Freelance Writer

Trump Impeachment: Mitch McConnell seeks impeachment trial delay until February
Americas

Trump Impeachment: Mitch McConnell seeks impeachment trial delay until February

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader is proposing a delay in impeachment trial of Donald Trump to February, to give his team some time to prepare and review for the trial case. 

House, led by Democrats, had voted last week to impeach Trump for inciting the violence and Capitol Hill attack on January 6. The House wants quick progression into the trial with President Joe Biden beginning his term. Majority of representatives are in favor of stern action to bring justice to the heinous crime against American democracy and the sanctum sanctorum of it, Capitol Hill. 

During a call on Thursday with other GOP senators, McConnell said that a short delay in trial would help Trump’s legal team prepare for the case. 

Mike Braun, Indiana senator said that trial might begin by mid-February. He mentioned it is “due to the fact that the process as it occurred in the House evolved so quickly, and that it is not in line with the time you need to prepare for a defense in a Senate trial.” 

Timing of the trial will be set by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as McConnell and Chuck Schumer, the new Senate Majority leader. Schumer is to lead the Senate according to the fact that Democrats won two Senate seats from Georgia that were the deciding seats for Senate win. But the divide is so narrow, that trial decision would be impacted by Republicans say. Currently, Schumer and McConnell are in negotiations on how to frame a 50-50 partisan divide in Senate. 

The key agendas in line, the legislation for which Democrats hope to pass on priority are trial proceeding and President Biden’s relief package including coronavirus relief fund. Their pass would need Republican support in Senate too. 

Pelosi is expected to send the trial article “incitement for insurrection” to Senate by Friday. On Thursday Pelosi said, “It will be soon, I don’t think it will be long, but we must do it.” 

Democrats and many Republicans are clear about one thing – Donald Trump must be impeached for the Capitol violence, which acted as the last straw in the sack. Nancy Pelosi said that in no condition does Trump deserve a “get out of jail card.” 

Mitch McConnell said this week that Trump had “provoked” his supporters leading to riots in the Hill. But he hasn’t confirmed if he would vote for his impeachment, but made a point referring to it to be a “vote of conscience”

How dangerous is jailed Navalny to Putin?
Europe

How dangerous is jailed Navalny to Putin?

Alexei Navalny returned to Moscow five months after being poisoned with nerve agent Novichok and receiving treatment at a Berlin hospital, and landed straight into prison. At the airport authorities detained Navalny, the opposition leader and most prominent Kremlin critic. 

Interestingly, now for over a decade, Vladimir Putin has refrained from taking his name, mostly referring to him as ‘that gentleman’ and recently ‘patient’, after he was poisoned by suspectedly FSB agents. Logically, the act is deliberate for not giving Navalny media space and free advertising. But it also indicates the rivalry that has taken up to be personal and Putin’s deep understanding that Navalny is nowhere near backing down from exposing Putin, even after his near-death threat by recent poisoning or even prison. 

Even being in Moscow’s infamously notorious jail, Matrosskaya Tishina, has not tamed down Navalny and he is continuing to be a danger to Putin’s position and reputation. Navalny’s team have initiated a gigantic investigation into Putin’s wealth on Tuesday. This includes his £1 billion palace on Black Sea which is claimed to be built for the Russian controversial and equally ‘untouchable’ president. Navalny has called it “the biggest bribe in history”. 

Navalny’s team has researched and released blueprints and details of the manor. Then the team poked the bear saying that now that architecture has been revealed, Putin who is known to be obsessed with safety, will have to abandon the palace. 

Navalny is famous for never backing from publicly attacks Putin directly. During 2011-2012 protests, Navalny had called him a ‘thief’ and his party United Russia a “party of crooks and thieves”. Putin has been called as the biggest existential threat to Putin and his government. 

Zhanna Nemtsova, daughter of opposition leader Boris Nemtsova who was murdered, writes, “Putin is no longer afraid of western sanctions, critical statements and the demands of European and American politicians for further isolation. For him the stakes are too high – he knows that Navalny is capable of overthrowing his regime.”

Over the years Navalny has proven to be a crowd pleaser and a good approachable leader to that. He is an excellent speaker and enjoys being on stage, interacting with people, a leader during protests and with a very effective presence, a tech-savvy young campaigner with whom youth feel connected. These all qualities are in contrast to Putin, something that fears Kremlin. His courage has always been the talking point internationally, something which he again highlighted as he returned to Moscow on Sunday after fighting for his life in Germany post poisoning. 

With ‘tyrant’ Trump’s exit and Biden bringing hopes of Obama-era return, are Iran’s nuclear facilities safe from attack?
Middle East & Africa

With ‘tyrant’ Trump’s exit and Biden bringing hopes of Obama-era return, are Iran’s nuclear facilities safe from attack?

With the exit of ‘tyrant’ Trump, as called by Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, Tehran is taking a big but careful sigh of relief. Rouhani has called on the incoming president of the United States of America, Joe Biden, to return to JCPOA, the 2015 nuclear deal formulated under former US President Barack Obama. 

In a televised cabinet meeting aired on Wednesday, Rouhani said, “the ball was in the US court now.” 

Rouhani added, “If Washington returns to Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal, we will also fully respect our commitments under the pact. A tyrant’s era came to an end and today is the final day of his ominous reign.”  

The outlook of Trump towards Tehran is no secret. Trump withdrew US from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) on May 8, 2018. This was followed by series of sanctions slapped on Tehran, crippling it economically. In fact, many in the Gulf region anticipated that Donald Trump might act on his earlier plan of launching military strike on Iran’s nuclear plants, during the last days of his presidency. At one point in November, Trump was reportedly talked out by his advisers from launching a military strike on Iran to create “maximum pressure”

But incoming president Joe Biden has made his intensions of rejoining the nuclear deal pretty clear, provided Tehran assures of complete compliance and following of the deal pacts. This would mean reversal of sanctions and economic support to Tehran. 

But does this mean that now Iran’s nuclear facilities are safe from any attack? Definitely no! 

Iran is concerned over its ambitious plans of creating ballistic missiles arsenal as well as civilian nuclear activities. Israel, the hard-core enemy of the Islamic Republic, sees Iran’s nuclear programme a threat to its existence and has repeatedly urged global leaders to take action against Tehran. In response, Iran has maintained that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes. But its recent uranium enrichment boost has set up red flags. 

Iran is a tough target to track – geographically, accessibility, and strategic location of its nuclear plants. It is a high possibility that over the years Iran has made its underground nuclear facilities practically impenetrable. But experts suggest that its not impossible. 

An expert on arms control, and associate fellow at International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Mark Fitzpatrick says, “Iran’s facilities are not impregnable. The one at Natanz is vulnerable to precise bunker-busting bombing, maybe taking two precise hits: one to dig a crater and the other to burst through it or at least to shake the delicate machines enough to put them out of commission.”

Assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, godfather of Iran’s nuclear programme, by US, is enough to dent ego and development of its nuclear programme. Furthermore, Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency has been active in Iran and has been carrying out operations to impact and neutralize its nuclear programme. 

As long as Iran is under suspicion of carrying out secret development of nuclear warheads, there will always be a possibility of it being under attack. 

Evading the global trend China’s economy bounces back, faster & harder than pre-pandemic
Geopolitics

Evading the global trend China’s economy bounces back, faster & harder than pre-pandemic

It’s been a little over a year that coronavirus pandemic clawed China and started spreading across the country and beyond. Apart from the massive heart-wrenching effect on lives, the pandemic tore part global economy and China was no different. Now, China’s economy is steering its way back on track and is bouncing back fast and hard, better than it did pre-Covid. 

On Monday, the published economic data showed China recording growth of 2.3% in 2020. This made the Asian country the only major economy to show growth in a year when coronavirus was taking a toll on global economies. As competing economies, United States of America, Europe, Japan and India, are struggling to tackle ‘winter Covid-19 wave’, China is enjoying its view from the top with buoyant economy, claiming global leadership in the post-Covid-19 era. 

The National Statistics Bureau has highlighted China’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) recorded a rise of 6.5% during 2020 fourth quarter. This surpassed the growth in 2019 end which was 6%. China’s GDP crossed milestone in 2020, recording over $15 trillion or 100 trillion yuan. 

Bureau’s head Ning Jizhe said, “In an extraordinary year, China’s economy was able to record an extraordinary accomplishment. It’s a performance that is satisfactory to the people, watched by the world, and can be recorded in the annals of history.” He added that crossing GDP milestone by China reflects how “our country’s economic strength, science and technology strength, and overall national strength have jumped to a new level.” 

Spring 2020 saw SARS-CoV-2 virus containment by China, with small scale re-emergence in past few weeks. This has helped China keep on the crucial sectors like construction, heavy industry and export manufacturing working at a time when other nations were grappling the crisis. 

China’s foreign minister Wang Yi recently addressed the world leaders and said that under leadership of President Xi Jinping, China has recorded fast recovery and that China “has brought hope for the world economy to step out of the doldrums.” 

Employment too is picking up with boost in economy. China has successfully created 11.86 million jobs during 2020. 

But some economists highlight the impressive at first glance performance of China’s economy. It is fueled by country returning to old ways causing foundation of economy hollow and fragile – debt fueled infrastructure building, relying on heavy and old industries, including steel production.  

China is still facing global challenges in trade sector, including trade tensions with the US. This also brings in big challenge to incoming President Joe Biden and his administration who will have to deal and work on the strained relationship between US and China under Trump presidency. 

Samsung heir Lee Jae Yong charged for bribery scandal, gets 2.5 years of prison term
Asia Pacific Focus

Samsung heir Lee Jae Yong charged for bribery scandal, gets 2.5 years of prison term

Samsung heir Lee Jae Yong: A high court in South Korea has sentenced Lee Jae two years and six months of prison term. Yong has been sentenced for bribery scandal, the case retrial of the one that had earlier charged former South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Park has also been jailed for bribery and corruption. 

The decision has put Samsung’s future in jeopardy and Lee is likely to have ramifications over his future and role in the tech giant. Since 2014 Lee has been the head of Samsung Electronics, after his father Lee Kun-hee, the Samsung group titan, suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized. Mr. Lee Kun-hee passed away last year. 

Furthermore, the news of Lee’s sentence plummeted Samsung Electronics shares by over 4%. The shares later took hold of the ground. 

Experts fear that the sentencing will lead to a leadership vacuum in Samsung and bring decision-making mechanism to a road-block regarding future major investments. 

The court ruled, “Lee actively provided brines and implicitly asked the president to use her power to help his smooth succession” as Samsung head. It added, “It is very unfortunate that Samsung, the country’s top company and proud global innovator, is repeatedly involved in crimes whenever there is a change in political power.” 

Lee’s legal team was disappointed with the decision. Lee has 18 months left to be served, as already served detention time would be counted towards the sentence. 

South Korean court found Lee guilty of embezzlement, bribery and concealment of criminal proceeds worth approximately 8.6 billion won ($7.8 million). 

This is not the first time that Lee has been accused of bribery and has engaged in a legal battle. Lee was first arrested in February 2017 as he was on verge of becoming Samsung’s leader. The case was regarding his role in a corporate and political scandal that also involved then president Park Geun-hye.

Samsung, under Lee, was accused to paying 43bn won to two non-profit foundations operated by Park’s friend Choi Soon-sil. These foundations had allegedly paved way to make Lee the head of Samsung by baking a controversial merger in Samsung. 

Collapsed government in Netherlands: PM Rutte submits cabinet resignation over child welfare fraud scandal
Europe

Collapsed government in Netherlands: PM Rutte submits cabinet resignation over child welfare fraud scandal

Child welfare fraud scandal: After thousands of families were wronged in an unparalleled way, Dutch government led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte has submitted resignation of the entire Cabinet to the king. 

The decision came at a crucial time during Covid-19 pandemic as thousands of families were wrongfully accused of child welfare fraud and were told to pay the money back. The MPs decided that the families, mostly of the immigrant status, had suffered an “unparalleled wrong” and were left powerless and in dire situation by the tax officials, judges, civil servants and politicians. This led to the families fall into financial instability and ruckus. 

Rutte said, “Innocent people have been criminalized and their lives ruined. The buck stops here.” He added that the responsibility of the scandal laid entirely on his Cabinet. 

The decision was taken unanimously during a cabinet meeting at The Hague. The timing is especially critical as Netherlands is under strict lockdown amid increased cases of Covid-19 infection. Until parliamentary elections take place in March, the government is going to take role of caretaker to tackle the pandemic crisis. Economics Minister Eric Wiebes has, however, resigned with immediate effect due to his significant role in the scandal. 

Child Welfare Fraud was widespread in Netherlands as parents were labeled as ‘fraud’ over trivial errors like missed signatures on paperwork and were then forced to pay back thousands of euros given by government to compensate the childcare cost. Families were left ruined and aidless by the system. 

With families scattered and relationships disintegrated under impact of the fraud, many mothers have shared their plight tearfully of having to face the financial and emotional anguish after they were targeted by the officials. 

Scandal is said to have started in 2012 with as many as 26,000 people being involved. 

Tax department, last year, had admitted that as many as 11,000 people were scrutinized vehemently due to their dual citizenship. This has further questioned the long going speculation that ethnic minorities in Netherlands are discriminated and targeted by those in power. 

Donald Trump impeachment: Is it too late?
Americas

Donald Trump impeachment: Is it too late?

 Donald Trump impeachment: Trump is going to be known in American history for all the wrong reasons – the latest of them being the only United States President to have been impeached twice. Wednesday was historic day as Democrats-led House of Representatives voted to impeach outgoing president Donald Trump. The most remarkable moment of the entire proceeding was inclusion of 10 Republicans who voted in favor of impeaching Trump, making the moral compass highlighted. 

But the next step of Senate voting in favor of the impeachment has been hazed off by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell clarified the reality soon after voting was done by House for Trump impeachment. He said, “Even if the Senate process were to begin this week and move promptly, no final verdict would be reached until after President Trump had left office. This is not a decision I am making; it is a fact.” 

This means that Senate voting on whether Trump will be removed from office will not happen till January 20, the day he exits White Office. 

This brings us to few questions worth contemplating – can a former president be impeached or removed from office; and does it make it worth the procedure?

Regarding first question of impeaching a former president, debate has been ongoing since forever. Even the Constitution is rather vague on the topic. Article II, Section of Constitution reads, “The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” 

But the clarity on the situation, which is at present, of what will ensue if impeachment process starts when the president is still in office and ends when he is not, is not offered by the Constitution. Constitution leaves it an open interpretation, something that hasn’t been tried before in America real time. 

This brings us to the second question – even if we can impeach the President at this point, what purpose does it solve? 

The face value of this question looks simple straight forward – holding a ‘former president’ on trial to decide if he was guilty of impeachable offences when he was in office doesn’t really make sense. But Senate voting will not only decide on impeaching Trump, but more. If Senate voting goes in favor of impeaching Trump, then the next vote would be held that would ban Trump from seeking any public office in future. The voting would be of simple majority of 50+1 by Senate. 

This will be groundbreaking for the 2024 elections. Trump wouldn’t be running for President, which he has made clear of doing. This can be a good and smart game plan by McConnell who has made it clear that he is done with Trump. This would allow GOP to get ‘rid of Donald Trump’

This brings us to a valid conclusion – it does after all make sense in impeaching Donald Trump and it isn’t too late.

Uganda election: Pop star takes on veteran president in historic poll after election campaign spewed with violence
Middle East & Africa

Uganda election: Pop star takes on veteran president in historic poll after election campaign spewed with violence

Uganda election: This season of election campaigns in Uganda saw violence, the extremism that was never seen in a generation. After one of the most closely watched campaign, Ugandans are ready to go to polls on Thursday. This election holds special attention as a pop star turned politician, Bobi Wine is standing against to depose the veteran president Yoweri Museveni, who is ruling the nation since 34 years. 

The challenge between Museveni and Wine is symbolic of continent-wide struggle between generations where the seasoned and ageing leaders re refusing to hand over the command to younger generation, which is all set to mobilise against them. Wine, who is one of the nine opposition contenders against Museveni, has support of young Ugandans, courtesy his campaigning against corruption. The median age of people in Uganda being 15.7, this places Wine in a promising situation. 

Wine supporters were attempted to suppress through violence by security forces during the election campaigning. This points directly to existential threat that Museveni might be experiencing to his sixth term in power. Museveni has consistently accused Wine of being a traitor planning a “foreign backed insurrection”.

The whole sequence of events that led to Wine contend in elections was made possible after the Uganda MPs brought about changes in Constitution to remove age limits on who can stand for presidential election. 

Violence had ensued after Wine confirmed his candidacy officially, leading to death of 55 people in November. Multiple times Wine was also refrained from campaigning and was detained. Past few days military tanks and helicopters have patrolled the capital city of Kampala, displaying government’s force. 

https://twitter.com/waihigamwaura/status/1349605034313605120?s=21

Uganda’s communications regulator has ordered internet blocking of all social media platforms and messaging apps until further notice. This is another attempt by government to compromise integrity of elections. Facebook and Twitter are one of the prominent apps blocked by various network providers in Uganda. 

Amid internet shutdown and escalating tension, polling stations have opened across the country. Polls opened at 7:00 local time and will be open for voting till 16:00. Election Commission has said that all registered voters who by closing time will be in queue will be permitted to vote. 

US State Department puts Cuba back on ‘sponsor of terrorism’ list, makes early days tough for incoming Biden administration
Americas

US State Department puts Cuba back on ‘sponsor of terrorism’ list, makes early days tough for incoming Biden administration

Biden administration: Outgoing United States President Donald Trump and his administration are not backing down from making early days of Biden administration tough as it takes charge on January 20, one week from now. State Department led by Mike Pompeo has put Cuba back on the list of ‘sponsor of terrorism’. This action will make Biden’s attempts to realign with Havana more complicated. 

The controversial decision has put Cuba reclassified into the list, putting it alongside Syria, North Korea and Iran. The announcement was made by Mike Pompeo who said that Cuba was engaging in a “range of malign behavior across the region”. With this Pompeo has highlighted Cuba’s support to Nicolas Maduro, authoritarian leader of Venezuela, that Trump had tried to overthrow, though unsuccessfully. 

Pompeo has justified the decision of reclassifying Cuba on the list by accusing Havana of “repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism in granting safe harbour to terrorists”.

This action reverses former President Barack Obama’s decision of 2015 to remove Cuba from the list after being there for over three decades. 

The move by Trump administration is in reference to enabling and giving shelter to former Black Panther Assata Shakur who was jailed in the US over killing of police officer in 1973. She later escaped to Cuba where was given shelter by then Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Furthermore, the decision is also made due to refusal by Cuba to hand over a group of Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) guerillas, which were involved in Bagota bomb attack in 2019. 

But many US allies are not in favour of Trump’s charges on Cuba. Christopher Sabatini, a senior fellow for Latin America at Chatham House said, “Terrorism as an international definition is committing acts of violence against unarmed civilians intended to frighten the population. Cuba doesn’t do that. Yes, it represses its own people – but so does Saudi Arabia.”

Sabatini explains that move by Trump is more of a “parting gift” to incoming Biden administration. He said, “It’s like when departing armies leave scattered mines in a field. They are planting these political mines for the Biden administration that will be very difficult to be rolled back and to lock in, at least temporarily, their policy preferences.” 

Havana is furious with the decision. Its foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez tweeted, “The US political opportunism is recognized by those who are honestly concerned about the scourge of terrorism and its victims.” He called the move ‘hypocritical and cynical’. 

Pence rejects invoking of 25th Amendment few hours before House vote
Americas

Pence rejects invoking of 25th Amendment few hours before House vote

Pence rejects: Tuesday night Vice President Mike Pence made it crystal clear that he has no plans and won’t be invoking 25th Amendment that would potentially remove President Donald Trump from Oval Office. Pence forwarded his stand in a letter released few hours before ahead of House vote on resolution that urged him to take the said stand to protect democracy and office. 

The said resolution that calls on VP Pence to invoke 25th Amendment was brought in front by Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland. The resolution calls on Pence “to immediately use his powers under Section 4 of the 25th Amendment to convene and mobilize the principal officers of the executive departments in the Cabinet to declare what is obvious to a horrified nation: That the President is unable to successfully discharge the duties of his office.”

For the 25th Amendment to be passed, Vice President Pence has to invoke it, and with support of majority of Cabinet the President would be removed from office. This would be followed by the Vice President assuming the powers and responsibilities of the office as Acting President. 

However, VP Pence’s office released letter shutting down the plan to Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker. 

Letter by Pence read, “With just eight days left in the President’s term, you and the Democratic caucus are demanding that the Cabinet and I invoke the 25th Amendment. I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our nation or consistent with our Constitution.” 

Nevertheless, the passed resolution in the House, led by Democrats, is a symbol of rebuke of President’s consistent actions that led to horrifying Capitol Hill breach and riots on Wednesday. 

As Pence rejected idea of invoking the 25th Amendment, the House Democrats will continue moving forward for impeaching the President, a second time, on charges of “incitement of insurrection” – his repeated baseless claims of rigged elections calling on his supporters to fight back and reverse the results of November Presidential election. House Democrats will vote to impeach Trump on Wednesday. 

Multiple Republicans are also coming out in support of impeaching Trump. Republican Liz Cheney, the third number House Republican, urged GOP members during a Monday conference call that impeachment vote is a “vote of conscience”. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pointed that he believes impeaching Trump will enable getting rid of him from the Republican Party. However, he hasn’t made it clear of his vote on Wednesday. McConnell has been furious over last week’s Capitol Hill riots that were incited by President Trump but has deliberately maintained silence on his stand on impeachment, keeping his option of supporting the impeachment process open. 

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