Monday, March 31, 2014

Responding to Criticism, N. Korea Threatens to Carry Out 4th Nuclear Bomb Test

North Korea’s threat to carry out a “new form” of nuclear test follows its previous pattern of citing international criticism as justification for actions which the reclusive Stalinist regime was evidently planning to take anyway. Read

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Obama Talked to Saudi King For More Than Two Hours – But Not About Human Rights

President Obama did not raise human rights concerns during his meeting with Saudi King Abdullah, an administration official confirmed after the two leaders talked for more than two hours. Read

Friday, March 28, 2014

Obama Tells Vatican:‘Most Religious Organizations Are Entirely Exempt’ from Obamacare

President Obama said Pope Francis did not raise Obamacare “in detail” when they met on Thursday, but that in a separate meeting with the Vatican’s secretary of state “we discussed briefly the issue of making sure that conscience and religious freedom was observed in the context of applying the law.” Read

What 'Potential Persecution' of Christians? Rep. Wolf Asks Obama

A leading congressional advocate for international religious freedom challenged President Obama on Thursday to appoint a special envoy for persecuted religious minorities, after the president said he told Pope Francis that protecting religious minorities around the world was “central to U.S. foreign policy.” Read

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ukraine Crisis: Obama’s Poll Numbers Drop, Putin’s Climb

A new poll gives President Obama record low approval on foreign policy – 40 percent – with a majority of respondents saying they are unimpressed with his handling of the Ukraine crisis. At the same time, President Vladimir Putin’s approval rating in an independent Russian poll has reached 80 percent, a grade that would provoke envy in any Western capital. Read

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Obama Ducks Opportunity to Support NATO Membership for Ukraine, Georgia

President Obama on Wednesday had an opportunity to voice support for future NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia, but instead noted that neither country was “currently on a path to NATO membership,” adding that “there has not been any immediate plans for expansion of NATO’s membership.” Read

Saudis Deny Visa to Jewish Reporter Covering Obama--Obama Still Going

The administration criticized Saudi Arabia’s denial of a visa for a Jewish White House correspondent wanting to cover President Obama’s visit to the kingdom on Friday, but when asked Tuesday whether it would “reconsider going to Saudi Arabia or anything like that,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said “no.” Read

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Obama: Additional Sanctions on Russia ‘Could Cause Some Disruptions to Each of Our Economies’

President Obama on Tuesday acknowledged, again, that tougher sanctions which would be imposed against Russia should it encroach further into Ukraine would have an impact on the global economy. Read

Pentagon: Karzai’s Support for Russia’s Takeover of Crimea ‘Not Helpful’

Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s declaration of support for Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region “is clearly not helpful,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said Monday. Read

Authoritarian States Try to Silence Speaker at UN Rights Council: 'He Should Not be Given The Floor'

At a session of the U.N. Human Rights Council on Monday, some of the council’s most authoritarian members tried one by one to get the chair to silence a speaker who evidently was embarrassing the Palestinian delegation. Read

Monday, March 24, 2014

Chinese State Media Ignores Michelle Obama's Call for Freedom of Expression and Worship

First Lady Michelle Obama included cautious but clear remarks on freedom of expression and worship in a speech in Beijing at the weekend – comments that were ignored in state media coverage of her visit, where the preferred focus has been on fashion and food. Read

Obama Prepares to Discuss Russia’s Ukraine Invasion With G7, E.U. and NATO

The international diplomatic response to the Ukraine crisis will shift gears in the coming days as President Obama attends back-to-back summits in Europe, with Russia’s intervention in the former Soviet state high on the agenda. Read

Friday, March 21, 2014

Mrs. Obama Urged to Speak Out Against Chinese Rights Abuses, As Her Predecessors Did

Nearly two decades after then-First Lady Hillary Clinton condemned forced abortion in a speech in Beijing, human rights campaigners say First Lady Michelle Obama should do the same. Read

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Russia Critics on Capitol Hill ‘Proud’ to be Sanctioned by Putin

Russia’s foreign ministry on Thursday slapped “reciprocal sanctions” on nine U.S. administration officials and senior lawmakers, calling the move a response to the “hostile” actions taken by Washington against Russian officials over the Crimea annexation. Read

Planes Sent to Check After Australia Reports Satellite Picked Up Two Objects in Southern Indian Ocean

As the search continues for the missing Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, the Australian government announced Thursday that surveillance aircraft had been deployed to check two objects detected by satellite in the southern Indian Ocean. Read

US Envoy: Russian Stance on Crimea Shows ‘More Imagination Than Tolstoy’

A U.N. Security Council session Wednesday on the crisis in Crimea witnessed strong exchanges, with Russia’s representative protesting language used by his American counterpart, and warning that Moscow’s cooperation “on other issues” before the council could be at risk. Read

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

NATO Chief: Crimea ‘Most Serious Security Crisis Since End of Cold War’

Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine and annexation of its Crimea region is “the most serious security crisis since the end of the Cold War,” NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Wednesday. Read

Crimea Crisis: A Timeline of U.S. Appeals, and Russian Defiance

Every step taken by Russian President Vladimir Putin concerning Ukraine since the ousting of his ally Viktor Yanukovich almost a month ago has come in direct defiance of appeals, entreaties and warnings from the Obama administration. Read

Tensions Rise Along Israel-Syria Border After Bombing of Israeli Patrol

Israel’s air force early Wednesday bombed a Syrian military headquarters, training facility and artillery batteries, which it said had enabled an attack on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights border Tuesday. Four four Israeli soldiers were injured, one critically, when their jeep was bombed. Read

North Korean Born in a Prison Camp: ‘My Favorite Word is Freedom’

A North Korean who was born in a camp for political prisoners and saw family members executed appealed to the international community this week to “relieve my North Korean brothers and sisters,” saying hundreds of thousands of political prisoners in his country were waiting for their deaths. Read

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Homeland Security Chair: Missing Plane May be in Hands of Terrorists

As the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 continues over a huge swathe of Asia, the possibility should not be ruled out that the plane may be in terrorists’ hands, being prepared in a remote location for use in a major attack, House Homeland Security Committee chairman Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.) said Monday. Read

Obama Praises Abbas: ‘Somebody Who Has Consistently Renounced Violence’

Hosting Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office on Monday, President Obama described his visitor as “somebody who has consistently renounced violence” – a view in stark contrast to that held by the Israeli government. Read

Monday, March 17, 2014

Bolton: Sending Kerry to Ukraine Talks ‘Like Sending a Cupcake to Negotiate With a Steak Knife’

Sending Secretary of State John Kerry to negotiate with his Russian counterpart in a failed bid to avert a Moscow-backed referendum in Crimea was “like sending a cupcake to negotiate with a steak knife,” former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton said on Sunday. Read

Crimea Vote: Putin Cites Kosovo ‘Precedent’

Russian President Vladimir Putin told President Obama in a phone call Sunday that Crimea’s referendum was in line with international law, and tellingly cited Kosovo’s 2008 unilateral declaration of independence – which Moscow bitterly opposed. Read

Friday, March 14, 2014

Kerry on Exporting Natural Gas to Ukraine: ‘We’re All For It’

Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday the administration was in favor of exporting liquefied natural gas to Ukraine as a way of reducing its energy dependency on Russia. But after he noted that the Department of Energy has already given approval for six LNG export terminals, he was reminded that more than 20 others are awaiting a decision. Read

Russian Envoy: Crimea Referendum Like America's Move for Independence in 1776

As Russian forces deployed near Ukraine’s borders for “exercises” ahead of Sunday’s referendum in Crimea, Moscow’s ambassador to the United Nations on Thursday said the decision before the inhabitants of the Black Sea peninsula is similar to the one faced by the 13 American colonies in 1776. Read

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Kerry in Last-Minute Effort to Stop Crimea From Voting to Join Russia

As Secretary of State John Kerry prepares to meet his Russian counterpart in London for last-ditch talks Friday aimed at averting a rushed referendum on Crimea’s reincorporation into Russia, neither Russia nor the separatist authorities in Crimea show any sign of backing down. Read

Newly Formed Muslim Coalition Seeks Greater Clout in U.S. Elections

Ten U.S. Islamic organizations have formed a new umbrella group to serve as a “representative voice” for American Muslims, and one of their first tasks will be to carry out a census of the community. Read

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Press Watchdog Lumps NSA With ‘Enemies of the Internet’ in China, Iran

The press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders has listed the National Security Agency and agencies in Britain and India as “enemies of the Internet,” lumping the organizations in the three democracies together with those in repressive regimes such as China, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Read

CIA Director ‘Not At All’ Ruling Out Terror in Case of Missing Passenger Jet

With mystery continuing to surround the fate of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, CIA Director John Brennan said Tuesday that there was “a lot of speculation right now” but he would not rule out the possibility of terrorism being a factor. Read

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

CIA Head: Al-Qaeda Has 'Perverse and Very Corrupt Interpretation of Qur'an'

Al-Qaeda’s ideology, built on “a perverse and very corrupt interpretation of the Qur’an,” resonates in many parts of the world, and is often fed by political repression, economic disenfranchisement and “lack of education and ignorance,” CIA Director John Brennan said on Tuesday. Read

Iran Berates High-Level EU Visitor for Meeting With Women Activists

European Union foreign policy chief Cathy Ashton, on a “goodwill” visit to Iran, said she had been privileged to celebrate International Women’s Day with a group of Iranian women. But her hosts didn’t share the sentiment, reacting sharply on Monday to what they called an “unsanctioned” meeting with dissidents. Read

Monday, March 10, 2014

SE Asia’s Brunei Introducing Islamic Punishment: Stoning, Limb Amputation

The small Southeast Asian sultanate of Brunei is just weeks away from introducing a penal code providing for stoning to death, limb amputation, flogging and lengthy prison terms for actions that contravene Islamic law. In most cases, non-Muslims will not be exempt. Read

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Cheney: ‘No Question’ Putin Believes Obama is Weak

Former Vice-President Dick Cheney said Sunday there is “no question” Russian President Vladimir Putin believes President Obama is weak. In response to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, he said, there are steps the U.S. could take to send a “strong signal” to European friends and allies that America honors its commitments. Read

Friday, March 07, 2014

Russia Reportedly Begins New War Games, 280 Miles from Ukraine Border

Two days after President Vladimir Putin ordered an end to large-scale military exercises in Russian regions near Ukraine – a step welcomed by the West as a positive sign – new war games were reported Thursday to have begun in the area. Read

Thursday, March 06, 2014

State Dep’t Won't Say If Putin Is on Its Visa-Ban List

The Obama administration on Thursday unveiled steps it is taking against those who have threatened Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, but a State Department spokeswoman hinted that Russian President Vladimir Putin is not among those now being targeted. Read

UN Climate Chief Sees ‘Silver Lining’ in Extreme Weather: Raises Issue to 'Highest Political Levels'

Extreme weather events like the winter freeze over North America and devastating floods in England have a “silver lining” – a reminder that urgently addressing climate change is not a politically partisan issue, in the view of U.N. climate change chief Christiana Figueres. Read

Assad Likely to Flout a 3rd Chemical Weapons Deadline

Despite talk of “good progress” from the U.N. chemical weapons watchdog, the Assad regime looks set to miss yet another key deadline in the U.N.-mandated timetable for shutting down its chemical warfare capabilities. Read

Poll Gives Obama a Fail on Improving America’s Global Image

A new opinion poll gives President Obama a record low job approval rating, with the biggest erosion in support seen in the area of improving America’s image around the world. Read

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

FLASHBACK: Only Minor Punishment for Russia Last Time It Sent Troops Across Border

Five years ago Wednesday, NATO agreed to end a freeze in relations with Moscow, instituted in response to Russia’s invasion of Georgia seven months earlier. As the West mulls responses to Russia’s current actions in Ukraine, the anniversary of that NATO decision serves as a reminder of the small price the Kremlin paid for its aggression last time. Read

Anti-War Activist Detained, Injured in Cairo Says US Embassy ‘Was Missing in Action’

The State Department is disputing claims by CodePink co-founder Medea Benjamin that U.S. consular officials provided no help when she was detained at an airport in Cairo for more than 12 hours. During that time, the anti-war activist says Egyptian authorities badly injured her arm before deporting her. Read

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Putin Points to U.S. Interference in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya

The gloves came off in the standoff over Ukraine Tuesday, with Russian President Vladimir Putin accusing the U.S. of beating into submission countries that don’t agree with it, and President Obama accusing Russia of violating international law by “seeking, through force, to exert influence on a neighboring country.” Read

Church Leaders Appeal: Keep Ukraine Intact, Prevent Bloodshed

The head of the powerful Russian Orthodox Church, generally viewed as supportive of President Vladimir Putin, has assured co-religionists in Ukraine that he will “do everything that is possible to persuade those in power that they cannot allow destroying peaceful people” in Ukraine. Read

Monday, March 03, 2014

Russian UN Envoy: What if Mitt Romney and Congress Ousted Obama? ‘Would That be Democratic?’

Russia’s ambassador to the U.N. on Monday afternoon compared the exit of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich from Kiev last month to a situation in which former Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney went to the White House while President Obama was away, and then Congress impeached the president. Read

Putin Hints That He May Not Stop at Crimea

During his 90-minute phone conversation with President Obama on Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin hinted that Russian military intervention in Ukraine could go beyond Crimea, the region now under effectively occupied by Russia. Read

Administration Dismisses Obama's Credibility Problem, Says Putin's Looking Weak

A senior administration official took issue with a reporter’s suggestion Sunday that the Ukraine crisis has left President Obama with “a credibility problem around the world with other foreign leaders, and particularly very strong ones like [Russian President] Vladimir Putin.” Read

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Kerry Disputes That Putin Seized Crimea Because He Thought Obama Wouldn’t Respond

Secretary of State John Kerry Sunday challenged the notion that President Vladimir Putin went ahead and seized control of Ukraine’s Crimea on the assumption that President Obama would do nothing in response. Russia was not operating from “a position of strength,” he declared. Read

Kerry: ‘I Don’t Know What You Mean by the Reset’ With Russia

For a brief moment during his interview on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday Secretary of State John Kerry appeared to suggest that he was unaware of the administration’s much-hyped 2009 “reset” with Russia. Read