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US financial showdown with Russia is more dangerous than it looks

US financial showdown with Russia is more dangerous than it looks

Two currencies - US Dollar and Rouble

 By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

The US Treasury faces a more formidable prey with Russia, the world's biggest producer of energy with a $2 trillion economy, superb scientists and a first-strike nuclear arsenal

The United States has constructed a financial neutron bomb. For the past 12 years an elite cell at the US Treasury has been sharpening the tools of economic warfare, designing ways to bring almost any country to its knees without firing a shot. The strategy relies on hegemonic control over the global banking system, buttressed by a network of allies and the reluctant acquiescence of neutral states. Let us call this the Manhattan Project of the early 21st century.

"It is a new kind of war, like a creeping financial insurgency, intended to constrict our enemies' financial lifeblood, unprecedented in its reach and effectiveness," says Juan Zarate, the Treasury and White House official who helped spearhead policy after 9/11. “The new geo-economic game may be more efficient and subtle than past geopolitical competitions, but it is no less ruthless and destructive,” he writes in his book Treasury's War: the Unleashing of a New Era of Financial Warfare. Bear this in mind as Washington tightens the noose on Vladimir Putin's Russia, slowly shutting off market access for Russian banks, companies and state bodies with $714bn of dollar debt (Sberbank data).

Princeton professor Harold James sees echoes of events before the First World War when Britain and France imagined they could use financial warfare to check German power. He says the world's interlocking nexus means this cannot be contained. Sanctions risk setting off a chain-reaction to match the 2008 shock. "Lehman was a small institution compared with the Austrian, French and German banks that have become highly exposed to Russia’s financial system. A Russian asset freeze could be catastrophic for European – indeed, global – financial markets," he wrote on Project Syndicate.

Hank Aaron, Braves get racist mail after interview comments

Hank Aaron during a ceremony celebrating his home runs. (AP)

Hank Aaron during a ceremony celebrating his home runs. (AP)

Hank Aaron, Braves get racist mail after interview comments

Soraya Nadia McDonald

“Back then they had hoods,” Aaron said. “Now they have neckties and starched shirts.”

Sure, this country has a black president, but when you look at a black president, President Obama is left with his foot stuck in the mud from all of the Republicans with the way he’s treated. We have moved in the right direction, and there have been improvements, but we still have a long ways to go in the country. The bigger difference is that back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts.”

Cliven Bundy goes from folksy rancher to media magnet in ‘range war’


Cliven Bundy goes from folksy rancher to media magnet in ‘range war’

These days, Cliven Bundy has turned into a contemporary folk hero in the eyes of his admirers, while also gaining notoriety from environmentalists who criticize his disregard of land management regulations.

These days, the rancher has turned into a contemporary folk hero in the eyes of his admirers, while also gaining notoriety from environmentalists who criticize his disregard of land management regulations. Instead of showing up at press events by himself, he’s now surrounded by an entourage of armed militia guards devoted to protecting him as long as necessary. And Fox News host Sean Hannity lands exclusives with Bundy.

Somewhere along the way, a plainspoken rancher from Bunkerville managed to wage a formidable public relations operation against a federal agency backed by two court orders and armed law enforcement officers.

‘Culture of intimidation’ seen in Nevada ranch standoff

Rancher Cliven Bundy (center) addresses his supporters as Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie (right) looks on Saturday. Ryan Yates, director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau, decried what he says some have called "a culture of intimidation" represented in the standoff over grazing rights between the rancher and the federal Bureau of Land Management. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

‘Culture of intimidation’ seen in Nevada ranch standoff

By Valerie Richardson - The Washington Times

Sending scores of armed agents along with helicopters and dogs to confront an elderly Nevada rancher over grazing fees may seem like overkill, but critics say it’s not inconsistent with the federal government’s recent approach to environmental enforcement.

Meanwhile, former Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican, told Fox News he worried the federal government could hit back hard at the Bundy ranch.

“The other thing is, governments don’t give up their power easily, and they may well come back with a lot more force, like they did at Waco with the Davidians,” said Mr. Paul, referring to the deadly 1993 federal raid on the Branch Davidian compound. “So I don’t know which way it’s going, but so far, so good.”

Is New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez the Next Sarah Palin?

 Illustration: Dale Stephanos

Petty. Vindictive. Weak on policy. And yet she's being hailed as the Republican Party's great new hope.

As she likes to tell anybody who'll listen, Susana Martinez, the governor of New Mexico, didn't start out a Republican. She and her husband, Chuck, like most everyone else in Las Cruces, had always been Democrats. But she'd long dreamed of running for office, and when word got out that she had her eyes on the district attorney's seat, two local Republican activists asked her to lunch. At the meeting, the story goes, her suitors didn't talk about party affiliation or ideology. They zeroed in on issues—taxes, welfare, gun rights, the death penalty. Afterward, Martinez got into the car, turned to her husband, and said, "I'll be damned, we're Republicans."

These are trying times for Republicans in search of inspiration. Sure, it looks like they have a shot to take back the Senate. But if the escalating civil war between the establishment and the "wacko bird" tea party wing doesn't tear the GOP in two, changing demographics threaten to push it toward extinction. Every four years, the party turns in poor showings with young people and cedes more ground among unmarried women and Latinos—the fastest-growing parts of the country's population. In the 1988 presidential election, minorities made up just 15 percent of voters; by 2012, that number had risen to 28 percent, and they supported Obama by a 62-point margin. "Devastatingly," the party's 2012 post-mortem concluded, "we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us."

No wonder, then, that many see Martinez, who turns 55 in July, as the party's future. Fox News host Greta Van Susteren touts her "great resume": America's first Latina governor. Former district attorney of a border county. Guardian of her mentally disabled sister. Tax cutter, gun owner, daughter of a sheriff's deputy. The Koch brothers invited her to speak at one of their secretive donor enclaves. Karl Rove singled her out in Time's list of last year's 100 most influential people as a "reform-minded conservative Republican." The Washington Post put her at the top of a list of likely 2016 vice presidential candidates; Romney has boosted her as a presidential contender. "She plugs every hole we've got as a party, and she's got a record to match," says Ford O'Connell, an adviser to the 2008 McCain campaign.

A year after background check defeat, modest goals

A year after background check defeat, modest goals


Democratic worries about this November's elections, a lack of Senate votes and House opposition are forcing congressional gun-control supporters to significantly winnow their 2014 agenda, a year after lawmakers scuttled President Barack Obama's effort to pass new curbs on firearms.

But with Reid wary of exposing Democratic senators facing tight re-election contests in some conservative and Western states to politically risky votes — and the Republican-run House showing no appetite to restrict guns anyway — people aren't holding their breath waiting for proposed gun restrictions to reach the Senate floor before Election Day.

Vladimir Putin, Narcissist?

Vladimir Putin, Narcissist?

 Joseph Burgo

How psychology offers insights on the Russian leader's actions

But is it accurate to describe Putin as a narcissist in the clinical sense of the word? Can an understanding of the psychological roots of narcissism help us to gain deeper insight into the man and how we should respond to his aggression, rather than using the label to deride him?

Narcissism is a severe psychological disorder that always takes root in childhood, where family life is marked by trauma and emotional chaos. When his earliest experiences drastically depart from what is normal or expectable, a child grows up with a painful feeling of internal defect. He comes to feel that there is something damaged and shameful about himself, an “ugliness” that must be concealed. He may grow up feeling that he is a “loser.” And so he develops a defensive identity to hide his unconscious shame and to “prove” that he is a winner instead. The Russian leader comes from a background similar to what one might find in a narcissist’s history.

"Post siege Leningrad was a mean, hungry, impoverished place that bred mean, hungry, ferocious children."

Vladimir Putin was born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) in 1952, eight years after a siege that laid waste to the city, resulting in the death of more than a million people. The city bore physical and emotional scars for decades afterward. Putin’s parents had survived the siege, but his father was severely disabled and disfigured by injuries sustained in a battle not far from Leningrad; his mother nearly died of starvation. The Putins had previously lost one son who died during infancy several years before the war began and their one surviving son died in an orphanage not long after it ended. Vladimir was born into this atmosphere of hunger, disability, and profound grief.

Obama program aims to reduce ‘births’ among blacks, Latinos

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at a Civil Rights Summit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas April 10, 2014. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Obama program aims to reduce ‘births’ among blacks, Latinos

President Barack Obama is attempting to lower the rate of “births” — and separately, pregnancies — among blacks and Latinos.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists reducing “births” as one of the top goals of Obama’s “Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative.”

The language on the CDC’s website makes clear that the program seeks to reduce the rate of both pregnancies and “births” among minorities.

Specifically, the CDC says the “purpose of this program is to demonstrate the effectiveness of innovative, multicomponent, communitywide initiatives in reducing rates of teen pregnancy and births in communities with the highest rates, with a focus on reaching African American and Latino/Hispanic youth aged 15–19 years.”

Leslie H. Gelb: CIA Director’s Trip to Kiev Was a Warning to Putin


CIA Director’s Trip to Kiev Was a Warning to Putin

If Russia’s really thinking about invading Ukraine, it should think about the cost of fighting a prolonged guerrilla war there.

The White House and CIA Director John Brennan knew full well that his “secret” visit to Kiev on Sunday would be “leaked.” That was the point. Foremost, the trip was conceived as a message to Putin—that he should start contemplating the unhappy possibility that a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine might well face a guerrilla war like the nightmarish one that drained Soviet forces in Afghanistan decades ago.

But the underlying turn of the screw is that Brennan’s visit might not be ALL message. While Brennan’s conversation in Kiev was mostly about intelligence-sharing, as The Daily Beast’s Eli Lake and Josh Rogin have reported, there might be some actual covert action in the offing as well. The White House is leaning toward providing Ukraine with guerrilla-like arms such as IEDs, mortars, small arms and grenades.

Two big factors, however, stand in the way. First, U.S. officials harbor great uncertainty about which Ukrainians they trust not to hand intelligence over to the Kremlin. It’s hard to devise a “covert” operation when the side Washington is working with may be, and probably is, penetrated by Moscow. Second, White House officials don’t want to press any kind of military buttons unless and until Russian troops actually burst into eastern Ukraine. They don’t want the possibility of U.S. covert action to serve as a pretext for a Russian invasion.

Why do liberals hate Bundy for dodging taxes when illegal immigrants do the same?

 Brendan Bordelon

The Five

Beckel: 'Well, I -- first of all, they do pay a lot of sales tax'

“I don’t feel sorry for the guy at all,” liberal co-host Bob Beckel said. “He’s a tax dodge. He oughta be indicted.”

“Do you feel the same about Al Sharpton?” Perino replied. “Al Sharpton owes $1.9 million, and the president did an event with him praising him just last Friday.”

Donald Trump looks to be an active donor in 2014 midterms

Donald Trump looks to be an active donor in 2014 midterms

By Rebecca Berg

From January through the end of March, the real estate mogul and television personality made 21 donations of $1,000 directly to Republican House or Senate campaigns across 19 states, according to numbers provided by a source with knowledge of Trump's political spending.

Former sheriff willing to let wife, daughters die on front lines of Bundy ranch

Former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack says he and other organizers at Cliven Bundy's ranch in Nevada were contemplating using women and children as human shields in case "rogue federal officers" opened fire. (Fox News via YouTube)

Former sheriff willing to let wife, daughters die on front lines of Bundy ranch

By Jessica Chasmar - The Washington Times

Former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack says he and other organizers at Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Nevada were contemplating using women and children as human shields in case “rogue federal officers” opened fire.

“I would have put my own wife or daughters there, and I would have been screaming bloody murder to watch them die,” he said. “I would’ve gone next, I would have been the next one to be killed. I’m not afraid to die here. I’m willing to die here.”

How America Pays Taxes—in 10 Not-Entirely-Depressing Charts

How America Pays Taxes—in 10 Not-Entirely-Depressing Charts

Derek Thompson

A brief history of where your money goes and why

Where do our federal taxes go?

Defense and insurance. It might not surprise you that about $1 in every $5 of federal taxes paid goes to defense. But the rest of the budget is overwhelmingly designed to insure the old and poor and provide a safety net. Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid/CHIP, safety net programs, and veterans' benefits account for nearly two-thirds of the budget (not including interest paid on our debt). 
What If Barack Obama’s Mother Had Had A Different Life?

What If Barack Obama’s Mother Had Had A Different Life?

By Jefferson M. Fish, Ph.D.

Ever since I first read Dreams From My Father, I’ve been struck by similarities between my family and the one that Barack Obama grew up in. As I read about the too-short life of Ann Dunham, Obama’s mother, I couldn’t help wondering whether, if she had made a few different choices, she might have had a personal and family life that turned out more like my wife’s and mine.

Pakistan's Islamic seminaries pair science with the Quran

Pakistan has thousands of private madrassas that have been criticized for not teaching secular subjects to students who graduate with limited job prospects. Some later join militant groups.

The students follow a 500-year-old curriculum adopted across South Asia. The oversized book used in Mr. Haq's class, a collection of ahadith, or sayings attributed to the prophet Muhammad, is centuries old and written in Arabic. Commentary written in Urdu in present-day India fills the margins. 

“This country was built on Islam, the idea of following God's teachings. Here we are learning how to do that,” says Haq.

What students learn, and don’t learn, in thousands of such private seminaries is a matter of concern for Pakistan’s government. Under a national security policy unveiled last month, Pakistan aims to bring madrassas under tighter state control, update their curricula to tone down extremist views, and introduce subjects like mathematics and science. The goal is to turn out graduates capable of getting decent jobs who won’t be tempted to join the Taliban or other militant groups.

“Graduates stand in between two worlds,” says Nafisa Shah, a lawmaker from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League. When they don't get jobs, she says, “they become vulnerable [to recruitment by militants].”

Who Radicalized Tamerlan Tsarnaev?

It seems the FBI have made little progress on why the Tsarnaev brothers bombed the Boston marathon. The mystery deepens: who radicalized Tamerlan Tsarnaev?

The Los Angeles Times published its own account of the investigation into the Tsarnaev brothers that same day. The L.A. Times led with an intriguing scoop: Tamerlan Tsarnaev had tried to legally change his first name to Muaz in honor of Emir Muaz, a jihadist who was killed in Dagestan in 2009. Emir Muaz (whose real name was Omar Sheykhulayev) was a senior leader in a group called the Vilayat Dagestan, which is a part of the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Caucasus Emirate, or Imarat Kavkaz (I.K.). Both the U.S. and United Nations have designated the I.K. a terrorist organization.

Citing “law enforcement officials,” the L.A. Times reported that Muaz “was also the nickname rebels had given [Tamerlan] Tsarnaev during his six-month visit to the region in 2012.” Moreover, U.S. officials said that while Tamerlan had “made an unsuccessful attempt to join the rebels,” he “was either sent back to the U.S. to carry out a terrorist strike or took it upon himself.”

U.S. military on high alert as Ukraine troops trade gunfire with pro-Russian militants

Ukrainian Army troops receive munitions at a field on the outskirts of Izyum, Eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, April 15, 2014. An Associated Press reporter saw at least 14 armored personnel carriers with Ukrainian flags, one helicopter and military trucks parked 40 kilometers (24 miles) north of the city on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

U.S. military on high alert as Ukraine troops trade gunfire with pro-Russian militants

By Washington Times Staff - The Washington Times

U.S. military assets in the Black Sea are on high alert amid reports Ukraine troops traded gunfire with pro-Russian militants near an eastern Ukraine airport.

Millennials Shunned Hillary in 2008. Her Shadow Campaign Won't Let It Happen Again.

Hillary Clinton Campaigning in 2008

Millennials Shunned Hillary in 2008. Her Shadow Campaign Won't Let It Happen Again.

By Patrick Caldwell

Inside Ready for Hillary's campus organizing blitz.

When Hillary Clinton narrowly lost the Democratic nomination in 2008, there was one key voting bloc that derailed her presidential bid: college students and young adults, who threw their support behind Barack Obama. Ready for Hillary, the primary super-PAC paving the way for a Clinton 2016 campaign, is already hard at work to make sure history doesn't repeat itself should she decide to enter the race. 

The group brought in former Obama campaign youth vote coordinator Rachel Schneider to oversee outreach to voters ages 16 to 30, with a particular focus on those still in school. Schneider has spent the last few months traveling around the country to set up satellite organizations on college campuses with the goal of attracting all of the best student organizers to Clinton's side before any other Democrat launches a presidential campaign. Earlier this year, she swung through Missouri and South Carolina. Last week, Schneider toured New Hampshire's main colleges, and she's scheduled to visit Iowa next week, where she'll meet with students from the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, Drake University, and the University of Northern Iowa.

There are now 33 Students for Hillary groups nationwide. So far they're recruiting the most die-hard activists to prepare for next fall, when they'll blitz new students during orientation to build Hillary's army. "I've been focused on identifying students on campuses who are interested in being part of this movement from the ground floor," Schneider says. For Democratic-leaning students interested in a career in politics it's a no-brainer: leading a Students for Hillary group will position them as prime contenders for low-level jobs in Clinton's actual campaign.

China's air pollution leading to more erratic climate for US, say scientists

Smog in Beijing square 2012

China's air pollution leading to more erratic climate for US, say scientists

Jonathan Kaiman in Beijing 

Computer modelling showed intensification of US-bound Pacific storms, driven by fine aerosols from coal power plants and traffic

China's air pollution could be intensifying storms over the Pacific Ocean and altering weather patterns in North America, according to scientists in the US. A team from Texas, California and Washington state has found that pollution from Asia, much of it arising in China, is leading to more intense cyclones, increased precipitation and more warm air in the mid-Pacific moving towards the north pole.

According to the team's findings, which were released on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, these changes could ultimately contribute to erratic weather in the US.

The authors used advanced computer models to study interactions between clouds and fine airborne particles known as aerosols, particularly manmade ones such as those emitted from vehicles and coal-fired power plants.

Bundy stands ground in public land conflict


Bundy stands ground in public land conflict

Cliven Bundy’s standoff with the Bureau of Land Management over the agency’s roundup of his cattle will go down in history as a high-profile clash of Old West values with today’s federal regulations on the use of public lands and natural resources.

Bundy quit paying grazing fees in 1993 in a conflict that grew out of range restrictions to protect the threatened desert tortoise.

A key issue in last week’s failed roundup — local control of public lands — has arisen in conflicts before. In Nevada, the Sagebrush Rebellion in the 1970s and 1980s resembled the Bundy situation as ranchers pushed back against federal land regulations.

“The underlying theme of the Sagebrush rebellion was local control of the land,” said Eric Herzik, department chairman of the political science department at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Part of that sentiment includes opposition to federal government’s oversight role.

“There’s a whole lot of resentment against big government,” Herzik said. “The thought is: ‘We are the true stakeholders here. We live here.’ So there’s a lot of resentment about the federal government telling people what to do.”

Little hope for GOP on immigrants, study shows

After President Obama won re-election in 2012 and collected 71 percent of the Hispanic vote, some Republican political consultants and party leaders said they needed to adjust their stance on immigration to win over those voters.

Little hope for GOP on immigrants, study shows; legalization won’t change wave

By Stephen Dinan - The Washington Times

An influx of immigrants has boosted the Democratic Party, and that trend is set to continue. Even in places where Republicans support legalization of illegal immigrants, the party hasn’t been able to stem those changes, according to a study being released Tuesday.

James Gimpel, a professor at the University of Maryland, said in a report being released by the Center for Immigration Studies that many of those in the recent wave of immigrants trail native-born Americans on education and skills and favor a broader scope for government action, which makes them “ideal recruits for the Democratic Party.”

Marathon Bombing Suspect Waits in Isolation

Marathon Bombing Suspect Waits in Isolation

He cannot mingle, speak or pray with other prisoners. His only visitors are his legal team, a mental health consultant and his immediate family, who apparently have seen him only rarely.

He may write only one letter — three pages, double-sided — and place one telephone call each week, and only to his family. If he reads newspapers and magazines, they have been stripped of classified ads and letters to the editor, which the government deems potential vehicles for coded messages. He watches no television, listens to no radio. He ventures outside infrequently, and only to a single small open space.


It has been nearly a year since police officers found Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in a suburban Boston backyard, hiding in a boat there, wounded by gunfire. Today he passes time in a secure federal medical facility, awaiting a November trial on charges that he helped plan and execute the Boston Marathon bombing a year ago on Tuesday, which killed three people and wounded at least 260, and a killing and kidnapping spree that forced an entire city into lockdown.

Now it is his turn to be effectively walled off from the outside world, imprisoned under so-called special administrative measures approved by the United States attorney general. The restrictions are reserved for inmates considered to pose the greatest threat to others — even though, privately, federal officials say there is little of substance to suggest that Mr. Tsarnaev, 20, and his brother Tamerlan were anything but isolated, homegrown terrorists. A court order bars his legal advisers and family from disclosing anything he has told or written them.

The Sad, Slow Death of America's Retail Workforce

The Sad, Slow Death of America's Retail Workforce

Derek Thompson

There's never been a better time to be a consumer. It's not such a happy story for the people on the shopping floor and behind the counters.

 And then there's the Walmart Effect. As I've reported, one Walmart worker replaces about 1.4 local retail workers, so that a county sees about 150 fewer jobs in the years after a Walmart opens its doors. Combined with the Amazon effect, this has dramatically reduced our need for retail workers to sell things, and so retail's share of the labor force, which peaked in the late 1980s, has been declining ever since.

Nevada Democratic Sen. Harry Reid: 'IT'S NOT OVER'


  • Reid issues ominous warning to Nevada cattle rancher who faced down feds

 Brendan Bordelon

USenate Majority Leader Harry Reid gestures while speaking to the media following a Senate cloture vote on budget bill on Capitol Hill in Washington

The Senate majority leader spoke briefly to Reno-based KRNV about last week’s standoff, which eventually saw Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and other federal law enforcement officers retreat in the face of large public protests and an armed militia presence.

“Well, it’s not over,” he said. “We can’t have, in America, people that violate the law and just walk away from it. So it’s not over.”

The BLM accuses the Bundy’s of illegally grazing on federal land and damaging a protected habitat for a desert tortoise. The Bundys claim the land has been in their family for generations and that the federal government has no claim to to the land.

Ted Cruz Is Beating Rand Paul in the Tea Party Primary

Ted Cruz Is Beating Rand Paul in the Tea Party Primary

Molly Ball

The two men's presidential hopes depend on the right. Who will those voters choose?

Both senators have a path to the Republican nomination that rests on the support of the Tea Party. And when forced to choose, that segment appears to prefer Cruz, whose speech to an activists' gathering here over the weekend was the more enthusiastically received of the two.
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