Brussels: multiple casualties after terror attacks

By John Casey

brussels

Credit: CNN

At least 32 people have been reported dead and many more injured in a series of explosions in Brussels this morning. Continue reading

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TRUMP AND CLINTON SET FOR SUPER TUESDAY TRIUMPHS

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Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton look set for victories in the ‘Super Tuesday’ primaries, as 12 states and one territory go to the polls today.

In what is the first multiple-state vote of the campaign, and it is the day when the largest number of states hold primary elections. The polls are predicting that the two frontrunners will extend their lead over the chasing pack.

Fresh off her resounding victory in South Carolina, former first lady Hillary Clinton looks like she will emerge from ‘Super Tuesday’ with an unassailable lead.

Doctor Kenneth McDonagh, a lecturer at Dublin City University, think that Sanders will fight until the very end and try to dictate how the democratic party run –  but a decisive victory for Clinton all but secures her the nomination.

“There’s no chance he [ Bernie Sander] will concede tonight even though his chance of the nomination will be gone. He has been very clear that his aim is to transform the Democratic Party and US politics and he will stay in as long as possible to keep his populist message at the centre of the debate.

“However, if Clinton wins as decisively as expected you can expect her to switch more or less immediately to General Election mode, effectively ignoring Sanders and targeting the middle ground and Republicans uncomfortable with the idea of voting for Trump,” he added.

 

 

On the other side, although Donald Trump is expected to extend his league – he still will remain a long way short of the delegates needed to secure the nomination.

Polls are signaling that the outspoken billionaire will cruise to victory in most of tonight’s states, but according to Professor of Journalism at Dublin City University, Steven Knowlton – there’s no reason for any of the other candidates seeking the Republican nomination to pull out of the race.

 

“Rubio doesn’t have to drop out, nobody has to drop out anymore. I’d personally be surprised if either Rubio or Cruz dropped out”, he said, but he did acknowledge that Trump could be too big to catch.

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He said: “He almost certainly is [too big]. I think what the party leadership want is to get to the convention without Trump having an outright majority or delegates bound to him.”

“Once you get to the convention, all kinds of things can happen including entire delegations can be challenged, he added.

On Trump running as an independent third-candidate, Knowlton said that: “We don’t know what hell would happen, nobody has a good fix on what this Trump phenomenon is. America has never seen anything like it before”.

It’s quite clear that barring a major upset when the US vote today, front-runners Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton still looks odds on favourites to advance to November’s Presidential election.

 

By David Clarke

 

 

BBC STING CATCHES CORRUPTION IN NAMAS PROJECT EAGLE

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Nama was caught up in controversy again last night, after a BBC spotlight investigation uncovered corruption in the bad bank.

One of NAMA’s Northern Ireland advisors, Frank Cushnehan, was filmed claiming he was due a ‘fixer fee’ of £5m for his role in the sale of NAMA’s Northern Ireland portfolio.

The BBC investigation was shown as part of an undercover recording.

It comes after years of denying he would receive any such payment. Mr Cushnahan had resigned as advisor in November 2013, before the eventual sale to the Cerberus investment fund in 2014 for €1.3bn.

‘Project Eagle’ was the nickname Nama’s sale of loans taken by Northern Ireland property developers was given. Nama’s portfolio included 850 properties and development land in northern Ireland.

Nama had previously paid about £1.1bn to Irish banks for the Northern Ireland loans, that originally had a value of £4.5bn.

In January 2014, nine bidders were asked to come forward with proposals – including Cerberus and US investment firm Pimco.

Pimco considered acquiring the NI Nama portfolio but the deal collapsed. According to evidence given to the Public Accounts Committee, Pimco pulled out of the bidding process after discovering Frank Cushnahan was in line for the payment after the sale.

They told Nama that there was a fee of £15m to be split three ways: Brown Rudnick, the Tughans’ managing partner Ian Coulter, and Frank Cushnahan.

Brown Rudnick is an international law firm, with offices in the US, Dublin, London and Paris. Cerberus says it engaged the firm as its lawyers for the Project Eagle sale.

Tughans’ is a Belfast law firm employed by Brown Rudnick to work on behalf of Cerberus.

TD Mick Wallace alleged they were involved with £7m in a bank account “earmarked” for a Northern Irish politician.

Northern Ireland’s first Minister Peter Robinson was the one of five recipients alleged to receive money by Loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson. The allegations were made at Stormont’s finance committee.

Robinson called the claims “scurrilous and unfounded”.

 

By Ryan McBride

SYRIAN CEASEFIRE A FRAGILE SITUATION SAYS UN SECRETARY

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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s comments that the ceasefire in Syria is holding “by and large” highlight the fragility of the entire situation.

While the ceasefire that came into effect on Friday has undoubtedly caused a decrease in violence, both sides have accused the other of breaching the terms. Turkish troops have been reinforcing their border defences, and Russian airstrikes continue to target regions within Syria they claim are held by Islamic State, who are exempt from the ceasefire.

“We are not facing a violation of the truce . . . we are facing a complete nullification,” Asaad al-Zoubi of Syria’s main opposition party said.

Tensions arising from both sides of the agreement have the potential to bring down potential peace talks which, along with providing humanitarian aid to civilians, were the purpose of the ceasefire.

‘Shelling near reporters in Syria shows limits of truce’

Should that tension prove enough to fully breach the terms of the ceasefire, US Secretary of State John Kerry said last week that “plan B” would be to partition the country. If there is truth behind the accusations made by Russia, it would seem that Secretary Kerry’s plan may be the only viable option left.

Map of Syria explaining ceasefire

 

Witnesses on the ground in Syria claim that Russian air strikes are still causing havoc, despite initial promises from Russia that they would only target areas controlled by terrorist groups such as IS and al-Nusra.

With such wide speculation over the strength of the ceasefire, peace talks may not provide anything meaningful, but Mr Ban Ki-Moon highlighted how it allows humanitarian aid to reach those in need.

By Jamie Concannon