Supreme Court to rule on Trump travel ban

The Supreme Court has agreed to decide the legality of the latest version of President Donald Trump’s ban on travel to the United States. (AP)
Updated 19 January 2018
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Supreme Court to rule on Trump travel ban

WASHINGTON: The Supreme Court agreed Friday to decide the legality of the latest version of President Donald Trump’s ban on travel to the United States by residents of six majority-Muslim countries.
The issue pits an administration that considers the restrictions necessary for Americans’ security against challengers who claim it is illegally aimed at Muslims and stems from Trump’s campaign call for a “complete shutdown of Muslims” entering the US
The justices plan to hear argument in April and issue a final ruling by late June on a Trump policy that has been repeatedly blocked and struck down in the lower courts.
The latest of those rulings came last month when the federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled that the travel ban Trump announced in September violates federal immigration law.
The federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, also is considering a challenge to the ban.
Last month, the high court said the ban could be fully enforced while appeals made their way through the courts.
The policy applies to travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. It also affects two non-Muslim countries: blocking travelers from North Korea and some Venezuelan government officials and their families.
The Supreme Court has never ruled on whether any of the three versions of the travel ban is legal. The court agreed last June to take up the second version until it expired in the early fall.
Trump’s first travel ban was issued almost a year ago, almost immediately after he took office, and was aimed at seven countries. It triggered chaos and protests across the US as travelers were stopped from boarding international flights and detained at airports for hours. Trump tweaked the order after the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit refused to reinstate the ban.
The next version, unveiled in March, dropped Iraq from the list of covered countries and made it clear the 90-day ban covering Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen didn’t apply to those travelers who already had valid visas. It also got rid of language that would give priority to religious minorities. Critics said the changes didn’t erase the legal problems with the ban.
The same appeals courts that are evaluating the current policy agreed with the challengers. The 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond said the ban “drips with religious intolerance, animus and discrimination.” The San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Trump violated immigration law.
The Supreme Court allowed the ban to take partial effect, but said those with a claim of a “bona fide” relationship with someone in the United States could not be kept out of the country. Grandparents, cousins and other relatives were among those who could not be excluded.
But the high court said lower courts were wrong to apply the same limits to the new policy, at least while it is being appealed. The justices did not explain their brief order.
The third version is permanent, unlike the other two, and the administration said it is the product of a thorough review by several agencies of how other countries’ screen their own citizens and share information with the US
Solicitor General Noel Francisco said in court papers that the policy is well within the president’s “broad authority to suspend or restrict the entry of aliens outside the United States when he deems it in the Nation’s interest.”
In response, the challengers said the policy violates the Constitution because it is biased against Muslims and also violates immigration law. The new version continues “the same unlawful policy” that was struck down by lower courts last year, lawyer Neal Katyal said in his brief on behalf of the challengers.


Kuril islands: strategic chain at heart of Russia-Japan dispute

Updated 25 min 18 sec ago
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Kuril islands: strategic chain at heart of Russia-Japan dispute

  • Soviet troops seized the Kuril Islands from Japan in the final days of World War II
  • The islands are rich in hot springs and minerals and rare metals such as rhenium

MOSCOW: Called the Kurils by Russia and the Northern Territories by Japan, a string of volcanic islands are at the heart of a feud between the two countries that has prevented them signing a formal World War II peace treaty.
Talks stalled for decades due to Japan’s claim to the four strategic islands seized by the Soviet army in the final days of the war.
Here are some key facts about the Kuril islands:

• The disputed islands of Iturup (Etorofu in Japanese), Kunashir (Kunashiri), Shikotan and Habomai lie at their closest point just a few kilometers (miles) off the north coast of Hokkaido in Japan.
They are the southernmost islands in a volcanic chain that separates the Sea of Okhotsk and the Pacific Ocean.
They are located to the southeast of the Russian island of Sakhalin and are administratively part of the same region, although Tokyo considers them part of its Hokkaido prefecture and “illegally occupied by Russia.”

• Russian Empress Catherine the Great claimed sovereignty over the Kuril islands in 1786 after her government declared they were discovered by “Russian explorers” and therefore “undoubtedly must belong to Russia.”
In the first treaty between tsarist Russia and Japan in 1855, the frontier between the two countries was drawn just north of the four islands closest to Japan.
Twenty years later in 1875, a new treaty handed Tokyo the entire chain, in exchange for Russia gaining full control of the island of Sakhalin.
Japan seized back control of the southern half of Sakhalin after its crushing defeat of Moscow in the 1905 Russo-Japanese War.

• The Kuril islands have been back at the center of a dispute between Moscow and Tokyo since Soviet troops invaded them in the final days of World War II.
The USSR only entered into war with Japan on August 9, 1945, just after the United States had dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
The Soviet troops completed the takeover of the islands after Japan’s general surrendered later that month.


Russia argues that then US president Franklin Roosevelt promised Soviet leader Joseph Stalin he could take back the Kurils in exchange for joining the war against Japan when they met at the Yalta conference in February 1945 at which the Allied leaders divided up the post-war world.
The Soviet capture of the islands has since prevented Moscow and Tokyo from signing a formal peace treaty to end the war, despite repeated attempts over the past 70 years to reach an agreement.
In 1956, Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev first offered to give Japan the two smallest islands, Shikotan and Habomai, in exchange for signing a peace treaty but dropped the idea after Tokyo struck a military alliance with the United States.

Rich in hot springs and rare metals
Strategically, control of the islands ensures Russia has year-round access to the Pacific Ocean for its Pacific Fleet of warships and submarines based in Vladivostok, as the strait between Kunashir and Iturup does not freeze over in winter.
Russia has military bases on the archipelago and has deployed missile systems on the islands.
The islands’ current population is around 20,000 people.
After numerous meetings over the past few years between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin, they have launched various economic projects on the islands in areas such as the farming of fish and shellfish, wind-generated energy, and tourism, though Moscow says investment is still meagre.
Since 2017, the two countries have also agreed on charter flights for Japanese former inhabitants to visit family graves there.
The islands are rich in hot springs and minerals and rare metals such as rhenium, which is used in the production of supersonic aircraft.