Saturday, January 19, 2019

Algeria to Hold Presidential Election on April 18
REUTERS 
18/01 - 11:01

Algeria will hold a presidential election on April 18, the presidency said on Friday in a statement, but did not say whether veteran leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika would seek a fifth term in office.

Bouteflika, 81, has been in office since 1999 and has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013 which bound him to a wheelchair.

Candidates have 45 days to inform the constitutional council of their intention to take part.

Will Bouteflika seek a fifth term?

Under the constitution the election date was made necessary by the expiry in April of Bouteflika’s fourth term.

Algeria’s ruling coalition and other leading figures in labour unions and the business world had previously urged him to run again for the presidency.

But there have been concerns about his health.

In December, Bouteflika, who has been wheelchair-bound since 2013, was unable to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when he came to Algiers for a two-day visit due to acute flu.

His last meeting with a senior foreign official was during a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sept. 17. An earlier meeting with Merkel and a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte were cancelled.

Bouteflika’s supporters say his mind remains sharp, even though he needs a microphone to speak. The opposition says he is not fit to run again.

He is unlikely to face competition from within ruling circles. Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia, leader of the National Rally for Democracy (RND) allied to the FLN, has already said he will not run if Bouteflika goes for a fifth term.

What is at stake?

The North African country, an oil producer, avoided the major political upheaval seen in many other Arab countries in the past decade but has experienced some protests and strikes. Unemployment, especially among young people, remains high.

The economy has improved over the past year as oil and gas revenues have picked up. They account for 60 percent of the budget and 94 percent of export revenues.

The government has said it wants to diversify the economy away from oil and gas, which accounts for 60 percent of budget finances, but there has been resistance from those within the ruling elite to opening up to foreign investment.

That has left the economy dominated by the state and firms run by business tycoons.
Ethiopia's Ruling Coalition Happy Over Execution of Eritrea Deal
Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban 
Africa News
19/01 - 05:00

Ethiopia’s ruling coalition says it is happy about the level of execution of a peace deal with neighbouring Eritrea. The deal was signed in Asmara in July 2018.

The Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front, EPRDF, Executive Committee at a regular session held in the capital Addis Ababa said deal had so far been a big success, state-affiliated portal FBC reported.

“The economic ties between the two countries laid a foundation to bring change in the horn of Africa and build Ethiopia’s image at the global level,” the FBC report said in part.

The landmark deal was signed when leaders of both countries met in Asmara during the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s historic visit. The two sides reestablished all friendly ties for the first time in two decades.

The EPRDF session was led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who is chairman of the EPRDF. It also evaluated successes since its last meeting last year. Amongst others the widening of the political landscape and increased human rights.

The session however expressed concerns about insecurity in parts of the country which had triggered mass displacements. It also identified the activities of anti-peace elements as a threat to reform efforts.

The Committee further tasked the media to play its rĂ´le in advancing the course of peace and unity among Ethiopians. It identified the media as a key player that needed to contribute to the journey towards a multi-party system.
Ethiopian Rebel Group Accuses Government of Airstrikes
By ELIAS MESERET
Associated Press
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
Jan 18, 2019 10:41 AM ET

An Ethiopian rebel group recently welcomed back to the country accuses the reformist government of targeting it with airstrikes. The government denies it.

Tensions are growing with the Oromo Liberation Front, which a year ago was in exile and listed as a terror group after waging a deadly guerrilla war for self-determination. It was among a number of groups invited home to take part in political dialogue as part of sweeping reforms under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. He took office in April.

The OLF on Thursday said Ethiopia's air force carried out airstrikes in the western Oromia region on Jan. 12-13, saying seven civilians, including a baby, were killed.

"Trying to hide this attack is like trying to hide with a stolen camel," the OLF said in a statement. It also accused Ethiopian troops of burning people's houses and stealing their belongings.

Abiy's office denied reports of airstrikes but said rebel groups were "not heeding the call for peace." A statement by press secretary Billene Seyoum accused the OLF of "egregious violence against community members."

The statement said Ethiopian forces have responded to a request by the Oromia regional government and have been "undertaking a stabilizing operation over the past two weeks, and the area is now being secured."

Abiy recently expressed frustration with the OLF, warning it against trying to take power in a few months' time instead of following the path to what he has pledged will be free and fair elections in 2020. The OLF has expressed support for elections, provided they are on time.

In what analysts have called the core problem, OLF has said there was no agreement for it to disarm when it agreed to return home. Ethiopia's government has said clearly it must disarm as the country's legal framework doesn't allow more than one armed entity.

The OLF's members have been estimated at around 5,000.

Ethiopia is currently experiencing ethnic-based clashes in various parts of the country that have led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians. Ethnic minorities have been attacked and universities have closed.

The unrest poses the biggest challenge so far to Ethiopia's reforms.
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The OLF is Dead, But its Oromo Struggle Lives
January 19, 2019
by Abdurazak Kedir Abdu

Daud Ibsa’s militia is not the Oromo Liberation Front. While the OLF has disintegrated, what it stands for still captures the essence of the Oromo struggle, and this contradiction is convulsing Oromo politics.

The Oromo Liberation Front has experienced increasing turmoil since leaving the transitional government in the early 1990s after falling out with fellow rebels.

There have been multiple disputes and splits over past decades. But importantly, Daud Ibsa started to brand his rump movement as the mother organization around 15 years ago. His guerrillas, commonly known as OLF-Shanee, and particularly so by critics, sporadically made lethal attacks on the army in peripheral areas of Oromia.

Since 1973, the OLF has represented the aspirations and principles of the Oromo quest for hiree murteeffannaa—self-determination. In the past, it argued for secession. But despite its proud legacy, the OLF has disintegrated beyond repair. Any groups now branding themselves under the shadow of that grand organization are mere pretenders—very much including Daud’s.

Yet OLF still captures the essence of the Oromo struggle and so abides in the heart of many patriotic Oromos. It is this contradiction that is currently convulsing Oromo politics.

OLF-S’s hostile relations with the government continued until July, which marked the start of negotiations during Ethiopia’s ongoing political transition led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The agreement did not imply disarmament

Daud didn’t want direct talks and proposed the mediation of a third party. However, reportedly due to pressure from President Isaias Afewerki, his group, exiled in Eritrea, was compelled to accept Addis Ababa’s proposal, and so returned home.

An undisclosed agreement for peaceful political contestation was entered into between Daud’s group and the government. But it did not come into force, and ongoing deadly tension became the norm. The parties blame each other for non-implementation.

So, the agreement is the bone of contention.

Gammachuu Ayyaanaa, a defected colonel and part of the returned OLF-S leadership, has been enlightening on this subject in interviews with the Oromo Broadcasting Service. While briefing the regional broadcaster on the agreement, he addressed the vital point of the disarmament of Daud’s soldiers.

The pundit alleged that the agreement did not imply disarmament as that amounted to falling captive. Meanwhile, the Ethiopian government, and particularly Oromia’s ruling party, claim that the agreement included the disarmament of OLF-S, regardless of the implications for its rebellion.

The ex-colonel says that the deal was instead to create a buffer zone. In other words, there would be land controlled by Daud. Gammachuu also said that the intention was to establish a third party, such as a commission, to help manage the tensions between them. He claims that the fate of the OLF-S soldiers will be determined after the work of such a body.

Buffer bluff

Gammachuu mentioned precedents in Burundi, Congo, Liberia and Rwanda. But those are not relevant because there was civil war there, while there is not in Ethiopia. Indeed civil war was far from the reality in Ethiopia until recent weeks when OLF-S upped its operation with the alleged assistance of elements linked to the former regime’s security apparatus. The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front is aggrieved by the transformation, and sees OLF-S as partners in a nominally pro-federalist “strategic alliance”.

Furthermore, rebel forces were competitive in the other examples, but in Ethiopia the government has overwhelming dominance; and, despite recent gains, OLF-S didn’t have territorial control in Ethiopia, as rebels did in the other countries.

A buffer zone would only have been necessary if Daud’s soldiers were a threat. Yet, this is not feasible as Daud has never controlled territory, even in its western stronghold. The request was built on false claims——it was an attempt to exploit the negotiations to gain territory it has failed to control in the past. By establishing a territorial foothold, the OLF-S aimed to prove that third party mediation is needed, which, in turn, would allow the group to gain international legitimacy.

Apart from its lack of legitimacy, Daud made a tactical error in opposing the appointment of another former OLF figure, Kemal Gelchu, as regional security head. Kemal has the requisite skills, even if he is a political rival, and OLF-S could have tried to work with Kemal, who is from eastern Oromia.

Abiy has been smart not to arrest Daud

At the very least, they should have refrained from shunning someone who once was their comrade. Daud thought appointing Kemal was a strategy of the ruling Oromo Democratic Party to obliterate them. However, the truth is that Oromia’s leaders wanted to compensate Kemal, an ex-member of the army, who left due to grievance.

OLF-S is now soliciting international recognition under the guise of negotiation. This should be resisted. Daud’s movement is weak. It has lost support among the Oromo elite, most university students, many farmers, and, above all, the brave Qeerroo, including those who gave their lives for the cause of freedom. All now want an end to dictatorship and conflict.

Ultimately, negotiation was part of a military strategy for Daud, while the same instrument was interpreted as a means of disarmament for the ruling party. But it is Abiy and Lemma who have the advantage, having played their hand well. Abiy has been smart not to arrest Daud, instead allowing him to look like unconvincing rebel leaders ensconced in luxury hotels.

But the government has recently moved to detain Gammachuu and many others—it seems they have exhausted the politics of tolerance. Hence, the authorities are taking strong measures after a peaceful settlement proved elusive with this troublesome rump of a once formidable movement.

Main photo: OLF supporters wave its flag at the group’s welcoming rally; Addis Ababa, Sep. 15; Petterik Wiggers

This is the author’s Viewpoint. However, Ethiopia Insight is responsible for clear factual errors.
Ethiopia Deploys Military Against Opposition Faction
2019-01-17 16:31
AFP

Ethiopia has deployed soldiers against an armed faction of a recently-legalised opposition group that is robbing banks and attacking residents in the country's remote west, the government said on Wednesday.

The violence in Oromia, Ethiopia's largest region, comes after separate ethnic clashes in the east temporarily shut the country's main fuel supply route, causing severe petrol shortages in the capital this week.

The unrest across Africa's second most-populous country is the latest challenge faced by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has won Ethiopians over with dramatic reforms since taking office last year, even as ethnic violence surged.

Those changes included welcoming home banned groups like the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which returned to Ethiopia after signing a peace deal last August.

But last month, the group accused the government of breaching the agreement, and on Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Abiy said the military had been sent to Oromia's Kellem Wollega zone to stop a faction responsible for rapes, looting banks and blocking roads.

"Government has been patient for a very long time, trying to facilitate the different ideas," Billene Seyoum told journalists. "Those skirmishes are as a result of not heeding the call for peace."

Authorities have detained 835 armed OLF members involved in the unrest, state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate reported.

Meanwhile, a separate outbreak of ethnic conflict between the Afar and Somali peoples of eastern Ethiopia led to the closure of the trade route to Djibouti, whose Red Sea ports import most of Ethiopia's petroleum products.

Such ethnic clashes have become increasingly common since Abiy's inauguration last April, and 1.4 million Ethiopians fled their homes last year, one of the world's highest numbers.

The road closures caused blocks-long fuel queues to appear in the capital and largest city Addis Ababa, but Billene said representatives of the two ethnicities had reached an agreement.

"The road has been opened as well," she said.
After Ambush, Ethiopia Readies 'Massive Offensive' on al-Shabaab in Somalia
Associated Press
Jan 19, 2019 10:04 AM ET

Peacekeeping troops from Ethiopia are shown on a deployment in South Sudan in 2016. Ethiopia confirmed an ambush by al-Shabaab extremists on an Ethiopian peacekeeping convoy in Somalia and promised retaliation. (Albert Gonzalez Farran/AFP/Getty Images)

The Ethiopian National Defence Force on Saturday confirmed an ambush by al-Shabaab extremists on an Ethiopian peacekeeping convoy in neighbouring Somalia and said Ethiopian forces are preparing a "massive offensive" in response.

The statement rejected an al-Shabaab claim that several Ethiopian troops were killed.

The ambush was reported as the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the deadly hotel assault in Nairobi, Kenya, and deadly attacks on forces inside Somalia.

Ethiopia contributes troops to a multinational African Union peacekeeping mission. It also has troops in Somalia independently under Ethiopian army command.

3 wounded in ambush, African Union says

The statement said the ambush occurred when the convoy was travelling from Burhakaba to Baidoa in Somalia's southwest.

A separate statement by the AU force said the ambush occurred on Friday and AU troops returned fire, killing four extremists and wounding several others.

Three soldiers with the AU force were wounded, the statement said.

Al-Shabaab, which formed more than a decade ago in response to the presence of Ethiopian forces inside Somalia, among other reasons, has never managed to orchestrate a major attack inside the Ethiopian heartland, though it has carried out major attacks in neighbouring Kenya.

In late October, al-Shabaab claimed it killed 30 Ethiopian troops inside Somalia. Weeks before that, Ethiopian state media outlets reported that the Ethiopian Air Force killed 70 al-Shabaab members after the extremist group tried to attack Ethiopian forces.
52 al-Shabab Fighters Killed in Somalia Airstrike: US Military
The strike was in response to a raid near Kismayo earlier on Saturday, which left eight Somali soldiers dead.

Al-Shabab controls large parts of southern and central Somalia and continues to carry out attacks

The United States' military has said that an airstrike in southern Somalia killed at least 52 al-Shabab fighters, in response to an attack earlier in the day that left at least eight Somali soldiers dead.

A US Africa Command statement on Saturday said the strike occurred near Jilib in Middle Juba region.

Jubaland regional security minister Abdirashid Hassan Abdinur told state-run Radio Mogadishu that the fatalities from the al-Shabab side could be as high as 73.

There was no immediate comment from al-Shabab on the death toll.

Earlier on Saturday, at least eight Somali soldiers were killed when al-Shabab fighters overran a military camp on the outskirts of the town of Kismayo.

According to reports, the heavily-armed fighters launched a dawn raid on the military camp, followed by a heavy exchange of gunfire which lasted hours.

Al-Shabab claimed it killed 15 Somali soldiers.

The incident came a day after al-Shabab said it had attacked Ethiopian troops in Somalia in an ambush on the road between the capital, Mogadishu, and the southwest town of Baidoa.

Since 2017, the US military has stepped up air raids against the armed group.

Al-Shabab controls large parts of rural southern and central Somalia and continues to carry out high-profile attacks in Mogadishu and elsewhere.

Al-Shabab forces have been fighting to overthrow the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu.

On Tuesday, it also carried out a deadly attack in neighbouring Kenya, which it has regularly targeted since Nairobi sent troops into Somalia.

Four gunmen and a suicide bomber left 21 dead and injured 28 in Nairobi.

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES
US Airstrike in Somalia Kills 52 al-Shabaab Fighters, Military Says
Associated Press in Johannesburg
Sat 19 Jan 2019 14.05 EST

The US military said it carried out an airstrike in Somalia that killed 52 al-Shabaab extremists, in response to an attack on Somali forces.

Al-Shabaab controls large parts of rural southern and central Somalia and continues to carry out high-profile attacks in the capital, Mogadishu, and elsewhere. The group claimed responsibility for the deadly attack on a luxury hotel complex in Nairobi, Kenya on Tuesday.

A US Africa Command statement said the airstrike occurred on Saturday near Jilib in Middle Juba region. The US said Somali forces had come under attack by a “large group” of the al-Qaida-linked extremists.

The statement did not say how many Somali forces were killed or wounded. There were no reports of Americans killed or wounded.

Al-Shabaab asserted via its Shahada news agency that its attack on two Somali army bases killed at least 41 soldiers. It described the location as the Bar Sanjuni area near the port city of Kismayo.

There was no immediate comment from Somalia’s government.

In neighboring Ethiopia, state television cited the defense ministry as saying more than 60 al-Shabaab fighters had been killed and that four vehicles loaded with explosives had been “destroyed”.

Ethiopia contributes troops to a multinational African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia and has troops there independently under Ethiopian army command.

Al-Shabaab controls large parts of rural southern and central Somalia and continues to carry out high-profile suicide bombings and other attacks in the capital, Mogadishu, and elsewhere.

The US has dramatically stepped up airstrikes against al-Shabaab in Somalia since Donald Trump took office, carrying out at least 47 such strikes last year. Some have targeted top leaders or key financial officials. The extremist group funds its attacks with an extensive network of “taxation” and extortion.

In October, the US said an airstrike killed about 60 fighters near the al-Shabaab-controlled community of Harardere in Mudug province in the central part of the country.

The airstrikes hamper the extremist group but have not “seriously degraded al-Shabaab’s capability to mount strikes either inside or outside Somalia”, Matt Bryden of Sahan Research, an expert on the extremists, said after the Nairobi hotel attack.

Airstrikes alone cannot defeat the extremists, Bryden said, and must be combined with more ground-based attacks as well as a non-military campaign to win over residents of extremist-held areas.

The US on Saturday said it was committed to “preventing al-Shabaab from taking advantage of safe havens from which they can build capacity and attack the people of Somalia”.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Press TV’s Hashemi Unlikely to be Released Immediately: Son
Sat Jan 19, 2019 03:04AM
presstv.ir

Marzieh Hashemi, a Press TV news anchor (file photo)

A court in the United States has confirmed the arrest of US-born Iranian Press TV news presenter Marzieh Hashemi as a material witness in an unspecified investigation.

Ms. Hashemi, 59, was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on unspecified charges upon arrival at St. Louis Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, Missouri, on Sunday, her family and friends said.

At the request of the US Justice Department, Judge Beryl Alaine Howell, the chief district judge for the District of Columbia, issued a federal court order, approving the partial unsealing of the Press TV journalist’s case, Reuters reported.

According to the document, since her arrest, the journalist has appeared twice before a US district judge in Washington and has been appointed a lawyer.

The Associated Press said US government officials expected her to be released immediately after her testimony before a grand jury, but Ms. Hashemi's elder son, Hossein, was pessimistic about prospects for her immediate release, saying it was not clear yet how long his mother’s testimony would last.

“We’re hoping that it would be complete and she would be out this week. It doesn't look like that's going to happen,” said Hossein outside the court on Friday. “So we're just waiting to hear more.”

However, the Friday court order did not include any details regarding the criminal case in which she has been named as a material witness.

The order said that Ms. Hashemi “has not been accused of any crime,” but she has said she was handcuffed and shackled and was treated like a criminal. The journalist has also said she had her hijab forcibly removed, and was photographed without her headscarf upon arrival at the prison.

Reuters further quoted an unnamed US government source as claiming that it appeared the grand jury was examining whether Press TV is a “propaganda outlet” that failed to register with the Justice Department as an agent of a foreign government.

The Press TV anchor and producer, who returns periodically to the US to visit her family, had been working in St. Louis on a documentary about Black Lives Matter, an international activist movement originating in the African-American community that campaigns against violence and systemic racism towards black people in the United States.

Suzanne Nossel, CEO of the PEN America group promoting literature and free expression, says she is concerned Ms. Hashemi might have been targeted for her documentary for political reasons. “If there are other grounds for Hashemi's detention they must be made clear, otherwise she should be released immediately,” Nossel added.

'Remarkable perseverance'

Hashemi’s attorney, Preston Burton, said, “Marzieh Hashemi’s perseverance has been remarkable in the midst of difficult circumstances, and it is my privilege to represent her. She is heartened by the many expressions of concern about her well-being, and we expect that she will soon return to her family, her home, and her career.”

What is material witness?

The US law defines a material witness as a person who is presumed to have information about the subject matter of a lawsuit or criminal prosecution, which is critical to the outcome of the case or trial. US Federal law allows judges to order witnesses to be arrested if the government can prove that they are material witness.

Since terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, material witness warrants have been used to detain possible witnesses or suspects.

The material witness warrants are rarely issued, and Ms. Hashemi’s case is the first such case filed in federal court in the US capital this year. Only two such warrants were issued last year and both are still under seal, The Washington Post said in a report on Friday.

The statute generally requires those witnesses to be immediately freed once they are deposed. However, the report further cited a 2005 joint analysis conducted by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union showing that the US government had held 70 men as potential material witnesses to that time and nearly half of whom were never called to testify.

The analysis concluded that the use of the warrants was excessive and frequently unlawful since many of the detainees were never questioned by a grand jury or were even denied access to lawyers for extended periods of time, and that most of them were never charged with a crime.

US violating Hasehmi’s religious rights: CAIR

Meanwhile, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) – the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the US – called on US authorities to “cease violating” Ms. Hashemi’s “religious rights.”

“Law enforcement officials must clarify why they are holding Ms. Hashemi without formal charges and why they have allegedly denied her religious rights while in custody,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said, adding, “There can be no justification for denying an American citizen, or any other person, their basic civil and religious rights.”
Bolton, Pompeo Behind Arrest of Marzieh Hashemi: Analysts
Fri Jan 18, 2019 11:48AM
presstv.ir

Marzieh Hashemi, Press TV anchor (Photo)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US National Security Advisor John Bolton are those who have ordered arresting Marzieh Hashemi, a journalist and anchor working for Iran’s English-language Press TV television news network, say commentators.

American-born Hashemi, most famous for anchoring news programs and presenting shows for Press TV, was detained upon arrival at St. Louis Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, Missouri, on Sunday, her family and friends said.

Collin Cavell, former lecturer at the University of Bahrain, told Press TV that “it looks like Secretary of State Pompeo and specially National Security Adviser Bolton are now imposing their will on US foreign policy and violating Article 13, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and thus violating international law by arresting Marzieh Hashemi and putting her in undisclosed detention facility somewhere in Washington DC.”

Scott Bennett, former US army psychological warfare officer, said that “I look at this as part of a psychological operation, as part of a larger plan, a larger entrapment that rogue elements, I would assume, under Bolton, under Pompeo, rogue elements and the deep state are being engaged in this operation against Marzieh just simply to achieve a variety of false ends.”

“Essentially, you (American officials) have imprisoned the dam ladder of the Iranian news industry,” Bennett noted.

In another interview with Press TV, Mohammad Marandi, professor at the University of Tehran, said that “Marzieh Hashemi is an American citizen. She is American born. She is African American. She went there to see her family and everything that she did in the United States was legal unlike American reporters or British reporters who come to Iran, who go and see ministers and who see key political figures.”

Press TV’s chief says the Iranian English-language news network will take any necessary legal action to secure the release of its anchor, Marzieh Hashemi, who has been imprisoned in Washington for unspecified reasons.

Meanwhile, Iranian parliament speaker's special adviser on international affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said “the US started the ordeal by detaining Marzieh Hashemi. If this Press TV journalist is not freed immediately, this ordeal will not end when the US government desires.”

Protests planned in US

Also, Akbar Muhammad, spokesperson for prominent Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan said “I plan to go to Washington and speak with those who have caused this ordeal. A demonstration will be held on Friday and a women's march is planned for Saturday.”

Tehran University professor and international relations expert Foad Izadi also said “Press TV’s television programs are not accessible in the US because of a government ban on the channel but Hashemi’s detention and the subsequent media outcry made many Americans aware of the channel and Hashemi’s activities over the past years."
Online Petitions Launched to Secure Press TV Anchor Hashemi's Release
Fri Jan 18, 2019 06:43PM
presstv.ir

 Press TV news presenter Marzieh Hashemi (file photo)

Seven online petitions have been launched on the petition website Change.org to secure the release of Press TV news presenter Marzieh Hashemi, who has been imprisoned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Police (FBI) on unspecified charges.

In two of the petition to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and US Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice, the website said it has been informed of Hashemi's arrest and imprisonment in Washington DC without any clear reasons and formal charges.

It added that Ms. Hashemi, who was born in the United States, is an American citizen, who has not been found guilty of any crimes.

An American law expert tells Press TV that the imprisonment of its news presenter, Marzieh Hashemi, on unspecified charges runs contrary to the US Constitution, which forbids “unreasonable” seizures.
In another petition to the United Nations, the website said the "cowardly abduction" of the prominent journalist by the US President Donald Trump's regime is part of its "obsession with Iran."

"Trump and gang want the resistance axis to recognize the existence of the illegal and illegitimate Zionist regime occupying Palestine. The Trump gang is ignorant of the fact that the Political Earthquake that happened in Iran in 1979 is today bigger than Iran," said Saif Ali Budgami who started this petition.

Other petitions are also been sent to a number of American and international bodies and officials demanding Hashemi's immediate release.

Iran's FM says the US should end its 'political game' release Press TV's detained news anchor.
Ms. Hashemi was taken into custody on Sunday in St. Louis, Missouri, where she had filmed a Black Lives Matter documentary.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) also on Friday expressed its "serious concern" over Hashemi's detention.

The federation wrote in a Twitter post on Friday that the United States must give clarifications about the situation of the anchor of the English-language channel Press TV.
Zimbabwe President Arrives in Azerbaijan
Herald

President Mnangagwa has arrived in Baku, Azerbaijan, where is he is scheduled to hold talks with that country’s leader, President Ilham Aliyev. President Mnangagwa was received at Heydar Aliyev International Airport by Azerbaijan’s First Deputy Prime Minister, Yaqub Eyyubov.

The Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces yesterday concluded a State visit to Belarus, which followed another one in Russia where he met President Vladimir Putin.

Zimbabwe and Azerbaijan established diplomatic relations about 11 years ago, but in that period there have not been any bilateral political or economic changes.

Since President Mnangagwa’s ascension in November 2017, things have started to change.
Late last year, Azerbaijan started providing scholarships to Zimbabweans at undergraduate/graduate/doctoral level and for medicine/residency.

Now, the countries want to go even further, and it is understood that Azerbaijan would like to sign memoranda of understanding with President Mnangagwa’s Government in tax administration affairs, and promotion and reciprocal protection of investments.

Baku is also looking at co-operation in the fields of mining, energy and tourism. Harare, on its part, is looking at interesting Baku in investing in polished granite goods and finished tobacco products.
Earlier in the week in an interview with Russia’s Tass news agency, President Mnangagwa said when President Aliyev invited him to Azerbaijan, the latter indicated he wanted to directly discuss agriculture and oil with him.

“I have never been there (to Azerbaijan) before but these are the areas that he indicated in his invitation, that he would want to develop relationships in those areas.

“They are currently drafting memorandums of understanding in those areas, and we will finalise when we arrive there,” President Mnangagwa said.

From Azerbaijan, President Mnangagwa rounds off his four-nation Eurasian tour in Kazakhstan, where he is expected to enhance economic cooperation between the two countries during talks with President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Zimbabwe Protests Weren’t About Fuel Prices: Broader Political Plot Exposed
19 JAN, 2019 - 00:01

A motorist weaves his way past rocks that had been used by MDC rioters to block the road in Harare on Monday

Herald Reporter

The MDC-Alliance instigated violent protests witnessed early this week had nothing to do with an increase in the price of fuel or high cost of living among Zimbabweans, but part of the broader attempt at effecting illegal regime change, analysts said yesterday.

The timing of the protests, targeting of police stations for attacks, inflating of the number of victims by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and petitions to the international community, among other shenanigans by those who initiated the demonstrations, all point to a poorly-concealed political agenda oiled by the country’s traditional foes.

“The fuel issue was only manipulated as a trigger to long-standing efforts to internationalise domestic politics in Zimbabwe in a manner skewed in favour of the MDC-Alliance,” said political analyst, Mr Goodwine Mureriwa.

He said MDC-Alliance was trying to reinforce a false argument that the post-election outcome produced an illegitimate Zanu-PF Government.

He questioned why, if President Mnangagwa’s economic policies were not working, he was not being given the chance to fail instead of engaging in disruptive behaviour.

Mr Mureriwa also said the timing of the demonstrations and their violent nature were meant to influence the European Union (EU) to maintain illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe.

He said it was also aimed at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to impose illegal sanctions on the country.

“This explains why the so-called Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights is inflating the number of those injured to create a pretext for intervention on humanitarian grounds. They want to create a pretext for abuse of human rights, violation of the rule of law and to paint the whole politics of Zimbabwe as undemocratic,” added Mr Mureriwa.

He said this also explained why the demonstrators deliberately targeted police stations for attack.

“They targeted police stations for attack so as to provoke a firm response by the police that could lead to many casualties. Their objective will not be achieved without dead bodies and to strengthen their resolve, they also had to bomb their own offices (Harvest House) to portray Zanu-PF as a doctor of violence, violence which they instigated,” said Mr Mureriwa.

Another analyst who refused to be named said the violent protests were also “to throw spanners in President Mnangagwa’s engagement and re-engagement efforts for Zimbabwe to remain a pariah State”.

He said geopolitically, there were countries which were not happy about the close ties President Mnangagwa was forging with Eurasia due to the lukewarm attitude of the West despite all his reform efforts.

President Mnangagwa is in Eastern Europe on an engagement drive that will also see him in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum.

Another political analysts, Mr Gabriel Chaibva, applauded the security forces for exercising the  highest standards of self-restraint in the face of provocation by opposition forces “itching for dead bodies” so as to create a human rights situation in Zimbabwe and the resultant international consequences.

“There is nothing as provocative as trying to get a gun from a soldier or attacking a police station. They were hoping for many dead bodies that would justify their outcry about human rights violations. Let us forget their lie that the protests were about economics. There is a broader political agenda to overthrow Government through unconstitutional means,” said Mr Chaibva.

Mr Chaibva, a former MDC official, said this had always been the opposition party’s agenda.

“It is the continuation of the MDC-Alliance agenda of August 1, 2018 of trying to make the country ungovernable. The MDC-Alliance are in pursuit of a foreign agenda which started in 2001 – the regime change agenda and the imposition of illegal economic sanctions. It explains the timing of the disturbances when the President is in Eastern Europe and soon in Switzerland. The EU is meeting soon to review economic sanctions on Zimbabwe. They must therefore find an excuse for extension of the sanctions, citing alleged deterioration of the human rights situation in Zimbabwe. It also explains why they are anxious to petition that the President should not attend the Davos summit,” said Mr Chaibva.

He added: “Let us not be under any illusion that the regime change protagonists are at rest. They are expanding their efforts.”

Mr Richard Mahomva said the MDC-Alliance and its partners were hiding behind the new fuel price to cause chaos.

“The violent response to what was an inevitable policy position on the fuel price was a concerted agenda to perpetuate the legacy of 1 August. It is the same old approach of manipulating gullible public emotional outrage to stage a war with ZANU-PF. The underpinning matter here is not the fuel price rise; it is about finding an opportunity to give traction to the ZANU-PF illegitimacy crusade post the 2018 elections,” said Mr Mahomva.

“As one would note, the shutdown plan only excelled in urban opposition hotspots, hence the outcry on the internet jam. From the outset, there was no constructive mechanism to engage a policy alternative and one notes that this is part of the long promised measure by the opposition to make the country ungovernable. Of note is the opposition’s hidden hand in the recent plunder just as was the case in August,” he said.

The Herald is reliably informed that the protests were funded to the tune of US$2 million by a foreign power and were supposed to leave at least 200 people dead.

This, it was planned, would then see the UN Security Council intervening on humanitarian grounds.
Nairobi Attack Ends After 20-hour Siege
AFP
2019/1/16 20:03:41

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said Wednesday that Islamists who stormed an upmarket hotel complex in Nairobi, killing 14 people, had been "eliminated" after an almost 20-hour siege in which hundreds of civilians were rescued.

At least one suicide bomber blew himself up and gunmen engaged security forces in numerous shootouts during the assault on the DusitD2 compound, which includes a 101-room hotel, spa, restaurant and office buildings.

The attack was claimed by the Al Qaeda-linked Somali group Al-Shabaab, which has repeatedly targeted Kenya since it sent its army into Somalia in October 2011 to fight the jihadist group.

The sight of armed Islamists and terrified civilians fleeing reminded Kenyans of a 2013 Shabaab attack on the Westgate mall left 67 dead in a siege that stretched out over four days and led to sharp criticism of the security response.

In a televised address, Kenyatta said some 700 civilians had been evacuated throughout the attack at DusitD2, with the swift and effective work from security forces drawing widespread praise in local media. "I can confirm that... the security operation at Dusit complex is over and all the terrorists eliminated," Kenyatta said in a televised address.

"As of this moment, we have confirmation that 14 innocent lives were lost to the... terrorists, with others injured."

Police sources and a mortuary official had previously reported 15 dead.

It was not immediately clear how many attackers there were in total.

CCTV footage broadcast on local media showed four black-clad, heavily armed men entering the complex on Tuesday afternoon. At least one of them blew himself up at the start of the attack.

A police source said two attackers had been shot dead Wednesday morning ­after a prolonged shootout.

The attack began at about 3 pm on Tuesday, with a loud blast followed by gunfire and rapid calls for help spreading on Twitter.

Kenyan police chief Joseph Boinnet said the attack began with an explosion targeting three cars in the parking lot and a suicide bombing in the foyer of the Dusit hotel.

Among the dead was an American citizen, a State Department official said.

A mortuary official said there were also 11 Kenyan victims, a British victim, one with no papers as well as an unidentified torso of a male adult.
China-Africa Relations Continue to Develop Supported by Investment Into the Continent
By Song Wei
Global Times
2019/1/16 18:43:40

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi paid an official visit to Ethiopia, the African Union Headquarters, Burkina Faso, Gambia and Senegal from January 2 to 6, which was his first diplomatic trip of 2019. As a diplomatic tradition, the Chinese foreign minister has visited Africa first each year, for the past 29 consecutive years. The continuing China-Africa cooperation is not just meant to deepen their traditional friendship, but is also needed to support the economic development in the African continent.

With the accelerating economic development, industrialization and urbanization in Africa, funds have been continually injected into various African countries. At present, China is the largest investor in the continent, with its investment covering many development areas. For this reason, during the 29th Summit of the African Union (AU) held in 2017, several senior AU officials said that the connection between AU's "2063 Agenda" and the "Belt and Road" (B&R) initiative should be strengthened. Subsequently,  37 African countries and the AU signed the B&R cooperation documents with China, which agreed to take the opportunity of B&R to deepen the cooperation and assist in supporting developmental demands of the region. In terms of policy communication, through the continuous high-level exchanges between China and Africa, China's development experience has gradually been accepted and adopted by many African countries.

According to a recent report released by African polling organization Afrobarometer, nearly two-thirds of the respondents surveyed thought China's influence in Africa is quite or very positive. With regards to infrastructure connectivity, in 2017, the Mombasa-Nairobi railway and the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway commenced operations, which effectively promoted the integration process in East Africa. In addition, China is steadily pushing forward with the power connectivity project in East Africa, the power transmission channel project in Central Africa and the cross-border hydropower project in West Africa.

Meanwhile, thanks to the mutually agreeable bilateral trading relationships, China-Africa trade experienced rapid growth, jumping from $10.8 billion in 2001 to $169.75 billion in 2017. The bilateral trade even reached $222 billion in 2014.

Moreover, China has also offered substantial assistance and investment to Africa. According to EY's Attractiveness Program Africa report in 2017, since 2005, China has invested in 293 foreign direct investment projects in Africa, totaling $66.4 billion and creating more than 130,000 jobs.

The China-Africa development cooperation has won wide recognition among African countries. Due to the different national conditions and demands in different African countries, China always combines the needs of the various countries with its capabilities to design a differentiated development cooperation program so as to allocate aid, investment and trade resources in a rational and mutually agreeable manner. Such a development cooperation model with Chinese characteristics has won widespread support from the African people.

Over the past few decades, China has helped Africa build more than 10,000 kilometers of highways, more than 6,000 kilometers of railways and hundreds of airports, ports and power stations, with the construction of numerous hospitals and schools across the continent also aided by China. China has also helped train hundreds of thousands of professionals for various sectors through the human resource development projects.

In addition, the success of China-Africa development cooperation has also drawn attention of the international community to Africa. After the Cold War, the African issues were once again gradually marginalized by the West. It is the continuous expansion of China-Africa development cooperation that has attracted Western attention recently. The reason why Western countries have focused on African affairs in recent years is mainly due to their concerns about "China competition" in the African continent.

China-Africa cooperation is both a historical choice and the requirement of the times, which is not one-sided but a win-win cooperation. Not only does Africa need China, but China also needs Africa. Although the West may not be happy to see China "entering Africa," some major Western powers even see a sharp increase in Chinese activities and the rising Chinese presence of Chinese influence in Africa as a challenge to their interests.

Nevertheless, in the face of the deliberate smearing of China-Africa cooperation, African governments and people disregard such discord and unswervingly adhere to the friendly policy toward China. This is actually the best defense and interpretation of "building a China-Africa community with a shared future."

The author is an associate research fellow at the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation under the Ministry of Commerce. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn
Chinese University Lecturer Makes it Fun to Solve Real-world Questions with Marxism
By Li Lei
Global Times
2019/1/17 17:08:40

Professor Huang Lingjun, dean of the School of Marxism of HUST, introduces the course during the first In-depth China class. Photo: Courtesy of HUST

When a group of engineering students voted on a teacher to deliver their last class before graduation, to everyone's surprise, a political education lecturer was elected in a landslide.

Yan Shuai is one of 13 lecturers for In-depth China, a popular public elective political course from the School of Marxism of Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) in Wuhan in Central China's Hubei Province.

The class soon became the most popular course at the university after it was first offered in March 2018. "We have seen 1,600 students sign up for 200 seats," Yan told the Global Times.

Chinese college students have long been bored by the traditional way of teaching political classes.

"Many knowledge points are introduced in a page or even a sentence in the book, but it's hard to clarify the relationship between these points and current affairs in a sentence or two," Yan told the Global Times.

"I found that students are very interested in what is happening in China, but they are bothered by the lack of a systematic and professional introduction to these events," said Yan.

What did the class do to attract so many students?

Fresh teaching methods

Many topics are discussed in the In-depth China class.

In response to a question related to human rights, Yan illustrated his answer through a story about a bachelor who asked the local government to find him a wife.

A bachelor blamed the government for his single status, because the government failed to vitalize the local economy, and young women had no choice but to work in big cities. "The logic of the bachelor is hilarious, but the local government eventually helped him to develop his own career and solve his life and marital problems," Yan said in the class.

"The case shows that the Chinese government has its own way of helping people live better lives, which is different from what US authorities usually do, but we do solve problems," Yan said.

At least three teachers from different disciplines were invited to every class to help teach the  class through a debate.

"Many questions have more than one answer, and different perspectives may lead to different conclusions," Yan explained to the Global Times. "We hope lecturers from different disciplines can provide new insights to students from the perspective of their own expertise, and students can learn new methodologies to solve problems in the future."

"It (In-depth China) opens a window for us, and inspires us to think about and pay attention to various hot social issues," said Ma Fuwei, a junior at the School of Electronic Information and Communications of HUST.

"Actually, engineering students are interested in State affairs and the development status quo of our country, because they are closely related to us and our families," said Li Jiangshuai, a senior at HUST.

In order to give students a vivid vision of China's current affairs, the class also invited reporters, government officials, organizers of poverty-alleviation programs and villagers to participate.

New technology

Yan told the Global Times that a survey was conducted before the start of the class to make In-depth China more attractive to the younger generation.

Some innovations were made to appeal to the college students of today. Internet and mobile teaching methods have been used in class to keep the attention of these "digital natives." Teachermate, a real-time class interaction platform and "Vdanmu," an application that allows students to send "bullet screens" during class, help students participate. "Bullet screen" or "danmu" in Chinese  allows real-time comments from viewers to fly across the screen.

"Students are allowed to use these tools up to three times and for less than 10 minutes each time in a class, which is fine," said Chen Xunwei, a teacher at HUST.

The course also has a WeChat official account and a chat group. The account releases information about upcoming classes and publishes highlights from past classes, and the group allows students to ask questions at any time.

Yan uses a mobile application to create a lottery system to call on students for questions. Bullet screens and online voting apps are also useful tools for Yan.

At the end of the semester, students finish their class with a dissertation themed "I have a suggestion for my country."

The class has received 400 dissertations and many positive reviews  from the students.

"I was surprised by the insightful opinions in these dissertations," said Huang Lingjun, dean of the School of Marxism of HUST.

After attending a class on China's poverty alleviation, a student said, "Since I have been living in the city, I was confused about why China still calls itself a 'developing country.' After learning the importance of poverty alleviation, I know that our country is right and honest in finding its position, which inspires me to study harder and make an effort to achieve the Chinese dream."
Huawei Founder Denies Accusation of Stealing Trade Secrets
By Fan Lingzhi in Shenzhen and Chen Qingqing in Beijing
Global Times
2019/1/18 0:08:39

Ren Zhengfei, founder of China's Huawei Technologies, answers questions from journalists of Chinese media outlets on Thursday in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province. Photo: Courtesy of Huawei Technologies

Ren Zhengfei, founder of China's Huawei Technologies, who usually keeps a low profile, appeared before journalists Thursday and stressed that his company does not steal trade secrets. But this has not deterred aggressively hostile attitude from the West.

The Shenzhen-based company has been facing growing pressure from Western countries, particularly the US, as local politicians consider it an arm of the Chinese government.

The few US politicians who make noise do not represent US society. I believe US industries, enterprises and technology sectors firmly support us and seek greater cooperation with us, Ren noted.

Commenting on his military background and being a Party member, Ren said don't confuse business model with ideology.  He expresse gratitude to the Chinese government for providing consular protection to Chinese citizens.

Meng Wanzhou, Ren's daughter, was arrested on December 1, 2018 by Canadian authorities following a US request. She is now facing an extradition through Canadian courts, and US charges may stem from alleged Huawei's violation of US sanctions against Iran.

Ren told the Global Times at an interview with multiple Chinese media outlets in Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province on Thursday that he calls Meng frequently and tells her jokes to relax. "She is very strong," Ren said.

The 75-year-old Chinese entrepreneur also expressed his gratitude toward the Chinese government for providing consular protection to Chinese citizens.

 "We anticipated the problems that Huawei might encounter a dozen years ago. We are not totally unprepared for the current situation," Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei said.

On the alleged theft of trade secrets,  Ren reiterated that the company absolutely respects intellectual property rights of others.

"Huawei now has 87,805 patents, of which 11,152 core patents were granted in the US, and our technology patents are valuable to the information society of the US," he said.

Huawei has been heavily investing in research and development (R&D) and making major breakthrough in core technologies.

Federal prosecutors are now pursuing a criminal investigation of Huawei for allegedly stealing trade secrets from US business partners, including local carrier T-Mobile, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

The investigation stemmed from civil lawsuits against the Chinese company, which is also the largest telecom equipment provider worldwide.

The recent move of federal authorities is seen as part of growing pressure being exerted by the US government on Huawei, in line with its aggressive stance to curb the rise of Chinese high-end technology.

T-Mobile sued Huawei in 2014, claiming that two employees of the Chinese company in its US affiliate spied on a smartphone-testing robot that the US carrier had in its Bellevue lab, and the lawsuit had been settled in federal court in Seattle in 2017, the Seattle Times reported in May 2017.

The jury determined that T-Mobile should be awarded $4.8 million in damages because Huawei had breached a handset supply contract with T-Mobile but it did not award any damages from the trade secret claim, the media report said.

Difficult time

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Thursday urged the US government to stop politicizing multinational litigation and business disputes, which will seriously damage its judicial reputation as neutral and independent.

"The dispute between Huawei and T-Mobile is a civil lawsuit that has been properly settled in accordance with US law," Hua Chunying, spokesperson of Foreign Ministry, told a press briefing on Thursday.

"We're concerned about US federal prosecutors who are reportedly investigating the case, and we have doubts about their real intentions," she remarked.

Politicizing civil lawsuits will not only be inconsistent with the rules of free and fair market competition, but will also violate the spirit of the rule of law, Hua noted.

In 2017, Huawei invested 89.7 billion yuan ($13.3 billion) in R&D, or 14.9 percent of its total revenue, according to the company's website.

Huawei's profits were about $9 billion in 2018 and the company invested $15-$20 billion into R&D, according to Ren. 

The Chinese company also ranked fifth in the world's top 50 companies by their R&D investment in 2018, and Huawei was also the only Chinese company listed, according to 2018 EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard released in December 2018.

Huawei will invest $100 billion in network restructuring in the next five years to make networks highly secure while protecting privacy by following EU General Data Protection Regulations, Ren said.

"The latest move of US federal authorities is abnormal, as Huawei had not lost its edge in the previous civil lawsuit," Long Z. Liu, an attorney licensed in California and US federal courts, told the Global Times on Thursday.

In patent disputes between technology companies, a court usually awards multimillion-dollar damages, Liu noted.

 "Based on the relatively small amount T-Mobile was awarded in previous disputes, I would not say Huawei completely lost the lawsuit," he said.

Huawei also filed a lawsuit against T-Mobile for mobile patent infringement, following talks between two countries over a licensing agreement for the 4G patents in 2014, media reported in 2016.

McCarthyism in high-tech

Chinese officials and analysts also criticized the US government for politicizing normal business disputes, and some see this move as a further crackdown on China's rise in high-tech fields, especially in the 5G technologies.

"The US side is likely to be unsatisfied with the ongoing China-US trade negotiations, so it needs to seek different ways of suppressing China," Huo Jianguo, a research fellow at Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times on Thursday.

"Apparently, Huawei has been growing into a tech giant that could challenge other foreign players in the telecoms sector, which motivated the US government to curb its further growth," he said.
US Missile Defense Plan Reveals Illusion Disguised as Safety Net
Global Times
2019/1/18 7:41:46

US President Donald Trump laid out his administration's Missile Defense Review during a speech at the Pentagon on Thursday local time, declaring the US will develop a more advanced defense system to counter hypersonic and cruise missile threats from competitors and adversaries.

Trump also said the US will do whatever it takes "to ensure that we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States anywhere, anytime, any place."

The Missile Defense Review makes clear the system will be aimed at protecting the US against existing threats from North Korea and Iran, and countering advanced weaponry developed by Russia and China.

Today, US missile defense systems have a greater presence in many countries and regions.  Chinese and Russian targets are within its range, a vital component of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system found in neighboring countries. Additionally, the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System (aka Sea-Based Midcourse) is connected to THAAD, helping to make it even more efficient.

Analysts have said that the US defense systems can act as a form of insurance against small-scale missile attacks from North Korea and Iran, but their Achilles' heel will be revealed when confronted with dense missile strikes from China or Russia. The development of Chinese and Russian hypersonic missiles will be a threat for US defense systems.

Since the beginning, when "Star Wars" was launched during the Reagan era, the US government has focused on developing anti-missile defense systems at various degrees of importance. Throughout, the project has functioned as a form of psychological deterrence while having a political influence in creating closer alliances with deploying nations.

Missile defense and other systems are the modern equivalents to spears and shields. While technological progress is balanced, with the development of technology interception, offensive tactics have grown simultaneously. Attack missiles are flexible and can travel unexpectedly, unlike a defense mechanism, which will always win favor in any competition.

The purpose behind this latest US defense upgrade is to eliminate the possibility of mutually assured destruction, a Cold War-era principle followed tacitly by nuclear weapon states. It is to make itself the only country with nuclear capabilities that could destroy a nation while simultaneously making itself immune from foreign nuclear weapon strikes. Overall, it would give the US a unique strategic advantage against adversarial threats.

For the US, whether missile interception is successful or not, is not the main priority. Instead, it looks forward to garnering diplomatic advantages through the deployment of the system. Since intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) loaded with nuclear warheads have the capability to annihilate civilization, the US is aware its missile defense systems will never be used.

Domestic approval, foreign sentiments, and the effect such a plan would have on Trump's approval ratings are the real questions to consider.

Should Washington actually follow through, no other power in the world would be able to stop it. The US has already threatened to withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. In paradoxical US fashion, they accuse China of developing an advanced missile program while preparing to release a new missile defense plan of its own. Thursday's announcement serves as a declaration that the US is now leading a missile defense systems race.

However, there is practically zero hope the US could ever become an entirely secure nation, one that would possess the freedom to attack major powers like Russia and China. Security is meant to be interrelated among all nations, and it cannot belong solely to the US at the expense of other countries. Regardless of budget, the US will never be satisfied with "security hegemony," an unprecedented goal that has never been attained throughout human civilization. The US will remain at a great distance from this goal.

The widening chasm that exists between the US and the world is not rooted in their technological advances as they would like for everyone to think, but can be found within its lack of sincerity when it comes to making positive contributions or easing global tension.

US missile defense systems are nothing more than attempts at keeping up appearances. They provide Washington the chance to flex their muscles on the global stage. This latest missile defense system will neither discourage Russia or China, nor benefit the US in negotiations with North Korea and Iran. It seems the real purpose of any US missile defense system is nothing more than a tool used by White House leaders to help fool the American public.  
States Report Sharp Increase in Unemployment Claims by Federal Workers as Shutdown Approaches One Month
Internal Revenue Service employee Mary Maldonado of Dracut, Mass., center, displays a placard during a rally by federal employees and supporters on Thursday in front of the Statehouse in Boston. (Steven Senne/AP)

By Tim Craig
January 17 at 7:19 PM
Washington Post

Melissa Prince has spent two decades in an important job — helping to make sure the next generation of U.S. air traffic controllers are properly trained before they manage American airspace.

But since late December, Prince, a federal contractor, has been out of work because of the partial government shutdown. She’s been sitting at home worrying about mounting bills instead of writing computer programs for the Salt Lake Air Traffic Control Center in Utah.

For the first few weeks of the shutdown, Prince relied on vacation time and sick leave to maintain her income. Now, the 57-year-old has applied for unemployment compensation to make sure she can keep paying for groceries and fuel for her vehicle.

“It doesn’t feel good,” said Prince, who earns about $70,000 year. “We feel we like we do a good job and our job is important, so this is especially brutal.”

Prince’s decision reflects what state officials say is the next, uncomfortable, phase of a government shutdown that is rattling the economy as 800,000 federal workers and contractors are not paid.

Over the past 10 days, as initial hopes for a quick resolution to the standoff between President Trump and congressional Democrats have dimmed, state leaders have reported a sharp increase in the number of unemployment claims as federal workers and contractors cram employment phone lines and offices seeking relief.

Under federal guidelines, furloughed federal workers and contractors who have been told not to report to work are generally eligible to apply for unemployment benefits, although many will have to repay the money if they receive back pay when they return to the job.

But on Wednesday, in another blow to federal workers, the U.S. Labor Department sent guidance to states clarifying that hundreds of thousands of federal workers who are working without pay do not qualify for unemployment benefits.

Molly E. Conway, acting assistant secretary of the Labor Department’s Employment and Training Administration, told state employment officers those workers will not qualify for unemployment because they are guaranteed eventual payment for the hours they worked. Conway said the department is maintaining guidelines established by the Obama administration during the 2013 government shutdown.

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) objected to the decision, releasing a statement urging the Labor Department to make more federal workers eligible for unemployment benefits.

“It is an outrage to think that any hard-working, dedicated public servant in this country would ever have to make a decision between paying their mortgage and buying groceries,” Bowser said. “The federal government must rethink this decision and allow us to offer federal employees the same support they are offering our nation.”

Even with those rules, state officials are reporting new stresses on centers where workers can apply for unemployment benefits and look for jobs. The influx of federal applicants is occurring just as job centers are traditionally jammed with seasonal workers who become unemployed after the holidays.

In the Washington region, more than 10,000 people have filed for unemployment assistance in the District, Maryland and Virginia, according to state and city officials. The bulk of those claims have been filed in the District, because federal workers are required to request unemployment in the jurisdiction that houses their place of employment.

But the surge in new applicants is spread throughout the country, underscoring how the shutdown is affecting local economies far beyond the Washington region.

In Pennsylvania, 2,334 federal workers filed for unemployment benefits between Dec. 22 and Jan. 9, compared with 150 who applied for the assistance during the same period one year ago. Federal workers now account for 15 percent of all new applicants in Pennsylvania, according to Bill Trusky, the state’s deputy unemployment compensation secretary.

The numbers could be higher when including federal contractors.

Combined with the influx of seasonal workers, wait times at Pennsylvania unemployment call centers have increased eightfold over the past week, with the average caller being placed on hold for more than 35 minutes.

With Trump recently vowing the shutdown could “last months or years,” Trusky fears the number of applications from federal workers could grow dramatically in the coming weeks as more of them exhaust savings. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has warned that the state might have to eventually lay off state workers funded with federal dollars if the shutdown drags on.

“The longer this goes on, and the more people are furloughed, our claims will rise,” Trusky said.

In Georgia, which has about 100,000 federal workers, more than 1,200 applied for unemployment benefits during the week ending Jan. 12, up from 100 during the last week of December.

Those federal workers account for 9 percent of weekly applicants, according to information compiled by the Georgia Labor Department.

In Maryland, Comptroller Peter Franchot’s office said this week that 172,000 workers in his state are affected by the shutdown, resulting in $778 million in lost wages.

As of Jan. 11, about 3,000 federal workers have applied for unemployment assistance in Maryland, according to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

“Even if some employees do eventually get repaid, our economy will not be made whole and changes to long-term spending habits may cause further harm,” said Franchot (D), noting that many federal contractors will not receive back pay once the government reopens.

Despite those economic worries, state officials caution that the consequences of the shutdown could have been far worse. Most programs dealing with education, health, human services and labor remain fully funded, said John Hicks, executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO).

But Hicks warns that state budgets and the outlook for government jobs will continue to worsen the longer the shutdown persists. If the shutdown drags through February, he said, some states may have to lay off workers funded with federal pass-through dollars and other grant programs slated to lapse without permanent appropriations from Congress.

“With each passing day, everyone gets a little bit more on guard,” Hicks said. “Eventually, states may have to make a decision: Do they put up their own money or do their own furloughs?”

In Utah, where Prince filed for unemployment benefits, there has been a 47 percent increase in the number of applicants since the shutdown began Dec. 22 compared with the same period in 2017 and 2018.

The 2,900 benefit claims from federal workers made up about 32 percent of the applications submitted between Dec. 22 and Jan. 15, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

About 70 percent of federal employee claims came from people who work for the Internal Revenue Service, which has about 5,000 employees in Ogden, Utah, said Kevin Burt, director of the state’s Unemployment Insurance Division.

At Salt Lake Air Traffic Control Center, Prince helps air traffic controllers finish the final part of their training before manning towers or operations centers. The training involves computerized lessons on FAA procedures.

Prince said she was initially hesitant to apply for unemployment benefits, believing that Trump and congressional leaders would quickly reach an agreement.

But Prince’s financial prospects became cloudy shortly after Christmas, when her husband needed an unexpected surgery.

She said she has enough money in the bank to pay her mortgage for about three months. “It’s just been bad timing,” said Prince, who is employed by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) and does not expect to recoup back pay.

She expects that her unemployment benefits will be less than a third of her normal salary. In Utah, weekly unemployment benefits are capped at $560 per week for a maximum of 26 weeks.

But Prince said she feels especially bad for the support and administrative staff at the air traffic control center, many of whom make less than $20 an hour and have no savings at all.

As they wait for the government to reopen, Prince wonders how many furloughed federal workers and contractors choose to leave government positions.

Utah maintains stringent standards requiring unemployment compensation recipients to actively search for jobs. Burt said the state is waiving that requirement for federal workers and contractors who can prove they are still “attached to a job.”

Prince, however, intends to keep looking.

“If a new one comes up that is good, maybe I’ll just go,” Prince said. “It might be more secure.”

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Tim Craig is a national reporter on the America desk. He previously served as head of The Washington Post’s Afghanistan-Pakistan bureau, based in Islamabad and Kabul. He has also reported from Iraq, the District and Baltimore.
Democrats Demand Zero-interest Loans for Federal Workers Caught in the Shutdown
by Pete Kasperowicz
January 18, 2019 02:06 PM

Dozens of House Democrats this week introduced legislation that would give federal workers access to 0 percent interest loans to help them get by during the partial government shutdown.

The Immediate Financial Relief for Federal Employees Act, from Democrat T.J. Cox of California, is aimed at helping 800,000 federal workers pay their bills. They haven't received a paycheck since Dec. 22 because of the ongoing shutdown.

"This is a commonsense piece of legislation that would provide immediate relief to the hundreds of thousands of federal employees who are suffering from this unnecessary shutdown," Cox said.

"Right now, families in every neighborhood and zip code, are being forced to decide how to pay their mortgages, heating bills, put food on the table, or even ration medicine," he said. "We must do whatever we can to protect the workers who are paying the price for this administration's cruelty — and this legislation, common practice at businesses across the country, aims to do just that."

Under his bill, federal workers could borrow up to $6,000 from the Treasury Department and not be charged any interest. Workers wouldn't have to undergo a credit check to get the loan.

It would be repaid by deducting the amounts owed from the federal workers once the shutdown ends.

Cox's bill had 84 Democratic co-sponsors as of Friday, and while it would likely easily pass the Democratic-led House, it is not scheduled for floor consideration yet.
Federal Workers Line Up for Free Meals, Visit Food Banks as Shutdown Hits Day 28
There was no end in sight to the political standoff that led to the furloughs.

By Tessa Weinberg
Jan 18, 2019 4:50 PM ET

Hundreds of furloughed federal workers waited on Friday to get free food at a pop-up kitchen on Pennsylvania Avenue — not far from the White House and Capitol — on Day 28 of the longest-running government shutdown.

Organizers say the kitchen, which opened Wednesday, has served more than double the number of meals expected as the political stalemate continued, causing some 800,000 federal workers to miss paychecks — even though thousands of government employees are required to keep working.

Furloughed workers waiting in a line that snaked around the building that houses the Washington, D.C., kitchen were served grilled steak sandwiches, falafel quinoa bowls. Vegetable and bulghur wheat soup were also on the menu.

 Federal workers stand in line for a free hot meal at Andres in Washington, Jan. 16, 2019, as the restaurant provided meals for federal families affected by the U.S. government shutdown.

With a federal ID, government employees could receive a free meal from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Jose Andres' "#ChefsForFeds" pop-up kitchen. The first day, 4,400 meals were served — double what organizers expected they said on Twitter. The second day, that number rose to 5,558.

"And we will be there every day until this shutdown ends!" Andres tweeted.

And at a food bank in Arlington, Virginia, Democratic Sen. Mark Warner passed out potatoes and apples to furloughed federal workers in need. He also cut a check, personally donating $7,250 — his salary for the last pay period that federal workers missed getting their paychecks.

 Sen. Mark Warner gave a check for $7250.00 to a food bank in Arlington, Va., after spending time passing out food to furloughed government workers and families in need, Jan. 18, 2019.

On the political front, the bitter words continued Friday. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose official trip overseas on a military aircraft was abruptly blocked Thursday by President Donald Trump, accused the president and his administration of leaking her plans to possibly fly commercialy instead and endangering lives as a result.

"After President Trump revoked the use of military aircraft to travel to Afghanistan, the delegation was prepared to fly commercially to proceed with this vital trip to meet with our commanders and troops on the front lines. In the middle of the night, the State Department's Diplomatic Security Service provided an updated threat assessment detailing that the President announcing this sensitive travel had significantly increased the danger to the delegation and to the troops, security, and other officials supporting the trip," Hammill said.

Due to "grave threats" the delegation decided to postpone the trip, Hammill said.

The White House called the assertion a "flat out lie."

"Why would Nancy Pelosi leave the Country with other Democrats on a seven-day excursion when 800,000 great people are not getting paid," Trump tweeted. "Another big Caravan heading our way. Very hard to stop without a Wall!"

The president had no negotiations scheduled with congressional leaders Friday, but has been meeting with bipartisan groups of lawmakers throughout the week.

Pelosi's overseas trip blocked

In the increasingly personal standoff between President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the president on Thursday announced he had postponed Pelosi's official trip to Belgium and Afghanistan — cutting off her access to military aircraft — in apparent retaliation for Pelosi asking Trump to delay his State of the Union Address until after the government shutdown ends.

"Due to the Shutdown, I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan has been postponed," Trump wrote in a sharply-worded letter released Thursday afternoon, the latest move in a memorable display of Washington political theater. "We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the Shutdown is over."

Trump added that he feels "it would be better" if Pelosi was in Washington negotiating with him "and joining the Strong Border Security movement to end the shutdown."

 An electronic billboard, sponsored by the Democratic Coalition, calls for Mitch McConnell to end the shutdown on Jan. 12, 2019 in Nicholasville, Ky.

The State Department announced Thursday it was calling back nearly all staff next week and paying them for a two-week period, but a growing number of U.S. diplomats are frustrated by the partial government shutdown and the damage it's inflicting on their jobs and America's standing abroad.

While they’ll be paid for this pay period, several diplomats are calling on the administration to fully reopen the government, as they struggle to interact with counterparts abroad and pay their own bills. Employees have been either furloughed and sent home or are working with no pay and limited in what kind of work they can conduct.

"Morale is pretty rock bottom," said a Foreign Service officer based in Europe, "And this is among a really dedicated, really patriotic bunch of people who are unfortunately getting these messages that what they’re doing is not important or that they’re not valuable enough to have somebody figure out how to get them paid."

While many families were enjoying Christmas, an undercover FBI agent was communicating with a man who was suspected of plotting an attack on the White House, court documents show.

It was days after the government initially shut down and the agent was not getting paid. But the work resulted in the arrest of Hasher Jallal Taheb, a man in Georgia who federal authorities accused of plotting to attack several prominent locations in Washington, including the White House.

(MORE: FBI arrests Georgia man for allegedly plotting to attack the White House)
And now as the partial government shutdown is in its fourth week, federal employees are furloughed or not receiving pay for the work they are doing.

Read more related shutdown coverage from ABC News' Luke Barr and Josh Margolin.

ABC News' Sarah Kolinovsky contributed to this report.