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Most of the Ukrainian Military in Crimea Expected to Join Russia Military

Via McClatchy:

Ukraine’s interim defense minister resigned Tuesday, citing the shame of losing Crimea to Russia during his one month in office.

A short time later, the Ukrainian parliament voted in an interim replacement, a colonel-general who earlier this month was briefly kidnapped from his post in Crimea.

The departure of Ihor Tenyukh, a politician who belongs to the right-wing Svoboda party, and his replacement by Col. Gen. Mykhailo Koval, a top officer in the country’s border protection service, came as the depth of the defeat in Crimea _ and Ukraine’s inability to respond to the crisis _ continued to come into focus.

The Defense Ministry said it expected only 4,300 of the 18,000 troops who were stationed in Crimea to remain in the Ukrainian military _ less than 24 percent. Others said they expected that most of the rest would join the Russian army, which has offered much higher pay and more generous retirement benefits to any Ukrainian soldier who switches sides.

“They are Russian, and they will serve Russia,” said Sergey Kunitsyn, a former mayor of Sevastopol in Crimea who’s now a member of parliament representing the region. “What else would they do? They speak Russian. Their heritage is Russian. They accept Russian culture. Their loyalty was to Crimea, not Ukraine.”. . .

How soon until East Ukraine is created? I say by July. - Greg Pollowitz

Copenhagen Zoo Kills 4 Lions

Via CNN:

 A Danish zoo that made international headlines last month when it killed a healthy giraffe is once again in the news after it killed four lions to make way for a new male.

The lions were killed Monday, said Tobias Stenbaek Bro, a spokesman for the Copenhagen Zoo.

Two of those were young lions that were not old enough to survive by themselves and would have been killed by the new male lion if it had the chance, Bro told CNN. He said the zoo had tried to place them elsewhere, “but unfortunately there wasn’t any interest.”

The other two are the youngsters’ parents, described by the Copenhagen Zoo as a “very old” breeding pair.

The new male lion was brought from Givskud Zoo, also in Denmark, to form a breeding group with the Copenhagen Zoo’s two 18-month-old females, born on site in 2012. . .

These are the same lions that got to eat the giraffe this zoo killed about a month ago. I wonder which animal at the zoo gets to eat these lions? - Greg Pollowitz
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Girl Shaves Head to Support Her Friend with Cancer, Gets Suspended

Via NBC News 9:

It was meant as a gesture of solidarity: a girl in Grand Junction shaved her head to support her friend, who is battling cancer. However, family members say the girl’s school didn’t see it that way and said it violated the dress code policy. Now, what started as a simple gesture is turning into a battle over whether hair should matter in school.

For the two girls on the playground, though, Monday afternoon was all about sharing fun in the sun and sporting matching bald heads.

“It felt like the right thing to do,” Kamryn Renfro said.

With her parents’ permission, Kamryn shaved her head in support of her cancer-stricken friend, 11-year-old Delaney Clements. She lost her hair because she is undergoing chemotherapy in her fight against neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer.

Delaney loved what her friend did.

“It made me feel very special and that I’m not alone,” she said.

However, when Kamryn tried to go back to school at Caprock Academy in Grand Junction this week, she wasn’t allowed in. Turns out, having a shaved head is a violation of the school’s dress code policy. Delaney’s mom, Wendy Campbell, couldn’t believe it. . .

You don't suspend a kid who support her friend like this -- you give her an award. What idiot is running this school? - Greg Pollowitz

How Investigators Determined Flight 370 Flew South

Via CNN:

Monday’s announcement by Malaysia’s Prime Minister acknowledging that missing Flight 370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean opens the door to a big question: How did new number crunching confirm the Boeing 777’s path?

Now we know for sure “there’s no way it went north,” said Inmarsat Senior Vice President Chris McLaughlin.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Monday that the plane was last tracked over the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth, Australia. Malaysian Airlines has informed passengers’ relatives that “all lives are lost,” a relative told CNN.

Monday’s announcement brings new questions about the mystery that has captivated the planet for more than two weeks. It also provoked a call that all airliners be constantly tracked.

The mathematics-based process used by Inmarsat and the UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) to reveal the definitive path was described by McLaughlin as “groundbreaking.”

The mathematics-based process used by Inmarsat and the UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) to reveal the definitive path was described by McLaughlin as “groundbreaking.”

“We’ve done something new,” he said.

Here’s how the process works in a nutshell: Inmarsat officials and engineers were able to determine whether the plane was flying away or toward the satellite’s location by expansion or compression of the satellite’s signal. . .

This is the best explanation so far that I've seen. - Greg Pollowitz

Venezuela Moves to ‘Tame’ Black-Market Dollar Trading

Via Reuters:

Venezuela launched a new free-floating foreign exchange system on Monday that offered dollars for eight times the official price in a move the government says will tame the black market but which critics see as a massive devaluation.

The central bank said the price for dollars on the inaugural day of the Sicad 2 system was 51.8 bolivars. Private bank operators who took part said demand was high but offers thin.

The new platform added a third state-sanctioned exchange rate to the South American OPEC member’s 11-year-old currency controls, with dollars selling at 6.3 bolivars for preferential goods and around 11 bolivars for other items. . .

- Greg Pollowitz
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Mayor de Blasio to NYC’s Bike-Share Program: Drop Dead

Via New York Post:

Citi Bike honchos need tens of millions of dollars to save the struggling bicycle-share program — but Mayor de Blasio said Friday that it won’t come from the wallets of New York City taxpayers.

“At this point, city budget money is not on the table,” he said. “We will collaborate with them to help them find ways to be more efficient and more effective.”

The program was launched last year with a promise from Mayor Michael Bloomberg that it would not require public funding.

But lawsuits, glitches and a lack of use have made Citi Bike’s first year a rough ride — and the program needs a small fortune to stay in business, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday. . .

Good for the mayor. More here from Jillian Kay Melchior in the Corner.

- Greg Pollowitz

Hawaii Cops Want To Keep Exemption That Lets Them Sleep with Prostitutes

Via ABC News:

Honolulu police officers have urged lawmakers to keep an exemption in state law that allows undercover officers to have sex with prostitutes during investigations, touching off a heated debate.

Authorities say they need the legal protection to catch lawbreakers in the act. Critics, including human trafficking experts and other police, say it’s unnecessary and could further victimize sex workers, many of whom have been forced into the trade.

Police haven’t said how often — or even if — they use the provision. And when they asked legislators to preserve it, they made assurances that internal policies and procedures are in place to prevent officers from taking advantage of it.

But expert Derek Marsh says the exemption is “antiquated at best” and that police can easily do without it.

“It doesn’t help your case, and at worst you further traumatize someone. And do you think he or she is going to trust a cop again?” asked Marsh, who trains California police in best practices on human trafficking cases and twice has testified to Congress about the issue. . .

No, cops don't need this law. - Greg Pollowitz

Sean Penn Offering Acting Classes in Venezuela

Via Various Sources:

[GP] I was putting together some updates on Venezuela and Ukraine and came across this gem of a story. . .

– CNN Latino: Sean Penn to offer government sponsored acting classes in Venezuela

Venezuelan acting students will have the opportunity to get some helpful hints from someone who sure knows the craft – Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn.

The country’s President Nicolas Maduro announced recently the “Milk” actor would be offering classes to students through the Foundation La Villa Del Cine in Caracas, according to a statement on the government’s official website.

The announcement came after he finalized a meeting at the government palace of Miraflores with Penn and Haiti’s Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe.

. . .Wonderful. And in other news. . .

Venezuela

– CNN: Death toll climbs as protests still rage in Venezuela

– EconomistSupport among the poor for the government of Nicolás Maduro is conditional

Ukraine 

– AP: Russian upper house approves Crimea annexation

– BBC: EU signs association deal with Ukraine

– TimePutin – No need for further retaliation against U.S.

 

- Greg Pollowitz

End of the World: GOP Now Using Hipsters in Ads

Via YouTube:

Who is the target of this ad? It's as dumb as the Obamacare "onesie" ad. - Greg Pollowitz

Opposition Mayors Targeted in Venezuela

Via the A.P.:

Venezuelan intelligence agents on Wednesday arrested the opposition mayor of the western city of San Cristobal, which has been a crucible of anti-government resistance and spawned the current wave of protests.

Then, hours later, the Supreme Court announced that the opposition mayor of San Diego, Enzo Scarano, would be removed from his post and serve 10 months and 15 days in prison for disobeying a March 12 court order to keep protesters from barricading streets in his city.

The mayors joined opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who is being held on charges of arson and conspiracy, as leading government opponents jailed by President Nicolas Maduro’s administration since the unrest began last month.

The arrest of San Cristobal Mayor Daniel Ceballos was made in Caracas hotel by agents from the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service, known by its Spanish initials SEBIN, according to his aide, Ronni Pavolini.

Ceballos, who was in Caracas for a meeting of opposition mayors, had been outspoken in his criticism of what he called repression by security forces in his city. . .

While we focus on Ukraine and the missing plane, Venezuela goes uncovered and un-addressed by the president. - Greg Pollowitz

Science: Tequila Might Help You Lose Weight

Via Time:

A shot of tequila is not exactly part of a balanced diet, but sugars found within it could offer health benefits to the obese and diabetes sufferers

Sugars found in the plant that makes tequila could lower blood glucose levels for people with type 2 diabetes, and help obese people lose weight, researchers say.

A type of natural sugar called agavins come from the agave plant, which can be used to make tequila. These sugars (which are not the same as in the more commonly known agave syrup) are non-digestible and do not raise blood sugar, according to Mexican researchers.

In new research, the team of scientists fed mice a standard diet, and added agavins to some of their water. They discovered that the mice who consumed agavins ate less overall and had lower blood glucose levels. The effects were stronger than other artificial sweeteners like aspartame and agave syrup. The mice consuming agavins also produced a hormone called GLP-1 that keeps the stomach full longer and produces insulin, which is another reason it could be beneficial for people with diabetes and weight issues. . .

Maybe tequila can counteract the weight gain from marijuana? - Greg Pollowitz

Text of New Executive Order with Sanctions on Russia, Ukraine

Via the White House:

BLOCKING PROPERTY OF ADDITIONAL PERSONS CONTRIBUTING 

TO THE SITUATION IN UKRAINE

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) (NEA), section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (8 U.S.C. 1182(f)), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code,

I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, hereby expand the scope of the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13660 of March 6, 2014, finding that the actions and policies of the Government of the Russian Federation with respect to Ukraine — including the recent deployment of Russian Federation military forces in the Crimea region of Ukraine — undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets, and thereby constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. Accordingly, I hereby order:

Section 1. (a) All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person (including any foreign branch) of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in:

(i) the persons listed in the Annex to this order; and

(ii) persons determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State:

(A) to be an official of the Government of the Russian Federation;

(B) to operate in the arms or related materiel sector in the Russian Federation;

(C) to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly:

(1) a senior official of the Government of the Russian Federation; or

(2) a person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; or

(D) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of:

(1) a senior official of the Government of the Russian Federation; or

(2) a person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.

(b) The prohibitions in subsection (a) of this section apply except to the extent provided by statutes, or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the effective date of this order.

Sec. 2. I hereby find that the unrestricted immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens determined to meet one or more of the criteria in section 1(a) of this order would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of such persons. Such persons shall be treated as persons covered by section 1 of Proclamation 8693 of July 24, 2011 (Suspension of Entry of Aliens Subject to United Nations Security Council Travel Bans and International Emergency Economic Powers Act Sanctions).

Sec. 3. I hereby determine that the making of donations of the type of articles specified in section 203(b)(2) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(2)) by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to section 1 of this order would seriously impair my ability to deal with the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13660, and I hereby prohibit such donations as provided by section 1 of this order.

Sec. 4. The prohibitions in section 1 of this order include but are not limited to:

(a) the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; and

(b) the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.

Sec. 5. (a) Any transaction that evades or avoids, has the purpose of evading or avoiding, causes a violation of, or attempts to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.

(b) Any conspiracy formed to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.

Sec. 6. For the purposes of this order:

(a) the term “person” means an individual or entity;

(b) the term “entity” means a partnership, association, trust, joint venture, corporation, group, subgroup, or other organization;

(c) the term “United States person” means any United States citizen, permanent resident alien, entity organized under the laws of the United States or any jurisdiction within the United States (including foreign branches), or any person in the United States; and

(d) the term the “Government of the Russian Federation” means the Government of the Russian Federation, any political subdivision, agency, or instrumentality thereof, including the Central Bank of the Government of the Russian Federation, and any person owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of, the Government of the Russian Federation.

Sec. 7. For those persons whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order who might have a constitutional presence in the United States, I find that because of the ability to transfer funds or other assets instantaneously, prior notice to such persons of measures to be taken pursuant to this order would render those measures ineffectual. I therefore determine that for these measures to be effective in addressing the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13660, there need be no prior notice of a listing or determination made pursuant to section 1 of this order.

Sec. 8. The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, is hereby authorized to take such actions, including the promulgation of rules and regulations, and to employ all powers granted to the President by IEEPA, as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of this order. The Secretary of the Treasury may redelegate any of these functions to other officers and agencies of the United States Government consistent with applicable law. All agencies of the United States Government are hereby directed to take all appropriate measures within their authority to carry out the provisions of this order.

Sec. 9. The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, is hereby authorized to determine that circumstances no longer warrant the blocking of the property and interests in property of a person listed in the Annex to this order, and to take necessary action to give effect to that determination.

Sec. 10. This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

Sec. 11. This order is effective at 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on March 17, 2014.

BARACK OBAMA

- Greg Pollowitz

Flight 370 Updates

Via CNN:

As investigators search for clues to unravel the mystery of where Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went, there were several key developments over the weekend.

But major questions still remain.

Here’s a cheat sheet to help you get up to speed on the latest developments:

Where are investigators searching now?

The search has expanded to cover large swaths of land and sea, including 11 countries and deep oceans. Where the plane went is anybody’s guess. As 26 nations help try to find the missing plane, there’s also a process of elimination in which investigators try to piece together where the aircraft isn’t. Pakistan said Sunday that the plane never showed up on its civilian radars and would have been treated as a threat if it had. The Times of India reported that India’s military also said there was no way the plane could have flown over India without being picked up on radar. . .

- Greg Pollowitz

4.4 Earthquake Strikes Near Westwood, Calif.

Via Los Angeles Times:

. . .The USGS downgraded the quake to a 4.4 magntude. A spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department said there were no immediate reports of any damage or injuries. A spokeswoman from the Los Angeles Police Department also had no reports of damage.

Updated at 6:46 a.m.

The quake was felt most strongly in the Valley and Westside. According to the USGS “Did You Feel It” service, people reported feeling shaking as far east as Perris and as far south as San Clemente.

According to the USGS, the epicenter was six miles from Beverly Hills, seven miles from Universal City and seven miles from Santa Monica.

In the past 10 days, there have been no earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater centered nearby. . .

- Greg Pollowitz

Uh-Oh: Slowdown in Health-Care Costs Might Be Temporary

Via California Healthline:

Ignore the Hype: Health Care’s ‘Cost Disease’ Hasn’t Been Cured.

. . .Not every prominent economist subscribes to Baumol’s theory of cost disease. Tyler Cowen, editor of Marginal Revolution, has long argued that organizations and regulation are as much to blame as the product itself.

“My view was [and] is that cost disease is not intrinsic in a particular sector,” Cowen tells California Healthline.

But Cowen acknowledges that a slowdown, “almost by definition …is temporary.” (Although temporary “may be good enough,” he adds.)

Meanwhile, we shouldn’t rush to declare that the cost curve has been cured, Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman wrote last week.

“The more the nation believes the health cost problem is solved,” Altman warned, “the less likely we are to keep the pressure on to try new, more innovative, and perhaps more painful cost control strategies.” 

Note: I've excerpted just the conclusion above and the whole piece is well worth a read. - Greg Pollowitz

Report: Flt. 380 Was in the Air for ‘About Four Hours’ After Losing Contact

Via Wall Street Journal:

U.S. investigators suspect that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 stayed in the air for about four hours past the time it reached its last confirmed location, according to two people familiar with the details, raising the possibility that the plane could have flown on for hundreds of additional miles under conditions that remain murky.

Aviation investigators and national security officials believe the plane flew for a total of five hours, based on data automatically downloaded and sent to the ground from the Boeing Co. 777’s engines as part of a routine maintenance and monitoring program.

That raises a host of new questions and possibilities about what happened aboard the widebody jet carrying  239 people, which vanished from civilian air-traffic control radar over the weekend, about one hour into a flight to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. . .

- Greg Pollowitz

Valerie Jarrett Met with Funny or Die in September

Via CNN:

. . .Mike Farah, president of production at the company and executive producer of “Between Two Ferns,” told CNN he’d always wanted to do something with Obama since he started working at the company.

That opportunity came knocking when the White House invited celebrities last July to discuss ways to promote Obamacare, as the open enrollment launch date of October 1 was approaching and the law’s success depends on having at least 40% of its enrollees comprised of people between the ages of 18 and 34.

A couple months later, singer and actress Jennifer Hudson teamed up with Funny or Die to release a video on the eve of the Obamacare website rollout, parodying the popular ABC program “Scandal.”

4.2 million have signed up for Obamacare

Keeping in touch with the White House, Farah said Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett flew out to Los Angeles in September for a meeting with Funny or Die, where they floated the idea of doing an episode of “Between Two Ferns” with the President.

Fast forward to late February: a Funny or Die team came to Washington to film the segment. With the March 31 deadline to enroll in Obamacare fast approaching, Farah said the President wanted to get “more personally involved.” . . .

- Greg Pollowitz

Poll: Americans Least Worried about Climate Change and Race Relations

Via Gallup:

GP: Well, there go a whole bunch of Democratic talking points. . .

- Greg Pollowitz

Flight 370 Updates

Report: Flt. 370’s Last Position Was Over The Malacca Strait

Via AP:

The Malaysian military has radar data showing the missing Boeing 777 jetliner changed course and made it to the Malacca Strait, hundreds of kilometers (miles) from the last position recorded by civilian authorities, according to a senior military official.

The development injects more mystery into the investigation of the disappearance of Saturday’s flight, and raises questions about why the aircraft was not transmitting signals detectable by civilian radar.

Local newspaper Berita Harian quoted Malaysian air force chief Gen. Rodzali Daud as saying radar at a military base had detected the airliner at 2:40 a.m. near Pulau Perak at the northern approach to the strait, a busy waterway that separates the western coast of Malaysia and Indonesia’s Sumatra island. . .

So they've been searching in the wrong place. - Greg Pollowitz

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