Posts Tagged ‘Mary Landrieu’

Confrontations await Obama after Asia trip

November 17, 2014

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G20 summit

U.S. President Barack Obama waves as he boards Air Force One during his departure at Royal Australian Air Force Base Amberley, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014 in Australia. Obama is heading back to Washington after visiting China, Myanmar and attending G20 Summit in Australia. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

By Julie Pace

The Associated Press

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — After a productive trip abroad, President Barack Obama returned home Sunday on a collision course with Republicans on immigration and an oil pipeline project, showdowns that threaten prospects for cooperation over his remaining two years in office.

The contentious immigration debate could mean a year-end fight over keeping the government running, if some GOP lawmakers get their way.

On the foreign policy front, there is a Nov. 24 deadline in nuclear negotiations with Iran, and questions are surfacing within the administration about whether to overhaul U.S. policy toward Syria.

Given his faltering political support in the U.S. and his party’s recent election losses, his trip to China, Myanmar and Australia appeared to offer respite.

The president, who arrived in Washington late Sunday, basked in policy breakthroughs with China and warm welcomes in Myanmar and Australia.

“I intend to build on that momentum when I return home,” Obama said at a news conference before heading home.

When Obama set off for the Asia Pacific, both the White House and Republicans were suggesting that the GOP’s decisive takeover of the Senate could pave the way for bipartisan breakthroughs. But just two weeks after the election, that optimism largely has faded, making it increasingly likely that Washington will churn through two more years of gridlock.

Reuters journalist Matt Spetalnick (R) asks a question to U.S. President Barack Obama during a news conference at the end of the G20 Leaders Summit in Brisbane November 16, 2014. Obama said on Sunday that Russia would remain isolated by the international community if President Vladimir Putin continued to violate international law and treaties aimed at ending the conflict in Ukraine. (REUTERS/Jason Reed)

Republicans attribute the swift shift in tone largely to Obama’s plans to move forward with executive actions on immigration that potentially could shield from deportation about 5 million immigrants who are living in the United States illegally. The president has pledged to announce the measures before year’s end; he could act shortly after returning to Washington.

The incoming Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has warned that such executive actions would “poison the well” with the new Republican-led Senate and could prevent the GOP from working with Obama on other potential areas of agreement.

Republican leaders are considering what to do if Obama presses ahead. More conservative members want to use upcoming spending bills to block the president, but that could set the stage for a showdown for another government shutdown.

U.S. President Barack Obama (L), Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meet at the G20 summit in Brisbane November 16, 2014.  Credit: Reuters/Ian Waldie/Pool

Obama said that possible threat would not dictate his timing in flexing his powers. He said is main concern “is getting it right.”

The fight over the Keystone XL pipeline that would run from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast also has political implications for the president, not just with Republicans but also his own Democratic Party.

Democrats see passage of a bill forcing construction of the project as a last-ditch effort to save Sen. Mary Landrieu, who faces a runoff election next month against GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy in oil-producing Louisiana.

The House passed a measure to move the project forward on Friday, and the Senate is set to act. But Obama has all but threatened a veto, repeatedly saying the only way the pipeline can be approved is after the completion of a long-stalled State Department review.

“We have to let the process play out,” he said.

On Iran, Obama faces a deadline to reach a final agreement in sensitive nuclear negotiations. High-level talks in Oman last week failed to make major headway, potentially setting Obama up for a choice between pursuing another extension or abandoning the diplomatic effort.

The president has asked the Congress to start debating a new authorization for his airstrike campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, though he expects the legislative effort to pick up next year when Republicans take control of the Senate. The debate comes as Obama faces questions from within his own administration, including from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, about the effectiveness of the military operation, particularly in Syria.

Hagel said in a memo to White House national security adviser Susan Rice that Obama needed a clearer strategy for dealing with embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad.

White House officials have denied that Obama is undertaking any formal review of his Syria strategy and the president said Sunday that he was not considering ways to oust Assad.

Also on the agenda: getting the Senate to confirm his nominee for attorney general, federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch. The White House is not pushing for that in the postelection session of Congress, and says the president is leaving the timing up to Senate leadership.

Democrats are reluctant to push a fight with an empowered GOP over the process and White House officials say they are confident Lynch will be confirmed even with Republicans in control. The GOP takes over in January.

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Associated Press writer Nedra Pickler in Washington contributed to this report.

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Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

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Obama: ‘Strong Week for American Leadership’

November 16, 2014

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President Obama with Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

The Associated Press

BRISBANE, Australia — Eager to deflect the lame-duck label, President Barack Obama touted his unexpectedly productive swing through the Asia Pacific as a “strong week for American leadership” that resulted in deals with China and other regional powers on issues like climate change, trade and economic growth.

But even before Air Force One departed Australia, Obama already was eyeing confrontations in Washington with congressional Republicans on immigration and the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The president showed no sign of backing down on his plans to issue executive orders on immigration that will shield possibly around 5 million immigrants living in the country illegally from deportation. Obama has pledged to act before the end of the year. He said his timing would not be affected by threats from some Republicans who say they’ll try to include measures to block the orders in must-pass spending bills — a step that could lead to a government shutdown.

“I take Mitch McConnell at his word that the government is not going to shut down,” Obama said of the Kentucky Republican and incoming Senate majority leader who has previously rejected talk of a shutdown. Obama repeated his pledge to abandon his executive orders if House Republicans were to quickly hold a vote on comprehensive immigration legislation that passed the Senate earlier this year.

Taking on another area of tension between the White House and Republicans, the president all but threatened to veto congressional legislation that seeks to force construction of an oil pipeline from Canada to Texas. The House passed a bill last week and the Senate is expected to move on the measure in the coming days.

The Keystone pipeline has been a pet project for Republicans for the past several years. But now some members of Obama’s own Democratic party see a political incentive in forcing a vote, most notably Sen. Mary Landrieu of oil and gas-producing Louisiana who faces a December runoff with her Republican challenger in the midterm elections.

Sen. Mary Landrieu

Obama showed little sign of being willing to sign off on a bill in an attempt to give Landrieu a political lifeline. Instead, he reiterated his long-standing position that the only way the project could move forward is if a State Department review declared it environmentally sound.

“We have to let the process play out,” he said.

President Obama Refuses To Support Keystone XL Pipeline — Liberal media say Mary Landrieu is toast

November 14, 2014

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Keystone requires presidential approval because it crosses an international border

YANGON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama said on Friday his position on the Keystone XL oil pipeline has not changed, as the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives prepared to vote to approve the project to transport oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

Speaking at a news conference in Yangon, Myanmar, alongside democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, Obama cited pending legal action in Nebraska and said it was hard to evaluate the pipeline proposal until the actual route was known.

The pipeline has been the subject of years of jousting between supporters, who tout its job-creating potential, and environmentalists, who say Canada’s extraction of oil sands would increase emissions linked to climate change.

Keystone XL requires presidential approval because it crosses an international border. The White House has not made clear whether Obama would use his veto to block the bill currently before Congress, but he has threatened to veto Keystone legislation in the past.

U.S. President Barack Obama attends the 2nd ASEAN-USA Summit in Naypyitaw November 13, 2014. REUTERS/DamirSagolj

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Liberal media say Mary Landrieu is toast

By

Had the Republicans been slightly less successful in the midterms, legions of expense-account reporters would now be in New Orleans, chronicling Mary Landrieu’s effort to save her seat.

With Democratic control of the Senate at stake, there would be an avalanche of stories about how the underdog from one of Louisiana’s most storied political families was fighting for her life in next month’s runoff.

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Sen. Mary Landrieu

Instead, she’s got this: “Mary Landrieu: Dead Woman Walking?”

That’s not a right-wing attack. It’s a headline on the liberal site Talking Points Memo.

The media narrative is that the senator is toast, and that may well be true. Landrieu edged Republican congressman Bill Cassidy in the primary, 42 to 41 percent, but another 14 percent went to another GOP candidate, Rob Maness. So it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to gauge that Cassidy should pick up most of Maness’ votes in the Dec. 6 runoff.

What’s more, the Democratic Party has yanked its financial support from Landrieu. Politics is a cold business.

But media coverage matters. Some of Landrieu’s supporters may stay home if she’s deemed to be a goner. Indeed, NBC reporter Kasie Hunt came out and asked her, “Are you a lost cause?”

In an effort to salvage her candidacy, Landrieu, from an oil-rich state, has successfully pushed for a lame-duck Senate vote on the Keystone pipeline. But House Republicans have countered by having Cassidy sponsor the bill that would be sent to the White House–a vote could come today–and Landrieu says she doesn’t care if her name is off the legislation as long as the pipeline is approved.

What this is really about is separating herself from the president, since a major theme of Cassidy’s campaign—indeed, of many GOP campaigns–is that Landrieu voted in lockstep with Obama.

Here’s the aforementioned TPM story:

“She’s not going down without a fight, but Louisiana Democrats remain skeptical she can pull it off. ‘The Democrats on the national level are basically throwing in the towel on Mary. That’s how people are reading it here,’ said Ron Nabonne, a New Orleans-based attorney and political consultant for over 30 years.

“Landrieu finds herself in a political netherworld: she hasn’t lost, but many Democrats are going through the motions until the Dec. 6 runoff with Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy.”

Bloomberg Politics also uses a death metaphor in the headline, “Democrats Leave a Body On the Campaign Trail”:

“Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu’s re-election race is truly running out of air: She’s responsible for a mere 4 percent of all TV spots in the week-old Louisiana runoff.  Republican challenger Bill Cassidy and his friends paid for 96 percent of the spots that have run so far.”

Salon says the Keystone maneuver “is unlikely to help Landrieu. The pipeline doesn’t even come through Louisiana – it stops at Texas. The jobs it creates are mostly temporary; an otherwise favorable State Department report found the pipeline would ultimately create 35 permanent fulltime jobs…

“What Keystone does is let Landrieu poke a sharp stick in the eye of Obama, much hated by her white constituents.”

Sigh. Why drag race into it? I know Landrieu caused a stir by saying of Obama’s unpopularity that “The South has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans.”  But this was ostensibly about Keystone.

The problem for Landrieu is voters know that even if she wins, she’ll no longer be chairing the Energy Committee. She’ll be in the minority.

Speaking of losing female Democrats, the Texas Tribune has a remarkable story about Wendy Davis.

Davis, you’ll recall, got an enormous amount of positive press after filibustering an anti-abortion bill, which boosted her to the Democratic nomination for governor.

Now that Davis has been trounced by Greg Abbott, a memo has surfaced from two of her former consultants, Peter Cari and Maura Dougherty, that basically said Davis was running too far to the left.

“‘The campaign is in disarray and is in danger of being embarrassed,’ Cari and Dougherty wrote in a lengthy memorandum on Jan. 6. ‘The level of dysfunction was understandable in July and August, when we had no infrastructure in place — but it doesn’t seem to be getting better…

“‘There is not a model where a candidate who appears this liberal and culturally out of touch gets elected statewide anywhere in the south — much less in Texas — without some inoculation…

“‘Running Wendy Davis as a generic national Democrat is not only the quickest path to 38 percent, it’s also a huge disservice to Wendy, her record and the brand she has built.’”

Well, they were off. Davis got 38.9 percent of the vote.

I don’t know where the leak came from, but since the two were fired, there’s an I-told-you-so quality about the story. Could some Mary Landrieu staffers be working on a similar missive?

Click for more from Media Buzz.

Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of “MediaBuzz” (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz. 

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/11/14/even-liberal-media-say-mary-landrieu-is-toast/

ObamaCare Architect Jonathan Gruber: Health Law Passed Because of “Stupidity of the American Voter” and Obama Administration Intentional Lack of Transparency

November 11, 2014

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Pictured: Jonathan Gruber

In a newly surfaced video, one of Obamacare’s architects admits a “lack of transparency” helped the Obama administration and congressional Democrats pass the Affordable Care Act. The conservative group American Commitment posted Jonathan Gruber’s remarks, reportedly from an Oct. 17, 2013, event, on YouTube.

“Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage,” says the MIT economist who helped write Obamacare. “And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical for the thing to pass.”

Includes video:

http://nation.foxnews.com/2014/11/10/obamacare-architect-admits-deceiving-americans-pass-law

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By Avik Roy
Forbes

You’ve got to hand it to MIT economist Jonathan Gruber. The guy dubbed the “Obamacare architect” is a viral YouTube sensation. A few months back, he was caught on tape admitting that Obamacare doesn’t provide subsidies for federally-run insurance exchanges; it’s now the topic of a new case before the Supreme Court. Today, new video surfaced in which Gruber said that “the stupidity of the American voter” made it important for him and Democrats to hide Obamacare’s true costs from the public. “That was really, really critical for the thing to pass,” said Gruber. “But I’d rather have this law than not.” In other words, the ends—imposing Obamacare upon the public—justified the means.

The new Gruber comments come from a panel discussion that he joined on October 17, 2013 at the University of Pennsylvania’s Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics. He was joined on the panel by Penn health economist Mark Pauly. Patrick Howley of the Daily Caller was the first to flag Gruber’s remarks.

In fairness to Gruber, American voters are not the only people whose intelligence he questions; elsewhere in the discussion, he describes New York Sen. Chuck Schumer (D.) as someone who “as far as I can tell, doesn’t understand economics” and calls a staffer for Sen. Olympia Snowe (R., Maine)—presumably William Pewen—an “idiot.”

Representatives of the Leonard Davis Institute tried to pull the video of Gruber’s remarks, but they were too late. Phil Kerpen and others had already clipped them for public consumption.

Obamacare’s opacity was a deliberate strategy

Gruber made an argument that many of Obamacare’s critics have long made, including me. It’s that the law’s complex system of insurance regulation is a way of concealing from voters what Obamacare really is: a huge redistribution of wealth from the young and healthy to the old and unhealthy. In the video, Gruber points out that if Democrats had been honest about these facts, and that the law’s individual mandate is in effect a major tax hike, Obamacare would never have passed Congress.

“Mark [Pauly] made a couple of comments that I do want to take issue with, one about transparency in financing and the other is about moving from community rating to risk-rated subsidies. You can’t do it politically. You just literally cannot do it, okay, transparent financing…and also transparent spending.” Gruber said. “In terms of risk-rated subsidies, if you had a law which said that healthy people are going to pay in—you made explicit that healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed, okay. Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical for the thing to pass…Look, I wish Mark was right that we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not.”

Gruber also points out that Obamacare’s individual mandate—the provision that requires most Americans to buy government-approved insurance, or pay a fine—was described in the law as a “penalty” instead of as a “tax” in order to hide the mandate’s effects. “I mean, this bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO did not score the [individual] mandate as taxes,” said Gruber. “If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Okay, so [the law is] written to do that.”

To a large degree, the tactic of opacity worked. Not only did Obamacare get passed, but its complex system of cross-subsidies attracted less notice on the Right than did the law’s tax hikes and spending increases. But what progressives figured out—and conservatives are just learning—is that government regulation of health insurance can serve as yet another way to redistribute money from one group to another.

In Louisiana, Obamacare hiked rates for young men by 108%

If you look at the Manhattan Institute’s Obamacare cost map—in which we analyzed how the law’s health insurance regulations affect people of different ages and genders—you’ll see that for most of the country, young people who shop for coverage on their own have far steeper gross insurance costs under the law than they did before.

For example, in Louisiana—home to a hotly contested Senate race between incumbent Mary Landrieu (D.) and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R.)—the underlying cost of insurance increased by 108 percent for 27-year-old men, and 46 percent for 27-year-old women.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2014/11/10/aca-architect-the-stupidity-of-the-american-voter-led-us-to-hide-obamacares-tax-hikes-and-subsidies-from-the-public/

http://www.forbes.com/special-report/2013/what-will-obamacare-cost-you-map.html

Voters Give Republicans Control of Senate

November 5, 2014

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Win McNamee/Getty

 

By David A. Fahrenthold
The Washington Post

Republicans scored a stunning electoral rout in the midterm elections, taking control of the U.S. Senate after a bitter campaign in which anger at Washington gridlock was turned against a president who took office promising to transcend it.

By early Wednesday, Republican candidates had won at least 10 of the day’s 13 closely contested Senate races. They took seats held by Democrats in Iowa, Colorado, Arkansas, Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia and North Carolina — more than enough to seize control of the Senate for the first time since 2007.

In addition, Republicans won at least 10 more seats in the House, adding to their majority. And GOP candidates won gubernatorial races from Florida to the high plains, including those in deep-blue Maryland and Massachusetts.

In Senate races, Democrats appeared to have kept just one of the states they had spent two years and millions of dollars trying to save — New Hampshire, where incumbent Jeanne Shaheen defeated Scott Brown (R), the former Massachusetts senator who had moved across the state line to run again from his vacation home.

And in Virginia, Democrats spent much of the night fearing they would lose a seat they thought was safe. Late Tuesday, Sen. Mark R. Warner (D) declared victory by a razor-close margin over Republican Ed Gillespie.

Senate races in Louisiana and Alaska remained undecided late Tuesday.

The contest in Louisiana will not be settled until December, when Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) will face Rep. Bill Cassidy (R) in a runoff election. And final results in Alaska’s race could be delayed for days as votes flow in from far-flung villages.

Read the rest:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/2014/11/05/4156eaf0-5330-11e4-892e-602188e70e9c_story.html?hpid=z2

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Republicans Win Senate Control 

The New York Times

Resurgent Republicans took control of the Senate on Tuesday night, expanded their hold on the House, and defended some of the most closely contested governors’ races, in a repudiation of President Obama that will reorder the political map in his final years in office.

Propelled by economic dissatisfaction and anger toward the president, Republicans grabbed Democratic Senate seats in North Carolina, Colorado, Iowa, West Virginia, Arkansas, Montana and South Dakota to gain their first Senate majority since 2006. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, a shrewd Republican tactician, cruised to re-election and stood poised to achieve a goal he has pursued for years — Senate majority leader.

The biggest surprises of the night came in North Carolina, where the Republican, Thom Tillis, came from behind to beat Senator Kay Hagan, and in Virginia. There, Senator Mark Warner, a former Democratic governor of the state, was thought to be one of the safest incumbents in his party, and instead found himself clinging to the narrowest of leads against a former Republican Party chairman, Ed Gillespie.

Read the rest:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/05/us/politics/midterm-elections.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=span-abc-region&region=span-abc-region&WT.nav=span-abc-region&_r=0

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky.,  joined by his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, celebrates with his supporters at an election ...

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., joined by his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, celebrates with his supporters at an election night party in Louisville, Ky.,Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014. McConnell won a sixth term in Washington, with his eyes on the larger prize of GOP control of the Senate. The Kentucky Senate race, with McConnell, a 30-year incumbent, fighting off a spirited challenge from Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, has been among the most combative and closely watched contests that could determine the balance of power in Congress. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Sen. Mary Landrieu Seems To Blame President Barack Obama’s Low Approval Rating on Racism

October 31, 2014

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Sen. Mary Landrieu

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Republicans are calling on Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu to apologize after she suggested Thursday that President Barack Obama’s deep unpopularity in the South is partly tied to race.

In an interview with NBC News on Thursday, Landrieu was quoted as saying that the South “has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans.”

The comments came after an NBC reporter asked the senator why Obama has such low approval ratings in Louisiana. Landrieu’s first response was that the president’s energy policies are deeply disliked by residents of the oil and gas-rich state.

She then added, “I’ll be very, very honest with you. The South has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans. It’s been a difficult time for the president to present himself in a very positive light as a leader.”

Landrieu is locked in a tight re-election battle with Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, and is targeted by Republicans nationally in their efforts to retake control of the Senate. Republican and tea-party favorite Rob Maness is polling in a distant third place.

State Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere issued a statement late Thursday calling Landrieu’s remarks “insulting to me and to every other Louisianian.”

“Louisiana deserves better than a senator who denigrates her own people by questioning and projecting insidious motives on the very people she claims to represent,” he said. “Senator Landrieu and President Obama are unpopular for no other reason than the fact the policies they advance are wrong for Louisiana and wrong for America.”

Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal issued a statement calling Landrieu’s comments “remarkably divisive” and Maness issued a statement calling on the senator to apologize.

Landrieu’s campaign declined to comment Thursday night.

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In Comments sure to cascade into regional races across the South, embattled Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) told NBC’s Chuck Todd on Thursday that Southern racism is to blame for President Barack Obama’s unpopularity.

“Why does President Obama have a hard time in Louisiana?” asked Todd.

“Let me be very, very honest with you,” said Landrieu. “The South has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans. It’s been a difficult time for the president to present himself in a very positive light as a leader.”

Landrieu added: “It has not always been a good place for women, to be able to present ourselves. It’s more of a conservative place. So we’ve had to work a little bit harder on that. But, you know, the people trust me, I believe. Really, they do.”

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal blasted Landrieu’s comments as desperate and out of touch.

“She appears to be living in a different century. Implied in her comments is the clear suggestion that President Obama and his policies are unpopular in Louisiana because of his ethnicity,” said Jindal. “That is a major insult by Senator Landrieu to the people of Louisiana, and I flatly reject it.”

Landrieu’s controversial remarks threaten to spill over into other Southern races, further placing already vulnerable Democrats in the uncomfortable position of having to defend or reject Landrieu’s statements. Democrats who reject Landrieu’s comments risk alienating black voters. Those who agree with Landrieu risk alienating white voters.

The latest USA Today poll shows Landrieu trailing her Republican challenger Bill Cassidy by seven percentage points.

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2014/10/30/Southern-Shockwave-Mary-Landrieu-Blames-Obama-s-Unpopularity-on-Racism

U.S. slipping into Iran alliance in sectarian war

June 16, 2014

By

Published June 16, 2014

FoxNews.com
US Iraq_John Kerry_AP_internal660.jpg

This June 12, 2014 file photo shows Secretary of State John Kerry listens during a meeting between President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.AP

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Buzz Cut:
• U.S. slipping into Iran alliance in sectarian war
• Why the border surge? It’s the amnesty
• How likely is IRS story on missing Lerner emails?
• Thad’s ‘one of us’ in Mississippi race
• This investment needs guac

 

U.S. SLIPPING INTO IRAN ALLIANCE IN SECTARIAN WAR

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Secretary of State John Kerry said aloud today what the Obama administration has been hinting for days: The U.S. military may help Iran fight against rival Islamists who are beheading their way through northern Iraq. Yes, that Iran. A country that claims to shoot down U.S. drones might be aided by U.S. drones in a new front of an old war between armies from rival branches of Islam. Reuters reports that Iranian leaders have said they’re open to the idea, paving the way for American air power to be used in support of Iranian ground forces. It would have sounded preposterous just a few weeks ago.

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But it sounds plausible today, as the city of Tal Afar and its more than 200,000 residents join the list of those conquered by a brutal, growing army seeking to create an Islamist state that spans across the Iraq-Syria border. After taking the Sunni side in the regional sectarian conflict for most of the past 30 years, the U.S. looks ready to weigh in for the first time in a significant way on behalf of the Shia.

[Fox News: “Despite the added security by the Iraqi government in Baghdad, a string of explosions killed at least 15 people and wounded more than 30 in the city Sunday, police and hospital officials said.”]

Talking around the issue – The talks are expected occur as a sidebar to long-running negotiations in Vienna over Iran’s nuclear program. And like the Obama administration’s efforts to forge a partnership with Iran on allowing for the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the partnership is presented as the least-bad option available. But unlike the diplomatic avenues in Afghanistan, the Iraq deal could lead to the U.S. encouraging Iranian forces to cross the border with Iraq and fight against their longtime hated foes. Such a move may deemed preferable to the sight of Baghdad falling to the black-robed Sunni warriors encroaching on the city, but it doesn’t exactly gibe with the overall talking points from the administration that the cause of the crisis is an Iraqi government that is insufficiently inclusive of Sunnis. If you think that Sunni Iraqis are unwilling to fight for the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad now, just wait until they’re asked to fight alongside the Iranians.

Hillary has it both ways – During her tenure as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has supported negotiations with the Iran on limiting its nuclear program, talks that have stretched out for years. The 2016 Democratic frontrunner came out against deepening sanctions against the Islamist nation earlier this year, backing Obama administration talks that led to a short-term agreement that eased U.S. sanctions and freed-up cash for Iran in return for marginal limits on enrichment. Clinton, though, turned “skeptical” about striking a deal in remarks to some audiences, telling one group “I am also personally skeptical that the Iranians would follow through and deliver. I have seen their behavior over the years. But this is a development that is worth testing.” Iranian behavior has reverted to stretching out talks toward a longer term U.S.-Iran nuke deal faces a July 20 deadline. The 2016 political calculus for Clinton is delicate with a base that is ever-wary of her hawkishness.

Paul: Hillary not fit to be president – The Hill: “[Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.] said Clinton’s biggest “dereliction” was to have never read the diplomatic cables from Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who was killed in the attack, providing updates for the on-the-ground situation in Libya. ‘She never read them. It’s a dereliction of duty. It’s something that should preclude Hillary Clinton from every being considered as commander in chief,’ he said to loud applause.”

[The Washington Free Beacon takes a deep dive into audio recordings from the 1980s of Hillary Clinton as talking candidly about a 1975 case in which she used brutal legal tactics to defend a man accused of raping as 12-year-old girl.]

Romney: Hillary ‘clueless’  – WashEx: “[Hillary Clinton] has no successes to point from her record as secretary of State, [former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass.] said. Her attempt to reset U.S. policy on Russia had the opposite effect, Romney said, and her recent comments regarding the Obama administration’s release of five Taliban leaders from Guantanamo Bay in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, were “clueless.” ‘She said the commandos don’t represent a threat to the United States,’… ‘Of course they do … are you kidding?’”

WHY THE BORDER SURGE? IT’S THE AMNESTY

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It’s not unrest at home. It’s not drought or global warming. Byron York says it’s a belief that there is amnesty: “Recent days have been filled with anecdotal reports, from local news outlets in Central America to major American newspapers, citing immigrants who say they came because they believe U.S. law has been changed to allow them to stay. And now comes word that Border Patrol agents in the most heavily-trafficked area of the surge, the Rio Grande Valley sector of Texas, recently questioned 230 illegal immigrants about why they came. The results showed overwhelmingly that the immigrants, including those classified as UACs, or unaccompanied children, were motivated by the belief that they would be allowed to stay in the United States — and not by conditions in their homelands”

[In an expression of its “great concern,” the Obama administration is sending Vice President Joe Biden this week for high-level talks with Central American leaders to address the wave of illegal immigrants flooding Texas and other southern states.]

WITH YOUR SECOND CUP OF COFFEE…

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The “Internet of things” has been the increasing focus of the technology world. Refrigerators that order milk! Metrics on the effectiveness of your toothbrushing! With so many Americans wearing fitness monitors and using apps that track our steps, our sleep and our diets, it is becoming easier to imagine the kind of future that was once the stuff of Robert Zemeckis. Matt Honan’s essay for Wired imagining a morning 20 years from now in a “connected” American home considers what happens if the Internet of things is just as buggy, annoying, hacked and limiting as the plain old Internet is today. He begins with the bug afflicting his home’s operating one morning in the 2030s: “Thankfully this one is fairly benign. It sets off the alarm with music I blacklisted decades ago on Pandora. It takes a picture of me as I get out of the shower every morning and uploads it to Facebook. No big deal.”

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POLL CHECK
Real Clear Politics Averages
Obama Job Approval
: Approve –  42.3 percent/Disapprove – 54 percent
Direction of Country: Right Direction – 29.1 percent/Wrong Track – 63.6 percent
Generic Congressional Ballot:  Democrats – 42 percent/Republicans 41.4 percent

HOW LIKELY IS IRS STORY ON MISSING LERNER EMAILS?

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National Review’s John Fund is focused today on testing the plausibility of the IRS’ claim that it has lost all of the emails between Lois Lerner, the former agency executive at the center of the scandal over targeting President Obama’s political enemies, and anyone outside of the organization. The blackout covers not only the key 16-months in the investigation but would expressly deny investigators what they seek: evidence the conspiracy went beyond the agency and into other parts of the administration. Fund argues that the case for the emails being unrecoverable is weak, but also explains why they matter: “Last year’s report by the IRS inspector general set out a timeline of the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups. A full 16 of the 26 non-redacted events in the inspector general’s timeline took place during the period for which all of Lerner’s e-mails were ‘lost,’ and these 16 instances refer to ‘e-mail’ as the source for information on that event.”

THAD’S ‘ONE OF US’ IN MISSISSIPPI RACE

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National Journal: “In [the Mississippi Senate race], the Chamber of Commerce launched a new statewide TV ad casting Sen. Thad Cochran (R) as ‘conservative, dependable,’ and ‘one of us.’ The group is spending $500,000 to air the spot, according to FEC records.

HAGAN GETS HELP ON ATTACKS

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Roll Call: “Sen. Kay Hagan’s campaign will get a boost this week on television from [liberal political action group] EMILY’s List independent expenditure arm, which will attack her GOP opponent on the airwaves. The North Carolina Democrat faces state Speaker Thom Tillis, the Republican nominee, in one of the most competitive and expensive elections this cycle….It features a teacher… ‘I have to buy supplies for my classroom. And my classroom is getting a lot more crowded,’ she says. ‘Speaker Thom Tillis cut almost $500 million from education causing crowded classrooms, and forcing teachers to pay more out-of-pocket for school supplies, while Tillis protected tax breaks for yachts and jets,’ she adds. The ad buy is in the high six-figures, according to EMILY’s List, and will run on broadcast and cable in Charlotte, Raleigh, and Greensboro Monday through the end of June. It’s part of a $3 million campaign in North Carolina that will include mail and online advertising, in addition to television.”

LANDRIEU YESES DAD IN LOUSIANA
In the Louisiana Senate race, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is out with “part 3” of a series of TV ads featuring playful back-and-forth with her father, former New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu. The ad has the senator “yes siring” as Dad recites the social welfare programs she supports.

DAINES, WALSH SPAR IN MONTANA DEBATE
Montana Democratic incumbent Sen. John Walsh claimed he was the better choice for voters looking to reduce federal spending in his first debate with challenger Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Libertarian nominee Roger Roots. Get the synopsis and watch highlights from KRTV.

SENATE RACE SPENDING ALREADY TOPS $100 MILLION
WaPo: “Democrats, Republicans and the outside groups funding massive television blitzes have spent more than $100 million on television time to air general-election ads in battleground states critical to winning control of the Senate, according to public documents filed with television stations nationwide.”

PICK SIX: PEACH STATE PREMONITION?
Republicans are hoping to pick up an additional six seats to gain control of the Senate this November. Which Democrat-held seats will prove to be the most likely flips for the red team? The current consensus among Fox News First readers: Arkansas, Montana, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina and West Virginia. “Better pick seven,” Reader Billy Vaughn says, noting the race in Georgia to fill retiring Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss’s seat, “Can’t trust these Georgia voters not to vote for [Democratic candidate] Michelle Nunn.”

Share your top six picks. Email them – just your top six, please – to FOXNEWSFIRST@FOXNEWS.COM or tweet @cstirewalt

POWER PLAY: HIGH ALTITUDE RACE
Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., knows he has a battle on his hands to keep ahold of his seat in the suburban Denver district he represents. But how will that high-intensity race against Democrat Andrew Romanoff affect and be affected by the competitive Senate and gubernatorial races in Colorado this year? Coffman joins “Power Play with Chris Stirewalt” to discuss his race and its implications. Watch here.

THIS INVESTMENT NEEDS GUAC
Would you lend someone $17,000 for their business? What if they told you that you would get free burritos? Mhmm. That’s what we thought. The investors behind new, London-based Mexican food chain Chilango are looking to raise more than $5 million in a hurry, and while their offer includes repayment with 8 percent interest, it’s the free burritos that are getting the attention. Inc. reports on the “burrito bond” that gives investors a free burrito each week for the four-year duration of the loan and “a coupon for two burritos upon subscribing.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, he serves as the host of “Power Play” on FoxNews.com and makes daily appearances on the network including “America Live with Megyn Kelly,” “Special Report with Bret Baier,” and “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Most recently, Stirewalt provided expert political analysis during the 2012 presidential election.

Labor Unions Slam White House as ‘Gutless’ on Keystone XL Pipeline Delay

April 22, 2014

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Allow me to say right off the bat that I was wrong. Mea culpa. I predicted that the Obama administration would finally approve the Keystone pipeline project sometime this fall, tossing a political bone to vulnerable Democratic Senators who’ve been begging the president to stop dragging his feet. As we learned over the holiday weekend, Mary Landrieu and friends won’t get their wish.

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The White House is again hunkering down and postponing a decision until early 2015, and possibly beyond — leaving thousands of American workers in the lurch. During his obnoxious Obamacare press conference last week, the president said that Washington must stop debating the health law, and move on to more pressing matters like jobs and the economy (fronts on which Obamacare is inflicting damage, incidentally). He even called for additional “investments” in American infrastructure, which he said would “improve our economy for the long term.” Literally the next day, he swatted down a hugely popular job-creating infrastructure project. As Dan wrote earlier, MSNBC’s Morning Joe crew seemed perplexed by the move, which liberal host Mika Brzezinski called “hard to defend.” The Wall Street Journal’s editors agree, but they aren’t puzzling over what happened. Follow the money:

 

The Koch brothers may get the media attention, but the billionaire getting the most political bang for his buck is Tom Steyer. The hedge-fund politico has pledged to raise $100 million to help Democrats keep the Senate, and on Friday he received a major return on his investment when the State Department again delayed its decision on the Keystone XL pipeline … The real reason for the delay is Democratic politics. Mr. Steyer and the party’s liberal financiers are climate-change absolutists who have made killing Keystone a non-negotiable demand. But the White House doesn’t want to reject the pipeline before November because several Senate Democrats running for re-election claim to favor it. We say “claim” because Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu and others can’t even get Majority Leader Harry Reid to give them a vote on the floor.

After the decision was announced, Steyer danced in the endzone over the politicized, anti-jobs victory he purchased. Obama extended a middle finger to Senate Democrats who back the pipeline, although he’s providing them the “delay” fig leaf, allowing them to continue campaigning in favor of the popular idea. But America Rising has it exactly right:

 

The White House’s actions, and Harry Reid’s obedient obstruction of votes on the question, expose Landrieu, Pryor, Begich, Hagan et al as powerless within their own party. The party’s liberals can count on the votes of these self-stylized “moderates” when they’re really needed (see: Obamacare), but will blithely ignore the blue dogs when they decline to toe the Obama line. These Senators can brag about “standing up to the White House” on Keystone back home, but the proof is in the pudding. They’re Obama rubber stamps when it counts, and wield precious little influence on important issues like Keystone — to the point that they can’t even persuade their own leadership to schedule votes. It also goes without saying that although they’ll profess to be angry and disappointed about the recent delay, these incumbents will be more than happy to take campaign cash from the Steyers of the world. Democrats love theirout of state billionaires.” In any case, the American people strongly support construction of the pipeline, as do prominent labor unions whose members want work. Several unions are pounding away at the White House, recognizing that they’ve been demoted on the totem pole of liberal special interests:

A top labor union blasted the Obama administration on Friday over what it described as a nakedly political decision to once again delay a decision on the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborers International Union of America (LIUNA), called the move “gutless” and a “low blow to the working men and women of our country.” The State Department announced on Friday that it would push back its decision on the pipeline until after the midterm elections in November.

Another:

 

“The actions by the Obama Administration to further extend the review process for the Keystone XL pipeline is a cold, hard slap in the face for hard working Americans who are literally waiting for President Obama’s approval and the tens of thousands of jobs it will generate. Despite this administration’s own findings that the Keystone project will result in significant economic benefits to our country, President Obama has placed politics over substantive policy that only serves to advance the agenda of well funded radical environmentalists….It’s ironic that at the same time billionaire conservatives are coming under increasing scrutiny and criticism by the left for their involvement in politics, there is nary a word about the political spending by liberal billionaires that negatively impact the job prospects and livelihoods of working class Americans.”

That last line is an surprisingly overt jab at Harry Reid. I’ll leave you with remarkably lifelike talking points robot Debbie Wasserman Schultz insisting that the president’s Keystone punt had nothing at all to do with politics, followed by John Hardwood of CNBC and the New York Times asserting precisely the opposite:

http://townhall.com/tipsheet/guybenson/2014/04/21/gop-liberal-billionaire-bought-keystone-decision-for-100-million-n1827054?utm_source=TopBreakingNewsCarousel&utm_medium=story&utm_campaign=BreakingNewsCarousel

Keystone XL Pipeline Deadline Sought by 11 Senate Democrats

April 10, 2014

By Niels Lesniewski
Roll Call

InternetSalesTax 06 042313 445x295 Keystone XL Pipeline Deadline Sought by 11 Senate Democrats

Democratic senators who favor completing the Keystone XL pipeline, including some of the party’s most vulnerable senators up for re-election, are once again prodding the White House to make up its mind.

In a new letter to President Barack Obama, 11 Democrats are making a pre-recess push for a May 31 deadline for action. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota spearheaded the new letter along with new Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana.

Democratic Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Mark Warner of Virginia, Kay Hagan of North Carolina joined Montana Democrats Jon Tester and John Walsh in signing on to the letter with Heitkamp and Landrieu. Begich, Pryor, Landrieu, Hagan and Walsh are all facing the voters this fall in states lost by Obama in 2012.

The senators also want Secretary of State John Kerry to move swiftly to report on the national interest determination related to the Keystone project after a current period for comment runs out.

“Given that there has been little change from previous conclusions reached, we believe that an ultimate decision should not be delayed any longer than is reasonably necessary,” the senators wrote.

The full text of the letter to Obama appears below:

Dear Mr. President,

We are writing to request that you use your executive authority to implement an explicit timeline for Secretary of State John Kerry to make a national interest determination on the Keystone XL pipeline permit application. At the expiration of the current 90-day comment and consultation period for certain federal agencies, there should be a date certain no later than 15 days after that date for Secretary Kerry to provide you with his national interest determination recommendation. Finally, we ask that you commit to making your final decision on the permit application no later than May 31, 2014.

We respect the need for a final 30-day public comment period, a period that closed on Friday, March 7, 2014. It is important that at every step of this process that the public and other stakeholders are able to provide their feedback in response to the Environmental Impact Statements released through the State Department as part of the permit application process.  We also respect the need for relevant federal agencies and officials to weigh-in with Secretary Kerry, pursuant to Executive Order 13337, so that they may express their views and assistance in order for Secretary Kerry to make a fully informed national interest determination.

However, this is a process that has now gone on well past five years, has involved two applications, five federal reviews, multiple open comment periods, and numerous opportunities for consultation and comment  at either public forums or at staff-level meetings. The Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), released by the State Department on January 31, 2014, was well over 2,000 pages and included an expanded analysis of potential oil releases; an expanded climate change analysis; an updated oil market analysis incorporating new economic modeling; an expanded analysis of rail transport; and additional analysis regarding alternative modes of transportation beyond rail.

After taking all of this additional information into account, the Final SEIS still reached virtually the same conclusion as previous reviews, that construction of the Keystone XL pipeline is “unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States based on expected oil-prices, oil-sands supply costs, transport costs and supply-demand scenarios.”  Also, over half of the extraction today employs more traditional in situ drilling technologies, and will be used to recover a large majority of the resource. Given that there has been little change from previous conclusions reached, we believe that an ultimate decision should not be delayed any longer than is reasonably necessary.

This process has been exhaustive in its time, breadth, and scope. It has already taken much longer than anyone can reasonably justify. This is an international project that will provide our great friend and ally Canada, a direct route to our refineries. These refineries were specifically built to process and refine heavy crude, and Canadian crude will help replace heavy crude imports from unstable and unfriendly countries like Venezuela. Canada has done its part and has been a willing and patient partner throughout this process. This project will enhance our relationship with Canada and increase our drive towards North American energy security and independence, and there is no consultation required to arrive at that conclusion.

Given all these facts, we believe that after the 90-day period in which certain executive agencies and officials can provide comment and consultation to Secretary of State Kerry has expired, there should be a date certain no later than 15 days after that date for Secretary Kerry to provide you with his national interest determination recommendation.

We cannot miss another construction season, given the long cold winter this year along the Keystone XL route and the time required for ground thaw, we could be looking at a very short season. We need a definitive timeline laid out, a timeline that reduces the comment period for federal agencies, officials and other entities. A timeline that requires Secretary Kerry to present you with his national interest determination shortly after the comment and consultation period ends. This decision must not drag on into the summer.

The time to act is now Mr. President, please use your executive authority to expedite this process to a swift conclusion and a final decision so that we can all move forward on other energy infrastructure needs in this country. We ask that you bring this entire process to an end no later than May 31, 2014, and that your final decision be the right one, finding that the Keystone XL pipeline is in the national interest.

Welcome To Vladimir Putin’s New World Order — Are troops without national insignia starting a new era “Thug Rule” in Europe?

March 20, 2014
  • Troops were this morning abandoning bases across the peninsula amid reports many Ukrainian soldiers have defected to Russian forces
  • Comes after Russian troops last night seized a second Ukraine naval base
  • Pro-Russian forces also took control of three Ukrainian navy ships today
  • Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.N has expressed fears Russia may be planning a further military incursion into Ukraine’s territory
  • EU leaders meet in Brussels today to discuss their response to crisis
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel says more sanctions will be imposed and the G8 forum is suspended indefinitely
  • President Barack Obama announced further U.S. sanctions on Russia today
  • Russia has imposed entry bans on U.S. lawmakers and officials in retaliation
  • It has also signaled concern at Estonia’s treatment of its  large ethnic Russian minority

By Suzannah Hills

Ukraine has started to withdraw its troops from Crimea to the mainland amid fears Russia plans further military incursions into their territory after militiamen seized three Ukrainian ships today.

Russian troops have majority control of the Black Sea peninsula after storming three Ukrainian warships on Thursday following the takeover of several military bases.

Shots were fired and stun grenades but there were no casualties as the Ukrainian corvette Khmelnitsky was seized in Sevastopol while another ship, the Lutsk, was also surrounded by pro-Russian forces.

Ukrainian servicemen were also seen disembarking a third ship, the Ternopil corvette.

Scroll down for video

Takeover: A man in an unmarked uniform and wearing a mask holds a gun as he climbs aboard the Ukrainian corvette Khmelnitsky in Sevastopol, Crimea

Takeover: A man in an unmarked uniform and wearing a mask holds a gun as he climbs aboard the Ukrainian corvette Khmelnitsky in Sevastopol, Crimea

Raid: Pro-Russian militiamen seized three Ukrainian navy vessels in Crimea on Thursday - including the corvette Khmelnitsky in Sevastopol

Raid: Pro-Russian militiamen seized three Ukrainian navy vessels in Crimea on Thursday – including the corvette Khmelnitsky in Sevastopol

Surrender: Ukrainian crew members pictured lying on the deck of the Khmelnitsky after it was seized in Sevastopol by pro-Russian troops

Surrender: Ukrainian crew members pictured lying on the deck of the Khmelnitsky after it was seized in Sevastopol by pro-Russian troops

Ukraine has also claimed its troops are  being threatened on the ground in Crimea as the U.S. announced a new  round of sanctions against Russia for its annexation of the Black Sea  peninsula.

It comes after forces stormed Ukraine’s naval headquarters in Sevastopol yesterday before taking over another naval facility 30kms away in Bakhchisaray.

Extraordinary scenes followed as downcast Ukrainian servicemen, unarmed and in civilian clothing, began abandoning the bases, some with ‘nowhere to go’ while others were reported to have already defected to Russian forces.

Out of Ukraine’s 25,000 troops in Crimea, it is estimated there are still thousands who remain trapped in the region as Russian troops close in around them.

Packing up: A Ukrainian air force officer carries his bags out of the Belbek airbase, outside Sevastopol, Crimea, on Thursday as Kiev announced plans to withdraw 25,000 troops from the peninsula

Packing up: A Ukrainian air force officer carries his bags out of the Belbek airbase, outside Sevastopol, Crimea, on Thursday as Kiev announced plans to withdraw 25,000 troops from the peninsula

Evacuation: Ukrainian air force officers are pictured removing their belongings the Belbek airbase, outside Sevastopol, on Thursday as many troops have reportedly defected to Russian forces

Evacuation: Ukrainian air force officers are pictured removing their belongings the Belbek airbase, outside Sevastopol, on Thursday as many troops have reportedly defected to Russian forces

Time to go: Ukrainian air force officers leave the Belbek airbase, outside Sevastopol, Crimea, with their belongings on Thursday as pro-Russian troops close in on the peninsula

Time to go: Ukrainian air force officers leave the Belbek airbase, outside Sevastopol, Crimea, with their belongings on Thursday as pro-Russian troops close in on the peninsula

Shut out: A soldier closes the gate at the Belbek airbase in Crimea on Thursday as thousands of Ukrainian troops and sailors remain trapped in the region

Shut out: A soldier closes the gate at the Belbek airbase in Crimea on Thursday as thousands of Ukrainian troops and sailors remain trapped in the region

PICTURED: THE FIRST SOLDIER KILLED IN THE CRIMEA CRISIS

Victim: Ukrainian Warrant Officer Kokurin Serhiy, 37, became the first fatal casualty of the Crimea crisis when he was shot on Monday

Victim: Ukrainian Warrant Officer Kokurin Serhiy, 37, became the first fatal casualty of the Crimea crisis when he was shot on Monday

Warrant Officer Kokurin Serhiy, 37, became the first fatal casualty of the Crimea crisis when he was shot dead on Tuesday.

The chief of logistics, who was born in Simferopol, was at his post in a watchtower at a military base in Simferopol, Crimea, when he was shot through the heart and in the head.

The Ukraine Ministry of Defence claimed he was fired upon by a militiamen who were wearing military uniform of Russian servicemen but without any insignia.

His death prompted the Ukraine Ministry Of Defence to allow troops the use of arms to defend themselves.

Officer Kukurin’s fellow soldiers today paid tribute to the ‘realiable friend’ who leaves behind a four-year-old son and seven-month pregnant wife.

A statement read: ‘He was modest and handsome, a hard-working and skillful specialist, and reliable friend.

‘Kokurin Serhiy was many times awarded distinctions by the Minister of Defense, Chief of General Staff of Armed Forces of Ukraine.

‘He was a strong support for his mother, good brother, kind husband, attentive father for his son. His wife is waiting for birth of baby in two months.

‘The personnel of the 13th Photogrammetric Center of Central Directorate of Operations Support of Armed Forces mourns for decease of their friend Serhiy Kokurin.’

‘We are working out a plan of action so that we can transfer not just servicemen, but first of all, members of their family who are in Crimea, quickly and effectively to mainland Ukraine,’ said Andriy Parubiy, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council.

Terms and conditions of the withdrawal have yet to be agreed but Ukrainian border guards in Crimea, under the control of Russia’s military, have started redeploying to regions on the mainland.

More…

‘We have started the gradual redeployment of our servicemen to the territory of Kherson and Mikolayiv regions,’ Pavlo Shysholin, deputy head of the state border guard service, told a news conference.

Shysholin also said about 1,000 civilians had so far left the peninsula.

Meanwhile Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Yurii Klymenko, has also expressed concerns that Russia may be intending a further military incursion into Ukraine territory.

He said: ‘There are indications that Russia is on its way to unleash a full blown military intervention in Ukraine’s east and south’.

His statement was widely supported by other ambassadors, but challenged by a Russian diplomat, who read a prepared statement justifying Russia’s actions so far.

Another base taken over: A Ukrainian serviceman leaves a military unit in Bakhchisarai, outside Simferopol, on Thursday after it was seized by Russian troops on Wednesday night

Another base taken over: A Ukrainian serviceman leaves a military unit in Bakhchisarai, outside Simferopol, on Thursday after it was seized by Russian troops on Wednesday night

Peaceful: Ukrainian servicemen smile as they peacefully carry their belongings out of a Ukrainian military unit taken over by Russian soldiers in Bakhchisarai

Peaceful: Ukrainian servicemen smile as they peacefully carry their belongings out of a Ukrainian military unit taken over by Russian soldiers in Bakhchisarai

Concerns: A Russian soldier patrols the entrance to the Ukrainian military unit in Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol, amid fears Russia may push further into Ukraine territory

Concerns: A Russian soldier patrols the entrance to the Ukrainian military unit in Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol, amid fears Russia may push further into Ukraine territory

Civil: Russian and Ukranian soldiers talk at the gate of a Ukrainian military unit in the village of Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol, on Thursday

Civil: Russian and Ukranian soldiers talk at the gate of a Ukrainian military unit in the village of Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol, on Thursday

Klymenko added Ukraine will not  initiate a trade war with Russia and hopes to use the World Trade  Organization to resolve any such disputes initiated by Russia.

This morning, Ukrainian troops at Belbek airbase in the wine-growing country near Crimea’s southwestern coast were leaving with large bags  containing their belongings.

They weren’t evacuating, they said, just transferring their things to a safe place as they were worried that pro-Russian mobs might loot the  facility, which they heard happened the day before in nearby Sevastopol.

Since the Russian forces took charge in  Crimea, Ukrainian-enlisted personnel and officers have been bottled up  in barracks and other buildings at one end of the Belbek base, with the  Russians in control of the airfield.

‘We’re waiting for what Kiev, our leadership, tells us,’ said one major, who declined to give his name.

The major said he expected about half of the personnel still at the base to accept the Russian offer to stay and join the Russian armed forces since they are Crimea natives.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon  today told Russian President Vladimir Putin that he was ‘deeply  concerned’ by the situation involving Ukraine and Russia.

Ban is on a visit to both nations to encourage all parties involved in the  crisis over Ukraine and its Crimea region, which Western nations say  Russia has illegally annexed, to find a peaceful solution.

Ukraine’s parliament calls on countries not to recognize Crimea
 

              

Talks: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow on Thursday

Talks: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow on Thursday

Concerned: Ban Ki-moon told Putin on Thursday he is 'deeply concerned' by the stand-off between Russia and Ukraine

Concerned: Ban Ki-moon told Putin on Thursday he is ‘deeply concerned’ by the stand-off between Russia and Ukraine

EU leaders are also meeting in Brussels today to discuss how to deal with the developments in Crimea.

Prime Minister David Cameron will push for the EU to send a ‘clear warning’  to Moscow, saying that the international community will pay a ‘very high price’ if it fails to take action.

Ahead of the EU leaders’ meeting, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the  European Union will impose more sanctions on Russia and that the G8 forum has been suspended indefinitely.

The United States and its G7 allies will gather next week in The Hague  without Russia to consider a further response to the Kremlin’s moves in  Crimea.

But President Barack Obama HAS already stepped up pressure on Russia by announcing further sanctions on Russia on Thursday.

The U.S. expanded economic sanctions against Moscow over its actions in Ukraine, targeting President Vladimir Putin’s chief of staff and 19 other individuals.

Announcement: President Barack Obama reveals additional sanctions against Russia on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on Thursday

Announcement: President Barack Obama reveals additional sanctions against Russia on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on Thursday

President Barack Obama announced a new round of economic sanctions on individuals in Russia, both inside and outside the government, in retaliation for the Kremlin's actions in Ukraine

President Barack Obama announced a new round of economic sanctions on individuals in Russia, both inside and outside the government, in retaliation for the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine

The new American sanctions hit close advisers to Putin. They include Sergei Ivanov, the Russian president’s chief of staff and a longtime associate.

Also targeted were Arkady Rotenberg and Gennady Timchenko, both lifelong Putin friends whose companies have amassed billions of dollars in government contracts.

Finally, Bank Rossiya, a private bank that is owned by Yuri Kovalchuk, who is considered to be Putin’s banker was also sanctioned.

Obama, warning of more costs to come for the Kremlin if the situation worsens, said he also signed an executive order that would allow the U.S. to penalize key sectors of the Russian economy.

Officials said Obama could act on that authority if Russian forces press into other areas of Ukraine, an escalation of the crisis in Crimea.

The president said the latest penalties were the result of ‘choices the Russian government has made, choices that have been rejected by the international community’.

‘Russia must know that further escalation will only isolate it further from the international community,’ Obama said, speaking from the South Lawn of the White House.

Surrounded: Russian naval vessels block the Ukrainian ship Slavutich (pictured left) at her mooring in Sevastopol, Crimea, on Thursday

Surrounded: Russian naval vessels block the Ukrainian ship Slavutich (pictured left) at her mooring in Sevastopol, Crimea, on Thursday

A boat transporting the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet Aleksandr Vitko moors up alongside Slavutich, the command ship of the Ukrainian Navy

A boat transporting the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet Aleksandr Vitko moors up alongside Slavutich, the command ship of the Ukrainian Navy

Shaking hands: Russian officers meet Ukrainian colleagues on the ship Slavutich in Sevastopol

Shaking hands: Russian officers meet Ukrainian colleagues on the ship Slavutich in Sevastopol

Going nowhere: The Ukrainian ship Slavutich was left trapped at her mooring in Sevastopol after being cut off by Russian vessels

Going nowhere: The Ukrainian ship Slavutich was left trapped at her mooring in Sevastopol after being cut off by Russian vessels

Russia then announced retaliatory sanctions on nine U.S. officials and lawmakers on Thursday, warning the West it would hit back over ‘every hostile thrust’.

Deputy national security advisers Ben Rhodes and Caroline Atkinson and senators John McCain, Harry Reid and Mary Landrieu, Dan Coats and Robert Menendez were among the Americans barred from Russia, the Foreign Ministry said.

The others were House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner and Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama.

‘We have repeatedly warned that sanctions are a double-edged instrument and would hit the United States like a boomerang,’ the Russian Foreign Ministry said. ‘There must be no doubt: We will respond adequately to every hostile thrust.’

It comes after Obama ruled out U.S. military involvement in Ukraine on Wednesday night – emphasizing the need for diplomacy in the U.S. standoff with Russia over Crimea.

‘We are not going to be getting into a military excursion in Ukraine,’ Obama told KNSD, San Diego’s NBC affiliate, in an interview.

‘We do not need to trigger an actual war with Russia,’ he told KSDK, a St. Louis station owned by Gannett in a separate interview.

Obama, who imposed sanctions on 11 Russian and Ukrainian officials on Monday, said the United States will push diplomatic efforts to bring pressure on Russia to loosen its grip on the Crimea region of southern Ukraine.

‘There is a better path, but I think even the Ukrainians would acknowledge that for us to engage Russia militarily would not be appropriate and would not be good for Ukraine either,’ Obama told KNSD.

His comments coincided with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden reassuring Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia that America will defend any NATO member against aggression.

Trapped: The Ukrainian ship Ternopil  is seen in the harbour in Sevastopol as a Russian ship blocks its exit

Trapped: The Ukrainian ship Ternopil  is seen in the harbour in Sevastopol as a Russian ship blocks its exit
Supplies: A Ukranian sailor carries bread on board the Ternopil ship still moored in the dock at Sevastopol which is now under Russian control

Supplies: A Ukranian sailor carries bread on board the Ternopil ship still moored in the dock at Sevastopol which is now under Russian control

Ukrainian sailors pictured collecting bread for their ship the Ternopil in Sevastopol. It comes as the legal process required to make Crimea part of Russia will be completed this week

Ukrainian sailors pictured collecting bread for their ship the Ternopil in Sevastopol. It comes as the legal process required to make Crimea part of Russia will be completed this week

John Kerry meets with Slovak Foreign Minister on Ukraine

              

The three countries – which like  Ukraine were all parts of the old Soviet Union – have expressed growing  apprehension over Moscow’s intentions.

Russia signaled concern on Wednesday at Estonia’s treatment of its  large ethnic Russian minority, comparing language policy in the Baltic  state with what it said was a call in Ukraine to prevent the use of  Russian.

Russia has defended its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea  peninsula by arguing it has the right to protect Russian-speakers  outside its borders, so the reference to linguistic tensions in another  former Soviet republic comes at a highly sensitive moment.

But Vice President Biden assured the Baltic republics: ‘We’re in this with you, together.’

The three countries were overrun by Stalin during the Second World War and  only won their freedom with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Biden added: ‘Russia cannot escape the fact that the world is changing and rejecting outright their behaviour.’

Out in force: Russian soldiers patrol the area surrounding the Ukrainian military unit in Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol, on Thursday

Out in force: Russian soldiers patrol the area surrounding the Ukrainian military unit in Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol, on Thursday

A civilian drives past Russian soldiers patrolling Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol, near a Ukrainian military base. Russian forces now control much of the region

A civilian drives past Russian soldiers patrolling Perevalnoye, outside Simferopol, near a Ukrainian military base. Russian forces now control much of the region

Villagers show their support for Ukrainian troops

              

It comes after masked Russian-speaking troops forced their way onto Ukraine’s main naval base in Sevastopol yesterday morning, detaining the head of Ukraine’s navy and seizing the facility.

The incursion, which Ukraine’s defence ministry described as being led by a self-described local defence force, Cossacks and ‘aggressive women’, proceeded with no resistance.

Upon gaining entrance to the base, the storming party raised a Russian flag on the headquarters square.

The unarmed militiamen waited for an hour on the square and, following the  arrival of the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, they took over  the building with the support of armed Russian-speaking troops.

By afternoon, they were in full control of the naval headquarters, a set  of three-storey white concrete buildings with blue trim.

There was nothing we could do against the crowd,’ said one Ukrainian officer. ‘Everything happened spontaneously.’ Another officer said they had ‘no orders and no weapons.’

The Ukrainian defence ministry said Rear Admiral Sergei Haiduk was  detained, and a news agency close to the Russian-backed local  authorities reported that he had been summoned for questioning by  prosecutors.

Response: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced the EU will impose further sanctions on Russia

Response: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced the EU will impose further sanctions on Russia

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses lawmakers at the lower house of parliament in Bundestag, Berlin, on Thursday ahead of a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels

German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses lawmakers at the lower house of parliament in Bundestag, Berlin, on Thursday ahead of a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels

Later in  the day, Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu ordered the Crimean  authorities to release him. He was let go this morning.

Russian troops also seized another Ukrainian naval facility in Crimea late on  Wednesday in Bakhchisaray, about 30 km (20 miles) southwest of the  regional capital, Simferopol.

With thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and sailors trapped on military bases,  surrounded by heavily armed Russian forces and pro-Russia militia, the  Kiev government said it was drawing up plans to evacuate its outnumbered troops from Crimea.

Just how many retreating troops Ukraine will have to absorb in what amounts to a military surrender of Crimea was unclear.

Many servicemen have already switched sides to Russia, but authorities said  they were prepared to relocate as many as 25,000 soldiers and their  families to the Ukrainian mainland.

Humbled but defiant, Ukraine last night lashed out symbolically at Russia by  declaring its intent to leave the Moscow-dominated Commonwealth of  Independent States, a loose alliance of 11 former Soviet nations.

But Ukraine has been largely powerless to prevent Russian troops from  taking control of Crimea, which President Vladimir Putin formally  annexed on Tuesday with the stroke of a pen.

Crimea’s absorption came after a hastily organised referendum in which the  population overwhelmingly, albeit under conditions akin to martial law,  voted in favour of seceding from Ukraine and joining Russia.

'We do not need to trigger an actual war with Russia': President Barack Obama has ruled out military involvement in Ukraine instead calling for diplomacy

‘We do not need to trigger an actual war with Russia’: President Barack Obama has ruled out military involvement in Ukraine instead calling for diplomacy

'We're in this with you': U.S. Vice President Joe Biden vowed America will defend any NATO member from aggression as ex-Soviet states expressed concerns over the developments in Crimea

‘We’re in this with you’: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden vowed America will defend any NATO member from aggression as ex-Soviet states expressed concerns over the developments in Crimea

Talks: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met with Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite (centre) and Latvia's President Andris Berzins (left) on Wednesday

Talks: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met with Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaite (centre) and Latvia’s President Andris Berzins (left) on Wednesday

Russia’s Constitutional Court chairman, Valery Zorkin, said yesterday the treaty signed by Mr Putin has been ruled valid.

Ukraine now plans to seek U.N. support to turn the peninsula into a demilitarised zone.

Andriy Parubiy, secretary of Ukraine’s national security and defence council,  also announced Ukraine would hold military manoeuvres with the US and  Britain, signatories, along with Russia, of the 1994 Budapest  Memorandum. He provided no details.

The document was designed to guarantee Ukraine’s territorial integrity when it surrendered its share of Soviet nuclear arsenals to Russia after the Soviet Union broke up in 1991.

Ukraine has accused Russia of breaching the agreement by taking over the Crimean Peninsula.

In Washington, the Pentagon said it would participate as planned in a multinational military exercise this summer in Ukraine.

Dubbed ‘Rapid Trident,’ the ground manoeuvres have been held annually for a  number of years with forces from Britain and other Nato countries as  well as Ukraine, which has a partner relationship with Nato but is not a member.

The Pentagon  gave no details on the number of U.S. forces expected to participate or  when the exercises would be held. Last year, the two-week manoeuvres  involving 17 nations were held in July.

Sending a message: Russian flags fly at the top of a chimney near the territory of a Ukrainian military unit in Sevastopol on Wednesday

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Sending a message: Russian flags fly at the top of a chimney near the territory of a Ukrainian military unit in Sevastopol on Wednesday

Waving goodbye: Ukrainian servicemen leave a Ukrainian military unit after it was taken over by Russian forces in Sevastopol, Crimea, on Wednesday

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Waving goodbye: Ukrainian servicemen leave a Ukrainian military unit after it was taken over by Russian forces in Sevastopol, Crimea, on Wednesday

Going home: Ukrainian soldiers left the base with their belongings after being forced out of the building on Wednesday

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Going home: Ukrainian soldiers left the base with their belongings after being forced out of the building on Wednesday

A Ukrainian officer leaves as Russian soldiers take over the Ukrainian navy headquarters in the Crimean city of Sevastopol

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A Ukrainian officer leaves as Russian soldiers take over the Ukrainian navy headquarters in the Crimean city of Sevastopol

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov this morning said the legal  process required to make Crimea part of Russia will be completed this  week.

‘Practical steps  are being taken to implement the agreements on the entry of Crimea and  (the Crimean port city of) Sevastopol into Russia,’ Itar-Tass news  agency quoted Lavrov as saying. ‘The legal process will be completed  this week.’

Russia’s  lower house of parliament ratified the treaty on Thursday to make Crimea and Sevastopol regions of Russia. Only one deputy in the State Duma voted against the treaty.

The  upper house is also expected to accept the treaty on Friday.

‘From now on, and forever, the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol will be in the Russian Federation,’ pro-Kremlin lawmaker Leonid Slutsky said in an address before the vote.

It comes as European Union leaders are likely to extend asset freezes and  travel bans on key members of the Russian regime, as they meet in  Brussels today to discuss tougher sanctions in response to the  annexation of Crimea.

In a two-day summit, the EU is also expected to reaffirm its support for  the new administration in Kiev by signing political elements of an  association agreement with Ukraine.

Flying the flag: A soldier holds up a Russian flag on the roof of Ukraine's naval headquarters in Sevastopol, Crimean, on Wednesday morning after the base was stormed by pro-Russian forces

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Flying the flag: A soldier holds up a Russian flag on the roof of Ukraine’s naval headquarters in Sevastopol, Crimean, on Wednesday morning after the base was stormed by pro-Russian forces

Taking control: Pro-Russian self-defence force members break through an entrance to the Ukrainian Navy headquarters in Sevastopol, Crimea, on Wednesday

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Taking control: Pro-Russian self-defence force members break through an entrance to the Ukrainian Navy headquarters in Sevastopol, Crimea, on Wednesday

Being cut out: A member of the Pro-Russian self-defence force reaches for a knife as he takes down a Ukrainian Navy flag at the Ukrainian Navy headquarters in Sevastopol

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Being cut out: A member of the Pro-Russian self-defence force reaches for a knife as he takes down a Ukrainian Navy flag at the Ukrainian Navy headquarters in Sevastopol

Transformation: Ukrainian Navy flags and insignia are removed from inside the Ukrainian Navy headquarters

Transformation: Ukrainian Navy flags and insignia are removed from inside the Ukrainian Navy headquarters

Ejected: Ukrainian soldiers fold a Ukrainian flag removed by the Crimean pro-Russian self-defence force after they were forced to leave Ukrainian Navy headquarters

Ejected: Ukrainian soldiers fold a Ukrainian flag removed by the Crimean pro-Russian self-defence force after they were forced to leave Ukrainian Navy headquarters

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Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2585063/Besieged-
Ukrainian-soldiers-DEFECT-Russia-Kiev-prepares-pull-25-000-troop
s-families-Crimea.html#ixzz2wWz5wd9j

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