Tag: USA

CHINA FLOODS AFRICA WITH NEEDED DOLLARS, STOKING US CONCERN


DJIBOUTI (AP) — The new electrified rail line snakes through the African desert, charting a course from a port along the Djibouti coast to Addis Ababa, the capital of land-locked Ethiopia. Continue reading “CHINA FLOODS AFRICA WITH NEEDED DOLLARS, STOKING US CONCERN”

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Putin Deports Executives for Speeding as Sanctions Loom


By Jason Corcoran and Henry Meyer  Mar 14, 2014 12:13 PM GMT+0100  
Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, in Seoul.

Even before the Ukraine standoff, foreign companies in Russia say they were alarmed by the number of executives being deported for minor infractions. Now with the West preparing sanctions, they’re bracing for more.

Almost 1,000 people from countries outside the former Soviet Union have had their work visas revoked for committing two or more “administrative violations” since the end of last year, when the migration service and traffic police linked their databases, according to immigration authorities. Such offenses can be as minor as a parking ticket, smoking in prohibited areas or even jaywalking.

“Individuals have been stopped on the border for having two speeding tickets and told their visa is no longer any good,” said Alexis Rodzianko, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Moscow, which promotes the interests of Exxon Mobil Corp., PepsiCo Inc. (PEP) and 800 other companies.

Before the Kremlin-backed president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted last month, prompting President Vladimir Putin to pour troops into Crimea and prepare to annex the peninsula, officials said they were working with foreign businesses to resolve the deportation problem as quickly as possible. Now those talks are effectively on ice, according to the Association of European Business, which lobbies on behalf of European companies including BP Plc (BP/)and Siemens AG. (SI)

Russian Retaliation

Lawmakers meanwhile are preparing legislation that would allow Russian authorities to seize assets of western companies in case of sanctions. Russian Deputy Economy Minister Sergei Belyakov, who’s in charge of luring foreign investment, said that he’s working with the migration service to resolve the visa difficulties.

“On a personal experience, I know of the existence of such problems,” he said today by phone.

The Moscow-based migration authority said by e-mail in mid-February that while it wasn’t planning any legislative amendments, the government is preparing to issue an order on the issue.

Airport Detention

One of the people caught up in the crackdown is Quentin O’Toole, Deloitte & Touche LLP’s local chief operating officer. When the New Zealander tried to return to Moscow from a trip abroad in December, he was detained at the airport and held in a cell overnight before being deported, according to two people familiar with the matter. The reason: speeding tickets.

O’Toole didn’t even commit the offenses — his wife did, while driving a car registered in his name, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. Moscow’s automated traffic cameras issue tickets by license plate, rather than by driver. It took Deloitte’s lawyers six weeks to get O’Toole’s visa reinstated. O’Toole and Deloitte both declined to comment.

Even foreigners employed by prominent Russian enterprises have been deported. One executive of a mining company said he was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in mid-January along with his wife and children because his driver had racked up about $1,000 of speeding tickets.

While his family was allowed into the country, he said he was denied a lawyer and held for 12 hours in a detention area with about 30 other people before being deported. His company eventually got the visa reinstated, the executive said, asking not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Mayakovsky Theater

Mindaugas Karbauskis, the Lithuanian artistic director of Moscow’s Mayakovsky Theater, said he was banned from Russia for a year when he tried to fly back in February. Karbauskis said on hisFacebook Inc. page that he’d received five speeding tickets of about 300 rubles ($8) each, all paid. He was allowed back in only after his bosses at the storied theater intervened.

“We vouched for him,” said Olesya Vartanova, a spokeswoman for the theater, declining to be more specific.

Lawmakers who drafted the legislation in 2011 said at the time that stricter visa rules were needed to curb the number of illegal immigrants, which the government puts at 3.5 million. The vast majority of those come from poorer former Soviet states, according to the Federal Migration Service in Moscow.

Like AmCham, the Association of European Business has warned its members about the risks of even minor legal infringements by foreign employees — particularly since Russia’s takeover of Crimea, home to its Black Sea Fleet, evolved into the biggest confrontation between Russia and the West since the Cold War.

Nothing Happening

“There is nothing immediately happening and the current political situation will possibly not accelerate providing a solution to the problem,” AEB Chief Executive Officer Frank Schauff said in a phone interview.

“It’s certainly a similar situation to the one we faced in 2008, when the EU threatened sanctions but didn’t implement them,” Schauff said, referring to Putin’s five-day war with Georgia. “The pressure is higher this time. Ukraine is a much bigger country and is more in the center of Europe.”

The migration service won’t comment on how the events in Ukraine are impacting the visa issue, according to the office of spokeswoman Zalina Kornilova.

President Barack Obama said after talks in the White House with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on March 12 that the U.S. and the international community “will be forced to apply a cost” if Putin doesn’t change course. Sanctions on Russia could “get ugly fast” if events justify them, Secretary of State John Kerry said at a congressional hearing.

‘Massive’ Damage

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in parliament yesterday that Putin risks “massive” political and economic damage if he doesn’t de-escalate the conflict.

The EU announced a three-stage sanctions process against Russia last week, starting with the suspension of trade and visa-liberalization talks. Stage two includes asset freezes and travel bans for as-yet unidentified officials and would be imposed if Russia boycotts international talks on a settlement. Stage three envisages “additional and far-reaching consequences” if Russia further destabilizes Ukraine.

EU foreign ministers meet March 17, a day after Crimea votes in a referendum about joining Russia, to consider asset freezes and travel bans on Russian political and business leaders they consider responsible for instigating and profiting from the events on the Black Sea peninsula.

Kerry arrived today for talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in London, where the U.S. will seek to end moves by Russia to annex Crimea.

All Tools

“Russia may use all the tools in the tool box” to retaliate against sanctions, including visa regulations and tax audits, Ariel Cohen, senior fellow at the Republican-leaning Heritage Foundation in Washington, said by e-mail.

Russia has been selective in applying its visa rules to foreigners in the past.

Hermitage Capital Management Ltd. founder William Browder, a U.S.-born citizen of the U.K., was barred from Russia without explanation in 2005. Browder, whose fund was once the largest stock investor in Russia, had spent much of the previous decade tangling with state-run companies over shareholder rights.

“Foreigners are most vulnerable because one swipe of the pen and they’re out for good and there is nothing you can do,” Browder, 50, said by e-mail. “I was the poster child of the use of corrupt visa bans, but they now do it all the time for lots of reasons that have nothing to do with the law.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Jason Corcoran in Moscow atjcorcoran13@bloomberg.netHenry Meyer in Moscow at hmeyer4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net; Frank Connelly at fconnelly@bloomberg.net Brad Cook, Paul Abelsky, Andrew Atkinson

China Warns West that Sanctions on Russia Could Spiral into Chaos – U.S. & E.U. Indicate Sanctions to Begin Monday


13.Mar.2014
China Warns West that Sanctions on Russia Could Spiral into Chaos
The showdown in Ukraine is about to escalate on Monday if neither side backs down.

According to Reuters, China’s top envoy to Germany has warned the West against punishing Russia with sanctions for its intervention in Ukraine, saying such measures could lead to a dangerous chain reaction that could spiral out of control. This comes as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a public statement letting Russia know that it has until Monday to reverse course in Ukraine, and the E.U. made it clear in a separate statement that the decision to implement sanctions starting Monday has already been made.

 

The Prime Minister of Poland Donald Tusk was quoted by Reuters saying the following:
“When it comes to sanctions on Russia, a decision has in fact already been made, especially on the procedure of introducing sanctions. The consequence of this will be the start of sanctions on Monday,”

John Kerry used even stronger language in his statement, hinting at full scale economic warfare:
“I don’t want to go into all of the detail, except to say this: It can get ugly fast [if] the wrong choices are made,” he said. “And it can get ugly in multiple directions.”

It’s hard to believe that this is really happening.

Are the people who run the U.S. government really stupid enough to think that they will be able to control this? It’s hard to fathom why they would attempt to take it all the way, especially now that so much evidence has gotten out to the public showing that the U.S. government funded known Neo-Nazis and covered up the fact that it was the new coalition government behind the sniper attacks. But unless this is all just an epic bluff, our world is about to be shaken to its foundations.

 

Sources

Evidence that the U.S. backed coalition was actually behind the sniper attacks: http://scgnews.com/the-ukraine-crisis-what-youre-not-being-told

China warns of dangerous Russia sanctions ‘spiral’: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/13/us-ukraine-crisis-china-idUSBR…

EU approves framework for asset freezes, travel bans on Russia:http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/12/us-ukraine-eu-russia-sanctions…

John Kerry says Russia has until Monday to back down: http://washingtonexaminer.com/john-kerry-russia-has-until-monday-to-reve…

Kerry says sanctions would ‘get ugly fast’: http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20140312-709326.html

World War II’s Strangest Battle: When Americans and Germans Fought Together


Days after Hitler’s suicide a group of American soldiers, French prisoners, and, yes, German soldiers defended an Austrian castle against an SS division—the only time Germans and Allies fought together in World War II. Andrew Roberts on a story so wild that it has to be made into a movie.
The most extraordinary things about Stephen Harding’s The Last Battle, a truly incredible tale of World War II, are that it hasn’t been told before in English, and that it hasn’t already been made into a blockbuster Hollywood movie. Here are the basic facts: on 5 May 1945—five days after Hitler’s suicide—three Sherman tanks from the 23rd Tank Battalion of the U.S. 12th Armored Division under the command of Capt. John C. ‘Jack’ Lee Jr., liberated an Austrian castle called Schloss Itter in the Tyrol, a special prison that housed various French VIPs, including the ex-prime ministers Paul Reynaud and Eduard Daladier and former commanders-in-chief Generals Maxime Weygand and Paul Gamelin, amongst several others. Yet when the units of the veteran 17th Waffen-SS Panzer Grenadier Division arrived to recapture the castle and execute the prisoners, Lee’s beleaguered and outnumbered men were joined by anti-Nazi German soldiers of the Wehrmacht, as well as some of the extremely feisty wives and girlfriends of the (needless-to-say hitherto bickering) French VIPs, and together they fought off some of the best crack troops of the Third Reich. Steven Spielberg, how did you miss this story?The battle for the fairytale, 13th century Castle Itter was the only time in WWII that American and German troops joined forces in combat, and it was also the only time in American history that U.S. troops defended a medieval castle against sustained attack by enemy forces. To make it even more film worthy, two of the women imprisoned at Schloss Itter—Augusta Bruchlen, who was the mistress of the labour leader Leon Jouhaux, and Madame Weygand, the wife General Maxime Weygand—were there because they chose to stand by their men. They, along with Paul Reynaud’s mistress Christiane Mabire, were incredibly strong, capable, and determined women made for portrayal on the silver screen.

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‘The Last Battle: When U.S. and German Soldiers Joined Forces in the Waning Hours of World War II in Europe’ By Stephen Harding. 256 pages. Da Capo. $25.99. ()

There are two primary heroes of this—as I must reiterate, entirely factual—story, both of them straight out of central casting. Jack Lee was the quintessential warrior: smart, aggressive, innovative—and, of course, a cigar-chewing, hard-drinking man who watched out for his troops and was willing to think way, way outside the box when the tactical situation demanded it, as it certainly did once the Waffen-SS started to assault the castle. The other was the much-decorated Wehrmacht officer Major Josef ‘Sepp’ Gangl, who died helping the Americans protect the VIPs. This is the first time that Gangl’s story has been told in English, though he is rightly honored in present-day Austria and Germany as a hero of the anti-Nazi resistance.

Harding, is a respected military affairs expert who has written seven books and long specialized in World War II, and his writing style carries immediacy as well as authority. “Just after 4am Jack Lee was jolted awake by the sudden banging of M1 Garands,” he writes of the SS’s initial assault on the castle, “the sharper crack of Kar-98s, and the mechanical chatter of a .30-caliber spitting out rounds in short, controlled bursts. Knowing instinctively that the rising crescendo of outgoing fire was coming from the gatehouse, Lee rolled off the bed, grabbed his helmet and M3, and ran from the room. As he reached the arched schlosshof gate leading from the terrace to the first courtyard, an MG-42 machine gun opened up from somewhere along the parallel ridgeway east of the castle, the weapon’s characteristic ripping sound clearly audible above the outgoing fire and its tracers looking like an unbroken red stream as they arced across the ravine and ricocheted off the castle’s lower walls.” Everything that Harding reports in this exciting but also historically accurate narrative is backed up with meticulous scholarship. This book proves that history can be new and nail-bitingly exciting all at once.

The French VIPs finally put aside their political differences and picked up weapons to join in the fight against the attacking SS troops.

Despite their personal enmities and long-held political grudges, when it came to a fight the French VIPs finally put aside their political differences and picked up weapons to join in the fight against the attacking SS troops. We get to know Reynaud, Daladier, and the rest as real people, not merely the political legends that they’ve morphed into over the intervening decades. Furthermore, Jean Borotra (a former tennis pro) and Francois de La Rocque, who were both members of Marshal Philippe Petain’s Vichy government and long regarded by many historians as simply pro-fascist German puppets, are presented in the book as they really were: complex men who supported the Allied cause in their own ways. In de La Rocque’s case, by running an effective pro-Allied resistance movement at the same time that he worked for Vichy. If they were merely pro-Fascist puppets, after all, they would not have wound up asEhrenhäflinge—honor prisoners—of the Fuhrer.

While the book concentrates on the fight for Castle Itter, it also sets that battle in the wider strategic contexts of the Allied push into Germany and Austria in the final months of the war, and the Third Reich’s increasingly desperate preparations to respond to that advance. This book is thus a fascinating microcosm of a nation and society in collapse, with some Germans making their peace with the future, while others—such as the Waffen-SS unit attacking the castle—fighting to the bitter end. (Some of the fighting actually took place after the Doenitz government’s formal surrender.)

The book also takes pain to honor the lives of the “number prisoners” who worked at Castle Itter—faceless inmates from Dachau and other concentration camps whose stories have never before been told in this much detail. Whatever their political leanings or personal animosities toward each other, the French VIPs did what they could to help the so-called “number prisoners”—i.e. the ones stripped of their names—in any way they could.

One of the honored prisoners was Michel Clemenceau, the son of the Great War statesman Georges Clemenceau, who had become an outspoken critic of Marshal Petain and who was arrested by the Gestapo in May 1943. At Castle Itter he showed “unshakeable confidence” in rescue, and had clearly inherited the courage of his father, who’d been nicknamed “The Tiger.”  During the attack, with ammunition running dangerously low—they got down to the last magazines of their MP-40s—their tanks destroyed, and the enemy advancing from the north, west and east, this septuagenarian kept blasting away. His father would have been proud of him.

The story has an ending that Hollywood would love too: just as the SS had settled into position to fire a panzerfaust at the front gate, “the sound of automatic weapons and tank guns behind them in the village signaled a radical change in the tactical situation.” Advancing American units and Austrian resistance fighters had arrived to relieve the castle. In keeping with the immense cool that he had shown throughout the siege, Lee feigned irritation as he went up to one of the rescuing tank commanders, looked him in the eye and said simply: “What kept you?” Part Where Eagles Dare, part Guns of Navarone, this story is as exciting as it is far-fetched, but unlike in those iconic war movies, every word ofThe Last Battle is true.

The End of the Public University?


The End of the Public University?

November 26, 2013 

About 8 out of every 10 college students attends a public college or university, from the local community college down the street to the massive flagship university in the middle of the state usually known for its football team. Of those students who go to public universities, most of them—some 70%—go to smaller, regional public colleges that train a majority of our teachers, nurses, and local business leaders.

The vastness and popularity of our public colleges and universities typically surprises audiences when I mention them in talks about my book on the future of higher ed. After all, only two of the top 25 national universities as ranked by U.S. News & World Report are public institutions, and the first one of those (University of California at Berkeley) doesn’t appear until #20. And if you pay attention to the national media, most of the attention is showered on universities such as Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, or small liberal-arts colleges such as Amherst and Williams.

Public universities rarely get much attention unless they reject your son or daughter, raise their tuition, or if their football team wins a national championship.

But given how many Americans are educated at public universities, especially at a time when a college degree is about the only ticket left to the middle class, we all have a stake in their future health. And right now, the signs for the health of many of these public institutions are not good.

Just this past week, Moody’s Investors Service, which rates the debt of mostly stable colleges, reported that 72% of four-year public universities are experiencing essentially flat or declining net-tuition revenue. That’s the money these colleges have left over after giving out financial aid to invest in buildings, academic programs, and faculty. In other words, most of these colleges are either treading water when it comes to new revenue or losing money every year.

“Public universities have not experienced such poor prospects for tuition-revenue growth in more than two decades,” the report said.

Now, if you’re a student or parent paying tuition at one of these colleges, you’re probably wondering why they are crying poor when your bill goes up every year even as it gets more difficult to enroll in the classes needed to complete a degree.

The problem is that these institutions have been raising tuition year after year to make up for declines in dollars from the state. Since 2008, 41 states have cut funds to higher education. At just 1 in 10 public universities do state funds make up the largest proportion of the university’s budget; in 2003, states made up the largest provider at half of the public universities.

Not all of these institutions, of course, are innocent victims in this tale. Even after years of budget cuts, many are still inefficient in their operations and in desperate need of adopting more innovative business models. But such changes can only go so far before the core of the academic product suffers.

As the numbers from Moody’s seem to indicate, public colleges and universities don’t have much pricing power left to raise tuition to make up for cuts in state aid. So unless they get infusions of cash from elsewhere, what’s likely to happen is what is already occurring in places like California, where public colleges are turning away qualified applicants and where current students find it more difficult each semester to get into the classes they need to graduate.

What’s happening to public higher education is reaching crisis proportions. So as you cheer for State U. in the big football game this weekend, be thankful for the system we have that has educated generations of Americans because it might not be around much longer, at least in its current form.

Jeffrey Selingo is author of College (Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Studentscontributing editor at The Chronicle of Higher Education, and a professor of practice at Arizona State University. Follow him here by clicking the FOLLOW button above, at jeffselingo.com, and on Twitter @jselingo

 

Photo: ML Harris / Getty Images