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Russia's occupation of Crimea has violated international law and created a new crisis among world leaders. Now the EU and the US are fighting over the best means to address Russia's reawakened expansionary ambitions.
Everything in Simferopol, the capital of the Ukrainian Autonomous Republic of Crimea, has suddenly changed. Shortly after noon on Thursday of last week, Cossacks from Russia sealed off the Crimean parliament building. The Russians, who had identified themselves as tourists a short time earlier, claimed that they were there to "check identification papers." Now Russia's white, blue and red flag flies above the building.
Two men accompany us as we walk up the steps to meet with the new premier of Crimea, who has taken over the office in a Moscow-backed coup. Under his leadership and with instructions from Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Crimean lawmakers have just voted to join the Russian Federation. Their decision is to be sealed with a referendum scheduled for Sunday, March 16.
Visa bans, freezing assets, boycotts: There is no lack of suggestions of how to tone down Russian aggression. But what good would sanctions do? Politicians are growing increasingly skeptical. DW takes a look.
The European Union has said it is halting visa talks with Russia following an emergency summit of the bloc's leaders where they discussed ways to punish Russia for its recent exploits on the Crimean Peninsula. If Russia continues to reject negotiations, further measures are to be taken, which could entail economic sanctions.
It didn't take long for the Kremlin to respond. Any sanction will be met with countermeasures from Moscow, an official government statement declared. The United States has already imposed visa bans on targeted Russians and warned of freezing their assets. In response, Russia has threatened to stop reciprocal weapons inspections.
Western officials will meet in London on Tuesday to identify Russians who will be subject to asset freezes and travel bans that officials hope will persuade Moscow to withdraw its presence from Crimea.
The sanctions, which the British prime minister, David Cameron, indicated would be imposed within days, come as tensions escalate in the Crimean peninsula, where unidentified men reportedly fired warning shots as they moved into a Ukranian naval base on Monday.
In Washington, the White House gave its strongest indication yet that Russia is effectively being thrown out of the G8 group of industrialised nations on Monday, and insisted the world community would refuse to accept the results of a Crimean referendum later in the week.
Barack Obama's press secretary, Jay Carney, said: "It is hard to see the G8 [summit] happening", in Sochi in June.
Carney said a referendum in Crimea, scheduled for Sunday, "would not be legal under Ukraine's constitution and therefore would not be accepted by the United States and its international allies and partners".
Al Jazeera America
Russian forces have tightened their grip on Crimea despite a U.S. warning to Moscow that annexing the southern Ukrainian region would close the door to diplomacy, in a tense East-West standoff.
In the latest armed action, unidentified armed men fired into the air as they moved into a Ukrainian naval post in Crimea on Monday, according to Reuters.
Crimea, a former Russian territory, is home to Russia’s Black Sea fleet and has an ethnic-Russian majority.
Ukraine’s defense minister told Interfax news service on Sunday that although Ukrainian armed forces are doing training exercises, Kiev has no plans to send troops to Crimea, Reuters said.
The White House announced on Sunday that Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk will travel to Washington this week to discuss the Crimea crisis, and the State Department said Monday that a trip by Secretary of State John Kerry to Russia to meet with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is up in the air. The U.S. insists that Russia must first engage "with seriousness" on the conflict.
Construction workers are busy on the narrow Isthmus of Perekop that connects Crimea to the Ukrainian mainland.
The road leading to Simferopol, Crimea's capital, is jammed with concrete blocks, both on the Crimean side and on Ukrainian mainland a few dozen meters (120 feet) away. It looks like they're constructing a border crossing.
The Ukrainian soldiers, Kalashnikov rifles in hand, their faces hidden by masks, look grim. A closer look reveals them as friendly, insecure young men. Just like the Russian soldiers 50 meters down the road.
"Boys, please don't shoot!" I say, only half-joking.
"Don't worry, we don't have orders to shoot," the young man on the Crimean side says, clearly a Russian officer. He declines to say who didn't give him orders to shoot - Moscow or Simferopol. He also won't let me take photos and informs me that he'll take away my camera if I do. The Ukrainians don't mind having their pictures taken.
New York Times
MOSCOW — When Vladimir V. Putin returned to the Russian presidency in 2012, one of the first messages he sent to his political elite, many of them heads of banks and large corporations, was that the times had changed: Owning assets outside Russia makes you too vulnerable to moves by foreign governments, he told them. It is time to bring your wealth home.
Nearly two years later, those words sound like preparation. After a week of escalating tensions between Russia and the United States, it has become clear that the conflict over Ukraine will move to the battlefield of finance. Those same business titans are now contemplating the damage that the crisis could inflict on Russia’s economy.
Twenty years into the project of integrating Russia into Western institutions, they now face the prospect that the process could slow, or even reverse.
OXON HILL, MD. — Attitudes on same-sex marriage are shifting among conservatives, echoing Americans’ changing views.
Republicans have long been identified as staunch foes, leading congressional as well as campaign battles against the idea. But at this week’s Conservative Political Action Conference in this Washington suburb, it was commonplace to hear activists explain same-sex marriage is not a matter for political debate.
Part of the reason is political reality _ Republicans are eager not to be seen as an intolerant party _ and they sense the traditional marriage side is losing.
“We keep fighting this battle and we’re not getting anywhere. Politicians are afraid of it,” said Portland, Ore.-based conservative talk show host Lars Larson.
The most obvious signal of conservative acceptance: GOProud, a group of gay and straight conservatives, was invited to the conference this year as guests after being turned down in the past.
HARTFORD, CONN. — Peter Lanza, the father of Sandy Hook Elementary School killer Adam Lanza, said in an interview in The New Yorker that he wished his second-born son who shot 20 elementary school children and six educators "had never been born."
In an article written following a series of six interviews with noted author Andrew Solomon, Lanza speaks publicly for the first time about his son, Adam, and discusses aspects of his life since the shooting. Solomon said Lanza contacted him in September to say that he "was ready to tell his story." The interviews are expected to culminate with a book.
Lanza told Solomon that he believed Adam had no affection for him. Lanza moved out of the family home Adam shared with his mother Nancy and older brother Ryan when Adam was a boy and he had not seen his son in the two years before the Sandy Hook shootings.
"With hindsight, I know Adam would have killed me in a heartbeat, if he'd had the chance," Lanza said. "I don't question that for a minute."
Before the massacre at the school, Adam fatally shot his mother four times in the head.
Al Jazeera America
PRINCETON, W.Va. — On Dec. 16 of last year, Dr. Riaz Riaz drove from his home to his local mosque — a humble building nestled among the quiet foothills of the Appalachian Mountains — to perform his afternoon prayers. When he arrived at the Islamic Society of the Appalachian Region (ISAR) Center, he was shocked to find Islamophobic insults sprayed on the walls in bright red paint.
For Riaz and other members of this congregation, the incident brought back memories of a similar desecration that took place just after September 11, 2001. After the first incident, members of the Muslim community as well as the authorities felt the vandalism of the mosque clearly fit the definition of a hate crime. This time, however, Mercer County Sheriff Don Meadows told a local TV station the incident was not a hate crime because another act of vandalism had taken place nearby around the same date. (Multiple attempts to contact Meadows for comment on this story were unsuccessful.)
Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower whose unprecedented leak of top-secret documents led to a worldwide debate about the nature of surveillance, insisted on Monday that his actions had improved the national security of the United States rather than undermined it, and declared that he would do it all again despite the personal sacrifices he had endured.
In remarks to the SXSW culture and technology conference in Texas, delivered by video link from his exile in Russia, Snowden took issue with claims by senior officials that he had placed the US in danger. He also rejected as demonstrably false the suggestions by some members of Congress that his files had found their way into the hands of the intelligence agencies of China or Russia.
Snowden spoke against the backdrop of an image of the US constitution, which he said he had taken an oath to protect but had seen “violated on a mass scale” while working for the US government. He accepted praise from Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, accorded the first question via Twitter, who described him as “acting profoundly in the public interest”.
More than 3,500 police officers will patrol this year’s Boston Marathon, more than double the number deployed last year, when two bombs exploded near the finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 260.
The enhanced police presence is part of a beefed-up security plan detailed Monday by public safety officials as they prepare for the 21 April marathon.
Spectators who plan to attend the marathon are being strongly discouraged from bringing backpacks, rolling bags, coolers and other large items, and are instead being asked to carry personal items in clear plastic bags. Anyone who does bring a bulky bag will be subject to search, officials said during a news conference at the Massachusetts emergency management agency’s bunker in Framingham.
The new guidelines for spectators are similar to rules for runners made public several weeks ago by the Boston Athletic Association.
Authorities said they sought to strike a balance between keeping the traditional feel and character of the marathon and tightening security in response to last year’s deadly terror attack.
For the first time since it legalized recreational marijuana, Colorado is releasing revenue figures: The state made $3.5 million in taxes and fees in January.
As KUSA-TV reports, $2.1 million of that came from the sale of recreational pot and $1.4 million came from medical marijuana.
"The figures from the state Department of Revenue also give a preliminary idea of the size of the marijuana trade in the state, showing $14 million worth of marijuana was sold in the first month of legal sales.
"The report provides the first concrete proof of what pro-marijuana advocates had promised, that growing and selling the drug locally would generate economic activity here rather than sending drug money out-of-state, and that the drug could provide a windfall to the state government.
"'This is revenue directly out of the hands of cartels,' said Brian Vicente, who helped legalize pot in Colorado. 'These tax numbers will probably grow over time, but since it's a new market, will have to wait and see.'"
The Associated Press reports
The Pew Research Center's newly-released survey on American millennials has so far been interpreted as the latest demographic disaster confronting the GOP.
According to the report, millennials — defined as Americans aged 18 to 32 — appear to vote heavily Democratic and hold liberal views on a variety of contemporary political and social issues.
The findings, based on a recent Pew Research Center survey and analysis of other Pew surveys conducted between 1990 and 2014, are unquestionably a cause for worry among Republicans. But Democrats shouldn't be too quick to view the survey as unvarnished good news.
Here are four reasons why:
Two U.S. students won the right to wear breast cancer awareness wristbands bearing the slogan “I Heart Boobies” Monday after the Supreme Court dismissed a bid by a school district to ban the bracelets.
The top court announced it would not hear a case sought by Easton Area Middle School, meaning that a lower court ruling last year in favor of the students will stand.
The case, which triggered an outcry at the time, began in 2010 when students Brianna Hawk and Kayla Martinez were ordered not to wear the silicone wristbands, which had been sold by the Keep A Breast Foundation ahead of national Breast Cancer Awareness Day.
The White House on Monday forecast more robust economic growth in 2014 than last year and a further pickup in the economy for 2015.
Under a White House projection, the U.S. economy is expected to expand by 3.1 percent this year, faster than last year's 1.7 percent. Growth would pick up to 3.4 percent in 2015, the White House said.
The administration also forecast that unemployment would ease to an average of 6.9 percent in 2014. The jobless rate, which reached a high of 10 percent in 2009, fell to a five-year low of 6.6 percent in January.
Many economists say that the unemployment rate has dropped in part because many people have stopped looking for work. The U.S. labor force participation rate has fallen from over 66 percent before the start of the recession to 63 percent.
The administration's 2014 growth projection was more optimistic than the 2.9 percent forecast of "Blue Chip" forecasters, and the 2.7 percent projection of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, displaying on Monday what Israel said were seized, Iranian-supplied missiles bound for militants in Gaza, urged the West not to be fooled by Tehran's diplomacy on its nuclear program.
Last week the Israeli navy captured a ship in the Red Sea carrying arms that the military said included forty M-302 surface-to-surface rockets manufactured in Syria and capable of striking most of Israel from the Gaza Strip.
Along with the missiles, some 180 mortar shells and 400,000 rifle rounds were laid out in neat piles on a pier in the southern port of Eilat. A navy missile boat that took part in the raid was docked behind the display.
Netanyahu was briefed by intelligence officers during a live broadcast on the weapons and shipping documentation that connected the stockpile to Iran.
Iran and Gaza's Islamist Hamas rulers, both hostile to the Jewish state, rejected the Israeli findings as fabrications.
Al Jazeera America
SAN CRISTOBAL, Venezuela — Venezuela’s National Guard launched a late night assault Sunday and into Monday in the western city of San Cristóbal, considered the birthplace of recent protests against the country’s government.
Armored cars smashed barricades as guardsmen launched volleys of teargas against protesters in a northern section of the city, considered a middle- to upper-middle-class neighborhood.
The area is known as a hotbed of political opposition to President Nicolas Maduro, and its residents have sparred with government forces for more than a month, hurling stones and Molotov cocktails at security forces.
Demonstrations began here last month after students marched in protest over what they described as the police’s failure to respond to a sexual assault on campus, but the protests later spiraled into nationwide calls for broader social and economic reforms.
“No one realizes what is happening here,” said Ricardo Alvarez, a San Cristóbal resident who has been protesting against the government since mid February.
Al Jazeera America
Several thousand Bangladeshi garment workers were fired after safety inspectors found their factory unsafe, officials said Monday.
The factory was the first to close following the mass inspections organized by dozens of Western retailers such as H&M and Benetton who signed a new safety accord following a series of deadly accidents, such as the collapse of the 8-story Rana Plaza building last year that killed 1,135 workers and a fire at the Tazreen Fashion factory in 2012 that killed more than 100 people.
The team of experts ordered the evacuation of six floors of two adjoining buildings that house two clothing firms, including Softex Sweater, a Bangladeshi supplier to French retailer Auchan. Following the order, Softex shut down immediately, laying off all 3,500 workers, saying "it was risky to continue operations."
"I know what has happened to the workers is unfair. But the inspectors told me that the building has serious structural problems and asked us to evacuate the floors," Softex chief executive officer Rezwan Seilm told Agence France-Presse.
Seilm said he was "desperately trying" to pay three months' wages to the workers from the factory in Mirpur in the northern suburb of Dhaka.
Al Jazeera America
aliban leaders warned Afghans on Monday about participating in presidential elections and ordered fighters to “use all force” possible to disrupt polling. The April 5 vote, which will usher in a successor to President Hamid Karzai, is seen as key to Afghanistan’s stability ahead of the final withdrawal of international troops later this year.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement emailed to media that the group had also instructed clerics across the country to spread the word that the election is "an American conspiracy."
The election is seen as a major test of stability in the country as violence increases, and as President Karzai becomes increasingly vocal about his disdain for the U.S., refusing to sign a security agreement that would allow some U.S. forces to stay beyond their scheduled withdrawal in late December.
Previous elections have been fraught with allegations of widespread fraud and some surveys have shown a deep mistrust among most Afghans toward the polling and candidates. Karzai is not in the race since he cannot run for a third term.
Confusion mounted on Monday over the identities of the two passengers flying on stolen passports aboard missing flight MH370 after reviews of CCTV footage prompted a Malaysian official to describe them as resembling a black Italian footballer.
Civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman told reporters in Kuala Lumpur that the men, who had been travelling on stolen Italian and Austrian passports, were "not Asian looking" and may have been part of a stolen passport syndicate.
When prompted by reporters to describe the two men, Azharuddin said: "Do you know a footballer by the name of Balotelli?", referring to AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli, who was born in Italy to Ghanaian parents.
It was unclear if Azharuddin was suggesting that the men were of a darker skin tone or if they did bear any resemblance to Balotelli – who usually sports a mohican and diamond studs.
He later explained that investigators were unable to determine the passengers' nationalities based on CCTV footage alone but added: "I think they are not Asian."
Most German words that find their way into the English language -- from "blitzkrieg" to "weltschmerz" -- tend to have negative connotations. With European elections looming, the latest term to be adopted by Brits is "spitzenkandidat," usually accompanied by raised eyebrows and an expression of unmistakable distaste. "We don't like the 'spitzenkandidat' at all," said an adviser to British Prime Minister David Cameron recently.
He was referring to the president of the EU Parliament, Martin Schulz, who was elected by the Party of European Socialists as its top candidate in Rome last week. The center-right European People's Party, meanwhile, is set to vote on its own "spitzenkandidat" for the May elections on Friday. Luxembourg's former prime minister, Jean-Claude Juncker, is widely believed to be the favorite, especially since he has the backing of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
EBay Inc on Monday rejected activist investor Carl Icahn's two nominees to its board, saying both were unqualified, and urged shareholders to vote against them at its next annual meeting.
Icahn, who owns just over 2 percent of the e-commerce company, has been pressuring eBay for weeks to spin off its PayPal payments business. He has also repeatedly accused eBay of poor corporate governance.
The billionaire nominated Icahn Enterprises LP employees Daniel Ninivaggi and Jonathan Christodoro, both of whom Icahn regularly nominates to boards.
The chairman of eBay's corporate governance and nominating committee, Richard Schlosberg III, said the board considered both but rejected them because "neither nominee has relevant experience or expertise."
Al Jazeera America
With just three weeks left to sign up for health insurance coverage for 2014 through the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” a major survey tracking the rollout finds that it’s making an impact on the number of uninsured Americans.
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, released Monday, found that 15.9 percent of U.S. adults are uninsured thus far in 2014, down from 17.1 percent for the last three months of 2013.
That translates to new coverage for roughly 3 million to 4 million people. What's more, Gallup said the share of Americans who lack coverage is on track to drop to the lowest quarterly level it measured since 2008, before Obama took office.
The survey, which was given to a random sample of more than 28,000 adults across the U.S. in January and February 2014, found that almost every major demographic group made progress getting health insurance.
Gallup found the biggest drop in the uninsured rate was among households making less than $36,000 a year, with a decline of 2.8 percentage points.
Among blacks, the uninsured rate was down by 2.6 percentage points. It declined by 1 percentage point among whites, but Latinos saw a drop of just eight-tenths of a percentage point.
Apple on Monday released an update to its iOS 7 mobile operating system -- iOS 7.1 -- that adds new features such as CarPlay and fixes bugs.
With iOS 7.1, Apple also tweaked its Siri voice assistant, iTunes Radio, and its Touch ID fingerprint sensor. The company streamlined the operating system to make it work better with the iPhone 4, made some user interface refinements, and included some stability and accessibility improvements.
The update is available immediately, and the Apple devices will alert users about it over the next week.
Some auto shows fizzle, hitting a dead zone in product cycles so that manufacturers have little of note to announce. This year in Geneva, the opposite happened, with automakers from every segment showing off exciting new models and concepts.
There were supercars and hypercars. There were compact SUVs and hot hybrids. There were cars of the past and of the future. And Apple joined a couple of automakers to give the first public look at CarPlay, formerly known as iOS in the Car.
The show stealers were the exotics, vehicles that sell in limited quantities at prices ranging from a hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. The Lamborghini Huracan was actually the most accessible of these cars, the one you might see on the Strip in Vegas or racing around Miami. It updates Lamborghini's entry-level model with new styling language and 601 horsepower.
Brit-company McLaren attempted to show up the Italians with the more clinically named 650S, a supercar that works as an evolution of the company's MP4-12C model. Boasting 641 horsepower and carbon-fiber construction, the 650S is a car you would be lucky to see at a track day.
Viruses can infect and proliferate inside cancer cells in a process known by scientists as oncolysis: "By means of this proliferation, the cancer cells are effectively killed," explains Ulrich Lauer of the Tübingen University medical clinic.
This process was first observed well over 100 years ago: "Cancer patients who were simultaneously infected with a virus often saw their tumors shrink and in some cases even disappear entirely," says Lauer. A project at the Tübingen clinic and Paul Ehrlich Institute is now looking into the efficacy of an oncolytic measles vaccination, especially created for the experiments. The project was funded by the German Education and Research ministry.
The heat from warm river waters draining into the Arctic Ocean is contributing to the melting of Arctic sea ice each summer, a new NASA study finds.
A research team led by Son Nghiem of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., used satellite data to measure the surface temperature of the waters discharging from a Canadian river into the icy Beaufort Sea during the summer of 2012. They observed a sudden influx of warm river waters into the sea that rapidly warmed the surface layers of the ocean, enhancing the melting of sea ice. A paper describing the study is now published online in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
The world’s most widespread test for ovarian cancer reports false-positives in 94 of 100 diagnosed cases. Now, chemists at the University of Copenhagen working with clinical researchers at University College London have developed a method able to halve the number of false-positives. When fully developed, the new test will spare a significant number of women from unnecessary worry and further testing. Furthermore, global health care providers stand to save substantial sums – just by including a test on a certain sugar molecule in tandem with the currently prevailing diagnostic test.