Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Kerry urges Poroshenko to ‘think twice’ about reigniting Ukraine conflict

US Secretary of State John Kerry has warned Petro Poroshenko against inciting any new hostilities after the Ukrainian president vowed to win back Donetsk Airport. Kerry was in Sochi for high level talks with President Vladimir Putin and Sergey Lavrov.
This was the first visit by a senior US official to Russia since the Ukrainian crisis broke out in 2014. Kerry has realized the need to “break down some of the mistrust on both sides.”
The mood between both parties was cordial and the US secretary of state along with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed a desire to see the Minsk agreement fully implemented.
“If indeed President Poroshenko is advocating a forceful engagement at this time, we would strongly urge him to think twice not to engage in this kind of activity,” Kerry said during a joint press conference with Lavrov in the southern Russian city.
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Poroshenko violates Minsk deal vowing to recapture Donetsk Airport - Kremlin

On Monday, President Poroshenko pledged to take Donetsk Airport back: "I have no doubt - we will free the airport, because it is our land. And we will rebuild the airport."
However, his statement brought swift condemnation from Kerry, who added it would “put Minsk in serious jeopardy” and that“we would be very very concerned about the consequences.”
While Kerry and Lavrov admitted they didn’t always see eye to eye on Ukraine, they did agree that the Minsk agreement is the best way to solve the crisis and that diplomacy is the only way to peace. The diplomats urged everyone who has influence on any party in the Ukrainian conflict, to use it in a positive manner to ensure peace prevails.
“I urge him [Poroshenko], as I urge the Russians today. Anybody who has any control over anybody needs to take every step possible, to fully implement Minsk and clearly this means preventing any breaches of activity in regards to the ceasefire,” Kerry added.

During the talks, Russia's top diplomat stressed the current crisis in relations between the two nations is not Russia's fault. According to a foreign ministry press release, Sergey Lavrov said Russia is ready to work with the US, but only as an equal partner, “without attempts of dictate and coercion.”
The foreign minister said that escalating the confrontation and using sanctions to pressure Russia are a“dead end,” as Russia will not be made to “sacrifice its national interests and stances on the matters it sees as crucial.”
For his part, Kerry added that sanctions against Russia would be rolled back “if and when” all the points of the Minsk deal are implemented in Ukraine.

Marcus Papadopoulos, the editor of Politics First magazine, who spoke to RT said Washington is looking for a way out, or is at least trying to smooth relations with Moscow as they realize dialogue is the only option, as well as needing Russia’s help with regard to Syria and Iran.
“I would agree that the American’s are acutely aware that the sanctions that they imposed on Russia last year have emphatically failed to achieve their objective, which was to decimate the Russian economy and bring Russia to its knees,” Papadopoulos told RT.
Kerry held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which lasted for over four hours, instead of the planned one and a half hours. This followed similarly lengthy talks with Lavrov, while the two diplomats laid flowers at a World War II memorial.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (R) lay a wreath at the Zakovkzalny War Memorial in Sochi, Russia May 12, 2015 (Reuters / Joshua Roberts)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (R) lay a wreath at the Zakovkzalny War Memorial in Sochi, Russia May 12, 2015 (Reuters / Joshua Roberts)

Kerry and Putin focused on discussing bilateral ties, as well as several major international issues.
The US secretary of state thanked the Russian president for the “directness” he showed during the talks, and the "detailed explanation of Russia's position on the issues that are causing divisions.”
Although Moscow and Washington didn’t totally agree on issues regarding Ukraine, Kerry and Lavrov both stressed they shared similar viewpoints on Syria, the threat of the Islamic State and the Iranian nuclear deal. The pair also discussed the developing conflict in Yemen.

Moscow saw the meeting between President Putin and Kerry in a positive light, even though there was no breakthrough. A Kremlin aide, Yury Ushakov, mentioned the Russian president was interested in normalizing relations between the two countries.
“As it was pointed out, this is what Russia wants and I hope this is in the interests of the USA as well. This is extremely important for the implementation of international stability and security,” Ushakov added, as cited by TASS.
White house representative Josh Earnest said at a press briefing he thought the US and Russia can cooperate effectively, despite the serious disagreements between them. He pointed out a number of issues where cooperation is already taking place, including space exploration and the chemical disarmament of Syria.

Derailed Amtrak train was going 100 mph on sharp curve

The Amtrak train that derailed outside Philadelphia on Tuesday was going too fast, taking a sharp curve at over 100mph, according to investigators. Engineer had to apply full emergency brake before the crash that killed seven people and injured over 200.
Amtrak and police officials stand near a derailed Amtrak train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania May 13, 2015. (Reuters/Mike Segar)
Amtrak and police officials stand near a derailed Amtrak train in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania May 13, 2015. (Reuters/Mike Segar)

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said Wednesday that a preliminary investigation suggests the train was traveling at greater than 100 miles per hour—or twice the speed limit—before it hit a sharp turn and jumped the track at about 9:30pm local time the night before.

NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt told reporters that the train was travelling at the speed of 106 mph when it approached the curve with the speed limit of 50 mph. The speed fell to 102 mph in the next few seconds before the crash.
Rail curve where Amtrak train derailed Tuesday evening.
Rail curve where Amtrak train derailed Tuesday evening.

Rescue workers are still searching through the wreckage of Amtrak train number 188. Seven people have been confirmed dead, and more than 200 have been treated for injuries at Philadelphia hospitals. The authorities have not yet accounted for all 243 people on board.
“We have made really good progress in accounting for the majority of individuals, but we still have folks that we’d like to hear from,” said Sam Phillips, the city’s director of emergency management.
Mayor Nutter added that he spoke with President Obama on Wednesday and said “the response, at the federal level, has been tremendous.”
Emergency personnel and members of the Philadelphia Fire Department investigate the scene of a train accident in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in this handout photo provided by the Philadelphia Fire Department, May 13, 2015. (Reuters/Philadelphia Fire Department/Handout)
Emergency personnel and members of the Philadelphia Fire Department investigate the scene of a train accident in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in this handout photo provided by the Philadelphia Fire Department, May 13, 2015. (Reuters/Philadelphia Fire Department/Handout)

Nutter and Phillips were joined at Wednesday afternoon’s press conference by Senators Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) and Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania). Commenting on the tragedy after being given a tour of the crash site, Senator Toomey described the scene as “horrific and heartbreaking.”
Vice President Joe Biden, who took more than 8,000 Amtrak trips while representing Delaware in the US Senate, said he was “deeply saddened” by the tragedy.
“Amtrak is like a second family to me, as it is for so many other passengers," Biden said in a statement.“For my entire career, I’ve made the trip from Wilmington to Washington and back. I’ve come to know the conductors, engineers and other regulars – men and women riding home to kiss their kids goodnight – as we passed the flickering lights of each neighborhood along the way.”
Passenger rail services along the Northeast Corridor, the busiest in the US with 12 million passengers a year, remain on hold. Commuter rail services that share Amtrak’s tracks in the Philadelphia area have also been suspended.

NYC hammer attacker gunned down by cops (VIDEO)

A hammer-wielding man suspected of attacking at least four people in New York City this week has been shot by police officers in midtown Manhattan.
Two cops with the New York Police Department were following a man on Wednesday morning who matched the description of an individual accused of being behind a wave of recent hammer assaults when the suspect engaged the officers, prompting one of them to open fire. 

The officers were trailing the man down Eighth Avenue when the suspect “immediately pulled out a hammer,” Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said on Wednesday, and attempted to assault the female officer with the “claw end” of the tool.

When he turned around he pulled out the hammer and violently started swinging the hammer at the female officer,” Manhattan Chief of Detectives William Aubry explained to reporters. 

Four shots were fired by her colleague, Bratton said, striking the suspect twice and leaving him in critical condition. The incident unfolded at around 10:00am in broad daylight in the middle of a busy midtown intersection only a few blocks from Madison Square Garden in the presence of onlookers and NYPD cameras.

Our whole building was evacuated, it was crazy,” John Xie, co-founder of MeowChat, the social networking app, told RT from his Eighth Ave. office. “It happened right in the middle of the street.” 

Authorities say four people in New York City were attacked by a hammer-wielding man on Monday during a six-hour crime spree. Police released surveillance camera footage showing the suspect the following day, with the NY Post identifying the man as 30-year-old David Baril, according to unnamed law enforcement sources.

The suspect was undergoing surgery at a NYC medical center as of Wednesday afternoon, and CBS News reported that the officers involved did not suffer any significant injuries. 

“I want to commend those two officers for their actions this morning,” Bratton told reporters in the afternoon. “First, in seeing the suspect, approaching him. And then second, for the quick action on the part of the officers, but particularly the male officer who, based on the preliminary video that I reviewed, quite possibly saved his partner’s life by shooting the suspect.”

NATO to send advisers to Ukrainian defense ministry

The NATO Secretary General has said the Alliance will increase its presence in the Ukrainian capital, sending its representatives to consult the country's defense ministry.
Jens Stoltenberg was speaking to the media after a meeting of NATO member states' foreign ministers took place in Turkey's Antalya on Wednesday. "We have strengthened our office in Kiev, provided advisers to the government of Ukraine, including the Ministry of Defense," he said.
"Our close cooperation will strengthen Ukraine's ability to defend itself. We have stepped up our support to Ukraine on command and control, logistics, cyber defense and rehabilitation of wounded soldiers," the NATO chief added.
He also said that the alliance sees reforms by Kiev as the main way to stabilize the situation in Ukraine:"We welcome Ukraine's efforts to promote reform and reconciliation... NATO stands firm in our support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
He once again accused Russia of getting involved in the conflict: "We see...continued Russian support for the separatists to destabilize Ukraine. We call on all sides to comply with the Minsk agreements," he said, adding that "Russia has a special responsibility in this respect."
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Kerry urges Poroshenko to ‘think twice’ about reigniting Ukraine conflict

However, Stoltenberg said the it would be unfair to say that Russia-NATO relations are in a state of cold war. "We are not in the same situation as we were during the Cold War period after the Second World War until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991," the Secretary General told the media, albeit adding that"We are neither in the strategic partnership that we tried to develop between NATO and Russia." He said the Russia-NATO relations were a "new security environment" to which the alliance is adapting.
Last Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Moscow is actually ready for cooperation with NATO, and that it was the Alliance that cut off all ties. At a meeting with his German counterpart, both mentioned that now attempts are being made to restore some of the contacts.
NATO officials, including the Secretary General, have repeatedly accused Russia of sending troops, weapons and hardware to the self-proclaimed republics fighting against Kiev's rule in eastern Ukraine. No solid proof has been provided so far, though, with most of the "evidence" drawn from unverified social media sources. Moscow has refuted all these claims.
Meanwhile the head of NATO's European forces, US Air Force General Philip Breedlove, has been calling for months to send lethal weapons to Ukraine. A bill to allocate $200 million to that end has already been approved by the US Congress Armed Forces Committee and will be reviewed by the House of Representatives later in May.
Moscow has repeatedly warned that sending weapons to Ukraine will only hinder the peace process there. European nations have also been reluctant to arm Kiev, fearing an influx of arms could send the situation in Ukraine spinning out of control. Some countries, however, are supplying Kiev with non-lethal defensive equipment, like body armor and unarmed armored vehicles.
Cautious optimism has also been voiced at the Antalya summit about the Ukraine peace process progress. Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said there had been a major breakthrough in the recent days. He said that, although he said the road ahead remains long and difficult, there is no alternative to the Minsk peace roadmap.

Big Oil’s campaign donations result in taxpayer subsidies - report

Oil companies making donations to politicians are getting massive tax credits in return, despite President Obama’s 2009 call to stop subsidizing big oil, claims the Guardian following an investigation into three corporate projects.
Using a subsidy-tracking tool created by the nonprofit Good Jobs First, the paper’s probe looked into projects by Shell, ExxonMobil and Marathon Petroleum, and discovered that in each case the companies received subsidies in the form of tax credits, from politicians who were receiving campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry.
At a time when scientists tell us we need to reduce carbon pollution to prevent catastrophic climate change, it is absurd to provide massive taxpayer subsidies that pad fossil-fuel companies’ already enormous profits,” the Guardian quoted Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), currently vying for the Democratic presidential nomination.

According to the paper, Marathon Petroleum is benefiting from two tax credits in Ohio, a 15-year credit for preserving 1,650 jobs, and a 10-year credit for creating 100 new jobs. The Good Jobs First database indicates the subsidies are worth $78.5 million, while the company posted a $2.4 billion profit that year.
The tax credits were approved in 2011 by Republican governor John Kasich, who received $213,519 in donations from oil and gas companies that year, according to a report by political watchdog group Common Cause.
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Crude awakening: Shell’s first-quarter profits plunge 56%

Shell’s proposed refinery in Pennsylvania, worth $4 billion, is due for tax credits of $66 million a year for 25 years. The $1.6-billion deal was negotiated in 2012, when the company made an annual profit of $26.8 billion, says the Guardian. Republican governor Tom Corbett, who negotiated the deal, received over $1 million in campaign donations from the oil and gas industry.
Shell has spent $1.2 million on lobbying in Pennsylvania since 2011, and has secured supply contracts for up to 20 years, including from fracking companies extracting gas from the Marcellus shale field, the paper noted.
ExxonMobil’s upgrades to its Baton Rouge refinery in Louisiana, second-largest in the US, are benefiting from $118.9 million in state subsidies over 10 years. The credits started in 2011, when the company made a $41-billion profit. According to environmentalist groups, Louisiana’s Republican governor Bobby Jindal received over $1 million in contributions from oil and gas companies between 2003 and 2013.

According to the Guardian, the coal, oil and gas industries received $550 billion in subsidies globally in 2013, the most recent year for which figures are available. The World Trade Organization (WTO) defines tax credits as a form of subsidy.
Subsidies to fossil fuel companies are completely inappropriate in this day and age,” said Stephen Kretzmann of the NGO Oil Change International (OCI). A 2014 investigation by OCI concluded US taxpayers were subsidizing fossil fuel exploration and production to the tune of $21 billion a year, despite President Obama’s 2009 call to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies altogether.
Read more
Saudi Arabia announces biggest oil production surge in 30 years

Every single well, pipeline, refinery, coal and gas plant in the country is heavily subsidized. Big Fossil’s lobbyists have done their jobs well for the last century,” Kretzmann told the Guardian.
While Shell and Marathon have issued statements defending the arrangements as legal and legitimate, a spokesman for ExxonMobil said the company was refusing to respond to the Guardian’s inquiries “because of its lack of objectivity on climate change reporting demonstrated by its campaign against companies that provide energy necessary for modern life, including newspapers.”
The report on subsidies was published as part of the Guardian’s “Keep it in the ground” campaign, urging “the world's two biggest charitable funds to move their money out of fossil fuels.”

Derailed Amtrak train 100 mph on sharp curve - report The Amtrak train that derailed outside Philadelphia Tuesday night may have been going too fast, taking a sharp curve at over 100 mph. Federal investigators have recovered the black box from the wreckage, as the death toll rose to seven.
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​Most Israeli land tenders during peace talks were within Abbas’ swap proposal – ex-US negotiator David Makovsky, who was on John Kerry’s negotiating team in the 2013-2014 talks between Israel and the Palestinians, says Israel was at the time more “geographically cautious” with settlements than is widely thought.
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Dragoon Ride 2.0? US to reassure NATO allies with show-of-force war games in Romania Over 350 American soldiers and 80 US Army vehicles with US Air Force cover will begin a 400-kilometer march across Romania this week, signaling the start of multinational NATO war games in Romania.
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Here, piggie piggie: Pork-barrel spending is out, pig selfies are in for Sen. Jeff Flake Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) doesn’t like pork-barrel spending. And it turns out that pork doesn’t like him, either. After the annual “Congressional Pig Book” press conference, Flake tried to take a selfie with a pig. The pig wanted none of it.
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Google's 'accidental' evil robot army worries Elon Musk - book Technology entrepreneur Elon Musk is worried that internet giant Google could create an evil robot army bent on annihilating the human race - by accident.
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​Germany provides NSA with staggering 1.3bn pieces of metadata per month - report Germany's BND intelligence agency sends enormous amounts of phone and text data to the US National Security Agency (NSA) each month, Die Zeit Online reported, adding yet another layer to the spy scandal embroiling the German government.
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‘Ageing EU will need more migrants’ Over the next 30 years, the EU will need more migrants to fill gaps in its labor market, says Prof. Heaven Crawley, UK migration policy expert. The EU has a choice, to use the migrants’ influx for its own benefit or create barriers & stir up xenophobia.
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Vatican officially recognizes Palestine, while Israel fumes The Vatican has become the latest country to recognize the state of Palestine, after a new treaty was finalized on Wednesday. Unsurprisingly Israel has hit out at the move, saying that it damages prospects for peace in the region.
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Russia-NATO: Moscow mission sums up 25 years of myths vs reality Russia’s permanent mission to NATO has prepared a report summing up complicated relations between the alliance and Moscow over the last 25 years, which differs substantially from what the report calls NATO’s simplified “black and white” picture.
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Police can keep offenders’ DNA indefinitely, Supreme Court rules Britain’s highest court has ruled the indefinite retention of DNA profiles from convicted adults is not a breach of their right to privacy.
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​Ukraine begins anti-trust investigation into Gazprom Ukraine’s antitrust committee has started an investigation into Russian energy giant Gazprom over a possible violation of the Ukrainian competition legislation, said head of the committee Nikolay Barash.
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​ISIS nails hammered! NYC salon changes name to avoid terrorist supporter accusations The owner of a nail salon, “ISIS nails”, based in New York City has decided to change the name of her establishment. The woman says she keeps losing clients, while many suspect her of having links with the terrorist group.
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Asian nations take 5 top spots in major global school rankings The OECD has published the biggest ever global school rankings with Asian countries coming in the top five, in the first truly global survey of education standards.
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​‘Cameron strangling a nurse’ mural must be removed, orders council The owner of a 30 foot mural depicting the recently re-elected Tory Prime Minister David Cameron strangling an NHS nurse must remove it or potentially face prosecution.
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Single homeless people must be supported by local govt, Supreme Court rules The Supreme Court has found in a landmark ruling that English councils will have to provide housing and support to single people who are vulnerable and homeless.
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Chinese company wins $390mn contract to build Russian high-speed railway China Railway Group Ltd has won a $390 million contract to build the Moscow-Kazan high-speed railway which is to be further extended to China. The railway will become part of the new Silk Road project.
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UKIP/Green pact? Bennett doesn’t rule electoral reform collaboration Green Party leader Natalie Bennett has hinted her party could work with UKIP to secure meaningful electoral reform after Britain’s first past the post (FPTP) voting system delivered results unrepresentative of the parties’ genuine support.
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US spy concerns: ‘Multi-cultural society & national security can’t mix’ The US wants to have an international society and a nationally-oriented security apparatus at the same time, and innocent people get caught in a mix of this contradictory element within American society, Richard Spencer of told RT.
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