Thank you. I am looking forward to seeing how Mark Zuckenberg turns out. Interesting choice.
on: Today at 11:29 AM
|Started by cat777 - Last post by cat777|
on: Today at 11:01 AM
|Started by cat777 - Last post by Skywalker|
I really enjoyed reading this assignment of yours, it´s very interesting as is Cayce himself.
All the best
on: Today at 05:36 AM
|Started by Rose Marcus - Last post by Rad|
03/07/2014 01:36 PM
Pope John Paul II's Canonization: The Making of a Miracle
By Alexander Smoltczyk
Pope John Paul II will be canonized in April. A woman from Costa Rica experienced a stunning recovery from a brain aneurysm after praying to the late pontiff. Her story provides a unique look at the Vatican's miracle workshop.
There is a place in Rome where miracles are collected and examined, inspected and screened, and purged of all thirst for glory or pagan superstition. It is called the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
The Vatican's outpost in the Lateran Palace is on Piazza Giovanni Paolo II. The marble street sign, a more recent addition, will have to be redone soon, when a mason chisels the word "San," or "saint" into the sign. That will occur by no later than April 27, when Karol Wojtyla, aka Giovanni Paolo II, will be declared a saint in Rome, only nine years after his death. Rarely has the Vatican been in such a hurry to complete a canonization. John Paul II was a global pope, and now he is to become a saint of the 21st century, a global saint.
He has already been beatified. But to attain the second level of godliness, sainthood, another miracle, one that has been officially examined and cannot be explained by the laws of science, is required.
The necessary research is undertaken at the office on Piazza Giovanni Paolo II. Slawomir Oder, 53, is the "postulator" of "Causa Ioannis Pauli." He handles the red tape surrounding the canonization, acting as an intermediary between Heaven and earth, a sort of central collecting point for evidence, witness testimony and reports of miracles. His staff has inspected all of the writings of Karol Wojtyla, from an early play called "The Jeweler's Shop" to the words of his last, almost inaudible address.
The monsignor is a representative of the new Poland, multilingual, efficient and, most recently, sporting a neatly trimmed goatee. He looks like someone who could be managing a tech start-up. His office on the fifth floor of the Lateran Palace is filled with files, images of popes and souvenirs from his travels. A glass case next to the door contains a white cap and a pencil case. Monsignor Oder answers the question before it is even asked: "Yes, they are originals." He points to a round reliquary, which contains a piece of material with gray spots on it. "They are from the day of the assassination attempt," May 13, 1981. It's the most valuable item in his collection.
Oder's office is also responsible for the management of relics, which are divided into three classifications. The most valued are parts of John Paul's body, which include mostly hair or blood. Second are "contact relics," or clothing and accessories the deceased pope once wore. Finally, items that came into contact with a contact relic also make the list.
A Wondrous Story
There are currently about 400 "first-class relics" in circulation, and about 40,000 second-class relics, which consist almost exclusively of nine square-millimeter snippets of one of the pope's chasubles.
The number of third-class relics is potentially infinite, following the homeopathic principle whereby substances are effective, even in the greatest possible dilution. However, as Oder is quick to point out, such relics are not to be used as a talisman. A relic, he says, is no good-luck charm, but rather an object of meditation and a window into the faith. "Take a few," says the monsignor.
The "Positio," or final report, is kept in the safe. One copy was given to Pope Francis, while the original remains in Monsignor Oder's safekeeping. The Karol Wojtyla file weighs about four kilograms (nine pounds) and consists of four volumes, bound in apostolic eggshell-white material, and comprising a total of 2,709 pages. The file is titled "Positio super vita, virtutibus et fama sanctitatis," or "Report on the Life, Virtues and Reputation of Sanctity." The report includes, for example, the testimony of a certain Dr. Helmut Kohl (the former German chancellor), as well as that of the Dalai Lama and about 100 other contemporaries. Oder has visited all of them in the last few years. Each of those interviewed, if Catholic, was asked to swear upon his or her soul that he or she was telling the truth.
The "Positio" also contains a long, wondrous story that unfolded three years ago and 10,000 kilometers away, or, to be more precise, in the right temporal lobe of the brain of Floribeth Mora Díaz.
The house of Mora's family is on a steep street on the outskirts of San José, where the Costa Rican capital gradually gives way to the rain forest. Mora -- 50, wearing tight, red stretch jeans -- is a grandmother nine times over. She has constructed an altar on her veranda, a colorful, shimmering private shrine, complete with plaster cherubs, Sacred Heart candles, and printouts of prayers for John Paul II, who will soon be Saint John Paul II. "My saint," says Mora; there is no doubt that her claim is correct.
On April 13, 2011, Señora Mora was convinced that her head was about to explode. She could no longer feel her left leg and she was constantly vomiting. Her doctor had diagnosed Mora with "migraines," but she refused to believe him.
Her husband, Edwin Arce, took her to the emergency room at the Hospital La Católica in San José. He was determined that only the best would do for his wife, and La Católica was the best hospital in the city, despite the fact that some of the patients were admitted in handcuffs, owing to the prison located right around the corner.
A Positive Omen
The neurologist who evaluated Mora was Dr. Alejandro Vargas, a doctor so young, attractive and clever that he could easily be taken for a telenovela actor. Before Vargas operates on a patient's head, he likes to say: "With the help of God, vamos…" Mora decided to interpret his words as a positive omen.
"My head felt like it was swollen, I didn't even dare to sneeze. The doctor gave me a contrast agent and did his examination. Then he told me I had an aneurysm" -- a bulge in the wall of a blood vessel. Aneurysms are not unusual in individuals over 50, especially when they are somewhat overweight and have hypertension.
"Her blood pressure was very high. She was suffering from a fusiform aneurysm," Vargas would later write in his report. "It could have been clamped, but the problem is that we don't have the technology for that. An operation was too risky."
Mora's aneurysm looked to be located in a region of the brain that was inaccessible to the surgeons. "Dr. Vargas said that he couldn't clamp the blood vessel," Mora relates. "He said that if he operated, I could fall into a coma or become permanently paralyzed. He told me there was nothing he could do."
Mora remembers how a priest came to administer her last rites. Dr. Vargas recalls that he had only said that nothing could be done for Mora in his hospital. "This type of case is certainly operated on in Mexico or the United States. I prescribed anti-hypertensive medication for the señora, as well as a sedative. After all, the aneurysm hadn't ruptured. There was still hope."
But Mora didn't think so. She had a problem in her head, one that not even the best doctor in Costa Rica could solve. She was in tears as her husband Edwin drove her back to Tres Ríos. "I called my brothers so that they could get the family together. I wanted to tell them they should always stick together, even without me, and that their mother had only a month left to live." Mora wept for three days and took the pills Dr. Vargas had prescribed. In between bouts of weeping, she prayed.
One of her children occasionally came into her room and tapped her to see if she was still alive. She had been sent home to die. It was what she would later say to every priest she encountered, to the archbishop and to anyone else who would listen.
The Only True Miracle
From a purely dogmatic standpoint, miracles make the church a little uncomfortable. God doesn't need to prove his omnipotence in the form of patients whose missing limbs suddenly reappear. The only true miracle is the resurrection of Jesus.
To Pope Benedict XVI, reports of farmers strolling across their village pond were just as suspect as the cult of Padre Pio or the apparitions of Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where the lame and sick go for salvation. The veneration of saints is no substitute for health insurance.
But people want miracles. A world without the possibility of the impossible would be like a lottery without a grand prize -- an empty world, a world without God. It's the reason people want saints. To the faithful, saints are like touchable, practical versions of God.
This sentiment explains why devout Catholics began chanting "Santo subito!" (Italian for "saint now!") shortly after Karol Wojtyla's death. On the day he died, "we perceived the fragrance of his sanctity, and in any number of ways God's People showed their veneration for him," said Benedict XVI, as he proceeded to beatify his predecessor in record time, after only six years of examination.
On May 1, 2011, the day John Paul II was beatified, one and a half million pilgrims came to Rome. Newspapers worldwide published special issues to commemorate the event, including La Nación in San José, Costa Rica.
But there is a difference between beatification and sainthood. Only a real saint has his own holiday, and only his relics can be worshipped everywhere, no matter what documents turn up in the future. Only a saint remains a saint until doomsday and beyond.
However, a "fragrance," no matter how strong, is not enough for sainthood. The rules can be found in the papal bull titled "Divinus perfectionis Magister." They state that it is not sufficient to have led an unblemished and virtuous life, or even to have wrestled down communism. Canonization requires a confirmed miracle.
The notion that he was capable of miracles was already attributed to John Paul II in the course of his beatification. In 2005 Marie Simon-Pierre, a nun from Puyricard in France's Provence region, claimed that she had been cured of Parkinson's disease by merely invoking the deceased pope.
According to the rules, simple martyrdom, such as death by assassination, would be sufficient for beatification. But a miracle is required for canonization, provided the pope enforces the rule. What's more, the miracle must have taken place after beatification. In the case of John Paul II, that would be anytime after May 2, 2011.
Juan Pablo's Helping Hand
Floribeth Mora couldn't sleep that night and watched television instead. The special edition of La Nación, with a black-and-white photo of the pope giving his blessing, was lying on top of Mora's TV.
"In the morning, I looked at his picture in the newspaper. I heard a voice. Yes, it was a male voice. Yes, it was in Spanish. It said: 'Get up and have no fear.' His two hands emerged from the photo." Mora has told the story many times. She weeps every time she tells it.
She is an attractive and serious woman, and yet she lacks the penetrating radiance common to those who have been in contact with the dead. Her husband Edwin, who used to sell auto parts, now runs a security company with his sons. The youngest son, who looks like a punk rocker, serves us tamales.
"I stood up and said: 'Sí, Señor.' I was able to go into the kitchen. I felt a little better. I felt an inner warmth. I was convinced that I was healthy, even if my body was saying the opposite. My Juan Pablo," says Mora.
Her headaches subsided and eventually disappeared. In July, Dr. Vargas was astonished to see his patient return to his office with no symptoms. He says: "When I saw the scans, I initially thought it was the wrong CD. I could see no signs of an aneurysm. It looked like a completely normal artery, even after the catheter examination. It was my impression that something had happened here. I haven't found anything like this in the literature."
Juan Pablo had helped.
For Mora, there was no need to discuss the miracle any further, and the world would never have learned about it if a certain Father Dariusz Ra had only brought along some Polish sausage from Krakow, or perhaps some vodka. But the priest had felt that something very special was needed.
In Rome, Ra had become friends with another priest, Donald, when they were both students at the Pontifical Gregoriana University. Father Dariusz was from Silesia, and Father Donald was from Costa Rica. "Dariusz wanted to visit me, spent a few days at the beach and see the volcanoes. He asked if he could bring me anything. I had no idea," says Donald. In any event, he expected his friend to turn up with some Polish sausage instead of blood -- papal blood. Although it was only a drop, it was the blood of John Paul II, together with a certificate in Latin, which read: "Ex Sanguine Beati Ioannis Pauli Papae."
The Making of a Miracle
"That was the first peculiarity," says Donald Solana, the priest at the church of Nuestra Señora de Ujarrás in Paraíso, a neighborhood in the city of Cartago. Wearing a short-sleeved shirt, he smiles broadly and easily. "The blood of a pope -- here in Costa Rica. I am always amazed anew by our Lord."
And that was only the beginning. Without that drop of blood in the luggage of Father Dariusz, there would be no canonization on April 27, 2014, nor would there be a square at the Vatican soon to be named Piazza San Giovanni Paolo II. That's because miracles don't just fall out of the sky. Miracles are made.
The drop of blood that the visitor from Krakow had brought along in his luggage was dried on a piece of material and enclosed in a brass container. It was from the last blood sample taken from John Paul II as he was dying.
Stanislaw Dziwisz, who is now the Archbishop of Krakow, was the pope's private secretary at the time and had inherited the ampoule. In addition to being viewed as the trustee of John Paul's spiritual estate, Dziwisz has a monopoly on the distribution of the former pope's blood, which he dispenses at his discretion around the world, contained in various reliquaries.
"The hospital ampoule was not thrown away, but was wiped clean with one of the pope's old chasubles. And my friend Dariusz…," says Father Donald, pausing to savor the moment, "… had brought us some of it."
Some 3,000 pilgrims came to see the drop on the first day. On the second day, Father Donald thought about moving up the date of a planned expansion of his church.
The intercessory prayers of the day are already piling up in a basket in front of the relic. "Ensure that my son gets the job at the town hall," reads one note, while another reads: "Help me, Juan Pablo, I'm in such great pain."
In strict accordance with canon law, Father Donald isn't permitted to collect such entreaties. Someone who has been beatified can only be worshipped in his native country -- Poland, and not Costa Rica, in this case. Father Donald's drop of blood will only be transformed into the blood of a saint on April 27, when its value will suddenly increase, not unlike a work of art being auctioned at Sotheby's.
A Call to Costa Rica
"One day this señora turned up after the church was already closed. She was weeping and she was determined to see our drop of blood," says Father Donald. "I let her in. She said something about a cure, and that John Paul had saved her. My friend Dariusz wrote down a web address to which she could send her story." After that, says Father Donald, the woman's name slipped his mind.
"We certainly had a few dozen interesting, potential miracle cases in reserve," says Slawomir Oder, the man in charge of the former pope's file in Rome. "My secretary gave me the email from Señora Floribeth. There was no vanity there. On the contrary, she was a simple and beautiful soul whose only thought had been for her family. And John Paul II had always been near and dear to the family. So I made a call to Costa Rica."
Father Donald received the call at 7 a.m. one day in April 2012. Monsignor Oder introduced himself as the postulator of the cause of John Paul and quickly got to the point: "Find Señora Floribeth Mora. We need her."
It took the priest a moment to remember the woman who had come to his church in tears. With the help of someone he knew at the phone company, he managed to track her down at her home in Tres Ríos, on the outskirts of San José. "The Vatican sent us $1,200 to have Floribeth examined in a private clinic," says Father Donald. "The result was the same: There was no aneurysm. I sent the scans to Rome by DHL."
The machinery of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints had been set in motion. Too many people were waiting for a miracle. And certainly not just because they were sick.
In Washington, for example, a "Blessed John Paul II Shrine" had been built for $75 million, but the expected crowds of visitors had failed to materialize. The operators, a pope-loving brotherhood called the Knights of Columbus, were planning to quadruple the size of their exhibit space once John Paul's canonization was announced. According to a spokesman, the organization is now hoping to be able to present pilgrims with a blood-spattered piece of the former pope's robes from the day of the attempted assassination.
In Poland alone, 19 churches have already been consecrated in the name of the former pope. There are study centers, pilgrimage sites, museums and commemorative paths on every continent. And since the beatification, everyone has been waiting for the same thing: sainthood. The real thing. The miracle.
No Longer Needed
On Oct. 17, 2012, Floribeth Mora boarded an airplane for the first time in her life. Father Donald accompanied her to Rome, where a room had been reserved for her at the Gemelli Hospital, on the same floor where the pope, her Pope Juan Pablo, had stayed after the attack. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints had made all the preparations.
Perhaps Mora already sensed at the time that her private miracle was about to be transformed into something else, something much larger that would have little to do with her anymore: a global miracle. As a souvenir, she bought a snow globe with a tiny St. Peter's Basilica inside.
She was given the same unpleasant and prolonged tests as in Costa Rica: ultrasound, CT, catheter diagnosis. The tests made her so ill that an excursion to Assisi had to be canceled. At some point Mora just wanted to go home. And by then, she was no longer needed.
"It isn't the miracle that makes the saint," explains Slawomir Oder, the postulator of the cause. "It's merely the final confirmation" -- God's watermark, so to speak. "Every miracle requires a legal configuration," says Oder. "The church must have definitively determined that, after a person with a reputation for sanctity was turned to in prayer, an act of God occurred for which there is no scientific explanation."
In other words, the miracle is subjected to a technical inspection of sorts. A panel of theologians examines whether a sincere and deliberate prayer actually took place prior to the miracle.
Before that can happen, a panel of doctors is convened, pursuant to Section 2.14.1) of the "Divinus perfectionis Magister," which reads: "The claimed miracles, for which a written document has been prepared by the rapporteur appointed for this purpose, are examined by a group of experts (if cures are involved, a group of doctors); their statements and conclusions are described in a precise report."
Although he cannot provide the names of the doctors involved, says Postulator Oder, this much he can say: "They are authorities who are not necessarily close to the church."
When Father Donald received another phone call from the Vatican in November, the voice on the other end informed him that everything was "tutto bene!" The doctors had found no scientific explanation for Mora's cure. "It was indeed a miracle," says Monsignor Oder. "The doctors had ruled out spontaneous healing. The aneurysm was in a part of the brain that couldn't be operated on. There is neither a thrombus nor a scar, nor is there any evidence of a different path the blood could have taken. It's as if the aneurysm never existed."
The case was clear, for the postulator, for the cardinals and bishops of the Congregation, and for Pope Francis. On July 5, 2013, the Holy See announced that the pope had recognized by decree the miracle required for canonization.
Without access to all of the scans, it is difficult to say what really happened in the right temporal lobe of Floribeth Mora Díaz.
Since the pope's death, there had been so many alleged miracle cures that there was practically a competition over which miracle would be selected by the Vatican. Brazil, Mexico and Poland, as well as Bolivia, were all in the running. So why did the Vatican choose Floribeth Mora from Costa Rica?
The local archbishop, Hugo Barrantes, sees the case as "a message to the secular state" of Costa Rica, which was in the process of decriminalizing artificial insemination. "A miracle is no random intervention by the Lord," says Slawomir Oder, who ought to know. "It always comes with a deeper message. In the case of Señora Floribeth, it is a message for life and the family."
There is also another version of the story.
"We didn't want it to be a nun, because a nun had already been involved in the beatification," says Daniel Blanco, chancellor of the diocesan curia of San José in Costa Rica. The official report on the miracle of San José bears his signature. "The case was very much strengthened by the fact that it was from Latin America, where John Paul II is very popular. And that she was a mother in the prime of her life."
Besides, says Blanco, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz -- the Archbishop of Krakow and the source of Father Donald's relic containing the blood of the former pope -- had shown a keen interest in the case. "In the final phase, he called almost every day to ask how much progress we had made." Progress with the miracle, that is.
On April 27, 2014, Rome will be overflowing with pilgrims once again, when a new name is added to the list of saints: Saint Karol.
Father Donald Solano will have renovated his church by then. He has already had new business cards printed for the church. They now include the word "shrine."
Dr. Alejandro Vargas, the first doctor in the case, says that patients now come to him just to touch his hand. Recently, as he was performing a difficult surgery using a microscope, there was so much blood that he had to operate blindly. He says that he sensed that "someone took my hand, and the bleeding stopped."
Today Mora always sits in the front row during mass. Some people from Bosnia recently came to her house to ask for her blessing. It is still something of a mystery to her that they have made her Juan Pablo into a saint; that her name will soon be mentioned in every language; that millions of people will think about the miracle that took place in her head.
Mora's life has thoroughly changed in only one respect: It is continuing. But what happens if another aneurysm forms in her brain? "Under canon law, it would be a completely new illness," the postulator said. A new miracle would then be required -- or a better doctor.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
on: Today at 05:19 AM
|Started by Steve - Last post by Rad|
New Cold War Would Differ From Old
MARCH 7, 2014
by FLOYD NORRIS
RUSSIA had some real economic problems even before the Ukrainian crisis led the United States and European countries to threaten sanctions on the country after the Russian flag was raised in Crimea, a part of Ukraine, and troops who spoke Russian appeared to take over a significant part of the region.
Russia’s growth had slowed to almost nothing: Its real gross national product in the third quarter of 2013 was just 0.6 percent larger than it had been a year earlier. The ruble was weak.
Its manufacturers appeared to be doing much worse than competitors in other countries. Its stock market has trailed markets in most other countries over the last year.
If this is a new incarnation of the Cold War, it will be very different from the old one.
Back then, the Soviet Union and the members of its empire were in some ways in their own economic world. They largely traded with each other, and they controlled the value of their currencies. Now, the world is a far more globalized place.
Just which side would have the ability to frustrate the other is the subject of debate now that John Kerry, the United States secretary of state, has threatened to throw Russia out of the Group of 8, to which it had been added in 1997. The other members are seven traditional economic powers: the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Canada.
On the one hand, Russia is a major supplier of energy to Western Europe. If it cut off its natural gas exports, several countries — notably the Netherlands — would have a hard time coping. On the other hand, energy accounts for most of Russia’s exports. Its supply of foreign currency reserves could be depleted rapidly if cash from Western Europe stopped arriving.
Germany is a substantial customer for Russian gas, but it also is a major exporter to Russia. It would be damaged more than most countries if a trade freeze developed. Last year, Germany supplied 12 percent of Russia’s imports, more than double the share provided by the United States. Western Europe has more to fear than the United States does from a prolonged Cold War.
Western Businesses in Russia, Watchful and Wary
By LIZ ALDERMAN
MARCH 7, 2014
PARIS — Shortly after pro-Russian troops infiltrated Crimea last weekend, the phone in Alexis Rodzianko’s Moscow office started ringing. He is president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia, and local managers for some of the world’s biggest brands were calling to discuss the safety of their operations and the risks that might arise if the West were to impose sanctions.
A few miles away, at the Association of European Businesses, the main trade group for European multinationals, a similar scene unfolded. They all had an overarching concern: How hard might their Russian operations be hit if the turmoil kept escalating?
“Foreign companies have seen many ups and downs in their relationship with Russia, and we hope this is just another one of them,” Mr. Rodzianko said. “But this situation is full of uncertainties.”
Western multinationals with big investments in Russia have faced other crises over the years. But the standoff between Russia and the West is posing a range of new challenges that threaten to undermine Western companies’ business in Russia.
American companies including PepsiCo, McDonald’s and John Deere are active in Russia, of course. But for many Western European businesses, that market is even more crucial.
In Paris, officials at the French carmaker Renault have been in constant contact with their Russia-based executives to assess the rapidly shifting climate in the country, where Renault has a pivotal joint venture. Directors at Porsche in Stuttgart, Germany, are analyzing political frictions. At the giant beer brewer Carlsberg, managers in Copenhagen are providing additional security for assets and employees in Russia and Ukraine, the company’s biggest markets.
“Russia is important for European and American companies,” said Chris Weafer, co-founder of Moscow-based Macro Advisory, a consulting firm. “With events escalating and bringing Russia into greater conflict with Western governments, there could be serious consequences.”
One of the biggest concerns is that international sanctions may hit Russia’s large but increasingly sluggish economy and prod Moscow to retaliate against Western interests.
“This is a situation in which those applying the sanctions will get hurt as much as the side being sanctioned,” Mr. Rodzianko said.
The European Union’s economy is tightly intertwined with Russia’s. Europe does about $460 billion in business there, much of it in the energy sector, making it Moscow’s largest trading partner. And more than half of Russia’s foreign investment comes from European multinationals and financial institutions.
The United States is not even among Russia’s top 10 trading partners, exchanging around $40 billion worth of exports and imports each year. And yet, Russia remains a crucial market for American retail, construction and energy companies, as well as some of the biggest United States banks.
On Thursday, the United States and its allies imposed visa bans on individuals deemed responsible for undermining Ukrainian sovereignty, and threatened further sanctions if Russia did not de-escalate tensions. The Kremlin warned of countermeasures, including possibly seizing American property in Russia.
On Friday night, the Russian government issued a statement saying that its foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, had spoken by telephone with Secretary of State John Kerry and warned that “hasty and ill-considered steps” to impose sanctions on Russian officials would harm relations. The statement warned that sanctions “would inevitably backfire on the United States itself.”
Earlier in the week Russian lawmakers also considered a proposed law allowing for the confiscation of property, assets and accounts of Western companies. Other Russian officials advocated dropping the dollar as a reserve currency and refusing to pay off Russian loans to American banks.
So far, the Russian threats have been only that. But the tenor of the statements has made Western multinationals jittery.
European businesses “have no interests in any deterioration of the current international situation linked to Ukraine,” Frank Schauff, the chief executive of the Association of European Businesses in Russia, said on Friday. “We call upon all parties to engage in a constructive dialogue, which will secure stability, welfare and economic growth on the European Continent.”
European Union leaders are not eager to pick an economics fight. A document photographed in the hands of a British official near 10 Downing Street this week and shown by the BBC read in part, “The U.K. should not support for now trade sanctions or close London’s financial center to Russians.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, whose economy has deep ties to Russia, has also been reluctant to rush into sanctions.
The visa bans announced so far will not hit Russia financially. But any trade curbs could be painful. After years of growth propelled by oil and natural gas, the Russian economy is already slumping toward a recession. The ruble has been increasingly volatile against the dollar and the euro, and dipped to record lows against those currencies after the Russians moved into Crimea.
Jérôme Stoll, head of sales at Renault, said in a recent interview that the company’s top management was pondering what to do if a devalued ruble caused inflation to rise and undercut the buying power of Russian consumers.
Renault executives are discussing “how we can cope with the situation in case we have to raise our prices,” Mr. Stoll said.
But the situation is still too fluid to gauge the impact, he said. “When you have such a big financial crisis,” he said, “you don’t know how the situation will move.” Asked whether Renault had expressed its concern to the Russian government, he replied, “It’s not our duty.”
American companies are also nervously watching Russia. Those companies include Ford Motor, which operates three assembly plants in Russia and recently formed a joint venture there.
The John Deere Company, one of the world’s biggest makers of farm equipment, has two factories and an operations office in Russia. “We have taken steps to ensure the safety of our employees and have restricted travel in the region,” said Ken Golden, director of global public relations for Deere. Mr. Golden would not specify what those steps were.
While Russia represents less than 5 percent of Deere’s total equipment sales, the company recently cited Russia as being key to its future growth. “We urge political leaders to solve this issue without violence and in accord with international agreements,” Mr. Golden said.
Russia is Pepsi’s largest market outside the United States, contributing nearly $5 billion in annual revenue, about 7 percent of the company’s total. McDonald’s also has a sizable presence. The fast-food giant, which was the official restaurant of the recent Olympic Games in Sochi, has 413 Russian restaurants generating $2.5 billion a year, or around 9 percent of the company’s total revenue, according to an analysis by Deutsche Bank Securities.
“Russia is a high-growth market, and it’s important to them,” said Jason West, a research analyst for Deutsche Bank. “We don’t know how bad things are going to get yet, but it could really hurt growth prospects.”
Nor are Russian companies immune to the turmoil. State-owned banks that could be the target of further Western sanctions were pounded this week on Russia’s stock exchange. Shares in Gazprom, the behemoth Russian gas producer that sends gas through Ukraine to European markets, have also slumped.
Despite the uncertainty, American and European companies are hunkering down. None yet seem ready to heed Mr. Kerry’s admonition to “start thinking twice about whether they want to do business with a country that behaves like this.”
It is not that simple, according to Mr. Rodzianko of the American Chamber.
“Nobody is particularly happy with the fact that the business climate is suffering, but you don’t come in here, build a plant, and pull out tomorrow,” he said. “We have to stick to our knitting, and deal with the setbacks until the climate improves.”
Rebecca Ruiz contributed reporting from New York and Jack Ewing from Frankfurt.
Russia Warns Could Halt Foreign Arms Checks
by Naharnet Newsdesk
08 March 2014, 14:13
Russia is considering halting foreign inspections of its strategic weapons arsenal, including nuclear-capable missiles, in response to "threats" from the West over the Ukraine crisis, the defense ministry said Saturday.
"The unfounded threats towards Russia from the United States and NATO over its policy on Ukraine are seen by us as an unfriendly gesture that allows the declaration of force majeure circumstances," a high-ranking defense ministry official, who was not named, said in a statement to all Russian news agencies.
The inspections that could be halted are carried out in line with the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with the United States and the Vienna Document between Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) member states.
Cutting off such inspections would likely be seen by the West as a major violation of such agreements, which are regarded as a cornerstone for the maintenance of global peace in the post-Cold War world.
"We are ready to take this step in response to the announcement by the Pentagon about stopping cooperation between the defense institutions of Russia and the United States," the Russian defense ministry official added.
"Inasmuch as these inspections are a matter of trust, then in a situation where the United States has de facto declared the imposition of sanctions then there cannot be normal, bilateral contacts on observing agreements."
The New START treaty between Russia and the United States, signed between U.S. President Barack Obama and then Kremlin chief Dmitry Medvedev in 2010, entered into force in February 2011.
The agreement provides for 18 on-site inspections per year as part of a verification regime for a treaty that envisages drastic cuts in missiles and nuclear warheads on both sides.
The United States has already imposed visa bans and set the stage for wider sanctions against Russia over the seizure of the Ukrainian region of Crimea by pro-Russia forces.
Obama also signed an executive order paving the way for economic sanctions against individuals or entities in Russia.
on: Today at 05:12 AM
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The Pig rebuffs Obama’s warning about military intervention as Ukraine crisis escalates
Friday, March 7, 2014 8:56 EST
By Lidia Kelly and Alissa de Carbonnel
MOSCOW/SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin rebuffed a warning from U.S. President Barack Obama over Moscow’s military intervention in Crimea, saying on Friday that Russia could not ignore calls for help from Russian speakers in Ukraine.
After an hour-long telephone call, Putin said in a statement that Moscow and Washington were still far apart on the situation in the former Soviet republic, where he said the new authorities had taken “absolutely illegitimate decisions on the eastern, southeastern and Crimea regions.
“Russia cannot ignore calls for help and it acts accordingly, in full compliance with international law,” Putin said.
Ukraine’s border guards said Moscow had poured troops into the southern peninsula where Russian forces have seized control.
Serhiy Astakhov, an aide to the border guards’ commander, said there were now 30,000 Russian soldiers in Crimea, compared to 11,000 permanently based with the Russian Black Sea fleet in the port of Sevastopol before the crisis.
Putin denies that the forces with no national insignia that are surrounding Ukrainian troops in their bases are under Moscow’s command, although their vehicles have Russian military plates. The West has ridiculed this claim.
The most serious east-west confrontation since the end of the Cold War – resulting from the overthrow last month of President Viktor Yanukovich after violent protests in Kiev – escalated on Thursday when Crimea’s parliament, dominated by ethnic Russians, voted to join Russia. The region’s government set a referendum for March 16 – in just nine days’ time.
European Union leaders and Obama denounced the referendum as illegitimate, saying it would violate Ukraine’s constitution.
The head of Russia’s upper house of parliament said after meeting visiting Crimean lawmakers on Friday that Crimea had a right to self-determination, and ruled out any risk of war between “the two brotherly nations”.
Before calling Putin, Obama announced the first sanctions against Russia since the start of the crisis, ordering visa bans and asset freezes against so far unidentified persons deemed responsible for threatening Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Japan endorsed the Western position that the actions of Russia, whose forces have seized control of the Crimean peninsula, constitute “a threat to international peace and security”, after Obama spoke to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
China, often a Russian ally in blocking Western moves in the U.N. Security Council, was more cautious, saying that economic sanctions were not the best way to solve the crisis and avoiding comment on the legality of a Crimean referendum on secession.
The EU, Russia’s biggest economic partner and energy customer, adopted a three-stage plan to try to force a negotiated solution but stopped short of immediate sanctions.
The Russian Foreign Ministry responded angrily on Friday, calling the EU decision to freeze talks on visa-free travel “extremely unconstructive” and warning that Moscow would retaliate against any sanctions.
Brussels and Washington also rushed to strengthen the new authorities in economically shattered Ukraine, announcing both political and financial assistance.
Promises of billions of dollars in Western aid for the Kiev government, and the perception that Russian troops are not likely to go beyond Crimea into other parts of Ukraine, have helped reverse a rout in the local hryvnia currency.
In the past two days it has traded above 9.0 to the dollar for the first time since the Crimea crisis began last week. Local dealers said emergency currency restrictions imposed last week were also supporting the hryvnia.
In their telephone call, Obama said he urged Putin to accept the terms of a potential diplomatic solution to the dispute over Crimea that would take account of Russia’s legitimate interests in the region.
Putin was defiant on Ukraine, where he said the pro-Russian Yanukovich had been ousted in an “anti-constitutional coup”. But he underlined what he called “the paramount important of Russian-American relations to ensure stability and security in the world”, the Kremlin said.
“These relations should not be sacrificed for individual differences, albeit very important ones, over international problems,” Putin said.
The 28-nation EU welcomed Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk to an emergency summit, even though Kiev is neither a member nor a recognized candidate to join the bloc, and agreed to bring forward the signing of the political parts of an agreement on closer ties before Ukraine’s May 25 elections.
Yatseniuk said after returning to Ukraine that no one in the civilized world would recognize the result of the “so-called referendum” in Crimea. He repeated Kiev’s willingness to negotiate with Russia and said he had requested a telephone call with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
The European Commission said Ukraine could receive up to 11 billion euros ($15 billion) in the next couple of years provided it reaches agreement with the International Monetary Fund, which requires painful economic reforms like ending gas subsidies.
Despite Putin’s tough words, demonstrators who have remained encamped in Kiev’s central Independence Square to defend the revolution that ousted Yanukovich said they did not believe Crimea would be allowed to secede.
Some said they were willing to go to war with Russia, despite the mismatch between the two countries’ armed forces.
“We are optimists. Crimea will stand with us and we will fight for it,” said Taras Yurkiv, 35, from the eastern city of Lviv. “How we will fight depends on the decisions of our leadership. If necessary, we will go with force. If you want peace, you must prepare for war.”
Alexander Zaporozhets, 40, from central Ukraine’s Kirovograd region, put his faith in international pressure.
“I don’t think the Russians will be allowed to take Crimea from us: you can’t behave like that to an independent state. We have the support of the whole world. But I think we are losing time. While the Russians are preparing, we are just talking.”
On the ground in Crimea, the situation was calm although 35 unarmed military observers dispatched by the pan-European Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe were denied entry into the peninsula on Thursday after landing in the southern Ukrainian port of Odessa.
A U.N. special envoy who traveled to the regional capital Simferopol on Tuesday was surrounded by pro-Russian protesters, some of them armed, and forced to leave on Tuesday. The United Nations said it had sent its assistant secretary-general for human rights, Ivan Simonovic, to Kiev to conduct a preliminary humans rights assessment.
Ukrainian television was switched off in Crimea on Thursday and replaced with Russian state channels.
The streets largely belong to people who support Moscow’s rule, some of whom have become increasingly aggressive in the past week, harassing journalists and occasional pro-Kiev protesters.
Part of the Crimea’s 2 million population opposes Moscow’s rule, including members of the region’s ethnic Russian majority. The last time Crimeans were asked, in 1991, they voted narrowly for independence along with the rest of Ukraine.
“This announcement that we are already part of Russia provokes nothing but tears,” said Tatyana, 41, an ethnic Russian. “With all these soldiers here, it is like we are living in a zoo. Everyone fully understands this is an occupation.”
(Additional reporting by Luke Baker and Martin Santa in Brussels, Steve Holland and Jeff Mason in Washington, Lina Kushch in Donetsk and Pavel Polityuk in Kiev; Writing by Paul Taylor; Editing by Giles Elgood)
Tatars flee Crimea for western Ukraine
By Agence France-Presse
Friday, March 7, 2014 10:29 EST
In the city of Lviv, across Ukraine from the crisis gripping Crimea, a group of Tatars fleeing the troubled peninsula disembarks on a train platform looking for security away from Russian forces.
“I’m scared for my children as long as Russian soldiers are in Crimea,” said a young Tatar mother accompanied by her three children, aged two to five.
“Here I feel safe,” she added, one of 200 Crimean residents who have accepted an invitation from Lviv authorities to come and stay in this bastion of Ukrainian nationalism in the west of the country near the Polish border.
Crimea, a Russian-speaking autonomous region of Ukraine, has come under the de facto control of Russian forces, and its regional parliament has unanimously voted to join Russia — raising the spectre of the break-up of Ukraine.
Most of the Crimean residents now arriving in Lviv are Tatars, the peninsula’s Muslim minority, which was deported to Siberia and central Asia under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and returned after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
For them, the creeping advance of Russian forces since late February has been especially alarming.
In Lviv, new arrivals were greeted by Petro Kolodiy, head of the regional council, which has set up a hotline for anyone wishing to relocate to the city.
“Like all Ukrainians, you are in a difficult situation created by the Kremlin. Lviv extends its hand to you,” he told the newcomers.
Not only the authorities but the local population have opened their arms to 500 Crimeans, with hotel and spa owners even offering to host them for free.
“When I was little, my grandmother told me that Lviv had welcomed people from eastern Ukraine during the great famine (in 1932-1933) and shared their last piece of bread with them,” said Kolodiy.
“Today, we’re trying to offer the Crimeans what we can.”
- Ready for guerrilla war -
Besides Tatars, families of Ukrainian soldiers in Crimea are also arriving in Lviv.
A flag of the Ukrainian navy — offered to Lviv’s mayor by a reserve officer — now flies above city hall as a sign of solidarity with Ukrainian soldiers.
Since the ousting of Ukraine’s pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovych last month, Russian forces have surrounded several Ukrainian bases in Crimea, with skirmishes erupting in some spots.
Moscow has denied sending any troops to the disputed region but insists it will protect its citizens.
In a video message, Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovy appealed to Crimeans not to believe Russian propaganda that said Moscow needed to defend its people on the peninsula against alleged western Ukrainian extremists.
“If you expect armed men from the west, I can reassure you: we want a peaceful development for all of Ukraine,” he said, speaking in Russian, the better to reach Crimea’s majority Russian-speaking population.
Ukraine is in effect divided between a mostly pro-Moscow east and a more pro-European west that includes Lviv and the capital Kiev.
Alim Aliyev, the Crimean Tatars’ representative in Lviv, said he was optimistic about the region’s future. Tatar men were sending their families away so they could dutifully defend their land, he said.
“As long as Tatars are in Crimea, Crimea will remain part of Ukraine,” he said.
Tatars will launch a guerrilla war against the Russian forces if they do not pack up and leave the region, Aliyev warned.
“We will dance the haytarma and the hopak (traditional Tatar and Ukrainian folk dances) on the ruins of Putin’s post-imperialist ambitions,” he said.
U.S. warship crosses Bosphorus Strait towards Black Sea
By Agence France-Presse
Friday, March 7, 2014 10:22 EST
A United States warship crossed Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait Tuesday, headed towards the Black Sea, as tensions simmer over Ukraine’s Crimea region.
A coastguard boat was seen escorting the guided-missile destroyer, the USS Truxtun, an AFP photographer saw.
The US Navy said in a statement on Thursday that the ship was bound for the Black Sea to conduct military exercises with Bulgarian and Romanian naval forces.
According to the Montreux Convention, warships of countries which do not border the Black Sea can only stay in the waters for 21 days.
On Tuesday, two Russian warships crossed the Bosphorus after the Kremlin “summoned” the vessels back to its Black Sea fleet to strengthen its military presence in Crimea.
A Ukrainian vessel also entered the Black Sea the same day, according to the Turkish state-run Anatolia news agency.
The increased sea traffic comes at a time of growing tension between the West and Russia over Crimea, a predominantly ethnic Russian peninsula housing the Kremlin’s Black Sea fleet.
Hollande Meets Klitschko, Says No Crimea Referendum without Ukraine Consent
by Naharnet Newsdesk
07 March 2014, 18:25
France said Friday there could be no referendum on the future of Crimea unless Ukraine decided to organize one.
"The territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine are non-negotiable," President Francois Hollande said after a meeting with Ukraine's former foreign minister Petro Poroshenko and Vitali Klitschko, the ex-boxer and leading figure of the protest movement that ousted the country's pro-Moscow president.
Russia has said it would respect a decision by lawmakers in Ukraine's flashpoint Crimea region to renounce ties with Kiev and stage a March 16 referendum on switching to Kremlin rule.
Hollande said the West's response to the crisis would be "modulated according to the situation."
"Our aim is to also always leave open the door for negotiations so that Russia can enter into talks if it decides to do so," he said.
Hollande said the "international community, Europe and France must work to preserve the territorial integrity of Ukraine."
He also warned that it was necessary to prevent a dangerous precedent.
"There are a lot of countries which could get worried if a precedent were set for breaching borders and territorial integrity," Hollande said.
Klitschko shared that view saying that "the instability threatens not only Ukraine but also the whole region."
To support the Ukrainians, Poroshenko called for "using all the sanctions possible" against Russia, saying the solution to the crisis "is not to be found in Kiev, or in Crimea but in Moscow."
He also said before any political solution could be reached there must be "the complete withdrawal of the foreign army" in Crimea, where Russian forces have taken effective control over the past week.
Ukraine Braces for New Demos as Russia Threatens Gas Supply
by Naharnet Newsdesk
08 March 2014, 07:07
Ukraine braced Saturday for new pro-Russian protests in the tense eastern city of Donetsk after Moscow threatened to stop crucial gas supplies to the country, further escalating hostilities with the West.
Donetsk, a focal point of the crisis engulfing Ukraine since the protests that toppled president Viktor Yanukovych, was expecting a large demonstration by activists demanding a secession referendum like the one planned for the Crimean peninsula.
The latest show of pro-Moscow sentiment in the largely Russian-speaking southeast comes after Russia threatened Friday to halt gas supplies to Ukraine following Western sanctions to punish the Kremlin for seizing de facto control of Crimea.
The warning by Russian state-run energy giant Gazprom, which could affect supplies to other countries, raised the specter of previous gas disputes between Russia and Ukraine that deeply rattled European economies in 2005-2006 and again in 2009.
Gazprom said the move was in response to unpaid bills, but the threat -- made after the European Union warned it could toughen sanctions against Moscow -- underscored the Kremlin's resolve to stand its ground in the biggest East-West crisis since the Cold War.
In a sign of the tensions racking Crimea, Ukraine's defense ministry said late Friday that unidentified militants had smashed through the gates of a Ukrainian air force base in Sevastopol.
No shots were fired in the incident.
A convoy of foreign observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) was earlier stopped at a checkpoint in Crimea guarded by pro-Kremlin gunmen.
Russia's foreign ministry accused the OSCE of attempting to enter the Black Sea peninsula uninvited and "without considering the opinions and recommendations of the Russian side".
The OSCE observer mission is a crucial part of the "off-ramp" US President Barack Obama is pushing to de-escalate a crisis that threatens to splinter Ukraine, an ex-Soviet state of 46 million people perched on the threshold between Russia and the EU.
Obama spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday and hailed the US and EU's "unified position" on Ukraine, the White House said.
Obama and Merkel "agreed on the need for Russia to pull back its forces" and allow international observers and human rights monitors into Crimea, the statement said.
It said the leaders had also discussed a "contact group" to lead a direct dialogue between Russia and Ukraine -- an idea the Kremlin has scorned.
In Moscow, police said more than 65,000 people had attended a rally outside the Kremlin supporting Russia's full annexation of Crimea, a predominantly ethnic-Russian peninsula roughly the size of Belgium.
The heads of Russia's two houses of parliament said they would respect the decision by the flashpoint region's parliament to split from Kiev and hold a March 16 referendum on switching to Russian rule.
And in Donetsk, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) northeast of Crimea, tensions were high around Lenin Square, where pro-Russian activists have set up a round-the-clock picket under a red Soviet flag.
Militants occupied the city's regional government offices for three days this week, hoisting a Russian flag before being dislodged by police Thursday.
Riot police encircled the building ahead of Saturday's planned demonstration by pro-Russian activists.
Rival demonstrations brought thousands of people into the streets this week and degenerated into running street battles on Wednesday.
- Russian gas threat -
The EU has vowed to sign a landmark trade pact aimed at pulling Kiev out of Moscow's orbit before Ukraine holds snap presidential polls on May 25.
Yanukovych's decision to ditch that pact in November in favor of closer ties with Russia sparked the initial wave of protests that led to his regime's downfall late last month, and the rise of Ukraine's new pro-EU government.
With Russian forces in effective control of Crimea -- a region of two million people and the base of the Kremlin's Black Sea Fleet -- the threat of Ukraine splintering seemed more real than at any point since Putin won parliamentary approval to use force against his western neighbor.
Western allies have been grappling with a response to Putin's seeming ambition to create a Soviet-style sphere of influence that Moscow argues provides a defense for ethnic Russians coming under attack.
"Can Russia stand idly by when Russians somewhere in the world -- especially in neighboring Ukraine -- face mortal danger?" Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov asked on Russian state television Friday.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meanwhile told US Secretary of State John Kerry that Washington's sanctions against Moscow -- which so far include visa bans and asset freezes on targeted individuals -- would "boomerang" back on the United States.
The foreign ministry added that Russia would not leave any EU punitive measures "without a response".
Gazprom -- often seen as a political weapon wielded by the Kremlin against Western-leaning ex-Soviet states -- said a few hours later it might have to cut off Ukraine for the first time since 2009 due to a debt of $1.89 billion (1.36 billion euros).
"Ukraine has de facto stopped paying for gas," said chief executive Alexei Miller. "We cannot deliver gas for free".
Debt-laden Ukraine has said it will need $35 billion over two years to put its books in order. The EU has offered loans and grants worth up to 11 billion euros ($15 billion), and the US has announced a $1-billion loan guarantee.
But Russia has suspended a $15-billion aid package that was keeping the country solvent.
British Deputy PM Says Putin Stuck in 'KGB Mentality'
by Naharnet Newsdesk
08 March 2014, 07:09
Russian President Vladimir Putin has seemingly been in the "deep freeze" since the Cold War and is applying its outdated KGB mentality in Ukraine, Britain's deputy prime minister said Saturday.
Speaking to The Guardian newspaper, Nick Clegg said Putin was applying "yesterday's divisions and arguments to today's problems".
Clegg acknowledged there was a "pronounced Russian imprint" in the Crimean peninsula which meant it could not be viewed the same way as other parts of Ukraine.
The British deputy premier urged Putin to engage in a "civilized discussion" with the new government in Kiev.
"Putin's reaction is very revealing. It's as if he's been in a sort of deep freeze since the Cold War and hasn't moved with the times," Clegg said.
Former KGB spy Putin headed its successor, the Federal Security Service, shortly before he first became president in 2000.
"He gives every appearance of applying a KGB mentality rooted in the Cold War to new realities in 21st-century Europe," Clegg said.
"To regard closer ties between Ukraine and a non-military organisation like the European Union as the equivalent to American tanks on your lawn at the height of the Cold War suggests to me that we're dealing with a man who's applying yesterday's divisions and arguments to today's problems."
Clegg acknowledged Moscow's special links to Crimea, which was transferred from Russia to Ukraine in 1954 when they were both in the Soviet Union.
"Crimea already has a semi-autonomous status within Ukraine and clearly has a different history to other parts of Ukraine and has a very pronounced Russian imprint on it, not least because of the presence of the Russian Black Sea naval operation," which is based there, said Clegg.
"So it is already in a different category and I don't think anyone wants to deny that.
"No one is somehow suggesting that Crimea should be treated exactly the same as other parts of Ukraine given that it hasn't been treated like that in the past by the Ukrainians themselves."
British Prime Minister David Cameron has said Russia's actions in Crimea have been "completely unacceptable", echoing statements made by other European leaders and U.S. President Barack Obama since Moscow took de facto control of the peninsula in the wake of pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych's ouster two weeks ago.
EU leaders draw up plans to send gas to Ukraine if Russia cuts off supply
Europe braced for possible battle with Moscow after Gazprom threatens to cut off gas supply if Ukraine does not pay bill
Paul Lewis and Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington, Ian Traynor in Brussels and Terry Macalister in London
theguardian.com, Friday 7 March 2014 18.33 GMT
Gas pipeline near Kiev. A gas pipeline near Kiev. Gazprom said Ukraine missed a payment of $440m for gas received in February. Photograph: Andrey Sinitsin/AFP/Getty Images
EU leaders are rapidly drawing up plans to send some of their stocks of Russian gas back to Ukraine and other eastern European countries that need it, if Vladimir Putin reacts to western sanctions over the Crimea crisis by starving the continent of energy.
Russia’s largest gas producer, Gazprom, said on Friday that Kiev had missed a deadline to pay $440m for gas received in February and threatened to cut off the country’s supply if it did not make the payment.
Gazprom provides Ukraine with around half its gas, and other countries in eastern and southern Europe, including Poland and Greece, reportedly have low stocks of gas.
Although Gazprom said the threat to Kiev would not affect the supply to the rest of Europe, western leaders are steeling themselves for a possible battle with Moscow over energy supplies. At least half of the Russian gas that is piped to Europe passes through Ukraine.
Gazprom last cut off supplies to Ukraine in early 2009, leading to a slump in the supply of Russian gas to Europe. “Either Ukraine makes good on its debt and pays for current supplies, or there is risk of returning to the situation of early 2009,” Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said on Friday, adding that Ukraine now owed $1.89bn in unpaid bills.
The move to consider reversing Russian gas flows comes amid growing pressure in Washington to exploit the huge boom in US gas – extracted through fracking technologies – to begin global exports, providing a counter-weight to Moscow’s influence.
Although it is the largest producer of natural gas, the US does not currently export its supplies, and the construction of a handful of export terminals will not be completed until at least 2015. But Barack Obama’s administration considering moves to accelerate a drive to export its energy, weakening Putin’s leverage in the future.
In Brussels on Thursday, European leaders engaged in detailed discussions about the feasibility of switching the flow of gas in eastern Europe’s pipelines. Storage reserves in Europe, particularly Germany and Hungary, which have ample supplies, could be used to pump gas back towards Ukraine.
José Manuel Barroso, the president of European Commission, said energy security was an early priority for Ukraine, adding: “We are looking in the short term at the gas transmission network to ensure that reverse flows with the European Union are fully operational.”
A project to modernise Ukraine’s gas transmission infrastructure forms part of the EU’s $15bn promised aid package to Kiev, with an initial loan possible in the near future. A European Commission memorandum specifically states it will seek to enable “reverse flows” of gas to Ukraine, ensuring they can be “operationalised as soon as possible”.
Such a move would likely occur first through Slovakia, and EU officials are pressing Slovakia and Ukraine to quickly sign an agreement that would enable gas to be piped in the opposite direction if the need emerges. Additional “reverse-flow corridors” could be introduced through Bulgaria and Romania, or Croatia and Hungary.
A senior German official briefed on Thursday’s meeting told the Guardian that Berlin was ready to help. “Our gas storage tanks are well filled after a mild winter and we stand ready to assist Ukraine in securing its energy supply including working on reserve flows.”
However, European officials and energy experts concede there are doubts over whether it would be technically possible to transfer sufficient gas through the continent, west to east, if Russia decided to restrict its supplies for a significant period of time. While short-term assistance through the summer months could help, western Europe would not have the capacity to supply neighbours in the east for an extended period of time.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one senior executive said reversing gas flows would be an extremely complex move. “This is not easy to do. Certainly the Gazprom export pipeline is built to move gas only in one direction, and it would involve a lot of time and money to reconfigure for imports,” the executive said. “You would also have to get the agreement of dozens of commercial and other organisations. It is not going to happen.”
Europe imported 155bn cubic metres (bcm) of gas from Russia in 2013, about 30% of its overall gas demand, according to Wood Mackenzie, an Edinburgh-based energy consultancy. Ukraine is the key transit route for Russian gas to Europe, with around 50% piped through the country in 2013.
Gazprom insists exports remain stable, and is desperate to avoid a repeat of the Russia-Ukraine “gas wars” of 2006, 2008 and 2009.
In Washington, there is a growing appetite to retaliate against Russia with a long-term, strategic acceleration in energy exports. Exporting US gas obtained through fracking would be controversial among environmentalists, Democrats, and US industries reliant on cheap energy, the price of which would be expected to rise if supplies were being piped abroad.
Republicans, backed by gas producers such as ExxonMobil, have for years been pushing to dramatically increase gas production to enable export trade, and are using the crisis in Crimea to argue for swift action by the Obama administration.
US gas production is projected to rise 44% by 2040, according to the US Energy Information Administration, and producers have been pressing the Obama administration to expand exports of natural gas.
The Republican leader of the House, John Boehner, used an an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Friday to call on Obama to “dramatically expand production of American-made energy” and make US supplies of natural gas available to global markets.
The Department of Energy as approved six applications to export domestically approved applications for terminals to export liquefied gas; five are in Texas and Louisiana, and one in Maryland. A further 24 applications are pending and Boehner and other top Republicans are calling on the administration to expedite their approval. “The ability to turn the tables and put the Russian leader in check lies right beneath our feet, in the form of vast supplies of natural energy,” Boehner said.
The Obama administration appears receptive to moving to undercut Moscow’s hold over the energy sector. White House press secretary Jay Carney said this week that while the Department of Energy is approving terminal requests on a case-by-case basis, the US would look for ways to wean Ukraine from its “dependence on Russian gas”.
A senior US official said the State Department was supportive of introducing substantial gas exports abroad as a move to counteract Russia’s influence.
Carlos Pascual, a former American ambassador to Ukraine, who leads the State Department’s Bureau of Energy Resources, told the New York Times that opening global markets to US exports “sends a clear signal that the global gas market is changing, that there is the prospect of much greater supply coming from other parts of the world”.
For First Time, Kremlin Signals It Is Prepared to Annex Crimea
By STEVEN LEE MYERS, DAVID M. HERSZENHORN and RICK GLADSTONE
MARCH 7, 2014
MOSCOW — Russia signaled for the first time on Friday that it was prepared to annex the Crimea region of Ukraine, significantly intensifying its confrontation with the West over the political crisis in Ukraine and threatening to undermine a system of respect for national boundaries that has helped keep the peace in Europe and elsewhere for decades.
Leaders of both houses of Russia’s Parliament said that they would support a vote by Crimeans to break away from Ukraine and become a region of the Russian Federation, ignoring sanction threats and warnings, from the United States and other countries, that a vote for secession would violate Ukraine’s Constitution and international law. The Russian message was yet another in a series of political and military actions undertaken over the past week that outraged the West, even while the Kremlin’s final intentions remained unclear.
As new tensions flared between Russian and Ukrainian forces in Crimea, the moves by Russia raised the specter of a protracted conflict over the status of the region, which Russian forces occupied last weekend, calling into question not only Russia’s relations with the West but also post-Cold War agreements on the sovereignty of the nations that emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union.
To understand the current conflict between Ukraine and Russia, look to the interconnected history of the two countries.
The developments underscored how quickly the crisis has evolved. Earlier this week, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had said he did not foresee the possibility of the Crimean Peninsula becoming part of Russia. But on Friday, Russia’s parliamentary leaders, both strong allies of Mr. Putin, welcomed a delegation from Crimea’s regional assembly and declared that they would support a vote to break away from Ukraine, now scheduled for March 16.
The referendum has been denounced by the fledgling national government in Kiev, which said it would invalidate the outcome and dissolve the Crimean Parliament. President Obama has also rejected the referendum, and the United States government announced sanctions on Thursday in response to Russia’s de facto military occupation.
Russia denounced those sanctions in a blunt rejoinder on Friday evening, posted on the Foreign Ministry website. The statement said that Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, had spoken by telephone with Secretary of State John Kerry and warned that “hasty and ill-considered steps” to impose sanctions on Russian officials “would inevitably backfire on the United States itself.”
Russia’s Interfax news agency reported that Mr. Lavrov and Mr. Kerry would soon meet again. A senior State Department official traveling with Mr. Kerry, who was flying back to Washington after a trip to Europe and the Middle East, confirmed that Mr. Kerry had spoken with Mr. Lavrov, but that it was unclear when they would meet again.
The Russians also sent menacing economic signals to the financially ailing interim central government in Kiev, which Russia has refused to recognize. Gazprom, the Russian natural gas monopoly, which supplies Ukraine with most of its gas, warned that it might shut off supplies unless Ukraine paid $1.89 billion owed to the company.
“We cannot deliver gas for free,” Russian news agencies quoted Gazprom’s chief executive, Alexei Miller, as saying.
Gazprom cut off gas to Ukraine for nearly two weeks in January 2009, causing severe economic problems for Ukraine and for other European customers who were dependent on supplies delivered through Ukraine.
Valentina I. Matviyenko, the chairwoman of the upper house of the Russian Parliament, the Federation Council, compared the planned referendum in Crimea to Scotland’s scheduled vote on whether to become independent from Britain. She did not mention that the national government in Britain had agreed to hold a referendum, while the Ukrainian government has not.
The speaker of the Russian lower house, Sergei Y. Naryshkin, echoed Ms. Matviyenko’s remarks. “We will respect the historic choice of the people of Crimea,” he said.
Their assertions came a day after Crimea’s regional assembly voted in a closed session to secede from Ukraine and apply to join the Russian Federation, and to hold a referendum for voters in the region to ratify the decision. On Friday, a delegation of lawmakers from Crimea arrived in Moscow to lay the groundwork for joining Russia, strongly supported by senior lawmakers.
In another telling sign of Russian government support, the Crimean delegates were cheered at an officially sanctioned rally in central Moscow that was shown at length on Russian state television, with songs and chants of “Russia, Moscow, Crimea.” News agencies quoted the police as saying 60,000 people attended.
Even if the referendum proceeds, it was unclear what would happen next, given the wide gap between the positions of Russia and the West — most notably between Mr. Putin and Mr. Obama, who spoke for an hour by phone on Thursday night.
According to the White House, Mr. Obama urged Mr. Putin to authorize direct talks with Ukraine’s new government, permit the entry of international monitors and return his forces to the bases that Russia leases in Crimea.
In a statement, the Kremlin offered a starkly different account of the phone call, emphasizing Russia’s view that the new government in Kiev had no authority because it was the result of what Mr. Putin called an anticonstitutional coup last month that had ousted Viktor F. Yanukovych, the pro-Kremlin president.
The official Russian account of the phone call went on to say that the current Ukrainian leadership had imposed “absolutely illegitimate decisions” on the eastern and southeastern regions of the country, where pro-Russian sentiment is widespread. “Russia cannot ignore appeals connected to this, calls for help, and acts appropriately, in accordance with international law,” the statement said.
In the United States, Mr. Obama was taking a wait-and-see attitude. He spoke by phone to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who has been reluctant to pursue muscular sanctions against Russia because of the deep and interwoven economic relationship between the two countries. He headed to Florida for a speech on education and then a weekend off with his family, but aides promised he would be monitoring the crisis.
Weeks after protesters drove President Viktor F. Yanukovych of Ukraine from power, Maidan protesters in Kiev’s Independence Square mourn the dead and ponder where their revolution has left them.
“We’re hopeful that in the next few days, we’ll get greater clarity about whether or not the Russians are willing to take some concrete steps toward this offramp here,” said Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman.
In Kiev, anti-Russian sentiment was hardening. The Right Sector movement, a nationalist group that was important in the deadly protests last month that drove Mr. Yanukovych from power, announced that its leader, Dmytro Yarosh, would run for president. Andriy Tarasenko, chairman of its local branch, also said the group was prepared to fight, in Crimea and elsewhere, “if the Kremlin tramples on us further.”
With Washington and Moscow trading heated accusations of hypocrisy on the issue of respecting state sovereignty, validating Crimea’s secession would carry pointed political risks for Mr. Putin, given longstanding demands for independence from Russia by its own similarly autonomous republics in the Caucasus, including Dagestan and Chechnya.
Michael A. McFaul, a former American ambassador to Russia, noted the parallel in a sharp post on Twitter. “If Russian government endorses Crimean referendum,” Mr. McFaul wrote, using abbreviations needed for a 140-character limit, “will they also allow/endorse similar votes in republics in the Russian Federation?”
The West, which has insisted that the Ukrainian people are entitled to decide their future without interference from Russia, faces similar challenges as it seeks to explain why the people of Crimea should not necessarily decide their own fate.
The United States and its European allies typically support self-determination, but have opposed independence for regions within their own borders, like Scotland in Britain or Catalonia in Spain.
There was no sign on Friday that Russian armed forces were relaxing their tight clench on the Crimean Peninsula, with military bases surrounded and border crossings under strict control. There were news reports late Friday that pro-Russian militants had smashed through the gates of a Ukrainian Air Force base in the port of Sevastopol housing 100 Ukrainian troops, but that no shots had been fired. There were also reports that a number of Ukrainian journalists had been beaten by masked attackers and were missing.
For the second consecutive day, an observer mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the 57-member organization that includes both Ukraine and Russia, was prevented from entering Crimea at a checkpoint blocked by armed men.
Astrid Thors, an envoy from the group who had gone to Crimea earlier in the week, said in a telephone interview from Amsterdam that she had faced noisy, threatening crowds chanting pro-Russian slogans during her visit and had been forced to leave. Ms. Thors, the group’s high commissioner for national minorities, said she could have experienced the sort of predicament faced by a senior United Nations diplomat, Robert H. Serry, who was chased out of Crimea by gunmen earlier this week.
“There was a risk the same could happen, that our movement could be hindered by the crowds,” Ms. Thors said. “We took precautionary principles. We shortened our stay.”
Crimean leaders get red carpet treatment on visit to Moscow
Russian parliament's speaker says people of Crimea will be welcomed if they vote to join country in referendum
Shaun Walker in Sevastopol
theguardian.com, Friday 7 March 2014 23.24 GMT
A day after Crimea's de facto rulers announced they had voted to join the Russian Federation, they were given the red carpet treatment in Moscow, in a further sign Russia plans to annex the territory.
"If the people of Crimea express their will and decide to join Russia, we as the upper house of parliament will support their decision," said Valentina Matvienko, the speaker, in a joint press conference with her Crimean counterpart.
Later in the evening, the assault against Ukrainian military bases in the territory continued, as two trucks of Russian troops stormed a base near Sevastopol and threatened to "shoot to kill" those inside if they did not surrender. In the end, the troops left.
Crimea's parliament on Thursday rushed through a bill which in effect declared independence from Ukraine, and brought forward a referendum on autonomy which the region's deputy prime minister, Rustam Temirgaliev, said would merely ratify the decision.
Ukraine's interim prime minister, Arseny Yatseniuk, said yesterday the vote would have "no legal grounds at all", adding that "no one in the civilised world" would recognise the result.
Earlier this week, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said the idea of joining Crimea to Russia was "not being considered" but events since have suggested the opposite.
Matvienko's comments are the strongest indication yet that Moscow is planning a move that would leave Kiev and the west furious.
"If the decision is made, it will be an absolutely equal subject of the Russian Federation with full rights and responsibilities … The citizens of Crimea will be equal to Russian citizens, with the same salaries, pensions, social benefits and social protection," said Matvienko.
Putin, in a conversation with the US president, Barack Obama, said: "Russia cannot ignore calls for help and it acts accordingly, in full compliance with international law," according to a Kremlin statement about the call.
Matvienko complained about the speed with which the new Ukrainian government wanted to hold presidential elections on 25 May, and said the conditions in Ukraine were not conducive to free and fair elections, referring to "continuing violence, intimidation, illegal decisions, seizure of buildings, humiliation of people, threats to life, a ban on speaking Russian, and the repression of political opponents and journalists".
She appeared less concerned by the political situation in Crimea, where Sergei Aksyonov came to power during a murky seizure of the local parliament, and where the referendum date has been brought forward twice and will now be organised in just over a week.
There is increasing concern about the lack of oversight of events in Crimea, where passions are high and groups of pro-Russian militia have behaved aggressively to journalists and monitors, forcing the UN's special envoy to cut short his trip and leave the region earlier in the week.
Yesterday, an OSCE mission intended to monitor the military activity in Crimea was again turned back at a road crossing into the peninsula. The mission of 52 unarmed military observers from 28 countries was turned away by armed irregulars.
The referendum will ask whether voters want Crimea to join Russia or be given more autonomy within Ukraine. Almost everyone in the region wants autonomy for Crimea, but it is far from clear that a majority are in favour of joining Russia.
In Moscow, a large government-sanctioned rally "in support of Crimea" gathered near the Kremlin yesterday, while in Sochi, Putin attended the opening of the Paralympics. Earlier in the day, he met the head of the Ukrainian delegation. Valeriy Shushkevich said he had asked Putin to keep the peace during the Olympic period.
"If there is an escalation of the conflict, intervention on the territory of our country, God forbid the worst, we would not be able to stay here. We would go," he said later.
Ukraine's border guard service claims there are 30,000 Russian troops in Crimea, compared with 11,000 stationed there permanently before the tensions.
"There's an incredibly tense situation now," said a Ukrainian military source in Sevastopol. "Neither side wants to be seen to shoot first, but if one side starts shooting, there is going to be chaos, and whoever fired the first shot will be held responsible. We feel they are trying to provoke us into that."
Late on Friday evening, two trucks of Russian troops stormed a Ukrainian missile defence base outside Sevastopol, driving two military trucks through the gates. The deputy commander of the base emerged and explained what had happened shortly after the standoff ended, late at night. Two trucks of people, "who did not identify themselves but we presume were Russian soldiers", stormed the base through the gates, and threatened to "shoot to kill" if the base was not surrendered, he said. The deputy commander said his troops ignored the orders and eventually negotiations took place with Russian officers, which ended with the Russians leaving. The two trucks sped out of the base at speed.
Outside, groups of "self-defence" irregulars gathered, and attacked at least two journalists, one Ukrainian and one Russian. As the Ukrainian, a cameraman, was being taken to hospital with a group of fellow journalists the car was stopped and they were again attacked. They were being treated in hospital in Simferopol overnight and the extent of their injuries was unclear.
Ukrainian Officials in East Act to Blunt Pro-Russian Forces
By ANDREW ROTH
MARCH 7, 2014
DONETSK, Ukraine — Officials loyal to the new central government in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, have mobilized here in the country’s east to end a pro-Russian protest movement that has called for greater regional autonomy from Kiev and has raised the specter of separatism in the largely Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine.
In his first public remarks, Sergey A. Taruta, a metals magnate who was appointed governor of the Donetsk region on Sunday, condemned a series of recent pro-Russian demonstrations led by Pavel Gubarev, the founder of a local militia who had declared himself “the people’s governor,” and called for unity between eastern and western Ukraine.
“We are for peace,” Mr. Taruta, the chairman of the Industrial Union of Donbass, said at a meeting of the Donetsk public council in a university lecture hall on Friday. “We are now working so that the radical elements that are calling for divisive actions will be stopped decisively.”
Mr. Taruta’s remarks seemed to signify the end of a period of protracted political inertia here, during which local politicians and police officers seemed unable or unwilling to stop crowds in the thousands led by Mr. Gubarev from seizing regional government buildings.
The city police only began to respond on Thursday, five days after the demonstrations started, detaining more than 70 people as officers raided a regional administration building occupied by the protesters. Toward evening, the Ukrainian Security Service arrested Mr. Gubarev, the movement’s most visible leader, and hustled him on to a flight to Kiev, where he will be questioned as part of an investigation into the raids.
On Friday, Mr. Taruta announced that the regional government had banned protests near government buildings. Along with Oleksandr V. Turchynov, the acting president, Mr. Taruta appointed a new police commander, prosecutor and Security Service chief for the Donetsk region, replacing officials who had avoided direct clashes with Mr. Gubarev’s supporters.
The arrests and new appointments are likely to increase Kiev’s control here and help avert a situation similar to the one taking place in Crimea, where a hastily elected pro-Russian Parliament will hold a referendum next week on greater autonomy and possible secession from Ukraine.
Donetsk, the largest city in the coal-producing Donbass region and the political base of the deposed President Viktor F. Yanukovych, has been seen as a potential problem spot for the weak central government in Kiev.
The city was one of 11 in the east and south of Ukraine to erupt in protests last week against Kiev that have been fueled by economic grievances and fears about the new government in the capital, which some here believe will persecute ethnic Russians in the region. The protests have also been bolstered by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who said that Russia could intervene militarily here if the lives of ethnic Russians were threatened.
“People are scared; people are alarmed,” Sergey V. Bogachev, the secretary of the Donetsk City Council, which had called for a referendum on greater independence from Kiev, said in an interview before Mr. Gubarev’s arrest. “Mr. Gubarev has violated the law, indeed. But look how many people have come out to support him.”
Since Mr. Gubarev’s arrest, however, protests for greater ties with Russia have gotten smaller, and a pro-Russian rally on Friday in the city center attracted only several hundred supporters. Mr. Gubarev’s allies, denouncing his arrest, have called for another demonstration on Saturday.
Mr. Taruta, who was sent by Kiev as one of several pro-government businessmen appointed to lead regions in the country’s east, tried on Friday to act as a cultural envoy for the new government and dispel fears of a political campaign to marginalize the ethnic Russian population of the east.
“If you think these are anyone’s actual political beliefs, then I must disappoint you,” he said. “These are all just scripts and stories designed to frighten the east of Ukraine.”
Why Russia Can’t Afford Another Cold War
MARCH 7, 2014
By JAMES B. STEWART
Russian troops pour over a border. An autocratic Russian leader blames the United States and unspecified “radicals and nationalists” for meddling. A puppet leader pledges fealty to Moscow.
It’s no wonder the crisis in Ukraine this week drew comparisons to Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 or that a chorus of pundits proclaimed the re-emergence of the Cold War.
But there’s at least one major difference between then and now: Moscow has a stock market.
Under the autocratic grip of President Vladimir Putin, Russia may be a democracy in name only, but the gyrations of the Moscow stock exchange provided a minute-by-minute referendum on his military and diplomatic actions. On Monday, the Russian stock market index, the RTSI, fell more than 12 percent, in what a Russian official called panic selling. The plunge wiped out nearly $60 billion in asset value — more than the exorbitant cost of the Sochi Olympics. The ruble plunged on currency markets, forcing the Russian central bank to raise interest rates by one and a half percentage points to defend the currency.
Mr. Putin “seems to have stopped a potential invasion of Eastern Ukraine because the RTS index slumped by 12 percent” on Monday, said Anders Aslund, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.
On Tuesday, as soon as Mr. Putin said he saw no need for further Russian military intervention, the Russian market rebounded by 6 percent. With tensions on the rise once more on Friday, the Russian market may again gyrate when it opens on Monday.
Mr. Putin seems to be “following the old Soviet playbook,” in Ukraine, Strobe Talbott, an expert on the history of the Cold War, told me this week. “But back then, there was no concern about what would happen to the Soviet stock market. If, in fact, Putin is cooling his jets and might even blink, it’s probably because of rising concern about the price Russia would have to pay.” Mr. Talbott is the president of the Brookings Institution, a former ambassador at large who oversaw the breakup of the former Soviet Union during the Clinton administration and the author of “The Russia Hand.”
Russia is far more exposed to market fluctuations than many countries, since it owns a majority stake in a number of the country’s largest companies. Gazprom, the energy concern that is Russia’s largest company by market capitalization, is majority-owned by the Russian Federation. At the same time, Gazprom’s shares are listed on the London stock exchange and are traded over the counter as American depositary receipts in the United States as well as on the Berlin and Paris exchanges. Over half of its shareholders are American, according to J. P. Morgan Securities. And the custodian bank for its depository receipts is the Bank of New York Mellon.
Many Russian companies and banks are fully integrated into the global financial system. This week, Glencore Xstrata, the mining giant based in Switzerland, was in the middle of a roughly $1 billion debt-to-equity refinancing deal with the Russian oil company Russneft. Glencore said it expected to complete the deal despite the crisis. Glencore’s revenue last year was substantially larger than the entire gross domestic product of Ukraine, which was $176 billion, according to the World Bank.
The old Soviet Union, in stark contrast, was all but impervious to foreign economic or business pressure, thanks in part to an ideological commitment to self-sufficiency. As recently as 1985, foreign trade amounted to just 4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, and nearly all that was with the communist satellite countries of Eastern Europe. But the Soviet Union’s economic insularity and resulting economic stagnation was a major cause of the Soviet Union’s collapse. According to Mr. Talbott, the Soviet Union’s president at the time, Mikhail Gorbachev, was heavily influenced by Soviet economists and other academics who warned that by the turn of the century in 2000, the Soviet economy would be smaller than South Korea’s if it did not introduce major economic reforms and participate in the global economy.
To attract investment capital, Mr. Gorbachev created the Moscow stock exchange in 1990 and issued an order permitting Soviet citizens to own and trade stocks, bonds and other securities for the first time since the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. (Before then, Russia had a flourishing stock exchange in St. Petersburg, established by order of Peter the Great. It was housed in an elegant neoclassical building directly across the waterfront from the Winter Palace. As a symbol of wealth and capitalism, it was one of the earliest casualties of the revolution.)
Even before this week’s gyrations, the Russian stock market index had dropped near 8 percent last year, and it and the Russian economy have been suffering from low commodity prices and investor concerns about the Federal Reserve’s tapering of bond purchases — factors of little significance during the Cold War.
By contrast, today “Russia is too weak and vulnerable economically to go to war,” Mr. Aslund said. “The Kremlin’s fundamental mistake has been to ignore its economic weakness and dependence on Europe. Almost half of Russia’s exports go to Europe, and three-quarters of its total exports consist of oil and gas. The energy boom is over, and Europe can turn the tables on Russia after its prior gas supply cuts in 2006 and 2009. Europe can replace this gas with liquefied natural gas, gas from Norway and shale gas. If the European Union sanctioned Russia’s gas supply to Europe, Russia would lose $100 billion or one-fifth of its export revenues, and the Russian economy would be in rampant crisis.”
Mr. Putin may be “living in another world,” as the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, put it this week, but surely even he recognizes that the world has changed drastically since 1956 or 1968. He has no doubt been getting an earful from his wealthy oligarch friends, many of whom run Russia’s largest companies and have stashed their personal assets in places like London and New York. The oligarchs “would not dare to challenge him,” a prominent Russian economist told me. (He asked not to be named for fear of retribution.) “But they would say something like they would have to lay off workers and reduce tax payments.”
During the Cold War, there were few, if any, Russian billionaires. Today, there are 111, according to Forbes magazine’s latest rankings, and Russia ranks third in the number of billionaires, behind the United States and China. The economist noted that the billionaire Russian elite — who are pretty much synonymous with Mr. Putin’s friends and allies — are the ones who would be severely affected by visa bans, which were imposed by President Obama on Thursday. Other penalties might include asset freezes. Many Russian oligarchs have real estate and other assets in Europe and the United States, like the Central Park West penthouse a trust set up by the Russian tycoon Dmitry Rybolovlev bought for $88 million. “This is what may have already forced Putin to retreat,” the Russian economist said.
And while the Cold War was a global contest between Marxism and capitalism, there is today “no real ideological component to the conflict except that Putin has become the personification of rejecting the West as a model,” Mr. Talbott said. “He wants to promote a Eurasian community dominated by Moscow, but that’s not an ideology. Russia’s economy may be an example of crony capitalism, but it is capitalism. There’s not even a shadow of Marxism-Leninism now.”
What brought down the old Soviet Union and ended the Cold War “was the economic imperative to make Russia into a modern, efficient, normal state, a player in the international economy, not because of military power but because of a strong economy,” Mr. Talbott continued. But “to have a modern economy, you need the rule of law and a free press.” Mr. Putin, he said, “isn’t advancing Russia’s progress.”
The Russian economist agreed. “The pre-2008 social compact was that Putin would rule Russia while Russians would see growing incomes,” he said. “Now, the growth has stalled, and he needs ideology, coupled with propaganda and repressions. Apparently, the Soviet restoration is the only ideology he can come up with.”
Russia does have uniquely strong ties to Ukraine. “Of all the former provinces of the old Soviet Union, it’s the most painful to have lost and the one many Russians would most want to have back,” Mr. Talbott said. “The ties between Kiev and Moscow go back over 300 years. Ukraine is the heart of Russian culture.” With Russian troops entrenched in the Crimean peninsula and some Russian Ukrainians clamoring for annexation, there may be little the United States or its allies can do to restore the status quo. “Containment, in a muted and modified way, will once again be the strategy of the West and the mission of NATO,” Mr. Talbott predicted.
But not another Cold War, which is surely a good thing. “A propaganda war is completely feasible,” the Russian economist said. “The recent events were completely irrational, angering the West for no reason. This is what is most scary, especially for businesses. Instead of reforming the stagnating economy, Putin scared everybody for no reason and with no gain in sight. So it is hard to predict his next actions. But I think a real Cold War is unlikely.”
Correction: March 7, 2014
An earlier version of this column misstated the purchaser of a Central Park West penthouse. It was a trust set up by the Russian tycoon Dmitry Rybolovlev, not Mr. Rybolovlev himself.
on: Mar 07, 2014, 09:20 PM
|Started by cat777 - Last post by cat777|
The final assignment:
The term “collective unconscious” was coined by Carl Jung in order to distinguish this part of the mind from the personal unconscious, or subconscious mind. The collective unconscious is also known as the universal unconscious. It contains all knowledge since the beginning of time, including every thought, idea, feeling, deed, intention, desire, event or experience that has ever occurred at any time in the history of creation. The collective unconscious is also known by other names including the Akashic Records, or “The Book of Life.” Each and every soul has its own personal book or record, which is but a page in the larger book which contains them all, the collective unconscious.
1) The natal location of the current life Neptune by house, sign, and aspects to it correlates to how the collective unconscious impacts on the individual's Soul consciousness in such a way as to stimulate and ignite the desire to individuate from it, and, in turn, how this will impact on the current state of the collective consciousness.
Neptune conjunct the Moon in Taurus and Chiron in Aries in the 9th House; semi-square Venus in Pisces in the 7th House; trine Mars and Jupiter in Capricorn in the 5th House.
Edgar Cayce was one of the world’s best known psychics (Moon/Neptune). He was also a medium and a channel. Cayce spent forty-three years of his adult life accessing the Akashic Records of individual souls and those of the world in general. Cayce claimed there were two sources of information from which he derived the information given in his readings. The first was the subconscious mind of the individual and the second was the Akashic Records, or collective unconscious. I believe that Edgar Cayce was Third Stage Spiritual.
With Neptune conjunct Chiron in Aries in the 9th House semi-square Saturn in Pisces in the 7th House, Cayce had the ability to tune into the physical bodies of other people and accurately diagnose their medical symptoms. He was also able to prescribe remedies to cure their ailments. When beginning a reading for an individual, Cayce would begin by saying, "We have before us the records of the entity now known or called _________." He would describe the individual’s state in complex biological and medical terms that he could neither remember nor comprehend upon awakening from his trance.
In addition to these individual readings, Cayce also brought back information about the nature of reality. He answered questions about health, illness, astrology, reincarnation, karma, war, ancient civilizations, the Bible, the life of Jesus and his previous incarnations, as well as many other topics.
In Reading 294-19 Report File from A.R.E. (Association for Research and Enlightenment, Inc.) Cayce describes what it was like when he journeyed beyond his own subconscious mind and into the realm of the collective unconscious:
“I see myself as a tiny dot out of my physical body, which lies inert before me. I find myself oppressed by darkness and there is a feeling of terrific loneliness. Suddenly, I am conscious of a white beam of light. As this tiny dot, I move upward following the light, knowing that I must follow it or be lost.
As I move along this path of light I gradually become conscious of various levels upon which there is movement. Upon the first levels there are vague, horrible shapes, grotesque forms such as one sees in nightmares. Passing on, there begin to appear on either side misshapen forms of human beings with some part of the body magnified. Again there is change and I become conscious of gray-hooded forms moving downward. Gradually, these become lighter in color. Then the direction changes and these forms move upward and the color of the robes grows rapidly lighter.
Next, there begin to appear on either side vague outlines of houses, walls, trees, etc., but everything is motionless. As I pass on, there is more light and movement in what appear to be normal cities and towns. With the growth of movement I become conscious of sounds, at first indistinct rumblings, then music, laughter, and singing of birds. There is more and more light, the colors become very beautiful, and there is the sound of wonderful music. The houses are left behind, ahead there is only a blending of sound and color. Quite suddenly I come upon a hall of records. It is a hall without walls, without ceiling, but I am conscious of seeing an old man who hands me a large book, a record of the individual for whom I seek information.”
With his Sun, Venus, Saturn, and Mercury in Pisces, ruled by Neptune conjunct the Moon in Taurus and Chiron in Aries in the 9th House, and Pluto sextile the Sun and quintile Mercury and Saturn in Pisces in the 7th house, Cayce’s other worldly journeys and power of creative visualization made a huge impact upon others for generations to come. This in turn had a huge impact upon the collective unconscious.
While tuned into the collective unconscious, Cayce learned a new interpretation of the Bible. According to Cayce, the Bible is the symbolic account of the fall and restoration of the human soul to its divine origins. Genesis is a symbolic story describing humanity’s fall from heaven and paradise, while Revelations is the symbolic story of humanity’s restoration to heaven and paradise.
Cayce was also introduced to a new way of understanding the relationship between God and humanity, relative to the cultural religious beliefs of his day and age. He learned, and shared, that human beings have three levels of awareness: the conscious mind, the subconscious mind and the superconscious mind. He revealed that an important goal in everyone’s life should be to awaken the superconscious mind within themselves and attain at-one-ment with God. This superconscious mind being the collective unconscious, which is also known as the Universal Mind, Christ Consciousness, Buddha Consciousness, Brahman, God, Allah, the Higher self, so on and so forth.
As we have seen, with his Neptune in Taurus in the 9th House, Edgar Cayce was able to journey to other realms within the collective unconscious. What he learned here, he brought back to “earth” and by sharing this information with others, he had a huge impact upon that very same collective unconscious.
Note that with his Moon in Taurus in the 9th house religion played a large role in Cayce’s life. Cayce was a fundamentalist Christian who was raised on strict 19th century Bible tradition and taught Sunday School for many years. With his 9th House Moon square Uranus in Leo in the 1st House, he is said to have suffered a great deal of mental and emotional shock when he discovered that the subconscious information he passed along to others while in a trance “declared the ancient mystic religions to be true and acclaimed Jesus as their crowning glory.”
According to Kevin Williams, the body of work that Cayce presented to others while in a state of trance can be described as “a ‘Christianized’ version of the mystery religions of ancient Egypt, Chaldea, Persia, India, and Greece. It fits Christ into the mystical tradition of one God for all people, and places Christ in his proper place, at the apex of the philosophical structure - the capstone of the pyramid.”
Edgar Cayce only had a 7th grade education and a fundamentalist Christian upbringing. He knew nothing of the subjects he spoke of while in a trace. It is said that he spoke at length about Christian Gnosticism. The Gnostic writings that are available today were not discovered until well after Cayce’s death. According to Williams,”Cayce affirmed that Christian Gnosticism is the type of Christianity that was taught by Jesus. Much of the information from Cayce has solved some of the greatest mysteries of humanity, some of which were later validated after the discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the early Christian writings discovered in Egypt.”
Again, with Uranus square his 9th house Taurus Moon, discovering that this type of knowledge was coming from within himself, was a shocking and traumatic experience for Cayce. In addition, while in a state of trance, he focused on issues such as the evolution of man, reincarnation, past civilizations, as well as predictions of future events. This was all quite stressful for a fundamentalist Christian to acknowledge as true and accurate.
2) Where and how the collective unconscious has impacted or affected a soul.
Inherent to the Aquarius archetype is the desire to individuate from and within all other human beings in general, the very nature of the society that the Soul is born into, and the immediate peer group that it belongs too. Thus, the impact of all of these groups, and the collective unconscious ignite this desire to individuate. The S.Node of Neptune by house, the location of its planetary ruler by it's own house, sign, and aspects to it correlate how this was done in the lives leading to the current life.
The South Node of Neptune is 12 degrees Aquarius in the 6th House ruled by Uranus Rx in Leo in the 1st House. Uranus is bi-quintile the Sun in Pisces in the 8th House, square the Moon in Taurus in the 9th House and square Pluto in Taurus in the 10th House.
With Uranus Rx in Leo in the 1st House square his Moon in Taurus in the 9th house, which is conjunct Neptune, Edgar Cayce was able to “remember” several of his own past life identities by accessing the Akashic Records or collective unconscious. These past life memories (Uranus) of his various past life identities (1st house) reveal that he was King Asapha, Ra Ta (the messenger angel at Sodom), Uhjltd, Xenon, Pythagoras, Armitidides, Lucius of Cyrene, Arawak (an Indian), John Bainbridge I, John Bainbridge II, and Ralph Dahl (Civil War Soldier). Due to his ability to access the collective unconscious, Cayce has able to share quite a bit of information about his experiences as each of these past life egos.
Like everyone, these past life characters were affected by the collective unconscious, and in turn contributed additional information and memories to the collective unconscious as well.
With the South Node of Neptune at 12 degrees Aquarius in the 6th House, the collective past life ego of Cayce has been focused on serving others and on issues related to health, hygiene and care of the body. The soul has desired that its past life egos be different, or unique, from others who were also healers or who served others via the healing arts as well. With the South Node Ruler Uranus falling in Leo in the 1st House, Cayce’s past life personas, or identities were unique and different from others in the societies and cultures he was part of (Urn in 1st) as well as powerful and sometimes regal personalities (Urn/Leo/1st). In addition, with Uranus square the Moon in Taurus in the 9th House, these past life characters were capable of tapping into the collective conscious and possessed psychic abilities similar to those of Cayce. Uranus is also square Pluto in the 10th House which correlates to the soul’s past intention and desire to use these abilities in relation to his career or social role.
Cayce is said to have been Ra Ta (the messenger angel at Sodom). According to Cayce’s readings, Ra-Ta was born in a less-civilized area, ruled by the tribe of “Zu,” somewhere in ancient Sumeria. He was a very unusual child (Urn/Leo/1st) in that he had pale white skin and blue eyes. Most Sumerians had dark complexions and dark hair. It is said that tribal elders were very spooked by him. In addition, his mother did not have a husband, something that was frowned upon in their culture. She blamed the Gods for making her pregnant. (Sun in Pisces = missing father. Neptune conjunct Moon = delusional mother). The elders ordered that Ra-Ta and his mother be banished from the land. (Urn in Leo square Moon in Taurus).
As Ra-Ta grew up and matured, it became obvious that he had prophetic abilities (Urn sq Moon/Nep 9th) and could channel very accurate psychic information. When he was 21 he predicted that earth changes would destroy the land in which he was living and the neighboring land of Atlantis. He determined that the safest place to be was in Egypt. “When the Earth's poles shifted, Egypt would be the balance-point for their movement. Ra-Ta communicated this prophecy to the King's son Arart, and a pioneering group of 900 people led by Arart with Ra Ta as their spiritual leader made the journey from Turkey to Egypt. After a long and arduous journey, they arrived in the Egyptian city of Luz. Initially there was mistrust and scrutiny, but eventually the Egyptians accepted the Atlanteans and exalted them. Arart was proclaimed King and Ra-Ta was accepted as their high priest. Over a period of time, spiritual and moral reforms were instituted by Ra-Ta and he became beloved by the people. He built temples for self-healing and transformation, and was able to perform many miraculous acts.”
There is a lot more information about the Life of Ra-Ta but its beyond the scope of this assignment to go into all of the details. With Uranus in Leo in the 1st square Pluto in Taurus in the 10th house, it is no surprise that he experienced a sudden fall from grace. With Neptune semi-square Venus in Pisces in the 7th House, Ra-Ta made enemies with various others who kept their dislike of him hidden. Having instituted a moral code that included loyalty in marriage and communal living, (Jupiter in Capricorn in the 5th trine quintile Venus/Saturn/Mercury in Pisces in the 7th semi-square Neptune in the 9th), Ra-Ta created more than a few powerful, hidden enemies who sought to bring him down. They conspired against him and tricked (Mercury) him into breaking his own law. He was then banished once again.
It is said that “But wherever Ra Ta lived he carried his blessings with him, and the banishment only helped to further his soul evolution.” It is said that during his banishment, Ra-Ta met an earlier incarnation of the soul known as Hermes Trismegistus who the Egyptians hailed as “the scribe of the Gods” as he had prophetic dreams and could look "forward and backward" in time.
Hermes and Ra Ta were closely associated, and Cayce referred to Hermes as "the heart and the tongue of Ra."
Ra-Ta was eventually called back to Egypt and his banishment lifted. During this period the pyramids were constructed. Cayce credits Hermes as the architect and Ra-Ta as the second most significant collaborator. He claims that “By some esoteric means, the stones were levitated and set in place.”
Going back to the 6th House archetype (South Node of Neptune in the 6th House), Cayce also incarnated as Lucius of Cyrene, who is mentioned twice in the New Testament. According to Catholic Online, Lucius was Bishop of Cyrene in Ptolemais, Africa. He was one of the prophets and doctors mentioned in Acts.
According to the A.R.E., “The Gospel of Luke, Chapter 10, verses 1 to 20, introduces readers of the Bible to the group of Seventy disciples who were sent out in pairs by Jesus to preach, heal, and advise the local residents of His pending arrival in their area. Lucius was one of Jesus' disciples in this group.” There is speculation that Lucius was “Luke,” who Paul refers to as “Beloved Physician,” author of the Gospel of Luke in the New Testament, but in one reading Cayce states that Lucius was a nephew of Luke, not Luke himself. In any case, both Luke and Lucius were physicians and healers.
Again, with the South Node of Neptune in Aquarius in the 6th House, Lucius was “disregarded and questioned by those who were of the Jewish faith who were the close followers of the Master” due to his Greek and Roman parentage. The reason for this was because if he had been chosen as one of the Apostles, “there would have been a puffing up.” His true purpose in meeting Jesus and becoming one of the seventy was to “grow” through “lessons gained through” these experiences (6th house - self-improvement).
Cayce also incarnated as Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher and mathematician, who taught that the soul was immortal and merely resides in the body, survives death and goes through a series of rebirths until the soul is purified. Pythagoras is one of the great teachers in recorded history. He is said to have remembered all the details of his past lives and could even listen to the “harmony of the spheres” or the vibration of the planets orbiting in the solar system.
Cayce’s SN of Neptune in Aquarius in the 6th House is sextile Jupiter in Capricorn in the 5th House trine Moon/Neptune/Chiron in Taurus in the 9th House square the NNR Uranus in Leo in the 1st House. Together these symbols correlate to an ability to tap into the collective unconscious and give structure and form to what is learned, as well as an ability to grasp mathematics (Urn/Aq) and teach (jupiter/9th/Chiron) others.
Although Cayce appears to have had many “glamorous” lives in which he was endowed with psychic and healing powers, he also experienced several lives in which he expressed the other side of Neptune. In 18th and 19th century America, Cayce reincarnated two times as a man named John Bainbridge who was a gambler and a womanizer. It is said that Bainbridge’s escapist behavior was so strong that he drowned the first time and felt a need to return and do this particular life over, even taking the same name as before. At the end of this second life he redeemed himself by giving the last of his food to a starving child. In doing so, he saved the child’s life while sacrificing his own. “According to the Cayce Readings, such a selfless act of love alleviated a great deal of the karma that he had accumulated as Bainbridge.”
Uranus in Leo in the 1st square Moon/Neptune in the 9th trine Jupiter in the 5th and semi-square Venus in Pisces in the 7th sextile Mars in the 5th correlate to an escapist adventurer with a penchant for gambling and romance. Of course his Pisces stellium in the 7th house correlates with self-sacrifice for the well-being of others. With Neptune’s South Node in the 6th house semi-sextile this stellium, the self-sacrifice serves to purify the soul. I believe that these lives as Bainbridge were necessary in order to evolve from 2nd Stage Spiritual to 3rd Stage. This was accomplished when Bainbridge sacrificed his life by giving his food to the child.
These are just a few examples that show how what we have learned about Neptune, its South Node and the South Node Ruler, in relation to past life experiences, seems to describe Cayce’s past lives quite well. And we have only skimmed the surface.
3) The N.Node of Neptune by it's own house, and the aspects to it, correlates to how the Soul will actualize, give purpose too, and integrate both the current life Neptune relative to it's past which is, again, symbolized by the S.Node of Neptune.
Cayce’s North Node of Neptune is 8 degrees Leo in the 12th House. This shows that Cayce would apply all of the psychic skills he developed in previous lives in his current life as Edgar Cayce in order to continue accessing the collective unconscious and channeling metaphysical and health related information to mankind. Leo is ruled by the Sun in Pisces in the 8th House. Cayce’s creative purpose was to use his psychic energies and abilities to tap into the collective unconscious in order to answer essential questions pertaining to life and death and the mysteries of life and the afterlife.
With Neptune’s North Node Ruler being the Sun in Pisces in the 8th House, there is a desire for union with a superior being, as well as a desire for oneness and unity. In addition, there is an ability to tune-in to others and the collective unconscious. The occult, hidden mysteries, intuition, healing, transformation, psychology and death are all themes tied to this purpose. Cayce’s creative purpose was to enlighten people about these topics. In doing so, he helped people learn how to heal their bodies and what the cause behind their “dis-ease” was. He also helped people deal with grief. In addition, he revealed a lot of metaphysical information about the history of humankind, the evolution of the soul and other metaphysical realities that have been forgotten over the course of time. Cayce is now known as the “Father of Holistic Medicine” and one of the most prolific psychics of all time. Just about everything he brought into the collective awareness was recycled information derived from the collective unconscious.
The Sun in Pisces in the 8th House is semi-square the Moon in Taurus in the 9th House; square Jupiter in Capricorn in the 5th House; bi-quintile Uranus in Leo in the 1st House; sextile Pluto in Taurus in the 10th House; and semi-sextile Chiron in Aries in the 9th House. These are all the same archetypes that have been in play in the past. The sextile to Pluto in the 10th House shows that Cayce’s creative purpose would also be the greatest sociological role he would play in his life. The semi-sextile with Chiron in Aries in the 9th house shows he would instinctually teach people how to heal themselves. In addition, it may have been part of his purpose to reconcile the Christianity of his day with Natural Law.
4) In addition to everything discussed above, the North Node of the Moon is Pisces in the 7th House and part of the stellium that includes Mercury, Saturn, and Venus. Venus rules Taurus with the Moon, Neptune and Pluto in Taurus which correlate to his psychic abilities and the past intention and desire of his soul, as well as his sociological role/career. In addition, Saturn rules his 6th House, showing he was determined to do this work, which was his way of serving God or the Source. His Saturn is conjunct Mercury giving him the discipline needed to control his mind. This control is necessary in order to go in and out of a trance state at will.
In Reading 254-2, Cayce was questioned, and provided answers to these questions, about his own soul. This psychic reading given by Edgar Cayce in Selma, Alabama, on March 19th 1919.
“EC: We have the body here - we have had it before. In this state the conscious mind is under subjugation of the subconscious or soul mind. The information obtained and given by this body is obtained through the power of mind over mind, or power of mind over physical matter, or obtained by the suggestion as given to the active part of the subconscious mind. It obtains its information from that which it has gathered, either from other subconscious minds - put in touch with the power of the suggestion of the mind controlling the speaking faculties of this body, or from minds that have passed into the Beyond, which leave their impressions and are brought in touch by the power of the suggestion. What is known to one subconscious mind or soul is known to another, whether conscious of the fact or not. The subjugation of the conscious mind putting the subconscious in action in this manner or in one of the other of the manners as described, this body obtains its information when in the subconscious state.
As to the forces of this body, the psychical is obtained through action of Uranus and of Neptune, always it has been to this body and always will, just outside the action of fire-arms, yet ever within them, just saved financially and spiritually by the action of great amount of water - the body should live close to the sea, should always have done so. The body is strange to other bodies in all of its actions, in the psychical life, in all of its ideas as expressed in the spiritual life as to its position on all matter pertaining to political, religious or economic positions. This body will either be very rich or very poor.
(Q) Is there any other information that this body should have now?
(A) The body should keep close in touch with the spiritual side of life; with sincerity to the spiritual side of life, if he is to be successful, mentally, physically, psychically and financially.”
Here we see that Cayce himself, while channeling the collective conscious, names Uranus, the ruler of Neptune’s South Node, and Neptune itself, as the source of his psychic abilities. He states they have always been this source, and always will be.
on: Mar 07, 2014, 08:03 AM
|Started by Steve - Last post by Rad|
In the USA...United Surveillance America
Rachel Maddow: CIA spying on Congress ‘is death of the Republic stuff’
By Arturo Garcia
Wednesday, March 5, 2014 23:49 EST
A dispute between the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Senate Intelligence Committee may have spilled into dangerous territory, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow said on Wednesday, following a New York Times report that agency operatives gained access to the computers being used by lawmakers to investigate the agency.
“This is kind of death of the Republic kind of stuff,” Maddow said. “The whole separation of powers thing almost pales in comparison to the seriousness of the allegation that a nation’s own spy services have been turned against its’ own government. Particularly, where that government is supposed to be overseeing the spy services.”
The Times reported that the allegations exacerbated an ongoing rift between the agency and the committee over the CIA’s now-defunct interrogation program, which included waterboarding and other techniques in secret prisons located outside the U.S. Agency officials reportedly grew concerned that committee members had gained unauthorized access to CIA documents in the course of compiling the report, which is reportedly more than 6,000 pages long and highly critical of the agency. The program was shut down by President Barack Obama not long after he took office.
McClatchy Newspapers also reported that the agency’s inspector general has asked the Justice Department to open its own criminal investigation into the matter.
Sen. Mark Udall (D-UT) hinted at the allegation in a letter to President Barack Obama, Maddow said, alluding to “unprecedented action” taken by the CIA against the committee.
“I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee’s oversight responsibilities and for our democracy,” Udall wrote.
CIA Director John Brennan issued a statement ripping “spurious allegations” against the agency, without mentioning Udall by name, and saying he would “encourage others to refrain from outbursts that do a disservice to the important relationship that needs to be maintained between intelligence officials and Congressional overseers.”
Times reporter Mark Mazetti told Maddow that intelligence officials are calling the rift unprecedented.
“What you had for years was a dispute between the CIA and the Intelligence Committee over, basically, the history,” he said. “Who writes the history of this extraordinarily controversial program that took place during the [George W.] Bush administration. But what we’ve seen is, it’s really escalated from there, and it’s gone to this issue of separation of powers, congressional oversight, how independent is Congress in overseeing intelligence agencies.”
Bernie Sanders wants to unite Tea Party and progressive voters in 2016 White House run
By Travis Gettys
Thursday, March 6, 2014 14:42 EST
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said he’s prepared to run for president in 2016 because he doesn’t see anyone willing to stand up for progressive values.
“This country faces more serious problems than at any time since the Great Depression, and there is a horrendous lack of serious political discourse or ideas out there that can address these crises,” Sanders told The Nation. “That somebody has got to represent the working-class and the middle-class of this country in standing up to the big-money interests who have so much power over the economic and political life of this country.”
Sanders said he would offer a more progressive choice than presumed Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
“She is a very, very intelligent person, no question about it, but I don’t know what her political future is, whether she’s going to run,” Sanders told TIME. “I don’t know what she’s going to say, but if you talk about the need for a political revolution in America, it’s fair to say that Secretary Clinton probably will not be one of the more active people.”
While he’s not actively organizing and raising money for a White House bid, Sanders said he has been traveling around the country and asking Americans about their concerns.
“I think it’s premature to be talking about a campaign when we still have a 2014 congressional race in front of us,” Sanders told The Nation.
Although he generally caucuses with Democrats, the senator said he would have to run an unconventional campaign because he is listed as an independent – although he suggested that could be an advantage.
“I think there is profound disgust among the American people for the conventional political process and the never-ending campaigns,” Sanders said. “If I run, my job is to help bring together the kind of coalition that can win—that can transform politics. We’ve got to bring together trade unionists and working families, our minority communities, environmentalists, young people, the women’s community, the gay community, seniors, veterans, the people who in fact are the vast majority of the American population. We’ve got to create a progressive agenda and rally people around that agenda.”
He hasn’t decided if he would run as an independent or third-party candidate, although he understands that doing so could draw votes away from a Democratic candidate and help get a “right-wing Republican” elected.
“The bolder, more radical approach is obviously running outside of the two-party system,” Sanders said. “Do people believe at this particular point that there is the capability of starting a third-party movement? Or is that an idea that is simply not realistic at this particular moment in history? “
Sanders said most voters support progressive policies, even if they don’t know it.
“In terms of fundamental economic issues: job creation, a high minimum wage, progressive taxation, affordable college education — the vast majority of people are on our side,” he said. “One of the goals that I would have, politically, as a candidate for president of the United States is to reach out to the working-class element of the Tea Party and explain to them exactly who is funding their organization – and explain to them that, on virtually every issue, the Koch Brothers and the other funders of the Tea Party are way out of step with what ordinary people want and need.”
U.S. Economy Adds 175,000 Jobs, and Unemployment Rate Ticks Up to 6.7%
By NELSON D. SCHWARTZ
MARCH 7, 2014
The American economy added 175,000 jobs last month, a pace that was better than economists had expected and well above the anemic job gains recorded in December and January.
Still, the latest figures for hiring were down from last year’s average of roughly 190,000 and fell a bit short of what policy makers had been hoping to see at this stage of the recovery. The unemployment rate rose 0.1 percentage point to 6.7 percent.
The February report by the Labor Department had been eagerly awaited and was viewed as a wild card, with economists struggling to estimate the impact of wintry weather in many parts of the country as well as seasonal adjustments by government statisticians.
Before Friday’s report, the consensus among economists on Wall Street called for employers to have added 149,000 positions in February, with the jobless rate remaining flat at 6.6 percent.
In December, the economy added 75,000 jobs, and in January, according to last month’s release of data, it created 113,000 positions. Both numbers fell well short of expectations among experts on Wall Street. On Friday, the January gain was revised upward to 129,000.
There has been an intense debate among economists and traders as to the effects of the weather in recent months versus more fundamental factors in the economy.
February’s data is unlikely to resolve the debate.
In fact, some economists are already looking ahead to the release of figures for March and April, arguing that the current batch of data is not very reliable and that so-called clean data won’t be available until the cold weather eases and spring arrives.
In addition to the usual seasonal factors and statistical quirks, February’s report was difficult to predict because other surveys have offered contrary signals about the labor market this week. As it turned out, the private sector added 162,000 jobs, while the public sector added 13,000.
A private survey by ADP suggested healthier growth, but the Institute for Supply Management’s nonmanufacturing survey augured weakness. New weekly jobless claims reported by the Labor Department on Thursday were more encouraging.
“We are braced for just about anything tomorrow,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said in a note to clients before the report. “Mixed payroll signals and unpredictable seasonals make tomorrow’s number a very tough call.”
Companies Test Plans to Cut Their Health Costs
By REED ABELSON
MARCH 6, 2014
At Walgreen, the giant drugstore chain, employees now have a much broader choice of insurers and plans. Once limited to two options, either from a local Blue Cross plan or UnitedHealthcare, workers can now choose among as many as 25 plans from five insurers, depending on where they live, including Kaiser Permanente, the well-known California-based H.M.O.
As health care costs continue their steady climb, employers are looking for ways to slow the pace. A survey of large employers released on Thursday showed that companies were shifting more costs onto their employees but were also experimenting with concepts like private exchanges that allow companies like Walgreen to offer their workers more choices in health care plans.
The average annual cost of coverage for both employers and workers increased to $12,535 in 2014, compared with $11,938 last year, according to the survey of 595 large companies by Towers Watson, a benefits consultant, and the National Business Group on Health, a Washington-based employer alliance. Employees are paying almost a quarter of the amount, now $2,975 a year, up nearly 7 percent from 2013.
Continue reading the main story
Inflation and Health Care Costs
Employers manage the rising costs of providing health benefits each year by making changes to their health plans, like asking their workers to pay more, or reducing benefits. The annual increase in employers’ health care costs, after such plan changes were made, reached a 15-year low in 2013. But it still far outpaced inflation.
While there are few signs that the nation’s large employers are likely to drop coverage for their workers anytime soon, companies continue to hunt for new concepts, like private exchanges. Similar in design to the public exchanges created under the federal health care law, they are available only to employees of certain companies and are not offered on the open individual market. Like the public exchanges, though, the theory is that by being part of an exchange that offers multiple plans, insurers will compete more aggressively on price. They would also push for better deals with hospitals and doctors and do better managing potentially expensive diseases.
The other appeal of the exchanges is to allow consumers to choose the kind of plan they want instead of having the government or the employer choose a plan for them. “Private and public exchanges epitomize the shift from wholesale to retail,” said Ceci Connolly, a managing director for PwC’s Health Research Institute, an arm of the consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Employees, like individuals in the public exchange, can also switch insurers if they think their share of premiums has risen too quickly or if they struggled for hours on the phone trying to get a claim paid.
Only a small fraction of the 122 million workers now getting coverage through employers is currently enrolled in these private exchanges, but the number could rise to tens of millions by the end of the decade, according to Bruce Ballentine, who recently wrote a report on exchanges for Moody’s Investors Service.
Several private exchanges are also being offered by large benefit consultants like Aon Hewitt, Mercer and Towers Watson, which are making significant investments and promoting the idea with their existing corporate clients. “These benefit consultants have longstanding relationships with employers,” he said.
Some insurers are offering exchanges themselves, with marketplaces looking more like an old-style cafeteria plan and limited to a single insurer but with a broader array of plans than an employer might typically offer.
“There are so many things that have the exchange name, and there are significant differences,” said Cary Grace, the chief executive of Aon Health Exchanges.
Early results from Aon Hewitt, released Thursday, show that premium increases for companies on the exchanges are lower than companies without them. The average cost of premiums for 2014, for the 150,000 or so workers enrolled in its exchange the previous year, is expected to rise just 5.1 percent, compared with the 6 or 7 percent estimated for large employers over all.
Aon’s model requires the insurers to assume the risk of paying the employees’ medical bills rather than simply managing claims for the large employers that self-insure. By forcing the insurers to be responsible for the costs of the employees’ health care, “we’re realigning the incentives,” said Ken Sperling, the Aon Hewitt executive who helped lead the effort. Aon says it has now enrolled more than 600,000 employees from different companies.
Like the public exchanges, Aon’s private exchange also relies on dividing plans into tiers that offer varying levels of coverage. The bronze plan, for example, has a deductible of $2,500. Premiums vary by employer, depending on that company’s history of medical claims.
Walgreen offered the Aon exchange for the first time for plans that went into effect this year. “We got overwhelmingly favorable response in the sign up process and the choices that were available to them,” said Michael Polzin, a spokesman. With a broad mix of employees, the company was looking for a way to offer a variety of plans.
While employers could use private exchanges as a way to cap how much they will pay for health benefits, much the same way they use a 401(k) to replace a pension plan, Walgreen said it was not viewing the exchanges as a way of reducing its share of health costs. “We want to make sure our benefits are competitive,” Mr. Polzin said.
What the private exchanges like the one from Aon do not offer — yet — is an abundance of new entrants, like the co-ops created to offer nonprofit consumer-based alternatives on the state exchanges, or smaller plans offered by a large health system. Benefits consultants and others say the long-term goal is to achieve a diversity of offerings, but the current exchanges now favor large well-established insurers. “This is going to be iterative,” Ms. Grace said.
Companies are turning to exchanges more aggressively for retirees, according to Ron Fontanetta, an executive with Towers Watson, and they are looking closely at the public exchanges for their part-time employees. The concept of these marketplaces is “a very clear trend,” he said. “There’s no question that many employers are asking about private exchanges.”
Employers are also looking closely at other ways of controlling health costs, including using on-site clinics or experimenting with different kinds of networks of hospitals and doctors, Mr. Fontanetta said. And while they plan to continue to pay for coverage, they are looking at ways they could reduce their financial commitment by scaling back what they pay for dependents’ coverage, for example.
While health care costs have been rising more slowly in recent years than they have in decades, they continue to outpace inflation, Mr. Fontanetta said. Employers are thinking hard about what steps they can take to reduce their exposure, he said, at a time when health care is changing rapidly. “The current time period represents a watershed moment for employers.”
U.S. House Passes Ukraine Aid Bill
by Naharnet Newsdesk
06 March 2014, 22:55
The House of Representatives on Thursday overwhelmingly approved U.S. financial aid to crisis-plagued Ukraine, but the Senate is unlikely to take up the measure until at least next week.
The lower chamber of Congress voted 385 to 23 in favor of the loan guarantees, the first tangible congressional response to Russia's incursion into its neighbor and former Soviet satellite.
The White House and State Department have said the aid will include some $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine's government as Kiev grapples with military and political interference by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Ukraine's new leaders have asked for at least $15 billion in financial aid.
"The House's swift, bipartisan action today reflects America's solidarity with the Ukrainian people," House Speaker John Boehner said shortly after the vote.
"This is only a start on fulfilling our commitment to provide the president as many tools as needed to keep President Putin in check and protect the sovereignty of Russia's neighbors."
Boehner on Wednesday said the measure would strengthen Obama's hand in dealing with Europe's deepest security crisis since the Cold War.
The top congressional Republican also said a set of economic sanctions was being worked up by his committee leaders.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, however, has signaled he would not be able to put the Ukraine aid bill on the schedule this week, citing a traffic jam of other legislation.
Meanwhile the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a resolution that strongly condemned Putin's aggressive actions regarding Ukraine and called for economic sanctions against Russia.
The non-binding measure is "part of a larger effort to provide assistance to Ukraine and to impose real costs on Russia for its actions," the committee's chairman Ed Royce said in a statement.
Tea Party Struggles to Regain Political Traction
by Naharnet Newsdesk
06 March 2014, 21:44
How do you win the White House? U.S. conservatives and Tea Party faithful launched their annual convention Thursday seeking to answer that gnawing question after several setbacks in Washington.
Born of a grass-roots thirst for small government and greater protections of constitutional liberties, the Tea Party movement celebrated its fifth anniversary last month amid deep divisions within the Republican Party in a mid-term election year.
Internal battles have uncomfortably pitted the party's politicians against one another as the far-right seeks to oust establishment Republicans in the Senate and House that the movement deems insufficiently conservative.
But the movement's luminaries pushed a message of youthful can-do idealism before thousands of attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington.
"You want to lose elections, stand for nothing," boomed Cruz, a Tea Party rockstar mulling a 2016 presidential bid.
"You win elections by standing on principles, inspiring people that there is a better tomorrow," he told the crowd.
"We did it in 1980 with a grassroots movement that became the Reagan revolution, it's the same thing happening all over again."
The political force that emerged from a Taxed Enough Already movement in 2009 is counting on such a revolution to help it secure more seats in Congress in November in the run-up to the presidential election two years later.
But mainstream Republicans warned that a persistent anti-Washington, anti-Obama sentiment must be replaced with a strategy of presenting better strategies and ideas.
"Let's come out of this conference resolved to win elections again," said New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Christie, who is also considering a presidential run, has been wounded by a political scandal in his home state, but appeared to be back in favor among conservatives who gave him a standing ovation.
The Tea Party has rallied against President Barack Obama's health care law, high taxes and skyrocketing national debt.
Christie opposes Obama, too, but he brought his tough-love message to CPAC conservatives: "We've got to start talking about what we're for and not what we're against."
Paul Ryan, the former vice presidential candidate who is seen as a bridgebuilder between conservatives and more establishment Republicans, agreed.
"We're not just opposing a president. We're developing an agenda -- a modern, pro-growth, principled agenda for our party," said the author of a series of austere federal budget plans that would severely slash spending.
"It's messy and noisy and even a little bit uncomfortable. But the center of gravity is shifting."
First, Republicans will need to heal deep party rifts, and a look at who is not attending CPAC illuminates the divide.
The Senate's conservative heroes Cruz, Rand Paul and Mike Lee are here, while Tea Party star Sarah Palin wraps things up on Saturday.
But House Speaker John Boehner, attacked by Tea Partiers as a sellout, has not been invited.
Boehner helped end an impasse last year when a conservative effort to force a showdown over federal spending resulted in a crippling 16-day government closure.
He infuriated the Tea Party again in January when he introduced a U.S. debt-ceiling increase with no strings attached.
Other establishment lawmakers are in the Tea Party's sights, too. But a vote Tuesday in Texas, where far-right congressman Steve Stockman lost badly to incumbent Senator John Cornyn in a party primary, laid bare the difficulties of such a strategy.
Still, 72-year-old Hal Doiron of Texas believes the movement is growing, even if it's "quieter and more mature."
But with the Tea Party "actively working against some establishment Republicans, of course that makes them very nervous," he said.
Chris Christie Admits GOP is Fighting for the Koch Brothers at CPAC
By: Keith Brekhus
Thursday, March, 6th, 2014, 5:46 pm
In a rare moment of honesty, Chris Christie spoke the truth about what the Republican Party stands for at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) today. Christie told the audience Republicans need to have a positive message as he proclaimed:
We have to start talking about what we’re for and not continuing to rail against what we’re against is because of one simple reason, our ideas are better than their ideas.
And according to Chris Christie, what are Republicans for? They are for the Koch brothers. Christie blasted Democrats and defended the Koch brothers by stating:
What they’re for in Washington, D.C. is to have the leader of the Senate Democrats stand up and rail against two American entrepreneurs (the Koch brothers) who have built a business, created jobs and created wealth…Harry Reid should get back to work and stop picking on great Americans.
Chris Christie has a message for Democrats. Stop picking on the Koch Brothers. Yes, the heroic Governor of New Jersey has come to the rescue of the most vulnerable Americans, Charles and David Koch. The beleaguered billionaires need the government to stand up for them against these bullying attacks from the commoners and from that mean Harry Reid. So without a second thought, Chris Christie voiced in his own words what Democrats have been saying for quite some time. The Republican Party is now little more than an entire political party devoted to making the lives of Charles and David Koch better while giving the rest of the nation the shaft.
Chris Christie’s simple straightforward admission of the Republican Party’s priorities should serve as a reminder to the rest of America who the conservative movement represents. No matter how well they wrap their policies in populist or patriotic rhetoric the Republican Party has decided that its job is to fight for the Koch brothers and protect them from the rest of the American people. Chris Christie said so much at CPAC. We appreciate the Governor of New Jersey’s brief but heartfelt moment of candor. Now we have his words on record.
Big Oil and the Koch Brothers Have Hijacked Our Government and Trampled Liberty
Thursday, March, 6th, 2014, 10:17 am
Over the past five years Americans may have taken note that Republicans have never accepted, or acknowledged, the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidency and sought every means under the Sun to supersede his Constitutional authority. If they were not blocking the President’s judicial, cabinet, and agency nominees, Republicans have obstructed this President’s agenda; including seeking to sue him for using executive orders nearly every president since George Washington has issued. As the oil industry’s legislative arm, Republicans have went to great lengths to give the Koch brothers, oil exporters, and a foreign corporation a gift that climate scientists say is “game over for Earth’s climate” regardless it is President Obama’s sole purview to approve construction of the KeystoneXL pipeline.
Republicans in Congress have passed laws approving the foreign corporation’s permit to begin construction of KeystoneXL, attempted to attach immediate construction approval to raising the debt limit, and lied copiously about the economic benefits and jobs associated with the pipeline’s construction. President Obama has not given approval for the foreign corporation to begin constructing its dangerous pipeline, but Nebraska Republicans took matters into their own hands and passed a law granting the Republican governor sole authority to approve the pipeline’s construction. Fortunately for Nebraskans fearful of illegal land grabs and the safety of the Ogallala Aquifer, a Nebraska judge ruled that the law, and the governor’s approval, is unconstitutional and effectively put the construction and the route of the entire KeystoneXL pipeline in limbo.
Before 2011, Nebraska gave oil pipeline companies free rein to seize private and public land even if they were foreign companies like TransCanada. In November 2011, the state passed a new law, the Major Oil Pipeline Siting Act, adding requirements for the pipeline approval process that included public hearings, a requirement to establish how a pipeline serves the public interest, and approval reports from a plethora of agencies. However the new law was prohibited from affecting TransCanada’s construction of the Keystone XL pipeline because any legislation that delayed KeystoneXL would be unconstitutional.
The new law’s only requirement was that eminent domain to seize private land could be used if future pipelines were approved by the Nebraska Public Service Commission (PSC). That did not sit well with a Republican state senator. The Republican, Jim Smith, introduced a new law, LB 11161, which allowed pipeline companies to bypass appropriate agencies and approval requirements except for Nebraska’s Department of Environmental Quality that lacked standards or authority to evaluate the pipeline’s impact. LB11161 allowed approval to go straight to the Republican governor, a rabid Keystone booster, to approve KeystoneXL and give TransCanada free rein to seize all private land along the pipeline’s route. The judge hearing the lawsuit against the Republican governor agreed with the plaintiffs and ruled the Republican governor’s route approval was unconstitutional.
It is noteworthy that after Republican state senator Smith’s law was signed by the governor, he received an all-expenses paid trip to see the Alberta Tar Sands courtesy of the Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Within a couple of months Nebraska’s Republican governor approved TransCanada’s new pipeline route and gave the foreign company permission to seize private land and begin constructing KeystoneXL across Nebraska. The three Nebraskans had already received letters from TransCanada informing them they would use imminent domain and seize their land that precipitated the lawsuit against the governor, the “acting” director of the state department of environmental quality, and the state treasurer on grounds the new law was unconstitutional; on February 19 the judge agreed the governor and Republican-dominated legislature overstepped their authority.
Unlike in Nebraska, an oil industry pipeline is already being built between Illinois and Oklahoma due to the oil corporation’s use of a loophole in the law. The corporation, Enbridge, has already amassed a disastrous record of environmentally devastating tar sand leaks. Enbridge is the corporation whose pipeline ruptured in 2010 and dumped 3.3 million litres of tar into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. The Environmental Protection Agency had to order Canada’s largest pipeline company to return to the river last September to cleanup areas where at least 684,000 litres of tar still remains in the river. Once completed, the Enbridge project carrying tar sand that began construction last fall will cover 589-miles, pass over 1,950 wetlands and waterways, including the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, with an initial capacity of 600,000 barrels per day from Canada, North Dakota¸ and Montana.
According to one of the founders of Tar Sands Free Midwest, Debra Michaud, the alarming aspect of Enbridge’s tar pipeline is the ease and speed by which it was approved using a tactic she and the Sierra Club says allows the oil industry to bypass environmental protection laws to fast-track pipeline projects. Michaud said, “This is one of the most important fossil fuel issues of our time. This is really laying the groundwork for the way they’re going to take over this country with pipelines.” Apparently, Michaud’s concern is not unique. In its current issue, Bloomberg Businessweek says “The Keystone XL pipeline should be an open-and-shut case from a climate perspective. But it’s difficult, even for a president, to take on Big Oil. Obama can only do so if he is given political cover by a large, insistent, popular movement.” That movement, and any concerned American, has until Friday, March 7 to weigh in and express their disgust and outrage that Republicans, the Koch brothers, and a foreign corporation are pushing an oil export pipeline carrying Canadian tar to enrich the oil export industry, the Kochs (between $100-250 billion), and it is “game over for the planet’s climate.”
Although there are several issues Americans should be mortified over with one tar sand pipeline already under construction and one in Nebraska shut down by a judge’s ruling, it is the audacity of Republicans and their oil industry masters to flout the law with veritable impunity. Republicans have allowed a foreign corporation, TransCanada, to seize Americans’ private land under eminent domain, passed a law giving Nebraska’s Republican governor authority to approve construction of KeystoneXL, and ignore environmental laws with no regard for the health and safety of American citizens.
Something is wrong with this country that American citizens have become so timid that they sit idly by while Republicans assist the oil industry to have its way with Americans’ air, water, and health. Americans will never have to worry about a foreign nation seizing their land, poisoning their water supply, or taking control of the government because although Christian extremists and Wall Street pose an existential threat to this country, America is firmly under control of the Koch brothers, ALEC, and their allies in the oil industry. One never thought Americans would allow a foreign corporation serving the interests of the Koch brothers to accumulate unchallenged power over the people that TransCanada and the oil export industry have amassed, but with Republicans providing legislative muscle and American apathy, it was just a matter of time before the oil industry seized controlled of America.
Republicans Use Stalinesque Tactics to Show Their Love For The Constitution
By: Adalia Woodbury
Thursday, March, 6th, 2014, 9:17 am
The next time Republicans and their surrogates at Fox news talk about their love for the constitution, and especially when they claim to care about civil rights, remember Wednesday, March 5 2014. That was the day Republicans in the House and the Senate took a sledgehammer to the constitution of the United States.
There was the stunt bill to sue President Obama for being president.
There was that predominantly Republican block of Debo Adegbile’s nomination to head the DOJ’s civil rights division. As Sarah Jones pointed out beautifully in her post, the real reason Republicans objected to Adegbile’s nomination is his effectiveness as an advocate for voting rights that extend beyond the devout followers of the Republican cult.
Their stated reason, in reality, is as much a swipe at civil rights as their primary motive. By stating their opposition to Adegbile because as a criminal defense attorney he represented Mumia Abu Jamal amounts to an admission of the Republican Party’s opposition to the sixth amendment which guarantees all criminal defendants a right to counsel – including those accused of the most heinous of crimes. After all, the constitution that Republicans love only provides privileges for Republicans and corporations.
It’s more than shameful that seven Democrats (Casey, Coons, Donnelly, Heitkamp, Manchin, Pryor and Walsh) joined the Republicans in their opposition to the sixth Amendment.
Then there’s the Darrell Issa meltdown after Louise Lerner, once again, invoked her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent during the latest chapter of Issa’s IRS inquisition. How dare she invoke a right that is guaranteed under the Constitution. After all, she isn’t a Republican! How Dare Elijah Cummings think that, as the ranking member on this committee, he also gets to ask questions. Didn’t he know Issa’s inquisitions are one sided validations of debunked conspiracy theories?
Moreover, this inquisition is really about preserving the life’s blood of the Republican Party. Issa is fighting to protect the anonymity of rich individuals and corporations that launder money to the Republican Party through 501(c )(4)s. Anonymity is key because corporate free speech shouldn’t mean people knowing if their purchases might be financing efforts to allow corporations to poison their air and water with impunity while simultaneously taking away people’s jobs, housing, healthcare, insurance and education.
Republican surrogate, Fox, wasn’t about to miss out on the day of assault on the constitution. Republican puppet, Jon Scott, came right out and said if Louise Lerner waves her Fifth Amendment rights, the death threats she has been receiving will go away.
I can see why if you’re getting death threats, why you wouldn’t want to open yourself up to more scrutiny,” Scott admitted. “But at the same time, it would seem that answering some of the questions might cause some of these people who are so angry to ease up.
Make no mistake. Scott’s comments amounted to legitimizing the Stalinesque death threats as a means of getting people to give up their constitutional rights.
All of this fits a pattern in which the constitution that Republicans say they love is much like wealth. They believe both are reserved exclusively for Republicans and their corporate sugar daddies and they are willing to use Joseph Stalin’s tactics to make sure the rest of us get the message.
Mitch McConnell Tries To Save His Senate Seat By Waving a Rifle Around at CPAC
By: Sarah Jones
Thursday, March, 6th, 2014, 12:23 pm
It wasn’t too long ago that children were brutally mass murdered in Newtown, but that doesn’t stop Republicans and the NRA from displaying their callous, shallow, misguided belief that a gun makes a man.
It’s CPAC 2014.
So it should come as no surprise that Republican Mitch McConnell (R-KY) entered the stage holding a rifle over his head to cheers. After all, the Senate Minority Leader is pretty desperate to turn on the rabid Republican base, who aren’t very impressed with him. What better way to do it than to carry an image of alleged power like a gun, which represents to the little ones who have a lot to prove the power to murder another living creature? So hot, amiright? This moment was captured by Politico’s Director of Photography, M. Scott Mahaskey, in the above image.
Watch McConnell give the gun to the Republican Senator from Oklahoma, Tom Coburn, here if you have not eaten yet, or have been hard wired to watch old white men who are so unaware that they have no idea how Freudian trading a rifle to commemorate the end of one’s career appears:
Trying too hard (just a hint, but responsible gun owners are not so immature that they think their gun proves something):
Coburn McConnell and a gun
We are to believe this is not a hopeful phallic symbol of potency and relevancy being passed from one dinosaur to another, but rather a lifetime achievement award. Jeff Zeleny, ABC News Senior Washington Correspondent, explained that the gun is a lifetime achievement award from the NRA that McConnell presented to Coburn:
The gun McConnell presented to Coburn? A lifetime achievement award from the NRA. Coburn is retiring at the end of the year.
— Jeff Zeleny (@jeffzeleny) March 6, 2014
McConnell spent his speech attacking Democrats to no avail. McConnell chanted the obligatory conservative conspiracy theories about the IRS and Benghazi, but even these fail safes didn’t arouse for him any conservative love. McConnell finally tapped into the conservative crowd’s sweet spot with some blind, stupid Obama hate, saying Obama is “treating our Constitution worse than a place mat at dinner.” This from a leader of the party that enabled W, speaking behind an evil teleprompter no less, about our constitutional lawyer president. But reality has no place at CPAC.
If you claim Obama is treating the Constitution like a place mat with a gun over your head whilst cheering the death of a gay soldier, you win at CPAC. Bonus points for ordering a woman to get you a beer while you’re doing it, and explaining that the war on women is all in her pretty head.
Zeleny also shared McConnell’s strategy over avoiding the income inequality debate:
Trying to reframe the debate over income inequality, McConnell says of Democrats: "They've done next to nothing for the little guy."
— Jeff Zeleny (@jeffzeleny) March 6, 2014
I suppose trying to raise the minimum wage and providing affordable access to healthcare insurance might be seen as “nothing” by someone who is as wealthy and out of touch as Mitch McConnell. But then, that’s not too comforting, especially given his failure to come up with a jobs plan in the last 30 years (no, that’s not a typo).
But you are to forget all of that real policy stuff that impacts you and yours, and focus on the GUN. THE GUN.
Yes, it’s CPAC 2014 – the convention of Neanderthals for “freedom”, also known as the clever manipulations of the corporate gun lobby playing on the festering feelings of disempowerment that permeate the lower classes during a recession. Well done, corporate masters and puppets.
“If I’m given the opportunity to lead the U.S. Senate next year, I won’t let you down,” Mitch McConnell said on stage. And it makes sense if you realized to whom he was directing this promise. Hello, NRA, Koch Brothers, et al.
As the Nation Moves Left, John McCain Is America’s New Most Hated Senator
By: Jason Easley
Thursday, March, 6th, 2014, 3:00 pm
A new PPP poll has found that Sen. John McCain has passed Mitch McConnell to be become America’s least popular U.S. senator.
PPP summarized what can only be described as a boatload of bad news for McCain, “PPP’s newest Arizona poll finds that John McCain is unpopular with Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike and has now become the least popular Senator in the country. Only 30% of Arizonans approve of the job McCain is doing to 54% who disapprove. There isn’t much variability in his numbers by party- he’s at 35/55 with Republicans, 29/53 with Democrats, and 25/55 with independents, suggesting he could be vulnerable to challenges in both the primary and general elections the next time he’s up.”
Sen. McCain’s approval rating of 30% back home in Arizona means that he is 2% less popular than Mitch McConnell is in Kentucky. McCain’s disapproval rating (54%) is six points lower than McConnell’s (60%), but he is also less popular than the fading fast Republican Senate leader. The fact that McCain is only six points more popular with Republicans (35%) than he is with Democrats (29%) signals that the end is near for self styled Arizona maverick.
McCain is likely to share a similar problem with McConnell. Republicans in both states think that their incumbent senior citizen senators are too liberal, and compromise too much with Obama. I suspect that the folks back home have also grown sick of their senator’s constant chasing of television cameras. McCain is a virtual weekly guest on the Sunday morning shows, and the television networks have gone completely over the top by featuring him as a guest eleven times in the past week.
The Arizona senator has cultivated a press corps that fawn all over him so at first glance it surprising that he is the least popular senator in the country. Beneath the media hype, is a senator that has not done much for years in the Senate. Since losing the 2008 election, McCain has mostly used the Senate as a glorified retirement home and perch to get on national television often and frequently.
Arizona is shifting away from Republicans, and more towards being a 2016 presidential swing state. As Arizona changes, one of the first things it may do is send John McCain into retirement.
Wendy Davis Shows Democrats How to Stand With Their President in a Red State
By: Sarah Jones
Thursday, March, 6th, 2014, 11:19 am
There’s been a lot of talk about how some Democrats don’t feel like they can be seen with President Obama, particularly in red states. While the politics behind this choice make sense, there’s another bolder choice. A choice that shames anyone who shows disrespect for the office of the president.
It took a woman to lead the way down this proper path, and that woman is Texas State Senator, Democrat Wendy Davis.
When asked during a live stream interview with the Texas Tribune Thursday morning if she would attend an event that President Barack Obama would be attending on April 10, she responded, “I’m definitely planning on being at the celebration. I’m excited about greeting our president there, and our former presidents.”
President Obama will be delivering the keynote address at a Civil Rights Summit in Austin, Texas, ironically commemorating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. First Lady Michelle Obama will attend the Summit with the President.
Moderator Texas Tribune Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith followed it up by acting like he was getting in on a dirty secret, asking Ms. Davis with his hand over his face if she would shy away from photographs with the President.
This is the kind of thing that needs to stop, and yes, the press is complicit in it. The press buy into the notion that Democrats can’t afford to be seen with this President — the guy who won two elections, the last one in a landslide.
Wendy Davis wasn’t having it. She set the record straight by saying firmly, “No, I’m definitely not going to do that.”
Ms. Davis, who just days ago officially won the Democratic nomination with Won with 79.05% of the vote, became a national name during her widely watched filibuster during which she stood up for women against highly a restrictive and harmful abortion law passed by Texas Republicans.
“I’m excited about greeting our president there, and our former presidents,” Davis said, crisply putting Obama in with other presidents, pointing out that he belongs in the presidential category which should infer respect for the office if not the person.
When the moderator, Texas Tribune Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith, covered his face to ask whether Davis would shy away from photographs with the president, Davis said with great dignity, “No, I’m definitely not going to do that.”
And that is how Democrats should be handling this matter. Instead of buying into the bullies’ narrative that Obama is the uncool kid and being seen with him makes them dirt, Democrats need to take a stand for decency and respect for the office. They can use this moment to show their respect for traditional values like respecting authority, a note that should play well to red state independents and Republicans who haven’t been completely hate-washed. And if done properly, it leaves the frothing madness appearing just as fringe as it is in reality. It exposes it for what it is, instead of enabling it and acting like it’s okay.
“No, I’m definitely not going to do that” implies “Why would you even suggest it?” Sometimes it takes a Southern lady to sweetly shut it down with an implied “How dare you”.
Democrats should make them speak the problem with this President, because in the end, they can’t. They’ll pretend it’s about Obamacare, but of course, that was never a viable cover, and now that it’s putting money in individual’s pockets and increasing spending while helping people and lowering healthcare costs, it’s a total fail of a disguise.
Sure, it’s not perfect and neither is this President. But he deserves the respect of his office. He has done nothing to deserve being treated like an interloper at the cool kids’ table, when in fact he is the cool kid and he is definitely not an interloper. It’s almost surreal that the very people who are only in office because of gerrymandering and lies accuse this President of being the interloper.
We all know what this is about. Wendy Davis isn’t having it.
Wendy Davis is running against Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott, who leads her by 12 points in Rasmussen‘s first look at the 2014 Texas gubernatorial race. However, as Ms. Davis pointed out in her interview, these are early days.
Discussion / Evolutionary Astrology Q&A / Re: Pluto in Cap, the climate, ecology and environment topic
on: Mar 07, 2014, 07:34 AM
|Started by Steve - Last post by Rad|
Researchers forecast scorching summers ahead for Europe
By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, March 6, 2014 20:00 EST
Europe is headed for scorching summers with temperatures well over 40 degrees Celsius (104 deg Fahrenheit) and droughts in the south within the next 40 years, climate scientists said Friday.
Europe is expected to witness some of the most dramatic climatic changes due to global warming, according to research published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
As well as hotter summers, Europe’s north should see considerably milder winters — some 5 C to 8 C warmer in Scandinavia and Russia.
“Most of Europe will experience higher warming than the global average” of 2 C, said the team.
UN negotiators are aiming to keep global warming at only 2 C above pre-Industrial Revolution surface temperatures, saying that it threatens rising sea levels, more droughts and floods, and an increasing spread of disease.
If only “moderate actions” are taken to curb Earth-warming greenhouse gas emissions, the 2 C warming will already have been reached by mid-century, the team said, and even sooner if current trends continue.
“Even the achievement of the 2 C goal will be accompanied by a significantly changed climate from today, and will necessitate adaptation,” they wrote.
A global increase of 2 C will mean particularly large increases in Europe, except for the UK which will have lower relative warming.
In summer, daily maximum temperatures could be 3-4 C higher over southeast Europe and the Iberian Peninsula “and rise well above 40 C in regions that already experience some of the highest temperatures in Europe, such as Spain, Portugal and France,” said the statement.
“Such higher temperatures will increase evaporation and drought”, and increase heat stroke risk.
In winter, maximum daily temperatures could be 2-3 C higher in central and southern Europe, and 5-8 C in Scandinavia and Russia.
“The higher winter warming in Northern Europe will have a mix of positive as well as negative effects, including reduced winter heating” and a drop in cold-related deaths, said the study.
It would negatively impact winter tourism and ecosystems.
Rainfall may decline by up to 10 percent in southern Europe on average, and increase by the same margin in the north, said the study.
“Most of the continent will experience an increase in instances of extreme precipitation, increasing the flood risks which are already having significant economic consequences,” such as in England at the moment.
The team used climate models to simulate changes under a warming scenario of rapid economic growth and moderate greenhouse gas emissions.
The average global temperature has already increased by 0.8 C on pre-industrial levels.
According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it could rise an added 2.6 to 4.8 C by the end of this century, on a high-emissions scenario.
on: Mar 07, 2014, 07:31 AM
|Started by Steve - Last post by Rad|
Astronomers spot rare asteroid break-up
By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, March 6, 2014 13:35 EST
Astronomers said Thursday they have witnessed the distant break-up of an asteroid, a rare event that was not caused by a violent space collision or a close encounter with the Sun.
Instead, the asteroid, located some 300 million miles (483 million kilometers) from the Sun, was likely weakened over time by multiple small run-ins with other space objects, said the report in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
And now, astronomers are watching asteroid P/2013 R3 come undone as a result of a subtle effect of sunlight, which causes the asteroid to rotate at an increasingly fast rate.
“Seeing this rock fall apart before our eyes is pretty amazing,” said lead investigator David Jewitt, a professor in the University of California Los Angeles Department of Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences.
Jewitt said the asteroid has broken into as many as 10 pieces and is gently being pulled apart by centrifugal force, “like grapes on a stem.”
The photographs of the break-up were captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Each of the 10 parts have comet-like dust tails, and the biggest four chunks are each double the size of a football field.
The asteroid’s unraveling began last year.
The latest Hubble pictures show the fragments “drifting away from each other at a leisurely pace of one mile per hour ? slower than a strolling human,” said a UCLA press statement.
Eventually, the fragments, which are estimated to weigh 200,000 tons, will provide a rich source of meteoroids.
Most of them will plunge into the Sun although some may be witnessed as meteors across the Earth’s sky, Jewitt said.
The Hubble Space Telescope is a collaborative project between NASA and the European Space Agency
on: Mar 07, 2014, 07:30 AM
|Started by Steve - Last post by Rad|
Supermassive black hole is spinning at half the speed of light, astronomer finds
Thursday, March 6, 2014 10:40 EST
By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) – A supermassive black hole inside a distant quasar spins at about 336 million mph (540 million kph) or roughly half the speed of light, according to research published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.
Scientists have measured the spin rates of black holes before but never one so far away. The newly measured black hole is inside a quasar some 6 billion light years from Earth.
A black hole is a region of space so packed with matter that not even photons of light can escape its gravitational grip. They leave evidence of their existence as they encounter and swallow cosmic neighbors. Its rate of spin provides clues about the relationships between the black hole and its host galaxy.
Computer models show that how fast a black hole spins depends on how much material is available for the black hole to consume. A black hole with a steady supply of gas from nearby merging galaxies, for example, spins faster than one whose feedings are more erratic, a result of fewer neighbor galaxies to consume.
The speed of the supermassive black hole inside quasar RX J1131-1231 indicates the black hole is feeding steadily, most likely on a diet of shredded neighbor galaxies, said Mark Reynolds, an astronomer with the University of Michigan.
By that measure, the supermassive black hole regularly consumes the equivalent of about 333,000 Earths every year, Reynolds said.
Scientists want to measure the spin rates of other, even more distant, supermassive black holes to see how conditions were different farther back in time.
“The ability to measure black hole spins over a large range of cosmic time should make it possible to directly study whether or not the black hole evolves in step with its host galaxy,” Rubens Reis, also an astronomer with University of Michigan, said in a statement.
The measurements were not easy to make. Analyses of X-rays pouring from near the mouth of RX J1131′s black hole were only possible because a closer galaxy sits between the quasar and Earth-orbiting X-ray telescopes.
The closer galaxy, located about 3 billion light years from Earth, bends light from the more distant quasar, bringing it into focus like a zoom lens on a camera or telescope. The process is known as “gravitational lensing.”
(Editing by Kevin Gray and Amanda Kwan)