Tag Archives: Germany

#MH17: Stronger western sanctions on Russia likely within 48 hours


 and 
Memorial outside Schiphol airport to the 289 dead of flight MH17, apparently shot down by fighters endorsed by Vladimir Putin's regime. Photograph: Sipa USA/REXMemorial outside Schiphol airport to the 289 dead of flight MH17, apparently shot down by fighters endorsed by Vladimir Putin’s regime. Photograph: Sipa USA/REX

Russia is expected to be hit with further sanctions on Tuesday after the US, Britain, France, Germany and Italy called for tougher action against the regime they believe is still shipping weapons into Ukraine despite the MH17 airliner disaster.

The western nations called on the European Union to impose new restrictions on trade with Russia’s defence, banking and hi-tech energy sectors, adding to existing asset freezes and travel bans on a list of people linked to the Kremlin.

New penalties are likely to be agreed at a meeting of ambassadors from all the EU’s 28 member states and could come into force within 24 to 48 hours. The US has already imposed similar trade sanctions and will now strengthen them, amid concerns among western nations that Moscow could still launch a full-scale cross-border intervention in Ukraine.

The joint call for Brussels to stand up to Vladimir Putin was agreed during a video conference between Barack Obama, David Cameron, President François Hollande of France, Italy’s prime minster, Matteo Renzi, and Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel.

In a further warning to Russia, some Nato countries are sending troops to Poland in October to take part in a military display called Exercise Black Eagle. Britain is contributing more than 1,300 soldiers to the exercise, which Michael Fallon, the new defence secretary, said was a sign of support for the country’s allies in eastern Europe.

On Tuesday, Cameron will also meet families of some of the British victims of the disaster to express his condolences at a time when rebels are still blocking international experts from reaching the crash site.

There has been a significant toughening in the rhetoric against Russia in recent days over its suspected role in arming pro-Putin separatists in eastern Ukraine. Putin’s government denies any responsibility for the shooting down of Malaysian airliner MH17, killing 295 people. However, the UK, US and Ukraine have all said they suspect it was downed accidentally by rebels using a Soviet-era Buk missile.

Following the leaders’ video call, No 10 said the discussion had focused on “Russia’s ongoing efforts to destabilise Ukraine” and agreed that the immediate priority must be to secure unrestricted access to the MH17 crash site.

Downing Street said it agreed that Russia had “failed to take the steps necessary to de-escalate the crisis, such as ceasing support for the separatists; stopping the flow of weapons across the border; and using its influence to ensure the release of hostages.

“Indeed the latest information from the region suggests that even since MH17 was shot down, Russia continues to transfer weapons across the border and to provide practical support to the separatists.”

Tony Blinken, a national security adviser to Obama, also said European leaders had made clear their determination to act. He added: “We expect the European Union to take significant additional steps this week, including in key sectors of the Russian economy. In turn, and in full coordination with Europe, the United States will implement additional measures itself.”

The US indicated that the EU was also looking at broadening its criteria for sanctioning individuals in order, Blinken said, to “bring in some of the cronies of President Putin”. Blinken argued that the existing sanctions regime had already produced major strategic gains in Ukraine, leading to a new government and the signing of the EU association agreement.

However, he said US intelligence assessments indicated that Moscow continued to transfer heavy weaponry and fighters across the border and to aid pro-Russian separatists, and had stationed Russian troops near the border. He described Putin’s strategy as one of “doubling down” on support for separatist fighters.

Before the meeting, Russia said it would not retaliate with sanctions of its own or “fall into hysterics”. Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister, said the penalties could even make the country “more independent and more confident in our own strength”.

“I assure you, we will overcome any difficulties that may arise in certain areas of the economy,” he said. “We can’t ignore it. But to fall into hysterics and respond to a blow with a blow is not worthy of a major country.”

He also denied Russian involvement in the Ukraine conflict and called for “honest, open participation of all those who have access to information about the crash”.

“Anything else we will consider as deceitful attempts to influence the investigation, putting presumption of innocence in doubt,” he said.

“I don’t want to throw accusations in advance, but I expect that no one will try to cover up evidence.”

The Guardian.

BBC News Magazine: The ship that totally failed to change the world


By Tammy Thueringer & Justin Parkinson
NS Savannah
Fifty years ago the world’s first nuclear-powered cargo-passenger ship sailed from the US to Europe on a publicity tour to persuade the world to embrace the atomic age. It didn’t quite work out like that.

Sleek in shape, painted red and white, its interior decorated in what was then ultra-modern chrome, the NS Savannah wasn’t quite like any other cargo ship.

It had facilities for passengers. The 600ft, 12,000-ton ship boasted a cinema, veranda bar and swimming pool. The cabins had no curtains. Instead, “polarised” windows, designed to cut glare, lined the sides of staterooms.

The ship was one of the few to spring directly from the imagination of a US president. In 1953, Dwight Eisenhower had made his famous Atoms for Peace speech, attempting to balance the growing fear of nuclear apocalypse with optimism about the possibility of civilian use of atomic energy.

And he wanted an atomic ship. A civilian one.

NS Savannah, 1962“A very attractive ship”: The NS Savannah, pictured in 1962

The NS Savannah, which cost $50m, was launched 55 years ago this week. It was to be an ambassador of sorts – the world’s first nuclear-propelled merchant ship and a symbol of safety and faith in the fuel of the future.

Stan Wheatley was one of those who was excited to be working on the ship. He was in the shipyard while the Savannah was built and served as the chief engineer on its maiden voyage. “The nuclear power system was a prototype, no question, but we were all trained well.”

Everyone was aware the ship was supposed to be a beautiful advertisement for nuclear energy.

“It represented the best-looking ship around and it still is a very attractive ship,” says Wheatley, now a member of the Savannah Association which works to preserve and protect the decommissioned ship that now sits at a port in Baltimore, Maryland.

Inside the NS Savannah's stateroomInside the NS Savannah’s stateroom
The Savannah's control roomThe Savannah’s control room
View from the Savannah's bridgeView from the Savannah’s bridge Continue reading

Bus crash in Germany leaves several dead and scores injured


The crash was near the city of Dresden. Photograph: Matthias Rietschel/APThe crash was near the city of Dresden. Photograph: Matthias Rietschel/AP

Nine people have died and 40 injured when several buses crashed on a German motorway, near the eastern city of Dresden.

The crash, which occurred about 2am local time on Saturday, involved a Polish coach, a Ukrainian coach and a Polish minibus, said police spokesman Lutz Zoellner. He was unable to immediately provide details about the victims.

The German public broadcaster MDR reported that seven of those killed were traveling in the minibus.

Citing a preliminary police report, MDR said the Polish coach hit the rear of the Ukrainian coach and then broke through the median barrier, crashing into the oncoming minibus.

The Guardian.

Forbes: #Russian #Escalation #Imminent As #Merkel Plays The Peace Card For #Putin


“Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact No. 2.”Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact No. 2. © facebook.com

Germany’s Angela Merkel has the reputation of a level-headed pragmatist, who grew up under communism, and understands Putin’s KGB Weltanschauung. True, she is constrained by a coterie of German Putin Versteher, who, due to financial and ideological interests, take Russia’s side in the battle for Ukraine. Merkel regrettably has taken to serving as Putin’s useful fool with her incessant demands for a peace settlement with separatist leaders before Ukraine, supposedly, lunges out of control. Putin has lobbied hard to stop Ukraine’s Anti-Terrorist Operation. He seems to have found an ally in Merkel. I must agree with the conclusion of the blogger, Streetwise Professor: If Angela Merkel is the Bad Cop, Putin Has It Made.

Ukraine understands that Putin used the last cease fire to re-equip and fortify pro-Russian separatists. With Ukraine’s Anti-Terrorist Operation tightening the noose in Donetsk and Luhansk, by-stander Europe has no business pushing for a deal with “peace maker” Putin that he will never honor. For Putin, a cease fire is just a tactical trick to gain advantage.

For the last two months, I ruled out a Russian invasion of east Ukraine. (See Miles Apart and No Peace in Sight.) I felt that Russian troops on Ukrainian soil – as opposed to disguised mercenaries – would unleash biting sanctions and even military assistance that would be too costly for Putin to bear. I wrote encouragingly that the West, especially NATO, now more clearly understands that Putin wants a frozen war that leaves Ukraine permanently destabilized. However, now I suspect that Europe simply wants the Ukrainian problem to go away and is prepared to tolerate virtually any Putin malfeasance, short of regular troops entering the streets of Kiev. Putin, better than anyone, understands that sanctions are just cheap talk.

With the Ukrainian army tightening the noose around pro-Russian separatist forces, Putin is playing the peace card to the hilt, playing on the humanitarian concerns of a pacifist Europe, while escalating violence to what he perceives to be the limits of European tolerance. Following past patterns, Putin will up the ante when he is abroad. (Don’t you see: Putin had nothing to do with this. He is in Brazil, they will say.) Putin is ominously touring Latin America – an ideal time to strike Ukraine. Continue reading

Use privacy services? The NSA is probably tracking you


NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, MarylandNSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland: Wikimedia Commons

If you use Tor or any of a number of other privacy services online or even visit their web sites to read about the services, there’s a good chance your IP address has been collected and stored by the NSA, according to top-secret source code for a programme the NSA uses to conduct internet surveillance. There’s also a good chance you’ve been tagged for simply reading news articles about these services published by Wired and other sites. This is according to code, obtained and analysed by journalists and others in Germany, which for the first time reveals the extent of some of the widespread tracking the NSA conducts on people using or interested in using privatising tools and services — a list that includes journalists and their sources, human rights activists, political dissidents living under oppressive countries and many others who have various reasons for needing to shield their identity and their online activity.

The source code, for the NSA system known as XKeyscore, is used in the collection and analysis of internet traffic, and reveals that simply searching the web for privacy tools online is enough to get the NSA to label you an “extremist” and target your IP address for inclusion in its database.

But the NSA’s analysis isn’t limited to tracking metadata like IP addresses. The system also conducts deep-packet inspection of emails that users exchange with the Tor anonymising service to obtain information that Tor conveys to users of so-called Tor “bridges.” Legal experts say the widespread targeting of people engaged in constitutionally protected activity like visiting web sites and reading articles, raises questions about the legal authority the NSA is using to track users in this way.

“Under [the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] there are numerous places where it says you shouldn’t be targeting people on the basis of activities protected by the First Amendment,” says Kurt Opsahl, deputy general counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “I can’t see how this activity could have been properly authorised under FISA. This is suggesting then that they have come up with some other theory of authorizing this.” The findings also contradict NSA longstanding claims that its surveillance targets only those suspected of engaging in activity that threatens national security.

“They say ‘We’re not doing indiscriminate searches,’ but this is indiscriminate,” Opsahl notes. “It’s saying that anyone who is looking for those various [services] are suspicious persons.”  Continue reading