Russia-Ukraine Agree "Truce" Until March 21st; White House Warns Putin Stop Playing "Russian Roulette"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 03/16/2014 - 12:05
"President Putin has started a game of Russian roulette and I think the United States and the West have to be very clear in their response," states Sen. Foreign Relations Committed Chair Robert Menendez among a slew of Sunday morning talk-show rhetoric from US politicians with the White House's Dan Pfeiffer adding "President Putin has a choice about what he's going to do here. Is he going to continue to further isolate himself, further hurt his economy, further diminish Russian influence in the world, or is he going to do the right thing?" As the "sham referendum" continues, Reuters, however, reports that Ukraine's acting defense minister believes Russia and Ukraine have agree a truce until March 21st.
With Malaysian authorities frustrated (and seemingly confused), and US and Chinese government offering "help" to solve this increasingly mysterious disappearance of the Boeing 777-200ER over a week ago, we thought a quick summation of all that we know would be useful. The possibilities remain numerous but it appears the latest line of investigation is the pane vanished through "deliberate action" with the airline pilots coming under increasing scrutiny.
More of the same. Via the Kremlin:
PUTIN TELLS MERKEL RUSSIA WILL RESPECT CHOICE MADE BY CRIMEANS
PUTIN TELLS MERKEL CRIMEA REFERENDUM ON JOINING RUSSIA IS LEGAL
Even as the West (and NATO) continues to reject any legitimacy of the referendum.
The much anticipated, if largely moot, Crimean referendum vote whether to break away from Ukraine and join Russia, began early on Sunday, even as Kiev is accusing Moscow of rapidly building up its armed forces on the peninsula in "crude violation" of an international treaty.
It has been over a week since Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared without a trace, and the world is nowhere closer to finding either where the airplane and its 239 passengers and crew are to be found, nor what actually happened. Instead, what initially was speculation about a midair disintegration, and subsequently suggested a potential case of airplane terrorism gone wrong, has now transformed into a theory that the pilot and/or crew may have been engaged in "foul play", especially since it appears that based on tracking data, that the plane flew for nearly seven hours after someone "skilled" purposefully shut down its communications and tracking beacon: possibly indicative of a stealthy midair hijacking. However, the same satellite data gave no precise location, and the plane's altered course could have taken it anywhere from central Asia to the southern Indian Ocean.
A series of crises, the latest being the ominous developments in the Ukraine and further evidence of disappointing growth in China, have rattled financial markets. Of course, with all major central banks at amazingly easy policy stances, the bet continues to be that the latest uncertainties will also pass. That may be true once again. But, as Abe Gulkowitz lays out in the inimitable style of his The Punch Line letter, one must recognize that many of the serious flaws uncovered in each of the predicaments will linger for years to come and that the policy remedies have at best covered up the fundamental issues without completely resolving them.
As the clock ticks down to tomorrow's Crimea referendum, where residents will vote to align with Russia or to stay in Ukraine, Russia Today looks at what the sunny Black Sea peninsula can offer economically and what ties it has with Moscow and Kiev. At first glance, Crimea has certain problems - a lack of energy, and more dangerously, freshwater resources. The republic's annual GDP is only $4.3 billion - 500 times smaller than the size of Russia’s $2 trillion economy. However, whatever the results of the referendum are, fixing the dilapidated state of infrastructure and transport could offer a real investment opportunity for both Russian companies and Crimean entrepreneurs.
"Property taxes are equitable and efficient, but underutilized in many economies. The average yield of property taxes in 65 economies (for which data are available) in the 2000s was around 1 percent of GDP, but in developing economies it averages only half of that (Bahl and Martínez-Vázquez, 2008). There is considerable scope to exploit this tax more fully, both as a revenue source and as a redistributive instrument, although effective implementation will require a sizable investment in administrative infrastructure, particularly in developing economies (Norregaard, 2013)." - IMF
As the daily street protests grow bloodier and bloodier, Venezuelan President Maduro has escalated his comments today, exclaiming that he "won't be bullied," and warning "prepare yourself, we are coming for you," if protesters don't "go home within hours."
*VENEZUELAN PROTESTERS HAVE 'HOURS' TO CLEAR BARRICADES: MADURO SAYS HE'LL SEND ARMED FORCES TO 'LIBERATE' PROTEST AREAS
With 28 dead in the last month of protests, things are very serious but as we warned previously, Maduro still enjoying the support of the poor - as EuroNews reports, it appears he is not going anywhere soon. John Kerry also came under fire as the foreign minister called him "a "murderer of the Venezuelan people," accusing him of encouraging the protests.
From March 1: "Obama did not attend the meeting, but he has been briefed about it by his national security adviser, Susan Rice, and his national security team, an official said."
From March 15: "Obama did not attend the meeting but was being briefed about it and other developments involving Ukraine, said Laura Lucas Magnuson, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council."
With Chinese authorities clamping down on the shadow-banking system, taking action of their bubble-bursting reforms, and now increasing the trading bands on the Yuan (to increase volatility and hopefully unwind, in a controlled manner, the biggest and most one-sided carry trade in the world's markets), we thought it perhaps surprising that growing numbers of Chinese are using UnionPay - a state-backed bank card - to illegally funnell billion of dollars out of the country. As Reuters reports, its unclear why the PBOC has not clamped down on this as documents show they are well aware of it... and as one clerk noted "don't worry... everyone's doing it."
We recently noted a piece of legislation they were looking at called the “ENFORCE the Law Act of 2014.” ENFORCE stands for “Executive Needs to Faithfully Observe and Respect Congressional Enactments”. This pretty much sums up the sad state of affairs in the Land of the Free. When Congress has to pass a new law just to get the President of the United States to, you know, follow the Constitution that he swore to ‘support and defend’, you can be certain that the system has become broken beyond all repair.
Given this morning's UN vote declaring the Crimea referendum invalid (and Russia's obvious veto - along with China's abstention), and on the heels of Lavrov's words Friday that Russia would decide how to respond to the Crimean vote after the referendum had been held, it is thought-provoking to consider Putin's options given the vote's outcome is a near-certainty voting in favor of accession to the Russian Federation (especially in light of this morning's images across Crimea). Europe's Council on Foreign Relations notes "not knowing Vladimir Putin’s strategy makes it hard for Europe and the West to come up with meaningful and workable responses. In a way, we are all speculating and trying to get a glimpse into Putin’s soul. The five points below attempt to reinforce or refute some aspects of the conventional wisdom that has emerged from all this speculation."
With the Japanese stock market fading fast and macro-economic data showing anything but the kinds of inspiring recovery that Abenomics promised, the leaders in Japan have turned to a new meme - that the economy will be fixed when companies start raising their wages. Day after day the mantra is repeated in the hopes that repetition will make it come true and every company that raises wages (by an average of 4 Big Macs per month) is heralded as heroic. But, as The Japan Times reports, the government (in all its newly socialist bravado) has threatened to take the unprecedented step of shaming big "uncooperative" companies that do not raise wages during the annual spring labor talks. Forget minimum wage adjustments, this is pay-by-mandate Maduro-style; we just wonder how Abe will cope when a nation used to 'full' employment sees joblessness surge.
Bill Gates recently gave an interview to Rolling Stone magazine. The vast majority of the interview focused on his philanthropic efforts, with a particular focus on poverty and climate change. However, several questions were brought up on illegal NSA surveillance in general, and Edward Snowden in particular. His answers reveal one of the biggest problems facing America today, which is the fact that the billionaire class as a whole does not question or rock the boat whatsoever. They criticize only when it is convenient or easy to do so, never putting themselves at risk for the sake of civil liberties and the Constitution.