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 on: Jul 23, 2014, 04:48 AM 
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MH17: US intelligence says Russia 'created conditions' for plane disaster

US officials stop short of blaming crash directly on Moscow and say separatists likely shot down plane by accident

Spencer Ackerman in New York and Shaun Walker in Donetsk
The Guardian, Tuesday 22 July 2014 23.36 BST      

US intelligence officials accused Moscow of "creating the conditions" that resulted in the death of 298 people aboard the Malaysian Airlines jet shot down last week over a part of Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed separatists.

But in a partial declassification of US intelligence on Tuesday, officials stopped short of laying the blame for the disaster directly at the door of Russia. The assessment of the US intelligence community is that the separatists shot the plane down by accident.

The newly declassified information largely reaffirmed an account given last Friday by Samantha Power, US ambassador to the United Nations, saying that a missile from an SA-11 anti-aircraft battery in separatist territory shot down the plane.

Officials said training given by Russia to its separatist proxies on air-defense weapons, which they have used in recent weeks to shoot down about a dozen aircraft, was a contributing factor. Ukrainian forces fighting the separatists have yet to fire a surface-to-air missile, intelligence officials said, as their conflict is on the ground.

Some of the evidence provided by US intelligence – whose fiscal 2013 budget was $68bn – included Facebook posts. "After it became evident that the plane was a civilian airliner, separatists deleted social media posts boasting about shooting down a plane and possessing a Buk (SA-11) surface-to-air missile system," a senior intelligence official said in the briefing, held on condition of anonymity. The Guardian was not invited to the briefing, a transcription of which was later made available.

Despite enormous international opprobrium placed on Moscow since the crash, intelligence officials said that they believed Russia continues to arm the separatists. They alleged that rocket launchers, other artillery pieces and tanks have transited through a "training facility" in south-west Russia associated with supplies for the separatists.

While the Guardian cannot independently confirm the allegation, satellite imagery released by US intelligence and dated Monday from the Rostov base seems to depict columns of materiel not present in a photo dated two days earlier.

An account by US intelligence of the Buk missile's trajectory puts its origin at the town of Snizhne, not far from the Russian border. Images posted on social media from Snizhne seem to depict a mobile Buk system.

An investigation into the destruction of MH17 has barely got under way. Separatists handed over the flight recorder of the plane to Malaysian authorities late on Monday.

US intelligence officials indicated that their timed release of preliminary information was designed to counter claims from the Russian military they consider obfuscatory.

"We are seeing a full-court press by the Russian government to instruct affiliated or friendly elements to manipulate the media," an intelligence official said.

On Tuesday, international experts began the process of identifying the bodies of those who died in the disaster, after a train carrying their remains arrived in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

Interpol, the international police agency, said one of its teams had begun preliminary identification work on the remains, which will all be flown to the Netherlands this week for fuller identification.

The train, which included three refrigerated wagons, had been loaded by rebels and local emergency workers at Torez station, near the crash site. The rebels said there were 282 bodies and 87 "other fragments" on board and that 16 bodies are yet to be found.

However, on Tuesday night Dutch officials said only 200 bodies had arrived in Kharkiv.

The European Union said on Tuesday that it would expand its sanctions blacklist to target Pig Putin's inner circle and draw up further broad measures including an arms embargo and financial restrictions on Russian businesses.


U.S. to release intelligence data on downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 14:56 EDT

US intelligence officials were expected to present data Tuesday backing up the theory that pro-Russian rebels were responsible for the downing of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine.

The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was blown out of the sky Thursday by what is believed to have been a surface-to-air missile, killing all 298 passengers and crew on board.

“There has been a lot of evidence that’s already been presented that paints a pretty compelling picture,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

“I do expect that you’ll hear from intel officials later today who will have some more data to present and some more evidence to indicate — I guess some more evidence to educate you about what we know so far about that situation.”

Earnest did not go into more detail about what was to be released.

The United States has alleged that the plane was shot down by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile system from an area in eastern Ukraine controlled by the Moscow-backed separatists.

“The Ukrainian military was not operating anti-aircraft weapons in that area at that time,” Earnest reiterated.

On Monday, Obama voiced outrage that the probe into the downing of the airliner was being hampered by Ukrainian rebels and demanded that the Russian Pig force them to cooperate, saying Moscow had “direct influence over these separatists.”

The evil Pig Putin, who has borne the brunt of international fury, pledged Tuesday to “do everything” to influence the separatists and ensure a full probe into the crash.

Moscow had earlier slapped down accusations that it had supplied the alleged missile system, with a senior defense official intimating that Kiev may have been responsible for its downing.


EU announces further sanctions on Russia after downing of MH17

Proposals will not be applied immediately as Putin urges rebels to cooperate with investigators for the first time

Julian Borger in Brussels, Alec Luhn in Moscow and Richard Norton-Taylor   
The Guardian, Tuesday 22 July 2014 22.26 BST   

The European Union will expand its sanctions blacklist to target Pig Putin's inner circle and draw up further broad measures including an arms embargo and financial restrictions on Russian businesses, EU foreign ministers have decided following the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

However, the new sanctions will not be applied immediately. The EU has threatened punitive measures before without being able to find a consensus to implement them. And even if an arms embargo were imposed it would not be retrospective, so would not affect France's plans to deliver assault ships to Russia.

EU officials insisted that Tuesday's decision on sanctions marked a significant step towards new punitive measures. The list of Pig "cronies" to be sanctioned has to be ready by the end of the month. The broader sanctions on "access to capital markets, defence, dual use goods, and sensitive technologies" are conditional on Russian cooperation with the MH17 investigation, a halt to "the increasing flow of weapons, equipment and militants across the border", and the withdrawal of Russian troops from the border area.

On Tuesday, the rat face Pig Putin agreed for the first time to urge the rebels to cooperate with the investigators, but he also condemned western sanctions and called on Kiev to implement a ceasefire. "We have been called on to put pressure on the rebels in the south-east. We will of course do everything that is in our power," the Russian president snorted, speaking before a long table of officials and army and intelligence officers.

Although none of the agreed European sanctions takes immediate effect, advocates of increased pressure on Moscow claimed that the measures agreed at an EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels represented a sharp response to the shooting down of the plane, and predicted that some of the new sanctions were almost certain to be imposed.

"What I have heard today is a clear political commitment by the foreign ministers in response to this outrage to act," the new UK foreign secretary, Philip Hammond told the BBC. "I would expect to see that process now moving forward at pace unless the Russians deliver on all the demands we have made."

"I think Europe has woken up," Carl Bildt, the Swedish foreign minister said. "None of these things – capital markets, defence, dual use items, has ever been mentioned in EU documents. Some of this will happen."

There will be a meeting of EU ambassadors on Thursday, who will approve a widening of the targeted sanctions list to include close associates "who actively provide material or financial support to or are benefiting from the Russian decision makers responsible for the annexation of Crimea or the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine." The final list of names will probably not be announced until next week.

The meeting will hear proposals for an arms embargo and financial restrictions, but it is not clear whether a further foreign minister meeting or even an extraordinary summit would be needed to give them the green light.

European officials will also look into the possible designation of separatist groups such as the Donetsk People's Republic as terrorist organisations, if it was determined they were involved in the shooting down of MH17. Officials said that such a step was far from imminent and would require watertight proof.

The Dutch foreign minister, Frans Timmermans, whose country lost 193 citizens in the attack, described the package as "quite forceful".

British officials said the tone of the EU statement had toughened considerably in the course of the day, in part because of harrowing accounts from the scene of the crash presented to the ministers, as well as accounts of tampering with the site. Bildt said there were reports of items being inserted into the scene in an effort to confuse the investigation.

A British official said: "There is chatter that the SVR [Russia's Foreign Intelligence Services] and the FSB [its secret police] are planting just enough disinformation to fuel a thousand grassy knoll conspiracy theories, to muck up the forensics on the scene."

The official said that the proposed European arms embargo would not be retrospective as so would not apply to France's agreed sale of two Mistral helicopter carrier ships to Russia worth €1.2bn (£950m). "That would involve returning the money, and we understand that is difficult for them," he said.

In his most in-depth expression of his foreign policy since a speech celebrating the annexation of Crimea in March, the shit stain painted sanctions as unjustified and ineffective.

"Russia is being given what almost amounts to ultimatums: let us destroy part of the population that is ethnically, culturally and historically close to Russia, or we'll adopt some sanctions against you. It's strange logic, and of course it's absolutely unacceptable," he said.

The Pig also said outside forces would use intelligence services, the media and non-governmental organisations to destabilise Russia and make it "pliant in deciding issues in favour of the interests of other governments".

Although the evil Pig Putin promised his government would not "tighten the screws", his comments suggested that the Kremlin's information war would continue. Russian media have presented a far different view of the Malaysia Airlines disaster, focusing on theories hinting that the Ukrainian or US governments downed the plane.


Ukrainians, Awaiting International Action After Crash, Fear Complacency

JULY 22, 2014

KIEV, Ukraine — From the moment it became clear that a civilian jetliner had been shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing 298 people and jolting the world’s attention to the country’s battle with Russian-backed insurgents, many Ukrainians, including senior officials here in the capital, have been awaiting a forceful international response. They are still waiting.

The United States quickly declared that the missile had been fired from separatist-controlled territory, and the Ukrainian and American governments each said that they had credible intelligence that Russia had supplied the surface-to-air weapon that destroyed the plane, as well as the training and expertise needed to fire it. 

But while President Obama made a strong statement on Monday rebuking Russia and the rebels it supports for delaying the recovery of bodies of victims and evidence, it was not clear what, if any, action would be taken. On Tuesday, European officials in Brussels agreed to draw up targets for additional economic sanctions but stopped short of imposing new penalties.

Although the investigation is in its early stages, the lack of any swift concrete response — and the aggressive denials by Russia — have left many Ukrainians fearful of complacency by other nations.

“Actually it looks like they will not impose any strict sanctions,” said Svitlana Khutka, an associate professor of sociology at National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy in Kiev. “Why? Because they say they are very concerned, deeply concerned, very, very concerned, very much concerned, so very deeply concerned,” Ms. Khutka said in an interview. “You just don’t believe that they are concerned, because it is quite evident that they have their own interests.”

“We see something here like this realpolitik,” she said, “which actually just demonstrates that Ukraine somehow has to defend itself by itself.”

Even President Petro O. Poroshenko, reluctant to offend allies in the West, has subtly expressed growing exasperation in recent days. He has urged the United States Congress to designate the main separatist groups in eastern Ukraine as terrorist groups, a step he took without first seeking approval from the White House.

And after a call on Tuesday with the prime minister of Finland, Alexander Stubb, Mr. Poroshenko urged an additional international response. “The Ukrainian president emphasizes that further efforts must be focused on preventing Russia from supporting terrorists,” Mr. Poroshenko’s office said in a statement, adding that he “hopes for international contribution.”

Many Ukrainians have also watched with dismay as insurgent leaders used their control of the wreckage site and of the plane’s voice and data recorders to gain new international stature — even winning praise from the Malaysian government for their cooperation.

“Earlier this evening, I spoke to Alexander Borodai, who is in command of the region where the tragedy occurred,” the Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak, said in a live television address announcing that a deal had been reached to allow the remains of victims to be brought by train to the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, which is controlled by the central government.

Further legitimizing Mr. Borodai and his separatists, the flight recorders were turned over to Malaysian emissaries at a late-night ceremony in Donetsk, guarded by rebels carrying machine guns. Copies of a signed memorandum of understanding were exchanged, and one of the Malaysian officials, Col. Mohamed Sakri, thanked “his excellency Mr. Borodai.”

A Russian citizen who lived in Moscow as an investment consultant, Mr. Borodai is regarded as a terrorist in Kiev, reviled by officials here in the same way that Qaeda commanders are despised in the United States. He is among a number of Russian citizens who are the leaders of the main separatist groups in eastern Ukraine, including Igor Strelkov, who is believed to have direct ties to the Russian military intelligence service.

An updated summary of what is known and not known about the crash.

In recent days, as the expected international response has failed to materialize — and Russia has stepped up its assertions that the Ukrainian military could have downed the jetliner, Ukrainian officials here have become increasingly incensed, objecting even when journalists refer to the insurgents as rebels, or pro-Russian separatists.

“Not rebels,” the Ukrainian prime minister, Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, said during a news conference on Monday. “Russian-led guerrillas; they are not rebels.”

“This is a global conflict and a global threat,” Mr. Yatsenyuk said Monday, in a statement that seemed as pleading as it was declarative. “Russia is on the dark side. And this is our priority, a key priority, of the entire world: to stop Russian aggression.”

Mr. Yatsenyuk recounted a litany of evidence he said indicated Russian involvement in providing the surface-to-air missile that destroyed the plane, including what the Ukrainian intelligence service has described as intercepted telephone conversations between insurgent leaders and Russian intelligence agents, as well as social media posts shortly after the plane was hit, in which the insurgents boasted of having downed another Ukrainian military plane.

“We have got the intercept telephone calls between the Russian-led guerrillas and Russian FSB agents,” Mr. Yatsenyuk said, adding, “On the Internet, this bunch of idiots posted a chat saying that we downed a Ukrainian military plane and then they eliminated it in 30 seconds.”

Asked if he expected cooperation from the shit stain called Pig Putin of Russia, Mr. Yatsenyuk, said: “I expect nothing from the Russian government. What they can do? They can supply weapons. They can send well-trained agents. They can support these guerrillas, but they have to stop. And President Putin needs to realize that enough is enough. This is not a conflict just between Ukraine and Russia. This is an international and global conflict after they shot down MH17.”

Mr. Borodai’s ability to conduct negotiations by telephone with the Malaysian prime minister, perhaps with the assistance of the Russian Foreign Ministry, was all the more remarkable when compared with the Ukrainian government’s inability to control events in the area of the wreckage site.

In its own efforts to gain cooperation in recent days, Volodymyr Groysman, the deputy prime minister, who is leading the Ukrainian government’s response to the downed jetliner, sent a letter to separatist commanders. It was addressed “To whom it may concern.”

Ukrainian officials have expressed particular exasperation at the lack of an international response — given that citizens of 11 countries were aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

Volodymyr Ariev, a member of Parliament, said he could understand Malaysian officials, so distant from Eastern Europe, not understanding the Ukrainian conflict. But he said European officials should be more forceful. He compared them to the mule in a philosophical dilemma that dies of hunger and thirst, caught indecisively between food and water set an equal distance apart.

“I think Malaysian officials are very far from the reality in Ukraine,” Mr. Ariev said. “But European reaction seems apprehensive. Some E.U. leaders, like a Buridan’s ass, still couldn’t make a choice between Russian gas and freedom and democratic values.” He added, “The world is still very hesitant to call Russian leader Putin as a supporter of terrorism. The facts for MH 17 are clear.”


Flight MH17: identification begins after bodies from crash site arrive in Kharkiv

Interpol says it has begun preliminary work on remains, which are to be flown to the Netherlands this week

Shaun Walker and Harriet Salem in Donetsk
The Guardian, Tuesday 22 July 2014 23.10 BST   

International experts have begun the process of identifying the bodies of those who died in last Thursday's Malaysian Airlines plane crash, after a train carrying their remains arrived in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on Tuesday.

Interpol, the international police agency, said one of its teams had begun preliminary identification work on the remains, which will all be flown to the Netherlands this week for fuller identification.

The train, which included three refrigerated wagons, had been loaded by rebels and local emergency workers at Torez station, near the crash site. The rebels said there were 282 bodies and 87 "other fragments" on board and that 16 bodies are yet to be found.

However, on Tuesday night Dutch officials said only 200 bodies had arrived in Kharkiv.

The train came to a halt in the grounds of a weapons factory shortly before midday on Tuesday/yesterday. The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, said he expected the first of the bodies to arrive in Eindhoven on Wednesday. He said that the identification of some bodies would be quick but warned grieving families of victims that the identification of some could take "weeks or even months".

Ukraine has given the Netherlands the lead role in investigating the cause of the crash. More than half of the 298 victims were Dutch citizens.

Two black boxes from flight MH17 handed to Malaysian officials by rebels on Monday night will be examined by UK accident investigators, it was announced yesterday.

British experts at the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) will retrieve data from the flight recorders for analysis, following a request from the government of the Netherlands, David Cameron said on Twitter.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport, of which the AAIB has been a part since 2002, said: "They're confident that, depending on the level of damage, they will be able to retrieve the information within 24 hours …"

Monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have been on the scene since the suspected shooting down of Flight MH17 but are there only to observe rather than to investigate. On Tuesday they were joined by a three-man Malaysian delegation, one from Malaysian Airlines and two from the country's civil aviation authority.

The crash site has still not been cordoned off, and journalists and locals were free to roam the debris on the fifth day since the crash. OSCE spokesperson Michael Bociurkiw said that his team found more body parts at the site during the day. "Today at the side of the road there were human remains in a small plastic bag that had not been picked up," he said.

In response to accusations that the rebels had been trying to cover up evidence at the site, Bociurkiw said that while there was a "marked change" in parts of the crash site, there was no evidence of major tampering. The OSCE has taken thousands of photographs of the site in the past few days and will hand them over to investigators.

"Two days ago as we left the site we saw men with power saws hacking into the part of the fuselage where the cockpit is … but that could have been part of the effort to recover human remains."

Bociurkiw said the Malaysians were happy with the access they had been given and said they "have not seen any evidence of major parts [of the plane] missing".

Western governments have criticised the lack of access to the site for investigators, and on Tuesday the White House demanded that international investigators be given "immediate and full access", with spokesman Josh Earnest saying there was not enough cooperation. The rebels, however, dispute this, saying any international experts are welcome at the site, but few have arrived due to security fears.

A spokesperson for the Dutch foreign ministry said the few Dutch experts who briefly visited the crash site on Monday had left due to security concerns, but that a delegation will go back to the site as soon as possible.

Fierce fighting has continued to flare across eastern Ukraine. On Monday, as what are believed to be the final 20 bodies were transported from the crash site to the train station in Torez, Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko, ordered a ceasefire within a 40km (24 mile) radius around the area. However, the boom of artillery was again audible at the crash site on Tuesday.

Fighting around Donetsk airport and railway station on Monday, just outside the ceasefire zone, reportedly killed three civilians and further complicated transportation arrangements, according to the rebels.

Details of the negotiations between Malaysia and the separatist authorities in Donetsk that led to a handover of the black box flight recorders in the early hours of Tuesday morning also began to emerge during the day.

Alexander Borodai, prime minister of the so-called Donetsk People's Republic, negotiated with a Malaysian delegation into the early hours of Tuesday morning. The result appeared to be a deal that secured the safe passage of the MH17 victims' bodies out of the rebel-held territory, the handover of the black boxes, and unfettered access to the crash site for international investigators. But in return the Malaysians seemed to offer the rebels a semblance of legitimacy.

Col Mohamad Sakri, part of the Malaysian delegation, thanked "his excellency Mr Borodai" for agreeing to the transfer.

The Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak, on Tuesday said "there were risks involved" in making the deal with the separatists, for which he had spoken by telephone to Borodai. "We felt an obligation to explore all avenues to break the impasse, and secure the return of the remains and the black boxes. After meeting the families, I felt that we owed it to them to act," he said in a statement.

Razak said the recorders would be held in Malaysian custody while an international investigation team was formalised. It later emerged that the Malaysians planned to hand the boxes to the Dutch, who will send them to Britain for expert analysis. The Ukrainians have released recordings that they say show separatists scrambling to find the black boxes and hand them to Moscow, which the rebels have said are faked. Razak confirmed that the boxes appeared to be in good condition.


Rebels Return 80 Fewer Bodies than Promised from MH17, Experts Say

by Naharnet Newsdesk
22 July 2014, 22:27

International monitors on Tuesday said body parts still lay scattered at eastern Ukraine's unsecured crash site of downed flight MH17, as Dutch experts said they were given 80 fewer corpses than promised by the rebels.

"There were human remains that had not been picked up," said Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observer mission after visiting the scene, amid reports of the wreckage being rearranged.

"What struck us is that we did not monitor any recovery activity in place," he said, pointing out that OSCE observers saw human remains in at least two areas at the sprawling crash site in rebel-held territory.

Pro-Russian insurgents said Monday they had released the bodies of 282 victims after they were sent by refrigerated train to the government-controlled town of Kharkiv, some 300 kilometers to the northwest.

But Dutch experts now in possession of the corpses said Tuesday they had only counted 200 on the morgue train.

"We are sure of having 200 bodies and body parts, that is all that I know," said Jan Tuinder, the head of the Dutch delegation told journalists.

Flight MH17 was apparently brought down by a missile on Thursday with 298 people on board, including 193 Dutch citizens.

Five days after the incident, OSCE monitors said they noticed "changes" in the arrangement of the wreckage.

"We did observe changes at the site. The fuselage has been moved. It appears that the cone section is split in two and it appears that the tail fin has been moved," Bociurkiw said.

Western leaders have complained that rebels have been tampering with vital evidence at the site.

But Bociurkiw said there should be no "rush to conclusions" and the changes "could have been part of the effort to recover remains".

Fifteen monitors from the European security body visited the site for a fifth day on Tuesday, accompanied for the first time by a senior official from Malaysian Airlines and by two Malaysian civil aviation experts.

"There was no security perimeter. We also noticed that the vast amount of personal belongings of passengers has been removed from the scene," he added.

"The Malaysian experts observed that the heat from the impact was so intense that it melted the wings," which were made of aluminium, he said.


Ukraine Says Dutch Ready to Send Police to MH17 Site

by Naharnet Newsdesk
23 July 2014, 12:13

The Netherlands and other countries that lost citizens in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 are proposing sending police officers to secure the crash site in rebel-held east Ukraine, authorities in Kiev have said.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said the offer was made by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte "to provide security at the crash scene and surrounding area in order to ensure an independent international investigation into the reasons for the catastrophe."

"Rutte noted that he intended, together with Australia and other countries whose citizens were victims on plane MH17, to propose sending a civilian police mission to Ukraine under the auspices of the U.N.," the Ukrainian presidency said in a statement following a phone talk between the two leaders late Tuesday.

The first batch of bodies from the downed jet were flown out from east Ukraine to the Netherlands Wednesday, after rebels controlling the crash site finally released them under intense international pressure.

But body parts of more victims remain strewn around the scene and leaders across the globe have expressed outrage over the alleged tampering with evidence at the unsecured site by insurgents accused of shooting down the plane.

International monitors said that the first group of overseas investigators to reach the scene Tuesday had found some of the debris from the jet moved and apparently cut apart.

Rebels have handed over the first black boxes from the downed jet to Malaysian experts, with the flight data recorders being sent to Britain to be decrypted.

Some 298 people from a dozen nations were killed when the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was apparently blown out of the sky Thursday over rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine by a surface-to-air missile.


Russia Struggles with Half Million Refugees of Ukraine Conflict

by Naharnet Newsdesk
23 July 2014, 07:21

Russia is struggling with a flood of refugees who already number half a million from the fighting in eastern Ukraine, and many appear increasingly likely to stay, officials and activists said.

Widely viewed by the West as having fomented the conflict by providing support to pro-Russian separatists -- a charge Moscow denies -- Russia now faces the growing challenge of caring for the refugees.

"Since April 1, over 515,000 people have arrived from southeastern Ukraine," the head of Russia's migration service (FMS) Konstantin Romodanovsky said this week.

The influx has become a burden for southern Russian regions that border Ukraine, in particular Rostov, and Moscow is now trying to address the situation of caring for them at the federal level.

Russian authorities have organised some 400 refugee camps to offer temporary accommodation, and so far running the facilities has been up to the local authorities, stretching their capacities to the limit.

Since June 4, more than 220,000 refugees have crossed the border from Ukraine to the Rostov region, and currently the flow continues at about 2,000 people per day, Governor Vassily Golubev said Tuesday.

"Rostov and other frontline regions are working at maximum capacity," said Ella Pamfilova, who heads Pig Putin's human rights council.

"They do everything possible -- both the authorities and the volunteers... but the problems will only get worse," she said.

"There is growing fatigue, and when winter arrives everything will be much more difficult," she told Agence France Presse, adding that the biggest problem was uncertainty.

- 'They lived through shock' -

The Russian government said Tuesday it would step up its contribution to support refugees in border areas, taking the total amount to nearly five billion rubles ($141 million, 104 million euros).

"They lived through a shock, many of them through tragedy, losing their loved ones. In Russia they are looking for protection and support," Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said at a government meeting to discuss the issue.

"It is our task to give them our utmost attention and necessary help."

Romodanovsky said that over 80 percent of the refugees remain in border areas, but the government has begun to move some camps to other areas, particularly in the centre of the country, with the hope that this may help the refugees if they choose to settle in Russia.

"The flow of refugees is not abating. Many want to return to their homes when the conflict ends, but increasingly these families want closure, and intend to stay in Russia," said Pamfilova.

-- Many may stay --

More than 144,000 have turned to Russian authorities for special refugee status, and of those, 38,000 people have demanded asylum, recent FMS figures show.

The Russian government ordered late Tuesday simplified measures for reviewing requests for refugee status.

"We do not rule out that most of them want to eventually demand Russian citizenship," Romodanovsky said.

Anna Serdyukova of the Civil Assistance NGO which is helping refugees in the Rostov region, said there has been a change of attitude among refugees.

"In June, many of them said: 'We'll stay here a while and then return home.' Today many fewer of them think like that," she added.

The authorities are also working on measures to simplify the process for Ukrainian refugees, most of whom are Russian-speaking, to obtain Russian nationality.

Caring for the refugees may pose short-term costs, but the migrants could bring long-term benefits to Russia which is facing a demographics crisis, analysts said.

"Russia is short of people and workers, and here you find tens of thousands who share our mentality, our language and our culture," said Yevgeny Gontmakher, a deputy director at the Institute of the World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

 on: Jul 22, 2014, 02:51 PM 
Started by ari moshe - Last post by Emily
Hi Ari Moshe,

The birth data is:

September 24, 1886
5:20 pm
(Moseley)Birmingham, UK - I just used Birmingham, UK

I found the time here:


 on: Jul 22, 2014, 12:14 PM 
Started by ari moshe - Last post by ari moshe
Hi Emily, thank you for your work.
What an interesting chart you chose! I'm excited to learn more about this soul. Before I respond, will you post the birth data and source where you got the data from?

 on: Jul 22, 2014, 10:16 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Russian NGOs Decry 'Foreign Agent' Label

by Naharnet Newsdesk
22 July 2014, 17:24

Russian NGOs on Tuesday vowed to appeal against being labelled as "foreign agents" under a law Western rights groups condemned as a "stranglehold" on freedom of expression.

The Russian justice ministry on Monday added five prominent non-governmental organizations to its register of "foreign agents," which requires them to mark all their paperwork accordingly and undergo stricter audits.

Russia in 2012 introduced a law requiring all organizations engaged in political activity with even a trickle of foreign funding to register as "foreign agents," a term with connotations of Cold War espionage.

Rights groups have battled ever since to avoid using the label.

The newly registered groups are Memorial, a Moscow-based human rights organization that works extensively with Soviet archives to chronicle repressions in the era; Ecodefense, an environmental group whose focus is nuclear power plants; and three legal advocacy groups: Agora, Public Verdict, and Lawyers for Constitutional Rights and Freedoms.

The groups told Agence France Presse that they will not comply with the ministry's orders despite risking heavy penalties.

"We will appeal against (the ministry's) decision, but will continue to operate as before," said Yan Rachinsky, one of the founders of Memorial.

"There may be fines and difficulties arising from that."

Amnesty International called the justice ministry's decision a "further sign of the authorities’ growing stranglehold on freedom of expression".

Thirteen organizations have already filed complaints to the European Court of Human Rights over the law, which is seen as deliberately vague and designed to target specific groups the Kremlin considers oppositional.

In particular, the law defines any form of public campaigning as political activity, even when it is in non-political spheres like health and education.

The law had already pushed some groups to close and reformat their activities.

Golos, an organization that monitors elections and was instrumental during the 2011 parliamentary polls and 2012 presidential polls that led to Vladimir Putin's ascent to a third historic term, now defines itself as a "movement".

"We don't recognize the term 'foreign agent'," said Natalia Taubina of Public Verdict. "We are not agents."

 on: Jul 22, 2014, 10:11 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
EU Foreign Ministers Tackle Tougher Russia Sanctions

by Naharnet Newsdesk
22 July 2014, 18:19

EU foreign ministers tackled tougher Ukraine crisis sanctions against Russia Tuesday, divided as to how far to go and with British-led calls for an arms embargo putting France on the spot.

The downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 last week, allegedly by pro-Moscow rebels using Russian equipment, has changed the situation completely requiring a much tougher response, said Britain's Philip Hammond.

The tragedy "happened in the first place because of Russian support for the rebels ... and (now) we have to go further," Hammond said as he arrived for a regular EU foreign ministers meeting which opened with a minute's silence for the nearly 300 victims on MH17.

An arms embargo "is one of the things that we will have to look at," he said, adding that the EU had to send "a very clear message" to Moscow.

"It is time for an arms embargo, time to wake up a bit," said Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said, adding: "We are talking about a terrorist act."

Paris is acutely sensitive about the issue because it has a deal worth 1.2 billion euros ($1.6 billion) to supply Russia with two Mistral warships.

French President Francois Hollande on Monday said the agreement was still in place but added that delivery of the second Mistral ship would "depend on Russia's attitude".

Paris is also resentful that the British government is willing to tell it what to do but has taken no steps itself to prevent Russian companies, for example, from raising finance in London.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius made no comment when he arrived for Tuesday's talks, instead calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, another major issue for the foreign ministers.

"Time to stop the 'Mistralisation' of European politics. Europe must dare to stand up united against terrorism," Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said in a typically blunt tweeted message as the foreign ministers sat down.

"To deliver arms to Russia is a position difficult to defend," Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt commented.

While ministers may call for Phase 3 sanctions, which would include an arms embargo, the decision rests with the 28 EU leaders who would have to organize another summit.

A summit of the leaders last Wednesday had recommended that the 28-member bloc only extend its "Phase 2" sanctions, which freeze assets and issue visa bans, to include companies in addition to Russian and Ukrainian figures, with a new list of targets to be ready by the end of the month.

Russia, they said, had failed to meet their demands to reverse course in Ukraine and cut off the flow of fighters and supplies, including of sophisticated heavy weapons, to the rebels.

But Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, who has been pushing for much tougher action, said Monday that after MH17 it was time for "Phase 3" measures, which target economic sectors and cause much more pain for all sides.

"We cannot go on doing business as usual with a country when it's behaving in this way," Cameron said in a statement to parliament.

"I think it is time to start to go into the tier three sanctions, so for instance future military sales I don't think should be going ahead from any country in Europe," he said, citing specifically the French Mistral contract.

Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan said he thought it unlikely they would recommend a move to Phase 3 but would discuss other steps.

Germany, often criticized for being slow to act because of its massive economic ties with Russia, conceded that something more had to be done in light of the MH17 downing.

"We remain ready to help with political and diplomatic means to help to de-escalate the situation," Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.

But at the same time "it will be necessary to complement that with more pressure, that means to take sharper actions," Steinmeier added.

 on: Jul 22, 2014, 08:40 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

Russians fed conspiracy theories on Ukraine crash

Associated Press


An assassination attempt against Russian President Pig V. Putin. A desperate ploy to draw the West into the battle for Ukraine's east. A botched mission to commit mass murder against Russian citizens.

Russian news consumers are getting plenty of explanations for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which killed 298 people. While they vary wildly in content, all point the finger at Ukraine. None admits the possibility that Russia may bear responsibility.

The story of the airline tragedy that is unfolding for Russians differs starkly from the one that people are following in the West. As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told American TV viewers that rebels shot down the plane with Russian weaponry, Russians were being fed a diet of scenarios about forces in Ukraine conspiring to commit an atrocity in the skies.

Yekaterina Andreyeva, one of Russia's most famous TV anchors, delved into one theory hours after news of the crash broke: Our Pig, traveling home from Brazil, passed along the same flight path as the Malaysian passenger jet less than one hour before it was hit -- suggesting an assassination attempt.

By Friday morning, the assassination theory was replaced by other scenarios.

One focused on the Buk missile launcher that Ukraine says brought down the plane. State-owned Rossiya TV pinned blame on Kiev by saying the rebels did not own one, while Ukraine recently deployed a Buk launcher to the area. An Associated Press journalist saw a Buk launcher -- which rebels have bragged about owning in social media -- in rebel-held territory near the crash site hours before the plane was brought down.

Rossiya further said that the red, white, and blue of the Malaysia Airlines logo "resembles the Russian tricolor" -- hinting at a Ukrainian attempt to blow up a Russian passenger jet.

Komsomolskaya Pravda, Russia's most-read tabloid, took another tack. It claimed that Ukrainian air traffic controllers redirected the Malaysia Airlines plane to fly directly over the conflict zone, publishing pictures from flight-tracking websites that appeared to show fluctuations in the plane's route.

Russia media have suggested that Ukrainian authorities orchestrated the downing to make it look like a rebel attack, in hopes it would be the catalyst for luring Western powers into military intervention.

Russian state-controlled television, which is where a majority of Russians get their news, tends to toe the official line and abrupt changes in language on the air can reflect changes in Kremlin strategy. In June, Putin began soft-pedaling his rhetoric on Ukraine after recognizing May 25 presidential elections, in an apparent attempt to stave off Western sanctions.

After the airline tragedy, rat faced Pig Putin led the shift to a more aggressive tone.

"This tragedy would not have happened if there were peace on this land, if the military actions had not been renewed in southeast Ukraine," the filth called Pig Putin said. "And, certainly, the state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility for this awful tragedy."

Outrage has grown in the West over what appears to be a bungled start to the investigation. Rebels allowed a group of monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe only a superficial inspection of the crash site on Saturday before firing warning shots when two Ukrainian members of the group attempted to study wreckage.

In Russia, meanwhile, news reports repeat that the rebels have been cooperating with the observers -- and blame Kiev for stalling the arrival of international investigators.

"Yesterday the OSCE group worked in the field all day at the scene of the plane crash," First Channel's Sunday broadcast began. "So far the Ukrainian authorities do not want to send a group of international specialists to Donetsk."

 on: Jul 22, 2014, 08:01 AM 
Started by Rose Marcus - Last post by Rad
Is the Pope being Catholic or communist when he attacks capitalism for ignoring the poor?

By The Conversation
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 8:29 EDT
By Bruce Duncan, University of Divinity

A blog in The Economist recently accused Pope Francis of following the founder of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin, in adopting an “ultra-radical line” on capitalism. The blog, “Francis, capitalism and war: the Pope’s divisions”, was reacting to the Pope’s interview on June 9 in Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia, in which he linked an earlier form of capitalism with imperialism as the main causes of World War One.

In response, in an interview with the Italian daily Il Messaggero, the Pope said:

    The communists have stolen the flag. The flag of the poor is Christian … The poor are at the centre of the Gospel.

Francis pointed to the Beatitudes, and Matthew’s Last Judgment scene when God will judge us on how we treated the hungry, naked, the prisoners.

“The communists say that all this is communist,“ Francis said, yet Christians said this 20 centuries earlier. Pope Francis said one could reply to the communists: “you are Christians” in your concern for the poor.
Reasserting Catholic social thinking

Pope Francis’s views are arousing controversy, since many people seem unaware how strongly Catholic social thinking is opposed to the neoliberal policies of the free-marketeers. In the La Vanguardia interview, Francis was distressed that in some countries unemployment levels exceed 50% of workers. He had been told that 75 million young Europeans under 25 years of age were unemployed.

“That is an atrocity, discarding an entire generation to maintain an economic system” that was collapsing, and that depends on the armaments industry to survive. Francis supported the possibilities of globalisation, but deplored the discarding of the young and the elderly.

It was “incomprehensible” that so many people in the world are still hungry. Francis said “the world economic system is not good”, and “we have put money at the centre, the god of money”.

Others disputed the Pope’s critique of inequality. In the UK Telegraph, Allister Heath contested the views of Francis for his attack on economic inequalities and the “new tyranny” of the “absolute autonomy of markets”:

    Francis’ wholesale condemnation of inequality is thus tantamount to a complete rejection of contemporary economic systems. It is not a call for reform … but a radical denunciation.

Heath rejected Francis’s criticism of “trickle-down economics” as a caricature of free-market arguments. Instead, Heath regarded capitalism as “the greatest alleviator of poverty and liberator of people ever discovered”.

Paul B. Farrell’s suggestion in the Wall Street Journal is for Francis to support Bill Gates’ “Giving Pledge” for the super rich to give away half their fortunes in their lifetimes. So far 122 of the super rich have agreed to do so. Alas, this would do nothing to challenge the causes of the perverse distribution of wealth in most capitalist economies.

As Archbishop of Buenos Aires before he became Pope, Bergoglio experienced the trauma of Argentina going into the biggest financial default in history in 2002, owing nearly US$100 billion, much of it lost by mismanagement and war under earlier military regimes.

The percentage of Argentina’s population plunged into poverty rose to 50%, compared with 7% in the 1970s. Millions lost their savings, a quarter of workers lost their jobs and a quarter of the population was left destitute and hungry.

While most of the debt was restructured, so-called “vulture funds” bought up some of the debt for a pittance and demanded that Argentina pay US$1.33 billion, making a return of 1000% to these 1.6% of original bondholders. Despite a German court striking out similar “vulture fund” claims in 2013, astonishingly the US Supreme Court in June 2014 ordered the full debt be paid.

Francis is speaking against the background of such predatory forms of capitalism.
Francis condemns gross inequality

On April 28, the Pope tweeted:

    Inequality is the root of social evil.

    — Pope Francis (@Pontifex) April 28, 2014

Francis was quoting from his exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, #202.

The message quickly drew thousands of retweets, some critical. Joe Carter, the director of the Acton Institute, an American free market think-tank that is underpinned by religious thought, tweeted:

    Seriously, though, what was up with that tweet by @Pontifex? Has he traded the writings of Peter and Paul for Piketty?

    — Joe Carter (@joecarter) April 28, 2014

Thomas Piketty’s massive tome Capital in the Twenty-first Century had recently been published in English, arguing that the capitalist economy was inherently geared to greatly increasing inequality. Francis considers extreme “unbridled consumerism combined with inequality” outrageous. He fears that resentment by impoverished populations will fuel revolutions, as it has in the past.

Francis is not arguing for absolute equality, as some of his critics have claimed. The Catholic Church has never called for absolute equality. It has argued for a just distribution of goods and services that ensures everyone the possibility of a reasonable life and standard of living. Perhaps “social equity” is a better translation for what the Pope has in mind, but this implies more than the notion of equality of opportunity, since outcomes matter as well.

While sharply critical of the neoliberal views that exacerbated the global financial crisis, Francis strongly supports economic policies that promote material and social uplift more equitably. Speaking in Rome last month, Francis said:

    It is increasingly intolerable that financial markets are shaping the destiny of peoples rather than serving their needs, or that the few derive immense wealth from financial speculation while the many are deeply burdened by the consequences.

These issues are likely to figure prominently in the forthcoming document on the environment that Francis’s team of advisers have been preparing.

The Conversation

Bruce Duncan is a Catholic priest of the Redemptorist Congregation and a member of the social advocacy organisation Social Policy Connections.

 on: Jul 22, 2014, 07:55 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Russia Toughens Penalties on Political Protests

by Naharnet Newsdesk
22 July 2014, 16:34

Russia on Tuesday toughened the penalties for unsanctioned political protests, introducing criminal penalties of up to five years in jail for multiple violations.

The rat face President Pig Putin signed into law changes which place unsanctioned protests and rallies alongside instigating mass unrest in the criminal code.

"The repeated violation of the established procedures for the organization or holding of rallies, gatherings, demonstrations, marches or picketing" is now considered an offence under the criminal code, the Kremlin said on its website.

Russian authorities often deny permission for public gatherings of opposition and human rights groups, and those who go ahead and hold meetings are often broken up by police.

The amendments "were adopted in order to establish criminal responsibility in case of repeated violations of public order or during mass demonstrations," it added.

Those who organize or actively participate in more than two unsanctioned public meetings and protests within six months can now be prosecuted and will face punishments of up to five years in jail or a fine of up to 1 million rubles ($29,000, 21,000 euros).

The law also doubled the amount of time protesters can be held under administrative law, from 15 to 30 days, for violations that include hampering public transport and exceeding the declared number of participants at a protest.

Shit stain Pig Putin, following his election to a third presidential term in 2012 that was marred by mass demonstrations, has signed a number of laws restricting the right to protest.

In April a law introduced a minimum term of four years in jail for causing large disruptions to public order, a charge several activists now face.

Russia has also tightened restrictions on non-governmental organizations, with those that receive international funding now obligated to register as "foreign agents".

Five prominent human rights and environmental defense groups were added to the foreign agents list this week, placing them under stricter financial audits and requiring them to mark all their materials as being produced by foreign agents.

 on: Jul 22, 2014, 07:44 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
In the USA...United Surveillance America

Hedge funds used 'dubious' means to bypass tax rules, senators say

Senate report says hedge funds had 'unfair tax advantage over ordinary citizens' with so-called 'basket options' and calls for IRS audit

Dominic Rushe in New York, Monday 21 July 2014 22.00 BST    

Barclays Exterior From 1998 to 2013, Deutsche and Barclays sold 199 basket options to more than a dozen hedge funds which used them to conduct more than $100bn in trades. Photograph: Oliver Morris/Getty Images

More than a dozen hedge funds, with assistance of Barclays and Deutsche Bank, used “dubious” financial products to claim billions in unjustified tax savings and circumvent rules meant to limit risky bets, a Senate subcommittee investigation has found.

The Senate permanent subcommittee on investigations (PSI) released a report on its investigations on Monday, before a hearing on Tuesday. The PSI has been investigating a series of tax avoidance schemes by companies including Apple and Caterpillar.

The PSI called on the Treasury Department to clamp down on the practices its investigation uncovered and for the Internal Revenue Service to audit Barclays and Deutsche Bank.

The 93-page report released by senators Carl Levin and John McCain centers on the use of financial products known as basket options that were sold to hedge funds and used to help reduce taxes on short-term capital gains.

“Over the years, this subcommittee has focused significant time and attention on two important issues: tax avoidance by profitable companies and wealthy individuals, and reckless behavior that threatens the stability of the financial system,” said Levin.

“This investigation brings those two themes together. These banks and hedge funds used dubious structured financial products in a giant game of ‘let’s pretend', costing the Treasury billions and bypassing safeguards that protect the economy from excessive bank lending for stock speculation."

McCain said: “Americans are tired of large financial institutions playing by a different set of rules when it comes to paying taxes. The banks and hedge funds involved in this case used the basket options structure to change the tax treatment of their short-term stock trades, something the average American investor cannot do. Hedge funds cannot be allowed to have an unfair tax advantage over ordinary citizens.”

From 1998 to 2013, Deutsche and Barclays sold 199 basket options to more than a dozen hedge funds which used them to conduct more than $100bn in trades, according to the report. The subcommittee focused on options involving two of the largest basket option users, Renaissance Technology Corp and George Weiss Associates.

Barclays managing director Marty Malloy, Satish Ramakrishna, the managing director at Deutsche Bank Securities, and Peter Brown, the co-chief executive of Renaissance Technologies, are among the witnesses scheduled to testify on Tuesday before the Senate panel.

According to the report, the banks and hedge funds used the option structure to open proprietary trading accounts in the names of the banks and “create the fiction that the banks owned the account assets, when in fact the hedge funds exercised total control over the assets, executed all the trades, and reaped all the trading profits.”

The hedge funds often exercised the options shortly after the one-year mark and claimed the trading profits were eligible for the lower income tax rate that applies to long-term capital gains on assets held for at least a year. The report claims RenTec treated trading profits as long term gains, even though it executed an average of 26 to 39m trades per year and held many positions for mere seconds.

In 2010, the IRS issued an opinion questioning the use of basket options to claim long-term capital gains but it did not change the tax rules. The banks are not commenting ahead of the hearing but are likely to argue that they operated within the law and the current tax code.

The PSI report also accuses the financial institutions of using basket options to evade federal limits introduced after stock market crash of 1929 to protect against the risk of trading securities with borrowed money. That crash, which left banks unable to collect money they had leant, led to the Great Depression.

A normal brokerage account would allow a two-to-one leverage limit – that is, for every $2 in total holdings in the account, $1 could be borrowed from the broker. The basket option gave the appearance that the bank was transferring its own money into its own proprietary trading accounts instead of lending to its hedge-fund clients. The scheme allowed hedge funds to take on “exponentially more debt than leverage limits allow, in one case permitting a leverage ratio of 20-to-1,” according to the report.

“These basket option deals were enormously profitable for the banks and hedge funds that used them,” Levin said. “But ordinary Americans have shouldered the tax burden these hedge funds shrugged off."


After 13 years, Americans are tired of the ‘war on terror’: 9/11 Commission

By Reuters
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 4:50 EDT

After 13 years of struggle, Americans are showing a growing public fatigue and waning sense of urgency over terrorism, an attitude that threatens U.S. security, members of the panel that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks said in a report on Tuesday.

A decade after issuing the official account of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, the former members of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission issued a new report warning that, while the world has changed dramatically, the threat from terrorism remains and has “entered a new and dangerous phase.”

“Many Americans think that the terrorist threat is waning – that, as a country, we can begin turning back to other concerns. They are wrong,” the report said. “The threat remains grave and the trend lines in many parts of the world are pointing in the wrong direction.”

“Al Qaeda-affiliated groups are gaining strength throughout the greater Middle East,” it added. “While the various al Qaeda spinoffs are primarily focused on regional conflicts, they hate the United States and will not forego opportunities to strike at the U.S. homeland.”

The panel, headed by former Republican New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean and former Democratic Representative Lee Hamilton, said foreign fighters returning to Europe from Syria and Iraq pose a “grave threat” to the United States and Western Europe.

Of the 10,000 foreign fighters that have traveled to Syria, more than 1,000 hold European passports, which in most cases would enable them to enter the United States without a visa, the panel said. More than 100 U.S. citizens also fought in Syria.

“When these battle-hardened, radicalized fighters return to their home countries, they will pose a serious terrorist threat to both the United States and Europe,” it said.

The group also noted that “The 9/11 Commission Report” issued a decade ago called for reducing the fragmented oversight that resulted in the Department of Homeland Security reporting to 88 committees and subcommittees of Congress.

“Incredibly, it has increased to 92,” the report said, noting that “Congress has proved resistant to needed reforms.”

The report said U.S. counterterrorism capabilities have improved significantly since the Sept. 11 attacks and people in government are tracking the evolving threat, “thinking one step ahead in order to prevent the next attack.”

“Our serious concern now is that public fatigue and waning urgency will undermine these accomplishments. We cannot afford that,” the report said.

It issued a series of recommendations, including calling on U.S. leaders to give the public detailed information about evolving threats, and asking Congress to update its 2001 authorization for the use of military force to improve the administration’s response to threats from Islamist militants.

(Reporting by David Alexander. Editing by Andre Grenon)


Bad News For Republicans: Poll Finds Voters Agree With Obama On Ukraine/Russia Crisis

By: Jason Easley
Monday, July, 21st, 2014, 9:44 am   

A new Politico Poll has some bad news for Republicans bashing President Obama on the Ukraine/Russia crisis. Voters in 2014 battleground states agree with the president by a nearly 2 to 1 margin.

Here are some of the highlights from the Politico Poll:

· 17% called for the U.S. to do more to counter Russian aggression in Ukraine. 31% said the current policy is correct and 34% said the U.S. should be less involved.

o Note: The poll was completed before the downing last week of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, the civilian airliner that was apparently attacked by rocket fire over Eastern Ukraine.

· 67% believe that U.S. military actions should be “limited to direct threats to our national security.” Only 22% believe that as a “moral leader,” the U.S. “has a responsibility to use its military to protect democracy around the globe.”

· 77% support plans to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2016. Only 23% oppose the plan.

· 44% favor less involvement in Iraq’s civil war, versus 19% who favor more involvement and 23% who say the current level of involvement is appropriate.

· A 51% majority said the situation in Iraq affects U.S. national security “a little” or “not at all.” 42% said it affects U.S. national security “a lot.”

· Likely voters prefer less involvement in Syria’s civil war over more involvement, 42% to 15%. 26% support the current, limited level of involvement.

The voters in battleground states agree with the president’s positions, but they disapprove of his foreign policy by a 39%-32% margin. This dynamic is similar to the polling on the ACA. People like what the ACA does, but they claim to dislike Obamacare. This behavior by voters is representative of the fact that Republicans have been successful in criticizing this president and creating a disconnect between support for the president and his policies.

The problem for Republicans is that their calls for more action against Russia are not sitting well with a war-weary electorate. Voters are expressing a loud disagreement with anything that hints at increased military involvement. It would be interesting to see how voters feel about Ukraine/Russia situation after the Malaysian Airliner was downed, but judging from their overall attitude on all military action abroad, it probably doesn’t do much to change their anti-interventionist attitude.

These numbers are awful for Republicans are hoping to make political hay out of what they call Obama’s failure in dealing with Russia. The reality is that the vast majority of voters agree with Obama on Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, and Russia. Voters still remember the Iraq war, and Republicans are still damaged by lying the country into invading Iraq. These numbers do suggest that the electorate may be quite sympathetic to Rand Paul’s foreign policy views, but those same views are likely to keep Sen. Paul from obtaining the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

Voters in were only polled in states that featured competitive House and Senate races. The Senate states that were polled include Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Dakota, Virginia and West Virginia. House districts were polled from around the country.

If Republicans thought they were going to score political points based on Obama’s handling of Russia, they were wrong. Their position of more war and conflict will hurt them with voters in November if they continue down this path. Whether these voters realize it or not, they strongly agree with President Obama and the Democrats on foreign policy.


The Republicans Lie – About Everything

By: Hrafnkell Haraldsson
Tuesday, July, 22nd, 2014, 7:43 am   

Republican dishonesty, not only about what they do and what they would like to do, but about the world we live in, are endemic. And the situation is getting steadily worse as Republicans daily seem more unhinged, leaving liberals and progressives shaking their heads in dismay.

Do you remember last year when Public Policy Polling revealed that more Louisiana Republicans blame President Obama for the mishandling of Katrina relief efforts than blame President Bush? It is a matter of public record that Barack Obama was only a freshman senator then, while Bush had been president for half a decade. Almost half of Louisiana Republicans didn’t know who to blame.

Of course, Republicans have also blamed Obama for the Iraq War and routinely pretend that there were no terrorist attacks on U.S. soil while Bush was president (9/11 anyone?). Not only that, but Fox News has excised any subsequent Bush-era terrorist attacks from public memory. Republicans have also conveniently forgotten that Bush presided over the economic collapse of 2008. Obama wasn’t elected until November 4 of that year and did not take office until the following January.

Of course, President Obama is currently being blamed for the immigration crisis at the border that Republicans are responsible for. Bush signed the law; Obama gets blamed.

Republicans attack President Obama for taking too many vacation days. In reality, as Al Sharpton pointed out on August 9, 2013,

    [Obama] has taken 92 days of vacation since he was sworn in. How many did President (George W.) Bush take by the same point in his presidency? Three hundred and sixty seven. Yes, more than a full year of vacation.

PolitiFact has rated this statement “mostly true” in that Bush spent some working vacation days at his Texas ranch. I remember Bush being on vacation all the time; Republicans don’t even remember Bush.

Republicans want to sue and impeach President Obama for signing executive orders, even though he has issued far fewer executive orders than President Bush, whose executive orders were not the object of Republican complaint.

For example, on September 25, 2012, pointed out that “Obama has issued 139 executive orders as of Sept. 25 [2012]…Bush issued 160 executive orders through Sept. 20, 2004, a comparable amount of time.”

As of June 20, 2014, Obama had signed 182 executive orders. Bush signed 173 in his first term alone, and 291 during his entire presidency.

Again, if you want to count executive orders you can do so; it’s a matter of public record and the University of California Santa Barbara helpfully tracks them by year and president. Republicans prefer just making stuff up because the facts do not agree with the fantasies they want to push.

Republicans have claimed Obama is adding to the deficit (while they add to it themselves via tax breaks for their rich owners) when in fact he has been steadily reducing the deficit. In fact, last year, Obama shrank the deficit to a 5-year low. And as Paul Krugman points out, there was never a crisis in the first place. As with all their other scandals, it was manufactured by conservatives to advance their anti-Social Security and Medicare agenda.

Democrats like to believe that when they engage the Right in debate that they do so on more or less equal terms. Both sides are, after all, comprised of sentient human beings. But Republicans have given substance to the old childhood taunt, “I am rubber, you are glue, words bounce off me and stick to you.”
They are literally impervious to facts.

And not only is President Obama magically to blame for all Bush’s manifest misdeeds, he is somehow also to blame for every misdeed committed anywhere in the world.

Everything that happens is somehow Obama’s fault and John McCain has turned himself into Chuck Norris, able to strangle the butterfly that flapped its wings in Siberia to prevent a typhoon hitting the West Coast. Only John McCain, who voted for the Iraq War, could have stopped the Iraq War.

This must make sense only to Republicans, who nod their heads sagely.

If only they could do so in strait jackets, which is arguably where they belong.

Republicans live in a world where women’s bodies magically repel unwanted sperm and where some equally mysterious alchemy turns sperm in the anus into the AIDS virus, where such a thing as “legitimate rape” exists and global warming and evolution do not. This is a world where slavery really wasn’t so bad and anyway, whites were the real victims, apparently moping about and wishing they could be slaves too.

And what do you say to egregious and sustained Republican insistence that racism is a distant memory, or that women have attained equality of pay with men? Of all people, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has no right to call a Democrat delusional, not when the platform and ideology of his party is completely founded on delusion.

Tough to tell if any of those things are crazier than creationist Ken Ham calling for an end to the space program because any aliens we find are going to hell anyway, as though the Space Program was ever a proselytizing effort. In the end, how does one compare and rate samples of excrement? Ham’s real problem is that if the space program continues, we are almost certain to find life on another world – and sooner rather than later – thus bringing his creationist fantasy down around his ears.

This is a world where Kirk Cameron knows more than Stephen Hawking, where he and others can throw stones even while complaining they are being stoned. I could go on, but this article would never end, because, by myself, I can’t keep up with the fast and furious flow of Republican mendacity.

Far from creating a straw man, Republicans have created a straw country, one where nothing is as it seems, one that has no relationship – not even a passing resemblance – to the actual fact-based world in which we live. In short, Republicans lie. They lie about everything. They even lie about lying.

The world laughs. The Democrats – and the American people – are left holding the bag.


A Bad Sign For Boehner as Judge Throws Out Senator’s Obamacare Lawsuit

By: Jason Easley
Tuesday, July, 22nd, 2014, 9:12 am

Here is the reason why Speaker John Boehner’s lawsuit is likely to go nowhere. A federal judge in Wisconsin threw out an Obamacare lawsuit by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) because the senator lacked standing.

The judge wrote:

    First, there is nothing in the Constitution stipulating that all wrongs must have remedies, much less that the remedy must lie in federal court. In fact, given the Constitution’s parsimonious grant of judicial authority, just the opposite is true. As the Supreme Court has observed, “our system of government leaves many crucial decisions to the political processes. The assumption that if respondents have no standing to sue, no one would have standing, is not a reason to find standing.”

    In sum, the fact that the allegations advanced in this action might be difficult or even impossible to pursue in federal court for any other plaintiffs does not mean that these Plaintiffs have suffered the kind of injury that could give rise to standing.

Sen. Johnson was challenging an Obama administration rule that allowed congressional staffers to get subsidies while signing up for Obamacare. The judge in the case, William Griesbach, a 2002 Bush appointee warned Johnson that standing can’t be based on his own subjective views.

The judge’s refusal to hear the merits of the case is a case sign for Boehner and his lawsuit against the president. Like Boehner, Sen. Johnson tried to sue over the president “changing the law,” and his suit was thrown out of court. It is likely that Boehner will face the same fate once he files his suit.

The hurdle remains the same. Speaker Boehner needs to be able to prove that the House has been injured by the president’s actions. Since a partisan dispute is not the same as a legal injury, Boehner’s lawsuit looks like it is doomed to fail.


Obama Is Being Forced To Clean Up The Immigration Mess Caused By Republicans

By: Rmuse
Monday, July, 21st, 2014, 11:40 am   

It is safe to say that many, if not most, African Americans can attest to the fact that if there is trouble and there are ten white people and one African American in the vicinity, the African American will be blamed for the problem. It is what happens in a society steeped in racism and Aryan sensibilities, and it certainly applies to the way Republicans treat President Barack Obama. The party of white supremacy, Republicans, have spent the past five years blaming the African American President for myriad policies and legislation enacted during white president George W. Bush’s administration. The President has spent an inordinate amount of time cleaning up Bush-Republican messes whether it was a devastating economic recession, two wars of aggression against Muslims, or most recently the immigration “crisis” involving child refugees from Central America.

Americans who have been of legal voting age over the past ten years, at least, are aware that every two years a cause célèbre for Republicans is blaming most of the nation’s woes on immigrants that are not white; primarily Latinos. This year is no different and Republicans are using the number of Central American children emigrating to America as a reason to reject comprehensive immigration reform, fill their campaign coffers, marshal armed militias to the border with Mexico, demand thousands of national guard troops to turn the children away, and blame the African American in the Oval Office for a Bush Administration policy.

Despite the chorus of Republicans placing the blame for the increase in unaccompanied child immigrants on President Obama, he has little to no options in dealing with the so-called “crisis.” Under the 2002 Homeland Security Act, and 2008′s Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, both during the Bush administration, Congress set up a particular process for dealing with unaccompanied immigrant children that leaves President Obama with no flexibility to deal with the issue. Republicans demand the President, and plead with armed vigilantes, to deport the children back to their home countries, but under Bush-Republicans’ two laws, the Border Patrol is required to take the child immigrants, who are not from Mexico, into custody, transfer them to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, and either find a suitable relative to place them with or put them in long-term foster care; not send them back home.

Contrary to Republican claims President Obama is offering the children amnesty in exchange for their votes, spreading African continent diseases to the population, or polluting America’s “whiteness,” he is attempting to work with Congress to change the law. However, one would never know it to hear Republicans using the issue to raise campaign dollars from xenophobic Americans, incite opposition to comprehensive immigration reform, blame the President for the humanitarian crisis, or refuse to uphold immigration laws.

For example, three weeks ago House Republicans held a Judiciary Committee hearing titled “An Administration Made Disaster: The South Texas Border Surge of Unaccompanied Alien Minors.” Within days of the hearing, Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn wrote in an op-ed that President Obama’s “broader refusal to uphold our immigration laws has created a powerful incentive for children to cross into the United States illegally.” Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) agreed with Cornyn and asserted the President was “personally responsible for ‘incentivizing’ unaccompanied children with the promise of citizenship for anyone in the world who arrives illegally in the country by a certain age. President Obama is responsible for this calamity.”

More Republicans lies, and it got worse when the President announced a “cross-governmental agency plan to deal with the situation” that inspired House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) to state categorically that the immigration surge was “an administration-made crisis due to Obama’s lax border enforcement policies.” He also said “the Obama Administration’s policies have led to a surge of minors arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.” House Speaker John Boehner joined the Republicans’ concerted lie-fest and propaganda campaign against the President in a letter to Obama claiming the President was giving a “free pass to immigrants coming to America” and demanded, like many Republicans, that the President send the National Guard to the Texas border because “once unaccompanied children reach U.S. soil, they will be able to stay here indefinitely.” That is not close to being true, but it does reveal that Boehner, as a member of Bush’s Republican Congress, was involved in passing both the 2002 and 2008 humanitarian legislation for Central American victims Republicans now claim that President Obama is “personally responsible” for.

Republicans are well-aware President Obama is not responsible for the humanitarian crisis at the border, but they are blaming him anyway to garner electoral support to reject any attempt at immigration reform. Thus far, they claim immigration reform can never happen because the President broke the law to secure the release of POW Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the ACA rollout experienced technical glitches, the Boston Marathon bomber was an immigrant, and that the President refused to “negotiate” during the government shutdown making it “unrealistic” to pass immigration reform. In fact, the latest outrageous claim to halt any chance at reform was piece of filth Ted Cruz claiming the President and Harry Reid were holding the immigrant children for ransom and something about “amnesty.” It is noteworthy that the only “amnesty” for immigrants was granted by Republican man-god Ronald Reagan; not Barack Obama.

Ted Cruz complaining about immigration is typically hypocritical because Cruz’s evangelical father illegally bribed immigration officials in Cuba to come to America, then emigrated to Canada where he became a citizen before returning to America. The elder Cruz did not seek American citizenship until 2005; 48 years after admittedly illegally emigrating to America. Apparently for Cruz, and all Republican descendants of immigrants, coupled with their intense xenophobia is their change of heart on aiding refugee children that began when an African American man was elected President.

Republicans know the influx of child refugees from Central America is both the result of America’s drug policies and their own actions during the Bush administration. It is likely there are a few Republicans that support immigration reform, but this is an election year and nothing incites opposition to Democrats among xenophobes and white supremacists more than threats “their” white nation is being overrun by brown people; particularly at the urging of a Black President. That is the real, and only, issue at play in the humanitarian crisis that Republicans and George W. Bush saw fit to address long before Barack Obama was sworn in as President.

The border “crisis” is a humanitarian crisis and the immigrants are unaccompanied children fleeing untenable conditions in their home countries. In fact, a recent report from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees says the majority of children emigrating from Central America are eligible for humanitarian protection, according to international standards. However, this is America and Republicans cannot comport anything resembling humanitarian protection; particularly for brown children and especially with an African American in the White House.

Most Americans get it. Republicans do not like brown people whether they were born in America or emigrated here as children. What is curious is why they are blaming Barack Obama for their actions when they should be jumping at the chance to take credit for offering humanitarian aid to Latino children that might pay electoral dividends with the Hispanic community. Instead they have demonized innocent refugee children with the same animus they reserve for the President because expressing hatred for immigrants, like blaming the President for Bush-Republican actions is red meat for their inhumane and xenophobic base.


Democratic Rep Strongly Criticizes Rick Perry’s Decision To Militarize Texas’ Border

By: Justin Baragona
Monday, July, 21st, 2014, 4:08 pm   

On Monday, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) criticized Texas Governor Rick Perry’s announcement that he will send 1,000 National Guard troops to Texas’ border with Mexico. Perry is calling this move Operation Strong Safety and said it is necessary to help further secure the border. The governor has also called on President Obama to hire 3,000 more border patrol agents to patrol along the Rio Grande River. This is all in the wake of the ongoing humanitarian crisis involving migrant children from Central America, who are making their way to the U.S. border.

Politico reported that Castro sent out an email after he was informed of Perry’s decision to send troops to the border. In the email, the Congressman had the following to say:

    “We should be sending the Red Cross to the border not the National Guard to deal with this humanitarian crisis. The children fleeing violence in Central America are seeking out border patrol agents. They are not trying to evade them. Why send soldiers to confront these kids? Militarizing our border is the wrong response to the arrival of children.I remain hopeful that our state can provide a more helpful response than to send armed soldiers to greet children seeking refuge from violence.”

Castro was actually made aware of Perry’s plans on Sunday and posted the following to his Facebook page Sunday night.

Post by Congressman Joaquin Castro.

Over the past weeks, Perry has strongly hinted that he was going to send troops to the border. When he met with President Obama earlier this month, he requested that the federal government deploy National Guard troops to the border. He reiterated that statement in interviews after the meeting. The reason Perry wanted the White House to deploy the troops was he didn’t want Texas to be responsible for the cost. Keeping a thousand armed troops at the border will cost Texas roughly $5 million a week.

Besides the cost, there really isn’t a reason to send the National Guard to the border. The children who are fleeing Central America are willingly going to agents and turning themselves in once they reach the border. Border security isn’t an issue so much as there is a logjam in the system when it comes to dealing with the high number of individuals who need to be processed after being detained. Also, there is a basic need for supplies and housing to deal with the increased amount of detained refugees.

Instead, Perry is merely interested in creating a certain visual to appeal to right-wing voters as he prepares himself for another sure-to-be ill-fated run for the White House. He gets to send National Guardsmen to the border in order to stop the invasion that is coming through. He gets to tout himself as a man of action and even gives this operation a cool-sounding name. However, this won’t do anything to actually address the crisis. The National Guard can’t enforce immigration law and can’t even stop immigrants from crossing the border. They are merely there for window dressing, all in an effort to make Perry look ‘strong.’

Perry, like other Republicans, isn’t interested in finding any real solutions. Instead, he just wants to use this humanitarian crisis as a way to rile up the ‘Old Angry White Guy’ base ahead of 2016.


Things Go From Bad To Worse for Mitch As Kentucky GOP Leader Resigns To Protest McConnell

By: Jason Easley
Monday, July, 21st, 2014, 2:12 pm

A local Republican Party leader in Kentucky has resigned her position in act of protest against Sen. Mitch McConnell.

According to WFPL:

    After serving on the Daviess County Republican Party’s leadership team for almost three years, Owensboro native Barbara Knott had enough.

    She resigned on July 10 and the reason was simple; Knott cannot support Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell this fall.

    “I have resigned from the executive committee of the Republican Party because I will not support Mitch McConnell,” Knott, chair of the Owensboro Tea Party, said in a telephone interview. “I have a big 4×8 sign in my front yard that says ‘Retire Mitch.’ It’s going to stay there through the election. I will not vote for that man.”

    Knott does plan to come out to support other Republican candidates. But in terms of McConnell she is “just fed up” despite voting for him in the past.

When local party leaders are resigning because they can no longer support him, things are getting dire for Mitch McConnell. The only thing that McConnell has going for him is a big pile of money that will be spent by outside groups on his behalf this fall. Sen. McConnell’s campaign has been worst run spectacles of the year. The candidate himself has alternated between gaffes and offensive statements.

Sen. McConnell is using the same playbook that he has been following for decades, but this time it isn’t working. McConnell is not having success trying to tie his Democratic opponent Alison Grimes to President Obama. His Obamacare attacks have gone nowhere, and mostly the senator has looked out of touch with the needs of his constituents on the campaign trail.

Tea party activists are outraged at McConnell because he funded an ad in support of Sen. Thad Cochran during the Republican Mississippi Senate runoff. McConnell has always been on thin ice with the state’s tea partiers, and his decision to play such an active role in the Mississippi contest is coming back to haunt him.

If Sen. McConnell loses the tea party crowd, he is going to have a nearly impossible time winning the election in November, and if the Senate Minority Leader loses his seat, Republican chances of taking back the Senate go down the tubes. By abandoning McConnell, tea partiers are doing what they do best. The tea party may once again end up helping Democrats keep their majority in the US Senate.

 on: Jul 22, 2014, 07:26 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

South Africa considers plan to move rhinos to protect them from poachers

Kruger national park says goal is to 'spread the risk' because it has been heavily targeted, but no guarantee other parks safer

Associated Press in Johannesburg
The Guardian, Monday 21 July 2014 19.02 BST   
South Africa's Kruger national park is considering a plan to move some rhinos out of the wildlife reserve in an attempt to protect them from poachers.

The goal is to "spread the risk" by evacuating rhinos to other game reserves because Kruger park is heavily targeted by poachers, park spokesman William Mabasa said on Monday. No decision has been made on the proposal and there is no guarantee that other parks are safe, as "poachers are going everywhere", he said. Many poachers cross into Kruger from neighbouring Mozambique, and they are often able to elude ranger teams that operate with limited aerial surveillance across the vast park of 19,485 sq km (7,500 sq miles).

About 560 rhinos have been poached in South Africa so far this year, and well over half were killed in Kruger, in the north-east of the country, the national parks service said earlier this month. About 160 suspected poachers have been arrested in 2014.

South Africa, which has 70% of the world's rhinos, lost a record 1,004 of the animals to poachers in 2013, according to government figures. Conservationists warn that a "tipping point" could come as soon as next year, when rhino deaths exceed births and the population goes into decline.

International criminal syndicates are said to be involved in poaching rhinos, whose horn is worth a fortune on the illegal market in parts of Asia. Some Vietnamese and Chinese view it as a status symbol and a healing agent.

Kruger park, a popular destination for international tourists, has borne the brunt of rhino poaching for years despite international efforts to help conservation efforts there. In March, US philanthropist Howard Buffett, a son of investor Warren Buffett, pledged nearly $24m (£14m) for protecting rhinos, earmarking the money for ranger teams, sniffer dogs and other security measures in one-third of the Kruger park.

Mabasa, the Kruger spokesman, did not say how many rhinos might be moved. The evacuation proposal is being discussed at board level.

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