Puppet Masters

Stock Down

Ukraine's 'treasury empty' - economy in free fall

© AFP/Sergei Supinsky
Arseniy Yatsenyuk
Ukraine's new Prime Minister, opposition leader Arseny Yatsenyuk, has promised the government would do its best to avoid a default, a difficult task as the country's treasury is empty and the economy is in disarray.

Yatsenyuk says he expects an EU/IMF economic stabilization package soon, but didn't give any specifics on timing.

Strengthening ties with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund will remain a priority as Ukraine rebuilds, Yatsenyuk said on Thursday in Kiev, Itar-Itass reported.

Yatsenyuk said negotiations with Russia would continue, and he considers the neighboring country "a partner".

The IMF failed to come through with a loan of $10-15 billion last August, and it remains to be seen what offer they will come up with for the new government. But in December Ukraine signed a $15 billion loan deal with Russia. The first $3 billion was paid to Ukraine in December, but the second installment of $2 billion, is postponed until Moscow deems Ukraine has formed a legitimate government.


The new Ukraine exposed: Notorious far-right Ukraine leader attacks prosecutor

© Unknown
Aleksandr Muzychko
Ukrainian radical nationalist leader Aleksandr Muzychko went on with the rampage against regional authorities, lashing out at a local prosecutor with obscene language, punches and threats. The radical claimed the prosecutors were "sabotaging" their job.

Muzychko, who is a member of the Right Sector radical movement, arrived at Rovno (Rivne) Oblast prosecutor's office after he heard claims that a criminal investigation into a local murder is being delayed.

The controversial "activist," known for taking part in the Chechen conflict against Russian troops, for his recent Kalashnikov brandishing in front of regional authorities and for making openly anti-Semitic statements, decided to take the matter into his own hands.

Without going into detail, Muzychko grasped a procedural prosecutor he found present at the workplace, nearly strangling the clerk with his own tie and shouting at him in dirty language.

The prosecutor asked to be given a chance to explain the situation, but the heated radical did not want to hear any explanations.

"Shut the f**k up, you b*tch! Your f**king time is over," he uttered, threatening to rope the clerk like a dog and lead him to the people on Maidan.



Comment: Who needs external enemies when you have such guys as your leaders.
'I dare you take my gun!' AK-47-toting Ukraine far-right leader tells officials

Gold Bar

Market manipulation: Gold brightens as Bitcoin exchange goes "dark"

Today's AM fix was USD 1,340.00, EUR 975.33 and GBP 803.12 per ounce.

Yesterday's AM fix was USD 1,332.75, EUR 969.48 and GBP 798.53 per ounce.

Gold rose $2.80 or 0.21% yesterday to $1,340.60/oz. Silver fell $0.15 or 0.68% at $21.86/oz.

Gold has given up early gains and is now lower in all currencies and 0.6% lower in dollars to $1,332.20/oz. Traders may be taking profits today after gold reached 4 month highs. Economic data yesterday raised questions about the strength of the U.S. economy, increasing gold's safe-haven appeal.


Naval commander's body found in Florida hotel, death ruled a homicide

44-year-old found dead in hotel room earlier this month

Police are investigating the killing of a U.S. Navy commander who was found dead in a Orange Park hotel room earlier this month.

An employee of the Astoria Hotel at 150 Park Avenue found the body about 8:45 a.m. Feb. 12.

Orange Park police confirmed Wednesday the victim was of 44-year-old Alphonso Doss and that his death was a homicide. They have asked Channel 4 not to release the cause of death.

Doss, who lived in Pensacola, was on temporary duty at Naval Air Station Jacksonville. Doss and his wife were separated at the time of his death, and their Southside home was placed in foreclosure last year.

"He was a very outgoing guy," said Chris Baxter, a friend. "He was really nice. He was always worried about other people."

Baxter said Doss was about to retire.

"I think he just wanted to spend more time with his daughter and to get some more alone time," Baxter said. "All my condolences go out to his family, and I'm sure it's really tough for them right now, especially his daughter."

According to Doss' hometown newspaper in Bolivar, Miss, he entered the Navy after high school, but was commissioned a naval officer in 1996 after graduating from the Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps program at the University of North Florida. He was promoted to commander in a ceremony at NAS Jacksonville two years ago.


Protecting you from reality: Reddit censors big story about government manipulation and disruption of the Internet

© Freakoutnation
The moderators at the giant r/news reddit (with over 2 million readers) repeatedly killed the Greenwald/Snowden story on government manipulation and disruption of the Internet ... widely acknowledged to be one of the most important stories ever leaked by Snowden.

Similarly, the moderators at the even bigger r/worldnews reddit (over 5 million readers) repeatedly deleted the story, so that each new post had to start over at zero.

For example, here are a number of posts deleted from r/news (click any image for much larger/clearer version):


Russia scrambles fighter jets to patrol its borders; reportedly sheltering Ukraine's president

© AP/Darko Vojinovic
Pro-Russian demonstrators march with a huge Russian flag during a protest in front of a local government building in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. Ukraine's acting interior minister says Interior Ministry troops and police have been put on high alert after dozens of men seized local government and legislature buildings in the Crimea region. The intruders raised a Russian flag over the parliament building in the regional capital, Simferopol, but didn't immediately voice any demands.
Masked gunmen stormed the parliament of Ukraine's strategic Crimea region as Russian fighter jets scrambled to patrol borders, while Ukraine's newly formed government pledged to prevent a national breakup with the strong backing of the West - the stirrings of a potentially dangerous confrontation reminiscent of Cold War brinksmanship.

Moscow reportedly granted shelter to Ukraine's fugitive president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was said to be holed up in a luxury government retreat and to have scheduled a news conference Friday near the Ukrainian border. As gunmen wearing unmarked camouflage uniforms erected a sign reading "Crimea is Russia" in the provincial capital, Ukraine's interim prime minister declared that the Black Sea territory "has been and will be a part of Ukraine."

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

Yanukovych, whose approach to Moscow set off three months of pro-Europe protests, finally fled by helicopter last weekend as his allies deserted him. The humiliating exit was a severe blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had been celebrating his signature Olympics even as Ukraine's drama came to a head. The Russian leader has long dreamt of pulling Ukraine - a huge country of 46 million people considered the cradle of Russian civilization - closer into Moscow's orbit.

Chart Pie

Reasons Scotland should vote yes to autonomy - part one

© Getty Images
Thousands of pro-independence campaigners march through Edinburgh on September 21,2013.
Introduction to the series

Before I start out on this series, let me first declare my interests. I am a Yorkshireman, so I suppose that technically makes me English. I wish my beautiful region had more autonomy from Westminster, because perhaps if we had, our local representatives would have fought to protect our vital industries (steel, coal, fishing, transport), rather than letting Westminster deliberately ruin them as part of their insane ideological experiment in turning the UK economy into a supposed "post-industrial society" built around the city of London financial sector (and we all know how that turned out).

I know there is no chance of Yorkshire achieving regional autonomy from London in my lifetime, but that doesn't mean I begrudge the people of Scotland their opportunity to end London rule, in fact I'm delighted for them. The only concern I have is the possibility that the people of Scotland will decline this magnificent chance to assert their autonomy. Come September the 18th, I hope we'll be celebrating the rebirth of the Scottish nation.

I hope I'll be drinking a toast to "Scotland the brave", not mournfully lamenting for "Scotland the servile".

Green Light

Reality Check: Fast and Furious Operation was really about U.S. supporting a drug cartel?

Ben Swann Reality Check takes a look at some stunning new accusations by a high ranking member of the Sinaloa Drug Cartel that Fast and Furious was about the U.S. supporting one cartel while attempting to shut down others:

Eye 2

Tony Blair: from hero to political embarrassment - what goes around, comes around

© Blair Gable/Reuters
Tony Blair: 'He's always been a freewheeler,' says Labour party historian Ross McKibbin.
Friend of the Murdochs, adviser to authoritarian regimes and associate of the super-rich - the former prime minister's reputation is on a downward spiral. And each new revelation manages to be more jaw-dropping than the last

In Tony Blair's uneven but occasionally startling autobiography, A Journey, published in 2010, there is a chapter that makes particularly interesting reading now. It covers his final, slightly besieged years as prime minister, from mid-2005 to mid-2007. "In this time," writes Blair, "I was trying to wear ... a kind of psychological armour which the arrows simply bounced off, and to achieve a kind of weightlessness that allowed me, somehow, to float above the demonic rabble tearing at my limbs. There was courage in [this behaviour] and I look back at it now with pride," he concludes. "I was ... not unafraid exactly, but near to being reckless about my own political safety."

© Fiona Hanson/Press Association
Rebekah Brooks jokes with Tony Blair, 2004.
The chapter's title is "Toughing It Out". Last week, during the phone-hacking trial of Rebekah Brooks, an email from the former News of the World editor emerged, sent the day after the disgraced rightwing tabloid was shut down in 2011 and six days before she was arrested. To her then boss, James Murdoch, Brooks wrote: "I had an hour on the phone to Tony Blair. He said ... Keep strong ... It will pass. Tough up. He is available for you, KRM [Rupert Murdoch] and me as an unofficial adviser but needs to be between us."

As Labour leader and prime minister, one of Blair's defining characteristics was his readiness - canny or disgraceful, according to political taste - to make accommodations with powerful rightwing interest groups, not least the Murdoch press. The Brooks email, the latest in a succession of sometimes jaw-dropping revelations about Blair's behaviour since he abruptly left Westminster politics seven years ago, suggested that his ease with the left's traditional enemies had in fact deepened: into an instinctive feeling that he and they were on the same side.

With his salesman's smile and large self-belief, his ex-barrister's ability to accept and argue not necessarily compatible things, Blair has always been a slippery and restless public figure. "He's kind of a freewheeler, and always was," says the historian of the Labour party Ross McKibbin. "Being a freewheeler did him well, initially." Yet since Downing Street, Blair's "journey", already often controversial, has taken him into ever more contentious territories.


Russian military ship docked in Havana, Cuba

© AFP/Adalberto Roque
A Soviet-made Lada limousine passes by Russian Vishnya (also known as Meridian) class warship CCB-175 Viktor Leonov, docked, on February 26, 2014, at Havana harbor.
A Russian spy ship docked in Havana on Wednesday, and neither Cuba nor Russia offered any mention or explanation of the mysterious visit that is reminiscent of the Cold War.

AFP reported that the Viktor Leonov CCB-175 boat, that measures 300 feet long and 47.5 feet wide, appeared in the section of Havana's port usually used by cruise ships.

The intelligence vessel bristles with electronic eavesdropping equipment and weaponry, including AK-630 rapid-fire cannons and surface-to-air missiles.

Cuba's visitor is from the Vishnya or Meridian-class, which was built for Russia's navy in the 1980s and is still in service today. AFP reports that the Viktor Leonov has a crew of about 200 sailors.

Previous visits by Russian military ships to Cuba have usually been acknowledged by the state's media or authorities.

Meanwhile, the United States warned Moscow over Russia's maneuvers near the troubled Ukraine.