Somalia: Deadly explosion hits Mogadishu

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Somalia: Deadly explosion hits Mogadishu

At least 20 people died and others were wounded in a bombing Saturday in Mogadishu,

Mogadishu, Somalia (CNN)At least 20 people were killed and many more were wounded Saturday in a massive vehicle bomb explosion at a busy junction in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, a senior police officer said.

Security forces had been tipped off about the vehicle carrying explosives and were pursuing it in the busy K5 district of the city when the explosion happened, said Col. Ahmed Hassan of the Mogadishu police.
Another vehicle bomb later went off less than a mile from the first blast. There were no reports of injuries, Hassan said. The driver of the car was arrested before the explosion but it remains unclear what triggered the blast.
No one has claimed responsibility for the bombings. The blasts triggered a heavy security presence in the city, with security forces blocking many major roads.
Wire service news footage showed torn-up buildings and a burning truck at the first blast site.
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Men carried away a stretcher holding a person concealed by a brown material. A large white building collapsed into rubble and other structures appeared blackened and destroyed.
In other instances, it was hard to determine precisely what was destroyed in the devastated streetscape.
Other videos from the scene posted on social media showed a huge plume of black smoke rising from the blast site.
The UK ambassador to Somalia, David Concar, tweeted that the blast was clearly audible from inside the British Embassy. He also posted a video clip showing thick, dark smoke on the skyline.

Mogadishu Somalia

Mogadishu, a large city on the east African nation’s coast, has endured a lot of violence in recent years.
Al-Shabaab, an al Qaeda-linked terror group, carried out several deadly car bomb attacks in the city in just the first few months of this year.
Somalis also face another threat — starvation.
he country is in the midst of a severe drought and 3.1 million people are threatened by famine because of the food shortages and violence, according to reports from the United Nations this year.

Fact-checking President Trump’s speech on the Iran deal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Fact Checker

Fact-checking President Trump’s speech on the Iran deal

 October 14 at 3:00 AM
 Play Video 3:00
Trump’s Iran deal announcement, in 3 minutes
President Trump announced Oct. 13 that his administration would take new steps going forward to confront Iran. (The Washington Post)

In his speech on the Iran nuclear agreement, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), President Trump made a number of factual assertions. The deal was negotiated by Iran, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France and China), Germany and the European Union.

Here’s a guide to some of his rhetoric, in the order in which he made these statements.

“The regime harbored high-level terrorists in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, including Osama bin Laden’s son.”

The president recounted a long list of aggressive acts by the Iranian government toward the United States since the shah was overthrown in 1979, many of which would be familiar to Americans. This claim — that Iran harbored al-Qaeda terror suspects — might be less well-known, but it was recently documented in a 2017 book, “The Exile,” by investigative reporters Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy.

The book noted that the steady flow of senior al-Qaeda figures into Iran after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks was controversial among various factions. The government actually made some arrests and sent some al-Qaeda figures back to countries of origin. But the Revolutionary Guard was more supportive. Trump, in using the phrase “regime,” glosses over the debate within the country.

“The regime remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, and provides assistance to al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas and other terrorist networks.”

Trump suggests the assistance to al-Qaeda continues to the present day. This is in line with the latest State Department Country Reports on terrorism, released in July, which said: “Since at least 2009, Iran has allowed AQ facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through the country, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria.” This phrasing marked a shift from previous reports, which indicated the support was in the past.

“The previous administration lifted these sanctions, just before what would have been the total collapse of the Iranian regime, through the deeply controversial 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.”

There is little evidence that the Iranian government was on the verge of “total collapse,” though it was certainly struggling because of international sanctions. The Obama administration had been able to win broad international support for crippling sanctions precisely because it convinced Russia and China, two major Iranian partners, that the pressure was designed to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions and force the government into negotiations. If the government had started to teeter because of the sanctions, especially if it was perceived as part of an American campaign of regime change, that support probably would have been withdrawn.

JCPOA “also gave the regime an immediate financial boost and over $100 billion its government could use to fund terrorism. The regime also received a massive cash settlement of $1.7 billion from the United States, a large portion of which was physically loaded onto an airplane and flown into Iran.”

Trump often suggests the United States gave a $100 billion to Iran, but these were Iranian assets that had been frozen. The Treasury Department has estimated that once Iran fulfills other obligations, it would have about $55 billion left. (Much of the funds were tied up in illiquid projects in China.) For its part, the Central Bank of Iran said the number was actually $32 billion, not $55 billion. Iran has also complained that it cannot actually move the money back to Iran because foreign banks won’t touch it for fear of U.S. sanctions and their U.S. exposure.

As for the $1.7 billion in cash, this was related to the settlement of a decades-old claim between the two countries. An initial payment of $400 million was handed over on Jan. 17, 2016, the same day Iran’s government agreed to release four American detainees, including The Washington Post’s Jason Rezaian. The timing — which U.S. officials insisted was a coincidence — suggested the cash could be viewed as a ransom payment.

But the initial cash payment was Iran’s money. In the 1970s, the then-pro-Western Iranian government under the shah paid $400 million for U.S. military equipment. But the equipment was never delivered because the two countries broke off relations after the seizure of American hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Iran.

Two other payments totaling $1.3 billion — a negotiated agreement on the interest owed on the $400 million — came some weeks later.

“The deal allows Iran to continue developing certain elements of its nuclear program and, importantly, in just a few years, as key restrictions disappear, Iran can sprint towards a rapid nuclear weapons breakout.”

JCPOA has been in place for two years. Certain provisions of the nuclear aspects of the deal do not last indefinitely, but virtually all phase out between years 10 and 25. It’s doubtful Iran would have agreed to an indefinite ban on nuclear activities, given that it has a right to have a nonnuclear program under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Critics of the agreement argue that Iran’s past behavior suggests it will cheat in any case and thus has forfeited its rights.

Trump does not mention that under the agreement, Iran is permanently prohibited from acquiring nuclear weapons, and will be subject to certain restrictions and additional monitoring indefinitely. (Readers may also be interested in a previous fact check we did on whether Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons; we found the claim dubious.)

It’s unclear why Trump refers to a “few years” before a potential nuclear breakout. Nonnuclear provisions having to do with arms-related transfers to and from Iran will expire in three years, or possibly sooner. In six years, U.N. Security Council restrictions end on any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.

“Those who argue that somehow the JCPOA deals only with nuclear matters and should be judged separate from the restrictions in [U.N.] Resolution 2231 fail to explain that a nuclear weapon is a warhead and a delivery system,” noted David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, in testimony before Congress. “Today, the delivery vehicle of choice is a ballistic missile.”

“The Iranian regime has committed multiple violations of the agreement. For example, on two separate occasions, they have exceeded the limit of 130 metric tons of heavy water. Until recently, the Iranian regime has also failed to meet our expectations in its operation of advanced centrifuges.”

Trump is right that Iran twice exceeded the deal’s limit on heavy water. But supporters of the deal say it shows JCPOA is working. Iran tried to take advantage of fuzzy language in the agreement but was immediately caught by international inspectors; the other partners objected and forced Iran to come back into compliance.

As for the centrifuges, the deal limits both the number and type of centrifuges Iran is permitted to use. Again Iran tried to take advantage of ambiguous limits — “roughly 10” advanced centrifuges — by operating slightly more than that number.

The dispute for the moment also appears to have been resolved, though Albright in his testimony noted that “Iran has also built and operated more advanced centrifuges than it is allowed, and it has misused quality assurance limitations to conduct banned mechanical testing of advanced centrifuges.”

“There are also many people who believe that Iran is dealing with North Korea. I am going to instruct our intelligence agencies to do a thorough analysis and report back their findings beyond what they have already reviewed.”

This was a puzzling statement. The phrasing suggests there is not enough evidence to claim that Iran has dealings with North Korea, but the intelligence agencies will keep looking. But it raises the question about why the president made the assertion in the first place.

“It is under continuous review, and our participation can be canceled by me, as president, at any time.”

The other partners to the agreement dispute that Trump has the authority to end the deal. In an unusual joint statement, British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron noted: “JCPOA was unanimously endorsed by the U.N. Security Council in Resolution 2231. The International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly confirmed Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA through its long-term verification and monitoring program.”

Similarly, Federica Mogherini, the E.U. foreign policy chief, said no one country could terminate the deal. “This deal is not a bilateral agreement,” she said. “The international community, and the European Union with it, has clearly indicated that the deal is, and will, continue to be in place.”

However, a president can stop waiving nuclear sanctions at any point, causing nuclear sanctions to come back into force. Moreover, U.S. law requires Trump to waive nuclear sanctions regularly, so he could simply not do anything and nuclear sanctions come back. In effect, that would terminate the deal, whether the other partners like it or not.

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The Evolution of Homo Sovieticus to Putin’s Man

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE MOSCOW TIMES)

 

The Evolution of Homo Sovieticus to Putin’s Man

The tumultuous decades have left their mark on Russians’ inner life

Evgeny Tonkonogy

Lev Gudkov remembers sitting in his Moscow office as a young sociologist, surrounded by stacks of letters.

It was 1989, and for the first time after decades of hushed conversation around kitchen tables, Russians had been asked for their opinions on a range of economic and social issues.

The response was so overwhelming that the nearby post office was instructed to stop deliveries so that the team would not be barricaded in, says Gudkov, head of the independent Levada Center polling agency.

After almost 30 years of sociological research, The Moscow Times asked Gudkov to describe Russians’ changing attitudes and beliefs from perestroika up to today.

Soviet Man

Sovyetsky chelovek (Soviet man) is the archetype of a person born in and shaped by a totalitarian regime. Life in repressive conditions has made him crafty and skilled at doublethink. He knows how to bypass the authorities’ demands while simultaneously maintaining informal and corrupt relations with them.

They pretend to pay us, we pretend to work. They pretend to care for us, we pretend to respect them.

Soviet man demonstrates his loyalty to the authorities through collective symbolism and performance. But his real values and interests are in the private sphere — his home and family.

He has few demands: he knows he has little to no power and deeply mistrusts everyone but those closest to him, expecting nothing good from anyone else.

After living through countless restrictions — the traumas of war, collectivization, modernization, miniscule salaries, residence permits — he just wants one thing: to survive.

Russia and the World

In the 1990s Russia was oriented towards the West and Europe, ready to follow their path. Then, 40 percent of Russians thought their country should join the EU and even NATO. Only 13 percent could name any adversaries: Islamists, the CIA, communists, democrats, and the mafia.

Many more, 47 percent, said: Why are you looking for foes when all our problems are caused by us? This inferiority complex was, in a sense, a condition for reform. People said they’d trade their status as an influential nation in return for calm and stability.

For people accustomed to socialism, the 1990s were pure chaos, with hyperinflation, salaries not being paid on time and job insecurity. People lost their sense of self-respect and dignity.

Then Vladimir Putin arrived on the scene and said: “There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone has skeletons in their closet. Let’s turn a new page in our history.”

Source: Levada

With that came the conviction that Russia had a right to use force, especially on its borders. Russians’ pride was hurt when former Soviet republics changed alliances. When they had color revolutions or moved to integrate with the West, aggressive feelings spiked, fueled by state propaganda. In November 2013, before the Maidan revolution, around 75 percent of Russians said that Ukraine’s integration into Europe was their own business and that Russia should stay out. Attitudes shifted sharply when media warned against a potential “genocide” of Russians in Donbass and Crimea by Ukrainian “fascists.”

Today in polls, Russians describe the West as coldhearted, lacking in spiritual values, extremely formal and aggressive. Russians no longer believe the Western model is for them — their country has its own “special” path.

Source: Levada

A national inferiority complex and imperial arrogance — these are parts of the same mechanism that allows Russians to come to terms with their lowered status following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But while Putin’s foreign policy enjoys tacit support, it has serious limits. Only around 7 percent of Russians say they’re prepared to make a personal sacrifice to advance the country’s interests abroad. Because people feel they have no decision-making power, they don’t feel responsible for the outcome.

Individual vs. the State

Russians came out of the 1990s with an acquired taste for consumption.

Buffered by the “golden rain” of high oil prices, the market economy finally appeared to be picking up after the 1998 crisis, bringing prosperity.

Under Putin, the state has largely returned to its previous role as a paternalistic caretaker with the redistribution of resources as its main function. “Putin takes care of us” is a frequently-heard response in polls.

Human rights and individual freedoms are just words for the majority of the population. At the same time, attitudes towards repression have softened. Josef Stalin, whose popularity is steadily rising even among those who suffered most under him, is seen as an effective manager who deserves respect. This return to the Soviet concept of governance is most common among the elderly who live in the countryside.

People in cities are more educated, have a broader range of employers other than the state, and have access to several sources of information. But politically active liberal democrats, hardcore conservatives, and communists only make up about 15 percent of the population. The vast majority is completely uninterested in political life. Asked whether they want to be more involved, 85 percent of people say no. Politics, they feel, has nothing to do with them.

Source: Levada

Conservatism

On the one hand, Russians describe their own society as brutish and uncivilized. On the other, they consider themselves to be open and warm, as opposed to the cold, closed, hypocritical people in the West.

Like Snow White’s stepmother, they look in the mirror and ask, “Who is the nicest in the world?” and then answer, “We are!”

After the protests of 2011, religious conservatism was presented as a counterpoint to demand for reform and political opposition. Being Russian has become synonymous with being an Orthodox Christian.

As with most ideologies, this belief is superficial. Orthodox crosses and icons in cars and homes are more elements of superstition than deep religious feeling.

The number of people who describe themselves as religious has increased from 16 percent several decades ago to 77 percent today. But 40 percent out of those “religious people” say they don’t believe in God. Many have never even heard of the pillars of Christian dogma.

Source: Levada

Soviet Man 2017

Sovyetsky chelovek has somewhat changed. He’s been fed, he’s changed his clothes, he’s bought a car and owns a home. But he still feels insecure and vulnerable. And he’s just as aggressive towards his neighbor because there are no institutions that have laid down rules that people follow.

Today the average Russian expects a minimum living standard — work, a home, and some social rights. Private property is valued, but no one expects any guarantees. People know that the government can take away everything they have at any moment and for any reason.

In polls, people say the government represents the interests of the security services, oligarchs and bureaucracy — but not the interests of ordinary people. And they believe this cannot be changed. So, in Soviet fashion, they adapt and make deals with the authorities. Corruption is perceived as both serious and commonplace.

The theory that Russians are somehow not prepared for a liberal democracy is false. Russians today simply reflect and respond to their circumstances. In a different situation they’d behave differently.

Now there is no desire for change. The idealism and romanticism of the perestroika era has evaporated.

The young people who participated in Alexei Navalny’s anti-corruption protests are an exception to this rule. But the narrative that a new generation will bring change is a false one. Today, Russia’s Soviet-era institutions stamp out any idealism. It will take more than one generation to change that.

So: You Made A Deal With Hamas: Are You Desperate Or A Fool?

So You Made A Deal With Hamas

 

Why would you, or anyone for that matter ever make a deal of any kind with hate filled murderers? We all know well the sins of Fatah, the PLO, and the PA.. The PA had legal control of Gaza, and Hamas took it from you. You had to cancel the election because you knew you would lose. Mr. Abbas, is this a last step to save your Government, or your life? Mr. President, within one year of Hamas being welcomed in, it will be Hamas who will shut your door. You are bound to know this so you must have made a deal, to get out with your life. The people of the whole West Bank are about to have Hell’s burner knob turned up a notch or three.

 

The only thing that matters here is that Hamas is one large step further out of Hell and one huge step further into Israel. Hezbollah and Iran dug in to their north and Hamas all dug in southern Israel, not a picture of peace for Israel, or the Middle-East in general. This PA and Hamas deal seems to be a done deal, so now, how is Israel suppose to take this news? There could be total peace in this region of the world tomorrow, but the very teachings of Islam will not allow it to be. Peace, no peace not as long as one side is dominated by religious hate. So, you made a deal with the Devil, wearing the veil of Hamas.

Catalan Leader Proclaims Independence But Suspends It

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

Catalan leader proclaims independence but suspends it to allow talks with Madrid

The Spanish government has said any unilateral declaration of independence would be illegal and has promised action “to restore law and democracy”.

WORLD Updated: Oct 11, 2017 00:18 IST

Reuters, Barcelona
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont gestures during a plenary session in the Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona, Spain, October 10, 2017.
Catalan President Carles Puigdemont gestures during a plenary session in the Catalan regional parliament in Barcelona, Spain, October 10, 2017. (REUTERS)

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont on Tuesday proclaimed the region’s independence from Spain but said its effects would be suspended to allow for talks with the Madrid government.

“I assume the mandate that Catalonia should become an independent state in the form of a republic … I propose suspending the effects of the declaration of independence to undertake talks to reach an agreed solution,” Puigdemont told the regional parliament in Barcelona.

Though Puigdemont stopped short of seeking the explicit support of the chamber for the declaration of independence in a vote, a move that would have closed the door to any negotiated solution, the declaration plunges Spain into the unknown.

The Spanish government has said any unilateral declaration of independence would be illegal and has promised action “to restore law and democracy” if the parliament of the autonomous and affluent northeastern region presses ahead.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy could take the unprecedented step of dissolving the Catalan parliament and triggering new regional elections, the so-called “nuclear option”.

The Madrid government could also ask the courts to strike down a declaration of independence as unconstitutional.

Despite renewed calls for dialogue with Madrid, the proclamation makes a negotiated solution more difficult as Rajoy has said he would not talk to the Catalan leaders until they drop plans for independence.

EPA Chief Scott Pruit To Repeal Obama’s Global Warming Rule

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE DAILY CALLER’)

 

EPA Chief Scott Pruit To Repeal Obama’s Global Warming Rule

Photo of Michael Bastasch

MICHAEL BASTASCH

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt announced he would sign a proposed rule to repeal the centerpiece of former President Barack Obama’s plan to fight global warming.

Pruitt announced his intention to withdraw the Clean Power Plan (CPP) to applause from a crowd gathered at a mining event on Monday. EPA has been working to repeal the CPP for months.

The Obama administration finalized the CPP in 2015, which aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Obama used the CPP as part of his plant to meet the goals of the Paris climate accord.

The CPP, however, never went into full effect. The U.S. Supreme Court issued an unprecedented stay against the rule in early 2016.

Draft EPA plans to repeal and possibly replace the CPP have already leaked to the media. EPA says repealing the rule will save Americans $33 billion in compliance costs.

The Obama administration claimed the CPP would only cost $8.4 billion and deliver public health and climate benefits ranging from $14 to $34 billion by 2030.

EPA won’t propose a replacement to the CPP in its proposal, according to draft plans. The agency may issue a separate rule, asking for comments on what could replace the CPP.

“The EPA has not determined whether it will promulgate a rule under section 111(d) to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing EGUs, and, if it will do so, when it will do so and what form that rule will take,” reads the draft.

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Tit-for-tat May See U.S. Media Outlets Banned in Russia

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE MOSCOW TIMES)

 

Oct 6, 2017 — 19:03
— Update: 19:20

stevepb / Pixabay

Russian prosecutors are considering a retaliatory response following Washington’s request that the RT America news channel register as a foreign agent.

The Prosecutor General’s Office is studying the possibility of labeling U.S. media outlets “undesirable,” the Interfax news agency reported Friday, citing an unidentified source knowledgeable of the situation.

Amid concerns over Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections, the U.S. Justice Department has requested that the Kremlin-backed RT adhere to a 1930s foreign agent registration law.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said that “every step toward the Russian media will have a corresponding response.”

The Russian authorities are considering blacklisting U.S. media at the Federation Council committee on state sovereignty’s task force session, according to Interfax.

“This could affect all American media operating in Russia,” Interfax reported, citing an unidentified source. The outlets being considered for the “undesirable” label were not disclosed.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday that reciprocal actions cannot be ruled out, but noted that he had no information regarding U.S. outlets being labeled “undesirable,” state-run news agency RIA Novosti reported.

The Interfax report comes a week after Russia’s state media censor Roskomnadzor warned CNN International over alleged media law violations.

Bahrainis Stripped of Citizenship over Training with IRGC

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

(Commentary: Bahrain government shows it has far more intelligence than their counterparts in the U.S. or in Western Europe.)(trs)

Bahrainis Stripped of Citizenship over Training with IRGC

Thursday, 5 October, 2017 – 09:15
Bahrain’s Public Prosecution Building, Bahrain, BNA
Manama- Obaid Al Suhaimy

Bahrain’s public prosecution on Wednesday sentenced two nationals to jail terms and revoked their citizenship after they were convicted of training in Iran and the “possession of weapons for terrorist purposes”.

One of the two accused received special training in weapons and explosives provided by the Revolutionary Guard in Iran, while the second facilitated travel for the first suspect.

The High Criminal Court convicted them of the counts of charges leveled against them and revoked their nationality, the Bahrain News Agency (BNA) cited Terror Crime Prosecution Advocate Esa Al-Ruwaei.

Based on a notification from The General Directorate for Criminal Investigation (CID), an inquiry was launched into the case of one the convicts who received military training in Iran.

The investigation confirmed that the first convict, who was among the most active participants in acts of rioting, rallying, and sabotage, was in contact with terrorists in Bahrain and abroad, BNA reported.

The inquiry also established that he left Bahrain in 2015 and headed to Iran in coordination with terror leaders based abroad, with the help from other elements in the Kingdom.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard trained him on using, dismantling and assembling all types of military armament as well as shooting so as to prepare him to perpetrate terrorist operations. The second convict, who helped the first travel to Iran, was also involved in recruiting him.

The investigation revealed that terrorists tasked the first convict with monitoring sensitive locations inside the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Based on results of the investigation, the two accused were arrested and referred to the Public Prosecution to face charges, in compliance with constitutional measures.

The public prosecution based its charge on the verbal testimony of a witness, the confessions of the first accused and the monitoring of their movement in and out of Bahrain.

The two accused, who were provided all legal guarantees, stood trial at the Criminal Court in the presence of their defense lawyers.

The convicts have the right to challenge the verdict before the Court of Appeal within the legal deadline. The Bahraini judicial system also stipulates post-appellate guarantees for the case to be reviewed by the Court of Cassation.

Comments

Republicans Control All Three Houses No Democrats To Blame: Americans Don’t Want What They’re Selling

 

This afternoon some of the biggest news coming out of Washington D.C. is that the Republicans in the Senate have decided not to call a vote on their version of a Health Care Bill. The reason is that no Democratic Senator will vote for what they are trying to push through onto the American people, and several of the Republican Senators refuse to vote for it either. If there is such a thing as a moderate Republican Senator it has been no surprise to me that they can not muster up a Health Care Bill that the so-called ‘conservative base, meaning the ultra right Tea Party folks’ will vote for. These folks like Senator Ted Cruz are the kind of folks that insist that everything be 100% their way, or it is no way. Remember during the recent Presidential debates he looked straight into the camera and fanatically stated that “if I become President I will not negotiate with the Democrats?” We the people have been telling Washington for several decades now that we are sick and tired of the total gridlock in Washington. The reason for the gridlock folks is because neither Party is willing to negotiate policies with the other. The other side of this “Republican coin” is that when these politicians took their huge summer break and held ‘town hall’ meetings with the voters they got told in no uncertain terms to leave the ACA alone, or make it ‘more’ inclusive, not less. These Republican Congressmen/Women and Senators got the message from the voters that if they vote for what the Republicans are calling a Health Care Bill, they will be voted out of Office at the next election they run in. In other words, we the people are going to fire them. So, now you have a group of so-called ‘Liberal’ Republican Senators who see the light and for the sake of their own jobs are saying no to the Republican Leadership on their Bill they are trying to push down the throats of the American people.

 

For seven years the Republicans have gripped about the ACA (Obama Care) and talked and talked about how when they got control of the power in Washington that the first thing they were going to do on day one was to get rid of it, replace it. For seven years they flapped their lips yet it became obvious that during that seven years not a single one of them actually came up with any plan to replace it with. This, to me falls straight in the laps of the Republican Leadership in both the House and the Senate. The Leader of the Senate is Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, the other Senator is Republican (he is actually Libertarian) Rand Paul. Rand Paul is one of the Republican Senators that refuses to vote for the Republican Bill unless it is much more restrictive which is something that he is in lockstep with Ted Cruz on. For seven years the Republicans blamed the Democrats for pretty much everything they seen in the world as being wrong. When it actually surprised them last November to gain full control of all three branches of the Federal Government they no longer were able to hide their hate filled agenda’s from the American people. Here in the U.S. there is only one main issue that turned the Christian voters into the Republican camp and that is when the Democratic Party adopted abortion as a founding block of their Party Agenda. The Christian folks that I know mostly either don’t vote or they vote Republican and the abortion issue is exactly why. Many who vote for the Republicans aren’t fans of the Republican Party, they are voting as anti-Abortion. If you really look at the Republican agenda, except for the abortion issue, there is very little that conforms with the teachings of Jesus Christ in the New Testament or in the teachings of the Old Testament. In reality the teachings of the Bible go directly against the teachings and policies of the Republican Part’s actions. There are other issues that people of faith have against the Democratic Platform also, it is just that the Abortion issue is by far the single biggest issue. I wrote an article a few months ago that I am going to try to locate where the title was something along the line of “The Republican And The Democratic Parties Are Both Anti-Christ Parties.” If I can find that article I will re-post it this evening for you to consider.

Is Ex-Soviet Georgia Backsliding on Justice?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

Is Ex-Soviet Georgia Backsliding on Justice?

Georgian Policemen on Duty. Photo by Flickr user jb via Wikimedia Commons. (CC BY 2.0)

by JUSTINE DOODY

The following article was written for Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index(BTI) and published on Global Voices with permission. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Global Voices.

On June 10, 2017, thousands of Georgians protested on the streets of Tbilisi, the country’s capital, in support of two members of the rap group Birja Mafia. The young men were arrested on drugs charges they allege to have been trumped up. The protests marked a further step in the decline of Georgians’ trust in their law enforcement system.

Former president Mikheil Saakashvili’s successful police reforms in the first decade of the 21st century served as a model for reform in transition countries, but the gains may have been short-lived. By April 2017, only 38% of Georgians rated police performance good or very good, down from 60% as recently as November 2013. Meanwhile, only 13% rated the performance of both the courts and the office of the Chief Prosecutor good or very good; 27% said the courts performed badly or very badly, and 19% said the same of the Office of the Chief Prosecutor. Is the rule of law in Georgia on a downward trend?

Georgia scored 6.5 on the “Rule of Law” criterion in the Bertelsmann Transformation Index (BTI) 2016, a respectable showing that placed it in the “Sound” category alongside 22 other transitional and developing countries. Georgia was ranked lower than the nine countries ranked as “Excellent”, but higher than the remaining 97 countries designated “Fair”, “Flawed”, or “Poor”. However, the report notes problems in the country both with the prosecution of abuse of office and the independence of the judiciary, two issues that are contributing to the current deterioration in public confidence.

The Birja Mafia affair is not the only high-profile case to hit the headlines. In May, Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli was abducted in Tbilisi and transferred to prison in Azerbaijan, and accusations of complicity among the Georgian police led to the suspension of the head of the Border Police and the chief of Counterintelligence in July. Mukhtarli’s lawyers and wife say that the journalist’s abductors wore the uniform of the Georgian police. In June, one of Tbilisi’s police chiefs was suspended after Georgian media released a video showing apparent police abuse, in a March incident in which a man called Shota Pakeliani ended up in a coma after injuries received while in police custody. In both cases, the authorities took action after the public outcry, but critics say that this happens too rarely, and that even when it does the consequences are insufficiently severe.

Difficult Reforms

In 2015, the Prosecutor’s Office announced plans for the creation of a Department for Investigation into Crimes Committed throughout the Judicial Process. But as the Prosecutor’s Office is frequently accused of having political motivations, this department might not represent a real solution to the problem. In 2016, investigations were opened into 173 cases of alleged police mistreatment; but none of these for police brutality or torture, only for the less serious crime of “exceeding official powers.” Only five investigations led to criminal proceedings, and only two resulted in guilty verdicts. In its 2016/2017 annual report, Amnesty International raised concerns about the Georgian government’s failure to move on legislation to create an independent mechanism for investigating human rights violations by law enforcement bodies.

Georgia received visa-free travel to the European Union in March 2017, and its Association Agreement with the EU entered into force in July 2016. Georgians overwhelmingly support eventual EU membership. In a poll taken in February and March this year, 90% of respondents favored EU membership. So, although accession is not on the EU’s radar just yet, the Georgian government should be strongly motivated to comply with the Association Agenda, which includes reforming the prosecution service. Efforts to do that are in progress. The Prosecutor’s Office was separated from the Ministry of Justice in 2012, and in early 2016 a Prosecutorial Council and a Consultation Board were established to increase the office’s independence. In a January 2017 report, the Council’s anti-corruption body, the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), praised Georgia’s progress in reducing corruption, and welcomed the country’s efforts to reform its prosecution service. But GRECO noted that further work was needed to fully implement reforms and reduce the influence of the executive and the legislature on high-level prosecutorial appointments and on the activity of the Prosecutorial Council.

De-Politicization of Justice

The same kind of political linkages contribute to the problems within the police force. The appointment of top police officers is dependent on the will of the interior minister, which undermines the independence of the force. In the courts, too, the legacy of politicization left over from the Saakashvili administration persists, although the new government has taken some steps to improve the situation. The Public Defender’s Office is one bright spot. Responsible for overseeing human rights and freedoms in Georgia, it enjoys broad public support, although its recommendations are not implemented often enough.

De-politicization of justice needs to be a priority of the ruling Georgian Dream party, for the sake of the public at large, the country’s EU hopes, and perhaps even the party’s own political fortunes. The former governing party, Saakashvili’s United National Movement, found, to its detriment, that failing to provide adequate support for the rule of law can have political consequences. Widely publicized cases of prison abuse and police violence contributed to the party’s loss of public trust and eventual ouster in 2012. If the current government cannot improve public confidence in the system, it might find that history can repeat itself.

Justine Doody is an editor and analyst. She writes for the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s BTI Blog and SGI News.

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