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Posts tagged ‘Georgia’

Merkel Gets Tough as Russian Troops Hold War Games.


Russia launched new military exercises near its border with Ukraine on Thursday, showing no sign of backing down on plans to annex its neighbour’s Crimea region despite a stronger than expected drive for sanctions from the EU and United States.

In an unusually robust and emotional speech, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned of “catastrophe” unless Russia changes course, while a man was killed in Ukraine in fighting between rival protesters in a mainly Russian-speaking city.

At the U.N. Security Council, the United States circulated a draft resolution that would declare illegal Sunday’s planned referendum on independence for Ukraine’s Crimea region.

But Russia, one of the Security Council’s five veto-wielding permanent members, made clear it opposed the draft.

“Russia announced they will kill it,” a senior Western diplomat told Reuters.

In Berlin, Merkel removed any suspicion she might try to avoid a confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We would not only see it, also as neighbors of Russia, as a threat. And it would not only change the European Union’s relationship with Russia,” she told parliament. “No, this would also cause massive damage to Russia, economically and politically.”

Secretary of State John Kerry said serious steps would be imposed on Monday by the United States and Europe if the referendum on Crimea joining Russia takes place on Sunday as planned.

Merkel, a fluent Russian speaker who grew up in communist East Germany, has emerged in recent days as a leading figure in threatening tough measures against Moscow.

Her foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said that over the weekend, European states would draw up a list of Russians who will face visa restrictions and asset freezes.

Putin declared Russia’s right to invade its neighbor on March 1, as Russian troops were already seizing control of Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula with a narrow ethnic Russian majority and a Russian naval base.

Events have moved rapidly, perhaps signalling an effort by Moscow to turn the annexation into a fait accompli before the West can coordinate a response.

In the Ukrainian city of Donetsk, a young man was stabbed to death and more than a dozen people were in hospital after pro-Russian and pro-European demonstrators clashed. The violence was the worst since last month’s overthrow of the Moscow-backed president, Viktor Yanukovich.

But in an apparently conciliatory move, Russia backed deployment of an OSCE monitoring mission in Ukraine, including Crimea, the Swiss chairman of the European rights watchdog said.

The leader of pro-Moscow separatist politicians in Crimea, who took power there after armed men seized the regional parliament on Feb. 27, predicted a strong vote in favor of union with Russia in Sunday’s referendum.

“We have a survey by renowned Ukrainian and Crimean polling experts showing clearly and plainly that more than 80 percent of people in Crimea are ready to join the Russian Federation,” Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov told Reuters.

Aksyonov, whose election in a closed session of the regional parliament is not recognized by Kiev, dismissed opponents’ accusations he will fix the referendum on Moscow’s orders. “We guarantee that all aspects of European law will be followed, including security for voters,” he said in an interview.

Western countries dismiss the vote as illegal. “The referendum on Sunday will have no legitimacy, no legal effect, it can have no moral effect. It is a piece of political theater that is being perpetrated at the barrel of a gun,” Daniel Baer, the U.S. ambassador to the OSCE, told reporters in Vienna.

At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said time was running out for a peaceful solution. She urged Russia to listen to the “remarkably unified” voices of its 14 fellow members of the Security Council and the Ukrainian people.

Diplomats said the one-page resolution would urge countries not to recognize the results of the vote in Crimea. A vote on the draft was postponed until Saturday at the latest to allow time for more negotiations.

Russia has taken territory from its former Soviet neighbors in the past with no serious consequences — in 2008 it invaded Georgia and seized two breakaway regions. But if Putin was hoping for a similarly tepid response this time, he may have misjudged.

In particular, he seems to have alienated Merkel, the Western leader with whom Putin, a German speaker who was once a KGB spy in East Germany, has had the closest relationship.

Merkel was initially more cautious than other Western leaders on the Crimean crisis, but in recent days she has pushed the European Union to match U.S. sanctions. EU action is critical because Europe does 10 times as much trade with Russia as the United States, buying most of its gas and oil exports.

The prospect that EU measures could be implemented as soon as Monday has weighed down the Russian economy.

Goldman Sachs revised its prediction for Russian economic growth this year down to 1 percent from 3 percent, blaming the tension over Ukraine for capital flight that would cripple investment. It said $45 billion had already left Russia this year, mostly Russians stashing money abroad.

The Russian stock market hit a 4-1/2-year low on Thursday and is down 20 percent since mid-February. The cost of insuring Moscow’s debt against default rose to its highest level in nearly two years.

The crisis has already forced several Russian firms to put plans on hold for public offerings to raise cash abroad.

Yet none of that appears to have slowed down Putin, who told officials of the Winter Paralympic Games he is hosting in Sochi that Russia was “not the initiator” of the crisis.

The Russian Defense Ministry said 8,500 troops were taking part in new military exercises near the Ukrainian border, testing artillery and rocket launchers.

It was the second big exercise Moscow has ordered since the crisis began; the first, involving 150,000 troops, started a few days before Russian forces seized Crimea.

In a gesture of support for NATO’s eastern members, U.S. F-16 fighter jets landed at Poland’s Lask air base on Thursday.

Among efforts by the West to isolate Russia politically, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a 34-member rich nations’ club, announced it was suspending membership talks with Russia, under way since 2007.

Moscow has pledged to respond in kind to any Western sanctions. The prime minister of Lithuania, a former Soviet republic that is now an EU member state, said Russia had suspended food product imports through its port of Klaipeda.

But European leaders appear to be calculating that the damage to Russia would be far worse than to Europe. EU-Russian trade makes up 15 percent of Russia’s economy and just 1 percent of Europe’s. Although EU countries depend on Russian gas imports, storage tanks are full after a mild winter.

Diplomatic lines have been open between Russia and the West throughout the crisis: Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke on Thursday, as they have nearly every day. They are due to meet in London on Friday.

Russia’s top general discussed Ukraine with the chairman of NATO’s Military Committee by telephone on Thursday, the Interfax news agency said.

The crisis over Crimea began after Yanukovich fled Kiev and pro-European politicians took charge, following three months of demonstrations.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Sarah Palin Predicted Russian Invasion Of Ukraine And Obama’s Inability To Lead.


CNN News- Sarah Palin may be having a bragging rights moment. In 2008, when she was the GOP vice presidential nominee, Palin questioned in a speech whether then-Sen. Barack Obama would have the foreign policy credentials to handle a scenario in which Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine.
sarah-palin-predicted-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 said in Reno, Nevada on October 21, 2008.

The former Alaska governor was happy to highlight her prediction on Friday and scold those who criticized her 2008 comments.

Yes, I could see this one from Alaska,” she said on Facebook. That remark was a reference to a 2008 interview in which Palin argued that Alaska’s proximity to Russia helped boost her foreign policy experience.

Saturday Night Live parodied her remarks in a now-famous sketch with Tina Fey, who played Palin on the show, saying “I can see Russia from my house.”

On Facebook, Palin continued to explain how she anticipated a growing crisis between Russia and Ukraine, where there has now been an uncontested arrival of Russian military forces by air at a Russian base in Ukraine’s Crimea region. They are believed to be Russian land forces, according to a U.S. assessment.source – CNN

by NTEB News Desk

Why A Free Ukraine Is Putin’s Worst Nightmare.


 

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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. source – Independent UK.

by NTEB News Desk

Republicans Looking at Several Routes to Senate Majority.


Republicans count enough competitive races to challenge Democrats for control of the Senate in the 2014 elections, if only they can figure out what to do with the tea party.

Crowded primaries in states such as Georgia, Iowa and North Carolina, where tea partyers and social conservatives are fighting for the nomination and pushing candidates farther right, worry many Republicans, especially after they saw their legitimate shots at a Senate majority slip away in 2010 and 2012.

Republicans need a net gain of six seats to capture control from Democrats, who effectively hold a 55-45 advantage now. But Democrats will be defending 21 of 35 seats to be decided in November, and President Barack Obama is looking like a major drag for them. Midterm elections are often tough for a president’s party in any event.

“History is with us, geography is with us and the president’s signature legislative achievement is the most unpopular” law of his tenure, Rob Collins, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said of Obama and his health care overhaul.

Republicans inside and outside the Senate speak confidently about snatching open seats in West Virginia and South Dakota. They like their chances against Democratic incumbents in Republican-leaning Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska and remain upbeat about Montana even if Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock names Lt. Gov. John Walsh to succeed Sen. Max Baucus, Obama’s choice for U.S. ambassador to China.

The looming question is whether Republicans undercut their solid shot with tea party-style candidates who fizzled out in Delaware, Colorado and Nevada in 2010 and Indiana and Missouri in 2012.

Georgia is keeping some Republicans awake at night. Eight candidates, including three House members, are pursuing the open seat of retiring two-term Sen. Saxby Chambliss in a state that dramatically went Republican in 1994 and rarely has looked back. Georgia hasn’t elected a non-incumbent Democrat since 1998.

A loss of the GOP seat would complicate any Republican math for a majority.

The top Democratic hopeful is Michelle Nunn, CEO of the volunteer organization Points of Light and daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn. The younger Nunn’s diligence gets high marks from Democrats and Republicans. She has raised more than $1.7 million and campaigned with a purpose.

While more attention has focused on Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the marquee race of the cycle, Republicans say Nunn is the real deal.

She stands as a moderate Democrat who could appeal to Georgia’s electorate and a Washington outsider in a year when congressional approval is in single digits.

Republicans are nervous about Rep. Paul Broun, who has said evolution and the Big Bang theory are “lies straight from the pit of Hell.” Although the four-term Georgia congressman has avoided incendiary comments in his latest campaign, several Republicans privately fret about him winning the nomination.

Looking to seize the edge in the free-for-all primary, Broun recently pounded rival Rep. Jack Kingston, considered more moderate, after Kingston suggested that Obama’s health care law could be fixed. Kingston quickly backtracked on an issue that resonates with core GOP voters, but then came under criticism for saying poor children could pay a small fee or work cleaning up to receive school-subsidized lunches.

“‘Why don’t you, you know, have the kids pay a dime, pay a nickel to instill in them that there is, in fact, no such thing as a free lunch — or maybe sweep the floor in the cafeteria,'” he said at a Jackson County event.

Guy Cecil, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, argued that the presence of tea partyers in primaries is forcing all Republican candidates to race to the right. The result is nominees unacceptable in the general election, he said.

“Primary electorates are so small it essentially encourages the Akin-ization of the entire Republican primary,” Cecil said.

His reference was to Missouri 2012. Republicans were certain they could defeat Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., but their nominee, Rep. Todd Akin, flamed out after saying women’s bodies can avoid pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.” McCaskill won re-election by 16 percentage points.

Georgia rules set the primary for May 20, but if no candidate gets 50 percent, a runoff occurs July 22.

Several Republicans insist that establishment candidates will eventually prevail and the internal fights won’t matter as Democrats struggle with the most contentious issue of the year — Obama’s health care law — and the political damage from its many problems.

“I think it may be the most difficult political yoke to carry in the history of American politics,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. “Where else do you have something that affects everybody? And health care does.”

Democrats don’t dispute that the troubled rollout of the health care website has hurt them.

“There’s no doubt Republicans are a little more gleeful,” said John Anzalone, a Democratic pollster and adviser to North Carolina Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, who is seeking a second term. “Who can say with a straight face that this has not been a bad month for Democrats?”

But Anzalone added: “It’s not a permanent thing. This is really about the political environment nationally. It evens out.”

In the North Carolina race, Senate Republicans have been raising money for Thom Tillis, speaker of the state House. Tillis faces challenges from Greg Brannon, a physician who has the backing of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and has been seeking the support of the tea party and Rev. Mark Harris, a Baptist minister who was instrumental in the state fight to ban gay marriage.

Hagan has struggled to answer for her support for the health care law, and in a clear sign of Democratic concern, the Senate Majority PAC, which backs Democratic candidates, bought $750,000 of television air time in December to counter Republican attacks against her. The group spent hundreds of thousands of dollars more for Hagan earlier in the year.

North Carolina’s primary is May 6 and if no candidate gets 40 percent of the vote, a runoff is set for July 15.

Collins, the Senate Republicans’ campaign director, maintained that competition in the primaries will make the party’s eventual nominees stronger for the general election.

Republicans see a potential to expand the field from the top tier races to contests in Michigan and Minnesota. Iowa seemed like a prime opportunity for Republicans after five-term Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin announced he would not seek another term.

Democrats rallied around four-term Rep. Bruce Braley. But on the GOP side, there are no fewer than seven candidates seeking the nomination in Iowa, including conservative radio host Sam Clovis, state Sen. Joni Ernst, former energy company CEO Mark Jacobs and former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker. There is talk that even more will enter the race.

Iowa’s June 3 primary has a 35 percent threshold. If no candidate gets that much, the nomination would be decided at a party convention where the most conservative members typically nominate a harder-right candidate.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Ga. Lawmakers, Civil Rights Leaders Object to Obama’s Judge Nominees.


President Barack Obama has come under fire from both House Democrats and civil rights leaders for the nominees he has chosen to fill four federal bench vacancies in Georgia’s Northern District.

The office of Georgia Democratic Rep. John Lewis, who appeared at a news conference alongside some of his fellow lawmakers in Atlanta on Monday, issued a statement saying, “The group cites serious concerns that the proposed candidates do not adequately reflect the diversity of the Northern District and that the selection process lacked meaningful community input,” reports The Hill.

The nominees include Mark Howard Cohen, who defended Georgia’s voter ID law in court, and Michael Boggs, who, as a state legislator in 2001, voted against changing the Georgia state flag to remove the Confederate battle emblem.

Those joining Lewis in his condemnation of Obama’s picks were Democratic Reps. Hank Johnson and David Scott, as well as civil rights leaders Joseph Lowery and the Rev. C.T. Vivian, The Hill reports.

Martin Luther King Jr., if he were here this day, he would tell the president not to make these appointments,” Scott said at the news conference, The Washington Times also reported.

The news conference took place inside the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King served as pastor.

Speaking later on CNN, Lowery, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, said, “We recognize that somebody in his administration has done [the president] a disservice in giving him these names, and he made a mistake in accepting them.”

Story continues below video.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the nominations were part of a deal the administration made with Georgia Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson in exchange for their approving Obama’s pick for the Eleventh Circuit court.

“I think there’s always side deals,” Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, told The Washington Times.

“There are always compromises to be brokered. But this one, I think, is particularly thorny because of the diversity and racial issues involved. The president has been very strong about diversity on the bench. That’s what makes this surprising, this group of nominees,” he said.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Lisa Barron

Tom Price: GOP Has Solution Ready After Obamacare’s Collapse.


Republicans need to be ready with a positive alternative following the inevitable “collapse” of Obamacare, GOP Rep. Tom Price tells Newsmax.

And support is growing for healthcare legislation that empowers consumers, the five-term congressman from Georgia adds.

“The Affordable Care Act is going to collapse soon and real people are going to be hurt,” Price, a past chairman of the House Study Committee and himself a physician, said. “So we have to be ready with a positive solution. We have one in the Empowering Patients First Act.”

Editor’s Note: New ‘Obamacare Survival Guide’ Reveals Dangers Ahead for Your Healthcare

Following up on an in-depth article he wrote for National Review earlier this month, Price spelled out the details of the legislation in meetings of conservatives on Capitol Hill last week.

Price said that a new analysis by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, concluded the act will produce $2.34 trillion in savings over a ten-year period and will reduce premium increases compared to Obamacare.

Emphasizing that the measure, formally H.R. 2300, is not the official Republican alternative to Obamacare, Price nonetheless pointed out that the legislation has so far been co-sponsored by more than 50 of his fellow House Republicans.

Price said the measure contains several of the concepts that Republicans tried to make to Obamacare during the debate leading up to its passage on a party line vote in 2010.

For example, Empowering Patients permits the purchase of insurance across state lines — a practice that is currently illegal and which Democrats successfully kept out of the Affordable Care Act.

As Price noted, “when companies compete across state lines, consumers have more choices for coverage and competition will drive down costs.”

Tort reform was another Republican-crafted concept that was repeatedly struck down during the committee process before House members voted on Obamacare three years ago. Price and other physicians in Congress warned at the time that the growth of a litigious society has resulted in one-in-14 physicians facing at least one malpractice suit a year.

Lawsuit abuse reforms are included in H.R. 2300 and, as Price said, “the need for defensive medicine, which squanders hundreds of billions of dollars every year and is passed on to the patients, is reduced. That means lower medical bills.”

Editor’s Note: ObamaCare Is Here. Are You Prepared?

The Republican measure permits individuals to keep their health insurance policy regardless of whether they move or change their jobs.

While Obamacare increases the number of Americans in government programs such as Medicaid, Empowering Patients in sharp contrast extends deductibility and different forms of tax credits to make private-sector plans more affordable.

“So, under this plan, Americans will have the financial wherewithal to purchase the kind of coverage they need, not what the government forces them to buy,” Price said.

Price also referred to the case before the Supreme Court launched by the Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby, challenging Obamacare’s requirement that private healthcare plans provide contraceptives for employees, even if it is contrary to their religious beliefs.

Under the Empowering Patients Act, “religious liberty is protected and conscientious objection is safeguarded,” said Price.

Support for H.R. 2300 is growing among House Republicans, Price told Newsmax. However, he added, “many Democratic colleagues have expressed strong support for different parts of the bill, but no Democratic House member has yet signed on as a co-sponsor. We hope this will change in the weeks ahead.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Republicans Develop New Strategy to Tackle Obamacare.


A growing number of congressional Republicans are abandoning what they say is a futile strategy to repeal Obamacare, and are instead proposing a number of legislative fixes to tackle the worst effects of the law.

The move suggests that the party has all but abandoned attempts for a wholesale repeal of the law, a strategy which led to the government shutdown after Tea Party conservatives used the budget negotiations to force a vote to defund it.

“I, just like all my colleagues, want to repeal Obamacare. We think that’s the best solution for the law. But repeal is always going to be hard. Therefore, I think we have a duty as elected leaders to try to do as much as possible to protect our constituents from the harm of the law,” Arkansas GOP Rep. Tom Cotton told The Hill.

Other Republican lawmakers, including Reps. Jack Kinston of Georgia, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Paul Broun of Georgia, and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia have proposed alternatives or voted to repair the law, according to The Hill. For example, a measure for a legislative fix by Michigan GOP Rep. Fred Upton to let people keep their insurance plans drew solid support from the party.

“Common sense conservatives recognize one irrefutable truth, and that is Obamacare cannot be repealed. So, instead of wasting their time talking about something that can’t possibly happen, they are applying their energy towards something that can,” Mark McKinnon, a strategist for former President George W. Bush, told The Hill.

In the days and weeks following the botched roll-out of the Obamacare website, others in the party suggested the best course of action would be to stand back and let the healthcare program implode.

But Republican Rep. Tim Walberg of Michigan is making the case against that approach, and says he is pursuing measures for “substantial repair” of the healthcare program.

“I understand that,” he said of the strategy to let the law fail, “but coming from a part of Michigan, a state that was first into the recession and arguably could be one of the last ones out…my district still has an average higher unemployment than the statewide average.”

Still, the GOP has not entirely abandoned its attempts to roll back Obamacare. Separate to pursuing legislative fixes, the GOP House leadership is still looking at piecemeal ways to dismantle the program, including increased pressure on the administration and actions through the states to fight the set-up of insurance exchanges.

And the party is also pursuing other avenues to undermine the law in the form of publicizing case studies of constituents who have been harmed by Obamacare.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Melanie Batley

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