Briefing :- 13/7/17

Here is CurrentHow’s Briefing™ for the 13th of July, 2017 :-

1. Chinese Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo dies at 61 :-

Liu Xiaobo, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning Chinese dissident, has died, local authorities said in a statement Thursday. He was 61.

Liu had been suffering from liver cancer and died of multiple organ failure. In June, he was granted medical parole after being diagnosed with liver cancer in prison. The Beijing government refused to let him seek treatment overseas despite Liu’s wishes and international pressure. Chinese authorities eventually allowed doctorsfrom Germany and the United States to treat him. 

Liu spent more than a decade behind bars in China for his advocacy of democracy, including taking part in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

His most recent prison sentence stemmed from his co-authorship of Charter 08, a manifesto calling for political reform and human rights in China. Liu was convicted in December 2009 and received a surprisingly harsh 11-year prison term for “inciting subversion of state power.” Judicial authorities in Shenyang, where Liu was being treated, said he was given emergency treatment beginning Monday.
2. Democrat files first impeachment article against US President Donald Trump :-

A Democratic congressman on Wednesday became the first US lawmaker to formally file an article of impeachment against President Donald Trump, but the effort is likely to stall in the Republican-controlled Congress.

Democrat Brad Sherman of California followed through on a threat he made last month to seek to remove the president from office, filing a four-page resolution aimed at “impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanours.”

Sherman in a statement said Trump’s apparent effort to quash a probe into his campaign’s ties to Russia and an investigation of a senior aide amounted to obstruction of justice.

“Recent disclosures by Donald Trump Jr. indicate that Trump’s campaign was eager to receive assistance from Russia,” Sherman said.

“It now seems likely that the president had something to hide when he tried to curtail the investigation of (now-fired) National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the wider Russian probe,” he added.

“I believe his conversations with, and subsequent firing of, FBI Director James Comey constitute obstruction of justice.”

The White House reacted with disdain when a reporter asked for reaction to Sherman’s move.

“I think that is utterly and completely ridiculous and a political game at its worst,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

Sherman said his effort used language similar to that of the first article of impeachment issued against Richard Nixon, which passed the House Judiciary Committee on July 27, 1974. Nixon resigned from office 13 days later.

So far a single lawmaker, Democrat Al Green, has signed on to the resolution.

While a number of Republicans have rebuked Trump or expressed concern for various stumbles, there is no signal from either the House of Representatives or the Senate that their Republican leaders are prepared to begin impeachment proceedings.

3. Russia probe not witch hunt: Trump FBI pick :-

President Donald Trump’s pick to head the FBI, Christopher Wray, on Wednesday said he would refuse to pledge loyalty to Trump, rejected his description of the probe into Russian election meddling as a “witch hunt,” and vowed to quit if asked by the president to do something unlawful.

Wray, nominated by Trump on June 7 to replace the fired James Comey as Federal Bureau of Investigation director, sought to stake out independence from the president and protect the agency from partisan political influence. Wray even said it would be “highly unlikely” he would agree to meet Trump in a one-on-one situation, as Comey reluctantly did.

Wray, who seemed headed for US Senate approval to fill the 10-year post, testified during a 4 1/2-hour hour Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing amid an uproar in Washington over 2016 emails released on Tuesday involving the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr.

The emails showed the Republican president’s son agreeing last year to meet a woman he was told was a Russian government lawyer who might have damaging information about Democratic White House rival Hillary Clinton as part of Moscow’s official support for his father.

Wray deflected specific questions from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham about the president’s son’s emails, saying he had not read them. But Wray said, “Any threats or effort to interfere with our election from any nation-state or any non-state actor is the kind of thing the FBI would want to know.”

Trump’s son did not notify the FBI and wrote “I love it” about the Russian’s offer of information on Clinton.

Trump fired Comey on May 9, igniting a political firestorm, and later cited the “Russia thing” as his reason. The Justice Department eight days later named Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel to investigate alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race to help Trump win and potential collusion between Moscow and Trump associates.

The Russia matter has dogged Trump’s first six months in office. Wray said he had no reason to doubt the US intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in part by hacking and releasing emails damaging to Clinton, a claim Moscow denies.

Wray worked at the Justice Department under Republican former President George W. Bush when Comey was deputy attorney general and Mueller was FBI director. Wray also represented New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in a political scandal.

Trump has called the Russia probe a “witch hunt.”

“I do not consider Director Mueller to be on a witch hunt,” Wray told Graham.

Wray said he was “very committed” to supporting Mueller’s investigation, calling him a “consummate straight shooter and somebody I have enormous respect for.”

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein asked Wray to inform the committee “if you learn about any machinations to tamper with” Mueller’s probe.

“Understood,” Wray responded.

4. India rejects China’s offer on Kashmir, says ready for dialogue with Pakistan :-

India has rejected China’s offer to help resolve the Kashmir issue.

While maintaining India’s stand on cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan, the ministry of external affairs spokesperson Gopal Baglay said that India is ready for a dialogue with Islamabad under a bilateral framework.

“Our stand is absolutely clear as far as I recall on the remarks, which motioned that Kashmir issue being central to peace and stability, all of us know that the heart of the matter is cross border terrorism perpetrated on India, including Jammu and Kashmir,” Baglay said while addressing the media.

“We are ready to have a dialogue with Pakistan, among other issues, but in a bilateral framework. So the (India’s) position of addressing all issues with Pakistan, including the Jammu and Kashmir issue, in a bilateral framework has not changed,” he added.

China, on Wednesday, had offered to play a “constructive role” on the Kashmir issue to improve India-Pakistan relations.

The offer from the Chinese side came at a time when the armies of both the countries are locked in a bitter standoff over the Doklam plateau near the Bhutan trijunction.

The Indian foreign ministry said that both the countries are capable of resolving the issue through diplomatic channels.

5. US says Malabar exercise ‘strategic message’ to China :-

The Malabar Naval Exercise being conducted by India, Japan and the United States is a “strategic message” to China, a top US official said on Monday.

“I would like to say this is a strategic message to China. It (the message) would also be the same to Canada or to the Republic of Korea or to Australia or to any other maritime force,” US Navy Commander, Rear Admiral William D Byrne Jr told the press after the inauguration of the five-day Malabar Naval Exercise, here.

“Operating together and practising together is a good thing. It is because — we are better together and we learn from each other. We know who we are and what is our capability. That is the strategic message to the entire world. I think, we are setting a great example here in Malabar (exercise) 2017”, he added.

Asked whether the exercise had anything to do with the situation prevailing around North Korea, the US Commander said, “There are certainly global threats. Malabar is not focused on any specified threat. It is directed towards three countries India, Japan and United States. It is not directed towards any specific country or threat.”

A top official of the Indian Navy, however, clarified that the naval drill had nothing to do with the the stand-off between India and China in Doklam near Sikkim.

“The Process of Malabar exercise starts a year before ( its scheduled beginning) and the initial planning takes place six months in advance. The stand-off you are talking about has got nothing to do with the Malabar exercise,” Indian Flag Officer, Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Naval Command, HCS Bisht said. The three countries have deployed warships, submarines and aircraft in the seven-day naval drill.

India and the US had kicked off the Malabar exercise back in 1994, this is the 21st edition of the drills.

“Indian, Japanese and US maritime forces have a common understanding and knowledge of a shared working environment at sea. Each iteration of this exercise helps to advance the level of understanding between our sailors, and we hope to be able to continue this process over time,” the US navy statement said.

The naval exercise was spearheaded by India’s aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, Japan’s largest warship JS Izumo, and US carrier Nimitz.

America’s guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton, guided-missile destroyers USS Howard and USS Shoup and USS Kidd will be part of the drill, the US has informed.

According to media reports, Indian Navy’s two Shivalik class multi-role frigates, a Kora class missile frigate, two destroyers, P8I maritime surveillance aircraft, anti-submarine warfare corvettes, tanker INS Jyoti and the nuclear submarine will also be part of the exercise. Japan is sending its destroyer JS Sazanami for the Malabar exercise.

India’s neighbour China is keeping a close vigil over the Malabar exercise by deploying surveillance ship even as the Chinese foreign ministry in a statement said, “no objection to normal bilateral relations and cooperation among relevant countries’ but ‘hope[s] this kind of relations and cooperation is not directed at any third party and conducive to regional peace and stability.”

China’s state-run media is also weary of the Malabar exercise with an English language newspaper raising “concern” over the tri-nation naval drill.

India and China have been involved in an aggressive border row in Doka La area near the Bhutan tri-junction in the past one month. Doka La is the Indian name for the region which Bhutan recognises as Doka La, while China claims it is part of its Donglang region.

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