Home Tags Posts tagged with "US"

US

0

family

Image by Kevin Cramer 2012

Many people with citizenship or permanent resident status have family members outside the country. There are often situations when these people might like to bring their family to live closer. Eligibility for a Green Card allows for some people to petition on the basis of a family member who lives in the US. The method can be a fantastic way to reunite your family. The process of getting them into the country and helping with their new life can be complicated. If you have a family member who wants to move to the US, lending any help you can will be very welcome. You can support their application for permanent residency. And you can give them assistance with integrating once they arrive. Here are answers to some of the questions you might have.

Securing a Green Card

To gain permanent residency in the US, your family member needs to have a Green Card. Being the family member of a US citizen or of someone who permanently resides in the country is one way to apply for it. If you are an American citizen, or you have your own Green Card, you may be able to secure one for your family member. However, if you aren’t a citizen, your relatives won’t receive as a high a priority. There are different categories of priority when it comes to granting residency. First, there are immediate relatives; then there are four “family preference” categories. Immediate relatives are the spouse of a US citizen and their unmarried children under 21. They also include citizens’ parents and adopted orphans.

The four family preference categories are as follows:

  1. First preference: Unmarried children of a US citizen of any age.
  2. Second preference: spouses, minor children and unmarried adult children of permanent residents.
  3. Third preference: married children of US citizens and their spouses and minor children.
  4. Fourth preference: brothers and sisters of a US citizen and their spouse and minor children.

The application process to obtain a Green Card using this route can take a long time. Most families hire an immigration attorney to help them with the process. Doing this will make sure that everything is done above board. The paperwork can be confusing. So an attorney will ensure you don’t make any unfortunate mistakes.

138556236_e95a080235_z

Image by Joseph Voves

Family Members Already in the Country

You might have a family member who is already legally residing in the US. If so, the process to get permanent residency is different. They need to apply for Adjustment of Status. This method allows them to apply for a Green Card without having to leave the country. For example, they might be on a temporary working visa. Things are slightly different. But it isn’t too far from applying for permanent residence when out of the country. You should still seek legal help to assist your family member with getting their Green Card.

Hiring an Immigration Lawyer

You should hire an immigration attorney. You should do this whether your family member is already in the country or has yet to arrive. Applying for permanent residency can take a while. And the application process involves a lot of paperwork. It can also be useful to find a lawyer if you’re not sure whether your relative can get permanent residency. They can look at their case and give you a better idea of whether they would be successful. It’s also useful if there are any factors that complicated things. For example, if your relative has a criminal record it can be harder to apply.

Visa Interview

One of the last things your relative needs to do to gain permanent residency is to have a visa interview. If you have a Green Card yourself or had one in the past, you will be familiar with how it works. Even if you haven’t done it yourself, you can help your relative with preparing for it. The person applying for residency needs to bring all the relevant documents. These include the documents they have already submitted. They also need proof of their relationship to you. If the applicant is your spouse, they will have to answer questions about your relationship. They will also ask about issues such as health and criminal history. Your relative can use an interpreter for the interview. They don’t have to be trained or qualified. However, it may not be allowed if you want to act as the interpreter.

16573852843_d7d0f430a1_z

Image by David D

Arriving in the Country


If your relative isn’t already in the country, the final part of applying for residency is coming to the US. Arriving at their port of entry means they have to do a final interview. This will be with a Customs and Border Protection agent. Your family member already has permission to enter and remain in the country. But the agent needs to check. They will carry out an interview to ask various questions to verify that they are eligible to enter. These questions might cover issues such as illness, criminal history or any immigration violations.

Finding Housing

Of course, once your relative arrives in the country, they will need somewhere to live. They might live with you at first, but that won’t be ideal for everyone. If they’re your spouse or child, it’s likely they will stay with you for the foreseeable future. However, an adult child or a sibling might want to be more independent. You can help them to find housing. You can look for somewhere before they arrive, and help when they get there. If their English skills still need some work, you could go house hunting with them and act as an interpreter. You can also look for realtors who provide services in Spanish and other languages.

It’s also a good idea to look over their rental contract if they’re renting a home. Even hiring a lawyer could be a good move, to ensure that everything is in order. If they’re buying a home, the process is more complicated. They need the funds to purchase somewhere, and they might need assistance with everything. In many states, it isn’t standard to hire a lawyer because the realtor can help with legal issues. However, sometimes it’s a good idea.

2581218229_53331b00b2_z

Image by Alan Cleaver

Helping Them Prepare for Work

Looking for work will be one of the first things someone will do when they get permanent residency. Of course, they might already have a job that they intend to take, or that they already work at. They may already live and work in the US. In which case, they won’t need to deal with this part of living in the country permanently. Your relative now has the right to work in the US, but they first need a social security number. This nine-digit number is essential for anyone who wants to get a job in the country. They should get a social security card with their name and number on it. They will need to apply for their social security card before they can start employment.

What If Your Family Member Can No Longer Work?

One of the reasons a social security number is necessary is to track your relative’s wages. As with US citizens, permanent residents can also receive social securities benefits. If they can’t work because of a disability, they may be able to get disability payments to support them. However, they must have been working in the US for a minimum of ten years. This will also make them eligible to receive other social security benefits. Any of their dependents will be able to benefit too. To receive disability benefits, your relative must have a particular condition. It needs to be on a specific list of disabilities, called the Blue Book. You can find a list of Social Security disabilities in Spanish and other languages. This makes it easier to understand the system. It’s particularly useful because understanding medical terms can be difficult.

Renewing a Green Card

A Green Card must be renewed every ten years. When the time comes for your family member to do this, they should start the process a good six months in advance. It can be done online or on paper, which makes it more convenient. By the time they have been in the country for a decade, they might not require much help from you. However, it’s always worth offering any help you can give.

Applying for US Citizenship

Your family member might decide that they want to apply to be a US citizen. They can do this after having permanent residency for five years. Not everyone wishes to choose this option. But those that do can do so after being a permanent resident for five years. They need to be able to speak, read and write in English. There are several other requirements. For example, they need to pass a US history test, which they will need to prepare for. They process can take a while, but you can support your relative in their aim.

Helping a family member move to America is a kind thing to do, but there can be a lot to sort out. Try to give them as much support as you can, but remember that they will need to do a lot of the work.

0

North Korea has offered to hold direct talks with the United States on its proposal to suspend nuclear tests, and suggested dialogue could pave the way to changes on the Korean peninsula.

In a message passed to the US side on January 9, Pyongyang made the offer to suspend nuclear tests if the United States temporarily scrapped joint military exercises in South Korea.

The US State Department rejected the tit-for-tat offer as an “implicit threat” but said it “remains opens to dialogue” with Pyongyang.North Korea offers high level talks with US

North Korea’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN, An Myong-hun told a news conference that the offer still stands.

“We are ready, the government of the DPRK is ready, to explain its intention behind its proposal directly to the United States,” said the envoy.

“We are ready for that, if the United States wants additional explanation about the proposal.”

The envoy indicated that the talks could lead to broader engagement.

“If this proposal is put into practice this year, many things will be possible,” he said.

“I can’t go any further, but many things will be possible this year.”

The US, which has close to 30,000 troops permanently stationed in South Korea, conducts a series of joint military exercises with its key Asian ally every year.

Seoul and Washington insist the drills are defensive in nature, but they are regularly condemned by Pyongyang as provocative rehearsals for invasion.

North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests – the last in February 2013 – and recently threatened a fourth in response to a UN resolution condemning its human rights record.

[youtube SEWFYBe0U1A 650]

The US – Israel’s closest ally – has said the shelling of a UN shelter in Gaza is “totally unacceptable and totally indefensible”.

In its strongest criticism yet of Israel’s offensive in the Palestinian territory, the US urged Israel to do more to protect civilian life.

A quarter of Gaza’s population has been displaced by the fighting, the UN says.

Israel says its operation in Gaza is designed to defend its population from attacks by Palestinian militants.

It blames the Hamas militant group for most of the civilian deaths in Gaza, saying its fighters deliberately operate from civilian areas.

The Israeli army has now “neutralized” 70-80% of Hamas’ offensive tunnel network into Israel.

In its strongest criticism yet of Israel's offensive in the Palestinian territory, the US urged Israel to do more to protect civilian life

In its strongest criticism yet of Israel’s offensive in the Palestinian territory, the US urged Israel to do more to protect civilian life

Israel says it will not stop its operation in Gaza until all the tunnels – which militants use to infiltrate Israeli territory – have been destroyed.

Since Israel began its offensive in Gaza on July 8, 1,422 Palestinians have been killed and 8,265 injured, most of them civilians, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

This means more Palestinians have now been killed than during Operation Cast Lead – the last time Israel launched a ground invasion in Gaza – in 2008-2009.

Fifty-eight Israelis have been killed in total – 56 soldiers and two civilians. A Thai worker in Israel has also died.

“There is a difference in approach between what Hamas is perpetrating on the Israeli people and what Israel is doing to defend their country,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

“But the shelling of a UN facility that is housing innocent civilians who are fleeing violence is totally unacceptable and totally indefensible, and it is clear that we need our allies in Israel to do more to live up to high standards that they have set for themselves.”

He was referring to an incident on Wednesday, when at least 16 people were killed when shellfire hit a UN-run school designated as a civilian shelter in the Jabaliya district of Gaza City.

Josh Earnest said there was little doubt that the shells were fired by the Israeli military.

The UN has also condemned the continuing violence.

“The reality of Gaza today is that no place is safe,” UN humanitarian chief Baroness Valerie Amos told the Security Council.

[youtube Q6YK7dWAxJo 650]

0

The US government is imposing travel restrictions on a number of Venezuelan officials.

Officials did not specify how many people would be affected, but said those “who have been responsible for or complicit in human rights abuses” would not be “welcome” in the US.

The Venezuelan opposition has been lobbying for sanctions since thousands of protesters were detained during anti-government protests.

At least 43 people were killed in the protests.

The victims were from both sides of the political divide.

The US government is imposing travel restrictions on a number of Venezuelan officials

The US government is imposing travel restrictions on a number of Venezuelan officials

Relations between the US and Venezuela took a turn for the worse on Sunday when the former head of Venezuelan military intelligence, Gen Hugo Carvajal, was released from custody in the Caribbean and given a hero’s welcome in Caracas.

Gen. Hugo Carvajal had been detained on the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba over US accusations of drug-trafficking activities.

The US Treasury said he had been protecting drug shipments by Colombian FARC rebels.

He was released after Venezuela claimed he had diplomatic immunity because he had been appointed as Venezuela’s consul in Aruba.

The US said his release was “deeply disappointing” and accused Venezuela of threatening Aruba and the Netherlands into freeing Gen Carvajal.

In a statement released on Wednesday, US state department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the travel restrictions were in response to “arbitrary detentions and excessive use of force” by Venezuelan officials as they tried to contain growing anti-government protest.

Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets in February and March in protest at skyrocketing inflation, high crime rates and shortages of some basic staples.

Key opposition figures behind the protests were arrested and have been charged with inciting violence.

Thousands of protesters were detained, many of them have since been released but there have been allegations they were intimidated, beaten and even tortured.

The Venezuelan government says it is investigating dozens of members of the security forces in connection with the allegations.

The demonstrations have since become smaller and less frequent but tensions in the deeply divided country remain high.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to launch a coup against his government at the behest of “the imperialist US force”.

The US government accuses Russia of violating the 1987 arms control treaty by testing a nuclear cruise missile.

Russia tested a ground-launched cruise missile, breaking the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed in 1987 during the Cold War, the US said.

A senior US official did not provide further details on the alleged breach, but described it as “very serious”.

The bilateral agreement banned medium-range missiles with ranges between 300 to 3,400 miles.

The US government accuses Russia of violating the 1987 arms control treaty by testing a nuclear cruise missile

The US government accuses Russia of violating the 1987 arms control treaty by testing a nuclear cruise missile (photo Fox News)

The US claims come at a time of heightened tensions between the two sides, with the US criticizing Russia for its alleged involvement in the conflict in Ukraine.

A senior US official, who was not named, said in a statement that the testing of the missile was “a very serious matter which we have attempted to address with Russia for some time now”.

“We encourage Russia to return to compliance with its obligations under the treaty and to eliminate any prohibited items in a verifiable matter,” the official added.

President Barack Obama has written to President Vladimir Putin over the matter, officials say.

This is the first time the US government has made its accusations public, though the issue has simmered for years.

In January, the New York Times reported that US officials believed Russia had began testing ground-launched cruise missiles as early as 2008.

The US State Department had said at the time that the issue was under review.

The 1987 treaty is at the heart of American-Russian arms control efforts, and was signed by then-Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in the final years of the Cold War.

[youtube c9W6XGncEk4 650]

The United States violated global trade rules when it imposed tariffs on products from China and India, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has found.

In response to a 2012 complaint, the WTO said the US improperly imposed tariffs on Chinese steel and solar panels.

The WTO said the US improperly imposed tariffs on Chinese steel and solar panels

The WTO said the US improperly imposed tariffs on Chinese steel and solar panels

In a separate ruling, it said the US must change the way it imposes tariffs on India steel products.

The US is embroiled in several trade spats with China and India.

“China urges the United States to respect the WTO rulings and correct its wrongdoings of abusively using trade remedy measures, and to ensure an environment of fair competition for Chinese enterprises,” said China’s foreign trade ministry in a statement.

However, the WTO did not agree with all of the complaints filed by India and China.

The US – which has argued it imposed the tariffs to combat artificially low prices on products from India and China’s state-subsidized industries – has the right to appeal the ruling.

[youtube tqsrqUH3xAA 650]

Secretary of State John Kerry has arrived in Beijing for the annual China-US dialogue.

China’s President Xi Jinping has called for mutual respect between the two nations, saying that a confrontation with the US would be a “disaster”.

Diplomats are expected to discuss China’s currency, North Korea and tensions in the South China Sea.

The US delegation is led by John Kerry, who in his opening remarks said that the US was not seeking to “contain” China.

Xi Jinping said the two countries’ interests were now “more than ever interconnected”, with much to gain from co-operation.

US diplomats at the Beijing talks are expected to discuss China's currency, North Korea and tensions in the South China Sea

US diplomats at the Beijing talks are expected to discuss China’s currency, North Korea and tensions in the South China Sea

“China-US confrontation, to the two countries and the world, would definitely be a disaster,” he said.

“We should mutually respect and treat each other equally, and respect the other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and respect each other’s choice on the path of development.”

John Kerry, meanwhile, said the US did “not seek to contain China” and urged Beijing not to “interpret it as an overall strategy” when the US differed from China on certain issues.

President Barack Obama also said in a statement that the US “welcomes the emergence of a stable, peaceful, and prosperous China”.

“We remain determined to ensure that co-operation defines the overall relationship,” he said.

US leaders have also called on China to do its part in maintaining stability in Asia.

John Kerry said the US welcomed a China that “contributes to the stability and development of the region and chooses to play a responsible role in world affairs”.

The talks come with China locked in bitter disputes with several neighbors in the region, notably Vietnam and the Philippines, over claims in the South China Sea.

In turn, the US has stepped up joint military exercises with the Philippines and its military presence there, a move over which China has raised concerns. One of the latest exercises was conducted in the South China Sea near disputed waters two weeks ago.

Increased anti-Japan rhetoric has also come from China in recent weeks, following a decision by the Japanese cabinet to reinterpret the constitution, giving the Japanese military greater latitude to fight overseas.

Both countries claim a string of islands in the East China Sea and ties are severely strained over this issue.

The US and China have also had disagreements in recent months, particularly over cyber-attacks.

In May, US authorities charged five Chinese military officers with hacking into American businesses. Beijing has vigorously denied the charges, accusing the US of launching cyber-attacks against China.

[youtube LQG9gkiWz6U 650]

0

The US has won a World Trade Organization ruling against China in a dispute over tariffs on American luxury cars.

A WTO panel found no basis for duties that China imposed between 2011 and 2013.

The US described it as a “significant victory”.

The US has won a World Trade Organization ruling against China in a dispute over tariffs on American luxury cars

The US has won a World Trade Organization ruling against China in a dispute over tariffs on American luxury cars

China began tariffs on saloons and off-road vehicles with an engine capacity of 2.5 litres or more in retaliation for US trade policies.

China argued when it introduced the charges that US carmakers, such as GM and Chrysler, had received government subsidies and flooded the Chinese market with the cars, which harmed China’s own car industry.

The US said China had imposed the duties without following the rules and filed the case with the WTO.

The rate was as high as 21.5%.

US Trade Representative Michael Froman said $5 billion of exports in 2013 had been taxed.

“The message is clear. China must follow the rules, just like other WTO members,” he said.

US vehicle exports to China were worth $8.6 billion in 2013, 48% more than a year earlier. It is the largest foreign market for US automakers after Canada.

[youtube UOsr3tKO8l0 650]

The EU is imposing further sanctions over Russia’s actions in Ukraine after self-rule referendums in Donetsk and Luhansk.

Separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk regions say 89% and 96% respectively voted in favor of “self-rule”.

Earlier the head of the rebel Donetsk election commission, Roman Lyagin, said joining Russia “would probably be an appropriate step”.

The EU is imposing further sanctions over Russia's actions in Ukraine after self-rule referendums in Donetsk and Luhansk

The EU is imposing further sanctions over Russia’s actions in Ukraine after self-rule referendums in Donetsk and Luhansk

Two Crimean companies and 13 individuals have been added to the sanctions list – the names are likely to be announced officially within the next 24 hours.

The sanctions impose travel bans and asset freezes. EU ministers are also discussing what might trigger a broader package of sanctions against the Russian economy.

In a brief statement, the Kremlin described the referendums as “the will of the people” and noted the “high turnout”.

The Kremlin denounced what it claimed had been “attempts to disrupt the votes, with the use of force, including the use of heavy weapons, against civilians”.

The Russian authorities said they expected the results of the vote to be implemented in a civilized manner, without any repetition of violence and called for dialogue between Kiev, Donetsk and Luhansk.

Later Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said there were no plans to hold fresh international talks on the crisis – he accused the West of an “information blockade” over events in Ukraine and of “shameless lies”.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is to travel to Kiev on Tuesday to promote “dialogue” between the different parties.

[youtube IOfx8E8aooc 650]

Russia and the US have accused each other of failing to ease tensions in Ukraine after Kiev launched raids on pro-Moscow separatists.

Russia said the US should make Kiev stop the attacks in the east, saying “nothing has been done to resolve this urgent crisis so far”.

The US said Moscow had “actively stoked tensions in eastern Ukraine”.

Russia ordered new military exercises on its border following the raids, drawing condemnation from Ukraine.

Pro-Russian separatists are occupying key buildings in a dozen eastern Ukrainian towns, defying the central government.

The Russian foreign ministry issued a statement urging the US to “use all its influence with the interim government in Kiev to bring it to reason and convince it to refrain from rash steps that will plunge Ukraine even deeper into the depths of crisis”.

It urged Washington to “understand the full measure of its responsibility for what is going on”.

Russia and the US have accused each other of failing to ease tensions in Ukraine after Kiev launched raids on pro-Moscow separatists

Russia and the US have accused each other of failing to ease tensions in Ukraine after Kiev launched raids on pro-Moscow separatists (photo AP)

Both the US and Russia cited the April 17 Geneva agreement under which illegal armed groups, including those who have seized public buildings, must return home.

The Russian foreign ministry said: “We hope the USA will at last take urgent measures in the interests of de-escalating the situation in accordance with the provisions of the Geneva statement.”

But US state department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said Russia had “failed not only to provide public support for the de-escalation of tensions, but has actively stoked tensions in eastern Ukraine by engaging in inflammatory rhetoric”.

Jennifer Psaki said Secretary of State John Kerry had spoken to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “six times since Geneva, and he has never once taken responsibility for the implementation of Russia’s Geneva commitments”.

She added: “There will be additional sanctions if Russia does not make good on this priority.”

Pentagon spokesman Steve Warren told reporters: “The Russian announcement of additional exercises on the Ukrainian border is exactly opposite of what we have been calling on the Russians to do, which is to de-escalate the situation.”

The morning raids by Ukrainian commandos on pro-Russian checkpoints around the town of Sloviansk had left at least two separatists dead.

The raids were brief, with Sloviansk itself reported calm and pro-Russian militants still manning barricades in many areas.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Moscow had been “forced to react” to the raids by ordering new military exercises.

Sergei Shoigu was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying: “If this military machine is not stopped, it will lead to greater numbers of dead and wounded.”

Moscow has tens of thousands of troops along its side of the border.

Russian television quoted the ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, as saying that Moscow would have “international-legal grounds” to deploy “peacekeepers” to Ukraine, as it had during the Russia-Georgia conflict of 2008.

Ukraine’s acting President, Oleksandr Turchynov, called on Russia to pull back its troops from the border and end what he called its “blackmail”, adding that Kiev would not yield to “Russian-backed terrorists”.

Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytisa told the Associated Press that Ukrainian forces would fight the Russians if they had to.

“The Ukrainian people and Ukrainian army are ready to do this. Ukraine will confront Russia. We will defend our land.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon earlier said he was “seriously concerned that the situation could quickly spin out of control with consequences we cannot predict”.

[youtube SebP0C3cAcc 650]

0

The US and EU have decided to imposed “deeper sanctions” against Russia if there are “further incursions into Ukraine”.

President Barack Obama said “energy is obviously a central focus of our efforts”, acknowledging it “will have some impact on the global economy”.

Barack Obama was speaking after talks in Brussels with EU leaders Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy.

At a news conference the three men spoke of the special relationship between the transatlantic partners.

Barack Obama said: “The world is safer and more just when Europe and America stand as one.”

Herman Van Rompuy, European Council president, called it a “crucial” relationship.

Their talks at the headquarters of the 28-nation EU bloc also covered plans to finalize a transatlantic trade partnership, as well as efforts to tackle Iran’s nuclear program and Syria’s chemical weapons.

Barack Obama praised the EU for the steps it had already taken – along with the US – to penalize Russia. These have included visa bans and asset freezes against a number of Russian officials.

Barack Obama was speaking after talks in Brussels with EU leaders Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy

Barack Obama was speaking after talks in Brussels with EU leaders Jose Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy

He said those actions were taken after Russian forces moved in to annex Crimea, and they now must consider “the potential for additional, deeper sanctions” should Moscow attempt to do the same in other parts of Ukraine.

“We recognize that in order for Russia to feel the impact of these sanctions, it will have some impact on the global economy as well as on all the countries represented here today,” Barack Obama said.

Acknowledging that some EU countries are more dependent than others on Russia for energy, he said “this entire event has pointed to the need for Europe to look at how it can further diversify its energy sources”.

Barack Obama said NATO must remain a “regular presence” in those eastern European countries who are now feeling vulnerable to possible Russian intervention. He also voiced concern at the falling defense budgets of some countries.

Herman Van Rompuy called Russia’s actions in Crimea “a disgrace in the 21st century, and we will not recognize it”.

Ukraine’s southern peninsula of Crimea was annexed by Russia earlier this month after a referendum which Kiev and the West considered illegal.

It follows the ousting of Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych at the end of February following months of bloody protests over his decision to seek greater ties with Moscow rather than the EU.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine remain high. Moscow accused Ukrainian officials on Wednesday of preventing Russian commercial pilots and crew from disembarking at Kiev International Airport.

This is Barack Obama’s first official visit to the EU headquarters in Brussels.

He began his trip to Belgium with a visit to a cemetery in Flanders, where US soldiers killed in World War One are buried.

He paid tribute to fallen US soldiers at the American Cemetery and Memorial in Waregem, to mark 100 years since the start of WW1. Belgian King Philippe and Prime Minister Elio di Rupo were also in attendance.

Following his talks with Herman Van Rompuy and EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Barack Obama will meet NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

[youtube xGFIlj7NHm4 650]

0

The EU and the US have imposed travel bans and asset freezes against a number of Russian and Ukrainian officials following the controversial referendum in Crimea.

The moves follow Sunday’s referendum in Crimea, in which officials say 97% of voters backed breaking away from Ukraine and joining Russia.

The individuals targeted by the sanctions are seen as having played a key role in the referendum, which Kiev, the US and EU deem illegal.

Pro-Russian forces have been in control of Crimea since late February.

Moscow says the troops are pro-Russian self-defense forces and not under its direct control.

The EU and the US have imposed travel bans and asset freezes against a number of Russian and Ukrainian officials following the controversial referendum in Crimea

The EU and the US have imposed travel bans and asset freezes against a number of Russian and Ukrainian officials following the controversial referendum in Crimea

President Barack Obama said in a press conference that Washington stood “ready to impose further sanctions” depending on whether Russia escalated or de-escalated the situation in Ukraine.

If Moscow continued to intervene in Ukraine, Barack Obama warned, it would “achieve nothing except to further isolate Russia and diminish its place in the world”.

The EU published a list of sanctions against 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials after a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels. The list includes the acting prime minister of Crimea, the speaker of Crimea’s parliament, three senior Russian commanders and several senior Russian parliamentary officials.

Selection of officials targeted:

  • Dmitry Rogozin – Russian deputy PM (US)
  • Valentina Matviyenko – head of Russia’s upper house (US)
  • Sergei Aksyonov – acting PM of Crimea (US and EU)
  • Vladimir Konstantinov – speaker of Crimean parliament (US and EU)
  • Viktor Yanukovych – former Ukrainian president (US)
  • Andrei Klishas – member of Russia’s upper house (US and EU)
  • Leonid Slutsky – head of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) parliamentary committee in Russia (US and EU)
  • Sergei Zheleznyak – deputy speaker of Russia’s state Duma (EU)
  • Alexsandr Vitko – commander of Black Sea Fleet (EU) [youtube HRY6OyI5F0k 650]
    [youtube Gteq8Nq-J18 650]

0

The foreign ministers from Russia, the US and key EU states are holding talks in Paris to try to resolve Ukraine crisis.

The US wants independent observers in the flashpoint region of Crimea and direct talks between Kiev and Moscow.

Russia was expected to call for greater representation for Ukraine’s Russian-speaking areas in the Kiev government.

The EU earlier offered 11 billionn euros ($15 billion) of aid to Ukraine and froze the assets of 18 Ukrainians.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the package of loans and grants over the next couple of years was “designed to assist a committed, inclusive and reforms-oriented government” in Kiev.

Russian soldiers at Sevastopol naval base in Ukraine

Russian soldiers at Sevastopol naval base in Ukraine (photo Itar-Tass)

Ukraine’s finance ministry has predicted it needs $35 billion to rescue the economy.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met US Secretary of State John Kerry and counterparts from France, Germany and the UK on the sidelines of a long-planned conference on Lebanon in Paris.

NATO and Russia have been holding parallel talks in Brussels.

The Paris gathering is being seen above all as a chance to test the waters for a dialogue about Ukraine.

In the US, Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel announced plans to expand US military co-operation with Poland and Baltic states.

Chuck Hagel said the US would step up joint aviation training with Poland, and increase its participation in NATO’s mission to police the air space of Baltic countries.

The announcement was a direct response to concerns raised last week by Poland, he said.

[youtube Gmz3PjSpTmM 650]

Russia and the US are due to hold crucial talks to try to ease tensions over the Ukraine crisis.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are expected to meet on the sidelines of a long-planned conference on Lebanon in Paris.

The US accuses Moscow of deploying troops in Ukraine’s Crimea region, describing it as an “act of aggression” – a claim denied by the Kremlin.

Despite the sharp differences, both sides have hinted they would prefer to start a dialogue.

Moscow remains in de facto control of Ukraine’s southern autonomous region.

The tense stand-off continued overnight in Crimea, with reports that Russian forces have seized part of a Ukrainian missile defense unit.

In Donetsk, east of Ukraine, the regional government building has been evacuated and the area cordoned off amid unconfirmed reports of a bomb scare.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are expected to meet on the sidelines of a long-planned conference on Lebanon in Paris

Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are expected to meet on the sidelines of a long-planned conference on Lebanon in Paris

Earlier this week tensions escalated over Russia’s warnings that it could move beyond Crimea into eastern Ukraine to protect Russians and Russian-speakers there.

The move has triggered wide condemnation across the globe.

Meanwhile, NATO and Russia will hold talks in Brussels.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen earlier said Russia continued to “violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

On Tuesday, US President Barack Obama held a telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss his plan to de-escalate the crisis, White House officials said.

They said Barack Obama’s offer to Moscow envisaged the return of the Russian troops in Crimea back to the bases of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in the peninsula.

The plan – which Barack Obama discussed with President Vladimir Putin on Saturday – also calls for sending a group of international monitors to Ukraine to ensure the rights of ethnic Russians are protected.

And it encourages a direct dialogue between the government in Kiev and Moscow.

The Kremlin has so far not publicly commented on the offer.

Both President Vladimir Putin and Sergei Lavrov have said they want to see a government of national unity in Ukraine, with more representation for the Russian-speaking population in the east of the country.

[youtube kNbsxICELG0 650]

Barack Obama has warned Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the US may pull all of its troops out of his country by the year’s end.

President Obama conveyed the message in a phone call to Hamid Karzai, who has refused to sign a security agreement.

The US insists this agreement must be in place before it commits to leaving some troops behind for counter-insurgent operations and training.

The US has had troops in Afghanistan since 2001 when it toppled the Taliban.

Its forces went into the country following the 9/11 attacks on the US. With Afghan and Western allies, they quickly overthrew the Taliban authorities, but have faced insurgent attacks since then.

Correspondents say the disagreement over the bilateral security agreement (BSA) is the latest step in the long and deteriorating relationship between Washington and Hamid Karzai, who was once seen as a key US ally.

Barack Obama has warned Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the US may pull all of its troops out of his country by the year's end

Barack Obama has warned Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the US may pull all of its troops out of his country by the year’s end

The BSA, which offers legal protection for US troops and defines a post-2014 NATO training and anti-insurgent mission, was agreed by the two countries last year after months of negotiation.

It was endorsed at a national gathering (Loya Jirga) of Afghan elders in Kabul in November.

But Hamid Karzai has refused to sign the deal until a peace process is under way with the Taliban, adding that if he were to sign it, he would become responsible if Afghans were killed by US bombs.

“President Obama told President Karzai that because he has demonstrated that it is unlikely that he will sign the BSA [Bilateral Security Agreement], the United States is moving forward with additional contingency planning,” the White House said in a statement.

“Specifically, President Obama has asked the Pentagon to ensure that it has adequate plans in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal by the end of the year should the United States not keep any troops in Afghanistan after 2014.

“Furthermore, the longer we go without a BSA, the more likely it will be that any post-2014 US mission will be smaller in scale and ambition.”

While Hamid Karzai has refused to sign the BSA, some candidates in April’s Afghan presidential elections have indicated they would.

Hamid Karzai, who has served two terms as Afghanistan’s first and only president since the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001, is obliged by law to stand down after the next election.

Analysts say the US statement clearly implies that Hamid Karzai’s stance will harm Afghanistan’s security long after he leaves office.

[youtube 163zNCmJqcs 650]

RQ-170 Sentinel, the U.S.’ most sophisticated spy plane, was captured by Iran and it was paraded on Iranian state television earlier today in near mint condition.

Iran claims the lost RQ-170 Sentinel was on a surveillance mission last week when it was detected by Iranians over Kashmar and was downed by their armed forces.

But the drone appears to be in good shape contradicting Iran’s claim it was shot down – and backing up U.S. claims that Tehran did not bring it down through electronic, cyber or any other means.

A senior U.S. official confirmed it was the drone earlier today.

“Yep, that’s it – it’s intact,” a source told Fox News.

“This is a big prize in terms of technology.”

Meanwhile the official added that President Obama decided not to retrieve or destroy the drone because that could have been seen as an act of war.

Iran displays the alleged captured US drone RQ-170 Sentinel in near mint condition on national TV

Iran displays the alleged captured US drone RQ-170 Sentinel in near mint condition on national TV

 

U.S. officials have admitted the drone was lost on a mission last week, but say it was probably because of a malfunction on board.

The officials also pointed out it would have probably been badly damaged – and therefore less sensitive – if it had fallen from a height of up to 50,000 ft. However the video shows the drone pretty much intact.

The tour of the drone on Press TV is clearly political maneuvering by Iran as the U.S. tries to find out more about the country’s nuclear programme.

Iran claims the drones are a violation of its sovereignty and feels they are an aggressive act against them, reported Yahoo News.

U.S. said earlier this week the drone was only supposed to fly over Afghanistan looking for insurgents then flew off course.

U.S. officials are concerned about the Iranians potentially sharing or selling what they could have recovered of the aircraft to China or Russia.

These fears will be heightened following the broadcast, as it shows the cream-coloured drone seemingly intact despite its crash.

Press TV also reported that Iran will now “carry out reverse engineering” on the drone, which was manufactured by Lockheed Martin.

The RQ-170 was used to watch former Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden during the Navy SEAL mission that killed him, reported ABC News.

A senior U.S. official claimed any capture shines a light on the U.S. spying mission, but will not tell Iran much it did not already know.

Experts and officials acknowledge that there is no self-destruct mechanism on the Sentinels, which are used both by the military and the CIA.

This is bound to raise questions about why an aircraft would be developed that stays intact when it crashes and could get into anybody’s hands.

Iranian state radio reported on Wednesday that the country would soon broadcast video footage of the downed drone. It was shown on Thursday.

[youtube jSee1C7wdc0]

 

5,113 atomic warheads currently scattered across America and on U.S. submarines around the world, according to Mother Jones magazine.

In 2009, President Barack Obama spoke of his hopes to rid the world of nuclear weapons – but clearly progress has been painfully slow since then.

The Cold War may have ended a generation ago, but a fascinating new map put together by Mother Jones magazine, shows exactly where highly radioactive nuclear material is situated on mainland America.

The map was produced from data suppled by the Defense Department and nuclear watchdog groups.

The map shows where the warheads are (in red), where the civilian nuclear power plants can be found (in green) and the location of labs and nuclear weapons plants (in blue).

The green arrows show nuclear.

According to The Lookout blog, watchdog groups believe the archaic system for making and storing weapons in the U.S. is both dangerous and expensive.

The map shows where the warheads are (in red), where the civilian nuclear power plants can be found (in green) and the location of labs and nuclear weapons plants (in blue)

The map shows where the warheads are (in red), where the civilian nuclear power plants can be found (in green) and the location of labs and nuclear weapons plants (in blue)

Mother Jones magazine notes that the country is telling the rest of the world that it is on the road to disarmament.

At the same time the U.S. is spending more on the nuclear weapons complex than we did during the Cold War.

Mother Jones magazine reports that the 5,113 figure does not include “zombie” nukes that are kept in reserve and more than 3,000 warheads awaiting dismantlement.

The map was produced completely with unclassified, public information. As Mother Jones magazine reports, even the military doesn’t hide where it keeps its missiles and bombers.

The sources for the map were the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and Federation of American Scientists, Office of the Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Matters, Nuclear Energy Institute.