It’s a tough time to work in national security and have opinions, or even a conscience

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(CNN) It’s a tough time to work in national security and have opinions, or even a conscience. On Monday, a 25-year-old federal contractor named Reality Leigh Winner was arrested for allegedly leaking a top-secret NSA document to The Intercept.

The apparent document, dated a month ago, contains shocking details about an alleged Russian cyberattack on a supplier of US voting software, as well as malicious emails sent to voting officials in an attempt to hack their computers. Unlike previous reports, this one, if accurate, was far more overt in what it revealed, leaving little doubt that the attacks were coordinated by the GRU, the Russian state’s military intelligence unit. Winner was charged under the Espionage Act for the leak, and faces up to 10 years in prison.

Jill Filipovic

Depending whom you ask, Winner is either a criminal or a whistle blower. If she is indeed the person behind the leak, then perhaps she’s both: someone who felt an understandable moral obligation to release information that is in the public interest, but who also broke the law.
Her case is an important one to follow, and the sloppy missteps by The Intercept offer important lessons for journalists who receive leaked documents and outlets that publish them. But it shouldn’t eclipse the bigger picture: that while low-level leakers like Winner become the subjects of large-scale public prosecutions, our own President has a nasty habit of spewing highly classified and sensitive information to boost his own ego and impress his audience.
Beyond this, that same President has time and again complained about and may even have obstructed a thorough investigation into whether a hostile foreign power interfered in our elections.
There are good reasons to have laws against leaks — the intelligence community needs to be able to do its job, which means protecting its sources and keeping some information out of public view. But over the past two decades, our national security apparatus has grown to a monstrous size, while it has also become less transparent and more difficult for public watchdogs to check in on.
Leaks have long been a regular feature of American government, and they are rarely prosecuted, because, as Malcolm Gladwell details in an essential New Yorker article on national security whistle blowing, their very existence is often beneficial to the administration in charge. Even the Obama administration, which was more aggressive in prosecuting leakers than any before it, didn’t bother tracking down the source of, let alone seeking punishment for, the overwhelming majority of leaks.
This administration is a wild card, and the President dis-comfortingly unpredictable. He has vowed to prosecute more leakers, and Winner may just be paraded as a threat to other would-be purveyors of classified intelligence. Which is why the conversations and reporting on this case must maintain crucial context — that leaks are common, but prosecutions are not, which suggests the administration is seeking to make a bigger point here. Its message: Leakers will be particularly targeted if the intelligence they give journalists suggests that Russia helped Trump win the election.
This is especially rich, by the way, given that Trump himself disclosed classified intelligence to the Russians, compromising our relationships with some of our most important allies.
All of which makes this leak more understandable: Winner, if she was the leaker, had in her hand a document clearly tying the Russian military intelligence apparatus to direct meddling in the American presidential election, and reasonably believed the administration in power would like to bury it.
She made the mistake of believing the site she anonymously leaked the document to would be careful to not make her identifiable; instead, The Intercept all but gave her away, and she was arrested almost immediately after the story was published. This kind of amateur-hour screw up may, unfortunately, scare others away from coming forward with vital information that sheds light on the darkest corners of our recent history.
Now, the impulse will be to focus on Winner: Did she break the law? Could she have conscientiously blown the whistle any other way? What are her politics and motivations?
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This will certainly be the emphasis from the Republican Party, whose members are eager to weasel out of the position they’ve put themselves in, claiming to be aggressive defenders of the nation while looking away from the growing mound of evidence that our elections were compromised, that members of the Trump campaign, and possibly even the administration, may have been involved, and that the leader of their party is trying to squelch any probes.
We shouldn’t take the bait and get distracted by what Winner tweeted about or whose Twitter feeds she followed. Instead, we should retrain our gaze on the issues at hand: A loose-lipped President who is obstructing justice; a hostile foreign power interfering with our democratic system; and a craven, mealy mouthed majority party in Congress doing absolutely nothing because, hey, their guy won, and that seems to matter more than the integrity and security of the United States.
One leak is the least of our problems.

Bahrain unrest: 5 killed, 286 arrested in police raid on Shia cleric Isa Qassim’s town

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES NEWS)

Bahrain unrest: 5 killed, 286 arrested in police raid on Shia cleric Isa Qassim’s town

Bahrain police raided a town Tuesday that is home to a prominent Shia cleric facing possible deportation, killed 5 and arresting 286 people.

WORLD Updated: May 25, 2017 00:29 IST

AFP, Dubai
Bahrain

This image provided by an activist who requested to remain unnamed, shows people carrying a man who was injured in a raid on an sit-in, in Diraz, Bahrain, Tuesday, May 23, 2017. Bahrain police raided a town where the sit-in has been going on for months in support of Sheikh Isa Qassim, a prominent Shia cleric, who had his citizenship stripped by the government.(AP Photo)

Five people were killed in Bahrain on Tuesday when police opened fire on a protest by supporters of a top cleric in a Shia village, the interior ministry said, in the latest unrest to hit the Sunni-ruled Gulf state.“Five deaths have been registered among the outlaws” in Diraz, near the capital of Manama, where the police opened fire to disperse the sit-in outside the home of cleric Isa Qassim, the ministry said in a Twitter message.

Witnesses had earlier told AFP that several civilians were wounded when police officers fired at demonstrators throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at security forces.

“A total of 286 arrests were made, including fugitives that had escaped from Jau Prison,” the ministry said.

“Several terrorists and convicted felons were also apprehended with a large number of them hiding in the residence of Isa Qassim,” it added.

Qassim is considered the spiritual leader of Bahrain’s majority Shiite community.

Read more | Bahrain jails 36 Shias, strips them of citizenship

A US State Department official said Washington was “concerned” by the reports of protesters killed and was following events in Bahrain very closely.

“We urge restraint on all sides in responding to Wednesday’s developments and call on all parties to contribute to a climate conducive for dialogue and reconciliation,” the official told AFP.

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the deadly crackdown by Bahraini forces on protesters was the “first concrete result” of US President Donald Trump “cozying up to despots” in Saudi Arabia.

– ‘A blank cheque’ for repression 

In a meeting with Bahrain’s King Hamad in Saudi Arabia at the weekend, Trump made a clear break from previous US policy.

The US leader told the king on Sunday it was “a great honour to be with you” and said there “has been a little strain but there won’t be strain with this administration.”

The Britain-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) said Trump had “effectively (given) King Hamad a blank cheque to continue the repression of his people.”

It said the US had “blood on its hands” for supplying arms to Bahrain despite what it called an “intensified repressive campaign on civil society in Bahrain.”

An activist said one protester was killed. Bahrain’s Interior Ministry said on Twitter Tuesday that the operation targeting Diraz was to “maintain security and public order.” (AP Photo)

The kingdom has been rocked by unrest since 2011, when local authorities backed by a Saudi military force crushed Shiite-led protests demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.

Earlier Tuesday, BIRD had announced one death as the police moved to disperse the long-running protest.

Amnesty International identified that protester as Mohamed Zayn al-Deen, 39, and said he had died of birdshot wounds to the head.

The human rights watchdog called for an independent investigation into the security forces’ use of “excessive force” against protesters it said were mostly peaceful.

– Stripped of citizenship –

Bahrain police arrested 50 “fugitives,” including prison escapees “convicted over terrorism” charges, the Nahrain interior ministry said earlier.

Several members of the security forces were injured, it added.

The Bahrain authorities have accused Qassim, sentenced Sunday to a suspended one-year jail term for illegal fundraising and money laundering, of serving “foreign interests” and promoting “sectarianism and violence.”

A court last year stripped him of his citizenship, sparking repeated sit-ins outside his residence in Diraz.

Bahraini authorities have also accused Iran of fomenting unrest in the kingdom, ruled for more than two centuries by the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty. Tehran has denied any involvement.

The government’s clampdown on dissent has drawn harsh condemnation from international rights groups and governments.

Pictures posted on Twitter by opposition groups showed demonstrations that purportedly broke out in nearby Shiite villages protesting the crackdown in Diraz.

– Rights concerns –

The tiny Gulf state is a key regional ally of the United States and is home to its Fifth Fleet, but the administration of former president Barack Obama frequently scolded Manama over rights concerns.

Manama has imprisoned dozens of Shiites accused of taking part in demonstrations and stripped at least 316 Bahrainis of their nationality since 2012, according to Amnesty.

BIRD says Manama has escalated its repression since mid-2016.

An Iraqi Shiite cleric holds a picture of top Bahraini Shiite cleric Isa Qassim during a demonstration in front of the Bahraini consulate in Najaf on May 24, 2017 in solidarity with the Bahraini Shiite opposition and with the leading cleric. (AFP Photo)

A court last year ordered the dissolution of the kingdom’s main opposition group Al-Wefaq after authorities accused it of “harbouring terrorism.”

An 18-year-old Bahraini died in March, nearly two months after he was shot in the head fleeing a raid on Qassim’s house, Amnesty said.

Bahrain’s parliament in March voted unanimously to grant military courts the right to try civilians charged with any act of “terrorism.”

Rights activists fear Qassim could be among the first to face court-martial.

Manchester England: Police Identify The Coward Who Set Off Bomb At Children’s Concert

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

Police identified 22-year-old Salman Abedi as the suspected suicide bomber who detonated bombs as throngs of teenagers poured out of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester that killed 22 people.

The suspect carrying explosives acted as a lone attacker and died in the blast Monday night, which left the wounded and the dead scattered across the arena’s bloodied entrance and sent screaming girls running for cover, according to police.
Greater Manchester Chief Constable Ian Hopkins named the suspect Tuesday but said that the man’s identity had not been yet confirmed by a coroner.
The blast marked the deadliest terror attack on British soil since the 2005 London bombings. Hundreds of residents remembered the newest victims during a Tuesday evening vigil.
A powerful explosion shook part of the cavernous Manchester Arena late Monday as concertgoers streamed out following the American pop star’s last song.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack but offered no evidence.
An 8-year-old girl and an 18-year-old woman have been named as the first victims of the attack, which has drawn condemnation and horror from around the world as a heinous assault targeting children.

Key developments

  • Ariana Grande suspends her world tour.
  • Police have carried out two raids in Manchester.
  • Queen Elizabeth II described bombing as “act of barbarity.”
  • 59 people injured, some in life-threatening situations.
  • US President Donald Trump slams attackers as “losers.”
  • British Prime Minister says police have identified the suspect.

People tend to the injured inside the Manchester Arena after the attack Monday night.

ISIS said on its Telegram channel Tuesday that a “soldier of the caliphate” was able to “plant explosive devices” at the arena, a US counter-terrorism source told CNN. ISIS routinely claims attacks it has no proven links with.
But authorities have discovered no evidence of a link between the attacker and an established terror group, a British counterterrorism official told CNN.
No determination has been on the sophistication of the explosive device or what chemicals were involved, the official said.
A US counterterrorism official said bombing “looks much like” an ISIS attack but that American intelligence officials were working with British counterparts to determine more.
On Tuesday evening, hundreds attended a vigil outside Manchester City Hall in honor of the victims.
“We will stand together to say that this city is greater than the force that aligns itself against it,” David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, told the crowd. “We are sending a signal not just to Manchester, but across the world that you can not defeat us because love in the end is always stronger than hate.”

Girls scramble over seats and barriers to flee the arena.

Girls scramble over seats and barriers to flee the arena. 00:41
Video from inside the arena showed girls screaming as they scrambled over chairs and railings to escape the 21,000-seat venue, while photographs showed bodies laying bloodied on the floor.
After an emergency Cabinet meeting, British Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the attack as “callous” and “cowardly.”
“We struggle to comprehend the warped and twisted mind that sees a room packed with young children not a scene to cherish but as an opportunity for carnage,” May said in London before leaving for Manchester.

Young victims named

Saffie Rose Roussos, 8, was among those killed in the Manchester Arena attack.

Eight-year-old Saffie Rose Roussos from Leyland has been named as one of the fatalities, the Lancashire County Council confirmed.
Chris Upton, the head teacher at the Tarleton Community Primary School, described her as “simply a beautiful little girl” who was “quiet and unassuming with a creative flair.”

Victim Georgina Callander, left, pictured with Ariana Grande.

Georgina Callander, 18, was also killed, according to her school, the Bishop Rawstorne Church of England Academy.
“All of our students will gather together today for a time of prayer and reflection and to give thanks for the life of Georgina,” the school said.
At least 12 victims aged 16 or under were being treated at a children’s hospital for serious injuries, some of them fighting for their lives, a Manchester health official said.
Grande, who had just finished the first of three scheduled UK performances, tweeted about her devastation several hours later: “broken. from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words.”
The pop star has suspended her “Dangerous Woman” tour following the attack, a source with knowledge of the situation told CNN. Grande was scheduled to perform in London and across Europe through mid-June.
Queen Elizabeth II said Tuesday that “the whole nation has been shocked.”

‘Darkest of nights’ in Manchester

Britain has been under a “severe” terror threat alert for three years and there has been an uptick in terror-related arrests in recent months.
Police have warned that another attack was likely after a man plowed his car into a crowd on London’s Westminister Bridge in March and stabbed a policeman, in an attack that left six dead.
Monday’s bombing has raised concerns that a more sophisticated network may exist in the country.

Emergency crews evacuated victims at the Manchester Arena Monday night.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham described the attack as “our darkest of nights.”
“These were children, young people and their families that those responsible chose to terrorize and kill. This was an evil act,” he said.
Around 400 police were deployed overnight following the attack, and on Tuesday, large groups of armed police were seen in several parts of the city. Security was boosted in London.
People began paying their respects to the victims on Tuesday afternoon. A family of four arrived at St. Ann’s Square in the city center with a bouquet of flowers and balloons.
“I’m just feeling really down for all the families that lost their children and family members,” said Michael Heveril.
“It’s quite close to home — I never thought anything like this would ever happen in Manchester.”

Chaotic scenes

The explosion rocked the arena at around 10:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m. ET). The sound of wailing sirens cut through the smoky aftermath.
Crying children and parents desperately tried to find each other as cell phone signals faltered, witnesses said.

Mom: I don't know if daughter is dead or alive

Mom: I don’t know if daughter is dead or alive 01:22
Manchester resident Charlotte Campbell told CNN she waited for news on her 15-year-old daughter, Olivia. “We’ve tried everything we can. They’re telling us to wait by the phones,” she said.
Olivia had gone to the concert with a friend and neither have been in contact. Her father was looking for the girls.
“I want her home and I want her safe,” Charlotte Campbell said. “I just want her to walk through the door.”

Trump calls attackers ‘losers’

president trump israel manchester explosion attack losers sot es_00003411

Pres. Trump: Manchester attacked by losers 02:05
US President Donald Trump slammed the attack, saying that terrorists were “losers.”
“So many young beautiful innocent people living and enjoying their lives murdered by evil losers in life. I won’t call them monsters because they would like that term. They would think that’s a great name. I will call them from now on losers because that’s what they are,” he said. “This wicked ideology must be obliterated.”
The US Department of Homeland Security said it was “closely monitoring” the situation.

Philippines President Duterte Declares Martial Law On ISIS Held Island Of Mindanao

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on the southern island of Mindanao on Tuesday after a fierce bout of fighting between the army and militants linked to Islamic State in the city of Marawi.

Three members of the security forces were killed and 12 wounded, Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told a news conference, as clashes erupted in the wake of what the military said was a raid on a flat where about 15 rebels were hiding.

Lorenzana was speaking in Moscow, where he was accompanying Duterte on an official visit.

Duterte canceled a meeting set for Wednesday with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and planned to cut short his trip, during which he was also due to meet Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Putin will meet Duterte later Tuesday, rather than Thursday, his press secretary Dmitry Peskov was quoted as TASS news agency.

The government urged civilians on Mindanao to stay in their homes or flee if it was safe, and the military said reinforcements of an initial 500 soldiers were on the way, but were being hamstrung by rebels blocking roads.

The militants belong to the Maute group, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State in the Middle East. Previous military offensives against the Maute, based in Lanao del Sur province, have lasted several days.

“There are Maute snipers all around, so the troops are still holding and elements have already joined,” Lorenzana.

Fires raged in Marawi but the military and the city’s mayor said the situation was now under control.

Witnesses told local television that gunfire was clattering sporadically around the city. Several buildings were on fire, including a church, officials said.

“(Duterte) has already declared martial law for the entire island of Mindanao,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told reporters in Moscow.

“This is on the grounds of resistance and rebellion based on what is happening,” he said, adding that martial law would last for 60 days, as stipulated in the constitution.

Brigadier General Rolando Bautista, commander of the Philippines’ First Infantry Division, said security forces were trying to locate the militants.

“Based on our assessment right now there are more or less 100 divided into groups of 10 in different locations,” he told news channel ANC.

“Since they are advocating ISIS ideology they have to show ISIS that they are a force to be reckoned with,” he said, using an acronym for Islamic State.

(Reporting by Manuel Mogato and; Martin Petty; editing by Mark Heinrich)

Copyright 2017 Thomson Reuters.

Big guns: Two modern 155 mm artillery guns land in India after the Bofors scandal of 1980’s

(THIS STORY IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF INDIA)

Big guns:

Big guns: Two modern 155 mm artillery guns land in India after the Bofors scandal of 1980s

Rajat Pandit| TNN | Updated: May 18, 2017, 02.14 PM IST 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • This will be the first induction of modern 155mm artillery guns by the Army since the 1980s.
  • The howitzers will be taken to the Pokhran ranges for testing
  • The M-777 guns are primarily meant for the front with China

Big guns: Two modern 155 mm artillery guns land in India after the Bofors scandal of 1980s

NEW DELHI: India has now exorcised the ominous Bofors ghost haunting its artillery modernization plans for the last 30 years. In the first modern 155mm artillery guns to be inducted by the Army since the 1980s, two of the 145 M-777 ultra-light howitzers ordered from the US touched down here on Thursday morning.

Defence sources on Wednesday said the two howitzers, which came in a chartered aircraft from the UK, will be taken to the Pokhran ranges for testing and “compilation of the firing tables” for subsequent use. “The firing tables, with the guns being tested for different kinds of Indian ammunition with bi-modular charges, will take some time to be formulated,” said a source.

The delivery schedule for the air-mobile howitzers, being acquired under the $737 million deal inked with the US in a government-to-government deal, will quicken from March 2019 onwards. “Five guns will then be delivered every month till all 145 are inducted by June 2021. While the first 25 guns will be imported, the rest 120 will be assembled in India with artillery-manufacturer BAE Systems selecting Mahindra as its business partner here,” he added.

Read this story in Gujarati

The arrival of the M-777 guns, which are primarily meant for the front with China, comes soon after the government also inked a Rs 4,366 crore contract with engineering conglomerate L&T for the supply of 100 self-propelled howitzers in collaboration with its South Korean technology partner Hanwha Tech Win. These 155mm/52-calibre tracked guns called K-9 Vajra-T, in turn, are to be delivered within 42 months, as was earlier reported by TOI.

The 13-lakh strong Army has not inducted a single 155mm artillery gun since the Bofors scandal brought down the Rajiv Gandhi government, and derailed all plans for technology transfer and indigenous manufacture.

Subsequent scandals revolving around other global artillery manufacturers, like South African Denel and Singapore Technology Kinetic‘s, further punched gaping holes in the Army’s long-range, high-volume firepower. Interestingly, the original Swedish Bofors company is now owned by BAE Systems.

Read this story in Marathi

The Army has been demanding 155mm/39-calibre ultra-light howitzers like the M-777s, with a strike range from 24 to 40-km depending on the kind of ammunition used, for almost 15 years now as part of the overall plan to build robust conventional deterrence against China.

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Weighing just over 4-tonne due to the use of titanium, the M-777 can swiftly be airlifted to high-altitudes areas up to 16,000-feet in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control with China.

Top Comment

If the Congress Government could not induct a single artillery 155 mm Gun in our Armoury for 30 years of its rule,despite enemies like Pakistan and China breathing down heavily below our neck,it mea… Read MoreAshok Prabhu

The M-777 howitzers will equip the new 17 Mountain Strike Corps, which the Army is raising by cannibalizing its existing reserves, for the China front. With two infantry divisions geared for mountain warfare, and associated artillery, air defence and armoured brigades, the 17 Corps will be fully in place with 90,274 troops by 2021.

Read this story in Bengali

Rajat Pandit| TNN | Updated: May 18, 2017, 02.14 PM IST

HIGHLIGHTS

  • This will be the first induction of modern 155mm artillery guns by the Army since the 1980s.
  • The howitzers will be taken to the Pokhran ranges for testing
  • The M-777 guns are primarily meant for the front with China

Big guns: Two modern 155 mm artillery guns land in India after the Bofors scandal of 1980s

NEW DELHI: India has now exorcised the ominous Bofors ghost haunting its artillery modernization plans for the last 30 years. In the first modern 155mm artillery guns to be inducted by the Army since the 1980s, two of the 145 M-777 ultra-light howitzers ordered from the US touched down here on Thursday morning.

Defence sources on Wednesday said the two howitzers, which came in a chartered aircraft from the UK, will be taken to the Pokhran ranges for testing and “compilation of the firing tables” for subsequent use. “The firing tables, with the guns being tested for different kinds of Indian ammunition with bi-modular charges, will take some time to be formulated,” said a source.

The delivery schedule for the air-mobile howitzers, being acquired under the $737 million deal inked with the US in a government-to-government deal, will quicken from March 2019 onwards. “Five guns will then be delivered every month till all 145 are inducted by June 2021. While the first 25 guns will be imported, the rest 120 will be assembled in India with artillery-manufacturer BAE Systems selecting Mahindra as its business partner here,” he added.

Read this story in Gujarati

The arrival of the M-777 guns, which are primarily meant for the front with China, comes soon after the government also inked a Rs 4,366 crore contract with engineering conglomerate L&T for the supply of 100 self-propelled howitzers in collaboration with its South Korean technology partner Hanwha Tech Win. These 155mm/52-calibre tracked guns called K-9 Vajra-T, in turn, are to be delivered within 42 months, as was earlier reported by TOI.

The 13-lakh strong Army has not inducted a single 155mm artillery gun since the Bofors scandal brought down the Rajiv Gandhi government, and derailed all plans for technology transfer and indigenous manufacture.

Subsequent scandals revolving around other global artillery manufacturers, like South African Denel and Singapore Technology Kinetic‘s, further punched gaping holes in the Army’s long-range, high-volume firepower. Interestingly, the original Swedish Bofors company is now owned by BAE Systems.

Read this story in Marathi

The Army has been demanding 155mm/39-calibre ultra-light howitzers like the M-777s, with a strike range from 24 to 40-km depending on the kind of ammunition used, for almost 15 years now as part of the overall plan to build robust conventional deterrence against China.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
  • INDIABe vigilant along China border: Rajnath Singh to forces
  • INDIABelow normal monsoon in some regions this year

Weighing just over 4-tonne due to the use of titanium, the M-777 can swiftly be airlifted to high-altitudes areas up to 16,000-feet in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control with China.

Top Comment

If the Congress Government could not induct a single artillery 155 mm Gun in our Armoury for 30 years of its rule,despite enemies like Pakistan and China breathing down heavily below our neck,it mea… Read MoreAshok Prabhu

The M-777 howitzers will equip the new 17 Mountain Strike Corps, which the Army is raising by cannibalizing its existing reserves, for the China front. With two infantry divisions geared for mountain warfare, and associated artillery, air defence and armoured brigades, the 17 Corps will be fully in place with 90,274 troops by 2021.

Read this story in Bengali

U.S. Decries Violence During Turkish President’s Washington Visit

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

U.S. decries violence during Turkish president’s Washington visit

 (My question is, why were these protesters so close to a visiting President in the first place?)
By Yeganeh Torbati | WASHINGTON

The United States on Wednesday said it was voicing its “strongest possible” concern to Turkey over violence that erupted between protesters and Turkish security personnel during Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Washington.

Police said the fighting that flared outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence on Tuesday injured 11 people, including a Washington police officer, and led to two arrests.

“We are communicating our concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

A video posted online showed men in dark suits chasing protesters and punching and kicking them as baton-wielding police tried to intervene. Two men were bloodied from head wounds as bystanders tried to assist dazed protesters.

Erdogan was in the U.S. capital on Tuesday to meet with President Donald Trump.[nL2N1II15R] A spokesman for the Turkish embassy could not be reached for immediate comment.

(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati and Ian Simpson; Editing by Richard Chang and Tom Brown)

Attorney General Orders Tougher Sentences, Rolling Back Obama Policy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Photo

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has in the past suggested that prosecuting drug crimes more vigorously will broadly reduce other crime. CreditJim Lo Scalzo/European Pressphoto Agency

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors late Thursday to pursue the toughest possible charges and sentences against crime suspects, reversing Obama administration efforts to ease penalties for some nonviolent drug violations.

The drastic shift in criminal justice policy, foreshadowed during recent weeks, is Mr. Sessions’s first major stamp on the Justice Department, and it highlights several of his top targets: drug dealing, gun crime and gang violence. The Justice Department released the new directives on Friday.

In an eight-paragraph memo to the nation’s prosecutors, Mr. Sessions returned to the guidance of President George W. Bush’s administration by calling for more uniform punishments — including mandatory minimum sentences — and directing prosecutors to pursue the strictest possible charges. Mr. Sessions’s policy, however, is broader than that of the Bush administration, and will be more reliant on the judgments of United States attorneys and assistant attorneys general.

The policy signaled a return to “enforcing the laws that Congress has passed,” Mr. Sessions said on Friday at the Justice Department, characterizing his memo as unique for the leeway it afforded federal prosecutors around the country.

Continue reading the main story

“They deserve to be un-handcuffed and not micromanaged from Washington,” he said. “It means we are going to meet our responsibility to enforce the law with judgment and fairness. It’s simply the right and moral thing to do.”

The guidance allowed for limited exceptions. “There will be circumstances in which good judgment would lead a prosecutor to conclude that a strict application of the above charging policy is not warranted,” Mr. Sessions wrote.

His memo replaced the orders of former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who in 2013 encouraged prosecutors to consider the individual circumstances of a case and to exercise discretion in charging drug crimes. Mr. Holder directed prosecutors — when considering nonviolent defendants with insignificant criminal histories and no connections to drug trafficking or other criminal organizations — to omit details about drug quantities from charging documents so as not to lead to automatically harsh penalties.

Document: Memo by Sessions to U.S. Attorneys on Charges and Sentencing

Mr. Holder called the new policy “unwise and ill-informed,” saying it ignored consensus between Democrats and Republicans, and data demonstrating that prosecutions of high-level drug defendants had risen under his guidance.

“This absurd reversal is driven by voices who have not only been discredited but until now have been relegated to the fringes of this debate,” he said in a statement.

Supporters of Mr. Holder’s policy have argued that quantities of drugs are a weak indicator of how dangerous a person may be.

“Long sentences for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses do not promote public safety, deterrence and rehabilitation,” Mr. Holder wrote in his 2013 memo, noting that in fact they exacerbate an expensive, overburdened prison system. The Obama administration, which led a bipartisan push for more lenient and flexible sentencing laws, presided over the first decline in the federal prison population in a generation.

Mr. Sessions’s memo explicitly mentioned Mr. Holder’s 2013 directive in a footnote and rescinded it effective immediately.

Mr. Sessions’s policy was most similar to one issued by Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2003. Then, Mr. Ashcroft outlined six specific types of “limited exceptions” in his memo — which ran nearly four times the length of Mr. Sessions’s new guidance, and repeatedly referenced particular federal statutes. Mr. Sessions, by contrast, outlined no specific scenarios and provided little detail.

Instead, he simply directed prosecutors to “carefully consider whether an exception may be justified.” He said any exceptions to ease criminal penalties must be documented and approved by United States attorneys, assistant attorneys general or their designees.

“There’s a long history of these memos saying both that prosecutors should charge the most serious, readily provable offense, but also that prosecutors should exercise some discretion,” said David Alan Sklansky, a law professor at Stanford University who specializes in criminal justice. “There’s tension between those two things.”

On First Day In office, South Korean President Talks About Going To North

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

On first day in office, South Korean president talks about going to North

Will South Korea have a new approach toward North Korea, U.S.?
 
South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, is wary of America’s role in his country and has signaled he is open to warmer ties with North Korea. This has raised concerns in Washington(The Washington Post)
May 10 at 10:13 AM
South Korea’s new president said Wednesday that he would be willing to hold talks in Washington and Pyongyang in efforts to ease the North Korean nuclear crisis, wasting no time in embarking on a new approach to dealing with Kim Jong Un’s regime.The offer of shuttle diplomacy by Moon Jae-in came shortly after he was sworn in as president after winning a snap election triggered by the impeachment of former conservative leader Park Geun-hye.Moon had vowed on the campaign trail to resume engagement with North Korea, a sharp change from the hard-line approach taken by South Korea’s past two governments — and by the international community — in response to North Korea’s nuclear tests and missile launches.

“I will endeavor to address the security crisis promptly,” Moon said at the National Assembly in Seoul. “If needed, I will immediately fly to Washington. I will also visit Beijing and Tokyo and even Pyongyang under the right circumstances.”

Reinforcing his stance, Moon appointed two top aides with experience in dealing with North Korea.

He nominated Suh Hoon, a former intelligence official who arranged the two inter-Korean presidential summits held in the 2000s, to lead the National Intelligence Service.

Suh lived in North Korea for two years beginning in 1997 to run an energy project that was part of a 1994 denuclearization deal with North Korea. He met the North’s leader at the time, Kim Jong Il, during North-South summits in 2000 and 2007.

Moon also appointed as his chief of staff a former lawmaker who, as a student, went to North Korea to meet the state’s founder, Kim Il Sung.

Moon’s first words and actions as president show his determination to revive the South Korean “sunshine policy” of engaging North Korea rather than isolating it.

But this would put South Korea at odds with the United States, where President Trump has vowed to use “maximum pressure” to force the North to give up its nuclear weapons program, and with an international community that is largely supportive of tougher sanctions.

The sunshine policy was started in 1998 by Kim Dae-jung, a former pro-democracy activist who became South Korea’s first liberal president.

The policy got its name from an Aesop fable in which the wind and the sun compete to make a traveler take off his coat. The sun gently warms the traveler and succeeds, the moral of the fable being that gentle persuasion works better than force.

Kim Dae-jung engaged Pyongyang by laying the groundwork for a tourism project at mountain on the North Korean side of the border that South Koreans were allowed to visit. After his summit with Kim Jong Il, families separated when the peninsula was divided were allowed to meet for reunions. Kim won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000 for his efforts.

His successor, Roh Moo-hyun, continued the policy, opening a joint industrial park near the inter-Korean border where North Koreans would work in South Korean-owned factories, helping both sides. Roh went to Pyongyang for his own summit with Kim Jong Il near the end of his tenure in 2007.

Moon, who had started a law firm with Roh, served as his chief of staff in the presidential Blue House and was involved in North Korea policy during this time.

But the two conservative presidents who succeeded Kim and Roh abandoned the sunshine policy, instead promoting direct and multilateral sanctions to punish North Korea for its nuclear ambitions.

After North Korea’s fourth nuclear test last year, Park closed the joint industrial park, declaring that the money was going directly to the North Korean regime. In the 12 years that the complex was in operation, North Korea had made a total of about $560 million from the site, her government said.

During his campaign, Moon said he would seek to reopen the industrial park and tourism projects, and would be willing to met Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang if necessary.

Returning to an engagement approach would “increase of predictability and permanence of inter-Korean policies” and help the South Korean economy, Moon said.

But reviving such inter-Korean cooperation will be difficult, analysts say.

For starters, the world is a very different place now than it was in 1997.

Then, North Korea did not have a proven nuclear weapons program. Now, it has conducted five nuclear tests, and Kim Jong Un seems hellbent on developing missiles that can deliver nuclear warheads to the United States.

Plus, North Korean attacks on South Korea — including the sinking of the Cheonan naval corvette in 2010 and the shelling of a South Korean island, which together claimed 50 lives — have sapped South Korean goodwill toward North Korea.

Increasingly strict sanctions have been imposed through the United Nations in response to North Korea’s nuclear tests and missile launches, and both the United States and South Korea have also imposed direct prohibitions on dealing with North Korea.

“The international community has moved decisively toward a more sanctions and less engagement approach with North Korea, and even South Korea’s own domestic laws will make grandiose unaccountable inter-Korean engagement more difficult,” Marcus Noland and Kent Boydston of the Peterson Institute for International Economics wrote in an analysis.

If South Korea were to say that special considerations apply on the peninsula, the Moon administration would “bring South Korea into immediate diplomatic conflict with the U.S. and undercut China’s already tepid willingness to implement sanctions,” they wrote.

Even raising the specter of a sunshine-policy approach will complicate the international community’s efforts to make North Korea give up its nuclear program, said David Straub, a former official in the State Department who worked on North Korea.

“It’s a real challenge to the American-led effort to put maximum pressure on North Korea,” said Straub, who is now at the Sejong Institute, a think tank devoted to North Korea, outside Seoul.

Moon’s policy is much closer to China’s than to the United States’ policy, he noted.

“South Korea has tremendous influence in the international community on this issue, and that in itself is a challenge for President Trump,” Straub said, noting that Kim Dae-jung and Roh both bad-mouthed President George W. Bush’s approach at that time.

But Lee Jong-seok, who served as unification minister during the Roh administration, said a decade of sanctions has not worked.

“It’s now time for the U.S. to review its policy of imposing pressure on North Korea over its nuclear program. Has North Korea recognized its wrongdoings as a result of this policy of applying strong pressure?” Lee asked.

Moon realizes that pressure alone is not sufficient for resolving the North Korean nuclear issue and that the key is to pursue both dialogue and pressure, he said.

“President Moon will combine sanctions and dialogue, but which comes first will be decided after talking to relevant nations like the U.S. and China,” Lee said. “South Korea can’t unilaterally hold talks while everyone else is sanctioning North Korea.”

Yoonjung Seo contributed to this report.

The Vatican’s Swiss Guard Just Added 40 New Members

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Pope Francis Delivers First 'Urbi Et Orbi' Blessing During Easter Mass In St. Peter's Square
Swiss guards perform ceremonial duties during Holy Easter Mass held by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s square on March 31, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican. Franco Origlia—Getty Images

The Vatican’s Swiss Guard Just Added 40 New Members

2:55 PM ET

(VATICAN CITY) — The world’s oldest standing army has 40 new members after a Vatican Swiss Guard swearing-in ceremony.

Each man took a loyalty oath Saturday evening in a ritual-rich ceremony in the St. Damaso courtyard of the Apostolic Palace. The May 6 date commemorates the day in 1527 when 147 guardsmen died while protecting Pope Clement VII during the Sack of Rome.

Earlier Saturday, Pope Francis told the Guards they’re called to “another sacrifice no less arduous” — serving the power of faith.

The recruits, who enroll for at least two years, must be single, upstanding Swiss Catholic males younger than 30.

Wearing blue-and-gold uniforms and holding halberds — spear-like weapons — they are a tourist delight while standing guard at Vatican ceremonies. Their main duty is to protect the pope.

Is President Trump Bluffing Again? Or, Does He Actually Know Something?

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

Opinion

If Trump has a Strategy on Israeli-Palestinian Peace, it’s Remaining a Secret

If President Trump has a real strategy to make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, it’s such a tightly held secret that even the parties involved don’t seem to know what it is. When Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visits the White House this week, that mystery will be on full display.

“I want to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians,” Trump said last week. “There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians — none whatsoever.”

Setting aside the patent absurdity of that statement, what’s clear is that the White House is willing to devote time and attention to new Middle East negotiations and the president wants to be personally involved.

The problem is there’s a glaring gap between Trump’s high-flying rhetoric and his still-unexplained strategy. As the Abbas visit approaches, there’s no clarity in sight.

Last week, a high-level Palestinian delegation led by chief negotiator Saeb Erekat traveled to Washington to prepare for the visit. The group met with Trump’s envoy on Middle East peace, Jason Greenblatt, as well as with White House and State Department officials.

Both sides are keeping expectations for the Trump-Abbas meeting low. Palestinian officials tell me the Trump team doesn’t seem to know exactly what Trump wants to discuss or propose. White House staff declined to say anything at all about their goals for the meeting. Some experts think that’s because there’s no depth to Trump’s approach.

“How you deal with Abbas is directly related to a broader strategy, which unless they haven’t announced it, they simply don’t have,” said former Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller. “It’s hard to see that this is going to turn out to be much more than a stage visit.”

In truth, there really isn’t much Trump and Abbas can agree to. There’s little hope that Abbas will give Trump what the US side wants, namely a promise to address the issue of incitement in the Palestinian territories or a pledge to curb the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s policy of paying families of terrorists who have attacked Israelis and Americans.

Likewise, there’s no prospect that Trump will deliver what Abbas wants — a commitment to press the Israelis into a freeze of settlement-building that would meet Palestinian standards. The United States has secured an informal agreement with the government of Benjamin Netanyahu to place some limits on building new settlements, a version of the “build up, not out” framework from the George W. Bush administration. But that falls short of what Abbas says is needed before negotiations can begin.

The meeting could be significant by itself, if Trump and Abbas can establish a personal rapport to build on in the future. But therein also lies a risk.

“The president has never met Abbas and that makes it an important meeting,” said former White House and State Department official Elliott Abrams. “But if he forms the opinion that Abbas is not strong enough to do a deal and then implement it, that will have a real impact on American policy.”

Sure to be present at the meeting is Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is overseeing Greenblatt’s work. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, will reportedly join Donald Trump for a trip to Israel in late May.

Administration officials sometimes talk about an “outside-in” approach whereby a framework for peace negotiations would be arranged with Arab states and then folded into the Israeli-Palestinian dynamic. Details of that plan are hazy, and the Trump team has yet to explain how it plans to incentivize Arab states to buy in.

Martin Indyk, who served as President Barack Obama’s special envoy on this issue, said Trump’s approach of trying to find avenues to pursue is positive but cannot overcome the inability of Israeli and Palestinian leaders to make the political compromises necessary for real progress.

“Based on experience, there’s one principle that I operate on. By American willpower alone, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be resolved,” he said.

There are things the Trump team can do constructively, including bolstering Abbas by promoting economic development in the West Bank, Indyk said. Making small progress on the margins could improve the chances for peace down the line.

But by going for headlines, not trend lines, Trump is raising expectations and putting his administration’s already-thin credibility at risk. There can be dangerous consequences in the Middle East when high-stakes diplomacy fails. The new administration would be better off recognizing that peace is not in the offing.

The Washington Post

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