Paris Elects Its First-Ever Female Mayor / Turkey’s Erdogan declares victory in local elections

Paris Elects Its First-Ever Female Mayor

Paris has elected its first-ever female mayor, the Spanish-born Socialist Anne Hidalgo, even as elsewhere in the country more right-wing candidates won their races. Hidalgo received 54.5 per cent of the vote.

Hidalgo promised major investment in housing, transportation, and green spaces, hoping to stay the exodus of middle and working-class families from the city, aiming specifically to create 10,000 new social housing units and 5,000 kindergarten places.

Read more at Gawker

Turkey’s Erdogan declares victory in local elections

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Image attribution: Gobierno de Chile [CC-BY-3.0-cl (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/cl/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan declared victory in local polls that had become a referendum on his rule and said he would “enter the lair” of enemies who have accused him of corruption and leaked state secrets, saying “they will pay for this”.

But while Erdogan’s AK Party was well ahead in overall votes after Sunday’s elections, the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) appeared close to seizing the capital, Ankara.

Erdogan, fighting the biggest challenge of his 12-year rule, addressed supporters from a balcony at the AKP headquarters at the end of a long and bitter election campaign in which he has labelled his opponents “terrorists” and an “alliance of evil”.

The harsh tone of his balcony address suggested he felt he now had a mandate for strong action against his enemies. “From tomorrow, there may be some who flee,” he said.

The election campaign has been dominated by a power struggle between Erdogan and a moderate US-based cleric, Fethullah Gulen, whom he accuses of using a network of followers in police and judiciary to fabricate graft accusations in an effort to topple him. Erdogan has purged thousands of police officers and hundreds of judges and prosecutors since anti-graft raids in December targeting businessmen close to him and sons of ministers.

Read more at France 24

Russian Revisionism

Putin’s Plan For Overturning the European Order

An armed man stands outside the cabinet of ministers building in Simferopol in Crimea, March 3, 2014. (Thomas Peter / Courtesy Reuters)

Russia’s willingness to violate Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty is the gravest challenge to the European order in over half a century. The conflict pits a vast nuclear power against a state equal in size to France, an autocratic regime against a revolutionary government. The Russian intervention in Ukraine raises questions about the security guarantees that the West made to Ukraine after the country gave up its nuclear weapons in 1994, and it flies in the face of many Europeans’ belief that, in recent years, a continental war has become all but impossible. The end result may be the emergence of a third Russian empire or a failed Ukrainian state at the center of Europe.

Russia’s aggression in Ukraine should not be understood as an opportunistic power grab. Rather, it is an attempt to politically, culturally, and militarily resist the West. Russia resorted to military force because it wanted to signal a game change, not because it had no other options. Indeed, it had plenty of other ways to put pressure on Kiev, including through the Russian Black Sea fleet in Sevastopol, the Ukrainian city in which the force is based; playing with gas prices; demanding that Ukraine start paying off its government debt to Russia; and drumming up anti-Ukrainian sentiment among Ukraine’s sizable Russian population. Further, senior American figures had already noted that the Ukrainian crisis could not be solved without Russia, and European leaders had expressed their unhappiness about a new (and unfortunate) law that Ukraine’s transitional government passed soon after it was formed, which degraded the status of the Russian language. In other words, resorting to force was unnecessary.

It was also dangerous: Ukraine is a big country, and its public, still in a revolutionary mood, is primed to fight for a patriotic cause. Moscow’s intervention will provoke strong anti-Russian sentiments in Ukraine and will perhaps bring what’s left of the country closer to the EU and NATO. Military intervention in Ukraine also risks unleashing a real humanitarian crisis within Russia. According to Russian sources, nearly 700,000 Ukrainians have fled to Russia over the last two months. Around 143,000 of them have asked for asylum. A war in Ukraine could triple these numbers. Finally, it is easy to foresee that Moscow’s use of force will increase Russia’s political isolation. It has already resulted in some economic and political sanctions, which could be a knockout punch to Russia’s stagnating economy. By some estimates, the direct costs to Russia of a war in Ukraine could reach over three percent of Russian GDP (over $60 billion).

Yet Putin decided to throw caution to the wind. Anger is one of his reasons for doing so. Putin was defeated twice in Ukraine: first during the 2004 Orange revolution, which brought to power a pro-Western coalition led by Yulia Tymoshenko, and second during the recent protests, which booted President Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian politician, out of office. Moscow had bet on Yanukovych and had tried to hold him hostage to its own interests. For example, it pressed him to refuse to sign an Association Agreement with the EU (his failure to sign was what first sparked the protests in Ukraine) and loaned Ukraine nearly $15 billion, thus making the country dependent on Russia. But it was really Putin who became hostage to the increasingly unpopular Yanukovych and his hapless cronies. When Yanukovych lost power, Putin suddenly and unexpectedly lost his strategic partner. Putin’s escalation, at least in part, is an attempt to cover up the failures of his Ukraine policy.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

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Is the U.S. Backing Neo-Nazis in Ukraine?

Exposing troubling ties in the U.S. to overt Nazi and fascist protesters in Ukraine.

U.S. Senator John McCain, right, meets Ukrainian opposition leaders Arseniy Yatsenyuk, left, and Oleh Tyahnybok in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013.
Image via Business Insider

As the Euromaidan protests in the Ukrainian capitol of Kiev culminated this week, displays of open fascism and neo-Nazi extremism became too glaring to ignore. Since demonstrators filled the downtown square to battle Ukrainian riot police and demand the ouster of the corruption-stained, pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich, it has been filled with far-right streetfighting men pledging to defend their country’s ethnic purity.

White supremacist banners and Confederate flags were draped inside Kiev’s occupied City Hall, and demonstrators have hoisted Nazi SS and white power symbols over a toppled memorial to V.I. Lenin. After Yanukovich fled his palatial estate by helicopter, EuroMaidan protesters destroyed a memorial to Ukrainians who died battling German occupation during World War II. Sieg heil salutes and the Nazi Wolfsangel symbol have become an increasingly common site in Maidan Square, and neo-Nazi forces have established “autonomous zones” in and around Kiev.

An Anarchist group called AntiFascist Union Ukraine attempted to join the Euromaidan demonstrations but found it difficult to avoid threats of violence and imprecations from the gangs of neo-Nazis roving the square. “They called the Anarchists things like Jews, blacks, Communists,” one of its members said. “There weren’t even any Communists, that was just an insult.”

“There are lots of Nationalists here, including Nazis,” the anti-fascist continued. “They came from all over Ukraine, and they make up about 30% of protesters.”

One of the “Big Three” political parties behind the protests is the ultra-nationalist Svoboda, whose leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, has called for the liberation of his country from the “Muscovite-Jewish mafia.” After the 2010 conviction of the Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk for his supporting role in the death of nearly 30,000 people at the Sobibor camp, Tyahnybok rushed to Germany to declare him a hero who was “fighting for truth.” In the Ukrainian parliament, where Svoboda holds an unprecedented 37 seats, Tyahnybok’s deputy Yuriy Mykhalchyshyn is fond of quoting Joseph Goebbels – he has even founded a think tank originally called “the Joseph Goebbels Political Research Center.” According to Per Anders Rudling, a leading academic expert on European neo-fascism, the self-described “socialist nationalist” Mykhalchyshyn is the main link between Svoboda’s official wing and neo-Nazi militias like Right Sector.

Read more at AlterNet

This is outstanding reporting by Max Blumenthal.

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The Russian Stronghold in Ukraine Preparing to Fight the Revolution

Lawmakers and worried citizens in the pro-Russia Crimea consider their options

A Ukrainian woman holds a Soviet flag during a rally in the industrial city of Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine, on Feb. 22, 2014

The busload of officers only began to feel safe when they entered the Crimean peninsula. Through the night on Friday, they drove the length of Ukraine from north to south, having abandoned the capital city of Kiev to the revolution. Along the way the protesters in several towns pelted their bus with eggs, rocks and, at one point, what looked to be blood before the retreating officers realized it was only ketchup. “People were screaming, cursing at us,” recalls one of the policemen, Vlad Roditelev.

Finally, on Saturday morning, the bus reached the refuge of Crimea, the only chunk of Ukraine where the revolution has failed to take hold. Connected to the mainland by two narrow passes, this huge peninsula on the Black Sea has long been a land apart, an island of Russian nationalism in a nation drifting toward Europe. One of its biggest cities, Sevastopol, is home to a Russian naval base that houses around 25,000 troops, and most Crimean residents identify themselves as Russians, not Ukrainians.

So when the forces of the revolution took over the national parliament on Friday, pledging to rid Ukraine of Russian influence and integrate with Europe, the people of Crimea panicked. Some began to form militias, others sent distress calls to the Kremlin. And if the officers of the Berkut riot police are now despised throughout the rest of the country for killing dozens of protesters in Kiev this week, they were welcomed in Crimea as heroes.

For Ukraine’s revolutionary leaders, that presents an urgent problem. In a matter of days, their sympathizers managed to seize nearly the entire country, including some of the most staunchly pro-Russian regions of eastern Ukraine. But they have made barely any headway on the Crimean peninsula. On the contrary, the revolution has given the ethnic Russian majority in Crimea their best chance ever to break away from Kiev’s rule and come back under the control of Russia. “An opportunity like this has never come along,” says Tatyana Yermakova, the head of the Russian Community of Sevastopol, a civil-society group in Crimea.

On Wednesday, just as the violence in Kiev was reaching its cadence, Yermakova sent an appeal to the Kremlin asking Russia to send in troops to “prevent a genocide of the Russian population of Crimea.” The revolution, she wrote in a missive to Russian President Vladimir Putin, is being carried out by mercenaries with funding from Europe and the United States “with only one goal in mind: the destruction of the Russian world.”

Read more at TIME

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Ukraine’s Leader Flees the Capital; Elections Are Called

In Kiev on Saturday, opposition members, including Vitaly Klitschko, top right, celebrated as Ukraine’s Parliament voted to remove President Viktor F. Yanukovych from office hours after he abandoned his office to protesters and denounced what he described as a coup. Reuters

KIEV, Ukraine — Abandoned by his own guards and reviled across the Ukrainian capital but still determined to recover his shredded authority, President Viktor F. Yanukovych fled Kiev on Saturday to denounce what he called a violent coup, as his official residence, his vast, colonnaded office complex and other once impregnable centers of power fell without a fight to throngs of joyous citizens stunned by their triumph.

As President Yanukovych’s nemesis, former Prime Minister Yulia V. Tymoshenko, was released from a penitentiary hospital, Parliament found the president unable to fulfill his duties and exercised its constitutional powers to set an election for May 25 to select his replacement. But with both President Yanukovych and his Russian patrons speaking of a “coup” carried out by “bandits” and “hooligans,” it was far from clear that the day’s lightning-quick events were the last act in a struggle that has not just convulsed Ukraine but expanded into an East-West confrontation reminiscent of the Cold War.

In the capital, protesters carrying clubs and some wearing masks were in control of the entryways to the presidential palace Saturday morning, and watched as thousands of citizens strolled through the grounds, gazing in wonder at the mansions, zoo, golf course and enclosure for rare pheasants, set in a birch forest on a bluff soaring above the Dnieper River.

“This commences a new life for Ukraine,” said Roman Dakus, a protester-turned-guard, who was wearing a ski helmet and carrying a length of pipe as he blocked a doorway at the palace. “This is only a start,” he added. “We need now to make a new structure and a new system, a foundation for our future, with rights for everybody, and we need to investigate who ordered the violence.”

Read more at The New York Times

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Scientists find 800,000-year-old footprints in UK

Evidence is earliest proof of human life in Northern Europe, oldest prints found outside Africa

Some of the human footprints, thought to be more than 800,000 years old, found in silt on the beach at Happisburgh on the coast of England. A camera lens cap indicates scale.British Museum/AP

They were a British family on a day out — almost a million years ago.

Archaeologists announced Friday that they have discovered human footprints in England that are between 800,000 and 1 million years old — the most ancient found outside Africa, and the earliest evidence of human life in Northern Europe.

British Museum archaeologist Nick Ashton said the discovery — recounted in detail in the journal PLOS ONE — was “a tangible link to our earliest human relatives.”

Preserved in layers of silt and sand for hundreds of millennia before being exposed by the tide last year, the prints give a vivid glimpse of some of our most ancient ancestors. They were left by a group, including at least two children and one adult male.

They could have been be a family foraging on the banks of a river scientists think may be the ancient Thames, beside grasslands where bison, mammoth, hippos and rhinoceros roamed.

The researchers said the humans who left the footprints may have been related to Homo antecessor, or “pioneer man,” whose fossilized remains have been found in Spain. That species died out about 800,000 years ago.

Read more at Al Jazeera America

The hidden history of the CIA’s prison in Poland

A car drives past barbed-wire fence surrounding a military area in Stare Kiejkuty village in Poland. (Kacper Pempel/REUTERS )

By Adam Goldman, Updated: Thursday, January 23, 11:33 AM

On a cold day in early 2003, two senior CIA officers arrived at the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw to pick up a pair of large cardboard boxes. Inside were bundles of cash totaling $15 million that had been flown from Germany via diplomatic pouch.

The men put the boxes in a van and weaved through the Polish capital until coming to the headquarters of Polish intelligence. They were met by Col. ­Andrzej Derlatka, deputy chief of the intelligence service, and two of his associates.

The Americans and Poles then sealed an agreement that over the previous weeks had allowed the CIA the use of a secret prison — a remote villa in the Polish lake district — to interrogate al-Qaeda suspects. The Polish intelligence service received the money, and the CIA had a solid location for its newest covert operation, according to former agency officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the interrogation program, including previously unreported details about the creation of the CIA’s “black sites,” or secret prisons.

The CIA prison in Poland was arguably the most important of all the black sites created by the agency after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It was the first of a trio in Europe that housed the initial wave of accused Sept. 11 conspirators, and it was where Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-declared mastermind of the attacks, was waterboarded 183 times after his capture.

Much about the creation and operation of the CIA’s prison at a base in one of the young democracies of Central Europe remains cloaked in mystery, matters that the U.S. government has classified as state secrets. But what happened in Poland more than a decade ago continues to reverberate, and the bitter debate about the CIA’s interrogation program is about to be revisited.

The Senate Intelligence Committee intends to release portions of an exhaustive 6,000-page report on the interrogation program, its value in eliciting critical intelligence and whether Congress was misled about aspects of the program.

The treatment of detainees also continues to be a legal issue in the military trials of Mohammed and others at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

And in December, the European Court of Human Rights heard arguments that Poland violated international law and participated in torture by accommodating its American ally; a decision is expected this year.

“In the face of Polish and United States efforts to draw a veil over these abuses, the European Court of Human Rights now has an opportunity to break this conspiracy of silence and uphold the rule of law,” said Amrit Singh, a lawyer with the Open Society Justice Initiative, which petitioned the court on behalf of a detainee who was held at the Polish site.

Read more at The Washington Post

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Pope Francis Hurts The Tender Feelings Of A Billionaire Republican

Pope Francis has hurt the delicate feelings of Home Depot billionaire and Republican Ken Langone just by preaching the message of Jesus. Awww… Image: jfxgillis

If Pope Francis ever finds himself in need of a hammer and some nails, he may want to consider avoiding Home Depot. Ken Langone, founder of the company, has been whining kvetching pissing and moaning grumpy about Pope Francis having the gall to promote the message of Jesus. In recent months, the Pope has been on a verbal rampage against the horrors that the unrestrained greed of “savage capitalism” has wrought across the globe. He’s been preaching that the message of Jesus was not to get rich by screwing the poor but to serve them. This has deeply offended poor Langone’s tender sensibilities.

Just who the hell does Pope Francis think he is? The Pope or something?
Via CNBC.com:

Langone said he’s raised the issue more than once with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, most recently at a breakfast in early December at which he updated him on fundraising progress.

“I’ve told the cardinal, ‘Your Eminence, this is one more hurdle I hope we don’t have to deal with. You want to be careful about generalities. Rich people in one country don’t act the same as rich people in another country,’ ” he said.

Well, he’s right about that. The United States has some of the greediest rich people on the planet. And Pope Francis knows it. Not only did Wall Street executives destroy the economy and throw millions out of work, they gave themselves HUGE bonuses using tax payer dollars. And then spent the next several years screwing those very same tax payers in every conceivable way.

Read more at Addicting Info

Bearing Witness To Nazis’ Life-Shattering Kristallnacht

View of a destroyed Jewish shop in Berlin on Nov. 11, 1938, after the anti-Semitic violence of Kristallnacht. The pogrom unleashed Nazi-coordinated attacks on thousands of synagogues and Jewish businesses.

On a busy street in Berlin’s shabby-chic district of Kreuzberg, the gray and dirty pavement glistens with little brass cobblestones. Millions of these stones are embedded in sidewalks all over Europe. They commemorate the last address the city’s Jewish residents called home before the war.

Etched into each stone is the name of an individual, a date of deportation, the name of a concentration camp and, more often than not, a date of death.

But some stones are inscribed with the word ueberlebt, meaning “survived.” The name on one such stone is Margot Bendheim, the maiden name of Margot Friedlander. For the past three years, this stone is no longer a valid record of her most recent Berlin address — which lies across town.

“As a survivor, I feel that I do something for the people who cannot speak for themselves anymore,” says Friedlander, who just turned 92.

After 64 years of exile in New York, Friedlander made the decision to return to her native Berlin for good. City officials welcomed her with open arms, and Friedlander was promptly given back her German citizenship.

“When I received my German citizenship, I said: ‘You expect me to say thank you for it? I will not do it. Because you only give me back what you took away from me,'” she says.

Read more at NPR: National Public Radio

Let there be light! Thanks to large mirrors, winter sun finally shines on Norwegian town

STAVANGER, Norway — Residents of the small Norwegian town of Rjukan have finally seen the light.

Tucked in between steep mountains, the town is normally shrouded in shadow for almost six months a year, with residents having to catch a cable car to the top of a nearby precipice to get a fix of midday vitamin D.

But on Wednesday faint rays from the winter sun for the first time reached the town’s market square, thanks to three 183-square-foot (17-square-meter) mirrors placed on a mountain.

Cheering families, some on sun loungers, drinking cocktails and waving Norwegian flags, donned shades as the sun crept from behind a cloud to hit the mirrors and reflect down onto the faces of delighted children below.

TV footage of the event showed the center of the crowded square light up a touch, but not as if hit by direct sunlight. Still, residents said the effect was noticeable.

“Before when it was a fine day, you would see that the sky was blue and you knew that the sun was shining. But you couldn’t quite see it. It was very frustrating,” said Karin Roe, from the local tourist office. “This feels warm. When there is no time to get to the top of the mountains on weekdays, it will be lovely to come out for an hour and feel this warmth on my face.”

Read more at The Washington Post