Steven Pifer: Settling Ukraine’s crisis


Residents walk past barbed wire at a checkpoint manned by pro-Russian armed separatist militants in Mariupol, on June 9, 2014.Residents walk past barbed wire at a checkpoint manned by pro-Russian armed separatist militants in Mariupol, on June 9, 2014. Ukraine launched delicate dual-track diplomatic negotiations with Russia today aimed at averting a debilitating gas cut and ending a bloody separatist insurgency by the end of the week. AFP PHOTO / DANIEL MIHAILESCU © AFP

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s inaugural speech on June 7 focused, not surprisingly, on healing Ukraine’s internal divisions and ending the separatist fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk.  He laid out ideas—government decentralization, a guarantee of Russian language use, respect for regional characteristics and early elections—that could appeal to many in Ukraine’s east.  He also reaffirmed Ukraine’s choice to draw closer to the European Union.

The president has promised an early visit to Donetsk.  That would present the ideal venue to lay out his thinking in detail.  He might elaborate these ideas and add a few others.

Government decentralization is needed. Political power in Ukraine has long been overly concentrated in Kyiv. Delegating some authority to regional and local governments makes sense in terms of more effective and efficient government—as well as governance that is more accountable to the citizens.  It would be useful for Poroshenko to put forward concrete proposals for decentralization, which may require constitutional reform. One obvious measure to consider is to make oblast governors popularly elected as opposed to appointed by the president.  It would also be sensible to transfer some budget authority to regional governments.

The president said that he would guarantee free usage of Russian language in the east.  The Rada’s hasty vote on Feb. 22 to strike down the 2012 language law that gave official status to Russian in certain regions caused great concern among Russian speakers, even though it was subsequently vetoed. Poroshenko now can articulate how he would guarantee Russian’s use without fear of discrimination or penalty.

The May 25 presidential election gave Poroshenko a strong democratic mandate, something that even Moscow appears to be acknowledging, albeit slowly. Early Rada elections would revalidate the democratic legitimacy of the parliamentary body as well.  If elections took place in Donetsk and Luhansk, they could select deputies representing those oblasts’ current mood, interests and concerns.

Kyiv’s foreign policy is of interest to many Ukrainians—and potentially controversial.  Many in the east do not want deeper ties with NATO.  How far Ukraine wishes to take its relationship with the Alliance is a decision for Kyiv and NATO.  Poroshenko appears interested in cooperation but has ruled out moving toward membership.

That is a sensible policy for three reasons.  Continue reading

Ukraine sees ‘understanding’ with Russia on peace moves


Pro-Russia activists holds Russian flags as he and others picket in front of pro-Ukraine supporters holding Ukrainian flags as they rally in the center of the eastern city of Donetsk on April 22, 2014.Pro-Russia activists holds Russian flags as he and others picket in front of pro-Ukraine supporters holding Ukrainian flags as they rally in the center of the eastern city of Donetsk on April 22, 2014. © AFP

Ukraine said on June 9 it had reached a “mutual understanding” with Moscow on parts of a plan proposed by President Petro Poroshenko for ending violence in the east of the country.

It gave no other details after a second day of talks on Poroshenko’s proposals for ending conflict in which scores of people, including pro-Russian separatist fighters and government forces, have been killed in east Ukraine since April.

“As a result of the work, the sides reached a mutual understanding on key stages of the implementation of the plan and on a list of priorities which will contribute to a de-escalation of the situation in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine,” the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said.

Moscow did not immediately comment.

The talks are being mediated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a security and human rights watchdog. At the first talks on Sunday, with Russian envoy Mikhail Zurabov, Poroshenko said violence must end this week.

The Foreign Ministry did not say who had attended Tuesday’s talks, but said the “contact group” would hold further meetings on the crisis, which has caused the worst standoff between Russia and the West since the Cold War ended.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Finland on Monday the new government in Ukraine and the European Union had to work more constructively to end the crisis.

“We don’t even know what is wanted from us. We are doing everything to resolve the Ukraine situation,” he said at a news conference with Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja after talks.

“I believe that the newly chosen Ukrainian President Poroshenko’s contacts (with western leaders) can lead to violence being stopped and internal dialogue beginning.”

Lavrov said the EU’s stance was not based on the best interests of its member states.

“It is not surprising that people call the EU stance unconstructive,” he said. “It seeks revenge.”

Since Poroshenko was elected president on May 25, the Ukrainian army has stepped up military operations to take back buildings seized by pro-Russian separatists in several towns and cities in mainly Russian-speaking east Ukraine.


(Writing by Timothy Heritage; additional reporting by; Sakari Suoninen; editing by Andrew Roche)

Reuters

Fracking: Dead Babies and Utah’s Carbon Bomb


Dead Babies and Utah's Carbon Bomb

Utah’s fracking epicenter has a big secret and they are doing all they can to keep Vernal, Utah Midwife, Donna Young, from voicing her concerns.

“What is going on in Utah’s Uinta Basin to explain newborn babies dying? An abrupt surge in teenage mothers, drug, alcohol use? No evidence of that. Is there a genetic explanation? Genes don’t change that quickly. Is there a sudden onset of medical incompetence by the area’s health-care providers? No reason to think so. That leaves one other possibility. Is there something happening in the environment? As a matter of fact, yes.”–

Read the full story here

Metal Studs Treat The Homeless ‘Like Animals’



Metal studs installed to stop homeless people from sleeping outside private flats in London have been described as “brutal” by a homelessness charity.

Residents at the block on Southwark Bridge Road said they appeared a few weeks ago after someone had been sleeping rough there.

In reaction, Howard Sinclair, Chief Executive of St Mungo’s Broadway, said: “Each year our teams, in Southwark and elsewhere, help thousands of people off the streets.

“Part of their role is to prevent people adopting a street lifestyle which, on occasions, means adapting the physical environment to prevent people sleeping rough in a particular location on a regular basis. These ‘studs’ appear a rather brutal way of doing just that.”

The studs are intended to prevent rough sleepers from using the doorwayThe studs are intended to prevent rough sleepers from using the doorway

Its not clear who ordered them and if they are solely to deter rough sleepers but their installation has sparked an angry reaction.

Emi Takehara lives in the block and told Sky News: “I feel really uncomfortable having these spikes in front of my home. It’s like treating these homeless people like animals.”  Continue reading

Pride Season

Pride Around The World 2014 #pride2014


Amsterdam Pride

By Bayardo Barrios and Michael W. Sasser at Wire Magazine

Although the LGBT community worldwide recognizes New York City’s 1969 Stonewall riots as the beginning of the struggle for LGBT rights, that doesn’t mean that Pride celebrations are limited to North America.

All across the world, LGBT communities recognize the importance of the days when gays and lesbians in New York stood up and told the establishment that they would no longer be treated as second-class citizens, as criminals or as threats to society.

The recollection of Stonewall resounds all over the globe, as demonstrated by the timing of Pride celebrations around the world and the many that specifically name the Stonewall uprising as their impetus.

Gay Pride events abound in the world today, from nations where being gay is a crime to the most progressive cities on Earth.  Continue reading