking, is not on your side.

Nonetheless, no discussion of grand jury
secrecy would be complete without noting that witnesses appearing
before a grand jury are not included among
those persons listed in Rule 6(e) who may not “disclose a matter
occurring before the grand jury.” Thus, Rule 6(e) does not impede
congressional subpoenas seeking the personal appearance and testimony of
Robert Mueller and those questioned as part of his
investigation—including those individuals who actually testified before
the Special Counsel’s grand jury. Unless … that testimony is shielded
from disclosure by a proper invocation of executive privilege.

Executive Privilege

On May 8, 2019, as the House Judiciary
Committee was considering holding Attorney General William Barr in
contempt for failure to comply with a congressional subpoena demanding
production of an unredacted version of the Mueller Report, the Trump
administration invoked executive privilege to bar disclosure of
precisely those matters redacted from the version of the Mueller Report
released on April 18, 2019.

Executive privilege is an implied—rather
than textually explicit— constitutional doctrine arising from
separation of powers considerations that has been given definition more
by historical practice than by judicial decision. Under guidance found
in a memorandum issued during President Reagan’s administration and that
has never been revoked, the ultimate decision on the assertion of the
privilege is left to the President’s judgment. Thus, the assertion of
executive privilege over the Special Counsel Report was made directly by
President Trump, announced by the Justice Department, and attributed to
the House Judiciary Committee’s “blatant abuse of power . . . leaving
the President no other option than to make a protective assertion of
executive privilege.”

The Supreme Court’s only robust discussions of the privilege occurred in two cases in the 1970s involving Richard Nixon’s communications and records. In the seminal case of United States v. Nixon,[26] the Court considered the famous grand jury subpoena issued by Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski for Oval Office recordings of conversations between the President and his advisors. In Nixon, the Court recognized the constitutional dimensions of executive privilege for the first time, holding that the need to protect the confidentiality of Presidential communications relating to the “discharge of a President’s powers” is “constitutionally based” and “inextricably rooted in the separation of powers.” Simultaneously, however, the Court took care to note that the protection for Presidential communications is a qualified one, holding that “absent a need to protect military, diplomatic, or sensitive national security secrets,” President Nixon’s “generalized interest” in the confidentiality of his communications was overcome by the judiciary’s “demonstrated, specific need” for evidence in a pending trial.

Three years later, the High Court reaffirmed the scope and qualified nature of executive privilege. In Nixon v Administrator of General Services,[27] at least insofar as the privilege related to Presidential communications and records where then-former President Nixon asserted executive privilege in response to new legislation seeking to subject those records to screening and cataloguing by executive branch archivists, the Court determined that Nixon’s claim of “Presidential privilege clearly must yield to the important congressional purposes of preserving the materials.”

Not surprisingly, given that executive
privilege is not governed by bright-line rules and few judicial
decisions have sought to define the parameters of the doctrine, the
executive and legislative branches have sometimes taken divergent views
of the privilege’s scope. Congress has generally interpreted executive
privilege narrowly, limiting its application to the types of
confidential Presidential communications referenced by the Supreme
Court; conversely, the executive branch has historically viewed the
privilege more broadly, providing protections to several categories of
documents and communications that arguably implicate executive branch
confidentiality interests. Under the broader executive branch
interpretation, the privilege covers not only communications involving
the President or his close advisors, but also deliberative
communications within executive branch agencies; military, diplomatic,
and national security information; and information from law enforcement
files such as evidence gathered in an investigation and communications
related to investigative and prosecutorial decision-making.

The Supreme Court has not addressed executive privilege in any substantial way since those Nixon cases decided in the 1970s, and has never addressed the invocation of executive privilege in the context of withholding information sought in a congressional investigation. The most significant judicial analysis of executive privilege in that setting is the D.C. Circuit’s decision in Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities v. Nixon[28] where a congressional committee sought to obtain Nixon’s Oval Office recordings as part of that committee’s investigation into the 1972 Presidential election. Although ultimately siding with the Presidential invocation of privilege, the D.C. Circuit emphasized that a President’s assertion of the privilege could be overcome by a “strong showing of need by another institution of government” while elaborating that Congress, in the exercise of its investigative powers, may overcome a President’s presumptive privilege only when it can show that “the subpoenaed evidence is demonstrably critical to the responsible fulfillment of the [Select] Committee’s function.”[29]

That concept of function embraces two distinct forms of congressional activity: the legislative function, and the oversight function. If a federal court ultimately is called upon to determine whether executive privilege has been properly invoked in the case of the subpoena for the unredacted Mueller Report, the balancing test applied will weigh whether the presumptively valid invocation of executive privilege is overcome by “the nature and appropriateness of the function in the performance of which the material was sought, and the degree to which the material was necessary to its fulfillment.”[30] If nothing else, such an inquiry will bring the court to the edges of the tectonic plates that, respectively, represent the powers exercised by two of the three co-equal branches of government established in the Constitution.

Before reaching that constitutional
precipice, however, a court will likely need to initially ascertain
whether this President’s invocation of privilege was timely asserted.
Generally, privileges are invoked in advance of any disclosure if only
because, from a practical standpoint, such timing is the only way to
guarantee that no disclosure is made. Moreover, in many contexts (e.g., attorney/client
privilege, Fifth Amendment invocations), the failure to assert the
privilege in a way that prevents any disclosure potentially risks a
complete waiver of the protections afforded by the particular privilege.
Thus, for example, with respect to that part of the congressional
subpoena seeking documents and testimony from former White House counsel
Donald McGahn, many commentators have argued that executive privilege
has been waived because McGahn testified for over 30 hours in the
Special Counsel’s investigation and much of what he disclosed has
already been revealed in the Mueller report. On the other hand, the
Attorney General emphatically declared, during his May 1, 2019 testimony
before the Senate Judiciary Committee, that there has been no waiver of
executive privilege and, not surprisingly in this relatively untested
area of the law, there is precedent available to Barr for such a
pronouncement. Consequently, aside from the substantive parameters of
executive privilege, the question of its timely assertion will almost
certainly also be fodder in the coming litigation.

A Conclusion (at least for now)

Offering any prediction as to how these
many legal issues implicated by the congressional subpoena for the
unredacted Mueller Report (or, for that matter, any of the other
congressional subpoenas issued or to be issued in pursuit of information
about all manner of Trump activities) will be resolved would be pure
speculation. What is assured is that, much to Mitch McConnell’s apparent
disappointment, the Mueller “case” is anything but “closed.”

Also assured is that the pace of the nearly two-year Mueller investigation will look supersonic compared to progress in the courts. It is feasible, if not likely given the inevitability of appeals, that most, if not all, of the legal fights to come will never reach a final judgment before the 2020 Presidential election—when an entirely different but perhaps more meaningful judgment will be rendered. Until then, the partisan squabbling and litigious skirmishing will go on. After all, in today’s America, all politics are litigated and no matter is left solely to the verdict of public opinion and the punishment of social opprobrium.

*About the author: George W. Croner, a Senior Fellow at FPRI, previously served as principal litigation counsel in the Office of General Counsel at the National Security Agency. He is also a retired director and shareholder of the law firm of Kohn, Swift & Graf, P.C., where he remains Of Counsel, and is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers.

Source: This article was published by FPRI


[1] George Croner, The Mueller Report is a Sobering Recounting of Foreign Election Interference and Presidential Conduct: What Comes Next is (Mostly) Politics, FPRI E-Notes, April 24, 2019.

[2] Letter from the Attorney General William Barr to The Honorable Lindsey Graham and The Honorable Jerold Nadler (March 24, 2019). As contemplated by Department of Justice regulations, the Attorney General’s letter was sent to the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees. See 28 C.F.R. § 600.9.

[3] Mueller’s letter to the Attorney General is dated March 27, 2019, and was delivered to the Justice Department the next day.

[4] A Sitting President’s Amenability to Indictment and Criminal Prosecution, 24 Op. O.L.C. 222 (2000 OLC Op.) (the “OLC Opinion”).

[5] See, id.

[6] Jack Goldsmith, Thoughts on Barr and the Mueller Report, Lawfare, May 4, 2019.

[7] Id.

[8] Memorandum from Bill Barr to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Assistant Attorney General Steve Engel, Re: Mueller’s “Obstruction” Theory (June 8, 2018).

[9] Eli Watkins, Barr authored memo last year that ruled out obstruction of justice, CNN Politics, March 26, 2019.

[10] Id.

[11] Barr’s actions might also be viewed as more principled had he taken a stand on a variety of important policy matters as to which he has remained either silent or, worse, misguided. It would have been welcome to see the Attorney General acknowledge Mueller’s disconcerting findings about the scope of Russian election interference and urge necessary reforms and vigilance in advance of the 2020 election. It would have been equally gratifying to have the Attorney General defend his own Department and point out, unhesitatingly, that the FBI’s failure to investigate that same Russian interference and follow that inquiry as far as the facts extended would have represented an abdication of its counterintelligence responsibilities. He did neither of those things and, in that failure, he has only exacerbated the perception that, in this Administration, the Department of Justice is neither independent nor apolitical; but, instead, serves principally as a political backstop for the President of the United States.

[12] Andrew C. McCarthy, Mueller’s Preposterous Rationale for Tainting the President with ‘Obstruction’ Allegations, National Review, May 8, 2019.

[13] Remarkably, McCarthy apparently assumes that an indictment under seal of a sitting President of the United States could, as a practical matter, remain secret until he leaves office. Now, that assumption is, to borrow one of McCarthy’s descriptives: preposterous. Surely, McCarthy must recognize that this is the paradigm of a type of secret that, as Benjamin Franklin pithily noted, “three can keep – if two of them are dead.”

[14] Andrew C. McCarthy, Mueller’s Preposterous Rationale for Tainting the President with ‘Obstruction’ Allegations, National Review, May 8, 2019.

[15] The fracas over the demand by the House Judiciary Committee for the unredacted Mueller Report, former White House counsel Don McGahn’s notes, and the anticipated demand for testimony from Mueller, McGahn and, possibly, others considered relevant to the Special Counsel investigation is only part of multiple efforts by House Democrats to pursue inquiries related to Trump’s activities. Separately, for example, the House Ways and Means Committee has issued a subpoena for 6 years of the President’s federal tax returns. The White House has vowed to fight all these congressional subpoenas, labeling them “Presidential harassment.” Presumably, this includes the subpoena compelling the appearance of Donald Trump, Jr. recently issued by the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee.

[16] As the Special Counsel outlined in his Report, the investigation spawned 14 separate prosecutorial referrals, only 2 of which have been publicly identified. Certain redactions in the Report apparently relate to these ongoing investigative matters. It is highly unlikely that either Congress, or the courts, will jeopardize these ongoing proceedings by compromising the privilege that protects against the disclosure of information concerning ongoing law enforcement investigations.

[17] Previous consideration of adding a Rule 6(e) exception to permit disclosure of grand jury matters to Congress has foundered in the face of separation of powers contentions that such an exception would impermissibly intrude upon prosecutorial functions committed exclusively to the executive branch.

[18] McKeever v. Barr, No. 17-5149 (D.C. Cir. April 5, 2019).

[19] In the context of the Special Counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, one potentially relevant exception to Rule 6(e) permits an attorney for the government to disclose any grand jury matter involving threats of attack or intelligence gathering by foreign powers to “any appropriate federal . . . government official.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e)(3)(D). Although an “appropriate” government official could arguably include a Member of Congress, disclosure under this exception would be limited: only grand jury information concerning the specified subject matter would be available, at the discretion of the “attorney for the government.” Despite the continuing threat of Russian interference in the American electoral process, it seems unlikely that this exception will motivate the Attorney General to provide Congress with the information sought by congressional subpoenas—particularly those subpoenas focused on the materials related to the “obstruction of justice” facet of the Mueller Report.

[20] Senate of Commonwealth of P.R. v. Dept. of Justice, 823 F.2d 574, 582 (D.C. Cir. 1987).

[21] Labow v. Dept. of Justice, 831 F.3d 523, 529 (D.C. Cir. 2016).

[22] Id.

[23] Senate of Commonwealth of P.R. v. DoJ, 823 F.2d at 583.

[24] See, generally, Michael Foster, Todd Garvey, The Special Counsel’s Report: Can Congress Get It?, Congressional Research Service, April 9, 2019.

[25] McKeever v. Barr, No. 17-5149 (D.C. Cir. April 5, 2019).

[26] U.S. v Nixon, 418 U.S. 363 (1974).

[27] Nixon v. Administrator of General Services, 433 U.S. 425 (1977).

[28] Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities v. Nixon, 498 F.2d 725 (D.C. Cir. 1974).

[29] Id. at 731.

[30] Id.

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“counterintelligence fbi” – Google News: Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham tapped to lead Russia investigation review – Hartford Courant

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Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham tapped to lead Russia investigation review  Hartford Courant

Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham has been appointed to review the beginnings of the Russia investigation by Attorney General William Barr, according to …

“counterintelligence fbi” – Google News


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Eurasia Review: Sri Lankan Attacks And Inter-Communal Relations – Analysis

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The recent Sri Lankan attacks risk stigmatising the Muslim community in Sri Lanka while reshaping the fragile inter-communal relations in new ways.

By Paul Hedges and Jude Lal Fernando*

Sri Lanka has had a turbulent history in recent centuries, especially over the last few decades. This has often been linked to rivalries between communities perceived to be different by either, or both, religion and ethnicity.

The tensions arising have fluctuated over time, and the recent
attacks potentially may cause a new arrangement of tensions and communal
divisions in this context. We can look historically to help understand
the current context.

Colonial Context

Muslims had been in Sri Lanka long before Western colonialism and had
relatively good relations with the local population. Practising a
traditional form of South Asian Islam, they integrated readily to the
local context. After European colonialism arrived, with waves of
Portuguese, Dutch, and British rule over the island, antagonism between
Buddhists and Christians developed.

At first, it appears that the Buddhists were welcoming of the
Christians. However, the openness they exhibited was not reciprocated,
and by the late 19th century fierce polemics and debates arose, with
Buddhist spokespeople in some famous debates eventually defeating their
Christian opponents. The colonial nexus also gave rise to a growing
Sinhala Buddhist nationalism focused on Sri Lanka as the “isle of
dharma”, the place where true Buddhism was found and protected.

These Sinhala Buddhist nationalist sentiments were part of the
discourse as Sri Lanka attained independence, but it was first
established as a secular state with the majority Sinhalese and the
largest minority, the Tamils, being equal partners in the nation state.
However, in due course, the Sinhalese nationalists attained ascendency
and the country’s constitution changed to reflect a strong bias for the
Sinhalese.

Tamil-Sinhalese Conflict

This Sinhalese bias led to growing tensions with the Tamils and in
due course a civil war in which the Tamil Tigers sought to create an
independent state on the island. While the Sinhalese were predominantly
Buddhist and the Tamils predominantly Hindus, the Tamil Tigers did not
see their fight as a religious conflict but as a secular one.

Many Tamils were also Christians and Muslims who largely sided with
the Sinhalese, but nevertheless they fought and died on both sides.
Moreover, extreme nationalists on the Sinhalese side portrayed the civil
war as an existential threat to the Buddhist tradition, and the
Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism was often highlighted, including by some
monks who even urged warfare in the name of Buddhism to protect the sasana, or tradition.

With the end of the civil war in 2009, the communal tensions took a
new turn. This was initially primarily against the Christians who were
perceived as seeking to engage in aggressive missionary campaigns
against the Buddhists. This returned to motifs of the colonial period
with Western Christians perceived as a threat to the true lineage of
Buddhism found in Sri Lanka. However, it was not long before anti-Muslim
feeling arose, promoted by a number of extremist Sinhalese Buddhist
nationalist groups.

Buddhist-Muslim Tensions

The campaign against Muslims was partly fuelled by the global “war on
terror” which was often perceived to be against Islam, with Muslims
often framed as an aggressive force. Memories of what was seen as the
destruction of Buddhism in South Asia under Muslim invaders played into
this.

However, it was the contemporary context which fuelled the
narratives, with some rhetoric suggesting an existential threat to the sasana from Muslims who were alleged to be trying to take over the island and threaten Buddhism to the core.

It should be noted that little credible rationale lay behind this.
Some accusations were socio-economically motivated with Muslim traders
who have been successful in business often being seen as having
advantages or success over Buddhists, prompting some rivalry. Also, the
notion of what is termed “love jihad” was invoked in which it was
suggested that Muslims were seeking to marry Buddhist women to take over
demographically, despite no evidence of any such campaign. The Muslims
are a small minority of about ten percent of the population.

It may be noted that the Sri Lankan Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism
has been often transferred in many ways to such contexts as Myanmar and
Thailand, stoking anti-Muslim sentiment there. Meanwhile, current
tensions in those countries feedback to Sri Lanka.

Christian-Muslim Accord

Importantly, the rhetoric against Christians and Muslims have often
seen them seeking common ground against the Buddhist Sinhalese
nationalists in Sri Lanka. While it may be too much to speak about a
common front, the communal tensions have seen these two communities
being closer against threats from the majority Sinhalese society. The
recent bomb attacks in Sri Lanka have threatened this situation.

The Sinhalese Buddhists, many of whom we should note reject the
extreme Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism of more militant groups, have
come with the hand of friendship to the Christians. The Sinhalese may
seek to present themselves as the protectors of the Christians and hence
drawing a divide of suspicion and mistrust between the Christians and
Muslims.

Dangers of Inter-Communal Divisions

For a decade, Sri Lanka has seen relative peace and the recent
attacks on churches and major hotels were certainly not expected. It may
well be the intention of the attackers to seek to create these fault
lines in what are the admittedly somewhat fragile communal ties between
Christians and Muslims.

If Muslims in Sri Lanka see themselves as beleaguered and regarded
with suspicion by both Buddhists and Christians, then they could become
isolated and more amenable to militant discourse. Certainly, they have
been subject to Saudi-led Wahhabi influences in recent decades, and some
have turned as a result from the more traditional Islam of Sri Lanka to
a more militant brand.

It may therefore be an attempt by those involved to open a new field
for recruitment and potential conflict, especially given ISIS’
territorial losses and its need to give itself credibility and relevance
in this situation.

The affiliation of the attackers, while part of a local
Wahhabi-influenced group known as the National Thowheed Jamaath (NTJ),
seems credibly linked to ISIS. The reshaping of communal relations could
be a result of this influence and is something which those on the
ground in Sri Lanka need to ensure does not occur.

The Muslim community seems keen to show their abhorrence of these
attacks and it is hoped that they do not become stigmatised as a
consequence of them. It may also lead local Muslims to seek the roots of
their own traditional Islam amid the influence of hard-liners.

*Jude Lal Fernando PhD is Assistant Professor in Intercultural Theology and Interreligious Studies at the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin. He brings praxis-based experience to the academic context in the fields of interreligious studies and international peace studies.

*Paul Hedges PhD is Associate Professor in Interreligious Studies for the Studies in Inter-Religious Relations in Plural Societies (SRP) Programme, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore.

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Eurasia Review: Scaling Up India-Vietnam Ties – Analysis

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Vice President of India M. Venkaiah Naidu paid a 4-day official visit to Vietnam from 9 to 12 May, which aimed at enhancing India’s comprehensive strategic partnership with Vietnam. It is common knowledge that India-Vietnam partnership has stood the test of time.

Besides interactions with top political leaders of Vietnam, Naidu took time to address the Indian community at an event and hailed the relationship between the two countries. Among his engagements, Naidu held meetings with his Vietnamese counterpart Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Chairwoman of National Assembly of Vietnam Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan. Naidu delivered the keynote address at the 16th United Nations Day of Vesak Celebration at Tam Chuc Pagoda in Vietnam’s Ha Nam Province. The event was themed as “Buddhist Approach to Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Sustainable Societies”.

While interacting with the Chairwoman of National Assembly of Vietnam Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, Naidu stressed the importance of regular exchanges of visits between Parliamentarians via India-Vietnam Parliamentary Group to promote better understanding and strengthening legislative cooperation between the two nations.

In order to deepen the human relationship and reflecting the historical bond that exists between the two countries, an event under the ‘India for Humanity’ initiative launched to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi was organized in Vietnam wherein Naidu met the Vietnamese beneficiaries of the Jaipur Foot Artificial Limb Fitment Camp. The organization of such events is a reflection of the fact that India-Vietnam relations built on a firm foundation of close cultural, historical and civilizational links and are marked by mutual trust and understanding as well as strong cooperation in regional and international fora.

Regular exchange of visits by top political leaders from either country led bilateral ties to be elevated to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2016 visit to Vietnam. Naidu’s visit followed a series of high-level exchanges in 2018 including the visits of Prime Minister in January 2018 and President in March 2018 of Vietnam to India. These exchanges have resulted in robust cooperation in several areas, expanded defence and security ties, forged new economic and commercial linkages and deepened people-to-people engagement. The two sides share a common desire to promote peace, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.

Of the approximate 30 million Indians settled in over 70 countries, the number of Indians settled in Vietnam may look small but their role as India’s cultural ambassadors is of immense value. As of 2011, their number totaled about 2,000, mainly in Ho Chi Minh City. This number has risen to about 2,900. Prior to the Vietnam War, there was a vibrant Indian community consisting of primarily Tamils, and especially the Chettiars.

Reaching out to Indians overseas has emerged as an important instrument of India’s foreign policy. Top political leaders visiting foreign countries officially have often interacted with the Indian diaspora, which is why while addressing Indian Community and Friends of India in Hanoi, Naidu stressed Indian government’s priority has been to reach out to the Indian community overseas. Naidu appealed to the Indian diaspora in Vietnam to cherish their roots and carry the message of India to the world. This historic relationship has been built and nurtured premised on trust and goodwill by successive generation of leaders.

While having wide-ranging talks with his counterpart Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh to enhance bilateral and multilateral cooperation, Naidu reiterated the importance of building a peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific region based on respect for national sovereignty and international law. The strong bilateral relationship between the two countries is based on mutual trust, understanding, convergence of views on regional and international issues. Affirming their stand a day after the Indian Navy participated with the navies of the US, the Philippines and Japan in their first joint naval exercise in the disputed South China Sea, where China is flexing its military muscle was therefore significant.

Indeed, Vietnam is a strategic pillar of India’s Act East Policy and India’s key interlocutor in ASEAN and therefore both the countries desire that the concerned countries are able to reach consensus on a Code of Conduct in South China Sea. As highlighted by Prime Minister in June 2018 in his speech at the Sangri La Dialogue, India remains committed to the principle of an open, transparent, inclusive and rules-based regional architecture based on freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded economic activities and peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the international law.

The Indo-Pacific is a bio-geographic region, comprising the Indian Ocean and the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, including the South China Sea. The US has conducted a series of “freedom of navigation” exercises in the disputed South China Sea, triggering protests from Beijing over what it says is infringement of sovereignty. While China claims this oceanic space almost in its entirety, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have contending claims on areas falling in their exclusive economic zones.

At the bilateral level, ties have assumed robustness in many areas making the relationship multifaceted. Both the countries are strengthening cooperation in defence and security, peaceful uses of atomic energy and outer space, science and technology, oil and gas, renewable energy, infrastructure development, agriculture and innovation-based sectors.

In the field of economy, bilateral trade stands at present at $14 billion. It doubled from $7.8 billion three years ago. Both have put a target to reach at $15 billion by 2020. Given the past trend, it seems to be achievable.

Connectivity has remained an issue for quite some time. At the moment, there is no direct flight between New Delhi and Hanoi. Research done by potential airlines led to the finding that it was not commercially viable. However, direct air connectivity between the two capitals could be a possibility with the Indian carrier Indigo deciding to start direct flight between the two capitals later in 2019. When materialized, both would have crossed another frontier as this would further boost trade and tourism exchanges.

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Eurasia Review: India’s Water Crisis Needs Committed Water Stewardship – Analysis

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By Biplob Chatterjee

Water is a natural resource that is highly vulnerable to climate
change and uncertain weather patterns. Complex water-related disasters,
such as drought, groundwater depletion, pollution, and non-availability
of safe drinking water, are growing in numbers and urgency. A 2018
report by NITI Aayog
cautioned that India is facing its worst ever water crisis, with the
demand for potable water projected to outstrip supply by 2030. Given
this urgency, the government and stakeholders need to work at building
water resilience and prepare India’s citizens for supply threats in the
long term. However, devising a coherent strategy and policy framework
for India’s complex federal structure is a daunting challenge, mostly
due to differing cultural perceptions around water. For example, each
watershed is different and must be treated based on the scientific
characterisation of the watershed. Geovale Services recently carried out
detailed hydrological – hydrogeological investigations in the
Chikkaballapur district in Northern Karnataka, which illustrated the
water management challenges in the region for stakeholders.

Chikkaballapur is a rich horticulture region of India with approximately 500 km2
area for growing fruits, vegetables, spices, flowers, and aromatic
plants; this crop is worth more than rupees 800 crores annually. Thus,
an enterprising horticulturalist can earn upto ten to fifteen lakhs
rupees annually, for every acre of cropping.

However,
the happiness of a rich farming community is under threat. Farmers are
finding groundwater — their only water source – to be depleting
rapidly. In response, they are desperately drilling deeper and deeper,
and at newer locations, but failing. Water levels in groundwater
aquifers — which used to be at 20 m below the surface circa 2000 —
have now fallen to more than 300 to 350 m from the surface in discrete
narrow zones and running dry thereafter. This is devastating, as
earlier, every farmer was told that the use of highly acclaimed drip
irrigation technology would be a panacea. Instead, they now find their
water sources nearing exhaustion.

Chikkaballapur, by virtue of
being close to Bangalore, is also attracting large real estate
developers, farm houses, resorts and others interested in wealth
creation. All are scrambling to stake out the last drops of available
groundwater.

The annual groundwater consumption of a grape farm (as an illustration here) is about 3000 m3
per acre for a double crop of approximately 20 tonnes of grapes
(Bangalore blue, Arnab e Shahi and Seedless varieties are grown here
with variable yields). The water footprints for other horticulture
produce are similar. A simple calculation provides the water balance of
the area. Chikkaballapur recieves an annual rainfall of about 750 mm,
85% of which precipitates in 60 rainy days during a normal monsoon.
However, nature allows a recharge of only about 3% — or less than 100 m3
— of water into the hard rock aquifers of the region annually. All the
remaining water either evaporates or drains down as surface run-off.
Horticulturalists who use drip irrigation technology are thus
overdrawing ten to twenty times the natural groundwater recharge rate.
The overpumping of water, especially in last couple of decades, has
resulted in a near complete exhaustion of aquifers — storage reservoirs
for a large amount of water underground. It’s also notable that since
2012, Chikkaballapur has actually been receiving 20 – 30% rainfall than
normal, with the exception of a normal year in 2017.

Globally,
acquifers can hold an estimated 1000 times more water than surface
storage. The water holding capacity and permeability can, however, vary
significantly depending upon the pore space in the rocks making the
aquifer. Chikkaballapur’s hard granite rocks have a loose weathered
regolith capping above a zone of horizontally and vertically fractured
rocks going down to about 100 m below the surface, thus defining the top
aquifer. The top aquifer also holds the dynamic groundwater resource,
where a 3% annual recharge contributes to water replenishment. Below
this zone, the lower aquifer is defined by multiple narrow or isolated
zones of widely spaced and steeply dipping fractures down to depths of
about 350 m. These have extremely slow water recharge from the top
aquifer, which make them static resources.

The
active conservation of aquifers should ideally be a significant part of
our climate resilience measure for potential draught years, or for a
time like a Cape Town Ground Zero condition. In Chikkaballapur, the top
aquifer with dynamic resource has mostly dried up due to overpumping.
Farmers are now mining out the static water resource from the bottom
aquifer, which has negligible recharge potential. The indiscriminate
tapping of these groundwater storages at a rate that is higher than it
can be  replenished, without a real emergency, is a gross
irresponsibility on part of all the stakeholders – from the farmers to
irrigation technology suppliers, to the ground water survey departments
who failed to warn statutory agencies about the dangers of their
actions.

In order to develop resilience, and prepare for any
future water-related crises, a collaborative Water Stewardship is the
need of the hour. Water conservation programs can consider an optimum
sized sub-watershed as a unit, which must be hydrologically –
hydrogeologically mapped out in detail. Watershed management programs
should be based on detailed aquifer characterization for engineering
interventions in order to create sustainable aquifers over the next five
to ten years. Stakeholders must collaborate to ensure sustainable
ground water abstraction for the  next few years. Statutory
interventions including monitoring of abstraction through use of modern
IoT based technologies may be considered and if required, end user
taxation for extraction above a pre-determined allocated water quantity
should become the norm. All farmers must be educated about water supply
constraints and the need for water demand optimisation.

India
needs to be a good example in Water Stewardship, and allow other regions
to emulate its success. Since Chikkaballapur shares so many
similarities with Bangalore, a successful project here could lead to the
rejuvenation of Bangalore’s aquifers as well. With many farming
communities in India that dependent on ground water irrigation reporting
continual falling water tables,  Chikkaballapur has the potential to be
a role model in water resilience .

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Eurasia Review: Indra To Supply Deployable Military Radar To United Kingdom

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Indra said it has been awarded a contract to supply the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom with an advanced long-range air defense deployable radar.

The company was chosen after competing with the main companies in the industry. Indra will deliver the system later this year, meeting tight deadlines.

According to the company, the Indra LTR25 L-band radar stands out for offering very high long-range detection capabilities, comparable to those of larger fixed radars, but with the added advantage of being able to operate very quickly and be transported in small aircraft, such as the C130.

It is a robust solution designed to facilitate deployments outside the national territory, to reinforce the surveillance of a specific area on a one-off basis or to be available as backup in the event that one of the fixed radars is attacked or damaged, the company said.

Indra is a leading company in the development of radars and one of the main suppliers of this type of solutions for NATO. The company has won all the tenders awarded by the Alliance in the last five years. Its systems also cover surveillance of the whole south-western flank of Europe.

Indra has delivered over 50 radars in total to countries from five continents, so the capabilities of its teams have been widely demonstrated in all types of scenarios and environments. The company also has experience in the supply of integrated air defense systems for a number of countries.

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Eurasia Review: Iran: Court Finds Citizen Guilty Of Spying For Britain

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Iran’s Judiciary sentenced an Iranian national to 10 years in prison for spying for Britain.

Judiciary Spokesman Gholam Hossein Esmaili said on Monday that the
convict was in charge of the ‘Iran desk’ at the British Council.

He
said the convict, who was arrested by Iranian intelligence and security
organizations, had been cooperating with the British espionage service
and was tasked with designing, managing and planning cultural
infiltration projects in Iran.

The spokesman said the convict has
confessions about the process of being recruited by and cooperating with
the so-called cultural council of the UK, trainings he received from
the UK secret service, and his missions to carry out cultural projects
in the country.

A court sentenced the individual to 10 years in prison after the confessions, Esmaili added.

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Eurasia Review: Libya On The Boil: Gaddafi’s ‘Old Comrade’ Can’t Bring Stability – Analysis

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Khalifa Haftar, a former army chief and the current head of the self-styled Libyan National Army, has launched a grab for power.

By Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty*

The violent overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi had
plunged an oil-rich Libya into civil war. The so-called ‘Arab Spring’
that began in Tunisia in 2011 and swept through several Arab countries,
created the conditions for the NATO military intervention in Libya,
under the garb of humanitarian intervention. As Libyans revolted, NATO
bombarded Libya to effect regime change. Gaddafi was overthrown,
publicly humiliated by Libyan mobs, and finally — executed.

Since
then, Libya has been a patchwork of territories controlled by regional
militias, locked in a simmering civil war. UN-sponsored democratic
elections were held after Gaddafi’s removal.

A
semblance of normalcy was creeping back under the UN-backed Government
of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli, though another rival
government, formed by the House of Representatives, is based in the
eastern city of Tobruk.

Gaddafi’s ‘old friend’ Haftar

Field
Marshal Khalifa Haftar, a former army chief and the current head of the
self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) in East Libya, has launched a
grab for power, by attacking Tripoli in April 2019. Casualties are
rising in the 5-week-old conflict, with nearly 432 people dead, at least
2,500 injured, and over 50,000 displaced. The UN has called for
ceasefire to address humanitarian needs. The UN Secretary-General (UNSG)
has met Haftar, but his comments indicate that Haftar has clearly
ignored the UNSG’s pleas for a ceasefire, and negotiated settlement.

Fayez
al-Sarraj, PM of GNA, has vowed to defend Tripoli, and has accused
Haftar of launching a coup and betraying various agreements. Al-Serraj
has refused to negotiate with Haftar, unless he withdraws his forces and
stops the assault on Tripoli.

Haftar is
an old comrade of Gaddafi, and had helped overthrow the King Idris
regime in 1969, propelling Gaddafi into power. In 1973, Haftar joined
the Egyptians in the Yom Kippur war against Israel. In 1987, he led the
Libyan Army on the disastrous invasion of Chad. Haftar was captured and
abandoned by Gaddafi. The CIA took advantage of his humiliation, and
Haftar and his military companions were airlifted to the USA, where he
lived for 20 years and obtained American citizenship.

India-Libya ties were cordial under Gaddafi — not anymore

Haftar
is an American proxy who has been unleashed by the CIA to take over
Libya. He returned to Libya in 2011 after Gaddafi was overthrown. Haftar
made a name by defeating Islamist forces in eastern Libya, around the
city of Benghazi. He has managed to seize several oilfields and oil
installations, including the largest one at Sharara.

Haftar
is also backed by Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE, with funds and military
equipment, including aircraft. The Europeans are attempting to close
ranks against Haftar, though there is tension among major European
countries about residual French and Italian support for Haftar.

The
renewal of fighting near Tripoli has compelled the Indian government to
advise all Indian nationals to leave the country immediately. India has
also withdrawn its peacekeepers from Libya, who were stationed there
under the UN flag. India-Libya relations were cordial during Gaddafi’s
tenure in office. India welcomed the lifting of UN sanctions on Libya,
and after the fall of Gaddafi, India established ties with the successor
— that is, GNA — and relations were consolidated with the regular
exchange of high-level visits.

India’s humanitarian assistance to Libya

India
has given priority to humanitarian assistance to help those wounded in
the war, particularly with the supply of medicines, artificial limbs and
prosthetics and training. Wounded Libyans have been brought to India
for medical treatment. India has also provided assistance for capacity
building in areas like agriculture, science and technology, IT etc.

Indian
oil and construction companies have completed several projects in
Libya. In the pre-war period, Indian professionals working in Libya
topped 18,000 in number. Even during the war, around 2,000 Indian
professionals remained in Libya, providing vital services in the
medical, oil, construction and power sectors.

A proxy war for control over Libya’s oil

Currently,
the struggle is between the GNA — backed by Sunni Islamist forces
holding Tripoli — and Haftar’s forces. Strangely, even the Russians are
backing Haftar. It is alleged that Russia has deployed around 300
mercenaries to help him. Both USA and Russia have prevented a formal
reference to the UNSC for a ceasefire. The GNA is getting support from
Turkey and Qatar.

The conflict in Libya has basically become a proxy war for control over Libya, and its oil resources.

President
Trump has spoken to Haftar, and has praised his role in fighting
terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources. Libya’s future is bleak.
Even if Haftar succeeds in capturing Tripoli and establishes an
authoritarian regime, it is unlikely to stabilise the country. The
struggle for power and influence in Libya will not end soon.


This article originally appeared on The Quint.

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“counterintelligence fbi” – Google News: Barr Taps Prosecutor to Investigate Origins of FBI Trump-Russia Probe – Wall Street Journal

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Eurasia Review: Pakistan: The Chant Of ‘Da Sanga Azadi Da’ – OpEd

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Nearly 15% of population of Pakistan (around 200 million) belongs to Pashtun ethnicity. Time and again our Pashtun brothers and sisters have proved their loyalty and love for Pakistan and sacrificed the most be it in terms of Pakistan movement or later whenever any rough time and situation arises in the border region or when the military operation was conducted in the North West region and they had to become IDPs. However, the slogan “Da Sanga Azadi Da” (what kind of freedom is this?) is voice of many Pashtuns these days and its echo can now be heard in whole country and raising many questions in minds of all Pakistanis. PTM – Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement; is the recent conflict the state and people are facing these days.

Looking back, the journey of PTM is not very long, being established by 8 university students in May 2014 with very basic demand of removing the landmines from tribal areas which had claimed more than 40 lives. The case of NaqeebUllah Mehsud and controversy of Rao Anwar, unfortunate incident of Tahir Dawar and all those missing persons cases brought the PTM in spotlight since 2018. This was the time PTM started gaining support from masses and people joined and rendered their support for them as the demands seemed genuinely worth considering. At the same time, the controversies and scandals started surfacing regarding PTM’s chairman and leadership– the Khaisor event and allegations of Matorkey brothers, and among them there are now voices of foreign hand involved behind PTM activities. Between this scramble of truths and politics and controversies and messed up situation, the major concern is its impact on a common young mind particularly Pashtun youth and those from the tribal belt – now part of KPK.

This goes without saying that the love for our forces and homeland runs in our blood and there is sheer intolerance for all anti state sentiments in our hearts. Amongst all the recent developments including the stance of government, the voice of Pashtuns, the statements of Pakistan Army, the media talk and analysis and all the other voices of political parties and human rights organizations makes a young mind inquisitive and curiosity of finding the facts and truth with the debate of patriotism and treachery reaches its peak. Being a young student, I have my own set of questions.

The PTM’s influential circle is mostly youth and young adults. University students and other educated/ well aware young adults who have paid a hefty price throughout their lives owing to a tiresome battle for peace they are fighting and now torn between militants and military. The sacrifices these people have made by leaving their houses and land and going through the struggles of rehabilitation and are still being scrutinized for what the militants and terrorist groups have done to them and their areas. The required support from government and other institutions is lacking for them. The basic demands of PTM is therefore voice of their hearts and these grievances have now become deep rooted and serves as a fertile land for all the anti state powers; be it the foreign agencies and militant groups from across border, regional politics and all others who have evil plans for our dear homeland and exploitation for them becomes very easy. Foreign funding, media access (as local media is not giving them coverage), international and national support at various forums etcetera are the baits being used.

Considering the severity of situation, the state cannot just sit idle and has to take actions which are bound to be disliked by the targeted community. The culprits or black sheep will get their due share but the sufferers are only going to be those young minds and people who once again put their trust in the wrong hands maybe, or whose sentiments and emotions have been exploited once again by people of some other motives who got off track by the period of time and nobody will claim responsibility of all this messed up situation from both ends – the PTM or the state.

Every new day is bringing new things and new dimensions to this conflict but need of time is to secure the future of our precious Pashtuns who love Pakistan no less than others and who are being held hostage time and again previously by the militants who are now again trying to reclaim them directly or indirectly and now by some other nationalists who are accusing the armed forces openly for all their issues (Ye jo dehshatgardi hai; iske peeche wardi hai). The correct answer to this puzzle lies only in genuine and considerate resolution of their mainstream problems. To share and make them understand the limitations (if there are any) so that they themselves can fight the elements who try to take advantage from plight of others. Hoping things to turn out the best way possible for resolution of this conflict and may our Pashtun brothers and sisters experience Azaadi the way they want!

*Rubeha Shaheen, Student of Defense and Diplomatic Studies

Eurasia Review


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Eurasia Review: Drivers Beware: The Deadly Perils Of Traffic Stops In The American Police State – OpEd

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By John W. Whitehead*

“The Fourth Amendment was designed to stand between us and arbitrary governmental authority. For all practical purposes, that shield has been shattered, leaving our liberty and personal integrity subject to the whim of every cop on the beat, trooper on the highway and jail official. The framers would be appalled.” — Herman Schwartz, The Nation We’ve all been there before.

You’re driving along and you see a pair of flashing blue lights in your rearview mirror. Whether or not you’ve done anything wrong, you get a sinking feeling in your stomac

You’ve read enough news stories, seen enough headlines, and lived in the American police state long enough to be anxious about any encounter with a cop that takes place on the side of the road.

For better or worse, from the moment you’re pulled over, you’re at the mercy of law enforcement officers who have almost absolute discretion to decide who is a threat, what constitutes resistance, and how harshly they can deal with the citizens they were appointed to “serve and protect.

This is what I call “blank check policing,” in which the police get to call all of the shots.

So if you’re nervous about traffic stops, you have every reason to be.

Trying to predict the outcome of any encounter with the police is a bit like playing Russian roulette: most of the time you will emerge relatively unscathed, although decidedly poorer and less secure about your rights, but there’s always the chance that an encounter will turn deadly.

Try to assert your right to merely ask a question during a traffic stop and see how far it gets you.

Zachary Noel was tasered by police and charged with resisting arrest after he questioned why he was being ordered out of his truck during a traffic stop. “Because I’m telling you to,” the officer replied before repeating his order for Noel to get out of the vehicle and then, without warning, shooting him with a taser through the open window.

Unfortunately, as Gregory Tucker learned the hard way, there are no longer any fail-safe rules of engagement for interacting with the police.

It was in the early morning hours of Dec. 1, 2016, when Tucker, a young African-American man, was pulled over by Louisiana police for a broken taillight. Because he did not feel safe stopping immediately, Tucker drove calmly and slowly to a safe, well-lit area a few minutes away before stopping in front of his cousin’s house.

That’s when what should have been a routine traffic stop became yet another example of police brutality in America and another reason why Americans are justified in their fear of cops.

According to the lawsuit that was filed in federal court by The Rutherford Institute, police ordered Tucker out of his vehicle, and after he had stepped out, immediately placed him under arrest for “resisting” (in this case, not immediately stopping) and searched his person and his vehicle. Tucker was then ordered to move to the front of the police vehicle and place his hands on its hood.

Two more police officers arrived on the scene, walked up behind Tucker, and grabbed his arms to restrain and handcuffed him.

Then the fourth police officer arrived on the scene. According to police dash cam footage, Tucker was thrown to the ground and punched numerous times in the head and body. The police also yelled repeatedly at Tucker to “quit resisting.” Tucker, bleeding with injuries to his face, head and arm, was then placed into the back of a police vehicle and EMTs were called to treat him. He was eventually taken to the hospital for severe injuries to his face and arm.

Mind you, this young man complied with police. He just didn’t do it fast enough to suit their purposes.

This young man submitted to police. He didn’t challenge police authority when they frisked him, searched his car, handcuffed him, and beat him to a pulp.

If this young man is “guilty” of anything, he’s guilty of ticking off the cops by being cautious, concerned for his safety, and all too aware of the dangers faced by young black men during encounters with the police.

Frankly, you don’t even have to be young or black or a man to fear for your life during an encounter with the police.

Just consider the growing numbers of unarmed people are who being shot and killed just for standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety.

At a time when police can do no wrong—at least in the eyes of the courts, police unions and politicians dependent on their votes—and a “fear” for officer safety is used to justify all manner of police misconduct, “we the people” are at a severe disadvantage.

Add a traffic stop to the mix, and that disadvantage increases dramatically.

According to the Justice Department, the most common reason for a citizen to come into contact with the police is being a driver in a traffic stop.

On average, one in 10 Americans gets pulled over by police.

Black drivers are 31 percent more likely to be pulled over than white drivers, or about 23 percent more likely than Hispanic drivers. As the Washington Post concludes, “‘Driving while black’ is, indeed, a measurable phenomenon.”

Indeed, police officers have been given free range to pull anyone over for a variety of reasons.

This free-handed approach to traffic stops has resulted in drivers being stopped for windows that are too heavily tinted, for driving too fast, driving too slow, failing to maintain speed, following too closely, improper lane changes, distracted driving, screeching a car’s tires, and leaving a parked car door open for too long.

Motorists can also be stopped by police for driving near a bar or on a road that has large amounts of drunk driving, driving a certain make of car (Mercedes, Grand Prix and Hummers are among the most ticketed vehicles), having anything dangling from the rearview mirror (air fresheners, handicap parking permits, troll transponders or rosaries), and displaying pro-police bumper stickers.

Incredibly, a federal appeals court actually ruled unanimously in 2014 that acne scars and driving with a stiff upright posture are reasonable grounds for being pulled over. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that driving a vehicle that has a couple air fresheners, rosaries and pro-police bumper stickers at 2 MPH over the speed limit is suspicious, meriting a traffic stop.

Equally appalling, in Heien v. North Carolina, the U.S. Supreme Court—which has largely paved the way for the police and other government agents to probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance—allowed police officers to stop drivers who appear nervous, provided they provide a palatable pretext for doing so.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the lone objector in the case. Dissenting in Heien, Sotomayor warned, “Giving officers license to effect seizures so long as they can attach to their reasonable view of the facts some reasonable legal interpretation (or misinterpretation) that suggests a law has been violated significantly expands this authority… One wonders how a citizen seeking to be law-abiding and to structure his or her behavior to avoid these invasive, frightening, and humiliating encounters could do so.”

In other words, drivers beware.

Traffic stops aren’t just dangerous. They can be downright deadly.

Remember Walter L. Scott? Reportedly pulled over for a broken taillight, Scott—unarmed—ran away from the police officer, who pursued and shot him from behind, first with a Taser, then with a gun. Scott was struck five times, “three times in the back, once in the upper buttocks and once in the ear — with at least one bullet entering his heart.”

Samuel Dubose, also unarmed, was pulled over for a missing front license plate. He was reportedly shot in the head after a brief struggle in which his car began rolling forward.

Levar Jones was stopped for a seatbelt offense, just as he was getting out of his car to enter a convenience store. Directed to show his license, Jones leaned into his car to get his wallet, only to be shot four times by the “fearful” officer. Jones was also unarmed.

Bobby Canipe was pulled over for having an expired registration. When the 70-year-old reached into the back of his truck for his walking cane, the officer fired several shots at him, hitting him once in the abdomen.

Dontrell Stevens was stopped “for not bicycling properly.” The officer pursuing him “thought the way Stephens rode his bike was suspicious. He thought the way Stephens got off his bike was suspicious.” Four seconds later, sheriff’s deputy Adams Lin shot Stephens four times as he pulled out a black object from his waistband. The object was his cell phone. Stephens was unarmed.

Sandra Bland, pulled over for allegedly failing to use her turn signal, was arrested after refusing to comply with the police officer’s order to extinguish her cigarette and exit her vehicle. The encounter escalated, with the officer threatening to “light” Bland up with his taser. Three days later, Bland was found dead in her jail cell. “You’re doing all of this for a failure to signal?” Bland asked as she got out of her car, after having been yelled at and threatened repeatedly.

Keep in mind, from the moment those lights start flashing and that siren goes off, we’re all in the same boat. However, it’s what happens after you’ve been pulled over that’s critical.

Survival is key.

Technically, you have the right to remain silent (beyond the basic requirement to identify yourself and show your registration). You have the right to refuse to have your vehicle searched. You have the right to film your interaction with police. You have the right to ask to leave. You also have the right to resist an unlawful order such as a police officer directing you to extinguish your cigarette, put away your phone or stop recording them.

However, there is a price for asserting one’s rights. That price grows more costly with every passing day.

If you ask cops and their enablers what Americans should do to stay alive during encounters with police, they will tell you to comply, cooperate, obey, not resist, not argue, not make threatening gestures or statements, avoid sudden movements, and submit to a search of their person and belongings.

The problem, of course, is what to do when compliance is not enough.

After all, every day we hear about situations in which unarmed Americans complied and still died during an encounter with police simply because they appeared to be standing in a “shooting stance” or held a cell phone or a garden hose or carried around a baseball bat or answered the front door or held a spoon in a threatening manner or ran in an aggressive manner holding a tree branch or wandered around naked or hunched over in a defensive posture or made the mistake of wearing the same clothes as a carjacking suspect (dark pants and a basketball jersey) or dared to leave an area at the same time that a police officer showed up or had a car break down by the side of the road or were deaf or homeless or old.

Now you can make all kinds of excuses to justify these shootings, and in fact that’s exactly what you’ll hear from politicians, police unions, law enforcement officials and individuals who are more than happy to march in lockstep with the police.

However, to suggest that a good citizen is a compliant citizen and that obedience will save us from the police state is not only recklessly irresponsible, but it is also deluded and out of touch with reality.

To begin with, and most importantly, Americans need to know their rights when it comes to interactions with the police, bearing in mind that many law enforcement officials are largely ignorant of the law themselves.

In a nutshell, the following are your basic rights when it comes to interactions with the police as outlined in the Bill of Rights:

You have the right under the First Amendment to ask questions and express yourself. You have the right under the Fourth Amendment to not have your person or your property searched by police or any government agent unless they have a search warrant authorizing them to do so.  You have the right under the Fifth Amendment to remain silent, to not incriminate yourself and to request an attorney. Depending on which state you live in and whether your encounter with police is consensual as opposed to your being temporarily detained or arrested, you may have the right to refuse to identify yourself. Presently, 26 states do not require citizens to show their ID to an officer (drivers in all states must do so, however).

Knowing your rights is only part of the battle, unfortunately.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the hard part comes in when you have to exercise those rights in order to hold government officials accountable to respecting those rights.

As a rule of thumb, you should always be sure to clarify in any police encounter whether or not you are being detained, i.e., whether you have the right to walk away. That holds true whether it’s a casual “show your ID” request on a boardwalk, a stop-and-frisk search on a city street, or a traffic stop for speeding or just to check your insurance. If you feel like you can’t walk away from a police encounter of your own volition—and more often than not you can’t, especially when you’re being confronted by someone armed to the hilt with all manner of militarized weaponry and gear—then for all intents and purposes, you’re essentially under arrest from the moment a cop stops you. Still, it doesn’t hurt to clarify that distinction.

While technology is always going to be a double-edged sword, with the gadgets that are the most useful to us in our daily lives—GPS devices, cell phones, the internet—being the very tools used by the government to track us, monitor our activities, and generally spy on us, cell phones are particularly useful for recording encounters with the police and have proven to be increasingly powerful reminders to police that they are not all powerful.

A good resource is The Rutherford Institute’s “Constitutional Q&A: Rules of Engagement for Interacting with Police.”

Clearly, in the American police state, compliance is no guarantee that you will survive an encounter with the police with your life and liberties intact.

So if you’re starting to feel somewhat overwhelmed, intimidated and fearful for your life and the lives of your loved ones, you should be.

*About author: Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His books Battlefield America: The War on the American People and A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State are available online at www.amazon.com. He can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

Eurasia Review


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Trump Investigations from Michael_Novakhov (85 sites): “Russia investigations” – Google News: Barr taps U.S. attorney in Connecticut to investigate origins of Russia probe – The Washington Post

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Barr taps U.S. attorney in Connecticut to investigate origins of Russia probe  The Washington Post

Barr tapped John H. Durham to work on the review, which is designed at ensuring the U.S. government’s “intelligence collection activities” related to the Trump …

“Russia investigations” – Google News

Trump Investigations from Michael_Novakhov (85 sites)


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Eurasia Review: Nepal: Mirage Of Justice – Analysis

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By S. Binodkumar Singh*

On May 2, 2019, at a press meet
in Kathmandu, a group of conflict victims expressed their concerns over
the Government’s ongoing appointment process of commissioners and
members of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the
Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP). The
conflict victims demanded that the Government first amend the
Commission on Investigation of Disappeared Persons, Truth and
Reconciliation Act 2014 (TRC Act) before appointing members and chairpersons. The Commissions are presently vacant, as their members retired on April 13, 2019.

On March 25, 2019, the
Government formed a five-member Recommendation Committee to nominate
candidates for the chairpersons and members of the two transitional
justice bodies (TRC and CIEDP). The Committee, led by former Chief
Justice Om Prakash Mishra, is to recommend names of 10 persons – five
each for TRC and CIEDP – including a chairperson each for the two
Commissions. The Committee has extended the deadline for submission of
applications three times so far (the latest deadline was May 12, but
there was no further information available in thia regard at the time of
writing) in view of the demands of the conflict victims.

TRC and CIEDP were constituted
on February 10, 2015, in accordance with the TRC Act, to probe instances
of serious violations of human rights and to determine the status of
those who disappeared in the course of the armed conflict between the
State and the then Communist Party of Nepal–Maoist (CPN-Maoist), between
February 13, 1996, and November 21, 2006, the day of the signing of the
Comprehensive Peace Agreement 2006. Despite the tenures of the TRC and CIEDP having been extended twice,
the TRC has barely completed preliminary investigations into some 2,800
among the 63,000 cases filed, and is yet to complete a detailed probe
into a single case. CIEDP, which received some 3,000 complaints, has
completed preliminary investigation into just about 500, but has failed
to launch a single detailed investigation.

Moreover, TRC and CIEDP have
fallen short of international standards, both in their constitution and
operation, despite repeated orders by the Supreme Court of Nepal. On
January 2, 2014, the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional the TRC
Ordinance adopted in 2013 by the Maoist-led Government, which provides
for amnesties to persons deemed responsible for serious human rights
abuses during the country’s civil war of 1996-2006. However, the
Government effectively ignored the Court order and promulgated the TRC
Act into law on May 11, 2014. Once again, on February 26, 2015, the
Supreme Court struck down the amnesty provision in the TRC Act.

Demanding reforms in the
existing TRC and CIEDP, on November 21, 2018, the Conflict Victims
Common Platform (CVCP), an umbrella body of 13 organizations advocating
justice for war-era victims, adopted a 23-point Charter of Conflict Victims calling
for meaningful participation of the victims themselves in the overall
transitional justice process and related mechanisms. Further, on April
29, 2019, conflict victims and civil society members staged a
demonstration at Maitighar Mandala in Kathmandu demanding amendments to
the TRC Act, in line with the verdicts issued by the Supreme Court at
different times. They also urged the Government to equip TRC and CIEDP
with necessary resources — human and financial. The conflict victims
also demanded that the members and chairpersons of both transitional
justice bodies be appointed only after amending the Act.

Of late, pressure from the
international community has also been mounting on the Nepal Government
to ensure transparency and proper consultation before selecting
officials for the two transitional commissions. Urging the Government to
publicly clarify its plans to take the transitional justice process
forward in 2019, Kathmandu-based diplomatic missions of Australia,
Germany, the European Union, Finland, France, Norway, Switzerland, the
United Kingdom, the United States of America, and the United Nations, in
a Press release on January 24, 2019, observed

Noting the looming expiration of the mandates of the TRC and the CIEDP, as well as the upcoming fourth anniversary of the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that affirmed certain requirements for transitional justice processes, we encourage the government to clarify to the public its plans to take the transitional justice process forward in 2019.

Similarly, on February 11,
2019, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Amnesty
International (AI) and TRIAL International called on the Nepal
Government to commit to a transparent and consultative transitional
justice process that complied with international law and the judgments
of the Supreme Court. Expressing serious concern over the selection
process of the new leadership in the two transitional justice
commissions and the delay in amending the TRC Act, five United Nations
special rapporteurs sent a letter addressed
to Minister of Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali on April 12, 2019.
In the 10-page letter, sent through Nepal’s Permanent Mission to the
United Nations in Geneva, the rapporteurs stated that the existing
selection procedure lacks impartiality, independence and transparency.

Meanwhile, making it clear that
the Government had not felt necessary any external assistance in
concluding the home-grown and nationally-led transnational justice
process, Minister of Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, speaking at
an interaction with media persons after his return from the 40th Session
of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on March 5, 2019,
declared, “Of course, we need international goodwill, but we are capable
of concluding the transitional justice process in our own original
way.” Once again, emphasizing that Nepal’s peace process was a
home-grown initiative which would be settled by domestic stakeholders,
Minister of Communications and Information Technology Gokul Prasad
Baskota stated on April 18, 2019, “Nepal offers a unique model on
transitional justice process and the international community needs to
believe in Nepal’s competence.”

However, the Nepal Government
has drafted a Bill to amend the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)
Act, 2012, which experts argue would curtail the rights of the
constitutional watchdog. The Bill has made it mandatory for the NHRC to
recommend cases against human rights violators – individuals or
institutions – to the Attorney General. According to the existing Act,
NHRC can directly write to the Cabinet for action against human rights’
violators. Arguing that such a move could defeat the whole purpose of
holding human rights violators to account, Advocate Om Prakash Aryal
observed, “Since the Government authorities also violate human rights,
the Attorney General, who is the Government’s legal counsel, may not
prosecute the case.”

There has also been dismal
record on the implementation of the rights watchdog’s recommendations by
the Government. According to the NHRC’s Annual Report 2017-18,
of the 810 recommendations made by the commission between 2001 and
2017, only 12.5 percent of the total recommendations were fully
implemented, 48.3 percent were partially implemented and 39.2 percent
recommendations are ‘under consideration’. The report further noted that
most of the recommendations that were implemented were related to
compensation. Recommendations made for taking action against those
involved in human rights violations largely remained unimplemented.

Expectedly, on April 20, 2019,
the NHRC objected the Bill to amend the National Human Rights Commission
Act, 2012, observing that the Government was trying to undermine the
rights body’s authority by forcing it to recommend the cases it has
investigated to the Attorney General. The constitutional body also
stated that the Government had ignored its recommendations while
drafting the Amendment Bill, as the Commission had submitted a 17-point
reference to the Government. Anup Raj Sharma, Chairperson of the
Commission, asserted, “Not a single recommendation has been incorporated
in the draft. To our utter surprise, the Cabinet endorsed the Bill
within a couple of days after I personally requested Prime Minister K.P.
Sharma Oli to come up with the Bill incorporating our recommendations.”

Meanwhile, on April 30, 2019,
at the meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Law, Justice and Human
Rights, a heated exchange of words between opposition lawmakers and
Minister for Law and Justice Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal occurred. While the
opposition lawmakers, along with officials from the commission, demanded
revision of the Bill, arguing that it curtailed the authority of the
rights watchdog, Dhakal refused to budge.

It has been 13 years since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which formally ended the civil war in Nepal. Even though the two transitional justice mechanisms have begun documenting cases and complaints, they have been hampered by an inadequate law that does not meet international standards, as well as by a severe lack of capacity and proper support from the Government. The Government is attempting to rush through an appointment process without transparency or consultation, and this has failed to gain the trust of victims. Moreover, as a proposed law threatens to weaken the NHRC as well, efforts to secure justice for victims of atrocities are likely to remain a mirage.

*S. Binodkumar Singh
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

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Eurasia Review: One Year Later: Has Malaysia Changed? – Analysis

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A year has passed since Pakatan Harapan won the 14th Malaysian general election on a platform calling for reforms. The earlier euphoria has given way to a realisation of a long and challenging road ahead for the government. PH needs some victories to regain its momentum.

By Adrian Tan*

When Pakatan Harapan (PH) won its historic and surprising victory in the May 2018 Malaysian general election (GE14), many were quick to say that this will bring in an era of change. It has been a year since the new government led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad took over power. Has Malaysia changed?

Has the government been able to execute its electoral manifesto,
which was one of reforms? Looking at domestic developments since GE14,
it has not been easy for the PH government, and many a time, this is not
for want of trying. Four key areas reveal the immense challenges facing
this government.

Reform Is Never Easy

Whoever says reform is easy is likely never involved in carrying it
out. In the case of Malaysia, it is easy to blame the Barisan Nasional
(BN) governments of yesteryear for the many problems facing the country,
and much of the criticism is valid.

However, many of these problems are complex with no quick solutions.
Take for instance the issue of corruption. Former Prime Minister Najib
Razak’s ongoing trial for alleged misdeeds in the 1MDB scandal will take
up much of the government’s bandwidth. But what is needed is a
systematic clean-up of the system; for it to be sustained, there has to
be a strict enforcement of the anti-corruption laws. In addition,
leaders must set the correct example for the rest of the country.

Two incidents come to mind – the backtracking of the government over
the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination (ICERD) and the Rome Statute (of the International
Criminal Court) reveal the challenge of balancing reforms with the
potential political costs.

Besides raising questions over decision-making within the government,
the recent episodes created opportunities for the Opposition and other
segments of society to put pressure on PH. For those who had pushed for
these reforms, it must have been demoralising to see the government
backtracking on its commitment. This will ultimately impact on the
reform push by the PH.

Coalition Politics – Work in Progress

The coalition partners in PH were united in their desire to bring
Najib down and to remove the BN from power. They succeeded, but that was
the easier part. Governing effectively is never going to be easy given
the length of time that BN had remained in power.

Mahathir, with his experience and prestige, has helped to stabilise
the coalition, but he is 94. Coalition politics however, have been
complicated. Anwar Ibrahim’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) saw a bruising
party election in late 2018 that resulted in wounds that may not fully
heal. Anwar’s eldest daughter Nurul Izzah has resigned from senior
positions in the party and government.

Mahathir’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) is trying to grow
itself by attracting defectors from UMNO and other parties but this has
led to tensions with the coalition partners and other allies. Amanah has
its own headache – how to become a party that can have relevance to the
cause of the coalition? The Democratic Action Party (DAP) has kept
generally quiet in public but it has to be concerned by the tensions
within the coalition.

Succession Politics

One of the key questions in the minds of many Malaysians will have to
be “Will Anwar take over from Mahathir?” Anwar has played a patient
game and he has constantly expressed his support for Mahathir but he has
also made it clear that he expects to take over as PM.

Mahathir has also been careful with what he says about succession.
But as time passes, and as we approach the end of 2019, speculation will
naturally increase. Every single remark or action by the two men will
be scrutinised and interpreted. If things do not go according to plan,
at least from Anwar’s perspective, what does that mean for coalition
politics? Will the coalition be able stay together?

And if things do go according to plan, and Anwar takes over as PM, is
it going to be an easy ride for him? Much will depend on the state of
play in national politics as well as coalition politics at the point of
the proposed transition. Mahathir will not be an easy act to follow.
That said, Anwar is likely the only one who can hold the coalition
together post-Mahathir.

UMNO and BN – Still in the Race

UMNO’s cooperation with the Islamist party PAS appears to have borne
some fruit. At the same time, UMNO has kept the BN concept alive even as
its two traditional allies, the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and
the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), continue to meander.

Threats to leave BN are heard but in reality, MCA and MIC have few
options. It is hard to see them moving to PH or even creating a third
force in Malaysian politics. Staying with UMNO in a BN looks like the
plan for now.

For UMNO, cooperation with PAS will come at a price. What can UMNO
say or do to differentiate itself from PAS? Looking at the recent
by-elections, by choosing candidates who were seen as acceptable to PAS,
and motivated by a desire to return to power, UMNO may be inadvertently
transforming itself into a different party, away from its traditional
role as a Malay nationalist party.

Uncertainty will be the Norm

PH will need some victories to regain momentum. To be fair to PH, it
is trying hard to implement its electoral manifesto. The fundamental
dilemma is this – to win the next GE, PH must govern in a way that will
win them votes, but that could mean that some of its reform promises
have to be sacrificed on the altar of political necessity.

But sacrificing these promises will be seen as betrayal by some of
its supporters. In truth, pragmatism, rather than idealism, will have to
be paramount but yet, idealism was a key factor that drove PH to win
the GE14.

The year ahead will be challenging and uncertainty will persist.
There is no quiet day in Malaysia with the latest issue about the
relationship between the government and the Malaysian royalty.
Ultimately, PH will have to decide what it truly wants and focus on it.

*Adrian Tan is Coordinator of the Malaysia Programme, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore.

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Eurasia Review: Trump Plans To Meet With Russia’s Putin, China’s Xi At G20

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(RFE/RL) — U.S. President Donald Trump has said he’ll be meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin during the upcoming Group of 20 (G20) summit to be held in Japan in June.

Trump made the comments on May 13 during remarks to reporters ahead
of talks with visiting Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by Russian news
agency Interfax as saying that Washington had not requested a meeting
between Trump and Putin.

“There have been no requests. But there have been no agreements yet as well,” Peskov told Interfax.

Earlier, the Russian newspaper Kommersant, citing an unnamed U.S.
State Department official, said that the White House had made the
request to the Kremlin for Trump to meet with Putin.

Trump’s comments came one day before Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
is scheduled to arrive in the Black Sea city of Sochi for talks with
Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

In remarks to reporters last week, a senior U.S. State Department
declined to say whether Pompeo would be making arrangements for the
Trump-Putin meeting.

Earlier this month, Putin and Trump spoke by phone, where they
discussed Venezuela, Ukraine, Iran, and the conclusion of Special
Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in U.S.
elections.

Trump also said he would be meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping
during the G20 summit. Washington and Beijing are locked in an
escalating trade war that has rattled stock markets, and spooked
investors concerned about long-term damage to trade between the world’s
two largest economies.

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Eurasia Review: Indonesia To Unveil Sharia Economic Master Plan

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By Ami Afriatni

Indonesia will aim to push interest-free Islamic banking into the mainstream and boost domestic production of halal
(permissible) foods, products and services when the world’s most
populous Muslim-majority country unveils its first Sharia economic
master plan on Tuesday, a government official said.

The plan outlines efforts to grow Islamic economic sectors such as
finance, manufacturing, food, fashion and tourism, Muhammad Cholifihani,
director of financial services at the National Development Planning
Board, told BenarNews.

The Sharia plan will not replace the economic system of the
multi-religious country but instead support development through
Islamic-friendly programs as a component of the overall economy.

“We aim for improvements in terms of economies of scale, economic
independence and our ranking in the Global Islamic Economy Report,”
Cholifihani said, adding that strengthening small- and medium-sized
enterprises was among the goals.

Officials hope that by improving the climate for Islamic finance, the
government would attract investment from oil-rich Middle Eastern
countries and others, which want to invest in ethically and socially
responsible projects, according to the planning board.

Officials did not release the master plan ahead of its unveiling.

The government began promoting Sharia economic development in the
2015-2019 National Medium-Term Development Plan. It included Islamic
banking as a foundation.

In 2015, the Indonesian Sharia Financial Architecture (AKSI) roadmap
was released, followed the next year by a presidential regulation that
paved the way for the creation of the National Islamic Finance Committee
(KNKS).

Indonesia ranked 10th in the 2018 State of the Global Islamic Economy report in the category of Islamic finance.

Islamic banking accounted for only 5.7 percent, or 444.43 trillion
rupiah ($30.8 billion), of the country’s total banking assets, as of
June 2018. Cholifihani blamed a shortage of funding and skilled manpower
for hampering growth in the financial sector, adding that officials
would like to the figure grow to 10 percent.

“Growth is not as massive as in other countries,” Cholifihani said.

Halal certification

Cholifihani said the government had adopted a law on halal
certification issued in 2014. The law mandates the establishment of a
Halal Product Guarantee Agency (BPJPH) as a regulator for halal
certification.

While BPJPH was established in 2017, the Indonesian Council of Ulema
(MUI), a semi-official body of Islamic scholars, has not relinquished
its role in handling certifications.

“Such an agency is needed because certification will allow Indonesian
halal products to be recognized abroad. We have a food and drug
department at MUI, but it’s not a government agency and not recognized
by the OIC (Islamic Conference Organization),” he said.

“There are 17 industrial sectors including agriculture, manufacturing
and services that can be labeled halal. The public will be more
comfortable because there is halal certification,” Cholifihani said.

“The potential will be large in terms of gross domestic product if we can export. Our trade balance will also improve.”

Cholifihani said that lower cost of halal certification for micro,
small and medium enterprises would improve their value. Under halal or
ethical investment standards, Muslims are prohibited from investing in
companies involved with alcohol, tobacco, gambling, pork and weapons.

In 2017 alone, consumption of halal products in Indonesia reached
37.6 percent of the total global consumption estimated at U.S. $2.1
trillion. Most of the goods were not produced in Indonesia, according to
officials.

“Globally, Indonesia is not a major producer. In fact, many halal
products sold in Indonesia come from (non-Muslim) countries like
Thailand,” Cholifihani said.  “That is a challenge. We are more
consumers than producers.”

An alternative

Islamic economics offered an alternative for Muslim- and
non-Muslim-majority countries amid global uncertainty, said Greget Kalla
Buana, a Sharia finance expert at the United Nations Development
Program.

The Islamic finance industry, as part of its own sharia economic
ecosystem, has grown 10 percent to 12 percent per year on the global
scale and has become one of the fastest growing industrial sectors in
the world, he said. Islamic financial assets alone are expected to break
$3 trillion by 2020.

“This is just Islamic finance, not including other sharia economic
sectors. It is clear that the Islamic economy has enormous potential,”
Greget told BenarNews.

Sharia economic goals are similar to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Greget said.

“Linkage with various aspects of human life as explained through the
SDGs make Islamic economics not simply about growth figures, but also
the substance behind that growth,” he said.

“For example, there is a focus on alleviating poverty, hunger and
inequality seen from the moral, material, spiritual, social and
environmental dimensions. Sharia economic development is needed to
support the attainment of the SDGs,” Greget said.

The Islamic economic system could offer more benefits than the
conventional one, said Rahmatina Awaliah Kasri, a lecturer in Islamic
economics at the University of Indonesia.

“In the banking system for example, the profit-sharing system
practiced by Islamic banking institutions is conceptually fairer and
more stable than the banking system based on the interest system,”
Rahmatina told BenarNews, adding the sharia economic system could
increase financial inclusiveness.

“There are Muslim groups who don’t want to use conventional banking
and insurance services because they are considered usurious,” she said.

Islamic economic instruments such as zakat (alms) and waqf
(endowment) could complement conventional government anti-poverty
policies, she said.

In addition, growth in Islamic economic sectors could attract global
investors, according to Abra Talattov, an economist at the Institute for
Development of Economics and Finance.

“Unless Indonesia takes swift action, it will be left behind, because
it’s lagging behind even countries whose majority of people are not
Muslims,” ​​Abra told BenarNews.

“Of course the government also needs to build infrastructure both physically and non-physically,” he said.

Abara said Sharia economic systems were not in opposition to the conventional ones.

“In the end people think rationally. If a practice is profitable, people will be interested,” he said.

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Eurasia Review: Pope Francis Permits Medjugorje Pilgrimages; Apparitions Continue To Be Studied

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By Hannah Brockhaus

Pope Francis has given the green light for Catholics to organize pilgrimages to Medjugorje, a site of alleged Marian apparitions, though the Church has not yet given a verdict on the apparitions’ authenticity.

The pope’s authorization of pilgrimages to the site is not to be
understood as an “authentication” of the alleged apparitions, “which
still require an examination by the Church,” papal spokesman Alessandro
Gisotti said in a statement May 12.

He added that anyone leading pilgrimages to the site should avoid
creating “confusion or ambiguity under the doctrinal aspect,” including
priests who intend to celebrate Mass there.

The provision was made as an acknowledgment of the “abundant fruits
of grace” that have come from Medjugorje and to promote those “good
fruits.” It is also part of the “particular pastoral attention” of Pope
Francis to the place, Gisotti said.

The announcement of the papal authorization was made May 12 by the
Vatican’s apostolic visitor to the site, Archbishop Henryk Hoser, and
Archbishop Luigi Pezzuto, apostolic nuncio to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Hoser, retired archbishop of Warsaw-Prague, was appointed apostolic
visitor to Medjugorje by Pope Francis in May 2018. His directive, which
is of an undetermined length, is to oversee the pastoral needs at the
site of the alleged Marian apparitions.

Hoser’s appointment as apostolic visitor followed his service as papal envoy to the site in 2017.

In January 2014, a Vatican commission concluded a nearly
four-year-long investigation on the doctrinal and disciplinary aspects
of the Medjugorje apparitions, and submitted a document to the
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

When the congregation has analyzed the commission’s findings, it will
finalize a document on the site, which will be submitted to the pope,
who will make a final decision.

The alleged apparitions began June 24, 1981, when six children in
Medjugorje, a town in what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina, began to
experience phenomena which they have claimed to be apparitions of the
Blessed Virgin Mary.

According to these six “seers,” the apparitions contained a message
of peace for the world, a call to conversion, prayer and fasting, as
well as certain secrets surrounding events to be fulfilled in the
future.

These apparitions are said to have continued almost daily since their
first occurrence, with three of the original six children – who are now
young adults – continuing to receive apparitions every afternoon
because not all the “secrets” intended for them have been revealed.

Since their beginning, the alleged apparitions have been a source of
both controversy and conversion, with many flocking to the city for
pilgrimage and prayer, and some claiming to have experienced miracles at
the site, while many others claim the visions are non-credible.

Pope Francis visited Bosnia and Herzegovina in June 2015 but declined
to stop in Medjugorje during his trip. During his return flight to
Rome, he indicated that the process of investigation in the apparitions
was nearly complete.

On the return flight from a visit to the Marian shrine of Fatima in
May 2017, the pope spoke about the final document of the Medjugorje
commission, sometimes referred to as the “Ruini report,” after the head
of the commission, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, calling it “very, very good,”
and noting a distinction between the first Marian apparitions at
Medjugorje and the later ones.

“The first apparitions, which were to children, the report more or
less says that these need to continue being studied,” he said, but as
for “presumed current apparitions, the report has its doubts,” the pope
said.

On multiple occasions, the pope has said he is suspicious of the
ongoing apparitions, “I prefer the Madonna as Mother, our Mother, and
not a woman who’s the head of an office, who every day sends a message
at a certain hour. This is not the Mother of Jesus.”

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“Get FBI out of Counterintelligence” – Google News: Report: CT U.S. Attorney investigating Russia probe – CT Post

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Report: CT U.S. Attorney investigating Russia probe  CT Post

Connecticut’s top federal prosecutor has been tapped by Attorney General William P. Barr to look into the origins of the investigation of Russia’s meddling in the …

“Get FBI out of Counterintelligence” – Google News


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Eurasia Review: Locating A Shooter From The First Shot Via Cellphone

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In the past several decades, militaries have worked hard to develop
technologies that simultaneously protect infantry soldiers’ hearing and
aid in battlefield communication. However, these advanced Tactical
Communication and Protective Systems, or TCAPS — earmuffs or earplugs
with built-in microphones allowing active hearing protection — don’t
help if a soldier takes them off to assess the location of incoming
gunfire.

Now a French researcher has developed a proof of concept that uses
the microphones in a TCAPS system to capture a shooter’s acoustic
information and transmit this to a soldier’s smartphone to display
shooter location in real time.

“At the beginning of an ambush, the most important thing for
soldiers is to know where the shooting is coming from so that they can
hide on the right side of a vehicle or at least aim in the right
direction — and they need this information very fast,” said Sébastien
Hengy, a combat acoustics researcher at the French-German Research
Institute of Saint-Louis (ISL).

Hengy will present his TCAPS-based shooter location research at the
177th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, which takes place
May 13-17, at the Galt House in Louisville, Kentucky.

TCAPS have four microphones: two outside the ear canal and two
inside it, underneath the hearing protection. In the French case, this
is an electronic filter that activates to block out loud noises, such as
when a soldier fires his or her own weapon.

Hengy’s shooter location technology uses the fact that most modern
combat weapons fire bullets at supersonic speeds, creating two acoustic
waves. The first is a supersonic shock wave (similar to that formed in
front of a jet at supersonic speeds) that travels in front of the bullet
and propagates outward in a cone shape. The explosion of the bullet in
the barrel creates a muzzle wave which radiates out spherically in all
directions.

“Our system uses the microphone underneath the hearing protection in
order to detect the shock and muzzle waves generated by supersonic
shots and record the time difference of arrival of the Mach wave between
the left and right ear. By combining the information sent by all the
TCAPS deployed on the field, this gives you the direction of arrival of
the waves and thus the direction in which the shooter is,” explained
Hengy.

This information is sent via Bluetooth or USB to a soldier’s
smartphone which uses a data fusion algorithm developed by Hengy to
calculate the shooter’s position.

“If it’s a smartphone with a good processor, the computation time to
get the complete trajectory is about half a second,” said Hengy, noting
that once a soldier begins returning fire, the location system
automatically turns off.

Soldiers in France’s Operation Sentinel domestic anti-terror force are already equipped with smartphones.

To date, Hengy has successfully demonstrated the system with
microphones mounted ear width apart (about 10 centimeters) in a field,
and is currently finessing the technology, including integrating head
orientation information from tiny compasses mounted in the hearing
protection.

Later this year they’ll begin tests with the system on an artificial
head and, if all goes well, deploy the technology as early as 2021. The
TCAPS technology is being developed in collaboration with French
company Cotral.

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“fbi” – Google News: 1600: Trump turns against his FBI chief – Newsday

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1600: Trump turns against his FBI chief  Newsday

Won’t stick to Trump’s story Donald Trump has his own version of good cop/bad cop. The good cop is “our very great attorney general,” William Barr, who …

“fbi” – Google News


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FBI from Michael_Novakhov (27 sites): “fbi” – Google News: 1600: Trump turns against his FBI chief – Newsday

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1600: Trump turns against his FBI chief  Newsday

Won’t stick to Trump’s story Donald Trump has his own version of good cop/bad cop. The good cop is “our very great attorney general,” William Barr, who …

“fbi” – Google News

FBI from Michael_Novakhov (27 sites)


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Eurasia Review: The UK’s New Unsustainable Viewing Habits

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A new study looks behind closed doors to reveal how UK viewing habits
are shifting away from traditional broadcasting with more
data-intensive streaming options now the default for many.

A viewing revolution is taking place. The advent of Internet TV,
video sharing platforms like YouTube, and other on-demand services in
recent years has massively increased flexibility and choice for viewers.

But the nature and extent of how household viewing habits have changed has, until now, relied largely on anecdotal evidence.

A team of computing researchers at Lancaster University has taken
the closest look yet. They have thoroughly analysed the use of 66
computing devices, including smart TVs, dongles, tablet computers,
laptops and mobile phones, for a month across 20 participants in nine UK
households.

The study, which was supported by the Engineering and Physical
Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), provides valuable new evidence for
the researchers, who are interested in our changing viewing habits and
how this links to the huge increases in Internet data traffic. Internet
traffic has risen by about 20 per cent a year recently, and streaming is
about half of all traffic. These rises are of particular concern as
data increases are often accompanied by hidden energy use, impacting on
the environment.

“This study provides a highly nuanced understanding of
contemporary watching practices that are indicative of wider trends in
everyday life, and how this links to data demand,” said Kelly Widdicks,
PhD Candidate of Lancaster University and the report’s lead author.

“Our findings, coinciding with statistics from the UK and US,
show there has been a significant behavioural shift towards streaming as
a default with traditional broadcast TV, or DVDs, becoming obsolete for
some.”

All households in the study watched some form of video content
every day – contributing to nearly three quarters of total household
data demand.

Smartphones were the most commonly owned devices and a
PlayStation games console was the most data-hungry device in the study,
followed by TV dongles.

YouTube was found to be the most data demanding watching service –
accounting for almost half of demand for watching across all households
– and is, unsurprisingly, more popular with younger ‘Generation Z’
participants. Other demanding viewing services included Now TV, Netflix,
Sky TV and TV Player. These were followed by social-media related video
content on platforms such as Facebook and Twitch.

Researchers found that when provided with options to watch
programmes in different resolutions, often higher, more data-hungry,
resolutions, such as HD, were selected. Families were often watching
different programmes simultaneously on different devices, so-called
‘multi-watching’, which amplifies data consumption.

The study also uncovered evidence of wasteful practices. Some
participants use video streaming platforms, such as YouTube, as
background music players – and do not actually watch the videos, despite
the large amounts of data involved. Others didn’t always enjoy the
content they watched, or found streaming services distracting from their
everyday chores and activities.

They also found that participants would rather watch programmes
through online catch-up services rather than pre-record them or dig out
the DVD from their collections, because it is “just as easy” to do.

The researchers have made several suggestions to help reduce the
energy demand and environmental impact brought about by the revolution
in viewing.

These include academics and software designers working closely
with network engineers to design functions, or prompts, that nudge
viewers to consider less demanding forms of watching. These
collaborations could also help pre-empt network load from new,
data-intensive service designs- such as when Facebook introduced
auto-playing of video, which significantly increased data demand on
Internet networks.

The researchers also call on policy makers to give greater
consideration to the energy and environmental costs associated with the
Internet when pushing for faster infrastructure.

“Internet policies driving superfast access may only be fuelling
more demand, as infrastructural capacity growth leads to increased
demand”, said Dr Oliver Bates, Senior Researcher at Lancaster University
and study co-author. “It is clear that policy-makers have not made the
connection between all-you-can-eat marketing, by Internet service
providers, and data demand and there is little discussion on the energy
impact of the Internet within public policy.

“We urgently need to confront ‘all you can eat’ and ‘binge’
watching more broadly as the shift to Internet-based services has an
increasing impact on people, society and the planet. Ultimately if
bingeing is bad for our health why are service providers allowed to
promote data gorging?”

The academics also suggest imposing limits on Internet traffic to
cut data demand. Though they acknowledge that traffic limits run
against ideas of ‘net neutrality’ in which all Internet traffic is
treated equally.

“We fully support the social justice and civic participation aims
of net neutrality, but we should also consider traffic limits for
reasons of greater good – environmental sustainability”, said Dr Mike
Hazas, Reader at Lancaster University.

“As a result, if video entertainment traffic should cost more to
reflect its environmental cost, or be otherwise limited in some way,
this policy would have to be applied to all video content providers:
Netflix, YouTube and the rest.”

“It is time that we, as a society, work together to redefine our
watching futures and begin dealing head-on with the unsustainable
trajectory of this data demand,” said Kelly Widdicks.

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Eurasia Review: The Rich Are Outliving The Poor In Both Norway And USA

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Inequalities in life expectancy by income in Norway were substantial,
and increased between 2005 and 2015, according to a study from the
Norwegian Institute of Public Health in collaboration with the Institute
For Health Metrics And Evaluation (IHME). Although considerable
differences in life expectancy by income levels were found in both
Norway and the USA, the shape of the association differed.

The differences in life expectancy between the one per cent
richest and one per cent poorest in Norway were 14 years for men and 8
years for women.

“It has surprised researchers and policy makers that even with a
largely tax-funded public health care system and relatively evenly
distributed income, there are substantial differences in life expectancy
by income in Norway” says Dr Jonas Minet Kinge, senior researcher at
the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. He is also Associate Professor
in Health Economics at the University of Oslo.

“We also observe important differences between the USA and Norway. Life expectancy was higher in Norway than in the USA across most of the income distribution, except for the very highest and very lowest income percentiles, in which life expectancies were similar in the two countries. The largest differences in life expectancy between the countries were seen for the lower to middle income men and women,” he explains. Here, low and medium income refers to those who earn less than the median income but more than the five percent lowest.

The purpose of the study was to describe income-based differences
in life expectancy and causes of death in Norway during the period from
2005 to 2015, compared with corresponding calculations from the USA.

This is the first time that life expectancy is estimated by
income percentiles in Norway and then analysed for cause of death.
Furthermore, this is the first time that the association between income
and life expectancy in Norway is compared directly with corresponding
estimates for the USA, which was a very demanding analysis process.

Results

When comparing the 1 per cent richest with the 1 per cent poorest in Norway:

  • Life expectancy in Norway was high among the
    richest one per cent of women. In this group, the average age was 86.4
    years. These women lived on average 8.4 years longer than the one per
    cent of women with the lowest income.
  • The poorest one per cent of men had the lowest life
    expectancy. In this group, the average age was 70.6 years, which was
    13.8 years lower than among the one per cent of men with the highest
    income.

When comparing the 25 per cent richest with the 25 per cent poorest,
the differences in life expectancy are 8 years for men and 6 years for
women. Higher mortality rates from cardiovascular disease, chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer and other cancers
explain the higher mortality overall among the low-income groups. Cancer
deaths are more significant for men than women.

Deaths due to substance abuse and suicide were highest for the
low-income groups under the age of 60, particularly among men in the
40-49 age group.

Life expectancy gap has increased

In the period 2005-2015, the life expectancy gap between the
richest 25 per cent and the poorest 25 per cent increased (see figure
2):

  • The richest 25 per cent women increased life
    expectancy by 3.2 years while the poorest 25 per cent reduced life
    expectancy by 0.4 years.
  • The richest 25 per cent men increased life expectancy by 3.1 years and the poorest 25 per cent by 0.9 years.

Chronic diseases explain much of the life expectancy gap
Deaths from cardiovascular disease and cancer contributed most to the
difference in life expectancy. Cardiovascular disease has decreased in
all income groups but there is still some way to go before mortality in
the low-income groups is on par with the high-income groups.

In the high-income groups there has been a decrease in cancer deaths but not among the low-income groups.

Smoking explains parts of the life expectancy gap and why
low-income women did not increase their life expectancy in the period
from 2005 to 2015. About 20 per cent of the income-based differences in
life expectancy could be explained by smoking in this study.

“This is a descriptive study. We know little about why the
differences are so great and why they are increasing. Studies from
Sweden and other countries suggests that other factors besides money in
itself explain why those with lower income have lower life expectancy.
For example, those who have a low income live more often alone and often
have a lower education. Furthermore, foetal life, upbringing and other
environmental conditions can be important,” says Kinge.

“We need more research on the causes of the gradient.
Fortunately, the research environment in Norway has the competence to
link the health registries on an individual level with income, education
and household information. Via such data merging we can perform more
advanced analyses than most other countries, as this study also
demonstrates,” he concludes.

The study shows that:

  • Among the poorest one per cent of men and women, 50
    per cent lived alone without children. Among the richest, the
    corresponding figure was about ten per cent.
  • Among the poorest one per cent, 20 per cent had
    university and college education compared to just over 50 per cent among
    the richest one per cent.

Norway versus USA

The researchers compared the Norwegian results with a similar study from the USA during the same period.

The comparisons show:

  • Life expectancy was higher in Norway than in the
    USA across most of the income distribution, except for the very highest
    and very lowest income percentiles.
  • The difference in life expectancy between the one per
    cent richest and poorest men in the USA is roughly the same as in
    Norway, while the difference is somewhat smaller for Norwegian women
    compared to American women.
  • Poor Americans have had a significantly lower increase
    in life expectancy than rich Americans from 2000-2014(1). We observe
    the same tendency in Norway.

“The comparison is of interest to researchers because Norwegian
health and education systems are largely funded by government spending,
whereas in the USA the share of private funding has traditionally been
higher. Furthermore, Norway has relatively low income inequalities
compared with the USA,” says Kinge.

About the study

The study included 3,041,828 people aged at least 40 years and 441,768 deaths in Norway between 2005 and 2015.

The mean number of household members per person were 2.5.

The main outcomes were life expectancy at 40 years of age and cause-specific mortality.

Household income was defined as the sum of all household members’
individual income, adjusted for household size. Income included wages,
self-employment, capital income, taxable and tax-free transfers during
the calendar year, after deduction of tax and negative transfers.

People without an income or with income from unregistered sources were not included in the study.

Eurasia Review


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