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Daily Archives: March 11, 2014

Dianne Feinstein: CIA May Have Broken The Law To Spy On Senate Staff

Dianne Feinstein: CIA May Have Broken The Law To Spy On Senate Staff.

Posted: 03/11/2014 10:47 am EDT Updated: 03/11/2014 1:59 pm EDT

 

WASHINGTON — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) delivered a devastating broadside against the CIA Tuesday, alleging that the agency was trying to intimidate Congress and may have broken the law in spying on Senate staffers.

Feinstein, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was responding to CIA charges that Senate staffers had hacked CIA computers to learn that the spy agency was in fact spying on the people charged with overseeing its activities. Those revelations surfaced last week, prompting the countercharge against the CIA and a CIA complaint to the Justice Department.

But Feinstein, who is often a strong defender of the intelligence community, hammered the agency in a morning Senate floor speech, saying that the CIA knew of every step the Intelligence Committee staffers took and that the CIA provided all the documents that the agency later questioned.

To allege that staffers may have broken the law was dishonest, she said, and smacked of an attempt to bully civilians responsible for checking agency abuses.

“Our staff involved in this matter have the appropriate clearances, handled the sensitive material according to established procedures and practice to protect classified information, and were provided access to the [documents] by the CIA itself,” Feinstein said. “As a result, there is no legitimate reason to allege to the Justice Department that Senate staff may have committed a crime. I view the [CIA’s] acting general counsel’s referral [to the Justice Department] as a potential effort to intimidate this staff, and I am not taking it lightly.”

Feinstein also rattled her own saber, noting that the CIA official who referred the matter to the Justice Department was himself at the center of the very CIA interrogation techniques her committee is currently investigating. The Intelligence Committee has prepared a secret, 6,000-page report on the agency’s interrogation programs that is expected to outline a number of illegal activities and bring into question the value of such programs.

The remarkable flare-up stems from an agreement between the CIA and the committee that the agency could monitor the committee’s use of the agency’s computers, which were provided to Senate staffers in a secure room at the CIA. Staffers were able to analyze millions of documents on the computers in order to create the report on CIA interrogation techniques.

Feinstein also said Tuesday that she is pushing the White House to find a way to release that classified 6,000-page report so that the public can learn what the CIA has done in its name.

“I have asked for an apology, and a recognition that this CIA search of computers used by this oversight committee was inappropriate. I have received neither,” Feinstein said. “Besides the constitutional implications, the CIA search may have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as [an executive order], which bars the CIA from conducting domestic surveillance.”

Feinstein added that the CIA’s inspector general, David Buckley, has referred the CIA’s actions to the Justice Department for investigation.

The DOJ and CIA could not immediately be reached for comment. A CIA spokesman deferred comment to CIA Director John Brennan, who was expected to speak at 11 a.m. EDT.

UPDATE: 11:45 a.m. ET — Brennan later adamantly denied that the CIA had broken any laws, but allowed that all the facts were not yet out.

“As far as allegations about CIA hacking into Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth. We wouldn’t do that. That’s just beyond the scope of reason,” Brennan said, speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations.

But pushed by NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell, who was moderating the event, Brennan admitted that there was considerable doubt about what has happened.

“Appropriate authorities right now, both inside of CIA as well as outside of CIA, are looking at what CIA officers as well as what [Senate] staffers did,” Brennan said. “I defer to them.”

Asked what he would do if Feinstein’s allegations prove true, Brennan demurred, and suggested lawmakers should cool down.

“I will deal with the facts as uncovered in the appropriate manner,” he said. “I would just encourage members of the Senate to take their time, to make sure that they don’t overstate what they claim and what they probably believe to be the truth. These are some complicated matters.”

He left whether or not he should keep his job to President Barack Obama.

“If I did something wrong, I will go to the president and I will explain to him exactly what I did, and what the findings were. And he is the one who can ask me to stay or go,” Brennan said.

The 6,000-page report is extremely sensitive to the intelligence agency, and advocates of publicizing the report have accused the CIA of dragging its feet.

Brennan denied any intentional delays as well.

“We are not in any way, shape or form trying to thwart this report’s progression or release,” he said. Admitting that practices such as waterboarding — which Obama has banned — represent a dark chapter in the CIA’s record, he added, “We want this behind us.”

UPDATE: 1:51 p.m. — Asked later about Brennan’s pushback and how the facts of the dispute might ultimately come out, Feinstein stood her ground. “The facts just did come out,” she told several reporters on Capitol Hill.

UPDATE: 1:56 p.m. — White House press secretary Jay Carney later ducked the issue, reiterating that the investigation falls to the CIA’s inspector general.

President Obama has “great confidence” in Brennan, Carney said during his daily briefing. He added that if there has been any “inappropriate activity,” the president “would want to get to the bottom of it.”

Read Feinstein’s speech in full here.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

North Korean Tanker Burning In Libya After Navy Opens Fire | Zero Hedge

North Korean Tanker Burning In Libya After Navy Opens Fire | Zero Hedge.

The Libyan defense minister took over duties as prime minister this morning as the Libyan parliament voted “no confidence” in the current prime minister after a North-Korea-flagged tanker broke the “blockade” from a rebel-held port. The ouster of the PM appears to have bolstered confidence in the anti-rebel oil-stealing that we discussed yesterday, and resulted in

  • *LIBYA NAVY FIRE HIT TANKER AS IT FLED TO INTL WATERS: SKYNEWS

The oil tanker – The Morning Glory – had at least 234,000 barrels of oil aboard but is now “under complete control” of Libyan government authorities. However, as Bloomberg reports, the North Korean tanker is said to be on fire after being hit by a missile.

It’s been a busy morning for Libya:

The rebels started it..

  • *EAST LIBYA REBELS ANNOUNCE START OF OIL EXPORTS, NABAA TV SAYS
  • *LIBYA REBELS SEEK TO SELL OIL FROM ALL PORTS THEY CONTROL: TV

And for a while they were right…

  • *OIL TANKER ESCAPES LIBYA NAVY INTO INTERNATIONAL WATERS:JAZEERA
  • *LIBYAN MP HUWAILI SAYS TANKER ESCAPED TO INTL WATERS: NABAA TV
  • *LIBYA’S HUWAILI SAYS GOVT TO ASK INTERPOL TO TRACK TANKER

Which led to:

  • *LIBYAN PARLIAMENT OUSTS PRIME MINISTER, AP SAYS
  • *LIBYAN DEFENSE MINISTER WILL ASSUME ROLE OF PM FOR 15 DAYS

 

Via BBC,

Libya’s parliament has dismissed PM Ali Zeidan after a tanker laden with oil from a rebel-held port reportedly broke through a naval blockade.

 

MPs called a vote of confidence in Mr Zeidan amid reports that the North Korean-flagged ship had escaped to sea.

 

Defence Minister Abdullah al-Thinni was named interim prime minister.

 

Earlier, Libyan officials had said they had “complete control” of the tanker as it tried to leave Sidra port. However, rebel fighters rejected the assertion.

 

Separatist militants have occupied three major eastern ports since August.

 

They are seeking a greater share of the country’s oil revenues, as well as autonomy for eastern Libya.

 

The oil tanker – named Morning Glory – was reported to have taken on at least 234,000 barrels of crude oil at the Sidra terminal.

 

It was the first vessel to have loaded oil from a rebel-held port since the separatist revolt against the authorities in Tripoli erupted in July.

which resulted in:

  • *LIBYA NAVY FIRE HIT TANKER AS IT FLED TO INTL WATERS: SKYNEWS

And, as the Libya Herald reports,

The North Korean-flagged oil tanker that left Libya this morning after loading an illegal shipment of oil is said to be on fire after being hit by a missile.

 

Part of the ship is burning because it was shot at,” General National Congress (GNC) member Abdullah El-Kabier told the Libya Herald. He was unable to give more details or identify who had fired on the tanker.

We suspect Mr. Kim will be displeased (or is this a way to distract from Ukraine and get the North Koreans to rattle some sabres?)

North Korean Tanker Burning In Libya After Navy Opens Fire | Zero Hedge

North Korean Tanker Burning In Libya After Navy Opens Fire | Zero Hedge.

The Libyan defense minister took over duties as prime minister this morning as the Libyan parliament voted “no confidence” in the current prime minister after a North-Korea-flagged tanker broke the “blockade” from a rebel-held port. The ouster of the PM appears to have bolstered confidence in the anti-rebel oil-stealing that we discussed yesterday, and resulted in

  • *LIBYA NAVY FIRE HIT TANKER AS IT FLED TO INTL WATERS: SKYNEWS

The oil tanker – The Morning Glory – had at least 234,000 barrels of oil aboard but is now “under complete control” of Libyan government authorities. However, as Bloomberg reports, the North Korean tanker is said to be on fire after being hit by a missile.

It’s been a busy morning for Libya:

The rebels started it..

  • *EAST LIBYA REBELS ANNOUNCE START OF OIL EXPORTS, NABAA TV SAYS
  • *LIBYA REBELS SEEK TO SELL OIL FROM ALL PORTS THEY CONTROL: TV

And for a while they were right…

  • *OIL TANKER ESCAPES LIBYA NAVY INTO INTERNATIONAL WATERS:JAZEERA
  • *LIBYAN MP HUWAILI SAYS TANKER ESCAPED TO INTL WATERS: NABAA TV
  • *LIBYA’S HUWAILI SAYS GOVT TO ASK INTERPOL TO TRACK TANKER

Which led to:

  • *LIBYAN PARLIAMENT OUSTS PRIME MINISTER, AP SAYS
  • *LIBYAN DEFENSE MINISTER WILL ASSUME ROLE OF PM FOR 15 DAYS

 

Via BBC,

Libya’s parliament has dismissed PM Ali Zeidan after a tanker laden with oil from a rebel-held port reportedly broke through a naval blockade.

 

MPs called a vote of confidence in Mr Zeidan amid reports that the North Korean-flagged ship had escaped to sea.

 

Defence Minister Abdullah al-Thinni was named interim prime minister.

 

Earlier, Libyan officials had said they had “complete control” of the tanker as it tried to leave Sidra port. However, rebel fighters rejected the assertion.

 

Separatist militants have occupied three major eastern ports since August.

 

They are seeking a greater share of the country’s oil revenues, as well as autonomy for eastern Libya.

 

The oil tanker – named Morning Glory – was reported to have taken on at least 234,000 barrels of crude oil at the Sidra terminal.

 

It was the first vessel to have loaded oil from a rebel-held port since the separatist revolt against the authorities in Tripoli erupted in July.

which resulted in:

  • *LIBYA NAVY FIRE HIT TANKER AS IT FLED TO INTL WATERS: SKYNEWS

And, as the Libya Herald reports,

The North Korean-flagged oil tanker that left Libya this morning after loading an illegal shipment of oil is said to be on fire after being hit by a missile.

 

Part of the ship is burning because it was shot at,” General National Congress (GNC) member Abdullah El-Kabier told the Libya Herald. He was unable to give more details or identify who had fired on the tanker.

We suspect Mr. Kim will be displeased (or is this a way to distract from Ukraine and get the North Koreans to rattle some sabres?)

Five Steps To Help You Avoid Investment Fraud | Bob Stammers

Five Steps To Help You Avoid Investment Fraud | Bob Stammers.

Bob Stammers

CFA, Director of Investor Education

On the fifth anniversary of Bernie Madoff’s conviction, it might be tempting to try and forget about investment fraud. After all, one of the most notorious con men in modern history has been locked away until Nov. 14, 2139. So does that mean investors are safe from fraud?

Unfortunately, there will always be bad apples in the financial system and if you have money to invest then you are vulnerable to potential fraudulent behaviour. Latest figures from the Canadian Securities Administrators show that 56 per cent of Canadians agree they are just as likely to be a victim of investment fraud as anyone else.

The following five steps will help to minimize your chances of falling victim to investment fraud and limit your exposure in the unfortunate case that you do.

1. Clearly understand the investment strategy

The venerable portfolio manager, Peter Lynch, consistently advises people to invest only in what they understand. Investors should be alert to the possibility that complex jargon often hides suspicious inconsistencies. Some investment opportunities appear alluring simply because they are described in impressive, complicated terms and of course as investors we want to appear smart so we often nod, smile and agree to something we don’t actually understand. Investment strategies and financial products should be clear and understandable, and the professional advisers that you hire should ensure you’re comfortable with them before you take the plunge.

2. Be wary of “sure things”, quick returns and special access

Legitimate investment professionals do not promise sure bets; remember there is no such thing! Scammers often make the combination of safety and high returns seem plausible by granting you “special access” based on your relationship with a mutual acquaintance or affiliation with a specific group. Be sure to judge investments on their merits alone — do your best to ignore the social pressure that can often lead investors to misery and remember if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

3. Is the investment subject to regulation and what if any protection does it provide?

Regulation varies by country and investment type. Hedge funds, for example, are less regulated than mutual funds and off-shore advisers may be subject to less stringent supervision in some countries. Regulation does not mean lower risk. A common mistake that investors make is to assume that because their investments are regulated the risks involved are reduced. Before making an investment decision, make sure you are aware of the relevant regulation and then you can fully assess the merits of the investment. It’s still possible to lose money in well-regulated markets so you need to make sure your investment decisions match your overall risk profile.

4. Trust, but verify

Ultimately, the reliability of any operation is predicated on the integrity and competence of its people. Remember that the company you choose to invest with could be overseeing your assets for many years to come so it’s important to build a trusting relationship with them. One of the best ways to do this is to adopt a “trust, but verify” mentality. Look for professionals who have achieved a mark of distinction in their career–like the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation–and professionals who abide by a Code of Ethics that requires them to place clients’ interests ahead of their own. Trust is built with consistency so looking at past experience can reveal a lot – what is their investment track record, can they provide references, are they registered with the national regulator? The more you know, the easier it is to detect a scam!

5. Don’t forget to use standard investing discipline

When the conversation turns to fraud, investors can sometimes forget that tried-and-tested investment management principles still need to be applied. Even though diversification is one of the most fundamental and enduring investment principles, many investors forget to ensure their assets are diversified widely enough. Doing so will help to limit the catastrophe associated with investment fraud but it is also more likely to provide a higher average return at lower average risk. Make sure that all investment decisions you make are aligning with your long-term financial goals and never invest in anything you don’t fully understand.

When navigating the markets, it will always be important to keep a watchful eye out for fraud. Throughout history, whenever money is involved there will tend to be an opportunity for unscrupulous people to take advantage of others. CFA Institute provides some helpful tools to educate investors on how to make informed investment decisions, so be prepared, do your homework and remember that taking steps to avoid fraud is part of a good investment strategy.

Five Steps To Help You Avoid Investment Fraud | Bob Stammers

Five Steps To Help You Avoid Investment Fraud | Bob Stammers.

Bob Stammers

CFA, Director of Investor Education

On the fifth anniversary of Bernie Madoff’s conviction, it might be tempting to try and forget about investment fraud. After all, one of the most notorious con men in modern history has been locked away until Nov. 14, 2139. So does that mean investors are safe from fraud?

Unfortunately, there will always be bad apples in the financial system and if you have money to invest then you are vulnerable to potential fraudulent behaviour. Latest figures from the Canadian Securities Administrators show that 56 per cent of Canadians agree they are just as likely to be a victim of investment fraud as anyone else.

The following five steps will help to minimize your chances of falling victim to investment fraud and limit your exposure in the unfortunate case that you do.

1. Clearly understand the investment strategy

The venerable portfolio manager, Peter Lynch, consistently advises people to invest only in what they understand. Investors should be alert to the possibility that complex jargon often hides suspicious inconsistencies. Some investment opportunities appear alluring simply because they are described in impressive, complicated terms and of course as investors we want to appear smart so we often nod, smile and agree to something we don’t actually understand. Investment strategies and financial products should be clear and understandable, and the professional advisers that you hire should ensure you’re comfortable with them before you take the plunge.

2. Be wary of “sure things”, quick returns and special access

Legitimate investment professionals do not promise sure bets; remember there is no such thing! Scammers often make the combination of safety and high returns seem plausible by granting you “special access” based on your relationship with a mutual acquaintance or affiliation with a specific group. Be sure to judge investments on their merits alone — do your best to ignore the social pressure that can often lead investors to misery and remember if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!

3. Is the investment subject to regulation and what if any protection does it provide?

Regulation varies by country and investment type. Hedge funds, for example, are less regulated than mutual funds and off-shore advisers may be subject to less stringent supervision in some countries. Regulation does not mean lower risk. A common mistake that investors make is to assume that because their investments are regulated the risks involved are reduced. Before making an investment decision, make sure you are aware of the relevant regulation and then you can fully assess the merits of the investment. It’s still possible to lose money in well-regulated markets so you need to make sure your investment decisions match your overall risk profile.

4. Trust, but verify

Ultimately, the reliability of any operation is predicated on the integrity and competence of its people. Remember that the company you choose to invest with could be overseeing your assets for many years to come so it’s important to build a trusting relationship with them. One of the best ways to do this is to adopt a “trust, but verify” mentality. Look for professionals who have achieved a mark of distinction in their career–like the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation–and professionals who abide by a Code of Ethics that requires them to place clients’ interests ahead of their own. Trust is built with consistency so looking at past experience can reveal a lot – what is their investment track record, can they provide references, are they registered with the national regulator? The more you know, the easier it is to detect a scam!

5. Don’t forget to use standard investing discipline

When the conversation turns to fraud, investors can sometimes forget that tried-and-tested investment management principles still need to be applied. Even though diversification is one of the most fundamental and enduring investment principles, many investors forget to ensure their assets are diversified widely enough. Doing so will help to limit the catastrophe associated with investment fraud but it is also more likely to provide a higher average return at lower average risk. Make sure that all investment decisions you make are aligning with your long-term financial goals and never invest in anything you don’t fully understand.

When navigating the markets, it will always be important to keep a watchful eye out for fraud. Throughout history, whenever money is involved there will tend to be an opportunity for unscrupulous people to take advantage of others. CFA Institute provides some helpful tools to educate investors on how to make informed investment decisions, so be prepared, do your homework and remember that taking steps to avoid fraud is part of a good investment strategy.

Homeland Security Pre-Staging A Domestic Military Force

Homeland Security Pre-Staging A Domestic Military Force.

domestic-military-force
Image: Bloomberg

During the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, the U.S. Army built 28,000 MRAPs (Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected Trucks). Now the U.S. Army has announced that it is giving 13,000 of them away, for free. Who’s receiving the trucks? Homeland Security and U.S. Law Enforcement.

Instead of mothballing these MRAPs, Homeland Security is evidently pre-staging a domestic army of militarized agencies, police and law enforcement.

While Police and agencies say that all this military equipment from DHS grants will only be used against crime, the trust in many American alphabet agencies has been broken – now that we know some of the extent at which they are using technology to monitor and probe its own citizenry. DHS and many others, they’re stockpiling.

What we have here is a paranoid government, and one which is apparently and evidently ramping up for something…

The U.S. Army is giving away 13,000 armored trucks, worth about $500,000 each.

The 20-ton MRAPs, or Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected trucks, were built specifically to save U.S. soldiers from roadside bombs in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Now the trucks are patrolling U.S. city streets. U.S. law enforcement agencies have received the lion’s share of this high-powered military surplus.

-Bloomberg

Recently, retired Marine Colonel Pete Martino spoke plainly during a Concord (NH) city council public hearing over the cities intent to procure a armored attack truck (the manufacturer’s description, although the police prefer “rescue vehicle”).

He said:

What’s happening here is we’re building a domestic military, because its unlawful or unconstitutional to use American troops on American soil.

My best friend who’s a SWAT officer in Nashua (NH) who came to Iraq with me to train the Iraqi police, sent me an email with a picture of him on the streets of Watertown Mass (Massachusetts) wearing the exact same combat gear that we had in Iraq – only it was a different color.

The way we do things in the military, it’s called task organization. You take a command and then you attach units to it in order to accomplish the mission.

What’s happening is Homeland Security is pre-staging their equipment – it’s consistent. What they’re trying to do is use standardized vehicles, standardized equipment.

I saw a picture in the Boston Globe after the Marathon bombing where there was a state police officer – actually there were two officers – both had identical helmets, flak jackets, weapons, everything I wore in Iraq – only it was all blue.

The officer on one side had a big patch on his back that said Massachusetts State Police. Another officer next to him, his patch said Boston Police.

So what we’re doing here, and let’s not kid ourselves about it, we’re building a domestic army and we’re shrinking the military because the government is afraid of its own citizens.

The last time more than 10 terrorists were in the same place at one time was September 11, and all these vehicles in the world wouldn’t have prevented it, and it wouldn’t have helped anybody. So I don’t know where we’re going to use this many vehicles and this many troops. Concord is just one little cog in the wheel.

We’re building an army over here and I can’t believe people aren’t seeing it. Is everybody blind?


Video link

“Peter Martino is a citizen of the State of New Hampshire. Mr. Martino is a Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve who has been mobilized three times. During his military career, he commanded an infantry platoon, company, and battalion. He was also the senior U.S. adviser to an Iraqi Army brigade. Mr. Martino has had a successful civilian career providing training, consulting, and program management services to private companies and to state and federal agency contractors. Mr. Martino presently holds a top secret security clearance.”
We now have desensitization – desensitizing the people getting used to seeing military hardware on local roadways.

DHS procuring-reserving nearly 2-billion rounds of ammo.
Check points to travel within our own country.
Paramilitary civilian police forces.
Mass surveillance of all citizens.
Political elite above the law.
Intimidation of press.

Something’s afoot…

“We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.”

-Barack Obama

WAKE UP PEOPLE…
civilian-security-force

Weathering the Economic Collapse: Can You Reduce Any of These 10 Fixed Expenses? |

Weathering the Economic Collapse: Can You Reduce Any of These 10 Fixed Expenses? |.

The bells are tolling on the American economy.  Every day, another expert is warning us of the imminent demise of our way of life. If you’re paying attention, you can see it coming, like some huge storm system, bearing down on you. You don’t stand there and wait for it to hit you.  You don’t have to be a passive victim of the economy. It’s time to sit down and take a long hard look at where your money is going. Lots of financial experts give tips about reducing your discretionary spending but what about those fixed expenses? You can free up some large sums of money by reducing your monthly output.

Most of us have a set of fixed expenses.  Some of these are vital, some are not, and what is vital for me might not be important for you.

What fixed payments come out of your bank account every month?

  • Mortgage/Rent
  • Home Insurance
  • Car payment
  • Car insurance
  • Cable/Satellite/Internet
  • Gym membership/Exercise classes
  • Loan payments
  • Cell phone bill/Home phone bill
  • Child support/alimony payments
  • Tuition
  • Extracurricular activities for the kids

Some of these, you can’t do anything about.  However, some of these payments can be reduced or gotten rid of altogether.

The real question is, if your financial circumstances changed dramatically, could you afford your current lifestyle? If the answer to that question is  ”No” then you need to figure out how to reduce your regular monthly output.

Keep in mind that what works for my family may not work for your family.  It will depend whether your spouse is on board, how dire your situation is, and with how much importance you weigh your frugality makeover what you opt to change. Some of these measures would be drastic, and others would only cause a minor change in your lifestyle. Let’s take a look at each of these expenses individually and ask some important questions.

 

  1. Mortgage/Rent This is often the biggest expenditure that many families make each month.  When you buy a house, realtors will nearly always show you homes at the top of your price range. When you are looking for rentals, most people search at the high end of their budgets.  That’s fine in good times, but if things go awry, you’re stuck at that same level because banks and landlords don’t care that you lost your job or took a financial hit.  Sometimes moving to a less expensive place is your only option if you wish to make big financial changes. This can free up as much as a thousand dollars a month for some families. Moving is expensive, though, and you have to figure that in to the potential savings. If you are only going to save, let’s say, $50 a month by moving, it will be more than a year before you recoup your expenses, and that is going to do little to change your overall outlook. If you are moving to drop your expenses, it needs to be a substantial monthly savings to make it worthwhile. If you own your home, consider refinancing at a better interest rate.
  2. Home/Car Insurance You have to have insurance so this is not an expense that you can cut out of your budget altogether. However, you can shop around for better prices. You can look into changing your coverage. Do you have duplications in coverage? For example, my insurance company offers roadside assistance for about $40 per year, but my vehicle came with 3 years of free roadside assistance. You can drop your rate further by increasing your deductible, but if you do that, be sure you have access to the deductible amount should an accident occur.  If you have several cars in your family, you might not need to have rental car coverage on your policy.
  3. Car Payment As with a home payment, most people push the envelope and get the nicest vehicle that they can afford. What you drive is a status symbol in North America, and practicality doesn’t always come into the decisions.  The best option is to get something that you can afford to pay for in full so that you don’t have a payment. Consider trading in the vehicle you are making payments on for one that you can pay for outright or make payments on for a short period of time. But if you made the decision in less frugal days, you might be what car dealers call “upside down” in your financing. That means that you owe more on your vehicle than it is worth. If that is the case, then you will basically have to pay someone to take it off your hands and that is not always worth your while. If you find yourself in that situation, the best thing you can do is use some of your freed up money to pay off your loan as quickly as possible. At least then, the bank gets less interest from you. If you have more than one vehicle, is it possible to become a one car family? This will drop your automotive maintenance costs, get rid of an insurance payment, and take away a monthly payment if both vehicles are being financed. If one of your vehicles is paid for, consider getting rid of the one that is being financed.
  4. Cable/Satellite/Internet This is an area in which cuts can almost always be made.  We don’t have cable or satellite, but we do have the best internet available.  In our home internet is vital for my job and also for my daughter’s school.  Since we have internet, if we have the urge to watch something we can stream it for free online.  For your entertainment needs consider something like Netflix. It’s a fraction of the price of a monthly cable or satellite bill and you can choose what you want to watch commercial free at any point in time, not just when it’s on network television.  You have the added bonus of avoiding those pesky commercials too.  Expect an outcry if you get rid of these services, but also know that your family will get used to it quickly.  Trust me, they’ll live.
  5. Gym membership/Exercise Classes Being healthy is a top priority if you want to live a frugal lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend high monthly fees to do so.  You can kill two birds with one stone by coming up with some productive active things to do: chop wood, build, garden or farm.  If you live in a place where it’s reasonable to do so, walk instead of driving – you’ll get some exercise and save gas money and wear and tear on your vehicle.
  6. Loan Payments Look at paying off your debts as quickly as possible using the snowball method.  Instead of just making your regular monthly payment, take the smallest debt and pay it off as fast as you can while still making your minimum payment on other debts.  Once the smallest payment is paid off, take what you were paying on that and apply it to the next smallest debt, and on and on until you are beautifully debt-free! Then, once you have no debt, commit yourself to staying that way.
  7. Phone Bills Most people do not need both a home phone and a cell phone. One or the other will nearly always suffice.  I actually don’t have either one.  I use internet phone service which costs $2.99 per month for the odd telephone call I have to make and email for everything else. It takes some getting used to but you might find that you welcome the peace of people being unable to interrupt you just as you sit down to dinner. You can free up a lot of money each month by getting rid of the phone, but expect people to look at you strangely when they ask for your number and you say, “I don’t have one.”
  8. Child Support/Alimony Payments There really isn’t a lot you can do about this kind of monthly expense. These numbers are set by the courts and you will go to jail or have assets seized if you don’t make them. As a single mom, I can tell you that there were times when we depended on child support payments to buy our groceries, so the argument can be made that if you have children, it’s your responsibility to make these payments.
  9. Tuition If your child is in college or a private school, tuition payments are a fixed expense that you can’t really do much to reduce.  You can apply for scholarships, but aside from this, the price is the price. You don’t want your child to start off adult life in debt if you can help it, so if you can find a way to make these payments instead of using student loans, you are giving your son or daughter the biggest possible gift: financial freedom.
  10. Extracurricular Activities for the Kids This one really depends on your family. If your child is just killing time, then the extracurriculars may not be of high importance.  On the other hand, if they are a talented athlete or budding musician, you may find this is a very worthwhile expenditure.  Some families who homeschool look to extracurricular activities as a way for their kids to socialize with their peers, and that is also very important.  If the activity is not a serious pursuit, sometimes it can be replaced with lower cost activities through the local community center or YMCA.  Some children are really over-programmed, with an evening activity every day of the week and two on weekends. Kids need downtime and the freedom to just go outside, climb a tree, and look at the clouds floating by.

 

It’s far better to make these changes before you’re forced to do so by circumstances.  If you can reduce your fixed monthly expenditures, you’re less likely to default on things that are true necessities, like keeping a roof over your head and food in the cupboards.  I would prefer to control the cuts myself rather than have the decisions made for me by foreclosures or repossessions.

Despite what the government wants us to believe, the financial situation in this country is not getting better, and it isn’t going to improve for a very long time. The economic storm is bearing down on us, and the most important preparation you can make right now is to figure out how to weather it.

Have you made any dramatic changes to your fixed expenses? What advice can you give to people who are just beginning to make these changes? Please share your suggestions in the comments below.

About the author:

Please feel free to share any information from this site in part or in full, giving credit to the author and including a link to this website and the following bio.

Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor.  Her website, The Organic Prepper, offers information on healthy prepping, including premium nutritional choices, general wellness and non-tech solutions. You can follow Daisy on Facebook and Twitter, and you can email her at daisy@theorganicprepper.ca

If you enjoyed this article, please Vote for The Organic Prepper as a top prepping web site.

– See more at: http://www.theorganicprepper.ca/weathering-the-economic-collapse-can-you-reduce-any-of-these-10-fixed-expenses-03082014#sthash.JzYwQmVm.dpuf

Weathering the Economic Collapse: Can You Reduce Any of These 10 Fixed Expenses? |

Weathering the Economic Collapse: Can You Reduce Any of These 10 Fixed Expenses? |.

The bells are tolling on the American economy.  Every day, another expert is warning us of the imminent demise of our way of life. If you’re paying attention, you can see it coming, like some huge storm system, bearing down on you. You don’t stand there and wait for it to hit you.  You don’t have to be a passive victim of the economy. It’s time to sit down and take a long hard look at where your money is going. Lots of financial experts give tips about reducing your discretionary spending but what about those fixed expenses? You can free up some large sums of money by reducing your monthly output.

Most of us have a set of fixed expenses.  Some of these are vital, some are not, and what is vital for me might not be important for you.

What fixed payments come out of your bank account every month?

  • Mortgage/Rent
  • Home Insurance
  • Car payment
  • Car insurance
  • Cable/Satellite/Internet
  • Gym membership/Exercise classes
  • Loan payments
  • Cell phone bill/Home phone bill
  • Child support/alimony payments
  • Tuition
  • Extracurricular activities for the kids

Some of these, you can’t do anything about.  However, some of these payments can be reduced or gotten rid of altogether.

The real question is, if your financial circumstances changed dramatically, could you afford your current lifestyle? If the answer to that question is  ”No” then you need to figure out how to reduce your regular monthly output.

Keep in mind that what works for my family may not work for your family.  It will depend whether your spouse is on board, how dire your situation is, and with how much importance you weigh your frugality makeover what you opt to change. Some of these measures would be drastic, and others would only cause a minor change in your lifestyle. Let’s take a look at each of these expenses individually and ask some important questions.

 

  1. Mortgage/Rent This is often the biggest expenditure that many families make each month.  When you buy a house, realtors will nearly always show you homes at the top of your price range. When you are looking for rentals, most people search at the high end of their budgets.  That’s fine in good times, but if things go awry, you’re stuck at that same level because banks and landlords don’t care that you lost your job or took a financial hit.  Sometimes moving to a less expensive place is your only option if you wish to make big financial changes. This can free up as much as a thousand dollars a month for some families. Moving is expensive, though, and you have to figure that in to the potential savings. If you are only going to save, let’s say, $50 a month by moving, it will be more than a year before you recoup your expenses, and that is going to do little to change your overall outlook. If you are moving to drop your expenses, it needs to be a substantial monthly savings to make it worthwhile. If you own your home, consider refinancing at a better interest rate.
  2. Home/Car Insurance You have to have insurance so this is not an expense that you can cut out of your budget altogether. However, you can shop around for better prices. You can look into changing your coverage. Do you have duplications in coverage? For example, my insurance company offers roadside assistance for about $40 per year, but my vehicle came with 3 years of free roadside assistance. You can drop your rate further by increasing your deductible, but if you do that, be sure you have access to the deductible amount should an accident occur.  If you have several cars in your family, you might not need to have rental car coverage on your policy.
  3. Car Payment As with a home payment, most people push the envelope and get the nicest vehicle that they can afford. What you drive is a status symbol in North America, and practicality doesn’t always come into the decisions.  The best option is to get something that you can afford to pay for in full so that you don’t have a payment. Consider trading in the vehicle you are making payments on for one that you can pay for outright or make payments on for a short period of time. But if you made the decision in less frugal days, you might be what car dealers call “upside down” in your financing. That means that you owe more on your vehicle than it is worth. If that is the case, then you will basically have to pay someone to take it off your hands and that is not always worth your while. If you find yourself in that situation, the best thing you can do is use some of your freed up money to pay off your loan as quickly as possible. At least then, the bank gets less interest from you. If you have more than one vehicle, is it possible to become a one car family? This will drop your automotive maintenance costs, get rid of an insurance payment, and take away a monthly payment if both vehicles are being financed. If one of your vehicles is paid for, consider getting rid of the one that is being financed.
  4. Cable/Satellite/Internet This is an area in which cuts can almost always be made.  We don’t have cable or satellite, but we do have the best internet available.  In our home internet is vital for my job and also for my daughter’s school.  Since we have internet, if we have the urge to watch something we can stream it for free online.  For your entertainment needs consider something like Netflix. It’s a fraction of the price of a monthly cable or satellite bill and you can choose what you want to watch commercial free at any point in time, not just when it’s on network television.  You have the added bonus of avoiding those pesky commercials too.  Expect an outcry if you get rid of these services, but also know that your family will get used to it quickly.  Trust me, they’ll live.
  5. Gym membership/Exercise Classes Being healthy is a top priority if you want to live a frugal lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend high monthly fees to do so.  You can kill two birds with one stone by coming up with some productive active things to do: chop wood, build, garden or farm.  If you live in a place where it’s reasonable to do so, walk instead of driving – you’ll get some exercise and save gas money and wear and tear on your vehicle.
  6. Loan Payments Look at paying off your debts as quickly as possible using the snowball method.  Instead of just making your regular monthly payment, take the smallest debt and pay it off as fast as you can while still making your minimum payment on other debts.  Once the smallest payment is paid off, take what you were paying on that and apply it to the next smallest debt, and on and on until you are beautifully debt-free! Then, once you have no debt, commit yourself to staying that way.
  7. Phone Bills Most people do not need both a home phone and a cell phone. One or the other will nearly always suffice.  I actually don’t have either one.  I use internet phone service which costs $2.99 per month for the odd telephone call I have to make and email for everything else. It takes some getting used to but you might find that you welcome the peace of people being unable to interrupt you just as you sit down to dinner. You can free up a lot of money each month by getting rid of the phone, but expect people to look at you strangely when they ask for your number and you say, “I don’t have one.”
  8. Child Support/Alimony Payments There really isn’t a lot you can do about this kind of monthly expense. These numbers are set by the courts and you will go to jail or have assets seized if you don’t make them. As a single mom, I can tell you that there were times when we depended on child support payments to buy our groceries, so the argument can be made that if you have children, it’s your responsibility to make these payments.
  9. Tuition If your child is in college or a private school, tuition payments are a fixed expense that you can’t really do much to reduce.  You can apply for scholarships, but aside from this, the price is the price. You don’t want your child to start off adult life in debt if you can help it, so if you can find a way to make these payments instead of using student loans, you are giving your son or daughter the biggest possible gift: financial freedom.
  10. Extracurricular Activities for the Kids This one really depends on your family. If your child is just killing time, then the extracurriculars may not be of high importance.  On the other hand, if they are a talented athlete or budding musician, you may find this is a very worthwhile expenditure.  Some families who homeschool look to extracurricular activities as a way for their kids to socialize with their peers, and that is also very important.  If the activity is not a serious pursuit, sometimes it can be replaced with lower cost activities through the local community center or YMCA.  Some children are really over-programmed, with an evening activity every day of the week and two on weekends. Kids need downtime and the freedom to just go outside, climb a tree, and look at the clouds floating by.

 

It’s far better to make these changes before you’re forced to do so by circumstances.  If you can reduce your fixed monthly expenditures, you’re less likely to default on things that are true necessities, like keeping a roof over your head and food in the cupboards.  I would prefer to control the cuts myself rather than have the decisions made for me by foreclosures or repossessions.

Despite what the government wants us to believe, the financial situation in this country is not getting better, and it isn’t going to improve for a very long time. The economic storm is bearing down on us, and the most important preparation you can make right now is to figure out how to weather it.

Have you made any dramatic changes to your fixed expenses? What advice can you give to people who are just beginning to make these changes? Please share your suggestions in the comments below.

About the author:

Please feel free to share any information from this site in part or in full, giving credit to the author and including a link to this website and the following bio.

Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor.  Her website, The Organic Prepper, offers information on healthy prepping, including premium nutritional choices, general wellness and non-tech solutions. You can follow Daisy on Facebook and Twitter, and you can email her at daisy@theorganicprepper.ca

If you enjoyed this article, please Vote for The Organic Prepper as a top prepping web site.

– See more at: http://www.theorganicprepper.ca/weathering-the-economic-collapse-can-you-reduce-any-of-these-10-fixed-expenses-03082014#sthash.JzYwQmVm.dpuf

Diplomacy Fails In Ukraine: Putin Slams Kerry Plan, Kiev Issues Ultimatum, Crimea Suspends All Non-Moscow Flights | Zero Hedge

Diplomacy Fails In Ukraine: Putin Slams Kerry Plan, Kiev Issues Ultimatum, Crimea Suspends All Non-Moscow Flights | Zero Hedge.

While it may have been pushed back from the front pages to keep confidence high, things in the Crimea, and in Ukraine in general (which may or may not waved goodbye to its gold reserves) are going from bad to worse with every passing day, with the near term catalyst of course being this Sunday Crimean referendum vote, which seems like a done deal, and which will give Russia a carte blanche to annex the territory over the howls of protest from Ukraine’s coup government, and the west of course.

Making this outcome one step clower, overnight the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea adopted an independence declaration from Ukraine which is necessary for holding a March 16 referendum.

“We, the members of the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the Sevastopol City Council, with regard to the charter of the United Nations and a whole range of other international documents and taking into consideration the confirmation of the status of Kosovo by the United Nations International Court of Justice on July, 22, 2010, which says that unilateral declaration of independence by a part of the country doesn’t violate any international norms, make this decision,” says the text of the declaration, which was published by the Crimean media.

As RT reports, the document was adopted during an extraordinary session of parliament. 78 of 100 members of the parliament voted in favor of the declaration.

The Crimean parliament’s vote to become an independent sovereign state paves the way for the March 16 referendum for the Crimean Autonomous Republic and the city of Sevastopol to join Russia. If the referendum is in favor, the Crimean authorities will request for their country to become a constituent republic of the Russian Federation. The declaration was signed by the speaker of the Supreme Council of Crimea, Vladimir Konstantinov, and the head of the Sevastopol City Council, Yury Doynikov.

“We adopted the declaration of independence to make the upcoming referendum legitimate and transparent,” Konstantinov said. “Now we declare ourselves the Republic of Crimea, we don’t add ‘autonomous.”

After Tuesday’s declaration of independence, Crimea will never rejoin Ukraine, Konstantinov added. He said that Crimea will adopt the Russian ruble as its currency soon after the referendum.

Not unexpectedly, the west, and Ukraine specifically, continue to make loud noises over the referendum, with the latest development is Kiev sending an ultimatum to Crimea. Guardian reports that “Ukraine’s parliament has warned the regional assembly in Crimea that it faces dissolution unless it cancels a referendum it has called to join the region to Russia.”

A resolution, supported by a parliamentary vote, gave the Crimean parliament until Wednesday to call off the referendum, due to take place on Sunday. The Crimean parliament on Tuesday passed a motion stating that it would become independent in the event of a yes vote and then seek to join the Russian Federation, arguing that “the unilateral declaration of independence of part of a state does not violate any international laws”.

There is the minor matter of enforcing this ultimatum in a territory largely controlled by Russian forces:

Also on Tuesday, the acting Ukrainian president, Oleksander Turchinov, announced that a new national guard would be formed in response to Russian attempts to annex Crimea.

Turchinov said mismanagement of the armed forces under former president Viktor Yanukovych meant that the Ukrainian military had to be rebuilt “effectively from scratch”. The acting defence minister said the country had only 6,000 combat-ready infantry compared with more than 200,000 Russian troops on its eastern borders.

Good luck with that.

But aside from the actual area of physical confrontation, the real conflict continues behind the scenes. It is here that we find Russia president Putin has apparently rejected a U.S. proposal to resolve the dispute over Ukraine that had been put forward by Secretary of State John Kerry over the past week, according to senior Russian and U.S. officials. WSJ reported that “Mr. Putin’s decision led Mr. Kerry to put off a Russian invitation to meet Mr. Putin in Russia, as early as the beginning of this week in Sochi, to discuss the Ukraine crisis, according to these officials.”

Moscow and Washington on Monday each blamed the other for the diplomatic stumble and for failing to defuse the most serious U.S.-Russian standoff since the end of the Cold War.

Residents of the Crimean region of Ukraine are scheduled to vote Sunday on whether to secede from their country and join the Russian federation.

Despite the setback, U.S. and Russian officials stressed Monday that discussions on the former Soviet state were ongoing. The State Department didn’t rule out Mr. Kerry visiting Moscow to meet Mr. Putin.

“The United States needs to see concrete evidence that Russia is prepared to engage on the diplomatic proposals we have made to facilitate direct dialogue between Ukraine and Russia,” State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said.

Send in the Kerry again perhaps? Speaking of political cadavers, ousted Ukraine president Yanukovich, whose political future even Putin said is over, appeared on TV earlier today and reminded everyone he was still the legitimate leader:

Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has said in a televised press conference that he is still the legitimate leader of the country. It was his second statement made from the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don where he fled to when he was removed from power by the Ukrainian Parliament.

“I want to remind you that I am not only still the legitimate president of Ukraine but also the supreme commander of the army and I haven’t stopped my duties as president early – I am still alive.”

He took no questions from the press after his speech.

Yanukovych claimed that he was still the legitimate leader of Ukraine and that he fled Ukraine because of a direct threat to his and his family’s lives.

He added he would return to Ukraine soon.

He called the upcoming May 25 presidential election “illegal” and said that any government voted in would also be unconstitutional

He said the US and West should not be backing or funding the new “bandit” government which had carried out an illegal coup d’etat.

And then there is everything else. Reading Reuters:

A pro-Russian force opened fire in seizing a Ukrainian military base in Crimea on Monday and NATO announced reconnaissance flights along its eastern frontiers as confrontation around the Black Sea peninsula showed no sign of easing. Ukrainian activists trying to cross into Crimea to show solidarity with opponents of last week’s Russian military takeover there said they were halted by men in uniforms of the now outlawed riot police. One of these fired at close range, hitting a man in the chest, apparently with rubber bullets.

With diplomacy at a standstill, Russia said the United States had spurned an invitation to hold new talks on resolving the crisis, the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War – although Washington said later a meeting of foreign ministers was possible this week, if Moscow shows it is ready to “engage”.

The U.S.-led NATO defense alliance said AWACS early warning aircraft, once designed to counter feared Soviet nuclear missile strikes, would start reconnaissance flights on Tuesday over Poland and Romania to monitor the situation in Ukraine, flying from bases in Germany and Britain.

The United States on Tuesday will also begin previously planned military training exercises in the region, the first since the Russian intervention in Crimea. A U.S. Navy destroyer will participate in maneuvers with Romanian and Bulgarian warships in the Black Sea, across from Crimea. In Poland, U.S. fighter jets will take part in joint exercises.

* * *

On Monday, a Ukrainian defense official said a Russian-led military force of about a dozen men fired in the air as they took control of a Ukrainian naval base near the town of Bakhchisaray, though no one was hurt.

The force was accompanied by the base’s Ukrainian commander. He persuaded a number of his men to join the Russian forces while allowing others who refused to leave, the Ukrainian official, Vladislav Seleznyov wrote on Facebook. The Russian force later drove off with nine Ukrainian vehicles.

Yarik Alexandrov, one of the Ukrainian naval personnel who refused to pledge allegiance to Moscow, told Reuters near the base that he and his comrades at first refused to surrender. “Then they started shooting round our feet and we surrendered,” he said. “What could we do? We had no weapons.”

Similar small confrontations have taken place at other Ukrainian bases around Crimea, although shooting has been rare and there has so far been no bloodshed. Russia denies its troops are involved – a stance ridiculed in Kiev and the West.

In a sign of the peninsula’s growing isolation from the Ukrainian mainland, armed men prevented a convoy of cars from a Ukrainian activist group crossing into Crimea.

The group was part of the Maidan movement behind the protests that forced Yanukovich to flee to Russia. Ukrainian television showed men in the uniform of the Berkut riot police, banned by the new authorities for its role in shooting dozens of demonstrators in Kiev last month, blocking the road south.

One was shown firing twice, hitting a man in the chest. His injuries appeared minor, suggesting the use of rubber bullets.

In other armed action, Russian forces took over a military hospital and a missile unit. Reuters correspondents also saw a big Russian convoy on the move just outside the port city of Sevastopol near a Ukrainian air defense base.

It comprised more than 100 vehicles, including around 20 armored personnel carriers, plus mobile artillery.

In conclusion, just so there is no confusion about who is in charge of Crimea…

 

Diplomacy Fails In Ukraine: Putin Slams Kerry Plan, Kiev Issues Ultimatum, Crimea Suspends All Non-Moscow Flights | Zero Hedge

Diplomacy Fails In Ukraine: Putin Slams Kerry Plan, Kiev Issues Ultimatum, Crimea Suspends All Non-Moscow Flights | Zero Hedge.

While it may have been pushed back from the front pages to keep confidence high, things in the Crimea, and in Ukraine in general (which may or may not waved goodbye to its gold reserves) are going from bad to worse with every passing day, with the near term catalyst of course being this Sunday Crimean referendum vote, which seems like a done deal, and which will give Russia a carte blanche to annex the territory over the howls of protest from Ukraine’s coup government, and the west of course.

Making this outcome one step clower, overnight the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea adopted an independence declaration from Ukraine which is necessary for holding a March 16 referendum.

“We, the members of the parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the Sevastopol City Council, with regard to the charter of the United Nations and a whole range of other international documents and taking into consideration the confirmation of the status of Kosovo by the United Nations International Court of Justice on July, 22, 2010, which says that unilateral declaration of independence by a part of the country doesn’t violate any international norms, make this decision,” says the text of the declaration, which was published by the Crimean media.

As RT reports, the document was adopted during an extraordinary session of parliament. 78 of 100 members of the parliament voted in favor of the declaration.

The Crimean parliament’s vote to become an independent sovereign state paves the way for the March 16 referendum for the Crimean Autonomous Republic and the city of Sevastopol to join Russia. If the referendum is in favor, the Crimean authorities will request for their country to become a constituent republic of the Russian Federation. The declaration was signed by the speaker of the Supreme Council of Crimea, Vladimir Konstantinov, and the head of the Sevastopol City Council, Yury Doynikov.

“We adopted the declaration of independence to make the upcoming referendum legitimate and transparent,” Konstantinov said. “Now we declare ourselves the Republic of Crimea, we don’t add ‘autonomous.”

After Tuesday’s declaration of independence, Crimea will never rejoin Ukraine, Konstantinov added. He said that Crimea will adopt the Russian ruble as its currency soon after the referendum.

Not unexpectedly, the west, and Ukraine specifically, continue to make loud noises over the referendum, with the latest development is Kiev sending an ultimatum to Crimea. Guardian reports that “Ukraine’s parliament has warned the regional assembly in Crimea that it faces dissolution unless it cancels a referendum it has called to join the region to Russia.”

A resolution, supported by a parliamentary vote, gave the Crimean parliament until Wednesday to call off the referendum, due to take place on Sunday. The Crimean parliament on Tuesday passed a motion stating that it would become independent in the event of a yes vote and then seek to join the Russian Federation, arguing that “the unilateral declaration of independence of part of a state does not violate any international laws”.

There is the minor matter of enforcing this ultimatum in a territory largely controlled by Russian forces:

Also on Tuesday, the acting Ukrainian president, Oleksander Turchinov, announced that a new national guard would be formed in response to Russian attempts to annex Crimea.

Turchinov said mismanagement of the armed forces under former president Viktor Yanukovych meant that the Ukrainian military had to be rebuilt “effectively from scratch”. The acting defence minister said the country had only 6,000 combat-ready infantry compared with more than 200,000 Russian troops on its eastern borders.

Good luck with that.

But aside from the actual area of physical confrontation, the real conflict continues behind the scenes. It is here that we find Russia president Putin has apparently rejected a U.S. proposal to resolve the dispute over Ukraine that had been put forward by Secretary of State John Kerry over the past week, according to senior Russian and U.S. officials. WSJ reported that “Mr. Putin’s decision led Mr. Kerry to put off a Russian invitation to meet Mr. Putin in Russia, as early as the beginning of this week in Sochi, to discuss the Ukraine crisis, according to these officials.”

Moscow and Washington on Monday each blamed the other for the diplomatic stumble and for failing to defuse the most serious U.S.-Russian standoff since the end of the Cold War.

Residents of the Crimean region of Ukraine are scheduled to vote Sunday on whether to secede from their country and join the Russian federation.

Despite the setback, U.S. and Russian officials stressed Monday that discussions on the former Soviet state were ongoing. The State Department didn’t rule out Mr. Kerry visiting Moscow to meet Mr. Putin.

“The United States needs to see concrete evidence that Russia is prepared to engage on the diplomatic proposals we have made to facilitate direct dialogue between Ukraine and Russia,” State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said.

Send in the Kerry again perhaps? Speaking of political cadavers, ousted Ukraine president Yanukovich, whose political future even Putin said is over, appeared on TV earlier today and reminded everyone he was still the legitimate leader:

Ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has said in a televised press conference that he is still the legitimate leader of the country. It was his second statement made from the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don where he fled to when he was removed from power by the Ukrainian Parliament.

“I want to remind you that I am not only still the legitimate president of Ukraine but also the supreme commander of the army and I haven’t stopped my duties as president early – I am still alive.”

He took no questions from the press after his speech.

Yanukovych claimed that he was still the legitimate leader of Ukraine and that he fled Ukraine because of a direct threat to his and his family’s lives.

He added he would return to Ukraine soon.

He called the upcoming May 25 presidential election “illegal” and said that any government voted in would also be unconstitutional

He said the US and West should not be backing or funding the new “bandit” government which had carried out an illegal coup d’etat.

And then there is everything else. Reading Reuters:

A pro-Russian force opened fire in seizing a Ukrainian military base in Crimea on Monday and NATO announced reconnaissance flights along its eastern frontiers as confrontation around the Black Sea peninsula showed no sign of easing. Ukrainian activists trying to cross into Crimea to show solidarity with opponents of last week’s Russian military takeover there said they were halted by men in uniforms of the now outlawed riot police. One of these fired at close range, hitting a man in the chest, apparently with rubber bullets.

With diplomacy at a standstill, Russia said the United States had spurned an invitation to hold new talks on resolving the crisis, the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War – although Washington said later a meeting of foreign ministers was possible this week, if Moscow shows it is ready to “engage”.

The U.S.-led NATO defense alliance said AWACS early warning aircraft, once designed to counter feared Soviet nuclear missile strikes, would start reconnaissance flights on Tuesday over Poland and Romania to monitor the situation in Ukraine, flying from bases in Germany and Britain.

The United States on Tuesday will also begin previously planned military training exercises in the region, the first since the Russian intervention in Crimea. A U.S. Navy destroyer will participate in maneuvers with Romanian and Bulgarian warships in the Black Sea, across from Crimea. In Poland, U.S. fighter jets will take part in joint exercises.

* * *

On Monday, a Ukrainian defense official said a Russian-led military force of about a dozen men fired in the air as they took control of a Ukrainian naval base near the town of Bakhchisaray, though no one was hurt.

The force was accompanied by the base’s Ukrainian commander. He persuaded a number of his men to join the Russian forces while allowing others who refused to leave, the Ukrainian official, Vladislav Seleznyov wrote on Facebook. The Russian force later drove off with nine Ukrainian vehicles.

Yarik Alexandrov, one of the Ukrainian naval personnel who refused to pledge allegiance to Moscow, told Reuters near the base that he and his comrades at first refused to surrender. “Then they started shooting round our feet and we surrendered,” he said. “What could we do? We had no weapons.”

Similar small confrontations have taken place at other Ukrainian bases around Crimea, although shooting has been rare and there has so far been no bloodshed. Russia denies its troops are involved – a stance ridiculed in Kiev and the West.

In a sign of the peninsula’s growing isolation from the Ukrainian mainland, armed men prevented a convoy of cars from a Ukrainian activist group crossing into Crimea.

The group was part of the Maidan movement behind the protests that forced Yanukovich to flee to Russia. Ukrainian television showed men in the uniform of the Berkut riot police, banned by the new authorities for its role in shooting dozens of demonstrators in Kiev last month, blocking the road south.

One was shown firing twice, hitting a man in the chest. His injuries appeared minor, suggesting the use of rubber bullets.

In other armed action, Russian forces took over a military hospital and a missile unit. Reuters correspondents also saw a big Russian convoy on the move just outside the port city of Sevastopol near a Ukrainian air defense base.

It comprised more than 100 vehicles, including around 20 armored personnel carriers, plus mobile artillery.

In conclusion, just so there is no confusion about who is in charge of Crimea…

 

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