Ukraine separatists claim victory in battle for airport By MSTYSLAV CHERNOV and PETER LEONARD10 DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Russian-backed separatists announced Thursday they had captured the shattered remains of the Donetsk airport terminal in eastern Ukraine and plan to claw back more territory, further dashing hopes for a lasting peace agreement.Related Stories
The airport, on the fringes of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, has been at the center of bitter battles since May. Control over it was split between the separatists and Ukrainian forces who had held onto the main civilian terminal. Reduced to little more than a shell-littered wreck, the building is of limited strategic importance but has great symbolic value.An AP reporter saw a rebel flag hoisted over that building Thursday, although fighting still appeared to be ongoing. Ukraine insisted government troops were holding their positions at the airport.Alexander Hug, deputy head of an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe monitoring mission to Ukraine, said rebel forces carried out artillery attacks from within residential areas.”These attacks … attract counter-fire from positions opposite and other directions, which leads unfortunately to repeated civilian casualties and damage for infrastructure,” Hug said.The rebel leader in Donetsk, Alexander Zakharchenko, said the separatist offensive would continue and its goal was to recapture all territory lost to government forces last year.In this Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015 photo Russian-backed separatist sit on top a tank at the check-poin …”Let our countrymen hear this: We will not just give up our land. We will either take it back peacefully, or like that,” Zakharchenko said, nodding his head toward the sound of explosions coming from the direction of the airport.If the separatists do advance further, that would undermine the chances of resurrecting a September cease-fire that laid out specific demarcation lines between the opposing sides.The rebels’ disregard of that agreement appears to defy Moscow’s public backing of the peace deal.The likelihood of any further negotiations looks compromised against the backdrop of continued unrest.Separatist leaders in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk have declined to attend talks with Ukraine and Russia expected to take place Friday in the capital of Belarus, Minsk. They have instead dispatched envoys and said they refuse to take part in more talks unless specific results are achieved.In this Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015 photo Russian-backed separatist walks past tanks at the check-point …The battle for Donetsk airport took place as Ukraine held a day of mourning for 13 people killed Tuesday when their bus was hit by what the government says was a rebel shell.President Petro Poroshenko said respects would be paid for all people killed by rebel offensives.The separatists deny responsibility for the deaths and accuse Ukrainian forces of staging an attack in a bid to smear them. OSCE observers said the bus showed „damage consistent with a nearby rocket impact.”Ukraine and the West have routinely accused Russia of fomenting unrest in the eastern Ukraine. Moscow denies that accusation, although it admits that Russian citizens, including soldiers, are involved in the fighting in Ukraine.In Kiev, the Ukrainian parliament on Thursday approved a presidential decree for three waves of military mobilization this year. Poroshenko said that was motivated by the worsening security situation.___Leonard contributed from Kiev, Ukraine.
When Switzerland’s central bank ended an effort to limit the rise of the Swiss franc, the franc soared by 30% against the euro, the Swiss stock market shed a quick 10% and U.S. shares dropped in the initial shock. How will the Swiss surprise matter to the typical American, if at all? –The limited, but coveted, array of goods that the U.S. buys from Switzerland, including watches and chocolate, will likely get more expensive. The largest Swiss companies include pharmaceutical giants and banks, but their products are not, strictly speaking, sourced in Switzerland. A strengthened franc also means Switzerland, one of the world’s most expensive countries, gets pricier for tourists. Already, there have been reports of higher ski pass rates at popular resorts. –The central impact of the SNB decision to cease suppressing the value of the franc is to upend popular financial-market bets and add pressure to an already- struggling eurozone economy. As fund manager Luke Bartholomew of Aberdeen Asset Management puts it, “Switzerland’s problem is that it is almost too credible as a safe haven. People desperately want to hold the currency to shield themselves from the risks they see elsewhere, particularly in the euro area.” The well-earned Swiss reputation for financial conservatism and “hard” currency stands in stark contrast to the euro bloc that surrounds it, which is staggered by heavy debt loads and growth-strangling fiscal policies. [Get the Latest Market Data and News with the Yahoo Finance App]With the European Central Bank widely seen as preparing a stimulus effort to buy up large quantities of government and other bonds – perhaps as soon as next week – the pressure on the euro appeared likely to increase. The Swiss policy makers seem to have concluded that the cost of restraining the franc’s value by purchasing European bonds itself would become too high. Many hedge funds and other investors had taken comfort in the idea the Swiss franc would not appreciate much, so they either sold it short or borrowed in Swiss francs to invest elsewhere. Today’s startling surge in the franc has punctured those strategies and could lead to a spillover across other markets as those cornered investors are forced to sell other assets. This episode is at least on the surface reminiscent of the triggers for the Asian financial crisis of the late ‘90s, which began with Thailand abandoning its currency peg.–An appreciating Swiss franc could also harmconsumers in Eastern Europe, who in recent years have commonly borrowed in Swiss francs due to ultra-low interest rates. According to Bloomberg News, more than 40% of mortgages on the books of Poland’s banks are denominated in Swiss francs. When the borrowed currency surges against the borrower’s home currency, the effective cost of that debt balloons. An even-weaker Europe will further drag on global growth and the profitability of American multinationals, intensifying questions about whether the domestic American economy can remain largely insulated from worldwide malaise. –A less tangible but undeniable result of the Swiss move is to deepen the sense that the world’s central banks are increasingly desperate to experiment in a bid to control currencies, capital flows and economic fortunes. Some $12 trillion in new money has been created since the global financial crisis by the major central banks in a broad attempt to bolster hobbled banking systems, ease debt service and revive a damaged global economy. In most cases, such as in Japan and Europe, the central banks are intent to force their currencies lower, which chases capital to the perceived havens such as Switzerland and, to a significant degree, the U.S.With so much money in motion – and now skittish thanks to the SNB’s reversal of a policy it avowed just weeks ago – the main concern is that the unintended economic consequences could be significant.
Here’s The Aircraft Carrier France Is Sending To Chase Down ISIS In Iraq By Pierre Bienaimé9 hours agoNewsAircraft carrier could support Iraq operations: Hollande France is sending its aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf to serve a support role in the country’s bombing campaign against ISIS in Iraq, the AFP reported on January 6.The decision to deploy the Charles de Gaulle was made before the attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the subsequent hostage crises that claimed 17 lives and shook the nation last week.But in light of French defense minister Jean Yves Le-Drain’s assertion this week that „ISIS must be wiped out,” the deployment looks to be part of a long-term engagement in the Middle East for what is Europe’s largest military force.”Thanks to the Charles de Gaulle we will have intelligence … we may also conduct operations in Iraq,” President François Hollande told military personnel in the annual presidential address from aboard the 38,000-ton carrier on Wednesday.Here’s a look at the French navy’s flagship.Jacky Naegelen/Reuters French sailors stand guard during the visit of the French president and other government members to the new nuclear aircraft carrier’s inauguration on May 7, 1994.>Construction on France’s first nuclear-powered carrier began in 1987. Budget constraints halted the process on four occasions in the early ’90s until the Charles de Gaulle’s inauguration in 1994. But the ship would only be launched in 2001.During final seaworthiness tests in the Bermuda triangle in November 2000, part of the blade from one of the carrier’s 19-ton propellers (below on the left) broke off. The Telegraph called the incident a „further twist” in one of „the most embarrassing sagas in French maritime history,” considering the ship’s dragged-out operational record.The repair took months to complete, during which critics of the project pointed out that for the first time since World War II, France was left without a functioning aircraft carrier.Reuters The Charles de Gaulle, dry-docked at a naval base in Toulon on Dec. 18, 2000.But the Charles de Gaulle soon saw action with a deployment to the Indian Ocean in 2001. It was accompanied by a French nuclear attack submarine and a frigate.Amr Nabil/AP The Charles de Gaulle sails through the Suez Canal near the city of Ismailia, as Egyptians stand watching on deck of a ferry on Dec. 11, 2001.For the next 6 months, the carrier played a support role for the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.Rabih Moghrabi/AFP/Getty Images French crew members talk in front of a Rafale fighter plane aboard the Charles de Gaulle in the Arabian Sea, Feb. 1, 2002. Before the Charles de Gaulle was first deployed, the French navy decided to set a quota assuring that part of the ship’s crew be female.The flattop has a capacity of forty aircraft, and is capable of launching a plane every thirty seconds. At 860 feet in length, France’s carrier is smaller than those of the United States, which are almost 1,100 feet long. It can carry up to 30 aircraft, along with a crew of nearly 2,000.The ship has two aircraft strips for takeoff in the front and one for landing in the back. Here’s a Reuters breakdown of the vessel published when it deployed to assist the NATO mission in Libya in 2011:View galleryReuters In 2004, the French navy organized seafaring maneuvers to mark the 60th anniversary of Operation Dragoon, a post-D-Day campaign that saw the Allies land troops on the Mediterranean coast of occupied France.Eric Estrade/AFP/Getty Images French president Jacques Chirac and heads of state from a number of African nations watched the proceedings from on board the aircraft carrier.The Charles de Gaulle plays a central role in the Varuna series — naval exercises periodically held between France and India.Sebastian D’souza/AFP/Getty Images A Super Etendard SEM fighter aircraft takes off from the deck of the Charles De Gaulle as part of ‘Varuna Series 2004’ off the coast of Goa, on April 14, 2004.In 2005, the Charles de Gaulle joined ships from 35 countries in Portsmouth Harbour, England, to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, a decisive naval engagement of the Napoleonic Wars.John D McHugh/AFP/Getty Images The Charles de Gaulle and numerous other ships on June 27, 2005.In 2007, the Charles de Gaulle docked at its home port in Toulon for a tune up that lasted over a year.Anne-Christine Poujolat/AFP/Getty Images The Charles de Gaulle at a maintenance site in Toulon on Sept. 6, 2007.In January 2014, the carrier made a port call in Abu Dhabi.Ben Job/Reuters The flight deck of the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in Abu Dhabi on Jan. 8, 2014.France sent its flagship off the coast of Libya to support the bombing campaign that contributed to the ousting of Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.Benoit Tessier/Reuters A Mica missile is installed on a Rafale fighter jet on the flight deck of France’s flagship Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier on March 27, 2011. The Charles de Gaulle ran sorties against targets in Libya in participation with a no-fly zone imposed by NATO.The carrier has been ordered into the Persian Gulf, along with a French nuclear submarine, putting it back in action in the Middle East.
Condoleezza Rice says she was stunned CIA mission was leaked By MATTHEW BARAKAT3 hours agoFILE – In this March 15, 2014 file photo, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks in Burlingame, Calif. Rice said Thursday that she was stunned when she learned a classified mission to thwart Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions had been leaked to the news media. Rice told jurors in an ongoing criminal trial outside Washington that the program was one of the most closely held operations during her tenure as national security adviser in the first term of President George W. Bush’s administration. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — Former national security adviser Condoleezza Rice told jurors Thursday she was stunned to learn that a classified mission to thwart Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions — now at the heart of a criminal leak trial — had been disclosed to a reporter.Rice testified for the prosecution in U.S. District Court at the trial of ex-CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, 47, of O’Fallon, Missouri, who is charged with illegally disclosing details of the program to New York Times reporter James Risen. Sterling denies leaking any information to Risen.While Rice’s testimony helped establish the importance of the classified program in question, her testimony did not implicate Sterling in any way as the leaker. Prosecutors opted not to force Risen to testify about his sources after the reporter made clear he wouldn’t divulge sources even under threat of a jail sentence for contempt of court. So they plan to introduce a package of circumstantial evidence to prove Sterling was the source, including evidence of phone calls and emails between the two.Prosecutors say Sterling leaked the information out of anger because he felt mistreated within the CIA. Defense lawyers say the leak could have come from anywhere and that Sterling has faced unfair suspicion because he sued the CIA for racial discrimination.In her testimony, Rice said the program was one of the most closely held operations during her tenure as national security adviser in the first term of President George W. Bush’s administration.The plan called for using a Russian CIA asset nicknamed „Merlin” to funnel deliberately flawed nuclear blueprints to Iran.She said the classified operation „was one of the only levers we had to try to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program.”The program was of such importance, she said, that she did something she never had done before: summon a New York Times editor to the White House and ask her not to publish the story.In the April 2003 meeting, which included then-CIA director George Tenet, Times editor Jill Abramson and Risen, Rice said she warned the paper that lives could be at risk if the story was published.”I certainly understand the significance of the White House asking the New York Times not to run a story. I fully respect the role of the press,” Rice said. „But I needed in this case to make sure that the New York Times understood the impact of what they were about to do.”The Times agreed a few days after the meeting to kill the story. But Risen later published the story in a chapter of a 2006 book, „State of War.”Rice, whose testimony drew a full gallery to what had previously been a mostly empty courtroom, also disputed a central tenet of Risen’s reporting — that the operation had been badly botched and that the Iranians had quickly discovered they’d been given faulty blueprints.”I had been told just the opposite — that the program … was indeed working. I had no reason to think that the Iranians knew anything about it,” Rice said.Earlier Thursday, an unidentified CIA manager — testifying from behind a tall, gray dividing wall to protect his identity — acknowledged under cross-examination that more than 90 people knew about the covert mission.He also acknowledged that some of the details in Risen’s book, including the way certain technical aspects of the plan were described, more closely mimicked the language that Merlin himself more commonly used than Sterling.
Bill Clinton gives perfect response to Seth Meyers’ question about 2016 Former president avoids Hillary speculation by sticking to election timeline By Dylan Stableford12 hours ago TV In No Time President Bill Clinton Drops by ‘Late Night’TV Highlights President Bill Clinton Drops by ‘Late Night’ Seth Meyers thought he was being clever on Wednesday night by asking Bill Clinton if he might be living in a different house in 2016 — like, say, a white one.“I want to get away from politics for a minute and talk about real estate,” Meyers told Clinton on his NBC late-night show. “Do you think you will be living in a different house in 2016?”“I hope not,” the former president replied. “Because 2016 is the election year, and I don’t have anyplace to move.”While Hillary Clinton has not announced a decision about her possible 2016 presidential bid, if she were to run — and win — she and Bill would not move into the White House until she’s inaugurated — in 2017.Clinton was asked about their first granddaughter, Charlotte, who was born in September.“Like every other grandfather, I think my granddaughter’s the greatest thing since sliced bread,” Clinton told Meyers.The pair also discussed golf, with Clinton defending his fellow presidents’ partaking in a round while fulfilling their duty as leaders of the free world.“They can always get you if they need you,” Clinton said. “You always have global communication. I had a lot of international phone calls on golf courses.”“Were you ever in the middle of a bad game and you faked an international call?” Meyers asked.“That never occurred to me,” Clinton replied. “Where were you when I needed you?”The 42nd president also said it’s important for commanders in chief to take “mind” breaks.“One of the reasons I think presidents like golf is that it takes too much time — you cannot think about anything else,” he said. “Every mind needs some release.”Clinton also addressed the recent attacks in Paris carried out by gunmen with ties to Islamic extremism.“Muslim leaders have to do more to combat the extremists,” Clinton said. “But I don’t think you can blame the religion. These people are politicians, guerrillas, stone-cold killers. They’re just throwing the religion out [there] to try to lure more and more converts in and legitimizing cold-blooded murder.”