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Ban of Russian as an official language in Ukraine sparks concern among Russian and EU diplomats

Rally in Crimea
© RIA Novosti / Taras LitvinenkoParticipants in a rally in front of Crimea's Supreme Council building in Simferopol.
Ukraine's swift abolition of the law allowing the country's regions to make Russian a second official language has worried European MPs and officials, and has been condemned outright as a "violation of ethnic minority rights" by Russian diplomats.

The European Parliament has approved a resolution on Ukraine, which among other things calls on the country's MPs and the new government to respect the rights of minorities, particularly when it comes to the use of languages.

Ukraine's new leaders should distance themselves from extremists and avoid any provocation that might fuel "separatist moves," MEPs said, the parliament's press service reported. MEPs said that the new government should respect the rights of minorities in Ukraine, including the right to use Russian and other minority languages.

The resolution, proposed by six political groups in the European Parliament, urges Ukraine to ensure that its new legislation complies with the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

The Ukrainian Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) abolished the 2012 law "On State Language Policy" the day after it voted to dismiss President Viktor Yanukovich. The law allowed the country's regions to use more official languages in addition to Ukrainian if they were spoken by over 10 percent of the local population. Thirteen out of Ukraine's 27 regions, primarily in Eastern Ukraine, then adopted Russian as a second official language. Two Western regions introduced Romanian and Hungarian as official languages.


Businesses dealing in bitcoins subpoenaed by U.S. prosecutors

© Andy Clark/ReutersSigns on a window advertise a bitcoin ATM machine that has been installed in a cofee shop.
New York attorney subpoenas companies, including shuttered MtGox, as Japanese regulators question bitcoin's legality

Manhattan US attorney Preet Bharara's office is seeking information from businesses dealing in bitcoin on how some of them handled cyber-attacks that hamstrung several exchanges in recent weeks, a source familiar with the probe told Reuters on Wednesday.

Subpoenas have been sent to numerous businesses, including MtGox, once the largest bitcoin exchange, as well as other firms that did business with the Tokyo-based company, the source said.

Prosecutors want to know more about the nature of the cyber-attacks on MtGox and other exchanges and how those exchanges dealt with them. MtGox halted customer withdrawals on 7 February in response to what it termed unusual activity, and on Tuesday the exchange went dark, leaving customers unable to recover their funds.


How the Government manipulates your thoughts online

Abby Martin talks about journalist Glenn Greenwald's report regarding the intelligence community's use of subversive and manipulative online tactics to destroy the reputations of businesses and individuals.

Comment: See also: How covert agents infiltrate the internet to manipulate, deceive, and destroy reputations

Alarm Clock

Hyde Park bomb ruling leaves Northern Ireland government at risk of collapse

© Mark Thomas/RexJohn Downey, who was accused of the 1982 Hyde Park bombing, walked free on Tuesday.
First minister says he will resign unless there is judicial review into decision to free John Downey

Ministers were working frantically on Wednesday night to save Northern Ireland's power-sharing settlement after the first minister, Peter Robinson, threatened to resign following the collapse of the Hyde Park bombing trial. The crisis deepened after Robinson gave the government less than a day to respond to the controversy over secret amnesties for fugitives.

Robinson also called for an emergency debate on the issue in the Northern Ireland Assembly on Friday. He said he was consulting with other parties about a motion in the Stormont parliament.

After talks with Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers at Hillsborough Castle on Wednesday night, Robinson also claimed that some of the 187 IRA "on-the-runs" wanted by police for past Troubles-related crimes had been given royal pardons, effectively granting them amnesties.

Snakes in Suits

These Corporations are the Real Welfare Queens

Abby Martin remarks on a recent report by GoodJobsFirst.org which exposes the absurd amount of taxpayer money used to provide some of the wealthiest companies in the US with corporate welfare.

Source: RT



President Hugo Chavez: A 21st Century Renaissance Man


President Hugo Chavez was unique in multiple areas of political, social and economic life. He made significant contributions to the advancement of humanity. The depth, scope and popularity of his accomplishments mark President Chavez as the 'Renaissance President of the 21st Century'.

Many writers have noted one or another of his historic contributions highlighting his anti-poverty legislation, his success in winning popular elections with resounding majorities and his promotion of universal free public education and health coverage for all Venezuelans.

In this essay we will highlight the unique world-historic contributions that President Chavez made in the spheres of political economy, ethics and international law and in redefining relations between political leaders and citizens. We shall start with his enduring contribution to the development of civic culture in Venezuela and beyond.


Oxford historian: 'West plays with fire to drive the Russian naval base out of Crimea'

Rally in Crimea
© Reuters / Baz RatnerAn ethnic Russian Ukrainian holds a Russian flag as Crimean Tatars rally near the Crimean parliament building in Simferopol February 26, 2014.
Crimea's ethnic composition and Western policy towards Ukraine could create a Kosovo-like scenario where the majority of Russian speaking residents would claim independence which could lead to violence on the ground, Oxford historian Mark Almond told RT.

RT: If the EU and the US are concerned about doing what people on the Maidan want, why are they ignoring what people in Crimea want?

Mark Almond: Well one would have thought so if you're going to listen to the crowd on the street on the square and there are many squares where there're crowds including Simferopol and Sevastopol. The basic problem of course is what the Americans, particularly the lead military power in NATO want, is to eventually ease the Russian navy out of its base, out of its lease in Sevastopol in the Crimea. And so of course the fact that the great majority of people in Crimea not only 60 per cent that are actually Russian but many of the rest who speak Russian as their everyday language is something that the EU and NATO countries want to ignore. Of course if you have any kind of push to create a crisis, I'm afraid our democratic basis as in Kosovo where the great majority, where the great majority of Albanians wanted to be independent from Serbia, you would create a Kosovo crisis in Crimea. But of course strangely enough Washington and Brussels suddenly aren't terribly interested in this. I myself think that creating a crisis is not a good idea, but nonetheless they seem to be bent on pushing to increase tension between people on the Peninsula. And of course there is a risk of violence against either ethnic Russians, civilians that are there or against the sailors and soldiers on the base.

Bad Guys

Obama, upset over Afghan president turning down U.S. security deal, threatens removal of all troops from Afghanistan

© Brendan Smialowski/Getty ImagesPresident Hamid Karzai’s refusal to sign a security deal has frustrated the White House, which has been forced to abandon an earlier demand that he sign the deal in weeks, not months.
President Barack Obama has told the Pentagon to prepare for the possibility that no US troops will be left in Afghanistan over President Hamid Karzai's refusal to sign a joint security agreement.

The United States has said that after its formal drawdown of troops from Afghanistan by year's end, it could leave a contingent of as many as 8,000 for counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaeda targets and to train Afghan forces.

But Mr Karzai's refusal to sign a security deal has frustrated the White House, which has been forced to abandon an earlier demand that he sign the deal in weeks, not months.


Pope Francis centralizes Vatican's financial department, creating 'corporate-style' management

© Franco Origlia/Getty ImagesArchbishop of Sydney Cardinal Pell (second from left) in Vatican City
Corporate-style management is coming to the Vatican. In a sweeping overhaul of the Holy See's bureaucracy, Pope Francis is centralizing its budgetary and administrative functions while naming an auditor and outside experts to scrutinize its finances.

The pontiff has created a new Secretariat of the Economy headed by Cardinal George Pell of Australia and overseen by a 15-member council that includes seven lay experts "with strong professional financial experience," the Vatican said in a statement on its website.

The pope will directly oversee the new structure, which will include an auditor general who can conduct surprise audits "of any agency of the Holy See and Vatican City State at any time," according to the statement.

Light Sabers

Yanukovich says he's still president of Ukraine, asks Russia to ensure his safety

Viktor Yanukovich still considers himself the legitimate leader of Ukraine and warns against an internal military conflict, according to a statement. He also asks Russia to ensure his safety against the actions of "extremists" that took power in Ukraine.

"On the streets of many cities of our country, extremism thrives. Threats of bodily harm are thrown at me and my collaborators. I'm forced to ask the Russian authorities to ensure my personal security against the actions of extremists," Yanukovich said.

The southeast of the country and the Crimea don't acknowledge the mayhem in Ukraine under which "leaders are chosen by the crowd," news agencies quote his statement.

Yanukovich also said that he hadn't ordered the Ukrainian army to interfere in the internal political events, and he doesn't order it now, the statement reads.