Category Archives: Uncategorized

Russia Controversy Continues to Impact White House

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While United States President Donald Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion with Russia, the special prosecutor is intensifying his investigation as it is increasingly becoming evident that the Russia controversy could be years before it concludes.

President Trump has consistently denied any collusion with the Kremlin, however special prosecutor Robert Mueller has stated that he is expanding his probe. Reports have now emerged that the FBI carried out a pre-dawn raid on Paul Manafort’s home, former Chairman of the Trump campaign. Mr Manafort had already handed over documents to congressional committees, which is likely to raise question of whether Mr Mueller simply did not trust him to supply everything that he needed. Some of the documents are reportedly related to a meeting that he attended on 9 July 2016 at Trump Tower. It provided an explosive element to an already bubbling inquiry. While some have seen it as the closest thing to a smoking gun, it has produced no conclusive evidence that the Kremlin was behind it. The Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskya, who allegedly offered to provide negative information on Hillary Clinton, has denied that she did so, also denying that she is connected to the Russian government.

Catalonia Parliament to Vote on 1 October on Split from Spain

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Spanish police have detained fourteen Catalan officials and raided regional government ministries involved in organizing an independence vote declared illegal by Spain’s government.

Earlier this month, Catalonia’s parliament voted to hold an independence referendum on 1 October, effectively setting up a clash with the Spanish government, which has vowed to stop what it says would be an illegal vote. After twelve hours of often chaotic debate in the Barcelona parliament, a majority voted for the referendum and the legal framework to set up a new state, under which the assembly would declare independence within 48 hours of a “yes” vote. Lawmakers who opposed independence abandoned the chamber before the vote, with some leaving Catalan flags in theie empty seats.

While polls in the northeastern region show support for self-rule waning as Spain’s economy improves, the majority of Catalans do not want the opportunity to vote on whether to split from Spain. The government has asked the Spanish constitutional court to declare the referendum law void as soon as it is approved by the regional parliament. The Spanish constitution states that the country is indivisible.

Tensions in recent weeks have continued to rise, with the arrest of Josep Maria Jove, number two in the Catalan vice presidency, and others held. Thousands of Catalans have now taken to the streets in protest, with the region’s president complaining of a power grab. Last week, an operation targeted over forty ministries and offices as well as three private companies – the move being a dramatic intensification of Spain’s attempt to stop the vote taking place. Reports have indicated that an estimated 10 million ballot papers were found in a warehouse located outside Barcelona.

While Spain did not stop an earlier vote taking place in November 2014, this time the Catalan leadership is planning a declaration of independence within 48 hours of a Yes vote.

Record Number of Terror-Related Arrests in the UK

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According to official figures, a record number of people have been arrested for terrorism-related offences. Figures indicate that in the wake of recent UK attacks, the number of terror-related arrests has risen by 68% – the highest since records began in 2001.

Last week, the UK Home Office announced that there were 379 arrests in Britain in the twelve months leading up to June.   Of this figure, 12 wee made in connection with the Westminster attack, 23 related to the Manchester Arena bombing and 21 arrests were related to the attack some time later at London Bridge. One arrest was related to the Finsbury Park attack in north London in June. During the same period the previous year, 226 people were arrested.

A breakdown of the figures show that 54 of the arrested suspects were women – the largest female proportion on record – and 17 people held were under the age of eighteen. There was also a sharp rise in the number of white suspects detained. That figure rose by 92% from 66 to 127. While more than three quarters of the arrests were related to international terrorism, there was a sharp rise in the number of arrests for domestic terrorism, with the figure increasing from 10 to 52. The 420% increase in terrorism with no international or Northern Ireland related links comes amidst mounting concern over far-right extremism. The figures show that of those who have been arrested, 32% result in a charge. Five hundred investigations, involving 3,000 individuals, are being run by the police and MI5 at any one time, with at last 20,000 former “subjects of interest” also being kept under review.

In the last four years, nineteen terrorist plots have been thwarted, including six since the Westminster attack in March. The current UK threat level for international terrorism is severe, which means that an attack is highly likely.

US Supreme Court Allows Broad Refugee Ban

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On 12 September, the US Supreme Court allowed President Donald Trump to broadly implement a ban on refuges entering the country from around the world.

On Tuesday, the justices granted a request from the Trump administration to block a federal appeals court decision, which, according to the Justice Department, would have allowed up to 24,000 additional refugees to enter the Untied States than would otherwise have been eligible. The Supreme Court ruling effectively gives President Trump a partial victory as the high court prepares for a key October hearing on the constitutionality of the president’s controversial executive order.

On 6 March of this year, President Trump signed an order that effectively banned travellers from six Muslim-majority countries – Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – for ninety days and locked out most aspiring refugees for 120 days in a move that the Republican leader argued was needed in order to prevent terrorist attacks. The policy suspended travel to the Untied States and from the six Muslim-majority countries and locked out most refugees. Since then, US courts have limited the scope of that order. In a ruling earlier this month, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals stated that grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins of legal US residents would be exempt from the travel ban. The Justice Department opted not to appeal that part of the 9th Circuit decision. However the 9th Circuit also ruled that President Trump’s refugee policy was too broad, and the court allowed entry to refugees from around the world if they had a formal offer from a resettlement agency. This portion of the ruling was appealed by the Justice Department, with the full Supreme Court siding with the administration on Tuesday in a one-sentence order. A representative for the Hawaii attorney general, who challenged the administration in court, has so far not commented on the Supreme Court’s ruling. Earlier in the day, Hawaii stated in a court filing that the US government could still “bar tens of thousands of refugees from entering the country.” The state’s lawyers added that all the 9th Circuit ruling did is “protect vulnerable refugees and the American entities that have been eagerly preparing to welcome them to our shores.”

EU Migration Chief Calls for End to Border Checks as he Announces that Crisis is Over

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Last Thursday, the European Union’s (EU) top migration official disclosed that extraordinary border controls inside Europe’s passport-free travel area should not be extended because the refugee emergency is abating.

While systematic ID checks are banned in the 26-nation passport-free travel zone known as the Schengen area, the EU has made exceptions for Austria, Denmark, Germany, Sweden and non-EU country Norway to prolong ID checks at their borders. Those countries have stated that the checks, which were introduced in 2016 after around one million migrants entered Europe the previous year, are needed for security reasons. While German Chancellor Angela Merkel is keen to have the police checks continue, and there is currently no sign of Berlin backing off that stance as the country prepares for an election on 24 September, EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos has stated that while the checks were justified, the reasons behind their introduction “are not there anymore.” He further disclosed “I believe it is the moment to go back to the normal function of Schengen.”

Avramopoulos believes that the EU’s external borders are stronger now, and has stated that the bloc’s migrant deal with Turkey is working well, with migrant flows from the country to the Greek islands down by 81 percent last month, compare with August 2016. He told reporters that “during the last two years we have been working in crisis mode, now it’s the moment to step out of the crisis.”