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Sat, 23 Sep 2023
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Obama eats crow, announces minor sanctions against seven Russian officials

President Obama announced Monday that he is leveling new sanctions against seven Russian officials the White House says have contributed to the crisis in Ukraine.

Obama announced the sanctions one day after the Crimean region of Ukraine voted overwhelmingly to join Russia in a referendum that the U.S. and western allies vowed not to recognize.

In comments at the White House to formally announce the sanctions, Obama said he believes there is still a diplomatic solution to end the crisis. At the same time, he warned that if Russia continues to interfere with Ukraine's sovereignty he stands ready to push for even tougher sanctions.

"We are imposing sanctions on specific individuals for undermining the sovereignty, territorial integrity and government of Ukraine," Obama said."We are making it clear that there are consequences for their actions."

The high-level government officials named by the White House are: Vladislav Surkov, Sergey Glazyev, Leonid Slutsky, Andrei Klishas, Valentina Matviyenko, Dmitry Rogozin, and Yelena Mizulina.


Law schools now paying their graduates' salaries to look better in school rankings

Law Graduates
© Columbia Law School
I knew that the legal market was in bad shape last summer when I came across the story that top law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges announced its first mass layoffs in 82 years, but I had no idea it was this bad.

As most of you will be aware, U.S. News & World Report publishes a widely anticipated ranking of undergraduate as well as graduate schools. I recall how closely my peers scrutinized these rankings back when I was a high school senior and, apparently, a similar obsession continues to this day.

In fact, law schools are so consumed with performing well in these rankings that they are going to outrageous lengths to make it look like their students are performing better financially after graduation than they actually are. One of the most ridiculous ways they achieve this is by paying the salaries of their graduates upon graduation.

This way, students can take on employment at non-pofits and government agencies, positions they would never otherwise consider in light of their mountains of student debt. In return, their alma maters can pretend their graduates got real jobs. It is the academic equivalent of GM automobile channel stuffing.

This isn't just a minor trend of one-offs being exaggerated by the media either. For example, George Washington University paid the starting salaries of 22% of its graduates in 2012, while the University of Virginia paid for 15%.

These programs even have a name that reminds me of a financial derivative packed full of worthless securities. These programs are being called "bridge to practice" schemes and according to The Economist "in a recent survey by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), 45 of the 94 schools that responded now run such programs."


Misrepresenting Russia - the western media's norm since the 1990s

russia media distortion Putin
© Reuters/Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/Pool
How the American media misrepresent Putin, Sochi and Ukraine.

The degradation of mainstream American press coverage of Russia, a country still vital to US national security, has been under way for many years. If the recent tsunami of shamefully unprofessional and politically inflammatory articles in leading newspapers and magazines - particularly about the Sochi Olympics, Ukraine and, unfailingly, President Vladimir Putin - is an indication, this media malpractice is now pervasive and the new norm.

There are notable exceptions, but a general pattern has developed. Even in the venerable New York Times and Washington Post, news reports, editorials and commentaries no longer adhere rigorously to traditional journalistic standards, often failing to provide essential facts and context; to make a clear distinction between reporting and analysis; to require at least two different political or "expert" views on major developments; or to publish opposing opinions on their op-ed pages. As a result, American media on Russia today are less objective, less balanced, more conformist and scarcely less ideological than when they covered Soviet Russia during the Cold War.

The history of this degradation is also clear. It began in the early 1990s, following the end of the Soviet Union, when the US media adopted Washington's narrative that almost everything President Boris Yeltsin did was a "transition from communism to democracy" and thus in America's best interests. This included his economic "shock therapy" and oligarchic looting of essential state assets, which destroyed tens of millions of Russian lives; armed destruction of a popularly elected Parliament and imposition of a "presidential" Constitution, which dealt a crippling blow to democratization and now empowers Putin; brutal war in tiny Chechnya, which gave rise to terrorists in Russia's North Caucasus; rigging of his own re-election in 1996; and leaving behind, in 1999, his approval ratings in single digits, a disintegrating country laden with weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, most American journalists still give the impression that Yeltsin was an ideal Russian leader.

Since the early 2000s, the media have followed a different leader-centric narrative, also consistent with US policy, that devalues multifaceted analysis for a relentless demonization of Putin, with little regard for facts. (Was any Soviet Communist leader after Stalin ever so personally villainized?) If Russia under Yeltsin was presented as having legitimate politics and national interests, we are now made to believe that Putin's Russia has none at all, at home or abroad - even on its own borders, as in Ukraine.

Russia today has serious problems and many repugnant Kremlin policies. But anyone relying on mainstream American media will not find there any of their origins or influences in Yeltsin's Russia or in provocative US policies since the 1990s - only in the "autocrat" Putin who, however authoritarian, in reality lacks such power. Nor is he credited with stabilizing a disintegrating nuclear-armed country, assisting US security pursuits from Afghanistan and Syria to Iran or even with granting amnesty, in December, to more than 1,000 jailed prisoners, including mothers of young children.


Anonymous operations expose Ukrainian Bandera Nazis

© Voice of Russia
The Hacktivist Group Anonymous Ukraine has been able to hack the e-mail accounts of the Udar Party as well as the electronic correspondence of the deputy head of the Ukrainian nationalist party, The Stepan Bandera Trident, one Andrey Tarasenko.

Anonymous Ukraine released an e-mail between Tarasenko and the Deputy Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People Aslan Omer Qirimli in which he asks for more powerful weapons, information on the location weapons caches in Kerch, Feodosia, Simferopol, Sevastopol and Yalta. The e-mail released by Anonymous Ukraine is dated January 28, 2014 so its operational value is questionable but it does show the true nature of the "peaceful demonstrators" on the Maidan and in Ukraine. Anonymous Ukraine has also hacked the e-mails of NATO offices and bodies in Ukraine and those of several US officials operating in Ukraine with more releases soon to appear on the internet, according to sources in Anonymous.

The e-mail between Tarasenko has been independently verified and appears authentic. It has not been translated into English as of publication so this is the first. The original was in Russian with some grammar errors. Unlike Klitschko who speaks English and German as well as Ukrainian and Russia, Tarasenko appears to speak only Russian and Ukrainian.


Russia may freeze weapons inspections in response to U.S. sanctions over Ukraine

© Washington Post
Pro-Russians take up positions around the Crimean Peninsula in Ukraine, surrounding government buildings and military installations.
Russia broadened its war of words with the United States over Ukraine on Saturday when the Ministry of Defense said it would consider stopping international inspections of its nuclear weapons in response to threatened sanctions from the West.

"The unfounded threats towards Russia from the United States and NATO over its policy on Ukraine are seen by us as an unfriendly gesture," the ministry said in a statement distributed to Russian news agencies.

Those threats, the statement said, have created new circumstances, giving Russia the right to pull out of the inspections required under the START treaty with the United States and a separate agreement with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Russia, infuriated at the prospect of Western sanctions in response to its intervention in Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, has been making one threat after another in recent days, and it has been difficult to distinguish bluster from serious intent. The United States has been urging Russia to pull its troops back to its existing bases for the Black Sea Fleet, and not to annex Crimea.

Comment: Spin much? Russia has been pretty passive and cool headed about the whole thing. It's the western media that have been frantic.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the Russian government had not yet notified the United States of a decision but was expected to uphold its treaty obligations. "We would take very seriously and strongly discourage any Russian decision to cease implementation of its legally binding arms control treaty obligations and other military transparency commitments," she said.

Comment: Nice to observe some shifty spin-doctors at their jobs.

Bad Guys

Russia's UN envoy: The whitewashing of Ukraine's Nazi collaborators 'morally repulsive'

Russia’s UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin.
Attempts to whitewash the backgrounds of Ukrainian nationalists who openly cooperated with the Nazis and committed mass murders in WWII are "morally repulsive," and encourage "nationalist ideology, extremism and intolerance," Russia's UN envoy says.

"It is deeply disturbing that the followers of [Stepan] Bandera are openly marching these days in Ukraine, displaying his portraits and fascist insignia, and are wielding considerable political power in Kiev," Vitaly Churkin said after Thursday's Security Council meeting in response to response to comments made earlier by Ukrainian Ambassador to the UN Yury Sergeyev.

Attempts to whitewash them "are not only morally repulsive, they amount to encouraging nationalist ideology, extremism and intolerance," Churkin stated.

Churkin quoted Sergeyev as saying earlier that Soviet Union "tried to press Western allies to recognize what you called 'Banderas' and others as killers." And the reason the Nurnberg process didn't recognize that was "because it was falsified."

In response to that claim, Churkin said that there are "massive documentary evidence" that proves otherwise, pointing to the fact that the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) "collaborated with the Nazis."

Light Saber

Crimea votes to leave Ukraine and 'no one has complained about referendum'

Delegation is expected in Moscow to discuss procedures for joining as referendum chief publicly defends the election

Link to video: Crimea referendum: 96.8% vote to join Russia

Crimea's regional parliament has declared independence and applied to become part of the Russian Federation, a day after people in the Black Sea peninsula voted overwhelmingly to leave Ukraine in a referendum that most of the world has condemned as illegal.

The parliament "made a proposal to the Russian Federation to admit the Republic of Crimea as a new subject with the status of a republic", according to a statement on its website.

A Crimean parliamentary delegation was expected to arrive in Moscow on Monday to discuss the procedures required for the region to become part of the Russian Federation. Final results showed that 96.8% of voters were in favour of joining Russia, the head of the referendum commission said. Mikhail Malyshev told a televised news conference that the commission has not registered a single complaint about the vote.

Russia's lower house of parliament will pass legislation allowing Ukraine's southern Crimea region to join Russia "in the very near future", news agency Interfax cited its deputy speaker as saying on Monday morning.

"Results of the referendum in Crimea clearly showed that residents of Crimea see their future only as part of Russia," Sergei Neverov was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's interim government endorsed a presidential decree to carry out a partial mobilisation involving 40,000 reservists. Andriy Paruby, secretary of the National Security and Defence Council, told parliament that 20,000 reservists would be deployed in the armed forces and the rest in the newly created National Guard.

As the results rolled in, they were met with neither surprise nor welcome by the west. Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, told Barack Obama in a phone call on Sunday night that the referendum endorsing Crimea becoming part of Russia was legal and should be accepted, according to the Kremlin. However, Obama said the US rejected the results and warned that Washington was ready to impose sanctions on Moscow over the crisis.

Bad Guys

US and EU expected to announce sanctions against Russia in pathetic move to save face

Measures could include visa bans and potential asset freezes in wake of Crimean vote to rejoin Russia

Pro-Russians celebrate after Crimea referendum - video

The US and its allies in Europe are expected to announce sanctions against Russia, including visa bans and potential asset freezes, one day after Crimeans voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.

The US president, Barack Obama, told his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, on Sunday that Crimea's vote "would never be recognised" by the United States, as he and other US officials warned Moscow against making further military moves toward southern and eastern Ukraine.

The leaders spoke after people in Crimea voted overwhelmingly in favour of the split in a referendum that the US, European Union and others said violated the Ukrainian constitution and international law and took place in the strategic peninsula under duress of Russian military intervention. Putin maintained that the vote was legal and consistent with the right of self-determination, according to the Kremlin.

Russia's lower house of parliament will pass legislation allowing the Crimea region to join Russia "in the very near future", Interfax news agency said on Monday, quoting the chamber's deputy speaker.


CIA says Russia troop numbers well below treaty threshold

crimea military
© Unknown
Separately, dozens of armed men in military uniforms without markings are patrolling the airport in Simferopol
CIA director John Brennan told a senior lawmaker Monday that a 1997 treaty between Russia and Ukraine allows up to 25,000 Russia troops in the vital Crimea region, so Russia may not consider its recent troop movements to be an invasion, U.S. officials said.

The number of Russian troops that have surged into Ukraine in recent days remains well below that threshold, Brennan said, according to U.S. officials who declined to be named in describing private discussions and declined to name the legislator.

Though Brennan disagrees that the treaty justifies Russia's incursion, he urged a cautious approach, the officials said. Administration officials have said Moscow violated the treaty, which requires the Russian navy, which bases its Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol, to coordinate all military movements on the Crimean peninsula with Ukraine.]

The next day, Russian troops took up positions around key facilities in Crimea, and by nightfall the CIA assessed that Russia was in control of the region, officials said.

"This was not predicted," said a U.S. official, who asked not to be named in discussing the classified briefings.

The intelligence officials defended their analysis, however, saying Putin may have made a spur of the moment decision to take military action.

Black Cat

Are you against war in Ukraine? Obama may seize your property

Obama dictator
© Unknown
Do you, like 56 percent of the US population, believe that the US should "not get too involved" in the Ukraine situation? Do you think that the US administration putting us on a war footing with Russia is a bad idea? Are you concerned that the new, US-backed leaders of Ukraine -- not being elected -- might lack democratic legitimacy? Are you tempted to speak out against US policy in Ukraine; are you tempted to criticize the new Ukrainian regime?

Be careful what you say. Be careful what you write. President Obama has just given himself the authority to seize your assets.

According to the president's recent Executive Order, "Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Ukraine" (first reported by WND's Aaron Klein), the provisions for seizure of property extend to "any United States person." That means "any United States citizen, permanent resident alien, entity organized under the laws of the United States or any jurisdiction within the United States (including foreign branches), or any person in the United States."

Declaring a "national emergency" over the planned referendum in Crimea to determine whether or not to join Russia, the US president asserts that asset seizure is possible for any US person "determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State":
(i) to be responsible for or complicit in, or to have engaged in, directly or indirectly, any of the following:
(A) actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine;

(B) actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine; or

(C) misappropriation of state assets of Ukraine or of an economically significant entity in Ukraine;