*Pictures* World Cup: Brazil Fans React As Their Team Is Humilated By Germany – Let’s Laugh At Their Pain Together


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Ranking Democrat Committee Member Elijah Cummings Implicated By IRS Email As Person Directing Lois Lerner

Elijah Cummings Implicated By IRS Email As Person Directing Lois Lerner – Last Great Stand

I wish I could say I am sorry to hear Rep. Cummings appears to have some MAJOR involvement in the I.R.S. scandal. With all of his incessant pissing and moaning about claims of a partisan witch hunt, and his attempts to stonewall Darrell Issa every time he had the MIC, I hope he is at the top of the list for people to be sent to prison. Remember this incident?

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At the very LEAST, he better resign (OR BE RESIGNED by Trey Gowdy) from the Benghazi Panel where the Democrats have one goal: Obstruct Justice. Needless to say he’s lost the privilege of being able to sit on that panel in my humble opinion.

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True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht responded Wednesday to reports that Rep. Elijah Cummings’ office may have prompted the IRS to target her group for additional scrutiny.

“Today’s committee action reveals what we knew all along. Partisan politics and the weaponization of government against opponents of this administration is real and continues,” Engelbrecht said in a statement. “Elijah Cummings has blocked the IRS abuse investigation all along. We now see clearly that two branches of government have colluded to target and silence private citizens.”

“America has come to a tipping point,” she added. “No more lies. No more cover-ups. No more collusion. Enough is enough. Finally, we have a chance for the rule of law to be re-established, thanks to the bold efforts of Chairman Issa and Rep. Jordan.”

She concluded: “We filed an ethics complaint against Rep. Cummings in February. Today we’re amending that filing to include this latest revelation. As I have said in my testimony before Congress; I will not retreat, I will not surrender, I will not be intimidated. I will not ask Rep. Cummings, Lois Lerner, Barack Obama, or anyone else, for permission to exercise my constitutional rights.”

The top Democrat on a House committee tasked with investigating the IRS scandal may have been involved in the targeting of a Texas-based conservative group, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said Wednesday.

Citing documents obtained last week, Issa suggested in a memo that Rep. Elijah Cummings’ (D-Md.) supposed eagerness to end the IRS investigation may be due to the fact that the Maryland congressman’s office in August 2012 communicated with the IRS about True the Vote, a non-profit group dedicated to preventing voter fraud.

“The IRS and the Oversight Minority made numerous requests for virtually identical information from True the Vote, raising concerns that the IRS improperly shared protected taxpayer information with Rep. Cummings’ staff,” the Oversight panel said in a statement on its website.

The communications between Cummings’ office and the IRS included Lois Lerner, the former IRS official at the center of the targeting scandal. However, Issa’s documents show that she didn’t get involved in the True the Vote matter until January 2013.

The documents obtained by Issa show that Cummings’ staff told the IRS it was interested in obtaining “copies of all training materials used for volunteers, affiliates, or other entities,” from True the Vote.

About five days after Cummings’ office mentioned its interest in the conservative group, True the Vote received an email from the IRS requesting “a copy of [True the Vote’s] volunteer registration form,” “…the process you use to assign volunteers,” “how you keep your volunteers in teams,” and “how your volunteers are deployed… following the training they receive by you.”

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Holly Paz, the former director of the IRS exempt organizations office in Cincinnati, later sent True the Vote’s 990 forms to Cummings’ staff.

An email obtained by Issa’s office shows that Lerner at one point asked Paz of the True the Vote investigation: “Did we find anything?”

Paz responded that she had not.

“[T]hanks – check tomorrow please,” Lerner responded in an email.

True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht has testified before Congress about her experiences dealing with dozens of visits and intrusive questions from the IRS and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Explosives.

Cummings has previously stated that his office never asked the IRS about True the Vote, saying at one point in February that the suggestion was “absolutely incorrect and untrue.”

“Although you have previously denied that your staff made inquiries to the IRS about conservative organization True the Vote that may have led to additional agency scrutiny, communication records between your staff and IRS officials – which you did not disclose to Majority Members or staff – indicates otherwise,” Issa said.

“As the Committee is scheduled to consider a resolution holding Ms. Lerner, a participant in responding to your communications that you failed to disclose, in contempt of Congress, you have an obligation to fully explain your staff’s undisclosed contacts with the IRS,” he added

The Maryland congressman has been sent a copy of Issa’s letter, which has been co-signed by Reps. John Mica (R-N.Y.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), James Lankford (R-Texas) and Blake Ferenthold (R-Texas).

The House Oversight Committee is scheduled to meet Thursday to decide on whether Lerner should be held in contempt for her refusal to answer questions regarding the scandal. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Wednesday that he would be willing to bring the matter up to the House.

Here’s a copy of the communications between Cummings and the IRS:

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2014 04 09 OGR Chairmen to EEC True the Vote (1)

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Read the article at the Blaze here.

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Your Daley Gator ‘Whose Side Is Obama On, Anyway?’ War On Terror News Roundup (Pictures/Videos)

ISIS Terror Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi Was Released By Obama From Camp Bucca In 2009 – Gateway Pundit

Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has transformed a few terror cells on the verge of extinction into the most dangerous militant group in the world.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi or Abu Dua was once held by the US in Camp Bucca Iraq.

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But the Obama administration shut down the Bucca prison camp and released its prisoners, including Abu Dua in 2009.

The Telegraph reported:

The FBI “most wanted” mugshot shows a tough, swarthy figure, his hair in a jailbird crew-cut. The $10 million price on his head, meanwhile, suggests that whoever released him from US custody four years ago may now be regretting it…

…Well-organised and utterly ruthless, the ex-preacher is the driving force behind al-Qaeda’s resurgence throughout Syria and Iraq, putting it at the forefront of the war to topple President Bashar al-Assad and starting a fresh campaign of mayhem against the Western-backed government in Baghdad.

On Tuesday, his forces achieved their biggest coup in Iraq to date, seizing control of government buildings in Mosul, the country’s third biggest city. Coming on top of similar operations in January that planted the black jihadi flag in the towns of Fallujah and Ramadi, it gives al-Qaeda control of large swathes of the north and west of the country, and poses the biggest security crisis since the US pull-out two years ago…

…“This guy was a Salafi (a follower of a fundamentalist brand of Islam), and Saddam’s regime would have kept a close eye on him,” said Dr Michael Knights, an Iraq expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“He was also in Camp Bucca for several years, which suggests he was already considered a serious threat when he went in there.”

That theory seems backed by US intelligence reports from 2005, which describe him as al-Qaeda’s point man in Qaim, a fly-blown town in Iraq’s western desert.

“Abu Duaa was connected to the intimidation, torture and murder of local civilians in Qaim”, says a Pentagon document. “He would kidnap individuals or entire families, accuse them, pronounce sentence and then publicly execute them.”

Why such a ferocious individual was deemed fit for release in 2009 is not known. One possible explanation is that he was one of thousands of suspected insurgents granted amnesty as the US began its draw down in Iraq. Another, though, is that rather like Keyser Söze, the enigmatic crimelord in the film The Usual Suspects, he may actually be several different people.

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Al-Qaeda ISIS members from ISIS celebrate in Diyala Province, Iraq.

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Democracy Now added this on the closing of Camp Bucca in 2009.

The US meanwhile has closed Camp Bucca, once its largest prison in Iraq. The Pentagon says it’s transferred Bucca’s remaining 180 prisoners to two jails near Baghdad. US Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth King said the prison’s closure comes as part of the US-Iraq security deal.

Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth King: “As a show of progress for the security agreement and moving forward the government of Iraq, we’re going to put the theater internment facility as a piece of history. And we’re going to – it will be history, and we’ll move forward from here and progress.”

Camp Bucca once hosted thousands of prisoners without charge, with many allegations of torture and abuse by US guards.

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ISIS Butchers Leave ‘Roads Lined With Decapitated Police And Soldiers': Battle For Baghdad Looms As Thousands Answer Iraqi Government’s Call To Arms And Jihadists Bear Down On Capital – Daily Mail

The full horror of the jihadists’ savage victories in Iraq emerged yesterday as witnesses told of streets lined with decapitated soldiers and policemen.

Blood-soaked bodies and blazing vehicles were left in the wake of the Al Qaeda-inspired ISIS fanatics as they pushed the frontline towards Baghdad.

They boasted about their triumphs in a propaganda video depicting appalling scenes including a businessman being dragged from his car and executed at the roadside with a pistol to the back of his head. The extent of the carnage came as:

Images from captured cities such as Mosul and Tikrit showed deserted streets, burnt out vehicles and discarded uniforms left by government troops fleeing the brutal fanatics;

ISIS leaders urged their bloodthirsty followers to continue their march and warned that battle would rage in Baghdad and in the holy city of Karbala;

Thousands of residents in the capital answered a call to arms to repel the invaders amid fears the government’s own troops were not up to the job;

Aid groups warned of a new refugee crisis after half a million terrified Iraqis left their homes to escape the jihadists.

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In the swathe of captured territory across northern Iraq, ISIS declared hardline Sharia law, publishing rules ordering women not to go outside ‘unless strictly necessary’, banning alcohol and smoking, and forcing all residents to attend mosques five times a day. BBC correspondent Paul Wood said one woman from Mosul, Iraq’s second city, had spoken of seeing a ‘row of decapitated soldiers and policemen’.

The refugee woman told how the victims’ heads were placed in rows – a trademark, trophy-style execution favoured by ISIS militants.

The fanatics captured Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s birthplace, by overrunning an army base and rounding up hundreds of soldiers and police. Dozens of members of a police special forces battalion were paraded on the back of a truck in the city.

As the balaclava-clad militants took Mosul and Tikrit, thousands of Baghdad’s residents young and old queued at recruiting stations to form a ‘Dad’s army’ to defend the capital.

Trucks carrying volunteers in uniform rumbled towards the frontlines to defend the city, with many chanting slogans against the ISIS militants.

Meanwhile the Iraqi air force carried out at least four bombing raids on insurgent positions in and around Mosul. State television showed targets exploding in black clouds.

Britons working in Baghdad’s Green Zone where most of the foreign embassies are based were on high alert. The lightning advance of ISIS has caused alarm in London, Washington and across the Middle East.

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Despite vastly outnumbering the jihadists, government troops have melted away in the face of the insurgents, allowing them to capture two helicopters, 15 tanks, weapons and several armoured cars that used belonging to the American military. They also seized £350million-worth of dinars by robbing a bank in Mosul.

According to bitter Iraqi footsoldiers, their commanders slipped away in the night rather than mount a defence of the city.

One said: ‘Our leaders betrayed us. The commanders left the military behind. When we woke up, all the leaders had left.’

Last night Barack Obama said America would help with ‘short-term immediate actions… militarily’ to push back the insurgents, but ruled out sending troops.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said Britain would not get involved militarily because Iraq was now a democracy.

Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki vowed: ‘We are not going to allow this to carry on, regardless of the price. We are getting ready. We are organising.’

As the situation spiralled out of control, even Iran was said to have deployed two battalions from its Revolutionary Guard to help the Iraqi government retake Tikrit.

The development was likely to enrage Washington, which has been steadfast in its determination for Baghdad not to cosy up to Tehran.

It also emerged that members of Saddam’s old guard were joining the insurrection. Fighters loyal to his disbanded Baath Party were said to be actively supporting the rebels. ISIS stands for Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham but has also been referenced as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

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Its insurgency is the biggest threat to Iraq since US troops withdrew in 2011.

ISIS commanders issued chilling warnings to any police officers or soldiers to ‘repent or be killed’.

In a sinister video, the extremists urged followers to ‘march to Baghdad – we have a score to settle’. They also pledged to take the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf.

‘Continue your march as the battle is not yet raging,’ a voice said to be that of ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani says. ‘It will rage in Baghdad and Karbala. So be ready for it. Put on your belts and get ready.’

But taking Baghdad would be much tougher for ISIS than the towns where they have triumphed so far. The United Nations Security Council met behind closed doors last night to discuss the crisis.

Iraq’s foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, speaking in London, insisted the government had halted the rebel advance and even claimed insurgents were ‘on the run’.

But at Baiji, near Kirkuk, insurgents surrounded Iraq’s largest refinery. And the fighters have reached Samarra, 70 miles north of Baghdad.

About a quarter of Mosul’s two million residents have fled. The flood of terrified families escaping the fighting there was described as ‘one of the largest and swiftest mass movements of people in the world in recent memory’. Many have headed east into the autonomous region of Kurdistan.

Aid groups fear a new refugee crisis. Neighbouring countries already struggling to look after 2.8million refugees from the Syrian civil war now face the prospect of a new influx of displaced people desperately seeking a safe haven.

Meanwhile Iraqi Kurds seized control of the major northern oil city of Kirkuk today after the central government’s army abandoned its posts.The Kurds – a semi-autonomous ethnic group based in the north – have their own 250,000-strong military, but have not used them to engage ISIS.

Footage emerged yesterday evening from TIkrit, which appears to show a long line of captured men and boys, being forcibly marched down a highway in the city.

The minute-long video, uploaded to YouTube, showed a snaking column of men stretching the entire visible length of the stretch of road. A voice captured by the recording describes a great Islamic ‘family’ and later an ‘army’, suggesting a possible intention to recruit the captives.

Most of the men and boys have both hands on their heads, while others – some wearing head coverings and some bare-faced – move up and down the column encouraging the march.

The startling developments raise the spectre of Iraq being carved up and divided into several states. Respected commentators have raised the prospect that, with Kurdish forces holding the north, the Sunni ISIS militants taking parts of the north and west, leaving the central and south-eastern to the Shiite population who currently run the government and military.

Yesterday the Iraqi Ambassador to Washington warned the ‘integrity of Iraq is in question’, while Dr Ayad Allawi, a former prime minister of Iraq, added that a break-up was ‘not impossible’.

The governor of Mosul, who escaped the city and is now in Erbil in the Kurdish north, said that Iraq must be divided as centralisation had ‘failed’.

Speaking to the Telegraph, Atheel al-Nujaifi said prime minister Nouri al-Maliki ‘didn’t devolve authority to us before, but now we must do it. Now we are saying his centralisation policies have failed,’ Mr Nujaifi said.

Repercussions from the conflict are also being felt in global oil markets, where prices shot to a three-month high. The RAC said disruption could add more than 2p to the price of a litre of petrol.

The price of Brent crude rose $2 to a three-month high of more than $112 on fears about supply from the second-biggest producer in the Opec oil cartel.

The RAC said: ‘The worsening situation in Iraq is causing a knee-jerk reaction in the global fuel market with wholesale prices going up one pence over Wednesday and Thursday.’

This was likely to push the pump price of both petrol and diesel up by 2p per litre in the short term, the RAC said, ‘and this could well go much further’.

Iraq has insisted sectarian violence will not spread to the south, from which the vast majority of oil output comes.

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After the capture of Mosul, the Islamic State issued a triumphalist statement declaring that it would implement its strict version of Shariah law in Mosul and other regions it had overrun.

Its laws state that women should stay in their homes for modesty reasons, command residents to attend prayers five times a day, and warned thieves that they would have their hands cut off.

It came as Kurdish forces took full control of Iraq’s oil-rich city of Kirkuk after the federal army abandoned its bases there.

Peshmerga fighters, the security forces of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish north, swept into Kirkuk after the army abandoned its posts there, a peshmerga spokesman said.

‘The whole of Kirkuk has fallen into the hands of peshmerga. No Iraqi army remains in Kirkuk now’, said Jabbar Yawar.

Kurds have long dreamed of controlling Kirkuk, a city with huge oil reserves just outside their autonomous region, which they regard as their historical capital.

The swift move by their highly organised security forces demonstrates how this week’s sudden advance by ISIS fighters has redrawn Iraq’s map.

Insurgents surrounded Iraq’s largest refinery in the northern town of Baiji this afternoon – they first moved in late on Tuesday, closing in on the refinery, but later withdrew to the surrounding villages after reaching a deal with local tribal chiefs.

A White House spokesman this evening said that they believed the Iraqi government were in control of the facility, but had no further details.

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In the midst of the crisis, Iraq’s parliament failed to declare a nationwide state of emergency after not enough MPs turned up for a vote.

Opposition politicians representing Sunni and Kurdish populations boycotted parliament because the oppose a motion to give extraordinary powers to Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Turkey is negotiating for the release of 80 nationals held by ISIS in Mosul and cannot confirm reports that some of them have been freed, government officials said today.

The pro-government Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak reported that the hostages, who include diplomatic staff, children and special forces soldiers, had been released to the Iraqi governor of Mosul and would be brought to Turkey tonight.

The capture of Mosul – along with the fall of Tikrit and the militants’ earlier seizure of the city of Fallujah and parts of Ramadi, the capital of western Anbar province – has undone hard-fought gains against insurgents in the years following the invasion by U.S.-led forces.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the abductions and the seizure of Iraqi territory by the militants, urging ‘the international community to unite in showing solidarity with Iraq as it confronts this serious security challenge.’

‘Terrorism must not be allowed to succeed in undoing the path towards democracy in Iraq,’ he added.

Mosul, the capital of Ninevah province, and the neighboring Sunni-dominated province of Anbar share a long and porous border with Syria, where the Islamic State is also active.

Without assigning direct blame, al-Maliki said a ‘conspiracy’ led to the massive security failure that allowed militants to capture Mosul, and said members of the security forces who fled rather than stand up to the militants should be punished.

‘We are working to solve the situation,’ al-Maliki said. ‘We are regrouping the armed forces that are in charge of clearing Ninevah from those terrorists.’

Iranian airlines cancelled all flights between Tehran and Baghdad due to security concerns, and the Islamic Republic has intensified security measures along its borders, Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported.

Shiite Iran, a major regional power, has strong ties with Iraq’s government. Some 17,000 Iranian pilgrims are in Iraq at any given time, according to IRNA, which cited the director of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization.

Tikrit residents said the militant group overran several police stations in the Sunni-dominated city.

Two Iraqi security officials confirmed that the city, 80 miles north of Baghdad and the capital of Salahuddin province, was under ISIS’s control and that the provincial governor was missing.

The major oil refinery in Baiji, located between Mosul and Tikrit, remained in government control, the officials said. There were clashes and gunmen tried to take the town but were repelled in a rare success for Iraqi government forces protecting an important facility, the officials said.

The International Organisation for Migration estimated that 500,000 people fled the Mosul area, with some seeking safety in the Ninevah countryside or the nearby semi-autonomous Kurdish region.

Getting into the latter has become more difficult, however, with migrants without family members already in the enclave needing to secure permission from Kurdish authorities, according to the IOM.

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The Islamist militia is so ruthless and extreme that even al-Qaeda has cut ties and distances itself from them.

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Isis), used to be part of the international terror network, but was cast out in February this year in light of its violent behaviour towards rival jihadist groups.

It is famed – and feared – for spreading hardline Islamic law to the areas it subdues. Transgressors are sentenced to death and swiftly executed in public, their bodies left to decay in the streets.

This treatment has even been doled out against other jihadist leaders, who have been assassinated in a brutal struggle over strategy in the Middle East. Young jihadists are increasingly drawn to Isis over less extreme groups – particularly in the light of their rapid military progress through Iraq.

In the past days the group has overrun the northern city of Mosul, and today also took Tikrit, the hometown of executed Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein.
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In February, the leader of al-Qaeda issued a statement dissociating itself from Isis, which it accused of ‘forbidden bloodshed’ directed at fellow fighters.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s chief, cut ties after Isis attempted to bolster its strength by merging with other rebels in Syria.

He said: ‘We weren’t informed about its creation, nor counselled. Nor are we satisfied with it: rather we ordered it to stop… Nor is al–Qaeda responsible for its actions and behaviour.’

The organisation is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who has a U.S. bounty of $10million on his head, second only to al-Zawahiri.

The ISIS leader, who was born in 1971 in Baghdad, is touted as a battlefield commander and tactician.

Baghdadi, who has a degree in Islamic studies, apparently joined the insurgency that erupted in Iraq soon after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

He was taken as a prisoner of the Americans in Camp Bucca between 2005 and 2007 – it was here that one of the only two photos know to be in existence was taken of him.

He is known as ‘The Ghost’ to members of the pro-Assad Lebanese Shi-ite militia Hizballah.

The secretive Baghdadi talks with a scarf covering his face even when dealing with close allies, according to militants who worked with him in Iraq.

He addresses his ISIS followers through audio recordings posted to the internet, rather than in public places.

Military sources have reported his death on numerous occasions in the past years, but the fighter always seems to reappear. This has led to speculation that al-Baghdadi is in fact a name used jointly by several commanders.

Some estimates claim Isis group has in excess of 10,000 fighting men in its ranks. Many of its fighters are thought to be radicalised Western Muslims who have poured in from Europe and North American to join the fighting in Syria and elsewhere.

The group, which controls large areas of land in Syria, is thought to be pouring resources and money from those areas into its burgeoning Iraqi campaign, which has seen it tear through the northern regions on the country.

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Its military progress, largely unhindered by Iraq’s own security forces, have given it control over several highly valuable oil fields, which leaders will hope to exploit to strengthen their hand.

The situation has alarmed officials in Turkey, who called an emergency meeting of NATO ambassadors after 80 of its citizens were taken hostage by Isis.

‘Turkey briefed the other allies on the situation in (the Iraqi city of) Mosul and the hostage-taking of Turkish citizens, including the consul general,’ a NATO official said.

He said the meeting was held for informational purposes and not under Article 4 of NATO’s founding treaty, which permits a member of the 28-nation alliance to ask for consultations with other allies when it feels its security is threatened.

Turks seized included 48 from the consulate in Mosul – including the consul-general and three children. Separately, 28 truck drivers who were delivering diesel to a power plant were captured on Monday.

Meanwhile, Baghdad residents were stockpiling food, fuel and weaponry in anticipation of an attack on the capital in the coming days.

Prime Minister Maliki has previously encouraged ordinary Iraqis to take up arms against the advancing soldiers of Isis, especially in light of claims that members of the police and military are intentionally defecting.

Senior sources in the Iraqi government have said that they have a plan to take back Mosul, but were unclear on the details.

Isis is pushing to expand its territory, which currently straddles the border between Syria and Iraq, and includes land extremely close to the Turkish border.

The group’s centre of power is Raqqa, a city in northern Syria, which is being run under the regime’s oppressive and violent code.

Raqqa was heavily contested throughout the Syrian conflict, and was held by several rebel groups until Isis threw out all other contenders in 2013.

Recently Isis leaders imposed punitive rules on the city’s Christian population, demanding that they pay a levy of gold for ‘protection’ else face being killed on the streets for their faith.

Horrifying images have also emerged from the cities of crucifixions being used to punish men who attacked Isis fighters.

Seven men were sentenced to death after a grenade was thrown at a soldier near a roundabout in Raqqa. The men, who were riding motorbikes, were then hunted down by Isis forces, according to a statement from the group. Two of the men were sentenced to die by crucifixion.

One of the two was wrapped in a banner, which said: ‘This man fought against Muslims and threw a grenade in this place.’

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Obama To Release Osama Bin Laden’s Bodyguards – Conservative Tribune

Apparently President Obama’s new favorite hobby is seeing how quickly he can release the world’s most dangerous terrorists from Gitmo.

Hot on the heels of releasing five detainees in an illegal deal to obtain Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a possible deserter and defector, the President has made another wrong decision involving high ranking al-Qaeda prisoners.

One would think that after catching so much flack from the public and members of Congress, including a new investigation to add to the list of the ones that are already on-going, Obama would think twice before pulling another stunt that endangers American lives.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the president is about to do.

According to new reports, Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have approved the release of one of Osama bin Laden’s personal bodyguards. Yes, you read that correctly.

Via Daily Caller:

President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have approved one of Osama bin Laden’s personal bodyguards for release or transfer from the Guantanamo Bay detention center to another country, according to prison records released by WikiLeaks and a recently published list of approved-transfer detainees from the Justice Department.

Idris Ahmad Abdu Qadir Idris is the second name on Holder’s Justice Department list of 55 Gitmo detainees approved for release or transfer. This detainee, according to a Jan. 26, 2008, Defense Department document published by WikiLeaks, provided security for bin Laden both before and after the deadly Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

“Detainee is assessed to be a member of al-Qaida and was identified as a bodyguard for Usama Bin Laden (UBL) beginning shortly before the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. Detainee is also assessed to be an al-Qaida recruiter associated with a Salafist network in Yemen,” the document reads. “Detainee transited through multiple extremist support guesthouses, received militant training at the al-Qaida al-Faruq Training Camp in Afghanistan (AF), and is assessed to have received advanced training.”

Spokespeople for the Justice Department and for the White House haven’t responded to requests for comment on why they want to release or transfer one of Bin Laden’s bodyguards from U.S. custody, even as reports surface suggesting the recent anti-American attacks in Libya were organized by a released Gitmo detainee.

Unbelievable. President Obama, the Commander-in-Chief, one of the top U.S. officials tasked with ensuring America’s safety, continues to release terrorists back into the wild, who will no doubt be back on the battlefield fighting against the U.S.

This man is either trying to destroy America, or he is the most intellectually inept president this nation has ever had in office. Obama needs to be impeached right now before he does any further damage to our civil liberties and our national security.

Please share this article if you agree President Obama is putting the nation in danger and needs to be impeached immediately.

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Alarmed By Iraq, Iran Open To Shared Role With U.S. – Reuters

Shi’te Muslim Iran is so alarmed by Sunni insurgent gains in Iraq that it may be willing to cooperate with Washington in helping Baghdad fight back, a senior Iranian official told Reuters.

The idea is being discussed internally among the Islamic Republic’s leadership, the senior Iranian official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. The official had no word on whether the idea had been raised with any other party.

Officials say Iran will send its neighbor advisers and weaponry, although probably not troops, to help its ally Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki check what Tehran sees as a profound threat to regional stability, officials and analysts say.

Islamist militants have captured swathes of territory including the country’s second biggest city Mosul.

Tehran is open to the possibility of working with the United States to support Baghdad, the senior official said.

“We can work with Americans to end the insurgency in the Middle East,” the official said, referring to events in Iraq.

“We are very influential in Iraq, Syria and many other countries.”

For many years, Iran has been aggrieved by what it sees as U.S. efforts to marginalize it. Tehran wants to be recognized as a significant player in regional security.

Common Cause

Relations between Iran and Washington have improved modestly since the 2013 election of President Hassan Rouhani, who promised “constructive engagement” with the world.

And while Tehran and the United States pursue talks to resolve the Islamic state’s decade-old nuclear standoff with the West, they also acknowledge some common threats, including the rise of al Qaeda-style militancy across the Middle East.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama said the United States was not ruling out air strikes to help Baghdad fight the insurgents, in what would be the first U.S. armed intervention in Iraq since the end of the U.S.-led war.

Rouhani on Thursday strongly condemned what he called violent acts by insurgent groups in the Middle East.

“Today, in our region, unfortunately, we are witnessing violence, killing, terror and displacement,” Rouhani said.

“Iran will not tolerate the terror and violence… we will fight against terrorism, factionalism and violence.”

Asked on Thursday about Iranian comments, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: “Clearly, we’ve encouraged them in many cases to play a constructive role. But I don’t have any other readouts or views from our end to portray here today.”

Fearing Iraq’s war could spill into Iran, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has urged the international community to back Maliki’s administration “in its fight against terrorism”.

Brigadier-General Mohammad Hejazi said Iran was ready to supply Iraq with “military equipment or consultations,” the Tasnim news agency reported. “I do not think the deployment of Iranian troops would be necessary,” he was quoted as adding.

The senior Iranian official said Iran was extremely worried about the advance of ISIL, also a major force in the war against Iran’s close ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, carving out a swathe of Syria territory along the Iraqi border.

“The danger of extremist Sunni terrorist in Iraq and the region is increasing… There have been several high-ranking security meetings since yesterday in Tehran,” the official said.

“We are on alert and we also follow the developments in Iraq very closely.”

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Militants ‘Ready For New Assault On Iraq’s Samarra’ – Yahoo News

Militants were gathering Friday for a new attempt to take the Iraqi city of Samarra, home to a revered Shiite shrine whose 2006 bombing sparked a sectarian war, witnesses said.

A major offensive launched by the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and its allies late Monday has overrun second city Mosul and a swathe of northern and north-central Iraq.

Witnesses in the Dur area, between militant-held Tikrit and Samarra, said they saw “countless” vehicles carrying militants south during the night.

And witnesses in Samarra, just 110 kilometres (70 miles) north of Baghdad, said gunmen were gathering to the north, east and southeast of the city.

A tribal leader said that militants had approached the security forces in the city, asking them to leave peacefully and promising not to harm the Al-Askari shrine.

They also proposed that tribal leaders form a force to protect the shrine and the city’s residents, but security forces refused to withdraw, he said.

Militants already mounted two assaults on Samarra, one on Wednesday and one late last week, which were thwarted only after heavy fighting.

The Al-Askari shrine was bombed by militants in February 2006, sparking sectarian conflict between Iraq’s Shiite majority and Sunni Arab minority that left tens of thousands dead.

Click HERE For Rest Of Story

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Filmmaker Blamed By Obama For Benghazi Attack Actually A Muslim Agent Who Worked With The U.S. Government

Explosive: Filmmaker ‘Behind The Benghazi Attack’ Found To Be A Confirmed Muslim Agent Who Worked With US Government – Shoebat Foundation

In a Shoebat.com EXCLUSIVE, a woman who starred in the controversial video that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton blamed for the attacks in Benghazi, has come to us with a STUNNING revelation that the man who produced the video recently confessed to her that he is a Muslim – twice. According to Cindy Lee Garcia, who is also the plaintiff in a lawsuit against Google and Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the maker of the infamous “Innocence of Muslims” video, responded “Yes” both times after being asked by Garcia if he is a Muslim.

In a recorded phone call with Ben Barrack, Garcia said she contacted Nakoula approximately three weeks ago and twice asked Nakoula if he was Muslim. Both times, Nakoula said that he was. Listen to the interview below:

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Lest one doubt the credibility of Garcia’s claims, once they are viewed in conjunction with a myriad of discoveries by Shoebat.com [here, here, here, here, here, and here], it constitutes the near completion of an intricate puzzle; everything fits.

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Cindy Lee Garcia: Starred in anti-Muhammad Video; says filmmaker told her he is a Muslm.

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Very soon after the Benghazi attacks, we had reason to believe that not only were administration officials lying to the American people about the video’s role in the attacks but that they were not telling the truth about the administration’s role in the production of the video itself.

Garcia’s revelation now confirms our suspicions about why Nakoula contacted Shoebat.com, requesting that we cease and desist from exposing the truth about this story [recorded]. At the time, Nakoula admitted to being in contact not just with Eiad but with an entire family of Muslim fundamentalists after the video, which should have caused him to be ostracized, not embraced.

As first revealed by Shoebat.com, when Nakoula was given a lesser jail sentence in 2009 in exchange for his help in securing the arrest of his partner-in-crime, Eiad Salameh, it couldn’t have been the true reason for Nakoula’s lighter sentence.

Why? Because in January of 2011, Eiad was arrested by the Canadian Peel Police and the FBI would not take him, despite multiple attempts by Canadian authorities to get them to do so. After several months, the Canadians put Eiad on a plane back to Palestine.

So, why was Nakoula given a lighter sentence if not to help arrest Eiad? As a Muslim who portrayed himself as a Christian filmmaker, Nakoula was acting deceptively while also pushing the agenda of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the group’s “Istanbul Process”, a series of meetings designed to create the climate for non-Muslim governments to enact laws that make criticism of Islam a criminal offense.

The Obama administration itself is on board with this agenda. Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chaired the very first meeting in Istanbul on July 15, 2011, as Shoebat.com has reported.

Moreover, this was approximately the same point in time when Eiad was sent packing by the Canadians and Nakoula began casting for his video.

Eiad is a Muslim who is also Walid Shoebat’s first cousin. Shoebat knows Eiad well. The notion that Eiad would consort with a Coptic Christian doesn’t square with reality. This alone lends credibility to Garcia’s claim.

When taken together will all of our discoveries, Garcia’s claims do something far more damaging to the Obama administration. They even further bolster the possibility – now even strong likelihood – that Nakoula, in his capacity as an agent of the U.S. Federal government was commissioned by the Obama administration to produce the video.

Knowing what you know now, the biggest lies told by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama very well may be that the “United States Government had absolutely NOTHING to do with this video”.

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This also confirms that…

Evidence reveals that when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, she conspired with President Barack Obama to snuff out criticism of Islam with a contrived and diabolical assault on the first amendment. Curiously unprompted, Obama and Hillary so vehemently insisted they had “nothing to do with” the anti-Muhammad video, but as it turns out, the opposite is true, they did play a role, counter to their claims.

On September 10th, Ambassador Christopher Stevens boarded a plane from Tripoli to the city from which he would never return alive. The meeting between Stevens and Turkey’s Consul General Ali Sait Akin that concluded little more than one hour prior to Stevens’ death has come to signify a troubling level of collaboration between the leadership of the countries both men represented.

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Christopher Stevens Itinerary for Benghazi.

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Two days prior to Stevens’ arrival in Benghazi, a conference in Istanbul, Turkey that was all but ignored, was wrapping up. The conference was billed as an interfaith event entitled, “The Arab Awakening and Peace in the New Middle East: Muslim and Christian Perspectives” and was held on September 7-8, 2012. The final communiqué of the meeting included assaults on the first amendment:

Participants argued that discourses and languages used in the media, popular culture, schools and religious centers are extremely important. Religious leaders and decision makers should lead a process of reforming these areas.

One of the speakers at the conference was Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, whose relevance will be made known shortly.

As Shoebat.com has reported, joining Davutoğlu in Istanbul were two Muslim Brotherhood spies. One is former chairman of perhaps the most notorious mosque in the U.S., Bassam Estwani and the other a man named Rateb Al-Nabulsi. In the photo below, Estwani can be seen in front of a banner that displays the date “September 7-8, 2012″ (see photo below) of the conference ignored by western media:

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Bassam Estwani in Istanbul days before Benghazi attacks.

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As the conference was taking place in Istanbul, a Muslim fundamentalist in Egypt named Wisam Abdul Waris who prior to the fiasco in Egypt stated the plan to attack the first amendment called for the criminalization of any defamation of Islam and then publicly denounced the anti-Muhammad video which the Obama administration would blame for the Benghazi attacks as Shoebat.com reported.

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Estwani (L) and al-Nabulsi (R) in Istanbul in September, 2012.

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A little more than one year earlier, another conference was held in Istanbul. It was chaired by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Secretary-General of the OIC, and Turkey’s Foreign Minister. It would come to be known as the very first meeting of the “Istanbul Process”. Was the meeting in Istanbul two days before Stevens arrived in Benghazi part of the “Istanbul Process” remains to be discovered.

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Estwani (R) and Turkey’s Foreign Minister Davutoglu in Istanbul during September, 2012 conference.

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The location, the theme, and the syncronized efforts in Egypt and Turkey all help make that case; Turkey played behind the scenes and Egypt was the first to spark the riots against U.S. Embassy in Cairo. But there is more to tie our argument.

The Istanbul Meeting that Kicked off the “Istanbul Process”

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) had been pushing for criminalizing criticism of Islam for years, as far back as 1999. However, the objective of the OIC – to make illegal “defamation of religions” – needed a moderation makeover, which led to the “Istanbul Process”, kicked off officially in the city of its namesake, little more than one year prior to the Benghazi attacks. The agenda was intended to give a facelift to UN Resolution 16/18, which was adopted earlier that year by the Human Rights Council.

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July 15, 2011: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, and Turkey Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (L to R).

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Hillary Clinton attended and Co-chaired this event with then Secretary General of the OIC – Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu – and Foreign Minister Davutoğlu – on July 15, 2011.

(Note: For reasons that will be made relevant shortly, this meeting took place in the same month that the maker of the anti-Muhammad video began casting)

In her speech, Hillary said:

…together we have begun to overcome the false divide that pits religious sensitivities against freedom of expression, and we are pursuing a new approach based on concrete steps to fight intolerance wherever it occurs. Under this resolution, the international community is taking a strong stand for freedom of expression and worship, and against discrimination and violence based upon religion or belief… we now need to move to implementation. The resolution calls upon states to protect freedom of religion, to counter offensive expression through education, interfaith dialogue, and public debate, and to prohibit discrimination, profiling, and hate crimes, but not to criminalize speech unless there is an incitement to imminent violence.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, Clinton foreshadowed what would happen a little more than one year later in Benghazi and at home:

In the United States, I will admit, there are people who still feel vulnerable or marginalized as a result of their religious beliefs. And we have seen how the incendiary actions of just a very few people, a handful in a country of nearly 300 million, can create wide ripples of intolerance. We also understand that, for 235 years, freedom of expression has been a universal right at the core of our democracy. So we are focused on promoting interfaith education and collaboration, enforcing antidiscrimination laws, protecting the rights of all people to worship as they choose, and to use some old-fashioned techniques of peer pressure and shaming, so that people don’t feel that they have the support to do what we abhor.

Hillary’s Co-chair, İhsanoğlu – himself a Turk – echoed this sentiment, saying:

“We continue to be particularly disturbed by attitudes of certain individuals or groups exploiting the freedom of expression to incite hatred by demonizing purposefully the religions and their followers. Though we respect their freedom of opinion and expression, we find these attitudes politically and ethically incorrect and insensitive.”

The meeting in Istanbul would essentially be the precursor to a series of annual summits that would constitute “The Istanbul Process”. The first convened in Washington and was hosted by Clinton in December of 2011, at a time when a certain anti-Muhammad video was being produced.

The second took place in London, less than three months after the Benghazi attacks and one month after the anti-Muhammad filmmaker was sent to prison.

At the time of the London summit, the optics of the filmmaker being locked up were no doubt supposed to impress the OIC. However, in the U.S., Nakoula couldn’t be imprisoned for speech; Americans wouldn’t stand for it. Instead, he was jailed for violating parole. The perception that he was jailed for speech was allowed to fester.

The most likely option is that the Obama administration was attempting to play both sides of the fence.

Anti-Muhammad Video Produced by Federal Informant / OIC Agent

As Shoebat.com has gone to great lengths to demonstrate, the maker of the anti-Muhammad video, a man known as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was a U.S. federal informant at the time of Clinton’s speech. Based on the public statements of both Hillary and Obama’s envoy to the OIC, Rashad Hussain, Nakoula would have made a perfect OIC agent as well because he represented a face of the public, not the government.

In 2009, Nakoula was given a lesser sentence after pleading guilty for his role in a bank fraud scheme. In return, he was to help authorities catch the ringleader of that operation – my cousin Eiad Salameh.

That’s right, as the new language found in the “Istanbul Process” facelift was being presented, Nakoula was an agent of Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department. In exchange for having one year taken off his sentence, Nakoula was supposed to help the feds nab Salameh.

We now know that was NOT the reason Nakoula became an informant.

How do we know this?

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Nakoula Basseley Nakoula arrested by LAPD on 9/15/12

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In January of 2011 – just six months prior to Clinton’s speech – I was contacted by Jeffrey Mason of the Canadian Peel Police. I was told that my cousin was in their custody. Canadian authorities attempted to hand Salameh over to the FBI for seven months but to no avail. Ultimately, Salameh was put on a plane back to Palestine.

Nakoula began casting for his video in July of 2011. Not only was this the same month that the conference in Istanbul took place but it’s about the same time Canadian authorities stopped trying to hand over the guy Nakoula was given a lighter sentence to help the feds apprehend!

Logically, Nakoula was still on the hook with the feds because the stated reason for his lighter sentence was not the real reason for it. After the Benghazi attacks, Nakoula would do that year in prison, just like Hillary promised Charles Woods – the father of murdered Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods – three days after the Benghazi attacks.

House Select Committee on Benghazi

As was recently detailed by Shoebat.com, one of the U.S. Congressmen who understands what the “Istanbul Process” is really all about sits on the House Select Committee on Benghazi. His name is Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) and he will have no excuse if this dynamic is not part of the Committee’s investigation.

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Westmoreland: Sent warnings to State about “Istanbul Process” 90 days before Benghazi attacks.

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In a letter sent to the Deputy Inspector General (IG) at the State Department exactly 90 days prior to the Benghazi attacks, Westmoreland wrote in part (as a co-signatory):

The State Department and, in several cases, the specific direction of the Secretary of State, have taken actions recently that have been enormously favorable to the Muslim Brotherhood and its interests. These include:

A succession of meetings with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) – a multinational group that is, like the Muslim Brotherhood, determined to impose shariah worldwide. These are now known as “the Istanbul Process” and we are aimed at finding ways to accommodate the OIC’s demands for restrictions on freedom of expression guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, so as to preclude “blasphemy” against Islam and its adherents.

Deputy IG Howard Geisel was given 90 days to respond to these concerns. On the 90th day, Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans were murdered in Benghazi without a response from Geisel.

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Geisel: Ignored warnings about “Istanbul Process” 90 days before Benghazi.

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Obama’s Islamic Envoy to the OIC

When it comes to Rashad Hussain, as Shoebat.com has demonstrated, the mask is off. Hussain – a State Department employee – is an infiltrator whose allegiances lie with the OIC, not the U.S. Constitution he swore an oath to uphold. As such, Hussain’s agenda is one that ultimately seeks the criminalization of criticism of Islam.

Earlier this year, Hussain was at the fourth annual “Istanbul Process” summit, held in Doha, Qatar. During his speech, he actually boasted about working with a confirmed Muslim Brotherhood front group that seeks the destruction of the United States from within:

Over the past couple of years I have been involved with an initiative lead (sic) by the Islamic Society of North America and Islamic scholars in the Muslim world to issue a declaration articulating standards and protocols for the protection of full citizenship rights of minorities in the Muslim world.

Also in his speech, Hussain picked up on Hillary Clinton’s meme that governments are limited with regard to criminalizing forms of expression and that it must be done via other means. Hussain continued:

Relying on governments to ban certain speech often ignores the root causes of bigotry, and many religious communities have found that improving education, interfaith dialogue, and media awareness are effective tools for combatting (sic) intolerance. The Istanbul Process that we are here participating in today is meant to promote implementation of those important measures.

There you have it. The “Istanbul Process” is about using the people and movements to push the agenda. In reality, however, governments are by definition the entities responsible. This sets up perfectly, the conditions for an agent of a government to do something so outrageous that he creates the climate for popular opinion to do what the government could not.

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Hussain with close Hillary Clinton adviser and Muslim Sisterhood daughter Huma Abedin at White House Ramadan dinner in 2011.

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Using a government agent to masquerade as a private citizen who produces an anti-Muhammad video that would cause riots in the Middle East is a perfectly fitting puzzle piece.

One year earlier, in 2013, the “Istanbul Process” summit was held in Geneva. A detailed account of the proceedings included this observation:

The US and several European states emphasised their preference for social and cultural measures over legal ones. These states argued that criminalisation is often inappropriate, ineffective, and even counterproductive. “Good speech” is what defeats intolerance and hate, rather than restrictions on speech itself. OIC states, on the other hand, presented criminalisation as “a matter of vital concern”, imperative to the full implementation of Resolution 16/18.

In order to play both sides of this fence, the Obama administration would have to:

1.) Find someone who was beholden to the administration.
2.) Create the perception that said individual was acting as a private citizen.
3.) Have this private citizen produce something viewed as incendiary by the Muslim world.
4.) Provide a platform for the production of this material to be delivered to the masses.
5.) Point to this material as inflammatory and something people should “abhor”.

Nakoula was the poster child of a figure who could thread this needle.

Click HERE For Rest Of Story

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At Least 16 Dead After Tornadoes Devastate Central U.S. (Pictures)

At Least 16 Dead After Tornadoes Cause Devastation Across Central States As Forecasters Warn Another Hundred Twisters Could Hit The Area This Week – Daily Mail

At least 16 people have died after a powerful storm system spawning several tornadoes tore through the central and southern states last night with experts warning that another hundred are set to hit the central states this week at the start of tornado season.

Winds ripped houses off their foundations and flipped cars on top of the rubble in the small town of Vilonia in central Arkansas’ Faulkner county, one of the worst-hit communities.

Early this morning Arkansas Department of Emergency Management announced the death toll stating the deadly weather had killed seven people in Faulkner County, five people in Pulaski County and one person in White County.

Tornado watches – which means twisters could develop but are not an immediate threat – are in effect for states as far west as New Mexico and as far east as Tennessee and the system produced storms that were moving through the region in waves.

Watches were also issued for Kansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Iowa, Texas and Louisiana. Quapaw was heavily damaged. ‘Looks like about half of town got extensive damage as well as the fire department,’ Ottawa County Emergency Management director Joe Morgan said.

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The tornado was the largest of several formed by a powerful storm system that rumbled through the central and southern U.S.

It touched down last night about 10 miles west of Little Rock at about 7 p.m., then carved a 80-mile path of destruction as it passed through or near several suburbs north of Arkansas’ capital city. It grew to be a half-mile wide and remained on the ground for much of that route, authorities said.

Vilonia mayor James Firestone told CNN the tornado was much stronger than the 2011 tornado and had caused a lot more damage.

He confirmed that there had been ‘some casualties’, but said it was too early to say how many.

The Arkansas twister shredded cars, trucks and 18-wheelers stuck along Interstate 40 north of Little Rock. It was shut down as authorities removed debris from the highway after the tornado struck Mayflower, said Arkansas State Patrol spokesman Bill Sadler. Mayflower is roughly 25 miles northwest of Little Rock.

Television footage showed buildings that had been turned to rubble and trees that had been stripped bare of their leaves and smaller branches.

There are reports that the new Vilonia Intermediate School which was only supposed to open in the fall has been destroyed.

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The National Weather Service in North Little Rock said it was virtually certain that the Mayflower and Vilonia storm would be rated as the nation’s strongest twister to date this year.

‘It has the potential to be EF3 or greater,’ said meteorologist Jeff Hood. EF3 storms have winds greater than 136 mph.

‘Based on some of the footage we’ve seen from Mayflower and where it crossed Interstate 40, things were wrecked in a very significant way.’

From communities west of Little Rock to others well north of the capital, emergency workers and volunteers were going door-to-door checking for victims.

‘It turned pitch black,’ said Mark Ausbrooks, who was at his parents’ home in Mayflower when the storm arrived. ‘I ran and got pillows to put over our heads and … all hell broke loose.’

‘My parents’ home, it’s gone completely,’ he said.

Among the ruins was a new $14 million intermediate school that was set to open this fall.

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Becky Naylor, of Mayflower, said she and her family went to their storm cellar after hearing that tornado debris was falling in nearby Morgan. Naylor, 57, said there were between 20 and 22 people in the cellar and they were ‘packed like sardines.’

‘Everyone is welcome to come into it,’ she said. ‘In fact, people were pulling off the highways and were just running in.’
She said the men held the cellar doors shut while the tornado’s winds tried to rip them open.

‘It sounded like a constant rolling, roaring sound,’ she said. ‘Trees were really bending and the light poles were actually shaking and moving. That’s before we shut the door and we’ve only shut the door to the storm cellar two times.’

The other time was during the 2011 storm.

The Arkansas Department of Emergency Management raised the Arkansas death toll to 13 early Monday – seven in Faulkner County, five in Pulaski County and one in White County.

The White House issued a statement in which President Barack Obama promised that the federal government would help in the recovery and praised the heroic efforts of first-responders and neighbors.

‘Your country will be there to help you recover and rebuild as long as it takes,’ Obama said.

Storm ratings for Sunday’s twisters were not immediately available. Before Sunday, the country had not had a tornado rated EF3 or higher since Nov. 17, streak of 160 days, the fourth-longest on record.

This also would be the latest date for a storm rated EF3 or higher. The previous latest big storm for a year was March 31, 2002.

Sunday was the third anniversary of a 122-tornado day, which struck parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia and killed 316 people.

The first reported tornado on Sunday touched down in a rural area in central in Nebraska. The weather service said it remained on the ground for only a short time, and there were no immediate reports of damage.

Forecasters warned that areas that weren’t hit by tornadoes were still at risk of damage from hail and powerful straight-line winds.

Forecasters warned of hail stones as big as baseballs and wind gusts that could reach hurricane-force – 75 mph or higher.

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Gusts of up to 60 mph were registered during a story that hit southeastern Iowa on Sunday that damaged several buildings, including a barn that injured someone when it was blown over.

Earlier on Sunday afternoon, a strong line of storms moved through west-central Missouri, bringing winds that reached 70 mph hour near Chillicothe, Mo., that toppled some trees.

The Missouri Highway Patrol also reported a tractor-trailer was blown onto its side on Interstate 70 about 30 miles east of Kansas City about 1 p.m. No one was injured.

The weather service received a report from Plattsburg, Mo., where an anemometer measured 58 mph before it blew away. Golf ball-sized hail was reported at Overland Park, Kan., and Trimble, Mo.

Severe thunderstorm watches covered portions of Iowa, Illinois and Missouri through Sunday night. The primary threats were damaging wind gusts and large hail.

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To the southeast, northern Louisiana and Mississippi were bracing for severe storms along with the possibility of flash flooding.

The predictions prompted Barksdale Air Force Base near Bossier City, La., to cancel its air show on Sunday.

The National Weather Service said northern Alabama could see rain and flash flooding, while central and northern Georgia could see storms and heavy rain.

Sunday was the third anniversary of a 122-tornado day, which struck parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia and killed 316 people.

Meanwhile, runners in Oklahoma City took shelter early Sunday as hail and high winds delayed the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon by 105 minutes to let a severe thunderstorm pass through.

Prior to this weekend, the country had been experiencing the slowest start to tornado season on record (with no fatalities), likely due to the polar vortex during the winter.

Click HERE For Rest Of Story

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America’s Next Space Shuttle – Sierra Nevada Corporation’s ‘Dream Chaser’ (Pictures / Video)

Meet Dream Chaser, America’s Next Space Shuttle – Giant Freakin Robot

As you probably know, President Obama announced his decision to end NASA’s space shuttle program Constellation back in 2010. Since then, the US has been paying to transport astronauts to the ISS aboard Russian Soyuz capsules. NASA designed the four-person Space Launch System, a heavy launch vehicle, to replace the retired shuttles. So I’ve just been waiting patiently for that to come to fruition, somehow unaware of the Dream Chaser spacecraft, a commercial spaceflight transport system that will be able to take a crew of seven astronauts to the ISS, despite being about 1/3rd the size of a conventional shuttle.

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The Dream Chaser will ride aboard an Atlas 5 rocket, which will propel the craft into low Earth orbit, potentially ferrying astronauts to the ISS. Service – or some kind of crewed mission – is expected to begin in 2017, with the first orbital crewless flight in late 2016. Dream Chaser’s first unmanned flight occurred in 2013, when it flew successfully but crashed due to a malfunction in its landing gear. Actually, the vehicle flipped over at the very end, coming to rest in an upright position, after which the malfunctioning left landing gear deployed. I like a spacecraft with a sense of humor. Despite the rocky ending, the flight was regarded as an overall success.

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Dream Chaser was built by the Sierra Nevada Corporation, and it’s one of three potential commercial transport systems that are part of the space agency’s Commercial Crew Development process. NASA is expected to choose one or two of the these systems to take astronauts to the ISS. SpaceX’s Dragon is one, and Boeing’s CST-100 is the other, and so far all three have met target milestones. The teams are vying for the privilege of becoming NASA’s main mode of near-Earth orbit transit, kicking off the era of private commercial spaceflight for both crews and cargo.

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That shift will also usher in another change, with the privatization of spaceflight beyond near-Earth orbit, to places such as Mars and asteroids. SpaceX, after all, is planning on taking people to colonize the Red Planet, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves, there are still more milestones to meet, and lots of fun to be had watching it happen.

Click HERE For Rest Of Story

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Two Killed, 17 Injured As East Harlem Buildings Collapse (Pictures / Video)

Two Dead, 17 Injured As NY Buildings Collapse – Breitbart

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Two residential buildings in Manhattan collapsed in an explosion on Wednesday, killing two women and injuring at least 17 other people as a serious fire spewed out thick smoke, officials said.

The explosion struck a building at 116th Street and Park Avenue in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York, where witnesses said they were jolted awake by what sounded like an earthquake.

Police told AFP two residential buildings next door to each other had collapsed in the incident, killing two women and injuring 17 other people who were transferred to local hospitals.

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Mainline train services in and out of Grand Central terminal were suspended as a result of the incident next to its tracks.

Hundreds of police and firefighters were on site with emergency vans and fire trucks, as a dense column of smoke spewed into the sky over the Metro-North railway line, an AFP reporter said.

There was no official confirmation of the cause of the blast but indications pointed towards a gas leak.

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Energy company Con Edison told AFP it got a call alerting crews to a possible gas leak at 9:13 am, just minutes before the blast.

“A resident reported smelling gas inside the apartment building at 1652 Park Avenue but indicated the odor may have been coming from outside the building,” company spokesman Bob McGee said.

“Two Con Edison crews were dispatched at 9:15 am and arrived just after the explosion occurred,” he added.

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The company said it was working closely with the New York Fire Department to make the area safe but said it could not yet confirm that the blast was caused by gas.

“Our crews are checking our gas lines and working to isolate any leaks that they find and they’re working closely with the FDNY to make the area safe,” McGee said.

Local residents also spoke of smelling gas in the area.

A spokesman for New York Police Department told AFP that it received an emergency call at 9:34 am.

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The Fire Department told AFP that more than 168 fire fighters and 44 different units had responded to the explosion.

Witnesses compared the sound of the explosion to an earthquake and what they saw to a war zone, after the blast ripped through their bustling city routine.

Jazzmen Arzuaga, 30, told AFP she was at work at a hospital when her wife rang to tell her what had happened.

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“She called me and told me ‘Oh my God, you need to come home now, it’s like World War II, people are dying, there was an explosion.’ I just literally ran,” she said.

The couple live across the street from the blast.

Arzuaga’s wife Jay Virgo, also 30, said she was lying in bed when the blast blew her onto the floor.

“I jumped up and I just put my coat on and I ran out of the door,” she said at the scene.

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“I ran out of the building and I looked across the street and there were couple of people lying on the floor. There were glass everwhere, huge pieces of glass. It just looked crazy.”

Witness Robert Santiago told CBS that he was sleeping when suddenly the explosion shook his bed and the floor.

“It smells very bad out here. It smells like rubble,” he said.

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“I thought the world was coming to an end, an earthquake or something like that. Terrible,” he added.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said Metro-North trains had been suspended indefinitely in and out of Grand Central because of the building explosion and collapse.

“Southbound trains are being held at stations to await further instructions. Northbound trains are being held in Grand Central,” said an emergency notice published on its website.

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Click HERE For Rest Of Story

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Your Daley Gator Ukrainian Revolution Update (Pictures / Videos)

Putin Mocks The West And Threatens To Turn Off Gas Supplies – The Telegraph

Vladimir Putin has mocked diplomatic efforts to end the Ukraine crisis as Russia threatened to disrupt European gas supplies by cutting off sales to Kiev over its unpaid debts.

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The Russian president said through his official spokesman that, despite deep disagreements with the West, he did not want a confrontation over Ukraine to spiral into a “new cold war”.

Nevertheless Dmitry Peskov ridiculed Western demands for direct talks between the Kremlin and the new Kiev government, claiming that the loss of credibility involved “puts a smile on our face”.

The remarks were broadcast during the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, where the Ukrainian athlete carrying his national flag was given a loud cheer.

Earlier, Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy giant, said it would start to reduce deliveries to Kiev, a move that would disrupt supplies to Europe. Gazprom said Ukraine had failed to make payments on its £1.2 billion debts.

Ukraine is one of the main transit routes for the continent’s gas and the suspension of Gazprom exports in freezing temperatures in 2006 and in 2009 endangered national grids and caused sharp rises in prices. “We can’t supply gas for free,” Alexey Miller, the head of Gazprom, said. “Either Ukraine settles its debt and pays for current deliveries or the risk arises of a return to the situation we saw at the start of 2009.”

Energy experts said Russia had the power to cause problems in markets across Europe, even though peak winter demand was past. “Europe still relies heavily – in some cases 100 per cent – on Russian gas. And if that was interrupted very suddenly, there would be difficulties all round,” said Lord Howell, the former energy secretary.

But the White House brushed off the Russian announcement as less of a blow for EU economies than in previous years. Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, said reduced Russian exports would not have an immediate effect since stocks in Europe were above normal levels because of a mild winter. Structural changes in the industry also mean that less of Europe’s gas went through Ukraine.

Russian foreign ministry officials issued the tit-for-tat warnings a day after an EU summit suspended talks on visa-free access for Russians to Europe and threatened sanctions if Moscow did not change course. “Russia will not accept the language of sanctions and threats,” a foreign ministry statement said.

Two potential Ukrainian presidential contenders demanded a single, tough Western stance against Russia. Vitali Klitschko, the former boxer, and Petro Poroshenko, a businessman, both of whom are seen as likely candidates in presidential elections in May, used a visit to Paris to shore up European resolve.

Moscow displayed no signs of pulling back in the flashpoint region of Crimea despite the summit outcome and a subsequent telephone conversation between Mr Putin and President Barack Obama.

Russia’s parliament made preparations to endorse next week’s referendum in Crimea on joining the Russian Federation as a group of Crimean MPs were accorded a hero’s welcome in Moscow.

Valentina Matviyenko, the speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, said the outcome would be accepted “unquestionably”. Officials in Kiev retorted that no country in the “civilised world” would recognise a vote for merging with Russia.

Checkpoints manned by Russian soldiers and Crimea militias blocked efforts by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to enter the peninsula.

The OSCE convoy, led by a police car and followed by two buses carrying the observers, returned to the southern city of Kherson to decide if the unarmed monitoring mission can go ahead at all.

Russia said the mission was blocked because it had begun without seeking the traditional consensus support from all the organisation’s members.

Russia also scuttled a third ship in the Crimean harbour of Donuzlav to tighten its blockade on the doggedly loyal Ukrainian navy vessels trapped behind Russian lines.

The only bright point of the day came when Ukraine’s Paralympic team announced it would participate in the Winter Games in Sochi.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Ukraine prime minister, said his government was still pressing for direct talks with Russia to resolve the crisis. He demanded that Russia pull back its forces and stop supporting “separatist” activities inside Ukraine.

“We are ready to build relations with Russia,” he said. “But Ukraine will never be a subordinate or branch of Russia.”

Mr Yasenyuk also revealed the Kiev and the EU would soon sign an agreement on the political aspects of a strategic accord that fell through late last year.

The collapse of the EU association agreement provoked the mass pro-Western demonstration movement that led to the collapse of the former government of President Viktor Yanukovych.

“It is the matter of weeks now,” Mr Yatsenyuk said. “This is the most important decision that the whole country has been waiting for. This is what people were going to the streets for.”

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Tension In Ukraine Builds As Convoy Of 60 Unmarked Military Trucks Carrying Hundreds Of Soldiers Heads For Crimea As Pro-Russian Troops Fire Warning Shots At Peace Monitors – Daily Mail

A convoy of 60 unmarked military trucks carrying hundreds of soldiers was today spotted snaking its way from eastern Ukraine into Crimea, with the country appearing more divided than ever.

Warning shots were also fired inside Crimea as a foreign military mission was barred from entering the Ukrainian province by pro-Russian troops.

The mission, made up of soldiers of different nationalities from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, had automatic weapons fired over their heads.

The soldiers were told they had no authorisation to enter the peninsula. No injuries were reported.

Earlier this morning Russian foreign secretary Sergei Lavrov said that the crisis had been ‘artificially created’ for ‘geopolitical reasons’, though stopped short of accusing the West of creating tensions.

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He confirmed that Russia was open to further talks with the West as long as they remained ‘honest and partner-like’, and said he was in contact with the Ukrainian interim government, though he accused them of being right-wing extremists.

In a telephone call he also warned US secretary of state John Kerry that any sanctions would have a ‘boomerang effect’ on America.

Meanwhile pro and anti-Putin protesters have taken to the streets of Ukraine today as the country appears more divided than ever.

In the Crimean city of Simferopol hundreds of demonstrators waving Ukrainian flags marched to a military base surrounded by Russian troops while chanting ‘Russian Soldiers Out Of Crimea’.

Many of the activists waved Crimean Tartar flags. The Tartars were persecuted by Russian during the world wars and driven to Crimea, and so are strongly opposed to closer ties with the Kremlin.

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In another city, Bakhisaray, more Tartars gathered urging Ukraine to stay united after the regional government said Crimea was officially part of Russia and announced a public referendum on March 16 to confirm it.

Meanwhile in the city of Donetsk, former stronghold of ousted president Viktor Yanokovych, thousands gathered to wave banners reading ‘I Love Putin’.

Today is not the first time shots have been fired in the region, but it is the first time bullets have been directed at international troops.

Last week a Russian soldier fired above the head of Ukrainian air force troops as they marched unarmed to their base which had been occupied by Putin’s troops.

Late last night pro-Russia soldiers tried to take over a Ukrainian base in a tense stand-off that lasted for several hours.

Lt. Col. Vitaly Onishchenko, deputy commander of the base, said three dozen men wearing unmarked camouflage uniforms arrived late Friday.

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While one group climbed over a wall on one side of the base, another crashed a heavy military truck through the gates, Mr Onishchenko said.

He said that they turned off power, cut telephone lines and demanded that about 100 Ukrainian troops, who barricaded themselves into one of the base buildings, surrender their weapons and swear allegiance to Russia. The invaders left at about midnight.

No shots were fired in the stand-off, and no injuries were reported, but the incident reflected tensions running high on the Black Sea peninsula.

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In the week since Russia seized control of Crimea, Russian troops have been neutralising and disarming Ukrainian military bases there.

Some Ukrainian units, however, have refused to give up.

Crimea’s new leader has said pro-Russian forces numbering more than 11,000 now control all access to the region and have blockaded all military bases that have not yet surrendered.

Russian energy giant Gazprom has also confirmed that Ukraine owes $1.89billion and has threatened to turn off the gas supply, which could affect the rest of Europe as several important pipelines run through the country.

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Cyber Snake Plagues Ukraine Networks – Financial Times

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An aggressive cyber weapon called Snake has infected dozens of Ukrainian computer networks including government systems in one of the most sophisticated attacks of recent years.

Also known as Ouroboros, after the serpent of Greek mythology that swallowed its own tail, experts say it is comparable in its complexity with Stuxnet, the malware that was found to have disrupted Iran’s uranium enrichment programme in 2010.

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The cyber weapon has been deployed most aggressively since the start of last year ahead of protests that climaxed two weeks ago with the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovich’s government.

Ouroboros gives its operators unfettered access to networks for surveillance purposes. But it can also act as a highly advanced “digital beachhead” that could destroy computer networks with wide-ranging repercussions for the public.

Cyber warfare experts have long warned that digital weapons could shut off civilian power or water supplies, cripple banks or even blow up industrial sites that depend on computer-controlled safety programmes.

The origins of Ouroboros remain unclear, but its programmers appear to have developed it in a GMT+4 timezone – which encompasses Moscow – according to clues left in the code, parts of which also contain fragments of Russian text. It is believed to be an upgrade of the Agent.BTZ attack that penetrated US military systems in 2008.

The malware has infected networks run by the Kiev government and systemically important organisations. Lithuanian systems have also been disproportionately hit by it.

Ouroboros has been in development for nearly a decade and is too sophisticated to have been programmed by an individual or a non-state organisation, according to the applied intelligence unit at BAE Systems, which was the first to identify and analyse the malware.

The Financial Times has corroborated the existence of Snake with security and military analysts.

BAE has identified 56 apparent infections by Snake globally since 2010, almost all in the past 14 months. Ukraine is the primary target, with 32 recorded instances, 22 of which have occurred since January 2013.

“Ukraine is top of the list [of infections] and increasing,” said Dave Garfield, managing director for cyber security at BAE, who added that the instances were almost certainly “the tip of the iceberg”.

“Whoever made it really is a very professional outfit,” Mr Garfield added. “It has a very high level of sophistication. It is a complex architecture with 50 sub-modules designed to give it extreme flexibility and the ability to evolve. It has neat and novel technical features.”

“You never get beyond reasonable doubt levels of proof in this area but if you look at it in probabilistic terms – who benefits and who has the resources – then the list of suspects boils down to one,” said Nigel Inkster, until 2006 director of operations and intelligence for MI6 and now director of transnational threats at the think tank IISS.

“Until recently the Russians have kept a low profile, but there’s no doubt in my mind that they can do the full scope of cyber attacks, from denial of service to the very, very sophisticated.”

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Journalists Beaten During Russian Storming Of Ukrainian Military Base, Then Live TV Crew Harassed When They Report On It – Weasel Zippers

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Another view:

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Mellunmäki
@mrzff

Это Костас, его пиздят второй раз уже. pic.twitter.com/09RbLJT6nE

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Patrick Jackson
@patrickgjackson

Journalists beaten up in #Crimea: photo by @mrzff pic.twitter.com/Y9cpbHDOiv
6:05 PM – 7 Mar 2014

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Via KPHG:

Ukrainian journalists are reported to have been brutally beaten during the seizure by Russian soldiers of a Ukrainian military unit on Friday evening, while in Simferopol STB journalists were attacked during a live news broadcast.

Budzhurova, head of the Crimean Association of Free Journalists stated on the Savik Shuster talk show on Friday that she had received two calls from Olena Myekhanik, a journalist from TV Inter. Myekhanik first told her that the Ukrainian military unit was under attack, that a KAMAZ truck had rammed the gates and 12 individuals had crossed onto the unit’s land. She asked for a journalist team from TV ATR to be sent. Later she rang in distress saying that the Ukrainian journalists present, including women, had been assaulted, and their video recorders smashed. The journalists were all at Unit 2355 where there is an air force command point in charge of overseeing air safety. The journalists also included a TV STB firlm crew and a Georgian national.

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Your Daley Gator Ukrainian Revolution Update (Pictures / Videos)

Russia Refers To Crimea As ‘Autonomous Region'; Sets Up Puppet State – Gateway Pundit

Russia declared Crimea an “autonomous” region on Monday. Five top pro-Russian military and security commanders took an oath to Crimea.

Crimean leader Sergey Aksyonov appealed to Russia for assistance.

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Breitbart reported:

It appears that Russia has taken control of Crimea without firing a shot and is referring to it as the “Autonomous Republic of Crimea,” presumably with the intention of making it a puppet state of Moscow.

Ukraine’s government in Kiev is only a few days old and seems to be in disarray. So far, it’s avoiding any strong military overreaction that would provide Russia with an excuse for a further military invasion, perhaps into eastern Ukraine beyond Crimea. However, the government warned Sunday it was on the brink of disaster and called up military reservists to counter Russia’s threat to Ukraine.

Russia has appointed Sergey Aksyonov to prime minister of Crimea, and on Sunday he announced:

I believe that this day will go down in history of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea as the day that all law enforcement agencies were established in the autonomy. We will prove that the Crimeans are capable of protecting themselves and ensure the safety and freedom of our citizens.

Today the Autonomous Republic of Crimea is formed as an independent, integral public authority. I am sure that all of us will prove that we did not just come into power and that we can give Crimeans what they expect from us.

We will never see ‘Maidan’ with their black smoke and burned tires here. I responsibly promise that Crimea by May will be calm, quiet, friendly. People of all nationalities will live here happily.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the decision to send in troops was only to protect human rights.

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Ukraine: Russia Delivers ‘Assault Storm’ Deadline – Sky News

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Russia has reportedly given Ukrainian forces in Crimea a deadline of 3am on Tuesday to surrender or face military action after troops seized key strategic sites in the peninsula.

The ultimatum came from Alexander Vitko, commander of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which has a base in Crimea where Russian forces are now in control.

According to Russia’s Interfax agency, it reads: “If they do not surrender before 5am (3am UK time) tomorrow, a real assault will be started against units and divisions of the armed forces across Crimea.”

But in a conflicting report, Interfax quoted an official representative for the Russian Ministry of Defence as saying the ultimatum was “total nonsense”.

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The US said any threat by Russia to Ukraine forces would represent a “dangerous escalation” in the crisis, and Moscow would be responsible.

It came as Russian President Vladimir Putin watched tanks and armoured vehicles taking part in military exercises at a training ground in north-west Russia.

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Mr Putin attended the final day of war games he ordered on February 26 to test the combat-readiness of his armed forces in western and central parts of Russia, regions adjacent to Ukraine, a spokesman said.

The Russian foreign ministry said Nato’s criticism of its actions in Crimea “will not help stabilise” the situation in Ukraine.

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British Prime Minister David Cameron said Russia will face “diplomatic, political, economic and other pressures” to send a “clear message” about its actions in the Ukraine.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev discussed the escalating crisis in Ukraine with US Vice President Joe Biden by telephone on Monday.

Mr Medvedev “declared that it is necessary to protect the interests of all Ukrainian citizens, including residents of Crimea, and citizens of Russia who are located in Ukraine,” according to Interfax.

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He added that Russia would press ahead with plans to build a bridge linking Russia directly with the Crimea region – providing a vital transport link to the Black Sea peninsula.

Mr Medvedev told deputies the two countries had signed “documents related to a project for construction of a transport corridor across the Kerch Strait” in December, when now-ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych was still in power.

Hundreds of Russian soldiers have surrounded a military base in Crimea, preventing Ukrainian soldiers from going in or out.

The convoy blockading the site, near the Crimean capital Simferopol, includes at least 17 military vehicles.

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Russian troops have also reportedly taken control of a ferry terminal in the city of Kerch, on the eastern tip of Crimea, which has a majority Russian-speaking population.

Ukraine’s defence ministry said two Russian fighter jets violated the country’s air space in the Black Sea on Sunday night and that it had scrambled an interceptor aircraft to prevent the “provocative actions”.

Elsewhere, pro-Russian protesters have taken over a floor of the regional government building in Donetsk, say reports. The 11-storey building has been flying the Russian flag for the last three days.

The crisis has had a huge effect on global stock markets, with Moscow’s stock exchange plunging more than 10% on Monday.

Russia’s central bank raised its rate to 7% from 5.5% as the ruble hit an historic low against the dollar and the euro.

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‘Weak’ Obama Is Blasted For His ‘Laughable’ Response To Putin As Both Parties Say President Is Letting Russia Push Him Around – Daily Mail

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Senior US politicians from both parties criticized President Barack Obama’s threats to Russian President Vladimir Putin and called for immediate sanctions if troops are not immediately withdrawn from Ukraine

Republican Senators John McCain (AZ), Marco Rubio (FL) and Bob Corker (TN) and others, as well as some Democrats, reached across the aisle to call for immediate sanctions against Russia and aid to Ukraine before Putin becomes even more emboldened.

McCain was quick to criticize the president’s threats in an interview with the Daily Beast, calling them ‘laughable’ and partly blaming former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for thinking she and Obama could ‘reset’ relations with Russia back in 2009.

‘She believed that somehow there would be a reset with a guy who was a KGB colonel who always had ambitions to restore the Russian empire,’ said McCain. ‘That’s what this is all about.’

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The Senator called for the Obama administration to more liberally enforce the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law and Accountability Act, which has allowed the US government to sanction Russian officials for human rights violations since being signed into law in 2009.

On Sunday morning, Secretary of State John Kerry called Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine ‘an incredible act of aggression’ and said President Vladimir Putin has made ‘a stunning, willful’ choice to invade another country.

Kerry says Russia should respect the democratic process through which the Ukrainian people ousted their pro-Russian president and assembled a new government.

Kerry is raising the possibility of boycotting the June meeting of the Group of Eight leading industrialized countries in Sochi, Russia.

He’s also discussing visa bans, asset freezes, and trade and investment penalties.

Kerry said he spoke with foreign ministers for G-8 and other nations on Saturday, and says everyone is prepared ‘to go to the hilt’ to isolate Russia.

Any Russian officials, Putin included, involved in sending troops to Ukraine should be sanctioned, McCain argued – such action would result in asset freezing, visa bans and a wagging of the collective international finger, Daily Beast noted.

‘We must consider legislation to respond to this,’ McCain continued. ‘The Magnitsky bill can be expanded for holding people responsible for these acts of aggression.’

The longtime Senator also called for economic sanctions and other actions against Russia.

Corker also hammered away at the situation, calling Russia ‘a nation still smarting from the breakup of the Soviet Union with a leader who is nothing but an autocrat’ and called for immediate sanctions during a CNN interview.

‘We need to do everything we can to isolate them,’ Corker continued. ‘We’ve got to work with [Europe] to do the necessary things… to mitigate conduct.’

He later said in a statement ‘Vladimir Putin is seizing a neighboring territory – again – so President Obama must lead a meaningful, unified response.’

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Rubio called for Obama to deploy Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to the Ukrainian capital, according to USA Today.

He also called for a prohibition of Russian officials traveling to the US, and to convene an emergency meeting of NATO to allow Georgia into the fold.

Kerry, in a statement, said the ‘United States condemns the Russian Federation’s invasion and occupation of Ukrainian territory… we call for Russia to withdraw its forces back to bases [and] refrain from interference elsewhere in Ukraine.’

Unless immediate and concrete steps are taken by Russia to deescalate tensions, the effect on U.S.-Russian relations and on Russia’s international standing will be profound,’ Kerry threatened.

The president also informed Putin that the US has pulled out of preparatory meetings for an upcoming G-8 summit in Sochi, as the UN mulled over possible sanctions and Ukraine warned that it’s troops are ‘at the ready,’ a government official told CNN.

‘The United States condemns Russia’s military intervention into Ukrainian territory,’ a White House statement said.

New York Democratic Rep Eliot Engel called for a ‘robust international economic assistance package’ including loan guarantees for Ukraine in a statement released Saturday.

Arkansas Republican Rep Tom Cotton demanded the president recall the US Ambassador to Russia from Moscow and revoke visas and freeze the assets of Putin’s cronies, provide military assistance to Ukraine and sack Russia from the G-8 group of nations, according to USA Today.

Russia has military bases in Crimea, but those personnel are in violation of international law by entering Ukraine despite Russia’s Duma willfully granting Putin permission to deploy troops into Ukraine as the country grows further divided.

It appears further liberties were already being taken by Russian troops early Sunday morning, they took weapons from a Ukraine radar facility near Crimea and urged people there to side with ‘legitimate leaders,’ iTV reported, citing Interfax.

Former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra told Newsmax only hours earlier that ‘there’s not a whole lot the United States can do’ to bring Putin and Russia in line.

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Putin expressed his concern for the Russian citizens in Russia and said that the deployment of troops into the country was to protect them, according to a Kremlin statement.

‘Vladimir Putin stressed that in case of any further spread of violence to Eastern Ukraine and Crimea, Russia retains the right to protect its interests and the Russian-speaking population of those areas,’ the statement said.

Obama strongly urged Putin to immediately de-escalate and to use peaceful means to address concerns including through talks with the new Ukrainian government or through the US of international observers sent under the UN umbrella, the White House countered.

The president also offered to broker talks between Russian and the Ukraine to prevent the countries from war as the former Soviet bloc country’s new government warned it is being ‘provoked’ by Russia’s actions.

A Ukraine government spokesperson told CNN there are an estimated 15,000 troops in Crimea, a small country separating mainland Ukraine from Sevastopol.

‘The troops are already there, and their number is increasing every hour,’ the spokesperson explained.

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Russia has also maintained a naval base in Sevastopol per a 1997 treaty signed shortly after Ukraine gained independence.

The Ukrainian city sits on a small peninsula that is not connected to the rest country, making it particularly vulnerable to the kind of military action undertaken by Russia.

Putin further blamed ultra-nationalists in the Ukraine for Russia’s further encroachment into Ukrainian sovereign territory, according to the Kremlin.

Eastern Ukraine leans more heavily towards Russia than the western part of the country, whee the capital Kiev is located. Many international observers fear the country will plunge into a civil war that might break it up into two or more countries if conditions further deteriorate.

The dramatic eleventh-hour call came as the United Nations Security Council met in an emergency session less than a week after the Sochi Olympics to mull over possible economic sanctions to enact against the rogue permanet Security Council member.

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After meeting behind closed doors, the council agreed to hold the open, televised meeting despite objections from permanent member Russia. Ukraine has accused Russia of ‘a military invasion and occupation’ of strategic points in the Crimean peninsula.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin scoffed at the notion, saying the US and other European nations are overreacting and that his country cannot agree to end all military actions.

Some reports have suggested Russia may even recall its ambassador to the US in protest of western involvement in the crisis.

Ukraine has asked the other four permanent council members – the U.S., Britain, France and China – for help in stopping Russia’s ‘aggression.’

Ukrainian Ambassador to the UN Yuriy Sergeyev said Russia has rejected Ukraine’s proposal to hold immediate bilateral consultations, and vowed his country would not be drawn into military conflict.

‘Ukraine will not be provoked, we will not use force, we demand that the government of the Russian Federation immediately withdraw its troops and return to their home bases,’ he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said earlier Saturday that he is ‘gravely concerned about the deterioration of the situation’ in Ukraine. He spoke later by telephone with Putin.

‘I am gravely concerned by some of the recent events in particular those that could in any way compromise the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the [Ukraine],’ Ban said in a statement about the call.

‘It is crucial to restore calm and proceed to an immediate de-escalation of the situation,’ Ban continued. ‘Cool heads must prevail and dialogue must be the only tool in ending this crisis.’

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A Ban spokesman delivered the statement Saturday afternoon as members of the Security Council met in an emergency closed-door session for the second straight day on the rapidly developing events in Ukraine’s Crimea region.

Obama later spoke with President Francois Hollande and Australian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the White House announced.

All three ‘leaders agreed that Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected, and expressed their grave concern over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine,’ said a separate White House statement.

‘The leaders affirmed the importance of unity within the international community in support of international law, and the future of Ukraine and its democracy.’

The Security Council decided to hold the open meeting after struggling behind closed doors to reach agreement on how to meet. Some members wanted open, or public consultations, on Ukraine, which Russia initially opposed.

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Ban’s statement called for ‘full respect for and preservation of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine’ and demanded the ‘immediate restoration of calm and direct dialogue between all concerned.’

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said the meeting is to determine ‘what justification Russia claims to have’ for its de facto military takeover of the strategic Crimea region.

As a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia has veto power and can block the U.N.’s most powerful body from adopting any resolution criticizing or sanctioning Moscow.

Outside the council chamber, Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador called on countries to do everything possible to stop Russia’s “aggression.”

‘The Russian Federation brutally violated the basic principles of the Charter of the United Nations,’ Sergeyev told reporters..

During a break, an exasperated Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters, ‘We are ready for serious discussions.’

Ban was flying to Geneva on Saturday where he planned to meet the following day with his special envoy Robert Serry, the Netherlands’ first ambassador to Ukraine.

After Friday’s closed-door Security Council consultations, Ban asked Serry to go to Crimea as part of a fact-finding mission. However, after consulting with authorities in the autonomous region, Serry decided that a visit to Crimea was not possible and headed to Geneva.

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Kerry: ‘I Don’t Know What You Mean By The Reset’ – Washington Free Beacon

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NBC’s David Gregory pressed Secretary of State John Kerry on the status of the U.S.-Russia “reset” during an interview Sunday on Meet the Press.

“Well, I don’t know what you mean by the reset,” Kerry oddly responded.

The question was asked as Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) among others have argued U.S.-Russia relations are deteriorating and have asked the administration to publicly acknowledge this.

“The Obama administration must publicly acknowledge that its “reset” with Russia is dead. The president must now accept that the only way to deal with tyrants like Vladimir Putin is with a clear understanding that they can’t be trusted and that only decisive action will deter their provocative moves,” Rubio wrote in Politico Magazine.

When pressed further by Gregory, Kerry weakly responded, “We’ve entered into a different phase with Russia. I don’t think this is a moment to be proclaiming one thing or the other.”

The full exchange is available below:

DAVID GREGORY: Before I get to my final question on Israel with a big meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, coming to meet with President Obama, Marco Rubio is on this program in just a few minutes saying it’s time for the administration to publicly acknowledge that the reset with Russia is dead. Do you acknowledge that?

JOHN KERRY: Well, I don’t know what you mean by the reset.

GREGORY: The reset in relations that this administration called for.

KERRY: I know, but long ago, we’ve entered into a different phase with Russia. I don’t think this is a moment to be proclaiming one thing or the other. We’ve had difficulties with Russia with respect to certain issues, and even as we have, we’ve managed to do the Start treaty. They’ve cooperated on Afghanistan, they’ve cooperated on Iran. So, it’s not a zero-sum, dead-alive. It’s a question of differences, very profound differences on certain issues and certain approaches, and we’ve made those very clear over the course of the last months.

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Ukraine Illustrates The Danger Of Entrusting Foreign Policy To Top Men – The Federalist

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The past two days have revealed the dangerous ramifications of the narrow-minded foreign policy elite in Washington, and a media establishment that has for so much of President Obama’s tenure accepted the statements of the administration as gospel. Just as we learned the dangers of the lack of a questioning element – a healthy, serious, skeptical voice in the room – within the administration of George W. Bush, so too we see the consequences of a narrow viewpoint on global affairs which now exists within the Obama administration.

As Eli Lake outlines, the decision of Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine came as a sudden shock to a Washington that less than a day earlier had dismissed such possibilities:

On Thursday night, the best assessment from the U.S. intelligence community – and for that matter most experts observing events in Ukraine – was that Vladimir Putin’s military would not invade Ukraine. Less than 24 hours later, however, there are reports from the ground of Russian troops pushing into the Ukrainian province of Crimea; the newly-installed Crimean prime minister has appealed to Putin to help him secure the country; Putin, in turn, is officially asking for parliament’s permission to send Russian forces into Ukraine. It’s not a full-blown invasion – at least, not yet. But it’s not the picture U.S. analysts were painting just a day before, either… U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence on the fast moving situation in Ukraine tell The Daily Beast that analytic products from the intelligence community this week did not discount the prospect of Russian provocations and even light incursions in the Russian majority province of Crimea, the home of Russia’s fleet in the Black Sea. Nonetheless, until Friday, no one anticipated a Russian invasion of Ukrainian territory.

These officials were not alone. At Foreign Affairs, the headline was “Why Russia Won’t Invade Ukraine”; at The New York Times, “Why Russia Won’t Interfere”; and at Time, “No, Russia Will Not Intervene in Ukraine”. Joshua Tucker at The Washington Post has already had to change the now-ludicrous title of his post, explaining:

Those who have already read this post (including the first 15 commentators below) will know that I originally posted with the title “5 reasons for everyone to calm down about Crimea”. Developments in the ensuing hours have shown how poor a title that turned out to be.

It’s no surprise that, given the echo chamber of the media, the administration itself gives all the signs of being caught flat-footed, unable to adjust to the situation that runs against their preconceived notions and those of the chattering class:

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke with Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu on March 1, telling him that there was ‘no change’ in the U.S.’s military posture toward Ukraine in the hours after Russia’s parliament approved a Russian military presence in Ukraine.

If this is the sort of foreign policy anticipation that the establishment delivers, it’s little surprise that no one trusts America’s self-styled policy elites any more. They are too used to judging the world according to the patterns toward which they are already biased, as opposed to seeing it as it is.

As for the situation in Crimea itself: while the 1994 Budapest Memorandum does not require that the United States enter into this current conflict, as it is not a formal treaty, it does make the situation for the Obama administration a great deal more complicated than, say, the 2008 situation in Georgia. The Ukrainian situation has a nuclear subtext which matters in the broader context: because Ukraine had to surrender its nuclear arsenal as part of the 1994 agreement, U.S. inaction now sends a signal that nations ought to maintain their nuclear arsenal as opposed to trusting the Americans to defend their legitimacy. The mix of Polish, Turkish, and Russian interests here make for an all the more dangerous situation given the spillover potential of a major crisis.

What ought to be a first priority in this context is the administration’s opportunity to position itself as ready to use the leverage of international economic policy and energy policy to dissuade the Russians from their current trajectory or, at least, loosen Putin’s stranglehold on European energy markets. U.S. law currently prevents American energy producers from freely exporting natural gas or crude oil to anywhere even remotely near Europe. To remedy this glaring economic and geopolitical mistake, the president (who has shown no qualms about using sweeping definitions of executive power in other areas) could issue blanket executive orders declaring all US natural gas exports to be in the “public interest” and all crude oil exports to be in the “national interest”, the applicable legal standards for both commodities.

While immediate gas exports directly to Europe would be limited by a lack of U.S. export facilities (thanks, again, to glacial government policy), crude exports could begin instantly and US gas could be exported thru Canada and Mexico. At the very least, these moves would serve as a significant signal to global energy markets and to the Russians that the United States fully intends to use its newfound energy abundance to stabilize global markets and counterbalance Russian influence across the Atlantic. At best, they might actually help to weaken Russian energy oligarchs and, by extension, Putin himself.

Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, who have both recently expressed support for US energy export liberalization (Cruz especially), should take up this message at once. It represents an opportunity to use expanded trade freedom and American economic might to prevent further loss of life and signal the United States’ seriousness on the matter, without firing a single American bullet. And, unlike the United Nations or the World Trade Organization, it is a step that can be done unilaterally with, quite literally, the stroke of the President’s pen.

In the meantime, at least the president himself is taking it seriously.

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Zeke Miller
@ZekeJMiller

Obama did not attend the meeting, but WH official says he has been briefed by Susan Rice and his national security team.
3:34 PM – 1 Mar 2014

221 Retweets – 31 favorites
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Smart power, indeed.

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Russian Stocks Crash As Central Bank Scrambles, Hikes Rates Most Since 1998 Default – Zero Hedge

Following a 150bps rate hike by the central bank – the largest since the 1998 default -desperate to halt capital outflows and a collapsing currency, Russian stocks have crashed 11% led by some of the country’s largest banks. USDRUB rose to just shy of 37 – the weakest RUB rate on record – but rallied back a little on the rate hike but the MICEX stock index tumbled 11% to almost 2-year lows with Sberbank (Russia’s largest bank) down 17% and VTB (2nd largest bank) down 20%. Between the threat of economic sanctions from the West and simple risk-aversion-based capital flight, as one analyst noted, “uncertainty risks a further escalation in domestic capital outflow.”

MICEX is down 11% today alone…

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Ruble at record lows against the USD…

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It was the biggest increase in a Russian benchmark rate since June 1998, less than two months before Russia defaulted on domestic sovereign bonds and devalued the currency. The refinancing rate used to be the central bank’s main reference.

The Banks have been battered…

* Sberbank, Russia’s biggest bank, drops 17%, loses most since 2008
* VTB, Russia’s second-bigest lender, tumbles 20%
* Bank St. Petersburg falls 16%
* Bank Vozrozhdenie declines 10%
* Nomos Bank slides 12%

European and U.S. leaders have threatened sanctions against Russia, creating risks that economic growth will stall, demand for the country’s assets will dry up and a selloff in the currency will deepen. “There is a risk of international backlash against Russia at a time when the economy faces an increasing need for foreign capital inflows… This uncertainty risks a further escalation in domestic capital outflow.”

Around the world, stock markets are tumbling with Europe down around 2% – almost its largest drop in 7 months; and Japan down 600 from Friday’s highs.

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Perhaps They Should Have Held On To Them: Hundreds Of Rusting Tanks Abandoned In Secret Ukrainian Depot Unveiled As Russia’s Armoured Vehicles Line Its Streets – Daily Mail

These incredible photographs show a huge tank graveyard in the Ukraine – home to hundreds of the abandoned vehicles which the country may desperately need it tensions with Russia continue to escalate.

Filled with rows upon rows of slowly rusting relics, the once deadly war machines now lie dormant in a secret depot in the town of Kharkov in the Slobozhanshchyna region of eastern Ukraine – just 20 miles from the border with Russia.

After hearing about the strange Soviet-era tank cemetery from a friend, photographer Patvel Itkin, 18, spent months trying find its whereabouts.

Despite the disused area being heavily monitored by guards, Mr Itkin managed to sneak in and spend several hours taking dozens of photographs.

Once a thriving tank repair plant, the depot has since become redundant, meaning all the vehicles are now abandoned.

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Your Daley Gator Ukrainian Revolution Update (Pictures / Videos)

Russia Moves To Deploy Troops In Ukraine – Wall Street Journal

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The American and Russian presidents spoke on the phone for 90 minutes on Saturday after Russia’s parliament voted unanimously to deploy troops in Ukraine, defying warnings from Western leaders not to intervene.

In his conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, U.S. President Barack Obama expressed “his deep concern over Russia’s clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.” Mr. Obama urged Russia to de-escalate tensions by withdrawing its forces back to bases in Crimea and to refrain from any interference elsewhere in Ukraine.

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Saturday’s developments come as Russian troops and their local allies have already largely taken control of Crimea, a restive province of Ukraine that belonged to Russia until 1954 and remains predominantly pro-Russian.

In a statement after the call between Mr. Putin and Mr. Obama, the White House said the U.S. “condemns Russia’s military intervention into Ukrainian territory.”

Mr. Putin told Mr. Obama that Russia reserved the right to intervene in Ukraine to protect its interests and those of the Russian-speaking population there, according to a statement from the Kremlin.

Mr. Putin also spoke of “provocations, crimes by ultranationalist elements, essentially supported by the current authorities in Kiev.” It wasn’t clear what incidents Mr. Putin was referring to.

In Moscow, Russian lawmakers also asked Mr. Putin to recall the country’s ambassador to the U.S. On Friday, Mr. Obama had publicly warned Russia that there would be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.

Western officials expressed alarm and cautioned Russia to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

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French President François Hollande also spoke with Mr. Putin Saturday and urged him to avoid any use of force in Ukraine. The French leader held a round of phone calls with Mr. Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that aimed to forge a common position between the allies.

“I deplore today’s decision by Russia on the use of armed forces in Ukraine. This is an unwarranted escalation of tensions,” said European Union foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he is “gravely concerned about the deterioration of the situation” in Ukraine.

In an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Saturday that the regional Crimean government had formally requested Russian military assistance to restore stability to the peninsula. U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power denounced the Russian decision to intervene as “dangerous as it is destabilizing” and said it was taken without legal basis. “The Russian military must stand down,” Ms. Power said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke to his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu. U.S. defense officials wouldn’t immediately provide any details of the call and didn’t say whether Mr. Hagel delivered any warning or caution.

In Brussels, ambassadors to the main political decision-making body of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are set to meet Sunday to discuss the crisis in Ukraine. Afterward, the ambassadors will meet with the Ukrainian ambassador to NATO in a format called the NATO-Ukraine Council.

Meanwhile, skirmishes broke out in other regions of Ukraine, raising concern about broader unrest.

The new government in Kiev called an urgent session of its security council Saturday evening and set a special parliamentary meeting for Sunday to discuss the Russian move.

Vitali Klitschko, the former boxing champion who is one of the protest movement’s most prominent leaders, called on parliament to call a “general mobilization” to respond to the threat, apparently referring to Ukraine’s military.

Heavily armed troops, many from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which is based in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, surrounded key facilities across the region in the past day. The newly installed pro-Russian leader of Crimea Saturday formally asked Russia to deploy its troops to help secure the region.

Mr. Putin’s request didn’t specify how many troops might be sent. It said they would be deployed “until the normalization of the social-political situation in the country.”

The request cited the “threat to the lives of Russian citizens” living in Crimea, as well as the personnel of the Black Sea Fleet.

The approval of Mr. Putin’s request doesn’t necessarily mean troops will be dispatched immediately, an official said.

“Having the right (to deploy forces) doesn’t mean immediately, momentarily exercising that. So we will hope that the situation will go according to a better scenario and won’t continue to be exacerbated as it is now,” presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a radio interview.

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Mr. Peskov said in the interview that no decision had been made yet on deploying forces to Ukraine or on recall of the ambassador.

Sergei Aksyonov, who was appointed prime minister of Crimea after armed men took over the regional parliament this week, said troops from the Black Sea Fleet are guarding vital facilities in the region and helping with patrols to ensure public order. Mr. Aksyonov, who is pro-Russian, said he was taking command of the peninsula’s police and army.

In the economically important eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, hundreds of pro-Russian protesters massed Saturday in the main square and took over a main government administration building, and raised the Russian flag, according to local residents and news outlets. It was unclear whether the protesters were local residents. The number of protesters was also unclear; Russian and Ukrainian media had wildly different estimates of crowd strength.

The Donetsk city council issued a statement demanding a referendum over whether the mining region with strong ties to Russia should remain part of Ukraine.

By nightfall, the area around the Donetsk main square was quiet. A reporter from Ukrainian national television said that the protesters remained inside the building, drinking tea and planning new pro-Russia protests for Monday.

In Kharkiv, protests erupted Saturday between crowds of mostly young men who have been camped out at different sides of the city’s main square – Europe’s largest city square – for weeks now.

The groups, one which is pro-Kiev and the other which is pro-Moscow, are mostly local youth, some of which are supporters of the local football team, who appear to have more personal grievances with each other rather than deeply held political agendas, according to local residents who know several of the people at the demonstration.

Interfax reported that about 100 people were injured in the disorder Saturday, though that figure couldn’t immediately be confirmed.

Ukraine military bases were quickly surrounded and sealed off Saturday by Russian forces in Crimea as the Kremlin made preparations for a larger-scale landing of troops.

Russian troops were posted near the gates and around the perimeters of several bases near Sevastopol. When asked why they were there, officers replied that they were providing security to the bases, to stop any pro-Russian citizens who might try to take them.

The troops posted around the base had no markings on their uniforms. Their commander, when asked if he could reveal their nationality, said “of course not.” Others admitted they were Russian. Ukrainian officials at the base said the Russians were allowing food and provisions to be brought in.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused the government in Kiev of trying to destabilize the region and directing gunmen to capture Crimea’s ministry of internal affairs building overnight. It said the attack, which couldn’t be verified, was averted with “decisive action.”

Five people who live in the buildings next to the ministry building in Simferopol said everything was peaceful Friday night and they heard nothing. There were no signs of struggle at the building complex.

Vladimir Krashevsky, a top official at the Simferopol-based division of the local berkut, or riot police, said there was no attack by Kiev-allied gunmen on the building, where he gave an impromptu news conference Saturday.

“There was no attack here and there won’t be one,” he said.

The resolution authorizing the use of force in Ukraine cited the threat to Russian citizens there, but officials in Moscow repeatedly suggested that the Kremlin was coming to the defense of ethnic Russians in Ukraine, even if they hold Ukrainian citizenship.

“There is a threat today to the lives and safety of our fellow citizens, of Russian speakers, of ethnic Russians,” Valentina Matvienko, speaker of the upper house of parliament, told reporters after the vote. “We can’t remain indifferent.”

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Asked about possible western counter-intervention, she said there was no ground for it. “With all due respect to the United States, where is the U.S. located and where is Russia? This is happening on Russia’s border.”

Alexander Chekalin, a senator, spoke before the vote, saying, “we are one people, speaking one language, following one faith and sharing one history.” The eastern and southern parts of Ukraine have a large number of Russian-speakers who are members of the Orthodox church.

On Friday, armed men surrounded Crimea’s two main airports, took command of its state television network and set up checkpoints along the key roads connecting the peninsula to the rest of Ukraine. On Saturday, professional military men in unmarked green camouflage uniforms appeared outside the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol.

Ukrainian officials said the well-equipped men – many of whom carried sophisticated automatic weapons – were Russian soldiers.

The leader of the Crimean Tatars, the ethnic minority that accounts for 12% of Crimea and supports the new government in Kiev, sought to dispel the notion that the seizure of government buildings in Crimea had grown out of a citizen uprising.

“These buildings were seized by specially trained people acting on military orders,” said Refat Chubarov, the Tatar leader and deputy in the parliament, at a news conference Saturday.

Ukraine’s new prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, called the continuing militarization in Crimea a provocation intended to draw in Ukraine militarily. He demanded Russian forces return to their base in Sevastopol.

“The presence of Russian troops is nothing more than a violation of the agreement for the Black Sea Fleet to be in Ukraine,” Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted him as saying. “We urge the Russian government to withdraw their troops and return them to their base.”

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Ukraine Calls Up Reserves, Readies For Potential Combat With Russia – Jerusalem Post

Ukraine mobilized on Sunday for war and called up its reserves, after Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to invade in the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.

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Ukraine’s security council ordered the general staff to immediately put all armed forces on highest alert, the council’s secretary Andriy Parubiy announced. The Defense Ministry was ordered to conduct the call-up, potentially of all men up to 40 in a country that still has universal male conscription.

Russian forces who have already bloodlessly seized Crimea – an isolated Black Sea peninsula where most of the population are ethnic Russian and Moscow has a naval base – tried to disarm the small Ukrainian contingents there on Sunday. Some Ukrainian commanders refused to give up weapons and bases were surrounded.

Of potentially even greater concern are eastern swathes of the country, where most of the ethnic Ukrainians speak Russian as a native language. Those areas saw violent protests on Saturday, with pro-Moscow demonstrators hoisting flags at government buildings and calling for Russia to defend them.

Putin’s declaration that he has the right to invade his neighbor – for which he quickly received the unanimous approval of his parliament – brought the prospect of war to a country of 46 million people on the ramparts of central Europe.

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Unreal: Obama Skips National Security Meeting On Russia Situation – Capitalism Institute

As the situation between Russia and Ukraine develops, you’d expect our president to be keeping up-to-date on every single detail coming out. But remember, this is Obama. He didn’t attend national security briefings while our ambassador was in danger in Benghazi.

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According to tweets from White House press correspondents, Obama skipped a key national security meeting on the Ukraine situation earlier today. Absolutely unreal.

Where was he? Golfing?

The Weekly Standard writes:

A White House official emailed some reporters to say that President Obama’s team met today to discuss the ongoing situation on Ukraine. It appears President Obama did not attend.

“The President’s national security team met today to receive an update on the situation in Ukraine and discuss potential policy options. We will provide further updates later this afternoon,” reads the full statement.

According to Time magazine’s Zeke Miller, Obama skipped the meeting. “Obama did not attend the meeting, but WH official says he has been briefed by Susan Rice and his national security team,” says Miller.

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Instead of attending a meeting with his national security team, Susan Rice, the Obama advisor who repeatedly said that Benghazi had everything to do with a YouTube video, is briefing the president on crucial national security matters. What could possibly go wrong?

Did JFK skip national security meetings during the Cuban Missile Crisis? No. Even Jimmy Carter was intimately involved in every aspect of the negotiations and operations during the Iran Hostage Crisis. Barack Obama is a new low for the office of the president. Unbelievable.

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Ted Cruz: ‘Vague Threats’ Not Enough; Suspend Russian G8 Membership Now – Big Peace

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On February 28th, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) reacted to President Obama’s “hastily arranged” speech against Russian military intervention in the Ukraine by saying the U.S. needs to suspend “Russian membership in the Group of Eight (G8),” and we need to do so “immediately.”

He made it clear that mere words and “the President’s vague threats” are not enough because mere “appeals to international norms” hold no sway over Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Moreoever, Cruz said international norms mean even less than usual to Putin “when they run counter to his goal of re-establishing Soviet-style regional hegemony over unfortunate states like Georgia and Ukraine who have the temerity to want a more free, prosperous future for their people.”

Cruz said the U.S. must suspend Russian membership in the G8. If that doesn’t give Putin pause, he added, suspensions from “the World Trade Organization and even the United Nations Security Council” should be pursued.

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Ukraine’s Acting President Demands Russia Stop ‘Provocations’ In Crimea – Euronews

Ukraine’s acting president Oleksandr Turchynov has urged Russia to stop “provocations” in Crimea and to pull back military forces.

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“They are provoking us into a military conflict. According to our intelligence, they are trying to implement the scenario that is very similar to Abkhazia,” he said, referring to Russia’s intervention in Georgia over breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which have large ethnic Russian populations.

“I’m personally addressing President Putin and demanding that he stops provocations immediately and calls back the troops from the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and works only according to the signed treaties,” added Turchynov in televised comments.

Euronews saw several Russian armoured personnel carriers (APCs) parked in an area where pro-Russian self defence groups set up a roadblock.

We tried to speak to some of the men in military uniform, but they were reluctant to talk to us in detail. They were friendly and they told us that that was a drill.

Euronews correspondent Sergio Cantone said: “Finally here are the Russian APCs with number plates and identification signs. They are on the road from Sevastopol to Simfereopol. But it is not clear where are they heading.”

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Ukraine Crisis Tests Obama’s Foreign Policy Focus On Diplomacy Over Military Force – Washington Post

For much of his time in office, President Obama has been accused by a mix of conservative hawks and liberal interventionists of overseeing a dangerous retreat from the world at a time when American influence is needed most.

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The once-hopeful Arab Spring has staggered into civil war and military coup. China is stepping up territorial claims in the waters off East Asia. Longtime allies in Europe and in the Persian Gulf are worried by the inconsistency of a president who came to office promising the end of the United States’ post-Sept. 11 wars.

Now Ukraine has emerged as a test of Obama’s argument that, far from weakening American power, he has enhanced it through smarter diplomacy, stronger alliances and a realism untainted by the ideology that guided his predecessor.

It will be a hard argument for him to make, analysts say.

A president who has made clear to the American public that the “tide of war is receding” has also made clear to foreign leaders, including opportunists in Russia, that he has no appetite for a new one. What is left is a vacuum once filled, at least in part, by the possibility of American force.

“If you are effectively taking the stick option off the table, then what are you left with?” said Andrew C. Kuchins, who heads the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “I don’t think that Obama and his people really understand how others in the world are viewing his policies.”

Rarely has a threat from a U.S. president been dismissed as quickly – and comprehensively – as Obama’s warning Friday night to Russian President Vladi­mir Putin. The former community organizer and the former Cold Warrior share the barest of common interests, and their relationship has been defined far more by the vastly different ways they see everything from gay rights to history’s legacy.

Obama called Putin on Saturday and expressed “deep concern over Russia’s clear violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, which is a breach of international law,” the White House said.

From a White House podium late Friday, Obama told the Russian government that “there will be costs” for any military foray into Ukraine, including the semiautonomous region of Crimea, a strategically important peninsula on the Black Sea.

Within hours, Putin asked the Russian parliament for approval to send forces into Ukraine. The vote endorsing his request was unanimous, Obama’s warning drowned out by lawmakers’ rousing rendition of Russia’s national anthem at the end of the session. Russian troops now control the Crimean Peninsula.

President’s quandary

There are rarely good – or obvious – options in such a crisis. But the position Obama is in, confronting a brazenly defiant Russia and with few ways to meaningfully enforce his threat, has been years in the making. It is the product of his record in office and of the way he understands the period in which he is governing, at home and abroad.

At the core of his quandary is the question that has arisen in White House debates over the Afghan withdrawal, the intervention in Libya and the conflict in Syria – how to end more than a dozen years of American war and maintain a credible military threat to protect U.S. interests.

The signal Obama has sent – popular among his domestic political base, unsettling at times to U.S. allies – has been one of deep reluctance to use the heavily burdened American military, even when doing so would meet the criteria he has laid out. He did so most notably in the aftermath of the U.S.-led intervention in Libya nearly three years ago.

But Obama’s rejection of U.S. military involvement in Syria’s civil war, in which 140,000 people have died since he first called on President Bashar al-Assad to step down, is the leading example of his second term. So, too, is the Pentagon budget proposal outlined this past week that would cut the size of the army to pre-2001 levels.

Inside the West Wing, there are two certainties that color any debate over intervention: that the country is exhausted by war and that the end of the longest of its post-Sept. 11 conflicts is less than a year away. Together they present a high bar for the use of military force.

Ukraine has challenged administration officials – and Obama’s assessment of the world – again.

At a North American summit meeting in Mexico last month, Obama said, “Our approach as the United States is not to see these as some Cold War chessboard in which we’re in competition with Russia.”

But Putin’s quick move to a war footing suggests a different view – one in which, particularly in Russia’s back yard, the Cold War rivalry Putin was raised on is thriving.

The Russian president has made restoring his country’s international prestige the overarching goal of his foreign policy, and he has embraced military force as the means to do so.

As Russia’s prime minister in the late summer of 2008, he was considered the chief proponent of Russia’s military advance into Georgia, another former Soviet republic with a segment of the population nostalgic for Russian rule.

Obama, by contrast, made clear that a new emphasis on American values, after what were perceived as the excesses of the George W. Bush administration, would be his approach to rehabilitating U.S. stature overseas.

Those two outlooks have clashed repeatedly – in big and small ways – over the years.

Obama took office with a different Russian as president, Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s choice to succeed him in 2008.

Medvedev, like Obama, was a lawyer by training, and also like Obama he did not believe the Cold War rivalry between the two countries should define today’s relationship.

The Obama administration began the “reset” with Russia – a policy that, in essence, sought to emphasize areas such as nuclear nonproliferation, counterterrorism, trade and Iran’s nuclear program as shared interests worth cooperation.

But despite some successes, including a new arms-control treaty, the reset never quite reduced the rivalry. When Putin returned to office in 2012, so, too, did an outlook fundamentally at odds with Obama’s.

‘Reset’ roadblocks

Just months after his election, Putin declined to attend the Group of Eight meeting at Camp David, serving an early public warning to Obama that partnership was not a top priority.

At a G-8 meeting the following year in Northern Ireland, Obama and Putin met and made no headway toward resolving differences over Assad’s leadership of Syria. The two exchanged an awkward back-and-forth over Putin’s passion for martial arts before the Russian leader summed up the meeting: “Our opinions do not coincide,” he said.

A few months later, Putin granted asylum to Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor whose disclosure of the country’s vast eavesdropping program severely complicated U.S. diplomacy. Obama had asked for Snowden’s return.

In response, Obama canceled a scheduled meeting in Moscow with Putin after the Group of 20 meeting in St. Petersburg last summer. The two met instead on the summit’s sidelines, again failing to resolve differences over Syria.

It was Obama’s threat of a military strike, after the Syrian government’s second chemical attack crossed what Obama had called a “red line,” that prompted Putin to pressure Assad into concessions. The result was an agreement to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal, a process that is proceeding haltingly.

Since then, though, the relationship has again foundered on issues that expose the vastly different ways the two leaders see the world and their own political interests.

After Russia’s legislature passed anti-gay legislation, Obama included openly gay former athletes in the U.S. delegation to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

New barbarities in Syria’s civil war – and the near-collapse of a nascent peace process – have drawn sharper criticism from U.S. officials of Putin, who is continuing to arm Assad’s forces.

How Obama intends to prevent a Putin military push into Ukraine is complicated by the fact that, whatever action he takes, he does not want to jeopardize Russian cooperation on rolling back Iran’s nuclear program or completing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal.

Economic sanctions are a possibility. But that decision is largely in the hands of the European Union, given that its economic ties to Russia, particularly as a source of energy, are far greater than those of the United States.

The most immediate threat that has surfaced: Obama could skip the G-8 meeting scheduled for June in Sochi, a day’s drive from Crimea.

“If you want to take a symbolic step and deploy U.S. Navy ships closer to Crimea, that would, I think, make a difference in Russia’s calculations,” Kuchins said. “The problem with that is, are we really credible? Would we really risk a military conflict with Russia over Crimea-Ukraine? That’s the fundamental question in Washington and in Brussels we need to be asking ourselves.”

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Your Daley Gator Ukrainian Revolution Update (Pictures / Videos)

Putin Seeks Military Action In Ukraine; 6,000 Russian Troops Already Sent To Crimea – Gateway Pundit

Russian President Vladamir Putin asked parliament for permission to send troops to Ukraine on Saturday. The Kremlin already has 6,000 troops in the Crimea region of Ukraine.

Security cameras captured the moment Russian soldiers seized the Crimea parliament building yesterday.

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The AP reported:

Russian President Vladimir Putin asked parliament Saturday for permission to use the country’s military in Ukraine, moving to formalize what Ukrainian officials described as an ongoing deployment of Russian troops in the strategic region of Crimea.

Putin’s motion loosely refers to the “territory of Ukraine” rather than specifically to Crimea, raising the possibility that Moscow could use military force in other Russian-speaking provinces in eastern and southern Ukraine where many oppose the new authorities in Kiev.

President Barack Obama warned Moscow on Friday “there will be costs” if Russia intervenes militarily.

“I’m submitting a request for using the armed forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine pending the normalization of the socio-political situation in that country,” Putin said in a statement released by the Kremlin.

He said the move is needed to protect ethnic Russians and the personnel of a Russian military base in Ukraine’s strategic region of Crimea. Putin sent the request to the Russian legislature’s upper house, which has to approve the motion, according to the constitution. The rubber-stamp parliament is certain to approve it in a vote expected Saturday.

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Russian Parliament Cheers After Voting 87-0 To Invade Ukraine – Gateway Pundit

87 votes in favor – 0 votes against

Unanimous response to send Russian troops to Ukraine.

The Russian lawmakers cheered after the vote passed.

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Pro-Russian mob stormed the city administration building in Kharkiv, Ukraine today. Kharkiv is the second largest city in Ukraine located in the pro-Russian northeast region.

The thugs beat the opposition and forced them to kneel.

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Krauthammer’s Take: Obama Tells The World We Aren’t Going To Do Anything About Invasion Of Ukraine – National Review

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As reports are coming in that Russia has placed 2,000 troops in Crimea, within the borders of Ukraine, President Obama said that “the United States will stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any military intervention in Ukraine.”

Charles Krauthammer responded on Special Report tonight saying, “The Ukrainians, and I think everybody, is shocked by the weakness of Obama’s statement. I find it rather staggering.”

Krauthammer thinks Obama’s statement is about “three levels removed” from actual action. He explained: Obama said “we will stand with the international community – meaning we are going to negotiate with a dozen other countries who will water down the statement – in affirming that there will be costs – meaning in making a statement not even imposing a cost, but in making a statement about imposing a cost – for any military intervention.”

“What he’s saying is we’re not really going to do anything and we’re telling the world,” Krauthammer said.

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“Stupid” “Insipid” Sarah Palin Predicted Russian Invasion Of Ukraine – Gateway Pundit

Back in 2008, Republican candidate Sarah Palin predicted Barack Obama’s weak response to a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“After the Russian army invaded the nation of Georgia, Senator Obama’s reaction was one of indecision and moral equivalence – the kind of response that would only encourage Russia’s Putin to invade Ukraine next.”

She nailed it.

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This was after Barack Obama failed to react to Russia’s invasion of American ally Georgia.

Today Sarah Palin wrote on Facebook – “I Told You So.”

Yes, I could see this one from Alaska. I’m usually not one to Told-Ya-So, but I did, despite my accurate prediction being derided as “an extremely far-fetched scenario” by the “high-brow” Foreign Policy magazine. Here’s what this “stupid” “insipid woman” predicted back in 2008: “After the Russian Army invaded the nation of Georgia, Senator Obama’s reaction was one of indecision and moral equivalence, the kind of response that would only encourage Russia’s Putin to invade Ukraine next.”

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Flashback: Mitt Romney Was Right About Russia And Putin, And Barack Obama Was Wrong – Freedom’s Lighthouse

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Remember this from the third Presidential Debate during the 2012 Election?

Barack Obama had mocked Mitt Romney for calling Russia and Vladimir Putin a U.S. Foreign Policy threat. Mitt Romney responded that it is indeed a threat, and told Obama “I have clear eyes on this, and I’m certainly not going to wear rose-colored glasses about Russia or Mr. Putin.”

Once again, Mitt Romney was right, and Barack Obama is proven to be terribly wrong.

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Stranger Than Fiction: Russian Bikers Among Those Blocking Some Of The Roads In Crimea… Update: Bikers Special Buddies Of Putin – Weasel Zippers

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Alan Cullison
@AlanCullison

Russian bikers take lead at block posts in Crimea. Pic here of commander of post blocking east-west highway. #ukraine
10:29 AM – 28 Feb 2014 from Ukraine, Ukraine

113 Retweets 30 favorites
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Some kind of war. Biker dudes and military without insignia.

Update:

Here’s more on the bikers.

Via ABC:

While a group of camouflaged, armed militiamen patrolled Crimea’s main airport today, there was a second gang of tough-looking men who showed up to join the pro-Russia side to take control of this mostly Russian enclave of southern Ukraine.

The tattooed and bejewelled crew was decked out in leather, black jeans and heavy boots, with patches of a wolf and flame stitched onto their vests. They were the Russian biker gang, the “Night Wolves.” They’ve modeled themselves on the Hell’s Angels, and President Putin has been known to don a leather jacket and ride with them.

Its president, Hirurg, had just landed from Moscow and the local Simferopol chapter was there to pick him up (alas, in a car, not on Harleys). Burly and broad-shouldered, Hirurg sported a goatee, sideburns and a friendly – if intimidating – demeanour. “Hirurg” means surgeon in Russian and he said he was an actual surgeon (having watched every season of “Sons of Anarchy,” I was disappointed the name wasn’t for something more dramatic).

Keep reading

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Alexander Marquardt
@MarquardtA

President of biker gang “Night Wolves” arrived at Simferopol airport from Moscow, says here to ask what locals need.
7:50 AM – 28 Feb 2014

56 Retweets 7 favorites
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Update:

Just any old biker group, their aim is to “spread Russian influence around the world”.

Let’s look at pictures from the past few years, with leader receiving medal from Putin for restoring a Soviet monument, and Putin riding with them:

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Your Daley Gator Ukrainian Revolution News Roundup (Pictures)

House Fit For A Tyrant: Protestors Storm The Sprawling, Luxury Estate Of Ukraine’s Fugitive President Which Has Its Own Private Zoo, Golf Course And Is Half The Size Of Monaco – Daily Mail

A beautiful forested estate of graceful waterways, summer houses and exotic gardens.

This is the home of Ukraine’s fugitive president, who was dramatically ousted from power after one of the worst periods of violence in the country’s history.

Ukraniains streamed to see Viktor Yanukovich’s luxury estate, which has been closed off to the world for nearly a decade, and rubbed their eyes in disbelief when they were confronted by the scale of the opulence he built around him.

The property in Mezhyhirya, an hours drive from Kiev, has a golf course, helicopter pad and is situated in a country where the average salary is less than £300 a month.

Below the house, a garage is filled with classic sports cars worth millions, while in the exotic gardens Australian and African ostriches stretch their legs.

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Yanukovich, 63, who fled into hiding on Saturday as the turmoil of three months confrontation with his people caught up with him, relaxed at weekends in luxury behind high walls patrolled by scores of security guards.

When the dream ended and Yanukovich’s staff fled the Gatsby-like mansion in the early hours of Saturday, the Kiev protest movement that had opposed him invited Ukrainians to go to see the opulence Yanukovich lived in.

As they poured in their thousands, by foot and by car, onto the 140-hectare grounds for a first glimpse at a luxury they could only suspect, Ukrainians gawped in wonderment at the fairytale surroundings.

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What they saw reflected more the inflated dreams of a Middle East potentate – with all the attendant obsessions with security – rather than a rough-hewn man from the gritty eastern Ukraine who got to the top the hard way.

Yanukovich bought a small house on the plot at the start of his presidency in 2010. Subsequently, according to local media, he acquired control of the full estate which exists today through a chain of companies with which he had close interests.

Beyond a five-floor Russian-style house – some said it was his guest house – a stone staircase opened up to a landscaped vista of water features, arboreal walkways and tree-lined avenues stretching into the distance.

Few people – apart from Yanukovich’s chosen few and family – have visited a secret place which has been charted by satellite images that show a helicopter pad and a golf course.

With Yanukovich obsessed by security and fear of attack, they had to leave their mobile phones at the entrance to the grounds and pick them up only on leaving, locals said.

‘This is a monument to a tyrant which we want to show the people,’ said Eduard Leonov, a parliamentary deputy from the far-right nationalist Svoboda party.

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Graeco-Roman statues – a Goddess covering her modesty with her hair, lovers intertwined – decorated the lawns. Ornate ponds – half frozen on Saturday – nonetheless bubbled with water being pumped through them. Love-seats and colonnaded meeting places dot the estate.

There is a Russian bath-house – closed to the public on Saturday with an opposition protester’s helmet on a chair across the door. On a hilltop, looking down on the Dnipro river through trees, was a plaza for a barbecue.

Families and lovers out for a different sort of Sunday afternoon excursion, posed for family album snaps at a once-in-a lifetime occasion.

Most shook their heads in wonderment at the ambitions of a president who had always proclaimed that he was on the side of the poor people of Ukraine.

‘We did not expect anything like this. It is really extensive and all done with our money, the money of ordinary people. It really is too much for one person. It’s very emotional when you see something like this,’ said Serhiy Remezovsky, who had brought his wife and nine-month old son.

Ukrainian opposition icon and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko spoke to supporters at a Kiev protest camp just hours after being released from a hospital where she was incarcerated.

She arrived on stage in Kiev in a wheelchair and looked frail as she addressed thousands of demonstrators who had packed into Independence Square.

Tymoshenko, heroine of the 2004 Orange Revolution, is the chief rival of President Viktor Yanukovych.

His rule is crumbling after protesters took control of the capital Saturday and parliament voted to remove him from power.

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You are heroes, you are the best thing in Ukraine’ she said of those killed in the violence, looking tired and speaking from a wheelchair as she addressed the euphoric crowd.

She also congratulated the protestors for ‘removing the cancer from Ukraine’ and demanded the ousted President Yanukovych be brought to Independence Square.

‘This is your victory, no politicians could do what you have done,’ she said.

‘This country is now free, you have given this country its freedom.

‘You have removed this cancer from our country. I am convinced that any bullet shot through the heart of the people went through the heart of each Ukrainian.

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Upon her release, Tymoshenko promised to run for president and immediately went to Kiev’s Independence Square.

‘When I came to Kiev the first thing I wanted to do was come to the barricades,’ she added.

‘I wanted to feel the feelings that had all these boys and girls on the barricades had been through.

‘All the people responsible will be brought to justice.’

The appearance brought Tymoshenko back to the square where she attracted world attention in the 2004 Orange Revolution protests, a riveting figure then for her rhetoric, her elaborate blond peasant braid and her fashionable clothing.

The square has been the nucleus of a three-month protest movement that pushed Yanukovych to major concessions this week.

Parliament arranged the release of the current President Viktor Yanukovych’s arch-rival, who has been imprisoned since 2011, but the president said he would not recognize any of the lawmakers’ decisions as valid.

Her release will send shockwaves through Ukrainian politics, at a moment of deep turmoil following the worst unrest in the sprawling country since the days of the Soviet Union.

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Protesters in the Ukrainian capital claimed full control of the city Saturday following the signing of a Western-brokered peace deal aimed at ending the nation’s three-month political crisis.

They were seen demanding the resignation of their president and attacking politicians, a move which President Victor Yanukovych branded ‘a coup’ and likened it to the rise of Nazis in the 1930s.

Viktor Yanukovych also says he has no intention of resigning or leaving the country. Hours after he and opposition leaders signed an agreement aimed at resolving the country’s turmoil yesterday, Mr Yanukovych went to Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, the heartland of his support.

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On Saturday, he made the coup accusation in a televised statement.

The opposition has demanded a new election be held by May 25, as the pro-Russian leader’s grip on power rapidly eroded following bloodshed in the capital.

The nation’s embattled president, Viktor Yanukovych, reportedly had fled the capital for his support base in Ukraine’s Russia-leaning east.

Ukraine’s border guard service said that a leading governor and a mayor from the president’s eastern base have fled to Russia.

A spokesman for the border guard service, Oleh Slobodyan, said Kharkiv regional governor Mikhaylo Dobkin and Kharkiv Mayor Hennady Kernes left Ukraine across the nearby Russian border.

Both are top allies of President Viktor Yanukovych, whose rule appeared increasingly under question after protesters took over the capital and parliament voted to remove him.

There are fears that Ukraine might split in two, creating a Russian-leaning east and Europe-leaning west.

Police abandoned posts around the capital, and protesters took up positions around the presidential office and residence.

Parliament discussed voting on impeaching Yanukovych and setting a quick date for new elections to end a crisis over Ukraine’s identity and future direction.

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Yanukovych’s whereabouts were unclear Saturday morning. Media outlets reported that he left Kiev for his native eastern Ukraine after surrendering much of his powers and agreeing to early elections by the end of the year.

But despite the promise of an election and significant concessions, protesters blame him for police violence and amassing too many powers and want him ousted immediately.

At a special parliament session on Saturday, Oleh Tyahnybok, head of the nationalist Svoboda party, called for discussion of impeachment.

The parliament speaker – Yanukovych ally Volodymyr Rybak – announced resignation, citing ill health as the reason.

The president’s representative in parliament warned against splitting the country in two, an outcome that worries many but is increasingly seeming a possibility.

The country’s western regions want to be closer to the EU and have rejected Yanukovych’s authority in many cities, while eastern Ukraine – which accounts for the bulk of the nation’s economic output – favors closer ties with Russia.

The president’s concessions came as part of a deal intended to end violence that killed scores and left hundreds wounded in Kiev this week as snipers opened fire on protesters. It was the worst violence in Ukraine’s modern history.

Andriy Parubiy, a leader of the protest camp on Independence Square, known as the Maidan, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying that Yanukovych fled for Kharkiv, the center of Ukraine’s industrial heartland. Kharkiv was the capital of Soviet Ukraine from 1919-1934.

The claims of the president’s departure could not be immediately confirmed, however.

A group of protesters in helmets and shields stood guard at the president’s office, with few police in sight.

Protesters booed opposition figures who took to a stage last night to present their deal with the president, which cuts Yanukovych’s powers.

‘Death to the criminal!’ some chanted, referring to Yanukovych.

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Ukraine Parliament Votes To Remove President – USA Today

Ukraine’s parliament voted to remove President Viktor Yanukovych on Saturday, even as the embattled leader remained defiant, calling the country’s political crisis a “coup” and saying he has no intention of resigning or leaving the country.

“They are trying to scare me. I have no intention to leave the country. I am not going to resign, I’m the legitimately elected president,” Yanukovych said in a televised statement. “What we see today is a coup – I did everything to prevent the bloodshed. We adopted two amnesty laws. We did everything to stabilize the political situation.”

“I will do everything to protect my country from breakup, to stop bloodshed,” he added.

In the vote, parliament also moved to have early elections on May 25. In a deal brokered Friday to stop the violence, early elections were set for December.

Lawmakers said the move to impeach was necessary. “Yanukovych is not capable of fulfilling his presidential duties,” said opposition lawmaker Oleh Lyashko. Lawmakers will also consider banning the president from running in upcoming elections.

Meanwhile, imprisoned opposition leader and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was released Saturday after spending 2 1/2 years in prison.

Hours after her release, the 53-year-old Tymoshenko spoke to a crowd gathered at Independence Square.

“No one could do what you have done, eliminate a tumor,” she said “A dictator is gone and you are the heroes, you are the best of Ukraine. But you may not leave here until you finish the job and we go all the way.”

“And now every person in our country must get the kind of life that these people died for,” she added, referring to the dozens of protesters killed over the past week by government forces. “I believe in Ukraine.”

On Saturday, the Health Ministry said the death toll in clashes between protesters and police had reached 82. Earlier, as many as 100 were reported killed.

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Ukraine’s New Leaders Order Arrest Of Former President Yanukovych – Fox News

Ukraine’s acting government announced Monday that an arrest warrant has been issued for the country’s former president, Viktor Yanukovych, whose whereabouts are unknown.

In a statement on his official Facebook page, acting interior minister Arsen Avakhov wrote that Yanukovych and several other officials were wanted on charges of “mass killing of civilians” in violence that engulfed Ukraine’s capital city, Kiev, earlier this week. At least 82 people, most of them protesters, were killed in clashes with members of the police and security forces. Some of the dead were shot by snipers in strategic positions overlooking the main protest camp in Kiev’s Independence Square.

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.

Avakhov said Yanukovych arrived in the pro-Russian Black Sea peninsular region of Crimea on Sunday and relinquished his official security detail before driving off to an unknown location.

Ukrainian law enforcement agencies said earlier Monday that they have no information about the whereabouts of Yanukovych, who reportedly was seen in the port city of Sevastopol, home of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

After signing an agreement with the opposition to end a conflict that turned deadly, Yanukovych fled the capital for eastern Ukraine. Ukraine’s border service said he tried to fly out of the country Saturday from Donetsk but was stopped by their officials.

Opposition lawmaker Volodym Kurennoy said on his Facebook page that he had unconfirmed information that the president had been arrested in Crimea. Ukrainain news portal Liga.net also reported that Sevastopol residents saw Yanukovych in the company of Russian marines.

But the claims could not be independently verified, and spokespersons for the regional and national Interior Ministry and Security Service said Monday they had no such information.

Avakhov published a letter that he said was from Yanukovych, dated Monday, in which he gives up his security guard. Yanukovych’s aides and spokespeople could not be reached Monday to verify the reported letter – they have been rapidly distancing themselves from him as his hold on power disintegrates.

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 Kiev’s Independence Square to take part in the three-month protest movement. “All the criminals with him should be in prison.”

The acting finance minister said Monday that the country needs $35 billion (25.5 billion euros) to finance government needs this year and next and expressed hope that Europe or the United States would help.

“The state treasury has been torn apart, the country has been brought to bankruptcy,” Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a protest leader and prominent lawmaker whose name is being floated as a possibility for prime minister, said in parliament Monday.

The speaker of parliament, Oleksandr Turchinov, assumed the president’s powers Sunday, but a presidential aide told the AP on Sunday that Yanukovych plans to stay in power. Turchinov said Monday that he hopes to form a coalition government by Tuesday.

But emotions are running high among the country’s rival parties. When a leading member of Yanukovych’s party, Oleksandr Efremov, told parliament Monday that he was crossing over to the opposition, an opposition lawmaker got up and waved his fist in Efremov’s face, showering him with insults.

Russia’s prime minister said the legitimacy of the new Ukrainian authorities is questionable.

Dmitry Medvedev said Monday, according to Russian news agencies, that the new authorities have come to power as a result of “armed mutiny,” so their legitimacy is causing “big doubts.”

He said that Russia doesn’t know with whom to communicate in Ukraine, and criticized the West for recognizing the new authorities following the ouster of Yanukovych.

Tensions have also been mounting in Crimea, where pro-Russian protesters gathered in front of city hall in the port of Sevastopol on Monday chanting “Russia! Russia!” Russia maintains a big naval base in Sevastopol that has tangled relations between the countries for two decades. The head of the city administration in Sevastopol quit Monday.

Turchinov has said that 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 Kiev 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.

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Why A New Ukraine Is The Kremlin’s Worst Nightmare – The Independent

The details still need to be decided, but the revolutionaries have won in Ukraine. Some elements of the old regime may survive, but that is precisely why the protesters on the “Maidan” (Kiev’s main square) don’t trust the mainstream politicians who claim to be negotiating on their behalf.

The politicians in suits can do the donkey work – writing a new constitution to improve on the old one they have just restored, and trying to save the collapsing economy. But the Maidan leaders in the fatigues and helmets will set the agenda on justice – dismantling the militia and reworking the corrupt legal system, so that the many guilty end up behind bars. And there are credible reports that the snipers who killed more than 70 on Thursday were based in the government buildings that are already being occupied by protesters combing for evidence. Once the world knows who gave the deadly orders, justice will decapitate the old regime. And the “official” opposition will be radicalised by the need to compete with the moral authority of the Maidan.

All of which is the Kremlin’s worst nightmare. When the protests started back in November they were about a trade deal with the EU. Russia was ecstatic that it had persuaded Ukraine to walk away from that deal, and was picking off the other states in the EU’s “Eastern Partnership” programme (Armenia caved in September, Georgia and Moldova were expected to come under enormous pressure in 2014). Russia hoped to drag them into its alternative Eurasian Union instead, which is due to be launched in January 2015.

But this is 10 times worse than Brussels expanding its bureaucracy to Russia’s borders. A real democracy in Ukraine is an existential threat to the entire system that Vladimir Putin has built since 2000. Ironically because Putin is right – most Russians regard Ukraine as a kin state, or not really a different state at all. They are used to stepping in tandem; so if something changes in Ukraine, why not in Russia too? And now the dominoes might fall in the other direction. Other Maidans might appear in other neighbouring states – maybe first in Moldova where the Russia-backed Communist Party was hoping to return to power in elections due in November.

Putin marginalised his own protest movement after the last Russian election cycle. He does not want to see that flare up again. So far, the Russian opposition has been quiet. Few have supported the Ukrainian Maidan, even fewer sound inspired to copy it – for now. But Putin will need to come up with something more convincing than the scattergun propaganda the Russian media has pumped out to date.

None of the favourite Russian myths – the protesters are all crazy nationalists, which is why they are also backed by the Americans, the young guys throwing rocks are really only interested in promoting gay rights – make much sense in the long run.

So the new government in Ukraine, however it’s made up, will be given the briefest of ritualistic honeymoons before Russia uses every instrument at its disposal to try to make it fail. Unfortunately, Russia holds most of the economic cards. Ukraine’s coffers are almost empty, and the old guard is busy looting what is left. It has less than $18bn (£10.9bn) in hard currency reserves, its currency is dropping and immediate debt-repayment needs are more than $10bn.

Russia tied Ukraine to a $15bn bailout deal in December, which is parcelled out by the month to maximise leverage, and periodically suspended whenever the opposition looked like getting the upper hand. But Russia’s real aim was to provide just enough money to support the old semi-authoritarian system (helping Viktor Yanukovych pay the police) and keep Ukrainian society post-Soviet, that is, still dependent on government. So Ukraine’s new leaders will have to be honest and say their aim is to dismantle both. They cannot declare victory now, but will have to plead for popular support during what will be two or three difficult years.

And if the West is serious about an alternative deal, Ukraine needs a lot of money fast. Fortunately, the West would no longer be throwing it down the black hole created by the old regime. Instead the money would support the kind of kamikaze leader Ukraine has never had in the past. Politicians were reluctant to make difficult choices and lose elections, because they’d never get back into power. Now Russia and the old regime will back any populist who promises to keep government subsidies flowing; but an honest kamikaze might just win the long-term credit and at least write his place in the history books.

Russia has talked a lot about its “soft power” in recent years. It isn’t particularly soft. The new Ukraine will pay more for gas, which will be regularly cut off for “technical reasons”. Russia’s crazy “food safety” agency will declare that everything that comes out of Ukraine is radioactive. Ukrainian migrant workers will be sent home now they have finished helping to rebuild Sochi.

Worst of all, Russia will work hard to try to re-corrupt the political system. The Kremlin used to boast that it could exploit Ukraine’s old-style “democracy” – meaning that, just like Yanukovych, they could launch their own puppet parties and buy agents of influence in the honest ones. The Ukrainian Front, a bizarre alliance of hooligans and bikers with a vaguely pan-Slavist ideology that appeared in the eastern city of Kharkiv two weeks ago, was backed by the Russians. Skinheads and sportsmen with the money to spend on propaganda are not a natural combination. Similar groups may pop up in Crimea and elsewhere, where the last elements of the old regime may try and regroup.

But Russia’s ultimate problem is the same as Yanukovych faced. The Kremlin simply can’t understand that protesters would be motivated by ideology rather than by money or foreign support. The Russians were good at manipulating the old system, but dealing with real revolutionaries is a different matter. Ukraine is starting a very bumpy ride.

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Kiev In Chaos As Protesters Clash With Police (Pictures / Videos)

Ukraine: Protesters And Police Clash On Worst Day Of Kiev Bloodshed – The Guardian

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Three months of confrontation in Ukraine between the president and a large protest movement reached its peak on Tuesday night in the worst bloodshed since the country separated from Moscow more than two decades ago, with more than 20 people reported killed as riot police moved in to clear Kiev’s Independence Square, the crucible of the anti-government activism.

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Hopes for a settlement of the crisis went up in smoke amid scenes of rioting, burning buildings, police bombings and rubber bullets that also left up to 500 people injured.

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A large section of the protest camp in the capital, Kiev, was engulfed in flames on Tuesday night as police advanced on the demonstrators using water cannons and stun grenades.

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The security services had earlier issued a warning, ordering tens of thousands of protesters to get off the streets by Tuesday evening or face a crackdown.

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The violence, the worst since a government-opposition confrontation erupted last November, came after President Viktor Yanukovych, the main target of the protests, stalled on outlines of an agreement to appoint a new technocratic coalition government or have his powers cut back.

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The president issued a statement warning leaders of the opposition to dissociate themselves from radicals, otherwise he would “talk differently” with them. Yanukovych said some members of the anti-government opposition had crossed a line when they called on supporters to bring weapons to the demonstration in Kiev. The president called those people “criminals” and said they would face justice in court.

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By Wednesday morning the Ukraine health ministry was putting the death toll at 25, the Reuters news agency reported. This included both civilians and security forces.

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Columns of riot police sought to banish crowds of protesters from encroaching on the country’s parliament, while demonstrators ransacked offices of Yanukovych’s political party.

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“Extremists are killing innocents on the streets of the capital, burning buildings and cars,” the statement from the security services said. “Unless the disorder stops, we will have to restore order by all means envisaged by law.”

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The White House asked Yanukovych to “exercise maximum restraint”. But video footage from Kiev showed heavily armed riot police firing Kalashnikovs. Both police and opposition leaders called on women and children to leave the protest camp in Independence Square, known as the Maidan, as riot police began their assault.

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Vitali Klitschko, an opposition leader and former world heavyweight boxing champion, said: “The government has deliberately organised a provocation to clear Independence Square with blood and violence and to destroy the protests and the activists.”

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After late-night talks with Yanukovych on how to end the violence, Klitschko said there had been no resolution. “The government must immediately withdraw troops and put an end to the bloody conflict, because people are dying. I told Yanukovych this. How can we hold talks while blood is being shed?” Yanukovych is due to meet a trio of opposition leaders on Wednesday when he is expected to propose a new prime minister.

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There were reports that riot police were firing smoke and stun grenades. Opposition sources said police snipers were firing on demonstrators from rooftops. According to reports, security services began moving in at 8pm local time after announcing over loudspeakers that they were about to conduct “an anti-terror operation”.

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The foreign ministries of Ukraine and Russia earlier issued what appeared to be co-ordinated statements blaming Europe for fomenting the unrest. It appeared that the Kremlin had a hand in the political machinations behind the eruption and the crackdown. As well as blaming Europe for the rioting, it offered $2bn (£1.2m) to Yanukovych and sought to influence the appointment of the new prime minister.

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“The violent clashes today have to date resulted in deaths by bullets and hundreds of injuries, including seven people in a critical position,” said protesters in a statement.

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“Snipers posted on roofs are targeting the heads and chests of protesters. Ambulances blocked by security forces are not able to provide first aid to the injured,” it continued.

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Protesters, some of them armed with air pistols and petrol bombs, hurled bricks and paving stones at ranks of riot police, who used rubber bullets, smoke and stun grenades. Many of the injuries were said to have been head wounds from being struck by grenades.

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The EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said she was “deeply worried about the grave new escalation”. UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, called for restraint and dialogue, while Washington said it was appalled by the violence and demanded that Yanukovych must “de-escalate the situation”. Nato’s secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, urged “all parties to refrain from violence and to urgently resume dialogue, including through the parliamentary process”.

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While chaos and bloodshed reigned on the streets of central Kiev, there were also scenes of mayhem inside parliament, where opposition leaders sought to inaugurate moves curbing the powers of the president and making Ukraine more of a parliamentary than a presidential system.

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The opposition tried to table a resolution returning the country to its 2004 constitution, which would have given parliament the authority to appoint a new prime minister and cabinet and strip Yanukovych of many of his powers.

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The president’s allies in parliament simply blocked the move, refusing to have the resolution registered. Yanukovych orchestrated changes to the 2004 constitution after taking power in 2010 and vesting most powers in his own office.

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Earlier, several thousand nationalists led by the Svoboda [freedom] party converged on a park near the parliament and tried to move on the legislature, only to be blocked by riot police who also closed down the city centre metro system.

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The flare-up and apparent readiness for a draconian crackdown followed several days of signs that the crisis was ebbing and compromises were being reached.

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Protesters evacuated several buildings they had been occupying for months, including Kiev city hall, which was set ablaze.

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In recent days authorities have released more than 240 people detained during the unrest under an amnesty.

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Last November confrontation was sparked when Yanukovych abruptly ditched years of negotiations with the EU on a political and free trade pact, turning instead to Moscow for $15bn-worth of cheap loans and discounted gas supplies.

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Moscow promptly responded by buying $3bn-worth of Ukrainian bonds, but then stopped lending last month when Yanukovych sacrificed his pro-Kremlin prime minister, Mykola Azarov.

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The offer on Tuesday of a new $2bn loan was seen as tied to Yanukovych making the “right” choice for new prime minister.

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The swiftness of the Russian moves in seeking to outwit the EU in what rapidly snowballed into a contest for influence in Ukraine has exposed the lumbering nature of European diplomacy and policy-making in a crisis in a neighbouring state.

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The opposition leaders and protesters are seeking to unseat Yanukovych and force early presidential elections.

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Vitali Klitschko told parliament Yanukovych should “call snap presidential and parliamentary elections. Do it. It’s the only way to solve the issue.”

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Meet Pickles, The Three-Foot Long, 21-Pound House Cat (Pictures / Video)

Catasaurus Rex: Meet Pickles, The Three-Foot Rescue Cat Weighing 21 Pounds Who Doesn’t Realise His Own Size – Daily Mail

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When Pickles the puss grew to the size of a dog, he found himself in a bit of a pickle.

At 21 pounds and more than three-feet long, he couldn’t find an owner with a heart – or home – big enough to take him in – so he was forced to roam the streets in search of scraps to suppress his almighty appetite.

But the monster moggy – nicknamed Catasaurus Rex – has finally found a place to live after a young Boston couple saw an advert online and took pity on him.

Andrew Milicia and girlfriend Emily Zarvos say it was love at first sight when they met Pickles at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals last month.

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And now he couldn’t be happier as he spends most of his days squeezing sleepily onto their three-man sofa or guzzling platefulls of cat food to his heart’s content.

Andrew, a graphic designer, said: ‘When we first saw Pickles he looked like such a beast – but he looked really cool. He’s actually bigger than some dogs.

‘It didn’t take him long to make himself at home and now he takes up most of the couch when he’s laid out.’

The couple was picked from around 50 people who had applied to adopt Pickles after pictures were posted of him online.

The giant feline became an internet hit dubbed ‘Catasaurus Rex’ when he was advertised on the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals website.

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Andrew said: ‘We had no intension of adopting him when we went to see him but we just fell in love.

‘They said he had been adopted and taken to Canada but brought back because he really doesn’t get along with other cats.

‘He doesn’t realise his size so he’ll knock things over all the time – he’s so clumsy.

‘But it’s like so hard to be mad at him – he think he’s just like a little kitten still.’

It is thought Pickles might be part Maine Coon – one of the largest breeds of domestic cats.

And he is already proving to be a handful.

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Emily said: ‘I struggle to pick him up sometimes cause he weighs so much.

‘He loves hiding in the closet so when we go to work we put a stone statue in front of it to keep him out.

‘But when we come back the statue has been moved and he’s in the closet.

‘He’s like kind of like a dog when it comes to food – he’ll come in and sit right in front of you and just stare at you until the plates gone.

‘Everyone’s obviously first reaction is like wow that cat is huge.’

But despite the challenges of living with a monster moggy, the couple have no plans to take him back.

Emily said: ‘I’m so happy we have him, he’s the best pet you could hope for.’

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Within Hours Of FOIA Request For Bin Laden Death Pictures, Admiral McRaven Ordered Them Destroyed

Judicial Watch: Top Pentagon Leader Ordered Destruction Of Bin Laden Death Photos – Washongton Free Beacon

Judicial Watch announced Monday that it received documents through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit showing that Admiral William McRaven ordered the immediate destruction of any photos of Osama bin Laden’s death within hours of a Judicial Watch FOIA request.

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According to the Pentagon documents, McRaven sent his email on “Friday, May 13, 2011 5:09 PM.” The documents do not detail what documents, if any, were destroyed in response to the McRaven directive. The Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit seeking the documents was filed in the United States Court for the District of Columbia only hours earlier. Judicial Watch also announced the filing at a morning press conference. [...]

The move by McRaven to purge the photos appears to have come, at least in part, in response to aggressive efforts by Judicial Watch to obtain images of the deceased bin Laden that President Obama, in a rewrite of federal open records law, had refused to disclose. In addition to its May 2, 2011, FOIA request with the Pentagon Judicial Watch filed an identical request on May 3, 2011, with the CIA. When neither the Defense Department nor the CIA complied with the FOIA requests, Judicial Watch, in June 2011, filed FOIA lawsuits against both agencies. In the course of the litigation, the Pentagon claimed that it had “no records responsive to plaintiff’s request.”

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Tens Of Thousands March For End Of Abortion In Washington On Roe Anniversary (Pictures / Video)

Tens Of Thousands March For End Of Abortion In Washington On Roe Anniversary (Pictures) – LifeSiteNews

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Tens of thousands of pro-life activists endured frigid temperatures and a snow storm Wednesday as they gathered at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to mark the 41st anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that has prepared the way for an estimated 56 million abortions.

In past years the march has drawn crowds estimated between 400,000 and 650,000. However, the winter storm that blew through Washington on Tuesday led to cancellations of numerous buses and planes, creating a visible drop in numbers at this year’s rally and march. The Philadelphia archdiocese, for instance, canceled all of their buses.

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Famed Christian singer and songwriter Matt Maher was scheduled to lead music for a half hour before the rally, but his slot was cancelled because of the weather. Instead he opened and closed the rally beginning at noon.

Taking the stage to welcome the marchers shortly after noon, March for Life organizers insisted pro-lifers wouldn’t be daunted by the frigid weather in D.C. “We may be freezing, but we’re freezing for the best cause in the world,” said Patrick Kelly, chairman of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund. “No sacrifice is too great for this cause,” said Jeanne Monahan, the group’s newly minted president.

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Speakers at the rally included Dr. James Dobson, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), and Washington State Democratic Legislator Roger Freeman.

“Your faces are cold but your hearts are on fire, right?” Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, asked the crowd. He related that in 1973 he was driving home on the freeway when he learned of the Roe v. Wade decision. “I grieved over it because I knew it meant millions of babies would die,” he said. “Who would’ve known it would be 56 million by this point 41 years later?”

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Telling the story of a couple he counselled to choose life for their child, he told the crowd, “I say to you, if you’re facing a similar situation, …let your baby live!” He then marvelled at the youth of the crowd. “Look at the young people who are here!” he said. “You are the hope of the future and together we’re going to win this fight!”

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-VA, who changed his flight to Israel to attend the March, thanked those present for “braving these unbelievably cold temperatures” and “giving voice to our cause of protecting life.” “I believe that one day in the not too distance future our movement will be victorious because we will prevail in securing a culture of life,” he said.

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“You are our movement’s not-so-secret weapon,” he added. “Those of us in public office are merely fortunate to stand on your shoulders.”

The majority leader also announced that next week, the House of Representatives “will vote once and for all to end taxpayer funding for abortions.”

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Vicky Hartzler, R-MO, told marchers, “We are here today to remember the millions of lives devastated with abortion and to pledge ourselves anew to upholding the most fundamental” right, “the right to life.”

Noting there are 1.2 million abortion per year in the U.S., she said, “There are more babies who perish each year through abortion than people who live in an entire congressional district.”

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An adoptive mother, Hartzler said, “Every life is valuable and has a god ordained purpose. All babies are wanted.”

Giovanna Romero of Latinas por la Vida told marchers that blacks and Hispanics are “systematically targeted by the culture of death.” “Who is with me to fight the good fight?” she asked. “We are the pro-life generation and we will make a mark in history… We will make an end to abortion!”

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Donna Harrison, executive director of the American Association of Pro-Life Ob/Gyns, said the front lines of the abortion battle are changing. It’s no longer the clinic and the hospital, but the dorm room and campus clinic because of the promotion of emergency contraceptive drugs, which act as abortifacients. She told the youth, “you’ve now become the frontline in the battle against abortion.”

After the noon rally on the Mall, participants marched to the Supreme Court, where post-abortion men and women from the Silent No More Awareness Campaign shared their testimony.

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The rally schedule was shortened today because of the cold, with temperatures hovering around zero, the marchers are undaunted.

In a homily at Washington’s National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Tuesday evening, Cardinal Sean O’Malley said the cold weather is “just perfect, because the colder it is the better our witness. They will know we are serious. That is why we are here.”

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“We absolutely will go on tomorrow. The March has never been canceled because of extreme temperatures, and it won’t be canceled tomorrow for that reason,” Jeanne Monahan, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, told the Law of Life Summit on Tuesday.

March organizers highlighted the fact that members of both parties spoke, although Republicans made a stronger showing. The Republican National Committee has said they are delaying their annual winter meeting for the March this year and have chartered a bus to bring legislators to the Mall.

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The theme for this year’s march is adoption, which Monahan called a “heroic decision” for women in crisis pregnancies. “We want to eliminate the stigma of adoption and encourage women to pursue this noble option,” she said in a press release.

The March for Life organizers are encouraging Twitter users to use the hashtags #whywemarch and #marchforlife throughout the day.

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Related video:

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…………Click on image above to watch C-SPAN coverage of event.

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Villagers Flee As Indonesian Volcano Erupts More Than Fifty Times In One Night (Pictures / Video)

Thousands Of Villagers Evacuated In Indonesia After ?Volcano That Was Dormant For Over 400 Years Erupts More Than Fifty Times In One Night – Daily Mail

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Panicked residents of a mountainside village in western Indonesia were forced to scramble from their homes when a nearby volcano erupted late on Saturday night.

Women and children were packed into vans and driven away from Mount Sinabung as it spurted gas and lava just after midnight in Northern Sumatra province.

Natural disaster authorities said more than 50 eruptions occurred, with rocks and debris landing three miles away from the mountain, though no casualties have been reported.

The volcano was still spitting gas and lava as high as 13,00 feet this morning.

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A spokesman for the country’s disaster mitigation agency confirmed a danger zone had been mapped out at three miles from the crater’s mouth, but was extended an extra mile.

Soldiers joined rescue efforts in two village, Jewara and Pintu Besi, where houses and farms were covered in grey dust.

More than 20,000 people have been evacuated from villages surrounding the volcano and placed in temporary shelters since the crater’s alert status was heightened in November.

One man said: ‘We’ve lost everything.

‘We wonder about our lives after this disaster,’ said the father-of-four who is among those in a cramped shelter in Telegah village.

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The 8,530ft mountain has erupted sporadically since September. It had been dormant for over 400 years in 2010 when a sudden eruption killed two people.

Transportation Ministry spokesman Bambang Ervan said airlines had been notified to avoid routes near the mountain.

Mount Sinabung is among about 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on what is known as the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’.

The cluster of volcanoes in the basin of the Pacific Ocean is where 90 per cent of the world’s earthquakes and occur.

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*PICTURES* You Daley Gator Christmas Babes For 2013


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Car Fanatic Builds Himself A £5M McLaren F1 Supercar Out Of Scrap For £20,000 (Pictures/Video)

Car Fanatic Builds Himself A £5million McLaren F1 Supercar Out Of Scrap That Is Capable Of 200mph – Daily Mail

A Top Gear fan has completed the ultimate motor challenge – building a £5million supercar using scrap and spare parts.

Amateur mechanic Jacek Mazur, 48, made his own replica McLaren F1 for just £20,000. The real thing would cost 250 times as much.

Mr Mazur, from Zabrze, Poland, spent eight years building the replica car, which can hit speeds of up to 200mph.

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His previous projects have included building his own Lamborghini Countach and a Porsche 911 – but the British-designed McLaren F1 has been his ‘ultimate’ success.

Just 106 of the supercars are thought to exist and are out of reach for anyone unable to part with several million pounds.

In August this year, one sold for a staggering £5.1million at classic car auction Gooding & Company.

Mr Mazur, a health-and-safety advisor, said ‘As soon as I saw the McLaren F1 for the first time, I knew I had to have one. I couldn’t afford it so I knew I would have to build one myself.

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‘Now when I am in my car people just stop and start taking pictures.

‘It is like being on a date with Angelina Jolie or Sandra Bullock in the centre of New York.’

He added: ‘In some ways it is actually better having a replica. The real thing is so expensive I would be afraid to take it anywhere for fear of getting it dirty.’

The incredible McLaren F1 has been built with the help of more than 30 of his friends and family.

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He used the engine from an Audi and the brakes from a Mercedes.

The father-of-two also spent hours online researching photographs of the car and on blogs so that he could build his own parts and the streamlined shell of the vehicle.

Mr Mazur even paid tribute to his favourite TV show by building a tiny rear seat for Top Gear co-host Richard Hammond.

He said: ‘I named it the Hamonda in his honour. It is the same size as for a child but I’m sure Richard could be a fit.’

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Despite spending thousands of hours in his garage he has managed to keep the support of his wife, Gosia.

She said: ‘This is his passion. Ever since I have known him he has loved cars.

‘He does spend a lot of time with them but it is better than him just sitting in the pub or doing something useless and boring.’

The McLaren F1 was designed by British engineer Gordon Murray and first built in 1991.

In 1998 it set the record for he world’s fastest production car in the world with a speed of 231mph.

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