After spending the winter far apart in Eastern Sudan and Western Saudi Arabia respectively, Boris and Irina (two of our satellite-tagged Sociable Lapwings) have apparently reunited in Azerbaijan during their long journeys home to Kazakhstan: here.
This video from the USA says about itself:
Mila Kunis Attacked With Anti-Semitic Slur
21 December 2012
“Mila Kunis is the target of an anti-Semitic attack unleashed by a Ukrainian politician.
Ukrainian lawmaker Igor Miroshnichenko
targeted Kunis in an anti-Semitic Facebook post saying that the actress is not a true Ukrainian because she is a “zhydovka,” according to TMZ. The term “zhydovka,” which translates roughly to “dirty Jewess,” has been used as a slur against Jewish people since at least the time of the Holocaust.”*
Actress Mila Kunis is the target of anti-Semitic slurs from a Ukrainian politician, Igor Miroshnichenko. Rabbis are saying Kunis is owed an apology. What would spurn such a strange, hateful attack on her? Cenk Uygur, Ana Kasparian, and Ben Mankiewicz (Host, Turner Classic Movies) break it down.
*Read more from Huffington Post: here.
By Jeremy Corbyn in Britain:
A monopoly on expansion
Thursday 3rd April 2014
Figures produced recently by the Stockholm Research Institute show that military expenditure in 2012 put the United States at 39 per cent of the whole world, followed by China on 9.5, Russia 5.2, Britain 3.5, Japan 3.4 and the next 10 countries at 21.2 per cent. The remainder of the world, namely over 175 countries, made up 18.2 per cent.
World military spending has now reached $1 trillion with the US and Russia supplying over half the world’s armed exports. The US makes up 29 percent of the world’s shipments followed by Russia with 27 per cent. Britain is fourth in the top 10 with arms exports totalling $4bn. In the context of the crises in the Ukraine there have been many demands for increased expenditure as a way of resolving the issue.
While no-one can endorse any country invading another, and any Russian military occupation of the Ukraine cannot be condoned, it does appear as though the government of the Ukraine and western Europe have virtually accepted Crimea’s transfer to Russia. One hopes that there will be attention paid to the situation facing minorities in Crimea, such as the Tartars, as much as protection of minorities in Ukraine.
However, in the wider context, we have to see the current crisis as the culmination of 20 years of a relentless Nato expansion eastwards, and increasingly bellicose statements from the retiring Nato secretary general Anders Rasmussen, who seems to have no sense of irony in his condemnation of Russia’s behaviour in central Europe while at the same time, he has happily presided over Nato activities in Afghanistan and its colonial adventures all over the Middle East and north Africa, particularly in supporting the bombing campaign in Libya and the French intervention in Mali.
On the back of the Ukraine crisis, Nato and Rasmussen seem to be just as opportunist as the US was after September 11 2001. Bush used the crisis of 2001 to vastly increase US arms expenditure and promote bases all across the world. Nato is now trying to develop permanent bases all over eastern Europe, including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, and are mounting enormous military exercises with surveillance aircraft and war games all along the border with Russia. While William Hague claimed that there was no intention of Ukraine joining Nato, the formalities of membership make little difference to the reality that the new government in Kiev, having accepted a massive and highly conditional loan, is now part of the whole Nato military structure.
Whilst the US is happy to send troops all over the region, including a recent deployment of 600 to the Mihail Kogalniceanu base in Romania, European countries, especially Germany, are extremely wary of doing anything that would increase tensions with Russia.
At the end of the cold war in 1990/1, Nato was essentially a redundant force. As the Warsaw Pact rapidly dissolved itself, Nato should have done the same and disputes and issues in Europe and could and should have been resolved through the peaceful Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. An interesting combination of military think tanks, the Nato high command, and global arms suppliers kept the spirit of Nato and its cold war background alive. The 2010 Lisbon Nato summit, and later the Chicago summit of 2012, expanded the alliance’s operational area and gave unto itself a global role, while at the same time establishing a formal link with the European Union.
This formal link requires all Nato members to meet a high minimum level of arms expenditure and preparedness to supply troops and equipment to any conflict that Nato requires, and this has dragged many unwillingly into Afghanistan as well as the danger of other potential conflicts.
Another trend is that Nato member states increasingly do not require large numbers of armed personnel, but very expensive and sophisticated military equipment, in order to defend the economic interests of the West.
In Britain, the debate about our role in the world is often confused with delusions of imperial grandeur and a strange supposition that influence only comes from military expenditure. Last August, Parliament, surprisingly, voted not to intervene militarily in Syria. This brought about a welcome round of negotiations between the US and Russia, as well as an agreement on nuclear processing with Iran. Sadly, the crisis in the Ukraine has once again put the hawks in the driving seat. The essential thing now is to halt Nato expansion, and promote bi-lateral talks with Russia that will reduce military expenditure and bases on both sides of the borders.
For the labour movement in Britain, there is an important debate to be had. Blair disgracefully led the last government into war in Afghanistan and Iraq and fulfilled the traditional British post-WWII position of always supporting the US in foreign policy and military matters. The next government will be faced with the decision on Trident, with the opportunity not to renew it and thus be able to redirect £100bn into something eminently more useful than nuclear weapons. This is not an issue to be avoided, but to be confronted because of austerity and the strange sense of priorities of some who believe that spending £100bn on the vanity project of new nuclear weapons is more important than schools, hospitals, houses and railways.
However, when one looks back at the history of post-war foreign policy, on January 22 1948 in the House of Commons, Ernie Bevin set out his vision of the West, and Europe, saying: “Europe has extended its influence throughout the world and we have to look further afield. In the first place we turn our eyes to Africa, where great responsibilities are shared with us by South Africa, France, Belgium and Portugal, and equally to all overseas territories, especially South East Asia with which the Dutch are closely concerned.”
Bevin showed no touch of irony when in 1948 South Africa had just embarked on its course of apartheid and Britain was involved in suppressing colonial freedom movements, and had just collaborated with the Dutch in suppressing the Indonesian independence movement which grew rapidly at the end of the second world war.
Eleven months later, Bevin was back in Parliament, once again discussing collective defence by “the West” against the Soviet Union.
Bevin told Parliament that “in accordance with the development of this idea of regional understanding and collective security we’ve had extensive discussions between the five powers. In the end we agreed to inform the United States government that we’re in favour of the North Atlantic pact.”
Bevin then went on to describe how the putative Nato might work. A very short time later, US troops were back in Europe having departed at the end of the second world war.
There is more than a taint of double standards and hypocrisy in western European and US concerns over the Ukraine. Obama, recently visiting Saudi Arabia, seems incapable of registering the abhorrence many have for the kingdom’s human rights record, and at the same time says nothing about the activities of the far-right in Ukraine and the discrimination and abuse that is now happening against Roma people and other minorities. We need to work with socialists in Ukraine, as well as others, to promote justice and human rights. NATO expansion is not – any more than Russian militarism – going to achieve either of those aims.
Since the February putsch in Kiev, ties between the supposedly “democratic” regime installed by Washington and its fascist allies have become increasingly tense: here.
In the clearest sign of intensifying US involvement in the Ukraine crisis, CIA Director John Brennan flew into Kiev over the weekend: here.
The crisis in Ukraine and the return of German militarism: here.
Russia and the Ukraine Crisis: The Eurasian Project in Conflict with the Triad Imperialist Policies, by Samir Amin: here.
This video from Britain says about itself:
Speech given by Jeremy Corbyn MP in the House of Commons on 18 March 2011 when MPs debated western intervention in Libya.
By Jeremy Corbyn in Britain:
It’s no time to take heed of the tin-pot generals
Wednesday 5th February 2014
JEREMY CORBYN says the West is in no place to take the moral high ground over Ukraine’s crisis
But as with all international crises, it’s important to recognise the history lurking behind the drama.
Ukraine‘s national borders have ebbed and flowed with the tides of history, from being the original heartland of Russian civilisation, expanding under Moscow’s rule during the tsarist era and becoming part of the Soviet Union after 1917.
The relationship between Ukraine and Moscow was always strained. The 1930s famine took the lives of millions and left a legacy of bitterness that has not disappeared.
In 1941 the nazi operation Barbarossa saw the Wehrmacht march through Ukraine. Millions of Ukrainians fought and died heroically to stop the nazis, but there were also significant pro-nazi groups. Their descendants could be seen bearing nazi insignia and spouting racist slogans in Kiev only a week ago.
As for the Crimea where Russia is now moving in, it has historically been separate from Ukraine. It was a theatre of war between western Europe and Russia during the 1850s, a fact which should be a warning to us today. Then, as now, empires fought for space and influence.
Its Tartar population was treated disgracefully by Stalin and wholesale deportation followed the end of World War II.
Eventually many returned to the Crimea and they now make up an eighth of the population. Most of the rest are Russian speakers who came there during the Soviet period.
In 1954 Khrushchov transferred the Crimea to Ukraine, and this was later endorsed after the Soviet Union collapsed when Russia accepted Ukraine’s current borders.
Ukraine declared itself a nuclear-weapons free country. Theoretically it has maintained a policy of avoiding military alliances with either Nato or Russia, but it has been put under enormous pressure to come into the EU and Nato military orbit.
The end of the cold war was an obvious time for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, founded in the 1970s as an east-west forum, to assert itself and replace the hostile parties of Nato and the Warsaw Pact.
The pact was indeed wound up but sadly Nato since 1990 has been looking to expand.
Ukrainian politics are divided between Ukrainian and Russian-speaking people. All census and electoral maps reflect much the same pattern. It resulted in Viktor Yuschenko being narrowly elected president in 2005, only to be replaced later by Viktor Yanukovych who was also narrowly elected.
Such divisions have been clear in the protests against Yanukovych which began late last year.
We must defend the right of people to demonstrate against their governments, but it was remarkable that the EU leadership in the person of Baroness Catherine Ashton and the US political Establishment in the guise of Senator John McCain both chose to give very strong support to demonstrations in Kiev which were far from representing all Ukrainians. Neither did they make any comments about far-right and racist involvement in the uprising.
Double standards come to the fore in times of crisis and none could be more obvious than those of the Western media over the past week.
Russia has gone way beyond its legal powers to use bases in the Crimea. Sending unidentified forces into another country is clearly a violation of that country’s sovereignty.
Interestingly in his press conference yesterday Russian President Vladimir Putin backed away from his previous support for Yanukovych, declaring that the latter was political history.
That may have been because opinion polls in Russia are showing only 15 per cent support for military action. It is to be hoped that combined with the great economic cost and potential consequences of the military course this will result in a reduction of tensions.
Still, the hypocrisy of the West remains unbelievable.
Nato has sought to expand since the end of the cold war. It has increased its military capability and expenditure. It operates way beyond its original 1948 area and its attempt to encircle Russia is one of the big threats of our time.
We should also remember the West’s ongoing use of drone aircraft over Pakistan with no international authorisation whatsoever, the invasion of Iraq on a trumped-up charge contrary to international law and in the absence of any UN mandate and of course the continued wholly illegal prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.
The self-satisfied pomposity of Western leaders in lecturing the world about morality and international law has to be challenged.
While some in Parliament yesterday were calling for a beefed-up military to “meet the threat” unfolding in Ukraine there were others who pointed out that unless any government there actually seeks to embrace the linguistic and ethnic diversity of the country it will forever be an unstable place.
We have marched against wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. We should oppose any foreign military intervention in Ukraine, as that would only succeed in that country reliving its traumatic past as a battleground where Russia and western Europe vie for supremacy.
Ukraine obviously has enormous economic problems as well. It was ominous that in a throwaway line in yesterday’s statement from the Foreign Secretary he revealed that the IMF has already sent officials to the country to explain how its economy must be restructured.
Such news will be met with a hoarse laugh in Greece and other places which have been on the receiving end of mass unemployment, the privatisation of public services and the destruction of welfare systems at the behest of the bankers of the world.
Jeremy Corbyn is Labour MP for Islington North.
11bn euro loan to Ukraine – will mean savage cuts: here.
15 Feb 2014
After President Putin hugged the bi-sexual 3Km speedskating gold medalist Ireen Wüst to show the Russian “man/woman in the street” that all people whether hetero or homo or bi are equal, the music band “small beer” [Kleintje Pils] played purposely the overtly gay YMCA song during the 1500m speed skating in Sochi.
How US Evangelicals Helped Create Russia’s Anti-Gay Movement: here.
If Vanessa-Mae lost a bit of dignity in the slalom, she gained a lot of respect. Competing for gold is only part of what the Olympics is about – the violinist showed Sochi how coming last can also be a triumph: here.
This video from the Winter Olympics in Canada says about itself:
Dutch speed skating band Kleintje Pils during the Men’s 500m in Vancouver 2010.
Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:
Musical protest by Kleintje Pils
Saturday, February 15, 2014 15:21
The Dutch brass band Kleintje Pils ["Small Beer"] has played the song YMCA in Sochi during a break while the ice was cleaned during the 1,500 meter speed skating. This was intended as a protest against the anti-LGBTQ law in Russia.
“We too know the terrible images of anti-gay hatred in Russia and other countries,” said the Oompah band. “We cannot be silent about that.” The song, a 1970s hit by the Village People, is associated with the gay movement.
Kleintje Pils has had contact with Victor Willis, the composer of YMCA. “He wrote it to connect people with each other and that is also what Kleintje Pils stands for,” says the band.
A Dutch radio interview with the band about this is here.
From daily The Guardian in Britain:
Shaun Walker in Sochi
Thursday 13 February 2014 16.47 GMT
To sentence one giraffe named Marius to death may be regarded as a misfortune; to sentence two would be a catastrophe, according to Ramzan Kadyrov.
Kadyrov, who has been implicated in torture and human rights abuses, is a known animal admirer and has a huge personal zoo.
“I read the information about the fact that in Denmark they are going to end the life of another giraffe,” wrote Kadyrov beneath photographs of lions eating the first Marius, which the Chechen leader said was killed for “invented” reasons.
“On humanitarian grounds, I am ready to take Marius in. We can guarantee him good living conditions and care for his health,” he added.
Only days after the euthanasia of a healthy young giraffe named Marius at Copenhagen zoo sparked controversy around the world, a second Danish zoo announced that it was considering a similar fate for another giraffe, also named Marius.
Jyllands Park zoo, in western Denmark, currently has two male giraffes, but has been approved to participate in the European breeding programme. If zookeepers manage to acquire a female giraffe, seven-year-old Marius will have to make way.
The first Marius was considered useless for breeding because his genes were too common. The prospect of his death prompted an international petition that garnered more than 27,000 signatures, and controversy continued after he was killed when he was dissected in front of a large crowd and then fed to lions.
A new petition to save the second Marius currently has 3,500 signatures.
Talking about Zwolle city: today, at the Sochi Winter Olympics, two twin brothers from Zwolle won medals. Michel Mulder became Olympic champion in 500 meter speed skating. His brother Ronald Mulder won the bronze medal. Jan Smeekens, also from the Netherlands, was in second place, just one hundredth of a second behind Michel Mulder.
This is a video about Michel Mulder from December last year, when he skated a 500 meter world record for lowland speed skating tracks.
This video is called Village People – YMCA OFFICIAL Music Video 1978.
Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:
Russians themselves play YMCA
Saturday, February 8, 2014 15:46
It was the idea of [Dutch gay comedian] Paul de Leeuw: let the party band “Small beer” [Kleintje Pils] play ‘gay song’ YMCA during the speed skating in Sochi as a protest against the anti-LGBTQ law in Russia. It is not known whether the Russians knew about that call and whether they agreed with such a playful protest, but the fact is that the song sounded from the loudspeakers this afternoon in Sochi.
During a break in the while machines cleaned the ice of the Adler Arena, people could hear The Village People which is seen worldwide as a ‘gay’ song.
Kleintje Pils will be going to Sochi next week.
Democracy Now! in the USA says about this video today:
“Celebration Capitalism & the Olympics”: Global Protests Mark Opening of Sochi Games
Russian President Vladimir Putin has spent more than $50 billion on the Winter Games in Sochi, making this the most expensive Olympics in history. In the lead-up to the games, Russia has faced worldwide criticism and calls for boycotts, especially after it passed a law in June banning the spread of so-called “gay propaganda” to children. With the games just two days away, we host a roundtable with four guests: Dave Zirin, sports columnist for The Nation magazine and author of “Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down”; Samantha Retrosi, a luge athlete who competed in the 2006 Winter Olympics; historian and former U.S. Olympic soccer player, Jules Boykoff, who is author of “Celebration Capitalism and the Olympic Games“; and Helen Lenskyj, author of several books on the Olympics, including “Gender Politics and the Olympic Industry” and the forthcoming book, “Sexual Diversity and the Sochi 2014 Olympics: No More Rainbows.”
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
DAVE ZIRIN: Second, I had a flashback this morning to getting a call from Amy in 2010, when she was detained at the Canadian border, going across for a different event, and the Vancouver Olympics were happening. Do you remember that?
AMY GOODMAN: Yes, I do.
DAVE ZIRIN: And they said to Amy, they said, “Are you here to talk about the Olympics?” And Amy said, “I am now.” And it’s just to point out that these issues we’re talking about are at every Olympics, and there’s no doubt that they’re getting amplified in Russia, partially because of the conflicts between the United States and Russia, but it’s also true that what’s happening in Russia is particularly bad, even by Olympic standards.
And that leads, really, to your question. I mean, the U.S. delegation involves three openly LGBT athletes—Billie Jean King, Caitlin Cahow, Brian Boitano—and then gold medalist Bonnie Blair. Now, what’s so interesting about this is that this is the first time since 2000 that nobody from the president or the vice president’s family has been part of the delegation. This is very clearly a thumb in the eye to Vladimir Putin by President Barack Obama. And I’m sure there a lot of people in the LGBT community and amongst allies who are happy that this is happening. It’s a strong stance for LGBT rights.
But I think people should also be very wary of it, for two reasons. First of all, we have a lot of problems in this country with regards to LGBT rights. I mean, for example, there are 29 states in this country you can still fire someone on the basis of their sexuality, and in eight states in this country there are what are called “no promo homo” laws, which are very similar to the Russian laws, where you cannot propagate homosexuality or anything of the sort. So, that’s the first thing. So it’s like we have to clean our own house.
The second thing, which is really important, is the only question that matters is: Will LGBT athletes in Russia be better or worse off after the cameras have gone home? And by sending over the delegation, one of the things that does is that it allows the IOC—and, by the way, they’re already doing this—and Putin to present the LGBT movement in Russia as a tool of the United States, and it actually opens them up for further repression.
AMY GOODMAN: Legendary tennis star Billie Jean King recently appeared on CBS This Morning and talked about going to Russia as a member of the official U.S. delegation, about the origins of Olympic Rule number 50, which bars athletes from engaging in any type of political demonstration at the games.
BILLIE JEAN KING: It probably came from the fact when John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised their arms about civil rights, human rights, back in ’68, I think the rule [inaudible] was written after that, Rule 50.
VINITA NAIR: Because it bans all political demonstration.
BILLIE JEAN KING: It bans—they’re not supposed to protest or demonstrate. And if they do, they can have their medals stripped, and they can be sent home. But I also think people—some of the athletes will probably have their say.
The full transcript is here.
Winter Olympics 2014: Norway’s Health Minister to take his husband to Paralympics: here.
A People’s History of LGBTI Olympians: here.
The President of the Sochi Olympic Committee has just confirmed that the two wild orcas captured by White Sphere will not be displayed during the Sochi Olympics: here.
Everything you wanted to know about that hideously anti-gay law passed in Arizona last night: here.
Former Bush strategist equates Arizona’s anti-gay Christians to Islamic terrorists: here.
From Associated Press:
Out of sight: Communists stage 1st Sochi protest
By JOHN PYE
Feb. 1, 2014 11:23 AM EST
Miss it? That’s not surprising. About 12 kilometers (seven miles) from the nearest Olympic venue, a handful of curious onlookers, a few mothers pushing young children in carriages, two TV cameras and a sprinkling of uniformed and plain-clothed police were there to witness Igor Vasiliev, leader of Sochi Communist Party Branch, and six supporters stage a peaceful rally on Saturday.
Russian authorities are allowing public demonstrations during the Olympics, but there’s unlikely to be massed angry mobs of people protesting against the kind of issues in Russia that have gained international attention ahead of the games.
Under the guidelines, all demonstrations and rallies must be staged in the designated zone — at the “50 Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War Park” in the coastal neighborhood of Khosta — and must be pre-approved.
Vasiliev said he applied for his permit on Jan. 27 and was given approval to stage a rally on Saturday, six days before the opening ceremony.
The group, wearing red scarves and holding placards, wanted to raise awareness of the plight of the so-called Children of the War — Russians born between 1928-45 — and their campaign for public financial aid.
Not even Vasiliev thinks the designated protest zone will get much use — it is bounded by a river on one side, a railway on another, is nestled under the new main Sochi highway, and is accessed by a pedestrian pathway near the end of a dead-end street.
To say it’s tucked away would be an understatement. Some of the local residents have confused the location, with some asking the manager of a nearby children’s amusement park if that is the designated demonstration zone.
“I think this is the wrong place … it was chosen on purpose,” Vasiliev said. “I want to underline that the authorities have chosen this place specifically because it’s not a busy place — there are very few people. You can only guess what they were aiming at when they chose this place.”
Vasiliev plans to stage rallies at locations closer to the municipal government’s central office after the Olympics, to a “place where we can be heard and seen both by the local people and by the authorities — not here when we are seen only by the passing by trains.”
Kindergarten assistant Yelena Chulkovr was among those walking, by chance, through the designated zone at the time of Saturday’s rally. She said she’d welcome demonstrations by protest groups if they were “acceptably done.”
“Why not?” she said. “Everyone has the right to express your opinion.”
Asked why he persisted in staging a rally when he knew it would be so far out of the public eye, Vasiliev found a reason to go ahead.
“The venue is not much suitable,” he told a television interviewer, “but at least you’re listening to us.”
A Primer on the Eight Olympic Events Debuting in Sochi: here.
In the lead up to the Sochi Winter Olympics this week, lesbian Australian snowboarder Belle Brockhoff has spoken up about how “worried” her parents are for her safety due to anti-gay laws in the host country: here.