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Russian Deputy PM Laughs at Obama Sanctions.


Kirit Radia (@kiritradia)

 

MOSCOW – Russia’s deputy prime minister laughed off President Obama’s sanction against him today asking “Comrade @BarackObama” if “some prankster” came up with the list.

The Obama administration hit 11 Russian and Ukrainian officials with sanctions today as punishment for Russia’s support of Crimea’s referendum. Among them: aides to President Vladimir Putin, a top government official, senior lawmakers, Crimean officials, the ousted president of Ukraine, and a Ukrainian politician and businessman allegedly tied to violence against protesters in Kiev.

It remains to be seen whether the sanctions will dissuade Russia from annexing Crimea, but one an early clue that they will not be effective came just hours later when President Putin signed a decree recognizing Crimea as an independent state, perhaps an early step towards annexation.

U.S. official have warned of additional sanctions for Russian action, hoping it will deter Russia from any further aggression towards Ukraine, but it didn’t appear to upset the often outspoke Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin is seen in this July 17, 2012 file photo during a meeting with Indian Minister for External Affairs, S.M. Krishna in New Delhi. Raveendran/AFP/Getty Images

Rogozin, a friend of actor Steven Seagal, took to Twitter to tweak Obama, tweeting he thinks “some prankster” came up with the sanctions list

In a later tweet addressed to “Comrade @BarackObama,” he asked, “what should do those who have neither accounts nor property abroad? Or U didn’t think about it?”

Another Russian on the sanctions list, Vladislav Surkov, also seemed unconcerned.

Surkov, a top Putin ideologue often called the Kremlin’s grey cardinal, reportedly told a Russian newspaper, “It’s a big honor for me. I don’t have accounts abroad. The only things that interest me in the U.S. are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock. I don’t need a visa to access their work. I lose nothing.”

Here’s who gets hit with the sanctions:

U.S. officials said that, among the sanctioned individuals were the “key ideologists and architects” of Russia’s Ukraine policy, while adding that some of the Russian officials were included in the list for their role in curbing “human rights and liberties” in Russia.

The sanctions freeze any assets under American jurisdiction and prevent American banks from doing business with the named individual, essentially freezing them out of the international banking system. The sanctions also impose a ban on their travel to the United States. Separately, but in coordination with the White House, the European Union announced sanctions today on 21 individuals that it plans to name later. U.S. officials told reporters that the American and European lists “overlapped” in some area, but declined to say how.

While some of the sanctioned officials are bold faced names, the White House move is unlikely to affect Russia’s decision making with regard to Crimea’s bid to join the Russian Federation. Russia’s stock market actually improved on the news that so few officials were included on the list. U.S. officials warned that, if Russia does go ahead with annexation of Crimea, additional penalties will follow, with more, harsher measures to come if Russia attempts to enter eastern Ukraine.

Kremlin aides

Vladislav Surkov – An aide to President Vladimir Putin, he was once considered one of Russia’s most powerful men. He has been called the Kremlin’s “gray cardinal” for his role as a power broker behind the scenes. He’s also credited the architect of Russia’s political system, with power concentrated in the presidency. In the past he was credited with shaping the ideology of the ruling United Russia party. He has also written rock music lyrics and is rumored to have authored a book.

Sergei Glazyev – An economic aide to Putin who oversaw relations with Ukraine. He frequently blasted the protest movement in Kiev and was outspoken in his criticism of American and European support for the protests.

 

Top government official

Dmitry Rogozin – An outspoken, hawkish Deputy Prime Minister, he’s known to have a close friendship with Hollywood actor Steven Seagal. As a member of Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev’s government, Rogozin is responsible for the armed forces and arms industry.

Russian lawmakers

Elena Mizulina – A senior lawmaker, she is considered one of the Kremlin’s morality enforcers in the parliament. She is perhaps best known as the co-author of last year’s homosexual “propaganda” law which sparked outrage overseas. She also proposed a measure to give Ukrainians Russian passports.

Leonid Slutsky – A lawmaker in the lower house of Parliament. He is the chair of the Committee on CIS Affairs, Eurasian Integration, and Relations with Compatriots. He was one of the Russian observers attending Sunday’s referendum in Crimea.

Andrei Klishas – A member of the upper house of Parliament, the Federation Council, who proposed retaliatory action in case of Western sanctions on Russia. He is chairman of the Federation Council Committee of Constitutional Law, Judicial, and Legal Affairs, and the Development of Civil Society. 

Valentina Matviyenko – The head of the Federation Council, she is the most senior lawmaker on the sanctions list.

 

Crimean officials

Sergey Aksyonov – Once an obscure pro-Russian politician in Crimea, he has now been declared the prime minister.

Vladimir Konstantinov – The newly declared speaker of Crimea’s parliament.

 

Ukrainian officials

Viktor Medvedchuk – A pro-Russian politician, he is being sanctioned for having “materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support” to impeached President Viktor Yanukovich. Ukraine’s opposition has accused him of orchestrating or aiding a crackdown on protesters and opposition.

Viktor Yanukovich – The ousted president of Ukraine. He was elected in 2010 but was chased from office by protests last month.

Immigrant Activists Push to Stop Deportations.


President Barack Obama’s surprise announcement last week that his administration would change its deportation policy to become more “humane” shows how the immigration battle has narrowed after months of congressional deadlock.

As recently as last year, immigrant rights activists, along with an unusually broad coalition of business, labor and religious groups, were united in their demand that Congress pass a sweeping bill to both remove the threat of deportation from many of the 11 million people here illegally and eventually make them citizens. But now activists just want to stop deportations.

They have pressured Obama to limit the number of people sent back overseas, which led to his administration’s announcement Thursday of a review of deportation policies after a meeting with the Hispanic Congressional Caucus. Activists also are pushing state legislatures to end participation in a program to help federal immigration authorities deport people and chaining themselves across entrances to local jails or immigration detention centers.

“We need relief and we need it soon,” said Reyna Montoya, 23, of Phoenix, whose father is fighting deportation and who co-wrote an open letter with dozens of other young activists urging immigrant rights groups to stand down on the citizenship issue. “People who are directly affected just want peace. Later on they’ll worry about becoming citizens.”

Immigrant rights groups still want to win citizenship for many who are in the U.S. without legal permission. But the shift to deportation relief shows the desperation felt by immigrant communities as deportations have continued, even as the president and many in Congress say they support changing the law to allow some of those people to stay in the U.S.

It also represents the possible splintering of the diverse coalition for an immigration bill that would overhaul the system by expanding citizenship. And the more aggressive, confrontational tactics also raise the risk of a public backlash.

“One picture of a cop with a bloody nose and it’s all over for these people,” Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors greater restrictions on immigration, said of the activists.

The change comes after many expected Congress to pass a sweeping immigration overhaul last year. Republicans have been torn between some in their base who want to step up deportations and others alarmed at how Hispanics, Asians and other fast-growing communities are increasingly leaning Democratic.

The Senate in June passed a bipartisan bill to legalize, and eventually grant citizenship to, many of the 11 million people in the U.S. illegally. But the bill died in the Republican-controlled House. Republican leaders there floated a proposal that could stop short of citizenship for many people here illegally. But Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, acknowledged it stood little chance of passing.

Meanwhile, Obama’s administration is on track to having deported 2 million people during the past six years. Critics say that’s more than President George W. Bush’s administration deported, though some who push for a tougher immigration policy argue the Obama administration’s numbers are inflated.

Obama already has eased some deportations. In 2012, as he was trying to generate enthusiasm among Hispanic voters for his re-election, Obama granted people who were brought to the country illegally as children the right to work in the United States and protection from deportation if they had graduated high school or served in the military. Advocates are pressuring the president to expand that to other people here illegally. The administration has said it cannot make sweeping changes without Congress, and it is unclear what steps it will take after its review is completed to limit deportations.

Chris Newman, legal director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, said it’s inevitable that Obama makes changes. “This is a White House that has told the immigrant rights community that they had to build up enforcement massively to create the political climate for comprehensive immigration reform,” Newman said. “Well, that gambit failed.”

Roy Beck of Numbers USA, which pushes for a more restrictive immigration policy, said expanding deportation relief could also fail. “It looks radical,” he said of the notion of sharply limiting removals.

Activists are willing to take that risk and have grown tired of waiting for Washington.

Late last year the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition’s members acknowledged there were no hopes of a big immigration bill anytime soon. They began pushing the local sheriff’s office to end its participation in the Secure Communities program, which checks the immigration status of anyone booked into local jail and refers people here illegally to federal authorities. Last month, six coalition members were arrested after locking themselves together to block entrance to the county jail.

“We decided we needed to change our focus because this is a more winnable campaign,” Executive Director Alejandro Laceres said. Of Congress, he added, “We don’t have the luxury of moving at their pace.”

In Arizona, activists have launched a series of protests, including blocking buses transporting immigrants to courts. “We just realized we are losing too many people in our community,” Carlos Garcia of the group Puente Arizona said in a telephone interview minutes before he was arrested outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Phoenix. Worries about whether their tactics could cause a backlash “go out the window,” he added. “Our heads hurt from thinking about the politics around it.”

At the state level, activists have had notable successes. The biggest victory came last year in California when Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Trust Act, barring California police from participating in Secure Communities. Immigrant rights groups are trying to replicate that legislation in Illinois and Massachusetts.

Driving the efforts are cases like that of Abel Bautista, who was stopped for traveling 8 miles per hour over the speed limit on a Colorado interstate in 2012 and has been fighting deportation ever since. At first he was not too worried, because he expected an immigration overhaul last year to make the case moot. Now he worries about the lack of legislative action and the trauma inflicted on his three U.S. citizen children as his case drags on.

“We’re just left hanging at loose ends,” Bautista said in an interview, recounting how his children’s performance at school has deteriorated and how they sob when he leaves for court hearings. “If the community unifies and has more demonstrations, maybe they will listen to us.”

 

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Obama Imposes Sanctions on 11 Russians, Ukrainians Over Crimea Move.


Image: Obama Imposes Sanctions on 11 Russians, Ukrainians Over Crimea Move

By Newsmax Wires

In the most comprehensive sanctions against Russia since the end of the Cold War, President Barack Obama on Monday froze the U.S. assets of seven Russian officials, including top advisers to President Vladimir Putin, for their support of Crimea’s vote to secede from Ukraine.Obama said he was moving to “increase the cost” to Russia, and he warned that more people could face financial punishment.

“If Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine, we stand ready to impose further sanctions,” Obama said. He added in a brief statement from the White House that he still believes there could be a diplomatic resolution to the crisis and that the sanctions can be calibrated based on whether Russia escalates or pulls back in its involvement.

The Treasury Department also is imposing sanctions on four Ukrainians — including former President Viktor Yanukovych and others who have supported Crimea’s separation — under existing authority under a previous Obama order. Senior administration officials also said they are developing evidence against individuals in the arms industry and those they described as “Russian government cronies” to target their assets.

The administration officials said Putin wasn’t sanctioned despite his support of the Crimean referendum because the United States doesn’t usually begin with heads of state. But the officials, speaking to reporters on a conference call on the condition they not be quoted by name, say those sanctioned are very close to Putin and that the sanctions are “designed to hit close to home.”

The U.S. announcement came shortly after the European Union announced travel bans and asset freezes on 21 people they have linked to the unrest in Crimea. Obama administration officials say there is some overlap between the United States and European list, which wasn’t immediately made public.

The sanctions were expected after residents in Crimea voted overwhelmingly Sunday in favor of the split. Crimea’s parliament on Monday declared the region an independent state.

The administration officials say there is some concrete evidence that some ballots for the referendum arrived premarked in many cities and “there are massive anomalies in the vote.” The officials did not say what that evidence was.

The United States, European Union, and others say the action violates 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.

The administration officials said they will be looking at additional sanctions if Russia moves to annex Crimea or takes other action. Those targeted will have all U.S. assets frozen and no one in the United States can do business with them under Obama’s order.

“Today’s actions send a strong message to the Russian government that there are consequences for their actions that violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including their actions supporting the illegal referendum for Crimean separation,” the White House said in a statement.

“Today’s actions also serve as notice to Russia that unless it abides by its international obligations and returns its military forces to their original bases and respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the United States is prepared to take additional steps to impose further political and economic costs,” the statement said.

Administration officials say those Obama targeted also are key political players in Russia also responsible for the country’s tightening of human rights and civil liberties in the country. Obama’s order targets were:

  • Vladislav Surkov, a Putin aide;
  • Sergey Glazyev, a Putin adviser;
  • Leonid Slutsky, a state Duma deputy;
  • Andrei Klishas, member of the Council of Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation;
  • Valentina Matviyenko, head of the Federation Council;
  • Dmitry Rogozin, deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation;
  • Yelena Mizulina, a state Duma deputy.

The four newly targeted by the Treasury Department are:

  • Yanukovych, who fled Ukraine for Russia and has supported the dispatch of Russian troops into Ukraine;
  • Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of Crimea separatist group Ukrainian Choice and a close friend of Putin;
  • Sergey Aksyonov, prime minister of Crimea’s regional government;
  • Vladimir Konstantinov, speaker of the Crimean parliament.

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

McCain: Ukraine Crisis Exposes Obama’s ‘Disturbing Lack of Realism’.


Image: McCain: Ukraine Crisis Exposes Obama's 'Disturbing Lack of Realism'

 

By Joe Battaglia

A day after calling Barack Obama “the most naive president in history,” Arizona Sen. John McCain continued his assault on the president’s foreign policy in an op-ed piece in Friday’s New York Times.

Specifically addressing Russia’s invasion of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine, McCain wrote that the United States’ response “has exposed the disturbing lack of realism” of the Obama administration and made the country look weak in the eyes of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the rest of the world.

According to McCain, President Obama’s belief that “the tide of war is receding” around the world so the United States can afford to scale back its military presence is a miscalculation.

That “reset” policy, coupled with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s crossing of Obama’s “red line” without consequence, has emboldened Chinese and Iranian loyalists, al-Qaida terrorists, and aggressive actors like Putin, whom he called “an unreconstructed Russian imperialist and KGB apparatchik.”

“To people like Mr. Putin, weakness is provocative,” McCain wrote.

He added, “What is most troubling about Mr. Putin’s aggression in Crimea is that it reflects a growing disregard for America’s credibility in the world.”

McCain echoed that sentiment in a fundraising letter penned for the Republican National Committee on Thursday.

“A secure world relies on a strong America. And a strong America relies on a robust military,” McCain wrote, according to The Washington Examiner. “Yet, sadly under President Obama, America’s military strength has been weakened and our country’s leadership in the world has been questioned. As a result, the world’s most dangerous players are flexing their muscles. Extremists are gaining ground. And these conflicts are becoming more dangerous by the day for our allies — and for us.”

Earlier in the day, McCain told Phoenix radio station KFYI, “The naivete of Barack Obama and [Secretary of State] John Kerry is stunning,” adding that Putin, whom he described as “amoral,” “cold,” “distant,” and “tough,” had “played us so incredibly.”

While McCain condemned Obama’s stance on Crimea to date, he outlined a plan he believes would change the course of events in Ukraine and regain global standing for the United States.

The first step McCain called for was a shoring up of Ukraine and reassuring of the Baltic states that the United States and the world will not stand for Putin bringing Russia’s neighbors “back under Moscow’s dominion.” McCain did not call for military action, but suggested an increased military presence by NATO in the region.

He also said Russia should be ostracized through a boycott of the G-8 summit scheduled for April 24-25 in Sochi, suggesting a Group of 7 meeting be convened elsewhere.

McCain added that the United States should “support and resupply Ukrainian patriots, both soldiers and civilians, who are standing their ground in government facilities across Crimea” as a way to stand with the Ukrainian people in defiance of the dismemberment of their country.

“We need to work with our allies to … show Mr. Putin a strong, united front, and prevent the crisis from getting worse,” McCain wrote. He added that the United States needs to “rearm ourselves morally and intellectually” to prevent Putin from attempting to occupy other nations along Russia’s borders.

McCain remains convinced that strong U.S.-led support of Ukraine will expose Putin’s Russia as being “not a great power on par with America,” but “a gas station run by a corrupt, autocratic regime.” Eventually, he said, the Russian people will revolt against him the same way the Ukrainians ousted Viktor Yanukovych.

“If Ukraine can emerge from this crisis independent, prosperous, and anchored firmly in Europe, how long before Russians begin to ask, ‘Why not us?'” McCain wrote.

While McCain said that there is still hope for a reversal of course in the region, he cautioned that “hopes do not advance themselves.”

“The darkness that threatens [Ukraine] will not be checked by an America in denial about the world as it is,” McCain wrote. “It requires realism, strength and leadership. If Crimea does not awaken us to this fact, I am afraid to think what will.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Pastor Saeed Abedini’s Wife: Iranian Captors Torturing Him.


The wife of Saeed Abedini — the Iranian-American pastor imprisoned in Iran for allegedly trying to convert Islamic youths to Christianity — says her husband is being brutally tortured behind bars.

“He needs to be treated for internal injuries that occurred because of beatings in the prison and he has yet to be treated,” Naghmeh Abedini told “The Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV.

“He’s been taken to the hospital, and recently he was taken again, but not treated and chained and shackled and really dealt with harshly and being forced … back to the prison without being treated.”

Story continues below video.

It has been nearly two years since Abedini was thrown in an Iranian prison after his arrest and his wife believes the Obama administration has not put enough pressure on Iran to get him released.

“I do believe that if this was a priority, this religious freedom issue, that he would be home by now,” she said.

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama’s Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll 

“[He is] suffering just because of his Christian faith, and a lot of countries have spoken out. I just came back from Geneva at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy and so a lot of countries are saying this is not right.

“I believe if our government is serious about this, then we should be seeing results. I’m hoping … that our government will pursue every avenue to bring him home quickly and he doesn’t have to stay there another year or even another month.”

Abedini, a former Muslim who converted to Christianity in 2000, met and married his wife Naghmeh, an American citizen, two years later.

He is serving eight years in prison, accused of undermining Iranian national security with his Christian evangelical activities.

See “The Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV each weekday live by clicking here now.

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Bill Hoffmann

Obama Administration Drops Proposal to Limit Medicare Drugs.


The Obama administration has abandoned a proposed change in Medicare after the plan was criticized by Republicans and Democrats alike.

The plan would have given health insurance companies more freedom to limit the number of drugs covered by Medicare. Those against the proposal said it would restrict seniors’ access to drugs they need.

Under current Medicare law, the majority of drugs across six classes are covered. The proposed plan would have limited that list to three classes — drugs that treat cancer, HIV and seizures.

“We will engage in further stakeholder input before advancing some or all of the changes in these areas in future years,” Medicare chief Marilyn Tavenner wrote to lawmakers Monday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky responded by saying the Obama administration should not go forward with its proposed cut in Medicare Advantage, a program that helps seniors pay for select medical services — including prescription drugs, also known as Part D.

“We remain concerned about the impact of Obamacare’s looming cuts to Medicare Advantage, something that was not addressed in today’s announcement,” McConnell said in a statement. “Seniors need to know whether the president will stand by his word, and that they can keep the plans they have and like.”

As the administration tries to regulate the industry more under the Affordable Care Act, seniors’ access to drugs has become a hot-button issue. Several proposals have popped up, ranging from limiting certain drugs depending on where the patient lives to allowing all pharmacies to dispense medication, regardless of the patient’s plan or healthcare network.

“We plan to finalize proposals related to consumer protections, anti-fraud provisions that have bipartisan support and transparency after taking into consideration the comments received during the public comment period,” Tavenner wrote.

The Partnership for Part D Access, a coalition based in Washington that advocates for the right of seniors to continue to receive prescription drug coverage, was pleased with Monday’s decision to ax the proposal.

“We are thrilled that [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] has listened to the loud chorus of support for maintaining beneficiary access to the life-saving drugs provided under Medicare Part D,” said coalition member Chuck Ingoglia, senior vice president of the National Council for Behavioral Health.

“Although we need to remain vigilant on this issue, we commend today’s action by CMS, which will allow millions of seniors to continue to confidently rely upon Medicare to provide them the drugs they need.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Jason Devaney

James Baker: Ukraine Crisis is New Cold War.


The crisis in Ukraine has the potential for spiraling out of control and could lead to “serious problems in the heart of Europe,” says former Secretary of State James Baker.

“It is clearly the most serious East-West confrontation since the end of the Cold War,” Baker said Sunday on “Meet the Press.”

“For someone who was the last U.S. secretary of state during the Cold War, it’s very disappointing to me to see that we’re moving now from cooperation with Russia to confrontation again.”

Story continues below video.

Baker was secretary of state for President George H.W. Bush from 1989 to 1992.

Baker said he has no substantial disagreement with the way the Obama administration has handled Russia’s invasion of Ukraine so far, but added, “I’m not sure that all of this would have happened had we stuck with our red lines.”

Many Republicans have blamed President Barack Obama’s waffling over a “red line” he set with Syria over use of chemical weapons. When it was revealed last year the Bashar Assad regime had used the weapons on Syrian civilians, Obama first promised action, then went to Congress and allies.

Both Congress and the United Kingdom balked at backing an attack, and the situation was resolved only after Russian President Vladimir Putin offered to monitor Syria’s elimination of its chemical weapons stockpile.

Baker said he doesn’t agree with those who think Putin sees Obama as weak after that confrontation. But he does think Putin sees Obama as inconsistent.

Baker said he hopes a diplomatic solution can be reached because he thinks there’s no good endgame for the Russian Federation.

The risks are “very substantial,” Baker said, of the situation turning into more than a “small new Cold War, which I think we are pretty much in right now. I look at this as a Cold War lite.”
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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Greg Richter

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