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Kosovo, Serb dispute threatens to derail Balkan peace




MITROVICA, Kosovo -?European union is stepping amongst squabbling Kosovar Albanians and Serbs, fearing that any new?dispute?could undo nearly twenty years of efforts to stabilize?the southern Balkans.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini soon endeavor for getting leaders of Serbia and Kosovo to defuse a dispute more than a rail link between both adversaries?which has stoked old tensions and territorial disputes.

Just on the week ago, a Serbian train emblazoned with nationalist slogans, including ‘Kosovo is Serbia,’ prompted fresh fears that heated rhetoric inside the Western Balkans could escalate into over the war of words. Decorated in Serbian national colors, the train was said to be the first one to go direct from Serbia’s capital Belgrade to north Mitrovica, a Serb-dominated part of Kosovo, in nearly over twenty years. The train stopped before crossing into Kosovo after Pristina claimed it had sent special police to the border.

The incident prompted essentially the most hostile exchanges backward and forward sides in a long time, and served as a reminder on the fragility on the peace imposed with the West in your community after the selection of wars inside the 1990s, one more ending with Serbia’s losing control over?Kosovo in 1999.

Serbian President Tomislav Nikoli? said the two sides were to the “brink of war,” and threatened to deliver from the army if “they start killing Serbs.” His Kosovo counterpart, Hashim Thaci, accused Belgrade of any “provocation” and plotting to annex northern Kosovo just like Russia seized charge of Crimea.

The Western Balkans are full of weapons, many?advisors unregistered and privately owned and locals have demostrated a willingness to utilize them in Mitrovica.

Belgrade is not going to recognize?Kosovo’s independence – declared unilaterally in 2008 – about that instead as the rebellious province that continues to be section of Serbia. However it agreed to “normalize relations” with Pristina this season as being a condition for eventual accession to your EU.

In the wake within the train incident, Mogherini this morning invited all parties to the high-level meeting within their ongoing EU-sponsored dialogue on Tuesday.?The presidents and prime ministers of both Serbia and Kosovo result from?attend Tuesday’s meeting in Brussels, underscoring the degree of recent events.

    “The developments during the last days underline the demand for increased commitment and engagement from the two sides from the dialogue,” Mogherini’s office said inside a statement.?”Progress in the normalization of relations between Kosovo and Serbia remains very important for the sides, for any Western european, along with the Western Balkans overall.”

    With Serbian presidential elections approaching in April, some have interpreted the train flare-up as political maneuvering, a quotation by Serbian Pm Aleksandar Vu?i? the culprit the incident about the incumbent president, Nikoli?, and erode his support killing the vote. (Vu?i? claimed he previously had no information about the provocative decor within the train until he first viewed it on tv.)

    Analysts caution the problem could quickly escape hand. “Vu?i? is using fire,” said Dejan Anastasijevi?, a Serbian journalist who covered the Yugoslav wars from the 1990s. “He’s playing a political game, but, we all know, such incidents can rapidly get lost within the Balkans.”

    Although a European Union-sponsored deal signed in 2013 made some inroads toward normalizing relations, progress in implementing many experts have slow and peace remains fragile, especially in multi-ethnic areas.

    “The EU is actually a necessary soft souped up that has transformed the Western Balkans,” Enver Hoxhaj, Kosovo’s foreign minister, told Newsman. “Kosovo’s achievements include the achievements in the EU and, therefore, Brussels?should protect its long-term investments inside wider region, including Kosovo.”

    Nasty surprises

    Nearly two full decades on through the 1998-99 Kosovo war, tensions in Mitrovica, the train’s intended destination, remain visible. Sliced by 50 percent from the Ibar River, the area living around the northern side of your city is predominantly Serb, while those living about the southern side are mostly ethnic Albanians. Troops through the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force still maintain a constant presence in the main bridge backward and forward sides from the city, although it has long been closed to traffic because war.

    “This situation [with the train] has two messages,” said Branislav Krsti? a journalist and analyst from Mitrovica. “One is an internal political message. Other is really a message to America along with the Eu that whenever they fight to exert an excessive amount pressure to modify the political dynamic in Belgrade, there will be nasty surprises.”

    In northern Mitrovica’s smoky cafes and bars, the growing tensions undoubtedly are a hot topic of conversation and rumors are rife. While point out the convenient timing within the spat, also there is a?real fear which a single serious incident could provoke a violent domino effect.

    “Of course, it’ll make people nervous whenever you hear politicians talk of fight against the tv screen. People here are in a position to fight, to self-mobilize while they have before, and a lot of houses have a minimum of two guns,” said Aca Miti?, a 22-year-old student, drinking a macchiato. “If there’s an incident [in retaliation for that train], if somebody is killed or badly hurt, then Serbs will respond.”

    “Mild rebukes aren’t the answer to these issues.” – Senior official?during the international community getting work done in Mitrovica

    Speaking within his office in north Mitrovica, Miodrag Mili?evi?, the chief director of Activ, an NGO representing Serbs in northern Kosovo, said the developments boost an “already tense atmosphere.”

    “Here we will revisit 18 years in only some day, sixty minutes,” he added. “This train issue shows everyone how much quicker any normalization of relations could be undone.”

    Brussels urged to put on brakes

    The Western Balkans are awash with weapons, many?of those unregistered and privately operated -?a legacy from your wars within the 1990s -?and locals have established a willingness for their services in Mitrovica.

    Earlier this month, aid grenade was thrown in the government building for the northern side within the city, after Kosovo’s minister for the EU-backed dialogue, Edita Tahiri, delivered an address on expanding Pristina’s authority in the Serb-run areas in the north of the country. An unexploded bomb has also been purchased at expensive hotels that she undergone.

    In 2013, armed, masked men broke in a polling station and stole ballot boxes throughout a controversial vote which saw Serb areas during the north participate at last in Kosovo-wide elections.

    One senior official within the international community getting work done in Mitrovica described Belgrade’s decision to give the train to your city as “ludicrous, dangerous game-playing,” as well as accused the European Union of just “sitting for their hands” reacting into the escalating tensions in the community.

    “Mild rebukes aren’t damaged whipped cream these problems,” added a certified, who asked to not be named when they were not authorized to speak with a journalist. “Brussels comprehends what’s going on and requirements to have a firm stance to set the brakes on this.”

    Harry Cooper in Brussels contributed reporting to the article.

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    Cummings hospitalized as wife suspends campaign for governor





    Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) is currently hospitalized after a task to drain an infection, three sources told POLITICO, the most up-to-date setback inside of a string of medical issues which have plagued the longtime lawmaker since a year ago.

    Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, a Democratic policy consultant, suspended her gubernatorial bid in Maryland on Friday, shortly before news surfaced that her husband is at the hospital.

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    Soon after POLITICO first reported his hospitalization, Cummings\’ office released an argument saying his health problems were associated with a bacterial infection in the knee.

    "Doctors drained the infection in the minor procedure today. He\’s resting comfortably and expects the full recovery," his office said Friday.

    Cummings was hospitalized and sidelined for a lot of months not too long ago due to heart issues.

    In a press release announcing wants to suspend her campaign, Rockeymoore Cummings cited personal issues but wouldn\’t elaborate.

    \”Making an attractive and direct contribution towards state of Maryland also to our nation was my greatest motivating factor for getting into the public arena. Unfortunately, caused by personal considerations, We\’re suspending my bid for governor of Maryland,\” she said within an email to supporters.

    Multiple sources said Rockeymoore Cummings\’ decision to leave out the race was linked to her husband\’s health concerns. Democratic aides said Cummings was moving slowly ahead of the Christmas break.

    Cummings, 66, was hospitalized last May after what his office described back then as a \”minimally invasive\” heart valve replacement. He was scheduled to revisit work after that but ended up missing many months a result of a post-op infection that kept him clear of Capitol Hill until September.

    Upon his return, Cummings was noticeably slimmer and said he\’d have got to sustain a stricter diet and acquire more sleep. But he brushed aside any notion that he or she wasn\’t competent to fully perform his job.

    Cummings has represented his hometown Baltimore inside your home since 1996. He or she is well-liked and revered among all parties, even while he\’s sparred with Republicans over contentious issues for the reason that top Democrat over the House Oversight Committee.

    Rockeymoore Cummings was one among nine Democrats vying to unseat Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. She was endorsed by EMILY\’s List after she jumped within the race in October. But Rep. Cummings was the gubernatorial candidate\’s biggest single surrogate both publicly plus regards to fundraising. The congressman was listed as being a headliner a great upcoming fundraiser for Rockeymoore Cummings on Sunday.

    Despite the support with the prominent Democratic congressman, Rockeymoore Cummings wasn\’t the irrefutable front-runner however. At the beginning of polling of your Democratic primary, she trailed candidates including former NAACP President Ben Jealous and Prince George\’s County Executive Rushern Baker.

    Despite a considerable primary as well as general Democratic lean of Maryland, Democrats aren\’t as optimistic about unseating Hogan as they are about beating incumbent Republicans in states like Illinois, Boise state broncos, or Maine. That\’s largely because Hogan is popular: An October poll by Morning Consult listed him for the reason that governor while using the second-highest approval near your vicinity, behind only Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.

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    GOP senators recommend FBI probe of Trump 'dossier' author Steele





    Two Republican senators have recommended which the FBI pursue a criminal investigation against Christopher Steele – this writer of the disputed Trump-Russia dossier – for the purpose they described as evidence that they made false statements to federal investigators.

    "I cannot take lightly generating a referral for criminal investigation. But, because would with any credible proof a criminal offense unearthed while in our investigations, I\’m obliged to secure that information along on the Justice Department for appropriate review,\” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said in the joint statement with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

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    The senators did not provide public evidence to substantiate their request, nevertheless they noted they sent a "classified memorandum" to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray containing the foundation within their request.

    The request isn\’t going to measure the validity of your Steele dossier, nor can it constitute a criminal allegation. "The referral is made for further investigation only," according to the statement.

    Even so, Democrats quickly responded in anger.

    "I wasn\’t consulted concerning this referral nor were all of my Democratic colleagues," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the highest Democrat on Grassley\’s committee. "I do believe this referral is unfortunate since it\’s clearly another effort to deflect attention from what medicine committee\’s main concern: determining whether there is collusion regarding the Trump campaign and Russia to steer the election and whether there were subsequent obstruction of justice."

    One congressional aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the choice by Grassley and Graham to mention Steele towards Justice Department raises an obvious anomaly.

    "These are speaking about DOJ a justice based upon documents DOJ gave them and according to witness testimony into the DOJ," the aide said.

    Steele, an old British intelligence officer, was commissioned in 2016 by research firm Fusion GPS to research President Donald Trump\’s ties to Russia. The dossier he produced, which Trump has derided as fiction, describes a lot of illicit connections between Trump, his business and also the Kremlin.

    Republicans have persistently questioned how the FBI handled the dossier after receiving it in the 2016 campaign, including whether or not it formed the foundation of your surveillance warrant against a Trump campaign associate and whether the FBI independently verified any kind of Steele\’s information.

    Republicans in addition sounded the alarm over reports that Fusion was paid by the Clinton campaign for Steele\’s research, suggesting that Steele\’s work was the merchandise of your partisan smear effort.

    The two senators claim in their letter to obtain seen proof "potential violations" by Steele on the law prohibiting false statements to government officials. These potential violations, they assert, occurred "regarding his distribution of information contained in the dossier."

    Their letter was copied to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the highest Democrat to the Judiciary Committee, and Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), the most notable lawmakers for the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Reps. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the top part lawmakers on the House Intelligence ommittee.

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    DOJ clash with Trump allies hits Ryan's doorstep





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    The two sources told POLITICO there was an endeavor by Ryan and DOJ leaders to reduce the temperature newest hostilities between the Justice Department and Trump allies in Congress. That group of House Republicans has railed against the department\’s leadership amid partisan questions its handling with the investigation into Trump campaign ties to Russia. Nunes had even threatened contempt citations against DOJ and FBI leaders should they failed to comply with his request.

    Still, this probably is not the end of it for Ryan. There are signs that Wednesday\’s agreement won\’t placate the GOP lawmakers most hostile toward the Justice Department. And therefore the speaker will probably be in the heart of ongoing run-ins between some of his hard-line members as well as DOJ as they quite simply fight over the definition of typically closely guarded documents – from surveillance warrants to evidence connected with ongoing investigations.

    Indeed, Ryan\’s attempt to help broker a truce suggests he\’ll be a central figure in resolving disputes that Democrats and several Republicans fear could erode public confidence inside justice system.

    On Thursday morning, just hours after the tentative détente, Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) requested Attorney General Jeff Sessions to be replaced unless he exerts with additional control in the FBI and produces documents Congress have been requesting.

    "It\’s time for Sessions to get started managing from a spirit of transparency to give doing this improper behavior to light and stop further violations," they wrote within a op-ed within the Washington Examiner.

    Though Ryan hasn\’t waded publicly into these fights, multiple GOP lawmakers repeat the speaker\’s attitude may be consistent: He firmly believes during the House\’s authority to conduct oversight with the Department of Justice and FBI.

    "Is know for Representatives carries a constitutional duty to workout oversight from the executive branch," said the spokeswoman, AshLee Strong. "The speaker always expects the administration to observe the House\’s oversight requests, and then he will support his chairmen when they get them to be."

    Rosenstein and Wray "wasted a visit to the Capitol," said one Republican lawmaker near the speaker. "Once Paul assures himself that this request is legitimate and there\’s grounds for it, he always backs the chairperson who requires it."

    Democrats have declared that the GOP attacks to the Justice Department – and Special Counsel Robert Mueller for example – really are a cynical try to protect Trump as investigations of his campaign\’s ties to Russia encroached upon his group of friends. The document requests and claims of bias, they\’ve argued, are aimed towards delegitimizing your research.

    Republican lawmakers themselves are divided about precisely how harsh an approach to take toward the FBI and Justice Department. But in interviews, some House lawmakers say Ryan has come across a unifying theme throughout the conference: transparency.

    "Paul Ryan can be an institutionalist," said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who\’s been being among the most aggressive critics of Justice Department leaders\’ handling of the Trump-Russia probe. "I really believe he shares our frustration using the loss of responsiveness."

    "Perhaps we have seen several different camps regarding how aggressive people must be … but those camps are typical coming together with one singular focus, which will come down on the medial side of needing more documents, more transparency," added another GOP lawmaker who requested anonymity to characterize conversations with colleagues.

    "I do believe there was clearly lots of division earlier, even so the more the GOP members uncover … greater careers aligning of investigative strategies and tactics," the lawmaker said.

    Ryan states little publicly over the matter since October, as he chided DOJ due to its refusal to cooperate with congressional investigators demanding more info about how exactly the FBI handled its Trump-Russia investigation.

    "As soon as the executive branch, in this situation, the FBI as well as DOJ are stonewalling or foot-dragging, making it harder for us to accomplish our obligation of conducting oversight about the executive branch," he vented within an interview with Reuters back then.

    Since then, some Trump loyalists inside the house have ratcheted up their complaints. First, they took concentrate on Mueller, who was simply tapped by Rosenstein in May to oversee the Trump-Russia investigation after the president fired FBI Director James Comey. Mueller\’s team, they complained, included officials who had donated to Democrats, they can said raised the specter of bias.

    That group of Republicans close with Trump – including Gaetz, Jordan, Meadows and Ron DeSantis – also pounced on reports that Mueller had removed a highly regarded agent from his team in July after learning of a few texting criticizing Trump that he had provided for a colleague.

    At once, even more traditional Republicans over the intelligence, judiciary and oversight panels also began more quietly question the FBI\’s tactics inside the Russia probe, though failed to allege bias or corruption necessarily. Recently, POLITICO also reported that Nunes and various Republicans about the House intelligence committee ended up perfecting a probe they assert could spotlight wrongdoing by top officials inside FBI.

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