A ruthless dictator of 37 years humiliated. His wife having larger than life presence shut down. And people are celebrating the ouster.

And why not? Even if it is for a day! Even it if it is for a week!

They are celebrating the departure of a man who made their country a living hell, who crushed and killed them at will, who lived a lavish life while they were cursed to live a life of have-nots.

‘Zimbabwe and economy’ and ‘Zimbabwe and industry’ have been made misnomers by Robert Mugabe.

They were living and dying in utter poverty while the dictator’s wife was a millionaire shopper of luxury brands in western countries, earning even the nickname of ‘Gucci Grace’.

So, it is their day. They are singing. They are dancing. They are chanting. They are simply overjoyed.

They can openly called names for that man. They can freely mock him. They can make jokes in his (and his wife)’s name without fear of persecution. They were protesting and now they are speaking their mind, something unheard of in the country so far.

Even if it all may be a clever ploy to install another dictator, who used to be the henchman of the outgoing dictator, and is nicknamed ‘crocodile’ for the way he has lived so far.

Zimbabwe’s dictator Robert Mugabe may be paying the price for the foolish acts of his wife Grace Mugabe. It all began when 93-year old dictator-cum-president Mugabe tried to remove his henchman and vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa to make way for his wife Grace Mugabe, a reviled figure in the country. Well, the henchman fled the country, but with designs in his mind.

And then things moved quickly behind the scenes. Probably, Grace was not just totally unacceptable to ordinary Zimbabweans only but also to its army and the sole ruling party Zaanu-PF, the power coterie that has had been sanctifying the Mugabe dictatorship. So, within weeks, the oldest serving head of the state on the planet is gone and his henchman-turned-sacrificial lamb-turned-foe is slated to take over from him.

So, in a sense, nothing is expected to change. The coterie that was behind Mugabe is still calling shots. And Mnangagwa for Mugabe! Well, that is not a change in real terms.

But that should not take away the rare event of freedom and celebration that Zimbabweans have got after for 37 years, ever since the country came into existence after its independence in 1980. That was the year when their revolutionary hero, Robert Mugabe, who was also trained as a teacher, took over the reins of the country.

But a revolutionary who quickly showed his colours, like most of the revolutionaries around the world have done, be it in USSR or in China or in Cuba or in many other countries, and clung to power like a leech. The next decades were testimony to his fiefdom; bleeding and humiliating a nation like even most dictators fail to do. Going of such a person in such a humiliating way is a befitting healing touch for their wounds.

So, they will see what happens tomorrow. For the moment, let them bask in the glory of people power, even if it is symbolic, for they have got this healing touch after decades. The day, the event, has come as a ‘dream come true’ for them.

For them at the moment, they are speaking and Mugabes are silent, and it is what matters for them.



The article originally appeared on India Today.

The US Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to President Donald Trump by allowing his temporary bans on travelers from six Muslim-majority countries and all refugees to go into effect for people with no connection to the United States while agreeing to hear his appeals in the closely watched legal fight.

The Trump administration had issued two versions of Donald Trump’s controversial executive order on travel ban, first on January 27 and then on March 6 but the federal courts expressed their strong reservations against the discriminatory nature of the order saying that they were in bad taste and were targeted against the Muslim community.

The US Supreme Court has accepted the emergency appeal by the Trump administration allowing travel ban on people from six Muslim majority nations for 90 days, i.e., Syria, Libya, Sudan, Iran, Yemen and Somalia and all refugees for 120 days “who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States” while the federal courts had completely blocked it.


Nominating judges in the US courts has always been the prerogative of the US President and his party. Trump wanted appellate judge Neil Gorsuch, a conservative, to fill the lone vacancy in the US Supreme Court. And with Gorsuch’s approval in April, after a long and bitterly fought confirmation process, Trump had what he wanted.

“Trump had vowed to choose ideologues in the mould of the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative icon – a prospect that had activists on the right giddy,” a Washington Post report had said. Antonin Scalia, a Ronald Reagan appointee to the US Supreme Court, was seen as a legal luminary but with a conservative mindset who vocally opposed gay rights and abortion.
Scalia’s death last year had given Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama an opportunity to tilt the 5-4 conservative majority in the US Supreme Court in favour of a 5-4 liberal majority but the Senate Republicans didn’t allow Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland, a liberal.


After the London Bridge terror attack on June 3 that left seven dead and dozens injured, Trump, while slamming, the re-drafted version of his administration’s travel ban order as an attempt to be “politically correct”, commented that “the US Justice Department should have stayed with the original travel ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to the US Supreme Court and the Justice Department should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down travel ban before the Supreme Court – and seek much tougher version.”

Before that, on June 1, the Trump administration had filed an emergency application in the US Supreme Court requesting temporary revival of the travel ban plan. And for the moment, the US Supreme Court decision seems to have given what Trump had wanted from the US judiciary, a favourable decision for his orders that are challenged.

There has always been this line of thought in the US that Trump wanted to have a conservative majority in the US Supreme Court so that he could push his agenda and one can always raise the question that the US Supreme Court could have expedited the hearing without altering the ban put in place by so many US courts. A US Judiciary with more conservative judges is likely to have a favourable view of Trump administration’s conservative policies like travel ban or stopping funds to the NGOs working for abortion.

A more ‘likeminded and amenable judiciary’ can be a great help, especially when the US under Trump is witnessing a flurry of lawsuits against his decisions that his rivals see as controversial. That is bound to happen as Trump’s victory has bitterly divided America and he took oath with historically low approval ratings amid nationwide protests.

Trump was always more than ready to move to the US Supreme Court on his travel ban plans where he expected a respite there with a 5-4 conservative majority with Neil Gorsuch’s approval. And with this respite, his administration may now work out his plans pushing for a much tougher version of travel ban as he has sought.



The article originally appeared on India Today.
Here it is bit modified.

After a meeting between Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif and its army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa today, it seems the issue of Dawn leaks has finally settled now. According to media reports in Pakistan, its army’s public relations wing has issued a clarification that the Dawn leaks issue is closed chapter after it found the action taken by the government on the inquiry committee’s report satisfactory and withdraws its earlier tweet that had rejected a notification issued last month by the Nawaz Sharif government over action taken in the matter.

The Dawn leaks case refers to a front page story by the Daily Dawn’s columnist Cyril Almeida’s last October, quoting government sources, on rift between Pakistan’s civilian and military establishment over crackdown on Pakistan’s terrorist groups active in India and Afghanistan. The article had further written quoting government source that this dichotomy was forcing Pakistan to a diplomatic isolation. It had caused quite a stir in India’s volatile neighbourhood and had seen a standoff between its all powerful military and Nawaz Sharif’s government that threatened to snowball if something was not done to appease it.

And the action was swift. Official rebuttal were issued. Almeida was banned from travelling abroad. Pakistan’s information minister Pervaiz Rasheed was forced to step down pending an inquiry, a move that has been endorsed by the inquiry committee that was formed in November to investigate the matter. This is the only addition to the notification issued today otherwise contents of both notifications are similar.

No one knows and nobody will probably ever know what transpired in the top-level meeting between Sharif and Bajwa as the contents of the inquiry committee report that the government has decided not to make public. But its outcome is exactly opposite to the Pak army’s earlier stand after the Sharif government had announced last month its follow-up action to be taken on the inquiry committee report.

After the Sharif-Bajwa meeting today, the Ministry of Interior has issued another notification, that looks more or less same, as the one issued last month and was rejected by the army saying it was not as per the recommendations of the inquiry committee report. On April 29, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor had tweeted expressing Pak army’s displeasure over the Dawn leaks report. After today’s development, the tweet has become infructuous.

Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor‏Verified account
Notification on Dawn Leak is incomplete and not in line with recommendations by the Inquiry Board. Notification is rejected.
3:22 PM – 29 Apr 2017

Nawaz Sharif has accepted the recommendations of the Dawn Leaks Inquiry Committee and has issued directions of disciplinary action to be taken against the daily, its editor Zaffar Abbas and its reporter and columnist Cyril Almeida. The notification issued by Pakistan’s Ministry of Interior also says that “the Dawn Leaks Inquiry Committee recommends that the role of Daily Dawn, Zaffar Abbas and Cyril Almeida may be referred to All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) with a direction to take disciplinary action against them.”

Besides this disciplinary action, the inquiry committee has also emphasized on the need to develop “a code of conduct for print media especially when dealing with issues related to security of Pakistan.”

The Dawn leaks report has cost another high profile person his office. Nawaz Sharif had to sack his Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs, Tariq Fatemi, for leaking information of the high level civilian-military leadership meeting. Also, disciplinary action has been recommended against a the principal information officer of Pakistan’s foreign ministry.



The article originally appeared on India Today.
Here it is bid modified and extended.

If elected, at 39, Emmanuel Macron would be the youngest president in the French electoral history. Before it, Napoleon Bonaparte’s 40-year old nephew Louis Bonaparte was elected in 1848. France is holding its second and final run-off round of presidential election today. By tomorrow, the outcome will become clear on who has won the polls though it will be officially declared on May 11. According to pre-poll projections, he is set to win the election with all the surveys giving him a lead of 20-23 per cent over his rival Marine Le Pen.

Macron, whose rise in French politics is described as meteoric, sounds like an unusual politician who holds his ground for what he believes in. He is unabashedly pro-European Union and pro-free immigration. He is a staunch believer in globalization and advocates for common Eurozone budget. He has apologised for the French colonial legacy, especially in Algeria, likening it to “crime against humanity” and believes in integration and assimilation of Muslims to tackle the rising spectre of Islamist fundamentalism, and therefore terrorism, in France.

He has not taken a comfortable middle way to skirt his views by using diplomatic words, especially after the rise of Marine Le Pen, her rival from the Front National (FN) with a far-right ideology, who has risen to become an important pillar in the French politics exploiting people’s scepticism and fear against the EU, globalization, immigration and linking terrorism and Islamism after spate of terror strikes in France that has killed over 200 in last two years. Le Pen sees globalization and Islamism as two major threats for France while Macron quotes in his speeches the disorder that Brexit has brought to Britain and Donald Trump’s election to America, attacking the far-right ideology directly, two events that Le Pen finds capable of creating a new world. Le Pen promises taking France out of the EU while Macron talks about France’s greater integration in the EU.

The incumbent French president Francois Hollande from the centre-left Socialist Party (PS) brought Macron in politics. Macron was member of the Socialist Party from 2006 to 2009. In 2009, he became an independent politician. In 2012 when Hollande became the president and the Socialist Party got majority in the National Assembly, he became member of Hollande’s personal staff. In August 2014, he was appointed a minister to oversee economy, industry and digital affairs in prime minister Manuel Valls government.

He was going strong and was seen as the political protégé of Hollande with a prime career ahead. But no one had expected that it would come so soon. In an orthodox move, he left his political office in April 2016, his formed En March! (EM), that he called a political movement that translates to ‘on the move’. His supporters liken the event with ‘birth’ when Macron had announced to form the EM. In August 2016, Macron resigned from the Valls government to take a plunge in the presidential elections.

And within eight months, he has become the presidential candidate with highest ratings who looks poised to win the election when the results are finally announced. Macron emerged with the largest vote share in the first round of the French presidential polls held on April 23, according to the pre poll projections.

Macron won the first round with a narrow margin. He secured 23.8 per cent votes while his rival, Marine Le Pen of came a close second with 21.5 per cent votes. The polls go to the second and run-off round when no candidate is able to secure 50 per cent of the votes in the first round, something that has never happened.

Macron has also won the televised debated between him and Marine Le Pen, held on May 3, comfortably, with 63% viewers finding him more convincing. And for the final rounds, all pre-poll surveys have given him a 60-40 lead over Le Pen. Some surveys have reported even higher a gap.

His campaign’s emails and documents were hacked on Friday and were leaked online, hours before the campaigning ended. But it is not expected to affect the final outcome as there was literally no time to use it as election propaganda material. Also the election commission in France has issued stern warning to disseminate it further.

Like his political decisions, he has taken an unconventional approach even to his personal life. He is married to his teacher, Brigitte Trogneux, who is 24 years older than him. When they began courtship, she was married and was a mother of three. She left her husband and married Macron in 2007.

Born to doctor parents, Macron is a philosophy and public affairs graduate. He is an alumnus of the prestigious National School of Administration which has given three French presidents including Hollande. He was in the French Civil Services from 2004 to 2008 when he left his government career to join Rothschild as an investment banker that made him a millionaire.

He has been able to present himself as a youthful source of energy with fresh perspectives in the ongoing political discourse in the country. And the rewards, so far, have been quick and stunning. And now there are very real chances that we are going to see the next French president in him when the results are announced on May 11 after the final round of the French presidential election today.



The article originally appeared on India Today.

Just three days before the second and final round of the French presidential polls, centrist Emmanuel Macron of the En Marche! (EM) party have emerged as the clear winner of the televised debate between him and far-right Marine Le Pen of the Front National (FN) party.

A survey on the televised debate by Elabe, a research and consultancy firm, for the largest French broadcaster BFM TV, also a CNN affiliate, found that Macron who was already running ahead of Le Pen with higher ratings, further consolidated his position after the debate.

In the debate, watched by over 16.5 million people, that lasted for two-and-a-half hour and has been described as the ugliest one in the French presidential election history, Macron emerged as the clear winner with 63 per cent of viewers finding him more convincing than Le Pen.

According to a The Guardian report, the French media termed it a “dirty debate” with its criticism targeted at Marine Le Pen for her ‘permanent aggression’ and unconvincing words. The consensus read that Le Pen tried to avoid a serious debate with her “multiple attacks and provocations” and therefore, made the debate “unworthy of a presidential election campaign”.

Invectives, smirks, insinuations and personal insults had a free run. Macron described Le Pen as corrupt, ill-informed, hate-filled liar and said that her ultra-nationalism and her contempt for globalization and Islamism will be detrimental for the French society. Le Pen is a known European Union hater and has vowed to crackdown on Islamism. Le Pen, in turn, found him “an arrogant, spoilt, cold-eyed, “smirking banker” who was colluding with Islamists, complacent on terrorism and intent on “butchering France” in favour of “big economic interests”, the report said.

The final round of the French presidential polls are just two days away and Macron looks in a comfortable position to sail through. Majority of polls before the Sunday’s final round are giving Macron a 40-60 lead. An Elabe analysis says Macron is expected to get 65 per cent of the final round votes.

The first round of the French presidential polls were held on April 23 and the top two contenders from the 11 in the fray moved to the second and final round run-off. Emmanuel Macron was on top with 23.8 per cent votes in the first round and Le Pen was a close second with 21.5 per cent votes. The polls go to the second round when no candidate is able to secure 50 per cent of the votes in the first round, something that has never happened. Since April 23, Macron has firmed up his position and he is also expected to corner left-leaning, centrist-right and other anti-Le Pen votes in the final round.

Emmanuel Macron is just 39 and his political career is just five years old. He was the Minister of the Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs before he resigned in August 2016 to form the EM party. So his party has no political representation but he has an opportunity as the French legislative elections are due in June 2017 to elect the next French National Assembly.

Marine Le Pen, 48, is a lawyer and career politician and has inherited her party FN from her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, the highly controversial and polarizing figure of French politics who is known for his extreme far-right ideology. Though she has tried to distance herself from her father’s extreme views, in order to widen her base, going by the ratings so far, and her radical views on issues like globalization, Islamism and terrorism and immigration, it seems see has failed to make a genuine course correction.



The article originally appeared on India Today.
Here it is bit modified.

The United States yesterday dropped the biggest non-nuclear bomb in the history of humankind. A C-130 aircraft dropped the massive 21,000 pound Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb (MOAB) that is also called the ‘Mother of All Bombs on tunnels believed to be used by the ISIS’s Khorasan module. The reports emerging in the aftermath say over dozens of the ISIS fighters have been killed in the attack.

Today, it is in Afghanistan. Last week, it was a Syrian military airbase was targeted by the US with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles after it was suspected that the airbase was used by the Syrian regime to launch chemical attack on civilians that killed over 100.

Then the US has warned North Korea of unilateral action if other global powers don’t come in its support and pre-empting a US action, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has ordered to immediately evacuate Pyongyong, the North Korean Capital city. To cap the tension, there are reports based on satellite images that North Korea is preparing for another nuclear test while the US has clearly warned a pre-emptive strike if North Korea goes ahead with another nuclear test.

Welcome to the command of James Mattis, the US Secretary of Defense who is known as a ‘warrior monk’ and one of his favourite quotes are, “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

US President Donald Trump who said he was very, very proud of the US military action in Afghanistan and congratulated ‘great military men and women of the US for doing so well in the Syria attack’, had said, while announcing James Mattis as his Secretary of Defense, “All I can say is he is the real deal. The real deal”.

And going by the recent US action, it seems Trump, indeed, is getting returns on his real deal and Mattis, indeed, has a plan to kill or punish everybody who doesn’t fall in line, be it the Syrian regime or the ISIS or North Korea or anyone else labelled to be hostile to the US national interest or to create disorder in the world.

General Mattis was with Marine Corps for over 40 years and retired in 2013 when he was heading the US Central Command (Centcom). known for his controversial decisions and tough wartime approach, he is revered for his career among his supporters and is nicknamed ‘mad dog’ for his uncompromising attitude and views in the theatres of conflict and with quotes like the one mentioned above and many more that have come to be known as ‘Mattism’.

He has had extensive experience of handling command operations in the 1991 Gulf War, in 2001 Afghanistan War and in 2003 Iraq Invasion. And, going by the state of affairs, we are going to see more and more of Mattism that believes that “The first time you blow someone away is not an insignificant event. That said, there are some a**holes in the world that just need to be shot.”

And North Korea fits in that line of thinking. In a London conference on March 31, Mattis had said about North Korea, “Right now, it appears to be going in a very reckless manner in what its conduct is portraying for the future and that has got to be stopped.” And days after it Donald Trump tweeted to reiterate that stand, “North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them!”



2008 US presidential nominee from the Republican Party and influential US senator John McCain had, in December 2016, termed the Russian interference though cyber attacks in the 2016 US presidential election an act of war. Then it did not echo much. Also, John McCain, who is chairman of US Senate Armed Services Committee, has had a long running feud with Donald Trump.

But after the recent hearing of the House Intelligence Committee where the FBI Director James Comey testified that the FBI was indeed investigating the Russian meddling in the US polls and if some members of the Trump campaign team were having Russian connections, many Democratic senators, have started voicing their opinions against the Russian belligerence. And they think the Russian interference was an ‘act of war’.

It was the first public admission by the FBI into the ongoing probe that the FBI director termed ‘unusual’, as the FBI doesn’t confirm or deny that it is investigating a matter unless it is highly ‘unusual’. Here the FBI believed the situation was so serious and in public interest was at stake, as Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee.

After Comey’s admission, the issue has become central to the Democratic Party’s narrative to target US President Donald Trump. “I think this attack that we’ve experienced is a form of war, a form of war on our fundamental democratic principles”, charged Bonnie Watson Coleman, Democrat from New Jersey, during a recent security committee hearing.

Her words were echoed by Democratic Party senator from California Jackie Speier who said during the same hearing where Comey was testifying that ‘he actually thought that their (Russian) engagement was an act of war, an act of hybrid warfare and he thought that’s why the American people should be concerned about it’.

Another Democratic senator for California, Eric Swalwell, who had launched a separate section on his official website to detail Donald Trump’s officials connection with Russia, said, “I see this as an opportunity for everyone on this committee, Republicans and Democrats, to not look in the rearview window but to look forward and do everything we can to make sure that our country never again allows a foreign adversary to attack us”, as quoted by The Hill, a newspaper and website with wide following. The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is currently probing Russian meddling matter and Swalwell is one of its members.

In January, the US democrats had written a letter to the US Congress to demand an independent, bipartisan commission, with equal representation of Democrats and Republicans, to probe the allegations but the House Speaker Paul Ryan rejected such calls.

US intelligence agencies believe that Vladimir Putin did order the Kremlin to interfere in the US presidential polls and the charge that it was done in order to hurt the prospects of the US Democrats and Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, gained momentum after thousands of Hillary Clinton emails were leaked by Russian hackers, a revelation confirmed by the CIA. The fact that Donald Trump has always been soft on Russia and Vladimir Putin and he would often talks of new alignments with Russia during his campaign days, further bolstered the feeling.

Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security advisor, had to resign after it was found that he had lied on his Russian connection. Trump’s attorney general Jeff Sessions, who had a controversial ascent to head the Trump administration’s legal team, had to recuse himself from the investigations into the Russian meddling after it was revealed that he was also in touch with the Russian Ambassador in the US during Trump’s campaign days.

After the humiliating setback in the US presidential polls, the US Democrats have got multiple opportunities to target Trump. Trump entered the White House with historically low approval ratings. His controversial travel ban targeting some Muslim majority nations has seen strong disapproval even from some Republicans and has been stayed by the US courts. Most recently, his favourite campaign promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, fizzled out this week when his party could not arrange numbers in a house dominated by the Republicans.

Add to it are the controversies like his official weekend visits to his private mansion Mar-a-Lago that cost US taxpayers millions or his over a dozen visits to Golf Courses when he had promised that he would not take off days. Wrapping it with a grand narrative of its conventional rival Russia, attacking the US, with unconventional tools like cyber wars, that hurt the sovereign interests of the country but benefit the Trump camp, serves the purpose of showing Trump and Republicans in a questionable light. These all together create a perfect recipe for the Democratic Party to bounce back from its low confidence levels some months back.



The article originally appeared on India Today.
Here it is bit modified.

Previous US President Barack Obama had signed the Affordable Healthcare Act or Obamacare on March 23, 2010. Then it was termed as the most important healthcare legislation in the US since Medicare, the national health insurance plan of the US for senior citizens, was launched in 1965.

Down the line seven years, his predecessor, the current US President Donald Trump is trying all to get Obamacare repealed and replaced with his American Healthcare Act or Trumpcare. It was one of his major campaign promises. The house vote on Trumpcare is likely to be held on March 23, 2017.

But even many Republican senators feel Trumpcare is not comprehensive enough to meet those campaign promises and amendments are needed. Intense parleys are taking place but so far a consensus has not emerged. Estimates say Trumpcare is expected to leave 24 million Americans without insurance by 2016. Obamacare would have these Americans covered. But it may be even worse. A New York Times report says, quoting an analysis, the number of uninsured may be as high as 32 million more Americans by 2026.

The US media is replete with reports on pros and cons of Obamacare, like tax burdens, deductibles, coverage, freedom to choose insures and so on and how and if a Trumpcare can take care of it because as it is an issue that is going to define the Trump presidency as it had defined Obama’s.

Though the Republican Party, along with Donald Trump and Paul Ryan, is presenting Trumpcare as a panacea that will take care of every American’s healthcare needs and Obamacare as a vestige of law that is detrimental enough to be replaced as soon as possible, its own house is not in order.

The house vote on Trumpcare is expected on Thursday, but going by a latest CNN report, the Republicans still have no clear numbers to get Obamacare repealed and Trumpcare passed even if less than 24 hours are left for Trumpcare to go to vote. If Trumpcare fails to pass through a Republican majority house, it will be serious setback for Trump and will further complicate his days ahead. He is already facing serious charges on his Russia connections and the probe has reached to the White House. Then there are other controversial issues like his wiretap claims without evidence or his controversial travel ban, issues for which he is being slammed everywhere.

Trumpcare which the expert have been doubting about from the beginning may end up like another Trump rhetoric which does nothing except stirring up society and market with his uncontrolled flow of tweets. Once the dust settles down, it only gives more energy to anti-Trump voices or in this case to the US pharmaceutical and insurance companies that, after going down because of a hostile Trump tweet, bounce back and even rally on stock exchanges, a CNN Money report says.

Trump, during the campaign phase of the US presidential polls, and even after his election, had raised hopes of a healthcare act to replace Obamacare that would guarantee ‘universal healthcare’. In an interview before his government’s inaugural on January 20, 2017, he said ‘we are going to have insurance for everybody’, a Washington Post copy says.

Going by that scale, anything less would be like betraying those hopes. But a universal healthcare was always an impossible concept because it would be so unwieldy, so expansive and so therefore so expensive, that it was not never in the Republican Party’s plans for a healthcare act to replace Obamacare. The Washington Post op-ed, headlined ‘Donald Trump may have just destroyed the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare’ wrote, “Donald Trump emphatically promised universal health coverage. That’s an absolutely gigantic promise, and it’s one that Republicans have no intention of keeping”.



After the US, the UK, too, has announced a ban on large electronic devises in cabin baggage on some flights. A BBC report said that the UK action was in coordination with the measures taken by the US. As per the BBC report, the ban is for commercial flights originating from Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon and will affect six UK and eight foreign carriers including British Airways, Thomas Cook, Turkish Airlines, Saudia and Egyptair. Like the US ban, the UK, too, has banned electronic devices larger than a smartphone, like laptops, tablets, DVD players and even phone larger than a specified size from cabin baggage.

Earlier, a report in the The Telegraph said that the UK, too, had come across same intelligence inputs as the US that terrorists could use electronic devices like laptops to conceal explosives. The intelligence inputs say terrorists are planning ‘innovative methods to bring down planes’ as the report in The Telegraph says.

Earlier in the day, the US ban came into force, putting stiff conditions on foreign airlines from the eight Middle-East and African countries. The US ban will affect 10 airports that serve as last point of departure to the US.

According to the US Department of Homeland Security, the 10 airports affected are Queen Alia International Airport in Jordan, Cairo International Airport, Ataturk International Airport in Turkey, King Abdul-Aziz International Airport in Saudi Arabia, King Khalid International Airport in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait International Airport, Mohammed V Airport in Morocco, Hamad International Airport in Qatar, Dubai International Airport and Abu Dhabi International Airport.

The Department of Homeland Security says that these airports were selected on current threat inputs and their analysis and more airports can be added in future if security assessment demands so. These new measures will remain in place as long as the threat persists.

As per the US ban, electronic devices other than mobile phones will not be allowed in cabin baggage on flights originating from these 10 airports. Devices larger than a mobile phone or a smartphone, like laptops, tablets, cameras, e-readers, travel printers and scanners, portable DVD players and even electronic games which are larger than a smartphone must be put in the checked-in luggage. And this list is not exhaustive. The US ban is not limited to just these electronic devices but applies to any electronic device larger than a smartphone.

In support of its ban, the Department of Homeland Security cites terrorist propaganda on how an Egyptian plane was brought down by a soda can stuffed with explosives killing 224 onboard in 2015 or how a laptop bomb was used to carry out explosion in an aircraft at a Somali airport in February 2016. According to the Department of Homeland Security, terrorists have used in past methods like concealing explosives in shoes and printers, suicide devices in underwear and using liquid explosives.



US President Donald Trump thinks the US Judiciary is like that of the third world countries, a term that is derogatory and its use is not recommended. By doing so Donald Trump tries to stereotype a large section of the world as well as his own Judiciary, a marvel of humanity that is appreciated across the world.

Steven Spielberg’s 1997 film Amistad, based on the plight of African slaves on board ship Amistad in 1839, who were subject to intense court proceedings and social debate on slavery in America after they had mutinied and killed their captors, has two very moving scenes about independence and fine jurisprudence of the US Judicial system.

First, the then US President Martin Van Buren (1837-1841), under the pressure of pro-slavery southern US states and Spain, gets the judge of the US lower court replaced sensing that the presiding judge would rule against the slave traders and the US government, as the evidence demanded. Buren’s administration replaces him with a young judge expecting a favourable decision from him as the young judge would have his whole career before him and he would not go against the state. But, on the contrary, judicial wisdom and human conscience decides what the young judge would do – the just thing – and he rules against the slave traders and the US government – even if he knows that it will hurt his future career opportunities.

In the final scene of the film, we come across a fine closing argument in the case of the Amistad Africans in the US Supreme Court by John Quincy Adams, former US President (1825-1829) and the senior attorney here. Incidentally, under the pressure of the Southern states and Spain, the US government moves to the US Supreme Court. Though Adams never openly admitted that he was an abolitionist, he, in fact, was and agreed to defend the cause of the Amistad Africans in the US Supreme Court. As the film’s script goes, in support of his arguments, Adams reminds the judges of the US Supreme Court that the Queen of Spain, in official communication with the US, again and again, refers to the incompetent US Courts, comparing with the courts in her country that do what the state demands, something that Adams terms ‘as she plays with her own courts’ in a magical kingdom called Spain. Seven of the nine US Supreme Court judges were themselves southern slave owners. Adams invoked the US Declaration of Independence, freedom and equality of man and the previous US Presidents who fought for these values in his speech. The case was weak technically, apart from the ill-intent of the US administration. Add to it the impeccable defense mounted by John Quincy Adams. But a fear was lingering in everyone’s mind – that majority of the judges were slave masters – a fact that could have easily overturned the decision of the lower court in favour of the US administration and Spain. But like the lower court, the spirit of the US Judicial wisdom prevailed. With just one dissent, the US Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Amistad Africans.

That was 1840s. The film is more or less a true account of one of the most important episodes in the history that propelled the anti-slavery movement in the US to its final fight that resulted in Abraham Lincoln’s Thirteenth Amendment (January 31, 1865) that made slavery illegal thought the US, including the southern states.

Now if someone like a US President feels that the level of that judiciary, that showed a true judicial independence based on the rule of law some 200 years ago, is like of those countries where the judicial independence and integrity are easily compromised, then we can easily assume that the person saying such absurd things has other designs.

This Amistad spirit is alive and kicking in the US Judiciary is evident from the fact that both versions of Trump’s controversial travel ban, that target Muslims and immigrants, were turned down by the US Courts. Donald Trump was always livid over the US Judiciary. And the fact that he drew this the third world’ corollary during his campaign phase, before becoming the US President, tells us that he has designs against the US Judiciary. He would have been advised by his inner circle to pre-empt his moves and to take on the US Judiciary as the Judiciary was expected to play spoilsport in his bizarre policy moves like this travel ban travesty.

Though Donald Trump has said of moving to the US Supreme Court against the ban on his ‘travel ban’, hoping that the 5-4 conservative majority in the top US Court would help him with his Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch confirmed, the US Judicial history tells us otherwise, as evident from the Amistad example where six of the slave owing judges ruled against slavery. Neil Gorsuch and a conservative majority over the liberal judges may not work for Trump. Martin Van Buren says in Amistad, replying to the representative of Spain’s queen, that it is the it is the ‘independence of the US courts that keeps the people of the US free’.