Donald Trump nominates Neil Gorsuch to Supreme Court

US President, Donald Trump, has picked Neil Gorsuch as his nominee for the Supreme Court judge seat.

Gorsuch is a 49-year old Conservative and he is part of the 10th Circuit in Colorado as a judge in the federal appeals court. As the youngest-ever nominee to the Supreme Court, the Conservative is said to be the right pick to back Trump’s Republican reforms related to gun rights, religion and abortion.

During his campaign, Trump had repeatedly stressed on nominating a Conservative to fill the seat of the late Justice Scalia in the Supreme Court. Sticking to his typical show-biz fashion, the US President made the announcement at a Primetime ceremony on January 31, 2017.

“Judge Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline, and has earned bipartisan support,” Trump said.

Former President, Barack Obama, had nominated Judge Merrick Garland, a Moderate, to the Supreme Court seat. However, the Congress never formally voted on the nomination, leaving the seat vacant for the new President.

The 9-seat Supreme Court bench, excluding Gorsuch, comprises Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, at the Liberal side, while the Conservative side includes Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito – the eighth seat is filled by Anthony Kennedy, generally considered to be the swing vote.

Sources: 1]



Obama expels 35 Russian diplomats; No retaliation by Putin

USA President Barack Obama on Thursday expelled 35 Russian diplomats on the suspicion of spying especially in the 2016 USA elections. Sanctions have also been imposed on two Russian agencies over their involvement in the political groups during elections.

This has deteriorated the relationship between the two countries further. Obama whose tenure ends next month describes the move as necessary in order to preserve the interests of the country. He also mentioned that a report in the Congress will be delivered in the coming few days. He alarmed the citizens of the USA that theft of data is only possible with the involvement of the top officials of the Russian government.

A senior official told Reuters that Russian diplomats would be given a time period of 72 hours to leave the country. President in waiting Donald Trump mentioned that he would talk with intelligence officers in order to know more about the situation.

Vladimir Putin, however mentioned that he would not take any counter steps in order to retaliate against this move by the Obama administration. Putin mentioned that he would not stoop to the low level of kitchen diplomacy.

In the coming days, it would be entirely in the Trumps hand whether to follow the steps taken by the Obama administration or to improve the relationship with Donald Trump.



IMAGE SOURCE- file photos from AFP

President Obama signs NDAA; boosts ties with India

In a significant move to enhance security cooperation with India, Barack Obama on Friday signed into law the USD 618 billion defense budget for 2017. National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA), 2017 which Obama signed on Friday while vacationing in Hawaii seeks Defence Secretary and Secretary of State to take necessary steps to recognize India as a major defense partner of America.
Apart from that, the bill also seeks the administration’s involvement in designating an official from the executive branch who has a background in defense and technology. The individual will be expected to ensure the success of the Framework for the US-India Defense Relationship and also to help resolve issues relating to US-India defense trade, security cooperation, and co-production and co-development opportunities.
On the other hand, the NDAA has set four conditions for Pakistan to qualify for USD 400 million of the USD 900 million under the coalition support fund (CSF). The Congress needs to be assured that Pakistan is not supporting Haqqani network by providing them a safe territory in their country. NDAA creates a fund of USD 1.2 billion to counter ISL terrorism.
Earlier in 2016, Pakistan was barred from getting USD 300 million under coalition support fund as US defense secretary Ashton Carter refused to give Pakistan a certification.
Image Source – PTI

Obama bans oil drilling in Arctic and Atlantic

Barack Obama banned offshore oil and gas drilling in the Arctic and on the Atlantic Seaboard as Trump plans to roll back Obama’s environmental policies.

A provision of the obscure 1953 Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act is invoked by the former President to protect the coral reefs and life in marine sanctuaries.

With only one month left for presidency, Obama creates obstruction for Donald Trump who is gearing up to reverse Obama’s legacy. He plans to withdraw the US from the Paris global climate change agreement – in which nations vowed to lower their emissions significantly.

Trump’s appointment of Scott Pruitt, who is known as a climate change denier, to lead the Environmental Protection Agency boosted this move. ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson’s nomination for Secretary of State has also emphasised Trump’s solidarity with the oil industry.

Environmentalists marked Obama’s action as “heroic”, while opponents call it weakening of national security and destroying jobs. According to them, blocking offshore exploration weakens our national security, destroys good-paying jobs, and could make energy less affordable for consumers.

The law is too stringent to be reversed as it would lead to Federal Court. But in a way it will protect the Arctic range from being misused.

SOURCE: IndependentThe New York Times


Cuba wishes to sign accords with US before Trump’s tenure

The Caribbean Island Nation of Cuba, on December 7, expressed its desire to sign a number of accords with the United States prior to President Obama’s departure. Cuba hopes to sign atleast a dozen accords before businessman turned President elect Donald Trump takes over in January as the latter has threatened to put an end to the détente between the two ex-cold-war nations.

“At the moment we are negotiating 12 more (accords) with the aim to be able to conclude and sign a majority of them”, Josefina Vidal, director US affairs of Cuban foreign ministry, said. The officials of the two nations convened a meeting in Havana to improve the fragile relations before January 20. The two nations have opened embassies to ease tensions, restore commercial flights and opened travel related options.

Although the two nations have signed a number of accords previously, they are yet to cover areas like seismology and meteorology that will improve the relations. Trump has threatened to spoil relations if Cuba fails to provide US with a ‘better deal’.

Several attempts of pacifying Trump were made to modify the travel and business policies. Keeping their optimism high, Cuban authorities believe that small industries in Cuba have the potential to take their economy to new levels and be the business partners of the US-based conglomerates.

SOURCES : Reuters, International Business Times

Image sourced from Reuters.

Modi Voted TIME “Person of the Year” by Readers

Narendra Modi has been voted the “Person of the Year” by readers in an online poll held by TIME magazine. According to The Economic Times, the Indian Prime Minister won the poll with 18% of the votes, leaving behind other important figures around the world. His closest rivals were US President Barack Obama, President-elect Donald Trump and Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, all of whom secured 7% of the “yes” votes cast. The polls also featured prominent figures like Mark Zuckerberg (2%), US Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton (4%) and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

According to The Hindu, TIME has held this poll annually since 1927, awarding the honour to someone who has had the most impact on the news in the year, whether good or bad. Modi had previously received the honour in 2014, when he secured 16% of the five million votes cast. The Economic Times said that Modi had been leading the polls for a while, with 21% votes in the initial stage and had been receiving high approval ratings from Indians in the recent months.

According to TIME, while the editors always make the final selection of the “Person of the Year”, the online poll allows their readers to voice their opinions and also provides a method to track and compare the influence an individual has.The editors will announce the final decision in a week, The Economic Times reported. Last year, German chancellor Angela Merkel bestowed the honour.

Sources: Economic Times Time

Image Source: ANI


President Obama Will Veto Bill Allowing 9/11 Lawsuits Against Saudi Arabia

President Barack Obama is going to veto a bill, passed by both houses of the Congress on Friday. The bill, if passed , will allow the survivors and families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for damages in the United States courts.

As reported in Reuters, Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman was quoted saying, “It’s not hard to imagine other countries using this law as an excuse to haul U.S. diplomats or U.S. service members or even U.S. companies into courts all around the world.”

Incidentally, out of the 19 terrorists involved in the attacks, 15 were citizens of Saudi Arabia. Families of the victims of the New York and Washington terror attacks in 2001 have filed lawsuits against members of the royal Saudi family and various charities of the country accusing them of aiding and promoting terrorist activities.

But these efforts have failed due to a 1976 law, which protects foreign nations from lawsuits in the US courts. The bill intends to create an exception here against foreign nations, which are found even partially responsible for the death of American citizens through terror attacks within the US borders

The bill was passed without any objection by the House of Representatives on Friday and cleared by the Senate unanimously in May. Now, even if Obama choses to veto the bill, lawmakers can opt to override his decision by going ahead with the two-third majority supporting the bill. As per the US Constitution, Obama will be given a 10 days window to veto the bill before it automatically becomes a law. The exceptional power still in the hand of the president is that of the ‘pocket veto’, which will allow him to hold onto the bill, until the end of the Congress session.