Posted at 11:49 AM (CST) by & filed under In The News.

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Jim Sinclair’s Commentary

Mr. Williams shares his statistics with us.

- First-Quarter 2014 Durable Goods Order Contracted at
Annualized Quarterly Pace of 7.2%
- First-Quarter New-Home Sales Contracted at Annualized Pace of 9.8%,
Down by 3.2% Year-to-Year
- First-Quarter Existing-Home Sales Contracted at Annualized Pace of 24.8%,
Down by 6.6% Year-to-Year

"No. 622: March Durable Goods Orders, New- and Existing-Home Sales"
Web-page: http://www.shadowstats.com

Jim Sinclair’s Commentary

A new iron curtain is in the making, but the West is making it.

France to send fighter planes for NATO Baltics patrols
Published time: April 24, 2014 20:11

France is sending four fighter jets to help NATO’s air patrols over the Baltics, General Pierre de Villiers, France’s chief of defense staff said on a visit to Washington.

The four jets, either the Mirage 2000 or the Rafale, will be sent to Malbrok in eastern Poland on April 28 on a double mission to train the Polish air force and to be on standby for air patrols over the Baltic States under NATO command.

“They will participate in the air policing mission over the Baltic states from Poland,” the general told reporters Wednesday.

But he added that French political leaders had not ordered further steps to support alliance members.

“For the moment, the guidance is very clear, we do not go beyond that,” he said.

The United States announced Tuesday it is deploying 600 airborne troops on exercises in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia as a show of solidarity with NATO members that border Russia and have been worried by the escalation of tensions between Russia and Ukraine.

The Baltic States gained independence from the USSR in 1991 and joined NATO in 2004 but lack sufficient aircraft to police their own skies, so larger NATO members take turns in patrolling for them.

More…

 

Russian army ordered to advance toward Ukraine border. Moscow questions May election’s legitimacy
DEBKAfile Special Report April 24, 2014, 7:11 PM (IDT)

Thursday, April 24, saw a steep escalation of tensions between Moscow and Kiev after the Ukrainian army killed up to five pro-Russian militiamen in an attack on three checkpoints outside the eastern town of Slavyansk. President Vladimir Putin threatened “consequences.” He added that the legitimacy of the May 25 elections was in serious question. Defense Minister Gen. Sergey Shoigu ordered the Russian army to start drills at Rostov on Don near the Ukraine border.

debkafile’s military sources report that this order amounted to a state of alert, which required the troops to close their distance to the Ukraine border and take up prepared positions as bridgeheads for entering East Ukraine when the order is given.
Ukraine’s acting president demanded that Moscow pull its troops back from the border and stop “blackmail.”

In the past 48 hours, Russian officials have kept up an unprecedented stream of invective against the provisional government in Kiev and the Obama administration’s military, intelligence and financial intervention in Ukraine.

The opening shot was fired by Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who Wednesday, April 23, blamed the US for the “pushing through the most radical scenario” in Kiev to save its $5 billion investment in regime change.

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CME plans to launch physically settled Asia gold futures-sources
Thu Apr 24, 2014 7:27am EDT
By A. Ananthalakshmi and Frank Tang

SINGAPORE/NEW YORK, April 24 (Reuters) – CME Group Inc plans to launch a physically deliverable gold futures contract in Asia, three sources familiar with the matter said, as the world’s No.1 futures exchange targets rising hedging and investor demand in the top gold-consuming region.

An Asian contract from CME could help set a pricing reference for gold futures in Asia, much like its U.S. COMEX gold contract sets the benchmark for bullion futures globally.

The move may also help CME boost flagging revenues from its precious metals futures and comes as its rivals are expanding their presence in Asia to tap demand from China, the world’s biggest consumer of commodities, including gold.

CME is most likely to launch the gold contract in Hong Kong, with Singapore also an option, two sources briefed on the matter said, adding the contract is likely to be launched this year.

A third source, a market maker, said CME was looking to launch a 1 kilogram (35.3 ounces) contract.

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Obama pledges to defend Japan – but no red lines
DEBKAfile April 24, 2014, 8:42 AM (IDT)

At press conference in Tokyo, President Barack Obama said Thursday that the US would come to Japan’s defense if China further threatene   d a disputed chain of islands. But, he stressed, he was not drawing another “red line” on possible military action. “We have strong relations with China,” Mr. Obama said. “But we have also emphasized … all of us have responsibilities to maintain basic rules of the road and international order. My hope is that China will continue to engage with us.” Obama is on an oft-delayed Asian trip to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines, constantly pursued by the Ukraine crisis.

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Jim Sinclair’s Commentary

Think what increased interest rates would mean.

US now spending 26% of available tax revenue just to pay interest
by Simon Black on March 25, 2014

By the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire had become a has-been power whose glory days as the world’s superpower were well behind them.

They had been supplanted the French, the British, and the Russian empires in all matters of economic, military, and diplomatic strength. Much of this was due to the Ottoman Empire’s massive debt burden.

In 1868, the Ottoman government spent 17% of its entire tax revenue just to pay interest on the debt.

And they were well past the point of no return where they had to borrow money just to pay interest on the money they had already borrowed.

The increased debt meant the interest payments also increased. And three years later in 1871, the government was spending 32% of its tax revenue just to pay interest.

By 1877, the Ottoman government was spending 52% of its tax revenue just to pay interest. And at that point they were finished. They defaulted that year.

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OSCE: Ukraine is ‘very unstable’

Klaus Zillikens, the head of the OSCE mission in eastern Ukraine, explains that though life appears to go on as normal in the Donetsk region, tensions there are running high – particularly in the city of Sloiansk.

DW: You have been monitoring the situation in Donetsk for the OSCE mission for 10 days. How tense is the situation on the ground?

Klaus Zillikens: The situation is very unstable. It is very difficult to describe the trends, but we definitely aren’t seeing a trend where you could say there is increasing stability and that a de-escalation is taking place.

Is the Kyiv interim government still in control in Donetsk at the moment?

Yes. You have to imagine that groups of activists have taken on various roles; some of them have occupied administrative buildings. My feeling is that in most places there is a dialogue between the government in Kyiv and its representatives here – the legitimate mayors and their apparatus, for example in the town administrations – and the activists, in order to keep the town administrations functional, which is very important. But there is one exception, and that is the city of Sloviansk.

But overall, public life is taking its usual course, you might say?

More…

Ukraine fo

rces kill up to five rebels, Russia starts drill near border
BY ALEKSANDAR VASOVIC AND ALEXEI ANISHCHUK
SLAVIANSK, Ukraine/ST PETERSBURG, Russia Thu Apr 24, 2014 10:47am EDT

(Reuters) – Ukrainian forces killed up to five pro-Moscow rebels on Thursday as they closed in on the separatists’ military stronghold in the east and Russia launched army drills near the border in response, raising fears its troops would go in.

Under an international accord signed in Geneva last week, illegal armed groups in Ukraine, including the rebels occupying about a dozen public buildings in the largely Russian-speaking east, are supposed to disarm and go home.

But they have shown no signs of doing so and on Thursday the Ukrainian Interior Ministry said its forces backed by the army had removed three checkpoints manned by armed groups in the separatist-controlled city of Slaviansk.

"During the armed clash up to five terrorists were eliminated," it said in a statement, adding that one person had been wounded on the side of the government forces.

A rebel spokeswoman in Slaviansk said two fighters had died in a clash in the same area, northeast of the city center.

More…

Wall Street flat as Ukraine offsets Apple rally
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK Thu Apr 24, 2014 10:35am EDT

(Reuters) – U.S. stocks were flat in volatile trading on Thursday, with indexes cutting early gains on a resurgence of concerns related to Ukraine, though Apple jumped following its results.

Markets had opened higher, with the Nasdaq especially gaining on the back of strong tech results. However, indexes turned negative in the first half-hour of trading after Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia started military drills near the border with Ukraine.

The issue "is a lit stick of dynamite" with remote chances of a peaceful resolution, said Todd Schoenberger, managing partner at LandColt Capital in New York. "All those geopolitical concerns warrant instability and higher commodity prices, and both of those are things Wall Street hates."

Apple Inc (AAPL.O), the most valuable U.S. company by market capitalization, rose 7.5 percent to $563.89 a day after posting revenue that far outpaced expectations, helped by strong iPhone sales. It also approved another $30 billion stock buyback plan, raised its dividend and authorized a seven-for-one stock split.

"People have been critical of the cash on Apple’s balance sheet, but now it has faced up to that criticism. It’s doing all the right things, and I don’t think a move over $600 would be out of place now," said Michael Binger, senior portfolio manager at Gradient Investments LLC in Minneapolis, which owns Apple.

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Obama says further sanctions against Russia “teed up” 
DEBKAfile April 24, 2014, 8:59 AM (IDT)

The US-Russian war of words over Ukraine persisted during President Barack Obama’s Asian tour. In Tokyo, he accused Moscow Thursday of failing to halt actions by pro-Russian militants in Ukraine and failing to act “either in the spirit or the letter of the agreement in Geneva". He said the US had further sanctions against Russia "teed up".

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov charged Washington with “running the show very much, very much.” As proof, Lavrov pointed to the timing of the Ukrainian government’s re-launch of its security operation just after a two-day visit by US Vice President Joe Biden. The Ukraine army “had been ordered to shoot at people engaged in peaceful protests,” he said, yet Kiev had failed to disarm its own extremists.

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Russian army drill after Putin warns Kiev of “consequences”
DEBKAfile April 24, 2014, 5:15 PM (IDT)

The Russian defense minister said Thursday that the military was starting drills at Rostov on Don near the Ukraine border in response to Ukraine’s “military machine.” This followed President Vladimir Putin’s warning that the Ukrainian army’s use of force in east Ukraine was “a very serious war crime against its own people” and “there would be consequences.” Moscow’s sharp response was prompted by a Ukraine army attack that killed up to 5 pro-Russian militiamen manning three checkpoints outside the eastern town of Slaviansk. Moscow has repeatedly warned that that it would intervene if pro-Russian citizens came to harm at army hands in Ukraine.

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Ukraine army kills militants as it storms eastern town
Up to five separatists killed in Slavyansk as Ukrainian military begins ‘anti-terror’ operation
By Agencies
11:45AM BST 24 Apr 2014

Ukraine has said its forces had killed "up to five" militants in the separatist-controlled town of Slaviansk, in the east of the country.

A ministry statement said that during an "anti-terrorist operation" its forces, supported by the army, removed three illegal checkpoints manned by armed groups in the northeastern part of the city.

Ukrainian troops with five light armoured vehicles took control of a checkpoint north of Slaviansk after pro-Russian separatists appeared to abandon the position.

When the armoured unit approached along a road from Sviatogorsk, which Ukraine’s government said it recaptured on Wednesday, militants set up a smokescreen of burning tyres. Within half an hour, the Ukrainian force was in control of the position near the village of Khrestyshche.

Ukrainian forces appear to be closing in around Slaviansk, a city of 130,000 which has become a military stronghold for the pro-Russian movement and is entirely controlled by separatist fighters.

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US troops arrive in Poland for drills amid rising tensions over Ukraine
Published time: April 24, 2014 10:55 
Edited time: April 24, 2014 12:28

The first wave of US troops has arrived in Poland to begin military drills “promoting peace and stability” across Eastern Europe. Tensions continue to mount in the region, as Ukraine teeters on the brink of a civil war.

A contingent of 150 American soldiers arrived in the Polish town of Swidwin on Thursday and will be shortly joined by another 450 troops. The soldiers will participate in military exercises in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia over the next three months, with a view to reassuring NATO allies in the region.

Defense Department spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby, who announced the drills Tuesday, said they sent a clear message to Moscow.

"If there’s a message to Moscow, it is the same exact message that we take our obligations very, very seriously on the continent of Europe," Kirby told reporters. Washington has accused Russia of meddling in the affairs of neighboring Ukraine, which is currently embroiled in a crisis that shows no signs of de-escalation.

Moscow categorically denies the accusations and says that Washington has orchestrated the unrest in Ukraine to further its geopolitical ambitions in the region. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told RT on Wednesday that “the Americans are running the show” and he denied claims of a Russian military presence in Ukraine.

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Russia "Forced" To Launch Drill On Ukraine Border In Response To "NATO Build Up", Will Involve Fighter Jets
Tyler Durden on 04/24/2014 09:07 -0400

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu says that Russia will begin "defense drills" today, forced to react to the situation in southeast Ukraine and, more importantly, the NATO build up, the first time Russia has explicitly reacted to the military build up of the military alliance. There are already tanks amassing within meters of the border (as the following clip indicates), and

RUSSIAN DRILLS TO INVOLVE PLANES WORKING NEAR BORDERS

It is now entirelyclear that the "truce" deal is dead as both sides not only escalate but blame each other for the un-de-escalation. Russia’s move – after US and NATO’s expansions this week -leaves the situation as bad as it has been since tensions began.

As Bloomberg reports,

Drills to involve planes working near state borders, troops along Ukrainian border, Interfax reports, citing Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Shoigu says Russia forced to react to situation in southeast Ukraine: Interfax

More…

CME plans to launch physically settled Asia gold futures-sources
Thu Apr 24, 2014 7:27am EDT
By A. Ananthalakshmi and Frank Tang

SINGAPORE/NEW YORK, April 24 (Reuters) – CME Group Inc plans to launch a physically deliverable gold futures contract in Asia, three sources familiar with the matter said, as the world’s No.1 futures exchange targets rising hedging and investor demand in the top gold-consuming region.

An Asian contract from CME could help set a pricing reference for gold futures in Asia, much like its U.S. COMEX gold contract sets the benchmark for bullion futures globally.

The move may also help CME boost flagging revenues from its precious metals futures and comes as its rivals are expanding their presence in Asia to tap demand from China, the world’s biggest consumer of commodities, including gold.

CME is most likely to launch the gold contract in Hong Kong, with Singapore also an option, two sources briefed on the matter said, adding the contract is likely to be launched this year.

A third source, a market maker, said CME was looking to launch a 1 kilogram (35.3 ounces) contract.

The plan has not yet been finalised and CME could still scrap it, one of the sources said. No other details of the plan were available.

More…

Posted at 11:29 AM (CST) by & filed under Jim's Mailbox.

THE LAW: The Bunkerville Raid and Beyond
By CIGA Pat Henry

Perversion: the alteration of something from its original course, meaning, or state, to a distortion or corruption of what was first intended.

It is downright frightening to observe so much outrage emanating from simple ignorance – and from malicious dishonesty from both high and low station, concerning the Fed’s Bunkerville, Nevada raid on the Cliven Bundy Ranch. The raid, supposedly in defense of the desert turtle would be to no avail in any circumstance, since the BLM, while claiming to be “saving” the turtle, was simultaneously euthanizing the creatures, due to their having created an unmanageable overpopulation, themselves.

Suddenly, the BLM became offended that rancher Bundy had not paid federal grazing fees for the past 20 years, and felt it imperative to confiscate his cattle – immediately, if not sooner. The proposed (Reid / China) solar farm deal involving thousands of acres lying adjacent to the Bundy ranch, could not possibly have had anything to do with this matter – could it? One might want to follow the money, anyway.

We continue to look in vain for a comparable outrage arising from our elected guardians, concerning the wide swath of the southwestern Arizona desert along the Mexican border, through which innumerable, heavily armed dopers and assorted illegal aliens pass daily (including foreign terrorists), while periodically murdering local U.S. citizens and ranchers, as they flow unhindered, into the U.S.

But wait: Is this crossing horde not tomorrow’s union member, and the vote of the future for any clever politician seeking perpetual re-election? Surely not? Oh well. Nothing to see here. Just move along folks.

Take the most recent example (amongst many), offered by those who demand prosecution of Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy, due to his so called failure to obey “ federal law.” In so saying, there must obviously be reliance on an environment of widespread public ignorance of federal law and a willful intent to keep its frequent history of abuse and perversion well hidden from public view. So what is “federal law” as it was – and is today, and the real history behind it?

In 1864, The Republicans and other prevailing special interests of the time, felt that another republican delegation and two more votes were needed to re-elect Lincoln and provide for the passage of the 13th amendment, which would abolish slavery. Nevada statehood was chosen and promoted by those interests, being thought to be the instrument capable of providing that margin for Lincoln’s re-election.

That pursuit was successful, and Nevada was unconstitutionally ushered into the union, because at that time in 1864, the “ federal law” stated that for any territory to become a state, a population of 60,000 or more was required. However, Nevada had much less than that in population, when it was admitted into the union in 1864.

In pursuit of those two votes, but in spite of “federal law” existent at the time, the Statehood act of 1864 admitted Nevada into the Union. But in return for statehood, Nevada had to agree to a “Disclaimer Clause,” surrendering all claims to all un-appropriated land therein, and as such, this disposition could not be altered without consent of the federal government – unlike any other territory granted statehood. Worse yet, such a surrender of land had already been declared illegal by the Supreme Court, being “Pollard’s Lessee v. Hagan, 44 U.S. 212 (1845)” following Alabama’s admission to statehood in 1845, stating:

“We think a proper examination of this subject will show, that the United States never held any municipal sovereignty, jurisdiction, or right of soil in and to the territory, of which Alabama (or any of the new states were formed); except for temporary purposes, and to execute the trusts created by the acts of the Virginia and Georgia legislatures, and the deeds of cession executed by them to the United States, and the trust created by the treaty with the French republic, of the 30th of April, 1803, ceding Louisiana.”

Simply put, other than the sole 17 powers originally granted to the federal government by the Constitution (Article One, Sec. 8), and further limited to those 17 powers thereafter, under Amendments 9 and 10 with statehood, the federal government could not contradict the sovereignty it had just granted with statehood – and then continue to claim possession of most of the land, without creating a blatant perversion of the law.

Fast forward to 1996: The voters and the Nevada Legislature repealed that “Disclaimer Clause” by 56%, and submitted this resolution to the proper federal authorities for Congressional consent to the amendment – or its determination that consent was not necessary. Since that submission by the State of Nevada in 1996, there has been no response for the past 18 years. In short: “Congressional Silence.”

The absence of response by the Congress, obviously being now beyond any “reasonable” time period, can be defined legally, as “silence “ under the common law doctrine of “estoppel by acquiescence.” Its application is “applied” when one party gives legal notice to a second party of a fact or a claim, and the second party fails to challenge or refute that claim within a reasonable time. The second party is then said to have acquiesced to the claim, and is estopped from a later challenge to it, or to make a counterclaim. Also see: Silence is Acquiescence (aka “Silent Acquiescence and Acquiescence by Silence. And further, there is Georgia v. South Carolina, 497 U.S. 376 (1990): Justice Blackman delivered the majority opinion that Georgia had lost the right to land in question through “prescription” and “acquiescence.” And etc.

So for all legitimate intent and purpose, it would seem that Cliven Bundy is acting well within reason to pay fees to Clark County, but to simultaneously deny grazing fees to the federal government. One would have to assume that “federal law” is being “abused” or “perverted” in its application not only versus Cliven Bundy, but that the U.S. has perpetrated an injustice against the state of Nevada for the past 18 years – if not longer.

So – how does one recognize “abuse of law,” or a “perversion of law, especially when Imposed under the color of law claimed legal by an elected or appointed authority? After all, no fool would assume that just because a law exists, it has to be legitimate and above question. Or would they? The practice of legalized slavery and the Nuremberg Laws of Nazi Germany come to mind.

Where then, is the logic with confiscation of property for the protection of a so called “endangered specie” from range cattle, when existing, reliable studies, agree that range cattle actually enhance the life and environment of that said “endangered specie?” Would simple logic not raise suspicions of an illicit motive that is serving only to benefit an unscrupulous power, at the obvious expense of a victim, having no power?

One might also look closely to see if such actions under the prevailing and current interpretation of the “law,” nevertheless exploit the life, liberty, or property of others. And if so, could that law be seen as having therefore converted thievery into a “right” serving only the powerful – and the few who make the laws? And in so doing, has it also converted what would normally be a lawful defense against thievery – into a crime? Criminality made legal by legislation and regulation? The fraudulent claims of “man made” global warming and the subsequent destructive regulatory acts attacking and destroying energy related industries might come to mind. “Just follow the money,” would again serve well here.

If the answer is in the positive, then we have an intentional perversion of the law – do we not? If so, then the innocent have been disenfranchised, and no longer have the means to peacefully and efficiently defend against an action or a law existing in a state of perversion. Historically, when the state becomes a participant in thievery, it will then use its power to treat the victim as the criminal.

What to do then, without peaceful recourse to defend against a perversion of law? The choice becomes dual. One must either be willing to fight by whatever means is available, or surrender to the imposition of federally sponsored perversion, and ultimately – surrender to the certainty of further incremental advances of the fed’s graduated measures of involuntary servitude (under any other name), and ultimately intended for all.

The greater probability of (avoiding) conflict arises only when one has a reasonable means of defense; will obviously use it if necessary, and accepts the risk that such conflict may bring great loss. Weakness always emboldens government bureaucracy and abuse. Such is the universal constant of human nature. Tyranny has held successfully in the Crimea, which has no defensive capability against the perverted thuggary of a putsch – with predictable results. However, an opposite and successful result emerged when accompanied with the threat of real opposition at Cliven Bundy’s ranch, where several hundred individuals arrived armed, but peaceful. They were willing to fight in defense against a perversion of law, and the armed sycophants enlisted to enforce that perversion. A successful outcome, without a shot being fired – for the time being, anyway.

There is no greater form of legalized theft and plunder, than that of state socialism, which relies upon endless perversions of the law, utilizing insulated regulatory bureaucracies, threat, and abusive taxation, among its primary weapons of enforcement. Therein, theft and plunder by the state is aided and abetted by the law itself, leaving no effective recourse or defense through legislation or the courts, since the former has instituted the perversion and thereafter, the latter is almost always willing to uphold the perversion or abuse. Obviously, if the state expects the people to respect the law, then the law must respect the people – both as to its construction, as well as its enforcement.

“Obamacare” must certainly apply here, as being “unconstitutional” since “all bills for raising (revenue) shall originate in the House of Representatives”, according to Article 1, Sec. 7, Clause 1, of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court has ruled that Obamacare is a tax. Taxation demands revenue. In spite of being a tax, Obamacare did not originate in the House of Representatives, as constitutionally required. Beyond being unconstitutional, is Obamacare now more of a perversion, or more of an abuse of law? It is of course, both. So why does it continue unabated? The ancient, ever true Latin: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (who will guard the guardians?) must surely have arisen in the mind of even the dimmest wit, by now.

The implications of the federal raid on Cliven Bundy’s ranch go far beyond that act of perversive abuse alone, including many additional infringements over the years, documented in various public statements from the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association.

Even as this is being written, the BLM is evaluating the possibility of confiscating thousands of privately held acreage – (not public lands), along the Red River in northeast Texas. Why? Because the Red River shifts its course back and forth over the years, creating a boundary disagreement between Oklahoma and Texas – having absolutely nothing to do with the federal government, or the BLM. Nevertheless, the BLM feels that it has the right to confiscate private property along the Red River within that boundary dispute. What else but pure government thievery at the peak of its arrogance and disrespect for the people, is this?

Do these various actions explain the government’s recent, unusually massive purchases of billions of rounds of ammunition, for distribution to such unlikely government agencies as the U.S. Post Office and the Social Security Administration? Those ammunition purchases include large amounts of hollow-point rounds designed to expand on impact and do the greatest irreparable damage possible – and which are prohibited for use in war, under the Geneva Convention. If not for war, who then, does the government intend to shoot with these hollow-point bullets?

Could it be meant for those who don’t pay their grazing fees, or just the run-of-the mill protester? Perhaps John Donne put it best in 1839: “never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee."

Are “we the people,” now to remain “silent” in acquiescence to the government’s insatiability for perversive and abusive control through a governance of socialistic plunder, in every aspect of society? As the country is pushed rapidly beyond a point of no probable return? Have we arrived at the Rubicon, where beyond that point, no choice will be left? As in: Who now, will retake the Crimea?

Posted at 12:31 PM (CST) by & filed under Jim's Mailbox.

Hi Jim,

In 1914 people thought there would be no "real" war because of their confidence that victory would be very quick – a matter of days or a few weeks. And so came World War I.

In 2014, people think there will be no "real" war, because of their confidence that nuclear dissuasion makes it impossible. And so we may have a World War III.

Kind regards,
CIGA Thierry

‘Kiev desperately pushing for greater conflict with Russia’
Published time: April 21, 2014 11:46

The Ukrainian authorities seek to escalate conflict with Russia so as to call for the support of the West, NATO and the EU, while Right Sector plays the role of the illegal infantry of the Kiev government, journalist Manuel Ochsenreiter told RT.

RT: Do you think the shoot-out in Slavyansk on the weekend indicates the interim authorities in Kiev are losing control?

Manuel Ochsenreiter: No, this would be the most Kiev-friendly explanation of the incident of Saturday night. What we witness now is just one of a countless series of provocations which take place by Kiev. Kiev really desperately tries to get into a bigger conflict with Russia. The background of this is very easy – to call for the support of the West, to call for the support of NATO as well as of the EU. So I don’t think that this incident is a sign of losing control. Maybe Kiev would like it to look like that, but in reality this is just an organized provocation against the people of eastern Ukraine who desperately want to have a federation or even to become officially Russian, and against of course Russia to get more support from the West.

RT: Could the killings push Kiev to become more active in dealing with radicals? Does Kiev have enough power to crack down on these extremists?

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Posted at 12:29 PM (CST) by & filed under In The News.

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Eastern Ukraine stands defiant against Kiev LIVE UPDATES
Published time: April 15, 2014 14:19 
Edited time: April 22, 2014 19:19

Kiev’s troops remain in eastern Ukraine as the OSCE mission starts its work on “de-escalating” the situation on the ground. Anti-government protesters are unwilling to leave the seized buildings, demanding that the troops are pulled out first.

Wednesday, April 23

15:05 GMT:

An American journalist for Vice News, Simon Ostrovsky, has been detained by activists in the eastern city of Slavyansk, protest leader and “People’s Mayor”of Slavyansk Vyacheslav Ponomaryov has said, confirming media reports. He added that the journalist, who has dual US and Israeli citizenship, is believed to be an informant for the far-right Right Sector group, blamed for violence in the region.

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović, has expressed concern over the security of journalists in eastern Ukraine. She called for the immediately freeing of Ostrovsky and urged an end to “the harassment and attacks on journalists” so they can “do their job.”

13:33 GMT:

Ukraine’s Security Service, the SBU, has switched off access to voters data for several district councils of the eastern Donetsk region. According to the SBU, the anti-government protesters were trying to access the data to organize a referendum on the future of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions on May 11.

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Lavrov: Kiev issued ‘criminal order’ allowing use of weapons against civilians
Published time: April 23, 2014 08:06 
Edited time: April 23, 2014 13:01

The coup-appointed Kiev government’s order to use force against Ukrainian citizens is “criminal,” the Russian Foreign Minister told RT. He also denied claims that there is Russian military presence on Ukrainian territory.

In an interview with RT’s Sophie Shevardnadze, Sergey Lavrov called acting Ukrainian President Alexander Turchinov’s order to reinitiate an anti-terror operation in East Ukraine, a criminal act.

Referencing the four-sided talks between the EU, the US, Russia and Ukraine that took place in Geneva on April 17, Lavrov accused Kiev’s coup-appointed government of going back on its pledge to put a stop to all violence.

“In Geneva we agreed there must be an end of all violence. Next afternoon [interim Ukrainian President Aleksandr] Turchinov declared almost a state of emergency and ordered the army to shoot at the people.”

Turchinov announced the resumption of the anti-terrorist operation in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday. Moscow has decried the operation and urged the Ukrainian government to refrain from using force on civilians living in the region.

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Ukraine leader orders relaunch of “anti-terror operation”
DEBKAfile April 22, 2014, 9:15 PM (IDT)

Ukraine’s acting president Oleksander Turchinov called for the relaunch of an anti-terrorist operation Tuesday in the east of the country after what he claimed to be the "brutally tortured" body of a local politician was found near the separatist-controlled city of Slaviansk. Turchinov said Volodymyr Rybak, a member of Turchinov’s Batkivshchyna party, had recently been abducted by "terrorists” with full Russian support. The Ukrainian leader waited for US Vice President Joe Biden to end his visit to Kiev before leveling the latest latest charge and ordering armed action in violation of the Geneva accord.

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Jim Sinclair’s Commentary

More weather damage according to the company pundits.

U.S. existing home sales hit 1-1/2 year low in March
By Lucia Mutikani
Published April 22, 2014

WASHINGTON –  U.S. home resales fell to their lowest level in more than 1-1/2 years in March, but there were signs a recent downward trend that has plagued the housing market may be drawing to an end.

The National Association of Realtors said on Tuesday home sales slipped 0.2 percent to an annual rate of 4.59 million units, the lowest level since July 2012.

The decline was, however, less than economists’ expectations for a fall to a 4.55-million pace. February’s sales pace was unrevised at 4.60 million units.

"The negative housing momentum, which was exacerbated by severe weather conditions during the winter months, may be starting to fade," said Gennadiy Goldberg, an economist at TD Securities in New York.

Existing home sales are counted at the closing of contracts and March’s sales reflected contracts signed in January and February, when the country was in the grip of an unusually cold and snowy winter.

Home resales rose in the Northeast and Midwest, but fell in the West and South.

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Jim Sinclair’s Commentary

Nothing in international affairs is spontaneous.

Putsch: A violent attempt to overthrow a government.

Ukraine: Poland trained putchists two months in advance
by Thierry Meyssan

Lies have shorter and shorter legs. Two months after the change of regime in Kiev, the Polish press has disclosed the role of Donald Tusk’s government in preparing the coup. The new revelations belie Western discourse and demonstrate that the current interim government of Oleksandr Tourtchynov was imposed by NATO in violation of international law.

The Polish left-wing weekly Nie (No) published a startling witness account of the training given to the most violent of the EuroMaidan [1] activists.

According to this source, in September 2013, Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski invited 86 members of the Right Sector (Sector Pravy), allegedly in the context of a university exchange program. In reality, the guests were not students, and many were over 40. Contrary to their official schedule, they did not go to the Warsaw University of Technology, but headed instead for the police training center in Legionowo, an hour’s drive from the capital. There, they received four weeks of intensive training in crowd management, person recognition, combat tactics, command skills, behavior in crisis situations, protection against gases used by police, erecting barricades, and especially shooting, including the handling of sniper rifles.

Such training took place in September 2013, while the Maidan Square protests were allegedly triggered by a decree suspending preparations for the signing of the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement, which was issued by Prime Minister Mykola Azarov on November 21, i.e. two months later.

The Polish weekly refers to photographs attesting to the training, which show the Ukrainians in Nazi uniforms alongside their Polish instructors in civilian clothing.

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Jim Sinclair’s Commentary

The US PMI drops and misses expectations by the most in 8 months. Weather is the excuse again.

Share rally peters out, euro lifted by PMI boost
BY MARC JONES
LONDON Wed Apr 23, 2014 9:15am EDT

(Reuters) – European shares edged down on Wednesday after three days of gains as signs of a slowing Chinese economy and rising worries about Ukraine offset reassuring European economic data.

After racing higher on Tuesday on a wave of takeover activity, European stocks fell 0.3 percent as investors locked in some of the gains and turned their attention to the region’s broader economic outlook.

U.S. stock futures also pointed to a subdued start for Wall Street on a heavy day of company earnings as well as U.S. PMI readings.

The PMI readings for Europe showed that France’s economy was still lagging, but Germany continued to power the euro zone’s recovery. [ID:nL9N0MI019] Europe’s private sector has started the second quarter on its strongest footing in nearly three years, according to the PMIs, although new orders were again mainly buoyed by price cuts.

"It’s pretty encouraging considering what we have seen for years. We are looking at 0.5 percent quarter-on-quarter GDP growth if we continue to see this level," said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, which compiles the PMIs.

"Clearly we should see the pace of growth continue into May and possibly June as well. Companies are beginning to feel this is something sustainable."

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Jim Sinclair’s Commentary

More weather damage according to some economists.

Sales of new US homes plunge 14.5%
April 24, 2014 1:01AM

THE number of Americans buying new homes plummeted in March to the slowest pace in seven months, a sign that real estate’s spring buying season is off to a weak start.

The Commerce Department says sales of new homes declined 14.5 per cent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 384,000.

That was the second straight monthly decline and the lowest rate since July 2013.

Sales plunged in the Midwest, South and West in March, but they rebounded in the Northeast, where snowstorms in previous months curtailed purchases.

New-home sales have declined 13.3 per cent over the past 12 months.

But median sales prices jumped 12.6 per cent during the past month to $US290,000 ($A310,600).

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Churkin: The US invested $5 bn in regime change in Ukraine 
DEBKAfile April 23, 2014, 3:54 PM (IDT)

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the US is to blame for the events in Ukraine as it invested $5 billion in regime change in the country and therefore “pushed through the most radical scenario.” He was commenting on the statement by US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland who told CNN Monday that the US had invested around $5 bn in supporting democracy in Ukraine since the fall of the Soviet Union.

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Russia warns Ukraine could see Georgia repeat if interests threatened
Foreign minister says Russia will respond, as in South Ossetia, if its citizens are attacked
12:33PM BST 23 Apr 2014

Russia will respond if its interests are attacked in Ukraine, as they were in South Ossetia in 2008 which led to war with Georgia, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said.

Issuing a blunt warning, Mr Lavrov said: "If we are attacked, we would certainly respond."

"If our interests, our legitimate interests, the interests of Russians have been attacked directly, like they were in South Ossetia for example, I do not see any other way but to respond in full accordance with international law."

Mr Lavrov did not elaborate further on what the response would entail but the reference to Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia strongly hints at the possibility of military action.

In August 2008 Russia sent troops into South Ossetia and then into Tbilisi-controlled Georgian territory after then president Mikheil Saakashvili tried to reestablish control over the breakaway region.

Russia then recognised South Ossetia and another breakaway Georgian region, Abkhazia, as independent in defiance of the West.

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Jim Sinclair’s Commentary

Today’s retirement program and care for the elderly.

Autopsy Planned For Man Found Dead In Portable Potty
April 22, 2014 7:58 AM

ST. CLAIR SHORES (WWJ) – An autopsy is planned for an elderly man who was found dead inside a portable toilet that he might have been living in for months.

The man’s remains were discovered Sunday by a security guard at a municipal boat launch on 9 Mile Road near Jefferson Avenue in St. Clair Shores, just outside the Detroit city limit.

Police said there were no obvious signs of foul play or trauma to the man’s body. An autopsy will be conducted Tuesday to determine a cause of death

Police said the remains were so decomposed, it appears the man could have been dead inside the portable toilet for about five months. Investigators also believe the man might have been using the portable toilet as a shelter during the cold winter. His identity is still not known.

The boat launch site had been closed since October. Authorities said the security guard broke down the portable toilet’s door, which was locked from the inside, and discovered the remains.

The man appears to be an older white male with a brownish/gray goatee and mustache, the Macomb Daily reported. He was wearing a plaid button-up shirt and heavy, dark-colored hoodie.

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Posted at 10:55 AM (CST) by & filed under In The News.

Washington’s Corruption and Mendacity Is What Makes America “Exceptional”
Paul Craig Roberts

World events permitting, I am going to take a few days off.

Many of you write to me asking for financial advice or for explanations of the pros
and cons of different investments. I don’t give financial advice and cannot answer
such a large number of individual inquiries. However, I can call to your attention two books that provide different views from those available in the financial media. The Aftershock Investor by David Wiedemer, Robert A. Wiedemer, and Cindy S. Spitzer (John Wiley & Sons, 2014) explains the vulnerabilities of each kind of investment. The Money Bubble by James Turk and John Rubino (DollarCollapse Press, 2013) explains the possible consequences of the current economic policies. Both books are directed at a general audience and are readable.

As I have reported on several occasions, the US government pays foreign rulers to do
Washington’s bidding. There is no such thing as an independent government in the UK, Europe or Japan. On top of all the other evidence, it has now come to light that the US Agency for International Development has a large slush fund “where millions are paid to political figures in foreign countries.” http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38253.htm

If you have four hours, watch President Putin’s amazing open press conference with the Russia people and then try to imagine an American or European leader capable of such a feat.http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article38254.htm The Russians have a real leader. We have two-bit punks.

The Los Angeles Times has acquired its own Judith Miller. His name is Sergei L. Loiko.
An incompetent Obama regime has botched its takeover of Ukraine with its Kiev coup.
The White House Fool is embarrassed that so many Ukrainians prefer to be part of Russia than part of Washington’s stooge “freedom and democracy” government in Kiev. The prostitute American and European media have thrown the propaganda into overdrive, demonizing Russia and President Putin, in order to cover up Washington’s blunder.

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Ukraine leader orders relaunch of “anti-terror operation”
DEBKAfile April 22, 2014, 9:15 PM (IDT)

Ukraine’s acting president Oleksander Turchinov called for the relaunch of an anti-terrorist operation Tuesday in the east of the country after what he claimed to be the "brutally tortured" body of a local politician was found near the separatist-controlled city of Slaviansk. Turchinov said Volodymyr Rybak, a member of Turchinov’s Batkivshchyna party, had recently been abducted by "terrorists” with full Russian support. The Ukrainian leader waited for US Vice President Joe Biden to end his visit to Kiev before leveling the latest latest charge and ordering armed action in violation of the Geneva accord.

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Posted at 10:10 AM (CST) by & filed under In The News.

Jim Sinclair’s Commentary

The battle is here.

9.962 +0.072 (+0.09%)
2014-04-21 15:32:00, 30 min delay

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US dollar dying as tensions over Ukraine heat up: Analyst
Fri Apr 18, 2014 4:18PM

The US dollar is losing its dominance on global trade amid spiraling tensions between Washington and Moscow over Ukraine, says an analyst.

In his Friday column for Press TV website, F. William Engdahl said Russia and leading trading countries are developing “alternatives to using the US dollar for their bilateral trade.”

The analyst said the US government has been printing “money without limit, in order to rescue the bankrupt Wall Street banks with what the Federal Reserve calls Quantitative Easing.”

“Washington’s decision to go for the military coup in Ukraine [has]…isolated the power of US hegemony and opened the door for a genuine multipolar world where peaceful cooperation replaced military threats and sole superpower domination,” Engdahl stated.

He said Washington’s “foolish” imposition of sanctions on Russia over Crimea’s secession from Ukraine “has forced Moscow to react by selling Gazprom bonds not in the dollar market but rather in the fast-emerging Chinese Yuan.”

“The US has just shot itself in the foot,” he wrote.

Citing a new report by the International Monetary Fund, Engdahl said there has been a “dramatic shift” from the “US dollar as reserve currency.”

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First crack in Western wall against Russia over Ukraine 
DEBKAfile April 20, 2014, 8:21 AM (IDT)

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he wished as much emphasis would be placed on preventing an escalation of tensions with Russia over Ukraine as there is in threatening economic sanctions. “We’ve already exhaustively discussed the sanctions issue," he said to this Sunday’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper, in response to the pressure from Washington to punish Russia with additional sanctions.

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Lavrov accuses Kiev of breaking Geneva accord, holds US responsible 
DEBKAfile April 21, 2014, 12:49 PM (IDT)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the Kiev authorities of breaking last week’s Geneva accord for resolving the Ukraine crisis. At a news conference Monday, he said Kiev had not moved to disarm illegal groups, especially the ultra-nationalist Right Sector suspected of the shooting at a pro-Russian checkpoint near Sloviansk Sunday. Kiev called the attack "a provocation" by Russian special forces.

The Russian Foreign Minister said the US should take responsibility for those whom they put in power instead of issuing ultimatums to Moscow. Attempts to isolate Russia will lead to a dead end, he said.
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Lavrov: US should face responsibility for powers it installed in Kiev
Published time: April 21, 2014 08:49 
Edited time: April 21, 2014 11:34

The Russian Foreign Minister says the US should take responsibility for those whom they put in power instead issuing ultimatums to Moscow.

"Before giving us ultimatums, demanding that we fulfill demands within two or three days with the threat of sanctions, we would urgently call on our American partners to fully accept responsibility for those who they brought to power,” said Lavrov during a press conference with his colleague from Mozambique, Oldemiro Baloi.

All attempts to isolate Russia will lead to a dead end because Russia is "a big, independent power that knows what it wants," he added

Meanwhile, the Russian FM also criticized statements from Western countries and Kiev’s authorities, which “invent possible and impossible arguments against Russia,” claiming that a large amount of Russian arms in the conflict zones proves Russian interference in Ukrainian affairs.

He called the statements absurd as Ukraine has traditionally used Russian-made arms.

“This statement is ludicrous. Everyone has Russian arms in Ukraine,” Lavrov said.

Meanwhile, he also said that TV outlets have reported that US arms were also found in Ukraine and illegal armed groups, not the Ukrainian army were in possession of these American arms.

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Kiev desperately pushing for greater conflict with Russia’
Published time: April 21, 2014 11:46

The Ukrainian authorities seek to escalate conflict with Russia so as to call for the support of the West, NATO and the EU, while Right Sector plays the role of the illegal infantry of the Kiev government, journalist Manuel Ochsenreiter told RT.

RT: Do you think the shoot-out in Slavyansk on the weekend indicates the interim authorities in Kiev are losing control?

Manuel Ochsenreiter: No, this would be the most Kiev-friendly explanation of the incident of Saturday night. What we witness now is just one of a countless series of provocations which take place by Kiev. Kiev really desperately tries to get into a bigger conflict with Russia. The background of this is very easy – to call for the support of the West, to call for the support of NATO as well as of the EU. So I don’t think that this incident is a sign of losing control. Maybe Kiev would like it to look like that, but in reality this is just an organized provocation against the people of eastern Ukraine who desperately want to have a federation or even to become officially Russian, and against of course Russia to get more support from the West.

RT: Could the killings push Kiev to become more active in dealing with radicals? Does Kiev have enough power to crack down on these extremists?

MO: This is a philosophical question because if you want to crack down on extremists you need the will to crack down on them. What we know is that those extremists, those armed forces which are pushing the interim government of western Ukraine to government, to power, the so-called Right Sector, that they have to be almost thankful for them [that they are in] power. Why should they want to crack down on those extremists?

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China opens Beijing to gold imports, cutting into Hong Kong’s transit role
PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 April, 2014, 1:59pm
UPDATED : Monday, 21 April, 2014, 1:59pm

China has begun allowing gold imports through its capital city, sources familiar with the matter said, in a move that would help keep purchases by the world’s top bullion buyer discreet at a time when it might be boosting official reserves.

The opening of Beijing as a third import point after Shenzhen and Shanghai could threaten Hong Kong’s pole position in China’s gold trade, as the mainland can get more of the metal it wants directly rather than through a route that discloses how much it is buying.

China does not release any trade data on gold. The only way bullion markets can get a sense of Chinese purchases is from the monthly release of export data by Hong Kong, which supplied US$53 billion worth of gold to the mainland last year.

“We have already started shipping material in directly to Beijing,” said an industry source, who did not want to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

The quantities brought in so far have been small, as imports via Beijing have only been allowed since the first quarter of this year, sources said.

The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) is believed to be adding to its gold reserves, the World Gold Council (WGC) said, as it looks to diversify from US Treasuries. The central bank rarely reveals the numbers.

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Posted at 10:05 AM (CST) by & filed under Jim's Mailbox.

Jim,

This is a smart move by the Assad. I wonder if Russia and/or China (maybe even Iran) advised him to play the "democracy" card? Saudi Arabia, Izzy’s, US, etc. will get more heartburn.

CIGA Craig

Syria sets June election date as Assad claims ‘turning point’ in conflict
Opposition calls presidential poll a ‘parody of democracy’ and says vote will wreck efforts to negotiate peace settlement
Reuters in Beirut
theguardian.com, Monday 21 April 2014 14.05 BST

Syria has called a presidential election for 3 June, preparing the ground for Bashar al-Assad to defy widespread opposition and extend his grip on power days after he said the war was turning in his favour.

The three-year-old rebellion against Assad’s rule has killed more than 150,000 people, forced millions to flee their homes and seen the government lose control over swaths of territory. Hundreds more died on Sunday and Monday.

A leading Syrian opposition group said the election showed the president was divorced from reality.

Western and Gulf Arab countries that back Assad’s opponents had called plans for the vote a "parody of democracy" and said it would wreck efforts to negotiate a peace settlement.

United Nations-backed talks in Geneva collapsed in February with both sides far from agreement – not least over the question of whether Assad should step down. No date has been set for their resumption.

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Dear Jim,

From the EU.

If I understand this correctly then the US can invade every country at will plus they can place missiles in Eastern European countries like Poland and aim them at Russia, but Russia is not allowed to place troops in his own country at the border.

It would be much easier if they just said we want a war in Europe and we’re living nicely 7000 km away, then we tell Europe that they really need us to save them from tyranny. Is there really an European country with common sense to follow these madmen?

Honestly, when Paul Craig Roberts was talking about the US and how they wanted war I first thought it was exaggerated, but now I am starting to believe it is true. It at least looks that way without starting a 3rd World War unless they are doing this just to put pressure on Russia.

They really don’t have a clue who they are dealing with.

US lawmakers call on sanctions against Gazprom, Russian banks
Published time: April 21, 2014 11:04 
Edited time: April 21, 2014 11:41

Washington is inching closer to imposing a tighter financial grip on Russia. The next round of sanctions could target more banks and the heart of the Russian economy – the energy sector. In sights is Gazprom, Russia’s largest natural gas producer.

Two members of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on Sunday called for more stringent business-aimed sanctions against Russia, as tension in Ukraine continues to test diplomacy between Washington and Moscow.

US Senator Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), said the US should apply pressure on Gazprom and other lucrative financial arms of the state if Russia doesn’t withdraw troops from the Ukrainian border.

The next step will be Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned and biggest natural-gas producer, the senator said while speaking on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ program on Sunday.

“I really do believe we should be sanctioning some of the companies in the energy sector, Gazprom and others. I think we should hit some of the large banks there,” Corker warned.

Gazprom accounts for 14 percent of the world’s global natural gas, and is a main supplier to Europe. Nearly half of their exports to the European market travel through Ukraine.

"I think the time is now to rapidly ratchet up our sanctions, whether it’s on Russian petrochemical companies or on Russian banks,” Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), also a member on the Committee on Foreign Relations, said on “Meet the Press”

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Posted at 4:19 PM (CST) by & filed under In The News.

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Four dead after gun battle in eastern Ukraine
First deaths since signing of Geneva accord raise tensions in eastern Ukraine and dash hopes of a truce for Easter
By David Blair, Donetsk
11:58AM BST 20 Apr 2014

A gun battle in eastern Ukraine claimed up to four lives on Sunday when fighting erupted near a stronghold of pro-Russian separatists.

The shootings occurred at a checkpoint outside Slavyansk, a town of 100,000 people which is under the de facto control of pro-Russian gunmen.

Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the newly installed pro-Russian mayor, blamed the incident on Right Sector, an armed Ukrainian nationalist movement. He claimed that Right Sector gunmen attacked a checkpoint manned by separatists in the early hours of the morning, killing three people.

The pro-Russian gunmen returned fire and killed one of the attackers, said the mayor. Later, the corpses of two men were visible at the checkpoint, although the circumstances and timing of their killing was unclear.

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Ukraine crisis: Geneva deal hangs by a thread after deaths in Slavyansk
Pro-Russian militants and unidentified assailants are reported killed in gun battle in eastern Ukrainian town
Luke Harding in Donetsk and agencies
theguardian.com, Sunday 20 April 2014 05.38 EDT

The tentative Geneva deal to resolve the Ukraine crisis is hanging by a thread after as many as five people were killed in a gun battle near the volatile eastern town of Slavyansk early on Sunday.

An Easter truce declared by the authorities in Kiev was rudely shattered after two groups opened fire on each other overnight. Three pro-Russian militants were reported killed, along with two of the assailants, whose identity has not been ascertained. A Reuters cameraman reported that he saw the bodies of two local fighters.

Slavyansk is one of several towns and cities that have been taken over by pro-Russian units of men, whose allegiance is clear but whose provenance remains a mystery. Under a deal signed in Geneva on Thursday by the EU, Russia, Ukraine and the US, the units were supposed to retire, but they have thus far shown no signs of desisting.

A team of mediators is heading to eastern Ukraine to try to persuade the pro-Russian groups to disband, but it appears to be facing an unenviable challenge. Attempts by the Guardian to enter Slavyansk were brusquely repelled by armed men. The situation for non-Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine has become increasingly precarious in recent days.

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US Gas Will Never Replace Russian Gas For Europe
Economically & energetically implausible
by Chris Martenson
Friday, April 18, 2014, 4:10 PM

Recent entreaties by various US politicians to help wean Europe off of Russian gas are simply preposterous.  The numbers don’t add up, and they never will.

Let’s begin with the facts:

16% of natural gas consumed in Europe flows through Ukraine

Mar 14, 2014

Europe, including all EU members plus Turkey, Norway, Switzerland, and the non-EU Balkan states, consumed 18.7 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas in 2013. Russia supplied 30% (5.7 Tcf) of this volume, with a significant amount flowing through Ukraine. EIA estimates that 16% (3.0 Tcf) of the total natural gas consumed in Europe passed through Ukraine’s pipeline network, based on data reported by Gazprom and Eastern Bloc Energy.

(Source)

If the US wants Europe entirely off of Russian natural gas (NG), it will have to immediately replace 5.7 trillion cubic feet per year, or 15 billion cubic feet per day.

The entire set of US shale gas plays, which consist of 8 major plays and a slew of minor ones, cumulatively provide the US with 27 billion cubic feet per day.  That is, just over half of the entire current US shale gas play would have to be dedicated to the European cause of eliminating Russian natural gas dependency. 

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Ukraine shootout threatens to bury Geneva peace deal
Kiev ridicules claims by Russians that violence at Slavyansk checkpoint was caused by far-right Ukrainian nationalists
Luke Harding in Slavyansk
The Guardian, Sunday 20 April 2014 19.28 BST

An international agreement to defuse the crisis in Ukraine was all but shredded on Sunday after a shootout in the separatist town of Slavyansk.

Three days after the Geneva deal brought modest hopes for a resolution to the gravest east-west stand-off since the end of the cold war, the midnight incident at a checkpoint – in which reports said as many as five people were killed – unleashed a torrent of accusations and counter-accusations that bodes ill for international peacemakers.

Russia claimed that far-right Ukrainian nationalists opened fire at the checkpoint just outside the town, seized by an armed pro-Russian militia two weeks ago. The foreign ministry in Moscow accused Kiev of failing to disarm "extremists and terrorists" and blamed the clash on the Right Sector, a nationalist Ukrainian group that has supported the pro-Western interim government in Ukraine.

The new self-proclaimed mayor of Slavyansk, Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, said Russian troops were urgently needed to protect the civilian population. He threatened to "personally shoot" Ukraine’s interior minister Arsen Avakov if he could.

The authorities in Kiev described the incident in the early hours of Sunday as a "crude provocation", made for Russian TV. They said some of the details of the shootout were so implausible as to be ridiculous.

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Iran Is Outraged After The US Seized This Manhattan Skyscraper
APR. 20, 2014, 2:04 PM

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran on Saturday criticized a U.S. government move to seize a Manhattan skyscraper owned largely by a foundation that promotes its language and Islamic culture, saying this violated the right to religious freedom in the United States.

According to a court document filed in New York on Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice agreed to distribute proceeds from the sale of the Fifth Avenue high-rise to families affected by alleged Iranian-aided attacks, including the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut.

The settlement marks the latest turn in a long-running battle over the 36-storey building owned chiefly by Alavi Foundation, a non-profit Persian and Islamic cultural center.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham said the decision "lacks legal justification and negates America’s commitment to protecting its citizens’ religious freedom."

"Confiscation of the properties of an independent charity organization raises doubt about the credibility of U.S. justice," she was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

The latest row came as U.S. President Barack Obama signed a law on Friday barring an Iranian diplomat from serving as an envoy at the United Nations over his role in the 1979-81 hostage crisis at the U.S. embassy in Tehran. But they are unlikely to significantly affect the current nuclear talks between Tehran and world powers, including the United States.

Iran’s moderate new president, Hassan Rouhani, has strongly pursued a deal with the West in order to escape ruinous international sanctions imposed on his country.

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Russia on Eastern Ukraine shooting: Kiev must fulfill Geneva de-escalation pledge
Published time: April 20, 2014 08:57
Edited time: April 20, 2014 19:38

The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed outrage over the deadly gun battle on Saturday night in the protester-held city of Slavyansk in eastern Ukraine. It said Kiev must deliver on its commitment to de-escalate the violence.

Russia, Ukraine, the US and the EU agreed this week in Geneva on a roadmap to calm tension down in protest-gripped eastern Ukraine. The agreement includes disarmaming paramilitary groups on both sides of the conflict.

Yet on Saturday night an apparent raid by a Right Sector radical paramilitary unit ended with up to 6 people killed in Slavyansk, a city in Ukraine’s Donetsk region controlled by anti-Kiev protesters.

Moscow condemned the violence on Sunday and said it indicates Kiev’s unwillingness to implement the Geneva agreement.

“The Russian side is outraged with the provocation, which indicates that Kiev is unwilling to put in check and disarm nationalists and extremists,” the ministry said in a statement.

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