Olduvaiblog: Musings on the coming collapse

Home » Posts tagged 'Canada News' (Page 2)

Tag Archives: Canada News

Great Barrier Reef Faces ‘Irreversible’ Damage: Report

Great Barrier Reef Faces ‘Irreversible’ Damage: Report.

The Huffington Post  | by  Sara Gates
Posted: 03/06/2014 12:26 pm EST Updated: 03/06/2014 12:59 pm EST


Main Entry Image

The Great Barrier Reef may be in serious trouble.

Unless immediate action is taken, the famous coral reef system will be unable to recover from the “irreversible” damage that climate change will wreak on it by 2030, a new report out of Australia warns.

Published by the World Wildlife Fund-Australia, the University of Queensland reportpaints a bleak picture for the future of the ecosystem.

“If we don’t increase our commitment to solve the burgeoning stress from local and global sources, the reef will disappear,” the report, prepared for Earth Hour’s upcoming annual event, states. “This is not a hunch or alarmist rhetoric by green activists. It is the conclusion of the world’s most qualified coral reef experts.”

The reef has already experienced extensive damage in the past few decades from tropical storms and other harmful events, which can lead to coral bleaching, a condition that occurs when stress from changes causes coral to weaken and turn white. A 2012 report indicated that 50 percent of the Great Barrier Reef has disappeared since 1985.

great barrier reef bleaching

Bleached coral, as seen here at the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, occurs when extreme temperatures, increased UV rays, disease, chemicals, salinity and exposure to air and rain at extreme low tides occur.

This decline is set to increase in the next 16 years, based on current estimates of carbon dioxide emissions, warn coral reef biologists Dr. Selina Ward and Ove Hoegh-Guldberg.

If things do not drastically change, the condition of the reef in 2030 will be “getting close to what we understand to be some of the limits in terms of rapidly calcifying reefs,” Hoegh-Guldberg, who serves as the director of the university’s Global Change Institute, told The Sydney Morning Herald.

In order to grow and thrive, coral reefs undergo calcification. But with warming waters and increased carbon pollution, the Great Barrier Reef is becoming weaker and less likely to reproduce.

“If we continue as we are, we’ll get more degradation and more bleaching events,” Ward told The Guardian. “If we want to save the Great Barrier Reef we need to act immediately and make dramatic reductions in carbon pollution. We need to move away from fossil fuels.”

Great Barrier Reef Faces 'Irreversible' Damage: Report

Great Barrier Reef Faces ‘Irreversible’ Damage: Report.

The Huffington Post  | by  Sara Gates
Posted: 03/06/2014 12:26 pm EST Updated: 03/06/2014 12:59 pm EST


Main Entry Image

The Great Barrier Reef may be in serious trouble.

Unless immediate action is taken, the famous coral reef system will be unable to recover from the “irreversible” damage that climate change will wreak on it by 2030, a new report out of Australia warns.

Published by the World Wildlife Fund-Australia, the University of Queensland reportpaints a bleak picture for the future of the ecosystem.

“If we don’t increase our commitment to solve the burgeoning stress from local and global sources, the reef will disappear,” the report, prepared for Earth Hour’s upcoming annual event, states. “This is not a hunch or alarmist rhetoric by green activists. It is the conclusion of the world’s most qualified coral reef experts.”

The reef has already experienced extensive damage in the past few decades from tropical storms and other harmful events, which can lead to coral bleaching, a condition that occurs when stress from changes causes coral to weaken and turn white. A 2012 report indicated that 50 percent of the Great Barrier Reef has disappeared since 1985.

great barrier reef bleaching

Bleached coral, as seen here at the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, occurs when extreme temperatures, increased UV rays, disease, chemicals, salinity and exposure to air and rain at extreme low tides occur.

This decline is set to increase in the next 16 years, based on current estimates of carbon dioxide emissions, warn coral reef biologists Dr. Selina Ward and Ove Hoegh-Guldberg.

If things do not drastically change, the condition of the reef in 2030 will be “getting close to what we understand to be some of the limits in terms of rapidly calcifying reefs,” Hoegh-Guldberg, who serves as the director of the university’s Global Change Institute, told The Sydney Morning Herald.

In order to grow and thrive, coral reefs undergo calcification. But with warming waters and increased carbon pollution, the Great Barrier Reef is becoming weaker and less likely to reproduce.

“If we continue as we are, we’ll get more degradation and more bleaching events,” Ward told The Guardian. “If we want to save the Great Barrier Reef we need to act immediately and make dramatic reductions in carbon pollution. We need to move away from fossil fuels.”

Russia Rejects Demands To Leave Crimea

Russia Rejects Demands To Leave Crimea.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a press conference in his country residence of Novo-Ogaryova outside Moscow on March 4, 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 4 said that deposed Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych had no political future but asserted he was legally still head of state. AFP PHOTO / RIA NOVOSTI PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE - POOL / ALEXEY NIKOLSKY        (Photo credit should read ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

PARIS/KIEV, March 5 (Reuters) – Russia rebuffed Western demands to withdraw forces in Ukraine’s Crimea region to their bases on Wednesday amid a day of high-stakes diplomacy in Paris aimed at easing tensions over Ukraine and averting the risk of war.

The European Union offered Ukraine’s new pro-Western government 11 billion euros in financial aid in the next couple of years provided Kiev reaches a deal with the International Monetary Fund. Germany, the EU’s biggest economy, also promised bilateral financial help.

Scroll down or click here for live updates

Ukraine’s new finance minister, Oleksander Shlapak, caused a fall in the Ukrainian bond and currency markets by saying his economically shattered country may start talks with creditors on restructuring its foreign currency debt.

A U.N. special envoy had to abandon a mission to Crimea after being stopped by armed men and besieged inside a cafe by a hostile crowd shouting “Russia! Russia!” Dutch diplomat Robert Serry agreed to leave Crimea to end the stand-off.

And the U.S. Defense Department, in an apparent attempt to signal resolve to Moscow, announced military measures to support eastern European NATO allies adjoining Russia and Ukraine.

Russia and the West are locked in the most serious battle since the end of the Cold War for influence in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic with historic ties to Moscow that is a major commodities exporter and strategic link between East and West.

Ukraine pulled out of a trade deal with the EU under Russian pressure last year, sparking months of protests in Kiev and the Feb. 22 ouster of President Viktor Yanukovich, a Russian ally.

Ukraine says Russia has occupied Crimea, where its Black Sea fleet is based, provoking an international outcry and sharp falls in financial markets on Monday, though they have since stabilised.

The foreign ministers of Russia, the United States, Britain, and Germany met their French counterpart and French President Francois Hollande in Paris to try to start a diplomatic process to defuse the crisis.

But diplomats said it was not clear whether Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would take the crucial step of attending talks with Ukraine’s new foreign minister, a member of a government Moscow has described as illegitimate.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry left the meeting at Hollande’s office without making any statement.

Earlier, Lavrov repeated Moscow’s assertion – ridiculed by the West – that the troops that have seized control of the Black Sea peninsula are not under Russian command.

Asked whether Moscow would order forces in Crimea back to their bases, Lavrov told a questioner in Madrid: “If you mean the self-defence units created by the inhabitants of Crimea, we give them no orders, they take no orders from us.

“As for the military personnel of the Black Sea Fleet, they are in their deployment sites. Yes, additional vigilance measures were taken to safeguard the sites … We will do everything not to allow any bloodshed.”

FACE-TO-FACE

Russia did not attend a meeting with Kerry, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia of the so-called Budapest group created to assure Ukraine’s security after it abandoned nuclear weapons in 1994.

But Kerry and Hague said they would try to bring the Russian and Ukrainian ministers together later in the day.

Poland’s foreign minister tweeted that he would attend a meeting in Paris with those two ministers plus the United States, Germany, Britain, France and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

But there was no confirmation that all sides would attend the session, which could be the first step in a diplomatic mediation process.

NATO and Russia were holding talks in Brussels amid concerns that a standoff between Russian and Ukrainian forces in Crimea could still spark violence, or that Moscow could also intervene in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.

In a sign of heightened tensions in the east, a pro-Russian crowd in Donetsk, Yanukovich’s hometown, recaptured a regional administration building they had occupied before being ejected by police, a Reuters witness said.

The West is pushing for Russia to return troops to barracks, accept international monitors in Crimea and Ukraine and negotiate a solution to the crisis through a “contact group” probably under the auspices of a pan-European security body.

SANCTIONS

France said European Union leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday could decide on sanctions against Russia if there is no “de-escalation” by then. Other EU countries, including Germany, are more reticent about sanctions.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said early measures could include restrictions on visas, the assets of individuals and existing discussions on economic ties with Russia.

President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday defended Russia’s actions in Crimea, which used to be Russian territory, and said he would use force only as a last resort.

This eased market fears of a war over the former Soviet republic after sharp falls on Monday, though Russian shares and the rouble slipped again on Wednesday, and Ukraine’s hryvnia dropped against the dollar.

Russian forces remain in control of Crimea, where Interfax reported they seized control of two Ukrainian missile defence sites overnight, and Putin gave no sign of backing down.

In Brussels, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said EU deliver assistance to Kiev would in part be contingent on Ukraine signing an IMF loan deal, which will require painful economic reforms such as ending domestic gas subsidies and letting the hryvnia float.

“The package combined could bring an overall support of at least 11 billion euros over the next couple of years,” Barroso told a news conference. The United States offered Ukraine $1 billion in loan guarantees on Tuesday.

G7 MAY MEET SOON

At his first news conference since the crisis began, Putin said on Tuesday that Russia reserved the right to use all options to protect compatriots who were living in “terror” in Ukraine but that force was not needed for now.

He told his cabinet on Wednesday he did not want political tension to detract from economic cooperation with Russia’s “traditional partners”. But the foreign ministry said Moscow was preparing counter-measures against Western firms if necessary.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said after speaking to Obama that the Group of Seven leading industrialised nations were considering meeting in the near future, a move that would exclude Russia, which joined what became the G8 in 1998.

Lavrov told European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton that an EU-brokered agreement signed by political leaders in Kiev on Feb. 21 should be the basis for stabilising the situation in Ukraine, his ministry said on Wednesday.

In Washington, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Congress the U.S. military was stepping up joint training through an aviation detachment in Poland and boosting participation in a NATO air policing mission over the Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – the only former Soviet republics that are members of the Western alliance.

Ukraine Crisis Has Been Hiding In Plain Sight

Ukraine Crisis Has Been Hiding In Plain Sight.

Oddly enough, I know Ukraine. Or as much as one can know the country from spending time traveling there, long ago as a post-graduate student and in recent years as a tourist and writer. Part of my family was from a Ukrainian town, which I have visited.

Amid the standoff in Crimea, observations from this time lend some insight into the tangled roots of the crisis.

  • Vladimir Putin has been hiding his intentions in plain sight. In an infamous 2005 speech, he declared that the dissolution of the Soviet Union was the “major geopolitical disaster of the century.” But more to the point, he lamented the fact that “tens of millions of our co-citizens and compatriots found themselves outside Russian territory.” This was dog-whistle politics in Crimea, Eastern Ukraine and elsewhere. People were listening. Were we or the Europeans?
  • Ukrainian culture is deep and distinctive. When I first traveled to Kiev and Odessa by way of Lvov as a student in the early 1970s, I got lecture after lecture about the universal genius of Taras Shevchenko, the Pushkin/Shakespeare of the country.
  • Even so, independent Ukrainian nationhood has been more of a romantic dream than a political reality. Lithuanians, Poles and Russians have run the country for most of the last millennium. The main avenue of Kiev is lined with Soviet architecture. The Russians designed Ukraine’s most beautiful city, Odessa, as the St. Petersburg of the South. And it is.
  • The crowd on the Maidan, according to an eye witness, was a brave, spontaneous and democratic one. It wasn’t manufactured by higher powers. “They just kept marching forward knowing they would get shot,” said the observer, an American who was in the city on business.
  • But the new ruling group, empowered by the street protesters, won’t necessarily be a total contrast to the rapacious Yanukovych bunch. “Ukraine is basically tribes of billionaires fighting with each other over resources,” said a former U.S. government official who has worked for more than one tribe there as a political and security adviser.
  • Historically and culturally, Crimea isn’t Ukraine. Sevastopol and Yalta, famous spots on the peninsula, feel Russian when you visit. Sevastapol is home to monuments –- literally and operationally –- to Russian military power: the old Russian fleet submarine bays; the dolphin training center (like a shabby Sea World); the stone markers representing Soviet battles in World War II. Yalta, an almost mystical name to the old Russian leisure class, is home to the dachas of famous Russian artists and the World War II meeting of Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin. When you visit the Czarist summer home that played host to that meeting, there is nothing Ukrainian about the place in any sense.
  • Ironically, and confusingly, old Kiev was the birthplace of Eastern Slavic culture and faith, the place where Vladimir I in 980 decided to adopt Christianity. Evidence of this history is on display to this day, in sacred catacombs that contain rows of skulls of monks from many centuries ago. Russia and Ukraine are yoked together: uncomfortably, sometimes violently, but inevitably.
  • The definition of what is Ukraine has always been elastic around the edges. The first Ukrainian city I visited as a student in a Volkswagen bus in 1970 was Lvov, in what was then called “Western Ukraine.” It had the feel of an Austrian or Polish town, a Middle European city, and for good reason: at one time or another, it had belonged to both. (Under the Austrians it was known as Lemberg.)
  • There is not the same tradition of American-style ideas of freedom — sometimes glorified in the abstract, and paid lip service to by Putin –- in Russia or Ukraine.When I was traveling on a post-graduate fellowship from the Watson Foundation, my carefully limited visa allowed me to drive to Kiev and Odessa, but not to deviate from that route in any way, for any length of time. Well, I wanted to visit Bila Treskva, an hour south of Kiev, where my mother’s ancestors were from. So I drove there without permission. It took the authorities only a few hours to find me, take me into custody and question me for a couple of hours. Before they let me go they made me sign a document admitting my malfeasance. It was in Russian.

Canada Should Keep Training Military in Afghanistan | Lauryn Oates

Canada Should Keep Training Military in Afghanistan | Lauryn Oates.

Lauryn Oates

Human Rights Activist and Development Worker

Canada Should Keep Training Military in Afghanistan

Posted: 02/28/2014 9:10 am

Foreign policy towards Afghanistan has never been known for its farsightedness. From the Soviet Union’s decision to invade the country in 1979 or America’s response in covertly arming the Islamist mujahedin, to Pakistan’s assistance incubating the Taliban, the policies of stakeholder countries towards Afghanistan have often been characterized by negligence, and the consequences have been dire for Afghanistan and these same countries.

The past decade of the international community’s efforts to bring security and development to Afghanistan has also had its share of shortsightedness. But where there has been dogged, long-term investment that accounts for lessons learned and that aims to build systems from the ground up, recognizing that this takes time, there have been successes. These successes are such that the country has propelled forward despite an ongoing insurgency, a government mired in corruption, and much uncertainty over future security arrangements beyond this year.

The change can be seen in skyrocketing human development indicators, the visibility of women in public life, the thriving media sector, and Afghans’ ambitious pursuit of education, from the spike in primary enrolment to the rapid spread of post-secondary institutions throughout the country. And despite a highly centralized government still liable to patronage under an increasingly unstable leader, there are still understated processes of democratization underway. One such process is the professionalization and strengthening of Afghan-led security.

Professionalizing the security sector is not only about security, but is also critical to democratic development. The Afghan police and army, together known as the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF), represent government at the ground level, where the state interfaces with citizens.

These institutions serve as a kind of barometer for public confidence in government. That’s why it’s a hopeful sign that 88% of Afghans report having confidence in the Afghan National Army (ANA) while 91% say that the ANA is helping to improve security in the country, according to the 2013 Survey of the Afghan People. These confidence levels have remained consistent since 2007, and are assessed to be because the presence of the ANSF “has brought at least some sense of law and order to the country.”

That has been no small feat. These institutions have been largely built from scratch, with little to draw from the pre-2002 Taliban Government’s style of security, which consisted of ragtag bands of illiterate religious police, menacingly dangling off the backs of pick-up trucks, on the prowl for those committing “moral crimes.” With no uniforms aside from their black turbans and kohl-smudged eyes, yielding whips and Kalashnikovs, they gave the local population every reason to fear them, and little sense of being served or protected by professionals enforcing the law.

Besides attempting to change the very purpose and spirit of the police force and army in the aftermath of the Taliban, the current effort has required a heavy infusion of equipping, supplying, and training a force now numbering some 350,000 Afghans, including a growing number of women police and soldiers.

Canada has been part of the team of 37 nations undertaking NATO’s training mission of the ANSF, providing 950 Canadian trainers and support personnel who have delivered training in core skills for the forces, as well as leadership and other areas, in Kabul and at satellite sites in Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif.

In 2011, literacy became part of the required training for Afghan forces, and the successes in this area have been among the most remarkable. Consider that prior to the start of the training mission only 13,000 ANSF had even the most rudimentary literacy, while nearly all ANSF have now either completed literacy training or are currently enrolled (according to ISAF, as at January 2014, 233,643 have completed Level 1, 98,648 completed Level 2, and 76,834 completed Level 3, the level for functional literacy).

In 2012, the Darulaman Literacy Centre opened at the Regional Military Training Centre in Kabul. The literacy component of training is crucial because literate police and soldiers take themselves seriously: they think of themselves as educated professionals, serving their people, as opposed to preying on them. Further, literacy is the steppingstone to learning trades like signals or artillery, allowing the further professionalizing of the ANSF.

All of this is akin to a transformation of some consequence in terms of state building. Yet to be durable, this work must continue, for at least another two years, according to NATO. But at the end of March, Canadian military personnel will leave Afghanistan. That is too soon. As the second largest contributing nation to the training mission after the US, Canada’s contributions to this capacity development are too valuable to withdraw this close to the finish line. Canada should renew its training mission for another term, and continue contributing to the Afghan mission in an area in which it clearly excels.

NATO civilian leader Anders Fogh Rasmussen has called the “zero option”, of having no international forces left in Afghanistan simply “not an option”, stressing the need for continued capacity and training support in particular, to get the ANSF to a point where it can reliably and independently provide security for the citizens of Afghanistan.

I recently asked Canadian Major-General Dean Milner, Commander of the NATO training mission, how far the Afghan security forces have come in their development, and how far they have left to go. “They are well past the half-way point” Milner told me, “with just a few more years of financial and practical assistance from the international community they should be capable of sustaining themselves. They defeat the Taliban in every tactical engagement, but now they need assistance with more complex skills such as building their Air Force and their logistical and maintenance systems.”

With President Karzai delaying the signing of a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) there is fevered speculation that NATO troops will leave the country by 2015 and Afghanistan will once again return to chaos. When asked for his view, Major-General Milner was optimistic the BSA would be signed. “The Loya Jirga overwhelmingly supported the immediate signing and every serious contender in the presidential election has committed to signing the BSA if elected,” said Milner. “It would be unfortunate if the support of the international community were to come to an end after the Afghans have progressed so far.” Milner likened it to a swimmer making it 60% of the way across the channel when he gets tired and turns back.

It’s often said that Canada has expended blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Some say this to argue that we’ve given enough to a troubled country on the other side of the world that we had little to do with prior to 2003. But many who know Afghanistan well, and who, like me, have seen how close we are to reaching some enduring stability there, would say this is exactly why we have to see this through. Cutting short the goal of building a professional armed forces after years of investment, when valuable gains need to be protected, when the state’s institutions are within sight of being fully functional, and when the Taliban arerunning out of money to continue their insurgency would continue the pattern of shortsightedness that has too long afflicted the international community’s efforts in Afghanistan. Canada should stay, and continue to add value to the effort of training and educating Afghan soldiers and police. We have given too much and come too far to walk out this close to the finish line, and with so much progress at stake.

Ukraine: Armed Men In Russian Uniforms Reportedly Occupy Crimea Airport

Ukraine: Armed Men In Russian Uniforms Reportedly Occupy Crimea Airport.

AP  | by  DALTON BENNETT and MARIA DANILOVA
Posted: 02/27/2014 5:52 am EST Updated: 02/28/2014 3:59 am EST

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) — Dozens of armed men in Russian-marked military uniforms occupied an airport in the capital of Ukraine’s strategic Crimea region early Friday, a report said, but a later report cited an airport official as saying the men apologized and left after finding no Ukrainian troops had landed.

Witnesses told the Interfax news agency that the 50 or so men were wearing the same gear as the ones who seized government buildings in the city, Simferopol, on Thursday and raised the Russian flag. The report said the men with “Russian Navy ensigns” first surrounded the Simferopol Airport’s domestic flights terminal.

The report could not be immediately confirmed. A later Interfax report, datelined Moscow, quoted an airport representative as saying the men apologized and left and that the airport was operating normally.

A woman who answered the phone at the airport said “no comment,” and the airport’s website listed the morning’s first flight, to Moscow, as boarding on schedule.

The events in the Crimea region have heightened tensions with neighboring Russia, which scrambled fighter jets to patrol borders in the first stirrings of a potentially dangerous confrontation reminiscent of Cold War brinksmanship.

Russia also has granted shelter to Ukraine’s fugitive president, Viktor Yanukovych, after recent deadly protests in Kiev swept in a new government.

While the government in Kiev, led by a pro-Western technocrat, pledged to prevent any national breakup, there were mixed signals in Moscow. Russia pledged to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Yanukovych was said to be holed up in a luxury government retreat, with a news conference scheduled Friday near the Ukrainian border. He has not been seen publicly since Saturday.

On Thursday, as masked gunmen wearing unmarked camouflage uniforms erected a sign reading “Crimea is Russia” in Simferopol, Ukraine’s interim prime minister declared the Black Sea territory “has been and will be a part of Ukraine.”

The escalating conflict sent Ukraine’s finances plummeting further, prompting Western leaders to prepare an emergency financial package.

Yanukovych, whose abandonment of closer ties to Europe in favor of a bailout loan from Russia set off three months of protests, finally fled by helicopter last week as his allies deserted him. The humiliating exit was a severe blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had been celebrating his signature Olympics even as Ukraine’s drama came to a crisis. The Russian leader has long dreamed of pulling Ukraine — a country of 46 million people considered the cradle of Russian civilization — closer into Moscow’s orbit.

For Ukraine’s neighbors, the specter of Ukraine breaking up evoked memories of centuries of bloody conflict.

“Regional conflicts begin this way,” said Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, calling the confrontation “a very dangerous game.”

Russia’s dispatch of fighter jets Thursday to patrol borders and drills by some 150,000 Russian troops — almost the entirety of its force in the western part of the country — signaled strong determination not to lose Ukraine to the West.

The dramatic developments posed an immediate challenge to Ukraine’s new authorities as they named an interim government for the country, whose population is divided in loyalties between Russia and the West. Crimea, which was seized by Russian forces in the 18th century under Catherine the Great, was once the crown jewel in Russian and then Soviet empires.

It only became part of Ukraine in 1954 when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred jurisdiction from Russia — a move that was a mere formality until the 1991 Soviet collapse meant Crimea landed in an independent Ukraine.

In the capital, Kiev, the new prime minister said Ukraine’s future lies in the European Union, but with friendly relations with Russia.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, named Thursday in a boisterous parliamentary session, now faces the difficult task of restoring stability in a country that is not only deeply divided politically but on the verge of financial collapse. The 39-year-old served as economy minister, foreign minister and parliamentary speaker before Yanukovych took office in 2010, and is widely viewed as a technocratic reformer who enjoys the support of the U.S.

Shortly before the lawmakers chose him, Yatsenyuk insisted the country wouldn’t accept the secession of Crimea. The Black Sea territory, he declared, “has been and will be a part of Ukraine.”

In Simferopol, tensions soared Thursday when gunmen toting rocket-propelled grenades and sniper rifles raised the Russian flag over the local parliament building. They wore black and orange ribbons, a Russian symbol of victory in World War II.

A pro-Russian activist who gave only his first name, Maxim, said he and other activists were camped overnight outside the parliament when about 50 men wearing flak jackets and carrying rocket-propelled grenade launchers and sniper rifles took over the building.

“They were asking who we were. When we said we stand for the Russian language and Russia, they said: ‘Don’t be afraid. We’re with you.’ Then they began to storm the building, bringing down the doors,” he said. “They didn’t look like volunteers or amateurs; they were professionals. This was clearly a well-organized operation.”

“Who are they?” he added. “Nobody knows.”

Oleksandr Turchynov, who stepped in as acting president after Yanukovych’s flight, condemned the assault as a “crime against the government of Ukraine.” He warned that any move by Russian troops off of their base in Crimea “will be considered a military aggression.”

“I have given orders to the military to use all methods necessary to protect the citizens, punish the criminals, and to free the buildings,” he said.

Experts described a delicate situation in which one sudden move could lead to wider conflict.

“The main concern at this point is that Kiev might decide to intervene by sending law enforcement people to restore constitutional order,” said Dmitry Trenin, head of the Carnegie Moscow Center. “That is something that would lead to confrontation and drag the Russians in.”

In a bid to shore up Ukraine’s fledgling administration, the International Monetary Fund said it was “ready to respond” to Ukraine’s bid for financial assistance. The European Union is also considering emergency loans for a country that is the chief conduit of Russian natural gas to western Europe.

IMF chief Christine Lagarde said in the organization’s first official statement on Ukraine’s crisis that it was in talks with its partners on “how best to help Ukraine at this critical moment in its history.” Ukraine’s finance ministry has said it needs $35 billion over the next two years to avoid default. Ukraine’s currency, the hryvnia, dropped to a new record low of 11.25 to the U.S. dollar, a sign of the country’s financial distress.

Western leaders lined up to support the new Ukrainian leadership, with the German and British leaders warning Russia not to interfere.

“Every country should respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Ukraine,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in London.

NATO defense ministers met in Brussels, and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel emerged appealing for calm.

“These are difficult times,” he said, “but these are times for cool, wise leadership on Russia’s side and everyone’s side.”

Yet the prospect of the West luring Ukraine into NATO is the very nightmare that Russia is desperately trying to avoid. Trenin of the Carnegie Center said a Ukraine-NATO courtship “would really raise the alarm levels in Moscow.”

Yanukovych declared Thursday in a statement that he remains Ukraine’s legitimate president. He was reportedly to hold a news conference Friday in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, not far from the Ukrainian border.

“I have to ask Russia to ensure my personal safety from extremists,” Yanukovych’s statement read, according to Russian news agencies. Shortly after, an unnamed Russian official was quoted as saying that Yanukovych’s request had been granted.

___

Associated Press writers Karl Ritter in Kiev, Nataliya Vasilyeva and Laura Mills in Moscow and Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.

Rich Foreigners Are The Best Thing To Happen To New York City | Diane Francis

Rich Foreigners Are The Best Thing To Happen To New York City | Diane Francis.

Posted: 02/25/2014 12:08 pm

My husband and I live in Toronto, but we just bought a condo on 57th Street in a 25 year-old building. I have owned a condo in New York since 2005, and we moved to a bigger place near One57, or Oligarch Arms, and near other controversial sites designed to give wealthy outsiders stunning city views.

To us, New York outshines other capitals such as London or Paris because it’s the world’s biggest shopping mall, complete with 24-hour room service. It’s also a theme park for adults who like theater, art, museums, opera, comedy clubs, food, fashion and dynamic streetscapes. We have invested our after-tax Canadian dollars here rather than buying a place in Florida to golf and mall walk.

We’re not the only ones — figures are imprecise, but estimates are that foreigners like us have been buying roughly one-third of the city’s condos as second or third homes.

But as condo prices climb, along with density and heights, my husband and I have become public enemy No. 1. Populist resentment, new taxes and legislative threats have cast foreign buyers as pied-à-terrorists.

Mayor de Blasio even sideswiped us, along with rich locals, in his “Tale of Two Cities” campaign speech at New School: “One New Yorker is rushing past an attended desk in the lobby of a majestic skyscraper . . . while a few miles away, a single mother is also rushing, holding her two young children by the hands as they hurry down the steps of the subway entrance.”
As we say in Canada: Give me a break.

Attacking New York’s newest, part-time residents like us is fiscally foolish. The facts show that we are the solution, not the problem, to New York’s budget. We are walking wallets — and we just want to have fun.

Robust condo sales to people like us have brought economic development and jobs.
Even better, 63 per cent of us pay cash, a stabilizing effect on an over-leveraged real-estate market, because we can. We contribute to the GDP and are the gift that keeps giving. Every year we stay, we will pay condo fees, cable bills, dry cleaners, utilities and sales taxes. We will buy tons of concert, theater, art show, exhibits and hockey tickets.

My husband and I alone will fork out at least $25,000 a year in property and sales taxes.
Better yet, we don’t cost the city a dime because we don’t dump our kids into public schools or drive cars that damage roads and create potholes. We don’t make political demands, don’t crowd your libraries or hospitals and don’t deduct mortgage interest from our income taxes like New Yorkers do. If we break laws, we get tossed out. If we have broken laws, we cannot get in.

We are an economic fantasy come true. A captive tourism industry, we market the city abroad, like social media platforms on legs, boring to tears our friends and family about how wonderful and safe New York really has become. We support cheesy souvenir shops, park vendors peddling iconic photos of Depression workers on a girder and reworked musicals on Broadway. We bring in relatives and friends who love riding the horse drawn carts through Central Park. We buy the T-shirts and the labels at Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman.

Some locals grumble about the buyers of the lavish “safety deposit boxes in the sky” and whether they are hiding ill-gotten gains.

London and Paris may specialize in catering to despots, potentates, monarchs and questionable characters from former colonies, but New York City is different. Buyers here must submit to a rigorous process that requires us to pay for credit checks, police checks and proving we don’t owe taxes anywhere. Worse yet, we had to disclose on paper, for their perusal, all of our personal and business assets, stock and bond trades, cash and bank accounts worldwide. These figures had to be verified by banks, accountants or lawyers.

Such scrutiny makes us so desirable to America’s economy that Sen. Charles Schumer has proposed a bill to Congress that would grant visas to any foreigner paying more than $500,000 for a residence.

While unlikely, and somewhat daft, the facts show that we deserve a slap on the back, and not one in the face, for buying a slice of the Big Apple.

Appeared in the New York Post Feb. 23

Viktor Yanukovych Arrest Warrant Issued, As Ukraine Authorities Hunt President In Crimea

Viktor Yanukovych Arrest Warrant Issued, As Ukraine Authorities Hunt President In Crimea.

CP  |  By Yuras Karmanau And Maria Danilova, The Associated PressPosted: 02/24/2014 3:46 am EST  |  Updated: 02/24/2014 8:59 am EST

Viktor Yanukovych

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine – Ukraine’s acting government issued a warrant Monday for the arrest of President Viktor Yanukovych, last seen in the pro-Russian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, accusing him of mass crimes against protesters who stood up for months against his rule.

Calls are mounting in Ukraine to put Yanukovych on trial, after a tumultuous presidency in which he amassed powers, enriched his allies and cracked down on protesters. Anger boiled over last week after snipers attacked protesters in the bloodiest violence in Ukraine’s post-Soviet history.

The turmoil has turned this strategically located country of 46 million inside out over the past few days, raising fears that it could split apart. The parliament speaker is suddenly nominally in charge of a country whose economy is on the brink of default and whose loyalties are torn between Europe and longtime ruler Russia.

Ukraine’s acting interior minister, Arsen Avakhov, said on his official Facebook page Monday that a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Yanukovych and several other officials for the “mass killing of civilians.” At least 82 people, primarily protesters, were killed in clashes in Kyiv last week.

Avakhov says Yanukovych arrived in Crimea on Sunday and relinquished his official security detail then drove off to an unknown location.

After signing an agreement with the opposition to end a conflict that turned deadly, Yanukovych fled the capital for eastern Ukraine. Avakhov said he tried to fly out of Donetsk but was stopped, then went to Crimea.

Tensions have been mounting in Crimea, where pro-Russian protesters raised a Russian flag on a city hall in one town and scuffled with police. Russia maintains a big naval base in the Crimean port of Sevastopol that has tangled relations between the countries for two decades.

Yanukovych set off a wave of protests by shelving an agreement with the EU in November and turning toward Russia, and the movement quickly expanded its grievances to corruption, human rights abuses and calls for Yanukovych’s resignation.

“We must find Yanukovych and put him on trial,” said protester Leonid Shovtak, a 50-year-old farmer from the western Ivano-Frankivsk region who came to Kyiv’s Independence Square to take part in the three-month protest movement. “All the criminals with him should be in prison.”

The speaker of parliament assumed the president’s powers Sunday, even though a presidential aide told the AP on Sunday that Yanukovych plans to stay in power.

The speaker, Oleksandr Turchinov, said top priorities include saving the economy and “returning to the path of European integration,” according to news agencies. The latter phrase is certain to displease Moscow, which wants Ukraine to be part of a customs union that would rival the EU and bolster Russia’s influence. Russia granted Ukraine a $15 billion bailout after Yanukovych backed away from the EU deal.

U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt said the U.S. is ready to help Ukraine get aid from the International Monetary Fund.

The European Union, meanwhile, is reviving efforts to strike a deal with Ukraine that could involve billions of euros in economic perks. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is visiting Kyiv on Monday and Tuesday.

The protest movement has been in large part a fight for the country’s economic future — for better jobs and prosperity.

Ukraine has struggled with corruption, bad government and short-sighted reliance on cheap gas from Russia. Political unrest has pushed up the deficit and sent exchange rates bouncing, and may have pushed the economy back into a recession.

Per capita economic output is only around $7,300, even adjusted for the lower cost of living there, compared to $22,200 in Poland and around $51,700 in the United States. Ukraine ranks 137th worldwide, behind El Salvador, Namibia, and Guyana.

Ukraine has a large potential consumer market, with 46 million people, an educated workforce, and a rich potential export market next door in the EU. It has a significant industrial base and good natural resources, in particular rich farmland.

Viktor Yanukovych Arrest Warrant Issued, As Ukraine Authorities Hunt President In Crimea

Viktor Yanukovych Arrest Warrant Issued, As Ukraine Authorities Hunt President In Crimea.

CP  |  By Yuras Karmanau And Maria Danilova, The Associated PressPosted: 02/24/2014 3:46 am EST  |  Updated: 02/24/2014 6:59 am EST

Viktor Yanukovych

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine – Ukraine’s acting government issued a warrant Monday for the arrest of President Viktor Yanukovych, last seen in the pro-Russian Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, accusing him of mass crimes against protesters who stood up for months against his rule.

Calls are mounting in Ukraine to put Yanukovych on trial, after a tumultuous presidency in which he amassed powers, enriched his allies and cracked down on protesters. Anger boiled over last week after snipers attacked protesters in the bloodiest violence in Ukraine’s post-Soviet history.

The turmoil has turned this strategically located country of 46 million inside out over the past few days, raising fears that it could split apart. The parliament speaker is suddenly nominally in charge of a country whose economy is on the brink of default and whose loyalties are torn between Europe and longtime ruler Russia.

Ukraine’s acting interior minister, Arsen Avakhov, said on his official Facebook page Monday that a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Yanukovych and several other officials for the “mass killing of civilians.” At least 82 people, primarily protesters, were killed in clashes in Kyiv last week.

Avakhov says Yanukovych arrived in Crimea on Sunday and relinquished his official security detail then drove off to an unknown location.

After signing an agreement with the opposition to end a conflict that turned deadly, Yanukovych fled the capital for eastern Ukraine. Avakhov said he tried to fly out of Donetsk but was stopped, then went to Crimea.

Tensions have been mounting in Crimea, where pro-Russian protesters raised a Russian flag on a city hall in one town and scuffled with police. Russia maintains a big naval base in the Crimean port of Sevastopol that has tangled relations between the countries for two decades.

Yanukovych set off a wave of protests by shelving an agreement with the EU in November and turning toward Russia, and the movement quickly expanded its grievances to corruption, human rights abuses and calls for Yanukovych’s resignation.

“We must find Yanukovych and put him on trial,” said protester Leonid Shovtak, a 50-year-old farmer from the western Ivano-Frankivsk region who came to Kyiv’s Independence Square to take part in the three-month protest movement. “All the criminals with him should be in prison.”

The speaker of parliament assumed the president’s powers Sunday, even though a presidential aide told the AP on Sunday that Yanukovych plans to stay in power.

The speaker, Oleksandr Turchinov, said top priorities include saving the economy and “returning to the path of European integration,” according to news agencies. The latter phrase is certain to displease Moscow, which wants Ukraine to be part of a customs union that would rival the EU and bolster Russia’s influence. Russia granted Ukraine a $15 billion bailout after Yanukovych backed away from the EU deal.

U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt said the U.S. is ready to help Ukraine get aid from the International Monetary Fund.

The European Union, meanwhile, is reviving efforts to strike a deal with Ukraine that could involve billions of euros in economic perks. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is visiting Kyiv on Monday and Tuesday.

The protest movement has been in large part a fight for the country’s economic future — for better jobs and prosperity.

Ukraine has struggled with corruption, bad government and short-sighted reliance on cheap gas from Russia. Political unrest has pushed up the deficit and sent exchange rates bouncing, and may have pushed the economy back into a recession.

Per capita economic output is only around $7,300, even adjusted for the lower cost of living there, compared to $22,200 in Poland and around $51,700 in the United States. Ukraine ranks 137th worldwide, behind El Salvador, Namibia, and Guyana.

Ukraine has a large potential consumer market, with 46 million people, an educated workforce, and a rich potential export market next door in the EU. It has a significant industrial base and good natural resources, in particular rich farmland.

UK Tells Russia: Don’t Intervene In Ukraine

UK Tells Russia: Don’t Intervene In Ukraine.

Posted: 02/23/2014 6:09 am EST Updated: 02/23/2014 9:59 am EST


Main Entry Image


By Andrew Osborn

LONDON, Feb 23 (Reuters) – Britain warned Russia on Sunday against intervening in Ukraine’s “complex” crisis, saying London wanted to contribute to an international economic programme aimed at shoring up the “desperately difficult” situation of the Ukrainian economy.

In comments that may anger Moscow, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said his government was in regular contact with the Russian government to try to persuade it that closer ties between Ukraine and the European Union should not worry it.

“If there’s an economic package, it will be important that Russia doesn’t do anything to undermine that economic package and is working in cooperation and support of it,” Hague told BBC TV.

When asked if he was worried that Russia might “send in the tanks” to defend the interests of Russian-speakers in eastern Ukraine, Hague warned against what he called “external duress” or Russian intervention.

“It would really not be in the interests of Russia to do any such thing. We have to keep up the communication with Russia as we are doing … so that the people of Ukraine can choose their own way forward. There are many dangers and uncertainties.”

Ukraine’s parliament voted to remove President Viktor Yanukovich on Saturday after three months of street protests, while his arch-rival Yulia Tymoshenko hailed opposition demonstrators as “heroes” in an emotional speech in Kiev after she was released from jail.

The crisis began as protests against Yanukovich’s decision to abandon a trade agreement with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Russia, which promised to lend Ukraine $15 billion euros. Ukraine needs the money — foreign investment inflows fell by almost half last year, to a net $2.86 billion from $4.13 billion in 2012 

Britain has so far assumed a lower profile on Ukraine than countries such as Germany and Poland, though Prime Minister David Cameron spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin last Thursday about the situation there and Hague said he’d be talking to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday.

Hague said the priority was to persuade Moscow that the fate of Ukraine – a country that was part of the Soviet Union and has been within Russia’s sphere of influence for decades – was not what he called “a zero-sum game” and that closer ties with the EU were not a bad thing.

“It’s in the interests of the people of Ukraine to be able to trade more freely with the EU. It’s the interests of the people of Russia for that to happen as well.”

He said he didn’t know what Russia’s “next reaction” would be, but he pushed the Ukrainian opposition to move urgently to form a government of national unity, agree arrangements for new elections, and to crack on with shoring up the economy.

“While all this has been happening, the Ukrainian economy is in a desperately difficult situation,” Hague said. “And they need an economic programme that the rest of us, through the International Monetary Fund and other institutions, can support so that they can stave of an even more serious economic situation.”

%d bloggers like this: