Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Egypt's Sisi Arrives in Jordan for Arab League Summit 
Ahram Online
Tuesday 28 Mar 2017

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi arrived in Jordan Tuesday afternoon to attend this year's Arab League summit, which will see the attendance of a much larger number of Arab leaders than last year's gathering.

Taking part in the Arab League's 28th session, scheduled to take place on Wednesday, is part of Egypt's "continued efforts to boost mutual Arab cooperation in a way that protects Arab national security in the face of the current troubles in the region," a statement by El-Sisi's office said on Tuesday.

Arab leaders are set to discuss counter-terrorism cooperation as well as economic and social collaboration, the statement by presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef added.

The spokesman added that the summit will see the announcement of the 'Declaration of Amman,' which will outline joint Arab cooperation in the near future.

El-Sisi will hold bilateral talks with a number of Arab leaders on the sidelines of the gathering.

Some 16 presidents, kings and princes from the Arab world are expected to attend Wednesday's summit.

Last year's summit, which was held in Mauritania, saw the attendance of only seven leaders from the 22 member countries.

The 2016 summit saw the absence of El-Sisi, Saudi King Salman and his son Deputy Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, Jordan's King Abdullah II, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, all of whom will be present at this year's summit.

El-Sisi was represented at last year's summit by Prime Minister Sherif Ismail.

The Arab leaders will look at developments in a number of regional issues, including the Palestinian issue, the crises in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Somalia, as well as the peace process in Sudan's Darfur.

Egypt hosted the Arab League's 2015 summit in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh, where El-Sisi proposed the creation of a joint Arab military force.

Jordan was designated as host of the Arab League’s 28th session after Yemen declined to serve as host.

Russian General Criticizes US-led Coalition's Bombing of Syria Dam
Tue Mar 28, 2017 12:22PM

This file photo shows General Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military's General Staff speaking during a briefing at the Russian Defense Ministry's headquarters in Moscow, Russia. (Via AP)

A high-ranking Russian military figure has leveled strident criticism against the US-led coalition purportedly fighting the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group over pounding a major dam held by the extremists in Syria’s embattled northern province of Raqqah.

Lieutenant General Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military's General Staff argued on Tuesday that the military contingent was trying to “completely destroy critical infrastructure in Syria and complicate post-war reconstruction as much as possible.”

He added that US-led military aircraft had destroyed four bridges over the Euphrates River in Syria and hit the Tabqa Dam that lies 40 kilometers west of Daesh’s main stronghold of Raqqah.

Rudskoi further warned that the collapse of the dam, most commonly known as the Euphrates Dam, would create an “ecological catastrophe” and lead to “numerous” civilian deaths.

The remakes came as a spokeswoman for the US-backed fighters from Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – a Kurdish-dominated and anti-Damascus alliance – said on Monday that the Tabqa Dam is not damaged or malfunctioning and engineers fully inspected its operations.

“We permitted a team of engineers to enter the dam to verify the process of its operations. They checked it fully. And there is no malfunction or damage to the dam or its operations as was rumored,” Jihan Sheikh Ahmed, the SPF's spokeswoman, said in a statement.

She accused Daesh terror group of spreading rumors aimed at causing panic among civilians.

Daesh, in a statement released on Sunday, announced that Tabqa Dam was out of service due to airstrikes being carried out by the US-led coalition, and could collapse.

The statement said pressure on the dam’s compromised structure was building up rapidly as more water flows into the reservoir, bringing it up to its maximum capacity, while the sluice gates normally used to relieve that pressure are jammed shut.
US General Admits US Airstrike Killed Hundreds of Civilians in Mosul
Tue Mar 28, 2017 8:45PM

Relatives react near the bodies of civilians killed in an airstrike, during a battle against Daesh terrorists, in Mosul, Iraq March 17, 2017. (Photos by Reuters)

A high-ranking US commander has admitted that there was a “fair chance” that a coalition airstrike in western Mosul killed a large number of Iraqi civilians.

“We probably had a role in those casualties,” said Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend while talking to reporters on Tuesday.

He noted that the reason for the high number of casualties was Daesh’s repulsive practice of using civilians as human shields.

On March 17, Iraq's Kurdish-language Rudaw television network reported that 237 people had been killed in US-led coalition airstrikes on a Daesh-held neighborhood in western Mosul.

“The enemy had a hand in this,” he added, stressing that “It sure looks like” the civilians has been forced to gather in the building by the terrorists. “What I don’t know is why they [the civilians] gathered there by the enemy?"

Despite admitting to the US’s involvement in the incident, Townsend noted that the munitions used by US-led coalition forces in densely-populated urban areas were not designed to cause such a level of destruction.

Last week, a senior Iraqi military official announced that a US-led coalition airstrike on a Daesh truck carrying explosives resulted in the civilian deaths in Mosul incident.

On Monday, the Pentagon announced that it was analyzing over 700 video feeds from airstrikes on west Mosul following the increasing number of reports of civilian causalities.

A spokesman for the US Central Command, Colonel J.T. Thomas, stressed that high priority was being given to the reports. He added that the US was aware they were dropping bombs in the “immediate vicinity" of areas with a high civilian population but their bombs were "quite precise."

The US had previously admitted to having launched airstrikes in Mosul on the day of the deadly tragedy.  

UN cautions US-led cotillion to avoid civilian casualties

Meanwhile, the UN has called on the US-led coalition in Iraq to take further measures towards protecting civilians while noting that Daesh was sending residents into buildings and areas which were the targets of airstrikes.  

In a report, the UN’s high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, also called on all forces engaged in anti-terror operations in Iraq to “avoid the trap” of hitting buildings in which Daesh had placed explosives and sent locals to take shelter in.

He added that the terrorists "strategy of using children, men and women to shield themselves from attack is cowardly and disgraceful. It breaches the most basic standards of human dignity and morality."

On Monday, Amnesty International also voiced its concerns over the number of civilian casualties in Mosul, suggesting the US-led coalition may not be doing enough to avoid such casualties.

Iraqi army soldiers and allied fighters launched an offensive to retake Mosul in October 2016. The forces took control of eastern Mosul in January and launched the battle in the west on February 19.
Russia Can Use Iran Bases for Anti-terror Battle in Syria: Zarif
Tue Mar 28, 2017 9:24AM

In this August 16, 2016 frame grab provided by Russian Defense Ministry press service, a Tu-22M3 jet flies over Syria’s Aleppo during an airstrike against terrorists. (Via AP)

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Iran could, if necessary, allow Russia to use its military bases on “a case by case basis” for missions against terrorists in Syria.

“Russia doesn’t have a military base (in Iran), we have good cooperation, and on a case by case basis, when it is necessary for Russians fighting terrorism to use Iranian facilities, we will make a decision,” Reuters quoted Zarif as saying in Moscow on Tuesday.

The top Iranian diplomat, who is accompanying President Hassan Rouhani on his two-day visit to Moscow, further said that regional issues, including the crisis in Syria, would be discussed at the upcoming meeting in the Kremlin with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Last August, Russia announced that its planes had used a base in western Iran to carry out counter-terrorism air raids in Syria.

“On 16 August [2016], Tu-22M3 long-range bombers and Su-34 frontline bombers, flying with a full bomb load from the Hamedan air base, conducted a group airstrike against targets of” Daesh and Jabhat Fath al-Sham terrorist groups in the Syrian provinces of Aleppo, Dayr al-Zawr and Idlib, a Russian Defense Ministry statement said back then.

Just days later, Moscow confirmed that all warplanes based in Iran had returned to Russia.

At that time, Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan said that as long as Iran agreed, Russia could use the air base again “depending on the situation” in Syria.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said at the time that Russian airstrikes on militants in Syria were “temporary, based on a Russian request.”

Last month, Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani stressed that Russia continues to use Iran’s airspace as part of a strategic cooperation between the two countries.

Iran and Russia have been assisting the Syrian government in its fight against foreign-backed terrorist groups wreaking havoc in the Arab country since 2011.

Moscow launched its campaign against Daesh and other terror outfits in Syria at the Damascus government’s request in September 2015. Its airstrikes have helped Syrian forces advance against militant groups fighting to overthrow President Bashar Assad's government.
Putin and Rouhani: Russia and Iran Are Cooperating in Combating Terrorism and Resolving the Crisis in Syria
28 March، 2017

Moscow, SANA – Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stressed the necessity of pooling efforts to counter terrorism and resolving the crisis in Syria.

During a joint press conference Moscow on Tuesday, the Russian president said “we believe it is important to further expand cooperation in combating international terrorism,” affirming that Russia and Iran are coordinating their steps to exterminate ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra and to promote Syrian settlement, adding that the ceasefire has been established in most of Syria thanks to joint efforts.

He noted that the participation of Russia and Iran, along with Turkey, as guarantor countries in the Astana talks is a major contribution to the progress of peaceful political settlement in Syria and in promoting intra-Syrian talks and the corresponding United Nations-mediated process in Geneva.

For his part, Rouhani said that the two sides discussed the political process in Syria and the cooperation of counter terrorism, affirming that Iran will continue cooperation with the other guarantor countries to resume the Astana process.

Presidents Putin and Rouhani also issued a joint statement after their talks in Moscow in which they exerted their strong support for the efforts exerted by the Syrian government in fighting terrorism represented by ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other terror groups affiliated to them.

The statement underlined the efforts exerted by Russia, Iran, and Turkey to create suitable conditions for intra-Syrian dialogue in Astana and to allow for establishing an effective and sustainable cessation of combat activities in Syria, adding that the two sides view this cooperation as an important step towards the success of the Geneva talks.

Shaza / Hazem Sabbagh
The Syrian Arab Republic Delegation Meets Gatilov and Iran’s UN Representative
28 March، 2017

Geneva , SANA_ The Syrian Arab Republic delegation headed by Dr. Bashar al-Jaafari met Tuesday with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov and Director of the Middle East and North Africa Department at the Russian Foreign Ministry Sergey Vershinin and the accompanying delegation.

Both sides exchanged viewpoints on the process of the intra-Syrian dialogue during Geneva 5 meetings.

The two sides agreed on continuing consultations in a way that helps achieving advance in the talks.

” We presented a number of papers and waiting for the seriousness of the other parties in interacting with those papers,” the Syria delegation said.

Syrian Arab Republic delegation meets Iran’s Permanent Representative to UN in Geneva

The Syrian Arab Republic delegation also the Permanent Representative of Iran to the United Nations Office in Geneva Mohsen Naziri Asl.

The meeting was held at the headquarters of the Permanent Syrian Mission to the United Nations in the Swiss city.

During the meeting, the two sides discussed the fifth round of the Syrian-Syrian dialogue, which is currently being held, stressing the continuation of consultation and coordination between the two sides.

M. al-Frieh/H. Said
Syrian Arab Republic Delegation to Geneva Talks Presents to Ramzy Paper on How to Discuss Constitutional Process
27 March، 2017

Geneva, SANA- The Syrian Arab Republic delegation headed by Dr. Bashar al-Jaafari arrived at the UN HQ in Geneva on Monday to hold talks with UN Deputy Special Envoy for Syria Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy in the framework of the fifth round of the intra-Syrian dialogue.

According to SANA’s representative in Geneva, the session discussed the constitution basket, and during it the Syrian Arab Republic delegation presented a paper of basic principles for properly beginning any debate regarding the constitutional process to Ramzy for him to pass to the other sides.

On Saturday, The Syrian delegation held the second session of talks with UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura at the UN headquarters.

A source close to the UN said that the delegation presented a paper on combating terrorism during the talks.

In a press conference on Friday, al-Jaafari asserted that there’s no division of the four baskets of the Geneva talks, but there are necessities that will be resorted to such as starting discussing the counter-terrorism basket because the main and prevailing issue on the Syrian scene now is terrorism.

H. Zain/ Ghossoun
Syrian Army Destroys a Tunnel for Jabhat al-Nusra in Damascus Countryside
28 March، 2017

Provinces, SANA-An army unit destroyed a tunnel for Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists in Harasta area in Damascus Countryside.

A military source said an army unit seized during its operations on fortifications and infiltration points of Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist groups in Harasta area a tunnel extending from Chery Car Company towards Harasta highway that was used by terrorists to transport ammunition and terrorists to attack military points and target nearby residential areas with rockets and various weapons.

The source added that engineering units worked on “destroying the tunnel and its branches”.


An army unit operating in Daraa carried out a military operation targeting a hideout for Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists in Daraa al-Balad area.

A military source said that an army unit destroyed a position of Jabhat al-Nusra in Tarik al-Sad ( the Dam road) neighborhood in Daraa al-Balad area, killing and injuring all terrorists in it.
Syrian Army Establishes Control Over Mountains in Palmyra, Kills Scores of Terrorists in Deir Ezzor and Hama
27 March، 2017

Provinces, SANA – Army and Armed Forces units established control over a number of mountains in Palmyra area in the eastern countryside of Homs province after eliminating the last ISIS gatherings in the area, according to a military source.

The source said that army units carried out intensive operations targeting gatherings and fortifications for ISIS, establishing control over the mountains of al-Heed and al-Dhalil to the north of Hayyan gas field and Marbat Antar Mountain and a number of points surrounding it to the northeast of Palmyra.

The source said that the operations resulted in eliminating dozens of ISIS terrorists and destroying their weapons and ammunitions, adding that the army’s engineering units are dismantling the mines and IEDs which were planted earlier by ISIS terrorists in the area.

The source said that army units clashed with terrorist groups that attacked one of the military points in Malouk area in the direction of Talbeisa to the north of Homs city, with the army units thwarting the attack, killing a number of terrorists, and destroying two vehicles equipped with heavy machineguns.

The source pointed out that another army unit directed precision strikes on the sites of Jabhat al-Nusra in al-Rastan to the north of Homs city, destroying a site for terrorists’ leaders, killing many terrorists and injuring many others.

Deir Ezzor

More than 9 ISIS terrorists were killed in new operations carried out by the army units against their gatherings in Deir Ezzor and the surrounding areas.

A military source told SANA that an army unit carried out intensive operations against gatherings and fortifications of ISIS terrorists, killing 9 terrorists in the surrounding of al-Maqaber “cemeteries” area in Deir Ezzor and eliminating a terrorist group which tried to infiltrate into Qita’a al-Tanmia in the western part of the city.

The source added that a bulldozer belonging to the terrorists was destroyed in the operations, and all members of a terrorist group were killed in Talet al-Snouf in the surrounding of the Regiment 137 on the southwestern outskirts of the city


Army units eliminated two terrorist groups affiliated to Jabhat al-Nusra after
targeting their gatherings and hotbeds in some villages and towns in the northern countryside of Hama province.

The army units carried out military operations targeting Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists’ gatherings and movement axes in the northern countryside of the province, leaving all members of an armed terrorist group dead northeast of Khirbet al-Hajameh village, among them 6 terrorists of the so-called the Turkistani Party.

The source added that all members of another terrorist group were eliminated west of Kawkab village and a tank was destroyed in Tal al-Sakher. A heavy machinegun-equipped vehicle was also destroyed in al-Zara village during the army operations.

Later, a military source said that army units, in cooperation with supporting forces, established control over Ma’arzaf town in the northwest of Hama, killing tens of terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra and groups affiliated to it.


An army unit thwarted an attack by Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists on military points in al-Manshia neighborhood in Daraa al-Balad area.

A military source told SANA that the army unit carried on fierce clashes with Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists in the surroundings of a number of military points in al-Manshia neighborhood in Daraa al-Balad area.

The source added that the attack was foiled and scores of the terrorists were killed, in addition to destroying a number of their vehicles, some equipped with canons and machineguns.
Chief of General Staff Inspects Army Positions in Hama’s Northern Countryside
26 March، 2017

Hama, SANA – Upon the directives of President Bashar al-Assad, Chief of the General Staff of the Army and Armed Forces Gen. Ali Abdullah Ayoub, accompanied by a number of General Command officers, conducted a tour on Saturday during which he inspected a number of army sites and positions in Hama province’s northern countryside.

Ayoub was briefed in detail by field commanders on the nature of the operations carried out by the Army and Armed Forces units in terms of repelling the attacks carried out Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist organizations affiliated to it, and he reviewed the plans for operations and the measures taken by army units to defend civilian areas.

The Chief of General Staff also met field commanders and soldiers at their posts and observed part of the combat operations being carried out.

Ayoub provided the soldiers with instructions, stressing the need for them to maintain the highest degree of readiness, lauding the efforts of the commanders and the soldiers in repelling terrorists.

“The battle against terrorism is continuing relentlessly. Today we are more determined and resolved to crush the terrorist organizations that commit massacres against innocent civilians to serve their agendas of their sponsors and operators,” he said.
Strike in Syria Hit Militants, Not Civilians: U.S. General
The top U.S. general in Iraq told reporters on Tuesday that a strike near the Islamic-State-held Syrian city of Raqqa last week appears to have killed dozens of militants and not civilians.

Last week the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said an air strike that hit a school sheltering displaced people killed at least 33 people, adding it believed the strike was carried out by the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State in the area.

"I would tell you that we haven't completed our assessment of that event yet, but my initial read is (it is) not credible," Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend told reporters at a Pentagon via teleconference.

"I think that was a clean strike," Townsend said.

"We had multiple corroborating intelligence sources from various types of intelligence that told us the enemy was using that school and we observed it and we saw what we expected to see," Townsend said, adding that it appeared to have hit about 30 Islamic State militants.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Editing by James Dalgleish)
Brexit: Theresa May Eyes 'Special Partnership' With EU
BBC World Service

Theresa May at a business event in Birmingham

The prime minister says the UK wants to remain friends and partners with the EU

Theresa May has said the UK is facing "one of the most significant moments" in its recent history as she prepares to begin the process of leaving the EU.

The prime minister, who will officially tell the EU of the UK's desire to leave on Wednesday, said her goal was a "deep and special partnership" after Brexit.

A "global Britain" could build new alliances outside the EU, she added.

But a group of pro-Remain MPs said she would struggle to meet her goals and must be held accountable if she fails.

On Wednesday, the prime minister will officially tell the EU's other 27 members that the UK wants to pull out, just over nine months after the British public backed withdrawal by a margin of 51.9% to 48.1% in a referendum.

By triggering Article 50 of the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, Mrs May will set in motion a two-year process in which the terms of exit will be negotiated. Unless both sides agree to extend the deadline for talks, the UK will leave on 29 March 2019.

The two sides will also try to agree the basis of the UK's future relationship with the EU although some experts, including the former top civil servant at the Foreign Office, have said this could take many more years.

Speaking at a Qatari investment forum in Birmingham - where the Gulf State announced £5bn of further investment in the UK - Mrs May said this was "one of the most significant moments the UK has faced for many years".

"Tomorrow we begin the negotiations to secure a new deep and special partnership with the European Union. As we do so I am determined we should also seize this historic opportunity to get out in to the world and to shape an even bigger role for a global Britain.

"This means not just building new alliances but going even further in working with old friends who have stood alongside us for centuries."

A group of MPs who all backed the Remain campaign in last year's poll said the "phoney war" was coming to an end and voters must be able to hold Mrs May to account over whether the UK emerged stronger and more prosperous outside the EU.

Although the group, including former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, ex Conservative education secretary Nicky Morgan and Labour's ex-shadow chancellor Chris Leslie, said they wanted the best outcome for the country, they feared this was unlikely as the PM's approach was fraught with contradictions.

The PM has said the UK will leave the single market but wants the greatest possible access to it and while leaving the customs union as it stands, she wants a similar arrangement that provides "frictionless" trade across borders.

Mrs May, they said, should be judged not only on the promises her government had made in recent months but on the "expectations" they said people had when they voted Leave last year, including that Brexit would lead to a fall in migration and free up extra funding for the NHS and other domestic services.

"A clear direction of travel has been set by the government and it is largely based on that set by the Vote Leave campaign," they said.

"Vote Leave and the government have made specific promises: leaving is a cost-free option, trade will be enhanced not hampered, there will be major savings from the EU budget, core arrangements with the EU, for example over national security, will remain unchanged and the integrity of the UK will be protected".

They added: "There is no mandate for the form Brexit takes. Responsibility for the outcome now rests with those conducting negotiations and those advocating a hard Brexit."

But Mr Duncan Smith, the former work and pensions secretary and leading Brexit supporter, said that the EU had "decided to leave the UK" in the late 1980s when it embarked on what he said was a one-way process of economic and political union.

Writing for the ConservativeHome website, Mr Duncan Smith suggested that, from that moment on, the UK's exit had been largely inevitable and he was confident about what lay ahead.

"We do so with political leaders in the EU beginning to use common sense terms as they now speak of needing good arrangements with the UK to protect their markets and their access to financial services.

"After all, it must be in everyone's interest, as European Commission President Juncker said the other day, for the UK and EU to part as friends, co-operating and trading."

On a visit to Brussels, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the EU should enter the talks with confidence and would be making a mistake if it sought to punish the UK for deciding to leave.

"I say this with friendship and all due respect," the Labour politician said. "But a bad Brexit deal that hurts London would hurt the EU too...There is no need - as some have suggested - for the EU to send a message or to instil fear by punishing the UK.

"Because a proud, optimistic and confident institution does not secure its future by fear."
Turkey 'Spied' on Pro-Gulen Opponents in Germany
BBC World Service

A woman casts her vote for the Turkish constitution referendum, in the Turkish consulate general in Cologne, Germany, 27 March 2017 EPA

German Interior Minister Thomas De Maiziere has said Turkey will not be allowed to spy on Turks living in Germany.

Reports say the head of Turkey's intelligence service handed a list of people suspected of opposition sympathies to his German counterpart.

The list is said to include surveillance photos and personal data.

Germany and other EU states have banned local rallies in support of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkish ministers have been seeking to campaign among ethnic Turks in a referendum on 16 April on increasing his powers.

Some 41,000 people have been arrested in Turkey since a coup was defeated in July of last year.

Many are suspected of following a movement loyal US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. Turkey has accused him of organising the coup.

According to Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and several public broadcasters, the head of Turkey's intelligence service MIT, Hakan Fidan, handed Bruno Kahl a list of 300 individuals and 200 organisations thought to be linked to the Gulen movement at a security conference in Munich in February.

The apparent aim was to persuade Germany's authorities to help their Turkish counterparts but the result was that the individuals were warned not to travel to Turkey or visit Turkish diplomatic addresses within Germany, home to 1.4 million voters eligible to vote in the referendum.

Mr De Maiziere said the reports were unsurprising.

"We have repeatedly told Turkey that something like this is unacceptable," he said. "No matter what position someone may have on the Gulen movement, here German jurisdiction applies and citizens will not be spied on by foreign countries."

Police in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia told German TV that the lists had to be taken seriously, and there was an angry response from senior German figures.

"Outside Turkey I don't think anyone believes that the Gulen movement was behind the attempted putsch," said German spy chief Hans-Georg Maassen.

"At any rate I don't know anyone outside Turkey who has been convinced by the Turkish government."

And Lower Saxony Interior Minister Boris Pistorius went further, saying, "We have to say very clearly that it involves a fear of conspiracy you can class as paranoid."

Germany's foreign secret service have said they will not be commenting but the country's internal security agency is looking into the allegations.

Last week, Swiss prosecutors said they were investigating allegations that Turks critical of the Erdogan government were spied on at a lecture in Zurich.
Kenyans Protest Magufuli Order to Deport Foreigners, Block Namanga Border
By KURGAT MARINDANY, @kmarindany
Kenya Star

Kenyans during a demonstration at the Namanga border against the deportation of their counterparts from Tanzania, March 27, 2017. /KURGAT MARINDANY

Kenyans in Namanga demonstrated against Tanzanian leader John Magufuli on Monday saying he had deported their counterparts.

They paralysed transport by blocking the Kenya-Tanzania border road at Namanga and stormed businesses owned by Tanzanians.

They rounded the foreigners up and frog-marched them across the border to their country. Many from Magufuli's country claimed they lost their stock and money.

Tanzanian barmaids working in Kenyan clubs were roughed up and their mobile phones taken away.

Businesses on the Kenyan side remained closed until after midday.

The Star reported in January that Tanzanian authorities were targeting Kenyans living in their country illegally.

Several Kenyans, including those who were born in Tanzania before independence, have been told to leave if they cannot provide documents validating their stay.

Others were born by Kenyan parents living in Tanzania in the early 1960s and have no other links.

Samuel Ngeselai was forced to flee Longido district in Tanzania and move to Kenya, leaving his children and wife of 30 years across the border. He is now stateless.

Ngeselai said his grandfather, a Mau Mau activist who escaped to Tanzania early in the 1950, died there.

His mother is bedridden and still living in Tanzania.

Kajiado county commissioner Harsama Kello said the demonstrations began at the border after Tanzanian authorities arrested three Kenyans last Friday and arraigned for being in the country illegally.

“Countries carry out routine checks. Our people should respect the law and ensure they have valid immigration documents while in foreign countries,” Kello said.

The commissioner said a contingent of security personnel was sent to the border to end the protests. He said two weeks ago that the situation was under control.

As Kello addressed journalists, a group of Kenyans was seen destroying Kenya Power transformers to cut off the link with Tanzania. Police watched as they vandalised the transformers.

He added that top officials from the immigration department and local police officers were in a closed-door meeting in Namanga on restoring normalcy.

The Tanzanian High Commission in Nairobi denied that Operation Timua Wageni is a move to free up jobs for locals.

The High Commission told the Star that the exercise that began in January is routine enforcement of the Tanzanian Immigration Act of 1995 and does not target any nationality.

“What I can tell you is that this is not something new. It has always been there,” said an official who did not want to be identified because of lacking authority to speak to the press.

The Tanzanian government launched a crackdown on foreign nationals who do not have both work and residence permits.

Only 680 foreigners have work permits, according to the country's immigration department, while only 66 have applied for residence permits.
Tanzania Rapper Nay wa Mitego Freed After Magufuli Criticism
27 March 2017
BBC World Service

Tanzanian rapper Emmanuel Elibariki, known as Nay wa Mitego, has been released just a day after he was arrested for releasing a song deemed insulting to the government.

The song emerged last week and has been widely shared on social media.

One line in it asks: "Is there still freedom of expression in the country?" and refers to a "doctor" who can't tolerate criticism.

The information minister said President John Magufuli "loves" the song.

He also suggested that it be "improved" to take on other issues, such as tax evaders, corrupt businesspeople and drug traffickers, said Information Minister Harrison Mwakyembe.

Nay wa Mitego's arrest came days after President Magufuli warned media to be careful about exercising freedom.

"Media owners, let me tell you: 'Be careful. Watch it. If you think you have that kind of freedom - not to that extent,'" Mr Magufuli said.

What has Magufuli done in office?

Police earlier said the rapper would be questioned "for releasing a song with words that malign the government".

He was reportedly held at a hotel in Morogoro, before being transferred the 190km (120 miles) to the commercial capital Dar es Salaam.

Other lines in the song said: "Who are you now? Don't you want to listen to advice? Don't you want criticism?"

The lyric is addressed to someone he calls "a doctor specialising in lancing boils".

The phrase "lancing boils" has been used repeatedly by Mr Magufuli to refer to people he deems obstructive.


Mr Magufuli, who came to power in 2015, presents himself as a no-nonsense man of the people, unafraid of sacking corrupt or incompetent officials.

Recent opinion polls have suggested he is popular, but critics accuse him of an impulsive style of governing and being intolerant of dissent.

Another line in Nay wa Mitego's song goes: "I see you handed a club to a madman," which has been interpreted as referring to an official appointed by the president who has been accused of heavy-handed behaviour.

The BBC's Sammy Awami in Dar es Salaam says the rapper is popular for his scathing lyrics, attacking not only the government but even his fellow artists.

On his social media accounts he uses the name "NayTrueboy", saying he always speaks his mind and tells the truth.

Monday, March 27, 2017

23 People Ask the Justice Department to Launch a Criminal Inquiry Into Its Chief, Jeff Sessions
By Kristine Phillips
March 27 at 5:45 PM

Nearly two dozen people from five states are accusing Attorney General Jeff Sessions of lying to the Senate Judiciary Committee about his communications with the Russian government and subsequently trying to cover up that lie, according to a complaint sent to the Department of Justice.

The complaint, which names 23 residents, states that Sessions gave false and misleading testimony during his confirmation hearing in January when he told the Senate committee that he “did not have communications with the Russians.” It further accuses the attorney general of covering up the alleged perjury by directing a spokeswoman to make a public statement saying he did not mislead the committee.

“We feel there is probable cause to charge him with a crime,” J. Whitfield Larrabee, a Massachusetts lawyer who represents the 23 residents, told The Washington Post. “We want indictments in the case. We want Attorney General Sessions to be treated just the same as anyone else. We don’t think that just because he’s the attorney general, that there should be a higher standard to bring charges against him.”

Larrabee said the complaint was sent Monday to three Justice Department divisions that investigate alleged crimes and misconduct by agency employees and public officials.

How the agency will handle a complaint against its leader is unclear. Larrabee said the department should appoint a special prosecutor to handle the investigation and prosecution.

A spokesman for one of the divisions, the Office of Inspector General, declined to comment on the allegations. Other Justice Department spokespeople haven’t responded to a request for comment.

The group of complainants, which includes three doctors and a pastor, are from California, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon and Vermont.

Earlier this month, The Post revealed that Sessions met with Russia’s ambassador to the United States twice last year and did not disclose those communications when asked during his confirmation hearing. The report intensified calls for a congressional investigation into Russia’s involvement in the presidential election and also prompted ethics complaints calling for disciplinary actions against Sessions, who has been an attorney for more than four decades.

After The Post’s March 1 story, Sessions acknowledged that he briefly spoke with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July and again at his Senate office in September, but denied discussing President Trump’s campaign. The former Republican senator from Alabama, who became Trump’s nominee for attorney general in November, has also recused himself from Justice Department investigations related to the election, saying he was following the advice of the agency’s ethics officials.

The allegations in the complaint were partially over Sessions’s answer to a question by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) during his Jan. 10 confirmation hearing. Franken asked Sessions what he will do if “anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign” had communications with the Russian government.

“I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians,” Sessions responded.

Sessions submitted written statements a week later in response to questions by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.). Leahy asked: “Several of the president-elect’s nominees or senior advisers have Russian ties. Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after Election Day?”

His response: “No.”

The complaint further accuses Sessions of making additional false statements to cover up the “perjurious testimony.” It cited a March 6 letter he wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee in which he defended his earlier testimony, as well as a statement posted on social media saying Sessions never discussed the presidential campaign with any Russian officials.

In the March 6 letter, Sessions said he “correctly” and “honestly” answered questions about a “continuing exchange of information” between Trump surrogates and intermediaries of the Russian government.

“I did not mention communications I had had with the Russian ambassador over the years because the question did not ask about them,” he wrote.

Earlier this month, the American Civil Liberties Union filed an ethics complaint against the attorney general with the Alabama State Bar’s disciplinary commission. Sessions, whom the Senate confirmed last month following an acrimonious partisan debate, has been a member of the bar since 1973.

Chris Anders, deputy director of the ACLU’s legislative office in Washington, claims that Sessions had violated Alabama’s rules of professional conduct preventing lawyers from engaging in “conduct involving dishonest, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation,” according to the complaint, which also cites The Post’s story.

Larrabee, the Massachusetts attorney, also filed a complaint with the Alabama bar around the same time the ACLU did.

“It seems to me that this is part of a pervasive culture of dishonesty in the White House,” Larrabee said, citing Michael Flynn, Kellyanne Conway and the president as examples.

Flynn resigned from his post as Trump’s national security adviser last month over revelations about his potentially illegal contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States, and his misleading statements about the matter to senior Trump administration officials, including Vice President Pence, The Post’s Greg Miller and Philip Rucker reported.

Conway, counselor to the president, attracted criticism when she said during a television interview in January that White House press secretary Sean Spicer “gave alternative facts” about the size of Trump’s inauguration crowd.

President Trump himself has been a purveyor of false claims, many of which have been repeatedly debunked.
Stocks, Dollar Recover As Markets Try to Move Past Trump's Policy Stumble
People walk past an electronic board showing stock prices outside a brokerage at a business district in Tokyo, Japan, January 23, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

By Nichola Saminather | SINGAPORE
Asian stocks pulled ahead on Tuesday after Wall Street steadied and the dollar bounced from a four-month-low, as concern over Donald Trump's setback on his healthcare reform bill gave away to tentative hopes for the U.S. President's planned stimulus policies.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS added 0.3 percent in early trade.

Japan's Nikkei .N225 jumped 1.1 percent, its biggest one-day gain in more than two weeks, while Australian stocks advanced 0.9 percent.

South Korean stocks .KS11 climbed 0.4 percent after data showed the domestic economy grew at a slightly faster pace than initially thought in the fourth quarter of 2016, supported by strong construction activity.

Overnight, the S&P 500 .SPX and the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJIA closed lower but had narrowed their losses from earlier in the session, when both hit near-six-week lows. The Nasdaq .IXIC ended higher.

Risk appetite had evaporated after Trump's failure to garner enough support last week to pass a bill repealing the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama's signature health care bill, even with a Republican-controlled Congress.

That blow for Trump spooked global risk assets on concerns about the president's ability to enact stimulus policies. The MSCI World index .MIWD00000PUS, which had stumbled last week, managed to recover, as confidence returned that the Trump administration will corral Congressional support for other pro-growth policies.

"Markets appear reluctant to take the Trump disappointment too much further at this stage," Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney, wrote in a note.

"With U.S. economic growth showing signs of improvement and the (Federal Reserve) clearly embarked on a monetary tightening cycle, the significant correction that has already occurred in bonds and the U.S. dollar may already reflect an adequate wind-back of the market’s Trump exuberance."

The U.S. 10-year bond yield US10YT=RR, which hit a one-month low on Monday, recovered to trade higher at 2.3782 on Tuesday.

The dollar added 0.1 percent to 110.75 yen JPY=D4 after touching its lowest level since November on Monday.

The dollar index .DXY inched up to 99.233 after slumping to a 4-1/2-month low on Monday.

The euro EUR=EBS was steady at $1.08655 on Tuesday, after touching its highest level since November on Monday.

In commodities, the return of risk appetite helped lift oil from a level close to the 3-1/2-month low seen last week, despite lingering concerns about whether producers will extend an OPEC-led output cut beyond the end of June to ease a global glut.

U.S. crude CLc1 gained 0.5 percent to $47.96 a barrel, after dropping as much as 1.9 percent on Monday.

Gold XAU= was little changed at 1,253.06 early on Tuesday, after pulling back from the one-month-high hit earlier on Monday.

(Reporting by Nichola Saminather; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
Black Lives Matter Demands Philadelphia District Attorney Resign Over Bribe Scandal
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams speaks during a news conference at the district attorney's office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. | Photo: Reuters

27 March 2017

Unlikely groups have teamed up with BLM to call for the attorney’s resignation, including the Fraternal Order of Police.

The Philadelphia chapter of Black Lives Matter demonstrated outside of Democratic District Attorney Seth Williams’ office Monday, demanding that he resign.

Williams faces charges for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes over the course of his term.

“We’re beyond the stage of asking Seth Williams to resign,” Asa Khalif, from Black Lives Matter told NBC. “We are demanding for him to leave. We plan to block the doors of the office and we plan on blocking the streets. We want to send a clear message not only to Seth Williams but all politicians that you work for us.”

Unlikely groups have teamed up with BLM to call for the attorney’s resignation, including the Fraternal Order of Police. Mayor Jim Kenney is also calling for Williams to step down after he was indicted on federal corruption charges.

"At a time when our citizens' trust in government is at an all-time low, it is disheartening to see yet another elected official give the public a reason not to trust us," said Kenney, as reported by NBC.

"That this comes at the head of our justice system is even more troubling."

While Williams pleaded not guilty to federal bribery and extortion charges Wednesday, he did admit that he took more than US$100,000 in luxury trips, gifts and cash while in office. He is accused, however, of accepting more than US$160,000 for a number of things, as well as a new home and five-star Caribbean trips.

Williams announced last month that he is not running for a third term, and said he regretted "mistakes in my personal life and in my personal financial life.”

For BLM, the resignation is of utmost importance, with Khalif explaining that"This office affects Black lives, number one. This office has done nothing but put their foot on Black and brown people and poor people.”
Children’s Hospital Fails Federal Surgical Inspection
Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News
3:44 p.m. ET March 27, 2017

Children’s Hospital of Michigan failed to pass a Jan. 31 inspection conducted by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as part of a broad investigation into dirty surgical instruments at Detroit Medical Center hospitals.
(Photo: Detroit News file photo)

Children’s Hospital of Michigan failed to pass a Jan. 31 inspection conducted by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services as part of a broad investigation into dirty surgical instruments at Detroit Medical Center hospitals.

An inspections sweep of Detroit hospitals on Jan. 30 and 31 also found Karmanos Cancer Center not in compliance with federal certification requirements. Karmanos is not part of the DMC, but many of its patients are hospitalized at Harper University Hospital, which is part of the DMC system.

Children’s and Karmanos have been given until May 23 to show they are in compliance with federal standards.

Two other DMC hospitals, Harper University Hospital and Detroit Receiving Hospital, also were cited with violation during Jan. 31 inspections and were found to be “in substantial compliance” with federal certification requirements.

CMS, the federal regulatory agency for hospitals, has accepted plans of correction submitted by all four Detroit hospitals. Both hospitals have to pass unannounced inspections by May 23 or they could lose federal funding.

The Children’s Hospital inspection on Jan. 31 found dirty surgical tools, a shortage of instruments and staffing issues that resulted in “delays in surgical procedures, patients being exposed to anesthesia for longer than necessary, increased flash sterilization and the increased potential for infection and negative patient outcomes for all surgical patients serviced by the facility,” according to an inspection report.

At Karmanos, inspectors found problems with infection control procedures, including the handling of biohazards and hand hygiene. There also were problems with the required reporting of surgical site infection data from Karmanos’ patients hospitalized at Harper.

CMS spokeswoman Elizabeth Schinderle confirmed that Karmanos could lose its federal Medicare funding if it doesn’t pass an unannounced federal inspection by May 23.

Patricia Ellis, director of media relations for Karmanos, said the cancer center submitted a plan of corrective action that was accepted by CMS, and noted that the facility continues to be accredited by Joint Commission, an accrediting agency that CMS relies on to verify that hospitals meet quality standards.

“We did submit an action plan within the time period we were supposed to, and the corrective action was accepted,” Ellis said. “The Joint Commission has given us accreditation status and we’ve met all the conditions of participation.”

This is the second CMS investigation of DMC hospitals in six months. Federal and state agencies investigated in early September in response to a six-month Detroit News investigation that revealed the health system’s five Midtown hospitals had struggled for nearly a decade with dirty, broken and missing surgical instruments.

Inspectors found numerous violations during September inspections, but closed the case in December after the health system passed a surprise inspection. CMS reopened its investigation in January after The Detroit News reported that a filthy surgical tool interrupted an operation one day after the favorable inspection that ended its initial probe.

Arab, Latino Leaders Have Tense Meetings With Homeland Security Chief
Niraj Warikoo and Kathleen Gray
Detroit Free Press
1:52 p.m. ET March 27, 2017

John Kelly listens to concerns about what community leaders say is profiling and targeting of their communities

In a meeting today with Arab-Americans and Muslims in Dearborn, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly stood up at one point and threatened to leave after a community advocate accused the department of targeting their communities, according to people who attended the meeting.

The tense exchange took place during a hour-long meeting at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, where Kelly met with several Arab-American and Muslim advocates as part of a visit to metro Detroit. At a separate earlier meeting with immigrant, Latino, and Chaldean advocates, some also criticized the department for allegedly targeting minority groups.

The frictions illustrated the concerns that some groups in Michigan have been feeling this year under the administration of President Donald Trump, who has said immigration enforcement and security are top concerns. Department officials strongly deny they single out people based on their background.

At the meeting, Nabih Ayad, an active civil rights leader and attorney who is founder of the Dearborn-based Arab American Civil Rights League, said he pressed Kelly about executive orders from his department that target six Muslim-majority nations. He also mentioned alleged profiling of Arabs and Muslims at ports of entry. Ayad said he asked Kelly to create a record of who gets stopped for questioning at ports of entry so there can be data to see if there is disproportionate targeting of Arabs and Muslims.

"He stood up and walked away almost," Ayad said. "He said, I'm leaving unless you decide to stop your questions and have someone else ask a question. ... He actually got out his seat."

Ayad said he then stopped and another Arab-American advocate started to speak. Ayad's account was confirmed by two other Arab-Americans who attended the meeting. U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, who had invited Kelly to Michigan, were also at the meeting.

Ayad said he was frustrated that Kelly was not acknowledging what he and other advocates say is the profiling of Arabs and Muslims by law enforcement.

"We need an accounting of how many Arab-Americans and Muslims are stopped at the border," Ayad said he told Kelly. "It seem as if he didn't want to listen."

Speaking later to reporters, Kelly said “Every single time a foreigner or an American citizen comes into this country, they generally move straight through the process. A very tiny number are set aside for additional screening that’s not based on religion or color or politics, and I reject anyone that makes that claim."

David Lapan, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), confirmed an exchange took place at the Arab-American museum, saying in a statement: "One participant in a meeting with leaders of the Arab American community incessantly pressed the Secretary, incorrectly alleging that DHS officials engage in targeting and racial profiling of Arabs and religious profiling of Muslims.

Secretary Kelly reiterated that CBP and ICE officers carry out their duties professionally, humanely and in accordance with the law, noting that they do not target individuals based on race, religion or political views. When the participant insisted on stalling the meeting and repeating the same erroneous allegations, Secretary Kelly made his frustration known. The meeting continued and concluded as planned."

Lapan added: "Overall, the Secretary found his discussions with the Arab-American leaders, as well as other meetings on Monday with immigration advocates and the DHS Middle Eastern Law Enforcement Officers Association, incredibly productive.  He appreciates Senator Peters hosting him today in Michigan as he always values input from community members, elected and law enforcement officials, as well as DHS front-line professionals."

Lapan said that  "Secretary Kelly had frank, honest and productive discussions this morning with members of Michigan's Arab-American community."

Speaking later to reporters at a cargo facility in Detroit near the border with Canada, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters said: “We certainly heard a lot of frustration from folks in the meetings with the way the recent executive order has been rushed through. The Secretary heard those comments and he took them to heart. If we need to make changes, this is the beginning of how we make changes to those policies to make sure we balance the need for homeland security to keep us safe, but also to make sure the commerce we see here moving behind us goes forward."

After arriving at Detroit Metro Airport this morning, Sec. Kelly met in a room at the airport with a group of immigrant, Latino, and Chaldean leaders, according to several people who attended the meeting.

Martin Manna, president of the Chaldean Community Foundation, attended the meeting at the airport, expressing concern about the plight of Christians and other minority groups in Iraq. Manna also talked about concerns about Chaldeans (Iraqi Catholics) in metro Detroit being deported.

Manna asked Kelly for the U.S. to increase the number of Christian refugees allowed in.

"We talked about what we feel is a disparity in the amount of Christians being allowed to come from the Middle East," Manna said. "There is a genocide against the Chaldean community by ISIS. There's been a slow down in the number of Christian refugees being allowed to come here."

He said he also told Kelly that Chaldeans in the U.S. fear getting deported because "if they are sent back to Iraq, it will amount to a death sentence."

Dr. Yahya Basha, a West Bloomfield doctor who is an Arab-American and Muslim advocate, said the meeting generally went "very well." Basha said Kelly was "very friendly, very open-minded."

During the meeting, Kelly defended the work of employees at the Department of Homeland Security, saying "I'm not going to put my men down," according to Basha.

He also defended questioning at borders and airports amid complaints that Muslims are singled out.

"He defended the questioning of people at the airports and the border," Basha said. He said "people to have to be questioned, it's not about religion."

At both meetings, Arab-American and Latino leaders expressed concern about the negative effects that aggressive immigration enforcement is having on the economy, especially in areas like southwest Detroit.

At the meeting at the airport, some who attended expressed concern about recent raids of immigrants in Detroit, Pontiac, Ypsilanti that have unnerved some communities. On March 18, federal law enforcement detained 50 Latino immigrants in Detroit, one of the biggest operations in memory in metro Detroit. They were transferred to a detention center in Youngstown, Ohio, raising concerns about having proper access to counsel.

"The meeting was brief and advocates had very limited opportunity to explain the depth of our concerns," said Susan Reed, with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, who attended the meeting. I hope that through follow up with other DHS (Department of Homeland Security) staff present at the meeting we are able to address the serious matters we raised."

"I raised my concern that detainees ...were taken to Youngstown and would have their hearings in Kansas City," Reed said. "I pointed out the extreme chilling effect on access to counsel that distant detention and even more distant courts in third locations has and urged coordination in the event of future major enforcement actions to ensure local detention space or alternatives to detention were available.  Sec. Kelly indicated very clearly that people would be detained wherever there was bed space available."

Speaking to reporters later, Kelly said “We’re almost at a crisis right now because you’ve got 11 million people in America who are below the radar. Most of them aren’t bad people, some of them are. We’re after the worst of the worst. But I can’t ignore the law. I’m told repeatedly to ignore laws by public officials and I can’t do it.”

Kelly said during the meeting that immigration agents only target undocumented immigrants with a criminal record or another negative factor, Reed said.

"Our experience on the ground does not reflect that," Reed said. "Instead, we have seen many examples of ordinary people going about the basic business of their lives encountering ICE and being detained and placed in removal (deportation) proceedings."

Also attending the meeting at the Arab-American National Museum in Dearborn was Dearborn Police Chief Ron Haddad, Hassan Jaber, chief executive officer of ACCESS, formerly known as Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, and Fatima Salaman, a board member of the Michigan Muslim Community Council who's a youth leader.

Salaman said she told Kelly about the concerns of Muslim youth in a climate of anti-Muslim prejudice.

"I mentioned to the Secretary, when I grew up, I never was at odds between my American identity and my Muslim identity," Salaman said. Now, she said, Muslim-American youth feel "this bit of us versus them mentality" among politicians that "could cause problems with these kids."

Contact Niraj Warikoo: nwarikoo@freepress.com or 313-223-4792. Follow him on Twitter @nwarikoo
With No Democratic Support, Gorsuch Nomination May Usher in ‘Nuclear Option’
Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch testifies during the third day of his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 22. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

By Ed O'Keefe and David Weigel
Washington Post
March 27 at 1:51 PM

A key Democratic senator warned Monday that Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, is likely to fall short of the votes needed to stave off a Democratic filibuster, potentially ushering in the “nuclear option” from Republicans.

With relations between Democrats and Republicans already strained like never before, the brewing fight over Gorsuch’s confirmation and how it could change the way the Senate does business is likely to make the partisan rancor even more intense in the coming days.

Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that he doubts that Gorsuch will be able to get the 60 votes needed to end a filibuster threatened by some Democrats.

Republicans “almost certainly” will respond by using their majority status to change Senate procedure and allow Supreme Court picks to be confirmed with a simple majority vote, Coons said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“I think this is tragic,” he added.

Currently it takes 60 senators to overcome a filibuster of a Supreme Court pick. Republicans hold a narrow 52-to-48 majority in the Senate, requiring at least eight Democrats to join with Republicans to block a filibuster, and no Democratic senator has announced plans to back Gorsuch.

Gorsuch, 49, has been on the Denver-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit for the past decade and was nominated to fill the Supreme Court seat made vacant when Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016. Republicans say that Gorsuch will be confirmed despite Democratic opposition — a threat that they will make the procedural change allowing a simple majority vote.

A final vote on Gorsuch is still more than a week away. On Monday, the Judiciary Committee delayed a vote on Gorsuch for one week at the request of Democrats. Republican leaders are hoping to confirm him by April 7, when a two-week congressional recess is scheduled to begin, so that Gorsuch can join the court by late April for the final cases of its term that ends in June.

But Democrats on Monday called that timetable unprecedented and rushed, noting that since the 1980s it has taken 29 days on average between the start of a Supreme Court confirmation hearing and a final confirmation vote.

Coons’s prediction came after recent consultations with senators in both parties about brokering an agreement that would lead to Gorsuch’s confirmation and also preserve current Senate traditions, according to multiple senators and aides familiar with his negotiations.

The hope was to find a bipartisan group of rank-and-file senators who could negotiate a deal that would again steer the Senate away from partisan brinkmanship on federal court vacancies. A group of 14 senators from both parties warded off a similar impasse in 2005 — but just three members of that “Gang of 14” remain in office. And Coons signaled Monday that he’s found little appetite for a new agreement.

“We’ve got a lot of senators concerned about where we’re headed,” he told MSNBC. “There’s Republicans still very mad at us over the 2013 change to the filibuster rule. We’re mad at them for shutting down the government, they’re mad at us for Gorsuch, and we’re not headed in a good direction.”

Democrats used the nuclear option in 2013 to change how the Senate confirms executive-branch nominees and lower-level federal judges, against the strong objections of Republicans.

Four years later, Democrats are finding there’s little upside to cooperating with Trump and Republicans.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced plans to filibuster Gorsuch last week, and others, including Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) quickly followed suit. No Democrat has announced support for Gorsuch, and some moderates say they are still mulling a final decision.

Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) said he is planning to meet with Gorsuch again before deciding. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) said in a statement that she is “in the process of reviewing” the nomination and will not make a final decision for several days. Others, including Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), did not reply to requests for comment.

The White House and Senate Republicans are hoping that a multimillion-dollar ad campaign bankrolled by conservative legal groups can help put pressure on Manchin, Heitkamp, Donnelly and seven other Democrats facing reelection next year in states that Trump won in November. Two of those 10 Democrats — Sens. Robert P. Casey Jr. (Pa.) and Bill Nelson (Fla.) — have said in recent days that they will vote against Gorsuch.

If the pressure campaign doesn’t work, GOP aides privately hope that senior Democrats can prevail upon colleagues to at least help break a filibuster to preserve Senate tradition. White House press secretary Sean Spicer cited comments by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who has served on the Judiciary Committee since 1979 and told the Vermont political website VTDigger over the weekend that while he is opposed to Gorsuch, “I am not inclined to filibuster.”

Many Democrats know that supporting Gorsuch would cost them support back home.

At a town hall meeting Sunday afternoon in Rhode Island, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) was welcomed with a standing ovation for his role in the Gorsuch hearings as a member of the judiciary panel.

The senator explained that Gorsuch had failed to win over any Democrats with evasive answers on issues such as campaign finance and gerrymandering. One constituent, holding a sign showing her support for Merrick Garland — President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, who was blocked by Republicans last year — asked whether Republicans would really blow up the filibuster to get Gorsuch through.

“They can, but by all rights, 60 votes ought to be the standard,” Whitehouse said. “When he doesn’t get 60 votes, that’s going to give Mitch McConnell a tough choice. He’ll have to either change the candidate or change the rules. And it’s not going to be easy for him to change the rules, because a lot of people in his caucus will push back. We have to have the vote, show this guy can’t get 60, and see where it goes from there. In the crucible of the Senate, sometimes good things can emerge.”

Over a few rounds of questions, Whitehouse raised the possibility that Gorsuch would be blocked and Republicans would start over with a more moderate nominee. In a short interview after the speech, Whitehouse said he was confident that more than 40 Democrats would hang together.

“If four, or five, or two, or no Democrats want to support him, the result is the same: not 60,” Whitehouse said. “This is a problem [Republicans] should have seen when they picked a nominee off of a list from special-interest groups.”

A third-party logistics provider can save companies time and money when it comes to shipping temperature-sensitive products.

Asked about the possibility that the filibuster would be “nuked,” ripping it away from Democrats in future fights, Whitehouse chuckled.

“To my mind, there’s no reason to lose a fight in order to save yourself for a later fight,” he said. “You just face the same fight later, plus you’ve already lost.”

Weigel reported from Coventry, R.I.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Fidel's Humanism Emphasized on 40th Anniversary of His Visit to Angola
The Comandante made his first trip to Angola March 23-27, 1977

Roberto Hernández | internet@granma.cu
March 24, 2017 09:03:29

Fidel, during his visit to Angola, in the company of Angolan President Agosthino Neto (right) and Celia Sánchez Manduley (background left). Photo: Joaquin Viñas

LUANDA.–Angolans and Cubans emphasized the humanism of the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, during a commemoration of the 40th anniversary of his first trip to Angola, March 23-27, 1977.

"I would like to thank him for the support he gave us, which permitted us to be here in this room today," said General Antonio dos Santos Franza, who traveled to Cuba in 1962 to study agronomy and met Fidel during his talks with students at the University of Havana.

Fidel Castro changed history for the better, he left his mark on history during his life, Santos said.

With his internationalist spirit, Fidel filled us with dignity and made Cubans known throughout the world, Anibal de Melo said during an event in the city's Press Center, attended by Gisela García Rivera, Cuba's ambassador here and other members of the diplomatic corps.

Angolan ambassador in Argentina, Erminio Escorcio, who was protocol director for the Foreign Ministry in 1977, recalled Fidel's historic visit as very moving, while General Roberto Leal Ramos Monteiro, who served on the security commission at the time, commented on the challenge involved in ensuring Fidel's safety as he wanted to see and touch everything.

Lucia Ingles, secretary general of the Organization of Angolan Women and in charge of Presidential communications in 1977, said the visit was a time of great joy since Fidel was such an exemplary humanist.

"Thanks to Cubans, we have achieved what we have today. I have been to Cuba some 10 times, and I am Cuban, as well," she insisted.
The “Grandmother” of All Delegates in Cuba
María Cristina Sotomayor, a founder of the first People’s Power bodies established in Cuba, inspires in her constituents the idea that any difficulty can be overcome with the participation of all

Ventura de Jesús | ventura@granma.cu
March 23, 2017 12:03:55

María Cristina Sotomayor, founder of the first People’s Power bodies established in Cuba. Photo: Ventura de Jesús García

JOVELLANOS.– María Cristina Sotomayor, a founder of the first People’s Power bodies established in Cuba, inspires in her constituents the idea that any difficulty can be overcome with the participation of all. If we’re all here and speak the same language, those of us that together make up the neighborhood, can achieve a great deal, she states.

As such María will participate in the fourth round of accountability reports by delegates to constituents for this mandate, with no regrets but rather the sole purpose of defending the interests of the population.

Thanks to her knack for dealing with people, and above all her tenacity, María has served as delegate to her home constituency of Jovellanos for the last 43 years, proof of her tireless efforts which have earned her all manner of praise.

Having served for 43 years as a delegate, María Cristina Sotomayor - a woman with a kind countenance who meets any challenge head on - is considered to have set a rare record.

How have you assumed this responsibility for so many years?

In reality, it hasn’t been at all easy. My reward is the trust my constituents put in me. I think it’s the greatest prize for the work we do, and it motivates me to continue working harder. In regards to the rest, well, you have to have a great deal of patience.

Sometimes misunderstandings with officials or constituents lead to clashes. In that case you have to reflect calmly so as to give a just and adequate response. I always try to explain in the clearest way possible what we have done and what remains to be done. I take care to plan meetings well and know which path to take. Oh! And when there’s no immediate solution to the problem I discuss it sufficiently and always honestly.

How do you manage to do everything and what role does your family play?

I try to work wonders planning my time. Family support is essential, and so is that of my closest neighbors and work colleagues. None of what I do would be possible without their understanding and help.

How much more of an impact can the work of delegates have?

During the early years of the People’s Power bodies the role of the delegate was highly respected, and all the organization and state entities willingly collaborated to solve the population’s problems.

The way I see it, this support has diminished. Sometimes an old problem, which we have been working on for years and years, persisting but to no avail, suddenly gets resolved because someone higher up gets involved or because the issue gets reported in the press. We know that times have changed, but greater coherence in this regard is necessary.

What impact did the experience in Matanzas in 1974 have on the Cuban political system?

Its contribution was undeniable. It showed the importance of people’s power and that the masses are capable of solving many of their problems. It also showed that it is necessary to respect and be able to count on the community.

What is your constituency’s longest standing issue?

The problem of waste disposal and waterproofing buildings.

Do local government authorities support your work?

In general a representative always attends meetings, but sometimes he or she doesn’t have the power to make decisions. They usually participate in constituency assemblies or at the very least walk around the neighborhood to talk and listen to people.

Talk to us about youth participation…

A good part of the young people respond when we call on them to participate in some task or other, but we have to keep encouraging them so that they understand the importance of their contribution. We cannot tire. At the end of the day, this cardinal figure of the delegate within the Cuban political system is also that of an educator.

With a degree in Philosophy and founder of the People’s Power bodies in Matanzas, María Cristina stresses that despite various difficulties, this immense work has made her a better and more revolutionary person.

How do you keep motivated, improve yourself?

My profession helps me a bit. Teachers must be creative in their classes; each one must be different from the other. Life is very dynamic and different things are needed at different times. Your connection with your constituents is the essence of everything. The unity between delegates and their constituents is a strategic force with which to face any challenge. The most important thing is to remain united around the Revolution, as Fidel taught us. 
Cuba and Vietnam Strengthen Bilateral Ties
Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) of Cuba, Leopoldo Cintra Frías, is currently visiting Vietnam

Prensa Latina(PL) | internet@granma.cu
March 24, 2017 12:03:46

Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) of Cuba, Leopoldo Cintra Frías was received by Nguyen Phu Trong, secretary general of the Communist Party of Vietnam. Photo: VOV Photo: Granma

Hanoi.— Cuba and Vietnam agreed to strengthen their longstanding ties of friendship and cooperation, specifically in the sphere of defense, as part of Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) of Cuba, Leopoldo Cintra Frías’ visit to the Asian nation.

On receiving the FAR Minister, Nguyen Phu Trong, secretary general of the Communist Party of Vietnam stated that Cintra Frías’ visit “will contribute to strengthening the exemplary bilateral relations,” between the two countries.

Phu Trong spoke about the historic ties between the two parties, peoples and states, and above all both nations’ armed forces, according to official reports of talks.

During the meeting with Cintra Frías, also a member of the Communist Party of Cuba Political Bureau, Nguyen Phu Trong thanked the island for its support and expressed his desire to see both armies continually strengthened in order to meet the expectations of their organizations and peoples, as well as fight for the independence and liberty of their homelands and socialism, reported PL.

Meanwhile, the Cuban official highlighted that progress being made by Vietnam in its Renovation process (Doi Moi) represents a stimulus and example for Cuba, currently updating its socio-economic model.

He also mentioned the 2017-2019 military cooperation plan signed by the two nations, aimed at strengthening ties given the current regional and global context.

The document, signed by Cintra Frías and Vietnam’s Defense Minister, Ngo Xuan Lich, is focused on expanding exchanges across all levels; staff training; military medicine; anti-aerial and aerial defense; and cooperation between military entities, according to VNA.

Cintra Frías also met with President of Vietnam, Tran Dai Quang, who reaffirmed his country’s willingness to stand by Cuba in any situation and thanked the island for its support, both toward his country’s struggle for independence and current efforts to build and protect the nation.
Manipulation of Human Rights Continues
A recurring theme over these days has been human rights, giving rise to media manipulations, and involving individuals who, from centers of power or paid by them, are making a veritable feast with the issue…

Elson Concepción Pérez | internet@granma.cu
March 22, 2017 12:03:37

To date, Venezuela’s Great Housing Mission has built 1,505,028 homes for the country’s most vulnerable. Photo: TELESUR

A recurring theme over these days has been human rights, giving rise to media manipulations, and involving individuals who, from centers of power or paid by them, are making a veritable feast with the issue, for those wanting to impose their model on the world and others who, working as paid mercenaries, are used for that purpose.

Some, such as Luis Almagro, secretary general of the discredited Organization of American States (OAS), have targeted the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, seeking foreign intervention in the country. This could be due to the fact that the nation’s governments, first led by Chávez and subsequently Maduro, have developed social programs to guarantee the population their basic human rights, such as building and delivering over one million homes, free healthcare for all, eradicating illiteracy, or many other achievements which have been recognized both in and outside the country.

It could also be because of Venezuela’s solidarity efforts, primarily with Latin America and Caribbean nations, efforts the OAS and its secretary general have chosen to ignore.

In a move to put pressure on the country, Luis Almagro has requested that Venezuela be suspended from the OAS.

This begs the question: is leaving the OAS is a disgrace or an honor? I’d say the latter, as Cuba has shown.

For decades our country has been targeted by those who critique human rights from behind the bullet proof glass of a command post, in order to wage wars and kill millions of civilians, like in Iraq, or in pursuit of monetary gain by way of illegal arms dealing, causing the death of thousands of people, including U.S. adolescents and children in their own schools, recreation centers, and streets.

They have always used, and are doing so again, some mercenary, who for a couple of bucks would even dress up in white with the sole intention of creating a media circus by causing disturbances in order to later accuse local authorities of human rights violations.

Hence the recent attempt made from within the United States - which pays officials like Almagro extra - to put on a show with counter-revolutionary frills, with the “innocent” OAS secretary general leading the aggression which Cuba has never allowed and never will.

As such the Cuban government has stated that the OAS has always been one of Washington’s tools, a platform from which to launch attacks against Latin America and the Cuban Revolution.

In the same vein, the U.S. State Department draws up lists condemning nations, applying blockades, economic sanctions, and even authorizing military intervention.

It seems to me that the issue of human rights and democracy – from a U.S. perspective – are the most frequent and most damming, and almost always used to enable the powerful to impose their standards on poor nations, and above all, progressive governments.

Of course no one would ever cite what happened to Jesús Navarro as a human rights violation; denied a kidney transplant at the San Francisco University Hospital, in California, for being an undocumented immigrant.

According to a report at the time by newspaper La Opinión, Navarro had been waiting for the transplant for seven years. He worked for 15 years as a welder at Pacific Steel, before he lost his job after the company was audited by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, with 200 of its 600 workers laid off for being undocumented immigrants.

Family and friends of the patient were told by a hospital official that the transplant could not be performed even if they managed to raise the 200,000 dollars needed to pay for the procedure, because undocumented immigrants are not allowed to receive treatment.

In another case exposed by Europa Press, a dispatch from Washington states that a 14 year old African American boy was exonerated 70 years after his execution in South Carolina, when Judge Carmen Tevis Mullen ruled that he had not received a fair trial.

The boy in question, George Stinney Jr., was executed in 1944 and was so small that he had to sit on a telephone book to reach the headpiece of the electric chair, according to U.S. news agency NBC. Family members stated that the police interrogated the boy without his parents' presence, while it took a white jury less than 10 minutes to find him guilty. The defense attorney didn’t even appeal the conviction.

The words 'human rights' hid beneath them events such as that of a youngster gunning-down his classmates, or another forced to sell sperm on a New York street corner; or the fact that every night, hundreds of human beings sleep under bridges in cities across the United States, with no food or shelter.

None of these are human rights abuses, according to U.S. standards.

Such examples, which are daily occurrences in the richest country on the planet, are never seen, heard of or cited by a man like Almagro – who can read and speak English - and is therefore more than capable of learning more about the monster from inside its entrails, instead of seeking out alleged violations in countries where human rights are more than just simple words, or a tool used by the media for political purposes.

In Venezuela, just like in Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia, and other nations the OAS and Washington want to control, human rights consist of guaranteeing the people health; education for all; promoting racial and gender equality; ensuring that every citizen has the right to employment; and that no one dies because they can’t afford an organ transplant; that families never have to mourn the loss of their children, killed in a school shooting…

Isn’t illegally detaining prisoners in the criminal Guantánamo base where they are savagely tortured, denied the right to a lawyer, and imprisoned without officially being charged for over 10 years, a human rights abuse?

What is the economic and financial blockade of Cuba, intended to starve an entire nation, if not a flagrant violation of human rights?

Here is a bit of advice: Almagro should start to read - in English and in Spanish – the true history of human rights and democracy in the U.S., where the OAS headquarters is based and where these continue to be a pending issue.

Perhaps those who question the validity of the OAS, and if is it worth spending so much money on maintaining this den at the service of the empire, have a point.