The former special counsel Robert Mueller reappeared in public on Saturday to publicly defend his two-year investigation into allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election. And also to chastise Donald Trump’s decision to commute Roger Stone’s prison sentence.
Mueller wrote an opinion article for the Washington Post titled “Roger Stone remains a convicted felon, and rightly so”.
“The work of the special counsel’s office – its report, indictments, guilty pleas, and convictions – should speak for itself,” he wrote.
“But I feel compelled to respond both too broad claims that our investigation was illegitimate and our motives were improper, and to specific claims that Roger Stone was a victim of our office …
“Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes. He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so.”
The partially released Mueller report in April 2019 described Russian efforts to tamper with the election and the Trump campaign’s receptivity to certain “Russian offers of assistance to the campaign”.
It outlined actions by Trump that may have amounted to obstruction of justice and concluded: “While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
Mueller wrote: “The special counsel’s office identified two principal operations directed at our election: hacking and dumping Clinton campaign emails, and an online social media campaign to disparage the Democratic candidate.
“We also identified numerous links between the Russian government and Trump campaign personnel – Stone among them. We did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired with the Russian government …
“The investigation did, however, establish that the Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome. [And] that the campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”
Trump has attempted to discredit Mueller and his investigations on multiple occasions.
Mueller has kept his counsel since he testified in Congress in July last year.
This led to the historic impeachment of the president, and Trump’s ultimate acquittal by the Senate earlier this year.
On Saturday Mueller wrote: “Russia’s actions were a threat to America’s democracy. It was critical that they be investigated and understood.”
Trump Commuted The Sentence Of His Close Ally Roger Stone
Trump commuted Roger Stone’s sentence on Friday even though the US attorney general previously declared Stone’s conviction “righteous”.
Roger Stone was the president’s former campaign adviser and was due on Tuesday to begin a sentence of three years and four months in jail.
Stone, 67, was convicted in November 2019 of obstructing a congressional investigation into the possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia to win the 2016 election.
In the process of the Trump-Russia investigation, which led to several indictments, Mueller and his team unveiled the evidence of communications between Stone and WikiLeaks related to the release of hacked Democratic party emails.
Trump said on Friday that Stone was targeted in an “illegal witch-hunt”, which drew the global politics professor and political columnist Brian Klass to tweet on Saturday: “This is a complete lie. Roger Stone committed a series of well-documented crimes that are not seriously contested.”
He added: “This is what despots do: wield the law like a weapon to attack political opponents and protect loyal cronies. It’s a disgraceful, dark day for American democracy.”
Stone’s conviction came in November 2019 of seven crimes, including obstruction of justice, lying to Congress, and witness tampering in the congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Reactions From All Sides
Speaking on Sunday to CNN’s State of the Union, the House speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats in the House will pursue legislation to restrict clemency powers related to the president’s own conduct. “It’s a threat to our national security,” she said.
Both sides of the political argument in the US came out on Saturday with heavy criticism.
Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and chairman of the House intelligence committee – the congressional panel Stone was convicted of lying to about aspects of the Trump-Russia investigation – called the decision “destructive of the criminal justice system and the rule of law” on Saturday morning.
Senator Mitt Romney, a Republican of Utah, described the decision as “unprecedented, historic corruption”.
“Unprecedented, historic corruption: an American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president,” he tweeted.
Senator Pat Toomey, of Pennsylvania, a Republican, was another politician who called the move to commute the sentence a mistake.
Toomey held in high regard the backing that US attorney general William Barr gave for the Stone prosecution and call for it to be upheld. Barr, who has faced allegations of using the justice department to defend the president and his associates, had said earlier this month that he regarded the prosecution of Stone as “righteous”.
Thousands of US Immigrant Workers Forced Into Modern Slavery
While, on the one end, thousands of immigrant workers are forced into modern slavery, migrant politics is once again taking center stage in the United States.
Last Thursday, two buses carrying immigrants and asylum seekers arrived near the residence of vice president Kamla Harris. Texas governor Greg Abbott said that the state of Texas “will continue to send migrants” until the white house comes up with strict policies to secure the border.
Since April, Texas has sent over 7,000 migrants to New York and Washington, DC. Not long before, Florida’s governor sent over 50 undocumented migrants to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
Politicians are, once again, inconsiderately using immigrant men, women, and children as political pawns. But nobody is talking about the suffering and exploitation these immigrants, even with a work visa, are facing.
The Reality of Immigrant Workers: The Operation Blooming Onion
Immigrant exploitation is nothing new in the US. The roots of forced labor — an ugly legacy of slavery — still run deep in the US labor market.
One live example is the recent crackdown in the field of southern Georgia, where 24 people were named in a federal indictment accused of Moder-Day-Slavery. For over three years, the 24 prosecutors trafficked migrant workers from Central America and Mexico and subjected them to horrendous working conditions on the farms in Georgia.
On further investigation, the authorities found that the culprits were a part of a transactional criminal organization that has been trafficking immigrant workers since 2015.
The victims were forced to live in cramped, dirty trailers with raw sewage leaking into the trailers, threatened with separation, and detained in a work comp surrounded by a work fence. And this is only a small fraction of thousands of suffering through immigrant exploitation under modern-day slavery.
The Ugly Face of Forced Labor & Modern Slavery in the US
For most natives of developing and under-developed nations, landing a job in the US is a dream come true. The same was true for Jayson, a construction worker in the Philippines, when his boss offered him a handsomely paying job in the states. But it soon became a nightmare.
Not long after he arrived in the US on a P-1 visa for athletes (as recommended by his recruiter), he realized that he was not here as a worker but as a trafficked laborer.
In the name of safekeeping, the recruiter took Jayson’s passport and asked him to pay $12,000 for a work Visa. Unaware of his rights and visa policies, he worked for the trafficker for nine months (in awful working conditions at a low wage of $400/month) until he was rescued by the FBI.
What’s worst? Jayson is not alone. Lured by the salary, status, and potentially bright future, thousands of temporary migrant workers fall into the trap of forced labor in the US every year.
The Exploitation of Immigrant Workers in the US
Immigrants from other nations make up a sizeable portion of the forced (enslaved) labor victims in the United States. Most exploited victims suffer because they don’t understand or speak English, nor do they know their rights or the laws.
They decide to immigrate to the United States in the expectation of finding more chances and a better life, putting complete faith in their traffickers, like Jayson, only to find themselves trapped in an unstoppable circle of coercion.
Most immigrants caught in the forced labor trafficking chains come to the United States via student or work (H2A) visa programs. This is where the traffickers exploit the victim’s vulnerabilities, especially when their immigrants are entirely dependent on the exploiters for their basic needs.
The Unfair Power Imbalance
According to recent estimates by State Department, 14,500 to 17,500 immigrants are trafficked into the US every year. But experts believe that the real numbers are much higher since the data on human trafficking are immensely challenging to collect.
As per the Human Rights Center at the University of California, about 10,000 forced laborers are working as slave workers in the US at any given time.
Plus, for the victims who want to take the legal route, the process is complex, arduous, and lengthy. Moreover, the majority of cases are often left unresolved. A recent report by ABC news shows how even skilled immigrant workers suffer from immigrant exploitation and workplace sexual harassment.
All this makes one thing very clear: Immigrant workers are abused, and even after 150 years of slavery abolition, the US is still struggling to eradicate modern slavery.
The Call for Better Visa and Immigrant Protection Policies
In a letter to the government, 18 grassroots legal centers from all over the nation demand essential legislative reforms, such as criminalizing wage theft, enabling migrant workers to take legal action against exploitative employers, and widening the Fair Entitlements Guarantee to every worker, including those with temporary work visas.
But, still, the requests for more robust regulation to prevent the exploitation of immigrants are yet to be addressed.
The US and Israel are Weaponizing Iran Protests
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently blamed the US and Israel for the ongoing widespread protests in Iran. He said that the riots had been “engineered” by Iran’s arch-enemies and their allies.
The statement came after Israel and the US governments lent their support to the protests.
The US government said that it was “appalled” by the violent response to the protests. President Joe Biden expressed grave concern about reports of the “intensifying violent crackdown on peaceful protesters”. According to him, those protesters were calling for “just and universal principles”. He added that the US “stands with Iranian women” who were “inspiring the world with their bravery”. The US also hit Iran with more sanctions. Iran’s interior and communications ministers and several law enforcement leaders were targeted for sanctions.
Israel has been running a propaganda campaign on its official social media handles. The official handles shared several videos showing Israeli women standing up with Iranian women.
Widespread protests in Iran were provoked after the tragic death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody. The protests are led by women. Some men are also standing up to the women and their demands.
The supreme leader’s statement has the backing of history. Those who are unaware of Iran’s history, the US intervention in countries like Afghanistan to save women and Israel’s purple-washing in Palestine, might dismiss Ayatollah’s statement. They might think that the Ayatollah is looking for a reason to suppress protests and justify the violent repression.
However, there is more truth to the statement than meets the eye.
Iran’s Experience with the US and Israel
When we read about Iran’s recent history, for some reason it always starts with the Islamic Revolution of 1979. However, this author believes that Iran’s recent history should always begin from 1953.
In 1953, the United States and Britain launched a joint operation through the CIA and MI6 to overthrow the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. Mosaddegh had tried to nationalize oil companies and reclaim Iran’s oil from the British.
Further, one year after the Islamic Revolution, a CIA agent sneaked into Iran and took out six American diplomats who were staying in the Canadian embassy after the hostage crisis.
There have also been recent operations by Israel inside Iran. Israel’s Mossad assassinated Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in November 2020. Mossad carried out the assassination using A. I. and remote control. Additionally, Mossad has killed 5 and wounded one Iranian nuclear scientist in several attacks since Iran began trying to acquire a nuclear bomb.
Also Read: Is Iran really the enemy?
Weaponizing Feminist Movements
The West and Israel claim to stand up for women’s rights around the world. However, they have done more damage to these movements than anyone else by weaponizing the feminist movements.
One of the reasons given by the US to invade Afghanistan was to save the women of Afghanistan. The then-First Lady Laura Bush delivered a speech in 2001 in which she justified the invasion of Afghanistan to protect the women of Afghanistan from the brutal oppression of women.
Israel has also co-opted feminist struggles in order to justify the Zionist movement. It claims to rescue Palestinian women from the evil men of Palestine. It grabs the gender equality slogan to divert attention from its human rights abuses in Palestine.
However, when it comes to women like Shireen Abu Akleh whom Israel kills for doing their duty, Israel conveniently parts its way with feminism.
Right now, what we are seeing in Iran is no different from Afghanistan or Palestine. Israel’s government and its women are standing with women because they hate Iran. They do not care about Iran’s women. It is just that they want Iran to perish from the earth.
Similarly, the US does not care about women’s struggle in Iran. The US does not allow its female citizens the right to choose when it comes to abortion.
It is also interesting that neither the US nor Israel stands up for the feminist activists of Saudi Arabia who are languishing in jails for small acts of defiance. The US never sanctioned Saudi rulers for oppressing women.
Perhaps Israel and the US have this wishful thinking that somehow they could use this uprising to oust the current regime in Iran.
Iran’s previous president Hassan Rouhani had given more leeway to women in Iran. There was a gradual change happening in Iran. However, Mahsa Amini’s death led to an uprising that has now been hijacked by Iran’s enemies. As a result, Iran seems to consider the current uprising a national security issue.
The West and Israel should leave Muslim women for themselves. They should not be in the job of rescuing Muslim women. It would be more helpful if they do not selectively stand with Muslims of a particular country. They turn feminist movements into national security issues and hence do a disservice to the feminist struggles.
This article deals with only one aspect of the current uprising in Iran. Other aspects have been covered elsewhere.
Will China Invade Taiwan? The Looming Danger of World War 3 Explained
While the world is engulfed in the Ukraine-Russia war, global inflation, food shortage, and scorching heat, China is preparing to conclude its long-simmering plan to invade Taiwan.
Here’s an in-depth report:
Will China Invade Taiwan: An Overview
China’s goals for Taiwan are well known. Tensions between the two nations have been stoked for years by opposing perspectives over the sovereignty of the little island country. And now, they are reaching boiling point.
Beijing sees Taiwan as a breakaway province even though it has never been a part of China. Moreover, the so-called reunification with Taiwan has been a top priority for the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, ever since he came to office. And he hasn’t ruled out using force to do this.
Taiwan’s military, which has 169,000 active soldiers, is outnumbered by its superpower neighbors’ million-strong army by over a 20 to 1 margin. And, with the looming danger of China’s invasion of Taiwan; expert fear, the world is inching closer to a World War situation.
Why does Taiwan Matters to the World?
If China were to Invade Taiwan, two nuclear power heads, China and the US, could war head to head into what could escalate into world war three.
But why is Taiwan so important for the world, especially for the US?
South China Sea Dispute
The South China Sea is one of the most important regions for global trade because over 30% of the world’s shipping passes through the passage, which amounts to $3.37 Trillion in trade per year. The sea also homes 11 billion barrels of untapped crude oil and 190 Trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
And most important of all, the country controlling this region will have significant military benefits.
For years, China has been keenly taking control of the region. To an extent, where the Sino military has created an artificial island to claim the South China Sea as its own.
So, if China succeeds in invading, it will have the upper hand in the second most important region in the world, handing China significant military dominance in the area.
US’s Promise in Question
The US does not recognize Taiwan as an officially different state. But, the Taiwan Relations Act 1979 does require the US to aid Taiwan in self-defect. President Bidden also testified that in case of Chinese assault, Washington would protect Tawain with force.
Though Biden has framed US support for Taiwan in terms of ideals, such as the defense of democracy against despotism, many analysts point out that Washington also views the island as strategically significant.
Furthermore, if China invades Taiwan, the US will be forced to reciprocate to honor its promise. Failing to do so would put Washington in question even with its strongest allies, including NATO.
Taiwan: The Semiconductor Hotstop
From laptops to game consoles and automobiles, most of our electronic equipment is powered by semiconductors chips manufactured in Taiwan.
Taiwan alone has 63% of the market share in the global semiconductor industry. By one measure, TSMC (Taiwan semiconductor manufacturing company) holds over 54%. It’s a vast industry worth over 100 billion USD in 2021.
Therefore, Taiwan is the world’s semiconductor hotspot that powers significant tech companies, including Apple, Intel, and Nvidia. And, with China in control of Taiwan, it will directly take over one of the world’s most vital industries.
Can China Takeover Taiwan By Force?
The People’s Liberation Army has significantly improved under president Xi Jinping to an extent where invading Taiwan is possible.
However, one key determiner is how close PLA is to mastering the skills required to deploy thousands of troops to Taiwan by air or sea, take over the island and push over to size crucial areas like railways, ports, and communication.
However, even if LPA- the biggest military force in the world- wanted to annex Taiwan, doing so would be fraught with danger.
While subjected to naval and aircraft bombardment, the Sino military will have to cross Taiwan bay with over 100,000 soldiers. And, even if the military were to reach Taiwan’s coast; landing aircraft to unload armored personnel carriers, artilleries, and tanks would be a challenge because of the island’s rocky shoreline.
The invasion will further provoke large-scale combat between the US and China.
Taiwan Brace for China’s Invasion
With China’s aggressive military power demonstration near Taiwanese borders and Nancy Pelosi’s visit, the Taiwanese authorities are preparing for the invasion. Now, allies are pumping in more military aid while the neighbors are arming with new fighter jets.
According to Chinese officials, live-fire sea and air exercises are being conducted in six different regions around Taiwan. The drill includes over 100 planes, including ten warships, bombers, and fighter jets.
However, Taiwan is also setting the stage for strong retaliation.
Last week, Taiwan conducted its largest ever military drills that stimulated the repulsion of an invading force. City across Tawin shut down for thirty minutes for nationwide military exercises.
And now, with China set to orchestrate fresh military drills near Taiwan; the island nations say, “Our military will be ready but will not ask for war.“
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