Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Russian ruble sinks sharply despite bank rate hike: The ruble traded at 72 per dollar late Tuesday afternoon - a modest improvement from earlier, when it hit 78.5 to the dollar. | Ukraine's Yatsenyuk Says Russia Is Paying for Aggression - Businessweek

» Russian ruble sinks sharply despite bank rate hike
16/12/14 11:18 from AP Top Headlines At 7:05 a.m. EDT
MOSCOW (AP) -- The Russian ruble came under intense selling pressure Tuesday, falling at one point by a catastrophic 20 percent to a new historic low despite a massive pre-dawn interest rate hike from Russia's Central Bank. Russian offic...

The ruble traded at 72 per dollar late Tuesday afternoon - a modest improvement from earlier, when it hit 78.5 to the dollar. 




The Russian Ruble Is Plummeting




» Stocks open lower amid ruble, oil rout - USA TODAY
16/12/14 10:32 from Top Stories - Google News
Toronto Star Stocks open lower amid ruble, oil rout USA TODAY Stocks opened lower Tuesday amid rising angst over plunging oil prices and Russia's currency. As of a few minutes after the 9:30 a.m. ET opening bell, the Dow Jones indust...


» Ukraine's Poroshenko hails first full overnight truce in rebel east - euronews
16/12/14 09:39 from Google News - World
euronews Ukraine's Poroshenko hails first full overnight truce in rebel east euronews KIEV (Reuters) – Ukraine's separatist east passed the night into Tuesday without any shooting, President Petro Poroshenko said, hailing the fir...


» Начальник украинского Генштаба насчитал в Донбассе несколько тысяч российских военных - Интерфакс
16/12/14 09:13 from В мире – Новости Google
Forbes Ukraine Начальник украинского Генштаба насчитал в Донбассе несколько тысяч российских военных Интерфакс Москва. 16 декабря. INTERFAX.RU - Начальник Генштаба Вооруженных сил Украины Виктор Муженко заявил, что, по некоторым оценкам,... 


» Ukraine's Yatsenyuk Says Russia Is Paying for Aggression - Businessweek
16/12/14 08:48 from Google News - World
Kansas City Star Ukraine's Yatsenyuk Says Russia Is Paying for Aggression Businessweek Russia's economic crisis is a consequence of the Kremlin's aggression in Ukraine, according to the former Soviet territory's prime min...


» Керри: РФ предприняла позитивные шаги в связи с ситуацией на Украине - Русская Служба Новостей
16/12/14 11:56 from В мире – Новости Google
Forbes Ukraine Керри: РФ предприняла позитивные шаги в связи с ситуацией на Украине Русская Служба Новостей В последние дни Россия предприняла конструктивные шаги в связи с ситуацией на Украине, заявил госсекретарь США. Джон Керри уверен...

» Джон Керри: США и ЕС пересмотрят санкции, если Россия продолжит конструктивные шаги на Украине - Коммерсантъ
16/12/14 11:46 from В мире – Новости Google
Тренд Джон Керри: США и ЕС пересмотрят санкции, если Россия продолжит конструктивные шаги на Украине Коммерсантъ Руководитель госдепартамента Джон Керри заявил в Лондоне, что США и ЕС отреагируют в вопросе санкций против России, если Мос...

» Window on Eurasia: Moscow’s Anti-American ‘Cultural Komintern’ Will Trump US Soft Power, Russian Analyst Says
16/12/14 07:33 from Window on Eurasia -- New Series

» Death of Merkel Ally Who Criticized Russia Being Probed - Businessweek
16/12/14 11:16 from Google News - World
Malay Mail Online Death of Merkel Ally Who Criticized Russia Being Probed Businessweek German authorities are carrying out an autopsy on a lawmaker in Chancellor Angela Merkel's party who criticized Russia, saying they want to rule o...


» Russia's Ruble Crisis Is Following The Same Pattern That Destroyed The Soviet ... - Business Insider
16/12/14 09:40 from Russia - Google News
Business Insider Russia's Ruble Crisis Is Following The Same Pattern That Destroyed The Soviet ... Business Insider The currency's fall has crossed the line from a headache to a full-blown crisis. A massive interest hike last nig...


» Was German MP killed by Russia?
16/12/14 10:59 from Russian news, all the latest and breaking Russia news
Putin critic's body to be examined to rule out any link between his death and anti-Kremlin views


» Autopsy Ordered on German MP Who Criticized Russia
16/12/14 10:41 from Voice of America
A German court has ordered an autopsy on a conservative member of parliament, who was a prominent critic of Russia's Vladimir Putin, in order to rule out any link between his death and his hardline stance towards the Kremlin, state prose...


» Manhunt for 'Armed and Dangerous' Suspect in Pennsylvania Shooting Spree - ABC News
16/12/14 11:02 from Google News - World
ABC News Manhunt for 'Armed and Dangerous' Suspect in Pennsylvania Shooting Spree ABC News A possible sighting of the suspect in a shooting rampage against his ex-wife and her family outside Philadelphia -- killing six people, in...


» Why Russia is hung up on homosexuality
16/12/14 10:41 from CNN.com - World
Let's start with a touch of perspective. It's not only Russia where sexual minorities suffer discrimination. In the United States, that beacon of tolerance, there's still a huge amount of bigotry. Some U.S. states still refuse to recogni...


» Robin Williams' suicide seizes the year on Google
16/12/14 10:31 from AP Top Headlines At 7:05 a.m. EDT
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Robin Williams' suicide seared into the world's collective mindset more than anything else this year, based on what people were searching for on Google....


» Survey finds pot use leveling off, other drugs and binge drinking down among ... - 10TV
16/12/14 09:32 from Top Stories - Google News
Fox News Survey finds pot use leveling off, other drugs and binge drinking down among ... 10TV WASHINGTON (AP) — The government's annual survey of drug use among teens shows marijuana use leveling off after recent increases and some ...


» UN: More Reports Of Children Crucified, Beheaded & Stoned To Death By IS
16/12/14 11:16 from Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
Reports of atrocities committed against children in Syria, particularly by the Islamic State (IS) militant group, are on the rise, the UN's Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos ha...




Kerry, Lavrov Meet Again on Ukraine Conflict

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met again Sunday to discuss Ukraine, just days after U.S. lawmakers voted in support of providing military aid for Ukrainian forces.
The two diplomats met for several hours in Rome.
No details of their talks have been released. But a State Department official says Kerry repeated the importance of the September cease-fire and de-escalating the situation on the ground.
The truce has been consistently broken almost from the moment it was signed. An unsteady new cease-fire took effect last week.
Russia has reacted angrily to U.S. congressional approval Friday of a bill to send up to $350 million in military aid, including possibly lethal aid, to Ukrainian forces fighting Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The legislation, known as “Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014,” also calls for expanded sanctions against Russia for its role in the conflict in Ukraine.
President Obama, who wants to avoid getting drawn into a war between Russia and Ukraine, has yet to sign the measure.
The U.S. State Department says there are no plans to send weapons to Ukraine. It has said the aid would be limited to such non-lethal military equipment as body armor and communications equipment.
Kerry and Lavrov also talked about tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, including proposals at the United Nations for Palestinian statehood.
Russia's official Tass news agency said Lavrov spoke of the importance of taking urgent steps to keep the situation in the Middle East from deteriorating even further.

Patriarch calls for warmer US-Russian relations : News Headlines

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Catholic World News - December 04, 2014
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church met with the US ambassador to Russia on November 28 and called for warmer US-Russian relations.
“We are experiencing not the best period in the relations between Russia and the United States, but not the worst either, if you compare history,” said Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, according to an Interfax report.
“I think work needs to be done, including by religious leaders, so that the two world powers could develop their relations and treat each other with mutual respect and trust,” he added.
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Экстренное совещание по экономике у Медведева: эксперт рассказал о мерах по спасению рубля - Экономика

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Сможет ли изменить ситуацию валютный контроль?
Сегодня в 19:54, просмотров: 1293
Во вторник, 16 декабря, премьер-министр Дмитрий Медведев провел совещание, в котором приняли участие министры, отвечающие за финансово-экономическую область. Поводом для обсуждения, как сообщается, стало резкое падение рубля. «МК» связался с экспертом и выяснил, могут ли помочь текущей экономической ситуации совещания подобного рода и что может остановить падение рубля.
Экстренное совещание по экономике у Медведева: эксперт рассказал о мерах по спасению рубля
фото: Геннадий Черкасов
По мнению финансового омбудсмена Павла Медведева, такие совещания чрезвычайно важны в контексте текущей экономической ситуации. По его словам, значительная часть ответственности за положение рубля сейчас лежит именно на плечах российских властей. В качестве одной из мер, которая поможет разрешить проблемы с рублем, эксперт называет отмену российского эмбарго на ввоз некоторых иностранных товаров. По мнению Медведева, сложившуюся ситуацию можно решить именно «дипломатическим» путем, то есть переговорами с иностранными партнерами. Некоторые из них, отмечает аналитик, дружественно настроены по отношению к России и очень хотят работать с ее рынком, однако им мешает введенный в рамках антизападных санкций запрет на ввоз зарубежной продукции. Иными словами, помочь России может шаг в сторону иностранных бизнесменов.
Финансовый омбудсмен также прокомментировал возможность валютного контроля, о котором говорят некоторые аналитики, как об одном из решений проблемы. «Это вполне возможно, но я на это смотрю очень косо, потому что это шаг назад, – комментирует «МК» Медведев, – потому что у нас был валютный контроль. Сначала очень жесткий, потом – помягче. И, в конце концов, валютный контроль был отменен. Валютный контроль плох тем, что это некоторое сообщение… Знаете, был такой советский анекдот. Иностранец шел по Москве и провалился в открытый люк. Его вытащили, вылечили, но когда он пришел в себя, он сказал: “Неужели нельзя было поставить флаг перед открытым люком, чтобы я в него не провалился”? Ему говорят: “Ну подождите, вы же пересекали границу на поезде, вы пересекали границу в Бресте, вы не видели там красный флаг на границе?” “Видел”. “Так чего же вы не обратили внимание? Мы там флаг и поставили.” Вот это такой флаг, который ставится на границе экономического пространства. И иностранному инвестору говорят: ты лучше туда не суйся, потому что когда вложишь деньги, построишь завод, что-нибудь начнешь выпускать, а потом тебе захочется прибыль забрать… То есть ты должен будешь забрать в валюте, потому что в твоей стране рубли не ходят, тебе скажут: вы знаете, при таких условиях больше, чем столько-то, нельзя, а здесь еще заплати такую-то пошлину и т.д. Тогда этот человек, который хотел было построить у нас какой-нибудь завод, скажет: “Да ну вас, я лучше в Индию пойду”.
– Что означает валютный контроль в действительности?
– Есть разнообразные формы валютного контроля. Например, в начале 90-х было требование полной продажи валюты. Экспортер-нефтяник продавал свою нефть за границей, получалдоллары. Он получал их на какой-то счет в банке за границей, а должен был их перевести в Москву и продать на бирже с тем, чтобы Центральный банк мог купить столько, сколько ему нужно. Потом половину выручки надо было продавать. Очень долго контроль шел в обратную сторону. Если кто-то имел доллары, например, купил на той же самой бирже и хотел что-нибудь приобрести на западе – тоже какой-нибудь завод купить или гостиницу – он должен был получить разрешение Центрального банка. Это абсолютно сумасшедший дом. Злые языки говорят, что для коррупции было широкое поле, потому что кому разрешали – толком понять невозможно. На каком основании Иванову можно, а Петрову нельзя? И вот такую сумму можно, а другую нельзя? И говорят, что коррупция была просто ужасная. Чтобы получить разрешение, надо было какой-то процент заплатить. Вот это принципиально возможно, и в краткосрочной перспективе это даже может спасти ситуацию, потому что долларов сейчас нет, а доллары утекают. Что если попытаться с помощью полиции добиться, чтобы не утекали? Очень возможно. Разве что наша полиция с этим не справится совсем. Предположим, что была бы очень хорошая полиция. Она действительно бы на какое-то время остановила утечку, но потом бы это вышло бы боком, потому что если утекать нельзя, то и притекать никто не захочет».
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Лавров: НАТО Разорвало отношения с РФ, но по-тихому хотело продолжать сотрудничать - Политика

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Сегодня в 19:16, просмотров: 7164
Россия никогда не упоминала НАТО в качестве врага. "Мы никогда этого не говорили", - заявил министр иностранных дел России Сергей Лавров в интервью телеканалу France 24, отвечая на реплику французского корреспондента, что, "по вашему мнению, НАТО является враждебной организацией для России… "
"Когда у вас складывается впечатление, необходимо задать вопрос и прочитать соответствующие документы. Например, военную доктрину Российской Федерации. Там нигде нет упоминания НАТО в качестве врага. - добавил глава МИД РФ. - Что там действительно сказано, это то, что рисками безопасности для России (в числе других факторов) является не сама организация, а ее расширение на Восток и приближение военной инфраструктуры альянса к российским границам. То есть милитаризированное продвижение НАТО на Восток определяется Военной доктриной России как угроза безопасности России".
Отвечая на вопрос, не предполагает ли Россия разорвать отношения с альянсом, Лавров констатировал, что "нам не нужно этого делать, потому что НАТО уже это сделала". "Они оборвали практически все связи с Россией, - указал он. - Сохранили в "замороженном" состоянии Совет Россия - НАТО, но разорвали все механизмы практического взаимодействия, включая работу по Афганистану, борьбе с терроризмом и некоторые другие проекты. Они заморозили все".
"Однако, сделав это, по-тихому предложили нам продолжить обучение пилотов для ВВС Афганистана, но не в формате сотрудничества Россия - НАТО, - обратил внимание министр. - Другими словами, они хотели продолжить реальную работу, но публично сказать, что занимают по отношению к России настолько жесткую позицию, что разрывают все связи". 

Children massacred in Pakistan school attack - YouTube

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Published on Dec 16, 2014
At least 141 people, including 132 children, have been killed in a horrific attack by Pakistani Taliban fighters (TTP) on a military-run school in Peshawar in Pakistan's northwest. Several explosions and gunfire rung out as six armed men attacked the Army Public School on Tuesday morning, in one the bloodiest attacks in Pakistan's history. More than 120 students were also wounded.Officials told Al Jazeera that all seven attackers were killed in the operation.

Taliban Gunmen Storm Pakistani School, 126 Dead - YouTube

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Published on Dec 16, 2014
Militants of the Tehreek-e-Taliban, TTP, stormed a military-run school in Peshawar early Tuesday, killing 126 people. A majority of the dead were young students in what officials call the worst attack to hit the country in years. (Dec. 16)
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Can Putin Turn the ISIS Mess to Russia’s Advantage?

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Photo by Andrey Smirnov/AFP/Getty Images
Sputnik News, the slick new-media rebranding of the venerable Russian news wire RIA-Novosti,reports that Russia has called on the U.N. Security Council to ban purchases of oil from terrorist-controlled regions, including the territory held by ISIS. This isn’t a surprising position, but it does draw some attention to Russia’s interesting outsider role in the international anti-ISIS effort.
While the U.S. and Russia have pledged to share intelligence on the group, Russia—one of the main international backers of Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian government—is not a member of the U.S.-led “broad coalition” against ISIS announced last month. As one Russian foreign ministry official recentlyput it, “We do not expect any invitations and we are not going to buy entry tickets.”
Russia has taken the position that airstrikes against ISIS in Syria ought to have been debated in the U.N. Security Council, where Moscow enjoys veto power. Russia has also relished the opportunity to say I told you so, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arguing that ISIS is made up of the same rebels that the U.S. and other Western countries were supporting against Assad. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev also made much of his umbrage at President Obama’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly in September, which listed Russian aggression in Ukraine (along with ISIS and the Ebola virus) as major international threats. Discussing the diplomatic puzzle presented by Syria, a senior U.S. administration official recently told CNN, “The Russians are not our friend here.” 
So there’s little reason to think Russia will formally join the U.S.-led coalition. But there are some ways that this all could work to Moscow’s advantage.
For one thing, the fight against ISIS could provide a pretext for why countries in Russia’s backyard need its “protection.” Edward Lemon writes at EurasiaNet that Russian officials seem to be playing up the potential threat that Central Asian ISIS fighters could pose to their home countries. Estimates vary wildly, but there are almost certainly dozens to hundreds of fighters from Central Asian countries as well as Russia fighting with ISIS in Syria. Russia has military assets in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, but would like to expand that presence. As Lemon writes, “Russian officials have often stressed that the threat to Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, which do not host Russian troops, is particularly acute.” These governments have, for years, been fighting the al-Qaida-linked militant group Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
(Ironically, some of the Central Asians fighting in Syria appear to have been radicalized in Russia rather than on the battlefield. Olim Yusuf, a Tajik ISIS member captured in September, says he was recruited while working on a building site in Russia. Many Central Asians travel to Russia for low-wage work, and often face discrimination and xenophobia.)
It also seems conceivable that Syria could once again provide the venue for a Russian diplomatic victory. (Remember when a John Kerry gaffe and a last-minute intervention from Russia led to a deal to remove Assad’s chemical weapons and forestall U.S. airstrikes? I know, that seems like four wars ago.) It seems sadly inevitable that the U.S. will eventually come to terms with Assad remaining in power and go back to trying to push for a peace deal in Syria among the various anti-ISIS forces in the country. If that happens, U.S. diplomats may, much to their chagrin, need to call on Russia to help get Assad on board.
And generally speaking, a leader like Putin who tends to see great-power competition in zero-sum terms, presumably appreciates the fact that U.S. attention and resources continue to be tied down in the Middle East.
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Why Russia is hung up on homosexuality

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By Matthew Chance, CNN
updated 10:00 AM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Watch this video
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • CNN's Matthew Chance: It's not only Russia where sexual minorities suffer discrimination
  • Some U.S. states still refuse to recognize same-sex marriage
  • A HRW report says Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people"
  • The report goes on to document various horrific instances of violence and abuse
Moscow, Russia (CNN) -- Let's start with a touch of perspective. It's not only Russia where sexual minorities suffer discrimination. In the United States, that beacon of tolerance, there's still a huge amount of bigotry. Some U.S. states still refuse to recognize same-sex marriage. And hate crimes and violence towards LGBT individuals remain a significant problem.
Russia does not have a monopoly on intolerance. However, there is a key difference. In the U.S., officials go to great lengths to espouse tolerant views and behavior. Laws have been passed, and are enforced, protecting LGBT rights. Hate crimes are prosecuted. In Russia, that is rarely the case.
That's not just my view, it's the opinion of Human Rights' Watch, a New York-based rights group.
In their latest report on Russia, titled License to Harm, HRW finds the Russian authorities have not only "failed in their obligation to prevent and prosecute homophobic violence," but have also "effectively legalized discrimination against LGBT people and cast them as second class citizens."
The controversial measure the report singles out is, of course, Russia's "anti-gay propaganda" legislation.
Loophole lets gay couple wed in Russia
Russian vigilantes targeting gay men
The law bans "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors" and was, according to HRW, one of several anti-LGBT measures adopted or proposed in 2013.
In their report, HRW says the law doesn't actually protect anyone, but does give homophobes a reason to believe LGBT lives matter less to the Russian government.
The report goes on to document various horrific instances of violence and abuse against Russia's LGBT community, including by radical nationalist groups luring gay men on the pretext of a fake date. It makes grim reading.
During the Soviet Union, homosexuality was a crime punishable by prison and hard labor. Homosexuals were regarded as pedophiles or fascists, outside normal society.
Laws explicitly banning homosexuality were lifted in 1993, after the Soviet collapse -- though there was no amnesty for those jailed for sodomy -- but the attitude appears to have stuck.
Even today, LGBT activists in Russia -- like the couple I met in St. Petersburg recently -- are regarded as outsiders, sometimes agents of the liberal West, to be distrusted.
The Saint Petersburg lawmaker behind the controversial "propaganda" law, Vitaly Milonov, underlined this when he told me that any Russians who want a same-sex marriage should move to the West "where they belong."
That's a potent connection in these times of growing tensions between Russia and the West.
Linking Russia's LGBT community with the enemy taps into old fears of corrupt outsiders polluting Russian purity, and bodes extremely badly for hopes that discrimination in Russia will be tackled.
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Vladimir Putin vs. the Currency Markets: What to Know About the Ruble’s Collapse

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Vladimir Putin’s biggest enemy right now may well be the currency markets.
Even as it spars with Ukraine, Russia’s government is in the midst of a full-scale war to preserve the value of the ruble as a plummeting oil price has led to billions flooding away from the country. The ruble fell 11 percent against the dollar on Monday alone.
To try to stanch the bleeding, on Monday evening (the middle of the night Moscow time), the Central Bank of Russia announced a stunning interest rate increase. Its main deposit rate is now 17 percent, up from 10.5 percent when Russian banks closed for business Monday.
It may go without saying, but an emergency interest rate increase of 6.5 percentage points announced in the middle of the night is not a sign of strength. Rather, it is the kind of thing you see only in an old-school emerging markets currency crisis. And that is very much what Mr. Putin’s Russia is now experiencing.
The strategy is straightforward enough. The central bank, led by Elvira Nabiullina, is hoping that with interest rates so high, keeping money on deposit at a Russian bank is too good an offer to refuse. Russians (and Russian companies) have been shuttling rubles out of the country as fast as they can, looking for a safe port. The continued slide of the ruble is all the more remarkable given economic sanctions imposed in retaliation for Russian aggression toward Ukraine that make Russian money unwelcome at many global banks.
Perhaps the higher interest rates will make those moving money out of Russia think twice, and a resulting reversal in currency markets will lead speculators to conclude that betting against the ruble is no longer a sure thing.
But the move shows how Russian policy makers are stuck with no good options. Already the central bank has reportedly been intervening to try to short-circuit the sell-off, buying rubles to try to arrest the declines.
The problem is that if you try to defend your currency and lose, you are essentially throwing your money at currency traders for nothing. As Russia has deployed its reserves to (so far unsuccessfully) stop the currency collapse, it has made traders betting against the ruble richer while leaving the Russian government poorer. Poorer by $80 billion, to be precise.
This summer, a dollar bought around 34 rubles. Now, it buys more than 64.
But interest rate increases aren’t free. Higher interest rates are sure to choke off any chance for growth in a Russian economy that is already reeling from falling oil prices. Earlier Monday, the Russian central bank said it expects the country’s economy to contract 4.5 percent in 2015 if oil prices average $60 a barrel.
The hope is that by stabilizing the value of the currency, the interest rate increase will reduce the sense of financial panic and rapid outflows of money, which will do more good for the Russian economy than the higher interest rates will do ill.
“While such drastic tightening measures will inflict more pain on the economy, we have been arguing for a while that it is not about preventing recession, but a full-scale financial turmoil caused by the precipitous ruble fall,” Piotr Matys, a currency strategist at Rabobank International, told Bloomberg News.
But as Russia’s citizens are going to face an unpleasant combination of a contracting economy (caused by falling oil prices and higher interest rates) and high inflation (because the collapse in the ruble will make imported goods more expensive), one thing is certain: It will be a long, cold winter.
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The Talk: After Ferguson, a Shaded Conversation About Race

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LIKE so many African-American parents, I had rehearsed “the talk,” that nausea-inducing discussion I needed to have with my son about how to conduct himself in the presence of the police. I was prepared for his questions, except for one.
“Can I just pretend I’m white?”
Jordan was born to African-American parents, but recessive genes being what they are, he has very fair skin and pale blue eyes. I am caramel brown, and since his birth eight years ago people have mistaken me for his nanny.
When I asked why he would want to “pass” for white, I struggled with how to respond to his answer.
“Because it’s safer,” Jordan replied. “They won’t hurt me.”
That recent gray day, not long after grand juries failed to indict the police officers who killed unarmed black men in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, I had steadied myself to lay out the rules: Always address police officers as “sir” or “ma’am.” Do not make any sudden moves, even to reach for identification. Do not raise your voice, resist or run.
But now I was taken aback.
Jordan’s father and I never had a chance to discuss when we would give him the talk, or what we would say. Our baby was just 6 months old when his dad, a decorated Army soldier, was killed in combat in Iraq. So the timing and the context of the talk were left to me.
I had tried hard to delay it, and make sure he wouldn’t know the names Michael Brown or Eric Garner or Tamir Rice.
In the days leading up to the conversation, I asked an African-American male colleague if he thought it was too soon. When did he tell his own boys?
“Before they were no longer seen as cute,” he said, making me wince.
I hadn’t fully processed that someday my son would be seen as suspect instead of sweet. So I told him, and then Jordan asked if it was rare for the police to hurt black people. I said that, just like his father when he wore his military uniform, most police officers are dedicated to protecting us. But, no, I added, it is unfortunately not uncommon.
“Then I don’t want to be black anymore,” Jordan declared.
He asked if I was crying. I dabbed at my eyes and searched my mind for what to say.
“Son, your father was an incredible African-American man,” I told him. “And you are an amazing boy who is going to grow into just such a man. Please be proud of that.”
“Yes,” he responded emphatically, “but can’t I just pretend to be white?”
The message that Jordan’s appearance affords him the option to check “other” on the race card comes at him constantly. After his second-grade class created self-portraits last year, I noticed that his was the only one not hanging on the classroom wall. His teacher explained that his portrait was “a work in progress.” The brown crayon he had used to color in his face was several shades too dark, she thought, and so she wanted him to “lighten it up” to more accurately reflect his complexion.
It is not just the overt signals that have convinced Jordan that he can choose to blend in to a white world. It is also that we live a life of relative affluence. I am a journalist and author whose inner circle includes prominent black writers, television anchors and doctors. We live in a high-rise in Manhattan with a doorman and round-the-clock security. Jordan attends an elite private school and an exclusive summer camp.
A white friend calls him “the boy who lives in the sky” because of the vast city view from the nine-foot windows in his bedroom. “He lives in a bubble and is always with responsible adults,” she said recently, trying to assure me that our status makes him safer than many black boys.
That is true, mostly. And if my parenting pays off, I will be able to minimize his contact with the police. He will be law-abiding. He will respect authority. He’ll understand the perception of black boys wearing hoodies or sagging pants. But will it be enough?
Just last month a video went viral that showed a black man in Pontiac, Mich., being questioned by a sheriff’s deputy because someone reported feeling nervous after seeing him walking in the cold with his hands in his pockets. So as much as I want to believe that our upper-middle-class status will protect my son from many of society’s social ills, it could not provide him the white privilege he seeks.
Nor would “passing” protect Jordan entirely, for the internal damage from living that lie would surely be as painful as any blow from a police baton. To deny his blackness would be to deny me. It would be to deny our enslaved ancestors who were strong enough to endure that voyage. It would mean rejecting the reflection he sees every time he looks in a mirror.
For at least a little while longer, Jordan is too young to understand any of this. He does not know the racial indignity of having jobs and promotions denied or delayed, does not know the humiliation of being stopped and frisked. He has never heard the mantra “I can’t breathe.”
I know that our talk was just the start of a conversation that will go deeper as he moves into his teen years in a post-Obama America. My fervent hope is that, by then, I will have found a way to help him embrace the privilege of being black.
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Dershowitz Seeks to Bring Close to Polanski Case

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LOS ANGELES — Alan M. Dershowitz, a lawyer whose celebrity clients have included the heiressPatty Hearst and the hacker Julian Assange, is seeking to lead what could be the final effort to end the legal case against the film director Roman Polanski, who fled the United States before final sentencing on a statutory rape charge in 1978.
In connection with a Los Angeles County Superior Court filing on Monday, Mr. Dershowitz, who is based in Massachusetts, is asking permission to represent Mr. Polanski in California.
The filing charged prosecutors with providing false information to support a recent attempt to have Mr. Polanski extradited from Poland. It also demanded a hearing aimed at closing his case, based partly on fresh testimony that a Superior Court judge, in 2009, had unethically prejudged issues related to Mr. Polanski’s prosecution, and had a secret plan to jail him at least briefly, even while limiting his actual sentence to time served.
The filing is likely to draw new attention to a legal process that has risen and fallen in the public consciousness for almost four decades. It also caps a year in which seemingly dormant claims of sexual assault against Woody Allen and Bill Cosby found new life. Unlike Mr. Polanski, neither Mr. Allen nor Mr. Cosby was charged with crimes; however, they have been publicly excoriated for, and have strongly challenged, claims of illicit sexual behavior.
A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney, Jackie Lacey, declined to comment.
In October, the authorities in Poland questioned Mr. Polanski, who had been living in France, but declined to detain him following a request from the United States for his extradition when he was photographed at the opening of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw. In 2010, Swiss officials ultimately ruled against extradition after detaining Mr. Polanski for more than nine months on a similar request.
The request by Mr. Dershowitz to represent Mr. Polanski opened what promises to be a broad legal and public-relations effort to lift the threat of extradition and jail time from Mr. Polanski, now 81. He was first charged with raping a 13-year-old girl, who has since identified herself as Samantha Geimer, in 1977.
Mr. Polanski was imprisoned for psychiatric evaluation under a plea agreement, but he fled before sentencing when he learned that Judge Laurence J. Rittenband, now dead, intended to impose additional jail time. He and his lawyers have since argued that Los Angeles prosecutors and judges repeatedly violated his rights, and that his sentence has been fully served. But officials have insisted that he must return before those claims can be heard.
In his new legal effort, Mr. Dershowitz and Bart Dalton, who has been part of Mr. Polanski’s legal team in recent years, challenge the behavior of Judge Peter Espinoza, who oversaw Mr. Polanski’s case during a legal fight that erupted in late 2008. The dispute followed the release of a documentary film, “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,” which described unorthodox and perhaps illegal procedures in the earlier conduct of the case.
In an affidavit filed with the new motion, a former public information officer of the court, Allan Parachini, describes encounters and emails that, he said, showed Judge Espinoza to have prejudged issues that had not yet been argued in court. A spokeswoman for the superior court declined to comment because the case was pending.
Mr. Parachini’s affidavit also repeated his claim, published last year in The Los Angeles Daily Journal, that Judge Espinoza had expressed willingness to limit Mr. Polanski’s sentence to the time he had spent in prison. But, Mr. Parachini wrote, the judge had decided first to let Mr. Polanski “cool his heels in jail” by delaying that ruling for weeks should he return.
In a statement, Mr. Dershowitz said he intended “to see that the integrity of the criminal justice system is preserved and to stop any further misstatements from our government to European nations” regarding the status of Mr. Polanski, who, he said, “has taken responsibility for his actions, served his sentence, and a remedy should now by fashioned by the court once and for all.”
The new filing says that the recent extradition request falsely characterized Mr. Polanski as a “continuing flight risk” — it points out that he appeared voluntarily for questioning by the Polish authorities — and, the filing says, “deliberately omitted the fact that Polanski has already served the term of imprisonment imposed by the trial judge.”
Mr. Polanski, a Holocaust survivor who was born in Poland, has said he would return there to shoot a film about an Alsatian Jew, Alfred Dreyfus, who in the late 19th century was accused of passing military secrets to Germany. The Dreyfus case, which ended in his exoneration, raised debate aboutanti-Semitism and prosecutorial misconduct.
But to shoot in Poland, Mr. Polanski and his backers have said, would require assurance by the Polish authorities that he would not be subject to extradition.
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Army Deserter Is Jailed for Chasing the Conflicts That Steadied His Mind

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FORT DRUM, N.Y. — After graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point near the top of his class in 2008, Second Lt. Lawrence J. Franks Jr. went on to a stellar career with three deployments, commendations for exceptional service and a letter of appreciation from the military’s top general.
The only problem: None of it was in the United States military.
After being sent to Fort Drum, here in the snowy farmland of northern New York, where he was put in charge of a medical platoon, Lieutenant Franks disappeared one day in 2009. His perplexed battalion searched the sprawling woods on the post for his body.
What they did not know was that he was on a plane to Paris, where he enlisted under an assumed name in the French Foreign Legion. It was only this year when he turned himself in that the Armyand his family learned what had happened.
On Monday, Lieutenant Franks was sentenced to four years in prison and dismissal from the Armyon charges of conduct unbecoming of an officer and desertion with the intention to shirk duty, specifically deployment.
At his sentencing, the lieutenant said he left because had been struggling for years with suicidal urges that had grown so intense when he arrived as a new officer at Fort Drum that he believed if he did not change his life drastically, he would have shot himself.
During the trial, the judge barred his lawyers from using doctors’ descriptions of the 28-year-old officer’s struggles with depression and suicide as a defense. Prosecutors at the trial said the lieutenant fled to avoid deployment to Afghanistan. Lieutenant Franks’s former commander, Col. Michael Loos, testified Friday that losing an officer was a burden for a battalion preparing to deploy.
“It wasn’t helpful for a unit that was mired with a lot of turbulence at the time,” Colonel Loos said. “We had a lot to do and it necessitated strong stable leadership.”
In an interview last week at a hotel near Fort Drum, where the court-martial was held, Lieutenant Franks said that he actually yearned to go to war, but that his deployment was still almost a year away and in the meantime felt he could no longer control his suicidal urges.
“I needed to be wet and cold and hungry,” he said. “I needed the grueling life I could only find in a place like the Legion.”
In hindsight, he said, there were other options, including trying to transfer to a deploying combat unit, but at the time, he thought none would be quick enough to help him.
“I feel really bad for the pain I put on my family, the disruption to my unit,” he said. “But I don’t regret what I did — any of it, good or bad — because it saved my life.”
To those who knew him, Lieutenant Franks, who grew up in Damascus, Ore., appeared to have a perfect life. The son of a neurosurgeon, intelligent, popular and captain of his high school football team, he excelled at West Point, where he graduated in the top 12 percent of his class.
“He was in top physical shape, very smart and really he was just an outstanding guy personally,” said a fellow West Point graduate, Matthew Carney, who was his roommate at Fort Drum.
Even Lieutenant Franks’s tight-knit family did not know the depths of his despair. But since early adolescence, he said, he was consumed by near-daily nightmares, unrelenting depression and a driving urge to die. Raised a Christian, he saw suicide as a sin, but said he fixated on ways to make his death appear accidental, such as driving into a tree or jumping off a cliff.
“No matter what I did, I couldn’t find peace,” he said.
The only therapy, he said, was physically punishing training exercises with other cadets.
“Some people hate to be cold or wet, but I thrived on it,” he said. “It was almost like a drug, having that challenge and focus made the depression go away.”
After graduating from West Point, he was put in charge of a medical platoon in the 10th Mountain Division’s First Brigade Combat Team at Fort Drum, where his duties consisted mainly of updating records and attending meetings.
Away from the intensity of West Point, he said, his depression grew deeper.
He did not seek counseling, he said, because as a medical officer, he had seen other troops overmedicated and shunned by their units.
In March 2009, he was put in charge of training at a pistol range, and it seemed to him that he had found a way to make his suicide appear accidental. He planned to stumble while carrying a gun on the range, pulling the trigger as he fell.
But a few days later, after a routine call to his parents, he decided that he could not put his family through a suicide. After that call, he had what he described as an epiphany: He would join the French Foreign Legion.
“It was invigorating; I was really excited about something,” he said. “For the first time in years I wasn’t thinking about killing myself.” Two days later, he was on a plane.
“He knew he was deserting the Army and would be charged, but killing himself was a bigger sin,” said Brig. Gen. Stephen Xenakis, a retired Army psychiatrist who testified for the defense during the sentencing phase of the trial.
The French Foreign Legion was created in 1831 as a wing of the French Army made up almost entirely of foreigners. It was used to fight in remote reaches of the empire, and its practice of taking in almost anyone, no questions asked, earned it a reputation as a band of outcasts, failed revolutionaries and cutthroats.
Lieutenant Franks was taken in despite being wanted by the United States Army, and, like all other recruits, was given an assumed name. He became Christopher Flaherty and signed a five-year contract.
“We never ask where they come from, " a French brigadier general, Laurent Kolodziej, said in video testimony from Paris. “You have people knocking on the door, just make sure they don’t have blood on their hands, and we take them in. The Legionnaires, it’s about giving someone a second chance.”
The lieutenant became a lowly legionnaire second class. Being stripped of rank, possessions and identity, woken up in the middle of the night to run in the rain, deprived of sleep and food, marched for hours on end while singing the slow, sorrowful songs that are a tradition in the Legion and harangued by sergeants who knew recruits had no one to call to complain, took the focus off his inner demons, he said.
“Slowly, the depression went away,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking of killing myself anymore.”
Trained as a medic, Lieutenant Franks did peacekeeping tours in the Central African Republic and Djibouti. He was promoted and earned a number of awards for merit.
In 2013, after Islamic fighters linked to Al Qaeda took over northern Mali, he was tapped to be the personal security guard for General Kolodziej, who commanded the French Army’s response.
During the next five months, he was what the French call the general’s “shoulder” because he was at his side at all times.
“He is a man I will never forget and by whom I will always stand,” General Kolodziej said in his testimony. “He is more than a born soldier, he is a born gentleman. I would like to have 10 men like that in my team, and I would be the happiest of generals.”
The day Lieutenant Franks completed his five-year contract, in March 2014, he took off his Legionnaire’s red and green epaulets and white cap and turned himself in to the United States Army in Germany.
“To turn myself in was the happiest moment in my life,” he said. “Now I was coming home to my family and to take responsibility for what I had done.”
The lieutenant was found guilty by a military jury. On Monday, his lawyer, Louis Font, said the tough sentence showed that “the Army continues to be tone deaf to mental illness and suicidal ideation.”
His parents said they understood the Army’s need to discipline him. But his father, Dr. Lawrence Franks, had hoped the Army would return him to duty.
“It just seems like a waste not to make the most of someone who is so strong and gifted and generous,” he said late last week. “Still, my hat is off to my son. He thought this was the best choice at the time, and he saved his own life.”
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Board-Certification Has Gone Too Far

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IT’S hard to believe that another 10 years have passed, but the proof is the 11-volume stack of medical review books at my bedside. It’s time for the decennial rite of cramming a thousand pages of facts for an eight-hour-long multiple choice test.
Doctors are licensed by their states to practice medicine, but they’re also expected to be “board-certified” in their particular field — surgery, obstetrics, pediatrics, etc. This certification comes from the professional organization of each field. In my case, it’s the American Board of Internal Medicine.
It used to be that you tackled those monstrous board exams just once after residency. Then you went into practice and never looked at a No. 2 pencil again. But in 1990, the boards decided that doctors should recertify every 10 years. This seemed reasonable, given how much medicine changes. Over time, though, the recertification process has become its own industry. The exam has been supplemented with a growing number of maintenance-of-certification, or M.O.C., requirements. Some are knowledge-based exercises, but many are “practice assessments” meant to improve care in your own practice that end up being just onerous paperwork. And the recertification process and associated materials cost doctors thousands of dollars.
This year the internal medicine board announced that doctors who didn’t participate would be publicly tagged as “not meeting M.O.C. requirements.” Many jobs require board-certification, so a number of doctors felt that this tactic amounted to extortion. More than 19,000 signed a petition in protest. They complained that the specialty boards are monopolies that control who can practice medicine and use this power to compel compliance and exorbitant fees. Worse, they argued that the recertification process might not even be effective.
It may seem obvious that continuing education would benefit doctors and patients, but in medicine we’ve often learned the hard way that things that seem intuitive (think estrogen replacement therapy) may turn out to have little benefit or to even be harmful.
Two recent studies in The Journal of the American Medical Association are the first to seriously evaluate the role of M.O.C. in physician quality and medical costs. They compared doctors certified just before the 1990 change (who were grandfathered in for life and not required to recertify) and their colleagues who certified just after 1990. One study looked at costs and the other at quality (as measured by patients’ glucose levels, blood pressurecolon cancer screening rates and the use of medication for heart disease). The studies differed in methodology but the upshot was that patients’ medical outcomes were no better and overall costs were only marginally lower in the recertifying group (2.5 percent).
All that effort, in other words, didn’t seem to make doctors better. Many doctors are rallying around these findings to call for a wholesale dismantling of the recertification system.
But others are using the data to ask how recertification can be made meaningful. Just because these studies didn’t show an effect doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist. Recertification may benefit certain subsets of patients, such as those with less common illnesses who aren’t numerous enough to influence study results.
Some parts of the recertification process are useful. The practice questions in the review books, for example, exercise muscles we don’t use every day. They re-emphasize important points, remind us about conditions that we see less often and, best of all, are open-book, much like real life. When there is a complex patient in clinical practice, no doctor relies just on memory; we look up the information, check a journal or consult a colleague. To rely solely on memory, especially for rarer illnesses or complicated patients, would be malpractice.
Which is why the huge exam that culminates each decade of recertification should be abolished. Memorizing reams of information to be regurgitated in a “secure testing center” is a waste of time and resources, and does not reflect how medicine is practiced.
Most doctors agree with having some sort of process that updates and refreshes medical knowledge. But the process has become unmanageable. Let’s strip away the archaic exam and the paperwork-heavy practice assessments. A periodic, modest-size, open-book test that incorporates relevant knowledge and updates would be more reasonable.
There is much more to the science, art and practice of medicine than medical knowledge. But it is the one aspect we can easily assess on a profession-wide scale. Open-book, self-paced tests are the best way to keep knowledge current. The act of searching for answers — whether from journals, textbooks, databases or colleagues — is itself the knowledge. All the rest is busy work and red tape.
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Egypt’s Latest Outrage - NYTimes.com

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Two events over the weekend illustrated the contradictory relationship between the United States and Egypt. On Friday, Egypt refused to grant entry to an American scholar and former diplomat, Michele Dunne, who had been invited to attend a conference in Cairo.
The next day, the United States Senate approved a huge spending bill that could allow Egypt to receive more than $1.3 billion in American military aid regardless of whether Cairo continues to repress Egyptian citizens or harass foreigners like Ms. Dunne.
One of the bizarre aspects of her expulsion is that the conference she had been invited to attend was of no great threat to the Egyptian government. It was organized by the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, which counts many former Egyptian diplomats as members. Initially, an airport security guard stamped her passport and allowed her to enter the country, then she was called back and forced to leave the country. Egyptian news reports said she was expelled for unspecified national security reasons; the government later claimed, spuriously, that she did not have a proper visa.
The idea that Ms. Dunne might be a threat is preposterous — but not to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and those around him who have no tolerance for dissent. Ms. Dunne has criticized the government and the continued provision of American military aid, but she also criticized previous governments. There is much to criticize.
Mr. Sisi overthrew Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi; crushed the Muslim Brotherhood that supported Mr. Morsi; imprisoned countless liberals and secularists; cracked down on journalists and nongovernmental groups; and presided over a judiciary that sentenced hundreds of Brotherhood members to death after show trials while throwing out a murder case against the former dictator Hosni Mubarak.
Regrettably, Congress is giving Mr. Sisi no serious reason to reconsider his methods of governing, which are even more authoritarian than Mr. Mubarak’s, or to see the annual $1.3 billion in American military aid as anything other than an entitlement. He does not pretend to care about American concerns.
Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, tried but failed to reduce Egypt’s annual military entitlement in the omnibus spending bill approved by Congress on Saturday. As was true of last year’s spending bill, the measure requires Secretary of State John Kerry to certify that Egypt is moving on a democratic path.
It added further conditions, specifying that Egypt hold free and fair parliamentary elections and provide detainees with due process of law. It also requires Mr. Kerry to consult with Congress on restructuring aid to Egypt, including the cash flow finance system (enjoyed only by Israel and Egypt) that works like a credit card.
But perhaps fatally for the cause of reform, the bill — reflecting strong lobbying by the American defense industry that provides most of Egypt’s military equipment — allows the administration to waive those conditions in the interests of national security.
The waiver gives Mr. Kerry an opening to continue rewarding the Egyptian government for bad behavior. He should not invoke it. He should agree to restructure the aid package eventually to eliminate cash flow finance.
Egypt is an important partner in Middle East peace and the fight against extremists, but it does not serve American interests to funnel aid, without question or account, to a government that is ruthless and self-destructive — a government whose treatment of people like Ms. Dunne will discourage the tourism and development Mr. Sisi needs to revive his country’s economy.
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Ruble Continues Its Decline in Russia, Despite Interest Rate Increase

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MOSCOW — The ruble’s value continued to slide on Tuesday despite the Russian central bank’s extraordinary effort to defend it, inducing further panic in the nation’s financial industry and presenting President Vladimir V. Putin with an acute new set of political and economic challenges.
Scenes that Russians hoped had receded into the past reappeared on the streets: Currency exchange signs blinked ever-changing digits, and Russians rushed to appliance stores to buy washing machines or televisions to unload rubles.
“We are seeing an economic crisis,” Natalia V. Akindinova, a professor at the Higher School of Economics, said in a telephone interview. “We are seeing a sharp devaluation of the ruble at a time when the central bank doesn’t have the reserves to influence the market, as it did in the past crises.”
Despite the decision by the Central Bank of Russia to raise its short-term interest rate in the middle of the night to 17 percent from 10.5 percent, the value of the currency continued to slip on Tuesday after initially showing signs of stabilizing. The interest rate move came after the ruble fell 10 percent on Monday.
In afternoon trading, the Russian currency resumed its fall to record lows, with the dollar rising above 79 rubles in spite of the bank’s policy shift.
Of particular concern in the financial markets were fears that the Kremlin had in effect decided to print money to address a growing debt problem. Worries that the central bank had effectively issued new rubles to prop up the national oil company Rosneft were among the factors that prompted the dramatic sell-off of rubles on Monday.
With pressure mounting, the bank appeared to have lapsed into a “policy of printing money,” Ms. Akindinova said, to aid the state oil company pinched by low oil prices and financial sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.
Traders suggested that they had been spooked by concerns that the cronyism and opaque insider dealings that have long plagued business here had spread to monetary policy.
The central bank also increased allotments of dollars to the Russian banking system, to finance the purchase of rubles as part of the effort to stabilize the currency.
The interest rate increase and the inflation that comes with a sharp fall in the value of a currency are creating additional pressures on the Russian economy, which has been buffeted by plunging oil prices and the effect of Western sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union on Russia because of its involvement in the Ukraine conflict.
A continued fall in the value of the ruble could present Mr. Putin with difficult choices and could make it more difficult to sustain the political support he has enjoyed at home even as his relations with the United States and Europe have frayed.
Though the fall in the price of oil, a major Russian export commodity, has been whittling away at the ruble for months, oil prices actually ticked up on Monday. The immediate cause of that day’s plunge, analysts say, was word of an opaque deal involving the central bank and the state-controlled oil company, Rosneft.
The well-connected business executive running the company, Igor I. Sechin, a longtime associate of Mr. Putin, had apparently persuaded the central bank to effectively issue billions of new rubles to his company to help cover debts.
For months, Rosneft had been clamoring for a government bailout to refinance debt the company ran up while making acquisitions when oil prices were high. Because of sanctions, those loans cannot be rolled over with Western banks.
Debt payments are coming due later this month. Relying only on the company’s own cash reserves would disrupt oil development projects on which Russia is relying for future revenue.
With the oil giant in a bind, the central bank ruled that it would accept Rosneft bonds held by commercial banks as collateral for loans.
Rosneft issued 625 billion rubles, about $10.9 billion at the exchange rate at the time, in new bonds on Friday. The identities of the buyers were not publicly disclosed, but analysts say that large state banks bought the issue.
When these banks deposit the bonds with the central bank in exchange for loans, Rosneft will have been financed, in effect, with an emission of rubles from the central bank.
The disclosure of the government’s brokered solution for Rosneft shook the market on Monday, apparently because it resembled the practice of so-called monetizing deficits, or printing money, to pad a government budget.
Not surprisingly, the ruble, trading at about 57 to the dollar Monday morning, collapsed to 64 rubles to the dollar by the end of the day, its worst one-day sell-off since Russia defaulted on its debts in 1998.
The reason for Monday’s currency crash is “well known,” Boris Y. Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister who is now in the political opposition, wrote on his Facebook page. “The central bank started the printing press to help the Sechin-Putin business, and gave Rosneft 625 billion newly printed rubles. The money immediately appeared on the currency market, and the rate collapsed.”
As markets absorbed the Russian news on Tuesday, stocks in Asia ended generally lower and the yen, a refuge currency for investors, hit a four-week high. European stocks overcame early losses to trade higher through midday.
Brent crude oil, an international benchmark, fell $1.96 to $59.25 in midday trading in London on Tuesday.
Before the Rosneft bond issue, the government had indicated to investors that it intended to cut about 500 billion rubles from next year’s budget, in effect reducing ruble liquidity by an amount commensurate with the Rosneft bond issue.
In the years of the oil boom, Mr. Putin’s government assumed an ever-larger role in the economy. Longtime associates of Mr. Putin’s from St. Petersburg, his hometown, or from his years in the Soviet intelligence agency the K.G.B., took the helm at huge state-owned enterprises.
All the while, the central bank and a liberal wing of economic policy advisers had remained aloof from the politically driven divvying up of assets.
But now, in the view of financial traders and holders of Russian debt, the central bank’s decision to accept Rosneft bonds as collateral for loans seems to set an ominous precedent. Russian corporations and banks are scheduled to repay $30 billion in foreign loans this month.
And next year, about $130 billion will come due. There is no obvious source for these hard currency payments other than the central bank, whose credibility is now being called into question.
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Pakistani Taliban Attack on Peshawar School Leaves 145 Dead

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CreditBilawal Arbab/European Pressphoto Agency
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Pakistani Taliban gunmen stormed into a military-run school in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, killing scores of teachers and schoolchildren and fighting an eight-hour gun battle with the security forces, officials said.
At least 145 people were killed, more than 100 of them children, in a siege that lasted more than eight hours before the last of the nine attackers were killed, government and medical officials said.
A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban said his group was responsible for the attack and said it was in retaliation for the military’s offensive against militants in the North Waziristan tribal district.
Desperate parents rushed to local hospitals or gathered outside the school gates seeking news of pupils at the school, who ranged in age from about 4 to about 16. The school had about 2,500 students in all, both boys and girls, according to the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province information minister, Mushtaq Ghani.
One parent, Muhammad Arshad, described his relief after his son Ehsan was rescued from the school by army commandos. “I am thankful to God for giving him a second life,” he said.
An attack by the Taliban in Peshawar killed more than 100 children.
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Many others, though, were less fortunate.
The militants’ assault on the school started at about 10 a.m., when the gunmen entered the Army Public School and Degree College in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. Local news reports said the gunmen were disguised as paramilitary Frontier Corps soldiers and gained entry by scaling a wall at the rear of the main building.
The attackers then opened fire on students with guns and grenades and, in a chilling echo of theBeslan school siege in Russia in 2004, took dozens of people hostage in the school’s main auditorium, according to news reports.
Some students managed to flee. Television coverage showed panic-stricken pupils in green sweaters and blazers, the school uniform, being evacuated from the compound. Others were wounded, and were taken to the Lady Reading Hospital in the city, where other parents gathered looking for news of their children. The hospital later published a list of students known to have died; many of the dead have not yet been identified.
By late afternoon, the army said it had cleared three sections of the school compound and that troops were pushing through the remaining sections. After the last of the militants was killed, officials said, soldiers were sweeping the compound for explosives.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived in Peshawar, where the authorities declared three days of mourning. Mr. Sharif announced an emergency meeting of all political parties in the city for Wednesday. In a statement, the foreign ministry said it was “deeply shocked” by the attack but that the government was undeterred in its fight against the Taliban.
“These terrorists are enemies of Pakistan, enemies of Islam and enemies of humanity,” the statement said.
The British prime minister, David Cameron, called the attack “deeply shocking,” said it was “horrifying that children are being killed simply for going to school. The American ambassador to Pakistan, Richard G. Olson, said the United States “stands in solidarity with the people of Pakistan.”
And Malala Yousafzai, the teenage education campaigner from northwestern Pakistan who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in a ceremony last week, said she was “heartbroken by this senseless and coldblooded act of terror.”
“Innocent children in their school have no place in horror such as this,” Ms. Yousafzai said in a statement. “I, along with millions of others around the world, mourn these children, my brothers and sisters — but we will never be defeated.”
The Army Public School in Peshawar is part of a network of schools that the military operates in garrisons and major cities across Pakistan. Students from army families have preferential access, but many of the students and teachers in the schools come from civilian backgrounds.
The school in Peshawar is in a part of town where major government and military buildings are located. The area has frequently been a target for militant attacks.
The assault on the school comes at a time of political turbulence in Pakistan. The opposition politicianImran Khan, whose party controls the provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has been staging protest rallies in major cities in a bid to unseat Mr. Sharif, claiming that Mr. Sharif’s supporters rigged the 2013 elections.
Mr. Khan has criticized army operations in the tribal areas and called on the government to negotiate with the militants instead of fighting them, a stance that has attracted wide criticism.
The Pakistani Taliban have come under intense pressure this year because of internal frictions and the military’s continuing operation in North Waziristan, which started in June following an audacious attack on the Karachi airport.
The military says that the offensive, officially known as Operation Zarb-e-Azb, has resulted in the death of 1,800 militants and cleared much of North Waziristan, the region’s most notorious hub of militant activities.
Still, the school attack on Tuesday demonstrated that the Taliban remain willing and able to strike at vulnerable civilian targets.
Correction: December 16, 2014
An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of an offensive by Pakistan’s military. It is Operation Zarb-e-Azb, not Zab-e-Azb.